Brand New @ Southampton O2 Guildhall

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With all the initial presence of mice, New York’s masters of all things weepy and introspective step humbly onto the stage at Southampton’s O2 Guildhall. Lurching straight into the chaotic ‘Sink’ and hypnotising all in attendance, it’s impossible to tell that they’ve been largely absent from the UK’s tea-stained shores for years. Brand New’s real home is wherever their fans are, and it instantly becomes apparent that not a single one of these fans seems to care that the original plan – to play two random full albums back to back on this tour – has been scrapped, in lieu of mixing it up a bit. But Brand New don’t need gimmicks anyway, and the following set proves this better than any album could.

Jesse Lacey is one of those rare frontmen that doesn’t let his ego overshadow the glistening melancholy, quality and craft of his songs. Tracks like ‘Gasoline’ are enhanced in a live setting, compelling in an experimental hardcore-tinged, garage rock style, and ‘Okay I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Don’t’ becomes a potent moment of concave nostalgia. But brute force has never been the appeal of Brand New, and the band manages to be just as powerful during instances of stripped back beauty, such as with ‘Jesus Christ’ and the intro to ‘Sowing Season’.

Every cadence of the set seemingly has a well thought-out purpose, yet simultaneously feels as though it’s organic, natural and discovered in the moment. This is Brand New’s biggest strength, and carries itself into the re-appropriation of classic standard emo tracks from 2001’s ‘Your Favourite Weapon’, transforming early noughties bedroom tears into confident – evidently more mature – present day singalongs. The tongue in cheek self awareness of anthems like ‘Mixtape’ adds an entirely new dimension to the room, one of obsession and emotion that revels in the past.

Enigmatic, banter-less and reserved, the show is the exact opposite of musical masturbation, void of arrogance and entirely focused on the music itself. Visually, it could be any group of guys silhouetted on stage, but the audible intensity of Brand New is unmistakable. Closing on an expansive rendition of ‘You Won’t Know’ they simply leave, releasing every dazed attendee from hypnosis and back into the real world. Business as usual.

Leo Troy

Breath Carolina – Savages

Electro emo five-piece Breathe Carolina have stepped into new territories with the release of their new album Savages. The release sees the Denver band mash together a mixture of alt-rock, metal and dance-pop all in one album. All polar opposites you might think, any more genres and it may as well be an edgy teenagers iPod on shuffle, however the band will surprise you. The new turf is very similar move to that of which From First To Lasts’ Sonny Moore (aka Skrillex) took to not long ago, since which he has reached global success. Is this what is in store for them? Savages shows the bands’ diversity as well as their competence at making well produced dance music.

Songs such as bass heavy ‘Collide’, ‘Bang It Out’ and ‘Please Don’t Stay’ may have the names for classic emo rock songs, but echo a feeling of Ibiza and Mallorca party holidays, and wouldn’t be out of place on booze cruise out in the Mediterranean. Tracks vary from the mind boggling dance to the more ambient soundscapes found in the house genre.

However ‘Sellouts’ (featuring Danny Worsnop of Asking Alexandria), sticks out like a sore thumb, which is expected as it’s the only metalcore track on the whole album. As far as the song goes, it’s a solid and goes by the common conventions, but why was it there? It feels like an spanner in the works which was previously a very smooth running machine. If to show the musical capabilities of Breathe Carolina in the metalcore genre, then it fails to do so as it’s extremely generic and completely breaks the albums once powerful flow.

Savages brings together a carefully segregated mix of alternative rock, metalcore and clubland dance-pop to create a truly off-the-wall album that messes with the boundaries of electro-rock and dance music. Producing dance tracks that adhere to both dance and rock song structures which rival the current chart hoggers at their own game. Could Breathe Carolina be heading for the charts? It seems possible.

Rory Kelly

Dub Phizix & Strategy @ Southampton Roxx

Britain, the land of classic entertainment duos – Morcambe and Wise, Harry and Paul, Ant and Dec(?), and from the world of drum & bass, Dub Phizix and Strategy. Known for their humorous offstage antics, the Mancunian DJ and MC combo shot to fame following their collaboration with Skeptical, the moody stomper ‘Marka’, back in 2011. Concluding the current four-part Raygun/Release run at Southampton’s Roxx, the pair took over the Funktion-One system for an evening of underground madness.

Consisting of majority Dub Phizix’s own material, the DJ took the crowd on a journey through the seedy depths of DnB. New Critical banger ‘The Clock Ticks’, the popping collab with MC Skittles ‘I’m A Creator’, and the aforementioned ‘Marka’ were all deservedly well received. The set was capped by ‘Salford John’, a charity tribute to John Millet, who had become a legendary raver on the Manchester scene before he was killed in January.

For an artist who debuted only four years ago, Dub Phizix has already constructed a uniquely recognisable sound. Imagine a blend of techstep, jump up and juke all played through Monty Python’s machine that goes ‘ping’ and you’d be headed in the right direction. The hard percussive style acts like an adrenaline syringe, oozing energy onto the dance floor, and maintaining it through to the early hours.

Strategy was on hand with vocal support throughout the set. Drawing on his experience as one half of hip hop duo Broke’n’£nglish, along with his time on the drum & bass scene, the emcee offered up a mix of general toasting and lyrical musings to break up the beat.

The dynamic pairing of Dub Phizix and Strategy made for an entertaining night. Their charismatic nature can’t fail to impress, and with a strong circle of collaborators around them, a new northern invasion has truly begun.

Spectral Park @ Southampton Lennons

Ever wondered what the best Psychedelic venue in the UK is? It’s Southampton’s Lennon’s bar, and it plays host to some terrific bands, and is renowned for its kaleidoscopic fuelled after parties.

One of those bands are the city’s own Spectral Park, who took to the not-misty-for-once stage with their hobo chic and Fender allure and brought all the psychedelic trimmings along: pedals, long hair, noise, and motley coloured projections. The band were primed and ready to tackle Lennon’s full on.

Unfortunately, for the most part they were just your average psychedelic band with hoards of effects and reverb – which isn’t a bad thing at all, but multi instrumentation from frontman Luke Donovan – which made it look like he didn’t know whether to strum a chord, or push a button – coupled with an incredulously amount of feedback, put to bed any real opportunity of the crowd getting heavily involved in proceedings.

Having said that, the bands final few bursts of melody and noise gave more sense of cohesion and enjoyment to everybody present. From the obscure beats of ‘L’appel Du Vide’, to the seemingly outlandish combination of Tame Impala’s ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ and Al Dubin’s ‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’, the band finally came to life.

Matthew Bisgrove

The Used – Imaginary Enemy

Utah rockers, The Used are gearing up to take the music scene by storm once again with the release of their sixth studio album, Imaginary Enemy. Formed in 2001, the four piece exploded onto the scene with their songs ‘The Bird and the Worm’ and ‘All That I’ve Got’ earning them the top spot in the height of the emo years. Now, over a decade later, The Used divert away from their characteristic anarchic music and transform their sound to produce a polished and coherent album.

From the outset, it is apparent the band have taken influence from electronic music. Opening with ‘Revolution’, electronic drumbeats and backing tracks showcase the new direction of the band. However, don’t fear as the electronic element does not displace the hard-hitting melodies that The Used have become known for.

Lead single ‘Cry’ provides one of the highlights of the album and once again is peppered with electronic influences. A sense of vulnerability lingers throughout the vocals of Bert McCracken, the softer, melodic vocals showcasing the talent present in the vocalist which crescendos into a voice that emits a sense of confidence throughout the final chorus.

Imaginary Enemy encapsulated influences from a range of sounds from across the musical spectrum, from the poppy, top-tapping chorus of ‘A Song To Stifle Imperial Progression’ which is sandwiched between verses of McCraken’s distorted vocals or the jazz-infused, bopping rhythms of the title track.

However, The Used are a rock band and they certainly don’t forget their roots, rather build upon what they have already established. McCracken’s throaty vocals provide the spine to the songs, incorporating a certain edge to a record with many genre influences as heard in the previously mentioned, ‘A Song To Stifle Imperial Progression.’ Opening with rambling distorted guitars over the yelling of McCracken, it is performed with life-affirming intensity climaxing towards a paint-stripping chorus.

Imaginary Enemy touches on every corner of the music spectrum yet still retains the characteristic sound of The Used, developing upon this sound and crafting one of their most cohesive and diverse albums yet.

Niamh Moore

Skrillex – Recess

Sonny ‘Skrillex‘ Moore is a lot of things. Until this point, he’s essentially been the nu-metal of dance music – noisy, aggressive and somewhat defined by a questionable fashion choice. He’s the reason there’s a million and one unnecessary dubstep remixes of songs on YouTube that never needed a drop. He’s also one of the singularly biggest phenomena to emerge from the digital age of music, and his decision to ‘do a Beyoncé‘ (the title of which the act of dropping an album with no promo will now be known forevermore) with his first full-length Recess only further implements the idea that he’s some of 21st century e-hero (or villain, depending on your opinion of his raucous dubstep formula).

Recess is not, however, a relentless drop-a-thon with the intention to ride the wave of the genre Moore brought to prosperity. Sure, the album’s opener features all the audacious markings of the dubstep phenom’s prior material – growling bass and pitch-shifted, nonsensical vocals – but as its tongue-in-cheek title suggests (‘All Is Fair In Love And Brostep’), there’s more than an inkling of self-awareness interweaved within its infrastructure.

For once the initial bro-daciousness simmers away, Recess plunges into a melting pot of conflicting genre conventions that spark interest far beyond any of his previous work. ‘Coast Is Clear’ marries the erratic tendencies of freeform jazz with a drum & bass flavoured groove and the ever enthusiastic yelping of Chance The Rapper, whilst the Diplo-assisted trap banger ‘Dirty Vibe’ features ballsy back-and-forth rap verses from K-pop ringleaders G-Dragon and CL. It’s not always exciting – the dry minimalism of ‘F**k That’ provokes a reaction akin to its name – but for the most part its diversity succeeds in creating a multi-pronged electronic experience that’s as engaging as it is eccentric.

Recess is not by any means a definitive debut album, but it was never required to be – his EPs were more than sufficient in serving up an introduction. Instead, it’s a vivid display of his production palette that, whilst largely inconsistent, proves he’s got the chops to be more than the poster boy for meme music.

Josh Pauley

The Bootleg Beatles @ 02 Guildhall Southampton

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When you hear the words ‘tribute band’ you’re usually expecting a load of bad covers that just don’t do the originals any justice. However The Bootleg Beatles were the exact opposite when they took to the O2 Guildhall’s stage in Southampton.

Not only did they sound the part, they looked the part. Dressed in typical Beatles fashion they walked out onto a darkened stage, which burst to life as they kicked things off with ‘A Hard Days Night.’

Surprisingly, they sound exactly like the real deal complete with Scouse accents between songs. Adam Hastings sounds so much like John Lennon it’s scary and Hugo Degenhardt puts Ringo Starr’s drumming to shame – although that isn’t exactly hard.

Andrew Barreau and Steve White portray George Harrison and Paul McCartney perfectly and all four sink into their roles whilst the set progresses through the eras of The Beatles.

At the midway point they get bodies twisting and bopping with a flawless rendition of ‘Twist and Shout’ before leaving the stage. One costume change later the band return in full Sgt Peppers attire, complete with a small orchestra comprised of horn section, flutes and a string duet.

Excited anticipation is in the air and everyone knows what’s coming next: the one and only ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ that flows beautifully into ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ sung by Degenhardt (Ringo) from the kit.

What follows is arguably the best section of the performance: a whole host of psychedelic rock from Sgt Peppers… and The Magical Mystery Tour, including ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ – which they dedicate to a 9-year-old boy for his birthday before Hastings (Lennon) realises: “What a perfect song for a 9-year-old. A song about drugs.”

The set ends with another costume change into Abbey Road and a climatic ‘Hey Jude.’ The roaring crowd sings along and begs for more which The Bootleg Beatles and their orchestra provide in the form of a mash-up of Abbey Road songs, ending the night with ‘Carry That Weight.’

Andrew Yates