Ratatat – The Skints Are At The Front Door!

After much umm-ing and aah-ing, whether it be over choices of songs to cover, songs to release, and generally how much to tease their loyal fans, the Skints have kept the attention of thousands, mainly due to their frankly fantastic debut album, ‘Live, Breathe, Build, Believe.’

But finally, and thankfully, they have given us something! Their new single Ratatat has been released, and it’s a cracker!  A great mix of rap, dub, ska and reggae, it sees a slightly different take on the last album, whilst keeping the aspects that make them so fantastic!

Not only this, but they’ve also released the album artwork AND title for the new album – ‘Part and Parcel’ is due to be released on April 9th and  I cannot wait! Designed by the same designer of their t-shirts and last album, it’s a great bold statement, and I’m sure it’ll look great as it rises up the charts on it’s release. Enjoy!

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Ben Howard. We all know just how much of a good thing he is. He has it all. The style, the passion, the voice, the looks. He’s just fantastic. And after seeing him at the end of last year, he blew me away with his incredible talent, which transferred perfectly from the record onto the stage. This is why, on discovery of a pre-sale for a tour this November, I just HAD to buy myself a pair of tickets. It’s a long way, but boy am I glad that I know I’m going already! So, I thought I’d share it with everybody else, now I know for sure that my own tickets are booked! Visit www.benhowardmusic.co.uk for early access to Ben’s November tour in the UK, Ireland and the parts of Germany that haven’t sold out already! GO!

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Slam Dunk

Well, everyone’s been waiting. I say everyone, it’s not exactly a major festival, but ho-hum. It’s out. As you can probably tell, I’m not exactly thrilled by the first announcements of this year’s Slam Dunk Festival. The line-up includes Architects, Cancer Bats, and Forever The Sickest Kids, and, aside from the King Blues, who are just fantastic, and I cannot wait to see again, it’s all sounding like a bit of a headache! Maybe I’m just being negative, and I’ll wait and see, with some updates on the new announcements, but I’m hoping for more ska, as last year’s festival was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at a show, with bands like The Skints, who I’m sure will be making a return this year, Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake.

Slam Dunk to me, means punk, reggae, and ska, but it all seems to be getting a little bit screamo for my liking. We’ll have to wait and see!

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Punk & Poetry.

After choosing English Literature as one of my A Levels, it seems that I spend half of my time analysing poetry in great depth. The dreaded anthology, which earned itself a Facebook group of almost 50,000 members wholeheartedly devoted to its burning, has clearly ruined poetry for many young people. But as with dance, and many other things once deemed too uncool for school, the fire in these activities has been relit by the use of the word ‘street.’

Street poetry is a world away from, in my case, the nature shrouded world of poets such as Edward Thomas, somebody with whom very few people in the modern world, never mind young people, can relate to. This poetry speaks of life as it really is. Yet these poets know their roots. Often citing Greek Mythology, Shakespeare and other poetry greats of the past, the word ‘street’ does not limit them to the literary confines of the modern world.

And one very fine example of this is Kate Tempest. In November, at the Junction in Cambridge, her band, Sound of Rum, was one of three acts on the triple bill. I was amazed when I checked her out before, but nothing compare’s to their live performance. Their music can be described as a kind of tech-rock and rap fusion. Intricate guitar and bass parts created through the use of electric guitar and loop pedal, backed by some fairly basic drums. However, don’t let this fool you, when the drummer let loose for a solo, he managed to wow the crowd with some impressive talent on show. However, the woman who really stole the show was Kate Tempest. With lyrics sharp as knives, and passion that has the ability to leave you reeling, as she stands swaying in front of you, pouring her soul out, Kate Tempest has a unique ability to bring poetry to life. Her sensitivity, the feeling that at any moment, she will break into floods of tears, as what’s she’s saying is so real, and has such meaning with her, adds a completely fresh and new dynamic to poetry for me.

It is so easy to disregard poetry, as most of it is so hard to picture – whether it be Edward Thomas, to Wilfred Owen, older poems are so much harder to visualize, but Tempest brings her world to life with incredible dexterity and skill, and she deserves to be recognised. Here is one of her poems, titled ‘Pennies.’ ENJOY.

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So, a lot has happened in these few months of neglect. One example being the addition of a job into my life. Having been working at Waitrose for a couple of months now, I figured I could afford to ‘splash some cash’ on an acoustic guitar of my own, after having used my dad’s for a couple of years now. So, after spending hours in the infamous Denmark St, I did, in fact leave with no guitar. Instead, a melodica. My love for ska has been edging me towards buying one for ages, so I bit the bullet, and what fun! It’s a great little portable thing, and it can make quite a racket when it needs to. I love the tone of it too. The bass notes sound just like a accordion, my favourite sounding instrument of all time, and it could come in useful for acoustic band sessions in future!

Anyway, back to the guitar. We then progressed to GigGear in Harlow. A great warehouse store, with a whole downstairs section devoted to drums, with the upstairs showing off some electric pianos, and guitars both electric and acoustic. They also offer a wide range of lessons, from guitar to ukelele, which run throughout the week!

So in the end, and after much deliberation I settled on the beautiful electro-acoustic Yamaha APX 500II, which I’m very happy with!! Its got a lovely tone, and great treble, and it’s lovely to finally own your own guitar!

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Tell The Skints I’m Getting Impatient.

So, the Skints have finally closed their PledgeMusic account, after recieving far more donations than they ever could have hoped for. Which means their album MUST be on the way. I’ve been listening to their first album ‘Live, Breathe, Build, Believe’ for years now, and it has to be one of my favourite debut albums of all time. So my expectations built up by the variety of different acoustic covers released over the past few months on their facebook page have made the wait almost unbearable. Their covers have opened my eyes up to a whole variety of old reggae artists, whether it be Desmond Dekker, with their cover of ‘It Mek’ or Dennis Brown and his ‘Lips of Wine.’ The most recent release, which is set to be their most popular with almost 30,000 views already, is a cover of Katy B’s ‘On a Mission.’ I can’t say I’m a big fan of the original, but this ‘dub-ified’ version is sure to get reggae lover’s pulses racing. Check it out below. I’ll let you know when the new album’s out, it’s sure to be one of the highlights of 2012!!

Oh. Also, Marcia, musician extraordinaire from the Skints, is a bit of a blogger herself. Check out her Tumblr which features everything from Skints news to recipes and random information about her life, if you’re into stalking talented people.

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‘I’ve Been Worryin” That I Need To Update My Blog

Wow, what happened? It’s been months since I’ve been on here. Almost as if I’ve forgotten about this completely! However, don’t fear – my brain hasn’t ceased to whir. And, my music taste is as fantastic as ever, if not better – I still have a lot to write about!

So, my new favourite person has to be, Ben Howard. This amazing musician has taken over my speakers, and seemingly many others’ for the last few months, and since the release of his debut album, ‘Every Kingdom,’ I have been ever so slightly obsessed. This young man from Devon plays acoustic guitar in a very unique way, whether he’s slapping, whacking, strumming or tapping. However, there’s always one common theme. Whatever he does sounds absolutely AMAZING. This, combined with his Devonshire, but faintly Scottish-sounding accent and the soft harmonies provided by cellist India Bourne provides the ultimate music to relax, cry or celebrate to. Which is why I decided to go and see him this December at the Junction in Cambridge. And what a great decision that turned out to be.

Supporting was Brother&Bones, or rather their frontman – Rich Thomas. A lovely guy, with an uncanny resemblance to Dave Grohl and a voice just as powerful. He blew me away with his strength and emotion, and the sound quality was something I’ve never seen equalled for a warm up act. Check out ‘Back to Shore’ below for a taster of what Rich and Co. are capable of:

Ben Howard himself was a combination of relentless energy, mixed with soothing harmonies and chilled out ‘rain songs.’ Those which will become classics, such as ‘The Wolves’ and a very special extended version of ‘Keep Your Head Up’ which has now racked up well over 1,000,000 views on Youtube, had one of the best crowds I have heard in a long time screaming along with happiness. On the other hand, the slower songs were just as beautiful in their own right. Songs for ‘rainy days’ such as ‘Promise’ and ‘Everything,’ from which the album’s title derived, had the crowd, minus a couple of idiots determined to prove that they weren’t at  an ‘N-Duz’ gig, in awed silence. Ben showed his appreciation afterwards, saying ‘thanks for keeping quiet.’ This was fairly successful in keeping the other two shushed for the rest of the night!

That is something quite special about this man. He has an unexplained ability to simply make me smile – something which, these days, is quite rare to find with new music. And the crowd weren’t the only ones with a smile on their face. Ben Howard’s genuine disbelief at his reception on his first visit to Cambridge only made the move even better. And whilst he only had limited material, onstage for just over 75 mins, every second was golden. A quality of sound that was rare to find live, complete with harmonies and bucketloads of texture, such as from opener and personal favourite of mine ‘Depth Over Distance’ paid complete justice to the seemingly endless talent of this man and his band. I MUST see him again. No question about it, Ben Howard is something very special.

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Panic On The Streets Of London..

This week’s rioting in London is the worst that has been seen in Britain since the Thatcher era of the Eighties, where racial discrimination and the economic took their toll, and there was widespread rioting across Britain, particularly in London, such as the infamous Brixton riots of 1981.
The news footage of 2011 is very similar to those scenes of the 1980’s, except for the significant reduction of IQ in the rioters themselves. Whilst the eighties riots were a protest against the obvious racial discrimination of the ‘sus laws,’ and the free powers that police had to stop and search any black man or woman on the streets of London, the sickening facts about 2011’s riots are that they are being carried out mindless thugs, following the crowd because of the promise of new shoes and a free Ipad.
It’s clear that Britain is in troubled times, and as a music blogger, I figured I ought to bring my rant to something music related. The 70’s and 80’s brought us some fantastic music, the cultural and political background providing songwriting material for some of Britain’s best bands.
So, here are my top riot-related songs, or those which I think best reflect a certain political climate of the times:

1) Riot Van – Arctic Monkeys.
Alex Turner is one of my favourite lyricists of ‘Noughties. His songwriting has the ability to put you right in the heart of the roughest part of their hometown, Sheffield. With lyrics such as those below, you get a real sense of the thoughts, or lack of them, running through the mind of the sort of people who think it’s okay to destroy people’s livelihoods that they have worked for years to achieve.
‘So up rolls a riot van
And sparks excitement in the boys
But the policemen look annoyed
Perhaps these are ones they should avoid’

2) Anarchy In The Uk – The Sex Pistols

Whether or not this song is critical of the anarchist movement, I can’t yet decide. Whilst you would obviously expect it to be in favour of such groups, some of the lyrics suggest otherwise.

For example: ‘Don’t know what I want but I know how to get it, I wanna destroy, passer by’ seems to sum up the situation perfectly for me. Gangs of what are effectively sheep following the crowd and fighting ‘the system,’ whilst not having a clue who or what ‘the system’ is. This classic song makes the perfect backing track to the interview below, that really does make you embarrassed to be British.

3) The Smiths – Panic

Yet another classic song, which serves to show how the scenes of rioting have spread across Britain like wildfire. These lyrics symbolise how it must appear to many that nowhere is safe, and it is almost ironic that half of the places mentioned in this song have been the victims of looting over the past few days:

Panic on the streets of London
Panic on the streets of Birmingham
I wonder to myself
Could life ever be sane again ?
The Leeds side-streets that you slip down
I wonder to myself
Hopes may rise on the Grasmere
But Honey Pie, you’re not safe here
So you run down
To the safety of the town
But there’s Panic on the streets of Carlisle
Dublin, Dundee, Humberside
I wonder to myself.

4) The Clash – Too Many To Choose From!!

It could be said that The Clash experienced it all in terms of the unstable nature of British society in the 70’s and 80’s. Songs such as White Riot, Police and Thieves, London’s Burning speak for themselves. But there was only one song for me, which I felt was suited best to the London of 2011. In other countries, the rioting here has been described as being like ‘the start of World War III,’ and with the Olympic’s looming in 2012, many may have been put off by the scenes of violence on British streets. So sticking with the theme of World War Three and the end of the world, here are some lyrics to London’s burning which I think seem fairly fitting:

‘The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in
Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin
Engines stop running, but I have no fear
‘Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river’

Just a note to say, I think it’s completely inspirational to see the response of communities across Britain, with mass clear-up operations taking place all over the country. Hopefully the idiots will see just how mindless and stupid they have come across as, and crawl back into their holes feeling utterly ashamed of themselves!

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Music With A Message..

Any of you who know Rise Against will know that they are not a band who have ever been willing to compromise their message in exchange for commercial success. Reaching huge heights with their latest release, Endgame, and becoming arguably one of the biggest punk rock bands in the world at the moment, they have the opportunity to reach out to millions, and as proven with their video for ‘Ready To Fall,’ Tim Mcilrath and co. are able to put across just as strong a message onscreen as with their razor sharp lyrics.

So it is fantastic to hear that they have been nominated for the VMA Award at this year’s MTV Music Awards. The award is given to the band with the best video with a message. Rise Against’s offering – the new video for single ‘Make It Stop (September’s Children). This fantastic video sees Rise Against teaming up with ‘It Gets Better’ – an organization set up to convince victims of bullying and abuse for their sexuality that it does get better. Mcilrath stated that the song was written after a fan wrote a nervous letter to the band asking whether they had any problem with his sexuality. Tim was shocked to think that a member of the punk community would ever think that they wouldn’t be accepted for what they are. This only served to highlight the macho culture that surrounds rock and music as a whole, and the song was written to draw attention to an issue that has caused a lot of concern in the US in particular.

If you haven’t seen it already, check out the video below, and feel free to vote for them at: http://www.mtv.com/ontv/vma/2011/best-video-with-a-message/

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Proof That The Foo Fighters Are The World’s Nicest Band..

In recent years the Foo Fighters have taken over the world. In the UK alone they have conquered two world famous venues – The Milton Keynes Bowl this summer, and Wembley Stadium a few years ago. So, they could be forgiven for fitting the typical rock star image. Separated from the fans by huge barriers or shying away from their devoted followers in the finest hotels – but not the Foos!

A new 40 minute film has been released that documents the recent ‘Garage Tour’ that the Foo Fighters did to allow them to go back to their roots and get in touch with the fans.

A competition ran asking fans for reasons as to why they deserved this once in a lifetime opportunity, and the documentary really helps capture the emotions of the winners, and just what it means to them to have Dave and Co. in their garage!

This, for me, cements Dave’s title as the nicest man in rock, and proves just how much the Foos live for music, and music alone!

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