Friday, January 30, 2015

Rod McKuen RIP

My favourite songwriter? Quite possibly Jacques Brel, due in no small part to the rather wonderful English translations of his songs (which were generally originally written and sung in French) done by Rod McKuen who’s sadly ‘gone away’ forever at the age of 81. There’s a chance you may not be familiar with too many McKuen/Brel tracks as they’re all too rarely played these days but at their best they're heart breakingly beautiful (or in Almond's version of Jacky gloriously, fabulously OTT). Here’s just a handful. Enjoy...

I'm not sure if McKuen had anything to do with translating this one but, hell, it's too good to leave out. 

And finally here's a McKuen original covered by t'Arctic Monkeys no less.

Plus the original sung by Rod himself.

Thank Cue For The Music...Miss Halliwell announce Valentine's Day Break-up!

Looking for something different to do this Valentine’s Day that won’t cost you a month’s wages and/or involve an emergency dash to your local petrol station for some wilting flowers and a Ginsters Pasty? Relax...unless you only earn £3 a month that which case you’re still a bit buggered...and head down to the Sandwell Snooker Centre (Bearwood High Street) for Miss Halliwell’s Maximum Break-up! See what they did there? The venue used to be a variety theatre back in the day so presumably there's a stage there, either that or the band's just planning on hopping up onto the tables.

The gig also sees the digital release of the Miss Halliwell best of collection, Perhower and the Gory Years (2010 - 2014), a frankly essential introduction to, in my humble opinion, an equally essential group. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

SLUG is all you need

Here’s a new name to me (okay, that’s not saying a lot these days...damn these bands springing up willy nilly all over the shop), ladies and gentleman I give you Sunderland’s rather wonderful SLUG who, as far as I can tell is just one dude (Ian Black). Musically Cockeyed Rabbit Wrapped In Plastic (see above) is kind of like a proggy Sparks, whilst Running To Get Past Your Heart (see below) fuses slacker rock with Killing Joke’s Love Like Blood. Neat. If nothing else Mr Black gets full marks for his titles. There’s an album out on April 13 on Memphis Industries with a mini tour (no Brum Dates yet sadly) around the same time. I’m tipping him for great things this year...which is probably the kiss of death for the poor bloke. Enjoy!

Monday, January 26, 2015

The demise of Demis...

Oh no! Demis Roussos has died. Where would Abigail's  Party have been without a little Demis Roussos eh? And lest we forget he was also in prog / psych rockers Aphrodite's Child in the late 60s and early 70s, purveyors of this particular classic.

RIP big guy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

You can't miss (Miss) Halliwell...

It's true, just a few weeks into the New Year and Miss Halliwell continue their seemingly relentless work rate with a...deep EP (Abscess Granted, out March 2nd), Best of collection (Perhower and the Gory Years Best of 2010 – 2014, out February 2nd) and Valentine’s Day gig (Saturday February 14th at Bearwood’s historic Sandwell Snooker hall).

They’ve just uploaded a taster from the EP too, Capitulate (not the first word you’d associate with the band or their admirably single-minded frontdude Miles Perhower), and it’s yet another classic mash up of wondrous wordplay and musical mayhem that’s somehow...and here’s the killer blow people...still surprisingly catchy. Have a listen. Go on. I dare you. If it doesn’t make you pogo around in your undergarments then frankly there’s no hope.   

Friday, January 16, 2015

In a Mali-gue of their own

If you've still not popped your 2015 gig cherry yet wrap your ears around some fine Malian music courtesy of Songhoy Blues. If that doesn't warm the cockles nothing will. They're dropping by Brum on Tuesday February 3rd to play a gig at The Sunflower Lounge, tickets right here from the lovely folk at Birmingham Promoters!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

East Is East @ The New Alexandra Theatre, Wednesday 14th January

Originally a play, then a film and a sequel (apparently a third instalment’s in development too) this new revival of East Is East dishes up the dream pairing of its writer, Ayub Khan-Din (who you may remember from appearances in My Beautiful Launderette and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid) with Jane Horrocks (who you’ll definitely remember as Bubble from Ab Fab and Little Voice Voice).  

If you’ve somehow missed seeing the original film over the years (frankly inexcusable) the action’s set in a mixed race household in Salford in the early 70s and revolves around the marriage of George Khan (a Pakistan born Muslim), his wife Ella (a British born Roman Catholic) and their 7 kids. 

It’s a set up that’s ripe for sitcom-esque comedic moments, ranging from the imminent circumcision of Sajit (ouch) through to the proposed arranged marriages of two of George’s sons to some, ahem, less than lovely looking brides. Act I goes for the laughs with George ranting and raving at his family and the world he finds himself in like some kind of Pakistani version of Alf Garnett. Act II has some much darker moments though and the physical violence meted out by George on his wife and sons still packs a punch, literally, even if you’ve seen the film or play before.

As you’d expect Khan-Din inhabits George’s skin perfectly, eventually portraying an almost King Lear-like level of confusion, hurt and anger that spills over into violence as his family adopts more Western ways of dress and behaviour. Horrocks is a predictably safe pair of hands as his wife Ella, standing by her man despite the abuse but more than standing her own ground when it comes to defending her family and way of life. 

Kudos to Sally Bankes as Auntie Annie who nails the archetypal neighbourhood matriarch, coming across as a kind of 70s White Dee, whilst the rest of the cast do a fine job of winding George up in between portraying some of the inevitable conflict and confusion caused as two radically different worlds collide in the turbulent 70s. 

Music plays a significant role in the production too, with quick bursts of Northern Soul, pop It’s a Knockout theme tune representing the West and more traditional Asian music keeping the East flame alive, even if George’s family take the piss out of it at times, most memorably in the amusing chip shop scene. And the set’s well worth a mention with Designer Tim Scutt perfectly capturing the cramped decaying Victorian squalor that many families still lived in during the 60s and 70s. Of course many ended up in decaying and cramped tower blocks whilst the middle classes moved in and renovated some of these Victorian hovels but we’ll gloss over that for now.

One thing you can’t gloss over perhaps is that just a week after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, for a thankfully small minority, the chasm between East and West seems to be stronger than ever. Other reviews of this current revival written by second or third generation British Asians have also pointed out that the arranged marriage scenes can cause some uncomfortable silences as audience members realise that this could still be their future. Then you’ve got the fear peddling nonsense spouted on Fox News as a so called ‘Terrorist Expert’ labelled Birmingham a no go area for non Muslims and you find yourself thinking that many of the themes explored in East Is East are sadly every bit as relevant as they were back in the 70s. On a brighter note looking round at tonight’s audience though – mixed enough to give an Equality and Diversity Officer a stiffie...albeit a non threatening mutually inclusive stiffie – it’s clear that as a society we’ve come a long way. And thank whichever God might happen to float your boat for that eh? Take that Fox ‘News’.

Having debuted at The REP way back in 1996 it’s great to see East Is East back in the City again and, if you ‘Khan’ grab a ticket, this production’s well worth catching. 

East Is East is on at The New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 17th January - tickets here – before moving on to Richmond and Manchester.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Kate expectations...

After a stunning sell out show at the Hare and Hounds last year Kate Tempest returns to Brum on Wednesday 11th February with a date at the Rainbow Warehouse. Having put in the miles for the years on the spoken word circuit she broke through big time in 2014 with the typically ambitious Mercury nominated album Everybody Down. In between all that she managed to pen the odd play and novel and, who knows, by the time you've read this she may well have knocked off a movie or two. Tickets right here from our good chums at Birmingham Promoters. Highly recommended.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Victories At Sea – UP

Ahoy there! Criminally underrated Brum band Victories At Sea have honed their signature brutalist synth pop (yes, I’m making up genres again) sound to perfection on new single UP, combining stabbing old skool synths with bursts of ear enveloping guitars that could give The Jesus, Joseph and Mary Chain a run for their money. It’s out today digitally (something to do with computers...I’m a wax cylinder man myself) via the ever reliable Static Caravan Recordings in anticipation of the band’s long awaited debut album due in the Spring. You can purchase it through itunes right here, right now. No live dates planned at the moment but you can keep UP, as it were, with them via their website

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Let it Go, Let it Go, Let it Go! Team...

Okay, so it might be the bleakest week of the year right now when you're surrounded by nothing but turkey carcusses, torn wrapping paper, pine needles and bills...oh so many bills...but happily The Go! Team have chosen this very moment to sneak out brand new single The Scene Between, an instant blast of 70s tinged summer sun. Bless 'em. There had been some talk of The Go! Team packing it all in after their last album of them have. In fact just Ian Parton remains, but as he started the whole thing off on his lonesome that's not a huge problem from a recording point of view. Who knows if he'll bother trying to do the live thang again (they were pretty joyous affairs so it would be a shame if he didn't) but for now just sit back, polish off that last six boxes of mince pies and enjoy.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Cum on Peel the noise!

Happy New Year and all that jazz.

Just in case you’ve been living under a Mince Pie for the past few weeks one man maelstrom of mirth and music Tom (aka Top) Peel has just over a week to go fund a typically ambitious project called Tom Peel’s Greatest Hits, in which ten of Brum’s best bands cover ten of Tom’s best choons from the past ten years. Here’s a talking cat to tell you how you can help fund it:

There’s a special gig next Monday night (January 12th) at TheChurch Inn to boost the coffers (whatever they are) too. Admission is a mere two quid via Tom’s Pozible page. Huzzah!