Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Subways - Money and Celebrity Preview

One thing that the UK can still be proud of is our ability to turn out a hard-rockin' power trio or two. From Ireland, we have Ash, Wales has Feeder, Scotland has Biffy Clyro, and England? Take your pick from any down the years of The Jam, Muse, Reuben, or The Subways, a humble trio who have managed to scoot under the radar for most of their career, despite being signed to one of the biggest (and most hateful) record labels in the world. Maybe it's just not cool to be in a rock 'n' roll band these days. They're also rather nice guys, and not the type you can picture them turning up unconscious in a puddle of vomit and cocaine. So that pretty much guarantees they'll never top the NME Cool List. Nevermind, say they, we've got a party going on over at our place, wanna come down? Well since you asked, yeah, why not?

This is largely the central theme behind the Welwyn Garden City boys (and girl)'s upcoming third record, Money and Celebrity. Yeah, that innovative and not-at-all clichéd topic for a rock 'n' roll album. Unoriginal though it may be, I've never critiscised bands who just want to get people (slam) dancing and having fun with no further ambitions. After all, they got all the heavy emotional stuff out of the way on their last album, All Or Nothing, where the lyrics dealt with the tough breakup of frontman Billy Lunn and bassist Charlotte Cooper. Despite this difficult birth, it was a punchy and powerful record, and rocked hard when it wanted to. So the trio have a fair bit to live up to, although it's obvious quickly that this will not be All Or Nothing Part 2. In one respect that's a shame, as there were patches where Lunn was showing signs that he can pen a strong rhyming couplet or two. Now though, on the evidence of the new tracks that are available to listen to he's lapsed into lazy, hackneyed lines about having fun, having a good time and...well, you get the idea. They attempt a bit of social commentary on 'Celebrity', but even then it's riddled in cliché, and worse than that, the lyric sheet bears a suspicious resemblance to the Queen & Paul Rogers song of the same name from a couple of years ago. Stealing clichés from other bands? I'll have to ask you to step outside, Mr Lunn, I'll be speaking to you after class about this.

But as I said earlier, it's hard to be churlish when a band are having the time of their lives and are openly inviting everyone to join them, and any deficiencies in the lyrics are instantly masked by some excellent trademark riffs and guitar hooks. Lunn can write lyrics in about the same way as I can do complex algebra, but he has an undeniable ear for a hook, and with Cooper and his drumming brother Josh Morgan alongside him as sidekicks in the mischief, fun and great tunes are guaranteed. The free-download lead single 'It's A Party' is outrageously catchy, with it's sinewy lead riff and gratuitous usage of cowbell in the verses. The same goes for 'We Don't Need Money To Have A Good Time', which sounds like a hyperactive cousin to 'Turnaround' from the last record. Both tracks, as well as 'Celebrity', come packed with powerchords and bouncing gang vocals from Lunn and Cooper, and if this is how the record will sound as a whole, I cannot wait for early September to come around. As for any of you reading this who haven't really kept up with The Subways in recent years, now seems like an excellent time to get aquainted - they may never achieve million-selling, stadium-filling stardom, but they remain one of the UK's best-kept secrets, and Money and Celebrity looks all set to continue that in some style.

Lead-off single 'It's A Party', which you can download from their website here.

'We Don't Need Money To Have A Good Time' Live at the Hurricane Festival 2011, complete with a German version of the chorus for the home crowd. Nice touch.

'Celebrity' Live at the Hurricane Festival.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London's Burning With Boredom Now?

It's not often that my overly verbose and rambling mind is lost for words, but as I type I'm genuinely struggling to put words onto the computer screen in any sense of logic or order. Over the last few days, the capital city I love, and live on the outskirts of, has descended into the kind of near-future post-apocalyptic carnage that we're used to chuckling about in films. Ever seen Mad Max? Or The Warriors? Or Assault on Precinct 13? Escape from New York? We thought the mob-ridden utopias in those films were spooky, but never could we have envisaged, or wanted to envisage, that it'd be playing out live for us on the streets outside our houses, in what's supposed to be a civilised country. For the first time in perhaps my whole life, I was scared of what would happen outside. Fortunately, the roaming gangs of incomprehensibly thick primates gave up around Bromley and Orpington, and went home for the night, heading no further out of the capital than that. Say what you like about humble Swanley - and I've often said some rather mean stuff about it - but one thing it doesn't have is roving gangs of youths utterly disconnected from society. Thankfully. But the same cannot be said of many friends of mine in Erith, Croydon, Lewisham, Enfield, Camden and other parts of London that descended into mob rule for several shocking hours.

Twitter was alive with terror, panic and rumour. I have plenty of friends from the punk scene and further afield, including members of the very bands I go and see and you read about on here and see for yourself, caught up in the troubles. Looking out of their windows and seeing buses and shops on fire, mobs of proto-humans chanting and running off with swag. Videos have emerged of a boy taking cover with facial injuries before getting robbed by a group of thugs. We saw pathetically under-manned pockets of police try vainly to stand around looking tough, whilst the lunatics gleefully took over the asylum. A Sky reporter who dared to question their behaviour was attacked, and managed to escape. Parts of London are basically being declared no-go zones, and normally peaceful people are now advocating (rightly I'd say) curfews and military presence on the streets to stop the creatures of the night returning once again. And literally as I type, I'm hearing news that a man has died in hospital after being shot by rioters. All of these images, and the threats of more destruction edging ever closer to my neighbourhood, sicken me to my stomach. What we're seeing is the horrifying realisation that these scumbag kids have worked out that if they bandy together, they can literally do whatever the fuck they like.

As inevitable as the fucking tides comes the earnest hand-wringing from those on TV who claim to know better than us. We've got politicians (mainly everyone's favourite ex-mayor Ken Livingstone) using it as an opportunity to score points from the opposition parties and turn it into a party political issue, we've got the odious types at the BBC asking whether this was a 'cry of rage' as a result of 'Tory cuts' (it was neither), and we have several people trying to blame unemployment, lack of prospects and other such right-on topics to moan about. Let's get one thing clear before we go on - this was no protest. It's beginning to really piss me off for people to keep suggesting this was some sort of uprising from oppressed youth to fight for their future; bringing down the man, one burnt-out bus and trashed Nando's at a time. Don't believe the hype, folks. We can romanticise until the cows come home and find their farm has been burnt to the ground, but there is nothing fucking romantic or poetic about this. Nothing at all.

I don't pretend to have the answers, but at best, my two-cent summation of it all would be that these stains on the copybook of humanity are the product of a splintered society, with no unity or respect for their fellow person. Love thy neighbour? Burn down his shop and nab some of his tellys, more fuckin' like. And the divides between communities and people just deepen. No wonder racist feeling is so high, with paranoia and misinformation being spread.

(Oh, and if you were thinking about doing a BNP and blaming this on immigrants, I advise you to hunt down a fantastic picture of Dalston being defended from thugs by groups of people - of Turkish origin. And then slapping yourself round the face several times for even considering pledging allegiance with those bastards.)

Anyway, for whatever reason (and I'll be here all week if I even try to go into explaining it all), we now have a situation where there are hundreds of kids growing up in utterly shitty circumstances, with no discipline, self-respect or knowledge of right and wrong, and feeling completely disconnected from the rest of society. When you couple that to the gradual undermining of the police force through cuts and accusations of being heavy-handed (sometimes justified, sometimes not) and successions of weak governments who have not had the courage to stand up and actually punish little shits rather than just give them a slap on the wrist and send the little ragamuffins on their way, and we arrive at this scenario. The kids have basically had their own Warriors moment: there's x amount of us, and only y amount of police...we can do what the fuck we want. Because we're 'badmanz'.

It's ironic in a way to see a lot of my buddies in the punk scene advocating heavy-handed policing and even martial law in some cases. You'd assume, wouldn't you, that us police-hating, protest-loving punkers would be relishing a chance at fighting the man via the medium of civil unrest. But we're not. Because that's just the point. This isn't a protest at all. This has nothing to do with the power of youth bringing about change. And I'll bet you any money that if you were to go up to a group of these shitstains and tell them how proud you are of them 'sticking it to the man', they'd probably laugh and mug you. Remember folks, don't try and reason with an idiot. And especially don't try and reason with an idiot who's also a lowlife, scummy, malicious, brain-dead, cunt.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

More New Blink-182 Music - And It's Good

Something I learnt today: It's quite difficult to type out a review whilst simultaneously eating a large humble pie. Yes, not for the first time, I've gone and made a bold claim which has been almost immediately made to look utterly stupid. This time it was with Blink-182 re: their future. In my review (well, more an assassination) of their comeback single Up All Night, I speculated that, if the band continued to follow the confused and tedious path they appeared to be forging, they were in danger of desecrating their back catalogue and tainting their legacy. I'd like to think that Mark Hoppus stumbled upon this humble fanzine, looked at my words with dismay and immediately demanded his bandmates go back to the drawing board, but whatever the case, the second new song leaked since their comeback is a much marked improvement.

The track is 'Hearts All Gone', and it was initially open to listen to by heading to and pressing CTRL+A together to reveal the widget that played the song. The site's down now, but there's plenty of copies doing the rounds on Youtube. Go on, give it a listen right now, I'll wait.

Good, isn't it? It wins plenty of plus points from me right out of the gate by being a fast, hard-hitting, straight-up punk tune, with pounding, dexterous drumbeats and a trademark Mark Hoppus vocal line. It's a pretty simple tune, all told, but after their previous effort's clumsy stabs at epicness and confused song structure, perhaps this back-to-basics route is the way to go. And yet, despite it's stripped-back production and stripped-down format, every part of it is light years stronger than Up All Night, mainly because it has the sound of a band with a clear focus.

Many people have said that this could easily slot into canon back in the Dude Ranch days, and that's certainly true, but the big giveaway that this is latter-day Blink is the lyrics, which are
very strong, and light years ahead of the piece of used toilet paper that constituted the lyric sheet for Up All Night. Whilst the fast drumbeats and raucous guitars of old are present here, there's a little refinement and nous present that gives away the maturity of it's creators. In fact, continuing on with the theme of comparing new Blink songs to the band member's side-projects, Hearts All Gone has the feel of a track Hoppus had written up for the next +44 album, just with a harder edge and no electronic elements in the mix. So what with '...Night' sounding all AvA, that just leaves you Mr Barker - you got any Transplants b-sides lying around? But on a serious point, this track shows a much more natural progression into this mature angle they have now, and forms a nice bridge between the dick-waving histrionics of their younger days and the more subtle, grown-up leanings of now. More importantly, however, the song also bears the hallmarks of a band walking into a studio and recording whatever happened to come into their heads, and by that I mean it doesn't sound forced or constrained by desires to be something that it isn't. Ironically, this is one of the most out-and-out 'punk' songs they've written in years, so maybe that's the key here - simply go back to where it all began, and take it from the top, but this time, as 30-something men rather than teenagers sniggering at dick jokes.

Words by Adam Johnson