Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Great Pagans - Great Pagans EP

‘We’re teenage silhouettes/We’re all strung out on sunsets/Then we’re gone. Yeah, we’re long gone’ goes the refrain of the opener on Great Pagans’ new self-titled EP, perfectly summing up the tone of the whole record…
The Brighton 4-piece capture the tenuous sense of occasion that youth endows the most transient of moments; that all-encompassing fear that comes with new experiences, only to evaporate by the time the next party begins.
The opening track embodies this sentiment perfectly in form as well as lyrical content, beginning all broody, pulsing bass, twinkling guitars and sighed vocals before gathering pace and building to buzzing, riotous indie-pop guitars, and eventually settling back into a reprise of the former. It’s like being alone with one’s thoughts on a long summer’s day, when suddenly your friends rush you off to an awesome house party – which you wake up from only to remember something regretful from the night before. If I were making my own super style-over-substance teen drama, this would undoubtedly make my soundtrack.
The lyrical theme is continued by ‘Not Been Myself Lately’, with its equally succinct refrain ‘Not been myself lately/ Just not sure who’s replaced me’, again crafting a portrait of the distantly familiar shape-shifting teenage mind.  However, this time it’s played out over a thoroughbred guitar pop ditty – all funky bass and jangling guitars. ‘Living in Sin’ and ‘We Dance Alone’ bring in new wave influences, both capturing a summer evening vibe with their warm grooves and prominent synth parts interspersed with indie-disco choruses.
The record is anchored in its centre by ‘Slow Crash’, a dreamy number that just errs on the right side of schmaltzy, despite their use of easy listening brass. Thankfully, the band manage to pull us in with psychedelic swirling movements rather than simply taking us from A to B with a straight-up ballad. It will be interesting to see if Great Pagans can continue to remember how it feels to be young or whether they’ll grow old and cynical. As long as they avoid developing false sentiments, they will surely be ones to watch.

Friday, 12 October 2012

...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead @ Manchester Club Academy, 11/10/12

Trail of Dead appeared at Club Academy in support of new LP 'Lost Songs'. Photo: alamosbasement @ Flickr
Trail of Dead appeared at Club Academy in support of new LP 'Lost Songs'. Photo: alamosbasement @ Flickr

Few bands inspire quite the same sort of devotion that Texas’ genre-bending stalwarts …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Theirs is a turbulent story; rising to prominence in the late nineties and releasing their magnum opus, Source Tags and Codes, in 2001 to a rapturous critical and commercial reception, only to be subsequently written off and largely ignored on both fronts in the eleven years since. And yet to those that kept the faith, their power has never really waned, as demonstrated at Club Academy this evening.
Given the Trail’s formidable live reputation, most supports would be quaking at the prospect of having to open for them. But Maybeshewill are perhaps the perfect choice given their ability to create emotive instrumental soundscapes that appeal without demanding familiarity. Their performance is astonishingly tight, showcasing their trademark dynamic of sweeping piano-led uplift followed by monolithic crush and steadily drawing in punters from the venue’s margins.
Trail of Dead’s performance, in typical style, is much more chaotic. This is the dynamic they have built their reputation upon, and while their performance this evening is full of their well-established bluster, thankfully there’s no evidence of the former cracks that would lead to full-blown fights onstage. Instead their energy is perfectly channelled into rousing and infectious singalongs interspersed with stretched-out psychedelic jams which feed off the crowd rather than becoming self-indulgent.
Material from the forthcoming Lost Songs sits well amongst classics such as ‘Caterwaul’, which has the room bouncing in unison and proves to be the catalyst for a heightened level of kinetic energy for the remainder of the set. The most gleeful of moshpits opens up in appreciation, and by the time the band’s signature track, ‘Another Morning Stoner’, rings out as the evening’s closer, the latest in a long line of Manchester appearances for Trail of Dead has served only to further enhance their live credentials.

Review originally published by The Mancunion, and can be found online @

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Touché Amoré and The Casket Lottery - Split EP

Not so long ago, the mainstream music press would have had you believe that the label emo was merely short-hand for the sorts of bands it’s only okay for black-clad 15 year old girls to like…
However, the genre banner is having something of a renaissance lately with the emergence of the so-called ‘Wave’ of intelligent aggressive bands in America, their UK Swell counterparts and the roster of invariably exciting bands being put out on labels such as Topshelf. Testament to this shift is the new split between post-hardcore heroes old and new, The Casket Lottery and Touché Amoré, displaying two ends of the current spectrum from melodic ethereal emo to credible rapid-fire metalcore.
Split records, in their nature, are often very subjective, featuring only one or two tracks each and appealing only to completists or as mere appetite whetters for future releases. What sets this one apart however, is that a)  it’s the first recorded output by the reformed Casket Lottery in nine years and  b) it’s Touché Amoré, a band at the forefront of the burgeoning ‘Wave’ and picking up where they left off on the excellent Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me.
Starting with the latter, they open the record with the blistering ‘Whale Belly’, which showcases their trademark ability to produce resonant harmony out of discordant parts; thrashed guitar and impassioned yelps combine with machine-gun drums to create two minutes of incisive emotive power. A real warning shot to pretenders and an invitation for their peers to step up.
The Casket Lottery’s original offering, ‘White Lies’, highlights their influence on the current influx of metal-tinged emo bands such as Balance and Composure. Its deep groove interlocks with synth parts and syncopated beats and is balanced by a big, driving refrain.
The covers,  offered up serve as more than mere curios also, really highlighting the liberal scope of the two bands. Touché Amoré take on The Replacements’ classic anthem ‘Unsatisfied’ – a seemingly odd choice given their usual dynamism. The song revels in its lack of direction, but its cathartic rendering of aimless disaffection suits Jeremy Bolm’s tortured howl down to a tee. Their counterparts, on the other hand, choose an adaptation of a contemporary classic (and one well outside their usual sphere of influence) with their unique take on the dream-pop of ‘The Myth’ by Beach House, stripping back on the crunch to highlight their glimmering melodic nuance.
Despite it’s short running time, the quality and diversity of these four tracks garners repeat spins for fans of either band anticipating lengthier releases. 
Check out Touché Amoré HERE & The Casket Lottery HERE