Category Archives: Hobgoblin

Lucky Toppers – The Black Hats – Live Review – Staines Hobgoblin

Take three Elvis Costello types. Give them some twanging bass. Crank up the volume so loud it sends a thermic lance up your tender-loins.  Tighten up  the sounds with a heavy gauge torque-wrench. And you have yourselves ‘The Black Hats’. As dangerous as a night out in Hackney. Swift as a switchblade in steady hands. And as formidable as a home-made zip-gun. This band takes no prisoners in a bloody relentless surge for power.  

Oxford’s most articulate pop punksters played a successful show at the Staines Hobgoblin during the summer. They may look like yobs in “Proclaimers” specs or the remnants of a twisted “Freddy and the Dreamers” lookalikey party, but they play garrulously energetic punk at high pitch, high dose levels. And they sprinkle their sounds with seasonings of ska, dub and reggae. In this sense, they are our ‘most post’ protopunk pop-star popinjays. Increasingly recognized and well received throughout their home territory, they now seem to be branching out along the Thames Valley- and they are already creating quite a stir on radio. And they are just out of the studio, having recorded with Mercury-nominated producer Sam Williams (Supergrass, Plan B, The Go Team!)

A rattling & rolling gig at The Hob got all the good people in the audience moshing and prancing and, generally, yelling to the aggregate sounds. This band look like a bunch of rock-hard ‘leave-well-alone’ nut-case bruisers with psychopathic intent. But their songs and intelligent musicianship elevates them to a higher level. Yes, they may be a bunch of amoral, discontented antisocial misfits – wearing ‘Two Ronnies’ glasses -but they are also talented, effervescent with energy and almost academic in their production.

Their big number ‘Tunnels’ rushes & crashes-  it barely hangs onto the tracks- like some kind of out-of-control cattle car upon a flimsy trackway . Driven by a Liam Gallagher-style vocal from Nick Breakspear, the jaggedly highly-wrought guitar-work adds radiating spirals of sound to the bumpy rhythms laid down by Ian Budd on bass, and the generally rickety percussion from Mark Franklin on drums.

Other Black Hats numbers like ‘Magnets’ are creatures that can trace their lineage back to ‘The Jam’ and ‘The Cure’ via ‘Simple Minds’. Bippperty beats, slide around rhythms and cutie-pie slip ups, underpin the smiling yet ultra-cynical vocals and those acid laden vitriolic lyrics. Silvery guitars slice up the atmosphere and a catchy chorus adds to the joy of the frivolous, yet desirable, songs. Yes, indeed ‘We’re all magnets … don’t you know?”

And ‘Just Fall’ helps you feel your way along it’s twisting path with a reassuringly jammy sound. But the angular motifs and progressive bass notes create hazards and unseen footfalls in the dangerous architectural sub-terrain.  Two-for-one chug-a-chug chords get toes tapping. And echoing sweetly, lofty vocals from Nick remind me of Sting at his best (Reggatta de Blanc) and now, come to think of it, his reggae guitar tones also sound a lot like Andy Summers.

Crikey, there is a lot here to be thankful for here. The Black Hats are set to top-off and rise. This is spruced up defiant and infallible punk.

© Neil_Mach
September 2011



Run Young Lovers – Live at The Hogboblin, Staines – July 2011

On Thursday I caught up with ‘Run Young Lovers’ at the Staines Town’s favourite music venue ‘The Hobgoblin’. This band plays a patina of indie rock sounds- hot cracking stuff. Choppy, peanut brittle sound bites of feel-good fun and happiness.

Born and raised in Crawley, this 5-piece band originally came to notice under the moniker ‘Us And Them’ and their toil gained them a worthy reputation on the West Sussex live music scene.

They now play a joyful Cure-sounding sing-along song-book of sounds. And the delighted Staines Hob crowd lapped ‘em up like double cream. Soulesque vocals from cuddly bannerman and front-voice Jack Betteridge add warmth and passion to the roistering helter-skelter zip-line indie rock revelry of the band’s output.

Songs like ‘She Said’ (available as a facebook download) with that typical bounce and zizz-a-zizz, and those streamers of guitar flapping in the wind around warm honey-cake vocals, added a real playtime fizz to their show.

Other songs, like ‘Moonshine’ have playful basslines from Ollie Small, and sudden blooms of effervescent guitar from James Ellis and Lloyd Stone. Driving patterns of percussion are delivered steadily by David Stewart on drums.

Introspection is a specialty of the shy singer Jack, surrounded on all sides by the bounteous multi-faceted guitars.  But no snopake is required… no corrections are needed. Bubbling rumbling, bumbling? Check. Soaring highs? Check. Painful lows? Check. It is all there in the ‘Run Young Lovers’ show.

This band takes you two stops beyond awesomeville, before leaving you, exhausted,  and on the last platform, whining for more.

© Neil_Mach
July 2011


UKID live at Hobgoblin, Staines

UKID – I like the name (could be “you kid” or the rotten U.K. ID cards ) is a rock band with a Rap Metal attitude and an impressive musical pedigree. Former ‘Durban Poison’ man KJ (bass) created  the band along  with MC Beanie (Ben-Jah Jon.) And, once the grimy drum n’ bass met the blistering metal in the forges from hell, the UKID sound was cast into iron. It’s like Rage Against the Machine crossed with Oceansize.

UKID bring us songs like “Dole” which is a shattered plate of sounds; A skillet of skanky beats whipped to a frenzy by metallic and thrashingly hypnotic guitars, thrown together with squeaks and beeps from the keyboards (Ben-Jah goes to the keys periodically.) The vocals are insistent and reliable – more calm than furious, the rhythms are always focussed and assured. The bass play is big and gruesome and brought to you in gigantic proportions by the hairy thumbster KJ.

Other songs have the kind of sound quality and size reminiscent of tunes from bands such as Kaiser Chiefs and even as far back as The Clash. Yet there is also plenty of drum ‘n’ bass, combined with hip hop, to get you back to todays date. The searing and screaming lead guitar from redheaded razzle-dazzler Glenn add frantic and fiery elements to the whole UKID package, making the band seem more progressive, and somehow more metallic,  than other bands in the same genre.

But it is fair to say that, at the Staines Hob gig, the music tendered by this immortal Glastonbury gang tended to veer from tantalizingly terrific and heart-racingly superb at times – right down to buzzy low-threshold monobloc tedium.  Which is a shame, because the nurtured talent was clearly available – just not in a consistent formula.  Naturally enough, the keen and krazy krowd at the Staines Hob lapped it all up (good and bad) and were dancing in the aisles and crazy to hear the tunes. But some of the numbers failed to hit their mark, often in quite a dramatic way. The main voice of Ben-jah was not nearly strong enough to be heard above the multiple layers of sound underneath. And the backing vocals from Glenn were often too loud – and, more often than not – quite alarmingly off-key.

But nonetheless, songs like “War = Money”  with it’s innovative and impressive flowergarden of experimentation and smoky acid vibes was like encountering Eminem whilst visiting a dream-like “Octopus’s Garden”  and finding out that he is actually in a political frame-of-mind. Freaky, fancy and fine. This song is like a saline drip of conscientiousness.

The best tune of the night was the techno industrial-strength dance number (second to last song of the set) that was a spaced-out labyrinthine journey into the spiralling and pulsating sub-conscious.  With melting guitar licks from Glenn, huge chunks of keys from Ben-Jah, hypnotic drums from Joey and deeply reverberating bass-play from KJ. I hoped that this tune would never stop!

Merging heavy rock with dance-sounds is not new, but UKID are so skilled and so fresh that the sounds actually do seem refreshingly vital.  Watch this band rise.

© Neil_Mach
March 2011


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Arthur Rigby & the Baskervylles Live at The Hobgoblin, Staines

On Saturday night we caught up with the Leeds based orchestral pop band Arthur Rigby & the Baskervylles,  at our fantastic local music venue – The Hobgoblin, Staines.

Ostensibly, this band is simply Ben Hatfield (vocals, guitar) and Alex Pinder (percussion and drums). But the duo employs everything from a six piece setup to a full-on symphony orchestra to add both depth and infinite flavour to their endlessly colourful productions. When I saw the troop at The Hob,  Neil Balfour was on keys adding  texture and classical motifs to the compositions, and Dan added to the beat with a bluesy-sounding bass. Additionally, there was violin from string quartet player Hannah Elizabeth Want and rambunctious trombone from scholar Tom I’Anson, both instruments creating a warmth and a special character to  the broader sounds, adding a rather splendid and luxurious element. These music college graduates have obviously resolved to tip over the apple-cart of the music establishment and add their own cultured and refined twist to the proceedings.

Sometimes leaning towards folk – and at other times rock – but always on the orchestral and mellow side of the tracks, we enjoyed tunes like ‘White Houses’ which starts with imploring bass-baritone lyrics set against a lush accompaniment of ponderously sad notes that plink out from the lonely keys like stained tears dribbling down mossy walls. Feathery imagery is provided by the soft trombone.

Or ‘One Stormy Night’ which exhibits the artistic intentions of the band’s arrangements with soft shimmering guitar echoing across a silvery landscape created by those lush orchestral manoeuvres. Supple lipped vocals accentuate the lyrics as the pace almost imperceptibly picks up and gradually, and evermore gradually, until the song becomes a rock piece, creatively clouded by the classical images that abound.

Arthur Rigby & the Baskervylles have clear electric folk aspirations and the ‘big hitter’ of the night at the Hob was the song ‘Follow’ with that jaunty pony-riding beat and feel good chorus sung in a round. The country fizzy-jig formula was magnified exuberantly by shining violin-play from Hannah and foot tapping percussion from Alex.

Other songs like  ‘Fly Far Away’ have pounding insistent beats and earthy textures whilst others, like ‘Stranger’ are moodier and complex set-pieces.

Bringing to mind Canadian folk rockers ‘Crash Test Dummies’ crossed with 2010 ‘Plastic Beach’ era ‘Gorillaz’ this band is set for stardom. I can easily see them on the world stage collecting themselves a  “Grammy”  in a couple of years time. It brings a tiny tear to my eye- as an ‘oldie’ – because I nostalgically think that Arthur Rigby & the Baskervylles are this year’s answer to that never-sufficiently-praised nor properly lauded English progressive rock band ‘Renaissance’ – albeit with a ‘Brad Roberts’ sounding lead vocalist instead  of the five-octave vocal range of Annie Haslam. But the same eloquence, attention to detail, poetry and classical aspirations are present in the musical treasure-box that Ben and Alex have on offer.

Mind changing, game altering stuff.

© Neil_Mach
February 2011


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My Favourite Runner Up – Live at The Hobgoblin, Staines

On Thursday at The Hobgoblin, Staines we witnessed some Welsh popinjay hotshot japes and jinks from a bunch of boys calling themselves ‘My Favourite Runner Up’. This guitar based combo sounds like an unfettered version of Blink 182. They are basically a bunch of unsophisticated pop-punk princes who churn out a pile of sherbety tunes and some jolly sticky-sweet melodies.

Unfettered by the normal conventions  of musical connoisseurship, they gaily embarked on a syrupy journey that took us towards Robbie William’s “Angels”  via Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling”. Imbued with a ravishing sense of their own self-worth and armed with a song-book of smooth lady-pleasing sweet-toothed cover-songs and an equal amount of self-penned siren-like serenades, this boy-band took to the small stage at The Hob, Staines with a gusto and enthusiasm that you could only imagine comes from an over-inflated appreciation of their own self-entitlement.

And when these brazen boys from Aberystwyth are not crooning their guiltless crowd-pleasing cheese, they also play their own effervescent and joyful thumpers.  Songs like ‘Our song’ which is a sweet and sparkling confection of guitar sounds from Chris and Andy, and acts as a canvas upon which is painted a fairly basic tune.  Or the song ‘What If?’  which has an indie sounding opening and then a flourishing feelgood build-up that makes a headrush charge towards an uncomplicated chorus.

‘Me and You (Falling Apart)’ is probably the most infectious and efficient MFRU song.  Guitars sound almost like pipes, a Celtic influence is clear.  The drums from Tom and the rigid bass from Lee add a tribal component.  And the silky-smooth vocals from Chris are lightly laced with eloquent sadness. The saccharine sweet chorus may be a little cloying for the boys in the
audience though.

The ladies were up and dancing to these power-pop players, whilst the male gig-goers sloped off for another pint and a turn at the pool table.

And that just about sums up the band.  Engaging, sweet and happy they may be.  But I cannot help thinking, cynically, that we have heard all this before.

© Neil_Mach
February 2011


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Our Lost Infantry live at Staines Hobgoblin

So we went to THE HOB, STAINES to relish the joyful musical acrobatics and jubilantly jingoistic shenanigans from these merry men of Aldershot…. Our Lost Infantry.

Rapidly changing time signatures and keys bump and collide colourfully with each other as the ‘Lost Infantry’ magic bus runs off the psychedelic skid pan. Tearing apart the rule book and cocking a snook at the ‘in crowd’ this seriously talented quartet climbs the rigging and sails away from a mundane land and into a happy frantic world entirely of their own making.

The music sounds like early ‘Cure’ struck violently upon the head by ‘Porcupine Tree.’ Buzzingly adroit flourishes of keyboard wizardry courtesy of Matt to swirling jazzline guitars from Thom, and then busty rhythms from Tom on bass and Parkin on drums -the overall effect is generously full of melodramatic, soulful song – and they even choose to sing Acappella at times.

The song-book includes such pieces as the drum-song ‘Parkin’ that has a genuine ska-sound with softly lipped vocals, shining highlights and a groovy beat. The song has a delicate texture but scoops of full-on soul. Or take the high larkin’ song ‘The Arsonist’ that drips with silvery notes and edgy chords. The tricky percussion adds depth and jagged angles to the poetry of those flamboyant keyboards from Matt.

All-time favourite, though, is ‘The Spectacle of the Scaffold’. This number sputters along like a clockwork beetle. The tune feels like it is edging itself ever closer towards calamity. You need nerves of steel to listen to it. From the tenderest vocals that cry from the heart, to  those intricate bass-notes and cascades of keys that triumphantly collapse onto
themselves like the Walls of Jericho.  This amazing number finally tumbles into the kind of chorus you never dreamt was possible. Shining, haunting,  sentimental and, naturally, without regrets.

A kaleidoscope of squelchy blips and woo-woo sirens are accompanied by commendable piano flourishes . Nostalgic nuances and angst-ridden vocals mark this band out as a melodramatic tour-de-force to be reckoned with.  Avant-garde and jazzy enough  even to appeal to grandykins, though geekily progressive at other times, ‘Our Lost Infantry’ are always as solid and satisfyingly real as ever it gets. Ones to watch for 2011.

© Neil_Mach
February 2011


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Avenge Vulture Attack at The Hobgoblin

The Hobgoblin in Staines has hosted many amazing bands over the last year and has a truly terrific line-up this spring too- with live music every Thursday and Saturday.

So we went down to the Hob to see one of the most promising bands of 2011 – the 4-piece punk/reggae act known as Avenge Vulture Attack. The band consists of singer Ella Grace, with Drew and Joss on guitars and vocals and Ben on drums.

Ella is as shameless and cheeky as a French saint, St. Amélie perhaps, gamine and absolutely delectable. And the funky interludes from under used guitar, dribbles of oily bass and just-so percussion add depth and soul to her sparkling voice.

This band is armed to the teeth with clean melodies and expressive musical tricks. And their combined energy is unforgiving.

Take for example the song ‘Run Around’. There is a background of fat reggae bass notes and jagged spiral arrangements. Across this horizon comes those startling yet anodyne cries from the heart-  from Ella.  Tuneful vocal harmonies and ambitious and creative guitar sounds, along with reliable percussion, all build up to a hesitant chorus that concludes with an anthemic flourish.

‘Heartbreak Hotel’ is like torn pieces of pure energy, lightly Prit-glued together to create a pastiche of pop punk sound.

Electric licks eel their way into your cortex, playing havoc with your innards, and leaving you panting for more.  It’s a sure thing that you are gonna be humming this yum-yum song for days to come.

This is a band that plays reassuringly fun music. They look and sound polished to perfection and their songs shine like the spring-time morning. I urge you to get them now while they are still fresh!

© Neil_Mach
February 2011


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