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.
The Apollo, Manchester
I know some of you have tickets and haven’t seen the show yet so look away now! *** SPOILER ALERT ***
This show celebrates 25 years of Vic & Bob’s TV career – and indeed it’s over 25 years since I last saw them live in 1990 at an all-standing gig at Manchester University which felt more like a rock gig than a comedy show. I was blown away by that show (as I was when I first saw the Big Night Out going out) – it was pure, silly, Dada nonsense and full of those breathless laughs that make you feel like you’ve been winded. So I had mixed feelings about tonight, and booked at the last minute. It was never going to be as amazing as that 1990 show was it?. Nevertheless, R&M’s TV work has been consistently funny over the years and while I was a bit disappointed they were going to be doing a bit of a nostalgia-fest – the shameless nostalgic twat in me couldn’t resist a chance to see Graham Lister and the Man with the Wobbly Hand again.
The stage show itself is pretty minimal, » Continue Reading.
Following on from the recent ‘Peak Vinyl’ Podcast I was alerted to this: http://marketwatch.redbullmusicacademy.com – it’s tongue in cheek and a birrova laugh but also based on actual sales data from Discogs.com – want to know if if’s time to go ‘long’ on Dubstep or sell…sell..sell.. on Happy Hardcore? Look no further.
Highly recommend this BBC4 documentary which is on the iPlayer for another couple of weeks, hurry hurry hurry. Our old pal Kate Mossman is at the helm, and it’s a brief but well put together history of women in rock bands or as rock musicians – (as opposed to female singer songwriters, girl groups, solo stars etc). Very entertaining and some great interviews with Carol Kaye (surely the most impressive CV in pop?) who is great value, very sweary and quite formidable – did Phil Spector ever pick on her?…only the once! We meet everyone from Elkie Brooks, to Pauline Murray, Viv Albertine, Girlschool, Lita Ford, Tina Weymouth Brix Smith, Kelley Deal, Savages, Miki out of Lush and the great Gillian Gilbert (who slips in that she wrote World In Motion -they kept that quiet!)
Just polished off a sizzling Balti, and feel some *hilarious* curry-based rock and pop punnage coming on…
Here Comes Your Naan
Papadum Don’t Preach
Don’t You Peshwari ’bout a Thing
I’m sure you can do better…
I have a bit of a soft spot for hearing good synth pop played very loud, and live. In recent years I’ve had the pleasure of seeing OMD, John Foxx, Heaven 17 and Depeche Mode do just that. I’ve never seen Sir Gareth of Numan even though he plays in Manchester on an annual basis. I’ll be honest I’ve always seen that as something a hermetically sealed world, Gary Numan will always sell out (as he does tonight) whether I show up or not. Nevertheless something nags at me that I ought to see him, and this show, doffing a cap to the 25th birthday of Mcr Academy which he has sold out countless times, seems him revisiting his imperial phase (Replicas, The Pleasure Principle and Telekon). So I enter the Church of Numan – it is a bit like that -the Numanoids are out in force, clad head to toe in black and all sporting Numan t-shirts of varying vintage – they all seem to know each other but nevertheless there is a friendly and welcoming atmosphere and I guess new converts are always welcome.
I’m delighted to discover that Liverpool band » Continue Reading.
I’m a huge fan of Rochdale’s unfathomably complex electro-splonkers Autechre. If you’ve ever ‘seen’ the duo live (you can’t actually see as they usually play in pitch darkness) you’ll know they generally perform sets of entirely unheard material, little of which finds its way onto record – hence bootlegs are much sought after by fans, especially good quality soundboard recordings – which are few and far between. Although they’ve generally turned a blind eye to bootlegs circulating they’ve stopped short of releasing any officially, citing that they are meant to be heard ‘in the moment’ through a colossal PA system. They’ve finally relented and officially released 4 live shows for download which are now filling up my hard drive. This is the techno equivalent of the Basement tapes or something, and an unexpected groovy treat.
Over the past couple of years I’ve warmed to the idea of ‘Prog’. I still show a clean pair of heels to The Tull, ELP, Camel and so forth, however I did recently see King Crimson with their three drummer onslaught and was suitably hooked, so I guess like the wonkier end of Prog, and I also like bands like This Heat and Henry Cow which I suppose are somewhere between Prog and Art Rock/Post punk. I never imagined 80s snooker ace would have a great influence on my listening habits but sure enough his list of Snooker Loopy tunes is quite fantastic. I’m already familiar with Robert Wyatt and Gentle Giant and am particularly taken with his relatively recent tips of albums by Trojan Horse and Skeletons both of which I’ve snapped up and I’m blown away by, and my ‘wants’ list includes the Camberwell Now back catalogue. Anyone care to recommend anything else in this vein? It strikes me that there are some amazing bands around that carry that somewhat toxic ‘Prog’ tag which means they get overlooked.
I can’t claim to be particularly excited by the prospect of a new Adele record, but I *am* interested to see how this pans out in terms of sales, and more importantly the format of those sales.
’21’ not only sold a mind boggling 30 million copies (meaning Adele is one of a very few artists who can afford NOT to tour)- it bucked the trend in terms of CD sales – and I think that was largely due to Adele reaching a mass audience who don’t normally buy or consume music on a regular basis. That’s an audience that probably wasn’t acquainted with buying mp3s on iTunes, never mind streaming services like Spotify and certainly wouldn’t be engaging with The Pirate Bay, Torrents and suchlike – so CD was the format, and the Supermarket was probably the point of sale although TaxDodgers, HMV and the remaining Record Shops that tried to do ‘mainstream’ did well out of it.
Spin on 4 years. Second hand record shops are springing up everywhere (few of which will sell Adele), HMV has bounced back (albeit full of Blu-Rays and Captain Beefheart Vinyl reissues) , supermarkets have all but abandoned CDs (apart from NOW » Continue Reading.
Another Mercury Prize shortlist is upon us. I’m sure we all agree it’s pointless and irrelevant but let’s discuss it anyway. No token Jazz or Folk this year but otherwise it’s the usual Jools/6Music/Guardian friendly fare. Nothing to scare the horses and no attempt to consider what anyone under the age of 35 is listening to (which I gather is almost anything from any era via YouTube as long as it’s ‘sick’, annoying EDM/underground dance/rave stuff that nobody over 35 ever needs to hear and a new wave of parochial indie bands who sound like The Housemartins/The Charlatans e.g Blossoms) As ever there is someone who really does not need any extra publicity – Florence. Jamie XX is there and while I loved ‘Loud Places’ the LP I find underwhelming. Aphex Twin seems an odd choice 23 years too late- and while I’m glad Aphex is active again Syro is a lazy, overhyped and uninspiring record (and the odd EPs and singles he’s put out around it are much better). C Duncan I like, I’m glad he’s nominated while also feeling that his curious, baroque masterpiece might crumble in the glare of the Mercury spotlight. I’ve not heard any of » Continue Reading.
I’m still getting to grips with the latest waxing by Beach House – ‘Depression Cherry’ (my current verdict – it’s a grower), only to discover they have just announced another new record out next week entitled ‘Thank Your Luck Stars’. Not a compilation or another label cashing in by re-releasing some oldies or a bootleg but another proper studio album to be released just 7 weeks after the last one.
I kind of admire the audacity of this , I’m wondering if this is indeed the shortest window between two album releases? – (let’s discount Springsteen, Guns N’ Roses and Mercury Rev releasing two records on the same day)
I enjoyed the latest installment, Part 1 I felt played it a little safe but this one covered some less well-trodden ground. Some great footage of JAMC, Cocteau Twins, KLF in their studio, bits about C86, fanzines etc. What I’d sort of forgotten was how badly the major labels seemed to want to find the next Smiths – I remember a slew of bands like the Mighty Lemon Drops, The Bodines, Weather Prophets the majors signed and then didn’t have a clue what to do with. Lord knows what Warners thought they’d got in JAMC. Of course, then Pete Waterman comes along, as does dance music and completely pulls the rug from under the majors by making commercial, chart bound sounds without their backing. What I think you’ll see in Part 3 is the major labels and mainstream media like Loaded magazine and Radio 1 finally catching up figuring out how to market ‘Indie’, to the point where it becomes mainstream pop culture and you’re left with the soulless, vapid sound of Razorlight and a mountain of CD singles by major label indie landfill bands that Jo Whiley played once on the Evening Session.
What does it sound like?:
Afterword has been granted a sneak preview of ‘Music Complete’ ahead of it’s release in all good record shops this Friday (25/9). So here are the not so young men and women – and oh look, they’ve brought along some showbiz pals… Nothing excites me less than the promise of ‘special guest appearances’ on albums (well OK maybe the promise of “Paul Weller’s new Krautrock direction” or yet another Jack White side project). They always smack of desperation – and perhaps a lack of confidence or indeed ideas. New Order have form in this respect, having the likes of Bobby Primal Scream and Ana Matronic out of Scissor Sisters delight us on previous records. It may give journalists something to write about it but is anyone seriously more likely to ‘check out’ New Order by the presence of Iggy Pop or matey from The Killers? I doubt it.
I was a massive New Order fan in the 80s, however two lackluster albums and the embarrassing and very public ongoing mud slinging between them and Hooky has taken the shine off somewhat. The mystique, magic and mystery they once had is long gone – (apparently » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Side project alert. This is the new album from Maximo Park frontman Paul Smith and his current collaborators, the Imitations. The press blurb says the album was four years in the making, worked on in between Smith’s numerous collaborations with other artists and his main band – but don’t let that put you off.
I’m not an expert on his ouvre (this record was submitted for review) but I’m a fan of that certain wistful, romantic brand of North East pop that he peddles along with Field Music, I was also grabbed by the fact that he’s managed to get the seldom heard Wendy Smith of Prefab Sprout along for a singalong on five of the albums 13 tracks.
‘Break Me Down’ has echoes of Pale Fountains/Shack, from that seaport the other side of the Pennines. ‘Reintroducing The Red Kite’ has a touch of Prefab Sprout about the chorus funnily enough and Wendy Smith’s vocals are showcased to best effect on I Should Never Know which has a bit more light and space in it, some nice melodic twists and sounds not unlike The Sundays at times. Elsewhere I’m reminded of the » Continue Reading.
I was very fond of Tony Wilson who turned his toes up 8 years ago this month. He inspired me in lots of ways – in particular the fact that he was, on the surface, quite an establishment figure, sharply dressed and on yer actual mainstream TV but was also very arty, very naughty and a bit subversive. Above all he was a fantastic communicator – able to relate to TV moguls, lofty intellectuals and senior politicians as easily as hugely ‘refreshed’ rock musicans and foamy mouthed rave monkeys. I rather like this new tribute in the form of a poem and video by Manchester poet Mike Garry. They shored up a good cast list too, although Crispy Ambulance and The Stockholm Monsters are somewhat under-represented.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cYNI8s_vo4Video can’t be loaded: Mike Garry & Joe Duddell – St Anthony: An Ode to Anthony H Wilson (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3cYNI8s_vo4)
Although it’s probably over 20 years since I’ve been a regular reader I couldn’t resist buying the final edition before it gets relaunched as a freesheet. I still have some affection for the thing and I wish them well with the revamp. However, one factoid on page 10 speaks volumes about the fact that the paper has probably been stuck in a bit of a rut since 1994, where it reveals who has graced the cover of NME the most in the past 63 years. Not Mozzer, not The Beatles, not even Bowie (who comes a close 2nd with 32 covers). It is in fact those wacky funsters from Burnage, the brothers Gallagher, who have ‘graced’ the cover a whopping 78 times. It suggets the NME never really shook off Britpop, and somewhere along the line lost the confidence in putting ‘New’ on the cover in favour of remaining well in the comfort zone. Perhaps without the pressure of having to sell the thing it can get back to what it used to do and stop being a paper version of Uncut/Mojo
The Soup Kitchen, Manchester
Micachu & The Shapes are an interesting proposition. They’re about to release their 3rd studio LP but Mica Levi herself also has a parallel career which includes some delightfully weird solo work and also a Bafta nominated film soundtrack. The forthcoming LP ‘ Good Sad Happy Bad’ is also getting some radio play – so I suspect a combination of these different interests has brought loads of people out on a rainy, humid Tuesday evening to hear the three-piece combo play some quite off-kilter art rock. On stage The Shapes are just Mica on guitar and vocals, keyboard player Raisa Khan playing oddly dischordant but instantly catchy riffs (occasionally with her fists) and tireless drummer Marc Pell who switches deftly between hypnotic Krautrock, Glitterbeat and Rockabilly and occasional tempo-shifts as the music dictates. They make an extraordindary noise for a 3 piece, and Mica can whip up quite a growl. It’s hard to describe what they sound like – at times I’m reminded of the tub-thumping Fall circa ‘Totally Wired’, Mica has knack for the breathless guitar riffs of early XTC or The Pop Group » Continue Reading.
The Eagle Inn, Salford
The world of Rock and indeed Pop moves fast these days. This time last week I had never heard of C Duncan. Following a few recommendations I picked up his debut ‘ Architect’ on Friday, and wrote a glowing review on these very pages having had a couple of listens. While listening to it on Saturday afternoon I checked the gig listings to see if he might be playing anywhere, saw that he was indeed in town this week and quickly booked tickets on my phone for this very small, intimate show (just in time as it was sold out come showtime) – I hadn’t realised he was also getting heavy rotation on BBC 6Music which always helps shift gig tickets – and by Wednesday here I am about to hear my favourite record of the week performed live in the back room of a pub in Salford. I wasn’t sure how Chris Duncan was going to recreate the lush harmonies and multi-layered arrangements in a live setting. In fact he’s gathered a little 4 piece beat combo of guitar, keyboards and drums and they do a superb job. Two of » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
C Duncan aka Christopher Duncan is a young, classically trained musician from Glasgow, but here he has turned his attention to Pop songwriting with spectacular results. As is the way these days, this was all done in his bedroom studio but he’s managed to make it sound like he’s got the Wrecking Crew in there to realise his Brian Wilson-scale ambition. This record is packed with soaring harmonies, gorgoeus melodies and some wonderful songwriting. It’s harmonies that are the stand out here, and it sounds like he’s building them up largely with his own voice multi-tracked to often startling affect – I’m reminded of The Free Design. This is one of those records that grows with repeated listens, songs so good that I found myself checking that they weren’t cover versions. On the final track, ‘I’ll be Gone by Winter’ he dials back some of the Brian Wilson whistles and bells and proves he can really sing as well.
What does it all *mean*?
In the days before affordable music technology there were probably lots of people like Chris Duncan around with grand songwriting ambitions, who would have ended up being in a no-hope » Continue Reading.
We’ve had a few posts about what to do with your old copies of Word, Q or The Mojo. I learn today via David Hepworth that a guy called James Hyman is turning his obsession, a vast accumulation of old pop culture, movie and arts magazines into a digitised and carefully catalogued, searchable archive. I’d always assumed that somewhere, all this was already in hand – that publishers would be busily scanning in their back pages in order to republish or mine them for research, or that The British Library would have this covered. Not so. When every banal utterence, every waking thought of every nano-celebrity is carefully filed away in Twitter’s data farms and every shaky iPhone pic is automatically uploaded to vast file servers and forgotten about I think we tend to assume someone has all our yesterdays backed up somewhere too. They don’t. DH’s article talks about some of the thorny issues around rights that have probably prevented this from being viable, but Hyman seems determined to scan it all in and more power to him I say.
Like many of you, I’m sure, I’ve signed up for my 3 month free trial of Apple Music and Mr Ian Tunes will be banking on me, and millions of others forgetting to cancel so he gets his £9.99 a month. So far, I have to say I’m a bit underwhelmed. The catalogue seems comparable to Spotify, and works well enough, sounds fine..once you’ve found it. The interface is confusing – took some time before I figured out where you go to stream music (Radio? For You? New?). However I was interested to see the additional whistles and bells that might give it the edge over Spotify, Deezer or just good old YouTube.
The ‘Connect’ feature seems like a complete white elephant. I presumed it would find bands I’ve already got in my library and give me access to the latest news and exclusives – but of the 1,300 artists it seems only Animal Collective, Underworld and..er..The Lancashire Hotpots wish to ‘connect’ with any content. For the time being this doesn’t look like it’s going to squash Facebook or Twitter as the way for bands to ‘reach’ you.
There is a recommendation engine which » Continue Reading.
Very soon the 30th anniversary of Live Aid will be upon us. We all remember where we were when Freddie, Dame David and Nik Kershaw rocked the airwaves, but who really stunk the place out that day?. There are several, under-rehearsed and over-refreshed contenders but I think this one has to surely be the low point. The Thompson Twins, with Madge on tambourine and Nile Rodgers doing something unspeakable to The Beatles Revolution “WE’RE ALL DOIN’ WHAT WE CAN…AIN’T THAT RIGHT?”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-436Qxw6NksVideo can’t be loaded: The Thompson Twins featuring Madonna & Nile Rodgers – Revolution (1985 – Live Aid) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-436Qxw6Nks)
ALL FM 96.9 is a fantastic community radio station serving Central, South and East Manchester and has been doing so for 15 years. Like most community radio stations it not only provides an incredibly diverse range of programming that reaches the parts even Aunty BBC can’t reach. It also provides fantastic training and skills for local people in all aspects of radio presentation and production. That can make a real difference to people’s lives – not only do they get valuable IT, social and creative skills it also helps build up self confidence and self esteem…nothing quite beats having to speak to Manchester when the red light goes on!. I’m posting this here because, myself included, there are at least 3 All FM DJs among the Afterword massive (it’s the station that brings you Charity Shop Classics) so it seems only right I give our 15th anniversary celerbations a plug. If anyone fancies donating a few quid toward keeping us on air then click here! http://allfm.org/fundraiser Also, if you have a Manchester based business or know someone who has and fancies some very reasonable radio advertising to reach 15,000 regular listeners then go here! http://allfm.org/advertising
Check » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
This is the first proper Orb record for some time, the last couple being headline grabbing but somewhat hit & miss collaborations with Lee Scratch Perry and David Gilmour. For the new one The Orb are back to the core of Dr Alex Paterson (who inspired my adopted PHD) and the great Thomas Fehlmann who has been part of loose Orb family right from the first LP and who also makes wonderful electronic music in his own right. Some of the more recent albums have seen them dabble in 4×4 dancefloor tracks and almost pop songs but on this record what is clear right from the start is that The Orb have gone back to doing what made them special in the first place, long extended tracks that take their time getting going – weightless and beatless spaces are allowed to breathe before the beats finally emerge. There aren’t many cheeky spoken word samples in there (an Orb trademark), probably due to the more litigious environment than the one that existed in 1991 but there are still a few little zingers in there (is that Rastamouse I hear?). Overall it’s a thoroughly enjoyable listen, » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Outfit are a Liverpool…er..outfit and Slowness is there…er..sophomore effort. Their debut ‘Peformance’ was delightfully catchy, 80s influenced electro pop with a hint of the darker edge of Depeche Mode. They’ve changed tack on this one for a much grander, much more fully formed piece and while there are some toe-tapping moments the title is apt. There are still echoes of 80s pop but it’s that wistful, sophisticated but somewhat rain-lashed brand of pop you’d hear from Scritti, Paddy Macaloon, even the Blue Nile. They do sound an awful lot like their contemporaries Dutch Uncles at times, with similar vocal stylings and twiddly chord changes but there’s little of the former’s Cardiacs-esque zaniness and they also bring the tempo right down and get sparse and dreamy. At times, such as the title track I’m reminded of XTC’s more piano-led moments like Chalkhills & Children or Rook (vocalist Andrew Hunt sounding not unlike Colin Moulding at times). There’s still the odd hint of Depeche, Cold Light Home for example sounds like one of Martin Gore’s more chilling moments. So, an impeccable set of influences and the result is a complex, lushly produced and rewarding listen that » Continue Reading.