BPREVIEW: She Makes War @ Sunflower Lounge 22.11.16

She Makes War @ Sunflower Lounge 22.11.16

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Words by Ed King

On Tuesday 22nd November, She Makes War (aka Laura Kidd) comes to Birmingham – presenting ‘An Evening With…’ ate Sunflower Lounge. She Makes War will be headlining the night with a full band set, alongside support slots from Luckless and Laura Kidd as a solo performer.birm_prev-logo-main-lr

Doors open at 7:30pm with an 11pm curfew. Tickets are priced at £8 (advance) – as presented by My Big Sister. For direct gig info and online ticket sales, click here.

Last time Birmingham Review saw She Make War was as support for Carina Round at the Hare & Hounds in June, bringing a sense of joy to an otherwise depressingly flat evening. Sorry Carina, we f*ing love you but…

She Makes War braved out a broken leg that night to bring us an awesome solo show and endearingly endearing on stage banter (remember Ms Kidd has penned and performed an hour long love lament at the Edinburgh Fringe, the subtly titled one woman show Shit Girlfriend).

We’d missed her previous gig at Ort in May, but the ball of excitement about She Makes War’s third studio album – Direction of Travel (out on The state51 Conspiracy) – had been bouncing around our editorial HQ since April. Finally getting to see some of it on stage was a huge Brucey Bonus.

direction-of-travelNow the ‘queen of gloom pop’ is back in Birmingham for ‘An Evening with She Makes War’ at The Sunflower Lounge on Tues 22nd November. And this time she’s brought her band, alongside another one woman music machine – Luckless. We are most excited.

Meanwhile back at the ranch… She Makes War released her third studio album, Direction of Travel, in April this year – the bio of which reads like a litany of my early indie rock ideals. Always good to see Tanya Donelly’s name on an album. But the whole of Direction of Travel is a pretty special endevour; a bold and beautifully vulnerable affair, shifting from the tougher edges to the softer centre of this absurdly versatile artist. The kind of game changer you want to see in the The Sunflower Lounge too.

We’re kinda hooked for now, with songs to both challenge and comfort across the 12 track LP. Loads to choose from, but see what you make of this pretty little love dissection below. ‘What’s coming for me…’

‘Cold Shoulder’ / She Makes War

‘An Evening with She Make War’ comes The Sunflower Lounge on Tues 22nd November – presenting both solo and full band sets from She Makes War, alongside further support from Luckless. For direct gig info and online tickets sales, click here.

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For more on She Makes War, visit www.shemakeswar.com

For more on Luckless, visit www.luckless.co.nz

For more from The Sunflower Lounge, visit www.thesunflowerlounge.com

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BREVIEW: Slaves @ O2 Academy (B’ham) 19.11.16

Slaves @ O2 Academy (B’ham) 19.11.16 / By Michelle Martin © Birmingham Review

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Words by Billy Beale / Pics by Michelle Martin

Slaves have had such a fast and dramatic rise to stardom that it’s almost baffling. It feels like just yesterday they were a plucky duo of dapper punks with a monochrome Bandcamp page. Now they’re selling out most dates of their UK tour, they’re on their second top-10 album and have had Mike D from the Beastie Boys produce it. It would be baffling if it weren’t for their infectiously likable music.Slaves @ O2 Academy (B’ham) 19.11.16 / By Michelle Martin © Birmingham Review

Openers Shame were first in the queue to play to a dense standing crowd of eager early arrivers. In their oversized 80s-style outfits they look like extras from Weekend at Bernie’s, but their sound is very much on the trend of the current indie zeitgeist.

Twangy single note guitar lines, swashes of delay and reverb with a Fat Whites-esque vocal will likely go down as The Sound of UK Indie 2016 and Shame tick all the boxes in that category. Although they seem to have something of an identity crisis, flailing about in a way that suits music much heavier than they play.

Both second support Life and openers Shame had dedicated vocalists that exhausted all that one can do in terms of waving a mic stand about. Life’s vocalist Mez is like a Northern version of The Horrors’ Faris Badwan, with moves and shapes lifted straight from Jarvis Cocker’s repertoire. Despite having just one guitarist to Shame’s two, Life sound much more like a guitar band, with whammy bar dives and high gain solos scattered between their spat-out lyrics and driving discordant rhythms. Their set ends on a loud and cacophonous number. The bewildered audience forgets to applaud. I hope Life realise that the omission of claps doesn’t mean they did a bad job.

“Bring him out here, I wanna see him” says Slaves guitarist Laurie Vincent, like a punk Caesar with knuckle tats and a Fender Mustang. A stage invader has been foiled – presumably rather forcefully – by the security staff and Vincent Slaves @ O2 Academy (B’ham) 19.11.16 / By Michelle Martin © Birmingham Reviewis concerned. “The security people have got a job to do but, sometimes mistakes are made. I just wanna see he’s alright”. Drummer Isaac Holman is out of sight, presumably intervening.

The Defendant is brought before Vincent. “Do you admit that you’ve been a very naughty boy?” he asks like a Pythonesque Judge. He presides over an enforced hug between the invader and the security staff; Holman returns to his mark behind the drums and the set resumes.

There is a softness to Slaves that doesn’t always manage to come across in their music. They’ve achieved a lot with their format without compromising their sound – primal, angry and loud. There is an awful amount of empty space on the stage but Isaac (shirtless throughout) paces menacingly when he’s not fueling the rhythm engine, while Laurie (shirtless for the encore) almost never stops. Throwing the headstock of his guitar about like he’s fighting off an invisible opponent, teetering on the edge of the monitors and classic moves like Chuck Berry’s one-legged hop.

If the crowd before Slaves were water molecules coming to the boil, they erupted like geyser when tonight’s headliners started. There must have been at least 10 crowd surfers during ‘Steer Clear’, a softer song and definitely not the usual crowd surfing tune. It’s one of the few moments in Slaves’ set where they deviate from their usual gear – flat out. Slaves don’t seem to expect, or want, to be taken seriously, but in these moments where they deviate their delivery is hard to judge. The deadpan of a comedy band, like Flight of the Conchords when they send up a particular genre, feels a bit too close to the seemingly earnest Slaves when they play to a lofi electronic beat.Slaves @ O2 Academy (B’ham) 19.11.16 / By Michelle Martin © Birmingham Review

It’s hard for them to win because their setup is the perfect tool for the full-on, raging, up-to-eleven sound that anything else seems out of place. “You’re so boring when you’re nice”. But the alternative is a flat, undynamic set that lacks variation.

Slaves strike a nice balance, but everybody seems more comfortable with the more moshable tracks. It was refreshing to see ‘Girl Fight’ – mere seconds of anger and trashing – return to the set; it’s an excellent representation of the band because it says so much with so little.

Defying tradition, Slaves finish on newer single – ‘Spit It Out’. An audience member finally makes it on stage and pulls a face before a road crew member steps purposefully towards him, frightening him off. Vincent casts his guitar to the ground and Slaves leave the stage filled with dense feedback.

Slaves live sound is a different beast to the one they showed on either of their major albums. They’re the perfect rock n’ roll band for right now and they’ve pushed the limits of their sound to the very extreme. It will be interesting to see what avenues Slaves go down in future and whether they will sound the same in 2017. 

For more on Slaves, visit www.youareallslaves.com

For more from the O2 Academy (B’ham), visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academybirmingham

For more from SJM Concerts/Gigs & Tours, including full events listings & online tickets sales, visit www.gigsandtours.com

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BREVIEW: Black Honey + Pleasure House, Dream Wife @ Mama Roux’s 10.10.16

Black Honey / Taken from www.londoninstereo.comWords by Billy Beale

Imagine going back in time and telling somebody that one day a band will win the title of ‘BBC Radio 6 Music Most Blogged About Band’. Even now, it sounds a bit nonsense – like ‘most relatable Tweet’ or whatever Vine is for.

Black Honey won that title from 6 Music in 2015, meaning that last year people were talking about these guys more than any other group, even much bigger names that had been all over the mainstream music press. Time to see if they live up to the hype – as Black Honey play Birmingham’s Mama Roux’s, at the tail end of their eight date UK tour.

Pleasure House, in a homecoming show that marks the end of an up-and-down tour of the nation, duly open tonight’s show. It is a sign of these post-DeMarco times that every band apparently needs at least one member to find the oldest baseball cap they can and never, ever remove it.

Their two opening songs, both on the topic of being “fucked up”, draw heavily on the sound of the slacker pop zeitgeist, but with heavier riffs and strong, prominent vocals from singer and guitarist Alex Heffernan. It is these vocals that prevent Pleasure House from sounding like every other tight and slick indie pop band. Their older songs are more typical 21st Century British indie disco than the openers but lack any real distinctive characteristics beyond a soulful voice and being undeniably well-executed.

Dream Wife look every part the riot grrrl group with the notable exception of singer Rakel Mjöll, who looks more like an 80’s horror movie blonde. In keeping with the movie-cheerleader image, her stage antics include a lot of jumping and chanting between delicate gesticulations from the Mick Jagger and Jarvis Cocker Book of Stagecraft. It’s not dissimilar to the mental image of a very small child on the stage of some awful televised talent competition, surprising everybody by doing a very energetic and enthusiastic rendition of a Blondie song but missing much of the cadence and rhythm. This image is not extinguished when Mjöll has a good go at shouting “I WANNA FUCK YOU UUUUUUP” later in the set. Black Honey Tour Poster 2016

A strong visual aesthetic is a great asset to a band, and Black Honey have honed and refined theirs to a degree not often seen at their level. The chosen font for the logo, the desert theme to their graphics, the video for ‘Hello Today’ (a three-minute homage to 60’s exploitation movies, much like Tarantino’s Death Proof or Kill Bill: Volume 2) is all very consciously American. Mods-and-rockers might be played out, particularly for a Brighton band like themselves, but Black Honey’s vintage US appearance doesn’t always match their songs.

For most of their set tonight, Black Honey sound like a British indie band with elements of 70’s US Southern rock stirred through. Singer Izzy B Phillips is reminiscent of Metric’s Emily Haines, with enough range to carry the darker, sparse, slower tracks as well as the bouncier pop. Unfazed by a rowdy crowd, Phillips relishes in reaching out over their heads and instructing them not to mosh and fight, but hug and sway. As far as crowd reactions go, Black Honey get nothing but unambiguous adoration from their Birmingham fans. Their music is often formulaic and predictable – verse, chorus, guitar solo with a Whammy effect, coda, repeat – but judging from the response, it seems to be working.

The latter half of Black Honey’s set sees less of the samey structures and more variation of dynamics and genre. ‘Spinning Wheel’ shows more of their American influence in the form of surf rock worthy of a Tarantino soundtrack, contrasting with the anthemic dreamy indie of ‘Corrine’.

There are a lot of sonic influences that make up Black Honey and, while they’re not always completely in balance, the end result is a professional show with flashes of genius. And whether they’re still the most blogged about band in late 2016, whatever’s left that stands between them and bigger things had better watch out because they’re coming.

For more on Black Honey, visit www.facebook.com/BlackHoneyUK

For more from Mama Roux’s, visit www.therainbowvenues.co.uk/venues/mama-rouxs

For more from Birmingham Promoters, visit www.birminghampromoters.com

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