WATCH: Belako – ‘Truth’

Whether it’s the global nature of alternative music in the age of streaming, or possibly the cultural aftershocks of the credit crunch, it feels like there’s a new, mucho cool Spanish indie band every week. In the case of Belako – a four-piece from the Basque town of Mungia – using the word “new” might be a bit of a stretch for a band who have been releasing music since a couple of online demos in 2011 – but, whilst forthcoming LP Plastic Drama may be their fourth album, it’s their first international release on a major label. The best part?  The album’s lead single, ‘Truth’, finds them in as fiercely DIY a mood as ever.

Clocking in at a pacey (and satisfying balanced) two minutes and twenty-two seconds, ‘Truth’ lays its cards on the table pretty quickly; in a matter befitting its title, it launches into the slightly off-kilter, detuned guitar line and punchy, if tinny, sounding drums, which are consistent throughout. This is even more true of the track’s video, in some respects, which provides its viewer with the nine lines that form the song’s lyrical content.

Theirs is a stripped-back take on post-punk, consistent with some of the genre’s best voices, who have generally used a fairly simple adage: find a message, repeat it, make no compromises. There’s something of Dream Wife’s early stuff in vocalist Cristina Lizarraga’s atonal vocal style here, but you can take the combination of the persuasive thrust and wry observation all the way back to pioneers such as The Fall or Gang of Four.

The song’s shonky feel arguably gives the band a kinship with Hinds, perhaps the most widely-recognised Spanish group of recent times. Whilst lyrically, the “truth” being spoken here is that the concept of romance has been weaponised, ensuring that love keeps us “locked up”, enforcing our exploitation – essentially, it’s about as far from the usual pop content as you can get. 

For an album that “searches for the real meaning of things in a world that translates everything into assembly lines, manufacturing and the exploitation of living beings”, ‘Truth’ appears to be the ideal introduction, ahead of its release. It’s particularly encouraging to see a band, now some time into their career, embrace their ideas and apply them not only to lyrics but also to the album’s production. If there is any truth in pop music, it looks certain to come from Belako.

Plastic Drama, the upcoming album from Belako, is out 28th August via BMG.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

LIVE: ‘Friends’ Of QOTSA @ Finsbury Park, 30.06.18

Anyone who knows me will know of my love of Queens Of The Stone Age, and if you know me I’ll be sure to tell you about how immense it was to see them headline Finsbury Park on Saturday evening. I could go on forever about how it was the best set I’ve ever seen them play in my many, many years of fangirling… A perfect, career-spanning set that included all my favourites (especially excited to hear plenty from 2000’s Rated R). I could also tell you about how I’m still pretty blown away to have seen the legendary Iggy Pop blasting out all the classics in an incredible energy-fuelled frenzy.

But, for now, I want to talk about some of the other bands that joined Josh & co. on Saturday. The event advertised itself of having a line up of 50% female artists (which is what all festivals should be doing, in my opinion…), but personally, my day was at least 80% governed by incredible women in music.

After battling my way through brusque security and parting ways with my Chanel perfume, I make it to the second stage in time to catch Belako – aka my new favourite band. Delivering their gritty slices of post-punk, they treat us to one of the most impressive, most engrossing, sets I’ve witnessed for a long time. Oozing immense scuzzy riffs alongside their raw, swirling energy and gnarly passion, this is a band surely on the rise. And, introducing set highlight ‘Over The Edge’ as being “against gender violence”, one after our own hearts. I’m now thoroughly addicted to their latest release Render Me Numb, Trivial Violence – an album I cannot recommend strongly enough.

I stay at the second stage for long-time GIHE faves Skinny Girl Diet. It’s wonderful to see them building their reputation and playing such a big event; since first seeing them at The Shacklewell Arms a few years ago, they’ve been wowing listeners across the country. And it’s easy to see why. Oozing their seething, Riot Grrrl-inspired energy and rousing, grunge-fuelled sound, they deliver their fantastically raging offerings to a buoyant sea of fans (some even conquering the heat to energetically dance along), whilst taking the time to thank the crowd for being “angels”. A sparkling, impassioned set from one of the most exciting bands around, and one we need now more than ever.

I finally make my way to the main stage to catch blues-rock duo Deap Vally. Less of an intimate experience than the second stage, or indeed when I was right at the front for last year’s gig at Islington Assembly Hall, they still maintain all the empowering passion and glorious, gritty aggression that I’ve come to love about them. Delivering tracks from both albums, as well latest singles ‘Bring It On’ and ‘Let Go’, their raging feminist anthems prove every bit the immense spectacle to behold as I remember; their vibrant, glitter-filled energy spanning the distance between me and the stage, and filling the scorching air with joy.

Returning to the intimacy of the second stage, I’m greeted by the truly infectious charisma and sunny charm of Madrid’s Hinds. Kicking things off with ‘The Club’, as always the band exude their joyous, jangly scuzz as they reassure us that “… we’re all, all of us here, friends with Queens Of The Stone Age!” With each moment spent with this band, the sheer sense of glee heightens, such is the sunny spirit of Carlotta, Ana, Ade and Amber. Propelled by an unrelenting, uplifting energy, a vibrant cover of Kevin Ayers’ ‘Caribbean Moon’ sees the crowd dance along in buoyant bliss to the band’s ‘choreography’ on stage. With a set including “classics” such as ‘Bamboo’ and ‘Chilli Town’, Hinds once again leave me grinning from cheek to cheek, their euphoric offerings the perfect accompaniment to the summer sun.

After a short interlude, Brody Dalle appears. And, as if that wasn’t enough, she’s accompanied by two more of the most awesome women in rock – Ayse and Fay from Savages. Immediately exuding her immense sense of cool, opening with the riotous force of ‘Rat Race’, she doesn’t seem to have lost any of the seething, angst-driven power that we’ve all come to know and love. As she blasts out her raw, husky vocals, a pretty surreal sense of excitement comes over me; being in the presence of such a personal hero. Despite not playing any old Distillers tracks, it’s a short, sweet and hugely empowering set (just six songs, all from 2014’s Diploid Love) that leaves me as much in awe of her as I was when first seeking refuge in her gritty strength as an emotion-filled teen. And I’m clearly not the only one overcome by Brody Dalle; it’s incredibly refreshing to see her continuing to be an influence, as a young girl in front of me sits upon an adult’s shoulders, rocking out to every single impassioned growl.

Queues for beer and perfume-banishment issues aside, Queens Of The Stone Age and Friends was a wonderful day of some of the best music by some of the coolest people. The best kind of day, filled back to back with incredible music spanning genre and gender, all accompanied by dazzling sunshine.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Photo Credit: Sam McMahon

 

PREVIEW: QOTSA & Friends @ Finsbury Park, 30.06.18

Anyone who knows me will know of my love of Queens Of The Stone Age. Anyone who knows me will also know of my love of championing women in music. So, although I am EXTREMELY excited about seeing QOTSA and the legendary Iggy Pop next Saturday, 30th June, in Finsbury Park, I’m also particularly looking forward to the rest of the incredible line up, which is 50% female…

Brody Dalle:
I have been wanting to see Brody Dalle since I was a 16 year old listening to The Distillers’ Sing Sing Death House for the first time, and being completely blown away by her seething, riotous power. Catch me at the front re-living my teenage angst.

Deap Vally: 
Blues-rock duo Deap Vally are the band I turn to whenever I need some motivation. Their empowering passion and glorious, gritty aggression when delivering their raging feminist anthems is really an immense spectacle to behold.

Hinds: 
Having seen the Spanish band Hinds three times before, I can assure you they will not disappoint live. Their infectious, sunny charisma never fails to put a smile on my face, and their immense, buoyant energy creates a sweeping sense of raucous euphoria whenever they perform.

Black Honey:
Fronted by Izzy B Phillips, Brighton’s Black Honey have been building quite a reputation over the last few days, receiving acclaim from the likes of The Guardian and NME for their lush, swooning vocals and catchy, jangly melodies.

Belako: 
Second Spanish band of the line up, Belako are known for delivering catchy slices of post-punk and their recent album Render Me Numb, Trivial Violence is a gritty collection of raw, swirling offerings.

Skinny Girl Diet:
Long time favourites of GIHE, it’s wonderful to see Skinny Girl Diet building their reputation and playing such big stages. I first saw them at The Shacklewell Arms a few years ago, and they blew me away with their seething, Riot Grrrl-inspired energy and rousing, grunge-fuelled sound.

Catch all these bands for QOTSA & Friends in Finsbury Park next Saturday 30th June. More info and ticket links here.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

LIVE: Hinds @ Electric Brixton, 19.04.18

Following their debut in 2016, and having wowed us at Visions Festival back in 2015, and Green Man Festival last year, I was super keen to make the hat-trick and catch vivacious Spanish quartet Hinds live at the relatively local venue of Electric Brixton.

Bringing with them the Madrid sunshine (and commenting that some of us “even look a little burnt”), following support sets from Horsey and Baywaves, Hinds bound onto the stage, immediately oozing their truly infectious charisma and kicking things off with ‘The Club’, opening track from their brand new album I Don’t Run. 2016’s ‘Chilli Town’ is greeted by whoops and cheers as the band continue to exude their joyous, jangly scuzz.

With each moment spent with this band, the sheer sense of glee heightens, such is the sunny spirit of Carlotta, Ana, Ade and Amber. Propelled by an unrelenting, uplifting energy, they launch into a vibrant cover of Kevin Ayers’ ‘Caribbean Moon’ as the crowd dance along in buoyant bliss.

The sense of delight remains when Carlotta gets told by the venue that crowd-surfing is not allowed; despite the disappointment, she continues in typical, beautifully breezy fashion for the next few songs. Even when introducing ‘Tester’ with the evident bitterness of a past relationship – “We repeat six times in this song ‘should I’ve known before you were also banging her?'” – the mood remains as the band continue to blast out their feisty, frenzied lo-fi garage rock.

Following the cacophonous bliss of personal favourite ‘Bamboo’, fellow Madrid band Baywaves join the stage and Hinds show the world (Brixton) that they make their own rules, as Carlotta and Ana launch into the crowd and surf away, their bodies floating atop a mass of adoring, sweaty fans. A glorious chaos ensues, bringing the set to a momentary close.

Returning to the stage for a few more fantastically energy-fuelled blasts, Hinds have treated us to a perfectly euphoric evening; a most fitting accompaniment to Thursday’s fleeting heatwave, it’s sunny and spirited in all the right ways, leaving me grinning from cheek to cheek in utter bliss.

Mari Lane
@marimindles