Thursday, December 29, 2011

Abba New Year

Maybe it's just me but I find pretty much every Abba song to be wonderfully depressing. Perhaps it's the knowledge that all of those jolly smiles hid all kinds of marital disharmony or perhaps it's the fact that the blonde one hid herself away for years then ended up copping off with her stalker...who knows...whatever it is no one does post Christmas misery better than Abba do on this little beauty. Makes the average Arab Strap song seem pretty upbeat. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Dirty Old Folkers Panto / Sylvia / Ola Brown (Compere) @ The Hare and Hounds, Thursday 22nd December

Well, nearly there. The turkey’s already on, the mulled wine’s bubbling away and Bad Santa’s in the DVD player. Bliss. Just before I attempt to consume my own body weight in stuffing however time for one last review...almost literally given the sheer insanity on offer this evening. The night kicked off with local folk collective, Sylvia, who endeared themselves to my heart simply by covering Frankie’s Power Of Love track, not a traditional Christmas classic I’ll grant you but for people of a certain age (i.e. ancient) always associated with this time of the year. Covers aside they’ve got some fine self penned tracks too, with gentle harmonies giving way to slightly rockier riffs.

If their name doesn’t give it away then the first few tracks from The Dirty Old Folkers (self proclaimed as Birmingham's only comedy folk cabaret band) sets the tone for the rest of the night. Folk’s always been associated with protest but delve back into its history and there’s plenty of smut, humour and innuendo too. Unlike many of the current folk bands around right now The DOF the rod...creating a unique blend of bile and smiles. Imagine Ewan MacColl crossed with a Viz comic and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’re in for. The night kicked off with Old Man Tucker, a tale of an OAP who exacts entirely appropriate revenge on the fat cats for the shit way they have...and what’s pretty unbelievable...continue to behave (it’s a theme the band returned to on one or two other tracks). Second number, Jack Of All Trades, probably the most straightforward protest tune of the night, was a blistering attack on the selling off of what was left of the UK’s industry. This has had a huge impact on the Midlands of course, with Jaguar and Rover being flogged off for a song, Cadbury sold under particularly dubious circumstances and now the rail industry in Derbyshire being decimated by the Government’s decision to award a £multi-billion contract for new rolling stock to a German company. Genius eh? Fair play to The DOF for writing about this stuff, there’s far too little raging against the machine these days (speaking of which they did a rather fine folk take on Killing In The name Of later in the evening...quite brilliant).

Aside from the traditional set format tonight saw a performance of the fourth annual DOF panto, a surreal post modernist take on that old favourite Cinderella. Revolving around a coke snorting Cinders’ attempt to win the X Factor it featured a panda as Louis Walsh (naturally), David Bowie as The Fairy Zigfather, Death (yes, the actual Death...he lives in Kings Heath dontcha know) as The Rev Death and the delightfully foul mouthed spoonerisms of Buttons (sample dialogue “You’re a cucking funt!”). Bonkers? Yes? Enjoyable? You bet. Trust me, you had to be there. Plenty of people were. In fact the place was rammed, adding to the jovial party atmosphere when we were all called upon to join in on the frequent festive singalongs...a task that people strangely warmed to as the booze flowed. Funny that eh? As long as I live I doubt I’ll ever again see anything as strange as Death engage in a dance off with a giant panda to the tune of Sexy Back. Death won by the way, by killing panda, causing one well lubricated punter to call him a “Fookin’ cheat!” Ha! Take that death, you don’t mess with drunken Brummies. There’s something wonderful about having a ruck with death isn’t there? Remind me to do likewise when I’m about to pop my clogs.

After a quick break and a rub down with a damp cloth the hardest working band in show business were back for another set, the highlight of which involved the story of The Hobbit being set to a series of classic tracks, everything from I Will Survive to War Pigs. I’m not sure the ring Tolkein was referring to was the same one that The DOF seemed to have in mind this evening but who knows? A folking great evening of fun from start to finish.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sirens and Sailors - Deck The Halls

It had to happen. After postulating about the possibility of a death metal Christmas mix I've been sent this little metalcore beauty courtesy of Mr H. Genius. Now I know what's going to be soundtracking my hangover come Boxing Day...hell yeah.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Merry Chrismix!

Kid Fix Christmas mix 2011 by kid fix

Over the past few years I've noticed a growing trend for Christmas themed mixes to pop up here and there, perfect for replacing that well worn cassette of Now That's What I Call Christmas now well and truly encrusted with bits of turkey, mince pie and various unidentifiable 'stains'. Naturally, being the age of the intermess, they're all free too. Ho, ho, ho! This year there's a whole sackful of 'em, seemingly catering for pretty much every musical fetish. I'm pretty sure if you look hard enough there'll be a Very Death Metal-mas Mix Out there somewhere. Seriously. Personally I like a bit of hip hop n'soul with my turkey n'stuffing, that's just how I roll, so Kid Fix's mix (with added James Brown, Bad Lucc, Kurtis Blow and Al Green) hits the spot nicely. Enjoy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Circulus / The Burdock Band @ Moseley All Services Club, Friday 16th December

So where do you stand on the whole ceilidh thing then eh? I guess that might depend on how many glasses of egg nog / Christmas ale you’ve consumed. For the uninitiated a ceilidh’s a bit of a knees up, involving a bit of the old folk dancing thing (you know, all that taking your partners by the hand dosey-doe business). Whilst some folk are born to dance others aren’t, but at least folk dancing offers those of us with a complete lack of rhythm the chance to get on down whilst looking marginally less stoopid than we normally do, mainly because everyone else is too busy flailing around merrily to notice that you’ve just tripped over your feet/the floor/thin air...again. Tonight The Burdock Band do a fine job of getting this particular ceilidh started, geeing up the surprisingly unreserved crowd (brave took me a while to pluck up the courage to get up there) and unthawing those parts of the body deep frozen by the wind and sleet and it would be a churlish man indeed to deny the sheer joy of partying like it’s 1599.

Speaking of which, psychedelic medieval folk rock anyone? Yes, verily my lieges Circulus are hereth to geteth on downeth with the kind of tunes that Joan of Arc might’ve shaken a slightly singed tail feather to. Lead by Michael Tyack who, I think it’s safe to say, pretty much exists in his own fantasy world of elves and pixies (beats reality I guess), Circulus are a truly unique proposition. Briefly semi-famous for a while (somewhat bizarrely earning them a two page feature in NME) they’re now over ten years into their career, although they’ve had more members than I’ve had pints of scrumpy. Tonight they were down to a duo, Tyack and a lady on cello/fiddle, but that didn’t stop them from laying down an impressive series of acid tinged folk bangers with Tyack on particularly fine fretwork fondling form. “Wow, almost the end of the world – marvellous...2012 folks!” he announced midway through the set, referring to yet another one of those end of days predictions. He actually seemed pretty excited by the whole prospect to be honest, can’t say I blame him really. Set highlight was a flutetastic version of My Body Is made Of Sunlight, as poppy as the band gets, and a delightful 17th century tale of the Thames freezing over and having holes melted into it by women’s buttocks...which policemen then fell in to...the holes that is...not the buttocks. Quite what these women were doing with their buttocks out Tyack failed to explain but I’m sure there’s a perfectly innocent explanation. Maybe all will be explained in his forthcoming film about ‘energy lines’. There’s a preview at his house this Tuesday evening if you fancy it. He invited all of us along so I’m sure he wouldn’t find a few more people turning up.

After Circulus had done their thing The Burdock Band came back for some more ceilidh madness and only the necessity of having to catch the last bus home dragged me away from it all. Well, that and the fact that I was knackered after just one dance but we’ll gloss over that eh?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Moseley Folk Festival 2011

Moseley Folk Festival from junction15 on Vimeo.

Sitting here freezing in the kitchen the days when you could happily run around naked without your bits falling off seem a long, long time ago. Happily the lovely folk at Moseley Folk have just released this cockle warming little video of this year's festival featuring performances from Billy Bragg and Badly Drawn Boy along with some dreamy shots of the site in all its glory that somehow really capture that MoFo magic. There are a few punters talking about the festival too, no idea who that dodgy bloke with the moustache is...

PS: If you fancy a little MoFo Christmas action hop along to Moseley All Services Club this Friday night for merry medieval maniacs Circulus. Awesome.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Speak Up...the comeback!

Regular readers will know of my admiration for the lovely Jodi Anne Bickley, poet extraordinaire. A few months ago she suffered a pretty devastating stroke, robbing her of her ability to walk and write for a while. I’ve been ruddy peed off by a bad back (yes, I know, I’m old) for a few weeks so I can only begin to imagine what an impact this would have on someone who’s clearly so stuffed full of life. True to form though she’s battling back to health and this Wednesday holds another of her legendary Speak Up nights at the Hare & Hounds. Hurrah! There’s some top notch spoken word from, amongst others, Polarbear, some tunes from the one and only Tom Peel (plus Martyna Baker and Eva Lazarus) and the whole shebang’s hosted by Jodi and Matt Windle. Oh...there’s cake too. Yes, cake. That seals the deal right? If you can make it then do, if you can’t tell your friends...if you don’t have any friends then you need to get out there’s another reason to go eh?

Tickets from here!

Friday, December 09, 2011

Birmingham’s Musical History...the movie!

Wow. Where the hell has this little beauty come from? It’s a 7 part history of Birmingham bands from 1965 to 1985 featuring all sorts of previously unseen interviews with many of the key players. It’s only been up for a week or so and hasn’t had that many views yet (how come a video of some bloke chasing his dog across a park gets millions of hits but only a few dozen have watched this eh?). If you have any interest in music whatsoever...from Spencer Davies to The Move, ELO to Black Sabbath, Judas Priest to UB40 and on to the mighty, mighty Duran’s frankly essential. Enjoy.

For more stuff on Brum’s surprisingly rich musical contribution to the world check out the Birmingham Music Heritage website...oh...and spread the word too...this is so much better than Charlie bit my whatever.

PS: By a strange piece of synchronicity this is post number 800 for the Hearing Aid. Happy 800th Birthday. 800 posts. Good grief. I really should get out more...less...more...oh jeez.

Clean George IV...Scot's potential

Hmmmm, this lot sound interesting. Take a little pinch of Mark E Smith and Shaun Ryder’s winning ways with words, add a hint of The Pixies and a distinctly Celtic touch here and there and you’ve got something approaching Clean George IV.

Clean George IV 'Real Men Take Speed' by createspark

Hailing from Edinburgh there’s an album out in January and a bit of a hipster buzz building around the band, which I’ll merrily tag along with...being a hipster and all that. Yes, you’re right, who am I trying to kid? Anyway, this lot sound like the kinda band that’ll please the beard strokers (cop a load of those lyrics) as well as the mosh pitters...a neat trick if you can pull it off.

God Save The Clean (see what they did there...Lizzie will be pleased) is out on Tenement Records on 16th January 2012

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Grease @ New Alexandra Theatre, Wednesday 7th December

Ahhhhh those chills, they're multiplying...and it’s not just down to the nut shrivelling weather this time. Usually given at least one showing on TV over the Christmas period this year the New Alexandra is offering would be Sandys and Dannys the live version of Grease as an welcome alternative to the old “oh yes it is, oh no it isn’t, it’s behind you” panto business. Oh yes they are, oh no they’re...oh you get the idea.

Now 40 years on from the original stage musical (first performed in an old trolley barn in Chicago...that’s got to be worth a point in a pub quiz one day) and more than three decades since the classic movie version was unleashed Grease is seemingly as popular as ever judging by its four week run here. Whilst this current touring version’s perhaps low on big name stars (unless you count three time Olympic gold medal winning skater Robin Cousins) happily the cast’s high on energy, really throwing themselves into the performance (sometimes literally) to capture that hormone soaked buzz of rock ‘n’roll’s glory days.

Given the iconic status of the movie version it’s tempting to compare anyone stepping up to play Danny and Sandy with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John. Don’t. Approach this version as something fresh instead, with both leads bringing their own unique take on the roles. Danny Bayne plays Danny with a neat little twist of Joey from Friends, getting plenty of laughs along the way but dispensing with the vague hint of menace that Travolta had (although that’s probably down to Mr T’s real personality rather than his acting ability eh?). The virgin turned sex bomb of Sandy is arguably the hardest part to nail (as it were...) but Carina Gillespie makes the transition perfectly, transforming from straight laced to lace me up in a basque in the blink of an eye. The supporting cast were all excellent too but special mentions must go to Laura Wilson for her delightfully kooky Jan, Darren John as the super geek Eugene and Robin Cousins who camped it up beautifully as Teen Angel. Get that man on Strictly Come Dancing next year.

Whilst the solo numbers saw some impressive performances, Carina’s Hopelessly Devoted To You honestly surpassed the original for instance, it’s the ensemble pieces that’ll make you want to come back to this show time and time again. From the explosive opening of Grease Is The Word through to We Go Together and on to a frankly frantic Born To hand Jive that left me knackered these sections of the show are a grin inducing, foot tapping, ass shaking (not easy in a theatre seat but I gave it a go) treat.

All in all a hugely enjoyable production of true musical gem. Merry Grease-mas everyone!

Grease is on at the New Alexandra Theatre until Tuesday 31st December.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Last of the summer Winehouse...

Came across this amazing mini doc and collection of performances from when Amy Winehouse played an ickle church in Dingle, a tiny town in County Kerry. Recorded in 2006, just after Back To Black came out it's Winehouse at her very best. The songs are brilliant, the interview bits just so darn sweet and the whole thing justifies the huge outpouring of grief that kicked off when she shuffled off this mortal coil over the summer. Really well worth a watch.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Sounds of 2012...

So the BBC’s annual Sounds of...list is out once more and there’s not a huge amount to tickle the earlobes from what I’ve heard so far. Of the 12 acts the soulful sounds of Michael Kiwanuka are well worth a listen, Friends are real contenders and, on the basis of the following tracks, I’d take a punt on StooShe and Azelia Banks too. StooShe’s track, Betty Woz Gone is a grinningly upbeat mix of Salt n’Pepa meets Lily Allen and, by all accounts, they can cut it live too.

The Azelia Banks track is pure filth, featuring as it does a liberal use of the c-word...and we’re not talking Christmas here. Definitely one to play for Auntie Gladys on Boxing Day. Puts the ho back into ho ho ho...

Who would I stick in there? Well,for starters Dimbleby & Capper would be a shoe in...

as would Saint Saviour...

and Florrie...

...and Goodnight Lenin too of course...

That's just for starters of course, the one thing you can be sure of, no matter how much crap there might be out there right now (and there is a lot of crap out there, I'll grant you that) there's a lot more good stuff going on in bedrooms, pubs and broom cupboard sized venues all over the world, all you've got to do is dig it out. Enjoy...

PS: I've not included Lana Del Ray because, let's face it, she's going to be massive.

PPS: Yes, I know there are a whole bunch of bands I've raved about over the past few months who I've not mentioned here...why not settle down for a week and revisit all of this year's posts eh...your boss'll never know...

Monday, December 05, 2011

Goodnight Lenin / Paul Murphy @ Birmingham Cathedral, Saturday 3rd December

Ho ho ho Merry Christmas...what’s Santa got in his sack?’s Paul Murphy and Goodnight Lenin! Ho ho ho! Yes, it’s that time of the year again, time for the second annual Goodnight Lenin Christmas gig thingy, this year held in the rather lovely Birmingham Cathedral, duly decked out for the festive season with all the good taste you’d expect from the big man and his disciples.

First up Mr Paul Murphy, front dude for The Destroyers and all round local legend. I’ve only ever seen him in full on whirling dervish mode so the fact that he came on and sat down to play took a minute or two to get used to, I kept expecting him to leap up at any moment, kick off his shoes and vault over the pulpit cackling like Beelzebub. Whilst tonight was a much more chilled out affair it gave you the chance to bathe in that voice of his, the vocal equivalent of a 40 year old single malt. A warm, rich thing mellowed out by the years, he could sing a Christmas shopping list and make it sound strangely beautiful. Happily he’s got a better way with words than that and tracks from his new solo album, The Glen, cast a rather beautiful spell over the capacity crowd.

Shoplifters Blues, a humorous tale of Paul’s attempt to nick a Fray Benthos pie, raised a chuckle and a solo run through There’s a Hole In The Universe (a track more usually played with The Destroyers) ended a surprisingly intimate little set, no mean feat in a cavernous Cathedral. Anyone missing the full on Murphy experience though can dance their legs to bloodied stumps at The Destroyers gig at Birmingham Town Hall on the 10th December.

After a series of successful festival dates (including Glasto of course), an EP release and a memorable sell out show at the MAC in July it’s certainly been a good year for the Lenin. Tonight’s set clearly benefited from all this live experience with everyone playing with just that little extra bit of polish. Avid Lenin watchers were in for a real treat with a particularly poignant rendition of After All We Never Changed Too Much kicking things off, after a little bit of the legendary band banter that provides a neat counterpoint to many of the emotionally charged songs of course. Emotionally charged? Oh yeah. Take new song Laughter From a Younger Age with its line about “shrapnel from your shattered heart” for instance. There’s a world weariness to a lot of the band’s material that belies their youth and, like one of their heroes, Neil Young, who wrote the distinctly ‘battered by life’ anthem Heart Of Gold in his mid 20’s there’s a maturity to the writing that’s as hard to find as the object of Mr Young’s seemingly fruitless search.

Edward Colby, the best song never written by Simon & Garfunkel, is another fine example of this ability to sum up complex emotions...or entire lives in this case... in a simple but devastatingly effective song. Even if you’re not religious (and I’m as atheist as they come) the setting and delivery of this track this evening combined to create something quite beautiful. Want something with a bit more grrrrrrrrrr? Ode To Rebellion really grew some cojanes tonight, with some particularly meaty guitar solos and rock solid staccato drumming (from the newly moustachioed Sam...nice work there fella). Of course you can’t play a Christmas gig without a Christmas song and happily the band has one, sort of...well it’s got the word Wenceslas in the title (Wenceslas Square) and that’s good enough for me. Having watched the band for a couple of years now personal favourite tracks change over time, but one’s stayed the distance though. Old Cold Hands is arguably their best song to date and tonight the trio of John, John Joe and Liam sang the pants off it.

Fell’s “relentlessly nothing” line is a real killer (cop a listen and hear what I mean) and you’d have to have a heart of stone (nope, not gold this time) not to feel more than a twinge of gut wrenching emotion. Things ended on a lively high though with the upbeat pew shaker Glory Be and, if there is a God, I reckon he’d have been shaking his beard and tapping his sandals like a good ‘un. I hear he likes a bit of dubstep too, him and the Angel Gabriel can often be seen mashing it up...

So, what’s next for Northfield’s finest? Hopefully an album. They’ve got the songs, they’ve got the live experience to do ‘em justice and now there’s a growing fanbase (tonight’s gig looked like another sell out) to snap it up. Put it all together and a cracking night like this one could well lead to an even greater year for them.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

‘Twas the Goodnight Lenin before Christmas...

Okay, it’s Christmas now. No excuses. Get stuffing those mince pies and swigging gallons of Bailey’s. Dust off your copy of Now That’s What I Call Christmas as well or, if you’re really cool, James Brown’s Funky Ass Mofo Christmas Get Down Get Up Stay On The (Nativity) Scene Vol 1.

Of course if you’re anywhere near Brum you’ve got to get down to Birmingham Cathedral this Saturday (3rd December) for the second annual Goodnight Lenin Christmas Spectacular too, featuring none other than the legendary Paul Murphy (lead singer of The Destroyers) as support! You’d miss Oh alright then.

Last few tickets available here!