This piece was published in February 2013 in Smoke Magazine (the student magazine of The University of Westminster.)
Adjusting to London Life
They call New York the city that never sleeps. This, I certainly don’t doubt. However, surely London has to come a close second in the list of the world’s insomniac metropolises. I’d never understood people describing a place as being alive until I moved to London at the beginning of last September. I’d been on visits, sure, but it’s only when you actually live here you begin to understand why the capital has such a great reputation. The city literally buzzes with opportunity twenty four hours a day. Allow me to illustrate my point. It’s 4am, and you’ve decided you fancy a Chinese, followed by a sightseeing bus ride through the city centre. No problem. Chinatown has you sorted; and you can’t walk more than five feet without encountering a bus stop.
If, like me, you hail from a small place which redefines the term ‘off the beaten tracks’, then moving to London can be something of a shock to the system, one that’s along the lines of being woken up by somebody throwing a bucket of ice water over you. The sheer size of the place itself is mind melting; (insert size of London in square miles, find comparison), and I’m not just talking about the city itself. Sitting on the 25 bus down towards Oxford Circus I sometimes feel like I’m five again; I’ve often found myself craning my neck upwards to see the concrete and steel monoliths surrounding me.
The contrast between the small midlands town where I’m from could not be greater; whilst it’s not without its charm it offers precious little in the way of things to do, with what actually is available shutting down at 6pm. No danger of that happening here in London. To name but two examples, HMV and Boots in Leicester Square are open until midnight. You wouldn’t see that anywhere else. Everywhere you go is a veritable orgy for the senses. Take a stroll through Camden Lock market, and your nostrils will be greeted by all manner of smells from the food stalls, your eyes will be overloaded by a sea of colour and your ears will be serenaded by almost every genre of music under the sun, barely audible over the bustle of shoppers and stall holders. It’s bliss. Whoever you are, whatever your interests happen to be, I guarantee there’s something within London’s tapestry for you. One of the greatest things about living here is the opportunity to explore; do it, you never know what you’ll find tucked away. I defy anybody to get bored living here.
There seems to be something of a myth within the national consciousness about London being significantly more expensive; however I’ve found this isn’t strictly the case. Getting around (whilst certainly pricey) is no more expensive than in other areas of the UK; and it’s without a doubt easier, thanks to what has to be one of the world’s finest public transport networks. I’ve not struggled to get around once since I’ve lived here. Going out can end up being very pricey too, but that’s no different to anywhere else. I’ve managed nights out on the same money I would back home, which is impressive. Shopping is comparable to any of the other big cities in the UK, with the same scope for bargain hunting if you know where to look.
If you fancy something more peaceful, you’re well catered for. The beautiful Hampstead Heath is a breeze to get to, and make sure you seek out the end with the view that overlooks the city. You know the one I mean, the famous one. It’s been featured in quite possibly hundreds of films.
Wherever you happen to be from originally, the adjustment to living in London is an easy one. Despite its sheer scale, it’s as welcoming as slipping on that favourite pair of trainers you just can’t throw away.
This piece was published in February 2013 in The QH (the student newspaper of The University of Westminster.)
Known to bring out either the diehard cynic or hopeless romantic in just about all of us, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. Like it or not, inevitably shops are already populated with all manner of garish novelties in the same hues of pink and red, nestling alongside cringe inducing cards and overpriced identikit gifts. Slushy, cheesier than a mouse’s fridge songs are beginning to populate the airwaves and music channels; like it or not, love is in the air.
If you’re feeling romantic but are sick of the same old fromage, sifting through the myriad of love songs can be a bit of a minefield. What exactly makes a good love song? Love, romance and all it encompasses is arguably the most covered topic in music. There’s a myriad of throwaway drivel out there that’s devoid of any genuine sentiment (take JLS’s entire back catalogue, for example), but dig a little deeper and there are rewards to be had. The key, of course, is lyrics. Tricky, given that love means something different to all of us; but it can be done. Here are five love songs you may not have thought of.
Starship – Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now
Perhaps I’m playing fast and loose with the no cheese rule here, but bear with me. Taken from the soundtrack to bizarre eighties romantic flick Mannequin, ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ couples an anthemic chorus with some genuinely beautiful lyrics; “looking in your eyes I see a paradise, this world that I found is too good to be true”. Cracker of a guitar solo to boot. They don’t write them like this anymore, that’s for sure.
Bryan Adams – The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You
Why not Everything I Do (I Do It For You), I hear you cry? It’s certainly a quintessential love song, but it’s a bit… obvious. Arguably the master of the contemporary love (or lust) song, I could have picked almost anything from Bryan Adams’ extensive back catalogue. One for the slightly more adult moments with your special someone this (or even your not so special “I’ve had a few so you’ll do” someone) The Only Thing… is absolutely dripping with implicit filth; from the wah soaked guitar that opens the track all the way through to the not so subtle revelation that “sometimes I think I might be lookin’ good, but there’s only one thing that fits like it should”. Oo err, Matron.
Foo Fighters – Everlong
A track that in no way can be referred to as cheesy; ‘Everlong’ is a bona fide classic in its own right. The catalyst of quite possibly the world’s biggest sing alongs at Foo Fighters shows, Dave Grohl himself describes this track as being about “so in tune with somebody, like singing in perfect harmony with them”, which pretty neatly encapsulates the feeling that only being with somebody you completely and utterly adore can give. Midway through the song, everything literally drops to a whisper – before building to a delicious, heartfelt roar for the final chorus.
Madness – It Must Be Love
Oh dear, I seem to have gone back in time again. Still, the eighties has a wealth of love songs to explore. Heartfelt without resorting to tired cliché, recycled sentimentality or pretentious imagery, It Must Be Love opens with an irresistibly bouncy piano and lead singer Suggs admitting to an unseen paramour “I never thought I’d feel this way, the way I feel, about you” before that classic chorus kicks in. The clever musicality continues throughout, with sparse saxophone stabs interspersing with jaunty, arpeggiated strings; capturing the mood and complementing the lyrics perfectly. It’s honest, too – “How can it be that we can say so much without words?” is the question pondered at the beginning of the second verse. Listen to this whilst walking down the street on a sunny day, possibly on your way to meet your special someone – it’ll certainly put a whacking great grin on your face and a spring in your step a kangaroo would be jealous of.
Meatloaf – What About Love
What about it, indeed? Well let’s ask Patti Russo, guest vocalist on one of Mr Loaf’s lesser known tracks. “Once in a lifetime you’ll find someone heaven sent for you, for a lifetime you’ll feel there’s a reason to believe, in a love that’s meant to be”; a lyric that’s sure to give even the most cynical singletons renewed faith in the matters of the heart. The track itself propels along on an insistent musical backing, accompanied by the standard-issue theatrical prog-rock time signature changes that are a signature of much of Meat Loaf’s music.
I’d like to wish you all a very happy Valentine’s Day!
This piece was published in January 2013 in The QH (the student newspaper at The University of Westminster.)
Upon moving to London, you might think you’d encounter all manner of excellent places to enjoy a drink or six upon a Friday evening (or a Tuesday for that matter) and you’d be right. Places to while away many hours in a drunken stupor with friends are indeed plentiful. However, when you want to break away from the relentless monotony of the chain bars and clubs and find somewhere that caters to a more alternative taste, things become a little trickier. Here’s my guide to four of the best.
Urban Bar – Whitechapel
Tucked away in Jack the Ripper’s fabled hunting ground, Urban Bar is not somewhere you’re likely to stumble across unless you happen to be looking for it. From the outside it looks fairly unassuming due to its plain frontage and a row of standard issue picnic tables placed outside, you’d be forgiven for thinking its undergoing renovation work. It’s not and it’s well and truly open; do yourself a favour and go inside. You’ll be greeted with a strange mix of interior design of the ilk not seen since Lawrence Llwellyn-Bowen last graced our screens on ‘Changing Rooms’. It works though, and the blend of wild-west cow print throws and dark woodwork and leather with a vaguely Moroccan colour scheme instantly creates an atmosphere of welcoming exclusivity.
Approach the bar and you’ll be greeted by well-mannered and friendly staff who actually seem to care about you as a customer; something sadly missing from the majority of bars and clubs. The selection of drinks on offer is excellent too, with several bottled lagers and spirits and a decent selection of wine on offer. Prices are reasonable too, as an example you can expect to pay around £3.70 for a 330ml bottle of Peroni. There’s a £5 minimum debit or credit card transaction, but that’s to be expected.
Something to note about Urban Bar is the jukebox; the selection of tracks available is staggering. A quick scan through the choices available seemed to cover just about every genre you can think of, with all key tracks and albums from at least the last decade in place. In some cases entire back catalogues are present too. Fancy deafening everybody in there with ‘Aggressive Perfector’, closing track from Slayer’s seminal ‘Reign In Blood’? No problem. Welsh raggapunkmetalhiphop more your thing? No problem, there’s a huge selection of Skindred track on there too. And for later in the evening when you’ve all had a bit too much to drink, yes, ‘Gangham Style’ is on there too.
This eclecticism extends beyond the décor and music; the multiplicity of events on offer includes two free weekly salsa classes (on a Tuesday and Wednesday), comedy nights, themed quizzes, open mic nights and regular live music gigs and dance music nights. You can even go there for your Sunday roast! There truly is something for everybody on offer here.
For more details of their upcoming events you can find Urban Bar on Facebook.
Nearest Tube: Whitechapel (District Line)
Bus Stop: Whitechapel Station (I’d advise getting the 25 which runs almost parallel with the Central Line and runs from Ilford to Oxford Circus 24 hours)
The Intrepid Fox – Tottenham Court Road
The Intrepid Fox lies at the end of Denmark Street in Soho lies an oasis; the perfect antithesis to the trendy. The inside of The Intrepid Fox has to be seen to be believed. All manner of rock and roll bric-a-brac is strewn all over the walls; skeletal spiders hang from camouflage netting and bonnets of cars stick out of the walls. The staff resemble extras from a Motley Crue video; no bad thing, of course. A live DJ is present at the weekends here too and they are more than happy to take requests; with a decent percentage of them being played. They don’t seem to fall into the trap that a large percentage of rock bars and clubs seem to of playing the same stuff night in, night out either; in my book, a colossal plus.
Drinks are plentiful although the selection on offer isn’t massive. There’s a selection of standard issue beers and ciders, and a reasonable range of spirits. If you’re partial to a bit of wormwood induced amnesia, they sell Absinthe. Whether or not this is a good thing I’ll leave up to you. Price wise it’s around average, expect to pay about £4 for a pint of lager or a bottle of Koppaberg.
The Intrepid Fox is possibly not a place to head if you want a quiet drink in a relaxing atmosphere; or for that matter if you don’t have a strong stomach. This is down in no small part to the toilets. They’re vile. Like Satan himself has been at work they absolutely reek of stale urine and all manner of other substances that I won’t go into. I’m informed the ladies facilities are no better either. This is an issue which seems to be worryingly commonplace; and it’s something that venues need to sort.
The Fox also runs a fairly regular schedule of live gigs covering all sorts of subgenres of guitar fuelled mayhem; find them on Facebook for the latest listings.
Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road (Central Line)
Nearest Bus Stop: Tottenham Court Road Station (well served by most bus routes through the centre)
Crobar (Tottenham Court Road)
Within spitting distance of The Intrepid Fox, the shoebox sized Crobar lies down a side street just off Charing Cross Road. The bar area by the main entrance is miniscule, with the bar and a small seating area dominating the floorspace. Head beyond the bar and the space opens up, if only slightly, to a small dancefloor area ringed by tables and benches. Whilst this improves matters slightly, if you don’t like crowds, Crobar isn’t for you.
As with Urban Bar, the jukebox in Crobar is truly spectacular. Although there’s an inevitable bias towards all things rock and metal, the selection of tunes on offer here is nonetheless impressive. Staff are friendly; and will talk you through drink prices and deals. Beer is on offer but it’s strictly by the bottle, and prices are again around average. £3.75 gets you a bottle of Heineken. A recommendation; try the house whisky. It’s as good as the name brands and a good deal cheaper too. It is worth mentioning here however that Crobar increase prices by around £2 a drink on Friday and Saturday nights, so if your student loan is beginning to dry up this is one to avoid at weekends. Another thing to note is it’s worth getting here early, not only to beat the masses but after 11pm there’s a modest door charge of £2.
Again here unfortunately the state of the toilets have to be mentioned. They are almost as bad as The Intrepid Fox, with standing water and god knows what all over the floor. One small plus is that your nostrils will be spared as they don’t seem to smell as vile as some other establishments.
Crobar is ideally sited as it’s virtually next door to The Borderline, so it makes the ideal precursor to a night in said club.
Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road (Central Line)
Nearest Bus Stop: Charing Cross Road (beside Foyles bookshop. The route is served by buses coming from the Soho area and beyond)
The World’s End (Camden)
No, it’s not a tenuous link to the third in the Pirates Of The Caribbean trilogy; but it is one of the finest pubs in Camden. Sitting literally on top of the town’s famous Underworld club and live music venue, the first thing that strikes you when you walk in is the size of the place. It’s enormous. Figures suggest a capacity of around 1000 people and although I’ve never counted I can certainly believe it. Immediately in front of you is an enormous three sided bar that dominates the room, stocking a wide range of beers, spirits and ciders. Before purchasing your beverage I’d advise you to look up; take in the mezzanine seated area upstairs, seafoam green metalwork, the incredible artwork on the upper walls and the giant station-esque clock to name but a few highlights. It shouldn’t work, but god it does. It’s breathtaking.
The real beauty of The World’s End though is that it’s a pub for all occasions; a pre club pub or somewhere quiet for a few social drinks, this is a place that truly has it all. With the added bonus that Camden Lock market is right on the doorstep.
The service is excellent and price wise it’s on a par with most other places in Camden. Expect to pay around £4 for a pint of lager. An absolute steal, given how fantastic the atmosphere in the place is – there are places in the West End that are three times as expensive with nothing like the ambience. Now for the real shocker – the toilets here are excellent, smelling fresh and appearing clean. The Intrepid Fox and Crobar, take note.
Nearest Tube: Camden Town (Northern Line), Camden Road (Overground)
Nearest Bus Stop: Camden High Street
This piece was published in January 2013 in The QH (the student newspaper at The University of Westminster.)
You May Not Have Heard…
Formed in 1989 under the slightly dubious name Razzle, sunny Californian four piece Lit have had something of a rollercoaster career. Consisting of brothers A Jay and Jeremy Popoff (Vocals and Guitar respectively), Kevin Baldes (Bass) and Allan Shellenberger (drums), they proceeded to record debut Tripping The Light Fantastic in 1997. The album performed reasonably, however it wasn’t until ten years after the band’s formation they shot into the limelight with monster smash single My Own Worst Enemy. With its instantly recognisable octave riff and morning after lyrics “Can we forget about the things I said when I was drunk? I didn’t mean to call you that” it became a mainstay in MTV playlists and on radio for years to come, appearing in countless films and video games alongside pop punk stalwarts like The Offspring, Green Day and Blink 182.
After the worldwide success of the single and accompanying album A Place In The Sun, Lit continued to bubble under the surface of the rock scene. They released follow up album Atomic in 2001 accompanied by single Lipstick and Bruises, a classic tale of groupies and the rock and roll lifestyle with an accompanying video featuring – I kid not – a robot named ‘Mulletron’ attacking their gig and giving their fans awful haircuts. It’s on YouTube and I recommend you have a look. Atomic – as with most of Lit’s material – is an album all about unhealthy relationships and partying. Witness Addicted; a tongue in cheek pean to co-dependancy and Everything’s Cool with its treacle thick guitars and lyrics about, well, going out and getting drunk: “I hit the city by three and the bottle by four”. Unfortunately Atomic suffered from poor promotion and as a result of this and mediocre sales Lit were released from their contract with RCA in late 2002. A quiet few years followed; although the band signed with DRT entertainment and recorded a follow up (2003’s self-titled release) they only completed one low key club tour in support of the album. Releasing a live DVD All Access in November 2004 finished a somewhat quiet chapter for the band.
In 2009 the band suffered a personal tragedy with the death of long time drummer and friend Allan Shellenbeger; he had been suffering from a malignant brain tumour. Despite the tragedy the band vowed to keep going. In November 2009 they announced that Nathan Walker would become their new sticksman and that a new album was in the pipeline. Understandably, the writing process was a difficult one; newest release The View From The Bottom was released just last year. First single You Tonight premiered in demo form in November 2011, with an official release through iTunes the following May.
The View From The Bottom is a sound of a band sticking to the old cliché if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Frankly, I couldn’t agree more. The only noticeable difference with The View From The Bottom is the slightly deeper lyrics in places; particularly ‘Here’s To Us’, a genuinely moving tribute to Shellenberger. That aside it’s business as usual with songs about drinking (Same Sh**, Different Drink) and women (Partner In Crime), instantly catchy buzzsaw guitar work and rhythms so utterly infectious you’ll need to see a doctor.
There’s a goofy kind of appeal to these guys which stems from not taking themselves too seriously; every album is instilled with a real sense of fun. Whilst they aren’t about to win any literary prizes for their lyrics, it has to be said that their songwriting is razor sharp whilst being instantly accessible on every level – the mark of an excellent band. All together now: “Please tell me whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy…..”.
You can check Lit out online at http://www.litband.com.
Like the sound of Lit? Start with these: My Own Worst Enemy, Zip-Lock, Lipstick and Bruises, Over My Head, C’Mon, Same Sh**, Different Drink.
Tripping The Light Fantastic (1997) Malicious Vinyl
A Place In The Sun (1999) RCA
Atomic (2001) RCA
Lit (2004) DRT Entertainment
The View From The Bottom (2012) Megaforce Records
This piece was published in January 2013 in The QH (the student newspaper at The University of Westminster.)
Back to Punk?
Green Day return with a back to basics follow up to 2009’s ‘21st Century Breakdown’
Green Day – Uno! (Reprise/Warner)
So then, here’s the first in arguably Green Day’s most ambitious project to date; a three album trilogy, with Dos! And Tre! (bet you wouldn’t have guessed the names of those, eh?) coming out later in November and December respectively. Ditching the rock-opera-pseudo-political rantings of previous offerings American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown, does Uno! mark a raucous return to the three-chords-no-nonsense of the band’s earlier catalogue?
Many critics have indeed compared it to the snotty majesty of 1994’s classic ‘Dookie’. I can see where these comparisons lie, however Uno! is a far more polished affair. With the exception of closing track ‘Oh Love’, every other song thunders along at a frenetic pace akin to giving Usain Bolt a case of Red Bull and sending a pack of ravenous greyhounds after him.
Opener ‘Nuclear Family’ is a raucous statement of intent, the sound of a band refreshed, revitalised and ready to conquer afresh. Thundering along on a relentless power chord motif, with bassist Mike Dirnt and drummer Tre Cool doing exactly what they do best; providing a rock solid rhythm section which underpins the aforementioned guitar parts and Billie Joe Armstrong’s vocals perfectly. In other words, classic Green Day. Welcome back guys, it’s been a while.
‘Nuclear Family’ sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the album. The band’s sense of humour seems to have returned this time around too. ‘Stay The Night’ begins with a melancholic guitar, tricking you in to thinking you’ve got a mid tempo number heading your way. Muted power chords aplenty are the order of the day here, alongside lyrics that yearn for closure “I’ve gotta know if you’re the one that got away, even though it was never meant to be”.
‘Carpe Diem’ is next. Sure to be an anthem when the band hit these shores next year, thanks to the sing along, straight to the point chorus “carpe diem, a battle cry, are we all too young to die?”, a sentiment continued in the punchy call to arms ‘Let Yourself Go’. Here we get a fleeting glimpse into Billie Joe Armstrong’s mindset when he mumurs through gritted teeth “everyone is f**king with my head now”. Given the band’s relentless schedule of touring, recording, touring, recording that has barely seen and let up since the release of 2004’s seminal ‘American Idiot’, not to mention the band’s involvement in the musical of the same name, AND the release of side project Foxboro Hot Tubs debut ‘Stop Drop and Roll!!!’ as well as its accompanying tour, you can’t blame the guy for feeling a little overwhelmed.
Then we come to the downright bizarre ‘Kill The DJ’, in which Green Day morph into a sort of Franz Ferdinand clone, albeit with bigger testicles. Shuffling along on a beat that wouldn’t seem out of place on the dance floors of most indie clubs, it’s a real grower of a track, initially sounding completely at odds with the rest of the album but burrowing its way further and further inside your brain with each subsequent listen.
‘Fell For You’ is your standard power pop oh-look-I’m-a-teen-and-I-like-a-girl affair, with Green Day returning to their pubescent lyrical past; “I woke up in a pool of sweat, at first I thought that I’d pissed the bed” before shifting onto fairly standard themes of insecurity; “you’re a mess and I’m a work of art”. Whilst you can’t doubt the sincerity in Billie Joe’s voice, the latter does sound a little contrived coming from a forty something married man.
Beginning with a thudding kick drum, ‘Loss Of Control’ is a breakneck expletive laden tirade against anybody who has ever stood in Billie Joe’s way; the sheer frustration in his voice is palpable when he spits the lines “I’m taking down all my enemies ‘cos they’re all so f****** useless, a bunch of s*** talking drama queens…”.
Once the chaos has ceased we come to the infectious ‘Troublemaker’. There’s nothing to dislike about this one. The instruments interlock perfectly with Billie Joe’s vocals, and you can almost hear the Idol-esque sneer on his face when he sings “Hey! I like your BMW”. It’s one of those songs that gives you something new to get lodged in your brain with each listen. It’s fantastic.
‘Angel Blue’ rockets along at a pace that would make the energizer bunny feel exhausted, echoing earlier themes of insecurity; “you’re a princess, I’m a f****** clown”. You have to wonder here if Billie Joe has had to regress to his younger lovelorn self to write the lyrics for this one, as he sings in the verse “won’t you be my bloody valentine?” and the chorus of “you’re just a f****** kid and no one ever gives you a break”, which seems to sit somewhat at odds with the verses. Still, this isn’t to the song’s detriment.
Next is the most forgettable cut on the album, the dull ‘Sweet 16’. I suppose it’s fair to expect a little filler, given that the guys wrote and recorded three albums at once. Then comes the evocative ‘Rusty James’, probably the best example on the album of Green Day’s pop sensibilities. I defy you not to be singing the chorus to this for at least a week. Superb.
Finally is the first single, ‘Oh Love’. Like ‘Kill The DJ’, this is a grower, albeit for very different reasons. This is a bona-fide, lighters aloft, sing along with every bit of heft your lungs can muster anthem. Beginning with a singular, repeated guitar chord pattern and the heartfelt plea “please don’t pass me by”, the song builds to a chorus and eventual conclusion of such blockbuster proportions James Cameron could have directed it. Live, this is going to be something truly special.
So, Uno! then. It’s a superb record, and the guys have created something that I believe will appeal to not only existing Green Day fans, but music lovers in general. If you’ve never heard a Green Day album, this is a perfect starting point.
Green Day – Troublemaker
One of the standout cuts from the first part of Green Day’s trilogy, Uno!, Troublemaker is an insistent, infectious track that’ll get stuck in your head for so long you’ll need a full frontal lobotomy in order to remove it. The irony in Billie Joe Armstrong’s voice when he spits; “Hey! I like your BMW” is laugh out loud hilarious.
Billy Idol – Rebel Yell
A criminally underrated rock classic from the peroxide-topped godfather of British punk. Steve Steven’s guitar parts throughout this song are an absolute joy to behold, and my god, just listen to that chorus. Sheer brilliance.
Bryan Adams – 18 ‘til I Die
A chorus soaked guitar opens this paean to eternal youth and relentless optimism from 1998’s album of the same name. Let’s face it, we can all identify with this one; “never say no, try anything twice”
Aviici – Levels
Okay, so perhaps it’s the wrong time of year for something so relentlessly summery, but ‘Levels’ is a hell of a record. For a deliciously different take on the Swedish dance maestro’s biggest hit to date, check out the Skrillex remix too. Expect to hear this one on heavy rotation in clubs and trendy clothes shops for years to come.
Blink 182 – Another Girl, Another Planet
A perennial favourite, this. A cover of The Only Ones track of the same name, this will chisel a Cheshire cat sized grin to your visage and there it will remain. Mark Hoppus’ vocal on this one complements the lyrics superbly, and the guitars are treacle thick. Combined with drummer Travis Barker’s usual over the top sticksmanship, this is a rare example of a cover surpassing the original.
This piece was written in September 2012 for The Lincolnshire Echo.
Regular readers may remember a couple of months ago I talked about the phenomenon of the open microphone night, and the cavalcade of talent often contained within. I recently went to the weekly open mic night at The Jolly Brewer Pub in Lincoln (which comes highly recommended) and I was treated to a spectacle like no other, when Peter K. Rollings took to the stage with his Experimental Sonic Machines. This is a man who commands your attention, thanks in part to his outlandish, Tim Burton meets steampunk masks and his outlandish, insane Sonic Machines (for it would be wrong to refer to these items as instruments in the traditional sense), and also thanks to his commanding stage presence. This guy puts the likes of Mick Jagger to shame, but make no mistake, he’s no ageing, crotch grabbing lothario. This is a man who becomes truly, truly absorbed in his performance, and its hypnotic to witness, in much the same way as a lava lamp. His movements are free and theatrical, adding to the sense of sheer wonder.
His Machines almost defy description. He begins with a device that comprises a large wooden turntable, which on one side lies an array of metallic tubes, each engineered to play at a different pitch, and keys that only faintly resemble a piano on the other side. It looks like something out of Caractacus Potts’ house in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. And it sounds as incredible as it looks. As Peter begins to turn the wheel, a low level hum fills the entire pub. When he presses the keys and begins to play, heaven’s bells themselves greet your ears. Fabulous. His other primary instrument is guitar like, in so far as it has a neck, and again a large turntable where the body would be. I could not for the life of me even begin to fathom how he was playing it.
The music itself is a peculiar mix, all of it relatively slow in tempo. If I had to pin a genre on it (not easy), the best description would be along the lines of contemporary classical meets progressive jazz. Probably not even close.
His masks are equal parts beautiful and disturbing, and almost all look like they were created by the Dr.Who props department. One in particular looks a little like a cross between a cyberman and some sort of stag, with an empty yet piercing stare and expressionless mouth, which has enormous, curved antlers sprouting from the sides. This certainly isn’t Sesame Street.
This piece was first published in August 2012 in The Lincolnshire Echo.
I’d like to take the time this month to introduce you all to one of Lincoln’s up and coming talents; the irrepressible Suzy Fox. At home performing solo with just an acoustic guitar for accompaniment or tearing up the stage with her band Audio Defect, her skills as both a vocalist and a performer seem limitless. She’s a talent that literally makes people stop in their tracks and listen, as I witnessed at one of her recent solo performances. I overheard a somewhat off colour comment when she began her set, but said comments were very soon replaced with gushing superlatives when Suzy began to perform.
She cites her main stylistic influences musically as a blend of Jazz and Gothic music; and lyrically her music is an even split of the biographical and social commentary, drawing on situations she sees around her on a daily basis. She is a gifted guitarist, picking up her first six string when she was just ten, and having lessons from age twelve. Fingerpicked styles are a speciality, adding colour and texture to her solo pieces.
Suzy possesses that rare quality whereby you don’t just hear the songs, you feel them. It’s almost as if she is reaching into your very soul, willing you to share the music with her, wanting you to feel exactly how she felt when the song was written. One notable example of this is the utterly electrifying How Do I React To This?, a song that crackles with a sense of rage and frustration that every single one of us has felt from time to time, like the sky during a particularly violent storm. Spine tingling would be an understatement.
Her selection of cover tunes further illustrate her eclecticism, placing her own personal stamp on each song she does. I have seen Suzy play live many times, during which I’ve heard her perform a superbly soulful version of Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy, Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters and, perhaps the clearest representation of the Gothic side of her style and a sultry cover of Finnish goths HIM’s Heartkiller to name but a mere handful.
Suzy plays live regularly at several different venues in and around Lincoln, and I suggest you go and see her play. Look out for her at Switch at Walkabout on Thursdays, and in the meantime you can check out her material, including pieces I’ve mentioned in this article by searching bambisuzy on YouTube. You can also find her musician page on Facebook.