Friday, 21 April 2017

Spinning: Japandroids - Near To The Wild Heart Of Life

Up till now the two of Japandroids wanted to make their records sound the way it sounded on stage. This meant that the recordings were quite "lofi" and not a lot was cleaned up in the studio. After a few years of radio silence, because of exhaustion, they are doing things differently this time. For Near To The Wild Heart Of Life the duo left the "lofi" approach and decided to actually make full use of the studio a lot and mix in all kinds of additions to make it sound more impressive. Residing in different Canadian cities this time, it was also more practical to turn it into an actual studio project, so they could record independently from each other.

And so now we can hear all kinds of overdubs, synthesizers and other instruments. They didn't care about how to make it sound live on stage, which worked really well. Things go wild with synths and harmonies on 'Arc Of Bar', causing it to grow into seven minutes of almost epic proportions. The title song 'Near To The Wild Heart Of Life' also sounds big and impressive with wild drum fills and guitars. Japandroids all of a sudden sounds like a band that can fill arenas with a massive rock sound.

Of course they were never a band that were restraining themselves or used a subtle approach, but now everything has been made bigger for an even wider sound. Closer 'In A Body Like A Grave' even turns into a sing along track, that will probably go down well at festivals this summer. In the end only the short 'I’m Sorry (For Not Finding You Sooner)' feels somewhat out of place. According to the duo the song started out as an interlude, but was later added as a separate track.

Nevertheless Japandroids have taken a new direction with a bold and courageous choice, that works very well. The band sounds more impressive and deep than ever without losing any power. Even better, they actually gained power and seem ready for the next step to a wider audience. This simply must turn into an explosive happening when they play the new songs live.

This review has been published on Festivalinfo in Dutch over here.

Listen to 'Near To The Wild Heart Of Life' on Spotify:

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Friday, 14 April 2017

On Stage: Therapy? @ Melkweg

Although their commercial hay days are behind them, North-Irish rockers Therapy? still keep going strong. The band is still knocking out new albums on a regular basis and always adds a club tour around Europe. And those live shows are exactly why they are one of my long time favourite rock bands.

Therapy? at Melkweg Amsterdam, April 12 2017

Because live on stage these guys never disappoint and will never let you down. On top of that they are probably one of the nicest people in the music biz. I had to miss out on the last couple of times they visited Amsterdam, so I made sure I could see their show this time. The large hall of the venue is about half full which is less than I expected. Judging from the people around me I guess they aren't adding a lot of new fans and their fan base is ageing with them.

It doesn't matter to the three rockers who are always grateful for the people that do show up and would even throw a killer show with just me in the room. Founding members Andy Cairns and Michael McKeegan have been in the band from the beginning since 1989 and drummer Neil Cooper joined them a while back too. Cooper has his birthday today so the band has something to celebrate.

Both band and crowd start a bit hesitant and need to warm up. Singer Cairns' voice doesn't always sound in tune, especially in the low registers, but their music isn't about perfect vocals of course. It's all about energy and having a blast knocking out heavy rock songs that aren't always your standard straight rock tunes. The last and fourteenth album Disquiet came out two years ago and with that many records there's a lot to choose from. So the set list is a mix of newer songs, some really old ones going back to their first album Babyteeth and of course many killer hits.

Because you'd almost forget the number of great songs this band has. Many times you think "that's right, I forgot about this one!". Songs like 'Teethgrinder', 'Church of Noise', 'Trigger Inside', 'Stories', the vicious Joy Division cover 'Isolation' and of course the Hüsker Dü cover 'Diane', they are all there. The last one is backed up by the "invisible band" as Cairns calls it and features him and McKeegan doing the vocals. By now the band has already wrapped everyone around their finger with their positive stage presence and their unlimited energy.

In the encore the band goes full force for the last time and the last chance for people to go nuts and throw their beer around. After almost two hours and 27 song set this wonderful show is over. Therapy? proves it is still one of the most fun live bands around and you just got to love them.

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01. Knives
02. Stop It You're Killing Me
03. Nausea
04. Skyward
05. Tides
06. Trigger Inside
07. Stories
08. Disgracelands
09. Still Hurts
10. Isolation
11. Deathstimate
12. Teethgrinder
13. Innocent X
14. Church of Noise
15. Misery
16. Unbeliever
17. Meat Abstract
18. Diane
19. Accelerator
20. Lonely, Cryin', Only
21. Die Laughing
22. Epilepsy
23. Insecurity
24. Turn
25. Nowhere
26. Screamager
27. Potato Junkie

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Sunday, 9 April 2017

On Stage: The Lemon Twigs @ Tolhuistuin

Last year I saw a video of two young guys who seemed to have come from the sixties with a song that could have been in a psychedelic rock opera. It turned out to be ‘As Long As We’re Together’ by The Lemon Twigs, a young band started by the brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario. They played my hometown that year but unfortunately I wasn’t able to go. However I got another chance last Friday and I wouldn't let this one pass.

The Lemon Twigs @ Tolhuistuin Amsterdam, April 7 2017

I can also catch most of the support act, Lo Moon, who play dark eighties sounding music driven by synthesizers which together with singer Matt Lowell’s voice reminds of Talk Talk. I love their sound and I'm definitely going to keep an eye on this promising band. Simply listen to 'Loveless' and judge for yourself.

The D’Addario brothers are both multi instrumentalists that could easily form a one person band by themselves. It doesn't stop there since both are also actors in Broadway musicals and for TV and movies. Brian starts up front on guitar and lead vocals, while Michael is taking place behind the drums, twirling his drum stricks. Live the band is completed with Megan Zeankowski on bass and Danny Ayala.

Their theatre background is obvious from their music, where they use the same dramatic elements. On top of that it is full of breaks that seem to go in every direction. Rock, prog-rock, glamrock, punk, pop, it’s all their. It can be a little overwhelming but it is so convincing that it is amazing to watch. Halfway the brothers switch positions and it gets more explosive as Michael is bursting with energy. His theatrical performance and stage presence is a mix of a David Bowie act and a young wild Iggy Pop. He’s all over the place, jumping and doing high karate kicks and it is simply wonderful. Meanwhile they keep playing their versatile music and do a great job at it.

People are singing along to the best known songs and judging from the full hall it looks like they are already building a solid following. Normally I would like to see a bit more focus in music when it is going into so many directions, but The Lemon Twigs make it sound and look so natural and fitting that it all makes sense.

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