wed 01/04/2015

New Music reviews, news & interviews

Future Islands, Roundhouse

Russ Coffey

It’s been just over a year since Future Islands’ Samuel T Herring famously gyrated, and chest-thumped his way through the band's latest single on American TV. The show was Letterman and the singer looked like a stevedore undergoing primal scream therapy. Within days the footage had gone viral. People have been talking about it ever since. Not least in the bar before last night’s show – how could he, they asked, possibly keep that up for an hour and a half?Heaven knows where...

DVD: Rude Boy

Kieron Tyler

Rude Boy is a rotten film. Nonetheless it exerts an inexorable draw as it includes live footage of The Clash which is amongst the best of any rock group on stage. The performance of “Safe European Home”, caught on camera in July 1978, is white hot. That is, the performance as seen. The audio track was subsequently modified in a recording studio.Rude Boy is not a documentary. It is a confabulation which didn’t represent The Clash as they saw themselves – which was a crafted persona anyway. The...

CD: Pombagira – Flesh Throne Press

Guy Oddy

Flesh Throne Press is the sixth album from heavy doom-rock duo Pombagira. Guitarist and singer Pete and drummer Carolyn Hamilton-Giles’s massive...

CD: Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell

Lisa-Marie Ferla

Let’s get one thing straight: Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie & Lowell is not a folk album. Folk, in this case, is a word used as a comfort blanket in an...

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Specials

Kieron Tyler

 The Specials: Specials, More Specials; The Special AKA: In the StudioAfter hearing the three albums credited to The Specials during their...

CD: The Prodigy - The Day Is My Enemy

Thomas H Green

The Essex rave juggernaut's sixth is unapologetically ballistic

CD: Polar Bear – Same As You

Matthew Wright

Post-jazzers add ambient dub to a spacey, love-infused mix

CD: Hanoi Masters - War Is a Wound, Peace Is a Scar

Mark Kidel

Touching field recordings from Vietnam

The Subways, Institute, Birmingham

Guy Oddy

Punk poppers give the beginning of the week an almighty shot in the arm

CD: Motorama – Poverty

Kieron Tyler

Russia’s counterpart to North Britain’s Eighties miserablists harnesses the power of song

Ian McCulloch, St Pauls Arts Centre, Worthing

Thomas H Green

Echo & the Bunnymen singer successfully retrieves a concert initially marred by his own unpleasantness

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Odyssey - A Northern Soul Time Capsule

Kieron Tyler

As all-encompassing as it gets on massive, thought-provoking Northern Soul box set

CD: Seasick Steve – Sonic Soul Surfer

Guy Oddy

Festival perennial replenishes the soul with good vibes

Sam Lee & Friends: Temples Tour

Tim Cumming

A triumphant end to a tour of ancient songs sung in sacred places

CD: Laura Marling - Short Movie

Russ Coffey

Introspective songstress reaches for her inner rock chick

Cheikh Lô: Dreadlocked Islamic Funk

Peter Culshaw

The majestic Senegalese singer is back with a new EP and glossy video

CD: Benjamin Clementine - At Least for Now

Thomas H Green

London-Parisian singer-pianist amazes with his debut

The Pursuit of Now, Sadler's Wells

Matthew Wright

The parts of this stellar dance-with-jazz line-up dazzle, without quite making a whole

CD: Blancmange – Semi Detached

Barney Harsent

Neil Arthur returns and raises his game with a singular vision

Dr John & The NiteTrippers, Ronnie Scott's

Thomas Rees

The New Orleans legend makes a virtue of his age

CD: Lightning Bolt - Fantasy Empire

Guy Oddy

Manic noise-rockers return on top form

The Stranglers, O2 Academy, Birmingham

Guy Oddy

The Men in Black sell out in Birmingham and burn the place down

CD: Boz Scaggs - A Fool To Care

Mark Kidel

Mostly stirring covers from master of sensuous R&B

Reissue CDs Weekly: Simple Minds

Kieron Tyler

Fantastic bombast and the shadow of U2 on the stadia-embracing ‘Sparkle in the Rain’

CD: Björk - Vulnicura

Heidi Goldsmith

The queen of alt-pop is courageously wrought rather than radical

Paloma Faith, Brighton Centre

Thomas H Green

Soul girl with big personality takes the audience with her, eventually

Spandau Ballet, Brighton Centre

Thomas H Green

Former new romantic soul boys take a tour of the 1980s

CD: The Rezillos - Zero

Thomas H Green

Long-time-coming second album from Scottish punk rock originals

'The Pain Swallowed Her Up' – Rebecca Ferguson Sings Billie Holiday

Matthew Wright

X Factor soul-pop star on her new album to celebrate the jazz singer's centenary

Footnote: a brief history of new music in Britain

New music has swung fruitfully between US and UK influences for half a century. The British charts began in 1952, initially populated by crooners and light jazz. American rock'n'roll livened things up, followed by British imitators such as Lonnie Donegan and Cliff Richard. However, it wasn't until The Beatles combined rock'n'roll's energy with folk melodies and Motown sweetness that British pop found a modern identity outside light entertainment. The Rolling Stones, amping up US blues, weren't far behind, with The Who and The Kinks also adding a unique Englishness. In the mid-Sixties the drugs hit - LSD sent pop looking for meaning. Pastoral psychedelia bloomed. Such utopianism couldn't last and prog rock alongside Led Zeppelin's steroid riffing defined the early Seventies. Those who wanted it less blokey turned to glam, from T Rex to androgynous alien David Bowie.

sex_pistolsA sea change arrived with punk and its totemic band, The Sex Pistols, a reaction to pop's blandness and much else. Punk encouraged inventiveness and imagination on the cheap but, while reggae made inroads, the most notable beneficiary was synth pop, The Human League et al. This, when combined with glam styling, produced the New Romantic scene and bands such as Duran Duran sold multi-millions and conquered the US.

By the mid-Eighties, despite U2's rise, the British charts were sterile until acid house/ rave culture kicked the doors down for electronica, launching acts such as the Chemical Brothers. The media, however, latched onto indie bands with big tunes and bigger mouths, notably Oasis and Blur – Britpop was born.

By the millennium, both scenes had fizzled, replaced by level-headed pop-rockers who abhorred ostentation in favour of homogenous emotionality. Coldplay were the biggest. Big news, however, lurked in underground UK hip hop where artists adapted styles such as grime, dubstep and drum & bass into new pop forms, creating breakout stars Dizzee Rascal and, more recently, Tinie Tempah. The Arts Desk's wide-ranging new music critics bring you overnight reviews of every kind of music, from pop to unusual world sounds, daily reviews of new releases and downloads, and unique in-depth interviews with celebrated musicians and DJs, plus the quickest ticket booking links. Our writers include Peter Culshaw, Joe Muggs, Howard Male, Thomas H Green, Graeme Thomson, Kieron Tyler, Russ Coffey, Bruce Dessau, David Cheal & Peter Quinn

Close Footnote

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

Sweeney Todd, London Coliseum

Barber, piemaker and orchestra all predictably consummate, but the staging...

Future Islands, Roundhouse

Could Samuel T Herring be pop's most charismatic performer?

A Nation Divided? The Charlie Hebdo Aftermath, BBC Three

Troubling investigation of the disaffection of French Muslims

Kidnapping Freddy Heineken

Anthony Hopkins sleep-walks into his cell as a captive lager magnate

DVD: Rude Boy

Despite its shortcomings, film vehicle for The Clash is an essential pop-cu...

The Ark, BBC One

Old Testament epic rendered as an animal-free northern soap

Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity, BBC Two

The presenter teases out the answers to the questions the viewer wants to a...

Ronald Stevenson (1928-2015): A virtuoso remembered

Memories of a maverick pianist and composer of 80-minute homage to Shostako...

Why everyone should see The Mysteries from Cape Town

How a medieval play from Chester ended up in Xhosa and Zulu

Something Must Break

Sensitive Swedish examination of identity and transgender love