Category Archives: music

120 Minutes (Give or take a few)

Back in the autumn of 1991 my Dad climbed up on our roof and installed the satellite dish that came free with the washing machine him and my mum had just recently purchased and in doing so opened our family up to a whole new world of television. One of the many new channels in particular had a major impact on me as an impressionable 11-year-old, MTV. MTV then isn’t like what MTV is now, back then it really was music television. Hours of back to back music videos interspersed with shows about music, none of this reality tv rubbish (except for maybe the Real World, but that was pretty great. Remember Puck??). I would spend, what would seem like, whole days watching, absorbing all that was brilliant about music at this time. My favourite shows were obviously the ones that focused on alternative music, being Headbangers Ball to start with and moving on to Alternative Nation and 120 minutes as my tastes changed.

120 Minutes/Alternative Nation turned me on to so many different bands that I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. They played amazing, interesting and exotic videos that covered a broad spectrum of alternative music. And because it was on late at night this seemed to add an extra intrigue and danger to the videos. I would record the shows and watch back on VHS over the following few days, there was something about watching it this way as an early teen that added excitement and intrigue and made the music all the better for it. These were shown past my bedtime, they weren’t for me and yet there I would be lapping them up.

I would fantasise a lot about being in a band as a teenager and one fantasy would be that I would get to present one of these shows and choose the videos. None of the bands I’ve been in got anywhere so I never got to fulfil this ambition, but here’s the next best thing. A selection of videos below that I would’ve chosen if it were up to me, from that time that I remember, ones from back then that I’ve discovered since and some new ones. Hope you enjoy!!

1. Rainer Maria – Catastrophe

I don’t write enough about Rainer Maria and the more I listen to them the more I’m convinced they’re one of the all time great emo bands. This video is of course awesome, I like the silhouette coming to life effect but I can’t really condone standing in a paddling pool with a plugged in toaster, don’t try it at home kids!!

2. Jawbox – Cornflake Girl

It still amazes me that this exists! I really loved Tori Amos as a teenager which was a direct result of ‘Silent all these years’ being repeated every hour on MTV and ‘Cornflake Girl’ is a classic, I came to be a fan of Jawbox later on and was blown away when I discovered that they had done this cover. Although I don’t recall seeing it, this is exactly the kind of video you would see late at night on Alternative Nation etc.. In a tired state, staying u past your bedtime you’d sit thinking ‘Does this really exist? Am I dreaming?’ And it does!!!!!!

3. Sunny Day Real Estate – In Circles (Live on 120 Minutes)

Introduced by who else but Iggy Pop (??), this is Sunny Day performing ‘In Circles’ live in the studio in 1994 and everything about it is brilliant from the massive font MTV used to use to say who was talking to the short interview at the start where William Goldsmith tries to give excuses as to why they might not sound great on TV. Which is crazy, they sound incredible, super loud and proper powerful.

4. Maritime – Paraphernalia

I hope they got all the shots for this video in one take, the band performing in a blizzard looks pretty but it don’t look fun. The director probably convinced them it was a great idea and they probably agreed that, on paper, it sounds cool but in reality they don’t look like they’re enjoying themselves. As I said, it does look good and the song is great so it probably all worked out for the best.

5. Knapsack – Cellophane

This video is so gloriously 90’s it hurts. From seeing the band primarily through a viewmaster, watching the band drive around in a car to seeing them perform in a room usually to small to fit a band in. Combine this with close up shots of their guitars and the amazing song then you’ve got all components for the quintessential 90’s alternative band video.

6. Juliana Hatfield – What A Life

This song reminds me so much of being 15 and standing, completely hung over, in the front row of the main stage at the 1995 Reading Festival. Juliana was one of the early afternoon acts and did a wonderful job of lifting my mood after a night of excess that I instantly regretted. All I remember from the night before was throwing up on my sleeping bag, turning it over then getting in it and passing out. When I emerged from my tent in the morning, loads of people I didn’t recognise were saying hi to me and they weirdly all knew my name, what had happened in the night I dread to think. It was a great festival despite feeling rough for the rest of the weekend.

7. Papayer – Heated

This is probably my favourite song of this year so far, I have been trying to get an interview with these guys but my email is letting me down which is more than a damn shame. This video is genius in its simplicity, a prime example that you don’t need the budget of ‘Thriller’ to make a brilliant video that will last long in your memory. I could watch this all day!!

8. Cancer Bats – Sabotage

I love this video and, in theory, I guess it shouldn’t work. Everyone knows that the original Beastie Boys version and Spike Jonze’s video for it is one of the all time greatest music videos, of all time!! But Cancer Bats, number one, nailed the cover and, number two, found a way to pay homage to the original but give enough of themselves to make it different. Their constantly mistaking people dressed as the Beastie Boys cracks me up. Enjoy!

9. Snowden – Anti Anti

Seeing this on MTV lead me to buying the album as soon as I could find it and although the album didn’t win me over, I still think this song is terrific. The use of the lights as the band members gives it a feel similar to the White Stripes lego video but I prefer this. Probably because the song is a billion times better and the video is really well made.

10. Piebald – Just A Simple Plan

I saw Piebald play live once, when they opened up for the Movielife at the LA2 in London. I missed their last song because they had asked onstage if anyone could put them up for the night. I rushed to the merch stand to offer the floor of my flat, bumped into someone I hadn’t seen for a long time doing the same thing and whilst we were chatting someone got there first. I still tried to get them to stay over but I was competing against 2 girls who were from the same state as them and had a place down the road from the venue, I was never going to win. This song/album took over our lives for a whole summer, it is that bloomin’ catchy.

11. Rollins Band – Liar

This video takes me right back, we were too young for Black Flag so to me and my friends in the early 90’s Henry Rollins was the crazy guy who made video’s like this and popped up in films with Charlie Sheen. There was a countdown of the best alternative music videos on MTV at some point in the 90’s that was hosted by Henry Rollins in which he completely ripped it out of several bands, namely Depeche Mode. We watched this on repeat and would quote him all the time if someone mentioned one the bands he had torn apart with his wry delivery. This video looks just as good now as it did back then.

12. This Beautiful Mess – Don’t Go There

These guys played Margate sometime around 2004 and I became obsessed with this album and especially this song. Annoyingly cut short for the video as opposed to the album version at least this video ticks the box for having a band play moodily in a dark forest. Great use of trumpets too.

13. Built To Spill – In The Morning

When I was at drama school in the early 00’s my friends would always make fun of the music I listened to. One day when I was listening to ‘There’s nothing wrong with love’ on my discman some of them invented a game where they would put my headphones on, press play and watch people hanging out during their lunch hour. The music playing would instantly turn the mundane in to an American high school movie or an episode of Dawson’s Creek and they would take turns in putting the headphones on and then fall about laughing. I guess it was a pretty funny game, they never got what a genius album this was though, the bloody fools.

14. Death Cab For Cutie – The Sound Of Settling

One of the most infectious indie emo songs ever written with a nice video to back it up. What more do you need to say?? It’s only 2 minutes long so not much I guess. Just give it a watch.

15. Sick of it all – Step Down

What a classic! This video taught me all my dance moves, I still do ‘pickin’ up change’ to this day (back pain permitting). You would always see this video on Headbangers Ball or Alternative Nation back in the day, it is a brilliant use of the fake news report style and just people going nuts in a New York basement. They totally nailed us with ‘emo style’ too, hilarious that as a young teen, out of all the dance moves they showcase in this video, it’s the one they are taking the piss out of that I would end up doing the most. haha

Thanks for watching.

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REVIEW: Braid – No Coast

Band – Braid

Album – No Coast

Label – Topshelf Records

Last year on my birthday I got to see Braid play live for the first time ever. Today I wore the Braid t-shirt I bought at that show but had no idea that when I had randomly got it out of the drawer to wear for the day that this would be the day I would get to hear Braid’s brand new album, their first studio album in 16 years. It’s weird, a lot of bands have reformed in the last few years, some of which you are willing them to make new music and some you just wish they’d stick to playing the old stuff. Braid broke up at the peak of their career, they had just released the classic, genre defining album ‘Frame & Canvas’ and had barely had chance to bask in the adulation that creating such a masterpiece would reward them with before they went their separate ways. ‘Frame and canvas’ deserved a follow-up record and not just compilation albums, Hey Mercedes certainly did well to fill the void that Braid left but it was never quite the same so thank goodness Braid decided to give it another go and let us be even more thankful that the new album is really, really good.

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If you’ve ever wanted Braid to make a new album then ‘No Coast’ is definitely the album you were looking for, it’s Braid all over. It ticks all the boxes that you had in your head when you were thinking what a new Braid album should be like. Big riffs, check. Brilliant duel vocals, check. Huge sound, check. And plenty more besides. The only real surprise with this record is how fresh it sounds. 90s emo bands have been referenced to death over the last few years, so much so that if you see a new band listing American Football as their main influence it starts to put you off. But no one has come close to emulating Braid meaning that the trademark big emo sound that Braid have made their own remains as exciting and interesting as it did at the end of the last century.

‘No Coast’ eases you in gently with the slow burner ‘Bang’ but really takes off with the catchy-as-hell second track ‘East end hollows’. My ears really pricked up as soon as this song started, I really didn’t know what to expect with this record as I’ve learned from past experience not to build my hopes up too high with comeback records but ‘East end hollows’ really put me at ease. And from here on in you find that Braid have made a really brilliant record that can stand proudly next to its predecessor. The 3rd song and title track ‘No Coast’ is classic Braid, the vocals intertwine as the song strays between a staccato verse to a more upbeat chorus and then with what comes next, ‘Damages’, you not only have a song you’ll wanna hear again and again but you’re also now desperate for them to come back on tour so you can see them play these songs live at full volume. When Chris Broach screams ‘It’s a call to arms’ I want to be flailing my arms crazily around screaming the lyrics back at him from the pit below.

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‘No Coast’ is an album of real quality right to the very end, the songs released earlier from the split with Balance and Composure sit perfectly amongst some really enjoyable new songs. Although this is instantly recognisable as a Braid record, there are some differences I’ve noticed on the several listens I’ve already had. The biggest being that the lead vocal duties seem to be more equally split between Bob Nanna and Chris Broach, I think this works really nicely, they both sound great separately and even better when they sing together. Other things you hear on this record that you may not have seen on previous efforts include the sublimely grunge ending to ‘Climber new entry’ and the Jimmy Eat World-esque ‘Pre evergreen’

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The album closes in an epic rock fashion, with a mid tempo head nodder and the kind of song you’d expect Smashing Pumpkins or Foo Fighters to end a record with when they were in their heyday. The record drifts off with the refrain ‘This is not a revolution’ and while the same can be said with this record we weren’t looking for Braid to reinvent the wheel. We wanted a classic Braid record that we could fall in love with and that’s exactly what they have delivered. I am blown away with how much I like this record, I hope you will be too.

You can stream/download/buy the record HERE

Thanks for reading, as always get in touch here. http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, @alex_itto on twitter and ittoblog@gmail.com

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REVIEW: TIGERS JAW – CHARMER

Band – Tigers Jaw

Album – Charmer

Label – Run For Cover Records

I don’t know if you can describe being woken up early against your will by one of your many children as having any benefits, but one of the benefits (If you can call it that) is that you sometimes find out about if something important has happened overnight ahead of time. Given the choice of lying in bed asleep or the chance to listen to the new Tigers Jaw record I can tell you what I would easily choose without hesitation. So my initial annoyance that my daughter, Indigo, was shouting at me to get up at 6am has been replaced with complete gratitude that I now get to sit here listening to ‘Charmer’, while little Indi tries to figure out how to walk, (she just turned 1 by the way).

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The reason a download code for this record was there to greet my bleary eyes this morning was because someone had leaked an inferior version of the album online. Bands these days generally don’t care about illegal downloads and file sharing, instead accepting that as just the norm nowadays, but if you’ve put a ton of effort in to making a new record and then someone leaks an incomplete version of it that doesn’t sound the way you intended, that’s gotta piss you off. Reacting in the best way possible, Tigers Jaw and Run For Cover made the record immediately available on bandcamp to download for $5 and sent out codes to everyone who had pre-ordered the record. I had pre-ordered, of course I had, this is the most highly anticipated record of 2014 and I may have only had one listen through at the point of this paragraph but I can tell you that it doesn’t disappoint.

Tigers Jaw have had a weird couple of years with members leaving, uncertainty about the band’s future and a bizarre mini online backlash when it was confirmed that they were going to continue as a two piece. I couldn’t understand why some people had seemed so upset when they assumed the band had broken up to then being outraged that they were going to continue. I was so happy to hear that Tigers Jaw was staying put and a new album was on its way and so were my whole family. Out of all the bands that I’ve forced my children to listen to by way of having control of the car stereo on long journeys, Tigers Jaw are the one band we can all completely agree on. On the rare occasion that I give them any choice in what we listen to Tigers Jaw are their first choice, 3 of my 4 kids know all the words to their songs and Indigo, being 1, just likes to have a little shimmy in her car seat. I can’t wait for them to hear this because I know they’ll love it. Tigers Jaw, although now a two piece, recorded ‘Charmer’ with all 5 members and it stands proudly with their other full lengths as an instant indie, emo classic.

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‘Charmer’ leaps in to life with ‘Cool’, the unmistakable downbeat pop brilliance that you’ve come to expect from this band is here in all its glory. One song in and you’re already excited with the knowledge that you’re going to love this album. Tigers Jaw are one of the few bands of the last few years labelled as emo that have an original sound, immediately recognisable as their own. Instead of just throwing back to the great bands of the 90s, Tigers Jaw in their own little way push things forward. Superbly sombre, insanely catchy and just downright beautiful. Songs like the single ‘Hum’ and ‘Distress Signal’, which is my favourite Tigers Jaw song ever since it appeared on the ‘Mixed Signals’ comp a while back, totally set this band apart from the rest. Having been disappointed by a few releases that I assumed I was going to love this year, ‘Charmer’ goes a long way to restoring my faith in this genre.

I clearly have a lot more time to spend with ‘Charmer’ and I am extremely excited to do so, to have it on repeat and discover things about it that I may have missed on to start with but I can already tell you that this is love at first listen. This is a genuinely brilliant album, it has the potential to make the band even more huge than they are already and who could begrudge them that? They are the nicest people making near perfect indie rock. Other tracks that have leapt out at this early stage are the energetic ‘Nervous Kids’, the beautiful ‘Slow divide’ and the album closer ‘What would you do’ complete with Morrisey-esque vocals. Can’t wait to find out what will leap out next, go and download it now!!!

You can download ‘Charmer’ HERE

Thanks for reading. Come say hi, http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, ittoblog@gmail.com or on twitter @alex_itto

 

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INTERVIEW: BEEZEWAX

I have been a massive fan of Beezewax ever since their debut album completely blew me away as a teenager in the 90s. They played locally several times in the late 90s/early 00s and every time was incredibly special. The band recently announced a mini UK tour which kicks off in less than 2 weeks so I caught up with singer/guitarist Kenneth Ishak to discuss the tour and his memories of UK tours past. Enjoy!

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IS THIS THING ON? – I first saw you when you played the tiny cardinals cap in Canterbury and instantly fell in love. It must have been 1998, what do you remember about that first uk tour?

Kenneth Ishak – Hey, glad you were there!
Well, I think that was our second UK tour, i can remember that show bit I can’t link it to any other shows, but the first and second tour in the UK was just a big change for all of us. We didn’t have that sort of scene at home, we were compared to many bands we had never heard about- we didn’t know what emo was. We were basically 4 kids who had hung together growing up- listened to dinosaur jr, hip hop, we were definitely not part of a scene except for our norwegian label LaNuGo which was a hardcore punk label.
Yeah, in Norway people didn’t care but we had just started anyways but got to go to the UK right away to tour with Spy Vs spy, they were the greatest band and people- we became pretty good friends and influenced by them. I almost puked before our fist show, we were on after them- they were so amazing and i had never heard anything like it- i was in shock! Then we had to play. But then people sang along to our songs, i sorta understood that whatever it was we were doing, people were into it.

ITTO? – I bought ‘A dozen summits’ at that first show on cd for £3, later someone told me that you’d made a mistake with the price and I’ve felt bad ever since. Is that true?

KI – Haha, we never felt bad- we just figured, lower the price and sell more. I remember in Manchester the whole crowd got in line after we played, yeah everything really fell into place for us on those first tours.

ITTO? – The other times I saw you were all in Margate at the legendary Lido. You had a big following here, what are your memories of Margate and did you get a similar response throughout the uk?

KI – We did, nice! We know there were at least some people there who liked us- someone told me they played a couple of our songs at practise even. I have many great memories playing at the Lido- especially one show that was packed and just really loud, probably one of my favourite shows ever. Last time we played there Stian our drummer was sick, and to be honest- we were not the same band, but yeah- there was a great crowd but we did not deliver so i am glad to come back. It will be our first show in 7 years so there might be a couple of fuck ups!

ITTO? – You’re playing Margate again as part of a UK tour in May with one of the most exciting uk bands at the moment, Playlounge, how did touring with them come about?

KI – It was just our label that did a little research- seems there are people discovering our older records, people who were 4 or something then- anyways Playlounge seemed to be into our stuff, and we sure like them so we asked if we could play some shows together, and they were into it. I am sure we will be blown away!

ITTO? – Have you got anything special planned for these shows? Will you be playing songs from all of your albums?

KI – Nothing special, to be honest- I don’t know what will happen but we have had fun during rehearsals.

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ITTO? – Do you have any plans to come back again yet?

KI – Yes, this fall we hope to cover places we couldn’t get to on this little tour.

ITTO? – And finally, what is your favourite band that you’ve ever played with?

KI – Again, Spy vs Spy, we have played with plenty of bands in different countries but nothing made a bigger impact i think.

ITTO? – Thanks Kenneth!!

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Beezewax will be playing the following shows this May:

May 22nd – Margate, The Bracket

May 23rd – London, Birthday’s

May 24th – Brighton, The Hope

May 25th – Portsmouth, The Registry

Is this thing on? is putting on the Margate show, please come down if you’re in the area. Here is the link to the facebook events page for the show – https://www.facebook.com/events/1425538981029584/

Thanks for reading. Get in touch here, http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, ittoblog@gmail.com or twitter @alex_itto

 

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REVIEW: PLAYLOUNGE – PILOT

Band – Playlounge

Album – Pilot

Label – Dog Knights Productions

It’s around this time of year that I start to wonder what album will be the soundtrack of my summer. What album, for years to come, will always remind of awesome memories from these upcoming summer months. I know you shouldn’t force these things, overthinking everything is a bit of a habit and tends to take the edge off spontaneous moments but I can’t help it. Ever since the long hot summer of 1997 when my best friend got his first car and we spent the whole time driving around listening, pretty much exclusively, to 2 tapes he had in the car, ‘Everything Sux’ by the Descendents and ‘sublime’ by Sublime. Now, I haven’t listened to Sublime in forever but ‘Everything Sux’ still gets regular plays and always takes me back to being 17 and enjoying the freedom having a car brings with it. An early favourite for what will be my soundtrack of this summer has to be ‘Pilot’ by Playlounge and let me tell you why.

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The first time I listened to this album was in my car on a stupidly sunny day so from the word go I had a summery vibe going on. But the music itself is so upbeat and catchy that it would’ve given me that same vibe had it been cold and miserable that day. Playlounge are loud, their guitar sound is as distorted as it could possibly get yet their songs are full of melody and poppy happiness. Like the way Dinosaur Jr can manage to be unfeasibly loud without being classed as heavy. Their grunge heavy sound has a lot in common with Dinosaur Jr, it’s so great to hear a new band that you can say reminds of great grunge bands past without having to label them as ‘nu-grunge’ or lazy Nirvana rip offs. ‘Pilot’ starts with a blast and doesn’t back down one bit until all 10 songs have reached their completion.

‘I am a lion’ kicks the record of with thumping drums, you’re drawn in by the hazy, dream like vocals and when the guitar literally doubles in sound you’re completely sold on this Brighton 2 piece. They then follow this punch in the guts with a massive right hook, ‘Skulls’ is catchy, infectious and will make you happier than most songs you’ll hear this year. The rest of the record follows a familiar pattern which in now way gets stale or old, Playlounge play amazingly good, grungey noise pop and don’t feel the need to introduce gimmicks or other elements. And, hey, when they’ve got their sound absolutely nailed as good as this why the fuck should they??

I’m pretty convinced that I’ll have this record on constant repeat all summer long and far beyond that too. They seem to pretty much be constantly on tour so make sure you go and see Playlounge slay it live. I get to see them live this week and cannot wait to go all out crazy to their incredible noise!!!

You can buy the album HERE

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Thanks for reading. Come say hi: http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog.com, twitter @alex_itto or ittoblog@gmail.com

 

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REVIEW: COSMIC THOUGHTS – S/T

Band – Cosmic Thoughts

Album – S/T

Label – DLPR Records/Hot Salvation

Cosmic Thoughts have satisfied a need I’ve had for the last few months. I have been so blinkered on one musical genre that I’ve come close to burning out and with a few disappointing releases in the last couple of months I was searching for something different. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never stop writing about emo bands this is an emo blog after all, I just wanted to be blown away by something different to cleanse the palate as it were.

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Where I’m from in Kent, in the South East of England, there has always been, well for as long as I can remember, a strong tradition of very, very good local bands and right now seems to be no different. Boasting ex-members of local favourites November Coming Fire and Kid Pang, Cosmic Thoughts have built a solid live reputation around these parts, albeit with a different sound and direction to what came previously. And now they are backing this up with release of their self titled debut full length LP, An album worthy of a lot of time and attention.

Following up the ‘Live demo’ cassette released last year, Cosmic Thoughts have delivered something a lot grander in scope and sound with this record. Brilliantly recorded by the scariest man I’ve ever met on a boat on the Thames, Cosmic Thoughts have you hooked from the opening solid drum beat and thumping bass line of ‘Decayer’. It’s this combination that provide a really solid backbone to the record, the rhythm section is there as a constant throughout the record allowing the jangly guitars and synth room to breathe and play around. The vocals are low in the mix giving the record a psychedelic feel, they are used like an extra instrument rather than a focus or limelight stealer which is a nice touch.

The album is made up of 7 songs, most of which are past the 5 minute mark but none out stay their welcome. Each song is given time for its ideas to be explored and none of which is wasted. The repetitiveness of the drums get your feet tapping, the thick bass drills into your head and the guitars, synth and vocals open up your mind, it’s a sound that’s very hard to resist. Whether it’s the 80s feel of ‘Test Dream’, the punkier edge of ‘Saint Jude’ or the beautiful ending to ‘No Youth’, the results are all the same, this is a quality band that have made a quality album.

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Looking at their influences it’s hard for me with my limited knowledge of this genre to make accurate comparisons. I can see bits of Sonic Youth here or Joy Division there but most of all I see an indie band producing all the qualities that you’re looking for from an indie band. Something different, something exciting and something full of substance. Sit up and take note, Cosmic Thoughts are well deserving of all the plaudits that should be coming their way with the release of this brilliant record.

You can buy the record HERE

Thanks for reading, get in touch here, or ittoblog@gmail.com, or http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, or twitter @alex_itto

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REVIEW: THE HOTELIER – Home, Like Noplace Is There

Band – The Hotelier

Album – Home, Like Noplace Is There

Label – Tiny Engines

The Hotel Year are now The Hotelier, which still sounds the same if said in a broad, comedy, cockney accent. Not just that but they have a new album which I’ve been mulling over for a few weeks unable to decide exactly how I felt about it.

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There are 9 songs that make up ‘Home, like noplace is there’, The Hotelier’s sophomore record and something about it leaps straight out at you. Although, I think I’ve been holding back on letting myself really enjoy this record and I’ve been racking my brain as for the reason why. Annoyingly, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s my age. I can see that that is a really dumb thing to say but let me explain. The Hotelier don’t hold anything back lyrically or musically, they are really open to the point that it makes me slightly uncomfortable. Take the first song, ‘An introduction to the album’, for example. The way it builds and the emotion it shells out could be something off that would normally put me off but there is some kind of charm about that kept drawing me back. I put it on in the car on my way to work one day and a thought hit me, if I was 18 I would bloody love this band. Now this is nothing to do with being old or too mature etc… But when I was 18 I was a lot more open to music when I listened to it, now it seems I carry a lot of baggage when I hear something now that I close off. I feel more jaded, I can spot influences a lot more now and I let this get in the way of enjoying something.

Sure you can see influences dotted throughout this record, a bit of Saves The Day here or Piebald there, but it should be judged more on the quality of the songs rather than the originality of the sound. And the Hotelier pack plenty of quality in to their songwriting. Songs that come under the banner of ‘ANTHEM!!’ Come frequently through the record. The album veers in to a darker place but The Hotelier seem just at home with Touché Amoré style scream-a-longs as they do with their Jimmy Eat World style sing-a-longs.

The are a couple of spots where they don’t quite hit the mark, ‘Housebroken’ Is a bit of a dull point but by in large, if you let yourself, you’ll find this a really enjoyable listen. In the great scheme of things The Hotelier aren’t gonna steal my heart like, say, The Promise Ring but they will remain fondly thought of like, say, Hot Rod Circuit. Hopefully that analogy will make some kind of sense to you. Definitely worth checking out the record. Cheers.

You can download/stream the album HERE.
And the last time I checked Monkey Boy records had some vinyl copies available HERE

Thanks for reading. Get in touch. http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog
Twitter @alex_itto
Or ittoblog@gmail.com

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INTERVIEW: HUMAN HANDS

If there is going to be one band that defines the emo underground in the UK this year it will be Human Hands, if you have just one listen to their debut full length, self titled LP you’ll know exactly why that is true. It is an incredibly beautiful and powerful record and with plenty of other releases and tours planned for this year I thought an interview with the band was well in order. So here it is! (Ps the interview was conducted just before the release of the record so a couple of the questions are slightly out of date, but don’t let that spoil your enjoyment)

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Is This Thing On? – Hello. You’re on the cusp of releasing your debut full length record, can you tell us a bit about the background to the record?

Chaz: It has been in the works for ages now. We hatched a plan with Andy sncl at a basement gig in Manchester over 2 and a half years ago now, so yeh, it’s taken a while, but I think it benefited from that time and space. We recorded it at the end of May 2013 at JT Soars (aka Wine Vibes)in Nottingham.
Clyde: It has had a slow gestation, but that has mostly due to me moving away and touring rather than writing whenever I was back. When we got to it, it came together pretty quickly.
Rob: I can’t add much, I reckon we practiced most of the songs when playing shows! When we’re all together I think we’d rather play gigs wherever we can, so writing sometimes takes a back seat. Although it’s taken so long to surface, I think that we’re all really happy with the end result.

ITTO? – What themes does the record tackle? Is there a running theme throughout?

Chaz: Don’t think there is a particular theme that runs throughout. Most of the lyrics are about the bullshit I see in everyday life.

ITTO? – Listening through your back catalogue there seems to have been a real progression in sound, from the urgent to the epic. Is it just a matter of circumstance that it’s taken you this long to put out a full length or was it that you wanted to wait until the band was ready, sound wise?

Chaz: Mainly a matter of circumstances I guess (Clyde now lives in Iceland), but I’m glad we took a little more time with it. I think in regards to progressions in sound, when we started I think we just wanted to make something fast and noisy. I think from the first 7” we started slowing things down a bit, and have taken that ‘sound’ from there, I guess.
Clyde: There wasn’t really too much of plan. We just started writing that way. When we started it was to do a band in the vein of Swing Kids, Assfactor 4 and The Red Scare. As a consequence we came into it initially with more aggressive material to work on…in time I think we’ve settled into something a little more natural to us.
Rob: I would say circumstance. I think that we play much more comfortably together now and the LP has benefited from maturity, distance etc.

ITTO? – The two songs off the new record you have up on bandcamp at the mo showcase a really lush, gorgeous sound. Did you spend a lot of time getting the sound right or is that more down to who you worked with?

Chaz: We recorded with our friend Phil (who has recorded everything for us except the demo and split tapes with verme and deergear). We took a fair bit of time getting sound right, and then recorded everything live. I think it’s a combination of recording in a bigger room (JT soar venue) and Phil getting better and better at recording bands, and us taking a little bit more time with stuff. That said we recorded 11 songs in 2 days.
Rob: I think because we have been consistent with who we’ve recorded most of our material with, it gets easier and improves each time.

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ITTO? – Can you tell us about the artwork for the record? I’m always wary of asking people into music if they like football because you can get some really dodgy looks but are you guys football fans?

Chaz: The cover is just a collage piece I’d been working on for ages and thought would look good as a cover. I spend far too much of my energy getting upset by football, supporting Villa and the mighty Stratford Town.
Clyde: I’m not a football fan, but anything that helps get our songs sung on the terraces is good with me….
Rob: I’m a West Brom fan and watch Stratford when I’m not at work.

ITTO? – What have you been listening to recently and has that had any influence on the album at all?

Chaz: Some records I have been enjoying recently are; Flesh World – S/T MLP, Saccharine Trust – Worldbroken LP, Can – Lost Tapes LP, No – Great Space MLP, V/A – Enjoy The Experience LP, Robbie Basho – Seal Of The Blue Lotus LP, V/A – Classroom Projects LP, Madlib – Rock Konducta LP, Peter Gutteridge – Pure 2 X LP. Can’t remember what I was playing lots when we recorded the lp, but like to think everything comes through in some way.
Clyde: I need to get that No MLP. I’ve been blasting the Party of Helicopter’s Abracadaver recently. Also, Mussorgsky – Boris Godunov, Ulver – Messe i.x–vi.x, Springsteen’s Born To Run. Eagerly awaiting the release of Carpe Noctem’s album on vinyl too. Not too many of these had an influence on the album.
Rob: I’m listening to a lot of Iron Lung, Asthenia, Grand Detour, Moloch, Jeru the Damaja, Disciples of Christ and Yaphet Kotto at the moment.

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ITTO? – I wasn’t the only one in the crowd at About Time 2 being completely blown away, how was that show for you and can you really feed off the energy of an audience even though they aren’t going nuts or screaming the lyrics in your face?

Chaz: That gig was great, and was pretty terrifying playing to that many people. I think most people watching us tend to feel tense or bored, so it was a pleasant change.
Clyde: The show was nerve-wracking for me as it was the first time I’d had to do lead vocals on a song. Overall though, it felt pretty together. It was a big crowd, but we had enough friends in the audience to make us feel comfortable. And it’s always good to know a crowd is digging.
Rob: Yeah both About Time gigs have been amazing. It was great to be asked to play again, and I think we held a crowd, which is always good.

ITTO? – It’s a real credit to the state of music in the UK that you can have an incredibly popular all dayer that is predominantly all UK bands. What do you think about the state of underground music in the uk at the moment?

Chaz: Yeh, it was a great day. UK is great at the moment for new music particularly punk and hardcore.
Clyde: Entirely. There are so many good bands out there at the moment from all across the spectrum. I think all of us have been into this music for a long time, and I’m not sure that I’ve personally ever experienced it this thriving.
Rob: I think the UK is doing awesome things at the moment. A lot of new, good bands are appearing all the time, from all over the country, which is great.

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ITTO? – What are your plans for when the record is released? Any touring plans yet?

Chaz: Yeh, there will be a small UK tour with Carson Wells in April and then a Euro/UK tour in the summer at some point. Following the LP there will also be split 7”s with Mars to Stay and Carson Wells and a 5 way split 10” with Manku Kapak, Asthenia, Nebraska and Duct Hearts.
Clyde: Pretty much that. Maybe another UK tour later in the year if we can afford it…

ITTO? – (Corny last interview question) If you could play with any band from history, alive or defunct, who would it be and why?

Chaz: Sabbath at any point during the first four lps.
Clyde: Can’t believe the others haven’t already predicted my response. Slayer.
Rob: Minor Threat, I think.

ITTO? – Human Hands, thank you!!

To buy Human Hands self titled LP click HERE
Or to stream/download it click HERE

Thanks for reading. As always, get in touch on here or Facebook http://www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, on twitter @alex_itto or email ittoblog@gmail.com

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REVIEW: ACID FAST – RABID MOON

Band – Acid Fast

Album – Rabid Moon

Label – Protagonist/Adagio 830

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I have a very good friend who also writes a blog about music, when he comes round my house I tend to bore him to death by showing him whatever new records I’ve recently acquired or downloaded. Our tastes have grown apart over the last few years and most of what I say falls on deaf ears but when I showed him the album sleeve for ‘Rabid Moon’ by Acid Fast he was completely fascinated and more than intrigued. I know where he’s coming from, my first encounter with Acid Fast was seeing this album artwork and my first thought was that I must listen to this ASAP. I had no idea, really, what to expect but those dogs look so ferocious that it was drawing me in. I put the record on and was completely sold on the band from the off.

Acid Fast are satisfying a need for a type of music I hadn’t realised I was hungry for. A lot of what I had been listening to recently was angry, moody and introspective but this was loud, upbeat and outgoing. But Acid Fast are a rock’n’roll band and this is a rock’n’roll record. Big thumping indie punk anthems with excellent duel vocals and more hooks than a cloakroom. Everything is loud, overly distorted and, as I said, big! Especially the melodies that capture your attention on each of the killer tracks and keep your interest right to the end. Acid Fast come from Oakland, CA and feature ex members of the band Big Kids which is a big reminder to me to go back and listen to Big Kids more.

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Maybe there are plenty of bands playing this Superchunk-esque, grand, indie punk sound but not many that I’ve encountered. Perhaps Joanna Gruesome but that’s all I can think of. Maybe I should lift my head up, turn of the depressing stuff more often if this is the kind of result I can expect. I doubt many bands will make an album this instantly excellent this year mind.

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Oh and my friend who I mentioned at the start who was intrigued by the artwork, just checked with him and he still hasn’t listened to it!?!?? But you’re not reading his blog so pay no attention and trust me when I say you need to buy this record!!!!!

You can buy the record from Protaganist HERE

Again, thanks for reading. Get in touch: Facebook – www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog, twitter @alex_itto or email ittoblog@gmail.com

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IS THIS THING ON?’S TOP 20 RECORDS OF 2013 PART 1 (No’s 20-11)

It definitely is that time of year again and you’re probably already sick of album of the year lists but here I am to give you what I consider to be the best records of 2013. This year it’s a top 20 for 2 reasons, 1 – there has been a LOT of great records this year and 2 – because I’ve been so slack at posting reviews this year I thought this would be a good way to catch up. So here goes:

20. Tancred – S/T

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I had no idea what to expect with this record, hadn’t heard anything before and hadn’t read anything about it but as soon as I pressed play I was an instant fan. Brilliant grungey indie rock in the style of Juliana Hatfield, with plenty of catchy songs and charm.

19. Pity Sex – Feast Of Love

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Always love it when a band with a great name also turn out to be a great band and Pity Sex are no exception. Shoegazey, poppy, punk rock with superb, dreamy, downbeat vocals is a pretty lazy description but it hits the nail on the head. I would’ve listened to this record more but every time I looked at a distro they’ve already sold out of their copies, damn hip kids with their pocket money taking all my records!!!!

18. Touché Amoré – Is Survived By

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Touché Amoré are a band that just get better and better with every record they release. I have completely fallen in love with this new record, whilst being instantly recognisable as a Touché record it is also quite a departure to a more melodic and heartfelt sound. There’s still all the power and attack that you would want and expect but there’s also melodies and hook after hook. Very highly recommended listening.

17. Wild Moth – Over, Again

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Became aware of these guys through the SNCL mailing list, they came very highly recommended and they certainly live up to the expectation. Mixing brilliant post hardcore with indie sensibilities and the song writing ability of a band like The Cribs. (The first song really reminds me of The Cribs, which to me is high praise because I love The Cribs!). You’ll have this on repeat so definitely go and check this out.

16. Dowsing – I Don’t Even Care Anymore

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I’ve written loads about Dowsing in the past and the only reason I haven’t expressed love for this record on this blog already is because having four kids is so tiring and I just haven’t had time. I literally can’t go a blog post without writing lame excuses about why I’m so behind at updating this blog, I’m sorry. You know what to expect with a Dowsing record, you know the songs will be top notch and the melodies to be catchy as hell. This album requires a bit more work for the listener than the previous one but with work comes rewards. Check out the excellent title track ‘I don’t even care anymore’, sounds like a song that should be soundtracking the end credits of a 90’s teen movie, perfectly brilliant!!

15. Sed Non Satiata – Mappo

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This album is testament to the fact that taking recommendations from other blogs you love will pay off handsomely. First learned of this band through Cut and Paste and haven’t looked back since. Screamo/emo hardcore always sounds better in French, a brooding intensity blasts out of the speakers here, thrilling stuff!

14. State Faults – Resonate/Desperate

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This record hits the ground running and keeps the energy up to the last note. Much more focused and precise than the first album, this record is the ultimate record to throw yourself about like a lunatic too. Hopefully they’ll tour the UK in the next 12 months so I can see a whole room of people throwing themselves round like lunatics to this awesome screamo goodness.

13. Placeholder – I Don’t Need Forgiveness

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A lot of bands have adopted a huge grunge influence into their melodic punk rock, but not many bands have done it in the brilliantly lo-fi way that Placeholder have. I probably won’t ever grow tired of bands using the 90’s as a reference point especially when they’re making records as good as this one!

12. The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die – Whenever, If Ever

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BAND WITH MOST EMO NAME EVER LIVES UP TO THE HYPE BY RELEASING A GREAT RECORD, is the headline the tabloid press would run with if the world worked like it does in my head. Twinkly bits, post rock bits, synth melodies and everything else that is making the cynics, who have been put off by the band name, turn their noses up just makes me love this band more. I bought my ticket to see these guys in Brighton in April within seconds of seeing they were on sale and cannot wait to go!!!

11. Nai Harvest – Whatever

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I saw these guys play twice this year and both times they were on top form, even the time in the pub on Margate seafront at the height of summer when it was too hot for most in attendance to bother coming inside to watch the bands. Nai Harvest seemed to have been everywhere this year causing quite a stir amongst all the UK emos, they have become behemoths of the scene ready to conquer all with their overly catchy emo rock. Rumour has it their new stuff is leaning more towards lo-fi indie rock and that sounds pretty exciting to me, expect to see plenty more of Nai Harvest in 2014!!

The TOP 10 will be published in the next couple of days.

Thanks for reading.

Get in touch here or on Facebook www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog or on twitter @alex_itto

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