Wild Beasts Tonight’s review is brought to you by the words ‘texture’ and ‘soundscape’. Everytime I mention one of these words you’re heartily encouraged to down a shot of Absinthe. TEXTURE! SOUNDSCAPE! TEXTURETEXTURETEXTURETEXTURE! There, now isn’t that better, blurrier I bet, but better.


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Magazine One of the original, and hugely influential, post-punk bands Magazine split up in 1981 after an all too brief four year career only to return nearly three decades later. Now that’s a decent break up eh? That’s how you do it Stone Roses…15 years…pah…that’s barely an intermission. During their initial incarnation Magazine cemented their place in post-punk history with the truly seminal single Shot By Both Sides and a handful of critically acclaimed left field albums before vocalist and ex Buzzcock Howard Devoto buggered off to pursue a solo career then form another band, Luxuria in 1988. There, that’s got to be worth a few points at a pop pub quiz one day eh? Here endeth the lesson.


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Benjamin Francis Leftwich Benjamin Francis Leftwich’s simple songs, to gentle refrains that sooth the heart and caress the soul within a spirit of gregarious generosity, are irresistible. Inclusive, subtly persuasive, he's the redemptive broken-heart mending surgeon of love’s resuscitation - a troubadour dream-weaving balladeer.


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Miles Kane Still only 25 years old Miles Kane's now in his forth incarnation having started out in The Little Flames before becoming a Rascal then a Last Shadow Puppet (with his best bud Alex Turner). Now he's trying the old solo approach, albeit with an impressive band behind him (including Eugene McGuiness...himself a fine solo talent), a couple of Cherry Ghost and...er...the son of Beady Eye's drummer.


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Slam Dunk Festival Now in its 11th year, the Slam Dunk Festival continues to grow, attracting bigger and better bands and ever-larger crowds. This year was no exception, with no fewer than 46 bands playing across two main dates and three support events. Birmingham was one of these smaller gigs but still packed an impressive punch, showcasing 16 bands covering ska, punk, rock, and metal.


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Snoop Dogg Thanks to a ‘bit of a queue’ (it took nearly 50 minutes to get in tonight) we managed to miss Maverick Sabre, who'd finished by 8.30. For some reason security was super tight this evening and everyone was patted down and checked for weapons. Weapons? Seriously? Is Snoop still the threat to civilisation that he was painted as being back in the day? Was there actually a threat of the East Coast / West Coast rivalry kicking off again in Digbeth? I think not. Anyway, having eventually got in and secured a prime balcony spot there was plenty of time to chill as Snoop remained in his kennel until just after 10pm. Why’s the balcony such a prime spot at a Snoop gig? Well, warm air rises right? And given the quantity of weed being consumed down below before lazily curling its way skywards it was a little like being in a giant bong up there. Sweet.


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WATAIN Talk about an extreme stylistic clash. My last review job was reviewing the high-energy, youthful post hardcore of Your Demise in front of a packed, clean-cut Academy III. Tonight however couldn’t have been more of a shift, with both Watain and Shining dwelling in the darkness, providing an eye-raising double-headed mix of depressive Scandinavian black metal and disturbing nihilism. Both bands have gleefully courted controversy throughout their respective careers, and welcomed it with both open arms and open veins.


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The Decemberists For the uninitiated The Decemberists are, depending on their mood, a country...pop...folk...baroque band revolving around the genial Mr Colin Meloy. Less of a songwriter, more of a storyteller (it comes as no surprise to learn that he’s a ‘creative writing’ graduate) Colin fits more material into one of his tracks than the average Hollywood blockbuster these days, covering everything from historical events through to Irish mythology. REM and later period XTC are obvious touchstones (and acknowledged influences) and during tonight’s value packed 2 hour set the spirits of both bands were firmly in evidence.


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Beardyman What's the world coming to? I'm in The Library Room at the HMV Institute for a gig put on by BirminghamPromoters.com. Usually, Birmingham Promoters fill their calendar with up and coming bands as well as established artists with just a small dedicated following. Something about this gig isn't making sense. Instead of the usual band associated instruments; drum kit, guitars etc... Tonight there's nothing, not a jot. Unless you count a pair of decks, notebook pro, Kaos Pad and a microphone as instruments. Oh yeah! And a bare foot judge presiding over the scene. If you're a working roadie, I'd imagine a job with Beardyman must be considered an easy gig.


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Trash Talk There's a lot to be said in defence of musical proficiency, tightness and complexity around the hardcore scene nowadays, especially given its frequent dalliances with metal in all of its pristine, precise forms. This show tonight is NOT about celebrating dizzying guitar runs or championing finesse. This is a latter-day throwback to the agitated, bloody-nosed spirit of hardcore as popularised by the marginalised, reactionary likes of Black Flag and SS Decontrol.


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Kele Kicking off with ‘Walk Tall’. The clap along drum beat and Kele’s crystal clear vocal in no way prepares you for the sub-bass onslaught about to be delivered. It’s the type of synthesised electric bass line that makes you feel as though you’ve swallowed a rabbit at some time in your life. And Kele’s here to replace the batteries. ‘On The Lam’ delivers the second wave bass assault of the evening. Mixing up a smattering of House, Ground shaking Dub and Dirty Drum Breaks. As far as euphoric hands in the air music goes the whole set will take some beating. If Bloc Party were the subject of a technological science class, I’d imagine the results to be very similar to the direction Kele’s now taking his band and his sound.


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Tinie Tempah In just under a year Tinie Tempah has become a force to be reckoned with on the UK’s urban scene. He’s released three singles (all top five) with two of them reaching the number one spot. When we approached the venue, we thought the concert had been pushed back to another day, because Tinie Tempah’s fans didn’t look like your stereotypical ‘grime’ scene fans. In-fact they looked a lot like indie fans, but this is the beauty of Tinie Tempah’s music as it has a crossover appeal, that transcends many genres of music.


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Arrested Development Arrested Development’s heyday was way back in the early 90’s, courtesy of their laid back, feel great classic album ‘3 years, 5 months & 2 days in the life of...’ (the time period that, legend has it, it took the band to get signed). I loved it at the time but I lost track of the band not long afterwards (they split in ‘96) and, to be honest, I hadn’t even realised they’d reformed back in 2000. Judging by the relatively small venue they were playing tonight (The Temple at the HMV Institute) I wasn’t the only one...


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HURTS Somewhere deep in the heart of Manchester a team of scientists have been busily working on a top secret project. Not for them a cure for cancer or the recipe for a new biofuel... hell no... their mission was a darn sight more important than that. The rebirth of classy 80’s pop. After pumping in all of the relevant technical data to ZX Spectrum (48k naturally) they came up with HURTS.


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