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A Night with the Arctic Monkeys

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w/ Milburn, 10.09.05 @ Cardiff Coal Exchange, Cardiff

“We are the Arctic Monkeys and we’re the next big thing” is Alex Turner’s first address to the audience as the officially most hyped band in the world ever takes to the stage. This hype however can be detrimental, as this writer for one was wary at just how a band can be selling out 600+ capacity venues after just two singles, one of which was limited edition. 

Support act Milburn went to school with the ‘Monkeys and to be fair it’s pretty obvious to see. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, – songs such as “Cheshire Cat Smile” and “Storm In A Teacup” are good enough to rival anything that their better-known Sheffield counterparts have to offer, adding a bit of ska here and there into the mix, and in all honesty in terms of quality there’s very little difference between the two outfits. 

With a fanatic crowd, mainly built up through the band’s well-documented use of making every demo they’ve recorded available for free internet download, it does seem that the Arctic Monkeys are spearheading a new movement, perhaps kickstarted by the way the Libertines in their short lifespan broke down the barriers between band and fans. The opening salvo of new single “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” and “Fake Tales Of San Francisco” is mightily impressive, and enough to dispel any initial cynicism, although having said that their members and Milburn’s are virtually interchangeable, and even follow roughly the same blueprint, – i.e. ever so slightly cocky frontman, who partly sings, partly speaks the words, and a spikey, angular backing band.

There’s a slight lull halfway through the set, when a fair few of the songs seem to merge into one, but mass singalongs like the split personality of “Scummy Man” (now renamed “When The Sun Goes Down”) and the euphoric “Mardy Bum” get things back underway, and ensure the show ends in fine fashion. Having said that though, the crowd still goes crazy throughout, singing along to every word and packing out a venue which is normally reserved for the more experienced touring band. 

So, do the Arctic Monkeys truly warrant the hype and praise lavished upon them? You can’t help but feel this is all a little bit much too soon, – as mentioned earlier it seems a little absurd that a band with so few releases to their name can sell out such large venues in front of such rapturous audiences, although it’s a credit to their stringent DIY ethic that all this hype has been mainly self-generated and down to the band itself, and largely due to this by this time next year, the Arctic Monkeys will be as big as The Strokes.

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Crossed Keys – Saviors

Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds

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Crossed Keys Saviors

Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.

Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.

For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.

(Hellminded Records)

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Pine – Pine

Pine’s debut album is a kind of hypnotic melancholia

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Pine

Where did Ottawa’s Pine come from? It’s a question worth asking after listening to their painfully gorgeous self-titled debut album. Pine use the phrase “doom and gloom never sounded so sweet” to describe their sound, and true to that, this 11-track outing is filled with the kind of hypnotic melancholia that became the playbook for a great many Midwestern emo bands that emerged in the late 90s/early 2000s. The biggest difference here is that while Pine have the heartbreak down pat, their musical sense of loss is lifted slightly by the airy, more wistful sounds of their guitar-strewn songs. Sure, there’s a lot that sounds like a great Mineral record or a Gloria Record album, but there’s also traces of Florida indie/emo band The Rocking Horse Winner and at times, bands like Rainer Maria.

Pine are buoyed by the great vocal work of Darlene Deschamps. Her voice soars through tracks like “Memento” and the terrific “Lusk”. The latter in particular is a great example of how Pine lull you into a sense of calm before it explodes in a collage of symphonic distortion and post-rock twinkling. In “Sunder” they ascend to louder, more expansive sounds. The song is a great combination of thick, fuzzy guitars, mid-tempo percussion work, and that pained vocal delivery that gives the song an extra punch in the guts.

The album took an impressive 2 years to finish, and you can hear the trials and tribulations of that gestation period through the songs. There’s pain, sadness, anger and frustration in songs like the intro “Within You” and the more new emo-esque “Swollen”, but also beauty, and as the album concludes, a sense of incredible catharsis. The record SOUNDS great too, with production values (by a production team that includes Will Yip, who has helmed records by Circa Survive, Braid, Saosin, and the Bouncing Souls to name a few) adding to the grand cinematic finish of the record.

For those who love what emo was in the mid to late 90s will find much to like about Pine just as much as those who like Explosions in the Sky and their post-rock brethren. Pine have been crafting their sound over the last few years and while their previous EP Pillow Talk showed a solid foundation, this new self-titled record is the work of a band close to the height of their abilities. Moving, beautiful, and littered with life’s roller coaster of emotions as songs, Pine is definitely recommended listening.

(No Sleep Records)

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