Get Down With Dave Adair
Get Down With Dave Adair
It’s coming up, it’s coming up, it’s coming up – it’s Adair!
Greetings, trakMARXists, tMx token Northern correspondent Dave Adair here - & what a veritable cornucopia of populist pomp & circumstance I have for you this issue.
I’ve been listening to a lot of records, going to a lot of gigs - & sometimes even interviewing people. It’s been a lot of fun (even if it is a bit of a bugger typing it all up when I get back to the Adair Cave) – so, come with me now where eagles Adair - & remember - He Who Adairs Wins!
Here I am in the ‘live arena’:
We Are Scientists/¡Forward, Russia! - Manchester Academy 1
A jarring set of piercing post rock (with a ranging disco stab) is being fired out by tension trashing Leeds outfit, ¡Forward,Russia!. It’s immediately noticeable that Tom Woodhead’s screeching vocals pick up intensity big-time in a ‘live arena’. Tom’s equally animated stage presence makes for an intriguing visual spectacle, too. The supportive backing shouts of Whiskas (guitar) and his percussion-shattering sister (Katie) also add focus to proceedings. They save their most intense and high-pitched offering - ’Fifteen (Part 2)’ - for last - and it makes for a raucous finale. In foot-balling terms, ¡Forward, Russia! are currently popular music’s equivalent to a cup side: they save their focus and compactness for the live setting. If - or when (?) - they manage to capture this intensity on record, then they will surely be the subject of even more ‘will they/won’t they?’ banter than they are at the moment.
Despite the Arctic Monkeys overkill, the NME Tour belonged to the American power trio We Are Scientists. The way they built momentum with every set on that tour - from the bounding opener of ‘This Scene Is Dead’ - via the buoyant ‘With Love & Squalor’ - ensured that punters would return. Tonight the same venue is sold-out - and the same opening tune ensures instant crowd approval.
Much has been made of the throaty vocal cries of Keith Murphy – but it’s his flamboyant guitar riffs, coupled with Chris Murphy’s frolicking bass lines, that weld together beautifully for set highlights, ‘It’s A Hit’ and ‘History Repeats’. The affable Scientist’s witty stage banter is also in full flow tonight – & the whole shebang is ably powered by the bold and booming drum beats of Michael Trapper.
A shimmering cover of the Ronnettes tearjerker, ‘Be My Baby’, begins a cosy little sing-a-long sequence & the pace drops accordingly to allow a more romantic and loving mood. The lid is eventually put on an hour long, encore free set by way of the solidly rhythmic “The Great Escape”.
Mutual appreciation betwixt group and crowd is exchanged with enthusiasm, along with the promise that: “we’ll be back real soon”. You can be sure that the Manchester crowd will hold them to that.
Check me hanging out with The Motorettes:
Go For A Joyride This Summer - With The Motorettes!
Teetering Tynemouth three piece, The Motorettes, deal a punchy vocal combination of Robin Howe (bass) and Jack Laidlaw (guitars). Their sound is kicked all the way into the end zone by the vibrant percussion of Jed Laidlaw (drums) - & is exemplified by forthcoming 45 “You Gotta Look The Part” (Kitchenware Records). The Motorettes have just got back from unleashing their sound on unsuspecting audiences as special guests on Kubichek’s recent jaunt around the toilets of the UK. Such was the success of this foray that the two groups are teaming up to release a split single (5th July 2006): The Motorettes providing the snazzy-retro-sliding ”Relax: It’s The 80’s” - as well as a version of Kubichek’s “We Are Solution”. Fasten your seatbelts as Jack Laidlaw spins us around The Motorettes’ intriguing territory:
Adair - Describe the Tynemouth music scene that you grew as an outfit from. Is there a distinctive vibe there and do you feel that you fit in with it? How important is it, nowadays for a band to have a vibrant local scene around them, or do you think it is better to travel and spread your sound as early as possible?
The Motorettes - The Tynemouth music scene pretty much consists of people playing guitars on the beach in the summer next to a fire - and some other drunks - in the winter we do it in Scott Mitchell’s front room. There's nowhere to do gigs, although we did do one once at the Tynemouth Parish Hall - it was a birthday party for a friend of ours. Robin was very nearly arrested for trying to break up a fight! Tynemouth definitely has its own vibe, you'd have to come here, really - I couldn’t describe it. It’s sort of like a cross between Royston Vasey and Disney Land. I'm sure its nice for bands to have a scene around them - but we've never really felt part of one. Don't get me wrong, we have friends in bands, but we've always been a band from Tynemouth, and there aren't any other bands here. Well, there used to be 'Neil....Your Bedrooms On Fire' - but sadly they are no more - they were way ahead of their time as well - they'd be massive by now if they hadn’t all gone to Uni to study spiders. It's definitely wise to travel - but not until you're sure that you're ready.
Adair - Your standout offering so far is ‘Super Heartbeats’. What was the motivation behind this number - and would you say that it’s representative of your overall sound?
Motorettes – Yeah, I guess it pretty much represents what we do - its very loud and fast and full of melody - which is what we're all about - but it also has the sweetness of the ‘ba ba ba’ vocal part - which took a while to master because I always get the off beats! As far as motivation goes, I reckon I would say that it’s about motivation itself, about people motivating each other to better themselves, that’s what I take from it anyway, Robin wrote the lyrics.
Adair - Would you describe yourselves as a power trio? Are you surprised that there seems to be a bit of stigma attached to that term, after all it didn’t do The Jam any harm, did it?
Motorettes - Well, there are three of us, and I consider us to be quite powerful - so yeah, I would describe us as that. But it doesn’t really mean anything does it? People often say to us that we make too much noise for a three-piece and that they don’t understand how. Its pretty simple, really, you just have to turn everything up to 11 - and not just amps - you have to turn the way you play up to 11 as well to really get into peoples faces. I don’t just mean jumping around like a loon, although we have been known to do that, but you have to walk on there knowing that you're gonna blow these people away every single night - or you may as well go home. I bet The Jam knew that as well, that’s probably why they were successful. Or, wait, it could've been the suits and the hair!?
Adair - What was the last gig you attended as a spectator and does it feel strange watching other artists? Are you constantly making mental notes on their performance?
Motorettes - The last gig I paid to go and see was Bruce Springsteen with the Pete Seeger Sessions Band at Manchester M.E.N. It doesn't feel strange to me to watch other people play, because I’m a huge fan of music - all kinds. That’s what I do - I'm just lucky enough to be able to have my passion as my work. Normally, I would say that I'm not making mental notes on anyone’s performance, but with Bruce - it's different. I've been watching that guy since I could walk and he's definitely been an influence on me. I know for definite because we played in Ipswich recently, and we walked off and someone said to me 'do you like Bruce Springsteen?' - to which I replied, yes - and they said, “yeah, I could tell by looking at you on stage” - which I thought was quite a nice thing to say. But, having said all that, we had just done a cover of “I'm On Fire”!! So maybe they were just having a laugh with me!
Adair - Describe the song writing process for The Motorettes. Is it a democratic one - or does one person bring some riffs to the table and someone else pen the lyrics? Or does it spring from a jamming session?
Motorettes - The closest we ever get to jamming is when someone makes a mistake while we're playing a song, we've just never been a jamming kind of band, it’s not in our nature to fanny about for ages without any direction because there's always football to be watched or the pub to get to. Saying that, when we're putting the songs together we work on a rule that the first thing you play is the best, and try to stick to it as best you can. That rule has only been broken a handful of times in 5 years. Robin writes the important parts of the songs, so he'll come in with a chord sequence and we'll play with it for a bit, then he'll go away and start to get some melodies and lyrics together, once he's done that we decide between the three of us how the structure is gonna be, if there's any silly stops and starts we'll get them right. Then we just play the separate parts over and over until we have them nailed on, we'll usually have played a song for at least a month before it finds its way onto a set list. Although the foundation of the songs gets written in the rehearsal room, we always flesh them out in the studio, so we'll just write it as we make it - but Robin will have the vocal melody and basic chords done first - then all three of us throw the kitchen sink at it. Jed is lethal with a glockenspiel.
Adair - If you could choose any artist or band to cover one of your songs, who would it be and what song would it be?
Motorettes - I'd like to hear Slayer have a bash at “Go! Go! Gadget Girl”.
Adair - How do you resolve any creative differences that might arise?
Motorettes - Simple, there are three of us - so it's easy to be a democracy - everyone gets a say. There are rarely any creative differences, though - we argue more about who carries the gear and who owes who a fiver.
Adair - You have just completed a UK tour - including some dates with the highly rated Kubichek. Do you agree that you are more powerful live - and do you feel that your sound takes on an extra edge in a live setting? What was your highlight of the recent tour?
Motorettes - Hmmm, that's a hard one, because I think we sound mighty powerful on record - if you have it loud enough, which you should - I just don't understand people who listen to music quietly - unless you have to. But I guess that people might say we are more powerful live. I can only speak from seeing other bands and artists that I like, because, truth be known, I haven't got a fucking clue what we're like live, I've never seen us play! So yeah, I know for sure that when I saw Nine Inch Nails live, that was one of the most powerful things I've ever seen, and they're ridiculously powerful on record. But maybe Nine Inch Nails are a one off, because that's life changing stuff. So who knows, like I say, you'd have to ask a fan, if they're happy, I’m happy. The highlight of the tour was the Newcastle gig, we've never had a reception like that before anywhere as far as I can remember, and of course we finished it off with our own Geordie live aid, all three bands on stage, and that was fun.
Adair - Finally, who is your all-time favourite Tynemouth resident (famous or not) and why?
Motorettes - Easy, Super Gran - because she could do handstands on a skateboard! I can't even do that. My mate can though - that's him dressed as Super Gran in the video. And that's a fact.
Meanwhile, back in my garage with my bullshit detector (& my record player):
The Drips - “16, 16, Six” - Wichita Recordings
With song titles like “All Kids Are Dead” etched onto their set-list in fresh blood, The Drips are fast garnering a burgeoning reputation for not beating around bushes. “16, 16, Six” comes on like a more laid back Clash. The constantly buzzing guitars lift the mood up - & then take the mood down - rendering critics who question The Drips utility redundant.
Killing Joke – “Hosannahs From The Basements Of Hell” (Cooking Vinyl)
The group who paved the way for the grunge explosion that lead to Nirvana’s immortality prove that not only has their sound outlived most of the big guns from that era – but that they have stretched out their sound way beyond the pale to encompass a thrilling post-rock jungle edge to boot. Racing guitars and Jaz Coleman’s growled vocals provide a throaty kick on opener ‘This Tribal Antidote’.
Ordinarily, for longer pieces, your average group will take time to slowly nurture their rhythms and gently coax the audience into the feel of any given tune. Not with Killing Joke - their longer songs (of which there are many) invariably start with a shudder – go into spasm – and then relentlessly hammer you with gruff tension and dark lyrical images until you eventually submit - or your ears begin to bleed (whichever comes first). Not your average group, Killing Joke.
The industrial ‘Majestic’, punctuated with sinister howls and the full on roasting bass lines of Paul Raven, cooks up a fiery rant. Some of the lyrics are disturbing – others simply bonkers:
“Fight by day, fuck by night, prepare to die at any time, enemy smash me down. Still I come back for more each round, Salvation’s not just a pill to escape but your skill fight on, fight on until death intervenes.”
The atmospheric apocalypse jam of “Judas Coat” proves that Alice In Chains weren’t the only ones who could make you feel that the world is closing in you. Killing Joke formed in London around 26 years ago but they have never been closer to perfectly replicating the sheer gusto and enigmatic bite they displayed when first bursting into the music industry’s gaze.
The Noisettes – “Scratch Your Name” (Mercury Records)
This number features a sort of prowling sound that makes you feel as though you are being following down a dark alley - but there is something mystifying and comforting about it too! Sizzling starlet, Shingai, uses her best Katie Jane Garside vocal to weave in and out of the accompanying ambient throb.
Shingai & band mate Dan honed their craft with Sonarfly and the ‘grab life’ ethic of this song is, to some extent, justifying the ‘future of rock’ tag that is currently being hung around their necks.
The Grates – “Gravity Won’t Get You High” (Polydor)
Feisty femme-fuelled rock that twirls around in ever decreasing circles, propelled by punchy guitars and rattling percussion, winking at the sound of Be Your Own Pet, Blondie, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Regina Spektor. The Grates are a swirling curveball in the baseball match of music.
“I Wont Survive” opens proceedings – a mock opera of neo-classical regret. “19-20-20” is a Karen-O style vocal stroll who’s hurried accompaniment causes the track to shudder with frivolity and mischief:
“My baby is soft, yeah, he’s shooting tigers, my baby, he’s such a fucking liar. My baby, boo yeah, looking for a 19-20-20, 19-20-20. My baby, oh yeah, he’s leaving town, My baby doesn’t want me around.”
The versatility in Patience Hodgson’s voice allows ‘the boys in the band’ room for a blues interlude on “Rock Boys” that allows percussionist Alana Skyring to dominate proceedings with her drilling beats. The frolicksome nature of this snappy troupe is encapsulated by the punchy ‘Science Is Golden’, which features a snappy chorus, roving guitars and precision percussion.
The real ‘shake your ass’ number on this full-bodied fourteen-track exploration of a free spirit has to be the folksome frenzy of ‘Inside Outside’. The verbally hypnotic repetition of the title in a rugged Jemina Pearl manner would induce gleeful gyration from a Jimmy Carter statue. Already creating tremors in their home country, The Grates have managed to replicate on record the buoyancy and eccentricity that comes out in their live shows via Patience’s ‘lost in the moment’ antics.
The Morning After Girls – “Run For Our Lives” (Best Before Records)
A Jet styled intro lights the way for this sliding Sydney quintet who create a high pitched 70s platform for the hazy/raw vocals of Martin B. Sleeman and Aimee Nash. Taken from their forthcoming “Shadows Evolve” album (released 26/06/06), the flitting A-side captures the instrumental cohesion of this lock-tight outfit who create mystery and power with their three pronged guitar onslaught.
The strolling, atmospheric side to The Morning After Girls is woken for the Sonic Youth grappling B-side, “Strait Thru You”, that is imbued with a psychedelic element that adds an extra strand to their already impressive bow.
A stirring acoustic version of ‘Run For Our Lives’ highlights the neat vocal embrace between Sleeman and Nash to show the number in a completely different, almost romantic light. A sliding harmonica element creates a dusty bed for the thoughtfulness to laze upon. This is a well-chosen and broad prelude to a debut album that promises to combine rhythm, release and broadness.
That’s all for this issue, trakMARXists. I’ll be out and about in the record shops, venues & dressing rooms of the frozen North in the next couple of months listening, watching & taking notes:
“I was standing at the bar – did you see me? I had yellow hair – did you see me?” The Mekons – “Where Were You?”
Dave Adair – tMx 25 – 06/06
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