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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

Link

http://www.myspace.com/arthurrigby

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fiN. The Hobgoblin, Staines 14 Feb 2010

Sometimes we ask a lot from our popular music – it’s gotta make us laugh, make us cry, make us work, get us dancin’ on a Friday night – give us the impetus to make love  – and then stick it to the man on a Monday morning.  It must do all this while simultaneously unmelting the polar ice caps, feeding the world, fighting poverty and freeing the innocent from captivity. And all this must be accomplished by good-looking people who try hard, who know how to perform in front of a live audience, and who can be instant role-models. And it is expected that they  must  possess a  mysterious  thing  called the X-factor.  These ingredients must be packed tightly into a product that is expected to be both instantly hummable, and yet will also stand many repeated listens. Damn! Who can possibly supply all this? Not many, that’s for sure.  That’s why ultra-successful bands like our local boys Hard-Fi are so rare. And that is also why this band – fiN. is expected to take off .  ‘Cos they’re giving it all up for us.

The Hob Staines was quite rightly packed – with squealing, excited punters – for the fiN. music event of Feb 14.  Screaming pop-tarts swayed amiably with the ‘more serious music lovers’  as  the band laid out their wares.  fiN music is vividly imaginative, suspended halfway between pop craftsmanship and consistent indie rock epics.  Agile harmonies between voice and guitar, and tumbling melodies dropping directly from the soul, are often harrowing poems of texture, colour and light.

But crucially there is always a family-sized variety bucket of harmony and rhythm to be found in the fiN. sound, synchronised with a style and sense of grandeur all of their own….  and this adds up to a powerfully inspired concert pop act.

Kicking off with “Everybody Dies Alone” with an intro consisting of lightly plucked almost harp-like guitars and cabaret-style singsong vocals from Luke, the bow-wave of rubber-band bass and heartbeat thumps from the drums soon kick in – like an adrenalin fix harpooned straight to the heart – as light spears of sound culminate gently into an easy to-live-with chorus –  meandering softly towards a satisfyingly undulating lead guitar conclusion. fiN.’s work is casual and unhurried, sincere and honest.  Eschewing flamboyant style or outrageous rock n roll excesses,  the band members appear to be professional artisans carrying out their activities. Not to say that this is stuff is staid or boring. More often than not the fiN. sounds can be sharp and intense – even dramatic. But there is a feeling that fiN. never actually throw caution to the wind. You cannot imagine this band gobbing on the front row, grabbing their crotches lewdly during a breakdown or chucking televisions out of hotel windows whilst on tour.

Songs like the keening “Where Are You Now?” rely on sweet melodies and noble keyboards, carefully manipulated sounds
presented unhurriedly and unpretentiously. But the songs  never feel overly gloomy or melancholy. In fact, as I looked around the audience,  I saw faces that were alight with pleasure, glowing  smiles  of appreciation, nodding heads of approval and new understanding.

The set finished with “Life is Wasted [ on the living ]” with those guitars from Luke and Jonny delicately threaded through misty eyed vocals,  but always kept in check by a regular rhythm of pounding drums and bass.  This lot don’t play their music with hammers and swords – they play it with needles and thread. This band,  fiN,  are master  craftsmen  carefully preparing and almost ‘evoking’  every delicious moment of each perfectly pitched song. The tunes lift the hearts of crowd, who are soon gently moving in unison to the waves of sound – each song pushing that euphoria button a little harder.  Guitars vie and vault with each other as crisp and colourful percussion and fleet fingered bass provide momentum and solid rock foundations.  Tempos are sometimes deliberately energetic, but at other times have a dreamy translucent quality.

This is poignant, yearning and lustrous popular music for the Echo Booming generation.

© Neil_Mach
February 2010

Link:

http://www.myspace.com/finuk

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Audio.Video.Disco Valentines Day, The Hob Staines

Audio.Video.Disco is a pouting, sulking, smouldering almost vampiric looking band ( vampiric in a good ‘True Blood’ type way) with darkly handsome Rich Berkshire up front on his guitar and providing lead vocals,  loyal henchman and gigster Matt alongside, twiddling his lead guitar and supporting with vocals and Tox on the bass giving it the third voice …. ( and they even have a Ryan Kwanten look-alike [Tommy] on the drums at the back.)

This incredibly good-looking band played to a packed audience at the Valentines Day party at The Hob,  Staines at the weekend.  Full to the brim with the posh-totty fans of AVD, there was also enough room in the pub for a fair distribution of assorted divas, shakers, swingers, dilettantes and
philanders – all clamoring for a piece of this exciting local band. And the enthusiastic audience got what they came for. This was music for the young and the famous, the warm blooded and those without shame – Audio Video Disco are synonymous with sex appeal and they ooze success in a world where most of us are merely gasping for air.

Hit after enormously addictive hit was provided to the heaving crowd – each song carefully crafted and superbly presented by the three front-row singers; Songs like “Seeing is Believing”  with a choppy almost ska-like Jam-ish quality or the reverberating ‘No Mans Land’ with its solid chunks of bass – this set was an Aladdin’s Cave of gold-standard compositions, sprightly rhythms and catchy choruses. And yet these lads are strangely bereft of ego – they keep their feet firmly on the ground and their minds on their work.

The Audio Video Disco song-book is not only essential listening material but also joyful and zingy enough to get us all dancin’ along. At times the tunes deliver the power and the punch  of a cage-fighter. And when this electric train of a sound whooshes towards us, the jolt of energy is enough to bust through our defences…. delivering smiles of wonder and surprise.

Drums dazzle with exuberance on tracks like ‘Five Years Gone’ with its twinkling start flapping up into a headrush of verse.  The tunes nag at you like a big sister on school-night and soar upwards like a kite fitted with an afterburner. The Audio Video Disco tunes are sewn together tighter than Dita Von Teese’s bodice and are twice as thrilling.

Top drawer stuff from this hypnotic and high achieving young band.

© Neil_Mach
February 2010

Link:

http://www.myspace.com/audiovideodiscouk

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Alphabet Backwards – Hobgoblin, Staines

Jumptastic band ALPHABET BACKWARDS are more bouncy than ever …. bouncier than a kangaroo playing hop-scotch on a pogo-stick in the park …. when I catch ‘em again at The Hob, Staines on FEB 11th 2010.

Looking delightfully sinful and sexy in that preppy puff-ball skirt gorgeous Steph springs about the stage like a newborn lamb – full of fun and frolics. Also up front and enjoying the razzle-dazzle of the limelight is James on acoustic guitar – giving everything he has.  James is an entertaining and wry songwriter with an eye and an ear for penetrating ditties and insightful melodies that have an astringent quality  of irony and humour all of-their-own. In fact, lets face it,the whole Alphabet Backwards philosophy towards music is one of individualized perpetual pop – perfectly formed – and at it’s finest.

Josh (the bass player) is ‘the’  Josh of the T-Mobile viral band,  but in Alphabet Backwards he takes up a lonely and furtive position at the back of the stage, thumping and grunting reliably.  Also back in the moonlight shadows is the drummer Paul who, to be fair,  looks like a cross between a Martian and your  physics teacher.  But between them they whip a fairly lively beat and keep rhythm alive.

More important, in the band line-up, is the keyboard maestro Bob – who (unfortunately) looks like a crazy-eyed axe-murderering psychopath but (and I am reliably informed of this) he is actually a lovely guy and a church organist.  One of the best things about the Alphabet Backwards music is the way that their songs utilise Bob’s keyboards – whore sounding grunts, screams and wheezes one minute are replaced by merry-go-round chiming chirrups or whining crazy-horse sirens the next.  The sounds come neatly tucked into the creases and crevices. Such is the combined virtuosity of the band-members that there is never a dull moment in their repertoire, always looking for more complete and richly formed connections and juxtapositions of nuances and style.

Major anthemic hits like the ‘ 80’s pop single ‘ with its Na-Na-Na-Na-Na chorus are always big hits with the crowd. But one of my favourites is the sardonic song ‘Primark’ where ‘All the Girls Look the Same’.  Oh! Yes.  Still humming that one in the bathroom two days later!

The sheer vibrancy and joy of this music is unbearably addictive.  Theirs is a magic-painting book of textures and images. A joy to listen to and behold.

© Neil_Mach
February 2010

Link:

www.myspace.com/alphabetbackwards

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Miss Pink Shoes – Jan 31 2010 Staines Hobgoblin

With the exception of the monotonous and frankly desperate 2-note bombastic instrumental intro to their show,  the Miss Pink Shoes set at Staines Hobgoblin on Sunday 31 Jan briskly scudded along some well-worn musical paths, bubbling and squeaking in all the right places – pausing rarely for breath – rising to levels of lofty achievement at times but also sometimes dipping to lewd and inappropriately low places at others.

Frontman keyboards supremo and lead vocalist Lloyd     (who shares an uncomfortable resemblance to the Police Academy character ‘Zed’  played by Bobcat Goldthwait ) likes to swear.  A lot. He also embraces the spotlight and gives a knowing wink to the audience to let them know he is in his rightful place upon the altar of rock.  He ‘plays up’ to the crowd, and he appears totally relaxed and ‘at home’ on his stage. And although the Miss Pink Shoes official song-book has a fair few ups-and-downs, there was almost at once a palpable sense of sonic relief at the Hob Staines as the band set about the task of soothing our poor sore eardrums … (the Sunday night crowd had just endured a set from the hard-core screamo band ‘Mother Hydra’  and their singer Chainy’s acrobatic antics.) As the Pink Shoes brigade paraded their well rehearsed set of melodic, poppy songs – always embodying some comic notions, and often concealing some tiny anguish or a hidden truth, a true ironic juxtaposition of sound and texture was revealed.

The highlights in the Miss Pink Shoes show were jaunty and wise, on the other hand the lows were often run-of-the-mill in their semi improvised slightly jaded state. But there were plenty of up and atom, bumping and grinding, moments of lucidity for the fans to enjoy – although I felt that the band often bridled back their real power, preferring instead to reel jauntily and loftily (at times) towards jeering and jostling levels of achievement without expressing their full musical intentions or ambitions.

Sounds snaked from traditional rock n roll doo-wop numbers like ‘Wobbling Violently’ towards Blurish indie creations like the track NIFLIB. All along the way the band delivered ‘grown-up’ somewhat less hip songs like the track ‘Love for the Hate Nation’ with industrious bass and guitar working together to provide shiny polished soundscapes fresh with feeling and energy. Percussion was delivered in sensitive quantities of rhythmic control. All the time, the synthy electronica keyboard work was well expressed  by the charismatic singer Lloyd who played centre-stage.

© Neil_Mach
February 2010

Zed - Police Academy

Link:

www.myspace.com/misspinkshoesofficial

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Miss Vickery at Staines Hobgoblin

Those definitive slapping popping bass lines appear to come easily to the funkytron Miss Vickery bass player Ad Roq.

Ad is always melodically inventive, and has a way of underpinning the defining high-jinks of each song. He slaps or pops away whilst slender four o’clock shadow-man ‘Seen’  (aka the lead singer Meat Pack) – he has that taughtness of jaw-line that reminds the audience of Chris Martin – provides electric vocal tones together with buoyancy and humour to the proceedings.

The ‘Dave Grohl’ impersonator  ‘Bru’ adds crunchy guitar to the rough waves of sound creating such hectically funktastic  pieces to the process that make you just wanna jump up all together now and get the fire started. Bru is a one-man flaming groove machine. He thrills as he trills. Then, on the other side of the stage, you have a member of the band that seems to have been ‘embedded’ in the same way that those BBC correspondents are embedded with the Para’s in Afghanistan. This character – Biff- altogether seems to ignore the danger and brutality of his immediate vicinity. He wears ill-fitting combat dress and blinks in the intensity of the bright lighting. He looks damaged and slightly disturbed in the same way that Kate Adie does when she reports back from a war-zone. It is only when Biff lights up those chords on guitar do you finally realise that he is a sound-master in his own right, with vamps and bebops aplenty in his fast-tempo repertoire.

And for sure, everyone loves shiny, happy Debs. She is damn good drummer, whose lusty, yearning, pounding percussive rhythms set pulses racing and drive the motivations of this juicy band.

It is a long way from Barnwell, South Carolina to the Sunbury-on-Thames shopping centre,  from the dawning of early funk to where we are today with Miss Vickery in Staines. And some may wonder whether there is any place in this sad and depressing and distressingly ‘grown up’ demoralised world for funkyness…  as if these swinging syncopated guitar rhythms are now as obsolete as flared trousers and tie-dye T-shirts.  And the answer is definitely yes. We need entertainment. More than ever we need it now. We need those big fat juicy sounds. And we need to dance. We really do. So we ask Miss Vickery, indeed, we implore you, to take us away on your journey to Funkytown.

Due to a reliance on guitars, Miss Vickery’s brand of funk rock is less Latin-funky (UK funk) than other afro-beat sounds and yet has more syncopation and general danceable grooviness than their more ‘punk’ funk chums like ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ or ‘Gang of Four’. With a strong rhythmic groove connection between guitars and drums playing interlocking rhythms, the band has the audience at The Hob Staines going wild with their dance hits like  ‘My Hat Loves New York’ or the naughty song ‘Name That Stain’ (renamed ‘Name that Staines’ by singer Seen on the night.) The sumptuous bass lines and the exuberant bounciness was interspersed by rhythmic hits provided by slender slices of lead guitar.

The generally rude humour and richly burlesque sounds continued with a crowd pleasing favourite ‘the Clap’ that carried the strong groove into the night air – the kind of groove that made me wanna dance out into the street and keep on going all through the night till work in the morning.

© Neil_Mach
January 2010

Link:

http://www.myspace.com/missvickery

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Hollow Limit – The Hob, Staines 25th Oct

HollowLimit1Sweet and frothy on top – dark and mysterious when you delve deeper – stained and smeared with a light bloom of self-belief and a love-of-life, Hollow Limit is a joyful and optimistic young band – not doom laden and nihilistic like many of their melodic metalcore compatriots.

I was fortunate enough to see their recent performance at The Hob, Staines Sunday 25th October. Sharing the finesse of Avenged Sevenfold together with the egotistical majesty of Iron Maiden, these local lads have grand aspirations and tip-top musical talent to boot.

I loved the clean vocals (not too many metalcore growls) from Dan, the dual guitar symphonies from the twin guitar maestros of Tommy Goodrick and Mike Lidiard, the rattling rapid-fire drum notes  (with plenty of radiating blast beats) from Luke Veryard and, not forgetting, the exquisite bass patterns from George Pardoe.

Yes, hardcore Hanworth head-bangers Hollow Limit nail their symphonic intentions firmly to the mast right from the outset.

Their twin lead guitars take turns to tango, the shrieking breaks and rippin’ and searing solos tending to lacerate your eardrums. It soon becomes clear that the cruel intention of this lively and lucid band is  to frizzle your brain hair,  slap a smile upon your chops and twist your insides inside-out,  whilst simultaneously demolishing your ear-drums,  in an all-out tactical assault on your mind and body.

I particularly enjoyed the ‘Bon Jovi’ sounding shallow snarling low-points and well positioned breakdowns on ‘The Devils Hour’ but my favourite Hollow Limit number has to be ‘Our Desperate Story’ with its complex metal basslines, carved and exquisitely handcrafted riffs and inventive, adventurous, twisting leads.

Dan Evans is the band’s fresh cheeky-faced ‘cockney looking’ front-man (he looks like a character from those 1970’s ‘Confessions of a Window Cleaner’ type films – you can just imagine Dan shinning down the drainpipe with his shirt-tails flapping between his legs, because the headmistress’s husband –  known to us as ‘the colonel’   – has just arrived home unexpectedly …  you can then picture him having to hastily make off in the nearest possible vehicle – in this case a milk float – just before the Colonel appears blustering and red-faced at the door, weilding a shotgun.) His charmingly fresh
vocals tend to add clarity and counter-points to the intricate musical compositions whilst his cheeky boyish grin, mop of golden hair, and innocent smile adds to the bizarre sense of ‘Britishness’ that pervades the overall style of this group.

If you like metal and you are looking for an authentic British equivalent to Avenged Sevenfold, with a capacity to produce astonishing, twisting and turning aural landscapes where grungy gravely low chords are cut through by exciting high points, then your are gonna just lurve Hollow Limit.

See ‘em now before they become too old!

© Neil_Mach
October 2009

Link:

http://www.myspace.com/hollowlimit

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