Thursday, December 22, 2016
As is traditional this time of year I've trawled the interweb for the very best Christmas mix known to man, woman or donkey and here's the first offering from DJ Friction. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm now that's soulful.
Of course wall to wall Christmas hits might well even get on the tits of Santa himself so here's a blinking awesome hip hop mash up guaranteed to get even the lamest party started courtesy of DJ Vadim (big up DJ Wrecka aka my old mucka Darren R for the tip off too).
A very Merry Christmas and a Hip Hop Happy New Year to y'all! x
Thursday, December 15, 2016
Gutted to be missing this but tomorrow night sees Pete Williams play Bearwood Corks Club, just a mere stagger away from my old home on Poplar Road. As regular readers will know I really, really rate Pete as an artist, from his days with the original line up of Dexys Midnight Runners and then the reborn Dexys through to his incredible solo material. He's a bloody nice bloke too which goes a long way in my book. Anyway, cop a listen below and if you're anywhere near the 'wood this Friday pop along. Satisfaction guaranteed.
Tuesday, December 06, 2016
Back in the day when you had to watch adverts on the telly t'is the season for those suitably gruesome drink driving ads. Now that most of us either fast forward through the ads though I'm guessing 'them' in charge are relying on us having enough common sense not to get behind the wheel of a vehicle after 18 pints of Lambrusco...even if using ruddy 'smart' phones seems to be responsible for far more carnage these days. Anyway all this is an extremely tenuous link to the current single from Car Seat Headrest, who sound a little like a sort of American slacker Divine Comedy. Ace.
PS: I'm not entirely sure if this track is called Drunk Drivers or Killer Whales (or both) but as there aren't many ads on telly warning about the dangers of Killer Whales getting behind the wheel of an automobile we'll just go with the former for now.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Currently creating more of a buzz than a bucket full of boozed up bees Brum's Blackash beguile (that's it, I've run out of b's) The Sensateria on December 10th. Before that the good people at Swordfish Records release Blackash's debut 4-track EP on swanky limited edition coloured vinyl and judging by the title track it's going to be a bit of a bloody belter.
Thursday, November 24, 2016
Yes this week sees another Sunday Xpress with a typically bostin line up including Church of Elvis and The Nature Centre. As usual there are open mic slots from 4pm so who knows what other delights will be on offer, maybe the real Elvis? Pretty sure he lives off the Hagley Road you know, shares a flat with Hendrix. Anyway, once again it's all ruddy FREE too! Here's a little Church of Elvis to get you in the mood, altogether now, "Threepandofbananasapandtodaynaw".
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
At the risk of this blog turning into nothing other than obituaries today The Inspiral Carpets announced the sad passing of their drummer Craig Gill at just 44 (44!). I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the Inspirals. In my humble opinion they deserved far more kudos for their run of classic singles than they've been given, and Craig was, as the band stated today, the beating heart of it all perhaps most noticeably on their collaboration with Mark E. Smith but also on the appropriately titled (given the mounting musical losses this year) Dragging Me Down.
One more? Oh go on then...
Monday, November 21, 2016
I've been writing this blog for over a decade now and simply can't remember a year when so many musical greats, big or small (fame wise that is), have passed away. In less than 12 months we've now lost...deep breath...Lemmy, Bowie, Black (aka Colin Vearncombe), Prince, George Martin, Scotty Moore (Elvis' guitarist), Bernie Worrell (Parliament/Funkadelic keyboard maestro), Prince Buster, Dave Swarbrick, Pete Burns, Leonard Cohen, Billy Paul (singer of Me and Mrs Jones), Keith Emerson, Maurice White (Earth Wind and Fire), Glenn Frey (The Eagles) and now Sharon Jones, the godmother of the early noughties soul revival. If you've ever been fortunate enough to have seen Sharon and the Dap-Kings live you'll know just what a loss this latest passing is. Despite not finding fame until she hit her forties I've yet to see a performer who put quite so much energy, passion and, yes, SOUL into a performance (as the above clip, also featuring a little bonus appearance from Prince, clearly shows) and even after being diagnosed with cancer she continued playing whenever she could, even if that was in the hospital wards where she was receiving treatment.
RIP Miss Jones. x
Thursday, November 17, 2016
After a gap of several months it's time for another dip into one of the many dusty boxes of vinyl that represent 30 odd years of record collecting. This time I pulled out an old Indie Top 20 compilation album from the heady days of 1990. It's stuffed full of such classics as James' Come Home, The Inspiral Carpets' Move and Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus plus some perhaps forgotten gems like the KLF's Kylie Said to Jason and A Guy Called Gerald's Hot Lemonade.
Of course it's always tempting to look back with rose coloured spectacles at the past (especially at a time you were a fresh faced 20 years old rather than a slightly grizzled 46 year old with tinnitus and a bad back). Thankfully I'm not one of those boring old fuckers who think that there's noting worth listening to these days...not yet anyway...but there's a certain naive charm to a lot of older indie stuff that's perhaps been lost in a world that - as far as 'mainstream' music's concerned at least - is pretty much controlled by a handful of media giants. Anyway, enough of that, there are plenty of other middle aged men bemoaning the state of the music biz right now, pour yourself some...er...hot lemonade and trance out to A Guy Called Gerald.
PS: Given that A Guy Called Gerald's big hits were over a quarter of a century ago now it's entirely possible that anyone under the age of 30 might just be unaware of his seminal Voodoo Ray too. Let's remedy that eh?
PPS: Yes kids, this is what your parents/grandparents (delete as applicable) were dancing to in 1989.
PPPS: Even I could manage to throw some shapes to this one.
PPPPS: No I'm not going to show you.
Monday, November 14, 2016
What's better than an ace new track from Goodnight Lenin? An ace new track from Goodnight Lenin with a video featuring Tom Peel. Both are utterly brill, the track's a Springsteen meets Killing Joke banger and the vid sees the lovely Mr Peel do his very best to burst pretty much every blood vessel in his body. What's not to love eh? Desire's out digitally on November 21st on Static Caravan!
Friday, November 11, 2016
From something/someone old (RIP Leonard Cohen) to something new, the latest track from the ridiculously talented George Barnett now seemingly trading as AKA George. This one's a complete and utter banger from start to finish, as funky as James Brown's boxer shorts but fresher than a November breeze right up your nether regions (I'm all about the groin area today...no idea why...must be my age). Anyway, play it loud, play it often and if you're feeling brave leap about like George in the vid (Disclaimer: Any broken bones/windows/items of furniture are entirely your fault).
Well 2016 claims another musical legend, this time it's the Godfather of Gloom himself Mr Leonard Cohen. As with Prince and Bowie I count myself extremely lucky to have seen him perform live, in this case a few years back at the Big Chill Festival. Then a mere whippersnapper in his 70s he seemed remarkably fit, playing for almost three hours and even performing a rather nifty and surprising little dance routine towards the end of the show.
For a man who reluctantly became a singer to earn a few more bucks after realising his career as a poet was never going to pay the bills he seemed remarkably well suited to it all becoming the soundtrack to a billion bedsit dreamers. Having earned all those bucks he chucked it in to become a Buddhist monk for a few years. Somewhat ironically whilst learning how to live without material possessions his manager Kelley Lynch stole all his money and he was left pretty much centless which no doubt inspired his comeback and activity over the past few years. As a committed Buddhist hopefully he'll have been reincarnated by now, although it's unlikely the new version will have quite the same impact as the old.
Monday, November 07, 2016
Squiffy? Wobbly? Oddly jobbly? Nope, I can't find a word or words to describe Soft Hair, the slow burning hook up between Kiwi psych pop space cadet Conan Mockasin and Late of the Pier's Sam Dust, either. Somewhat remarkably the videos for their recent singles Lying Has To Stop and In Love manage to out weird the songs too, which let's face it must take some doing. If you're not familiar with the lovely Mr Mockasin by the way please do check out Forever Dolphin Love, ideally after ingesting your own body weight in magic mushrooms.
And while we're at it here's a little Numan-esque pop gem from the late Late Of The Pier too.
Wednesday, November 02, 2016
I bought NME for years, pretty much every week from the late 80s through to the early noughties by which time it was well past it's prime having gone from a serious music paper to a 'glossy' jack of all trades desperately trying to cling onto its rapidly dwindling readership. Plus it was about £2.50 a week and took roughly 10 minutes to read. Occasionally I'd pick up a copy in WH Smiths and skip through it but that was that until it went free earlier this year. Since then I've become a regular reader again and although it's still a pretty light read there's something comfortingly familiar and old school about it. It also occasionally turns me on (not literally...I'm more of a Tweed Monthly kind of chap) to the odd new band or two and this week's pick is a London trio called Artificial Pleasure. As the good folk at NME (and many others on You Tube) have pointed out their debut single sounds like the ruddy lovechild of Bowie and Talking Heads which is pretty much all the recommendation you need isn't it eh?
Friday, October 28, 2016
I was lucky enough to catch Honeyblood on their first tour and they've bee(n)...bee...honey...geddit... oh alright then...on fine form ever since. Their latest single's another firm favourite at Baron Towers so if you've not heard it yet wrap it round yer ears for an hour or two. You're welcome.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Good grief, this one's come as bit of a shock. Okay so Pete Burns might not had the same impact on popular music as Bowie or Prince but you can't deny that he was one hell of a character (and how much does the world need proper characters in this day and age eh?) who came out with one of the definitive hits of the 80s before transforming himself (literally) into a gloriously trashy star of celeb TV. Aged just 57 apparently he suffered a massive heart attack a mere five days before the release of an equally massive 19 disc retrospective called Sophisticated Boom Box MMXVI. RIP.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Attention Brum based peeps. This Friday/Saturday sees the annual All Years Leaving Festival and as usual it's stuffed full of some of the best new bands around. Anywhere. Fact. It's kind of like SXSW...just in Kings Heath (well that's south of Brum isn't it...geography never was my strong point). Tickets for the whole thing cost just £25 (which probably just about buys a falafel at Glasto these days) and quite frankly it's worth paying that just to see Hooten Tennis Club play Katy-Anne Bellis and Table Scraps play...well...anything really.
PS: Looks like weekend and Saturday tickets are all gone but you can grab the last few Friday tickets here if you're faster than Bradley Wiggins on speed.
Spanking new music from hotly tipped Torquay five piece Tourists (I'm guessing living where they do they're something the band's well used to) courtesy of synth-tastic new single Drive. Featuring the kind of catchy 80s tinged chorus that'd be right at home on the soundtrack of a John Hughes (RIP) classic (even the vid has a bit of a Weird Science vibe) the band saves the best till last with...be still my beating heart...a ruddy sax solo. God I love a sax solo. Why more bands (M83 being one of the few exceptions these days) don't use a little/a lot of brass is a mystery to me. Anyway, dust off your rah rah skirt (and that's just the chaps), pump up the volume and bop till you drop.
Drive is out on November 4th.
Thursday, October 13, 2016
Had the great pleasure of seeing Islet way back in 2010 (ahhh, going to gigs...I remember that) and, as is the way sadly, gradually let them slip into the darkest recesses of what's left of my brain. Seeing a mention of their new single in NME sent me shuffling to the old laptop to give it a 'spin' and it's a darn fine slice of dreamy oddball psych. Fans of Conan Mockasin will heartily approve...that's me then. Bravo.
Wednesday, October 05, 2016
Heard this last night for the first time in a decade or three. I've had a bit of a soft spot for Captain Sensible ever since seeing him do a suitably OTT version of Happy Talk on Top Of The Pops back in '82 (good grief) but I'd forgotten this one. For a silly pop song it's a pretty good summary of life's rich tapestry and the brief guitar solo (Sensible's actually a genuinely brilliant guitarist) is well worth the wait too. Chart nerds might be interested to note that it reached the dizzy heights of number 57 in 1984 which is quite frankly a national disgrace.
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Chuffed to hear new stuff from Yello, grandfathers of quirky electronic dance pop and quite possibly the oddest pairing in musical history. Formed way back in 1979 the lead singer, Dieter Meier, now a mere 71 years young, is amongst other things a millionaire industrialist, conceptual artist and owner of his own chocolate factory. Former truck driver Boris Blank is a self taught musical genius and one of the pioneers of sampling back in the days when it involved an awful lot of tape, a razor blade and some glue. Together they've recorded 13 albums and scored one of the most unique chart hits ever with The Race, all 13 minutes and 23 seconds of it. Brilliantly bonkers they're just about to make their proper live debut with a short series of concerts in Berlin. Tantalisingly there's talk of some UK dates at some point too.
PS: On a personal note I was lucky enough to meet the charming and dapper Mr Meier at a low key record signing at HMV in Brighton way back in 1991 and I practically begged him to play live one day. And now, a mere quarter of a century later, voila! Everything comes to he who waits eh?
PPS: Here's one of their classic tracks coupled with some scenes from a movie that never fails to make me feel 15 again (which takes some doing these days) Ferris Bueller's Day Off.
Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Friday, September 23, 2016
Attention Midlands peeps (and peeps from further afield who can get their raggedy old/young/middle aged arses to Digbeth), this Sunday sees the start of another series of Sunday Xpress’s and it’s a typically strong bill with The Dollcanoes and the inspirational The CPM Connection along with a new name to me, The Retinal Circus, intriguingly billed as ‘multi-layered multi-dimensional music’. The whole thing kicks off at 5pm with a couple of hours of anything goes open mic mayhem before the bands take to the stage at 7pm. And. It’s. All. Ruddy. Free.
I’m stuffed full of admiration for the Sunday Xpress posse and everyone who performs there so pop along and show ‘em some love. Good times guaranteed or your money back.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
For an all too brief moment in the mid noughties it looked as though The Rumble Strips blend of Dexys brass-vado and soul (great on record, three flavours of awesome live) might just make it but sadly it wasn’t too be and the band faded away without so much as a whimper back in 2010. Fast forward six years though and seemingly out of the blue they’re back, back, back with a series of new tracks recorded on a floating lighthouse in East London. Yes, really.
So far half a dozen songs have been uploaded to Spotify and You Tube with a similar number still tantalisingly to come. Happily lead Strip Charlie Waller’s slightly battered and bruised but still defiant outlook on life’s still firmly in place, notably in the gloriously doomed romanticism of Around The World in which he plans to write a shit song, sell it to an ad agency and then use the money to buy a car to drive him and his/a girl around the world until he’s had enough at which both he and the car will conk out (of course he puts it so much better than this which is why he’s in a band and I’m in a small room rocking gently backwards and forwards). As business plans go it’s not a bad idea but personally I’d prefer it if the wonderful listening public bought the band’s ruddy records instead (once they get round to pressing some that is). In the meantime some live dates are promised later this year (HINT: PLAY EXETER PLEASE), watch this space.
PS: Here's a prime slice of early Rumble Strips for you too. Enjoy.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
As I've said on more than one occasion recently I've very little idea of what's in the charts these days which, given that there seems to be a chart for pretty much every genre under the sun probably isn't surprising. There is still an official UK chart though and whilst I recognise roughly 50% of the names on it I could only hum (badly) one or two tracks at best. It's not a worry, the charts have never been for people nudging 50, but one thing hasn't changed since I used to tape the Radio One chart show back in the early 80s (awwww bless) and that's songs that should have made the top 10 but somehow didn't. Take this one from Jason Derulo for instance, okay he's clearly nicked some of his dance moves and vocals from Jacko (with more than a nod towards Prince too) but it's a perfectly decent piece of pop funk that reached the dizzying heights of...number 87. Good grief. Still the video's been watched by over 5million people so at least Mr Derulo will earn a good $3 or so for his efforts. Anyway, play it loud and dance around in your pants, it's a...ahem...banger.
Friday, September 09, 2016
The second legendary Prince to leave us this year, this time it's the father of ska himself , Prince Buster. No Prince Buster, no Madness, The Specials, The Beat, The Selector, No Doubt and countless other bands who owe their entire careers to the sound he helped to pioneer. "Enjoy yourself it's later than you think" Wise words. RIP.
A mere week on from the mind melting collective melting mind of The Day Ends comes part two of Episode Three of Day Ends TV, another 15 minutes or so of random sensory abuse that straddles that fine line between complete mental breakdown and utter genius. It's like being a fly on the wall...albeit a fly on the wall coated liberally in acid. Where the band goes from here is anyone's guess, personally I wouldn't be surprised if they wrote and recorded the best pop song the world has ever heard (and I mean ever...imagine that...the one pop song that renders any other effort worthless...)...just for the hell of it...then produced a quadruple album of thrash jazz before starting a new cult based entirely on Miles Perhower's trumpet (and no, that's not a euphemism).
Thursday, September 08, 2016
Very sad to hear that Exeter Cavern Club was seriously damaged in a fire on Tuesday night and is likely to remain closed for the "foreseeable future". I've only made it along there once since moving down to Exeter (thanks in no small part to South West Trains' decision to stop running trains to my village at 11pm, often precisely the time that the headline act comes on) but I had high hopes of making it a regular haunt once I've sorted out the logistics of getting back...or moved...whichever comes first. For a City with such a big student population there seems to be a distinct lack of decent gig venues (and gigs for that matter) but the Cavern's put on the good stuff for quarter of a century (see the vid above showing the much missed Long Blondes for instance) and if it's lost forever it'd be nothing short of a tragedy. Happily an appeal's already been launched (smashing the £3,000 target in a matter of hours) to raise dosh to cover the repairs so hopefully, like its nearby neighbour, it'll soon rise like a Phoenix (see what I did there?...it's an Exeter thing) as soon as possible.
Tuesday, September 06, 2016
Ashamed as I am for not really keeping up to date with a lot of new music it never ceases to amaze me how so much good stuff escaped me back in the day, like this little gem from Alice In Chains/Pearl Jam/Screaming Trees supergroup offshoot Mad Season. Okay so it failed to chart here in the UK but it reached a very respectable number 20 in the US of A and is pretty much a perfect slice of hypnotic doom laden grunge goodness. Sadly bassist John Baker Saunders died of an overdose in 1999 aged 44 and lead singer Layne Staley went the same way just three years later aged just 34. Shit. Play it loud and party like it's 1995.
Friday, September 02, 2016
Channelling the screaming spirits of, amongst others, Miles Davies, William Burroughs and Link Wray (now there's a party I'd like to be at) Episode 3 of The Day Ends semi regular vids is another mind warping experimental art attack designed to send those with fragile minds over the edge and most other people hurtling back to the beige aural security blanket of Anytown FM. If you understand it then you don't get it and if you get it you certainly don't understand it. Got that? Good.
Thursday, September 01, 2016
I'm all about the catchy so this newbie from art popsters Cocoa Futures is right up my passage. Based around what sounds like one of those jack in the box thingies (you know, the ones where you wind a handle until a freaky clown pops up and scares the bejesus out of small children) it's one of those tracks that'll embed itself in your brain within seconds and keep popping up when you're trying to concentrate on whatever it is that you lovely people do. Hailing from bonnie Scotland but now based in Tottenham the band's been around for a few years now, honing their Tom Tom Club-ish sound to complete and utter perfection on The Blue. It's not officially out until December 2nd (by then it'll probably have driven you quite,quite bonkers...in a good way of course...but bonkers nevertheless) but you can enjoy it right now. You're welcome.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Yes...somewhat unbelievably The Hearing Aid celebrated its tenth birthday (in its current form at least) over the bank holiday. TEN YEARS! I'll be the first to admit that the frequency and quality of posts have varied pretty dramatically over the last decade (geographical factors are currently restricting live reviews to just a mere handful a year too, although this might change soon...watch this space) but the fact that I've kept a website alive and kicking for ten years is pretty miraculous. Aside from reminding me of what the hell I've been doing with myself writing this blog has put me in touch with some ruddy lovely people, bands, reviewers, photographers, promoters, fellow gig goers and it's only due to their support and friendship over the years that I've kept going...so you've got them to blame/thank depending on your point of view. Anyway before this descends into some kind of awkward award acceptance speech thanks for reading and if I've turned you on (steady now) to just one new song or artist over the years then consider me chuffed. Speaking of which wrap your eyes and ears around this suitably celebratory new one from Petite Meller.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
First time at Beautiful Days but it won’t be the last...unless I pop my clogs in the next 12 months which, given the amount of cider I seem to have ‘accidentally’ consumed over the three days or so, wouldn’t come as a huge shock. Speaking of cider I’m delighted to report that all the bars were stocked with SIX proper ciders. SIX! Be still my beating heart. All of them were produced by local / independent cider makers too and, at just £3.80 a pint, you could get merry without needing a mortgage - other festival organisers please take note.
Another delight was the total lack of corporate advertising, somewhat remarkably the people behind Beautiful Days (The Levellers and DMF Music) clearly ain’t willing to sell their souls to make an extra buck or two and it’s an all too rare opportunity to escape the commercial bombardment that infects pretty much every other event. Whilst we’re covering off the basics (I’ll get round to some music in a moment) the loos were plentiful (there were a few queues for the ladies at peak pee times but nothing too bad) and clean, the food offerings were decent (big up the hog roast dudes), security seemed pretty friendly and there was none of that shuffling around like zombies that you get at some fests when the big act of the night finishes and everyone scuttles off to their tents/the bar. Speaking to a few regulars clearly the festival’s grown year on year and its popularity’s only going to go, ahem, ‘one way’ but let’s hope the capacity stays around this level. Personally I’d rather that be the case and I miss out ‘cos I can’t get a ticket than the thing becomes too big.
Anyway, the music. As ever I missed as much as I saw but that’s the nature of these things. With six stages to choose from even though you can get from one to the other in a matter of minutes you’re always going to face some ‘orrible decisions (such as missing the CUD acoustic set...bugger). Friday’s first main highlight was The Damned. Now 40 ruddy years into their career and holders of the first punk single release crown (although you could debate that forever...) they can still blast their way through the classics without needing oxygen and lead singer Dave Vanian remains as cool as a vampire in a fridge. Nice to hear their respectful cover of Love’s Alone Again Or too...officially approved by the late great Arthur Lee himself apparently.
Later on the same stage Ezra Furman who came on wearing what looked like his gran’s dress and pearls...he even rocked a bit of a blue rinse...and proceeded to holler his way through some of the finest indie rock of the last decade.
If Springsteen was a gender fluid Jewish guy from Chicago this is quite possibly what he’d sound like. Yep, he’s that good. Stomping his heels on the stage, spitting out the words with a ferocity that could well have powered the PA and charming the pants off the cool kids at the front it was a master/mistress class in how to blow away a crowd.
The last pick of Friday’s bill was the ever reliable (god, he’d probably hate that) Billy Bragg who won over a decent chunk of the festival crowd away from the “two blokes playing laptops” on the main stage (that’ll be Leftfield then). I’ll admit I was tempted to watch a bit of Bragg and then sneak off but once he got going I couldn’t resist. As with most Bragg gigs it was a mixture of hits and politics and it won’t come as a huge shock to hear that he’s a Corbyn fan or that he views the post Brexit society as more divided than ever. I’d argue that Thatcher’s Britain was a lot more split but then I was too busy watching Grange Hill for most of her reign of terror so I’ll bow to his opinion on that one. Nice to hear a self deprecating remark about the fact that he’s still a bit of a radical whilst living in a nice house on the beach in Dorset...Bragg may have left Barking long ago but he’s lost none of his bite.
Saturday’s pick of the bunch kicked off with a band from my old home town of Brum. I’d not heard of the UK Feds before but their Rage Against The Machine meets The Jam with a little ska punk thrown in for good measure mix certainly blew away the cider related hangover.
Music needs more anger and rebellion right now and with a little luck this lot could just be the kick in the balls it’s waiting for.
After some deliciously sweet‘n’soulful reggae courtesy of Hollie Cook the rest of the day was 90s music a go go with Terrorvision, Dreadzone, Reef, The Proclaimers and James. Kudos to Terrorvision for allowing a young kid with Williams Syndrome to take to the stage and steal the show for a couple of tracks...and to the lad in question,James, for making the most of it.
Reef are, as compere Jon Robb put it, on the form of their lives right now and if anyone in the world could stake a claim for The Rolling Stones’ crown when they finally decide to call it a day it’s Reef. Hell, they even have the son of a Stone (Jesse, son of Ronnie Wood) in the band, and their cover of Paint It Black would certainly give Jagger and co a run for their millions. You’ll know a lot more Reef songs that you think you do too, but it’s the latest stuff including the gospel tinged belter of How I Got Over (a cover of a Clara Ward original made famous by Mahalia Jackson and Aretha Franklin) that’ll blow yer sock off.
And does anyone in rock have a better beard than bassist Jack Bessant? Nope. No, they don’t.
We missed out on Dreadzone to catch one of the hidden gems of the whole weekend, Josephine and the Artizans at the Band Stand. Hip hop meets opera....or Hip HOpera if you will. I can’t recall many classically trained opera singers who have a thing for hip hop but Josephine clearly does and whilst she didn’t rap herself this evening (although I suspect she could flow with the best of ‘em) the blend of classical opera pieces and raps from the two male band members was refreshingly different and that’s all too rare these days. Ones to watch.
The Proclaimers have become firm festival favourites over the past few years, partially no doubt to that Comic Relief cover and the use of I’m On My Way in Shrek plus the surprisingly good musical movie Sunshine On Leith, and what the band lacks in between song banter they make up for in good old fashioned sing-a-long moments that the crowd certainly made the most of despite the drizzle.
That just left time for James and, much like Reef, they seem to have hit a bit of a purple patch in their golden (okay maybe silver’s a little kinder) years. Formed as long ago as 1982 they hit it big with late 80s baggy anthem Sit Down and went on to have almost a dozen other chart hits before they called it a day in 2001. A 2007 reunion tour sold out in a matter of hours and they’ve released four albums since then including the critically acclaimed Girl At The End Of The World. Tonight, in front of 14,000 or so loved up festival goers the band revisited the pick of their back catalogue (no Born of Frustration though...boo!) adding a little more synth based groove and glitter that the originals lacked. In a reverse Samson lead singer Tim Booth seems to have grown as a both vocalist and performer since losing his hair, confidently plunging into the crowd to be lifted aloft at one point and repeatedly shaking his thang throughout the set.
An emotional Nothing But Love capped things off brilliantly with Booth clearly appreciative of just how epically well the whole gig had gone down with the crowd...but then again...wait for it...he’s a staaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar.
Following a tip from a fellow camper we raised ourselves in time for The Rev Hammer Group at Sunday lunchtime, an unknown quantity to us but well worth catching. Digging around it seems as though the Rev’s been playing since the mid 80s, building up a loyal cult audience along the way. Sharing similar DNA to The Levellers the Rev’s brand of folk rock probably belonged on the main stage in a later slot but we did get a guest appearance from Mark Chadwick who’s clearly a big fan so I’m guessing there was a reason for the early gig.
Check out Down By The River O and the Rev’s epic ‘folk rock opera’ Freeborn John (the story of John Lilburne the leader of The Levellers...the political movement not the band) for a primer into the man and music.
Next up Two Tone legends The Selector got the crowd skanking like good ‘uns (Pauline Black just doesn’t seem to age) before Mariachi El Bronx brought a little Mexican magic to the party paving the way for The Coral (bugger me, another band getting a second wind) who, judging by set highlight and recent single Holy Revelation, have an ex-pysching future in front of them.
Okay, this might seem like sacrilege but we skipped most of The Levellers’ set to watch some masterful Afrobeat from Dele Sosimi who began his set playing to an almost empty Little Big Top!
This dude played with both Fela and Femi Kuti! Good grief. The place soon filled up though with a small but enthusiastic bunch who appreciated Dele’s irresistible blend of Afro rhythms, politically infused lyrics (arguably reflecting the true spirit of Afrobeat) and relentlessly energetic performance. We left in time to catch the final part of The Levs’ set though and high up on the hill as several grands worth of fireworks lit up the sky Beautiful Days ended up in a truly memorable night.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Bugger me, the year after I leave Brum The Flyover Show's back after a two or three year break (in the UK at least). If you're not familiar with it basically it's the Soweto Kinch inspired FREE festival that takes place under a flyover in Aston where he grew up. I've been to three of 'em and the line up's always great with a mix of big name artists and up and coming talent and this year's no exception with none other than guitar legend Ernest Ranglin taking the top slot. I'll be in Devon at Beautiful Days but if you can get to Brum I can heartily recommend it. Go see the dude in the local shop, say hi from me and buy a bottle or two of Dragon Stout. Here's a little of another highlight, Eska, to get you in the mood.
Friday, August 12, 2016
My festival going's been woeful this year. Just Let's Rock Exeter which doesn't really count as it's only one day and night. Where's the fun in that eh? So I'd really better make the most of next week's Beautiful Days, The Levellers' annual knees up that seems to sell out every year attracting the kind of rabid following that only the best fests get (try saying that after six pints of cider). The line-ups stuffed full of guaranteed crowd pleasers (James, Leftfield, The Proclaimers, Billy Bragg...it'll be interesting to hear what he's got to say about the state of the nation...Reef, Terrorvision, Cud (acoustic...that'll be cool), The Damned (playing the seminal Damned, Damned, Damned) and The Levellers...naturally) plus some slightly lesser known acts. Here, in my humble opinion, are a few that you shouldn't miss (that's if you're going of course, if you're not then you're excused, probably doing the gardening, popping to Ikea or indulging in some mild S&M I guess...enjoy):
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Sad news that Sharon Jones (one of the greatest live performers on planet earth right now) has had to cancel her Beautiful Days gig for health reasons but hopefully it's not the return of the big C whose butt she kicked a while back. Speaking of which there's a film out about her life...and its various ups and downs...that looks three flavours of awesome (although I can't see any UK release date yet?!). In the unlikely event that she ever reads this get well soon Miss J. x
Monday, August 08, 2016
EDIT 2: It appears as though this gig was never booked and Joe had no idea about it. Oh well, maybe they'll make it to Exeter one day. Still, what I wrote still stands (most of it at least), great stuff!
This sounds great, folk, funk and hip hop (courtesy of Joe Driscoll, all the way from New York) and West African Kora (thanks to the nimble fingers of Guinean Sekou Koyate) in one groovy ass shaking soul stirring mashup. More at home playing to thousands at festivals this week you've got a rare chance to see them at The Exeter Phoenix (EDIT: Oh no you haven't). Tickets right here for just £8 plus booking fee (EDIT: Oh no they're not)! Check out this Stevie Wonder-ful cover of Master Blaster...
Friday, August 05, 2016
It's always sad when a band you've really enjoyed live splits up. Okay given the number of bands I've been lucky enough to see over the years it's a bit of an occupational hazard but news that The Bedlam Six are calling it a day and in particular the band's frontman Louis Barrabas' blog posting about it all is more than a tad depressing. I'm stuffed full of admiration for anyone who tries to make a living doing something they really really love, despite (or maybe because of) the lack of money, success and comfort that a 'regular' job might give them. Louis and co have been at it for a decade and, even though they received some gushing and well deserved press over the years, they never made it 'big'. I'm not going to bash the success of much lesser bands who have (not again anyway), after all it's not their fault if they get sucked into the hype machine and spat out as the next big thing eagerly guzzled up by a public with the attention span of a goldfish with Alzheimer's. Perhaps its always been this bad, but in a world that's lost some genuine musical originals this year the loss of bands like The Bedlam Six still sucks. Good luck to all six of 'em and to anyone else thinking of starting out in the music 'biz' have a read of Louis' Some Advice For Bands Starting Out bit at the end of his blog posting. Wise words from someone who's been there, done that and clearly has the scars to prove it...
Thursday, August 04, 2016
Who needs drugs when you've got another fine instalment of Day Ends TV eh? Seriously. Save yourself £20 (or whatever your particular drug of choice costs you...I'm hooked on scrumpy right now so I'm a pretty cheap date living down here in Devon), plonk yourself a foot away from the screen, crank up the volume and trip the hell out.
Tuesday, August 02, 2016
Okay, bear with this video for a second or two...it takes a moment to get going but like the best things in life it's worth the wait. Do I detect a bit of a Bis influence here? Could be. There's also some decent Riot Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl roots showing through which makes me three flavours of chuffed. I'll admit that a lot of music these days makes me want to rip off my own ears and block up the gaping holes with that plastic gunky stuff you use to seal round baths. You know the kind of crap I'm talking about. Endless autotuned drivel, wannabe gangsters and hos and perfectly competent but dulllllllllll singer songwriters elevated to the status of stadium headliners 'cos they had their tracks downloaded a squillion times on i-fuckin-tunes. Bollocks. There's plenty of great stuff still being made though but I get a creeping sense of dread that given the choice most people prefer their music to be a background track to life rather than life itself. Anyway, rant over, play Honeyblood loud and few times and everything will seem a lot better.
PS: In the same vein how come The Pixies are still so freakin' awesome/nuts after 30 years or so? .
Friday, July 29, 2016
Indietracks starts today and for reasons too dull to go into here I'm missing it again. Cobblers. Still I've got the memories of the two instalments that I managed to drag my ageing carcass along to and one of the undoubted highlights was the set from Bis back in 2013, so to make up for not being there I'm watching back to back Bis vids like this little gem. Happy days...
Hope all Indietrackers have a great one this year. I'm not at all jealous...no really...oh who am I trying to kid...agggghhhhhh!
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Having just watched Lou Rhodes’ in-store set at Rise Records a moist 30 minute dash across the City got us to The Passenger Shed in time for most of Sofii Negus’ warm up set. A new name to me but her mix of originals and covers was played with a confidence that can’t have been easy in a bustling bar. Bonus points for a lovely cover of Streets of London too.
In case you’ve not been to The Passenger Shed it’s a ruddy big building next to Bristol Temple Meads station that I’m guessing once housed steam trains back in the day. Divided by a curtain, swept away Wizard of Oz style to reveal the main stage, the rest of the evening saw six acts play, including a couple of delightful female indie-folk singer songwriters from Cambridge (there must be something in the water), Melody Causton and Rachel Clarke, both of whom had the kind of easy going charm and natural talent to keep the increasingly ‘cidered up’ crowd engaged.
On to the bands and Keston Cobblers Club’s funky pop folk went down a storm. Their set had a bit of a bounce up and down and hug yer mates at a festival kind of vibe capped off by a magnificent tuba turbocharged cover of Fleetwood Macs The Chain that’s just screaming to be released as a single.
London four piece Anteros reminded me a little of the much lamented Doll & The Kicks (still got no idea why they didn’t make it). At their best on the bouncy indie punk pop of tracks like recent single Breakfast lead singer Laura did a fine job of bopping around the stage in the heat and it’s not hard to imagine them making the leap to Ellie Goulding levels of success (yep, that’s an official measure of success these days. Who says? Me.).
On to the last two bands and local duo The Showhawk Duo almost tore the roof off the place with their acoustic guitar versions of dance anthems. It’s clever stuff brilliantly done, retaining the euphoria of the originals but adding that human element that’s lost when you’re just watching some bloke ‘avin it large on the ones and twos. The biggest reaction of the set was reserved for their cover of Bohemian Rhapsody though which saw several dozen members of the audience belting out the words (not necessarily the right words or in the right order but 10 out of 10 for effort) and punching the air like they’d just necked several pints of Thatchers Haze...which I’m guessing they had.
Last up and time for a bit of a skank with By The Rivers who mashed up soul, reggae and ska into a revitalising musical cocktail that kept the Passenger Shed (well my bit of it at least) bouncing right to the end.
Given the heat and booze this was no mean feat...
Thanks to all the bands and the good folk at Thatchers Cider for a cracking night.
PS: As the night was promoting Thatchers Haze cider (as well as the bands) it’d be unfair not to give my...ahem...expert view on it. As the name implies it’s a little cloudier than most of the established sparkling cider brands, Thatchers Gold for instance. It's got a bit more of a natural taste too and if it encourages drinkers to try what I’d call ‘proper’ cider (still, cloudy as a British summer’s day and strong enough to floor a buffalo...see Thatchers Cheddar Valley) then that’s a very, very good thing indeed.
No proper gigs for months...well, days if you count Lets Rock Exeter but that’s a festival so that’s different ...and along come two in one evening. After a day spent wandering the streets of Bristol in the heat, pausing just for a restorative cider or three, we’d intended to chill out back at the hotel before the Thatchers Haze Sesh but happened to wander past Rise Records just an hour or so before Lamb vocalist Lou Rhodes was due to do a tasty little in-store album launch set. Well it’d be rude to miss that right? Dashed back to the hotel to pick up the Haze Sessions tickets, hot footed it (literally) back up to Rise via The Cider Shop for a two pint take out and got there with, oooooh, a good 60 seconds to spare. Easy. Ahem.
If you’re under 30 the chances are that you might not be familiar with Lamb but for a brief moment back in the late 90s they were one of a number of top notch Bristol based trip hop groups (see also Massive Attack, Portishead and Tricky) producing chilled out atmospheric tracks that somehow seemed to chime particularly well with the PMT (that’s Pre Millennial Times).
Whilst Lamb’s still a going concern (they reformed back in 2009 after a five year break) Lou’s now got a sideline as an author of children’s books and a solo career to keep her busy, the latest product of which is new album theyesandeye. It’s an altogether folkier vibe than her work with Lamb and this post work set saw a handful of tracks performed including the simply divine homage to the simple things in life, All I Need and dreamy Nick Drake-ish All The Birds. Backed by a particularly talented pair of musicians (who played drums, keyboards, a harp and a saw...yep...a saw, not enough saws in pop music these days) Lou gently lulled away the stresses and strains of modern life a mere few feet away from the bustling Bristol streets. Shut your eyes and you could’ve been in a field somewhere under a tree. Beautiful stuff.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Off to an all too rare gig in sunny Bristol tomorrow night and one of the bands playing is this pair, Showhawk Duo, who've hit on the pretty neat concept of playing dance music on guitars. Okay, it might sound a little novelty act but it's impressively done and ruddy good fun. How the dude with the beard manages to play that fast without melting his fingers to the fret I have no idea. Enjoy!
Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Sounding like the offspring of an affair between Neil Hannon and Julian Cope Alphabetic’s lead male vocalist’s clearly had ‘un mal temps’ recently if this track’s anything to go by. Yes, the love of his life has pissed off to Paris for a little Gallic lurve...or amour if you’re that way inclined. In true “if life gives you lemons make a nice little lemon tart out of it” fashion he’s used all this heartbreak as inspiration for a rather fine 80s tinged duet (shades of Metronomy in there too perhaps) between him and his ‘ex’ (okay, I'm assuming it’s actually a fellow band member but you get the idea). Sacre bleu! The track's taken from their debut album, Touch, out now digitally (Booo! Hiss!) and out soon on vinyl (Hurrah! Crackle! Hiss!).
Friday, July 15, 2016
It's been aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaages since last I posted an interview from Kids Interview Bands (in which kids interview bands...genius eh?) and whilst the original kids are now all grown up there's now a new kid in town, Piper, who does a ruddy great job of interviewing one of my personal favourite artists from the past few years, Courtney Barnett. Enjoy...and don't forget to check out the Kids Interview Bands archive. There's that dull Friday afternoon at work sorted. You're welcome.
PS: Here's a little of Barnett in action for ya too.
Thursday, July 14, 2016
The Beeb might be shutting down channels and websites faster than Corbyn can appoint shadow cabinet ministers but fear not dear friends, The Day Ends, purveyors of general musical mayhem, madness and majesty are a-riding to the rescue with The Day Ends TV. Okay, so you may need a little mild therapy and a lie down in a darkened room after watching it but what the hell eh? Go down the rabbit hole people, I dares ya...
Thursday, July 07, 2016
This lot are sooooooooooooo good live, if you get the chance to see 'em during festival season grab it as fast as a falling pound. Lead singer Mr Bruce actually dances and sings like this throughout a show, somehow without combusting or requiring emergency oxygen. How? I mean just HOW?! This is the new single from forthcoming album 'Crikey Old Bean How Do You Sing and Dance Like That Without Your Arms and Legs Flying Off?'. Okay, it isn't, not sure what it's called but that's as good a title as any right now so there. Enjoy.
Monday, July 04, 2016
Okay, gripes out of the way first. Taking one hour and 15 minutes to get into a festival, missing the first band altogether, ain’t a great start. Searching through the bags of however many people it was (10,000? 15,000?) with just 8 gates opening at 11am and the first band 60 minutes later isn’t the smartest idea is it? Secondly, one male toilet block?! ONE?!! Look, us chaps are simple souls when it comes to going to the loo. Give us a trough and we’ll be done in seconds...or minutes depending on your age/alcohol consumption. Leave the posh loos with doors and stuff for the ladies and they won’t have to queue for so long will they eh? Plus...well...I can’t imagine that every male user has...er...the best aim after a pint or 6. Let’s just leave it at that.
Okay, from taking the piss (metaphorically and physically) on to the music and as the last bars of The Beat’s Mirror In The Bathroom rang out we finally made it on site for a little Alexander O’Neal. Little being the operative word. The dude was on stage for barely 20 minutes, which is brief even by festival standards. Still he did justice to the biggies, Criticize and Fake, and The Prince medley (O’Neal was actually signed by Prince back in the day) was a neat tribute, even if Alexander’s backing singers took on most of the vocal duties.
I forget the sequence but I’m pretty sure Dr and the Medics were on next. I’ll admit that my expectations were as low as Michael Gove’s scruples (damn, that’s low), after all they had just the one hit wayyyyy back in 1986, but they were bloody great fun, dishing out a series of 80s cover with surprisingly powerful versions of Dead Or Alive’s You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) and The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary plus their big hit Sprit In The Sky. The good Doctor’s a born showman with a much better voice than you’d expect and the band’s pretty decent too. Absolute festival gold and, for me at least, one of the highlights of the day.
Another more predictable highlight was Heaven 17 who were on ridiculously early. Glenn Gregory and Martyn Ware (third member Ian Craig Marsh went AWOL years ago) penned some of the classiest 80s synth pop ever and it still sounds fresh. As a 13 year old boy the lyrics of Come Live With Me – “I was 37 you were 17” hinted at two ages that seemed sooooooo far away, now as a 46 year old they’re just as distant...just the wrong way round. Hell, who’d want to be 17 nowadays though eh? Poor buggers. Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry got the crowd “whoowhoo”-ing along like crazy, We Don’t Need This Fascist Groove Thang probably struck more a chord now than it would’ve done a few weeks ago and the celebratory Bowie tribute Boys Keep Swinging (Glenn’s just been touring a Bowie show with producer Tony Visconti) was a neat touch. RIP Starman.
Next up Odyssey and whilst the original band members, Lillian and Louise Lopez, are also now both dancing in the great disco in the sky this version at least keeps the family link alive with Lillian’s son Steven who joined the group back in the early 80s.
Native New Yorker’s still a soul lifting classic, add Inside Out, Use It Up and Wear It Out and Going Back To My Roots and you could almost be back in Studio 54.
Three quarters of Bucks Fizz played their hits including their best but probably least remembered hit New Beginnings and yes...they did the skirt ripping thing during Making Your Mind Up. Bless ‘em. Shocking to think that they were the last UK band (I don’t really count Katrina and the Waves) to win Eurovision back in ’81. I suspect our chances of winning it ever again are slimmer than ever right now. Maybe T’Pau could give it a bash? I reckon Heart and Soul would’ve gone down a storm almost as well with our European cousins as it did with today’s crowd.
Remember Tiffany? Famous for touring malls (or shopping centres to us Brits) to promote her cover of I Think We’re Alone Now she was briefly a huge star back in the late 80s but that ability to belt ‘em out hasn’t left her as an impressive cover of Guns‘n’Roses Sweet Child of Mine proved. Blimey, Tiffany rocks. That paved the way for one of our own homegrown pop princess Kim Wilde. Ahhhhh, Kim, Kim, Kim. Chequered Love, Kids In America, View From A Bridge (I’d forgotten all about that one) still sounded ruddy great in a light new wave way and somehow I managed to resist the temptation to rush the stage and fulfil a 35 year wish for a snog. Ahem.
Looking kool in a kaftan (at least I think it was a kaftan) Roland Gift’s distinctive falsetto vocal’s a thing of beauty. As lead singer of Fine Young Cannibals he was also massive for the blink of an eye, even landing a couple of number ones with that band in the States in ‘89 (She Drives Me Crazy and Good Thing).
Seemingly he dropped out of the music biz to concentrate on his family but judging by this afternoon’s showing I reckon a Rick Astley-like return to chart glory could well be on the cards. Speaking of which I bet old Rick (another one who quit for family reasons) can’t believe what a year he’s had. A mere 29 years after his last number one album he recently beat McCartney to the number one slot. His good fortune deserted him for a while this evening as a faulty microphone threatened to scupper the whole set. In true ‘if life gives you lemons, make lemonade’ fashion though Rick made the most of it and did a little impromptu drumming (who knew?!) and then came on with a broom to sweep the stage whilst the soundmen tried desperately to get things working. Gremlins fixed he was on fine form and it was timely reminder of just what a great soul voice this Lancashire lad (did I really just write that...forgive me...’Lancashire lad’...good god, what is this, the Exeter Express and Echo?) had/has especially on the slower numbers like Cry For Help. Back in the 80s he always seemed a little uncomfortable as a star but this time he’s clearly loving it, joking around with the crowd and belting out this hits with all the ease of man who’s never been away. Happily new single Keep Singing's right up there with the Astley classics.
Hook this dude up with the Daptone Records team and I reckon you’d have musical alchemy. Seriously. Make it happen people.
All too quickly it was nearly over. Just time for The Human League to put on a typically impressive set (third time I’ve seen ‘em and they never disappoint), trawling all the way back to 78’s Being Boiled and up to 95’s surprising return to the charts courtesy of Tell Me When.
The famous floppy hair may be long gone, replaced this evening by a look that was straight out of The Matrix, but this is still ‘Phil talking’. Think 80s pop and you can’t help but thinking of Don’t You Want Me but there’s a good half dozen songs League numbers that send you spinning right back, Mirror Man, Love Action, The Sound Of The Crowd, Louise, The Lebanon, (Keep Feeling) Fascination, each and every one sung along to by 10,000 or so 40-somethings buoyed by booze and nostalgia. Okay so Let’s Rock Exeter might not be the coolest festival around, it might even cheapen the music a little (not sure how I feel about all the ‘comedy’ costumes, probably just me being a miserable bugger), but for fans of this stuff it’s bloody good fun and fantastic value (£45 a ticket to see 12 bands...that’s er...less than £4 a band). Sort out the queues and the loos and it’d be even better.
Friday, July 01, 2016
You know you’re getting old when the music of your youth is neatly packaged up into compilation albums and package tours/festivals. I turned 10 in 1980 so that’s my particular decade and as you’ll no doubt have noticed the 80’s revival scene has been doing pretty brisk business since as far back as the late 90s (a decade that’s now also being repackaged and reissued...how can it be...surely it was only a year or two ago...what’s that you say...twenty plus years ago...oh good grief).
On the one hand inevitably the whole retro music industry has more than a whiff of cheese about it but on the other it’s a pretty harmless bit of fun so with that positive thought firmly in mind (plus a litre or two of Tesco’s finest £3.50 a bottle red wine to take the edge of things) I’m off to Let’s Rock Exeter tomorrow.
There are a growing number of these 80’s extravaganzas across the country now so they must be doing something right. This particular event’s no doubt also benefited from the inclusion of Mr Rick Astley whose Lazarus like return to pop stardom has just been capped off with a number 1 album...a mere 29 years after his last one. Hearing Aid faves Heaven 17 and The Human League are also on the bill along with youthful crush Kim Wilde.
Ahem. You’ve also got 75% of Bucks Fizz (so that’ll be Bucks Fi then), Fine Young Cannibals’ Roland Gift (who was on fine form when I saw him a year ago), mall warbler Tiffany, The Beat (or at least one version of The Beat), Dr and the Medics, Alexander O’Neal, Odyssey and T’Pau. I’m quite exhausted just typing that lot out and, given that I’m prone to what could possibly pass for dancing in an emergency, Sunday’s going to be a whole world of pain. Anyway, tickets are still for sale right here and the sun’s gonna shine. Maybe. For a bit. Oh who am I trying to kid, it looks like it's going to be Wet Wet Wet.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Soooooo great to see Brum's very own KIOKO knocking 'em dead at Glasto on the ruddy telly. I've been watching this lot in various incarnations for about 10 years now (pretty sure they were still at school then...I...er...was a little older). They've gigged like crazy over the last decade, kept at it and now, hopefully, it's all finally paying off. We need proper crowd pleasing life affirming br-ass shaking bands like this in our lives right now and in there's any justice in the world - which clearly there is after Iceland rightfully whooped the England football squad - KIOKO'll be on the Pyramid Stage next year. Failing that maybe they could replace the England football squad...hmmm, now there's a thought.