EP Review: Macatier – This Boat Is Definitely Sinking

Macatier This Boat Is Definitely Sinking cover

I’m still on a high after seeing Frank Turner play in Wellington recently, so it’s fitting that I write about another English singer with a folk-punk sound.

Dan Brown comes from Surrey, England. He performs under the moniker Macatier, and he has recently released a new EP named This Boat Is Definitely Sinking. 

Brown defines his style as “upbeat acoustic”. I’m going to lump him in with folk-punk because acoustic and folk go together, and because he has opened for bands like Brand New, Saves The Day and The Xcerts, making him a member of punk circles… or close enough anyway.

The twangy ‘Thousand Yard Stare’ is a real stomper, deliberately picked and strummed with a real purpose.

The intro to ‘Panic Attack’ sounds like a warped acoustic “Kashmir”, before transitioning into an upbeat ditty. ‘Panic Attack’ was my personal fave, with plenty of dynamic changes, and an interesting rounds-style outro.

‘Swimming To Canada’ has been picked as the lead single. I’d actually say that it isn’t even the best song on the EP, but after a few listens the song got caught in my head, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad choice. It is certainly the catchiest song on the EP, with the stop/start strums syncopated against the chorus.

The aptly named ‘Sleep Song’ is slower and stripped back, as one would expect from the title. Almost being a lullaby, it’s the least memorable song. That said, the effects are nice (it could be a slide guitar) and the “ba da da’s” at the end seem like a nice way to send us off.

I couldn’t comment on how the EP was recorded, but it sounds pretty raw and unpolished, as you may come to expect from an indie artist. However, if you listen carefully you may pick that the songs haven’t been recorded in one take. There is the inclusion of drums, layered vocal tracks, and added guitar feedback. It begs the question: if you are going to try some tricks to make the recording better, why not try others? I know that I argued for the opposite in my recent Gary Clark Jr review, saying that he lost some of his bluesy feel because his album was mastered too cleanly, but having a quality recording and accurately capturing an authentic vibe aren’t necessarily prerequisite of each other.

If a British singer playing rough-around-the-edges punk-styled songs on an acoustic guitar sounds like your thing, then give Macatier a go.

You can stream/download This Boat Is Definitely Sinking on Soundcloud.

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Joseph James

Live Review: Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls at Meow, Wellington

Frank Turner Sleeping Souls Meow Wellington New Zealand tour poster

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

w/ Jon Snodgrass
Meow, Wellington
Saturday 18 April 2015

Let it never be said that Frank Turner doesn’t please his fans.

His output is prolific: a constant stream of new EP’s, splits, B-side collections and live DVD’s to appease his fans between studio albums. All on top of a hectic touring schedule.

Just last week he played all of England Keep My Bones at a show in Melbourne. To say I had looked forward to this gig would be an understatement.

Meow was an interesting choice of venue. I’m used to seeing small folk acts play here, not bands with this kind of following. Being sold out, the place was crammed, making it far more ‘intimate’ than I’m used too. Not that I’m complaining – how often do you get to witness a special small gig like this, put on by someone who has headlined Wembley?

Jon Snodgrass (Drag The River) started the night off singing some of his solo material. His voice was warm and comforting, reminiscent of Southern styled country music. He was soon joined onstage by Frank Turner wearing a Converge hoodie and armed with a harmonica.

The two of them played a bunch of songs from their Buddies split EP, a rough recording penned in only four hours during a stint together on the Revival Tour in America. The songs were far from perfect – clearly not well rehearsed – but the stories behind each song were entertaining and the relaxed approach from the duo set the mood for a fun night ahead. One of the highlights was the song “Happy New Year”. They bullied their stage tech into taking over on harmonica for that song, despite protests that he didn’t know how.

For his own set, Turner and his band, The Sleeping Souls, were all dressed in white button up shirts. The Sleeping Souls were the perfect choice of band. All four of them  were clearly into it, jumping and dancing about onstage, although mid-set they lived up to their name and had a sleepy sit-down while Turner played some material solo. Bassist Tarrant Anderson held his bass high on his chest and waltzed round with it, while Ben Lloyd boogied and ripped on guitar and mandolin. The placed was so densely packed that I couldn’t see the drums or keys from where I was standing, but I could certainly hear them.

This tour was supposed to promote the new album, but the new album hadn’t yet been released. Not to be deterred by this, Turner previewed a handful of tracks from said forthcoming album. The first song had a country feel. “Get Better” is a straight up thumper. Every song was great, leaving me eager to listen to get my mitts on the new album once it comes out.

The show was full of rousing sing-alongs, or more accurately, shout-alongs. The musicians were at home on-stage, happy to interact with the crowd and exchange banter. There were threats to cover Crowded House and Shihad. Drummer Nigel Powell played the tourist card and asked how many people in the crowd worked for Weta Digital. Turner told a funny story about how he was inspired to write a song in Melbourne about an ex-girlfriend who smelt like a koala.

Towards the end Turner noted how there was no point in doing the typical encore ritual, mainly because there was no room for the band to leave the stage. The “one more song!” chant was supported by the drums, and the *boom, boom, clap* evolved into a short cover of Queens’ “We Will Rock You”.

The encore included some of the hits from the early albums, ending with “Four Simple Words”. Turner conducted the band theatrically, before crowd-surfing during the last verse.

Frank Turner selfie

Cheesy selfie with Frank after the show. Not often that I stand next to someone taller than me!

This was Turners show #1666, and the last of the current tour. He recounts how one thousand shows ago he played an Iron Maiden cover. This remains testament to Turner’s longevity as a musician, due to his inclusive, humble approach to playing music. All the musos hung back after the show to meet the fans and sign merch, despite a 4am flight home the following day.

At the end of a tour bands are either too exhausted and at the end of their tether, or go all out and end with a bang. This was a case of the latter.

Because there’s no such thing as rock stars, just people who play music. Some of them are just like us and some of them are dicks.  

Frank Turner – “Try This At Home”

Turner is the anti-rock star. He knows how to master the stage and had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. But he’s just a regular guy. He swears and shouts and crowd surfs, and invites the audience to do the same. Many of his lyrics are thought provoking and tender, written from the point of a man who once idealised punk ethos and has since matured, but refuses to forget his past. Turner acknowledges the teenage anarchists and old fogeys alike, and invites them both to dance and sing along.


Joseph James

Album Review: Frank Turner – The Third Three Years (B-sides collection)

Frank Turner Third Three Years

Folk-punk troubadour Frank Turner stays true to his DIY hardcore roots by releasing a third b-sides collection with a nod to Black Flag.

Turner had hardcore/punk origins as front man of the band Million Dead. After Million Dead, er … died, Turner began a solo career with a folk sound along the lines of Billy Bragg and the late Joe Strummer. He’s worked hard touring and recording consistently over the years, and now has begun to achieve relative commercial success, having headlined at Wembley Arena and played at the London Olympics opening ceremony in recent years.

This is Turner’s third collection of b-sides, following his last album Tape Deck Heart. The title and album art  are inspired by The First Four Years from seminal hardcore outfit Black Flag.

I’m a bit late to the party reviewing this album, but sometimes it takes a while for things to arrive in New Zealand when I have to order them from overseas. It was worth the wait though.

I’ve kept up with some of Turner’s non-album output, such as Daytrotter sessions, but I was pleased to discover that Third Three Years contained music that was almost entirely new to me, including some unreleased gems. The collection comprises of covers,  b-sides from EP’s and singles and obscure recording sessions.

In fact, nearly half the collection are up of covers. Turner covers his bases with his choices. There are classic bands (Queen, Tom Petty), folk singers (Townes Van Zandt) and punk artists (Tony Sly, The Weakerthans). These covers do well to encompass Turner’s very British style of folk-punk. Many of the covers are stripped back, giving the overall album a more somber feel. But hey, anybody who can take on a song by Freddie Mercury and do it justice deserves a thumbs up in my books.

There are a few alternative outtakes from his latest album, Tape Deck Heart. My favourite from that album, “The Way I Tend To Be” is given different treatment with extra mandolin and piano.

There are two collaborations with other artists. “Happy New Year” is a humourous and unpretentious ditty with Jon Snodgrass and “Fields Of June” is a country number by Emily Barker that Turner features on. These duets work nicely to add a bit of variety to the mix.

The rest of the songs are just what you’d expect, punk ethos singer-songwriter music with breathless singing and swear-word filled shouting. Although this is what I expected, I didn’t expect so much solo work. Turner’s touring band, The Sleeping Souls seem absent from these recordings. A few songs are collaborations with other musicians – Revival Tour style DIY camaraderie – but other than a mandolin, organ or added guitar accompaniment here or there, there is a marked lack of a full band of most tracks. The Sleeping Souls are credited on nine songs, but it’s pretty subtle because they’re hard to detect.

B-sides collections like these are never as strong as a cohesive studio album, but can offer rare gems for the diehard fans. There are a lot of songs (21!), and although most are not considered ‘good enough’ to make the cut, fans won’t be disappointed. And they should know what to expect, because any serious Frank Turner will likely have The First Three Years and The Second Three Years anyway.

Overall this album is a bit too sedate to get regular play through my speakers. There is more of a folk focus than punk. I’m more likely to select the handful of songs that I enjoy more and include them in playlists than listen to the entire collection. But just to show that he’s not getting soft, Turner closes off the CD with a rip-roaring live version of “Dan’s Song”. It’s furiously fast and explosive, just like punk music should be.

Frank Turner put on an excellent show in Wellington in April 2013 with his backing band, The Sleeping Souls. He’s returning this April to play sideshows from the Byron Bay Bluesfest. Details can be found through the Chicks That Scream Facebook page.

Joseph James