Friday, March 30, 2012

The Jet Age

To celebrate the start of a tour by one of the best British bands of the last decade or so, the Mystery Jets, how about a snuffle through their back catalogue eh? Good idea. Hear, hear. All those in favour say “aye”. Motion carried.

Incredibly this track's 6 years old now. Wow. Where do the years go eh? Featuring Blaine’s dad, Henry, as a remarkably fresh looking corpse I can remember this song having a particular resonance with me back in day...early mid life crisis and all that. It’s true...you really can do anything you want as long as it makes sense...there’s a lesson for us all there.



Fast forward a couple of years and the Jets hook up with a young, fresh faced lass by the name of Laura Marling...wonder what happened to her eh? Oh...right...



They’re hitting a golden patch here with the glorious ‘80’s pop stylings of Two Doors Down, replete with authentic video. Bonus points for name checking Television’s Marquee Moon.



Slow build track? Check. Hipster video? Check. Gorgeous blonde? Check. Works for me. That gets the old Serotonin flowing...nothing else mind you...what do you think I do all day...sit here whacking off...?



Well, that brings us right up to date with this new one, Someone Purer. Given that most of the new album was recorded in Texas it’s got a bit more of a US feel to it, shades of The Strokes and The Killers in places. Stadium rock-tastic.



The Mystery Jets kick off their first tour in 18 months this evening and hit my 'hood (Birmingham) on Wednesday 4th April (The Rainbow). Tickets for all dates are seemingly now as rare as petrol...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Kick the bass...you muthas...



Yo, wassup? I got sum bangin' tunes for ya blud, ya hear mi? Fo' real. Oh who am I trying to kid...I say chaps here's some rather tip top bass anthems from that jolly fine Gosteffects fellow. He's from over the pond dontcha know. I'm particularly fond of his splendid rendition of the 90's techno anthem House Of God. TURN UP THE BASS CHAPS!

Kick The Bass EP is out now on AFTERLIFE

Boulet vous



Heads up hipsters. Sydney’s Jonathan Boulet (big shout out to my homies MC Deaki and DJ Robbie S) unleashes his new album in June and here’s a taster to whet your delightfully tasteful musical tastebuds. Tasty. If you’ve got a moment (I know you have...your boss is having an affair with the water bottle delivery man and he’s out back supervising a...er...delivery) I can heartily recommend checking out Mr Boulet’s previous stuff too, ranging from MGMT / Empire Of The Sun tinged bliss outs to more of a Radiohead-ish vibe. Lovin’ the more tribal thrash direction of Trounce though...

We Keep The Beat, Found The Sea, See The Need, Start The Heart (catchy title eh)is out on Modular Records on June 8th (Australia), 10th (UK and Europe) and 12th (US).

Friday, March 23, 2012

Liz Green / Dan Whitehouse @ The Glee Club, Thursday 22nd March 2012



Something of a resident artist at The Glee Club now Dan Whitehouse has been playing here for many years, during which time he’s released no less than three EPs and an album of finely crafted, emotionally raw and...I’m guessing...deeply personal songs. Much of his material muses on the trinity of love, life and loss, three themes that we can all relate to, all delivered in Dan’s trademark ‘giving it all he’s got’ style.



Once again tonight’s set showcased an artist who really does deserve to be better known and more appreciated. Midway through the whole thing one particularly enthusiastic young lady shouted out “You’ve touched me!” Dan resisted going into full on Carry On mode, but it’s a measure of the man that he continues to inspire such outpourings on a regular basis.

Inspired by crackly old field recordings, yellowing scores and quite possibly the odd trip in a time machine, Liz Green’s spent the last few years quietly honing her unique blend of folk, blues and...well, Liz Green-ness. Current album O, Devotion! has gone down the proverbial storm, thanks to the winning combination of Liz’s vintage vocals and distinctly unique lyrics. Wandering onstage this evening she explains the roots of her particular sound, asking us to blame Son House and Blind Willie McTell if we don’t like it and singing an a cappella cover of House’s Grinnin’ In Your Face and McTell’s Dying’ Crapshooters Blues just to ram home the point. It’s a spine tingling opening to the show. There’s something about those early blues tunes that’s just magical and despite being about as far removed from a grizzled ol’ crapshooter as it’s possible to get, Liz’s voice somehow does them justice. Having paid her dues to the dudes who inspired her the rest of the set mainly plucked tracks from the album, with tales of a man with the head of a bird (that’s bound to cramp your style down the local nightclubs eh?) and songs all about death, death and...er...more death. “These songs are all about death” (see, told you) Liz mused midway through the set, almost as if this fact had escaped her notice before. The show’s anything but maudlin though. There were laughs a aplenty in fact, some intentional – Liz donning a homemade bird head made from some old skirt that no longer fits her – and others just a happy accident – Liz’s keyboard magically playing itself when she sat down at it, forcing her to pretend to play in a OTT barroom pianist style. Bless. This self deprecating northern humour acts as an ideal counterpoint to the songs, many of them frail, delicate creatures accompanied by the merest wisps of sax, double bass and drums seemingly blown in on a gentle spring breeze. Against this subtle backdrop sings Liz, her voice echoing with the spirits of dead bluesmen/women and, at times, reaching the kind of ethereal heights only attained by Anthony (Hegarty). With the band’s trumpeter off around the world on his travels Bad Medicine would seemingly be a difficult track to pull off this evening but fear not though. Liz has perfected the ‘mouth trumpet’,“I’m fucking good at it too...not that I...er...want to blow my own mouth trumpet”, she promised, before conjuring up an impressively trumpet like sound all on her own.

A jaunty cover of the yiddish classic Bei Mir Bistu Shein (or Bei Mir Bist Du Schon if you prefer the German version) closed proceedings (you’d know it if you heard it) before Liz gathered up her homemade bird head and well swigged remains of her rum. A true one-off you get the sense that this strange journey’s only just begun. Perhaps the blues are over my friends, maybe it’s time we all started singing the greens?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Alabama Shakes...coming to a town near you



Wow! Word up dear readers, click on the video above. Good eh? Oh yeah. Alabama Shakes are touring the world and, judging by this recent live clip, you really need to get your asses (and the rest of you...don't just send your ass...that's just wrong) along to a show. It's blues, it's soul, it's gospel...hell...it's just great. Lead singer Brittany Howard has a truly extraordinary voice, part Janis Joplin, part Etta James, and the more you watch this clip the more you'll fall in love with it. L-O-V-E LOVE. Trust me.

They play my 'hood on May 11th at HMV Institute, tickets from Birmingham Promoters. Check the band's website for other dates...they're all over the place over the next few months.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Semi Regular New Music Roundup Thingy

Hola! I'm ashamed to say that my in box of tooooooons has swelled to such an alarming extent that it’s threatening to take down the entire interweb. Oh well, we all managed perfectly fine before all this technology stuff so I’m sure we’ll be okay when t’web implodes. In an effort to reduce the swelling (Oooooer matron, look at the size of my sausage etc etc)here's this week's pick of the pops.

First up, Simian Mobile Disco, with a decidedly downbeat, shades of old skool Chicago house style tune, Seraphim. Takes a few listens but it’s a grower. Just the track to drop at 3am when everyone’s feeling tired and emotional. It’s out on April 9th on Wichita Records.



I love this, as much for the video as for the tune. More dancing in public that’s what I say. A meaty, beaty big and bouncy slab of good times hip hoppity. The Around The Block EP from Featurecast is out on 26 March on JalapĂ©no Records.



Superstar DJ Michael Canitrot releases his Playboy Sessions Paris double album on 9th April on Defected Records. As you’d expect it’s the normal quality mix of hands in the air tunes. Here’s a quick...er...snatch.



The mighty and vastly underrated O.Children return with a new album Apnea on 28th May. It turns out that lead singer, the unfeasibly tall Tobi O’Kandi, has been embroiled in a nasty deportation battle. So we can deport talented artists who’ve lived here for years but we can’t get rid of psychotic terrorists hellbent on blowing us all into little pieces eh? Hmmmm. Anyway here’s another slab of fine goth tinged rock from the new album for us all to ponder this injustice over.



MGMT meets Soft Cell, yep, here’s Rainbounce from Reptar, allegedly one of the most talked about bands at SXSW last year...and this one too. Bonkers but brilliant psychdancepop. The EP’s out on April 21st on Lucky Number Records.

Reptar - Rainbounce from Lucky Number Music on Vimeo.


Righty ho, it’s nearly the weekend now so how about a mixtape from Little Boots eh? Don’t mind if I do...love the mixed up version of Roxy’s Love Is The Drug 12 minutes or so into it all.



Finally a local (to me at least) artist, Becky Rose, with the frankly ass shaking electro banger Filthy. Play it LOUD...the neighbours/boss/prison guards (I know my demographic) won't mind.



Enjoy!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Summer Camp / Fixers @ The Rainbow, Wednesday 14th March 2012

I went for an audition to appear on Deal or No Deal (that weird box picking game on Channel 4) a few weeks ago. Yes I know...I have no shame. It took two years to get to the audition stage. There were around 150 of us on my day. This soon got whittled down to 50 or so, including my good self. Hurrah! I think I may have been a little too much for them though...to be fair I’m a little too much for myself some days...hence, no doubt, the No Deal email that’s just appeared in my inbox. Oh well, what would I do with £250,000 anyway eh? What’s this got to do with a review of Summer Camp’s gig? Good point. Actually, there is a link. Some of their stuff practically drips with regret and resentment (Better Off Without You springs instantly to mind)...which pretty much sums up what it feels like to be rejected by a gameshow that only requires the ability to pick a number from 1 to 22. Ha!

Anyway, casting aside...well...being cast aside by the diminutive Mr Edmunds and co, first up tonight Fixers, whose summertime west coast pop confection would lighten anyone’s mood.
Kicking off a lively set with Crystals, a spanking hybrid of XTC/Foals and...to my ears at least Kings Of Leon’s Bucket song...this Oxford 5 piece move through their set gradually revealing their secret weapon, the kind of harmonies that Brian Wilson would give up his sandbox for. Impressive.

Allegedly formed by accident after a one off collaboration most of Summer Camp’s songs are richly nostalgic (for anyone over the age of 35 at least), with a distinct touch of classic 80’s alt-pop in the mix. In case we were in any doubt about this each song tonight was accompanied by a projected back drop which mainly featured truly seminal 80’s movies...Footloose, Dirty Dancing, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club...ahhhhh...I had to fight the urge to start backcombing my hair and slipping on a pair of pixie boots.

In front of this cinematic time machine the Camp, aka Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey, unleashed one giddy pop thrill after another, plucking bitter sweet gems from their frankly essential debut album, Welcome To Condale. They make a great pair, Warmsley’s slightly nerdy music boffin persona and Sankey as the more confident, almost vampy at times, bitter pop princess. Wandering over to Jeremy during one number she ran her fingers through his hair before turning sharply and walking away. It’s just one of a number of subtle moves that she pulls out the bag and it comes as no surprise to learn that she did an MA in Classical Acting (yes...Classical Acting...forsooth) before jacking that all in for journalism and then, finally, a shot at pop stardom. Smart move.
If you’re a pop slut (I am) the songs are a joy. It’s like they’ve discovered the 80’s pop genome and are now busily creating an army of super songs. I Want You, Down, Better Off Without You...if John Hughes was still alive his films would be packed full of Summer Camp tracks. Pleasingly they seem to be upping their game with the new stuff too. The disco pop of We’ll Always Be Together and the OMD meets Bronski Beat of Life both hint at perhaps a more synth based direction. Awesome.

Not content to keep their distance Jeremy and Elizabeth went walkabout through the crowd singing and playing acoustically in one of those hairs on the back of the neck moments when it stops being a mere performance and instead becomes an experience.
Later on Elizabeth noticed one girl enthusiastically singing away to Better Off Without You and even invited her up on stage to share the microphone.
Bless. They’re not the first band to do this stuff but it’s all too rare. Happily the audience loved ‘em right back and, despite Elizabeth protesting that they don’t get the demand for encores normally, her and Jeremy ditched the microphones once more for a groin tingling beautiful acoustic version of Fleetwood Mac’s Everywhere. Somehow I reckon it’s not the first encore they’ll be doing on this tour...

Camp-tastic.

Pictures courtesy of the lovely Shakeypix

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

George Barnett - 17 Days...debut of the year?



Regular readers will have noticed the name George Barnett cropping up a fair bit this year. There’s a good reason for this. At just 17 years old he’s been producing his own music for a number of years now. When I say producing I mean it too. He writes, plays, records and produces pretty much every note you hear. This is impressive enough on paper but when you listen to the quality of some of the stuff he’s coming out with (much of it recorded in his bedroom)...jeez...I think we have a serious talent here.

Whilst most teenagers would be happy to release the odd single George has just dropped (yeah 'dropped' I'm down with the kids) his debut album, 17 Days. I’m going to dispense with the superlatives and let the music speak for itself but suffice to say it’s one of the most impressive debuts you’re likely to hear this year. Stylistically George is well and truly flexing his creative muscles, ranging from the Beatles meets ELO opening number Apocolade through to the light 80’s pop funk of Cassi and on to more stripped back experimental stuff like the simple clap driven Make Me Smile. Then there’s Abraham, a weird but effective fusion of the Chili Peppers and...er...that spoken word bit that Vincent Price does in Jacko’s Thriller. And so it goes on. Just when you think you’ve got him nailed down as one thing he neatly swerves another way, sticks his tongue out (metaphorically speaking...he’s very polite in real life) and shows you a completely different side. I’ve not started on the lyrics yet either. Whilst the charts are generally stuffed full of nursery rhyme sing alongs George is clearly setting his sights as tad higher. Cop a load of this:

Most young kings get their head cut off
But no king held a Kalashnikov
Romance died upon Debussy’s rock
But I’ll always love you and I’ll never stop

Granted it’s no MIA (“My chain hits my chest when I’m banging on the dashboard, My chain hits my chest when I’m banging on the radio”...hmmmm funny that my head hits the wall every time I hear this lyric) but that, my friends, is a very, very good thing.

There are precedents for this kind of prodigious talent, Stephin Merritt (aka Magnetic Fields) and Rufus Wainwright instantly spring to mind, but whilst they can be a little challenging at times George has a knack for penning the kind of catchy tunes that the world will gobble up. Trust me. This is the beginning of something special.

Buy George! You can stream then download the album right here.

George will be touring the UK again soon. Check his site for latest details.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Stranglers / The Popes @ The Academy Birmingham, Saturday 10th March 2012



The Stranglers. True punk survivors. Other bands have split, reformed, done butter adverts and split up again...but The Stranglers have just kept plugging away, albeit with some pretty major line up changes along the way. Original vocalist Hugh Cornwall jumped ship 22 years ago, his replacement Paul Roberts left in 2006. Now a certain Mr Baz Warne shares lead vocals with Jean-Jacques Burnel, one of two band members still in the group from day one (to be fair keyboardist Dave Greenfield joined in ’75, so he’s practically an original member), the other being Jet Black...now, incredibly, 73 years young.

First up though, The Popes. Yep THE Popes...as in Shane McGowen and The...although the lad himself has long since sloped off, pint (of gin) in hand no doubt. You can’t keep a good band down though and, despite losing their leader, the band’s now touring in support of their latest album, Outlaw Heaven (which still features Shane on some of the tracks). Like The Stranglers The Popes have had their line up changes over the years with 12 or so ex-members to date. Despite all this chopping and changing the current 6 piece seem as tight as a PVC thong on a sumo wrestler though (now that’s tight). Unsurprisingly there’s a bit of The Pogues and a touch of The Waterboys in the mix, with a spirited performance from lead singer Paul ‘Maddog’ McGuiness adding that essential punk edge. Tonight was a chance to play tracks from the current album and there’s plenty for fans of the two aforementioned bands to love about this stuff. In particular the singalong-a-protest song Don’t Let The Bastards Grind You Down (featuring a truly punk rock fiddle solo) and the album’s title track Outlaw Heaven hit the spot. It’s the kind of song that’s crying out to be screamed out at the top of your lungs with a pint of the black stuff in one hand and the hangover from hell lurking just around the corner. Ol’ Maddog introduced it by revealing that he’s spent some time in HMP Pentonville (for undisclosed crimes...I don’t reckon it was non-payment of a parking fine though) and I guess if you’re going to sing it you need to live it, right? Amen to that.

Time for The Stranglers. I’ve got history with this band. Sort of. One of the first records I ever bought was Golden Brown (£1.25 on 7inch vinyl...still got it too), granted it’s not indicative of most of their stuff but still, we go back a long way. With the room packed full of aging punks in black The Stranglers take to the stage to Waltzinblack (the music perhaps best known as Keith Floyd’s theme tune), receiving a pleasingly rousing reception and the first of many chants for the legendary Jet Black. Let’s face it, the guy is a legend. Born before World War Two broke out he was diagnosed with a heart condition in 2007 and yet here he is, pounding away on the drums for 90 minutes like a man, well, quarter his age. Having recently turned 60 Burnel’s wearing well too, retaining a steely glare that hints at the fact that he’s not be messed with. He’s actually a black belt 6th dan karate expert too...just a warning in case you fancy lobbing a pint at him as one misguided fool did in Liverpool recently.

The simple riffs and lyrics of Burning Up Time (from ‘77’s No More Heroes album) kick things off and several hundred middle aged blokes turn 17 again. Tonight’s more than just a history lesson though. There’s a new album out too, Giants and the set was sprinkled with a few newbies starting off with Lowlands. Musically it’s a return to their punk roots, with a hint of the Pistols Anarchy in there for good measure and it got a decent enough reception from the faithful. The big cheers were, unsurprisingly, reserved for the hits though and the original men in black were happy to oblige. Hanging Around, Golden Brown, Strange Little Girl, Peaches, No More Heroes, Duchess, Something Better Change...you can’t go far wrong with this stuff can you eh? Baz does a decent job of carrying Hugh’s tunes, what he lacks in that slightly detached and aloof delivery of Hugh’s he makes up for in a slight snarl (most noticeable on No More Heroes and Hanging Around). He did justice to the integral guitar solo on Golden Brown too, standing back when he’d finished playing and giving the audience a ‘not bad eh?’ kind of look. Speaking of virtuoso performances keyboardist Dave Greenfield was also on fine form this evening, doing his trademark ‘drinking a pint whilst playing fairly complex solos’ trick. Clever. In fact the more you listen to The Stranglers the more you realise how vital he is to their sound, not just on the obvious stuff like Golden Brown (a tune which owes its origins to him) but on pretty much all the big hits.

This being a punk gig the odd empty plastic pint glass sailed through the air from time to time but the most exciting thing to make it on the stage was a thong. A female sound engineer went to pick it up but decided against it, kicking it to the front of the stage for Baz to pick up later. Turns out it was unworn and still had its tag on. “It’s not been worn...we can’t make soup from that”. Hmmm...remind me never to go round his house for tea.

Of course this ain’t the same band that originally played these songs. It would be an impossibility to retain that sense of energy and excitement nearly 30 odd years on from their heyday and, from time to time, things perhaps became a little nice ‘n’ easy rather than nice ‘n’ sleazy but that’s a minor gripe. You only have to look out across the sea of bouncing balding heads to know that, for many, The Stranglers remain, as their new album suggests, Giants.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Lunar Festival 2012...Tan-worth it...


This year sees the debut of a brand new festival from the team that brings you, dear readers, the Moseley Folk and Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul Fests. Hurrah! The inaugural...and very first...Lunar Festival takes place 1st - 4th June in Tanworth in Arden and tickets are limited to just 500 happy souls. Anyone who’s been to MoFo or MoJaFuSo will know what to expect...wonderful artists, guaranteed sunshine, proper scrumpy (dangerous...) and the kind of chilled out vibe that most festivals would give their superfences for. Unlike MoFo or MoJaFuSo though this one’s a camping festival, so you only have to stagger as far as your £9.99 Tesco Value Tent at the end of the day! More than two pints of scrumpy and that’ll be a very, very good thing indeed...

Here’s a lovely track to get you in the moon...sorry...mood...Hannah Peel covering Tears For Fears. Heavenly.



Tickets available right now, right here!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Liz Green...live and un-Lizzed


Rising star of the alt folk scene, the distinctively voiced Liz Green, hits the road in support of her universally acclaimed album O, Devotion! and new single Bad Medicine. Spinning twisted tales seemingly beamed in from a dim and distant past...and world for that matter...she’s had reviewers scrambling for superlatives. Expect to see the words ‘haunting’ and ‘beautiful’ a lot too.

As for ‘Bad Medicine’, here’s Liz’s take on the track “This is probably my favourite song. It’s a different bag of badgers altogether from the first version of it. Me and Peri spent a long time trying to nail that trumpet solo. I eventually ended up playing it to him on a kazoo! Because I can’t afford to take a full band everywhere I go, I’ve built up a bit of a reputation for being a great mouth trumpet player".

"There is a simple story. The sad story of a man who is neglected by his fellow men. Punished by them for his difference. When I mention him walking like a Bible prophet I think of a man I used to see walking round Manchester, striding, head high, beatific smile. I haven’t seen him around for a while. I hope he’s still walking that way. The opening lines are how I felt when I first heard Son House. I think I’d not heard the rawness of emotion come through a recording so easily as it did with his recordings. That’s the aim isn’t it. To capture a little bit of soul.”

Liz Green dishes up the Bad Medicine across the UK from 22nd March onwards. Mouth trumpet-tastic!

MARCH

Thurs 22 March Birmingham Glee Club
Fri 23 March Exeter Cavern
Sat 24 March Bristol Louisiana
Mon 26 March Glasgow Captains Rest
Tues 27 March York Duchess
Wed 28 March Newcastle Cluny 2
Thu 29 March Sheffield Riverside Free show
Fri 30 March Leeds Brudenell

APRIL

Sun 1 April Norwich Arts Centre
Mon 2 April Brighton The Hope
Tue 3 April London Bush Hall
Wed 4 April Cambridge Portland Arms
Thu 5 April Manchester Deaf Institute

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Producers @ The Crossing, Digbeth, Tuesday 6th March 2012


I’m of a certain age. Not as dangerous as the one Paul Weller’s currently singing about but, you know, the wrong side of...ahem...21. Aside from, funnily enough, some of 10cc’s tracks, Mud’s Tiger Feet and anything by ABBA, my real musical awakening occurred in the early 80’s and one man seemed to be the knob twiddler behind several of my favourites, Mr Trevor Horn. ABC’s Lexicon Of Love (regularly featured in the best British albums of all time lists) and Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s Welcome To The Pleasuredome both bear his fingerprints deep within the grooves (it’s a vinyl thing). Tonight Trevor’s out from behind his desk though, joined by fellow producer Steve Lipson, 10cc’s Lol Creme and drummer to the stars Ash Soan for a joyful romp through some of their collective hits and newbies from their new band's forthcoming album.

Trevor has performing form of course, as opening number Video Killed The Radio Star (performed by The Buggles back in the day) reminds us. Back in 1979 it hit number 1 in 16 countries and over 30 years later it remains a glistening pop gem, a signpost to the glossy production that would dominate much of the following decade. Glorious. A meaty instrumental run through Frankie’s Two Tribes followed inspiring some Pavlovian head nodding amongst the older members of the audience, a mix of students from the college (The Crossing’s a top notch purpose built venue with South Birmingham College) and people old enough to be their...well...grandparents probably.

Tonight wasn’t just about past glories through, Producers are currently putting the finishing touches to their debut album Made In Basing Street and, several cuts made it on to the setlist including the gloriously bombastic Freeway. With distinct hints of one of Trevor’s old bands Yes in there it’s a rich, full fat prog pop classic. There’s everything in there, it’s as if the band has looked back over their collective careers and condensed it down to into 5 fabulous minutes.

Assuming vocal duties on a number of tracks this evening are three excellent singers, Kirsten, Kate and Holly who at various times took the lead on Video Killed The Radio Star, Grace Jones’ Slave To The Rhythm and 10cc’s I’m Not In Love as well as recreating the Horn produced (literally and metaphorically) anthem for girl on girl action t.A.T.u’s All The Things She Said. Pop heaven.

Not sure if they’re session musicians or if they have their own thang going on but they’d make a great group on their own. Get on it Trevor.

10cc’s Rubber Bullets and The Dean and I also got well appreciated outings, with Lol somehow hitting the high notes nearly 40 years after he first sang it. “Real throat shredders!” he observed ruefully.


Time for another newbie, The Garden of Flowers, “From the new album” announced Trevor proudly (not the first time he’d bigged it up this evening).

“Keep plugging it” said Lol “We made it in Trevor’s studios too, Sarm West”

Ever the businessman Trevor couldn’t resist a “Still open for business!”

“I can’t afford it” added Lol. Ha! LOL indeed.

In contrast to Freeway, The Garden of Flowers is a more sophisticated piece with Lol’s guitar playing conjuring up the spirit of Fleetwood Mac era Peter Green in places, before Springsteen-ish bursts enter the mix. Eclectic, but it really works.

For the second (but not last) time this evening the band then revisited Video. This time in its will.i.am/Nicki Minaj incarnation, with Trevor adding, from his mouth at least, the incongruous but hilarious “Check this motherfucker out” at the end. Oh yeah. H to the O to the R to the N.

Boys just wanna have fun, whatever age they are, so the encore saw them cover Bowie’s Space Oddity and Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants To Rule The World in fine style. It’s in the spirit of their early ‘pub band’ aspirations but oh so much better than that. They’re having fun but, crucially, it’s high quality fun at the same time.

It’s a mark of just how down to earth and humble these blokes are though (don’t forget they’ve collectively sold the odd 100million albums or so) that they gave the last number over to one of the kids from the college. Step forward Alex Bibbs who blazed through the third version of Video this evening. That’s not a bad entry for the old CV.

Producers’ debut album, Made In Basing Street, is out in May.

For more Producers related stuff check out the interview with drummer Ash Soan below!

Interview with Ash Soan from supergroup Producers



So, you’re sitting there one day and someone gives you a call to see if you’d like to join a band to play a couple of pub gigs. Sure, why not? Who’s in it? Oh, says the caller Trevor Horn, Lol Creme, Steve Lipson...

I’m sitting here chatting to the remaining piece of this supergroup puzzle,(now known as Producers), Ash Soan, one of the most in demand drummers around right now (and a ruddy lovely chap to boot) who’s recently been pounding the skins for that little known singer/songwriter Adele. The whole set up seems difficult to believe but, minutes later, Ash joins three of the biggest producers of the last few decades to run through a selection of tracks old, new and, thanks to a cover of will.i.am’s cover of Video Killed The Radio Star, just a little bit blue.

“In the beginning Trevor and Steve just wanted to play for fun” Ash explains “they don’t get to play that often and they wanted a simple pub band. A friend of mine (Chris Braide – one of the vocalists on the band’s new album) called and said do you want to be in this band, they’re just playing a few gigs round Camden”.

After revealing the line up one word sprang to Ash’s mind. “Wow”

Getting together for the first time they just played stuff they liked, some 10cc tracks and some of Trevor’s productions before playing a gig in Camden. Will Young popped down to do a number (Ash is Will’s drummer too...yes, I know, busy bloke) and, in Ash’s words “We had a cracking time”.

It’s not hard to see why. Horn, Lipson and Creme are collectively responsible for producing some of the biggest names around. Back in the ‘80’s Horn was Mr Midas, adding a unique pop polish to ABC and Frankie Goes to Hollywood, moving on to work with Seal, Robbie Williams, Paul McCartney, Cher, Grace Jones, Pet Shop Boys...the list goes on...and on. Lipson worked closely with him and co-wrote the stone cold classic Slave To The Rhythm for Grace Jones. As part of 10cc Creme penned the number one Rubber Bullets and featured on I’m Not In Love before jacking it in and conquering the music video business with Kevin Godley (directing vids for Duran Duran, The Police, Herbie Hancock and...oh yes...The Beatles).

With a few decent gigs behind them Ash explains that Trevor casually came up with the idea of recording some original material “We put two lots of two weeks aside and went to Trevor’s studio, threw some ideas around, wrote some tunes and here we are, album done, mini tour and lots of excitement”.

It all sounded so easy. I had to dig for dirt. Surely you can’t have so many successful producers and musicians in the studio without, at the very least, some mild fisticuffs and hair pulling? “Well you’d think that would be a problem, maybe ego wise and in terms of opinions but it was a very smooth process I have to say”. Damn. There goes my Pulitzer.

“We’re on tour now though...it’s early days!” he adds. Somehow I doubt there’s any danger of Gallagher style punch ups though.

So, what’s the band sound like, what are their influences and style? Ash ponders a moment, taking a swig from his beer. “Somebody said prog pop music, definitely pop type production but some of the arrangements are more than three minutes...there’s other stuff on the album that’s more acoustic, so it’s quite an eclectic mix”.

The album’s due for release in May but, true to form it seems as though Trevor and Steve in particular are reluctant to switch off the mixing desk and let it go. “It’s great we’ve got a deadline really, because they have to stop working on it!” There’s always room for a remix album I guess.

What’s his personal hope for the band right now? “To have a massive hit and tour the world! Ha! I think my personal hope is just to keep doing it, keep having fun and for people to like the record...there’s been some great feedback on Freeway (the album’s teaser track) so far. Maybe do another record, there’s lots of talk of things coming up. It’s just a case of fitting it in with our bonkers schedules”.

Ah yes. There’s the rub I guess. Away from the band Ash drums for a whole bunch of people. As well as being Adele’s go to guy he’s just about to hit the road with everyone’s favourite Twitterer Sinead O’Connor and he’s clearly drawn to the more ‘real’ kind of artists, name checking the hotly tipped back to basics country blues band The Civil Wars as one of his current favourites.

Speaking of which, is there anyone else he’d like to brandish sticks for? “McCartney, Elton John and Kate Bush...I absolutely adore Kate Bush”. I’m sure Kate reads this site so it’s only a matter of time...

Given that we were in South Birmingham College (in a ‘giving something back to the kids’ stylee the whole tour takes place in colleges across the UK) it seemed fitting to end up with some advice for aspiring musicians. Just how do you ‘make it’ in the big bad music biz these days? “It’s amazing how lucky you get when you’re playing, so play as much as you can, meet as many people as you can and just keep going”. Given that, in just a few minutes he’s about to join some of the biggest producers in pop, it’s not a bad bit of advice eh?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Summer Camp it up



Twisted '60's girl band inspired indie pop duo Summer Camp (Jeremy Walmsley and Elizabeth Sankey)are on tour right now and drop in to my home patch next week, playing The Rainbow on Wednesday 14th March. Responsible for one of the catchiest albums of the last year, Welcome To Condale, the last few tickets for this gig are still available at the time of writing (that'll be 9.46 am...yep, up early aren't I eh?)from our good chums at Birmingham Promoters. Hurrah!

PS: If you can't make this one the hotly tipped The Civil Wars hit the HMV Institute next Tuesday too. Top notch stripped back country blues. Hell yeah.



Tickets once again from, yep, you've guessed it...Birmingham Promoters.

Friday, March 02, 2012

New month, new music...and...er some old music too...

Blimey. March already. Soon be Christmas. Ho ho ho. Before kicking off with the new stuff how about an oldie in tribute to the recently departed Davy Jones eh? The TV show that spawned The Monkees was shown a lot in the 70’s and 80’s so I kind of grew up with it, not really realising at the time that it was already a decade or two old. Ahhh the innocence of youth...



Spiky, spunky Anglo new wave from Canadian trio Cygnets. ‘Swans’ to watch I reckon...oh my aching sides. I’m available for parties you know. The press release thingy says that their new album dark Days will be out on 6th March and available for...er...free. Yep, free. Hurrah!



The Naim Jazz label continues to release some of the more interesting new tunes around, this time with Get The Blessing’s new one, the saxtastic OCDC. Niiiiiiice.Interesting fact of the day # 1: The band features Portishead’s Clive Dreamer and Jim Barr.



Next up a delightfully off kilter slice of 80’s indie style break-up pop from Summer Camp. Play this to your other half and they’ll soon get the message. The single’s out on March 19th and the band hits the road on the 13th.



Just in time for Mother’s Day Girls release My Ma, a beautifully low key twangy Cat Power-ish track that’ll lodge itself firmly in your brain after the first listen. Bootiful.



Finally, he writes the tracks, he plays all the instruments, he produces the whole shebang and he's just discovered the secret to perpetual motion...yes, it's the multi-multi talented George Barnett. Saw this dude last month. He's seriously impressive live and this track, Lone Rose, was one of the highlights. Lovely stuff.