A semi full arena always leaves your average gig goer slightly weary over the evening’s forthcoming proceedings and Alicia’s Keys’ rescheduled February date had a good few empty seats knocking around.
Could a piano ballad fuelled set really be the answer to a notably undersold MEN Arena?
Well that didn’t matter as she came on guns-a-blazin’ with an un-stereotypical (and unexpected) cacophonic, yet controlled entrance. Her first four songs were something one would expect to hear her more lively female American counterparts of the Beyonce ilk take the stage too. Furthermore she even included her two female backing singers to such a degree that during one track she was in serious danger of being upstaged by the sass and vocal prowess of the supposed ‘supporting’ duo.
But then it all went dark and voila; the grand piano had made its entrance and Miss Keys showed us why she’s worth the entrance fee.
It’s her simple piano only ballads (albeit with a pinch of twinkly percussion) that make the songstress so appealing. With a beautiful, booming voice that accentuate her lyrics about love, loss and desperation; Alicia Keys had her young crowd listening to her every word with genuine intent.
There will always be a market for simplicity and Alicia should strive to make it hers as she has the genuine song writing talent to do so, but as moments showed tonight; she is in danger of slipping into a genre in which there are people far more entertaining than her.
More ballads, less booty. Simple.
4 out of 5
Artist: Los Campesinos!
Title: My Year In Lists
Rating 3 out of 5
“…all the best pop songs are short, or short-lived. As are most pop bands careers.” Note Los Campesinos! And at 1:51 in length ‘My Year In Lists’ definitely falls into the category of ‘short’ but unfortunately not into the more exclusive category of ‘all the best pop songs’.
Taken from their rather good debut album ‘Hold On Now, Youngster…’, MYIL is a rather bizarre single choice given the selection they had to pick from, but it will nevertheless further add to their current perception of ‘cool’ that comes inevitably alongside being featured on Skins.
A catchy little song with cute lyrics about impressing your distant partner with your penmanship skills is flawed by its briefness. A couple more verses to help digress what became of the jilted lovers wouldn’t have gone amiss and unfortunately leaves this song with a sense of ‘?’ when it comes to a close.
Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip
Released 12th May
Sunday Best Records
Rating 4 out of 5
Optimism. It’s a great thing isn’t it? With HV being a natural panglossian we accept that optimism is a day to day feeling for us, but every so often our optimism does end up leading to that inevitable disappointment that we all feel once in a while. Now this may sound like a negative start to this review but don’t fear, this album is great, but we expected more. We expected pure musical brilliance. 12 tracks of audio genius. Unfortunately a couple of tracks really do suffer from filler syndrome (Rappers Battle and Tommy C being the 2 culprits) which disrupt the overall flow of the album.
We all know how brilliant all 3 singles are (with Beat That My Heart Skipped having ‘song of 2008’ potential written all over it) and there are other fantastic tracks to enjoy also; ‘Fixed’ is a rally call to the UK urban scene to pull its socks up, ‘Back From Hell’ is fast-paced dance floor filler and ‘Waiting For The Beat To Kick In’ is a trip around the exceptionally talented Scroobius Pip’s subconscious (which also contains a fantastic hidden track at the end which its exclusion from the track listing rather baffles us).
There is little doubt that this album is a cut above the rest and we shall be listening to it repeatedly this summer, but it’s probably 3 or 4 tracks short of becoming the genre defining masterpiece it had the potential to be.
Young Heart Attack
Carling Academy Liverpool
31st March 2008
Rating 4 out of 5
Mmm, I feel a rant coming on…
Attention youth of Britain. There is a 5 piece currently making their way around the UK named ‘Young Heart Attack’, alas, this is a band that if you have the merry opportunity too, you should see them post haste. Why? Because they’re ace. They’re from Austin Texas and their vice in rock and roll in the upmost traditional sense. Think Zepplin, think AC/DC, think music that you don’t actually have to ‘think’ anything about other than simply enjoying yourself.
I know you all have ‘issues’ and no one really ‘understands’ you and that the music of Bloc Party and Foals speaks to you in a way that no one else really ‘gets’ like you but all that teenage angst aside; if you can’t go to a Young Heart Attack gig and not enjoy yourself then you’re not as mature as you think you are.
This gig was basically balls out rock and roll with one main thing letting it down; the crowd. It would appear that YHA’s key demographic are denim clad forty somethings that get as much of a thrill from the music as they do drinking on a work night. A tight and energetic performance was deserved of a much better reception and despite the rather poor delivery of ‘Munki’ off their latest offering ‘Rock and Awe’ where the words “I’m gonna knock your walls down” have never been sang with such uncertainty (so much so it felt that the line should have ended with a question mark) YHA were quite fantastic tonight.
The sad thing is I feel the poor reception may lead to them not returning to blighty anytime soon.
When I first heard about Young Heart Attack’s split in 2006 a sudden rush of melancholy came over me. After all, their debut album ‘Mouthful Of Love’ was pretty much my soundtrack to the summer of 2004. Driving round with the windows rolled down and ‘Starlight’ blaring out on the stereo (which may I add was turned all the way up to ’11’ of course) so when I heard that a plucky British label (Not On Your Radio) had decided to give them a 2nd outing I was chuffed to say the least. I won’t lie to you though, I was a tad apprehensive putting the CD into my laptop for the first play with thoughts such as “Can they do it again?” and “Is the memory of my excitable youth acting as a potential melpomene for disappointment?” rolling around in my head, but then the unforgiving drum roll intro kicked in for the Albums title track ‘Rock and Awe’ and all worries were cast aside. An instant grin came flooding across my face; I was 18 years old again.
This is a bloody enjoyable album which actually shows real progression from their first LP. Not as rough-around-the-edges as Mouthful of Love and the songs a tad more polished and with far better production qualities throughout. Songs to point out include ‘Munki’, ‘Runaway’ and ‘Hell On Earth’ which are guaranteed shoe-in’s for the next mix CD I make.
Be warned though; if you like Foals then you’ll fucking hate this. It’s not clever and it doesn’t try to be. It knows what it is and it sticks to it rather unapologetically; it’s rock and roll. Enjoy it or shut the fuck up and listen to something else.
Looks like the summer of 2008 now has its soundtrack sorted for this humble reviewer.
The debut double A side offering from Sheffield’s adopted sons ‘Green Man Says Go’ is a synth fuelled adventure that is enjoyable to listen to when sober as a proverbial judge so I can only imagine that it’s simply ‘the tits’ when you’re intoxicated on various substances and in a room full of people in a similar situation. ‘Las Vegas’ is by far the stand out track of the 2 with its disco drums and singalong chorus. A track that was influenced by the drummers recent trip to said sin city and for anyone who’s ever been lucky enough to waste their money in the Nevada desert will nod in agreement to the lyric “I can see the lights above my head, flashing like a good idea”, because let’s be honest; that $350 bet on a pair of 2’s was a good idea at the time…
Rating 4 out of 5
The Mancunian 3 pieces latest offering comes in the form of ‘Picking Up The Pieces’. Despite the somewhat questionable band name they do deliver chirpy and poppy indie foot-tap-a-longable songs that will no doubt be heard playing across the parks of Manchester this summer on the various portable CD Players that aid the cities students in their procrastination.
Picking Up The Pieces is one of those songs which on the first listen makes you wonder if it is actually in tune or not and makes you contemplating cringing somewhat, however any thoughts of said discomfort are soon cast aside when the memorable chorus kicks in. And lets be honest; everyone loves a song you can sing-along too and at the same time feel you’re as good as the geezer singing it.
Rating 3 out of 5
Readers of High Voltage will probably be aware of Ian Britt already as he was a North-west native for a good few years before recently returning back to his homeland of Sheffield. After a debut album that was kept off the top of the iTunes alternative folk chart (niche, I’ll give you that) by laugh a minute combo David Gray and Damien Rice, Ian self released his next EP ‘Big Light’ a couple of months ago which has gone down incredibly well in Holland of all places. The Dutch obviously know a good acoustic singer-songwriter when they hear it as songs such as ‘Let Me In It’ and the timeless ‘The Shape Of Us’ are bloody lovely ditty’s to say the least. In a genre that is saturated with a helluva lot of tripe, isn’t it nice to find a bloke with a guitar you don’t mind listening to several times over? Get on him now before he buggers off to the Netherlands and we never see him again.
Key Track: The Shape Of Us
Artist: Vampire Weekend
Album: ‘Vampire Weekend’
Label: XL Recordings
After trawling through the massive and quite frankly unexciting biography that we were supplied with in accompaniment with this release, I finally put my finger on how the in house PR team could describe Vampire Weekend’s debut album in a more concise and efficient manner: ‘Hit and Miss’.
Those little words, sitting next to each other in perfect harmony, are the only 2 words anyone will ever need to describe this self titled album. In fact, I’m in half a mind to finish writing this review now as nothing more genuinely needs to be said. I could just give you some more words; reasonable, satisfactory, passable, OK etc.
But as that could be described as ‘lazy journalism’ let us dissect this album a little more shall we?
UK debut release ‘Mansford Roof’ is a pleasant enough opening with its jaunty rhythm and catchy hook but it’s the 2nd track ‘Oxford Comma’ where the album prematurely peaks. With the attention grabbing opening line of “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?” to the memorable chorus hook of “Why would you lie about how much coal you have?” it leaves you expecting a lot more then the album eventually delivers.
I first discovered the albums other highlight ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ when a friend of mine game me an mix album which had a theme of ‘Adorable Dittys’ and the song fits that description rather well. Apart from the rather bizarre repetition of the lyric of “It feels so natural, Peter Gabriel too” it is a song which could very well feature on ‘it’s-getting-warmer-so-lets-get-in-a-summery-mood’ playlists all around the country pretty soon. The album then goes from weak, to a bit strange to damn right awful at times. I can only assume they recorded ‘One (Blakes Got A New Face)’ as some kind of dare or bet as I can’t find a positive thing to say about it.
All in all its an album that is quite simply: alright. Not one you’ll tell all your mates to go and buy but at the same time you’ll not be angry at it for stealing 40 minutes of your life.