Tag Archives: 2006

The Go! Team and Smoosh

Oxford Brookes University
5th March 2006

Some bands have a gimmick which dominates their marketing and carries their career. Smoosh don’t need one – but, for the moment at least, they might not be able to avoid it. Seattle sisters Asya (13, keyboard and vocals) and Chloe (12 today, drums) recorded debut album She Like Electric two years ago (!), but their quirkiness, precociousness and lack of self-consciousness aren’t intimidating at all. Their piano pop is like Ben Folds without the melancholy, and they seem to not feel constricted by verse-chorus pop conventions. Remember their name.

Smoosh are bound to develop and mature their sound, which is something The Go! Team have done in the last few years, evolving from their beginnings as one man – Ian Parton – in a Hove flat with a four-track recorder and sampler. Unlike similarly sample-happy Fatboy Slim and The Avalanches, however, there were always live instruments played over the top – hence the need for the six-piece band we see tonight.

Frontwoman, singer, rapper, MC and enthusiastic cheerleader Ninja acknowledges to the crowd that the Mercury-nominated album Thunder, Lightning, Strike isn’t heavy on lyrics, so she teaches us some. Ninja’s vocals often add dynamism to the riffs and loops, but sometimes her dancing adds more to the party than her rapping. She’s good for the live experience, though; there’s less rapport between the band and the audience in the few tracks she doesn’t do much in, like Junior Kickstart. Get It Together and Ladyflash, however, are a triumph, as are new tracks like Do It Right.

As kitsch and crazy as the B52’s and Japanese bands like Plus-Tech Squeeze Box, The Go! Team come across as a superficially shambolic but subtly complex and layered school orchestra thrashing up funk, hip-hop, indie, symphonic 70s TV themes and anything else they can find. Above all, however, they’re different and fun.


From Nightshift, April 2006

White Rose Movement

The Zodiac, Oxford
27th November 2006

The Joy Division comparisons are inevitable: the Nazi era name; the nervy, haunted front man; the edgy and angular bass-heavy repetition. Luckily, White Rose Movement do offer far more than a mere tribute act, and other influences are evident: New Order and Duran Duran for the synth-guitar blend, early Spandau Ballet, even Nine Inch Nails for the industrial thudding.

There’s an undeniable energy and a compelling anger in the room tonight, from bassist Owen Dyke’s viciously frugging peroxide fringe to keyboard player Taxxi’s ice-cold pouting. Singer Finn Vine is captivating; he yelps histrionically yet sings rather unintelligibly, so any message in the lyrics will require reference to their debut album Kick produced by man-of-the-moment Paul Epworth (The Rakes, Futureheads, Bloc Party etc). Finn also breaks the aloof act by chatting to the crowd, saying they’re happy to be in Oxford – it’s their spiritual home (full of posh and clever people, you see).

Girls in the Back and Love is a Number are barnstorming – mysterious, catchy and hook-laden. However, some songs are melodically quite dull – often closer to a series of slogans than the traditional verse-chorus formula. Nothing emulates Love is a Number, though they do try: Alsatian and London’s Mine are hummable.

I really want to like them more than I do: for me, they just don’t have enough stand-out songs yet, and I can’t help thinking that The Faint currently cover the same electro indie post-punk dance ground more effectively and memorably. They could be so much more – they’ve got the sound, the looks, the style, the attitude, the backstory (all members but Taxxi grew up together in a commune in Norfolk). Now all they need is more good material and a distinct sound of their own. They’re on their way though, and if they keep it up, they should be brilliant by album number 3.


From Nightshift, January 2007

The Lightning Seeds

The Zodiac, Oxford
5th June 2006

It’s World Cup time again, and what a wonderful opportunity to release yet another Lightning Seeds greatest hits compilation. Since we last heard from him, sole Lightning Seed Ian Broudie has been producing The Zutons (amongst others) and released his first album under his own name two years ago, but he’s now back on the road to promote the newest compilation, showcase the album’s two new songs and celebrate the greatest football song ever, Three Lions.

Broudie is backed by a four piece band so youthful that they can hardly have been born when Pure was released in 1989, let alone when Broudie was achieving musical immortality (but no chart success) in Liverpool’s Big in Japan with Holly Johnson and Bill Drummond in the late 70s and producing the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen in the early 80s.

All the hits are present except What If?, Broudie’s sparkle belying his 47 years. Most of the tunes are ingrained in the nation’s consciousness, not least from countless uses on adverts or as backing tracks, as Life of Riley – after Broudie’s son Riley – famously was for Match of the Day’s Goal of the Month competition in the late 90s. The live performance lacks the records’ production sheen, but their guitars and keyboard still blend beautifully, especially in the swirly You Showed Me and bittersweet Sugar Coated Iceberg.

Broudie is the acceptable face of timeless, sweet yet deep pop – his Scouse voice and dour looks contrast with the memorable and catchy tunes that it’s ok for middle-aged men to like (as the demographic of the crowd tonight clearly testifies). You can find the same sort of ethic in bands like the Divine Comedy, but nobody has done the psychedelic synthpop thing in the last twenty years quite as well as the Lightning Seeds.


From Nightshift, July 2006


The Zodiac, Oxford
8th September 2006

Surprisingly, the Nizlopi live experience isn’t just rehashings of the Westlife Christmas single-thrashing JCB Song all night. Leamington Spa’s Luke Concannon (main vocals, guitar and occasionally a bodhran hand drum) and John Parker (double bass, rather loud beatbox and occasional guitar and vocals) make far more of a noise than you’d think; their multi-personnel recorded sound is rather impressively rendered on stage by just the two of them as an enthusiastic, meandering funk/soul/folk/skiffle amalgamation.

I should laud Nizlopi for their originality, passion, musicality, rapport and interaction with the audience, social awareness etc. But I just can’t. I’ve never been so irritated a band so accomplished and so loved by their crowd. I just can’t help feeling that they’re more suited to a pitch at Tottenham Court Road tube station.

Both their lyrics and musical style come across as an awkward combination of earnestness and lightheartedness, and it doesn’t really work for me. The anti-Blair/Brown/Bush/BNP politics of the chirpy Part of You is Gay sound like a naïve mixture of the brave and contrived. There’s no doubt that they mean well – they use recycled card and organic cotton for their CDs and t-shirts, and champion their home-town independent label FDM Records – but, combined with their cod hiphop and embarrassing rapping (like on ExtraOrdinary), it all smacks of trying too hard to bend genres and be different. It’s a shame, as those are also the main things they have going for them.

Luke’s soulful and versatile voice has been compared to Tracy Chapman’s; however, his refusal to stick to one note for more than a microsecond remind me more of Craig David, albeit sitting far less comfortably with the accompaniment than Craig’s voice does.

I do want to like them; everyone else here tonight certainly loves them. Perhaps, in time, they’ll settle into a groove and iron out the awkwardness.


From Nightshift, October 2006

Kula Shaker

The Zodiac, Oxford
18th May 2006

Yes, that Kula Shaker. Hey, wait, come back! The ever-dapper and evergreen Crispian Mills and co have long divided opinion since Grateful When You’re Dead ten years ago, but haven’t troubled anyone’s consciousness much since their split three years later. Now they’re back with a tour, an iTunes- and vinyl-only EP and plans for an album.

So, how much has changed? Is the bass player still called Alonza? Yes, but he’s balder; only Jay Darlington, now part of the Oasis touring band, is missing, replaced by Henry Broadbent on the requisite Hammond organ.

Are they still into Indian mysticism and spirituality? It seems so, along with a myriad of other 60s/psychedelic influences. Of the new stuff, Diktator of the Free World has a political edge (and the chorus “I’m a dik, I’m a dik, I’m a diktator…”), and Revenge of the King has Crispian’s distinct talking vocals and the same type of abstract lyrics and sitar-like guitar sound as the stuff on their John Leckie-produced debut album, K.

Have all their fans deserted them? The sold-out Zodiac crowd would say no; they can still sing along with the Sanskrit lyrics of Tattva and Govinda. Their music remains stuck anytime between the 60s and now so Arctic Monkeys et al need not worry about their fans deserting them for Kula Shaker’s new fresh 2006 sound. The genial Crispian seems delighted with the turnout, chatting between songs and repeatedly thanking the crowd for coming.

Really, though, if you liked K but were a bit disappointed by Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts you’ll welcome the return to form, and if you didn’t care in the first place you won’t care now. Kula Shaker still have the same interests and philosophy and convey them in the same way; they still have a distinct style and something to say.


From Nightshift, June 2006

Idiot Pilot and The Seal Cub Clubbing Club

The Zodiac, Oxford
6th February 2006

Tongue-twistingly monikered, The Seal Cub Clubbing Club bring both the frustration and complexity of their name to their music. The five-piece from The Wirral are refreshingly imaginative, if a little baffling the first time you hear them. Singer Nik Glover isn’t afraid to be unconventional, and his yelping and falsetto is sometimes startling. Their strange amalgamation of Pavement, Talking Heads, prog, punk and pub-rock is at times non-sequitur, but this makes it both interesting and challenging to listen to.

Idiot Pilot also veer from one style to another and back many times within the same track, but in a rather more conspicuous way. The duo from Bellingham, Washington, are two distinct parts of the same whole: Michael Harris commandeers plinky, bleepy synths and glitchy, frenetic drum machine rhythms with his soaring, impassioned (and sometimes over-the-top) vocals, while Daniel Anderson punctuates proceedings with his screeching voice and serrated guitar crunches. The result is like taking the verse and chorus parts of Linkin Park songs and polarising them as much as possible. The effect of this juxtaposition is at times a little disjointed but works well, especially in Spark Plug, the heaviest track Jesus Jones never did.

The power of the performance is, however, slightly tarnished by the execution. Arrogance which must make their recorded output sound passionate and exciting just comes across tonight as annoying; a fair amount of confidence is necessary, but some of the duo’s behaviour tonight – aggressively complaining about the sound system and so on – is of the type that can alienate an audience. Downstairs at the Zodiac might be small fry for a band whose debut album, Strange We Should Meet Here, is out on Reprise, but this isn’t the best way to win new fans. It’s a shame, because Idiot Pilot are otherwise quite impressive.


From Nightshift, March 2006

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly

The Zodiac, Oxford
15th October 2006

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly (full stops preferred) is 20-year-old Sam Duckworth, whose 3-year touring machine rumbles into Oxford again tonight, following the release of his debut album, “The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager”.

Sam and his guitar are joined by cornet and drums, and a laptop kicks in with basslines, strings and beats; words like “nu-folk” and “folktronica” have been used to attempt to describe the overall effect. To me, though, the lyrics stand out ahead of any instrumentation. Sam covers personal experiences (like his love-hate relationship with his hometown, Southend, in “Lighthouse Keeper”) and issues he feels strongly about; “Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly” decries the corporate exploitation of poor workers, and “Glass Houses” introduces Sam’s affiliation with the Love Music Hate Racism campaign. The music isn’t dull in comparison, though; the instruments weave and layer, the melodies are catchy and the rhythms diverse. “Call Me Ishmael” (apparently written after a party in Headington) is all funky and syncopated, while “I-Spy” starts like “Wonderwall” but ends up as a respectably modern folk-emo hybrid.

Sam’s songwriting comes across as genuine and honest; the Fair Trade merchandise suggests his political/protest songs aren’t just for effect. He neglects to mention that he’s now on a major label (Atlantic) but does dedicate a song to BSM Records, who put his stuff out 3 years ago “when nobody else cared”. He’s an engaging character; he thanks the audience for selling out the gig, and mentions his Oxford friends and thanks them for their support, saying that’s more important to him than record sales. He does have limitations – he doesn’t have enough songs for an encore, so invites the support acts Keith and Darts on stage to cover “Abracadabra” – but all the ingredients are there him to develop into a well-loved, established act of importance to both impressionable teenagers and the music industry.


From Nightshift, November 2006


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