Tuesday, 21 May 2013

WE HAVE MOVED............


Alas this is our last post on Blogger - we have had over 12000 page views on our blog and grown from nothing to over 1000 twitter followers, so we felt it was time to upgrade to a proper website to make Listen Up Manchester even bigger & better for all out readers. To go to our new site just click the link below...... see you there!!!

WWW.LISTENUPMANCHESTER.COM



Sunday, 12 May 2013

ALBUM: SEASICK STEVE - HUBCAP MUSIC


Review by Jon Birch


Blues musician Seasick Steve emerged onto the scene back in 2006 with his debut solo album, Dog House Music. Helped by a storming performance on Jools Holland’s annual Hootenanny, the record took off in a big way, bringing authentic and honest electric blues to a new generation.

Hubcap Music is Seasick‘s fourth studio album in seven years. A decent output for a young up and coming band but, when you consider Seasick Steve is now in his early 70’s (he puts himself at either 71 or 72), it becomes even more impressive. Having waited all his life for the opportunity to share his music, he’s certainly making the most of it.

Having left home in his early teens, Seasick Steve’s life has taken him to a myriad of high’s and lows’; jumping freight trains in search of work, flitting through San Francisco in the 60’s, busking for change in the Paris Metro before working as a session musician for some of the biggest names in the music industry (he’s notoriously coy on this subject “because I hate name dropping, and anyways, they was just jobs.”).

Much of the album is typical Seasick Steve. His forte is driving, foot stomping, electric blues and you’ll find it hard to sit still when he gets going. As you would expect of a musician with so much life experience, he continually draws on his own experiences and those things close to his heart; ‘Down On The Farm’, is a Bluesy ode to his love of the country life and, on ‘Self Sufficient Man’, a thumping 12 bar blues, he sings ‘I've been taking care of myself, since I was 13 years old’; an honest account of having to grow up quickly in a tough world.

Raw electric blues may be at the albums heart but the soul is provided in the softer moments. Possibly the stand out track of the record, ‘Purple Shadows’ is a stunning duet with Country star Elizabeth Cook and Over You, is a Bluegrass ditty on the inevitable end of a relationship. Seasick even show’s his soulful side on ‘Coast is Clear’, complete with trumpets and saxophones.

Whereas many of his contemporaries, such as Jack White and The Black Keys, have developed a sound inspired by the old time Blues Players, Seasick Steve somehow feels more authentic. He is an old time Blues Player. You know what you’re going to get with Seasick Steve; let’s be honest, there’s no danger of his style evolving. However the stand out moments here easily rank up there with his best work, and it’s an album that you’ll find more depths to each time you listen.

ALBUM: FRANK TURNER - TAPE DECK HEART


Review by David Beech


Frank Turner is a man whom divides opinion. As a musician, his place as front-man of the seminal UK hardcore band Million Dead cemented him in the hearts and minds of punks globally. Since the band's dissolution however, he's both won over the naysayers and alienated a handful of those who held him in such high regard previously. In one fell acoustic swoop, Turner has gone from politically charged mouthpiece to folk-punk troubadour and though his ideologies may well have changed, the fact remains that his music still crackles and sparks with a punk aesthetic that he will never truly be able to shake. Gone, however, is the face-melting evisceration and overt politicisation of his previous band's efforts and in their stead is a charmingly candid insight in to Turner's world. Now with Tape Deck Heart, his fifth studio album, Frank carries on in much the same manner as previous effort England Keep My Bones, with both albums narratives seemingly moving away from that of his earlier releases, now upholding a higher degree of introspection than before.

The first track on Tape Deck Heart is also the first single to be taken from the album 'Recovery'. It's pretty standard Turner fare, and nothing to shout about, however those expecting something similar to 'Peggy Sang the Blues' won't be disappointed whilst it eases newcomers nicely in to Turner's blend of paradoxically upbeat, self-deprecating tendencies. However while it is very much business as usual, Tape Deck Heart is quite easily also the most removed of Turner's releases; it couldn't be further from the likes of 'Back in the Day' or 'Photosynthesis' but that isn't strictly a bad thing. While the 'classics' still go down a treat live, hearing the instrumentation at Turner's disposal expand album by album has been a treat, and it's certainly the fullest and most diverse it's ever been here. From the off-kilter keys in 'Good & Gone' to the woodwind and strings of 'Oh Brother' it's without a doubt Turner's most adventurous foray yet with 'Broken Piano' particularly sounding more like a Death Cab For Cutie or Postal Service, indeed, some especially effective drums on the latter half of the song serve only to add to the song's overall impact whilst the guitar provides a spatiality never-before exhibited by Turner.

'Plain Sailing Weather' is one of the particular highlights of the album. Coming early on it's particularly indicative of earlier Turner releases; a welcome nod to the fans who have been there since album one or two. Having had the pleasure of hearing this song live late last year, it's safe to say that it's explosive chorus goes down fantastically and really is turner at his pessimistic best. Another song he previewed live is the candid 'Anymore'. Understated production here allows the guitar to take a back seat in favour of a vocal track really conveys the candidness lyricism. The song also features a line which is sure to adorn the tattoo sleeves of Turner's devout fans for years to come, “I'm not drinking any more/But I'm not drinking any less” pretty much sums up at least one aspect of Turner's penmanship. Conversely, 'We Shall Not Overcome' is an upbeat and optimistic affair that turns the table on some of Turner's more morose numbers. Unfortunately though this is only featured on the deluxe edition of Tape Deck Heart which includes half as many songs again as the album itself. While these tracks aren't intrinsic to the album overall quality, the inclusion of them, Turner has said, is to allow fans experience everything that went in to the album, whilst the standard release is “the concise version”. These tracks are nothing out of the ordinary or exceptional, however 'Tattoos' and 'Time Machine' (the only non-acoustic bonus track) are worth seeking out online.

As an album Tape Deck Heart couldn't have been concieved by anyone other than Frank Turner. There's a perfect mix of optimism, self-deprecation,narrative analogies and everything else that makes a Turner record what it is. That said however it isn't his strongest release to date, but there are certainly several songs included that will almost definitely find themselves included on the inevitable Greatest Hits. Newer fans of Turner will almost certainly relish in the accessibility of the album, while older fans might well sour at the prospecting of having heard it all before. There's certainly no boundaries being broken (apart from the inclusion of instruments new to Turner's repertoire) but that being said his music hasn't been about breaking boundaries for a long time. Instead Frank Turner's found a niche in folk-punk and will continue to reside over it for a long time to come.

Monday, 8 April 2013

ALBUM: JIMI HENDRIX - PEOPLE, HELL AND ANGELS


Review by Jon Birch

Listen Up Manchester album rating: 8/10


‘Who is the greatest guitarist ever?’ is a question that will rumble on and on and will, quite rightly, never have a definitive answer. I would argue though that if not the greatest, Jimi Hendrix is without doubt the most important guitarist in rock and roll history. Hendrix not only challenged the perception and limits of guitar music, but he also developed his own signature style and sound. Over 40 years since his death, it’s one that still influences guitarists to this day.

The announcement that an album of previously unreleased material from Jimi Hendrix was to be released, split opinion amongst critics and fans. From a cynical view point, it looks like a shameless cash in. If the material was any good, why has it been locked away for nearly half a century? On the other hand, Hendrix is one of the greats and if he had something more to say, it needs to be heard.

I had mixed feelings before the release but, having heard ‘People, Hell & Angels’, I can firmly say I’m off the fence. Is it as good and as instant as the classic Hendrix tracks? No. Is there much here that would trouble a greatest hits album? Not a huge amount. Is it an absolute pleasure to hear more from one of the most influential musicians in rock and roll history? Without a doubt.

The album opener ‘Earth Blues’ starts with a quick, ascending riff which seamlessly blends into a laid back, funky ‘Crosstown Traffic’ style rhythm. That distinctive voice comes in soon after and it brings a shiver down your spine to hear Jimi doing his thing once again.

There are also tantalising glimpses of what might have been had things gone differently that fateful, final night in Notting Hill in 1970. ‘Let Me Move You’ is a full on funk track and see’s Jimi rocking a James Brown style vibe, complete with guttural shrieks and grunts. ‘Mojo Man’ is another highlight and showcases his skills as a bluesman, albeit with that trademark Hendrix panache.

There are also clear signs of the influence he left on others. Hearing ‘Inside Out’, the riff is instantly familiar. It turns out Jimi did ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way’ years before Lenny Kravitz started out, ironically, on a career that owes more to Hendrix than anyone else.

This isn’t an album for casual listeners and if you’re new to Hendrix then it’s probably best to go for a Greatest Hits compilation. However, if your familiar with Hendrix’s back catalogue or you’re a true music fan, this is for you. Throughout this record the guitar playing is never short of exquisite. With Hendrix, it’s often those notes played in between the lick that make a piece of music so unique and there are so many examples here. Jimi Hendrix is such a huge figure in the history of Rock and Roll and his influence is so widely felt, it’s easy to forget he left us aged just 27. Listen to the intricacies of his playing and the masterful skill he displays over his instrument and it’s frightening to imagine just how good he might have become. Had fate taken a different turn that night, the question of the greatest of all time wouldn’t even be up for dispute. 

Thursday, 28 March 2013

ALBUM: THE STROKES - COMEDOWN MACHINE


Album Review by David Beech

Listen Up Manchester Album Rating: 7/10


New York-based band The Strokes really need no introduction. They've been making their garage-enthused rock 'n' roll since 2001, with their debut EP sparking one of the largest bidding wars amongst labels in recent history. Their first full length entitled Is This It has received global critical acclaim and earned the band numerous awards. Now 12 years, four albums and countless airmiles later, the band release their fifth studio album Comedown Machine. Not only is it a milestone album for the band, but it marks the end of the bands contract with RCA marking the end of an era, and the start of something new.

Going off the strength of album opener 'Tap Out' you could be forgiven for thinking The Strokes have fallen back in to the trappings of their ill-fated 4th album Angles. However there is something sufficiently more salient about 'Tap Out' than any of the songs featured on the aforementioned. However it is a departure from their garage-rock roots. Something that's upheld by the eclectic and unusually understated 'One Way Trigger' which features an erratic synth pattern and almost falsetto vocals. It's certainly different and a far cry from the Television-esque Is This It but there's still something about the track which remains particularly Strokes-like.

'Made in Japan' is particularly evocative of pre-First Impressions of Earth recordings. Casablancas' signature arrogant swagger is back in almost-full force, although there's a distinct lacking of confidence when compared to their earlier albums. The last minute of the track is easily the highlight as the song picks up and features some chunky bass work courtesy of Nikolai Fraiture.

If 'Made in Japan' is the band almost back to their roots then the track that follows '80s Comedown Machine' is certainly The Strokes we've all come to know and love. The chorus even dares to get heavier than most of their repertoire with a particularly lo-fi vocal making this easily one of the stand-out tracks from the album and a contender for a further single while '50-50- is a chance of pace and at a second under five minutes is also the longest track on Comedown Machine. It's understated vocals coupled with the excellently produced drums throughout make this a personal highlight and possibility of a classic in the making. Halfway through the song soars to unexpected highs and shines with an atypical aesthetic.

Without dissecting and analysing every single track on the album, it's difficult to convey just what this album sounds like. It's all at once undeniably The Strokes, but it's not The Strokes as you know them. Given their contract is up; this could be the band foreshadowing the road their planning on taking now they're free of the constrains of a label. There's still elements of the ballsy garage rock there, but there's also a newer, shinier veneer that the band have encased themselves in. The inclusion of a synth might well deter people who have buried their heads in the sands of the first two albums, certainly on their initial listens, but Comedown Machine is an album that will grow on you. From the preprogrammed Casio-beats to Casablanca's atypical vocal parts across the majority of the album, it's certainly a bold move for a band who's last album didn't fair nearly as well as those that preceded it, but if it's the music they want to make, who are we to stop them. Eclectic and erratic, different and dance-y, there's surely something for even the most stringent of fans.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

ALBUM: PEACE - IN LOVE


Review by John Cooper

Listen Up Manchester album rating 6/10

A couple of listens in and the new Peace album already feels very familiar – yes the songs are memorable, catchy and at times anthemic all of which help draw you into a new album, and with this being a debut album, a new band. However, a big part of Peace’s familiarity comes from the fact that their influences are heavily stamped all over “In Love”.  Making notes for this review, my notepad reads like a list of bands that certain tracks soundlike – Oasis, the Cure, Stone Roses,  My Bloody Valentine, Happy Mondays, Blur, Charlatans, Smashing Pumpkins & even the Beatles (just listen to California Daze) are all scribbled down.  Don’t get me wrong this doesn’t make it a bad album and with a touch of that math-rock sound it brings it a bit more into this century, it’s just a shame they don’t really bring anything new to the table, considering their hype as being one of the new bands for 2013. It does have a lot of well written upbeat songs that will keep you going back for one more listen though, the highlights of the album being “Lovesick”, “Wraith”, “Delicious” & “Toxic”, so if you want to go and have an enjoyable (just over) half hour full of good melodies and more than a touch of nostalgia then…… all we are saying is give Peace a chance. (sorry couldn’t resist that line!)   

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

ALBUM: DAVID BOWIE - THE NEXT DAY


Review by David Beech

Listen Up Manchester album rating 8/10

David Robert Jones, better known as David Bowie has been gracing the British public with various blends of his music since 1962. After a multiplicity of failed releases with several ill-fated blues bands, Bowie struck out on his own in 1967 and never looked back. His albums have spanned both genres and generations, garnering him legions of fans across the world. From his flamboyant androgyny through the 1970s and his involvement with the new romantics in the 1980s right down to his production of soundtracks and even starring in films himself there's not much that Bowie hasn't done over the course of his 50 year career. Now, 45 years after his self titled d├ębut, he releases his 20th studio album, The Next Day.

Fans awaited this album with baited breath, given that it's been a decade since he had last released album and even longer since he last released one worthy of his own legacy. After quietly leaking 'Where Are We Know?' on his 66th birthday, many thought The Next Day would be a continuation of the single. The truth is, the majority of tracks featured across the album are nothing at all like the single. Whereas 'Where Are We Know?' is perhaps meant to be Bowie's very own 'Perfect Day' minus the heroin, the rest of the album is an eclectic mish-mash of varying genres; much like his career.

Fourth track 'Love is Lost' is synth heavy and emphatic, a crunchy guitar perpetuates the intro while the verses are unmistakeably Bowie. The whole song is a dark and broody affair which encapsulates the alienation ultimately felt by Bowie himself throughout the course of his career. The song reaches a crashing climax featuring multi-layered vocals and impressive harmonising that adds to the overall aesthetic. Track 8, on the other hand, 'I'd Rather Be High' is brilliantly upbeat and is one of the best vocal performances on the album. A dreamy chorus springs to mind some of Bowie's earlier work and would be perfectly suited to a Summer's evening in a beer garden. The guitar leaves behind the chunky riffs that populate a lot of the tracks on The Next Day and is melodic and harmonious, taking a cue from some of the more contemporary indie-pop bands.

'Dancing Out In Space' features some fantastic brass work, even if the drumming falls a little flat as it rarely changes. Uplifting and melodic, the silky smooth jazz-fused veneer is given an edge in the form of Bowie's vocals which are somewhat abrasive, keeping in fitting with a song that's disconcerting and different, but one which is sure to grow on you.

'(You Will) Set the World on Fire' is just all out classic rock. A chunky guitar riff drives the song forward throughout the first half and hears the vocals sounding particularly sleazy. The second half of the album however, takes a change as he's joined on vocals by Gail Ann Dorsey and Janice Pendarvis, and though the driving guitars are still there, particularly in the solo, the male/female dichotomy gives further edge to a song that would have come off as formulaic and filler without it.

'You Feel So Lonely You Could Die' is perhaps the song on the album most similar to first single 'Where Are We Now?'with a higher degree of optimism and much more uplifting. The song closes spectacularly with further appearances from Dorsey and Pendarvis.

Long time fans of Bowie, who felt somewhat slighted by the single take from The Next Day will be pleased to know that this album is a veritable orgy of different influences and moods, rarely starying in to the slow and mournful realms exhibited by 'Where Are We Know?' In fact, unlike many of Bowie's contemporaries, whom try and capture the sounds of their heyday and rehash the same old formula, here Bowie has branched out and incorporated a multitude of styles across the 14 tracks. While not quite reaching the same levels of avant-garde of some of his 1990s outings, The Next Day is still quite an experimental album, particularly with last track 'Heat' which needs to be heard to understood; words won't do it justice. This album earned Bowie his first number one since 1993's Black Tie White Noise and it's easy to see why. This whole album is something that needs to be listened to in it's entirety several times to allow the almost bipolar nature of it to fully sink in. This isn't Bowie at his best, but it's bloody close and a damn fine comeback album.