Wednesday, March 30, 2016

It's the Vinyl countdown...

Have you been watching Vinyl? The TV series that is, not just random records...although granted that has its appeal too. Okay, so it might not be the most original series in the world but it seems a pretty authentic portrayal of life in the record biz when there was still some serious money to be made from it all. With the rock and roll comes the sex and drugs of course and the lead character, brilliantly portrayed by some bloke called Bobby Cannavale, has spent most of season one snorting half of Columbia's finest whilst...ermm...'entertaining' various young ladies. Ahem. Anyway, after meaning to find out what the hell the theme tune is I've tracked it down, although you have to fast forward to 2 minutes 27 seconds to get to the bit you'll be familiar with. Suffice to say...cue devil horn hand ROCKS.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Baron's Lucky Dip # 4 The Fall - Cruisers Creek

Time for another dip into the seemingly endless boxes of vinyl that I've somehow accumulated over the years and this time it's The Fall classic Cruiser's Creek. Never seen the video before today...doesn't Mark E Smith look young eh? Remarkably, over three decades later, he's still cranking it out and if anything the old sod's getting better with age. Here's The Fall's latest missive if you don't believe me...

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Day Ends...Berk, rest and play

First live sighting of The Day Ends from last Sunday's Sunday Xpress. Soooooooooooo good. Play it loud people.

PS: You can catch 'em at Scary Canary in Stourbridge this Sunday...I'm assuming this is a venue and not a little yellow bird off its feathers on crack.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ben Norcombe @ Whimple Front Row Club, Saturday 19th March 2016

How many other cinemas (pop up or otherwise) lay on some live music eh? So a hearty slap on the back to the Whimple Front Row Club massive for enticing Ben Norcombe along for a little pre Selma warm up slot. I’ve seen a lot of acoustic guitarists in my time but few make more inventive use of their instrument than Ben, everything from singing into the pick up, looping sounds to build up tracks, flicking the body of the guitar to create a rather bongo-tastic sound and slapping the strings with his short if there’s a sound to be coaxed out of the thing Ben’s probably found a way to do it. Vocally there’s a bit of a Bon Iver thang going on but more emotionally intense (yep, seriously) with a throaty quaver that hints at a real vulnerability, something backed up by his admission that these days he mostly plays in front of the telly after getting fed up with just being background music in bars (it never fails to amaze me how little respect talented musicians get these days). Well, telly’s loss was our gain this evening, a beautiful set from someone with more to offer than he possibly knows. Well worth a listen.     

Monday, March 14, 2016

We’ve been here B4...

Waking up from a prolonged period of hibernation one of Brum’s great ‘lost’ bands The Bourgeois Four are back, back, BACK with this slow burning gem of a track that lulls you gently into dreamy reverie before ripping off your ears and mincing ‘em to a pulp in a guitar shaped blender. Yep...a guitar shaped there’s an idea for Dragon’s Den. Anyway, it’s ruddy great to have them back, I had high hopes for them a few years back and on the strength of this comeback it wasn’t misplaced. Play it loud. Play it often.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Weaves a spell...

Flip me, yes, this is more like it.  I kind of hate to make sweeping generalisations but a lot of music these days quite frankly sucks balls. Not a long shot...I ain’t one of those things were better in the 60s/70s/80s (...oh shit, maybe I am when it comes to the 80s...) kind of chaps, but there’s far too much wishy washy background music being made right now. That ain’t something you could accuse Weaves of. A Toronto four piece they’ve been around a few years and this little gem One More, has been plucked a-kickin’ and a-screamin’ from their debut album due out on June 17th. Blending pop punk and garage rock (with perhaps just a touch of grunge nihilism for good measure) it’s an eargasm of a track practically genetically modified to have you pogoing round in yer pants frightening the neighbours. I frickin’ loves it. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Richard Alston Dance Company @ Exeter Northcott Theatre, Tuesday March 8th 2016

“Dancing is a very inspiring thing that humans do. I really want to celebrate that”. This thought, mulled over by Richard Alston himself during an intimate post show discussion, perfectly sums up a beautiful evening of music and dance from his self titled company of frankly gravity defying dancers. 

Now approaching almost 50 years as a choreographer Alston’s been hailed as one of the most visionary figures in contemporary dance with a string of awards under his hat and five star reviews in his pocket (he must’ve run out of room under his hat). Tonight saw three (four if you count a brief glimpse of his current work in progress) separate performances, Stronghold (expertly choreographed by Associate Choreographer Martin Lawrence), Mazur and Brisk Singing.

First up Stronghold and if real life ever needed a pause button this was that moment. There’s so much movement and energy you quite frankly don’t know where to look. Inspired, Martin revealed later, by the idea of people supporting each other, the 10 dancers frequently performed in unison before breaking off into smaller groups then coming back together almost as a flock of swallows in flight. At other times bodies seem to melt into each other forming single organisms before moments of Matrix like contortions that would leave mere mortals needing traction for six months. Visually stunning and with a memorably powerful double bass driven score from Julie Wolfe the whole thing leaves you breathless...even if, remarkably, the dancers, weren’t.

Next up Mazur, Alston’s latest piece, a tribute to Chopin’s music and in particular focussing on his longing for his Polish homeland (history buffs will note that Russia and Poland had a bit of a bust up in 1830 whilst poor Fred was in Vienna, once the Russians crushed the native uprising he settled in Paris vowing never to return, sadly failing health meant he never did). Performed by two male dancers with a live piano accompaniment the piece saw them dancing together at first, then apart, then back as duo, no doubt reflecting Chopin’s own experience and his unfulfilled wish to return a free Poland. 

The climax, in which the two dancers reunited, really stirred the emotions and it’s a beautifully balanced and constructed piece that rather brilliantly brings the music, and it’s somewhat tortured inspiration, to life.  

Finally Brisk Singing, based on the music of baroque composer Jean Phillippe Rameau, was first performed way back in 1997 and still dazzles (well, you know what they say...if it ain’t baroque, don’t fix it). The most classically balletic of the trio it was a joyous performance liberally sprinkled with elegant leaps and impressive lifts that once again seem to suggest that the human form is indeed a heavenly body. With little touches and flourishes every bit as ornate at the music and some wonderfully expressive movements from the dancers it was a suitably magical ending to a soul stirring evening. Except there was more! Not sure how often they do this but Richard and Martin were joined by a couple of the dancers (again looking as fresh as daises) and a lady from Exeter Uni who teaches dance for a bit of a question and answer sesh. Listening to how each piece develops and hearing Richard’s endless enthusiasm for his craft was almost as enjoyable as the pieces themselves. In particular his description of the dancers as “huge human sparklers” (said with a theatrical flourish of the arms) was particularly apt. Magical stuff.

You can catch the Richard Alston Dance Company TONIGHT at Exeter Northcott Theatre, the last few tickets were still available yesterday evening. Highly recommended. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Pete Williams – songs in the quay (of life)

Wonderful to see Pete Williams getting the kind of acclaim and coverage he deserves. Not only is a great lyricist and passionate powerful potent performer but (as I’m pretty sure I’ve said before) he’s a ruddy nice bloke from his head to his toes too. Just cop a load of this performance from a recent BBC Radio Scotland show. A-mazing. 

PS: Grab copies of his albums right here right now

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Field Music / The Drink @ The Phoenix, Friday March 4th 2016

Bands are a bit like wine. Bear with me here. Some are best consumed fresh, right at the very start of their career, others just get better with age. And some...well some just make you want to vomit like that girl in The Exorcist but we’ll gloss over that for now. Field Music fit firmly in the second category with recent singles Noisy Days Are Over and Disappointed and new album Commontime coming across as a particularly strong vintage. A string of sold out tour dates backs this up and they’ve just announced a trio of big venue headline shows for October that seem set to do likewise.

First up tonight though, and carrying on the booze theme, it’s The Drink. Not sure what kind of drink, judging by the band’s ‘68 pysch meets C86 ‘dark folk’ it’s probably spiked with LSD though. Set highlight The Coming Rain has a bewitching Broadcast/Stereolab vibe to it, with a neat motoric groove to drive things along nicely. Well worth imbibing.

Onto Field Music then who kicked things off with a track, Noisy Days Are Over, that belies tonight’s impressively meaty beaty version. Keyboardist Liz in particular seemed intent on doing a little GKH (that’s Grievous Keyboard Harm) to her instrument. Now that’s how to start a gig.

A couple of tracks in David Brewis steps out from behind the drums and announces, slightly huskily, that’s he’s lost his voice. Awwww bless. When it comes to hitting the high notes on Disappointed that sounds like a recipe for...well...disappointment but, trooper that he is, somehow he manages to defy all medical science and remarkably pull off a bit of a blinder.

Throughout the set the influences come thick and fast, a little XTC here, a bit of early Genesis there, a healthy dose of Hall and Oates (especially on the new stuff), some Let’s Dance era Bowie, a little Zappa and just the merest hint of Pink Floyd. But like all great bands – and let’s make this clear, right now Field Music is a ruddy great band – they manage to whip all this up and somehow make it their own. They do a neat line in banter too, in fact throughout the night they covered everything from sounding like Kathleen Turner and the perils of playing drums in a cardie through to work place pension plans and, prompted by some of the audience who seemed to like shouting out “Haway the lads” and “Haddaway and shite” at frequent intervals, the genius or otherwise of Chris Rea.

Looking back at pre Liz era footage it’s clear that she adds a heck of a lot of oomph to the band’s live sound, musically and vocally, and if it’s been a while since you last saw ‘em, now’s definitely the time to get reacquainted. They all seem musically sharper though with early tracks like the art-prog of If Only The Moon Were Up given a sophistication and sheen that the original perhaps lacked.

Encore Give It Lose It Take It (“We’re only playing one song because it’s two songs in one...sort of!”), another oldie, is a suitably epic climax, from the opening Exorcist theme tune style motif right through to the proggier than thou second half, which once again saw brothers Peter and David make trading instruments seem absolutely effortless, even with a bit of man flu.

At their best Field Music is pop with a twist, clever enough to appeal to the musos but with the kind of hooky choruses and riffs that Kanye West would give his left...and quite possibly right...testicle for. And, with new album Commontime’s sophisticated 80s transatlantic soul pop leanings he may well be tempted to do just that.  In fact in this particular Field right now frankly everything’s coming up roses.  

Friday, March 04, 2016

Mutual Benefit – Not For Nothing

If the hustle and bustle of the big wide world is well and truly getting on your wick cop a load of this slice of laid back chamber pop tinged loveliness from Mutual Benefit (AKA Jordan Lee and an ever changing collective of his buddies). It’s taken from brand new album Skip A Sinking Stone out on reliably excellent Transgressive Records on May 20th and there’s an all too rare UK show at Bush Hall, London on April 28th.  Ahhhhhh, now isn't that better eh? 

Thursday, March 03, 2016

The Day Ends - Ripples

Yet another new track spews out from The Day Ends and this is their best yet, a visceral slap round the chops from Miles Perhower and co replete with suitably trippy video that, together with the music, is probably a pretty fair representation of what's going on inside his head. I've just been playing it on repeat for an hour or so and it's a frickin' belter...literally no one sounds like them right now and that's a very rare thing indeed my friends. Unique, uncompromising rant 'n' roll at it's very finest. Catch them live for FREE at the next instalment of Sunday Xpress, March 20th, Friction Arts, The Edge. Details right here.  

Field Music hit the road!

Somehow 12 years and six albums into their career Sunderland’s Field Music have hit the form of their lives with a brace of classic singles - The Noisy Days Are Over and the Hall and Oates-tastic Disappointed - and a critically acclaimed new album, Commontime. They’re out on tour right now too (details below), although most dates have unsurprisingly sold out (you might just squeeze in to the Exeter, Nottingham or Southampton gigs if you’re super speedy), and they’ve just announced their biggest headline shows so far with a trio of gigs in October. Buy now or end up paying £200 to some dodgy geezer on eBay.   

03 Mar - Cardiff, The Globe
04 Mar - Exeter Phoenix, Exeter
05 Mar - Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
10 Mar - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds (SOLD OUT)
11 Mar - Manchester, Band on the Wall (SOLD OUT)
13 Mar - Glasgow, School Of Art (UPGRADED VENUE)
18 Mar - London, Islington Assembly Hall (SOLD OUT)
19 Mar - Southampton, Engine Rooms
20 Mar - Brighton, The Haunt (SOLD OUT)
22 Oct – Sage, Gateshead
26 Oct – Shepherds Bush Empire, London
29 Oct – Ritz, Manchester

Being the lovely folk that they no doubt are they’re sharing the love with a spanking new remix of Disappointed from super cool producer Ewan Pearson that’s 100% free to download right here right now.

Head over to The Guardian and you can stream the whole new album too! I tell you it’s like frickin’ Christmas...

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Holy Pinto – Matches

Freshly signed to Soft Speak Records indie rock duo Holy Pinto celebrate with Matches their brand new single (all 90 seconds of it) that lulls you gently into pretty chilled-ville before dropping the mighty f-bomb...boom. 

A bit of a taster from their debut album, Congratulations, due out on April 8th, pre-order it on vinyl (it’s the future) right here, right now and you’ll get a personalized jingle from the band too...and who the flip doesn’t want their own jingle?  You don’t get that from Sam Smith do you eh and he won a ruddy Oscar.