Nobody is going to deny that the Britpop revival is well and truly in full swing by now. I would probably trace its beginnings as far back as the Blur reunion shows in Hyde Park in 2009, making the revival scene nearly a decade old in itself, but lately things really seem to have kicked into a higher gear. For someone who lived out their teens in the 90s it’s amazing to think that I’ve been to see Ash, Space, My Life Story, Dodgy, The Bluetones, Sleeper, The Divine Comedy, Suede, Paul Draper from Mansun and more, just in the last 18 months. I mean, there was a new album from Shed 7 out just the other week for heaven’s sake! In amongst all this nostalgic noise I have to confess I wasn’t expecting wonders from this Echobelly show, at first. However, after playing catch-up and doing a little research I found my interest was somewhat piqued.
Björk’s collaboration with Arca continues on this, her ninth album, Utopia. It’s an album that aims to escape from the dark, foreboding atmosphere of their previous outing, Vulnicura. Released two years ago, this was Björk’s break-up album from her long-term partner, and the father of her daughter, artist Matthew Barney. In contrast, Bjork has described Utopia as her ‘Tinder’ album, after the popular dating app which seems to have all-too-quickly taken its place as the ubiquitous method for all our modern coupling needs. These headline descriptions have a tendency to over simplify the picture though. To my ears Vulnicura falls far from the grim starkness one might expect from a self-styled album about divorce and, equally, Utopia is not without tension, in spite of its more joyful outlook. It also eschews the fast-pace I was expecting when it was linked with the Tinder app, which commodifies dating into an experience akin to online shopping. It’s quite possible the Tinder reference was an off-hand comment from Björk in an interview which has since been snapped up and seized upon as the central narrative, when this 71 minute record of amorphous songs, with intangible beats, clearly has deeper themes when considered overall.
Heading down to Concorde 2 on a blustery Tuesday night I was a lot more excited for the return of Peter Perrett in 2017 than I had been for the brief return of his seminal band The Only Ones, back in 2007. It was great to be able to take my mum along to see the frontman from one of her favourite bands from the late 70s punk/new-wave scene. That was her era and, as a result one that left a lasting impression on me, but that wasn’t the main reason I was excited. You see, I’ve been dipping into Perrett’s debut solo album, How The West Was Won, which came out earlier this year. It has been gripping to find the songwriter in such vital form, equal parts tender and sardonic. The new album finds a far healthier Perrett (he was scarily thin in 2008 when I saw him on Jools Holland with The Only Ones) accompanied by his sons, Jamie and Peter Jr, with their band Strangefruit and it’s bloody brilliant.
Hold Fast The Fire is the second album in as many years from the pen of Brighton songwriter Kate Gerrard, and her group The Delta Bell, who’ve found a new home with the excellently named local label Random Acts Of Vinyl. There’s been a definite development from the debut, with this feeling more like a considered album than just a simple collection of songs. This must have been aided by the way it was created, recorded mostly live in two days at Church Road Studio, after a group retreat to rehearse and refine the tracks. In these days where there's an increasing focus on electronic production everywhere you turn, and the endless possibilities that brings, it's refreshing to hear a slightly old fashioned record like this. That classic sound of a group of musicians playing well in a room together. As a result, this also sounds more like a band record, with less focus on the acoustic guitar, which I imagine is the starting point for a lot of the compositions. There’s a focus to all the instrumentation, with everyone doing their utmost to serve the songs in a measured way.
They’ve moved the entrance to Wagner Hall. I’m starting off with that statement straight away because it would have been real good to know before the show on Saturday! I’m not sure how long the new entrance has been in place and it’s a definite improvement, but not knowing made me miss Yumi & The Weather. I first went to the old entrance, round the back of West Street, where I could faintly hear them kicking off. The new entrance is just off West Street on Regency Road, but it’s obviously an old Brighton road which got cleaved in half when Churchill Square and its car parks were plonked down in the middle many years ago. So it’s a street with two halves which do no connect, and Google Maps sent me to the wrong half.
Last year Brightonsfinest Presents, the record label wing of Brightonsfinest.com, brought out a compilation album for Record Store Day: Brightonsfinest (Volume 1). With a title like that you just knew the plan was for a series and just over a year on, they’re delivering on that promise. Volume 1 was dedicated to bands who have a strong connection to the city of Brighton, with a track list that ranged from bands with long-ranging careers who’ve helped put Brighton on the map; like The Levellers or The Go! Team, to up-and-coming bands who launched their début albums from the city, like Demob Happy and Fragile Creatures. Having created a sell-out on the first release, Volume 2 has high expectations and a somewhat different ambition. Rather than a celebration of Brighton’s music, with the focus on acts with a close connection here, Brightonsfinest has decided to look further afield – to all of the great music that’s coming out of the UK right now, looking at the most exciting acts they’ve been playing on their radio show and featuring on the site.
Listening to Weezer in 2017 is a bit of an odd prospect if, like me, you enjoyed pogoing in 90s indie nightclubs to hits like ‘Buddy Holly’ and ‘Undone – The Sweater Song’ from their eponymous début album, better known to fans as The Blue Album. I was never a die-hard fan, I was not that Pinkerton guy, what I loved about Weezer was their ability to bring melody, humour and fun to slacker rock. They were the perfect band for the mid-90s. While we transitioned from American grunge to the more melodic Britpop, these guys evoked a touch of both.
Consume Me is the début album from Dog In The Snow, a solo project from Helen Ganya Brown, who is a touring member of Brighton dream pop outfit, Fear Of Men. This album was written during the American leg of Fear Of Men’s epic tour in support of Fall Forever, which took up most of 2016. It was all recorded swiftly in a two week break at home. The album is minimalist, mostly synth with guitar and voice, I suppose lo-fi – but it doesn’t come across like some scratchy half-baked bedroom album. It sounds polished and considered. It is sparse, but each layer serves a purpose, sounding like it has all been carefully selected.
This was my first visit to The Brunswick's Cellar Bar to see some live music. I half-remember finding myself down there after attending a gig upstairs and deciding to make a drunken night of it. The charm of this little bar was lost on me that night, but tonight I saw it with new eyes. It's a space that has a lot of potential, with the right team booking shows down there I could see it filling the void left by the closure of the Sanctuary Cafe (forgive me if this is too old a name for you to recall), as a basement venue that's well suited to show-casing stripped-back and acoustic performers. As I entered the room Mishkin Fitzgerald, from Birdeatsbaby, was already over halfway through her solo set. I got to hear the last of a set of new songs she was trying out, a mournful ballad called 'Box of Razorblades', before she was joined by bandmate Garry Mitchell on guitar for a couple of covers. This included a funny little ditty called 'Ivan' that they'd apparently been taught by some rednecks on their recent US tour. A 'Fuck you' has seldom elicited so many grins.
It was only my second trip to see a show at Bexhill's De La Warr Pavilion, a gorgeous art-deco theatre a few miles down the coast, so the trip still had that air of novelty and adventure about it as four of us piled into a small car and hit the road. Since I've found myself regularly reviewing albums for Brightonsfinest I have begun to find that the day I submit my write-up often marks the end of my relationship with that album too. That's been far from the case with Painted Ruins, Grizzly Bear's latest offering. If anything, I've found my appreciation for the record has grown over the last few months and it's starting to look like one of my albums of the year.