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.
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?”
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.
The ‘curse’ of the Mercury Prize is largely a myth based on Speech Debelle, Gomez and Badly Drawn Boy but nevertheless Young Fathers have made damn sure it doesn’t curse them by very quickly releasing a wonderful new record ‘White Men are Black Men Too’ which far surpasses their prize-winning debut.
On stage, they employ an additional member who starts the set alone by knocking seven bells out of a drum kit as the 3 Young Fathers file on stage. There are no other instruments other than a floor tom which gets a severe battering from Alloysious Massaquoi and a big analog synth rig which “G” Hastings occasionally turns to in order to ramp up the sonic mayhem. Young Fathers rely mainly on vocals and percussion, and they excel on both counts. It’s hard to find reference points, early TV On The Radio perhaps and certainly Massive Attack at their most brittle and urgent but otherwise they’re pretty much out on their own and boy do they know it.
Between songs there is little communication other than a perculiar habit of staring out into the audience, unsmiling…particularly ‘G’ who could challenge Terry » Continue Reading.
I like The XX and the fact that there is a band who basically sound like Young Marble Giants/Marine Girls who are absoutely huge and revered by ‘ver kids’ is a very good thing indeed. To add to that, Jamie out of The XX makes excellent tunes in his own right…and is soon to release an album and if this is anything to go by I can’t wait. This is just bloody lovely.
A Joy Division fan has paid 190k to buy Ian Curtis’ Macclesfield home, going as far as to pay compensation and legal fees to prevent someone else from buying it as a home. He plans to turn it into a tourist attraction. I’m not sure what I think about this – feels a bit ghoulish. I can understand people wanting to go Lennon’s old house where he and Paul would have hung out in the porch, strummed their guitars and dreamed of becoming the poppermost. This house has a much darker history. As much as I love Ian’s music I’m not sure I need to go and sit in “that” kitchen or see ‘The Idiot’ still spinning on the turntable – that feels like something very private and personal and the people who would have been most closely affected are still very much alive – I’d feel like I was intruding on Ian’s privacy and theirs somehow.
Always had a bit of a blindspot with this band, other than them being an Indie Disco staple when I was a student in the early 90s – however something about their new LP ‘I Wasn’t Born to Lose You’ grabs me in a way that their earlier stuff didn’t – sounds like the sort of record bands make 2-3 years into their career rather than 25 years in. Saw them live tonight and they were mega – fortunately they ‘did some new’.
Manchester Academy 3
It’s no good shouting “Do Some Old” at a Wire gig . In spite of their ‘heritage’ status Wire have always refused to be a nostalgia act. It would be easy, and far more lucrative, for them to do what their peers like New Order, The Cure, Buzzcocks and so forth do, and play sets that lean heavily on their glory days or play classic albums in full…but Wire have never liked looking back. Even back in the 1970s they would promote their latest album by showcasing the songs that would make up the next one.
They’ve got a new, eponymous, LP out and true to form they pretty much play every track from it. Fortunately, Wire have been at this long enough that most people know what to expect and nobody is shouting for 12XU or I Am The Fly. It helps that the new LP is marvellous. The record showcases, on the whole, the more dreamy, poppy side of Wire but live these songs get amped up to another level. The sound is very loud and powerful but also crystal clear so even if the material isn’t familiar it is delivered with » Continue Reading.
News of the reformation of Ride has somewhat overshadowed a rather lovely album ‘Universal Road’ released last month by Ride’s Mark Gardener & Cocteau Twins Robin Guthrie. Available on eMusic and all good record shops and I think worthy of your attention.
What does it sound like?:
This record had a difficult birth having begun life as a Beach Boys album which was derailed by the resuming spat with Mike Love. Following a somewhat derailed collaboration with a baffled Jeff Beck it then became a duets/collaborations album with ‘edgy’ names like Frank Ocean and Lana Del Rey guaranteed to earn Brian some Twitter attention. With both having walked off the project (apparently nobody in Team Wilson expected Frank Ocean would want to ‘rap’) this finally emerges as remnants of a Beach Boys album that never was and collaborations with artists which may be household names in the US but I have honestly never heard of – Kacey Musgraves? She & Him? Nate Ruess? Nope, me neither. In some ways I’m in the same boat as Brian as he regularly admits in interviews he has no interest in contemporary music (and recently claimed in The Guardian he had never heard of Kraftwerk or Punk Rock). I suspect these name artists were chosen and delivered to the studio by ‘his people’ – and that in a nutshell is the problem with this album.
I wonder just how much of this record is actually » Continue Reading.
I have an odd relationship with Simple Minds. They were one of the first bands I got into as a teenager along with U2 (they seemed to come as a pair) and my entry point was Sparkle In the Rain and the (somewhat maligned) Once Upon a Time. Then they went of on one of those epic gaps that hugely successful 80s acts liked to do and by the time they returned I was swept up in Madchester and electronic music and the ‘Street Fighting Years’ was the last thing I wanted to hear.
I can’t bear to listen to U2 nowadays, I can’t fathom what I saw in them but I’ve dug back into Simple Minds over the years and caught up with those startling early albums. Like them, I’ve struggled to reconcile the eye-liner years – that extraordinary run of art-rock albums – with the Stadium Rock bombast that became their stock in trade. However I’ve heard they are on good live form these days, and as on this tour they are playing smaller theatres rather than outdoor gigs or enormodomes, so this seemed the right time to finally see them » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Very recently I picked up on Leeds post-rock band called Hood who released a brace of fine albums in the 90s/early 00s. They’re now no longer active but I’ve gradually been picking up their CDs whenever I see them in second hand shops as they’re now “out of print”. As I’m such a latecomer I also hadn’t realised that one of the key personnel, Richard Adams, has been making beautiful albums as The Declining Winter for a few years now so now I’m really playing catch up.
This latest one has all the hallmarks of Hood so if you liked them you definitely need to get into this. A somewhat wistful melancholy but strangely uplifting atmosphere prevails. The basic MO is a repeating, beautiful guitar figure which builds up with sometimes almost jazzy/motorik drum patterns and additional looping patterns of bass and other instruments added, and hushed vocals riding on top.
What I particularly like is the fact that the music feels like it’s constructed much like dance music along a series of interlocking loops and pretty repeating figures except that it’s played live and the instuments are mostly made of wood » Continue Reading.
I often bemoan the somwhat predicatable line-up of “Later…” and lack of a decent, dedicated new music TV show (Festival footage doesn’t count). I was interested to see a pilot broadcast of a proposed new pop TV show appear on iPlayer. It has the somewhat unpromising title ‘All Shook Up’ but apart from that I thought it was alright actually. It’s as no-frills as you can get, with an obvious huge nod to Whistle Test..no set dressing, wires trailing everywhere, no fancy lighting or video effects and a suitably deadpan Marc Riley in the ‘Whispering’ role.
It’s nice actually just to watch some bands play in the Whistle Test style. Just 30 minutes with three pasty-faced new(ish) bands all of whom look somewhat undernourished under the cold studio glare. They all play a couple of songs each. No festival flag waving gurning tossers getting in the way, no over-excited presenters saying the word ‘amazing’ every 3 seconds, no unnecessary boogie-woogie vamping from Jools. I can’t believe a show like this would cost much to make, and I’d be quite happy with this – 3 new bands each week, point a camera at them, introduce the bands, roll credits. Job » Continue Reading.
Over 90,000 people have signed a petition to “Cancel Kanye West and get a rock band” to headline Glastonbury. It doesn’t specify which ‘rock band’ they want so can presumably any ‘rock band’ will do so maybe Saxon, The Frank & Walters, The Cranes, The Wonderstuff, China Crisis… anyone else got a good suggestion?