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Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Ligotage/The Swindlers - Audio - 27/04/13 (Glasgow)

I'm not averse to watching a tribute band or two, but it would be fair to say that given the option I would usually gravitate towards hearing an original band over someone doing covers.

I have a sense of deja vu now.
I've probably said that before so in a way I'm plagiarising myself with the opening statement.

On with the show though.

On Saturday night with Logotage in town I quite fancied a blast of early Adam and the Antz material so I made my way along to Audio to check them out.
First up were The Swindlers who ran through a set of Pistols classics with plenty of tongue in cheek attitude.
Everyone in the band has paid their dues in other punk acts and this is more like a busmans holiday for them.
While some form tribute acts to cash in it is very obvious that this is mainly just a giggle for these guys, and it's that 'do it for a laugh' attitude that swung it for me.
No one is really pretending to be a Pistol.
Even if Shug (Ex Cock Sparrer, Guttersnipe) goes all out to promote the Johnny Rotten image it's still obviously him having a laugh with it all.
I've seen a few Pistols tributes over the ears, but The Swindlers are currently giving them all a run for their money.
If you're looking for a cheap night out with mates who are looking to relive past glories then these guys will provide an excellent soundtrack to an evening of shenanigans.

Then it was Ligotage.
They aren't the cup of tea of choice for some who where there, but that's not because they aren't a quality act.
It's more down to what people expect.
They see it advertised as an Adam Ant tribute act and they are wanting a bit of the ol' Dandy Highway Man, but then the post punk sound of the Dirk period slaps them about a bit leaving them disorientated.
It's a culture shock moment, but one that I'm not thrown by as while I'm a fan of pretty much all of Adam Ants career this is the sound of the songs that introduced me to him.
I'm in my element as the band rattle through a well executed set of early Antz tracks.
As trips down memory lane go these guys are on the button.
Of course it's pure nostalgia and the age of the crowd reflected that, but who gives a toss.
I can't think of a better way to spend a fiver.
It would have cost more to have played all the Pistols and Antz tracks on a jukebox, and when you think that the alternative was watching Britain's got talent then this was a winner all the way..

Monday, 29 April 2013

The adventures of Robbie Williams and the Billy Bragg experience

So Robbie Williams is wondering aloud where all the protest singers are.
(He did this in The Sun. So most will be forgiven for missing it.)

Well it may surprise him, but they didn't go the way of the dinosaur, but are in fact alive and well.
They're everywhere, but I'm not surprised that Robbie hasn't noticed them, as the music business isn't looking to invest in anyone who predominately pushes a political message.
That's why they aren't in his line of sight.

Consider the music business as being run in the same manner as a supermarket.

As soon as you walk in the door then at eye level is your Rhianna's and One Direction's.
The stuff they want to sell you, and that they know is popular.
Meanwhile your protest singers are in the aisle where the boot polish is kept, and even then you have to dig deep behind the fire lighters to find them.
They're at the back of the bottom shelf on the least visited aisle in the supermarket.
That's where they are.

Then if you consider that Robbie probably gets his meals delivered to him, and doesn't actually take a trip to the supermarket, then it becomes completely understandable why he thinks that the protest singers are the Dodo's of the music world.

This is just the way of things though.
Nothing has changed really.
What people need to accept is that the music business is viewed as having a lower case m and capital B by those who sit on the boards of labels.
They aren't about investing in talent, or promoting music as an artistic statement.
They are interested in profit, and that alone.
The financial bottom line is everything to them.

The only time that they will look to invest in an artist who could be described as a protest singer is if that person has drawn enough attention to themselves as being someone who can generate a buck for them.
If you want to broaden that out a bit to beyond the individual then consider rock and roll.
It was the devils music and no business was willing to put any money into it.
Fast forward a bit and then when they seen the dispensable income of the teenager floating about in the post war years they decided they wanted a slice of the pie, and all of a sudden rock and roll was absorbed into the mainstream.
The same thing has happened with every underground scene.

Basically there has to be the lure of filthy lucre, or they have no interest.
It's a case of there has to be a demand for it, and then they will supply it.
They don't play the game the other way around.

So the answer to the question put forth by Robbie Williams is that they are out there, but not where you are looking Robbie mate, and that's not going to change any time soon.

Unfortunately it doesn't matter how much some of us would wish to change this, because part of the problem is that more people want to watch The Only Way is Essex than Newsnight, and in the same way the audience is there for The Saturdays but not TV Smith, and until that changes then we are stuck with what the majority want.

If Robbie really does want to hear some songs with a bit of attitude about them, songs that challenge, ones that reflect the ills of society and demand to know why things aren't changing for the better, then what he can do is drop me a line.
I'll happily fix him up with some protest singers.
I'm knee deep in them here.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Vice Squad - Hallelujah Karma

It's charity time folks.
No one is asking for a great deal.
This time it's Vice Squad asking for a 99p, and you can choose your charity.
There's Shelter, Marie Curie, The British legion or CASJ.
Take your pick.
It's not a something for nothing deal either.
For the sum of a penny less than a quid you can get a download of Hallelujah Karma.
Just jump here and do something positive.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

JLS to split, and why I'm sad to see them go.

So JLS are splitting up.
It would be easy to chortle a dismissive laugh at them, or join in with belittling their career.
Too easy in fact.
So easy that for some of my age the expressing of a dig can really just be the natural reaction to seeing the demise of yet another boy band.
A sort of default setting.
I understand that.
However I'm not going to join in.

There's a few reasons why I'm not going to go down that route.
One is that it would be churlish.
They are just a band who gave a great deal of people some pleasure, and when is that ever wrong?
It's not a complicated idea to grasp.
They sang + people got pleasure from it = fair play to them.
That they may well not be the preferred cup of tea for many people that I know is no real reason to rejoice at them calling it a day.
Different stokes for different folks as they say.
If you didn't like them then I doubt that their passing will register much at all.
So why fill the hate jar with pennies?

Another reason that I wont be jumping on the bandwagon is because my daughter is a fan, and due to them being her favourite band at one time I've seen them perform twice and met them once.

As entertainers I couldn't in all honesty fault them.
It's not a style of music that does much for me, but I can appreciate talent, and they were undoubtedly talented.
All four can sing and don't need any studio trickery to enhance their voices.
All four of the band can dance to.
In fact unlike some they can do both at the same time, and do it well.
It's all very slick, but the reason it is slick is probably because they work hard at it.
So on the level of being entertainers I'm not going to root around in the dirt to find something to complain about.
I don't particularly like opera, but I can appreciate the technical ability that the singers require to be able to sing as they do, and similarly I can happily embrace that JLS are talented young singers, even if I'm not actively going to subscribe to the style they sing in.

The main reason why I am not going to join in with any celebrations is a personal one though.

A few years ago the mother of my children took her own life.
I'm sure that I don't have to share how traumatic this was for my daughter.
Needless to say there were more dark days than light ones.
It was during this period that I had the chance to take her to a meet and greet session in Glasgow.
I remember clearly catching the first train out of my home town, and then lining up outside a WH Smiths outlet in Glasgow to buy a book that she already had just to get the receipt that would get her a wrist band to meet her idols.
It was snowing and still dark and I may have been the only adult there.
On the day that we travelled to Glasgow to actually meet them there was a clear respite from the hurt.
I could see it in her eyes.
The thought of meeting JLS had filled her head and the darkness had been crowded out.
It was a very emotional trip.
I choked back tears more than once as the girl I knew resurfaced and replaced the broken young girl that cried more than laughed.
I fully expected to be ushered forth within a large crowd and the band would have quickly nodded, signed something and maybe looked up to smile at the fans, and that would have been it.
That wasn't the case though.
We waited and waited in a line for a very long time, and the reason was that every single young fan was getting time with them.
When we reached the front of the very large line the security were trying their best to push people through as fast as possible, but these four young men were having none of it.
Of course it is good business sense to keep your fans happy, but I got the distinct feeling that it went beyond that.
When my daughter actually met them each spoke to her.
All signed her sweatshirt, asked her how she was doing, had she seen them before, what her favourite show was, if she was coming to see them again?
It was all just easy chat, and obviously oft repeated throughout they day, but they weren't just parroting lines, but also listening to the answers and engaging with everyone speaking to them.
Each time a fan got to stand in front of them they entered the eye of the storm.
All the squealing and excitement just slipped away and they connected with each and every person that they spoke to.

Once we left the area I cried.
Tears of happiness, but also partially an emotional overload.
They didn't know it, but for one day the sun had come out from behind some very dark clouds for my daughter and they were responsible for that.

So no.
I'll not be rejoicing in the news that they are splitting up.
I owe them.

My daughter already has tickets to see them for later in this year and I'm very happy that she was part of their journey and I sincerely hope that whatever the future holds for them that it is a happy one.
After all my experience is just one of many.
They may not be four lads who shook the world, but for some they did make a difference, and probably in more ways than most of us do in our lifetimes.

Iggy and the Stooges - Ready to Die

How do you approach the legend that is The Stooges?
Reverentially with the gloves off wouldn't cut it.
They want to antagonize you and if they aren't doing it then they may as well hang up the leathery skin suit that the Ig dances in.
If you don't get that then you basically have no right listening to them.
You've got to be honest.
Say it as it is.
So okay, with 'The Weirdness' they failed to deliver on a few levels, and the dearth of material from that album in live sets speaks volumes without much actually being said, but here we go with the album they should have came back with.
Burn could be tagged on at the end of Raw Power and barely anyone would have batted an eyelid, but it's when it rolls into Sex and Money that you start to feel the burn.
Sax, sex, some grinding guitar and a fuck you delivery from Iggy and in some messed up way you can hear that everything is okay with the world, that the seething underbelly of the city is still dirty and when you wake up in the gutter that the rising sun will assuredly burn your eyes.
We need songs like that.
Ones that highlight that there's always the flip side of the coin, that the light can't exist without the darkness
Then they give us 'Job'.
The grandfather of dumb punk songs that's been given a healthy dose of viagra.
It's right there standing up and screaming look at me, bet you didn't think I'd be back.
It should be embarrassing, but it's not.
'If I had a fuckin' gun I could shoot at everyone, Thinking out in the USA' from the track 'Gun' is the one lyric that just keeps bouncing about inside my head.
In the space of moving from one track to the next the rules changed.
Here's the good ol' USA stripped bare.
The body rolled out from the flag that it wraps itself in.
A no holds barred denouncement of being sick of being knee deep in bullshit.
Then it doesn't stop messing with you as the band slip into 'Unfriendly World'.
This is The Stooges doing a love song, and as expected it's not going to be anything that's actually expected.
In the aftermath of 'Gun' the last thing you think will come around the bend after it is a slowed down ode to growing older and hanging onto those you love, but it works.
There's nothing disjointed about the change of pace, and although it shouldn't work the whole album keeps throwing up these changes of style and tempo that simply do.
Like Iggy himself, there's no fat on this.
Ready to Die just bounces around like a last hurrah.
I hope it isn't, but of that is the deal then as swan songs go then this is going be nailed down as a job well done.
Everything that I love about Raw Power is revisited on this, but with a better production of course.
I don't mean it sounds like Raw Power, but it has the same energy, the same passion to push at the boundaries a bit, to do what they want on their own terms outside of what is fashionable, outside of what is in an out.
There's no box that you could put this in.
It's simply The Stooges kicking against the pricks and kicking hard.

Frank Turner - Tape Deck Heart

I don't know if I like Frank Turner.
Over the years I've heard good songs and bad songs and I'm still looking to hang my hat comfortably on something, but it's not happening.
On Tape Deck Heart I can tap my toe along to it, even listen to the lyrics and consider that they are fine, but at the same time I keep coming back to thinking he's chart fodder.
That he is writing songs for a wide demographic with an eye on the hit single.
Rebellion wrapped up in an x-factor sheen.
He's Ed Sheeran with a Billy Bragg fixation.
It's not dire, but it's just not got enough rough to it to balance out the smooth.
If Mumford and Sons were to write an album of tracks steeped in social commentary then this would be it.
Okay....lets just get to the point.
This is a pop album.
There's nothing wrong with that, but at the same time Turners whole career is sort of promoted as him being a bit of a punk rock troubadour and therein lies the problem.
There's an aspect of it that is claiming to be something that it's not.
It's a very good pop album, and if it leads to listeners seeking out the folk and punk roots that are alluded to then that's great.
If one person picks up a Billy Bragg album after listening to this then I'd pat Frank on the back and say 'job well done mate'.
I don't think I'll hold my breath though.
It's probably going to be a huge hit and the world will still turn, but I'm still not getting enough from it to feel any sort of pull that could keep a grip of me.
Am I the only one who keeps coming back to thinking that there are others doing this better?

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The Media Whores - Whorespresents

Opening track 'I'm on' doesn't waste any time in throwing down the gauntlet.
It's one of those everything and the kitchen sink tracks.
There's a bit of 50's rock and roll in it, a shadow of the merseybeat, some seventies power pop and then they go and tie it all together with a blatant punk attitude that isn't shy in drawing attention to itself.
Step into an alternative reality where John Peel is alive and well and ruling the airways, and this could well be his toppermost of the poppermost track of the week.
'Zero Tolerance' keeps the pace jerky and could very well be draped in the sepia tones of a classic 100 Club performance.
It sounds like the missing link between pub rock and punk rock as they cling onto the ragged glam ramalama and introduce it to something that's a bit harder edged.
It's got that vibe that just keeps coming back again and again.
Close your eyes and think of The Libertines when Mick Jones was involved with them and you would be skulking in the right alley doing the wrong deal.
'Burn Out Suns' is thrown in as the track to wrong foot the listener.
Just as you think that you have an idea of where the Media Whores are going they come up with a song that leans towards the dalliance that the Stranglers had with a European sound.
It's aurally cinematic, and it's not too difficult to imagine the band in trench coats wandering the streets of Paris or Berlin in mood lighting that would be suited to some arthouse noir release.
As a taster for the forthcoming album there's far more promise extended on this three track ep than any band really has the right to claim to.
I'll be waiting impatiently to see what comes next.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Pere Ubu - Mono - 17/04/13 (Glasgow)

Review one - It seems that Pere Ubu have always had a pathological fear of genre boxes.
Trying to pin them down is akin to punching smoke.
Even the much promoted avant-garde label, while apt, probably has them feeling uncomfortable.
Pere Ubu are really just Pere Ubu, and it's probably best to leave it at that.
If you can't do that then I suppose if you need to frame them in some sort of context, then consider them the aural equivalent of the Rubik's cube.
One whose squares change colours at random intervals.
Just when you think you may have got to grips with it, you haven't, and you never will.

However it's this side stepping of the conventional, and unwillingness to participate in delivering on preconceived ideas, that draws people to them.
Those who are willing to go with the flow, and in Huxley speak open the doors of perception, will more often than not come away from witnessing the band with an enjoyable retrospective view, even if they aren't sure why.

One certainty is that the music fans of Glasgow were open to embracing whatever David Thomas was wanting to offer them in Mono.

There was the odd bemused expression on some faces, and that's understandable as there's a lot not to get, but over all Pere Ubu came and did exactly what most people thought that they would, and that was deliver the unexpected.

Equally about the music as it was about the surreal delivery of anecdotal fantasies that were framed as missives from an alternative universe, the set flowed along with anarchic glee - albeit promoted in a dismissive manner from Thomas himself.
And it really needs to be said that there is an aspect to the band that certainly shouldn't work.
The rhythm section is that of a solid rock band, the guitar flows from the rock and roll territory to wherever it is sonically needed, while the synths dally with the warehouse and electro love, and then theremin is........well the theremin is everywhere, and all of these seemingly disparate angles are held together by David Thomas whose vocals anchor everything together.
Nothing makes much sense when written down on paper, but the actual experience is a whole different matter.
There's still not a lot of sense to it, but enough for us all to cling to if we are up for being taken along for the ride.

Musically the band are to an extent inviting you into a painting by Escher.
If you close your eyes and refrain from thinking about it too much then there's solid ground beneath your feet, but focus hard on it all and the shifting rhythms and directions the music takes can leave you discombobulated and out of kilter with your surrounding.

I guess that's really the deal.
Don't try and understand it, just feel it.

I had the fear prior to the show that I would come away from it with my love of Pere Ubu dented.
The ghost of the dismal Suicide show in London that I had witnessed hung like a shadow in the back of my mind whispering that 'a disaster is looming', but this was a show that was the polar opposite, and rather than take anything away from the legend that is Pere Ubu, the performance simply added a great deal to it.

I'm personally glad that the show was in the confines of a small club as alternative environment would have diluted the experience.
One to chalk down as 'you had to be there'.


Review two 

Theremin for a goood time (Or Living Legend Mans the Merchandise table)

They chose our town, and for that we are grateful.
In front of a clearly appreciative crowd David Thomas, frailty, mobility issues and all, hauled himself on to the low stage to absolutely deliver in blistering fashion.
Ubu, well drilled, tight as a duck's arse nailed it, and included what must be rock's hardest working theremin player (sidelining in ray gun).
The bulk of the set came from "Lady From Shanghai" with several well considered pieces from way back when including "The Modern Dance", peppered with self deprecating tales from Ubu would- after "Thanks", "I hate that song"- produce much laughter throughout.
Much affection from audience, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one there surprised to see the band both selling merchandise and undertaking van loading duties.
I mean, THIS IS PERE UBU. The legend that is David Thomas. Maybe it's the way and will of the world.
I'm still glad they chose our town.

(Craig White)

Monday, 15 April 2013

Sarah Hensley interview

Do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
How you got into being an artist?

I've been doodling ever since I could pick up a pencil! I think I've always had an artistic streak, paint in my veins, or something. Every chance I'd get, I'd jump on an opportunity to do something... set design for school plays, event posters, whatever. It was how I passed the time.

My parents split up when I was around 10 or 11 or so, and I found myself in northern Michigan, with the Pere Marquette state forest in my back yard, no TV, bad radio... and my mom worked second shift, so I was home alone in the woods, down miles and miles of dirt roads. Art was a healthy way to express my angst and lonliness... not that I didn't delve into gratuitious substance enjoyment, but even then, I spent most of my stoner/trippy/tweaking time drawing, too.

Fast forward a LOT of years and I had lost my muse (and my talents, as well, or so I thought.) I was a successful medical professional, a certified surgical technologist, and I was a single mom making it on my own. I was very proud of myself. I had a "five-year plan" and everything. well, one fateful evening, I injured myself on the job whilst transferring a post-op patient from the OR table onto his hospital bed. I think I ruptured 5 discs in my lumbar spine, or something. Everything fell apart for me, then. my "excellent" job fucked me, big style. I had a HUGE spine surgery (complete with cages and screws and cadaver bone and everything!) and I never really recovered. I'd moved to Holland, MI specifically for that surgery job, and the only friends I had in the area sort of fizzled away once I wasn't working with everyone anymore. I found myself broken, poor, and without any kind of support system. I turned to art to sort of regain my sanity, to pass the time, to feel PRODUCTIVE again. there's nothing like becoming disabled to just wreak havok on one's sense of usefulness. my self-esteem plummeted. I needed to do something more than lying in bed ruminating,or thinking about all of the "what ifs" and the things that could have been, had I not destroyed my spine. having a painting I'd done in my HANDS, tangible evidence that I wasn't worthless, that I COULD somehow contribute to this life, I just found it very theraputic.

How would you personally describe your work? I get a strong Robert Crumb influence mixed in with some punk psychedelia and a love for the macabre. Would you go along with that?

haha! awesome! I'm the kinda easy-going gal who'll go along with pretty much anything. Someone once told me my art was like a cross between Rat Fink and Lisa Frank... not that i'm a huge Lisa Frank fan, but I did own a Trapper Keeper when I was in middle school... honestly, I'd like to fancy myself a "stuckist" but I think you have to like, know someone, or something. I really love RalphSteadman’s work. I’m also a HUGE fan of John Dyer Baizley. Those two really know how to take the strange and grotesque and make it a thing of beauty. Me, I’m pretty cartoony. Not just on canvas, but in real life, too!

There's always been this debate surrounding 'what is art' and to be honest I don't really subscribe to the art school qualified angle giving a piece of work any relevance just because the person holding the paintbrush has a degree.
Is art something that should be exclusive in that sense, or has the punk DIY ethic got it's place in the scheme of things?

I hope I don’t have to have an Arts Degree to be a “real” artist. I think it’s all in one’s head, you know? Artists have a different way of looking at things. We notice shit other people won’t even see. I’m sure that there are folks who think they “live art” or something… like that lady who didn’t change her sheets for a year and put her grody old bed on display. I don’t think that there should be pretention in art. Just because I can draw something doesn’t make me any more special than the guy who can change an oil filter, or the lady who wipes my grandpa’s ass at the nursing home. That said, I also don’t believe that someone who’s willing to pour tens of thousands of dollars into some hoity-toity education isn’t any more or less talented than someone who’s too poor to go to college, and is self-taught. Not that I’m in any way against furthering one’s education, but you can go to a local community center and take a class in this or that, and expand your knowledge or improve your techniques as you see fit. I’ve always been a proponent of the DIY lifestyle. There’s something extremely gratifying about making something out of nothing, and then using that something to pay your bills. It’s empowering. It’s validating. Then, this wonderful thing happens… you feel good about what you did, and then you feel good about yourself, and you notice the stuff you make gets better and better. A little bit of confidence goes a long way.

Following on from that would you care if your artwork was hanging in a gallery or stretched across the chest of a t-shirt?

My art IS on tee shirts! Aaaaand, I’ve had ONE gallery show in my whole life, and I couldn’t even GO TO THE FUCKER. I’d like to think one day that I’ll have another show, maybe my own show, but I won’t be depressed or anything if that never happens. At the minute, it’s a paint-to-live situation. Since I busted my back, I can’t really DO much else. I sell everything I make, and the rent’s paid, and that’s my motivation at the minute.

I suppose we all live in a world where success is measured in cash.
As an artists does that sort of break your heart, and if it does then how would you balance out doing what you want as opposed to pandering to commercialization to make a buck?
After all, we all have to put food on the table. So where would you draw the line figuratively speaking?
Commissioned work is of course a path to financial recompense, but I guess what I am asking is do you think you have to sell a bit of yourself when it comes to that and how far could you take it before you felt you had sold too much of yourself?

Dude, right now, I’m almost doing ALL commission work. While selling a piece is validating, I do sometimes struggle with the whole “sellout” conundrum. I try to look at it like this: someone wants something that they can’t do for themselves. I’m more than happy to help bring their vision to fruition! If I look at it from a ‘providing a service’ perspective, then I don’t feel like I’m compromising my integrity or anything. I guess the line I’d draw is when someone wants a total perfect copy of someone else’s work… but then again, I’ve done it before. I painted an Ian Hunter album cover on the back of a leather jacket, but I knew that the jacket was something this chick had wanted for 20+ years, so it didn’t make me feel like a tool at all. Making people happy makes ME happy. Just like having my rent paid and having electricity and feeding my son makes me happy. Those are all necessary things. Art is often a luxury (to some, at least… for me, it IS necessary!)

Right now, I’m waiting to be approved for disability. I don’t think that when the checks start coming in, that I’ll stop painting, though. I’ve got THE FEVER, baby!

If I was to wave a magic wand and you had the time, and the finances, to do whatever you wanted artistically then what would be the one thing that you would have to do?
What kind of statement would you want to make?

The first thing I’d want to do is TRAVEL. There are so so so many interesting, exotic, beautiful places out there, that I need to lay my eyes on… so many foods to taste, so many scents to smell, so many sky lines to appreciate. I would LOVE to see more of our planet. Not that I’d drag an easel along or anything. I’d also like some cyborg parts, so I could walk better and without pain. Then I’d REALLY enjoy my travels. I’d also like a work space, a room with a lot of windows where I could spread my arty mess all over. I think that experiences are what feed our souls, and our souls are where art is born.

I’m not really good at picking ONE THING, like ever. I’m too indecisive, too flighty. I’d probably make one statement, and as soon as it was done, I’d come into another point of view, and make another statement and another one and another one… 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Eclectic Guitar - Waiting on the Shore

I’m no stranger to Eclectic Guitar as I have shared a few bills and beers with them, and over previous months I’ve lost count of the times that they said their EP was on the way.
Yet true to their word there it was in my inbox.
I thought I knew what to expect from “Waiting On The Shore”, but with ‘eclectic’ being one half of their name I should have known better.
The opening track – “Strange Old Game – was to be fair what I had expected from the band: a Knopfleresque song that could have come straight off “Love Over Gold” or the soundtrack from “Local Hero”.  That’s not to say that it is a straight cut-and-paste of the Knopfler sound, but that it instead comes out of the same starting gates with the same passion attached to it.
Next up we take a walk down memory lane.  “Sunny Hill” is a song about growing up in Greenock (sunny hill is in fact what ‘Greenock’ means).  It starts by setting the scene: we go back in time with a visit to an Inverclyde town bustling with life and a trip to aunties house by the seaside.  Then it brings us up-to-date with the now middle-aged narrator looking back on those better days when life was fine.  The past and present clash comfortably together, albeit bitter-sweetly, and the acoustic guitar arrangement allows the lyrics to come through strong.
The title track “Waiting On The Shore” returns to what these guys do best.  It’s got the band’s signature sound to it.  There’s the twanging guitar accompanied with some reverb which helps the voices create a gentle atmosphere in a song of lost love.  As songs go it’s well executed – some really excellent lead guitar breathes life into it and elevates it from being simply good to very good. 
“The Clown Came In” brings a slightly different feeling to the EP with its prog- rock attitude accompanied by key changes and lyrics that could have been sung by Gabriel on an early Genesis album.  In 2013 mentioning early Genesis could turn a few people off, but keep with it as there’s plenty of worth going on and it’s a fantastically produced track that’s expertly played, as is all of the EP. 
Wrong-footing the listener again, another change of style emerges in “Sunrise Over Bluestown” as the guys blend bluesy lyrics with some country blues guitar. 
Finishing off the EP is “Mistakes Were Made”, a folk ballad describing a relationship lost beyond all hope of repair.  It’s a hauntingly mellow tune that draws the EP to a very nice conclusion.
I was starting to wonder if “Waiting On The Shore” was ever going to make an appearance, but it was certainly worth the wait.
“Waiting On The Shore” is available from April 20th.

Tommy Clark - Third Class Ticket

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The day after the night before.

Hitler – For better or worse, he shaped our lives.

That's a quote from the comedian StuWho in reference to some of the comments being made in the aftermath of the news that Margaret Thatcher has now managed to wriggle free from her mortal coil.

It's very apt in my opinion.

There seems to be a battle going on in the media, and across the social networking territories, with many scrambling to write her footnote in the history books.
His reaction to this has been to highlight how flimsy the support for her is in some quarters.
Instead of being able to shed some light on the positive influences she exerted over the UK, the best that some can come up with is that 'no matter what you say you can't deny she changed our lives', and of course they are correct in saying that.
Unfortunately they are missing out 'for the worse' though.
Context is everything.

Look about today and on the one side we have those who would wish to maintain a factual record of Thatchers time as the premier of this land (largely negative), and on the other there are revisionists who are trying to paint a rosy image of her (Canute style).
It is really a fight between fact and fiction, and to be frank none of us will be able to say who will reach the finish line first.
It will be future generations opinions - shaped from the history books - that will hand the winners rosette over.

So what will they say?
Well if much of the media have their reporting on the news carried on into the future, then most will look back on her as the first female prime minister, and possibly consider her an extension of the suffragette movement, an example of gender equality having its day.
Maybe they will see her as a warrior, a modern day Boudica, who took on the might of Argentina and sent them home with their tails between their legs.
Then there will be the soundbites that could be misconstrued.
'This lady is not for turning' sounds firmly positive and evokes an attitude of maintaining a correct stance in the face of those who would wish to steer the ship towards the rocks doesn't it?
However when you take it in the context of the speech, she was actually referring to refusing to accept liberalisation of the economy, even though her policies had led to unemployment rising to 2 million.
Will it be promoted by history as such though?

We have to be careful and ensure that it does.

To tell the truth is not to attack an individual.

The truth is this.

She took over when unemployment was at a record low and kick started a recession that ended in 1982 with unemployment exceeding 3 million.
Between 1979 and 1982 over 2 million manufacturing jobs were lost in the UK.
Manufacturing dropped by a dizzying 30% from the figure it was at just prior to her reign as premier.
She supported apartheid and stated that Mandela was a terrorist while offering the hand of friendship to Pinochet.
She despised our European brethren and made her feelings about the mainland very clear as she exerted her disdain for Mitterrand and Kohl publicly and privately ensuring that every introduction of policy was fraught with issues regardless of their worth.
She overseen national industries sold over to the private sector.
Ushered in the sale of social housing stock.
Introduced cheap labour to employers through employment schemes.
Manipulated the unions into a fight and in winning it took away hard won workers rights.
Used the police as a cosh on the citizens of this country.
Created social disharmony and division among the populace.
And in some peoples opinions allowed the Falklands argument to escalate to allow her to then become a war time leader.
Regardless of the opinions she did issue the order to sink the Belgrano while it was outside the maritime exclusion zone and while the government were in receipt of a peace plan that conveniently hadn't been read until after the attack on the ship had taken place.
She introduced the regressive poll tax.
Presided over riots in our cities.
She demonized teachers and social workers alike.
Then there is the miners.
The treatment of those who worked in one sector of this countries industry was akin to the tactics used to ethnically cleanse areas sans the actual murdering of them.

Do I really need to go on?

All of this in the face of 'no matter what you say you can't deny she changed our lives'.

There is quite literally dancing going on in the streets and parties being held.
This is the reaction from people that is normally held when word of a loathed dictator has died reaches them.

Instead of calling it disrespectful the reasons behind the action should be considered.

What did Thatcher give this country, and what did she take away?
We are still reaping the seeds that she had sown, just lift your heads and look around.
This is Thatchers legacy to us all.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Eureka Machines - Remain in Hope

The story behind the Eureka Machines latest release Remain in Hope is one that could have been scripted in Hollywood.
Battered and bruised from their experiences in the music business world the band were about to call it a day.
In boxing parlance they were on the ropes.
While their two previous albums could be described as quiet classics, and didn't provide any evidence that they had put a foot wrong, the reality was that even though they were critically acclaimed - and the band had a rabid following of fans willing to attest to their magnificence - none of the plaudits had resulted in them being invited up to play on the big stages.
It's all akin to the mirroring of Stallone in the Rocky story.
They gave it their best shot, but maybe their best days were behind them.
There was still fuel in the tank of course, but the question 'does anyone give a toss' must have been bouncing about in the EM camp.
The answer being considered was probably 'not enough for it to matter'.

Then due to Chris Catalyts involvement in the headline grabbing Ginger Wildheart pledge campaign he decided that assuming some control for what could have been one last throw of the dice may be an option.
Thankfully the fans responded and shouted out a resounding 'hell yes, we want more', and with this support, along with his band mates, he embraced the opportunity and rolled double sixes with what is to this day the bands best release.
Maybe it was the hunger to succeed that drove them on, or the appreciation that they had a fan base who would have considered the throwing in of the towel as leaving the story unfinished, but regardless of what the drive was there is no doubt that the band far exceeded anything that the fans had expected from them.
We expected greatness and got more.

Remain in Hope could easily be described as the release the band always had in them, and with the funding from the fans and control over the project, the band were able to deliver a complete piece of work that appears to truly highlight every single one of their talents.
Outstanding song writing, tip-top musicianship and a sterling production are all there, and there is not one single second where the quality dips below mind blowing.
Every artist has this idea in their head about what their songs should sound like, but very often there are limitations to what can realistically be achieved due to the finances that they can dip into.
What we often hear is a facsimile of what is playing in their heads.
Then you get this and it's as if the sun has slipped out from behind the clouds.
Remain in Hope is the release that has seen Eureka Machine take what they had within them and spill it out into the studio where it has been captured in grand style.

I genuinely doubt that there is a band in the UK who could touch them at the moment when it comes to playing rock and roll that is wrapped so warmly in pop harmonies.
Initially I was leaning towards Jellyfish comparisons, but how can you really compare two bands who are equally as good as each other.
One doesn't surpass the other in any way at all.
I've been listening to the Jellyfish album for many many years and now I can honestly say that Remain in Hope will be joining it as one of my desert island discs.

Eureka Machines are a rock band, but there is so much more to them that just that.
In years to come others will look back on this album and claim it to be the 'classic' sound of the Eureka Machines.  

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Misfits/Goldblade/Dirt Box Disco - ABC - 05.04/13 (Glasgow)

Well Dirt Box Disco are certainly not going to be the warm up band for long.
It's been a while since I seen a support band effortlessly provide all the highlights for a night, but they did it in grand style.
I'm sure there were those who chose to sit in bars watching the clock and timing their drinking to coincide with missing the support acts, as there always are, but if those self same people woke up this morning and thought that their nights entertainment didn't quite hit the spot then all they had to do was turn up early enough, and instead they could have claimed they had seen their next favourite band.
It's very obvious to me that within Dirt Box Disco is a solid rock and roll skeleton that's been padded out with a larger than life persona.
They are a party machine that just keeps giving.
If someone made a movie about The Ramones competing with the Dead Boys in a Kiss pinball machine tournament, and the prize was spending a night drinking tequila with Satan himself, then every party scene would feature a Dirt Box Disco song as the backing track.
Yep. They're that bad ass....and fun.
There's a headlining tour later in the year and I would recommend that everyone exercise their right to party hard and do it with the Dirt Box Disco boys.

Goldblade are sliding into a rut.
If you haven't seen them before then I am sure that the high octane rock and roll with a punk edge will hit all the right buttons, but I have seen them before, and more than once to.
While some acts have a sound that has a timeless quality to it, and it's a style that shouldn't be messed with, I am personally gagging for Goldblade to break loose a bit and kick off the chains.
I'm sure some will take that as a negative, and that's fine, but what I really mean is that this is a band that could pretty much do as they want musically and I just want to see them stretch those musical muscles.
Maybe I just want to reboot them back to the 'Black Elvis' days then wind them up and see where they go with it.

The Misfits now seem to attract people who want to then bemoan how shit they are.
This makes absolutely no sense to me at all.
Why spend the money to go to a show with the intent not to enjoy it?
Here we have Jerry Only still carrying the name on, and he's giving it his all.
That's laudable.
Okay the sound was a horrible dirge of a throbbing noise, but for every single bit of the show that made me cringe there was another that made me smile.
A big part of it is that a Misfits gig to an extent is like a family gathering.
Jerry gets that, and plays to it.
When he is pointing into the crowd he isn't just randomly doing it. He is in fact picking out a fan and for a second making real contact with them.
There's kids who will not care at all that this isn't a line up with Danzig or Doyle in it.
For them this is The Misfits and and they are right.
It is.
It's their Misfits.
Should we cut them some slack for this though?
I'm going with yes, because while the music maybe isn't turning every single person on in the audience I really can't find it in myself to knock a band who give so much to their fans.
When all three of them finish a set that was relentlessly driven, and must be physically punishing to an extent, the last thing that would be expected is that within seconds they are down into the crowd to sing autographs and pose for pictures.
There's no expensive meet or greet option when you by the ticket.
They just inclusively make themselves available to everyone.
That's something pretty special right there.
I guess we really are 138 after all.

Dirt Box Disco

It's really all still a bit of a joke explains 'Spunk Volcano'.
It started that way with the first gig. We all wore dresses and we were all in different bands and we were having a laugh.
This is all just, and then he loosely waves his arm about to express the gigs, the supporting of The Misfits and such .....and then he looks at WEAB.I.AM to take over.
The interview continues in this vain.
It's like a wrestling tag team.
One starts answering while the other finishes.
There's a solid connection between them that I'm going to assume extends to the rest of the band to.
For all the theatrics and downplaying of being serious this is a real band in every sense of the word.
There's the gang mentality that The Ramones and the Clash had, but also an 'I don't want to grow up' attitude that's keeping their feet on the ground.

I mention a couple of times about the response that the Rebellion set of last year drew.
How people who had no previous knowledge of them had returned home claiming that they were the best act of the festival, and this praise bounces off them, sort of skitters over the surface and fails to get any traction.
SV- We had no idea what it would be like. None of us had ever even been to the festival before.
We drove up on the day and arrived and then the nerves kicked in when we seen the size of the hall we were playing in. We just did the gig and at one point I looked up and it was just a sea of people and...well it's not what we expected.
WEAB - One of the band who shall remain nameless was crying after it.
Really? Do you think that was just the adrenaline crash?
WEAB - That's it. You do the show and then it all gets processed after it.

When they are asked if this stepping away from accepting plaudits is partially down to an idea that if they do then they may jinx any future success they laugh and side step it again.
SV - We are a good band and there's a lot of work goes into it, but there's no real plan.
WEAB – The idea is just to have a good time. Dress up and enjoy it.

The good news is that with the second album still to get an official release the third is well on it's way to being written.
WEAB - Spunk does all the work. He's the main songwriter.
SV – I had a moment when I was writing 'People Made of Paper' and the nerves kicked in about matching 'Legend', but you have to shake them loose and get on with it.
After we had done 'Legend' we had asked Stu of STP what was next? Would we be doing another release?
He was straight in saying yes.
That's was good.
I write the songs with the idea of what we would all do so when I take them to the rest of the band there's rarely any problems.

A benevolent dictator?
WEAB – No (Laughing) we sometimes don't go with one thing or another.
Spunk – I write the songs with an idea in my head on how everyone in the bands wants them to sound so when I give him the songs and wait for him to say something and usually he says it's fine.

When it's put to them that the material is strong enough to carry the band without the theatrics being needed it is the one subject that they are equally as passionate about.
Spunk – Look at us. Without that dressing up would we have grabbed the same attention?
From the start it's been there anyway. I love superheroes and wrestling and everyone else brings their part to it in dressing up.
WEAB - With millimetres of make up I can be someone else. I've got the best job in the world when I put it on.
We didn't plan it out. We don't really plan anything. This is how the band started and it's the just the continuation of it
We're a couple of fat guys having fun. That's part of it to. Who would want to see a skinny guy in a baby grow anyway?

They are right though.
Apart from Slipknot fans who would want to see a skinny guy in a baby grow?
In a time when image is everything they have stumbled into providing one, and like the best bands who use theatrics, from Cooper to Kiss, they will ultimately be judged on the music and that alone.
Thankfully from witnessing them in full flow live I can attest that the Trauma-esque characterizations re the icing on a cake rather than a distraction designed to disguise a lack lustre clutch of songs.

When it comes to covering touring Spunk is still processing it.
Spunk – Both of us have jobs and kids so we are still moving from the playing a date here and there to taking on doing a run like this.
It's a bit of a culture shock.
WEAB – You have an idea in your head about what it will be like.......
Spunk...and it's not.
Travelling for hours and then playing for half an hour.
We were about an hour outside Glasgow and I was wondering how I was going to do it tonight, but then you just plough through it.
WEAB - ...and there's the difference in the sizes of the stages.
Spunk - I like the small venues and getting out there in people faces to push for a reaction and get a sing a long started, but with this you have to approach it differently and it's a learning process for us.
WEAB – It's good though. I don't think any of us thought we would be on tour with Goldblade and The Misfits.
It's not something you think about.
Spunk – They are all good guys. I was in the elevator with Jerry and he had this bench thing for doing sit ups and I asked him if he was getting some reps in.
he said he was and I said I was thinking that I might to and then laughed and said fuck that I'd rather have a pie.
He was cackling and saying 'you're a funny guy, you're a funny guy'.
He's alright.
Everyone has been.
Over all it's been good and meeting new fans is good.
WEAB – We always head to the merch table after a show. It's not just a good business thing, but it's great to meet people.
Spunk – Best bit is when people don't recognize me without the mask on and asj for a photo with WEAB and get me to take it with their phone or camera.

It's sort of obligatory to end an interview by asking what's next, but Dirt Box Disco are a bit too busy just taking it all in to think about that.
There's a headlining tour, and album launch and another to record to record all loosely planned out, and I think that in the near future they are going to look up from the work and wonder where it all went right.

Did I mention they were feckin excellent live?
Well take it from me. They were.

Record label.   Website  Facebook  Merch

Legend Review       People Made of Paper Review

Friday, 5 April 2013

Willie Dick - I will be your Juliet.

It's a little known  fact that after David Lynch left Twin Peaks he hit the bright lights of Hollyweird looking for fame and fortune.
Unfortunately he was raped in an alley by a motorcycle gang called the Bastard Sons of Bukowski and was left for dead just mere days from stepping off the greyhound bus.
It's a time worn story, but one that had a surreal outcome because unknown to many is that David Lynch is a walking biological anomaly, and while he has all the outward appearances of a man he carries internally a fully functioning womb, and his anus doubles up as a vagina.
Nine months later he gave birth to a son who he named Willie Dick.
Willie was much loved by his father/mother and was given all that a boy could want, but coursing through his veins was the wild eyed blood of the cumulative members of the Bastard Sons of Bukowski, and that shit will always rise to the surface.
How could a boy born in such traumatic circumstances ever function normally in society I hear you ask?
Well the answer is that he can't.