When Tigers Used To Smoke – There I Almost Am EP

If you were paying attention and kept following When Tigers Used To Smoke after our June review of their ‘It All Just Seems Pretend’ EP, you’d know the Birmingham group had recently dropped the summery surf pop gem ‘Gull Rocks’, a warm-hearted bop inspired by what sounds like a cracking holiday in Cornwall. With ‘Gull Rocks’ being the lead single from ‘There I Almost Am’ you may reasonably predict that surf pop is the order of the day then, but you’d be wrong, as When Tigers Used To Smoke are anything but predictable.

The Birmingham band’s third EP goes on a sojourn from the surreal to the sentimental, throughout the wide indie genre, taking in dream-pop, small little bits of funk, echoey, jangly guitar, uplifting synth, with traditional britpop songwriting, all kept in line by singer Declan Boyd’s distinctively deadpan vocals. Taking in the surging, aggrandizing melody of ‘Hesitate’, ‘What A Way’, a song The Maccabees would have loved to have penned if they were still knocking about today – replete with a lyric about the kettle being on, with the choruses remaining ginormous from the first track to the last. Striding amongst a hubbub of original sounds, that’s precisely where When Tigers Used To Smoke almost are.

‘There I Almost Am’ was released on 30th December 2022 and has been available to listen to ever since on all of the streaming services. We’ve included a link to the entire EP below:

Trampolene – Money

“Whiles I am a beggar, I will rail and say there is no sin but to be rich; and being rich, my virtue then shall be to say there is no vice but beggary”, said the other bard (Shakespeare) about the subject of Trampolene’s new single ‘Money’. The message from Jack Jones, the modern day Bard of Wales, about the ever baneful root of all evil is a bit kinder toward vagrants, but the group’s wordful magician of a frontman does consider how his opinion of wealth has mellowed more than in his younger years.

The Swansea gang would know their way around a catchy guitar tune blindfolded but Trampolene do what they do best when Jones’ verse is shamelessly centre stage, their new single seeing their poet singer recite a playful postulation on the awkward positives and negatives of finance over a squelchy, industrial techno beat with a bunch of vocal distortion added on the chorus to spice things up even more. Let’s just hope, for her sake, he never finishes paying off his mum’s mortgage!

‘Money’ was released on January 19th 2023 via Strap Originals and is taken from Trampolene’s forthcoming fourth studio album ‘Rules of Love & War’, due for release on March 17th 2023. You can pre-order the record now.

You can see the excellent video for ‘Money’ below:

The Gulps – Mirror Mirror

Photo: Rosco

Never ones to let the party end, The Gulps are right back with new single ‘Mirror Mirror’ just a couple of months after putting out the indie-disco-smash banger ‘Candy’. Anyone lucky enough to have caught them on tour in 2022 supporting Carl Barat, Ash or Cast will recognise the record as the absolute apex of their ferocious live show, as well as being a phenomenally unforgettable tune, ‘Mirror Mirror’ solidly capturing the mercurial energy the Camden five-piece deliver on stage.

Directly inspired by Jack Kerouac’s crazed sojourn across the USA in literary masterwork ‘On The Road’, The Gulps use the track to peer into a looking glass and discover all the many good, bad and ugly facets of the human experience glaring back at them, whilst sonically sounding like an early lost Strokes single with added Mick Jagger coos à la Sympathy For The Devil.

If you want to catch The Gulps unstoppable live show yourself you can see them at the following dates across the UK:

Friday 3rd February 2023 – Cardiff, Clwb Ifor Bach – supporting Trampolene
Wednesday 15th February 2023 – London, Lower Third
Friday 17th February 2023 – Leeds, Oporto
Saturday 18th February 2023 – Glasgow, Garage
Sunday 19th February 2023 – Manchester, Castle Hotel

Tickets still available if you snap them up now!

‘Mirror Mirror’ was released on 20th January 2023 via The Gulps own Guindilla Records on all of the streaming platforms. You can hear the track on Spotify below:

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Easy Now

If there was an award for ‘The Unarguably and Nailed-On-Certain Biggest, Most Memorable Songwriter of The 1990s’, it would go to Noel Gallagher. If anyone’s disagreeing with that statement, nay fact, the first three Oasis albums and the Britpop legend’s forays with The Chemical Brothers will prove them undeniably wrong. So the dip in musical quality over the second decade of Oasis’s career was an almost physical pain to the fans who had to endure it. It’s well acknowledged that aside from a few cracking singles and their reliably exhilarating stadium shows, their albums stopped being much cop.

The rise of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, then, since the guitarist ditched the most monolithic band in the world, has been a fiercely welcome one. Counter to the Oasis trajectory, with each release the ever-changing troupe have grown more and more compelling, previous album ‘Who Built The Moon?’ their most experimental yet. This whistlestop recap brings up slap-up-to-date with new single ‘Easy Now’:

Hearing the elder Gallagher brother speak in out of context interviews, you might suspect him of being the musical equivalent of Jeremy Clarkson, but the personality that shines through in this softer side of his songwriting, as opposed to his roving but tethered version of psychedelia, exposes a warm, encouraging soul eager to deliver messages of pure hope. There’s no reason to dissect the song’s sound other than commenting on it being a heart-stoppingly orchestral beauty of a tune, finding the frontman’s voice teetering on the right side of sentimental, casting a heap of uplifting lyrics seeing Gallagher singing to his younger Burnage-bound self and all who battled through it with him, generously offering “I stop to say a prayer/ For everybody there/ Your destination comes without a fare” like some cosmic, dream-granting, taxi driver genie.

As an introduction to his newly announced album ‘Council Skies’ (the album titled taken from artist Pete McKee’s book of the same name), along with recent Johnny Marr boosted single ‘Pretty Boy’, ‘Easy Now’ exhibits Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds carrying further on their upward trajectory by taking a break from David Holmes inspired experimentalism and sharpening up those simple songwriting smarts again, coming through with a feather-light hearted indie melody of a song. It also bears more than a passing resemblance to NGHFB’s past glory ‘The Dying Of The Light’. When you were the greatest songwriter of the 90s, who better to borrow tunes from than yourself?

‘Council Skies’ is due to be released on 2nd June through Gallagher’s own Sour Mash Records. The track listing is below:

1) I’m Not Giving Up Tonight
2) Pretty Boy
3) Dead To The World
4) Open The Door, See What You Find
5) Trying To Find A World That’s Been And Gone
6) Easy Now
7) Council Skies
8) There She Blows!
9) Love Is A Rich Man
10) Think Of A Number
11) Bonus Track – We’re Gonna Get There In The End

‘Easy Now’ was released on 17th January 2023 and is available to listen to on all streaming platforms as we speak. It also has a video featuring the excellent ‘House of the Dragon’ actor Milly Alcock that you can view below:

CVC – Get Real

CVC have got the weed, they’ve got the blues – caused by their women and stingy bosses, and they’ve got a living room full of recording equipment, no doubt strewn with Pink Floyd, Harry Nilsson and ex-Beatles members vinyl sleeves. Sometime in 2020, the Church Village Collective (in case you were wondering what the CVC stood for) got their thing together and created a record out of the whole magnificent tableau, and what a record it is.

Sitting comfortably alongside fellow South Wales scene mates Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard and Pigeon Wigs or, casting out to their wider world, finding kinship with the latest space-rock incarnation of Arctic Monkeys (interestingly enough the album’s mixed by Ross Orton who also worked the desk on a couple of the Sheffield lads’ releases) ‘Get Real’ sounds like a bunch of mates having a laugh. It just so happens to be that this bunch of mates are highly accomplished, laid back lounge funk musicians with a penchant for buxom riffs and a silky saxophone solo.

One of the LP’s highlights is overtly built around a band in-joke, mocking drummer Daniel for being gaga about a bashfully reluctant singer named ‘Sophie’, with a tune that veers perilously close to Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’, but smothering it with enough of their own charm to make it barely noticeable. ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ mines another seventies quarry, fronting a Chic disco score with lead singer Francesco Orsi’s gruff blues vocals, while ‘Music Stuff’ is proof it’s possible to build an undeniable, original banger out of the most unlikely elements of slap bass and harmony infested soft rock.

With it’s pulsing synthesiser intro and dark musing on the cheek of The Man deducting some of their hard earned buck, ‘Docking The Pay’ is a surprise sober excursion from CVC’s light-hearted and stoned standard fare, verifying that although they’re having a massive laugh playing the part of feckless throwbacks from half a century ago, the South Wales sextet have barely started showing us what they’re really capable of when they leave the retro climes of guitarist Elliot Bradfield’s front room recording studio.

‘Get Real’ was released on Friday 13th January 2023 and is available to stream on all of the services right now. You can also order yourself a physical copy if you love it.

Find the video for the brilliant ‘Sophie’ below:

The Malakites – Morning After

Regret has rarely sounded as tuneful as the regret The Malakites are feeling on new single ‘Morning After’. But what better thing to do with anguish over missed opportunity than write a big fucking rock song about it? Luckily for you and I that’s exactly what these Cardiff lads have done. Having already started to make serious waves on the South Wales gig circuit, The Malakites latest is a solid indie rock stormer to sure up the worthy hype that’s already building about them.

Beckoned in by chiming guitar that could have been borrowed from a Pavement track, a lightning speed drum fill chucks us straight into this absolute monster of an Oasis inspired song about messing up with a girl and then seriously wishing you hadn’t. And did we mention the killer false ending? Yeah, this song has one of them too, before treating us to one last blast of an outro.

Any Cardiffians wanting to check The Malakites out live, head over to Clwb Ifor Bach on Thursday 19th January. Tickets are still available and will only set you back a fiver, but supplies are getting low.

‘Morning After’ was released on 5th January and is available to stream at all of the usual outlets right now. Hear the song on YouTube below:

King Violet – Do Me A Favour EP

Having already made the Manchester music scene take note with a bombardment of gripping live shows, toward the end of last year King Violet unleashed their debut EP to the rest of the world, and boy does the world need to hear it! Wielding riot grrl energy, the group have created their own darkly textured cosmos filled with hauntingly emotive guitar solos, post-punk drive and gothic soundscapes.

In the band’s own words: “The EP talks of our experiences as young women coming face to face with misogyny, the growing pains of leaving home and challenging relationships.”, singer Mai Anderson delivering her exposition of gritty 21st century life over the band’s complex and shadowy compositions.

Lead single ‘The Pedant’ is a storm of searing riffs, jagged drums and an accusing, chant-along, powerfully catchy chorus aimed at a cheating ex. ‘Brightest Eyes’ is a slow and sorrowful comedown, questioning the merit of a shaky relationship. ‘Tya’ seems to be about a temperamental cat, with a deep, pounding bass and drum ambiance that becomes a severe and unforgiving reprimand to a once cherished feline, unless we’re no longer still talking about the cat here?

Seamlessly, the track leads into final song ‘Do Me a Favour’, boasting jabbing guitar beats and a jaunty rhythm that make way to a spectral, assertive anthem against male bigotry and abuse. King Violet posses a 360 talent for commanding alt-rock singles and brooding atmospherics, not shying away from tackling mettlesome subject matter. Across their ‘Do Me a Favour’ EP, they have crammed the whole damned lot into one explosively powerful record.

The ‘Do Me A Favour’ EP was released on 25th November 2022 and is available to hear on all streaming platforms now. Find the video for ‘Tya / Do Me A Favour’ below:

Primitive Soul – Euphoria

It’s an absolute wonder the South Wales valleys aren’t a total hotbed of nihilistic, angry young punk rock groups, given the deep political and social history of the locale and the fact that even today driving up the Heads of the Valleys road can conjure a sense of melancholic angst in the pit of your belly. Up until now, Blackwood, Caerphilly, has only really had the one gang of musical sons to brag of (we’re talking about Manic Street Preachers, obviously) but Primitive Soul are having a go at changing all that.

Their second single ‘Euphoria’ is a capricious, low slung, punk rock hymn to the blasé joy of wayward wondering, full of gunshot guitar assaults, surging solos and frenzied drumming. The four-piece assail their instruments with a blitzkrieg of fury but the overriding atmosphere ends up being one of a refreshing, if reluctant, optimism for “this new day dawning” rather than despair and destruction.

‘Euphoria’ was released on 1st August 2022 – soz, we missed it at the time! It’s available to hear on all the streaming sites now. We’ve put the Spotify link below:

The Libertines – Up The Bracket 20th Anniversary Edition

2022 saw the 20th anniversary of one of British alternative music’s landmark releases, the one and only ‘Up The Bracket’ by The Libertines. A record that grabbed the baton tossed on by The Jam, The Smiths and Oasis. What made it a landmark release? Try and picture the scene: The drabness of the early 21st century music landscape has been well documented, Britpop’s last party having taken place yonks before, Melody Maker magazine sinking under the mammoth responsibility of building something tangible out of the Manics, Mansun, Placebo, King Adora and JJ72, and a lacklustre new breed of Radiohead/Jeff Buckley fanatics were trying to get heard. Thank fuck, then, for The Strokes, Interpol, The White Stripes, The Vines and Yeah Yeah Yeahs for igniting a million young guitar loving hearts. But up until 2002 Britain was still missing out on the fun.

When The Libertines bounded onto the scene with their debut long player the party this side of the Atlantic truly began in a sweaty furore of Camden Town toilet venue gigs and sticky floored clubnights. The 20th Anniversary edition of ‘Up The Bracket’ documents the party well, with a pristinely remastered version of the original release, a record that took the rawness of 70s punk rock and fused it with elements of Romani-Belgian jazz, dub and sixties melody, whilst the band still managed to come across as barely able to play three chords on their Epiphone Coronets. Lyrically the album plundered William Burroughs, Tony Hancock and Jean Genet to sound criminally drugged up, comedic yet erudite, spinning romanticised yarns of rock’n’roll, riots, heroin, sickness and a lust for life, all played out in the back streets and whisky cafes of East London. In the half-arsed first half of the 2000s the oomph of The Libertines and ‘Up The Bracket’ was desperately needed.

Live at The 100 Club’

So we’ve gushed enough about the LP itself and its notability, what about the boxset? Our first stop in the big container of audible goodies is the ‘Live at The 100 Club’ disc: Hearing the best bands through the intricately honed artform of a studio album is only ever half of the story and to fully understand the brilliance of The Libertines you need to know what they were like onstage between 2002-2005. Their gig at Oxford Street basement venue the 100 Club on 4th October 2002, scene of the Sex Pistols era-defining shows three decades earlier, is The Libertines at their top-throttle finest.

We’ll need to set the scene visually for you, the boys looking the stylish street urchin part in uniform of torn t-shirts, leather jackets and drain pipe jeans held together at the knee with gaffa-tape, scruffed up floppy barnets and cigarettes permanently hanging from their lips as the sweat of three hundred and fifty pogoing souls drips off the venue’s iconic red walls. Choosing to swiftly hammer through their early sets, the show clocks in at a sprightly 26 minutes, The Libs showcasing the best of their still-to-be-released debut album, kicking off with a rendition of ‘Horrorshow’ peppered with barks and stop-start guitar.

Non-album b-side, and one of their best tracks, ‘The Delaney’ gets a rowdily canorous outing with Pete Doherty sounding as if he’s having a go at devouring the mic at the same time as singing into it. Carl Barat wrangles the vocals for a hearty, feedback dappled execution of ‘Begging’, with lead duties passing back and forth between the duo throughout the whole tumultuously spirited performance, backed by the assuredness of Gary Powell’s deliberately rudimentary drumming and John Hassall’s stalwart presence on the bass. The LP’s stand-out single ‘Time For Heroes’ gets dedicated to Scottish poet and early Libertines drinking buddy Jock Scot, ‘Boys in the Band’ a suggestive celebration of the perks of being in a band that feels forever on a knife edge, and ‘I Get Along’ descends into a clamour of nosediving microphones, cheers and whoops as the set fades to a close. The Libertines epochal live show committed to wax.

Up The Bracket: Studio Outtakes’

It’s well known that ‘Up The Bracket’s producer, Mick Jones of punk icons The Clash, had the band take a live approach to recording sessions, getting the group to play the tracks shoulder to shoulder, capturing the whole caboodle on tape and picking the best of the crop for the final track list. The existence of leftover tracks from the cutting room floor fell into Libertines fandom folklore from that day to this, helped along by a scribbled out inclusion of early song ‘Breck Road Lover’ on the release’s back cover, so to have this goldmine included as another disc in the box set is, crudely put, every hardcore Lib’s fan’s wet dream. We’ve picked out out favourite noticeable tracks from the set that you should really get your ears around:

Ha Ha Wall – Although present in a few Libertines setlists around the 2002-2003 era, it wasn’t until their second, eponymously titled album that ‘The Ha Ha Wall’ received a full release. This version is largely an instrumental with bare bone lyrics and an alternative second verse. A version of an eventual classic in it’s infancy.

Bangkok – Cropping up in demo form on the b-side of ‘Time For Heroes’, this version of ‘Bangkok’ is speeded up further than the original with lyrical changes and additional guitar noodling. Arguably the definitive version, although a rerecorded version from the second album sessions is floating about the internet somewhere.

What A Waster – Originally produced by ex-Suede guitarist and solo legend Bernard Butler and put out as The Libertines first single, ‘What A Waster’ has gone down in musical infamy. The UTB version is more in keeping with their debut LP’s rough n ready stylings, removing Butler’s conventional sheen and is the only Mick Jones produced version of the song available.

Breck Road Lover – A clear near-inclusion on the album’s final tracklist, ‘Breck Road Lover’ was pilfered from the Libertines pre-Rough Trade Filthy McNastys era output, a 1999 version with Pete in full David Bowie mode having leaked in the late 2000s. The swooning background “Ahhhhhs” from Mick Jones and lilting guitar solo evidence why the song was so close to being part of the record.

The Domestic – Another of the pre-Rough Trade songs but one that never wrangled it’s way onto the internet and so remained largely unheard to the Libertines fandom until now. ‘The Domestic’ is a darker, bluesier, Doors-like song than we’re used to from the boys in the band, earnestly debating how to dispose of a corpse from some ‘domestic incident’, choosing to chuck the old sod to the waves of “old father Thames”.

Don’t Talk To Me – “Mick, we’ve just written a song”… what follows is the blueprint for ‘Up The Bracket’ b-side ‘Skag & Bone Man’ with radically embryonic words, even scrappier sounding than the legendary finished product, ending with Carl asking Gary if he’s embarrassed cos he took his t-shirt off – if only Gary knew they’d barely keep their tops on for the next ten years.

The Wolfman – In their early days The Libertines weren’t just a band, they were a whole cast of Dickensian characters woven into a tale told through NME interviews, internet message board posts and gig support slots. The most high profile of this gang was poet and singer Wolfman, featured in Libs-lore like some mesmerising and lovable doped-up pantomime villain. The song bearing his name was much performed in Wolfman’s own sets and early Babyshambles shows but The Libertines version had been shrouded until now. An 8 minute epic including a lot of howling and verse from the artist himself.

Radio America – The prettiest, most fragile tune on ‘Up The Bracket’ and a version that doesn’t feature a worse for wear Carl Barat falling over into his mic stand half way through. Their ‘Stay Free’.

7 Deadly Sins – The Libertines at their most Django Reinhardt, a beautiful acoustic strum of a number about being damned if you do and damned if you don’t with some tender guitar picking and a more delicate vocal take from Barat than the demo version on the other side of the ‘Time For Heroes’ 7” vinyl.

Up The Bracket: Early Demos

When The Strokes burst onto the scene The Libertines upped their game from writing romantic 60s indebted lullabies, deciding instead to semi-consciously splice their Velvet Underground leanings onto a punk aesthetic, challenging their New York counterparts head-on, a process that gave birth to songs that would get them signed to Rough Trade and made up their debut album. The early demos collected here span the December 2001 – March 2002 time frame, an essential insight into the genesis of the band they would become.

We’re especially fascinated by the March 2002 demos. Referred to at one time as the ‘Ruff Enuff Stuff’ demos, they were recorded during a hinterland period where the lads were sans-drummer, so feature a drum machine all through ‘Time For Heroes’, ‘I Get Along’, ‘Horrow Show’, ‘Boys In The Band’ and ‘General Smuts’, the version of ‘General Smuts’ ending up as the nuttiest thing The Libertines have ever put their name on.

Up The Bracket: Demos, Radio Sessions, B-Sides & Live

A ragtag selection of sundry others, kicked off with undated demos, including a version of ‘All At Sea (Misty)’ – a gorgeously airy ditty that popped up in various unofficial forms throughout the Libertines history, until receiving a proper release on Peter Doherty & The Puta Madres album way off in the future of 2019.

A slew of Radio 1 Evening Session and Live Lounge features follow covering the LP’s singles, topped off by the curiously titled ‘Christmas Time’ – a contrarily festive rendition of Seigfried Sassoon’s sombre wartime poem ‘Suicide In The Trenches’ backed with chirruping harmonica and a chuckling Doherty and Barat. A total gem, followed by their iconic performance of Dame Vera Lynn’s wartime mood-lifter ‘We’ll Meet Again’.

All of the b-sides from the album’s single releases get thrown in, as well as three incendiary live tracks showcasing The Libertines at their punky, speed-freak, oblivion-hurtling finest – ‘Up The Bracket’ – live at the ICA, ‘Mayday’ – Radio 1 Live in Nottingham and, beginning with Doherty taunting the crowd, and now the boxset listening audience in 2022, asking “D’you want some more?”, a rambunctious, full blast rendering of ‘The Boy Looked At Johnny’ live from The Libertines second home of Paris – venue unspecified.

The 20th Anniversary Box Set edition of ‘Up The Bracket’ was released on 20th October 2022 and you can still get your grubby little mitts on it in several formats including a 60 page booklet with a forward by Apple Music DJ and music journalist Matt Wilkinson, new interviews with the band from their official biographer, author of ‘Bound Together’ Anthony Thornton and many unseen photos and memorabilia by heading over to the Rough Trade website now.

All tracks mentioned in this feature are also available on Spotify and all the streaming services.

Find a live version of ‘What A Waster’ from the ICA in 2002 released by the band to launch the 20th anniversary below:

Sam Scherdel & Harri Larkin – Fairytale of New York

We’ve stumbled across many an artist in 2022, but Harri Larkin have been one of our clear standout faves, so who better to celebrate the festive season with? Teaming up with fellow Sheffield maestro Sam Scherdel, the yuletide troop have given an all-time December anthem a dazzlingly illuminated live makeover on their own version of ‘Fairytale Of New York’.

Putting a respectful sheen on The Pogues absolute classic, Sam and Harri pick up the roles of Shane McGowan and Kirsty McColl, imparting their timeless story of squandered dreams, Scherdel’s surliness plausibly countered by Harri’s exasperation, their tender tale backed all the way with lump-in-your-throat angelic violin and keyboard alongside Sam’s virtuoso guitar strum.

If you’re looking for a tune to wrap presents and scoff chocolate to over the next few days, you need look no further than this bauble festooned gem. Merry Christmas!

You can find Sam Scherdel and Harri Larkin’s live version of ‘Fairytale Of New York’ on all streaming sites now. You can also see the performance video below: