Tracks Monkeys With Lasers

Los Campesinos @ Koko – 25/02
March 2, 2010, 1:06 am
Filed under: gigs | Tags: , , ,

Amazingly, with all the gigs I go to, Koko was yet another music venue I had never frequented (but will be doing so a number of times in the coming months) and now seemed as good a time as any to break my Koko duck having not seen Los Campesinos live for almost 18 months on the ‘Shred Yr Face’ tour in 2008. So long ago, in fact, that that gig actually pre-dates the conception of this blog. On top of that, a group of old work colleagues were all making the trip to Camden for this one so the scene was set for a good night.

After meeting up with said friends, we headed to the venue a little after the doors opened and got in surprisingly easily. The floorhad already been pretty much filled by this point though so we headed up onto one of the numerous balconies that Koko affords and managed to nab ourselves a pretty neat spot. This was one of the things that surprised me about Koko; it didn’t seem the biggest venue in the world to start with but had a good few levels that weren’t too far from the stage at all so it was easy to get a good viewing spot.

As we arrived a little late, the first support band of the night, Islet. These were an odd little band as the four of them flitted between the instruments on stage to give each song a quite different feel. For some of these, it worked really well but for others it’s fair to say that it didn’t. They had a bit of a Dananananaykroyd feel at times I thought and this was even more true when one of their songs saw two of the band take up positions behind drumkits. The vocals were what spoilt their sound at times though with some odd noises and unnecessary shouty vocals at times. I thought they were okay for an opener until their last song which was fantastic with the entire band playing a various assortment of drums and percussion which sounded amazing. A very strong finish to their set.

Next up on stage were the twosome going by the name of Swanton Bombs with just a drummer and singer/guitarist which bought the inevitable White Stripes comparisons from the guys I was with. This was a fair comparison on the one hand as they played a similar all out rock sound interspersed with a bit of blues but on the other, it’s very unfair to ever compare someone to Jack White and his guitar playing. That said, they more than hold their own. The drumming was top notch and the guitar work was pretty darn good as well with the vocals from both guys complimenting this sound really well. Overall, I really liked their frantic sound and may have to look into getting hold of a copy of their album..

So it was finally time for the main act of Los Campesinos to fill the stage, entering the venue to raptuous applause before launching straight into ‘I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed. Just So You Know’, with Gareth instantly showing how good a frontman he’s become bounding around the stage, and this was instantly followed up by the huge ‘Death To Los Campesinos!’ which got whatever remnants of the crowd weren’t already dancing to get bouncing along too.

The sound from the band in the venue was absolutely spot on on the night with crystal clear vocals and all the instruments levels being at near perfect levels so there was absolutely nothing there to spoil their sound. The set itself was a perfect mix of their older material as well as the new stuff. Only a few songs of ‘We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed’ got an airing thankfully (with that album not being a favourite of mine) with the best songs in ‘Miserabilia’ and the title track getting played.

Of the rest, I can’t really think of a song I would have liked to have heard them play that they didn’t (EDIT: that’s a lie, ‘We’ve Got Your Back’ was the only extra song I’d like to have heard). ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ never fails to get the crowd going when played live and it’s a good job that most of the crowd were in their skinny jean otherwise their choice of trouser may have fallen down with the amount of jumping and dancing going on. The newer songs, such as ‘Romance Is Boring’ and ‘This Is A Flag. There Is No Wind’ slotting in alongside the old tracks flawlessly.

While off stage the crowd were going mental, even up on the balcony where I was, on stage the band were great too. Gareth leapt and bound around the stage like a man possessed, occassionally throwing himself to his knees or joining in with the drumming. Meanwhile the rest of the band got on with their job and played a blinder. There was even time for a bit of chat with the crowd over Gareth’s despair of missing out on the ‘Best Band Blog’ award at the NME awards the week before.

The best was most certainly saved to last with the setlist though with ‘The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future’ being the penultimate song of the night. As I mentioned in my review of the album, I think this is one of their finest moments to date and sounded great live with the contrast in Gareth’s vocal between the quiet and shouty lines working really well. But to finish was my favourite song of theirs in ‘Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks’ with it’s frantic pace and fantastic singalong sections. The bands made the most of it with some trips into the crowd with Gareth getting lost under the swamp of fans at one point before being rescued by security.

And we were even treated to a brief encore with ‘This Is How You Spell “HAHAHA, We Destroyed The Hopes And Dreams Of A Generation Of Faux Romantics” ‘ and ‘Broken Heartbeats Sound Like Breakbeats’ which rounded the night off brilliantly.

I was amazed at how far the band seemed to have come since the last time I saw them. Every song sounded great and the new material more than holds it’s own against the older stuff. At one point Gareth thanked the crowd for their support and said that he hoped none of the band would ever have to get real jobs again. Based on this performance he has nothing to worry about.

Los Campesinos! – The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future (live)

Los Campesinos! – Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks (live)

New Album Reviews – Vampire Weekend and Los Campesinos!
February 9, 2010, 9:06 pm
Filed under: album review | Tags: , , , ,

Vampire Weekend – Contra

It seems much longer ago than two years ago that Vampire Weekend emerged onto the music scene with the release of their self-titled debut album which got a lot of attention in the media with their African influenced indie pop sound. “A-Punk” and “Oxford Comma” helped soundtrack the summer of that year with the band playing a whole host of festivals and shows. Since then, they had very much slipped off of my musical radar and their album had had very little attention so I was almost surprised to hear that this album was out at the beginning of this year.

The first thing I noticed when listening to the album was that it had a much deeper (with regards to pitch rather than depth of the sound) and how much mature it sounded with the percussion and bass seeming to be at the forefront of their sound even more.

Contra opens with two rather mellow songs that perfectly demonstrate how their sound has evolved but still very much has the Vampire Weekend feel to it; the opening track “Horchata” containing drumming that encapsulates part of their sound and the following track “White Sky” containing the falsetto, nonsensical vocals that brings back feelings of their first album.

The rest of the album keeps up the more mature and slightly more mellow feel with some of the song intros being deceptively bouncy, such as “Holiday” and “Run”, but they mostly go back to the same plodding feel that the album seems to have. That all sounds a bit negative but it’s not meant to be; I really like the album. I think it may be due to the fact that keyboards have seemingly taken on a much more prominent role in the overall creation of this album compared to the guitars that were previously at the fore which has taken away some of the boisterous feeling from before.

“Cousins” seems an odd choice for the first single off the album to me as it feels a little out of place with the rest of the songs and it feels a little bit awkward as though it is trying to act as the bridge between the two albums. For me the best song off the album is undoubtedly “Giving Up The Gun” with it’s pulsing synth bassline, simple vocals and the well constructed percussion that keeps the whole song going.

Overall, I quite like the album and the shift of sound that the band have gone for. The album has held my attention well since I first got it but the songs do get a little samey for me and can feel a little downbeat at times.

4/5 horse riding monkeys

Los Campesinos! – Romance Is Boring

Sporting one of the more ‘interesting’ album covers of the last few months, “Romance Is Boring” is the third offering from Los Campesinos! following the release of both of their first two albums back in 2008. LC are second only to Frank Turner for total number of plays on my thanks to their fantastic debut album which has had so many listens that I’m surprised the files haven’t burnt themselves out on my ipod. However, I was very underwhelmed with their second album which felt a little rush and seemed to lack the energy and fun factor that “Hold On Now Youngster” had that kept me coming back to it so often.

This album has taken me a little bit of time to get into as it seems to fall between these two albums with regards to it’s sound. It still has some of the upbeat indie pop tunes that made me love the first album so much, such as “There Are Listed Buildings” and “This Is A Flag. There Is No Wind”, but it has a little bit more of a grownup sound around it like “We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed” had but it feels a lot more complete this time round.

I’m being pretty vague I know but I can’t quite put my finger on what I like about it more than “WAB, WAD” (what a great acronym) but I also get the feeling that I may have been a bit harsh on that album in hindsight. That all said, I do think this is a better overall album and a bit of a return to form as there are plenty of tracks I really like including the title track and, my possible favourite “We’ve got Your Back” with the line “I’ve learnt more from toilet walls than I’ve learnt from these words of yours” which helps show that the band’s obscure but brilliant lyrics are still in place.

A couple of tracks don’t work for me, such as “Plan A” which I just can’t listen to, but there are other songs that lean towards another sound of theirs which I really like. The song that most comes to mind being “The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future” and this is a sound I’d like to hear more of from them.

Altogether, I think this album is an improvement over their previous one but sounds much closer to that than their debut album. However, there are a number of songs on the album that hint at another sound of theirs that I look forward to seeing them build on while still producing some top quality indie pop.

Oh, and does anyone else think the end of “Straight In At 101” is a real ripoff of the Superman Revenge Squad sound?

4/5 arty monkeys

Live and Kicking
April 18, 2009, 2:33 pm
Filed under: music | Tags: , , , , , ,

Sadly nothing to do with the 90’s Saturday morning kids TV program but a mini feature on a couple of gigs from the last few months featuring a few photos and live recordings.

Los Campesinos!

Back in October 2008, I managed to catch these guys in Camden as part of the ‘Shred Yr Face’ tour with Times New Viking and No Age. LC! themselves played a blinder with a real good fun set, playing a load of songs of their first album and a handful off their new album as well. They finished with the epic ‘Sweet Dreams Sweet Cheeks’ which was simply fantastic live. If you get chance to see these guys, do it.


You! Me! Dancing! (live)

Sweet Dreams, Sweet Cheeks (from 2008’s ‘Hold On Now Youngster’) Download


Also in October last year, I caught these guys at a tiny venue in Kilburn (where they’re playing again in a couple of months time) and it produced a great, intimate atmosphere. They weren’t top of the bill on the night, that honour went to This Town Needs Guns, but for me they were the best band there by a mile. Their set was a wee bit short which was disappointing but what they did play blew me away. Great band and even got a signed 12″ and had a chat with them afterwards. Looking forward to the new album out in June!!


Not For Want Of Trying (Live)

The Paris Hilton Sex Tape (from 2008’s ‘Not For Want Of Trying’) Download

Bon Iver

This was back in December 08 at the peculiar venue of the Victoria Apollo; peculiar as it was still showing ‘Wicked’ (the Wizard of Oz musical) at the time so the stage was still decked out with trees and had a dragon hanging from the ceiling. It was also one of the most peculiar atmoshpheres I’ve ever encountered at a gig as it was like seeing an actual theatre production as you felt so self-concious talking between songs and I even put my phone onto silent. The set itself though was breathtaking; songs such as Skinny Love and RE Stacks were stunning live and the band with him made it even better.

We also got to hear some of his new material, which has since been released on the ‘Blood Bank’ EP, and the singalong finale of The Wolves was magical as well.  Would pay good money to see him again.

Bon Iver

Skinny Love (Live)

RE Stacks (from 2008’s ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’) Download

Frank Turner

Last, and by no means least, in this feature is the freebie gig that Frank Turner performed just over a month ago at Pure Groove Records in Farringdon. This really was special as it was just 150 fans, Frank and his guitar with a selection of tunes from both of his albums and a few new tunes for good measure too. Could hardly speak afterwards from all the singing and with such an intense atmosphere there, I think his gig in October at the Shepherds Bush Empire could be something special. Below is a recording of a brand new song off his new album out in September.

The Road (Live)

Heartless Bastard Mother Fucker (from 2009’s ‘The Last Three Years) Download

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