What begins in promise ends in a feeling of being whelmed. If the title track Wonderful Wonderful, is the tone setter, replete with tinny vocals and a menacing bass line then it’s a shame the rest of the album doesn’t quite hit the same notes, especially when it’s followed by The Man which channels the sterile funk of Bowie’s Fame, with a smattering of gospel and funk amongst the synths. It’s a shame that the rest of the album feels like The Killers have been playing it safe with their usual stadium rock. The Calling cribs so much from Personal Jesus that you could convince yourself someone had written a Depeche Mode fanfic song and just replaced the lyrics. Wonderful Wonderful isn’t by any means a bad album, but it is a forgettable one that’s already been done better by War on Drugs.
Originally published in Kirkby Extra, November 2017.
Tracks like Reindeer King, Climb and Breakaway are reminiscent of Tori of old, pure piano tracks that seem like a rarity in how much guitars are on this album. Scarlet’s Walk was an album that embraced a rounder sound that incorporated guitars and a band, but it’s good to hear Tori actually getting back to the piano after feeling so much like she’d been running away from it. Native Invader sees Tori still has an amazing voice and peerless piano skills but doesn’t recapture the brilliance of her earlier work, as a lot of the songs like Chocolate Song and Bang just seem like pointless filler that blends in to one another and don’t leave any lasting impression other than taking up space. Not a bad album, but far from essential, as an artist she is capable of much more.
Originally published in Kirkby Extra, October 2017.
With a blast of synthwave we launch into The Night of the Long Knives, a track that perfectly captures the brutal murder and betrayal of the historical event with the feeling of dread inevitability in the line “It’s coming (shame about your neighbourhood.” Desire is about a destructive need to change the world but that desire clouding your vision and ultimately leaving you feeling hollow and unfulfilled with the terrible change you’ve wrought. The whole album pulses like a raw throbbing vein, tackling uncomfortable subject matter like the role of the police versus criminals and how society can cast you into a mould that’s impossible to escape from in Good Shot Good Soldier, or the casual racism and privilege of the ruling classes in Ivory Tower. The album’s satire is glowering, like someone who’s bit their cheek so hard they’ve chewed a hole in it.
Originally published in Kirkby Extra, September 2017.
So, where do I even begin? The queuing system was abysmal. It took half an hour of queuing for me and my brother to get in, but I know from looking at social media feeds of fellow ticket holders that weren’t so lucky having up to an hour’s wait in queues just for the privilege of getting in. It felt unsafe, that was the one thing we kept thinking. In a festival that was called “family friendly” by the organisers it was too overcrowded, too oversold and too badly organised, and god did it show.
There were queues of up to an hour for bars and toilets, made worse by the fact that the vast majority of which was contained in the park square which had only a narrow space to enter and exit from. This was only compounded by the fact that whenever a band came on at the main stage there would be a surge of people trying to get through this narrow gap, and when it was over trying to get back to the bar and food stall area – and for most of the day there was no barrier to separate a way in and out, that only came later, possibly due to the fact that a large number of people were tweeting Merseyside Police saying they felt the festival was unsafe.
A contributing factor to this was the poor level of bag checks being done upon entry as people were getting in with crates of beer and glass bottles, showing that the queues resulted in everyone just being rushed through with little but a precursory glance at the bags contents. Not to mention the fact that they weren’t checking if you’d bought a one day only pass or a full weekend pass. If you wanted to you could just blag it and get in, they obviously didn’t care.
Hope and Glory would later throw one of the site developers under a bus blaming him for the layout problems and posting his email on a Facebook post rather than taking responsibility themselves. It was unclear who signed off on this meeting health and safety standards, but whoever it was should take accountability for it because it wasn’t safe.
Whose bright idea was it to put the main bar right by the entrance and the majority of the toilets in the park? Who decided not to signpost that there were urinals behind the toilets that could have relieved the queues for toilets? It’s one of many damning questions that need to be asked, and it’s the organisers that should be answering, not finger pointing and naming and shaming. Take responsibility and own the fact that you fucked up, don’t blame those who worked for you, that’s unprofessional and shame on you.
But what about the bands? Well, that was a shitshow of another variety. Because of how bad the queuing system most bands were delayed. As the whole event started 2 hours late it had a massive knock on effect on the schedule meaning that most bands/artists were roughly 45 minutes to an hour late because of how poorly this event was organised. The bands themselves weren’t shy of noting this on stage, and you could feel the frustration from the bands themselves for having set lists cut short and delayed. No updated stage times were revealed until around 7pm meaning that nobody knew what time their favourite bands were on contributing to the early queues. Let me reiterate this: there was no presence on social media, no comments to the press and absolutely no communication to the people who actually bought tickets until most of the way through the first day of the festival.
The worst example of this being Charlotte Church being pulled from the line up despite coming all the way from Cardiff to play. Church later put up an appeal on Twitter asking if anyone could host her she’d be willing to do a guerrilla gig in Liverpool, and ended up in EBJB doing a gig there with free entry for those with Hope and Glory wristbands.
The annoying thing is that when the bands could play there were some great performances from Badly Drawn Boy, Razorlight, The Fratelli’s and James ,and put in the hands of a competent organiser this could have been a great fest. The space was too small for the number of people that they sold the tickets to and too disorganised to actually work. Had they consulted with the organisers of LIMF or Sound City this might have been a completely different story. In a space such as Sefton Park or Stanley Park this could have been a festival I actually felt safe in, rather than a small fenced off road by Central Library and Liverpool Museum and the park gardens. It’s funny that Pride managed this with absolutely no problems, but Hope & Glory managed to fail everyone in attendance the bands and the gig goers spectacularly.
As I was writing this post it was announced on Radio Merseyside that the festival has been cancelled, with the only reason given by Hope & Glory’s Twitter account being “following the unfair and vitriolic comments, some of us have decided not to proceed.”
If you, like me attended or bought a wrist band I would strongly encourage you to contact Hope and Glory for a refund.
It’s hard to believe that the Gorillaz have gotten to the point where they’re rivaling the stuff that Damon Albarn output with Blur, but I’ll be damned if they’re not there. It’s just a shame that this album doesn’t stand up to the best stuff Gorrilaz has put out so far. There are some standout tracks like Strobelite - a Bobby Womackesque track reminiscent of Fake Plastic Beach, and Submission that are unabashed funk at its best but they tend to get overwhelmed by duffers like Saturn Barz and Momentz that just doesn’t hit. Songs that should have been stand outs like Charger featuring Grace Jones just feel disjointed, and I just couldn’t shake that feeling throughout listening to the album. It’s patchy. It has some highs, but to quote Damon “this is a low.”
Originally published in Kirkby Extra, August 2017.
Easily the stand out diamond in the rough from last year’s Liverpool Sound City, White Lies delivers with a debut album of sleaze-drenched, disco guitar pop that sounds like Roxy Music and ABC had a lovechild and makes us wistful for what the Killers could have been but failed to deliver on after Hot Fuzz. Songs like This Is Not A Love Song are melancholic yet still manages to be anthemic, whilst Fight the Feeling and Living Fiction are obvious singles filled with guts and glamour to spare, filled with sex, doom and longing. One Night Stand Forever is an album not content to be listened to, but to be strutted to in the post midnight hours of an inadvisable Saturday night.
Originally published in Kirkby Extra, June 2017.
British Sea Power, the sonic inheritors of Echo & the Bunnymen and the Psychedelic Furs have punched through the grimness of our times with stadium pop sensibilities hinting that behind every raincloud a rainbow isn’t far behind. This is exemplified in their track “Bad Bohemian” which encapsulates that no matter how bleak the future seems that it’s ourselves that determine if it’s going to be a utopia or dystopia. Whilst “Electrical Kittens” is dream pop reminiscent of Mercury Rev at their pomp brimming with nostalgia for the heyday of radio. “And we'll all hold hands as the radio plays, Say a little prayer for halcyon days.” British Sea Power shows us that not all nostalgia has to be toxic and that not all futures are the nightmares we fear and offers optimism and hope with some great tunes.
Originally published in Kirkby Extra, May 2017.
So much of 2017 so far has been trying to make sense of the unholy mess of 2016, musically, personally and culturally. Going Backwards starts off proceedings by stating as far as we’ve come technologically it has made us numb and lacking in empathy, and that going forwards have given us all of the tools we need to regress to our worse natures, whilst Where’s the Revolution questions the lack of activism and uprising when we’re happy to stay stuck in our rut of cosy apocalypse. The Worst Crime puts us as participators in a lynching, stating that we’re all complicit in electing the leaders that are leading us towards splendid isolation, racism and ruin. The album is the strongest I’ve heard the band since Ultra, dark, filled with gloom and pessimism. It’s a wake up slap to those with bystander syndrome. Wake up.
Originally published in Kirkby Extra, April 2017.
Heavily influenced by movie and videogame soundtracks of the 80’s, Gunship is the like the neon drenched apocalypse of that era that we were denied. Euphoric synths are harmonised with Robert Smith-esque vocals like a John Carpenter soundtrack meets electro pop. Speaking of which, the highlight of the album has to be Tech Noir which features a suitably apocalyptic voice over by Carpenter himself declaring “I’m recording this because this could be the last thing I’ll ever say. The city I once knew as home is teetering on the edge of radioactive oblivion. A 300 thousand degree baptism by nuclear fire. I’m not sorry, we had it coming.” It’s cyberpunk that you want to ride out the dystopia to, possessed of a hopeful optimism that overcomes the doom laden imagery contained within. It’s truly an album for our dystopian times.
Originally published in Kirkby Extra, March 2017.
It’s actually good to hear something new from the Lips after an inadvisable Beatles cover album. The album begins with a minimalist, ambient sound on the eponymous track of the album, leading into the psychedelic song “How??” a trippy treatise on legalising drugs and burning out. The sound of the album is very reminiscent of the output of Belbury Poly in their heavy use of synths and atmospheric psychedelia. The band’s trademark weird humour is still evident in tracks like “There Should Be Unicorns,” and the album is replete with the euphoria you’d expect from them, whilst also being a very sparse and sombre soundscape, punctuated with the fragility of Wayne Coyne’s vocals. Although not reaching the dizzy heights of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots or The Soft Bulletin, Oczy Mlody proves that the band can still put out solid work.
Originally published in Kirkby Extra, February 2017.
Monthly music columnist for the Kirkby Extra, sometimes article writer for Get Into This. Freelance writer/artist/maker.