Monthly Archives: February 2013

Why I Agree with One Direction about Jake Bugg


If you’ve been immersed in the music press in the last couple of days you may have noticed possibly the most forced rivalry in music history being gradually eked out. Jake Bugg vs One Direction. For those who haven’t seen the quotes I’ll attempt to sum it all up.

Jake Bugg said this in this interview:

I vaguely mention that some people are saying One Direction are the closest thing to rock stars that we have these days. “Who the f*ck is saying that?” he splutters, sitting forward. Well, I say, among others, Paul McCartney called them “the next terrific band”, while Mick Jagger said they remind him of the Rolling Stones in their earliest, world-shaking incarnation. Plus, plenty of people have noted that, rather than anyone in an indie band, it’s Harry Styles that’s always being pictured staggering from one party to the next, daubed in lipstick, living the dream.

‘“Oh, I’m pretty sure they have a good laugh,” says Bugg dryly. “But it’s easy to, isn’t it? When you don’t have to write any songs. People [call them the new Beatles] because they broke America, but that don’t mean a thing. I mean, [One Direction] must know that they’re terrible. They must know… Calling them the new rock stars is a ridiculous statement. And people should stop making it.”

First of all just think how absolutely forced this statement is, and nothing to do with Jake Bugg at all, he’d been fed a question begging him to say something – anything – negative about a boy band. All for the reason that our pathetic press loves a good fued, and pushing Jake Bugg as the saviour of ‘real music’ against ‘manufactured pop’ is the easiest narrative to create and the best for getting page views and selling copies of the NME.

So when this response came out from One Direction member Louis Tomlinson on twitter:

Hi @JakeBugg do you think slagging off boy bands makes you more indie?

I couldn’t help but laugh out loud, because the member of manufactured pop group 1D absolutely nailed it. And here’s why…Jake Bugg

Everything about Jake Bugg’s music and image has been very specifically chosen. His album sounds like it comes from the ’50s, and that is actually a really damn hard thing to do, far easier to record something closer to its real sound, so there must be a conscious decision to stylise the music like that. Furthermore his image, the mod working class hero, is another planned act. Just look at the other people doing the same thing, Miles Kane, young Paul Weller (anyone in The Good Mod Club).

Going even further, the main thing that is held up here as evidence of Jake Bugg being ‘real music’ is the fact that he writes his own songs. Great. But that alone isn’t actually a badge of honour. There are hundreds if not thousands of bands around England who can play sets of songs they wrote on their own, but we don’t care. The only thing that would make it important is if these songs are actually pretty good. The fact that Jake Bugg actually has his songs co-written by former Snow Patrol (snigger) member Iain Archer is obviously irrelevant. If a fantastic song was written by 5 people why should it matter? Is it not still a fantastic song?

The real reason that tweet from the 1D guy is so perfect is because he realises that Jake Bugg is just as manufactured as One Direction. The difference being where 1D go blatantly for pop and the hearts of teenage girls, Mr. Bugg is squarely targeted to appeal to the NME reading indie kids and mod men. I’ve never made any pretense that I like 1D, but I can live with the fact that they sure as hell aren’t pretending to anything other than what they are.

The cruelest slice of this all is that Jake himself probably didn’t even realise what was happening. As far as Jake Bugg the person goes, I have no problem, he’s a nice enough guy with good music taste who can write some pretty decent tunes. But Jake Bugg the artist is a hilarious product of manufacturing, record label execs worked out how to make his records sound old, because obviously the old days are when music was ‘real’. And of course none of the greatest songs ever made have been written with a team of writers, unless you count Motown’s brilliance or the old Jazz standards that still awe us.

So when a member of One Direction points out that ‘Jake Bugg slagging off One Direction’ is just another marketing tool to make Jake Bugg appeal more to the ‘indie’ crowd, it is a moment of pure poetic justice.

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21/2/13 Public Service Broadcasting (+ Pivotal), The Railway, Winchester


Last night I headed to Winchester to have a go at actually being a proper music journalist for once. The main attraction was Public Service Broadcasting, a duo that merge archive films from WW2 and after with music that references Post-Rock, Radiohead and Krautrock. If you’ve ever wanted to boogie to the blitz this was your gig. Unfortunately unless you’d booked in advance you weren’t going to get in, the 6music favourites had managed to sell-out the venue completely and it was packed tight, a good friend even informed me Matt Horne was there. While I got to pretend to be Lester Bangs going backstage and doing interviews with PSB as well as support band Pivotal (watch this space!), I managed to miss most of the opening act Iain Cooper, who seemed a pleasant enough acoustic guitar man from what I heard.

Pivotal

While I snuck to the front of the ever-expanding crowd, second band Pivotal gatherered themselves on stage. I had caught them once before, supporting Slow Club last year at The Joiners. Back then I’d been mightily impressed and particularly taken with the song ‘Spitting Rivets’, so when frontman Lee announced “Hi, we’re Pivotal and this song’s called Spitting Rivets” I was both pleased and impressed by them throwing their apparent best track up first. Their music is a dark post-punk sound where synth-keys, bass, drums and reverb-laden guitar swirl together while singer Lee Pearce’s vocals alternate between a brooding Ian Curtis-esque baritone and and a powerful anguished shout. Often the transition between these two styles can make for the most captivating moments in their music. They’ve just finished recording a bunch of tracks for an EP, and if they’ve managed to capture half of how good they sounded last night then it will be an incredible record. Their songwriting has improved drastically since they impressed me over a year ago, and their level of performance was astounding. They benefitted from an unusual stage layout whereby drummer Chloe Elliot and keyboardist Lucy Pearce were on the sides allowing Lee Pearce and bassist Ben Johnson to play off each other and the crowd. The new songs they’ve written all sounded fantastic with highlights being a song that moved between being in 3 and 4 (scoring huge drumming nerd points) and their closing number which featured some impressive musicianship from each member. I wasn’t the only one impressed though, as the crowd grew ever more responsive to the songs. After Lee aplogised for having broken his E-bow for a track, its end was met with a shout of “You should break more E-bows” from a man near the front. I have no fear saying Pivotal are absolutely my favourite band to come out of Southampton, their sound doesn’t match any of the music other local acts are making and their songs are pretty damn fantastic. Which makes the wait for their EP pretty exciting. Go like their facebook page here, you won’t regret it.

After Pivotal were a band called JayetAL, an electronic post-rock band who made some damn impressive sounds by merging dense electronics with live drums, keys and bass. The only problem being that with so much of their sound coming from pre-recorded loops and samples it was difficult to connect much to what was going on aside from being fairly impressed at the skill on display. Realising it wasn’t quite my thing meant I decided to head to the bar to grab a drink before the main attraction, Public Service Broadcasting could get on stage. Which they did, to huge cheers, once they’d constructed their set with an enormous projecter dead centre, the two members, J Willgoose Esq., wielding synths and guitars alike, and Wrigglesworth on drums and triggers (Roland SPD-SX, tech-heads). The crowd was packed out and I paid the price for not sticking with JayetAL as the small size of The Railway left much of the projected screen blocked by fans in front. Nevertheless I had enough vision to enjoy the gig and what struck me most was how faultlessly Public Service Broadcasting bridged the gap between their recordings/videos and the energy of a live show. Their intensely crafted music builds and rises wonderfully, the climax of ‘New Dimensions In Sound’ (a track they decided not to add to their upcoming album) was phenomenal, testament to the fact that even without the samples that give the band their name, their music can stand alone.

Another highlight was the way in which Public Service Broadcasting engaged with the audience. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who is yet to see them, but we were laughing and cheering in equal measure. The virtual frontman engaged the crowd better than most rock bands I’ve seen. Their music has found a subtly powerful edge in the way it uses these broadcasts, and a particularly fascinating moment happened with the close of ‘If War Should Come’, where the last seconds of the song announced that war had indeed come, and the audience that was whooping and clapping after every other song, fell akwardly silent, hit by the sheer significance of those words. It was a touching, human moment, and gave a great amount of weight to the (previously thought) tongue-in-cheek motto of ‘Teaching the lessons of the past with the music of the future’. Other highlights were a song which had their name as its main sample and a song about fashion that had great music. The arrival of ‘Spitfire’ gained instant cheers, no doubt due to it’s success on 6music, and new single ‘Signal 30’ went down incredibly well, its heavy rock flavour causing a vast proportion of the crowd to begin to bust a move.

With more of PSB’s unique stage banter signalling the close of their set, the audience resolutely demanded more. In good fashion the duo launched into the optimistic ‘Everest’ for their encore. And as the thronging masses filed out I don’t think there was any doubt that Public Service Broadcasting lived up to their challenge of making their live show far more than what is on the record. Their debut album, Inform Educate Entertain, is fast approaching, and at this rate is going to make quite a splash. Do not underestimate Public Service Broadcasting.

Public Service Broadcasting

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20/2/13 – NME Tour, Bournemouth – Review


nme tour

So yesterday a well organised trip down (up?) to Bournemouth took place to go and see our nearest branch of the NME’s tour, the four bands on offer being Peace, Palma Violets, Miles Kane and Django Django. Having already seen the first two at The Joiners, I felt confident they would put on a good show and so it was with a generally optimistic air that I left my house. Of Miles Kane, however, I am more skeptical. None of his songs have ever grabbed me at all, and much of his style and attitude makes me think he’s just a poor man’s Paul Weller. So discovering that he had fallen ill and would not be playing didn’t really affect me too much. Although I was disappointed he wouldn’t have the chance to prove me wrong, I expect he knew I was coming and feared my judgemental scorn so chickened out, a reasonable move for anyone in that situation.

Peace

So after a minor race for the loo we arrived in time to enter the crowd as Peace took to the stage. They made an odd choice in opening with three songs from their soon to be released debut album, rather than any of their known singles or EP tracks. What made it even weirder is that these songs seemed to tone down a lot of the psychadelic/afrobeat influences that made tracks like ‘Bloodshake’ and ‘1998’ so brilliant. I definitely noticed an unexpected Brit Pop influence on these new songs – 90s revival anyone? However, they were far from bad songs, and Peace are a group that remind me of bands of old, a group of akward, slacker, tech-heads staying inside to make music, and then donning a leather jacket and using their music to become cool. They are also a group that I trust to make the right call with their album, even if they eschewed their known, respected hits for it, I do believe the songs replacing them will be just as good. Once they’d gotten these album tracks out of the way, though, the show really started to kick off. A launch into epic fan-favourite ‘1998’ (only playable thanks to Miles Kane’s illness) brought out the moshing, the dancing and the jumping. They then romped through ‘Wraith’, ‘California Daze’, ‘Bloodshake’ and ‘Follow Baby’, a group of quality songs, all of which were played with fierce energy and a responsive crowd. A tactical bit of mosh-jumping posited co-writer Billy, friend Fahad, and me right on the second row in time to gather our breath for Palma Violets to come on next.

chilli-jesson-and-sam-fryer-of-palma-violets-8735

When Palma Violets did come on, they had their own special walk-on music, the only band of the night to do so (it sounded like an old punk single, probably The Clash or The Damned), and this activated the cynic in me. Palma’s are built up, mainly by the NME as the ‘Best British Guitar Band In Years’ and they do put on a hell of a show. But here’s my main problem with them: they only have one cracking song, ‘Best of Friends’, While I do like ‘Tom the Drum’ and ‘Step Up for the Cool Cats’, they aren’t anywhere near as good. As a live band, Palma Violets are phenomenal, and having Harry Violent join our little crew for a few songs was brilliant. A stagedive, singalong, crazy dancing, and charismatic frontmen were all integral to their show, which went off brilliantly, but I can’t help returning to the fact that they do not have enough great songs. The album tracks they played all had some fantastic moments in each of them, but felt more like rough sketches than crafted pop, which leaves me feeling incredibly negative about how their album will be next monday. I also felt the NME has screwed up by not having Palma’s open, giving the band with more, better, and better known songs, Peace, take the second slot. By all means if you want to see an incredible gig, go see Palma Violets, and the smaller the venue, the better, but they just cannot get away with live power alone. I wish the NME and the sodding British Music Industry had chilled out a bit, let them do the same tour they did, but give them longer and much more guidance when it came to making their debut, rather than rush to make money off the same-old Libertines narrative. Now we will have to have to face a barrage of hype-destroying press in the next few months that will ruin the career of a decent band, that could have become an incredible band, with time and guidance.django

Hmmm, that’s a very depressing paragraph. Sorry. I am a fan of Palma Violets, I feel I should make that very clear, they know how to rock out and have fun on stage like no one else at the moment. but on to the last band of the day, and band that I wasn’t sure what to expect of – Django Django. While I admired their jangly guitar bopping, nothing aside from hit ‘Default’ had impressed me much, especially when at the time it was competing against Alt-J, so I’d never got the album. So when the first notes rang out of an overdriven guitar riff I was a bit shocked and a bit impressed that they had made their sound heavier and work so well in the arena venue. Their light show was also interesting, using shutters and lights to effectively make the large stage seem much less imposing and put them at the centre of the show. But after a bit more listening I realised that I was completely wrong about Django Django. Yes, they had imposed well with overdrive and power but once their sound filled out (which it did magnificently I should add) it became clear that they are not a rock band. In fact with the way each song is centred on the drums and percussion (they are the leaders in modern tambourine skills) they are far better described as a dance band. Suddenly the choice to make them headliners made perfect sense, after the raucous rock’n’roll, how about a proper dance band to bop to without having some cunt without his shirt come and elbow you in the face in your favourite bit of the song. Django Django also took a dance act’s approach to song structure with EDM’s central theme of lots of small changes taking you somewhere around a central groove as well as a concerted effort to merge their tracks like a DJ mix. This worked really well, particularly on the now stunning ‘Default’ whose stammered chorus I cannot remove from my head. (I should add my companions were not as pleased with my co-writer teasingly saying ‘it’s like Alt-J got even more dull’). I would love to see Django Django in a club, and I can’t help feeling they have far more in common with a group like SBTRKT than with their touring pals of Peace and Palma Violets, especially if you compare what I saw last night to SBTRKT’s Reading Festival set, the use of percussion and massive sound in particular. The set closed, with no encore, despite our urge to boogie.

So, duly impressed by Django Django I picked up their record on vinyl on the way out and we left. A very good value for money gig, even if (or especially if) Miles Kane never showed, with each act putting on a great show.

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