Monday, 28 May 2012

New York City doesn’t hold the crown for drive-time rock, New Jersey have had Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen clutch onto it tightly for the past twenty years, and then there’s the Canadian Bryan Adams. New Yorker Bob Dee writes a kind of rock similar to the old timers, perhaps without their edge, but with the same straight-face.

Dee isn’t a fresh prodigy hitting the scene anew. He’s been part of a few projects around the globe, shooting music videos of his own tunes in France and Canada as well as co-writing a track with producer Desmond Child. He also has a body of work behind him - four EPs all with the band Petro. It’s a strange band title, ‘Bob Dee with Petro’, as by the sounds of things these are tunes embodied by Dee, completing all of the writing and front of house performing. The name 'Bob Dee' alone would be fine. It’s not as if both names carry much weight by being famous rock artists. No matter, it’s a herring most fans in the genre would overlook in place for the quality of music, which is certainly up to scratch.

This sort of music is made to fill stadiums, and if enough tickets were sold it would likely fill with happy punters, assuming they don’t mind Dee’s dodgy wordplay and clichéd lyrics. It’s the same problem which plagued Bryan Adams albums reaching the kind of acclaim Crowded House records would garner; it’s that the subject matter was always the same. Bob Dee’s “Tell Me” is about his love for an unspecified woman, over the tones of him groaning like a megastar and strumming his guitar dispassionately. “Lips That Heal” is presumably about, erm… feeling better from having feeling worse after kissing an unknown lady. It’s cliché ridden, but fans should find plenty to love here, if they’re willing to buy into the fantasy.

Up All Night” isn’t going to surprise anyone, but regulars of the genre shouldn’t worry: Bob Dee riffs in the same formula of drive-time rock’s most established oldies, best played on a breezy sunny day blasting out of a convertible sports car. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

Posted by Posted by Andy at 4:40 pm
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Friday, 4 May 2012

It’s a learning experience,” I say to a fellow Chariot fan, as he asks, how I’m getting on with the gig. Hardcore metal is literally lots of rapid, angular body movement to the sounds of disjointed rock rhythm. Well, that’s a very detached view, but perhaps this is the best you’ll get with an analysis. Anyway, there was a lot of buzz circulating around The Limelight for The Chariot, and it’s probably because of the sheer spectacle on stage. As the first track rumbled on, it’s a much more cathartic experience than you might think. Turn everything up, bang a few chords together, shout as loud as you can, run around a lot, dress in a middle class fashion, belch Christian lyrics, throw stuff into the crowd, occasionally spit, throw a guitar three hundred and sixty degrees around the body, remember to breathe. That’s how it goes, with greater pauses in between the tunes later on throughout the set, no doubt, due to fitness levels, and the release of testosterone. A little like an exorcism of sorts.

But there’s no telling what was actually being listened too, as this was metal apparently alight on impulse. Describing the sonic assault is twofold; it’s either Dillinger Escape Plan or Car Bomb, and The Chariot’s endless activity on-stage puts them into the same boat.

No doubt, punk and its influence has changed. No longer are you meant to be an anarchist, or post-apocalyptic maniac. Instead, these Georgians represent a kind of stuffed shirt personality, of the norm, like-everybody-else, droning on throughout the day, and wanting to explode whenever something ticks them off.

Yet the show was certainly not unhinged. If you could mute what was coming out of the PA, and simply watch the band jump around, there are patterns everywhere in their frenetic choreography, which makes it all much more populist than their fellow punters would like to imagine. Who else employs dancers for a dazzling effect to go along with their music? Quite a few pop artists, I’d imagine, and pop comparisons certainly dent the hardcore image. Though they captured the spur of the moment reasonably well, this hyper-stylised punk, is still learning about what it wants to do with itself. We’re either in the infancy stages of hardcore metal or at its tail end, but whatever that may be, less is more effective, and these guys plundered on for well over an hour.

6/10 Powerplay issue #143

Posted by Posted by Andy at 11:03 am
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I see a contradiction as the second of the headlining acts walks out. Norma Jean’s sound is very familiar within a commercial sphere, yet it’s being lauded as the second coming for reasons unknown to me. The crowd have went crazy for this lot, but the first two, the lesser known ‘hardcore’ aficionado, haven’t had anywhere near this kind of reception. You can see the blatant contradiction, at least in identity: the hardcore guys enjoy the commercial stuff much more. Oh well, maybe Norma Jean are just better and that’s all there is to it. Clap your hands.

It’s true, to an extent, as this is the most complete baby of the night. They’re able to make a real impact, chugging through southern American riffs, the likes of Lamb Of God or even Korn would vein in, and at the same time, go off the wall when needed in their mathcore element.

Fans were easy pleased getting a lot of content from their latest album “Meridional”, as well as material from their debut success “Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child”. In context of the evening, there wasn’t anything particularly spectacular about Norma Jean, and in fact, residing from their commercial sound, they were probably the most simplistic band, when it came down to a mathcore sound.

Yet, the complicated material felt uncomfortable in the set. It was as if the band were drunk within the parameters they had set for their music, doing the math stuff to appease one half of an audience, and commercial licks to groom the other half.

6/10 Powerplay #143

Posted by Posted by Andy at 10:49 am
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If Admiral's Arms were all about keeping the screw turning (Admiral's Arms review), Dead and Divine were about the way it was being turned. Vocalist Matt Tobin did reasonably well at getting the crowd involved, disparagingly (and a little desperately) jumping off the stage and grabbing people around the bar, then shoving them to front of the pit, before things got going. In truth it wasn’t a bad move for them, as it forced a lot of sober heads to nod with whatever rhythm they decided to play.

Musically, there was a kind of nutsiness about them, the way they kept riffing to and fro vocally based choruses, and fast paced rhythm guitar. This felt much more metalcore, and machine like, than that of hardcore. They also had a cameo from one of The Chariot band members, to crank up anticipation for the night. However, their stage persona is hard to buy into, with Tobin doing all of the work, and the rest of them standing around like wooden statues. All in all, they demonstrate that pacing works well inside of metalcore, even when the four out of five band members look completely disinterested.

5/10 Powerplay issue #14

Posted by Posted by Andy at 10:37 am
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When a band affects your own inner confidence, bringing you to the point of questioning the self, you know that there’s a mismatch on stage, as my opening notes for the night read; “Why am I so uncomfortable for these lads? Is it their stage presence? Is it their sound? Is it their technical bravado?” On reflection it’s something of a feat, that a hardcore act, who only played for a near forty five minutes – excuse me for thinking that it clamoured on for longer – fleeted along like slow-burners.

Maybe it’s the hardcore genre; it has the ability to make you look snobbish when you turn on your brain and become an active listener. Wherever that of-the-wall impulsivity was, it constantly reigned itself in throughout, stuck in a genre and made muddy by the talents of the musicianship on show. Yes, these blokes could really play, and despite their technical workout towards the final stuttering of the set, the choice to stay within a trendy genre was head scratching at best. Admiral’s Arms sound a lot like The Chariot, but two thirds slower. They’re like a middle classed, inexperienced newly graduate, walking into his first filthy glam-job. Awkward, nervous and not very good.

5/10 Powerplay issue #143

Posted by Posted by Andy at 10:23 am
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