Monday, 31 October 2011

Live review - Bombay Bicycle Club, Brixton Academy, 19/10/11

Written for and published by the wonderful For Folk's Sake

Bombay Bicycle Club gave the crowd at Brixton a real treat, rattling through the best of their material from the last couple of years as seamlessly as a band that has been together for decades.

They opened with ‘Shuffle’ a track from new album A Different Kind of Fix, and immediately the energy was through the roof. ‘Your Eyes’, a standout from the album, was next and heralded the entrance of Lucy Rose (onstage for the second time that night after playing as support as well as band Dry The River). If, at this point, the crowd thought they were in for a ‘new stuff only’ type of gig, they were swiftly proved wrong.  Jack Steadman and his pals then embarked on ‘Dust On The Ground’ from first album I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose. Given that this song is a quieter offering than many of the tracks on that album, the boys really rocked it on the night.

They revisited a lot of their much-loved older material throughout the set, even stopping to admit just before launching into the raucous ‘Open House’, “We haven’t played this for a couple of years.” This bit of communication was unusual in itself as the band barely stopped for breath between songs (which kept the energy rising relentlessly).  By the time we made a return to the most current album with ‘Leave It’ the crowd was well and truly warmed up. ‘Lights Out, Words Gone’ got perhaps the biggest reaction of the night, indicating that a large proportion of the crowd were recent converts.

‘Always Like This’ was a true highlight and made us wonder whether the band hadn’t taken a (small) leaf out of Beirut’s book – the addition of some brass gave the track an almost Latin vibe.

Jack took to the stage alone for the first song of the encore and sang a beautiful, more than faintly Thom Yorke-tinged, version of ‘Still’ – the last track on ‘A Different Kind of Fix’. Just Steadman’s powerful yet vulnerable voice and the piano echoed through the Academy, bringing everyone down to earth a bit before ending on a storming version of ‘What If’. The contrast between these two tracks provided a great example of what Bombay Bicycle Club can do: in one instant write beautiful music that, at its best, rivals the likes of Radiohead, and in the next make a venue full of people jump around to what has become an indie rock standard.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

EP Review - My Crooked Saint, To Kill A King

Written and published for The 405, here.

Having already made some small waves on the folk scene, thanks largely to their signing to legendary London label Communion, To Kill A King look set to make a name for themselves with their extremely competent EP called My Crooked Saint.

Hailing from Leeds the band did some early gigs at Communion and have since won praise from Zane Lowe among others. So what’s all the fuss about? Well we begin with ‘Bloody Shirt’ a stomping and upbeat tune that shows off the bands musicianship and the brooding voice of singer Ralph Pellymounter, which incidentally has got to be one of the best names I’ve heard in a while.

‘Wrecking Crew’ runs with Pellymounter’s moodier side and confirms this band have rock running through their veins as well as the folksier stuff, which have lead to the inevitable comparisons with Mumfords and Sons, Noah and the Whale etc.

Perhaps what makes To Kill A King stand out though is that they are keen not just to make a good song but to tell a story too. The band have talked about releasing four music videos to go with each of the tracks, where the same characters pop up and the narrative develops with each video. This approach goes some way to proving the thoughtfulness behind Pellymounter’s songwriting and how this band put songs together.

To Kill A King aren’t all doom and gloom though, ’We Used To Protest/Gamble’ is a joyous and multilayered number, the jangly piano really helping to lift this song to approaching anthemic territory. ‘Family’ is more stripped back but there’s still plenty of evidence of careful arranging and orchestration, perhaps why the Guardian dubbed the band’s music orch-folk.

To Kill A King have all the tools they need to carve out a name for themselves in the folk circuit as a band that offer little of what we know and like about the genre already, but with perhaps a little something extra.