AMJ – ‘White Lies’

amj white liesWhat do you get if you cross Brandon Boyd’s lyricism, an idiosyncratic yet familiarly contemporary male pop vocal, a touch of Biffy Clyro’s more commercially-oriented song structures, and a little Jon Gomm-esque acoustic work? Well…this. AMJ manage to take so many disparate parts and fuse them into something appealing in a pop sense, yet sufficiently inventive to attract the praise of the most hard-bitten muso. Once again, they deserve massive respect for another solid step in the right – and a fresh and exciting – new direction.

Links / Listen

AMJ on Facebook and Twitter.

Submotion Orchestra – ‘Alium’

submotion orchestra aliumAmid endless seas of wannabes trapped in a quicksand composed of hollow and lifeless MIDI sequences, Submotion Orchestra have long stood out by a fair few light years. Their recordings consistently ooze warmth and a vital humanity – and Alium continues this trend in impressive and impactful fashion.

The opening Awakening evokes contemporary futureshock through anxiety-ridden shredded string lines wrapped in Kraftwerkian timbral colours, before Time Will Wait‘s sublime vocal blends with electronic elements to devastatingly sensual effect. From there we pass through the gentrified vibes of City Lights; Victim of Order‘s vocal enters over the rhythmic equivalent of a rickety rope bridge crossing a bottomless ravine; and Chrome Units‘ suspicious inquisitions send us racing for the relative safety of Rust‘s lyricised defence mechanisms. Next up come Life After‘s plodding bass and skittish beats; the windswept grooves of The Hounds and Trust/Lust; the delicate swells of Swan Song; the ultra-modern depths of Bring Back The Wolf; and the farewell-waving melancholic echoes of Worries. By the time it’s all done, I’m ready to take my breath back. That was intense.

Whether you’re a longtime Submotion Orchestra fan or just in need of something fresh and revitalising, rest assured that Alium has what you need, and is exactly what you’ve been waiting for.


Submotion Orchestra official website.

Live Review: Signals. (The Star, Guildford, 19/10/14)

signals sleep tourkTo say that I was looking forward to this show would be an understatement. Long-time TMMP followers will have already seen me wax lyrical about this Southampton-based math-pop quartet – but until this night, I’d not ticked off the final – and most important – box on the ‘Band To Watch’ checklist: The Live Show. No matter how good a band sounds on record, if they suck live it’s going to be tough to justify really getting behind them.

Although I could go on and on about Dawn‘s beguiling harmonies, the extra jazzy touches added to Recuperate, the crushing punch of latest single Sleep Talk and the almost inhumanly pristine musicianship used to push every single song up a level, I’d rather point out something much more important. A large part of my joyous ranting and raving has recently been directed at Marmozets – a band who’ve dropped TMMP’s album of the year and are fast heading for even more major achievements. Having now met and interviewed both Signals. and Marmozets as well as checking out their discographies and live shows, I have to say that those bands represent two sides of the same math-riddled coin.

Signals. are to pop what Marmozets are to rock. Both bands boast awesome songs that stick in your head despite being mind-breakingly complex, along with stellar instrumental mastery, epic production teams, engaging personalities, a winning sense of humour, and a level-headed awareness of how the music business works. Aside from the pop/rock divide and where they currently are in their careers, there’s very little to separate Signals. and Marmozets.

In time, I can easily see Signals. hitting the highs that Marmozets have – and eventually progressing even further beyond that. If you doubt it, see the poster above for the remaining Sleep TourK dates.


Signals. on Facebook and Twitter.

Live Review: New Street Adventure / The Tapestry / Birdsworth (The Boileroom, Guildford, 17/10/14)

new street adventureAs a born and bred Rock Guy, I’ll admit to feeling a tad dubious about this show. After all, mod culture is historically defined in opposition to more or less everything I stand for – but still, this evening proved to be worth the trip. Woking-based gravy bass purveyors Birdsworth got things off to a fitting start with gritty tunes that wouldn’t be out of place in a British gangster flick; The Tapestry‘s quirky rock’n’roll took things up a level with offbeat melodicism and sharp-edged riffs; and New Street Adventure blew me away with expensive-sounding chords, powerful soul songs, and a virtuosic showing from lead guitarist Billy Farr.

Although this was billed as a mod gig, there remained plenty for the open-minded fan of alternative music in general to appreciate. Fair play to promoters ModernisM too – they know how to put on a show.


New Street Adventure official website.

The Tapestry on Facebook and Twitter.

Birdsworth official website.

ModernisM on Facebook and Twitter.

The Boileroom official website.

Event Review: Vivien Goldman – ‘The Punky Reggae Party Show’

vivien goldmanFor many of us, our comfort zones lie outside the physical world. Face-to-face conversations are bring replaced by IMs, text messages, tweets, and comments on Facebook statuses that drop off your news feed after you’ve scanned over them once. From this social evolution, a profound sense of disconnect is gradually emerging.

Vivien Goldman’s Punky Reggae Party Show explores the meeting of two groups for whom deep connection and active communities were paramount: Reggae musicians and punk bands. As a talk named after a Bob Marley single penned in appreciation of the Clash’s cover of reggae artist Junior Murvin’s tune Police and Thieves and hosted by a respected NYU professor, writer, and music journalist, Goldman’s Punky Reggae Party Show might sound to some like a stuffy, overintellectualised snoozefest entirely out of sync with the attitudes and ethos behind the actual musical movements being discussed – but the reality is very different. Goldman speaks from first-hand experience of the front lines of reggae and punk at the time of their very first meeting, and her enthusiasm for music with deep meaning and intent is both boundless and infectious – making the Punky Reggae Party Show an exciting and engaging experience.

Unlike many academics, Goldman – also known as the “punk professor” – steers effortlessly clear of condescension and instead sticks to plain-spoken passion delivered over a backdrop of grinding dub tracks and razor-edged punk songs. Her vocalised journey considers a wide range of fascinating and turbulent areas – not only history and music but also politics, class, racism, sexism, social norms, and the need to cling tenaciously to a sense of hope for the future – before encouraging interaction and debate during the closing Q&A section. This section (officially entitled Reasoning) proved particularly surprising.

In punk, anyone can take three chords and a guitar and get involved – and Goldman takes a similar attitude to debating. In school, college, and university, debates are normally anxiety-provoking and acrimonious – but in the cozy and intimate confines of the Boileroom, this debate was anything but. Rather, it was a friendly and intriguing discussion of several topics that lay outside the Punky Reggae Party Show‘s remit, more like an engaging chat between friends in a pub than a raging ego war between bitter rivals in a lecture theatre – and a great way to finish off a stimulating and captivating evening.

Goldman points out that modern music needs a similar sense of social connection and consciousness to that of punk and reggae – and as someone who engages daily with contemporary musicians across a massive variety of genres, I wholeheartedly agree. Academia may have a reputation for being archaic and out of touch – but Goldman is different. During the Punky Reggae Party Show, scholarly conventions are tossed out of the window as patronising tones are replaced with passionate words, hushed silences are replaced with classic reggae and punk songs, and prescribed perspectives give way to individual self-expression. But outside of the walls of venues such as the Boileroom, there is still much work to do before we can expect to see serious change.

TMMP is all about dissolving boundaries – and my experience here proved just how surprising life can be when you drop offline for a while and go do something that doesn’t involve clicking a mouse or tapping a screen. If this show had been replaced with a YouTube video and a Google+ Hangout, it just wouldn’t have had the same impact – and if I’d pre-judged this show using the opinions of commenters on other sites who hadn’t taken the time to leave the house and see it for themselves, I’d probably never have gone. This is the big barrier that separates modern life and cultural creativity from the ways of the past – the assumption that the Internet holds all the answers.

If we stick to our digitised comfort zones, holding court on the world’s goings-on from the comfort of our sofas while failing to look up from our phones or shut off the on-demand TV box in favour of trying something random just to see what happens, we may end up forgetting how to really connect socially or experience life as anything other than stories we hear from someone else. From that position, nobody can be expected to create socially connected and conscious art of any kind.

The good news is that it’s easy to avoid that situation – and thanks to people like Vivien Goldman and public meeting spaces like the Boileroom, the resources are there to be put to good use. All that remains is for people like you and me to make the most of them.

Vivien Goldman’s Punky Reggae Party Show takes place at the Cube in Bristol on October 19th.

Links / Video

Follow Vivien Goldman on Twitter.

Read more about the Punky Reggae Party Show here.

Sweet Deals On Surgery – ‘Total Reek Hole’

sweet deals on surgeryA friend recently asked me to write a review describing an awful band as a “shit sandwich” – and when Sweet Deals On Surgery offered up this EP in exchange for a brief review regardless of which words I might choose, I expected to wind up satisfying both parties. Unfortunately, the former will have to wait a while longer – because as scrappy and unkempt as Total Reek Hole is, it’s just as equally enjoyable.

This EP isn’t an easy listen by any means – but underneath the rickety production job and terrible track titles lies a set of songs that bring to mind the glorious DIY days of early punk. It goes without saying that Sweet Deals On Surgery aren’t aiming to be anything except what they already are – but let’s be honest, that’s a pretty rare quality in punk these days. Throughout Total Reek Hole, catchiness, character, and messed-up humour are prioritised over self-conscious image maintenance – and the results are far better than those generated by the hand-wringing masses sneering and preening in front of the mirror and obsessing over whether they’re “punk enough”.

Bands who can win me over with songs called Rohypnol’d At A Family Do and Elvis Costello Is A Wanker are fucking rare. Fair play to Sweet Deals On Surgery – I doubt I’ll ever write that two-word review about them.

Links / Listen

Sweet Deals on Surgery on Facebook and Twitter.

Thomas Giles – ‘Mutilated World’

thomas giles modern noiseIn music, the term ‘side project’ is all too often synonymous with ‘pretentious and execrable waste of time’. Not so here – although given that we’re talking about a member of Between The Buried And Me (who even managed to put out a non-shitty covers album), it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. Mutilated World is intended as a teaser for a full album (Modern Noise) set to drop on November 25th, and judging from this track’s thick, disturbing textures, the hotly-anticipated long-player will be worth the wait and wet dreams.

Links / Listen

Pre-order the full Modern Noise album here.