Monthly Archives: November 2012

funk, fireworks and a flippin’ good night out

Electric Boys – The Underworld, Camden – 27/11/2012

The Brits, Americans and Swedes. What a mash up eh? And the night proved to be just as fluctuating and unpredictable as a mound of that lovely fluffy, lumpy stuff.

The timings were shifted heavily towards Electric Boys giving them 75 minutes compared to 30 for all three supports, a little unfair to Adam Bomb in some respects who was third up. Bad Touch opened to a rather meagre crowd but gave it their best shot. They had energy and dynamism but just not yet that much to talk about. They’re still young though and with the live experience, and maybe a bit less commerciality, they could go much further.

King Lizard surprised me in that again, I found them better live than on their album. This time they completely sold title track Nightmare Livin’ The Dream from their latest offering, most of which the set list was from. Their ramped up introduction took a bit of a hit when the size of the stage meant they could only shuffle on as opposed to striding out to the backing track. At times, however, King Lizard seemed as if they’d been taking it too easy. With a wave of good reviews just before the release of album number 2, I’m wondering if the boys have taken their foot off the gas a little. The songs weren’t tight enough and the attitude fluctuated between amateur, can’t be bothered and wannabe-rockstar. They had the energy to whisk up a fairly small crowd and their rapport with their fellow Londoners is to be admired but I couldn’t help feeling let down. To end, they did a fantastic cover of Johnny Be Good before ruining it with a drawn-out incoherent ending that saw vocalist Flash disappear off stage before the final note while guitarist Niro Knox simply turned the amplifier off. At this moment the drummer Moyano El Buffalo was still waiting to finish off. They gave it a good shot but they’ve outdone themselves much better before.

Adam Bomb was rather less conventional. Feather boas twisted around his microphone stand and what was with the bright yellow lights around his amplifier and guitars? I know it’s nearly Christmas but….still, it brought an atmosphere to the show and that in turn brought the crowd. The main thing I liked about Bomb was that there was no messing about; he got on that stage and tore through half an hour’s worth of songs with barely ten words in between. The slight problem was that there were only ten words and at times I think the crowd were hungry for a little more interaction. But hey, the fireworks kept them happy. Yeah, you did read that right. The poor bassist had to cower near the drum-kit as sparks exploded from Bomb’s guitar in several songs, adding a whole new dimension. No, it didn’t take away from the fact that a lot of the songs were far too similar and monotonous and his solo, while illustrating his undeniable technical ability, didn’t exactly bridge that gap between him and the now much quieter crowd. He was a showman however and ended the show with grateful thanks and I’m sure, several new fans too.

You can’t beat a good funk band. And a good funk-rock band? That’s been around since 1988? Nah, you can’t beat them. Electric Boys couldn’t put a foot wrong, both in the eyes of the adoring crowd and in terms of their music. They knew that set-list down to the t. They had the tendency to drag out some of the endings and to dabble with weird and wonderful instrumentals part-way through songs before breaking back into the choruses with neck-breaking intensity. It was great to see such an experienced band still loving what they do and still doing it with courtesy and good humour, especially in their dealings with the crowd. Spanning their musical library with songs including Mary in the Mystery World, Bad Motherfunker, Father Popcorn’s Magic Oysters and of course, All Lips ‘N Hips they brought a fresh feeling of musical talent and raw energy to Camden. And you know, they don’t still look half bad either.

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That all important teatime cake: Pecan, Date and Honey Cake

crunchy, moist and fantastically fruity

As the nights darken we become increasingly drawn to comfort food, especially as Christmas looms over us like the giant inflatable snowman your next door neighbour has already laid out on the lawn ready to be blown up to life. If, like me, you agree that Christmas should not become visible until at least December, then this cake is a perfect wintry teatime treat. If you are an undying supporter of Christmas (admittedly I also fall into this category) then this cake will give you that nuttiness and spiciness that is so often present in yuletide food, without pre-empting you into feeling sick of it by Christmas day. If you feel sick by New Year, well, at least you can console yourself with the fact that so will everybody else. The bananas keep the cake light and moist, while the dates add that wonderfully chewy texture and the pecans add their, well, unique fatty flavour and crunch.

So here it is, pecan, date and honey cake:

You Will Need:

  • 225g self raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 175g softened butter
  • 100g light muscavado sugar
  • 3 tbsp clear honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 100g dates – chopped (roughly slicing them is fine)
  • 50g pecans (pieces or chop up)

Get Baking!

  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees (140 fan) or gas mark 3
  2. Line or grease 2lb loaf tin (900g) with baking paper or butter
  3. Tip flour, cinnamon, butter, sugar, 2 tablespoons of honey and eggs into a large bowl
  4. Mash the bananas and place them, and the dates, in the bowl. Add in 3/4 of the pecan nuts.
  5. Beat the mixture for 2-3 minutes until combined – a hand mixer is best but it’s possible with a spoon
  6. Pour into tin, smoothing the top and scatter with the remaining pecans
  7. Bake for 1 hour and check if risen and firm to touch (may have a slight wobbliness but this will firm up as it cools). If it’s not firm then cook for a further 5 minutes and check again.
  8. Leave to cool in tray for 5-10 minutes before removing.

Slice and eat warm or cold. Lovely with a dollop of cream or with your favourite hot drink!

 

 

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Noodle Nation or is it oil orbit?

Noodle Nation: 1-3 Bourbon Street, Aylesbury, Bucks

Noodle Nation is a fast-paced Chinese restaurant specialising in rice and noodles. In fact, that’s pretty much all you can have. The restaurant is light and, thankfully, much warmer than the wintry weather outside. Service is friendly and efficient, if a little confused between staff at times as they all try and seat, serve and talk to you.

If you don’t like to cuddle up to other diners then this may not be the place for you. A couple may be squeezed in between two groups of four or the group of four may be squashed, with embarassed smiles, against the single couple by the window. It can be annoying but the staff do their best to seat you comfortably and, as it’s a fast-turnover, you won’t be getting to know your dining neighbours well anyway.

So on to the food. Garlic and chilli chicken with yo min noodles (wheat and egg) was a vast portion. I mean huge. For roughly £7 it’s not bad but for your stomach it might be painful. The noodles were separated from the chicken which lay in thick chunks – not so great for scooping up between chopsticks with your noodles and beansprouts. The food was cooked well but soaked in oil, even the sauce glinting with the stuff as it began to separate upon cooling down. Hunks of garlic gave great flavour but all in one go instead of being spread out through the dish, and the same went for the chilli. A side of satay sauce was strong but a little gloopy.

Despite the name, I was rather disappointed at the variety of food on offer, the noodle-bar section seeming particularly sparse though you can have noodles from the rice-bar section if you wish.

It’s great value here and for a quick meal or causal get-together it’s a lovely choice. However, be prepared to cosy up with both oil and fellow noodle-lovers.

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Eclipse: but they don’t eclipse the AOR scene just yet

Eclipse – Bleed & Scream – August 2012

  1. 1.       Wake Me Up
  2. 2.       Bleed And Scream
  3. 3.       Ain’t Dead Yet
  4. 4.       Battlegrounds
  5. 5.       A Bitter Taste
  6. 6.       Falling Down
  7. 7.       S.O.S
  8. 8.       Take Back The Fear
  9. 9.       The Unspoken Heroes
  10. 10.   About To Break
  11. 11.   After The End Of The World

Band:

  • Erik Martensson – Vocals
  • Magnus Henriksson – Guitars
  • Robban Bäck – Bass
  • Johan Berlin – Drums

Swedish melodic rock band return with their second album and it’s clear that they’ve found their sound before going for it full throttle. The songs have a tendency to become a little similar but are recorded and performed to a high standard. Wake Me Up stamps the AOR sign all over this album; uplifting vocals singing out over heavily layered guitars and bursts of backing vocals. Ain’t Dead Yet is catchier – a headlong rush of steadily climbing riffs and melodies. Martensson’s voice sometimes sounds a little thin, especially in the higher register but the tone lends itself well to this genre. The solos are rather long-winded and nothing exciting in most of the tracks. The solid roots the band has laid down in the melodic genre are admirable but I feel they could still push for some catchier writing. Is it wrong of me to say it reminds me of Star Trek in places, just that little bit obsessed with supersonic sounding guitars and special effects? Despite these, A Bitter Tasteis one of the stand-out songs, as is S.O.S, strong and powerful both in terms of Martensson’s voice but also in song-writing. There are some great harmonies in The Unspoken Heroes and About To Break shows the just mellower side of this boisterous band and the more restrained approach really works I think. The closing track After The End Of The World yes is too long but brings the album to a hearty close. Just stop those damn scales in the solo. A competent band with a lusty set of songs though they are just another melodic rock band.

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You Don’t Need To Ask Why You Listen To Music; You Just Know

You Don’t Need To Ask Why You Listen To Music; You Just Know

There must be something slightly damming for some bands about playing at Firefest festival in Nottingham surely? The venue, Rock City, apt as it is, holds only about 2,000 and the youngest in the crowd was 18 (with a fairly large gap until you reached the average age). Oh, and unless you’re a headline band, of which there are two, you won’t get more than an hour to play. So why do so many bands talk about the honour of appearing at this 3-day indoor, no-camping festival?

Now for some bands, the more unknown but not newer artists, it’s a great way to get UK support. The crowd are fantastic; the floor was filled for Saturday’s opener Johnny Lima and somehow more managed to squeeze in to catch The Stage Dolls and Gotthard at the end of the day. The other early bands, including Farcry, Royal Hunt and Work of Art were not alone in having long-time fans pushing their way to the front, the singers clearly staggered to hear their lyrics being sung back to them with enthusiasm and gusto. Sounding a wee bit sad? Well it wasn’t. When Gotthard’s singer Nic Maeder dedicated the song One Life, One Soul to late singer Steve Lee it was one of those moments that sends goose-bumps over your arms; Rock City was still, held in the sway of Maeder’s heart-felt tribute and before the end of the song he had the whole crowd singing along. Now, one could argue it’s the skill of a showman to command 2,000 fans like that. Didn’t Ozzy Osbourne once wonder what would happen if he tried to dictate the mob in front of him? But it wasn’t just the fans that were willing to engage.

The bands felt like a large family throughout the whole event. Many of the musicians made multiple appearances whether it be as backing for someone like Mitch Malloy or Fiona or just because they actually happen to be in two bands. It wasn’t noticeable from just watching, but a little bit of googling goes a long way to see just how many of these bands have shared and swapped members.

Take Stage Dolls; ex-TNT drummer Morten Skogstad (Kenneth Odiin in TNT) rolled up in 1992 and has been playing with Stage Dolls ever since. Meanwhile, in 1983, Shy’s Tony Mills replaced Tony Harnell on vocals. XYZ’s vocalist Terry Ilous now sings for Jack Russell’s Great White and…ok, you get my point. We’ve all seen Rock Family Trees.

But why do they do it? Why did Terry Ilous appear with XYZ when he’s secure in Great White? And Tyketto? After saying they’d break up at least three times they appeared for a second time at Firefest? It’s because they enjoy it. Of course, I am a cynic, I would say the answer was money. But it’s not, not all of it. Firefest doesn’t shell out that much; the ticket sales themselves could bring an estimated £180,000 but spread between 15 bands, covering costs and then when the bands split it to cover members, costs and equipment? What told us it wasn’t just the financial motive was the repeated claim that it was “an honour” to play; the thanks to the organisers and the “fantastic crew”; headlining band Danger Danger could have delivered a mediocre show and no one would have complained but they didn’t. They came on, they blasted through hits and lesser known songs alike; Ted Poley took the crowd for his famous stroll and not one note was out of place from Rob Marcello or Bruno Ravel. Not to mention the meet-and-greets the bands did, the photo opportunities outside the hotel and venue and their general attitude when spotted walking around. These were musicians that were, and still are, just happy to be playing to a good crowd.

JJ Lee

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King Lizard show why they’re the slippery sleaze kings of London

King Lizard – November 2012 – A Nightmare Livin’ The Dream

Track List

  1. Come Get Some
  2. Kneel To The King
  3. I Can’t Be Your Lover
  4. Hair Of The Dog
  5. I Want You To Want Me
  6. If It’s A Sin
  7. A Nightmare Livin’ The Dream
  8. Just To Hear You Say It
  9. This Ain’t Love
  10. Hard To Get
  11. Down
  12. Waterloo Ratz

Band:

  • Flash Roxx Sawyer – Vocals
  • Niro Knox – Guitars
  • Lee Benz – Bass
  • Moyano El Buffalo – Drums

My how they’ve grown. This is not the same party we heard on Viva La Decadence back in 2010. Kneel To The King is dark and gritty, filled with the rough gutter riffs you might expect from a modern sleaze rock band. Sawyer’s voice is a little scratchy in places but clears up in I Can’t Be Your Lover, a bouncy but surefooted bitter love song. The rhythm section has a tendency to fall into a rather lax and predictive sequence although it never lasts long so can be forgiven. You can be forgiven for thinking Hair Of The Dog walked right off a Dirty Penny  album; again there’s that irritating grind of the vocals and the production could be cleaner but it’s a fun, fast song. And the bad-boy charm only cranks up on I Want You To Want Me and it’s certainly an offensive dripping in sleaze. The performance should be tighter in places I think, especially on the likes of If It’s A Sin and I expected the title-track to be stronger; it was disappointedly similar to the prior tracks. Just To Hear You Say It is an interestingly mellow track which slows the album without bogging it down. Hard To Get is back on the bite after the over-lengthy This Ain’t Love while Down has a great balance of attitude and melody. Waterloo Ratz closes the album with a strong punch, rounding up the best features of the band; wild vocals, choruses of backing and layers of diving guitars. No, they’re not the tightest or the most competent of bands but hey, the album’s a hell of a lot of fun.

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Michigan makes music

Wayland – Welcome To My Head – December 2011

  1. Fire Down Below
  2. Nobody’s Perfect
  3. On My Knees
  4. Welcome To My Head

Band:

  • Mitch Arnold
  • Phillip Vilenski
  • Dean Pizzazz
  • Tyler Coburn

Wayland is a band from Michigan that makes you sit up and listen. Take notice because this band is laying the stones for their road to success. Confident and arrogant, they burst out in Fire Down Below with a clear-cut production that, been a fan of the raw mixes, I would usually condemn. But it’s so sharp, so edgy and so in your face that the intricate mix of melodies later on doesn’t clash but is a real gem of creativity. Nobody’s Perfect is rich and mellow in tone while On My Knees is even softer but broodier. It’s a more modern album and therefore less brutal than many hard rock fans may be used to. And at times Wayland could do with dispensing the clean polished production and getting down and dirty with the guitars and Arnold’s vocals like when he lets rip in On My Knees. The closing track, the single Welcome To My Head. Slightly spooky and with a whole lot of attitude, the guitars shred in all the right places and hold it together a bit more than in the earlier tracks, depending less on the vocals. The chorus was a bit disappointing in how tonally major it was that didn’t contrast so well with the verses but I’d listen to it just for that build up.

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