Heart of Gold – The Harlers (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

27858290_1987478481505007_4204404359649383129_nIt’s been great watching The Harlers evolve and grow, from a basic two-piece of drums and guitar, through various sound enhancing, multi-amp, sonic manoeuvring to finally settle on the classic three-piece line up that they have now become. And whilst the bands delivery may have been subject to a few changes, the music that they deliver has stayed very much on focus – in your face, incendiary, blues-infused, garage rock.

Like many bands in the broad alt-rock genre that is today’s rock’n’roll weapon of choice The Harlers reference some classic bands, everything from modern purveyors such as Royal Blood, through such obscurities as Burning Tree and iconic outfits such as Cream, and a whole host of scuzzy, outsider guitar slingers from the golden age. Heart of Gold sees them ploughing the same rock furrow, not every band has to break down barriers or explore new sonic playgrounds but neither is this merely re-inventing the wheel either. The Harlers are torch bearers, the sound of classic rock and roll being carried through to a modern audience, and it is safe to say that they do it better than most.

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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.

 

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