Archive for the ‘music’ Category

features, music

Early demos from The Smiths show up on YouTube

By Stefano on March 20th, 2013

smiths

Now this is amazing. Some early demo tapes of The Smiths, noted by Slicing Up Eyeballs, have just popped up on YouTube. They are called “The Pablo Cuckoo Tape” run for forty minutes and feature work in progress versions of songs that would eventually grace the band’s first album and early singles.

The track to listen to first is Reel Around The Fountain which has a fuzz guitar sound in places that didn’t make the cut for the version that appeared on Hatful of Hollow (and The Smiths). Accept Yourself sounds great, while These Things Take Time is a bit of pain in the ear with Morrissey struggling to hit the high notes.

The quality of the cassette is rough bit it is fascinating nevertheless.

It has caught the attention of Smiths’ drummer Mike Joyce who tweeted today, “A fan of The Smiths? An early recording you’ve probably never heard before. An early recording you’ve probably never heard before.”

The uploader’s explanation of the tape’s origins:

In May 1983 (exact date unknown), while preparing to record their debut album, The band ran through & recorded a selection of songs at a rehearsal in band manager Joe Moss’ jeans warehouse (Crazy Face). The cassette tape was recorded for Troy Tate in order to give him something to work with before going into the studio. It’s pretty rough, but considering it was recorded on cassette with a stereo Mic pointing into the room, the quality isn’t too bad. Morrissey’s vocals are a bit distorted – maybe singing too close to the mic or maybe the cassette Mic was too close to the PA but everything else is surprisingly clear. There is some tape flutter at various points. I was lent the master cassette by a source close to the band who made the recording, let’s call him Pablo Cuckoo, in 1997 with a view of trying to put it out as a semi-official release. As it was recorded before the band had signed to Rough Trade, technically he had the rights to the recording. But a combination of poor sound quality & threats from Warner Bros. meant that the idea was shelved.



Gadgets, music

Sennheiser launches Momentum limited edition headphones inspired by David Bowie

By Stefano on March 18th, 2013

bowie-sennheriser

Rock star endorsed hardware has been a huge trend over the late few years, from Dr Dre’s Beats through to Motorhead’s goes louder than eleven audio range, every influential musician seems to be getting in on the act.

Now Sennheiser has landed one of the coolest collaborations of all. It is offering a limited edition (500 copies only) pair of Momentum headphones that commemorate its recent venture with David Bowie.

Sennheiser are one of the sponsors of the ‘David Bowie is’ exhibition which opens on 23rd March at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. To commemorate this it is launching £329.99 Momentum headphones  inspired by the Dame, which it claims are a real ‘collectible for all Bowie and music fans.’

They don’t say a great deal about the Bowie branding. So let’s concentrate on the cans which come with a 3.5 mm stereo jack and an additional cable that has a smart remote and microphone so users can make and receive calls while the phones are connected to their phone.

They are a closed design and come with a luxurious and tough breathable leather headband for optimum sweat and water resistance

If you fancy a pair you need to go here to register your interest.



music

Tame Impala re-issue debut EP on lovely red vinyl

By Stefano on March 13th, 2013

tame-impalaGood news for Tame Impala fans, the band are reissuing their hard to find debut EP on vinyl for this year’s Record Store Day.

It will come in red vinyl and features the six songs on the digital version – two of which were’t available on the digital EP.

The band have come a long way since their debut, but it does include in Forty One Mosquitoes Flying In Formation and Skeleton Tiger, two fine examples of the way the band’s sound would progress in a more trippy psych vein.

Best of all is the classic Half Full Glass Of Wine, an extended version of which was the killer encore at the band’s 2012 shows.



music

New Suede album Bloodsports: suprisingly good shocker – listen to it here

By Stefano on March 12th, 2013

SuedeBand reunions don’t tend to end too well now do they? Sure that mammoth one off gig in front of adoring fans is a win for both band and its devotees. It is when the band decides to regroup in the studio that the fun seems to end as invariably the band create music that adds very little to their legend.

There was however one key band reunion in the mid noughties that not only generated some amazing gigs, but yielded one of the best albums of that decade.

Here Come The Tears, the reunion album that teamed up Brett Anderson and Bernard Bulter for the first time since Dog Man Star was an absolute triumph. Joyful uplifting songs, sensitive thoughtful lyrics and that incendiary wall of sound guitar effect that was pure Butler. It was a work of genius and had they recorded it in the mid nineties it would be seen as the jewel of the Suede canon – along with Dog Man Star. But because they were older and wiser and apparently still at each other’s throats, it bombed.

Which brings me neatly onto yet another reunion album – Suede’s Bloodsports. Due in the store next week it is the band’s first since their ‘not as terrible as everyone makes out’ 2002 swansong A New Morning and while it is no Here Come The Tears it is a very strong record.

It seems like Brett has once again got ants in his pants. New Morning and its predecessor Head Music was low on the classic shoot for the skies anthemic pop songs that made the band special in the first place. By the time you get to the single Its Starts And Ends With You on Bloodsports you will have already heard three stratospheric pop songs. This is the sound of a band with its Mojo in tact. Bloodsports may even be the long lost follow up to Coming Up.

Barriers, you probably know. It might owe a little to mid period U2 with all that yelping, but the way the tune twists and turns is inspired. It Starts And Ends With You is classic Suede and possibly the best single since Beautiful Ones. This song is just wonderfully crafted. It all fits together so perfectly from its angsty guitar riffs through to Brett’s high notes at the end of the chorus.

Then there’s Sabotage which starts modestly enough but blossoms into a wonderfully anthemic tune (U2 again folks) with another glorious Oakes guitar coda. Its finale is magnificent.

For the Strangers is yet another gem, if anything it is the track that sounds most like The Tears, while Hit Me in the old days would probably have been their first single from the album – immediate, anthemic (that word again) and with plenty of Brett’s trademark la, la, la’s.

Then we get on to the ballads. Here Come The tears has a quartet of classic slowies, and on Bloodsports Brett shows us that he still has the knack of creating delicate melodies that tug on the heart strings. What Are You Not Telling Me nails that self-pitying whimper that Anderson has perfected over the years. But even that dramatic tune is put in the shade by the double killer punch of Always and Faultines. Think Asphalt World and Still Life as the template and you won’t be too far off. They might not be as epic as those two songs, but the distance isn’t as great as you might think.

So Bloodsports is great. A wonderful statement of all that was great about Suede first time round before the drugs and egos kicked in.

It isn’t Dog Man Star, it isn’t Here Come The Tears – but then again not much is. For now though this will do brilliantly.

Listen to it here.



features, music

The 10 best psych pop albums of 2013 (and a couple from last year)

By Stefano on March 7th, 2013

It might only be March, but already it has been a vintage year for lovers of wonky sixties influenced pop aka psych.

Last year’s great hope, Jacco Gardner, has already treated us to a very fine album that delivers on the promise of his exceptional early singles. While Robyn Hitchcock, the spiritual godfather of British psych has turned out an album that rivals the best music he has ever made.

And then there’s an American band Foxygen, who might just be the best 60s influenced band that country has produced since The Strokes and The White Stripes.

Here then are 10, ok 8, great albums from this year plus a couple from the tail end of last year. Spotify new Psych playlist – which features many of the bands – below the pics.

If you want more then here are the top 15 Psych albums from last year

Foxygen - We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic.

Picture 10 of 10
Picture 10 of 10

And so to the album that already is a shoe in for album of the year - and it only March remember. Put simply Foxygen are, IMO, the best American band, since oooh The Strokes. Their debut EP, Take the Kids Off Broadway, was fun but their new album which came out a few weeks ago, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, I do not think will be bettered this year. It really is that exceptional. Admittedly ace producer Richard Swift has shorn the band of some of their quirkiness, but by making them focus on the songs themselves, and the superbly clever arrangements, he has done them a huge favour. That isn’t to say you haven’t heard some of the music before. But this is no Oasis style slavish homage to long gone musical era. For me the band’s spiritual forbears are the incredible US psych band The United States of America, a band whose only album drew heavily on all manner of American music – from classical through to gospel and folk – to create what was for the time an astonishingly ambitious record. And so it is with Foxygen. There’s a whiff of Elvis here, a Dylan touch there. I can also make out snatches of cult acts like The Music Machine (in On Blue Mountain) and The Zombies too. But even if moments of the songs sound familiar the tracks themselves are utterly unique and never ever short of incendiary. Best tracks? Well all of them. But you have to love the opener In The Darkness for its Magical Mystery Tour era Beatles sunny optimism and Shuggie for its really clever structure and killer chorus. And then there’s No Destruction already infamous for its line – ‘You don’t have be an asshole you are not in Brooklyn any more,’ pay off line. In San Francisco (see above) they have a gorgeous tune that sounds like Syd Barrett fronting Belle & Sebastian. Also in an era of faceless musicians, frontman Sam France has the swagger, the self-belief and the hair to rival Jacco Gardner as the poster boy for a new generation of psych acts Just pray that the don’t do a Strokes and piss any momentum they had away by hanging out with models and starring in lame fashion shoots.



music

David Bowie’s The Next Day – the best comeback album ever?

By Stefano on March 4th, 2013

bowie-nmeSimon Poulter of the excellent What Would David Bowie Do? blog salutes the magnificent return of his hero.

When What Would David Bowie Do? was conceived in a fit of pique one June morning in 2010, it was generally assumed that the object of its title was quietly enjoying retirement in New York, walking daughter Lexi to school and basking in the warm glow of marriage to the former supermodel Iman.

Sightings had been rare since 2004 when, towards the end of his Reality Tour, David Bowie underwent heart surgery. A guest spot with Ricky Gervais in Extras, a one-off show with David Gilmour, and a supporting appearance at the premiere of his director son Duncan Jones’ film Moon seemed to be about it. Even a photograph, last October, of Bowie near his Lafayette Street condominium, apparently out buying the papers, seemed nothing more than a rare sighting of a reclusive retiree.

On January 7 this year, the day before The Dame’s 66th birthday, nothing seemed stirring in Bowieland. The next day changed all that.

The Dame returns

Ever since the Brixton-born David Robert Jones released Space Oddity in the summer of 1969, cashing in on Neil Armstrong’s giant leap for mankind, the renamed David Bowie has, arguably, been the most talked about rock star of his generation. And I mean, talked about. I can’t think of another music icon – even Elvis – to have been so forensically debated. Madonna may have absorbed Bowie’s ability to evolve visually, but she is nevertheless dilettante in comparison.

Because, whichever version or angle of Bowie you choose to examine – folk-rocker, glam-rocker, funk-rocker, arguable godfather of punk, actor, drug-addled superstar, diva…the list is, actually, endless – no-one has commanded as much re-examination. Even with moments of misadventure – quasi-fascist salutes at Victoria Station, the disappearing-up-own-arse Glass Spider Tour, Tin Machine, flirtations with club culture, discussions with the Labrynth costume designer – Bowie has always been able to command maximum media interest.

So, when early on January 8, word starting spreading that Bowie had released a new single, gobs were universally smacked. When it emerged that he’d actually been working in complete secret for two years on an album or more’s worth of new material (the October photograph was actually taken outside the recording studio…), journalists and long-time fans alike started experiencing tremors of excitement…and fear.

Comebacks are rarely that good. The chasm between expectation and reality is usually perilously deep. It’s even worse when you have more than 40 years of work to be compared with. Thus, the conventional wisdom is that the Stones haven’t made a decent record since Exile On Main Street, and McCartney since Let It Be, which is like saying a stick man cartoon by Picasso on the back of a beer mat is “a bit crap” by comparison with his Guernica.

As for Bowie, his golden years, ho-ho, were behind him in the era of Ziggy, Young Americans and the Berlin trilogy, Low, Heroes and Lodger. The arrival, then, next week of Bowie’s first new album in a decade, The Next Day, should be met with trepidation. Much like the adage “never meet your heroes”, the grave concern is that it won’t be any good, that it will be some latter day Bowie knock-off, like more recent efforts by Bob Dylan, closer to self-parody.

bowie-next day

That gorgeous single

When Where Are We Now? was released on January 8, the majority of journalists went into paroxysms of ecstasy that not only was The Dame back, back, back, but back with a song of melancholy beauty, or beautiful melancholy, and that if the subsequent album was anywhere as good, life as we know it will change for the better.

Other journalists were simply left gasping for air that Bowie should have been able to work in absolute secret for two years with producer Tony Visconti and a small group of musicians like bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, drummer Zachary Alford and guitarist Gerry Leonard, who formed the nucleus of Bowie’s group on The Reality Tour, without something leaking. After all, in this era of Twitter and celebrities posting photographs of themselves in all manner of private moments, it is virtually impossible not to know every last detail about, well, everyone.

There were, however, a few lone dissenters, professional curmudgeons who declared “meh…”, largely for contrarian effect, methinks. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course, and if that was genuinely their feeling, then they have a perfect right to accuse everyone else of praising the emperor’s new clothes.

The reality, however, of The Next Day, is that it is without doubt one of Bowie’s best albums. Ever.

“But he would say that, wouldn’t he” is, I know, your immediate reaction to that statement. But the truth is, it really is that good.

True, rationality is a scarce commodity when an icon like Bowie produces something new, lest he should produce something after such silence.

The best moments

The title track which opens the album is vintage Bowie. Grating guitars and boinking bass notes à-la Fashion introduce a song that sets the lyrical tone of the entire album, as Bowie – rather than looking back in wistful dotage, as some predicted it would be – looks towards a future dystopia. Bleak, that premise may be, but it’s also a damn good pop song, with the chorus “Here I am, not quite dying” providing as much a demonstration of Bowie’s sense of humour as a statement of his vitality. Take note, vendors of effluence pervading our TV screens on a Saturday night.

The job of rock star is largely about swagger. That, to be honest, is mainly what makes them a rock star to begin with. Bowie, one suspects, has always been an actor playing a rock star, applying a form of total theatre throughout his career. Dirty Boys starts with a jumpy, nervous sax-driven rhythm and a telephone-filtered vocal treatment before opening up into an Anthony Burgess-esque story of thuggery and feather-hatted yobs smashing up Finchley Fair with cricket bats. It’s hard to imagine One Direction doing anything similar anytime soon.

While Bowie has been away the cult of celebrity has shifted on its axis, as reality TV shows have turned non-descript fools into household names selling self-branded perfume. The Stars (Are Out Tonight) wryly addresses this with an imagined world that celebrities have actually taken over (“They burn you with their radium smiles and trap you with their beautiful eyes”). Given the amount of media attention the Kardashian family generate, it’s possible this may have already taken place, but on this sweeping song – released as the second single from the album – Bowie takes the notion of The Man Who Fell To Earth and applies it to celebrities – “dead ones and the living” suggesting that “Brad” (Pitt we assume) and “Kate” (Winslet?) are amongst us as aliens. And he does it with the sort of stonking mock braggadocio that made China Girl such a blast.

Within Bowie’s catalogue there are songs that make great stadium anthems, songs you can swing your pants to, songs you can rock out to and songs you can, you know, do the thing to. Love Is Lost is neither of these things. Instead, with its crisp, treated snare drum and bleed-in of heavy church organ chords, it is one of those Bowie songs that creeps up on you before attacking with a sharp lyric, this one about an arriviste individual whose “possessions are new” but whose “fear is as old as the world”.

When Where Are We Now? slipped in under the cover of radar in January, the incredulity of its unexpected appearance soon gave way to an excess examination. Like scientists scrutinising bacteria found in a small lump of space rock, marvelling at the possibility that this may be microscopic evidence of life elsewhere, Where Are We Now? was placed immediately in the petri dish.

Was Bowie dying? Was this really just a melancholy one-off to say farewell? Was it a mournful recollection of his days in Berlin with Iggy and Eno, recording the albums that would critically resurrect his career? As producer Tony Visconti explained in interviews, it turns out that this is the most downbeat of an otherwise upbeat collection of 14 tracks (17 if you buy the ‘deluxe’ version). It is, after repeated listens over the last six weeks (and I mean, repeated – on January 8 it was the only thing I listened to all day), one of the most beautiful songs The Dame has ever produced. One that ultimately uplifts, despite its gloomy premise. And, yes, it will be amazing to hear live. DB, please note.

Out Suedeing Suede

The clock is turned back almost to the beginning with the Hunky Dory-era feel of Valentine’s Day, one of those terrific vignettes Bowie is so adept at, the story of a quirky little sociopath with a “tiny face” and a “tiny heart” who spends his time being a bit of arse.

Bowie dives into his broad vocal spectrum for If You Can’t See Me, sounding like a Dalek in another song about a despotic nutjob and, possibly, a cross-dressing nutjob (“I could wear your new blue shoes, I should wear your old red dress”). It’s a frenetic, short song which threatens to drag Bowie back to his ill-advised late-’90s encounter with drum’n'bass, but mercifully stops short.

I’d Rather Be High is the most lary track on the album, and one that the Gallaghers will kick themselves over, with it’s Tomorrow Never Knows vibe and Champagne Supernova guitar. It’s an open, expansive song, the story of a soldier wishing he was anywhere but the desert battlefield he finds himself, “training these guns on those men in the sand”. Much of this album concerns itself with an imagined future of dictatorial chaos, but this track – of all – is the closest Bowie appears to get to commenting on the present, having last written anything only two years after his adopted hometown was shattered by airliners hitting the World Trade Center, and the Middle East being opened up for revenge in the aftermath.

Just because Bowie has spent the last few years out of the limelight doesn’t mean that he’s been living Miss Havisham-like in his New York apartment brooding. It’s quite possible that, when not doing schoolruns and picking up groceries, he’s been quite happily enjoying life. Being married to Iman helps, which might explain the loose enjoyment of Boss Of Me, another great pop song with the pure romantic hook of “Who’d have ever thought of it, who’d have ever dreamed, that a small-town girl like you could be the boss of me?”. Either that, or a very odd Bruce Springsteen reference.

Opening with the longest saxophone note since Lee Thompson’s on Night Boat To Cairo, Dancing Out In Space draws together two of Bowie’s longest thematic interests – space and alienation – in a boppy, finger-popping, early-’80s jig of a song that could easily have found its way onto Let’s Dance.

Making a reference, like that, to an earlier excerpt from the back catalogue is an ever-present danger in listening to The Next Day. Such is our affinity with Bowie’s style, Bowie’s sound and Bowie’s storytelling that there are throwbacks and references to so much of his 44-year career. None are necessarily intentional, or attempts at self-regarding pastiche.

With every new song on the album there is both familiarity and unfamiliarity: How Does The Grass Grow? is, lyrically, another vision of hell, but with a Broadway-camp “na-na-na-nah” chorus and the sort of tight, solid bass, guitar and drum performance that underpinned the Berlin trilogy.

Underpinned by the sort of power-chorded, riff-heavy guitar work that powered 1980s poodle rock, (You Will) Set The World On Fire harks back to New York in the 1960s and the hippy-dippy aspirations of the Greenwich Village folk set. While the likes of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan may have been singing about peaceful revolution with acoustic guitars and harmonicas, Bowie hits out at the ill-faited idealism of the peace movement, presenting another view of modern hell, but from the perspective of a certain cynicism “I can hear the nation cry”.

The influence of Scott Walker

Taking it’s title from Heartbreak Hotel, Bowie takes a melodramatic tour through Scott Walker territory with the old-school ballad You Feel So Lonely You Could Die. It isn’t a happy song, calling up more imagery of a world-gone-wrong as the backdrop of story about a relationship-gone-wrong.

Walker’s influence makes another appearance with Heat, a short, almost coda of a final track of the ‘standard’ version of The Next Day, in which Bowie croons his way through a song about self-questioning, replete with Starman ch-ch-chang guitars, and a string arrangement so wigged out you half expect William Shatner to pop up, overacting his way through the spoken lyrics of Space Oddity. It is, it must be said, a very odd end to the album. But at 52 minutes in total length, The Next Day is a full and as nourishing a Bowie record as anyone could have hoped for.

It is a proper album. This is no collection of scraps that have been hanging around, but an album that, from start to finish, has purpose and meaning. There was so much to be fearful of. Mercifully, those fears were completely unfounded. Welcome back David. And thanks.



music

Happy St David’s Day – ten absolutely stunning Welsh psych pop tunes

By Stefano on March 1st, 2013

colorama

Aaah Wales – land of Portmeirion, some of the World’s best castles, and that amazing street in Cardiff that is all chip shops.

Even as a die-hard Englishman with hardly any Celtic blood in my veins I can say for now I love the Wales and the Welsh – though I must admit I am still traumatised by the sight of this Welsh man’s bare chest.

And if there’s a national music of Wales, beyond those stirring choral hymns, I would suggest it is probably wonky pop music. For oddly enough over the years the Welsh have been responsible for some of the best psychedelic pop music that these islands have ever produced. I won’t venture an opinion as to why, but there’s more here.

So to celebrate St David’s Day here are ten killer Welsh psych pop songs (and The Manic Street Preachers because it is impossible to produce a list of Welsh music without them).

Badfinger – Come And Get It

Although it wasn’t written by a Welshman (Beatle Paul actually) but the late 60s early 70s power poppers made many great records.

John Cale – Gideon’s Bible

The Greatest Living Welshman – probably. This is from his first solo album Vintage Violence, but Paris 1919 is his masterpiece.

The Apple – Buffalo Billycan

Genius psych pop from a largely unknown Cardiff band.

The Super Furry Animals – It’s Not The End Of The World

Still the best antidote to a bad day ever.

Shirley Bassey – The Spinning Wheel

Shirley’s finest moment – easy listening funk with a psych twist

Colorama – Candy Street

The best of the new breed of Welsh psych bands. All of their albums are worth listening to especially the new one Good Music.

Melys – Chinese Whispers

Little known, but genius North Wales band.

The Keys – Fire Inside

Brilliant bit of psych from the very good See Monkey Records band.

The Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness

They never got any better than this

The School – I Don’t Believe in Love

Like Nancy and Lee soundtracked by the Wilson Brothers, a perfect pop song from the great Elefant Records band



Gallery, music

Robyn Hitchcock’s 60th Birthday Bash at London’s Village Underground

By Stefano on March 1st, 2013

robyn-village1

I do find it astonishing that Robyn Hitchcock isn’t celebrating his 60th birthday with his rock royalty chums at Wembley, rather than with a few hundred diehards at a lovely, but small-ish East London venue. After all what is not to like? He has a voice like Lennon, songs that recall both Barrett and Dylan, jangly guitar episodes that summon up The Byrds and The Smiths, harmonies akin to the Wilson Brothers and surreal excursions influenced by the likes of Captain Beefheart and early Steeleye Span. He is a one man Spotify of all that’s great in intelligent pop. And yet he sounds utterly distinctive too. If ever her maj needed to appoint an pop laureate he’d be the perfect person for the gig – though his late 80s track The Veins Of The Queen would probably be enough to ensure he didn’t make the shortlist.

Tonight we are treated to a romp through his back catalogue in reverse chronological order. And even from the off the parallel universe pop hits come thick and fast with the stunning Goodnight Oslo from a couple of years back with its mesmeric guitar (originally supplied by one Peter Buck) and the Johnny Marr co-penned uplifting pop gem of Ordinary Millionaire early highlights.

A few songs in and we are transported to his more introspective period of just over a decade or so ago (which I gather was largely a reaction to major label push of a few years before), where gentle pop tunes are fleshed out by a cello and delicate female harmonies. The stunner here is No I Don’t Remember Guildford, which soars away on gorgeous vocals and subtle strings.

The first half of the two sets take in Hitchcock’s pop years when a cast of minor rock deity – Nick Lowe, Terry Edwards and Green Gartside to name but three of his conspirators, help him run through his very Beatley almost hit So You Think You Are In Love and the psychedelic vaudeville of The Wreck Of The Arthur Lee. Both wonderful songs that should have given the man his big breakthrough.

After a quick break and a poem from John Hegley the man returns with several songs from his mid-80s albums, including the glorious paean to an Isle of Wight beach, Airscpe, and the anti-Thatcher Barrett-esque blast that is Brenda’s Iron Sledge.

Finally the time travelling troubadour arrives back in the late 70s with songs from his first band The Soft Boys. From an embarrassment of riches on the classic Underwater Moonlight album to choose Hitchcock, backed by two of the three original members of of the band, opts for a spirited Kingdom of Love rather than the more obvious new wave racket of I Wanna Destroy You or the perfect jangle pop of Queen of Eyes, but then you can’t have everything…

Finally the whole cast are back on stage including, bizarrely, publishing guru and all round top bloke Mark Ellen and Adam Buxton of Adam and Joe fame, to climax with a track from the singer’s latest album Love from London. That song, The End Of Time might be fresh to most of the people hearing it, but it fits in perfectly as yet another jewel in the career of a singer who hopefully will have many more songs to come.

Robyn and Acapella guests

Picture 1 of 3
Picture 1 of 3

Including Green Gartside, Time Keegan, Terry Edwards and a very beardy Adam Buxton

If you have never heard Hitchcock, probably best to start here.



music

Sorted – The Baggy revival is on its way – with Jagwar Ma leading the charge

By Stefano on February 19th, 2013

jagwar ma 2

A year and a half ago I wrote about how if fashion was to stick to a strict chronology then the late 80s fifties influenced styles (Chambray shirts, angular hair cuts etc) that were popular at the time would soon be usurped by the look of 1989 – Baggy.

For the uninitiated – you are probably either too young or North American – Baggy was that brief period in the late 80s and 90s when Ecstasy collided with mind expanding 60s music and gave us a slew of great bands from The Stone Roses though to The Mock Turtles (trust me Turtle Soup is a fine album).

People had mixed psych with beats before – check out this classic 60s Russell Morris track – but Baggy was the perfect synthesis of drug influenced tunes both old and new.

Sadly the Baggy clothes revival hasn’t happened yet – my flares and cricket hats are still primed for action though – but there is more than a hint of a Baggy revival on the music front.

Bizarrely enough it isn’t coming from the north west of England but from Australia and Spain. In many ways it is a sub genre of the psych revival we are seeing at the moment with bands just adding beats to droney swirly 60s style melodies. It is certainly there in the music of bands like Alfa 9, The Moons and The See See.

I guess though Tame Impala got there first and there are several tracks on their Lonerism album, like this, that could have hailed from late 80s Manchester.

But if you want a new Stone Roses check out the two Jagwar Ma (they are from Sydney) singles on Spotify which are both great examples of how fresh and exciting a reinvention of the late 80s might sound.

There’s also this English/Spanish mob – The Chemistry Set – whose 2011 single Impossible Love is influenced by classic 60s psych and dance music.

Also let’s not forget The Stone Roses are touring as are The Three O’Clock (a big influence on the Roses) and The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess has a very fine album out too.

Now if only we could get the members of Flowered Up back together again.

 

 



music

The Primitives return with ace new single Lose The Reason and early recordings comp Everything’s Shining Bright

By Stefano on February 19th, 2013

The Primitives

One of the most pleasant surprises of recent years has been the welcome, but very unexpected, return of 80s/90s power popsters The Primitives. After a hiatus of the best part of two decades the band re-ignited with a series of hugely entertaining gigs which they then followed with an inspired covers album.

Clearly the band has unfinished business for yesterday saw a brand new single sneaking out on iTunes, Spotify and vinyl.

If you loved the band first time round you will also adore thew A side Lose The Reason. It is perfect pop of the type that they had got off to a tee by the time they recorded their second album Pure and it has chorus that will lodge itself in your brain and won’t move for days.

Its flip, Always Coming Back, has more than whiff of the brilliantly cheesy country-esque adventures of one Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood and comes with an addictive shuffling beat and twangy guitar.

The band will be playing live too – details here - and also their very earliest recordings are getting a re-run courtesy of Cherry Red. Personally I think songs like We Found A Way To The Sun are up there with the best indie music of the late 80s.



music

Smithsfest – a two day Smiths festival at the ICA in March

By Stefano on February 18th, 2013

smiths

If there’s one band that you could probably take and turn into a mini arts festival without actually playing a note of their music it is The Smiths. From their cover art, through to their musical influences and passion for films, The Smiths are still IMO the most interesting British pop band of the last 30 or so years.

So no surprises then that the ICA have chosen the band for a festival at the end of March. With Morrissey and Marr still putting the dampeners on any reunion talks this is probably as close as you’ll get to the band this year.

The details haven’t been fully announced but the ICA website says

Over a two day festival comprising talks, performance, art and film, Smithsfest will survey the artistic and cultural impact of The Smiths, one of the most iconic, seminal and controversial guitar bands in the history of pop music.

Among the stuff confirmed so far is the London debut of Terry Christian’s solo show Naked Confessions of A Recovering Catholic while Mark Simpson, author of Saint Morrissey, will be in discussion exploring the question Morrissey: Saint or Sinner?

From our perspective though the highlight will be a double-bill of the superb films Taste of Honey & The Leather Boys both of which will be introduced by legendary 60s actress Rita Tushingham.

There is some less cerebral stuff too including the chance to get a Moz Makeover with Open Barbers, and confront MozTerMind: ask him anything about the Smiths/Morrissey and he knows the answer! DJs The Readers Wifes play a Smiths inspired set, plus there’s an exhibition of exclusive Smiths and Morrissey photographs by legendary rock photographer Tom Sheehan.

It will be held on 29 March 2013 – 30 March 2013 – and to keep up to date with the latest news and buy tickets go here. Spotted by.



music

Valentine’s Day Special #2 Helen Love – Debbie Loves Joey

By Stefano on February 14th, 2013

A spot of Helen Love on Valentine’s Day. The band, or is it just a singer I never really knew, even has Love in their/her name, making this gem of a song about the pairing of two New York punk icons ever more appropriate.

This is undoubtedly the best description of teenage romantic dreaming in small town Britain ever. Chat up lines don’t get much better than

When she met him she was standing in a pure white light
He said “You like the Sex Pistols,
Have you got a light?”
And all the stars were shining on a perfect Saturday night

Let’s hope they are still together.



music

Valentine’s Day Special #1 – The Ramones – Baby I Love You

By Stefano on February 14th, 2013

I had a friend once (coughs) who was chasing a girl for months. His master plan was to buy this single for her and play it to her on Valentine’s Day.

Needless to say she walked out of the room before Joey had even finished the second verse and he has lived a life of misery and heartache ever since.

Anyhow, here’s to our sadly departed Ramones who left us with this now legendary Top Of The Pops performance. And if you can hear strains of Genesis on this tune here’s why.



music

Classic mellow psych and country from Kontiki Suite

By Stefano on February 13th, 2013

kontiki-suite-2

It is barely February and there has already been a glut of great new albums. Jacco Gardner is on constant rotation here, Foxygen are IMO the most exciting new band in years and then for more mellow moments there’s Kontiki Suite’s On Sunset Lake.

The band from Cumbria (quick q any other bands from Cumbria – could only think of It Bites) has just released a gorgeous power pop/country album in On Sunset lake. For me its gentle harmonies conjure up the spirit of late 60s janglers like The Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers alongside the much missed Cosmic Rough Riders and the wonderful London based band The See See. Music Man is the best place to start, a gentle slice of whirling psych that builds to a tremendous climax.

The album has just landed on Spotify too.

I had a quick bit of correspondence with Craig Bright from the band – detailed below. And you can also read more about them in the latest issue of the best music mag in the world Shindig.

How did you get started – were there other bands before etc

Each of the 6 of us have been involved in music and other bands for a while. Kontiki Suite originally started as a 3 piece which came together to develop the demos Ben had made over the years. Gradually over time we’ve pieced together the now definitive line up of the band which has been in place for just over a couple of years.

What is so appealing about west coast guitar music?

Melody. Harmony. History. I’m not altogether certain we set out to create music that could so definitively be described as west coast, but we can’t deny our love of that sound and influence it has had on us or the obvious way it comes through in our music. The west coast sounds extends to include various elements such as folk, country and psychedelia, all of which come through heavily in our music, but I guess ultimately we write pop songs, however they are presented.

Who are you influences? What bands do you like?

I’m sure that each person in the band would answer this quite differently, but I guess the two songwriters, Ben and Jonny, would have to have the biggest say in terms of influences. The obvious classic artists such as The Byrds, Neil Young, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Buffalo Springfield. Individually and collectively we like a lot of bands, both old and new. As well as the influences, the obvious lineage through the 50s, 60s and 70s of the likes of Hank Williams, Townes Van Zandt, Nuggets stuff, Gram Parsons and Big Star play a big part, on through the 80s, 90s and more recent times with The Rain Parade, Ride, Teenage Fanclub, Super Furry Animals, The Coral, Spiritualized, Beachwood Sparks, Wilco and The Sadies.

Does coming from The Lakes shape your music at all? There’s a mystical quality about the area – does that channel itself into your music?

The Lakes is a a truly stunning place and its hard not to be inspired by it, consciously or otherwise. It was a conscious effort to try and reflect its eeriness and isolation as well as its beauty. Notwithstanding the weather, we do see a strange connection between the west coast/Laurel Canyon scene and our Lakes surroundings, no matter how tenuous.

There is a bit of a new psych movement at the moment. Are you mates with any of the other bands – who do you admire?

Yes there is. I sometimes struggle to identify true psychedelia in its many forms now, but I hear it in all sorts of great bands who are around at the moment such as Real Estate, War on Drugs, The Go, Beachwood Sparks, My Drug Hell, The Sufis, the irrepressible Olivia Tremor Control (RIP Bill Doss) and Circulatory System who continue to push on into infinity, The Paperhead, Allah-Las, White Fence and Tame Impala.

We would consider ourselves as friends of some truly wonderful bands kicking around right now, including Øyvind Holm’s Deleted Waveform Gatherings and Sugarfoot, The Lucid Dream, The Wellgreen, The Junipers, El Goodo, The See See, The Time & Space Machine, Beaulieu Porch and The Red Sands.

Which track on On Sunset Lake are you most proud of?

We are proud of all of the songs on the album, but probably feel that Music Man and See You In The Morning best encapsulate what we were trying to achieve.

How long was the album in the making?

The album is a culmination of the best songs written during the lifespan of the band to that point, all of which blended nicely together into what we hope is a good, coherent representation of what we are about.

What plans have you got for 2013? Touring? new material?

2013 is going to be a busy year. As well as releasing On Sunset Lake and all that goes with it, we are putting the finishing touches to our second album which could be coming out later this year (like minded labels, please get in touch!). Having learned a lot from recording and mixing On Sunset Lake, all of which we did ourselves, we think that our second album will go one step nearer to fulfilling our vision. Ideally we are looking to play as many shows as we can throughout the year in the UK and Europe although definitive plans have yet to be put in place.

Who is the most under rated band of the 80s/90s?

We would all answer that differently, and I guess it depends whether it means commercially or critically under-rated. I (Craig) could write a list as long as my arm which would probably be topped by the Olivia Tremor Control.

Are you Cotton Mather fans?

Absolutely! You’ve rumbled us. Kontiki is a huge favourite of some members of the band and in the humble opinion of some, Ok then, one member, is one of the finest albums ever put to disc.



music

More great new Psych – Jacco Gardner – Cabinet Of Curiosities review

By Stefano on February 12th, 2013

Jacco+Gardner++video+shootIf you are a regular on these pages you’ll already be familiar with the work of one Jacco Gardner, the Dutch psych whizz kid who last year produced one of those drop dead brilliant, play it to everyone you meet type singles in Clear The Air.

The single perfectly captured late 60s British Baroque Pop in a way that no one has done for decades. Yet it still managed to sound contemporary and, dare I say, digital.

Gardner is now very much at the forefront of the new psych revival which has been bubbling under for ages, went over ground last year with Tame Impala and will go stratospheric this year once BBC 6 Music gets its head around the astonishing Foxygen.

So let’s just say that the expectations for this, Gardner’s debut album, are very high. Fortunately for psych fans everywhere the fella has delivered an album that builds on the promise of that superb single without, to be honest, ever quite eclipsing it.

I should say straight up that this album is not for everyone. There will be a people for whom the oompah beat, fairytale lyrics and Mellotron of the album’s closer The Ballad of Little Jane will send them screaming back to their Stooges albums. But if you like melodic, tuneful, experimental (there are plenty of odd song structures going on here) pop that owes a huge debt to the late 60s start here.

In many ways Gardner has picked up on some less, how shall we say this, fashionable psych influences. Sure you can hear Syd Barrett in Clear The Air and UK band Kaleidoscope could quite easily have recorded Where Will You Go in their Fairfield Parlour guise. But I am also hearing the first Genesis album (check it out it has some great tunes) on several of the tracks and the Mellotron that washes over Help Me out reminds me of The Moody Blues. Gardner is also clearly a huge fan of the always brilliant Fading Yellow series of compilations masterminded by Swedish psych fanatic JJ.

Highlights. Well apart from the singles Clear The Air and Where Will You Go (love that nibbling bass sound) the spacey drone of Puppets Dangling and gentle folky waltz of Lullabye do it for me. There isn’t really a weak moment. Occasionally though the precise nature of most of the tracks (Gardner is obviously a perfectionist) and the very mannered English sounding (for a Dutch fella anyhow) vocals can have you screaming for some explosive drums, powerful grooves and fuzzy guitar to mess things up a little. Maybe next time.

For now though give Cabinet a few listens on Spotify. By the time you have played it three or four times you will be addicted to it. Then get the vinyl!




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