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
The Soup Kitchen, Manchester
It’s fair to say Pram were way ahead of their time. They were mixing strangely evocative sounds from the past, arcane atmospheres and curiously timeless music rooted in exotica and Krautrock long before Ghost Box and before Simon Reynolds called this stuff ‘Hauntology’. They’re back with their first LP in 10 years the excellent ‘Across the Meridian’ and I was very pleased to catch a very rare live appearance by them.
Defying the “long hot summer” of 2018 and the festival season, the faithful are gathered in the basement of the Soup Kitchen which it turns out is damp and cool like all good cellars. The lights dim and vaguely unsettling, ghostly images of masked figures running around a spooky house flicker across the screens while bird song plays – and we’re transported away from Brexit, austerity and the muggy temperatures above ground into Pram’s wonderfully weird and playful world.
The set is largely drawn from the new record and begins with ‘Shimmer and Disappear’ which sets the scene perfectly – the band are all versatile players so there are trombones, woodwind, a Theremin, samplers, synths as well as the » Continue Reading.
Has anyone read the jaw dropping interview with Echo and His Bunnyman in the current edition of The Mojo? David Cavanagh spends 22 hours with Mac the Mouth and it’s unexpectedly sad and moving. I won’t give too many spoilers but on the surface all is well in Bunnyworld – after several years in the wilderness crowdfunding their own LPs they’ve actually got a major label deal with BMG. The first fruits of which – is – oh…Bunnymen classics ‘re-imagined’ with strings or more ‘intimate arrangements’ (Alarm bells ringing already). Will (interviewed separately of course) sounds as chipper as ever, and remains one my all time under-rated guitar heroes. As for Ian… The things that stuck with me most were the teddy, the fly-zapping machine and the blue plastic bag deliveries. A sobering read. Still one of the great voices in rock and when he’s on form – a stellar front man who flaunts the smoking ban (although last time I saw the band he got a bit handy with his fists with a sound engineer). Ah well, he may have his demons but still worth more than a billion Morrisseys.
I like it when people from the world of ‘serious music’ collide with the more Pop-tastic end of things. I’m sure everyone reading this knows that Pete ‘King Crimson’ Sinfield wrote ‘Land of Make Believe’ for Bucks Fizz and indeed the very premise for my post is played out daily in the Fripp/Wilcox household. Listening to the preposterously brilliant Chart Music Podcast recently reminded me that Tim Friese-Greene was not only born into a family of pioneering photographers and filmmakers and was a virtual member/producer on those majestic and powerful Talk Talk albums (from It’s My Life to Laughing Stock) but he also produced Tight Fit. There must be more?
Old Trafford Sportball Stadium, Manchester
I should preface by saying that unlike many of you I’m a very casual fan but I’ve really warmed to them of late – so for years my favourite album was ’40 Licks’ but now it’s ‘Beggars Banquet’ (you get the idea). When I found out they were playing a few miles up the road I baulked at paying the guts of £90 but I managed to grab some cheap ‘Lucky Dip’ tickets – basically a way for the Stones to ensure there aren’t empty seats and perhaps to entice fairweather fans like me to take a punt for the price you’d pay for a 3rd tier Indie band at the Academy. The deal is you don’t know where you’re sitting/standing till you pick your tickets up, so you lower your expectations about where you’ll be and indeed whether it’ll be any good -a reasonable gamble.
This is a double-first for me, not only is this my first Stones gig but in spite of being an avid (almost) weekly gig-goer it’s also my first Stadium show. I’m used to turning up just after the support and waltzing in to my » Continue Reading.
Any love for Bark Psychosis in the Afterword Massive? They have possibly the most misleading band name ever (play the clip and you’ll see what I mean) – although they did start out as Napalm Death covers band as teenagers and kept the name. For that reason I always suspect people who would adore this music haven’t checked it out so please do. I was a fan back in the 90s and now both their LPs have been reissued. ‘Hex’ was out a while back and the follow up ‘Codename Dustsucker’ was out this weekend. These records have aged well- they were bracketed in that Dream Pop/Post Rock thing beloved of Melody Maker writers in the mid 90s but they stand up now as strange and weirdly timeless records both lovingly reissued on Fire Records. I don’t really know how to describe them but they’re immaculately produced, gorgeous records and if they grab you, you’ll love em forever. If you like yer Mogwai, Cocteau Twins, Spiritualized or Talk Talk (Lee Harris plays drums on the 2nd album) get into this.
What does it sound like?:
The Mute Records ACR reissues continue apace. We’re now going ‘deep catalogue’ with two long-lost albums.
First up is ‘Good Together’, originally released in 1989 never to be seen again. This was ACR’s major label debut having finally lost patience with the lack of promotion they were getting from Factory and hitched to A&M Records. This was just before ‘Madchester’ – a scene largely built on a melding of Dance, funk and post-punk that ACR had been pioneering a few years earlier. ACR could have made hay there, but instead they seemed intent on going down a very slick, commercial Blue-eyed soul route. I suspect they were hoping for mainstream success by trying to sound more mainstream- just at the time that Indie and club acts were seriously breaking through by doing the opposite. Bad timing..like Artie Fufkin… but to be fair, who in 1987 could have predicted Shaun Ryder and Ian Brown would have made it to Top of the Pops?
So ‘Good Together’ arrives in Madchester with barely a trace left of the band that made ‘To Each’ and ‘Sextet’ and it’s all very smooth and slickly produced – and » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
The Rochdale Kraftwerk are back with what is essentially a new LP which lasts for a whopping 8 hours. They have form in this respect, their last traditional LP was a 2 hr double CD and since then they’ve released several hours of live sets and Elseq which comprised 5 digital only EPs comprising 4 hours of new material. The NTS Sessions were broadcast on the radio station of the same name and then immediately available to download over the past month. If you prefer a physical version there’s an 8 CD set forthcoming as well as a mammoth 12 LP Vinyl version.
So is it any good and does anyone need 8 Hours of Autechre?. Yes indeed they do and I’ve been completely immersed in this stuff and not wanting to listen to much else as it’s secrets and delights slowly reveal themselves. There are 36 tracks in total and here Autechre take advantage of their long held desire to present tracks which end when they’re naturally finished rather than when the CD or Vinyl runs out. The tracks run from a couple of minutes to the epic closing track ‘End All’ » Continue Reading.
There’s lots of interesting archive stuff on iPlayer including this – which has the BBC Everyman documentary revisiting the hippy ideals of 1967 and seeing how they play out in 1978. The opener, with the hippy Cult member turned dead-eyed IT student is straight out of Scarfolk/Ghost Box and quite chilling. Then Vashti Bunyan crops up. Much talk of ‘Selling Out’ or ‘Copping Out’ which in my lifetime was always levelled at Punks – so it originated with the Hippies. Great bit of 70s TV where they point a camera at something and and unlike today you’re not really being shoved in any particular direction but you’re given enough information to make your own mind up about what became of the ideals of 1967. The eyes and body language tell their own story. Lots of nervous shifting in seats and furtive glances…Felix Dennis for instance, mid-interview visibly seems to become jarringly aware of how far he’s moved from the land of Oz. Timothy Leary, strutting through NYC and waving at everyone like they’re an old acquaintance is priceless at the end. And of all that in just 35 very watchable minutes.
Soup Kitchen, Manchester
You may well not have heard of the The Longcut. They formed in Manchester and made some considerable waves with their excellent 2006 debut ‘A Call and Response’. I was a big fan of that record and saw them live a few times, and memorably euphoric gigs they were. I never forgot them amid the never-ending deluge of new music because they really had something, and they were local. That’s the stuff cult bands are made of. There was one more album in 2009 and after that only very sporadic activity and the occasional gig. I suspect Longcut are going to be one of those Manchester bands, a bit like say The Chameleons that have a devoted loyal and local following – and sure enough this small venue is rammed full to celebrate the release of the first new album in 9 years.
The band are a 3 piece, with frontman Stuart alternating between singing and then dashing round the back to sit behind the drum stool. This was borne of necessity when their original singer left but in fact has become a defining factor of their sound and the songs suddenly » Continue Reading.
I’m hopelessly old school. Can’t get with Streaming, I like buying music on record and CD but I get some downloads for my mp3 player (yeah – I know!) particularly when I want to take a punt on a new artist or something a bit out of my usual wheelhouse and eMusic have served me well in that respect (and I know many Afterworders would agree). However the catalogue is dwindling to the point where I’d say 9/10 of things I’m looking for aren’t there. eMusic have been amazingly resilient – but now there’s this. I’m tech savvy and reasonably clued up on how the music industry works but this is baffling. Can anyone translate? Have they gone completely Noel Edmonds/David Icke on us or are they – as they claim – the future of recorded music as we know it? Should I hang on to the golden handcuffs a while longer?
Panda Bear aka Noah Lennox is probably best known as a key member of experimental popsters Animal Collective however he’s got a pretty high profile as a solo artist in his own right. His 2007 LP ‘Person Pitch’ is one of the best records of the 00s. It’s a glorious, haunting stew of Beach Boys harmonies, Dub bass and lo-fi sampled loops and if you’ve not heard it and that description piqued your interest then stop reading this now and go and acquire it using your preferred method. His two follow up records I’ll be honest didn’t quite grab me quite as much but he recently released an excellent Vinyl E.P. ‘A Day with the Homies’ which definitely did – so I’m eager to hear what else he’s got up his sleeve.
The stage set is up is very minimal. Noah is playing solo as always, with just a Mic, a couple of samplers and FX units and some sort of modular synth thing. He has some excellent visuals to make up for the lack of on-stage action – so the music is accompanied by synapse frazzling images of sexy dancing Aliens, melting » Continue Reading.
..and I mean that in a genuine and positive way (and not the way our resident Wishbone Ash/Mahavishnu correspondent writes when he’s poking fun at some terrible old ‘Oi’ band playing at the Rebellion Festival). They’re always good value when they turn up on those TOTP re-runs. Bluster Bloodvessel had a running joke of trying to outdo himself in terms of wearing a costume that will make him as sweaty and uncomfortable as possible (Henry VII, huge fur coat, skiing gear and most memorably..a diving bell and wet suit). Listening back I now realise they’re the missing link between Madness and the Bonzo Dog Band and I can’t help but admire that run of stupidly bouncy early 80s singles from “Ne-Ne Na-Na Na-Na Nu-Nu” to their excellent cover of ‘My Boy Lollipop’. The band are great as well, whoever was on bass works wonders with this one…
If you fancy something new to soundtrack yr Saturday try this cracking new album from Cavern of Anti-Matter which is Tim Gane and Joe Dilworth formerly of Stereolab joined by Holger Zapf. If you like your analogue synths, Motorik beats and bubbling vintage drum machines you’ll be in heaven already but there’s a great melodic warmth and a touch of Synth-pop gloss to this so it’s not just endless retro noodling. Link is for bandcamp but it’s on the usual streams too.
What does it sound like?:
ACR have now joined their old Factory label mates New Order and signed to Mute Records for a series of reissues and archival releases. They are not in chronological order, and the next one out of the tombola is ‘I’d Like to See You Again’ from 1982.
I actually really love this album, It was never far from my walkman in the late 80s and got a bit obsessed with it. It still sounds utterly brilliant and probably their most underrated Factory release. This was the follow up to ‘Sextet’ which the critical consensus seems to agree is their best album – and it was released the same year in October 1982. It’s cut from a similar cloth, in that it sounds like some lads from Hulme and Wythenshawe who used to be Post Punk trying to recreate late 70s/early 80s American funk records infused with Jazz and Latin influences and getting it a bit wrong and a bit wonky. Lead singer Simon Topping has stepped further away from the mic and retreated behind the Timbales only adding occasional backing on the 3 vocal tracks (Drummer Donald takes the lead), and occasional treated » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
I go back with these guys and they’ve always been a great live band. The Leeds combo can whip up a ferocious, Motorik/Psych-rock storm and their secret weapon is frontman M.J. – red faced and sweating, screaming into his Echoplex and bashing away at a Moog- imagine Suicide fronted by a big, angry man from Leeds.
Of course these days any number of bands can easily whip up a Motorik/Psych-Rock storm and there are whole festivals devoted to one-chord, heads-down no-nonsense mindless riffage. Last years Liverpool Psych-fest was a non-stop showcase of endless drang drang drang drang CLANG. It’s perhaps no coincidence that they’re having a year off to let the pasture re-grow and also Hookworms have had a rethink and moved on several giant steps out of the terribly crowded and hairy Psych-rock cul-de-sac (can you imagine how it smells down there- ew). They’ve had a rough time it seems, not least because their studio was flooded in the great boxing day floods that saw sirens blaring over Calderdale and the River Aire seeping into their mixing desk and synths.
They’ve come back strong with their first truly great record. Track » Continue Reading.