The Roundup: December 2013

Sound City - Real to ReelDecember is always a busy month and this year was no exception here at Musicscramble. We’ve brought you gig reviews from Jamie Lenman, Gary Numan and Rocket From the Crypt. We had 15 alternative Festive songs to keep you from going on a Wizard and Mariah induced rampage.

As well as each of our top ten albums from the year to date which didn’t share as much of a crossover as I thought it would, in the end, showing a certain degree of diversity in the collective tastes. December also brought the Scramble Christmas night out in Glasgow and the rule was, if you didn’t have a grotesque Christmas jumper on your name wasn’t on the list and you weren’t getting in. The majority obliged and seeing as it was almost Christmas we let those less festive fellows in too.

Sound City

One thing I finally got round to doing this month was to watch Sound City, the documentary created, produced and starred in by the legend that is Mr Dave Grohl. The film focuses on the highlights of each decade that the place has been operating as a run down, relaxed and most importantly analog recording studio. Grohl and his team of researchers had done their homework and were able to document the highs and lows of a place that’s had many famous and talented musicians through its doors.

The soundtrack to the film is massive, not in length but in terms of the calibre of musician on it. From Stevie Nicks to Sir Paul McCartney, it has many cool collaborations and is well worth a listen. Grohl seems to be besotted with the old analog Neve mixing desk and goes on to flesh out the reasons why. I took from it that it boils down to the fact that when you record from this desk you get what you make and if that’s an imperfection he doesn’t care, he’d rather have that in the mix than covering it up with the likes of pro tools or any other digital program out there that makes creating a song accessible for the masses, I’m looking at you Rebecca Black!

This part of the story brought me back to a discussion I had with some of the guys from the Scramble team earlier in the month….

Record Vs Live.

Listening to a band live and listening to a band on record, disc or any other form of media for that matter. They are such different experiences.

The band who prompted this discussion was Placebo, who I had minimal dealings with in the past and who I could take or leave going by that fact. I was going into their Glasgow O2 Academy gig off the back of knowing about half a dozen of their songs, most of which were those I’d heard on the radio or in movies. I only own one of their records, 1998’s Without You I’m Nothing, which I’ve probably never listened to beyond the first couple of tracks. To say I wasn’t expecting much here is probably a massive understatement. A couple of hours later I couldn’t believe what I’d seen or heard as they were pretty damn good.

The moment I’ll remember most was the cover of Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’, a truly amazing performance.

Smashing Pumpkins – Panopticon

After years of going to see bands and listening to records it’s always been very noticeable that bands can be so much better in person. The rule isn’t satisfied by all of course and some have those nights where it either just doesn’t come together or maybe they play a setlist that consists of too much ‘new’ material. For instance, I’d seen Smashing Pumpkins around 5 or 6 times before they toured on the not-yet-released Oceania and they were not at their best, almost going through the motions and playing far too many tracks that had not been heard by the large crowd that had gathered that night. For me that’s an example of a band where I’ve seen them play tracks live that I’ve preferred on record.

Black Stone Cherry – Blame It On the Boom Boom

On the flip side of that there’s the recent Placebo gig and one other gig in particular from recent memory that is the complete opposite. The band in question here are Black Stone cherry. This is a band that I’ve been listening too for a while without actually having made it along to see them onstage.

That changed a couple of years ago when I seen them playing second opening for Alter bridge on their ABIII tour. Now here was a band that I thought were alright, nothing special, that was until I seen them tear up the stage at the cavernous Hall 4 of the SECC in Glasgow. Chris Robertson’s screaming vocals, Ben Wells and Jon Lawhon taking turns in running full pelt from one side of the stage to the other while still performing perfect renditions of guitar and bass parts en the thundering drums of Sideshow-Bob-alike John Fred Young turned those songs into something that made the spine tingle.

If they can replicate that performance at the Barras in February it could well be an early contender for my gig of the year next December.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and here’s to a very musical 2014!

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