Search This Blog

Friday, 30 September 2011


I've been listening to music for forty years, and attending gigs for thirty one of them now.
I've been crushed against barriers by ecstatic crowds, stood knee deep in muddy festival fields while rain last described in biblical passages did its best to sweep me away, I've slept in doorways in subzero conditions after gigs, spent money I didn't have to traverse the country to catch a single solitary show by a band that no one else has heard of, and more, much more.
I guess I've paid my dues a couple of times over now, yet when people ask me what the key to success is for bands I normally give a shrug and mutter that it's down to being in the right place at the right time.
That's it.
It's a crap shoot. They throw the dice and keep their fingers crossed and hope that what they are doing at that given time is what people want to hear.
I've seen some great bands spectacularly achieve obscurity as often as I've seen mediocre bands rise to reap the rewards of super-stardom.
There really is no sense to it all.
Being bloody fantastic doesn't equate to any sort of critical or public acclaim.
It either happens or it doesn't.
Take Thelonious Monster as an example.
For a while they were the darlings of the underground in Hollywood, and if you considered yourself a cool kid then you would be expected to drop their name, even all the way over here in Scotland.
Prior to their own fame coming knocking bands like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Janes Addiction and Fishbone would frequent Thelonious Monster gigs and get off on what was going on.
John Frusciante even tried out for them at one time.
This was the band who were going to be huge.
The singer and main man Bob Forrest was being name checked as the next Lennon or Dylan, but the public at large didn't bite, and then the drugs took their toll and that was that.
Members went on to do other things, but nothing matched the promise of Thelonious Monster.
Even when they reunited in 2004 for some shows and an album it was the same old story. A minority raved in ecstatic praise and the majority didn't.
There was a little activity in 2009, but if I was to be asked what I thought the chances were of the band taking a late bite at success and being able to manage to hold onto it I would have to say no.
It's not going to happen now.
In all honesty I'd even sort of forgotten all about them.
That's what happens. A couple of years of hearing nothing and a band may as well not have existed.
So much water under the bridge, so many bands who have come and gone.
Then today I seen a link for a movie about Bob Forrest.
It was a bit of a blast from the past.
It turns out that outwith his musical endeavours he has been a drug councillor for many years, and as he is a friend to 'the stars' has intervened, and most certainly saved peoples relationships with those around them, and even in some cases their lives.
This is a man who has been right to the edge and looked into the abyss and managed to pull himself back from it and use his experiences to help others.
While I was impressed with his work as a songwriter and singer I'm far more impressed with what he has done with his life.
The movie is called 'Bob and the Monster' and should be out on DVD release later on this year.
So mentally bookmark that and make the effort as it looks like it could be as good as 'Dig' was as rockumentaries go.
PS - Everyone in the US will know him as Dr Bob from Celebrity Rehab, but we don't watch that here and that has allowed us to become even more adrift of what he has been up to in comparison to our transatlantic cousins.

Nevermind nevermind. Grab these instead, and for free.

With the anniversary of what some are calling the last real punk album upon us there's some interesting alternatives to picking up the reissued edition of the seminal release from Nirvana that acted as a catalyst for the wave of grunge that swept the globe.
A few magazines have went down the obvious hit and miss route of collecting a pot pourri of bands to do covers with the most laudable being from Spin who have made theirs available as a free download, but then there's the bargain bin offering from the other end of the scale that is the meagre effort from Kerrang. In all honesty there should be some crime scene tape around each of their issues as they're undoubtedly guilty of a plethora of crimes against music.
Like I said, hit and miss. So watch your step.
Anyway as mentioned the Spin one is free, and with acts like Amanda Palmer, The Vaselines, Titus Adronicus, The Meat Puppets, Foxy Shazam and more giving their interpretation of songs from Nevermind it's as eclectic as you could imagine.
Very few of the bands and artists seem willing to do straight covers, and for this I will be eternally grateful.
It's a refreshing change from a bunch of rock acts turning their amps up to eleven and thinking that works as a different take on the original material.
I would highly recommend grabbing yourself a copy while it is still available.
However the strangest homage to Nevermind that I've stumbled across is the very straight cover of the whole album by Kevin Devine.
Everything about it screams pointless to me, but for some reason I don't feel disinclined to listen to it.
While I would much rather hear Nevermind de-constructed and then built back up so that it would sound like something new and fresh I seem hooked on listening to one guys virtually verbatim run through of it.
Maybe my lack of loathing is down to it just being a fan release.
It has no airs and graces and it certainly doesn't pretend to be anything else other than a tribute to an album that must have moved him on its release.
I would maybe have had a few issues with it if it was available in stores as I would be focussed on the lack of anything new being brought to the table for profit aspect of it, but as it's another free download that you can grab from his website it would be churlish, and more pointless than covering the album in this manner, to have a dig.
So there you have it. A couple of nudges in a different direction.
Save your pennies and give the anniversary edition a miss, walk on by the Kerrap cover mounted CD and grab yourself something a bit different.
In doing so you would probably be honouring the intent of Nevermind in shaking things up a bit, rather than just regurgitating the past for profit.
Something I don't think Mr Cobain would have been comfortable with.

Free Downloads :

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Rose Parade

Rose Parade have been described as an indie folk band and while some may be comfortable with that I think it's a bit of a lazy tag that is being attributed to any band that wants to explore music through using more traditional means.
Pick up a banjo and you're a folk band, reinterpret Robert Burns and you most definitely are a folk band.
Or are you?
More often than not I would expect that bands like Rose Parade, and artists of that ilk, are muttering under their collective breaths 'folk off', whenever the dreaded folk word is mentioned, and then they go back to doing what they do best and that's simply creating music, and in the case of Rose Parade what wonderful music that is.
I've still to pick up a copy of their début single 'Grace', but over the past few weeks I've been gathering tracks here and there on the internet that the band have put up for download and so far I've not heard them put a foot wrong.
They sound free from constraints in how they bring a song to life.
I get the impression that when they hear a song in their head then that's what they want others to hear, and if in bringing that to the public means that a banjo or a glockenspiel is required then that's what is going to happen.
There's no real dilution of each individual song to make it fit into a genre.
Damn I'm really going to have to pick up 'Grace' sooner rather than later.

Rocket from the Tombs - Barfly

The second album proper from a band who first got together in 1974. It's a fact that these guys don't believe in being hurried.
The real story is that they got together and disbanded within a year and the reason that they managed to become a rather large bold print foot note in rock and roll history is that from their ashes the rather fantastic Pere Ubu and Dead Boys rose.
They were the real proto punks for that era.
There's actually demos that surfaced as bootlegs over the years and they are as good as expected. I've yet to hear anything by them that would indicate that the legend actually overshadowed them as a band.
Then in 2003 they surprised everyone by taking to the stage together, a real wtf moment, and then they followed that with an album of original material in 2004 (Rocket Redux) that garnered much well deserved critical acclaim.
A simple exercise of recording themselves live in the studio and they were back with a debut that people only had to wait thirty years for.
After that they sort of slipped back into the shadows and got on with what they all do when they aren't Rocket from the tombs. (I'll leave you to check that out. It's all rather weird and wonderful. From the avant garde to garage punk depending on whose project it is)
Then in 2006 it was announced that they were once again back together, but apart from a tour and a single contribution to a compilation album not a lot happened.
Until now.
With 'Barfly' they are the band who are going to deliver on every promise that was never made.
Whatever you think they are they're not. Just as you think that you have a grip on what they do they take another turn and leave you catching your breath and playing catch up.
This is what I would call a real punk album.
There is no real touchstone. You get what they give you and it's damn good.
No one tells Rocket from the Tombs what they should and should not do and their disregard for convention is as sonically liberating as you would expect.
If you feel adventurous then it will turn you inside out in a good way.
Fingers crossed that they come to the UK to play with us.
Not for us, but with us

The Dollyrots - Arrested Youth

Straight out of the gate The Dollyrots impressed me with their snotty poppy punk.
They had it all.
The ability to play, harmonize and write pop punk ditties that dispensed of much of the sugar and instead had a bit of a bite.
I fully expected to hear quite a lot about them, and I did, but it wasn't what I expected.
Lookout Records were having problems.
Green Day, the big Lookout cash cow, and other bands who had previously been on the label had taken back the rights to their material leaving them strapped for money to finance the business and The Dollyrots were left hanging in limbo.
One album out and nowhere to go. A bit of a false start for them.
Luckily for them though a copy of that album had been passed to Joan Jett and her label - Blackheart records - picked them up and went on to released 'Because I'm Awesome' and then follow that up with 'A little messed up' in 2010.
That album didn't exactly set the world on fire though, and things seemed to become a bit quite on the Dollyrots front, but now I know why because they're back with a new single and ready to go it alone on their own label with an album called 'Kickstarter'.
There's even talk of a split single looming on the horizon with 'Bowling for Soup'.
They've been busy bees when I looked away.
The new single features three tracks that pick up exactly where they left off.
Think Joan Jett and The Blackhearts mixed with Voice of the Beehive and add a dash of 924 Gilman Street to it all and you are in the Dollyrots ballpark.
A better comparison would be 'The Chubbies', but it's a bit pointless in me mentioning them as I seem to be in a minority in the UK in my admiration for their material.

PS - If anyone is interested in pledging for the release of Kickstarter then copy the link below into your browser and get to it.
There's lots of different pledges that can be made and the payment is simple if you have an Amazon account.
I've pledged $15 for the CD a week before general release, although knowing the mail service in the UK that will mean I'll get it about a month after it is in the stores.

Misfits – The Devils Rain

The grandfathers of horror punk to some, a pale shadow imitation of the grandfathers of horror punk to others.
It all depends on whether you think the Misfits died with Glen Danzigs departure, or consider that Jerry Only has done a passable job in keeping the flame alight regardless of line up changes.
Personally I've got a foot in both camps.
The Danzig era is the richest to plunder even if it does suffer from mainly crap production values, but the Michale Graves era had its fair share of highlights, and I'll admit that I have a soft spot for the Dez Cadena (Black Flag), Marky Ramone, line up that recorded 'Project 1950' with Jerry on vocals.
Unfortunately with the release of The Devils Rein - their first original album in virtually a decade - they have given the Danzig lovers plenty of ammunition to claim that they are washed up and spent.
Jerry Only may be putting in a fair vocal performance, but the material falls far short of matching anything they have done before.
To be fair the musicianship is fine, and in places the guitar work is laudable, but the very poor lyrics let everyone down.
There's no real tongue in cheek glint in the eye here.
Just bland bollocks. They have done it all before....and better.
Since the last album the people who would claim The Misfits as their defining influence have surpassed their heroes in delivering what fans of the sub genre are looking for.
The Misfits sound tired and out of place. They're lacking imagination and the touch of dark humour that is needed to carry this off.
If this was to be their last album of original material then they would be going out with a whimper rather than a bang.
A major disappointment.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The Bangles - Sweethearts of the Sun

If you have a fear of growing old leave the room now.
Okay for those of you who are left think about this.
The Bangles formed in 1981.
Now where did those thirty years go.
From the jangly 60's influenced pop of the Paisley Underground scene to now there has been a generation change.
That guy in the street holding the hand of his daughter wasn't born when the Bangles released their first single.
That doctor who is telling you about your prostate problem was an inkling in his fathers eye when you originally gazed at the loveliness of Susanna Hoffs.
A sobering thought.
This has made me feel old far more than any middle aged spread or receding hairline ever could.
I'll get over it though.
Anyway now you can tell the the more fragile of us oldies to come back in, but don't breath a word about this as they might not be able to handle it.
So anyway. How are the Bangles doing? Have they got anything to offer us in 2011?
The answer is yes.
A resounding yes.
Truth be told nothing much has changed, but do we really want them to wade in with a vocoded dance anthem version of 'Going down to Liverpool' anyway?
Of course not.
What we want is lovely harmonies and that jangly pop with a bit of a garage undertone, and then we can all play at being happy little sand bunnies in the warm Californian sun, and that's what we get.
Things may have slowed down a little and there are less up tempo tracks that some may expect, but that's not to say that they can't rock out when required.
Let's just say that this is a band growing old gracefully
I doubt many will be disappointed with this.
Put simply they still have it and I think they always will.
To also put it into a bit of context consider this. Most bands at this point in their career are celebrating with a reissue, yet here we have The Bangles bringing something fresh to the table with barely any fanfare.
It's sort of refreshing isn't it?

Anti-Flag - Complete Control Sessions

The love affair that Anti-Flag have with the Clash is well documented, and the influence that the band had on them is worn rather defiantly on their sleeves for all to see.
So it's no surprise to see the complete control session making an appearance.
It's a handful of live recordings from the Ramones museum and a single studio version of 'Should I stay or should I go' neatly rubbing shoulders with a few Anti-Flag originals, and as homages go it's pretty much faultless as the band power through Should I Stay, Guns of Brixton and White Riot live with all the anger and the fire that you would associate with the attitude displayed by The Clash themselves.
In particular this incarnation of Guns of Brixton is a bruising swagger of an interpretation that neatly segues into I fought the law with all the power of a slap in the face.
The three self penned tracks that are included provide a pretty good indication of where Anti-Flag are coming from.
Anti establishment, anti capitalist and intelligent enough to articulate their anger.
A rarer mix in the world of punk rock than some would care to admit.
There's always been plenty of anti this or that, but few have been able to channel that with any sort of intelligence and passion.
The notable exceptions are of course Anti-Flag, Bad Religion and the Dead Kennedys to name but three.
The addition of the studio version of Should I stay may initially be seen as a bit pointless, but it's a very different beast from the live one that's included.
So I'm not complaining.
It's nice to hear some fire.

Time for change.

Over the last week or so the thorny issue of filthy lucre has again raised its head and partially divided those who work within the music Business (small m, capital B).
On one side is the status quo who wish to maintain the gravy train and exploit musicians, and on the other is those who wish to see a fairer division of labour being sought with all involved being rewarded for their efforts.
Nothing that has been said is any real surprise to me though.
Over many years now we have eased into a system where young bands and artists are placed firmly at the bottom of the food chain.
Everyone out there is their natural predator and there is a line of people stretching to the horizon wanting to take a bite out of them.
On every single night across the length and breadth of this country artists are playing for either no reward, or very little reward, to an audience that are lining the pockets of virtually everyone behind the scenes.
The venue makes a buck, as does the promoter/booker, while the bar staff, security and cleaners all get paid from the over-all takings to.
It is of course right and proper that anyone who is putting in some hours of labour, or who are providing a service, should be 'fairly' paid for such, but can anyone logically tell me why the entertainers are being held out of reach of the cash share?
Isn't it exploitative to profit from the effort of another without rewarding them?
Now put like that the answer is simple.
Of course it is wrong.
Any right minded individual is going to cry out at the unfairness of the system.
It is blatantly and offensively wrong.
Yet it goes on with nary a complaint being uttered.
Many of my readers, as music fans, will be aware of this, but I'm going to lift the lid a little bit and let others have a peak at the worms within the can here. Comments will of course be more than welcome.

Pay to play may not be illegal, but it is immoral.
So to circumvent that what we get is Battle of the Bands contests.
Each band/artist pays a fee to enter a competition that allows them to play a gig.
You see that there.
They paid a fee to play a gig, but by calling it a competition it's somehow different from simply paying to play.
The defence argument is that the winner of said contest can win a prize.
Okay so here goes.
5 bands pay £25 each to enter the talent show so that's £125 to the organiser. Then they have to sell 30 tickets each at £5. So now the organiser has bumped his taking up to £875 before the curtain has been raised.
Then if the organiser is also the venue as is often the case there is the alcohol sales for the night to be considered.
On the low end I would think that it would be fair to an average of £10 would be spent within the venue, but it will more than likely be £20, but lets just go for £10 and call it another £1500 to add to the £875
(Now remember that this is a low average as most battle of the bands contests have more than five bands, sell tickets at more than a fiver and take in more over the bar than I have said, but that a total of £2375 made on what is normally a mid week show as they don't want it to have an impact on their weekend takings.)
Not bad.
Take off all the outgoings for that single night and the usual cash prize of £100 to the winner and it is still a tidy profit in these economically horrible times.
Not for the bands though.
Then there is the ticket split deals.
The venue/promoter has a 6 band bill with the band being told that they have a minimum set amount of tickets to sell or they aren't playing.
So the reality is that the bands promote the gig and act as ticket sellers and then on the night do the actual entertaining of the crowd for a split of the tickets sales.
(They normally get £2 from a £5 ticket.)
Nice division of labour there, and couldn't it be argued that the £3 that they hand over is in fact them paying to play?
These practices are in my opinion morally wrong, and I am sure most people would agree with me.
Even when an effort is made to even the playing field you get the vultures starting to circle to ensure that what they consider is the rightful balance is restored.
I'll give you an example.
The Bay in Glasgow recently offered itself up to bands to book for free.
They would even throw in a back-line, sound engineer and print your tickets for you.
All they asked was that you had four bands on the bill.
Of course the bands had to promote the gig and sell the tickets, but they got to keep 100% of the money taken.
The Bay would profit from this through drink sales.
All very fair and above board.
To me it was the offer of a light at the end of a very dark tunnel for musicians.
A real step in the right direction.
Then a promoter came along, block booked it and offered to arrange gigs there.
The cut would be 50/50 between the bands and promoter.
So the venue offers itself for free, sorts out the tickets, equipment and sound engineer while the bands promote and sell the tickets, but get half of what they would have accrued if they did it themselves directly with the venue.
If it's four bands that's not a 50/50 split. It's a 12.5/12.5/12.5/12.5/50 split and for that 50% what has the promoter done?
Sitting about waiting for bands to ask to play and then collecting the cash seems to have been the idea.
It's now been sorted out, but it highlights how this sort of behaviour is now considered the norm, even by bands who are widely accepting of these abusive offers.
So what is the answer?
Well I would advocate that bands do it themselves.
Just simply book your own gigs with like minded bands and split any money that is left from the venue hire etc between everyone.
If that is too much work as maybe the members of the bands are too busy to commit the time and effort to it then by all means get a promoter in, but arrange a fair split.
If four bands are playing and there is one promoter then it's a fifth of the profits each.
Just ensure that everyone involved knows their role and fulfils it.
Is that really too difficult for people to comprehend.
Lets just all work together to cut the middle men out and give musicians their well deserved slice of the pie.
I've been accused of being naïve for stating this in arguments, but normally it's from someone in their early twenties who can't accept that there are answers to these issues outwith the system we currently find ourselves in.
I don't think I have all the answers so I'm happy for others to throw in their tuppence worth and even to point out flaws in what I suggest.
Just as long as people are thinking about this then I'll consider it a job well done.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Keep it in the family - The Main Event.
Tonight between 8pm and 10pm GMT my son will be doing a trial run on a local radio show with the intention of becoming one of its presenters.
He will be mainly focussing on classic rock, but will no doubt throw in some twists.
I hope that people will listen in and enjoy.
I also wish him luck. That's ma boy.

Well it started late due to tec issues, but worked well after that. Started with the Doors and The Grateful Dead before educating the masses with Dylan and Seeger. Then there was some Creedence before he came up to date with the Imagineers and The View.
Finished on Bowies Five years.
There's already some praise building up on facebook and he is being offered a weekly slot. Nice one.
Feels like I'm passing on some sort of torch.
Now I'll have to listen to all the pupil becomes the master BS from him I suppose.

Thank dog it's Friday

It's a busy busy busy kick off to the weekend this Friday.
Glasgow has Pivo Pivo hosting Welsh rave nutters Sicknote who have been described as 'a slick hybrid of Aphex Twin, The Prodigy and The Happy Mondays with an added dose of throbbing techno and banging live drums.
They're another of those bands who on paper make no sense, but live will blind-side you with what they have to offer.
The bonus is that there is also more bands than you can shake a stick at in support.
The Girobabies. Loki, The Sneaky Russians, Louie and Pablo Eskimo to be exact.*
Tickets for this are £6.50
In Kilmarnock 'Upstairs at Jollys' are putting on a hoe-down. Straw on the floor, Jack Daniels and hillbilly action a plenty.
If you don't know where it is then set 8 Langlands Street into your sat nav or i-phone app.
If you don't have any of them then follow someone wearing leather chaps and a stetson and you will find it, but make sure it's the chaps and stetson combo. If it's just the leather chaps then you might get a rather different and unexpected evenings entertainment.
Last but not least is the Fole ep launch night in Su Casa. That's in Ayr for those who haven't been reading the rave reviews in this blog.
It's a fiver to get in and apart from Fole you get Brown Bear and the Bandits playing plus another couple of acts.
If anyone want to mention other events in the comments then jump in.

*Who started this shaking of sticks at bands and what does it actually mean?

Friday, 23 September 2011

Grabbed my Warhollian 15 minutes of fame

I got a nice little mention in the local press this week.
It's in Little Fires column that goes out in the Kilmarnock Standard, Irvine Herald and Ayrshire Post.
While those who know me will attest that I usually shy away from the limelight (unless drunk) I feel quite happy about this.
Maybe I've just got to an age that I feel that my efforts working in the background deserve a little publicity.
Maybe I just want my moment in the sun.
I don't know, but I feel a tad proud about this rather than the usual crushing embarrassment that seems to be my default setting.
So thank you very much Little Fire aka Jamie for the kind words. I think we may have a wee fan club of mutual admiration going on here.

Su Casa - Little Fire/ Emma Forman/Taylor Buntain/Trusty and the Foe

On this dark and chilly evening the light that spills from Su Casa is a welcoming sight.
Outside it's sodium street lighting, empty shadows and hot breath being snatched away by an icy breeze, while inside it's warm, softly lit and imbued with the aroma of fresh coffee.
Sinking into a leather couch I pour myself some wine and relax as Little Fire eases everyone into the nights entertainment.
He reminds me of a young David Gray when he was still raw and had the rough edges that success ultimately smoothed off.
It's intimate and immediate with no sense of artifice in the performance.
Instead it's the perfect fit for the surroundings and sets the tone perfectly for what will follow and that's Emma Forman.
She's tiny. A little bundle of talent making tentative steps forward into the consciousness of the audience.
In the space of three songs more ground is covered than would initially be expected.
The song choices seems to be made to give a fuller representation of what her oeuvre is rather than focussing on here recent output, and as a novice to seeing her perform live it was a welcomed introduction.
Emma is the sort of artist that would fit rather snugly into a Lilith Fair line up, and while some men would baulk at that I certainly wouldn't.
She has all the charm and talent required to beguile, and similar to artists like Suzanne Vega and Ani Difranco there is the ability to move from one smaller pool to make a splash in a bigger one. Especially as she seems to have the knack to sound like virtually every female star who has stepped into the spotlight in the last thirty years.
Very impressive. So much so that I now have four of her self released albums in my possession.
The next act was the first band that I've seen play Su Casa.
A duo going by the name of Trusty and the Foe who keep it simple with just a couple of acoustic guitars and a single voice.
There's nothing that urgent about what the do, and instead it has a relaxed ambience to it. A beautiful escapist feel that lulls the listener with intricate guitar playing bolstered with some lovely vocals.
Everything they do seems to have to have a great deal of room to breath and there's nothing discordant or jarring about it all.
Instead there's some hints of Jeff Buckley when he was at his introspectively best, but without the wailing, and there's even a little nod towards Simon and Garfunkel.
The main thing that I got from it was the balance though.
The music and vocals snugly fit together so closely that any seam is invisible.
Unfortunately, and it pains me to say this, but Taylor Buntain, who followed them, just didn't grab me.
His guitar playing is beyond criticism, but the songs and his vocals are at odds.
He's drifting, slapping on the body work, tapping on strings and making the guitar talk, but over this is a rather mundane vocal delivery and lyrically the material seems a few steps behind the musicianship that's on display.
Can you imagine Paco del Lucia playing and then bursting into song with a singing voice like Kermit the Frog.
Not that I'm using Kermit as a comparison to Taylors vocals, but instead I'm simply going to an extreme to illustrate a point.
The way I see it is that the option is there to either tone down the musicianship to match the song-writing and vocal delivery, or up the quality of the song-writing and have someone on vocals that can keep up with the musicianship.
At the moment it is like trying to fit two pieces of a jigsaw together and then realizing that both pieces are from different boxes.
There's untapped potential there, but Taylor is still looking for the key to unlock it.
Within the set is a singular instrumental and if that was all I had seen then I would have been raving about the performance, but I really have to say that much of the set detracted from it.
As the headlining act of the evening. Alan Frew, was a no show Trusty and the Foe very kindly returned to play another few songs, and even threw in a covering of the Smiths 'This Charming Man' to the audiences delight.
In its entirety it was another successful, if maybe a little under attended, evening in Su Casa, and even for Taylor Buntain I seen more to his set than I had previously.
Maybe given a bit of familiarity I'll get it.
(Just as a side note I'll add that my girlfriend Kel, and myself, took her eleven year old daughter with us, and although it was a late night for a midweek outing she had a great time and even bought a Emma Forman CD for herself as well as muching out on the free nachos)

Thursday, 22 September 2011

SuperHeavy - SuperHeavy

So the story goes that Dave Stewart had the idea of mixing some reggae sounds and Indian orchestration together in a rock fusion stylee.
A multi cultural pot pourri of aural delights as someone from the Guardian would probably say.
Anyway it was a gargantuan idea so he decided to get his neighbour and some friends involved.
I would have done exactly the same, but I'm not sure how that would have worked out as my neighbour isn't Mick Jagger, and I don't have the likes of Joss Stone, AR Rahman and Damian Marley on speed dial either, but as he does the concept became a reality, and now here we have the album with us.
The big indulgent sprawling mess of a jam session from those who should know better is out for the public to ooh and aaah over.
Only it's not a self indulgent jam session at all.
Instead it's an album that far outstrips anything that these big names have done individually over the last few decades.
Every single ramshackle idea that was held in Dave Stewart's head has been realized.
Metaphorically speaking they have thrown everything, including the kitchen sink, at this and instead of it sounding like someone falling down the stairs in a suit of armour it is instead a thing of beauty.
Surprisingly enough there's nothing disjointed about it at all.
All the vocals merge together, weaving in and out with nary a hint of prima donna microphone hogging from the super stars.
This could so easily been Star Wars 7 – The Return of the Ego, bit it's not. It actually sounds like a real group.
The musicianship is beyond reproach as you would expect, but the arrangements are where the real magic lies.
AR Rahman could very easily fade into the background when the plaudits start being showered on the band from western sources - as his profile out-with the Asian world is not that of his band mates - but he is the ringmaster of this circus. The man standing in the middle of the whirlwind and holding everything in place.
I'm always impressed when individuals can cross genres and flavour music with influences from around the world from the past and the present, and in this album we get it all. It's a rock album, a soul album, a reggae album, a pop album and more.
Previously the Travelling Wilburys have been considered to be the benchmark of super-group projects, but now that SuperHeavy are here they've been relegated to playing the spoons in the kitchen while Jagger, Stewart, Stone, Rahman and Marley are having it large in the front room.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Insomniacs have their way...

....... and there is no more REM.

Okay, I've been asked to expand on this.
Yesterday it appeared on REMs official website that they were calling it a day.

Here's what they had to say.

"To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening." R.E.M.

In their own words: The guys share their thoughts on why now.


"During our last tour, and while making Collapse Into Now and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, 'what next'? Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together.

"We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word. Brothers who truly love, and respect, each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this--there's no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off. We've made this decision together, amicably and with each other's best interests at heart. The time just feels right."


"A wise man once said--'the skill in attending a party is knowing when it's time to leave.' We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it.

"I hope our fans realize this wasn't an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.

"We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It's been amazing."


"One of the things that was always so great about being in R.E.M. was the fact that the records and the songs we wrote meant as much to our fans as they did to us. It was, and still is, important to us to do right by you. Being a part of your lives has been an unbelievable gift. Thank you.

"Mike, Michael, Bill, Bertis, and I walk away as great friends. I know I will be seeing them in the future, just as I know I will be seeing everyone who has followed us and supported us through the years. Even if it's only in the vinyl aisle of your local record store, or standing at the back of the club: watching a group of 19 year olds trying to change the world."

In my humble opinion this is a sad loss to the music world.
I've personally seen them twice.
Once in Edinburgh where they put in a performance that was simply stunning, and then at TINP where they seemed lacklustre and unfocussed.
Regardless of that disappointing outing it still fell far short of diluting how impressed I had been with the Edinburgh show,and it didn't dent my enthusiasm for them as a studio band.
Hopefully the forthcoming weeks will provide us with some further information about the future plans for all the members.

J B Butterfield

JB Butterfield is looking to come north and do a few gigs.
Here's his bio and a link to his reverbnation page.
If anyone is interested in arranging a gig please feel free to message him.

It all began with a beat up guitar, a blues harp, a pocketful of dreams, smalltown indifference, etc.
THEN! The big bad world! Like minded people! Gigs all over the british isles, parts of europe, and the US.
THEN! The record deal! Now signed to 'spook records' my latest album "the passionate pilgrim" is now available via amazon, itunes napster etc. also from
A veteran of numerous trips to USA including Texas, I've toured most of the world (including India) with both my own songs as well as select covers.
My style of playing and singing has been kindly described as a melting pot of Johnny Cash/Gram Parsons/John Prine/Jacques Brel.

Ed Sheeran - +

There's a balance to what Ed Sheeran does so it's no surprise that he has a wide appeal.
Sometimes being that every-man voice can have a diluting effect though, and it's to his credit as a songwriter and performer that he has managed to avoid this.
His music is like a Pixar film. Now of course people will gasp and and type the acronym W.T.F to avoid being explicitly outraged at a comment like that, but think about it.
Pixar excel in making films that appeal to a wide audience.
Everyone gets something different from what they do.
Kids sit gape jawed in wonderment at the CGI action and slapstick comedy of say 'Toy Story' while the adults are quietly moved by the clever allegories that are included.*
Similarly Ed can knock out a chart friendly tune like 'Grade 8', but skip on and the next track is coming from a different angle, as is the next and the next again.
This is impressively done, and even more so when you consider that there is nothing that feels disjointed in the album.
It flows from track to track rather effortlessly and there's some magic in being able to do that.
While I'm not a lover of what is currently passed as chart music, as I find it all rather derivative and lacking imagination, this is the sort of release I like to see getting a toe hold as I think that it can be viewed as an aural gateway to better things.
The link that acts as a catalyst and allows the casual listener of music to ease experimentally forward to explore other artists who may not be getting the exposure they deserve.
Especially when his newly found fans realize that this is not in fact his debut as some think and in fact his third release, just his first signed to a major release.
All things considered I think Ed must be quite pleased with himself, and quite rightly so.

The Imagineers – See as I say

I've written five reviews for the Imagineers ep and deleted them all.
The reason being that none of them are doing the band justice.
Every time I think I've managed to put into words how good this is I give it another listen and a bit more is revealed and there I am back at square one.
In admitting my lack of skills to wax lyrical about this I'm hoping that I can convey how bloody good it is.
One minuting I'm getting the feel for a Scots version of the Courteeners, then the Coral creep in before Scott Walker springs to mind.
Then there's this, and then that.
My head is spinning with ideas, but if I put them all down then they might sound like sensory overload spewing out on the page.
I'm up to my elbows in reference points, but none of them are really going to imprint an idea into your head.
There's some 60's psychedelia filtered through the madchester high. There's also the sound of rock and roll drifting into the Liverpool docks that led to the musical landscape of the UK changing forever.
This is like trying to pin the tail on the donkey, but the donkey has left the building and no one has told me.
If they can keep this level of quality up over the course of a full album then they are going to blow peoples minds.

Shambles Miller – Shambles sails the clockwork sea

After being suitably impressed with a recent live outing from Shambles Miller I went cash in hand and bought his ep from him.
Then I crossed my fingers and fervently hoped that the agit-folk humour of his performance was something that could be captured in the studio.
Thankfully it was, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the first track 'Strike' avoided capitalizing on his intelligently wry outlook on life, and instead concentrated on pushing forth an unvarnished message of solidarity.
There's not many people can sing a protest song with socialist leanings and not come across as being slightly anachronistic, but to my ears this is a song that sounds rooted in the present.
The heart on the sleeve aspect is a complete winner, and as a confirmed socialist myself it hits every button that I would want from a song that covers the out of fashion need for unionisation.
Following on from this 'Things that make me angry' - a stand out song from his live set - confirms that my parting of some hard end mullah was a well spent investment.
It's an ode to all our pet hates and the little things that we shouldn't sweat that then takes a turn and finds them juxtaposed with the real issues of life. Lying politicians, fascists and those who would send people to war all get outed, and of course they matter far more than an ever increasing waistband or a misspelt text message.
It's lyrically powerful and funny at the same time. A musical equivalent of how the best comedians will attack a subject and you can laugh, but it will also make you think.
It does it no harm that it sounds like the Barenaked Ladies with a social conscience either.
The penultimate track 'Beer Song' will be easily recognisable as the memory of the night before the hangover from hell.
Although I don't actually recall any of my friends shitting in a washing machine, or at least I'm not admitting anything without a lawyer present.
Anyway, any song that references the Scottish hangover cure of a fry up and a glass of irn bru is all right by me.
The short ep finishes on 'Alice's Song'. A little track that pays homage to friends from the past and how they can enrich your life.
It's a lovely sentiment and the perfect ending to an introduction to Shambles Miller's talents.
I think other reviewers will maybe use the word ditties a lot when talking about this ep.
I consciously didn't, until just there the now.

Department S - Mr Nutley's Strange Delusionarium

If you were told that a band had reformed decades after their moment in the sun then it follows that it's a cash in. An exercise in the rehashing of the past to appeal to those who are caught in the the grip of rich amber tinged memories.
It's rare for these bands to match their past endeavours and ever rarer for them to be surpassed.
Yet every once in a while one band comes along and does just that.
Everything that they do screams that the past is the past, and even while the may reference it you know it's in the context of celebrating the present as they keep one eye on the future.
Department S are one of those rare beasts.
Right at this very moment in time they are in fact 'that' band.
With 'Mr Nutley's Strange Delusionarium' they have neatly side stepped expectations and made wrong footing the listener a theme.
Misdirection is the name of the game.
Take the hit single 'Is Vic There' as an example. Those familiar with it would consider that they would know exactly what they were getting, but they would be wrong.......very wrong.
It's now a toned and muscular demonstration of how to grab the attention of the jaded. The casualness of the original is completely lost in the mists of time and to all intent and purpose this is a new song.
Every track on the album leads you to a comfortable point, and then it blindfolds you, spins you round and pushes you disorientated in yet another - ultimately rewarding – direction.
The musicianship is breathtaking in scope, as is the energy and imagination that they have brought to playing .
It's very obvious that this is a band who can take an idea and give it life.
If relevance in the modern world was their goal then they achieved it, and more.
If musical reinvention was elevated to an art form then Department S would be on the receiving end of a Turner.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Anonymous comments

The posting of anonymous comments on the blog has risen over the last few months, and while I firmly believe in free speech I struggle with those who wish to exercise it from the shadows.
So I have decided that I will no longer accept them.
Exceptions can be made though.
If an individual has a valid reason for concealing their identity then email me first and those reasons will be considered and the comment may be allowed.
If however it is just an illogical and vitriolic attack on an opinion that is rooted in an unwillingness to allow others (myself) to state said opinion, then waste your time hammering on the keys as much as you want as without a name it isn't going to be upped.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The Bay (Glasgow)

After waxing lyrical about how cool Su Casa in Ayr is I seen this today from The Bay in Glasgow.
Bands...Are you looking to do a DIY gig? @ The Bay we offer saturday nights to any 4 bands with NO HIRE FEE (and there never will be!) providing there is 4 bands, we cover PA and Engineer costs, we also give you printed tickets to sell for as much or as little as you would like..oh, and..YOU KEEP ALL TICKET MONIES :D Im sure you will all agree, this is a stupidly good offer. Sat 1st Oct Is free along with the 26th Nov, 3rd Dec, 10th dec and Xmas eve! interested? msg here! Fee x

This is how all venues of this size should be run.
If they end up cornering the market in providing live music then others venues only have themselves to blame.
Good luck to them.

142 West Regent Street, G2 2RQ Glasgow, United Kingdom.
Tel - 0141 248 7648
Email -
Facebook -

Westboro Hoedown

The best weapon against hate is laughter.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

I am the law

From The Guardian (17/9/11)

I was almost arrested in Tesco this week. My crime? Comparing prices. Evidently, this is such a security issue for Tesco that it wants you booted out of the store. The deputy manager rushed up to me within minutes of my arriving at one of its London supermarkets. The security cameras had spotted me with a pen and paper in hand, noting the prices of goods on the shelves. "Excuse me, what are you doing?" he said. I told him I was, well, writing down prices.

"You're not allowed to do that. It's illegal. Where are you from? Are you from the media?" I don't feel Tesco has any right to demand my employment status, so I just said: "I'm a private individual, I'm buying some stuff here, and I'm comparing prices."

It obviously didn't satisfy him. "It's illegal to write things down and you can't take any photographs, either. If you want to check the prices, take the item to the till and pay for it there. The price will be on the receipt," he said, pointing me to the exit.

A store manager turned up, while another Tesco employee in a suit hovered in the background. "He's writing down prices," the deputy said to his superior, identifying a practice that evidently brings the bosses out in force.

I asked the manager if there had been a law passed which made it illegal to write down Tesco prices.

"Look, it's company policy, you're not allowed to do it," he said, perhaps accepting that Tesco doesn't actually write the laws of the United Kingdom – well, not yet at any rate. I showed him my notebook. Scribbled down were prices for Highland Spring sparkling water on the shelves right in front of me. Three 1.5 litre bottles were £2 (66p a bottle). On the shelf below, a pack of four identical bottles were £3.08 (77p a bottle). In other words, buying in bulk was a worse deal. Can you explain that? I asked. "It's an offer, innit? There's lots of offers in the store. Why do you want to know?" At this point I volunteered that I was doing "market research".

I said I would continue to look around the store at prices, using my eyes only. Would Tesco object to me using my eyes? At this point they left me alone, but, before buying my goods and leaving, I felt I was being followed. Goodness knows what would have happened if I had tried to take a photograph. Perhaps Tesco would have pushed for a custodial sentence.

But there's a serious point here. Consumer journalists should be able to scrutinise prices without being harassed. How else can we be sure of the veracity of "half price" offers? And should it be the case that security staff can throw me out for taking a photograph of a bottle of Highland Spring?

If we on Guardian Money bought every item available in Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons or Asda every day, we would be able to check prices, and see if that bottle of wine, or those washing powder tablets, really are half price. But we can't, and trading standards officers don't have the resources to, either. Spot checks are about the best we can do.

But even that, it appears, is unacceptable to the likes of Tesco. Next time I'll wander round the store speaking the prices into my mobile phone. It's got a record function. Note to Tesco company policy writer: ban customers from speaking into their phones.

I think that the real serious point is how Tescos misrepresented themselves by stating that this is a law. This seems to be a common practice in the business world. Company policy does not trump the law.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Su Casa - Shambles Miller, This Silent Forest (solo) , Celine Brooks, Pammi Quinn, James Fole and Little Fire - Ayr (15/9/11)

Well I finally made it to Su Casa, and what can I say? I'm impressed.
Take some aspects of the New York Coffee Houses and throw in a bit of how the Cubans in Havana will open up their homes to serve as restaurants and you can get a feel for what Su Casa are doing.
While it is a business it seems to me to be run on the highest ethical standards, and that allowed me to settle into an oasis of communal appreciation of the music that was being provided in an atmosphere that went some way towards evoking a sense of it being designed to give respite from the capitalist rat race that exists outside its walls.
The set up is simple and very inclusive.
All ages, five pounds entry, bring your own bottle, six acts and free nachos and cheese at half time.
I had previously heard whispers that it was a bit pretentious, but now that I have experienced it I can firmly say that anyone that considers it as such are really just promoting their own insecurities into the public domain.
There is frankly nothing pretentious about SuCasa at all.
If you want a night relaxing and being entertained by some fantastic musicians then this is the place to go.
On arriving we took our seat midway through a performance by Pammi Quinn.
She's got a bit of country in her voice, but it isn't country music. Instead I kept getting a feeling of the rhythm of how Adam Duritz of Counting Crows pushes his lyrics. It's not blatant, as Pammi's crystal clear and feminine vocals distracts from it, but I reckon it's in there.
It's all rather lovely and faultlessly executed. She's a very talented young woman who I hope to see again.
Next was Squirrel of 'This Silent Forest' who had a nice easy manner about him.
It's all pretty much a relaxed performance, but there's a bit of fire pushed to the fore at times when his foot comes down harder on the beat and the strings are hit with a bit more intensity.
It helps shade proceedings and manages to give it all a little more than is normally expected from a certain style of solo acoustic singer songwriter.
Celine Brooks, a Canadian currently residing in Glasgow took to the mic after Squirrel and took things down a bluesier path in the vocal delivery.
As with all the other acts booked to appear it is still single guitar and voice, but Celine helped to show just how broad a palette of styles can be sampled from the barest of accompaniments.
It was a set that added another eclectic angle to the evening and if I have my way I hope to get here to visit Kilmarnock and play a set for us here.
Everything moved in yet another direction when Shambles Miller stepped up.
I once seen the Barenaked Ladies do an acoustic set in Glastonbury around the time that their album 'Gordon' came out and I got that vibe from Shambles.
He has that same clever and witty lyricism down, but with more of the raw Scottish twist to it.
Fascists get a bit of a drubbing - Hurrah - during a line in 'Things that make me angry' and the national hangover cure that is a fry up and Irn Bru gets a mention in the rather entertaining 'Beer song'.
Both bits of social commentary that I can easily get on board with.
There was one problem with his was too short. Not really a criticism that will bother him though.
Straight from his work to entertain us came James Fole who is warming up for his ep launch that will take place in SuCasa on the 30th of September.
He classes himself as someone who plays acoustic folk, but I would say that limits how people could perceive what he does.
Unheard it could just be filed away as a run of the mill, seen it a million times, yet another young guy with a guitar warbling about nothing much at all, but that is the polar opposite of what Jamie does.
Relationships between the sexes are pulled out into the light and quietly dissected with great aplomb. The hypocrisy of social interactions are laid bare and the whole set is admirably held together in an effortless manner.
There is nothing lightweight about this performance and it will be interesting to see how it works out with a band backing the material.
The end of the nights is easily reached as Little Fire and Shambles each play a song and in some way that book ended a marvellous evening.
There is no doubt that I will be back in Su Casa.
Next time I'll be there earlier to ensure I get a goods seat.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Vukovi/Selective Service/Girobabies/Sound Over Silence/Little Fire - Troon (11/9/11)

Over the course of the weekend Troon pulled out all the stops and had something like eighty bands playing in multiple venues under the banner of 'Live@Troon'.
Unfortunately I couldn't manage to attend anything until the last night, and that was a showcase of unsigned talent in the town hall.
On arriving Little Fire was finishing a set that was a last minute addition to the bill.
I've been keen to catch him and until now failed miserably in managing to be in the same place at the same time.
Even on this night I was skirting close to snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. If I'd arrived ten minutes later I wouldn't even have known that he had played.
However from the basis of the single solitary song I did hear it was obvious that the superlative praise that is often cast in his direction is well deserved.
He's a man that can certainly carry a passionate and heartfelt performance.
In the local pool of talented singer and songwriters he's another of the big fishes looking to make the leap into the wider consciousness of the public and it's an achievable dream.
So watch this space and hopefully an interview can be sorted out and we can maybe in some small way spread the word.
First of the announced bands to play were the rock act 'Sound Over Silence' who didn't initially impress, but then bludgeoned me into reconsidering my opinion until I had to accept that on planet RAWK these guys are very obviously more than ready to take on the big boys.
By avoiding the worst of the cartoonish excesses of the genre they have made themselves an attractive proposition for those who like it heavy, but insist on a side order of melody with that heaviness.
I personally wouldn't rush out to buy anything by then, but I wouldn't knock anyone else for doing so.
The ever magical drunken and exuberant Girobabies followed them and equally confused and entertained the crowd.
Acerbic, challenging and just bloody wonderful.
For me they are one of the few real punk bands playing in Scotland.
They would probably argue that they aren't a punk band, but what else are a group of individuals who do what the damn well please musically and refuse to be pigeon holed by defined genre names?
They aren't the public perception of what a punk band would be, but that's because in general the public haven't a clue what the real ethos of punk is.
If they could wrap their heads around it being about the freedom of expression then they would surely agree that the Girobabies define the true meaning of it.
After a short break Selective Service took to the stage and played a set of sixties inspired songs that just failed to grab me.
Similar to The Coral they know what they are doing and I can't fault the songs, but the delivery of them left me cold and I found my attention wandering as there wasn't a great deal of stage presence.
The cover of Gimme Shelter went some way to salvaging what could well have been a forgettable performance, but it was maybe just a little bit too little too late.
Headliners of the night 'Vukovi' managed to finish the evening off in style.
Don't even try to get to grips with what they are doing though. Just go with it if you get the chance.
It's like a fusion of indie rock, punk and pop that slices through the air and refuses to be pinned down.
This is a band who are firing on all cylinders and rushing headlong towards wherever they want to go.
The breaks are off and there's a little bit of something for everyone in their sound.
When anyone says that you can't please all the people all of the time then you can say that Vukovi are the exception to the rule.
A really exciting band, and one worth keeping an eye out for.

Chris Devotion and the Expectations.

Just bloody listening to it and marvel at how glorious the racket is.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Get it off your chest.

Over the last week some cracks have appeared in the Ayrshire music scene and in some cases it has descended into blatant personal digs at people.
It's uncalled for, but it isn't any real surprise.
This is just the point that every local scene reaches all over the world.
There is a groundswell of talent, and from that healthy, and unhealthy, competition arises. It's all part of the ebb and flow, and as the years past you can chart it regardless of where you are geographically located.
It's not really a localised issue.
The difference from place to place is how it is dealt with.
So I'm going to outline some thoughts on the matter and then within the comments others can feel free to exercise their right to voice an opinion.
Due to the recent amount of anonymous posts being made I will however only be allowing those with a name to be given space on the blog.
If anyone has a problem with logging in to make a comment then feel free to do it within the anonymous option, but close the comment with your name.

Okay here we go.
First things first.
There is no free pass in music.
You can be the best guitarist in a hundred mile radius, but if you are playing in a band with a crap bassist, a drummer who can only keep a beat going while having a wank, and a singer that couldn't carry a tune in a bucket, then it wont matter.
Or your uncle may have the contacts to secure you high profile support slots, but if an audience doesn't get what you are doing then tough.
That's as far as you are going.
You could also be in the best prog rock band that we have seen on these shores in the last decade, but if drum and bass is what is grabbing the majorities attention then unfortunately it just isn't your day.
Much of being in a band has little to do with talent or even lack of talent, but more so being in the right place at the right time.
Deal with it.
Once band members can accept that then they may be able to have a healthier approach to what they do.
So if you are in the position of thinking that locally everyone is against you, and no one is willing to give you a leg up then consider all the angles.
Are you as good as you think? Are you in a band who has one or two members who are holding you back? Do you bring anything to the party that anyone else wants?
Maybe the lack of offers to join in on collective projects isn't down to anyone considering that you have a lack of talent. It could just be that your skills aren't fitting in with what someone else wants right at that given moment.
Or instead - and this is what I think is happening just now - you could let bitterness into your heart and put down your lack of success to shadowy Machiavellian plots being carried out by unknown individuals whose whole aim in life is to belittle your efforts and sabotage your progress in life.
If some people could manage to take a step back and look at life from out-with the little bubble they have created then maybe they could see that for the crap it is.
The lack of forward motion could be down to many, many, many things.
I've seen terrible - in my opinion - acts make a splash, and I've seen bands and performers play magical life affirming sets and no one has really given them the credit for it, and they certainly haven't increased there profile or made it off the back of these performances either.
What can be done about that?
Well you can either buckle down and keep playing because you want to, or you can just give up.
The choice is down to the individual.
I can appreciate that sometimes it is frustrating, and it is difficult to equate a great deal of effort resulting in meagre returns, but that's life.
What I would like to see is the talent in Ayrshire continuing to move forward, and if this includes you then great, and if it doesn't then at least accept it with good grace.
The bottom line is that it doesn't mean you are better or worse than anyone else as that is just subjective.
It just means that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that is something that is out-with the control of everyone else.
Especially those who are doing well.
So no real need to spew bitter bile at them.

I hope that this can be taken in the spirit it is intended and some good will come of it. So please consider any comments before making them.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Screamin' Sugar Skulls - Undertaker Boogie

It's been a while since I've heard a new band capture the spirit of the originators of the psychobilly genre.
Most of the current batch of rockers have been influenced by a mixture of both psychobilly, and it's second cousin horror punk, resulting in something that is often neither one nor the other.
So it was refreshing to hear these Camden based psychobilly's staying close to the roots of the scene and punting forward a tongue in cheek blast of rock and roll without feeling the need to grab onto the coat tails of the transatlantic sound that has been prevalent of late.
If you favour the Meteors over the Misfits then this will suit you down to the ground.

PS : That's not the cover as I'm not sure if the album art is completed yet, and details of how to pick up a copy will be added as soon as I know.
PPS : When I say details of how to buy a copy will be added I mean that you should in fact by the fucker.

The Tango Rhums - Roundabouts

Post punk seems to get referenced at the drop of a hat these days.
Add a bit of angular guitar and the mop topped bearded twenty something wearing a cardigan and skinny fit jeans is the very man who is championing the post punk sound, but what was/is the post punk sound.
Can it be defined?
If you want to pedantically de-construct the term it's simply what followed on from punk, and then you have to ask what the hell punk was.
So anyway, isn't everything that followed on from the late seventies post punk?
It will be to some people.
Never mind all that though because here I am to tell you what it is, or what I think it is to be more exact.
It was the point when the people influenced by the original punk bands used them as a catalyst to leap into the great unknown, and if you want to accept that as the loose meaning then The Tango Rhums are the band who are playing post punk in 2011.
This could be down to them having their feet firmly planted in the punk era and augmented by a cumulative understanding and appreciation of everything that came before and after the so called year zero moment.
Or possibly that's just my take on it, but regardless of the subjective nature of music appreciation what we have here on 'Roundabouts' is a pretty damn fine blast of eclecticism matched with an exuberant understanding of how to make a toe tap.
'You ate the last Scotch pie while listening to Joy Divison' indeed.
Highly recommended if you are tired of the large percentage of identical auto tuned pap that is increasingly throttling originality in the world of rock and roll.

Shonen Knife - Osaka Ramones

Da Brudders were the influence worn on Shonen Knife's leather clad sleeves since the day they picked up guitars so it was only a matter of time before they got down to releasing a whole album of their idols classics.
The only surprise is that it has taken so long.
Is it any good though?
Aw c'mon. It's Shonen Knife playing Ramones tunes.
It does exactly what it says it does on the tin.
So if diminutive Japanese ladies wrapping their tonsils around English language punk rock is your thing then you're not going to be disappointed.
Personally I would have maybe liked the speed to have been turned up a notch, but as a homage to 'the greatest rock and roll band in the world' goes I'm not going to complain.

Glasgow Rocks

It's the end of the world as we know. Glasgow lies in chaos. It's a smoking ruin.
Where it used to stand is now a charred burnt out black hole where rats pick over what looks like the epicentre of the crash site of a meteor sized glitter ball.
This is what happens when too much rock and roll is concentrated on the one area.
That's right. Assume the position. Tuck your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye because it's going to get messy.
On the sixth of December Steve Conte - he of The Michael Monroe band and ex New York Doll - is coming to town to lay the groundwork for a week that will leave all fans of rock and roll gasping for a second breath.
By the time the eighth comes you better have found that second wind as Ginger Wildheart is planning to bring some friends and blow the roof off the Garage.
If there are any survivors after that then the rallying point will be at the Urban Voodoo Machines gig on the tenth.
Three outstanding shows in five days.
I'm going to have to get into training for this.
I reckon that stories will be told about people drowning under the onslaught of a tsunami sized wave of alcohol, and individuals from as far away as Edinburgh will swear that they heard livers popping.
Years ago we were bestowed with the title of rock and roll capital of the world. Bollocks. Indie loving students milling about looking at their shoes is the polar opposite of what rock and roll debauchery is.
This is the real deal.
I predict that there will be a week of St Vitus dancing fuelled by jagerbombs until we start dropping like heroin chic models on an anorexic trip.
Whose up for it?

Friday, 9 September 2011

Folks/The Sundancer/Rhiannon Garity/Matt Scott - King Tuts Wah Wah Hut - Glasgow (8/9/11)

Well this was a night of surprises.
The original opening act, and rising local hero, Matt Scott had been bumped from bottom of the bill to the top due to the amount of tickets that he had shifted.
A nice reward for the effort he had put in to promote his appearance, and one that if repeated elsewhere would maybe go some way towards counteracting the negative aspects of what is little more than a pay to play exercise.
However the newly appointed opening act 'The Sundancer' were taking the shuffle in their stride and played a bit of a blinder.
It's a simple set up of a single vocal being backed up with an acoustic guitar and djembe, but between the two members of the band they manage to give out a very rich and textured sound.
There's a definite hint of a sixties psychedelic vibe that threads its way through much of the material, but it's a far cry from sounding dated.
If Donovan was to write something that smacked of the present then it would probably sound like a track from The Sundancer, and based on this performance I'm going to have to see what I can pick up and take a little paisley patterned trip through their back catalogue.
The following act 'Rhiannon Garity' was an anticlimactic experience.
It was all looking good as they set up, but once they started all I could think of closing time at Butlins.
The single solitary singer in the spotlight, her fingers dancing over the keys, a backing band going through the motions and a disco ball casting little diamonds of light onto a virtually empty dance floor.
It actually made me feel a bit sad.
Rhiannon had a nice enough voice and the band were competent enough, but I wasn't getting anything apart from a healthy does of melancholy from it.
Others seemed to be enjoying themselves though
Once again it's down to the old adage 'horses for course' and I wasn't getting it so I retreated to the downstairs bar.
By the time I had returned Folks were on their penultimate song of the evening and I could have kicked myself as they were ticking all the right boxes.
They've got that Manc rock and roll attitude going on. The sort of 'Look at me not giving a fuck' coolness that Buzzcocks had and was registered as a trademark by Oasis.
I felt like I was watching the North of England's answer to Primal Scream.
They must be on the cusp of bigger and better things and the support slot to Noel Gallagher at the tail end of October may just be the catalyst that will enable them to jump into the wider public's consciousness.
Now what can be said about Matt Scott that wont sound like he is paying me to heap praise on him?
It's going to be difficult, but I Don't have a doubt that we have something petty special on our hands here.
In the seventies Scotland had the likes of Frankie Miller showing the rest of the world how bluesy rock music could be imbued with soul to the point that it was impossible to see where one style merged with the other.
It was akin to musical alchemy.
In the present you can hear it in some of the material that Paulo Nutini does, but while Paulo reaches into the past to pay homage to that style Matt Scott sounds like it's at his fingertips.
While one is creating a facsimile of it, the other is the living and breathing embodiment of it.
His original material sits comfortably next to a sublime cover of The Kings of Leons 'Trani', a track that is allegedly one of Bob Dylan's favourites, but while it is done with a great deal of passion the highlight of the covers is the Frankie Miller song 'Drunken Nights in the City'.
It's on this song that the past and present come crashing together and the path ahead for Matt is lit in neon.
This last minute headlining slot at King Tuts is a testament to his pulling power.
Friends and family can only take this so far, but when you have 60 plus people personally turning out to see an act that was originally on the bottom of the bill then that is telling venues and promoters something.
Matt Scott has that something that people want, and it wont be long before a higher profile slot will be offered and after that it is all in the lap of the gods.
The future could be very bright.
(Photograph provided by Ronnie Munro. All rights reserved)

Monday, 5 September 2011

Sunday Session

(Sorry, but once again this update is aimed at those local to my area)

I'm thinking of starting a Sunday afternoon session where acoustic acts with a laid back vibe can play to an audience of music lovers in a relaxed environment.
Nothing heavy. Just simply the antidote to a long hard week, or a gentle pick me up for the day after the night before.
Hopefully by having it on a Sunday afternoon it will also provide those who find it difficult to commit to night time events an opportunity to get out and sample some live music to.
I've set up an events page on facebook and within an hour over ten people have commited to it and that isn't too bad when I consider this is a Monday morning and most people are still unaware of anything going on.
So if anyone is in the Ayrshire area please feel free to use the link here and check it out. Spread the word a bit even.
No pressure, but it would be nice to see people not only saying that they want to attend, but acting more proactively and sending invites out to others so that the idea can gather a bit of pace.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Alice Cooper - I'll bite your face off.

Bit of a classic rock tune here that bodes well for the forthcoming 'Welcome 2 my Nightmare' album release.
Maybe not the return to his seventies form that some would have liked, but it's got a bit of that vibe and manages to capture enough of the eighties sound to sway the younger fans that jumped on board Alice's wagon during his hair metal years.
If the intent was to keep everyone happy then Alice has managed it, but maybe at the expense of going balls out with a real take it or leave it 'here I am' return to form.
The real shocker is on the b-side as 'Caffeine' delivers everything that 'I'll bite your face off'' falls short of doing.
If you want classic Alice Cooper then this is it.
So fingers crossed that this is the dawning of a new era for Alice as a studio artist as the world could always do with a short sharp shock of Mr Cooper.
There's no doubting his pull as a live act and I have never seen him play anything less than a spectacular set, but it would be pretty cool to see him riding high in the charts showing up how vacuous much of the modern rock and roll acts really are.
Ooooof. Now I can't wait for 'Welcome 2 my Nightmare'.

Fountain of Wayne - Sky full of holes

Whatever happened to Fountains of Wayne?
For many a year they released some lovely jumpy power pop and carved themselves a nice little niche.
Now they are back with 'Sky full of holes' and doing their best to sound like Squeeze.
It's caught me off guard a bit as I thought I was going to hear one thing and got another.
I'm not sure I even like this.
On the plus side they do Squeeze really well.
They also do a decent job of referencing the sound of the Beatles, but vocally there's a bit of the Gallagher brothers in there and that can be a bit distracting.
So while I'm tapping my toe and nodding my head to this a small voice keeps whispering that there's something wrong and I can't grab at what it is.
It's got me a bit discombobulated.
It's got hooks a plenty and everything is in place, but I just can't get away from questioning why I'm not fully embracing it..........oh wait.
'Peace sign on the window, Japanese caaaaaaaaaaar'
Oh fuck the Liam Galagher intonation is now doing my head in.
That's it. In every single song I keep hearing snippets of Liam doing his crap Lennon impression and it's killing the mood.
Even Liam doesn't sound like that anymore.
I just got it as it's reached a tipping point.
I think I'll just use this as a coaster and wait until they get back on track as there not enough saving graces on it to persuade me to hang in there and see what returns I would get with repeated listens.

Jinx Lennon, but only if you want him.

Every once in a while someone previously unknown to you comes along and pulls the rug out from under your feet and flips you down the rabbit hole.
Jinx Lennon did that to me.
A mate had put on a show and asked me along, and although he had waxed lyrically - along with others - about Jinx Lennon I'll admit that on having a quick google search my world wasn't shaken, never mind stirred, but seeing Jinx play was like a gateway drug in the sense that it opened the door and gave me a glimpse of the lyrical genius of the man and led me to wanting more and more and more.
I was dropped hard onto the road to Damascus and enlightenment was mine.
So here I am in the present giving Taxi Man Face a spin and wondering if I can pull off a Jinx Lennon gig in my home town.
The offer is there, and I have a good relationship with a local venue, but the problem is that no matter how many shit hot reviews Jinx has had in the national press, no matter how many times he's played with Christy Moore and no matter how many albums he has sold internationally through his own DIY label, the truth is that getting people through the door to appreciate what is to them an unknown quantity is an uphill struggle around these here parts.
So in the next couple of days I'm going to sort out a facebook events page where people can register their interests and as soon as it hits an acceptable number of people wishing to attend I'll get it sorted.
So this is the opening salvo.
If you are in Ayrshire and fancy seeing the man, the legend, that is Jinx Lennon then you better be prepared to say so as faint hearts never won the day.