30th March 2018 // Whats On // Events // 2018 // Cultural
In an age of seemingly constant wartime, it stands to reason we get a plethora of war films, or rather anti-war films. You’re treading a fine line when trying to deliver a defiantly anti-war message in a time when we live under the constant threat of a glut of deranged world leaders who could plunge us into incomprehensibly horrific conflict if they get a bad $500 haircut or decide one of them ‘looked at me funny.’ Essentially, we live in a time when it could go off at any time, so the anti-war movie could be viewed as a pointless exercise in futility or a thought-provoking snapshot of the horrors of war. But we know War is horrific, so what sets this film apart?
Well, the cast are exemplary, Paul Bettany, Sam Clafin and Asa Butterfield delivering powerful, performances, and I’ve yet to see Stephen Graham be anything short of fantastic. The setting is sparse, mainly set in WW1 trenches and underground shelters, and shows the tension of the British soldiers awaiting a German attack. The tension is palpable in this claustrophobic setting and really enhances the fear of the soldiers and especially how the fear is dealt with. It’s set in Northern France near the end of the war, and there’s been some gruesome slaughter on both sides already, so it’s a case of who’s going to topple the king in this metaphorical chess game. Fresh troops are being drafted in still at this stage, and Butterfield’s character views his first posting on the frontline as an adventure, and due to past histories between him and the captain, drama unfolds, creating more tension, as the older captain despairs at what’s in store for the young wide-eyed recruit. They’re all trapped, tension rising, and the German attack is imminent. It’s heavy on dialogue and succeeds in delivering its strong anti-war message.
If Reef is a bit too futuristic for you, you could do far worse than check out these dudes. They operate in a similar vein to Carnival Club, who I interviewed last month, and it makes me think that there’s a trend to go back, because these dudes are unashamedly retro, it’s good, old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll; celebratory, not your dark side stuff. It brings to mind a fusion of Queens of the Stone Age and Led Zeppelin, and I hope they don’t mind me saying this but a healthy dollop of Guns ‘n’ Roses, the guitar histrionics are totally Slash in places. That’s a huge compliment by the way. Maybe this trend of retro-sounding music is the way forward. I know that’s a total contradiction, but the best new bands I’ve heard recently have made no bones about their love for ‘classic rock.’ I hate that term, but it serves a purpose here as Tax The Heat are obviously heavily indebted to the past, and I can’t think of a term that encapsulates their sound better than that. It’s classy, it’s retro, it’s also fresh-sounding. Maybe looking back is the new looking forward. I like the cut of their jib. Ok, forget I said, ‘classic rock,’ I meant ‘good-time rock’n’roll that recalls the greats of yesteryear whilst also sounding vital in 2018.’ That do you? If you like your music a bit filthy, guitar-heavy and unabashedly in thrall to rock’s back pages, arm yourself with their new album, Change Your Position and head down to Polar Bear to shake your (undoubtedly) long hair to some proper dirty, hard-riffin’ R’n’R.
The four-date Lyricull returns after a year’s break. The last one, in 2016 was fantastic, featuring Jason from Sleaford Mods, Shaun Ryder, Viv Albertine, Pauline Black from the Selecter, all crowned off with a peerless acoustic set from the mercurial Michael Head of Shack fame. It’s a simple, but effective concept: The ever magnetic Russ Litten chairs the event onstage in a comfortable armchair, drinks are quaffed, and lyricists take us through their writing process. As it’s called‘Lyricull,’ the focus is primarily on how the lyrics of their songs arrive to them, but there’s plenty of scope for amusing anecdotes, poignant stories and a lot of social and historical context. The last one was absolutely fascinating, and this one is destined to be much the same.
First up at 6.30 on Friday 12th is Chris Difford, founding member and chief songwriter of perennial favourites Squeeze. They arrived fully-formed in the late 70s in the infinitely more inventive post-punk period after all the fuss of punk had quietened down a bit. A master lyricist, Difford and guitarist Glenn Tillbrook we’re described as ‘heirs to Lennon and McCartney.’ Accolades don’t come higher than that. Responsible for such smashes as Up The Junction, Cool For Cats, Take Me, I’m Yours and Slap and Tickle, Chris will be chatting with Russ about where the inspiration for his unique brand of lyrics comes from, and probably some salacious gossip about Jools Holland.
Suzi Quatro is next up on the same night at around 8.30pm. This should be an interesting one as she was one of the the first bona-fide female rock’n’roll stars; that she played bass guitar is a source of much chatter as it was considered a traditionally male instrument for some unfathomable reason as we sit here in 2018, where female bass players are de rigeur. As well as discussing her lyrics, we can expect revelations on being a strong female role model and rock star in the mostly Male-dominated world of the 1970s rock music. She was obviously influential on such legends as Pixies’ Kim Deal, Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads, so, her role as innovator in lyrics and bass-playing will undoubtedly form the basis for what promises to be a fascinating, enlightening insight into the mind of one of the first female rockers.
On Saturday 14th, we have the legendary Glen Matlock sharing his experiences with Russ in what promises to be an extraordinary examination into the mind of one quarter of one of rock’s most incendiary bands, Sex Pistols. Anyone worth their gravy will know that Matlock co-wrote 10 of the 12 songs on Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, so there will be an opportunity to quiz him on his contribution to the album, their only one, and one of the finest in rock’n’roll’s canon. He was, incidentally, the only actual proficient musician in the band before they formed. It’s a myth that the Pistols couldn’t play, but Matlock was certainly the one that was the real musician in the band.
He left the band before the album was released or recorded, but was instrumental in the composition of the songs, and, because Sid literally couldn’t play, he was secretly hired as a paid session musician for the recording of the album. Paul Cook has intimated that Matlock wrote most of the album’s songs, so this one promises to be filled with ruminations on one of the most important records of all time, as well as his other, extensive body of work as a member of The Rich Kids and Glenn Matlock & the Philistines. Unmissable, this one, bound to be chock-full of amazing anecdotes.
On Sunday 15th, guitarist Kevin Armstrong will be sharing his memories of working with some of music’s most idiosyncratic characters. He’s worked with David Bowie regularly, playing on one of the highlights of Bowie’s 80s phase, Absolute Beginners, as well as being an unofficial fifth member of Tin Machine. He’s also worked extensively with Iggy Pop, Morrissey and Sinead O’Connor. Four of music’s most singular characters, so it’ll be interesting to hear his stories as well as hearing him play a selection of live highlights.
I remember listening to John Peel when I was about 15 when I should have been doing my homework, and clearly remember he was always playing Shonen Knife. Like every night. He was a massive fan of the Japanese all-girl punk trio. You didn’t get the feeling it was the novelty angle either, he talked them up with the same reverence he reserved for The Fall or The Wedding Present. Among their biggest fans was some geezer called Kurt Cobain who you may also have heard of. He fell in love with their Ramones-meets-Beach Boys brand of punk-pop. If you’re still not convinced, there’s something wrong with you, so head over to whatever streaming service you use and check for yourselves, their delicious racket will have you doing cartwheels around your living room. I was surprised to learn they’re still on the go, and, judging by their latest album, Adventure, still going strong. They make such a joyous noise, you can’t help but be enrapt, and thankfully, they’ve lost none of their charm; the Adelphi will be one happy place.
They will be ably supported by local oddballs The Schoolgirls, who are actually two grown men who also make a glorious, fuzzy racket. Jonathan Wainberg is part of Bunkerpop, so you’ll get some measure of them by that fact alone. Their off-kilter, surreal lyrics, set to a sound reminiscent of Beefheart meeting The Fall in a darkened alley will also have you bouncing off the walls in a state of utter confusion. In a good way. They’re the perfect companions to Shonen Knife, Jim Schoolgirl did actually write and release a song a day for an entire year on Twitter a few years ago. That in itself is drawing me right in before I even consider the headliners. You’re definitely in for a fun-filled night at this one, as you’re getting one glorious assault on the senses immediately followed by another. Highly recommended.
Reef were massive for a time in the mid-to-late 90s, and obviously, as such, got labelled as the dreadedBritpop. The same as any guitar band of that time then. But their sound was much denser than most of the happy-clappy cheeky-chappie artists that dominated the ‘scene,’ such as it was. For a start, they sound like The Stones produced by Rick Rubin or George Clinton, so that should set them apart from any preconceptions about their credentials. They actually supported the Stones when they were in their pomp, as well as Weller and Soundgarden. Their sound is also reminiscent of The Black Crowes, which on closer inspection, isn’t all that surprising since they share the same producer, George Drakoulious, who produced their magnum opus, Glow, which spawned the hit singles Place Your Hands, Come Back Brighter, Yer Old and Consideration, the former two of which reached the Top Ten, making them household names in 1997.
Chris Evans used Place Your Hands as the theme tune to the It’s Your Letters segment on his irreverent 90s TFI Friday show which was a mainstay throughout that furtive period for British music. So you heard that song every Friday teatime. Whether it became a blessing or an albatross for the band, I have no idea, but it got them maximum exposure at peak-time every Friday evening, so it can’t have hurt. They carried on until 2003, then turned it in, to pursue other interests, but regrouped in 2010 performing sell-out reunion shows across the country. But now, not satisfied with just reunion tours, they are set to unleash their fifth album, and first since 2000, Revelation on us in May. This will be your chance to catch one of the grooviest bands of the late 90s play their old hits and their new material, which is also sounding pretty buff.
They’ve Come Back Brighter…
For many people my age, Heather Small’s voice soundtracked the 90s, whether it was on their classy albums, or in the house clubs where M People’s songs lent themselves to multiple club remixes. They won countless awards, including several Brits, and the prestigious Mercury Music Award for their second album Elegant Slumming. That album contained probably their biggest hits: Movin’ on Up, One Night in Heaven and Renaissance (yes, after the famous house club), but for me, their debut, Northern Soul is THE classic of theirs. The ‘My Love…’ at the beginning of Sasha’s remix of How Can I Love You More? never fails to send shivers down my spine, and I’m sure, an army of clubbers of a similar age. It’s simply gorgeous and Heather’s distinctive voice became a club staple, as well as achieving commercial success to a consistently soaring level over the course of five highly successful albums. Also from Northern Soul, which I still play a lot, the classics Colour My Life, Someday and Excited still remain absolute essentials of that golden era. As chief DJ at the Haçienda, band leader Mike Pickering knew his way around a tune, and it showed on the band’s output.
Heather went solo after the band went on indefinite hiatus in 1998, and released her first solo record, Proud in 2000 to critical acclaim and commercial success. She has that voice, how’s it not going to be a success? Next came 2006’s Close to a Miracle, which achieved similar status. This tour is a chance to hear that exceptional voice again, and remind yourself how tantalisingly delicious it is. Forget cool, you know you loved M People back in the day, and she will be singing a collection of songs by M People and her own solo material in a 25th Year Celebration tour, after which will follow an Orchestral Greatest Hits collection which sounds irresistible. Get yourselves down for a slice of nostalgic magic.
‘My love…’ Can you imagine?
Thankfully, a load of female artists have broken through in the last few years, and that shouldn’t even be a concern, but unfortunately it is. The predominantly Male-dominated British rock scene needed an injection of female voices who have something to say and Louise Distras is here to rectify this imbalance. I recently talked to Mez from Hull’s rising stars, Life, and we bemoaned the lack of artists voicing political concerns, but Louise is here to set that straight. Straight-talking and direct, she addresses the concerns amongst the current climate of the country. It’s acoustic punk from the streets and she’s articulate in her dissection of what’s wrong with the current regime. Almost every song is a comment on the state of modern Britain, like a snottier Lily Allen, and that’s a high compliment, because I admire Lily immensely, I just think she could be more brutal, and thankfully Louise does brutal honesty extremely well. She’s like a modern-day Clash with an acoustic guitar and a whole truckload of anger. We need more artists like her, and you can catch her commentary on modern life being rubbish at The Polar Bear on 26 th April. If Billy Bragg and Joan Baez were somehow merged, in some madcap scientific experiment, Louise is what would you’d get, with a healthy dose of Joe Strummer in the mix. There’s Kate Tempest, Nadine Shah and Louise Distras who are voicing the concerns of the female population in modern Britain, and it’s arresting stuff. Essential.
I went to see Stewart Lee last week and I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard in about ten years. Involuntary, guttural animal sounds. I’m not usually one to be told when I need to laugh, so the idea of seeing stand-up comedy is usually not on my radar. So, stand-up before this was generally something I tend to avoid, unless it’s carefully chosen on Netflix or something.After seeing Stewart Lee, I’ve since, tentatively, checked out some more on Netflix, Sarah Silverman being the best. I switched Jerry Seinfeld off after ten minutes, which felt wrong because I love Seinfeld. So it’s a fine line I’m treading, but at least it’s softened my stance a little.
Everybody who’s been to The Comedy Lounge, newly-opened on George Street, where I used to indulge in a different kind of fun when it was KU2 in the 90s, has given it rave reviews so it may even tempt me to venture there as they’ve got a full schedule seemingly every evening. Highlights in April include Mick Miller on the 19th, the Triple Headliner on the 1st, Singles Night on the 8th and an array of local and touring comedians throughout the month. They say that in hard times, comedy or spoken word thrives because of its immediacy and relevance to the times, so it may just be the new rock’n’roll, and as such, needs checking out.
Hull’s skyline is a little far off from rivalling Manhattan’s, however, it is becoming increasingly pleasing to the eye. The scale of development in the city has been staggering. A friend of mine who’d never travelled north of Norwich visited me a couple of years ago, and was taken aback about how great Hull is aesthetically. I think he was expecting something out of Shameless, but he was blown away by the beauty of the city. All you need to do is look up when you’re walking past Cash Converters and you’ll see incredible architecture that rivals that of any major city in the north, even Manchester, whose architecture I adore.
Running parallel to the Street Food Nights at Zebedee’s Yard this year, will be the Tower Tours at Hull Minster, formerly Holy Trinity, where you can see for yourselves the landscape of our wonderful city. The Minster itself, is one of the most amazing buildings in the city, so you’ll be missing out on seeing it in all its glory, but you will get the chance to explore the inside, and climb to the top, past the bell-ringing chamber to the viewing platform, where you can see the city in all its glory with exceptional views of the Old Town, the whole city, the docks, the marina, the rivers and beyond the city limits. It really is a breathtaking experience which allows you to see Hull from the metaphorical heavens, and it’s quite a view if you take the time to appreciate it.
One day, A-Ha May write a song called ‘Hull Skyline.’