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Indie/Indie Rock Punk/Rock

Indie Idols: Crywank

The 1980s were a wild time, to say the least. Teenagers were rebelling – as per usual – and creating their own kind of lifestyle, diverting the general expectations of growing up and maturing that had dominated previous decades. Fashion was outrageous, attitudes were eccentric and controversial, and all of this was reflected in the music. Punk emerged from the underground and, in a symbiotic relationship with the youth, the face of music was forever scarred for the better. Bands like Sex Pistols and the Ramones exploded onto the scene expressing anarchy and distrust in the establishment, loudly displaying their political agenda and providing a voice for like-minded young people. Throughout the decade, punk influenced countless subgenres and subcultures, encouraging political freedom and rebirth of the most riotous kind, while also merging with others to create completely unexpected, but lyrically brilliant, hybrid genres.

This month’s Indie Idol embodies the spirit of punk while exhibiting its versatility within other genres by displaying elements of anti-folk – a musical movement established in the 1980’s to “mock the perceived seriousness” of the decade’s popular music, serving as a protest through clever lyricism. Crywank, a band spontaneously conceived by Jay Clayton in Manchester in 2009 upon receiving their first guitar, expresses a more personal kind of anarchy, announcing displeasure with mundane realism we have all probably felt from time to time, as well as dealing with more serious issues like mental health. I Am Shit from the band’s 2013 Tomorrow is Nearly Yesterday and Everyday is Stupid album, for instance, serves as a criticism of one’s self, overthinking everything you have said or done, and being stuck in a loop of self-doubt and inadequacy. The lyrics are hard-hitting and emotional, with a characteristic DIY-nature that adds to the charm and meaning of the song.

Arguably, Crywank takes a more comedic stance in some of their productions, helping to lighten the typically downbeat mood of their work while fitting to the anti-folk genre, still providing that dramatic social commentary the band and sub-punk genres are known for. Songs like An Academics Lament on Barbie, which comments on the irony surrounding the suggestion that Barbie is a feminist icon for young girls, having had over a hundred different jobs, many in typically male industries, while also being subject to strict and traditional female beauty standards that fail to represent the vast majority of women. Or Tin Foil Hat Crew at the Student House, which discusses constantly being monitored by companies online and other politics while also featuring the highly intellectual lyric, “Slap my thigh call me messy sweaty petty silly sausage,” from the duo’s 2017 Egg on Face. Foot in Mouth. Wriggling Wriggling Wriggling. album, for example. Both of these songs also demonstrate Crywank’s musical diversity by embracing a sound vaguely similar to that of Parklife by Blur, with more melodic speech rather than general singing, while still harking back to their punk-inspired roots – which are especially evident in the final few lyrics of Tin Foil Hat…, “Don’t Be Evil, Ooglie-booglie-googlie-booglie.”

(Check out Story of the Lizard and the Sock for another dark comedy-esque song)

The group’s most recent and final album, Fist Me ‘Til Your Hand Comes out My Mouth, a name that most definitely reflects the outrageous and uncensored nature of the 1980’s punk movement, features an eight-part story about friendship and its effects on the band. And, as the title I Love You but I’ve Chosen Me… suggests, the importance of loving oneself before attempting to love someone else. The album is, overall, fairly different from Crywank’s previous seven albums due to a larger focus on instrumentalism, such as in The Best, poetry, similar to Jamie T’s use of Sir John Betjeman’s The Cockney Amorist poem in his debut single Sheila, and a more upbeat sound – the existentialist lyrics are still going strong, though. 

The band seems to have steered clear of music videos in the traditional sense, preferring to upload live versions or random rehearsal sessions onto their Youtube channel. However, the few music videos that have been created for their most recent album all exude a sense of incomplete chaoticism that perfectly reflects the sentiment of their whole musical catalogue. The videos tend to be stylised in a low budget arts-and-crafts-type manner using watercolour (Egg and Spoon) and torn paper (Ego is a Phoenix) to depict the narrative while making the meanings of the songs feel more tangible to the audience and, once again, hinting at the homemade elements of punk style. Album art for the band is definitely something to behold, ranging from a simple photo of a shelf adorned with wooden cat sculptures to a fluorescent drawing of a two-headed monster with the iconic World War II “Kilroy was Here” doodle looming above. However, I feel as if the variation in album art reflects the large range of topics and emotions discussed and felt through the band’s work and does show progression in the bands freedom of expression over time.

Unfortunately for all who love them, Crywank’s musical career is coming to a voluntary end after their next North American tour, which has been postponed to 2022. However, their music and merchandise will continue to be available on dogknightsproductions.com until it is all sold out. In the meantime, check out Memento Mori and Hikikomori, my two favourites by the band. 

Categories
Punk/Rock

GUESS WHO’S BACK – Amyl and The Sniffers

GUIDED BY ANGELS is the brand new single from the now legendary Melbourne Punk-Your-Pants-Off-Rockers, Amyl and The Sniffers.

The bands new ‘old-school rock’n’roll’ album COMFORT TO ME is out on September 10th. Pre-order and BE READY.

Categories
Pop/Indie Pop

The Wonderful World of Walt Disco

The Glaswegian glam pop outfit Walt Disco have been making waves in the European indie scene since their debut EP Young Hard and Handsome was released in September of 2020. Consisting of six members, James (lead singer); Finlay (guitar and keyboards); Lewis (guitarist); David (synth); Charlie (bass); and Jack (drums) the group’s appearance is reminiscent of David Bowie, Marc Bolan, and mid-1970s Brian Eno with a dash of ABBA thrown in for good measure. 

Yet Walt Disco somehow remain totally unlike any other band that has gone before them. They have a distinctly 21stcentury feel, a fervent embrace of unapologetic self-expression and decadence (the intensity of which stems possibly from the increasingly alarming structural malfunctions seizing up our current way of life on Earth.) The band have quickly forged their own signature sound, inviting listeners into a colorful realm of rock n’ roll that Dork Magazine has dubbed, “Walt Discoworld.”

The group recently released a single entitled Selfish Lover, accompanied by a video featuring the band parading around an abandoned mansion decked out in glam rock deshabille and kabuki theatre-meets-Pierrot makeup. The Selfish Lover release coincided with an announcement that the group had signed to Lucky Number Records and were planning a tour of the U.K. to promote the single.

On behalf of Totally Wired, I recently caught up with lead singer James Potter and guitarist Finlay McCarthy for a chat on myriad topics ranging from writing pop songs on computers to raiding Grayson Perry’s closet, to the tour gigs they’re most looking forward to. 

The interview occurs on Zoom, because, well, of course: it’s 2021. James Potter appears on the screen first, their dark curly mullet pushed back over their ears, and shortly after, guitarist Finlay McCarthy pops up, sporting a Mick Jagger-y shag with the tips dyed blue. “I’m in!’ he crows, after exchanging suitably chummy greetings with bandmate James. (“Thank you, it’s a mess,” he says self-deprecatingly when I compliment his hair.) 

We get down to business, starting with the simple stuff: How did the band members originally meet? “Over the space of a couple of years. Me, Dave and Lewis were in the original line-up and then Finlay joined at the start of 2019, then Jack joined during a long tour in autumn 2019, and then Charlie joined in around December 2019,” James explains.

I ask what the main inspiration for starting a band was. “I suppose, personally, it’s just because it’s like the only thing I’m good at,” Finlay says. “Ever since I started playing guitar when I was like, 13, I was just like, ‘Ok. That’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna leave school and find people to play with…And I’m gonna take a part-time job until it works.’ And now it has.”

I inquire after who the primary songwriters in the band are. Do they all contribute equally, or do they have a Lennon/McCartney thing going on where some work on melody and some write lyrics?

 “I don’t think it’s ever been six of us in the same room, but all six of us contribute,” James says.

“We kind of had to look at the way we were creating over lockdown. And we found that a lot of it has come from writing through the computer rather than jamming in a room,” Finlay explains.

“I think often I find lyrics from the feeling an instrumental will give me,” James muses. “So it’ll be quite a lush instrumental often before I start writing lyrics. Sometimes the lyrics’ll come early but more often than not, I have to have a real feeling and emotions already from the music and find something from that. Because a lot of people won’t listen to lyrics. So, you don’t always even need lyrics, but melody is the main thing that moves people in music. And you need the right words to fit a melody.”

Walt Disco behind the scenes of their ‘Selfish Lover’ video, photographed by @m_adeleinegrace

We move on to discussing the band’s latest single, a high-energy pop number called Selfish Lover, written during lockdown: “Yeah, it was like, April last year,” James recalls. “Lewis sent a garage band demo. We really liked the energy of the instrumental. We just wanted to make it a wee bit more circusy and interesting, so we gave it the intro bassline and the sort of slightly swingy feel…”

Despite having good bones, the song took a lot of “chipping away,” at before it reached its final state, Finlay says. James grins and admits, “…the guitar riff, the middle eight and the first chorus one, was a guitar riff we stole from another song that didn’t quite make it…”

“You stole a riff from your own song? Self-piracy?” I laugh. 

“Yeah, we stole a riff from our own song because the rest of the song just wasn’t strong enough, but it had a really good riff. So, we were like, fuck it, we’ll just put it in this song…David Bowie plagiarized his own songs all the time,” James says. I mention how much James’ voice reminds me of Station to Station era David Bowie on certain Walt Disco tunes, and the conversation turns to the band’s musical inspirations and influences. 

“Having six of us, there’s quite a mishmash, but we all share very similar interests, like the Associates,” Finlay says. “We got really into electronic music over lockdown, cos all we were trying to do was write pop songs. And sometimes you just wanted to switch off and listen to a beat or a cool sound. That kind of seeped into the pop songs that we were trying to write.”

James delves deeper into dissecting the band’s writing methodology: “We’d often start with these quite complex, experimental electronic tracks and then complete that as its own little thing, and then send it over to a different computer and then view it differently… and then once the bass and guitar are on, give it a pop structure and pop melody. That’s the most successful writing process we’ve had.”

Walt Disco behind the scenes of the ‘Selfish Lover,’ video. Photographer: @m_adeleinegrace

The conversation veers from songwriting to another crucial part of Walt Disco’s collective artistic practice: getting dressed up. Thinking of the flamboyant mix of costumes in the Selfish Lover video (where the band wore everything from thigh-high black leather boots to baby pink satin corsets, housewifely 1950s half-slips, faux fur wraps and leather harnesses,) I ask if they have a favored designer or stylist.

“For the Selfish Lover video we were working with a stylist called Jack Shanks…he’s great,” James says. “He’s kind of the same build and the same height as all of us and that means he’s got lots of great things in his own wardrobe that fit us, and then we’ll always bring lots of our own wardrobes to the shoots. 

“Once everyone’s dressed, I make sure I have a look at everyone, ‘cause I love styling. It’s quite funny when everyone’s ready, and then I go round and am like: ‘I need to have a line-up,’ and then I’ll be like, ‘You’re not done,” and “you’re not done.’” They laugh. “Sometimes they’ll get a wee bit hurt and I’m like, ‘No, it’s for the video.’ It has to be right.”

“It’s always been something that’s been a big part of the band, even before we worked with stylists. Getting ready in the dressing room was always fun,” Finlay reminisces fondly.

I ask if there are any particular designers or fashion icons whose closets they’d like to raid.

“I think the one for both of us would be Grayson Perry,” James says, and Finlay oohs in agreement. “Definitely one of the biggest fashion icons of this century.”

I ask which artists first sparked their interest in music as kids, and Finlay looks a bit sheepish. “This may sound totally mad, but I didn’t like music when I was little. I just wasn’t interested in it, at all, until I got to high school. But I remember in my music class, we got a temporary music teacher that showed me ‘My Iron Lung,’ by Radiohead, and I was like ‘That’s cool.’ That kind of sent me down the rabbit hole.” 

James hasn’t heard this story before, and seems vaguely disappointed that Finlay’s “musical awakening,” took the form of Radiohead: “…a shame,” they say. Finlay thinks for a moment and adds, “It’s probably subliminal, but my mum was playing a lot of Kate Bush and stuff in the car, when I was little. I didn’t like it then, but I do now.” 

The soundtrack to James’ growing-up years was very different: “There were a lot of very guitar-y CDs in my house. Also, my parents would put on Queen and Scissor Sisters all the time, but I can’t remember if it was my request or not…it would kind of make sense if it was. I remember the CD player and the sound system were a real centerpiece of the living room when I was six or seven.”

I say that with the music industry stopped in its tracks for so many months, returning to the previous cycles of promo, releases and touring must feel almost alien in its strangeness. 

“You get used to your face not being anywhere, and then it’s everywhere!” James agrees, laughing.

Starting in July, Walt Disco are set to embark on a thirteen-date tour staggered over the course of four months. I ask which gigs they’re most excited to play. “I’m excited to go back to Edinburgh. That’s my home,” Finlay says, face lighting up. “And the gig we played there in October 2019 was the biggest gig we’ve ever played. Can’t wait to go back and play an even bigger venue.”

After so many months of forced stagnation, live music is back in action, and so are Walt Disco. 

Tickets for Walt Disco’s 2021 U.K. tour are on sale at: https://www.songkick.com/artists/9265324-walt-disco/calendar

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Punk/Rock Uncategorized Why We Love

Why We Love: Press Club

Spotify’s Discover Weekly is a wonderfully exciting place where you can unearth artists specifically tailored to your tastes and it is what led me to a band that has been described as “one of the most exciting young prospects in rock music.” Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Press Club’s gritty garage-punk sound first blessed the ears of Bandcamp listeners in 2017 with the release of their single Headwreck, a hazy two and half minute anthem clearly expressing the band’s true unadulterated passion and determination that has continued to shine throughout their two subsequent albums, Late Teens and Wasted Energy.

Influenced by bands like Brand New and Hüsker Dü, the energetic and chaotic sound of their music can often be seen to juxtapose the peaceful and laid back vibe that their narrative music videos exude, an effect that is especially evident in the video accompanying Suburbia, a personal favourite of mine and their most streamed track on Spotify. The calm everyday visuals of the video create an anticipatory tension throughout that reflects the angsty nostalgia of old relationships and moving on, a feeling that I am sure many can relate to. Lead singer Natalie Foster introduces dream-like vocals that explode into punk fervour, a technique common in Press Club’s discography, in Crash and Same Mistakes for example, and gives the band that irresistible indie edge and attracts an audience atypical to the punk genre.

The band tends to embody a kind of “go with the flow” attitude, creating music with ambiguity allowing the listener to interpret the meaning in a way unique to themselves and, as Foster revealed, deciding upon song titles and even their band name by throwing ideas around and seeing what felt right. Many of Press Club’s songs do, however, deal with quite heavy topics enabling an emotional connection to form between the band and the listener over similar shared experiences. Twenty-Three, the concluding track to their Wasted Energy album, for example, discusses topics such as drugs and how you can’t hide from your actions.

As a band notorious among its fans for delivering loud, atmospheric gigs and tirelessly touring around Australia, Europe, and the UK, racking up a huge number of shows in the last few years, Press Club should 100% be at the top of your “bands to see live” list. They will not disappoint.

Photo by: Ian Laidlaw

Listen to Press Club on Spotify now.

Categories
Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Black Pumas

Psychedelic-soul band Black Pumas captured my full attention with their transcendent GRAMMYs performance just a few weeks ago. My mouth hung open throughout the duration of their stage time and, accompanied by several colorfully encouraging words, I couldn’t stop shouting, “Oh my god!” 

I didn’t need any more convincing whatsoever; I grabbed my phone, saved their music, and followed them on social media. They very quickly had me in the palms of their hands, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. This group hailing from Austin, Texas serves as the definition of a powerhouse, and I have a good feeling that they will be the catalysts of a much-needed musical revolution. If you missed their performance or are simply entirely new to Black Pumas, I implore you to watch it immediately

Bandmates Eric Burton and Adrian Quesada, through the help of a friend, united in 2018. Shortly after the release of two singles (“Fire” and “Black Moon Rising”), Black Pumas dropped their fiery self-titled album on June 21, 2019. That same year, the GRAMMYs nominated them for the “Best New Artist” category. With a total of four Grammy nominations now under their belt, it’s absolutely criminal that they walked away empty-handed. To the GRAMMYs (and any other awards ceremony, for that matter): Do better. 

With sold-out tours, numerous television performances, and a recent achievement of taking the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Emerging Artists Chart, this is merely the beginning of a prosperous career for Black Pumas. This immense, ground-breaking talent that they possess is awe-inspiring. Everybody, and I mean everybody, needs to put this band on their radar. No ifs, ands, or buts.

The entirety of their discography is unmatched, despite it being just the beginning. Coated in a dizzying richness that provides a similar feeling to taking a sip of warm coffee on a cold morning, their music fully envelopes you. I am completely and entirely bewitched; whether I am just listening to their record (original, deluxe, and expanded deluxe!) or watching videos of their performances, I find myself falling more in love as the minutes go by.

Every single aspect of each song, whether it be the heavenly, euphonic vocals or the electrifying instrumentations, is expertly crafted. I cannot stress enough how one-of-a-kind this band is. Seriously, stop whatever it is you’re doing and listen to Black Pumas. Go on then; go!


To stay in the know, follow Black Pumas on Instagram, Twitter, and Spotify.

(Cover photo by: JACKIE LEE YOUNG)

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock

Lucia and the Best Boys: Poised for World Domination

Lucia Fairfull, the frontwoman of Glaswegian indie pop sensations Lucia and the Best Boys, is an ‘80s haute couture fever dream. 

Her constantly evolving sartorial presence keeps the group’s image in a state of constant flux, refreshing and revitalizing, but it’s her voice that’s the real star. I’ve never met anyone who’s found it directly comparable to another artist’s; it’s uniquely moving, sometimes vigorous, bright and soothing, sometimes edged with the purring rasp of a femme fatale in a noir film.

 The band’s recent EP The State of Things (released in 2020), features four tracks, Perfectly Untrue, Somewhere in HeavenForever Forget, and Let Go.

Perfectly Untrue is the smash hit of the EP, with nearly 700,000 Spotify streams thus far, an impressive feat indeed.

(Two intriguing remixes have been made from the EP, a Forever Forget remix by Dream Wife and a Let Go remix by synth sensation Jessica Winter. Both are guaranteed to be the high point of any two a.m. solo dance party, something we’ve all gotten very used to during the series of lockdowns.)

On Let Go, Lucia’s powerful, resonant voice soars and dips into deeply satisfying husky notes. It’s a delicate, touching ballad, and the subject matter is surely content that all of us can empathize with.

Overall, they’re break-up tunes that are just as satisfying to listen to when you’re happy as when you’re heartbroken. The Best Boys manage to keep up a level of emotional relevance few bands achieve.

It’s going to be very exciting to see what this powerhouse group will accomplish next… I wait with bated breath.

Today, Scotland– tomorrow, the world.

Header Photo Credit: Oli Erskine

Categories
Why We Love

Why We Love: Black Country, New Road

Black Country, New Road’s debut album For the First Time has been named Rough Trade’s album of the month for February. It’s a tremendous honor for a first album, and it’s well-deserved. The young band have already achieved more in their debut than most groups do over the course of their entire existence. The seven members have forged a sound that defies categorization. There is no genre that fits Black Country, New Road, a lucky thing indeed, because it has forced them to create their own.

For the First Time is a music nerd’s delight, a veritable 7th heaven of listening pleasures. It’s the kind of album that you listen to ten times all the way through on the first day of having it in your possession. You’ll want to unpack the dense, layered sounds, to figure out exactly what’s being said in each lyric, to identify every instrument and every influence.

Each one of the six tracks on the album is stellar, but Sunglasses is my favorite, segueing between mellow rhythms and full-out punk screaming, then (somehow) sliding smoothly into emotional descriptions of the irritations and fetters of relationships and life within a family, and through it all the meditation, gripped like a life-line: “I am invincible in these sunglasses…” It inspires an odd mixture of elation and chills, and the need to share it with someone else immediately. In other words, it’s on its way to being a classic.

Black Country, New Road are an orchestra for the future, “the new classic”(al) for spaceships. On more than one level, it’s something we all need to listen to; it’s something we all need to hear.

You can find Black Country, New Road on Instagram @blackcountrynewroad, on Spotify and on Bandcamp.

Header Photo Credit: Max Grainger

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Reviews Uncategorized

Looking Back: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, and the monumental bang it punches has certainly stood the test of time. It’s undeniable that this is one of their most defining records, and even the album art alone has become an icon in the UK music scene. 

Being that I was just six years old when the album released (I know, I know….), I was a few years late to the party. I first found Arctic Monkeys when I was about eleven after randomly seeing their video for “Fluorescent Adolescent” pop up on YouTube. I was immediately hooked, and I absolutely needed to hear more; thus began my deep-dive into their discography of the time. 

Now, don’t get me wrong—every record of theirs is nothing short of a masterpiece. There’s something special about WPSIATWIN, though, and I frequently find myself being pulled towards it the most and listening to it in full every time. With such a mint tracklist, how could you even think about pressing skip on any song?

The record opens up with fast-paced, intoxicating energy through “The View From The Afternoon.” It serves as an incredible introduction for the rest of the album and provides listeners with a good idea of what’s to come. It’s playful, it’s loud, and it’s boisterous, and that sort of vivacity definitely doesn’t end there as “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” follows it up. To this day, it remains one of my favourite Arctic Monkeys songs of all time, and I know I’m not alone when I say that this is a legendary one. I mean, have you seen the way crowds react when they hear this song? There is no way in hell you could ever sit still while it plays, and if you somehow can, I don’t think I can trust you. End of. 

Next up is “Fake Tales Of San Francisco,” which happens to be one that gets stuck in my head quite easily, but I’m definitely not complaining. The catchy guitar riffs, the comedic lyrics, the explosion that erupts from the band after the lyric “So all that’s left / Is the proof that love’s not only blind but deaf…” 

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. 

The next three songs that follow are perfectly placed, in my opinion. You’ve got “Dancing Shoes,” which practically begs you to get up, stop paying any mind to what others may think or say, and just have fun. “You Probably Couldn’t See For The Lights But You Were Staring Straight At Me” is another personal favourite of mine (criminally underrated, might I add), and it’s such an addictive track. It does a fantastic job at keeping the energy high, which then leads into the snarky, boyish track “Still Take You Home” flawlessly. 

Oh, “Riot Van,” how I love you so. It’s an absolute dream of a song; I love the story that is told within the lyrics, and the overall feel of the track is drastically more chilled out than the rest of the album. “Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured” snaps listeners out of that trance, though, and my god, does it do an amazing job at getting people back up on their feet. Just below, you will find my favourite verse in that song; the delivery will never fail to give me chills.

Well calm down, temper, temper

You shouldn’t get so annoyed

Well, you’re acting like a silly little boy

And they wanted to be men

And do some fighting in the street

They said, “No surrender

No chance of retreat”

It goes without saying that “Mardy Bum” is a staple in Arctic Monkeys’ discography. Despite the lyrics describing a rather rocky relationship, it has such a youthful charm that can make anybody’s eyes light up just by hearing the first few chords. It’s the essence of perfection summed up in under three minutes. Need I say more?

Alright, my favourite, favourite song off of the record is up next. “Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But…” is an absolute mind-blower. I’ve loyally stood by this one as my personal top pick for ages now, and I definitely don’t see it changing anytime soon. I’m just genuinely in love with every single aspect of this song; I love the dirty tone of the guitars, the aggression within the lyrics, and the killer jam session that fills up the remainder of the track. Plus, who doesn’t love hearing Alex Turner shout, “All you people are vampires!” towards the end? 

Like “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” and “Mardy Bum,” “When The Sun Goes Down” is another quintessential Arctic Monkeys song. I still haven’t been able to catch an Arctic Monkeys show, but whenever I do, I would be willing to make a deal with the devil to guarantee that this would be on the setlist. It is both a desperate want and need to hear this live, and in case you need any further evidence as to why that is, look no further.

Now we’re down to the final two tracks: “From The Ritz To The Rubble” and “A Certain Romance.” What a way to draw the record to a close, huh? Both songs are exhilarating and successfully encapsulate the general feel of the entire album, and before you know it, you’re back to “The View From The Afternoon” to give it another well-deserved listen. 

Can you tell I absolutely adore this record? Since I found it at such a young age, it’s safe to say that it played a massive role in shaping my taste in music. I hold it near and dear to my heart, and I’m confident that this will be an album people still talk about in decades to come. Happy 15th, you powerhouse, you.

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock Punk/Rock Uncategorized Why We Love

Why We Love: Sinead O’Brien

Sinead O’Brien is the Irish ‘punk poet’ that thrives on the edge; denying herself of anything cosy or familiar and instead opting for a ‘heavy heavy, busy busy life’ consisting of travel and new adventures. 

Always doing things differently, her spontaneous attitude and lifestyle result in a lot to be grateful for; helping her to deliver marvellous songs, exploring the beauty in darkness, that we can’t help but love and believe that you will too.

Born in Dublin and raised in Limerick, the singer has never felt much of an attachment to a particular place but has always sensed a calling from further afield. This free spirit and ability to adapt to new ways and places feed their way into her consistently evolving songs. Using expansive language and sounds that vary from punk and folk to a hint of soul and funk, she expertly provides tracks that take you on a journey where, just like her, you’re kept on your toes every step of the way.

Despite her desire for re-location though, there’s absolutely no denying O’Brien’s Irish roots. The moment that she opens her mouth, she has you hostage; her divine accent delivering mesmerising words with equal parts grit and beauty. Painting a picture with every line, including desolate wonders like I feel like the daytime chasing the night” to relatable longings for motivation with “Days like this are the wildest way, to tame the flames, to get the head to higher…” she always leaves you longing for more.

O’Brien is currently living (but most definitely not ‘settled’) in London; the city where her real musical journey began. Upon her move, she fully embraced her desire for fresh experiences by taking a page out of Jim Carrey’s book and simply saying ‘yes’ to any opportunities that arose. Fortunately, for music fans, that included attending a spoken word night in Brixton where she first performed her poems up on stage. Subsequently, the natural lyricist joined forces with current bandmates Julian Hanson and Oscar Robertson and began to put her words to equally grand music; turning dreams and expressive thoughts into songs.

Her talent in doing so was undeniable right off the bat which led to Chess Club Records; the same label as fellow alternative rockers Wolf Alice, signing O’Brien up. She then began to release her hypnotising tracks with them, before stepping up a level from South London pubs when king of the punk poetry game John Cooper Clarke invited her on tour. The two immediately hit it off (which is no surprise when you listen to each of their gutsy works), and, thanks to JCC O’Brien was introduced to Mark E. Smith who she describes as one of her “most valuable references ever”. 

As well as meeting one inspiration (who showed her the work of another), the tour with Cooper Clarke was also an opportunity to try a stint of something different once again, as like him she performed solo. After doing so she was told by a gig-goer that they could still “hear the music in it” which both she and myself completely agree with. Even without physical music present, you’re always touched by its essence thanks to her rhythm and heart, which is testament to the skill she has for her craft; consistently turning words into something so much more.

Her gifts don’t just stop there either, describing herself as incredibly determined from a young age, she pushed herself to excel in a range of areas both academic and creative- which even resulted in her moving to Paris to work for Dior. Just like her Irish upbringing, this motivation and affinity for style are also evident in her music; producing ambitious tracks that are sleek and well-tailored with a real artistic edge.

A sparse feeling is present in Sinead O’Brien’s songs, similar to that heard on Unknown Pleasures where space is intentional and meaningful; a bold move that not many even attempt to pull off. Each track contains an aura of magic, whisking you away on a different experience, that can vary from a trip to the dance floor on the snappy rhythmed ‘Taking on Time’ to dark dreams thanks to the strutting guitar and twinkle of keys on ‘A List of Normal Sins’. In doing so, she has laid the foundations to progress in any direction she wishes and seamlessly built her way up to releasing recent EP ‘Drowning In Blessings’; which to listen to feels like exactly that. 

O’Brien’s intense voice cuts straight through the musical foundations of Drowning In Blessings’ tracks, her strong delivery inducing chills and making every word hit. Exploring the cynical side of modern culture in the likes of single ‘Most Modern Painting’ she generates such existential excitement with her observations on this and ‘Roman Ruins’ that you can’t help but feel riled up and ready to rock. She perfectly balances this edge and gloom with slightly more gentle elements though; resurfacing distant childhood memories of lullabies and carousels on ‘Fall With Me’ and closing with ‘Strangers in Danger’, her packed song on relationships between people and life- a perfect opportunity for reflection after the journey.

Filled to the brim with talent and creating songs jammed with ideas that are not only personal to her but can also touch each listener, O’Brien creates worlds within her work, and I firmly believe that it’s about time you’re swept away into them.


Take a listen to Sinead O’Brien on Spotify.

Categories
Indie/Indie Rock New Wave Why We Love

Why We Love: Working Men’s Club

If you’re currently missing proper, atmosphere-filled nights out (and let’s be honest, who isn’t given the current state of the world?) then fear not as I’ve found the perfect antidote and their name is Working Men’s Club.

I recently read The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club by Peter Hook and thanks to the part-owner/bassists amusing accounts and vivid imagery, craved nothing more than to experience the iconic venue back in the day. However, I reluctantly came to terms with the fact that that was never going to happen and so decided to seek out the next best thing- some top acid tunes. 

I listened to everything that I could find from the time but having grown up in the home of the club it was all quite familiar so didn’t fully satisfy this newfound buzz; I needed something fresh and exciting that still contained the original heart. This was harder to come across than I’d first anticipated but finally had a Hallelujah moment at the beginning of this month when Working Men’s Club released their self-titled debut album and answered all of my prayers.

I was hooked (pardon the pun) from the second that opening track Valley’s first kicked off but at the 1.50 mark (0.30 in the video should check out below) something really special happened when the pounding bass cuts for a synth riff just before the lyrics kick in. In that moment I felt the closest that I believe I ever will to first experiencing the height of the movement back in the 90s and from then on I was in a trance for the rest of the record; treated to further squelching acid infusions as well as many more musical delights…

Falling Somewhere between the two bands that helped to fund the legendary ‘Hac’, Working Men’s Club clearly have a post-punk edge (just give Cook a Coffee a listen) but despite having a natural ability for creating this sound they didn’t play it easy and simply follow the classic Joy Division route; instead incorporating synth and electro to give things a New Order-esque spin. 

It would be a crime to only liken these guys to other bands though (no matter how great) as they seem to be exploring everything on the spectrum in between and actually credit the Detroit house scene as major influences. The result is their own new sound that can leave you charged and ready to dance one minute then lost and daydreaming the next.

Encapsulating the sounds that I grew up with but bringing something from my generation into the mix, I felt a kindred spirit in the band. There was something in the name and listening to their first few tracks that gave me the feeling that they were fellow Northerners (and once I saw that their third was titled John Cooper Clarke I had absolutely no doubt about it). I figured that this might have also contributed to that close connection because despite being from Yorkshire rather the home of the punk-poet and FAC51, things growing up in Todmorden feel just as small and grey (but equally hopeful). 

Like all great bands from the North, you can really hear this in their sound; the bleakness and claustrophobia in lead singer Sydney Minsky-Sargeant’s lyrics; being ‘trapped inside a town’ ‘running out of time’ but also the sense of working pride and excitement that there’s something beyond, in the sounds that they’re backed by. 

Minsky-Sergeant is now the only original band member left standing but at the fresh age of just 19, commanding you to watch him in his SOCIALISM print t-shirt he’s definitely not backing down any time soon. Originally joined by guitarist Giulia Bonometti and drummer Jake Bogacki the first line-up released debut single Bad Blood in 2019 which gained comparisons to the Totally Wired band The Fall and flows into B-Side Suburban Heights, a song filled with a jangly Smith’s-like sound. The tracks were greeted with great acclaim but success didn’t mean that Syd was ready to settle and he eagerly continued to explore and develop.

The fired-up front-man gravitated towards a new electronic noise however, this wasn’t for everyone and led to the departure of Bogacki, whilst Bonometti also moved on to focus on a solo career rather than the evolution of WMC. This, in turn, forced him to change things up even more than anticipated; sequentially swapping out the drum kit for a machine and expanding the club’s membership to three new musicians in the form of bassist Liam Ogburn, Mairead O’Connor on keys, guitar and vocals and Rob Graham joining Syd on guitar and synth.

Together they took on this new angle drawing them in; each member boldly bringing their own flourish and when combined with production from Ross Orton- the same Yorkshireman behind tracks from the Arctic Monkeys (and rather ironically The Fall), bedroom-recorded demos were transformed into a well-polished LP.

Wise beyond their years, you can already hear that the band know what music they want to make and have a great skill for executing it. The tracks on their album come together to create a cohesive experience but each is individually fresh with a mix of elements.

There’s the Stand out Acid House infusion on the likes of Tomorrow and plenty of upbeat rhythm in White Rooms and People. In addition to this optimistic sound, you’ll also find balance in a darker side; where they channel the grit that’s sung about on Teeth in its grunge guitar and evoke doom in the striking beats of Be My Guest

Also incorporated is a touch of afrobeat, funk and even indie on Outside where they sing about reminiscing in the sunshine, delivering lyrics about a ‘technicolour daydream’ whilst hardly needing any words at all on the pulsating A.A.A.A…That isn’t all either, as just when you think they’ve proven their capability they top things off with Angel, a 12-minute journey filled with swooping psychedelic sounds that creates a deservingly epic finale.

Speaking the honest truth and producing music that’s simultaneously nostalgic and now, they’re only one album in and hard not to love. Although they might have captured the sound of the North and named themselves after the places they originally strived to play in, Working Men’s Club look well and truly set to take on the wider world.

Check out Working Men’s Club on Spotify