Saturday, 27 February 2016


Reef @ The Hub, Plymouth - 25/02/2016

Firstly, two admissions of guilt. Number one; I've never been to the Hub in Plymouth before and it's a cracking venue. Nothing fancy going on here but a good raised stage, a large room and a long bar with reasonably priced drinks all add to the excellent sound system and relaxed vibe. Number two; for a variety of reasons I only managed to arrive in time to catch the last song of support band Andy Quick's Flying Orchestra. Nevertheless, what I saw/heard was  exciting, engaging, catchy and, with a spider-like drummer, visually entertaining so they're now on the list of bands to catch.

While the crowd mill around and get drinks the background music is a who's who of Britpop past
Reef @ The Hub - Photo by Sharon Buckingham
with Oasis, Blur and the Verve all getting an outing which only serves to remind just what a special band Reef were in the 90s. While the country was getting bent out of shape about which set of city fey boys  was writing the best and most ironic indie tune, Reef were writing the soundtrack to a hundred summers soaked in cider and only visible through a haze of early evening sunshine and sweet smelling smoke. As the four members of Reef (plus honorary fifth member on keys) take to the stage, though, there is a definite sense of nerves as though this first proper tour in years with a new kid on guitars means more than it has for a long time. Any nerves were soon dispelled, however, as Jack Bessant's rumbling bass started shaking the walls of the venue and Jesse Wood's feedback squall welcomed us all in with a huge sounding rendition of 'Feed Me'. For the 60% of the audience there to hear 'Place Your Hands' this was a huge wakeup call - this was a rock'n'roll show.

The set just roared on from this point with pitch perfect renditions of 'Higher Vibration', 'Come Back Brighter' and 'I Would Have Left You' as the quartet moved through the gears, pulling heavily from the hugely successful 'Glow' album. Pausing for a breather in the set, Gary Stringer introduced us to new song 'First Mistake' which had a tender, soulful feel before their most popular ballad 'Consideration' completed the set slow down. Unsurprisingly, the performances of 'Place Your Hands' and 'Naked' were the high points of the night for the general masses with crowd surfing and general singing along going up by around 50%. For me, though, it was the trio of 'New Bird', 'Summer's In Bloom' and 'Stone For Your Love' that got me bouncing. More new songs were aired which showed the contribution that Wood is making to the band as Kenwyn House's replacement - he's not just a pretty face if 'Just Feel Love', 'True To Yourself' and forthcoming single 'How I Got Over' are anything to go by, the kid has serious chops.

Jack Bessant - Photo by Sharon Buckingham
The acoustic came out for 'I've Got Something To Say' (a personal favourite) and the bitter, angry tones of 'Don't You Like It When I'm High?' fizzed and crackled around the venue. The obligatory encore featured mostly new material but finished where the night started with a track from the band's debut album, 'Replenish'. 'Choose To Live' always showed Reef at their experimental best and this sprawling, loose limbed version was a delight to behold. In a year that has already robbed us of so many musical greats, I think at least Lemmy can rest easy that the spirit of English rock'n'roll is alive and well, it's just been slumbering in the Somerset hills like a groggy giant. 

If tonight was a scene in a film then it would surely have been the training montage before the prize fighter makes his title winning return to the sporting arena. Reef will be around most of the festivals this summer and you would be hard pushed a better live rock band from this island with a better back catalogue and new songs to boot. As for me, I feel 16 again and have fallen in love with Reef all over again which is hard to admit as these guys like are, like, seriously hairy and that's not really my type.

More information:

Live Dates:

26th February - Mr Kyps, Poole
3rd March - Electric Ballroom, London
4th March - The Factory Petroc, Barnstaple
5th March - O2 Academy, Oxford
10th March - O2 Academy, Bristol
11th March - O2 Institute, Birmingham

12th March - The LCR, Norwich

Monday, 15 February 2016


Mohawk Radio - Two Million Heart Beats 
Mohawk Radio - Two Million Heart Beats

Release Date: 19th February 2016

Manchester band Mohawk Radio have gone and got themselves a great band name, which is a good start, but how does the music stack up? Well, 'Two Million Heart Beats' is somewhere between a 90s power ballad and some watered down nu-metal . Now, that might sound awful to some ears but once you've given this a couple of listens it does start to grow on you as the acoustic strumming, power drums and key stabs all build to support Mia Page's super impressive vocals - seriously, she sounds like a young Cher before she discovered auto-tune. So, great name and impressive tune but I wouldn't have put the name and style together in a million years (or two million heart beats - sorry, couldn't resist).

Live Dates:

20th February - Single Release @ Club Academy, Manchester


Monique Angele - Answers 
Monique Angele - Answers

Release Date: Out Now

Toronto born Monique Angele is currently residing in Australia which, for some reason,  her makes her sound like one of the most clean living people you can imagine and that sense of purity is there for all to see in the new single and video from the singer songwriter. 'Answers' uses a hypnotically delicate piano riff to underpin Angele's soothing tones and the two combine to create a Muse-esque thing of beauty. Accompanying the video, which takes in a day of sights, this has the feel of a mid-film montage but an up and coming director creating a 'moment in time' piece about how the rural and urban parts of life coexist. On a more base level, however, this is simple, pure and beautiful music that, even when the drums kick in towards the end, would soothe the fiercest of beasts at the end of the hardest of days. Stunning.

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Watch The Video:

Live Dates:

24th February - Grumpy's Green, Fitzroy, VIC


NARCS - Pig (Clue Records) 

Release Date: 26th February 2016

My favourite Leeds lads are back with a new single and a tour which is great news but you'd better strap yourself in as they aren't in the mood for fluffy pop ballads, oh no sir. Narcs' new single, the directly title 'Pig', is an attack to the senses from the moment you see the artwork to the triumphant end of the track itself and that's not even mentioning the video! Strained guitar notes drift out over tribal, insistent drums as feedback bleeds in from the corners before the distinctive voice of frontman Wilko kicks in with inbuilt distortion. The tension builds through the verses to a chorus that offers some respite but you just can't take your eyes off the video. Two and a half minutes in the song explodes in a hundred different directions with only the grumbling bass line keeping things remotely tethered in some sense of order. Not so much a return to form, then, but more a continuation of excellent work that has had me enthralled since I first heard these guys. A genuinely talented bunch with a bright future - no matter how bleak they see our future as.

Live Dates:

15th February - Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London
16th February - Tunbridge Wells Forum, Tunbridge Wells
17th February - Green Door Store, Brighton
18th February - Cafe Indiependent, Scunthorpe
19th February - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
27th February - Gullivers, Manchester


Black Friday - Live @ The Inn On The Shore, Downderry, Cornwall (13/02/16) 
Black Fiday 

OK, full disclosure here, I was really in attendance at this gig to help a good friend celebrate a significant birthday in my local but, by happy accident, this coincided with the chance to see one of the most highly respected bands currently working the circuit in Cornwall. Black Friday ply their trade in the realms of celtic folk but there is so, so much more to them than that. With all seven members squeezed in to one corner of the pub, the group set about winding up the atmosphere slowly, raising the temperature and creating an atmosphere. Original compositions mixed in amongst classics like 'Dirty Old Town' and 'Whiskey In The Jar' without missing a beat, showing the quality of the band's song writing ability.

It is, however, in the live arena that this collective excels and, even in a tiny space, they can't help but perform like the natural entertainers they are. From the lowest slung Banjo I've ever seen to some seriously fierce Mandolin work, Black Friday an absolute joy to watch if you can manage to take it all in. The folk ethos is up front for every to see but then you've got elements of Blues, Country, Rock'n'Roll and, when that wah-wah pedal kicks in, things get a little funky as well. I'll admit that alcohol and socialising deflected my full attention but I'll definitely be checking these guys out again. On first impressions, if you want a band to turn up, play fiercely uplifting music that will get the place jumping and have any audience eating out of the palm of their hands then Black Friday are the guys (and girl) for you, make no mistake.

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Live Dates:  

19th February - Mark Of Friendship, Millbrook
20th February - London Inn, Padstow
4th March - Globe Inn, Lostwithiel
5th March - Kitty O'Hanlon's, Plymouth
10th March - Gaz's Club, London
11th March - Millennium House, Pensilva
17th March - Red Lion, Newquay
18th March - Finn McCouls, Falmouth

25th March - Rod & Line, Tideford


Big Boy Bloater & The Limits - Luxury Hobo (Provogue/Mascot Label Group) 
Big Boy Bloater & The Limits - Luxury Hobo

Release Date: 26th February 2016

Big Boy Bloater is one of those names that I've heard of for years but never taken the time to listen to - shame on me for that. This new album, the superbly titled 'Luxury Hobo', is nine tracks full of soul, blues, rock'n'roll and a sense of raw, unfettered energy that is utterly infectious. Opening with 'Devils Not Angels', only the most cold hearted and soulless music fan would remain unmoved  by the swirling organ riff and chugging blues rhythm section that gets this album off to a storming start like the spinning, smoking wheels of a 1950s convertible starting a drag race....for pinks, of course. Then comes 'It Came Out Of The Swamp', all Black Keys with slowed down Lemmy-esque bass lines and the kind of rasping, sing along chorus that will have sweating venues singing along with whisky soaked breath. This is dirty stuff, seriously dirty stuff.

The light, poppy, surf melody of 'I Love You (But I Can't Stand Your Friends)' doesn't paint the full picture as Mr Bloater sets about a series of character assassinations of his beau's friends - we've all been there, right? The dirt is back on 'The Devil's Tail' which has all the bluesy slide guitar fun of Jon Spencer and his various crews while the main man's voice is in excellent gravel and nails form. I can only imagine these guys being a huge amount of fun to watch live as the instrumentation is so loose but nailed on and each note bounces off the next. On 'I Got The Feeling Someone's Watching Me' things get a little slinky and mysterious and you can only imagine this as the soundtrack for a sassy lady to make a subtle yet distinct entrance to a New Orleans bar and make a purposeful bee line to a man in a large Stetson...or just a stalker's theme.

'Luxury Hobo Blues' is all based around a kooky, quirky little riff that sounds like my brain feels when I drag my sorry ass out of bed each morning, all angles and twisted edges but slowly it emerges in to a real groove - as if there was ever any doubt. More than any other, this tune carries the theme of the album; the question of why so many of us have so much but feel so depressed and detached from life. Despite a slightly dark ending to the lyrical theme, 'Robot Girlfriend' is a more upbeat tune and the groove is so deep that you can't help but get in to it, as Madonna always wanted us to. Big Boy takes things down a notch on 'All Things Considered' with a real Van Morrison-esque soul tune with that rasping vocal smoothed out by some rich, velvety keys. The album closes with 'Not Cool Man' and this is the party piece without a doubt. The slide guitar and jumping keys vie for attention like preening men in front of the only single woman in the bar but the basic theme here is fun so just get up and dance for crying out loud. I thoroughly enjoyed this album from the point of view of fun, musicianship and lyrical content - you can't ask for more than that can you?

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Live Dates:

8th May - The Glee Club, Birmingham
12th May - Cliffs Pavilion, Southend
13th May - The Hunter Club, Bury St Edmunds
15th May - The 100 Club, London
20th May - The Old Fire Station, Oxford
21st May - The Railway, Winchester
26th May - The Musician, Leicester

28th May - Mr Kyps, Poole