Thursday, 27 June 2013

Pet Shop Boys Electric Tour - London O2 Arena 18th June 2013

As my first Pet Shop Boys live experience, I didn't know what to expect, but I'd seen their set at Glastonbury on the BBC so I assumed I was due for a spectacle of Morphsuit-sporting box-headed backing dancers and countless costume changes for our two main men. Thankfully, I wasn't disappointed.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Music bloggers!

What do we have that beauty, fashion, lifestyle and plus size bloggers don't?
An unorganised hashtag, that's what!
It seems the best way to communicate with bloggers nowadays is through Twitter, and while the #mbloggers hashtag is recognised, it's not as active as I'm sure we'd all like. We're even being mistaken for tech bloggers - isn't it about time we established ourselves?
Other blogging groups have their weekly organised chats with exciting topics of conversation to help writers get to know each other and possibly follow someone they didn't know about before.
So what I'm proposing is - let's get together. I'd love to get some feedback on when you'd all like to have a group chat on Twitter, say Saturday nights at 9pm? Would you like these chats to be organised, or would you prefer to just feel free to chat about anything and everything?
I'm dying to get to know some more music bloggers, it seems we're not the most vocal of communities, so let's change that!

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Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Falling In Reverse - 'Fashionably Late' Album Review

If you don't have a weak spot for Ronnie Radke, chances are you're lying. Everyone loves a bad guy turned good, right? The ex-Escape The Fate vocalist has certainly made a name for himself with his band Falling In Reverse, and his impenetrable ego is all part of the appeal. There's something about his self confidence that draws even an anti-ego activist like me like a moth to a heavily-tattooed flame. Ronnie's larger-than-life image bursts through every track from The Drug In Me Is You, but has he taken a different path with Fashionably Late?

Not by any means, but that's not a bad thing. Falling In Reverse are the unexpected Jacks of all trades - departing from pop through rap, a brief stop at country, and arriving at metal - Fashionably Late showcases every genre you never expected to hear from them, and yet the overbearing egotistical theme remains. Don't let the relaxed cover deceive you, this album is full of energy and confidence, just what we wanted.

Champion was a little less in-your-face than I expected, but the rapping still caught me off guard. I don't think I like Ronnie rapping. No, correction, I don't like Ronnie rapping. Don't get me wrong, he's good at it, it's just not something I rave for. 
In complete contrast, Bad Girl's Club brings back memories of Forever The Sickest Kids, and somehow I'm okay with its tech-poppy overload, my inner teenybopper finds it appealing. From there, things get a little deeper, as Rolling Stone and Born To Lead echo Escape The Fate's former heaviness at the hands of Ronnie, while Self Destruct Personality puts it's own tricksy spin on metal. You have to hear it to believe it.
The band's recognisable lyrical magic remains throughout, making Fuck The Rest my new anthem for the summer, even with a cheeky reference to 'Charlie bit my finger' right at the end. 
If you've been hunting for an ode to your video gaming childhood, Game Over fits the bill. Although I was more Tomb Raider than Mario, I can still relate to this, but my misplaced sense of innocence refuses to believe an ulterior motive to describing chasing after coins.
Keep Holding On was a pleasant surprise, the high-pitched guitars competing with the piano, the Queen-worthy solo, making a great and welcome change from FIR's usual pop-punk material.

One to listen out for on this album is the country-esque Drifter, I found myself toe-tapping within seconds. This is the first, but not the last, signal of Falling In Reverse's maturity on the album, not a scrap of ego to be found, much like The Westerner from their debut album, Drifter brings you back down to earth with a thump - the reality behind a singer's drive to make music isn't as glamorous as we like to think. 

Remember all those completely inappropriate songs the kids would sing on the playground, whether they knew what it was about or not? The album's title track Fashionably Late should be one of them for the new generation. Just don't go quoting this in front of your partner, eh? Believe me, I've struggled.

Last but by no means least, the band's first single from the album, Alone, showcases Ronnie's respectable attempt at rapping. I don't think it suits him but kudos to him for throwing it out there. It's catchy as hell, what more could we ask for? Listen out for the unexpected Suicide Silence-esque breakdown.

All in all, a varied and diverse album brings Falling In Reverse back on top form. Try putting FiR in a category, I dare you. These guys put all their effort behind breaking moulds, stereotypes and hearts, and Fashionably Late hasn't disappointed.

What was the inappropriate song you'd sing on the playground? 

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Friday, 21 June 2013

My London O2 Arena Experience

You should know by now that I love a good rant. I'll rant about anything to anyone, and today is no exception, as today I've got a rant of epic proportions. I went to the London O2 Arena on Monday to see the Pet Shop Boys, and I felt it was only necessary to impart my experience at the venue, as I wished I had known about these things before I got there.

Now as we'd spent the entire day in London before the gig, I was pleasantly surprised by how things in London worked, the tube and so on, but upon arriving at North Greenwich station, the experience took a tumble. I'd been in a few tube toilets, but this was by far the worst. I've been to Download festival, and those port-a-potties were spotless in comparison to North Greenwich toilets. I'm OCD about hygiene, I nearly hyperventilated.

Despite my fears of not being able to navigate London, the O2 was easily accessible from the tube station, you walk straight out and you're directed towards the dome straight away. Me and my mum turned up super early because we'd spent the day around London anyway, so we headed to Nando's for the first time, and the staff there were lovely, helpful and appreciative of the little time we had to get a good spot in the queue for the gig.

If you have standing tickets, be prepared to walk a mile to entrance F. It's not as accessible as you think. Yes, they think it's a good idea to punish you even more for choosing to stand for the next 4 hours.

We arrived at the queue with a good two hours before doors, so we made ourselves as comfortable as possible on the tarmac and waited. Half an hour before the doors were due to open, the staff ushered us into what I can only describe as cattle pens, telling us to bunch up as close as possible so they could fit enough people in. We'd got there early, so we weren't far down the queue. Half an hour later, 6.30 as stated on the tickets, the doors were still not open. Technical difficulties, we were told, obviously that's not the venue nor the artist's fault half the time, but it's the fact we were crammed into tiny spaces with barely enough room to breathe let alone stretch your arms or bend your back when you've been sat in an uncomfortable position for hours before anyway. I have very weak joints, so I was in excruciating pain sandwiched in between people with absolutely no room to sort out my cracking spine. Me and mum frequently contemplated turning around and going home, because our joints couldn't take it, we're not fit enough for that. Even if you don't suffer from claustrophobia, it's easy to develop it when you can feel the breath of the person behind you on your neck. It's not even that cramped when you get into the gig. I overheard people in the queue saying they'd even forgotten what they were waiting for, it had been such a long and traumatic experience.
A whole hour and 10 minutes in that environment and the doors were finally opened. The bag search was quick and painless, a lovely guy simply asked me to open my bag, barely touched it himself and let me through. The worst I was carrying was my compact mirror, so thankfully they weren't as thorough as I expected.

We ended up right at the barrier on the right hand side, where behind me they sectioned off an emergency exit path, which thankfully gave me enough room to origami my back into its original shape.

Now here's my biggest rant - if a venue is going to enforce a photography ban, enforce it properly. I have no qualms with a no photography rule, after all, bands get distracted by the flash and some rightly believe it's stupid to watch a gig through your smartphone screen instead of your own eyes. But please, O2, instead of getting a feeble staff member to shout 'no photography of the bands guys' to the first 20 people that turned up at the barrier, why not wait until everyone's arrived at the venue and use the plentiful speakers to let your warning be heard? With my mum shouting in my ear 'take a photo of this', 'take a photo of that', I caved and decided to try and take a photo. In the process of which, I was sharply ticked off by a member of staff in front of the stage. Being a decent person, I learned my lesson and I didn't take a photo again. However, when I saw the entire rest of the venue, both standing and seating, taking photos, I was a little more than cheesed off. I made a point of watching the staff to see if they were telling anyone else off, but they didn't. A girl two across from me at the barrier was recording the entire show using flash and she wasn't even approached. I'd call 'prejudice' if anyone was listening - why single me out? Was it just because I didn't look like the average 80s pop gig attendee? I'd have understood completely if I was causing a disruption to the gig, but I was at the far right of the barrier, with nobody behind me whatsoever, and I even have a shite 3GS with no flash to cause any distractions - so why me? Do I look easy to tell off? I'm afraid it hurts me when I'm the only one being targeted for doing something every single other person is doing. I don't like injustice at the best of times, but to embarrass me in front of the people around me while the girl nearby is still recording?
I've paid £80 for us to get here, you think I'm leaving without a crappy iPhone quality photo?
Credit where credit's due, however, the staff were on the ball with handing out water and ear defenders, plus a member of staff came and asked if I was alright as I was in tears from the pain halfway through the set, but perhaps I wouldn't have been in such a state if it weren't for the crowd herding before.

So all in all, it wasn't the greatest experience, and it wasn't the greatest venue. I'm much happier in a smaller, more intimate venue, but I'm aware venues like this are what make a band feel great about how far they've come. 
Of course, I understand some of you will work at the O2 and will completely disagree with what I'm saying. I'm aware I sound like another one of those frustrating customers those of us in retail wish didn't exist, but that's just a matter of opinion, and this is my opinion. I just wouldn't willingly go to the O2 again, it's not worth the grief.
For a band, if you've reached the O2, you've made it. For a fan, if you've reached the O2, you've set yourself up for a bumpy ride.

I'll review the Pet Shop Boys performance in another post this weekend, but I thought I'd share my venue experience separately.

Have you been to the O2 Arena? What did you think?

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Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Album Review - Sleeping With Sirens - Feel

After the success of 2011's Let's Cheers to This, I expected a fairly similar follow-up from Sleeping With Sirens, but I didn't get that. Feel, released last week, almost feels a little too laboured and repetitive, sometimes straying a little too far out of familiar waters, which we can probably thank their enormous new fanbase for. I'm all for a band searching for a new image, but to me, it seems half of the time SWS has tried too hard and looked in all the wrong places. But when they've stuck to what they know, they've produced some crackers.

The majority of the album lacks the emotional anchors that fans took on board with their previous offerings. Gone are the meaningful, touching lyrics, and replaced with a chorus comprising of one word. Repeated over and over. From the clichés of Feel and Here We Go through the predictability of Deja Vu to the uneventful Low ('Don't make me feel low'? Really?!), the album doesn't always get it right, but we can't expect all 11 tracks to push every button. 

Most remarkable is the heaviness of The Best There Ever Was, which was unexpected to say the least, and didn't exactly fit in with the rest of the album's ethos, but maybe it was a good idea to throw in just one loaded track for good measure. Still, I'm not convinced it suits them, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed this isn't their attempt to test the water and see if loyal fans would accept a move toward more heavy material. 

Despite the lack of lyrical quality, Kellin's vocals are unmistakeable and when you hear his high notes, it's possible to forgive the thoughtless writing. Less time spent repeating the best lyrics effectively shaking off their sparkle, more time treasuring Kellin's gorgeous top notes, agreed? Also, the guitars are still as good as always, although this album definitely needs more solos to showcase them, as the tech-y effects drown them out too often. 

The entire album seems to cover the past, present and future of the genre - I felt a little old school My Chemical Romance in These Things I've Done, I even noticed an Avril Lavigne atmosphere with Satellites while Congratulations presumably predicts the future of pop-punk. Don't get me wrong, I love Matty Mullins as much as the next person, but Congratulations won't be a song I'll be going back to anytime soon. 

Despite all this, I can see this album becoming a lasting anthem purely because of the standout I'll Take You There and Sorry, which opens with a piano and faithfully returns to what brought SWS their fame - the heartstring-tugging remorseful ballads that make a crowd scream and clap along. Free Now drags out emotions I hadn't used in a while, a stark reminder of the value of family and that their future is in our hands, making this my favourite track from the album.

This is pop-punk, it's hit and miss. When it misses, it misses by a mile, but when it hits, it hits you right in the feelings.

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Saturday, 8 June 2013

21 Years of Number One Singles

It's my 21st birthday soon, so to celebrate on this 'ere corner of the web, I wanted to go through all the number one singles from my birthday week for the past 21 years, so here's a list of all the best and worst chart-toppers. I warn you now, there will be some catchy earworms in this list, so unless you're comfortable hearing Britney Spears in your mind all day, I suggest you stop reading now. Seriously.
Please keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle, we're going time travelling...

1992 - Erasure - Abba-esque
Nope, I don't remember this by name... that's a good start! I assume it's a cover of ABBA? Erasure had better hits. Oh baby pleeease give a little respeeeect toooooo meeeeeee...
1993 - UB40 - (I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You
Oh man, the British wannabe Jamaicans. Please no.
1994 - Wet Wet Wet - Love Is All Around
A pretty unremarkable hit except for the fact the guy from The Troggs wrote this - remember Wild Thing? He lived in the next town until he passed away last year. Avid believer that UFOs existed. Little did he know it was me making the crop circles.
1995 - Robson Green and Jerome Flynn - Unchained Melody
Ohhhhh yes, I was hoping Robson and Jerome would appear somewhere. I was always Team Robson though. He was the only reason I watched that Northern Lights/City Lights/Clash of the Santas series.

1997 - Hanson - Mmmbop
When you remember this song, all bad feelings fade away.
Seems '97 was a good year for the catchy American hits, because the number one a week later was Puff Daddy's I'll Be Missing You, then the classic Men In Black in August - let's face it, we all tried to learn the alien dance moves from that video.

1998 - B*Witched - C'est La Vie
According to my parents, I used to have this on casette and play it religiously. I vehemently contest this.
2003 - Evanescence - Bring Me To Life
This clung onto the top spot for 4 weeks! This song encapsulates my teenage years, I was inseparable from my Fallen album, and I blame Amy Lee for my desire to dye my hair black at a ridiculously young age.

2004 - Mario Winans - I Don't Wanna Know
I've only recently recovered from an obsession with this song! Shola Ama, The Pirates and Naila Boss collaborated for a retaliation to this with You Should Really Know, and 04 was clearly the best year for retaliation hits - anyone remember Eamonn and Frankee? Also in 2004 were Usher's Yeah! and Burn, and Britney's Toxic and Everytime, and also Busted - this whole year was addictive for this 12 year old girl discovering her pop obsessions.

2005 - Crazy Frog - Axel F
This only stayed at the top for 4 weeks but from memory it felt like a decade.
2006 - Nelly Furtado - Maneater
I see the title 'maneater' and instantly think Hall and Oates, I can't be the only one, surely?
2007 - Rihanna - Umbrella
This was at number 1 for 10 weeks, it's a wonder we're all still alive.
2009 - Dizzee Rascal - Bonkers
If you don't sing along to this, you're lying.

2012 - Cheryl Cole - Call My Name
Just no.

Anyone else feeling a little travel sick from this trip down memory lane? Well I hope you've enjoyed the ride and don't forget to leave a comment down below - what was number 1 when you were born?

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