Category Archives: 2007

The Sounds

The Zodiac, Oxford
24th March 2007

Imagine for a moment, if you will, that you are the impossibly pert pop punk pixie Maja Ivarsson, lead singer of Helsingborg’s The Sounds. Surrounded by your four not-bad-looking-either male bandmates, you’re actually quite happy to be crammed up next to your devoted audience downstairs at the Zodiac; your jaunty synth rock is designed to get under your listeners’ skin, and you’re also quite partial to getting closer to your audience by way of the odd crowd surf. (You’re tiny so nobody’s likely to drop you.) Oxford may be a world away from the New York scenes among which your recent, second album Dying To Tell This To You fits perfectly, but your appeal is pretty international.

Your music mostly has just the right blend of commercial and cool to have attracted celebrity fans like Dave Grohl and Bam Margera (whose wedding reception you recently played at); Tony the Beat is probably the best so far – addictive, catchy and more sophisticated than the rawness of most of your first album, Living in America. The more anthemic Song with a Mission, Painted by Numbers and Queen of Apology come close behind though. Despite demanding the audience’s attention, you’re kind enough to leave guitarist Felix and keyboardist Jesper to do some sweaty electric drumming at the end of Ego.

Comparisons to Blondie are inevitable but flattering, and you might concede that your band is not the most original there has ever been, but who cares? Your magnetic yet dangerous demeanour is such that nobody’s likely to argue with you. Your voice is at times as vulnerable and delicate as that of The Cardigans’ Nina Persson, but you’re leather to Nina’s wool. You’re having fun belting out some great tunes, and the Zodiac is transfixed.

On the evidence of tonight, I think you’d be quite chuffed to be Maja Ivarsson.

 

From Nightshift, May 2007

The Noisettes and The Victorian English Gentlemens Club

The Zodiac, Oxford
22nd January 2007

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Cardiff lo-fi trio The Victorian English Gentlemens Club (deliberately lacking an apostrophe) revel – and excel – in unconventionality. Emma, Louise and Adam’s art punk is a quirky, shouty affair, with disjointed melodies and rhythms crashing into angular and edgy guitars. Their scant respect for songwriting conventions is often confused and confusing – like in the wonderfully titled My Son Spells Backwards – but works far better in the impossbily catchy Amateur Man and Ban the Gin. Veering from Devo to The Young Knives and back again, it might not – deliberately – hold together all of the time, but it’s always interesting.

While TVEGC suit the intimacy of downstairs at the Zodiac quite well, it’s far too small for The Noisettes. Singer and bassist Shingai – for whom ‘charismatic’ seems far too weak a description – is literally climbing up the walls, such is her energy. Headline touring to promote their debut album What’s the Time Mr Wolf and fresh from supporting Muse – in whose arena venues their sound was subdued and strangely lost – The Noisettes are bursting with tunes and styles, as if they’re trying to cover all bases with the first album before polishing one direction. Shingai’s versatility covers everything from soul to hard rock via operatic screeching, while the other two look like refugees from Camel and are quite happy to noodle away on their own, weaving in and out of Shingai’s bass and voice. They’re adept enough to sometimes do away with the bass guitar without losing volume or depth, too.

The blues-rock fusion is often a bit jumbled but it’s all very frenetic and fun; Don’t Give Up is an exalting rally cry, while Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit) is a multi hook-laden anthem. However, the real star isn’t the music but Shingai; forget Beth Ditto, this is the current coolest woman in rock.

 

From Nightshift, March 2007

Photo: © Kirmie

Erasure

New Theatre, Oxford
3rd September 2007

We all know what Erasure sound like, don’t we? Even though the arrangements and even instrumentation may change (they recorded album of acoustic/country and western versions of some of their old songs last year), an Erasure song is still unmistakable – not least due to Andy Bell’s distinctive voice. He could sing the Chinese national anthem and make it sound like a torch song of loss and redemption.

There was a point in the mid 90s where they became very unfashionable – and songs from that era are noticeably absent tonight. But the hardcore support (now far more the age for Radio 2 than Radio 1) meant they reached a point where they could afford to put out whatever music they wanted without having to rely on commercial success – which meant they stuck around long enough to benefit from the 2000s synthpop resurgence.

On this tour, in support of their new album, Light at the End of the World, out are Andy’s flamboyant leotards and feathers, but in are glittery camouflage gear and Jackson Pollock-inspired suits. A sense of humour pervades – Andy prances, struts, joins the backing singers in cheesy arm movements and even introduces a lamb puppet called Mint Sauce to ‘help’ him sing. The costume change interval is accompanied by a pages-from-Ceefax ambient track and a stream-of-consciousness monologue from screens on the stage, encouraging us to wave our hands like we’re on drugs – among other random thoughts.

So what about the new stuff? Well, surrounded by the soaring catchiness of songs like Chorus and the anthemic Love to Hate You, it doesn’t fare too badly. Breathe – the only track from 2005’s Nightbird here – is easily the best thing since their heyday, but recent single Sunday Girl isn’t too bad either. Nothing exciting enough to draw in many new fans – but certainly enough to keep the existing ones happy.

 

From Nightshift, October 2007

Reviews

 

Nathassia – The Bullingdon, Oxford – 14th July 2017

Soulwax – Electric Brixton, London – 8th April 2017

Goldfrapp – O2 Academy, Oxford – 20th March 2017

Sal Para – Her single – February 2017

Vienna Ditto – Ticks EP – May 2016

Wild Swim – Untitled EP – January 2016

Esther Joy Lane – Esther Joy Lane – October 2015

Charli XCX – O2 Academy, Oxford – 30th March 2015

Rae Morris – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 8th February 2015

Hozier – O2 Academy, Oxford – 21st January 2015

La Roux – O2 Academy, Oxford – 15th November 2014

Tiger Mendoza and David Griffiths – Along Dangerous Roads EP – November 2014

Amy Simpson – Fairy Tales, Stories & Myths EP – July 2014

Banks – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 28th March 2014

Katy B – O2 Academy, Oxford – 27th March 2014

Foxes – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 28th February 2014

Vienna Ditto – Ugly EP – November 2013

Blue – O2 Academy, Oxford – 25th October 2013

Major Lazer – O2 Academy, Oxford – 2nd May 2013

Secret Rivals – Just Fall album – May 2013

Jessie Ware – O2 Academy, Oxford – 11th March 2013

Space – O2 Academy, Oxford – 9th March 2013

Kodaline – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 13th February 2013

Bright Light Bright Light – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 27th October 2012

Marina and the Diamonds – O2 Academy, Oxford – 15th October 2012

Errors – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 8th May 2012

Lianne La Havas – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 9th March 2012

Rizzle Kicks – O2 Academy, Oxford – 8th March 2012

Babybird – O2 Academy 2, Oxford – 29th January 2012

Professor Green – O2 Academy, Oxford – 1st November 2011

East 17 – O2 Academy, Oxford – 2nd September 2011

N-Dubz – O2 Academy, Oxford – 20th July 2011

Sparkadia, A.Human and La Shark – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 24th February 2011

Emiliana Torrini – O2 Academy, Oxford – 9th September 2009

2manydjs – O2 Academy, Oxford – 5th June 2009

Rosalita and Off The Radar – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 4th March 2009

The Subways – Carling Academy, Oxford – 2nd October 2008

Wakestock – Blenheim Palace – 29th June 2008

Alphabeat and Palladium – Carling Academy, Oxford – 28th January 2008

Erasure – New Theatre, Oxford – 3rd September 2007

The Sounds – The Zodiac, Oxford – 24th March 2007

The Noisettes and The Victorian English Gentlemens Club – The Zodiac, Oxford – 22nd January 2007

White Rose Movement – The Zodiac, Oxford – 27th November 2006

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly – The Zodiac, Oxford – 15th October 2006

Nizlopi – The Zodiac, Oxford – 8th September 2006

The Lightning Seeds – The Zodiac, Oxford – 5th June 2006

Kula Shaker – The Zodiac, Oxford – 18th May 2006

The Go! Team and Smoosh – Oxford Brookes University – 5th March 2006

Idiot Pilot and The Seal Cub Clubbing Club – The Zodiac, Oxford – 6th February 2006

Eskimo Disco, Trademark and Script – The Exeter Hall, Oxford – 2nd December 2005

Knifehandchop, Nervous Testpilot and The Nailbomb Cults – The Wheatsheaf, Oxford – 13th November 2005

King Biscuit Time – The Zodiac, Oxford – 25th September 2005

The Mission – The Zodiac, Oxford – 8th September 2005

Josh Rouse – The Zodiac, Oxford – 17th July 2005

Big Speakers, Flooded Hallways and Capsky – The Cellar, Oxford – 3rd June 2005

Melanie C – The Zodiac, Oxford – 2nd May 2005

I Am Kloot – The Zodiac, Oxford – 16th April 2005

Thirteen Senses – The Zodiac, Oxford – 8th March 2005

The Others – The Zodiac, Oxford – 25th October 2004

The Ordinary Boys and Dive Dive – The Zodiac – 15th October 2004

Polysics – The Zodiac, Oxford – 16th September 2004

The Last Trailerpark – The September Gurls, The Schla La Las, Goldrush and The Black Madonnas – The Cellar, Oxford – 20th July 2004

The (International) Noise Conspiracy – The Zodiac, Oxford – 8th June 2004

Simple Kid – The Zodiac, Oxford – 18th April 2004

Ulrich Schnauss – The Bullingdon Arms, Oxford – 28th February 2004

Dogs Die In Hot Cars – The Zodiac, Oxford – 11th February 2004

Cayto – The Cellar, Oxford – 16th December 2003

The Futureheads – The Zodiac, Oxford – 13th October 2003

Longview – The Zodiac, Oxford – 2nd July 2003

Fiel Garvie, Roquphane and The Epstein-Barr Virus Band – The Cellar, Oxford – 17th June 2003

Panel Of Judges, Byrne, The Broken Family Band, The Maplettes and Spartacus – The Cellar, Oxford – 27th February 2003

Scratch Perverts – Po Na Na, Oxford – 6th February 2003

Zoe Bicat, Spygirl and Joe Hughes – The Cellar, Oxford – 4th November 2002

British Sea Power – The Zodiac, Oxford – 15th October 2002

Trademark – The Jericho Tavern, Oxford – 29th August 2002

Cumulonimbus, Nervous Testpilot and Blunt Instruments – The Cellar, Oxford – 12th August 2002

a-ha – Royal Albert Hall, London – 25th June 2002

Fischerspooner – The Bridge, London – 30th May 2002

Mansun – The Zodiac, Oxford – 19th May 2002

The Soundtrack of our Lives and Sahara Hotnights – The Zodiac, Oxford – 11th May 2002

AM60 – The Cellar, Oxford – 31st January 2002