GIITTV: Tom Hickox – Monsters In the Deep (Family Tree/Warner Chappell)

Tom Hickox has a voice that comes from the centre of a mountain, something that is given great airing on his second album Monsters In The Deep. Whilst it never seems fair to comment on someone’s background, he does have an impressive musical heritage, an upbringing that has clearly given him great confidence and gravitas.

Despite his ‘man in the woods’ appearance, Tom Hickox is introspective and articulate. So, ‘The Plough’ is not about returning to the land but about the constellation. On this acoustic track, Hickox is revealed as a dreamer but one who is seeking the highest beauty right here. Looking at the stars, he ponders life and its laws. On ‘Man Of Anatomy’ the piano is undercut by a searing electric guitar and then an unnervingly low note reminiscent of the one in ‘The Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ when the aliens are trying to communicate with us.

For all its contemplations, Monsters In The Deep is a very earth-bound album. The locations and scenarios are very physical ones: ‘Istanbul’, ‘Korean Girl In A Waiting Room’. Hickox is a romantic traveller with a well-worn knapsack but one who has an intrinsic understanding of what it feels like to want to go back home. On these tracks, the piano and the drums act as an accompaniment to the stories.

The latter half of the album is considerably heavier, as if Hickox has drunk himself into a depression. It is last orders in ‘Collect All The Empties’. This song is orchestral and cinematic in scope, John Barry on a heath. To be fair, though, Hickox’s voice needs very little backing to make it moving. ‘The clifftops are heavy with thistles and gorse,/The call of the ocean with love and remorse’ is typical of the rhyming couplets on Monsters In The Deep. ‘Mannequin Heart’ and ‘Perseus and Lampedusa’ are similarly soul-bearing. They talk of ‘marigolds’ and ‘swallows soaring’. They are like being buried alive under very rich humus.

‘Monsters In The Deep’ itself is decidedly uptempo. Hickox sings, ‘I’m a monster, you know that.’ He must be the least fiendlike person I know. If anything, Hickox is Frankenstein’s monster before he is transformed by human barbarity or a placid underwater creature avoiding detection and cruel hooks. The fade out at the end of the song is him swimming away into the dark depths where the pressure is too much for ordinary humans.

The album’s title could be interpreted in so many different ways, indicative of the profundity of the music. Tom Hickox is a man who desperately wants to do the right thing, all of which is communicated through a rich reverberation of a voice. He is a man searching for a deeper truth.

Monsters In The Deep will be released on 31st March through Family Tree/Warner Chappell

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The VPME She Drew The Gun – Get It Loud In Libraries – Liverpool 25.03.17

Phil Greenhalgh catches She Drew The Gun at Liverpool Central Library as part of the Get It Loud In Libraries and is blown away by the latest rising star to come from Merseyside.

Get it Loud in Libraries, is an initiative created to take advantage of and promote lofty seats of learning into accessible, multi-faceted hubs of creativity by hosting gigs in these often underused public spaces. Following other recent successes at Liverpool Central Library  ‘Get it Loud’ chalked up another massive proof of concept, by hosting She Drew The Gun at the same venue.

Support was provided by Skeleton Key label-mate singer songwriter Marvin Powell.  Performing on the day that sunshine made its first 2017 appearance, Powell caught the mood, delivering wistful intelligent acoustic folk reminiscent of the likes Nick Drake and John Martyn. Achieving the paradox of being both melancholic yet uplifting, his debut ep ‘Salt’ is an ideal soundtrack to kick back in the sunshine and watch the Mersey flow by.

She Drew the Gun, frontwoman Louisa Roach is without question proving to be one of the most potent contemporary lyricists right now. The performance opened with spoken verse which is interspersed throughout the set, proclaiming a vitriolic polemic that you could more likely find in politically charged Rap. Her staccato poetry gives voice to striking images of oppression and injustice, sometimes crashing into, sometimes fusing effortlessly with dreamscape melody. The powerful lyrical content comes wrapped in vocal ability so genuine and enchanting you could almost be forgiven for listening but not hearing, It seems incongruous at times there is such a ‘stand and fight’ anarchy floating on such gossamer refrains. A case of winning their ears, their hearts, their minds.

The opening spoken wordplay blends into ‘Where I End And You Begin’, the first track from the debut album ‘Memories of Another future’, from that moment this is a caged bird audience, captivated and enthralled in equal measure. Without a massive back catalogue to call on, the set-list drew heavily on the album

With such a charismatic frontwoman, and as suggested in previous press, there is a temptation to view She Drew the Gun as a Louisa Roach-with-band project. Whilst clearly the driving presence, there is stronger than ever showing of a band as a total unit. Still buzzing on adrenaline and jet lag from a triumphant performance at Austin’s SXSW festival, there is a symbiotic harmony and sense of perfect musical balance of keyboards, bass and percussion that effortlessly complements the tone of the songs, sometimes wistful without being overbearing, other times full on throaty rock; a palpable sense of mutual understanding.

It would be a misnomer to describe Sian Monaghan as a ‘drummer’, from a rolling tremor to a thumping crescendo this is intense, measured percussion that at once sets and responds to the tone of Louisa’s vocal.

An absolute gem in the set can be found when bassist Jack Turner takes up the lead guitar for ‘Or So I Thought’. Wrenching such a beautiful and mesmerising lament from a Stratocaster shouldn’t be this possible, not the first time this has stopped me in my tracks, and won’t be the last.

The penultimate song, ‘Thank You’ provides a simple tribute to truly inspiring women; listed, pictured and thanked from the bottom of the heart. Every name listed you can glean a nuance of influence on the music we’re hearing tonight. Maybe the time will soon be nigh for Louisa Roach to take her place amongst them.

The set closes with the recent cover of Malvina Reynolds ‘No Hole In My Head’. It was a treat to go and search for the original upon hearing of the cover a few weeks back when it was released in conjunction with  International Women’s Day (also discovering her powerful diatribe ‘I Don’t Mind Failing’). A protest folk song cleverly reimagined with a contemporary rock twist – certainly when coupled with a pair of rhinestone platforms – in a way that should surely list Suzi Quatro among the list of female influences! She Drew the Gun know when to turn up the heat and add a little backbone into their performance and when to float the audience on intimate delicacy and deftness of phrase.

She Drew the Gun Play Liverpool Sound City in May, it will be interesting to compare and contrast the difference between the bigger stages and this perfectly intimate setting, you’d have to expect that with recent experiences this is a band who can dial up the sound to suit the surroundings. Come the end of May, the banks of the Mersey will be a richer place, those heading to the docks should mark this down as a not to be missed.

But here and now, In this temple of words, the audience breathed in every syllable and every note.

This was certainly a triumph in marrying artist and venue, part of the remit of Get it Loud in Libraries is to open up music and library spaces to younger audiences and with most venues being 16 or 18+, it’s a great opportunity to get kids out to gigs. As Louisa said in her thank you’s ‘it’s a long time to go without a beer’… but it was truly worth it.



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from The VPME

GIITTV: NEWS: Cardiff Transport Club launches Live music this April

Amidst the worrying issues faced by venues on Womanby Street in Cardiff currently.Cardiff Transport Club, the social club for the capital’s transport employees is opening its doors in the Riverside to the wider creative, music and arts community from this April.

To launch the venue and introduce it to the city, Cardiff Transport Club is putting on a gig on the 13th April 2017. They have hand-picked three bands to play: Pink Grapefruit (Cardiff) , Young Black Americans (Cardiff), and two day coma (Bristol). There is no set entry fee, just a minimum £1 donation to be split between the bands. Here’s what they say about the venues set up ‘unlike other, bigger central venues, this 120 cap space does not have to bring in as many bodies to make events profitable, meaning the concentration can move away from balancing the books and more towards supporting the musical, artistic and other events that performers, promoters and artists want to hold there, in a safe, affordable space that lets them grow.’

Cardiff has been going through some changes recently that have worried and upset the musical community. In this ‘Land of Song’ we currently seeing our live music venues under threat, despite having a thriving music scene. There have been closures, and now campaigns such as ‘Save Womanby Street’ are trying to call to action all music lovers to fight for their cities musical heart beat.

South Wales’ biggest exports include bands like the Manic Street Preachers, Stereophonics and Super Furry Animals, all cut their teeth in grassroots venues, playing in spaces to smaller, attentive crowds thirsty to hear and support new music across the city.

Cardiff Transport Club is a new endeavour that seeks to offer a fantastic space and facilities just outside the town Centre, in Riverside, and not just to its valued members and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Excitingly, in a city that needs to feel more connected and less anonymous this new space open for all artistic endeavours is being offered by the historic and recognisable institution of the Transport and Bus Social Club. The club is now open to all and offers special student drink offers. The upstairs venue/performance space is fully accessible with a stairlift, an important point to make when many venues sadly struggle to be accessible to those with disabilities. There is also on-street parking after 6pm.’

Gig Information:
All ages welcome. Doors 7:30pm

Pink Grapefruit
“Grungegaze with added sprinkles. We are trash.”

Young Black Americans
Young Black Americans have the singular aim of making a lot of noise. Inspired by Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Trail of Dead

two day coma
Playing their first Cardiff show, this new Bristol band is part Postal Service, part Bon Iver… and it works. Beautifully.

Cardiff Transport Club, 59-61 Tudor St, CF11 6AD
Stay up to date on upcoming shows at the Transport club here:

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Owen Jones: Angus Robertson: ‘It’s hard to take May at face value on Scotland’ – video interview

Angus Robertson tells Owen Jones that he and his Scottish National party colleagues have ‘yet to be convinced by Theresa May’s government’ and have ‘a whole load of reasons to be sceptical’ about her promises on Scotland. The SNP’s leader in Westminster discusses the possibility of a second referendum on Scottish independence and the chances of a success for the ‘yes’ vote this time round

Continue reading…

GIITTV: Gnod – Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine (Rocket Recordings)

Based in Salford, Greater Manchester, Gnod have established themselves over the last decade as a force to be reckoned with. Incorporating krautrock, noise, punk and other influences, their rotating line-up consistently makes for a breath of fresh air. Brexit, Trump and right-wing populism have ignited something in art. Potent politicised music is alive and well no matter how many miserable ageing punks and hipster think-pieces try to tell you otherwise. How is it possible for artists to be politically apathetic in times like these? The messages behind Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine hardly need explaining. It’s all in the title. Five songs spread across a vast, stimulating 40 minutes, this is an unmistakably flawless Gnod record.

Opener ‘Bodies For Money’ adopts a unashamedly simple riff over vocalist Paddy Shines‘s distant cries of “you can keep your fucking money”. This breaks down into guitar feedback lingering over Shine’s taunts of the song’s title before the whole band beautifully ascends into an unrelenting finish, imprisoning the listener to the very last note.

The few lyrics of ‘People’ are largely incomprehensible as sound craftsmanship takes centre stage. It begins with a psych-infused droning noise carried through half of the song. Eventually an ominous bassline joins the unpredictable track with Shine repeatedly shouting the song’s title. The middle part involves a confused cacophony of voices from the airwaves – sounds of media commentators crashing into each other, which are simultaneously stabbed at and held together by driving drums. Out of nowhere the whole structure built up over a good six minutes come crashing down.

Listening to ‘Paper Error’ may take a few moments to recover from. I was so stunned by its impact on first listen I could barely get the words together for this review. Frenetic and punishing, this five minutes of controlled chaos is the shortest song on the album. Penultimate track ‘Real Man’ tears apart masculinity standards on what is arguably the most accessible and most dance-able song on the album.

As profoundly brilliant as those four songs are, nothing quite compares to ‘Stick In The Wheel’. This 12-minute closer finally gets to the crux of the album’s title as Shine bemoans, “how many times will I sell my soul? / I wanna be a stick in the wheel / don’t wanna be a cog in the machine”.  The metallic feel of the first half of the song is maintained by superb drumming decorated by spluttering guitar hooks. There are few people – perhaps just the powerful ‘1%’ – who wouldn’t be able to relate to the lyrics of having one’s labour exploited under capitalism (“pushing paper just to stay alive”). It’s easy to fall into dull clichés using an us-against-them mentality when talking about power structures, but Gnod avoid this with an unusual finesse. The second half of this epic number enters a bare, eerie void sending you into a mild hypnosis before ever so slowly fading out into the unknown. The unsettling ending is surely reflective of the unchartered territory the world is about to embark on.

The songs Gnod create are more or less in a league of their own to the point where flimsy words simply cannot do them justice. This album is both so enticing and so uninviting at once, perhaps intended to be as oppressive as the world we find ourselves in. If only it were as easy as ‘just saying no’ to the capitalist death (etc.) machine. Saying no is just the first step in trying to galvanise people against said machine but at least that’s a lot easier when you have a soundtrack as perfect as this.

Gnod’s new album is released 31st March through Rocket Recordings.

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GIITTV: Track Of The Day #1004: OUTLYA – Higher

It’s Friday, finally! (No, not ‘Friyay’.) Unlucky if you’ve been at work, I’ve been off for a week, so I’m not quite feeling those occupational blues. For those of you who are and find yourself slipping into a cold depression, don’t fear OUTLYA’s latest single is here and might just help you welcome the weekend in a little quicker.

Following on from piano-driven debut ‘The Light’ (which channelled an earlier, better Coldplay) ‘Higher’ (released today via Harbour Masters) is four minutes of pure pop escape, filled with rising synth chimes and an upbeat, bombastic chorus to shake off any lingering woe. Will from the band explains the track in more detail, “’Higher’ is a song about that place we all go to when things get grim. It’s a song with a simple message: sometimes it’s ok to retreat into our own imaginations. We wanted the track to sound bold and have this huge vocal sound like Pastor T L Barrett and the Youth for Christ Choir. We also wanted to create a strong tropical feel to help conjure up an image of our own desert island, the island of OUTLYA.”

Ok, so ‘Higher’ is nothing you’ve not heard before, but that doesn’t stop it from wrapping you in its warm glow and lifting you off the work wagon with a joyous sense of relief and a reminder that you don’t have to carry one more grubby dinner plate or make 10 decaf skinny lattes for a bunch of rude retirees (assuming you are a slave to the service industry like me, of course). See you on the other side…


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