When Mark E Smith died in January 2018, nights playing only The Fall seemed to spring up everywhere – well, London and Hebden Bridge – but surprisingly, not Manchester. Deciding this was not on, myself and Daniel Cooke, of Let’s Make This Precious, got in touch with the Star & Garter with a view of putting on a one-off Fall club night; strictly all The Fall, all night. Onlookers praised the talents of Smith and saluted his memory, late into the night.
The evening went off without a hitch so, it felt only right to do it once more, this time on Saturday 23rd March 2019 – one year on from the previous display of memorial affection for the Fall singer. Entry is £5 per person, with the night running from 11 pm ’til 3 am. Want to know more? You can RSVP to the event right HERE.
There’s room for this to become an annual celebration. Taking a look back at his career here are some tracks that we’ll be playing on the night that speak to a unique artist that remains peerless from his generation.
Rock n Roll isn’t even music really. It’s a mistreating of instruments to get feelings over
The Fall would have happened regardless of punk – the young Mark E Smith was already chaining Captain Beefheart, The Velvet Underground, CAN etc – but the ’76 moment provided an open door for Smith to sneak through and an infrastructure on which to launch.
Industrial Estate is probably the only point in the Fall’s history where they sound aligned with what’s going on around them. This track was recently used at the end of Ben Wheatley’s film of the Ballard book High Rise, and was perhaps the only good thing about that film. There’s a bit of a parallel with Smith and Ballard; both lived in suburbia, writing about the weird from a non-metropolitan vantage point, and were sneered at for this.
The fact that weird fiction/horror writers like HPLovecraft, Arthur Machen and MR James are widely read now is thanks in no small part to Smith championing their work at a time when those names (especially Machen) had fallen well out of favour. Pulp horror would be a huge influence on Smith’s writing (MarkFisher wrote brilliantly on this in his essay Memorex for the Krakens), and The Fall track, Wings, is the most successful, most thrilling embodiment of that. The song’s protagonist appears to be shot during the US Civil War, which is the trigger for him hitting a cosmic timelock darts him back to 1825 and then forward to the present, via gremlins and flabby time-traveling wings. Billy Bragg this ain’t.
The fact that The Fall burned through some sixty-six members is well-documented but is also a bit of a red herring if you’re looking for clues about the man. He was a great artist, he just looked nothing at all like our expectations of great artists. 6ft with a stoop and wearing your grandad’s slacks, he dressed like a man twenty years older than his age and cultivated an image more akin to a world-weary mafia boss than an avant-garde musician. But he was an avant-garde musician, which does mean that a lot of The Fall isn’t really aimed at the dancefloor. When it is, however, the results are thrilling. Hear the birth of LCD Soundsystem on Telephone Thing. James Murphy would even directly lift the track’s “I’m tapped” hook for the 2005 single Movement.
As Let’s Make This Precious‘ co-DJ Daniel Cooke likes to remind me, The Fall were nothing if not a great cover’s band. Victoria, There’s a Ghost in My House, White Lightening – some of the group’s definitive cuts were covers. Lost In Music is my personal favourite. Released in 1992, you can hear the influence of this track’s louche WMC disco all over Pulp’s His’n’Hers, which would come out two years later. Sensibly, Mark E Smith sat out the Britpop thing. Insensibly, he used it as an opportunity to go bankrupt.
There was a view peddled in obituaries last year that MarkE Smith declined as an artist, that the booze got to him; this is a wrong view. Imperial Wax Solvent, The Unutterable, Your Future Our Clutter – just three utterly indispensable post-millennium Fall albums, and there’s plenty more where that came from. Just listen to Dedication Not Medication, the electroclash banger from TheFall’s penultimate LP. You know that awkward moment when you go to the doctors over your chronic bedwetting, but the GP is Piers Brosnan and he’s prescribing you Curly Wurly bars? More than anything, Mark E Smith was overlooked as a surrealistic, a Manchester Magritte. And, just so you know, that bassline is about to demolish your flat.
The Prodigy were cool in a different way than other bands that found mainstream success during their reign as unique figureheads of the alternatives and dissenters – as well as being a crucial part of the soundtrack to the last pre-internet-generation of music fans. They’d established a dedicated following well before that though – via desire to listen to them, dance and nothing else. Being part of a movement back then happened without online chat-rooms, or, any other form of internet based-promotion. People came, heard and told everyone else what they were missing. This often took place in old, industrial areas at illegal raves, or at within the networks of parties, that people had. Spaces simply had to be found, because the thought of not getting together to celebrate what being alive is really about – shaking off the drudge of the working week and the stifling constrictions of nine to five just wasn’t feasible.
The big sound, packed full of fuck offs and meaty beats, injected the power of being alive into you. The party well and truly started as soon as people heard those unmistakable sounds of The Prodigy. Mayhem and love met. They brought people together, as the experience was always better shared. Many wild nights were made more-wild by watching your mates take it all in – it was as if you needed to observe someone else, at times, just to make sense of the sheer power and force occurring. They watched you too. It was reciprocal; the magic of it kept the wonderful self-fulfilling loop of it going. A rocket-fuelled ceremony on repeat.
Even when they hit big, and were at their commercial peak, The Prodigy still maintained a status as separate. They celebrated many punk attitudes both in their sound and image: raw energy, individuality and sheer love of the music, amongst other attributes that never fail to mobilise new listeners within a generation. So much more than that though, they reached people of varying tastes, penetrating clicks and usually closed off clubs. If you were Oasis or Blur didn’t matter. The Prodigy offered something else entirely and were too likeable to not enjoy. They were immersive and immediate. Everyone knew. Contemporaries watched and learnt, even if they didn’t give the praise The Prodigy deserved. It didn’t matter to them. The sound and the fans did – making as much of an impact as possible, whenever and wherever they could.
Their enigmatic front man, who originally joined as a dancer, epitomised what music can offer, exploiting perfectly via the electronic sermons, that he was the divine instigator of, harmony, happiness and collective expression. Keith Flint achieved the rare accolade of being the coolest person in music without any accusations of selling out. The man simply wasn’t capable of that. Yes, he changed, but only in so much as the party got bigger and better, and he adapted for that. He dressed for the occasion, but not for marketing purposes or to sell an image.
He was genuine, and that’s what people wanted to emulate more than anything. He was adored, but not with sycophantic adulation. His achievement was the total respect of those who knew how dull and flat life can get without someone to get things blazing. Keith wore the uniform of self, proudly, and taught others that they could too, and should. He wasn’t interested in being shocking or making statements. He was too intelligent for that, and simply not interested. He just liked to dress that way, so he did. Of course, there was some theatricality in his peerless performances, but that was the music flowing into him and pouring back out. He caught the energy of the crowd – a filter for the moment. It was clear he loved making people happy by doing what he loved.
One way to measure bands, a method that separates forgettable from legendary, is how they hold up in a live performance. The Prodigy were made for performing, and if they were there, so were their army of followers – many from the early days – Keith was well known as “that dancer”, at the parties that stemmed from the early nineties’ own Summer of Love. First up and last off the floor, no doubt. Some of the future crowd probably spent time alongside him, although none could compete. He was the public talisman of the group, the face that let everyone knew they were creating something. Bonding. Mattering. It was the Holy Grail for many, to go and see The Prodigy live.
The inclusion of their track, Mindfields, from The Prodigy’s seminal 1997 album, Fat of The Land (it was a landmark record that stands up today and paved the way for so much) on the soundtrack to The Matrix (1999) is entirely unsurprising. It shows how culturally relative they were, somehow tuned in to what people needed, not just wanted. If anything is going to jolt you out of a fugue-state it’s Keith’s sneering vocal, to the backdrop of an impossibly clever array of noises that collectively, could cure zombification in an instant, by the sheer musical excitement.
His delivery incites a sort of static-shock, absent from mainstream music today. If you’re ever unsure of what’s real and what’s not, then listen to that and watch the hairs on your arms start tingling and dancing. It’s honestly just not an option to stay still when you play their music and hear Keith make the announcement “This is Dangerous”. Indeed, in the best possible way. You can’t ignore it, even if it’s not for you. The stuff it’s made of won’t let you. Those crashing battering rams of drumming, the sublime, synthesised sonics of reverb and bent notes.
Following news of Keith’s death, even with him gone from mortal form, his light will continue to make many sparkle and fizz with heat and never want to be extinguished, for even a second. An absolute icon and cultural phenomenon. He’ll be much missed. Though his death may cause many, for a while, to feel that a flame within them has been extinguished – for older fans perhaps seemingly snuffing out that eternal burning combustion that is youthful reminiscence, the inevitable tears won’t stop him starting fires for long. They mustn’t and can’t. There are too many parties yet to first discover him and the petrol of his song. Once they do, like so many before, they’ll burst to life, ignite and make the night go boom.
Having formed in Oxford almost fifteen years ago, life for an indie millennial is unimaginable without Foals. Whether it’s that Hummer or Spanish Sahara come to mind whenever you think of the hit coming-of-age series that explained it teenagehood to us – Skins. Or, you spent a long Summer with What Went Down on a repetitive loop: the iconic sound of the five-piece is continually recognisable.
The post-punk tinged debut album Antidotes from the quartet shot the band to fame in 2008, reaching Number 3 in the UK Album Chart and formally putting the ‘math-rock’ sub-genre on the mainstream map. Fourteen years on, social media was rife with their announcement of not only a fifth studio album in the works, but also a sixth this very same year, from the infamous alt-rock group.
Antidotes and the band themselves were a catalyst for this fresh take on indie rock, with a pop-like beat that splattered a burst of colour across the dark independent scene and coaxed it out of the dreary depths it was headed toward. The emergence and rise of acts such as Everything, Everything, and Bombay Bicycle Club (with a young Lucy Rose on backing vocals) saw a new, refreshing electronic twist on indie. Yes, there are still lyrics of love-lost and political anguish but presented with a quirky smile and a synthesiser accompaniment.
Foals’ identity is personified with singles featuring on classic noughties TV shows Misfits and Skins, which featured depictions of wayward teenage nights fueled by hormones and hyperactivity. Perhaps they were picked because they embodied that lifestyle already, as young men in their prime. The now legendary house parties that the band would host after the gigs of their early days, in the Victorian terrace which they inhabited in Oxford were quite rightly, the place to be. It may now be folklore but once upon a time Foals would swoop into the after-parties of local friends and gig-goers, drill out a makeshift version of Antidotes and effervescently accompany attendees until the early hours of the morning. If lucky enough to attend, it could perhaps be compared to Dave Haslam’s early claim to fame that Sonic Youth slept on his floor?
Since the aboriginal days of Foals, they became not uncommon amongst festival lineups and would easily sell-out an arena tour, but will also happily dwell within smaller venues – thus highlighting their adoration for meeting the need of the every-man. Their show is equally glorious whether at Bristol’s SU – The Anson Rooms (2015) – or headlining the world’s largest festival; Glastonbury in 2016. Alongside their two new albums that are quickly approaching us in 2019, they’re once again in their rightful place. Slotted in amongst festival lineups at Truck, INMUSIC, Y Not and what seems like every day-to-day breakdown – as well as a stand-alone worldwide tour – there’s a buzz around Foals yet again. Though perhaps it never left.
Each time they’re on stage, an audience gyrates to the likes of Two Steps Twice and Inhaler, lip-syncs every word and leaves with a beaming sense of euphoria. Oxford, the city that brought us Radiohead, also brought us Foals, two indisputably British bands that remain amongst music chatter decades after their debut on to the circuit. Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (parts 1 & 2) will satisfy our quench for more when really we’ve already had so much – but not nearly enough.
Foals relate to your every-man who sailed through their teenage years with Providence as the backdrop, even just twisting to it alone in your bedroom. It’s their history of house parties and comradery with fans that pins them down as an act that we can relate to. “I’m an animal just like you” repeated in Yannis’ signature deep vocals, whilst Jack, Jimmy, and Edwin breakthrough with a feisty calamity of instruments. I for one have had “I’ve seen Foals seven times” “well I’ve seen them ten times” moments, is even witnessing them a claim to fame? They’re like you, they started from nothing and now here they are.
January blues, diet plans, financial experts and Interior invited to predict the must-see acts over the next 12 months for MCR Live. Proverbial hot cakes on-sale right now include the likes of The Orielles, HolyNow and Hen Ogledd. Some other names that spring to mind include offerings from Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, BC Camplight, SwedishMagazines and many more – so little time, so many bands! So here are our top picks to look out for over the coming months:
Leah Senior (Thursday 7th February, The Castle Hotel)
Leah hails from Melbourne, Australia, and is signed to King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard’s FlightlessRecords label. Fans may already be familiar with her work as the haunting narrator on the bands 2017’s ‘Murder of The Universe’ album by King Gizzard. She heads to Europe in February on her first headline tour. Be warned though, this is as far removed from the world of King Gizzards‘ as you can get, her unique dark folk is just the cure for the winter months.
James Chance + Les Contortions (Friday 15th March, Soup Kitchen)
Central figures in the foundation of the No Wave scene in NYC back in the late 70’s, their first recording was produced by Brian Eno. James Chance used to jump off stage and attack members of the audience who, in his estimation, weren’t exerting enough energy during his earlier gigs – taking into account the fact that he is now 64, I think we MIGHT just be alright. We don’t like to draw opinions on our approach to how we offer shows across the UK / what’s the formula (who cares) but this is is a fine example of the cross over between old and new worlds collide. The music can do the talking on this one.
Sauna Youth (UTR LABEL TAKEOVER) Sat 30th March
We emailed UTRHQ back in June and proposed a takeover / showcase at TheWhiteHotel to celebrate 10 years of the formation of the label. The night features SaunaYouth, TrashKit, Gutternsipe and Dog Chocolate. Fans of UTR will be familiar with their discovery of JohnMaus, MacDeMarco and Apostle. The label seems unstoppable and continue to promote shows the UTR moniker. We last caught SaunaYouth in the summer at SoupKitchen, on the back of their third album. Avid listeners will be familiar with the repetitive and grinding guitar loops of SaunaYouth, with lyrics referencing the daily struggle, politics and working life – delivered in less than 120 seconds.
Strange Cages + Working Men’s Club (Friday 29th March at The Castle, Manchester / Saturday 30th March at HPBC, Leeds)
Strange Cages, are a band that have been building a big reputation down south for some time now, swirling psych riffs reminiscent of Nuggets. Wall-to-wall riffs and squelching vocals to keep your attention all night long. But also, joining them on both nights we have Manchester babes WorkingMen’s Club. Their next single ‘Bad Blood’ is set to be released next month via Melodic. Already in their short existence they have supported The Brian JonestownMassacre and TheWeddingPresent (a mean feet for any group).
Girls In Synthesis (The Castle, Thursday 11th April)
Girls In Synthesis, we invited these to join the DamoSuzukiAll Day Ordeal (May 2018) that had the last backing group of TheFall as sound carriers. We also brought SexCells to the North for the first time. From the off, the group got in the audiences faces, literally decamping the entire stage to the floor, think Fugazi, Albini and Crass. Interior isn’t just a ‘promoter’ we work with some of the most interesting bands and DJs we can get a hold of, since September we have been working alongside the group to set up their first headline tour this coming April and securing them a support slot at BrixtonAcademy with WolfAlice a few weeks ago.
The Membranes + Henge (The Ritz, 8th June)
Membranes frontman John Robb is no stranger to the Manchester punk scene, his now annual event at The Ritz has come along way. Now in its third year, it has been host to TheLovely Eggs,Brix & The Extricated, Sink Ya Teeth and The Blinders. This year is no exception, with most of the lineup still to be teased out over the next couple of months. But for kick off we have Henge,Glove and The Membranes.
Henge are an endearing live act and a festival favourite in the North, where they’ve brought their galactic antics to events like Bluedot, KendalCalling and Beat-Herder. Firm favourites, big things are expected this year from this group. Claiming partly to be from Manchester but also some other far flung galaxy under the spell of krautrock (perfect Interior medicine).
Over the year, 2018 weened out a host of new acts that met the limelight. From Boy Azooga to Parcels, independent acts have blown-up the music scene and set their sights on the big-time. But what can come through in 2019? Of course we don’t know yet who are going to rise up from the depths of their rehearsal spaces and practice rooms but our MCRLive contributors have selected the next generation of acts that they can see appearing on your playlists over the next twelve months.
WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER
Their name comes from the “colour that disappeared” – the deep blue pigment that surfaced in the Egyptian period and vanished until it was rediscovered in the Roman Era – but be assured, EgyptianBlue aren’t going to disappear any time soon. The Southern four-piece have cropped up slotted in amongst the vinyls of record shops up and down the country, as well as featured on many a ‘top track of 2018’ list from BBC Radio6 to Piccadilly Records. Although still relatively unknown, they’re more than likely to break the mould in 2019 and be presented at some of your favourite venues.
FFO. Squid, Duds, Sorry.
WORDS BY JESSICA CAMPBELL
Think of the South of England and your mind will probably be drawn to the colourful stony beaches of Brighton, the White Cliffs that lead to more exotic places or the first right of passage as a rowdy 16-year-old, Newquay. But Portsmouth? It’s more than likely that you’d probably only recognise it as the place you’d pass through to get to Bestival (RIP). However, one band are about to change this – mainly hailing from these haunts comes the macabre Hotel Lux. Though a young band, the 5-piece provide gritty realism through their lyrics – case in point being smash single of 2018 ‘Daddy’ which focuses on the often overlooked seedy underbelly of every city, all which seem to possess a sense of familiarity for front-man Lewis which in turn will leave you wholly satisfied, if not with realistic world portrayed through their lyrics. If you like dark, punky music that your mum probably won’t get, these are your guys.
FFO. Lady Bird, Goat Girl, The Rhythm Method.
LAVA LA RUE
WORDS BY EMMA LANGFORD
Lava La Rue is a west-London rapper last year releasing ‘LAVALAND’ consisting of a few short tapes integrating soft vocals with the sounds of London showcasing her personal style. Earlier on in the year in June, she released her EP ‘Letra’ showing a more hip-hop infused, upbeat sound. The track ‘Widdit’ was a success, bagging her a show on the notorious YouTube channel ‘A Colors Show’, a platform promoting fresh talent. Lava La Rue is also the founder of the nine8collective, a London based music, and arts collective, promoting and collaborating the work of its artists and musicians. La Rue’s silky lyrics and distinctive sound have caught the attention of many listeners. She is one to look out for in 2019.
FFO.Biig Piig, Poppy Ajudha, Puma Blue
WORDS BY CRAIG HOPKINSON
32 Tens are a Warrington based indie rock band, are set to make a serious impact on the unsigned, emerging U.K. music scene in 2019. This awesome band is already receiving thousands of streams and playlist features on Spotify, are members of the quickly growing AWAL independent music community to distribute globally and have also played a tranche of gigs across the U.K. for the last eighteen months. Their music is an energetic blend of harmonic melody, intense, heavy drums, funky bass, and lead guitar solos and very dynamic lyrics. The intensity and passion really shine through with every song and performance and so these guys are definitely a band to watch out for next year.
FFO. The Snuts, Rascalton, Chappaqua Wrestling
WORDS BY JESSICA CAMPBELL
Listen to just 30 seconds of one of their songs or seeing their oversized art-rock cum new-romantic inspired attire and you’ll wonder whether what you’re listening to is from now, or some 20 years ago. Inhaling the somewhat ‘twisted’ society around them and exhaling glittering tracks like ‘No Need For A Curtain’, which explores a documentary based on prostitution in Leeds, Walt Disco are breathing a new and beautifully flamboyant life (far beyond their years) into the flourishing Glasgow music scene. Punk AF. Glamorously gothic, with elements of Bowie ringing clear (both in haunting stage prowess, to recorded sound) everything the quintet do catches the eye. Need a douse of something refreshing to fit with your new year revamp? Walt Disco have it all.
FFO. Crack Cloud, HMLTD, The Ninth Wave (and banging clothes).
WORDS BY JACK MCKEEVER
The London-based producer/DJ Imogen took the final quarter of 2018 by storm. She turned in a stonking hour mix for Rob Booth’s legendary Electronic Explorations series, and her impossibly murky breaks assault ‘Katla’ was a highlight of Mumdance’s ‘Shared Meanings’ mix CD. She takes severe techno as a starting point and splices into various grinding, wiggling forms, making tracks as likely to make one quiver as to bang fists. Early 2019 sees her appear in Brussels alongside Charlotte De Witte, and in June she’ll appear at the hallowed Junction2 Festival in her hometown. Here’s to hoping there’ll also be a load of seismic releases from her throughout the year.
WORDS BY RUSSELL HOPE
When you know you’re good you have to be incredibly good to back up that arrogance and cock-sureness of knowing how good you are and then you come across those artists that do what they do with humble confidence and appreciation of where they are and where they are going in their career. Boy Azooga is the latter and the captain of the ship (Davey Newington) has the full respect of those who have listened to his debut album ‘1, 2, Kung Fu’. Through the full variety, ranging from the grit of ‘Loner Boogie’ to the sheer brilliance and beauty of ‘Jerry’. After witnessing the album live at Bluedot in the summer, you just know that the follow up to this album has the potential of being even better. I can thank Mary-Anne Hobbs from BBC Radio 6 for opening my ears to this one and after being live on there last month I’m sure Davey is thankful too.
FFO. The Orielles, Pip Blom, The Vryll Society
WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER
Make way for the act that stole the show in 2018’s festival scene: ConfidenceMan. If you’re a Disco fanatic, you’ll know of the icon that is RosinMurphy and her ability to immediately get the floor moving. Like the Disco Queen herself, the two-piece has faced audiences who didn’t know the ConfidenceMan title and left them proclaiming their excellence. Feel-good gets a re-boost with this group, they know exactly what to say to make it right and brighten any negativity. I for one am angling to see this pair at a festival in 2019, having heard that their spectacle of a show lets the euphoria run right up your spine. It’s Pop, it’s Disco, it’s Dance. It’s everything you need in 2019.
FFO. Methyl Ethel, Winston Surfshirt, Haiku Hands
WORDS BY SOPHIE BILLINGTON
This four-piece band of men in Liverpool offers a clean but heavy sound with a lot of smooth talking. With guitars and drums that take turns in the spotlight, Persian Hugs are a classic rock outfit that are simultaneously polite and gentlemanly yet wild and unruly. The lead, Henry Belcher, is the kind of man that you want to take home to meet your parents but not for very long. Every release has been a hit so far and Persian Hugs’ following is fast growing on Spotify due to the undeniable panache that comes across in the band’s deliverance of mature and thoughtful stories.
FFO. Sea Girls, Red Rum Club, Corella
WORDS BY RICHARD SAMUEL
Another Sky burst on to the scene in 2017 with their progressive indie rock, that has a real cinematic quality to it. Gluing together some real classic elements with a tangible rawness, sharp observant lyrics, dark yet uplifting and the distinct vocals of Catrin Vincent that are hauntingly beautiful. If you go deeper you will find ambient guitars layered upon penetrating bass lines and apprehensive beats. Think Radiohead meeting The xx but with added bite and you’ve got something that is thrillingly haunting. I also love the lyrics “Why worry ‘bout the weather or nuclear weapons when you can eat for free on a black card at Nandos?” on recent single ‘Chillers’, which show a band wanting to tackle big issues instead of singing about why their ex has broken their heart.
FFO. Sam Fender, Stereo Honey, Art School Girlfriend
WORDS BY JESSICA CAMPBELL
I’m going to go ahead and say it – Patawawa released the catchiest tune of 2018. Ever since monster-single ‘Patagonia’ dropped, the Matlock-based trio have gone from strength to strength playing up and down the country to packed out crowds at headline gigs and festivals alike and (not-so) rumours have it, a new EP is set to drop in the coming weeks. As new bop ‘Wires’ exhibits, Patawawa are showing no signs of stopping – taking their inherently Nu-Disco sound to new levels with Latin flavours sprinkled throughout. Hearing all this, I’m sure that you can imagine that no matter when you hear them, listening to Patawawa it’ll feel like you’ve been thrust back to the midst of the summer. And live? If you’re having a shit day, the three-piece will be sure to change that with beaming smiles as they bounce around the stage, filling any room with a contagious energy that doesn’t slow down for a second.
FFO. Parcels, Crazy P, Franc Moody
WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER
It’s rare nowadays that anyone doesn’t have a social media presence, let alone a music act aiming to rise up through the ranks. Meet black midi. A quick scan of their scarce social media pages shows they only post their gig listings and nothing else. Word-of-mouth has brought them an alert fan-base, each passing on the folklore of this newcomer with no online bearing. Clamouring for every scrap of information they can find, the BRITSAcademy graduates: blackmidi are in high demand. It’s a unique math-rock take on the independent acts floating around nowadays. As individual in their promotion as they are in their performance, go see for yourself at their twenty *almost* consecutive January and February 2019 tour dates.
For all musical acts, there are tracks that stand their own. Whether it cements their career, signifies a change in direction or, on a grander scale, is unique to the industry – musicians are graded song by song. Over the twelve months of marvelous music that 2018 brought us, there were a whole host of singles that catalysed careers and united fans across the country. But which records stood out for the contributors at MCR Live? Which songs will outlive the year and remain lodged in our brains (and playlists)? Take a look at what we picked, right here:
‘Curse of the Contemporary’ was released, seemingly out of nowhere, in April by Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay (Tuung) under the name LUMP. It was at the beginning of our heatwave, and that bass-line became the staple of my summer. Now, it feels just as fresh as it did back then – Marling’s gorgeous vocals glide effortlessly between octaves over Lindsay’s almost hazy sounding guitar. ‘”f you should be bored in California, I’m sure I’m not the first to warn ya” threatens to stay in your head on a loop for weeks, but it’s hard to complain; it never gets old.
By now, you’re used to lyrics about anguish and pity towards the World, cast alongside a heavy punk-edged, indie bassline. The lead singer straddles their Fender, gaunt black makeup streaked down their face. ‘Only My Honesty Matters’ gladly sets that image aside. The ‘B’ in B.E.D. is Baxter Dury, the stark voiced son of punk legend Ian Dury – of Madness fame – whose vocals take lead in the track. Much like his famous father, Baxter’s voice is a thick, cockney drawl which pours out the lyrics put together by himself and singer/songwriter Dellilah Holiday ‘D’, of London-based punk act Skinny Girl Diet.
It’s a modern-day poem that speaks of how predictable and complacent society has become: “Listening to Florence & The Machine and having a roll-up/Impudent white, obvious people with shocking clothes and awful music, red death and assigned to being a nob/alternative thoughts, alternative clothes or leisurely dressed boss, corduroy, all-in-one time team”. The backdrop is a repetitive chorus of drums and synths orchestrated by Dellilah and ‘E’: composer and musician Etienne De Crecy. It’s not the commonplace political, bohemian angry song, that leaves you with sweat dripping from the nape of your neck. It’s stating the obvious, it’s matter-of-fact, it’s not mocking us, it’s pointing the finger. It’s Dury.
Early on this year, lady of the moment Gou released a classic house track on Ninja Tune that undoubtedly deserves a mention. What makes this such a stand-out tune is that it has so many layers throughout, possessing both buoyant energy and features her own enchanting Korean vocals throughout. The depth of the track stands out against her previous releases, a step away from her synthy disco signature.
‘It Makes You Forget (Itgehane)’ has since had many remixes, which reveal the appeal it has had to more artists in the electronic music scene. It remains fresh and current while lending to the classic 1990s-house background, and it’s clear this is just one of many more exciting releases coming from Peggy Gou.
Known for crafting a U.K. rock sound so iconic that it would later be engrained into the woodwork or concrete of every rock dance floor across the country for a decade. ArcticMonkeys released ‘Four Out of Five’ in 2018 with a completely fresh musical idiom.
With a new ’80s funk-influenced, down-tempo and up-stroke guitar infused sound that stunned fans everywhere, Alex Turner and the rest of the band released a really dynamic and thoughtful concept album, ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’, and ‘Four of Five’ was released as its lead single.
Accompanied by an awesome music, video which pays great homage to science fiction movies; ‘The Shining’ and ‘A Space Odyssey 2001’ by Stanley Kubrick, ‘Four Out of Five’ is jam-packed with layers of lyrical storylines and cryptic narratives, a unique and brand new sonic pallet with instrumentation that is off the charts, and a whole new artistic direction.
Last month, Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and prolific producer Danger Mouse dropped Lux Prima, the first single from an exciting project (due next year) the two have embarked on. It’s a nine-minute-long, sandwich of a song – it opens and ends with an ambient, winding synth section featuring an Air-esque drum and bass line. Three minutes in, this ends and Karen’s distinctive vocals work together with a string staccato, crooning ‘I’m nowhere / I’m no one / I’m nobody / There’s nobody but you’. The looping structure enables us to get fully immersed for a while in a dreamy, astral soundscape while we wait for more of this fascinating collaboration.
If you found yourself circulating electronic music festivals this summer, this will surely be one of your most heard and remembered tracks. The blissful tones of this relaxed yet stimulating dance track will be sure to inspire minds for months to come. Sampling the vocals from 1972 track “Neither One of Us” by Gladys Knight proves a success running throughout creating a haunting edge and a message about heartbreak.
One of the most interesting points about this track is the fact that it is made up of synths and melodies quite simplistic, yet it does not sound simple in the slightest. Coming straight off his album Knock Knock, this tune is an ultimate crowd pleaser which will be circulating electronic music for a while to come.
Of course, promoters are at the heart of pushing forward the next wave of musicians that meet the crowds. Sabotage is amongst them, eagerly selecting their best picks from the scene and vying for the attention of an audience. The collective presents some of the greatest upcoming musical talents from across the countries network of independent acts and hoists them on a pedestal at some of Manchester’s best venues. Previous events at Jimmy’s, The Castle Hotel and Soup Kitchen, have seen the likes of Catholic Action, Husky Loops, The Starlight Magic Hour and many, many more that passed under the Sabotage moniker. Next up, they have the likes of Deja Vega, Psyence and Deh – Yey taking to TheCastleHotel on Saturday 16th February. But. ahead of all that, check out their cream of the crop which their expecting to see big things from in 2019, right here:
After a busy first half of 2018 supporting the likes of Declan McKenna as well as a smattering of festival slots over the summer, FEET released 3 really high-quality singles. Their knack for originality both lyrically and musically under the ever increasing, cheesy, landfill indie blanket, sets them apart from so many similarly labeled bands. Their live show is manic, fun and exciting. If their new songs are anything like their latest releases, 2019 promises to be a great year for them.
Slowhandclap are a band that has taken a year or so to blossom, naturally, but now they are in full bloom and ready to fuck your earholes. Their influences are plain to see, worn on their sleeves – this is a band that is exciting and fresh though. Expect laid back, head bonking verses, silky grooves, meaty riffs, and guitars laden with enough tenacity and skill to impress any wannabe axeman. They’ve just recently sold out The CastleHotel, in Manchester, and have a host of new singles coming out early in 2019. This band has everything at their disposal to be right up there. Watch this space!
Come 2019 it’ll have been 3 years on since La Mode released their incredible debut self -titled EP. In that time, they took a sabbatical for around a year, had a line-up change and really honed their sound. La Mode are now the complete package. Their exceptional vocalist Millie Sproston is an incomparable force to be reckoned with. The talent and musicianship of this band are exceptional, with maybe even the best rhythm section in Manchester. With a new EP currently in production and a live show that is exciting and monstrous, this could be the year that LaMode really pushes on. World, keep producing incredible female fronted bands.
In a time where “popular music” is so void of originality, Dylan sticks his middle finger up and says fuck you. Dylan is a dude, he can rap, sing, oh and he’s pretty damn good at the bass too. Hip-shaking grooves, laid-back rhythms, and bopping choruses are all part of his repertoire. His songwriting ability is only getting better and his live show is already polished, fun, and intoxicating. With a headline UK tour booked for March and more undoubtedly great music on the way, we see Dylan becoming a superstar.
Mealtime are an extremely exciting new band. Having only played 3 or 4 gigs, they are already in cahoots with promoting powerhouse DHP and rightly so. They’re cool cats, they ooze originality, have a knack for writing great songs. They also have an exceptional lyricist in Sam Craighan, at their helm. “If your love is a breeze in this blistering heat / Yeah then mine’s just the piss on the cold toilet seat”. They bring an army of synthesizers and a sound that is so raw and no-nonsense, that is nothing short of incredible.
We absolutely love this band. Two boys, Two girls, in your face, straight- up fun, aggressive, rock and roll. They do not give two shits who you are, they make music because it’s fun and that comes across live, as it always should. Their live set is relentless, not a single bum note, banger after banger. Watch them live in 2019 at a small venue before they explode. But hurry, because the fuse is already lit.
Ah black midi. We first heard about black midi back in March, when there was a small mention of them in So YoungMagazine. Immediately after, we scoured the internet far and wide: nothing. Having built a big reputation in London simply by word of mouth, they had no need for social media. On 27th April a live video emerged of them playing an untitled song in a session on YouTube (see above). This had us hooked, we understood the hype, reminiscent somewhat of the noughties underground math scene, although somewhat altogether more complete and encapsulating. We had to see this band live and immediately tried to book them. To our dismay, a band of this talent had already (obviously) been snapped up by a bigger and better promotor (NowWave) and Black Midi played the opening weekend at YES, one of Manchester’s newest venues. If you can track them down, go and see this band live, for you will never have seen anything like it in your life. Who knows what they have planned in 2019 other than their first headline tour. They now have social media platforms, although they will delete posts shortly after uploading them. Stay mysterious Black Midi, Sabotage loves you.
2018 has seen club culture experience both fantastic highs and some distressing lows. One thing that remains unchanged, however, is the passion, euphoria and boundary pushing that exists in modern electronic music. The art of the DJ mix is as powerful and necessary as ever, and this year saw many new faces, as well as some legends of the dance landscape, twist it into new dimensions.
Below are ten mixes that have made me grin, cry, clench my fists and punch the air and lose myself in deep thought consistently throughout 2018. Whether you’re into vast, eclectic house and techno experiments, silky and heavenly ambient or delirious drum’n’bass, there’ll be something for you to wrap your ears around here. As always, here’s to hoping you find something you love!
TRUANTS – Truancy Mix 228: Or:la
Hailing from Derry, Northern Ireland, Or:La has enjoyed a rightful boon over the last 18 months. She won hearts with her Boiler Room-documented set from Belfast’s AVA Festival last summer, and in September of this year she stepped into the hallowed Truancy booth and delivered what is, for this writer, the most sublime hour of music of the year. There’s an otherworldly flow to the mix, which reflects her narrative of ‘order into disorder’ as though it were broadcast from an alternate reality where life is blissfully blurry. No matter what stride or tone she settles upon (and there are a few here), her touch is mercurial, gracefully welding righteous humour into hypnotic techno contortions at the mid-way point and gliding through a finale of face-melting breaks, wonky EBM and star-gazing hardcore. Truly unique, truly un-fuckwithable.
Midland – As The City Sleeps
Midland’s ‘As the City Sleeps’ mix is one of 2018’s finest contributions to the ongoing ambient resurgence. He pulls at the tear ducts early via Bruised Skies’ ‘Low’ and Benoit Pioulard’s ‘An Image apart from Ourselves’. If there are any bleary-eyed cobwebs remaining halfway through then an excerpt from Jennie Livingston’s 1990 movie ‘Paris Is Burning’ meshed with Arthur Russell’s ‘Answers Me’ clears them completely. Conceived as a sort of companion piece to his 2017 ‘Fabric:Live’ mix, rounding off on Mark Hollis’ beautifully fragile ‘The Colour of Spring’ will fit perfectly against the backdrop of sunrise and the lo-fi thunder of the first train home.
Courtesy – Dekmantel Podcast 166
For what is, in my mind, the best Dekmantel podcast of the year, Danish techno heroine Courtesy turns in an hour of pounding hypnotism. Though she keeps the BPM rate bubbling at relatively similar levels throughout, it’s her versatility within that framework which makes the mix so captivating. Beautiful, dark, sometimes dystopian and always atmospheric, it pulls together a groove that seamlessly draws from different sectors and rejects tribalism. In essence, it does everything that is necessary for a properly communal listening experience.
SHYBOI – Resident Advisor Podcast 615
Discwoman member SHYBOI decimated Resident Advisor’s podcast series this year with an hour of visceral, warehouse-ready techno that oozes confidence and, crucially, wears a sense of fun on its sleeve throughout its intensity. It’s vital listening for both preparation for big nights out or just kicking away any start-of-week/day blues, especially it’s final fifteen minutes.
Hojo Clan – Clan Wars Podcast 004
March saw the enigmatic Hojo Clan collective deliver 40 minutes of searing, fist-clenching drum’n’bass experimentalism that feels like a pensive analogy for our nail-biting times. The narrative woven throughout of the mysterious warrior Kenshiro via the SoundCloud link is also to die for.
Call Super Essential Mix – 9/6/2018
One of the things that makes Joe Seaton, aka CallSuper, such a special DJ is the fact that he almost always does the last thing one expects him too. One thing some of his mixes do have in common is a deeply personal element, and his Essential Mix from June of this year is founded on that same premise. It finds him in a deliriously joyous, party-starting mode as he rolls through an individualistic wealth of glorious house and techno, cheeky garage, and in the second half off-kilter selections, each of which’s atmospheres is allowed to be held strikingly on their own merits. And there’s THAT astonishing fusion of Donato Dozzy’s ‘Cleo’ and Shackleton’s ‘Blood On My Hands’ (both vital tunes in shaping and continuing my interest in dance music respectively) at the hour mark. All of it is overseen by his inimitable, unpredictable virtuosity that although deliberately choppy, never loses its sense of grace.
Breakwave NTS Jungle Set – 5/5/2018
Rising Liverpool DJ Breakwave turned to glorious, feel good jungle for the second episode of her NTS residency in May. Like all classic jungle sets, there’s a healthy, warm soulfulness emanating from the pours of the mix, and as the heatwave struck the UK this summer, listening to this felt like sheer transcendence. There’s the rumbling push-and-pull between light and dark at play too, before Orca’s ‘Alive & Kickin’ hits at the half-hour mark and the mood stays locked at Jubilation.
Mumdance – Shared Meanings
The now legendary Mumdance’s ‘Shared Meanings’ (available as a free download in mix form, a cassette, a 12” AND a DJ-friendly compilation) makes concrete his reputation as one of those rare DJs who basically never put a foot wrong. It’s an hour and a half of previously unreleased music from some of modern electronic music’s most forward-thinking names (Chevel, Bambounou, JK Flesh, Homemade Weapons, Isabella, Nkisi) that clings closest to Mumdance’s rawest, darkest roots whilst being constantly buoyant. It’s essentially the best of 2018’s outliers, presented in poetic form by someone who understands modern dance expressionism better than most others.
Facta – Crack Mix 236
For CrackMagazine’s 236th mix, Oscar Henson aka Facta draws on a wealth of unreleased and forthcoming material from the likes of Lurka, Duckett, and Hodge, and his opting to fuse the futuristic with the club-focussed works an absolute treat over these 50 minutes. It’s one of the year’s most trance-inducing and alluring examples of deep-set, wiggling diversity, stretching to include a cavernous slow-burner from Iglew, a tension-ridden dub of Tirzah’s ‘Reach Hi’, twinkling half-step vibes, Gqom! And some of the year’s smoothest low-end techno.
Electronic Explorations 501 – Imogen
2018 saw Rob Booth’s legendary Electronic Explorations series reach its milestone 500 episode mark. Rising London DJ/Producer Imogen carried listeners into the new century in no-holds-barred, grinding fashion, taking the zeitgeist of techno-fused-with-electro to unique and idiosyncratic places. The mark of a great mix is often heralded by standout tunes that sound remarkable in their given context and create entire new contexts in doing so. The muscular assault of RXDX’s ‘Accredition Disk’ in the mix’s final throes is one such moment, but when she wields Ron Morelli’s ‘Laugh Taker’ it genuinely feels as though she’s transcended and left humanity to its fate, giggling with glee in the process. She’ll be a dominant force in 2019.
The greatest people and the art they make never stop influencing others. Those who lived whist they were in their hey day and those only just discovering it, many years after it was first released. They give a feeling that can’t be bottled and is worth any amount of money that could ever be dreamt up. Them, and their work, become details in people’s stories. Moments, that become immortal and are passed on as anecdotes years later. They cause nostalgia, which the more you think about that the more powerful the realisation is of how very special they and their innovations are.
As a global collective, fans always feel the loss of their icons. It’s astounding to think that we grieve for people we’ve never met. That’s the impact that music can have, and those that make it. Even in death, they bring people together. When a big name goes it’s always a sad day. Tributes pour in and out, with social media enabling exchanges that were never once possible. That global community of music lovers get to share sadness and perhaps it helps to soothe it; or, if not they can celebrate the lives of those they adored, at least. Sometimes though the community they plied their trade in and first gigged around is especially hard hit, when it loses one of its own.
Pete Shelley’s death is one that Manchester’s many music lovers (of all ages, tastes, and genres) were deeply grieved by; all are MCR are amongst them. It’s hard to say anything that’s not been said or try to capture how ingrained into Manchester and the music culture it’s so well known for. Him and the Buzzcocks were more than just a sound. They set trends in what people wore and somehow managed to find a middle ground between the more nihilistic aspect of Punk and the plastic pop sounds that flirted so heavily with Glam Rock. They were serious and fun, simultaneously. that showed just how much of an industry the music industry really was, always has been and still is. More than that though, the Buzzcocks did it first, paving the way for so much of what was to come out of Manchester, the surrounding area (as well as nationally and internationally). One local young musician’s Facebook tribute read, “Without the Buzzcocks, there are no SexPistols at the FreeTradeHall”. Put like that it’s staggering how much of an influence Shelley and the Buzzcocks are.
As a contributor for MCR, I know I talk on behalf of all here that going out to gigs, reviewing bands and interviewing them is a tremendous privilege and pleasure. Live music is the beating heart of culture. Manchester has a scene and history like no other place on the planet. Even those a few miles away, such as JoyDivision and The Verve, from Macclesfield and Wigan, are firmly symbols of Madchester. The Buzzcocks are a Bolton band, but few would know it; less care. The Buzzcocks were the original group that others have so much to thank for. The Smiths, TheStoneRoses, HappyMondays. Later, Oasis, the Charlatans. Many, many more. So too though to those acts and artists that aren’t household names. The number of people the Buzzcocks and Pete Shelley influenced to pick a guitar up, wear a leather jacket and dare to offer the world their truth (often all at once and part of the same parcel) can never be known. What is known is the legacy he left, that was more than just brilliant music, although ultimately that’s what lasts and will always be most celebrated. Quite right too.
Almost every well-known band has a hit they become known by and not just for. They don’t pick it and at times it overshadows other work that’s also brilliant, perhaps even better. The fans pick and that’s that. Even record labels have limits on song popularity, despite heavy marketing. The fact that their most well-known song, ‘Ever Fallen in Love’ (1978) didn’t even get into the top ten proves this point. It didn’t need to. It is top of so many playlists, and, settled so many arguments of truly great songs. It was and is the anthem the band is synonymous with. This isn’t going to change and nor should it. However, it is worth using it as a way into discovering the rest of the material made by (along with his bands) this truly innovative and much-missed man, who had an impressive solo career too. He’ll long remain someone that’s energy and attitude, distilled in music, will ensure people have no doubt that they well and truly should have, and were so glad that they did fall in love with.
The Poetics of Hip-Hop: On Uncommon Nasa’s Debut Book ‘Withering’
The US underground rapper releases a selection of his lyrics as poetry, as well as new pieces WORDS BY JACK MCKEEVER
The parallels between song-craft and poetry don’t need exploring. Rhyme and verse, in various forms, have been at the epicentre of discourse for as long as humans have been communicating. Just like language itself, poetry, prose and music have all evolved via numerous man-made indents, constantly adding new flavours and dimensions.
Nowhere is this truer than within the genre of hip-hop. Certainly, if you were to look at the rap music that permeates the charts these days – all searing drill-style noise and braggadocious assertions about wealth and sex – then it would seem poetry and storytelling have been demoted to the absolute basest of natures, hoodwinking the public into believing that consumerism is all that matters. But in rap’s gritty, surrealist underbelly the art of storytelling is in rude health, and New York MC Uncommon Nasa’s debut book ‘Withering’ is a multi-textured example.
Nasa’s writing and music stems from two deeply set wellsprings. The first is a desire to outline the truth. He’s a man who has been deeply embroiled in the media sphere via Twitter (though he recently announced that he would ‘no longer be utilising that space’) and the ‘Dope Sh!t‘ podcast which he co-hosts, but he’s also fully aware of the perils of mob mentality and the buffer that it can be. In its capacity as the most malleable and personal form of prose, the poetry in ‘Withering’ is almost an excuse for Nasa to convince himself – and the seemingly small number of people open to it – of the truth.
The second foundation for Nasa’s perspective is his rich history within the New York hip-hop scene. His rhyming and writing style comes from a long lineage of East Coast tendencies, from Mobb Deep’s grim-as-hell depictions of life in New York’s projects to El-P’s 21st century paranoia. His deliveries are resolutely off-kilter and his imagery treads the line between being opaque and direct, entwining the reality of any given subject matter with evocative, late-night analysis. Nasa doesn’t so much create characters as use them as terminals through which his worldview can pass. In ‘Withering’, those deeply personal traits are laid bare in refreshing ways.
Though most of the poems presented here are from Nasa’s musical back catalogue, when delivered outside of that context they take on a whole new precedence. It’s not the notion that hip-hop isn’t powerful or widely enjoyed enough to make an impact; that’s been a misconception since the genre began. It’s that, in ‘Withering’, the words are allowed new freedom, new space to breathe and roam, and to take on new meanings by design. As before, the ethos behind the collection is to deliver the truth from the perspective of a man who has reached and embraced the ‘halfway’ point in his life, but there are ideas here that could be like looking in a mirror for any deep thinker – ideas that don’t always seem obvious when listening to their three minute, experimental recorded incarnations.
Take a piece like ‘Black Hole’, for example: in terms of sonic effects, it’s one of the strangest, most dystopian pieces in Nasa’s recent recordings (from his 2017 LP ‘Written At Night’), and its bleak analysis of the darkest aspects of the media are hard to misread. But in the book it becomes part of a bigger whole. Disgust at the despondency of the human condition continuously rears its head, along with the stagnancy of life and the proposed notion that nothing ever really changes. This frustration both strikes a more personal chord with him as well as holding universal relevance. At some point everybody’s life becomes stagnant and empty.
The moment where the collection undoubtedly makes the crossover into the sphere of poetry is in ‘Destiny’. Originally a track from Nasa’s 2014 acclaimed New York Telephone record, here, it’s the only example of Nasa veering from the structurally conventional template, presenting words and lines as short sharp shocks to the system and utilising grammatically destructive see-sawing. It’s one of the collection’s few examples of real spirituality, seeing Nasa write of how life is dictated to us via noise and outside influence beyond our control; the idea that things are predetermined and that paths are mapped out for us. The form of the poem reflects that ambiguity, but he quite literally brings the piece back down to Earth by capitalising the ‘NY’ at the end of ‘destiny’; an assertion that New York is where he belongs, no matter where life takes him.
The two short stories presented flesh out Nasa’s creative mindset, giving insight into it and his processes. It’s here that Nasa’s world view is portrayed through unlikely mediums; a female parking ticket officer in ‘Withering’, and a world weary, undefined office clerk in ‘Burt’s Dead’. Both of them are consumed by awareness of life’s perils, the former so dark as to assert that death is the only release from the mundane that leads to the moribund. But, the same inclination to keep people at arm’s length that permeates much of his poetry comes from a deep understanding of how people work. ‘Burt’s Dead’ is a damning rumination on the idealistic desperation of ‘do-gooders’; but, when you delve below the surface the true depth is revealed, meaning it makes perfect sense.
‘Withering’ is a prime example of how poetry, whether dictated in musical or prosaic form, can be a personal tool and a primer for one’s own identity. As a collection, the book clearly shows Nasa’s evolution through life, with regards to wisdom, perception and what he’s learnt. As a rapper he’s an antagonist, both sonically and lyrically, always looking for where to land the next punch; however, as a writer, he’s a realist, collected in his cynicism and always shows a studious awareness of the true power of words. Whilst that’s not the sole reason hip-hop has always been culturally important, it’s a new dimension to the sphere and has helped to establish this innovative artist as a creative force within his field.