Friday, April 29, 2016

Nigel Thomas – Travelling Man

10 years. That’s how long I’ve been writing this blog. 10 ruddy years. Lord knows how many acts I’ve seen in that time but, for a while at least, a gig a week wasn’t uncommon and once or twice I even hit the dizzy heights of four in a row. I know...hardcore eh?

Anyway, way back in 2006 when I was a fresh faced 36 year old (ahem) one of the first bands I reviewed and got behind were The Foxes, purveyors of classic English pop who bravely gave up their ‘proper’ jobs in a bold attempt to make it in the evil old music biz without the aid of a net...or label. They had the tunes. They had the energy. But, and this is something that’s all too familiar sadly, they simply didn’t have the luck that springs some bands to fame and fortune and denies others the success they deserve.

But now the band’s lead singer, Nigel Thomas, is back, back, back with a brand new solo album that’s a winning mix of indie rock and more stripped back folkier stuff. Opening number Fever’s all old school Hammond organ, stabbing guitar and white boy blues, Ghost Hunter adds a little skank swing to affairs and the album’s title track features some gloriously dirty guitar solos. The mellower material’s just as strong, in particular the folk tinged 5476 Miles and the lullaby lilt of Que Sera (shades of Lennon at his most loved up and blessed out solo best).

Recorded and mixed by Luke Oldfield (before you ask, yes, Mike’s son) it’s an accomplished collection of songs from a man whose own musical journey has hopefully only just begun. 

Physical copies (CD and Vinyl!) of Travelling Man are available right here. It’s also available via Amazon and iTunes. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Gigs you MAY want to catch...

Yep, it’s almost May already, Bank Holidays ahoy and this weekend if you’re in Brum there are a trio of cracking gigs to catch. Okay, so the first one is on Saturday which is still technically April but ‘Gigs you APRIL want to catch’ made no ruddy sense at all. Anyway, it’s a triple header featuring the live return of The Bourgeois Four and the continuing sonic adventures of The Day Ends. 

You'll also enjoy the cheerful insanity of Mr Tom (Top to his friends) Peel. It’s a mere fiver to get in with all proceeds going to Kings Heath Action for Refugees AND you get a copy of The B4’s debut album before anyone else in the universe. Result.

Next up on Sunday May 1st Goodnight Lenin hit The Sunflower Lounge to road test some new material. 

Support again comes from the busiest man in show biz, Mr Tom Peel. Also on Sunday it’s Swingamajig in Digbeth which goes on until...well Monday breakfast time by the looks of it so maybe you can fit both in if you’re feeling energetic/bonkers. Rumours that Mr Tom Peel is also playing there are as yet unconfirmed but I wouldn’t bet against it.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Jungle Book @ Exeter Northcott Theatre, Tuesday April 26th 2016

Coming hot on the heels (or maybe that should be paws) of the new movie version of Jungle Book this production’s as fresh as a just picked prickly pear, rebooting the whole thing for a modern audience with a rapping bin man called Baloo, Bagheera the graffiti artist and pack of skateboarding wolves. Yep, we’re talking the urban jungle here, transplanting Kipling’s well loved classic to the inner city streets, which sadly may well be a much more dangerous place for a young Mowgli these days.

Combining street dance, rap and circus with banging beats it’s a bold and fast paced show that cleverly weaves the threads of the original into something new whilst adding a little social commentary (‘the suits’ portrayed almost as automatons and the obvious issue of inner city gang culture for instance) into the mix. There’s relatively little dialogue, arguably the story’s well known enough to get away with this and a handy scene by scene synopsis given out to the audience fills in any gaps, which frees up the cast to put on some mighty impressive physical displays. 

Using street lamps as poles there are some particularly brave face first slides stopping just an inch or two from the ground which, if they went wrong, could well result in Baloo (winningly played by Stefan Puxon) having to sweep up the performers teeth at the end of the show. The ring work’s strong too with a dizzying set of spins from Mowgli (the instantly engaging Natalie Nicole James) at the end of Act One that would leave most mere mortals needing a lie down for a month or two and a beautiful piece with the equally talented Nathalie Alison as Kaa the snake. Sssssssssssssssssstunning.

Her nemesis, Shere Khan, menacingly portrayed by Dean Stewart (who looks like he’s been carved out of granite) pops some equally impressive moves and the whole cast enthusiastically throw themselves around the place throughout the performance whilst neatly reflecting their particular animal spirit, in turn echoed in the music accompanying their scenes. Ending on a suitably positive note with Mowgli finally finding her voice the whole audience were roused from their seats by Baloo for a little boogie, huge fun for the young...and the young at heart.  

Produced by London’s award winning Metta Theatre, expertly directed by Poppy Burton-Morgan and featuring performers from Cirque du Soleil and Zoo Nation Jungle Book’s an invigorating, hip (hop) and smart adaptation that's littered with lovely subtle touches (Baloo’s broom as a mic stand, his interaction with the audience after the interval and some simple but very effective puppetry behind the baby Mowgli). Trust me on this one, you ‘Khan’t’ afford to miss it.

Jungle Book is on at Exeter Northcott Theatre until Saturday April 30th. Tickets available right here right now. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A low blow for Highbury Studio

Another sad day for music following the announcement that Brum's legendary Highbury Studio is to close. Having played host (for both recording and rehearsing purposes) to Duran Duran, UB40 and Ocean Colour Scene amongst many others over the past 35 years or so it seems as though it just can't survive in a world where you can record pretty much anywhere on a ruddy mobile phone. Of course as any vinyl junkie knows a proper recording studio stuffed full of vintage analogue equipment is a rare and beautiful thing so it's particularly sad that, just as plastic's fantastic again, the old place can't be saved. This is pretty much as close an Brum gets to a Sun Studios and yet I bet Birmingham Shitty Council won't lift a finger to save it, too busy knocking down modernist masterpieces and spunking millions on a frankly pointless tram system in a misguided attempt to ape Manchester eh? Oh well, at least we still have the music and the matter how careless the City might be with them.

PS: This isn't a pop at the people who've been trying to keep the place going for the past few years, it's a case of use it or lose it I guess.

PPS: Maybe Jack White or Toe Rag Studio's Liam Watson would like to take it over?

PPPS: Or how about Duran Duran divert a million or two back into the place...

Friday, April 22, 2016

Purple Reign

Just about to hop in the shower last night at 6.15 and stuck on radio 4 (yeah I know, rock ‘n’ roll eh?) as someone announced that 'prince' had died. Prince? Prince Charles? Prince Charming? Prince Foghorn of Monaco? It didn't occur to me for one single second that it was THE Prince, someone I’d grown up with and been lucky enough to see live less than two years ago and who, at the time, looked like a man half his age. It was only when they mentioned the word Minneapolis that it clicked and I ran downstairs in my boxer shorts and sat shivering watching the TV as the story broke, too 'gobsmacked' I believe the phrase is, to move.

If you grew up in the 80s Prince was one of the holy trinity of global pop stars – the other two being Jacko and Madge – and it’s incredible that only one of them is now left. No cause of death has yet been announced and, apart from a slightly macabre fascination, that really doesn’t matter. What is important is that this year we’ve lost two of popular music’s defining talents (Bowie being the other of course) leaving the whole world a much less colourful place.

Few artists have been as prolific as Prince, I think I heard that he’d released 39 studio albums since his debut in 1978...or more than one a year...and that’s frankly astonishing, especially as some were doubles or triples. Legend has it that he recorded a song a day too and apparently there’s a huge stash of unheard stuff in a vault at Paisley Park so, the music biz being what it is, ‘new’ material from Prince might well be trickling out for years or decades to come. 

It’s a bit of a cliché but, like Bowie, he really did seem other worldly. Short and slight with a speaking voice that often seemed on the verge of vanishing into a fragile whisper, onstage and in the studio he out-dressed, out-played and out-sang pretty much every other pop star around and, for many of my generation in particular, he was our Hendrix, Bowie, Brown, Presley and Wonder all wrapped up in one. RIP Prince. x  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Klaus Nomi - Simple Man

Picked up a vinyl copy of the Klaus Nomi album Simple Man a couple of weeks ago (for a ruddy quid!) and only just got round to playing it. I've been a fan for years but never really heard the full on Nomi in all his fantastic plastic glory. Majestic. His death at the age of 39 (sadly one of many gay men who fell to AIDS back when it was pretty much a death sentence) robbed the world of a truly extraordinary talent. Oh to have seen him live eh?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Just for the record...

I have mixed emotions about Record Store Day now. On the one hand it's ruddy brilliant that it gets people into actual real Record Shops and hopefully spending a little dosh, on the other it seems to attract some of the same bottom feeders that snap up tickets for gigs they have no intention of going too just to make a fast buck...or pound as we say over here. I was only really after one record, a tasty pink vinyl 12 inch of Soft Cell's seminal Sex Dwarf (which is as good an excuse as any to post up 'that' video') but given that there were only 500 copies in the whole universe unsurprisingly there weren't any in Newton Abbot by 9.15am. Plenty on eBay now though, funny that eh? Oh well, I cheered myself by snapping up ten albums for a tenner in the local market, including a mint copy of Carole King's Tapestry. Here's a pleasingly enthusiastic live performance of arguably the album's highlight, I Feel The Earth Move...probably that sex dwarf at it again.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Thank you for the music...

On the eve of Record Store Day 2016 it's a good enough excuse to highlight a trio of tracks that are currently floating my boat, a couple of which you may have heard if you're permanently plugged into 6 Music and one of which is probably as fresh as daisy. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Swingamajig 2016!

For some inexplicable reason I never made it along to Swingamajig when I lived in Birmingham and now I’m 160 miles away in Devon it seems unlikely that I’ll make it this year. Ahhhh the evil pang of regret. Ouch. I say inexplicable because Swingamajig seems pretty much designed for me, a lover of all things vintage (hell, once you turn 40 you ARE vintage), gypsy punk and decadent (yep, I always got for the Old Rosie in's how I roll...or fall over in some cases). It’s been going a few years now, developing the kind of fervent following that marks out the truly great festivals from the corporate ball sucking chaff and this year’s instalment (May 1st, Digbeth) looks better than ever. Tickets right here, right now...who knows maybe I will make it after all...hmmmm.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dodgy Dave...

It's been pretty nauseating watching people who have unimaginable sums of money to the average working man/woman/transgender trying to justify stuffing shit loads of cash into overseas 'trusts'. Yeah fine, it might not be illegal but how do these people sleep at night? Oh, right...very comfortably I guess. Anyway, I just stumbled across this track from Dodgy, a band that's supported more good causes than most and one of the few groups around these days that have an opinion on stuff that matters. It seems as though it was written and released last year but it's particularly appropriate right now. I'm not naive enough to think that things will ever change but the day we stop kicking against the pricks in some way will be a dark day indeed.

PS: And yes...this is the same Dodgy that released this little gem. Bring on the summer...

Friday, April 08, 2016

Kioko - Hotline Bling

Cracking cover of the Drake track from Brum's very own Kioko. Speeding it up a little, adding a dubby dusting and biggin' up the brass it's so much better than the original (in my 'umble opinion) and that's ruddy rare in a cover version. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

The Bourgeois Four – A Ninth Path

Like a phoenix from the ashes...or at the very least a slightly charred pigeon from a of Brum’s great lost bands The Bourgeois Four have cemented their comeback with the release of brand new album, A Ninth Path. 

It’s an ambitiously eclectic collection of, in their words, lo-fi B-Punk ranging from the New Wave-ish Celebrity Body Crisis to the dreamy epicness of The Lighthouse, all 6 minutes and 47 glorious seconds of it. For my money undoubted highlight of the whole shebang though is Meat and Motorways which somehow fuses spunky indie punk a la Young Knives at their finest with almost Sabbath-esque riffage. Now that’s something you’ve not heard B4 eh? 

There’s an album launch party at The Station, Kings Heath on Saturday 30th April in aid of Kings Heath Action for Refugees. Tickets just a fiver right here right now AND...wait for it...AND you get a copy of the ruddy album too!