Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Northside story...

Started by the effervescent Tom (Top to his friends...well to me at least) Peel back in March 2014 Northsidestudio was established to big up north Birmingham’s music scene and one of the first physical fruits of these labours is a brand new album, The Acoustic Compilation, which is also raising much needed funds for The Norman Laud Association (who do sterling work by providing respite care for children with disabilities). There are 10 tracks on offer with some familiar names (step forward James Summerfield, Mike Moloney, Call Me Unique, Rick Wellings and, naturellement, Tom Peel) plus some new (to me anyway) artists and frankly there isn’t a duffer on it.

Ruby and Edd’s hymn to being happy who are you (something that sadly seems to be increasingly out of reach for people these days), Nobody But Me, kicks things off with the kind of chorus that’ll get you (yes, even you) singing along in seconds. Call Me Unique’s (why ain’t this lady a star yet?) deliciously free and easy vocals on Thank You and Marlem’s powerful take on the human cost of diamond mining in Five Feet fly the soul flag in fine style whilst listening to Flora Ward on Now Is The Time is like picked up gently by a hummingbird and flown around the flowers in a summertime breeze. Beautiful stuff. Tom himself closes proceedings with the gently spiritual Wisdom which, like George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord, somehow even manages to appeal to a grizzled old atheist like me. A great album for an equally great cause. 

You can download the whole thing for £7 or buy a good old fashioned CD for just £9 right here!

Monday, March 02, 2015

Miss Halliwell – Abscess Granted EP

Hot on the heels of their hits album and a triumphant Valentine’s Day gig Miss Halliwell is back with a brand new EP, Abscess Granted. It’s a suitable title for a band that could be seen as existing to infect and eat away at much of the lamentable auto tuned overproduced dirge that passes for music these days and the EP opens with the kind of tribal drumming that normally, equally appropriately, signifies some kind of human sacrifice or declaration of war. In fact Dimwit’s a glorious post punk rollercoaster of a track, trundling along a fair old speed before slowing suddenly to an almost funereal pace and then...whoosh...we’re off again...hold on to your lunch suckers. Musos may spot a pleasing hint of The Blockhead’s Blackmail Man in there, good to see at least one band doing their ‘Dury’ service... 

Dimwit segues rather nicely into Solid Wench. I do love a good Solid Wench. “Half past hate” rasps Miles before unleashing a stream of lyrics that mean absolutely nothing and yet everything all at the same time. What would Ken Dodd make of it all? Answers on the decapitated torso of a Diddy Man please. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, comes a cover of The Four Tops classic, Reach Out. Miles plays it pretty straight (although I’m pretty sure Holland Dozier Holland didn’t write the line “Because the human race is rife with corruption and it’s scarred with organised religion”...more’s the pity), with just the merest hint of his familiar sneer in there. Sure it’s Karaoke meets Klassic but there’s something about the mix of old skool synths coupled with Miles’ Midlands’ accent that makes the whole thing strangely moving. Next up B-Raters Girlfriend drips with bile (for Miles himself seemingly - “I’m not as fun as the pictures in my brain would have me believe” - almost as much as for the song’s target?) and its classic Halliwell. Offbeat but catchy it’s possibly the ‘rockiest’ they’ve ever sounded with some particularly meaty beaty drumming from the lovely Rose of Bearwood. You never know where Halliwell will head next so frankly you shouldn’t be surprised that Shall We takes a psudden pysch tinged pswerve. Imagine PiL era Lydon fronting Syd era Floyd and you’ll have some vague idea of the vibe. Ambition and eclecticism? Thy name is Miss Halliwell.  

It ends all too soon with the mini 'masterpiss' of Capitulate, one man’s personal plea bargain with himself and his fellow Halliwellians to keep going no matter what, all set against a surprisingly bouncy synth line and old skool handclaps. “Whatever happens we won’t capitulate” (that’s the Miss Halliwell manifesto right there) spits Miles with the kind of defiance that usually ends in a six hour siege and police shootout before spinning off on a gloriously wild simian freakout. It...and this whole ruddy brilliant EP for that Abscess-ential listening for anyone who likes their music with the guts still in. 

You can snap up the EP right here via iTunes. Miss Halliwell also play The Sunflower Lounge this Saturday March 7th !

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Run of the Jill - limited edition prints from iconic artist!

It's an old complaint these days but back when vinyl was the dominant format there were some truly stunning album and single covers. One of my personal favourites was this little beauty above. Neat eh? On a whim I did a bit of digging around online a year or two ago to see who'd drawn it and discovered it was someone called Jill Mumford. It turns out that Jill was also responsible for sleeves for The Jam. Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Who, Rip Rig and Panic and XTC along with spreads for NME, Melody Maker and Straight No Chaser. Now you can grab signed and numbered limited edition prints of some of these designs (including stuff for Siouxsie and the Banshees, PiL, Beastie Boys and a great one called The Last Supper of Funk) for just £60-£70 + P&P. They should sell out faster than hot cakes and will no doubt end up changing hands for hundreds on eBay so consider this a bit of a heads up! 


Monday, February 23, 2015

Hallelujah, see the (BC Camp)Light!

Yes Brothers and Sisters, let me hear you say “Hare and Hounds on Monday March 9th!” Let me hear you say “Tickets available from our good friends at Birmingham Promoters!” And let me hear you say “Would you like a double G&T?!” Hell, it’s worth a try. Anyway, if you’ve not heard BC Camplight before you’re in for a treat. Take a dash of Brian Wilson, add a pinch of John Grant and whip in just a hint of Smokey Robinson et voila. 

It’s no secret that ol' BC (aka Brian Christinzio) has seen his fair share of troubled times over the past few years with addictions to drugs and booze culminating in his retirement from the music biz and, I’m guessing, very nearly planet earth itself. Invited over by a fan from his ‘home’, an abandoned church in Philadelphia to Manchester in 2011 he slowly got back into writing and playing again with the first fruits of this creative rebirth being the heart shattering new album How To Die In The North. Highly recommended. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Indietracks 2015!

Not just a festival more (apologies to the Manics here) a ‘design for life’ Indietracks is possibly the friendliest, loveliest, cutest (insert your favourite superlative here) event around. Focussing on...go on...guess...yep, ‘Indie’ music there’s always an impressively wide range of styles on offer, from fragile folk to thrashy punk and all stations along the way (2013 review here and 2014 review over here).

The first acts for this year’s festival (24th – 26th July at The Midland Railway, Ripley, Derbyshire) have just been announced and I’m chuff chuffed to see that The Go! Team are on the bill along with, amongst many others, Cinerama (David Gedge of The Wedding Present’s side project) and Euros Childs. Keep your eyes glued (not literally, it stings terribly) on the festival’s website over here and while you’re at it snap up an early bird ticket right now for just £68 (available until 5pm on Sunday May 3rd)!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Xpress yourself...

This Sunday sees another instalment of legendary cult spoken word / music 'happening' Sunday Xpress held at Digbeth's finest The Adam and Eve. Presided over by the larger than life Big Bren there's an open mic slot from 4pm with sets from Giant-Elf Fist and Betty and the Id after 7pm...and the whole ruddy thing's as free as a bird!

Ace City Racers - Different Angle / Wilko

Glaswegian three piece Ace City Racers have just released a rather fine double A side single (’s the future I tells ya). Different Angle has a neat Smiths-ish swagger with a little punk and glam tossed in for good measure whilst Wilko is a bullshit free 60 seconds or so sliver of indiepunk perfection paying homage in both name and feel to the legendary cancer kicking Feelgood bassist Mr W. Johnson Esq. I have a feeling the man himself would heartily approve.

Different Angle / Wilko is out now on DIY Records right here(you can download it too but where’s the fun in that eh?)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Miss Halliwell / The Crooked Hooks / The Nature Centre @ Sandwell Snooker Centre, Bearwood, Saturday February 14th

All across the world couples are sitting opposite each other in some posh restaurant somewhere, paying £40 for a bowl of pasta and the price of a small family car for a bottle of ‘Sham’-pagne. Meanwhile we’re Snooker Centre, downing pints of M&B Mild. Who says romance is dead eh? To be fair there’s a good reason, another ‘local’ Miss Halliwell show, a band I’ve been in love with almost as long as I’ve been married, give or take a decade or so.

First up though The Nature Centre, kicking off with a little Syd era Floyd meets quality indie pop, all wrapped up in lovely Brummieness. Bonus points for calling one song BRMB and including the lyric “You’re not from’re from Solihull” in another track and a special gold star for the lady Nature Centre-ist (I was going to say naturist but that’s something altogether different...) who seemed to be able to play pretty much every instrument under the sun. A worthy addition to fellow Brummie indie poppers Misty’s Big Adventure, The Dollcanoes and Kate Goes (we have a sneaky feeling the lady Nature Centre-ist was/is in Kate Goes too).

Next The Crooked Hooks dished up everything from a little alt-boogie through to prog punk courtesy of newbie Cokehead. Gloriously raucous and ramshackle in places any band that has a song called Walt Disney’s Cryogenically Frozen Head has to be worth a listen, right? Highlights included the string bending genius of Factory Filth, the lyrics ‘punched out’ like some huge great metal pressing machine in a suitably staccato style.  

“With power comes responsibility” intones Miles Perhower, Miss Halliwell’s lead vocalist and visionary, as he appears as if from nowhere sporting what looks like a Mexican wrestling mask and wearing a heavy overcoat. At this point I’d normally witter on (blah, blah, blah) and write a standard review but reading back through my notes, written with the benefit of a drink or three, somehow makes a lot more sense this time...

“Miles – leaping savant, soothsayer, sage, demon and goblin. Band gelling brilliantly. It’s the future. It’s subtle, it’s complex, it’s simple, it’s fucking HEARTFELT. In a world of imposters Miss Halliwell shines the light. EVERY SET SEEMS FRESH. Miss Halliwell wanders the dangerous line between disaster and perfection better than anyone. old woman invades the gig from the bar outside and starts heckling the band...”who invited their nan?” asks Miles. Miss meeting a proper character in a bar. The ranters and ravers that somehow make sense. It’s psych, it’s indie, it’s prog, it’s x and y and everything in between. “Don’t give into the world, Everyone will die someday. Don’t capitulate”. Reach Out (I’ll Be There)...the heart attack cover version...a barfly serenading his world at 3.28 am. “Your life is an illusion. DIMWIT!” true. Miles, the only frontman to put on his jacket and coat onstage before exiting the building as swiftly as he arrived. No encore, none of the ‘hits’, leave us wanting more...and more”.

That, pretty much, is what I scribbled down...or at least that’s what I could make out (I struggle to read my own handwriting at the best of times and there was a lot more swearing in the original version plus some words that look like Russian...hmmm) but perhaps it goes some way to capturing the essence of a Miss Halliwell gig...or then again maybe not. Either way you’ll have your chance to find out at their next gig at The Sunflower Lounge on Saturday March 7th or, if you fancy a weekend away, they’ve been booked to play two nights at The Waterhole in Amsterdam on June 4th and 5th. Failing that the digital release of Miss Halliwell’s ‘Best of’ album, The Perhower and the Gory Years 2010-2014, is out now at all good record probably...or whatever you lovely people use these days.