It’s fair to say I was no fan of Britpop. Yes I accept it was a ‘thing’, it’s true you couldn’t go anywhere in Manchester without hearing Oasis blaring out of every shop/pub – I saw them live supporting The Boo Radleys(!) and they were very good but I soon tired of them (unlike The Boos who are due a reappraisal sometime). I’ve no great nostalgia for the mid 90s. It annoys the feck out of me every time I hear certain music hacks of the era going on about what a great time it was and how we were all coked off our noggins at the Good Mixer listening to Blur, Pulp, Oasis, Ocean Colour Scene, Sleeper, Mensw@ar and *nothing else* – I don’t know about you but I wasn’t listening to any of that stuff by choice. I got talking to a mate the other day about what we were listening to while studiously avoiding Powder or indeed anything Chris Evans was ‘bigging up’ and I’ve made a playlist of what I can remember circa 1994 to 1997 – so what were you listening to?
The Ritz, Manchester
I go back with these guys, and it’s fair to say they’ve played the long game. 12 years and 6 LPs in, they have never been short of good reviews and plaudits but it’s nice to see this is now also translating into radio airplay, record sales and bums on seats -thanks to the success of ‘Commontime’, their strongest LP to date. This is by far the biggest venue I’ve seen them play, and they make the best of the additional space on stage by adding a percussionist, string players and a horn section. The sound mix is excellent and the songs benefit from the additional instrumentation. FM are perfectly capable of rocking the house with a more minimal setup, but nevertheless it’s a joy to hear the songs in glorious Technicolor with gratuitous Sax and Violins.
The Brewis brothers keep the self-deprecating banter short in order to cram in a set largely drawn from the new LP but bringing in lots of choice cuts from their, already bulging, back catalogue such as Them that do Nothing, A House is not a Home, Measure, A New Town and debut single Shorter Shorter. » Continue Reading.
As promised, I’ve finished a job which I promised I’d finish before I exited as Admin of this site which was to create a sort of Afterword Guide so y’all could create an entry for bands, Artists and I guess film makers, authors, comic book series or whatever else floats yr boat. It’s called Afterwiki.
I’ve made a pilot episode -about my favourite band, Wire. Regardless of whether you like what I’ve written or whether you like the subject – Let me know what you think of the format – are the questions right? – could we ditch some, do we need to add some? Let me know, add yr comments here. Ta!
The lowdown on Wire
Wire were bracketed with Punk but in fact they had more in common with Roxy Music, Eno, Art Rock bands like This Heat and a psych-rock edge too. Signed to the Harvest Label, more than one commentator referred to them as ‘The Punk Floyd’.
Wire’s debut album Pink Flag is, on a surface level, the most recognisably ‘Punk’ sounding record of their career. It crams 21 tracks onto two sides of Vinyl and is something of a novelty in having several songs which last less than 1 minute – the shortest being ‘Field Day for the Sundays’ which in spite of it’s 28 second duration somehow feels fully formed. Their M.O. at the time was that when the ‘Text’ (as Wire like to call lyrics) finished, then so should the song -perhaps catching their audience mid-pogo.
Their first 3 albums on Harvest are essential listening. Chairs Missing veers from the absurdist Tiswas/dance-craze of ‘I Am The Fly’ to the pop perfection of ‘Outdoor Miner’. 154 is perhaps their early masterpiece – at one point a Cor Anglais appears and there are nods toward King Crimson, Gentle Giant and Van Der Graaf Generator – » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
It’s fair to say The Orb are going through a bit of late-period flourish at the moment. Following a series of low key releases, and curious but wobbly hook-ups with Dave Gilmour and Lee Scratch Perry, Last year’s ‘Moonbuilding 2073 AD’ saw The Orb return to doing what they do best – extended ambient deep-space exploration in their own sound world. This new release sees them pretty much dispense with beats -In fact this is the most ambient thing they’ve actually ever done. Beats and loping bass grooves do emerge from time to time, popping their head above the melange of samples, melodic loops and crackling Vinyl static but it never veers into full-blown dance tracks like on, say, U.F.Orb. Largely put together from loops and found sounds gathered on their recent tours, they’re also joined by Roger Eno on two tracks and long-time Orb collaborator Youth joins Dr.Alex and Thomas on a couple of numbers too.
What does it all *mean*?
This is a thoroughly delightful listen. Lots of people make music like this nowadays but nobody quite does it like T’Orb. If anything, my only complaint is I’d like it to be » Continue Reading.
..or the Psychfest as it’s known is now a well-established event in the Liverpool music calendar – and an entirely fitting event for a city that has always been curiously steeped in Psychedelia before that even existed as a concept – when the HJH’s made Strawberry Fields they were channeling something that was already in the water > the overgrown boulevards of the once affluent crumbling suburbs, epic Mersey sunsets, the early 60s bohemian art world from which Stu Sutcliffe emerged, the Leylines that converge on Matthew Street, my face among them….kissing the tortoise shell all bound for Mu Mu land….and you know the rest.
Anyway the festival lands this weekend at the Camp & Furnace in the (still quite weird) Baltic Triangle – with the likes of Super Furry Animals, The Horrors, Demdike Stare, Silver Apples, Ultimate Painting, Gwenno, Cavern of Anti Matter and tons more there to bend minds into the wee small hours.
Not sure if there are any tx left but If you are going, do come up and visit the pop-up record shop which is being operated by my pals at Dig Vinyl and I’ll be hovering around “helping” sell records and » Continue Reading.
I know there are a few bands and musicians on here who have put out their own stuff. I’ve got a Vinyl and CD release (which we’ve funded ourselves) sitting in a long queue at a pressing plant but I’m currently looking for a digital distributor to get the music onto Spotify, Apple Music as well as the digital download stores. I’m also looking at how to sort out publishing, and trying to get my head around the complex world of PPL/MCPS/PRS etc.
I’ve seen services like TuneCore and the (rather anachronistic sounding) CdBaby which not only do all that but claim to sort out radio royalties, clawing back the pennies from YouTube etc. I’ve also been looking at State51 who deal with some very high profile acts and labels but also offer their digital services to amateur musicians too, although they don’t do the publishing and royalty stuff. Would be very grateful for any advice and experience from the musicians and band members among the Massive.
If you haven’t already checked out the excellent Bigmouth Podcast you really should – especially if you're a former Word Magazine reader as it's helmed by the great Andrew Harrison and Matt Hall formerly of that parish and regularly features former Word scribes “kicking the tires of pop culture”. They now also have a WordPress website as well like what we do. P.S. I note the URL is 'BigMouthMag' – does that mean another online crossover to print is proposed? – or at least some sort of online media thingy? As noted in my previous post Louder Than War and Electronic Sound have translated nicely to thick paper stock and printing press. I’ve noted the odd comment on The Quietus suggesting changes are afoot too – what can that mean? Interesting times – I’m all for progress but I also feel we’re in a process of rebuilding things we perhaps unwittingly let the internet vaporise in the last 10 years – so now we have record shops reopening, new music magazines starting up, bands without record deals (who really should have record deals) crowdfunding albums – and at present time if you » Continue Reading.
If I was going to spend over 300 quid on a Vinyl Box Set (which I am not), I’d like it in a nicer box than this. This looks like one of those cheap CD compilations you find in a motorway services. Rotten photo, tacky typeface, no relevance to the design aesthetic of any of the album artwork and Mick looks like he’s had an allergic reaction to something. I know Stones reissues have a bit of a chequered history so I hope for anyone who is shelling out for this, or the CD edition, that the remastering, pressing, sleeve reproduction are much much better realised than the big box they come in. It will all kick off on SuperDeluxeEdition.com if it’s not – and they’ve been instrumental in getting all sorts of mastering errors and cock-ups corrected in the past – albeit hassling some poor intern at UMG over some oversight to do with Thompson Twins or Nik Kershaw reissues so not sure if they’ll cut any ice with ABKCO (always amazed they still exist as an organisation – do they have a big picture of the Ron Decline on the wall I wonder?)
Pugwash are ace. I first saw them at one of the first Word in Your Ear gigs, which was the first time I met the lovely Hannah and a few of you here as well as Mark Ellen and David Hepworth and also Dave Gregory from XTC who played a couple of numbers with them. I had a good chat with Thomas Walsh after the gig who was just a fecking legend and gave me most of the back catalogue to take home and I’ve been a firm fan ever since. Their most recent LP ‘Play This Intimately (As if Among Friends)’ is a thing of perfectly crafted wonderment and they’re currently on tour. They may well be coming to your town – so if you’re near Hebden Bridge, Leicester, Frome, Dundee, Hayfield go see ’em. P.S. They’re also playing Glasgow and somewhere called Islington. Some US dates too. Do not miss.
The Word Magazine (from whence we came) is an increasingly distant memory, Mojo and Uncut are chasing each other around the ever-decreasing circles of ‘canonical Rock’, the NME is reduced to a glorified advertorial freesheet for clothing brands, and yet even in the racks of my smalltown WHSmith there appear to be…loads of music magazines. Q and Mojo now fight for space with Shindig, Vive Le Rock, Classic Pop, Classic Rock, Prog, Clash, as well as diehards like Kerrang!, the revitalised Record Collector and The Wire.
I bought two newish titles recently and they’re rather good, and interestingly both are paper versions of already well established online incarnations. John Robb’s ‘Louder Than War’ is quite charming and colourful, a throwback to Select Magazine or Vox – some of the writing is a bit wobbly (the Brian Jonestown interview is incomprehensible) and past issues have seemed a bit too in thrall to meat n’ potatoes Indie, but when did you last see Dinosaur Jr on the front of a music magazine? Best of the bunch is Electronic Sound, it is a thing of beauty – boldly putting Bob Moog on the cover and a list of acts that » Continue Reading.
The Ruby Lounge, Manchester
The Railway Children had a career trajectory very similar to loads of mid 80s Indie bands – like The Weather Prophets, The Mighty Lemon Drops, The Bodines et al they were signed to a hip Indie label for their first releases – in the Railway Children’s case – Factory. They were swiftly acquired by a major label (Virgin), desperate to find the next Smiths , but who didn’t have a clue what to do with them – although Railway Children did actually manage to score a Top 30 hit in the shape of the (actually rather lovely) Every Beat of the Heart. They weren’t quite ‘baggy’ enough for the Madchester scene and fell apart before Britpop and Indie guitar bands went supernova and it’s fair to say, they faded into obscurity. I loved their debut single ‘Brighter’ and the Factory album ‘Reunion Wilderness’ and have a soft spot for those later singles too – and clearly the crowd around me do too, eagerly awaiting their first Manchester gig since 1992. The opener is their Factory single ‘Brighter’ and everything is perfect – Gary Newby is in fine voice and considering it’s so » Continue Reading.
Not that long ago I could still get a bit misty eyed about the dear old NME. I’m still subscribed to their email list and this evening the latest headlines dropped into my inbox.
– Selena Gomez (nope…me neither) overtakes Justin Bieber for most-liked Instagram photo ever
– Man Quits his job to go on a two-month Pokemon Go hunt
– Taylor Swift makes surprise visit to children’s hospital in Australia
In other words, the same vapid, clickbait that is plastered over every tabloid newspaper site, every inane showbiz Twitter feed and every other godforsaken ad-funded corner of the interweb. So what’s the point of the NME existing if it’s just going to indiscriminately peddle the same airhead fodder as everyone else? It still exists as a paper thing, it’s free and is left in massive piles in your local HMV or Fopp – inside you’ll find adverts for Trainers disguised as “interviews” with Catshit & the Bottlemen or Bastille or whatever faux-Indie band is currently in vogue and gig/album reviews shorter than the photo captions they used to print.
It’s a far cry from 10,000 word essays on The Joshua Tree, Thrills ‘Believe it » Continue Reading.
Blimey this is good. If you don’t have Spotify seek out The Dowling Poole via other channels (I got the CD from HMV today so no excuses!) . They have a new record out called One Hyde Park – I’m a big Cardiacs fan so I was grabbed by the fact that the ‘Poole’ in this oufit is Jon Poole a former Cardiac – and this is wonderfully crafted, clever and imaginative guitar pop with crazy chord changes and psychedelic, soaring moments that Cardiacs fans will immediately feel at home with. Also if you like late period XTC there’s a huge dollop of Andy Patridge/Colin Moulding style wonderment in there too – only cranked up to 11. Going to see them live on Sunday – they’re also playing Huddersfield tonight and Glasgow on Saturday.
I’m very much enjoying the re-issued ‘Sulk’ by The Associates now sonically buffed up and presented on double CD with a bunch of excellent extra tracks, B-sides and demo versions. I know the singles but had never got around to getting that particular album – it is the very definition of a flawed masterpiece – the production is bizarre, busy and cluttered, there is some spectacularly bad drumming on it and even remastered it still sounds strangely murky and just sort of..wrong…and yet it also features a couple of chart hits (Party Fears Two and Country Club) and maybe the best way to hear these songs is on AM Radio half way up a ladder. It’s the sort of record that would give Steven Wilson a cold sweat, and yet it’s glorious. Makes me wonder if we worry too much about production techniques and rules about how things ‘should’ sound and should just enjoy the oddness and idiosyncrasies of records like this.
The Ritz, Manchester
The odds are stacked against this gig a bit. It’s fair to say Animal Collective’s most recent waxing ‘Painting with..’ has had mixed reviews – indeed it’s received an enormous shoeing from some quarters.
Like Artie Fufkin ‘I go back with these guys’. I caught on around the time of their 2005 album ‘Feels’ which I saw them ‘promote’ by playing an astonishing live set consisting mostly of tracks that would eventually make up the follow up ‘Strawberry Jam’ and other tracks that I’ve never heard them play since. I later saw them one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen (in the ballroom of the old Co-Op building in Manchester of all places), again playing largely unheard material which would become their breakthrough album ‘Merriweather Post Pavilion’. The success of that record, and heavy radio rotation for ‘FloriDada’ means that while AC are fair game for a kicking from the music press, they can also sell out the 1,500 capacity Ritz -in spite of the fact that they are ultimately the same idiosyncratic and downright bloody weird band I saw 10 years ago.
Support band GFOTY are the sort of » Continue Reading.
This is my third Teleman gig – I’m not actually familiar with Pete & The Pirates the band they formed from the ashes of – I get the impression by now they have eclipsed their former incarnation. This is by far their most assured performance of the three I’ve seen – not least because it would appear they have a very fine new album to promote ‘Brilliant Sanity’. The rather awkwardly named Nzca/Lines provide a decent support set of summery electro-disco that reminds of what New Order used to sound like before they concentrated on slagging each other off in music magazines. Teleman are wonderful tonight. A mate of mine has always raved about what a great singer Thomas is and tonight (helped by the excellent sound mix) I get it – it’s a great pop voice – sweet, deadpan but very musical with maybe a touch of Ray Davies grit in there – and the band are great – they can get a big Krautrock/Franz style groove going but also hold back and let the melodies shine when required. I’m also struck by the quality of songwriting – which is cut above what » Continue Reading.
I’ve been watching the 1981 run of Top of the Pops with particular interest as this was the era I started being a bit more aware of music and I remember where I was sitting down to watch it. There was some astonishing music in 1981 – The Specials, Madness etc (even Bad Manners appearances are always entertaining and ridiculous), Dexys, AntMusic, Britfunk bands like Beggar & Co and the now obviously tongue-in-cheek Imagination, yer New Romantics, early Human League and Depeche Mode (Depesh-ay Mode as Simon Bates and Peeder Powell like to call them), and NWOBHM is in full swing so bands like Motorhead and Saxon are charting. On the whole a vibrant and very varied scene – with the still extraordinary ‘Ghost Town’ at No.1 – however I think I’ve identified a strain of music in there which is the most useless ever.
Initially I was going to say that terrible retro 50s pastiche thing peddled by Shaky, Coast to Coast, Matchbox et al. Having seen a recent episode I’m saying the worst genre of music ever is officially the Handclap Medley – and on the TOTP I watched tonight we got ‘treated’ to three of the fecking » Continue Reading.
Wire have a new mini-LP coming soon with the intriguing title: Nocturnal Koreans. Here is a taster track and very good it is too. Wire are getting close to their 40th anniversary, they have largely avoided becoming a punk nostalgia act which would have been lucrative for them – instead they make music they like, put it out and play it live (and indeed if you see them live most of the set will be new or relatively new stuff) –
Albert Hall, Manchester
My entry point to Savages was the excellent Flying to Berlin/Husbands single. I was a bit underwhelmed by the debut LP but they are an unmissable live act (even if my previous gig was a bit marred by technical issues and a bit of aggro caused by some prick stealing some stuff from the Merch stand). The new LP ‘Adore Life’ I think is splendid and captures their live ferocity while adding some much needed space/light & shade missing from the debut so I was looking forward to this one.
Support comes from Japan’s Bo Ningen -who I think I’ve seen before but they have stepped up a gear and they are excellent, a sort of poppier version of The Boredoms – guitars are hurled around, shapes are thrown, amps are climbed upon and a joyous noise is made- they go down a storm.
As soon as Savages take to the stage I’m struck by how the band seem more at home in this larger venue – although the music is quite punky and thrashy at heart (anchored down by superb rhythm section of Ayse Hassan and Fay Milton) there is » Continue Reading.
Not sure if there any other Stereolab fans on here, but even if you’re not a fan or not familiar with them you might like this, especially if you like the Ghost Box/Hauntology stuff, Krautrock, early Cabaret Voltaire and obscure 70s electronic music. Stereolab are still on ‘indefinite hiatus’ however Tim Gane has a new groop – Caverns of Anti-Matter along with longtime ‘lab drummer Joe Dilworth and synthesist Holger Zapf – and they’ve just released ‘Void Beats/Invocation Trex’ and rather marvellous it is too. Full of bubbling analogue synths, creaky old beatboxes and lots of catchy little melodies and groovy wonderfulness. Here’s a taster.
I’ve avoided this band up to now, not least because of the bloody silly name. However I was rather taken with their recent LP Paper Mâché Dream which reminded me of another daftly named band Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci at their lysergic best. That record suggested there was more to the band than the somewhat formulaic ‘Psych’ the name suggests, and indeed there is. In fact they play very little from that (more acoustic) record, opting instead to play a lot of new stuff and speedier early stuff that keeps the rather excitable crowd happy. The first few tunes are fantastic, stop-start mix of punk energy and almost Proggy timeshifts and brassy crescendos which reminds me of nothing less than The Cardiacs. A flute emerges at one point and I’m treated to the spectacle of people stage diving to something that sounds to my ears like something by Magma. It’s all rather delightful. This is far from your generic heads-down Psych rock riffage. There’s a real diversity to what they do which keeps you guessing – occasionally settling down into breezy Soft Rock, diverting into epic Krautrock wig-outs, before hurtling into a Black Sabbath-esque freak » Continue Reading.
I do love a BBC4 music documentary. My favourites include the Bonzos one, the Dennis Wilson one, The Fall one, the Factory Records one, Synth Britannia, Prog Britannia – so many more…However, they do sometimes get things wrong – that picture is David Hepworth telling Danny Baker about the first LP he bought – to be fair maybe whoever was in charge of subtitles wasn’t up to speed on the Fabs discography – but you get the point. They also hammer home some tired old clichés and bits of received wisdom that are in danger of becoming the truth. Here are my favourites and I’m sure the Massive can suggest some more… 1. In 1976 the music scene was dominated by ELP and Rick Wakeman and lots of other really boring music. There was nothing to listen to..until the Sex Pistols swore on the Bill Grundy show (which everyone watched – and brought the country to a standstill) and then everything changed overnight 2. In the 80s everybody was either unemployed and living in a squat, on strike or had a massive mobile phone and made Loadsamoney in the stock exchange. 3. When Acid House started in » Continue Reading.
Just stumbled across this which I’ve certainly never heard of, or seen before – The Beach Boys, with Brian Wilson on good (albeit Dr Landy assisted) form and Ray Charles taking an already magnificent song, Sail on Sailor, to another level – great vocal and love the cheeky little jazzy twist he puts on the piano part. How good is this?
Following the review of the ‘Still in a Dream’ box set by Douglas a discussion of the much misunderstood/maligned ‘Shoegazing’ ensued – general gist being that much like Krautrock it’s a somewhat derogatory music press meme that has become adopted as an actual musical genre. Over time it’s become ‘a thing’ and indeed one of my favourite things. It’s easy to knock this ‘Sonic Cathedral’ lark but what I love about this stuff is the massively inventive use of the guitar (and other machines), the idea of adding loads of space and ambience to what is essentially pop music, the cheeky melodic twists and the big builds/releases that owe a lot to dance music. A whole bunch of bands has emerged, particularly in the last 10 years for whom My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive are what the Velvets or the Stooges were to a previous generation. The box set stops in 1995 so I did say I’d post a Spotify playlist that covers some of what came next (and indeed is still coming as the most recent track came out last Friday). So here it is. Fill your..er…shoes.