Archive for the ‘New! Now!’ Category

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THIS Is The One

June 10, 2016

Men of a certain age last night/this morning exhaled a collective breath as wide and expansive as a pair of vintage 27″ Joe Bloggs, as the second coming of the third coming of the Stone Roses proved to be ace.

stone roses beautiful

Following the sloppy, ill-advised ‘All For One‘ come-back single a few weeks ago, the new single ‘Beautiful Thing‘ has, mercifully, all the hallmarks of vintage Stone Roses. It grooves in on a Funky Drummer shuffle, a welcome old friend who’s been AWOL for the past two or so decades, coated in backwards vocals and trippy guitar. As the beat kicks in, we’re straight into the vocals; light and airy, Brown riffing about the crucifixion, so-so sooooky vampires and all manner of alliterative mumbo jumbo – “sister musta missed ya, method to my madness, reason to my rhyme…” As it plays, I can see him standing there in the classic apeman pose, shaking a pair of those stick tambourines he’s favoured since the comeback of a couple of years ago. I can also see Reni, head down and bobbing like a nodding dog in the back of a Ford Capri, eyes shut and lips pursed in the knowing pout of someone who knows they’re doing a fine, fine job.

Stone RosesBeautiful Thing

Squire’s guitar is excellent. The tone, the choice of effects, the sugar coating on top is perfect. A track like this requires dollops of full-fat funk and here he is, splashing shades of wah-wah across the top, breaking it down with wee backwards bits reminiscent of those old, classic b-sides and bringing it, kicking and screaming into the present day with a lightning flash guitar solo. At the breakdown there are even those wee reverby, echoey dang dang dangs that made Fools Gold the futurefunk record that it was.  Mani’s bass is still too low in the mix, if y’ask me, but we can’t have it all. Comparing this record to the last one is like comparing a paper aeroplane to a rocket. One flimsy and rubbish, the other up and out there, powerful and rumbly.

stone roses lemon

The whole thing lollops along for 7 sublime minutes. ‘It’s too orangey for crows‘, I’m thinking. ‘It’s just for me and ma dawg...’ (80s reference there, for those of you of that certain age). When you get to the end, you can’t help thinking “Fools Gold mark II, or at least Breaking Into Heaven without the generous dusting of cocaine,” but it’s ripe, absolutely ripe for segueing into yer actual Fools Gold. The wee drum break at the end is just itching to pick up the pace slightly and get into it. What’s the betting this is what they do at the summer gigs?

I like this current Stone Roses tactic of guerilla gigging and event releases and whatnot.  Imagine if they’d shoved Beautiful Thing out unannounced a couple of weeks ago instead of the one that sounds like Shed 7 in a rehearsal room? After its 3rd play at almost 1 o’clock this morning, I’d already played the new one twice as much as that particular clunker. Had I been a couple of shandies to the good, I might even have been tempted to sell my soul for a ticket for one of the enormo-dome shows they’re doing soon. Might have been. At least now I, and many others, have renewed faith that the album will be worth the wait.

 

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Is That It? Really?

May 12, 2016

2016 has been a shitty year for musical deaths, but it’s also a year that holds much in the way of stellar resurrection. No pun intended.

Trashcan Sinatras begin a US tour tomorrow with Pledgers keen and eager to hear live versions of the excellent, slight change of direction new album they’ve been living with for a couple of weeks. Non-Pledgers have a few more weeks to bide their time before they can hear what all the fuss is about, but believe me, it’s worth the wait.

The ever-reliable Teenage Fanclub have a new LP due for imminent release. With fingers and toes crossed, I expect no less than three-part harmonies and all manner of chiming, fuzzing, clean-clanging vintage guitars.

Radiohead had the Internet and its granny in a big frothy lather last Sunday with their guerilla tactics when their new LP arrived virtually, welcomed with many open arms and followed by much over the top gushing praise. It’s a cracker of an album, maybe even album of the year. Each listen brings new things to the fore; subtleties, soundscapes rather than songs, much of the background electronica reminiscent of Brian Eno’s ‘Bloom‘ app. Seriously. I could listen to it for the next 4 months and still change my mind over which track is my favourite. Today it’s ‘Ful Stop‘. Tomorrow it’ll probably be ‘The Numbers‘. Or ‘Glass Eyes’. Or….

stone roses 2016

But The Stone Roses. Dear oh dear. Hopes were high. Not sky high. They’re the masters of the big letdown after all. I remember, pre internet days, turning gangs of lads away from the Our Price counter on Feb 14th 1992, the intended release date for the big ‘Love Spreads‘ comeback. The single (a magical comeback single, it must be said) finally crept out in November 1994.

Stone RosesAll For One

Stone Roses have only just gone and spectacularly pissed all over their legacy, submerged it totally in golden yellow effluence in fact, with a limp-wristed clunky identikit indie single that in the mid 90s would’ve struggled to find its way onto third place on a Seahorses CD single.

It’s rubbish.

Interestingly, it was premiered on also rubbish Radio 1, last relevant when Brown and co were casually throwing out spacedust-sprinkled pop nuggets with giddy abandon. Squire’s guitars do the clunk click every trip pseudo psychedelic riff. Guitar shop heroics that he should be well away from by now. He’s in his 50s, for crying out loud.  Brown’s lyrics are laughable.  “All for one and one for all. If we all hold hands we’ll make a wall.” Sweet baby Jesus. And Mary, mother of God. This is not the resurrection.

For a band who once glided effortlessly above and beyond pop cool, this is a divebomber of quite catastrophic proportions. Even those folk who’ve been going nuts for it on social media – y’know, the folk who like all kinds of music, ‘Kasabian, Noel G, everything, really,” will surely be feeling a wee bit short changed by now.

Best thing about the comeback? That the band chose to pose for a photo with my car in the background. My old Astra is far more of a banger than the single. It, my friends, is a total car crash. Biggest musical death of 2016? Aye, Bowie and Prince were shockers. But The Stone Roses have just trumped ’em all.

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In The Can

November 9, 2015

I read something in particular last week that made me laugh. It was one of those internet memes that litter the floor of social media. This one poked fun at Liverpool FC. To paraphrase (as I can’t find it right now), since the last time Liverpool managed to win the league, Wayne Rooney has been born, grown up (that’s debatable, but still…) and won the league half a dozen times or whatever with Manchester United. It ended by declaring loudly that no Liverpool fan had ever Tweeted “We’ve won the league!” as Twitter hadn’t been invented the last time they’d done so. Clearly written by someone wearing Salford-tinted sunglasses, it grabbed my attention for a wee while at any rate.

Some things in life happen so infrequently, they’re considered extra special. A view of the Aurora Borealis from Irvine Beach (I can’t believe I bloody well missed it too!) The Persoid meteor shower (ditto – too cloudy above my house). That Liverpool league win (I was old enough. Even with Kenny Dalglish in the ranks, it meant nothing to me.) Or Scotland playing at the World Cup on a flat screen telly. No Scotland fan has ever hash-tagged a tweet with the sign-off #tartanarmyworldcupfinals, that’s for certain.

These events are so special, if you happen to be one of the lucky ones who experience the seismic moment, you’ll be asked to recount your version of events every week until the next time it happens. My pal is still talking about splashing about in some Parisienne fountain in 1998 wearing nothing but a Jimmy hat and a Gendarme-friendly smile.

 tcs pledge long

There are parallels with music, not least the welcome return of oor ain Trashcan Sinatras. Their last album ‘In The Music’ still regularly rotates on the more discerning stereos of the land as their owners pine for a new album, or a new EP, or a new song, or a new chord, or a new anything from the band. It’s tough being a Trashcans fan.

The Hardest Working Band In Slow Business have eeked out a career stretching a quarter of a century and more. In this time, more popular bands have come and gone. Yet, foregoing all fads ‘n fashions, the Trashcans have ploughed on, surviving bankruptcy, revolving bass players, trans-Atlantic recording sessions, rip-off managers and somehow, in 2015, they’re still around making beautiful records.

trashcan_sinatras_live

For the past few months they’ve been encouraging their steadfast fan-base to pay for the next LP in advance via Pledge Music. Unsurprisingly, the band met their pledge and have since comfortably exceeded it. Also unsurprisingly, an LP originally earmarked for a September release remains tantalisingly just out of reach, in the can but not out the bag. We TCS fans are used to delays. A few months delay might see the career of some fashionable bunch of pointy boots ‘n haircuts come and go in a blaze of mis-placed hysteria. Trashcans fans simply stick the kettle on, play any one of the band’s other 5 albums and wait. And wait. And wait. Until…

…an email lands informing you a new track ‘Best Days On Earth’ is available for download.

A Pledgers-only exclusive (so no free downloads here, I’m afraid), it’s greedily downloaded and before you know it, champions of the band including Billy Sloan at BBC Radio Scotland and Gideon Coe at 6 Music are releasing it across the airwaves and out into the ether. A new Trashcans track is born and born free. And wouldn’t you know it? It’s a cracker.

Trashcan Sinatras Best Days On Earth

It’s bearing all the hallmarks of a TCS classic – on first listen it’s the melody that gets you. Frank’s half crooned, half swooned vocal surfing atop a mid-paced grower. It’s possibly the most ‘pop’ thing they’ll release. By the second listen it’s all about the counter melodies, the wee ‘ooh-ee-ooh-ee-oohs‘ in the outro. Third listen in a row and the lyrics start worming their way into the brain – a roll call of loved ones and relatives no longer with us imploring us to make each day count –

The heart is designed to run out of time

There’s no pause and rewind

The transmission’s live…

Along with the rest of the LP (to be called Wild Pendulum) it’s put together with the help of Simon Dine, the mastermind behind the trilogy of “I’m Back!” Paul Weller albums, from the ‘return to form‘ of 22 Dreams, continuing with the full-on sonic assault of Wake Up The Nation and ending with the fall-out sputter of Sonik Kicks. He’s added his trademark 60s samples – John Barry jangling keys, Spectorish sleigh bells and wrapped it up in a warm and woozy production.

The best thing is, having been lucky enough to get a lid’s ajar, peak inside the box (Oh aye! When that email popped in my in box, that was one of my Best Days On Earth), I can confidently say that Best Days isn’t even the best track on the LP. There’s a track called What’s Inside The Box which may just make your heart melt; slide guitar easing out into orbit on a wave of wah-wah, breathy vocals, stoned parping Bacharach trumpets and Beach Boys harmonies sung quite possibly by Frank’s ‘other’ singing sister. Anyway, now I’m teasing. Bet you can’t wait.

That Pledge page is still taking orders by the way. Go here now. You won’t regret it, or I’ll give you your money back.

UPDATE FROM FRANK READER 10th November…..

It’s always nice to hear from yer actual Frank. After reading this piece tonight he sent me the following information;

Just read the ‘piece’ on us there – thanks, Craig!  I’m glad to hear you like WITB too – that’s a lassie called Susan Sanchez singing, not another Reader.  And FYI, Simon didn’t produce the album.  He co-wrote some songs with us and supplied some instrumental loveliness, but it was Mike Mogis who pulled it all together, and it was another of the Bright Eyes guys, Nate Walcott, who played all those crazy keys – couple of wunderkinds, those two. 

Oops! Lots of misinformation from these hands. Now you know.

tcs pledge square

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Made Of Orleans

May 12, 2015

Ela Orleans is a Glasgow-based composer of experimental electronica. She has been releasing music under various guises for ages. She’s recorded scores for theatre productions, written an opera and lived in New York where she recorded avant-garde soundscapes and was on first-name terms with Thurston Moore. She’s just about the coolest figure on the Glasgow music scene right now, with everyone and anyone from Stephen Pastel to Ian Rankin lining up to sing her praises. Her latest offering, Upper Hell, is her 6th LP. She describes her music as ‘movies for ears’, which is just about the perfect summation.

Ela Press Photo 4

Upper Hell was produced by Howie B, the mastermind behind some of the most popular leftfield albums of the past 20 or so years. Tricky’s Maxinquaye and Bjork’s Homogenic both benefited from his magic touch, wrapped in warm ‘n woozy ambient textures whilst at times still sounding darker than Black Sabbath Vol. 4. Howie is the go-to guy when mainstream acts look to reinvent themselves – U2, Annie Lennox and Everything But The Girl have all called upon his services when looking to take their music on an unexpected turn. Howie ended up working alongside Ela after his sister played him some of her stuff. Ela didn’t have to go to Howie and ask to be produced. He found her.

I need to declare some self-interest at this point. Many years ago, Ela and my sister were friends at Glasgow University, and I’ve kept a close ear to her music ever since. She was once round for Christmas dinner when returning to her native Poland wasn’t an option and we had great fun at her expense as she thought in Polish but swore in English while playing charades or some other daft game no-one plays any other time of the year. I couldn’t have forecast at the time that at some point in the future she’d be sound-tracking my commute to work and my wheezing bike runs around Ayrshire, but this week she’s all I’ve listened to.

Ela Press Photo1
Upper Hell is terrific. It’s full of glitchy, twitchy electronica, organic bass lines and cut ‘n paste beats. In fact, it’s exactly the sort of thing Radiohead have been praised and derided in equal measure for – there are no ‘tunes’ in the traditional sense, but you can easily lose yourself in its ebbing and flowing digital soundscapes. There’s even a spoken word track (2nd one in, River Acheron) that, just like OK Computer‘s Fitter, Happier… I kinda know I’m going to skip before too long. If Thom Yorke had been involved in Dark Floor, the opening track, the internet would’ve simultaneously wet itself and melted.

Ela OrleansDark Floor

I was playing this last night and Mrs Plain Or Pan popped her head round the door, with a screwed-up look on her face.
This is Ela!” I said.
Does it get any better?” asked the missus.
No, it doesn’t,” I replied, with no hint of irony. “No. It doesn’t.”

 

 

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Chain Reaction

November 25, 2014

At the end of my back garden there’s a fence. Down a steep slope behind the fence is the Ayr-Glasgow railway line. It’s a busy line, but you get used to the trains going past every 15 minutes. In  fact, you rarely hear a train. And when you do, you could set your watch by it. Scotrail. They’re getting there, or to Ayr and Glasgow at least, on time.

Now and again the silence is punctuated by the Hunterston coal train. The power station up the road needs regular feeding by coal and occasionally the train will be held up at the points while another commuter train snakes its way out of the suburbs and on into Glasgow. The Hunterston train doesn’t stop very easily. Weighed down by 35 coal-carrying containers, it starts braking 4 miles up the line in Dalry. By the time it reaches Kilwinning, and my back door, it’s making a cacophony of noise; grinding steel on steel punctuated by the odd hellish rumble, but mainly a horrible metallic screech that jars the nerve endings and sends cats and dogs running for cover. Around 9.30pm last night, it struck me that this is the wonderful sound of The Jesus And Mary Chain.

They were back on (almost) home turf over the weekend, pitched up at the Barrowlands to play the Psychocandy LP, track-by-track. It’s an album that rarely left my turntable when I was in my late teens, but not, I must admit, an album that has stayed with me in the way that other ‘Classic’ albums (insert your own here____________) have. Nonetheless, to hear it in its entirety was too good an opportunity to miss for myself and a couple of thousand other folk of a certain age.

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The band began the show not with Just Like Honey and the rest of the album falling after, but with the encore. “We’re contrary fuckers,” explained Jim Reid. So as an aperitif we got April Skies, Head On, a twangin’ prime Velvets take on Some Candy Talking and a couple of tracks that I struggled to recognise on account of the vocals being buried so deep in the mix they were practically being sung from Australia.

At times William’s guitar was so out of tune he was practically playing jazz. Free, experimental jazz, and he knew it. I lost count of the number of times he attempted to tune up between songs. “Stop!” shouted his brother at one point, sounding uncannily like one of those early JAMC bootlegs I had from the days before they knew how to end songs, and the band came to a juddering halt, just like that train at the bottom of my garden. Recovering in time though, best of all was a head-splitting version of Reverence, replete with descending, fuzzed-up I Wanna Be Your Dog guitar riffs that went straight into a white-hot version of Upside Down. Top that, you’re thinking. And they did.

Taking no prisoners, they rattled through Psychocandy. Guitars sounded like sirens of war, or like a hundred bottles being smashed against a greenhouse wall in the middle of a violent storm. They felt like tiny hand grenades of pain on the ears. This was a full-on sonic assault and battery on the senses. Backlit by white light and strobes, at times I almost zoned out as the band, stock still in silhouette, never let up. Fast-cut film of motorbikes and 60s girls and staring eyes and melting things and swirling patterns and kaleidoscopic psychedelia played relentlessly. It was the Exploding Plastic Inevitable turned up to 11. Scratch that, it was turned up to 14 or 15. It was uncomfortably loud, perhaps just as the band intended it to be, but as I type there’s still a background screeeee to everything I hear.

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It goes without saying of course that if you get the chance of a ticket when it comes to your town, make sure you grab it.

A coupla tunes from the Psychocandy LP:

Taste The Floor

The Hardest Walk

Just Like Honey demo

Darklands-era b-side Everything’s Alright When You’re Down

Pop music, pure and simple.

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Medals

April 29, 2014

In his unwavering pursuit of great music John Peel famously listened to every demo tape/self-financed flexi-disc/debut single/8 track cartridge and Wham recording that ever came his way. Peel was terrified he’d be letting down the artist who’d spent time and money ensuring a copy of their music found its way to his ears and that by not playing it he’d miss something of huge cultural importance, and so what began as a simple mission quietly and not-so-quietly (did you listen to Peel?) took over his whole existence.

I get sent lots of music. Tons of the stuff. I could easily fill the pages of Plain Or Pan with Scandinavian death/grime/sludge/hardcore, rootsy Irish Coldplay soundalikes, a gazillion quirky identikit indie bands based anywhere between Inverness and Idaho and enough wishy washy ‘soulful’ singer/songwriters to break you out in an irritating rash of Adele proportions. Amongst the stuff that finds its way here there is no doubt the odd gem, but I am not John Peel and nor do I have his patience, listening dexterity or desire to unearth the next Velvet Underground. Have you read this blog? I’m still trying to unearth the first Velvet Underground. Plain Or Pan is first and foremost a retro-looking music blog, celebrating the records of the past for anyone who still cares enough about them. ‘Outdated Music for Outdated People‘ as the tagline says.

Today Plain Or Pan makes an exception.

medals practiceNever judge a book by its cover…

Medals are a thrilling new act. Initially a studio-based project from Ayrshire’s JP Reid, they come with terrific pedigree. JP’s first band Sucioperro (Spanish for ‘dirty dog‘, if my pidgin Spanish hasn’t deserted me) are 4 albums and several T in the Park appearances to the good. Not content with that, along with Biffy Clyro‘s Simon Neil, JP is half of Marmaduke Duke, 6 Music favourites and purveyors of wonky, skewed alt-rock. To say he’s been on the fringes would be something of an understatement. To say ‘Next Big Thing‘ might sound arsey if it wasn’t likely true.

Medals emerged towards the end of last year with a 6 month studio tan and an album (‘Disguises‘) that veers between Biffy-inspired riffage, weirdy/beardy bits and JP’s love of hip-hop and modern shiny pop. The whole thing has been put together solely by JP, who brought in other players and producers as and when he needed them. Think Prince, Beck, Peter Gabriel or David Byrne. Auteurs who have a vision, know what they want and how to get it. It sounds faintly ridiculous talking about a wild ‘n wooly Ayrshireman in the same terms, but that’s essentially what we have here.

That rinky dink white man-plays-Nile Rogers guitar coupled with the full-on phat fuzz bass and pitter-pattering percussion is total Prince. Not in sound, y’understand, but in vision, aye? There’s a lot going on in this record. Played once, it sounds very now. A shiny production that could quite happily find itself on the playlists of Radios 1 and 6, all synthesised beats and a rhythm track that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Foals or Vampire Weekend record. Play it a few dozen times and you’ll start noticing the subtle little things that colour the whole thing in, which all helps make Used To Be A Dancer one of the tracks of the year so far.

Down In The Well is one of a handful of big, anthemic Medals rockers, all punchy beats and razor-sharp riffs. The album might be full of little weird bits, multi-tracked vocals, unusual parts and clever use of percussion, but opening track Down In The Well leaves all that aside, kicks the front door in and goes for the jugular before leaving as quickly and unannounced as it had arrived, with dirty great footprints left behind in your cream carpet.

Hey! Is that a Trashcan Sinatras’ vocal sample in there? The girly backing vocals in The Therapist? It sounds awfy like it! Maybe not. Either way, Sit Back Down, Judas is perfect for radio, the ‘joyous pop rock‘ that JP was aiming at in the studio. Catchier than the cold in a classroom full of coughing kids, I’d love to hear it live while watching the lighting guy make the big white spots sweep up and over the audience as the chorus kicks in. Plinky-plonk glockenspiels vye for space with perfectly produced guitars and a boy/girl vocal. This is the track that all the girls’ll love as the sun sets on Glastonbury next year, I tell you.

As I type this, ears will be ringing in King Tuts as Medals make their live debut supporting Biffy Clyro. Next Friday (9th May) Medals play their first headline gig at Irvine’s Harbour Arts Centre. The wheels are turning on the Medals machine. Studio tans have faded and the band has been drilled and rehearsed as thoroughly as James Brown’s Famous Flames. Look out for them. JP has put together a proper band (not studio musos), but a band of friends who play together for the joy of it all. “Getting lost in music,” as JP says. “There are far too many ‘careerist’ bands. We’re playing for art’s sake first and not necessarily commercial success.”

There’s a real buzz about Medals. I don’t normally fall for this ‘next big thing’ nonsense, but in this case I think it’s a distinct possibility. They might be playing for art’s sake, but I don’t think it’s long until the commercial success comes their way. Medals, boys and girls. You heard about them here first.

You can find out more about Medals in all the usual places, including;

Bandcamp, where you can listen to and buy the album.

Soundcloud where cheapskates can listen to the album.

Facebook, where their upcoming set of gigs will be announced.

Twitter where the band are particularly active.

 

medals

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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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