Category Archives: Reviews
It’s been a little while since I’ve made it to one of The Broadcasts’ gigs myself, after I persuaded my sister to come and see them in 2014 as a ‘birthday treat’ – supposedly for her, as the gig was on her actual birthday, but it was an early birthday treat for me too, and all of the Nemeth family. The gig was at Hobo’s in Bridgend – a venue they returned to in April this year to open the show for hometown band Fire Fences – and we were introduced to two other fantastic bands: the (sadly now disbanded) Remembering August, and the impressive vocals of a very young (at the time) Alex Stacey.
Fast-forward to a few months ago, and The Broadcasts’ social media buzzing with news of a debut album release. It says something about a band when I can buy an album without needing to have listened to any of the tracks, but it must be a level-up to pre-order one. I didn’t even hesitate – I was just perhaps a little shocked that there hadn’t been an album before, but also really pleased that I hadn’t missed the chance to board this ship.
This is an album, in many senses of the word. There’s a Broadcasts-feel woven through it – and frankly it would be odd if this weren’t the case – but the music grows as the band have grown, track by track, as if you are flicking through a child’s photo album. ‘Down The Line’ bounces into life, with not-too-heavy rockiness and luscious harmonies. The second track, ironically, is a little more down-the-line; pleasantly ticking along, with a nice message, catchy structure and attention-grabbing hooks. It is also the track that features on the band’s first lyric video, an art form which does seem to be a sign of ‘The Future’.
We chill out a little before we get to the real surprise – track five – though the track before it gives us an acoustic-guitar-intro hint of what’s to come. ‘The Road Goes On’ deserves the invention of a new genre; I’d call it prog country, but that name was apparently already coined in the 1970s to mean something slightly different: I was going for prog-rock-esque form (partly because it’s nearly seven minutes long), but with a lead-in of middle-of-the-road gentle guitar picking and harmonica, and a lead-out of atmospheric lead guitar and drums, in epic proportions. If Fleetwood Mac’s studio tapes of ‘The Chain’ had been accidentally erased by a freak electromagnetic pulse forty years ago, which also wiped most of the band’s memory of the song and set fire to their paper notes, then they decided to write a song for The Broadcasts that paid tribute to something amazing that never was, this might be how it would turn out.
Despite my alternate-universe ramblings, though, it’s the final track that is the jewel in the crown for me. As I told the band, I was expecting to be taken on a substantial journey by the time I got halfway through. However, I wasn’t expecting to cry. Again, the soulful vocals of the track before it give a slight indication, but nothing – apart from reading this review, perhaps – can prepare you for the emotional effect of the dissonant minor spread-chord of the piano. In some ways, it’s the first thing that stands out as incongruous about the album, but I don’t mean that in a bad way at all: it pulls you out of the state you had settled into, whatever that was, however you got there. You find yourself looking up towards a stage that isn’t there, at least it wasn’t there, but it is now. You hang on every word. You can’t stop yourself. And how aptly titled is this last track – ‘What We’ve Become’ – in our metaphorical photo album, we’ve seen them being born, we’ve smiled as they’ve played as children, and we’ve followed them with bated breath through their teenage years. They are adults now.
So, what is it about this Bandicoot track that makes it ‘everything I need’? At the time of writing, it’s had 310 listens. At least twenty of those are me (it’s actually becoming a bit of a problem…)
I’ve often said that I enjoy music that makes me feel like I want to conduct it. I don’t mean I wish to change anything, but that everything seems to be placed so carefully, just where I would have wanted it put, as if the orchestration itself is being treated like an instrument played with feeling. That’s what’s happening here. I’d say that’s the X factor…but I don’t want to confuse things with the TV show.
Orchestration isn’t about regularising the life out of something. You can write notes on a page if you like, but it’s not mandatory. The magic happens when you’re all contributing to the same score, to make one that becomes far more than the sum of its parts. It doesn’t have to be on a piece of paper. The way it builds, the way it weaves, the way it layers. If this track isn’t an epitome, it’s pretty bloomin’ close.
The Duke (full name: The Duke of Wellington, though I’ve only ever heard one person utter its full name, causing me to wonder where on earth they were talking about) is a fairly unique venue. Many of those who wander Neath (South Wales, UK) town centre during daylight have been deceived into thinking that the pub is inactive, but – especially musically – this couldn’t be further from the truth, with the venue being a desired ‘rite of passage’ for local bands, and host to an international diversity of usual and unusual acts.
The first time I ventured into The Duke was a fair few years ago, to see Supergene, a band that had been featured on ITV Wales’s ‘Unsigned’ show (which sadly no longer exists). From the minute I heard their music, I knew that I HAD to see them, but nearly didn’t go inside the pub due to being intimidated by its outer appearance. Luckily, I had my cousin for backup, and headed through the doors to a welcoming friendly bunch, some of whom were musicians, and some of whom were good friends who I wasn’t expecting to see…nor were they expecting to see me in The Duke (being of the opinion it wasn’t ‘my kinda place’). It’s yet another cautionary tale to remind us not to always judge a book by its cover, or in this case a pub by its exterior.
Supergene were (and still are) amazing, but this review isn’t about them, of course. Fast forward to 2012, and I (along with mum and dad) have come to see Frontline Fire, a three-piece rock band from Port Talbot (South Wales, UK), who I recently featured on The Unchart on Off The Chart Radio. Perhaps this makes me naturally biased – I do try not to be when writing a review – but in my honest opinion they set the bar at the highest position of the night. The acoustics of The Duke being what they are, the balance wasn’t perfect when they kicked off, but the band demonstrated self-awareness and could be seen adjusting their amps to reach an ‘optimum sound’ fairly quickly. Their set was tight, punchy and enthusiastic, creating a large and rich sound which was more than the sum of its parts. All of the musicians played brilliantly, but it was difficult not to notice some particularly intricate electric guitar work. They also interacted well with the crowd, and this was reciprocated in their response to the music.
Next up were cleverly-named band The Peppermint Hunting Lodge (though it was actually mum who spotted the joke…clue: we think it’s a nod to a certain well known gentleman’s club). They took great care over their soundchecks, spending a significant time setting the volume of the synthesizer, but once they started it was clear this was motivated by a desire to sound ‘just right’. Self-professed pioneers of ‘spacerock’, their music was certainly innovative, and I’ve always had a high regard for performers of fast-paced electronic-heavy music who choose not to rely on pre-programmed rhythms (it’s tricky to pull off the necessary tightness convincingly, especially song after song). The vocal harmonies – I think deliberately – replicated a double-tracking sound that could have been generated by an effects pedal, but the fact that they achieved this in real-time without electronic assistance was a nice touch. The combination of elements certainly bounced, resulting in a no-holds-barred melting pot of bass, guitar, drums and synth. The playing of the electronic and non-electronic instruments complemented each other really well, another quality which is difficult to achieve live, and deserves credit. Sometimes the aforementioned metaphorical melting pot could’ve been said to be overfilled, with a couple of the songs reaching my screamo limit, but additionally – since the quality of the singing was good throughout – I didn’t feel it was artistically necessary to ‘feature’ quite so much of it. Having said that (my screamo prejudice aside), overall I liked it. The crowd response was slightly more muted, and I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps the fact that this band hailed from the Forest of Dean, whereas the other two bands originated much closer to home (Port Talbot and Neath respectively) had repercussions on the number of fans in attendance.
The proud hometown headliners were Stars & Flights, a band whose name I’ve heard mentioned an enormous number of times over the past few months, which perhaps put them at an unfair disadvantage in terms of my expectations. I was waiting to be blown away by the band with such a reputation preceding them, but instead I received a gentle breeze, in an underwhelming rather than a soothing sense. It’s not at all fair for me to say that they were ‘bad’ – they weren’t – but in context, the running order now felt completely back-to-front, and my opinion remained unchanged to the end. The drummer and bassist looked like they were having fun, but they and the vocalist felt separate somehow, and the resulting sound ended up being lacklustre. I feel horribly harsh for saying so, but especially after being treated by the previous two bands (in very different ways!), I’m afraid I was left wanting. The level of local support was obvious in the crowd response, however, which was the loudest of the night.
Turtle Promotions are gaining a reputation for putting on quality gigs in the Swansea area, but even so, their ‘Punk Rock Night’ at JägerBar, Swansea (Saturday 15th May 2011) was full of pleasant and unexpected surprises.
My night began with a shot of blue Jägermeister (well, it was JägerBar, and the shot was also free). I found the shot to be refreshing, but somewhat lacking musically.
I hadn’t heard of Sleepy Panda Club before. They’d already started their set before I arrived, and sounded pretty good from what little I could hear outside the venue. With every step upstairs they sounded better and better; by the time I got to the top of the staircase, they were a phenomenon. The sound they created consisted of textured layers of carefully-constructed sounds, synchronised perfectly to merge beautifully, cramming more music per beat than should be humanly possible, yet somehow still allowing each element room to breathe. It’s fairly close to my definition of ‘awesomeness’, and all done live. The seven-piece band – with an arsenal of close-harmony vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass, drums and even a trumpet – describe themselves as an ‘indie synth pop [band] from Wales with a Canadian twist’. I don’t say this about everyone…they could become VERY big! Despite being the first of two support bands, they’d set an almost impossibly high standard for the night.
21 Against from Llanelli were up next. I’d seen them once before on a random night out years ago. The night out itself was underwhelming purely due to it being a quiet night in this particular nightclub. The redeeming feature of the night were 21 Against, since I was expecting the nightclub to be in ‘club mode’, not ‘live music mode’. They sounded fantastic then, and still do sound fantastic on their recordings. Unfortunately for them, some technical problems with the sound at JägerBar during their set resulted in the band not being shown off at their best, with the subtleties of the lead singer’s soulful voice being swamped by an unbalanced instrument mix, which was a shame. Still, everyone else enjoyed the set, and (with my mental audio filters in place) so did I for the most part.
Last up were The Bambi Killers, who were at an unfair disadvantage (as far as impressing me) due to me having completely mixed up their name with an entirely different band with an entirely different line-up. I realised my mistake within the first few milliseconds of their set, and was thoroughly impressed with their musical offerings. I was even amused and amazed by their cover of ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite’ from Mary Poppins, which I’d usually have considered sacrilege if it hadn’t been so well done. In fact, with a few more shots of Jäger (and the inability to properly recollect Mary Poppins), I might even have been convinced that it originally hailed from the heavy metal genre!