FEATURE: NARC. Compilation Album #12 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Words: Mark Corcoran-Lettice / Laura Doyle / Claire Dupree / Becca Fergus / Rebecca Gregson / Nad Khan / Ben Lowes-Smith / Steve Spithray / Ali Welford

Celebrate our 12th birthday with a brand new compilation album featuring some of the region’s most exciting artists and bands – all for free! Head to our Bandcamp site to grab your free copy, and read on to find out what inspired the artists behind this year’s compilation…

Baker Island – Doomed Howard
Combining sugar-coated noise with Sean Dodds’ uncanny way with a hook, Doomed Howard is the kind of seemingly effortless gem more established acts would offer their limbs for. One of many highlights from last year’s sterling Philophobia Music LP Restless Legs, it’s a golden snapshot of our dearest, most irreverent fuzz pop favourites.
“Doomed Howard features backing vocals from Life Model’s Sophie Evans.” Sean explains. “The person in the song is seen as a joke to those around him – however, those around him are self-satisfied dickheads. He won’t bother with them again. The verses started out as attempt to write a Devo-esque song. We failed.” (AW)

Cape Cub – Flowers (acoustic)
Most will know Cape Cub’s Flowers as their most balearic banger but on this acoustic version, stripped of its bells and whistles, Flowers is oddly truer to the live version. There is a natural vulnerability to singer Chad’s voice as the meaning of the track is laid bare, the vocals take a more prominent place and the lighter production allows for the underlying melody and tune to blossom. In the lush arrangement we get a keen insight into the singer’s much sought after studio skills.

As Chad explains, “I always find it interesting to hear the raw components of a song, often bereft of its production values, and I thought our recent single Flowers would benefit from this. It’s one of the more production-heavy, bombastic tunes we’ve put out, so I was all the more keen to pull it back and see what the soul of the song itself felt like.” Well, it feels great. (SS)

Cheap Lunch – God of Chill
A watery themed blast of radgy scuzz comes courtesy of Newcastle trio Cheap Lunch. Taken from their self-titled EP released in August last year, God of Chill features a pummelling percussive assault behind ponderous bass riffs and howling echo-laden vocals, which culminates in a blast of feedback and squall.

“This song is about seeing the world through the Eyes of Poseidon, the God of Chill.” The band explain. “He is also the God of the oceans, seas, horses, rivers, winds, floods and drought. As the immortal ruler of the seas, Poseidon possesses the power to manipulate water, storms and lightning, able to create strong waves and violent storms to bring the rage of the ocean upon those who anger him. We didn’t want to write it, he told us to. What would you have done?” (CD)

Eve Conway – Roxy
If you’ve ever had the privilege of watching Eve Conway’s live performance, you are guaranteed to have been blown away by her explosive vocal style. Known for her effective use of live looping, her performances are consistently memorable. This new track sees Eve taking things back to basics, with clean acoustic guitar accompaniment it’s at once exotic and darkly seductive, with a chilling, eerie undercurrent.

Roxy is a fabulous example of the singer’s intriguing capacity for storytelling, it’s a dark and yearning piece with a haunting punchline. Alongside a simple chord progression, the track is both guttural and raw, with a bluesy edge, while Eve’s passionate delivery drives home a lyrical taboo. “Roxy is a story. Sometimes it’s good to take yourself out of the emotional side of writing to tell a story of someone you’ve made up. I’ve always liked the idea of people finding their own imagery.” (RG)

Head of Light Entertainment – Reluctant King
Celebrating ten years as the region’s foremost purveyors of oddball pop this year, quirky Teesside quartet Head of Light Entertainment offer up an exclusive for this year’s compilation.

Telling the imaginary story of a young trucker who transports live animals to the slaughter house, the subject matter may be a little unsettling but the track still bares the hallmarks of the Teessiders’ sound. Restless rhythms and kaleidoscopic synths marry with a chorus which hurtles along as the song’s protagonist makes a moral decision about his cargo. “Despite knowing he’ll probably lose his job, he drives the frightened animals to an open field, miles from their dark destination, and sets them free. Ultimately, it’s a song to laud anyone who makes a huge sacrifice by doing the morally right thing.” CD

Leddie MC – They Wanna Know
A truly unique artist, Leddie’s sound is unmistakable. Addressing the challenges of being a female rapper from Teesside with headlong determination, and to critical acclaim, They Wanna Know is a classic example of Leddie’s trademark ballsy lyricism and assertive delivery. It’s a sharp-tongued mouthy marathon of a track, with a seam of dark humour and sarcasm.

This musical self-portrait reflects on the preconceptions and judgments the MC has had to tackle from the prying public, friends and the media. Introspective without being egotistic, Leddie illustrates a journey of self-development, giving us a glimpse into her personal life and the critique she has to deal with. A hooky bassline carries the track on relentlessly, with rocky guitar riffs bring colour to the verses. Effortless rhymes fly with untiring energy; the writing is authentic, raw and devoid of clichés.

“It’s addressing people that feel like they need to find out your problems.” She explains. “Not to try and help you with them, but to comfort themselves by the fact that you might be worse off than them.” (RG)

Me Lost Me (I Lost My) – Eyes And Ohs
In barely a year performing as Me Lost Me (I Lost My), Jayne Dent has established herself among the most exciting newcomers our region has seen in many a year, leaving audiences spellbound with her crystal-clear vocals and multi-layered folk loops. Her first studio recording proper, Eyes And Ohs comes as a perfect introduction to the hypnotic, beguiling delights which lie in store.
“This was one of the first tracks I wrote as Me Lost Me (I Lost My) and a very different version of it appears on the EP I made in 2017.” Jayne explains. “It’s a fun staple of my live sets and is now the first single from my debut album, due for release in Autumn 2018.” (AW)

Mongeese – The Shores Breathe
Experimental maestros with the ability to snowball what seems to be every accountable genre into one song, Mongeese are ballsy, bold and undeniably brash when it comes to music. The Shores Breathe is a choppy, intense and beautifully constructed four minute offering which highlights everything beguiling about the four-piece, it’s a far more alternative pop approach than their usual output may suggest, but an interesting one at that. Texturally, it is absorbing, and the blend of ambient melodies against explosive crescendos allows for a truly breathtaking listen.

“We tried to stray further from our experimental influences and introduce more commercial aspects, relevant to genres like post-hardcore.” Guitarist Barney says. “The initial idea of the lyrics was to talk about how human relationships can differ and how you can grow to hate the ones you love. How finding safety in new relationships, can’t always offer the same positivity as the beginning of past affairs.” (BF)

Outside Your House – Spokes
Faithful Johannes and Jonathan Swift might seem like quiet sorts individually: put them together though, and you get Durham’s own barely-rap Voltron: the surreal, soft-spoken brilliance of Outside Your House.

Taken from last year’s Gallant Encounters album, Spokes showcases the low-key vibrancy of their lyricism and their gorgeous, melodic production of Outside Your House at their best.

Asked about the song, Faithfull Johannes explained: “The working title was Charles Chaplin for some reason: Jonny completely replaced the original music after I’d put words to it, introducing sweeping strings and adding layers of his own sweet voice.  Lyrically, the start is loosely based on a trip to Sicily, there’s a chunk that’s about the perils of not talking in a relationship, and several references to the film The Consequences of Love as directed by Paulo Sorrentino, because it blows my brains out.  The line “undone by my own frequent leakages” was axed from the song late on…” (MCL)

PLAZA – Speak It
Plaza’s 2018 has already got off to an electrifying start: announcing a stint at May’s Meet the North Festival in Newcastle and scoring a record deal with Coda within the matter of two months, it seems there is no time to take a breather for the four-piece.

Speak It is an abrasive, shimmering slice of point-blank gold that encompasses all of what makes the Hartlepool lads so distinguishable, laden with thrashing guitars and fantastically in-your-face lyrics. Drummer Matty Swinbourne says of the track: “Speak It is about not being concerned with what other people think about what you say or how you act. Always consider the potential consequences of your actions and words because in the end, this is what writes your story, but just be nice and don’t let the irrelevant things in your life get you down – concentrate on you.” (BF)

Profumo – Miss Ersatz
Profumo self-deprecatingly acknowledge themselves as being the North East’s biggest proponents of ‘capsized yacht-rock’ – however Miss Ersatz is an exemplary cut of danceable art rock. Coloured by bits of Talking Heads – particularly in Jack Bates’ delivery – and Roxy Music, Miss Ersatz has its own very distinct, peculiar personality. Propelled by Benny Hawkin’s excellent, idiosyncratic guitar playing, it’s a song which moves effortlessly into unexpected territory and builds beautifully over its relatively concise three and a half minutes. The bass playing is reminiscent of the Walker Brother’s Nite Flights, there really is something for the head, the heart and the gut here.

Jack has said of the song: “As funky as it gets west of the Sycamore Gap. I think I stole some of the lyrics from the Book of Common Prayer. Benny’s guitar is good at the end. Used to have way more slap bass on it.” (BLS)

Sam Fender – Millennial
Sam Fender has been slowly building up a portfolio of imaginative indie earworms, and he’s garnered some impressive attention, supporting the likes of Catfish And The Bottlemen and Hozier during his short career. All of this culminated in being longlisted for BBC Music’s Sound of 2018 award, and what could be more 2018 than Fender’s Millennial – a track written by a millennial for millennials.

As said by the artist himself, “It’s a tongue and cheek response to the negative portrayal of Millennials in the mainstream media.” The last few years have seen turbulent political and economic climates, yet it’s avocado toast and a decrease in sales of pocket hankies making the headlines. Millennials get a bad rap, yet the reasons behind their struggles remain unaddressed, Fender’s song is a bitterly sarcastic reminder of this betrayal – “As they rob your tomorrow, you’re forced to borrow.” (LD)

Swears – Lame Wizzard
Doomy psych rock from Teesside, Swears’ debut single Lame Wizzard has the sort of crunching dirty riff that descends into a catatonic and darkly fantastic powerplay this writer suddenly realised he’d been missing all along. The relatively sparse verse builds into a mighty chorus reminiscent of US pioneers Monster Magnet, and there’s even time for a drum solo. This infectious blend of heavy psych and melodic metal should see them move quickly through the region’s rock scene this year.

Singer Joel told me about the track: “It tells the story of an individual living in isolation, alienated and ostracised from society, slipping into a state of psychosis. Their delusions of grandeur and need for acknowledgement gradually lead to a false belief in supernatural abilities, and a desire to commit acts of violence and atrocity (and/or to move objects with their mind) as they become the Lame Wizzard.” Not for the faint of heart. (SS)

The Noise & The Naïve – Chihuahua
Having only made their live debut last April, The Noise & The Naïve have rapidly become a cult favourite around Newcastle. The duo of Anne and Pauline make joyously loud, energetic and concise blasts of power-pop so direct you almost wonder why anyone else bothers.

Discussing their formation, the band tell me: “The Naive tells everyone a Shonen Knife gig at the Sage made both of us so happy that we started playing the next morning. The Noise would probably mention housewifing misery as a solid reason to start a punk rock band.”

Taken from their debut EP, Chihuahua is as good an example of their modus operandi as any, with buzzing riffs and shout-along melodies that come in at just one minute and thirty-nine seconds. As the band put it: “The Naive likes her cat very much, and that love extends to all living forms, including dogs holding paws in a magic roundabout. The Noise would rather be quoted stating that this song honours I Wanna Be Your Dog (and all bitches).” (MCL)

Weakdaze – Room To Breathe
Since their inception back in 2014, brooding Newcastle alt. rockers Weakdaze have carved out their own little space in the local scene alongside bands like Bares and Threadbear, producing some brilliantly gloomy guitar music in the process. Recorded with Chris McManus at Blank Studios, Room To Breathe forms part of a two track EP recorded in late 2017 and shows exactly what the band are capable of.

It’s an angst-ridden triumph, rolling along on a cloud of thick distortion and crashing drums, chopping and changing unpredictably and never wearing thin. As you can guess, it’s definitely not about happy things, lyrically melancholic and self-reflective – the band explain its meaning further: “The track covers the daily stress you can regularly encounter, be it through work responsibilities, balancing your hobbies around real-world chores, or just having a lot of people expect highly of you. It can be a real strain and it leaves you needing some alone time.” (NK)

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