Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Explosive Album Presentation Triggerfinger



When Triggerfinger announced a while ago that they would play Paradiso to present their new album 'All This Dancin' Around' I immediately bought tickets. I've seen the "loudest band in Antwerp" a few times before and can't get enough of them. They always live up to their reputation of being the best live band in the Benelux. By the time December neared they had already sold out two nights in the Amsterdam rock temple and seem to sell out every other venue in Belgium and The Netherlands.


Triggerfinger at Paradiso Amsterdam, December 22 2010 (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)

All three members of the band are lined up on the stage showing that all of them are just as important. This is not just image but also the truth. Ruben Block is the charismatic front man with his recognizable voice and screaming guitar solos. Mario Goossens is the strong active drummer with solid and pounding grooves, that's so characteristic for their sound. 'Monsieur' Paul van Bruystegem is the big and quiet steady rock that holds it all together.



When they enter the stage singer Block is looking into the crowd with his piercing and prying eyes. He knows what's coming and that he will have the crowd at his feet before this night is over. The band kicks off and the rock 'n roll train starts running full force. And it doesn't stop anymore until the end. Triggerfinger is playing the crowd with irresistible energy. Block is moaning, howling and teasing while his guitar roars. Goossens is showing off his chops, stands up behind his kit now and then to fire up the crowd and is beating his drums like there's no tomorrow. Monsieur Paul's bass notes keep pushing the train forward while the relaxed giant is looking around approvingly.

Of course they play some songs of the new album which prove to work very well in a live show. Although the record came out in November it's striking to see how many people already know the words to all of them. Songs like title track 'All This Dancin' Around' and 'Cherry' have already become Triggerfinger classics. By this time the venue has reached boiling point and a small pit has formed in front of the stage. Sweaty bodies keep jumping to the irresistible grooves. By the end of the encore the crowd has climaxed into one satisfying orgasm.



Triggerfinger prove once more they are here to stay. With such a live act and great new album they are ready to take on the world. My last concert of the year sure closed 2010 with a bang.

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Wednesday, 22 December 2010

De Dijk Keeps Out The Cold



Halfway December means Dutch band De Dijk is playing Paradiso. Like every year we go there with around 10 people to have a good time. And to forget about the cold and snow. Their cooperation with soul singer Solomon Burke ended in tragedy a few months ago but De Dijk are always good for a great time.

De Dijk in Paradiso Amsterdam, December 17 2010 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)



Of course because I'm at their show every year I know I don't have to expect any surprises. Maybe they will perform a song they rarely play live but that's it. On the other hand you know this band will never let you down, good times guaranteed. And this time was nothing different so I can make this a short review. Just read my reviews of previous years over here and here. The band played tight, enjoyed themselves a lot and looked cheery on stage like they always do. You just got to experience it yourself to know what I mean. Same place and time next year. Enjoy the pictures.



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Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Perfect Silence by Cage Against The Machine


Cage Against The Machine - 4'33" (Ronald Says 10 out of 10)
Last year Rage Against The Machine prevented yet another X Factor UK winner from taking the top spot in the music charts at Christmas. This spot is a highly desirable spot for artists but the yearly X Factor circus downgraded it to a joke. This year there's the Cage Against The Machine initiative to take the top spot instead of this year's X Factor winner. They managed to get many popular artists to join and recorded John Cage's 4'33" which is a three-movement composition consisting of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed instead of the instruments playing.

The Cage Against The Machine version is just as brilliant. Every time I listen to it it sounds different and I discover new sounds. It's just an impressive composition and one can only wonder how Cage was able to write it. Credit also to the artists taking part since they manage to capture the essence of the piece. A must buy for every music lover. All income will go to charity.

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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Bryan Ferry's Latest Far From Olympic


Bryan Ferry - Olympia (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)
The old timer and former front man of Roxy Music may have dropped off many people's radar but he is still making albums. His latest one came out over a month ago. His recognizable smooth pop sound hasn't changed and his elegant vocals stay sensuous all the way. But the album doesn't convince. Of course you can't expect experimental outrageous tracks but somehow the album doesn't lift off. After a while it starts to feel a bit thin and Ferry's vocals start to get on your nerves. A bit more spice and adventure couldn't hurt.

Listen to 'Olympia' on Spotify

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Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Good Vibes with El Pino & The Volunteers



Around the time Dutch band Johan announced they were going to call it quits a year ago their drummer Jeroen Kleijn joined El Pino & The Volunteers. Being a big fan of Johan and Kleijn's drum playing I checked out this band and liked it right away. Their last album is full of beautiful songs and well produced. Their folk/americana music should please many people especially with the increased interest for this genre in the past year fronted by bands like Grizzly Bear and Mumford & Sons. Although I'm not a fan of this genre something in this band's music really works for me. But somehow El Pino remain a relative unknown band to my surprise that are still playing the smaller venues like Bitterzoet this time.

El Pino & The Volunteers at Bitterzoet Amsterdam, November 27 2010 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
When we enter the club it is still pretty empty. Fortunately it slowly starts to fill up during the support act. When it's time for the main band the place has filled up for around three quarters. But it's a place with a lot of character and most people look like they are real El Pino fans so it has turned into a nice atmosphere. The band members take the stage and start to play their delicate melodies. The stage is quite small and the lighting is pretty basic so keyboard player Job Roggeveen and especially drummer Jeroen Kleijn are hidden in the back and in the dark for most of the show.



The songs of El Pino are full of harmonies and all have a sensitive touch. The band puts down layers of great sounding melodies. Guitar player Tjirk Deurloo knows how to fill in just enough guitar to give it that characteristic americana sound while David Pino's vocals add just enough emotion without sounding too sentimental. And of course bass player Mark van der Waarde and Deurloo's tasteful harmonies are the finishing touch. The beginning of the show the band seems a bit detached especially because in front of the stage there's an empty space. But David Pino asks everyone to come closer and loosens up during the show. He's always interacting with the crowd and is definitely in control of the band.



They don't play a very long set but everyone's listening and watching attentively due to the variation in tempo in the their set. There's even room for a bit of dancing now and then. Inspired by the dark and cold weather outside they start their encore with a Christmas song. A few more songs follow before it's time to get back in the cold. But all warmed up by the music that won't be a problem. This band really deserves to be a lot bigger than they are now. Check them out when you get the chance.

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Friday, 26 November 2010

Triggerfinger's Irresistible Dance Moves



Triggerfinger is one of Belgium's hottest bands of the moment and for a good reason. With their catchy rock grooves they are hard to resist. Their live shows are becoming legendary and make them the best live band in the Benelux and maybe beyond. And that reputation is exactly what they tried to pass onto their third album.

Triggerfinger - All This Dancin' Around (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
So they headed to the Sound City Studios in LA, where big artists and bands like Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine and Ryan Adams recorded before. And why stop there? So they hired producer Greg Gordon who has worked with Oasis, Wolfmother and Slayer and who should be able to put "the loudest band in Antwerp" on a record that suits them.

And they did a good job. It has turned into their best record and probably represents best what Triggerfinger stands for today: a great rock band with killer grooves and a big sound. Where the first two records shifted into the highest gear most of the time this album has lots of variety. Singer Ruben Block can show all his faces: he screams, groans, teases and sings like his life depends on it while drummer Mario Goossens and bass player 'Monsieur' Paul van Bruystegem provide the songs with a tight and steady basis. These pumping, roaring bass and pounding drums are the heart of every Triggerfinger song.

The record starts off big immediately with the title track 'All This Dancin' Around' that sounds like Led Zeppelin meets Queens of the Stone Age. 'Love Lost In Love' has a different feel to it and sounds more restrained and in control. They even dare to take on Ray Charles' 'All Night Long' in a great version that sounds vile with tantalizing vocals. The song that best describes the record is 'My Baby's Got A Gun' that gradually builds up into an eight minute thundering rock anthem.

The record breaths sweat, oil, dusty roads and smoky bars with the smell of beer, all the necessary ingredients for a great rock album. Although their live shows are still a unique experience that really isn't that easy to put on a record this album comes close. I can't wait to hear them playing those songs live in December.

Listen to 'All This Dancin' Around' on Spotify

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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Decent Show By Interpol



Interpol are a one of a kind band. Their sound and the voice of singer Paul Banks are unique. I love their dark and threatening sound, a big thundercloud hanging over your head that's about to unleash its terror. But on their latest album they didn't really keep their promise to return to their early sound of debut album 'Turn On The Bright Lights' that had a huge impact. Maybe they can in a live show.

Interpol at Heineken Music Hall Amsterdam, November 21 2010 (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
I wanted to check out support act Surfer Blood as well since I didn't see them on Lowlands earlier this year. But it turned out to be disappointing. They are still a long way from entertaining venues this size and most people soon lost interest. So by the time the lights dimmed and the silhouettes of the Interpol members showed up we still needed a bit of warm up.



And so did the band themselves. The start was a bit hesitant and it took a few songs before they really got loose. That may also have to do with their set list. Not all songs have the same impact as let's say 'Evil' or 'Slow Hands'. Which doesn't have to be a problem and doesn't mean they aren't good songs but if there are a few of those in a row it's hard to keep a crowd focused. And so the show had a few moments where it lost momentum. It was kind of the same feeling I have when listening to their last album. It's a good album but it never really lifts off and you know how much better they can be.



Of course you don't go to an Interpol show for the audience interaction or spontaneous moments. Their music is powerful enough on its own. The dark lighting and smoke helped emphasizing the typical dark Interpol feel and the band members were looking like shadows most of the time. The band played really tight and there weren't many mistakes except for a false start of 'The Heinrich Maneuver' which was even the last song of their encore. Although bass player David Pajo did a fine job replacing Carlos Dengler I think his absence is a big miss in their sound. Hopefully I will run into them a few times more next year in the festival season to see if they can come back with one of their impressive performances.

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Sunday, 21 November 2010

Gelredome Funkiest Place On Earth with The Party Man



There isn't much that comes close to seeing musical genius Prince performing live. I have heard that many times but somehow just never actually got to go to one of his concerts. So when this show was announced only a few weeks ago I didn't hesitate and bought tickets right away. Although the Gelredome stadium isn't the best place for live concerts I couldn't care less. I just really wanted to see the party man from Minnesota!

Prince at Gelredome Arnhem, November 18 2010 (Ronald Says 10 out of 10)
Scared off by the travel warnings we decide to take the train. This is one smooth trip and after waiting in line about half an hour to get in we find ourselves walking onto the field that's still pretty empty. To our surprise we can even still make it into the circle, the closed area in front of the stage. After getting the wrist band that allows reaccess to that area we have plenty of time for toilet breaks, a snack and a few drinks. We're so ready now!

The stage looks basic like I read about the show in Antwerp and this time there's no support act either. Prince apparently wants to keep things simple this time. While the lights are still on he and his band appear on stage and get right to it. A big non stop funk medly with covers like Billy Cobham's 'Stratus', Janet Jackson's 'What Have You Done For Me Lately' and Sly & The Family Stone songs passes by in a high tempo. Prince doesn't want to waste any time and turns the place into a big party right away. He's all over the stage himself, sits on the purple piano, interacts with the crowd while playing his guitar.



Time to move on to his own songs. Or as he says himself "I have too many hits". Ain't that the truth! He keeps knocking them out one by one. Asking the most of his band that does a fine job nevertheless. Especially drummer John Blackwell who's showing some great grooves and impressive chops. Prince is showing why he's a musical genius: he's playing bass, even together with bass player Ida Nielsen on one bass, joins keyboard player Renato Neto in a solo and sits behind his own electronic drum kit a few times.



And Prince knows how to party since he's the Party Man. "This is the funkiest place on earth" he shouts out. You bet ya! I don't think there can be a more funky place at the moment. During Chiq's 'Le Freak' he invites people on stage to dance and sing with him. This party can't get any better can it? Oh yes it can! He plays a great version of 'Purple Rain', changes the whole song and shows why he's a great guitarist.

He leaves the stage, but this is Prince, we're not even close of going home. Time to pick up the pace and shift gear. Big hits follow in a killer tempo: 'Kiss', 'Let's Go Crazy', 'Delirious', '1999', they're all there. Another encore follows where it's time for disco. When he comes back on stage there's a more quiet moment with one of my favourite Prince songs 'Sometimes It Snows In April'. Goose bumps all over my skin. No need to turn sad though since here's 'Little Red Corvette'!

More songs follow and there isn't anyone that's not dancing by now. Prince won't leave until everyone is satisfied including himself. It was great to see how much he's enjoying it himself. He's laughing, interacting with his band and the crowd. Everyone is taking part in this funky party. The man may be small in size but he's the biggest man in the stadium tonight. And like anyone needed any convincing he's one of the biggest artists around.

Even the Dutch railways can't wipe the grin off my face by screwing up our train ride home. Not even the whole aftershow buzz with no aftershow at all in the end can spoil this moment of brilliance. That grin will be there for a few days more. I don't think I'll ever want to miss another Prince show from now on.



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Friday, 19 November 2010

Therapy? Hell Yeah!



In 1994 the band from Northern-Ireland released their album 'Troublegum' which was received very well. It became a metal classic and has been their most successful album. To celebrate their 20th anniversary the band decided to play the entire album in some live shows. The Melkweg was one of the lucky clubs where they would be performing. And who am I to argue with that. You know I just really like those heavy rock performances!

Therapy? at Melkweg Amsterdam, November 16 2010 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Hardcore members singer and guitarist Andy Cairns and bass player Michael McKeegan have been there from the beginning while drummer Neil Cooper joined the band quite some time ago. The three piece band have no problem making themselves heard with their no nonsense metal songs. I've never seen this band in a poor performance and they must be one of the nicest people in the music industry. Like always they are full of energy and love every bit of it giving it all while they knock out the Troublegum songs one by one.




Even though the album's already over 15 years old it still hasn't lost its power. Songs like 'Nowhere', 'Trigger Inside' and Joy Division cover 'Isolation' are monumental metal tracks that withstood the test of time. And so does the band itself that sounds just as fresh and alive as the first time I saw them somewhere halfway the 90s.



Of course it isn't over when the band finishes playing the album. They leave the stage for a short while to play another set with songs spanning their big career ending in style with 'Teeth Grinder' like always. A new double CD live album entitled 'We're Here To The End' has just been released. Hopefully the end is still a long time from now.

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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Wealth of Music and Visuals in Wonderful Gorillaz Show



Musical genius Damon Albarn was tired of touring with his band Blur when he came up with his hobby project Gorillaz in 1998. By introducing Jamie Hewlett's cartoon characters as band members he could stay out of the spot lights. It was a big hit even across the pond. Earlier this year they released their third album 'Plastic Beach' and announced a world tour. How do you bring this band to a live stage with songs that have contributions by so many guest musicians? You do it Gorillaz style.

Gorillaz in Heineken Music Hall Amsterdam, November 15 2010 (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
The few live performances Gorillaz gave so far used holograms of the four cartoon members of the band. But this tour has a completely different approach. Once the lights go out and the big letters that spell "Gorillaz" light up Murdoc, one of the cartoon characters, speaks from the big screen. After that the full blown band enters the stage: strings, the horns of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble from Chicago, drums, backing vocals, The Clash veterans guitarist Mick Jones and bass player Paul Simonon and of course the master mind himself Damon Albarn. The intro of 'Plastic Beach' sounds and Snoop Dogg looks down on us from the big screen. This is Gorillaz 2010.



A big spectacle unfolds. One that asks the most of all your senses. Continuous visuals on the screen and Gorillaz songs pass by with hardly any breaks, guest musicians enter and leave the stage. Everything is perfectly orchestrated and laid out. But it all blends together so nicely, the music is well played and with so much energy and joy that it's a delight watching it all. Albarn is all over the stage, jumping up and down like in Blur's best years, interacting with the crowd and his huge band but always in control.

The show is the story of Plastic Beach and they play most of the tracks of the album. Mixed with the finest songs of the earlier albums big hits like 'Feel Good Inc' and 'Clint Eastwood' have not been forgotten. It's a full two hour set of magic including the four song encore. Albarn occasionally talks to the crowd and looks like he's having lots of fun. During 'White Flag' he grabs a huge white (duh) flag and runs off stage through the venue. He passes me by a few inches but everything goes so fast I can't take a decent picture. The band awaits him patiently when they have finished. Once he's back on stage panting "it's bigger than I thought" he remarks surprised "why don't you start without me?".



When you record with so many famous guest musicians you can't bring them all with you on tour. But you can at least try and let a couple play as a support act to the show like De La Soul and Little Dragon. And they can fill in nicely in other songs as well like Kano and Bashy, Roses Gabor, Bobby Womack and Neneh Cherry all have their time in the spot lights. Although it's not entirely clear what Cherry's role is since she's inaudible. Even The Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music that have their part in 'White Flag' came along.

After this magical tour when the colourful band has left the stage Murdoc says goodbye from his trashed dressing room leaving us in awe for genius Albarn.

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Monday, 15 November 2010

Monster Magnet Still Knows How To Rock


Monster Magnet - Mastermind (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
After their disappointing performance earlier this year I was wondering if Monster Magnet may have lost their groove and forgot how to rock. Fortunately their latest album proves they still know how to play big fat loud rock grooves with pumping guitars and pounding drums covered with beer and sweat. Some songs even show a glimpse of the past when they were in the prime of their career. Fans of loud heavy rock most certainly will enjoy this album. Hopefully the band can bring back that sound in their live performances again as well. But with guitar Ed Mundell recently leaving the band this may not be so easy.

Listen to 'Master Mind' on Spotify

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Thursday, 11 November 2010

Another Good Night With Go Back To The Zoo



It's nice to be able to see a band a few times in a year especially a new band like Go Back To The Zoo who's career sky rocketed in no time. It's interesting to see if they are growing and what changes they go through. So for the fourth time this year I saw the guys play and this time they were taking the small stage of Paradiso that has been sold out for months.

Go Back To The Zoo at Paradiso Amsterdam, November 5 2010 (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
Sold out venues are normal for the band by now. Almost every stage they take in their club tour has been sold out for weeks. And from the first note on the crowd goes wild and doesn't stop until they have left the stage. Like I mentioned last time this is due to the catchy songs they have come up with. And with all the publicity the band got over the past months that's exactly why people come to see them: to party! Even the big mounted bird is taken for a bit of crowd surfing.

At the same time this can be their pitfall. Once the hip label and magic has worn off people may loose their interest. But for now things still look good. They are playing tighter than half a year ago so the many gigs are paying off. At the same time it doesn't sound they have changed much in their set. Of course they only have the songs that are on their debut album so there isn't a lot of variation possible. They could play around with the songs a bit more though.




But they still haven't lost any of their energy and everyone in the packed small room is having a good time. Hopefully they are writing new songs on the road so they can spice up their set. This should get them through next year's festival season after which it's time to start on a new album and show that they are here to stay.

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Friday, 5 November 2010

Beautifully Arranged Album By Broken Records



Broken Records - Let Me Come Home (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
The new album by the Scottish band turns out to be a gem. It holds ten tracks that all are just marvelous. The sound is full with beautiful arrangements and tasteful strings. Singer Jamie Sutherland's vocals are diverse with plenty of emotion. Although he sounds a lot like The Killers' Brandon Flowers it never is too much. The songs are telling a story and the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Nick Cave are never far away. They may have put themselves clearly on the indie map with this record.

Let Me Come Home on Spotify

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Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Yeasayer Enlightens Melkweg



It's been hard to miss Yeasayer this year. The band from Brooklyn played lots of festivals and several club shows as well over here in the low lands. And for a reason: their latest album is very successful and their festival shows got positive reviews including mine. So I was really looking forward to their club show in the Melkweg last Friday.

Yeasayer at Melkweg Amsterdam, October 29 2010 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
The stage looks familiar as it shows the same setup as the festival shows. The keyboards, samplers and other electronics are placed on square lit pillars that can change colours. When the venue lights dim they start to glow red while the band members make their appearance. During the show they are bathing in the changing colours.



This is characteristic for their show. Their music consists of several layers with many percussion elements, samples and tasteful use of electronic effects. It's what colours their music. The live versions of their songs are different than the album versions which give them an added value. Singer Chris Keating seems to be more lively on stage as is the rest of the band compared to a few months ago. He is moving around to play some percussion either with percussionist Ahmed Gallab or drummer Jason Trammell or on his own instrument. Bass player Ira Wolf Tuton and guitarist/singer Anand Wilder sometimes leave their spot on the right and left side to face Tramell or join Keating. They are really playing together as a band and it looks like they are all feeling relaxed and enjoying the gig.

There isn't a lot of interaction with the audience besides the occasional "thank you's" and "I love this place". Besides maybe more uptempo songs like 'O.N.E.' or 'Wait for the Summer' most of their songs aren't exactly gonna turn the crowd into a bouncing sweaty mass going mental. Nevertheless there's a good atmosphere in the venue tonight and the band sounds tight and convincing. I find that somehow they sound better live than on their albums that doze off on some points.




After a short hour they leave the stage and when they come back play a few more songs as an encore. Still it feels like a short performance and they could have added a few more songs. But it was a strong performance and they have shown that they are making progress because of playing many live shows. This is good news for the future.

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Thursday, 28 October 2010

Worthy Legacy For Ou Est Le Swimming Pool


Ou Est Le Swimming Pool - The Golden Year (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
After the sudden death of singer Charles Haddon it is unclear what's gonna happen with this British band. Chances are it will stay with this debut album. It's a decent indie pop album with some catchy tunes. Not all songs are equally strong but a song like 'Dance The Way I Feel' shows they had potential. It's just tragic and sad it had to end this way. But Haddon can be proud of what he left behind.

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Sunday, 24 October 2010

Effortless New Album By Kings of Leon


The guys from Kings of Leon have come a long way since they released their first album 'Youth and Young Manhood' seven years ago. From a relative unknown band liked by many people for their alternative and rough southern sound they hit the jackpot with 'Only By The Night'. But that album also received a lot of criticism that the boys had exchanged their original sound for a more main stream one and were only aiming at big success. Time to check out what this new album would bring.

Kings Of Leon - Come Around Sundown (Ronald Says 5 out of 10)

I never completely shared that negative criticism for 'Only By The Night' as I liked most of the album. And I think the big hit 'Sex On Fire' that for some was the perfect example of everything that turned ugly is a pretty good song. Maybe not lyrics wise but it has some great hooks and a good groove.

And with such a successful album the big pitfall is to stick to that sound and make an almost identical new album. The reality is far worse though. They seemed to have taken the mainstream appeal, thickened it and got rid of what was left of the soul of their original sound. And so the album ends up with mediocre songs and a band that's nog even trying to play good songs.

Singer Caleb Followill is constantly trying to sound like someone else. He found a way of sounding over dramatic and sticks to it the entire album. It's like a trick he keeps repeating so that you really grow tired of it in the end. The lyrics are cheesy throughout the whole album and just really too easy. Like in 'Back Down South':

If you see the lights
and we hear the fights
It's gonna be a stunner
I've got something here
If you give me one more beer


I mean c'm on! You don't get away with that. This sounds like he wrote it quickly on a napkin in a dead moment between all the side activities that seem to come with stardom.

Guitar riffs and licks, bass and drum grooves all suffer from that problem. On top of that every song follows the same recipe causing all of them to sound identical. There isn't a track on the album that sticks out. Everything sounds so phony, cheesy and insincere that even a potentially good song like 'Back Down South' (yes with those laughable lyrics) is just too much. In the end you just don't believe them anymore. Album opener 'The End' is a slow version of 'Sex On Fire' with some cheesy synths thrown in. Half of the album is filled with ballads that all sound the same. Just listen to 'Pyro', 'Mary' and 'Mi Amigo' to name a few. A song like 'Pony Up' is just a sad attempt at sounding funky. And then there's 'Radioactive'...I mean wtf!?

Frontman Followill told in an interview he hates hipsters. "We'll gladly be the next generation of bands that aren't going anywhere." Well they are doing great at going nowhere. Kings of Leon now sound like a bad copy of Kings of Leon.

Come Around Sundown on Spotify


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Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Sore Losers Have A Winner



The Sore Losers - The Sore Losers (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)

The Sore Losers are a Belgian band that were in this year's finals of Humo's Rock Rally. They didn't win it but left a good impression as the runner up and were signed by the Excelsior record label. Now they already have released their self-titled debut album. Their classic mix of blues and garage rock is nothing new but sounds refreshing nevertheless. You can hear they enjoyed recording and playing their songs. Although it took me a few listens to fully appreciate it Excelsior seems to have another winner. With all the great new Belgian bands lately it looks like Belgium is starting a new golden generation of bands.

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Thursday, 14 October 2010

Big Applause For Balthazar




Balthazar are a Belgian band from Kortrijk/Ghent that won Humo's Rock Rally a few years ago. Since then they worked on their debut album that finally was released earlier this year. Slowly they are conquering the low lands with good performances on several festivals. I got to see them on Rock Werchter and Lowlands and was impressed by their quality songs and performance. Time to check them out in a club show.

Balthazar at the Melkweg Amsterdam, October 6 2010 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)

The band Tommigun kicks it off with a good and varied set. Their indie rock songs are interesting and sound good. They could work on a more lively stage performance though since it's hard to keep your attention with their somewhat static stage act.

This is no problem for the main act Balthazar. They kick off right away and show they are one of the most interesting bands from Belgium at the moment. Their songs are well thought, sound great, nicely arranged and skillfully played. This band is seriously putting lots of effort in it. They sound tight and focused. Maarten Devoldere and Jinte Deprez are taking turns on vocals and especially Devoldere does it with lots of energy.



Patricia Vanneste is the multi-instrumentalist playing violin, keyboards and percussion. Her part is essential for the band's sound as it provides the songs with more colour. With only one record out you're bound to run out of material so they play a few new songs as well that according to Devoldere "they have never played live before and didn't rehearse". It doesn't matter since they blend in perfectly with the rest of the set.



It will only be a matter of time before they will move on to bigger stages and play headline slots of festivals. In a few years they will be up there with other great Belgian bands like dEUS and Zita Swoon. It will be well deserved.

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Thursday, 7 October 2010

Crystal Ball: What A Way To Celebrate A Birthday



Dutch alternative radio station KinkFM and music magazine LiveXS both had their 15 anniversary this year. And what better way to celebrate that by teaming up and inviting some great bands to the Melkweg? It turned into a small festival with several bands taking two Melkweg stages. With bands like The Mad Trist, The Van Jets, Tim Knol + Anne Soldaat and The Black Box Revelation it promised to be a good party. To top it off I won two VIP tickets and two more friends took over the tickets I already bought. We were ready for a night of good music.

Crystal Ball at Melkweg Amsterdam, September 24 2010
There's a line for the guest list when we arrive while our friends don't have to wait at all. I also have to find someone from the LiveXS staff for the other part of my prize. Later on it turns out it's a glass mug that I decide to leave with him until I go home since it will be empty without free refills anyway. Time to check out the first band.

The Phoenix Explosion (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
The new band of Green Lizard's Remi Tjon Ajong combined with members of Beef and Krezip plays heavy rock that continues where Green Lizard left off. It sounds promising but it needs more work. Of course they are skilled and experienced musicians but they probably need some more time on the road to refine their live act. I'm interested to hear their album though once it's finished.



Official Website | MySpace | Spotify

Lola Kite (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
This band already finished their album and people think highly of them. But it wasn't easy to swallow. Singer Keez Groenteman sounds out of tune now and then and although their synthpop songs are catchy and interesting from time to time they really need to spice it up. Bringing in a drummer on stage could already make it a more lively performance.

Official Website | Myspace | Spotify

The Mad Trist (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
I was looking forward to see these guys again. Their heavy stoner-rock is just what I like and they didn't disappoint me. They fire off big fat testosteron overloaded drum and guitar grooves and Queens of the Stone Age is never far away. The band sounds tight and are enjoying themselves. Playing live is paying off as they seem to grow in sound. If they can find their own sound these guys could definitely live up to their potential.

Official Website | MySpace | Spotify

The Van Jets (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
Like the day before The Van Jets put on a convincing performance. With a varied well balanced set and lots of energy they made a good impression. They definitely impressed a couple of my friends so I'm sure they won many people over. I just couldn't leave until the end of their set. Sadly it turned out Tim Knol already was wrapping up his set with Anne Soldaat so I missed him again! Hopefully next time Tim.

Official Website | MySpace | Spotify




Kensington (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
The surprise act of the night wasn't Go Back To The Zoo as I thought but Dutch rock band Kensington. On paper they sound promising: indie rock like Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs. But it all sounds a bit thin and alike. From what I read they sound more polished and less rough as they used to. Maybe put back in a bit of that rough side again.

Official Website | MySpace | Spotify

Black Box Revelation (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
The last band of the night made sure it would end in a climax. Only a drummer and a guitarist is what you need when you're called Black Box Revelation. Like The Black Keys who work with the same formula they play rough and sweaty garage blues/rock. Only when you listen closely you'll notice there's no bass player involved. It's impressive how they bring variation in their songs and never sound weary. Great way to end the live gigs.

Official Website | MySpace | Spotify



We decide to call it a night and skip the rest of the party. I cannot find the guy from LiveXS anymore who was supposed to give me the glass mug that I won so we leave home without it. Too bad I didn't get free refills with it but then again now I can go home without being totally wasted.
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Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Skunk Anansie Still Strong But Harmless



Skunk Anansie - Wonderlustre (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
One of the best live rock acts of the 90s is back. The English band with front woman Skin already toured many festivals this summer playing mostly their biggest hits. Now they even released a new album with fresh tracks. And they prove they haven't lost their touch. Some songs still sound as strong as their big hits of the old days. But time has moved on as well and although they certainly don't sound outdated at all the big, impressive, and a bit scary rock lioness has turned into a nice purring rock cat. Still lots to enjoy for the fans though.

Wonderlustre on Spotify
Skunk Anansie Official Website
Skunk Anansie MySpace Read more!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Has Interpol Run Out Of Fire?



Interpol - Interpol (Ronald Says 7 out of 10)
While recording this album they said they would return to the sound of their debut album 'Turn on the Bright Lights'. But listening to it one can only conclude that the band from New York wasn't able to give it the same sparkle as that brilliant album. There aren't any real highlights on the album although there aren't any real lows either. Some songs start promising but just miss the finishing touch to excel. They seem to just ripple on without any direction and run out of fire before the end. The album does need to grow on you but in the end it's not enough. On top of that bassist Carlos Dengler left before their world tour. Let's hope everything comes together after all when they go on stage. Read more!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Many Faces Of The Van Jets



The Van Jets are a Belgian band that I first saw on Rock Werchter earlier this year. Over there they already made it to the main stage although as opening act. But here they are still relatively unknown and so they were playing the small Paradiso stage. Although I really wanted to see more of them I didn't get tickets since I would be seeing them at the Crystal Ball party the next day. Fortunately for me I won tickets to their show thanks to alternative.blog.nl.

The Van Jets at Paradiso Amsterdam, September 23 2010 (Ronald Says 8 out of 10)
When we get to small Paradiso room 10 minutes before the gig there is hardly anyone there. Maybe most people are checking out a bit of Lifehouse on the main stage to kill time. We decide to do so as well but are glad that we only get to see two songs. It still doesn't get really crowded but the Belgian band doesn't get discouraged and immediately kick off with their modest hit 'The Future'. From then on they take us on a tour through their repertoire that shows a variety of styles: garage rock, pop, glam rock, it's all there.



Front man Johannes Verschaeve is a charismatic singer that seeks interaction with the crowd regularly. In the beginning that doesn't lead to a lot of response so he asks everyone to move up closer to the stage. The band plays a convincing set and gradually win most people over. Even some of the Lifehouse fans that decided to take a peek at this gig as well after their show was finished . They already won me over at Rock Werchter but this time I was even more impressed. A song like 'Matador' is so different from the Bowie cover 'Fashion' but they still manage to give it their own sound. Despite the small crowd they are still willing to do an encore. Immediately after the show they sign their albums and are chatting with fans. This band deserves to be so much bigger than they have been so far. Hopefully they can win more people over in the future. That shouldn't be a problem when they keep on playing these great rock shows.



The Van Jets Official Website
The Van Jets on MySpace
The Van Jets on Spotify
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Thursday, 23 September 2010

Grinderman Reveals Its Dark And Perverted Secrets


Nick Cave is one of those people that if he releases any kind of music it always raises my interest. I find his approach to music and song writing both brilliant and creative. Averse to any music industry rules he follows his on path. And accompanied by his great supporting band The Bad Seeds he has delivered some beauties in the past. His latest band Grinderman with some members of The Bad Seeds should be considered a band in its own right instead of just a side project according to Cave. They just delivered their second album 'Grinderman2' and I just had to listen to it as soon as it became available on their MySpace page.

Grinderman - Grinderman2 (Ronald Says 9 out of 10)
Instead of having to deal with the expectations and direction a new album with The Bad Seeds would raise Grinderman is a blank page for Nick Cave and co. And that's how they approach it. Entering the studio with nothing and building a record from jam sessions. This doesn't mean they delivered a hasty album with half finished songs. It did result in a rough version of Bad Seeds songs as did their first album. But this album is even more rough, vile and rancid than its predecessor and it takes you on a tour through Grinderman's perverted and dark side. The lines "I stick my fingers in your biscuit jar /And crush all your gingerbread men" can be read in many reviews and may well turn into an instant classic.

Fortunately they know just how far they can take it and so the album never gets too insane and doesn't spin out of control like Cave's The Birthday Party could. It starts off right away with 'Mickey Mouse and The Goodbye Man'. Heavy distorted guitars support Cave's vocals and squeals. This sets the tone for the rest of the record. But instead of battering you numb like this for the entire disc they put in enough variation to keep your attention until the end. 'What I Know' has very subtle backing instruments with simmering vocals whispering "You better come on over here" before the next track 'Evil' bursts loose. And the best is yet to come with the beautiful soulful song 'Palaces of Montezuma'.

With only nine tracks the album still clocks well over 40 minutes since many songs are over 5 minutes long. They are hypnotizing and Grinderman creeps under your skin pulling you into their perverted world. Just the way I like it.

Listen to 'Grinderman2' on Spotify
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Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Brandon Flowers' Flamingo Isn't Killing It



Brandon Flowers - Flamingo (Ronald Says 6 out of 10)
The Killers front man recorded the songs for this album mostly while on tour with his successful band. Maybe his band mates didn't like them too much or he felt too restricted by the high expectations of a popular band like this one. So he decided to release a solo album. After listening this record you can only ask yourself: why? Flowers IS The Killers and so this album sounds like them a lot. But I can imagine his band mates not willing to put them on an album since the tracks mostly qualify as B-side material. They never really take off and when they do like on 'Crossfire' it sounds just like...The Killers. Don't quit your daytime job with The Killers yet Brandon.

Listen to "Flamingo" on Spotify Read more!

Friday, 17 September 2010

Soundgarden Release New Video For "Black Rain"



Slowly things are emerging for Soundgarden's comeback. After two reunion concerts they are gearing up for their retrospective release 'Telephantasm' that's due to come out on September 28. It includes the previous unreleased track 'Black Rain' from the Badmotorfinger recording sessions that already was released a while ago. Today they released a video to accompany the track. It shows the band in a spacy cartoon including some subtle advertising for the Guitar Hero game 'Warriors of Rock' that includes the 12 Telephantasm tracks as well. Check the video here:
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