MEANWHILE, BACKSTAGE IN SONIC BOOM SIX’S WORLD

Content Warning: Racial slurs, homophobia

by Chris Jarvis

A few minutes’ walk from the dreaming spires for which the city is famed lies East Oxford’s Cowley Road – the hub where ‘kids of the multiculture’ grow up. An area undergoing rapid gentrification, it still retains its working class heritage, ethnic diversity, and unique character under the strains of the expansionist middle classes settling, with students and university professors increasingly filling the nearby terraces.

Cowley Road is home to the O2 Academy. Previously the Zodiac, the venue is emblematic of other changes in the area – a corporate takeover of a formerly independent music venue. Across the road sit branches of Subway and Costa, but a little further down is the Truck Store – the pivot of the local independent music scene. Here, at Oxford’s O2 Academy, Manchester-born Sonic Boom Six get set to tear up the stage on a Friday evening. Continue Reading

THE 20 BEST RADICAL MUSIC RELEASES OF 2016

By Chris Jarvis

Yes, yes, we all know that 2016 has been an unmitigated cluster-fuck, with rising fascism, worsening humanitarian crises and intensifying conflict. In moments of darkness, many of us turn to the arts world – especially music – for comfort, for release, for explanation. With David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantner, Maurice White, George Martin, Phife Dawg, Erik Petersen, Leonard Cohen, Nick Menza, Greg Lake, Sharon Jones, and too many others all having passed away, many have found music to have also fallen on dark times.

That notwithstanding, 2016 has been a year of some undeniably and uniquely brilliant music too, especially music that espouses messages of a better world, of political analysis, of radical alternatives. Here are the 20 best of those radical releases from the past year.

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WOMEN AND PUNK: SHAPING THE GENRE 40 YEARS ON

by Chris Jarvis

Last week, Music That Matters looked at the 40th anniversary of punk and how our understanding of its history is typically one which erases the efforts and achievements of women musicians and people of colour. Today, the scene is often still seen as a male and white space, with punk shows frequently having male dominated crowds queuing up to see white men thrashing on guitars in shabby venues.

But it looks like things are changing. 2016 feels like it is becoming a rebirth of women in punk, and critically, as if it is women of colour who often are leading the way. More women are touring, more are getting bigger stages and longer sets, and more are getting the media coverage that they deserve. Among the nostalgic reflection, this year, dozens of punk albums will be released. Some will become instant classics, others will fade from memory as quickly as they came. Here are 10 bands leading the British punk scene this year, and the women that are making them shape the future of the genre.Continue Reading

BASTARD COPPERS: AN INTERVIEW WITH JON FAWKES OF THE FILAMENTS

By Chris Jarvis

Bouncing onto the scene in the early 2000s, The Filaments’ fusion of ska and dub with a street punk reminiscent of the second wave of punk in 1982 made them stand out on the burgeoning circuit of the time. More stripped down and raw than contemporaries such as Capdown, The Filaments offered something more primal than the rest of the scene. Their sound has since been replicated and developed by younger acts, Faintest Idea being the most notable.

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SOMETHING MORE – AN INTERVIEW WITH DABS FROM NEW TOWN KINGS

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by Chris Jarvis

Hailing from Colchester, eight piece ska band New Town Kings offer a rounded sound drawing influences from across the history of ska and reggae music. Since 2007, they have been sharing stages with some of the bigger names in the scene, from Reel Big Fish to Gentleman’s Dub Club and from The Skints to The Aggrolites. Next week, they will be playing on the same bill as Zion Train and Mungo’s Hi-Fi. The long and varied list of acts New Town Kings have played with demonstrates the diversity in their sound – blending traditional ska, two-tone and reggae with hints of ska punk and the odd hip-hop vibe. Although not necessarily known for their political music, and more so instead for their strong and energetic live performances, New Town Kings recordings, whether it be News Stand, La La World or Change are steeped in political undertones. For this reason, I interviewed frontman Dabs Bonner to discuss his and the band’s political outlook, the relationship it has to their music and how he views it in a wider political context as part of our series Music That Matters.

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