Okay, I’m going to start this one out with a confession. I tell everyone that the first show I ever went to was Bad Religion at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, but really that was just the first punk show I went to. The first live concert I ever saw was “Weird Al” Yankovic at the Orange County fair in 1999. Earlier that year, my dad had come home with a copy of Running With Scissors, which pulled me in right away with 'The Saga Begins', a parody of 'American Pie', but with lyrics summarizing Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Of course I loved the album, and soon I had acquired a CD copy of pretty much every Weird Al album to date. Fifteen years later, they’re in a box on the bottom shelf of my bookcase, neglected (until recently).
The last time I listened to a new “Weird Al” song was 2006, when Straight Outta Lynwood came out (avoiding 'White and Nerdy' was impossible in 8th grade). To be honest, when I heard that Al was releasing a new album in 2014 – and that I had apparently missed an album entirely in 2011 – I was wondering how he could be doing this successfully anymore. Not that he isn’t talented, he is! It’s just that we’re living in a time where crappy internet parodies and mash-ups are clogging up our Facebook/Twitter/Vine feeds. How was this possibly going to be a success when I can google “Miley Cyrus Parody” and get 15.5 million results in 0.38 seconds? The answer – I don’t know, but he did it.
Yankovic just finished releasing one music video per day for 8 days, for 8 tracks on Mandatory Fun. Maybe keeping the internet’s attention for 8 days straight is a big enough feat to keep him relevant, but most likely it’s just good artistry all around.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some revelation, it’s not the best album of the year, but it’s a solid “Weird Al” album. Mandatory Fun has got some stand-out parodies, including 'Foil', a Lorde parody that takes the listener from Al’s process for keeping leftovers in the fridge, then immediately to the mind of a terrified conspiracy theorist wearing a tinfoil hat. What’s not to love? The next hit is a 'Blurred Lines' parody. I’m sure we’re all sick of hearing this song because of Thicke’s misogynistic lyrics and general dickishness, but now we can listen to that catchy beat while hearing complaints about misspellings and grammatical errors that bug us all, so thanks Al! 'Inactive' is a parody of 'Radioactive', that one Imagine Dragons song that I’ve heard a million times and have no idea what it’s about except for the repeated “Radioactive” line. This one is a true anthem though, about sitting around your house eating and watching TV (Are we sure it’s not a Descendents song?). The last straight parody on the album is of Pharrell’s 'Happy', a catchy song with a video full of celebrity cameos in tacky clothing singing about annoying things they do.
In true “Weird Al” form, there is of course a polka melody of pop hits, including Daft Punk, Gotye, Miley Cyrus, and Psy, which left me in disbelief thinking “…do I like that Foster the People song now???” There are a couple style parodies, including an obvious Pixies homage, as well as some less distinct tracks. And the album closes with a 9-minute epic, which could be better, but of course I’m just comparing it to “Albuquerque,” which was the 11-and-a-half-minute long masterpiece that closed Running With Scissors.
Again, this isn’t the best “Weird Al” Yankovic album, and it’s nothing that he hasn’t been doing since the 80’s, but it’s solid. I’ll listen to it a few times and get bored of the songs, but I’m guessing that next time I hear “Happy” by Pharrell, I’m going to be thinking about Jack Black attempting to twerk in the 'Tacky' video, and I’ll picture Al singing about mold and shadow governments when I hear Lorde, just like I sing 'Lasagna' every time I hear 'La Bamba' or hum 'Grapefruit Diet' (DIET!) when I’m cutting grapefruit in the morning, or how I have to YouTube search 'Amish Paradise' every single time I hear 'Gangsta’s Paradise' by Coolio. At the very least, the album will keep you entertained for 45 minutes, I’d say Mandatory Fun is a mandatory listen.
by Nick Ball
Ugh, double live album. Ugh, actually double part-live album with various studio dicking-arounds and dictaphone recordings. Ugh, it’s almost two hours long. Ugh I don’t have enough time to devote to this, a record where one of the tracks is literally just some oddball telling jokes. You all know my feelings on Fall live albums already. I couldn’t even get through the whole thing in one sitting.
It’s not so bad I guess, some decent live tracks - the version of 'Middle Class Revolt' is actually pretty cool and haunting, thanks in massive part to Brix’s backing vocals. I seem to remember saying she could have improved their patchy early 90s work before. But yeah, this is mostly all over the fucking place. A long, often boring, often jarring, occasionally interesting, occasionally amusing, mostly bizarre mess of a collection of stuff from the first half of the 90s. You can’t use it to track the progression of the band’s live sound over the first half of the decade because it appears to be compiled completely at random. Did Mark E. Smith pull names out of a hat to decide the running order? Darts at a dartboard? Reading animal entrails? I just don’t fucking know.
“Outtakes” is a term that really does apply here. Definitely one that’s just for the obsessives and completists, and for anyone who needs to prove that Smith isn’t actually the worst singer in the band, as evidenced by the one that Karl Burns sings. I dunno. If one of my favourite bands put out something similar, this weird mashup of live and unheard stuff, I might well be in to it. But as it’s The Fall, it’s kind of hard to care too much. But I guess few (if any) of my favourite bands really would bother, or would be able, to put something like this together for various reasons which include both musical and commercial integrity, as well as a discography which isn’t big and inconsistent enough.
For some reason this record reminds me of Fugazi’s catalogue of live recordings - The Fall’s relentless release schedule filled with live bootlegs and collections like this is kind of similar to Fugazi’s obsessive completeness but, in true Fall style, it’s like they only did half the job, forgot a bunch of things, probably chucked a few tape reels in to the Rochdale Canal whilst hammered and just, y’know, generally dicked around. As an aside, Generally Dicking Around: Fifty Two Weeks Of The Fall sounds like a book title if ever I heard one. But yeah. The Fall are not Fugazi, though sometimes Smith does sound like an English Ian Mackaye who’s sort of been melted over a candle like a soft cheese at times. When he sort of barks a bit more, y’know?
Whatever. Records like this always feel like a diversion and I regularly wish I hadn’t bothered with them. But, I guess, at the same time they’re kind of essential. Without some knowledge of this sort of shit, you just don’t get a full picture of The Fall. I think this is why the only way I’ve bothered to try and get in to this band is by listening to everything - I knew enough about the band to know that just picking out some arbitrarily prescribed best bits wouldn’t actually give me any understanding of the band at all, and they would still have remained a mystery. And it’s true, just picking out the few good records will trick you in to thinking that The Fall are just a decent post-punk band, rather than one of punk rock’s greatest oddities. And where’s the fun in that?
by Rob Evans
It's been one hell of a week here at The Ruckus. Our 2000Trees content is steadily going up, with two reviews and a plethora of photo sets already available and loads more to come. Alongside that we've got all of our usual insights into the world of music including: New tracks from Billy The Kid, Big Wow and Baby Godzilla - all of the B's! - plus a shiny new, if not slightly odd, video for The Gaslight Anthem's 'Get Hurt' and an even weirder, though slighty more DIY, one from Joyce Manor for 'The Jerk'. We're also streaming five tracks from Vena Portate, the new project from Emily Barker and have photo sets of Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, Gnarwolves, The Retrospective Soundtrack Players and more.
Links to all of that and more can be found below. If you missed anything, be sure to take a look. If you didn't then we'll give you a gold star, but you should look again anyway - Barlow
The morning after the night before. Urgh. It was always going to be the case wasn’t it? Yep, because it always is. Wrapped up in the excitement of seeing friends, watching bands and a genuinely awesome festival atmosphere things got out of hand on the booze front and I found myself waking up in a tent feeling like I’d descended into hell and this was my punishment - to be the first ever boil in the bag human. Of course, when I clambered outside (and didn’t look into the light) things were a whole lot better and I almost felt ready to face the day by the time I’d eaten and changed clothes. Almost.
I needed something light, something chilled out, so I headed up the hill towards The Croft to catch Kitten And Bear. Even this early in the day, the stage was beginning to fill up so I took a seat outside and let the duo’s soft and simple acoustic melodies wash over me. Katy Pearson’s voice was just the thing I needed to shake the pounding in my head and set this second, boiling hot, day at 2000Trees off right. Alas, an overlap with Brawlers meant that I couldn’t take in their entire set and, although I wasn’t sure I’d make it back down the hill, I arrived at The Axiom stage just as this year’s punk rock darlings kicked things off.
As you might imagine, Brawlers’ sound is a world away from the mellow tones emanating from the stage at the top of the hill. However, Brawlers have quickly become one of my favourite new bands of the year and I daren't miss them. I wasn't the only one either. There’s a lot of hype surrounding them and they made it abundantly clear why during this early afternoon set. Fun and frenetic, Brawlers just know how to write a great tune. From the, insanely catchy, ‘Mothers & Fathers’ and it’s killer hook to, grunge-inspired anthem, ‘Heart Attack’, you just can’t fault them. Until it comes to their between-song banter that is. Lead singer, Harry Johns’ many attempts to interact with the crowd often fell on deaf ears, almost to the point of awkwardness. Only a mention that it was Brawlers’ one-year anniversary got a rise from the continuously filling Axiom tent. Any opportunity for quick round of ‘Happy Birthday’, right? Of course, none of these flaws are evident when Johns is on stage. He and the band are a joy to watch and he’s an incredibly engaging frontman. Closing with ‘I Am A Worthless Piece Of Shit’, a song that can well be considered the band’s ‘hit’, they ended their set with a bang, getting a huge response from the crowd, and left me wanting more. Alas, they've only released one EP so far. So much for that then. Banter aside, Brawlers were brilliant. Indie-tinged pop-punk at it’s best.
"...this isn’t what you’d consider typical festival music. Then again, 2000Trees isn’t a typical festival."
Another journey back up the hill to The Croft was on the cards next as Joe Summers' set had already started. Again, I picked a spot outside the tent and listened as he and the band played their melancholy folk tunes in the most chilled out, yet sun drenched, spot on the site. A big fan of his self-titled EP, I was excited to see Joe play. His sound has clearly evolved since that first outing, taking on a more Nick Drake inspired sound, albeit a more accessible one, and feeling much more refined. I listened intently and vowed to re-discover Joe’s stuff when I got back home - I have, it’s still great - and, at the same time, had a thought that this isn’t what you’d consider typical festival music. Then again, 2000Trees isn’t a typical festival. The diversity of the acts is fantastic and that 'almost out of place' theme would continue at The Croft the entire weekend.
That diversity was only emphasised in my choices for the day. Finally feeling fully human, I trundled back down the hill to The Axiom to watch Bleach Blood. The new project from Jamie Jazz (formerly of The King Blues), they were a band I’d heard a lot about and with good reason. Their sound blends punk, ska, indie rock and even synth-pop; the result of which is something I’ve since found has been dubbed “dance punk” so, basically, Bleach Blood is a band that really doesn’t sound like anything else out there. As you can imagine, they weren’t quite what I was expecting. Still, as heavy as the electronic elements are, the band’s punk roots managed to shine through, giving a little edge to a track like ‘H.O.P.E’ and providing a solid base for ‘Darling (Don’t Dive Without Me)’. It’s far from standard three-chord stuff, but it doesn’t matter. For that they pulled out a great cover of Teddybears’ ‘Punk Rocker’ and, closing anthem, ‘Let Your Heart Sing’.
Brawlers aside, up to this point, Friday at 2000Trees had almost been a day of discovery. I liked that. It feels like one of the festival’s key components and the fact they host so many smaller bands really needs commending. Of course, there’s still the main stage and I caught a little of The Computers before returning to The Cave for the first time since the night before. Decked out in their trademark suits, the Exeter punk ‘n’ roll band were undoubtedly the sharpest looking guys at the festival. They wasted no time in getting the party started either. Lead singer, Al Kershaw’s engaging preacher act breathing life into the crowd early on, before the band opened with ‘Bring Me The Head Of A Hipster’. It’s hard not to move to a song like that and the dancing continued through to the equally infectious ‘Love Triangles, Hate Squares’. Alas, it was at this point I had to leave. Baby Godzilla were calling...
"It never felt safe or easily done. It was a showcase of how to do hardcore right and I loved it."
For those yet to experience Baby Godzilla, you must. Of course, that comes with the prerequisite that you’re a fan of heavy music because, as entertaining as they are, they’re not for the feint of heart. Another of my 2014 discoveries, I was introduced to Baby G at Hit The Deck Festival a few months back and was immediately on board with their overly chaotic brand of hardcore. It’s hard not to be though when the band starts their set atop the equipment and proceed to completely annihilate themselves whilst maintaining (some) control of their instruments. Within moments we had two guitarists in the crowd an abundance of crowd surfers and a massive pit. Everyone just got swept up in the Baby Godzilla hurricane. It was incredible. In just seven songs they managed to blow me away all over again. Raw power and energy surged through the entire set, guitars sounding brilliantly mangled. It never felt safe or easily done. It was a showcase of how to do hardcore right and I loved it. 'Powerboat Disaster' aside, could I tell you what songs they played? No. Do I care? No, because Baby Godzilla are true punk rock showmen. Their live show is so absurdly anarchic that words can barely describe it. At one point a huge dumpster was pushed into the tent by the one of the bands guitarists and turned into almost a makeshift stage. What followed was a series of wonderfully idiotic ideas which included a mosh pit in the bin - “in the bin, in the fucking bin,” says aforementioned guitarist behind a glorious beard - and, frankly, you don’t see that every day. By the end of the set we had a broken guitar, a guitar cab in the crowd and a drum going awol. My mouth was on the floor and the same could be said for almost everyone else who’d witnessed that set. The Bronx who?
Obviously, I don’t quite mean that. The Bronx would go on to totally rule the stage themselves later that night, but there was definitely an air of one upmanship about Baby G’s performance. At least there was in my head. I thought about this on my back up towards The Croft so, yeah, maybe the sun was getting to me a bit. As I arrived, Andy Oliveri was just beginning his set. A fairly large crowd had gathered because, like Marwood and Oxygen Thief the day before, Andy is also a bit of a 2000Trees stalwart. His brand of contemporary folk is easy on the ear, and the backing of a band (which included Phil and Si from Solemn Sun) gave his beautifully simple songs a full and well rounded sound. A great lyricist, Oliveri has adopted a storytelling style that give his songs even more chance to resonate with ‘A Heart That Sings Can Never Bleed’, a song which also featured the vocal talents of Mary Cadbury (of The Cadbury Sisters), standing out the most.
After some much needed down time - boy, was it hot out there - I opted for The Croft and Sam Duckworth over The Cave and Trash Talk. I know, I know. I missed out right? It certainly seemed like it as I caught the tail end of the American hardcore band’s set on my way back down the hill. Mr Duckworth was more than worth it though. The artist formerly known as Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly has swapped his electronic-aided sound for an acoustic guitar and a more rough and ready sound whilst still keeping it as emo as possible. Memorable moments include a lengthy monologue on Chernobyl before playing ‘Angels In The Snow’, Duckworth himself admitting that it probably wasn’t the best song to be playing at a festival where everyone’s out for a good time. Still, the poignant tune was one of the highlights of the set. This aside, it was a fairly standard acoustic affair filled with plenty of post-teenage angst but gave Duckworth a chance to reintroduce himself to any fans wondering what happened to the Get Cape moniker.
"So now 2000Trees wasn’t only introducing me to great new music and providing me with opportunities to watch bands I love, it was also making me re-evaluate bands I had previously been soured on."
A visit to the mainstage, for only the second time, was in order next to catch a little of Blood Red Shoes. The Brighton two piece were drowned by the mammoth stage, but their sound was not. Latest single ‘Speech Coma’ sounded huge. The slow, almost purring, intro suckering me in before being replaced wall of indie rock-fuelled noise. It’s impressive, especially when you consider the source is just guitar, drums and vocals. With, following track, ‘Heartsink’ they showed a good amount of energy too; something that I felt they were sorely lacking when I saw them support The Gaslight Anthem a few years ago. So now 2000Trees wasn’t only introducing me to great new music and providing me with opportunities to watch bands I love, it was also making me re-evaluate bands I had previously been soured on. Plus one for 2000Trees and plus one for Blood Red Shoes too. They had a hard task filling that huge main stage, but pulled it off with relative ease.
The night was now closing in on us and it was time for The Bronx to tear The Cave a new one. Would they outdo Baby Godzilla and Trash Talk? Only time would tell. However, if anyone could do it, would be The Bronx. It’s rare to see band sound like they do and still have such a massive crossover appeal. If you were in any doubt of just how popular The Bronx are, all you had to do is look at The Cave and the human overspill around the tent. It was packed full of people, so much so that I felt like I might have enjoyed it less being so far from the action. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, as lead singer Matt Caughthran attacked, opening track, ‘Knifeman’. One of the best songs in The Bronx’s catalog, it’s hard to think of a better way to open up a set. The crowd burst into life immediately and the fun and games began. Bodies smashed into bodies as others were carried atop the crowd. ‘Shitty Future’ came next and the band’s increasing tempo only fuelled the free-for-all nature adopted by those inside the tent. Caughthran himself had even taken it to the crowd multiple times, his facepaint dripping off him with every bead of sweat. Two songs in and they were a shining example to the band’s before them of how to be riotous whilst also being completely flawless. A trifecta of Bronx VI tracks - ‘The Unholy Hand’, ‘Pilot Light’ and ‘Style Over Everything’ - showed off the band’s slightly mellower side, before they melted faces with ‘Heart Attack American’. As expected, the crowd went nuts and young children were dragged away by disapproving parents. Easily the most brutal and brilliant point in the set, it was clear The Bronx were putting everything they had into their performance. That said, when don’t they? Closing with ‘History’s Stranglers’, they went out on a real high and the only word that I could muster was “wow”. Not only were they musically incredible, they were also entertaining as fuck and easily the best band of the day. Sorry Baby G, The Bronx win.
Band Of Skulls closed out Friday night and there was something refreshing about a headline band walking on to a huge cheer before announcing: ‘Hi, we’re Band Of Skulls and we’re from Southampton’, or words to that effect. The grassroots nature of 2000Trees is something I could feel the entire time I was at Upcote Farm and it’s something that can’t be - and isn’t - overlooked. Band Of Skulls on the other hand, had been. By me at least. It’s just dawned on me that I really should do some research before these things, but where’s the fun in that? Plus, it felt like a pretty apt way to close a day that had been almost entirely about new musical introductions. So whilst thousands danced and sang along to the trio’s bluesy rock and roll, I stood back and took it all in. There was an immediate sense of the old school about them. The breakdown on, opening track, ‘Asleep At The Wheel’ being the first sign. It was slick and polished and totally out of my usual remit. However, I quickly warmed to what they were doing: Amongst all of the solos and other pomp and circumstance that comes with their guitar-lead sound, I had this feeling that Band Of Skulls were almost accidental rockstars. That, even though they were up on a pedestal as the main attraction, they seemed lack the ego that comes along with such a position. The same can be said for Frightened Rabbit, but I’ll talk about that in the next installment. As for band of Skulls, they capped off a great day really well and even managed to reach this stubborn music snob with their plethora of riffs.
The night wasn’t over though; it never is at Trees. Secret sets in the woods and singalongs at busking stages would take me and many others into the early hours. It’s in these moments that another of the festival’s key components comes to the fore - the community aspect. Without that, 2000Trees would be a shell of what it is. However, without it I might wake up one morning without a hangover. I’ll never learn, will I?