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Rockaway Beach 2018, Butlin's, Bognor Regis

  • Published in Live


Back after a year off & positioning itself as the first UK offering of the festival season (if a year-long period can be described as a season), Rockaway Beach once again boasts a good variety of old and new acts so, on a personal level, I can see a number of potentially exciting prospects for the first time whilst taking in performances from other acts I’ve not seen for anywhere between five and 20-ish years.

Friday night’s bill perfectly illustrates that element of the event as I’ve not seen Honeyblood before but have high expectations, I haven’t seen The Orb since sometime in the ‘90s and the last Horrors gig I took in saw them still shouting & screaming, rather than performing their lusher current sound.

All of the above performed admirably - Honeyblood were an energetic opening act with plenty of chat to get the audience involved, fighting off the last vestiges of the flu in the process. The audience were pretty static but certainly knew the recent singles such as 'Babes Never Die' as the duo saved the best for last. 

The Horrors were sublime & easily the best act of the whole weekend. Given the direction they've gone over the past three albums the sound itself was obviously no surprise but the assured manner in which they now perform was an obvious step forward from the last time I'd seen them. Faris even took the time to pass on his new year resolution - to talk more and be nicer to people and then barely said a word after. Tres droll but in keeping with the overall wit of the show.

Sound-wise The Orb were a bit of an odd choice to come on next but they started off with a couple of numbers even I recognised (they've had half a dozen or so albums out since I last paid them a great deal of attention) & so they brought a solid & groove-filled end to the night which saw quite a few in the crowd loosening up in advance of Tim Burgess's closing DJ set.

Saturday's stand out performance came from Snapped Ankles, sweating themselves thinner in the smaller Reds performance space. Those ghillie suits they wear aren't I imagine that breathable. Air hockey's their game of choice it seems & the audience were welcomed to challenge them at it after the show. They bring a great deal of energy to the stage with their tribal-influenced sound, which felt a lot more immediate than on record. They'd a very good looped back projection on the go too.

Pulled Apart By Horses were the final act of this afternoon, a band I know by name but have never really made the effort to listen to. On the evidence of the show today I don't see that changing anytime soon. They're chat was pleasant enough, they're loud and pretty fast but somehow I found the whole thing unconvincing.

Into the main hall we all then trooped for British Sea Power & the apparently final festival show from Wild Beasts. BSP I've seen a number of times but tonight they seemed rather one dimensional, despite the nice foliage they'd had the stage decorated with. The rest of the audience lapped it up but I felt that each song was in the same gear, with no obvious changes in pace and whilst they had a good amount of chat I found myself largely disengaged. Wild Beasts were another act I've known of but not actively listened to so I wasn't expecting the Dutch Uncles-esque sound that came forth when they took to the stage. Again I seemed to be out of sync with the rest of the crowd so I left them to it after a couple of songs.

Sunday's highlight for me was again in Reds where punk-pop stalwart Helen Love and her band held sway for a fast, fun and frivolous set which greatly appealed to the (smaller than usual) crowd who clearly knew what to expect and loved every minute of it. It was pleasing to finally have caught a live show by the group after many years of enjoying their output.

I've never 'got' Alabama 3 & tonight's show from them brought me no nearer to doing so. I presume the bouncer on stage during their Blues Brothers-esque performance is part of their schtick. They can't have been worried about stage invaders, given the age and condition of the bulk of us watching. I'd last seen the band at Rockness in 2008 but at least there there was another stage or tent in which to seek entertainment. No such option this time around so I ended up taking the short walk into Bognor Regis itself in search of an ale.

Whilst the event has introduced interview features in the bar during the afternoons as well as films each day (which I presume were chosen as much for the music in them as the stories) the problem it suffered from in the main was that of being more like three all-dayers in a row rather than a proper festival. When last here in 2015 there were three stages with acts overlapping each other so you could wander from one to the other, see more & have more chance of viewing a whole set. This year there was no overlap so you either stuck around or wandered off back to your apartment or to eat and/or drink (or to play the tuppenny falls). Given that there were fewer bands than three years ago this was probably though the only way to operate things.

Making it back with more time to kill than necessary it was handy that Peter Hook & The Light, an act it was obvious many fans had come mainly to see, came on stage around 45 minutes earlier than billed. I've been wary of this act since first reading about it and it took no time at all for my suspicion that it's an ego trip to be confirmed. Nostalgia's all well & good but if Martin Gore started fronting a Depeche Mode covers band (or tribute act depending on how you choose to word it) or Lol Tolhurst did the same for material from his time in The Cure it would have the same ring to it. Bernard Sumner doesn't really sound right singing Joy Division songs (as witnessed on the recent New Order live album) so how's the band's old bassist going to? Deciding to stick with the recorded versions of the songs in question it was bed before midnight for me. 


Pulled Apart By Horses - The Haze

  • Published in Albums


Trends in music come and go. New genres spring up in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways. Change is constant. All this may have a ring of truth about it but one thing remains abundantly clear. Britain will always have a place in its record collections for metal. It just will. Come hell or hard, Brexit the UK will continue to enjoy a metallic taste whatever the musical whims of the day. The reason being that many of us, in our musical journey, will have had a hard rock phase. That phase, generally experienced by boys but not exclusively, will hold a special place in our hearts wherever our tastes take us. Thus we are always going to be suckers for something that hammers on those heart strings. The likes of Wolf Alice and Drenge are merely the latest of a long line of acts that prove this.

That list may have included Pulled Apart By Horses not so long ago but something went wrong along the way. With three albums under their belts, the band kind of fell apart. Uncertain about what they were doing and unsure where they were going they went to ground. After some considerable time out and a reshaping of the line up, the band (a drummer replaced - how very metal), Pulled Apart By Horses decided to go back to the future. They took themselves off somewhere remote, ditched the 21st Century technology and began to party like it was 1989. Now these ‘back to basics’ approaches are fraught with a particular danger. The hope is that the band in question can return to the original seam of their creativity and mine out some more precious material which puts everyone back in mind of the good old days. And that the good old days are now. Such moves are regressive in their nature and thus, more often than not, lead to material that is a pale imitation of what went before. A fading facsimile of a creativity that has passed and remains elusive and crushingly out of reach.

The Haze bypasses such worries with one very fine move - it is really good. It has a punky, punchy energy, it sounds taut, it has melodies, it has hooks galore and has bits to sing along to. All the songs weigh in at around three minutes meaning nothing gets a chance to outstay it’s welcome. This is no pretentious quest to return to some mythic source. This is four band mates playing their backsides off and having a great time along the way. ‘There’s still life in the old dog yet’ sings Tom Hudson on ‘Moonbather’ and you have to agree.

‘The Haze’, the song, kicks things off and is a broody, confident opener with its bruising basslines and throbbing rhythm boxing you around the ears to make you take notice. The disturbingly titled ‘Prince Of Meats’ is another highlight. A dense frantic opening gives way to some sparse guitar lines with Hudson offhandedly informing us ‘But I can’t save anyone’ as the torrent of sound returns to sweep us away. Ross Orton produces here (also known for his work with Drenge amongst others) and he really does get the best out of Robert Lee (bass) and Tommy Davidson (drums) throughout the record. Stand out track is ‘Lamping’ which features a towering psychedelic flavoured riff under which the track swells and falls whilst Hudson’s vocal takes on a more dreamy quality. There is more than a bit of early Black Sabbath about it, which is high praise indeed. ‘Dumb Fun’ twists and twirls between flat out energy and spiralling lines of guitar, leaving the record ending on a high.

If we need to be picky then you can level some criticisms at The Haze. At times it sounds a little too dense and samey. Some songs blending into others. The vocal occasionally a little too throat worryingly screechy. But that is a little like complaining that the sea is wet. Or salty. It what it is. This album knows what it wants to be and goes about it with great effect. There is no fakery or unnecessary novelty, it’s straight down the line of heavy rock. If this is your thing, then this WILL be your thing. This record will find a way into your heart and it will stay there. Pulled Apart By Horses have used The Haze to see clearly again. Let’s hope their vision is maintained for some time to come.

The Haze is available via Amazon and iTunes.


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