Thursday, April 28, 2011

Saint Saviour / Dimbleby & Capper @ The Academy, Wednesday 27th April 2011

How far would you travel for a gig eh? 5 miles? 10? 20? 50? How about 250? Yep, such was the appeal of tonight’s double bill that one dude made it all the way from Glasgow to be here. Now that’s devotion. I can see his point though...

Opening act, Dimbleby & Capper (actually just one person tonight, Laura Bettinson, although sometimes there are four others) plays the kind of beat heavy tribalistic sampledelic mash ups that makes me glad I‘ve got ears. Eyes surrounded by sequins she wowed the small but perfectly informed crowd with an equally sparkly set. Some people are just natural performers (it’s actually a pretty rare thing) but Laura’s one of them. You get the sense that she’s just as comfortable singing in her bedroom (that’s currently doubling as her recording studio) as she will be in front of thousands. And if there’s any justice in this world she soon should be. Skilfully mixing live samples with a theatrical flair every track was a highlight (the same could be said for both artists tonight) but an honourable mention must go to Structures, a kind of modern day Papa Don’t Preach (with added cross dressing undertones) and a unique beat driven cover of The Crystals’ Then He Kissed Me. When she’s not recording or performing Laura’s also into the whole vintage clothes thing...a particular fetish of mine right now...and designing her own stuff. Rather than hand out cards at the end of her set she gave us Dimbleby and Capper name labels (the sort of thing your mum sewed into your underpants). A suitably unique approach to marketing from a true one off.

Despite a particularly severe (but rather fetching) haircut at the weekend what’s left of the hairs on the back of my neck were well and truly standing to attention as the star of tonight’s show opens her mouth for the first time. After performing with Groove Armada and electro popsters The RGB’s Becky Jones, aka Saint Saviour, is now striking out on her own, with this tour being the first chance for most people to catch her solo show in full flow. I’d make sure you do if I were you. People bang on about the lack of originality or flair in music these days but you only have to watch an artist like Saint Saviour to realise that’s a sack load of balls. Sure, perhaps you can pick up the odd influences from Kate Bush (vocally and in the magical moves that Becky peppered the show with) but that voice of hers is something else. Incredibly fragile one moment, beltingly soulful the next, she’s one of those singers who can transform a song into an experience, making the words and notes actually feel something. It’s not something that always comes across on record or video, it’s that special feeling that you only get from actually being there, in the flesh. From opening track, the Japanese tinged ‘Red Sun’ right through to the encore, a stunningly emotive number called ‘Reasons’ I was bewitched, entranced and captivated. There are just a handful of singers who’ve really connected with me this way. Anthony Hegarty and Jamie (from The Irrepressibles) always make the grade. Saint Saviour’s just been added to the list.

As with Dimbleby & Capper it’s hard to pick highlights but Woman Scorned (one of the best singles of the past few years in my humble opinion) just has to be one of them. Dolly Parton meets Moloko at Studio 54. Awesome. I just loved the energy she put into the whole show too, twisting and spinning like an eel and (quite literally at one point) bending over backwards to give us a truly memorable performance. You know what? 250 miles doesn’t seem too far to travel right now...

Young Runaways - Vultures

Hearing Aid favourites The Young Runaways continue to spread the musical loveliness with a recent session for Amazing Radio. This vid was shot to capture the event and features a guest appearance at the end from a different kind of young runaway...a little kid on a scooter who crashed the gig. Awwww bless!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Keep it real?

Tribute bands fascinate me. I’ve always been a bit of a sniffy music ponce about the whole thing and generally avoided them like the plague. It’s as naff as hell and cheapens the music right? It’s a joke, a washed out pale imitation of the real thing? It’s the preserve of people who buy supermarket cola and shop at Matalan eh? Hmmmm maybe that’s all still true, but I had a bit of a revelation last weekend.

There are, of course, two distinct breeds of tribute bands. On the one hand there are tributes to bands or artists who simply ain’t around to tour anymore...either due to the fact that they’ve split up (see The Smiths Indeed for instance) or inconveniently shuffled off this mortal coil (see any one of the billions of Elvi...if that’s the plural of Elvis). Then there are the tributes who provide a cut price Poundland alternative to actual touring acts (see the Kings Ov Leon, the Blings or Leon or even the Kins of Leon...and nope, I’m not making any of those up). Given that genuine Kings of Leon tickets cost around £60 a pop you can see the appeal (or not as the case may be). On Saturday I was mulling all this over whilst watching Absolute Bowie in Birmingham City Centre (at the St George’s Day Festival). I guess Absolute Bowie kind of straddle the two camps. Given his dodgy ticker I can’t see ol’ Dave playing live much ever again so if you want to hear the songs as nature intended this could well be your only chance. Having seen the man himself at Glasto a few years back I was able to make a bit of a comparison and, well, they were pretty impressive, giving an affectionate, professional and faithful recreation of some of the Dame’s greatest hits. This in turn led me to idly wonder if any tribute bands are actually BETTER that their originals? Given Jim Morrison’s legendary drug intake for example does Wild Child (one of many Doors tribute bands) do the songs more justice than the lizard king and co? It’s possible...

We need one of those bods from that annoying BBC science series on the case...Doctor Yan or whatever his name is. I’m sure he’s more than capable of reanimating Morrison’s corpse for a Doors ‘battle royale’. In the meantime (and somewhat more realistically) if anyone has seen both an original band and their corresponding tribute act recently I’d be intrigued to know how they stacked up against each other.

PS: There’s now an entire festival dedicated (mainly) to tribute bands called Glastonbudget. Genius! It’s all happening at Turnpost Farm, Leicestershire 27th – 29th May 2011 and it looks like huge fun. I’m betting Guns 2 Roses will be a whole lot better than Axl’s current incarnation too...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Oh Cancer! Up Yours!

Wow...there are a lot of sad deaths from the big C out there right now. I’d heard Poly Styrene, arguably one of the most important figures in the whole punk movement, was battling cancer a few months ago but it’s just been confirmed that she’s passed away. If such a thing can be made even sadder Poly recently made her comeback, releasing a brand new solo album after decades in relative obscurity.

Mixed race (at a time when racial tension was still a big deal), wearing braces and screaming up a storm she was everything that was great about punk...that whole’ just get up there and do it no matter what you looked or sounded like’ ethos that ushered in a musical revolution...something we could all do with again now I reckon. If you’ve not heard it the album she made with X-Ray Spex, Germ Free Adolescents is frankly essential. Click on the vid above for a quick blast. RIP Polly.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Gerard Smith RIP

I was lucky enough to see an awesome TV On The Radio gig a few years ago so the news that their bassist Gerard Smith has died at just 36 (just a month after his diagnosis) was a bit of a shocker. 36! WTF? Not that they'll ever read this (it's what we bloggers do on such occasions though)but my thoughts go out to his family and the band. In the words of Curtis Mayfield, keep on keeping on...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Steve Cradock / Black Market Empire / The Mystery Lads...aka Little Liam @ HMV Institute, Wednesday 20th April 2011

Combining his own headlining tour (promoting his new album), along with a support slot on Beady Eye’s attempt to win fans and influence people, Steve Cradock’s currently as busy as a bee on speed. If you don’t know the name you’ll know the tunes and riffs - Steve’s one of the driving forces behind Ocean Colour Scene as well as a regular member of Mr Paul Weller’s backing band. So the packed room was no surprise really. Before Steve’s set though a couple of support acts warmed (as if we needed any was pretty moist in there) up the crowd. The first of these (a male duo) made the cardinal error of not giving their names...or the titles of any of the songs in fact. Whoever they were it was a solid showing with some catchy tunes and decent streetwise lyrics (EDIT: They're called Little Liam...turns out Steve Cradock taught one half of the band - Liam Garland - to play!).

Next up though a band I know all about, Black Market Empire, with yet another fine meaty, beaty musical treaty set. Kicking off with a frankly storming ‘Begging You’ (Joy Division meets The La’s...yep, that good) they whipped through 7 further tracks of quality beat infused tunes, firmly cementing their place as one of the best live bands in the Midlands right now. There’s an easy charm to their performances which, coupled with some truly classic sounding tunes, makes every gig a real pleasure. On top of the opening number newish track Hannah was also particularly strong this evening...the sound of a band that’s really going somewhere. I suggest you hook up with them for the ride...

Being his home town (well, near enough...he was born in nearby Solihull) the crowd gave Steve a particularly warm reception on his entrance (oooer missus...titter ye not etc etc). There’s a lot of love for this dude here in the Midlands and, at times tonight, he seemed a little overwhelmed by it all. It’s gotta take balls to step and become the frontman after so many years in more of a supporting role so he got my vote before he’d opened his mouth. The set started strongly with Last Days of the Old World, one of the standout numbers from the new solo album, Peace City West. I think it’s probably fair to say that Steve's strengths lie more in songwriting and guitar playing than singing, but given this his vocal performance was pretty good. I’m guessing more live shows will polish off any rough edges (the odd moment when lines were lost by singing too far from the mic for instance). Like the man himself said tonight though “As you can probably tell I‘m not used to this shit!”

Unashamedly retro the tunes draw influences from such musical luminaries as The Small Faces and The Beatles as well as capturing the spirit of Cradock’s ‘other band’ OCS. Of the more reflective stuff The Clothes They Stood Up In came off particularly well tonight with Steve really capturing the emotion of the song. It was the set closer, ‘I Man’, that hit the spot though. The pick of the album, tonight Steve and co span the track into a glorious jam that perfectly showcased his legendary guitar playing. Minutes later he returned with Dion Dublin. Yes, that Dion Dublin. It turns out that the former England footballer and current pundit has invented an instrument called the Dube. I’m not making this up. Seriously. Whatever next...Rooney's Roonmonica? (no matter how hard you try it won't play anything..instead it just shags your gran and tells you to fuck off). Even more surprising it’s quite an impressive thing...a kind of cubist percussion box he played standing up with his hands and fingers. The track he backed, Steppin’ Aside, was fabulously funky too, arguably a close contender for the highlight of the night. Anyway, after Dion had cleared away his Dube the encore concluded with Beware of Falling Rocks, the song fading away with the ‘It’s all too beautiful’ refrain from The Small Faces’ Itchycoo Park, a gently understated tribute from one fine musician to another.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sophie Barker ‘Seagull’

As you’d expect from the writer and singer behind Zero 7 this album’s a classy mix of (mainly) chilled out "happy sad" tunes, relying heavily on Barker’s breathy, smoke tinged vocals. It’s the perfect soundtrack to a Sunday morning in bed with the papers or a late night lounge on the sofa after a hard day at whatever soul sapping job you're forced to whore yourself out to. Listen to it and you can just feel the bullshit fade away. As with a lot of chilled out music it can tend to wash over you a little (no bad thing sometimes)which is what makes the album’s standout track, ‘Bluebell,’ such an unexpectedly groovy treat. Over a stabbing bed of dirty wah wah guitar Sophie waxes lyrical about the love of her life before the Philly horn driven chorus explodes all over us like one giant funkgasm. Glorious. That’ll wake up the neighbours on Sunday morning...

Seagull is out on 9th May on Ho Hum Records.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Mummers / The Bluebeat Arkestra / Evil Alien @ The HMV Academy, Friday 15th April 2011

For many bands the sudden death of one of their key members signals the end of it all and, after The Mummers lost their chef composer Mark Harwood to suicide in 2009 you wouldn’t have blamed them if that had indeed been the outcome. But, to their credit, they decided to carry on, partially it seems in tribute to the man who’d helped shape their unique sound. This is a very, very good thing.

First up though another very good thing in the shape of Evil Alien, a relatively new group tonight making (I believe) their surprise live debut. Already tipped by Q Magazine as a ‘next big thing’ they feature, amongst others the lovely Gemma Quarterman, an artist I particularly rated in her solo incarnation. In stark contrast to her former life as an acoustic singer/songwriter Evil Alien has echoes of Underworld, Tricky and FSOL. Brooding Trip Hop meets euphoric early 90’s dance (they’ve even got a track called Higher Than The that one) in an inner city soundtrack to the post millennial meltdown. The interplay between Gemma’s voice and the male lead works really well and the often intense sonic backdrop provided the perfect setting for it all. One comment I would make is that Gemma was set back from the front of the stage a bit, I’d like to see her upfront sharing the limelight, especially as she sings lead vocals on the set highlight for me, called (I think) The Best Days. A predictably impressive debut though, from a band that has potential scrawled all over it.

Next up and holy come no one’s ever told me how awesome this lot are? With more than a gentle nod to Sun Ra in their name you might expect some serious sonic experimentation...and, whilst they never threaten to blow your frontal lobe out of your eyeballs, tonight The Bluebeat Arkestra put on one of most enjoyable shows I’ve seen in years. Fusing funk, ska and dub and with a pair of irrepressibly bubbly female vocalists out front it was a half hour lesson in just how much fun great music can be. Kicking off with Won’t Be Waiting (think a funkier version of St Etienne) and ending with a simmering cover of Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang in between they managed to draw inspiration from everything from The Beat and Fine Young Cannibals through to Kool and the Gang and Isaac Hayes’ Theme From Shaft. Brilliantly fusing genres like there’s no tomorrow, which, given the state of the world these days there might well not be, The Bluebeat Arkestra might well be one of the best live acts around right now.

On then to The Mummers. Lead singer Raissa had some solo success back in the 90’s but then, as is sadly so often the case in the music ‘biz’, things fizzled out and she ended up waiting tables to make a living. Remember that next time you’re in Pizza Hut...the person serving you could be musical genius. I heard tales of Syd Barrett flipping burgers in Wimpy back in the 70’s (actually I didn’t but that would’ve been kind of cool eh?). Anyway, The Mummers produce the kind of lush, orchestral show tunes that you might expect from Hollywood musicals of the 40’s and 50’s (think Bjork’s It’s oh So Quiet meets The Carpenters in a circus big top) rich and warming as a mug of hot cocoa and one of those blanket bodywarmer thingies that fat people sit in when they’re watching Jeremy Kyle (whoever he is) on the telly. It’s tear jerkingly beautiful stuff. I was a little apprehensive about how they’d make it all work in a live setting and, to be fair, it’s impossible to do it full justice without a 50 piece orchestra but the more stripped back feel doesn’t diminish the emotional impact of the tracks one iota. Tonight, Raissa informed us, was their first ever gig ‘up north’, which must’ve been scary for the poor lass. We’re savage beasts at the best of times. Happily she’d soon climbed down from the stage and was wandering amongst us, serenading lucky audience members with that lullaby voice of hers. Music can stir up all kinds of emotions and doubtless the sad passing of Mark Horwood adds an extra layer of meaning to it all but, even without the tragic back story this is simply beautiful stuff. Wonderland was fairytaletastic, on Top Of The World symphonically stupendous and March Of The Dawn somehow managed to fuse military band music with Bjork at her best to produce something truly unique. After this last track Raissa sank to her knees and seemed to be overwhelmed...either by the rapturous reception of the crowd or perhaps the emotions that the song conjures up for her and the rest of the band.

It was the cover of Todd Rundgren’s Fade Away (off the band’s new EP Mink Hollow Road) that really did it for me though. Again mixing the sounds of military brass bands with soft as a babies bottom lullaby lyrics it was just, to borrow the old cliché, heartmeltingly gorgeous. Suitably enough the last number of the main set was a track called ‘This Is Heaven’. You know what? I couldn’t agree more.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mummer’s the word...

Another top gig tip for you and another great show from Birmingham Promoters...this time it’s rising baroque popsters The Mummers. Springing from Brighton, the same City as the frankly life affirming Miserable Rich, the band weaves such diverse influences as John Barry, MGM musicals into a bewitching soundtrack to another world. And if that isn't tempting enough to pull you away from a takeaway on the sofa I don't know what is. They’re on tour right now and play the HMV Institute on Friday (15th). As far as I know tickets are still available right here. Not to be missed...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

(Record) shopkeepers of the world unite!

This Saturday (the 16th) sees the annual Record Store Day and, on top of all the limited edition releases that’ll (irony ahoy) end up on e-Bay within 30 seconds at vastly inflated prices, there are loads of instore sessions going on. Here...and indeed Birmingham the lovely folk at Speech Fewapy Records are curating a pair of gig-lets with the equally lovely Miss Perry Presents.

The day kicks off at 1pm at Swordfish (Temple Street) with The Traps, Malpas, Tom Peel and Victories at Sea playing in-store, and continues over at Polar Bear Records (Kings Heath) from 3pm with The Traps, Vinny & The Curse, Black Heart Generator and John Presley.

A limited run of a Speech Fewapy Records Record Store Day compilation, featuring music by the artists playing that day will be available to buy in both Swordfish Records and Polar Bear Records. If you make it along to Polar Bear Records on Saturday afternoon you’ll also be treated to a few tasty offerings from Kings Heath culinary wizzkids ‘Soul Food Project’. Yumalicious.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Guillemots @ Ikon Eastside (shhhh...don’t tell anyone), Sunday 10th April 2011

The Guillemots have done a few of these ‘secret’ shows now, with the venues being announced on the day of the gig (although tonight’s venue seemed to be pretty well known a while back). I had hoped it might be Bunny’s ‘gentleman’s club’ on the Hagley Road but it ended up being Ikon Eastside instead. C’est la vie.

On entering the venue we were all given Guillemots glo sticks, prompting momentary concerns about a radical Nu Rave direction from the band. Happily they’ve decided to stick with what they know best - classic songwriting and beautiful arrangements. If it ain’t broke why fix it eh? With the new album just days away from release tonight was a chance to hear a fair few of these newbies for the first time, as well as revisiting some old favourites. Whilst one or two of the older numbers still shone out, notably Made Up Love Song # 43 (top marks to tonight’s audience for some remarkably tuneful singing along) and Trains to Brazil for instance, it was actually the newer stuff that really got the juices flowing though. Vermillion, only the second track of tonight’s set, is a real epic, Fyfe’s vocals and piano giving way to a kind of apocalyptic wall of noise midway through the song. Emotionally charged stuff. Another new one (and the album’s title track), Walk The River, managed to be both insanely catchy and reflective at the same time, giving Fyfe the perfect chance to flex his vocal muscles especially on a glorious but ever so slightly disturbing chorus (Walk the riiiiverrrrr, like a haunted animal). Then there was (cue trainspotter’s list) I Don’t Feel Amazing Now, Dancing In The Devil’s Shoes, Yesterday Is Dead...just one great song after another, new but familiar at the same time, all bearing those distinctive Guillemots trademarks but somehow more rounded, fleshed out and...well, grown up I guess. Fyfe's a natural, equally at home with the raucous (well, as raucous as The Guillemots get) as he is with the more ballad type stuff. Having seen him the night before as a solo performer it was good to see the obvious buzz he got from playing with his bandmates though – a united nations wet dream of a line up...a Scot, a Brazilian, a Canadian and a Brit...I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere. It was just a lovely evening. Great music, a chilled atmosphere and a real sense that we were watching the unveiling of some future classics.

For the second consecutive night I was privileged to play roadie and lend Fyfe a pen so he could turn on his mini keyboard. Bassist Aristazabal even asked if I’d like to join the band. I did offer my services to Fyfe after the show as ‘pen guy’ but I don’t think he was convinced. Come on now, plenty of careers have been based on less than that right?

The encore saw Fyfe return to the stage alone with his guitar. Then the strap broke. “Oh god, I’m going to have to play this like a Spanish ponce” he moaned, propping one leg up on a chair to rest it on before launching into a surprisingly good (and bloody funny) snatch of cod flamenco. “Stick it on the album” someone shouted. Stranger things have happened. Whether we ever get a flamenco album from Fyfe and co is debatable, what isn’t is the fact that Walk The River is going to be one of the albums of the year. No question. On the strength of tonight’s heart warming and emotionally naked show we could well have one of the best live acts on our hands too. A ‘Fyfe’ star performance all round.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Rites of Spring Festival featuring Fyfe Dangerfield, Lulu and the Lampshades, Boat to Row, Young Runaways, Timothy Parkes @ Ikon Eastside, Saturday 9t

Spring. A time of rebirth and new growth. How ironic then that this festival is the closing event for Ikon Eastside, one of the first local victims of the public spending cuts. Good to know we’ve still got billions to spend on bailing out bankrupt countries and bombing others to oblivion, but not a few grand for art and culture eh? Happily the mood was anything but glum thanks to a folky, artist packed line up (five in three hours...that’s going some) kicking off with the lovely Timothy Parkes who bravely decreed that he was “the fluffer” for tonight’s other performers. Thankfully we were spared the sight of our Tim blowing Fyfe and co, instead he wisely stuck to a short but bitter sweet set of story inspired tunes ranging from musings on his ex-wife to a night of almost inter species bromance with a white that’s how you get the party started.

Next up some top notch brassy orchestral folk in the form of The Young Runaways, quickly becoming a bit of a favourite of mine courtesy of their enthusiastic performances and huge great slabs of brass loveliness...boy, I do love a bit of brass. Pick of the set was Morning Rush, a glorious Wonderstuff-ish track that gave the “Wolverhampton Philharmonic Orchestra” as their lead singer dubbed them plenty of chance to shine. Parp, parp, parp perfection.

Continuing with the young and the folky Boat to Row carry on cementing their rep for joyful and jaunty shows with another lesson in the power of boy / girl harmonies and the wonders of the fiddle...or is it a violin...buggered if I know the difference. Sounds good to me though. Bonus points for adding a bit of socio-political spunk into the mix with a track called The Working Class. Impressive shades of both Ewan and Kirsty MacColl in the performance and writing.

Next up folk popsters Lulu and the Lampshades, possibly the only band to ever ask the soundman to mic up a typewriter. They’re probably fed up of being called quirky, but they are. So there. Nowt wrong with that either. Give me quirky over formulaic any day. They’re a fascinating proposition, a little twee one moment, then thrashingly aggressive (as in their best track of the set Meet Up) the next. Complex rhythms nuzzle up next to child like simplicity and tribalistic drumming shares centre stage with the aforementioned typewriter. Despite recently suffering a drive by falafel attack (yes, really...she found a grain of rice under her eyelid just before the set...urgh) lead lampshade Heloise was a delight. If only all drive by incidents were as quirky as this lot the world would be a better place (note to ‘Colonel’ Gaddafi: try dropping stuffed vine leaves on your rebels for a change...).

Last up and festival closer Fyfe Dangerfield’s on something of a roll right now. After that profile boosting ad soundtrack he’s back with a brand new Guillemots album that’s currently getting, as they say in the biz, ‘rave reviews’. It never seems to go to his shaggy old head though bless him and tonight’s set was a wilfully ramshackle as ever. That’s not a criticism of the music by the way, but Fyfe’s got the natural ability to pitch up and play a set without polishing the shit out of the thing and that’s as endearing as a bed full of pink fluffy kittens.

The set began with a mild heckle from Fyfe’s equally talented older bro Al (lead singer of the criminally underrated Courtesy Group). “Get yer coat off” yelled Al. Despite the heat (today was the warmest April day ever, ever, ever...phew what a scorcher, hotter than the sun etc etc) he remained buttoned up in a military style overcoat throughout the set. Maybe he ain’t just one man? Maybe beneath that coat are dozens of tiny musicians all controlling different bits of him eh? Given the sheer talent on display I wouldn’t be surprised. For an hour or so we were treated to something old, something new, something borrowed and er...something blue...that coat. Old stuff came in the form of Fyfe’s solo material including a heartmelting Barricades. New stuff included an unveiling of a clutch of fresh Guillemots tunes, pick of the bunch being the forthcoming album’s title track Walk The River and, finally, the borrowed bit was an encore featuring an inspired cover of Nick Lowe’s The Beast In Me. Grrrrrr. He didn’t do THAT track...but you know what, he didn’t need to. Billy Joel may well have given Fyfe his biggest hit to date but I reckon the best is yet to come. "I've not got much to say" mused Fyfe midway through the set, given the wild applause at the end the night his audience clearly disagreed.

Last minute’s The Xcerts offer

Okay, Tuesdays suck. If you ask me Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays ain’t much cop either. But happily this Tuesday (yes, that’s tomorrow...boy, what were you drinking last night eh?) doesn’t have to suck quite so much. Scotland’s finest purveyors of ‘distorted pop’, The Xcerts, hit Birmingham’s legendary Hare & Hounds and, as if that wasn’t enough to get you slightly moist with xcitement anyone who quotes “I’m Slightly Moist” at the door gets a quid off the entry price. Seriously (I was going to come up with some silly code for this like HearingAid1 or something but I just like the idea of someone saying “I’m Slighty Moist”...yes, I’m a bit twisted). It’s the perfect antidote to Tuesday night suckiness.

PS: Support comes from You Animals and Brontides...neither of whom suck either. Result!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Get your Phil...a Phil Ochs special

This Saturday sees the 35th anniversary of the death of Phil Ochs (spookily enough he was 35 when he took his own life too), a singer and songwriter who, despite a recent movie about his work (ranging from protest folk at its very best through to full on orchestral pieces), is still criminally underrated. Please take a moment to watch these clips and hopefully you’ll see (and hear) why he deserves a place in your life. There's plenty more where this came from. Enjoy.

RIP Phil

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Steve Cradock – Peace City West

The Ocean Colour Scene and Weller guitarist (Paul returns the favour here) is back with his second solo album, a collection of mainly 60’s influenced tracks many of which are, well, distinctly reflective. Just cop a load of some of the song titles, Finally Found My Way Back Home, My Scooter Sits Idle, Only Look Up When You’re Down, Lay Down Your Weary Burden... it’s got all the signs of a chap in full on midlife crisis mode. I know how he feels. Anyway, happily Steve manages to combine all this introspection with some decidedly upbeat melodies as on opening track Last Days Of The Old World, a jaunty look at the emotional disconnection that technologies having on us all. No, trust me, it’s a corker. Next up The Pleasure Seekers will bring an instant smile to (small) faces everywhere...Marriot would be proud of that one. In between the tracks proper Steve’s inserted ‘interludes’, little musical nuggets that range from 60’s psych to sparse piano pieces. It’s a nice way to freshen the musical palate and hints at a different, more experimental side to Steve’s musical tastes. That being said the album’s standout number is the trippily mod-ish I man, as 60’s as the mini skirt, free love and lava lamps..."Far out maaaan”. A surprisingly well rounded album that gets better with each spin.

Peace City West is out now on Kundalini Music

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Is Gatecrasher trying to destroy the Birmingham music scene?

Worrying news reaches Baron Towers that Gatecrasher Birmingham (the ruddy huge club thingy at the top of Broad Street) is allegedly paying reps to pull down or cover up posters from other local venues. I’m not a clubber so they’re on a losing streak with me already...I guess I’m not their target audience anyway...but IF this is true then it sucks balls. And so do they. Wouldn’t it be terrible if all their posters mysteriously ‘fell’ down over the next day or two eh? Music fans of Birmingham you know what to do...

Alternatively Gatecrasher can put an immediate stop to all this nonsense, issue a full apology and buy all of the hard working promoters of Birmingham several huge glass of red wine and we’ll say no more about it.

Alison Krauss & Union Station – Paper Airplane

Bluegrass superstars Alison Krauss (fresh from her dalliance with Robert Plant) and Union Station are back with a brand new album and, happily, it’s business as usual with a whole bunch of classic sounding tunes from the voices (Alison shares vocal duties with Dan Tyminski) that bought you the standout tracks from the now essential ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ soundtrack.

The highlight’s the pluckingly great title track, an exquisite vocal performance from Alison set against some nicely understated playing with a suitably subtle country twang. Close runner up, 'Dustbowl Children' (with echo’s of O Brother’s ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ in there) somehow sounds strangely timely. Perhaps that’s intentional...maybe the ‘dustbowl’ they’re singing about is a metaphor for what’s left of our economy here in the west eh? I’d like to think so. Elsewhere 'Lie Awake’s' sultry laid back groove is well worth the price of the album alone. Lush.

Paper Airplane's out on Rounder Records on April 12th

Monday, April 04, 2011

Sunday bloody Sunday...

So the planned Jim Jones will have to wait a while ‘cos they rescheduled the gig due to illness. As I’d already prised my sorry ass off the sofa I was damned if I was going to go straight home again so we ended up at The Yardbird for a bit of ‘The Free Love Club’, a monthly acoustic jam type thang that kicks off at 4pm and carries on until 11-ish. It’s free too. Yep, my favourite word again. Well worth popping in if you can’t face the working week and fancy extending the weekend a little you’re bound to hear some great Oh!Stockholm (seen in the video above wandering around the Peace Gardens in Birmingham...somehow avoiding getting stabbed by junkie crack whores). Check out their MySpace thingy for details of the next one (the Free Love Club gig that is...not the whole junkie crack whore stabbing thing...).

PS: The Jim Jones Revue gig’s been rescheduled for June 16th I believe...same venue...The Academy.