Remember when the Arctic Monkeys came along and ‘saved’ guitar music back in 2005?

No, me neither. In fact, I don’t recall there being a time, certainly in the early 00s, when it was ever in need of a saviour, especially after it allegedly was ‘saved’ only a few years earlier by The Libertines.

I distinctly recall going to my Nan’s after school twice a week (she had Sky) and watching a seemingly endless conveyor belt of great guitar bands come and go.

Kinesis, Hell Is For Heroes, Nine Black Alps, Brand New, Yourcodenameis:Milo, Serafin, Cave In, Amplifier, Oceansize, The Datsuns, InMe, Grand Volume, Idlewild, Million Dead, Slaves To Gravity, The Music, Death From Above 1979, Pure Reason Revolution, Zico Chain, Secret Machines, Sucioperro, The Vines. To name but a few of my favourites.

Hell, I’ll even chuck bands like Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Interpol, Editors, The Strokes, Kings Of Leon and The Sunshine Underground in the mix too, at the more commercially acceptable end of the spectrum in that ‘alt-indie’ grey area.

These were halcyon times. Two hours of MTV2 followed by Gonzo, before Zane Lowe became an insufferable sycophant, skivving off school of an afternoon to skim through albums I had literally no money for at Martian Records in Taunton (sadly now gone). I saw Million Dead perform an acoustic set there once. Oh what happened to you Frank Turner?

But with the benefit of hindsight, you’d be forgiven for thinking the guitar, at least in mainstream circles, had been outlawed until Doherty, Barât, Turner and co got their mitts on one.

For all the column inches devoted to the Arctic Monkeys, they expertly rode the crest of an extremely popular wave, fuelled by the growth of social media. Their transition from My Space to Twitter and Facebook came at precisely the right time. Suddenly, they commanded an audience unlike any before – one (literally) at their fingertips. It’s hard to overstate the effect social media had on music at that time. It was seismic.

Sadly, for all those acts that came before though, they created a scene that was doomed, not to failure, but to obscurity.

There were flashes. Get Free by The Vines was massive. So was Take The Long Road by The Music and Gloria by Brand New.

I recall reading NME around that time too, blithely waxing and waning as popular opinion shifted. That said, had it not been for NME (even in spite of its endless Libertines cover features), I would never have discovered just about my favourite band of all time – Amplifier. It’s remarkable in retrospect they even got the half column they did in some end of year ‘riff round-up’. The song was The Consultancy if you were wondering. Go listen to it. It sounds like a guitar turning itself inside out.

Nostalgia’s an unhealthy obsession, especially when you’re still only in your mid-20s, but hearing Crushed Like Fruit by InMe will always transport me back to my Nan’s living room.

Actually, guitar music is still going great guns right now. 10 years later, the mantle has been assumed by Arcane Roots, Baroness, Marmozets, Battles, Black Peaks, Brontide, Future Of The Left, Drenge, Wolf Alice, Foals, Royal Blood, Vennart, Pulled Apart By Horses, Tame Impala, Turbowolf. Go. Listen. Devour.

Here are nine great songs from a sadly forgotten era:

Kinesis – This Dead End (2003)
Unmistakably influenced by Matt Bellamy of Muse’s guitar histrionics, This Dead End is over-the-top in every way, from the absolutely filthy distortion on the guitars to the ridiculous solo and enormous chorus.

Idlewild – A Modern Way Of Letting Go (2002)
Two and a half minutes of sheer unrelenting fury, propelled by a riff that could splice through universes. Very much a song to listen to first thing in the morning.

The Music – The Dance (2002)
The Dance sets the tone for The Music’s self-titled debut. Swirling, psychedelic waves of guitar build and build and build into rhythmic motifs thanks to one of the tightest rhythm sections you’ll ever hear. Oh, and the ending is somewhere approaching what I’d expect the end of the world to sound like.

InMe – Underdose (2003)
Another band clearly influenced by Origin-era Muse, Underdose is built around a simple riff that is as jaunty as it is buccaneering, while a then teenage Dave McPherson switches effortlessly from his impossibly deep teenage roar to cut-glass falsetto.

Secret Machines – First Wave Intact (2004)
I saw Secret Machines on a boat in Bristol. They closed with this track. A 10-minute twisted mélange of blues, rock and roll and psychedelia. For a song with just one distinct beat or groove, 10 minutes has never felt so short. We couldn’t stop idly strumming that very beat for weeks.

Cave In – Anchor (2003)
Like the aforementioned A Modern Way Of Letting Go by Idlewild, Anchor is a three-minute relentless assault on the senses. There is no break, no let up, no flab. Just a barely contained wall of noise with a chorus to die for.

Nine Black Alps – Not Everyone (2005)
It had to be this or Ironside. Not Everyone though features Nine Black Alps singer Sam Forrest at his most ferocious. With more than a nod to Nirvana, Not Everyone channels the angst of every 20-something outcast.

Amplifier – The Consultancy (2004)
This is by no means my favourite Amplifier song – but it is the song that perhaps had the greatest impact on my taste in music at the time. I was a huge Muse fan back then (when they were at their peak) but The Consultancy was the first song I heard around that time that gave me the same thrill as when I first heard the riff in New Born. It was just SO big.

Oceansize – Catalyst (2003)
Again, by no means my favourite Oceansize song. However, when those squally wails of guitar give way to that interlocking riff (which pans left to right if you listen to it on headphones) and finally explodes into another cataclysmic riff, Catalyst becomes simply mesmerising.

And another six from right now:

Marmozets – Born Young And Free
Arcane Roots – Energy Is Never Lost, Just Redirected
Wolf Alice – You’re A Germ
Black Peaks – Set In Stone
Drenge – Running Wild
Brontide – Knives


Get Surrey
Get Surrey

Lemmy died on Tuesday.

Everyone was pretty shocked. Cancer’s a bastard though – it’ll cut anyone down in a stroke, even the world’s hardest rock star.

People paid their respects to Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister with all the usual platitudes. I recall ‘RIP Lemmy’ trending on Twitter for a while. Well, if there’s one thing Lemmy’s definitely NOT going to doing in death, it’s ‘resting in peace’.

This is a man who drank a bottle of JD every day since the age of 30, a man who smoked like a top, a man who slept with thousands of women, a man who sung on his biggest hit:

“You know I’m born to lose, and gambling’s for fools, but that’s the way I like it baby, I don’t want to live forever.”

In fact, a man who – legend has it – had actually already died a few times, only to repel Beelzebub’s advances and cling onto this mortal coil. Probably chased him off with his bitchin’ Rickenbacker bass guitar.

Yes, Lemmy will be raising hell in an afterlife of his choosing. I’m quite sure of that.

He found fame with his vocal on Hawkwind’s 1972 classic Silver Machine, only to be kicked out of the band a few years later for his drug habits. It was a blessing in disguise.

Lemmy founded Motörhead in 1975, who went on to become one of the most enduring rock and roll bands of all time.

It was a pretty simple formula – distort everything; growl over the top of it; look really REALLY cool on stage, in interviews, on telly, etc. And then keep doing it for 35 years.

I saw Motörhead back in 2006 supporting the Foo Fighters and I swear my ears are still ringing from the experience. They even teamed up with Dave Grohl and co for a rendition of Probot’s Shake Your Blood. It was gnarly.

And in a bizarre feat of billing, Motörhead brought untold hedonism to clean-cut Guildford institution GuilFest (RIP) back in 2009 (retrospective penned in the wake of Lemmy’s passing by yours truly).

While I can’t profess to being a Motörhead afficionado (their ‘best of’ is quite enough for me), Lemmy was emblematic of a rock and roll ethos, spirit, mystique – call it what you will – that simply does not exist any more. One that likely dies with him.

Yes, his chums Ozzy Osbourne and Dave Grohl will carry the flag in his stead, but they don’t make them like Lemmy any more – and they never will.

While Motörhead were undoubtedly influential to an extent; Lemmy was more than just influential.

He was an institution. He embodied the rock and roll myth. He proved it could be true. The revelation this week he was nothing more than a mere mortal is not a comfortable one.

Like The Dude in The Big Lebowski, it was good to know Lemmy was out there, ‘takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners’.

Anyhoo. Here are my three favourite ‘Lemmy things’ that weren’t to do with Motorhead.

  1. Probot – Shake Your Blood
  2. His appearance in the Foo Fighters’ White Limo video
  3. Hawkwind – Silver Machine

I don’t want to live forever either, frankly.

Ash… in Ash


I wrote a little ditty about this earlier this year – essentially, a man from the newspaper patch area I cover won a competition to bring the band Ash to his back garden… in the Surrey village of Ash. It was one of the most fun mornings I can recall, and a real treat for me as a big Ash fan.

So here are some of the pics I took that morning that have been lurking on my phone for quite some time, and a few courtesy of one of our photographers.

Absolute Radio Breakfast Show broadcasting from Ash, Surrey, with the band Ash performing after a competition was won by a local listener. James Chapple with Ash




Absolute Radio Breakfast Show broadcasting from Ash, Surrey, with the band Ash performing after a competition was won by a local listener.

Wheatus, The Boileroom

While bands come and go and eventually fade into obscurity, truly great songs always stand the test of time.

Nonetheless, there always has been – and seemingly always will be – a stigma attached to the label of ‘one-hit wonder’.

Wheatus are refreshing insofar as they cherish their 2000 monster hit Teenage Dirtbag. Yes, it really has been 15 years since ‘that song’ came out – but we’ll get back to that later.

After gracing The Boileroom stage in Guildford less than a year ago, Wheatus returned on Friday (October 9) as part of their celebratory 15th anniversary tour.

And it was every bit the raucous celebration you would imagine; what Wheatus manage so successfully is to put on an old-fashioned request show – with a strong backbone.

That backbone tonight is the band’s eponymous debut album, which they have been interspersing throughout their set in its entirety – give or take a song here and there – during their 20-date UK tour, which wrapped up in Brighton on Monday (October 12).

Tonight, we get the lot, from opener Truffles through closer Wannabe Gangstar. For anyone who remembers this album from their teenage years – and there are no shortage of them in the crowd – this is a real treat.

In fact, it’s probably fair to say that for many of packed into a sold-out Boileroom, Wheatus might well have been, and might well still be, something of a guilty pleasure.

Wheatus revel in their lack of cool; it almost defines them. They stick up for the outcasts and the downtrodden. Their songs are eminently relatable, evoking teenage angst as if it were currency.

The night is made all the more joyous, if slightly peculiar, by seeing a room largely full of 20-somethings belting out every word to songs like Punk Ass Bitch and Love Is A Mutt From Hell.

Lyrics like ‘Hey Mr Brown, don’t have a cow!’ hark back to the mid-90s when Wheatus were formed and these songs were hewn – you can almost imagine singer and songwriter Brendan B Brown channelling his inner Bart Simpson.

With his distinctive guitar style, which sees him caress and pluck at his strings rather than hammer at them with a plectrum, Brown comes across as the reluctant rock star, albeit one who within 15 seconds of taking to the stage is clambering onto the barrier and thrusting himself into the crowd.

Like the crowd last night though, I can hear you thinking – ‘yeah, but what about THAT SONG?’. Trust me, we’ll get to that.

To be fair to the crowd, it was at least a good two-thirds into the band’s set before the first concerted call for Teenage Dirtbag.

“You’ll get your Dirtbag,” quips Brown with a knowing smile, taking requests which sees the band air other fan favourites like Lemonade and The London Sun. A rare cut from their back catalogue even gets a debut airing in the UK.

“This is my favourite Wheatus song,” says Brown ahead of a poignant rendition of Valentine, which serves only to amplify the excitement for ‘that song’.

Cue those distinctive opening chords of Teenage Dirtbag, and with a singalong worthy of a venue a thousand times the size of The Boileroom (and the now obligatory selfie with the crowd), that’s that.

It’s a fitting end to the band’s 15th anniversary celebration here in Guildford. Actually, no, it’s the ONLY possible end.

James Chapple

Pictures by Sophie Garrett.

Originally published on Get Surrey, 13/10/15

Gaz Coombes, The Boileroom

You could have forgiven The Boileroom for not making a big song and dance of their ninth birthday last week and saved themselves instead for next year.

But then, the popular independent venue in Guildford’s Stoke Fields isn’t renowned for doing things by half measures – least of all when there’s a party to be had.

So what they did instead was pull off a coup booking former Supergrass frontman Gaz Coombes for an intimate solo show on Saturday night (September 19) to cap off the venue’s week-long birthday celebrations.

Ably supported was Coombes by ex-Reuben frontman Camberley’s Jamie Lenman, who cuts an impressive, dapper figure on The Boileroom’s diminuitive stage, filling out every inch of it while switching effortlessly between airy pop anthems and a handful of more introverted, soul-searching cuts at a stroke – or a strum.

All the time, there is a uplifting bonhomie among the patrons of The Boileroom as the clock ticks towards 11pm when Coombes, sporting his trademark pork pie hat and bushy mutton chops, saunters on, slung in an acoustic guitar.

“Alright Guildford?” he drawls, before introducing a stripped back version of Detroit from his second solo effort Matador, released back in January this year.

The perky Hot Fruit and sublime Girl Who Fell To Earth showcase succinctly Matador’s light and shade, while White Noise sees Coombes delve his 2012 debut Here Come The Bombs.

Now very much an established solo artist in his own right, Coombes has often been reticent about giving Supergrass numbers an airing. Two make it onto his setlist tonight, however.

The first is Moving from Supergrass’s eponymous third album; a crisp, luscious croon that contrasts Coombes’ impressive vocal range against just a few modest chords while strains of “moving, just keep moving” elucidate the first real singalong of the night.

It’s a mere warm-up though.

“Hasn’t he got a song for Saturday nights?” shrieks someone in the audience as Coombes retires briefly before his two-song encore. He doesn’t disappoint.

After the customary thanks and platitudes, he tears into Caught By The Fuzz, Supergrass’s first single and first bona fide hit – the song that made their name.

“Just like a bad dream, I was only 15!” rasps Coombes as he recounts, some 20 years later, his very own tale of juvenile delinquency when he arrested for possession of cannabis.

Cue pandemonium. Everyone’s up, everyone’s bouncing, bellowing every word at the top of their voices as if it were 1994 all over again.

Closing out with a final solo number, it’s all over in a flash – good night and God bless from Coombes, who leaves the stage complete – tantalisingly – with drumkit, bass guitar and keyboard all set up.

But besides a few Chinese whispers, and a few conspiracy theories, there’s to be no twist in the tale.

Coombes et all firmly closed the book on Supergrass more than five years ago and with his solo career thriving, don’t hold your breath for a reunion any time soon.

It doesn’t take long for him to emerge from backstage to share a good hour or so chatting with his fans, signing autographs – even posing for a few selfies.

It’s an exultant end to The Boileroom’s ninth birthday celebrations, while leaving just one question unanswered; what on Earth are they going to do for next year’s 10th to top it?

James Chapple

Pictures by Sophie Garrett.

Originally published on Get Surrey, 23/09/15

BoomTown Fair 2015


A little adventure, 13/08/15 to 16/08/15.

Now into its seventh year, BoomTown Fair is one of the country’s biggest and best emerging new festivals.

Each year, the organisers are forging new canon, new lore, giving each ‘chapter’ its own unique feel and identity.

While it’s not steeped in the same history as Glastonbury or Reading, it’s doing a fine job of forging its own.

Split into eight or so ‘districts’, ranging from the Wild West to Chinatown, Old Town and District 5, there is a huge variety of acts, attractions and secrets to discover at BoomTown.

It doesn’t feel the complete article yet; the site is sparse and at times, underpopulated, yet at the same time, it seems to create voids whereby you have top acts playing on some of the biggest states to just a handful of people.

Nonetheless, it was a very different festival experience to some of the established ones in Britain, and certainly one I’d go straight back to for another bite.

It was marred just a little by some bastard nicking my wallet on the first night, but you can’t let that become the story of your festival.

Instead, we lost the plot in the Psychedelic Forest to Infected Mushroom, danced like loons to Squarepusher and Phil Hartnoll before the utterly extraordinary Ban Hai Palace stage (new for 2015), and got down with the gypsy punks for Gogol Bordello, Dubioza Collectiv and Soviet Suprem.

BoomTown is definitely a festival that targets sub-culture, which can be a little bit of a barrier if, like me, you’re not someone who subscribes to a particular train of thought.

But it makes for an interesting experience strolling from district to district, each flooded with volunteers in full costume, often acting out work-a-day scenes you might expect in each setting. It was certainly the most immersive festival experience I can recall.

#AshWednesday 2.0

Earlier this year, I considered myself pretty bloody lucky to land myself a ticket for Ash’s comeback show in London on February 18 (that’s Ash Wednesday, if you hadn’t already guessed).

Little did I expect, three months later, to spend my Wednesday morning in someone’s back garden (in the Surrey village of Ash) watching Ash perform their hits Girl From Mars and Shining Light in front of barely 30 people.

It was a suitably surreal experience. So rather than explain it all over again, here’s my write up for Get Surrey.

Ben Ottewell, The Boileroom

Few bands have risen to prominence with quite the same alacrity that propelled Gomez towards the top of the charts during the late 1990s.

The band’s debut album, Bring It On, was a potent statement; a heady gumbo of delta blues and fetid psychedelia that was as unexpected as it was triumphant.

Whippin’ Piccadilly and Get Myself Arrested became indie classics while album cuts Make No Sound, 78 Stone Wobble and Tijuana Lady cemented Gomez’s talent for blending a diverse array of influences yet maintaining coherence.

The album went platinum; so did its follow-up Liquid Skin. Such was its success, Bring It On bagged the band an unexpected Mercury Prize in 1998, besting the likes of Pulp, Massive Attack and The Verve.

Gomez even played the legendary Glastonbury Festival that year – twice in fact.

But for all the plaudits, Gomez were never destined to be a commercial juggernaut. The band retreated into ever darker, minimalist territory and slipped away from the limelight.

Thankfully, the legacy of the band’s early days lives on through guitarist and vocalist Ben Ottewell, whose rasping baritone came to characterise the band’s sound.

Bearded and bespectacled, Ottewell tears straight into Rattlebag – the title track from his latest 2014 album, from which he draws heavily throughout his hour-long set at The Boileroom on Tuesday (April 7).

“This is my first gig in Guildford,” muses Ottewell after a brooding airing of Patience And Rosaries, also from Rattlebag. “And not the last – hopefully,” he teases.

From the outset, the atmosphere inside The Boileroom crackles with anticipation and reverie; every song is breathtakingly observed without so much as a cough or murmur to break Ottewell’s spellbinding hold over his audience.

Even a quick retune after Free To Run (“the first song I ever wrote”) is met with hush.

“This is what happens if you leave your guitar hanging around in a house full of children,” he jests before So Slow, a “cack-handed effort”, says Ottewell, at a traditional blues song.

Gomez favourite Love Is Better Than A Warm Trombone sparks the first truly rowdy response from the audience, stripped back to just Ottewell’s acoustic guitar and harrowing vocal.

Shapes and Shadows, the title track from Ottewell’s first solo album, and Gomez number Hamoa Beach are equally well-received, but it is the run-in starting with Get Miles, the opening track from Bring It On, and Red Dress from Rattlebag that sees Ottewell exercise his chops.

Get Miles is a real sprawling treat, given a uptempo, bluesy makeover as Ottewell bellows out verse after acerbic verse before the song’s poignant refrain of “get miles away” reverberates serenely around The Boileroom in his distinctive burr.

And after a touching rendition of bittersweet love note Red Dress, time is almost up. “Turn the reverb up please,” he asks of the sound desk before gently strumming the first melodic strains of Tijuana Lady.

It’s a mesmerising finale, and a timely reminder the captivating qualities Ottewell and his cohorts harnessed long ago are still very much alive today.

James Chapple

Pictures by Sophie Garrett.

Originally published on Get Surrey, 09/04/15

Muse, Brighton Dome

Muse, Brighton Dome, 23/03/15. Support from Marmozets.

I don’t usually write a lot about all the gigs I go to if I’m not actually reviewing them, but I’ll make an exception in this case.

This was my tenth Muse gig. Yes, I know. I first saw them back in 2004, a couple of years after I got into them in a big way. I’ve seen them at the Royal Albert Hall, at the Eden Project, at Wembley Stadium, at Reading Festival, in Teignmouth, and so on, but never in such a small venue as I did on Monday night. And it was magnificent in every respect.

Long have Muse had their heads in the clouds (or up their arses, each to their own) so when they announced their stripped back seventh album Drones and incendiary lead release Psycho, it seemed only right for them to go back to the roots and revisit a few of the dinkier venues where they made their name as the best live band around. Last night felt very much like a celebration of that journey.