Wednesday, November 29, 2006

 

New

A little round up today of things new in the shops, on the the web or just plain new discoveries for this balding 40+ man than still gets a kick out of finding new music.
Carbon Silicon are still at it, that is recording new songs and posting them before they have time to change their minds. In case you don't know or don't remember Carbon Silicon is the latest project from Mick Jones (the Clash and BAD) and Tony James (Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik), these two are who are probably old enough to the father to many of you reading this currently make music for kicks, no record company deals, no pressure, no bullshit just quickly available free music. The latest batch is 'Psychotic Fish' and 'Cab Driver' both being well worth the space on your hard drive my favorite is the second track and I leave the words to the band "waiting for a cab full of guitars... to take us where we wanna go..."
During my summer holiday this year I finally got round to reading Simon Reynolds hefty tome 'Rip It Up And Start Again' one of the bands that made it one my list of records to buy as a result of this book was Josef K, this list is rather long and I doubt that even with the best of intentions that I'll get round to obtaining everything on it, though thanks to those good folk at Domino its looks like I'll soon be dropping Josef K from the list as they have just released 'Entomology' a comprehensive anthology of this Scottish band who's legend has far outlasted their all too short life span. 'Sorry For Laughing' probably their best known song that has recently been covered by Nouvelle Vague. 'It's Kinda Funny' was their third single and a tribute to the recently departed Ian Curtis.
I've recently found a new UK music mag going by the name of Clash, this publication does a better job than the more established part of the press in helping us to discover new sounds, from time to time they offer a cover mounted CD to provide an aural illustration for their prose, the following songs are all new to me and were found on the CD 'One To Watch' from the November Issue.
Koop with the track 'Koop Island Blues' is one of those jazzy lounge songs with sensual female vocals over a walking bass line, just the thing I've always been a sucker for. Husky Rescue have a name that betrays their origins, they're from Finland, having started out as a one man and his studio project, Marko Nyberg released the 'Country Falls' album on UK indie Catskills in 2004. Since then a real band has formed behind the name they are now a five piece complete with female vocals. 'Diamonds In The Sky' is a lovely slice of dreamy pop that will appear on their second album 'Ghost Is Not Real' due in January 2007. Candie Payne has already been snapped up by a major and offers her first single 'All I Need To Hear' that was given a 7" only vinyl release earlier this year. Sounding very 60's with it's Spector like production and impassioned vocals. Definitely one too watch out for. 1990's who share the same pedigree as fellow Glaswegians Franz Ferdinand provide us with 'Arcade Precinct', the band are currently residing at Rough Trade and were able to obtain the services of Bernard Butler to produce their soon to be released debut album. Jeniferever apart from having one of those names that make you look twice thinking that it a typographical error, are from Sweden and provide the sort of indie rock that put many a UK band to shame as can be heard on 'A Ghost In The Corner Of Your Eye'.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

 

Zounds


No this is not a typing error but the name of an English anarcho punk band from the late 70's early 80's. The Zounds, meaning God's wounds, were formed in Reading, the town of the festival of the same name - enough to make anyone become an anarchist, by Steve Lake, influenced by the fashionable Sex Pistols and Velvet Underground their first gigs were in '77. Little by little the collective became more and more politically inclined due to problems with the police and their growing concern with international political events, by the end of the decade they were regulars on the free festival circuit. A chance meeting with Crass, after their van broke down close by the Epping Forest anarchists commune, led to them becoming friends, despite their musical divergence they were both on the same wave length politically. 1980 saw the release of their first single on Crass Records 'Can't Cheat Karma' a nursery rhythm style piece of political rhetoric. This was followed by much touring with fellow label mates including the Poison Girls. A second single saw the light of day on Rough Trade, 'Demystification', that many years later was to be described on Julian Cope's web site as being an absolute classic of modern psychedelica, our attention was drawn in particular to the similarity between Will Seargent's guitar style and the singles chiming guitar sound. The band stayed with Rough Trade for the sole album also released in 1981 'The Curse of the Zounds', recorded in five days as were many independent releases in those days, it boasted a strong visual in its cover by anarchist artist Clifford Harper and music and lyrics that did not disappoint. My personal favorite from this gem of an album is 'Did He Jump' a song in two parts the first displays shade of Dylan compositions such as 'Hollis Brown' with its moody build up story telling style with a heavily sarcastic English accent that could almost be termed folky, the song's second part is more punky in it's pace, though at 8 minutes long it was anything but punk. As they say all good things come to an end and the band were no more by the end of 1982, Steve Lake citing his disillusionment with the anarchist movement and extreme fatigue caused by touring as the reasons. Despite the split they have reconvened on a number of occasions such as 2001 with a single 'This Land' in support of the McLibel campaign and 2005 with the ep 'Go All The Way' where they expressed their feelings concerning US anti terror policy. 1993 saw a CD release and repackaging of their album to include all their previous singles that is still on catalog today and well worthy of a place in your record collection.

Monday, November 27, 2006

 

Peel Sessions 31

A little change in style for today's post, three bands with two things in common, first the is obvious in that they have all recorded for Peelie, the second is that they all have the same geographical provenance ; Manchester. That one time powerful industrial town situated in the North West of England, that suffered a painful decline when it's manufacturing industries hit the wall, only to go through an amazing renaissance due in part to the cities strong musical heritage post '77. Strange Fruit, an independent label that was the first to capitalise on the richness of the Peel sessions by giving an official release to certain of them, paid tribute to the old cloth capital with it's 1990 compilation 'Manchester - So Much To Answer For' from which today's three tracks are taken.


A Witness
Showing my total ignorance here, a band that I know nothing about at all, though what I can say is that the great man must have liked them as this quartet delivered no less than four sessions between December 1985 and November 1988. 'I Love You Mr. Disposable Razor' is taken from their last session and is a thoroughly enjoyable slice of quirky raucous indie pop, that is slightly reminiscent of the Fall, maybe it's the accent?

A Guy Called Gerald
The balding one had very varied tastes in music, a typical program could include along with the day's indie gems some death metal, some dub, some country, some techno it was only natural then that certain of these artists recorded for him one such person was the man that got the nations legs and butts moving to his 'Voodoo Ray' hit, known to his parents as Gerald Simpson and having collaborated with many different artists, 'Rockin Ricki' comes from his first visit to the BBC studios in October 1988, there were to be two other sessions.

A Certain Ratio
Purveyors of that fragile sound that could be called white indie boy funk, the band were a direct issue from the late seventies punk scene before embracing electronics and taking their music to the dance floor of student discos the width and breadth of the land. Their first recording were released by that most Mancunian of all labels, Factory. 'Do The Du' was put down on tape for the first of their three sessions in October 1979 and illustrates very well the cold industrial funk that they were playing at the time.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

 

Mash Ups And Bluegrass

This last week has seen much media interest about a band from Liverpool who had their hey day in the 60's and their producer, a man now into his eighties who from his own admission is no longer active because his hearing is not as good as it could be. The band of course is the Beatles and the reason for all this interest is 'Love' which clocks in at 78 minutes with its 30 tracks of remixed songs from the bands all to short career. This project was undertaken by the band's original producer George Martin and his son Giles using the ground rules agreed with all parties that all sounds used would be from material recorded by the Beatles, this rule was broken on 4 occasions with added sound effects. The result is, if you like a mash up of Beatles tracks that much to my surprise has garnered nothing but good reviews to date, if anyone has seen a bad one do let me know. As my regular readers will know I have a lot of respect for Mark Vidler who trades under the name of Go Home Productions his long awaited 14 track debut album of mash ups has been confirmed by EMI for February release. Mark has often used elements of Beatles songs for his mash ups, be it the vocals or instrumental one of these that I particularly like is 'She Sells Tax, Man' remember when listening to this that it is a demo version meaning an unfinished project and that Mark unlike George Martin did not have access to the original master tapes! GHP has recently put up two new mp3s 'Rock In Black' and 'GHP Rids The World Of The Curse Of The Evil Space Invaders' both of these tracks were originally released as part of a four track 12" single in November 2005 and are a sheer delight for the ears mixing AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, Queen, the Rolling Stones and, yes the Beatles amongst others. The lead track is obviously based on Australia's finest rockers AC/DC who have also been an inspiration to the American band Hayseed Dixie who as their name suggests are hillbilly bluegrass inclined. Since their debut album in 2001 that consisted of 10 AC/DC covers the band have been spreading the good word and heating many a concert hall with their energetic sets and moonshine sense of humour. The three albums that followed have included covers of artists such as Queen, Aerosmith, Joan Jett, Madonna, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Motorhead as well a original material. Internet Archive Org has a number of the bands concerts posted one of the better ones in terms of quality dates from December 7, 2002 from which we can find their versions of 'You Shook Me all Night Long' and 'Feel Like Makin Love' the second is of course the old Bad Company song that I dedicate to the recently passed away bassist Boz Burrel.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

 

Chisel


today's band should be a welcome discovery for those amongst you who like the retro inspired guitar pop rock of the Rakes and Razorlight or those of you who can remember the first time around and are nostalgic from time to time for the likes of the Jam or the Clash and the rest of the class of '77. As with the Jam, Washington DC's Chisel were a power trio inspired by mod but with a foot firmly in the camp of modernity. Group founder Ted Leo's roots lay in DC's no bullshit attitude hardcore scene that led to them creating urgent dynamic contemporary guitar pop rock over their two albums. While the rest of the world were on the grunge rollercoaster and following the sledgehammer rock of Seatle's finest, a fortunate few were savouring the delights of Chisel as they giged their way across the US of A. After having been formed by Leo in 1990 while at college the band took their loose limbed hook heavy mod punk on the road often supporting heavy weights such as Fugazi, Lungfish and Blonde Red Head and if reports are to be believed Chisel were a hard act to follow. A string of well received singles were unleashed for the bands growing fan base cumulating in the 1996 release of their debut album '8 A.M. All Day' an excellent disc that at 36 minutes does not out stay its welcome. Padding out their stripped down sound with discreet horns and organ fills there was now a definite hint of sixties soul as in Stax. The bands crisp jangly guitar laid over wandering rhythms was the perfect background for Leo's razor sharp melodic hooks, as a new comer to the band I'm shocked that anything this good is not more better known and appreciated by a wider audience. Three songs up for grabs today from that debut album.

1. 'Hip Straights' a very strong opening track from it's staccato guitar stabs to it's playful flirting with reggae.
2. 'What About Blighty' almost a homage to their '77 UK influences, I love the Stiff Little Fingers style guitar intro.
3. 'Out For Kicks' breakneck speed guitar as in early Wedding Present and Jam influenced 'ba ba ba ba' style harmonies leaves us wishing for more.

Chisel followed this up with 'Set You Free' in 1997 and promptly split, Leo went on to form The Sin Eaters before going solo with his Pharmacists but that's another story.
The band are considered to be one of the major influence on the garage rock revival of the late 1990 so maybe without them there would have been no White Stripes?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

 

Black Angels


A recent discovery of mine, The Black Angels hail from the lone star state though their music has nothing to do at all with traditional cowboy ware. As the name might well suggest there is more than a little bit of the Velvet Underground here. The band mixes elements as diverse as Stereolab, Space Man 3, Jesus and Mary Chain, Thee Hypnotics, Julian Cope, Led Zeppelin, the Pixies and of course the Velvets together to good effect, the result is a dream like rhythmic drone heavily reminiscent of 60' psychedelia. Over this drone we find the Texan drawl of vocalist Alex Maas that conjures up images of Jim Morrison. Lyrically they are about as un Texan as you can get, showing no pity for local boy George Bush in their scathing critic of the situation in Iraq 'The First Vietnamese War' which can be found on their debut album 'Passover'.
The band recently played at Washington DCs 9:30 club and this date was broadcasted by NPR from which you can sample them live on 'Black Grease' and 'Better Off Alone' the whole show is also available to download here as one big 40 mo file.

Monday, November 20, 2006

 

Peel Sessions 30


Today's Peel artist is a band that for some unknown reason slipped beneath my critical radar and as such I knew of their name but not their music. They are the Scotland's Delgados, formed in 1994 and named after the Spanish Cyclist Pedro Delgado. The band members were also the founders of the record label Chemikal Underground that gave that all important chance to many young Scottish bands to enter the studios and release their first record. Their own records wasted little time in attracting the attention and praise of the musical press and John Peels ears. During their 10 years of existence they were to record enough Peel sessions that when they were compiled as 'The Complete BBC Peel Sessions' it was as a 2 CD, 29 song set. In 1996 Peel went as a far a describing them a being the best band in Britain. September 2002 the band entered the Maida Vale studios and instead of recording versions of songs from their current album 'Hate' that they were in the throes of promoting they chose to cover four songs. Their choice was varied as can be seen by the three songs that I have chosen today from this session. 'California Uber Alles' is indeed the same song that brought Jello Biafra and his Dead Kennedys to our attention many years before. They revisit the sixties with Cat Stevens 'Mathew And Son', and give a nod to prog rock with ELO's 'Mr Blue Sky'. I find that these covers while remaining faithful to the originals have been stamped with a fresh new identity that gives a real pleasure to the experience. I shall be checking out their five studio albums in the forthcoming weeks, I just wonder why no one told me about them before.


Saturday, November 18, 2006

 

Saturday

Bush War Blues
Billy Bragg has recorded and put on line a new version of his reworking of Lead Belly's 'Bourgeois Blues' that brings the song very much up to date as it is called 'Bush War Blues' this new version can be found here. The end of the year sees a lot of action in Billy's camp, those of you in the UK should be jumping at the chance to catch him on his Hope Not Hate Tour part 2 where he will be performing solo, this is the best way to see him live as obviously without the restraint of a full band he can do whatever he wants and often this is to very good effect. part of the inspiration for the tour is to raise awareness of the rise of fascism and racism in the UK, sadly such actions are still necessary today. The full tour schedule can be found here.
Billy has also published his first full length book, 'The Progressive Patriot'. It is described as being part autobiographical and part polemic, now we wouldn't expect anything less from Billy would we? Looks to me like an interesting read with more than a little inspiration from on of his heroes George Orwell.
October has also seen the release of volume 2 of the Billy Bragg box, It includes the albums 'Workers Playtime', 'Don't Try This At Home', 'William Bloke' and 'England Half English' as with vol 1 each disc comes with heaps of bonus tracks and there is also a DVD featuring two concerts which will be of particular interest to those of you who like me live in countries where Billy does not play. While being slightly less essential than vol 1 this still remains a must for fans.

Neneh Cherry
It's Saturday and I'm in a good mood as tonight I'm off to see Neneh Cherry's new project Cirkus. The reason that I am so pleased is that concert was scheduled at Le Zenith, a 6000 capacity out of town shed, apparently pre sales have not been good and so the venue a has been changed to the much more intimate 1000 person Rockstore in the town center, I do like to see the whites of an artists eyes when they perform! I really don't know the band but have always liked what Neneh has done from her days with Bristol's post Pop Group, Rip Rig And Panic through to her more mainstream solo career. There are two downloadable songs on their My Space 'Starved CirKushake' and 'Fuc All The Doh'. The echoes that I have received from a Paris date are good so it looks like I'm up for a hot night.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

 

The King Of Belgium

Next week sees the release of the eagerly awaited 'Orphans' Tom Waits 3 disc box set, those of you that appreciate his gravelly tones could do a lot worse than checking out Arno. Born in the Flemish port of Ostend longer ago than he probably wishes to remember, Arno the greatest blues singer from the Belgium Delta has graced us with many an interesting album since his 1986 debut under his own name. His recording career dates back to 1972 as a member of the group Freckleface followed by Tjens Counter and T.C. Matic. Arno has proved to be as difficult an artist to categorise as he has been to control by his various record companies. An accomplished keyboard player and songwriter he is as at home in both his native language as he is in French or English. Maybe what has held him back from larger international success is his love of the bottle, for which I can testify having spent a few nights in Montpellier working behind the bar when along comes Arno through the darkness of the night to help me prop up the bar until the early hours as we share a few glasses and some small talk, truly a great chap!

To give you a good idea of what he sounds like I'm posting four of my favorite songs of his that represent differing styles and periods of his solo career. 'Putain Putain' is an old favorite of mine, I'm not sure that it received a great deal of radio play, due to it's title, shame really as in retrospect it's still a great song almost with shades of industrial and post punk. As already mentioned Arno feels very much at home in different tongues the previous song being a mixture of French and English where as 'Les Filles du bord du Mer' is 100% French and I must say all the better for it, mixing classic chanson with 1920's style Berlin cabaret with great results. As with many artists from time to time they bow down to record company pressure to chase that ever elusive cross over hit, on 'Whoop That Thing' Arno does just that with a slice of funk disco that is nothing to be ashamed of. 'Ils Ont Changé Ma Maison' is in fact a bi-lingual cover version of the old Melanie song, I'll let you discover which one for yourself, which I think illustrates to great effect Arno's voice. This is not the only song that he has covered to good effect, his version of 'Little Red Rooster' is a must, but for this one you're just going to have to buy his albums! Recommended listening for beginners would be the 2000 compilation 'Le Best Of' and should you wish to see the artist on stage I can vouch for the quality of the DVD 'Arno Live In Brussels' so you won't have to leave your living room or wait for him to visit your town or country.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

 

Allo

1975 was very much a watershed year for me, I was 14 my hormones were going ape, just as they should, I gave up swimming competitively when the the call of the skirt, beer and music got too loud and I could no longer ignore it. It was the year that I saw my first concert, by the year end I was regularly making trips to the west end to catch a gig, much to the chagrin of my parents. That very first concert was at my school, Forest Gate High, and was not by some big name band or up and coming Winnipeg but was and end of (school) year disco with some of my teachers performing together, if my memory serves me well cover versions, one song that they played blew me away it was 'Once Bitten Twice Shy'. The following day I heard the song again on the radio as it was the then current debut solo single from Ian Hunter. I thought I was in love, this was really what it was all about from his opening Essex wide boy greeting of 'Allo' through to the songs boogie climax. Let's just say that I have never looked back. I have since that day had a soft spot for Mr shades and curly locks, I hope there is no need for me to give a history lesson as of course Ian Hunter was the front man of that most Americanly British of rock bands Mott The Hoople. That debut album in 1975, recorded with Mick Ronson, was quickly followed up the following year with the classic 'All American Alien Boy' where Ian's voice shone through on what we would call today power ballads. The following years saw albums of differing qualities and styles including 1981's 'Sort Back And Sides' produced by Mick Jones, of the Clash not Foreigner, who as a lad was a big Mott fan. After passing his wilderness years the new century has seen a fine return to form with 2001's 'Rant'.


Ian is still very much a touring artist, I guess you could say that he has paid his dues many times over. In 2004 he even got round to playing a couple of dates in France including a stop off at my favorite venue , Motpellier's Rockstore, June 6, the only problem was this was a Sunday and so for some unexplainable reason I missed it, actually my working day starts a 6a.m. and so Sunday's it's early to bed for me. Still something I'm still kicking myself to this day for not making more of an effort. I was therefore more than happy when someone recently provided me with a recording of the gig. It is four songs from that show that I'm sharing with you today, this also heralds my first attempts at digital editing, you have been warned! The concert was made up of a healthy balance of old and new, Mott The Hoople and solo. The second song of the set was the one that got all of those boyhood memories rushing back, 'Once Bitten Twice Shy', while it will always remain a favorite of mine this live versions lacks the pacing of the original. This was quickly followed by a fine reading of 'Irene Wilde' where Ian's voice is in fine form for this excellent ballad, with guitar that in places reminds me of Bob Marley's 'No Woman No Cry' provided by ex Mott and ex Bad Company Guitarist Mick Ralphs . The set terminated with an old Mott number 'Roll Away The Stone', I've kept in the songs false start as I find it adds to the charm, after all guitar heroes are human. Their final song before they grabbed some sleep was of course 'All The Young Dudes', again I hope there is no need to go into the songs history. I hope you enjoy these as much as I have.
Just to prove that this post is topical, CBS have just released 'Journey' a career spanning retrospective from the Mott The Hoople days until 'Rant' and spread over three CDs for the rather modest sum of 15 quid. The four songs posted today can be found on this album in their original form.
Last Monday while talking about Wreckless Eric we mentioned his book, well Ian is also the author of a classic tome on music 'Diary Of A Rock 'n' Roll Star' that was originally published in 1974. It is a very down to earth and realistic no holds barred account of a Mott The Hoople American tour during five weeks at the end of 1972. Such is the esteem for this book and it's legendary status that it has been republished in 1996 and is still available today. Q magazine in a typically over the top way have described it as the 'greatest music book ever written' what I would say is that it is a must for all true music lovers.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

 

Apples

I picked this up the other day while looking through the cheap bin in one of the town centre's second hand shops, and I am rather ashamed to admit that I was unaware of it's existence. It is Ian Dury's lost sixth album 'Apples' that saw a 1989 release and was the only fruit from his WEA contract. Apples was in fact a musical that had been co-written with ex Blockhead and official fifth member of the Clash, Mickey Gallagher and was staged at London's Royal Court Theatre. Both the play and the album feature the talents of Frances Ruffelle that can be heard to excellent effect on 'Love Is All'. This song has definite shades of the majestic 'Fairy Tale In New York' that had been released the previous year, with the way that the male female vocals work together in such a natural dialogue/argument way. As usual for Ian Dury the lyrics are a pure delight for example (Ian) "When ecstasy ennobled our first kiss/I fell into an agony of bliss" (Frances) "I never never heard a person talk like this/I hope you don't think you can take the piss". I won't try and kid you that this is up there with Ian's better work, it is obviously not a shade on those first two albums that he recorded for Stiff with the Blockheads nor does it stand up well next to his magnificent come back 'Mr Love Pants' released in 1998 before his untimely death in 2000, though it was a definite step in the right direction after the disappointing Polydor years ('Lord Upminster', 1981 and '4000 Weeks Holiday' 1984). Of particular interest on the album is Ians version of 'England's Glory' a song that he had written for Max Wall many years before and released on 7" vinyl by Stiff, and 'Bus Driver's Prayer' that would turn up three years later as the title track for his next studio album. Also present on the album is the saxophone skills of Davey Payne who was of course a member of the Blockheads and had also played on Wrecless Eric's first Peel session as heard yesterday.

I do like this photo from the back cover that features Ian and Mickey, I had to look twice to check it was really him with the moustache! I was though rather dissapointed that there was no immage of Frances Ruffelle, after all she was the co-star, sexism or ego problems?


Monday, November 13, 2006

 

Peel Sessions 29

I'm not quite sure how to begin on this one as today's subject is one of those real living legends that has accompanied me in my life since those vibrant days back in '77. The word legend I do not use lightly, some might consider him to be more of a cult artist but is there really a difference between the two terms? He is chummy with Jonathan Ross, he is a fan of artists as diverse as Joe Meek and Donovan, he symbolised the early days of the classic indie label Stiff Records, he has authored at least one true classic song that can hold it's own with 'Another Girl Another Planet' any day of the week. He was the urchin that stormed into Stiff's Alexander Street HQ after quitting his job in a lemonade factory proclaiming to be 'one of those c*nts that brings tapes into record companies' before depositing his demo tape and returning back to the pub. Stiff boss Jake Riviera loved the tape so much that he called him back the next day with an invitation to record his first single that wasted no time in winning him friends both amongst the punters and the press. The man is question is Eric Goulden maybe better known as Wreckless Eric and that single 'Whole Wide World' which was followed by three albums for the label that are criminally long unavailable before he did a John Lennon with a lost weekend at the bottom of a bottle. I am pleased to say that Eric has survived and is still very much alive and still making records for the discerning few who appreciate him.
I don't think John Peel was his biggest fan as he only graced the Maida Vale studio's twice on his account both within a period of six months. The first from October 1977 featured his debut single along with four other songs including this version of 'Reconnez Cherie' that is counted in un, deux, trois by none there than Ian Dury, who for this session occupied the drum seat. The second session featured four songs that were laid down in March the following year, I particularly like the reading of 'Brain Thieves'. These two sessions can be found on a compilation of recording that Eric made for different BBC shows under the guise of Wreckless Eric, The Len Bright Combo, The Hitsville House Band and Southern Domestic, this record goes under the title of 'Almost A Jubilee 25 Years At The BBC (with gaps)'. It is not often that I urge you to dig down in your pockets but this record really should be in your collections and there is no better place to buy it than the Turkey Zone, who specialise in Eric and other olds stiffs, I have purchased from them before and have found their service to be efficient and rapid. While you are are there you might like to check out Eric's latest Album 'Bungalow Hi'.
Eric would seem to be someone that has a great way with the written word, having already published a first volume of his autobiography entitled 'A Dysfunctional Success' in 2003 that won him heaps of praise from the critics and deservedly so as the book makes a great read even if you don't know the man and his works. I would also like to recommend frequent visits to his site where his news page acts a diary that depicts his latest activities and thoughts with a sense of prose and humour that many a journalist would be pleased to have at hand. An All round great chap who deserves the status of living legend.
Readers residing in New York should jump at the opportunity to catch him on stage November 15 at a venue called Tonic, Situated in Manhattan's Lower East Side.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

 

Just Jack

The English have always had a problem with rap, since the beginning in NYC they have been keen consumers of this form of music, who can remember the late seventies early eighties when the nascent style was given enthusiastic coverage by the good old NME? The problem that the Brits have is therefore not in appreciating the music but in reproducing it. Above all when gangster rap raised it's ugly head the task became even more difficult, how can you brag about carrying an Uzi when you reside in country that does not believe in the fundamental right of every man, woman, child and beast to carry an arm! In the early days of rap maybe one of the better UK efforts was The Clash with 'Magnificent Seven', but this was closer to the shortlived Sugarhill vision that used real musicians as opposed to the scratch heavy DJ style as broken big time by Def Jam. It took until the tail end of the century for a UK artist to stamp his own identity and make something credible that amazingly enough they were able to sell back to their US cousins. I fell under the spell of Mike Skinner's reedy voice and kitchen sink dramas that he so successfully recounted on his songs. The Streets artistic zenith for the moment is still 2004's 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' the follow up was very much a case of too many grands spoil the broth! Part of the attraction of this new UK rap is the Ken Loach style down to earth lyrics, by this I mean that they are recounting every day tales much as you would to your mate down the pub. Mix this with that a strong music hall influence, arguably we can follow the line from Max Wall to Ian Dury and on to the Streets. Similar artists include the slightly more hardcore in lyrical terms Plan B and the definitely more pop orientated Lily Allen.
I recently discovered the similar Just Jack on a compilation with his jazz funk influenced 'Writers Block'. the song opens with some dreamy TV game show style muzac over which a young lady describes the beginning of her day, and then in comes Jack with some very nice word plays over some very catchy music and to top this off the song has an infectious chorus. Jack Allsopp, his real name, had fallen in love with black music as a boy in Camden Town (indisputable home to all things indie in the UK), and by the age of 14 he was serving an apprenticeship as a DJ. As with any musician worth their salt Jack experienced real life working as a Gardener and cleaner amongst other jobs to pay his rent while refining his music. Another important factor in making it in the music business is luck, after all where Lennon have been without McCartney, and this was the case with Jack who got himself a job at RGRecords. Deciding to try his luck he handed over his demo tape to label owner, Chas Smith another Camden boy and Madness vocalist, who was suitably impressed and so Jack was picked up for four albums. It would appear that the track 'Writers Block', his new single is in part autobiographical as this is his first new material since his debut album 'The Outer Marker' in 2003.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

 

Made In France

One of the things that was a pleasure during my promoting years was the people that I met, I would often see the same faces returning time and time again and little by little contact would be made. One of those people that I would often exchange words with was a young man from Valence who was studying at the University of Montpellier. At this time Mathias despite his height was already an imposing person with his red unruly mane of red hair setting him apart from the crowd. He was a big fan of music and had tastes that were not that far removed from my own and so when I was not busy and the band weren't on stage we would often chat. This was at the beginning of the 90's, and one recurrent subject of conversation was the group he had formed with friends back in his home town. The group is Dionysos who have proved to be one of the more interesting and vital French bands playing in the court of the Anglo Saxon ruled indie/alternative rock arena. Since releasing their first album in 1996, 'Happening Songs' and their latest 'Monsters In Love', 2005, they have treated us to seven albums, and quickly found themselves in favour with the specialist press. What was more surprising is that they also became staples of French radio despite their penchant for singing in English, this is ok for non French speakers but if this is not the case it is frowned down upon to abandon your native tongue!
For their fifth album they crossed the Atlantic to record 'Western Sous La Neige' with the legendary Steve Albini producing in that most American of towns Chicago. An album that firmly lived up to it's promise delivering a raw powerful rock at times counter balanced with a more reflective acoustic side complete with violin, I would like to point out that the violin is everpresent and capable of rocking out as well. The lyrics penned by Mathias, often very brief, display a cynic sense of humour that it always a pleasure to hear as on 'McEnroe's Poetry'. The album deservedly gave them their biggest hit to date in 'Song For A Jedi' I actually had a mental block on this song for some time being as I am one of those (rare) people that can't stand Star Wars. This of course was rather stupid, I think the first time I did hear it was on TV and they blew me away with this highly catchy song built on a very indie sounding riff that seduces your ears before you know it. Mixing French language verses with a charming female sung chorus in English, that manages to be both stomping and quirky at the same time.
Of note the bands latest album 'Monsters Of Love' was recorded in Dorset with John Parish of PJ Harvey fame producing. For those wishing to take the plunge Amazon UK and US both have the bands latest albums available from their sites.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

 

MPFree EP

It's been a while since Mark Vidler otherwise known as Go Home Productions signed on the dotted line with the devil. The latest news on his debut LP titled 'Mashed', rather a shame he hasn't paid more attention to the title, is due for February 2007 release worldwide by EMI. It should be pointed out that despite the movement existing for a good few years now this is the first official bootleg/mashup album to have full legal clearance, sounds like the practice has now been fully embraced by both artists and the biz, lets just hope that this is not the artistic kiss of death.
Maybe it is because Mark can't wait to have his official product in the shops that he is still actively posting some of his work on his web site, his latest web product is a virtual vinyl EP entitled MPFree that can be found here as a Zip file complete with artwork! It is the EPs lead track 'Bus Stop Runner' that for me is the strongest mixing the Hollies 'Bus Stop' with the Sweets 'Blockbuster' amongst others hidden delights to leave us with a suitably sugary feel in our ears after listening to this seventies bubblegum homage. I personally have my own theory as to why Mark Vedler so often succeeds where other bootlegger fail, before manning the mixing desk and mastering Acid and tape loops he was a musician and as such understands song structure and a whole load of other stuff that make the difference between a good idea and a finished product and secondly that the man is a huge music fan with an enormous data bank of sounds in his head. When I say that that others fail, for me the proof of a good bootleg is one that will stand up to repeated listens in the comfort of your own home, one where the novelty of the marriage does not wear off. There are of course others that are as important and that have contributed to taking bootlegs out of the under ground ghetto such as Soundhog and Mcsleazy though few can claim the quality and constancy of Mark.
For those that don't want to bother with the Zip files the individual song links are: 'Bus Stop Runner', 'Destiny 1999' and 'Time Outside'.

Monday, November 06, 2006

 

Peel Sessions 28

I Am Kloot are from Manchester and do not hide their geographical roots. What I mean by this is that they do not mask their regional accent when singing with some bland mid Atlantic voice, this pride in their origins was after all if we are to be honest part of the charm of bands such as the Proclaimers. The fact that Manchester is just a stones throw from Liverpool means that the accents of these two towns are similar, this leads us to one of the major reference points for I Am Kloot as vocalist John Bramwell's voice is more than reminiscent of that of a certain John Lennon. Add to this his mischievous, almost psychedelic, word play and a beautiful jazzy feel that would not have been out of place on Sgt Pepper's and you are left wondering why they are not already filling stadiums.
Formed at the beginning of the century by local promoter Bramwell who profited by recruiting his two partners from bands that played at his venue, their albums have been deservedly well received by the press and the band recorded two Peel Sessions, 2001 and 2004. These sessions have recently been released by Skinny Dog and contain the 11 songs broadcast. The two songs come from their 2001 session.

1. 'Storm Warning'
2. 'Titanic'

Sunday, November 05, 2006

 

BJM & The Peoples Revolutionary Choir

First up Thursday it was cold, we had lost between 10 and 15 degrees depending on the time of day, and to borrow some words from one of rocks better poets, Frank Zappa, my balls felt like a pair of maracas! Still we made the trip to Montpellier. Brian Jonestown Massacre were maybe not on the best of form, too much touring, too many drugs, too much booze, just couldn't be arsed who knows? One of their big problems is that they are such moody bastards and give the impression to be playing for themselves, one of the results is that their concerts are not well paced, for example an excellent song such as 'Who' is delivered with the gusto that it deserves, problem is that the song is both followed and preceded by 3 or 4 minutes of inactivity, which I must admit has it's good side as it allows the audience members to chat freely! Having said that on the rare occasions that they locked into one big mighty goove they were wonderful. A little warning they don't like stage divers, after one young chap clambered onto their stage only to promptly return into the arms of the masses, we were entertained to a good 10 minutes explanation of how one of the guitarists loves his pedals! This unfortunately was to be a recurring theme of on stage banter for the next 10 or so numbers.
The support act The Peoples Revolutionary Choir, have a name that would suit Patti Smith or any band from Detroit in the late 60's. The six piece are London based and have already made important friends, their early demos having being produced by Jim Reid and the band have cemented a working relationship with Primal Scream collaborator Brendan Lynch. They only played for 30 minutes but that was enough to see where they were coming from, Stooges/JAMC. The highlight of their set was their last number for which they were joined by 2 members of BJM giving us 4 guitarists on stage, and here the band gelled together perfectly with a monster riff which I was more than happy to lose myself in. Check out 'Elevate' the A side of their first single, hopefully there will be something new available soon.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

 

Kiss My Arse

Looks like it's that time of the year again, the shops are filling their shelves up with toys, people are looking for boxes in their attics containing Christmas decorations and of course the Pogues are out on the road again drinking their way into the forthcoming year. They have already spent the month of October playing selected gigs on Japan and the US, and now need six weeks off to help regenerate their livers before hitting the UK trail, dates can be found here. It is possible that this fixation with end of the year shows has nothing to do with making a fast buck, after all their music could be termed as festive, though arguably their best songs are more melancholic than good time, and lead bottle downer Shane MacGowan was born on December 25. One of their greatest moments, a duet with the sadly missed Kirsty MacColl, 'Fairytale of New York' is now forever associated with this period. I would like to suggest however that Shane himself, being far from the most reliable man in the business, does not himself project a good image for this festive period, being more the down side of things as the man who had too much to drink. I am, I guess lucky living where I do, as temptation to see these revival tours rarely presents itself, I often pose myself the question would I go to see for example a reformed Sex Pistols? NO! And I think the answer would be the same for the Pogues, I saw them once during the eighties supporting U2 at some enormous outdoor venue this was obviously not the ideal setting. Personally I prefer to remember them as an excellent band that delivered five classic ground breaking albums between 1984 and 1990 before disappearing up their own backsides only to come back as the cabaret act that they are today. The forementioned albums 'Red Roses For Me', 'Rum Sodomy And The Lash', 'If I Should Fall From Grace With God', 'Peace And Love ' and 'Hells Ditch' have all recently been released in remastered editions complete with bonus tracks and well written sleeve notes and all this at what is called mid price. I would like to suggest that you do as me and replace your long worn out vinyl copies with these new editions, it will last longer and be undoubtedly a more pleasant experience than catching them on stage, and you won't have the hangover the next day!
Since departing from the original Pogues, MacGowan has put together the on /off Popes, who would appear to be on hold for the moment, with whom he surprised just about everyone by releasing some more than reasonable material. Today's musical soundtrack is the Majestic and maudlin tale of 'A Rainy Night In Soho' in both its original form and also a live run through by the Popes, see which one you prefer!

1. Pogues 'Rainy Night In Soho'
2. Shane MacGowan's Popes 'Rainy Night In Soho' (Live)

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