Saturday 11 June 2011

Introducing... Alaska

A few days ago, I went along to a mate’s band's gig, Bonus Beyond, in Nottingham for the launch of their mini-album Until The Waves Come. Of course, I was there primarily to support my mate, but overall it was still an exciting deal - headlining at Rescue Rooms (one of the best venues in the city), with a load of other local bands supporting, and all to release a nicely polished CD package. So, on a quick personal note - nice one Erik, Bonus Beyond were ace! They played a very energetic set of heavy post-hardcore with great dynamics, impressively twiddly guitar solos, and excellent stage presence.

No Compromise Pt. I by Bonus Beyond

However, I'd always expected to enjoy their performance, so the best surprise of the night though was another little Notts band called Alaska. Certainly the highlight of the support acts, this four-piece played a pretty remarkable set. Walking onstage in plaid shirts and baggy jeans, it was clear that Alaska were about to bring a slice of the ‘90s to the stage. These guys literally wore their influences on their sleeves. As lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Antonio Panzera (incredible name!) plugged in his red Gibson SG, I found myself with fingers crossed, hoping that some Weezer-esque grunge pop was about to tumble out of the amps. Turns out I was absolutely right.

Alaska at Rescue Rooms on Monday 6th June

As a MASSIVE Weezer fan (they’re my absolute #1 favourite band), I was thrilled that most of Alaska’s tunes are heavily indebted to the fuzzed-out power-pop of Rivers Cuomo and co. I shouldn’t really get ahead of myself here, because saying that these guys could write the next Blue Album or Pinkerton is a step too far, but there were a shedload of catchy riffs, well thought-out vocal harmonies and ace solos. A mate genuinely thought that one of their tracks was a Weezer cover, whilst another tune had a chord progression almost identical to the bridge in ‘Don’t Let Go’.

Another clear influence, and hence another reason why I'm so excited about the band, was the Pixies. A few of the songs showed a rawer, heaver edge, whilst bassist Gabe May really knows how to write a rumbling Kim Deal-like bassline. Oh, and Panzera can scream like Frank Black. No, he really can - that rasping, throaty yelp that’s pretty much impossible to imitate (I’ve only tried once, on my own in the car when I had my Pixies mixtape on), Antonio’s got it down pat.

On Alaska's Facebook page, and at the bottom of this post, is a free download of the excellent ‘Fly Away’, which displays all the aforementioned qualities of the band, and is seriously catchy stuff. The quality of the recording isn’t brilliant, but let’s just say it all adds to the ‘90s lo-fi feel of the whole thing. With promises on their Twitter feed of upcoming studio time, I really can’t wait to hear more from Alaska. Long live the grunge revival!

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