EP: Brain Food – Brain Food 13.03.20

Words by Ed King / Pics by Radek Kubiszyn (Psychedelic Eye)

‘According to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history.’

I was Googling ‘Friday the 13th’ to come up with some witty framing technique, as Birmingham’s psych rockers, Brain Food, have ear marked this notorious end of the week to release their self-titled sophomore EP. But in the wake of a bulbous buffoon with his finger on the button and the grip of fear the world’s most popular sneeze has on half the planet…

A five track kaleidoscope of echoing psychedelia, Brain Food EP by Brain Food is indeed a tasty cranium treat – opening with ‘Poseidon’ and a surprisingly dirty riff, which had me fish hooked from the off, Liam McKeown’s perfectly lost vocals soon slide across the track.

An almost perfect front man for a band covered in the glow of a hyperactive lava lamp, McKeown sets the tone perfectly on the EP’s opener – sitting somewhere between a rock star joie de vivre and an introspective blotter acid trip in the dark corners of a Velvet Underground after party. Works for me.

But this is prog-something-psych-something-rock-something else… so, a small noodling siren is sounded as ‘Canyon Crawler’ sends seven minutes of blissed out guitar waves over a slowly marching tempo. It drags a little, to me. Today. If I was a younger man with a bit more mind left I’d probably be finding ways to lose it in this, but after about five minutes I’ll admit I’m swimming to the shore.

Then, as if my silent selfish prayer was answered, ‘That Feeling’ draws a sweet line down the middle of this Brain Food EP – in a surprisingly short (under four minutes??) foray into a more melody led track. It might be a bit too accessible for the prog purists, and you could be forgiven for thinking if psych rock was ever going to be radio friendly this is probably the closest it is going to get, but it’s still a damn fine few minutes.

‘Cosmic Jones’ takes us down the other side of the hill – opening with a cheeky little wah wah and keeping us cheerily on our toes for just over five minutes of soft crescendos and pretty nifty fretwork. Before the swan song of ‘Forbidden Tongue’ closes the show, which you can check out below instead of reading me try to be funny.

Which reminds me, where was I with that framing technique…

I’m not sure how many registered voters this EP will keep safe on its auspicious release day, but the idea (and to quote another LSD soaked ensemble) of encouraging the hope barren masses to ‘feed your head’ instead of panic buying toilet paper couldn’t be better placed.

And Brain Food by Brain Food seems to sum it up quite nicely this Friday the 13th… so, put that in your literary trope and smoke it.

‘Forbidden Tongue’ – by Brain Food

On Friday 13th March 2020, Brain Food release their self-titled second EP, Brain Food. For more on Brain Food, both the band and the extended play, visit www.facebook.com/brainfoodofficial

Brain Food are also hosting an EP launch party at The Night Owl on Saturday 14th March, with Cave Girl and Exhaler supporting. For more gig info and links to online ticket sales, click here to visit the Facebook event page.

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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.

If you have been affected by any issues surrounding sexual violence – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK website.

BREVIEW: Pixies @ O2 Academy (B’ham) 16.09.19

Words by Abi Whistance / Pics by Phil Drury (2324 Photography)

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)

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For more on Pixies, visit www.pixiesmusic.com   
For more on The Big Moon, visit www.thebigmoon.co.uk

For more on the O2 Academy Birmingham, including venue details and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academybirmingham

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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.

If you have been affected by any of the issues surrounding sexual violence – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK website.

ALBUM: Beneath the Eyrie – Pixies 13.09.19

Words by Abi Whistance

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

Pixies will also be performing at the O2 Academy Birmingham on Monday 16th September – for more direct gig information, including venue details and online ticket sales, click here.

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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.

If you have been affected by any of the issues surrounding sexual violence – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK website.

BPREVIEW: GHUM @ The Sunflower Lounge 14.07.19

Words by Ed King / Pics courtesy of Indie Midlands

On Sunday 14th July, GHUM play at The Sunflower Lounge – with support from Aufbau Principle, P.E.T and Pretty Vile.

Doors open at 7:30pm, with tickets priced at £6 (+bf) – as presented by Indie Midlands. For direct gig info, including venue details and links to online ticket sales, click here.

Out on the road with their new EP, The Coldest Fire, GHUM are stopping off for a Sunday night soirée in Birmingham – playing their second gig in the second city, before up to Manchester and beyond on an eight date UK tour.

Released though the London based Everything Sucks Music on 28th June – home to Dream Nails, Wolf Girl and Birmingham’s erstwhile Okinawa Picture Show (last seen…?) – The Coldest Fire is a thicker broth than its 2017 predecessor.

Opening with ‘Saturn’, an immediate foundation of frenetic drums and bass (from Vicki Butler and Marina MJ respectively) gives way to Jojo Khor’s piercing guitar lead and Laura Guerrero Lora’s subtle, brooding vocals. Relentless and bold, citing the EP’s title in the second verse, this opening track is a solid introduction to the whole release – which celebrates all the wonderful and dark corners of GHUM’s self-described ‘ghost grunge’.

Produced by Adam Jaffrey, who has worked with acts from Beach Baby to Ekkah to Lucy Rose, the EP’s second half does loosen its grip a bit – with a softer threat to the first two tracks otherwise clear cut knife to the cheek. But don’t be fooled, whilst ‘1000 Men’ and ‘In My Head’ might be a little epinephrine deficient they can still stand up and fight.

Perhaps, however, The Coldest Fire’s brightest moment is in its second track and lead single, ‘Get Up’, with just over four minutes of low menace and rising panic that throw us around the sonic spectrum with frightening control. As a child of the 90’s, who grew up on the foreboding prophecies of early Sup Pop and Swervedriver, this sends me back to the frivolities of my twisted metal youth.

Like an audio ghost train crashing through the walls of a mescaline hall of mirrors; cracking stuff. And God loves a metaphor… at least, that’s what you get in the absence of any Darjeeling railway anecdotes. Out now; enjoy.

‘Get Up’ – GHUM

GHUM play at The Sunflower Lounge on Sunday 14th July, with support from Aufbau Principle, P.E.T and Pretty Vile – as presented by Indie Midlands. For direct gig info and links to online ticket sales, click here to visit the Facebook event page.

For more on GHUM, visit www.ghum.bandcamp.com

For more Aufbau Principle, visit www.aufbauprinciple.bandcamp.com
For more P.E.T, visit www.facebook.com/petbanduk
For more on Pretty Vile, visit www.soundcloud.com/prettyvile

For more from Indie Midlands, including further event listings and stories from the region’s indie and alternative music scene, visit www.indiemidlands.com

For more on The Sunflower Lounge, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.thesunflowerlounge.com

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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.

If you have been affected by any of the issues surrounding sexual violence – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK website.

BPREVIEW: Sam Lambeth presents 10 Years on Four Chords @ The Victoria 12.07.19

Words by Ed King / Pics courtesy of Sam Lambeth

On Friday 12th July, Sam Lambeth presents 10 Years on Four Chords – a final gig showcase held at The Victoria on John Bright Street, where he will perform cherry picked tracks from The MonoBloggers, Quinn, My Perfect Summer and Winona. And like that… he’s gone. This really is your last chance to see the boy up on stage. Although as a musical epitaph, Lambeth released a compilation of his decade long back catalogue under the same name back in May this year – to read Abi Whitsance’s Birmingham Review of 10 Years on Four Chords (the album) click here.

Joining Sam Lambeth for the 10 Years on Four Chords last hurrah will be ‘an array of special guests from throughout his career’, standing in as his swansong band mates – extra support comes from further local artists Giant & the Georges, Bryony Williams and Paul Beaumont (Wood and Nails).

Doors open at The Victoria on 12th July from 7pm, with tickets priced at £5 (+ booking fee) – as promoted by The Future Sound Project. All money raised from the door sales will go to Teenage Cancer Research, a charity Sam Lambeth has supported for several years, with NOT NORMAL NOT OK also invited to have a presence at the event – challenging sexual assault in the music scene, from dancefloor to dressing room. For more direct gig information and links to online ticket sales, click here to visit the 10 Years on Four Chords Facebook event page.

Birmingham Review first saw Sam Lambeth as frontman for/founder of Quinn, when the indie pop three piece were supporting erstwhile Goth rockers, Semantics, back September 2017. Describing their sound as ‘languid melodies disguised by fast paced distortion and an unashamed rock outlook on life’, Quinn’s set was confidently wrapped around their engaging frontman – with Lambeth’s self-deprecation and humour being one of the highlights of a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The line we settled on was: ‘Lambeth is a superstar in the making, with absurd confidence, deft solos and the kind of charisma that you would sign in blood to possess.’

But Mr Quinn had worn several hats before Birmingham Review saw him strut his funky leopard print stuff, having again founded and fronted both The MonoBloggers and My Perfect Summer – the former enjoying some pretty respectable momentum and attention, getting picked by music media such as NME and Radio 6 alongside support slots for The Lemonheads and Little Comets.

Likewise, when the first incarnation of Quinn went the way of the dodo back in 2018 Lambeth sought to re-establish the band with some pretty sold new material – darker than its predecessors, a smattering of tracks were floated around (which Birmingham Review dubbed ‘Evil Quinn’) but despite being pretty exciting evolutions sadly did not pan out as many of us had hoped. No doubt, Sam Lambeth included.

But not one to be easily thwarted or pushed of stage, Lambeth set about redefining his redefinition with a further band – the again exciting but again short-lived Winona. In fact, when we run through it all it’s difficult to pinpoint why Lambeth isn’t now sipping hare of the dog cocktails in the Ivy, kvetching with Noel Gallagher about all the new faces at this year’s Glastonbury. To paraphrase the words of Robert Burns… I guess things just fuck up. But it’s an odd equation gone wrong that ‘Sam Lambeth’ isn’t on the way to being a household name by now. Or at least, to Celebrity Love Island.

Platitudes and prophecy aside, 10 Years on Four Chords will see this decade of highs, lows, fortune and famine played out (literally) on stage at The Victoria on Friday 12th July – in a portfolio packed showcase that presents ‘choice cuts from every band, resulting in a winning playlist of some of his (Lambeth’s) best tracks spanning his ten-year tenure.’

Expect tears, expect laughter. Expect growing old gracefully to be shoved down the back of the sofa for a night. Come and say well done/goodbye to someone who has been embedded, both on stage and off, in the Midland’s music scene for the last 10 years. Someone should bake a cake, or buy a watch. Do PRS and Birmingham City Council issue a long service award…?

‘All the Best’ – Quinn

On Friday 12th July, Sam Lambeth and The Future Sounds Project present 10 Years on Four Chords at The Victoria – showcasing tracks from The MonoBloggers, Quinn, My Perfect Summer and Winona. Support comes from Giant & the Georges, Bryony Williams and Paul Beaumont (Wood and Nails). For direct gig information and links to online ticket sales, click here to visit the Facebook Event page

For more from Sam Lambeth, and for a sneaky peak at what’s coming off stage at 10 Years on Four Chords, visit https://spoti.fi/2G6ANA1

For more on Giant & the Georges, visit www.giantandthegeorges.co.uk
For more on Bryony Williams, visit www.soundcloud.com/bryony-williams
For more on Paul Beaumont (Wood and Nails), visit www.spoti.fi/2IJ1IWc

For more from The Future Sound Project, visit www.seetickets.com/promoter/the-future-sound-project

For more on The Victoria, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.thevictoriabirmingham.co.uk

For more on Teenage Cancer Trust, visit www.teenagecancertrust.org

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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.

If you have been affected by any of the issues surrounding sexual violence – or if you want to report an act of sexual aggression, abuse or assault – click here for information via the ‘Help & Support’ page on the NOT NORMAL NOT OK website.