On Saturday 20th October, I popped along to The Lounge in Camden for the final date of the “There’s Still Room To Rock ‘n’ Roll” UK tour that featured The Dirty Strangers and The Brutalists. When I say “UK” in actual fact only two dates were outside the confines of the M25. Opening proceedings were Rich Ragany and the Digressions’ first full-on live gig. Joining “Rags”, in no particular order were formerly of the UK Subs Ricky McGuire on Bass, Simon Maxwell, (The Role Models, 20 Professional Youths) on drums, Kit Swing rhythm guitar and vocals (Seven Days and Doesn’t Die), Andy Brook (Shush) on keys and Gaff lead guitar (from the Dedwardians). With a half hour, time slot Rags uncharacteristically was more subdued than he is when he’s playing with his “Day Job” band Role Models with the between song banter. Pretty much letting the music do the talking, which it did in volumes. The Role Models arguably are the perfect soundtrack to a Friday, Saturday night out. With The Digressions though, instead of a sweaty packed dive bar, you’re treated to a slap-up three-course meal. Naturally, their just-released album “Like We’ll Never Make It” was aired in I think its entirety and if you thought the album was good, live it really does all fall into place. This might’ve been the band’s debut gig, but they seem supremely comfortable in each other’s presence. I had only one criticism and that was that Kit seemed to be using her guitar as a comforter more than an instrument. Now don’t get me wrong as she has an amazing voice, but I would’ve preferred her to ditch the guitar and literally be more vocal, taking over some of Rich’s vocal lines. Funnily enough, just before the gig, Simon asked if I was going to review their set because if I was they’d better not be shit. I’ve never given much thought to what the polar opposite to shit is, but whatever it is, Rich Ragany & the Digressions were it.
The Brutalists feature a non-bass playing Nigel Mogg on vocal duties with brothers Mick and Robert Cripps, Kent Holmes and Charlie Nice making up the rest of the band. Part Thames Delta, part Westway, part Brixton, part Bash Street Kids, it’s hard to think that the band reside in the sunnier climes of LA. Like The Digressions the band are even better live than on record and that not an insult to the producers of both records. It’s just a willing, appreciative audience, will fire up any band with both feeding off each other. After the Brutalists set; my belly was full. Also, like the Digressions The Brutalists plundered their debut album but managed to slip in a cover of the Rolling Stones “When The Whip Comes Down” which to the ill-informed, could be their own. The stage at the Lounge is rather small, just enough for a drum kit with a stack either side, which meant Mick, Nigel and Kent were playing in the audience. Not that this seemed to bother anyone as the band were able to request and quickly receive drinks from the bar.
The Dirty Strangers have been led by Alan Clayton since the band’s inception in the mid-80’s. The Dirties have a strong Rolling Stones connection with both Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards chipping in the odd guitar track here and there over the course of the Dirty Strangers recorded output and sometimes turning up to play live. With that in mind, image if Keith Richards hadn’t bumped into Mick Jagger on Dartford train Station in October 1961, instead of becoming the Stones lead vocalist, keeping Ian Stewart on piano and striking up a writing partnership with Brain Jones. For me, that’s The Dirty Strangers. Guest musician for this tour was former Quireboy and current Thirsty guitarist Guy Bailey who fitted in perfectly with the Dirties modern take of Rhythm and Blues when R ‘n’ B actually meant something worthwhile.
For “Gold Cortina” taken from the “West 12 to Wittering” album that the aforementioned Ronnie Wood plays the guitar on, Mick Cripps relieved Al of his guitar with Nigel and Al embracing, looking like Rock ‘n’ Roll Siamese Twins to share the vocals. After their set, I said to Al that if only every single gig that I went to could be that good as what I had just seen.
Photographs used with kind permission from Eric Duvet Photography
I love me some Replacements,The Get Up Kids and Gaslight Anthem certainly had their moments as did Downtown Struts well you can add New Junk City to that list maybe not at the pinnacle with The Replacements but up there with The struts and Gaslight anthem this Atlanta quartet has gone and made an album about aging and how to stay young at heart and they’ve gone and managed to capture that spirit within the tracks on this album. ‘Losing Side’ has a great tempo and I love the rage in the guitar that kicks in on top of that thumping bass line. There is certainly a hint of Minor threat and the alt-punk scene in this bands DNA and equal amounts of Americana or roots folk if you like not Guthrie folk but inner city folk.
The band certainly has a lot of energy to burn and from the opening salvo of ‘Useless Friends’ that energy is apparent. I remember a time when the likes of Buffalo Tom had some of this spirit and there are touches of that scene here too. Take ‘Come Tomorrow’ for instance with its melodic vocals and jangling guitars playing over the solid rhythm. It’s stirring stuff.
I guess what I’m trying to say is they draw their inspiration from many places but manage to mold it into a very listenable and coherent record that had some real high points and to be fair no particular low points. Even the obvious slow song ‘In Our Blood’ is good with its puffed out chest it’s almost got one foot in the Goo Goo Dolls camp (not modern Dolls but when they still had great tunes).
Good effort all round me thinks I’ll have to go and give that debut album a listen now.
For the sixth year running, The Urban Voodoo Machine bring their unique brand of ‘bourbon-soaked, gypsy blues bop n stroll’ to Bedford town. While their full, 12th annual ‘Gypsy Hotel’ extravaganza takes place in London the following evening, they have brought as much variety and colour as possible tonight. We are in the more intimate Holy Molys room in the venue, which, while surprising, actually suits the band better. Yes, all eight of them, plus guests.
And warming up the audience tonight is the local, honey-throated Adrian Stranik, of The Broadway Twisters, with an acoustic set, ably assisted by Long John Laundry on harmonica. A fitting start to proceedings.
If you’re even vaguely aware of The Urban Voodoo Machine, you’ll know that they don’t do half-measures. So saying, the delightful Trixie Tassels brings her burlesque show to, shall we say, increase the temperature somewhat. More of that later.
Taking to the stage in their customary, somber procession, The Urban Voodoo Machine are the definition of entertainment, for the more discerning, primal palette. Their ‘Theme’ is followed by ‘High Jeopardy Thing’ and the pounding ‘Cheers For The Tears’, but their setlists are always up for improvisation. It is clear from early on that these more intimate surroundings work to the band’s advantage. Hence, their no.1 rule, ‘Shut the fuck up’, is more or less adhered to by the audience. Certainly more so than in previous years, which helps no end during the quieter songs.
‘Fallen Brothers’ feels more celebratory tonight than in the last couple of years. Rob Skipper and Nick Marsh could never be forgotten, naturally, but this line up is certainly establishing itself and carrying on their fine work. There is a sense of fun and mischief tonight. Paul-Ronney Angel picks someone from the crowd as “drinks roadie” for the evening, climbs the speakers and, falling forward, is carried to the bar and back, mic in hand. It was that kind of night.
Between all that, there was ‘Crazy Maria’, ‘Pipe And Slippers Man’, ‘Train Wreck’, ‘While We Were All Asleep’ and ‘Help Me, Jesus’. A two-hour set which seemed to fly by. And Ms. Tassels returned to provide a suitable finale, leading the band through the crowd whilst fire-eating. Seriously, what more could you want? It is always an unforgettable night with The Urban Voodoo Machine, which is why we keep coming back. See you next time. Cheers!
The sophomore album from Derby glam rockers The Struts has been a long time coming. It’s 4 years since their debut ‘Everybody Wants’ hit the shelves and the last few years has seen the band come a long way. They took the sharp move of relocating to the US in 2015 and have toured hard there ever since, building a fan base opening for the likes of Gn’R, The Stones, The Who and then touring with The Foo Fighters, winning over a hoard of new, young fans along the way.
With the imminent release of the Queen biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, it seems the perfect time to release an album that draws on the flamboyancy, the theatrics and the drama of that classic band. Love em or loathe em, The Struts are a band full of ambition, emotion and killer choruses that cannot be ignored.
First up, it appears someone had the bright idea to bookend the album with two versions of ‘Body Talks’ which seems slightly odd, especially as the more popular version with Kesha on vocals is tagged on at the end, yet the epic ‘Ashes (part 2)’ seems like a more natural album closer. Why not just go all out and put the Kesha version as the album opener and bin the original version? They are pretty similar anyway and the two singers voices work well together. Don’t just slip it on the end hoping hardcore Struts fans won’t notice, but Kesha fans will be drawn in by its inclusion. Embrace the pop collaboration record company bigwigs, you normally do!
“Hey you, don’t you know who I think I am?’ Shouts singer Luke Spiller in the opening line of recent single ‘Primadonna Like Me’. You want your rock ‘n’ roll stars confident and cocksure, with attitude to match? Spiller has it all in spades. It rides on an overly familiar Stones riff that has been used more times than I’ve had hot dinners, but if Primal Scream and The Dandy Warhols can get away with it, then why not The Struts too? It’s a proper glam stomper that struts (sorry) like all big hits should. Delivered from the crotch, Spiller’s trademark rolling of the r’s, and the “do ya wanna” refrain make it a winner, a song that has ‘big hit’ stamped all over it.
Describing The Struts without referencing Queen is like eating a doughnut without licking your lips, nigh on impossible to do! Yet they don’t actually sound like a carbon copy, it’s more in the vocals and the delivery, rather than the songwriting. I mean, the falsetto vocals and glam stomp of ‘In Love with a Camera’ puts them somewhere between The Darkness and Foxy Shazam which ain’t a bad place to be. But the likes of ‘Fire (part 1)’ and ‘Tatler Magazine’ are as Queen as you can get. The former, produced by Butch Walker, builds to an epic, euphoric chorus, accentuated with layers of vocal harmonies. The latter contains all the pomp and circumstance you would expect from a band that cites Queen as a major influence and a band who want fame, fortune and the whole shebang.
Obligatory ballad ‘Somebody New’ is designed to make the girls swoon and shed a tear. Ironically, it was written by the singer while he was taking a dump! Not so much lighters in the air, as Febreeze methinks, I could live without this tune, to be honest.
Elsewhere, and in complete contrast, they take a chance and get all ‘Hot Space’ on ‘Who I Am’ and they actually pull it off in effortless fashion. The 70’s Rod Stewart meets Scissor Sisters pumping disco vibes are perfect for Spiller’s Freddie-esque delivery. It’s an album highlight.
I must admit I rolled my eyes at the balladic intro of ‘Ashes (Part 2)’, but it actually builds to an epic Queen style stomper with a classy harmonised solo to boot and even a nod to The Who as it reaches its climax. As I said earlier, it feels like the natural album closer.
‘Young & Dangerous’ is an album that’s rich in rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia, harking back to a time when rock music WAS pop music. Yet, it has a glossy, contemporary feel. Their glam-tinged, pop rock anthems resonate with the youth of today and now they have made waves in the US, I’m sure they will set their sights on the UK and the rest of the world.
There’s a lot of talk recently about where all the rock stars are, where are the new GnR, the AC/DC for the next generation, where are the future stadium headliners? Well, like them or not The Struts are leading the pack as contenders, they are the poster boys for a new generation of rock music lovers who need larger than life characters to look up to. And Luke Spiller is a man who was born to do this, will you deny him his place amongst the stars?
Placebo celebrate 20 years of their iconic album “Without You I’m Nothing” with the launch of new fan-site featuring new interviews and exclusive content
October 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of Placebo’s iconic second album Without You I’m Nothing. In celebration, the band have launched a fan-site which not only brings together classic live performance footage and photographs from the era, but exclusive new content and new interviews as well. Importantly, it has been created as a place for fans to share and contribute their own photos and memories of what the album means to them.
View the new site HERE
There is also the chance for fans to win one of two 12” Without You I’m Nothing (ft. David Bowie) vinyl singles and one of five Without You I’m Nothingheavyweight vinyl albums, simply by tagging a post on Twitter or Instagram with #WYIN20.
It seems like yesterday that I made the decision to avoid John Lydon and PIL and instead make my way to catch Ryan Hamilton at 2018’s Camden Rocks. Since then a lot of things have changed for the band without even thinking about the name change (when I caught them they were Ryan Hamilton and the Traitors). I suppose the most important change being the band no longer have to put their material out themselves, they have been signed to Wicked Cool Records. For those in the know, this is the Garage Rock label founded by “Little Steven” Van Zandt in 2005. The label evolved out of Van Zandt’s weekly syndicated radio show Little Steven’s Underground Garage, in fairness Van Zandt recognized that some brilliant rock music just wasn’t getting the push it needed and he was the right guy to do it.
The first thing I noticed when the band hit the stage was the sharp suits, the second thing I noticed was that the sound had gone up a gear, they rocked!!! Tracks moved away from the alternative country feel, sped up hit hard and the between song banter talked about the Little Steven influence and how great he was to work with.
This performance as Ryan pointed out was just one within a run of dates that will be the last solo tour for a while, they’ve already picked up some serious support slots for next year and that’s all after time spent in the studio recording the new LP. If the new single performed tonight “Bottom’s up, (here’s to goodbye)”bought tonight on 7” pink vinyl available here
is anything to go by it will be a blinder. Tracks like “Be Kind Rewind”, “We should never have moved to LA”, “Karaoke with no crowd” and “Gulf of Mexico” just breathed, the band let loose, enjoying the feeling of being let loose. The stories, crowd banter and impromptu song “Sorry Chloe” showed a side of Ryan that wasn’t there in Camden, confident, excited and looking forward to what’s coming up. The cover than ended the set tonight I think shows that confidence, the B-side to the new single a rocked out, funked up version of Paula Abdul’s “Straight up”. The future is very definitely golden.
Whilst the world and his wife seem to be getting their collective knickers in a twist over Download lineups and Kiss tour dates the real news has just snook out there in plain sight.
Its fuckin’ true brothers and sisters Jones, Cook, Idol and James are doing this and there is a live show booked. I know there was a collective dribble at RPMHQ earlier when the news dropped and we keep our fingers crossed that this goes well and is the start of something good and they bring this to the UK as well as who knows – some recordings and tunes but for the moment we won’t get ahead of ourselves we’ll just wait for this to pass.
If there is anyone in the city of angels attending this bad boy that would like to make some friend over this side of the pond please get in touch your services are very much required