Tag Archives: 2004

The Last Trailerpark – The September Gurls, The Schla La Las, Goldrush and The Black Madonnas

The Cellar, Oxford
20th July 2004


After 3 years and 10 months, Truck Records’ Trailerpark nights at The Cellar have reached a natural conclusion.

Born in the aftermath of the demise of live music at the Jericho, highlights of the fortnightly Trailerpark have included shows by NPB and The Young Knives; a choir doing a Fonda 500 cover at the Christmas party; introducing the likes of The Broken Family Band, Major Matt and the anti-folkers, KTB, Trademark and Nervous Testpilot to Oxford; discovering MC Lars; and putting on Mark Gardener’s first Oxford show in years.

Truck Records’ P-C Rae says, ‘Initially it was more of a club than it was in the end; regulars came and went and by the end it was erring more on the side of “went”. All things have a natural lifespan and Trailerpark was on borrowed time. It was a great way to go; in fact, one of the best nights we ever had.’

First in a Truck Festival warm-up line-up is The September Gurls, AKA Danny Power; joined by Goldrush on Living in Slow Motion, he’s a pleasant mix of wit and Springsteen Americana.

Piney Gir-fronted all-girl The Schla La Las are surf-rock kitsch, like a Shonen Knife of Barbies. Fun and memorable, especially on the catchy Shallow Girl, they do a song about themselves, which every self-respecting pop punk band should do.

Goldrush’s performance is more spirited than in recent years; playing mostly from their new EP, Ozona, it seems that their travels have given their sound an extra edge and sheen. The highlight is Pocket Socket Rocket – played by Whispering Bob at their first ever gig – which is accompanied by singalong songsheets and even rapping from a crowdmember.

The Black Madonnas, who bring Trailerpark to an end, are garagey, bluesy, heavy, bass-driven and very very loud. Although most of the trio’s repertoire is too distorted for comfortable listening, they impress with their attitude, passion and brazen cover of Ain’t Nothing Goin’ On But The Rent.

Trailerpark may be gone, but its legacy remains.


From Nightshift

Photos: © Richard Whitelock

The (International) Noise Conspiracy

The Zodiac, Oxford
8th June 2004

I was apprehensive about seeing The (International) Noise Conspiracy. The sort of band to have played a 15-gig illegal underground tour in China, the Swedes’ political agenda is mentioned in their press more than their sound, so I was afraid I’d be pummelled into submission by preaching and prosletising, and left unimpressed by their music. They are, however, more focused than I thought, though in some cases the message is lost within some (admittedly fine) tunes.

Jumping around in matching tight leather and with hair like a Shockwave ad, T(I)NC start with Up For Sale, which singer Dennis Lyxzen eloqently explains is about revolution and changing the world; Under A Communist Moon, preceded by a lecture about Reagan, Thatcher and how much the 80s sucked; and Capitalism Stole My Virginity, explained as being about growing up in a world constricted by economic and social structures. Dennis introduces Like A Landslide as his yearning for modern-day counterparts of his childhood favourites – The Clash and the Dead Kennedys – who are willing to speak out, presumably along the lines of T(I)NC’s leftist socialist anarchism. But it isn’t all about politics; stealing the riff from Smoke On The Water, The Dream Is Over is about wanting to be a punk rocker.

T(I)NC come across as intelligent rather than just angry, and this makes them more convincing in their convictions. Their sound is a The Who-like functional fusion of late 70s protest-mod and 60s garage rock, driven by punchy guitars and organ.

Despite currently promoting their third album Armed Love, produced by Rick Rubin, they seem to have been overlooked in the most recent wave of Swedish garage rock, overshadowed by acts like the perhaps more stylish and aloof The Hives. This is a shame, though, as T(I)NC do their melodic protest punk quite well.


From Nightshift, July 2004

The Others

The Zodiac, Oxford
25th October 2004

The Others are one of these bands that are a cultural, rather than musical, phenomenon.

Only on their second single release, and with their debut album not due until the new year, they have nevertheless managed to amass a loyal fan base – or rather, a huge group of friends – dubbed “The 853 Kamikaze Stage Diving Division” after their antics at gigs. A leading promoter of “guerilla gigging” – they have held impromptu gigs in places like a London tube train and the Radio One reception – they are less of a band than a movement, with the music being almost an afterthought. Lead singer Dominic Masters apparently has over 1600 fans’ phone numbers; part of the band’s manifesto is “celebrity is an empty vessel”, and the barriers – both metaphorical and physical – between the fans and the band are noticeably broken tonight.

Masters sings about very personal subjects, like his marriage break-up, bisexuality, the deaths of close friends, and a drug-dealing mother; all admirable, but The Others’ live sound would be far more compelling if as much emotion and care had been put into the songwriting. Masters’ painful-sounding (though noticeably passionate) shouting is rather off-putting for the casual observer who has been drawn to the band’s live performance by their music rather than their message.

The bass-driven guitar rock of most recent single Stan Bowles – about the legendary QPR player, and apparently dedicated to Masters’ close friend, Pete Doherty – is probably the best indication of The Others’ sound. This Is For The Poor emits palpable anger and frustration; its them-and-us lyrics, like “This is for the poor and not the rich kids”, seem to be aimed at those suffering social injustice, or maybe just those who see it and want to join Masters’ let’s-complain-about-it gang. Whichever it is, it seems to be this, rather than their music, that is making The Others the current flavour of the month.

Simple Kid

The Zodiac, Oxford
18th April 2004

Cork-born ex-Young Offender Ciaran McFeely – AKA Simple Kid – is in a jovial mood tonight at The Zodiac, the last night of his UK tour. High on a wave of popularity brought by the number 38 placing of the recently re-released single Truck On, he’s a literal – and very competent – one man band. Just him in a stetson with a guitar, harmonica, drum machine and samples, his presence, banter and humour more than make up for the lack of bodies on stage.

Simple Kid is a songsmith – not afraid to write songs about what he wants to rather than what he feels he should do, satirising today’s world and the people in it in the process. Drawing almost exclusively from his debut album 1 tonight, the narrative current single Staring At The Sun is a perfect example of his style: European wit (“Don’t let your e-go…”) wrapped up in American vocal mannerisms and post-country chords. Not afraid to touch on controversy (“I tried not to laugh when Diana was halved because it don’t make no difference to me”) or from alienating a potential target audience (reciting The Sun’s statistics about the average man in, erm, Average Man), he’s partly Beck as a shrewd urban commentator, partly a more astute and socially aware Super Furry Animals, and partly a modern Irish Ray Davies. His sound is country, rock, low-fi and even a little glam, maybe a little reliant on the harmonica at times, but quirky, refreshing and insistent.

The encore – a vocodered and eerie Hurt as a tribute to Johnny Cash, June Carter, his self-penned tribute to Johnny’s wife, and Average Man screamed with conviction over a backing of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid – expertly sums up his apparent influences. Despite scarily looking like Kevin Bacon in Tremors, Simple Kid seems to be on the ascendancy, and rightly so.


From Nightshift, May 2004

Ulrich Schnauss

The Bullingdon Arms, Oxford
28th February 2004

The highlight of the second Peepshow “audio visual treats and beats” night, Berliner Ulrich Schnauss immediately inspires adjectives – beautiful, lush, elegant, simple, refined, ambient, delicate, euphoric, anthemic…

Having released drum and bass under pseudonyms, 2001’s Far Away Trains Passing By was Ulrich’s first release under his own name. Combining the emotional intensity of classical with the electronic warmth of ambience, he simply sits there with a Powerbook and old Siel synth. His melodies swirl and embrace, ebbing and flowing without glitches; reminiscent of Vangelis and Boards of Canada, he’s all curves – an antidote to Matmos’ cut-up angles. The whole act was a mental soundscape, working well with the VJing; if you could see music, his melodies would form beautifully elegant and colourful mathmatical patterns. Taking on a life of its own, it’s much more organic than mechanical; composed rather than tweaked. Luckily I was listening with earplugs, as the Bully’s sound system couldn’t do justice to his subtlety.

Most tracks were from 2003’s A Strangely Isolated Place, but Nobody’s Home and Passing By from his first album stood out for their lush reverberant orchestrations. Though often using skipping breakbeats, he’s not a dance act – the beats are for momentum rather than dancing. Closer to indie than techno, despite the electronic medium, he’s obviously influenced by guitar bands like Ride.

His unrelenting rhythmic patterns don’t really build up to anything, but that’s part of the charm; they swell gently rather than build. Relaxing to listen to, his live act is a presentation of things to contemplate and appreciate, like the simplicity of his arrangements and the attention to detail in his engineering. It’s quite formulaic, but as he releases music under different names, he doesn’t have to marry all his influences in one project. Luckily for us and his growing critical fanbase, he’s confident in his style, and lovely it is too.


From Nightshift, April 2004


The Zodiac, Oxford
16th September 2004


At first glance, there’s no reason why we should be surprised by Polysics. Kooky, heavily Western-influenced, frenetic and video gamey, they seem to combine some of the most obvious characteristics of exported Japanese pop music. However, the Tokyo two boy, two girl band – named after an early synthesizer, the Korg Polysix – have more up the sleeves of their matching red overalls.

They tear through 18 short, punchy tracks – the length of their first proper UK album, the compilation Polysics or Die. The influence of American new wavers Devo is obvious both visually and in the band’s philosophy; however, musically they are faster, bouncier, more energetic and far crazier.

Guitarist and singer Hayashi is enthusiastic and captivating, yelping and shrieking a mostly unintelligible mixture of Japanese and English and squealing his way through frantic guitar solos. Kayo, however, is almost motionless behind her keyboards, occasionally performing robotic dance moves and adding vocodered vocals (most prominent on their electro-punk cover of My Sharona, their next single). Fumi, on bass, holds the madness together, her fingers moving like a blur at times, occasionally contributing very girly “yayay”s. Drummer Yano – supplemented by mini disc beats – copes with what must be very difficult speeds and rhythms expertly.

The set’s pace increases to a crescendo and plunges us into an exhausting barrage of riffs. Amidst the noise there are touches of pure beauty, reminiscent of the swirly guitar/electronic genius of Cornelius. Most tracks, like Lookin’ Lookin’ Ga, don’t have a recognisable verse or chorus – just short repeated hooks weaving in and out of each other. Kaja Kaja Goo and New Wave Jacket are more commercial fare but no less noisy. Kayo’s keyboards sometimes lose out to Hayashi’s raging guitar, but the electronic robotic synth sound is just as important in the overall mix.

In short – brilliant. Miss out at your peril.


From Nightshift, October 2004

Photo: © Richard Whitelock

The Ordinary Boys and Dive Dive

The Zodiac, Oxford
15th October 2004

Last minute replacements in support tonight are Dive Dive, who seem to baffle the Ordinary Army already amassed at the front. Currently promoting the single release Good Show and preparing for their debut album release in the new year, the Oxford natives immediately look comfortable in their skin – they have a definite presence, a distinctive melodic rock-punk sound and give the impression of “going somewhere”, albeit probably more critically than commercially. The angst of Jamie Stuart’s vocals complements some lovely guitar flourishes over sparse beats, and the whole thing descends into prog-type ramblings. On the basis of this performance, any acclaim is deserved.

The Ordinary Boys start with the early single Maybe Someday, whose lyrics “Waiting for some inspiration/But lack the human interaction” introduce their raison d’etre – promoting the cause of pissed-off, disaffected British youth. The first comparison has to be Morrissey; although much faster and upbeat musically, lead singer Preston’s vocals are a good imitation, which must be deliberate (they’re named after an early Morrissey album track, after all). However, they lack the lyrical articulation and eloquence of The Smiths frontman, or that of The Jam and The Clash – two other acts they seem to be imitating – for that matter.

Tracks like The List Goes On, radio fodder Week In Week Out and Weekend Revolution are poppy and punchy, yet err on the jangly side of “indie”. They play a fair number of tracks not on their Stephen Street-produced debut album Over The Counter Culture, but it’s hard to see how they can develop their sound; maybe they just need a big hit, or cult status. With their current output, neither of these seem very likely, though recent single Seaside (with its anthemic cry of “not gonna wait, gonna wait for the weekend”) is easily their best song tonight, even if it does lack the recording’s distinctive trumpets.

Preston mentions that they’re touring Japan after their current UK jaunt finishes; the Worthing boys are apparently huge there, and you can see how their very British pop-yet-indie sound and attitude is attractive. Why them – and not any other of the many similar young British bands around – is probably just down to marketing. Their familiar “modern life is rubbish” aura makes it easy to understand how today’s generation of teenagers could relate to them – too young for The Smiths, but needing lyrics they can identify with and accessible music that’s still alternative.

Tuneful as it all is, I can’t see how The Ordinary Boys add anything to the current music scene. I leave feeling that they lack something, though I’m not quite sure what; it can’t be originality, because sometimes quite unoriginal bands are much loved and very successful (Oasis etc). Even though they pack 15 songs into an hour, and don’t stick closely to one sound (their forays into ska – like on their cover of The Specials’ Little Bitch – work quite well), they don’t quite hit the mark. There’s a fine line between being the next big thing and the current unfashionable whipping boys. The Ordinary Boys could manage both quite easily.


From Nightshift, November 2004

Dogs Die In Hot Cars

The Zodiac, Oxford
11th February 2004

Every so often a band comes along that picks you up and carries you away on their energetic whimsy about organic veg and loving Lucy Liu, and it’s a very pleasant experience. St Andrews-formed quintet Dogs Die In Hot Cars are such a band. Shunning more modern guitar band conventions, their sound is a refreshing throwback to late 70s and early 80s punchy pop soul. Dexy’s Midnight Runners and XTC comparisons are obvious, but I detected a more Squeeze-y feel, liberally sprinkled with hints of fellow Scottish bands Aztec Camera in their songwriting and, oddly, the Proclaimers in their stomp and vocal harmonies.

Their short and sharp style is cluttered with catchy hooks and odd key changes and at times they wander into cheeky Madness-style ska and jangly tweeness, which could irritate some but must endear them to others – especially V2, who snapped them up last summer. Overall though, they are more enthusiastic urban poets than corny pop urchins.

Lead singer Craig Macintosh, whose earnest and expressive voice reminds me of both Joe Jackson and The Associates’ Billy Mackenzie, looks like he wouldn’t have been out of place in the film Gregory’s Girl – and his band wouldn’t have been out of place on its soundtrack either.

Recent EP lead track Man Bites Man has a great Eurythmics-style lead synth line but their zenith is I Love You Cause I Have To, a Zoe Ball Record of The Week. Paul Newman contains the line “I wish I had Paul Newman’s eyes…” which sounds odd in isolation, but makes sense in the context of everything DDIHC present.

Ones to watch, especially when their debut album – currently being recorded with producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley (of Dexy’s, Madness and The Smiths fame) – comes out later this year.


From Nightshift, March 2004


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