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Celtic Connections: Three Blind Wolves, John Knox Sex Club at The Hug and Pint, 25/1/16

With Burns night in full flow, where better to be than the sweaty basement of The Hug and Pint for tonight’s Celtic Connections show, where two of Glasgow’s best loved underground bands treat us to a feast of live music?

Those who were worried that John Knox Sex Club had called it quits for good a few years ago, fear not, they’re back and as raucous as ever.

Frontman Sean Cumming spends half the show in the crowd, hugging audience members and belting forth his lyrics.

He’s a man of contradictions, who’ll spend the time between tracks quoting Tam O’ Shanter with a touch of Morrissey’s archness only to slip into jovial piss taking with his bandmates.

‘Hard Days Coming’ sounds like something Burns himself would roar out while drunk on Buckfast, while the epic closer ‘Blind Fate’ sees Cumming summon the demon intensity of Nick Cave as his band let loose a rattling heavy blues that collapses into fiddle and static.

Tonight’s headliners are excited to tell us that tonight is the first gig they’ve ever sold out in advance – although presumably someone was happy enough to sneak in Radio 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq, spotted enjoying a pint at the back.

For five years Three Blind Wolves have trodden the boards in Glasgow and further afield and it’s good to see them still getting a great response even if they’ve never quite made it to radio rock status.

‘Black Bowl Park’ with its rock n’ roll influenced solo is a catchy pop-rock number, while new track ‘Calm Down Ally’ is a barbed and catchy song about being sacked from a call centre.

There’s a new EP on the horizon so tonight offers a chance to give several new songs an airing and by the sound of it they’re still sharp, merging skiffly solos with energetic geek rock.

Returning to the stage for a solo acoustic number, Ross Clark whispers for quiet before plucking out the sombre ‘St Kilda’, but it’s the energetic ‘Emily Rose’ that sees the full band return to the stage to deliver their best call-and-response moment of the night that really sends the audience off happy.

They may never be the most glamorous band in Glasgow, but Three Blind Wolves play with real heart and for tonight that’s plenty.

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Words: Max Sefton

Tracks of 2014

Atom Tree – ‘Sinner’19 Atom Tree – ‘Sinner’ [Hotgem]

The opening track of the Glasgow electronic trio’s latest EP, Clouds, introduced us to vocalist Julie Knox, who’s powerful and emotive voice slides brilliantly into Atom Tree’s deep synthpop, alerting people the trio on a much bigger scale than before, and rightfully so.

Call To Mind – ‘Breathe’19 Call To Mind – ‘Breathe’ [Olive Grove]

Beautiful and euphoric, Call To Mind’s musical masterpiece is the crowning jewel of their debut album, and with accenting piano and sultry vocals, it is everything that Coldplay think they are, but infinitely better. (Kyle McCormick)

The Duke, Detriot – ‘Accerate’19 The Duke, Detroit – ‘Accelerate’ [Deaf By Stereo]

The Duke, Detroit’s sleek and stylish single threw us, spinning and stumbling back in time to the mid-80s, but they managed to bring it back to life without sounding like poor mimics of the past.

[review]

Owl John__Frightened_Rabbit_Side__Project-750x018 Owl John – ‘Los Angeles, Be Kind’ [Atlantic]

Drawing from Scott Hutchison’s emigration to California, the video starts with footage of Scotland, which slowly blends into the bright, optimistic lights of L.A, and probably says more of this achingly melancholy song than a simple review could. (Greg Murray)

Hudson Mohawke – ‘Chimes’16 Hudson Mohawke – ‘Chimes’ [Warp]

HuMo keeps getting bigger and bigger and with a glorious homecoming at East End Social’s Last Big Weekend and this release on Warp it seems his momentum is still building.

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Mogwai-Rave-Tapes-608x60816 Mogwai – ‘Remurdered’ [Rock Action]

2014 saw Glasgow’s post rock behemoths shift away their meatier riffage of recent years and move towards a chilling atmospheric vive, they’re still loud though and the asphyxiating ‘Remurdered’ is one of the best examples of their recent work.

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Vasa – ‘Not A Cop’13 Vasa – ‘Not A Cop’

Intricate and captivating, Vasa’s stand-alone single has an unrelenting urgency at its core, but with layers of percussion and masterful guitars cleverly bolted on, ‘Not A Cop’ shines a light on a promising future. (Kyle McCormick)

[review]

The Twilight Sad – ‘Last January’13 The Twilight Sad – ‘Last January’ [FatCat]

Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave was heralded as a return to form for one of Scotland’s most powerful yet emotionally draining live acts and ‘Last January’ was the pick of bunch.

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Jonnie Common – ‘Shark’13 Jonnie Common – ‘Shark’ [Song, By Toad]

Burning slowly, ‘Shark’ sees Jonnie Common’s songwriting at a conversational high, built on a foundation of electronics and ingenuity, the canned laughter at the end knows how good it is. (Kyle McCormick)

PAWS – ‘Owl Talons Clenching My Heart’12 PAWS – ‘Owls Talons Clenching My Heart’ [FatCat]

A prime example of PAWS expanded song writing, the cello-laced ‘Owls Talons Clenching My Heart’ pulses solidly along on to Phillip Taylor’s stories of heartache. (Greg Murray)

King Creosote – ‘Something To Believe In’10 King Creosote – ‘Something To Believe In’ [Domino]

The pinnacle of the From Scotland with Love record (no mean feat), ‘Something To Believe In’ combines true and traditional folk with honest lyrics and a painful poignancy. (Ellen Renton)

Skinny Dipper – ‘Hospital Bed’10 Skinny Dipper – ‘Hospital Bed’ [Olive Grove]

Haunting and heart breaking, ‘Hospital Bed’ might just be one of the most beautiful vocals of the year, never mind just in Scotland. (Ellen Renton)

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TeenCanteen – ‘You’re Still Mine’9 TeenCanteen – ‘You’re Still Mine’ [S.W.A.L.K]

Sickly sweet vocals and throbbing synths add playful finger-clicking and loving harmonies to make TeenCanteen’s single a loveable release and introduction to the gifted quartet. (Kyle McCormick)

[review]

Owl John__Frightened_Rabbit_Side__Project-750x08 Owl John – ‘Hate Music’ [Atlantic]

‘Hate Music’ is a cathartic, slide-guitar-and-overdrive pedaled song, which Scott Hutchison claims Frightened Rabbit wouldn’t get away with, about the strains and the bitter tastes left by his revered band and the industry they operated in consistently for ten years. (Greg Murray)

John Knox Sex Club – ‘Minotaur’7 John Knox Sex Club – ‘Minotaur’ [Instinctive Racoon]

Primal and raucous, John Knox Sex Club captures everything they are infamous for in this track, with measured execution descending into enjoyable chaos. (Kyle McCormick)

Tijuana Bibles-500x3726 Tijuana Bibles – ‘Crucifixion’ [Dead Beet]

Tijuana Bibles continue to prove that few bands can write snarling rock classics as well as them. ‘Crucifixion’ has a southern rock swagger that you can’t help bob your head along to, the chorus hook is sublime and the guitar solo is a piece of melodic genius. (Phil Allen)

[review]

Tuff Love – ‘Sweet Discontent’5 Tuff Love – ‘Sweet Discontent’ [Lost Map]

This track was almost everyone’s first introduction to Tuff Love and we immediately fell for the vocal harmonies and that breakneck drumming. It’s no wonder this track garnered them a lot of attention it sounds like effortless genius in the form of a song. (Phil Allen)

Deathcats – ‘Saturday Night Golden Retriever’4 Deathcats – ‘Saturday Night Golden Retriever’ [Fuzzkill]

Sure the bassline sounds like Black Flag but what an intro. Taken from the bands only debut, and looking likely to be only, length album this cut is perhaps one of their most exciting punk throw downs, however it’s given Deathcats patented surf rock treatment with plenty of great backing vocals. (Phil Allen)

Stanley Odd – ‘Son, I Voted Yes’3 Stanley Odd – ‘Son, I Voted Yes’ [A Modern Way]

Stanley Odd’s endearing referendum anthem is made bittersweet given the eventual outcome, but its message of hope and positivity still rings true in a country forging towards a better future. (Kyle McCormick)

unknown2 APACHE DARLING – ‘More Than Me’

The comparisons to CHVRCHES must get tiresome, but one thing that APACHE DARLING does share with the band is their potential for success. ‘More Than Me’ is cool, catchy and clever, and undoubtedly one of Glasgow’s best exports of 2014. (Ellen Renton)

[review]

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Honeyblood – ‘Killer Bangs’1 Honeyblood – ‘Killer Bangs’ [FatCat]

Sweet melodies and some of the crunchiest guitars recorded are staples of ‘Killer Bangs’. It’s hard to believe a two-piece can sound this massive even if it is a studio recording. (Phil Allen)

[review]

The Phantom Band, John Knox Sex Club at The Arches, 12/12/14

The congregation gathers on the coldest night of the year so far to attend the double sermon at the underground temple that is The Arches.

First to take to the pulpit is John Knox Sex Club; opening with fan favourite ‘Kiss the Dirt’, the sharp, deep guitar sets the tone for what is to follow.

The haunting echo reverberating around the cavernous walls rouses the interest of the first footers, drawing them like moths to the flame.

Those that are unacquainted with JKSC listen with intrigue, which soon turns to awe draped in unease as singer, Sean Cumming, shakes into his role as the ‘possessed preacher’; writhing awkwardly into the crowd shouting with intense canonical passion about kissing the dirt beneath their feet.

This dynamic continues throughout their set, with the intensity cranking up through album opener ‘Minotaur’ from their latest Oh Wow, Must be the Devil; drenched in melodrama straight from the off; continually slapping your face with wonderfully dissonant melodies.

The crowd is clad in their winter attire, though this doesn’t prevent the cold chill running through our collective spines.

The gathering crowd remains fully engaged throughout; they do not seem permitted to be otherwise engaged as Cumming dives to the floor intermittently, held back only by the wire on his microphone as he performs some kind of dust dancing ritual.

After only playing a handful of songs (which admittedly last on average around seven-minutes each), they leave the stage without ceremony; ironic as their whole set seemed to reflect a dark melodramatic liturgy in itself; safe to say the crowd seems warmed up.

Time for the main act of the night, The Phantom Band; there is a tangible buzz around the venue that has seemed to be lacking whenever I have seen the band in the past.

Bludgeoning tribal drums break out for the opener, ‘Burial Sounds’, sending the crown into in a semi-psychedelic trance, which would give any regular Arches clubber a run for their money.

JKSC are a hard act to follow but The Phantom Band are more than capable of leading us into their warped world; their set is a tapestry of songs, new and old, but drenched in a darkly-tinged energy.

The likes of ‘Doom Patrol’, from their latest album Strange Friend, shake the very foundations of The Arches, or maybe it was the train passing above the venue.

Frontman Rick Anthony has a kind of ironic swagger, which brings a more light-hearted edge to the band’s performance, engaging the audience in a somewhat less oppressive manner than the members of John Knox Sex Club.

However, there are notably similar themes to the performances; the two frontmen donning the role of the preacher, preaching to the feverishly converted.

Fan-favourite ‘Throwing Bones’ riles the crowd into performing some noteworthy dance-moves, culminating in a doo-wop sing-along, while songs such as ‘The Wind That Cried The World’ sound like a Star Wars bar fight, laser-gun sounds and all.

The set itself closes with a pair of seemingly out-of-place brass musicians joining the band onstage for ‘No Shoes Blues’; a swelling, shimmering six-minute refrain.

Before the track begins, Anthony jestingly explains, somewhat ambivalently, that they found them busking on the streets before the gig, though you would never believe it as the song rounds off in a beautiful cacophony of noise; what a nice way to end a Christmas party.

More Photos

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Words: Calum Stewart
Photo: Bill Gray

John Knox Sex Club (Album Launch) at Stereo, 23/10/14

“Here we are, we start in the middle, here we are we start again”

Rain, equestrian Duke Of Wellington statue with a cone on its head, The Clockwork Orange, The Waverley and now John Knox Sex Club at Stereo, the list of Glasgow institutions is certainly on the rise.

It’s not that far fetched! Having played effortlessly for years, folks are FINALLY catching up to the hype.

Playing in support of their ridiculously brilliant new album (don’t take my word for it, read ravechild’s review) ‘Oh wow! Must be the devil’ John Knox played their spiritual venue of Stereo for their Glasgow Launch.

Starting off with even more new material, ‘Bar-Bar’ is an unusual and surprising opener for JKSC, a slightly more tame start to their show but the new music still soars as high as previous material.

It also points towards an organic growth towards song writing in their arsenal with a richer, fuller sound.
’Ashes’ is up next and again, a slower tempo introduction, it’s noteworthy that JKSC are renowned for their live performances and tonight is no different, but tonight is a focused band determined to highlight the quality of the songs.

It’s not long before the finale of ‘Ashes’ kicks in with the bands energy being tactual, palpable and glaring the audience now starts to hit its stride.

It’s funny mentioning and highlighting the significance of the audience, but I have always felt they play a huge part of a JKSC gig.

Looking around on a horrid, wet Thursday night there is nothing but predominant joy littering the audience.

From the friendliest mosh pit down the front to reconciled friends hugging and laughing, no matter what gig it is, you know it’s John Knox by the sense of hope and community.

Fan favourite ‘Kiss The Dirt’ is played unerringly apt with everyone singing along.

Set highlights include the contrasting ‘Minotaur’ and ‘Hard Days’, both songs distinctively JKSC anthems, one being a pointedly declaration of intent and the other a commiserating call to arms.

They are surprisingly appropriate considering societal developments, the introduction to ‘Hard Days’ has to be seen live.

There’s not a band in the Scottish scene that can rival the ferocious energy of JKSC live, in fact there’s not a band in the Scottish scene that can match JKSC, especially the Glasgow scene.
Original, inspiring, uplifting, prophetic and morose, they seem to tick every box for a lot of people, they entertain and inspire you to ruminate all while blowing your ears playing live. Its quite hard to be so effusive about a band playing live.

Especially now I am older now and supposed to be ridiculously cynical about live music now (maybe I already was earlier in the article?) but JKSC deserve every plaudit they receive.

If you haven’t seen them live, I suggest you rectify that at their nearest convenience, there certainly feels like hard days to come but attending a JKSC concert there’s not a chance I will enter those days feeling alone.

More Photos

Words: Andrew Melrose
Photos: Angela Canavan

John Knox Sex Club – Oh wow! Must be the devil [Instinctive Racoon]

John Knox Sex Club’s highly anticipated new album Oh wow! Must be the devil is provocative, powerful and energetic, maintaining the band’s revolutionary yet poetic stance cemented within the previous two critically acclaimed albums.

Oh wow! Must be the devil still endorses the street-preacher enthusiasm and wall-of-sound explosions that the band are recognised for, yet the framework of the album has matured to consist of five enigmatic, individual and well-structured tracks which demonstrate the band’s talents.

First track ‘Minotaur’ starts with a tense bass line which gives the song its restless foundation and the lyrics all sung in unison “here we are we start in the middle, here we are where we begin” give the song a sense of unity, the track then breaks off into a raucous performance of shrieking eerie violin combined with overdriven, raw guitar and compelling lyrics drawn from political change and personal understanding.

‘Hard Days’ starts as a fiery, frenzied authoritative instrumental piece of pure shoegaze noise and piercing stringed notes that would lift the hairs on anyone’s neck, but then slows down and propels the lyrics “they’ll be hard days to come” that become the statement forced in the song, the band knows exactly how to build up the rise in the shrill tones of the violin and droning roar of the guitars producing a track of surges rather than peaks and falls.

Halfway through the album ‘A Song in Sleep’ starts more harmoniously with a softer guitar riff compared to the dark and fierce arrangement of the rest of the album, the song strengthens as it progresses and the intricate guitar riffs blended with a more punk style makes this a fitting halfway track to show diversity between the discordant first two.

‘Animals’ was the first track first released from the album on a split single with Over the Wall, the pervasive, sporadic development of the song adds to its boldness and the steady crashing of the drums keep the melody alive, the chorus is more melodic and easier to grasp but then jumps straight back into the episodic arrangement, which consists of high-pitched riffs played in unison creating a dissonant very individual track.

‘Ashes’ also differs from the dark and eerie tracks on the album as it has a recognisable blues and folk tone, the complex drum beat drives the guitar riffs and the pitch of voice fuels the blues influence, whereas the violin hints at old melodies from Scottish folk songs, this is the most cordial of track of the album and highlights the band’s more mellow approach to music.

Oh wow! Must be the devil proves that John Knox Sex Club’s individual approach to music is different to anything contemporary music is doing and the album’s mix of dark and delicate styles confirm that they are a band worth watching.

Words: Louis Jenkins