Chemicals for breakfast, Deja Vega, Ian Svenonius, Melody Gardot, Olivia Neutron John, Pentagrams, Psyence, Sleaford Mods, Stupid things that mean the world, The Band of Holy Joy, The Currency of Man, The Land of Holy Joy, Tim Bowness, XYZ, Zebra
WARNING: INDUSTRY BACKED NAPS NOT FEATURED. THIS IS A PAYOLA-FREE ZONE
Sleaford Mods, Tunbridge Wells Forum. 2nd April
The last gasp before the world would be different. The culmination of the tour that altered their path, their hard-work and no-nonsense approach would see them play Glastonbury to a half-full tent of curious would-be-converts, cover for Iggy Pop on BBC’s Radio 6 and become the (not always comfortably) go-to-spokesmen du jour for society’s disenfranchised. Oh, and they managed to further get the goat of Britpop troll Banal Gallagher. Nice.
The packed out Forum saw another incendiary performance, ever-full of atavistic anger, apathy and alienation, the band reflecting the crowd’s uncertainty of their place in everyday life. Always challenging, never contemptuous or complacent. The world awaits the next move.
Tim Bowness, Tufnell Park, 26th August
Back in the olden days, before craft beer and bloated bellies of yeast there was crafted music, music put together with feeling and verity. Tim Bowness is that practitioner. Erstwhile member of Porcupine Tree and No-Man, his voice (LIVE!) is more dominant and arresting than on record, with the band sound evocative of the 1980s ‘Big Music’ (c.f. The Waterboys, Big Country). Expansive and elegiac.
‘Sing to me’ off this year’s Stupid things that mean the world is a song that Coldplay-dough-boy Chris wishes he could excrete, this song encapsulating the melancholy lacking in those cry-babies-by-rote. It’s a topsy-turvy state of affairs.
Deja Vega, Shiiine On Weekender, Butlins Minehead, 6th – 9th November
‘Sonic architecture in excelsis’ is how Christopher Wren would have described this performance by the criminally unsigned Deja Vega. A freakpower-trio second to none delivering an aural assault on all and in every sense. Cacophonous creativity does not come better than this, LIGHTS! CHIMERA! ACTION! The risk of whiplash is ominous when witnessing, the neck-breaking machine-gun thuds rendering the viewing victim incapacitated. Every ending a beginning. Newcomers to the band evidently enthralled, evincing ecstasy and elation. End of.
Innovative, imaginative and indispensable. Have I mentioned these before …?
Psyence, Shiiine On Weekender, Butlins Minehead, 6th – 9th November
Topping their set at Hoxton’s Bar & Grill in January Potteries-dwelling Psyence took control of a 1000 strong throng delivering a masterclass of poise, power and performance. Frontman Steven Pye the epitome of the pin-up, basking in the lights, commanding and charming, resembling the love-child of Frank Zappa and George Harrison (21st century psyence, innit?) backed by a superior tri-pronged heavy-rock chug of expertly moulded clay, worthy of Henry ‘Gimme’ Moore. Confounding, captivating and classy, ignore the also-ran psycho-nots, back a thoroughbred pstallion.
The appliance of Psyence, makes perfect psense. Psygn up, get on board and take that trip.
Melody Gardot, Royal Festival Hall, London 17th November
As part of the 2015 London Jazz Festival, chanteuse Melody Gardot played at the brutalist environs of the Royal Festival Hall, a venue at odds with the ‘Gattaca-ambience’ inside, where the sterile compartments contain a wall-of-sound. Her latest album Currency of Man is an intelligent and documentarian look at the state of things, the social issues that appal us all. Her peripatetic upbringing a clear influence in her art.
A collective endeavour and infinitely more than the muzak coffee table mulch that arises every year (you know who they are), the set deftly fluctuates between torch songs to politically charged missives of anger and frustration. Gardot’s oeuvre is a miasma of styles: every song telling a story, every reaction a creation.
The Band of Holy Joy, 12th December
This multi-layered ensemble have been in existence for over 30 years incorporating numerous influences and styles with ever-present themes of NOW. None more so than on the new, marvellous album The Land of Holy Joy.
This intimate gig in the cavernous underbelly of Farringdon’s Betsey Trotwood is predominantly an airing of the album, North Eastern émigré Johny Brown’s lyrically elliptical tales of witnessed events and autobiographical psycho-geographical exploits of inner-space and outer-place. The set also featured Easy Listening’s ‘There was a fall/The Fall’ a tale of social injustice namely the horrific and unlawful death at the hands of our boys in blue of newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson in 2009, an uncomfortable listen for an uncomfortable story.
Still ‘manic, magic and majestic’ after all these years, this band can and will change your world. Repent and exhort ‘hallelujah!’
Ian Svenonius (Escapism) supported by Olivia Neutron John, Powerlunches, 16th December
The mercurial polymath smash-landed in the place where culture goes to wither, Dalston, at the soon-to-be ‘degenerated’ Powerlunches, a small yet large enough space for Svenonius to once more rip up and reassemble rock’s rules, regulations and rigmarole, his rehearsed/off-the-cuff routine the stuff of renown. Convention reinvention. Cliché enthusiasts look on bemused.
Dispensing seemingly abstract observations that pick at the scabs of modern times, he rails at the illusory beneficial changes to landscape, the psychic damage caused by road works, rapacious vulture-capitalists and the distraction-inaction of global sports. Supported by the Fluxus inspired ONJ this spectacle-happening is a depressing reminder of the banal and ordinary that will predictably dominate end-of-year lists. Furthermore, invest wisely in his new tome Censorship Now!!