BATS | Alter Nature | ALBUM REVIEW

BATS | Alter Nature | Album review

Review by: Graeme J Baty

Alter Nature is the band’s third album and their first release in seven years. Summoning the Demon makes for a dramatic album opener with its Blacklisters vibe it proves strong a highlight of the record. It marks the bands welcome return in a fashion you can’t argue with. It instantly sucks you into their universe and pummels you with it’s deep throbbing tones.

Ergot is another standout track and the second track to be released following the arguably weaker Old Hitler, I failed to connect with that track but thankfully Ergot proves much more engaging. Family Planning continues the trend. It’s hard not to adore the depth of layers of instruments they’ve piled into the tracks. I think there is a lot to this album that will require multiple listens to fully appreciate.

What drew me into this band was the delightful resemblance to one of my all-time favourite bands; Man Or Astroman? The dialogue samples particularly evoke fond memories of their EEVIAC period releases. BATS conjure that sci-fi rock stomp, albeit much less surf guitar-focused but bringing in their own pop-tinged punk hooks that prove irresistible. The nine unrelenting tracks that form Alter Nature manage to fascinate, both with the lyrical subject matter and musical prowess.

Alter Nature is out now!

PIXIES | THE BIG MOON | 21.09.2019 | Newcastle Academy | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Pixies | The Big Moon – 21st September 2019 – Newcastle O2 Academy

Pixies band live at Newcastle Academy 2019

Review and photos by Graeme J. Baty 

Legends return to Newcastle following the release of their latest album Beneath the Eyrie pummelling fans with an epic 2 hour set which comprised of nearly 40 songs.

The Big Moon - Newcastle Academy with the Pixies

Support for the tour comes from hotly-tipped act The Big Moon. They made a pleasant start to the evening with their irresistible slow burners. Pop tinged songs such as Sucker and Cupid will appeal to fans of the softer toned Pixies songs. As the venue fills they win over many in attendance, I think that is their power, they certainly reward the patient listener and although there is a lot to like on the first play of their material you need to invest a bit of time in them before the magic really clicks. With support slots such as a tour with the Pixies, I see great things ahead for The Big Moon

Tonight marks my third time seeing one of my all-time favourites the Pixies and I find myself anxious with excitement to see them again. It’s been a good 5 or 6 years since I last saw them at Glasgow Barrowland and my first time with their new bassist Paz Lenchantin. It is quite a privilege to get to photograph this band, I’m not gonna lie! Tonight will certainly be remembered for many years to come. A band I’ve been obsessed with for a good 20 plus years and one of the bands that were pivotal in my musical education.

They are back with a new record and I must admit I haven’t listened to anything after the disappointing Indie Cindy. For a band with a stunning back catalogue it came as a bit of a let down to me, lacking the fire and abrasiveness I’d become so attached to. I just didn’t click with it. Tonight they’d only play one song from Indie Cindy and I wondered if maybe I had been a bit harsh on the new material or the lack of songs from it proves my point? That said, I have it on good authority that the new album is indeed a return to form and much to my delight I found myself really enjoying these songs in a live setting. They played the entire new album, interspersed with highlights from their entire career. The set worked remarkably well and I was astonished to see the reaction of the fans. The atmosphere in the Academy was one of awe, a hugely enthusiastic audience there to take in the night and experience one of the greatest bands of all time. I didn’t see many mobile phones in the air just people dancing and having a great time. Just as it should be!

PHOTO GALLERY

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THE SILLY WALKS | 18.09.2019 | Cluny | PHOTO GALLERY

The Silly Walks – 18th Sept 2019 – The Cluny

Photos by Graeme J. Baty 

Here’s a full photo gallery from The Silly Walk’s set with King Khan!

PHOTO GALLERY

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THE WILDHEARTS | Diagnosis | ALBUM REVIEW

The Wildhearts | Diagnosis | Album review

wildhearts - diagnosis

Review by: Graeme J Baty

Rarely a reformation can be justified as more than a cash grab and offer up music that lives up to the original material. The Wildhearts have managed to pull that rare feat off and have surprised many with their hugely popular return LP Renaissance Men. They’ve had a fantastic 2019 and with a bolstered by that momentum and they returned to the studio to record a handful of tracks. Those tracks have become the mini-LP Diagnosis, it’s a very welcome surprise and finds them taking full advantage of their top creative form and adding five new songs to their already impressive back catalogue.

The title track is plucked from their last LP and quite rightly deserves it’s own time under the spotlight, quite easy to miss it in an album packed with outstanding tracks. It begins as a 70s style stadium fist in the air anthem and builds into an inestimable earworm. The song has crept into my sub-conscience and I’ve found myself singing it for the last few weeks! It’s another fine example of Ginger’s songwriting skills. I really commend him for his openness with his depression battles, it certainly helped me get through an incredibly difficult time in my life. Perhaps this is why I’ve connected so much with this track, it gives you that uplifting PMA that is absolutely essential on those bad days.

God Damn offers up that unmistakeable fantastic CJ/Ginger vocal combo for a delightful pop-tinged rock song. Giving you a good feel for what is to come for the rest of the album. That’s My Girl sees Ritch taking vocal duties and it’s an absolute classic, which wouldn’t feel out of place on Earth vs. LOCAC brings things to an abrupt and brutal ending. Leaving you wanting more. Diagnosis is a short, fast-paced, no-nonsense affair it’s over in under 23 minutes but makes for a perfect companion to Renaissance Men.

The Wildhearts in whatever shape or form are a band to be reckoned with and 2019 has certainly been their year. Two stunning releases, sold-out shows and countless festivals. Long live The Wildhearts!

Out on 4th Oct 2019

ASTRID | 04.09.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | PHOTO GALLERY

Astrid – 4th September 2019 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

Photos by Graeme J. Baty 

Here’s an extended photo gallery from Astrid’s support slot with Edwyn Collins earlier this month.

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EDWYN COLLINS | ASTRID | 04.09.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Edwyn Collins – 4th September 2019 – Newcastle Boiler Shop

Review by Lee Hammond. Photos by Graeme J. Baty 

Edwyn Collins continues to put out some of the most exquisite music around, with every album he provides incessantly infectious tracks. Badbea is no different and tonight is the opportunity for him to bring that album to life in the always wonderful surroundings of the Boiler Shop. Astrid open the show with an equally catchy set, their hook-laden tracks are almost instant earworms and cannot be faulted.

Their short set certainly has a positive effect and paves the way for the brilliant Edwyn Collins to follow. Opening with new track Outside he wastes little time in getting stuck in, with stand out track Losing Sleep following close behind. There is an enthusiasm and passion that underpins this set, Edwyn is in his usual playful mood promising that many of these tracks are the ‘good’ ones.

The fact of the matter is there isn’t really a bad track throughout his set, there are a slew of Orange Juice tracks peppered throughout this set. These tracks still pack a punch today, with the likes of What Presence? And I Guess I’m Just A Little Too Sensitive both featuring early on. Of course A Girl Like You also goes down a storm with this packed audience.

The latter part of the set is where he really lights it up, with the likes of Rip It Up uniting the entire crowd in song as well as Don’t Shilly Shally which also inspires a similar sing-along. Returning for the encore it’s not difficult to feel the love for this man as it permeates throughout the room.

He closes out with the title track of his latest album Badbea and follows that with the brilliant Falling and Laughing, it rounds off a perfectly balanced set which is filled with many of his finest tracks. Tonight Edwyn Collins is truly on top form, and still proving what a wonderful songwriter he truly is.

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DUNES | Take Me To The Nasties | ALBUM REVIEW

Dunes | Take Me To The Nasties | Album review

Review by: Graeme J Baty

 

Here’s a band that I’ve followed since their early days. That said, technically it still is the “early days” as the band have only been going since around late 2016. They’ve been consistently brilliant live and have carved their own little niche in the Northeast scene.

What they do, they do really well and it’s impossible not to adore their sound. Some critics might be a bit harsh in comparing them to some obvious influences (that will not be mentioned here!). It’s all too easy to dismiss music that way and not truly enjoy it for what it is. Dunes make fantastic anthemic riff-fests with tongue in cheek witty lyrics. There is nothing quite like them in the local scene and they’ve been a delight to witness as they evolved from their fist lineup as a four-piece then moving smoothly to three-piece as guitarist Scott departed. Since then they’ve released two well received EPs and have played countless gigs around the country.

At long last we get their debut LP! The LP will be released on legendary Durham based label Sapien Records (We Are Knuckle Dragger, Big Lad, Steve Strong). I’ve been basking in this rifforama album for a month or two and have been trying to put it into words. I’m not sure I can. To me, Dunes is more of a feeling than a definable sound. They bring a smile to my grumpy face.

The title track ‘Take Me To The Nasties’ kicks off the record and is classic Dunes. A well-placed track allows them to set out their stall and prepare you for a hook and riff barrage. Ten meaty tracks, smashed out in just under 43 minutes. It’s a no-nonsense, no ostentation album that will draw you back for repeated listens. Denim Casket proves the album standout and has become a live favourite recently.

The sound and production is really solid, the bass tone is simply lush, that coupled with one of the finest drummers in the region and the magic touch of singer/guitarist John Davies, everything he seems to be involved with turns to audio gold. The production recorded at their rehearsal rooms by Graham Thompson remarkably captures the Dunes sound and brings a vibrant live feel, yet polished and subtle. It’s the perfect balance for a band like Dunes. No gross over production and endless overdubs. The sound is minimal and all the more impactful for it.

It’s an album that you just want to crank up and bob your head until it hurts. Which, I must admit I have done, sorry neighbours! Dunes are a good old fashioned hook driven party band. It’s simply impossible not to smile and adore this record.

Out on 6th Sept 2019

PHARMAKON | Devour | ALBUM REVIEW

Pharmakon | Devour | Album review

Review by: Jimmy Hutchinson

‘Devour’ is the fourth album from Margaret Chardiet’s recording project Pharmakon, and it was recorded live in the studio by Ben Greenberg from hardcore act Uniform. The listener is encouraged to engage with the live nature of the recording, and to that end the digital copy of this album is provided in two continuous sides as well as five individual tracks.

‘Homeostasis’ and ‘Spit It Out’ begin the proceedings in a sinister but fairly minimal vein, employing looped noise, electronic drones, indecipherable vocals and the occasional beat to establish a disquieting atmosphere. By ‘Self-Regulating System’ at the end of Side A, however, the album starts to sound (for all intents and purposes) like a building site. In the grand tradition of early Einstürzende Neubauten, whirring, screeching and distorted yelling are all present.

The second side continues in similar aggressive fashion with a deluge of feedback and further screaming. ‘Deprivation’ could be a ‘Metal Machine Music’ for the 21st century, except that the production values aren’t much higher than they were in 1975. The vocals on ‘Pristine Panic/ Cheek by Jowl’ take on an insistent, rhythmic quality over a repetitive mechanical whir before further chaos ensues, and this is probably the most fertile section of the album. The relentless noise calls to mind a factory methodically destroying itself – a vision which ties in with Chardiet’s stated theme of cannibalism and human self-destruction. (Jim Jarmusch’s new film The Dead Don’t Die explores similar thematic territory.)

Not for the faint-hearted then, but if you are interested in music that pushes extremes to explore concepts then this album may well be of interest to you. In an era of randomly generated playlists, it’s refreshing when artists still encourage their audiences to experience music in longer forms.

RUSSIAN CIRCLES | Blood Year | ALBUM REVIEW

Russian Circles | Blood Year | Album review

Review by: Jimmy Hutchinson

Chicagoans Russian Circles have been steadily releasing material since 2004’s self-titled EP, and Blood Year is their seventh LP to date.

The record begins with the mournful, restrained ‘Hunter Moon’, before segueing rapidly into album highlight ‘Arluck’. This second track begins with insistent drumming and a distorted bassline, before guitarist Mike Sullivan unleashes a series of intricate lines and riffs which jump out of both sides of the stereo field. Despite its sonic assault, the track is restrained in its layering, and therefore retains a fairly sparse quality. This allows the drums – recorded in Steve Albini’s studio – room to breathe.

Blood Year may arguably be Russian Circles’ heaviest and least compromising record yet, although the band members take their time to develop the dynamics on even the busiest tracks. ‘Kohokia’, for example, features an excellent performance from the rhythm section (Dave Turncrantz on drums and Brian Cook on bass), who anchor the piece while Sullivan runs through a varied set of textures – including an uplifting harmonic break reminiscent of 2011’s ‘Mladek’.

Most of the songs are over six minutes long – the two quieter, shorter pieces serving as introductions to each side of the record. ‘Sinaia’ is Blood Year’s longest piece, and one of its most intense. After seven minutes of furious tremolo picking, the guitars drop out altogether, leaving Turncrantz to finish the track on his own.

Judging by the relentless, sludgy riffs on ‘Quartered’, someone was ‘hung and drawn’ too… It’s a dark and stormy end from a band who have often finished their albums with quieter, pensive pieces (e.g. ‘Praise Be Man’ on 2011’s Empros, or the title track on 2013’s Memorial). 15 years into their career, Russian Circles show no signs of compromising their vision, although their ability to structure tracks and balance dynamics continues to grow.

Blood Year is available on vinyl and CD (or as a digital download) from Sargent House on the 2nd of August. Make sure you get a copy, and try to catch them live as well.

KENNY WAYNE SHEPHERD BAND | JARROD DICKENSON | 17.07.2019 | Newcastle Boiler Shop | REVIEW and PHOTOS

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band and Jarrod Dickenson – 17th July 2019 – Boiler Shop Newcastle

Review and photos by Graeme J. Baty from Blank Slate Creative

The Boiler Shop continues it’s now established a reputation for attracting stunning artists to the region. I can’t honestly say I’d ever expected to see thee Kenny Wayne Shepherd in Newcastle. This was one of those must-see shows! Judging by the sell-out (or very very close to a sell out) I am not alone in grabbing this opportunity by the bullhorns!

Jarrod Dickenson - 17th July 2019 - Boiler Shop Newcastle
Jarrod Dickenson – 17th July 2019 – Boiler Shop Newcastle

It’s an early show and the heavy summer rain ensure that everyone is sheltering in the venue enjoying a pint when support act Jarrod Dickenson and his wife Claire take to the stage for a rather humble and delightfully slow-paced set. Offering a sublime Americana, folk-tinged blues proving a perfect mellow start to the evening.

Kenny Wayne Shepard Band - 17th July 2019 - Boiler Shop Newcastle
Kenny Wayne Shepard Band – 17th July 2019 – Boiler Shop Newcastle

Kenny Wayne Shepherd is enough to draw in a crowd tonight but this is not just a Kenny show. He’s assembled a rather stunning lineup of musicians. In fact, it becomes quite a who is who of the blues-rock world! I’ll not go into the boring details but if you’re reading this I am sure you know who these chaps are and just how incredible a lineup it is.

They deliver a diverse range of songs, taking to the stage with a Women Like You, through to Turn to Stone. The evening seems to whizz by in the blink of an eye as they take to the stage for the encore. It’s a relatively short and succinct set, perhaps perfectly timed some might say. I was certainly left wanting more, although some of these types of shows can prove a marathon-esque task to get through. Not tonight, it’s a fast-paced pow-wow of a masterclass. Voodoo Chile ensures the guitar nerds get their fill of stunning playing with this massive and jaw-dropping version of the classic Hendrix song.


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