For any fans of Phoebe Green, Abbie Ozard and Lauren Hibberd, Solis is the star for you.
Irish hailing, Manchester based, stellar songwriter Solis has released her dazzling new single ‘Be Together’. Boasting expressive lyricism and enormous explorations into poignant feelings, Solis’ latest release offers a dreamy escapism. ‘Be Together’ acts as the second offering from her upcoming debut album which is set to be a sonic wonder.
Her ethereal aura expressed through the track has unsurprisingly caught the attention of multiple media outlets, such as BBC radio Manchester.
Talking on the track, Solis shares:
“”Be Together” tells the story of someone who longs to be in a relationship all the time. When someone finds it difficult to be on their own and becomes infatuated by another they wish to be with… The middle section with the cannon vocals is symbolic of the commotion, confusion and lust that has consumed the person’s thoughts. It’s not autobiographical, but there are elements of the unnamed narrator that I definitely relate to. Loneliness and missing human connection is something that we all can understand after the coronavirus pandemic.”
Her haunting vocals and psychedelic compositions beautifully melt together in a way that is fondly reminiscent of Lana Del Rey. Pouring with emotion and fruitful longing, this non-auto-biographical cut has received a glowing reception and sees her start to break out in the Manchester music scene.
Her honest and unvarnished approach to difficult topics and symbolic libretto gives a unique, sincere perspective on the all-consuming commotion and confusion that comes along with difficult situations. Related to current climates, her commentary on missing human connection offers and all-too relatable tale of the tribulations that have encroached on all our lives over the past year.
Keep your eyes peeled for more Solis creations, approaching imminently.
Solis’ new single is available here, and you can keep up with her on her social media here.
North-eastern rising indie-heads bigfatbig know how to make a charismatic, endearing track and never has it been more evident than on their latest single. While, truth be told, it has been a while since my jaded pretentious ears have taken to a youthful indie track, it was hard not to be swayed by the charm at display here. On Don’t Wanna Be Sad, the one word three-piece seem to have found all the ingredients necessary to cook up the summer sing-along anthem that even I can relate to: a heavy helping of fat instrumentals, a generous dash of self-assured vocals, and just the right amount of lyrics that hit close to home.
Undeniably, a large part of what makes the tune so iconic has to be the vulnerability at play. From the lyricism and songwriting to the band’s notable performances, you really get the sense that every moment on the track is written and performed to stay true to the band’s experiences. With the tune starting off with a snippet of what seems like a DIY demo, the band show they aren’t afraid to show their true selves, both at their most and least polished. Even once bursting in with the fully fledged track, they manage to retain that sense of confidence in their weaker moments as the lyrics relate the feelings of crushing depression. Forgoing the soft folk-laden voices one might expect for such subject matter, though, bigfatbig instead take the route of massive pop-punk vocals that makes sure every moment feels heavy with purpose. Think Hayley Williams covering a Beach Bunny track and you’ll have bigfatbig.
As the track recounts the struggles of maintaining relationships, the feeling of atrophy when regularly putting off self-care, and the inability to process thoughts when struck with depression, it would make sense that you would leave it feeling cathartic at best, downtrodden at worst . Life, though, is many things and sensible it is not. What Don’t Wanna Be Sad really leaves you feeling is energised, and comforted that you aren’t alone in living with those moments of depression. The warmth and density of the guitars, drums, and background vocals all add up too making it hard to feel anything but upbeat. It’s a strange but effective juxtaposition between the music and the lyrics and one that I wouldn’t trade away for anything. It also helps that there’s the occasional synth solo, and who doesn’t love a bit of synth.
If it isn’t clear by now I want you to listen to this track and I’m not sure how else to convince you because I feel like I’ve taken a lot of words to say what really only needed two sentences in the first place: bigfatbig rip and you should go check em out. Get that punchy catharsis and don’t look back!
bigfatbig’s music is available to stream everywhere you would expect. You can follow the band on Instagram here. The fourth single from bigfatbig, Don’t Wanna Be Sad, was released today, Thursday 25th March. Listen here.
The Rotanas are a five-piece from Cardiff in Wales with some seriously infectious songwriting credentials, offering up a zingy and fearless new recipe for britpop – gritpop. Their latest release ‘Spinner‘ received network airplay on Radio X, Sirius XM, and RTÉ 2FM, as well as repeat plays on BBC Radio Wales and Amazing Radio. The boys are really on the up, and their new single, ‘Manic’, comes off of the heels of their signing to Disobedient Records. To tell us all about what the Rotanas are all about and what to expect from these firecrackers in future, vocalist Harry Watton very kindly had a chat with us and let me ask some truly inane questions. Top banana. So, without further ado, here’s the results of our natter…
Hello, lads! First things first, explain the name – what or who is a Rotana?
I think a ‘Rotana’ is difficult to pin down to a single thing, the name comes from a kebab shop in Cardiff but what a Rotana is, well that’s something only 5 of us have the pleasure of being. It’s a sort of freeness, an ability to forever evade being pinned down to one single identity, it’s a family. You don’t choose your family, that’s kind of like us, we just fell into each other’s acquaintance.
You’ve been knocking about since 2017. How did you all meet? What made you want to start a band up?
As I just mentioned it was kind of just falling into each other’s company. I don’t even remember meeting James, or any of the others really (bar Tommy but that was only recently). We all just kind of started to exist in eachothers lives and The Rotanas were the only realistic outcome of that, I think.
And, if you don’t mind, could you kindly explain ‘gritpop’ to an old fogey like me?
To be honest with you it’s a lighthearted bit of wordplay, PR bullshit. I think we might be something very different to that now, certainly heading that way. It was coined by an old friend of ours under substantial influence. At the time it sounded truly wonderful and personally I did enjoy it for a good while but, like many other things, it possessed something of an infancy to it, we’ve matured now. That being said I think it’ll stick with us for a few more releases, for old times sake.
You’re Cardiff boys. Are Welsh shows your favourite to play? What’s the best city/show you’ve played so far?
At our level all your home shows are gonna be your favourites. We haven’t yet graced 50k plus arenas around the globe or even the UK for that matter, so 200 ish people you’ve seen once or twice down the local Tescos but never really spoken to, off their tits, rammed into some underfunded, war torn yet homey shed, will indeed, take the cake. Bunkhouse (Swansea) is good, as is Clwb Ifor Bach (Cardiff). Tough to pick a favourite you know. We found a brother there at the Bunkhouse mind, Aaron, so there’s a spiritually charged love for that place.
Who would you cite as your musical influences? Who are your favourite bands? Guilty pleasures are also allowed, worry not…
I don’t have any guilty pleasures, if I felt guilty about them it wouldn’t be pleasurable.
I think there’s an obvious 90s influence, certainly to our sound. I do think that there’s a lot more influence from further afield, certainly for me 60s and 70s soul/rock and roll/reggae. Not that it necessarily is obvious in our music, but it does influence how our minds work within music and most definitely that has an affect on the choices we make, say, in the studio, for example.
So, tell us about your signing with Disobedient Records. How are you feeling about it?
Yeah, great bunch, really on it. I’m excited, takes some of the pressures of it all off our backs and allows us more time for the music. Love and peace man.
And your new single, Manic. Lyrics? Sound? What’s it all about, Aaaaaaalfie….?
I think it’s just that, manic. It’s about a nutter, basically. A past friend of ours, turns out he’s just not all there, not in a medical way, he’s just a tart. The sounds big, the verses have a good walking vibe to them, with this hint of cockiness that plays to the ‘nutter’ vibe. It’s big though, real big. The solo is vulgar, you feel a bit rude listening to it. I like that.
What would be a dream song for you to cover?
Absolutely jack shit, I don’t think I’d ever dream of covering a song as such. Maybe to perform a song with a band. Imagine getting stuck into a track with The Doobie Brothers, that’d be a hell of an evening.
So what’s the dream for you boys? Where would you like the Rotanas to be in say, 5 years? Professional rock ‘n’ roll stars?
I think just being able to live off it would be nice, which is very humble of me, isn’t it. Of course we all get a tingle in our balls just before we drift off to sleep thinking about the chance of walking out on our second night at Knebworth. But for fuck’s sake, doesn’t everyone?
Let’s end with something silly – snog, marry, avoid, Welsh musician edition to echo your Cardiff roots. Tom Jones, Shakin’ Stevens, John Cale. Hypothetical, of course.
I’ve been told to at least snog John Cale cause he’s from Garnant like Aled, so I’ll have to marry Tom Jones, he’s guaranteed to be a great father to our children, and avoid Shakin’ Stevens cause he makes me anxious.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, The Rotanas! Godspeed and good luck, and I can’t wait to listen to your new record.
The Rotanas’ new single, ‘Manic’ which is set to be released on 26th March 2021 on all good DSPs. The link to pre-save it is here.
It’s not been a great year for the majority of us, and if by chance fortune has smiled upon you, keep it to yourself until June and tell us all about it over a pint. For me, the saving grace, or survival tool, has been music. At the best of times music remains a constant in our day to day meanderings, whether it’s the soundtrack for the punctual bus commute or blasting through speakers into the late night. But from March 2020 to March 2021 (the time of writing), it has progressed to an even greater role than it previously held, inhabiting the shape of a study-buddy, a distraction, and at times, a friend.
Consequently, unlike my previous late teen years, in which the chatter of Snapchat and jealousy inducing Instagram occupied a worrying amount of my life, Spotify has been the app of my twentieth year. Before critiquing the limits to the streaming giant’s promotion of new music, I would like to make clear my appreciation that we had it on hand to guide us through the last twelve months. Life would have been a little bit darker without the convenience of music streaming, as much as we sometimes look down our noses at it while cradling our vinyl records in our arms. Music doesn’t always have to be an event, I feel it’s a luxury we should allow ourselves to indulge in as frequently as possible, and streaming is the easiest way for us to do it.
With that being said, hunting for new music is a discovery unlike most other discoveries, in that the hunt for new music never ends. Very little beats the feeling of hearing a new song for the first time or rediscovering a tune that feels so intimately wrapped in the memories of a certain time in your life. I experienced this a few years ago when I stumbled across Why Can’t This Be Love by Van Halen, a song my Dad had ripped and put on a CD for my Walkman when I was four, and all of those car journeys up and down to Northumberland came flooding back to me. It’s a magical feeling when it happens.
The Spotify algorithm in these trying times was, for many including myself, the primary key to a whole bank of undiscovered discographies and playlists- for a time. Spotify boasts 70 million tracks in its rich database, and yet, as every album I hear fades out the once-infectious now-infected groovy chords of So Good at Being In Trouble buzz into my earphones like an angry wasp. At first I welcomed it in as a kind neighbour, liking it and adding it to all of my summer playlists. But as the winter months arrived I realised that my kind neighbour was a bloodsucking vampire invited into my home, feeding off the algorithm and the opportunities its fellow sixty-nine million fellow tracks deserved.
The unusual thing here, is that Spotify used to have an option to prevent this – a like or dislike function while listening to a radio from a selected song – which disappeared some time ago. In place, the Spotify algorithm rotates between a handful of songs the listener already listens to on a regular basis, Unknown Mortal Orchestra in my case and after some thorough research, Harness Your Hopes by Pavement for my housemates. In a time where bars and gigs are closed, meetings with friends are severely limited, and the churning output of steady music is slower than the usual, it is a shame that Spotify were unable to seize the chance to introduce a new host of upcoming musicians to the world. This, to an extent, was reflected in the inclusion of well-established artists KAYTRANADA and Phoebe Bridgers in the Best New Artist category at the recent 2021 GRAMMY’s with both artists taking a giant streaming leap with Kyoto (31,067,512)and 10% (41,202,083) respectively with major assistance from the Spotify algorithm.
What can we do to counter this? This is by absolutely no means a ‘boycott Spotify’ article, but I can only suggest and encourage you to sign up to newsletters from as many online vinyl retailers (such as Rough Trade and The Turntable Lab), as well as independent, unincentivized music websites (such as us!) to find your new musical fix.
In any case, that is all for now. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, hit the outro…
Japanese post-rock is one of the sub-genres that can generate many feelings. From excitement to fear, intrigue to confusion, there is no doubt of its power to entice you once you’ve trudged through hours of searching on Spotify. The band, Imiss, are proof that this statement is true on their track ‘Make Your Call’.
The track opens up with a cinematic wall of sound underpinned by intense drums helping create a full-bodied effect. The drums’ synchronous pattern compliments the rather uplifting string section to evoke a large soundscape which is gripping and transient. The band’s utilising of the studio draws on their ability to compose music that draws on the dreamy effects of cinema in particular, the surroundings of their native Japan and its awe-inspiring landscape.
The awe-inspiring scoundscape demonstrated in the music is matched with the lyrics, which conjure the other side to Japanese life, the beautiful romanticism keeping Japan an enigma yet to unravel itself. This is expressed through the lyrics:
Every day, every night / We’ve been drawing / when the sky is filled with stars and rainy days/ Every day, every night/ We’ve been drawing/ ‘cuz we fell in love with our dreams...
These lyrics capture an authentic poetry that resonates with a spiritual quality and the added theme of dreams captures a tranquil state of being while you sink into the shimming soundscape.
This track fills a need for wonder and a lust for life that only atmospheric post-rock can provide. Lets hope Imiss can make post-rock not just big in Japan but around the world.
The year is 2028… Wait, actually; what led to this year, many dozens of months prior, was a period of societal turbulence, related to the policies of those formerly in power. Having taken what was once known as the ‘United Kingdom’ off-piste; their ineptitude in administration, gluttonous mismanagement of the economy and persistent attempts at fostering division gradually turned an apathetic populace against them. Authority withering into disrepair, the ‘Ancien Régime’ stood little chance against the seething mob. Clamouring for new leadership, free from the decadence and limitations of the past, one man heeded the call of the masses.
Straight away, he got to work, and before long rectified the mischief. The formality of title occurs not with he, whom goes only by the given name and only… the name given. A return to the year of relevance; Vincent is a fellow who, as of late, has been in a coma. Awoken, the society once familiar has long since departed. Numbed with aesthesia and greeted by alienation; he has little grasp on where the tide has swept… with value and purpose each an axis disparate. A figure stands at his side… a doctor, an erstwhile friend, the unassuming harbinger…? Blurred perception receding, an ID tag sighting and a room adorned with ornamental oddities: it looks as though ‘Bill’ is about to say something…
Bill: Ahoy there!
Vincent: (No response)
Bill: You look well; I suppose you want an explanation?
Vincent: (Looks around cautiously) I don’t even… What…!? The decorum…? That light shining through…? An aged strobe-light…? or just another delusion? (In reference to a colour-shifting light source coming through the window, adjacent to his bed)
Bill: Oh, that’s just another one of those society-scaled generative art installations…
Bill: I’ll explain, you recall what Brian did for that hospital in Brighton, earlier in the century? Well, now the idyllic luminosity stretches beyond the 4 capacity room, and into the urban cityscape, far grander in scope. Its presence; placating and ever-changing, is here to reassure us Enonians we aren’t blunted ants tarred in the hierarchical pick & mix of before, but relevant entities within a dynamic ecosystem, free from the axe-job of Social Darwinism…!
Bill: Oh…? (Slight look of pity) Haven’t you a clue? E…N…O? You know from Roxy Music.
Vincent: (Squints eyes) I recall his production work on that Coldplay album…
Bill: You bet, a benevolent dictator of sorts… bit of an oxymoron I know, but in this case he’s the Crisp McCoy!
Vincent: You’re taking the piss aren’t you?
Bill: Not at all, not at all… You remember all that austerity bollocks; the unemployment, the rising cost of living, the proliferation of poverty, rampant corruption, reactionary-on-deck no.1, reactionary-on-deck no.2…? Well, to simplify things… that all got cast into a giant sinkhole, courtesy of our untitled-in-chief… (Proceeds to smile)
Vincent: (Gasping for air) Ho… how!?
Bill: (laughs) This sachet of wonder! (Proceeds to drop a pack of cards on the bedside table… they read ‘Oblique Strategies’)
Vincent: (Slumps into his bed) Oh boy…
(A mechanical clock, peculiar in design yet musical in chime… chimes, causing momentary silence)
Bill: (While offering a cup of tea, mug tastefully… bespoke) But the inception Vincent, but the inception…
Vincent: (Collects his thoughts, after observing the clock) What about education? I suppose we’re gonna be whizzing around on egg chairs equipped with florescent wheels, while the professor does some eyeliner?
Bill: (Smirks) Good question my friend, allow me to explain; Brian’s experiences at Winchester College of Art in the late 1960’s had a lasting impact on his worldview. Ironing out a new curriculum from the ground-up with his old tutor, Tom Philips, they have completely broken off from the inadequacies of the past… you know that OFSTED-led tripe? Well, SCENIUS now… SCENIUS tomorrow… and while we’re still on the subject (Bangs fist on the bedside table), SCENIUS for long duration!!! (Regains composure, and continues) They also borrowed from the Finnish system: children are now encouraged to be themselves and focus on what actually interests them. No longer are they cajoled into the generational sausage-maker of that ‘honest vocation’ crap, which seemed only effective at producing unwitting salarymen out of what were once… fledgling minds. (Clenches fist in the air) So far it’s been a gigantic success; I can show you some statistics if you’d li…
Vincent: (Interrupting) Another topic please!
Bill: Sure thing (unclenches fist)… Going back to your eyeliner remark, you recall the discourse about transgender people and the issues they faced from certain elements against their integration into the general fold?
Vincent: (Attentive) Go on…
Bill: Well, owing to Brian’s gender-bending antics in the 70’s, it indirectly afforded him a few qualifications in understanding the plight of the LGBTQ community… plus, his experiences as an ageing man with a lack of hair has…
Vincent: …created a mutual understanding between both gammon and… gammon-not?
Bill: Couldn’t have put it better myself Vince!
Vincent: (Whispers to himself) He really is the Third Uncle…
Bill: (Inquisitive) What’s that?
Vincent: (Slightly perturbed) Nothing, do continue…
Bill: Hmmm… (Scratches chin) Where next might we traverse…?
(15 seconds elapse)
Vincent: (Breaks the impasse) What of foreign policy? Has the international climate changed that much?
Bill: (Nods with satisfaction) Aha! Brian’s stance against human rights abuses, notably with regard to the Israeli Occupied Territories, has prompted him to break off and embargo all who violate the rights of their own citizens. Other countries followed suit and within months the Likud’s grip on power collapsed.
Bill: Odd coincidences aside… an appropriate settlement is now being negotiated, after nearly 80 years, peace is at hand!
Vincent: Whoa… (Hint of suspicion) As great as this all seems… there has to be a cost to all this…? (Thinking cap attached) Surely anyone with that kind of authority would succumb to… what was the word… ah, megalomania…? As certain “case studies” have indicated?
Bill: (Passively acknowledges) Ah the Cult of Personality thing…? Well to be honest, the only aspects I can think of are… the construction projects he favours, as you have already seen, (whispers) slightly… Yet, the employment opportunities generated from this construction boom and the benefits subsequent… have played a big part in the economy’s defibrillation! In turn, the supply & demand situation buoyed, stabilising the prices of commercial goods and public necessities… which, unbeknownst to you, plagued the preceding ‘system’… To take an objective viewpoint (doesn’t take an objective viewpoint), even if society continues to be moulded in Brian’s image, who cares? Taste will always triumph over practicality! (Looks up at the ceiling momentarily)
Vincent: (Visibly perplexed) …Over practicality? I don’t recall any proponents of that idea? Maybe IT IS time I see those statistics…?
Bill: (Looks back at his friend) Yeah… gains and losses or something (waves left hand dismissively)… Anyway, to wrap up this subject, don’t expect to see any gaudy statues or 50ft by 70ft posters portraying Brian as yet another striped-sash strongman, for he is not… Although, I hope you don’t mind hearing more of his ever-expanding discography? Take for instance my earlier train journey; they played the entirety of No Pussyfooting through the speakers, surround sound…!
Vincent: (He flinches… followed by faux-enthusiasm) Oh goody, should I expect to hear ‘After The Heat’ while I’m out shopping for garden ornaments? Or maybe his co-credits on David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’, as I skip about on a narrow-boat I’ve just stolen!?
Bill: (Appears unsure) That’s entirely possible, although predictability has never been a word I would dare associate with a man… such as Brian…
Vincent: (Ponders what next to discuss) Slogan…eering… That Scenius thing you were oddly raving about earlier, that’s taken central fiddle?
Bill: Just a bit… Communities are once again being subsidised… and the aspirants of that god awful Neoliberalism ‘experiment’ are being rightly penalised for their former exploitation. Remember Richard Branson? Well, the bearded prick’s assets have been expropriated; take Necker Island for instance, its only purpose now is to house in-transit refugees fleeing from what was once the United States. Even Brian’s old chum, Bono, whom thought he could get off easy owing to their past working relationship, has been made to pay his fair share in tax… for wise-man Brian makes no distinction, friend or stranger.
Vincent: America’s no more?
Bill: Balkanised, some parts are better off than others…
Vincent: Huh, well… (Sense of satisfaction) Sayonara, Uncle Sam! (Laughs)
Bill: Seems there wasn’t a particular care for that… Laissez-faire! (Joins in on the laughter)
(Laughter ceases after 30 seconds)
Vincent: So… would it be correct to assume Branson and Bono are toiling in a cobalt mine somewhere…? Perhaps shackled together by-foot, as they pickaxe the earth to help fuel the Eno-Bahn or whatever next is on the construction roster?
Bill: Not quite, reprisals and score-settling of that nature would conflict with the tenants and teachings of Brian…
Vincent: (Tilts head) And what might that be? Thou shan’t slapeth thy head?
(The clock chimes yet again, its Geneva wheels gyrating as ever)
Bill: (Turns to look out of the window) Musings like altruism and egalitarianism were just the ‘speak of the turtleneck folk’ some decades prior, but now, via the Big Here Initiative, they are inveterate to our society, by order of the Eno! (Looks around nervously, before resuming his previous position)
Vincent: (Detached) Swell… I presume Stoicism has been deemed obsolete, owing to the damaging effects it can have on one’s mental health?
Bill: (Turns away from the window, visibly humoured) Been consulting EBSCO while on the drip, eh Vince?
Vincent: (Inverted smile) But a measured hypothesis, Bill…
Bill: (Visibly impressed) You know, scholarly types are in much demand nowadays… getting your foot in the cupboard would be an easy triumph, I’m sure…
Vincent: That’s a new one (Snorts)… Actually, what about law and order? How could that old hippie understand such a concept?
Bill: Well, rather than brutalising his subjects with batons and tear gas, Brian has made rehabilitation and fairness the norm. His vocal criticism of the former United States’ prison system, ya know; lobbyists bending legislation, inmates as penal labour and… the general shoddiness of the whole thing have compelled him away from coat-tailing the stars-and-stripes, as was the norm prior…
Vincent: (Briefly does jazz hands) Most riveting… err, how’s the field of invention looking… any quantum leaps there, during my comatose absence? Permanent hair restoration…? Speech recognition software for pigeons?
Bill: Ah, the technological angle… Well, Eno’s… (Pauses, then clears throat) Forgive me, Brian’s retrospection on the Manhattan Project, you know, what birthed nuclear weapons… Was summed up by him as brilliant in what could be achieved by humanity’s collective efforts, albeit for entirely the wrong reason! Being the egghead he is, Brian has put the entire scientific potential of our nation to work, away from the capital-drainage of that research & development shit, which he always much despised. Investments are now being directed towards things relevant to progress… cures for diseases still ravishing the modern world for instance. How do you think you recovered?
Vincent: Huh? (Walks over to the mirror and examines where his wounds once were… not a trace)
Bill: (Winks with a thumbs up)
Vincent: (Pleasantly surprised) I’d buy that for a Brian…
Bill: (Agreeable) You certainly would… (Briefly glances at the clock) Right then, you’ve probably heard enough talk of our bald-headed saviour, go and get yourself ready and we’ll hop on the ENO // RAIL… it makes those old bullet trains look like foil-wrapped rolling pins!
Vincent: (Unsurprised) Nice… how did our Brian manage that?
Bill: (Playfully points at his friend) I believe… (pointing ceases) it had something to do with… an oversized living room, a few soldering irons… and quite possibly a set or ten of those Hornby Railway carriages, not to scale of course (half smiles).
If someone were to approach me for advice on what the best setup for a band is, a lot of options would come to mind, most of which would probably be probably safe or easy to work with. Though, if I were to say something like a jazz trio, or a four-piece indie band I would undoubtedly feel disingenuous. That is because, and I can say this with a lot of certainty, the objectively best setup for a band is a two-piece noise-rock band. From Hella and Lighting Bolt to Belk and Modern Technology, there’s no lack of data that shows it’s a formula that not only works, but leaves so much room for individuality, experimentation, and attitude to shine through. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that when I encountered the music of Manchester noise-rock siblings SLAP RASH there was an immediate compulsion to engage with their music.
Almost as bold and present as their fully capitalised band-name, the duo’s latest single, “Cimmerian,” knows how to utilise atmosphere to its greatest extent. With its eerie synth-laden intro providing a backdrop for singer and drummer Amelia Lloyd’s authoritative vocals, an immediate sense of tension crawls through you that never fades through the tracks three and a half minute runtime. Even when bassist Huw Lloyd barrels through with his fuzzed-up, stabbing performance alongside the power of his sister’s confidence behind the drums, SLAP RASH keep up the atmosphere they built at the onset of the track.
Not letting ego get in the way of their songwriting though, the band are aware that an effective track needs restraint as much as it needs unleashed flurries of sound. As such, while heavy on those moments of raucous noise-rock, the duo wisely know when to stand back and let the sparseness do the talking, as passages of dynamic lows fill the space between furious choruses. The result is an engrossingly exciting addition to the expansive noise-rock canon.
I’m eager to see where the two-piece go from here. I hope like me you’ll be wanting to keep up with the band so you can find them here, here, and here, and listen to them here!
When was the last time you watched a music video? And I don’t mean rolling your eyes across a few shots on your way down to the murky depths of an instagram doom-scroll or willfully ignoring those background spotify vignettes, I mean properly sitting down and watching one, on your telly and everything. Before expensively produced and choreographed music videos were the domain of internet breaking american megastars alone, every great song needed a great video to go with it. Recently, I was having a drunken reminisce with a friend about the lost days of that golden era. Those sunday afternoons round your mate’s who had sky telly, flicking through the likes of MTV, VH1, and if mother had been particularly pernicious about you not doing your homework that week, a bit of Kerrang and Scuzz. During this nostalgia trip, we came to a startling conclusion. “Hang on a minute”, my friend exclaimed. “Isn’t it weird how like, basically all music videos had boxing in them?”. I searched my feelings and I knew this to be true. We were onto something. I rushed over towards my laptop, eager to connect these dots and reveal a grave secret to the world. This must’ve been what it felt like when they cracked the enigma codes during the war.
Unfortunately, after an extensive fifteen minutes of research we found that actually quite a lot of old music videos had very little to do with boxing, some not at all. This may be from a position of hindsight, but it appears that the music video directors of ten or fifteen years ago were attempting complex satires of western culture’s infatuation with the oversexualisation of young women. Whatever great artistic visions led to the sweeping use of under-dressed female extras in earlier eras, the answers have unfortunately been lost to the annals of history. One thing we did find out for definite, one thing they can never take away from us. That thing is that some music videos definitely are about boxing. Quite a fair few indeed. What are they like you ask? Have no fear. In the words of our late Field Commander Cohen, let me step into the ring for you, as we go on a voyage through some of the most about boxingest videos of all time.
Dappy – No Regrets
This video captures so perfectly the over produced, over Americanized, totally catered to being on MTV aesthetics that I pictured in my head when looking back at the boxing music video canon. The actual plot per se seems to have very little to do with Dappy, looking more like a narrative straight out of grand theft auto – cue angry young men, lowriders, and LA skylines. One boy chooses not the path of street violence, but instead the path of reasonably socially acceptable pay-per-view violence. In this he becomes a man. That man then boxes his way out of the doldrums and presumably into a cultural and socio economic elite that us mere mortals can only dream of. This is a boy-done-good. A hero’s tale. A new bildungsroman for whatever generation we were in 2011. This is the American Dream. Come to think of it, this has everything to do with Dappy. Clearly, this film is an autobiographical metaphor for a young british rapper trying to conquer the big one and forge a lucrative stateside solo career post N-Dubz. As no one has seen or heard from Dappy in years, I can only assume he was successful, and this very minute is on the top of some Californian highrise, gun-fingers proudly aloft.
In terms of lyrical content, the boxing connection is vague, and other than Dappy “painting a picture of a fighter” and having “the heart of a winner”, any ringside colloquialism is pretty much non-existent. Not too get sidetracked but he does also claim, and I quote – “I am Kurt Cobain”, so double points for that. Also name-dropped by Dappy are Chris Brown, Michael Caine, Frank Gallagher off of Shameless, Marty Mcfly, and Richard Branson. Which is weirdly like that dream you once had isn’t it? Don’t say you can’t remember it. I think we shall leave this one with the words of youtube commenter Victoria Carolyne – ‘Respect to Dappy for using his talent to make this masterpiece’. Victoria, I agree.
LL Cool J – Mama Said Knock You Out
Dappy is not the first rapper to seek some equivalence with the world of prize fighting. Particularly in american hip-hop, the relationship to boxing is a long and fruitful one. So where to start? In a moment of doubt we have turned and not for the first time, to LL Cool J. three simple reasons. firstly, It’s a fairly old tune. Secondly, It. bangs. And lastly, there’s rather a lot of boxing credence here. The machismo coloured, adversarial nature of even the first line ( Cool J daring you not to ‘call it a comeback’) befits the ring setting. We remain in the ring with Cool for the whole thing, taking a poetic pummeling as he spills synonyms and sibilance over the mat like bits of blood and bottom lip. Thankfully, after nearly five minutes someone throws in the towel for you. You would think so too, in this time LL does inform you he’s gonna knock you out a cool (HA!) 32 times.
However this isn’t just one man boasting about his prowess for violence. Obviously Cool J’s thirst for blood speaks for itself. Don’t know if you remember but this is the fella that in Deep Blue Sea (1999) kills a genetically engineered super-shark. with just a crucifix. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is the relationship between boxing and hip hop is persistent. Possibly no figure exemplifies this better than the man Cool just so happens to namedrop here himself – a certain Muhammad Ali. The influence that makes him such a resonant figure in this neck of the woods is not just his status as an inspirational civil rights leader and icon for black America. This is the man they called the Louisville Lip after all, a wit, a wordsmith, and a self declared poet in his. Practically inventing the art of trash talk, Ali often outthought and outfought his opponents in a war of words before a bell had rung. Another great example of Ali’s shadow ranging across the music world is on The Fugees track Rumble In The Jungle, also featuring A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes. It is well worth a listen (and it’s boxing heavy video is naturally, well worth a watch).
In some ways the boxing/hip-hop relationship came full circle in the early noughties, with well known boomer rapper Eminem’s feature film 8 Mile. the plot was a standard of the sports film genre, but with… battle-rappers?! From the films soundtrack we got the chart topping single Lose Yourself, a song that has blared over a thousand fight night walkouts, and (pub quiz time) won a chuffing oscar.
Tears For Fears – Woman in Chains
Not a great deal of boxing action in this one to be honest but it is the most eighties song ever. No really, Phil Collins is on the drums. Phil Monkey Choccy Advert Collins. It has to be on here. The video lives up to the song, in being very VERY eighties. The Black and white montage of this archetypal prom king and queen couple drifts seamlessly into the wine bar bass lines, until they become one. Initially, the moody shots of this relationship looks to be a beautiful and subtle message on the fetishization and commodification of the aesthetics of both male and female bodies in different forms. Our queen is a stripper, our king, an athlete. However the relationship takes a darker turn. There is more than a tinge of domestic violence to the scenes, and a heavy dose of some fairly toxic masculinity – boxer pushes girlfriend, cries, runs off and twats a fence. The couple’s reconciliation at the end of the video troubles the viewer, leaving us in morally a more grey place than the song itself, which was hailed as a feminist anthem in it’s day. Again, I’m taking that as a conscious artistic decision on the part of the director. Perhaps this was not the intention but I would still want to give the makers of this video the benefit of the doubt , as if there is a worse medium for social commentary than an eighties power ballad, then it could only be the music video for an eighties power ballad.
Lastly, if you’re thinking this is too loose of a connection to be considered amongst the pantheon of great boxing music videos, then look at our male lead having his Of Mice and Men moment with the pigeon in the final scenes and tell me you don’t immediately think of those strange pictures of Iron Mike Tyson admiring his pet doves.
Maroon 5 – One More Night
No, not just because he’s got a bit of a punchable look about him. This video has more of a narrative structure than the older videos. Although a lot of it is Adam ‘Maroon 1’ Levine stalking around in a white vest looking like the worst casting choice imaginable for a Raging Bull reboot. Maybe I’m thinking too much into this but the cinematography gives a half nod to the Scorsese classic. we couldn’t get quite all the way to the golden age of Hollywood style mythical black and white of the film, but we do get a kind of sad, cigarette packet photo grey. We must give this video credit, it’s very much about boxing. He trains, he runs, he holds a small child. After all that he not only fights but bloody wins a boxing match. I think also his girlfriend leaves him for some reason. Poor adam.
On second thoughts, not poor Adam. He was an arse to Keria Knightley in Begin Again. How could you be in a film with James Corden and still come out as the biggest wazzock. Plus the actual song sounds like that copyright free music that people use for youtube tutorials on how to change bike tyres. I’m glad your boxing wife left you.
Alien Ant Farm – Smooth Criminal
I believe it was Albert Camus who once said that a true masterpiece does not reveal everything. Let’s start by looking at what this masterpiece does reveal to us. That’s right, a big, grey, bouncy, boxing ring. I know it may look like perhaps the bass player has a penchant for world wrestling entertainment, but that is a boxing ring and there’s nothing you can say to convince me otherwise. Other than that this video leaves us only questions. What’s with the japanese kids? How did they do that lean? I get the body popping kid with a mask on is an MJ nose job reference but bloody hell! Watching in 2021 it’s a bit nostradamus isn’t it? And just what on this good earth is going on with the singer’s hair? If you want answers to any of these questions then you have come to the wrong place. All I can tell you is that it’s got a boxing ring in it, and this makes it the best boxing music video of all time. This is the crest of the great wave. Nothing can beat this. Every single one of you will get to the bit where the tune stops and he vaults onto that car thinking the exact same thing – they don’t make ‘em like this anymore do they. Another big question, why don’t they make them like this anymore? And those big questions my friends, aren’t they what Nu-Metal was all about? This one at least, we know the answer to (that answer is yes).
Like most other girls my age, as a pre-teen I had a particular affection for Simon Cowell golden boys One Direction, and whilst they still hold a special place in my heart and their lyrics seared into my brain forever, times change. But as I twirled around my poster-clad room to ‘Gotta Be You’, downstairs my parents were re-living their early 20’s vicariously through their seemingly endless boxes of CDs. Many an evening would me and my sister spend manically dancing around our living room in our vests and pants to Dad’s own mix of rave anthems (or ‘bong dong’ music, as was penned on the CD). Without realising it, my own future excellent music taste was being moulded by a combination of relentless nostalgia and genuinely good music. I will be forever grateful to my mum and Dad and their persistence to show me that music is more than five floppy haired heartthrobs (apart from Harry Styles, the very essence of good taste). The following is a carefully curated list of 10 albums- in no particular order- I believe have done the most towards shaping me into the woman I am today.
Radiohead- The Bends
What better place to begin discussing albums of my childhood than with an album which I see as the fifth member of the Ogden family. My bleach blonde alcoholic older brother, The Bends. Over the years, Radiohead would become a collective obsession of my entire family, specifically my mum who discovered a Facebook group of likeminded middle-aged alternatives and became something of an obsessive. By no means do I believe this to be Radiohead’s best album. For me, their best work comes in the form of In Rainbows, but I am merely here to reminisce rather than to criticise so before I Anthony Fantano myself and start a riot with the Radiohead purists, I will press on. I can’t remember the first time I heard this album, because it’s always just felt like it was part of me. It was always on in the house, in the car, in the garage, coming from Mum’s iPad, by now it’s part of the Ogden DNA. I remember Mum telling me once that ‘High and Dry’ always reminds her of Dad, specifically the lyrics ‘Flying on your motorcycle, watching all the ground beneath you drop’ simply because of his love of motorbikes. Associations don’t have to be that deep do they.
Gorillaz- Demon Days
Another big one for my family. I didn’t like Gorillaz at first. I thought they were weird and that my dad overplayed them. I didn’t like the idea of an animated band, I wanted eye candy. But as I grew older, found my own way sonically and figured out that, yes that is the nation’s favourite Damon Albarn supplying the vocals for empty eyed cartoon 2D, I grew to really appreciate them. I don’t claim to know the most about Gorillaz, as it was always my dad and my sister who were the fans of the family, but this album is certainly my favourite of their discography, and easily their most iconic. As with Radiohead, this is a band that I genuinely enjoy in my own time, not just because of my family. This album has all the big uns, ‘Feel Good Inc.’, ‘DARE’ and ‘Dirty Harry’? A veritable feast of tunes. So far so good Mum and Dad.
The Prodigy- The Fat of the Land
Enter the chaos of my dad’s musical past. As a youngster, my dad was, for lack of better words, a little shit. Being chased by the police, setting fire to your hands and knocking out your front teeth was all a day in the life for a young Ashleigh Ogden. No better album soundtracks how I envision my Father’s raucous teenage years than this. Admittedly, The Prodigy’s 2009 ‘Invaders Must Die’ was a more frequent fixture in my household but in my opinion, this is infinitely better. This album encapsulates what people associate with The Prodigy; a cacophonous combination of classic punk, 90s rave and Keith Flint, god rest his soul. As with Gorillaz, I really wasn’t keen on The Prodigy, but I’ve always secretly enjoyed ‘Breathe’, ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ and ‘Firestarter’, the latter being a very appropriate song for my dad, a self-professed casual pyromaniac.
Unlike the other albums on this list, it wasn’t so much the music that drew me in, that came later; because ever since I can remember, I’ve developed extremely intense, albeit fleeting, fixations with weirdly specific things. Currently it’s 1996 Brian Molko. Before that it was regency undergarments. But one of the very first was the cover of my parents’ Trainspotting soundtrack CD. When I was alone, I would pull it out from the stack of CDs and literally just look at it. I think what drew me in was the fact that I wasn’t allowed. Trainspotting was an absolute no go for baby me (for the obvious reasons) so naturally, I wanted to know more. It was only when I turned 16 and anticipating the release of Trainspotting 2 that curiosity got the better of me and I finally saw what is now one of my favourite films. Like any teenager who watches Trainspotting, both the film and its soundtrack instantly became the basis on which I formed my personality for the next year (excluding the use of hard drugs).
10cc- How Dare You!
This offering comes from my maternal side- a part of my family with a vibrant musical history, beginning with my Grandad Mike. In the 60s, together with three of his mates, he formed Purple Haze (no prize for guessing inspiration) which would later become Beggars Farm (again, no prizes) and eventually, The Alligators, whom he was still gigging with until about two years ago. His musical gifts to my mum manifest themselves mostly in narrative song writing, more specifically the penning’s of Paul McCartney (‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘She’s Leaving Home’) and tongue-in-cheek art rockers 10cc’s ‘I’m Mandy, Fly Me’; a tall tale about fictional flight stewardess Mandy and a dramatic plane crash where she becomes the saviour of the song’s subject before mysteriously vanishing. Very prog I know. I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of progressive rock, I don’t even think Mum is either, but we both have this association with 10cc that cross boundaries of genre.
Massive Attack- Protection
When I was growing up, there were always four or five albums that I remember always being played on long car journeys; Justified by Justin Timberlake, Supernature by Goldfrapp, Plastic Beach by Gorillaz and Massive Attack’s 1994 Protection. Massive Attack is a major player in my musical upbringing. I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the songs on this album, but after years of melodic brainwashing, it’s difficult not to catch me humming along. As you’ll come to see, both my parents have an affinity for trip hop and now I do too. It is one of the more top tier genres, both technically and audibly. With its laid-back approach to dance beats, combined with emotive lyricism and the occasional addition of sweeping strings, trip hop is exactly what I want from music sometimes.
The Killers- Hot Fuss
Compared to my other album choices, this isn’t one that was a frequent member of the ‘heard it all the time’ list. This exclusively appeared at family BBQs, and that’s all I remember it for. Many who hear this album and its singles are immediately transported to a sticky nightclub packed to the rafters with Liam Frey wannabes quaffing Red Stripe by the litre, but not me. I’m reminded of hot summer evenings, ‘Glamourous Indie Rock & Roll’ flowing through open windows and filling our back garden whilst Dad grills up another ‘kiddie burger’ for me and my sister, birds tweeting in the trees and Mum in her summer dress sorting the side dishes in the kitchen. And for the record, I fucking loathe ‘Mr Brightside’.
Various- Ska Is the Limit
If there’s one thing my parents love, it’s a compilation album. There was a hell of a lot of them around the house when I was growing up. We had 1 by The Beatles, The Best of Radiohead and of course, when I was given The Sound of the Smiths a few Christmases ago, that went straight in the car. Say what you want about compilation albums, I don’t mind them. They work well for people like my parents who wanted a range of music before the era of playlists. While I was writing this, I had a listen back to the album and I cannot remember any of the songs that aren’t by either The Specials, The Selecter or Fun Boy Three. Dad clearly had his favourites; I don’t know why he didn’t just buy their album.
Massive Attack- Mezzanine
I’ve saved the final two spots on this list for two very special albums, both in my heart and the hearts of my parents. Massive Attack have already made an appearance on this list, but I wasn’t about to skip past this absolute tour de force of an album. Massive Attack take everything they have learnt from Blue Lines and Protection and fuse it with a dark and sensual energy to create a sound that endures. If Mezzanine were a woman, she’d be the one at the party dressed in black and stood in the corner by herself because everyone else is too intimidated to speak to her. She’d be the spot-lit femme fatale smoking a cigarette in a 40s noir flick. Despite being yet another album played on repeat by my parents, even to this day, none of us are sick of it. Mum and Dad even went to see them live on the 20th anniversary of Mezzanine. I will be eternally jealous.
We find ourselves at number 10 of this eclectic assortment, and what a ride it’s been. Thank you for sticking with me. Wrapping up my list is fellow trip hop pioneers Portishead and their debut album Dummy, Mezzanine’s blonde and equally sexy cousin. Another car journey favourite of my family and easily one of my favourite albums of all time. As with Mezzanine, my parents are still as in love with Dummy as they ever were, because that sound is so timeless. The combined element of nostalgia with futuristic effects, particularly in songs like ‘Strangers’ and ‘Numb’, is what keeps Portishead in the mind of the listener. It combines my parent’s taste in music perfectly. For my dad, it offers succulent basslines and an occasional nod to classic breakbeats, whilst also remaining chilled out enough for driving to work, and for my mum it rewards the eery-sweet vocals of Beth Gibbons, akin to PJ Harvey and frequent Massive Attack collaborator Tracy Thorn. With all these elements rolled into 49 minutes of auditory pleasure, its easy to see how it’s stood the test of time with my family.
All album covers used in this article were sourced from Wikipedia.
I love Nick Cave. No, I mean it. I love Nick Cave. That should be abundantly clear to anyone who knows me by now, the amount that I go on about the baritone beast of Bad Seeds fame. Some of his songs are the most special songs in the world to me. In my teenage years, I’d spend hours curled up on my box-room bed blasting The Boatman’s Call, lamenting with the Goth God that people just, truly, Ain’t No Good. I love his writing – see The Sickbag Song, in which his words weave webs of sheer narrative bliss. I love his ambitious collaborations, such as that of fellow Australian crooner Kyle Minogue Where The Wild Roses Grow, with its John Everett Millais music video aesthetic and strange synergy between the two most unique of talents. I think I love most of all his personality, or rather what I gather from it from his appearances in interviews and films like the 2007 epic western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and, of course, Oscar-robbed oligarch of animated excellence Shrek 2. Let’s excuse his recent comments in regards to a certain (rightly) shunned Smiths vocalist, and chalk it down to Cave’s age, just this once please. Because Cave oozes a distinct humility that is especially likeable due to the sheer amount of his creative successes. I have to admit, if that were me, I would be absolutely lauding my talent over everybody. No way I would be hiding my light under bushel. That light would be shining like a lighthouse, baby. So that’s why it is particularly disappointing for me to have to impart some honesty in regards to Mr Cave here, when I tell you that his recent February release, Carnage in collaboration with Warren Ellis, let me down somewhat. I did like it. But I didn’t love it, and I so wanted to. While I don’t deny the genius and usual comedic flair that Cave injects into all of his projects that this one is no exception to, I do question whether this is really just an album of Ghosteen rejects. Most of all, I question what direction is best next for Nick Cave.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I definitely still doted on this record. His mesmerising quality has not been totally lost, worry not. Some tracks did remind me of the theatrical twists and turns of 2008’s Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, which I liked greatly. White Elephant for me was, definitely, the standout track from the record. Firstly, for it’s lyrics –“I am a Botticelli Venus with a penis riding an enormous scalloped fan” isn’t really the sort of lyric that you forget in any hurry. The threat of “shooting me in the f*ckin’ face if [I] come around here” is quite the deterrent from Cave and his Elephant-tear ammo-filled gun, let me tell you. Secondly, in terms of its technical composition, which is where Ellis’ collaboration choice truly shines – he’s a jack of all trades. He is a master of all instruments, and many wind instruments that I’m not actually sure of are at play in this record. It’s very typically Grinderman, which from Ellis, we can of course expect. But most strikingly his skills sparkle when you consider how many of the tracks sound akin to film scores, with the use of strings. Ellis is known for his scores to Mustang and War Machine. With softer songs like Lavender Fields and the achingly beautiful Albuquerque, which made me want to wail for all of the things that I haven’t yet shed tears over, the piano and strings truly evoke the tragic ending of a black-and-white film that I’ve just made up in my head during the 3:57 minutes I was lucky to be listening to it. Carnage is chaotic, but gorgeously so. It’s surreal. It’s senseless. It’s…like everything Cave does. Special, like I mentioned earlier. Cave feels like your closest friend in the world when you listen to him sing. Not many artists can do that, really. Not many artists are anywhere near in the same league as Nick Cave, really.
But this does not mean that it remains completely unscathed by criticism. Despite there only being eight tracks present on the EP, some certainly felt a bit…rushed. Hand of God, supposedly the lead from the record, is probably my least favourite of it. I found it a bit dreary, and in truth, almost as though Cave was parodying himself. It was far too familiar to so much of his previous back catalogue. It also lacked originality in some senses in that it all seemed very Eno-esque. I was reminded even of some of Eno’s ambient works as I listened to this record, the reflective tracks heavy in piano and less reliant on vocals driving the songs forward. It just didn’t really have that spark that Ghosteen certainly possessed.
I just worry really, that as the years go on, all Cave seems to offer us is content – and perhaps an oversaturation of it at that. Cave consistently churns out record after record. On the one hand, this is testament to his incredible creativity that he seemingly struggles to rein in at times. It seems to burst from the very seams of his brains and shoot right out of every one of his senses. On the other hand, the argument of quality over content could certainly be applied here, as a few of his records I have listened to have felt like excuses to ram records out rather than to actually carefully craft meaningful music. Across his work with The Bad Seeds, The Birthday Party, his solo stuff and his soundtracks, Cave has released 30+ records. More than half, particularly in more recent years, have been a bit ‘meh’. It pains me to say it, as I idolise the man, but I can’t help but wish that he would perhaps go in a different direction with his next work. It’s all well and good collaborating for a fresh sound, but that can’t be achieved when it’s being done with somebody you have worked with for literal years – a former bandmate like Ellis. I want Cave to flex his creative prowess and think a bit more out of the box. He is the best when he is at his most random. If you hear of a collaboration or project that Cave is planning and think, hmm, that’ll be a bit weird, won’t it? then you can guarantee that that will be his next magnum opus.
So. In short? The record was chaotic. It meant a lot, while all at once not really meaning anything. It was a mish-mash of ideas and genres, some of which paid off, whilst others needed a bit more close careful attention and preening to. Here’s hoping that Cave’s next album gives us something a little bit different. Maybe a musical makeover is required for our favourite Aussie. Regardless, Cave still remains one of my favourite humans, and the undeniable King of Black Suit Jackets. I just wish he’d do another Kylie collab. Can’t Get Red Right Hand Out Of My Head, anyone?
Listen to Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’ new album, Carnage, below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!