THE DOWN & OUTS/VOO/FLAMINGO 50 – Roadkill, Liverpool, Friday 27th May

This gig was a benefit for Love Music Hate Racism, two sentiments with which I'm sure everyone reading this will agree – both of you! Ha ha ha! Please get your friends to read our blog. Or don't bother. It's not like we just sit here all day obsessively checking our hit counter and referral log... Anyway, Love Music Hate Racism were backing the gig to raise awareness of the BNP, and what terrible fascists they still are, despite their paper-thin claims to the contrary. Bearing this in mind, imagine the thoughts that raced through my head when I noticed the entrance a gang of shaven-headed, hard-as-nails types wearing Stone Island and other “casual” clothing. Was the gig being infiltrated by fascists, like those 80s hardcore gigs I read about in MRR? Was there gonna be a riot? Am I typing this review with broken knuckles and stab wounds, smearing my own blood all over the keyboard? Read on to find out...

Anyway, first up were Puzzles, who are not mentioned above because we got there too late to see them. Sorry, Puzzles. We did, however, see Flamingo 50, a band who I went through a phase of adoring but who, for reasons I am not entirely sure of, I haven't seen play for a couple of years. They were on cracking form: singer Louise wasn't quite as manic as she had been in the past which made for a tighter but perhaps less energetic set, and while all of the songs bar the opener were too recent for me to know, I still greatly enjoyed their scuzzy brand of shouty pop-punk, including a marvellous thrash through J Church's “The Heroic Trio”.

I'm sure I've seen Voo before and been unimpressed, but tonight they were quite splendid: most agreeable catchy indie-pop, complete with amusing between-song banter (“If you want to see us again, we're playing a BNP fundraiser next week”). If you ever wished The Shins rocked out a bit more, then do give Voo a try – I'll certainly be looking out for them in the voo-ture. (Oh, come on!)

Last up were street-punk heroes the Down & Outs, one of Marko Grampus 8's many, many musical projects. Seriously, this guy should be respected as Liverpool's finest crafter of pop songs since Lennon & McCartney. Upfront, straightforward, catchy anthems of the working class to sing and chant along to are what the Down & Outs do, and they do it very, very well. During their set there was the best moshpit I've seen at a gig for some time: energetic and aggressive but not violent or unpleasant. Punk at its purest – exactly how a punk gig should be. And the “skinheads” I was wary of earlier? Loving every minute! Singing/screaming along at the tops of their voices! That'll teach me to be prejudiced, eh readers? So apologies to the shaven-headed fellows, and hurrah for Love Music Hate Racism. And please, please vote on Thursday, unless you're planning on voting for the BNP, in which case please, please take a toaster into the bath with you instead.


NOTHINGTON – All In CD (BYO Records)

When punk rock historians of the future look back at the mid-00s, they will surely conclude that it was the time of Gruff, the time that assured Leatherface's place alongside the Ramones and the Descendents as truly influential pioneers of punk. I'm certainly not complaining about this – the gruffer the better, that's what I always say. Actually, I've never said that before now, but I might say it again in the future! But probably not. Incidentally, I can't believe that "gruffer" is a real word, at least according to my spellcheck, which, ironically, flags "spellcheck" as a non-existent word. But I digress: gruff is in vogue, and the latest in an ever-growing line of punk rock growlers are San Francisco's Nothington.

Fronted by Jay Northington (do you see what they've done with the band name?), formerly of the not-really-that-good Tsunami Bomb, Nothington sound not unlike what would happen if the much-missed Gunmoll and Tom Waits were to record together: melodic Hot Water Music-influenced punk rock with a bit of a country twist and grizzled vocals that sound like the result of gargling with a bottle of whiskey, by which I mean both the whiskey and the shards of the smashed bottle. While the country influence is subtle – a bit of a twang here and there – it's this minor diversion from the gruff-punk template that helps Nothington stand out from the countless other bands ploughing this particular field. Without it, they'd be just another gruff punk band, albeit a pretty good one. With it, they're unique.

As with most bands of this ilk, there's little variation over the course of the album, but who needs variation on a punk record if you've got good songs? Opener 'Where I Stand' is pretty much the quintessential Nothington track: rough-as-sandpaper vocals, "whoa-oh-oh" sing-a-long chorus and a smattering of countrified guitar, and much of the album continues in a similar vein. That's not to say it's completely one note: 'Going Home' could almost be an unreleased Hüsker Dü song, right down to the Bob Mould-ish vocals (albeit Mould after having his vocal cords torn to bleeding shreds), the slower, wistful 'This Time Last Year' is a welcome change of pace, and obligatory acoustic track 'Death of Jim Green' eases the album towards its conclusion.

One week ago I hadn't even heard of Nothington: now I'm praying for a UK tour. A good, solid debut release – not a record that will blow your mind, perhaps, but one that you'll keep coming back to. If you like the output of No Idea but also have a soft spot for all things Americana, then it's your lucky day, bucko – grab a copy of 'All In' and a bottle of whiskey and you'll have the time of your life.



The great console/computer wars were great fun in the nineties, weren't they? Oh, the merciless mocking of Jaguar and ST owners. I wasn't excused from this as I managed to convince my Dad that the Amiga CD32 was where it was at. Oops.

Our house was all about Commodore and Nintendo to be honest... Sega didn't get a look in. But it didn't stop me playing on my mates' Mega Drives and Game Gears though. So this 30+ game compendium of the Mega Drive for the Sony PSP is not just a great blast from the past but also an introduction to many a game I missed out on from yesteryear.

I'm not going through every game on here (are you mad?) but merely the highlights and lowlights. The obvious highlights are Sonic The Hedgehog and Sonic 2; these games just haven't aged at all within their genre. Even if you compare it to something like Viewtiful Joe which is the best pacey side-on platformer I've played since, well, Sonic! These games are so much fun and transport me back to being 12 years old when I was playing it on the Game Gear. Skill!

The biggest shock on here is another platformer called VectorMan. It came out in 1995 and has graphics more reminiscent of the PlayStation than the Mega Drive. Plays very nicely too, and reminds me of under-rated Amiga "hit" Zool. Also enjoyable are a great 2D version of Virtua Fighter 2, the robbing excellence of 2D scroller Bonanza Brothers, the chopper hi-jinks of Super Thunder Blade and my favourite ever game of the puzzle genre (yeah, BETTER than Tetris) - Columns.

The games that haven't stood the test of time are enjoyable in a way for about five minutes as you point and laugh at the jerky gameplay and bogus graphics. Top of this pile is Shinobi 3. It's an uncontrollable mess, and I have no idea how this series was ever popular if this steaming turd is anything to go by. Alex Kidd is cutesy but the collision detection seems pretty bad and I never liked the character much to be honest; I was always quite pleased when he got killed, which isn't so good. Flicky is an awful Chuckie Egg-ish clone. And Altered Beast is pretty poor but mildly entertaining, mainly for when the character upgrades to the beast and the player can shout "I AM BEAST NOW! ROAR!" That'll be just me that does that, then?

Other games featured that I'm sure other people love but don't click with me: the Golden Axe trilogy (too slow... swing the sword, already!) and the Ecco trilogy (I can't get past the opening levels and never could as a kid either! What gives?) And there are a load of unlockable mini-games and interviews and a most excellent feature that allows the player to save their progress on every game separately.

Basically, this is essential for any PSP owner over the age of 25. It's ideal for those ten minute blasts that you bought the PSP for, and at it's current retail price of just under £15 you can't go wrong. One glaring omission: it doesn't sing "SAYY-GAAAR" in a robotic voice at me when it loads. I was sad for a couple of seconds anyway.


POPWORLD PULP #2 (68pp, £1.49)

So, goodbye then, the ironically and prophetically-titled Popworld Pulp: we hardly knew ye. But should we have wanted to get to know you? Have we prematurely aborted what could have been the saviour of the music press, cruelly killed off after a mere two issues?

Oh, what do you think?

On announcing the magazine's untimely demise, publisher Darren Styles commented that, "the magazine has bombed in a way nobody connected with it could ever have envisaged." Oh, if only they had sent me a copy of their dummy issues for my feedback. This is perhaps bolting the stable door after the horse has already been made into glue, but nonetheless, here are my thoughts on how Popworld Pulp can (could) be made (have been made) better (not quite as shit as it was). But first of all, what did they get right?


  1. The price. At £1.49 it's around 60p cheaper than its main competitors, NME and Kerrang, so, erm, well done, there!

  2. Er...

  3. That's it.


  1. Actually let people know that your magazine is for sale.

    Now, I might be slightly outside of the magazine's target demographic of 16-24 year olds, but even so, as someone with an interest in rock and pop music I probably should have heard something about the launch of the magazine, rather than stumbling across it in WH Smith while browsing on my lunch hour. Where, if anywhere, has it been advertised? The only media coverage I have seen was after it had been axed. Perhaps if it had been marketed a little better (or, y'know, marketed at all) then it could've had a fighting chance. Well done, Advertising Director Greg Askew! I'm sure they won't “ask you” to market their magazines again! Ha ha ha!

  2. Don't just cover the same bands as your rival publications.

    Cover stars of this second issue: Fall Out Boy. Other bands mentioned on the cover: Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys, Maximo Park, Little Man Tate... it's just an ersatz-NME, isn't it? Why assume that NME readers would stop reading their well-established crap-rag in favour of your fledgling new crap-rag? It's a tie-in with Popworld, so cover the same variety of artists as Popworld! That's your USP! Be a pop magazine, not an indie magazine pretending to be a pop magazine.

  3. Employ writers who can write, and who actually care about pop music, not just about the latest trends.

See, I naively had high hopes for Popworld Pulp (or “PWP” as they irritatingly abbreviate it to). I was hoping it was going to be the spiritual successor to early Smash Hits: a humourous, irreverent mag that both mocked and celebrated the ridiculousness of pop music and pop stars, or at the very least a magazine that captured the (mean) spirit of the Simon Amstell era of the show. Instead, we are offered re-heated news stories that will seem out of date to the magazine's internet-savvy target audience, links to Youtube videos that would be better-suited to, I dunno, a BLOG OR A WEBSITE OR SOMETHING rather than a print mag (who is going to type in URLs in this day and age? Duh! Like, get with the times, grandad, as Popworld's Alexa would no doubt say on Get a Grip), and bland, charmless, characterless, soulless say-nothing reviews and interviews. Where is our (well, their) generation's David Quantick or Mark Ellen? He or she sure as shit aren't writing for this magazine. But then, I'm probably expecting too much – remember Heat's early days, when it was a relatively intelligent and knowledgeable magazine? It didn't start to sell until it was turned into the celeb-spotting plebfest that we know and... well, that we know today. To expect a new weekly youth magazine to have a modicum of intelligence is foolishness on my part, I suppose.

  1. Remember to include some text to go with the pictures.

    Too many pictures, not enough text. Ver kids can get pictures aplenty on the internet, why pay £1.49 for them? The album reviews are too short (much shorter than this review of their magazine, which is frankly about 1000 words longer than they deserve), and single reviews are a mere two sentences long. What's the point of a music magazine if you don't (or can't) write about music?

  2. Don't launch a weekly music magazine aimed at teenagers in 2007 as there is no way in the world it will sell, you clueless, cretinous TWATS.

    Seriously, who thought this was a good idea? Who? If they'd done it right it could have been Smash Hits for the iPod generation; instead they've produced NME for the Heat generation, lacking in both substance and style. Utterly pointless. Who was their imagined target audience? The kids have already turned to MySpace as their source of the new music, and the self-proclaimed “proper music fans” of that age all read NME or Kerrang already. The sales figures speak for themselves: print run of 130,000, estimated sales of 60,000, actual sales of 9,000. There are specialist fanzines catering to minority interests that sell more than that! Perhaps twelve or more years ago a magazine like PWP may have had a fighting chance on the newsstands, as it's not unlike Raw when it relaunched itself as an indie mag. But look what happened to Raw. The signs were all there, people! It could never have worked. It was brave – but ultimately stupid – to even try.

To end, let us return to (ex-)publisher Darren Styles. So Daz, what went wrong?

"Every piece of research we did, every dummy we created and the concept in all its forms was fantastically received from first to last. The industry wanted it, the news trade wanted it, the market was there according to every group we asked - but come the acid test the readers were absent."

Yeah, them pesky readers! Everyone else wanted it except, erm, THE VERY PEOPLE IT WAS DESIGNED FOR. Well done to all involved! Ten of the magazine's 14 staff members have been made redundant; that's four too few if you ask me. You never know, perhaps some of them will find employment at the real, actual NME that they wanted so very much to be and, fingers crossed, perhaps they can sink that, too. Good luck!


THE ERGS - Books About Miles Davis 7" (Whoa-Oh Records)

Imagine if, back in the 1990s, one of Mutant Pop's better purveyors of three-chord two-minute pop songs had been cryogenically frozen in secret, only to be thawed out 10 years later to save pop-punk from the evil invasion of pretty-boy emo, knuckleheaded jock-punk and pretentious proggy side-projects. If that happened – and who's to say it hasn't? - then j'accuse The Ergs of being that very band.

What?! Could happen.

As for this particular 7”, the title track is a relatively subdued affair by Ergs standards but a cracking pop song all the same, slowly building up towards a 10-second rock-out before calming back down to finish, while the B-side is a cover of Paul Baribeau 's 'Only Babies Cry', which in the Ergs' hands sounds like a Parasites song that never was.

Although both songs are fine examples of the genre, and the record has been pressed lovely geek-thrilling white vinyl with the lyrics to side A printed on the record itself (nice touch), unless you're an Ergs completist you're better off waiting for the album. However, if you simply must own every piece of Ergs wax produced (which is shaping up to be a challenge akin to collecting every J Church 7" the rate they're coming out at the moment), or if you're hungry for an Ergs-flavoured snack before next month's main course, or if, improbably, you're a collector of Paul Baribeau covers, then this is certainly a worthwhile purchase.


PEEP SHOW (Channel 4, Friday March 13th, 10.30pm)

Amongst its fans, the general consensus seems to be that the third series of Peep Show wasn't as good as the first two, and having recently revisited all three I'd probably agree. However, series three wasn't quite the dip in quality that I remembered; the first two episodes were probably the weakest of the series, but the rest was still head and shoulders above any other British sitcom produced in the last decade (faint praise). So, with a mixture of excitement (at the return of an old favourite) and anxiety (fear that it was going to be a case of diminishing returns) I watched the first episode of this, the fourth series of Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong's “cult” internal-monologuing sitcom.

Plotwise, this series picks up where the last ended: Mark (David Mitchell, or “PC” as he is now perhaps better known) is about to marry Sophie (Olivia Colman, the first “Bev” from the AA adverts). Even though he has realised he doesn't love her, he can't bring himself to break it off. He and Jez (Robert Webb; “Mac”) visit Sophie's parents for the weekend, to celebrate her birthday. Chaos, inevitably, ensues: Mark ends up covered in blood after ripping the head off a pheasant, Jez is worshipped by Sophie's weird brother and seduced by her mother, Mark accidentally admits to Sophie's dad that he doesn't really love her, Sophie's dad burns down the barn of a man he suspects of sleeping with his wife, and, after Mark and Sophie are given a cottage by Sophie's parents, Mark decides that it might be worth his while to marry Sophie after all, much to Sophie's dad's anger.

If I hadn't seen it for myself, that breakdown of the episode's plot would probably dissuade me from ever tuning in, and under lesser writers the it could well have been awful. In the capable hands of Armstrong and Bain, however, what could so easily have descended into slapdash farce, gross-out rudeness and sub-Gervais wince-inducing embarrassment becomes well-crafted, well-observed comedy, with fully-fleshed characters that avoid the trap of stereotype. It would have been easy to make Sophie's dad a generic overprotective/psychotic sitcom father; instead he is impressed with Mark's honesty. He is trapped in a loveless marriage, unable to bring himself to leave – perhaps this is a sign of what Mark will become in 30 years' time, if he marries Sophie? Similarly, Sophie's brother is not unlike a younger incarnation of Jez, trying to cling to the coattails of people who are more successful than he is, which is something of a role reversal: Jez is usually the sycophantic loser trying to impress those he considers to be cool, here it is the impressee rather than the impresser, or he would be, if there was such a word as “impressee”. The development of Sophie between series is also of note: in series 3 she had started to go “off the rails”, clubbing and experimenting with drugs, while in this series she is solely interested in her imminent marriage and the prospect of starting a family, suggesting that her wildness was one last hurrah before settling down for her proper adult life. Character development? In a mere sitcom?! Well, I never!

Most importantly, it's still very, very funny. Mitchell and Webb's other projects have been hit and miss; their sketch shows for radio and television have been enjoyable but patchy, Webb has appeared in dross like Blessed and Confetti, and it's become impossible to watch a panel show without seeing David Mitchell's grinning, ubiquitous face. However, Peep Show re-establishes their position as two of the country's finest comedy performers – they are perfect for their roles, and the funniest bits of the show involve conversations between the pair of them, whether verbally or inside their heads. Any doubts about the standards of the show being maintained should have been assuaged at the sight of Mark's goatee in the first few seconds of the show – few actors could raise a laugh with inappropriate facial hair alone, but David Mitchell is one of them.

It wasn't perfect. The appearance of Super Hans in an early scene was somewhat pointless, and seemed forced in as a crowd-pleaser. It seemed out of character for Mark to be so insistent that Jez join him on his trip to visit Sophie's parents - perhaps essential for the set-up of the episode, granted, but out of character nonetheless. Also, at the end of the show Channel 4 trailed something they called “Peter Kaye's Phoenix Nights” - I know that Channel 4 is hardly the bastion of quality broadcasting that it once was, but that's no excuse for being unable to spell the three-letter surname of one of your most popular stars. But that's not the fault of Armstrong and Bain, or Mitchell and Webb – along with the rest of the cast and crew, they produced 30 minutes of high quality sitcom. If they can keep this up for the next eleven commissioned episodes then I hope series six and beyond are on the cards.


Albums That We Wish Existed #1: 'Always Believing' by Ari Gold

"Let's hug it oooooooooooooooouuuuuuut - bitch-ah!"

(Idea literally dreamt up by Jack; realised in image form by our pal Mark)


GET A GRIP (ITV1, Wednesday 11th April, 10pm)

Why is it that so many comedians these days are happy to shit out work that they must know is beneath them? Is it simply that once they reach a certain point in their careers their good ideas dry up and they don't realise (or care), or is it that, once successful, they no longer feel the urge to even try? Did Vic and Bob really think that any of Monkey Trousers was worthy of them? Do you think Armando is proud of Time Trumpet? Does Harry Enfield think he's produced anything of worth in the last decade? Yet, despite their past indiscretions, were any of the aforementioned comedians to announce a new project I'd be counting down the days to transmission, under the naively optimistic delusion that it could be a return to form.

The much-maligned Ben Elton is another comedian whose work I (and, almost certainly, you) have enjoyed immensely in the past – The Young Ones, Blackadder, Filthy Rich & Catflap and Happy Families were all at least partially from his pen, and that's before we take into consideration his stand-up routines and corresponding BBC series. True, it is irritating it is to see him work with the likes of Lloyd-Webber, and last year's BBC sitcom Blessed was spirit-crushingly awful, but even so there's still the hope that he still has it in him somewhere, which is why I tuned into Get a Grip with my fingers well and truly crossed.

The premise of Get a Grip is thus: Ben Elton and Alexa 'Popworld' Chung sit at a desk and partake in cross-generational banter, with Ben as the grumpy, cynical curmudgeon and Alexa as the hip, sassy young 'thing'. Due to the difference in their ages they have very different outlooks on life and different opinions, and from hence humour arises. Their discussions are broken up with sketches to illustrate certain points, similar to those in Ben's BBC series in the 90s. Sadly, it doesn't quite work.

Compared to what we know he is capable of, this is clearly B-grade material – indeed, some of it is so outdated that it could be material he rejected from 1998's The Ben Elton Show. Last week we had jokes about Tinky Winky's sexuality; this week about the size of Lara Croft's breasts. Topical! The theme of the show was ostensibly "the Man crisis", with observations about the differences between men and women – men can fold maps, men can't find anything, women can multitask... you know the score. Nothing groundbreaking, though admittedly there were a few amusing gags.

Another problem is Alexa herself: she's just not good enough. See, I quite like the concept of the show, and even though it could be argued that it would work just as well as a solo Elton stand-up series, giving him a straight (wo)man to bounce off isn't such a bad idea, but Alexa can't pull it off (insert your own 'knob gag' reference here, if you want). Her delivery is too stilted, too obviously read off an autocue, and she breaks out of character by laughing at Ben's jokes all too often. For the show to work, the sidekick must be straight-faced and must sound like she is engaging in a natural conversation – Alexa fails on both counts. The shoehorned-in phrases she uses to emphasise how "down wid da kidz" she is are also laughable – continually calling Ben "babes", telling him to "get with the programme" etc, though to be fair to Alexa she's only (badly) reading the script she's been given.

Yet. despite these flaws, there's still the occasional frustrating glimpse of how great the show could have been. Ben Elton is still a superb comedy performer, and still clearly capable of writing some genuinely amusing stuff. The line "could you kindly send your child to school tomorrow dressed as an Elizabethan" came out of nowhere at the end of a fairly mundane routine about parenting, and almost floored me, and when his material has a bit of anger and passion to it the old Ben we used to know still shines through, like the bits on crap Channel 4 list shows and Iraq. Unfortunately, these highlights are few and far between, and the rest is just middle-aged, middle-class tedium.

It could have been good. It should have been good. Heck, occasionally it is good. But not good enough, often enough. With a strict script editor and a better co-host this could have been Ben Elton's return to form, but unfortunately it's just a not-very-near miss. I almost hope this gets a second series, as if Ben's scripts are tightened up and Alexa's delivery improves then perhaps... see, there's that naïve optimism again.


ROB CROW - Living Well (Temporary Residence Ltd)

Some of you reading this might have heard of the band Pinback. Even more of you will have heard Pinback, as they once featured as soundtrack music on The OC. Rob Crow is one of the co-leaders of that band, and it will come as no surprise that this isn't really a million miles away from Pinback.

The main shared featured is the quirky melodies. They manage to stay the right side of tuneless whilst certainly not being straight down the line, in a similar way to J. Robbins of Jawbox/Burning Airlines/Channels "fame". Also similar to Pinback are a number of arpeggioed acoustic guitar lines, which are a feature in the excellent "Up". Much of the album sounds programmed on a sequencer, but unless you're a real purist it doesn't make too much difference to the listen as a whole.

A couple of complaints are that, while the album starts very well, it does tend to blend into one big song as many of the structures and melodies in every song are similar even though they are undeniably well executed. And anyone that remembers some of Rob's older output with Thingy will be disappointed to know that there is nothing as upbeat as some of that stuff.

All in all this is a pretty good listen but mostly this will appeal to die-hard Pinback/Rob Crow fans (all two of them... I'm kidding! C'mon!) but is unlikely to gain him much exposure and it's debatable whether it deserves any more than that. Calling a song "I Hate You, Rob Crow" and including the "Single Version"(!) which is actually longer than the album version of said song wins him some bonus points though.



It does seem a tad inappropriate to be in a venue called “Satan's Hollow”, complete with its Hell-inspired décor including a ruddy great Devil breaking through one of its walls, but I suppose no-one here is at all concerned with the resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, but rather with the resurrection of top 90s Glaswegian “Teen-C” pioneers Bis. It does feel like they've never been away, as when Bis ended a few years back they simply increased their numbers with real, actual bassist and drummer under the moniker “Data Panik”, who sadly only managed one single before disappearing due to lack of interest. But tonight is all about the past, as this short tour is to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the release of the band's debut album, 'The New Transistor Heroes'. Will they be able to pull it off? Is it possible to play Teen-C anthems convincingly when you're pushing 30? Or will it be an embarrassing, pathetic stab at reclaiming youth, like someone's dad reading Q and listening to Kaiser Chiefs in an attempt to appear “with it” and “hip”? Let's! Find! Out!

Openers Hotpants Romance are three teenage girls in hot pants (hence the name), playing basic, sloppy, simplistic pop-punk in the vein of the first Donnas album or the much-missed (by no-one) Period Pains. What they lack in musical talent they make up for in moxie (whatever that is) and attitude, and while I don't think I'll be buying their CDs any time soon they were entertaining enough, and certainly an appropriate opener.

More polished but much, much less appropriate were Kid Voodoo, a 60s-style rockabilly band whose singer looks like a cross between Bill Nighy and Tom Petty. While they were undoubtedly very tight and good at what they did, they simply weren't suited to the gig, as the sea of bored 20-somethings-dressed-as-teenagers proved. In the right environment they'd no doubt be quite enjoyable, but they stuck out here like an English ship in Iranian waters. Satires, there. I am the next Ben Elton.

Next up was Star Fighter Pilot, just one man and his iBook, a bit like Get Cape Wear Cape Fly back before he/they/it got boring, except with a MIDI keyboard instead of a guitar. Actually, a better comparison would be Reggie & The Full Effect when he/they/it pretends to be Fluxuation – 80s-influenced electropop with tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Not bad, but he merely flicked around at our attention before limping off rather than grabbing it by the throat, balls and ears.

So then, the pop group Bis! What a great set it was... probably. Unfortunately I had to leave to get the train just 4 songs into the set, but what songs they were: following the traditional spoken-word introduction (with several of the crowd chanting along, word-for-word, like Teen-C cult members), Bis opened with album opener 'Tell It To The Kids' and, if you ignored the balding heads of John Disco and Sci-Fi Steven, it was like being transported back a decade: the giddy enthusiasm, the energetic stage presence, the infectiously catchy pop songs, all still present and correct. The next three tracks were all singles of the time and all equally great: 'Sweet Shop Avengers', 'Starbright Boy' and, most excitingly for me, the now-slightly-outdated rant against majors pretending to be indies that is 'This is Fake DIY'. Lovely, lovely stuff. For just one night, one glorious night, Satan's Hollow was our church, Teen-C was our religion, and Bis were our prophets, preaching their message of cut-and-paste aesthetics, glitter with plastic jewellery, and child-like shoutalong teenage anthems. Let's hope their second coming is quicker than Christy-boy's – quicker than the Stone Roses's was, for that matter. Late-twenties-C Power!


TED LEO AND THE PHARMACISTS - Living With The Living (Touch and Go)

New album and new label for Mr Leo here after Lookout! Records went down the toilet thanks to Chris Appelgren's unique business plan: "I know, I'll sign a load of bands that will split up after one release for the label and totally ditch all the pop-punk bands that the label is famous for! I'll be rich!" Fool.

On to "Living With The Living" then. It's certainly an ambitious affair; 14 tracks with 3 weighing in at over the six-minute mark. But it's the "Me and Mia"-esque mod-pop-punk numbers that always grab the ear first with Ted Leo, and the albums begins with "The Sons of Cain", a highly upbeat tune that shows off Ted's excellent voice superbly. Later on there's "La Costa Brava", which reminds me, surprisingly, of Samiam! It's great. And the rocking "The World Stops Turning" starts with momentum and only gains it as the song continues.

There's a very interesting couplet of songs in the middle of the album too. First we have "A Bottle of Buckie". Now to my knowledge Ted Leo is from the USA, but this song's lyrical content suggests that Theodore of Leo must have some Scottish roots! There are lyrical references to Govan Hill, the banks of the Clyde, "neds" and of course, Buckfast. Very strange, but it's a fine song, and a surefire hit north of the border. Then there's "Bomb.Repeat.Bomb" which is pretty different to anything I've heard from him before, coming off as a more rock Fugazi and tearing into careless world leaders. Great stuff.

Most of this album sounds like classic Ted Leo, but he's tried enough different stuff to keep the listener and probably himself on their/his toes. It's an enjoyable listen (bar a couple of dull tracks and an embarrassing stab at reggae) and definitely worthy of your time. Especially the 2xLP which comes with an excellent voucher allowing you to download the album with five bonus tracks (the best of which is the stompy "Old Souls Know"). And no, this review will not be finishing with any puns or quips about these Pharmacists prescribing great music. Sorry.


THE LEIF ERICSSON - self titled CD (Bombed Out)

At last! The Leif Ericsson's debut album has been a looooooooong time coming – longer than the Pylon album, the One Car Pile-Up album, Stone Roses' 'The Second Coming' and The Chinese Democracy put together! (Note: may be exaggeration). And, even then, they couldn't even be bothered to think of a title for it, the lazy layabouts. So, was it worth the wait? Read on and find out! I'm not going to tell you in the first paragraph, am I?

Probably the only band ever to be named after a Norse explorer who lived 1,000 years ago (cheers Wikipedia), the Leif Ericsson play straight-up singalong melodic punk in the vein of Snuff, which isn't too surprising considering that singer Will Farley (from 'Anchorman' and the inventor of the rusk) is also in Dogpiss and Billy No Mates with Snuff's Duncan Redmonds (husband of New Tricks actress Amanda). There's not a bad song amongst the eleven, my “special favourites” being the anthemic 'Göttingen', 'Aquaplane', 'Twelve Years in the Making' (probably about how long it's taken them to actually get around to releasing an album) and live favourite 'Little Pink Socks'.

As you can probably tell by the way I'm padding this review out with sentences like this one which you are reading now and which you are still reading even now and which should probably have had a comma or two in it already, I don't really have that much to write about this album, which in no way reflects its quality: if you enjoy melodic UK punk stuff then this should be at the top of your CD shopping list (assuming you've got the Great St Louis CD already, of course). If this had been released ten years ago when Fat Mike was in his Anglophile phase then no doubt he'd have been sniffing around them, but Fat Wreck's loss is Bombed Out's gain, I guess. The Leif Ericsson have been one of my favourite UK punk bands since I first saw them about four years ago, and this album was definitely worth waiting for.

To finish off, here are some Leif Ericson facts:

  • Born c970, died c1020
  • Lived in Iceland
  • Thought to be the first European to land in North America
  • Took a bloody age to record his first alb(that's enough Leif Ericson facts. Ed)


DO MAKE SAY THINK - You, You're A History in Rust (Constellation)

Post-rock isn't a genre that's to everyone's taste. Here in the UK we have Mogwai who are very popular and Godspeed! You Black Emporer enjoyed some mainstream attention for a while, but in general, most of the bands I would associate with post-rock are too meandering and not straightforward enough for your average music fan.

Do Make Say Think (labelmates of the aforementioned G!YBE) manage to keep a fairly happy medium between the noodlings and having memorable songs. The dynamic range on this album is huge; it can veer from acoustic arpeggios to amps-to-eleven rock without disarming the listener. The rockage is excellent, too, with the standout being "The Universe!", which has a great riff and storms along without much let-up. Also good is the epic "Executioner Blues", an almost symphonic number which goes bat-shit crazy at around the seven-minute mark.

Equally epic is "A With Living", which combines elements of Tortoise and Broken Social Scene (limited frame of reference here, people. I'm sure someone else could have compared it Polish neo-classical jazz or something) and features real actual singing and some lovely mournful horns towards the end.

I'm sure, as with many bands of this style, the live arena is the best place to experience them and I am looking forward to seeing them at the upcoming ATP vs the Fans shindig in Minehead. As a whole album this is certainly full of ambition and has some great moments, but occasionally does veer into the dreaded "nice background music" zone. Not enough to spoil the overall listen, but certainly enough to file this under "very good but not quite excellent". Nice band-name though... verbs!