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I’ll Take This Chance To Tell My Friends What Im Thinking Of

December 4, 2016

It’s Saturday night in the Barrowlands! Where else would you rather be!?!” asks Norman Blake to the partisan home crowd. He’s greeted with a huge cheer. Aye, this gig had all the makings of a classic; a much-loved band, a new album currently hovering around the higher echelons of many ‘Best Of The Year’ lists, a back catalogue of killer songs and social media ablaze in the days running up to the show with desperate pleas for any spare tickets for the home-town gig in The Best Venue In The World (us Barrowlands stalwarts are fiercly protective of our venue – on the right night, there’s nowhere else like it on the planet). With the exception of the Trashcan Sinatras, I’ve seen Teenage Fanclub more times than any other band. From King Tuts and the Grand Old Opry to the SECC and back again. In Motherwell. In Edinburgh (more than once, too). Supporting Neil Young and Pixies. I’ve been to numerous TFC shows in all manner of places. I think last night was my 43rd show, and as such, I’m fairly well qualified to judge a Teenage Fanclub show. So why did I leave the gig slightly (just slightly, mind) underwhelmed and a touch (just a touch, mind) disappointed?

It certainly wasn’t due to my brief conversation with minor pop celebrity Duglas T Stewart of the BMX Bandits. “Will you be doing a wee turn later, Duglas?” I ask, nodding in the direction of the stage. “I might be having a wee turn later, but I won’t be doing one, no…

img_8858Faceless Fanclub

Maybe it’s where we chose to stand. Years ago I’d have made my way to as close to the front as possible, fingers crossed that I would still have 2 shoes on by the end of the gig. More recently, at the back, on the wee lip that borders the sprung dancefloor has become a favourite spot for middle-aged short arses like myself, but when the only spot that remains happens to be slap bang in the middle of the main thoroughfare for the bar, by the 3rd song in I was wishing I was that gung-ho Barrowlander of old. I would’ve gone for it too, but I was wearing reasonably new desert boots and I didn’t want to risk it.

Nope, it wasn’t that. Despite the flow of people (who goes to a gig to spend their night walking parallel to the stage while staring at their phone for most of the night? A debate for another time…), I had a perfect view. Slightly stage right, facing Gerry and looking across the top of the audience’s heads.

Maybe it was the choice of songs. The setlist was strong – a decent mix of new material (5 songs from the new LP) and a choice selection from the Fanclub’s stellar back catalogue, including band perennials Star Sign, Ain’t That Enough, Sparky’s Dream, I Don’t Want Control Of You, and The Concept, songs that between them have a combined age of half that of the Rolling Stones, but still sound as fresh as they day they were first commited to vinyl.

img_8856‘Borrowed’ from the Teenage Fanclub Fanclub Facebook page. Credit where it’s due.

Nope. Nothing wrong with the songs they played and how they sounded. Is there any finer sight in music than when the three principal members of Teenage Fanclub step up to their mics and sing as one? No, there’s not. The vocals sounded really terrific. The Concept, with it’s big 70s soft rock outro sounded fantastic. Fanclub-tastic, even. And the opening one-two of Start Again followed by Sometimes I Don’t Need To Believe In Anything was perfect, the latter’s Harper’s Ba-ba-ba-ba-zarres and woah-wo-ohs and sudden stop particularly thrilling to these ears. Elsewhere, Raymond’s rediscovery in the joys of the whammy bar were put to good use, with liberal sprinklings of divebombing twang on the newer material. At one point, he and 5th Fanny Dave indulged in a spot of beautiful twin axe attack harmonising guitar, which had me shouting “Thin Lizzy!” to no-one in particular. The reserved crowd even risked a spot of dad dancing during Don’t Look Back, at that moment the Barrowlands momentarily transformed into The Best Venue In The World.

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My complaint is two-fold. Firstly, much of the set was badly structured. Norman changed his guitar after every song which meant that while long-term guitar tech Guitar George wandered on and off with the Gibson or the Casino or the Mustang, the others shuffled around with silent tuners and little in the way of audience interaction. The Ramones could’ve played a whole set in the gaps between the songs.

The order of the songs was wrong too. A Norman song followed by a Gerry song followed by a Raymond song, and so on. Nowt wrong with that of course. With 3 top-class songwriters in the band, this is probably the most democratic way to do things. But it’s the Raymond songs I have a problem with. For me, always the weak point on the albums, they fail to cut it live too. They spoil the flow. Upbeat. Upbeat. Downbeat. Upbeat. Upbeat. Downbeat. Just as you’re getting into it, here comes another introspective Raymond jangler. Or a guitar change. Not even the honey-coated harmonies from Norman and Gerry could rescue things. It was great to hear the long-lost Verisimilitude again, with Norman’s guitar elevating it to greatness. It was even fine to stick My Uptight Life in the middle of the set, sandwiched between the chugging rush of It’s All In My Mind and The First Sight, one of the new album’s highlights. But these songs were played instead of others, not as well as.

Given this was the 2nd-last night of the tour…in the Barrowlands…in front of family, friends and the long-time faithful, I expected a Did I Say, or a Broken, or a Radio, or a God Knows It’s True with Brendan back on drums, or….. y’get the idea. So many great songs at their fingertips and the band chose to sludge the set up with a wee handful of mid-paced clunkers. And ditto for the encore. Here was the band’s chance to turn the years back and remind us why on their night they’re untouchable. Instead, the 4 song finale was like the rest of the set; two classics bookending a couple of set fillers. As great as the wee Grant McLennan cover is (it’s a cracker) and as soaring as the magnificent Everything Flows undeniably is, that’s why I’m feeling slightly let down this morning. Just slightly, mind. Maybe you’ll get a different set at the ABC tonight. Unusually for me, it’s a Fanclub show I can’t make. I hope it’s a cracker.

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Crate Digging In The 21st Century

November 30, 2016

One of the benefits of being told to “take it easy, relax, do the things you like to do” is that I can find the time to plough through the plethora of music I’m sent on an almost daily basis. A lot of bloggers get real, actual things sent to them in the hope they’ll review them positively and give the company concerned a wee bit of cheap advertising. I wish! I never get anything physical sent my way, but I do get tons of links to Soundcloud, offers of free album downloads, Facebook friend requests and all manner of nice things written in the hope I’ll feature this band or that band on Plain Or Pan.

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Just so you know, I listen to all my music on a 20 year-old Denon CD player, a near 30 year-old Dual CS 503-1 turntable, an iPod classic through a Bose SoundDock Series II (that won’t charge anymore) and via iTunes on my old steam-powered PC that’s on its very last legs. If anyone out there would like to send me some updated audio equipment, I’d be more than happy to upgrade my listening experience and pass on my positive thoughts to the tens of thousands who drop by here every week. You don’t ask, you don’t get, ‘n all that…

There’s a clue in the strapline up there – Outdated Music For Outdated People – that suggests I may tend to favour old(ish) music on here, and for a particular demographic (marketeers note – I speaka de lingo). Also, as anyone who’s a regular reader here will tell you, not only is the music of the more vintage bent, it’s also fairly easy to pigeonhole; some soul stuff, a whole load of what you’d call ‘indie’, and the occasional post featuring a classic artist, posted with fingers crossed that the DMCA don’t take offence to the embedded (not shared, note!) music file and send me one of their wee ‘take down’ requests. The curse of the music blogger, I get sent lots of them as well.

Despite the strapline and regular subject matter, I get all manner of rubbish sent my way. I’d like to think the folk sending me the links have read the blog, but clearly, these links have been whizzed my way by some misguided robot, lost in space and looking for any port in a storm. Belgian industrial techno. Wimpy, bed-wetting acoustic troubadours. The most derivative, Oasis-inspired tuneless rubbish. They all end up in Plain Or Pan’s inbox, looking for some love and attention.

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Hello! I would love for you to listen to my clients latest album!

Client? Really?! And no apostrophe! Straight into the virtual bin.

Hey! I work with (band name held to protect the innocent) who I think would be perfect for your rad blog. They do old school glam rock and the lead singer is a daughter of GNR guitarist Gilby Clarke.

Eh. Bin.

Hi! Since I like what you do, I figured you might want to know what I do. I’m a DJ and I’m releasing a house EP…

Eh. Bin.

Hi Plain Or Pan! As a lover of classic rock, I thought you might enjoy the new single by (band name held to protect the innocent). With influences ranging from Whitesnake to Foreigner, they’d be a perfect feature on your cool blog.”

Eh. Bin.

Hey! I just put out my new song (title held to protect the innocent) yesterday and would luuuuuve to know what you think of it. This song is really important to me because of the message behind it…the best world is the one that you create for yourself.

Eh. Bin.

Hey Pain Or Pan! I can’t help but saying I’m a big fan of your blog….loving the features you’ve done. I’ve just put out my projects first single and waffle waffle waffle blah blah blah….”

Big fan. Pain Or Pan. Hee-hee. Projects? Really?! No apostrophe. Bin.

There’s millions more. Gazillions. It’s depressing. John Peel famously listened to everything sent his way, scared that he’d miss the next Velvet Underground or Bowie or Smiths or Half Man Half Biscuit if he ignored them. Not me. I’m happy still discovering the Velvet Underground and Bowie and Smiths and Half Man Half Biscuit. There’s no time for new stuff when there’s so much old stuff out there, waiting for reappraisal and higher status.

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That said….

…..the odd nugget does come my way.

Hi man – appreciate you usually work with tracks from ‘the golden age’ but came across your piece on TVAM. I saw him supporting Fews in London a little while back and was blown away, one of the most exciting live acts I’d seen in ages…

Anyway, as you were into him I thought you’d appreciate hearing W.H. Lung, a brand new band straight outta Manchester too with their debut single ‘Inspiration!‘, also taking influence from just the right side of East Germany.”

Great, innit? Takes all the right influences and makes it into a new thing. The singer reminds me of the guy from Flowered Up. They only have this one track online for now, but I’m keeping an eye out for anything else.

 

Keith Canisius lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. He blends shoegaze, dream pop, ambient and lo-fi using alternative production techniques. His new album is called ‘We Are The Dreamers‘. The first track is ‘Milky Way.”

Great, innit? Weird, wonky, other-worldly, it sounds exactly as you’d expect.

 

Max Norton is the drummer for Benjamin Booker. He is also a songwriter in his own right and observes stories through photographs and travelling the world. The sun, desert and 1960s inspire him. He is releasing his solo record, ‘Blood Moon‘ this year.”

Great, innit? Rootsy, tuneful, Fleet Foxes by way of Ryan Adams.

From the tons of emails, there’s three acts featured. I could probably feature another couple, but that’s for another time. There are plenty of great new bands out there. So, if you’re in one of them and you understand what Plain Or Pan is about, send some stuff to this here cool, rad blog. If it’s good it’ll feature here at some point. Until then, where did I put that Stax box set?

 

 

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I’m In Love With Her And I Feel Fine

November 30, 2016

*This is an official Plain Or Pan update post*

I’m fine.

Really. I’m fine.

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I’ve had the past week to recuperate, re-evaluate and reflect on life. Not in a morose way, but as us folk in the West of Scotland like to understate, “I had a wee fright there.” It does make you stop and think. The doctors have ruled out any heart problems, which I suppose is the main thing, but despite being wired-up, jagged, jabbed and juked about for the past 6 days, no-one’s any the wiser as to what actually happened to me. It might’ve been an underlying chest infection, long undetected and eager to show its horns. It might’ve been that most 21st century of ailments, stress. More tests were done yesterday and maybe the results will tell us something new, though I suspect they won’t. Either way, I’ve been told to rest, take it easy and do the things that make me happy. No work for another few days. I’d like to be there, all truth be told, but here I am. A headful of writing ideas and all the time in the world in which to execute them.

It was really touching to see all your wee messages pop up unannounced but very welcome on last week’s post. It’s great to have pals who are concerned enought to leave positive thoughts and comments, even the pals I’ve yet to meet in the actual non-virtual world. “Who ARE these people?” my wife asked, not unreasonably. “The best kind of people,” I told her.

Just to reiterate, I feel fine. And thanks. x

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Touch Me I’m Sick Boy

November 23, 2016

So, at half seven this morning I’m reaching for the Weetabix on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboard. Or maybe it was the cereal bowl in the cupboard next to that one. It might’ve been when I rattled through the drawer looking for my favourite spoon (I’m 47 and have a favourite spoon), but either way, as I was standing in the middle of the kitchen I was acutely aware of a sudden and deadening chest pain. Almost as quickly, it spread to my neck. From somewhere deep within, my buried knowledge of all I’d learned on first aid courses came magically, unexpectedly, flying back. 

I’m having some sort of heart attack,” I thought to myself. “But I’m not experiencing that feeling of impending doom that I remember being told about. Maybe it’s angina. I dunno.” 

So I sat down and ate my Weetabix and drank the coffee which I’d poured earlier and left to cool. 
Breakfast over, I went upstairs. I was in 2 minds whether or not to tell my wife. I felt kinda ok, but I knew something wasn’t right. I also knew how anxious and panicky my wife can get. And there was the not insignificant factor of my pal succumbing nearly two years ago to chest pains with tragic, devastating consequences. 

I’ve got a wee bit of a chest pain,” I volunteer. “And it’s in my neck as well. I think I pulled a muscle when I was reaching for the Weetabix. I’m gonnae stand under the shower and see if the heat will help it.

Before I knew what was happening, she was on the phone to NHS24, and straight back off again with a simple instruction. 

Get out that shower. Get dressed. The ambulance will be here in 5 minutes.”

But…. my work …. the school team…. they’re training tonight… big game tomorrow….

Dressed! Now!

Five minutes later and I’m in my living room, dressed, wired up to an ECG monitor being worked by a paramedic and breathing carelessly through a nebuliser, with every puffy breath transforming my living room into the Top of the Pops studio from 1983. 

Then I’m in the ambulance. As the patient. Wired up to more machines, watching as a ticker tape of spikey graphs spits from somewhere below where I lie. I’m trying to work out whereabouts I am. I know I’m going to Crosshouse Hospital but as we swerve round roundabouts I’m trying to picture my bearings and come to the conclusion that I have absolutely no idea where we are. I’d make a rubbish kidnap victim, I think to myself as the ambulance wheel clips the edge of a raised part of road. We must be near Springside, I reason. The next thing I know, I’m being wheeled out the ambulance, still on the bed and I’m crashing through the doors of A&E and along a corridor to a desk where one of the paramedics gives my details to someone while 25 or 30 medics stand around for their morning team briefing. Perfect timing.


I’m taken to a curtained area where I’m poked, prodded, jagged, wired-up and x-ray’d more times than I can count. 

We’ll need to keep you in just now,” says the doctor. “We’ll need to do further tests in 12 hours. We can’t rule out the possibility of a heart attack, or angina. Or even just shingles. You can get chest pains before the shingles rash appears, y’know.”

Twelve hours. 

Great. 

It’s been a long day – the longest day – and I’ve been further poked and prodded and jagged and wired up via those little electro patches that rrrrrrrrrip the hairs off whatever part of your body they happen to be stuck to. 

I’m fed up. Feeling ok but fed up. 

I’m still here. I just want to go home. 

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J-J-J-Jack (and Jill) Yr Body

November 22, 2016

Loose Booty is perhaps the standout track on America Eats Its Young, the 4th album by Funkadelic. A leftover from George Clinton’s Parliament days, it’s a one-chord groove, packed full of dental-bothering basslines and duh-duh-duh doowop counter vocals fighting for your attention with an out of control clavinet. Imagine a drunk 70s Stevie Wonder, or an excitable class of Primary 5s being let loose on the keys for a few minutes and you’re some way there. Despite the irritating keyboard line, fonky honkys might be inclined to call the track ‘phat’. Certainly, it grooves in all the right places.

FunkadelicLoose Booty

The lyrics, bizarre as they are, are meandering and drug-addled, mixing nursery rhymes with a self-aware social conscience. Imagine a Bummed-era Shaun Ryder (“Chicken Lickin’, Turkey Lurkey“) in one of his less lucid moments. Desperately trying to get out from between the grooves is an anti-drugs message – “Eeny Meeny Miney Mo, catch a junkie by the toe...”, which, given that half the band were on another planet altogether at the time is a bit rich.

You might think Funkadelic called the track Loose Booty on account of some hot woman or other, or because the funkiness of it all causes your own booty to shake uncontrollably, but in fact it’s so-called because of the effects of heroin withdrawal. Gads. Jack your body indeed.

My kids like it because they can sing half the words. I mean, how many times have you heard the Jack & Jil l Went Up The Hill nursery rhyme in a song?

Well….

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Funnily enough, those forward-thinking Germans Can utilised that self same rhyme in one of their groovier moments. I like Can. Not always an easy listen, but I’m ok with that. I prefer them at their wild and funkiest though, when they riff on a chord or a groove for 16 hours or whatever it may be.

Pauper‘s Daughter And I from 78’s ‘Out Of Reach‘ LP does just that.

CanPauper’s Daughter And I

Despite being the only Can album not to feature Holger Czukay (causing it to be subsequently disowned by the group), it’s still got the Can sound; a non-stop beat (in this case a four-to-the-floor ‘n hi-hat disco shuffle) expertly played instruments and a babble of pidgin English floating on top.

It might even pass for early Talking Heads if you didn’t know. The first Michael Karoli guitar riff that comes chiming in is all clean-picked, high up the frets riffing of the sort Johnny Marr might’ve made more of had he spent his formative years in Mozambique rather than Manchester.

It quickly seesaws from the sublime to the ridiculous though, so just as you’re getting into the swing of it, Karoli turns on the flash and an incessant, seemingly never-ending noodling guitar appears. It’s like Guitar Guitar on a Saturday afternoon, only worse. The temporary vocalist, feeling like he needs to do something, jumps in with a straight-faced run through of Jack & Jill Went Up The Hill while the rest play on regardless. It’s quite bonkers. Or shite (depends on what you’re smoking) and the whole thing continues until Michael Karoli has disappeared up his own jacksie and noodled on down to sell his soul at the prog crossroads.

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Hart To Heart

November 14, 2016

It must be a generational thing, but I was surprised and just a touch disappointed at the young folk at the BBC on Wednesday night who upped and left as soon as the last languid notes of Frightened Rabbit‘s world-weary bedroom anthems had faded from the Roddy Hart-fronted Quay Sessions. Two bands with a devoted following and an impressive back catalogue, bundled together on the one radio/TV show was always going to be a good thing, and the scramble for tickets was always going to out-strip demand. I applied (“I applied!“) through the correct channels with no success, but having the right kind of friends helped me gain access to the show. The slut that I am.

They’re a good band, Frightened Rabbit, and in stripped back form – two guitar-playing pianists (or is that two piano-playing guitarists?) backed by a string quartet – they sound very good, on this occassion arguably better than the Trashcan Sinatras, the evening’s other band. A big glass room doesn’t really react well to a full band sonic assault, so sound-wise the Frabbits probably shaded things. But song-wise, there’s just no contest. It’s a shame more of the young folk in their skinny jeans and pointy boots and fuzzy faces didn’t hang about to find out.

Just like the titular Mrs H, the Trashcans make goy-jus music. Witty, literate, chiming pockets of gold wrapped in melancholy, resigned to runner-up status, forever out of step with musical fads and fashions, but stubbornly ploughing a path worth travelling. How did bands like Elbow achieve arena-type success while the Trashcans flapped and floundered around the grimier venues of the world? It’s jist no’ fair, as they say. To quote the esteemed Pete Paphides on Twitter this week – “It continues to mystify me that a band that’s made such magnificent music for so long has eluded any sort of national treasure status.” Wow. The folk that know know. I just wish more folk knew.

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At the Quay Sessions, BBC Scotland’s bite-sized take on Later…with Jools Holland, the bands play in the foyer of BBC Scotland’s Glasgow studios. The window behind features the very best of Glasgow’s skyline; the stick-thin University steeple peeking out from behind the old Clydeside cranes, the Hydro, lit up tonight in greens and purples, the blue-tinted squinty bridge. It’s fantastic, and makes for an impressive backdrop.

By the time we (we being Mrs POP and myself) have negotiated the queue, we’re offered restricted viewing seats or standing. We wisely choose standing, although I get my knickers in a twist when I realise there are two stages and we’re clearly being sheperded into the right-hand side one, far away from the other side. “I bet this is the Frightened Rabbit stage,” I say, until I scan the stage like some sort of indie Columbo for any clues as to the band who’ll appear there. I spot Paul’s trusty old Tokai Strat and I can relax.

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The show is recorded ‘live’ for broadcast the next night, but it’s clear from the off that the slickest thing about it is Roddy Hart’s hair. He introduces and re-introduces both bands, we whoop, holler and cheer half a dozen times, he records then re-records the links to be filled between the bands, he stumbles and fluffs his own script….and it’s all done in front of an audience. He’s a good sport, is Roddy.

As for the Trashcans, they were terrific, of course. I had fully expected them to play 3 or 4 songs at most, and all from their latest Wild Pendulum LP, but no! We got a full 50 minute set made up of half a dozen new songs and a whole load of ‘greatest hits’. Beginning with a trio of crackers – Best Days On Earth, Ain’t That Something (lyrics smartly changed to ‘At the Ga-las-gow Theatre!‘) and All The Dark Horses, which as those who know know is just about the best song ever written, the band stopped for a wee chat with Roddy, filling us in on the benefits of crowd funding, writing and recording the new album and what they’ve been doing in the 7 years since they last graced these shores.

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Hayfever (watch it on the telly and you’ll see the missus and I gurning daftly at the camera after it clatters to a close) kicks off part 2 of the show in fine form. By now the band are in full flow and the hits and future hits keep a-comin’ – Got Carried Away, I’ve Seen Everything, All Night (with additional brass from the real frightened rabbits of the night – 2 self-consciously awkward trumpet players frozen at the sight of the TV cameras, poor lads) and a light and airy Weightlifting to finish.

Although we’re right at the front, we are often faced with the BBC camerman’s backside as he swoops up and down and zooms into the photogenic Franks (Reader and Keanu Reeves-lookalike bass player Divanna). We are encouraged by Roddy at the start to video, picture, Tweet and Facebook the show, so at times I find myself watching the gig not only through the screen on my phone but also through the screen on the camerman’s monitor. Watching a gig through a screen through a screen? How very post-modern!

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As is often the case when they’re in town, the Trashcans are joined by John’s wife, Frank’s sister Eddi. Usually they’d duet on the scrubbed acoustic fug of Send For Henny (from 1993’s I’ve Seen Everything album), but tonight she takes the female lead on What’s Inside The Box, one of Wild Pendulum’s stand-out tracks. It’s a taster for what’s to come at Oran Mor the next night, where they kick off their short 3 date tour.

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It was a privilege to be in the BBC audience. Despite the gaps in recording and touring, the Trashcans are by far the band I’ve seen more than any other and since the end of the 80s I’ve seen them in all manner of venues and situations but never in this kind of environment. The next night at Oran Mor was more straightforward, but no less thrilling.

A rammed venue and a crowd who knows every song and greets the oldies with Hampden-sized cheers makes for a good gig. The band didn’t disappoint, playing with a ferocity and passion not seen in years. Iffy sound problems marred the first couple of songs but once they sorted themselves out, the show really started to fly. Broadcaster and local Mr Music, Billy Sloan, a long-time champion of the band was ecstatic in his praise afterwards, saying it was the best he’d ever seen them, and while I suspect he probably says this after every time he’s seen them, he might’ve been right.

The setlist was perfect; the correct ratio of old:new and fast:slow. A quick chat with the band later on revealed the difficulties in producing such a setlist. I could write you a brilliant 20-song set lof material the Trashcans didn’t play, but there’s the rub. So many songs, so little time. If you’re off to Dublin today (12th) or London on Monday, you’re in for a great night out.

img_8726Big Iainy, TCS’ very own Kosmo Vinyl with Billy Sloan and some random photobomber

 

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Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

November 8, 2016

C’mon America!

Dump Trump.

Flush him down the toilet like the big wobbly blob of right wing crud that he is.

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Here’s Flip Your Wig by Husker Du. Cheap Trump gag, I know.

Husker DuFlip Your Wig

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And here’s Hilary (only one ‘L’ compared to Clinton’s double) from The Fall‘s excellent (last great?) LP, Extricate.

The FallHilary

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Busy week this week, with 2 midweek trips to Glasgow to see those hermits of melodic indie pop Trashcan Sinatras, tomorrow at the BBC Quay Sessions (it’s nice to have friends in high places, tickets being scarcer than a Trashcans’ hit single) and then Thursday night at Oran Mor, which will involve a mad sprint to the West End following parents’ night at work. It’ll be touch and go whether or not we make it on time, even though those self-same friends have promised me a chord won’t be struck until I’m in the building. With the added bonus of sudden and unexpected heavy snow tonight, this could make Oran Mor a far later night than many would like.

 

Until then, don’t let us down, American friends.

 

(Back to the normal, rambling, in-depth, musically-focused stuff next week.)

 

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