Monday, March 31, 2014

ABC perform The Lexicon of Love @ Symphony Hall, Friday 28th March 2013

Ahhhhh the 80s...was there ever a better era in pop? Nope, I don’t think there was. Take 1982 for instance, the year that ABC’s The Lexicon Of Love was originally issued. Number one singles included (deep breath) Don’t You Want Me (The Human League), The Model (Kraftwerk), Town Called Malice (The Jam), House of Fun (Madness), Come On Eileen (Dexys Midnight Runners), Eye Of The Tiger (Survivor), Pass The Dutchie (Musical Youth) and Do You Really Want To Hurt Me (Culture Club). that’s what I call (pop) music. Incidentally (and somewhat incredibly) ABC’s The Look Of Love was only the 32nd highest selling single that year, sandwiched between OMD’s Maid of Orleans and Dave’s Ain’t No Pleasing You.

When The Lexicon Of Love album was first released one of the things that really made it stand out at the time was its lush string and brass arrangements (okay so maybe some of them were digitally generated/enhanced but they sounded good). Even 30 odd years later it still sounds great, one of the most perfect packages of ‘grown up’ pop ever produced regularly featuring in those ‘best albums of all time’ lists. Bear in mind that the band’s lead singer and songwriter Martin Fry was barely older than Harry Styles when he wrote this stuff and it’s even more remarkable. Of course properly recreating this sound on stage requires an orchestra, which ain’t cheap, so it’s hardly surprising that it wasn’t attempted until 2009 (when presumably the older, wealthier fans could afford such luxuries). Fast forward a few years and ABC (only Martin Fry remains from the original line up) are taking the show on the road for three all too rare UK dates kicking off with Birmingham’s Symphony Hall.

Anyone merely expecting a run through the album was in for a pleasant surprise though as the entire first half of the show was given over to some of the band’s other songs and, pleasingly, a couple of new songs too. After the band and orchestra had taken to the stage Anne Dudley (the genius behind the album’s original orchestration) entered stage right, took a bow and led the assembled throng (50 or so people) in a lush medley of classic ABC hits. ‘OMG’ as the kids might say (okay so there weren’t many under 40s here tonight but I’m down with ‘dem yoot’). There’s something about an orchestra that gets to you, embracing you in a way that few other genres manage, especially in such a sonically perfect setting as Symphony Hall. Add the inevitable nostalgia that comes with hearing the music that soundtracked your childhood and it’s a strangely emotional moment. Thankfully before I dissolved into a sobbing mass Martin Fry, looking remarkably dapper in a three piece suit (sadly not the gold lamé one), breezed onto the stage and launched into a silky smooth version of When Smokie Sings. 

It’s perfection. The band (guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, bongos and two sublimely soulful backing singers) and orchestra combine to produce one of the richest sounds it’s ever been my pleasure to hear, elevating the pop of my youth to heavenly new heights. Orchestral-gasmic. I could write a decent dissertation on the highlights of Act I but for the sake of brevity I’ll limit it to one of the new tracks, 10 Below Zero, a mellow mix of Dusty Springfield soul and Barry White’s Love Unlimited Orchestra, Ocean Blue, How To A Millionaire (so much better this evening than the recorded version) and a heartbreakingly beautiful Be Near Me. In between Fry managed to tread the fine line between getting the crowd going and straying into holiday camp territory (you know the kind of thing...”Let’s see those hands in the air...”), reminiscing about his first Birmingham gig at a club called Holy City Zoo when he and the band played to 24 people (by a strange quirk of fate we were actually sat next to one of those 24!).

That was just the first half. After a 20 minute break it was on to the main event (although strangely I almost preferred the excitement of not knowing what was next during the first part of the show). From the lushly symphonic overture preceding the album’s first track Show Me hundreds of 40-somethings were instantly propelled back a decade or three to their bedrooms, walls adorned with posters torn from Smash Hits and, if they were lucky, a Sony Walkman permanently glued to their ears. It’s met with a huge whoop from the crowd who go three shades of mental with the next track Poison Arrow, a mass clap along threatening to almost drown out the orchestra at one point. It’s classy, sophisticated, soulful pop that’s stood the test of time so much better than some of its early 80s counterparts and Anne Dudley’s subtle refinements add an extra fresh zing. Taking a breather Fry recounted a story about recording the album. Apparently Bowie popped in to the studios one day on his way to see Tony Visconti and had a natter with the band...except for Martin who’d popped out to get a sandwich. By the time he’d got back the Diamond Dog had gone. Gutted? Who wouldn’t be? Appropriately enough the next track said it all...Tears Are Not Enough. Awww bless.

By the time we get to Look Of Love (sax 'n' drums and pop 'n' soul) pretty much everyone’s on their feet and singing/dancing along and who can blame them. Of all tonight’s tracks it’s the one that benefits the most from having a full orchestra on tap, conjuring up a sound that’s a rich as a deep fried truffle and foie gras sandwich. If heaven has a nightclub this’ll be on the playlist. It went down so well in fact they played it, make that three times. Unable the manage the traditional band off/band on again routine (50 people and their instruments can’t really dash off easily) the orchestra remained seated. Dudley returned to the stage, theatrically shhhh-ing the crowd with a wink before leading an even lusher instrumental version before Fry joined them on a set closing third performance.

After Heaven 17’s slightly slack showing at the Town Hall recently tonight was a masterclass in not only revisiting your past glories but topping ‘em. It was, it has to said, some-string truly special...

Photographs courtesy of the lovely Ken Harrison.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Robyn with a Cherry on top

I say, I say, I say, what do you get if you cross one of the more exciting female artists of the 80s with one from the 00s? Neneh Cherry's new one with Robyn, Out Of The Black, has been a bit of a slow burner here in Baron Towers but it's gradually working its way into my brain. It's a pretty stripped back affair and neither artist really unleashes anything like their normal oooomph but that's part of its charm. You can kind of imagine it being recorded on a chilled out afternoon in some low rent studio somewhere, it's got that kind of homespun-ish feel. Anyway, give it a spin/click/whatever.

While we're at it let's dish up a solo classic from each lady too eh? An upbeat one from Ms Cherry and one of the most heartbreakingly sad slices of pop ever recorded from Robyn...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

ABC...The Lexicon of Live...

Incredibly it seems as though there are still a few tickets left for this Friday's ABC show at Symphony Hall. It'll be one of just a handful of times that their classic album The Lexicon of Love is played with a full orchestra and, given the cost of mounting such a show, I can't imagine they'll be doing it many more times. Last few tickets available right here!

And while we're at it why the heck don't you get into the mood by listening to the whole album too...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Statue-mendous...Barnett's back!

George Barnett's one of the few artists I really follow these days and I stick with my belief that he'll be huge. Having already released more great tracks than most 'big name' artists put together in the last couple of years he's back with another top tune, 3 Statues, a brilliant mash up of soul and hip hop beats, with gorgeous flashes of disco and electro thrown into the mix. Away from the music the subject matter seems to a justified pop at some of his celebrity obsessed contemporaries, many of whom probably couldn't even spell the word 'music' let alone write it for themselves. It's a timely reminder - not that we should need reminding - that plenty of younger people are just as repulsed by the selfie-centred culture that seems to be enveloping us these days. When you get two of the supposedly most powerful men on planet earth gurning into a mobile phone it really should be a wake up call n'est ce pas? Somehow I can't imagine Churchill photobombing Harold Wilson can you? Anyway, George Barnett, music for the ass and the mind. Enjoy...hell...why not share it Twitter while you're at it...might as well use it for something useful for a change.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What's in Store...Record Store Day 2014

Another year another Record Store Day (Saturday April 19th) and two of Birmingham's finest, Goodnight Lenin (who recorded their single in one epic...and quite possibly smelly...16 hour and 46 minute session) and Drakelow, are releasing singles in honour of the event. Drakelow will be playing live at Swordfish Records on the day itself (I'm pretty sure there'll be some more acts announced soon) and you can catch Goodnight Lenin at The Prince of Wales a couple of days before on April 17th (tickets here!).

Monday, March 24, 2014

The beat of the Drummond

Spent a very enjoyable half hour or so chatting with Bill Drummond in his Eastside Projects hideout on Saturday. He'll be there every Friday and Saturday until June as well as popping up all over Brum on weekdays to do/create all manner of I think that's the best way to describe them. Incredibly Brum's the first City to host Bill on what will be a 12 year world tour (3 months per year in a different City) and we're rather darn lucky to have him here. Oh...and if you don't know who Bill Drummond is by the way have a read through his Wiki entry. Highlights include managing The Teardrop Explodes, forming The KLF and then burning one million pounds (pretty much all the cash the band had earned) in arguably one of the strangest and strongest artistic statements in history. Bill's probably a little fed up of people asking why he did it (I kind of skirted around the subject) and I'm not even sure he knows why any more but it's one hell of a story.

To find out where Bill is and what he's up to check out the list of events or just pop along on a Friday and Saturday for a natter...perhaps best not to mention the million pounds though.

Here's a trio of KLF hits that'll be more familiar than Bill's solo musical output. I can heartily recommend his album The Man though (from which Julian Cope Is Dead is taken). Genius.

DieDasDer this Saturday!

Digbeth based music collective DieDasDer hold their second gig this Saturday night at The Lamp Tavern (Digbeth...where else eh?) with three acts, Why? Said The Earth To The Moon (now that's a band name...), Mutt and Kate Roberta. It all kicks off at 8pm and admission is...go's FREE! FREE I say...whoooooohahahahahahaha...!

God Damn great...

Got that Monday morning feeling eh? I hear you. Crank up the speakers to 11 and cop a load of this then. Newly signed to One Little Indian Records Black Country's finest God Damn release their new single Shoe Prints In The Dust on April 21st accompanied by a suitably grisly promo vid...the moral of the story being don't piss off little girls. It's not that sensible pissing off big girls either but that's another story...and video probably. Anyway the track drips with the good stuff with the band acknowledging a debt to early Nirvana and the 'Seven J's' of their Holy Bible: Hendrix, Homme, Cash, White, Page, Bonham and Jesse 'The Devil' Hughes (Eagles of Death Metal). No room for Bieber sadly...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Broken Bells - After The Disco

It's Friday! The sun's shining (well almost)! It's spring! And here's the new single from Broken Bells, the Danger Mouse / James Mercer mash up. It's a little bit 80s...okay...a lot fact it's more than a little like Hall and Oates, which is well and truly right up my passageway. Enjoy!

The Gruff Stuff

My favourite Welshman Mr Gruff Rhys is back with yet another brand new album (his ninth in various incarnations in the past decade). It comes with a film, book and quite possibly a range of home furnishings too. The concept this time is Gruff's travels across America in search of the grave of a long lost relative. I've only heard the title track so far but if it's a patch on any of Gruff's recent stuff it'll be one of the albums of the year. Here's a trailer from the movie too. You've got to love that puppet...

Live Bush!

I'm old. Very old. But I'm still not old enough to have seen Kate Bush play a proper live gig. In fact the last and only time she toured was way, way back in 1979 when I was ickle (and she was just 20 years old or so). Now a mere 35 years later she's playing a series of live shows, disappointingly they're all in London so far (Hammersmith Apollo, first date 26th August) but who knows...she may venture further afield at some point. Anyway, just in case she doesn't here's the last proper glimpse of live Bush for you (steady now...).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Brumdemoters...the second coming

If you were there for the frankly life affirming City Tavern Experiment last month here's a top notch reminder of the gig...if you weren't just watch and weep at what you missed. Fret ye not though, I'll carry on keeping you up to date on Miss Halliwell and their movements...resistance is futile.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Correspondents...tip top hip hop hooray

Being a (hopefully) dapper chap myself it was perhaps inevitable that I’d be drawn to The Correspondents, an alt hip hop duo with one foot in the 1920’s and another in the 1990’s. With tracks like What's Happened To Soho (a much needed lament to the destruction of London’s seedy heart) and Fear and Delight they manage to cleverly combine a level of sophistication and booty shaking beat that’s sadly lacking in the world of hip or indeed hop these days.

The band’s MC Ian Bruce is a pretty interesting character too. An artist of some note he also’s say ‘adult’ drawings under the pseudonym not to open that link at work...or in front of your mum. Anyway, The Correspondents are hitting the road for a few live shows in April and May in support of their frankly spiffing debut album Puppet Loosely Strung. Midlands based chaps and chappetes can catch them on Thursday 10th April at The Institute. Jolly good show, eh what?! 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Chvrches / SOAK @ The Institute, Monday 10th March 2014

I’m sure there’s a great reason why Chvrches spell their name that way, even if it does send the old spellchecker into a full on meltdown. Hold on...I’ll look it up. Right, apparently it’s because if you put Churches into Google (other search engines are available...unless Google want to pay me £500,000 in which case GOOGLE ROCKS) all you get are loads of websites to do with ding dong bells, Jesus, God and all that schnizzle kind of churches. As you’d reasonably expect I guess. Quite why they didn’t just choose a different name isn’t explained but we’ll let that lie...

Anyway support this evening came from SOAK, aka Bridie Monds-Watson (now that’s a name and a half), a 17 year old singer songwriter from Derry who’s already received oodles of press over the water in her native Ireland and is now attracting attention over here. Given Chvrches full on synth sound she’s an interesting choice for a support act but armed with just a guitar, half a dozen impressively mature self penned songs and a little of the ol’ Irish charm she manages to hold a reasonable portion of the crowd’s attention. Being a touch diminutive and hidden behind two large banks of synths (already in place for Chvrches’ set) it was difficult to see much of her during the performance (we were stood to one side of the stage), which is always a bit of an issue when you’re trying to connect with a performance/performer in any meaningful way. In a more intimate setting tunes like Sea Creatures and forthcoming single Blud (out on St Patrick’s Day...see what they did there...she’s Irish...St Patrick’s Day...geddit...GEDDIT???!!!!) would work oh so much better than they did this evening. Blud in particular has a pleasingly dreamy feel and a decent hooky chorus and if this is what’s she penning in her early teens it’s impressive stuff. 

Wrong artist and wrong setting this evening then, but well worth keeping an eye on.   

On to Chvrches then. Formed in Glasgow in 2011 they’re clearly in thrall to their mum’s and dad’s record collections, stuffed full of old Human League, early Depeche Mode, Eurythmics and Erasure albums no doubt. I say they, actually I think it’s only the lead singer that’s young. The blokes (well certainly one of them at least) is an old duffer like me who probably spent his pocket money on 7inch copies of Love Action from Woolies. Again as with Temples’ gig last week this harking back business has clearly won them fans from several different generations so tonight was another mix of OAPs (well, almost) and hip young things. Coming onstage to some truly fit inducing lights (SOAK had warned the epileptics to run for their lives bless her) the band kicked off with We Dive, in some ways an archetypal Chvrches track combining upbeat old skool synth sounds with more downbeat lyrics delivered in authentic Scottish accents...which always ramps up the dour-ness a notch or two. It’s no surprise to learn that one of the dudes in the band, Martin Doherty, played with wrist slitting post punk noise terrorists The Twilight Sad (also a ruddy great band) and, if you listen carefully, you can clearly hear the echoes of the Sad in some of Chvrches darker moments.

There wasn’t much time to ruminate on all this though as Lies crashed into life. A genius mix of light and shade, it’s the sound of Robyn, Swedish synthsters The Knife and granddaddy of the entire electro world Sir Gary Numan coming together in one glorious musical hadron collider. Boom. 

We had bass in da place too. In fact the bass was so booming a small collection of fillings soon pooled around those stood close enough to the speakers. Next up, and completing a trio of top notch opening tracks, Gun...a total shoe in for the theme tune to Working Girl 2 if ever they decide to make it. So far so positive but there were a few gripes. As with SOAK Chvrches vocalist Lauren Mayberry remained frustratingly obscured by keyboards for most of the set, sticking resolutely to her spot in the middle and centre of the stage. Fine for those standing dead centre but not so hot for everyone else plus, it has to be said, it doesn’t make for the most dynamic of live performances. Secondly, and maybe this is related, the crowd seemed fairly laid back about the whole thing. Sure there was applause in all the right places and a few hands in the air but some of this is pure bounce up and down and lose yourself in a moment stuff and there just wasn’t enough of this going on. Anyway, minor gripes over there’s still no disputing the beauty of Recover, one of Chvrches more low key numbers it’s perhaps the best chance to hear Lauren’s vocal, a beguiling mix of vulnerable child and kick ass Glaswegian 21st Century woman. A bone fide highlight.

As the gig went on there was a bit more banter and chat which perhaps warmed things up a little. The old “More canals than Venice” bit had seemingly been picked as the band’s fascinating fact about Birmingham, although the blokes were clearly more interested in the City spawning Black Sabbath...even if they resolutely refused to play War Pigs as an encore. Next time eh? Speaking of ‘the blokes’ Martin took over vocal duties for one track, Under The Tide, and injected some much needed oomph into proceedings. Employing the kind of dance moves last seen in the 60s courtesy of Freddie and the Dreamers the dude goes mental, emerging from behind the bank of keyboards and coming out to the front of the stage...not a notable thing in most gigs but a real novelty this evening. Sure his vocals might divide some audiences but judging by some of the comments flying around on the intermess this is one of the best bits of a live Chvrches show. I’m inclined to agree. Closing with The Mother We Share would’ve been a real ‘lighters in the air’ moment back in the day, this evening those that felt that way inclined just did the old waving the hands in the air thing. Better for your health no doubt but not quite as pretty.

Encore You Caught The Light was possibly the dullest part of the set (perhaps one of their cheeky cover versions would’ve been better here) but By The Throat lifted things a little ending a gig that came frustratingly close to greatness.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Folking busy...

Moseley Folk Festival 2013 from Old Dead Eye on Vimeo.

The good folk at Moseley Folk are...pardon the pun...folking busy right now with not one, not two but THREE festivals this year. The first, Lunar Festival, is on from 6th-8th June with Tim Burgess, Temples, British Sea Power, Donovan and The Polyphonic Spree amongst many others...oh yes...and this dude...

Next up comes Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul from 11th to 13th July with confirmed acts so far including Fun Lovin' Criminals and Earth, Wind and Fire. Boogie Wonder-ful.

Finally, capping off the summer in fine style, the daddy of them all Moseley Folk Festival itself, from 29th -31st August including the legendary Richard Thompson on Saturday night and The Waterboys on the Sunday. NB: Anyone who thinks it's clever to drop their trousers during Whole of the Moon will be ejected...oh no...have I just given some hairy assed bloke an idea...forget I said anything.

As if that isn't enough (jeez...I sound like I'm selling something on The Home Shopping Channel) Moseley Folk is also holding another Sensateria club night on Friday 28th March featuring The Orange Revival all the way from Sweden and Velvet Texas Cannonball...all the way from Brum. Cosmic!

Friday, March 07, 2014

Joan As Police Woman in rather good new album shocker!

I'd always filed Joan As Police Woman away in my mind as not being anywhere near as interesting as her name. Nothing particularly wrong with her past stuff, much of it just sort of wandered by though. Colour me surprised then when I heard this track a few weeks ago. It's actually rather ruddy has a beat, a chorus, some's the kind of song that could soundtrack one of those ads for lady 'products'. It's not the only decent track on the new album (The Classic, due out on Monday) either. Try this doo wop beat boxy goody for size too.

Well done Ms Police Woman.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Temples / Childhood / Dark Bells @ The Institute, Tuesday 4th March 2014

Whoooooooah...hey man, what’s happening? Going to see Temples at The Institute? Cosmic...faaaaar out dude. Okay, enough of the trippy 60s lingo (for now at least, I’m still having flashbacks from this show so frankly anything could happen in the next few paragraphs) but tonight was another of those time travelling gigs that made you question which decade you were living in.

First up to mess with your minds, Dark Bells, an Aussie trio with a neat line in quiet/loud/quiet psych-gaze. There ain’t enough female fronted rock acts in the world, a situation that becomes increasingly difficult to comprehend when you hear/see the Bells’ lead singer Teneil in action. Musically things start off on an almost acid folk tinged vibe with a song that may possibly be called Do You Remember? (oh for the day when bands tell you the song titles...makes life a whole lot easier) before spinning off into more of a shoegazey universe. Vocally Teneil veers between slightly trippy space cadet and full on siren whilst the band’s bassist spins out some gloriously funked up basslines. 

It’s a bewitching mix, the sort of sound that makes you want to rip off your top and do that weird hand dance thing that people seemed to spend most of the 60s doing (or maybe that's just me). New single In Head (out April 24th on RIP Records) capped off a powerful set of tunes in fine style. Ding dong.

‘Stoned’ Roses anyone? There’s certainly a hint of Madchester’s finest in Childhood’s sound, especially in 2013 single Solemn fact more than one You Tube comment has recently wistfully recalled the late 80s early 90s scene into which this lot could slot. 

Actually they’re a lot less chilled out live than they often appear on ‘record’ or whatever you crazy kids listen to music on these days. Whilst the jingle jangly indie guitars are in place lead singer Leo is happily far more animated this evening, coming dangerously close to rocking out in fact. Most of it’s all very good in a head nodding way but you get the sense that there’s a lot more to come from them, as hinted at by the rather splendid wig out jam at the end of the set...yes wig out’s stored right next to the honey in Aldi.

Well and truly back to the 60s for tonight’s headliners, Temples, who seem to have a particularly uncanny knack for penning the kind of tunes that our dads/granddads/great granddads (delete according to your age) might well have turned on, tuned in and dropped out to. Hmmm...maybe they sold their souls to Syd Barrett? Via a ouija board obviously. The really clever bit though is that pretty much every tune is shot through with a cunning pop sensibility, catchy hooks and riffs pour off this lot like water off a ducks back, albeit a duck tripping off its beak. I’m guessing lead singer James Edward Bagshaw honed that particular skill during his time with indie chart toppers Sukie back in the day. Wherever it’s come from it’s freaking brilliant. Like the first puff on a spliff tonight’s opening number Colours To Life draws you into its warm embrace and for the next hour or so you’re on a different planet. Looking more than a little like Marc Bolan (even down to the glitter round the eyes) Bagshaw’s dreamy vocal is the soft caramel heart around which the band wraps rich, dark psych. There’s other stuff going on though. Sun Structures hits a bit of a Krautrock/proggy vibe, recent B Side Ankh has a distinctly glam feel to it and Move With The Seasons wanders into Pink Floyd territory. Unsurprisingly given all these influences there was a decent age span here tonight...more than one ‘dad and son’ combo uniting uneasily over their collective love for this band. At times Bagshaw seems genuinely overwhelmed by how far they’ve got in little over a year commenting that “it’s amazing to be playing to so many people” (cue huge whoops from the fathers and sons). He shouldn’t be surprised though, each and every single they’ve released so far has been naggingly addictive with the aforementioned Colours To Life and the flower powered Keep In The Dark both going down a storm tonight. I’d not heard the proto metal (this really came across in tonight’s version) of Sand Dance before but it perhaps hints at a heavier possible direction for the band in the future. Who knows? Who cares when you’ve got something as fabulous as set closer Shelter Song to enjoy. Kicking off with Beatles-ish guitars it’s as gloriously 60s as miniskirts, lava lamps and flower power. Breaking with his rather deadpan expression I couldn’t help notice Baghshaw allowing himself a little grin to keyboardist Adam. It was well deserved judging by the sea of bobbing heads, hairy so hairy, in the heart of the crowd.

Of course one song was missing from the set so far and perhaps they really had left the best for the encore. In a ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ way Mesmerise extended way beyond its usual three minutes or so, tripping off to a different place altogether for a full five minutes or so. I reckon some of the audience could have watched it all night. Temples...truly a group worth worshipping. 

Monday, March 03, 2014

Miss Halliwell / Big Bren’s Combo / The Dollcanoes / D.N.P @ The City Tavern, Friday 28th February 2014

The City Tavern. Just a short stumble away from the festering mass of humanity that spills, totters and...I hope you’ve already eaten...oozes all over Broad Street on a Friday night whilst seemingly remaining a hundred miles away. In that respect it’s pretty much the perfect venue for Miss Halliwell, a band that similarly skirts close to popular appeal with some deceptively catchy tunes and lyrics (check out Free Chips for’s got sing-along hit written all over it) whilst somehow remaining safely outside the ‘mainstream’.

With record label support and global management deals so far disappointingly lacking their inspirational leader Miles Perhower continues to plough his own sweet/sour furrow and tonight’s gig billed as ‘The City Tavern Experiment’ is a yet another self financed and self organised – although happily not just self attended (shit...don’t say people are finally getting the message?) – affair.

First up D.N.P aka ‘Little’ Chris Downing the dude who’s behind the much missed Brumcast series of podcasts. In the intervening year or two he’s clearly been busy copulating with least that’s what his ‘black ambient drone’ sounds make you think of. The video projections behind him neatly hammer (House) the point home.

How do you follow that? With some top notch indiepop courtesy of The Dollcanoes of course. Genius. There’s far too little mixing stuff up on conventional gig line-ups...why shouldn’t you go from Satan’s soundtrack to indiepop eh? No idea how long they’ve been going for (I neglected to ask that during a post gig chat with one of the band, I guess Paxman’s job’s safe for now then) but I believe one of the blokes was/is local legend Bom (of Bom and Magic Drumstick fame). 

From the BiS-ish Masterbluster through to the more Riot Grrl influenced You’re Dead and Chicks On Speed tinged One For The Road it was a hugely enjoyable set with just the right blend of chat and humour (loved the balloon cock and ball set...not so sure about popping them with a pin but that’s a chap thing...ouch).

As warm up acts go Big Bren’s Combo is pretty out there. Big Bren himself is a performance poet / bar room bard backed by, amongst other instruments, a saw player. Yes, as in the sharp things you cut trees with. Okay, on paper (alright then, screen) it seems an odd proposition but somehow the combination of Big Bren’s broad Brummie delivery and his backing band’s free jazz fusion can be particularly effective. 

A Child Has Died (backed by the aforementioned saw) was strangely haunting whilst the rant fuelled Noisy Neighbours and Mad Woman both trod the fine line between genius and insanity. Which leads us on rather nicely to our headliners...

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, the main event (if that sounds a little like the introduction to a boxing match it’s no bad thing)...all the way from Bearwood (well some of them at least), with 18 knockouts, no losses and most definitely no submissions...the undisputed heavyweight champions of pissed off pop...MISSSSSSSSSSSS HALLIWELL! Okay, maybe ‘pissed off pop’ isn’t the right term but what is? Answers on Vladimir Putin’s severed scrotum (or any part of his anatomy for that matter) please. It’s seven years since I first started banging on about this band and I confidently expected them to have long ago stolen the hearts and minds of serious music fans by now. The fact that they haven’t yet matters not a jot. They will. And if they don’t, well, shame on us all.

In typical Miss Halliwell fashion they played two or three new tracks tonight (no point in making life easy for yourselves eh?) including the opening number (Galleon?) which saw Miles out front in the audience checking out the band and nodding approvingly. It was well deserved. There’s a complexity to the music that many players might struggle with but (and I’m guessing rehearsals can be pretty intense affairs) they’ve all clearly put in the hours, days, weeks and months. Delving back into his solo During The Interrogation EP, Signature’s stream of conscious lyrics and 1,2,3,4,5 refrain is nothing short of a Miles Perhower post punk classic. Fast forwarding to new album Fresh From The Holy Spring he then spat out Favourite Guitar like some kind of deranged savant, proffering a mic to guitarist Ross in much the same manner as a reporter trying to land a scoop from a shifty celeb. Three songs in and it’s already the kind of gig that makes you glad you’ve got ears. Kickboxing (again I think this was the title) is another new one, once again harnessing Perhower’s knack of stringing together seemingly unrelated words to make more sense than most songwriters manage in a lifetime (sample lyric “Tabloid, haemorrhoid”...doesn’t that just neatly sum up the Daily Mail eh?). During the song Miles played WITH and PLAYED with the band, fiddling with their instruments a little to get the sound he was looking for. Another new track (no idea what this one was called) was recorded “For data” and will no doubt find itself on the next instalment of the Brumdemoters trilogy of films. I wrote down the words “jittery, edgy seat of your pants stuff” but was too involved in watching it all go down to note anything more illuminating. That’s a good thing by the way. A“Thank you, that was fucking tight” to the rest of the band at the end was well justified praise though.

“Time for the hits now” remarked Miles with just the merest sack of irony. They bloody well should be. In Free Chips, Rulerfueller and Ponytail Quest Miss Halliwell has a trio of tracks that we should all be self pleasuring ourselves over. Well I am at least. Bear with me a minute...okay...three minutes. Ahhh...that’s better. Free Chips is so naggingly addictive it should be issued with a Government Health Warning. Live Rulerfueller is far more of a kick up the ass than the recorded version with Miles prowling the floor, seemingly on the edge of a meltdown. He’s saving all that for the last song of the night though, Ponytail Quest, a brain frazzling jazz / rock / metal / punk / prog tinged odyssey into Miles’ troubled mind that ended with him grabbing his coat, ripping down a banner promoting the gig and chucking it at the stage, disappearing down to the bar below to, no doubt “down half a bottle of wine”. And there he remained. No encore. No schmoozing. No compromise.

Seven years on from my first sighting of them Miss Halliwell incredibly remains one of the freshest, most compelling bands I’ve ever seen.