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Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Pax a punch

Last night the British bulldog that is Jeremy Paxman took another Conservative scalp, and did so with relative ease.
Scourge of politicians, regardless of their leanings he may be, but when he came up against the youngest minister that Cameron has – Chloe Smith - he must have thought for a second that if he turned the heat up a bit he might be accused of child abuse.
Here she was all doe eyed and girly, trying to strike a balance between femininity and authority, while Paxman, and his audience were looking for something a little more akin to honesty.
Within seconds the two worlds collided.
Any consideration for her inexperience, age and gender vanished as she displayed ignorance and arrogance in equal measure
Her inability - paired with an apparent unwillingness - to answer the most basic question worked like a red rag, and whether he wanted to or not Paxman reverted to type.
His bullish tenacity came to the fore, and without raising the questioning to the heights of illustrious debate the simple repetitive nature of his interview style seen Chloe Smith take on the persona of a smiling, but empty headed, rabbit in the headlights.
One who could only utter responses in the style of a POW providing name, rank and number.
It's entirely possible that her preparation for the interview took ten minutes.
Nine to apply lip gloss and one to nod vacuously at George Osborne as he told her that there was nothing to worry about just as long as she sat there and looked pretty.
Now please don't accuse me of sexism as I couldn't care less what Chloe Smith looks like.
Or what age she is for that matter.
I suspect that a pr spin team engineered this debacle, and it's they who decided that rolling out what they considered was a pretty face on a young woman would be to their advantage, and it was Chloe herself who went along with it.
They, and she, can reap what they have sown.
Let's be brutally honest here and ask why she was even on the show.
When word came in that 'the pax' wanted to discuss Osborne's u-turn on fuel duty is it possible that Chloe Smith was considered as the sacrificial lamb, and then happily went to the slaughter in the misguided belief that she was taking one for the team.
If that is the case then she is dimmer than I thought as this is not a government that respects loyalty
Let's take a step back for a second though..
What did we really see here?
A young politician out of her depth?
Or was it more?
I would say more.
What we seen, in my opinion, was a minister who was floundering because she has no idea of what is going on.
A minister who is completely out of the loop and was cast to the lions.
Albeit voluntarily.
She isn't the first minister to stumble into the spotlight and shakily expand on a void of information, and I doubt she will be the last.
It seems obvious that she possessed just as many facts as Paxman's research team had managed to dredge up from a press release and a few headlines, and no more than that.
It's also entirely possible that the reason that she doesn't have the information to hand is because it changes on the hour.
Now that's worrying.
Is she the underling to headless chickens who have a great deal of self belief, loads of personal cash, a sense of entitlement and a fundamentalist attitude to slash and burn policies that are designed to maintain the positions of those at the top, and nothing else?
Now that's a scary thought, and one that I don't think is far from the truth.
I sway between holding the position that the Conservatives know exactly what they are doing, and then the illogical nature of it pushes me towards thinking that polices are hammered out after a Bullingdon Club lunch when they are all pissed and think that mooning diners in a cafe and cutting funding to a hospital are both jolly wheezes.
I keep thinking that someone has to jump in from the wings and say to the nation that we are all on candid camera.
What we seen in Newsnight lends itself to us considering that this could all be a joke, and Chloe Smith is simply an actress who failed to read her script.
Who really knows?
The bottom line is that we as a nation are doing very little to question what is going on, and we should.
Watch the footage yourself.
Keep in mind that Chloe Smith is a minister in a government that is supposed to be representing our interests, and then ask yourself if you have any faith in her.
In fact ask yourself if you would let her house sit for twenty minutes while you pop out to the supermarket.
If this unfunny comedy sketch of an interview isn't enough to concern you then check out the double act of tweedle dumb and tweedle dumber that is May and Gove, and then come back to me and tell me that your unconcerned and everything will work out fine.
If you can do then then I honestly think that there's no hope for us all. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Interviews I found down the back of the cooker - Patricia Morrison.

It's 2005, creeping into 2006, and at a casual glance it would appear that women have managed to kick down the last of the barriers in the music world.
In fact gender seems to be an irrelevant issue, or is it?
There are plenty of ladies up front in the mainstream charts, but backing bands, record producers, record execs etc are all still predominately male.
If you look closer, peel the lid back, then it's obvious that the men still far outnumber the women by a very wide margin.
As you obviously have first hand experience of the often entrenched attitude that rock and roll is for the boys can you tell us how you think things have changed since the late seventies to today, and what do you expect the future will hold?

Patricia Morrison – I think it's become different, but not necessarily easier.
There used to be a wider choices available to women, but now it's ninety percent 'pop' singers with histrionic voices and wearing very little clothes. This is what the industry (run by men) wants, and this is what women give them to succeed.
There are a few oddballs out there, thank God, but for the most part the big picture is that the music business is the same as it always was.
I have done festivals and been one of only a few women performing. The Warped Tour had only two women on the main stage, Bridget, the violinist of Flogging Molly, and myself.
I don't call that very equal.
Even more condescendingly there was a stage for 'girl bands'.
It would seem segregation is still alive.
Ironically some of them were excellent, but they were sidelined which is a pity.
Not sure whose fault that is, but it's what I have always seen.
In the early punk days it was different, and it WAS equal, but that disappeared.
I don't personally consider that bands like The Spice Girls have done anything to help women advance in the music industry, and instead it is acts like The White Stripes who fly the flag for women as the equality is right there to see.
Meg has more power than fifty riot girls, or whatever they are now calling themselves.

Strong women have always pushed the boundaries, but paid heavily for it. Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin are two that spring to mind. Courtney Love seems obviously a casualty waiting to happen, and although I'm loathe to mention her alongside Holiday and Joplin, it does illustrate that chipping away at the male dominance that's prevalent is hazardous for your health. Do you agree?

PM – Billie Holiday had a hell of a difficult life, and it made her music wonderful and real. Janis Joplin sounded like no one else.
They say Joss Stone is the new Janis...what a crock.
I wouldn't even think to mention Courtney Love in the same breath as them.
Doing drugs and being obnoxious is one way of getting attention, but it doesn't necessarily make you anything more than a celebrity.
The way she is now is the way she was back in LA, and as a matter of fact she has gone amazingly far and been a huge success despite being a fuck up.
The last time I seen her, in the early eighties, she was lying in the gutter with no underwear on.
She always wanted to be somebody and now she is. Mission accomplished
So no. Lets not put her in the same bracket as Billie and Janis.
Is it hazardous to the health of a woman to push for a career in music on an equal basis as men though?
Maybe it's down to the persons own personality and not gender.
It's possible that there are equally the same amount of casualties.
I don't see women as the weaker sex. For every Janis there's how many male equivalents?

You have had an illustrious career.
Starting off in The Bags as far back as '76 before moving on to 'Legal Weapon', and then the hugely critically acclaimed 'Gun Club'. Then 'Fur Bible' prior to spearheading a movement as a member of The Sisters of Mercy, and currently you playing bass for The Damned.
Do you ever consider that your involvement with these bands (Gun Club/Sisters of Mercy) has been glossed over with the front men/singers, Pierce and Eldritch being the focal points, as it does seem that as a female bassist you have been reduced to a footnote in the bands histories.
It would appear that a degree of respect from the music press has been less than forthcoming.
Would you consider that this was because both men had larger than life persons, or is it simply inherent sexism at work?

PM – Looking back I think I did pretty well in holding my own with those two particular egos.
The Gun Club I was always proud of. Jeffrey was a special talent and he has also been glossed over which is a real shame.
I guess I have so many boxes of newspaper cuttings that to me I made a mark that I'm happy with.
The Sisters was different.
We had success due to the image and I was one half of that, and that's just a fact whether anyone likes it or not.
Floodland was a good record, but I think the image sold it as much as the songs.
I had a horrible time when I first joined the bands, and the press initially treated me like shit, but by the time I left I was well respected and many publications wanted to interview me by myself.
Which was frowned upon I might add.
When I went to Germany once and met the record company there I was surprised to find out that I had been sent lots of fan mail that I was never told about, including a three foot tall gothic teddy bear.
That bothered me because all those people sending unanswered mail would have formed a false impression of me. Maybe aloof, arrogant, and that's not the case.
I was just unaware of the mails existence.
This was near the end and I had started to realize just how much I was being screwed over.
The Damned is the opposite of that.
I'm playing songs that I grew up with and love, and I think I've held my own in a band that is very, very male.
They weren't afraid to have a female bass player though.
I was shaking at the first few gigs as the audience can be a bit rough, but they were great and I was accepted virtually straight away and since then I've had lost of good tours.
The Damned audience is the best I have ever played in front of.

From previous interviews it's apparent that your enforced departure from The Sisters of Mercy was conducted in a very unprofessional manner.
Did you feel that the public perception of you as an individual was skewed?

PM – No, I've found that anyone who has ever had any dealings with Andrew can understand what I went through.
I don't think there's that many people who really care about those days now.
No one mentions him to me any more. I do sign Floodland albums which I am always happy to do, and Captain draws a Hitler moustache on Andrew which seems fitting.

It's generally felt that if someone is in a successful band then they must be financially affluent, and probably living a fantasy style rock and roll lifestyle, limos and coke on tap so to speak.
Yet the reality appears to be that you were initially unemployed and had an uncertain future ahead of you.
Was it difficult for people to empathize with you due to their misconceptions?

PM – Now that's a good question.
Yes. People thought I was loaded so wanted huge sums to work with me. This resulted in me trying to do everything myself which turned out to be impossible.
If I'd had the back up that most 'girl singers' have it would have been great, but I didn't.
I was lucky in a sense though as I never had a drug problem to deal with, I did drink too much, but stopped when I felt I needed to stop.
I never had the insecurities that I find rampant in the music industry, I'm not arrogant either and just never felt desperate to prove myself.
If I had any of those problems on top of the perceptions people had as I tried to start again it may not have turned out like it has.
Instead I moved on, just did my job and tried to do it really well.
Maybe if I had been more cut-throat I would have been more successful, but that isn't me.
What people think is rarely a true reflection at all.
What some people may think were the good times weren't, and the times they may think are the bad times are often the best.
I've travelled the world for decades, seen places and done things that I will always treasure.
That's what I would rather focus on. I've been a lucky bass player.

On a lighter note do you still feel people hold onto misconceptions. I would imagine that a surprisingly high number of people think that Dave and you probably live in a Gothic castle. Possibly have cats called Morticia and Wednesday and employ a manservant called Fester?

PM – Fester left after David tried to test him in the lab, and the cats are Pubert and Cat, and the castle is cunningly disguised as a small house, but we have each other, our little girl Emily, and our health so when you get to my age that is pretty darn wonderful.
That's the real story, but people will think what they want wont they?
I feel I've been really lucky to get to where I am now. I've been able to support myself by working as a musician for uh...yikes, nearly thirty years.
That in itself can feel unreal.

Finally, as a last question. Do you have any plans for another solo album, or maybe a project outside of the Damned?

PM – No. My life right now is pretty much taking care of Emily. I have very little time for anything else right now.
I was asked to sing on someone's new CD, but I am just unable to do it right now, although it was lovely to be asked.
I would hope that as Emily gets older that I will do more music, but she is my priority just now.
I've been thinking of asking David to get my bass down from the loft you never know.

(This has been pieced together from an old email and a part of the original fanzine that it was printed in. Minor missing text has been rewritten from memory)

Saturday, 23 June 2012


Perceptions are a strange thing.
Even our perceptions of ourselves.
A few months ago in a conversation I was asked my opinion from the point of view of being a music journalist.
I quickly jumped to state that I am not, never have been, and doubtfully every will be a music journalist.
It's doubtful as I never submit anything anywhere.
I just write.........well stuff, and because I genuinely love music that's what most of it is about.
A far cry from being a music journalist really.
That perception of what I do is the polar opposite of how I see myself.
I just spill stuff out onto the internet via my blog.
I make spelling mistakes, my grammar is questionable, and very often in hindsight I'm not that impressed with what I've written.
On the up side I do think that what I write has a degree of passion to it that is missing in the mainstream, and people do discover new bands and artists through reading my blog and that pleases me.
So I'm not pushing a glass half empty point here.
Just trying to state the case that what others, and quite probably myself, think isn't in all probability the reality.
How much really is in life?

It's also the same deal about promoting gigs.
Regardless of the perception, I'm not a promoter.
Or I should say that I don't see myself as one.
Instead I'm a music fan that has put on a few gigs.
I would argue strongly about that being the case.
I like dipping my toe in and sorting out a gig, and I would claim that the quality of the artists who have previously played on bills I've arranged have been of a very high standard.
Of course I accept that this is of course a subjective view.
It is a fact that I don't do it for money though, and everyone who knows me personally will laugh at that, and say that I'm the master of stating the obvious for uttering it.
The reason that I do it because I want to participate in the magic in some way, and for me the best thing about putting on a gig, apart from seeing a great performance, is when a stranger approaches me and excitedly says they have had a great time.
That makes it all worthwhile.
That's where the buzz is.
Yet the perception of some is that not only am I a promoter, but I am looking to lay the foundations and make a business of it.
That's simply not how I see it at all.

Even the perception of what this blog is all about, and its purpose, is varied.
Recently from some conversations I have had I get the impression that some consider that the blog is my attempt to create a springboard to jump from to something bigger and better.
I'm not sure what that is though.
I could start a website instead of a blog in the next ten minutes if I wanted to, but I'll not, or maybe I will.
Who knows? I certainly don't.
Similarly I could start accepting advertising, and maybe make a bit of money due to the amount of traffic I get, but that's not something that interests me, and there's also a part of me that loathes losing control over what gets promoted.
In all honesty I don't have a clue what the future holds for the blog, or anything I do related to it.
There's a part of me that is happy with it as it is and can't see the point in changing anything.
My reluctance to change it, or use it to open doors, could be highlighted in how crap I have been in promoting it.
I got five hundred business cards printed and I've given out about eight.
Probably five to friends.
What does that say about me.
A lack of confidence?
Am I a laissez faire slacker?
Could I be someone who is reluctant to be ousted from a comfort zone?
Whatever it is it does show that the perception that I'm using it as a conduit to this mythical bigger and better future isn't entirely accurate.

Lastly, and on a more personal level, the good guy/bad guy perceptions that people hold about me.
In all fairness I'm not as good, or as bad, as anyone thinks, and who is?
That's the bugger of perceptions isn't it.
Depending on who you speak to I'm a Devil or a Saint.
I'm neither obviously.

So what really is the purpose of rambling on about this?
Well it's probably that I just want to publicly put something down on record so that I can avoid explaining certain things in future.

Just to tidy some things up here's some more answers to oppose some of the more negative perceptions that have been expressed, and are maybe still held.
I don't now, ever had, or ever will want to corner the market in blogs that cover artists locally.
I never have, currently don't want to, and never will want to run a radio station.
I am not actually interested in putting myself forth as a representative for local artists, although I fully support them.
I also have no interest in controlling the local live music scene.
I sincerely hope that people can take this on board in the present, but I can assure everyone that the future will reveal it all to be true.

Vive le itsaXXXXthing. It is what it is and that's whatever you want it to be.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Songs for Snakes - Charcoal Heather

Songs for Snakes, with their Charcoal Heather album should, if there's any justice, blow some cobwebs away on the, for lack of a better term, alt-punk scene.
For those who are still mourning the loss of band like Jawbreaker and Husker Du here's one that will make you smile again.
On this, their second album, it's actually difficult to point out anywhere that you could consider that they've put a foot wrong.
While they do wear their influences on their sleeves for all to see they're far removed from being a band who are simply rehashing the past glories of their idols, and in doing so offering a 'mark 2' service for a younger audience.
Instead this is a hungry sounding band who are looking to take what some would consider a familiar sound, and make it their own, and track after track there's plenty of evidence to support that this isn't something that is beyond their grasp.
If I was pushed to describe it in one sentence then I'd say that it's a hook laden assault on the ears that's accompanied by some raw punk vocals that manage to maintain a solid balance between the melody and aggression.
Unfortunately that wouldn't actually convey just how good it is.
After listening to Charcoal Heather from start to finish, and then comparing it to their self titled debut it seems glaringly obvious that they have pushed the envelope a great deal, and went from being a band who promised good things to one who are now in the position of delivering on them.
This is an album that given the opportunity will make a great deal of previously jaded music fans sit up and take notice.
On a side note I'll also add that when bands get in touch out of the blue looking for a review, and then provide material as strong as this it makes doing the whole blog feel rather worthwhile.
So mucho gracios Bill, it made my week.


Turbonegro - Sexual Harassment

It's been a long journey with members appearing, disappearing and then reappearing with alarming regularity over the years.
It's rumoured that as part of their rider – above the bit about denim clad midgets, but below the part about everyone having to speak like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean for one hour of every day - they insist that the dressing room doors are removed and replaced with revolving ones just to keep everyone on their toes.
No one is indispensable in the world of the Turbonegro.
There's been madness, drug issues, some cross dressing, huge dollops of crazy rock and roll and cult like adulation along the way, and do you know what?
They still rock like a motherfucker.
A big neon lit nightmare of seventies glam stomp and punk rock motherfuckery.
They're the Rolling Stones, The Ramones, The Dead Boys and the New York Dolls celebrating the apocalypse, and Sexual Harassment is the definitive proof if anyone ever needed it.
The guitars howl, the bass and drums are thunderous and right to the fore is every single politically incorrect thought that has every crossed your mind.
Turbonegro are the glint of switch-blade steel in the dark alley, the leer on the face of the carnival barker, and the money shot at the end of your favourite moment of adult celluloid entertainment all rolled into one.
Remember the promotional comment of 'you pay for the whole seat, but you will only use the edge of it?'
That should have been about Turbonegro.
In the words of Happy-Tom "Most rock 'n' roll bands start as a riot but end up as a parody. We started up as a parody but ended up as a revolution."
Vive le revolution.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Reach out.

There's been a great deal of talk about the reach, or lack of reach, that Facebook currently has.
On one side there are those who are stating that nothing has changed, and in the main, and as far as I can tell, they are people talking about personal pages, and in that case it is difficult to argue with them.
If an individual uses it to chat to friends on a regular basis then everyone that they expect to see their page will do.
However, and regardless of all the arguments against this, it would appear that those who have band, label, blog pages are seeing their reach to the outside world being limited.
In all the confusion there are plenty of solid arguments being put forth to substantiate any view held, but if you strip them all away it does seem that interaction between bands and fans, blogs and their readers, DIY stores and their customers, has recently had a bit of a downturn.
Coincidentally this has all happened around the time that Facebook was floated on the market.
Another coincidence is that the emails and messages sent that outline their ad rates, and how availing yourself of them will enable your page to reach a much wider audience, started to arrived around the same time.
It's a bit of a pain in the rear.
While I use Facebook to promote the blog I also see it as something that provides the reader the opportunity to engage with what they want.
Instead of coming here and trawling through it piece by piece a person seeing the links on their Facebook wall can just pick and choose what they want to read.
If a political rant isn't your thing then it's easily skipped when coming to the blog from Facebook.
That option seems to have been impacted on, and I don't know why.
I'm no expert in tech matters, and all I can truthfully say is that I'm not falling for a change in perception, but instead commenting on the reality of the current reach.
Right now the page dedicated to the blog has 112 likes to it (less than the hits I get in the first 30 minutes of posting a new blog update) and my plan to stop posting links on my personal page and just feature them on that page has faltered due to the lack of reach it has.
Even close friends have told me that they know nothing about it until I directly asked them.
They haven't seen a link to it, or posts from it on my own wall, even though they have been shared.
So click here for the facebook blog page and sign up to it if you want, and in a weeks time I'll revisit this and see if there's been any change in the reach. and I'll fill you in.


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Roughneck Riot - This is our day

Remember when Strummer joined the Pogues?
It should have been a match made in heaven, but while it sounded good on paper the reality fell short of expectations.
The mash up of the Clash and Pogues failed to make any sort of headway, and the torch for drunken folk songs sung by punks was to be carried forth by the likes of The Levellers as the eighties died.
Now here we are in 2012 and that sort of anarchist folk will be but a distant memory for many, but it needn't be as The Roughneck Riot are here to inject some youthful vigour into the traditional mix.
There's a frenetic pace to their album that doesn't let up for a second, and while some would try and balance out the speed with some shading the band are apparently happy to keep the needle in the red and push the album forward as hard as they can.
As an introduction goes it does the business. and I suspect that live they will live up to the riot part of their name.
The music has that vibe to it.
It's evocative of a drunken wake that is impishly thumbing its nose at the death of a nation while hanging onto the promise of another day.
I suspect this is an album that will precede many a hangover, and when I look about me at the youth of our green and pleasant land I can't help thinking that maybe the Roughneck Riot are just the pill that the doctor has ordered for them.
'This is our day' is certainly a wake up call.

The ageism in music argument is getting old.

In the last five days I've read three separate articles about how music is for the young.
The first one was claiming that pop music is obsolete for anyone over the age of twenty seven, another that punk's for rebellious teenagers, – quite specific that one with the punk window only being open for those between thirteen and nineteen – and the last was stating that in general anything original only appeals to those who are under thirty.
These articles come along every once in a while in a manner akin to buses.
You don't see one for ages, and then three arrive at the same time, but what is the purpose of them?
Apart from the obvious, and that's that they're old arguments being dusted down and used as filler for some column inches, do they actually have any credence?
Is the appreciation of music to be treated on some level like Logan's Run.
Should we have a crystal implanted into our palms that counts down the time that we have left to listen to new music, and then when it shines a certain colour are we to be relegated to the rut of only every listening to the evergreen hits of our own youth?
Should fresh new music never darken our doorway again?
Frankly it's a ludicrous assertion.
Why should there be age barriers to the enjoyment of listening to music, any music?
Can you imagine if we were to transfer that argument across to other forms of entertainment.
We would have men in their thirties talking about the first three Die Hard films, but carrying a sense of emptiness around with them as the fourth came out just after the cut off point for action films.
The upside of this is of course that they may have just managed to miss the Star Wars prequels and the last Indiana Jones film, but I digress.
How about books?
How frustrating would it have been if Rowling released the final Harry Potter novel a month after the birthday that signalled the end of reading fantasy books?
Who is going to sit the twenty-something down and tell them that the future only holds Patricia Cornwell and the occasional Nick Hornby novel for them?
Lets turn this around as well.
If we reach a certain age and are to be excluded from listening to new songs by younger artists then why should we let younger ears listen to the stuff that we grew up on?
The Beatles were still together when I was a kid so I can listen to them, but the Clash split up before the birth of my son so he will have to leave the room if I want to blast out some 'Know your rights'.
It's only fair.
If they want to keep the new stuff for themselves, then maybe we should wrap the older artist in a tight embrace and exclude the young from listening to them.
We can see who will break first and want to share.
I'll have The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Clash, The Sex Pistols and more.
They will have JLS, Justin Beiber and Coldplay.
Seems a tad unfair doesn't it?
Okay I'm weighting that in favour of us oldies, but you get the point.
Anyway these articles promoting this ageist crap are really empty of logic.
Of course certain styles of music are rebellious calls to arms, and ultimately designed to piss off the older generation, but isn't there a kid inside us all that still wants to stick two fingers up to the generation that came before us, and why shouldn't we indulge that inner kid with some punk, some dubstep, or even LMFAO with their hit about vitamin D deficiencies leading to softening of the bones and how that lends itself to a shufflin' gait.
No one is even saying that when we all get to a certain age we must keep our minds open to everything that is being churned out, but hell, I want the right to keep listening, and I can't see anyone coming along with a piss poor nonsensical argument that is going to stop me.
Apart from that I reckon the young artists are quite happy to get the revenue that we slip in their pockets every time we buy one of their CDs, attend a gig, or the worst cardinal sin of all for the ageist journalists who churn this bollocks a groups t-shirt and wear it in public.

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Bones - Monkeys with Guns

The latest album from Sweden's The Bones has punk rock hit written all over it.
Like a good single malt they are just getting better with every year that passes.
While some of their peers are looking to delve deeper into the street punk scene - and delivering increasingly rawer material - it sounds like The Bones are going in the opposite direction, and by grinding the rough edges off are getting ready to take a step up into the major leagues.
For every fan they turn off through polishing their punky rock and roll up they will gain two by being more accessible and delivering material that a wider audience can appreciate.
The age old 'sell out' claims could well be bandied about by older fans, but they will be the voicing of empty arguments from empty heads as this is a progression, and anyone who wants to halt the progress of a band are about to get left behind.
It's up to them really.
Jump on board or wave goodbye from the platform.
I know where I'm going to be and that's sitting comfortably in first class with a beer in my hand and a smile on my face.
Consider Social Distortion and Rancid taking a little, just a little, of the gloss of Green Days world dominating American Idiot album and what you will get is 'Monkeys with Guns'.
As distasteful as this will sound to some this is a stadium punk band in the making.
All they need is to be in the right place at the right time and the world is theirs.
It's all in the laps of the gods now as everything else is in place.
(PLY Records)

Gary Sunshine - The nerve of some people.

Throwing the listener straight into the deep end of the pool Gary Sunshine challenges perceptions with an opening track that sounds like a corroboration between Beck, Dylan, Cohen and The Suicide Twins.
'If you see the Devil' is the soundtrack to the wrong side of the tracks.
It's romanticism wrapped up in barfly eloquence, and by dragging an unflinching gutter monologue into the light Gary has laid his cards on the table for all to see.
For all intents and purposes it doesn't sound like he is here to beg for your patronage, but instead is spilling his musical guts out and leaving us to take it or leave it.
There's a refreshing 'I've been around the block a few times and this is it, make of it what you will' attitude that pervades the song and gives it a great deal of power.
For an opening track it sets the bar high, but 'a gentleman with a gun strapped to his ankle' confirms that it wasn't a solitary fluke, as does every other subsequent song.
This is an album that's the soundtrack to wakening up in an unfamiliar flop house with bloodstains on the sheets, the shakes, a fresh tattoo and a woman whose wearing your grandmothers wedding ring lying next to you.
Depending on your outlook that could be a good, or bad, thing.
Regardless of whether it is your thing or not it does provide a voyeuristic thrill.
By the time it checks in at 'Mexico' we're on a road trip to hell and past the point of no return.
The Rubicon is the rear view mirror and we've committed ourselves to seeing this out.
People come and people go, there's good times and bad times, the sun rises and sets on us and there's some countrified and bluesy fear and loathing going on.
In fact a great deal of this is akin to gonzo literature put to music.
Every song is a short story, a little snapshot of a time and place with fully formed characters living in it, and then you take a step back and the whole album is a loose story of recollections of a wandering troubadour who has clocked a great deal of miles on the road.
It's rare to claim that an album is a 'must have', but Gary Sunshine has made one here.
It's a classic in every sense of the word. A slap in the face for anyone who mistakenly claims that no one is doing anything of worth any more.

Advert for the album.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Hives - Lex Hives

The Hives are back and that message should be writ large on the side of skyscrapers, trailed behind aeroplanes, and if there's enough promotional cash left then beamed onto the side of the moon so that everyone is aware that the buzz in the air has a source.
Lex Hives sounds like a debut, an album that's full of the joyous excitement of making a noise for the sake of it.
In fact it has the feel of a recording that was rattled out over the course of a weekend in a shiny studio that the janitor cut keys for and passed onto the kids from the wrong side of the tracks for a couple of bucks.
That this wasn't the case, and instead it was recorded in a slew of studios with different producers over a period of time is to its credit.
It's a blast of fresh air that blows what is currently being hawked as edgy by the mainstream into the gutter like the yesterdays news that it is.
Starting with some hand claps, the new wave sound of a vocoder and a scream it grabs you, and the party has started.
Everyone is invited so grab a bottle and let their hair down.
This album aint letting up until the sun comes up and the milkman is stepping over the casualties to place his delivery on the doorstep.
They could have called this 'The Hives Save the World' or 'The Hives motherfuckin latest awesome album' and I would have shrugged and went along with it.
By the time they roll into 'Without the money' they're revisiting some Screaming Jay Hawkins and the track acts as the velvet glove that's wrapped around the iron fist of 'These spectacles reveals the nostalgics' that follows it.
There's the caress and then the slap of the double whammy right there.
On 'I want more' there giving Joan Jett a kick up the arse by adding some attitude stolen from Grandmaster Flash while keeping the amps turned up to ten.
Christ it just gets better as it goes on.
Bring on the live gigs. They're going to be killer.

Jon Snodgrass/Cory Branan/Roscoe Vacant and the Gantin Screichs - 08/06/12 - The Bay (Glasgow)

With the Olympic torch passing close by the streets are heavy with police motorbikes and riot vans.
The pavements are less busy with spectators.
It's getting late, and for many people all they are thinking about is getting home from work.
It's very obvious that the auspicious honour of bearing the torch doesn't have the same attraction when it slips down streets that aren't media hot spots.
There's no kids chasing the torch bearer, no pavements full of cheering supporters gurning and waving at the cameras, and instead there's just small pockets of what I presume are family and friends looking on.
No one seems to care that much about it at all.
Meanwhile mere yards away Roscoe Vacant, with three of his four Gantin' Scriechs, took to the stage in The Bay.
The setting isn't strange, but I'm feeling a bit discombobulated as the band are playing in front of windows where the days fading light is their backdrop.
This throws me a little as I'm used to seeing them perform in bars late at nights and in subterranean clubs that have never seen natural light.
Yet in some way it felt that the setting was adding a little frisson to proceedings.
Maybe a bit of Dylan Thomas as Roscoe and his band were unwittingly standing up to 'Rage, rage against the dying of the light'.
A modern day poet in his lyrical stance, Roscoe Vacant, is the sharp edge to social commentary, a folk punk with a a fistful of passionate songs to sing in a take no prisoners manner.
He's a mix of Robert Burns, the two Woody's, Strummer and Guthrie, and the product of a straight talking mining community that has shaped his views on everything that you could care to mention.
If you want a rant about the sectarian divide that blights the west coast of Scotland then he's the man to give you it.
Similarly if you want to address the failings of the unions over the last twenty odd years then he will also happily ring a song out about that to.
Some have claimed him to be an acquired taste, but with a bit of effort the rewards to listening to him are untold.
With his last album it could comfortably sit between the Pixies and the Pogues and you can't say that about many people.
Within the confines of the Bay it was refreshing to see the crowd watch the band with an open mind, and to go on and willingly show their appreciation of what they are doing.
After the set I was speaking to Roscoe who said that he felt happy with the performance, and from an artist is hyper self critical that was saying something.
I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of a run of gigs where he finds an audience who can tune into what he is doing.

The majority of people there were however attending the show to see Jon Snodgrass, and if I was to hazard a guess as to why then I'd lay money on it being down to the split 10”/Download that he did with Frank Turner.
The amount of Turner t-shirts and the regularity that his name trips from peoples lips make it a tad obvious.
Regardless of their reasons for making the effort to show up for the gig they were keen to be entertained as when both Jon and Cory wandered through the crowd to take their places behind the microphones the buzz was palpable.
I'd previously heard both while trawling the internet, and kicking about somewhere is a few Drag the River albums, but until now I had seen neither live.
My ignorance to what they do on stage actually extended to the point that I was under the impression that they were going to play separate sets, and maybe at some point of the night perform some songs together from their split release from 2009.
Instead they simply hung about on stage shoulder to shoulder and comfortably eased into songs as the mood took them.
It's a communal performance with each of them accompanying the other as required.
Jon would add some vocals and guitar to one of Cory's songs and likewise Cory would do the same for Jon.
It's an approach that could lend itself to being disjointed and problematic, but in this case it flowed rather naturally, and I presume that ease is rooted in the artistic relationship that the two men have.
For myself I was more impressed when Cory Branan took the lead, but that's not to say that Jon Snodgrass is a lesser talent, but more so an expression of my own personal tastes.
Both are of course exceptionally talented individuals.
It's just that the gruff tones of Cory's voice ticks more of the boxes for me.
Musically Jon is an extension of Drag the River minus the vocals of Chad Price.
There's no great leap in a different direction, and instead he's still meandering down the path without any distractions from forks in the road that are there.
Fans of the band would not be disappointed with the performance, and anyone being introduced to what Jon does should have been suitably impressed.
However for me it was Cory who stole the show.
He's the raconteur of the two and comes across like an amalgamation of every blue collar troubadour you could care to name.
It's entirely possible that I'm holding the minority view in my preference for Cory over Jon because as said the crowd was in the main there to see Jon play, but in all honestly there's a small voice whispering away in my ear that this was only down to the 'Turner' influence, and if Jon hadn't released that split with him then there would have been far fewer people willing to dip their toe in and sample what was on offer.
Regardless of that I sincerely hope that they liked what they seen in its totality, and will now use the experience as a catalyst for action and begin to keep an ear out for artists of a similar ilk.
Full kudos has to go to promoter 'Punk Rock Rammy' for making this gig a reality.
Well played.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Kel in conversation with Bombskare

Kelly - I've seen you a few times over the years, from the Wickerman festival to clubs in Glasgow, but I really do have to ask is the Bakers niteclub stage you played as part of the Dirty Weekender festival in Kilmarnock the smallest, and how did you all fit on it?

Scott (Bombskare) - First of all, I just want to say that we had a great night in Bakers last week, our first time there, but hopefully not the last.
It was a bit of a tight fit on the stage but it's not the smallest stage we've played. We regularly play up in Hootannany in Inverness and their stage is about the size of a snooker table, about half the size of Bakers, no joke.
And there have been smaller ones.
Ages ago we used to play in the Black Bull in Edinburgh, with no stage at all, we would just set up around the fruit machine next to the toilets and go for it.
And that was when we had Big Andy Laidlaw as our lead singer (currently of Big Fat Panda fame).
He takes up a fair bit of room (about twenty five stones worth).

As I've mentioned the Wickerman festival I was a bit disappointed that you aren't on the bill this year.
Maybe not as much as my 12 year old daughter, but still disappointed.
Did you not get the call, or are you playing elsewhere?

We haven't been invited to Wickerman this year, which is a bit disappointing, although we are actually playing a wedding that weekend so it was unlikely we would have been able to do it anyway.
We need the cash to pay to get our second album finished, and the wedding pays, wickerman doesn't.
I know that sounds crap but its unfortunately the truth.
Having said that, last year they asked us only four weeks before the event, so I guess they could still ask us.
Don't hold your breath though.

How does festival gigs compare to club shows?

Festival gigs vs club shows?
I guess the festivals are good because you have a bigger crowd and its all very loud and exciting, but the club gigs are probably my favourite, just because you are closer to the crowd and you can get an amazing atmosphere when everyone's right there in your face.
I like the gigs where the band is falling into the crowd and the crowd is falling into the band, and it all just turns into a sweaty noisy mosh pit.
Great fun.
Plus, when you play these bigger festival type shows you usually don't have the opportunity for a sound check so sometimes it doesn't sound as good on stage.

With so many people in the band do you find it difficult to all commit to gigs. How do you even all commit to a practice at the same time?

As you can imagine organising nine people to do anything is difficult, especially when everyone has jobs, families, girlfriends, other bands, pets, x boxes etc, but we somehow manage to do it.
Over the years we have acquired a kind of gang mentality so we're all kind of pulling in the same direction so to speak.
We also have three different drummers, our main drummer Sam, plus two 'stunt' drummers for when he's busy, and occasionally we have a 'stunt' guitarist and bassist.
Occasionally we'll do gigs with one man down (last week for instance in Aberdeen, we were minus our trombone player).
As for practice, we religiously get together nearly every Monday night at our rehearsal room in Granton, here in Edinburgh (not tonight though, everyone is still fucked from the gigs at the weekend!!).
Monday nights are usually the night when nothing else happens so that's when we practice.
And by practice I mean standing about smoking and drinking beer and slagging each other off.

It's been a little while since the last studio release. Have you plans for recording again, and if so how is that going?

We were actually just in the studio a few months back recording on the Straight To Tape sessions, which was just released in March.
It was hard work because it was all recorded live straight onto tape and took us a while to get it right.
Its download only though, but you can see the video on YouTube.
Our last CD release was The Chop Shop EP, last summer which contains different remix versions of songs which will be appearing on our second full length album.
We're currently mixing that at the moment, approximately 20 songs, which won't all make it onto the album.
They'll probably all get whittled down to 14 or 15 tracks.
The album is going to be called "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid" which is one of the songs on the EP.
It's a slow and expensive process but I have to say the new album is sounding amazing so far.
Not sure exactly when it's seeing the light of day.
We had hoped for a release later this year, but unfortunately it's all moving a bit slower than we had hoped.
We'll keep you posted

How serious are you all about the band?
At a certain young age I find that people consider it a real career path, but then I meet people who have been around the block a few times and have a more realistic expectation of it, and they consider being being in a band as something that's fun and might put some cash in their pocket, but little more than that.
Where would you put yourself in that context.

I would put us in the latter category. We make no money from the band, everything is reinvested and pays for diesel, vehicle hire, drumsticks, guitar strings, saxophone reeds, equipment repairs, rehearsal space rent, recording studios time, etc.
Its an expensive business, and although we can charge a fee for gigs, there are so many people in the band that if everyone was in it just for the money, it wouldn't be worth their while.
We just don't command a big enough fee (yet?).
In some ways this is positive as everyone is in it for the love of doing it and we have never, in over ten years of gigging, ever had a fight about money.
So in some ways it's like a mini communist state, no one gets paid but no one is out of pocket. If we ever get more successful and the money involved increases then I'm sure that will change
However the flip side of that is that several of us are in other bands that ARE working bands i.e wedding bands or cover/tribute bands who do get paid and that can sometimes affect Bombskare's availability.
People have to eat, I suppose.

Okay them just for a laugh, and to finish off tell us who in the band would be most likely to go missing in action after a gig, who will probably drop dead on stage, who would be the last man standing in a drinking competition, and is it true that you are releasing a ska fitness DVD in time for x-mas.

The person most likely to go missing in action after a gig is my brother Colin, our trumpet player.
He's slightly volatile, for example last month he got into a fight and punched a guy in the face with his trumpet, which he had in is pocket at the time.
We are currently writing a song about that incident.
I'm likely to be the one who drops dead on stage; I'm not particularly fit and one or two gigs we've had in the past (like our album launch in 2009) were so hot that I almost passed out on stage so I'm pretty sure it will happen at some point.
Last man standing in a drinking competition that's probably Papa Joe our bass player, purely because of his larger body mass. but Mike, our trombone player I've rarely seen totally hammered and he does drink, so he's probably a dark horse in that regard.
It's always the quiet ones.
As for the Ska fitness video, yes that's completely true.