Archive for the ‘New! Now!’ Category

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No Phils

January 10, 2014

let it be me 78

John Peel went through a phase of playing really old 78s from yesteryear. Ancient ghostly blues by unheard of singers long-since departed, popping and crackling away like one of my Gran’s heart attack-rich fry-ups. From out of nowhere they crept up on you, weird, wonderful and wonky. It might’ve taken you a couple of minutes to realise that there was any music playing at all, such was the understated beauty of it all. But before you knew it, there it was, under your skin and ingrained forever.

As if beamed in from another time and place, the music below has just slipped out into the ether…

Eddi Reader and wee brother Frank side by side at the piano singing the Everly‘s Let It Be Me with all the fragility of Bambi with a broken leg. It’s as fresh as the new year, yet sounds as if it was committed to shellac a century ago. Just like one of those old Peel 78s. It’s a heartfelt spontaneous tribute to Phil, recorded on iPhone and let loose on the breeze for anyone who happens upon it. I think it’s terrific.

Here’s another version…

The same song sung at the same session, this time the recording is taken from Frank’s iPhone. More Frank than Eddi on this version. And there’s nothing wrong with that. A bedroom Spector somewhere could probably jigsaw the 2 tracks into one. Over to you..

Here‘s the Everly Brothers’ original:


phil everly

Dig out a dram, play all the tracks above back to back with The Smiths’ Asleep and there’s your Friday night in right there.

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Slanging Match

May 17, 2013

So the new Primal Scream album’s here and before a note had been heard, the knives in this house were already being sharpened. From the rubbish cover that looks as if the work experience boy was given a generic shot of Bobby and 10 minutes with a laptop, to the list of cliches masquerading as song titles on the back – River Of Pain, Culturecide, Tenement Kid, Invisible City, Goodbye Johnny, Elimination Blues – I had this album down as a stinker, another one of those disappointing albums the Scream have been turning out with increasingly diminishing returns since the high watermark of the double decade-old Screamadelica.

ps 2013

But y’know what……..?

It’s not all bad. In fact, some of it’s pretty good. And bits of it are really very good indeed. Opener (and lead single) 2013 seems to have split opinion amongst the critics, and at 9 minutes long, it’s not perfect radio fodder, but I like it. Bobby’s clearly determined to write an era-defining chronological anthem (think Stooges 1969, or Stooges 1970 come to that, or 1977 by The Clash). It reminds me of golden-age Psychedelic Furs, if they ever actually had a golden age, replete with a rasping saxophone line not heard since The WaterboysA Girl Called Johnny. Very similar, Bobby. Very similar indeed. Elsewhere, vocals are whispered where previously they were mangled into that accent that was more yer actual Florida then Mount Florida. Acoustic guitars flutter against a backdrop of We Love You-era Stones psychedelia. Keyboard swells and electro bloopery compete with Zeppelin drums and turned-up-to-11 Les Pauls through Marshall stacks. Textured. That’s the word I’m looking for. More Light is a textured album. A textured album that’s about 4 tracks too long, but never mind. Is it obtuse of me to say that, for me, the best tracks are the bonus tracks? They’re certainly the most interesting by far.


Nothing Is Real/Nothing Is Unreal (above) is terrific – a proper motorik, Krauty groover that really benefits from David Holmes’ polished sheen. If the whole album was like this, we may be saying it’s the best Primal Scream album since Screamadelica. Actually, the publicity surrounding the album would have you believe that, but this track is truly wonderful.

For Record Shop/Store Day this year, Primal Scream brought out a 12″ of them doing Sonic’s Rendezvous Band‘s City Slang. Sonic’s Rendezvous Band was a mid 70s alt-supergroup, formed by Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith of the MC5 and featuring Scott ‘Stooges’ Asheton amongst other garage band no-hit wonders. City Slang is a pretty intense piece of proto-punk, full of elastic band bass, cheesegrater-thin guitar solos and a stu-stu-stuttering chorus, a testifyin’ punk rock call to arms. Heard once, never forgotten. Heard for the first time, it’s one you’ll want to play again and again. Just as well the original 7″ has the same song on both sides – wear out one set of grooves and you’ve still got another to batter the hell out of. That SRB had only one track was neither here nor there, City Slang remains something of a masterpiece. It also happens to be one of Alan McGee’s favourite records, as he told Plain Or Pan a year or so ago.

Best ever punk rock single, as he so succinctly put it. You can read more about Alan McGee’s favourite records (something of a Plain Or Pan scoop at the time, though you wouldn’t know from reading it) here.

sonicrendezvous_city_front

Anyway, Primal Scream’s version  is a faithful-to-the-original, full-on heads down punk rocker. For men pushing 50 and more, this is either admirable or rather sad. I’ll let you be the judge on that one.

Contrast And Compare:

City SlangPrimal Scream


City SlangSonic’s Rendezvous Band


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Is This It?

May 5, 2013

(Subtitled What Is This Shit?)

It was those opening words of his review that got Greil Marcus fired from Rolling Stone magazine in 1970 following his slaying of Bob Dylan’s Self Portrait. A hotchpotch of bewildering cover versions, syrupy reworkings of his own back catalogue and bizarre odds ‘n sodds so far removed from the Bob of 2/3/4 years earlier as to place the 1970s Bob firmly in the ‘has-been’ category, we can, with the benefit of hindsight apprecaite Marcus’ review for what it really was – a passionate attack on an act once so revered and vital but now finding themselves in the midst of creative meltdown. If you’ve ever experienced the disappointment of your favourite band so spectacularly failing to deliver, you should take the time to read it.

the strokes

And so to The Strokes. Is This It came out 11 and a half years ago (the day of the 9/11 bombings, same day as the Zim’s Love And Theft, if I remember correctly) and was a perfect summation of everything The Strokes had worked to by that point. NYC rich kids, a contradiction of expensive continental schooling and extensive dress-down grooming, they took the blueprint of all that was great with mid 70s Noo Yoik noo wave and ran with it in a scramble of battered Converse and 28″ waists. A garage band, a proper we-can-play-our-chops garage band, they burned their way through a handful of lean, mean, rattlin’ and rollin’ tracks, every one more vital than the previous one. Their look, their sound was nothing new. It was nothing clever. But it was terrific. Last Nite was my favourite.

Last Nite (from debut The Modern Age ep):


Last Nite came complete with the sound a million bands who’ve ever played live in front of a ghetto blaster set to ‘record’ will recognise – that of the sound of the snare drum rattling from the vibrations from the ambience in the room. It takes me right back to ear-splitting band rehearsals at Shabby Road even as I type. With doe-eyed Julian and his Benylin-through-a-bullhorn vocal and fab drummer Fab Moretti about to embark on a relationship with A-lister Drew Barrymore, they fairly set the loins alight of many an impressionable female. They had the licks. They had the looks. They had it all and the world was their oyster.

strokes

Fast forward to 2013. The Strokes’ 5th album, Comedown Machine, has just been released. I’ve lived with it since the end of March and, well, Letdown Machine would perhaps have been a more appropriate title. It’s not exactly a surprise – the last couple of albums have been nothing but weak filler propped up by the occasional FM-shiny belter, but Comedown Machine has no redeemable features. None at all. Leaving behind the myriad of 70s influences that made The Strokes what they are, they seem to have discovered the 80s. And not an 80s where demi Gods such as John McGeoch and Julian Cope and Ian Curtis and (insert your own idol here) provided a real alternative to the rubbish filling the airwaves, but an 80s of Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine and Linn drums and Rubik’s Cubes and shitty day-glo socks. It wasn’t very good then and it isn’t very good now.  In short, it’s a horrible car crash of electro bleeps and synthesized drums (synthesized drums! Poor Fab – whatever happened to the Clem Burkeisms he was so good at?)

the strokes 2013

Looking at this, whatever you’re thinking, I’m thinking it too.

Before any singing starts, the opening track sounds like a demo of Beyonce’s Bootylicious, all pitter pattering drum machines, jerky Super Mario melodies and FX heavy guitars. On paper, that might sound interesting. Good, even. It’s not. Lead single One Way Trigger shamelessly appropriates the hook from A-Ha’s Take On Me and petres out in a cascade of falsetto singing and electro handclaps. Gads. Throughout, you’ll hear the sound of a band as bloated and insignificant as Duran Duran, playing Strokes by numbers with diminishing returns. I’ve tried hard to like it, I really have. But, nah, The Strokes have lost it. The most interesting track 50/50, with its backwards effects and repetitive computerised guitar parts sounds an awful lot like Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s Music For A Found Harmonium. Penguin! Cafe! Orchestra! Now there’s something you never thought you’d read. What is this shit indeed.

Contrast & Compare:

Music For  A Found Harmonium:


50/50:


 

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Can o’ Worms

April 22, 2013

This Record Store Day thing really grates eh? Who’s at fault? The record companies, who see the event as a way to fleece the record buyers out of every last penny they have and set sky-high dealer prices, thus forcing retailers to charge daft prices for (mainly) old records? Or the record buyers themselves, who see the event as a way to fleece less-fortunate record buyers who have neither the means required nor the availability of a local record shop to go to in order to buy what they want and are forced to take to the internet in a desperate attempt to secure the objects of their desire from people who neither know about or care about the records they are punting?

rsd13

Five minutes after the shops opened and eBay’s suddenly full of the things everyone wants, available from twenty five different private sellers at twenty five times the original prices, and the internet is bulging at the virtual seams with sob stories from seething, seasoned record buyers unable to get their sticky fingers on the records they so desired.  They’ve scanned the lists in March and written and re-written their wishlist into 3 columns; ‘Ideally…’, ‘Hopefully…’ and ‘I cannot leave without this…’ but still ended up only with the last sticker from the acoustic act playing in the corner and a crumbly cup cake from the beardy guy behind the counter who’s job it is to say, “Sorry mate, that’s sold out too,” over and over and over and over until the end of the day. They’ve even emptied the kids’ piggy banks and forced them to eat beans on toast for a month, but that counts for nothing. Come April and the Day itself, they got up half an hour after going to bed in an effort to get as close to the front of the snaking line outside Shady Dave’s Second-Hand Sounds as they possibly could, to no avail. It’s a long line, but the ‘good-time vibe’ in the queue (“Aye, I’m after the Elliott Smith 7″ and the Pulp 12″ and the Big Star outtakes LP too, pal…”) is such that standing hunched up in the rain and the cold with Angry Birds and a quickly-decreasing battery charge on the phone for company are just about tolerable, as hopeful prayers of over-priced, limited edition bits of plastic are messaged to the great vinyl god above.

By the time the doors are unlocked by Shady Dave himself (who knows that only today, this one day of the year, is the make-or-break that might allow him to trade until next year’s big day), wads of money are jumping out the pockets of middle aged men and being flung towards the counter in exchange for a one-off Flaming Lips LP or a White Stripes coloured vinyl or an old Paul McCartney track re-pressed in glorious retro fashion. It’s ridiculous. Especially as that guy in the expensive puffa jacket and beige chinos (not yer average Wedding Present fan, you muse), who happened to be at the front of the queue was royally loaded and bought every copy of the German language 10″ And whatever else he thought he could off-load for a profit. “How many Bowie did you get? I’ll take them all.” It’s the new model for the spineless, the shallow and the touts who already rake it in from selling high-demand concert tickets. Have you checked those eBay sellers addresses? Sorry for the sweeping generalisation, but are they all in Merseyside? Call the cops…

can malkmus

Anyway, for what it’s worth, I’d have quite liked the live Stephen Malkmus does Can thingy. And the Elliott Smith 7″ and the Pulp 12″ and the Big Star outtakes LP too, pal, but I was nowhere near a decent record shop and was being Dad for the day while the missus went off for a belated birthday afternoon with her pal. Plus I don’t have the spare £40 or so that would’ve been necessary to procure them, had I been game enough to try and buy them. A quick scroll through eBay tonight and the Elliott Smith 7″ is selling for £15, as is the Pulp 12″ . The Big Star LP? That’s currently around the  £40 mark, but given that almost 20 folk are after it, it’ll probably take a bid of around £100 to secure the bloody thing. That Malkmus/Can album has attracted a dozen or so bids and is already pushing £40 itself. The vinyl would be nice, but I’m just as happy for the moment with the illicit mp3s I found whilst poking around the darker corners of the internet. It’s not ‘real’. It’s not holdable. It’s not warm and friendly analogue. But it was cheaper than cheap. I’ve always preferred Can at their grooviest and Malkmus does a good job. Contrast and compare…

Can  – I’m So Green


Stephen MalkmusI’m So Green


CanVitamin C


Stephen MalkmusVitamin C


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Skeletal Family

October 21, 2012

Vini Reilly is the public face of The Durutti Column, the first signing to Tony Wilson’s nascent Factory Records way back in 1978. Forever pasty-faced and ill-looking, he’s as wiry and fragile as the high ‘e’ string on his guitar, and on the rare occasion when this Wythenshaw will o’ the wisp pops his head out in public, he’s quietly spoken and totally intense. Clearly, he prefers his music to do the talking.

The Durutti Column’s first album, The Return of the Durutti Column was produced by Factory in-house knob-twiddling hedonist Martin Hannett on clear instruction from Reilly that he didn’t want ‘the usual, horrible distorted guitar sound.‘ What followed was a heady mix of chiming beauty, pastoral fragility and neo-classical intensity. All instrumental, and almost all featuring only layers of Reilly guitar, with the odd rudimentary skittering drum machine or piano part, the music is almost as revolutionary as the Spanish Situationists from whence Tony Wilson christened Vini’s band’s name. The music isn’t ‘rock’ or ‘post-punk’ or ‘jazz’ or any other obvious genre. It would be a huge disservice to lump it as (gads) ‘chill-out music’, but to these ears, in the same way that you could categorise someone like the Cocteau Twins, that is essentially what the music of The Durutti Column is. In later years, Tony Wilson would tell anyone who listened that at the end of a night at the Hacienda, he’d spark up a large one and mellow the wee hours away with The Durutti Column playing in the background. Vini’s music is perfect for this.

In one of the first great Factory marketing moments, The Return of the Durutti Column came packaged in a sandpaper-covered outer sleeve, intentionally designed to destroy any record sleeves you might have been careless enough to file besides it. If you happen to have one of those original LPs you may be interested to know that it was the four members of Joy Division who stuck the sandpaper onto each and every cardboard sleeve. I’m sure any decent policeman worth his salt could do some sort of DNA test to it if you asked- you might be sitting on a Curtis there! Or a Hook. (No luck).

Reilly was asked to produce Happy Mondays’ Freaky Dancing single, a choice that may have made sense musically, but personality-wise was a disaster. As Shaun Ryder says in his autobiography, “We initially tried recording with Vini Reilly but that only lasted about two hours before he decided he couldn’t handle us. I like Vini, and he’s a great guitarist, but he’s a bit of a weird one and everyone knows he’s a bit fragile. He once told everyone that I’d spiked him at the Hacienda, and the next morning I got phone calls from Wilson and other people at Factory having a go at me, saying stuff like, ‘Why did you do that to poor Vini? You know what he’s like,’ when I hadn’t even fucking done anything. It was all in his mind.

To quote Reilly – “I simply couldn’t work with them.”

A real musicians’ musician, he’s perhaps best-known for filling the substantial (desert) boots of Johnny Marr when The Smiths imploded. For the briefest of very brief moments, The Smiths looked like carrying on, until Morrissey decided otherwise. He instead roped Reilly in to play guitar on Viva Hate and, by chanelling his inner Marr, helped Morrissey’s solo career off to a flying start. But that’s a story for another day.

Durutti ColumnSketch For Summer

Durutti ColumnSketch For Winter

MorrisseyMargaret on the Guillotine

This post was all ready to go and then…

…my old pal DW put me onto Land Observations. “You’ll like them,” he said. “It’s just one guy and his guitar. No singing. It’s a bit motorik, a bit Krauty, with that sort of Michael Rother feel to it.” I quick listen on iTunes and I bought it….and I never buy anything from iTunes. But I had to have it there and then. And for the past week or so it’s been something of a constant on  the iPod. Motorik, krauty and sort of Michael Rother-ish, just as I was told. (A Soundcloud player should appear below. Please let me know if it doesn’t. It’s been a major headache trying to install it for some reason.)

It’s a concept album of sorts (hippies! prog-rock!), but stick with it. Loosely based on the journeys made along the Roman Roads of Britain, it’s the companion piece to an EP released last year. Unbelievably, given my instant love of the LP, I’ve still to buy the EP, but I will. The album, Roman Roads IV – XI, reminds me greatly of The Durutti Column – one guy who lets his guitar do the talking, no fancy pants widdly solos, just layered, textured, skeletal music that you can listen to, that makes you want to listen to it. And it sounds great through headphones. It’s currently at Number 3 in my ‘Favourite LPs of the Year’ list and climbing. Land Observations, folks. You’ll like them.

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Lightning Bolts ‘n Jessicarennis ‘n Andy Murray wins at Tennis

August 6, 2012

I’ll admit it. The Olympics have got me hook, line and sinker. From the opening ceremony onwards, via Wiggins’ magical time trial ride and the Scottish fella Jamieson who very nearly gubbed them all in the 200m breast stroke, until this weekend when Team GB have been picking up gold medals with all the carefree ease of Gladys and Agnes on a Tuesday morning at the pick ‘m mix in Woolies, I’ve sat, shouting sweary words of encouragement from the comfort of my sofa to people I had no idea existed a week ago. I was as cynical as many up here. Greatest Show On Earth? I don’t think so, pal. The Greatest Show On Earth is the World Cup. Everyone knows that. In no small part, my cynicism was due to Stuart Pearce’s (cough) Team GB football squad selection. A squad made up of numerous young Englishmen and a smattering of token Welshmen, with nary a Scot or Northern Irishman in sight. But more about them later. Yesterday was the opening game of the season for my team, Kilmarnock. It was a decent enough game, end-to-end, even, even if the BBC reported otherwise (their usual reporters have probably been deployed around the East End of London, I’d wager, and they’d been using some junior hack or other, not yet acquainted with the football normally played in the top league) yet I found my mind drifting back to events down south and couldn’t wait until half time in order to check the @TeamGB Twitter feed to see what I’d been missing. Good! My girl Jessicarennis was still burning the competition in the Women’s heptathlon.

It wasn’t long until I was home and catching up properly. Saturday night’s telly was sensational. But you knew that already. If you were watching ITV, silly you. If you were out, silly you. If, like me you whooped, hollered and punched the couch and the air and your wife with joyful abandon, you’ll know just how thrilling it was. When Jessicarennis lead from the front and came back strong and determined around that final bend; When the far-too-full-of-himself long jumper who’s name I’ve forgotten already messed up his last jump and bowed theatrically to the stadium; When Mo Farah, looking like someone Bob Geldof might be inclined to start an appeal for kicked his heels and dug out the strength to carry himself to victory; It was clear – that most dreaded of things, a feel good factor was suddenly everywhere. A ginger, a Muslim and a women of mixed race go into a pub. Everyone buys them a drink. I stole that from Richard Bacon. It’s a good one, eh?

Here in Scotland, following the manner in which oor ain Andy Murray casually disposed of Roger ‘The Greatest Ever‘ Federer, that feel good factor was multiplied ten-fold. Down south, people had a problem with Andy. He didn’t smile. He was dour in interviews. He battered his racquet around the court when things weren’t going his way. Good old stiff upper lip Tiger Tim Henman would never have displayed such vulgarities. Then, a month ago, the boy Murray blubbered like a big baby on the Centre Court and, well, some kind of thaw took place. It seems the public at large took him to heart. Today, when he climbed down from the Players’ Guests box and onto the scoreboard that declared his greatest ever victory, the wee boy who pushed his way to the front and shouted Andy back for a hug showed just how that feel good factor affects us all. That hug, as well as physical, was a metaphorical hug from all of Britain (but especially Scotland) to our own man.

 

The coverage on the BBC has been exceptional. This is what you pay your licence fee for. Handball over breakfast? Don’t mind if I do! Beach Volley ball at 10 in the morning? Oh aye! Easy on the eye! Beach Volleyball at 10 in the evening? Oh aye! Easy on the…but..hang on…they’re all wrapped up in, like, long lycra and jumpers and stuff. Damn that cold wind and British ‘summer’. Every sport is catered for and it’s all wrapped up and repeated if you happen to miss it first time round. One wee gripe? The commentators. Excellent and knowledgeable they undoubtedly are, they can also display an ignorance that cuts deep. It was that jumped up kids presenter Jake Humphries who did it first, during Team GB’s first women’s football match. “England this…England that….England the next thing“, and that’s a team that did have players from nations other than England in the starting 11. He said it about a dozen times. Then the normally reliable, likeable Lineker last night, “Well. So often before. And we’ve done it again. Out on penalties.” We, Gary? We? This is the first time we’ve ever entered a Team GB into any competition. We? You couldn’t possibly be referring to England, could we? The England who’s bottle crashes spectacularly at the merest whiff of a penalty shoot out? Did you not notice token Welshman and over-age player Ryan Giggs scoring there? Tut tut tut.  I’ll admit it, that’s why I took a tiny wee bit of satisfaction in seeing (cough) Team GB crash out of the football.

Anyway. This is supposed to be a music blog. The aptly-named Usain Bolt was pretty terrific in the 100m semi-final. The fastest man on Earth practically jogged over the line once he knew he’d qualified. Then the BBC ramped it up somewhat, with clocks counting down until the final itself. Re-runs of races from all angles. Slo-mo shots of Bolt goofing off to camera. And a 2 minute mini movie of the Best of Bolt for the majority of viewers who somehow knew that Bolt was The Man, yet were oblivious to his achievements to date. All sound-tracked by this. Lightning Bolt by Jake Bugg. One of my favourite singles of the year, it sounds like Bringing It All Back Home-era Dylan rattling his way through Bad Moon Rising, all nasal vocals and cow punk skiffle guitar. Like Bolt in the 100m final, it’s supremely self-assured, a blur, over before it’s begun, leaving the rest in its wake. Get it quick – I’ve a feeling the internet police won’t like it. But you will.

Beach bum.

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Blur(t) It Out

July 2, 2012

New track from Blur STOP Wonky guitars STOP

Catchy la-la-la chorus STOP

A bit of a grower STOP

(Crappy radio rip STOP Zane Lowe nearly makes an appearance on it STOP But will do until proper release, eh? STOP)

Breaking News! STOP Breaking News! STOP Breaking News! STOP

Under The Westway & The Puritan now available on iTunes for £1.49

(Crappy mp3s STOP Will do until promo CD makes appearance online STOP

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Super Furry Side Salad

May 3, 2012

Those of us looking for any sort of Super Furry Fix have had slim pickings recently. Gruff RhysShark Ridden Waters was out nearly a year ago, and he’s still essentially touring it, if you can call 1 gig in that there London a ‘tour’. Amongst the hullabaloo of Record Store Day the other week, he quietly slipped out a split single with Cate Le Bon. So quiet I didn’t even know about it at the time, but then, I wasn’t looking. Gold Medal Winner is a terrific slice of what some folks might call ’21st century sunshine pop’; all pitter-pattering drum machines, vibes, tinkles and Gruff’s super warm, super furry harmonies. It remains to be seen whether or not any Olympics officials will pick up on its lyrical theme in time for the Summer games, but it hasn’t stopped those enterprising online sharks going for gold and selling highly inflated copies on eBay.

Super Furries’ keyboard player (and, it’s said, doo-wop  nut), Cian Ciaran, very briefly gave away a free download of a track from his forthcoming Outside In LP. Yesterday was International Workers’ Day (nope, me neither) and to celebrate, You & Me was downloadable from Soundcloud, for one day only. Cian’s true to his word too, because it’s no longer downloadable from there. (Try here instead.) He may ‘only’ be the keyboard player in one of the most consistently innovative bands for the last 15 or so years, but on the evidence of You & Me, Cian Ciaran’s LP may just be the surprise album of the year.

Lennonesque is the word that straightaway springs to mind. The double-tracked vocals, the Double Fantasy piano part, the double dose of sweary words. There’s even a George Harrison slide section playing just behind the best 3-part woo-woo-wooing harmonies the Wilson brothers never recorded. Who knew the keyboard player was capable?!? It’s melancholic man, and I love it.

Roll on the next Super Furry material.

 

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Shake Appeal

April 24, 2012

Jack White‘s Blunderbuss hit the racks this week and while it’s not much of a departure from the old routine, it’s still a terrific bluesy, funky and at times shouty affair, with plenty o’ whoopin’ and a-hollerin’ and those trademark scorching guitar breaks that we’ve come to expect. Giving him a run for his money in the retro stakes are Alabama Shakes, who, by the time you’ve read this are probably the number 1 selling artist in the country. Or is it still Adele?

Alabama Shakes are fairly talented and very young. Annoyingly so. They have a combined age about half that of Keith Richards and sound as if they’ve eaten the Stones back catalogue for breakfast. They are guaranteed to be the act at all this year’s major festivals and come August I will be sick fed up of them. I first heard them via a free Soundcloud ep, long-since unavailable for download. At the time I found myself Googling images of them as I couldn’t believe it was a girl that sang. But don’t let that put you off, she’s good! They may look like the Magic Numbers (remember them?) but they sound totally different. Rootsy. Organic. Raw. Their first EP was released at the tail end of the summer last year and features 4 tracks that also appear on the album. No doubt the hipper amongst you will already be saying, “Meh. I saw them at SXSW last year, but they totally lost it before the first album, man.” More fool you. By the time of the 2nd album, of course, when they’ve learned to play that wee bit better and the guitarist wants to sneak in the odd solo here and there and the record company have decided that Brittany the singer could go it alone, they will, by then, have lost it. Right now, Alabama Shakes are smokin’ hot. Get on board. Those four tracks from the ep are here:

Aye, every borrowed riff and stolen chord change is predictable and the whole thing has a slight whiff of a record company who believe they may have found the new White Stripes/Kings of Leon/authentic  blues-based female vocalist that, unlike Amy/Adele/Duffy has her own authentic bar-room band. There are enough ‘ooh my souls‘, ‘ sweet baby babies‘ and ‘dontcha worries‘ to keep all you cliche kleptomaniacs happy for a long, long time. Donald, if you’re reading, you would have loved ripping this album to pieces. But then, Alabama Shakes aren’t for you. They are for every 18 year old who missed out first time round on Kings Of Leon. For 28 year olds who missed out first time round on the Black Crowes. For 38 year olds who missed out first time round on Creedence. For 48 year olds and anyone who has never heard The Faces, Exile On Main Street, Otis on Stax or the blues of Etta James, they may well change your life. For the rest of us, they may well just be a bit ho-hum. For what it’s worth, I like them and they do sound brilliant live…..

*Bonus Track!

Here‘s Heavy Chevy, the iTunes ‘exclusive’. The Chuck Berry solos have started creeping in…(maybe they have lost it, man).

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Summer Love-in

March 29, 2012

(Had me a blast). It’s been a good old week, all things considered. I’m still basking in the afterglow of my team beating one of the great unwashed in a national cup final at the national stadium, the frantic pace of work is slowing down in preparation for the Easter holidays, I’ve got a new bike that I plan to cycle for miles and miles and the sun has been shining as if March thinks it’s July. I drove home today, window down to the sounds of Lee Perry and his dubby Jah-maica-ca-ca-ca riddims, convinced I was stopping tomorrow for yer actual summer holidays. Mad March, eh?

Even better than all of the above was the discovery of one of those wee bubble-wrapped envelopes on my door mat when I got in. I don’t buy that much new music, but inbetween the obscure soul stuff from 1971 and the Brazilian garage punk from 1964 (and the new Weller album, still unconvinced t’be honest), there’ll always be a place for Teenage Fanclub and anything related. Bass player Gerard Love has been working on his solo album for, ooooh, ages, if you believe some sources. Anyway, he’s finally got around to releasing it and ‘Electric Cables‘ by Lightships is now out (or in 4 days time if you didn’t pre-order it). But you knew that already.

First impressions? Well, this is the best Teenage Fanclub album they’ll never release. If you’re a fan of the Gerry tracks of old, especially the more recent Shadows-y stuff, you’ll like it. Everyone’s out right now, so I have the pleasure of listening to it not on my PC or in the car or through my crappy iPod headphones, but extra-loud via my big old Denon seperates. The way music was intended to be heard. It sounds analogue. Old, but in a good way. Everything about it is warm, woozy, wistful; Mellow. Guitars chime, basslines frug, pastoral flutes flitter their way in and out of the melodies like butterflies in high summer.  I’m sure you get the idea….

Perhaps at first you’ll think it’s missing some of those close-knit harmonies we’ve come to expect from his day-job band, but by the second and third listen, wee nuggets of golden sound start sticking their head up from the background and weave their magic. Lead track Two Lines is a thing of beauty, all understated guitars and organ that goes on and on, riding a wave of melancholy. First single Sweetness In Her Spark is much the same, with its great cooing vocals in the background and perfect lyric.  Some of the video was filmed just down the road from me, at Troon Harbour, fact fans. Elsewhere, vocals soar, delayed guitar riffs fade in and out and those Fanclubesque harmonies begin to appear. I have to admit, I’ve always been a Norman kinda guy, but between Shadows and Electric Cables, I’m fast turning into Gerry’s number one fan. This album is already my Sound of the Summer and it’s not yet April.

Duh. When ordering the album I shoulda ordered the 7″ of Sweetness In Her Spark. It’s backed by a cover of Moondog‘s 1978 ‘Do Your Thing‘. Moondog’s original is half way down here.

Lightships’ version is here:

Good, eh? I’m now off here.

If you haven’t already done so, get yourself over here pronto and find out what Gerry’s favourite records are. S’a good read, even if The Man* deleted all the files that go with it.

*not yer man Gerry, but the actual Big, Bad internet Man.

Breaking News!        Breaking News!        Breaking News!

The words ‘remix‘ and ‘Teenage Fanclub’ aren’t something you usually read in the same line, but you can get yourself a free download of the Raf Daddy remix of album opener Two Lines over here at Soundcloud. Not a patch on the album version (it’s the aural equivalent of drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa) but, hey, if you’re a geeky completist you’ll need it.

 

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