Meeking – ‘I Am Because We Are’ album review

Meeking album launch, at Moles Bath, 2017

When Jake Meeking kindly sent me his band’s album to review, he emphasized the need to remove all distractions, put on some headphones and turn it up really loud. I considered this to be the warbling self-indulgence of artistic passion, ignored it and began listening through my laptop speakers while I set about my daily chores.

40 seconds in I hit the pause button and started checking my diary for ‘chore-free’ time when I could listen to this album the way Jake had suggested, because so distracting and enticing were those opening few seconds, I wanted to make sure my full attention was given to it.

When the time came I plugged in my headphones, turned up the volume, sat back and listened to the alt-blues-jazz-rock of sonic-artistry . The opening few bars of ‘Bigger than me’ really draw the listener in, building with teasing picking and what I believe are background synth sounds, reaching an epic crescendo as the base, drums and Jake’s voice smash into the mix.

‘Bigger than me’ is a massive “Hey! We’re Meeking and this is what we do”. The track continually drops and peaks and develops with some overlapping layers. I listened to it a few times in succession and each time found something new to pique my interest. It’s over 5 minutes long, which some might say is a ballsy move for an opening track, but it needs to be, because there’s so much too it.

Theo Stevens from Meeking, at Moles, Bath 2017
Theo Stevens from Meeking

The audio quality of the album is fantastic too and makes me think that some serious effort went into the production.

I went to the launch at Moles and track 2 ‘Bury me’ had me grinning as I watched Jake unleashed some beautiful guitar work. It kicks in around the 2min mark and is just delightful, especially if you get to watch it being played.

Cassidy Jones of Tell The Hoi joined Meeking on stage for the third number, “I am because we are”, and the title of the album. Tell The Hoi are another fantastic Bath band and were one of two acts providing support on the night.

The song starts with a bit of pace, but soon slows and becomes more lyrically emotive. The lyrics suggest a feeling of the support you get from your family when you’re facing some of life’s trickier obstacles, possibly homage to the support many artists in the pursuit of success get from their families. It also sets the pace for the next few songs, which are more peaceful than the first few anthemic numbers.

‘204’ is a big contender for my favourite track on the album. It starts with some enchanting guitar noodling, not just from Jake, but latter on from Theo Stevens too, as he throws out volleys of superb base work. This track is flipping majestic!

Jake Meeking from Meeking, performing at Moles Bath, 2017
Jake Meeking

Track 5 ‘Better man’, again is a slower number, which has some nice soft picking and simple high hat and snare brush work. Jake’s vocals stop about halfway through and allow for some sultry guitar to slowly fade the track out, which provides a fantastic through line into track 6, where things start to pick up pace again.

‘New world’ is another teaser, which builds and then drops just before the crescendo, before building up again, something Meeking have clearly developed as a talent. That’s not to say other bands don’t do the same thing, but Meeking have perfected the tease. Using some gentle guitar riffs, Jake creates an appropriate otherworldly atmosphere, which interchanges with the fuller sound of the chorus.

‘This army’ has a similar opening atmospheric riff to ‘Bury me’, but that drops away and is replaced by some slight distortion on guitar and a return to the more anthemic sounds at the beginning of the album. This is the same for the following song, ‘Wheels’, where the distorted guitar is more evident and Jake really lets loose his laudable vocals.

There is a definite signature to this album, something any band should strive to achieve in their work. Like when you listen to Hendrix or Chili Peppers, there is a quality that immediately identifies who is playing.

The penultimate track, ‘It’s over when it’s over’ has a suitable air of summing up, with elements of a wandering serenade, mixed with a hint of sadness as you realize you’ve nearly reached the end of the album. It’s 6 minutes of evocative music that somehow creates a feeling of nostalgia for an album that you only started listening to half an hour ago.

In contrast the final track is very short and a bit somber, but no less beautiful than the rest of the album and is a nice way to close. However, that being said, at the album launch, Meeking did follow it with a far more upbeat number as a final song of the night.

The gig itself was excellent, with some fantastic performances by the opening acts Tell The Hoi and Newton Country, two bands I’m happy to recommend you see live as soon as possible.

Jake was right about how to listen to this, though I can’t condone listening to anything too loud, having no distractions, my headphones on and the volume turned right up really allowed me to fully embrace the creative skill that went into it.

In all, ‘I am because we are’ is a brilliantly crafted album. I may be wrong, but I sense that real thought and effort went into each track and the way the songs are put together is perfect. The musicianship from Jake, Theo and Glenn is exquisite and it was honestly a pleasure to review.

Written by @LordSkitch 

Thank you to Soul Media for the photos

Album launch 21 October 2017

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Baby In Vain at Moles

Andrea and Lola from Baby In Vain performing on main stage at Moles, Bath, 10 October 2017

An auditory assault met my ears as I descended the stairs to the Moles main stage. “Was this going to be a pleasant experience?” I wondered. It wasn’t going to be gentle that was for sure.

One of the best things about Moles is its story. When you watch a gig there, you’re not just seeing a band, you’re sharing in history.

Other venues come and go and yes, they show some great bands, but at Moles, you’re joining an institution that stretches back decades, you’re becoming a member of those ‘who were there’, those who stood in the same place and watched the likes of Oasis, The Cure, Radiohead and many more on their rise to stardom.

The main event that night was Baby In Vain, a 3 part band from Copenhagen. They’ve already started to make a big name for themselves across Europe and have also toured the states, supporting The Kills. Moles was the halfway point of a 16 venue tour of the UK, taking them from Aberdeen to Southampton, Cardiff to London, and everywhere between.

Meekers at Moles October 2017
Meekers at Moles

Alas, I’d missed the opening act, Swamp, but Meekers, the main support act, had just started as I arrived. They proceeded to pelt out a series of speedy songs with hardly any breaks, giving little time to reflect on the last song before they blasted into the next.

It was simple, brutal and amazingly enjoyable, and also held some fine musicianship; but what was even more gratifying to witness, was how they embodied the spirit of grass roots rock, punk and garage bands the world over, those who don’t care if they get famous or not, they just want to have a good time and share it with others.

When it comes to Baby In Vain, the uninitiated could be forgiven for thinking ‘Oh, this is going to be a fun little set’. Bene, Lola and Andrea look harmless, but before the first note finishes, you will have no doubt that what stands before you, is nothing short of a musical leviathan.

Baby In Vain performing at Moles, Bath, October 2017

Their music is a guttural, savage, twisting of grunge rock, which doesn’t bother with a bass guitar, but features switchable rhythm and lead guitars and vocals, punchy percussion and a bit of synth.

The swapping of vocals causes you to constantly change your focus throughout the set and the effects ladened guitar shredding had me and other audience members nodding in appreciation.

They’ve been likened to B.R.M.C., and while that theme is definitely there, I was also reminded of Nirvana, not just for the sound, but for the raw emotion which comes through their songs, which are dark and often a bit sinister.

Their music isn’t pretty, but that’s what makes it beautiful, like a work of art made from burning car tyres. They’re one of those bands that ‘When you get it, you get it’, and as soon as their set had finished I wanted it to start from the beginning again immediately.

I spoke to them briefly following the set, about how music had brought them together, and was glad to hear they were taking a break and spending the following day in Bath, before heading on to Southampton for the second stage of their tour.

Please come back soon, Baby In Vain!

I’ll be back at Moles soon, for the Meeking album launch! 

Written by @LordSkitch 

Thank you to Soul Media for the photos

Reviewed on 10 October 2017

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Pink Hotel at Komedia

Pink Hotel performing at Komedia, Bath, September 2017

The ‘Hef’, rest his soul, would have told you that sex sells. Everyone knows it and arguably, that’s what Pink Hotel were selling on stage at Komedia; a pulse-pounding, sweaty display of musical titillation.

They were supported by Five By Five, All That Glitters and Tell The Hoi, the first two of which unfortunately I missed, but I was lucky enough to review All That Glitters on a previous occasion and hopefully we’ll get to see Five By Five soon.

Tell The Hoi are a band who have been about in Bath for a while now, but I’d not seen yet. Boy, was I missing out. Initially, they looked run of the mill indie, but as soon as they started playing I realized there’s more to them .

Tell The Hoi performing on stage at Komedia in Bath in September 2017
Tell The Hoi

They describe themselves as “Experimenting with psychedelic sounds and alternative structures…” and have an ambition to create new indie rock. ‘Psychedelic’ often sets off a subtle alarm bells for me, as it’s proved to mean ‘rambling nonsense’ in the past. Yes, the psychedelic aspect was there, but it wasn’t nonsense and far from rambling; rather more part of a pallet of many themes, so many, it was difficult making an association, which is great. Clearly, they’re achieving their ambition.

At times, I heard essence of Blur, Billie Idol, The Verve and in one song an ever so slight hint of Bachman-Turner of all things. Honestly, I couldn’t possibly associate them with any one artist and perhaps that’s why I’m an instant fan, that and the nostalgic amalgam of 80’s and 90’s bands they seem to embody.

Their attitude was endearing too. Harry Page, the frontman, wandered the stage with the charming swagger of someone who is there by accident, but is going to enjoy themselves.

I’m really looking forward to seeing them supporting at Meeking’s album launch in October.

A short hiatus and Pink Hotel took up their headline spot.

Sam Gotley performing at Komedia, Bath, September 2017
Sam Gotley of Pink Hotel

Sam Gotley’s hair is verging on the majestic and his look is now that of a young Dave Grohl with some, not all of, the dress sense of Steve Tyler.

 

The first song, Neon Clouds, exploded with rock fuelled enthusiasm and shook the room, leaving no doubt that the night was going to end with a kick in the cochlea and it segued beautifully into So Long Farewell, an interesting title for only the second song of the set, but hell it was good.

Their music has hints of Springstein, a bit of Alice Cooper and at times even a little Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy, all brought forward for a 21st Century audience.

It had been a while since I’d seen them and their sound has transformed, in part I feel, thanks to the added piano and Korg which brought a new scope to the songs, which, in the aforementioned erotic fashion, built with a brooding passion towards a writhing (audience included), earth-shattering… You get the picture.

Sam Gotley fronting Pink Hotel at Komedia in Bath, in September 2017

 

Many of the songs seemed to have underlying themes of love and sexual encounters, some good, others dubious, like in the song ‘She doesn’t know’ and ‘Dressed in leather’.

Jamie Wales from Pink Hotel, performing at Komedia, Bath, in September 2017

They unleashed a couple of new tracks, including ‘Heaven’ and ‘My friend Mary’, the latter of which had a very pleasing reminiscent air of Green Day’s album “American Idiot”.

The crowd loved them, I loved them, what more can you ask for? Probably a record contract. Hopefully, that won’t be far off.

A final word about the venue. I have to hand it to Komedia, passed experiences of the sound quality at the venue had left me apprehensive about tonight’s gig, but they nailed it, with a fantastic sound mix and a lighting display that at times had me thinking I was in Tron. My faith is restored in this venue.

Written by @LordSkitch 

Reviewed on 27 September 2017

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Don’t Play With Guns @MolesBath

Don't Play With Guns performing on stage at Moles in Bath in February 2017

Thursday night STEREO at Moles. We were there to watch Don’t Play With Guns, but first our ears were subjected to two dubious support acts, who exploded a cacophony on stage, while butchering Nirvana and Massive Attack covers.

To be fair, they were enthusiastic and probably quite newly formed, so we’ll forgive them; this time, and review them properly at a later date.

So moving swiftly on from the shaky opening acts, lets talk about Don’t Play With Guns (DPWG). The anti-gun lobbyists, came armed with a camera crew, all adorned with DPWG t-shirts and ready to cover the gig from every conceivable angle and this is important; and we’ll explain why in a moment.

They started with a song called “We are who we are”, which was nice, mellow and smooth, but irritating, because it sounds similar to another popular song, yet we couldn’t place it. The second song, “Before she realizes” was an emotive piece in much the same vein as the opener.

Things started to get a little louder in song three, building up to the second half of their set where the gig got decidedly more interesting. Song four (I missed the song names around this area) was another number which sounded similar to a popular song, but this time we managed to figure out what song it was, “Killing in the name”. The next sounded like Slipknot’s, “Spit it out” with Angus, the frontman, executing a trademark Corey Taylor crowd interaction moment, followed by a rendition of “SpongeBob Squarepants”, another Corey trademark moment.

At this point, we realized just how reliant on other artist’s crowd-pleasing numbers DPWG are. Should we be offended? The answer is “No.”

Yes, a lot of the set was covers, including an actual performance of “Killing in the name” and an excellent execution of “Voodoo Child” and the rest of the songs sounded very much like reworkings of other people’s material; but when you’re competing in an industry where every note has already been played in probably every conceivable order, things are going to sound similar.

What’s more, it’s clever; not ripping off other people’s songs, that isn’t clever, but arguably the quickest way to become successful is to find someone who has become successful and repeat whatever it is they did. Now add the camera crew I mentioned earlier, there to gather footage of the band playing on the same stage Oasis, The Cure and a host of well-known bands have played, including Massive Attack; putting free EPs out for people to grab and asking someone to come and review their gig, makes this one of the smartest bands I’ve seen in a long time.

So many bands believe they will become superstars just through sheer talent. Nope. It takes hard work and a business mentality too.

Don't Play With Guns performing at Moles in Bath in February 2017

But, let’s put business plans to one side and talk about actual talent.

Angus Brick’s vocals are delightful, a cross between Eddie Vedder and Finley Quaye and he has superb skills when it comes to getting an audience involved. We already sang Jack Whitby’s praises in the last review featuring DPWG and it was a solid performance from Callum Brundle on percussion, but a special mention goes to Chris Nesbitt, who absolutely smashed the cover of Jimi’s “Voodoo Child”, along with some other creative moments.

They haven’t quite developed the level of lyrical brilliance of Bohemian Rhapsody, but never-the-less, their lyricism is still a lot better than some of the main stream crud you hear on the radio every day.

The band gels fantastically, but they still have a lot of work to do, there were a couple of dodgy harmonies and they need more of their own material. Their set list could possibly also do with some reworking. The first two songs didn’t match with the later numbers and resulted in a slightly slowish start to the set, rather than an explosion of energy that they clearly have within them. However, considering how recently they formed, this was an outstanding performance and sets them up well for the future, if they have the drive and a bit of luck.

Written by @LordSkitch 

Reviewed on 2 February 2017

Listen to Don’t Play With Guns on Spotify

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