Last week, somewhere in East Vancouver, there was a great show.
The place was the Princeton Pub (1901 Powell St.), and the band was the Stolen Bicycles Gang.
The Stolen Bicycles Gang (SBG) consists of five high school friends with talent.
The members include: Simon Furminger (lead vocals and drums), Ben Ng (guitar), Jacques DesLaurier (guitar), Robert Cameron (bass) and Andrew Witt (keyboard).
The first thing you’ll notice about this band, other than their obvious talent, is their great sound and the fact that unlike conventional bands, the drummer is also the lead vocalist.
The SBG is a great band, and, according to the reception they received on this night at the Princeton Pub, they most definitely know how to rock. The crowd was very receptive to these young performers, and among the legion of female fans dancing, there were also older women and elderly males feeling the music. The band’s music, which sounds like a cross between Modest Mouse and the Arctic Monkeys, is fun enough to bop your head to or to dance to with a friend.
The Stolen Bicycles Gang will be playing at various venues this summer, upcoming shows include: June 1st at Hoko’s and June 3rd at the Railway Club.
“I need a break,” he says as he stops playing piano and lights up a cigarette. “You’ve seen me; I’ve been up here for fucking two hours.”
It was understandable that Damon Gough of Badly Drawn Boy was tired, as his band got stuck on the stateside border for four hours earlier in the day. Nevertheless, the fading enthusiasm just summed up what was little more than a mediocre live show.
No more than 500 people packed out Vancouver’s Richard’s on Richards on March 27 as BDB took to the stage. Glasses were raised up high as Gough said: “This is the only Canadian show that we’re doing, and the last show of our endless world tour,” but it’s hard to say that they finished strong.
At 10:40 PM, dreary eyes in the dark room needed a wake-up call. Legs on the balconies of the small venue were shaking in fatigue. The bored, yet patient crowd deserved something more after nearly two hours worth of severely forgettable supporting acts.
All cheered in appreciation and anticipation as Gough’s trademark beenie hat emerged from the darkness. On walked the scruffy, unshaven 37-year-old, set to breathe some life into the room with tracks from the band’s latest album, Born in the UK.
It started well. BDB opened the show with “Time of Times,” followed by “Journey From A to B,” both feel-good tunes that got the crowd swaying and bopping for really the first time in the night. Unfortunately, this was as exciting as it got for a while.
Only three people were really dancingâ€”two punky-looking druggies and a middle-aged woman in an open-back blouseâ€”by the time BDB got to “Nothing’s Gonna Change Your Mind.” Ironic, considering the song’s hook: “Lets dance to the beat of the drums.”
It was definitely not explosive, fist-pumping music, but then again, Badly Drawn Boy never was that kind of band. Their chilled-out stoner anthem sound is led by a front man who rarely changes his position on stage, except to switch from piano to guitar.
Nonetheless, BDB’s fans showed nothing but love for the few highlights on the night, which included a song request for “I Need A Sign,” an old favourite that Gough delivered as a sentiment to his loyal fans despite not having played it for 10 years.
Gough also gained some cheap laughs with the satirical “I’m the Presidentâ€¦Don’t Ask Me,” a song where he takes the utter piss out of Big Brother, Friends and George Bush, among others. It wasn’t the funniest song, though Gough did admit the song was just an array of “random fuss.”
My personal highlight of the night: Getting my water spiked by some prick that was probably hoping my drink belonged to an already drugged-up girl. At the very least, it made things a little more interesting, making the entire spectacle an even bigger tiresome blur than it already was.
Obviously it won’t be the best show of 2007, and it simply can’t compare to the last BDB live performance I saw at UK’s V Festival a couple years back, where the former Mercury Prize winners were hailed by more than 20,000 indie rockers.
However, one must show respect as Gough did begin the show by announcing: “My grandfather’s funeral was this morningâ€¦but we’re still going to put on a good show for you.” Put that together with the stateside border fuck-up, and Gough can be forgiven for his subdued display and forgetting of words throughout the night.
Under such circumstances one could say it was a gutsy, brave and as ever terribly honest performance by Gough and his band.
Besides, when the clock struck midnight, the somewhat stoned crowd was treated to some rare Gough movement, as he walked across the bar near the stage half way through performing a song. For a thrilling 90 seconds, he shook hands with the fans, asked the bartender for a rye and coke, then threw his towel into the crowd.
A myriad of albums in 2007 possessed an insightful focus on England. Although not outwardly popular, Luke Haines uses his United Kingdom heritage as the backbone of his latest album. Recently, many artists have been sharing their view of England in their work. Front man from Gorillaz and Blur, Damon Album created a super group and released “The Good, The Bad, & The Queen”, an album that attempts to display a musical picture of contemporary life in England. Lily Allen’s debut album represents London (especially on her single, “LDN”). Respect them or not, other popular British artists who showcase their English background are Robbie Williams, Damien Rice, and Kasabian. Like any major city, there are the dark streets, sinister stories, and underground legends. Former lead singer for The Auteurs, Luke Haines is the epitome of England’s intelligent underground pop/rock music. He is not some bubblegum pop singer or boy band member. He is one of the most underrated artists of the time. His sharp wit is complemented by his knowledge of interesting subjects and clever lyricism.
Impressively prolific, Haines has been in multiple groups and has released a plethora of albums during the past decade. Originally, he was the front man for The Auteurs. Their bewildering albums include “New Wave”, “Now I’m A Cowboy”, “After Murder Park”, and “How I Learned To Love The Bootboys”. Some classic Auteurs songs include “Showgirl”, “The Rubettes”, “Everything You Say Will Destroy You”, and “Chinese Bakery”. While a member of the group, Haines also created a brilliant side-project titled Baader Meinhof, based on the 70’s German terrorist organization led by Andreas Baader. The concept album, “Baader Meinhof” is an under appreciated classic. Haines also formed Black Box Recorder with John Moore and Sarah Nixey. Black Box Recorder possessed all of the intelligent themes and vibes of The Auteurs, but Nixey’s commanding vocals created a wonderfully sexy sound. As a solo artist, Haines released “The Oliver Twist Manifesto” LP and the official soundtrack for the film, “Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry”. His discography became enormous. A magnificent collection of b-sides, outtakes, and radio sessions were compiled for the excellent 3 CD set, “Luke Haines Is Dead”. In 2007, Haines left Hut Records and signed to Degenerate Music. His new solo album, “Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop” is a collection of songs that represents England in a multitude of ways. While other British artists sing about the obvious elements such as poverty, drugs, war, and social life in England, Haines sings about England’s history, artists, and underground scenes. Although his references are not particularly well known, a little research proves that his topics are wonderfully fascinating. Basically, every single Luke Haines album is both entertaining and educational.
“Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop” adheres to the Luke Haines style and formula of his past work. Short and sweet, the album is comprised of 10 relatively tight songs. Some are very catchy, but others require repeat listens to gain full appreciation. All of the songs display his historic knowledge weaved together by a sharp sense of dark humor. The opening title track is a solid representation of the album’s sound. The guitar hook is hard yet not simple or annoying. The up tempo electronic rhythmic beat creates a somewhat dance-friendly atmosphere. In the chorus, Haines sings, “Can you feel the beat of my art?” The following track and 1st single, “Leeds United” is remarkably British. The arena rock style of the chorus displays an intense pride for Leeds. “The Heritage Rock Revolution” is the album’s only disappointing track. Haines uses his shadowy lyricism to express his love for rock music, “â€¦I love rock and roll / I hope it never dies / Put it in a chocolate box / Wrap it up in cotton wool / and bury it aliveâ€¦” Another song with deep British undertones, “All The English Devils” is surprisingly catchy and deliciously twisted. The bouncy melody truly makes the song multidimensional. Haines sings, “â€¦All the English devils / Scourge of the little man / my beautiful devils / Just want a little romanceâ€¦” As a lyricist, Haines always had a fascination with the villains of the world. In this song, he sounds so proud of his country’s treachery. “The Walton Hop” is a song about a popular Thames club that ran from the late 1950’s to the 1990’s. The upbeat track has a driving guitar melody with a bouncy chorus. The album’s finest moment, “Fighting In The City Tonight” is wonderful single. “â€¦I’m so in love with you / I’ll never fall in love again / I’m a lover not a fighter / Our love I will defendâ€¦”, sings Haines during the chorus. The track perfectly captures the romance of violence. Towards the end of the song, his love for England is displayed again as he lists parts of Great Britain where he will be “fighting”. “Fighting In The City Tonight” is a perfect Luke Haines pop song that includes his menacing humor, an English grace, a masculine aggression, and a little romance. “Here’s To Old England” is another track that toasts his country. The song is overflowing with astute references about the country’s definitive attributes. Haines sings, “â€¦Here’s to old England / Sliced white bread and milky tea / Sarcasm, a well developed sense of ironyâ€¦” The odd track, “Freddie Mills Is Dead” continues to display his fascination about death and celebrities. The change in melody and tempo that occurs during the song’s bridge is a refreshing surprise. Another excellent song, “Secret Yoga” is somewhat reminiscent of “Sick Of Hari Krishna” (from “How I Learned To Love The Bootboys” LP). Hypnotically mesmerizing, “Secret Yoga” has melodic mantra for a hook, “Mountains are not mountains and the sun is not the sunâ€¦” Atmospherically wondrous, the song is open to multiple interpretations. The album’s closing track, “Bad Reputation” is not as powerful as the other songs that have closed his past albums. Melodically, the chorus has a magically lush sound. Lyrically, Haines sings about the horrible Garry Glitter and how he destroyed The Glitter Band.
England should be proud of Luke Haines. There will never be anyone like Luke Haines. Some hard rock artists sing about gloomy topics like murder and revolution, but their music can be blatantly noisy and obnoxious. In contrast, Haines sings about his dark topics over his graceful music. His music has an intelligent structure and sound but maintains a powerful edge. The guitar melodies and drum rhythms are hard enough to be aggressive, but the music is also sleek and stylish. This whole package accentuates the sinister beauty of his art. “Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop” by Luke Haines is another fine collection of addictively rich songs. Unfortunately, the LP does not possess the same sinister potency of “The Oliver Twist Manifesto” or his soundtrack for “Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry”. Although the sinister themes and astute wit is evident, “Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop” is not as deliciously evil as his previous solo work. Luke Haines uses obscure yet interesting references known by few people. Could Luke Haines become like one of those people he mentions? Will there only be a few people who are familiar with this artist’s amazing work? Regardless of fame, Haines is a brilliantly unique artist who creates enthralling and timeless British indie-rock music. Any fan of his music will appreciate his latest solo effort. “Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop” represents the true underworld and unpublicized side of England. Cheers to Mr. Haines!
In the calm before the storm, a simple voice asks a simple question: “Do you think that if you were falling in space that you would slow down after a while or go faster and faster?” It’s Donna Hayward from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me — an ominous sample to begin an ominous opening track. But like a PCP-induced fever dream, omens turn to nightmares, and like something plucked from the pages of George Orwell or Phillip K. Dick, the nightmare proves itself to be far more scary and far more real than a mere night-time fantasy. “This is the sound of what you don’t know killing you.” The hook spouts it and the album embodies it. I’d tell you to run for cover, but this whole thing’s been brewing for too long to turn back now. We’ve seen it all coming and have no choice but to ride it out. Believe me, it’ll be worth it. “Cop a feel or two.”
Four years in the making, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead has been rightfully described as El-P’s “post-traumatic stress album.” It’s a harrowing, visceral concept album, as much a response to the Draconian, post-9/11 world, as to personal tribulations. Its goal of capturing the political by representing the personal results in a fully-realized 13-track dystopia of searing guitars, dissonant electronics, and heavy industrial beat-scapes. It’s the much anticipated follow-up to 2002’s Fantastic Damage, and has been heralded by some as the most important rap album of 2007, as early as Fall 2006.
Employing his Gay Dog method of collaboration (pulled from the South Park episode in which George Clooney appears as a gay dog), El-P has assembled a veritable who’s-who of the contemporary music world to lend the disc additional gravity. Trent Reznor, Omar and Cedric of the Mars Volta, Chan Marshall, and Tunde of TV on the Radio are just a few of his guests. I’ll Sleepâ€¦ . finds El-P behind the microphone as well as the MPC, trading cryptic verses with Def Jux legionnaires Aesop Rock, Cage, and Mr. Lif.
In fact, his top-notch production value aside, it’s El-P’s lyricism that carries the day and holds the sprawling beast of an album together. Slipping in and out of characters, reprising earlier themes and using the power of suggestion as much as the gift of gab, the narrative tug of the album drags the helpless listener through the muck and mire of the tracks, teasing him with a glimmer of hope in the end.
From when the newpie dip sparks in the first verse of “Tasmanian Pain Coaster,” “the whole design got (his) mind cryin'” and it won’t let up. In “Up All Night” Lif tells El “we’re all deranged/ I’m no different/ I wish my hope still existed.” Yet in “Drive” El “hopped in the hooptie screamin’ freedom is mine.” It’s not optimism, though, so much as desperate resilience. “Dear Sirs” finds El allerting the powers that be that he will not in even the most unlikely situations fight their war, ever. Even after having to execute his lover in “Habeas Corpses” the issue is determined to be a matter of “faith versus physics,” and the plea goes out in “Flyentology” to “keep me in the sky that’s all that I cry/ I’ll become your servant if it’s worth your time.” When the newpie’s burned to the filter in “Poisenville Kids No Wins,” nothing’s been resolved, but it seems that the issue at hand has at least come into better focus. “How the fuck do you explain your own self-destruction,” El muses, “and still remain trusted?”
Self-destruction aside, El-P has little to fear in the trust department. I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead is the album that the hype-machine always expected he’d make — unsettling, urgent and necessary. It’s an album to be feared for the same reason it ought to be sought out. It’s one big helping of tough-love and even a spoon full of sugar isn’t going to help it go down. Don’t expect that the free-fall is going to slow down anytime soon, because as Laura Palmer speculates, through a haze of reverb, in response to Donna’s question, “for a long time you wouldn’t feel anything, then you’d burst into fire. And the angels wouldn’t help you because they’d all gone away.”
Spark up a joint, have a drink to this album, and you’ll feel as cool as a T-Bird picking up a Pink Lady at some ’60s greasy burger joint. Punch that jukebox and roll to the sultry voice of Amy Winehouse.
2007’s Best Female at the Brit Awards has returned with her second album, Back to Black. Produced by Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, the album is a fine, mature and honest follow-up to her 2003 platinum debut, Frank.
Here are 11 tracks of unforgiving, jazzy soul, with a refreshing hint of R&B and gospel-like tunes that illustrate the fact that Winehouse is our modern-day Supreme.
“Rehab” and “You Know I’m no Good” made the UK Top 20 chart in 2006 with easy bass beats and irritatingly catchy harmonies and lyrics. Both are as witty and complex as Winehouse herself. With “Rehab,” the alleged crazy alcoholic sings of her refusal to attend an alcoholic rehabilitation centre, while “You Know I’m no Good” (which features rapper Ghostface Killah) depicts Winehouse’s views on the trials and tribulations of love. (The track will be the lead single as Back to Black is scheduled for release stateside this month.)
Love is a major theme on the album, and the shameless honesty with which Winehouse speaks of it is recognizable as Back to Black’s defining characteristic.
Other tracks such as “Love Is A Losing Game” and “Tears Dry On Their Own” evoke relationship trauma, as the London-born girl expresses in the latter song with her lethargic vocal power: “I should just be my own best friend/Not fuck myself in the head with stupid men.”
The heartbreak continues with the slow and sensitive “Wake Up Alone.” Nonetheless, with its mellow, soothing sound and Southern soul-like back-up singers, this track sets your mind at a pace reminiscent of couples swaying at the last dance of an old-school prom.
But it’s not all a sappy romantic mush of heart-on-sleeve songs. Winehouse is better than that, with her harsh references to sex and frank approach to addiction problems that leave no rest for the imagination. This Camden lass is no-holds-barred with the opening lines of the title track: “He left no time to regret/Kept his dick wet/With his same old safe bet,” all to a funky piano setting the rhythm and Winehouse’s ever languid voice lifting one into a natural high.
Be aware this album is for those willing to embrace a cool and sexy reformation of Mo-town grooves and pure soul. If that already goes over your head, you might prefer using this record as a frisbee this summer.
Winehouse offers nothing more on Back to Black than her jazz roots and soul inspiration culminated with unapologetic emotion, epitomized by the finger-clicking, bouncing feel of “Tears Dry On Their Own,” which closes with: “He takes the day but I’m grown/And in your way/My deep shade/My tears dry.” This troubled and talented girl is all grown up. If you like it, listen up. If not hush up, move on. I doubt Winehouse gives a fuck either way.