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psychemodo - flapper and firkin, 17/08/2003

simon gray - 2003-08-17, 01:15:05

it's been a long time since i've been to a gig at the flapper - about five years ago, when the band i used to engineer for ended its monday night residency. i couldn't have ended my flapper drought with a better night ! 

according to their website at www.phuncrecords.comPsychemodo are a Midlands-based rock band... equally at home with plaintive melodies and kick-ass riffs. They have already been likened to bands as diverse as XTC, Ultrasound, The Flaming Lips and Foo Fighters. after last night's gig i'd be inclined to add 'the who' to the list of dignitaries (some of the sounds being a bit reminiscent of quadrophenia) & bar-room jazz to the list of skills. 

psychemodo have been going for about a year, starting off mainly as a covers band, but they've been quietly working on some original material of their own for the last nine months, & this was its first outing - they well & truly proved themselves with it, & i look forward to hearing more. songs which are real stories & proper compositions rather than intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-guitar-solo-on-the-fadeout - although they sound like neither, if you like what pulp or the divine comedy do you'll like psychemodo. 

i tend to like my guitar bands loud & grungey rather than 'clean; i also like loud bands who also know when it's good to play quiet bits as well - & i got what i like for sure ! 

due to... 'technical difficulties' the traditional support [...]

Read the rest of psychemodo - flapper and firkin, 17/08/2003.

In group Birmingham

ghosts of the abyss - imax, millennium point, 17/08/2003

simon gray - 2003-08-17, 00:54:01

this was my first visit to millennium point, which considering it has been open for just over two years now is quite telling - but more on that later. 

ghost of the abyss is a documentary by james cameron taking us back to the site of the rms titanic, scene of his 1997 oscar winning success, shot in imax 3d. if you've got any prejudices about any of those aspects of it - think again. 3d cinematography has come an awfully long way since those terrible films of the 50s where the red & green tinted aliens loomed into your lap, & imax as a cinema format is considerably more than 'just a big screen'. 

the publicity blurb (& the somewhat cold-ridden announcer...) goes to great pains to tell you it "immerses you & pulls you right into the centre of the action". "yeah, right" was my admittedly cynical initial reaction, but that was blown away the instant the adverts finished & we moved into the trailers - it might sound like marketing guff, but it's actually genuinely true; you as an individual really are literally put right into the middle of things rather than a member of an audience watching them play out on a screen 50 feet away ! there's the inevitable cheesy 3d-for-the-sake-of-it effect of a robot arm grabbing menacingly three inches from your nose, but for the most part it is highly tasteful, the idea being to give you the experience of being a member of [...]

Read the rest of ghosts of the abyss - imax, millennium point, 17/08/2003.

In group Birmingham

grand union orchestra - the call of paradise - symphony hall, 11/11/2002

simon gray - 2002-11-11, 00:48:13

n a nutshell, far too many people missed what was definitely one of the best jazz-world concerts the city has seen for a good few years. 

since those first experiments in the 60s, a number of people have worked on the fusion of different musical cultures in the small band setting, mostly with some success even if often a little derivative. the grand union orchestra have succeeded in doing so as a big band with a flair which in a just world would earn them at least a page in any half-decent history book on the development of contemporary music ! 

the work they are currently touring is 'the call of paradise' (by leader tony haynes), taking much of its vocal texts from various diverse religious sources. it describes itself as 'a kind of musical journey - but through emotions rather than a literal one', & as well as showing us how religion is linked to much of the world history's misery & violence also reminds us of its inspiration of so much beauty, using texts which speak of love & devotion as well as of warfare & hate - opening with a passage from the old testament's 'song of solomon' (or 'song of songs'); if you thought the bible had a bit of a downer on love & sex, think again & go & read that passage ! 

the music well knew when to do the 'fusion bit', & also when not to - the big [...]

Read the rest of grand union orchestra - the call of paradise - symphony hall, 11/11/2002.

In group Birmingham

The Divine Comedy - Birmingham Academy, 30/09/2002

simon gray - 2002-09-30, 00:42:37

'courageous' is probably the best adjective to describe the divine comedy. 

where many other successful british bands seem to be content to rest on their success & stick to a nice safe line-up playing the same nice safe songs in the same nice safe style, the divine comedy can always be guaranteed to take risks, to keep their listeners on their toes, & to rarely play safe neither with line-up, set list, nor sound. 

indeed, i've always considered them to be very much just as much a "musician's & poet's" band as an "audience's" band - if you're a musician & you're neither inspired by them to keep at it nor so blown away you want to give up, you're not really a musician; & likewise, if you're a poet & aren't moved by neil hannon's lyrics, your very soul itself must have been stolen. 

tdc's gig at the academy last night was, in the taking risks department, no exception. but.. erm... i'm sad to say it, but i don't think they shone as much as they should have done. sure, neil as lead singer rather than taking the traditional ego-position in the centre spent much of the gig at the side of the stage, simon played double bass rather than bass guitar for i think the whole gig, & rob had his drumkit on the opposite side rather than on a riser at the back - 'rock ensemble' might be a better description than 'rock band' [...]

Read the rest of The Divine Comedy - Birmingham Academy, 30/09/2002.

In group Birmingham

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