London: The Other Kind Of Brit Pop

Posted on by Paul in Everything, Music | 1 Comment

London – We here at The Panic Manual have been known to dabble in Anglophilia.  Hell, Ricky and I came to London for the express purpose of seeing some British music live.  But our concepts of British music across the pond is a little different from the reality here in England.  If Music 4 is to be trusted (and we watched hours of it for some reason), what the kids are into in London these days is not your favourite new Britpop band, but rather some British pop.  As in Top 40 style pop music.  Yet as popular as this stuff seems to be, it’s totally off the radar back home.  I believe there’s a reason for that – these bands’ roles have already been filled by their North American counterparts.  They’re somewhat similar to other groups but … more British.  As John Travolta said in Pulp Fiction, “it’s the little things.”  (PS. In Britain, KFC serves breakfast.  Breakfast!)  But in the interest of expanding your cultural horizons, I’m gonna give you the low down on what these bands are all about as well as an approximation of who their counterparts would be in the North American music landscape.

Olly Murs

This guy is an alumnus of The X Factor, Simon Cowell’s other show.  He makes the kind of bouncy, smooth voiced pop that you’d expect from someone who gained fame as a contestant on a music competition show – pleasant and inoffensive, but not that interesting either.  Sonically, I’d say he comes closest to Maroon 5, but since he’s a solo artist, let’s say … I dunno, the British version of Jason Mraz or somebody like that.

The Wanted

Yup, they’re a boy band.  Also affiliated with The X Factor somehow, I’m sure they make young British girls swoon and everyone else cringe.  They’re basically the British Jonas Brothers, but there’s five of them, as is the standard for boy bands.  Also, one of them bears an uncanny resemblance to Frankie Muniz from Malcolm In The Middle.  Weird.

X Factor Finalists

No.  Just … no.  While nowhere near as bad as I thought it might be, this cover of Bowie’s “Heroes” by a bunch of the finalists from The X Factor (are you sensing a pattern here?) is still fairly bad.  At best, it’s mediocre.  Still, it’s been released as a charity single, so I guess I can’t be too mean.  I suppose their hearts are in the right place.  As far as North American equivalents, I guess it’s the Brit equivalent of Young Artists For Haiti doing “Waving Flag” – a charity single sung by a bunch of people who are mostly unknown outside their home country doing a vastly inferior cover version.  Although Young Artists For Haiti had Drake and Justin Bieber, whereas this one has that weird Malcolm In The Middle guy from The Wanted.  Still as a charity single, this one is still streets ahead of that one put out by Frank D’Angelo.

Pixie Lott

We first caught this young singer hosting a block of Christmas themed music videos called “Christmas Pixie” and then found out she was actually a singer and not just a TV host.  She’s young, cute and has a decent voice.  As pop singers go, she’s alright.  She’s probably closest to any number of Disney Channel-esque singers perhaps with a foot in some more credible RnB type sounds.  She might actually stand a chance of having some level of recognition outside The UK, although the closest she’s come to that so far is Nickelodeon’s Fred: The Movie, based on the terribly annoying and not at all funny Youtube character Fred Figglehorn.  It was a made for TV movie in the States, but because of Pixie’s popularity in England, this cinematic masterpiece gets a theatrical release that it doesn’t rightly deserve. 

N Dubz

N Dubz!  They’re the Brit version of The Black Eyed Peas, except with perhaps a bit more of a “tough” image.  They even have silly nicknames too, but instead of will. i. am., Fergie, and those other guys who nobody really knows the name of, it’s Fazer, Tulisa, and Dappy.  They’re also ridiculous and hilarious and I think I’m kind of obsessed with this band.  They sort of became the unofficial mascots (and running joke) of our trip.  They have their own reality show miniseries, Being N Dubz, which even had it’s own Christmas special and it’s all brilliant.   It’s kind of like a non fictional Spinal Tap or Ali G without the irony.  Brilliant.  I may be doing everything within my power to promote these guys.  Be afraid.

N-Dubz – Ouch by N-Dubz @ Soundcast

Concert Review: James, December 10, Brixton Academy

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | Leave a comment

London – Seeing a band twice in two nights is always something I’ve always questioned, mainly because it’s a lot to handle for two consecutive nights. You know most of the songs are going to be the same, but you are always hoping for something different the second night that would make paying twice for a band worth it. For the record, here are the bands I’ve seen on consecutive nights so far in my live:

SXSW 2009 – Late of the Pier, second show featured a fight between the band and the security guards
NXNE 2009 – Matt and Kim, saw them twice in one night. They are always awesome
Teenage Fanclub, September 2010 – Second show’s set list was much better then the first

So Friday night marked the second time I saw James in two nights, and third time I saw them for this tour (I saw them in September in Toronto). For the first time ever, I wasn’t completely through the roof after their show.

Let’s first talk about the Brixton Academy. What a venue! It think it has one of the best interior designs I’ve seen at a venue. The floor is on a slope, so everyone has a good view and the design of the venue makes it seem like a Greek or Roman amphitheater from back in the day. Highly approved. Here’s apic of the interior, by some random person.

As previous mentioned, James guitarist Larry Gott was hospitalized on Wednesday for undisclosed reasons, so with that in mind, the band took the opportunity to test the crowd with some of the newer and more mellow material early in the set. Songs off the new double albums – The Night Before/The Morning After were played. The new songs translated live rather well, especially Dust Motes and Tell Her I Said So, the latter a song Tim Booth wrote about his mother.

However, a James concert is a James concert, perhaps it’s a bit of a trap, but the fans were there to hear the hits, and it wasn’t until the opening “WOO WOO WOOO WOO WOOOOOO” of Born of Frustrations that the crowd started to go a little nuts. Arms were in the air, people were singing along. Getting Away with It, the crowd pleaser from 2001’s Pleased to Meet You soon followed. I thought the concert was going along swimmingly.

I guess it’s might be a combination of five shows in six nights, a week of shows and partying or the fact that I heard most of the songs the night before, but the James show did not take off for me as it had just 24 hours prior – songs like Johnny Yen and Jam J I enjoy, but not enough for them to give me to go nuts for it two nights in a row. I thought the middle section of the set was a bit of a lull.

The beginning of the acoustic version of Sit Down started off the greatest hits section which was to lead to the end of the show. Sit Down will always be great, just for the sheer fact it’s rare to see so many people sing along to a song and losing their shit at the same time. A series of hits ended off the show – Laid, Ring the Bells, Stutter, Sound and Sometimes.

All in all, the show was good. They are such a polished band live and always provide moments. Tim Booth’s crowd surf/singing at the same time was pretty epic and at the same time, must have been hilariously awkward. The band’s chemistry on stage is something that I think any band would want and they are a band that genuinely wants to get the crowd as excited as possible. Perhaps I was expecting too much out of the show. James has put on absolutely great shows every time I saw them prior, so I might of had exceedingly high expectations for them. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to hear Fred Astaire, Come Home or Destiny Calling either night, but I guess when you have such a massive back catalog, specific songs are hard to come by.

The crowd was one of the most enthusiastic I’ve seen, there was a large mosh pit in the middle of the stage and let me tell you, a mosh pit consisting of mostly aging Brits is not that great. Maybe it’s their banger and mash/meat pie diets, but man, those people are quite beefy and well, I’m not.

All in all, I still enjoyed the show, it wasn’t mind blowing, but in the end, you can’t go wrong with a James show.

Dust Motes.
Dream Thrum.
Tell Her I Said So.
It’s Hot.
Born Of Frustration.
Getting Away With It (All Messed Up).
Johnny Yen.
Rabbit Hole.
Bring A Gun.
Jam J.
Don’t Wait That Long.
Out To Get You.
Sit Down.
Ring The Bells.
I Wanna Go Home.

Concert Review: James, Dec. 9, Hammersmith Apollo

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | 1 Comment

London –  Prior to this show, we learned that James guitarist Larry Gott had been hospitalized for some undisclosed reason.  Needless to say, there was some concern about how this might affect the show.  The answer was not that much at all.  Other than sitting down for much of the show and being on painkillers, Gott was in fine form, as was the entire band.  James are all talented musicians (not a surprise since they’ve been together more or less since the early ’80s) and they put on a good show.  Going into the show, I didn’t have huge expectations.  Unlike some people, I am not what you would call a huge fan.  I’ve liked a lot of their songs but I haven’t really paid attention to anything they’ve done since 1997’s Whiplash. So when they started off their set with several mellow numbers from their new album(presumably in order to give Gott a chance to take it somewhat easy and gradually work into things, I was unimpressed.  Nothing against those songs, they sounded fine.  But up until midway through the set, I was thinking this show was worth maybe just a 3.5 rating – good, but not great.

But then something happened – this show got good.  The first sign of greatness came when they played “Tomorrow.”  It was the first real universal crowd pleaser they played and a step in the right direction.  Then, there was Tim Booth.  As a singer, he’s got a pretty powerful voice, but it’s really all about his energy and enthusiasm.  He and the whole band actually just seem like a bunch of good friends getting together to play music.  One imagines they might have the same kind of vibe when they’re in their practice space.  But Booth is something to see live.  And he seemed to be taking full advantage of playing in a seated theatre, venturing into the crowd often, walking down the aisles and onto the seats.  And dancing.  Booth’s dancing would best be described as convulsions crossed with some sort of martial art.  With his shaved head and goatee, at one point I thought that he resembled Ben Kingsley doing a Stevie Wonder impersonation.

James pretty much had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand.  The audience was loving it, as was I.  As a fairly casual fan (I could probably only name a handful of their songs before the show, and even those are the biggest hits), I was left pretty impressed by their showmanship.  And it’s always pretty great to hear a roomful of people singing along as one.  This happened several times throughout the show and culminated in a mass singalong of “Sometimes” that seemed to go on forever.  The biggest moment of the night, however, came maybe about 2/3 of the way into the set.  After inviting one fan onto the stage to dance along during “Laid”, another person got on stage.  Then a few more, then Booth just invited everyone to come on stage while he roamed through the aisles singing up close to the crowd.  It’s the kind of thing bands might do during the last song of an encore, yet they let it happen midway through.  It was a spontaneous moment that led to the somewhat awkward yet funny scene of the band trying to clear everyone offstage while Booth made his way back to the stage so they could start the next song.  While the “Sometimes singalong seemed like a common occurrence at James shows, this was definitely not just business as usual.  I wouldn’t exactly say I became a big James fan that night, but it’s hard to deny their power as a band.  Colour me impressed.

Tell Her I Said So by ‘James’

Tell Her I Said So by ‘James’

Concert Review: Dean Wareham, Dec. 8, Relentless Garage

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything | Leave a comment

London –  Ah, nostalgia.  Within the span of this week alone, London will have played host to quite a few bands of a certain vintage – James, Suede, and of course, former Galaxie 500 singer Dean Wareham.  The Suede reunion show was of course a big nostalgic reunion show and James is still a going concern as far as putting new music out, but Wareham is an interesting case.  While he has consistently put out music since the Galaxie 500 days (first as Luna, and then with his wife as Dean and Britta), he’s currently on a tour playing all of his old band’s songs.  Except it’s not a reunion, more of a revisitation of his back catalogue.  Some may question the validity of playing these songs without his old bandmates, but it seems unlikely that a full reunion will happen and he is playing songs he wrote (and a bunch of covers … more on that later) so I have no problem with it.  After all, nobody made much of a fuss when Roger Waters did a tour of The Wall recently and nobody’s gonna say Paul McCartney shouldn’t play Beatles songs.  Still, it did seem a little weird when Britta Phillips sang a version of “Listen The Snow Is Falling,” a song sung on the original Galaxie 500 version by Naomi Yang.  Then again, it was a Yoko Ono cover so it’s not like Naomi has any special claim on that song.

Speaking of older music, openers Young Prisms are a young band, but they play a type of music heavily influenced by the shoegaze bands of the past.  While they may not necessarily be treading new ground, they still sounded pretty good, and looked like they were having fun up there.  Speaking of retro, they had their album available in 3 formats – CD, vinyl and cassette!  I was sorely tempted to buy that cassette.  Singer Stef Hodapp had a pretty good voice, but they need to find something for her to do during those long droney sections so she’s not just standing to the side of the stage drinking beer while they jam it out.  They too seemed pretty excited to see Dean Wareham, even though they probably weren’t all even born yet when Galaxie 500 started.

Wareham put on a pretty solid performance.  Although he seemed a bit reserved at first and just got down to the business of playing the songs right away, he did loosen up pretty quickly,telling two stories that began the same way (“I wrote this song after some friends and I took acid…”) and responding to a few shouted requests for Galaxie 500’s Rutles cover, “Cheese and Onions” by finally relenting during the encore.  “You said it three times.  That means I have to play it.  Like in that movie Candyman.”  He also dedicated a song to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, asking if anyone knew which jail he was in, then asking, “Is it nice there?”  I didn’t realize he was such a witty guy.  He closed things off with a cover of New Order’s “Ceremony” that certainly ended things on a high note.

Galaxie 500-Ceremony by dvgf