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Friday, 17 December 2010

RIP myspace

Bit of a clear out from myspace as it has went shit and looks like it is following the Dodo into extinction.
Loads of stuff to read if anyone can be bothered.

The Cute Lepers - Smart Accessories
They’re back, and firing on all cylinders.
Tired old clich├ęs aside they are indeed back and this album is a real one hundred percent punk rock love affair. Stepping straight out of the late seventies into the modern world with a cocksure swagger the Cute Lepers have got it all.
This is the sound of all our favourite punk bands rolled into one. If you melted down all the classic punk albums and repressed them into a bright and shiny new platter then the finished product would sound like this.
Well that’s obviously a lie because if you really did melt down all your albums and attempted to repress them then I suspect you’d just be left with a cooker resembling an oil slick and a headache from toxic fumes.
Back to the album though. The Cute Lepers really have managed to capture something, a certain essence of a certain time, that most bands fall short of creating. Often enough all the right ingredients are there, but the end product fails to live up to expectations, but not this time.
If this had surfaced at the beginning of 2009 then I suspect that it would have been firmly ensconced in most punk fans top ten albums of the year.
These guys are straddling decades effortlessly. Some people might claim they are doing nothing new, but there’s a freshness there that I haven’t heard for a long time.
If for some reason or another you haven’t bought an album in years then you should make this the first one and instead of just dipping your toe into what’s out there just dive right in at the deep end with the Cute Lepers.

Vic Ruggiero - Songs for clandestine lovers
For those who don’t know who Vic Ruggiero is then it is probably best to introduce him as the guy who plays keyboards on all of Rancids best tracks. He’s a bit of a jack of all trades popping up here there and everywhere, but it isn’t hard to hear why he is in such demand to add flourishes to other peoples material because the guy simply oozes class.
Mainly he fronts his own band The Slackers though. One of the very best ska bands to grace this planet. If you doubt me then check them out as I know I’ll never be accused of giving anyone a bum steer on the matter.
His solo work is however a whole different story.
On these releases he can more often than not be found stripping everything down and sticking to acoustic guitars, harmonicas and some percussion to quite stunning effect. Whether it’s an original song or a much loved classic that he is paying homage to he always manages to bring something extra to it. Listen to his take on the Clash track ‘Rudie can’t fail’ on this album and you will catch my drift.
For some strange reason this album only has a Japanese release, but it’s well worth tracking down if you are a fan of his, or even if you are wanting to check him out. This is proof that sometimes laid back music can still have an edge.

The Flametrick Subs - In the lap of Lux
The first time I heard the Flametrick Subs was in a roundabout way. A mate told me that there was a rockabilly band I might like as firstly they would appeal to me on a musical level and secondly because the fella playing slap bass had one hand and he thought that would tickle my sense of the perversely absurd.
He was right. I loved them from day one.
It’s a long distance love affair though as these guys are from deep in the heart of Texas and…….well I’m not.
Never mind though as every couple of years something by them usually manages to make it over here to keep my interest in them piqued and once again I’ve not been disappointed.
I did harbour some misgivings when I initially seen that the album was made up of Cramps covers to honour the passing of Lux Interior, but the when I gave it a blast it occurred to me that in some ways this is the perfect Flametrick Subs album.
For years they have skirted around the Cramps sound and weaved it in and out of their own material so it’s no surprise that when then go for the fan boy covers that they do it with aplomb and it works.
I normally prefer that when a band does covers that they bring something new to it, but this could be described as the exception that proves the rule.
In not messing with the originals they have managed to grab a piece if the magic of the Cramps and the whole concept comes across as an honourable musical eulogy to Lux.

Strawberry Blondes - Fight Back

Discounted as Rancid wannabes as often as they are lauded as the saviours of UK punk rock the Strawberry Blondes appear to split opinion right down the middle.
With ‘Fight Back’, a two fisted punk rock album if ever there was one, they will be hoping to tip the balance more in their favour. Unfortunately it’s going to prove to be a little harder than they might have expected.
Not that this is a bad album. In fact there isn’t a bad song on it. It could quite possibly be the most energetic, in yer face and passionate outing I’ve heard from a home-grown band this year.
There isn’t one song I would skip on this.
So why don’t I embrace it and shout its praises from the rooftops?
Well it’s because they’re still using far too much of the Rancid template. They’re at their best when they give this a light touch and beef it up with their UK street punk influences.
On certain songs they show that they can step out from the big boys shadow and go toe to toe with them on their own terms, but it’s not often enough so that you could say that they have conquered their influences.
Maybe I’m being a bit hard though. There is huge progression from their last outing and with the next I reckon the people championing them can say ‘I told you so’ with conviction.
I’ll have to freely admit that I’ve probably raised the bar on my expectations too high, and although the guys have matched it they didn’t surpass it as I wanted them to.

Avondale45 - Viva La Revolution

Who needs to reinvent the wheel? No one. That’s who. The wheel does the job it was invented for. The bloody thing works so there’s no need to fanny about with it.
Same goes for Avondale45. There is a style of punk rock that’s melodic and doesn’t take itself too seriously and it works. So to fuck about with it makes no sense and these guys know it.
Remember when Snuff were everyone favourite band and they could do no wrong. Remember when Boss Tuneage were one of the best labels kicking about.
If you don’t then you missed out, but Avondale45 are going to do their damnedest to remind you. Punkpoparamalamadingdong indeed. Slip it on and within a few minutes your toes are tapping and with a mile wide smile you’re back in dank subterranean clubs having the time of your life on cheap alcohol and illicit drugs.
(Disclaimer - Maybe it was just me with the drink and drugs, but nothing too heavy like.)

Bring Back Her Head - Tied up tight ep

The Ipswich band Violent Playground return to the fray with a new name and another young lady to front them.
Previously the only thing I’d heard from them was a track on the Grand Theft Ippo CD, and while I remember enjoying it there wasn’t enough to get my teeth into at the time and they slipped from my memory.
Now Bring Back Her Head have reintroduced themselves and you could be forgiven in thinking same band different shoes, but in front woman Jen they have a capable singer and the range appears to have opened up a fair bit from what I dimly recall.
It could be said that they are peddling a refreshing angle on a recognizable path, but while there is a degree of familiarity there is still a few little surprises to be found by the listener.
Lazy commentators will tag them with the indie label, but in reality they’re a rock band with a fresh bag of tricks that enables them to shade their songs in whatever manner they so wish.
Worth keeping an eye on.

The Snipes - Promo CD

When people talk about glam rock they usually think of Bowie, Bolan and their ilk. The first wave of the scene, but what really registered in the UK was the chart hits from bands like Slade. The harder edged glam tinged rockers for the bootboys.
Those bands provided songs that could feature on top of the pops but could be transferred over to the terraces without breaking their stride or raising an eyebrow. Truly egalitarian songs with mass appeal.
Later on when the scene started to falter other bands would pick up the baton and run with it, pub rockers with an ear for a melody who were just that bit too late to the party.
Some, like Cock Sparrer, would be championed by the blossoming Oi movement, but if you listen back to their early material they didn’t really fit in completely with the stereotypical Oi bands that were starting to make their mark. They existed in the no mans land between the end of one scene and the beginning of another.
Now with Oi being firmly re-branded as street punk it’s opening the scene up a bit and bands can congregate under the banner while avoiding the strict parameters of the past. There’s now room for bands to stretch and break out from the simple shouty, shouty, oi, oi, oi dead end.
The Snipes are one of those bands. A punk rock super-group with a firm grounding in the past, but with an eye on the future. A behemoth of a band straddling multiple scenes and scoring high wherever you want to pigeonhole them.
On their debut they’ve cobbled together twelve tracks that blend glam, oi and punk rock together to make an impressive noise that will get the sap rising in old and new punks alike.
In any scene there are bands that should float to the top and The Snipes are one of them.
There’s a rough and ready aspect to the recording quality, but that is no doubt down to time and financial restraints in the studio. If this is just the beginning then I have no doubt that in the future its just going to get better.

AC/DC - Hampden


I was lucky enough to be at Hampden Stadium in Glasgow last night to witness AC/DC on the last night of their hugely successful Black Ice tour. The tour that’s rumoured to be the last that they will do.
If this is the case then I’m struggling to wrap my head around it.
Did I just see the last show that AC/DC will ever do?
What would the world be like without AC/DC in it? Whether you are a fan or not it’s still difficult to imagine that. They’re the last of a dying breed. The last of the great balls to the wall rock behemoths.
In the cold light of day I’m struggling to think of another rock band of their stature in the world today.
It’s just hit me why. It’s simply because there aren’t any.
No one does it like AC/DC.
Of course there are big rock bands, but none of them come close to what these guys do.
Is there really another band of their ilk that could tour country after country playing to sold out stadiums that hold anything upwards of 50,000 fans nightly?
I don’t think so.
So what is the attraction?
Why do the band hold such sway over so many people from all walks of life.
I guess the answer is you had to be there.
I’m not even sure myself what I was expecting yesterday, but when I arrived in Glasgow it seemed that every third person was wearing an AC/DC t-shirt. The band had quite literally taken over the city.
You could hear them playing from shops as you wandered by. People were walking about with little red devil horns on and I lost count of kids dressed in the classic Angus Young schoolboy outfit.
It was like an alternative reality where AC/DC are the leaders of a religion and people are encouraged to publicly worship them.
I suppose that could sound sinister, but with the sun out and the inoffensively joyous way that the fans conducted themselves it really just engendered a wonderful carnival atmosphere.
I was hours away from seeing the band and the buzz was already well in evidence.
Catching the train from Glasgow Central to Mount Florida was an experience in itself.
A section of the train station was actually sectioned off with barriers for the AC/DC crowd. A line snaked all the way out with literally hundreds of fans arriving every minute.
Inside the train itself it was wall to wall fans and the heat was terrific. In any other circumstances, like a football match, it would have been a powder keg waiting for the spark to set it off, but there was no negativity in that train at all. Instead it was bonhomie* all the way.
Outside Hampden itself it was a reflection Glasgow’s city centre, but multiplied by ten.
If aliens landed then they would be forgiven for thinking that a take me to your leader request would have resulted in a meeting with a 53 year old man dressed as a schoolboy.
None of this should make any sense at all, but once you are in the stadium and the Rock and Roll train footage starts on the large screens and the excitements mounts resistance is futile and it’s best to just let yourself get swept away on a wave of collective euphoria.
When Angus Young resplendent in crushed velvet shorts and blazer puts a foot on the stage the place erupts and if there was a roof it would have been jettisoned from the venue.
There is no let up from that moment on.
This is the third time I’ve seen Brian Johnson lead AC/DC into the fray and it was by far the best.
I’ve been critical in the past and always considered him more of a shouter than a singer, but not tonight.
His throaty bluesy voice was powerful and even soulful in places. It was a faultless performance that would effortlessly silence his detractors if they had been there to see it.
The rest of the band are like a machine. They always have been, but there is something solid and reliable in what they do. Malcolm, Phil and Cliff are the engine that drives AC/DC and while it would be easy to gloss over their contribution it has to be said that AC/DC wouldn’t be the band they are without them.
The night was however always going to be Angus Young’s.
He commands the audiences attention. He struts, he skips, he gurns and sweats buckets for the crowd. He literally gives it his all. Nothing is held back and maybe this is where the magic lies.
How can an audience not respond when a person gives them their heart and soul?
It’s inconceivable how he can do this night after night. It verges on suicidal. His body is being punished and it is all for us.
Remember that this guy is 53. Fuck Iggy Pop. Bending over backwards and kicking your legs out just doesn’t cut it anymore. Get in the ring with Angus and he will run rings round you. He will wear you out. He’s the roadrunner while we are the Coyote stooges.
You would expect that there would be something ludicrous about his antics, but there’s not. There isn’t even a hint of it. He knows it’s a joke. We know it’s a joke, but the serious side is it looks like he will willingly drop dead on the stage to give us what we want.
By the time they steamrolled into my favourite track ‘The Jack’ I was transported back to when going to see bands made me ill with excitement. I still love going, but it is rare that I can touch with that younger self. Yet here I was, heart in mouth, roaring the words and pumping my fist in the air.
There isn’t even a highlight I could point to as it was all a highlight.
The band were immense. Rock colossi honouring us with their presence. The stage show was as over the top as you would expect. For those about to Rock had the cannons, Hells bells had the bell with Brian Johnson swinging from it., Rosie had……….well a huge inflatable tart. What would you expect? and the CGI footage that would put a smile on a bells palsy victim.
Even the fireworks were perfect. Maybe the Olympic committee could hire the AC/DC team to do the opening ceremony in London.
Last night I was thinking that this must be up there in my top ten gigs of all time, but this morning I’m thinking it could be right up there at the top.
I’ll have to wait till I’ve come down a bit and take into consideration that I’m writing this in the afterglow.
By Christ that was a bloody fantastic gig.

* and that’s the only Bon I’ll mention.

Elliot Brown and the Candy Caps

I don’t know how I first got to hear of Elliot Brown and the Candy Caps.
It could have been a friend forwarding a link on myspace, or maybe Elliot Brown was trawling for people.
You know how that goes. You log on and there are twenty-seven friends requests from bands who consider that you may just be their latest uber-fan in waiting. I’m not a trekkie - no honest I’m not - but all these requests remind me of the Borg sweeping in to assimilate people. One of us. One of us. Gooble gabble.
They want to absorb you onto their myspace page as a simple digit in the ever rising list of friends they have. You mean nothing more than that. You become one of the collective whole. Scary stuff. Especially when you give them a listen……..and I do.
I must reject about 95% of requests I get from bands. Maybe more.
It’s only every once in a while an addition is considered and Elliot Brown was one of those exceptions.
I started off listening to him (there is no Candy Caps) and thinking ‘yeah. That’s pretty good’ then after a reassessment I edged towards ‘that‘s some damn good stuff‘ before settling on ‘he’s a bloody unsung hero.’
Once I reached this point I really had to ask myself why I appeared to be the only person out of everyone I knew that had heard of him.
The answer is an obvious one.
He’s from New Zealand.
Yeah. I know. Sheep, lord of the rings, sheep, flight of the conchords, sheep and sheep.
That’s NZ isn’t it?
Well maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. No matter. The list really isn’t that accurate anymore anyway as it doesn’t have Elliot Brown on it.
(Remember though, for every extra jewel in New Zealand’ crown you highlight you must add in a sheep or two to balance it out.
So New Zealand is now sheep, lord of the rings, sheep, flight of the conchords, sheep, Elliot Brown, sheep and sheep.)
Anyway. What am I rambling on about Elliot Brown for? Well to answer myself it’s because he is so good that you should check his myspace page out.
I’m not going to give any sort of description as that just allows preconceived ideas to get in the way. Just go here.
or here
And have a listen.
Then get in touch and buy the album. Elliot is selling it for the bargain price of whatever you can afford. I’d urge people not to be an arse though and cover the postage and give another couple of quid, dollars, yen, euros marks or whatever as the guy does have to eat.
Support independent artists folks


  1. I've just now deleted my myspace account, could not be arsed to keep up with its ever changing bollocks.
    Anyway, having caught up with your blogs I didn't realize you and the kids had had such a rough time lately M, I hope they are bearing up.
    Heres hoping you all have a lovely Christmas and a better New Year...well deserved x

  2. I haven't deleted mine, but it has lain dormant for ages. Like you the ever changing crap was ruining it. They should have focused on what it was rather than tried to be the latest thing for everyone.
    The kids are super resilient.
    Alanna actually came to live with her brother and me early in the year when their mum yet again came off the rails.
    Then there was s suicide attempt, not because the kids were with me, but because her latest love interest had left her.
    It was a bit of a downward spiral after that for her.
    She left the area to follow this guy, then there was another suicide attempt.
    She then moved again and had a relatively calm period, but out of the blue just as it seemed as if she had left the darker period behind she finally succeeded in taking her own life.
    Alanna was devastated and still mourns her passing, but on a daily basis we have more good days than bad ones.
    Euan is legally the executor of his mums estate.
    So he has had to shoulder a great deal of responsibility that most 16 year olds would struggle with. He is doing well and I'm very proud of them both.
    Time is a great healer and we will be fine. Just glad to put 2010 behind us.

  3. I'm genuinely so sorry your kids (and you) have had to go through this, what a terrible year. I'm sure with you and Kel behind them they will slowly but surely find some peace.