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Vol. 40

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Bon Jovi

Forever

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BON JOVI – FOREVER – ALBUM REVIEW

Anyone would love to have had the career that Bon Jovi have had, but their journey through different eras is something future music historians will view with great perplexity. How many times can a band be written off only for them to reinvent themselves and prove all their doubters wrong.

Whether it’s early glam rock Jovi, soft rock Jovi, hard rock Jovi, ballad Jovi or country Jovi, Jon Bon Jovi and his merry men keep moving whereas their contemporaries pack up or stay put. During a career which has turned them into one of the biggest bands of all time, they’ve also become one of the biggest targets of all time!

An American U2 if you will, the group will be the butt of jokes from your mates, but they’ll be the first in line for tickets and screaming the lyrics to ‘Living on a Prayer’ whenever they come to town. Reviews, quite rightfully of late, have also always been quick to lament the efforts of one of the most enduring acts past few decades.

The title of their new album, ‘Forever’, feels like another proclamation that they aren’t going anywhere despite recent vocal issues trending and their latest albums being highly maligned by most commentators.

WATCH THE VIDEO FOR ‘LEGENDARY’
Bon Jovi – ‘Legendary’

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The first thing to note about the record is that Mr Bon Jovi himself sounds in fine fettle and as such the many sing-a-long inducing choruses all sound stadium ready. The second thing is that musically this sounds like peak Bon Jovi, as the band almost go back to basics.

Thirdly, it’s worth admiring that all of those genres listed above are present and, to use another tired cliché, the sound of this album could be referred to as career-spanning! This means that there really is something here for fans from all eras of Bon Jovi and that they don’t do any of these eras a disservice with their offerings here.

‘Forever’ could be a much needed career reset once again for a band with an astonishing work-rate. Indeed, you wouldn’t put it past them to simply go on forever after all. This may not be up there with a ‘Slippery When Wet’ or even a ‘Have a Nice Day’ but it’s a damn sight better than their most recent efforts!

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Royal Republic

LoveCop

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Royal Republic are one of those bands that people might struggle with until they see them live on stage. Thereafter they’re guaranteed to be fully converted into the madness that this obscenely catchy party band.

Of course, a band needs songs to play when they are on those stages and Royal Republic are back to grow that arsenal with their fifth studio album entitled ‘LoveCop’. A naturally absurd name for another over the top, all out disco rock release!

The ten tracks on this album may just be their most diverse set yet, despite all heavily capturing that funky style that has typified their sound to date. Indeed, this is a continuation of their previous work, but it’s more than that as the band expand on the retro elements of their music with some sublime 80’s-esque pop hooks lifting these new tracks even higher!

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Royal Republic – ‘Ain’t Got Time’

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Never afraid to let it all hang out, it’s great to see the group playing with their sound enough to keep things fresh, whilst maintaining their signature aura. ‘LoveCop’ is made for the dancefloor and it will be impossible not to dance along to the likes of ‘My House’, ‘Boots’ and ‘Ain’t Got Time’.

Equally the likes of ‘Lazerlove’ and ‘Electra’ bring something a little different to the collection which keeps it moving nicely. All in all, with a runtime of 35 minutes, the album flies by and provides the band with more than a handful more songs to draw from when they capture your attention from the stage, just as they will at Download!

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Vol. 39

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HRTLSS

Blood Moon

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Live Reviews

Slam Dunk Festival

Hatfield Park

Saturday 25th May 2024

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SLAM DUNK SOUTH 2024 – LIVE REVIEW

In the event programme You Me At Six frontman Josh Franceschi talks about the bands affinity with Slam Dunk Festival and the aptness that the festival acts as their final UK Festival appearance. Indeed it is fitting, but as well as looking back at the twenty year career of our headliners, it also puts into perspective the journey that the festival itself has been on.

Starting out as a single day event in Leeds back in 2006, You Me At Six first appeared in 2007 as the festival made Leeds University its home. The indoor university campus set-up expanded to include Hatfield in 2010 and would eventually take in a third day in the Midlands between 2013 and 2018 when the Hatfield event first moved outside to Hatfield Park.

Since then the event has become the two day fully outdoor event that has become something of a monster. The now traditional festival season opener has flown high, but last year a little like the story of Icarus, the event flew a little too close to the sun. As the events welcomed their biggest ever crowds, the infrastructure buckled under the strain and the festival was forced to acknowledge their failings with promises of lessons learnt this year.

Funnily enough the parallels to You Me At Six could be applied here as well, as again Franceschi admits within the programme notes that the band previously tried too hard to achieve success, made mistakes and needed to re-evaluate and return to their roots. For both the band and the festival, this approach has paid off, because from first arrival to departure this year at Hatfield goes off without an organisational hitch (although as we type this, Leeds has already run into problems!).

Slam Dunk has always been a festival where the music is at the forefront and we dive straight into festival season at the ‘GoPro’ stage with As Everything Unfolds smashing through a brilliant set as the sun shines down. ‘Ultraviolet’ rightly dominates the setlist and it’s clear that the band have something special. As we bid farewell to a regular headliner tonight, if organisers are pondering the headliners of the future then they may well wish to keep an eye on this band!

There are just the five stages this year as the festival scales back somewhat in order to refocus on the original spirit of the event. The site is more spread out this year which helps with people traffic flow and we take a stroll to the ‘Monster’ stage for a glimpse of old school punk favourites Snuff and to the ‘Kerrang’ stage for a beginnings of upstarts Honey Revenge. This is a great example of the dichotomy on offer under the genre-umbrella of the event.

The main stage will capture most of our attention today however and another band with a big future, As December Falls, pull a big and heavily engaged crowd to the stage early on. With their latest effort ‘Join the Club’ also glowing today, the future of this event does appear to be in safe hands!

Young and fresh artists have always featured prominently at Slam Dunk, but so have blasts from the past and the organisers have always had a knack of pulling out rare UK appearances from groups. Head Automatica are the first such act today, although they suffer a few technical hitches which takes the shine off of their set. That said, ‘Beating Heart Baby’ still elicits one of the biggest sing-a-longs of the day.

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The ‘Key Club’ stage is positioned a tad too close to the ‘Monster’ stage which does cause some sound bleed at times. Good luck to anyone out-noising Pennsylvanian hardcore breakthrough group One Step Closer. The group come out and smash through their set with controlled ferocity, leaving those present in little doubt that they are amongst the very best new bands on the circuit.

Meanwhile the technical gremlins continue to plague the main stage as We The Kings have their set cut down to just five songs, although that does include another huge sing-a-long for ‘Check Yes Juliet’.

As well as rarities, returns also feature prominently this year although oddly two of the biggest clash (but it wouldn’t be Slam Dunk without the clashes!). The Blackout perform seminal album, ‘The Best in Town’ in full over on the ‘GoPro’ stage and pull quite the crowd, although like us many depart twenty or so minutes in to head back to the main stage.

That’s because for the first time in some seven years Mallory Knox are back with vocalist Mikey Chapman! A handful of carefully chosen intro tracks highlight the momentous occasion before they deliver a career-spanning performance which delights their passionate fans. Despite some mic issues for Chapman, it’s fantastic to have his signature voice back at the helm of a band once heralded as the next big thing. With a tour lined up this autumn, perhaps that prophecy can still be fulfilled!

The Ghost Inside then lay waste to the ‘GoPro’ stage in another moment of celebration considering everything that they’ve been through. From there we head back to the ‘Kerrang’ tent for Pale Waves which again demonstrates the variety on offer even within the limited gene pool of Slam Dunk. Pale Waves say that they didn’t know what to expect, but what they get is a huge crowd singing every word back of what may be the best set of the whole day!

We are at the business end of the day now but there is still plenty of business to be taken care of! Another rare booking which elicits scenes of glee and sing-a-longs galore is that of Boys Like Girls who deliver the goods including hits ‘Love Drunk’ and ‘The Great Escape’.

Holding Absence frontman Lucas Woodford can then be found fronting a special performance from Funeral For A Friend on the ‘GoPro’ stage, with Woodford more than up to the task.

Then it’s back to the main stage for former headliners The All-American Rejects who are in the UK for the first time in ten years! Sadly the sound is pretty damn iffy throughout but the sing-a-long moments continue and more than compensate for their poor sound. Fans will be praying that it isn’t another ten years before they get to hear the likes of ‘Swing, Swing’, ‘Dirty Little Secret’, ‘Move Along’ and ‘Gives You Hell’ again!

We then catch the solid beginnings of The Wonder Years set as they close out the ‘Key Club’ stage. Elsewhere stages are headlined by I Prevail, Waterparks and The Interrupters but we naturally finish at the main stage with the festival farewell for You Me At Six.

The atmosphere is celebratory before the band even arrives on stage but when they do and immediately burst into ‘Save It For The Bedroom’ the place goes crazy for their heroes. Thankfully the sound is great for the headliners and the string of hits and fan favourites flies by, which is always a good sign.

The party lives up to the hype and You Me At Six are able to give a great account of what has made them such a special band whilst simultaneously showing what makes Slam Dunk what it is. Even at the end of a long, exhausting day the fans are more than willing to sing back every word of the likes of ‘Take on the World’, ‘Underdog’ and ‘Beautiful Way’.

After a year of negativity about the event, it’s great to see Slam Dunk (at Hatfield at least) firing on all cylinders, because there truly is no better way to kickstart festival season. Fans meanwhile will have one final chance to say goodbye to You Me At Six next year, and on tonight’s showing, you’d be foolish not to!

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Vol. 38

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Twenty One Pilots

Clancy

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TWENTY ONE PILOTS – CLANCY – ALBUM REVIEW

Every now and then a musical force comes along that changes the game and inspires a whole new generation of artists. Twenty One Pilots can lay claim to being such a special talent, with their 2015 effort ‘Blurryface’ launching a tidal wave of creatives looking to replicate the fresh sound perfected by Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun.

Continuing their artistic vision, the duo have subsequently embarked on a multi-album story arc involving a character names Clancy. 2018’s ‘Trench’ and 2021’s ‘Scaled and Icy’ are now joined by the eponymous ‘Clancy’, which closes out the storyline.

Twenty One Pilots have again used creative methods to promote the record in a way that engages their dedicated fanbase whilst generating much needed hype for the album. The world brought to life through songs and videos is wondrous and the duo should again be credited with changing the norms that surround the unlimited volume of music put out into the world.

WATCH THE VIDEO FOR OVERCOMPENSATE
Twenty One Pilots – ‘Overcompensate’

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Musically though whilst ‘Scaled and Icy’ was generally praised there was a clear undertone of negative reviews which gave it the bands most mixed reception since their mainstream explosion. The same will likely happen again with ‘Clancy’ as whilst it continues to spotlight the ingenuity of Joseph and Dun, it also fails to produce the same excitement as their breakthrough releases.

Of course, popular opinion is a historically polarising medium in which to rate actual quality but it sadly does bare consideration. Clancy is a sublime theatrical and sonic journey which diehard fans will celebrate as a masterpiece, but it’s sadly likely to flop at the box office. A useful analogy may be that ‘Clancy’ is the Multiverse of Madness for the Twenty One Pilots’ MCU!

Given the levels of ambition for both those projects it may be frustrating that outside of an embedded customer base the visions for this album may not get the response that they deserve. Like certain movies in the MCU will stand the test of time, you wonder which tracks will endure in setlists over the next decade and outside the obvious like ‘Overcompensate’ and ‘Next Semester’ you can’t pick any with a degree of certainty!

Much like the MCU as well, you can’t help but wonder where the band will go next.

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Paul Weller

66

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PAUL WELLER – 66 – ALBUM REVIEW

Paul Weller celebrates his 66th birthday with his aptly titled new studio album, ‘66’. What a career Weller has had! From The Jam and The Style Council to his ever growing arsenal of releases under his own name, he has long since carved his name into musical folklore.

It’s highly commendable then that he continues to explore his creative desires and ‘66’ is his sixth solo album of the past decade. Much to his financial detriment (how much would a reunion of The Jam earn him?), Weller’s persistent pursuit of musical evolution has typified those releases and he shows no signs of slowing down.

WATCH THE VIDEO FOR ‘NOTHING’
Paul Weller – Nothing

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Always looking to work in new ways, collaboration is something that Weller has embraced and on ‘66’ you will hear contributions from an array of talented individuals including Noel Gallagher, Suggs and Bobby Gillespie.

The twelve tracks that make up ‘66’ have been worked on over the past three years and represent a varied sonic outlay akin to the diverse mix of sounds produced over his recent efforts. It’s probably fair to suggest that there is something on this album for fans from each of his different eras.

The likes of ‘Jumble Queen’, ‘Nothing’ and ‘Soul Wandering’ do jump out but the album as a whole is easy to consume with a well structured flow. As ‘Burn Out’ brings the album to a close you can’t help but again marvel at the longevity and vision of a true national treasure!

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Bring Me The Horizon

Post Human: NeX GEn

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BRING ME THE HORIZON – POST HUMAN: NEX GEN – ALBUM REVIEW

The twists and turns in the road to releasing ‘Post Human: NeX GEn’ have been plentiful for Bring Me The Horizon. Since the first release of the Post Human series, ‘Post Human: Survival Horror’, arrived in 2020 the group have solidified themselves as one of the biggest bands in the world, headlining arenas, stadiums and festivals all over the globe.

Behind all that success however has been a narrative that not all is well in house Horizon and the late notice delay in releasing this new collection has been followed by nine months of uncertainty and the shock departure of creative whiz Jordan Fish. Midnight however brought another shock for fans as the band surprised everyone with the unannounced delivery of ‘Post Human: NeX GEn’!

So after all this time, how does the album stack up? Well the tracklist features sixteen tracks and interludes which run to over fifty-five minutes so the first cliff note is that this is a substantial offering.

The second note is that the song titles and their retro Myspace-esque capitalisations are going to test our autocorrect as we run through this review! Highlights on the naming convention front include ‘Top 10 staTues tHat CriEd bloOd’ and ‘a bulleT w/ my namE On’.

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Bring Me The Horiozn – ‘a bulleT w/ my namE On’

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Another key note before diving in is that the trend of Bring Me The Horizon collaborating with artists continues at pace with AURORA, Underoath, Lil Uzi Vert and Daryl Palumbo of Glassjaw all contributing. The final pre-note for reference is that the departed Fish is still credited on seven of these tracks, so his fingerprints still remain intact even after his exit.

Now then, ‘[ost] dreamseeker’ introduces fans to the first new track ‘YOUtopia’ which is our first Fish-less glimpse of new Bring Me The Horizon. The track does however include a credit for the equally esteemed Dan Lancaster who has worked with the band previously and is a current live member of Muse. It’s perhaps not a shock then that the song instantly indicates that the aesthetic of recent singles remain intact.

Speaking of recent singles, ‘Kool-Aid’ follows and is the first of six already released songs on this album dating back to 2021’s ‘DiE4u’! The decision to include all these singles is interesting and likely done for completeness. Come the end of the near hour of music however you do slightly feel a few of these could’ve been left off to make this collection more succinct.

WATCH THE VIDEO FOR ‘DiE4u’
Bring Me The Horizon – ‘DiE4u’

As with all of these past singles, the newer tracks here draw more from the poppier side of the group whilst still going hard. They don’t align sonically with the heavy hitting ‘Post Human: Survival Horror’ tracks, although frontman Oli Sykes does state that thematically “It’s a real concept album, with a full narrative that connects to the first record, but the concept is hidden and buried,” before adding, “Some people aren’t going to be interested, but for some people it could be like a self-help book. There’s a lot of things in there, some of it’s quite clear, but a lot of it cryptic and hidden. People are gonna have to work it out.”

It will be interesting to see if the Post Human concept continues beyond this release, particularly given the time lapse and line-up changes since its inception. You also suspect that this release won’t have the same impact on their career trajectory as its predecessor.

That’s largely because the band have already achieved top tier status and this record certainly doesn’t change that. Indeed it shows that despite their issues and their already prolific release history, they still have plenty left to offer.

There is a giant sense of relief that ‘Post Human: NeX GEn’ is finally out and that the band can now move on. The album is again a smorgasbord of influences and gives of real retro 2000’s vibes whilst maintaining that signature modernisation that only Bring Me The Horizon seem to be able to pull off.

Upon ending with ‘DIg It’, it’s actually hard to look back and pinpoint any real standout moments, probably due to the pre-familiarisation with the singles. That said, there isn’t anything bad here either and the album certainly provides an absorbing listening experience; which is exactly what you should do now – go and listen for yourself!

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