Friday, October 24, 2008

It's competition time! Win Catskills 1st XI Goodies!!

Those lovely, lovely people at Catskills have kindly donated three copies of their frankly essential new album Catskills 1st XI together with...wait for it...a highly collectable and darn fun Catskills frisbee! That's Christmas sorted for me then. What? Oh...I'm supposed to give them away? Really? Can't I wrap them up and give them to various family members thus saving me some serious wedge? Oh...alright then. You lucky, lucky people have the chance to win the album that's been described as 'contender for compilation of the year' me...and I know what I'm talking about. Ahem. Anyway...I'm not just going to give this stuff away to the first people to email me...oh no...ya gotta work for it by answering a tricky question. Ready? Which soul legend sang on the Hardkandy track 'Advice'? Was it:

(a) Terry Christian

(b) Terry Callier


(c) Terry's Chocolate Orange

See, told you it was tricky. Email your answer to by Saturday 1st November together with your address. The first three names out of the hat win the goodies.

Glenn Tilbrook / Emily Maguire @ The Glee Club, Tuesday 21st October 2008

This was another one of a growing number of standing gigs at The Glee. My last one, Duffy, was less than impressive (no support act, too many people, poor view, no hope of getting served at the bar etc etc) but tonight was far more enjoyable. For starters it wasn't rammed and, despite a numpty who seemed to take offence at me going to the bar and then returning to Lady B, the crowd were pretty chilled too. But balls to all this. It's the music we're here for and first up was Emily Maguire. People like Emily fascinate me. During her set she revealed that one day she decided to flog her London flat and fuck off to the Australian outback to play music and make goats cheese. As a domesticated Taurean such folly fills me with dread. What, no Sunday Times, Muffins and Frasier on Paramount Comedy 1? No Neelams chicken kebab and Scrumpy Jack? No Wetherspoons, Rainbow, Kamaikaze!, Yardbird, Bar Academy...or Glee Club? Just sheep, goats, sand and endless sunny days to sit around and write wistful tunes? Yes, England may be a bit of a shit hole at the moment, but it's my shit hole though. Hmmmm...what to do eh? All of which brings me back to Emily. Listening to tracks like The Real World or Somebody (The The's 'Slow Train' anyone?) you do question your very being. Who's right? Us plodding backards and forwards to meaningless jobs as 'consultants', 'customer service advisers' or...god save us all...'creatives' or Emily over there in the sand yanking on a goat's nipples. I guess the point of music, aside from making you jump up and down a bit, is to make you think. Happy thoughts, unhappy thoughts...let's go out and gun down my classmate thoughts...and Emily certainly did that...made me think that is, not gun down her classmates. Vocally she reminded me a bit Joni Mitchell in places (have a listen to Keep Walking), but then, as you know by now, I have an odd ear. All in all though a lovely opening set from a strong singer songwriter who seems to have discovered the secret of a happy life. And you can't wish for more success than that eh?

Good grief. I've gone all fluffy on you. Oooooooh that sounds like a great link to the headline band...The Fluffers! I ummed and ahhed about going to this gig because the last time I saw Glenn and The Fluffers was (shameless place dropping ahoy) in The Abbey Pub in Chicago. It was an awesome night. The lead singer of Squeeze in a pub (albeit a bloody great big one) belting out all the hits with a briliant band. He was supported by a certain Jim Bianco too, who was equally spiffing. Tonight was a different kind of gig. Heavy on the solo stuff (by the sounds of it the forthcoming album's going to be a cracker) and with just a few Squeeze hits slotted in for good measure. It didn't matter one jot. Solo Glenn is as great as Squeeze Glenn. The new stuff is as great as the old stuff. Together with Chris Difford he really is, as many critics said back in the early 80's, as great Lennon /McCartney in their prime. Not as experimental, I'll grant you that, but great pop doesn't have to be all about eggmen and walruses (walrusi?). The Fluffers, his 'other' band are all accomplished musicians too. The keyboard dude, Stephen Large (stop sniggering at the back) was particularly good - loved the vocoder style stuff. Glenn just seems to be having so much fun at the moment...pottering around the world, playing music to often modest but appreciative crowds and doing his own thing. Maybe he should hook up with Emily Maguire...they'd make a lovely couple.

PS: Reading this back I just realised that anyone under the age of 30 might have no bloody idea who the hell Glenn Tilbrook or Squeeze (featuring Mr Jools Holland) are/were. I tested this theory out the other day with someone aged 28. They hadn't got a clue. So, for the non Squeeze people out there, I've put some videos up on the video thingy to the left of this rubbish. Suffice to say that they are/were one of the great British New Wave bands of the late 70's / early 80's and had hits like Cool For Cats, Up The Junction and Labelled With Love. Buy the Greatest Hits this weekend and you'll be thanking me until the end of time.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fort Knox Five...damn that's some funky shit.

For those of you who thought this was just some tin pot little music blog I have news for you. The Hearing Aid has spies across the globe...a shadowy force of tune ninjas, all dedicated to picking up on the latest musical treats for me to serve up to you, the lucky reader. Oh alright then...that's bollocks. I have one spy...deep in the heart of the US (is Ohio in the heart of the US?). A man who should remain nameless but who answers to the nom de plume 'Bobby Dazzler'. Knowing how much I love da funk (boy you gotta love dat funk) he's tipped me off in the direction of the Fort Knox Five. You've had Jurassic Five, Freeform Five bow down and shake your bad ass to FORT KNOX FIVE. As funky as a fat guy running a marathon in a nylon suit...on a particularly hot August day (now that's funky) FKF appear to be a four piece (maybe one of 'em left?) from good 'ol Washington DC. Plying a more modern, breakbeat heavy funk sound than Hearing Aid faves The Dap Kings and The Budos Band, they seem to use a range of different vocalists too, including a certain Mr Sleepy Zeebo. Anyways...take a listen to Papa Was Stoned on Their Space for a slice of pure 100% FKF magic. Awesome.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Now That's What I Call The Credit Crunch Vol 1

It's going to happen so I might as well predict the track listing now. I can just hear one of the big record labels mulling over how they can exploit their back catalogue just one more time. We've had a compilation for pretty much every other event so why should the current financial meltdown be any different? Naturally we'd have to have the BBC's Robert Peston on the front cover. Does that guy ever switch off? Or how about the dude above? goes. I reckon the whole thing should kick off with a longing look back at the days when the banks (remember them?) would lend to anyone with a pulse...and quite a few people without one. How about Mary Hopkins' seminal classic 'Those Were The Days' eh? We need something a little more jarring then. I reckon The Style Council's 'Walls Come Tumbling' down would be suitable. Next up The Clash with 'London's Burning' the way have you noticed how the wall of red on the share price thingy neatly matches the colour of the Brokers' faces? We'd better go into some more obvious 'money' related tracks now. You've got Pink Floyd's 'Money', Simply Red's 'Money's Too Tight To Mention', Money Makes The World Go Round (from the original Cabaret soundtrack of course) and a cheesy compilation wouldn't be complete without Abba's 'Money, Money, Money'. Oh, you'd better stick The Adventure's of Stevie V in there too with 'Dirty Cash' for all those generation X-ers feeling the pinch. Hmmm...what else. Of yes. For an ironic touch Eric B and Rakim with 'Paid in Full'...something that us poor suckers ain't gonna be. Right, going back a bit now, how about 'Brother, Can You Spare A Dime' or a few trillion dimes for that matter. There's a ton of versions out there. I'd plump for the Tom Waits one. There's a rather fine video montage of the last time we well and truly fucked up the economy here. We'd better lighten the mood at the end though eh? After all we gotta think of the Christmas market. At least we've got our health. So, let's be thankful and end up with a bit of Nina doing 'Ain't Got No...I Got Life'. Check out this darn fine live version.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Cat’s whiskers - Catskills turns 11 (and a half).

There are some record labels that pretty much guarantee quality...Catskills is one of ‘em. Home to the funky, spunky and punky they’re just about to release a double album culled from their first 11 and a half years. Yes…11 and a half years. Not for Catskills any of that boring old 10th anniversary business. Nah. For a label as wilfully eclectic (folktronica, soul, jazz, hip hop, reggae, punk…as they say, ‘It’s all about the head nod factor’) you’d expect nothing less eh?

Quite a few of the tracks here are real Catskills classics. There’s a bunch of Pepe Deluxe and Husky Rescue’s finest and two from the Midlands’ very own indie punksters (and Hearing Aid favourites) The Ripps, including the frankly awesome ‘Holiday’ (not since the heyday of the mighty Buzzcocks has punk pop been quite so glorious). But, like any good compilation, there’s a whole bunch of stuff you don’t know yet (either ‘cos you’ve missed it or it’s as fresh as a newly opened bag of kitty litter).

Opening track, Black Grass’ Hold Fire, is a funk classic, pure and simple. If you’re a fan of Quantic Soul Orchestra you need this in your life. Aldo Vanulli’s ‘I Am A King’ takes low rider hip hop (you know just want to be driving down the road in one of the funky ass cars that bounce up and down) to new heights. Then there’s a live version of Pepe Deluxe’s Pussy Cat Rock - Iggy and The Stooges meets The Cramps’ Surfin Bird…it's a garage / psych / disco / groovy beat happening. That’s just a snapshot of side one.

Slip in the second disc and you’re carried away on Sonorous Star’s Indian Motorcycle, as hypnotic as a four eyed snake charmer, swiftly followed by The Mexican with Spunky Love Fun - J5 meets Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames. Disc Two also includes what I’m guessing is the labels biggest hit so far, Pepe Deluxe’s classic, Levi twisted jeans endorsed ‘Before You Leave’…the big beat, sampledelic booty shaker that soundtracked one of the weirdest ads ever (you know, the one with the twisty people). Listening back to the track for the first time in a few years it still sounds surprisingly fresh. Other highlights include Hardkandy’s ‘Advice’, featuring a genuine music legend, Mr Terry Callier, on vocals. String tinged soul, it kinda reminds me of Anthony and the Johnsons meets Love. Absolutely lush and worth the price of the album on its own. I could go on but that would spoil the fun - and there’s a bucket load to be had here - this is an album you really need to discover for yourself. Contender for compilation of the year? No doubt. In a word…purrfect.

11 and a half out of 10
Catskills 1st XI is out on Monday 27th October 2008.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Ladyhawke / Deluka / Death Ohh Eff / Electrilickers @ The Rainbow, Digbeth Monday 6th October 2008

Tonight made me feel young and old in equal measure. Old 'cos, like many 14+ gigs, there are, as you'd expect, people who are 14+ (no shit Sherlock). The young bit...well...a lot of the music tonight took me right back to the days of my youth...the 80's! The greatest decade for music ever ever ever etc. First up...and with a distinctly 80's name...The Electrilickers. Musically...well just check out Nous Sommes Allees a la Discoteque. 80's gold! I like ladies who sing in French and Miss Electrilicker got the balance between funky and aloof just right on this track. Think of them as the electropop Blood Red Shoes (yes...I enjoyed them that much) and you won't be too far off. In fact 'Sh sh sh shake' has a distinctly BRS vibe to it. I like mucho.

Next up Death Ohh Eff. Some nice vocal interplay between two of the band (one chappie starting off the line, the other one finishing...not easy to do...) and loadsa thrashy electro action. They have a French song too, Le Sur Mer...its good to know our pop kids are embracing the European Union eh? I look forward to a few songs in Flemish any day now. Once more a strong 80's vibe, 'Something About a Foetus' kind of reminded me of a twisted version of First Picture of You by The Lotus Eaters. But then I'm a bit odd.

Third on the bill were New Wavers, Deluka. I've been lucky enough to see them a few times now and they never fail to put on a cracking show. Lead singer Ellie has real charisma and some nice stage moves (the raised hand and t-shirt grabbing seem to be a bit of a trade mark). Sleep Is Impossible (echoes of Duran Duran's Girls On Film) has the kind of naggingly infectious chorus that lodges in your brain and wakes you at 3am in a cold sweat. So, there you go, aptly titled then eh? They played my favourite track Ike and Tina too - a solid gold classic that made my left leg twitch in a really dodgy manner. The raptuous applause at the end of the set (I've rarely heard such whooping in The Rainbow) shows just how much of a buzz they're creating.

Finally, the lady herself, Ladyhawke...or Pip as she is to her friends. Back in 1981 I had a real thing for Kim Wilde. Fast forward a mere 27 years ( did that happen?) to 2008 and I have a real thing for Ladyhawke. With 'From Dusk to Dawn', 'Paris Is Burning' and 'My Delerium' she has three of the catchiest, coolest tracks of the year and, tonight Matthew, she played all of 'em. It looked like the crowd were a mix of hardcore Ladyhawke fans and the casual observers attracted by the cool press she's been getting recently. I've read a few reviews (NME specifically...don't worry, I didn't pay for it, I just read it in Tesco's now...takes about 3 minutes on a good week) saying that they didn't real 'feel' the live show. Cobblers. There's up beat stuff here, but some of the songs are more low key. I thought she was fab. Maybe there's a little nervousness there but, given the sudden press, the expectations must be huge. That's some pressure.

So there we have it. It's official. The '80's are back. Hurrah! Just don't make me retake my Physics O level...

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Bureau @ The Sound Bar, Birmingham, Friday 3rd October 2008

It's 'gig season'. There are loads of the buggers. Take tonight for example, on top of the weekly Kamikaze! night you had your pick of The Heritage Orchestra at The Town Hall, Bob Log III at the Kings Head and Amanda Palmer at Space 2. Oh...and this lot of course. To be honest it was a a close call. Amanda Palmer nearly had it, but by the time we'd dragged ourselves down to Space 2 (8 o'clock-ish), the first band were nearing the end of the set. I hate missing the first band. It's like missing the first half of a film. I always feel really sorry for the opening act too when loads of people come in just as they're finishing. Damn rude. So, off we went, back up to The Sound Bar for The Bureau. Who I hear you ask? Well, sit ye down and I'll tell ye. Many moons ago there was a damn fine band called Dexy's Midnight Runners. Before they 'came on Eileen' they produced one of THE greatest British albums of all time, Searching For The Young Soul Rebels. I think its fair to say that lead singer Kevin Rowland was/is what you'd call a single minded chap. It appears that this 'single mindedness' led to a bit of a barny. Bugger this for a game of soldiers said the rest of the band and they went off and formed The Bureau together with a certain Mick Talbot (later one half of The Style Council).

The Bureau had a number 6 smash Australia...the debut album was only released in a couple of countries (not the UK) and that was that. However, in 2004/5, some bright spark at WEA decided to release the debut album, most of the band reunited for a couple of smallish gigs and the seeds of a new album were sown. The result, wrily entitled "...and another thing" is out now, hence the three live dates that they're doing in support. This was the first one...and only the fourth time they'd played together since the early 1980's, making this a pretty rare sighting. The fact that one of them lives (I believe) in the good old US of A makes the prospect of more regular dates rather doubtful. So, enough of the potted history. In the absence of the much talked about new Dexy's album, this is as close as you're ever going to get to the band that recorded Searching For The Young Soul Rebels. Whoohoo! But here's the $700billion question (topical eh? oh, alright then please yourselves)...were they any good. Yes. There you go. Review over. Off you trot. There's nothing to see here. wanted a bit more than that did you? Balls.

Well, shut your eyes and, on some tracks, musically speaking you're right back in 1980 classic era Dexy's all over again. That brass sound is just so damn uniquely Dexy's. That's the strength and, to some degree, the flawed genius of The Bureau. You're just waiting for Mr Rowland's yelpy vocals to kick in. Of course, they don't. The Bureau's lead vocalist is a chappie called Archie Brown. There's nothing wrong with his voice. In fact, over the past 27 years or so, it's taken on a lovely rich quality that, truth be told, it kind of lacked back in 1981. As a passionate Dexy's fan it's just so hard to see The Bureau as a separate entity. My problem, not theirs, I guess. That being said, the gig was a triumph from start to finish. Blending old material with the new stuff they played for a good 90 minutes or so and delivered blistering versions of Sentimental Attachment, The First One and Sheep (from back in the day) as well as new album highlights including Run Rabbit Run and A Fine Mess Rag (think The Courtesy Group meets Dexy's...brilliant). The place wasn't packed but there was a pretty good turn out, the diehards loved it and the band seemed to be enjoying themselves. History's not been kind to The Bureau. They really do deserve more attention (so do Dexy's come to that). Of course it will take more than a few dates to get the message out there. Who knows if they're up for it, I hope they are. Older soul rebels they may be, but The Bureau kick ass.