Wednesday, 4 July 2012

New Order. Live at the Birmingham Ballroom. 29/04/2012


New Order. Live at the Birmingham Ballroom. 29/04/2012

With not exactly a shortage of bands reforming in the recent years you would be forgiven for thinking that recently reincarnated eighties ensemble New Order would be little more than a brief injection of euphoria for angst ridden forty-somethings desperate for that last dose of 1983. Instead, we are presented with a measured snapshot of a unique moment in British pop music history, in a fitting scenario that sees Bernard Sumner and co return to Birmingham, thirty two years after the University of Birmingham played host to the last ever Joy Division performance before singer Ian Curtis’s suicide forced Sumner to take to the microphone and lead New Order into a new era.
Considering this was clearly going to be a ‘greatest hits’ affair, any danger of passive nostalgia was quashed by an urgency to go out and enjoy the moment, both by band and fans alike. Classics such as True Faith and Temptation teased a vibrant reception as few seemed affected by the absence of founding bassist Peter Hook, currently touring the life out of the Joy Division back catalogue. Jubilation ensued at hearing debut single ‘Ceremony’ and the entire crowd, however balding, seemed to form a mutual connection for an upbeat version of Joy Division classic ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, a rendition that seemed to complete a night of simply exceptional music.
Despite Sumner’s niggling cold, (he had a little lean up a wall during Blue Monday – which could be forgiven given its longevity), the band forged on, with unrelenting vigour, ensuring a performance that never once felt laboured and gave the crowd, not just a flash back to their heady days of ‘then’, but a fresh performance for ‘now’, certifying synth-pop’s relevance in the 21st Century.




Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires – There is a Bomb in Gilead


Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires – There is a Bomb in Gilead

In an age where genres of music can be cheaply copied, hijacked and manipulated (yes I’m looking at you Will.I.Am) it is an enormous relief to find a band who, not only know their genre, but loyally stick to it and produce a fine album that knows exactly what it wants to do, and goes off and does it.
‘Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires’, from Birmingham, Alabama, are technical masters of their art. Their art: out and out barnstorming Southern rock n roll. Sharing qualities and characteristics of every critic’s favourite new band, Alabama Shakes, whom they have also toured with, The Glory Fires are more powerful, more faithful to the southern sound of the USA and carry an unrivalled authenticity. Their debut album, ‘There is a Bomb in Gilead’ is an example of this. And it’s good too. It’s not as if you have to be devout worshipper of Americana roots music or already have a strong grasp of deep American rock music to appreciate and enjoy this little snapshot of America.
It’s a great feat to produce and album that is accessible as well as musically credible, and this is exactly what The Glory Fires have done. It would not feel out of place in a dusty hot summer in Birmingham, Alabama, nor would it be alien in a kitchen in a drizzly miserable summer in Birmingham, UK. With Bains’s distinctive smooth, soulful voice they may face a challenge to avoid becoming clich├ęd, thus preventing them from reaching a worldwide audience, through dismissal of the genre as a whole; however, Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires have made their first, distinctive step into what could be a very long and successful career.

The See See – Fountayne Mountain


The See See – Fountayne Mountain

With the British summer likely to fail us once again, we look to other methods to provide us with ‘That Summery Feeling’. ‘That-Summery-Feeling’ is, in fact, the main result of the London based band’s second album ‘Fountayne Mountain’. Packed with swirling guitars and iced with plenty of rock-organ, this album is the perfect antidote to seemingly endless poor British summers. There are distinct Beach Boys influences, particularly in their carefully crafted harmonies, but also a heavy Brit-Pop lead sound, mainly as a result of densely packed guitars and a rhythm section that lopes along merrily beside it.
‘Three More Days’ is a particular highlight, with a simple melody developing this into a perfect pop song. In fairer music world, a music world more interested in songs than Katy Perry’s latest haircut, this album would be more widely known and appreciated. Even fifteen years ago, at the height of the Brit-Pop era, this would have fitted right in. And that may be the only downfall of this album; an overreliance on sounds that have already been created, structures that have existed for a while, rather than developing their own, unique style. However, these are songs, created with precision, resulting in an album that is a pleasure to listen to. Besides, it’s the closest thing to a British Beach Boys we’re going to get – and you can’t ask for much more than that.