Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Emily Smith - 'New Years Eve'

New Years Eve by EmilySmith

Overdone it on the turkey and vin rouge? too. If the thought of downing a litre of gin on New Years Eve and dancing naked in the streets has you coming out in a cold sweat cop a listen to this track from Scottish folk star Emily Smith. As delicate as a snowflake and as soothing as a pint of Alka Seltzer it's the perfect tune for a chill out. If it floats your boat Emily's got a new album out in January too, 'Traivellers Joy' (yes, I have got the spelling right).

That's it for me for 2010. I'm not going to do any musical predictions for 2011...apart from this one...the rebirth of the mighty Dexy's Midnight Runners. Oh yes. Don't ask me why. Just a feeling. We'll see eh?

Happy New Year and all that!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Jingle Bells y'all

You know what it's like. Someone's decided to stick some music on so, inevitably, Now That's What I Call Christmas (probably on tape) gets dusted off for another year. Cue all the old favourites...fine for the first 5 minutes but IT OFF! AGGGGGHHHHHHHH! Happily, thanks to the wonderful world of the Intermess, there are plenty of alternatives in the form of FREE (now that's my kinda comfort and joy) mixes. This year (as last year) Baron Towers will echo to the rightous beats of DJ's Chris Read and Marc Hype who serve up all manner of funk, soul, hip hop and reggae treats in a Christmas stylee. Click on the handy players above and below and let the gravy flow.

In the same vibe I can also heartily recommend the Mum's Old Vinyl Christmas Mix...
A Funky Christmas Present-Mums Old Vinyl Mix-2010 by mumsoldvinyl

A very Merry Chrismix to you all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Amanda Palmer's...ahem...'map of Tasmania'

My favourite one woman music industry Amanda Palmer's at it again with a track written and recorded in less time than most of us would take to write a Christmas card. Entitled 'Map of Tasmania' it's an ode to...lady bits...which, according to some folk, look a little like a map of Tasmania. It's a little different to most of her offerings (thanks to the remixedness) but it is, as ever, awesomeness.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Pogues / Sparrow and the Workshop @ The Academy, Saturday 18th December 2010

Well, it’s nearly Christmas. And that can only mean one thing. The Pogues are back on the road for one more ‘farewell’ tour. Whatever you may think of Shane MacGowen he is, let’s face it, a bit of a legend. Having drunk himself into the Albert Steptoe / Father Jack of Irish folk punk many years ago it’s nothing short of a miracle that he’s still here to entertain us but, judging by the boisterous sold out crowd tonight, all of whom battled arctic conditions to get here, the cult of MacGowen and co is in much better shape than the man himself.

First up though...and brave souls they are too (can you imagine opening for The Pogues?) Sparrow and the Workshop. Taking folk down some distinctly dark and dirty alleyways this hotly tipped trio (consisting of a Scotsman an Irish woman and a Welshman...I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere) delivered a set that oozed confidence and self assurance. Although born in Ireland lead singer Jill was raised in Chicago, no doubt shaping that voice of hers (shades of Cat Power and Siouxsie Sioux at times), a hauntingly beautiful folky, bluesy, country-ish mix that’s just perfect for delivering the noir folk tracks that have become their signature sound. Noir folk? Well, just check out the opening line from one on tonight’s standout tracks ‘The Gun’, ‘I’d like to be the ghost beneath the floor’ sings Jill, spookily giving it the old thousand yard stare across the crowd. It’s lines like these (and there are loads of ‘em), coupled with Jill’s voice that make this band stand out from the current...pardon the pun...flock of folk bands out there. It’s the shadow in the woods, the creak of a floorboard, an almost Nick Cave-ian obsession with the darker side of life that makes this particular Sparrow well worth listening to. Speaking of that man Cave, Drummer and co-vocalist Gregor (nice ‘tache there fella) provides a suitably deep vocal counterpoint to Jill’s more ethereal tones, adding to the haunting sense of menace that inhabits a lot of their material. Plenty of set highlights (culled from their impressive debut album, ‘Crystals Fall) ranging from a ball busting ‘I Will Break You’ (tonight dedicated by Jill to the Tory party...I’m with you on that one sister) to the slow burning intensity of ‘Last Chance’. It was the Rawhide-tastic retro sounds of ‘Devil Song’ that stole the show tonight though, a giddy up romp of a track that really showcased the Jill/Gregor vocal interplay before culminating in some particularly ferocious drumming.

Okay, so what can you say about The Pogues? They are THE festive party band. After Glitter got caught doing his bit for the kids of the world The Pogues Christmas tours have justifiably become the stuff of legend. There’s some debate over whether this is actually their farewell tour (as it’s been billed) but, if it is, tonight ain’t a bad way to bow out. Of course much of tonight’s music has got its origins in the pubs of Ireland, so I reckon it’s entirely appropriate that Shane should look and sound like he’s visited every single one of them. Frequently. That said he actually seemed pretty on the ball this evening (the rumour has it that, whilst he drinks more than most of us, he’s actually a fairly modest boozer these days...just three bottles of spirits a day now). With a series of fags on the go (I guess when you’ve got a liver the size of a water melon lung cancer ain’t much of a worry) he seemed to remember every single word, snag as tunefully as he ever has and remained pretty much upright for the whole show.

Preceded by The Clash’s ‘Straight To Hell’ played over the PA the set (and the whole place) erupted into ‘Streams of Whiskey’, with Shane ambling on to the kind of reception that Lady Gaga would give her merkin for. Pints flew, limbs were (quite possibly) torn off and the mass of human life at the heart of the venue quickly became one big joyful sweaty mess. What followed was The Pogues greatest hits, delivered with all the vim and vigour of a band on their first tour. Just cop a load of the tunes from the first half of the set...’If I Should Fall From Grace With God’, ‘A Pair Of Brown Eyes’, Thousands Are Sailing, ‘And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’...each and every one a true classic, greeted like some holy declaration by an adoring audience.

Amidst all of the party hearty celebrations there were a couple of touching moments too, with songs being dedicated to the recently deceased Captain Beefheart, and, ten years to the day since she was murdered (I call driving over someone swimming in an area clearly reserved for divers in a speedboat murder...wouldn’t you?), the late, great Kirsty MacColl, both of whom got an appreciative and well deserved round of applause. Kirsty’s dad’s tune ‘Dirty Old Town’ got one of the biggest singalongs of the night with Shane in particularly fine form, spitting out the lyrics in a haze of gin and despair. The encores (yes, there were several) had to include ‘Fairytale of New York’ (culminating in the traditional indoor snow storm) and a suitably rowdy version of ‘Irish Rover’. The whole thing climaxed with ‘Fiesta’ featuring Spider Stacey and Shane each trying to outdo one another by bashing themselves round the head with a tin tray. I think Spider pipped it this time...just to be on the safe side he then proceeded to trash his guitar too, smashing it to pieces by the side of the stage. That’ll take more than a bit of gaffer tape to fix up. Now that’s what I call a show. To paraphrase their biggest hit “Happy Christmas your arse, I pray God it ain’t their last”...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

RIP Captain Beefheart January 25th 1941 - December 17th 2010

Safe as milk but nutty as a fruitcake...and all the better for it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Jolly Boys @ The HMV Institute, Thursday 16th December 2010

There aren’t many bands around that can trace their history back to the 1940’s (nope, not even The Rolling Stones...although, to be fair, Richards looks like he was around in the 1840’s these days). But, more than 60 years since they first played together (they were Errol Flynn’s party band for a while), The Jolly Boys are, incredibly, still going strong. Okay, to be honest there have been one or two line up changes (blame the grim reaper rather than ‘musical differences’ for most of them) but a fair number of the people on stage tonight have been Jolly Boys for the odd half a century or so. Not bad going eh?

If you’re unfamiliar with the whole Jolly Boys vibe they’re basically a mento group, mento being a form of Jamaican folk music that heavily influenced the ska and reggae scenes back in the day. More recently the Boys have Jolly-ed up some modern classics from the world of pop and roll for their latest album ‘Great Expectation’...hence, no doubt, this short UK tour. As this appears to be only their seventh album in as many decades they’re clearly not a band that likes to hurry things too fact at this rate their next album and tour might pop up sometime in the 22nd century but, given their sheer energy and obvious joy in performing this evening I wouldn’t bet against them doing just that.

It was freezing outside tonight (a fact ruefully acknowledged by dentally challenged lead Jolly Boy, Albert, at the start of the gig), so that might excuse the small but enthusiastic crowd. Nevertheless we gave the band the kind of reception they deserved and they, feeling the love, gave it back to us in bucketloads. To kick off we got a trio of mento masterpieces, ‘Dig Dig’, ‘Iron Bar’ and, my personal favourite, ‘Talking Parrott’. Albert explained that, when he was a young boy, he always wondered why everyone had a talking parrot in a cage outside their porch. They seem to have been employed as some form of ‘guardbird’ against all manner of goings on...possibly in the bedroom department. I wonder how many marriages were confined to the dumper thanks to some loose beaked gossip eh? From the outset the equally loose but rhythmic mento magic got hips swaying (even mine...and that ain’t a pretty sight), with Derrick Henry as the band’s heartbeat, plucking away at his rumba box (a kind of wooden suitcase with metal prongs) and the banjo/guitar player (Donald?) adding some delicate flourishes that really came into their own throughout the cover versions.

Speaking of which the rest of the set consisted of a run through of the band’s new album and, unlike the majority of covers, pretty much every track benefitted from its mento makeover. I guess it’s because the sound is so alien to the originals that old favourites like The Stranglers ‘Golden Brown’ suddenly seem both fresh and familiar at the same time. At times it was actually hard to believe that these tunes weren’t actually mento tracks to begin with, thanks to the ease at which the band played them and some subtle tweaks here and there, take ‘Perfect Day’ for example, where Albert substituted ‘sangria’ for ‘Baileys’ as his park based tipple of choice.

Throughout the set Albert’s vocals continued to impress. You just can’t fake that. All those years, those late night parties, generous tots of rum and (perhaps) just the odd ‘herbal’ cigarette have created something that’s as rich Christmas pudding and as warm as a Jamaican Summer’s day. There’s a term in antique furniture...pattination...where the beauty of something lies in its age and wear. Well, I reckon it’s just as true in voices and when he sings an old favourite like ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ that voice gives it a whole new meaning and emotional intensity that the original now seems to lack. Just beautiful.

As you’ll see from the set list below the Boys played an eclectic mix of tracks this evening (who’d imagine New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ would work, as Albert put it ‘inna mento style’). Whilst it might’ve been nice to have some more ‘true’ mento tracks, that’s a minor quibble. The joy tonight was in hearing a new twist on classic tracks. Of all the covers perhaps the most surprising treat of all was Winehouse’s ‘Rehab’, with Albert gyrating in time to the music like a man half his...hell, scrap that...half my age. There’s something really pleasing about seeing a guy in his seventies singing “They tried to mek me go to rehab , I said no, no, no” with a real twinkle in his eye. After a good hour and a half they finished off with another unusual choice, Lou Reed’s ‘Passenger’, which rapidly developed into a mass la-la-la-along before Albert and Joseph (two of the longest serving members) did little solo jigs before dancing off into the night...anything but passengers. Prove that it really t’is the season to be Jolly.

Set List

Dig Dig / Iron Bar / Talking Parrot / Golden Brown / Perfect Day / Do It Again / Blue Monday / Hanging On the Telephone / Nightclubbing / You Can’t Always Get What You Want / Rehab / Riders On The Storm / Ring Of Fire / Passenger

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jolly Good Show...

It's not often you get the chance to see Errol Flynn's in house party band (and, arguably, the spritual godfathers of Ska and Reggae), but The Jolly Boys (who can boast both those claims to fame) are touring the UK right now. I'm off to see 'em at the HMV Institute in Birmingham (Thursday 16th) and I heartily suggest you get your bottoms down there too. Here's a little taste from their spanking new album 'Great Expectation'...a delicious cover of Winehouse's 'Rehab'.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Next Factor

So...some bloke’s won X Factor. Apparently 20million people watched the final. Good grief. It seems like there’s an enormous appetite for new talent (if indeed the bloke in question has any...I haven’t seen him...hold on a mo...nope...not an ounce of If only a small percentage of the audience would get off their sofas and pop down to their local gig venue / pub and see some of the real talent that’s out there then perhaps more bands would be able to make a proper go of things rather than being forced to do mind numbingly dull jobs just to make ends meet. Of course the X Factor has nothing to do with music really, it’s just a piece of fluffy escapism to distract us all from the impending economic Armageddon that’s heading our way. Needless to say I think it’s a soul sapping heap of cobblers that’s designed to make the most money for Cowell and co without giving a moment’s thought to anyone else...or, and here’s what really pees me off...contributing anything to our musical heritage.

Here’s a thought though. How about creating a show like X Factor (bear with me here) that features ‘real’ bands/singers, playing their own material week after week? Cover versions are all very well but if we just keep covering stuff we’ll all get very bored indeed. Of course there have been shows like this on Channel 4 (one of which was won by Birmingham’s very own Envy and Other Sins...although I think even that resorted to covers) but nothing (to my knowledge) on a prime time slot. Think of it as a cross between Top of the Pops, The Tube and the X Factor, with the main aim being to ‘break’ at least a dozen new bands each series. By ‘new’ I obviously mean a band that’s got at least an album’s worth of material ready to go but without a deal yet...and there are shed loads of ‘em out there. Unlike the X Factor the great unwashed would get to hear new and original tracks each week from equally new and original bands. Yes, it’s all very commercial and unhip but, given the dearth of opportunities for bands to get on TV these days (Jools Holland seems to be the only mainstream music show willing to take some kind of risk on new artists) I’d rather see this happen than lose generations of bands who just can’t catch a decent break. I guess you could make it a bit cooler if you had tolerable presenters and a policy that encouraged all sorts of different genres. Add a website with downloadable tracks each week and competitions for budding video makers and remixers to do their thang too and you might have something a little more creative than the current lame duck sausage factory pumping out singers who are, let’s face it, nothing more than puppets for Uncle Simon to play with. Of course the acid test would be whether the great unwashed would want to watch Lawnmower Death Factory playing ‘’I’m Going To Dump On Your Grave” but we might be pleasantly! God, I’m just so naive sometimes aren’t I?

Friday, December 10, 2010

This little Piggy...

The more observant readers out there might see the little button for Pig Radio on the left hand side of this nonesense (just above the Followers section...yes I have followers...just like Jesus...except without all the worshipping and nailing to bits of wood stuff). Anyway, Pig is a top notch internet radio station that I've been listening to pretty much non-stop for the past 4 or 5 years. No DJ's, no ads, no Coldplay, just one quality track after another. Bliss. They've been responsible for most of my musical discoveries recently and the videos above are just a couple of crackers (damn...should've saved that for a couple of weeks time). First up is a banging (can I say 'banging' without sounding like a twat? Nope? Okey dokey) party classic (there are oodles of cool remixes of this on You Tube too) from Australia's Bag Raiders. Next I've plucked a more low key track from one man lo-fi electro hobgoblin Adam Bainbridge AKA Kindness. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Go Team Go...

One of the more interesting acts to have emerged over the past decade or so, The Go Team, are poised to unleash their third album in January. Their first album, a glorious mash up of pop, funk, hip hop and dance, ‘Thunder, Lighting, Strike’ was pretty much superglued to my ears for a few months back in 2004 but, for some inexplicable reason, I seem to have missed the second one altogether. To make amends here’s one of the new album’s (Rolling Blackouts) ass shakingly great key tracks, the meaty, beaty, big and brassy ‘T.O.R.N.A.D.O’

PS: There is a proper video for this but it’s got an advert for a bank at the beginning of it...and I can’t condone advertising...unless someone’s paying me a shedload of money that is.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Top Tracks # 21 - Chungking - 'Making Music'

Time for another in the increasingly irregular series of Top Tracks...basically anything I like from the last 100 years or so. I'm in a snuggly mood today, mainly 'cos I'm trying to stave off hypothermia. So here’s the perfect song to snuggle up to (who or what you snuggle up to is your, woman, dog, radiator, a hastily microwaved Ginsters Pasty...anything to stop yourself from freezing to death is fine by me), Chungking’s ‘Making Music’. The ‘king are another one of those bands that seem to have garnered loads of ‘critical success’ but relatively little of the commercial variety. Oh well, the public’s loss is our gain as we can snuggle up to our pasties safe in the knowledge that this track ain’t about to be used to advertise sanitary pads or covered by The Saturdays any day soon. That’s enough of a reason to give this tune a spin, but the fact that it’s a heartbreakingly beautiful comfort blanket of a song that’s pretty much guaranteed to warm even the nippiest extremities is a real bonus. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Nice and Sleazy – RIP Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson

Meant to post this last week when it happened but time ran away with me. Ah well. Sad news for all fans of industrial music / weird and crazy shit following the death of Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson. If you know who he is you’ll also know just how important he was to...let’s call it the more alternative side of music. For the uninitiated he was one of the founder members of industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle, a leading player in early Psychic TV, 50% of post industrialists Coil and one of the dudes behind Hipgnosis who designed some of the most iconic album covers of all time (including that Pink Floyd one of the bloke on fire). Oh...he directed videos too, including this one:

On top of all this he seemed to be a genuinely nice bloke too. Admittedly some of what he did would probably freak the bejesus out of most people but here’s another classic Sleazy infused cut.

PS: Have a read of fellow Throbbing member Genesis's tribute to Sleazy.