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Sewer Rats EP Launch: The Matrix, Grimsby 01/08/15 – live review

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Sewer Rats EP Launch

The Matrix, Grimsby

1st August 2015

Sewer Rats have been making quite a name for themselves lately. They’ve signed for Fluffer Records, played some well reviewed shows at the Shacklewell and other cool venues and now comes the release of their new EP Moneymaker. They’ve already had a London launch party but this is the local version at The Matrix in Grimsby, just down the road from their home town of Immingham.

There’s a great undercard including local favourites Ruby And The Knights, the unboxably vitreous See You In Tijuana, Darma and Cult Mentality and by the time Sewer Rats arrive the crowd is well stoked and up for the main event and they’re not dissapointed because Sewer Rats deliver a set of the dirtiest, heaviest, most psyched out stonerism that you’ve heard in a long time, songs that start slow and uncoil themselves with deliberate menace, loaded with feedback, searing guitar riffs, huge drums and basslines that set the room vibrating.

Luke Morris’s vocals are just about the rawest I’ve ever heard. Imagine the love child of Lemmy from Motorhead and a grizzly bear, kept in the dark for years, fed on broken glass and Scotch Bonnets and that particularly horrible cheap kebab meat that smells like sewage. Stub a few cigarettes out on it. Kick it occasionally. Give it a microphone and tell it to sing. It’s pure Ming.

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The show that features considerable levels of raw energy and male torso. Granted it’s warm in The Matrix but there’s clearly something about Sewer Rats that’s best appreciated shirtless. They certainly have an impressive gallery of tatts to show off and their ink photographs rather well, especially since they are a band incapable of staying still for more than thirty seconds at a time. Luke Morris on guitar prowls his end of the stage like he’s looking for a gap in the fence while Iain Morrison spends most of the show getting stuck right in to an extremely boisterous hungry hippos kind of pit, crouched low over his bass, fending off incoming traffic or else climbing up the speaker stack to perch grinning while it threatens to topple down. Dean Robbins on drums is inevitably less peregrine but he looks like he’d be up and bouncing off people and walls given half a chance.

Sometimes words seem a bit small. This one of those times. The Sewer Rats sound like something being born, growing and crawling out of a primeval swamp, developing limbs and vocal chords, and of course acquiring guitars and drum kit along the way. They are very loud, but that doesn’t tell you much and they play with a sweat drenched frenzy that makes them gleam in the stage lights and rapidly infects everyone in the room. I spend most of the set hiding behind the speakers (except when they’re being used as a climbing wall), because I’m a coward and because I can’t afford to replace my cameras but when they finish I feel like I’ve been punched in the face with a music clad fist.

The new EP Moneymaker, whose entry into the world we are here to celebrate is an equally invigorating thing – five tracks of bile and blues, menace and caress, guaranteed to annoy the neighbours, damage the foundations of your house and make your eyeballs bleed. My favourite track is Devil’s Blues which has them paying homage to their heroes in Sabbath and Zeppelin but every cut is worth a listen – this is definitely a band that’s going places fast.

At the end of the show the band are mobbed by the assembled company and it’s pretty clear that they are now officially world famous in Grimsby. Just the rest of the planet to go then and that shouldn’t be too hard.

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When I roll in at home with the remains of my chips and half a can of Vimto I’m just in time to catch the last half of The Meat Loaf Story on some channel I’ve never heard of before. Talk about serendipity. I switch on just as our hero, suffering one of his periodic outbreaks of bankruptcy, is laid across his bed with his two children, Vegetable Roll and Nut Cutlet.

“The trouble is,” he says to the adorable golden haired moppet angels, “nobody likes Daddy’s music.”

“I do” replies Nut Cutlet. “It’s loud.”

So there you go. I’m not going to take notes at gigs anymore. I’m just going to submit the first thing I hear on telly when I get home. Sorted.

Sewer Rats. I like them. You will too. They’re loud.

~

Sewer Rats: Facebook | Bandcamp

Sewer Rats: Waves Bar, Cleethorpes – live review

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Sewer Rats

Waves Bar, Cleethorpes

April 4th 2014

Sewer Rats make rock music that’s full of huge riffs that emerge from apromordial soup of drums and bass. idp catches them for a chat in sunny Meggies.

Sewer Rats are Dean Robbins (drums), Iain Morrison (bass) and Luke Morris (guitar and vocals). They hail from the mighty city of Immingham, aka Ming or even Ming Ming to its friends, and they’ve all been playing in bands since they were in shortish trousers and now along with fellow Mingsters the Ming City Rockers and Grimsby bands like Electric Priestess, Zak Rashid, Ruby And The Knights and plenty of others they’re sitting pretty in the upper reaches of a thriving local music scene which seems to produce quality new bands at every turn.

According to their social media Sewer Rats are a stoner rock band, but that’s a label that has been put on them and to which they have acquiesced rather than one they chose for themselves. If they are stoner then they’re a new and peculiarly British offshoot, taking their lead not from the leaders of the US genre like Sleep and Kyuss (although the trio do admit to a fondness for the melodic psych of stoners Dead Meadow) but from the bands of the late 70s who provided their inspiration, the likes of Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Blue Oyster Cult.

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The result is a heavy slow rock sound, at times almost industrial, heavy with lethargic distortion, at times showing signs of cross fertilisation with the spirit of punk, full of threat and menace and songs which start slowly and build inexorably into testaments of anger and rebellion.

Is there any political content?

“No. We think it’s best to steer clear of all of that. It’s just the three of us on a stage having fun and taking it seriously at the same time.”

They’ve been gathering a head of steam for some time now. After being invited to the smoke by Love Buzzards with whom they shared a bill in Sheffield they were signed by Fluffer Records of Whitechapel and they’ve become regulars at some of the sceniest venues in the capital, like The Shacklewell, The Finsbury and The Fiddler’s. Fluffer will release their new vinyl ep Moneymaker in the near future. Clearly London likes Sewer Rats.

So are they going to move down to Hoxton and leave the Humber behind them?

“Well hopefully. Or rather it’s possible, anything’s possible. And London is the best place for making music, there’s no doubt about it.”

So it seems to be mutual. A European tour may be on the cards as well.

I go to meet them at Waves in Cleethorpes on the day of the BOG Fest (that’s Best Of Grimsby to you) where they’re on the bill with many of the best bands and solo performers from the local scene at an event organised by Phil Stocks of Avenue 44 Music to raise money for Alopecia UK. By the end of the day the festival has raked in over £800 for the charity so well dones all round are in order.

Sewer Rats take the stage after a storming set from Zak Rashid and they do it so unceremoniously that when they start their first song, We Were Never The Same, many of the audience still think that they’re sound checking. It’s a great number, one of the finest pieces of minimalist rock you’ll ever encounter, kicking off with an ambling bass line which continues for a while, seemingly almost directionless, never giving any indication of the trouble brooding just below the surface. Eventually it is joined by some smudges of fuzzy guitar. At length the drums kick in and from out of the primordial soup of noise a riff emerges, uncoiling itself slowly, sometimes falling back but always finding itself again, heavy, dirty and enthralling. The crowd are all watching now. Nobody is under the impression that this is a sound check any more. We are no longer in Kansas.

And then a single burst or vocals, guttural and at times almost incomprehensible, are laid across the top of the mix. “We were never the same, me and you.” The guitar continues, on a new track now, lighter and more melodic, as if it feels that there is still further work for evolution to perform but with this simple statement the track has served its function and it seems to cave in onto itself as it peters out, dying in the mix, possibly to be found by archaeologists with trowels and brushes millions of years later.

Next up is Black Label Serotonin, one of my favourite songs to a neurotransmitter and an altogether lighter affair, it’s an extended jam with a distinct desert feel to it and an laid back guitar sound that evokes memories of the great bluesmen of the fifties, John Lee Hooker maybe or Lightnin’ Hopkins.

So Far Away ramps the volume back up, a frenzy of drums and guitar, staccato and brutal, it’s one of those songs where the central riff repeats itself so rapidly it fills the room like a huge electric heartbeat. “I tried so hard to love you, but you’re so far away” someone is singing but no one really cares because it’s not about the vocal, it’s about the riff that makes the whole room beat time with it.

I Don’t Know Where You’ve Been is the song where the band reveal their roots in seventies rock most clearly, with its driving riff and guitar this could be a lost track from the days of the bell bottomed mullet, cut up and distorted, hung from a nail in the garage and punched for a while. It’s callous and unsentimental and as it winds through the room you can sense heads starting to bang. A few more minutes of this and there’s gonna be brain matter on the carpet.

There’s no big fanfare for the closer. Luke just mumbles “Last” into the microphone and they’re straight into Skint (No Money) which opens with a fine seventies riff that gets faster and faster until it threatens to spin off and form its own band. Somehow they manage to tame it and turn it into a rapid fire blues about the joys of poverty.

And at the end they just stop dead. So there.

~

Sewer rats are on Facebook and BandCamp

Life: A Listener’s Manual

Life are from Hull.

They’re brash and punky, full of attitude but also possessed of a lyrical and melodic authority and composure that marks them out as being something a bit special.

Since forming a year ago they’ve had radio play from Steve Lamacq, John Kennedy, and Zane Lowe on Radio 1 and playlistings on XFM and Amazing Radio. They’ve also made a splash on the urban festival scene.

I’ve been trying to catch up with them for a while but they’ve been all over the country so when I heard they were planning a single launch at The Adelphi in Hull that sounded too good to miss.

The line up is Mick (guitars), Mez (vocals), Loz (bass) and Rich (drums). Mick and Mez are the mandatory brothers who provide the lyrical core of the band and whose sibling rivalry and petulance will someday rip the project asunder but for now they’re mates and they sit and chat and answer some questions before the show. On my recording I can’t tell them apart so I shall attribute their answers to LIFE.

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Louder Than War: You’ve all been in bands before – most of you were in The Neat.

LIFE: The Neat was Mez, Loz and Rich, but without Mick. The rest of us are older than him and we’ve been in a few bands. He’s only nineteen.

LTW: You’ve been together about a year and it’s been pretty busy. Is it all a bit of a blur or do you feel in control?

LIFE: It’s gone real fast but I think we’re one of those bands that will always want to stay in control. Partly because of who we are. Partly because of coming from Hull. If we were in the East End of London and waltzing about getting pissed all day maybe we’d be less in control but we’re from Hull and we all have full time jobs and we like to stay in charge of things. We all have to balance our day jobs and the band but at the moment the music is our main aim. We’ve had some fantastic gigs – Great Escape, Liverpool Sound City, Live At Leeds, Dot To Dot Festival, Camden Rocks.

LTW: I saw the videos of you at Live At Leeds. How did it feel playing in front of what looks like a full house at the Academy? You don’t look phased by it.

LIFE: There were two thousand three hundred people there! Obviously they weren’t all there for us but you’ve got to go out there and enjoy it. We were really surprised when we saw how full it was. Kodaline were the headliners, we were first band up. We were expecting people to come in in dribs and drabs and we’d have to try to get them to come to the front but we went out and the place was at capacity almost.

LTW: All the press materials I get through from your management begin with the words “Hull punks Life” but you don’t seem to be a band that’s that too bothered about genre.

LIFE: I think if you stick to one genre you’re limiting yourself as to what you can do. We all contribute equally to the band’s sound and we’re all influenced by different things. We get called punks and we do have some of the punk ethos about us. We grew up listening to a lot of music with punk at its heart (because our Dad was in new wave bands and we listened to his record collection but we listened to a lot of other stuff too. Still do.

LTW: Your songs sound like you put some effort into creating them. They’re not just chucked together like some. The new single Take Off With You sounds almost like three songs in one. Did it grow organically from a single idea of are you more deliberate than that when you’re writing new material?

LIFE: It’s actually one of our most spontaneous songs. I had this riff that I had had knocking around for a while and I was playing it and Mez heard it and then we got a lyric on it and it just took off from there. We put a lot of work into it though because it had this vibe that felt like if we tweak this we can build it up nicely into something special. It felt like it had potential. We’re pretty happy with it, especially the big chorus, because a lot of choruses can be a bit wet and we wanted it to have some power and emotion.

LTW: Your single Money sounds quite political. Are you a political band?

LIFE: We do take an interest in politics. I don’t think that lyric is political in the sense that it’s about the government but it is a bit of a tirade against moneyed people, people who don’t have to give a fuck because they’ve got silver spoons in their mouths.

LTW: Your PR mentions an interest in pop culture. Anything from Steinbeck to Breaking Bad it says, which is the high end of low culture. Who’s the culture fan?

LIFE: That would be both of us because we write the lyrics. We both read a lot. At the moment we’re reading a lot of the beat poets and writers who hung out with them. We like Ferlinghetti and Bukowksi and we try and work little references to what we’ve been reading into our songs. We try not to be pretentious though, we just like a bit of wordplay. We’ve got a song called Ginsberger for example. And a line that mentions Kerouac. We try to give it a modern twist.

LTW: Can your drummer really rip an apple in two?

LIFE: He can. Yeah. We don’t know how he does it.

LTW: You’ve been working with Nick Hodgson from the Kaiser Chiefs.

LIFE: Well we go back quite far with him, over five years. He helped us with The Neat and we connect. He’s a Leeds guy and he saw something in us. He likens us to the Kaiser Chiefs when they were raw and touring the clubs. He’s great to work with because he knows his stuff and when he’s excited by what you’re doing that’s a great feeling. People in bands are always excited by what they’re doing but to have someone like Nick excited too, that validates what you’re feeling yourselves.

LTW: Steve Lamacq said last year that the music business is too metropolitan and that bands from the provinces, he specifically mentioned Hull bands, tend to get ignored.

LIFE: I think it’s definitely the case. There’s a lot more going on here than you might think. There are a lot of good bands in Hull. Daze and Babies who are playing tonight to start with, and Mother and The Talks. The drummer from Drowners is from Hull too. If you read the papers and listen to the radio you’d think there were only two cities in Britain – London and Birmingham. And the industry can become lazy. A lot of rich kids in London start up bands in Dalston and that’s where the record companies are. When we go to London we have A&R men come in and we’ve had some interest. But try and get an A&R man to come to Hull for a little gig. Different matter. We always get asked when are you moving to London.

LTW: So you’re Hull through and through.

LIFE: It’s an underdog city. We won’t let it get ignored.

LTW: How do you go about finding the things you need? Management, studios, rehearsal space, venues? Is Hull good for music making?

LIFE: Pretty good. There’s a music place in town called the Warren, they’ve just started Warren Records there, they support a lot of bands and then there’s this place, The Adelphi, and there’s Mark who’s done wonders with the Humber Street Sess. He’s been nominated for a festival award now, and of course Hull being 2017 City of Culture, that’s going to make a difference. It’s bound to bring people in – the fruit market area is buzzing. So long as it’s not just a fad, it’s got to spread out into the rest of the city. You can still walk down Whitefriargate and every shop is boarded up.

LTW: You played the main stage at the Freedom Festival. It was your eighth gig. How did that feel?

LIFE: It was a proud moment – in front of our home crowd. It was our first time on a big stage. We were on early but it was still good. It feels very different on a big stage. Some gigs we’ve played in London have been tiny rooms up three flights of stairs over pubs. The Dot To Dot Festival gig was tiny too. Capacity sixty, there were people on the stage with us.

LTW: You’ve been touring pretty hard lately. You played London on March 19th and Dundee on the 20th. That’s a good stretch. And there was a band there that really hated you? Like a big rivalry?

LIFE: Yeah we made it but we were exhausted. The rivalry thing was because Dundee and Hull were both up for City of Culture and Hull won. It wasn’t a real rivalry, just a bit of fun.

LTW: Did you enjoy touring? Could you get used to it?

LIFE: Yeah we loved it. That was our first experience of back to back gigs and that’s very different to playing spread out gigs. Playing. Sleeping in the van while someone drives. Playing again. It starts to feel like doing a job.

LTW: And what’s next for Life?

LIFE: We’ve got some good festivals coming up. Wicker Man, Kendall Calling, Boardmasters. And then a big tour in October. And we’ll be recording for a potential release in 2015.

LTW: Thanks guys. I’ll let you get on now.

So I let them carry on getting ready for the show and go for a wander. Outside the venue people are beginning to gather and when I get back there’s getting to be a bit of a buzz about the place.

First up are Daze who describe themselves as shoe gaze psychedelic rock and whose fuzz heavy riffs unwind echoing and powerful across the room, full of desert atmospherics and poppy choruses. They’re followed by Babies who by way of contrast give us a set of booming surfer punk proof, if it were needed, that there is a lot of talent in this city and a lot of diversity too.

By the time Life take the stage the place is packed – they’ve clearly got a local following building up. The set opens with In Citrus, a big slab of straight up and down rock, not subtle but brutal and very effective. It’s a great opener, sending out a message that this is a night when few if any prisoners will be taken.

The set list contains all the singles that I have been playing now for weeks and which have become part of my personal soundtrack – the vindictive Money, and Crawling which sounds like a piece of classic Pub Rock. There’s also I Wanna Forget which starts slow and build to a chorus which could come straight out of The Ramones songbook.

The band are as tight as you could wish and Mez, when he’s not reading poetry is an utterly compelling vocalist, part strutting Jagger, part vulnerable Doherty, part confrontational Jesson, a mixture of feral restlessness and sly intensity and old fashioned showmanship. He’s not easy to photograph because one minute he’s deep in the crowd on the floor, the next he’s climbing the drum kit and finding out just how low those beams in the roof at the Adelphi really are, but through it all you get the impression that there’s a lot of skilful image management going on here.

I remember what they said in the interview about being in control. The band have the happy knack of looking spontaneous and transgressive while staying firmly in charge of what they do. It’s a good trick that will carry them far. Don’t doubt that for a moment.

Of course the climax to the show is new single Take Off With You and it’s a blinder. I’m not going to try and put a label on it. You listen to it. It reminds me of a long lost Talking Heads track but you may hear something else completely. Whatever it is, it’s great and Life are a band on the way up, there’s not much doubt of it.

Watch this space.

Even if it’s a space in Hull.

~

Daze are on Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud. Babies are on Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud

Life’s website is here. They are also on Facebook and Twitter

All words by idp. More work by idp can be found in his Louder Than War archive. His photography website is here and his photo blog is here.

Art Brut: New Adelphi, Hull – live review

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Art Brut
The New Adelphi, Hull
29th September 2013

Classic rock band Art Brut barnstorm their visit Hull’s New Adelphi.

My first time at the New Adelphi in Hull. I’d been told it was tiny but it’s much smaller than that, one of those proper little rock and roll venues the are disappearing fast. It’s basically an end terrace with the downstairs rooms knocked into one, bright blue and pink walls, a mural at the back of the stage and an array of lights hanging from the ceiling that look like they were made out of catering jam tins.

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There are concrete beams in the roof, one of which passes directly above the front of the stage, causing lead singer and extreme ironist in chief Eddie Argos to raise a hand to ascertain its location at the start of each song before essaying one of his trademark pogos. As a six foot fourer who has had to wear a stupid looking collar on three occasions as a result of low ceilings I worry for him.

Openers on the night are local guitar and drum duo The Glass Delusion whose set is made up of great, fast, loud one minute songs about literature, the importance of not being buried alive and their disdain for tribute acts. Great fun and I’m nominating them for a special award as the band who sound least like their web material when you hear them live. Following on are La Bete Blooms, usually a five piece, tonight playing as a four, harmonic post punk tinged with some delicate pop sensibility. It’s a great bill put together by Screaming Tarts who bring a lot of good music over to the east coast where god knows we need it.

Having arrived at the gig knowing that I liked Art Brut what takes me by surprise when they arrive on stage is how much I like them. They manage to go from being an amusing band that I rather like and approve of to being one of my favourites in the space of the set. I think this is because I’d mostly though of them up to now as ironists. I hadn’t really appreciated what a good noise they make and what a barnstorming over the top show performance we were in for.

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On CD the band are almost subdued, mostly present to service the lyric but live they are tight, wild, disciplined and raucous, not by turns but all at the same time which is a tough combination to pull off. Proceedings are inevitably dominated by front man Eddie Argos, who delivers his lines with the accompaniment of an impressive repertoire theatrical gurning and gesticulation.

All the favourites are there – including Formed A Band, Emily Kane and My Little Brother but best song of the night is the newest Arizona Bay, a nod in the direction of Bill Hicks which has a great deranged swagger to it. The spoken interludes and commentaries which last only a few seconds on CD become extended monologues lasting several minutes in some cases. During Modern Art he steps down from the stage and out into the crowd, having everyone sit or crouch down while he leans over them and exuberantly narrates the story of his visit to the Van Gogh Museum like a particularly enthusiastic nursery teacher trying to whip some enthusiasm into story time.

The irony is still a big part of the show of course – not just the straightforward stuff either but a special kind of multilayered reflexive irony which has always been present in their work -‘This is my real singing voice, I’m not being ironic’ Argos declaims on Formed A Band.

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During his Modern Art soliloquy he explains to the audience that he has lost the thread of the story and has improvised himself into a corner he doesn’t know how to get out of, only to admit a few moments later when the laugh has been won that in fact he knows exactly where he is headed because the impression of spontaneity is of course an artifice and the same monologue, including this bit, can be found word for word on the CDs available (at remarkably good prices) on the table to our left.

Most importantly the band look like they’re having a great time. Argos points out that they have two new members on board and he takes great delight in confounding them by departing from the set list for what appear to be unrehearsed songs. ‘Play one the drummer knows’ someone shouts from the back during a moment of confusion. Argos enjoys it too and repeats it in case anyone missed out. It’s my favourite heckle at a gig in ages and all the more enjoyable because of the sneaking suspicion that maybe nobody shouted it at all and Argos just made it up and it’s part of the regular show.

~

Art Brut can be found at their website and at their Facebook, Twitter and MySpace pages.

La Bete Blooms are on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

The Glass Delusion are at their website and at their Facebook and BandCamp pages.