I like it when people from the world of ‘serious music’ collide with the more Pop-tastic end of things. I’m sure everyone reading this knows that Pete ‘King Crimson’ Sinfield wrote ‘Land of Make Believe’ for Bucks Fizz and indeed the very premise for my post is played out daily in the Fripp/Wilcox household. Listening to the preposterously brilliant Chart Music Podcast recently reminded me that Tim Friese-Greene was not only born into a family of pioneering photographers and filmmakers and was a virtual member/producer on those majestic and powerful Talk Talk albums (from It’s My Life to Laughing Stock) but he also produced Tight Fit. There must be more?
Old Trafford Sportball Stadium, Manchester
I should preface by saying that unlike many of you I’m a very casual fan but I’ve really warmed to them of late – so for years my favourite album was ’40 Licks’ but now it’s ‘Beggars Banquet’ (you get the idea). When I found out they were playing a few miles up the road I baulked at paying the guts of £90 but I managed to grab some cheap ‘Lucky Dip’ tickets – basically a way for the Stones to ensure there aren’t empty seats and perhaps to entice fairweather fans like me to take a punt for the price you’d pay for a 3rd tier Indie band at the Academy. The deal is you don’t know where you’re sitting/standing till you pick your tickets up, so you lower your expectations about where you’ll be and indeed whether it’ll be any good -a reasonable gamble.
This is a double-first for me, not only is this my first Stones gig but in spite of being an avid (almost) weekly gig-goer it’s also my first Stadium show. I’m used to turning up just after the support and waltzing in to my » Continue Reading.
Any love for Bark Psychosis in the Afterword Massive? They have possibly the most misleading band name ever (play the clip and you’ll see what I mean) – although they did start out as Napalm Death covers band as teenagers and kept the name. For that reason I always suspect people who would adore this music haven’t checked it out so please do. I was a fan back in the 90s and now both their LPs have been reissued. ‘Hex’ was out a while back and the follow up ‘Codename Dustsucker’ was out this weekend. These records have aged well- they were bracketed in that Dream Pop/Post Rock thing beloved of Melody Maker writers in the mid 90s but they stand up now as strange and weirdly timeless records both lovingly reissued on Fire Records. I don’t really know how to describe them but they’re immaculately produced, gorgeous records and if they grab you, you’ll love em forever. If you like yer Mogwai, Cocteau Twins, Spiritualized or Talk Talk (Lee Harris plays drums on the 2nd album) get into this.
What does it sound like?:
The Mute Records ACR reissues continue apace. We’re now going ‘deep catalogue’ with two long-lost albums.
First up is ‘Good Together’, originally released in 1989 never to be seen again. This was ACR’s major label debut having finally lost patience with the lack of promotion they were getting from Factory and hitched to A&M Records. This was just before ‘Madchester’ – a scene largely built on a melding of Dance, funk and post-punk that ACR had been pioneering a few years earlier. ACR could have made hay there, but instead they seemed intent on going down a very slick, commercial Blue-eyed soul route. I suspect they were hoping for mainstream success by trying to sound more mainstream- just at the time that Indie and club acts were seriously breaking through by doing the opposite. Bad timing..like Artie Fufkin… but to be fair, who in 1987 could have predicted Shaun Ryder and Ian Brown would have made it to Top of the Pops?
So ‘Good Together’ arrives in Madchester with barely a trace left of the band that made ‘To Each’ and ‘Sextet’ and it’s all very smooth and slickly produced – and » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
The Rochdale Kraftwerk are back with what is essentially a new LP which lasts for a whopping 8 hours. They have form in this respect, their last traditional LP was a 2 hr double CD and since then they’ve released several hours of live sets and Elseq which comprised 5 digital only EPs comprising 4 hours of new material. The NTS Sessions were broadcast on the radio station of the same name and then immediately available to download over the past month. If you prefer a physical version there’s an 8 CD set forthcoming as well as a mammoth 12 LP Vinyl version.
So is it any good and does anyone need 8 Hours of Autechre?. Yes indeed they do and I’ve been completely immersed in this stuff and not wanting to listen to much else as it’s secrets and delights slowly reveal themselves. There are 36 tracks in total and here Autechre take advantage of their long held desire to present tracks which end when they’re naturally finished rather than when the CD or Vinyl runs out. The tracks run from a couple of minutes to the epic closing track ‘End All’ » Continue Reading.
There’s lots of interesting archive stuff on iPlayer including this – which has the BBC Everyman documentary revisiting the hippy ideals of 1967 and seeing how they play out in 1978. The opener, with the hippy Cult member turned dead-eyed IT student is straight out of Scarfolk/Ghost Box and quite chilling. Then Vashti Bunyan crops up. Much talk of ‘Selling Out’ or ‘Copping Out’ which in my lifetime was always levelled at Punks – so it originated with the Hippies. Great bit of 70s TV where they point a camera at something and and unlike today you’re not really being shoved in any particular direction but you’re given enough information to make your own mind up about what became of the ideals of 1967. The eyes and body language tell their own story. Lots of nervous shifting in seats and furtive glances…Felix Dennis for instance, mid-interview visibly seems to become jarringly aware of how far he’s moved from the land of Oz. Timothy Leary, strutting through NYC and waving at everyone like they’re an old acquaintance is priceless at the end. And of all that in just 35 very watchable minutes.
Soup Kitchen, Manchester
You may well not have heard of the The Longcut. They formed in Manchester and made some considerable waves with their excellent 2006 debut ‘A Call and Response’. I was a big fan of that record and saw them live a few times, and memorably euphoric gigs they were. I never forgot them amid the never-ending deluge of new music because they really had something, and they were local. That’s the stuff cult bands are made of. There was one more album in 2009 and after that only very sporadic activity and the occasional gig. I suspect Longcut are going to be one of those Manchester bands, a bit like say The Chameleons that have a devoted loyal and local following – and sure enough this small venue is rammed full to celebrate the release of the first new album in 9 years.
The band are a 3 piece, with frontman Stuart alternating between singing and then dashing round the back to sit behind the drum stool. This was borne of necessity when their original singer left but in fact has become a defining factor of their sound and the songs suddenly » Continue Reading.
I’m hopelessly old school. Can’t get with Streaming, I like buying music on record and CD but I get some downloads for my mp3 player (yeah – I know!) particularly when I want to take a punt on a new artist or something a bit out of my usual wheelhouse and eMusic have served me well in that respect (and I know many Afterworders would agree). However the catalogue is dwindling to the point where I’d say 9/10 of things I’m looking for aren’t there. eMusic have been amazingly resilient – but now there’s this. I’m tech savvy and reasonably clued up on how the music industry works but this is baffling. Can anyone translate? Have they gone completely Noel Edmonds/David Icke on us or are they – as they claim – the future of recorded music as we know it? Should I hang on to the golden handcuffs a while longer?
Panda Bear aka Noah Lennox is probably best known as a key member of experimental popsters Animal Collective however he’s got a pretty high profile as a solo artist in his own right. His 2007 LP ‘Person Pitch’ is one of the best records of the 00s. It’s a glorious, haunting stew of Beach Boys harmonies, Dub bass and lo-fi sampled loops and if you’ve not heard it and that description piqued your interest then stop reading this now and go and acquire it using your preferred method. His two follow up records I’ll be honest didn’t quite grab me quite as much but he recently released an excellent Vinyl E.P. ‘A Day with the Homies’ which definitely did – so I’m eager to hear what else he’s got up his sleeve.
The stage set is up is very minimal. Noah is playing solo as always, with just a Mic, a couple of samplers and FX units and some sort of modular synth thing. He has some excellent visuals to make up for the lack of on-stage action – so the music is accompanied by synapse frazzling images of sexy dancing Aliens, melting » Continue Reading.
..and I mean that in a genuine and positive way (and not the way our resident Wishbone Ash/Mahavishnu correspondent writes when he’s poking fun at some terrible old ‘Oi’ band playing at the Rebellion Festival). They’re always good value when they turn up on those TOTP re-runs. Bluster Bloodvessel had a running joke of trying to outdo himself in terms of wearing a costume that will make him as sweaty and uncomfortable as possible (Henry VII, huge fur coat, skiing gear and most memorably..a diving bell and wet suit). Listening back I now realise they’re the missing link between Madness and the Bonzo Dog Band and I can’t help but admire that run of stupidly bouncy early 80s singles from “Ne-Ne Na-Na Na-Na Nu-Nu” to their excellent cover of ‘My Boy Lollipop’. The band are great as well, whoever was on bass works wonders with this one…
If you fancy something new to soundtrack yr Saturday try this cracking new album from Cavern of Anti-Matter which is Tim Gane and Joe Dilworth formerly of Stereolab joined by Holger Zapf. If you like your analogue synths, Motorik beats and bubbling vintage drum machines you’ll be in heaven already but there’s a great melodic warmth and a touch of Synth-pop gloss to this so it’s not just endless retro noodling. Link is for bandcamp but it’s on the usual streams too.
What does it sound like?:
ACR have now joined their old Factory label mates New Order and signed to Mute Records for a series of reissues and archival releases. They are not in chronological order, and the next one out of the tombola is ‘I’d Like to See You Again’ from 1982.
I actually really love this album, It was never far from my walkman in the late 80s and got a bit obsessed with it. It still sounds utterly brilliant and probably their most underrated Factory release. This was the follow up to ‘Sextet’ which the critical consensus seems to agree is their best album – and it was released the same year in October 1982. It’s cut from a similar cloth, in that it sounds like some lads from Hulme and Wythenshawe who used to be Post Punk trying to recreate late 70s/early 80s American funk records infused with Jazz and Latin influences and getting it a bit wrong and a bit wonky. Lead singer Simon Topping has stepped further away from the mic and retreated behind the Timbales only adding occasional backing on the 3 vocal tracks (Drummer Donald takes the lead), and occasional treated » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
I go back with these guys and they’ve always been a great live band. The Leeds combo can whip up a ferocious, Motorik/Psych-rock storm and their secret weapon is frontman M.J. – red faced and sweating, screaming into his Echoplex and bashing away at a Moog- imagine Suicide fronted by a big, angry man from Leeds.
Of course these days any number of bands can easily whip up a Motorik/Psych-Rock storm and there are whole festivals devoted to one-chord, heads-down no-nonsense mindless riffage. Last years Liverpool Psych-fest was a non-stop showcase of endless drang drang drang drang CLANG. It’s perhaps no coincidence that they’re having a year off to let the pasture re-grow and also Hookworms have had a rethink and moved on several giant steps out of the terribly crowded and hairy Psych-rock cul-de-sac (can you imagine how it smells down there- ew). They’ve had a rough time it seems, not least because their studio was flooded in the great boxing day floods that saw sirens blaring over Calderdale and the River Aire seeping into their mixing desk and synths.
They’ve come back strong with their first truly great record. Track » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
The first 5 Felt albums are being reissued on Feb 23rd. I’ve been given a download to listen to for review. Read on for more about the formats and pricing.
If you’re not familiar, this phase takes us from 1982 to 1986 (and indeed C86 and the jangly Indie movement that Felt exemplified). It’s hard to describe their uniquely idiosyncratic and often spectral music but it’s the interplay between Maurice Deebank’s extraordinary, chiming guitar (the nearest comparison is to Vini Reilly) and Lawrence answering on guitar and deadpan vocals. Whether you can handle his half-sung, half spoken style with wayward pitching (a Jonathan Richman/Tom Verlaine transplanted to 1980s Birmingham) will probably determine how much you dig Felt, although that said I’d forgotten how much of their output is entirely instrumental too.
He has a way with album titles does Lawrence, so ‘Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty’ is their debut, and like all the early Felt albums barely passes the 30 min mark but from the Durutti-esque ‘Evergreen Dazed’ onward it’s a excellent, dreamy post-punk, best of all is the hypnotic ‘Birdmen’. I’ve no idea what Lawrence was reaching for but it’s wonderful hearing » Continue Reading.
Ironically a Cardiac arrest some ten years ago put Cardiacs frontman Tim Smith well and truly out of action. It’s a long and complicated story, and you can read the full details here: http://www.cardiacs.net/tim-smith-health-2018/ In short he has been left with a rare and little understood condition called Dystonia- he’s still mentally sharp, but his speech and movement is severely limited and he needs constant care. There is a glimmer of hope that he may be able to get some rehab which might make a real difference – but he’s a victim of our ever dwindling NHS -in short it’d be cheaper to give him minimal nursing care and not to let him have a chance of a better life.
Up until now money has been raised with gigs and archival releases but now they need to raise hard cash to fund the extra help he needs and convince the powers that be it’s worth investing in Tim and others in his predicament. Sharing this in case other Cardiacs fans on here aren’t aware and want to chip in. (It goes without saying i’d happily pay more taxes and fund better Health care for everyone – there » Continue Reading.
Seems there is one early morning Christmas train service, calling all stations between….er…everywhere. I wonder if this flashes up on platform screens overnight? Anyone know?
The Ritz, Manchester
Christmas time is here again which means local heroes returning home for a celebratory gig or two. Hooky was laying waste to the Academy last night with the New Order/Joy Division songbook. Liam of Burnage is at the Arena. Across town, The Chameleons are doing their annual Xmas shindig. This year I’ve decided to spend Xmas at ACR’s place which tonight is the lovely Ritz ballroom. I make my way through the freezing fog and the leery, amateur boozers in Christmas jumpers outside, and inside….oh my god.. civilization. I find a thousand or so groovy folk in the lovely Ritz ballroom looking for A Certain Ratio. It’s pretty rammed, but there is room to dance..it will be needed.
A career spanning set is promised and ACR decide to start mid-period with industrial Jazz funk instrumental ‘Sounds Like Something Dirty’ which showcases Donald Johnson’s powerhouse drumming and Tony Quigley’s ace Sax before going right back to the early Factory days with ‘Do The Du’ which, make no mistake about it, is the ultimate crossover of Funk and Punk and influenced Talking Heads never mind LCD Soundsystem and legions of copyists. They play a lot from » Continue Reading.
*Actually no it doesn’t but whoever runs the advertising freesheet/website that claims to be NME – Please stop wasting paper, ink and bandwidth and stop trashing what little is left of the legacy of the NME. Stop it now!. Read the below which plopped into my inbox today – I’ve also removed myself from their mailing lists and feeds (which until relatively recently still provided interesting news) but this is the last straw:
“Loyle Carner – the man for millennials and Generation Y. Carner captures the essence of what this legendary brand is all about today – a modern twist on a classic. Like the evolution of the institution of YSL Beauty, he’s forward-thinking, bold, and exactly what Generation Y needs. “I’m representing. I’m a millennial I guess,” Carner told NME. “We’re in a good place. People have more to talk about – we have more of a political voice, it’s more positive, we look after each other. Really, I’m just trying to say that being 21 is difficult.” But in Carner, you have the artist to tackle these difficulties head-on. He’s a rapper, but meets his subjects with the voice that today needs. He’s as sensitive and eloquent » Continue Reading.
I know there’s a bit of love for Lawrence round these parts, and SuperDeluxeEdition are all about the Pet Shops Boys right now so I thought I’d flag up that the mighty Felt are getting the reissue treatment again. Only seems yesterday all the albums were reissued on CD but in fact it’ll be (gulp) 15 years by the time these come out – and you try finding a Felt CD anywhere, if you do you’ll pay top dollar for those, never mind the Vinyl. There will be a new album from Lawrence as well in his Go Kart Mozart guise.
Cherry Red are starting with the first 5, and rest assured Lawrence is fully involved in the mastering and presentation..and he’s been tinkering again, as he will. This time he’s decided to restore the original title to what would have been “The Seventeenth Century” and says the decision to rename it “Let the Snakes Crinkle their Heads to Death” was his biggest regret. The one that’s had the most tinkering is the Robin Guthrie produced ‘Ignite the Seven Canons’. Apparently Lawrence wasn’t too happy with the ‘ethereal swirl’ and six of the 10 tracks » Continue Reading.
The Buyers Club, Liverpool
These days ‘Psychedelia’ or as ‘ver kids call it ‘Psych’ usually refers to endless amped-up riffage – a sort of supercharged Black Sabbath as peddled by Thee Oh Sees (or whatever they’re called now) and and endless number of hirsute, no-chord wonders dialing FX pedals up to one billion. That’s all fine, and much loved on Merseyside. However, back in the mid 90s when Oasis ruled the airwaves I was in love with a strange Welsh band called Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci. Their early albums ‘Tatay’ and ‘Bwyd Time’ and ‘Barafundle’ were totally out of step with the times and influenced by Matching Mole, Brian Wilson and The Incredible String Band at a time when everyone wanted to be The Jam. Those records still sound otherworldy, and to my ears a lot weirder than anything todays crop of ‘psych’ bands serve up.
Gorky’s Frontman Euros Childs has been solo for the past 15 years and now touring his latest album ‘House Arrest’ which is a rather stripped down affair sounding home-recorded with just him at the keyboards and beatbox. It has the somewhat queasy feel of ‘The Beach Boys Love You’, but » Continue Reading.
Band on the Wall, Manchester
I blame Luke Haines. He wrote an article in Record Collector last year extolling the virtues of the later Soft Machine albums. The ones they made after Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers departed and they dropped the Psychedelic whimsy and went full tilt bonkers Art Rock/Weird Jazz. I’d previously never got past Soft 3 where it goes very noodly, but Luke persuaded me to delve into Soft 7 which is indeed a monstrously good record. I’ve been dipping into that later stuff since and finding gems in those later record like ‘Soft Space’, the relentless Moroder-esque disco stormer that ends ‘Alive and Well’, and curiosities like the ‘Bundles’ album. So Soft Machine are in town and it’s a real treat to get to hear some of this stuff played live.
The Softs might be one of the first bands to keep going through various line-up changes until they ended up still performing and recording with nobody left from the original group, and probably didn’t notice as they were engrossed in an extended solo. Tonight’s version of Soft Machine comprises the ferocious rhythm pals – the mighty John Marshall on drums » Continue Reading.
The Met, Bury
What is it with gigs and start times?. I scoured social media but the only message from Bury Met was ‘8pm’ which seems early but sure enough – the lights go down and it turns out China Crisis are going to be their own support so we get two sets. The first being a run through some deeper cuts, album tracks and some new stuff saving the big tunes for the 2nd half. It’s a pared down version of the band, Gary and Eddie are joined by an excellent Sax and Keyboard player with everything else sequenced, but as we’re reminded this is a more authentic recreation of their synthpop roots.
Gary Daly makes sure that nobody gets restless waiting for the hits by walking us through each song with probably the funniest and warmest between-song banter I’ve ever heard at a gig. He has the audience in stitches, describing the early days of the band from their humble beginnings in Kirkby Merseyside to their appearances on Top of the Pops and of course Pebble Mill at One. There are some priceless anecdotes – the one about Marc Almond and the Prawn » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
A Certain Ratio are an intriguing band. Theirs was the first proper single on Factory (FAC 4) – the spectral ‘All Night Party’ – recorded before they had a drummer yet still somehow danceable with all the rhythm coming from the guitars grooving away in zero gravity. Tony Wilson thought he’d signed the new Velvet Underground. ACR had other ideas, and the thin boys with their wall of scything guitars recruited a drummer..and not just any old drummer. Donald Johnson would have a massive impact on their sound, and perhaps the signature sound of ACR is the contrast between the more instinctive, experimental sound the band made with Donald bringing a solid, seriously funky backing. They would go on to morph and change their sound, and like a sort of Indie Punk Fleetwood Mac the core of the band (Jez Kerr, Martin Moscrop and DoJo) saw through a series of line-up changes and a revolving door of lead vocalists, toying with warped Jazz fusion, dub reggae, slick Soul-pop, Samba, strident electro-funk, sophisto-pop, House music, Acid Jazz and eventually settling on a hybrid of all those things. Suffice to say their back catalogue is a » Continue Reading.
I remember very much enjoying Amusement Parks on Fire’s majestic LP ‘Out of Angeles’ which was, wow, over 10 years ago. They kind of fell off my radar (apparently they moved to LA and there was a 3rd LP which passed me by entirely). I presumed they’d joined the ‘great lost bands of the 00s’ list, so was pleased to learn they were back on, and coming to Gullivers (the fine old Manchester pub, not the Theme Park I hasten to add).
I feel like hearing some new bands so I get there in time to see the supports they’ve brought along. First up is Sewage Farm. Sewage Farm?! They’re actually a decent, grungy power trio with some big, spirited, soaraway tunes and a rib-cage rattling bass sound. They’re from York, and they sound like they’re thoroughly gigged-in and ready to tear up your festival, illegal rave, squat-party, wherever their tour van takes them. Next up are Misty Coast, hailing from Bergen in Norway, and things get a bit more cerebral, but no less powerful. They’ve a majestic, swirly and psychedelic sound with some electronic backing and almost Cocteau Twins-like, heavily processed vocals, » Continue Reading.
Albert Hall, Manchester
The People’s Concert marks the 100th anniversary of an event of the same at this very venue back when it was a Wesleyan Church – it was nothing of any great significance – an old handbill given to the venue owners reveals a classical recital and a ‘humorous entertainer’ were on the bill back in 1917 but it’s good name for a shindig featuring several top bands for a very reasonable £20.
Girl Ray are on early doors but I only saw them a week ago and very good they were too (imagine The Raincoats produced by Nile Rogers) – so they lose out to pre-gig eats. I arrive in time to catch Boxed-In who I’ve see a few times. They’ve a very contemporary dance-pop sound but with that somewhat dour Hot Chip angle and are also named after a Francis Bacon painting yer see. They definitely win a few new fans as the venue gradually fills up.
Dutch Uncles are up next, they’re the main draw for me. I love their weird, skewed take on pop complete with odd time signatures, Xylophone solos, proggy keyboard workouts, Talking Heads/XTC style jerky » Continue Reading.