Thursday, 28 November 2013

Moon Coastal Maine Review

Moon Coastal Maine
Imp
Philophobia Music



There's this villain in the DC Universe called Doomsday. He is, like, totally indestructible. He even kills Superman (apologies for the spoiler, readers from 1995).

Of course, Superman doesn't stay dead, and in a later storyline, one way he defeats Doomsday is to setup a series of teleporters on the moon; caught within the beam, he is transported from one to the next for eternity. Because 100% of his body mass is never present at anyone time, he can never escape.

That image comes back to me now, as I try to review Imp's debut album. No matter which angle I observe it from, or which expectation drives me, I simply can't see the whole thing. It's like it is evolving before by eyes (or, in my ears). I can't decide how I feel about it because as soon as I do, it is gone, and something else appears.

It's a record that has apparently been in the making for ten years; whether that means some sounds and songs stretch that far back or they've been twiddling their thumbs for that amount of time, I'm not sure. It is pre-dated by two excellent EPs on Philophobia Music and a reputation as the Wakefield bands band of choice.

Moon Coastal Maine is a tricky beast. Within its track listing is the third Imp EP, one that follows the intricate, lively, confusing, dreamy, noodly, fun, agonised over, free flowing Indie noise pop that genuinely turns heads whenever they come to town.

This is what I expected (and hoped for) from the album, and around a third of the fifteen tracks fall comfortably into this category and are without doubt amongst their best work. No-one else writes songs like this. And as I’ve noted before, they don’t even feel written; they just seem to fall into place. The supreme talents of all bands members are pushed to the fore, against sweeter than ever guitar interplay, and the dreamy 60s girl-pop element of the vocals ridden to the max. It’s great, unknown music, but instantly familiar.

That ten year gestation may suggest a slow approach to writing, but as the press release states, they have 250 songs stored up. This is where things turn slightly odd, and though many wouldn't want Imp any other way, it may alienate potential new fans who would adore the more classic, full band approach.

Essentially they are created by the songwriting duo at the core of the band and amount to home studio noodles. If these classify as 'songs' then yeah, I can easily imagine that they have 250 stashed away.

I'm not writing for Classic Rock Magazine here, so I'm not being sniffy about 60 second instrumentals, or woozy soundscapes. There's some great stuff here. But it results in an off-balance, schizophrenic album. The palette cleanser / main course balance feels wrong, and some of it; you just wish so hard they'd developed it, or got the rest of the band in.

Still, it does add a greater depth to the album, if the less conventional approach is to your liking. It is certainly a 'proper' album (trust me, those instrumentals sound even weirder if you've got your iPod on shuffle) made to be listened to as one, and has been crafted with care and attention to detail.

I just worry that it isn't the strongest debut album it could have been. Do debut album's matter anymore? Does it matter if it sells? It will be personal opinion as to whether it strays into self indulgence or not, but it does feel a little lacking in direction. It is unsure of itself, perhaps through trying too hard. What are Imp?

Maybe the posing of that question is the point, and if so, fair enough. The track-listing is tricky; perhaps a Low style two-sided approach would have been too obvious (there are plenty of fade-outs as per the Bowie standard), but it might have made more sense. I like to see it more like a White Album; everything and the kitchen sink, see what you find amongst the rubble.

So, Moon Coastal Maine is not the definitive Imp article. What debut is? Well… Yet I worry a confusing picture such as this hinders the chances of more people hearing them. Because I REALLY want them to.

But there is so much to search through, including the best stuff they've done, so who I am to complain?  See, see, SEE! I can’t finish this review. Because it keeps circling around and around.

The bottom line, literally, is that this is an ambitious album, combining the best but also most obtuse work of a unique and visionary band that will keep you busy for months, yet still leaves you wanting more. And is a reviewers worst headache. There. Done. Go listen now.

Dean Freeman



Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Day The EDL Came To Town.


I have written this blog entry mainly as a record of my experiences with the EDL, should it prove useful to persons faced with them in the future.

I was surprised, and then curious as to why the EDL had chosen to come to my city. And why would they do something like this on the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who? Are they insane? But then I found out the march would be in the afternoon, giving them enough time to get home for an evening in front of the TV. They'd obviously thought it through.

A community driven group called We Are Wakefield was formed with the intention of creating a counter demonstration elsewhere in the city on the same day. I believe the creator and driver of this group had previous experience on organising Love Music Hate Racism events (as does Rhubarb Bomb) but it wasn't a politically driven group. It was one interested in showing what an open minded, inclusive and fun place Wakefield is. Simple as that.

Questions

I was curious about the EDL. Although I despise the core politics of the BNP and EDL, and UKIP too, I will never say I hate them. That is the core reaction of many and yes, I think it is a sane one. But I can't, because that kind of black and white thinking (pun NOT intended) is the whole problem with these people.

And though the media impression of them is the most comfortable to swallow, the media often makes caricatures of us all. If I am going to be so disgusted by someone, I want to do it for real reasons, not because some newspaper told me to.

I was seriously interested in going down to speak to them on the day. I dug my dictaphone out and started thinking about what kind of questions I would like to ask them. Any political group has its share of oddballs, but it stood to reason that within them, there must be what, within their scales, equates to a 'moderate'.

I wanted to know why they had chosen to come to Wakefield. Did they have a swell of support here? Was it typical of the types of city they perform well in? Was there something about the racial makeup of the place that attracted them? Having lived here thirty years, I cannot recall them demonstrating or rallying before, so why now?

And I wanted to know what they wanted to achieve. Was marching and spreading their message for a day both the means and the end? To have their voices heard for an afternoon? Or did they want something more long term? Were they recruiting? Would there be leaflets and information I could take home? All I could really gather prior was that they wanted an end to Extreme Islam within England. Other than deporting 'them' all, was there a plan as to how this would be achieved, what were the long to short term goals?

It's funny looking back on this now. I genuinely had all those questions. I feel pretty naive now, because it all turned out to be rather different than what I had expected. I had given them far too much credit.


Facebook

In the week leading up to both the EDL march and the We Are Wakefield event, EDL members discovered the WAW Facebook page. Once more betraying either my sheltered digital upbringing, or the fact that I only hang around the internet with people who have the most basic of manners, I was shocked by the veracity and insistency of their trolling.

Everything was argued. And not argued as in 'aggressively discussed.' It was like having a conversation with Begbie from Trainspotting.

It turned out everything we ever thought, knew or had been told was incorrect. Red was actually Green and we were brainwashed puppets of the state, or unwashed hippies, to think otherwise. Each person who made a comment was attacked, their opinions pulled apart with no regard for logic or sense. It was deeply unpleasant.

At first, obeying the normal rules of civilisation, the WAW member tried to engage them in normal discussion, but it was impossible. They seemed to assume that we were all members of United Against Fascism, and as such we were called out as violent thugs and hypocrites. Their paranoia led them to pre-emptively attack us. They have a right to protest, and we have a right to do the same, so what is the problem? When they ran out of argument, or steam, they resorted to calling us all cunts.

But then it got worse.

Some alleged UAF members also came on board, and a horrid little political world was unveiled. These people, on both sides of the fence, know each other well. Presumably they see each other every week at the demonstrations. And what had started as a community group created to discuss positive action sunk to a very personal and pathetic level, on both sides. They both showed the absolute worst of both their arguments. It was exhausting and massively depressing to watch.

The personal life of one EDL member, Gary - the most aggressive and pathetic - was brought up, things about his kids not wanting to know him because of his politics. What was this achieving exactly? These ‘full-time activists’ seemed to thrive off confrontation, and built their egos around what they opposed, and it looked like they'd be using Wakefield as their battleground this week. Next week Wigan, or Luton or Hull.

It was incredibly depressing and nearly stopped me from attending, until I reminded myself that this kind of bullying and unrelenting pressure was the only weapon they had.  


The Day

The day came. The EDL were due to meet at a pub at the bottom of the city centre called The Wakey Tavern from around 10:30, with things officially beginning around midday, concluding in a march around 2pm. We Are Wakefield were position further into the city on the precinct and their event was to run from around 11:30 til 3pm.

Needless to say, my earlier ambitions to speak to the EDL directly had been kyboshed by the insane and threatening behaviour online. There would be no chance of me having anything approaching a conversation, if these were the types of people we were to be dealing with. Instead, it was more important that we simply voiced an alternative to their rhetoric.

The We Are Wakefield demonstration was attended by a wide range of people; ages, sexes, races. There was a good feeling up there. The Socialist Worker and the UAF were there to offer support, but it didn't feel overly politicised to me. It wasn’t owned by them, it was owned by us, Wakefield.

This was backed up by the number of organisations that had put their name to the protest. Over 100. That is a strong argument against the EDL. How many businesses and institutions would publicly support them?

As the Bishop of Pontefract was speaking, an alleged member (he definitely was) of the EDLpushed him aside and grabbed the microphone and tried to speak. He was pulled away by the police. Like the Facebook group, they seem unable to accept that there are people in the world who have different opinions to themselves. They were unable to stick to their own march, and had to invade ours, just as they had with our community page. Why is that? Incidentally, the EDL event page was pretty much left untouched by those who opposed it.

In retrospect, it was a shame he was pulled off the mic. What could he have possibly said? It would have been great to see him humiliate himself.


EDL Presence

The event going well, I decided to wander through town to observe the scene at The Wakey Tavern and surrounding areas.

Wakefield city centre was bustling due to the Christmas market. Many were perplexed by the huge police presence in the area of the EDL march. It's the largest police presence I have ever seen in Wakefield, and it also included private security, presumably brought in by the council. Most people in the city centre that I overheard didn't seem to know what was happening.

I worked my way down the hill and could see a small crowd outside the pub. I bumped into a friend of mine. For what it matters, he is a white Wakefieldian with a beard. He was a bit wound up as he had just walked past the pub (on the other side of the road) and had incurred the wrath of the EDLers. "Shave your beard, then you'll look more English" they had said.

I got closer, and the final piece of the EDL puzzle fell into place. Around thirty people were stood outside the pub (though there were certainly more inside). And they were, without exception, the living embodiment of the clich├ęd EDL member. Aside of a couple of females, they were male, shaven headed, drinking pints and wearing St George Crosses (bar one with an Israel flag). One had a bulldog.

These weren't political activists. They were numbskulls on a dayout. The appearance of Wakefield that day was what the city would look like if we had a large football team, and fans akin to those of Millwall lore. There were no leaflets, posters, no-one speaking. It was just a piss-up with a police cordon. Locals looked on, bemused, wondering where to catch their bus from since they had to be diverted to accommodate this 'demonstration.'

The liberal and lefty-leaning mind the EDLers would no doubt mock me for had indeed let me down. I was open-minded enough to accept the EDL could be something more than 2D caricatures in search of a brain and I was wrong.

My last remaining question was; how many of these people are from Wakefield? I really want to know. Because otherwise, what the fuck are they doing here? On my way into town I was behind a large coach that had a flag in the back stating 'English Defence League: Gateshead Division.' It encountered massive problems with Wakefield's one way system, ending up turning left at a right only junction, causing chaos (or maybe they were fearful of having to drive past the WAW event. Or maybe traffic laws were invented by Islam, who knows?).

Back up at WAW, we got a shout out around 14:30 that the EDL march had concluded (more words and lots of photos of that HERE) and we were to be watchful as they would now be dispersing and potentially heading our way. A few passed on the other side of the road. They threw wanker signs and filmed us on their camera phones. We waved them off. They were just pathetic, utterly utterly pathetic, an appalling demonstration of what they supposedly stand for and believe in.

Is it worth protesting?

When their visit had first been announced, I had felt it might be best to just leave them to it. Opposition would just increase the press they would get. But I am glad that we did. Because although the 'politics' of the EDL are so stupid and backwards it doesn't seem worth arguing against, doing nothing would leave the headlines to them.

If they come to your town, it is essential the headline the next day reads that they were outnumbered and embarrassed. My opposition to them was not specifically for their politics (which as I say, I despise, but in reality holds absolutely no substance) but more because of the effect it can have on Wakefield.

In essence, theirs is a politic based on the closing of doors and minds. Ours is the absolute opposite. It is nothing to do with right or left wing. Rhubarb Bomb and hundreds of other people and Orgs in Wakefield spend a lot of time trying to attract people to Wakefield, to drag the spotlight onto the people here who do amazing things. Idiots like the EDL have no idea about any of these things because they don't live here, and even if they did, wouldn't step outside their own doorsteps, unless to visit the local pub. By turning up, they have the potential to ruin a lot of good work.

So I am glad I stood shoulder to shoulder with so many right minded people. I still resolve to remain open-minded about everything, even those as revolting as the EDL, but I have learned of the utter vacuity at their core. There is nothing there but bullying. They are just a club, a group of people drawn together by a vague ideology. Over time their sense of self-worth and purpose has aligned with that of the group as a whole and in opposition to anyone who questions it, questions their very way of life.

Lacking basic human skills of interaction, they just shout and stamp their feet, like small children. For them, a day in Wakefield is a fun trip with friends, somewhere new. We'll never change their minds, but we can continue to show how flawed and pathetic their opinions are, with the hope that generation by generation we make them more and more irrelevant.

Thankfully, this was the headline the next day, and though Calender sent its cameras along, violence and hate live and direct from Wakefield was not a story they went with. 

If they come to your town, they WILL harass and bully any opposition. They are not coming for a discussion. They lack the general manners we all take for granted. They will attack you personally and make wild accusations. On the day, they will come and find you and threaten you. But this is exactly why you need to stand up to them. You will find there is nothing to fear, but you'll be glad you made the stand. 

Epilogue

Oh, and as a final postscript, in the days following, on the We Are Wakefield event page, certain EDL members who had been blocked created 'new' profiles and began commenting again, continuing their pathetic screaming into the void. A hundred people, surely one of their worst showings ever (except THIS) and still they claim it was a 'victory'...

They always presume the burden of proof is on you to PROVE that the population of your city aren’t supporting them. Imagine that, they presume everyone is as hateful as them. They think people are born to loathe. There’s no talking them round.

After the event, Gary, now calling himself Ellie sent me and others this message:

100 turned up....out of 76,000. What 'important' work was done? all that happened is that the people of Wakefield ignored your stupid support for the ethnic diversity that has been forced upon them.

So I replied

Hi Gary,
100 turned up....out of 76,000. What 'important' work was done? all that happened is that the people of Wakefield ignored your stupid support for the ethnic cleansing you would like to force upon them.
Now, go get a life, pal

In retrospect, it should have been 100 out of 63 million, since they are supposedly fighting for the whole country, but nevermind!









Thursday, 21 November 2013

I Don't Want To Make You Happy, I Want To Make You Cry Review

The Grand
I Don’t Want To Make You Happy, I Want To Make You Cry


Since their previous single, Romance Is Dead, The Grand have been keeping themselves busy with local gigs, recording new material and, oh yeah, playing the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading and Leeds Festival. The alternative pop trio from Wakefield have really done some spectacular things this year, the latest of which is the creation of their new single I Don’t Want To Make You Happy, I Want To Make You Cry. Admittedly the title doesn’t sound very nice, but it’s as wordy as it is brilliant.

There is a tinge of The National/Gaslight Anthem influence, but if anything it sounds as though The Grand have simply drawn inspiration from themselves. They’ve ensured their trademark heavy bass riffs, catchy lyrics and sorrowful vocals are firmly engraved on the two tracks.

It is a genius blend of great musicianship and writing, with a powerful and sincere vocalist. The lyrics aren’t simply sung they are meant, and for me that is something that distinguishes The Grand from any other unsigned act of their genre. This meaning and authenticity that every word sung is also felt is what translates to and encapsulates the listener. For me, that’s pretty hard to come by.

All Of The Ocean is comparatively a much more sombre affair to both the title track and the songs on the previous single too. It assumes a moody, more intimate sound which provides a gorgeous, bare backdrop for those unique vocals to shine through.


Amy Walker


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Old Issue Of Rhubarb Bomb Found

A previously unknown issue of Rhubarb Bomb has been discovered.

We say previously unknown. Obviously the people who made it knew about it, though not well enough to bring it up when the current editor (me) was compiling the book that brought together the first five years of the zine.

So it seems it was forgotten. Here is what this lost gem looks like: 



In their editorials, Benno and Rob Dee explain they felt RB had become too average and this was the first of a new run of better issues, more reflecting their own passions, so might be the first issue that moved away from the standardised front covers.

There is no date, but judging by the advertising and live reviews, it seems to be from around June 2008. Which is confusing because it was found amongst a pile of memorabilia from a road trip I took to Munich in October 2007, but that must be incorrect.

Inside, there is a short piece about a band from London called The Woodsmen, followed by a lengthy (by 2008 standards) interview with The Spills in which:

-          They state they have two new songs. One is poppy, one is darker.
-          Chad has to go stand in a hedge at one point because he gets too hot.

We’ve also got something on UltCult, the mourning of Breton Hall not being around, a hopeful nod towards Midgefest and the Louder Than Bomb’s weekenders paving the way towards a more substantial festival, a weird short story and some reviews, including Frightened Rabbit at Escobar, Three Sheets T’wind in Castleford, an early  Bambinos demo and an On The Bone compilation (remember that?) with Pulled Apart By Horses, The Twilight Sad and Dinosaur Pileup on it.


We’ll scan it at some point and pop it up on ISSUU.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Why You Should See Luke Haines

In November, a band called Foreigners Journey will play Wakefield. Like a discount double DVD from Tesco's featuring the joint highlights of Cheaper By The Dozen 2 and something with Vin Diesel in it, it's a confusingly un-ambitious and fleetingly pleasurable prospect. Why two bands that singularly do not have enough hits to attract passive cover band audiences, were prized together in such a convoluted fashion is a bizarre conundrum. Two turds for the price of one? How polished are they?

But - it is that passive audience who count. Who are Foreigner? "I Wanna Know What Love Is" Oh yeah! Who are Journey? "Don’t Stop Believin" Oh, those guys! In one three note blast of nothing, we have a hook, a whole career explained. We've got you. There has to be something better. There has to be. 

So the paradox of promotion is that the more interesting an artist is, and the more complex, diverse and indefinable their career has been, the harder it is, in this world of 'you've got ten seconds to convince me' faux-impossibly busy lifestyles, to make that sale.

But, given that you are the kind of individual that has made it to the fourth paragraph of a blog entry, I am going to presume that alongside your curiosity and tenacity, you also have fine taste. And, that being the case, Rhubarb Bomb has something very special lined up for you.

If Luke Haines had ever stayed still, at any point in his career, he would be hard to define. But some all encompassing, career covering explanation? I shall avoid bullet points. We're not revising.

But by way of written montage, let me give you the 'previously...' prologue, to whet your appetite.

Luke Haines appeared on the legendary C86 cassette as a member of The Servants. His first album as The Autuers saw him face off against Suede for the second Mercury Music Prize. The entity christened 'Britpop' emerged from the fallout. Instead of building on this success he ended up recording a gobsmackingly brilliant concept album about Baader Meinhof, a bunch of German Terrorists from the 70's. The press release included directions for making a nail-bomb. He called a National Pop Strike, asking all pop star to down tools for a week. He received little support, though he managed to scupper his own record, released that same week. He created the genuine pop group Black Box Recorder. He released a Christmas song called 'Unsolved Child Murder'. Since going solo, he has released albums about wrestling and Rock N Roll Animals. He is dynamite for people who like to create not quite true, but fuck it, let's go with the myth, type stories.

He's also written two excellent memoirs and is a decent painter too.

So, y'know, it's kinda hard for me to say "Hey, look at this video man!" because how can I choose one thing to define all that? His 'Best-Of' is a great start, but it is three discs long, mostly previously unreleased. 

But there is the fun of it. He's a great artist, and that makes him a great person to be a fan of. That's a defining thing for me. Because you don't know what he is going to do next, yet his track record suggests he has a knack of getting it right, so the returns are worth treading the thin ice for.

Always interesting, never obvious. That's what I like about Luke Haines, that's why I booked him for Wakefield, and that's why you should come and have a listen on November 27th at The Calder, The Hepworth, Wakefield. Tickets are available HERE

*despite what I’ve just said, here are five videos, if you have the time*