Archive for the ‘music’ Category

features, Gallery, music

The British films that inspired The Smiths’ record sleeves

By Stefano on February 11th, 2013

the-smiths-the-complete-picture-originalIt is incredible to think that The Smiths were together for just five short years. In that time they managed to release four official albums, a few compilations of sessions, singles and oddities and of course, a run of some of the most amazing and unique 45s ever.

And one of the things that made The Smiths’ singles and albums so special was there sleeves. Handpicked mostly by Morrissey, they feature a series of cover stars most of whom dated from the late 50s and early 60s, and for Smiths fans they gave an real insight into the singer’s world – who his heroes were and the influences that shaped him.

Some of those cover stars were familiar, like Yootha Joyce, the star of two very successful seventies sit-coms. Others like French actor Jean Marais from Jean Cocteau’s 1949 film Orphée, were a bit more obscure.

Not surprisingly quite a number of the stars featured in British films from the 60s, so I have rounded up those covers and attempted to give a little more information about the films they came from. Most of them are very watchable – a couple of them are classics.

I have added YouTube links to each one. Two of the films are available in a full version on YouTube, the rest are clips and trailers.

Click on for the gallery and links.

Ask - Catch Us If You Can

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Picture 1 of 7

As every Smiths fan knows the cover star of the band's peerless 1986 single Ask was actress Yootha Joyce, but the still wasn't taken from her successful 70s sit-coms Man About The House or George and Mildred but from a decade or so earlier when she enjoyed a brief but significant film career. In fact Joyce managed to appear in several of Morrissey's favourite films - Charlie Bubbles and Sparrows Can't Sing - as well as one of the great unsung movies from the decade - Catch Us If You Can. The film doesn't get taken too seriously for one very obvious reason - it stars lovable Tottenham beat boys The Dave Clarke Five - the One Direction of their day. However if you overlook the way it was set up as an attempt to rival Hard day's Night CUIYC is actually a superb film and fascinating viewing for anyone who loves 60s pop culture. Without giving too much away the film is basically a road movie with Dave - and model Barbara Ferris in tow - as a stunt man and a model who escape their minders and head off into the wild English countryside. Along the way they hang out with some prototype hippies (this was 1965 before anyone was calling them that) go swimming in London's iconic Oasis pool and finish up at the stunning Art Deco hotel- which at that point was run down and deserted - on Burgh Island. They also pop into Bath where they meet Yootha Joyce, the wife of a socialite who quite fancies a bit of Dave. She eventually takes the gang to a fancy dress party in Bath spa. The pic was apparently taken off set. Catch Us If You Can is a fabulous film, directed in a highly imaginative way by John Boorman - later to shoot Deliverance and Hope and Glory. Had it featured some cooler stars it would undoubtedly be hailed as one of the best British movies of the decade. Catch Us If You Can Trailer


Your favourite new band – Foxygen: this year’s Tame Impala?

By Stefano on February 8th, 2013

About this time last year Tame Impala’s psych vibes were only familiar to a small-ish band of very cool psych heads. Then came that single, the genius album and world domination, and a BlackBerry ad, followed.

Another psych band who I think might just be about to take off in the same way are LA’s Foxygen. Put simply they 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

Foxygen have just played a series of sold out dates in London. I saw them at The Lexington and they are every bit as manic and ambitious live as they are on record.

They will be the biggest psych band of the year, no question, and maybe as huge as Tame Impala were last year. Perhaps what they lack is that annoying killer track for BBC 6 Music to get all over like the Impala’s Elephant. I am sure that will come.

They are back in the UK in June, so make sure you catch them then.

Here are some images from the gig the other night courtesy of Ashley Nissim.


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Picture 1 of 6


Joey Ramone’s unlikely record collection. Genesis? Yes? Herman’s Hermits!? Is up for sale

By Stefano on February 8th, 2013


Joey Ramone’s personal record collection, consisting of 97 records in their original album sleeves, could be yours. Well if you choose to bid for them, that it because they are going under the hammer on February 14th with a final bid date of February 21st.

The records apparently come with a letter signed by Joey’s brother Mickey attesting to the collection’s authenticity.

Which it really does need because there are few real oddities in the collection.

Sure all the records that you’d expect the man who was a prime mover in punk to own are present and correct – so there’s plenty of The Who, T. Rex, Cream, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop and The Doors.

But the collection also indicates that Ramone, who died in 2001 may have been a closet Prog Rock fan. For the man whose band pretty much never went beyond their four chords and two minutes approach to pop zoned out to the prog noodling of Yes’s Close To the Edge, Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s self-titled collection and Genesis’s early album Nursery Cryme.

There’s a great selection of 60s albums too most notably Herman’s Hermits and The Hollies – who are represented by best ofs, and more obscure acts like Gary Lewis and The Playboys and The Rationals.

Other slightly odd additions include Keith Moon’s solo album, a record of hymns from Pat Boone and the debut from French new waver Plastic Bertrand.

Here’s the full list

68/WRKO (30 Now Goldens) The Allman Brothers Band (At Fillmore East) Paul Anka (Vintage Years 1957–1961) The Beach Boys (20 Golden Greats) The Beau Brummels (The Original Hits) Pat Boone (Greatest Hymns) Jimmy Campbell (Half Baked) CAP-FM (What’s In-Store For You) Cheap Trick (One on One) Alice Cooper (Killer) Cream (Cream) Cream (Live Cream Volume II) The Dave Clark Five (American Tour) The De Franco Family Band (Heartbeat, It’s a Lovebeat) Donovan (Mellow Yellow) The Doors (The Doors) Dwight Twilley Band (Twilley Don’t Mind) Bob Dylan (Greatest Hits Vol. II) Emerson, Lake & Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) Emitt Rhodes (Emitt Rhodes) John Entwistle (Smash Your Head Against the Wall) Eric Burdon & the Animals (The Twain Shall Meet) David Essex (All the Fun of the Fair) The First Class (The First Class) Flo and Eddie (Moving Targets) Four Rock ’n’ Roll Legends (Live in London) The Four Seasons (2nd Vault of Golden Hits) Marvin Gaye (Let’s Get It On) Genesis (Nursery Cryme) The Grass Roots (Where Were You When I Needed You) The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Are You Experienced) Herman’s Hermits (Best of, Volume II) The Hideouts (Best of) The Hollies (Hollies Live) The Hollywood Stars (The Hollywood Stars) The Human League (Dare) The Human League (Fascination!) Elton John (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road) Elton John (Tumbleweed Connection) The Kinks (Preservation Act 2) KISS (Dressed to Kill) Led Zeppelin (Houses of the Holy) Laura Lee (Women’s Love Rights) Gary Lewis and the Playboys (This Diamond Ring) Ray Manzarek (The Whole Thing Started with Rock & Roll Now It’s Out of Control) The Marvelettes (The Return of The Marvelettes) The McCoys (Human Ball) Mickey and Sylvia (Do It Again) Keith Moon (Two Sides of the Moon) Rick Nelson (In Concert) The Paupers (Magic People) Peter, Paul and Mary (10 Years Together) Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Official Live ’Leg) Pezband (Pezband) Pink Fairies (Kings of Oblivion) Gene Pitney (The Gene Pitney Story) Plastic Bertrand (Ca Plane Pour Moi) Iggy Pop (Lust For Life) Pretty Things (The Vintage Years) Lloyd Price (His Big Hits) The Rascals (Once Upon a Dream) The Rascals (See) Raspberries (Raspberries) The Rationals (The Rationals) Lou Reed (Sally Can’t Dance) The Righteous Brothers (Greatest Hits) The Righteous Brothers (The History of The Righteous Brothers) The Searchers (Volume 2) Neil Sedaka (The ’50s & ’60s) The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (Next) Silverhead (16 and Savaged) Carly Simon (No Secrets) Slade (In Flame) Slade (Slade Alive!) Patti Smith Group (Easter) Sonny and Cher (The Two of Us) Billy Squier (Don’t Say No) Status Quo (Live) Cat Stevens (Teaser and the Firecat) Rod Stewart (Every Picture Tells a Story) Rod Stewart (Sing It Again Rod) Sweet (Give Us a Wink) T. Rex (Bolan Boogie) T. Rex (Light of Love) The Temptations (A Song For You) Toots & the Maytals (Funky Kingston) The Tubes (Young and Rich) Ike and Tina Turner (Workin’ Together) The Ventures (The Ventures Play Telstar and the Lonely Bull) Wet Willie (Drippin’ Wet) The Who (Odds & Sods) The Who (Portrait of the Who) Spanky Wilson (Specialty of the House) Yes (Close to the Edge) The Young Rascals (Collections) The Youngbloods (Ride the Wind) The Zombies (Early Days)

features, music

Beatles, Led Zep, Pink Floyd. Ten Classic Albums on YouTube (and not Spotify) and how they got there

By Stefano on February 7th, 2013


Over the past year or so there has been a significant trend of full albums showing up on YouTube. There is invariably no video content – just a still of the artist and the music.

The interesting part is that there are now many classic albums on YouTube a good chunk of which aren’t available on Spotify or other streaming services. So for example if you fancy a bit of Pink Floyd you can hear Dark Side Of The Moon on YouTube from one of many different sources. You won’t find it on Spotify though.

Uploading someone else’s music to YouTube is of course totally illegal (as it is with music videos). However it seems that under YouTube regulations the emphasis is on the copyright holder to take action to pull the music down. And it seems that some record labels (coughs, EMI) are turning a bit of a blind eye.

They may even be on some occasions using YouTube’s ContentID system and its revenue opportunities to enable them to collect a little cash from the adverts that precede the music.

Some companies are playing even stranger games. You can for example listen to Oasis’s The Masterplan on YouTube on your laptop, but it won’t play back on your mobile or iPad.

So why do record companies do this? Maybe they figure that if you are listening to an album on YouTube you may at some point think I’ll go and buy it.

As for newer artists, well YouTube is a huge community and it can help to break an artist. There is a bit of analogy with radio here. Record labels are very keen to get their band’s singles on say BBC 6 Music, but there is a way bigger audience on YouTube.

With Spotify subscribers can take music offline and listen to it on their smartphones etc with YouTube if you want the music to travel with you then you run the risk of running up huge data costs. So you might as well go and buy it.

Some companies are more aggressive than others at taking content down. I was delighted to see The Velvet Underground’s controversial final album Squeeze on YouTube as it is not available digitally anywhere and the record itself is hard to find. However it got taken down after a while. I guess because the only people who might have bought that album would have been trawling used record stores for it and the record company wouldn’t make any money from it.

Anyhow here are ten classic albums that are all available on YouTube, and the last time I looked were not on Spotify. Happy listening. I wonder if they will all be still up in three months time?

Finally one quick footnote. I listened to John Lennon’s Imagine album on YouTube and 1, It really is a great album, much better than I remember it. 2, It is like listening to a vinyl record. There’s no easy fast forwarding or skipping tracks and you know what, I kind of like it.

1 Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of the Moon

2 The Beatles – Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band

3 Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

4 AC/DC Highway to Hell

5 Peter Gabriel 3

6 Oasis – The Masterplan

7 Eagles – Best of

8 Wings – Back To the Egg

9 John Lennon, Plastic Ono Band

10 The Zombies – Odyssey and Oracle

features, music

Scared To Get Happy – British 80s indie box set on its way (and it looks great)

By Stefano on February 6th, 2013


There’s some serious excitement at Brandish Towers this morning about the upcoming release of a new compilation of British 80s indie bands called Scared To Get Happy.

And it seems that the compilers at Cherry Red Records must have been working some serious over time for coming in June is a five CD boxed set which features pretty much anyone notable who twanged a guitar in the UK in the 80s. The full running list is below, but it really does sound like a ‘Nuggets’ for British 80s music.

The rules for the compilation is that the releases have to have been on British indie labels by UK bands. So no Go-Betweens (because they were Australian) or Echo And The Bunnymen (as they were on a major label). Pretty much everything else is here including some gems from not just the bigger labels like Creation Records, but also more eclectic ones like the brilliantly bonkers El Records.

And while it is wonderful to see so many of the era’s top bands getting the nod (Primal Scream, Primitives, House of Love etc) it is also great to see a few more obscure acts getting a belated bit of recognition. Step forward The Seers, whose driving psych pop was a big fave of mine at the end of the decade, Blow Up – a mod-style band from Brighton, and not forgetting The Claim, a much under rated Kinks-influenced band from Kent.

Cherry Red have also tried to include tracks that haven’t as yet made it on to other comps too.

So who is missing? Well there’s no Television Personalities or Felt as neither band wanted to to be on the comp. Also I’d loved to have seen Miles Over Matter and Boys Wonder, but neither band released a record on a British indie in the period.

Anyhow it sounds like a formidable collection and Cherry Red has promised it will be lavishly packaged with images, sleeve notes – the full whack. It should cost around £50.

To get the latest news on the comp check out the Facebook page here.

For our round up of under rated British 80s indie bands – go here.

Our top Shoegazers are here.

And here’s a gem from The Claim.

Disc 1:
1. THE WILD SWANS Revolutionary Spirit
2. GIRLS AT OUR BEST Getting Nowhere Fast
3. THE PALE FOUNTAINS (There’s Always) Something On My Mind
4. JOSEF K The Missionary
6. THE BLUE ORCHIDS Dumb Magician
7. THE MARINE GIRLS Don’t Come Back
9. DOLLY MIXTURE Everything And More
10. SCARS All About You
11. THE NIGHTINGALES Paraffin Brain
12. FARMERS BOYS I Think I Need Help
13. JANE It’s A Fine Day
14. PREFAB SPROUT Lions In My Own Garden (Exit Someone)
15. WEEKEND Summerdays
16. THE LINES Nerve Pylon
17. FANTASTIC SOMETHING If She Doesn’t Smile It’ll Rain
18. THE HIGSONS The Lost And The Lonely
20. BLACK Human Features
22. THE DAINTEES Roll On Summertime
23. NICK NICELY 49 Cigars
24. TRIXIE’S BIG RED MOTORBIKE Norman And Narcissus
25. THE CHERRY BOYS Kardomah Café
26. AZTEC CAMERA Oblivious

Disc 2:
1. HURRAH The Sun Shines Here
2. THE PASTELS I Wonder Why
3. PULP Everybody’s Problem
5. FRIENDS AGAIN Honey At The Core (Moonboot Version)
6. THE BLUEBELLS Callander Green
7. LLOYD COLE & THE COMMOTIONS Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken (Indie Version)
8. IN EMBRACE This Brilliant Evening
11. THE JAZZ BUTCHER Southern Mark Smith
12. THE JASMINE MINKS Where The Traffic Goes
13. THE JUNE BRIDES Every Conversation (Single Version)
16. BIFF BANG POW! The Chocolate Elephant Man
17. JAMES Hymn From A Village
18. THE JESUS & MARY CHAIN Just Like Honey (Demo Oct ‘84)
19. THE LOFT Up The Hill And Down The Slope
21. YEAH YEAH NOH Temple Of Convenience
22. THE WEDDING PRESENT Go Out And Get ‘Em Boy
23. THE BODINES God Bless
25. McCARTHY Red Sleeping Beauty
26. THE MIGHTY LEMON DROPS Something Happens

Disc 3:
1. PRIMAL SCREAM Velocity Girl
2. THE PRIMITIVES Thru The Flowers
4. MIGHTY MIGHTY Is There Anyone Out There?
7. THE CHESTERFIELDS Completely And Utterly
8. THE SERVANTS Transparent
9. THE CLOSE LOBSTERS What Is There To Smile About (Demo)
10. POP WILL EAT ITSELF Sick Little Girl
11. THE RAZORCUTS Big Pink Cake
14. TALULAH GOSH Beatnik Boy
15. THE DENTISTS She Dazzled Me With Basil
17. THE GROOVE FARM Baby Blue Marine
19. ROSEMARY’S CHILDREN (Whatever Happened To) Alice?
20. THE WONDER STUFF A Wonderful Day
21. THIS POISON! Engine Failure
23. 14 ICED BEARS Balloon Song
25. THE ROSEHIPS Room In Your Heart
26. KING OF LUXEMBOURG A Picture Of Dorian Gray

Disc 4:
2. THE DARLING BUDS Shame On You (Native Single Version)
3. THE POOH STICKS Indiepop Ain’t Noise Pollution
4. THE BACHELOR PAD The Albums Of Jack
5. THE SHAMEN Something About You
6. GOL GAPPAS Albert Parker
8. WHIRL Heaven Forbid
11. APPLE BOUTIQUE Love Resistance
12. LAUGH Take Your Time Yeah!
13. GROOVY LITTLE NUMBERS You Make My Head Explode
14. THE WALTONES She Looks Right Through Me
15. YEAH JAZZ Sharon
16. THE CLOUDS Tranquil
17. THE RAW HERBS She’s A Nurse But She’s Alright
18. THE SIDDELEYS My Favourite Wet Wednesday Afternoon
19. RODNEY ALLEN Circle Line
20. THE CORN DOLLIES Be Small Again
21. THE HEPBURNS The World Is
22. BUBBLEGUM SPLASH One Of Those Things
23. THE McTELLS Jesse Man Rae
24. THE CHARLOTTES Are You Happy Now?
25. ANOTHER SUNNY DAY I’m In Love With A Girl Who Doesn’t Know I Exist
26. THE LA’s Son Of A Gun (Demo)

Disc 5:
1. THE STONE ROSES The Hardest Thing In The World
2. THE INSPIRAL CARPETS Keep The Circle Around
4. CUD Only (A Prawn In Whitby)
5. THE POPGUNS Landslide
6. EAST VILLAGE Strawberry Window
7. THE FANATICS Suburban Love Songs
9. THE ORCHIDS I’ve Got A Habit
10. BRADFORD Skin Storm
11. THE CLAIM Picking Up The Bitter Little Pieces
12. THE POPPYHEADS Pictures You Weave
13. THE SUN AND THE MOON Adam’s Song (Pour Fenella)
14. THE DESERT WOLVES Speak To Me Rochelle
15. THE GOLDEN DAWN My Secret World
16. BLOW UP Forever Holiday
18. AVO-8 Big Car
19. THE RAIN Dry The Rain
20. THE BOO RADLEYS Catweazle
21. THE SEERS Sun Is In The Sky
22. THE TELESCOPES Perfect Needle
23. THE VASELINES Jesus Don’t Want Me For A Sunbeam


Reg Presley tribute – The Troggs try to record a song called Tranquility and end up fighting

By Stefano on February 5th, 2013

Really sad to hear today of the death of one of the 60s most colorful pop stars – and he had some pretty serious competition too – the legendary Reg Presley of The Troggs.

First up what an amazing name. He was actually born Reg Ball but changed it in honour of the great rock and roller. Which is kind of bit like someone today naming themselves Reg Bieber.

Then there are the tunes. Wild Thing is untouchable as a proto grunge garage punk classic and has been the first tune that thousands of teenage bands have mastered. In a funny kind of way then Reg played a big role in getting thousands of young spotty geeks, who wouldn’t otherwise stood a chance, a little attention from the ladies.

I could also mention his odd psych recordings, that seminal hook up with REM and his weirdo obsession with crop circles, which in fact lead him to turn up in an office where I worked in the 90s. Long story.

But best of all is this an audio recoding of The Troggs in the early 70s, long past their salad days, trying to record a song called Tranquility and then almost coming to blows over it. Genius. Trust me you’ll be calling everyone a pranny tomorrow.

Here’s another Troggs classic

features, Gallery, music

Not just My Bloody Valentine – Eight original Shoegazing bands who need reviving

By Stefano on February 5th, 2013

mbvLike most music obsessives from time to time I have wondered what it must have been like to be there at a pivotal moment in music history. You know, like avoiding the sweat dripping off the ceiling while the Fab Four hone their post-Hamburg rock and roll in The Cavern. Or watching the light show and Syd Barrett in psychedelic melt down mode at the UFO. Or even hanging with the art school punks at CBGBs as they watched as Blondie’s pop moves took New York’s indie screen global.

The nearest I ever got to a seismic pop moment was in a small and sweaty basement room bizarrely sited on Oxford Street by Tottenham Court Road tube. For there in 1991, the club, known as the Syndrome, became the meeting place for the main movers of the London wing of British indie, some of whom would go on to create some incredible music.

Energised by both the danceable grooves coming out of Manchester and the visceral punky thrills of grunge jetting in from America’s North West coast, the likes of Blur, Ride, Lush, Moose and many others began to fashion a musical response that kept the energy of punk but , how shall we put this, was a little more cerebral. And the music these middle class punks played (for many of the bands were from the posher parts of London and the South East) became known as shoegazing (after some of the musician’s habits of looking at their feet while messing with effects pedals).

As well as absorbing the primitive, yet arty sounds of bands like Dinosaur Junior and Sonic Youth, the Shoegazers were almost all highly influenced by the feedback drenched howl of My Bloody Valentine. Many bands also kept the melodic obsession of the C86 bands in creating sweet, often catchy tunes that they buried under howls of effects and white noise.

Shoegazing, just like The Syndrome, didn’t last too long, but for a couple of the bands it was a springboard to better things. Sadly though most of them didn’t see the musical tidal wave of Brit Pop coming and the music press quickly lost interest in shy, retiring musicians from Surrey and turned their attention to boisterous Beatles-obsessed northerners. In fact almost all of them were history by the mid -90. Except that is in the US where a couple of bands from a city on the nation’s West coast kept the genre alive.

So with My Bloody Valentine releasing their first album in twenty or so years there is no better time to go back and revisit some of the less well known protagonists of the Shoegazing (a term which not surprisingly almost all the bands associated with it hated) era. There are profiles of eight bands and you can hear them, along with some fellow travellers in the Spotify playlist.

* The most under rated 80s indie bands here

* Under rated British 90s indie bands

The Charlottes

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One of the earliest shoegazey type bands The Charlottes were massively influenced by both My Bloody Valentine’s creative use of feedback and also the poppy melodies of C86-ers like The Primitives. The debut single Are You Happy Now is a classic of the genre with a female vocalist singing a sweet pop tune that they proceed to bury under an avalanche of guitars, effects and Who style drum fills. They got even better too. Their 1991 album Things Come Apart, which has recently been reissued on vinyl by Optic Nerve Recordings, contains Liar, a glorious thrashy tune which was almost an underground hit in the US and See Me Feel - think The Ramones with effects pedals. Sadly the band split soon after with drummer Simon Scott defecting to Slowdive.


Mondo Jet Set – Provincial Drama Club review

By Stefano on February 3rd, 2013

mondo jet setLuke Haines has quite possibly the best Twitter profile description ever. The one time Auteurs and Black Box Recorder man who recently rewrote the history of Britain in the North Sea Scrolls describes himself as being at ‘At the coalface of conceptual rock n roll.’

And mining away next to him in producing melodic pop gems with wonderfully pretentious monikers like ‘I Danced in A Secular Fashion and ‘Everyone I Know Dead Or Fire’ are Mondo Jet Set. And they are good, very good.

Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t heard of them. The West Country band are very under the radar and seem quite content about it too. Some of the members were in a late sprouting Brit Pop act called Garfield’s Birthday. With Mondo Jet Set they have now issued four albums which have steadily got more ambitious, bizarre and tuneful as the years have gone by.

Their latest, Provincial Drama Club, which came out a week or so ago is their most brilliant, and most baffling yet. It is a collection of 23 songs, the vast majority of which clock in at under two minutes. Even the longer tracks like Caravan/The Slow Arcade are actually two songs spliced together.

The quirkiness and brevity of many of the songs remind me of The Magnetic Fields’ magnificent 69 Love Songs where the band veer from Busby Berkley show tunes to Velvet Underground style punk and then on to cheesy jazz in the space of five minutes. I’d also namecheck the rather brilliant and very hip Foxygen as fellow travellers too in the way that the LA band’s tracks are so packed with unexpected twists and turns.

Provincial Drama Club is slightly less exotic than 69 Love Songs – the key influences here are The Kinks, early Blur B sides and occasionally the harmonies of the Wilson Brothers – but  is still a disconcerting listening experience.

Yet like 69 Love Songs, which took me about 10 plays before finally getting under its skin, stick with Provincial Drama Club and  pretty soon you’ll be so addicted to it you’ll wish there were even more songs to hear.

There really are so many highlights here from the instant pop blast of ‘Everyone I Know Dead Or Fire’ or the Blur-esuqe (think Bank Holiday type thrashes) ‘Moth Attack.’ Pretty much everything on the album has a a hook or a melody and some odd instrumentation that makes it very memorable.

It does get a little too much at times. Alice – the latter part of John Before The Fire – has a gorgeous Beach Boys’ style melody which you want to hang around for way longer than the one minute that MJS give it.

But given the ambition and scope of Provincial Drama Club I can forgive them anything.

And when finally you have exhausted this album – and it has taken me the best part of three months to get in any way remotely tired of it, there is its predecessor Ha, Ha, Ha to explore – an album that for me was the best, ok second best, of 2011. A must buy for anyone who cherishes quirky English pop.


Books, features, music, Style

Is this the last word on Mod? Richard Weight’s MOD: A Very British Style on its way

By Stefano on January 30th, 2013

mod_weightAnd yes that cover looks great too. The images were taken by ace photographer Dean Chalkley who has lots of images of contemporary mods (and a film too – see the bottom of the page) on his site here.

Anyway back to the book. There have been plenty of Mod books before, but this looks like being a fairly definitive one for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it looks like it is going to properly tackle Mod history and its greater influence on popular culture in a way that other books haven’t. It is a moot point, for example, whether the real inheritors of the Mod tradition in the 1980s were the Acid House mob at the end of the decade (they took pills and danced all night), the C86ers (they had the bowl cuts and loved the 60s music) or the Casuals (whose clothes were more in keeping with traditional sharp mod values and tended to be more working class like the original Mods).

Without pre-guessing what Weight is going to write in his book I think he will make the case that Mod influenced them all. And that’s a story that hasn’t really been written in any depth.

Besides the Mod movement is very diverse at the moment – as this ‘What Type of Mod are you?’ post illustrates.

The  second reason why the book looks great is that Richard Weight is a very accomplished author. I read his Patriots book over a decade ago, and although I don’t remember too much about it now, I recall being impressed by both the depth of his research, and also the way he wasn’t afraid to fire off his opinions. The book looks at national identity in Britain between 1940 and 2000 and the decline of British-ness in favour of stronger associations of  being English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish. It really needs an update too and I’d be fascinated to read his views on the way that The Olympics, the popularity of The Monarchy and immigration have all fueled a revival of Britishness. Yet at the same time we could be just years away from Scotland leaving the Union.

In many ways too there hasn’t been a better time for the Mod book. Bradley Wiggins is still everywhere, heritage brands like Ben Sherman and Fred Perry are back in the limelight and there are plenty of bands who are creating music that has 60s influences at their heart.

The Who touring Quadrophenia a few months after the book launch should help too.

Anyhow, I am very excited by the book’s arrival and if you want to know more here’s the blurb from the publishers.

It is published at the end of March and will cost £25 for a hardback edition.

Welcome to the world of the sharp-suited ‘faces’. The Italianistas. The scooter-riding, all-night-dancing instigators of what became, from its myriad sources, a very British phenomenon.

Mod began life as the quintessential working-class movement of a newly affluent nation – a uniquely British amalgam of American music and European fashions that mixed modern jazz with modernist design in an attempt to escape the drab conformity, snobbery and prudery of life in 1950s Britain. But what started as a popular cult became a mainstream culture, and a style became a revolution.

In Mod, Richard Weight tells the story of Britain’s biggest and most influential youth cult. He charts the origins of Mod in the Soho jazz scene of the 1950s, set to the cool sounds of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. He explores Mod’s heyday in Swinging London in the mid-60s – to a new soundtrack courtesy of the Small Faces, the Who and the Kinks. He takes us to the Mod-Rocker riots at Margate and Brighton, and into the world of fashion and design dominated by Twiggy, Mary Quant and Terence Conran.

But Mod did not end in the 1960s. Richard Weight not only brings us up to the cult’s revival in the late 70s – played out against its own soundtrack of Quadrophenia and the Jam – but reveals Mod to be the DNA of British youth culture, leaving its mark on glam and Northern Soul, punk and Two Tone, Britpop and rave.

This is the story of Britain’s biggest and brassiest youth movement – and of its legacy. Music, film, fashion, art, architecture and design – nothing was untouched by the eclectic, frenetic, irresistible energy of Mod.

features, Gallery, music

Five sad tales of musicians who went AWOL

By Stefano on January 29th, 2013

up-manicOn February 17th 1995 police found Richey Edwards’ Vauxhall Cavalier abandoned at the Severn View service station. They reported that there was evidence that The Manic Street Preachers’ guitarist had been living in the car.

As for the car’s owner, well nothing has been heard from him since. There have been alleged sightings in Goa and Lanzarote, while there are those believe that he took his own life and jumped off the Severn Bridge. I guess we will never know.

Edwards, however, wasn’t the first rock star who decided that they had had enough of their old life and wanted to start anew. Various members of Fleetwood Mac disappeared in the late 60s and early 70s to be discovered in the cradle of slightly iffy religious groups.

There are others too and I have rounded up five stories of musicians who, for one reason or another, completely disappeared. Some, like Richey, are missing presumed dead, others are just keeping an incredibly low profile while working on that magical next album. Then there’s the tale of Rodriguez, a singer whose life was shrouded in mystery before a film was made retelling his amazing tale.

The other thing about all five is that each of them has created some wonderful music, which in four out of the five cases, deserves to be much better known.

Jim Sullivan - whisked away by aliens?

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Perhaps the most dramatic tale of a musician going AWOL ever the Jim Sullivan story still intrigues everyone who hears it. The story has an added poignancy as the album that Sullivan released in 1969, UFO, is a special one that has recently been championed by a new wave of folk stars like Laura Marling. Anyway back to the story. In the late 60s Sullivan was a talented singer songwriter in need of a break. He got one when an actor friend of his, Al Dobbs, decided to fund his album. That record, UFO is minor classic - a perfect mix of dusty folk and Gothic country, yet with some strong pop undertones. Dobbs had ensured that only top notch musicians played on the album including several of Phil Spector's legendary Wrecking Crew band of session hacks. It really is quite an astonishing listen. Take Rosey, a delicate, gently picked ballad taken to new heights by pizzicato and then soaring strings. It sounds like the sort of track Lee Hazlewood would have written on a very good day. Most intriguing of all is the title track UFO, where Sullivan shares his obsession with aliens in an eery way that some believe was a psychic prediction of the fate that was soon to befall him. Sadly the album stiffed - it has been reissued by Light In the Arric Records and these days is hailed as a classic of its genre - and Sullivan went back to playing bars and busking for a living. Then in 1975 he decided to leave his wife in California and head eastwards to start a new life a session musician in Nashville. He never got there. His car was found abandoned in the desert while all his possessions were left in his hotel room. The last time he was seen was on the ranch of a family with mafia connections. The case is still unsolved, but there are some folk who believe that the UFO watcher's dream finally came true and he was whisked away by aliens. Others take the view that he may have been murdered and the body never recovered. Either way Sullivan left behind one superb album and an enduring myth which one day really ought to be turned into a film.

features, music

REVIEW: My Bloody Valentine @ Electric Brixton (27/01/13)

By Gerald Lynch on January 28th, 2013

It’s been five years since I last saw My Bloody Valentine live, and I’ve only just managed to recover the last fragments of earplug mined from my brain after surviving their sonic assault at Camden’s Roundhouse back in 2008.

Their 2013 return to the UK sees volume levels remain the same (watching MBV is like picking a fight with a 747 in a wind tunnel and losing, as I tweeted last night), but the setlist is a little different; there’s a new album on the way, more than 21 years since the launch of their seminal Loveless record. And tonight’s gig marks the debut of a few cuts from it.

Kevin Shields and co kick off with new number ‘Rough Song’, and for a band whose signature live attack is dished out with serrated guitars, the presence of a keyboard is a little unnerving. It’s a poppy number that recalls ‘When You Sleep’, suggesting the new album may have a fair whack of tunes as well as ethereal dreamscapes. It brings with it a tease from the usually-silent Shields, mumbling to a persistent heckler that the new album’s release could be as close as “two or three days”. What with Shields’ trademark tardy perfectionism, we wouldn’t start holding our breath just yet, but considering the album was apparently mastered back in December anything is possible.

Anything, that is, than being able to decipher a tune tonight. Even by MBV’s aggressive standards, something’s a bit off. The PA at Electric Brixton is overwhelmed by the band, with vocals (traditionally low in the mix for MBV by default) lost in the squall. You don’t expect subtlety from Shields’ screeching riffs and Debbie Googe’s bass pummelling, but even Shields finds it necessary to cut off ‘To Here Knows When’ halfway through.

At their most aurally-unapologetic however with ‘Feed Me With You Kiss’ and the closing 10 minute white noise endurance test of ‘You Made Me Realise’, the night hits a sadomasochistic state of nirvana, a blissful sonic-sucker punch to see the punters off into the night with a smile on their faces and bloody tissues in their ears.

Here’s a selection of choice Twitter commentary on the gig from last night:









The Who announce Quadrophenia tour

By Stefano on January 28th, 2013

Following in the footsteps of Macca – who was everywhere in the summer – and The Stones who played a series of dates at the end of last year The Who have announced a run of dates. The twist is that in keeping with the ongoing trend for playing classic albums the band is going to run through their 1973 opus Quadrophonia.

Pete Townshend is obviously very keen on that album. He recently made a fascinating documentary for the BBC about the album and it became the 1979 film which inspired the first mod revival.

Personally I’d like to see them blast through Sell Out, but there’s no denying that Quadrophenia his held in a very high place by both the band its fans.

The tour dates are below. Tickets go on sale on February 1st from here.

According to Digital Spy

The ‘Quadrophenia Tour’ has been personally directed by frontman Roger Daltrey and focuses on the original rock opera album, replacing the narrative used in previous stage versions with imagery projected on screens.

June 8 Dublin The O2
June 10 Belfast Odyssey
June 12 Glasgow SECC
June 15 London The O2
June 18 Sheffield Motorpoint Arena
June 20 Newcastle Metro Arena
June 23 Manchester Arena
June 25 Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
June 28 Birmingham LG Arena
June 30 Liverpool Echo Arena



Why the new Suede track Barriers makes me yearn for The Tears

By Stefano on January 23rd, 2013

In case you missed it in the post Christmas and New Year comedown (and the fact that David Bowie announced his album the day after) glam popsters Suede are back with a new album in March and Brett Anderson is very excited about its potential.

He told the NME

“[It's] called ‘Bloodsports’. It’s about lust, it’s about the chase, it’s about the endless carnal game of love. It was possibly the hardest we ever made but certainly is the most satisfying. It’s 10 furious songs have reclaimed for me what Suede was always about: drama, melody and noise.”

Preceding even the official single ‘It Starts And Ends With You’, which is due in February, the band have unveiled a new track called Barriers, which is getting loads of plays on BBC Radio Six.

I must admit I wasn’t too impressed the first few times I heard it – Killers-lite came to mind, but I stuck with it and it sure has a catchy chorus and oddly it reminds me of The Manic Street Preachers in their early 90s heyday. And as for that whoop it is straight out of the Bono handbook.

More than anything else though it has me scuttling back not to Suede’s 90s albums but the orphan of the band’s catalogue 2005′s brilliant Here Come The Tears.

The Tears was the reunion band that featured both Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler who played a series of gigs and recorded a very special album in 2005. Both Anderson and Butler were seemingly at a bit of a loose end and to be fair after the project both would be energised and go on to incredible things – Anderson with the triumphant Suede reunion tour and Butler with his production duties for Duffy et al.

In 2005 the band’s status was at its lowest ebb, it wasn’t long enough away from the weaker albums that they band made at the end of their career, Butler hadn’t yet found his muse and Anderson was months away from his solo career. So when Here Come The Tears was released it was met by mainly polite reviews (it got very few bad ones) and a great deal of indifference.

Sure hardcore Suede fans, excited by the of the coming together of the two main protagonists of the band – who basically hadn’t spoken to each other since Butler walked out of the Dog Man Star sessions – cherished the album, but it was quickly forgotten. The fact that Anderson seemed very keen to bury The Tears almost as quickly as the band had got going, didn’t help either.

If you approach it with fresh ears I am sure you will conclude Here Come The Tears is an absolute glam pop masterpiece. It might not be Dog Man Star but, boy it runs it close. Personally I rate it as one of the best five or so albums of the last decade and believe that one day it will be hailed as a masterpiece.

If ever two musicians were meant to be together it is these two. On the album Butler takes some gorgeous Anderson-penned tunes and kicks them off into the stratosphere with that incendiary multi tracked guitar/wall of sound that made the early Suede records so special. The tunes seem to have an oomph and a drive sadly missing in almost all their post-Coming Up Recordings.

Just like Coming Up, its nearest equivalent in the Suede canon, Here Come The Tears is a like a greatest hits album. Potential single follows potential single each one packing the type of hooks, harmonies, killer guitar moments and glammy drama that their rivals at the time could only dream about.

Highlights? Every track has something special. If you want Trash-like anthems than take Lovers, Refugees and Autograph. If you love Dog Man Star style brilliantly executed dramatic ballads then how about Apollo 13 and The Ghost of You. There’s even a big finale in vein of The Next Life – the difference is that the minor key piano-driven A Love As Strong As Death is even more memorable than the album codas that precede it.

Finally Brett is on fine form lyrically. Sure there’s the odd cheesy rhyme, but the tale of clearing a dead mother’s house in The Ghost Of You and the contagious you and me against the world vibe of Two People and Lovers are much sharper and more resonant than anything he has written in a while.

Here Come The Tears is a joyous celebration of life, love and death. It is the sound of two souls who reunited and re-discovered themselves. If Bloodsports is a fifth as good as this it will be a wonderful album.



Ace new vinyl record label Optic Nerve re-issues classic 80s and 90s indie including The Cleaners From Venus

By Stefano on January 17th, 2013

If you liked our round up of long lost 80s and 90s indie bands than you should check out the releases from a new-ish label Optic Nerve.

Based in Cumbria, Optic Nerve specialises in high quality vinyl record reissues of great indie music from the 80s and 90s.

This week sees two new albums bearing its imprint in the guise of much under-rated shoegazers, The Charlottes, Mancunian C86-ers The Waltones and legendary Essex psych/indie combo The Cleaners from Venus

Each album is delivered on high quality coloured vinyl, beautifully packaged and in some instances accompanied by copious sleeve notes.

The one that got me the most excited is The Very Best Of The Cleaners From Venus. If you have never heard them think The Kinks meeting The Cure (at their most melodic) some time during the late 80s. Their string of albums is superb – the early cassette-based ones are packaged here - while this compilation takes the choice cuts from the trio they made at the end of the decade.

There are so many good songs, but highlights for me are the mad time travel through Swinging London, Illya Kuryakin Looked At Me, and the Transatlantic mega hit ballad that never was Mercury Girl. The album comes with a great booklet with reminiscences from band member, now high profile journalist and author, Giles Smith. It sells for £23.99 and is limited to a run of 500.

The Charlottes’ album Things Come Apart is also a real gem. The band were doing shoegazey, feedback-drenched wall of sound indie long before bands like Lush and Ride took it mainstream. There is a bite and verve to their music that is lacking in some of the bands that followed them too, and in opener Liar, they have a real long lost gem of a song. They deserved better – though one member did end up in Slowdive (is that better?) and they are clearly a big influence on this lot. The album is also limited to 500 and sells for £15.99. Here’s a video of the band playing Liar in the early 90s on a deserted Parliament Hill.


Sad about HMV? You might need this – a handy Google Map of the UK’s independent record stores

By Stefano on January 15th, 2013

It is quite likely that there will be a deal done in the next few days to save at least some of the nation’s HMV stores, but even if the chain does survive, the era of record shops on every British High Street has gone forever.

And am I bothered? Well, the standard line ought probably to be – yes I am gutted. Where else am I going to go when she is looking at shoes? To be honest though, while the redundancies are very sad and yes it feels like a bit of history has gone forever, I am not that surprised or upset by the news.

Two reasons. One – people, and I include myself in this number, have consistently chosen convenience over sound quality when it comes to buying music. It was the ease of use of CDs that made it king for a decade or two and being able to buy and increasingly stream tunes has now made life very difficult for the CD. There are days when I feel that Spotify is the aural equivalent of being left after hours in the sweet shop – there’s so much choice so I don’t know when to start. But then friends recommend music to me or I hear something on the radio and instantly I can listen to more.

So I am not going to shed crocodile tears for HMV when I know that I played a role in wielding the axe that helped bring about its demise. I do however hope that record stores can live on in some guise which brings me to my second point.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, if they are going to survive I would prefer it were small indie stores that prospered. And in some way the uncertain future of HMV is quite good news for them and may even bring them new customers.

One of my friends on Facebook wrote some very wise words today.

Future of the record shop? Clearly isn’t selling chart CDs for more than online. Maybe a combined cafe/instrument/vinyl/CD shop which puts on lunch time gigs or has end of work time, early evening sessions by aspiring musicians? Somewhere where you have the equivalent of book club meetings? But themed around different types of music? Live music venues maybe opening all day as music cafes/shops. Would be such a shame for our kids to grow up only ever having music as a download button.

Well that doesn’t sound to me like a big store – that sounds like a small indie record shop.

The sad truth is that, in spite of the vinyl revival giving some a new lease of life, the number of indie record shops is constantly dwindling. It comes down to this then. If you want your kids to ever have the thrill of shopping for a physical representation of music in their hands, rather than simply a file held in The Cloud, then you need to put your money where your mouth is.

Fortunately some enterprising souls have been on the case already today. So if you think you are going to miss HMV then check out this Google Map of the UK indie record stores. If your local one is missing please add it.

View Local Record Shops in a larger map

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