Ash to appear at Kentish Town Forum with Stereophonics; stream new single

2020 has barely begun, but January is shaping up to be a very busy month for indie legends Ash as they embark on the promotion of their new anthology album.

Although a singles compilation celebrating the first decade of the band only appeared last year, 2020 sees a second compilation ‘Teenage Wildlife: 25 Years of Ash’ digging even deeper into their extensive catalogue.  As well as featuring the more obvious tracks, a three disc version of the anthology includes a disc of career-spanning rarities.

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YOUNG HARBOR – Criminal EP

With press materials that advertise the band members as fans lots of post-punk artists and whom make music that has “the soaring arpeggios of U2 to 90s distortion”, Young Harbor aren’t hedging their bets. That could cover quite a wide spectrum of rock-oriented music. They go on to claim their sound applies a “unique” approach to vocals (predictably, it doesn’t). On paper, they are a band that seems too keen to impress. [They also claim to be big fans of The Smiths, so perhaps not … At the time of this EP’s release, it might’ve been better to keep such things quiet.]

Moving on from their own hype, thankfully, the actual music on their 2019 EP is very strong all round. Right from the off, their love of angular post-punk is in place. During the lead track ‘The City Has A Charm’, the band channel little bits of Wire and Gang of Four into a more melodic structure, weaving a punchy bassline in and out of a chopping rhythm guitar, while a heavily treated vocal adds extra retro cool. Of course, by making such things more commercial, the core sound often sounds so much more like Franz Ferdinand than anything truly post-punk, but with a massive hook at play, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A brief guitar solo adds a high pitched soaring sound, almost as if inspired by U2’s The Edge circa 1983 but instead of using this as a huge feature, it’s more of an interlude; the band clearly understands the main melody and chorus hook are more important than any over-indulgence.

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REAL GONE GOES OUT: The Wonder Stuff – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 13/12/2019

It’s approximately 8.25 at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Jim Bob has not long finished an excellent acoustic set and Alice Cooper is bellowing ‘Hello, Hooray’ across the PA system. Whether or not this choice of between set music has been chosen deliberately or is just a welcome coincidence remains to be seen. However, its lyric concerning letting the show begin and pulling in the audience is certainly apt. Tonight, the near capacity crowd are very keen…and – in some cases – especially so, since they’ve got a good idea of the night’s set list. Stourbridge’s finest, The Wonder Stuff, have promised that their first two albums – 1988’s ‘The Eight Legged Groove Machine’ and 1989’s ‘Hup’ – will be played in full. These are albums that still mean the world to most of The Stuffies’ loyal fanbase. They’re also albums that have the potential to be enjoyed by listeners who might not have connected with them that first time around. More than just nostalgia, the coming set is automatically geared towards fantastic songs. High spirits and a lot of crowd singing are both guaranteed.

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REAL GONE GOES OUT: Jim Bob – Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London 13/12/2019

It’s the middle of December and there’s a conflicting mood in the air. People are gearing up for Christmas so there’s a bustling feel to the city, yet at the same time, it’s the night after a General Election so any excitement is contrasted by the dread of another five years with a Conservative government increasing austerity measures and generally widening an already massive divide between rich and poor.

Taking his place at the mic stand on a sparsely decorated stage, the legendary Jim Bob seems aware of this mood. “I feel like I should say something…profound” he tells the audience, before even playing a note. Quite how profound a man could be while wearing a gold sparkly jacket and sunglasses on loan from The Banana Splits is anyone’s guess. “…Or we could have a sing-song”, he beams, before launching into a stripped down version of Carter’s ‘Is Wrestling Fixed?’, its opening lines greeted with a huge roar. It’s a great performance, but drawing more heavily from the whimsical than the energetic, its a less-than-obvious opener. Nevertheless, the front half of the audience is hugely receptive and even in the bar areas nearer to the back of the venue, bellowing voices are more than evident. Digging further into the Carter back catalogue, the fantastic Billy’s Smart Circus whips up the audience further into a shouting mass – this first dip into the fan favourite ’30 Something’ album boding well for the rest of the set.

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