Dreams Of Empire – Space Invader

It was probably quite a paranoid thought. But we used to imagine that there was a ‘Guild Of Incredibly Tall Men’. The Guild’s sole purpose was to mess up our view at gigs. There was a period back in the noughties when we couldn’t go to a concert without the guild turning up. They’d time it to perfection. With minutes to go before a band that we’d been waiting patiently to see, two or three ‘incredibly tall men’ would slightly awkwardly shuffle over to wherever it was that we were standing and plonk themselves slap bang in front. The men couldn’t hear the protest; mostly they’d just make an impenetrable huddle between themselves and act oblivious, sometimes they’d acknowledge the grumbles but say something polite like ‘Well, where the fuck else are we going to stand?’ – joyful space invaders.

More recently, the Guild seem to have disbanded but have been replaced by the Association of Narcissists at gigs. This is the society that don’t actually seem very interested at standing and watching because they can’t bear that many eyes not being on them. So, they flail their hair about so that you can eat a gobful of it. They’ve either doused themselves with so much perfume or forgotten to use deodorant for the past two weeks but the effect is the same – you are left gagging for air. And just when you think you’ve got away from their company, they insist on getting their phone out to badly film themselves at the show utterly blocking your view. I do miss gigs.

The phenomenon of the ‘Space Invader’ isn’t just something that’s prevalent at gigs though. Over the last year, we’ve all been told that keeping our distance from others is a good thing to maintain. So why, when you go to any supermarket in any town is there still a warm welcome from the Society Of Pushers? This is the crowd that take great delight in nonchalantly reaching over your frame to pick up a packet of ham when if they’d just wait for two seconds you’d be long gone from the cold meat aisle. 

 

Dreams of Empire are probably similarly bitter as I am about the ‘Space Invader’. The Brighton dreampop duo (who become a four piece live) named the opening track of their second album, Encapsulation, after it. It’s a track that I’m very much drawn to and not just because I can relate. “A pure indie guitar energy rush for anyone with a fringe (or who used to own one)“, says the accompanying press release – and you can’t argue with that. 

There’s  a slice of shoegaze and a trim of twee that wrap themselves around the solid indie base on offer in this ‘Space Invader’ cake. Andrew Craig, guitarist and main songwriter in the band, tells me how they plan to follow it up. “The new stuff is going to sound similar to Space Invader which has been really well received.”, he says “Oh and I’ve even written some slightly more positive lyrics for a change – hopefully we’ll have reasons to be cheerful before too long.

I know I’m odd but I’m cheered enough by the sentiment behind Space Inader. It’s good to know that the Guilds, Associations and Societies don’t solely target me. 

SHYAWAY – Smile For The Camera

I have friends who hate having their photo taken. So eager are they to avoid the pose for the camera that they concoct increasingly varied tales as to why they can’t be pictured. They’ll insist on taking the snap themselves or they’ll go and hide in the toilet. If push comes to shove and they have to be in a group shot, they’ll stand right at the edge and definitely behind a taller friend so that their image stands a chance of being masked. “It’s a thing from childhood”, they say when quizzed about their behaviour.

I suppose those friends that actively shy away from the camera are refreshing when compared to those who hog the limelight. These are the people with more selfie sticks than rooms in their house. Every day and sometimes every hour, they declare their need for attention and adoration by posting a new pic of themselves onto their social media channel of choice. I think, of the two extremes, I’m more in this camp. But, I do check myself from time to time. And I don’t even have an Instagram account.

‘Smile For The Camera’ by SHYAWAY is a fun and perky piece of pop for your Sunday morning delight. It takes a jocular swipe at the self-absorption that comes from being too dependent on your photo content. Bouncing along with intent, this is clever pop that can’t fail to get under your skin.

SHYAWAY is the stage name of Adam Macaulay, a multi-talented musician/songwriter from Brighton. He tells me that he’s currently scoring for a string quartet and woodwind ensemble when we exchange a couple of mails in advance of this piece being published. He leaves one in no doubt on which side of the selfie fence he sits.

“We should eschew social media and this self-worshipping lifestyle; focus on the life we’re actually living right now as opposed to the carefully curated online one.“, says Adam. “Either that or we just do what Kim Kardashian does; shake our ass for the masses and smile for the camera.”


The BOBS – Bargain Booze

“When booze was new its highs were true

But now the weekend is all you do 

And all the highs just lie to you”

It’s another Saturday night out in Alicante. As the alcohol flows our guard drops and we both take risks that sobriety would have warned against. 

We temporarily forget that there’s a global pandemic going on as we freely chat with cynical men from the North. They don’t believe they’re in danger and neither should we. 

Beers and shots are downed as we sympathise with the lad from Denmark who’s just had his laptop stolen from beside him. I buy a bongo, a cheap drum with garish decoration from a man selling all sorts of tat to impressionable tourists. 

Much drink is imbibed. It’s a night of high jinx, insane spirit and bargain booze. The bars are instructed to close at 1AM but by then we’ve had our fill. And we know about it in the morning when our heads throb.

I dare say that Bargain Booze, the cheap liquor store back in the UK, has been doing quite well  over the last months. Certainly, the tales in the media of the chain’s financial vulnerability seem to have abated since it was taken over a couple of years back. A model of business where location is everything, you’ll find these stores on the edge and in the heart of mass conurbations. With pub hours reduced, the Bargain Booze shops now become the social hubs for many.

The BOBS (Best of British Suicide) from Brighton have written an off-kilter ode to Bargain Booze. I’m not sure if this is directly about the store or more about the culture that we live in that both celebrates and demonises drinking depending upon your social class. 

Whatever, it’s a playful piece calling upon the frantic staccato of the Cardiacs before developing into a sort of punky Britpop four-pints-in chorus. Here we have a song that in the space of three minutes captures the highs and lows of drinking alcohol – joyful, spiky, wayward and carefree in a couple of shots. 

Even if the music is not entirely your thing (what are you, a teetotaller?), the video will surely make you smile with its stop-motion antics. Who knew that bottle openers and corkscrews had so much rhythm? 

Bargain Booze is a tune to lock-in to – and with this release, The BOBS declare themselves as ones to watch. 

 

Club Kuru, Ttrruuces and The Rodeo – Hackney Oslo – May 15th 2019

The Great Escape down in Brighton the weekend before last was an absolute blast. I’ve cobbled together my review for eFestivals and it’s now been published here

It didn’t temper my enthusiasm for going out to gigs last week whilst in London though. Bands that travelled far distances to get to The Great Escape extended their holidays by gigging in London. Nice Biscuit, the Aussie theatrical and futuristic psych-pop band, were great at the Sebright on Monday and the Chilean Music party, packed out with ex-pats, was every bit the experience it sounds at Paper Dress Vintage on Tuesday. 

It was nice to get out to Hackney’s Oslo on Wednesday for a good, old-fashioned album launch. Club Kuru were the act. I didn’t know much about them but the press release sounded like it’d be right up my street. 

I’ve been to Oslo once before (here). Somewhat strangely, it’s yet to feature on my 2019 gig travels. I like it though. The beer options are decent and the atmosphere generally friendly. 

I arrived just in time for The Rodeo who travelled all the way from Paris for this show. Initially, I wondered if their take on Britpop might need a bit of work but it’d be uncharitable to describe the whole negatively. A bit Echobelly, a tad Catalonia and a whole lot of The Cardigans is what you get here. And I’ve found another French act in 2019 to find out more about. 

Main support Ttrruuces were my act of the night. I chat to a chap at the bar before they take to the stage who gives me the lowdown. This is the new vehicle of Natalie Findlay (aka Findlay), an act that’s had a fair smattering of success as a solo artist. But now she’s in a band with a Phil Lynott lookalike. It might only be their second show (their first being at The Great Escape apparently) but this psychedelic folk-rock is pretty polished. Surrounded by fiddle and keyboards, beret-wielding Findlay plays the tambourine and dips into kazoo solos. When they move away from the rockier stuff, it’s as if Sandie Shaw is on a comeback trail and has employed The Go Team to help her. The shoe fits and the sensation you get from Ttrruuces is s cool one. 

I wanted to like Club Kuru more than I did. Perhaps I should write this one off as gig fatigue on my part. The songs are clearly well put together; a mix of west coast Americana and stoner funk. The heavy bass drills into my eardrums in the initial numbers and I beat a retreat to stand further back in the hall. I look around and people are chattering, catching up with mates and barely listening to what’s going on. New stuff is announced and it’s a bit like the Flaming Lips without any sense of live show.This should be my thing but I’m getting little out of standing here, it’s just not connecting and so I leave for my train back to Walthamstow. 

I resolve to listen to Club Kuru’s record in my own space. I suspect I’ll get more from that. 

The Van Susans – Seagulls

Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will know that i’m a sucker for tunes that invoke memories. It’s all the better when they focus upon loss in a romantic, reminiscent, sort of way.

Regular readers of Sonic Breakfast will also know that I open posts with the words ‘regular readers of Sonic Breakfast’ when I can think of no other way to start a piece. But’s that’s irrelevant right now.

 

A couple of days ago, I was sent the video to a new track by The Van Susans. It came my way via one of the best PR people I know. Julia at EvansAbove takes time to get to know the sort of stuff I’m likely to appreciate and, as a result, I’ll always open mail that she sends even when there is inevitably a backlog elsewhere.

This Van Susans track, Seagulls, is no exception to the general strike rate. After last year’s escapades in Brighton for The Great Escape festival (review here), I’ve grown quite partial to the place. And so, any video that features shots, old and new, of the town and the beach is great in my book. In this pretty emotive video, an urn containing ashes is carried around the town as memories of the past are drawn upon; happier times of childhood and adolescence extracted from a collection of old home movies. As the track builds, we realise that the ashes are about to be released to their final resting place – thrown into the sea in cathartic conclusion. 

Loss is inevitably distressing. The way it’s dealt with can also be uplifting. Forgive The Van Susans that the vocal delivery in this powerful track veers a little too close to Frank Turner for comfort (I jest – I hear he’s quite popular) and allow yourself to get carried away in the windswept woe of it all. You’ll be all the happier for it. 

 

 

 

 

 

Ellie Ford – July

Cast your mind back to July. In many ways, four months is not that long ago but for me it feels like an age. The summer was ending before it had even begun. The days were already getting shorter and darkness was beginning to creep into our humid evenings. 

I wasn’t a happy chap then. Dreams of a delightful year that had seemed like an optimistic wish in Springtime lay shattered by June. My eventful and largely destructive trip to Brighton for the Great Escape in May had perhaps been an indication of what was around the corner. 

But it wasn’t all bad. There were still the festivals. At Beat Herder in the Ribble Valley, I experienced new things. By the end of July, I was pretty much smiling again for the chug to the coast of Cornwall for the charming Port Eliot festival

All of our July’s were different. I bet we can all remember moments of joy and moments of happiness that occurred back then. I bet we can remember the new things we tried, the things we were losing and the things that were just beginning. 

I’ve been sent this new video from Ellie Ford. 

She’s from Brighton but I don’t remember seeing her on that lost weekend in May. The song is called ‘July’. Ellie’s experiences of calendar month number seven are different to mine. But, this remains a song that fluctuates between highs and lows, peaks and troughs. Centred around a harp, new instruments are added and then removed. Orchestration comes and goes. Ellie’s voice flutters.

July is the first song from Ellie’s album ‘The Other Sun’ that’s not out until Spring 2016. July suggests that things are just beginning for Ellie Ford. 

 

Brian Lopez – Static Noise

Festival season is starting in earnest with The Great Escape down in Brighton from this Thursday. To say that I’m a little bit excited is a mild understatement. I’ve never been before but with so much new, live music to discover in a town that I don’t know that well… I’ll be that kid in a sweet shop again. 

 In truth, I’ve already sucked my first and second festival gobstopper of the year. Perhaps the Rock and Blues festival at Butlins Skegness in January doesn’t properly count but the wonderfully compact Handmade festival in Leicester was a fine way to spend much of the May bank holiday weekend. My eFestivals review has now been posted here.

 I really should be voraciously poring over the schedules for The Great Escape. I sense that my plans should be meticulous if I want to see the custard cream of what’s on offer.. But instead, contrary to the end, I’ve been diverted by the latest video from Brian Lopez. To the best of my knowledge, Brian is not playing at The Great Escape. Indeed, he’s probably still at home over in the USA, packing his suitcase before heading across to Europe in a couple of days. He reaches England in June when he tours with Howe Gelb and Giant Sand. Those could be cool shows. 

 The video to Modern Man, a fine shimmer of a track taken from Brian’s Static Noise album, is something of a juxtaposition. A floral shirt frenzy, the suggestion is that the three characters within are far from the modern men being sung about by Brian. And when the might of the Samurai sword is released, I think we might all be aspiring elsewhere. The photography enthralls though and the scenery stuns. It’s a fine watch and a fab tune.

 

 

 This isn’t the first video from Static Noise that has captured my attention either. A couple of months ago, I was going to write about the track, Crossfire Cries. It’s a tune that’ll get into your head. The accompanying video will appeal to those of us who still play with Lego when we’re supposed to be working. 

 

 

It all brings me back to the video for Brian’s song ‘Persephone’. If you watch one video today, then watch this. A charming animation, it surely won’t fail to pluck at your heartstrings. I guess we all have secrets that we’ll take to our graves.

 

 

Mostly, I’d suggest that these three very different videos work because of the quality of the songs. Perfectly showcasing the talents of  Brian Lopez, I’m off to listen to the complete album. And then, I’ll pack my suitcase for Brighton.