Search This Blog

Friday, 28 September 2012

Shameless self promotion.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Noizy Indie Social Club festival of music - 22/09/12 (Cumbernauld)

A theatre is to my mind a magical place.
Its entrance should be a doorway that leads us to a world that equally entertains and educates, a safe haven where stories wild and wonderful are conjured from the air itself.
It should be the gateway to an alternate reality that resides on the other side of the looking glass, the landscape that lurks behind the furs in the wardrobe, or even a world that exists in a galaxy far away.
Anything, and everything that can be imagined, should find some sanctuary within its walls, and this yin and yang of reality and fantasy is well worn by the Cumbernauld Theatre.
A place that I had never been to until this day.
From the outside it's nothing more than a run of old working cottages, but once you enter its small doors it challenges your perceptions, and Tardis like, opens up to a vast space that accommodates a full seated theatre, a smaller studio, two bars and more.
There's no grand foyer, and no gilded pillars, but instead a fully functioning theatre that could lend itself to making any dream come true.
A truly wonderful space for the people of Cumbernauld.

On this day it wasn't to be hosting a theatre production, but instead the debut of the Noizy Indie Social Clubs - hopefully annual - music festival.

We had arrived keenly anticipating The OK Social Club and then The Holy Ghosts to ease us into the day, but unfortunately as we turned up a change in the line up meant that we had just missed The Holy Ghosts, who would be headlining a show in King Tuts Wah Wah Hut (Glasgow), in the evening.
Not an auspicious start for us as they're hovering at the top of my 'everyone must see this band' list, and whenever I'm asked who in Scotland has the ability to break out and garner a great deal of national praise it is these guys, along with a handful of other acts, that spring to my lips.
However another is The OK Social Club who could equally grab a share of national plaudits once their forthcoming album is released.
So the disappointment that I felt was quickly set aside as they powered through their set.
Imagine Julian Casablancas of the Strokes being dragged around the pubs and clubs of Scotland and then being forced to sit down and write some songs.
What he would come up with could possibly sound like The OK Social Club.
Not that they come across like a Strokes tribute act as the sound of the New York boys just adds a bit of flavour to the over all pot pourri of influences that range from rock and roll to traditional rhythm and blues with a nod to a bit of a punk attitude.
I've said similar after I had witnessed their live set for the first time, but the raw ingredients are there for all to see and it does no harm in highlighting them again.
The main thought that kept firing around inside my head was why was a band of this calibre playing so early in the day?

Hanney were next up, and were the first of the acts I was to see that I knew nothing about.
Turns out that they're dance rock hybrid pumping out beats and spitting out lyrics.
Not really my cup of tea, but there's no doubting the talent on display.
The experimentation that the Manchester bands had with dance beats threads its way through their sound. More Black Grape than Happy Mondays, and more Sonic Boom Six than Prodigy, but there's nothing wrong with that, and while I wouldn't run out to buy an album from them, neither would I necessarily feel the need to run to the hills when they play either.
If the personal tastes of anyone run towards this style of music then I'm sure Hanney will provide the soundtrack to a few good weekends.

Vagabond Poets were then to provide a sound that I could more naturally gravitate towards.
This very young band are playing catch up with bands like The Imagineers and the Holy Ghosts, and there not too far behind.
I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few releases by The Coral skulking about their record collections at home.
Regardless of their influences they have a pleasant take on the freakbeat/psych sound, and their mod fashion sense gives them a solid style.
The highlights for me were the original material they played, with the low points the covers.
Folsom Prison Blues is sort of done to death, and while the band were all together on The Gloria Jones/Soft Cell hit Tainted Love musically, the vocals didn't quite carry it.
Not that these two songs served to detract from the over all performance though.
The young men in the band are already displaying far more promise than many others of their age, and it wouldn't surprise me if the next year sees them attracting a great deal of attention.

Next Nanobots beamed onto the mains stage to bewilder, confuse and entertain as they do.
It's all Devo stranded on the Forbidden Planet after they took a wrong turn on the way home from a galactic hoe-down hosted by Ming the Merciless in the restaurant at the end of the universe.
They're the type of band whose fans wear tinfoil, and not just to stop the illuminati lizard men from reading their minds.
The type of band I love.
When you can get two talented people in a room who are also not shy in showing off their fun/unbalanced side, you can always guarantee that you will be entertained, and with the amount of sci-fi lunacy on show I doubt anyone left their performance without an opinion of it.

I should have seen The Puzzlers after that, as I had noted them down as not to be missed, but miss them I did, and instead it was Red Sands who we caught next.
Now I have no idea where or when, but I've seen them before.
It's an eclectic set that they work their way through with many aural turns, but unlike other bands who try to sample so many styles Red Sands maintain a solid thread through it all.
Whether it's psychedelic folk or jangly west coast freakbeat they've pretty much got it nailed down and the harmonies from the band manage to elevate their performance to the sublime.
A fantastic set with the band being well deserving of the turn out they got.

Yoshi, who were playing in the seated main auditorium, were the band that I should have liked, but couldn't.
The problem wasn't with the music, or the majority of the band.
The problem was that no matter how good they sounded they had a band member throw a spanner in the works at every turn due to being shitfaced.
There's nothing entertaining about watching someone forget the lyrics, slur nonsense into the mic and stumble on and off the stage randomly.
His antics only served to distract from the effort that the rest of the band were putting in.
It wasn't funny.
Maybe it's funny if you are in the band - as no one seemed to have an issue with it - but the reality check is that if people want to be entertained in this manner then they can sit at any taxi rank on the west coast of Scotland between midnight and three am any night playing a mix tape of The Beastie Boys and Junior Senior and get a better quality show.
A sad distraction that did the band no favours.

Unashamedly showering plaudits on The Starlets wouldn't really do them much justice.
No matter how long I waxed lyrically about their performance it still wouldn't convey who good they are.
They are the band who provided the first 'you really had to be there' moments.
The cinematic pop that is their stock in trade is a very attractive proposition.
If Scott Walker hadn't gone off the rails then I suspect that he would have washed up on the shore that The Starlets have encamped on.
Wonderful stuff, and so good I bought their whole back catalogue.

The River 68's, who I have been gagging to see since first hearing them, were going to have tough act to follow.
There's no points where the bands overlap musically, but more so I thought on an entertaining level they could have fallen short.
Needless to say I was wrong. The River 68's were everything I expected, and more.
This is the band who are the rockers of this generation.
If the Faces had a party with The Black Crowes then I I'd bet that the bootleg tapes of their drunken session together would sound like The River 68's.
Now this is a band whose singer has some pipes on him.
Southern soul with some rocknroll ramalama only rarely sounds this good.
Big stages better beckon for them, or I'll eat the singers hat, and that was a big hat.

I had high hopes for The Merrylees who were headlining the studio stage, but while I was suitably impressed with their first song I was less so with the second and by the third I had decided it was going to be a set of diminishing returns.
For all the hype that has surrounded them it seemed to me that they only really had one string to their bow and I would have preferred more shading to what they were doing.
I left thinking that my opinion was one that would go against the tide of popular opinion, but while waiting to see The Imagineers I overheard one person say that they sounded as if they only had one song and were just changing the lyrics on it, and I ashamed to say I felt glad that this persons view was met with agreement as it supported my own.
While I'm sure others would disagree the slot would have been better filled by either The Holy Ghosts, The OK Social Club or even local young guns Vagabond Poets.

Finishing the night was of course The Imagineers, a band whose popularity is ascending rapidly, and deservedly so.
With US television appearances tucked under the belts and a global audience waiting for the debut it would be easy to let it all overwhelm them, but there's no sign of them failing to take it all in their stride, or let their feet leave the ground.
Infectiously foot stompingly good they powered through a short set that touched on the songs featured on their debut ep and the more recent double a sided single while providing us all with a sneak preview of some unreleased tracks that did the job in ensuring us that everything is still on track for them.
If you could take a snapshot of any second of their performance it would be heavy with the promise of success.
For many this is the band who could finally put Scotland on the musical map with their talent not being constrained by our nations borders.
It's all in the laps of the Gods, but with luck all the pieces will fall into place for them and they will reap the rewards of all the hard work they have been putting in.
If they do I doubt anyone could lay claim that their success would be ill deserved.

A big thank you has to go out to Brian Deanie for being the person who had the dream and welcomed everyone to the reality of it, and the Cumbernauld Theatre for hosting it with a smile. It would be fair to say that the bar staff, security and everyone involved from the theatre were a credit to Cumbernauld.
Thanks to Jim McKellen of the Puzzlers for his company on the day, and everyone involved with the Noizy Indie Social Club, because in all of my years of participating in live music as a spectator I don't think I have ever attended such a well run all-dayer.
Outstanding. Simply outstanding.

Here's to next year.   

Monday, 24 September 2012

The Wooden Sky - Grace on the hill (parts one to five.)

Strip everything away and the real intent of the blog is to share music and experiences.
Today this band were brought to my attention and I want to share them with you.
Hope you enjoy.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Chris Helme - The Burns - 21/09/12 (Irvine)

It must seem like a long hard road travelled from performing at the opening ceremony of the Olympics, to then be asked to open a gig upstairs in a pub in Irvine, but Sean Kennedy takes the roller-coaster ride of playing original music to the public in his stride with considerable professionalism, and a refreshing lack of ego.
I suspect that regardless of what stage Sean finds himself on that he simply sees it as an opportunity to win some new fans over, and that's something he certainly manages to do on a regular basis.
It would be easy to lay claim that he is ill deserving of being the first performer to take the stage at what was the debut outing for the fledgling Baile Valley Music Promotions, but that wouldn't be a fair conclusion to leap to, as the supporting line up to Chris Helme were all of a quality that they could have featured at the top of many a bill in their own right.
A more accurate take on the evening would be to consider that if Sean was kicking it off then you could be assured that quality wise there wouldn't be a stumble in the offing.
From a very large pool of singer-songwriters that seem to proliferate in the Scotland's west coast bars and smaller venues Sean stands out as the performers performer.
Someone who firmly has a grasp of the rung above,
I couldn't help but think that the x-factor would love him as Sean has all the star quality that show loves to exploit, but equally I thought we should be thankful that this isn't a route that he is contemplating, as the short term benefits of the exposure it would bring would also rob us of the original talent that Sean is.

Lost Element initially didn't grab me as I found it difficult to latch onto what they were doing, but midway through their set everything clicked into place and their angle on traditional rhythm and blues - albeit through the early 90's interpretation that bands like Ocean Colour Scene pushed - really hit the spot.
The last three songs were very powerfully driven, and the mix of acoustic blues guitar augmented with a vocal delivery that would have given Kelly Jones and Simon Fowler a bowel shaking moment of concern that someone was just about to muscle in on their patch was pretty sublime.
I'm reliably informed that they are even better when delivering a full on electric show so that's going to be something I can look forward to.

The next band to play provided that moment of the night when all the expectations that may or may not have been held were left in the dirt.
I've seen Mark Copeland perform solo prior to this, but no matter how impressed I was with him then it didn't prepare me for the full band experience.
All through the set I kept thinking about how it reminded me of The Waterboys around the period of their first two albums, and how each time I seen them I thought that 'these guys have to be massive'.
There's that grandiose keyboard swirl, the celtic folk signature and a pounding beat that would elicit a response from the most cloth eared among us.
That's all plenty to be going on with for anyone, but add on that certain indescribable something that screams that everyone has to hear them and you have something special on your hands.
That they have only been playing for a short while together makes it all the more impressive.
If the night finished as the last note rang out from The Wounded Pirates then no one should have felt short changed.
If this is the start then who can really say what will come next, but it's an exciting prospect to contemplate.

When Soho Dandy took to the stage I had my first dilemma of the night.
What can you say about a band who are very obviously talented, can write solid songs and can carry a performance, but don't do it for you?
It's one of those times when no matter how much you draw attention to the positives people get hung up on the not getting it part.
While most will accept that the appreciation of an artist, or a band, is subjective, it's also true that quite often they find it hard to take on board that others may not like who they do.
Then they relegate every other positive statement to the point that it is ignored completely.
So just to clarify it all as I've said earlier, everyone on the bill was deserving of head lining a gig in their own right.
Soho Dandy included.
It's just that while I can freely see the attraction to what they do it doesn't engage with me, and that's not really the fault of anyone, the band or me.
It's just different horses for different courses.
It's all very clever indie pop and it's also executed with a great deal of style. But it just wasn't my thing.

Rose Parade however are my thing, and with the band swelling to a four piece with the addition of new guy Oscar on bass it was going to be interesting to hear how that worked in within the over all live sound.
The jury wont be out for long though, as apart from visually bulking the band out the complementary bass lines definitely adds rather than subtracts to the over all vibe.
Once the début album (that's at the mastering stage just now) is released the band are now in the position to take their sound out on the road.
It's funny how until the bass was added I didn't think that it was required, but now it's here I doubt they could go back.

Now I've got a problem with Chris Helme.
It's not a major issue.
In fact it's not really something that he should concern himself with.
My problem is that while I love his time with The Seahorses, and even accept that if it wasn't for that part of his career I may have never heard of him, I still prefer to hear his own material rather than him pandering to an audience looking for a nostalgia hit.
Of course he has to give an audience what they want to a degree, and yes most of the people who come out to see him want to hear the songs from that album, but I'd rather have a run through of his latest 'The Rookery' with him then having a break before returning to regale us with some highlights from all the releases post The Seahorses.
It's time that others got up to speed with his career and stopped hanging onto past glories and accepted the reality of the here and now.
That reality being that Chris has one of the finest blues voices that the UK has.
That eh can effortlessly slide from a growl to a folk whisper or a falsetto that is pitch perfect as required is just the icing on the cake.
Compliment his technical abilities as singer with some great song writing and I really don't see why others still want to hang onto their past rather than get on board with Chris now.
When Uncut claim that he is 'echoing the fragility of Gram Parsons, while flirting with the rustic side of Neil Young' on The Rookery, then why can't that be enough.
This hanging onto the past by the audience was to shadow the gig in Irvine.
As Chris aired his solo material the sound of chat rose and the attention waned with it only to return when The Seahorses songs were dragged out.
Yet throughout Chris was professionally solid.
In fact claiming he was professionally solid is like damning him with faint praise as Chris is more than that.
I can understand that to a certain degree this audience is his bread and butter, but maybe it is time to explore how he can garner one that appreciate his whole career as a musician rather than key into a small part of it.
I fervently hope that with The Rookery that he can be able to look back on it as the watershed moment when the past was finally laid to rest and the future beckoned all fresh pink skinned and new.
So while I do appreciate that Chris does play places like Kilmarnock and Irvine, and I equally appreciate that individuals like Johnny Graham have faith in booking Chris, there's a part of me that would like to see him playing bigger venues with a band backing him and receiving the kudos that he so richly deserves.

...and finally it would be unfair not to revisit the efforts of Johnny Graham in putting this gig on.
From the bands picked, to the quality of the sound from Lee Brady, to the between band music that kept the party going it was the sort of gig that people who have been promoting take years to arrive at the standard of.
In fact some people never get it right.
So as we would say in our corner of the world 'mair power to yer elba'.
Hopefully this is the first of many and I hope that Irvine appreciates the effort put in, and will look to provide the support that Johnny needs to lay the foundations for a local music scene.

Sean Kennedy
Mark Copeland
The Lost Element
Soho Dandy
Rose Parade
Chris Helme

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Rat Scabies, Brian James, Texas Terri Glasgow Pivo Promo

Kevin Bridges - SECC - 18/09/12 (Glasgow)

While I've never really warmed to Kevin Bridges as a comedian I did go to his show with an open mind, and I would have loved to have woken up this morning with a fresh, and far more positive, opinion of him.
Sadly that's not the case.
I'm still at a loss to really grasp why so many people like him.

His delivery is blighted by his apparent need to wait until the very last bit of adulation from an audience has played out before he can utter the next line.
I appreciate that this doesn't bother anyone else, but it twists my nips.
The way he walks around soaking it all up, bathing in the love, juts annoys the fuck out of me.
The material itself is really just the observational type that Billy Connolly built his career on repackaged for a younger audience.
Derren Brown could have walked on stage and held a finger to his temple for a second before saying 'you are all thinking that this is so funny because it's true' aren't you.
Yet his observations aren't that wide ranging.
Nothing ever really strays that far away from his tales of the aggressive numptyhood of his Glasgow brethren.
Anyone who doesn't live in Glasgow could be forgiven for thinking it's a Mad Max styled apocalyptic shithole populated by toothless buckfast swilling mutants.
What a lot of crap.
We all know that's Kilmarnock.
Seriously though. It was a night of Bridges and his fans celebrating, and poking fun at, the dregs of our society.
The people who have fallen through the cracks are his stock in trade.
If he ever stumbles as a comedian he could make a buck from doing the commentary to the latest televisual bowel movement from Jeremy Kyle, or maybe the voice over to the next 'Most dangerous fucker in the world who lives in the most dangerous estate in the most dangerous city in the world' show starring Danny Dyer.
Of course he would claim it was post ironic though.

There was a few points where I did smile.
His tale of his school mate doing a ghost shite was funny, but the shadow of Billy loomed large over it all.
Equally his piece on a group holiday, and how the creeping loathing for the people you are with seeps into everything, was good, but once again people of a certain vintage would recognize the bones of it.

Regardless of my lack of enthusiasm the vast majority very obviously were enjoying themselves.
So fair play to Kevin who I'm sure will enjoy counting the receipts at the end of his SECC run.

Ach maybe my loathing for stadium comedy shaded my view, but all things considered I wouldn't feel that I'd missed out of I never heard or seen him again.

The Cult & The Mission – Newcastle Academy 11/09/2012... Where (for once) nostalgia IS all it’s cracked up to be.

Many thanks to Marcus Carcuss (13 Tombs) for his contribution to itsaxxxxthing.
Hopefully the first of many.
Take it away Marcus
First of all – I was looking forward to this gig a great deal... between about 1986 and 1991 I had seen The Cult three times and The Mission eleven (six of them following them around the Scottish highlands and islands), for a long period of my younger days they were the soundtrack to my life alongside The Damned, Motorhead and The Sisters Of Mercy. Most of the pivotal times in my life can be tied in to roughly when one of their albums came out or to when I saw certain gigs, some I can trot out the dates for even now like some strange Rain Man figure, “The Electric Tour - Edinburgh Playhouse March 5th 1987, The Cult and Gaye Bykers On Acid”, “World Crusade Tour  - Edinburgh Coasters November 6th 1986, The Mission and The Rose Of Avalanche”.
However, in the run up to the gig there were a few wee niggly things that preyed heavily on my mind and tried to nip away at the nostalgic expectations I had – firstly, the gig was downsized from the Newcastle Metro Arena which made me worry that not everybody shared my fond memories of my teenage idols, secondly, I always have a fear that when you haven’t seen a band for a whole that they will have totally “lost it” (which makes you think that they never were that great in the first place) and thirdly... and most importantly, Killing Joke pulling out from the tour as a result of some nonsense spouted on Facebook by somebody pretending to be Jaz Coleman was a total pisser. Having seen KJ a few times over the years (usually when there is a war on... strangely enough)I was convinced that losing such a formidable live act would affect attendance and may very well lead to it all being cancelled.
Luckily these wee niggly naggly thoughts would not bear fruit and on the Tuesday evening after a quick nose round some shops in Newcastle city centre, where I bought a crucifix (Goth as fuck) myself, my beloved other half and my good friend Rab were sat in a pub over the road from the O2 Academy having a few much needed beers (when in Newcastle do you ask for “Newcastle Brown Ale” or just “Brown Ale” ?) awaiting the arrival of our friends from the local area. I “borrowed” a poster from the pub wall for a local Ramones tribute (The Rawmones) as it had a cool piece of artwork on it, met our friends, discussed previous Cult and Mission gigs, had a few more beers and headed over to the gig.
Featuring three quarters of the original line up, The Mission hit the ground running. The haircuts may be shorter (or in Craig Adams case non existent), the horrendous Paisley shirts and dodgy blouses may have vanished but the powerful songs were definitely still there and hammered home as good as they always were. There may have been a bit of drinking going down as in days gone by, Wayne Hussey was definitely having the odd snifter from a bottle that may or not have been Blue Nun (as it usually used to be) but this added to the performance – if you want to hear pristine versions of the songs stay at home and listen to the records, The Mission were never about playing the songs as they appeared on vinyl (remember that ?), they were all about having a good time and getting carried along in the moment, something that still held true. The highlight for me (and quite a few others in the crowd) was a totally awe inspiring rendition of “Tower OF Strength”, complete with people on shoulders doing that “spidery finger Goth dance” that people who followed bands around the country always seemed to do.
Definitely up there with some of the best times I have seen them, they played songs from their entire back catalogue, and as they didn’t have a new album to promote they didn’t have to play any unfamiliar new ones, thus keeping the momentum going.
Before the headliners took to the stage a quick discussion was held with my companions and we agreed that The Cult would have to “go some” to match the openers, this they most certainly did... Gone were the huge walls of Marshall amps and American accents that they embraced in the late 1980s and in their place was a band who had realised that the phoniness that a lot of bands from that time felt was necessary had definitely seen it’s day.
For the first time in decades they acknowledged their Goth Rock past, playing “Spirit Walker” from their ‘Dreamtime’ debut and even “Horse Nation” (originally recorded when they were Death Cult). Mixing the more psychedelic songs from the “Love” era, the out and out AC/DC derived ones from “Electric” and new songs from this years excellent “Choice Of Weapon” album in a seamless manner, where in the past some songs from various eras could grate together when played live. It now seemed as if The Cult were no longer self conscious about what made them The Cult... almost as if they had come of age and realised everything they had done made them the band they are today.
By the end of their set I was at the front of the stage for a rousing version of “She Sells Sanctuary” - one of the good things about seeing bands who have been around for a long time is that it easier to get down the front without being knocked around in a sweaty mosh pit. Maybe I wasn’t pogoing as high as I used to, mind you Ian Astbury doesn’t jump around like he used to either but I definitely felt the rush that I felt in my tender teenage years... and that is something that doesn’t happen too often.
As their tour shirts said back in 1987 on the “Electric” tour – “sleep by day, boogie by night, rockers by choice... CULT CHILDREN !”. Amen to that.
Marcus Carcass

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Mad Sin - 25 years/Still Mad

I'm not a fan of live albums in general and all the reasons for that are apparent on the first track of the new Mad Sin album.
None of the frenetic magic of the band is captured at all.
It's as if we are listening to some faded facsimile of them, and that's not fair on us, or them.
Thankfully the dank, and unimaginative, recording only last as long as the first track and from there on in the flickering flame takes hold, and as the fire kicks in it becomes business as usual as Koefte yelps his way through the bands back catalogue, while the rest of the band grind out song after song in front of what sounds like an appreciative audience.
Mad Sin along with Nekromantix are the bands who I felt revived the fortunes of the psychobilly scene, and while both are equally loved and loathed for dragging the sound forward, and bastardizing it to an extent, a degree of thanks has to be extended to them for breathing life into the corpse of a scene that was virtually dead on its legs.
That they have been going twenty five years is a testament to their commitment to their vision of how rock and roll with a twist of punk should sound.
Throwing in a cover of Demolition 23's Nothing's Alright had me bouncing about and following it with Vince Taylor's Black Cadillac was the icing on the cake.
Especially with the duel male and female vocals on it.
The sparring sounded................well cool as fuck.
In that one cover it encompassed everything that rock and roll should be. It's dirty it's sexy and it kicks the shit out of pretty much everything that the kids are listening to in the charts right now.
That's not to say that the covers are the highlights.
The throbbing bass that supports all the original material carries it all along at breakneck speed and it would be difficult not to allow yourself to get swept along with the band as they keep the needle bouncing in the red.
As an album to close the doors on the last twenty five years before the band step into the next, '25 Years - Still Mad' does an admirable job in underlining that Mad Sin are here to stay, and are still walking the walk rather than talking the talk.

Skunk Anansie - Black Traffic

Skunk Anansie aren't pulling any punches on their comeback album.
Straight out the gate it's whiplash time as they push the peddle down and aim for the sun.
Fans will not be disappointed, and those who are unfamiliar with them will be happily surprised at what is on offer.
There's not many bands who can effortlessly slide from bone crunching aural assaults to caressing your ears without interrupting the flow, but Skunk Anansie have been doing that consistently since their debut.
Some may wonder about a lack of progression as Black Traffic follows on exactly where they left off from, but I always thought that as a band they were creating music that stood outside the sound of an era, so it would be easy to argue that they sound just as relevant now as they did in the past, and no doubt will in the future.
Basically they don't have to fuck with the sound as it's a well oiled machine that is working at optimum capacity.
There's nothing more that they could add or subtract from the material to make it any better.
This is as good as it gets.
The band are very obviously not taking any prisoners, and if their live sets are as good as I remember them then audiences everywhere better get into training because a second and third wind will be needed to keep up with them.  

Green Day - Uno

I seem to remember that Green Day were going to release a treble album in the style of Sandinista.
A scary thought for some, but equally something that could have been described as a great deal of bang for your buck if you were a fan.
Now it's three separate albums staggered out over a longer period of time, and I suspect each will have their deluxe limited editions versions to purchase as well.
So not so much bang for your buck and more a pocket dipping frenzy by the record label.
Bit sickening, but no real surprise.
But how does 'Uno' shape up as a stand alone album?
Well three songs into it and I was thinking it was better than 21st Century Breakdown.
In fact not just better, but light years away from the drabness of that release.
There's nothing new on show, but there's a degree of freshness back.
As it progresses song by song it becomes ever more apparent that Uno is the album that tries to bring the pre American Idiot fans back to the fold without alienating those who may think that Green Day began and ended with the global phenomenon that was American Idiot.
Whether that will work is debatable though.
Green Day seem to be suffering from a backlash, and there are people who will line up to claim they are crap without actually listening to the album.
This could have some impact on how the album is received, but if they could set aside any perceived issues they have with the band I would think that they would find some things on Uno to smile about.
There's the usual riffs, anthemic guitar solos and big massive sing along stadium pleasers rubbing shoulders with gems of punky power pop, and along with all that is the usual plagiaristic ear worms that annoy us oldies.
So pretty much all is in place as expected.
The difference being, as I mentioned, is that it does sound fresh and the fuck you fun aspect is back.
So yep. I'm liking it.
In fact I'm enjoying it so much that I may even go and see them again if they come around this neck of the woods, and I didn't think I'd be saying that.   

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Saturday night (and Sunday morning) at the movies.

Well as per usual when my finances dictate that I can't indulge in my love for live music I retreat to the cheaper option of watching movies at home.
So here's the it's a XXXX things weekend movie update.

First out of the gate was 'Safe'.
It's one of those 'it does what is says on the tin' films.
Heavily influenced by the Japanese and Korean stylized angle on the revenge/action genre it manages to take that oeuvre soaked in ultra-violence and balletic fight scenes and give it a Hollywood make over with a great deal of panache.
Of course it's over the top in a similar way that 'The Raid' was, but no matter how ridiculous it got, and regardless of how much time was expended on breaking bones and shooting people, I had a blast watching it.
Russian mafia, check. Japanese gangsters, check. Corrupt police, check. Ex back ops anti hero, damn right, Innocent victim who offers redemption to said ex black ops anti hero. Yep.
All present and correct.
What more could you ask for?
It's all been done before, but just set that to the back of your mind and go with the flow and enjoy.
The star of the film, Jason Statham, could be described as one of my guilty pleasures.
Well he could if I had any, but I don't.
Instead I've always been happy to share my lack of good taste with others.
So it doesn't pain me in the least to say that in all honesty I actually like a good chunk of his films.
I've said it.
He's an action hero I can get on board with as he does display some brain along with the brawn.
Instead of being virtually all rippling muscle with the ability to remember a few lines he can actually act.
There's some charisma there, and he can carry a wordy scene when required, and that puts him miles ahead of his peers.
Now don't get me wrong.
I'm not saying he's Lawrence Olivier, and along with anyone with half a brain, and a modicum of taste, I'd firmly consign films like Transporter and Crank to the nearest bargain bin if given half a chance.
There's no doubt about that, and while I'm at it let's be brutally honest here and admit that while they were crap movies the sequels deserve to be wrapped in a biohazard banner and sunk in the Mariana Trench.
Yet for every waste of celluloid he's done there's more that I have thoroughly enjoyed to balance it all out, and Safe is one of them.
If I was to write one line for a national it would be 'high octane actions films don't get much better', and I'd write that with nary a hint of embarrassment.
This is the sort of movie that Saturdays nights are made for.

Next was Ridley Scott's Robin Hood. A film that was critically panned when it came out, and it would be fair to say that audiences stayed away in droves allowing it to sink without a lifeline being thrown in its direction, but once again I'll march out of step with the majority as I found it very entertaining.
Most of the criticism isn't just sour grapes though, and there is a point to much of what has been said.
For instance the accents are all over the place, and of course it's historically inaccurate, but while I can accept that this annoyed some I do find myself asking why it was considered enough to slate it beyond an inch of its life.
After all no one seemed to care when Costner did it.
So why the issue with this Russell Crowe take on the legend?
Why is Costner's film considered a classic of its era and this one a turkey?
I don't really get it. But hey, go figure.
Anyway this time it's the origins of the iconic character being played with.
Guy comes back from the Crusades and steps into the boots of a dead knight and rises to prominence while promoting a socialist agenda to the masses.
In all honesty I have no idea at all why this film is loathed by so many.
When I think about the alternatives that terrestrial television are offering on a Saturday evening then it just seems like a no brainer to grab this instead.

Sticking with Russell Crow I moved onto the adaptation of the BBC series State of Play next.
It's been kicking about for months after I picked it up for a couple of quid in a supermarket and I'm beating myself up over not biting the shrink wrap off it right away.
As ensemble pieces go this is as good as it gets with absolutely no weak links in the cast.
Even when they throw Jason Bateman at us in a supporting role it just oozes class.
This is our generations 'All the presidents men'.
The political intrigue just keeps building and building until the tension looks like it could max out, but at that point they cast a curve ball finish in.
When people say they don't make movies like they used to you should sit them down in front of this.
I never seen the original BBC series so I have no comparison point that could serve to shadow my opinion on it.
So it's definitely highly recommended from me.
Stunningly good.

Finally it was the turn of Chatroom.
Four teenagers in an online chatroom reveal their personalities and issues with their lives, while the fifth, whose room it is, manipulates them all.
The idea of representing the chat room as a real place with the characters interacting face to face is interesting to a point, but ultimately the leap from taking an idea from paper onto the screen doesn't work.
Basically it's a great premise, but a shit execution of it.
It all screams of being very clever.
Far too clever for its own good.
Each of the characters is rather two dimensional and fell far short of being truly representative of a teenager with problems.
Instead it all seemed like a representation of teenage mental health issues as perceived by people whose only experience of them is from reading an article in a Big Issue over a latte in an up market coffee house.
While a film, any film, is one step removed from reality this is one step removed again, maybe even two.
If I was to write a script about a a child growing up in an Indian slum based on a second hand, but allegedly true story from a magazine, and then it was rewritten by a woman who worked for Vogue, then I suspect that by the time it reached the screen it would have little bearing on the life that the child had.
In the same way this film is as far removed from the reality of teenagers as that would be.
The message that no one is who they appear to be online and that there are predators out there looking to manipulate others to meet their own needs is as a sound one.
It's just that this film fails to nail it spectacularly.
The last section tries admirably to pull it all together, but unfortunately too much of my time had been invested in hanging in through the crap for it to matter.
Piss poor really.

Sunday Sermon

Is religion the greatest barrier to peace that the world has ever known?
Virtually all religions push a loving message, but is that loving and inclusive message really just a veneer painted over what is in reality the promotion of a mindset that encourages violence and disharmony?
A mindset that is fundamentally incapable of respecting anyone who does not fall under the umbrella of a chosen faith.

This morning I am reading some news updates about the current situation in the middle east, and how the numbers of fatalities are rising in the aftermath of the offence cause by an anti-Islam film that originated from the United States.
Innocent parties, people who have no connection with those who created the film, have died.
Why is this acceptable?
Some of those who have lost their lives will not have seen this film, nor will they have any interest in it.
Why should their families be mourning the loss of their loved one over something that the person had no control over, and in all likelihood didn't support?
Where is the rational justification surrounding this ongoing misery?

I also see that Channel 4 have decided not to screen a repeat of their documentary Islam : The Untold Story after seeking security advice.
That translates to the personal safety of those involved cannot be assured, so best not to inflame the situation, and leave it on the shelf.
That decision is a blatant example of freedom of expression cowering under the boot heel of a threat of violence.
This reaction, while understandable, sickens me.
Do we really want to live in a world where we have to consider every single utterance in case it offends, as lets be honest some people can be offended at virtually everything?
This is not an attack on Islam in itself.
My issue is with religion in its totality.
For every fundamentalist Muslim who despises the west for not sharing their views, there's equally a Christian mirroring their hate speech and willing to back it up with physical violence.
I've heard all the arguments where people have asked me to provide evidence of Christians flying jets into the side of a building.
As if their chosen religion is guilt free from involvement in atrocities.
What they are trying to do is differentiate their religion from another.
To claim that one is bad and theirs is good.
Yet that's a twisted view that has more holes in it than the shroud of Turin.
If you want to take a big step back then historically what was the Crusades?
As a religion Christianity has as much blood on its hands as any other.
No one from the Middle East was clambering up the white cliffs of Dover to subjugate England.
Christians took the fight to the Muslims then.
Drop it down to a small scale and drag it into the present and certain Christians are still plotting to fire-bomb abortion clinics, murder doctors and nurses, beat to death homosexuals and vote for anyone who will promise to bomb certain portions of the middle east back to the stone age.
Everyone is guilty.
Or to be more exact everyone who nails their flag to a religion.
Even if they consider themselves a moderate, and would shy away from the worst excesses of their brethren, they are still complicit in a system that promotes misery.  

Any rational human being will be able to see that the common denominator in all this misery is religion itself.
Without it we would still have people dying violently.
That is the way of life.
It's the ugly side of human nature and it's doubtful that violence will ever be eradicated completely, but could we maybe manage to drop it a notch just by ditching religion?
I would think so.
Without religious people would be free from being stoned for being raped, free from being beaten for not covering their face with a scarf, free to marry anyone no matter where they came from or what gender they were, free to openly speak without being censured, and more.
Religion doesn't open a door for anyone.
It closes doors.
It drives a wedge between us all and creates disharmony at every turn.

So choose life.
Choose a future for us all.
Choose Atheism.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Finding Albert/One Last Secret/Little Fire - Nice and Sleazy - 14/9/12 (Glasgow)

Every city has a legendary music bar.
Or did have.
Over the last few years many have fallen in the war involving the coffee shop franchise and the state of the art glass bedecked office block.
Progress apparently marches on in its all consuming effort to tear individuality out of our cities, and most of us can see that with one failed battle after another the war is being lost.
However hanging in there defiantly is Nice and Sleazy in Glasgow.
It's a bit grotty, it's a bit sad looking, but hey, that's what it's supposed to look like.
If a venue doesn't carry the battle scars of a thousand plus gigs then it's hasn't really earned its spurs.
Sleazy's has though, and God bless them for fighting the good fight.

It downstairs in the bowels of the bar that I find myself tonight.
The main draw is Finding Albert who suitably impressed at the Wickerman festival, and who I've been keen to have a second bite at.
Before them they have management mates 'One Last Secret' playing in support and a personal friend of my own who goes by the name of Little Fire.

He's up first, and while his approach to the gig is as professional as I would expect my heart could break for him.
It's pretty much glaringly obvious that the early birds in attendance aren't really into the spirit of the night.
None of this is a reflection on his talents, but it must be soul crushingly difficult to try and connect with an audience who are feeling the magnetic draw of the bar and would rather go along with it than give five minutes of their time to an artist.
It's the worst aspect of opening up a gig.
I've lost count of the times I have seen acts who deserve to be headlining their own gigs struggling to maintain any sort of attention from an audience who are only interested in one act on the bill.
It's not just in club sized venues this happens either.
Goldhawks (where are they now) who supported The Courteeners in the 02 Academy played a set that blew me away in front of a crowd of thousands who stood chatting loudly to each other with some occasionally casting a solitary glance in their direction as they rocked out.
Similarly Little Fire played an exceptionally entertaining set that rally did deserve far more attention that it got.
If the effort to promote passion and soul in a song was rewarded financially then he would be a rich man.
It's possible that I have seen Little Fire perform more than any other artist in the last three years, and I've yet to feel that nudge of familiarity breeding an sort of contempt.
His ability to shade his own original material by changing the tempo, or the inflection of how he delivers the lyrics, maintains a great deal of freshness to each performance.
'Ten ways' in particular sounded very fresh due to the slightly different approach.
The addition of a few new songs that I've personally never heard before was for me the stereotypical icing on the cake of the performance.
In short it was another excellent set that served to confirm that Little Fire is going somewhere, even if others haven't picked up on that yet.

Unfortunately One Last Secret, who had a solid following of friends and family in attendance, dropped the ball for me.
There's a great deal of talent involved in the band.
In fact I couldn't negatively comment on their musicianship or how they presented themselves.
It's more a personal taste thing on my part
I guess just didn't feel a connection with the material, and when I moved towards wrapping my head around one song they would jump to the next with that then having little to do with the last.
I felt ultimately dissatisfied by being wrong footed each time they moved from one song in their set to the next.
This is really where my lack of enthusiasm for the band comes from.
There's no musical thread to them that I could hang onto.
While every song is played well they are each rooted musically in a different genre, and while I would celebrate eclecticism in a bands material I would still say that there has to be something of them weaving its way through all the songs.
A good band who who I really can't get a handle on.

Finding Albert are undoubtedly the stars of the night.
From the moment that the band kick their set off it's very obvious that this is a stadium act in the making.
A band who are just killing time on the small stage of Sleazy's until the rest of the world catch up to how good they are.
Their slot on the main stage at the Wickerman festival was very obviously well earned and it would be a shock to my system if they didn't progress to the point of being a household name.
Finding Albert could be the band who follow on from Biffy Clyro into the major leagues.
Yes. I did just say that.
While there are plenty of fantastic bands playing every single week all over Scotland, and many of them deserve to grab themselves some success, it's also true that of them all there are the crème who have that extra something.
That something that screams that stardom beckons.
This doesn't mean that it is guaranteed, but if they do make the leap the band will certainly have no problem in delivering what is required to grab some solid attention and keep it.
Even when they are one man down, as they were during this performance, four fifths of them still manage to display enough talent to impress even the most jaded music fan.
They are the well oiled music machine that just keeps giving.
Intuitively linked to each other to the point that they live and breath their material the set verges on being flawless, but not that shiny clean flawlessness that lacks passion, but instead flawless in that they do cover every base including that of having some fire in their belly.
It's difficult to express what I mean because I keep wanting to name bands like Muse and Coldplay to illustrate their stadium credentials, but at the same time I can appreciate that for everyone who would be impressed with drawing that comparisons there would be those who would consider it a turn off.
So how about I say that if Coldplay and Muse lost all the attributes that draw a degree of loathing from people - that annoyance factor - then what you would have is Finding Albert.

As they neared the end of their performance it was becoming apparent that even those who hadn't initially came to the gig to see them had been won over, and virtually everyone was keen to freely show their appreciation with calls for an encore.
With there set list plundered it was an impromptu version of Blurs 'Charmless Man' that would finish the night, and finish it on a high.

Finding Albert have certainly got my seal of approval.
(Kelly Conway)

Friday, 14 September 2012

Them and us (Hillsborough)

Them and us.
It's always been a bit of a woolly statement.
At any given time 'us' has been everyone who agrees with you with 'them' being those who don't.
It's been the working classes against anyone else.
Well it was until people in suits decided that this was a classless society.
More recently for some it has been the media led UK born against immigrants argument.
In the aftermath of the paralympics I suspect it will be the disabled v the able bodied as the coalition continues to drive a wedge between us all.
They've already being going at it hammer and tongs to separate in our minds the employed and the unemployed.
There's a shifting sands aspect to it that allows them and us to be applied to just about anything.

Yet have the lines between them and us ever been cast sharper now that the truth about Hillsborough has been revealed?
On one side there's the people of Liverpool who always knew the truth, and they've always been backed up by virtually every Tom, Dick and Harry from across the whole of the country because deep down we all knew the score.
Then on the other side is the Murdoch funded Sun who lied, the police who covered it up, and the politicians who buried it.
Now the proof of their complicity has been revealed and it has shown in sharp contrast that there is indeed a them and an us.

There's plenty of comments doing the rounds about how Thatcher wanted the police onside and aided them in hiding the truth for her own ends, but lets not forget that she wouldn't have done this alone.
The whole top tier of the conservative government were happy to dance on the graves of those who died to promote their own political needs.
Disgusting low lives who displayed the same amount of empathy for their fellow man as a sociopath would.
However lets be fair and spread the blame a bit further.
Does anyone really think that the information that has now come to light was not available to subsequent prime ministers and their cabinets?
Every single leader of this country after Thatcher knew the truth.
None of them felt that it was necessary to share it.
Not one single person in government felt that providing closure to those who lost members of their families on that day was a priority.
Not one felt that the tarnished character of Liverpool should be addressed with the truth.
That's the harsh fact of it.

The Sun of course knew from day one that they lied, but lying, or fudging the truth, is their stock in trade.
Why anyone buys that rag and gives anything they say credence is beyond my ken.
Maybe now people will wake up and consider that if they lied in such a hurtful way about the Liverpool fans at Hillsborough then what else have they been less than truthful about?
The people of Liverpool know that if they say the sun is going to shine you need to crack a curtain to make sure that the reality isn't that it's raining cats and dogs.
It's time for everyone else to catch up and consign any overtly manipulative newspaper to the dustbin.
This current debacle so close on the heels of the Leveson inquiry, where Murdoch has been shown to have his grubby fingers in every pie since Methuselah was a kid, must act as a catalyst for its downfall.
It simply must, but it probably wont. 
People want their football and tits and hell mend anyone who gets in the way of them.
A little matter of smearing a city and it's people with lies seems unimportant when it may mean that an individual will miss out on a cheap thrill and a poorly written article on transfer windows.

As for the police.
Well lets not paint every rank and file bobby with the same brush, but at the same time lets not forget that there was drastic life ending mistakes made on that day and no one from the time was held accountable.
Worse, that apart from no accountability, was that there was a cover up.
A deliberate move to not accept that accountability.
Time and again the police have been used to limit our rights and the payment for doing so has been that they are often offered a get out of jail free card from those in power.
Hillsborough is a prime example of this in action.
It seems rare for them to pick up their truncheons and riot shields to defend our rights as citizens of this country.
Instead every time I see an image of them doing their stormtrooper tribute act it would seem that it is purely to protect the interests of a minority at the top of the tree.
How did we get to this point?

I've said it before that in the past governments and big business used to pay lip service to us, but increasingly less so now.
Hillsborough is the proof.
In a time gone by they would have been concerned about the public opinion, or at least pretended to be.
Do any of us really see any concern, or even faux concern now.
Every half arsed platitude rings completely false.
Every empty apology an affront to us all.
They don't care about what we think and it's written all over their faces in blood.  

So why are we, the majority, continuing with this game.
They have now fundamentally drawn the line in the sand and we can see very clearly who is on one side or the other.
It's them or us is starting to sound more like a challenge for survival.