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Nathan Bailey

LIVE: Ist Ist @ Gorilla

WORDS BY: NATHAN BAILEY      PHOTO BY: TRUST A FOX

One of them New fangled musical troops Ist Ist filled Gorilla on Saturday night on the penultimate leg of their spring tour. Like the daffodils they have been sprouting up across the country this past month, basking in the light of their latest EP Everything is Different Now. They also had some ‘Special Guests’, popular lads that they are.

Pick of the special guests’ bunch were Salfordians Red Light Effect, who were great value on the night. They had Corby trouser press crisp adult songwriting on offer, reminiscent of a pre-Daily Mail era Morrissey yet lathered in that gigantic expression pedal guitar sound you all know and love. Singer Ian Scott certainly cut a charismatic figure as he hollered above the snowdrifts of guitar delay, and with the aid of a mysterious box stuck halfway up the mic stand sounds an awful lot like some wonderful northern bird of paradise calling for a mate. Red Light Effect also wear great shoes! What’s not to like.

Now, let’s just say it. Ist Ist are a MOOD. They have the potential to unite unhappy teenagers and their “young in the eighties” parents in a way not seen since Rick Rolling appeared and the overwhelming verdict of a death penalty for Astley reached across the generational divide.

They begin their set brooding through Preachers Warning and I’m Not Here. Gorilla is tense. Tantalisingly so. The whole place is threatening to boil over, like a derby day nil-nil with blue touch paper teasing flame. Anti-guitar solos tinker with the central heating controls and it’s getting warmer as the band bring out one of their superior early numbers Silence. There is a solid tradition of artists sculpting into their work the dichotomy of sound and silence, Kierkegaard through John Cage via Paul Simon. You can add Ist Ist’s take to that list, it is a banger. Certainly more so than Kierkegaard ever was.

 

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Post-show, Sheffield… • 📸 – @malwhichelow

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For this EP Ist Ist added multi-instrumentalist Mat Peters to their ranks. whilst this tipped their new songs on a slightly different trajectory with keys heavy tracks like Jennifer’s Lips it has also given a symphonic slant to some of their older material which is most welcome. If this isn’t enough for you, he also happens to be a really nice guy, so there, have that.

At the core of the bands sound on the old stuff and the new is Adam Houghton’s wonderful voice. In the darker number’s such as the aptly named Black, Houghton gets positively subterranean. Such tones must be heard down in the ninth circle of Dante’s low register, along with Nick Cave, Mr Curtis and that bloke out of The National.

Of course, despite all the brooding that exudes from a lot of Ist Ist’s more melancholic work, a maudlin nil-nil this is not. They offer up surprisingly catchy stripped back little number I want to disappear. This is followed swiftly after by a wondrous end to the set where they kindly smash up all that tension lest anyone have to split a taxi home with it. Renditions of Nights arm and Diversion kick all this to pieces, along with any lingering eagerness from the audience to compare Ist Ist wearily to a certain Manchester band from days yonder. Thumping through these tunes you would say they were more reminiscent of The Editors at the 2005 Munich best. That’s a bloody good compliment in case you were wondering.

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LIVE: Sleaford Mods @ Manchester O2 Academy

WORDS BY NATHAN BAILEY         PHOTO BY VISION HAUS MUSIC

A rather well dressed Parisian man once told me that he liked Sleaford Mods because they talk about real life. It is anyone’s guess what Messrs Fearn and Williamson would have to say about reflecting life in the city of light. However its probably a safe bet that, like most things they do, it would be worth listening to. Last weekend at the O2 Academy they certainly were.

Before the Mods took to the stage however, we are treated to post-punk pontiffs LIINES who have been supporting them on this tour, how nice of them. I first saw LIINES in the wonderful Ferret in Preston. Rather amazingly, if memory serves, they were on first in the little gem of a pub. They absolutely battered it in the Ferret and the big step-up in size here did not seem to daunt them one bit.

They were perfectly at home on the O2 Academy stage, fringes all to the left saluting the flag, dressed in funeral black. I’m not sure who’s funeral it was but judging by LIINES performance they must have had a keen ear for hell for leather drum beats and riffs that make you want to do that half jump thing when you’re on your tiptoes at gigs. You know the one.

Angry and sophisticated, their set is a fitting birthday present to singer Zoe McVeigh’s dad, how sweet. A highlight of their set was the last song on the night: Never There. It’s got this strange tough-but-catchy quality to it, like a big concrete net. The whole of last years debut Stop-Start is, in fact, a big concrete net. Go and throw yourself in.

And so it was. There we were. Full speed ahead for the Sleaford Mods. They are the best double act since Torvill and Dean and you know what, they have got better moves too. Andrew Fearn trots on stage wide-grinned with the oversized backpack of a graffiti vandal and his now, surely certified ICONIC baseball cap. We couldn’t spot the Guinness officials but Andrew waves his way through the quickest soundcheck of all time as he plucks his computer out of his bag and (presumably) crosses off all them annoying McAfee ‘EXPIRED!’ warnings. He briefly disappears only to return with Jason and off they go galivanting through Into The Payzone, Subtraction and Flipside, all from their fantastic latest offering Eton Alive. 

Williamson is immense through all of this. He can-cans about like Liza Minelli’s edgier brother, leans out over his microphone stand like Raw Power-era Iggy Pop, and dances gracefully like a young Brazilian Ronaldo’s harder twin, bearing down on the defence.

It’s easy to forget when listening to the serious subject matters and snarly interviews what a laugh Sleaford Mods are. But that is the point of them. They are a band of contradictions. Their set contains genuine Saturday night spinners like BHS and Tied up in Notts as well as swear-hinged toasts to kebabs. Sleaford Mods openly bear disdain for music with a ‘social conscience’ whilst having a go at it themselves. Don’t like punk but they have a go at it themselves. They have a go at themselves.

 

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Cheer up @sleaford_mods, you played a frigging blinder last night #manchester #workingclasselectronics

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Their songs are lacing social satires and personal tales of addiction healing at once and then neither. Sleaford Mods seem to have that intangible quality of a band you can’t ignore but make it look as though they couldn’t ‘give a monkeys’ if they did. They scream for your attention as sneer mongers and then pat you on the back for giving to charity. They claim they’re influenced by the Pet Shop Boys! They’ve got your head in a vice and they’re not letting go. If you’re feeling tense then fear not as one look at Andrew, seemingly the happiest man alive, will put you at ease. Good Cop Bad Cop anyone?

The set was an absolute stormer, a great selection of the newer tunes and a healthy dose of the classics. What a joyous world we live in where there is classic Sleaford Mods. This review could have gone on and on happily but Sleaford Mods reminded us that ‘it’s just new music magazines lying to us’, so like Jason we will leave you as he left us pirouetting proudly off the stage like Nijinsky. Go and have a McFlurry.

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LIVE: Natalie McCool @ the Castle Hotel

WORDS – NATHAN BAILEY

Natalie McCool is one of the best emerging songwriters around. What does that mean? Emerging from where? The great songwriting nursery nest way out yonder? If that is the case then this December at The Castle Hotel, McCool appears fully fledged. On before Liverpool’s most aptly named Songwriter were an odd couple of support bands.

The first was The Lilacs. Four very young faces played a set of Trilby Indie tunes, fortunately sans trilbies. The audience became a bit of a family affair and the band goes down well. A couple of their tunes are really well-formed pop songs, in particular, ‘Vicarage Road’, which had some proud fathers in amongst the innumerable drips and leaks from the castle’s rather wonderful upturned hull of a roof. The Lilacs are a very accomplished group and given they are right in the midst of their salad days, should only improve with time.

Little Thief, all the way from Bristol, were an unusual fit for the night. the three piece playing a set of whiskey bar rock and anti hallmark love songs. Little Thief has a really nice Middle America tone to their sound, with Charlie Fitzgerald’s soulful voice and Drummer Rhi Williams with the harmonies and the occasional duet.  Little Thief get a little carried away at times, with some behind the head bass guitar work that no one wants to see, especially not on a Monday. Other than drifting into some rather hair metal antics, the band plays a solid set, the Black Keys-esque ‘Freak’ being something of a highlight.

McCool takes to the stage alone. She is the authority in the room, all in white, like a cosmic sheriff, if it was an eternal Seventies in space (one assumes it is). Natalie confesses a certain estrangement to playing without a band behind her but a certain sign of a great songwriter is the adaptability of a song. Opening with ‘Pins’, a minimal track as it appears on ‘The Great Unknown’ anyway, it is beautiful when stripped back to just voice and guitar, and aptly piercing. Likewise, a personal favourite from the album ‘Dig It Out’, without the rolling drum machine patterns becomes a wondrous hovering seascape of a song at The Castle.

McCool is a performer hardened by her European touring exploits and commandeers the complete attention of her audience as she delves into some of her newer material.  These songs are heartfelt, and Natalie confesses to the personal aspect of them herself. The slow and simple rendition of ‘Devils’ is a standout moment on the night. It is a rarity for a young songwriter to have a great enough grasp of their craft to keep a song simple and retain its flavor but McCool does this. The maturity of her latest work is very apparent. Even more impressive is the ease and stylishness of delivery. At times onstage at The Castle, McCool is reminiscent of, and whisper it, the great John Martyn. Natalie McCool was really astounding on the night, and with the material for the next album sounding that good live, it will be eagerly anticipated. A great talent for the North West.

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LIVE: Springfield Elementary @ Soup Kitchen

WORDS – NATHAN BAILEY,        PHOTOS – MANC WANDERER 

In 2018 it is not uncommon for bands to take gigs into their own hands in order to stand out and make an impression – as an exciting new act on the scene, Springfield Elementary are no strangers to this. After hosting a similar knock-out Halloween Hoe’down event earlier this year – and now getting into the festive spirit to wrap up 2018 – the psych wide-boys hosted their very-own Christmas “do” down in the basement at Northern Quarter haunt, Soup Kitchen.

On the bill, joining the band were Society of Losers-endorsed trio Salt the Snail. To put it bluntly – the Liverpudlians were, and are, absolute mayhem and manage to balance the line on some unholy alliance between The Oblivians and Goldie Lookin’ Chain. They really are as exciting as that sounds. (Personally, I think they may have sniffed too many felt tips when they were kids, but), with songs in equal-parts catchy and hilarious as ‘Mate’, they must have done something right.

springfield elementary salt the snail

Singer Krystian Hudson is halfway between the most in-yer-face punk frontman you’ve ever seen, and a Music-hall comedian. Salt the Snail decide which songs to play via an exceedingly British, yet totally unconventional, tombola system. Thanks to this, Krystian spends far, far, more time in the audience than he does on stage, subsequently breaking down any barrier that comes between the two. The only time Krystian is on stage for any length is, in fact, when drummer Tom Astley disappears to the lavatory mid-set whereby he kindly takes over duties until the band is back together. Not enough? Salt the Snail even find the time amongst the madness to fit in a spot of caroling between songs. Some in the audience question whether the band does this every gig. The answer is no, but they are always this entertaining.

To get away with shenanigans like these, a band must have some good songs to back it up – Salt the Snail most certainly do. The guys’ latest single ‘Lazerquest’ is profoundly the highlight of their set, arriving early-on against traditional set-list form due to the invisible logic of the tombola. Boy is it a pocket-powerhouse in a couple of minutes. (If you want an extra bit to check out, recently the band put together a really fantastic video for the track which was filmed on location at – you guessed it – a Laserquestcentere! A couple of other well-known figures on the Liverpool music scene feature if you keep your eyes peeled.)

springfield elementary

After Salt the Snail are carted off stage, and have been suitably calmed down, it’s time for the guys who put it all together. Starting in a punchy manner, Springfield Elementary’s triumphant headline set kicks off with a shows-over razor-blade instrumental before an upcoming release about Jesus, naturally. And why would it not be, with Springfield’s signature sounds of Pub-Rock from the Deep South – made complete with frontman Billy Goodwin’s Civil War-era moustache.

After following the band for some time, this is Springfield Elementary at their best yet – Goodwin yelps and cries through the more manic numbers, whilst honing his great ability to shift a gear as the band drift in and out of Odessey & Oracle grooves, West Coast rhythms and Brian Jonestown Massacre-esque jams. Tracks like ‘5 Second Rule’ seem to have all of these themes running through simultaneously on the night, and Goodwin’s vocals are strained like a tightrope; they could melt tarmac. Spot on.

From the Kentucky fried Dr. Feelgood start of their set to the meandering jams that warp time back to 1968, Springfield Elementary absolutely smash their stage time into tiny minuscule bits. The band finish their set with a short and chaotic rendition of Screaming Lord Sutch’s excellent 1963 single ‘Jack the Ripper’. A spine-tinglingly good version of the tune, and a great end to the set.

Well, it would’ve marked a great end to the set, but this was not the end. Being a Christmas-gig after all, Springfield Elementary – presumably after a little too much mulled wine – send us home with a rendition of MUD’s 1974 No.1 single ‘Lonely this Christmas’. Goodwin appears swept with Christmas spirit as he croons arm in arm with the band’s odd (yet befittingly trademark) “mascot” skeletonSpringfield Elementary are an absolute cracker, and no… not just for Christmas.

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LIVE: TVAM @ Soup Kitchen

WORDS BY NATHAN BAILEY

Wigan’s prodigal son TVAM, or Joe Oxley to his friends, sold out Soup Kitchen, gazed at his shoes, and with one swift movement sent the place skywards. Touring off the back of his really rather fantastic debut album ‘Psychic Data’ the bedroom produced maestro came down to everyone’s favourite Northern Quarter basement.

So much BBC Radio 6 play can garner one a rather sophisticated audience and TVAM is no exception, with large sections appearing clad in great winter coats, armed with great music taste and in some cases you would wager a few tales from the evergreen land of ‘Back in The Day’. In fitting fashion, before Soup Kitchen was treated to a set by a peerless TradTronica potion master Dennis Jones. Jones has been based in Manchester for some time now, but for those not in the know, his sound is a rather unique concoction of analogue atmospheric loops and noise boxes, with acoustic guitar and vocals. The outcome of this is really one of those ‘that shouldn’t work but it does’ innovations and Dennis’ ambient free-noise threnodies are a wonderful experience. This night was no exception and he is very well received by the growing numbers in Soup Kitchen.

The place is completely shoulder to shoulder by the time the TVAM set gets underway. Centre stage is a grand old cathode-ray tube telly atop a trolley stand like your teacher used to wheel out to hysterical anticipation back in those school days. No dodgy documentary film for this night though as TVAM’s box telly is an image within an image, a jewel in the visual crown. For your viewing pleasure, a postmodern high-speed montage of broken images. Old Granada television news footage, B movies, landscape shots. Even RoboCop makes a fleeting cameo. This is all interspersed with a helpful display of lyrical content, kind of like a karaoke machine designed by the MK Ultra Project. A rather captivating display, allowing Oxley to focus on the tunes with just a bit of metronomic swaying to the music.

 

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#tvam #psychicdata

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TVAM played all the full songs from Psychic Data’ on the night, and it’s a wonderful album. Tracks like the anti placid ‘Narcissus’ are absolute giants reminiscent of The Horror’s best work to date ‘Skying’ (yes that is the best Horrors album please @ me). The album was mixed in part by David Honer of Eccentronic Research Council and the Moonlandingz fame and glory. You can certainly see a bit of the research council in tracks like ‘Porsche Majeure’. Where I think Oxley is carving out his own thing is in times like these are not your memories that whilst cacophonous at first, slides through the euphoric mist and lands somewhere of the coast of California.

Towards the end of the set two songs at a different pace. ‘Gas and Air’ is probably the closest thing to an orthodox rock song and gets soup kitchen moving. The set really reaches its pinnacle with the ridiculously excellent ‘Total Immersion’. This tune does what it says on the tin, and could slip onto the far side of Autobahn or Trans-Europe Express without breaking stride. TVAM whipped up a cracking evening in Soup Kitchen, and if you haven’t already listened to the album then you should do so immediately. ‘Psychic Data’ is one of the years best debuts of our dear and aging 2018.

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LIVE: Broken Hands @ The Eagle Inn

WORDS BY NATHAN BAILEY       PHOTO BY TRUST A FOX

Amongst the endless forests of new flats, in that droplet of Victorian red-bricked and red-blooded Salford known as The Eagle Inn, Kentish rockers Broken Hands came back. And with a bang they came, as well as a couple of new singles out on Atlantic, and a new album tantalizingly just around the corner.

Before we get to them, Salford was treated to a set from local boys Cleargreen. They are a proper parka-touting Manc rock band. Lead singer Ali Staley appears to have pinched Roger Daltrey’s luxurious mop. Staley may not quite have the pipes of Roger but this doesn’t matter much as Cleargreen have some nice tunes. In ‘People’, they carry on the fine Mancunian tradition of nabbing glam riffs and sending them to the gym for six months to beef out. The set hops into bright and brash motorway rock and roll, that could have been on commercial radio in the height of July. They go for this best in latest single ‘Gone’. There is more than a hint of the nineties in Cleargreen, and if by chance this passes anyone by, Clint Boon pops up for a cameo in the rather cinematic video for ‘Gone’ because well, why not?

Sandwiched in between the first half of these shirt-off summer tunes and the second half of northern wet weather psychedelia is an interesting cover of Jorja Smith’s ‘Blue Lights’. Whilst the song drops some of its sprawl in favor of racing guitars, it does retain emphatic bars in the verses courtesy of bass player and cagoule aficionado Liam McIver. The cornerstone of Cleargreen’s set and deserving of a special mention is drummer Mike Wilcock. Truly a baby-faced assassin, he is an ice cold figure behind the kit with chops that seem far beyond the years that his ID-please look appears to give away. Cleargreen are definitely worth a watch.

 

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@brokenhandsband last week at Eagle Inn #brokenhands #eagleinnsalford

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After a short break in which to admire the dimly lit beauty of The Eagle Inn, along came Broken Hands. The band has been away from the stage for, well how long? There was some dispute between Dale Norton and the audience as to how long exactly but it’s a good couple of years. In that time they’ve been doing a few legal bits (signing to an American major label is COMPLICATED) and more importantly, doing lots and lots of writing. And so there we were on a damp Monday, a little unsure as to how it was all going to go down. We should have known. Broken Hands if ever they had a little dust and rust from the lack of live shows had already shaken it into the stratosphere before they turned out here. They are a class act, hurtling through the first couple of tunes in a daze of flashing lights and Blitzkrieg bass lines courtesy of Thomas Ford, looking a little like ‘All Things Must Pass’ era George Harrison.

There seemed to be no one who enjoyed all this fuzzy fanfare quite like Dale, who slalomed and skanked about the front of the Eagle‘s little stage, the swoop of his hair like an extra set of limbs as if there were a giant garage rock spider monkey conducting the band. Broken Hands seem genuinely excited to be playing, which creates a cracking atmosphere, and were genuinely appreciative of the reception the songs from the old album receive, especially in title track ‘Turbulence’ which was straight back at the band from sections. It was all smiles!

The band played quite a few new songs too! Some rather atmospheric and almost Suede-esque vocals in the new tracks showed an expansion to the songwriting from the band. The new EP ‘Split in Two / Friends House’ is ballsy and direct, more of a British sound to it than in parts of ‘Turbulence’, however, both tracks really do feel like Broken Hands songs. They have that heavy-yet-sexy signature on them, like Orson Welles in his prime. This is very much the case with ‘Split in Two’ where everything in the song is bouncing off that colossal riff. ‘Friends House’, on the other hand, is a cascading shoe gaze affair. This again hints at a development from the first album but has the same sardonic tone of tracks like ‘Meteor’.

Speaking of good old ‘Meteor’, a fan favorite, the song went down so well at The Eagle Inn that it did indeed set all the fire alarms off. This was of no matter to Broken Hands, who seemed spurred on by this screeching interruption as if they felt the need to keep time with the endless ring. It was no more a hindrance to the audience, who were prepared to risk fire and possibly brimstone to watch a terrific set.

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SINGLE RELEASE: SPQR – ‘Slowly’

WORDS BY NATHAN BAILEY

Let’s beat no bushes. SPQR are a great band. They are one of the best new sounds spilling out of our neighbour down the East Lancs road. As a live act they can be riotous, at times mournful, but above all else always passionate. They are a band on the up, playing some really great nights across the north west recently such as their first ever sell out headline gig back in Liverpool and being handpicked by Everything Everything for a night at Band On The Wall. With much clamour and excitement the band have also recently signed to native northern label ModernSky.  

So now here we are with ‘Slowly’, SPQR’s  self professed first ‘proper studio’ record. It is very proper indeed. Very well produced, ‘Slowly’ sounds something of a divergence from their soul punk live sound. The song bounces along with tin of pop rhythms and a bass sound that is both warm and crisp at the same time, like really good chips.

With a strange alien wobble rippling upon the lid of the tune, interchanging with great monolith backing vocals this song is an all encompassing three minutes which indulges you before dropping you off at your destination on the other side with a quick chop-and-you’re-gone finish. After kicking our heads in live SPQR haven’t finished with us, trying out for size some crafted guitar pop. and guess what? The shoe fits, Slowly is more than ready for the airwaves.

The high water mark of the track is a quick break into a piano lead, waltzy and sorrowful lament. This allows singer Peter Harrison to give his really, really great voice a run out. There is an honest beauty in this tender snippet of songwriting, before rising back up into the now almost inevitable smash and grab crescendo finish, bass pushing back up and vocal tracks now whirring almost in competition with each other before ‘Slowly’ slips out the door, or more likely jumps out the window.

The streaming numbers on ‘Slowly’ are ticking ever upwards,  but do not worry. The miracle of the algorithm means that ‘Slowly’ will never run out. This does not mean you shouldn’t go and listen to the single with great urgency. The band are already confirmed for Liverpool Sound city next year, and put your money on their being at least a handful of exciting announcements from the band between now and then. 

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EP RELEASE: Blanketman – ‘Sick & Tired/Flip It Over’

WORDS BY NATHAN BAILEY     PHOTOS BY THROUGH THE EYES OF RUBY

Manchester post-punks Blanketman have something new for their growing following to enjoy. They have been paying their dues in town for the past few months, with some successful outings with the likes of Phobophobes and Liverpool’s SPQR And now they’ve put out two new tunes; ‘Sick & Tired’ & ‘Flip It Over’ and boy are they are two interesting tracks indeed. The single is full of vitriol, menace, and eye-shifting paranoia.

Like any good double A single, there’s a lot of space between these tunes, the band are getting the most out of the format and showing off their range. ‘Sick & Tired’ is a sprawling, moody track. There is something tangibly Mancunian about the grand and commanding guitar sounds, and the purpose with which this track pushes on. ‘Sick & Tired’ is not a melancholic song. This is goodbye, and thanks for fuck all. Sick and tired of vacuous promises, “five more years” indeed. The track is raucous but disciplined, pulling you near the anti-symphonic atmosphere of the very best of the genre. The rolling bass and drums are trying to get you there, seemingly streaming straight out of Public image Ltd. in about nineteen eighty five.

Singer Adam Hopper’s scours pessimistically through most of the track, pub-pissed off and cynical, briefly hitting a melodic touch, if nonchalantly, before pushing you out of the way and getting back into the rancour of the song. We thrust towards the end with expected thorns, thumps and rattles . ‘Sick & Tired’ is a song that forms in front of you, and as such comes in rather long at over five minutes. But as one of Manchester’s more famous sons said, “it’s not repetition…”

‘Flip it Over’ is more of a flash in the pan. It is a little pocket of shouty flat earth paranoia. Who doesn’t want more songs about Flat Earthers? ‘Flip It Over’ is a great little tune, with wonderfully drizzly bass and tinker guitar. Along with the pavement slab drums this sounds almost like a summer number. Of course, this is not the outcome of the song.  This pogo-ing rhythm starts to layer in under the dark delivery of Hopper, in which even waking up on your back sounds like a nightmare. There is a sweaty and paralyzing feeling to this track, if Dostoevsky had seen the dark side of the internet and got really into ‘Unknown Pleasures’. God does not smite us, and the track bops along with some more grouchy guitar and fearful wailing and howling vocals demanding not to flip it over. You should ignore this. Flip it over and play it again (digitally of course).

Both tracks are available on Spotify right very much now! Blanketman have a likely to be last gig of the year at night people on the 8th of December at night people. They have also just their first trip out of greater Manchester, all the way to lovely Hebden Bridge supporting Brix & The Extricated on the 24th of November. Go and catch them whilst you can. There will be big things in the future.

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