Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Miss Haliwell 'Bears' all...

This Saturday sees an all too rare home fixture (well it's home to at least two of them) for Miss Halliwell at The Bear (in Bearwood...that's handy eh?). Anyone who's read this blog will already know my fetish for this lot, the rest of you will just have to take my word for it - Miss Halliwell is one of the best bands we've got right now. Not just here in the Midlands, or the UK but anywhere. Ask me why and I'll just gibber something about lyrics and passion and weirdness blah blah blah but it's a feeling in the gut. And guts don't lie. Here's the obligatory pick of their vids from the past few years (but knowing them like I do they probably won't play any of 'em...):

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

July Talk / Hidden Charms @ The Institute, Monday 29th September 2014

After fighting our way through the infighting Tories currently polluting the good streets of Brum and dozens of Horrors fans (they were also playing The Institute tonight...The Horrors that is, not the Tories...) the relative peace and tranquillity of The Temple (think of it as The Institute’s loft conversion) came as a blessed relief. Of course you can have too much peace and quiet though. Thankfully London’s Hidden Charms were on hand to liven things up a bit. Quite a bit. In fact one hell of a bit. Think Small Faces, Hamburg era Beatles, Mod swagger, razor sharp riffs, effortless cool...that’s Hidden Charms in a nutshell. 

Okay, so they’ve only been playing together for a matter of months and there’s an element of reinventing the wheel...albeit the wheel of a particularly kick ass Vespa...but when this lot let rip their charm’s irresistible. 

I did chemistry at school but I can’t ever remember it being as frankly hot ‘n’ sexy as the chemistry between July Talk’s Leah and Peter, the latter of which begins the set by eyeballing the crowd slightly menacingly and slapping himself in the face. Hell, it sure beats a meek and mild “Hello Birmingham” eh? What follows is an hour or so of primal sweat, honey and whisky drenched rock ‘n’ roll madness that makes most bands seem as exciting as Sunday School. There’s a real physicality to the show with Leah constantly pawing and clawing at Peter like a cat with a mouse and Peter in turn pulling her hair and palming her away by the face. It’s Burton and Taylor, Sinatra and Gardener, Sid and Nancy...every gloriously fucked up passion fuelled relationship rolled into one and played out before you to a dirty, bluesy soundtrack. And where the hell did Peter’s voice come from? Dude sounds like he’s been chain smoking roll-ups and gargling with gravel since birth. Makes Tom Waits sound like a freakin’ choir boy. Pair him with Leah’s vocal, which ranges from butter wouldn’t melt angel to unhinged party animal, and the result’s hotter than a July heatwave. 

Highlights? Pretty much every tune’s a killer but Summer Dress (Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus meets Johnny Cash meets Blondie), the smouldering slow burn to explosive orgasm of Paper Girl and the Stones-ish whoohoohoo of Guns + Ammunition are three of the best. 

I’ll also take the vision of Leah provocatively dribbling honey and whisky into the open mouths of various members of the audience to the grave with me...and Peter 'tightrope walking' along the edge of the barrier at the front of the stage whilst playing guitar could have easily ended up with a trip to A&E but, like all the best bands, this lot perform without a safety net.   

Friday, September 26, 2014

July in Brum next Monday!

A little bit rockabilly, a little bit punk, a little bit pop and sung by a bloke who sounds like Tom Waits' younger brother and a lady who's vocals are every bit as deliciously sweet as his are snarlingly sour Canada's July Talk make a frankly glorious racket my friends. And they're bringing it all to the Institute in Brum next Monday, September 29th. Highly recommended.

Tickets right here! You're welcome...

Thursday, September 25, 2014

All Years Leaving 2014

After last year's inagral...inaugral...inorgril...first ever All Years Leaving festival the good folk at This Is Tmrw  have another cracking line up  for this year's event (and when it comes to music these chaps know their shit), pulling together some of the very best bands from the Midlands scary bits that aren't the Midlands. Taking place on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th October tickets are a mere £13.50 per day or a piggy bank saving £25 for the whole ruddy thing. That's less than a twentieth of the price of one of those new bendy iPhones! Bargain.

There are 13 named bands playing plus one 'secret' act. Oooooh, just like Christmas innit? Here are just a handful of highlights...

Tickets right here!

And if you're really at a loose end here's a review from last year's festival, Day One and Day Two!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Blockbuster The Musical @ The New Alexandra Theatre – Tuesday 23rd September 2014

All together now...“I’ll have a ‘p’ please Bob”. What? Oh...not THAT Blockbuster (gameshow much beloved of students back in the 80s). Nope, it’s jukebox musical time again and this show travels back to the 70’s ...quite literally...for its material including The Sweet’s extraordinary hit single which provides the title. Described as Grease meets Back To The Future by producer/director/star Paul Nicholas the plot, as with pretty much every jukebox musical, is basically there to introduce the songs so at one point we have Paul living next door to a woman called Alice, setting things up nicely for Smokie’s hit Living Next Door To Alice. See what they did there? This track, like all the others songs in the show, was written by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, a sort of Stock Aitkin and Waterman of their day. I’m not sure who are today’s Stock Aitkin and Waterman...probably some bedroom producer called Davy TwitFace or Bllcks (what is it with bands/producers omitting vowels these days? Tssrs). Anyway Chinn and Chapman had an impressive 19 Top 40 hits and 5 number ones in the UK between 1973 and 1974 alone and, being born in 1970 (I know, I wear it well) I grew up with this stuff. In fact Mud’s Tiger Feet may well be one of my earliest musical memories. 

Serendipitously enough it’s this song that kicks off the show too and provides one of the evening’s best moments as Aaron Sidwell busks on the London Underground, gradually being joined by a number of alarmingly well choreographed commuters. Sidwell’s got form in the music biz, having been in bands and knocked around with Professor Green...and quite possibly Colonel the library...with the lead pipe. He can strum a guitar pretty well enabling him to start off several songs on his own before being joined by the main band, often hidden Wizard of Oz like behind a curtain at the back of the stage.

It’s probably fair to say that the likes of The Sweet, Mud, Racey and Smokie aren’t perhaps the coolest names in pop but you can’t deny the catchiness of the tunes and Bockbuster certainly breathes new life into them.  Any song involving Sidwell and Aimie Atkinson (who plays Teresa, the object of his affections) comes across particularly well and there really does seem to be some genuine chemistry between the pair. Willy, played by the gloriously named Lee Honey-Jones, delivers a fine rendition of Little Willy...ahem...and Mickey (a smash hit for Toni Basil in 1982 but originally written for Racey back in the 70s) will get you digging out your cheerleader’s outfit as soon as you get home. Or maybe that’s just me...

Personally I’d ditch the whole Living Next Door To Alice bit. For me, and I’m guessing most of the audience, it’s forever associated with that Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown version...and no one wants to be reminded of Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown when you’re dealing with a love story. Nicholas is great as Crazy Max but a little beige as Paul and the plot between him and Alice (Louise English) perhaps slows the glam action up. That being said English does a fine Suzi Quatro on Can The Can and seems more at home with the rockier stuff than Suzanne Shaw who has the unenviable task of tackling Devil Gate Drive.

What often adds the extra zing to the show is the snappy choreography by Rebecca Howell who’s been behind some of the more recent Pet Shop Boys shows. Getting Willy to adjust his imaginary cuffs during his routine might not be the most sophisticated moment in dance but the evening’s littered with neat little touches like this and the cast throw themselves enthusiastically into it all. It’s still early days for this show (I believe this is only the second week it’s played) and a lot of these songs have been lying in the great record box in the sky for decades so there may be a few adjustments still to make. Racey’s Some Girls is surely due a slot if they’re looking to make some tweaks in the future and just one vocalist should take the line “We just haven’t got a clue what to do” in the title track itself (come on now, that’s the best bit!) but Blockbuster undoubtedly shines a long awaited glitterball on a period of pop that was the very antithesis of the grey strike ridden post boom decade that spawned it.     

Blockbuster The Musical is on at The New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 27th September, tickets right here

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rumba De Bodas - Sweet Crazy Sunshine

“The best thing to come out of Italy since Chianti” (copyright me) and one of the most enjoyable live acts I’ve EVER seen Rumba DeBodas are back with a fabulous new single, the jazztastic Sweet Crazy Sunshine, accompanied by an equally joyful video that’s practically guaranteed to get you leaping around in your pants. I have it on good authority that there’s a new album on the way too! Hurrah!      

Friday, September 19, 2014

'Jazz' it happened...

Here's a lovely selection of pics from this year's Birmingham International Jazz and Blues Festival. We're ruddy lucky to have stuff like this in Brum and you'll be pleased to know that work's already started on next year's event. I'd be especially happy if Lewis Floyd Henry played again...every day...every hour...every minute of it in fact.

Unity in the UK

Oh dear Alex, that didn't go how you expected it to did it? Never mind chins up eh? Here's a few tunes for you...