There aren’t a huge number of Welsh bands that have achieved worldwide superstardom. But if I had to place a bet on any active UK band, I would put my money on the Joy Formidable.
The band is fronted by a woman, the blonde, beautiful, and irrepressible Ritzy Bryan, and normally even I would be dubious of a woman out front of a indie rock group, but there’s something different here. The brilliant rhythm section of Rhydian Dafydd (bass / vocals) and Matt Thomas (drums) bangs on with equal authority to Bryan’s banging guitar and lead vocals. In May 2010, the trio released an EP in America called A Balloon Called Moaning, eight songs showcasing the band’s sound, mixing up pop, punk, grunge, and rock in an engaging way. This week, the Joy Formidable release their debut album in America called The Big Roar, and this is the kind of album that should make you take notice of this band.
At the start of “The Everchanging Changing Spectrum of a Lie,” the first song on the album, you can hear the sound of balloons being blown up and then being popped, no doubt a nod to their previous EP’s title. When Bryan asks emphatically, “can’t you see I’m good?” you can feel the lyric dripping with her emotion. It’s rare that I come across a female vocalist whose singing sentiment I can relate to; with Ritzy Bryan, you know this is a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, for our benefit. The aforementioned banging guitars usher in and fill in around the words of “A Heavy Abacus.” The strangely titled “Llaw = Wall” allows Dafydd to take lead vocal duties; the first half of the song is as gentle as a lullaby before the guitars return to snap you back into the reality that is a Joy Formidable album.
This debut album smartly features some of the strongest songs from A Balloon Called Moaning. “Austere” features a thudding, relentless bass line from Dafydd and Bryan’s evocative lyrics. It’s one thing to just bash the hell out of your instruments, but this trio from North Wales seems to have figured out the formula of appropriately balancing guitars and drums to create a compelling soundscape to pair with dreamy lyrics. “Whirring” has Thomas’s military-style drumming, Bryan’s vocals spat out in a similarly staccato fashion. She repeats, “all these things about me you never can tell / you make me sleep so badly, invisible friend.” My guess is that the song is about how something haunts you, like a secret you can’t tell anyone else and how it’s eating you up because you can’t be honest with yourself, let alone other people. Whether your secret is big or small, I think everyone can relate to this.
Then there are the less successful numbers in this collection of 12 songs. “I Don’t Want to See You Like This”; I find the nearly spoken lyrics dry and not at the same high quality of the backing instrumentation. “Maruyama” is a Japanese-flavored dream pop track that doesn’t go anywhere interesting. The guitars and drums fight with Bryan’s voice for authority in “Buoy” and unfortunately the unconvincing instrumentation wins out.
But I can overlook these because there are some real gems in here. “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade,” also borrowed from A Balloon Called Moaning, closes The Big Roar in fine fashion: the rhythm is hypnotic, and I love the way Bryan’s voice is soft and angelic despite the crashing guitars around her. It’s inspirational, yet also sad; truth be told, it makes me cry every time. I read it as someone saying goodbye to a lover: what comes after you’ve accepted that the relationship is over is the healing of your own heart, the recognition that brighter days ahead, and the cognizance that you can look to that other person not with hate or regret, but with the acknowledgment and remembrance of something wonderful that you once shared with that person. Which is what I think speaks to me most about the Joy Formidable: somehow they’ve managed to write compelling rock songs that allow you, the listener, to headbang to heavy but complex guitar rhythms, yet have strong lyrical, emotional content. So it shouldn’t be surprising that frontwoman Bryan has named the Smiths as an important musical influence. Get this album, you won’t be disappointed.
The Big Roar by the Joy Formidable is available now from Atlantic Records. Catch the band on their huge tour in North America in March and April, including appearances this week at South by Southwest and next month at Coachella. Support for the tour will be from Mona and the Lonely Forest.
01. The Ever Changing Spectrum of a Lie
02. The Magnifying Glass
03. I Don’t Want to See You Like This
05. A Heavy Abacus
10. Llaw = Wall
11. Chapter 2
12. The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade
Mar 17 – Parish / Austin
Mar 17 – Mellow Johnny’s / Austin
Mar 18 – Waterloo Records (in store) / Austin
Mar 18 – Buffalo Billiards / Austin
Mar 19 – Brush Square Park / Austin
Mar 19 – La Zona Rosa / Austin
Mar 22 – Earl / Atlanta
Mar 24 – Coffeehouse @ Duke University / Durham, NC
Mar 25 – Black Cat / Washington, DC
Mar 26 – Valentine’s / Albany
Mar 28 – Met / Providence
Mar 29 – Brighton Music Hall / Allston, MA
Mar 30 – Johnny Brenda’s / Philadelphia
Mar 31 – Terrace Club @ Princeton University / Princeton, NJ
Apr 01 – Abbey / Harrisburg
Apr 02 – Horseshoe Tavern / Toronto
Apr 04 – Basement / Columbus
Apr 05 – Lincoln Hall / Chicago
Apr 06 – 7th Street Entry / Minneapolis
Apr 08 – Larimer Lounge / Denver
Apr 09 – Kilby Court / Salt Lake City
Apr 11 – Mississippi Studios / Portland
Apr 12 – Crocodile / Seattle
Apr 14 – Bottom of the Hill / San Francisco
Apr 16 – Coachella / Indio, CA
Apr 19 – Rhythm Room / Phoenix
Apr 20 – Launchpad / Albuquerque
Apr 22 – Luminary Arts Center / St. Louis
Apr 23 – Riot Room / Kansas City
Apr 26 – Grog Shop / Cleveland
Apr 27 – Smiling Moose / Pittsburgh
Apr 29 – Webster Hall / New York City
The Vaccines, one of the most hotly tipped English bands for success in 2011, have released a new music video for their track, “If You Wanna.” They were described by the Guardian‘s Paul Lester as “like the Drums if they were more influenced by the Jesus and Mary Chain than the Smiths.”
“If You Wanna” will appear on the London band’s debut album, What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?, expected to drop in May on Columbia Records. If you’re interested in getting your hands on some Vaccines tuneage now, their 3-song eponymous EP is available in digital format, with a 10″ vinyl to be released on 7″ on March 15. And if you happen to be at South by Southwest this year, you can catch them there as well.
Throughout White Lies’ 2009 debut album To Lose My Life… was a palpable sadness that resonated with those who enjoy that brand of gothic grandeur. These are the same kind of folks that connect with bands like Echo and the Bunnymen and the Smiths. For so long, I have fought against the following argument friends: “Smiths songs make you want to slit your wrists.” Not so, if you can relate with the bleaker side of life and sympathize with such sentiment. But most people don’t identify with such a non-escapist and sometimes academic view of the world and would prefer a more commercial, fun record (In other words, the kind that buy Maroon 5, Rihanna, and Katy Perry albums and think Lady Gaga is, like, the coolest person ever).
The best parts of the London band’s debut album were the most danceable (“Death,” for example), which probably sounds completely counterintuitive and not what most people envision at all of the gothy, post-punk genre. If you ever get the chance to watch the hordes of regulars at the Mousetrap Britpop night here in Washington, you’ll understand. Morrissey famously once sang in the Smiths song “Unlovable,” “I wear black on the outside / ‘cos black is how I feel on the inside,” and in our black clothes, boots, and eyeliner, this is our dance music.
Ritual, White Lies‘s second album, is comprised of similar building blocks used to make To Lose My Life… The high – and potentially the most crowd-pleasing – points of the album are the less dark, more synthy and more inspiring moments. “Is Love,” the album’s opener, starts in the shadows with Harry McVeigh’s usually unemotional intonations, but the track is lifted up into seemingly happier, almost power pop territory thanks to synths. “The Power and the Glory” is White Lies pop trapped in the ’80s.
“Bigger Than Us,” the first single to be released from the album, is brisk in tempo and has a sweeping chorus that fans of White Lies have come to expect from the band that brought us previous singles “Farewell to the Fairground” and “To Lose My Life.” Best track on the album, hands down. First time I heard it on BBC Radio, I could feel the tears welling up: “and I feel like I’m breaking up, but I wanted to stay / headlights on the hillside, don’t take me this way / I don’t want you to hold me, I want you to pray / this is bigger than us.” Epic. (Actually, thinking more about the lyrics, the song might be a nod to the Smiths‘ “This Charming Man” or “There is a Light That Never Goes Out.”)
The buzzing guitars of “Holy Ghost” are sexy and the tune’s verses sound like a homage to the Police’s “Roxanne.” But the chorus is bizarre: “maybe someday I can move like you / maybe someday I can scream like you / I’m not looking for a holy ghost.” I would love to get inside the brain of the band’s bassist and chief lyricist Charles Cave one day. Also unique is “Peace and Quiet,” with a double-tracked chorus almost approaching gospel (“I feel this great pressure coming down on me / and the tide of my bliss, pulling at your sympathy“), new age synths, and an atmospheric yet chill vibe reminiscent of Broken Bells’ debut last year. Not what I would have expected from White Lies at all.
The punishing rhythm of “Turn the Bells” is hypnotic, but there’s no denying it, it’s dark. “Streetlights” is custom made for the terminally depressed, it’s a desperate cry to the world: “hold tight for heartbreak / buckle up for loneliness / right time to get away / where I’m going, I couldn’t care.” Tough stuff. “Strangers” contains the refrain “there’s nothing stranger than to love someone,” the protagonist anxiously trying to love a woman who is emotionally unavailable and not returning his deepest affections. You might not want to listen to this if you’re going through a rough patch in a relationship.
But these are the inevitable, more sinister, more difficult to swallow moments from Ritual. They represent the most comfortable territory for White Lies: writing songs that express the pain and sorrow of everyday situations. That said, this album is really for people who can see past the initial gray sheen of depression the band uses to paint the surface of their songs; under the surface, there are always profound feelings. There are deep emotions in every track, examined and intellectualized, ready to be taken into the hearts of people who can appreciate those emotions.
Ritual by White Lies will be released in America on January 18 on Geffen Records.
01. Is Love
03. Bigger Than Us
04. Peace and Quiet
06. Holy Ghost
07. Turn the Bells
08. The Power and the Glory
09. Bad Love
10. Come Down
In the second half of my interview with Delphic‘s guitarist, the incredibly thoughtful Matt Cocksedge, we talk more about how album #2 is going to differ from their debut album Acolyte, and Matt tells me his personal philosophy on being a guitarist. We even chat about their Irish mates Two Door Cinema Club in my attempt to persuade them to come back and do a co-headlining tour in the States together next year. (Time will tell if I was successful…)
Matt Cocksedge, Delphic: It’s very strange, being in a band and writing intensely personal stuff and then giving it to the public, and it’s not yours anymore, you know? It’s theirs. It’s there for them to interpret as they like, and it’s there for them to believe in or destroy. And you just kind of have to go with it. And it’s definitely difficult to get used to. Now we know a little more about what it’s about, we know how it goes and we’ve been there, and we know we’ve made a record and we can do it, we’ve got a bit more belief in ourselves and more of an idea of who we are and what we want to do. It’s an exciting time in Camp Delphic! We’re very much looking to the future. It’s very weird saying all this, having coming to tour America for the first time, it’s bizarre. It’s like, “Hi! We’re here supporting a band in America on our first tour, and we’re looking forward to writing our second album!” Considering our album only just came out…bizarre! Mary Chang, PopWreckoning: It’s good! Maybe it’s my personal observation with how much music I get sent, but there’s seems an oversaturation of the new generation of bands coming out of Britain. And there’s no way NME, or Q, or anyone else can keep up with everyone. As a blogger I think you do get jaded because there are so many bands to assess. Do you feel that there’s pressure to come out with a second album quickly, because you worry you might get lost in the shuffle as new bands come up? Maybe you can tell me more about how the recording process is going for Delphic album #2. MC: We’re doing bits and bobs in our studio [back in Manchester] and building up ideas, but we’re really approaching it differently than the first record. The first record was very much built up at our studio at home and was very layered and detailed. By the time we went to the [recording] studio, we knew basically how the songs were going to turn out and exactly what they would sound like and all that, whereas for this one, we kind of want to leave more to chance and be more open before we get to the studio. We want to play together more in the studio and then take it on a more natural band angle, rather than building it up in a studio environment. And yeah, there is definitely that feeling of pressure. You know, there isn’t that luxury that bands used to have of doing the first record, going on tour, maybe taking 18 months, 2 years to write, record, and release the second record. That time’s gone. The public’s attention span is so short, and that’s a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because bands can’t get lazy. But it’s bad, it’s changed the way music is digested, it’s changed the way bands have to approach writing and touring. And their releases. And we’re kind of part of a generation of bands that needs to keep writing and recording and releasing and touring and writing and doing that to establish a fanbase, establish some sort of place within the whole thing. But for us personally, we just want to write the next album because we’ve got ideas and we’re inspired to do it, we want to get it out there. We don’t want to go on a holiday for 6 months, we don’t want to stop doing this and we don’t want to keep touring endlessly. We are very much like, “right, this is the first record, we achieved a certain amount [of success and fame] with that, but there’s so much more we want to do.” We don’t want to play the same songs for another year. And this is our first tour of the U.S., properly, and so where are we? We’re in September, 2010? Most of these songs were written like in 2008. Some of them were written at the end of 2007. PW: So are we looking at a 2012 release then [for album #2]? MC: Hopefully! I think, maybe sooner if we’re able to. PW: I guess it depends on touring commitments and if you’re even home long enough to do anything. MC: We’re excited, we have a lot of ideas and are really keen as soon we get back from America, we’ve got a few more gigs, got four or five gigs, but once that’s done, we’re straight into rehearsals for the second album. Straight into that. And we’re really…that’s the most exciting thing, we don’t want to stop. We’re doing something we really love doing. We’re not going to take it for granted. We want to just work on it and get better. We just can’t wait to, you know…as much fun as this has been in the United States, I don’t want to put that down, I’m just saying that we’re so excited to kind of see what happens next, and see where it takes us, and see where we go with it. We got into a band to write music and make albums, you know? And to be given the chance to do that is the most incredible thing. We feel incredibly lucky to be able to do it, and we want to do it to the best of our ability. And we’ll see how that goes. We’ll wait and see. [smiles] PW: It should be interesting to see how this one turns out, with the different approach. MC: Definitely, definitely! PW: I know I’m definitely looking forward to it! And a lot of people are.
PW: Since I am a writer, I would like to know who in Delphic comes up with the song titles and who writes the lyrics? MC: Emmm…the whole thing is a very collaborative process. Everything – music, lyrics, videos, art, all that stuff is very much the three of us. We won’t let anything through that not all three of us are behind, you know? It’s one of those things where everything we do is Delphic, it’s not “Matt from Delphic,” or James or Rick from Delphic. It’s the band. Well, magicians should never reveal their secrets, should they? [smiles] PW: [laughs] I was just curious because every band has their own little story [on how they come up with lyrics]. The most unusual one I’ve heard is of White Lies, who came in second in the BBC Sound of 2009 poll. Bassist Charles Cave of White Lies writes the lyrics for guitarist Harry McVeigh to sing. Interesting, yet it must be weird singing about someone else’s experiences. Do you find when you’re writing lyrics it becomes an emotional thing? Because it’s been amazing to talk to other Delphic fans and hear what they’ve gotten out of your song lyrics. Different people get different things out of music. Coming from the writer’s perspective, I like to look at lyrics closely and interpret them. Are there any particular songs on the album that are especially personal to you? MC: All of the songs are very personal to me. Definitely. And you know, it’s strange when you write something and then someone else is expressing it. And it’s also interesting, because you get the opportunity to see another interpretation of it almost immediately. I think a lot of what we wrote on the first album, lyrically, was open to interpretation, and purposely so. I mean, yeah, it’s personal, but I think one of the great things about music is that it’s your thing. We’ve written this album, but it’s your album. All of the experiences of listening to it, you’ll never share the same experiences that someone else has when they listen to the album. But that’s amazing, that it can be so personal. I like that people can read into things and take different things from it, and that’s fine. But there’s always going to be what it means to you, and it’s always going to be that personal thing. But certainly now I don’t think we want to impose that on the audience. We have a thing of what it means to us, but the audience…I wouldn’t want to say anyone’s interpretation of our music is wrong or inaccurate. PW: Morrissey has been asked many times to explain, “what does this particular Smiths song mean?” and he has said, I don’t want to say what it means to me, because music means different things to different people. MC: Definitely. I’d hate to destroy anyone’s idea of something. Someone could think one of our songs is a really romantic song, when actually it’s about trying to get away from someone. It’s like Sting… PW: [laughs] Yes yes! MC/PW: [at the same time] “Every Breath You Take”! MC: Some people have that as a wedding song. And it’s a stalker song, you know? [both of us laugh] For that reason, it’s nice for people to have their own interpretation. And not be too clinical about it.
PW: So how long have you been playing guitar? MC: Since I was about…hmmm…shit, I don’t remember. 14 or 15 maybe? PW: Wow. MC: When was OK Computer? Was that 1997 or 1999? [It was released in June 1997.] PW: Not sure, it seems like so long ago now! When did you get into synths? Was that before Delphic? MC: Me and Rick had always been messing around with synths. His dad built a synth once. His dad was always into cool music. [I don't know Rick Boardman's dad personally but from what I have heard about him, he is probably the coolest dad ever.] PW: That is like the coolest thing, ever. MC: He’s very cool, very cool. If you ever get to meet him, you’d like him. PW: All I can say is, all of your families seem so cool. For example, James’s parents. How is it possible they let him move to Manchester and never made him move back home? [James Cook is from Chippenham, England, a town west of London, but moved to Manchester years ago for university.] My parents would have never let me do that. MC: Oh, you should come over for a course. That’s what James did, he came up to Manchester for uni and just stayed here. And they were cool about it. PW: But then he stayed. Forever! There’s never been a reason for him to go back? MC: Manchester, it’s a better place than Chippenham. Not to slag off Chippenham, I have been to Chippenham, but Manchester is better than Chippenham. PW: What’s Chippenham like? MC: It’s a smallish town out in Wiltshire. Lots of countryside, there’s no scene there. Yeah, we were into synths, and he had a Juno 60 that we messed about with, and that was fun. But yeah, I was much more into guitars and effects pedals. I like synths but I’m one of those people who doesn’t really bother with algorithms. And chains and stuff like that. I like to sit down at a synth and fiddle about, and I let my ears guide me to the sound. PW: So are Rick and James more of the technicians on that side of things? MC: Very much, yeah yeah. They’ll talk about sound waves and I understand that stuff, but it doesn’t interest me. I don’t care about the calculations and the technical specifications of sound. I just care about the sound hitting me and expressing something. And that’s the way I operate. And I think it’s kind of good to have that in the band. Like those guys can get technical about it and then I can come in and say, “that just sounds like shit.” [laughs] “But it’s got this amazing sound wave function on it!” And it’s like, I’m not bothered. PW: “It’s not doing a thing for me.” MC: Yeah, “make it sound better.” PW: Now is it because of their university backgrounds that they know all this stuff about synths? MC: I dunno, maybe? PW: Weren’t they studying music? MC: Well, it wasn’t straight music. It was recording and popular music. I think they took something from that, but they just both researched the synth thing and really got into it. And that’s their area. I was quite happy to let them have that. It’s like, just let me buy effects pedals and I’m happy! That’s fine. And in the studio, it’s good to have an outside perspective on these kinds of things. I think it’s always important to have that objectivity. I’ve not spent 3 hours finely tuning a synth and I’m not involved in that side of things, so I can have that kind of objective view. And say, “look, I appreciate it, it’s a good sound, it’s got a lot of technical merit to it, but does it fit? Is it right? Does it work?” Sometimes it’s yes and sometimes it’s no. It goes both ways, like with the guitars. We’re each other’s critics and friends and compatriots, so it varies…I’ve left them to it, I’ve gotten more into it over time but… PW: I know in the live setting you play synth, for example during most of “Doubt.” MC: Yeah, on a couple of things. But it’s a functional thing. I just enjoy, like “Epherema,” that kind of tremolo-ey sound in that song, that was the result of me sitting in a room for 6 hours messing around with guitar effects and getting that right. And that’s what I love doing. And that works in that context. The last line of “Acolyte,” that’s more of a Rick and James kind of area, and that all happens together. Whatever makes the best song, and what sounds good.
PW: What I really love about Delphic is that you have this perfect marriage of good guitar riffs with good synth melodies. Great guitar bands have great guitar riffs, and then some of them try to introduce the synth into the mix and have trouble integrating them into their sound. It ends up becoming a plinky plonky thing in the background that does not belong. Or guitars are added to synth pop bands and the guitars sound out of place. Whereas you guys, you have everything integrated well. For example, “Halcyon” and the guitar solo. I’ve given this a lot of thought this year, I put the question out to people, if you had to be reincarnated as a part of a song, what would you be and why? MC: If I had to be reincarnated as part of a song? PW: Yeah, and it couldn’t be a whole song, it had to be one disparate part of a song. And I said your “Halcyon” guitar solo. MC: Wow! I am very honored! PW: With the runner-up of the guitar lines in the verse of “What You Know,” played by Sam Halliday of Two Door Cinema Club. MC: I like Sam. PW: Both of you are amazing guitarists. MC: I think he’s better than me. PW: You think? MC: He’s good! Really good. [smiles] PW: Don’t tell him that, because I saw that video of you guys in Australia and the band war. [And as Matt says, watch this video clip with a grain of salt.] MC: Yeah… [laughs] They made us do that! We were just having a laugh and one of them said, “Delphic and Two Door war!” And it’s like, “oh no…” We’re real mates! PW: They know you’re messing, surely. MC: Yeah, but it’s like what we were saying earlier, about band rivalry and stuff like that. You don’t want it to cross over to anything that is actually serious in that way. We admire Two Door very much. We’re such a very different band to Two Door that there can’t be a rivalry, really. Who we appeal to in our kind of market is so different to theirs. There’s no rivalry there. We just think they’re great guys who write good songs. The rest of it is just banter. But yeah…it’s an interesting question, really, I’m going to have to give this some more thought.
PW: Having played guitar for so many years, was there one song that made you think, “yes, I’m definitely going to be a guitarist“? MC: I don’t think there as a song that generally made me want to be a guitarist, but my favorite guitar solo of all time is what I’d probably want to be reincarnated as, it’s the solo for “Sympathy for the Devil” [Rolling Stones]. The sound is incredible, it just screams, it’s such a real, organic sound. It speaks to you. In terms of the actual line, the guitar solo, I just love the restraint. Is it Keith [Richards] doing that solo, or not? PW: I would think so. Who else could it be? MC: Right right, I just wanted to make sure. [smiles] PW: Don’t worry, I won’t tell my best buds, the Rolling Stones. [laughs] ‘cos me and Mick are like this. MC: “Sympathy for the Devil” is one of the greatest songs of all time, a 6-minute epic. He’s got x bars to do a solo in, and what does he do? He’s really minimal, like [mimics the guitar solo]. But my absolute favorite part of it, if I can be even more specific, is within the solo. There’s a part of the solo…you know, he does these really great parts that really scream at you, the amp sounds incredible. And there’s a bit where he goes “dum da dum dum” [really simple, bare part of the solo], and that’s it. You’ve got a solo for “Sympathy for the Devil.” And all you do is play a note like a child. Anybody could do it. But it’s just perfect. I think that’s what’s important about playing guitar. For me personally, it’s not an ego thing, it’s not a “look at me” kind of thing, I never ask for the solos, I never want solos in a song. I get all nervous! PW: Really? I never would have figured you would feel that way. MC: Yeah, I get really worried about it! PW: Should I tell people not to look at you when you’re playing the solo in “Halcyon”? [laughs] MC: We had to do Jools Holland. [You can watch the video below. Matt's amazing guitar solo starts in at 3.05.] Honestly, I was so scared for weeks before. Every night before I went to bed I would be playing it in my head. Honestly, so nervous. So I never ask for the solos. For me personally, playing guitar is adding to the track and just being part of the track, and if the best thing for the song is to play one note, then that’s just as valid as being Slash and having huge guitar solos going up and down the neck doing all the technical shit you want to do. For me, it’s about feeling and emotion and doing something different that fits into the song. PW: Your guitar is beautiful, I think it’s gorgeous. MC: Thank you!
PW: When I saw you at Roskilde, the lighting was amazing. Is your lighting guy, Squib Swain, with you on this tour? MC: Sadly, no. Yeah, he’s brilliant. PW: I hope when you come back next time he’ll come with you. MC: So do we. It’ s really weird doing shows without him. He’s become such an integral part of our shows and what we do. We always like to try and do something interesting with the lights and audiovisual experience, it’s always kind of weird when Squib is not along. But we want him back, we miss him. He’s actually out with Two Door [in the UK] at the moment… PW: [laughs] Really? What are you guys going to do if you tour the same time? Bidding war? MC: He gets paid double! But if we’re playing together… PW: Yeah, come back and do a co-headlining tour with them! MC: That would be great, wouldn’t it? Really nice. PW: Yes, I have been talking with new friends in Hong Kong, they all want you back. MC: Oh really? Awww. PW: They were all saying that it was the best day of their lives when you and Two Door played together back in August. I was thinking, your two bands need to come back together and tour as co-headliners in America so there aren’t any arguments. MC: Yeah, no, I would happily support Two Door. PW: No, I need to hear “Submission” and the only way I’d get that is if you headlined. Right? MC: How’s this, we will support Two Door and still play “Submission.” I am more than happy to do that. PW: Are you playing “Submission” on this tour? MC: [looks mysterious] Maybe… [I laugh]. Yes. We were going to play it in Philly but we didn’t have time with all the stress before the gig, we had to cut back. PW: The reason why that song is so special to me, after your album came out, we had the second largest recorded snowfall ever in Washington in February. At one point the snow had reached my height. MC: No way. PW: Yeah. And in order to get my car out, I had to keep shoveling the driveway, and I would measure different distances of snow cleared by how many times I heard “Submission” to finish that line of snow. I must have heard “Submission” 500 times. So it’s very special to me. That’s my little “Submission” story. MC: Well, I’m glad we could be there for you in your time of need. [laughs]
PW: Well, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. MC: Thank you, cheers.
Thanks very much to Matt for an amazing interview and taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with me, and special thanks to Delphic’s management for arranging the interview.
Oct 05 – Phoenix / Toronto*
Oct 07 – Newport Music Hall / Columbus*
Oct 08 – DC9 / Washington, DC^
Oct 11 – St. Andrews / Detroit*
Oct 12 – Metro / Chicago*
Oct 13 – Turner Hall / Milwaukee*
Oct 14 – First Avenue / Minneapolis*
Oct 21 – Popscene / San Francisco&
Oct 22 – Fox / Pomona, CA*
Oct 23 – Club Nokia / Los Angeles*
^ Delphic only
* supporting the Temper Trap
& with the Hundred in the Hands
Live photos in this review were from Roskilde Festival, taken by Mary Chang, July 2, 2010
The Cribs, probably the most famous band to ever come out of Wakefield, England, stopped by Washington’s 9:30 Club Tuesday night for a blistering performance of new songs from their latest album Ignore the Ignorant, as well as old favorites. The English four-piece was joined by Adam Green and the Dead Trees.
I’m not familiar with Adam Green’s back catalogue, or even the Moldy Peaches I’m afraid. What I do know: Green is a close friend of ex-Libertines, ex-Dirty Pretty ThingsCarl Barat, so by association, many of my Libertines/DPT friends have also become fans of his style of indie rock / anti-folk. He appeared onstage at the 9:30 in a metal-studded leather jacket and extremely tight blue jeans. Based on his look, I was expecting songs done in an over the top, Ramones-style performance, and we got exactly that in spades. Fueled by Stella, Jack Daniels, and bottles of water, the New Yorker ran back and forth across the stage during several songs, posturing and posing, and wiggling his hips. Behind me I heard delighted, appreciative squeals from his devoted female fanbase. Green prefaced the song “Broadcast Beach” with the following droll comment: “let’s do something…intellectual!” More squeals.
Instead of having two separate opening acts as I presumed, the Dead Trees provided excellent backing to Green’s shenanigans. Maybe this happens at all of his shows, but I say “shenanigans” because I think for nearly every number he sang, he jumped on the barrier and tried to launch himself into the crowd. A couple times he was successful; other times, not so much much. At one point I almost got a mouthful of shoe as he crowd surfed over the people behind me. When he finally removed his jacket (to more female squealing) and exposed an Ace bandage around his left elbow, a concerned fan asked what had happened. “What happened to my elbow?” he said in a sing-song voice. “I delivered a baby!” He used that opportunity to launch into “Baby’s Gonna Die.” It should be noted that Green provided much hilarity on this night; at one point, he decided to announce to the 9:30 Club’s kitchen (which has had emblazoned on it a cartoony “Food Food” sign for as long I can remember), “Can we place an order at the Food Food? Five veggie burgers for the boys. Tonight I’ll be a boy.” Other highlights included “What Makes Him Act So Bad” and “Emily,” both of which reminded me so much of really good ’60s songwriting. His latest album Minor Love was released in America on January 16.
The Cribs‘s latest album Ignore the Ignorant was one of my top 5 releases of 2009. I’ve also been a big Smiths fan for a while now (and am much appreciative of Johnny Marr‘s contributions to popular music), so when news broke two years ago now that Marr had become a full-fledged member of the Cribs, this was very exciting news to me indeed. I had been anticipating this gig for weeks, playing and replaying their new album, enjoying the addition of Marr’s virtuoso guitar-playing to the Jarman brothers’ masterful songwriting. Standing outside in the cold a couple hours before the gig, a friend and I were able to hear the band sound check “We Share the Same Skies,” “Hari Kari,” “We Were Aborted” and “Be Safe”, all four sounding amazing then, so that just fueled our excitement.
Once inside, amusingly, we were surrounded by Smiths-style goths and several people from England complaining about the lack of their favorite beer (Boddingtons from Manchester) but talking loudly at length about their love for Johnny Marr. One overzealous English fan felt the need to shout “Johnny Marr, wooo!” every five minutes. Uh, yes, we all know that Johnny Marr is part of the Cribs now. No need to shout, love. Before launching into older song “I’ve Tried Everything,” obviously used to the affection being regularly foisted upon his new bandmate, Ryan Jarman quipped with a knowing grin, “Yes, we love Johnny too. So hands off!” But who could blame the fans for their adoration? Certainly not me. Right in front of my eyes, Johnny Marr was playing the guitar riffs and lines that I had only heard beforehand on record. And every note was sublime. The man’s still got it.
I loved “We Share the Same Skies” the first time I heard it on BBC Radio, and I loved it even more live, the crowd shouting back the chorus to the band. Gary Jarman took lead vocal duties for “Last Year’s Snow,” the kind of song I expect to spur on massive showings of hand-waving for the band at home in England, the guitars and vocals just perfect together. Simply gorgeous. Crashing in powerfully was “Cheat on Me,” the band’s first single from Ignore the Ignorant, filed with a lover’s’ vitriol. “Save Your Secrets,” a gentler number, was achingly beautiful, with lyrics like “Oh, doleful girl / alone in the world / where did her true love go?” and “You are far more likely / to be devoured than empowered / your sense of romance.” Before the show, drummer Ross Jarman revealed to me that he particularly liked playing this one in concert because of its mellowness. I can understand. The rest of the night must have been murder on his previously injured wrist, the band attacking songs with furious intensity and feeding off the excited crowd, energetically pogo-ing with Ryan.
While I was disappointed not to hear my favorite from the new album, the cheeky “Victim of Mass Production,” the nearly hour-and-a-half set couldn’t be beat. Make sure you catch the band’s energetic show next they come to your town. They are also scheduled to appear at Coachella on Friday, April 16.
The Cribs Set List:
We Were Aborted
We Share the Same Skies
Last Year’s Snow
What About Me
Cheat On Me
I’ve Tried Everything
Save Your Secrets
Our Bovine Public
Ignore the Ignorant
I’m A Realist
City of Bugs
Jan 22 – Granada Theatre / Dallas*
Jan 23 – Parish / Austin*
Jan 26 – Glass House / Pomona
Jan 27 – Bimbo 365 / San Francisco
Jan 29 – Wonder Ballroom / Portland
Jan 30 – Showbox / Seattle
Jan 31 – Venue / Vancouver
Apr 16 – Coachella Music Festival / Indio, CA
* with Adam Green and the Dead Trees