The Speed Of Sound, one of the most exciting, long-lasting and innovative bands on the Manchester underground, open the night with a storming set. They begin with their signature tune 'Shut All The Clubs', lead single from their acclaimed 206 album release 'Everything Changes', and a hit with listeners of Manchester and Salford's numerous underground radio shows. with it's lyrics' biting attack on gentrification and the authorities shameless erosion of subcultural lifestyles, it s a real anthem fir the culturally oppressed in this day and age. Lead singer and guitarist John Armstrong's distinctive vocal delivery and guitar style get the music off to a swinging start, complimented by the infectious bass grooves of bassist Kevin Roache, percussion from co-vocalist Ann-Marie Crowley and the drum rhythms from Anthony Edwards, standing in tonight for regular drummer Paul Worthington while he takes a break from the band.
The band follow with a selection of tunes from the aforementioned album, Armstrong and Crowley swapping vocal duties between songs. Armstrong is a powerful frontman, his modest but lively showmanship and Bryan Ferrr-esque vocal style guiding the band smoothly through a set that never becomes dull or repetitive. Their music shows distinctive traces of New york Art Rock and No Wave, often verging on the experimental and psychedelic while never losing its melody or infectious catchiness. Ann-Marie Crowley, herself an understated heroine of the Manchester underground with her previous role as lead singer of Poppycock, is an artist you can not help but respect, her vocals on such songs as 'The Moment Is Now' at times evocative of Nico with traces of Chrissie Hynde, her stage presence modest and unassuming yet powerful in its very humbleness. The band is about great art and infectious avant-garde pop without the ego or posturing that often comes with bands obsessed with hitting the big-time. The band's sound is very strong on both new and old songs, ads well as the two cover versions, of The Flirtations 'Nothing But A Heartache' and their lively cover of The Primitives 'Crash'. Their set is brought to a close by a striking performance of their 1989 song 'Glide On By'.
The full piece is here
Review of Everything Changes in Bliss/Aquamarine:
An exciting, energetic style and a strong DIY underground attitude, blending the more angular side of 1980s indie music and post-punk with aspects of psych and garage rock. Shut all the Clubs is spiky post-punk. Maid of the Grey is off-centre psych-pop with a raw, garagey sensibility and a catchy, tuneful chorus - really brilliant stuff. Little Miss Restless is an inventive take on 80s-ish indie pop, bringing in soaring flute which adds a dreamlike atmosphere partway between psychedelia and classical music. Always Seems to Fall is melancholic and tuneful indie pop offset by a raw, metallic guitar sound. Chalk Circle is intense, dark and on-edge, blending elements of post-punk, indie pop and vintage style rock. The Changes is a prime slice of underground rock, balancing spiky abrasiveness with a strong sense of melody. Limited to 350 hand numbered copies, this is a great album from a band I'm keen to hear more from. Link is here
Everything Changes album review by Mick Middles in Sounds:
Gorgeous product this, especially in vinyl format, where the main affair is accompanied by an additional 10 song CD. Essentially therefore, that rare beast, the ‘double’ album and a most intriguing one at that. Fear not, this is no ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ where the entire career hinges on a gimmick-laden, video friendly head-bug of a song. Although bugs do abound and kind of twist your brain with repeated plays, offering visions of, I guess, Whalley Range or thereabouts. The beautiful cover features four photographic tints of what looks like a Manchester Park with a stunning marble sculpture on the reverse. There is more, a lyric heavy inner-sleeve neatly overlays un-doctored images of the band who also appear cartoon-esque on a separate sheet and – more more, again – a neat A4 glossy poster. I do apologise if this initial talk of packaging might seem rather crass, but I mean no disrespect. What is important here is that the parade of artwork and extraordinary care that is built into it reflects the equal care embedded in the music.
And there IS care there, too. This is a band fully deserving of the term ‘underground’ in the ancient sense. For the entire affair dips below any conceivable radar and apparently, they are a band assembled from numerous others – including the equally extraordinary Poppycock – and have punched their weight down and through the decades. The main focus of their recording ethos is ‘first-take effect’, where initial magic is captured in favour of superior polish. Not that you would notice, for this is far from Lo-Fi.
What I particularly like about this album is the unlikely relationship between the languid New York style vocals of songwriter John Armstrong and the infectious evocative bass of Kevin Roache. It's a marriage that governs the album, recalling - for me at least - a rather bizarre cocktail of Television/Only Ones /Henry Cow and, when when Ann-Marie Crowley's vocals kick in, touches of 'Meet On The Ledge' circa Fairport. The Comparisons might seem lazy but, from this is precisely where the album sits -, oh perhaps elements of off-kilter John Martyn. Maybe—maybe, definitely.
I mention the latter for a curious and possibly ironic reason. For John Martyn, as ungainly and openly macho as any musician could be, provides the haunting of this exceptional album—from start to finish. I am not suggesting that ‘Solid Air’ sits so effortlessly in the background—but. With ‘Everything Changes’, some kind of ghost is born.
Despite all this background, this is a contemporary urban album. Through and through, really and – although I have no idea where the individual musicians reside, there are elements of Chorlton Bohemia here. Again, this may appear derogative, but it isn’t, really. Track one, ‘Close All The Clubs’ is a sincere response against the blanket regeneration of Manchester and, beyond that, the obvious close-down of lifestyles without consultation or consideration. We are left, adrift, in deadening satellite towns, bereft of the bonhomie of pubs and, in the city centre, the club culture that made the city thereat music extends from a stalwart socialistic heart. Rightly so and this filters defiantly through every song here. Indeed—of loss—loss and more loss, in social rather than romantic sense. This stuff flutters on local news every every evening of every week. Some of it PR puff. Some of it heartfelt. It doesn’t matter. It settles here and is openly recognisable, But there is more..much more—again and again. You can ignore and even disagree with all this background and simply groove. That is the true nature here. Kick-back and groove. Ignore the lyric sheet if you wish – it IS difficult to read, in truth and languish on the sofa, not unlike one of those advertising sloths from the DFS advert. Because, simply put, the music flows and soaks with delightful effect And boy does it!
Speaking as one who has spent the most part of 2016 hunting for actual songs on albums, famous and otherwise, it comes as an unexpected pleasure to something so effortlessly tune-heavy. Please don’t be paranoid, exotic bands of Manchester and beyond—I don’t mean you. Well possibly not. But here the songs carry more melodic twists than I have encountered in many years. All of them, if the sleeve is to be believed, scratched by the quill of John Armstrong although deftly augmented by a band who have been shuffling under the surface since 1989. An therein lies the key. It is now a long-term existence of a band lying so beyond the weakening tentacles of record companies, able to produce quality music and present it as a beautiful artifact without the need to tap into hazardous investment. This is how you do it.
So what do we get? The band’s website refers to the music as ‘atmospheric independent’ although that’s far too vague a tag and one that hints at the kind of psyche punched across by the skillful Gnod. But this is a truly different kettle— there lies a maturity within that – I may be wrong, they might bicker like a pack full of Scotties – seems to seep sweetly beyond he curt snap of musicianly ego. This reflects in the aforementioned member of Poppycock, Ann Marie Crowley – a busy professional person shunting through a frenetic life – juggling life in two bands. This she achieves with a palpable sense of serenity. Poppycock live always remind me of distant grainy films of Pentangle, a band so lost to heavenly musicality. Well this is the atmosphere on ‘Everything Changes’ (The title being the least effective aspect of the entire package).
20 songs is a lot to take. More than most bands manage in a lifetime and yet, even deep into the extra disc – this being a multi-media affair, the atmosphere continues to push through. I don’t know quite how the sleeve is intended to relate to the music—.although it does. These are Autumnal strolls in Manchester park songs, spiced by that Television or Only Ones drawl. I admit, I am a pure sucker for such vocals and, somehow, the distance from ‘Speed of Sound ‘from any kind or record company or showbiz unreality serves to heighten the effect. Hype is peeled away. The youthful illusion of stardom is not allowed to feature. These are mature people who do not feel the need to exist in the minds of people they don’t know. I scan through the lyrics provided on the inner sheet. There is an element, perhaps, of the blissful existentialism of ageing. Of moving away from the pulse-beat, of drifting thoughtfully. One thinks, maybe, of Dylan’s ‘Not Dark Yet’, of a fully thirty years of Cohen or, more locally, the ‘End of the Pier’ outpourings of The Distractions. This is the punk reflective. This is a valuable album for that, and more. For I know, I am parallel age, parallel feelings. How this might filter down to youth, I have no idea. The point is. Let the songs flow and enjoy them in the most uncomplicated manner and, to drag up seventies terminology, uncommercial way. Nothing matters. Look to the inner sleeve and scan the faces of this extraordinary band. Ghostly as they are. Even this is a shape-shifting moment. Ann Marie, dark and distant. John Armstrong, looking like the jazz musician of your dreams, glancing to the left—his left. Paul Worthington and Kevin Roache, somewhat shifty. It all combines to form a wry parody of the presentable pop persona. Times have changed and here, now it feels all the better for it.
10Dec2016 link here
The Speed Of Sound - Everything Changes album review on Bob Osborne's Aural Delights blog:
“It is hard to find a neat little genre box to put this band into, which is always a good thing. The songs are lead by hooky guitar sounds which are both 60s & post-punk
in their sound. John Armstrongs’ vocals have an early Zimmerman edge to them, the lyrics are both rich & complex, & Anne Marie’s vocals add a haunting cinematic feel to the songs. Kevin Roache, bass, & Paul Worthington, drums, provide a sympathetic and driving rhythm section. You’ll find a lot of good things here, & it’s great to hear Anne-Marie taking the lead role especially on the excellent “The Moment Is Now” which has a great pop feel & sounds like something Dusty Springfield would have sung in her pomp. The variety on this album is impressive, with nods to a Californian sound at times, epecially the occasional snippets of Stills/Young guitar breaks. This album has all of the elements of great Manchester pop as well, you will have to invest time in it, as it deserves to be listened to as a whole, Quality stuff!”
You can read the whole article on the current Manchester scene here
The Speed Of Sound - Shut All The Clubs in Music Is My Radar blog: ...Manchester Alt-Rock maestros The speed Of Sound with their striking new single released 28th March Originally gigging around the late 80's and early 90's this Manchester act has sprung back to live in recent years and are certainly making up for lost time. Now back in the original male/female vocal arrangement, this foursome combine spiky guitars with perfectly executed vocal harmonies with this excellent track. 2016 looks set to bring many rewards with album plans and plenty of live dates, The Speed Of Sound showing the young kids how its done and succeeding!
The piece on their site is here
Review of Shut All The Clubs by Starlight Music Chronicles:
...I am immediately drawn to say that this has a Johnny Marr (The Smiths) vibe happening. The instrumentation in this is carefully organized and I don't know if Armstrong realizes that he is giving off the Johnny vibe or not in his vocal ability but it's THERE! The lyrics are a feel-god vibe (similar to Marr) with post-punk finesse. I had the privilege of seeing Johnny live at the Starlite Room in Edmonton in December of 2014 and loved him! I feel that anyone who can pull off this kind of vibe similarly (as The Speed Of Sound has done here) automatically has my attention and admiration...I would highly recommend this band to those wanting to listen to a true Brit sound and to hear something new!
You can read the whole piece here
Excerpt from an interview in 'Rock At Night':
ROCK AT NIGHT: I was fortunate to hear the new single which is being released, I do have to say, it is really catchy and has a definite 60s vibe. Please tell me the story behind the song.
Shut All The Clubs is the A side of a traditional 7” 45 single, the b side still comes with it when its bought as a digital download. Its a song with a message - There’s a lot of music venues, small to medium sized ones, that are closing down, local town and city councils don’t seem to value them and these important cultural places are being bulldozed to make way for expensive flats and corporate-spaces, offices and gyms and shop chains. A single complaint about noise can cause a venue that’s been there for decades to be closed down. That nearly happened to Night And Day in Manchester. The Star and Garter isn’t actually being knocked down but it’ll be completely inaccessible for three years so can’t possibly survive, across two roads from there the Twisted Wheel club has just been knocked down - for the second time. It’s everywhere else too, not just here, this whole thing is vandalism. The real cultural assets of cities aren’t valued by the people entrusted with them and they are all becoming sanitized and dull. In ten years we will all be living in some sort of airport lounge. No independent traders and no culture, every city is slowly becoming the same and all the interesting things that make them great places to live and work and spend spare time are being lost. We’ve been playing the song live since April and it always gets a good response.
You can read the whole piece here
'Unsigned and Independent' have a review of the Checkered Land video
We have been checking out this video from The Speed Of Sound here in our office this afternoon. Latent shoegazer touches in the sound give it a very determined feel that languishes over the playing in a rather inspired way. Here there is a volume about it all that demands to be taken seriously. It hints at that throughout the way the play cleanly develops and the deeper context of the lyrics imbue it with an undertone that draws upon everything finely.
Their website is here this was posted on 10Feb2015, so you'll need to change the site calendar to see it in the stream.
Music vs The World heard us and wrote this:
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to hear a merger between Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones and Lou Reed?... The vocals are dark and melancholy - they have an intense quality that makes me stop everything I'm doing and just listen. The music surrounding the words pulls me along like a tide, making me drift away from reality without feeling that I have an option...
Read the whole thing here Here