That difficult second album was a little more challenging for REWS, aka the Belfast born London living rock songstress that is Shauna Tohill.
Not only did Tohill have her band spilt in two, following an absurdly strong debut album, but that pesky global pandemic severed the promo gigs for her follow up right down the middle as well – with concerns over coronavirus cutting short the aptly named Phoenix Tour in early March.
Now, on the red latter date that is 7th August 2020, finally something is going her way. REWS’s sophomore album, Warriors, has hit the shelves – or whatever lexicon describes our current online purchasing patterns. But sterilised, self-isolated, never before touched by human hands copies of this 11 track return to glory are now flinging themselves up and down the country. At least something can.
So, is it any good? Has the wait been worth it?
It is tempting to make similes about the name of the previously cancelled tour… but a mythical bird that is gloriously reborn from the flames and ash of its own demise is quite a fitting symbol. If I can find something in Greek mythology that symbolises a killer rock riff and soaring vocals, then the metaphor may be complete.
But to use the parlance of more modern times, Warriors is ‘a banger’ – start to finish, a wrecking ball of a rock album. Warriors is more mature, robust, and ultimately promising than its predecessor, showing a diversity and bravery in its approach that screams gold stars for Tohill and her team.
Opening with ‘Birdsong’, which is simply a corker of a tune, the album is peppered with chorus catching singles such as ‘Monster’ and ‘Heat on Fire’– standing tall as singles should.
Across the 11 tracks there are moments of wonderful restraint, held against Tohill’s powerful front person persona which has always made REWS such a confident and class act – the album’s sorta/kinda title track ‘Today We’re Warriors’ is a great line in the sand for this, alongside the furiously addictive ‘Razorblade’.
And whilst Tohill has not lost her flair for melody, it’s the song writing that really shines across Warriors – this is development, and in that crazy good way that makes you believe you’ll be listening to this artist in your dotage.
‘Move On’ is a cracking raw edge, ‘Play Dead’ shows a confident grasp on the new ensemble, and the denouement, ‘Bad Habits’, is a wonderful surprise and goodbye. Or rather, see you later – we hope. And to this writer, lyrically Warriors is unrecognisable from what came before. I just love it.
REWS have often been referred to as a ‘powerhouse’ – and this declaration to not go quietly into the night is another stamp of their increasing authority on modern rock. Which, honestly, it might not have been – with all the hurdles that have been put in front of it, you’d be forgiven for making a few stumbles along the way.
Warriors if the start of something, not the end – with bright red plumes to send it on its way. And if you’ve ever seen Shauna Tohill strut her funky stuff on stage, you know this is going to ABSOLUTELY SLAY live – once the doors are open and the drinks are flowing again. Socially distanced mosh pit anyone?
Like much of the entertainment industry, Birmingham Review has been ‘resting’ since the end of March – when we published our last article before all that pesky pandemic malarkey.
Although we were amongst the lucky ones; the venues were closing, the gigs weren’t happening, so a surprise holiday was about the darkest cloud on our horizon. And how many times had we cried out for the ‘life pause button’… Our hats are off and our hearts go out to all the artists and venues who have been much more adversely affected.
But there was one casualty in Camp Review, our gig with REWS – originally scheduled for 21st March at the O2 Institute 3, with local punk-rocksters [SKETCH] supporting – was postponed.
Until when, we didn’t know. No one knew. And there were a lot of questions before that one that people needed answering.
But on Friday 17th July, we can once again celebrate both of these bands – and whilst we desperately still want to see them share a stage, having the same single release day is a pretty good interim measure. So welcome back one and all – and however you’ve been hit by the coronaviris crisis, we wish you all the luck and love you need to make it through x
Someone once challenged me to name a band, any band, that continuously gets better as they get older – single after single, album after album, tour after tour… still grabbing your attention in the way they first did. Try it. It’s not as easy as it sounds. And you can’t say The Beatles.
REWS, however, are one of these bands – it’s why Birmingham Review has thrown so much page space their way. When we first saw them, they were awesome. The next time they came to Brum, they were even better. The time after that, they had taken another step up. And the story continues…
But the sword of album two was always hanging over their heads, alongside a line up change that was so unfortunately timed it could have derailed any ensemble. Old or new. Pyro was a ferocious debut, a real monster of an album, which is great… but how the f*ck are you going to pull another one of those out the bag???
Kicking off, and we use the adjective/noun deliberately, with a Shauna Tohill signature foot stomping guitar riff, ‘Today We’re Warriors’ is immediately another REWS banger (official term). Add it to the list, pour another shandy, and scream with the windows rolled down – REWS keep getting bigger and bolder.
But with maturity comes confidence, and REWS pull back on the reigns of their new single – with a pause, rim tap, and tempered vocals taking over after about 10secs in. You know that question about ‘still grabbing your attention’… yeah, well, this is how you do that.
But the ferocity we know and love REWS for is not too far behind, with the dance between IN YOUR FACE ROCK and a stripped-back-strut-inducing sound keeping this track on its toes from start to finish. If this is the taste of Warriors – REWS’s sophomore album, set for release on 7th August – then I might just have an answer to my original question…
“Today were warriors – the song exclaims exactly what the name suggests!” explains Shauna Tohill. “Every morning we wake up, we have a choice in what kind of journey we will lead. There are dark days where our path is unclear and blocked (some more than others) and that’s when I want to encourage everyone to keep fighting forward, to gather together in the spirit of music with those who are good in your life, to support and respect each other!
“TODAY, we got this, we will get through this and we will keep moving forward to see a better, positive, thriving and equal future for all women, men, children from all races and backgrounds. Today, we’re warriors!”
‘Today We’re Warriors’ – REWS
‘Today We’re Warriors’ by REWS is out from Friday 17th July, released via Marshall Records. REWS sophomore album, Warriors, is set for release on Friday 7th August – to pre-order a copy, visit www.transistormusic.com/rews
Infectious. If I was going to review the latest single from [SKETCH] in a word, that would be it. Give me two, and I’d stick ‘seriously’ in as a prefix.
But if this new track from Birmingham’s tartan clad pop punkrocksters doesn’t ignite-the-planet’s-musical-blue-touch-paper-and-shower-down-a-sparkling-rain-of-glorious-audio-technicolour-onto-the-ears-and-mosh-pits-across-the… perhaps two words is a good limit. Seriously infectious… yep, that about sums it up.
A love song, of sorts, ‘Do You Love Me Yet?’ is “more of an attitude” than a dedication – with [SKETCH] never shying away from using personal experience as inspiration (check out ‘My Girlfriend’s a Vampire’ and keep bear that in mind).
With immediate swagger, the tracks starts off suitably high octane – there is no escape, so you might as well surrender. Front man Foley’s vocals have just the right amount of confidence and grit, slicing through a punchy pop punk masterclass and infectious lyrics. There’s that word again. But seriously (and that one) if you can make it to the end of the chorus with singing along, whether you know the right words or not, then you’re probably dead inside.
“We like to call this an absolute stomper,” tells Matt Robinson – [SKETCH] percussionist, lyricist, general manager, and all round ambassador of the local music scene. “It’s boyish ego mixed with massive vulnerability, and it represents a wider audience… it’s a statement to them.”
Written by Robinson and Foley, ‘Do You Love Me Yet?’ was conceived “in the rain, in a shed” – then recorded by Gavin Monaghan at his Magic Garden Studios in Wolverhampton. But the contagious little number has already travelled a lot further than up the Birmingham Road, climbing to No10 on Banks Radio Australia Top 15 UK tracks chart.
But if December and the idea of standing in a room full of strangers seems too far away, you can always listen to ‘Do You Love Me Yet?’ a little closer to home…
‘Do You Love Me Yet?’ – [SKETCH]
‘Do You Love Me Yet?’ Warriors’ by [SKETCH] is out from Friday 17th July, released through the band’s social media and usual suspect online streaming platforms.For more on [SKETCH], visit www.sketchband.com
NOT NORMAL NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual aggression in the music industry and beyond – from dance floor to dressing room, everyone deserves a safe place to play.
To learn more about the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here.
It’s a wet, dreary morning in late November. I could have been on my way back from Amsterdam, however I had to turn the trip down to stay at home and let some builders start work on the house. DAMN YOU SPONTANEOUS GETAWAYS. I need something to ease my head, and in his latest single Birmingham artist T8PES asks the question ‘How Much Do You Want It?’ So, I’ll guess I’ll find out.
The first bar whisks me from my dark, rain-battered Stratford living room and plonks me straight into the lights and madness of an Ibiza rave pool party. It’s warming and contagious. I find that typically in most cases of ‘crossover hip hop’, lyrics are all too often forgotten. It seems the art of lyricism is getting harder to find in hip hop enthused genres – however this song simply takes that allegation and throws it with a ‘boom bap’ straight back into my face. The lyric, “as I channel the spirit of John Lennon at the Caver,” just warms me. These are clearly students of the game; T8PES and Mike 110 love music, and it’s easy to hear in this single.
The beat continues to fuel the song as I find myself skanking just listening to it. After the first hook I force myself to pause the track so I can go and get my speaker, to play this louder. I think perhaps more emphasis could be placed on the hook of the piece from a production point of view, as the volume is fairly one dimensional (taking into account that is typical of rave music), but it feels T8PES has more than enough ability to adapt this song into his own fusion genre of rave and hip hop. It’s clear that homage is being paid to old school rave culture and the breakdown of the piece shows T8PES donning his cap to perhaps my favourite element of classic hip hop… disk scratching. The scratching perfectly delivers the samples used into the track and it sounds effortless.
‘Howe Much Do You Want It?’ is a track with so much inspiration, it’s almost like looking through a photo album, picking out your favourites, and creating a collage of memories (or in this case a symphony of sounds). It’s a stamp on hip hop culture saying classic still exists, and that’s a beautiful thing.
‘How Much Do You Want It?’ – T8PES (feat Mike 110)
‘How Much Do You Want It?’ by T8PES is out on general release from Friday 29th November. For more on T8PES, visit www.t8pes.com
NOT NORMAL NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.
To learn more about the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here. To sign up and join the NOT NORMAL NOT OK campaign, click here.
Pixies have made it pretty clear in recent years that, frankly, they’re getting a little too worn out for the yelps, shrieks and piercing guitars of their adolescence. Settling nicely into Frank Black’s country grooves the band have mellowed in their releases, Beneath the Eyrie being no exception.
It was difficult to know what to expect with a world tour of their latest album; the worry that I’d gotten my hopes up for a surprise appearance of ‘I’ve Been Tired’ or ‘Nimrod’s Son’ was almost debilitating. With such a cult-like fanbase it would have been impossible to fulfil the wishes of every unshakable Trompe Le Monde buff on site, with at least a handful of the crowd crying for a rendition of ‘that B-side they did once that only exists by word of mouth’ or a 1988 debuted cover of ‘a classic’.
Yet as time went by and their arrival onto the O2 Academy’s stage crept closer, I couldn’t help but feel that high hopes weren’t going to be unwarranted.
Erupting into ‘Gouge Away’, I knew then my gut had pointed me in the right direction. Pixies weren’t here to tiptoe; this was floorboard-rattling, neighbour-waking material that pleased all the right people and pissed all the wrong ones off. A set peppered with phenomenal renditions of fan favourites made it nearly impossible to go without for more than a few minutes, even the pickiest were brought to a grinding halt when the likes of ‘Here Comes Your Man’ and ‘Planet of Sound’ were plucked from the hat.
The new album provided a breather in the set; thrashing and flaying ensued during the haphazardly selected relics of Come on Pilgrim and Doolittle, the latest ‘Silver Bullet’ and ‘Ready for Love’ alternatively offering a brief moment of reflection. Not just because they lack excitement, which undeniably they do, but also because we’re yet to warm to them.
Still, there’s no better way to fall in love than face to face, and Pixies are aiming for nothing less than head over heels with Beneath the Eyrie on tour. Snatching hearts one by one, Francis is leaving no survivors this lap of the globe.
Pixies – with support from The Big Moon @ 02 Academy (B’ham) 16.09.19 / Phil Drury (2324 Photography)
It feels necessary for this review to come with a cover letter of sorts. When it comes to Pixies, I’m a diehard. In my eyes, Francis can do no wrong.
Yet, on receiving a copy of new album Beneath the Eyrie, I knew I needed to put my Surfer Rosa loving, Trompe Le Monde abiding ways behind me. So, this is it – welcome, not to a shrine, but to a review.
I’ve never heard anyone say their favourite album by Pixies is Indie Cindy, and if they did I’d hurtle a copy of anything else in their discography at them and declare them criminally insane. What made, and continues to make, Pixies so goddamn great is their unadulterated strangeness, rage and ability to make you sick to your stomach.
In the same way Indie Cindy is good but lacking in the musto-gusto, Beneath the Eyrie just ain’t their best. It’s passive in parts, lacking the otherworldly force you know exists but can’t quite put your finger on, and kind of pussyfoots its way through twelve tracks. For Pixies, a vast chunk of this album is unremarkable; a strong start dwindles away into records that play it safe, occasionally throwing a much needed wild-card in there to grab your attention again as the mind wanders.
Yet there are still some real gems to find on here. Album opener, ‘In the Arms of Mrs. Mark of Cain’, makes for one of the best on the record – setting the tone for a surprisingly consistent forty minute ride of more subdued Pixies material. Standard biblical omens and a strong riff are all they need to get my attention, and in the first few minutes I’m feeling satisfied. Promotional single, ‘On Graveyard Hill’ features our beloved screeches and howls from Francis himself – no doubt as a demonstration that hey, the kid’s still got it and he’s not afraid to let us have it.
We then slip into the mediocre, which makes it even more infuriating when they throw a kicker in the mix with ‘St. Nazaire’. One of the best modern Pixies tracks to date, it feels wasted on an album that for the most part doesn’t deserve to possess such a, for want of a better word, kick-ass track. The musical lull perishes and suddenly there’s fire here; this is exactly what I wanted from the whole album and failed to get from pretty much anything else on it.
Nevertheless, it must be noted that what Beneath the Eyrie lacks in strength it regains in its storytelling ability. It seems to me that a choice has arisen with this record, a choice between weaving fiction and sounding mighty had splayed itself on the table, and for most tracks Pixies have sacrificed the power for the fable. The carefully fashioned imagery of ‘Catfish Kate’ and ‘Silver Bullet’ stand as a reminder of that, crafting complex stories that can sway you to forget what it is they’re missing.
So, do I like it? Of course I do, and so will everyone else. It’s great. It’s fantastic, even. But does it give me the fuck yeah feeling I was gifted with Trompe Le Monde, or even Head Carrier? No.
There’s nothing wrong with this record just being good. With a back catalogue as strong as that of Pixies, there’s no harm in dropping a, let’s say, ‘filler-not-killer’ into the mix. Three years ago, Head Carrier threw us right back to the band at their finest hour; tracks like ‘Baal’s Back’ and ‘Um Chagga Lagga’ quelling all doubts that they’d ripened and gone soft.
Maybe if Beneath the Eyrie wasn’t preceded by such a formidable force of an album I’d be concerned, but instead this feels like the calm after the storm.
‘On Graveyard Hill’ – Pixies
Pixies release Beneath the Eyrie on Friday 13th September, out on Infection/BMG and available through all the usual online outlets. For more on Pixies, including links to online sales, visit www.pixiesmusic.com