Songs of Praise, Swindon – My 12 favourite gigs of 2016 – part 2 (by Dave Franklin)

14939458_1559888457371002_5875406412455867816_oThe second instalment of the yearly live pick

Piano Wire, Dead Royalties and Sea Mammal – 29th September @ The Victoria

If the summer was a bit lean, our autumn dance card was deliberately aiming for some bigger names. Piano Wire is half of what used to be Eighties Matchbox B-line Disaster and revel in the same mix of incendiary, post-punkery, razor wire riffs and dark melodies.

Dead Royalties, a band who go back to our days of running a music label never disappoint, a mix of grunge, math and melody and Sea Mammal were their usual cavernous art-noise selves.

 The Groundhogs, The Harlers and Kikamora – 7th October @ Level III

This version of The Groundhogs may only contain one original member in the guise of drummer Ken Pustelnik, but it is no mere pastiche or rose tinted tribute. This is a band that proves that rock and roll isn’t just a young man’s game as they deliver psyched out blues that if you got too close might very well melt your face.

Local blues duo The Harlers sound had got even bigger than last time we worked with them and Bristol’s Kikamora did a neat line in classic rock meets grungy melodies with a surprise, sax driven, sleazy R’n’B finish.

 Non Canon and Sad Song Co – 23rd October @ Baila Coffee and Vinyl

Baila Coffee and Vinyl proved to be a great little venue in the short time they indulged our musical machinations. We’d booked Non Canon, the new musical vehicle for Oxygen Thief’s Barry Dolan and were amazed and overwhelmed when he said he would bring along the act he was currently supporting on tour with him.

Away from the more driven and raw vibes of his previous formats, Barry as Non Canon is a wonderfully sublime mix of chilled poignancy, and thoughtful reflection that both subverted expectations you may have from previous musical encounters with him and yet sounded like he’s been doing this all of his life.

Sad Song Co. is the musical sideline of Nigel Powell, normally found drumming for Frank Turner and Dive Dive. Here switching between plaintive piano and deft, minimal guitar with just a bass alongside him, Sad Song Co play with strange structures, pin-drop atmospherics and slightly proggy modus operandi.

 Nick Harper and Burbank – 27th October @ Baila Coffee and Vinyl

 There is nothing like experiencing Nick Harper up close and personal, so to watch him play to 35 people in a coffee shop was nothing short of awesome. Wonderful interludes and rambling anecdotes connected songs that warped normal musical templates, that subtly and sometimes not so subtly jumped generic boundaries and that was best described as having the ability to do things with his guitar that would have Segovia weeping into his Rioja.

Burbank opened the night with a selection of sublime and delicate songs that belied their young age.

Avon, Rewire The Time Machine and Phoxjaw – 3rd November @ The Victoria

 They say that you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but when they are as charming and friendly to work with as Alfredo Hernandez then I’d say, do it. The one time Kyuss and Queens of The Stone Age drummer was in the country with Avon and we were pretty excited to bag a date. Desert blues, grunge, alt-rock all go into the mix and what an amazing performance they put on.

And in the perfect “if you like that you’ll like this” line up both Rewire The Time Machine and Phoxjaw were the perfect warm up material on this fantastic night.

 Johnny Foreigner, Misfires and Cupcake Diaz and The Felt Tip Pens – 24th November @ The Victoria

 Describing Johnny Foreigner takes some doing. Punk, indie, pop, noise, warped deliveries, melody and mayhem are all in there somewhere in ever changing quantities but the overall affect is always tantalising and unique.

Local indie kids Misfires played a blinder of accessible Arctic Monkeys melody meets warped psychedelia and the brilliantly named Cupcake Diaz and The Felt-Tip Pens where their usual fantastic punky-grungy-rocky-pop musical art attack.

I could go on, I could mention the likes of Grant Sharkey’s bass-rants, Franc Cinelli’s panoramic travelogues, the madness that is Diagonal People, The Vim Dicta, Vienna Ditto, Port Erin, Los and The Deadlines, The Bohos, Empire and much more besides. I guess it is a testament to the support of Swindon’s gig going community that this 12 of the best could have easily have been 20 or even 30 of the best. Here is to 2017 being another great year for original music.



Spraying Perfume on The Flowers/Cupid’s Chapstick – Dead Royalties. (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a2049290272_16The reason that Dead Royalties music works so well is that consciously or otherwise they appeal to two very distinct camps. Those in the mainstream will pick up on the heavy yet accessible riffs, the energy and the driving nature of their music. It’s an easy sell, ticks boxes for the man in the street, especially the ones who like things given to them on a plate and who probably bought their Nirvana t-shirt in Primark. But closer examination reveals the real Trojan horse nature of what they do. They might appeal to the man in the street, but then I have met the man in the street, he’s an idiot and to grab the attention of the more discerning music fan is a tougher job. Thankfully Dead Royalties have been at this game long enough to know that.

Look down the cracks between the surface veneer and you see the intricate workings of the band, tinges of math rock that add dimension and unexpected complexity, subversive and questioning lyrics that seek to unravel the conventions of the world around us and angular dynamics which move the music into slightly quirkier territories. Whilst Spraying Perfume… is fairly representative of the bands musical canon, the accompanying song on this 2 track release, Cupids Chapstick, sees the band navigate newer and slightly unexpected musical landscapes; mid-paced, wonky, strutting grooves that build into driven art punk, but then they have always been able to throw you a curveball and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Revolting Revolution / Sons and Daughters – Dead Royalties (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

a0843865513_16Although the underlying groove running through this Bristol art-punk trio’s latest offering may have Foo Fighter fans ears pricking up, they would be entirely missing the point, but what’s new? For if there is any connection between the two bands it is that Dead Royalties sound like what Grohl and the boys could be if they stopped living on past glories, stopped peddling a sound that comes out of their commercial comfort zone, had something to say and injected a wonderful jarring angularity to their songs. Doing what they do best Dead Royalties continue to genre hop between a pop aware grunge sound, slightly mathy structures that remind us of the members past exploits and a clean-limbed punk drive and they do so with a unique ease. The accompanying song, Sons and Daughters, whilst possibly not being quite so immediate, is one whose brilliance reveals itself after a few plays. A slow burning exercise in dynamic builds which dives between punchy riffs, introspective delicacy and even has room for some dark and dreamlike vocal harmonies, yet all the time headed towards a wonderful crescendo playing out with some scratchy and claustrophobic sonic madness. There are many bands working with the fall out of sounds that link punk with grunge and post-punk with 90’s US college rock, but none seem to do it in such an original way as Dead Royalties. With most bands their most interesting aspect seem to be their musical references, the music they revere, where they come from, with Dead Royalties it is all about where they are going.

Revolting Revolution video HERE

New Music of the Day – XXXIX : Revolting Revolution – Dead Royalties

11206121_813564518725962_1387987814122406909_nIt has been a quiet year for Dead Royalties, but they have roared back into action with a string of live shows and now a new video to push their latest two-track download. With their trademark mix of grunge infused alt-rock and lyrics that explore the dark underbelly of modern society, Revolting Revolution, is not only musically very much of the here and now, its message is right on the moment in the upswell of growing unrest following the recent election. more info HERE

Dead Royalties unleash new video – Bring Out Your Dead

Secret Chord Records are excited to announce the new video from Dead Royalties Taken from their e.p, Hormones Bring Out Your Dead was described as….

“Combining the grit and drive of (the grunge genre) and mixing it with a lo-hi punk vibe and the complexities of math-rock, Dead Royalties have come up with something cool enough for the rock kids but durable enough to survive the fickle and transient nature of the current music era.”

Filmed by Working Beautifully, the video threads the songs theme of the futility of the 9 to 5 rat race around that of a Mexican funeral and the image of the Golden Bull(****?)

New Music of the Day: III – Bleed My Heart Out – Harri Larkin It’s funny how the briefest of connections can often help the cause.  A brief chat over a pint after a Dead Royalties gig in the depths of one of Bristol’s less salubrious neighbourhoods has led to  this brief review of Harri Larkin’s demos. And what crackers they are. Bleed My Heart Out, okay, it’s not going to change the musical landscape weaving a path between punk and pop and channelling the spirit of the 90’s Riot Grrrl sound, but it does it’s job better than most bands who try to couple the accessibility of pop with the aggression of punk, much better. That is doing the track a slight disservice because actually it’s great, a wonderful slab of energy and direct, clean musical lines, get’s straight on with the job and easily passes the acid test in that an hour later you will be humming the chorus without realising you are doing it.

And as if to prove that this is not just a one trick pony, other tracks range from shimmering walls of underground pop-rock in the guise of Safe To Say and  the more indie vibes of  I’m Not Awkward to the ska groove of They’ll Take Anything But The Blame, a song that No Doubt would have killed for back in the day. It’s an impressive array of songs, delve deep enough and you will find a 2 year back catalogue which charts the development of a singer-songwriter building up to the fully developed sound of the more recent recordings that I have focused on. There is much to like here and at times reminds me of some of the bands that seem to be stepping through the door opened by Warpaint’s meteoric rise, particularly London trio Cat Bear Tree. In short as a set of demo’s they are great and I for one can’t wait until there is a fully produced release to get my hands on, in the meantime however, these tracks will do just fine.

Hormones – Dead Royalties (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

16795_711347328947682_6681600230515635506_nIt seems very apt that in a week when every music publication worth its salt is reminiscing on the god-like legacy of Kurt Cobain, to feature a band who have picked up the grunge torch and refashioned it in their own image. After cutting his teeth in math-rockers Sailors and later Russian Blue, Alex Share’s considerable abilities to create infectious hook lines and riffs shows no sign of waning. Far from it and the proof of that can be found on their e.p. Hormones, which is released tomorrow via Secret Chord Records.

It is a collection of songs that are forged from the same head on clash of pop sensibility and primordial rock and roll urges that was at the heart of the grunge scene but if you think that the band are mere copyists or heading down a rose-tinted nostalgia trip, then think again.  Whilst the core sound may doff its cap to labels such as Sub-Pop, their earlier math-pop experimentations still linger around the periphery creating wonderful fine detail and throw away, one-time only musical tricks that most bands would feel the need to build a whole song around. So grunge it may be, but if so, it is grunge with a university education.

As a three-piece there is a wonderful economy to the band, no room for showboating and everyone required to earn their musical keep; no fuss, no frippery, just a band getting on with the job at hand.  And considering that most of the songs on the record sound like possible singles, especially Bring out Your Dead, Sex Sells and the song that got them their record deal, Drug Cartel, it is looking like the band have already set their own benchmark very high indeed.

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