Saturday, 15 October 2011

Favourite Releases of 2011 So Far

So we're well past halfway through 2011, a year which has so far provided us with a plethora of great releases from an ever-increasing range of genres. I've been keeping a mental list of favourite records probably since April, though in my inability to be decisive I keep adding to this and in doing so I seem to have a fair few more albums than the ten I initially set out to have. Make no mistake, this is no bad thing - more good music is always a positive - although it does make selecting just a few albums difficult. Below you can see the "few albums" I've chosen (that is, the "few albums" from each month of the year so far!) A link to download highlights from each album can be found at the end of this post.

DISCLAIMER: My attempts at reviewing/summarising albums are mediocre at best so apologies if you were expecting any commentary (you're better off checking Pitchfork/Drowned in Sound for actual reviews etc). BUT LOOK AT THE PRETTY ALBUM COVERS AND LISTEN TO THE MUSIC ANYWAY. Please :)

*EDIT* Apparently links weren't working properly for everyone so I've split it in two parts and uploaded it to a better site.


L-R: Native Speaker - Braids ; Dye It Blonde - Smith Westerns ; Kaputt - Destroyer

L-R: Zonoscope - Cut Copy ; Underneath the Pine - Toro y Moi ; Space Is Only Noise - Nicolas Jaar

L-R: Wounded Rhymes - Lykke Li ; Civilian - Wye Oak ; 936 - Peaking Lights

L-R : Apocalypse - Bill Callahan ; Wit's End - Cass McCombs ; W H O K I L L - tUnE - yArDs


L-R: Eye Contact - Gang Gang Dance ; Smother - Wild Beasts ; D - White Denim

L-R: Cults - Cults ; Bon Iver - Bon Iver ; Go Tell Fire To The Mountain - WU LYF

L-R: Within and Without - Washed Out ; nyc stuff and nyc bags - Vondelpark ; Player Piano - Memory Tapes 

L-R: The Rip Tide - Beirut ; Wander / Wonder - Balam Acab ; Bad Vibes - Shlohmo

L-R: Father, Son, Holy Ghost - Girls ; Strange Mercy - St Vincent ; In Heaven - Twin Sister

For your listening pleasure, I've put together a mixtape of what I think are highlights from these albums; hopefully you'll be encouraged to check out any albums you may not have listened to so far.

(same as last time, if you could listen to the tracks in file name order at least the first time that'd be great as the sequencing is almost as important as the tracks themselves ;) )

Small Addendum...
In the ridiculous time it's taken me to compile this post (almost a month, have kept on changing my mind) there's been another great release I'd like to mention quickly as it may've passed people by due to it only being an EP. Jens Lekman's EP An Argument With Myself is a brief but hilarious record of five songs which cannot fail to make you smile at the very least. Seriously, listen to the lyrics in the opening and title track and think of all the times you've been walking along debating something in your head. Plus the Graceland-esque instrumentation can't be faulted.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Favourite Album: Infinity Land, Biffy Clyro

Greetings, dear reader. My name's Adam, I'm co-Hype Machine (or "Hype Engineer", as I'd prefer. I maintain the machine) for Offbeat and I'm going to tell you about my favourite album of all time. It's this:

This album is Infinity Land by the mighty Scots that are Biffy Clyro, my personal outright favourite band of all-time. Now I'm sure some of you will question this decision, due in no small part to the appearance of Many of Horror on X Factor. Frankly, it was a poor cover of an already not great song and I don't really criticise them for doing it but whatever, this isn't the place for a debate on the merits of X Factor.

I ask you, dear reader, to cast aside any doubts you have after that "incident", or the fact that Mountains may have been played at every "rock & indie night" you've been to for the past 2 years, or anything else that may have tainted your view of this excellent band. Instead, we're going on a journey back in time to two albums before these shenanigans. Following the perfectly executed quiet-loud dynamics of Blackened Sky and the pseudo-prog genius of The Vertigo of Bliss (complete with its mildly disturbing cover of a lady masturbating), the unusually named 3-piece from Ayrshire released an album that manages to incorporate elements of both, but sounds like neither. An album that features, among other things, an intro that sounds almost like it's been stolen from a dance act, a xylophone, a piano, a trumpet and an a capella track, and is named after a concept from a book written by infamous serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. Lovely.

Trying to explain why these tracks are so incredible is pretty difficult for me. I could tell you how every member's vocals are perfect, the guitars are exactly right in the mix (and with just the right amount of distortion when needed) and the absolutely solid back-line from the two Johnston brothers shows the kind of synchronicity you can only get from actually being twins, but that doesn't do it justice. I could tell you how the music changes from fast to slow and quiet to loud without sounding jarring or missing a beat, or how Simon's lyrics seem to alternate rapidly between life-affirmingly beautiful and head-scratchingly weird but that still wouldn't quite cover it. This, to me, is the Biffy album where everything just fits. It's more accessible than The Vertigo of Bliss, but without the mainstream feel of Puzzle and Only Revolutions that alienated some of the band's long-term fans. Most notably, it's got that element of weirdness that those two albums seemed to lack somewhat. This is arguably best shown by the double-header of There's No Such Man As Crasp and There's No Such Thing As A Jaggy Snake. The former is the aforementioned a capella track and serves as an extended intro for the latter; a swirling, convulsing beast of a song that changes tempo at the drop of a hat. It's ballsy, bonkers and absolutely brilliant. Elsewhere on the album, the magnificently titled Some Kind Of Wizard and The Kids From Kibble And The Fist Of Light provide more stop-start angular masterpieces. Wave Upon Wave Upon Wave handclaps its way joyfully through some of the darkest lyrics on the album to culminate in the wonderful repeated call of "do you believe in magic?". The slower The Atrocity and Got Wrong provide a welcome respite (and an insight into the developing songwriting skills of Simon Neil that would soon spawn massive hits Machines, Folding Stars and the previously mentioned Many Of Horror) following the quality opening trio of Glitter and Trauma, Strung To Your Ribcage and My Recovery Injection. It's also worth mentioning that the video for Glitter and Trauma is rather good. A tribute to the classic film One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, it's the perfect match to what is a schizophrenic, explosive song. Watch the video (unfortunately backed by the "radio edit" of the song, which lacks the extended dance-y intro) here, and appreciate:


Now, wasn't that good? The album finishes with the slow, drawn-out Pause It and Turn It Up before a period of silence and a good old "hidden track". Better known as Tradition Feed to fans of the band, it's a poem read by Simon about mother shortly after her death, backed by some loud (I think) bagpipes. It's poignant, and rounds off the album nicely.

If pressed to pick my favourite song on the album, I'd pick one of two depending on my mood at that time. Strung To Your Ribcage is a fairly short and fairly loud song that thrashes around for a little over 2 and a half minutes, beginning with screaming and ending with pretty singing. Yeah, a lot happens. On another day, it'd be Only One Word Comes To Mind. One of the more subdued songs on the album, it's quiet and beautiful and features one of the best cymbal noises I've ever heard (0:41). I love both for totally different reasons, and that's probably what makes them my favourites on the album.

I've barely scratched the surface in talking about the music itself, and even if I carried on for pages I doubt I could. The easiest way for you to get a proper grasp on the album and to decide whether you like it or not is to listen to it, which I hope you do. What I can talk about, however, is my own personal attachment to it. I bought it in 2007 for £7 from HMV after hearing Saturday Superhouse (from the then-unreleased Puzzle) on MTV2 and enjoying it a lot. It was the cheapest Biffy album HMV had and, since they didn't have the album with the song I'd heard on it, I bought it. I remember sitting in the car and leafing through the booklet, fascinated by the ridged paper it was printed on (I was, and still am, a complete simpleton). Upon arriving back at home, I put the album into my CD player and Tony Hawk's Project 8 into my Playstation 2 and played the two simultaneously for the next few hours. My relationship with the Tony Hawk series was longstanding, but my love affair with Biffy was only just beginning. I repeated this activity several times until Infinity Land was firmly lodged in my head, but that wasn't enough. In the months following I sought out the band's previous two albums, pre-ordered Puzzle and saw the band live for the first time. The addiction had begun.

It's been over 4 years since then and the effect that one album has had on me is huge. Biffy were a break from the metal that dominated my music collection at the time, and served as a gateway to a whole different kind of music. It was only a matter of time before they became my favourite band, a title they still hold. So many things that I listen to now can be traced back to association with Biffy, and I'm hugely thankful for that. Everything I listen to that could come under the Offbeat umbrella of "indie/alternative" is arguably down to Biffy, so I suppose my membership of Offbeat can be traced back to this album. This band has been a huge presence in my life for several years, and not only did this album start that but I think it's their best musically. I hope you listen to it, and I really hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Offbeat Summer Mixtape

Just when you think a blog post isn't coming, two come along at once! (in other words, read my Metronomy review below, you suggestible people you)

What with summer in full swing, we thought it might be nice to share with you some tracks to help augment your Dog Days. Latin astronomy references aside, we would like to present you with the
Offbeat Summer Mixtape

It's important to remember that not everyone has the same kind of summer. Therefore, the mixtape is based around three films of very different summers, and I hope that you get a little taste of each.


Chilled Out Summer
The Endless Summer (1966)

"You cant tell how good a wave is until you actually ride it.
On Mike's first ride, those first five seconds,
he knew he'd finally found that Perfect Wave."

If your life is like this seminal surf film then you are a lucky person indeed. Everyone needs a bit of a recharge, and summer is regarded as the socially acceptable time to take leave of the weight of the world and recuperate. To help with this, perhaps listen to:

Everything Goes My Way - Metronomy
What Became of You and I - Treefight For Sunlight
All Around and Away We Go - Twin Sister
Summer Holiday - Wild Nothing
To Have in the Home - Woods
Kaputt - Destroyer
Take A Knee - Swim Party
You Only Live Once - Unsolved Mysteries
Alouette! - Tallest Trees
Grown Ocean - Fleet Foxes

Party Summer
Beach party (1963)

"It's wild and it's wonderful when ten thousand kids
sleep on five thousand beach blankets...
Laughing, Loving, Living it Up!"

Beach Party was the film that spawned a teensploitation phenomenon and birthed part of our cultural consciousness, and some things haven't changed: summer is a great time to get out with your friends and party like you haven't got work tomorrow (because you probably don't). Some things have changed though, like the music! How's this for a slightly more up to date party accompaniment:

Dominican Fade - Battles
The Dawn of Your Happiness is Rising - Violens
Blood on the Deck - Thee Oh Sees
What U Gonna Do - Jim Noir
Christopher - Alphabet Backwards
Orange - Yoyoyo Acapulco
Cloud Computer - Miaoux Miaoux
Hollow Hollow Eyes - Crocodiles
Bright Young Things - The Crookes
15 Years - Pull In Emergency

Adventurous Summer
180º South: Conquerors of the Useless (2010)

"Fear of the Unknown is the greatest fear of all,
but we just went for it."

This 'thinking person’s adventure film' tells the story of a man following in the footsteps of two of his heroes, Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, emulating their 1968 expedition into the heart of Patagonia (see there was a 60's connection after all...). Many Offbeat members are going on their own adventures into the real world having finished their degrees. I always like listening to music that attunes to how I am feeling, and here is some really good 'into the unknown' music for you:

Postcard From 1952 - Explosions in the Sky
Need You Now - Cut Copy
The First Last Dinosaur Song - The Last Dinosaur
Black Sands - Bonobo
Where It All Starts - Thievery Corporation
A Lot of People Cutting Grass On a Sunday - Lullatone
Like A Stranger - Bodies of Water
Don't Help Me Up - 4 Guys from the Future
Daydreaming - Dark Dark Dark
Rattling Cage - Forest Swords

There you have it! Please enjoy, and if you like what you hear check out the bands we have put on here, buy their albums and so on. I hope your summer works out for the best!


Monday, 11 July 2011

Lapage Reviews Metronomy - 'The English Riviera'

If you are like me, every few months you will find an album that ends up getting played as your 'Go-To' album. Back in the days of physical media, it would be the CD that stayed in your player all season, and presumably before that, the sheet music that remained on the stands of your house band. These days, it's just what I first go to on Spotify if I want to listen to 'some music'.

Most important amongst these Go-To albums are the summer albums: the soundtrack that ends up being the backdrop to those sunny memories, evoking picnics and parties in years to come when that smoking-induced tickle in your throat has gone metastatic and left you bedridden. The English Riviera is my album of Summer 2011.

If you are a fan of the last two Metronomy albums, this one might be a shock. For one, only half of the current band were on the last album, so in that respect the sound is a bit different, but beyond that this album represents a much greater stylistic change from their second outing than they dared make for their sophomore effort. One friend dismissed it as 'too soft' and passed on it, but I hope you will not make the same mistake.

Fans of the old Metronomy, enter with third single from the album 'the Bay': this is definitely the closest to their past outings, and is dripping with their trademark nonchalant groove-mastery. They still have the edgy chops that made them big in the first place, but it's the fuzzier tracks that make more of an impression.

'The Look' is the best of their newer sound, presumably why they chose it as their second single (after the moodier 'She Wants'). Smothered with louche Eighties appeal, it represents a pretty exciting new direction. A lot of the album is like this, and it's pretty reminiscent of other dreamy retronauts like Destroyer: don't come here for a rousing club beat, it's all popped collars at dawn with this album.

My personal favourite of the album is 'Everything Goes My Way', wherein Joseph Mount takes a back seat to the vocals of Roxanne Clifford of Veronica Falls. This dependency will only ever relegate this to album gem status, because they are less likely to be able to promote it live, but it shows a side of Mount's composing that he hasn't really expressed before with Metronomy.

I find myself comparing this my summer album from last year: 'Black Sands' by Bonobo. Again you have a composer best known for upbeat tracks taking a sleepy summer break, and they were even released in pretty much the same week a year apart. They have beautifully distinct but vibrant allusions though: Bonobo evokes a secluded Halcyon island paradise, while Metronomy paints their 'English Riviera' in shades of seedy decadence and quality time nonchalantly wasted.

All in all, go get this album. I know that for myself it is firmly jammed in the summer CD tray of my mind, and so should it be for you.

If you like it, try: 'Kaputt' by Destroyer, 'Smother' by Wild Beasts, 'Surf Noir' by Beat Connection

If you miss old Metronomy, try: 'Zonoscope' by Cut Copy, 'From the Cradle to the Rave' by Shit Robot, 'Build with Erosion' by The Berg Sans Nipple

Other things gracing my soundholes: 'Castlemania' by Thee Oh Sees, 'Treefight for Sunlight' by Treefight for Sunlight, 'Jim Noir' by Jim Noir

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Mixtape: Offbeat does Revision

Hello there esteemed readers, this is the first of what will hopefully be a fortnightly (or weekly if we're feeling generous!) series of themed mixtapes.

As most of us are in the midst of exam season, we thought it'd be best to start things off with a revision mixtape. Now opinion was divided about what classifies as "revision music" as for some of us, music may act as a distraction from the task at hand and make revision too difficult, yet others (myself included) need music to make the work bearable. Then there's the whole issue of whether it should be faster-tempoed to pump you for work or slower-paced to not make focusing difficult. So really, as this playlist is based on music I've been listened to during revision, it should be called "Music Rea listens to while revising", but I'm gonna open it up a bit and hope I'm not alone in my song choices :)

So I guess I should say first that while this is a mixtape, were it in CD format it would consist of three CDs. ALSO (should be obvious hopefully) but when listening the order is almost as important as the songs themselves so listening in order (at least the first time) would be appreciated.

Disc 1 - Getting into the swing of revision - aka Reading the Lecture Notes for the First Time

Lemonade - Braids
Tiger Eyes (Laid Back) - Peaking Lights
Jetlag Blue Version - Vondelpark
Problems With The Sun - Nicolas Jaar
Universal Traveller -  Air
Fokionos Negri Street - Keep Shelly in Athens
Divina - Toro Y Moi
Playground Love - Air
Yachts - Coco Steel & Love Bomb
Feral - Radiohead

Disc 2 - Testing what you've learn so far - aka Doing Past Papers with the Mark Schemes Open in Another Tab

Moonlight Serenade - Glenn Miller
Summer 78 (Instrumental) - Yann Tiersen
Louretta - Agnes Obel
Oh, Maker- Janelle Monáe
Granada - Emilio de Benito
Lovers' Carvings - Bibio
North - Phoenix
Nectarine - Twin Sister
The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out To Get Us!! - Sufjan Stevens
Men Together Today - British Sea Power

Disc 3 - Winding down after a long day of revision - aka It's 3am and You Can't Be Bothered to Pretend Anymore

Sleepwalkin' - Modest Mouse
Pale Blue Eyes - The Velvet Underground
Start A War - The National
Run That Body Down - Paul Simon
Somehow To Keep It Going - Cotton Jones
Too Little Too Late - Daniel Rossen
Riding for the Feeling - Bill Callahan
Basement Scene - Deerhunter
Face It - Beach Fossils
Holocene - Bon Iver

Well that's it for now I guess - just over 2 hours of listening to hopefully help you get through the monotony of revision. Happy revising and good luck for the exams (and remember to look out for the next installment very soon!) 

Rea xxx

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Favourite Album: Bloc Party, Silent Alarm

We all get them, those weird tingly moments when something about a song ticks all the right boxes - when it stops you dead and forces you to listen, to drink it in deep and savour it.  Well, that’s what I get every single time I hear ‘Like Eating Glass’, the opening track to Silent Alarm, my favourite album and, I would argue, one of the best albums of the last decade.  The band might have sullied their reputation somewhat with ill judged forays into dance in their later releases, but their debut album remains, much like Is This It, a musical landmark, both for myself and the world of ‘indie’ in general.

Sorry, that really is one hell of a pretentious an opening paragraph – I’m not really used to writing blogs like this so and have yet to develop a particular STYLE, so this might be a bit rambling and loose, for which I apologise.  I guess the difficulty comes from being asked to explain why a particular album is your favourite - what it is about it that makes it the one you reach for when at a loss for what to listen to, safe in the knowledge that you’ll enjoy it and take something from it each and every time, despite your mood or circumstance.  Music, as I’m sure you’re all aware, is such a deeply personal thing that it seems a bit distasteful to write about it in this way, especially as it’s an album I’ve grown up with (oh the stories it could tell, if it, you know, had eyes, and a mouth…which would be weird)

So why Silent Alarm? There will almost certainly be some reading this who detest the band, deriding them as Gang of Four knock-offs partly responsible for the strangehold that wiry, angular guitar music had on the ‘indie’ scenes in the mid Noughties (god what a horrible word – is that really what we’re going for now? ) But to think of the album in that light would do it a great disservice, as it is for my money one of the most assured, powerful and breathtaking debut albums ever made, although quite why I think that is hard to explain.  Much like Mr. Tume, my theoretical knowledge of music is practically non-existent, and although I’ve got a pretty good handle on what I like and why I like it, explaining it in terms other than ‘er…cos it’s well good’ is tough.
I’ll give it a shot though, and I guess the first thing that drew me to the band and this album in particular is the interplay between the drums (Matt Tong) and the bass (Gordon Moakes) – for example, the intro to ‘Positive Tensionis just amazing, and every single song is pulled together by really tight and interweaving rhythms, with some amazing drums fills scattered throughout.  ‘Luno’ is another great example, driven by a really insistent bass line and topped with crashing drums and cymbals, it builds to an amazing climax and creates an atmosphere unlike any other band I know – perhaps the closest parallel would be Joy Division and their devotees/imitators Interpol (I’m on the devotee side of the debate, but I can see what people mean).  With such a solid backing, the two guitars have room to clamber and skitter all over the shop, creating some amazing textures that really fill out the songs – and I think that’s another reason why I love this album so much, is that it introduced me to a whole new world of guitar noises and sound effects etc. It sounds silly to say, but before I heard this album I was still stuck listening to Jet and The Offspring, thinking all guitars should be loud, brash, and simple – and the huge ranges of styles and ideas on Silent Alarm blew me away.  One minute you’re lost in the fast, jerky rhythms of ‘Banquet’, the next there’s lush synths and chords in ‘Blue Light’, and each of the 15 songs gives you a fresh idea, and basically gave me one hell of a good musical education.  I think that works in its favour as well, the fact that it’s 15 songs long makes me for a really absorbing experience, one that it’s difficult to get tired of because there’s always something new you haven’t noticed before – and its incredibly impressive that there’s not (I would argue) a single weak link or ‘filler’ song.   Sure, some of the tracks might be a little overshadowed by the ubiquity of ‘Helicopter’ or ‘Banquet’, but as a whole it stands together better than most other albums of this length – not overstaying its welcome but not leaving you feeling cheated either (cough The Vaccines cough).  It manages to combine indie disco floorfillers with softer, more introspective ‘solo’ listening experiences (‘Compliments’) without feeling disjointed or confused, which is pretty astounding, and to me the sign of a truly great band/album.

I don’t really know how else to describe how much I like the music, but I feel on much safer ground discussing the lyrics, seeing as I’m an English student (or was. Bloody hell.)  I think it’s the lyrics above all that make this my favourite album, and of course part of that is how well they gel with the music, the tone and the atmosphere created by everything else.  But they stand out in so many tracks as truly wonderful, and were such a revelation to me when I first discovered the album.  I could pick out hundreds of examples, but that would be not only a little boring for you reading this but might also kill some of the magic, by over-anaylsing or ruining that sense of surprise or discovery, so I’ll just restrict myself to a few.  This album demonstrates Kele Okereke’s lyric writing at its best, when he nailed the art of telling a story but keeping it vague enough to mean so much to so many different people – I’m not concerned with the problems of being forced to shave my legs as talked about in ‘Luno’, but the problems  of ‘being tired of your mum and you’re tired of your dad, got you jumping through hoops’ seems to me to be pretty universal.  Sure, there’s the occasional lyrical weak spot, such as ‘you’ve been trying to reach me, you bought me a book’ (This Modern Love) but such moments are part of the charm, a touch of human warmth under what can often be quite icy and forbidding guitar lines.  The fact is that I first discovered the album through friends when I was  15/16, and we all know how fun and carefree a time that was . For various reasons lyrics such as ‘it hurts all the time when you don’t return my calls and you haven’t got the time to remember how it was’ from ‘Like Eating Glass’ and ‘if you feel, a little left behind’ from ‘Banquet’ really hit home, and in many ways the reason I like this album so much is that it seems to me to be about growing up: the anger and frustration – ‘why do you have to get, so fucking useless’ (‘Positive Tension’ – an absolutely astonishing moment live); the sadness and melancholy ‘this modern love, breaks me’ (‘Modern Love’) and the endless ups and downs of a pretty normal childhood.  Trying to explain this feels pretty weird, as each song over the years has built up this huge backlog of invested emotions, and even now listening to the repeated refrain of ‘I figured it out’ of ‘So Here We Are’ brings back so much, all of it intangible and half remembered but important nonetheless.  ‘Plans’ might be the best of the whole bunch, so I’ll hope you’ll forgive me if I quote at length:

Wake up dreamer
It's happening without you

Cut your hair and shave your beard
You squandered your chances
I'll give you a thousand pounds
To show me how you do it
Stop being so laissez-faire
We're all scared of the future

Been training vipers to come for you
In your dreams to release you
Been training vipers to come for you
In your sleep
And the ravens are leaving the tower
And the ravens are leaving the tower
Make your peace

I've got a taste for blood
Leave the weak, leave the young
I've got a taste for blood
I'm walking out without you
You will kill or be killed

It's about progress
I've got a taste for blood

Wake up sleepyhead
It's happening without you
Such a nice guy
You tell me everything twice
Whipcrack speed jump
We will run backwards
Stop being so laissez-faire
We're all scared of the future

We make plans for big times
Get bogged down, distracted
We make plans for good times
All neon, all surface
So kiss me before it all gets complicated

I've got a taste for blood

This song sums up so much of what it’s like to grow up and feel like you’re missing out, switching from sadness to anger to confusion, mixing readily understandable images with slightly unsettling phrases...pff – I’m kinda running out of words, as I don’t really want to ruin it but getting too analytical. I guess I can never really communicate what these songs and lyrics mean to me, because I can barely explain it myself, but even if you don’t like Bloc Party I hope that this has reminded you of the songs that mean a lot to you, and the reason why music is so important – why good, meaningful music needs to be supported and spread to as many people as possible.  This was such a big album for me growing up that I don’t think it’s too far to say that I’d be a very different person if I hadn’t been shown it when I was, and without a doubt it’s one of the reasons I got into offbeat and am so keen to get people involved and talking about the music they love.  If I had to have a conclusion, I guess I’d say that I still love this album because I’m still growing up in a way, and the day I stop loving it might be that day I become an adult. And then God help us all.

Big love x


Illustrious History Update

Good news guys, we've got the whole 'zine up for your viewing pleasure at:

It's quite a long read, but well worth the time (and to be honest, it beats revision hands down)

Hope you enjoy it, and as always any comments/ideas just let us know via facebook:

or at

Big love

Alex x

The Illustrious History of Offbeat

'If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.'


            Although it may seem difficult to believe thanks to our collective youthful exuberance and childish enthusiasm for shiny things, offbeat is in fact a very old society – formed way back in the days of yore (or 1984 if you’re using a normal calendar) it is one of, if not the, oldest university based music societies in the country! Which is nice.  For our 25th anniversary an old offbeat alumnus (Mark Sturdy) put together an amazing history ‘zine documenting the birth of the society and its various ups and downs over the years – it makes for fascinating reading, and so we thought we’d put it up on here so people can learn about what the society was/is!  The original was full of amazing posters from over the years, but sadly we can’t host them all on here - we’re looking at ways to host the pdf so you can ‘experience’ the whole thing, but for now, we hope you enjoy this taster of offbeat history:

Early days - 1984-87

In the autumn of 1984, a group of friends, disillusioned by the conservative range of most student discos at Warwick yet inspired by the eclectic range of music they were hearing on the John Peel show and events such as The Smiths’ gig at Warwick Arts Centre (in June 1983, a matter of weeks after their first single came out), decided to get together and start their own society to fill the gap. The first disco takes place that term in a venue at the top of the Students’ Union, then known as The Elephant’s Nest…

ADAM KING (Offbeat member 198485 and president 198586):
The founding fathers, and mother, were Jagdish Patel (or Dougie, as he was known), Mark Oxley and Mandy Groom. Myself and Simon Bernstein were also heavily involved, mainly in the heavy lifting department. Dougie and Mark were the main DJs. Mandy, I think, came up with the name, and her profoundly uncomfortable Citroën 2CV carried the records back and forth from Leamington.

MARK OXLEY (founding copresident, 198485):
There were two main motivations for starting the society. First, at that time there wasn't much of a choice as far as being able to strut your stuff to some decent music at the university was concerned. If I remember there was the usual type of disco offering your bog standard fare of the time, and there was something along the lines of an alternative music society. The existence of this latter led to some heated opposition from the President of Entertainments or whatever his title was as he accused us of being more or less the same as the alternative society, or mutton dressed up as lamb or something like that. But quite frankly dancing along to the likes of Clock DVA, You've Got Foetus on Your Breath, 23 Skidoo and their ilk was a bit beyond Dougie and myself. We wanted to do a disco where the music was eclectic but always danceable. The second reason was to be able to get our sticky paws on a minibus so we could organize trips to gigs. As far as I can remember we only got round to organizing two, both at Leicester Uni or Poly: R.E.M. and Billy Mackenzie. We also put on a gig ourselves at Warwick by Slab! Whose singer, Steve Dray, was at Warwick when we were there  or at least he was hanging around there after graduating.

It was essentially founded as a place where Doug and Mark could play music that they liked, play it loud and play it in the company of their friends. Their tastes were magnificently eclectic and ranged from mainstream rock to the most obscure World music and everything in between. Stuff that no conventional Warwick disco, in the era of 'Thriller' and during the regrettable ascendancy of Kid Creole, would touch. There were occasions during their first event that they were loudly booed, but then they gave Simon and I our own slots, so we shut up. Offbeat did around two or three nights per term. Momentum gradually built during the year and by its end we were getting a dedicated, if modest, following. Gates were respectable, but not spectacular. Mark and Dougie’s philosophy was that if a record was good, then people would dance to it. As quickly as they could fill a dance floor, they could empty it. And not care. They were almost heroic in their indifference to audience reaction. It was one of their many admirable qualities. In response to the booking of largely crap bands on campus – this was year when Lanchester Poly [latterly known as Coventry University] ruled in that sphere – the boys booked, in the late autumn of 1984, a trip to see a small, but not yet very popular beat combo, R.E.M., at Leicester University. It may not seem much to relate now, but then it was a characteristically imaginative and enterprising thing of them to do. For some reason, which must have sense then, though it makes little sense now, every event ended with the playing of R.E.M.’s ‘Don't Go Back to Rockville’. In 1985/86 the others had graduated. I was still a postgraduate and the boys allowed me to continue using the name, so myself, Debbie MacDonald, Simon Rosenberg, and a few other children of John Peel, continued the pattern of the previous year. We didn't have elected officials or titles like President etc, given our lefty bias, because if we had mine would have probably been 'bloke who tries to prevent the record boxes from falling off the bus seat on the way from/to Coventry'. The new collective turned Offbeat into a vehicle for music that we loved, predominantly indie music, with jingly jangly guitars to the fore. It was more mainstream, in many ways, than the previous year, but even so there was still only a minority following among the student population. Mostly we used what was then called the Elephant's Nest ‐ the room right and the top of the building, anyway ‐ as the venue. We got full houses for every event, including one with a band called Mighty Mighty, currently residing in the where are they now file.

SIMON ROSENBERG (Copresident 198688):
I became involved in 1985 while Adam and his future wife Debbie McDonald/King ran it and then I was President in 1986, and jointly with Gabriel Sterne in 1987. Actually you call us Presidents but we were more of a left wing cooperative built on love and mutual understanding and Gramsci's third edict, except Debbie always wanted to play obscure stuff while Gabe and I understood the value of the crowd on the dancefloor. We ended up falling out over Debbie playing Test Department And The South Wales Miners Choir at 11:50 just after we finally got the 6 people to dance to Velocity Girl (which I would say is my ultimate Offbeat song along with Bigmouth Strikes Again) – and the ethics of being given 50 quid by the Student Union to spend on records. Where are those Wedding Present 12 inches now?

 There was lots of good music to play and the dance floors were always full. I know that it wasn’t me that got the Wedding Present twelve inches. I also know that every Offbeat we did was great fun. I once got to play the full version of The Wild Swans’ 'Revolutionary Spirit' and got to say into the microphone "fades in", a la Peely, at the beginning of the record. We never lost money, in fact there was always a healthy balance after every event. I left in 1986 and Simon, Debbie and co continued to run it as a flourishing concern. Clearly Offbeat continued to flourish and never faded out. Mark, Dougie and Simon will be pleased to hear that.

SIMON ROSENBERG (Copresident, 198588):
 Our Offbeat was right in the middle of the 80s, still drunk on that punk and more importantly post‐punk DIY ethic. It was all about being different and standing out from the mainstream. To this day, I still have never heard a Led Zeppelin record, preferring some 2 minute, 1 chord energy rush. I'm thinking Dead Kennedys for some reason. We were indie. But indie really meant independent. It wasn't a genre, it was a way of life. It was off beat! So we had an unspoken duty to ‐ in the words of our 1988 favourite, That Petrol Emotion's ‘Big Decision’ ‐ Educate, Agitate, Organise! We were forever educating campus beyond Michael Jackson and Wham! by playing obscure jewels like Mighty Mighty who we liked so much we booked them as our first band. Whether the 5 people who were in attendance at Ele's Nest on a cold November evening in 1985 appreciated this, I cannot say. As far as the agitation bit went, we were all (and still are) as far as I know into all the left‐wing causes of the day ‐ Anti‐Apartheid, Amnesty, Trade Union fights ‐ and so we came up with this brilliant idea of holding benefit gigs and then asking bands to play for free. This allowed us to approach some of the major names of the day, none of whom, I'm afraid to say ever made it big – which to me symbolizes the futility or importance of what we were doing. But you can't imagine what a big deal it was for us to get a reply from the Woodentops’ manager to our request for a benefit gig. We were organised, no doubt. Going around campus delivering information to every Offbeat member about our next Offbeat night. Such dedication, such a lot of time on our hands. No Facebook groups. No internet. We also came up with brilliant ideas for marketing to promote our nights and our gigs – though we never called it that but I know what it is now I'm a proper grown‐up. My genius idea was to put posters up in places you weren't allowed to but places that I knew everyone we cared about would see them over the 2 hours or so the poster would be up. I loved the thrill of standing in the library lift and then suddenly sticking my poster on the wall while everyone stared at me. And it worked, our membership increased and our nights started to sell out. And then of course there was the music. In my time 1985‐ 88, it was mainly jingly jangly guitar – ‘Velocity Girl’ (Primal Scream), the Mighty Lemon Drops, ‘Like an Angel’, The Weather Prophets ‐ early Creation, you know. The Smiths obviously. New Order. And in those early years, stuff from our adolescence like Teardrop Explodes, Buzzcocks and Echo Beach by Martha and the Muffins. Then in 1987, just as we had gone from 10‐people nights to selling out every evening, the more left‐leaning amongst us wanted to play more hip‐hop and house and for a while I knew all the words to Eric B and Rakim's ‘Paid in Full’ just as I knew Teenage Kicks. However, for reasons I still don't get, no one would dance to the hiphop/ house stuff and we would fill the floor with ‘Big Mouth Strikes Again’ and empty it with Pump up the Volume. This I think is the saddest thing because the best thing about music is the mixture of styles and genres (cue Happy Mondays/Stone Roses era) and I find it so boring and dull these days to listen to bands that sound like we played them at Offbeat in 1986. Sorry Franz Ferdinand, the Cribs, the Kings of Leon and 1000 others. Everyone says that music was best when they were young. I was just fortunate to be young in a great and truly creative era. 

There's loads more, including some truly amazing posters in the full 'zine, so keep your eyes peeled for that when we find a place to host it.

Big love,

Alex x

Monday, 2 May 2011

Favourite Album: The Hold Steady, Separation Sunday

HELLO! Welcome to Offbeat’s brand new blog. We’ve decided to kick off by running through each of the exec’s favourite album of all time, and as President I am FIRST UP how exciting. So here we go.

I’ve picked the Hold Steady’s Separation Sunday, their second album, released in 2005, for many reasons. First and most important is that whenever I’m asked, I say this album. And it’s the truth – I may have listened to other albums more, I may not have grown up with it, it’s perhaps not a ‘cool’ choice – but it IS my favourite, I can sit down at pretty much any time, in any mood, and Separation Sunday will match that mood, and the 40 or so minutes of it will go by in almost seconds.

I find it pretty much impossible to talk about music on any theoretical level, and sometimes I feel guilty talking about all these complicated, groundbreaking records as I can’t even read music, let alone understand it, except on an emotional basis. Which is good in a way, as almost all of the Hold Steady’s albums are based on filtering deep, interwoven and pop-culture filled narratives through old, almost recognisable guitar riffs, the music itself not particularly experimental, in fact purposely NOT so I think. But anyway – the album itself. THS have an underlying, rather ambiguous narrative through every single one of their songs, which on the first few listens seems to be just about being AMERICAN and LONELY and DRUNK and ON DRUGS and THROWING IN OCCASIONAL LITERARY REFERENCES. Which in itself is still rather amazing, and a lot of the time the lyrics work on a more anonymous level, a lot of the events and feelings Craig Finn sings about (aside from being American, I guess), well, I’VE felt them, and experienced them.

But then (well it took a while for me) it hits you, that certain characters keep coming up, and these characters seem to be going to the same places, and the countless biblical references all start to tie together and you realise that over their something-like sixty song career the Hold Steady have been telling a very individual story, sketching little pieces of lives then revisiting a certain event two, three or four albums later. And importantly, it’s a FANTASTIC story, about a good-girl-gone-bad called Hallelujah (or Holly as Finn eventually calls her), who gets caught up in “some complicated things”, falling in love with the drug dealer Charlemagne and then gang member Gideon, and Holly’s kinda the heroine and kinda Jesus and kinda Judas too. There’s so much going on, even just on this one album, which tracks her descent into addiction and basically being a MESSED-UP-GIRL and then the last song’s a resurrection scene (this band does maybe the best album closers of any artist EVER). But it’s nowhere near as simple as this and her ‘rebirth’ is pretty much a hollow gesture and no-one’s any happier than where they started but ANYWAY I could write for hours about the story but I won’t.

One of the things I like most about both the Hold Steady and about the story they tell is how there’s a focus, how (and I know it sounds silly) there’s a SCENE, a musical scene, a community of people and bands that all come together around certain art and how the music isn’t just something you hear in the background, but an active part of life, and it has specific connotations and MEANING and stuff, it’s something to be a part of, whether it’s the 90s hardcore scene that Finn places his characters or the ‘Unified Scene’ who obsess over the Hold Steady and follow them across the world, who’re probably bigger fans than I. But this is one of the things I love about Offbeat at Warwick, how it’s a group of people with similar personalities and taste who’re thrown together and then suddenly they’ve become your best friends and some of the best moments of your life have come with this disparate group of people, all because something so ambiguous a label as an “indie/alternative music society” has brought you together into an actual something. And this is what I hope will continue to happen while I’m President, that the little scene we’ve got going will continue to go and grow, and that new people will come in and find the most amazing, interesting people, and they’ll end up sitting on each other’s floors listening to old records and falling in love and it’s all because of MUSIC.