Grieving: 4 Albums That Changed Our Lives

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grieving

Demonstrations EP out now.

Cambridge’s Grieving explore a fascinating brand of emo/post hardcore on their debut EP Demonstrations. Emotive and vulnerable, and yet angular and muscular, the five tracks that make up the EP are heartfelt jabs of melody and distortion at times calling to mind the heart on the sleeve brand of folk/punk that is the M.O. of Frank Turner but with a tangibly rougher edge. Elsewhere the EP mines the controlled and minimal post hardcore of Washington, DC with expertise and nuance. Throughout, the EP displays a band with the chops and the confidence.

To get a bit of clarity on what combined in the collective creative souls to manifest this EP, we had a chat with each member of the band about the album that changed their life.

1. Ned Wilson (Guitar): Meneguar – Strangers In Our House

Not enough people have heard of Meneguar, but this album is right up there in my ‘most listened to’, along with their earlier record ‘I Was Born At Night’, which is equally good. I think they played in Cambridge a couple of months before I first heard of them, and then broke up not long after, so I guess there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

It’s a record with a lot of tension, anxiety, ebb / flow, musically and lyrically. The songs sound straightforward, but there’s a lot going on in every track. The two guitars wind around each other. The bass sometimes dropping out, sometimes taking over the lead. The time-signature every now and again just dislocating itself slightly, but not in a way that feels forced or ‘math’-y. It’s a solid reminder of how much is possible within your ‘typical’ two guitars / drums / bass setup.

And for all this musical complexity the songs are still catchy as hell. ‘A Scrape And A Pull’ is my own personal stand-out track. It’s got this great dual-guitar bridge part about a minute in that whenever I hear it I can’t help but air-guitar along like a real jerk.

I think this complex / catchy balance is why these records have stuck with me. Weird chord voicings, dissonance, melodies and guitar lines that twist around but stay cohesive; for me this stuff is what makes songs interesting, and that’s something Meneguar did extremely well. I don’t think you hear a power-chord getting chugged at any point over the eleven tracks. Nothing wrong with the odd chug though, don’t get me wrong.

2. Jack Hurst (Bass): The Bronx – The Bronx (II)

First time I heard the Bronx, I remember just thinking it was fucking cool. I got a sampler CD on the front cover of Rock Sound magazine (which google tells me was issue #55 in October 2003), and Stop The Bleeding was track 2. Just hearing it as one of the most intense and amazing tracks. The riff is pretty simple, it’s all basically just a bend/one note at the top of the octave, but when it drops down to the root about half way through the song, it gets me every time.

Anyway, that song kicked it off for me and the debut The Bronx (I) was also out at that point. I’m a big fan of the second record too, but the first one probably takes it for me. The first 30 seconds of Heart Attack American is such a great way to start a first album. They Will Kill Us All (Without Mercy), Notice of Eviction, Kill My Friends – it’s relentless pretty much start to finish. I guess one thing I find so appealing is the swagger they make/made music with, even right from the start. As a 16 or whatever year old kid in a pop punk band at the time, this record was a big influence and at the time a kind of deeper dig into the sort of music I wanted to be involved in.

I heard once they got signed after their first live show. Not sure it’s true, but their shows are probably the most fun I’ve ever had at gigs. That swagger is definitely there in their shows. It could be construed as arrogance but if it is, it’s a deliberate, self aware and inclusive. From the first time I saw them – being in the pit with the singer Matt while he’s screaming at the end of a giant cable right in the middle of it will never not be fun.

I don’t know that I’d say they immediately influenced the way I play bass so much, but their approach to music appeals to me. It seems like they’re after a banging riff, a hook, but also with a real intensity and that’s all part of what I want to hear in stuff we write.

3. James Parrish (Vocals) Fugazi – The Argument

My favourite Fugazi record – but I think that might just be because I heard it first. When a band go on to become one of your life-time favourites, as Fugazi have done to me, you never forget the connection from the first listen. The Argument is the band’s best produced, best sounding work, that much is for sure. Any dissonance and dischords are always going to allow a band to surprise you, throw you off guard, and getting to hear adventurous bands like Fugazi, Karate, Faraquet, Q and Not U etc. as a result of the promo CDs that were sent to me when I was editing a zine in my late teens changed my musical mind so completely.

I didn’t care that my guitar playing style was sloppy anymore, I didn’t want to play solos anyway, the open notes I was hitting meant I was just making weirder chords that my friends weren’t and as a “musician” (not a term I like at this level, if you play five a side each Sunday, you still don’t go around calling yourself a “footballer”) I think I found a whole new, very open mindset in which to write in. I was cool with starting a band and failing, experimenting until years later I might get it half-right. The idea that you could play a guitar completely differently from how your teacher taught you, that you could create a great deal of variety without a whole board of pedals, the idea that every part of the guitar could be manipulated to make noise, that melody and aggression could go hand in hand just by throwing away the rulebook. Fugazi did all of this, and had a very defined intelligence and set of ethics too. The Argument’s “Epic Problem” and “Ex-Spectator” are amongst the best songs in their entire catalogue and I still cling dearly to the idea that this record begun their “hiatus” not their end. Hiatus suggests there’s still a chance they’ll be back and I’ll finally get to see them live.

Their playfulness flows under the surface – even if less so now than when I was younger – every band I’ve ever played in. I met Ian Mackaye once at a show he played with the band he’s in with his wife, The Evens, but was one or two drinks too many in to be truly coherent. Straight edge Ian might just have hated me. This Ian posed for a grainy photo and managed at least not to scowl during and, hey, I’m happy with that.

4. Matt Simper (Drums) Manic Street Preachers – The Holy Bible

People are too quick to palm the Manics off these days which is perhaps fair considering the strength of their recent offerings. However The Holy Bible is exceptional. It’s not a nice record, but it is a classic.

I was about 15 when I first heard it. It didn’t speak to me about my life but introduced me to the idea that music did not necessarily have to be happy or upbeat, but could be thought provoking and atmospheric. The themes are pretty horrible; a preoccupation with death, the darkest parts of 20th century history, capitalism, eating disorders, etc. It’s uncomfortable, uncompromising and raw.

The stand out moments for me are the extended chorus at the end of ‘Yes’, the minimal guitar and use (to my ear) of uplifting chords. The sound-excerpts from film and TV are used throughout to excellent effect particularly in The Intense Humming of Evil – I used to the walk home through the pitch black countryside listening to that track and would scare myself stiff. Finally, the tempo change and lonely guitar at the end of 4st 7lb is just heart breaking.

Check Grieving out on a mini tour of the UK with Tellison:

24th CAMBRIDGE @ The Blue Moon
25th BRISTOL @ The Exchange
26th MANCHESTER @ Pop Bubble Rock!
27th LONDON @ The Lexington (w/ Doe)

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