Goodbye, The Amazing Snakeheads

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A few hours ago in a tweet, Dale Barclay announced: ‘The Amazing Snakeheads are over. Never, ever to return. To anyone who came to get down, I thank you with all my heart.’

I doubt many really imagined that the Snakeheads were going to be one of those bands that just keep on going on and on, eventually churning out albums for the sake of it and going through the same pedestrian motions any time they stepped on to a stage to perform.

They always possessed a sense of the volatile and unlike many other guitar acts of today, they never gave any hint of succumbing to careerism. In their very short time together, they were never scared to take risks.

From Amphetamine Ballads, one of the finest Scottish albums of recent years, this is Where is My Knife?

Best of luck to the guys whatever they get up to next.

Eagulls, City Reign & Some Dirty Hyped Blues

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Over the past few months I’ve been listening to some old cassette recordings of John Peel shows from across a range of decades and Eagulls explicitly recall a number of guitar bands that Peelie used to air regularly in the 1980s. Think Killing Joke, The Chameleons, King of the Slums without the abrasive violins or even Joy Division and New Order. In fact, if I’d heard them being played on the radio before I’d known anything about them, I might have guessed that they were an 80s band themselves, who’d recorded a couple of singles and a Radio 1 session and then vanished without trace, only to be rediscovered all this time later.

Eagulls, in case you don’t know, are a Leeds five-piece, who according to Wikipedia, should ‘not to be confused with the American band The Eagles’. As if. They released their eponymous debut album earlier this month and reviews from across the media have generally been very favourable with Drowned in Sound calling them ‘an unstoppable force’ and NME judging the songs as ‘never anything less than vital’. Oh, and they’ve also performed live on Late Night with David Letterman when Bill Murray was a guest.

Dominated by pummelling riffs and shouty lyrics on subjects like drug addiction and being in a dead-end job in an age where the choice for many is between zero hours or no hours at all, the thirty seven minutes of Eagulls left me feeling just a bit bludgeoned but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and if they had been a neglected Peel session band from the 1980s then they’d have been one of the best neglected Peel session bands from the 1980s.

As a whole, though, the album lacks the necessary light and shade that would make me want to play it all the way through on much of a regular basis but Possessed, Amber Veins and this song, Tough Luck, are definitely worth hearing.

If you want to see Eagulls live in Glasgow then hopefully you’re already in possession of a ticket for Franz Ferdinands’ forthcoming sold out show at the Barrowlands on Tuesday (25.03.14) where they’ve been installed as support act. If you’d like to see their recent NPR gig at SXSX click here.

City Reign is another newish act based in the north of England, though on the other side of the Pennines to Eagulls. Formed in Manchester by two relocated Londoners, Chris Bull and Mike Grice, they seem happy away from the metropolis and even sing on This Heart’s Built To Break that ‘London’s just too big’. I bet Tony Wilson would have smiled wryly if he’d had the chance to hear that line.

They’re now one of the most hotly tipped acts in their adopted city and I’m surprised that they’re not already much better known after the release of 2013’s Another Step on their own Car Boot Records.

Eschewing the ever more common route of the digitally produced on a laptop in your bedroom album, City Reign opted for something much more imaginative. Excited by the idea of using the natural and rich reverb of the Sacred Trinity Church in Salford, their producer Sam Jones persuaded them to record Another Step there and the location, with its wooden panels and pews, helped create a very particular resonance that brought a pleasing depth to their sound.

Since then they’ve hidden away and penned some new material and they’ve also shuffled their line-up bringing in two new additions, Duncan Bolton and Ryan Ashton.

If there’s one criticism I have it’s that they sometimes let their admiration for Idlewild burn a little too brightly in their material although, as a whole slew of their songs demonstrate, they certainly know how to write melodic, even anthemic, guitar pop. Here’s the official video for their latest single See What It’s Worth:

And finally, Amphetamine Ballads, the debut album from For Malcontents Only favourites The Amazing Snakeheads, is out on Domino in the middle of April. Apparently, after a hectic start, the second side of the album (it’s out on CD and vinyl) slows down the pace and shows a more reflective side to the Snakeheads – so I might have to rethink my claim of a few months ago when I said that they sounded like Begbie fronting The Birthday Party.

From the album, this is Here It Comes Again:

They’re currently touring in the kind of smallish venues that they’re unlikely to be visiting once the album is massively successful (it can’t fail to be, can it?) and these are the next five dates (more are being announced as I write):

Mar 22 Buskers, Dundee (Free Show)
Mar 28 Broadcast, Glasgow
Mar 30 Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh
Apr 03 Bethnal Green Working Mens Club, London (Sold Out)
Apr 25 Broadcast, Glasgow

If you are going along to the London gig, make sure you’re in early enough to see support act The Rosy Crucifixion, who are also playing in the Old Hairdressers in Glasgow the weekend before (29.03.14), along with Catholic Action and Asian Babes – whose name I’m led to believe may contravene the Trades Description Act.

Amazing Snakeheads Bethnal Gig El Rancho - The Rosy Crucifixion 

For more on these bands:

Eagulls Official
Eagulls Facebook
City Reign Official
City Reign Facebook
Amazing Snakeheads Facebook
Amazing Snakeheads Twitter
The Rosy Crucifixion Facebook

EDIT: The Roxy Crucifixion? As typos go I did quite like that but now fixed.