Monthly Archives: June 2013

Review: Dan Clark & The Difficult Three


Dan Clark - Dan Clark & The Difficult Three - When comedians make albums, there are several paths they can choose to walk down. Some, like Matt Berry, take their music seriously, and craft well honed albums that stand up for their musical merit, sans laughter. Others take their comedic style and apply it to the new medium, often with varying results.

Dan Clark is definitely in the latter camp, with his debut album sounding very much like a continuation of his How Not To Live Your Life character Don Danbury. The results are a fusion of Dan’s real musical ability and classic rock influences, and the need to make people laugh across a set of concepts that need to each be sustained for two to three minutes each.

Clocking in at just under half an hour, the album is short, but far from sweet. What is musically quite laid back, with a raw, stripped-back production that lets each instrument breathe (though the drum sound doesn’t quite feel right), is coupled with rather crude and laddish lyrical content that flits from downright hilarious and inventive, to just saying rude words almost for the sake of it.

Indeed, the album has been running for less than a minute when the subject of ball-cupping arises, setting the tone for a record that will take in bowel problems, men’s nipples and the shower scene from An American Werewolf In London over the following twenty nine minutes.

Clark, it seems, is well aware of this, with one track in particular, Baby Girl, addressing his potty mouth by comparing it to the increasingly crude manner in which contemporary RNB singers tackle the subject of sex. Lyrically similar to the kind of thing The Lonely Island parody, this thankfully doesn’t outstay its welcome like some of their more recent material.

And when the album works best in it’s rapid-fire gag making, is when it feels less like Dan is forcing the humour into place, and it flows more naturally from a man who genuinely is hilarious. Tranny With Amnesia is a highlight, sounding almost like a lost Gary Le Strange song with added slap-bass solo and a concept-album esque loudspeaker ending taking it up a notch.

Similarly, Don’t Kiss Me takes a subject a lot of us are familiar with in our metrosexual society, and when the band let rip, and Dan starts impersonating his mother, it’s a lot easier to feel like you’re in on the joke, rather than watching it from the outside.

Some ideas are always going to be stronger than others and with comedy records, that feeling is even more acutely obvious. Despite a few fluffed moments, what is here is fairly inventive in concept even if it doesn’t rewrite the rulebook on what makes a comedy album work. As a debut, it’s a solid start, and if Clark is to continue making records, my only advice would be to be himself, and let his natural charm and rapid wit do the rest.

Dan Clark & The Difficult Three is released on July 1st. Clark revives his comedy club night Clarks at The Soho Theatre on July 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th.


Review: Ligers – Goodbye/Break You


Ligers - Goodbye/Break You - There are some bands who effortlessly conjure up Summer vibes from the moment they play a chord. Ligers are one such combo: the London based four-piece having quietly released one of the finest debut EPs in recent times with theirWhat To Lose record last year.

Eighteen months on comes their debut single proper – the double A-side Goodbye/Break You. The former is a chilled out slice of jangly retro-pop, which sounds like it is itching to be on the soundtrack for a low-budget indie movie. The kind of movie that stars Philip Seymour Hoffman or Catherine Keener, and is all about emotions.

That’s not to do it a disservice. Hell, they’re usually great movies with stonking soundtracks, and this is a powerful piece – a strong vocal offering a determined yet melancholic focal point for the sun-drenched guitars and gentle drumming which builds to a powerful finale. Imagine if Fleet Foxes merged with Florence And The Machine, but the end result was way classier, and you’re not too far off the mark.

Second track Break You is a funkier offering, with vocalist Liz reaching almost Toyah-esque proportions of higher-range gymnastics.

Again, this is no bad thing, with a repetitive hook working to the song’s advantage, as it tries to worm its way into your memory banks.

Whether either song succeeds on that front depends entirely on your view on this kind of music, and whilst it won’t win over any new converts, the results are a fine second step from a band who may just become the next big thing.

Goodbye/Break You is out now.

Review: To Be Frank – Nothing EP


To Be Frank - Nothing EP - There’s something naturally intriguing about To Be Frank. The catch-all project for multi-instrumentalist and record producer Frank Pescod has the backing of Radio 1, 6 Music and many more, all from the strength of one of the most daring debut singles of recent times. If You Love Her has been a runaway success, and it’s now followed by a four-track EP entitled Nothing.

The title track is a natural stand-out, with it’s chorus embedding itself as a subconscious ear-worm after a few listens, and the production gloss immediately grabbing your attention. The energetic, electronic track paints a brooding soundscape, with its sleak, stylish sound boosting Pescod’s put-upon, melancholic vocal delivery.

Elsewhere, duet I Lied feels simpler, but nevertheless invigorating – it’s synthesized lo-fi percussion catching interest without getting in the way of the dual vocals of Frank and guest signer Hazel Tratt. The latter has a gentle, forlorn – if slightly generic – delivery which complements Frank well, and the song is screaming out to be added to a soundtrack album near you.

The remaining two tracks feel somewhat lesser than the sum of the lead songs, with Tears drawing comparisons with Depeche Mode’s more introspective moments, and Someone Else’s offering an acoustic take on the tortured soul effect. Nevertheless, the feelings behind these songs rings true, even if they don’t stand out the same way. And for a relatively new artist, this is no mean feat.

Wherever To Be Frank goes next, on the strength of Nothing, he deserves your attention.

Nothing is released on July 1st. Read our interview with To Be Frank here.

Review: Placebo – Too Many Friends


Placebo - Too Many Friends - They say a fine wine matures with age, and if that’s the case, Placebo are the musical equivalent of a Cheval Blanc 1947.

What started off as a raucous, dischordant riff-fest dominated by a loud-mouthed, occasionally savage, diminutive ‘f***-pixie’ grew and redefined itself into an angst-ridden, grandiose collective whom the likes of David BowieMichael Stipe and Robert Smith all clamoured to work with.

And then, at the peak of their folorn prowess, the band lost their stickman, Steve Hewitt and their long-standing record label, Virgin.

What then followed was somewhat of a rebirth, as young new drummer Steve Forrest brought a fresh vitality (and occasional positivity!) to the work of Brian Molko and Stefan Olsdal on their 2009 album Battle For The Sun, and subsequent EP follow ups, Trigger Happy Hands and B3.

Placebo in 2013, then, are ready to fire on all cylinders, and this first cut from new album Loud Like Love still has that trademark melancholy, but brings with it a crisp production that lets each instrument shine, even if the lyrics are a little bit silly.

Typically zeitgiest grabbing, the song laments the increasing desire to have excessive numbers of so-called ‘friends’, particularly on social networks. As Molko bitchily remarks: “My computer thinks I’m gay/What’s the difference anyway/When all the people do all day/Is stare into a phone?”

Placebo’s first singles from each album are rarely indicative of the rest of it, but if this bit of fun is anything to go by, we should still be in for a little treat.

Too Many Friends is released digitally on July 8th. The album Loud Like Love is released on September 16th, and the band undertake a UK tour in December. For more details, visit their official website.

Review: The Duckworth Lewis Method – It’s Just Not Cricket

The Duckworth Lewis Method - It's Not Cricket - There aren’t many bands named after a mathematical formula, and even less named after cricketing terminology. The Duckworth Lewis Method may be the only such combination of the two obscure concepts, and that’s one of the more ordinary facts about them.

In essence, a spot of extra curricular activity for legendary The Divine Comedy guru Neil Hannon, and fellow Irish Baroque musician Thomas Walsh from seminal band Pugwash, TDLM released their debut album back in 2009 to critical acclaim, before going on an indefinite hiatus. Both men continue to be in demand in their own right, so the supergroup, whose songs were all based around their favourite sport (yep, you’ve guessed it), had to wait.

Now the band are back with a typically summery slice of chamber pop fun, once again fusing traditional rag-time elements with a funky groove that could have come straight from the Electric Light Orchestra. With Walsh’s soothing drawl on the verses complemented by Hannon’s smooth as honey voice on the chorus, and a choir of loud blokey blokes chanting the song’s title (including, unless we’re very much mistaken, their regular collaborator Matt Berry), this is an instantly likeable affair.

With lyrics referencing everything from Vlad The Impaler to greedy bankers bonuses, this is business as usual for the duo – fusing pop culture references and singalong choruses with cricketing terminology to seemingly draw the conclusion that everything in life can be summed up by what happens at the wicket. By the time the glam rock clap-a-long comes along, you’ll be singing along. Delightful.

‘It’s Not Cricket’ is out now. The album, ‘Sticky Wickets‘, is available from July 1st.


Review: Polkadot Cadaver – Last Call In Jonestown


Polkadot Cadaver - Last Call In Jonestown - For the last fifteen years, Baltimore based musician Todd Smith has been at the forefront of avant-garde metal, heading up genre-hopping, blackly comic behemoths Dog Fashion Disco between their ska-tinged 1997 debut, Erotic Massage, and their sublime 2006 film-noir inspired concept album finale, Adultery.

Since DFD folded, Smith has bounced across various projects, including acoustic-led solo work El-Creepo!, one-off band The Alter Boys, hardcore metal-heads Knives Out and one particular project – Polkadot Cadaver – which feels the most like a continuation of Dog Fashion Disco.

Together with regular collaborator Jasan Stepp, Polkadot Cadaver took the DFD template and cranked up the insanity that little bit higher. The riffs are more profound, the lyrics more tongue in cheek than ever, and no genre is safe from their assimilating minds.

Third album Last Call In Jonestown offers more of the same winning formula with has served Smith & Stepp well. Driven by new drummer Scott Radway, the album is a thundering, chaotic journey through discordant strings, chugging riffs and funky grooves.

The title track offers up an Eastern flavour to proceedings, as cut-up digital samples fuse with live instrumentation to create a visceral experience to complement the grisly tale which inspired its lyrics. Elsewhere, Sheer Madness offers pounding beats and daft lyrics about finding Jesus under the sink, and as the band let loose and have fun, the lyrical references to Queen show a clear influence from another band who didn’t really care what critics thought, so long as the audience applauded.

And it’s not hard to see why the band have a loyal following, when tracks like Animal Kingdom fuse this metal-drenched approach with bizarre side moments that almost sound like Elbow and the Pet Shop Boys are hooking up for a duet, only to be drowned out by Primus and System Of A Down jamming next door. And then there’s Impure Thoughts, which, with lyrics as sleasy as its title suggests, is exactly how we imagine Prince would sound if he embraced metal.

That’s not to say there aren’t a couple of mis-steps. Neil Fallon of Clutch guests on the track Transistors Of Mercy, but while he gets to bawl out gloriously silly lines like: “Protect us from the whim of the simian beast”, the track itself is a rare example of a Polkadot song out-staying its welcome.

It’s slower moments like this, and an earlier track, Touch You Like Caligula, which let the side down, slightly, and it takes the heavy bounce of songs like All The King’s Men and the Halloween-drenched camp of Phantasmagoria to make up for them. It’s not that the band cannot do slower, lighter songs – indeed, some of their finest material is along those lines – but this record feels like a direct hit to the chest, and these two tracks feel more like a prod than the punch the rest provides.

But these are minor blemishes from a band who will tackle any genre head-on, and make it their own. Long may they continue.

‘Last Call In Jonestown’ is out now. You can see the video for the title track below.


Interview: Ligers


Ligers - Ligers Interview - The London music scene is constantly churning out new bands who appear one moment, and disappear the next. One band who may yet to break that cycle are eclectic folk-tinged four-piece Ligers.

Formed from the ashes of previous cult acts The Argonauts and The Bon Vivants, the band started life as Liz And The Ligers before shortening their name and starting afresh with the release of their debut ep, What To Lose, early last year.

Featuring a carefree fusion of psychedelia, rockabilly, pop and folk, it was a glorious start, marking Ligers out as one to watch. Imagine Nerina Pallot infiltrating Fleet Foxes in the Summer Of Love and you’re not too far off the mark, and the band have been working on expanding their eclectic roster ever since.

Now the band have released their debut single proper – the double A-side Break You//Goodbye – completely free via Soundcloud.

Information on the band is currently thin on the ground, but with their reputation rising, and a few summer festivals on the horizon, Music News caught up with band members Liz, Daniel and Jono to discuss their past, present and future.

Music NewsHi Ligers, welcome to Music News. The first thing that hit me when I heard your work is how summery and laid back it all feels. Is this the sort of vibe you’re aiming for?

Liz: Yes, I think it is definitely the vibe we are going for and enjoy. We want people to be able to have a dance and sing along to our songs! I think we have always enjoyed bands that capture that surf guitar sound well. We actually went to watch The Zombies recently who were amazing! Also living in London, it’s pretty dreary most of the time and it’s nice to play music that gets us excited about the summer!

MNInformation about Ligers is fairly thin on the ground. What can you tell us about yourselves for those who have yet to discover your charms?

Liz: Well, we used to be called Liz and The Ligers, and have been going for a couple of years now. Mostly, we’re based in North London. We have all played together in various other music projects in the past such as The Argonauts and The Bon Vivants, so I think that makes it easier to write and work together… it’s also ace being in a band with your best mates!

MNIf I’m not going insane, there’s hints of 60s psychadelica, folk and even rockabilly in your work. Are you keen to avoid categorisation?

Daniel: It’s not really something that we’re conscious of, but we’re all into different genres. From a guitar perspective, I try not to get in the way of Liz’s vocals too much so I guess that’s where the clean rockabilly sound comes from on something like What To Lose

MNWhat’s your songwriting process like? Is it hugely collaborative or does the main writer safeguard the core ideas?

Liz: Normally one of us comes up with the initial song melody and idea, then we try to work on lyrics together and then work out the structure full band in rehearsal!

MNYour first EP came out almost eighteen months ago. Does it feel so long?

Jono: 18 MONTHS? YES, it feels long! I remember keeping my flatmate up mixing it at home to try and get it out on time. It was a brilliant experience for Liz and me at the time as it was our first go at producing something ourselves for release.

MNHow has your sound developed since then?

Jono: At the time of the first EP, we had a very definite idea about the how we should sound. It was all a sort of folk and country pop vibe, but we soon realised that that trend was on the decline and we were dying to try other things out anyway! We’ve had a transnational period since then and a few line-up changes due to real life and the shit that goes with it. During this period we’ve become more eclectic and experimental, and although we’ve kept the best of the old tunes, we’re now playing more thoughtful and ‘out-there’ songs.

MNYour reputation has been steadily growing thanks to word of mouth and a cult following. Would you rather this be the case, or gain overnight success?

Daniel: Depends on what you define as success really. We’re just plugging away doing what we do and trying to develop something interesting, and if people are starting to tune into that, then great.

MNYou’re playing a number of festivals in the summer. Does the festival circuit appeal, or is it a neccessary evil?

Liz: Nah we love festivals!! Best bit about being a musician is playing them!

MNWhere next for Ligers?

Jono: More of everything. We’ve cracked our working routine now so expect more releases and off-the-cuff recordings. We want to play more exciting and different venues that offer more than a shitty PA and £5 for a shit pint in a fucking plastic cup fighting for sticky floor space! We want everyone to be comfortable and enjoy the musical journey like we do. Speaking of places, we want to do loads more filming in weird and wonderful places, capturing the vibe of different people we meet and places we visit. We’ve not done a full-on tour yet either, so that’s on the cards!

MNFinally, can you tell us a random fact about each band member you’ve never revealed in an interview before, however trivial?

Liz: Jono’s signature sound incorporates a kitchen scourer.

Daniel: Liz has been on Blue Peter 3 times and fainted once on their set!

Jono: Daniel still wears a coat he bought for £1 about 10 years ago.

Liz: Steve is Canadian and his real name is William or “Big Bill” as we like to call him!

MN: Ligers, thank you very much!

Liger’s new single is available now for free via Soundcloud. Their debut EP, What To Lose, is available via iTunes, Spotify and Bandcamp.

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Interview: To Be Frank


To Be Frank - To Be Frank Interview - With over 100,000 hits in just over a month, it’s fair to say To Be Frank‘s debut single If You Love Her is highly acclaimed, and rapidly gaining popularity.

The follow up is the forthcoming four track EP Nothing, to be released on July 1st via Solebay Music. A sparse, electronic production with the bleak, dystopian landscape of lead track Nothing already gaining attention.

With a guest appearance from singer Hazel Tratt on one track, the four songs are the next step in the story of the former frontman of The Brothers, who has led an eclectic career before launching To Be Frank earlier this year.

Though still in its relative infancy, this new project is already being championed by the likes of Lauren Laverne, Hew Stephens, Radio 1, 6Music, Rough Magazine and Alfitude, and looks set to be a huge hit as To Be Frank progresses.

Music News caught up with Frank Pescod, the producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist behind the moniker, to find out more about Nothing

Music News: Hi Frank, welcome to Music News. You’re generating quite a buzz at the moment! As a relatively new artist, how does it feel to have the likes of Lauren Laverne fighting your corner?

To Be Frank: Hi, thanks for having me. I love Lauren’s show. It was lovely of her to give me the headphone moment and it was a really nice way for If You Love Her to make its debut on 6Music.

MN: Of course, you’ve been in the business for a number of years performing in and managing bands, running venues and currently heading up a commercial music company. What’s made you want to explore all these different career paths?

TBF: Well I guess I like to try different things, and I am always wanting to push myself in whatever I do. Some things were planned and others sort of happened naturally really. Overall, it has given me a good overview of the different areas of the music business.

MN: Music itself is your first love, I guess?

TBF: It’s definitely my first love, even though I have done a lot of different things, music has always been at the center of them.

MN: Does it feel strange to have all of your experience, then be regarded as a ‘new artist’ again?

TBF: Not really as To Be Frank is new, and people are just discovering it for the first time so it’s fine.

MN: Your new EP is more electronic than your debut single. What made you take your music in this direction?

TBF: The EP is a mixture of electronic and acoustic. I guess I wanted to show people the other sides of me and that I am not one thing. I produce, sing and play a variety of music, I don’t want to be put in a box. I just want to write the best music I can.

MN: There’s a hint of Depeche Mode to the new stuff. Are they amongst your influences?

TBF: If I’m honest they aren’t actually! Perhaps deep in my sub conscious they are there… Haha! I’ve got a lot of influences from jazz, Motown, pop, electronic… there’s too many to name artists now.

MN: One thing that grabbed me when I first heard If You Love Her is that you’re not afraid to strip it back to a bare-bones soundscape. Given the current trend for compressed, normalised music without shades of volume, this feels quite bold for a potentially mainstream artist. Are you conscious of this?

TBF: Yes I know it was a risk as a first single, but for me it felt right. I wanted to let the song breathe and allow the voice to be heard. I think there is something special about the space in it that makes it hypnotic with the constant kick.

MN: You’re quite a prolific writer. Do you have a particular process you follow, or is it more spontaneous?

TBF: Thank you. I don’t really [have a process]. I just try not to force it. Sometimes the song comes quickly and other times it can take a while. I have different ways in which I create, there’s no set rules, I am always finding new instruments to use, or my engineer Andy appears with something tasty for me to play with!

MN: How do you see To Be Frank developing as a project?

TBF: I have a lot of songs and I keep writing more. I want to keep putting them out on my label Solebay Music and hopefully people will like them.

MN: Is To Be Frank something that can be an umbrella title for all of your work, or would you release anything drastically different under another name?

TBF: Well, I’d like to keep To Be Frank as my producer/ artist title as its who I am, whether I am writing my own songs or producing someone else. As for other names down the line who knows what projects are around the corner.

MN: Your music is self-released. Are you keen to avoid the major label system?

TBF: I’m not against major labels, I just started my own label as It felt like the right thing to do. I am really enjoying it as it’s giving me a clear understanding of how it all works and I get to work with a great team of people.

MN: How important is the internet in regards to your work? Some artists embrace it, others see it as the enemy.

TBF: I think you can look at it both ways really, On the one hand music has become free for a lot of people and on the other it’s an amazing tool. It’s all about how we use it.

MN: Do you have any dream collaborators?

TBF: Ooh, If I could perhaps Prince, Quincy Jones or Bill Withers would be nice.

MN: Finally, if you could have written any piece of music from history, which would it be and why?

TBF: Oh, that’s hard… Okay… one would be The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams. It’s a beautiful piece of music that I have some great memories to.

MN: To Be Frank, thank you very much.

TBF: Thank you

TO BE FRANK’s new ep ‘Nothing’ is released on July 1st via Solebay Music. The video for his debut single, ‘If You Love Her’, is below,

Interview: Bob Pipe, James Wren & Phil Whelans

© Bob Pipe / Channel Flip

© Bob Pipe / Channel Flip

You’d have to have been living under a rock these last few months not to notice us banging on about a brilliant new web series called The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains.

Jam-packed with TVO regulars, the show is the brainchild of Bob Pipe, and as the show comes to the end of its first run, TVO spoke to Bob and co-writers James Wren and Phil Whelans for the scoop on …Brains.

They came from outer space. Ok, not really. They live in London, but outer space sounds more exciting. Their mission: to suck out our brains. Again, this may be a lie. They’re more interested in stimulating our limbic systems within said organs to make us laugh.

When Forgery Club head honcho Bob Pipe got the call to create his own web-series, he turned to two regular collaborators – Hen & Chickens guru James Wren and improv legend Phil Whelans – to help develop it. The trio are jacks of all comedic trades and masters of several, and the resulting series became The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains, which premiered exclusively on YouTube earlier this year.

The cast list for …Brains reads like a who’s who of alternative comedy, with Richard Glover, Colin Hoult, Waen Shepherd, Alex Kirk, Stephen Evans, Gareth Tunley, Richard Sandling, Neil ColeAntony Elvin and Will Summers all furthering the TVO connections. Phil Whelans is also on hand as recurring scientist Professor Langhorne, who pops up to offer invaluable advice on avoiding brain sucking with his esteemed colleague Dr Von Busey (Glover). Alex Kirk plays the hapless Prime Minister with no clue how to handle the crisis, which sees everyone from Army heroes to spaced out teenagers to simple Northern Folk facing the wrath of the alien invaders. It’s all gloriously silly, and insanely addictive.

“To be fair,” Phil Whelans explains, when asked where it all began, “it was all Bob Pipe’s idea. But if it’s successful, then I’ve always wanted to do it. If not, then I thought it was a terrible idea. This concept is called ‘Schrodinger’s Answer’ – the theoretical concept that, in a lead-lined box with a decaying radioactive particle, my answer to this question exists in two distinct states at the same time.”

Bob Pipe directs Will Summers & Antony Elvin [© Bob Pipe]

“Bob is a go-to guy for filmed comedy,” he adds on a more serious note. “For people who are used to turning up at a venue with a bag of props and just walking on stage, filming stuff can be a bit daunting, but Bob knows how to make it happen.”

…Brains has been gestating in Bob Pipe’s mind for many years, with an early version of it forming Bob’s end of year project in his Media Studies HND back in 1999. “We only had a shitty S-Video camera, video deck editing and no proper actors at our disposal,” Bob remembers. “I knew I was limited at what I could make, so I decided to make a B-Movie! I tried to remake it when I was the In-House Director for [now defunct website] ComedyBox, but I never got round to it. Me and a friend tried to pitch it to Channel 4’s Comedy Blap initiative a few years ago but it never got picked up.  But I’ve never given up on the idea, so I pitched it again to Channel Flip when I heard about The Multiverse, who loved it. The rest is history. Or perhaps, the future?” Read the rest of this entry