dear john captain toms


Something something…Captain Toms…blah blah industrial metal…support your local music scene. Ugh. I was already half cut and the first band were half done when I agreed to review this gig, so lower your expectations.

I’m capable of better, but this is as good as it’s gonna get. No one reviews music any more, so even if I spew consonants and spaghetti on a page (as I intend to), this will be the best Aberdeen gig review since the last one.

Blunt edges

Spare Me The Knife aren’t great but I’ll spare them the knife for two reasons:

Not a cop-out

Not a cop-out

1) Their bass player looks like a cross between a nerd and an android. He’s a terminator sent back through time to play perfect fifths with impeccable precision. He is both achingly uncool and achingly cool at the same time. He has bad dress sense. I like him.

2) Their singer has a major Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles obsession. I know this because someone told me, going so far as to state that he insists on wearing a Turtles t-shirt to every gig. (Do you remember when Turtles first came to the UK and ‘Ninja’ was deemed too violent so they became Hero Turtles? There hasn’t been a cop-out on that scale ever since, save for that post-9/11 time Jimmy Eat World made Bleed American eponymous). How deep does the singer’s Turtles obsession go? Does he live on pizza? Does he have an unusual appreciation for Renaissance art?

Update: The singer spoke to me afterward and turned out to be a thoroughly nice guy. While this revelation has no bearing on my opinion of Spare Me The Knife, we’re not here to talk music – since when was a gig anything other than an excuse to discuss childhood obsessions and drink the bar dry? More about those two objectives shortly, but first I believe we were dissecting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Following our confab, I can confirm that 1) Back in the day, I briefly worked at the same company as SMTK’s singer (his recollection, not mine) and 2) He has a Turtles-themed room in his house. I was never even a Turtles fan (I didn’t have a TV as a kid) but I’m jelly.

Dead children

A cop-out

A cop-out

Spare Me The Knife are followed by Captain Toms joint BOTB winners Ray Brower, which brings us nicely back to childhood obsessions – not that we’d left the topic in the first place. TIL: Ray Brower are named after the dead kid in Stand By Me. For this, they instantly win cool points. What is it tonight with 80s throwbacks?

I like RB and their brand of hard-to-categorise metal, though it must be said they’re no better or worse than the local metal bands of a decade ago. The only thing that’s changed in the last ten years is that bands, on average, are now fatter and beardier. Ray Brower’s guitarist is genuinely mesmerising: how the hell do his sausage fingers manage to hit the right notes? I’ve no idea but he nails it every time.

Their second track is called E-Piss; I’d like to think that the E stands for enema. Individually, Ray Brower are very talented. It’s just a shame that the quartet’s songs are so forgettable. How hard is it to write a single bar, hook or breakdown that remains in memory longer than the split second it takes your brain to process it? Pretty fucking hard apparently.


Still, let’s not be mean. Indian Red Lopez aren’t any better. They’re good – they’re all very good at what they do – but song-wise they’re about as memorable as a night on rohypnol. I could dish out pointless plaudits (“Passionate live show”; “Atmospheric soundscape”; “Great guys”), but while these would all be true, they wouldn’t atone for the band’s lack of songs.

Is it being overly harsh on Indian Red Lopez, Ray Brower et al to expect them to be churning out material of a Jimmy Eat World/Rage Against The Machine/Bring Me The Horizon standard? (Delete according to whichever band your ears can abide.)

The original Ray Brower

The original Ray Brower

No, it’s not. Believe it or not, it’s possible to be a local – i.e non-professional – band and still craft the sort of songs that send fists in the air and feels on the airwaves. A week ago, I saw Taking Chase at Moorings Bar. While their average songs are no better than those experienced so far this evening, their best songs are all kinds of awesome. Four days ago, I drove around town for hours listening to their debut EP on repeat. Not to support my local music scene. Not because it was quite-good-for-a-small-Scottish-band. I repped it because it’s as great, if not better, than the debuts of many of my favourite bands.

In search of songs

I would love an Indian Red Lopez or a Ray Brower or even a Spare Me The Knife to give me a reason to fall in love with them – if only for a middle eight – but on tonight’s evidence that’s not going to happen any time soon. On the one hand, that’s no biggie; I’m just one guy after all in a rehearsal studio-turned-venue that has over 150 souls in attendance. They don’t need my vote. On the other hand, as we’ve established, no one reviews music any more. As the last of a dying breed, I’d much rather be shouting about the meatiness of Ray Brower’s forthcoming single than expending paragraphs on pondering the lost art of songwriting.

Dear John: better than this picture would suggest

Dear John: better than this picture would suggest

Still, it ain’t no thang: in spite of my bitterness, it’s been a fun night up till now. Let’s dwell on the positives: as Indian Red Lopez kick out the jams in room two, the guitars shimmer, the hi-hats “Tssst” crisply and the harmonies resonate harmoniously. The band, despite their apparent lack of 80s pop culture influences, sound very professional. Also, there’s a bar selling any drink you like next door for two fiddy. What’s not to like?


By the time Dear John take the floor, it’s approaching midnight and I’m approaching a bad mood, for matters unrelated. My cantankerousness can not spoil the fact that tonight Dear John are everything they’ve ever promised to be. Tonight it all makes sense: the samples, the shouts and the sub-bass which rumbles through the room like a cheap guest house built over a Tube line. As Aberdeen’s premier industrial noise merchants, it’s not Dear John’s job to write memorable songs – they could just blast us with samples and we’d go home happy. In the event, they do all that and, in Live In You, produce a banger that tonight’s supporting cast can only dream of.

On record, they’re still not a patch on the live phenomenon that is currently shaking Toms to its core, but that doesn’t matter right now. It may be an album launch, but we’re here to savour the moment and to relish the fact that music – regardless of genre, fanbase or label size – can induce a euphoric feeling of evanescent bliss that only good drugs or good sex can surpass.

Something something…don’t stop…something something…the bar is dry…I only wanna live in you…Blah blah blah.




Check out moar Dear John and order SyntheticUltimaDrunge here.


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