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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Big Boy Bloater - Loopy

Big Boy Bloater has been around the block a few times.
From playing to a handful of people in a bar to standing stage centre in front of thousands (sometimes in the same week) he has been there and bought the t-shirt multiple times.
And as expected from someone with that much experience tucked under their belt he knows the lay of the land when it comes to providing a performance.
Similarly he also knows how to transform the live buzz that he can so effortlessly create into a studio tour de force with the evidence of that plain for all to hear on his latest outing ‘Loopy’.

Giving his band a holiday for this release we are given an insight into the big mans roots, and with each song it sounds as if it has been honourably and delicately dragging each one out of the primordial blues swamp and giving them a careful brush down before then putting them through their paces prior to finally giving them a smack on the arse and sending them out into the world to upset or excite people all over again.

Kicking off with the cover of Bear Cat he manages to keep one eye on the authenticity angle and the other on just letting it all hang out.
It’s quite simply a master-class on how to take a song from the fifties and ease it into the present.
The power and the passion in the song is still kept perfectly intact and as a riposte to Big Mama Thornton and her Hound Dog it’s an affectionate slap that compliments the Rufus Thomas original.

For many starting an album with this would just herald a downward slide as where can you go from such a high, but this isn’t a wet behind the collar artist and as said someone who knows what they are doing so there’s no real danger of it being the schoolboy error of starting off with the killer punch and then following it with some half hearted swipes.
Instead what we get is ‘Every path has its puddle’ that originally appeared as a full band effort with Imelda May providing backing vocals, but this time the sleaze notch is turned up to stun and it’s existing in the space between Little Willie John and Peggy Lee’s ‘Fever’.

With two songs down and another eight to go it’s easy to get a bit carried away, but thankfully there’s not one moment that kicks in as anticlimactic, and instead the train just keeps a rolling all night long.
Not that this song is on it, but if anyone is looking for another good cover to get their teeth into then by track six there’s Alligator Wine that is more Screaming Jay Hawkins than Jeff Buckley and while the latter’s version is nothing to sniff at it’s in how Big Boy Bloater delivers it that the magic lies.
In fact instead of calling the album ‘Loopy’, as it’s mainly been recorded using a loop pedal, he could have called it ‘I don’t drop the ball………….ever’, and not been embarrassed at the boast as it’s rooted in fact.
Saying that it's highly recommended really does fall short of covering how good this is.
So as it is nearly x-mas get on it as it's doubtful that anyone would be disappointed in finding Big Boy Bloater in their stocking, but then again all the ladies say that. ;)

You can pick the album up just now, along with his back catalogue in NHC Music Glasgow or preorder it direct from his website here. 

And if you want to see the man himself there's some dates left for this year and more arranged for next.
Thu 11th Dec - NEWCASTLE
Fri 12th Dec - NORWICH
NORWICH - The Talk, Oak St
Sat 13th Dec - LUTON
The Bear Club, Millyard, LUTON
Tue 16th Dec - LONDON
Team Rock Xmas Bash - + Bonfanti & Bryant
Thur 22 Jan - BALHAM)
Bodeans, Balham
Fri 13th Feb - BEDFORD)
Esquires - more info soon
Thur 19th Feb - READING
More info soon
Thurs 5th March - LONDON
The Garage, Islington
Fri 6th March - BRISTOL
The Thunderbolt, 124 Bath Rd
Sat 7th March - SHOREHAM
Ropetackle Centre, Shoreham
Fri 13th March - WINCHESTER
The Railway, Winchester
Fri 20th March - NEWCASTLE
Cluny 2, Newcastle
Sat 21st March - GLASGOW
Sleazy's, Sauciehall St, Glasgow
Sun 22nd March - KENDAL
Bootleggers, Kendal
Thur 26th March - BIRMINGHAM
Roadhouse, Birmingham
Fri 27th March - SHEFFIELD
Greystones, Greystones Rd, Sheffield

And finally here's some footage I shot at at NHC Muisc where Big Boy Bloater kindly played an acoustic in store.
Pretty raw and just from an old digital camera, but it is what it is. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Have Mercy Las Vegas - That's Life

People love little genre tags.
Alt-folk is one.
Anyone who plays acoustically and likes the sound of the fiddle and mandolin are often bundled together and pushed into a box that is already full to the brim of guys wearing tweed, sporting bushy beards and refusing to wear socks.
It’s not really fair though.

The folk fraternity is in reality a broad church.
It’s a very large umbrella that people can shelter under as they experiment and co-exist happily next to each other.

So basically the point is that no one should take the quick glancing Mumford and Sons overview and dismiss those who are ploughing that particular field, because if they do then they are apt to miss out on how good Have Mercy Las Vegas are.
As here they are - with their debut full length - delivering a confident antidote to the stadium stomp of what some may perceive modern day folk to sounds like.

With a nuanced understanding that the past is just the foundation for the future they are melding the traditional with the modern in a far more effective manner than many of their peers.
Much of the original material revisits the sound of Scottish band The Humpff Family, and yet that’s entirely coincidental as when I mentioned it to band member Stephen Scott he was unaware for their existence.
His ignorance of them actually ties in neatly with how they are really a product of the same environment rather than looking to pay homage to a particular sound.  
And sound-wise there’s no real down side.

From songs that would lend themselves to soundtracking a hoe-down to more introspective moments that are evocatively emotional the band are consistently delivering a quality performance.
With a recent local television appearance drawing some well deserved attention to them, a slew of live dates that will further cement their reputation, and work already done on a follow up release it is already looking as if 2015 could be this bands year.

So I shouldn't really need to say that grabbing a copy of ‘That’s Life’ now and telling everyone that you were there first will make you the smug King or Queen of Smugland when every one else catches on, but there you go. I sort of just did.    

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Jesus and Mary Chain - Barrowlands 23/11/14 (Glasgow)

The nights of every riot being a mini revolution may well have been left behind by The Jesus and Mary Chain, and similarly the late appearances and early finishes as a statement of truculent defiance are gone to, but there is no denying that the power has not diminished in the near thirty years since they gave the world psychocandy.

Live they still exude a great deal more raw menace and primal emotion than any band that they spawned in their wake.

They still push everything to the point of brutality and then touch you with the butterfly kiss.

Very often you never really know if you should swoon or duck when in their presence.
Yet for the iconic Barrowlands Ballroom crowd - on the second night of a couple of sold out dates - it is very obviously the former, as amongst the maelstrom of feedback and fuzz there is an innate understanding of how far is enough, and how far is too far.
Symbiotically the audience by and large get it, and they do indeed swoon when they aren’t being buffeted by the force of the hurricane performance.
The volume could of course lend itself to some jumping to the assumption that a degree of intimacy could be lost, but they would be wrong.
No matter how distorted they push the levels of their sound to, regardless of the amount of feedback applied, they are fully aware of when to apply pressure and when to release it.
And therein is probably where the magic of the Jesus and Mary Chain lies.

In the intervening years between the release of psychocandy and the present we have seen many words having been written about it.
Some to raise it up as an iconic watershed album, and others to dismiss it as a short sharp burst that outside the first flush of excitement doesn't stand up to a heavy critique.
The latter would argue that the band are mere musical magpies that picked up the shiny shiny from the Velvet Underground, Phil Spector and Suicide and ran with it, but when they do this it just draws attention to how they have missed much of the point.
It’s not about the separate influences, but the melding of them.
They simply fall short of grasping that the sum of their parts should never be the benchmark that the band are judged by, and instead that the focus should always be firmly angled towards the whole.
If they could embrace that then it would be difficult for them to deny that the whole is a wondrous layering of noise that often builds to a cacophonous release that pushes for an emotional response rather than anything else, and it did partially change the direction of where music was heading.

And even if that is still beyond their grasps then the testament of the live shows themselves casually evidences that those who do consider them a pivotal act and laud them as such are probably right.

It’s doubtful that anyone who was bathed in the strobing light show in the Barrowlands could disagree as the Jesus and Mary Chain delivered on every single promise that was made in 1985.

It’s very obvious that the Reid brothers and co are not looking to take any prisoners on this tour.
So it’s probably best to just put your arms up and surrender now.

Easier to just go with it rather than resist.

Next year people will look back and claim that the album and the anniversary tour were equally as important in the bands career.
So don't miss them.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Then we win

This is a public service announcement sans guitars.
We have always wanted to say that.
This is the season for bastardising Clash lyrics.

So let’s get right down to it.
We would like to take this opportunity to extend our gratitude to the person(s) who carried out the act of petty vandalism which was tearing down and smashing our shop signage.

The reason that we are thankful is that they have just highlighted to us - and everyone who will become aware of what has happened - that we are incrementally winning the hearts and minds of the artistic community, and public, by promoting ethical practices over the lust for accruing filthy lucre.
If we weren't then it would have been easier to just leave us to wither on the vine due to lack of support.
That the decision has been made to do something about us - with this being a rather pathetic opening salvo fired across our bows – just draws attention to our minor early day successes in the many positive ventures we are undertaking.

This is simply an advert for NHC now.

So once again thank you.

Of course we could be accused of being paranoid, and some could claim that this incident is simply a random act of vandalism.
In isolation we would happily accept that, but with the ongoing removal of our posters, while those around them are left untouched, and the fact that it was our signage removed, while other businesses were left alone, says a great deal and we no longer consider that we are adding two and two together and getting five.

Also there is one other thing we would like to state, and that is that we don’t for a second consider that the person(s) who would carry out such a petty act of vandalism is/are linked to any other record shop.
Record shop owners and those who work in them are all fundamentally passionate music fans and appreciate that there is enough room for everyone.
Not for one second should anyone consider that we suspect any of our peers of doing this.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, comment on it, or share it.
We are of course happy to answer any questions posed.

The NHC team.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Fire & Ice - Rank Berry, Soul Remover. 12 and 13 Dec.

 As someone who has been kicking about on the fringes of the music scene for a number of years I will admit that when I hear the words 'showcase gig' I usually internally translate it to 'ripping off young talent by promising them the world gig'.
It's easy to do as nine times out of ten that is exactly what they are.
No movers or shakers are ever there, no one is going to sign anyone up, and the deal is always that the bands have to sell tickets.

However there is always that one out of ten who are the genuine deal and the Fire and Ice event is that rare beast.
I know this to be a fact as being co-manager to Rank Berry I am aware of all the ins and outs of participating in the event.

It's all pretty simple really.

Turn up and play and dependent on how good you are then you can possibly secure a slot on the Wildfire festival bill.

That's it.

It's not about how many people an act can bring to the show, but purely a case of the organizers being able to get a feel for how a shortlisted bunch of quality acts can cut it live.

Of course the band can sell tickets if they want, but don't have to.
If they do they can get a cut (a fair one) and even if they don't then if the night is a success ( and why wouldn't it be) they will get something.
It was wonderfully refreshing not to have to negotiate a deal as all the angles were covered very professionally from the start.
Even better was getting an email with every detail you could think of included.
Load in times, soundchecks, equipment that will be on hand.
It was all there.

So hats off to Dave Ritchie and his team for providing an exemplary example of how putting a gig together should be done.

I love bullshit free arrangements. :)

Tickets for the gig are £6 per night, or £10 for both and you can get them from here.

However Rank Berry will have them in a few days and if you want one for the Friday night just get in touch with us at Rank Berry.
For the £6 we are going to throw in a copy of the debut ep as well.
We are pretty damn cool aint we?
Also pop along to the NHC and you can pick tickets up there with no booking fee. (Same deal with the ep included)

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Courtesans - 1917

As the fodder that is classed as mainstream chart music continues to run as fast as it can towards its own lowest common denominator destruction it sometimes feels like it is already over late for some heroes, or even heroines, to ride in to save the day, but with the Courtesans latest album (not that lot from some crap reality television show) maybe they have arrived just in time to snatch a victory from the jaws of the apathetic industry that is eating its own tale.
Initially they open up as an electro pop fans wet dream, but one with a bit of an industrial edge.
It’s that double whammy of the tap followed by the hook that’s as bruisingly good as all solid aural assaults should be, but then just as you are looking to snatch a breath before the next round commences the album starts to move into well grasped James Bond theme song territory.
It’s surprising, even a bit discombobulating, but it works well.
Very well in fact.
With huge lush David Arnold styled arrangements the Courtesans are not looking to merely pay homage to the material, but rather give it a run for its money, and at points they can even be heard edging ahead.
No mean feat in itself.
At times it is very easy to get lost in the music and start to drift along with it as it flows around you.
Close your eyes and the music fills your head with the iconic imagery of parts of the female body languidly and erotically drifting past.
It’s powerful stuff, and pretty much all encompassing in how it can envelope the listener in its embrace.
With headphones on it emulates what I suspect floating in an isolation tank would be like.
It provides a release from not just your surroundings, but encourages you to allow yourself to become mentally detached and allow yourself to be immersed in sound.
Even when they step away from the original material and embrace a cover like Venus in Furs it is all just so cinematically evocative that you can’t help but consider that this is exactly what people should be getting pushed towards them rather than what is currently the mind numbing norm.

If there is to be a revolution in music then The Courtesans are fine flag bearers for it. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

I think I just blew my chances of getting a good reference.

In the aftermath of the resignation of Johann Lamont it would seem that there is one thing that those sitting on the sidelines watching can all agree on.

And that would be that there is certainly no honour in politics.

The knives are most certainly out, and as the politicians sniff the blood in the water and gleefully line up to stick them in the backs of those who were their esteemed colleagues a matter of weeks ago, the public are once again losing more faith in not just the Labour party, but the political system in itself.

While much of the focus in the press has been on allegations made by Johann that she had little say in any decisions made, that she was ignored when she did speak up, and over the bedroom tax that she was actively told to keep her mouth shut, the public consensus seems to be that in general she was not allowed to make a cup of tea without Ed giving her the nod.

Yet with that being taken on board there is one question that few are looking to ask.

That being how did Johann Lamont manage to reach this level in her political career?

She admits herself that she had little impact on reforms and that Scottish Labour is treated like a branch office by Westminster.
It is something that most knew, and yet she took the job.

So while we are told that we should look to get the best of the best into political office, that leadership qualities are sought after, and so much more, it would seem that in reality - just like many others who climb the career ladder - that their success has little to do with any noble ideals, professional abilities or those leadership qualities mentioned, but instead are rooted in being able to do what they are told without questioning it and in addition an ability to shaft others without their conscience being bothered.  

My personal impression of Johann was that she was an ineffectual communicator, rather socially inept, and a game player who was out of her depth in the position she held, but at the same time I also have to consider that maybe that was exactly what those above her wanted.

Simply a puppet that would act as a mouthpiece for those pulling the strings, and one that could carry the can for any pr disasters that may come from their decisions.

Does that sound vaguely familiar when we frame it in the context of our working lives though?

Considered as the bigger picture how often do we all see this playing out in workplaces all over the country?

There are two colleagues going for a managerial position.
One has a good relationship with their colleagues, a solid work ethic and very often is running things in all but name.
Meanwhile the other is a sleekit untrustworthy manipulative snake who has made appearing to work while doing nothing of note an art form.
How often is it the latter that is successful in the pursuit of the position?

And why is this?

Well to answer my own question I think that it is a reflection of a catch 22 situation that operates.
Every single time a business promotes such an individual then they provide them with a degree of power, and as they rise in the organization they participate in the promotion of the person who fills the vacuum they leave behind them.
So at this point they could break the chain of ineptitude and advocate putting the best person for the job into the position, but then if they did then the underling would highlight how crap they were at theirs.
End result is that more of the same gets a toehold on the bottom rung as it is more advantageous to just promote yet another sleekit untrustworthy manipulative snake who has made appearing to work while doing nothing of note an art form, but one that is actually just a bit less intelligent.

Meanwhile the noise of the starting pistol that is the catalyst for the race to the bottom to begin rings ever louder in our ears.

Is it possible that this workplace issue is one that is reflected in the political world?
The touted replacement that is Jim Murphy could lend weight to the argument that it is.

Is Johann really just an example of a social problem that is rarely challenged?

Something to think about isn't it? And if that is an accurate overview then maybe we should ask ourselves where it is all going to lead us?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Ginger Wildheart interview

But it's not here.

I participated in the interview on a moonlighting job with the New Hellfire Club, although moonlighting doesn't really describe it as I spend more time hanging around the NHC than here of late

Anyway. Here's a link.

With just a clickety click of the mouse and as if by magic you will be knee deep in the words of Ginger, and they are rather good words.
There's news on the forthcoming tour and a project with Chris Gordon of Baby Chaos.
Yeah, It's pretty darn good.
Even if I do say so myself, and I just did.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Mike Read - Relax

It’s commonly known that most religions promote very similar stories from what are often just different angles.
However none of them mention the portent of doom that surely heralds the end of days that is ‘UKIP Calypso’ by Mike Read.
You would think that an all knowing deity would have at the very least given us a heads up about this truly horrific brain fart penned by a man who was once a DJ for the BBC in the seventies.
We have War (everywhere) Famine (South Sudan) Pestilence (Ebola) and Death (everywhere), but where is the mention of Mike Read?

Surely they could have squeezed him in?

Even if it was just to slip in something that wasn't an allegory, but instead embraced some plain speaking.

A bit of text that really couldn't be construed as anything other than what it was.

A firm mention of him in the bible would have offered a total mind-fuck of clarity to non believers like me.  
How could anyone argue with ‘I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth, and just behind him was Mike Read holding a download link to his song UKIP Calypso.’

Now if that was in Revelations, and it came to pass, then it would be a sure sign that we should all get our affairs in order.

Strangely enough that is also something that we should probably do if UKIP ever come to power to.

I have no idea if it is comedy genius or blind ignorance that a song promoting a party that has issues with immigration is done in a cod Jamaican accent, but I am going to lean closer to the latter.
I have a sneaky suspicion that at no point did this monumental faux pas even enter Mikes head.
Or maybe he knows exactly what he is doing and his next project will be to produce Jim Davidson reading Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech using the voice of his Chalky character. (For anyone under forty you will have to Google that.)

Apparently he is now claiming it was a satirical joke.
People will have to be forgiven for missing the punch line as he isn't really known as a comedian.
In fact his previous crowning glory was an attempt to have the Frankie Goes to Hollywood hit ‘Relax’ banned.
Something that maybe, just maybe, possibly hinted at him being a future UKIP supporter perhaps?

Anyway, half way through listening to the oral offal I decided that I would not rip my ears off and make a vow to lead a life in a void of noise and instead soldier on to the end just in case it did finish with his saying he was joking.
He didn't though.

The funniest thing about this, and it’s only saving grace, is that I could very well imagine that it will be played at EDL/BNP meetings where low browed neanderthals will drunkenly challenge each other to dance under the limbo stick and that footage may be leaked to the world.

Here’s hoping.

It’s at this point that I would normally share the footage of the artist (loose description) that has just been mentioned, but instead just sit back and relax to this, and if anyone offers to play UKIP Calypso to you just respectfully decline and in return direct them to Frankie. 

Update -  Former BBC Radio 1 DJ Mike Read has requested a song he wrote in support of UKIP be withdrawn from sale following complaints it was racist.UKIP Calypso, performed with a mock Caribbean accent, sings the praises of party leader Nigel Farage.
"I am so sorry that the song unintentionally caused offence. It was never meant to, and I apologise unreservedly," Read said.
"I have told the record company to withdraw the single immediately." BBC 22/10/14

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Static Rock/Elvira Stitt - NHC Music in-store - 18/10/14 (Glasgow)

Starting a Saturday evenings entertainment by popping into the New Hellfire Club for a free starter before the main course of a gig elsewhere is always a good idea.

I could of course be accused of being a bit biased in saying that as I am one of the NHC, but I wasn't there working, and instead I had just dropped in to see Elvira Stitt and Static Rock perform acoustically before heading to Broadcast to catch Nashville Pussy in Broadcast.

Having seen Elvira perform once before I fully expected a quality performance, but I didn't expect that the bar would be raised far beyond my already high expectations.
As an artist she has a firm grounding as an eclectic music fan, and it’s obvious on seeing a performance that her broad knowledge forms a solid backbone to what she plays.
In one song you can hear the cadence of a hip hop delivery in the vocals and then she can slip effortlessly into covering a Disney classic in a torch song style.
On paper the two certainly shouldn't work, but it does, and at no point is there a moment that it sounds forced.
Each song simply flows into the next and it is more akin to aural alchemy at play as seemingly disparate sounds are melded together to make a new sound that resonates confidently around the room.
It’s very easy to watch Elvira and consider that this is the start of a journey for her as an artist.
There’s something there that it is hard to pin down and point at as to where the magic lies, but it is most defiantly there.

Four piece rock band Static Rock are a whole different beast again, but what they share with Elvira is that they can also deliver a set that highlights that they can be considered as contenders in the music business.
Playing stripped down - and in that I mean without even having the vocals amped - they could have put themselves in the position of drawing attention to any weak spots that the band are carrying, but instead they showed that they have none.
Strong material, great vocal harmonies and all carried on the back of strong musicianship.
Even with requests of covers from the audience they casually approached them and didn't drop the ball regardless of how wide and varied the material was.
Coolios, ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ had some fresh life breathed into it and in my head I was thinking that with Elvira providing some vocals it would have jumped from being well received to leaving people gape jawed in amazement.
Similarly the stalwart of decades of parties in Glasgow that is Kenny Rogers ‘The Gambler’ was dragged from the mouths of many a drunkard and given an impressive reboot.
Now just think about that for a second.
From original material to covers of hip hop songs and finishing on a country classic.
There are not many that can do that, and yet Static Rock eased through it all unfazed.
Throw them a curve ball and they will knock it out the park.

With a support slot secured to open for Brit-Pop legends CAST in December it looks like Static Rock are on the cusp of getting a firm grip on the next rung on the ladder of success.