3:30 Blick Bassy
4:15 The Island Club
6:15 Holly Macve
7:00 Sam Jordan And The Dead Buoys
8:30 Fragile Creatures
9:15 The Magic Gang
10:15 Los Albertos
* these times may be subject to change
Friday 20th May 2016 – Free Entry
After an incredible Brightonsfinest debut at The Alternative Escape last year – where we took over the Latest Music Bar to create a legendary day and night of music, featuring the almighty Tigercub back to back with headliners Demob Happy and the Electro Afro Caribbean partyer Kuenta i Tambu who closed the late night slot in emphatic fashion – we are back for a second year and we are going bigger!
If you aren’t aware of what The Alternative Escape is, it’s a FREE festival which runs alongside the busy happenings of The Great Escape Festival, showcasing local and global acts in an array of different spaces. Brightonsfinest.com is taking control of the One Church at Gloucester Place to bring you the best emerging Brighton and international acts (as well as a super special headliner) in an incredible setting with delicious craft wines and beers. The line-up is as follows…
A gigantic reconstruction of Abbey Road's main studio filled most of the floor plan of the Brighton Centre's main auditorium, flanked by rows of seating and draped on three sides by semi-transparent screens. I had arrived on this blustery Wednesday evening to watch the spectacle of this special performance, recreating a key component of The Beatles marvellous show-business story, their career-spanning recording sessions at the now legendary Abbey Road studios, but nobody seemed quite sure exactly what we were going to see:- would this be some grand narrative musical theatre dramatisation or a meticulous re-staging of the recording sessions focussed on the musical performances?
Teleman is a new name for me this year. I also somehow managed to miss out Pete and the Pirates completely, so Brilliant Sanity is my first introduction to Thomas Sanders and his cohorts, but what a great starting point this album has turned out to be. It’s beautifully produced by Dan Carey (Sexwitch, Bat For Lashes, Kate Tempest), everything is crystal clear, direct and up front, but there’s also an incredible liveness to it. You feel the strength of the performances underpinning each track, the energy of a band not just nailing it, but thrilling in the experience. The band speak fondly of the recording process in their press release – six months of rehearsals honing the songs, perfecting the pop arrangements on a whiteboard with multi-coloured markers, before taking them to Carey’s studio in Streatham, where it sounds like they had a whale of a time putting them together.
The Green Door Store had an extra special treat for us all on the extra day of the year, Nottingham's rising star Ady Suleiman had brought his exceptional band to town to kick off his UK tour; an opportunity to galvanise fans ahead of the release of his hotly anticipated début album, to wow us with some fresh material and satisfy us with some fine renditions of tracks taken from the two EPs released last year. Having only heard a few singles prior to tonight I wasn't sure what to expect, his releases have all had the sort of slick production you might expect from a major label like Sony and I have to confess I wasn't sure whether or not to expect the singer to head out with a DJ or a full live band. Thankfully (for my tastes) it turned out to be the latter – and what a great band they are. A fine set of musicians who skilfully captured the smooth vibe of Ady's top quality pop, even bringing out more character as a live act than I'd heard on record, this performance turned out to be a real treat, for the ears and the soul.
Danny Green is Laish, a sensitive, introspective singer-songwriter, now based in London, who has been on Brightonsfinest's radar for some time. Song for Everything is his latest EP, featuring four classy tracks veering between gentle, stripped back, acoustic guitar-picking numbers and mellow pacey tracks with a fuller band sound. Danny is currently fund-raising for the next full-length Laish record, so this EP is probably best obtained by supporting the campaign on IndieGoGo. Most of the options on there will get you an immediate download of the EP and a forthcoming copy of the album once it has been completed.
Andrew Wasylyk is the latest project from prolific Dundee based musician Andrew Mitchell, who you might have seen plucking the low notes for Idlewild, fronting The Hazey Janes or even touring as a guitar player with Brighton's own psych-pop veterans Electric Soft Parade in recent years. Tonight was a one-off event as Andrew travelled down south to team up with his old ESP band mates to perform tracks from his beautiful debut solo album Soroky. I got down early to check out The Late Turners, a solo set of lyrical acoustic songs from The Fiction Aisle's guitarist Louis MacGillivray, who started the night off with an appropriately irreverent intensity. His dead-pan quip to the audience as he prepared for his last song, “don't talk amongst yourselves,” said it all really, his delivery demanded focus unapologetically but he was also playful. With my stomach rumbling I had to make my excuses and unfortunately missed Grand Palace's set – a shame as the Americana tinged ballads I've heard on the duos Soundcloud are right up my street. I shall have to keep my eyes peeled for another opportunity!
Beginning with the deep resonant bowing of a dusty cello and viola, the cinematic sweep of Suede's seventh album Night Thoughts is apparent from the opening bars. 'When You Are Young's pairing of guitars with epic strings and rat-a-tat-tat militaristic drumming, alongside Brett Anderson's distinctive high octave vocal, gets me thinking of a couple of unusual reference points I wouldn't normally associate with Britpop's kings of trash and glamour. Yes: I'm thinking of those 70s prog-rockers with their string-heavy Time And A Word album and also fellow 90s stalwarts Mansun, when they went bonkers prog on their second album Six. These thoughts are not entirely unfounded, I wouldn't go so far as to back the Telegraph's hyperbolic suggestion that Suede have reinvented the album, but they've certainly gone some way towards reinventing Suede. Of course they haven't gone off on any wild jazzy interludes or five minute guitar solos but, whilst staying true to their blueprint, they've managed to expand the universe of what a Suede album can be. This is a concept album, of sorts, designed to be performed alongside a specially commissioned feature length film by Roger Sergeant. I've not seen the bleak visuals that tell the tale of a drowning man as he looks back over his life and the mistakes that led to his suicide so I will have to judge the album on its own merits. It helps that, although the themes and emotional judder are complimentary, the album and film are not exactly mutually exclusive. There isn't an obvious narrative arc to the songs but there are devices that help to hold things together, like the brief reprise of 'When You Are Young' remodelled as 'When You Were Young' as the albums penultimate piece. The soaring strings return with added flourish before stripping back to stark piano and a dramatic vocal for a final, darker verse.
Earlier on 'Outsiders' fits more obviously into the Suede canon, becoming an obvious promotional single. It has a soaring sing-a-long chorus, verses full of tension, edge and big layers of effects-laden jangly guitars. While it feels typical of the band it's also a touch more sophisticated, those strings (and they actually sound like Neil Codling's synth strings on this one) sound expensive, adding an extra loftiness to the chorus. In fact I would go so far as to say that long term collaborator Ed Buller's production on this album is some of his finest work, which goes a long way to helping the band realise their grand ambitions. Without pause the album hurtles head-first into 'No Tomorrow', which starts off sounding like The Who to my ears, before hitting a more typical verse. Brett Anderson's accent has always led to (often lazy) Bowie comparison's, but it's hard not to hear hints of 'Ashes To Ashes' here. The song begins to fade and the synthetic ambience of 'Pale Snow' rises to take it's place. This one strips things right down to vocal, guitar and ambience with an unusual arrangement and chord sequence that takes you on a twisting journey, pondering the tragedy of failed romances. At first I find Anderson's vocal a little over-blown for such an icy solemn piece, but it's a dark-night-of-the-soul, howling-at-the-moon moment, and the coda that follows shows off some truly tender delivery, as Brett sings, “And they always get away/ it never works out for me/ it never happens to me”.
'I Don't Know How To Reach You' brings back the drums, powerful and rock-steady, it has a soaring chorus and a wall of sound that barely lets up. Even when the rhythm track drops away the tension remains, powerful emotions turned up to 11 and frequencies filled by wide-angle synths. Six minutes of full-on desperation is actually a little exhausting, but there's a ray of hope towards the end as 'Pale Snow's “it never happens to me” is reprised, rejuvenated as a choral “I never thought it could happen to me”. 'What I'm Trying To Tell You' follows with a great plodding groove, although it does feel a little crowded at times. Perhaps there are one too many guitar parts in the verse, the chorus lifts, but it's not their strongest song and it is rescued somewhat by a 'la-la' laden outro that resembles the melody from classic Suede single 'Beautiful Ones'. 'Tightrope' starts off with an icy wind, it's a builder of a track, full of overblown emotion, the narrator and his lover working through the balancing-act trials of life. “Walking a tightrope with you/made my mistake when I slipped through the noose”, as the metaphorical tightrope becomes a tight rope around the neck when it all gets too much.
'Learning To Be' starts off with certain notes that wouldn't sound out of place on the soundtrack to Stephen Moffat's BBC Sherlock Holmes series'. It's an interlude track in a similar way to 'Pale Snow' hanging in the air, ponderous and unresolved. It is followed appropriately by 'Like Kids', one of the most up-beat moments on the album and another moment of classic Suede, propelled along by an appropriately youthful beat and razor sharp guitar hooks. The song ends abruptly with a choir of school kids singing the guitar hook absurdly, like it's a playground tease: 'ner-ner ne ner-ner' blowing a defiant raspberry. 'I can't Give Her What She Wants' sinks us back into the all pervading mire that characterises this collection of songs, hanging in the background even during the most triumphant moments. This track has a lot of space, which makes it stand out, as the album overall could benefit in places from slightly sparser arrangement. I'm sure I'm not the first person to notice a similarity to the folkier parts of 'Stairway To Heaven' in this track, it's another example of Suede flirting at the edges of 70s progressive rock, without surrendering to it or sounding cliche. Richard Oakes' guitar solo here is a real treat, understated and set against a near empty backdrop, it's an old fashioned device but it works and the guitar tone they found is glorious.
'The Fur And The Feathers' is a truly epic close to an album that is already grandiose and cinematic. It's got that same creepy dark tension that Suede often favour and for the most part works as a piano ballad, coupled with high pitch-shifted guitar licks. The cymbal crashes of the chorus sound positively orchestral, there's even a hint of Bond to the turn around at the end of the chorus. You're waiting and waiting for the beat to come in and when it finally hits there's more of a major, positive feel than you might expect, showing that, despite the implied tragedy throughout the album there is a certain joy to 'the thrill of the chase'. Anderson's pensive, maudlin character is satisfied by at least having lived a life and tried, no matter how it ended up. It's a strange sort of happiness to end such an intense album, that is so often bleak, but a strangely fitting one for Suede. They were the band of youth in their heyday and now they are middle aged. They were associated so closely with all that trashy, drug-addled glamour and danger in the 90s but now they are dignified, classy and parents to boot! They were the band who blew it all, lost their muse and faded from view, but now they are a band that has triumphed with a career high, an ambitious artistic expression and potentially their most cohesive work to date. If you were put off in the past by Brett's 'marmite' vocal, or the intense emotions and dense arrangements of their previous work, you're not likely to find sudden and unexpected love for Night Thoughts, but if you've ever been fond of The London Suede this certainly finds them at their very best.
I was up late on the evening of Sunday 10th January 2016, listening to David Bowie's fascinating new album Blackstar. I was familiarising myself with his latest work, preparing to write my review the next day, so to awake to the news of his death the following morning seemed even more poignant. On reflection the signs were all there, The Thin White Duke had returned from exile to bring us The Next Day in 2013, but he'd avoided live performance and, truth be told, although his creativity was clearly in full flow, he was looking thinner and whiter than ever in what small glimpses he allowed us. Bowie had retreated from the public eye almost completely after the chest pains he was suffering on tour in 2004 turned out to be a heart problem. Throughout those wilderness years there was, in fact, a steady drip feed of Bowie releases and collaborations for the faithful, but his return with a surprise album of new material for his 66th birthday felt like a new beginning and a renewed vigour, but perhaps this was an illusion and he knew what was coming all along. The Next Day was followed by an exhibition in the V&A, now on tour this retrospective gave the public a first-time intimate glimpse of artefacts from Bowie's career: handwritten lyrics, costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs, his instruments and album artwork. After this Bowie curated a compilation of his entire career across three discs, his own personal choices of career highlights called Nothing Has Changed. Taken in the context of his death it becomes apparent that all this was leading to Blackstar, David's final swan-song to his fans, released on his 69th birthday, 3 days before his own death, he had written his own eulogy, commemorating his fantastic five-decade career in music and giving it a damn good send off.
The album begins with a repeating high pitched guitar motif which stays in place while piano chords shift beneath whilst a typically soaring melody from Blaine Harrison floats above. 'Telomere' is the shortest track and an obvious choice as first promotional single for the album. Telomere's are the bits at the end of our DNA that protect our cells from degenerating. Scientists currently think controlling our telomeres might be a way to stop ageing. 'Bombay Blue' is breezy with a groove that, through a buoyant bass-line and some lovely touches of what sounds like a Fender Rhodes electric piano, seems to straddle the lovely line between OK Computer-era Radiohead and Moon Safari-era Air. Within a few listens I find 'Bubblegum' growing to become one of my favourite pieces on the album. It's another song wracked with anxiety about growing and changing. “If only I could learn to let go of the hand that first held mine,” sounds like it could be a reference to Blaine's father Henry, an ever present influence and contributor to The Mystery Jets from their first inception, who is conspicuous in his absence in promotional material for the album. Whether his name will show up in the liner-notes remains to be seen, but you could imagine this track sees Blaine pondering working without that long-term collaboration with his father. Putting pure speculation aside Blaine's gritty vocals on the verses here are easily one of his finest performances on record. The palm-muted guitars, with their growing tension, sounds almost like Springsteen or 80s U2, but when a cheerful synth melody jumps out at you it's a complete surprise. The hook is not a million miles from the sort of thing Avicii might weave into one of his house tracks and the contrast is brilliant, a strange marriage of two disparate elements that somehow works beautifully.
An 80s synth bass arpeggio introduces 'Midnight's Mirror' accompanied by a sample from Mike Leigh's Naked; “Resolve is never stronger than in the morning after the night it was never weaker,” a curious expression cooked up by Johnny, the lead character of the gritty drama who runs from Manchester to London to escape a beating for a rape he has committed. It's the first vocal on the album from Will Rees, seemingly about making the same mistakes again and again, as we wake with “eyes like piss holes in the snow”. This track features some great moments of dub-wise drumming from Kapil Travedi, in fact the groove throughout is really interesting, with heavily affected live drums (think gated reverbs of the 80s) augmented by synth drums, giant hand claps and bubbling arpeggios that recall Cliff Martinez's compositions for the film Drive, or Vangelis' soundtrack to Blade Runner. The falsetto mellow chorus is another unexpected twist, a sunny California moment that takes away the edginess melodically but still seems to retain a slight twist. The aforementioned '1985' is a stark piano ballad, with eerie synth sounds and a melancholy melody. This track has a huge flourish after a couple of minutes, when half-time drums are ushered in by soaring strings – a lovely moment at the heart of the album. 'Blood Red Balloon' has a real Pink Floyd feel to it with it's tight close harmony vocals and unconventional, dense arrangement. Even at this slow pace The Mystery Jets conjure up a danceable groove for their progressions to float above, there's a certain funk to their playing that exceeds anything Pink Floyd produced that I'm aware of, and moments on this track really showcase a great rhythm section bond between Travedi and Flanagan. There are tonnes of retro analogue synths and a succession of sections, with each melody line seemingly catchier than the last, even though, at nearly seven minutes in length, this is far from conventional pop single territory.
'Taken By The Tide' begins with luscious acoustic and electric guitars and on this second half of the album I started to notice moments where the accidental human noise of people playing their instruments has been lovingly preserved; plectrum scrapes, fingers sliding up fret-boards and delay flutters pepper certain tracks – the sort of noise that often gets smoothed away and eq'd out of modern pop mixing. I feel it adds a sort of fragility and fallability to the mellower moments on the record. Whilst 'Taken By The Tide' is another nostalgia-soaked ballad it also comes with a huge chorus. The lyrics, “brother I thought you'd be there until the very end, you were my rock upon which I could always depend” will certainly lead to some speculating if this song is addressed to their departing bass player, but it could reference any lost friend, as we grow and change the landscape of our social lives tends to shift. The guitars on this track are unrelentingly heavy when they kick in, the distortion is so thick and gritty and there's a great big riff that follows the chorus. Every time it rears it's ugly head I think the band are about to break into some crazy heavy metal wig out, but it never quite goes there.
'Saturnine' is usually used to describe someone of a gloomy, sombre persuasion and there's certainly a gloomy mood to this psychedelic mellow track. It begins with luscious falsetto ooh's leading to a strong vocal from Will Rees with some great observational lyrics, “to be famous and thin is the greatest goal of the age we're living in”. 'Saturnine's centre-piece is a slow harmonised guitar solo, that sounds like it belongs to another era. The album closes with 'The End Up' a mellow track, with acoustics, and a nursery-rhyme melody to the chorus, that recalls aspects of John Lennon's writing. It's a dark night of the soul kind of track, pondering whether we end up settling down with people because of love or circumstance. Ultimately the track ends on a positive, upbeat twist as the drum beat steps things up a notch and Rees turns his refrain of “I hope I end up with you” into a super-chorus that draws on the bluesy notes that sit around the earlier chorus melody.
This new album has to be seen as a real triumph for Mystery Jets, especially as, upon completing touring for Radlands, the group found themselves missing the key component of Kai Fish and lacking both a label and management company. The album title seems to refer to this new perspective, as astronauts escape earth's atmosphere and for the first time glimpse the shape and scale of the planet they have inhabited their entire lives. The Mystery Jets' new perspective and, perhaps, the freedom to operate without the pressures of label and management, has warranted a new level of sophistication. Married to their un-shaking confidence and creativity the results are a very fine collection of songs indeed. While 2008's Twenty One covered the familiar pop music territory of the transition from teenager to young adult Curve… explores that less travelled exit from the 20s and both albums have used a sound palette that is suitable to their themes. If I had one criticism, or perhaps more accurately one hope, it's that the band don't completely abandon the up-tempo vibe of their early work in future, as a man in his mid-30s I can attest that there is still plenty of fun to be had in that third decade of life! Still, I wouldn't interfere with the track listing at all, it's perfect just as it is. Here's hoping Caroline International, the band's new label, can help them weave the same magic as new label-mates The Maccabees did with last year's number one album Marks To Prove It. The moody, epic sweep of this album seems perfectly suited to these cold Winter months at the start of the year. As I take stock and work out who I'm going to be in 2016 I certainly think Curve Of The Earth wilt make an excellent companion.
What made you move to Brighton?
Have you been thinking about recording an album?
Have you been to many gigs since you have been in Brighton, any that have stood out?
What are you listening to at the moment?
What are your future plans?