I love this band and although they have a firm fanbase I think they’re hugely underrated. They’ve been kicking around for 10 years, countless bands have come and gone in that time frame and having made two albums of joyously wonderful music they’ve been quiet since 2011 (apart from the brilliant cheeky Ghost Box side project The Pattern Forms). They merge wistful, immaculate pop songwriting firmly in the territory of Scritti Politti, Blue Nile and Prefab Sprout but with a massive dose of Rave and House music beats. They sound like someone created a band I would like in a lab so they can do no wrong in my eyes- but if you’ve written ’em off as Indie Landfill or whatever have a listen – they have a new album on the way – I’m predicting it will be a bit of a banger.
Just watching bits of Glastonbury footage and reading recommendations and reviews on the thread I’m left feeling really optimistic about the future of mainstream music. Lots of appreciation for the old guard – veterans like The Chemical Brothers and The Cure, the Poptastic likes of Kylie and Mylie and overwhelmingly positive reviews of the likes of Stormzy, Janelle, Christine and plenty of other weirder stuff like The Comet is Coming. Not that long ago the music industry were fretting over who would take the place of established (mostly white, indie or classic rock guitar bands) and fill stadiums in the future- I really don’t think they need to worry about that now since we have clearly have tons of artists playing Grime, Pop, R&B, Jazz, Indie, rock, folk etc who can clearly mak show and get kids jumping and singing every word. Personally I’ll carry own ploughing my own music furrow – but watching Glastonbury suggests the future is in good hands, the appetite for live music is huge and it’s diversified massively and I applaud Emily Eavis & co for trying to capture that in a weekend.
There is a Wire documentary in the works ‘People in a Film’. The promo clip looks promising and suggests the aim is to capture the delightfully unholy and absurdist collaboration of Post Punk, Fine Art, Agriculture and brutal noisemaking that is Wire. The filmmakers (Malcolm Doyle and Graham Duff) have the full cooperation of the band past and present including the mercurial former member Bruce Gilbert. Of course even BBC4 ain’t going to pay for this one so Wire fans will need to get their hands in their pockets and fork out for them to get the footage rights and get the thing finished. You know the drill by now – usual deal, you’re basically paying upfront for the DVD/Blu-Ray or if you’re really flushed you can make like George Harrison and pay the most expensive cinema ticket ever in return for your name on the credits and god knows what else. Anyway, this film must be made so lob some cash this way.
Complete Works: So who do you feel compelled to own absolutely everything by, even the mediocre stuff?
Imperial Phase: Who are you happy to to have the generally accepted classics or canon of, maybe the odd leftfield choice by but never felt the need to go beyond that?
The Best Of: Happy with one compilation and/or that one classic album.
Soup Kitchen, Manchester
This Swedish trio have been treading the boards for a while. Their new one ‘Are You A Dreamer’ is a cracker. Their influences are writ large – and admittedly somewhat well worn – 60s Soundtracks, psych, library music. The most obvious comparison is Stereolab in their more playful mode, or Broadcast before they went down the occult wormhole. However, they do it so very well and on this new record they really put their own stamp on it and have a melodic warmth and openness to their sound which is very appealing. On stage they have no rhythm section, relying on the beat and bass looping on a sampler which is somewhat of a hindrance but I guess born out of financial necessity for a touring band playing tiny venues. I find myself moving closer to the stage – everything else is played live so lovely twangy/vibrato guitar, the vocalist has a couple of synths and another keyboard player has a Moog connected to some analog FX and a Mellotron (well a digital version of same which does a very good impersonation of that classic Flute sound etc) with echoey vocals floating on » Continue Reading.
The Manchester branch had lain dormant since the HMV takeover in February. However the signage was left intact, and still seemed to have stock, fixtures and fittings inside so I did wonder whether negotiations were happening. Sure enough the store twitter feed suddenly sprang back to life a few days ago and Fopp has indeed reopened. It’s a lovely shop on two floors (previously occupied by Piccadilly Records) and had been my go-to place for a lunchtime browse for many years and so I’m mighty pleased it’s back and looking forward to handing my pocket money over the counter.
This is their first single for Rough Trade (they had some more low key releases and freebie singles which change hands for silly money already). I’m sure the last thing they need is a middle aged music bore playing ‘spot the reference’ but I’ll do it anyway – I hear a bit of Pere Ubu, This Heat, Josef K, Wire with maybe a bit of Cardiacs and those US rock bands from the 90s that got tagged as ‘Math Rock’. They’re young so maybe they haven’t heard any of that stuff but arrived at their own thing through other routes. Ultimately it’s a perfect balance of instantly catchy and really odd and I like it. Oh, and you should hear the B-Side….woh.
I’m talking about the great Tim Friese-Green of course. He was essentially the 4th member of Talk Talk and co-produced and co-wrote their classic albums Colour of Spring, Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock. However, he was also the producer of Tight Fit’s rendition of the Lion Sleeps Tonight. So, can anyone top that as a move from the none-more Pontins, absolute end of the ‘Top of The Pops’ pier to the lofty heights of utterly sublime, immaculate and revered Art Rock?
What does it sound like?:
These New Puritans don’t really sound like anyone else around right now (don’t be fooled by the band name – they sound nowt like The Fall) – which is something of a rarity these days. This is their 4th one – and the follow up to the hugely acclaimed ‘Field of Reeds’, an extraordinary record which I played to death. There’s some trepidation when a band follows up a record you love, especially after a 6 year gap. Initial signs are promising – the artwork is lavish and quite preposterous depicting the band (essentially now the two brothers George and Jack Barnett) pulling a showroom dummy pose, the Vinyl is coloured to resemble the rusting hulk of a ship or maybe a stained copper pub table – and the inner sleeve depicts a tastefully nude figure with the words TRANSCENDENCE – BRUTALITY – BEAUTY – REALITY superimposed over her. Yeah OK that may put some of you off, but they’re deadly serious so let’s dive in, they’ve nailed their colours to the mast here – this ain’t Mumford & Sons. First off this isn’t as immediate a record as Field of Reeds which has » Continue Reading.
The Soup Kitchen, Manchester
Last time I saw Miki Berenyi fronting a band on stage it was in a draughty, half empty Manchester Academy, mopping up a rescheduled final gig for the short lived Lush reunion which appeared to have ended rather abruptly. Lush, hats off to them, honoured the booking and Mick Conroy of Modern English was drafted in as a last minute replacement for Phil King but…it had the vibe of a party where someone has started mopping up spilled drinks waiting for people to go home. The Merch stand were having a Fire Sale…you can guess the rest.
Happily – it seems working with Mick lit a new spark and 3 of this final line-up of Lush (Berenyi, Conroy and former Elastica Drummer Justin Welch) have re-emerged with a whole new band and they’re joined by former Moose guitarist KJ “Moose” McKillop. I’ll refrain from calling them a 90s Indie Supergroup because that would be terribly crass, not least because they’ve made some effort not to sound like their former bands and this is a fresh start.
The venue is yer typical indie grotspot the members of Piroshka will feel very » Continue Reading.
Crackerjack (CRACKERJACK!) always used to shoehorn a musical number into their finale, and I’m sure everyone knows the Peter Glaze/Jan Hunt take on Bowie’s Golden Years – I remember that pre-YouTube going around on a Quicktime video for “LOLs”. This take on XTC’s ‘Making Plans for Nigel’ has been around a while but it’s a new one on me…I particularly like ‘Burt Hayes & His Orchestra’ on this – Friday 5 to 5 so they’d be several pints in and the Bass Player is having a good stab at the Dubby bassline
If you’ve been following the Top of the Pops re-runs on BBC4 you’ll be reminded that that for 3 or 4 years after Band Aid, any humanitarian disaster or tragic event was often followed by a Charity record involving some quite curious meetings of Pop and showbiz minds. Not for one minute am I knocking the good intentions, nor downplaying the scale of some of these tragic events but it can’t be denied this led to some very unlikely musical collaborations. The Bradford City stadium fire saw Bernie Winters, Rolf Harris, Bruce Forsyth and Cheggers sing on the same record as Lemmy, Phil Lynott, John Entwistle and Peter Cook. Until tonight I had completely forgotten this one from 1987 – a cover of Let it Be with Sir Paul at the helm for the Zeebrugge Ferry disaster. Follow the video -and then keep yer eyes peeled for a genuinely jaw dropping cameo by a total A-List reclusive Pop legend – which is then followed by a completely improbable finale with Su Pollard, Grange Hill cast members and…ah just watch the video..
The Telescopes were lazily lumped in with the 90s Shoegaze scene but while My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Slowdive have all been revived and newly appreciated these have been somewhat forgotten. Their 1989 debut is one of the great, unsung albums of all time. It’s not really Shoegaze other than it shares the same billowing sheets of guitar noise, it rocks harder than Nirvana, is way more messed up than Spacemen 3, and would go on to inspire Brian Jonestown Massacre and countless neo-Psych rock bands like Thee Oh Sees – but ‘Taste’ leaves them all in the dust. It’s a stunning, visceral slab of joyously scuzzy noise. Telescopes are still a going concern, with Stephen Lawrie the only original member and are as uncompromising as ever – but there are rumblings of something to celebrate it’s 30th anniversary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqvG99sfDZg
..says every Smiths fan ever. They hadn’t heard this then. This single was released in Nov 1982, around the same time the tedious ex-pat nationalist from Stretford formerly known as Mozzer, and his jangly/jazz funk pals played their first gig supporting Blue Rondo A La Turk – several months before ‘Hand in Glove’ was recorded. Not sure whether Marr was aware of these or the similarity is just pure chance. Sad Lovers and Giants are still active with a new album out and an excellent career spanning box set on Cherry Red – well worth a punt if you like that kind of anthemic indie rock in the vein of Chameleons, Bunnymen, The Sound, Comsat Angels, early Simple Minds – y’know, the *really* big music.
The Garage, Highbury
I’m a relative latecomer to the mighty Cardiacs – in fact it was through this very site that I was lead to reconsider the band I only previously knew from the knockabout video for ‘Tarred and Feathered’ and gradually became obsessed with their unruly, unhinged and hugely entertaining take on Art Rock – basically a supercharged, absurdist hybrid of XTC, King Crimson and Madness. Alas this was too late to see them live because, as is well documented, front man Tim Smith suffered a stroke & heart attack in 2008 which left his mind entirely intact but physically severely debilitated and unable to speak or walk due to a rare and complex condition. However, interest in the band continues to grow, and indeed there’s been a successful crowd funding campaign this year to raise money for Tim’s rehabilitation. Meanwhile. it’s becoming a bit of annual thing for some of the bands that sprung up around Cardiacs orbit to have a festive shindig in celebration of the music. It’s a bit close to Xmas to be heading down to the big smoke but I can’t miss this one. It’s a an early start (first » Continue Reading.
Gross generalisation alert but from what I can gather Student club nights now all seem to have a sneery/ironic twist and seem to revolve around novelty. Music is just a sort of cheesy soundtrack to the Radio1 Roadshow style FUN FUN FUN. The big nights right now are a thing called ‘Ultimate Power’ which seems to be playing horrible 80s Power Ballads and 70s Soft Rock, and ‘Bongos Bingo’ where they play ‘ironic’ Bingo, dance to Vengaboys and all sorts of Millenial larks occur. Peel would be appalled but Wooh Gary Davis and DLT would feel right at home. Nothing new – remember ‘Guilty Pleasures’ and ‘School Disco’. It made me think back to my student days in Liverpool. Freak Scene was the best night. Here’s the playlist – it was early 1990s so kind of a collision of Grunge, Indie/Dance, Crusty Rave, Hip Hop and Industrial beats, very loud and stompy. Of it’s time, but at least it wasn’t cheesy, arch nostalgia. Anyone else got a playlist of their student disco or early dancing days to share?
I know some people hate the sound of a Sax but I love it -but particularly when it’s just part of the palette of colours a band paint with rather than a wailing solo bolted on. So many examples, the Bass Sax on Pet Sounds, the Sax and Guitar duking it out on ’21st Century Schizoid man’. the UB40 brass section at their best – here’s Morphine who used the instrument in place of a guitar. Show us yours!
About this time of year I like to check the marvelous its-behind-you.com and see who is putting bums on seats in the provinces for the Panto season this year. I have fond memories of seeing Les Dawson at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, going completely off script throughout, and the great John Inman as Mother Goose in Stockport had me in stitches. I’m kind of amazed it’s still going -so it’s kind of nice that in a world full of competing ‘experiences’ for kids who are probably taken to gigs or Glastonbury with their parents pre-teen (unheard of in my yoof) , or can see their favourite TV & film stuff recreated as high concept live events there’s still a place for this extremely broad, camp, end-of-the-pier showbiz silliness even if the thrill of ‘someone off the telly’ being there in person surely can’t have the same pulling power. It also provides gainful employment for TV and light entertainment staples of the 70s and 80s -so – The Grumbleweeds, The Krankies, Little Jimmy Osmond, Bernie Clifton, Ian Beale, Paul ‘Reggae Like it Used to Be’ Nicholas, Todd ‘Tucker’ Carty, Jeffrey ‘Do your funny Policeman Spike’ Holland – and many many » Continue Reading.
I’ve posted previously about the Leeds band Hookworms. Their recent LP ‘Microshift’ went Top 20 and won loads of plaudits (not least on this site) and this month they were about to play the biggest gigs of their career. I had tickets to see them at the 1,500 capacity Ritz in Manchester. That was until last Wednesday when a former girlfriend of their frontman MJ, accused him of sexual assault and abuse. Absolutely right that someone should be able to speak out about abuse, and I don’t want to reignite “that” debate. Unfortunately this was taken straight to Social media rather than via the Police (which is a whole can of worms I don’t want to open either). The weird thing is, what I’d always assumed were a tight knit band very quickly issued a statement to distance themselves from him and announced the cancellation of all gigs and the end of the band – so they’ve pretty much sealed his fate anyway.
If m’learned friends are reading AFAIK he’s not been charged with anything at this time but if he’s proved to be a wrong’un – MJ joins a long list of rock musicians who weren’t exactly model » Continue Reading.
Is there nothing immune from being ‘re-imagined with Strings’? It’s not a new idea but we’ve had the Elvis and Beach Boys things, we’ve had Ibiza and Hacienda Classical, and now Hooky is doing Joy Division with strings which is a disgusting idea (I’d forgive him if he called it Hooky’d On Classics). There are two Classic 80s albums in the offing, OMD, The Bunnymen, even Flock of Seagulls have done it. The record labels are going all out on the Alan Partridge maxim “People like them..let’s make some more of them”. What next? All good news for classical musicians (although suspect some might prefer to play actual classical and contemporary music). So WHY do people crave this syrupy, easy listening gloss over everything all of a sudden? When I hear old music I really appreciate the original choice of instrumentation, the magic that happened in the studio, the textures – be it a sparse Chicago House tune, an overly bombastic 80s production, some early 60s Joe Meek thing or some 70s Glam filth. The past is endlessly fascinating so why not enjoy that time travel – none of it needs the LSO sawing away on top.
What does it sound like?:
Here comes the next and final batch of Felt reissues – five more from them if you will. I’ve actually not heard the last 4 albums so here goes.
If you’ve heard the band, you know the drill by now. Drums buried low in the mix, simple twinkling guitar riffs, Martin Duffy’s deft organ work and Lawrence’s half-spoken, wayward vocal. There’s vague hints of Modern Lovers, The Velvets and perhaps a loose stab at being a sort of Brummie Bedsit Dylan and the Band; but really the sound and style is so idiosyncratic it can only be Lawrence and Felt (bar one exception).
‘Forever Breathes the Lonely Word’ from 1986, features ace Organist Martin Duffy (later of Primal Scream) as it’s cover star and it’s his playing that is the keynote of later Felt stuff – ace guitarist Maurice Deebank having departed. It’s a bit a cracker this one, full of sparkly pop hooks and might be a good entry point for the newcomer. Think a soft-focus Teenage Fanclub.
There’s no huge stylistic shift on ‘Poem of the River’ but this sounds more stripped back and lo-fi. It starts with the » Continue Reading.
This came up on this weeks Bigmouth Podcast (former Word writer Andrew Harrison’s current ‘vehicle’ – like and subscribe if you haven’t already). I vaguely recall this record coming out at the time and some excitable reviews in the press but I ignored it – to be fair in 1991 the last thing I wanted to hear was a collaboration between a BMX Champion/Model and a former member of Brother Beyond (I wanted to hear Primal Scream, The Orb and Spacemen 3). It tanked at the time and this record is long out of print and has never been re-released, it’s not on Spotify or iTunes. It is that most unusual thing of our time – a genuinely lost record. Someone has uploaded bits of it to YouTube and flipping heck it’s really good – immaculate, elegant Blue Nile/Prefab Sprout/Japan style 80s pop with a dash of Steely Dan. I’ve tracked down a CD from 1991 on Discogs for a reasonable price. I wonder why it’s never been reissued especially when Eg White has gone on to write billions of hit records including tunes for Will Young, Adele, Kylie etc and this offbeat, 80s hinterland music is all the rage » Continue Reading.
…is a sentiment I hear and read increasingly often. I’ve said it myself recently, under my breath but just loud enough for the lad who barged in front of me at a gig, nearly knocking my pint over with his Fjällräven Kanken backpack and then proceeded to stare at his iPhone tweeting or Instagramming or whatever they do. But are we in danger of demonising a whole generation? I know people my age who are glued to their phones even while talking to you (they don’t get invited out very often) so that’s not unique to the Millennials. Buying expensive Craft Ale and sporting beards is certainly not limited to people coming of age post 2000 (and I hear that booze consumption is down among the youth, so this new wave of breweries – actually run by Millennials will be desperately hoping to flog their wares to people 35 and over). What is perhaps worrying about this generation is their obsession with self. Everything is about “Instagram opportunities”, kids are growing up with YouTubers as their heroes (as far as I can tell these people are total fucking airheads, and their job is to push products and uncritical, » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
This is the final batch of the reissues of the ACR back catalogue on Mute Records and we end with their 1982 release ‘Sextet’ which many consider their masterpiece. It’s joined by an album from 1996 ‘Change the Station’ which slipped out in such a low-key way that I have never got around to hearing – and finally their most recent release ‘Mind Made Up’ (originally released in 2008).
Sextet has been re-issued several times, and rightly so. This is a superlative record and it’s only right that this remains ‘in print’ on CD, deluxe orange Vinyl and whatever digital channels you prefer. If you only get one Ratio record, this is the one. Everything about this record is odd, intriguing and mysterious and wonderful- summed up by the beautiful sleeve design, the odd typeface, the old desert aviation image inside (ACR are obsessed with trains and planes), the water tower, and the turkeys. The music was recorded somewhere in Stockport but the sound is informed by their trips to New York, their immersion in Latin rhythms, and their own attempts to approximate the Jazz, Funk and electro imports they were listening to » Continue Reading.
Anyone else into these? I go back with these guys…their ‘Every Man and Woman is a Star’ album was on heavy rotation in the early 90s as was the follow up ‘United Kingdoms’. They were a heady mix of Ambient Dub on similar territory to The Orb but with a very curious swerve into what was (back then) obscure art rock/folk/psychedelic music as well as the early Factory Records/Les Disques Du Crepuscule bands and the Canterbury Scene – they later collaborated with Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt. In other words, a world away from their contemporaries like The Prodigy or The Shamen. They’ve been a huge influence on my own music making and listening. They still crop up from time to time and they’re back with a new LP soon – as well as curious little 7″ single which has some suitably atmospheric sounds to accompany photographs, graphics and poetry inspired by a stretch of the Blackwater Estuary in Essex – get it here https://www.stjudesprints.co.uk/products/blackwaterside