We Are Scientists, The Boileroom

@wearescientists / Instagram

Every great party needs a great soundtrack.

And during the mid-noughties, We Are Scientists were THAT band.

Following the success of 2005 LP With Love And Squalor, New York City’s indie also-rans were on every self-respecting night club playlist and on shuffle at every great student house party.

Even if you somehow managed to avoid their charms, there was no escaping tracks like Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt and The Great Escape.

More than 10 years hence and not a whole lot has changed, albeit those soaring heights the band once enjoyed are perhaps not what they were.

Trading academies for clubs, We Are Scientists earlier this year announced a mammoth UK tour in support of sixth album Helter Seltzer.

And after traversing the country from Glasgow to Gloucester, finishing up in Barrow-in-Furness of all places next month, Keith Murray and co rocked up at a sold-out Boileroom in Guildford on Sunday night.

With his now trademark silver fringe still very much intact, singer and guitarist Murray, who still inexplicably looks about 15, along with bassist Chris Cain and drummer Keith Carne bound onto the venue’s cosy stage just after 8.30pm (it is Sunday, after all).

Both apt and somewhat ironic, opening number This Scene Is Dead sets the tone for the night – while the band tread some new ground, this tour is a celebration of their heyday.

The crowd, packed with 20-somethings, greet them warmly, as you would an old friend you’ve not seen in a while.


“Can you all just be silent please,” jokes Murray after the band’s uncharacteristically quiet and somewhat inauspicious opener has someone behind the scenes reaching for the volume knob.

Sound levels fixed, the trio dip liberally into With Love during their hour-long set, which is also peppered with highlights from six LPs spanning nearly 15 years, including two cuts creamed from Helter Seltzer.

Nobody Move has The Boileroom pulsing and mid-way through the set, Murray hands over his guitar to guest Joel Dilla and conducts the crowd from the barrier.

Only then does he ease himself into the throng for a walkabout.


Always with an ace up their sleeves, We Are Scientists marvel in being able to control the tempo of their set in a stroke.

Slower songs are juxtaposed against the band’s more jangly moments while their stage patter is second to none. They even stop to play with their effects pedals for a bit, just because.

The Great Escape, another stonewall mid-noughties earworm, rounds out the band’s main set heralding perhaps the most enthusiastic response of the night. Shapes are thrown.

“I’ve got a great idea! I’ve got to wait right here!” bellows Murray, his every word echoed by The Boileroom faithful who bellow them straight back.

Nice Guys and After Hours bring proceedings to a close. Respects are paid, hands are grasped in the front row, emotions run high. This has been a really special night for a whole lot of people.

Is this scene dead? Probably. Do the memories live on? Definitely. We Are Scientists will always occupy a special place in the hearts of a generation of indie kids.

Sunday’s Boileroom show and the band’s huge UK tour serves only to affirm it.

James Chapple

Originally published on Get Surrey, 19/10/16

The Stranglers, G Live (again)


Ahhh, The Stranglers – Guildford’s very own men in black are back for another trip down memory lane at G Live.

In fact, it’s their fifth March gig in five years at G Live – and it kind of shows, just a little.

Tonight, after a turn by tour mates The Alarm, we’re treated to the band’s 1978 album Black and White in its entirety.

Never ones for airs and graces, it’s 45 minutes until Stranglers frontman Baz Warne so much as goes near the mic between numbers.

“If you were a bit confused by that, you didn’t buy the f*****g album in 1978, did you?” he sneers in a broad, Mackem yammer.

Turning to JJ Burnel, bassist and RGS old boy, Warne adds: “He [Burnel] says you’re a bit less constipated tonight.”

It’s the closest thing this crowd are going to get to a compliment tonight.


The music’s as good as ever though. Raw, raucous and simmering with the same righteous anger that so defined the band during the late-70s.

Tank’s driving chords, manic keys and yelps of “I can drive [drive!] my very own tank!” segue effortlessly into the brilliantly grotty Nice N’ Sleazy, propelled by one of Burnel’s signature bass riffs.

It’s undoubtedly a treat for devotees, but it comes at a price. The first half of the show, illuminated only in monochrome, just feels a little flat.

The bonkers Norfolk Coast and gnarly Lose Control get things back on track, followed up by a boisterous rendition of Always The Sun, heralding the first singalong of note of the evening.

And it’s to the band’s credit the momentum only builds further, closing out the main set with I Feel Like A Wog and the anthemic Something Better Change, which feels as relevant now as it did in 1977.


There’s no Jet Black tonight, the band’s septuagenarian drummer and founder member above whose offie in Guildford the band formed in the 70s – and whom they welcomed back for a few numbers during last year’s show at G Live.

Equally conspicuous by their absence are a handful of the band’s best known songs, namely Duchess, Hanging Around and Golden Brown.

The biggest cheer of the night though is reserved for encore opener Peaches. It’s a filthy tune, underpinned by another one of Burnel’s masterful squally basslines and Warne’s sleazy snarls.

There’s just time for No More Heroes and that’s it. It’s another typically brash, brusque and belligerent Stranglers performance.

But it’s hard not to feel this annual pilgrimage may just have lost its way a little – and that the band’s hometown faithful deserved a little bit more than they got.

James Chapple

Originally published on Get Surrey, 15/03/16

The Stranglers, G Live

Steve Porter, TMS

The Stranglers made an uproarious return to Guildford on Thursday (March 5) with a triumphant, hit-laden homecoming at G Live.

Some 40 years after founder members, Guilfordian drummer Jet Black and and singer Hugh Cornwell, met in the mid-70s, the band led hundreds of devotees on a career-spanning trip down memory lane at the venue in London Road.

Pounding renditions of the ubiquitous Golden Brown, with its skittish harpsichord swells, and sleazy stomper Peaches are obvious highlights, although No More Heroes was conspicuous by its absence.

It was back in 1974 that Black, real name John Duffy, and Cornwell formed The Guildford Stranglers, who were initially based out of The Jackpot, the off-licence run by the enterprising young Black.

The duo soon recruited bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel, a former Royal Grammar School pupil, who was joined by guitarist Hans Wärmling and keyboardist Dave Greenfield.

But after penning some of the band’s most immediately recognisable numbers, Cornwell later bowed out in 1990 and was replaced by Paul Roberts before Mackem Baz Warne took centre stage in 2006.

“Last time we were here, youse all said you couldn’t understand me, man!” drawls Warne in his thick Wearside drawl.

“Am I too northern for you?” he jests, shortly after the band walk on Waltzinblack, the opening track from The Stranglers’ 1981 album, The Gospel According to the Meninblack – best remembered as the theme music from eccentric TV chef Keith Floyd’s madcap cooking shows.

It’s almost exactly a year since the band last played G Live, but there are no signs of the band not being welcome back.

Every song is met with rapturous applause, every lyric belted out by a rag, tag and bobtail bunch of fans, many of whom have been with the band right from the very start.

Steve Porter, TMS
Steve Porter, TMS

After a high octane set by fellow 70s new wave punks The Rezillos, Warne and co rip into The Raven with its swirling synths, pulsing bassline and staccato guitar riff and also I’ve Been Wild, which despite being one of the band’s (relatively) newer numbers has a big, brash chorus befitting any Stranglers classic.

Deputising on drums, Jim MacAulay stands aside midway through the band’s set to allow sticksman Black to take the limelight, cue pandemonium as Black counts in Baroque Bordello, which sounds like some kind of demented fairground ride led by Greenfield’s synths.

Immediately, the lights go up around G Live, bathing the venue in a warm golden glow – everyone knows what’s coming, but the iconic harpsichord intro of Golden Brown is enough to make even the most hardened Stranglers fan’s hairs stand on end.

The song leaps and jolts between time signatures from phrase to phrase, an ode both to the tangled mind of a desperate heroin addiction and Cornwell’s fascination with a mysterious temptress. It’s long been heralded their greatest accomplishment, and with good reason.

Black remains on the drums for an equally well-received airing of Always The Sun, sparking another deafening sing-along to its soaring chorus, and also Genetix.

The run-in sees the band drop a squelching, grimy version of Peaches, propelled by Burnel’s burbling bass and Warne’s scabrous sneers, before the set is rounded out with Duchess, Lost Control, Curfew and finally Down in the Sewer.

With time in hand, there’s just room for an encore featuring Hanging Around – but there is no place in the set, oddly, for the anthemic No More Heroes, which elucidates a few murmurs of discontent from the masses.

It’s the only blot on an otherwise exultant homecoming for The Stranglers.

James Chapple

Originally published on Get Surrey, 06/03/15

Martin Harley Band, The Boileroom


There is an old, perhaps hackneyed, saying – what goes around comes around.

The logic being sooner or later, everyone finds themselves in the right place at the right time at least once or twice in life.

For Martin Harley, his star has arguably risen anew in light of a ‘tweevolution’ in the charts.

Not long before his show at The Boileroom on February 27, breakthrough folksters Mumford & Sons were unveiled as one this year’s Reading Festival headliners, hot on the heels of their 2013 headlining show at Glastonbury.

A slew of like acts, not to mention the return of Fleetwood Mac, has inspired an acoustic folk and blues revival in recent years, breathing new life into a genre of music that has long been dormant, at least in terms of mainstream acclaim.


Now, in light of old-fashioned blues and folk finding chart-topping success, Martin Harley similarly finds himself riding the crest of a popular wave, one which sees him, unsurprisingly, draw quite a crowd at The Boileroom.

Hailing originally from south Wales, Harley’s family moved to Woking in his youth so Friday’s show also comes as something of a homecoming for the bluesy troubadour, who has taken his act around the world since penning his 2003 eponymous debut album.

While delivering a career-spanning set, there is still a particular focus on 2012’s Mojo Fix, the title track of which provides a rip-roaring introduction to Harley’s music and his consummate showmanship after more than a decade on the road.

Blessed with a voice that carries a certain tenderness that resonates beautifully around the intimate environs of a venue like The Boileroom, Harley peppers his set with an early salvo of saccharine acoustic numbers.

Yet he holds back a fiery, snarling, rasping yelp that propels some of his more lairy numbers, which, after a slightly hokey start, drives the second half of the show on to a more raucous conclusion.

A fitting centrepiece is Harley’s cover of Tom Waits’ brilliantly twisted Chocolate Jesus, which despite being given a cutesy makeover by Harley and co, loses none of the intensity of Waits’ gloomy original.


During the latter stages of his set, Harley, his bassist and drummer, fully unplug and serenade The Boileroom completely acoustic.

It’s a poignant moment, if a little corny, but it’s as brilliantly judged as it is received. Again, it speaks of Harley’s stagecraft, as well as the crowd’s polite reverence, that the venue falls deathly silent while Harley’s gentle croons wash over proceedings.

However, the set thankfully culminates with a vicious flurry of slide guitar numbers, including a spellbinding rendition of Love In The Afternoon where we see the Martin Harley Band, as a collective, finally cut loose.

It feels like a fitting conclusion after a topsy-turvy journey through Harley’s influences and heritage, which he wears proudly on his sleeve.

Martin Harley clearly has the skill, talent and presence to grace venues far in excess of the size of The Boileroom so it is with gusto the crowd give him the warmest of send offs after a near hour-and-a-half set; catch him now while he’s still doing the rounds.

James Chapple

Pictures by Sophie Garrett.

Originally published on Get Surrey, 03/03/15

Mariachi El Bronx, The Boileroom


Mariachi El Bronx shouldn’t work.

Five hardcore punk rockers eschewing their riffs and power chords in favour of flamenco guitars and burbling brass while leading their fans through a cheery array of polkas and waltzes?

Get real.

The thronging hordes crammed into The Boileroom on Tuesday night (February 17) would, however, suggest otherwise. It’s a sell-out, and with good reason.

Let’s spool back a bit. In 2002, The Bronx were founded by five like-minded guys in Los Angeles. Their sound was raw, punchy and abrasive.

Then, in 2007, they announced they were recording not one, but two new albums. The first, a straight up ballsy punk album; the second, a mariachi album entitled El Bronx. And thus, Mariachi El Bronx were born.

The band have since released three albums as their flamenco-inspired alter ego and on Tuesday, they made their bow at The Boileroom, ably supported by Pounded By The Surf, who entertained with their 50s-inspired surf rock stylings reminiscent of The Tornadoes and The Shadows.


Swelling to an eight-piece to accommodate a host of weird and wonderful new instruments, El Bronx barely have room to breathe on The Boileroom’s diminutive stage.

There is nothing diminutive about their performance, however.

Every song during the band’s more than hour-long set has room to develop, to progress and to meander without members treading on each other’s toes – musically as much as physically.

Empty beer bottles soon litter the stage as the band quickly grow into their performance, led by frontman Matt Caughthran, who is warmly greeted by hundreds of Guildfordians.

Suited and booted in traditional Mexican attire, albeit without a sombrero in sight, there is a slight of hand about El Bronx’s carefully constructed melodies and rhythms you might not necessarily associate with a group of musicians so firmly rooted in hardcore punk, an ethos rarely famed for subtlety.

Flicking between intricate time signatures in a stroke, the band lead their audience, almost involuntarily, on something of a merry jig, although decent trade at the bar doesn’t harm their cause.


Fan favourites such as 48 Roses and a triumphant rendition of Litigation litter the set, which draws heavily from both the band’s guises and, of course, plenty from El Bronx’s third eponymous album, released last year.

They even break out a brand new song which, says Caughthran, was penned just hours earlier at the George Abbot pub overlooking the River Wey. Cue hysteria, of course.

Make no bones about it, El Bronx are a band revered the world over by their hardcore fans – but it comes as something of a surprise the sheer affection with which they are held here in Guildford.

Who knew there was such a demand for something as relatively diverse and alien as mariachi music, let alone a twisted hybrid of mariachi and punk?

Mariachi El Bronx’s infectious grooves are as much a joyous antidote to dozens of rock and punk gigs as they are a tender homage to a style of music that clearly means a huge amount to every member of the band.

It is a rare delight, as is watching a band with the talent to switch so readily between two very different styles of music with ease. Olé amigos!

James Chapple

Pictures by Sophie Garrett.

Originally published on Get Surrey, 19/02/15