Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Books, music

The other side of the 80s – Ben Vendetta’s Wivenhoe Park review

By Stefano on December 3rd, 2013

wiv park

Personally I am with Jarvis Cocker, who takes the view that 80s were quite possibly the worst decade to be young in post war Britain. AIDS, Thatcherism, looming nuclear apocalypse, Stock, Aitken and Waterman – boy did we suffer.

Still there was some great music made in the 80s and almost none of it made by fellas in frilly shirts, angular haircuts and synthesisers. Well in my opinion anyway.

And if you always prefered The Psychedelic Furs and The Bunnymen to A Flock of Seagulls and Erasure you’ll probably really enjoy Wivenhoe Park, the debut ‘novel’ by American writer and record label supremo Ben Vendetta.

I place novel deliberately in speech marks, because this is clearly the autobiography of an anglophile American who in the middle of his University career swapped Detroit for the delights of, umm Colchester.

Exchange students…

During the 80s I met quite a few exchange students from across the pond.Most tended to be ultra conservative types decked out in crisply ironed chinos and pastel Ralph Lauren shirts, who mainly frequented the library rather than the bar as they were saving money for the big end of term blitz in Paris or Rome.

There were however a few who didn’t fit the template, and these tended to be serious students of British indie music, whose passion for Psychocandy and Wilder had propelled them across the Atlantic to provincial British towns like Reading and in my instance, Lancaster. They were lovely people too and I regret the fact that I have lost touch with almost all of them.

Ben Vendetta was clearly a member of the latter group and Wivenhoe Park charts his, oops sorry, Drew’s journey from Michigan based runner and chaser of teenage goth girls through to inhabitant of the Brutalist paradise that is the university of Essex in Colchester.

This is classic coming of age stuff. Drew makes friends, hangs out with bands, dates inappropriate girls, takes drugs and whole lot more. But what makes Wivenhoe Park such a joy is that Ben writes in a very engaging way. In particular Drew isn’t your average John Hughes-esque teen novel fodder (I still haven’t forgiven him for what he did to Ducky at the end of Pretty In Pink) . Sure does he stupid things and yes he makes mistakes, especially with the ladies, but he is also, smart, funny and blessed with a Forrest Gump style aptitude to be present at key moments in British indie history.

The Indie Forrest Gump

So he catches Bobby Gillespie on the verge of jettisoning the Mary Chain to indulge his Byrds fantasies in Primal Scream. He hangs out in the Hacienda in its awful mid 80s period, and even spots a Manc gothy band who would one day go on to make the seminal album that even 25 years on still, kind of defines the city. Along the way there are cameos from all sorts of indie chancers from The Cure through to Modern English, and even seminal Medway garage punksters The Dentists. Then there are his wonderful ruminations on the lyrics of his heroes too. Ben’s take on the title of the third Psychedelic Furs album really will make you smile. Sure it all sounds a bit trainspottery, but the quality of the prose means that you don’t have to be have been a fully fledged Anorak clad shambler to enjoy it

Ultimately you are left wondering exactly how much of what ben has written is true. Not that it really matters. If you ever enjoyed High Fidelity, went to a British University in the mid 80s or are counting the days until Cherry Red reissues the legendary C86 compilation (as a two disc set!) you’ll love this.


10 albums every man should own #daveberrystyle

By Stefano on October 16th, 2013


Music industry type Dave Berry has caused a bit of kerfuffle today by compiling a list of ten albums that every man should own.

Let’s just say it is a bit of a conservative list. I think that David Cameron’s would be racier. Sure Beatles, Oasis and Portishead are great, but saying you like the Fabs is a bit like saying you like breathing!? No? And the Pulp Fiction soundtrack – please. How old are you again Dave?

Needless to say that Twitter has already hit back big time. Check out the #daveberrystyle hash tag for some corkers.

Anyhow Dave – here’s a the list of ten albums that every man should own. You maybe should have picked these.

Joni Mitchell – Blue – Top tip Dave. Great one to put at the front of your collection as it screams to any intelligent passing young woman that you have a sensitive side. I am more of a Judy Collins man myself.

Dave Berry’s Greatest Hits – This is perfect for every man who is called… Dave Berry! Two reasons One It is by your namesake Dave! And two it is cracking. Berry had lots of great hits in the 6os like the ace Kinks cover This Strange Effect and the corking R and B stomper Don’t Gimme No Lip Child - which was mercilessly trashed by the Sex Pistols a decade later.

The Sound Gallery – You’d love this Dave. It is the ultimate bachelor pad album – and I bet you have a great one of those. It is a mixture of TV theme tunes and film soundtracks from the 60s and 70s alongside a few bonkers covers played by sessions musicians who had clearly been at the cider during the lunch break. It also shows that you listened to a few things that weren’t in the charts in the 90s!

Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg - Ok so it does boast Je T’aime, but there’s also lots of fantastic groovy sixties pop tunes on there too. The good news for Dave and his mates is that it ticks the World Music box too!

Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic - Quick get an album in that the kids might like that was made by people under 25. This is actually fantastic – like the best ever Stars In Their Eyes programme.

And a few he really should have chosen…

Scott Walker – Scott – Course you could have picked a Sinatra album, but why bother when you can have an album that incldues tracks like Mathilde, which is like punk easy listening. The fella is a genius

World of David Bowie – As it shows that when it comes to the Duke you are a completist and not so no mark with just Let’s Dance and Ziggy. In spite of its reputation it is actually rather good.

Billy Bragg – Talking With The Taxman – It contains Levi Stubbs’ Tears – possibly the best record of the 1980s. Always good to include Billy cos he might retweet you on Twitter.

Pink Floyd – Piper At The Gates of Dawn – Life doesn’t get any better than Interstellar Overdrive on full blast through your headphones with a jostick or two for company. Oh, and you need to be 14.

The Len Price 3 – Nobody Knows – Two reasons. One it will be amazing (it isn’t out yet, but you can pretend that you have heard it), Two it has a song about a guy who built an aircraft in his house in WW2 so he could go and chase the Luftwaffe! Details here.

What are yours then?


An alternative Mercury Prize shortlist – five great albums that shouldn’t be overlooked

By Stefano on September 10th, 2013

mondo-mercuryTomorrow the wonderful Lauren Laverne will rip open an envelope and announce the albums that make up this year’s Mercury Prize shortlist.

It will be predictably unpredictably- if that is possible – with nods to a folk album or two, a bit of jazz and classical and maybe something completely off the wall. But making the running will be the obvious stuff from new bands like Daughter and London Grammar and old-timers like Bowie and the Primals.

There are however so many great albums that could be on that list, but won’t make the cut as they are by bands and singers that are either too below the radar or just not the sort of thing the judges probably ever get round to listening to. And of course everyone has their opinion – so here is mine. So here then are five amazing British albums released in the last twelve months that really ought to be tumbling from Lauren’s lips tomorrow. One or two of them on the list would be amazing.

1 Neil’s Children – Dimly Lit

The Southend band who have been around for ages have just delivered a carer defining, superb album that takes the current vogue for all things psych in a darker direction than most of their peers. Sure there’s a whiff of Syd Barrett and The United States of America but also the sometimes challenging electronica of Stereloab and Broadcast. They do deep and scary as on Edward the Confessor, but they can also churn out a pop hit or two such as the amazing Trust You. They are about a million times smarter and more musically adventurous than Peace!

2 Mondo JetSet – Provincial Drama Club

Another band who have been around the block a little, but have just released their masterpiece. Provincial Drama Club boasts no fewer than 23 tracks and several of those are two melodies spliced together. It is a Magnetic Fields 69 Love Songs in miniature, but like that album the quality of the melodies and the witty lyrics just keep on coming. Think Noel Coward and Neil Tennant transported to a provincial English seaside town with only a head full of thwarted ambitions and a deck chair on a soggy day for company. Absolutely essential.

3 Darren Hayman – The Violence

In some parallel pop universe Darren Hayman is preparing his Mercury acceptance speech and wondering how that bonus cash could fund the research for next concept album. The Violence is the type of left field English pop that the Mercurys should be celebrating. It is a concept albums of sort that recounts tales of the witch trials and the ongoing religious rankles of the sixteenth century. It might sound a tad pretentious, but believe me it is utterly addictive. Hayman has a wonderful way of getting under the skin of the characters he writes about so that the listener gets to hear both sides of the story. As for the melodies they are among the best that Hayman has ever written and his songbook is pretty much in the same league as anyone else from last twenty years IMO.

4 The Hidden Masters – Of This & Other Worlds

Now this is an album that is utterly unique. There has been nothing like the ambition, scope and sheer cheek of Of This & Other Worlds for four decades. It is a fantastic pot pourri of largely unsung British psych pop influences channeled into something that is chaotic, funny and utterly compelling. Possibly my favourite album of 2013. Like Candy is a Bohemian Rhapsody for garage punk fans.

5 Scott Walker – Bish Bosch

And for a new act who about this fella? Bish Bosch is another absolute triumph, with some of Scott’s most challenging music in a decades nestling along side a song or two that you can almost hum along to. It is a lot more interesting than London Grammar! And doesn’t he have a British passport these days too!

features, festivals, music

Opening bands of the greatest music festivals of all time – Glastonbury, Woodstock

By Stefano on August 15th, 2013

Ever wondered who were the very first band to play your favourite music festival? Who kicked off the shenanigans at Glastonbury back in 1970, or who preceded all the greats at Monterey and Woodstock? And what ever happened to them? Did they achieve greatness or become a musical footnote just dragged out in features like this? Here are your answers.

1 Glastonbury – Stackridge

The first Glasto was back in 1970 and kicking off the proceedings (and ending it too) were an eclectic bunch of art school rockers Stackridge. Resolutely English sounding but incorporating all kinds of other weird elements including music hall, progressive jazz and even a touch of reggae, the band sounded like no one else at the time. The first track they played that day was Teatime from their second album and fortunately it is corker. A lovely swirling piece of psychedelic/progressive rock whimsy with a gorgeous extended solo. They went on to make some great albums, briefly morphed in to 80s hit makers The Korgis and then reformed, to considerable acclaim, in the 90s.

2 Monterey – The Association

Monetery pop festival back in 1967 might have become infamous for its drug addled rock star escapades, but the band that opened the Friday of the festival were the clean cut popsters The Association. The band, who went on to have a load of hits including Never My Love, Cherish and Windy appropriately enough started their set with the anthemic Enter the Young. If you like a bit of easy listening/sunshine pop their albums are highly recommended especially Birthday. Here’s how they sounded that day.

3 Coachella – A Perfect Circle

The first ever Coachella in 1999 boasted a stellar line up that included such pop luminaries as Beck and Morrissey. But kicking off the weekend’s festivities were A Perfect Circle, alt rockers with links to acts like Tool and The Smashing Pumpkins. Had they not turned up then history would have recorded that first act to ever play Coachella were Scottish indie curiosities Bis – now that would have been cool.

4 Donnington Monsters of Rock – Touch

The first Monsters Of Rock fest was in 1980 and the very first band to take the speakers to eleven were New York based rockers Touch. They managed a couple of albums which are apparently great if you like a touch of melodic rock. A live version of “Don’t You Know What Love Is” appeared on the compilation LP Monsters of Rock, documenting performances at the festival.

5 V festival – Edge Park

No, we had to look them up. Apparently the first V Festival in 1996 was opened by obscure New Yorkers Edge Park, a band so below the radar they don’t even have an entry on Wikipedia. They were followed by The Longpigs – featuring a certain Mr Richard Hawley and easy listening pop sensations Mike Flowers Pops.

6 Woodstock – Richie Havens

The US singer songwriter opened Woodstock and for his troubles got to play for nearly three hours. It certainly did his career no harm. Sadly Havens died earlier this year.

7 The Isle of Wight – Halcyon Order

The first IOW festival in 1968 was an absolute corker with the likes of The Pretty Things, T Rex and The Move supporting hot US psych rockers Jefferson Airplane. The festival’s openers are utterly obscure. Halcyon Order were apparently a local band and one festival goer recalls – ‘unfortunately the bass drum broke in the first number, and the resulting hold up seemed to take the edge of their set. This band had a lot of talent and some of the members are still gigging on the island scene.’ There’s more about them here.

8 Latitude – Vega 4

The East Anglian festival feels as if it has been around for ever but in reality its inaugural weekend was back in 2006 when the main stage’s first act were Vega 4 a London indie band who had just released their second album You and Others. Not many people know that the year before Henham Park had hosted the Latitude dress rehearsal, the Southwold Pop Festival, so in reality the fest’s first ever act were probably some pop and soul covers band from Lowestoft.

9 Benicassim – Athlete

The Spanish festival opened in 2005 with British band Athlete on the mainstage, the band recently finished touring their debut album Vehicles & Animals which was issued ten years ago.

10 Hyde Park – Jethro Tull

Long before Blur, Bruce and JLS invaded the park the inaugural concert in 1968 was headlined by the underground’s signature band The Pink Floyd. Before them though the day had started with the weird prog folk stylings of the slightly barmy Ian Anderson and his band Jethro Tull.

And if you have a spare few hours this history of British music festivals is loads of fun.

features, music

One of 2013′s most influential bands – The Status Quo – yes really

By Stefano on July 25th, 2013


I have been listening a fair bit to the new album Inventions from the ultra cool Nashville psych band The Sufis and been scratching my head to work out what their key influences are. Sure there’s plenty of Revolver era Beatles, and they have obviously mastered all the key elements of the Syd Barrett songbook. There’s also a whiff of The Kinks, The Pretty Things and 80s psych popsters like The Three O’Clock.

And then it suddenly struck me – they have clearly been listening to the first two Status Quo albums. In fact there’s a fair bit of new music around at the moment that owes quite a lot to the Quo. Not so much to their later 70s and 80s stuff where the band became a parody of themselves/the only rock and roll band worthy of that moniker depending on your point of view. But their 60s psych recordings.

But back to The Sufis, and also it should be said Paperhead, The Dolly Rocker Movement, Temples, Beaulieu Porch and Jacco Gardner. I’d been astonished if they weren’t on nodding terms with the first two Quo albums – Picturesque Matchstickable Messages from the Status Quo and Spare Parts.

Both are massively under rated British psych pop albums – out in the cold because of what the band went on to become, yet both of the long players are packed with some wonderful melodies taken to the edge by some very groovy psych trappings.

The track that totally does it for me is Mr Mind Detector from Spare Parts. I had this on a compilation cassette once and didn’t know who it was by. I listened to the slow chugging guitar build up, droney verse and clever use of brass and its assumed its was a one-off single taken from an obscure British Psych compilation. It is the Quo, and if you have only ever heard the boogie stuff it will be revelation. Much of Spare Parts is almost as good. It is heavily orchestrated, phased psychedelia but with striking Macca-esque melodies. What is not to like?

If anything the tracks on the first albums are even closer to what is happening now. Elisabeth Dreams, Sunny Cellophane skies and When My Mind Is Not Live are just as trippy as their titles suggest and fit seamlessly next to anything from The Sufis. And that’s without a nod to their two hits from the era – Pictures Of Matchstick Men and Ice In The Sun.

By the time the third album arrived – Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon in 1970, the Quo had ditched the psych and gone for an anglicised version of Creedence/Canned Heat’s back to basics boogie. Yet it is still a highly under rated album. Down The Dustpipe which heralds from the same era is a guilty pleasure of mine and is just ripe for someone to cover.

Btw I think is was probably The Quo who provided the inspiration for Spinal Tap’s Flower Children. Camply dressed psych pop band who went all rawk – it has to be them.

Here then are The Quo and The Sufis and The Tap – now that would be one amazing gig! Spotify has all the band’s psych recordings – embedded below.

features, music, top ten

The ten best Psych albums of 2013 – so far… Sufis, Hidden Masters, Foxygen

By Stefano on July 24th, 2013

If you like a Beatley melody, some twangy guitar, a smidgen of sitar and the odd bonkers middle eight 2013 has been a vintage year so far. The rush of new psych bands that emerged in 2012 has blossomed into a worldwide movement. And it isn’t all about 60 re-treads. Some of the new bands are clearly inspired by this mob and at the same time borrow as much from 80s bands like these and these as they are from the 60s originals.

Here then are my ten favourite psych albums of the year so far. The superb Bed Rugs and Morgan Delt don’t make the cut as their offerings are more EPs than albums. I also have thing for the new albums from Suede, Bill Ryder Jones, Still Corners and Jagwar Ma, but none are really psych enough to make the cut. And as for the new Darren Hayman album - well that is something else…

There’s loads to come too with The Soundcarriers, Len Price 3, Morgan Delt, Balduin and others all promising new albums by the end of the year. You lucky people!

10 Maston - Shadows

Picture 1 of 10
Picture 1 of 10

Bonkers debut album from one Frank Maston who attempts to re-create the kind of quirkiness that Van Dyke Parks and Brian Wilson were cooking up in the late 60s, except that it takes the odd Transatlantic detour too and on tracks like Strange Rituals ends up sounding like the kind of wonderful instrumentals that Blur ended up knocking out after listening to too many Specials albums. A genius pop record.

music, Style

How Paul McCartney invented the hipster look and indie pop

By Stefano on July 9th, 2013

macca hipster

When Paul McCartney left The Beatles in 1970 he decided to drop out of public life for a while. Taking his wife and children Macca headed off to his newly bought farm house in the Mull of Kintrye to raise sheep, walk on the beach and pen gentle folky ditties.

It wasn’t until a year later in 1971 when the former Beatle raised his head above the parapet again with the release of the album that had largely been written on Kintrye – Ram. He probably wished he hadn’t bothered. When the press compared Ram with the output of his former sparring partners they found it to be twee, slight and a tad half-baked. It was no match at the time for Lennon’s primal screams or Harrison’s spiritual ditties. Although it sold well Ram became a exhibit A for Macca detractors.

Fast forward over forty years and there is a growing number of both critics and fans that rate Ram as the very best post Beatles solo album. Macca had in Ram delivered the template for much of what we now know as indie pop. It is all there; twee pop (Uncle Albert), folky acoustic strumming (Ram On), re-inventing the Beach Boys (Dear Boy), power pop (Too Many People). Music that delights in big melodies and that wears it tweeness as a badge of honour.

But also take a look at this pic. Macca wasn’t only light years ahead in his music,. He also delivered the template for men’s hipster fashion in 2013. Unkempt beard – check, Fair-isle jumper – check, retro camera -check, ironic tea drinking – check. Credit to @ianbetteridge for the spot.


REVIEW: Nile Rodgers Presents – The CHIC Organization “Up All Night” (Greatest Hits)

By Gerald Lynch on July 5th, 2013

nile-rodgersThe Don of Disco; the Patriarch of Pop: you love Nile Rodgers’ music even if you don’t know the man behind the tunes.

It occurred to me and my pals that a beast of an all-night house party playlist we’d put together was unwittingly made up of at least 50% Rodgers related tracks, be they from his Chic days, the innumerable samples pooled by hip-hop and dance luminaries such as Grandmaster Flash and Modjo, his 80s/90s run as uber producer behind the mixing desk for the likes of Bowie, the B-52s and Madonna, or his recent collaboration with Daft Punk for ‘Get Lucky’, a track that’s soundtracking the summer and on the verge of entering that strange realm of “pop song as cultural phenomenon”, a tune that babies will be born being able to hum along to.

It’s all in a day’s work for Rodgers, as proved by this latest compilation ‘Nile Rodgers Presents – The NRCHIC-GreatestHits2013_900xCHIC Organization “Up All Night”’. Featuring Chic’s best alongside hits that had a helping hand from Rodgers $1.3 billion “Hitmaker” Fender Stratocaster and production skills, it’s the perfect introduction for those that only know Rodgers as Daft Punk’s mate.

For tracks approaching their 40th anniversary, the Chic cuts here still sound vital. Sticking more closely to their rhythmic funk roots than other groups that came under the disco umbrella, there’s a sophisticated (sometimes sparse) sonic layering that Chic’s peers lacked, relegating them to the dreaded wedding disco playlist for eternity, a fate that Rodgers and co once unfairly seemed destined to join them in. Take the manic string stabs of ‘Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)’. Or the bassline to ‘Everybody Dance’, which remains as insane as ever, or the cocktail-sipping groove to ‘Good Times’, as infectious as the first time you heard it – each a testament to the late, great bass player Bernard Edwards, Rodgers’ key Chic collaborator who shouldn’t be forgotten during this most recent revival of interest in Chic’s music.

For the most part, Rodgers collaborations beyond Chic represented here are frighteningly indelible, sunset-swathed skyscrapers on the musical landscape too. The chorus to Sister Sledge’s ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ is enough to make even these two do the dirty, and his work with Diana Ross was the best the diva ever managed beyond the Motown majesty of The Supremes. It’s only Johnny Mathis’ confused samba-infused ‘I Love My Lady’ and Debbie Harry’s failed attempt to recapture the magic of Blondie’s ‘Rapture’ on ‘Backfired’ that fall flat across the 25 tracks on the two-disc compilation.

It’s a pity that Rodgers’ influential later production jobs aren’t better represented here too – from the mid-80s through to the early 90s, Rodgers was as important a producer for his times as Phil Spector was in the 1960s. (David Bowie’s continued success owes Rodgers a great debt, given Rodgers basically saved his career with the ‘Let’s Dance’ album.)

But to moan about what’s not here when met with some of the most instantly-recognisable tracks of the 20th century is churlish. After too many years in the shadows Rodgers is now rightfully being recognised as a musical legend, with a whole new generation of fans in the enviable position of being able to hear his tunes for the first time. ‘Up All Night’ is the perfect companion for that sonic journey of discovery.

Nile Rodgers Presents – The CHIC Organization “Up All Night” (Greatest Hits) is available from Amazon, priced £8.99 




Scott Walker to play live gigs in 2014 shocker! Tells mag that he’s on the case

By Stefano on July 1st, 2013

scott walker_350Once Scott Walker was among the most reclusive pop stars with a profile that rivalled Syd Barrett. These days however, he seems a lot happier chatting to people about his music and his ideas.

There has been one area though which has been pretty much no go for awhile and that is live dates.

Back in 2008 Walker did organise a night at the Barbican where groups of musicians, singers and dancers, including Damon Albarn and Jarvis Cocker, re-created tracks from Scott’s Tilt and The Drift albums. Walker was tucked away in the back wearing a baseball cap and conducting and encouraging the entourage.

Now it appears that the the singer has plans for live dates – his first since the late 70s.

In an interview with The Believer published here he talks about live gigs and says the following

BLVR: Are you ever concerned that the studio provides you with such a particular kind of comfort with recording and playing music that you have forgotten how different music “feels” in a live setting?

SW: Well, I haven’t performed in so long, but live performance these days is fantastic. It’s formed from all the stuff you have in the studio anyway, so it’d be possible to actually re-create this. We did something at the Barbican a number of years ago, with three or four nights of my songs. They were performed by other people, and Pete and I did the sound. All the musicians we used were there and all the strings were there. It was pretty damn close. The problem with me now is that whenever I sit down to write, my imagination expands and suddenly I have this cast of thousands I’m carrying around with me. The music becomes very demanding. There are no guitar breaks. No soloing, that kind of thing. It would be a very demanding night to do, and it would cost a fortune. No one—none of the promoters—would make any money. And that’s not the idea of live performance these days. But every time I do this, I sit down with an intention of writing something that I can play live, because my manager, everybody, is on my back about it. Of course, it escapes me. But next year I’ll try again. Come February, I’ll start to work again, and maybe I can keep it down. One certainly hopes.

Well that clearly sounds like a man who wants to get back on the stage. Scott for Glasto? I wonder what William Hill would offer on that?

Seriously though I’d love a live performance of his more recent stuff, and if he were to thrown in a few of his 60s classics too, well I might spontaneously combust.


David Bowie to play Glastonbury? The bets are on.

By Stefano on June 26th, 2013

Everyone knows that The Rolling Stones are the main attraction at Glastonbury this weekend. However the internet has been awash with rumours that a certain other vintage pop star who is on the comeback trail, might play a secret set at the fest.

Yep William Hill is offering odds of 6/1 on David Bowie playing Glasto with him at 10/1 joining the Stones on stage.

“Every festival around the world this year have been plagued by rumours that Bowie will play a secret set and with odds of 6/1, it looks likely that he may wait for the biggest stage of all, Glastonbury, to do so,” said William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly.

It couldn’t happen – could it?


John Lennon auditions for The Voice – genius video

By Stefano on June 25th, 2013

Next week Nick Drake stars on Britain’s Got Talent…


David Woodcock releases Same Things debut single reinvents Brit Pop, but in a good way

By Stefano on June 19th, 2013

Essex has a bit of form when it comes to delivering maverick pop geniuses with a gift for mixing a smidgeon of music hall with a dash of 60s pop and creating inspired, but intelligent tunes.

And the latest to join such luminaries as Ian Dury, Jake Shillingford and Damon Albarn is Blow Up record’s new signing Southend boy David Woodcock whose magnificent debut single is presented here.

Same Things is a wonderful distillation of everything that is great about quirky English pop music. From its dry, rather downbeat lyrics through to its Madness ska-lite beat in the verse and soar away chorus this is the type of tune that hasn’t been heard since the glory days of Brit pop. Not the dry Oasis 60s re-treads but The Blur of The Great Escape, Supergrass’ debut and The Auteurs before they got too prententious And it is also delivered in a vocal style that’s pure Essex. He really has to be a relative of Jake Shillingford.

Anyhow David Woodcock has an album coming in the Autumn. You just know it is going to be very special.


The Hidden Masters – Of This And Other Worlds review

By Stefano on June 19th, 2013


In case it has escaped your attention there is a bit of psych revival going on at the moment with thousands of bands from all across their world aping their 60s heroes in creating trippy, yet hook-filled soundscapes.

A lot of those bands take the easy route and splice a dreamy melody to a driving beat before drenching it all in howling feedback. Not The Hidden Masters though. For Scotland’s finest Psych band plunder just about every late 60s genre to produce a very imaginative and ambitious sound that really doesn’t have much else in common with any other bands at the moment.

They seem to have swallowed the Brit Psych rule book whole and lesson one in said book is that each tune should be chocka with so many twists and turns that the listener really doesn’t have a clue what to expect next. To aficionados this means mini pop symphonies like the Pretty Things finest moment Defecting Grey or even Dantalion’s Chariot’s Madman Running Through The Fields, who featured a pre-Police Andy Summers on a bewitching guitar solo. In many ways almost half of the tracks on this the band’s debut sound like they are attempting to create psych versions of Bohemian Rhapsody.

As well as Of This And Other Worlds being ambitious it is also brilliant too. The trio know how to take their influences – think Da Capo era love as well as Chocolate Soup Brit psych – whack them in the aural blender and come up with something that sounds both familiar and unique – surely the holy grail for intelligent pop music in 2013.

They set their stall out on the opener She Broke The Clock Of the Long Now which sounds to me like a whole Rubble compilation condensed into four and a half action-packed minutes. Into The Night Sky and Perfume which come straight after highlight their Love influence the most. Imagine if Arthur Lee Lee had come from Lanarkshire rather than LA.

There is then great tune after tune all stuffed with fascinating melodic twists and turns, unusual instrumental excursions, intense period detail that only the true psych anorak would be aware of and more. Sometimes it is almost too much.

And then the band unveil their two ace cards Last Days of The Sun and Like Candy. Last Days is magical. It sounds like the missing link between Wimple Winch and west coast US psych. It lasts six amazing minutes and contains more musical ideas in that time than Coldplay have had a in a decade.

If anything Like Candy is even better. A huge harmony drenched pop song that bizarrely half way through blossoms into a Gospel type sing along before the melody gives way to a brilliant 70s style guitar solo.

As I said at the beginning there are lot of psych bands at the moment. But no on else sounds like The Hidden Masters. They are utterly unique and your life would be massively enriched by owning their album.

There’s a couple of tracks here.


Pink Floyd on Spotify – the best of their singles, films and early stuff

By Stefano on June 18th, 2013

Pink_Floyd_Large_1233758930_crop_500x338Of course we all know that See Emily Play is one of the best singles of the 60s and that Dark Side Of The Moon still outsells just about everyone apart from One Direction. And also that Comfortably Numb and Wish You Were Here are rock classics of the highest order.

But now that the entire Pink Floyd catalogue has landed on Spotify here’s a few of their lesser known gems to get familiar with.

1 Candy And a A Currant Bun – The B side of the band’s first single, which was originally titled Let’s Roll Another One, was for years pretty tricky to track down unless you splurged out on the original vinyl. A massive influence on bands like Paperhead and The Sufis this is Syd Barret at his chirpiest and has an amazing Rick Wright keyboard solo.

2 Apples and Oranges - Pink Floyd’s third single, their first to miss the charts and their last with Syd at the helm.  Apples and Oranges is a flawed masterpiece and in many ways just as good as Arnold Layne and See Emily Play. The odd time changes and nursery rhyme chorus provide more than just a few clues that someone’s mind was starting to fall apart.

3 Let There Be More Light – Long before Can, Neu and their Kraut Rock Motorik beats the Floyd kicked space rock off with this stirring opener to their second ‘transitional’ album Saucerful of Secrets.

4 Cymbaline – One of two standouts from the soundtrack of the film More, this is a dreamy psychedelic ballad with a strong vocal and some stunning guitar courtesy of the new boy Dave Gilmour.

5 The Nile Song – Also from More, this is The Floyd pretending to be Black Sabbath. Better than it sounds.

6 Grantchester Meadows - Roger Waters’ acid folk ballad is one of the highlights of the studio side of Ummagumma. It is a paen to the gorgeous rolling water’s side fields to the east of Cambridge.

7 Summer ’68 – Much of Atom Heart Mother is borderline unlistenable prog rock noodling – IMO, but this psych-ish ballad is almost as good as the amazing psych era it celebrates.

8 Brain Damage – The killer track from Dark Side that often seems to get overlooked in favour of the more obvious stuff like Time and Us and Them. Again this sounds like it could have come from a few years earlier.

9 Hey You – If you are not sure about The Wall, this along with the obvious Comfortably Numb, is the place to start.

10 When The Tigers Broke Free - There is a small bit noisy coterie of fans who believe that The Final Cut is among the Floyd’s best albums. I am not one of them but this dramatic song is always worth a listen.

Gadgets, music

Pink Floyd finally lands on Spotify – Wish You Were Here first

By Stefano on June 14th, 2013

Pink_Floyd_Large_1233758930_crop_500x338There is a small but rather impressive list of bands who haven’t yet made their music available to streaming service Spotify. The Beatles top the list, alongside Led Zep and Oasis. but one band who up until now had resisted making their music available on the service have finally changed their mind.

In a short period of time (hopefully, more on that in moment) Pink Floyd’s entire back catalogue will be available to stream on Spotify. So listeners can revel in Syd Barret’s psychedelic ditties while switching all the lights off and sniffing josticks to Dark Side Of The Moon.

Back in May several Pink Floyd albums landed on the site but were withdrawn quickly. This time round the track Wish You Were here has been added to the service and this cryptic tweet has come from the band.

To unlock the catalogue Wish You Were Here has to be streamed one million times. So come on Spotify users get cracking. So come on Floyd fans hop to it.

Not everyone will be pleased though.

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