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.
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.