Grizzly Bird – The Drummer’s Trauma

I’ve always wished that I could play the drums. I had a lesson once when I was a young boy but, even then, I realised that getting my feet to do different things at different times to my arms was a step too far for somebody as naturally uncoordinated as I am. I guess it’s a skill that could have been channelled through intense practice but, by then, I’d picked up a guitar and was happier trying to learn an instrument where just two limbs (and fingers) are needed. (Insert Def Leppard comment if minded).

And drummers (for all of their skill in keeping any band on track along with a bass player) did seem to be at the butt-end of the jokes. Watch any interview with the Beatles and Ringo is the one who is laughed at by the others, the slight outsider who will be consigned to narrating Children’s TV series about toy trains in future years. Spinal Tap takes the narrative to the extreme with the spontaneous human combustion scenes and inability to hold onto a drummer.

Hans Gnendinger, the Berlin-based musician and main songwriter in the Grizzly Bird trio, is waxing lyrical about his approach to songwriting, an approach that in the case of ‘The Drummer’s Trauma’ keeps the light mocking well and truly alive. 

After writing Empathy and the birth of my son and I didn’t write a single song for two years. Not that I didn’t have any ideas, but they were always too big and too complicated. But when I showed my bandmates my very first recordings while on tour, I remembered how I wrote my first songs – little stories full of in-jokes inspired by my friends or things they said. So when drummer Florian Dietrich kept complaining at every rehearsal about his job working in the drum department of a well known Berlin music store, I realised I have a song right there.”

It’s an interesting, refreshing approach that leads to a quirky, interesting product. Slightly reminiscent in style and lyrical content to Jens Lekman, ‘The Drummer’s Trauma’ draws upon astute observation and humorous anecdote to pinpoint focus on some of life’s minutiae. And then, like a wayward stick of dynamite in a children’s cartoon, it blows the situation up just for fun. 

It’s a perfect Wednesday Sonic Breakfast track – and, even the drummers out there, might find something in the skewed rhythms to appeal? 



Roller Derby – I Wish & Flying High

Forming a band in 2020 can’t have been an easy task. It hasn’t stopped Hamburg’s Roller Derby from making quite an impact though. They’ve just released the second single of an intriguing trilogy and I thought I’d give Sonic Breakfast readers the heads up. 

You can write about the two songs but keep in mind that the first videos don’t match each other on the first sight. Only after the third video the coherent story will become clear. The third video will connect the first two videos. 🙂“, says Manuel, guitar player in the band when I ask him about the concept. I like the idea of a slow reveal, a bit of speculation and I’m all up for a guessing game about what is actually going on here. 

In the opening gambit, the video for ‘I Wish’, we find our protagonist at the breakfast table. As croissants are consumed, we slowly get a sense that there’s something cathartic going on. Spirits are lifting as  a relationship that is coming to an end is considered. While the inevitability of a break-up becomes more and more apparent, the appreciation for the other person becomes stronger: “I wish everything for you”, they sing as the chorus fades.

The music is ace. Roller Derby are a three piece and obviously students of wavey 80s sounds and modern indie pop. Philine Meyer has a vocal delivery reminiscent of some of Tracey-Anne Campbell’s fine moments in Camera Obscura. In fact, that’s the band that mostly springs to mind the most for me when considering comparisons. It’s quite a compliment. 


Philine appears in the second video released on Friday. In Flying High, she appears in the dreams of our protagonist from the first video and proceeds to get involved in an affectionate bout of mirroring activity. Their touching is touching; the dreamy music ambles along with a subtlety that leads to surprise when the chorus has wormed itself into your head.

The final part of the trilogy and the big reveal is out at the end of January. Until then, we can only speculate about what the link might be. There’s plenty of personal growth being hinted at here and a sense that good things do happen for those that seek not to stagnate. 

What do you think? The month will pass quickly as we ponder.


Honey Tower – Dandy

When I was a boy, I had a weekly subscription to the ‘Dandy’ comic; for me, this was an act of wilful rebellion. Whilst my friends obsessed about Dennis The Menace and the Beano, I strove to be different.

Back then, I was oblivious to the alternative meaning of ‘Dandy’. But, student days exploring Wilde, Baudelaire, Warhol and pantomime put me right. The definition is still hard to nail. Dandyism is a much-maligned way of life but it’s hard to see beyond this text from Camus in L’homme Revolte.

“The dandy can only play a part by setting himself up in opposition. He can only be sure of his own existence by finding it in the expression of others’ faces. Other people are his mirror. A mirror that quickly becomes clouded, it’s true, since human capacity for attention is limited. It must be ceaselessly stimulated, spurred on by provocation. The dandy, therefore, is always compelled to astonish. Singularity is his vocation, excess his way to perfection.”

Many of my friends might argue that the above describes me? It’s certain that the compulsion to astonish and to place myself in opposition has been prevalent since I read the ‘Dandy’ as a boy.

German Electro artist, Honey Tower, has just released an 8-track concept album referencing literary, philosophical and historic manifestations of distinct Dandyism. She draws influence and inspiration from stories of the past, playing with musical styles in an attempt to astonish the listener.

I’m particularly drawn to the story of tragic dandy, Franz Reichelt, who was so convinced of the strength of his parachute-onesie that he jumped in it from the Eiffel Tower in 1912. His equipment failed and Reichelt plummeted to the floor in full glare of friends and press. Some ridicule his stupidity (and he was without doubt foolish) but I’m more impressed by his excess, his misplaced confidence and his singularity.

Across the 8-tracks on Honey Tower’s album, there’s much going on. You’d dance to this at a club without giving the subject much thought and listen to this at home whilst fully considering the content. It’s intelligently dark dance music, erudite electro and techno that teaches. It’s a perfect way in to the weekend.

I’ve got my onesie and I’m off to Paris. Who’s coming?



Eurovision – Part one

I love the Eurovision Song Contest. I realise that such amour sets me apart from a bulk of my friends. But I can’t help myself. Bucks Fizz made my mind up on this and then Bardo pushed me one step further into what has been a lifelong appreciation of the quirks, the drama, the politics and the utter spectacle.

In recent years, I have hosted Eurovision food parties (complete with bags of Maltesers for the entry from Malta). I have insisted that birthday parties and camping trips have had a healthy gap in their schedules so that I can enjoy the contest. If this is hopeless and sad then I am guilty as charged. Diggi Loo Diggi Ley. 

Imagine my delighted squeal, when this week i was sent an advance copy of this year’s Eurovision double CD. This years contest is coming from Copenhagen. Across two semi finals and a final in May, 37 countries are taking part in the extravaganza. And over the next four days of this Easter break, I’m going to give you my views on their entries. Clearly, a considerable part of the Eurovision charm derives from the stage performances and I won’t be seeing this but each day I’ll post videos to two of the more extreme visions of Euro unity – just to whet appetites for next month. 

So, without further ado, “let’s get this show on the road… ”


1. Albania – Hersi – One Night’s Anger

A pleasant enough start to proceedings here. A folky start with a sweet female vocal from Hersi gives way to a faux rock climax. I can almost forgive the naff guitar solo plonked in the middle. ‘Keep calm and think twice‘, sings Hersi and I wonder if I might actually be a bit mad. 


2. Armenia – Aram – Not Alone

An excrutiatingly dull piano led ballad from the Armenians in which a little bird is encouraged not to cry. It almost goes into a dubstep rock thing towards the end. This isn’t a winner in my book – which probably means it stands a great chance.


3. Austria – Conchita Wurst – Rise Like A Phoenix

This is epic, but that doesn’t mean it’s any good. It’s straight out of a Sean Connery era James Bond soundtrack. I’m not sure if Conchita is male or female based upon this vocal performance. Shirley Bassey will no doubt be envious she wasn’t born in Vienna.


4. Azerbaijan – Dilara Kazimova – Start A Fire

Four tunes in and already I’m losing the will to live. What is it with all of these piano led ballads? Where’s the quirkiness and the bizarre? This tune would struggle to even make an album of Coldplay B sides. Again, this probably gives it a chance of winning.


5. Belgium – Axel Hirsoux – Mother

More piano. Axel’s ‘coming home‘ because he’s ‘broken hearted’ and now he’s singing a frankly eerie love song to his Mum. Think Norman Bates humming a tune from The Phantom Of The Opera in a shower and you probably get the picture. Hilariously creepy.


6. Belarus – Teo – Cheesecake

Here we go. This is more like it. From an initial ‘Yeah Baby‘ through to mention of Patrick Swayze, this grooves along to a chorus that states, ‘I’m trying to be your sweet cheesecake‘. Pure nonsense. It also has an annoying duck like Kazoo sound. Fun but appalling.


7. Switzerland – Sebalter – Hunter Of Stars

Whistling over the top of banjo’s. Upbeat fiddles and handclaps. What we have here is a sub-standard Mumford & Sons – and I think Mumford & Sons are shit. ‘I am the hunter, you are the prey. Tonight I’m going to eat you up‘, sings Sebalter and I’m almost won over by the songs cannibalistic urges.


8. Germany – Elaiza – Is It Right? 

A poppy oompah tune. It is very much not right. But, it’s a completely inoffensive three minutes and thus will probably do quite well. Enough said. 


9. Denmark – Basim – Cliche Love Song

Clearly, Denmark aren’t keen to host the Eurovision again next year. Basim proceeds to spew cliches in an upbeat pop number that references ‘Katy Perry‘ and ‘putting your hands up‘. They’ll be dancing in the aisles of the sanitorium to this one.


 And already, we’re a quarter of the way there. Tomorrow, I’ll give my comments on Ruth Lorenzo’s Spanish entry and tell all about my brief meeting with her in a Leicester car park. And I’ll also be looking at the UK entry from Leicestershire based, Molly. People from Leicestershire always do well in Eurovision (just ask old Engelbert) so I’m expecting great things. 

The two videos for today very much pick themselves. Be astounded by the sinister entry from Belgium and giggle at Belarus’ cheesy cake.