TESTAMENT: live review

TESTAMENT @ OXFORD O2 ACADEMY, 19/6/2016

Track one: OVER. THE WALL. Foolhardily suicidal, or a Buster Gonad-sized show of ballsiness?

Buster G all the way, thrashers. When you’ve survived as much and as long as Testament have, there’s no danger of an old-skule anthem – a GENRE anthem, no less – blowing your load too early because you know you’ve got a tankload of classics to unearth, and that’s exactly what they do for the next hour and a half: lay a thrash masterclass on us with a line-up that almost defies the eyes. Chuck Billy front, Steve DiGiorgio bass, Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson guitar pyro and, possibly the highest of highlights, machinist Gene Hoglan on drums… shit-yesss. Can’t claim familiarity with all or even most of his credentials but his un(s)toppable human-industrial assault on Strapping Young Lad’s City has blown my mind for nearly 20 years now, so the chance to see the SYL/Dark Angel/Death backbone ain’t one to miss. And here he is, with Testament in a not-packed O2, and their opening shot is Over the Wall. Does it get much better?

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Eric Peterson: hornthrower

One look at Chuck’s permasmiling face says it all: no, it doesn’t get much better, and his virtuoso mic stand air-guitaring tells you that he’s having a ball up there (though he still looks like he could twist your head off one-handed). As for Skolnick and Peterson… effortless displays of musicality and velocity.

Tracks played? Take your pick from any number of goldies from a lifetime in the thrash premiership…. The New Order, Dog Faced Gods, Practice What You Preach, Disciples of the Watch, Rise Up and More Than Meets the Eye span it all, while the mosh-mental Into the Pit – ‘written about the crazy motherfuckers when we started, and now it’s for YOU crazy motherfuckers’ – does no wrong. D.N.R. is, with Hogan propelling it, fearsome.

Formation of Damnation seals the night off, and if Chuck is distracted by mic issues then no-one on this side of the stage is. Formation is as rampant as everything else tonight and a colossal reminder not just of how special Testament are, but of how relevant they remain. Tonight’s gig has a real family feel about it, and at the head of it all is a class-act combo of passion, precision and bullshit-free speed metal.

Welcome back, Testament.

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ADAM ANT: live review

ADAM ANT @ OXFORD NEW THEATRE, 8/6/2016

Are we excited about this?

Oh yeah. Just a bit a lot. Heyday pop revivals aren’t the kind of gigs I go to but you’ll have to forgive the undercurrent of gush in this review because this is the exception: it’s ADAM ANT, and the New Theatre feels like a stage set for the return of a lost hero.

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Making History

Which, in many ways, it is. For many of us here tonight, Adam and the Ants weren’t just a pop band from back in the day. Adam and the Ants were/are Pop Love #1, the very first and first loves aren’t forgotten, are they? That stuff runs deep, and the reason why those albums from 1981 and 1982 remain in your life while others don’t is because every time you played them again, even after years of exploring and branching off and out into all kinds of music, you still loved the sounds that broke through the tape hiss.

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Remains of the day. KOTWF tape RIP

And in some ways, those A&TA albums sound even better and oddball eccentric on return. With more music and knowledge packing your ears and creaking your shelves (files? clouds?), Adam and the Ants aren’t just TOTP idols like they were when you were seven or eight. They’re post-punk, digging Bowie and Roxy and Iggy but flashfunflamboyant and rhythm-heavy with tough guitars and 50s surf and Western spaghetti and storytelling bravado… not the usual chart-topper mix, is it?

Now it’s 8 June 2016. Last week was the 40th anniversary of the Lesser Free Trade Hall gigs in Manchester by the Sex Pistols, a band who supported a pre-Ants Adam in Bazooka Joe, and it’s just gone 35 years since the Bazooka departer set Kings of the Wild Frontier loose. Adam Ant plays it in full.

So the show starts with the main item, straight in without announcement to Dog Eat Dog and on through to Human Beings without banter, deviation or improv. You’ve got the tracks, what else do you need to know? That the two-drummer line-up does the record’s Burundi rhythms justice? That Ant’s voice is ON and in top nick, and so is he, belying his 63 years with ease? 

True and staggeringly true. And if the guitar overdrive sometimed flattens the subtleties of the Ants’ original, it means his band are more than suited to the Dirk tracks that dominate the second half and to me, this is where the gig starts to feel like a proper gig. Not because Kings ain’t ace – it is – but because after that, we don’t know exactly what’s coming. Even Ant himself looks more relaxed post-Kings as he leads the band into Beat My Guest. And Christian D’or. And .. fuck it, I’m just gonna reel off as many tracks as I can remember in no particular order so that you know exactly what kind of a set he’s pulling off these days: Stand and Deliver. Cartrouble, Xerox, Never Trust a Man (With Egg on his Face), Vive le Rock, Press Darlings, Fall-In, Prince Charming, Desperate But Not Serious, Goody Two Shoes, Red Scab, Marc Bolan’s Get it On. How’s that for a bunch of killer tunes after an album of killer tunes? Vive Le Rock surprises – forgotten how ridiculously catchy it is – while Press Darlings has possibly the best stickwork of the night, which might be a controversial claim given that we’ve just had KOTWF in full but with those drums and that riff, the track takes on a Killing Joke air. Never noticed that before. 

The night ends with the ever-sleazy Physical (You’re So), a reminder of Adam Ant’s legacy, post-punk credentials and alt-rock influence. Still a showman, still a maverick and still carrying a misfit aura, the joy and affection pulsing out for the band and their leader is proof that we are all Ant’s people. Wherever next for the Wild Nobility?

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Oxford, penultimate date

The P-word

REWIND MAY: POP LEGENDS AND POP’S LEGEND

The Music You Leave Behind – that’s P-music, right? But eventually, you become old enough to know better, to know that everything comes right back around anyway, and so it is with the P-word – and no, we’re not even talking Prog. We’re talking about music’s other Big P … POP. Because when there’s a pop star – OK, the pop star – from your yoof, the one you first really got in to, on tour playing THAT album, do you go? Dunno dunno ditto dunno, so to delay things further we’ll hop to another kind of pop: Iggy.

He was on these shores the other week and if you’ve seen any clips from his current tour, you’ll see a man who looks like he’s fighting the limitations of his own body and yet, when he’s let loose near a stage, he still can’t fucking stop himself, even at this late hour in life. Crowd surf at the Albert Hall, was it? His gigs are one-man war zones, yet the reason Iggy’s out there at all – maybe for the last time, who knows? – is Post Pop Depression, and now that we’ve had two whole months to live with it, we can say for sure how great a record it is. When he hooked up with Homme last year, he can’t have known about Bowie’s accelerating endtime – not really – but in a Blackstar world, Post Pop Depression seems to know, seems to tell, seems to share. Something. About finality? Perhaps. PPD is ghostly, though deserted rather than haunted…a slow erosion, a fading print. Still got an edge though, and what makes it work is a band who feel the space (desert influence?) and play with and around it with a richness that Iggy’s solo voice – the post-confrontation, post-exposure, post-Stooges voice – finally deserves.

Anyway, back to that other kind of pop: music. Not because Duran Duran hit Oxford for the Common People festival on Saturday (even though they did), but because ADAM ANT is in town next week, playing Kings of the Wild Frontier. To go or not to go?

Sir Adam of Ant is my pop idol #1, much like it sounds like he was for Alexis Petridis in this feature,  though surely the headline overstates things a bit – if Adam Ant redefined pop, where were the colonies of Ant-alikes? However, he did own the charts and he did it with a style and a soundclash that was all his own, as did Frankie Goes to Hollywood a couple of years later. They put out albums that STILL sound brash, brave and brilliantly flawed today.

(for the record: have just put Kings of the Wild Frontier on – side 2, track 1. Completely proves the point. Now going full white-stripe for Ants Invasion, Killer in the Home, Dog Eat Dog…).

Can Adam Ant 2016 enhance the perfection trapped in those records, tapes and childhood memories? Or is it a gig best left alone?

’til next time!

Status update, Friday 3rd: ticket bought. Who am I to resist? CAN. NOT. WAIT.

GOD DAMN: live review

GOD DAMN, SLATE HEARTS, WARDENS: OXFORD CELLAR, 22/05/2016

Bit weird. He was here a second ago – the God Damn singer, I mean – wandering around offstage, mic in hand, mixing it with the punters, and now he’s… not. Where go he? And why is everyone looking in my direction?

COZ HE’S STANDING ON THE BAR AND OVER MY HEAD, straddling the beer taps while screamo-ing a ‘nasty little song with a horrible title’ (his words, not ours. We Don’t Like You, mebbe?) over our heads. And it’s only the second track of the set.

Welcome God Damn, the Wolverhampton two – sometimes three, so let’s call ‘em a two-and-a-half for tonight – who knock nine shades of brown out of the guitar-drum format and pulverise the place, but we’ll get back to them soon enough coz tonight we’ve got a three-strong bill that’s two-parts local.

Up first are Wardens, a trio of quiet-looking Ox lads who look a bit like two brothers and a tall singer, probably because they are… two brothers and a tall singer. Tidy, punchy set mind, packed with small but perfectly-formed anthems in a Foos Manchu kinda way, catchy enough to make you feel like you know their stuff even if – like me – you don’t. The funkier Go Figure is a highlight, as is the Cobain-ish grit in the vocal. Nice work, Wardens. Good warm up.

Next on the Cellar stage are Slate Hearts, another local three-piece but now we have looseness and MOVEMENT up there, all limbs and shirts and flop-hair flying. The look might be early 90s indie – Steve Lamacq would cream hisself – but the sound is a harder blend of twisted Sub Pop-erama and Mudhoney frazzle-fry, with more going on than first meets the ear, I reckon. Definitely another one to check further.

Right then: God Damn, on the road touring their Vultures album, and if you wanna see a band put shit-eating smiles on strangers’ faces with a set that’s Holy Devoted to guitars, drums and the righteous power of unadulterated amplification, this is where you go. Vultures the album nabs some desert-scene groove and roughs it with Winnebago Deal attitude, but God Damn live are way bigger than a two-piece has any real right to be – when Thom Edwards stomps his pedal board, hits Kyuss oomph mode and ups the force of an already tidal riff, you KNOW you’re alive. Starting the set with Vultures itself, and ending with the nine-minute backporch intoxication sludgecrawl that is Skeletons, God Damn give us a good-time gig that’s loud, life affirming and just a bit fucking mental. Planet Rock Radio might well be the place ‘where rock lives’, but God Damn gigs like this are where rock comes ALIVE. 

RYLEY WALKER: live review

THE BULLINGDON, OXFORD, 18/2/2016

“You know what’s underrated?” asks a cheery but thinner, more boyish-looking Ryley Walker than the one on the promo flyers.

THURSDAYS.”

Crowd agrees. We are in prodigious company at the Bullingdon on this eve-of-Friday so yeah, Thursday DOES feel a bit spesh.

I could be at home, watching Flog It.”

Enter Quipmaster General, Danny Thompson – THE Danny Thompson, upright of bass, Pentangle of fame, bass player of legend and muso partner to the likes of John Martyn, Nick Drake and Tim Buckley. Thompson’s not just a name but a name who’s played with the names that matter, and that’s probably why it first feels like half the Bully are here just for Mr T, but even if that is true then surely they’ll be won over by the jazz-sharp folk-out of Walker’s last album, Primrose Green. What. A. Record. I mean, the influences are subtle as hammers – see above – and some reviewers (hello Pitchfork) mark down the period-piece devotion of the thing, but I don’t see why … the Chicago-based jazz players that Walker’s got behind him are something else, a firesome bunch who could break (on) through those folkier fetters at a second’s notice and go Full Freak. The fact they don’t, even though they come close, adds a taut energy to a beautiful album.

Then there’s Walker himself, bringing midtwentysomething abandon to his intricate playing – check the sublime near-derailment of Sweet Satisfaction and feel the freedom. Turns out he served time in punk/noise bands (big Zep fan too), so you get the sense that Primrose Green is a place for Walker to be, but not to stay – not long term. Wouldn’t surprise me if he took a hike up Ben Chasny Peak or somesuch and roughed up his rootsy picking with noise, drone n mantra.

Back in the Bullingdon on this underrated Thursday, we have no band, no percussion, no electric guitar – basically, none of the non-Ryley star turns from Primrose Green. We’ve got two people: Walker and Thompson, new blood and seasoned master, from opposite ends of the folkpsyche time spectrum. Together, they turn in a blinder.

Walker is the kind of player who loses himself in his songs. He goes for it, hits it hard, throws in barks and shouts, even a Buckley shriek – no doubt these are the tics that critics question – but, affected or not, it’s impossible not to be drawn in. New tracks are aired: I Will Ask You Twice is one, as is a wind-it-up-faster instrumental where Thompson plays bow and Walker goes east, and a track about “people who put Donald Trump signs in their lawn, bitchin’ about everything.” Primrose Green, Hide in the Roses and a set-closing On the Banks of the Old Kishwaukee – which, lacking the soft-shuffle percussion of the recorded version, is less bucolic than we’re used to – are the picks from the last album.

So no, we don’t get Sweet Satisfaction – but in another way, we do. Top gig, and no doubt the precocious but raggedly unprecious Walker will revel in this tour with a giant of the genre. Stories for life, eh?

EPs pt II: Kylver + Morass of Molasses

Following on from EPs pt I where we saluted and celebrated the four-to-five track format, we now have the entirely expected follow-up: EPs pt II, a heavy prog and metallic grunge double-header from the north east and the south of England. The arteests? Kylver and Morass of Molasses respectively, so let’s crack on, shall we?

Kylver: The Mountain Ghost

With just four tracks spread over 38 minutes, and a concept about mountain spirits – not to mention a Prog Rock CD appearance earlier this year – The Mountain Ghost by Newcastle’s Kylver is stacked with all the vital prog statistics, but unlike most of the stuff that makes it onto that magazine’s CDs, this lot actually have some beef behind ’em, summat to satisfy those of us with metal roots. This is Muscular Prog, all tough riffage and thick keyboards, yet the usual weakness with such bands – The Concept – never gets in the way because the concept itself is completely unexplained, barring the song titles (The Mountain Ghost, The Feast of the Mountain Ghost, The Dance of the Mountain Ghost, The Death of the Mountain Ghost).

No vocals, see. No lyrics. And so, no concept. Which means you can just rock out to what’s really a 38-minute instrumental divvied up into sections linked by recurrent riffs and motifs. Prog mag’s Limelight feature in the October issue said they sound like Kyuss jamming with Yes, but I reckon there’s more of a Steven Wilson solo thing (non-ethereal Wilson, that is) mixed with Voivod’s detached sci-fi cool … check the double-kick drum at the end of Dance of…, then play Voivod’s version of Astronomy Domine. Similar beatiness, no? Find out about Kylver right here.

Morass of Molasses: So Flows Our Fate

Reading’s Morass of Molasses were part of an Oxford stormer this year when they supported Mother Corona at the Wheatsheaf and their debut EP, So Flows Our Fate, doesn’t let their live show down … but you knew that already. We wouldn’t wanna spread the word if it were shite, would we? 

Unlike Kylver, there are no conceptual pretensions here. MoM’s MO is to carve big ol’ riffs with metallic, psyche and stoner swagger in a mass of body-swinging grooves, and opening track Rotten Teeth does exactly that – for about 50 seconds. Then it melts into a mellow mini breakdown. Wrong footed or what? But the riff roars back, showing that that early shift is the move of a confident bunch of mofos who aren’t afraid to go where the mood takes. Elsewhere on this four-tracker we get wah solos (Ashtabula), doomed desert blues (Fear to Tread) and, best of all, Bear River‘s wasted heaviness, all of which points to a future album that could go in many directions. Fans of Wiseblood-era Corrosion, Down and the like should love this, but start your MoM discovery here and let’s hope for stacks more Molasses in the nearest of futures.

NEWS JUST IN: Lemmy passed away in the small hours and surely there is no-one in hard rock’s realm who cannot have been influenced in some way by Mr Kilmister and his road dogs. Sad sad news. May both he and Motorhead get the airtime and the tributes they deserve. BRING THE NOISE, BRING THE ROCK AND ROLL.

AUDIOSCOPE 2015

BOOK BANDS WITH TUNES NEXT TIME.

This is what’s being said about Audioscope 2015. I saw it, on a poster. On the wall. In the men’s toilets.

And that is exactly the right place for such scrawl – in the pisser, coz this looks like another excellent line-up for the multi-band fest that lands in Oxford around this time every year. The question is, which arteest inspired the above comment? I think I can guess, but I’ll slip in a subtle subliminal clue P A R T  C H I M P at the right time.

Anyway, on with the show, which has this year moved from the Jericho Tavern to the Bullingdon on Cowley Road, and it’s the usual mix of know-a-couple/never-heard-of-them mix, so a real test of a band’s merit is: would you coff up and buy some merch? It would have been a yes for Demian Castellanos (didn’t catch openers Kone), except that there isn’t anything to buy. Shame. His pedal-heavy hum ‘n drone guitar instrumentals, all Gilmour space and John Martyn echo over Urthona beds, are an agreeably experimental start to the aft.

Next, Taman Shud, but not before a swift pint round the corner to wash down a colossal slice of carrot cake. Back to the band and … this is ‘necro psych’, is it? Hmmm. With grating vocal effects? Hmmmmmm. Not sure, summat a bit forced about this rage but maybe that’s just me. Even so, whoever tweeted that ‘taman shud are crushing Audioscope’ had a premature ejac-on. Rein it in, twitterers.

Kogumaza …now there’s a name to grapple with. Literally. Couldn’t remember it all day, not even after a couple of medicinal dark rums, but that-K-band are a pretty impressive exercise in pure rhythm as their guitar-drum-guitar set-up cooks a nice line in Dead Meadow psyche, Earth-ly drone and part moto/part marching beats, the guitarists slotting in like a two-piece jigsaw. Finishing with a bit o’ familiarity by way of the Beatles’ I Want You (She’s So Heavy), Kogumaza prove to be an oddly compelling guitar act.

Marconi Union push a deceptively appealing set of mid-tempo steadybeat electronica, embellished by a bit o’ live instrumentation. Worth checking further? Very probably, yes.

One of the great things about Audioscope is that the people who end up on stage are in the crowd beforehand, but the next act – the gently feral Dave Heumann – is nowhere to be seen. And he’s impossible to miss. Why no here? Because he’s outside, chanced upon by us when we embark on a sustenance dash, guiding a cranky-looking old white M-reg Ford Transit van (check those curtains) into a tight spot by the front door, ready to wheel the gear in.

As Mr H and his Arbouretum/Trembling Bells hybrid touring band, featuring proper muso Alex Nielsen on drums, do their soundcheck we anticipate a gently mesmerising 30-minute groove thick with American folk ‘n warmth on this cold cold Saturday…. but what we actually get is a set that’s a bit, well, lacking. And I don’t like to say that, ‘coz these guys have got pedigree, but it’s a tad underwhelming from what should have been the first star of the star half of the day.

At this point, it feels like a long time since Kogumaza played and Audioscope is in danger of slipping away from itself. Fuck mid-road pleasantry and fuck cakes (for now), WE NEED AN ARSE-KICKING. Who’s gonna do that then? Who’s gonna grab that stage and own it, eh?

That’ll be Part Chimp.

Frontman Tim Cedar wears a Killdozer T-shirt and if you haven’t heard Part Chimp then that shirt’s a filthy enough clue for the riotous unwashed shitstorm they fling our way, all at one-louder volume OF COURSE. Noisy without being noise, sludgy without being sludge and groovy without being groove, Part Chimp rock like drunks on a sloping stage on the back of a Land Rover, yet they always always hold it together, JUST. Second track Trad gets the crowd jumping, the band enjoy it as much as we do and it’s fair to say that Part Chimp have lit the touch paper … no, forget that. They torched it. Party music for heavy times (unless you’re the Toilet Scribbler mentioned at the start of this review).

And with that half hour blasteroid, Audioscope is back. Gazelle Twin next … the masked, faceless Gazelle Twin. Don’t know anything about GT beyond the blurb in the programme (intense, uncompromising, unsettling, you get the gist) so she’s the darkest of dark horses on this bill. Who knows what’s gonna happen? Not I, that’s for sure.

Standing motionless, hoodied and silhouetted on stage with an backdrop of twisted electronic doom – and THAT mask – it’s the mother of all creep-outs, but as soon as she starts to move … you gotta watch. I mean, You. Gotta. Watch. Gazelle Twin mesmerises, not just singing but inhabiting every single word, breath and motion over Burial-heavy beats and after-hours menace. She’s genuinely thrilling, and as captivating and complete a performance (and this is a performance, not a gig, make no mistake) as I can remember seeing. Seriously. Dense and unnerving and both non-human/too-human, she casts a wicked spell and tonight, Oxford falls right under it.

If Gazelle Twin cranked our senses to new highs then Warp stalwarts Plaid supply a carefully-managed comedown. Musically it’s the right end to the day, especially after that Chimp-Gazelle suckerpunch, but it’s also the music least suited to the seatless, blackened backroom of the Bully … Laptops Onstage ain’t a spectacle to stand and watch for an hour, and it’s one of a couple of times where the Tavern’s warm muso-room friendliness is much missed.

But Audioscope 2015 delivered the goods again, and there’s no doubt about who stole it – red hair, blue tracksuit, faceless: Gazelle Twin, the interloper who came, conquered and vanished into the night. Now tell me: just where do you go from there?

See Audioscope reviews for 2014 and 2013, and Audioscope’s Music for a Good Home 3 CD

 

 

 

KILLING JOKE live

REWIND OCTOBER: Killing Joke@Oxford O2, Oct 30th 2015

A gig-heavy Rewind, this one. Godspeed You! Black Emperor did an artful deconstruction job on everyone at the Warwick Arts Centre the other week, and Liverpool doom trio Coltsblood bulldozed the Wheatsheaf with Undersmile-slow riffs and blastbeat breaks. Godspeed you can read about over here, but Coltsblood? Musically very cool and hefty, but the growlscreamgrowlscream vocal thing … man, it wore me down and brought on a major Doom Burnout. One to come back to another day, methinks.

No such burnout on Friday though when Killing Joke – new album Pylon just one week young – took the O2 stage with an old-new one-two: The Wait and Autonomous Zone, and while it takes a little while for the crowd to warm, mostly coz of the sadistic air-con blasting a cold force-ten in our faces down stage front left, it ain’t long before there’s a ring of slamming jumping bods lapping it up. Killing Joke will always invoke some kind of movement –  there’s just something in that fluid, swirling, awkward rhythm-force that sets their sound far apart from other rock bands and pokes at people’s mania, especially the early stuff. Fall of Because, with its Ferguson-propelled death dance and Coleman’s first cut-loose vocal of the night, STILL feels like madness being conjured.

Highlights? With such vintage on show it’s too subjective a question to answer … depends where and when you entered KJ’s world/they entered yours, but Money Is Not Our God, Eighties, Wardance, Requiem, Asteroooooiiiiid (yesssss), Communion (doubleyesssss) and an encoring Pandemonium are all in there, among others. Other than those, it’s another Pylon newie I am the Virus – future classic, surely – preceded by a pulverising Exorcism that stand out for me, but for anthemic goth pop writ  l a r g e  you cannot top the monster-big Love Like Blood. 

So, plenty of gigs in October (and that’s without getting to see Hawkwind). What else was there?

Well, after last Rewind asked are-Maiden-prog?, who turned up in Prog Rock magazine but Steve Harris, having a big ol’ chat about Genesis, Tull and General Prog love. ‘nuff sed.

David Bowie announced a new single and album. Officially, this is Too Exciting to Write About.

And Audioscope announced their line-up for the all-day bash at the Bully on November 21st. Part Chimp, Guapo, Dave Heumann AND LOADS MORE will stride that small stage, just as we like it.

til next time!

MOTHER CORONA live

OXFORD WHEATSHEAF, August 27, 2015

Funny how some gigs just feel like home. Last week, Steve Harris was at the O2 with British Lion – upstairs, no less – so when a metal legend is that close, you gotta go. MAIDEN: the Iron One. No wonder it was packed, and yet for all the musicianship and energy and sweat and conviction of the Lions, not to mention the bass-gun pointing from ‘arris (classic), their anthemic mid-tempo Maiden-lite didn’t really roar …. solid enough but kinda careful. Made me want to dig out some Maiden proper.

Tonight in the Wheatsheaf, though, is a different kettle of scaley ones. I know next to nowt about Morass of Molasses or Mother Corona EXCEPT for the promise of heavy stoner action from Reading and Didcot respectively, so I am completely in their hands – and they abso-fucking-lutely deliver.

Morass of Molasses: mid-tempo, bottom-heavy rifferama, lifted by spacious bluesy flow. GO SEE THIS BAND. They’ve got an EP out called So Flows Our Fate and the only downer is that it’s only four songs long (apols for buying CD not vinyl after the gig, Morass fellas. Mr Bones tried his best).

Mother Corona, another trio, rock a similar path except they do it with a drummer vocalist and – if my eyes ain’t doing porky lies – a bassist with five strings. Oh, and the World’s Biggest Mother Corona Fan is on stage at all times ‘coz no.1 fanboy seems to be their very own guitarist Lee, who can’t help showing his big big love for what songwriter Dave (drums/vox) pulls together:

“Dave writes the songs, it’s awesome, he’s … a prick!”

“I am,” agrees Dave.

Can’t possibly comment on a stranger’s prick-or-not status, but what we can comment on is Mother Corona’s stellar stoner-age grooves, as you might expect from a band who’ve been on the road with Orange Goblin. Nice bit of psyche shimmer on the guitar, clean Billy Corgan-ish vocals, faultless devotion to rocking out, this is infectious stuff. Vertigo Terror, Back to Hell and Reburn (I think) are among the Corona chewns getting the ‘sheaf going, while mid-set covers of Sabbath (Into the Void – natch – and Sabotage mother lode Hole in the Sky) stoke things further and a closing I Wanna Be Your Dog are pretty perfectly pitched in my book. GO SEE THIS BAND.

Like I said, some gigs feel like home. Best of the year so far pour moi.

DEARLY BELOVED – Enduro

Did you see Dearly Beloved tearing round Blighty with Swervedriver the other month? No? Then you missed a pretty brisk support act so it’s only right that we spread the love and support the support with a few words about their 2014 rekkid, Enduro. Since snapping it up at the Oxford show (sold by singer Niva Chow, no less) it’s become a real Fast-Gro listen this past month: ten-tracks jammed with snagging hooks, propulsive bass and boy-girl vocal swaps that steer the Canadian four piece well clear of all-guy r.o.c.k. stereotypes.

Back at the Oxford O2 – the gig with zero audience participation, remember? – it was the bass that nicked your first impressions, mostly because singer/four-stringer Rob Higgins wasn’t shy of actually playing the fucker and giving it some action, not just in a rhythm sense but in that bass-as-guitar kinda way as well, stoking up a thickened fuzzbed for the rest of the Dearlys to play off … feel the warmth. And when you find that the Enduro album was put together en Mojave in Rancha de la Luna – studio home to Kyuss, Desert Sessions, Masters of Reality and the just-returned Goatsnake ffs, to name just four – with Dave Earthlings? Catching at the helm then you start to join some dots. Perhaps there really is a bit of Joshua Tree dust trapped in DB’s attack? Seeing the boho-intense set-up at Rancha in the Los Angeles episode of Dave Grohl’s fckn brilliant Sonic Highways series, it looks impossible NOT to be infiltrated by the environment, and our very own Sheffield Monkeys are proof of that. Got the arctic stripped right off ’em.

But despite all this desert talk, Dearly Beloved aren’t stoner behe-moths hanging round a night light on a never-ending jam to infinity. They’re sharp, lean and schooled in the 3-minute arts, and first track Enduro fairly flies off the bat with White Denim hyper-ness and a rubber riff rebound. Buried somewhere in this kickstarter is one of THE names in the whole of desert rock-dom – yes, reality’s master hisself, Chris Goss – but to be honest, you can’t really hear him. Maybe a tiny bit.

(you can’t)

Still, his very presence is a pointer to the Enduraesthetic because although Dearly Beloved are punk energy – think Pulled Apart By Horses without the screamo – they weave in some Goss-like space and sensibility too, as on Astor Dupont Payne and the gently reflective Ether Binge. At the other end of the Enduro scale is a full burn Guile of Pricks (great title) and the twisting Not My Pig, a dirt-low filth riff punctured by space, bass and Niva’s detached vocal cool. Album highlight right there.

At 28 minutes end to end it’s a short set, but it ain’t short of adventure – stick it on and get a feelgood hit for the summer. Check ’em out right here.