Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Stream Blur's new album 'The Magic Whip'

Blur's first album for 12 years, 'The Magic Whip', is now available to stream via iTunes.

The album, which is the bands eighth studio album, is released on 27th April, but the band have made it available to listen to now, a week prior to it's release. It is their first album since 2003's 'Think Tank'.

Work began on the album in 2013, when a cancelled show in Japan meant they had 5 days spare, but Damon Albarn has previously stated he was unsure if the work would ever be released. "There are about 15 songs...the annoying thing is, if I'd been able to write the lyrics there and then about being there, we'd have finished the record. But sometimes, if you can't do it all at once, it dissipates really and I don't know what I'd sing about now with that record. There's some great tunes on there, but it may just be one of those records that never comes out."

Sunday, 19 April 2015

'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not' - Revisited

Sheffield’s Arctic Monkeys released their debut album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not on the 23rd of January 2006 to critical acclaim, and in it’s first week alone it sold over 360,000 copies, making it the fastest-selling debut album by a British band of all time. WPSIATWIN is an album that has inspired a generation of new songwriters, and the modern classic is now approaching it’s tenth birthday.

The album is somewhat of a concept album, as it chronicles a typical night out in the North of England. It takes both it’s name and it’s theme from Alan Sillitoe’s novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, which documents a night out and it’s fallout. On relistening, I came to the realisation that not much has changed on a night out up North in ten years - arguments with a cabbie, everybody’s ulterior motive of trying to pull, being turned down by (and subsequently arguing with) bouncers - these subject matters are very relevant even now. The teenage population of the country instantly took to Arctic Monkeys because their words are all too relatable - in ‘Riot Van’, Turner spits a story of an encounter with a Police Officer, which sounds word for word exactly like an experience a group of friends and I had at sixteen years old. 

One track that stands out to me is fan-favourite ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’. There’s a certain irony listening to the song nowadays. The song pokes fun at a local band for acting like they are from the United States - seen in lyrics such as ‘Yeah i’d love to tell you all my problem/You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham’  - but arguably, this is exactly what Alex Turner et al. have evolved into. They were once four cheeky working class teenagers from the North of England, but in recent times they have become Elvis Presley lookalikes laden with leather and hair grease, complete with faux American accents. It’s sad to see what they have become - that they have forgotten where they come from, even though it was such a defining characteristic of their early work that helped them become the superstars they now are. 

As disappointing as it is that the indie-rock heroes have become the American wannabe’s that they are now, they still have a very intriguing style of writing lyrics. It’s interesting to compare how Alex Turner has developed as a songwriter, and how he describes similar situations ten years apart. In ’Still Take You Home’, he sings ’I can’t see through your fake tan/and you know it for a fact that everybody’s eating out of your hands’. Eight years on, in ‘Arabella’ on the latest album AM, he stresses the same sentiment but in a much less obvious way - ‘Arabella’s got some interstellar-gator skin boots/And a helter-skelter round her little finger/And I ride it endlessly’ - you can’t help but think that if this was 2006, he’d have just said ‘You’re wrapped ‘round her little finger, mate’. Turner’s current persona is often criticised, but you have to admit that his songs are still brilliant - whether he’s bluntly barking tales of a taxi queue with his dry northern wit, or crooning about a love interest in psychedelic, near-undecipherable terms, backed by the deep sultry voice of Nick O’Malley and the sharp falsetto of Matt Helders. 

WPSIATWIN influenced a lot of music in the years following 2006. They were predominantly responsible for making strong regional accents acceptable in pop music - artists like Lily Allen and Kate Nash appeared in the mainstream not too long after it’s release. They also helped start a new wave of indie music that all had a very distinct sound that included dry vocals and trebly guitars, with bands such as The Cribs and The Kooks all enjoying relative success. Just take a listen to the soundtrack to ‘The Inbetweeners’ and you’ll hear the best of the mid-00’s indie that Arctic Monkeys helped become the norm. 

WPSIATWIN has been one of my all time favourite albums since it’s release, cementing itself as a must-have in any indie kid’s record collection, and it helped shape my music taste for years to come. Since I turned eighteen it has become even more relatable than it was on first listening, and has become the soundtrack to many drunken nights on the town. Finally, We all have one thing to be thankful for - had the Arctic Monkeys not released WPSIATWIN when they did, then we might have been stuck with Kaiser Chiefs as the face of British indie music.

INTERVIEW: Quentin's Basement

Leeds is a city known for it’s music scene - there is a vast array of music venues across the city, from little jazz clubs and indie bars, to the brand new First Direct arena. As well as there being hundreds of local bands that frequently play across Leeds, the city has produced many big-name artists over the years, including indie rockers The Pigeon Detectives and The Kaiser Chiefs. Another local band on the same path as these bands are Quentin’s Basement. The indie-rock four piece burst onto the scene in 2010, and have been making a name for themselves across the county ever since, including endorsement from fellow Yorkshireman Matt Bowman of the Pigeon Detectives, as well as both headline and support slots at the city’s most loved and now defunct rock venue, The Cockpit.

Quentin’s Basement are no strangers to the Leeds music scene. “I reckon since we started, we’ve played between 150 and 200 gigs.. I’d say we’ve played in maybe thirty venues, ranging from places that hold about fifty people, to the O2 Academy in Leeds”, Quentin’s Basement’s drummer Tom Hawran tells me. Having formed five years ago, they’ve already got a massive amount of shows under their belt, with plenty of stories to tell, both good and bad. “We supported bands like The View, The Strypes and General Fiasco.. but we played the O2 Academy which was a much bigger crowd, and we even played before the match at the Bradford Bulls stadium to thousands of people! There was probably about seven or eight thousand people there.. the nerves were kicking in beforehand, but luckily it all went well and was a good laugh!

Not all gigs go as smoothly as that though - most bands have a disaster story to tell, and Quentin’s Basement are no different. Hawran tells of one gig that didn’t quite go to plan at Oporto. “Soundcheck went well, and we were ready to play, but as soon as we hit the first note, Ollie’s fuse went on his amp, and my cymbal was loose and falling over.. it was pretty annoying, but you just have to get on with it!

Quentin’s Basement play Oporto once again next week, to promote their first new single in close to a year ‘Remiges’, which will be available to buy on CD at the gig on 22nd of April. (Let’s hope it goes better than last time..) Also on the CD will be another new track, ‘Fluoxetine’, as well as a range of new merchandise. Hawran hints that we could be hearing the Leeds indie-rockers moving in a new musical direction, away from their current sound. “I think we’ve got a slight bit heavier since this time last year. I think it’s down to Callum, who writes the songs.. He’s a fan of Drenge and similar bands like that, and I think it really reflects in our music.”  Anyone who has heard Drenge’s music will know that their signature noisy, grungy, punk sound is a whole world away from that of Quentin’s Basement, so it’s interesting to see what the new songs will sound like.

For those fans who prefer Quentin’s Basement’s older, laddish indie rock sound however, there’s still something for you. Also available to buy at the Oporto show is another CD, featuring an alternative recording of their single ‘Good Books’ (which Hawran admits is probably better than the original), and a few demo’s of previously unrecorded songs only ever heard at live shows, including ‘Wish I Did’ and ‘You’d be a Fool’.

Quentin’s Basement are definitely the kind of band you want to see in concert. From the minute they step on stage they have the room in the palm of their hands, bantering with the audience before launching into a set packed with plenty of anthemic songs. As lively as their tracks seem on CD, they are nothing compared to the live performances. Hawran’s energetic rhythms along with frontman Callum Talbot’s roaring vocals, Ollie Grubb’s sleek guitar riffage and Martyn Alderman’s groovy bass lines always promise a real knee’s up.

For anyone unsure about their show next week, Hawran promises a great night. “We’ve been away from the Leeds music scene for a while now, working on our set and getting some new tunes together! We’ve got new songs, new CDs and new t-shirts.. it’s gonna be a top night.. and what else is there better to do on a Wednesday night anyway?!” He has a point. There’s not much better to do on a weeknight then have a few drinks and a dance at one of the cities best venues, listening to one of Yorkshire’s hottest bands, so why not get yourselves down to what is sure to be a brilliant night. Tickets are available from the band themselves, who are contactable on their Facebook page.

The future looks bright for Quentin’s Basement. Tickets are flying for the single release show, and their music will soon be available on music streaming services Spotify and iTunes. Hawran also mentions possible plans for a tour of the country in the coming year, as well as there being “a few exciting things in the pipeline”. Exactly what this means is unclear - a new album, another show, or something even bigger - but it certainly suggests that the band have a very exciting future.

Quentin's Basement play Oporto on Wednesday 22nd April. Support from Lone Guns and Conflare. Tickets are £5. Doors at 7:30.

Twitter: @Quentbasement
Facebook: facebook.com/quentinsbasement
Instagram: @quentinsbasement
Email: Quentins_basement@hotmail.co.uk