Archive for the Music Category

Why voting matters: Don’t rely on the pollsters

Posted in Music on June 7, 2017 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Firstly, I would like to point out that I’m not a political journalist and my argument here will cover only the two front-runners in the election campaign. There is also an undeniable bias, but at least I’m honest about it. However, I do feel that what follows can easily be applied to whichever leader/party you believe in.

Elections matter because they determine all our futures based on the decisions made by millions of people in the privacy of polling booths across the country.

The results are not based on what the pollsters say, nor on what happens in election campaigns, nor what any journalist or pundit says. Nor is the outcome in this time of political volatility predictable in any traditional sense.

So, anyone now making guesses about the final outcome of the election is doing just that, guessing, even if those guesses are of the most informed kind.

The polls are showing that the Conservatives are ahead by as many as 15 points or as little as one. But this won’t matter if people don’t bother to turn out to cast their vote.

The polls have been wrong for the past few major votes: The 2015 election looked like a walk in the park for Labour, but they were trounced. Brexit looked like a pipe dream early in the campaign and the polls, right up until the end pointed towards the UK remaining in Europe. We’re leaving. In the US, the election of Donald Trump was a joke, until it happened.

The effect polls have on the electorate is that of placating people: “Oh, it looks like Labour could win this, maybe I don’t need to cast my vote. We all know the Tories will get in anyway.” We’ve heard this time and time again over the course of the last month – but, Labour, and especially Corbyn, look strong, and the gap is closing, but he can’t possibly win.

This is at odds with everything we’ve seen on the coverage of the election campaign so far. We’ve been shown a Prime Minister who called an election to cement her place and increase her majority, who won’t engage in debates and has constantly gone back on policies, displaying incredibly weak leadership. When she has appeared in front of crowds she has been heckled and laughed at while answering questions like an automaton.

Corbyn on the other hand has appeared on many debating shows and though he too is challenged, he at least gives the impression of listening and explaining himself in more than just political soundbites. Also, his public appearances have drawn enthusiastic crowds the size that music acts would be proud to pull. And there’s another thing, he’s the first politician I’ve even seen to appear on the covers of music magazines heavily promoting the arts. Something at which this country has always been great at and something that has had its funding cut back over the last decade or so.

The problem is that enthusiastic crowds don’t always convert into votes and this is what everyone who has attended these rallies must remember on June 8th. If you don’t support your party in the voting booth the same as you did standing in the rain in Gateshead they won’t get in.

The polls have Labour advancing on the Tories, one or two are predicting they could actually overtake. Do not let this dampen your willingness to show up tomorrow to your local voting station and cast your vote. For years, people have moaned about their votes not mattering, they do. Until the first-past-the-post system is replaced this is the system we have, and if people turn out in the numbers they did for the Brexit vote – or more – then every vote will matter and will count towards the final result, however it ends up.

If it doesn’t go your way, join a movement looking to change the system to a popular vote like www.change.org, www.electoral-reform.org.uk or www.makevotesmatter.org.uk

I understand that a lot of people vote based on the leader of the party and that sometimes none of the leaders appeal to you. If that is the case visit www.voteforpolicies.org.uk and see which party’s policies you most align with, regardless of the face of the party clouding your judgement.

Something feels vital about this election and I truly believe good things can happen if enough people are behind them. Please, please go out and vote tomorrow and, if you can, try to make an informed decision. It does and will affect your life.

Thank you for your time.

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Review: Blink-182, California

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2016 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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California is the seventh studio album by pop punk stalwarts Blink-182. It’s fair to say that the last 12 or 13 years haven’t exactly been smooth sailing after a hiatus between 2004 and 2008 after fall-outs and plane crashes followed by eight years that only yielded one album and an E.P.  thanks to Tom DeLonge busying himself with side projects and more in-fighting.

So, DeLonge leaves the band and is replaced by Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba. How then, will the new album sound after all this upheaval and line-up changes?

Bloody awesome.

The bands eponymous 2003 album was made after tensions in the band had already come to a head and within a year the band had called it quits. The comeback album, Neighborhoods – released in 2011, was a musical progression, but was recorded in multiple locations and with the musicians playing their parts separately and it sounded like an album made by people who had been through the mill and not quite over it.

California is such a joyous sounding album compared to the meagre pickings from the last decade and a half, it’s easily the best offering since Take of Your Pants and Jacket in 2001. In fact it could be said that this is the follow-up album to ToYPaJ that Blink-182 should have been, but took the band to implode and reform to bring about. It sounds like the band are finally having fun again after all these years and that shedding the weight of DeLonge and bringing in the fresh talents of Skiba have completely regenerated Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker.

There are a lot of musical similarities with the intros of a lot of the songs to the band’s late 90s material but there is still a progressive shift including strings and electronic elements that became much more prominent in the latter albums. There is a definite Alkaline Trio-sounding influence from Skiba which gives an extra layer to the Blink-182 sound, in places he sounds a bit like DeLonge and in places he really takes the songs and makes them his own and this versatility also help with the range of the new songs.

The other thing that is a nice surprise is that the album has 16 tracks, I can’t remember the last new album I bought that had a decent amount of songs on it. However, two of these songs are around 30 seconds in length and are just joke entries, but this is something the band has steered clear of in recent times while they were taken in a more serious, po-faced direction by all the tumultuous goings on. It’s just nice to be reminded of the reason you fell in love with the band in the first place. Oh, and they also leave in Barker messing up a drum fill and a couple of other studio outtakes, which is also fun to hear.

Even the slowest song on the album, ‘Home is Such a Lonely Place’ is like a sequel to ‘Stay Together for the Kids’.

If I have to criticise it, and it’s not a perfect album, I would say that the opening song, ‘Cynical’, is too short to really set out the feel of things to come. Also a lot of the tracks are over-produced to the point where, in places, Hoppus and Skiba even sound like they’ve been auto-tuned. Which is fine, if it weren’t noticeable. The last criticism is that there aren’t enough songs, apparently, if Barker had his way there’d be nearly 20 tracks. as he felt that the fans had waited too long for content he was excited by.

However, all this means that the future seems bright and that there’s life in the old dog yet. Let’s just hope the addition of Skiba can work alongside his other bands, Alkaline Trio and The Sekrets.

Review: Drones, Muse

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Muse Drones

Muse’s seventh studio album, Drones was released this week and it heralds a back-to-basics sound for the band. However, it’s a concept album. This should strike fear into the hearts of fans everywhere because the concept album is incredibly difficult to pull off.

The album itself is an expectedly bombastic affair with themes including drone warfare, the end of the world, government conspiracy and state control. It is told from the perspective of a man who loses his humanity, is brainwashed and turned into a drone by the ‘psycho’ before eventually defecting, revolting and overcoming the enemy. Y’know, the regular Muse topics.

The musical experimentation has been stripped back to a more basic guitar, bass, drums with supporting keys and synths rather than the orchestral and electronic elements that have been pushed to the fore on the last two albums. The tone of the album is somewhere between Absolution and The Resistance with some throwback riffs to Origin of Symmetry.

It never fails to amaze how popular Muse are for being a band that makes such heavy and progressive music. This album sweeps through all tempos and tones from the almost poppy numbers like ‘Dead Inside’, ‘Reapers’, ‘Defector’ and especially ‘Revolt’ through the heavy and nasty ‘Psycho’ past the oppressive ‘Mercy’ ‘The Handler’ to the calm ‘Aftermath’. Muse have such talent that even the general public recognise it and buy their albums in droves. The only other contemporary band with that kind of following is the Foo Fighters, who have some punishingly hard songs for such a popular band.

The last two songs on the album are the most progressive. ‘The Globalist’ is a 10 minute epic that, at first, wouldn’t sound out-of-place on a Spaghetti Western soundtrack. It even features an Ennio Morricone  style whistle. It then morphs into a kind of bond theme before exploding in a rumble of distorted guitars and pounding drums before slowing down to just piano and vocals reminiscent of Absolution-era Muse with a bit of Queen thrown in. The song never loses a sense of being one single entity though. It even morphs into a choral number – the title track – to close the album out. It sounds like a hymn being sung by either all three members of the band or multiple takes of Matt Bellamy, ether way, it’s quite the final 14 minutes and actually finishes with an ‘amen’.

I’m not entirely convinced the concept stands up, with some of the lyrics being a bit ‘on the nose’, but it’s certainly not the worst concept album of all time. Plus, what the lyrics lack in depth – in some places – the scale of the music makes up for it.

This is Muse dialling it back! Muse is a band with more range on each album than 20 regular bands  manage in their whole careers and, while they may not be to everyone’s taste, there’s no doubt that they are unique.

Anywhere But Here, Episode 123 – Charlie Charlie Stabby Screechy

Posted in Music, Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2015 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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Ant and Tom are back again this week with a show recorded the morning after a night of drinking to celebrate Corky getting engaged. As such, there’s a bit of a lack of energy at first, but we get over that quite quickly by discussing all the important topics.

Ant has found a new band, The JB Conspiracy, on his trip to Ipswich last week. There was an earthquake in Kent last week that no-one felt but The Rock was very concerned about. The latest craze to hit social media is the Charlie Charlie Challenge, where the aim is to summon a Mexican demon called Charlie who can only seem to answer yes/no questions.

Sean O’Brien, or Dancing Man, had his big dance party in LA this weekend, but Ant and Tom are still a little bit suspicious of the motives of those taking part. This leads on, somehow, to a discussion about the lyrics to ‘All About That Bass’ and whether or not they’re appropriate for their intended audience.

A man was tasered close to where Tom lives, luckily it was captured on film by a group of youths from the area (our overseas audience might pick up some new words this week) who give running commentary, but just listen out for the man getting stunned. And finally, Dustin Diamond, Screech from Saved By The Bell, has been charged after a bar-brawl on Christmas.

Enjoy this week’s episode of Anywhere But Here!


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Review: The Endless River, Pink Floyd

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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The Endless River is the first, and likely to be the last, album released by Pink Floyd since The Division Bell in 1994, That’s 20 years! It is, however, not entirely new material.

The band’s keyboardist, Richard Wright, passed away in 2008. He was a founding member of Pink Floyd, who released their first album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn in 1967, he was fired from the band by bassist, Roger Waters, in 1979. Waters left the band in 1985 and the remaining original members, Nick Mason and David Gilmore, asked Wright to return after which they recorded two more albums.

The songs on The Endless River are  based on a raft of unreleased material from the recording sessions for The Division Bell. The resulting album is split into 4 ‘sides’ (only really applying to the vinyl release), each of which is about 14 minutes long and are almost entirely instrumental. There are backing vocals on some of the tracks that blend with the instruments and a sample of Stephen Hawking on the track ‘Talkin’ Hawkin’‘. the only song on the album with lyrics is the final track, ‘Louder Than Words‘ which were written by Gilmore’s wife, Polly Samson.

This ambient style is not a huge departure for a Pink Floyd album as they are well-known for having long instrumental sections in even their most popular songs. In fact, the absence of lyrics takes nothing away from the album at all. As with all Pink Floyd albums, The Endless River is probably best enjoyed from start to finish while doing nothing else but listening, immersing yourself in the sonic landscapes that this band is renowned for creating with their masterful playing and production.

Pink Floyd have never been a ‘pop’ band and there are no traces of pop music on The Endless River. No hooks, riffs or catchy vocal melodies. One could argue that because these tracks are not really new that this is little more than a glorified B-Sides album. But, there’s no getting past the fact that these guys can play, and if you’re a fan of well made, well produced music, this is a gem. Possibly one of the Floyd completionists, but still well worth a listen to for anyone who appreciates this kind of music.

This is a great swan song for a legendary band and a wonderful tribute to Richard Wright. It really does highlight the influence his keyboard playing had on the band’s song writing, connecting each track together in one continuing, undulating piece of sublime music.

Review: Royal Blood, Royal Blood

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

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Royal Blood are a two-piece band from Brighton who have been causing a stir since their inception in 2013. Consisting of Mike Kerr (bass and vocals) and Ben Thatcher (Drums), they quickly garnered the attention of Arctic Monkeys who had them as a support band at two large shows at Finsbury Park that same year. Since then the band have released an E.P. called ‘Out of the Black’ but a full-length album has been clamoured for ever since.

‘Royal Blood’, the self titled album, was finally released on 25/08/2014 to widespread critical acclaim. Their sound is somewhere between Queens of the Stone Age and Jack White’s solo recordings, or those he did with The Dead Weather. Which is a very good thing indeed.

Although the lyrical content of the songs themselves don’t stray far from the standard themes of guilt and revenge typically found in rock music, they certainly fit with the sonic landscape of the album. It’s astounding that just two people can make such a large sound, but then so did The White Stripes and Death From Above 1979, the difference with Royal Blood however, is that they sound muscular and solid and like a band twice the size.

Kerr’s playing style is unique in that he plays both bass and rhythm parts at the same time, the sound of his bass being amplified by the use of effects pedals and Thatcher hits the drums so hard it’s a wonder that the power has been able to be captured as well as it has. Kerr’s vocals have a distinctive style reminiscent of Jack White, but with the sleazy rock n roll attitude of Josh Homme.

With just ten tracks on the album it certainly leaves you wanting more and is over way before it feels like it should be, but I’d imagine that this is deliberate on the part of the band, as too many tracks may be pushing the capabilities of just two musicians. Personally, I hope they have much more in reserve for future releases and I wouldn’t want them to be a one-hit-wonder, because they are exciting and another great advertisement to the world that this tiny island can still produce great hard rock bands, instead of one more indie rock band. However, if this is to be the high water point in a very short career, so be it. Lots of bands never make an album this good in their entire careers.

‘Royal Blood’ is a great album packed with excellent songs that have the swagger and attitude of a much bigger band, one can only imagine great things will be accomplished by these two in the coming years.

Review: Near Ruin, No End

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2014 by Tom Austin-Morgan

 

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Near Ruin are a Kent-based melodic metalcore band I’ve been waving the flag for since the beginning of this year upon the release of the single ‘Smoke & Mirrors’, more recently they released ‘Relinquish’ and ‘No End’, the title track of the album, all for a pay-what-you-want fee on their Bandcamp page.

On the surface ‘No End’ is a well polished album full of great hooks and riffs, snarling verses and anthemic choruses, but scratch below the surface a little and you find out just how seriously ambitious this album is. This nine track album has been four years in the making after 2010s ‘Rebirth’ during which time the band underwent a few line-up changes, they also wanted to focus on getting their sound right and produce a quality product.

The fruits of their labours are evident with songs that have brutally heavy riffs and vocals that can switch, effortlessly to softer more atmospheric, almost delicate, sections consisting of just keyboards. There’s something for everyone on this record, as long as you like your music heavy. The songs are written in such a way that certain hooks will latch themselves into your brain for days, refusing to leave.

All the songs on the album feature a multi-layered effect and they are really helped to this end by the addition of a keyboard which is utilised differently in each song. This instrument is played as a synth instrument in the background of songs like ‘Into Exile’ to add a frenetic feel to the song, or as a piano to add weight and gravitas to a quiet bridge section or intro, like that on ‘Apostles & Heretics’. It is used by the band to really amplify the feeling in the songs and is a breath of fresh air when listening to an independent band, who usually rely just on the basic guitar, bass, drums, vocals set-up, only adding synth to beef up chord progressions. Near Ruin buck this trend by using it as a lead instrument.

If you are interested in how songs are put together you can really listen to the individual parts and wonder at them, but when you realise this album was recorded and packaged entirely by the band themselves – at home! – you realise this is something truly special. Four years since the last release hasn’t been wasted, instead Near Ruin have perfected these nine songs and have taken the time out to learn production techniques so they can have total creative control over the finished product.

The finished album is something the band should be very proud of as it sounds as close to a professionally produced effort as I’ve heard from an independent record. Just imagine what they could produce in another four years!

Check them out and tell them what you think on Facebook and buy the album from their Bandcamp page.