Category Archives: Uncategorized

QUICK, QUICK!

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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NEW GUITAR!

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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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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Lyrics of the Week

Jamie T has really grown on me over the years. Described as one of’ Britain’s best since Strummer, his songwriting has the ability to capture the experiences of many with tales of everyday shenanigans brought to life with his distinctive London tones and a unique use of sampling and his own skills on guitar and bass.

Below are the lyrics for Castro Dies, one of my favourite tracks from his most recent album, Kings and Queens:

Ya messing up my mind
You do it all the time
And that’s why enemies enemies and lovers
Will never be friends of mine.

Speak treat west
Like a stain on the chest
Of a while collar
Why do i bother
Money love hates honour
Grates if i look down i’m a goner
I’ll end up working for the bbc as a runner
Burning bills sloughed my fish wonder died of hunger
Friends stopped calling this time last summer.

I sit down sorrows and i start to sigh
I gotta get there before castro dies
Plight my guilt with highs
She smuggled with trouble in bubble wrap
Up the gap strapped between her thighs
So surprised when you meet her
She seemed so shy
Considering she got balls that are twice the size
Of you plus me plus the give me let me try
Better buy them all cos they’re in short supply
So here’s a conversation we can have when we fly
Got to get there before castro dies.

Ya messin’ up my mind
You do it all the time
I just can’t take the lies
Boy ya just going down on a low
I just can’t take the lies
Ya messin’ up my mind
And that’s why enemies enemies and loves will be friends of mine

I have a lesson learned
Enemy burned
I’m saving up my bandages
A non believer turned can be the loyalist of advocates
On aggregate i’m smashing it
I’m lacking backing but trashing it
I’m slacking and jacking the chips ya stacking
And spending them all on sandwiches
You ask me how it’s done
I just know how to handle it
See me through cynic critic scum who think your branded packages
And if you wanna come you know what i’ll be brandishing
A speaker full of lyrics beats and loops that i’ve been sampling

Ya messing up my mind
You do it all the time
And that’s why enemies enemies and lovers
Will never be friends of mine

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Artist of the Week – Beardyman!

If you have read any of the other posts on this blog, you will tend to see that my musical tastes largely lie in rock, ska and punk, but now and again, somebody catches my eye. And nobody has done this recently more so than Beardyman – the one man beatbox jukebox who never ceases to entertain me!
UK Beatbox Champion of 2006 and 2007 makes Beardyman the first beatboxer in UK history to win 2 championships in a row. And what a talent he has! His live shows are a totally unique blend of comedy, beatboxing and looping, making it a gig like you’ve never seen before!
The general theme of his shows consists of taking song or genre requests and making something fantastic up on the spot, using only his voice, a keyboard and between 3 and 5 Korg Kaoss pads. These pads are what make Beardyman even more unique – he expertly uses looping technology to build up numerous layers that eventually result in an entire song.

Whilst you may think that surely an entire show of this might get a bit repetitive, Beardyman’s good sense of humour and crowd participation make for a show that will leave you smiling throughout.

Beardyman also released an album this year, titled ‘I Done A Album,’ which is great, with some fun tracks like ‘Vampire Skank,’ which is a cross between Gogol Bordello and dubstep! but it’s no match for his live performances judging by what I have seen online. It seems to me that part of his appeal is the mix of comedy and music, which is obviously hard to get across with an album.
So, enough of me, I’ll let you watch for yourself. Below is his entire show: ‘Unshaved – Live at the Udderbelly.’
It’s a whopping 48 minutes long, but it’s well worth watching – I watched the entire show without a minute of boredom!

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Spotify Update

Now I’m sure all of you who have discovered the delights of Spotify have all been extremely impressed with the extensive service they offer(minus the occasional excessively repetitive advert), however I can guarantee that a few of you who don’t know already might be a bit miffed with their latest announcement:

As of May 1st, for all Spotify Free and Open users, you will only be able to listen to a track up to five times. Yes. FIVE TIMES – EVER. So if you have a favourite album that you don’t want to buy, but are quite happy to listen to over and over again, you had better start saving my friend! Obviously this will hit the heavy Spotify users the hardest, which is probably their main intention – to get more Free and Open users to sign up to their Premium and Unlimited services. These options will remain unaffected by the changes, and remember that they are both advert free, as well as having many other benefits!

Also, new Spotify users will not have these new changes implemented until six months after their joining date. Personally, I can see a lot of scams occurring, with people making themselves a new account every six months or so!

So whilst many of you may be sitting in your armchairs ranting and swearing about Spotify, and how this is the end of your legally free listening experience FOR EVER, you have to remember that they do offer an incredible service, and when thinking about it, it’s a miracle that something like this hasn’t happened already. Updating to either Unlimited (£4.99 a month) or Premium (£9.99 a month) brings huge benefits when you consider what the costs can get you. Premium, which gets you the whole shabang, is the equivalent of buying just one album a month, except you get millions of track at your fingertips instead – not quite as bad as it first sounded is it?! Visit http://www.spotify.com for more information.

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Joe Strummer – The Future Is Unwritten

I have been a fan of The Clash for quite some time now, and in particular, Joe Strummer and his unique personality and attitude towards life that made him such a inspirational man. So, when I saw this film, among many others documenting the Joe and the Clash, and the fantastic reviews it had received, it was a must for me to buy.

The film documents Strummer’s life in a very unique way, combining interviews with the man himself, with friends and family sitting around a Strummerville festival campfire, rare video footage of Joe on stage, and other unusual clips, such as his cartoons reflecting his thoughts and feelings towards life, which were animated and adapted for film.

The film begins by discussing Joe’s childhood. It was so interesting to find out where the roots of his D.I.Y and hard working ethics originated from, such as being sent away to boarding school, and then having to bully his way out of falling into a completely miserable childhood.

The film also documents the breakdown of Joe’s career in The Clash and how he progressed onto writing his own solo material. It also shows people views of the man today, and how his legacy has lived on even in today’s world. I found the film truly thought-provoking and was a great insight into the life behind the scenes of one of punk’s most famous figures. For anyone even remotely interested in the Clash, this is a must-see, as Strummer was one of a kind, who made such a difference to the world around him.

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Against Me! Release Reason For Tour Cancellation.

Yes, Against Me! have finally released a statement about recent events in the band that led to the cancellation of almost all tour dates for the rest of 2010. The statement says that they have parted ways with not only their drummer, George Rebelos, but also their record company Warner Bros.

The statement suggests that neither decision was made with particular bitterness or regret, but it could signal a big change in the band, as there are rumours that the band may be returning to Fat Wreck Chords. As for a drummer, the band have begun touring again and are currently using Jay Weinberg, ex drummer for both Madball and Bruce Springsteen to fill in George’s role.

The band also hope to rearrange dates in the New Year, which will be great, as I really regretted not being able to see the band last year at The Junction in Cambridge.

You can read the full statement here, on Tom Gabel’s blog:
http://ifeelsicktomystomach.blogspot.com/2010/11/all-apologies.html

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Beans On Toast – Writing On The Wall

Beans is Back!

Beans on Toast, the three chord wonder, from Braintree in the UK, has been a staple part of my music diet for the last year or so, and despite having a 50 track debut album (yes, you heard me) to listen to time and time again, I couldn’t wait when I heard that he was releasing a new album.

Writing on the Wall sees Beans, or Jay McAllister, backed by a full band this time, rather than just him and his kids guitar! The brief, 30 minute long album was released on his 30th birthday – I’m sure you can see the link there… And it’s fantastic! Whilst Standing on a Chair, Jay’s debut album, was fantastic in the sense that it was full of very memorable, contraversial tracks that made you really think about life, it didn’t feel like much of an album, more a bunch of songs to be sung in bars or busked on the streets of London.

Writing on the Wall does not see Beans cutting out any of his down-to-earth and sometimes cringingly blunt opinions of the world around him, yet the songs, backed with all manner of instruments, from fiddles and violins to banjos, harmonicas and drums seem to have much more power behind them, and the songs sound so much more refined. He still songs that many may find offensive, such as Methadrone, which begins with ‘Well this is a song about glamourising drugs, I advise you to stick some powder up your nose,’ yet you do not get the impression that he is saying this just to be offensive, as he later on states that the money gained from the tax could be used to build new hospitals! However this is what makes Beans on Toast so unique – his ability to speak his mind without any care of what people might think. The album also sees Beans’ raspy voice warning the world about the international oil crisis as well as the decline of the music industry. All of this makes for an enthralling, albeit brief, listen. Highlights for me include – artmoneyart, Foolish, Wild and Forgetful and Old Grunge, which you can see a live performance of below:

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Green Day In Cinemas Near You!

For one night only, on 15th November, MTV have teamed up with cinemas across Europe for an exclusive premiere of a crazy Green Day show recorded at the Olympia Halle in Munich. Check out the link below for more info and a listing of all UK cinemas showing the film, or watch the trailer for a taster of the madness to come!

http://www.mtv.co.uk/artists/green-day/news/243835-watch-green-day-in-a-cinema-near-you

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