Get Rich Quick

Music is simply poetry with instruments. A poet writes with their heart. They write words with emotional meaning, not necessarily aiming to make it rich or famous, but more to tell a story of passion and power.

Lyrics do the same job. Both art forms can bring audiences to their feet; both can reduce adults to tears. Both come from the heart and the soul, both allow fans to relate.

Athlete’s Wires is one of my favourite songs of all time. It’s packed full of emotion, first distress, and then hope. Joel Pott, their lead singer, wrote it about his daughter being born prematurely. It’s impossible to listen to it and not hear, even feel, the emotion.

The problem is; Wires is an exception in our time. Music now is more about money rather than passion. The focus of artists is veering more towards singles instead of writing a set of songs that they feel something for.

I have every Coldplay album except their last two. I only like two of their non-singles. Coldplay have made a career out of high selling singles, with little effort focused on the rest of their catalogue.

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Albums these days are less about showcasing music, and more about simply making as much money as possible.

Why does everything surrender to the cheap enticement of money?

Our culture is lazy, born out of the obsession with downloads. It skips the need to hear anything but what you know.

People demand music; therefore simple economics states if you can supply it, it is a great way to get rich. Furthermore, you can earn more if you don’t bother to tour.

While this is great for individuals, it’s clearly bad for the art form. Going are the days of emotion, arriving are the days of soulless tripe.

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Worth it?

When the doors opened at the O2 Academy in Birmingham on Wednesday night (25th November), Emma and I were stuck in traffic. We hadn’t parked and we hadn’t had a chance to eat despite leaving just after half 4. The journey to Birmingham had been fraught and with both of us having an early start the next day, there was a lingering question: would this be worth it?

By the time we arrived home it was well past midnight. The A42 was closed, meaning a simple journey back to Nottingham ended up being diverted around past Burton and almost up to Derby. Again, the question was: was it worth it?

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Chvrches, the Scottish electro-pop three piece, were playing the O2 that night.

I keep coming back to Chvrches. They are a band suitable for any mood, and indeed every mood, and don’t have a single bad song across either album. It’s been 2 years since they released their debut album, and a few months since they released their second. Both are of exceptional quality, both in the studio and live.

I mentioned in my Imagine Dragons review a couple of weeks ago that I like bands that add different elements to their songs live, mainly riffing. Chvrches don’t do that in the obvious sense of it, but in a less obvious one they do.

While the songs aren’t different, the layers are more complex. The music is heavier, the vocals more intense. They remain the same band they are in the studio, just more powerful, more chilling.

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Chvrches comprise of Iain Cook, Martin Doherty and Lauren Mayberry. Lauren, the vocalist, has a journalism degree (I very much approve) and is the face of the band. She has a wonderful voice, which rarely falters live. With electro music, there is always the possibility that the vocals will get lost. With Chvrches, that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

Mayberry owns the stage, as good as any other front, and interacts with the crowd on a regular basis. When we saw Chvrches at T, she told us not to throw piss at people, in Birmingham it was more positive – about how this gig was the penultimate one on the tour and that the songs had become very polished.

It was her who draws you in.

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But that is not to say she is the only part of the band. They are a band, a fact that does seem lost on some people some times. The music doesn’t drown out the vocals, nor do they overpower it. They complement it. All three of them provide an energy that is infectious and a gig that is mesmerising. When Martin sings Under The Tide, he proves that he can also hold a stage as a front as Lauren took a backseat.

So, how do you do a second album tour? Play a bit of both albums, allow fans old and new to sample and enjoy. Chvrches did exactly that, to great effect. Both my face and throat hurt by the end of the night, for I spent the whole gig smiling and singing.

One day Chvrches will play arenas, maybe even stadiums. That’s the direction in which they are heading, and will happen sooner rather than later. But, let’s consider it doesn’t. Even if they continue playing venues such as the O2 in Birmingham, they will own every single stage they occupy and leave every fan, would be fan, and demi-fan begging for more.

Was the journey worth it?

What do you think?

Chvrches played:

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Reliving Records: Muse’s The Resistance

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Muse’s fifth studio album, The Resistance, is 6 years old today. Widely regarded by Muse fans as part one of the two-part black sheep of their album collection, in my opinion it is grossly underestimated and harshly treated. I don’t think it’s Muse’s best work however it’s far from being their worst. This album spawned a top 10 single, saw Muse break away from their comfort zone and has been classified 2xPlatinium in this country.

Personally, this was the first Muse album I bought on the day it was released. I came late to the Muse hype, finding them after hearing Supermassive Black Hole a few weeks after it was released (although, as it turns out, I had already heard Time Is Running Out – I just didn’t know it was them) and thus The Resistance was the first album they released with me as a fan. After college, I rushed into town to buy the deluxe edition, containing the making of DVD. I spent the whole night listening to it.

I used to tweet a lot. A hell of a lot, and unfortunately for me there is an app, which sends me daily reminders of how embarrassing they were. Timehop scours your social networks and tells you what you posted on this day 1,2,3,4,5,6 etc years ago. It is worth downloading for free if you want a laugh. It turns out that 6 years ago, I wrote a very embarrassing track-by-track review of The Resistance, based on my first listens. The question is, how have my opinions changed in 6 years?

One thing I noticed from re-reading the reviews was how overwhelmingly positive I was about the album. Every track got an 8, 9 or 10 out of 10, which does seem a bit ridiculous, but is arguably how I feel about every Muse album as soon as I get it. In fact, there’s a more general point there – I imagine I feel more strongly about every album I buy in the weeks after I’ve bought it than 6 years later. So, I started this review thinking the scores would be considerably lower, and they probably will be, however listening to The Resistance again has reminded me just how much I love it.

The main thing I love about Muse is how they don’t take themselves too seriously; a lot of what they do is tongue-in-cheek or too overblown to be genuine. They write about environmental destruction, nuclear war, space invaders or drone warfare and aren’t afraid to make grand assertions. They do it without being serious and on The Resistance; this was in evidence in spades. Right from the Queen references in United States of Eurasia, the song about psychological manipulation conducted by the CIA, the French opera inspired number up until the finish with a 3-part symphony.

Having said I love that, it’s also good when Muse strip down. The highlights of most of their albums end up being the ballads, songs that you don’t associate with them which end up being stadium-filling cracker jacks of songs. The Resistance has one of my favourites of the lot, which is an unbelievably unpopular opinion in the eyes of most Muse fans.

The Resistance isn’t perfect though; it has more than a few flaws. The ending of the album is a lot weaker than the start for one, and for another the production is too overdone. The beauty of the early Muse albums is you can undoubtedly hear Matt breathing throughout pages, making the music more like a live experience than most albums. This is still evident on The Resistance however it has been toned down – which is no surprise really given that by this point they were already the biggest band in Britain.

Overall, The Resistance is a good album. It was the start of Muse’s experimental period, although the majority of songs are played on their bog standard instruments – thereby making it a transitional album and it works well in that regard. The usual Muse elements are there, high difficulty of songs, many influences of sounds, combined with newer directions and a higher quality of song writing than usual. It was, in my opinion, the album that cemented their place at the top of the hierarchy of British rock music.

Let’s go through this track-by-track, with the help of my reviews from 6 years ago. They are unbelievably embarrassing – so I’m not quite sure why I am plastering them on the Internet again! Unfortunately, my reviewing skills haven’t got much better and still rely on horrendously overused descriptive words.

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Uprising:

What I said then: Really good pop song to start with. My mum asked to listen to it yesterday, even asked for it to be the new Doctor Who theme tune! Nuff Said 😀 (8/10)

What I say now: The thing about my mum was important because she never asks to listen to Muse! That aside, I wasn’t wrong about it being a really good song to start with. Based around the Doctor Who theme tune, set to the backdrop of a revolution, here is a song to chant to, to rock to and to belt out. Catchy and meaningful, this is Muse at the peak of their powers.

Rating: 9/10

Resistance:

What I said then: Omg. Love it. So Catchy. Been singing it all day 🙂 (8)

What I say now: Ok, here is my first grievance with The Resistance. Yes, it’s catchy (and yes, I was an annoying 16 year old) but it’s been overplayed by Muse, is a bit too long and I only really listen to it when I feel in the mood to. Probably the Muse song I’ve skipped the most. However, it’s still better than what most bands make and that pre-chorus is wonderful.

Rating: 6/10

Undisclosed Desires:

What I said then: Love the RnB opening and a perfect show of how amazing Muse actually are 😀 (8)

What I say now: I don’t get the hate for UD. It’s a valiant attempt at a genre where Muse aren’t comfortable yet it manages to fit in with the rest of their back catalogue. There are still times, 6 years later, where nothing fits the mood like UD. It’s no SMBH, MotP, KoC, SD or CE (¹) but it’s a good song in it’s own right. The beat is catchy and the chorus has sing-a-long potential.

Rating: 8/10

United States of Eurasia (+Collateral Damage):

What I said then: Muse doing something that sounded like Queen the first time and now just sounds truly amazing. 3rd favourite song. (9)

What I say now: A Queen inspired, Chopin imitating blast of a number. The falsetto part was really where Matt channelled Freddie Mercury and did it in a way that led Brian May to praise it. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I dare you to listen to this song and not chant “Eura-sia! Sia! Sia! Sia!” As a song, it just works, and the altered Chopin piano piece at the end rounds of a beautiful piece. One of my favourite live songs, although admittedly, I have seen it enough now and would like to hear other piano songs like Ruled By Secrecy or Space Dementia.

Rating: 9/10

Guiding Light:

What I said then: So beautiful. The beautiful songs on the albums (Unintended, Citizen Erased (nb, presumably 16 year old me meant the quiet bits!), Blackout and Invincible) are matched amazingly by this. 2nd favourite song (9)

What I say now: All right, time to don my tin hat and get ready for abuse. Guiding Light has become not only my favourite song from The Resistance but one of my favourite songs of all time. And, truth be told, I think only Matt Bellamy agrees with me on that. The hate it received when they played it at the Etihad stadium was disappointing, and I was the only one around who was happy! I think it’s beautiful, I think it’s powerful and I think it’s a hidden gem in amongst all the riffs, chants and falsettos this album is now famous for.

Rating: 10/10

Unnatural Selection:

What I said then: The riff at the end sums Muse up. Unpredictable and amazing (8)

What I say now: Not really that unpredictable a riff, but still a monster of one that was designed for stadiums. The perfect closing song on their arena tour, it could realistically fit anywhere within the set list around the time it was written. But now, I don’t know – I certainly am in no hurry to see it live again. Don’t get me wrong, I love shouting “I WANT THE TRUTH”, it’s just that Muse have so many better songs in their arsenal and it now gets lost a bit.

Rating: 5/10

MK Ultra:

What I said then: I cannot wait to see this live. Actually can’t. My favourite song from this album. Potential to be my favourite song ever. (10)

What I say now: Well I never got to see it live, and it isn’t my favourite song of all time but it is still one of the highlights here. Hey, the 7th song on Muse albums are usually great (Unintended, Micro Cuts, Assassin, Animals) and this is no exception. Different to what Muse usually do, a bit quicker, a bit syncopated in the breakdown and hence why it was difficult to play live. It reached perfection with the line “we are losing control”. Well worth a listen, especially if you haven’t heard it before.

Rating: 9/10

I Belong To You (+Mon Cœur S’ouvre à Ta Voix):

What I said then: Probably everyone will think this is the weak link of the album. I disagree. This sounds like 70’s pop with Matt’s voice. And the French. Wowwww. What more could you want in life? Well MK Ultra maybe… (8)

What I say now: Where to start with that two tweet review? Firstly, it is almost certainly the weak point of the album. Secondly, the French isn’t that great (although the clarinet solo afterwards definitely is) and thirdly, you can want a lot more in life! Hey, it’s a good effort at something different and certainly isn’t a poor song – it has many redeeming qualities (being upbeat and slightly more listenable than the heavy stuff for one) but it was remixed and used in a Twilight movie. As my 16-year-old self would say, nuff said.

Rating: 5/10

Exogenesis Symphony:

What I said then: The perfect end to an almost perfect album. No other band would dare to right (nb, presumably I meant write) this as no other band could pull this off. Had my doubts about this at first but no more. It is simply outstanding. (9)

What I say now: Apart from the dreadful mix-up of homophones in the middle, I can’t disagree with anything I said. Exogenesis is really where Muse separate themselves from modern rock bands. Not afraid to drop classical influences into their music, they wrote a whole 3-piece symphony. Split into 3 parts on the album, they fit seamlessly as one and, as they’ve proved at live gigs, work when apart as well.

Rating: 8/10

Average rating: 7.5/10 (Excellent)

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Overall, I think it’s clear that you overrate (or underrate) albums when they first come out. First listens always bring strong emotions, which lessen out over time (essentially, that’s why hits aren’t always classics and why some albums are growers). Overall, The Resistance has stayed remarkably consistent in my mind. I still rate the same songs I did then, I still listen to all. I think I recognise that it isn’t Muse’s best work in terms of the music, however it has a special place in my heart thanks to the fact I rushed out to buy it (the first in it’s kind in that regard for Muse albums).

I know that what I like and dislike from this album is widely seen as controversial in the Muse fan-base, for example UD and GL will never be favourites whereas I believe US and Resistance are liked. However, isn’t that what makes music worthwhile? That we can all hear the same notes, chords and arrangements yet form different favourites in our minds. Some songs just resonate with us, and others with other people and that’s why music continues to flourish.

Happy Birthday The Resistance, you underappreciated gem.

 

¹ Key:

  •  SMBH = Supermassive Black Hole
  • MotP = Map of The Problematique
  • KoC = Knights of Cydonia
  • CE = Citizen Erased
  • SD = Space Dementia

Hitting the nail on the head: Duke Special’s Look Out Machines!

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At Christmas, Emma bought herself and I tickets to see Duke Special play at Nottingham’s Glee Club on the 12th March. It was a seated acoustic night with Peter Wilson (ie Duke Special) sat at the piano playing songs and talking with the audience. It showcased what a wonderfully talented, as well as genuinely lovely, man he is and was an evening you couldn’t help but enjoy. It was the 6th or 7th time I had seen him live, and one of the reasons I could quite easily see him another 6 or 7 times is because of how different every gig is. I’ve seen him with an orchestra of 7, or one of 3, I’ve seen him by himself and I’ve seen him headline festivals. I’ve even had the pleasure of meeting him twice in one night. He’s truly mesmerising live, and his piano skills are better than most in pop music these days.

Me on the left with Duke Special in the centre (and my friend Zoe on the right)

Me on the left with Duke Special in the centre (and my friend Zoe on the right)

The reason for his gig at the Glee club was the release of a new album, Look Out Machines!. As expected, the evening contained many new songs as well as old ones and covers. Duke is an artist who covers a lot of songs, whilst always putting his own spin on them. My favourite is his version of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart, although he didn’t play it! There were 8 new songs played, 5 covers and 4 old ones from what I (and setlist.fm) remember, although there might have been more. I was going to review it, like I’ve been doing with all of our other gigs but I wanted to wait to hear the new songs properly and be able to talk about them with confidence before doing it. Following the release of the album on the 6th April, I just never got around to it.

So here goes: Duke was enthralling that night. From the moment he walked on and started playing a new song, Elephant Graveyard, you could tell the audience were going to love the night. He explained the motives behind each of his new songs in detail, wanting us to get a feel for why he wrote the song and not just hear the music. At one stage he asked the audience to request songs from his back catalogue, which led to welcome renditions of Portrait, Brixton Leaves and Wanda. All of his old songs were taken from his first album (except Wanda, from Hector Mann) and all his new ones were played on the piano with no accompanying instruments, except Elephant and Son of the Left Hand, leading me to believe that his new album would be similar to his first, undoubtedly his best. It was impossible not to walk away satisfied that night. We had seen a truly talented musician, playing music he believed in and covered songs he loved. There was no pretence, no falseness – he was glad to be able to play to an audience where most knew and loved him without assuming it was always going to happen. Unknown artists are always the best to see live because it’s when music is at it’s purest. Music wouldn’t evolve without artists like Duke Special.

Duke is incredible live, go see him!

Duke is incredible live, go see him!

I was wrong in my initial assumption regarding the album. Rather than an album based mainly around Duke and the piano, which was what I had expected following the gig, a lot of the songs have his band playing with him. That aspect is similar to his second and third studio albums, however works much better than either of them did. He hasn’t written a bad album, it’s just this one is much better than anything since Songs From The Deep Forest, his debut attempt. Why is it more advanced? For me, it’s as simple as saying the songs are better and he’s clearly experimented in adding some different styles into his songs. For example, the rise in mood of Wingman following the second chorus was never something I expected to hear on a Duke Special record. One thing that remains constant throughout is his voice, at it’s best haunting and always beautiful, the strong Northern Irish tones add so much. Even in his voice, his staple, he finds room to experiment with his vocal range – something that, having seen the songs live, definitely works.

I’ve seen Duke Special headline Greenbelt festival; a collection of Christian artists and it’s no secret that Duke is a religious man. This isn’t really a surprise, given his Belfast upbringing however as he mentioned at the Glee Club, there is a level of indifference growing highlight in In a Dive’s “Jesus and his blood don’t mean so much anymore … don’t get me wrong it isn’t that I don’t believe”. In a Dive is written about how he’s being turned away by Belfast’s reputation as the Bible Belt of Europe but also how he finds beautiful and profound qualities in the most unlikely of places. Step To The Magical, the song before, draws on that latter theme and is written about a woman walking through busy streets, helping strangers and leaving the world a better place. Duke joined forces with former Snow Patrol guitarist, Iain Archer to write Elephant Graveyard, about the myth that elephants know where to go when they are going to die, how they all flock to a holy or mystical place to die. As usual, religion plays a huge part. Rounding off this section would be Son of the Left Hand, written about how being left-handed was seen as being a curse for many years.

That isn’t to say the whole album is based around religious themes, and they aren’t so obvious as to suffocate you. There is no preaching to Jesus here, as usual Duke deals with his religion in a non-pushy and approachable way. In many ways, he’s what all religious people should be – inspired by it but not forcing it down others throats. There are songs about how certain people can always get through to you, even if you don’t want to hear it, songs about never being alone and Statues is a love song, simple as. He meant every song to be positive and full-of-hope, well for me he succeeded. You can feel the hope, the optimism and the belief of future success in every song, which means the album becomes very listenable and easy to get lost in.

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I’m finding it very difficult to criticise it. There isn’t a weak song; there isn’t a duff note. Son of the Left Hand was my favourite song immediately upon hearing it, and that hasn’t changed. Step to the Magical has been stuck in my head many times in the two months I’ve owned the album while Wingman might just be the best song he’s written in years. Nail on the Head, In a Dive and Statues all show Duke doing what he does best. The first half of the album is the best of all his previous efforts. The only reason I still rate Songs From higher is because the second half doesn’t contain Salvation Tambourine and Last Night I Nearly Died. Look Out Machines, Stepping Stones and Domino are good songs in their own right, not quite matching the heights of those previous but still demanding listens.

The more I listen to Look Out Machines!, the more I fall in love with it. To describe it as a grower would be unfair though, as it immediately grabbed my attention. It’s an album that has come at the right time. The messages of hope resound within me, the easy music makes it difficult to listen to something else and Duke’s voice keeps you captivated. It contains enough of his quirks (unfortunately no gramophone that I noticed), highlighted on Tweed Coats as the background sounds are simply him walking around Eastbourne. It contains incredibly catchy elements (pre-chorus for Nail “I rattled the walls as I ran through the halls, screamed every word that I knew”) and moments where you can feel how much emotion he’s put into this album. But none of that is what makes it so special. It could be a dreadful album and still be special for it was completely fan funded. Gigging is how Duke makes his living and it’d be easy to look at the established artists and say musicians have it easy but for people like him, albums can only be produced through the generosity of fans, essentially strangers. Obviously they chose that career path, however like I’ve said music won’t evolve without artists like Duke Special and it’s up to us make sure they don’t die out. Buy Look Out Machines!, I assure you that you won’t regret it.

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Rating:

  1. Wingman – 9/10
  2. Elephant Graveyard – 7/10
  3. Step to the Magical – 8/10
  4. In a Dive – 8/10
  5. Statues – 7/10
  6. Son of the Left Hand – 10/10
  7. Look Out Machines – 6/10
  8. Nail on the Head – 8/10
  9. Tweed Coats – 6/10
  10. Stepping Stones – 6/10
  11. Domino – 6/10

Album rating: 7.5/10 (Excellent)

Note: I took most of the information about the writing of the album from here, it’s a review worth reading as it’s from the Horses’ mouse, the Duke himself. 

Hold My Home isn’t a modern masterpiece but is a very enjoyable listen

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Hold My Home, the 5th album by Cold War Kids

 

In 2006, Cold War Kids burst onto the scene with their debut album Robbers & Cowards receiving worldwide praise for the blend of indie and blues-rock seamlessly knitted together. Since then, they’ve been on a musical journey through many different styles without achieving much mainstream success. They’ve certainly now gone down a more pop-driven route, and a few people have said they’ve sold their soul to the masses or become another generated band. I disagree with all that for I find that their music has soul, passion and heart in every song, which I find incredibly easy to listen to. As a result, they’ve become one of my favourite bands. I’ve been criticised for being too positive in this blog in the past, I apologise for that’s going to happen again. Cold War Kids have just released their 5th album and I am very fond of it.

This album seems to have taken ages to arrive. Following Dear Miss Lonelyhearts in 2013, the band returned to the studio and recorded songs for a new record. These songs started to appear in July 2014, with the release of first single All This Could Be Yours. A release date for the album was pencilled in, October 21st 2014. Due to my love for the band, I pre-ordered the signed version almost immediately and received downloads of All This as well as another new song, First. For some reason, the album was delayed in Europe and didn’t end up being released until March 8th 2015. The release date went ahead as planned in America and Australia, so the only possible reason I can think of for the delay in Europe was a record label problem. By the time the album arrived, I had received a download of a third song, Hot Coals. Despite the problems with the release of the album, the songs were of an incredibly high standard.

This album sums up everything that has made Cold War Kids great and so listenable. It takes some of the blues influences, fuses it with the catchy pop appeal they’ve developed and combines perfectly with Nathan Willett’s marvellous soul voice. That isn’t to say that Willett holds the band together though, as some people would have you believe. It’s my belief that Dann Gallucci has now put his stamp on the band, improving the guitar sections and gaining the right chemistry with Matt Maust, their talented bassist. The two new musicians, drummer Joe Plummer and multi-instrumentalist Matthew Schwartz have allowed the band to add more layers and styles to their back catalogue. The result is quite spectacular.

However, it isn’t perfect. Hotel Anywhere, the fifth song on the record, is a song that doesn’t really go, excuse the pun, anywhere at all. Even Willett’s voice seems to fade a little bit, it’s possible they were trying to focus on the instruments but for me, it just doesn’t work. In Nights & Weekends, he croons about Black Friday, which doesn’t seem to be a proper CWK subject matter to sing about. It’s too obvious what the song is about, and then the chorus seems to leave the subject matter far behind, which improves it but not enough. Neither are bad songs, they just aren’t up to the usual CWK high standard. As a final negative, the album’s title track, Hold My Home, doesn’t remain in my head for as long as the others and some of the lyrics seem to be forced rather than inspired.

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It would be harsh of me to allow you to judge the album based on those songs. I find the other 8 to be wonderful in various ways. All This Could Be Yours is catchy and remained in my head for days after first hearing it, whilst Hot Coals provides the improvement in guitar pieces I’ve mentioned before. First has a chorus worth belting out, as Go Quietly (which btw would fit perfectly on Mine Is Yours – no bad thing!) provides the best of Willett’s vocal talents. For me, the two highlights are two almost quintessential Cold War Kids songs, despite only appearing on this album. Drive Desperate, with a guitar solo and a catchy bridge at the end becomes almost impossible to stop listening to. Flower Drum Song, appearing towards the end of the record, is about CWK as a song can get, featuring a sing-along chorus and a giant burst of energy. Throughout the album, Maust/Schwartz, especially on Drive Desperate where, for a refreshing change, the most memorable vocals are provided by the backing singers, suitably support the outstanding vocal range of Willett. Another improvement on past albums is the ending. DMLH ended with the title song and Bitter Poem, both good but improved upon by HMH’s ending of Harold Bloom and Hear My Baby Call, which I would describe as the growers of the album. Not spectacular at first, but I’ve found myself listening to them more and more as time passes.

Cold War Kids will never be a chart band and neither will they ever be hugely popular in this country. In fact, Hold My Home hasn’t even charted here. Is that a bad thing? No, it isn’t. I don’t buy the argument that they are stagnating; in fact I believe they are improving. They aren’t a perfect band, too many of their songs are middle of the road to be considered that, however they produce many great moments in songs that inspire and excite in equal measure. The albums are good but they are at their best when playing live gigs, as they can implement all their energy and desire to produce music into an hour and a half of unforgettable fun. This collection of songs will only bring better shows and a stronger set list. It’s been a month since this album was released in the UK and there hasn’t been a day I haven’t listened to it, hardly forgettable, as some would have you believe. It has individuality that separates it from their other outings whilst being certainly theirs.

The music industry is flooded with bands and artists who do the same thing every time, copy other artists and refuse to evolve yet when a band comes along who breaks that trend they are criticised for it. Cold War Kids aren’t in music for money, they are in it for enjoyment and as a result their albums are immensely easy to listen to and love. As the title suggests, all this had led me to believe that this album is not a modern masterpiece but one that I will listen to over and over again, for it is enjoyable and catchy.

Rating:

  • All This Could Be Yours – 7/10
  • First – 7/10
  • Hot Coals – 8/10
  • Drive Desperate – 10/10
  • Hotel Anywhere – 3/10
  • Go Quietly – 8/10
  • Nights & Weekends – 4/10
  • Hold My Home – 4/10
  • Flower Drum Song – 9/10
  • Harold Bloom – 6/10
  • Hear My Baby Call – 6/10

Album Rating: 6.5/10 (Very Good)

 

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T in the Park 2014 – Friday review

One of the biggest dilemmas of my life came when the T in the Park 2014 lineup was released. To go and enjoy a great number of my favourite bands or to stay and attend my graduation as well as watch the final of the World Cup? Eventually, it was decided that a festival so perfect wouldn’t come along as often as the World Cup final would and none of my friends were attending graduation hence Emma and I turned up in Balado on Thursday 10th July. The prospect of seeing Kaiser Chiefs, Imagine Dragons, Franz Ferdinand and Ben Howard amongst others meant we instantly realised we had made the right decision.

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Our only concerns had been about some potential Friday clashes, as for some reason the poster and app had implied we wouldn’t be able to see Maxïmo Park and possibly Chvrches. Rather luckily however, we had read it wrong and we were able to go and see both, as well as Imagine Dragons. Another band we were there for were the Friday main stage headliners, Biffy Clyro. Sheltering from the sweltering sun, we also caught Foxes set, a singer songwriter we had heard rave reviews about. Here is our summary of the day:

Maxïmo Park – Radio 1 Stage, 16:40 – 17:30:
Reviewed by Gareth

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Having been a Maxïmo fan since their first album but never getting the chance to see them, I was understandably excited about the prospect of attending this 50 minute slot. For me, a festival slot should be packed full of hits with one or two album songs thrown in if you can. At the end of the day, you pay money to see a number of bands and you want to hear the songs you know. In that regard, Maxïmo could not have delivered a more perfect set!

Their fifth album, Too Much Information was released in February and they opened the set with Give, Get, Take – the opening song on that album. This, My Bloody MindHer Name Was Audre and The National Health were the only album tracks they played and the first three were taken from TMI. Way back in 2005, the first album A Certain Trigger was nominated for that years Mercury Prize and was commercially successful mainly due to the three hits Graffiti, Apply Some Pressure and Going Missing. All three songs were played, as well as their first UK number one, Our Velocity, and fellow singles from Maxïmo’s second album, Our Earthly Pleasures, Books From Boxes and Girls Who Play Guitars. With a solid base of these hits, the T crowd were in full sing along mood and the lead singer, Paul Smith, was as energetic as ever (including a run along the front row high fiving us during the set closer, Going Missing). Thrown in amongst these were Leave This Island, The Kids Are Sick Again, Hips and Lips and Midnight On The Hill which meant they played a set entailing all their albums and songs which everyone knew.

Overall, this was a set full of singing, jumping and endless energy. For a first Maxïmo gig it was well worth the wait, seeing all their biggest hits and proving that, despite the fact they aren’t as big as they were, there is still a lot of life left in this band. Paul Smith’s voice is clear and sounds just as good as it does on record, despite all the running around he does. He did his signature jump a number of times, and is a true showman. An incredible live band who know how to play a festival, definitely one I would recommend and want to see again! For a 50 minute set, 14 songs was an impressive achievement. They are a well oiled live outfit and that makes seeing them immensely fun for everyone.

Gareth’s rating: 8/10, Favourite song: Books From Boxes

Emma’s verdict:

As a newcomer to the Maxïmo Park scene, their performance showed me their true excellence given that they proved to me that they are not only good on CD but are also incredible live so I would throughly recommend seeing them.

Emma’s rating: 7/10, Favourite song: Girls Who Play Guitars

Imagine Dragons – Main Stage, 18:05 – 18:50:
Reviewed by Emma

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I was first introduced to Imagine Dragons by my English teacher a few years ago when he decided to play their video for Radioactive purely because he thought it was “cool”. I agreed with him quite quickly seeing as the video is somewhat odd and therefore I loved it because who can resist a video with teddy bears fighting in? Seriously, it is worth a watch. Imagine Dragons have catchy, upbeat songs which can entice most people who enjoy rock/pop including my mum who now listens to them non stop. Therefore, I was more than excited to see them live and I had high expectations seeing as their songs are great on CD. It was unfortunate to say I was slightly disappointed.

It is strange when a band begin a festival set with a bonus track from their album and it is even more weird when it isn’t even on their hard copy album with bonus tracks – only the iTunes version. I’m not saying that Fallen isn’t a good song because I expect it would be however I haven’t ever really listened to it. The next part that befuddled me was the fact they riffed a lot meaning by the end of their set they had only played seven songs in total. Fallen was followed by Tiptoe which is an album song and therefore more understandable although it is incredibly strange seeing as they didn’t play one of their main singles, Demons. The next two songs Hear Me and It’s Time seemed good live although we couldn’t hear very well from we were standing (the whole gig would’ve been better if we were in a different place). My favourite song of their set was a cover which you could say shows something however it was more because the crowd went mental because of course a Scottish crowd love the fact they played a I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) by the Proclaimers. The whole crowd sang, jumped and enjoyed their cover of this well known Scottish song so it was truly wonderful. They finished their set with their two popular singles On Top of the World and Radioactive which were a great choice to end with as the whole crowd knew them and so the atmosphere was buzzing.

At the end of the day I believe that Imagine Dragons are great live however I would prefer to see them in their own gig as then the riffing would be fantastic to watch and the sound quality would be better. However, I think that at a festival they shouldn’t have played as many album songs as they needed to play Demons as it is an incredibly popular song.

Emma’s rating: 5/10, Favourite song: I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)

Gareth’s verdict:

I first heard of Imagine Dragons when Emma gave me their CD to listen to, although I had heard On Top of the World on FIFA. Having fallen in love with their album, I was immensely excited to see them live especially to hear Demons, Radioactive and a possible album track such as Working Man or Amsterdam, and as it was their first album I was hopeful. I wasn’t completely disappointed by the set and 500 Miles was a lot of fun but it was slightly upsetting not to see most of my favourites. That being said, they are clearly very talented and I would pay to see them again.

Gareth’s rating: 5/10, Favourite song: Radioactive

Chvrches – King Tut’s Wah Wah Tent, 19:20 – 20:20:
Reviewed by Gareth

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Chvrches were the first, and still only, band I have bought an album of upon recommendation of my sister. I wasn’t disappointed, as The Bones of What You Believe has quickly become one of my favourite albums from the last couple of years. In the first week I bought it I must have listened to it in full about 7 or 8 times and so I was very excited when I found out they were playing at T.

After leaving the chaos that was main stage, we headed towards the tent with the plan to stop and get some food. What we hadn’t considered was the sheer mass of people doing the same. So, without food and fairly desperate for a piss, we decided to risk seeing Chvrches first. The back of the stage was set up to look like the album cover, and the Scottish crowd went crazy for their opening song, We Sink. Song after song from their album followed with Lies, Lungs, Gun and Night Sky being played in quick succession. Singing slightly lower than she does on the album, Lauren Mayberry introduced a bonus track on the album, Strong Hand before telling the crowd not to throw piss at one another. Clearly very comfortable with a big crowd, they played Science/Visions, Recover, Tether, Under The Tide, By The Throat before ending with The Mother We Share. They only didn’t play one song from the album, You Caught The Light, instead throwing in a bonus track which was more energetic and better anyway so this, for me, was a perfect set list.

In fact, my only criticism would be the sound in King Tut’s not being to the standard that the other stages possess. That being said, the crowd loved seeing a Scottish band taking the first step along the way to possibly headlining a festival one day, the songs were still as catchy as they are on the LP and it was a throughly enjoyable experience. They aren’t quite as comfortable live as the likes of Maxïmo are, but they are well on their way.

Gareth’s rating: 7/10. Favourite song: Tether

Emma’s verdict:

I would love to see Chvrches again as they were incredible live and I would know their songs better as well as not being desperate for a piss or for food. Also, I think the acoustics for their songs would be better in a different venue and not the tent because sometimes it was a little too overpowering in there.

Emma’s rating: 7/10. Favourite song: Night Sky

Ed Sheeran – Main Stage, 20:40 – 21:40
Reviewed by Emma

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I’ve liked Ed Sheeran on and off for a few years now first discovering him via a few friends who showed me The A Team video on Youtube. Instantly I loved the song, the simplistic guitar with his beautiful voice is difficult to dislike in my opinion, however, recently it has been more difficult to like him when he started collaborating with artists like Pharrell Williams. Originally, this seems like Ed Sheeran has become a fame seeker who is trying to get a number one single and more fans which is hypocritical when he sings in You Need Me, I Don’t Need You “I will never be product of my genre/My mind will always be stronger like my songs are”. Although, Ed seems like a genuine, nice, down to earth guy so I am conflicted in whether to believe he would want to collaborate for fame so for the moment I would prefer to think he had his reasons.

Having seen Ed before in Nottingham I had no doubt he would be great live. It is obvious to see he has a talent at controlling a crowd by making them sing, be silent and often telling them that if they don’t know the words to just make them up and sing along anyway. It is a wonderful thing to see when an artist can completely control a crowd and encourage them to just purely have a great time. Unfortunately, we missed the first few minutes of Ed’s first song You Need Me, I Don’t Need You as we were getting our tea however it is safe to say this is an amazing song live (as I have seen it before). He extends this song to become ten minutes of genius creating the whole track using a loop pedal, splitting the crowd into two sections getting them to sing two different melodies and just causally rapping other songs. This was followed by one of his popular songs from +, Lego House, which does not disappoint live – in fact I would say it is better live. Next, he played three songs from his new album X, Don’t, I’m a Mess and Thinking Out Loud. Seeing as I had been apprehensive about buying the album, considering his current single Sing isn’t to my taste, he convinced me his new album is definitely worth a listen. Basically, Ed played all his singles from the first album, new album and a few album tracks from the new album so next was Give Me Love, a single from the first album, which again demonstrates his ability with a loop pedal is truly incredible creating harmonisations near the end of the song. I See Fire, his soundtrack for The Hobbit and bonus track on his new album, is a beautiful song live. This was the first time I had heard it all the way through and I would love to see it again. Finally, Ed Sheeran ended with his two top singles, The A Team and Sing, both surprisingly good (as Pharrell didn’t turn up for Sing) so overall Ed’s set was very well done.

I don’t have any faults for this performance, apart from Sing being a little annoying as a first single but even that is much better live, as he is a genuine talent for the music industry as well as a down to earth guy who can control almost any crowd. At times, Ed can seem a little awkward but that is part of his charm so I would seriously recommend seeing him live if you enjoy his music or if you just want to have a bit of fun.

Emma’s rating: 9/10. Favourite Song: You Need Me, I Don’t Need You

Gareth’s verdict:

I missed all the Ed Sheeran hype, writing him off as just another one of those overrated pop acts. My opinion has been completely changed since seeing him live. Down to earth, the lyrics to You Need Me, I Don’t Need You are wonderful for how much he attacks the flawed music industry and he seems like such a pleasant lad. So yeah, fair to say he impressed me.

Gareth’s rating: 7/10. Favourite Song: You Need Me, I Don’t Need You

Biffy Clyro – Main Stage, 22:20 – 23:50
Reviewed by both

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The headliner we were both most excited for were Biffy Clyro, the topless Scottish three-piece. Gareth had seen them once before, while Emma was seeing them for the first time. Biffy have combined their original disjointed riffs, weird song compositions and lyrics that make little sense with a pop element, which since Puzzle has given them increasing chart success. Headlining a festival for (almost) the last time before they head off to make another album in their homeland made this gig a perfect recipe for success.

Biffy are a band who truly cater for their fans at live gigs, even at festivals regularly playing album tracks from any of their 6 releases. Their set at T was no exception, with Woo Woo, Whorses and Questions and Answers making an appearance. Emma had been hoping for Spanish Radio, Christopher’s River, Victory Over the Sun and Folding Stars and wasn’t totally disappointed as the latter two were played. Opening the set with Different People, Biffy then launched into That Golden Rule and The Captain, which got the crowd singing and jumping along. Unsurprisingly, the crowd knew Many of Horror, Who’s Got a Match? and Biblical best, with the Opposites album tracks such as Sounds Like Balloons also popular. Clearly blown over by the massive crowd, Simon Neil seemed very emotional throughout the gig especially during the solo acoustic renditions of God & Satan and one of his tributes to his late mother, Machines (played at the start of the encore). Another sentimental moment came when Biffy played 57, introducing it as one of the songs they played on the T-Break stage before getting signed. One of my favourite sections of the gig were the two brilliant songs which have long intros, Glitter and Trauma and Living is a Problem Because Everything Dies which led to Many of Horror, Woo Woo, Black Chandelier and then ending with Bubbles. The encore began with Machines, before changing pace dramatically with Stingin’ Belle (complete with bagpipes) and ending with Mountains, all of which which were hugely well received and Biffy left to the hero reception they deserve. Bagpipes, pyrotechnics and fireworks – this truly was a gig not to be missed.

Obviously, Biffy Clyro are a must see due to being a truly excellent live band. They were a perfect headliner for T in the Park so hopefully they will play there many more times in the future and personally we believe they would’ve been better suited to end the festival (no doubt with the bagpipes). The Scottish crowd clearly loved them, the atmosphere throughout their performance was incredible and there is not one song that wasn’t flawless. To sum it up, Biffy Clyro are a spectacular Scottish trio.

Our rating: 10/10. Our favourite song: Glitter and Trauma

Other Acts:

Shading from the sun we caught Neon Jungle and Foxes. Despite not knowing her songs we thoroughly enjoyed Foxes and have bought her album since. The same can not be said for Neon Jungle, who apparently have had a UK top 10 song. They were absolutely shocking. The fact one of their songs has been a hit just sums up how much bollocks the charts are.