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Sunday, 25 August 2013

Love, death, family and the soundtrack to our lives

This is not going to be a normal sort of blog update. (Whatever normal is.)
More a rambling monologue, but I will try and section bits off so people can skip to what they are interested in.
Prior to starting I will say that I hope people can appreciate that this is in fact a blog, and not simply a website devoted to music.
Regular readers will be aware of this.
So while there are reviews and interviews there have also been short stories, political rants and posts of a more personal nature.
Some like it, some don't, some understand where I am coming from, while others find it difficult to get to grips with what is going on.
I have had emails praising me for the anarchic no rules aspect of the blog, and equally some have urged me to make it more consistent.
Of course all correspondence is welcome and opinions valued.
Then again that doesn't mean that I will act on any advice given.
That's pretty much a given.
So let's leave it at that and get into this.

Okay, the last few weeks have been a somewhat of a mixed bag with the highs being very high and the lows being...well pretty damn low.
The main thing that has happened is that my uncle has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
It's at an advanced stage and apart from providing him with pain relief there's nothing much can be done.
He's the pragmatic sort so there's a great deal of stoic acceptance on his part going on.
What will be will be could be his unspoken mantra.

I would like to think that I could emulate his bravery if similar happened to me, but who can honestly say how they would react until the day comes.
This news has however had me thinking a great deal about family.
Once he passes that is the generation of males that my father belonged to gone
I will then be the oldest male in the family.
A sobering thought.
It doesn't feel like a chapter closing, but the last pages of a book in a series coming to an end.
There is another volume, but his passing will have a finality to it that if I am honest I keep trying to put to the back of my mind.

It would be fair to say that after my father he is the only other male role model I really had, and while I am considered to be very much my fathers son there is a great deal of my uncle in me to.
Without a shadow of a doubt it is his love of music that is the main thing that others see in me.
There is a thread of music fanaticism that runs from my uncle to me, and from there it has been picked up by my son who carries the torch in a certain sense.
My father enjoyed music, but it could never have been described as something we shared a love for.
We connected on other levels, but music wasn't one.
That shared love of rock and roll was/is reserved as the connection between my uncle and me.
You can't miss it,
Very clearly the defining link in the family chain that joins my uncle and myself apart from blood is this love of music.
There's really no getting away from it.
One of my earliest memories is sitting in his home with over-sized headphones on my little preschool head and listening to everyone from The Stones to Elvis, and The Kinks to Johnny Cash.
Thinking back it's now over forty years since I tonelessly sang along to the songs too much amusement from my parents.
There's been a great deal of water flowed under the bridge since then though.
So much that often it doesn't bear thinking about.

Apart from a great deal of water there's also a great deal that I would like to say about how my father and uncle shaped me as a man, but it's difficult.
So difficult that I was actually in two minds about posting anything about this at all.

Then I thought about how eulogies are often tempered with a need not to speak ill of the dead, and how very often there is a need for a positive editing job done on anything that is said in hindsight about those who have died.
It's with that in mind that I then thought I should say something now rather than later.
Something that is mainly for myself, but can't be construed as having a positive spin as it could be it it was said after his death.
I toyed with a few approaches and considered how to phrase it all, but ultimately it would all just be the meat layered over the bones of what basically needs to be said.
The bones being that I want to just say that I love and respect him, and that when the time comes I will miss him.
I will miss him very much.

I'm never sure if talking about things like this makes others feel uncomfortable, but that just takes us back to the start of the update and the thinly veiled point being made that I don't really care.
There's still a bit of me that thinks when I up posts that all I am doing is shouting and muttering stuff into a void.

So with that now out of the way we can now step forward into our shared passion that is music.
My uncle would probably skipped all that and started here anyway.

It's been a while since I have managed to be able to set aside the time to write anything on the bands and artists that I have seen and heard.
In fact I don't seem to have had much time to do quite a few things that I really should have.
The solution may be to register myself as a company and have the government provide me with an allocation of workfare employees, although the words workfare and employee don't feel as if they should naturally go together. so maybe not.

Sweethearts of the prison rodeo
Last night I was in the 13th Note to see a band called Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo, and with a name like that how could I really look to go and see anyone else who was playing anywhere else in Glasgow?
I may be wrong, but without checking I will hazard a guess that they are named after a documentary about cowgirls in prison who compete in penitentiary rodeos.
Although I have no idea why, and maybe it is best not to ask.
The band are from Falkirk - as you would expect from the name (Aye right) - and are more a collective than an actual band.
This being the case it makes it difficult to pigeon hole them as myriad influences proliferate the material.
There was a bit of Booker T, a smattering of Roky Erickson, some garage rock and roll mixed with a post punk attitude going on, and that was just in the one song.
Elsewhere there's some poetry, the topic of the low sperm count in a rabbit to be discussed in song, a bit of socialist rancour and a warehouse of kitchen sinks to be cast into the mix.
To say I was impressed would be an outrageous understatement.
I went to see them based on a casual trawl through the venue listings to see what was on and finding a partially bonkers description of them that turned out to have just been an honest appraisal.
Well worth the four quid admission and I'm looking forward to wrapping my ears around their debut CD and the split cassette that I bought.
Next time our paths cross it will be a more deliberate undertaking on my part as we need artists like this to serve as the flipside of the mainstream coin.
They are the perfect palette cleanser after a day of having heard vacuous chart music being played out in the background as we traipse through our lives.

The Shires
Sadly I missed Ayrshire band 'The Shires' play in Pivo, ( but I did catch the soundcheck of their acoustic set and the positive talk about them is something that shouldn't be considered as hype.
There's an impressive slack jawed delivery of the material that is infectiously insolent in the style of a Johnny Rotten or Liam Gallagher.
That's not to say that the band sound like the Pistols or Oasis, but there's a swaggering attitude that the band share with them that many try to copy, but few actually carry off.
A great deal of it is appears to be the sound of Britpop devoid of any sheen.
Instead it's been torn apart and then rebuilt with more functional muscle added to it.
Considering this was the acoustic set getting an airing it would be naïve to consider that the electric set wouldn't deliver harder.

Scarlet Shift/Colour Coded/Quinny
Going back a bit the last show that was consistently good was the Scarlet Shift/Colour Coded/Quinny outing in Pivo.
Unfortunately it was a show that suffered badly from an audience arriving late in the evening to see Scarlet Shift rather than looking to sample what else was on offer.
It was akin to how people turn out to see the main act on a large tour and make no effort to see the supports.
Unfortunately in this case it means that they missed two acts who were every bit as good as Scarlet Shift and that they would have very probably enjoyed just as much.
Quinny ( played an acoustic solo set that served to confirm to me that given the opportunity to be in the right place at the right time he would be considered as star quality.
His songwriting, musicianship and stage presence is on par with any successful singer songwriter that you could care to mention, but as a bonus he has a great cross over appeal that could see his material attract a wide spectrum of listeners.
Similarly it wouldn't be too difficult to imagine Colour-Coded ( gracing festival stages and performing in front of masses of fans.
It just seems to be the next logical step forward in their career as while they are treading the much trampled indie rock path they do have the songs and stage craft to put them a few steps ahead of the pack.
In fact scratch that.
It's not just a few steps ahead.
They may as well be the dots disappearing over the horizon in the eyes of the competition.
Scarlet Shift ( are in the same enviable position to.
If you want to look for one small thing to critique then you would be wasting your time.
Blurring the lines between rock and pop they are writing anthems that have wide mainstream appeal written all over them.
I'm praying that they break through as pop music is in danger of taking its disposable nature far too seriously.
The mainstream charts need to have a band like Scarlet Shift introduced to the world so that they can claw back some artistic integrity before the labels create a perfect storm of blandness scenario.
Photographs from this show can be found at Gobo Photography

Rank Berry/Soul Remover/For What You're Worth
The rock scene of late has been struggling under the weight of all the hardcore bands whose power chords are hammered out in the bowels of hell.
Every amp is on eleven and every vocalists has to sound like Linda Blair revisiting her role in the Exorcist, but via the labour ward.
Or in other words there's a great deals of grunting, squealing and motherfuckers sucking cocks in hell thrown about.
So thankfully both Soul Remover ( and Rank Berry ( steer clear of that and instead look to go down a more melodic route to entertain us.
I've not been shy in my praise of Rank Berry previously and there was nothing on show in this performance that would lead to me to distance myself from what I have said in the past.
While the rock and roll they play has a classic sound to it we can't help but hear it with fresh ears as so few others are doing similar.
Meanwhile Soul Remover are solid in their understanding of what makes good rock music and are not shy in delivering it to us.
While grunge music was the response to a rock world that was disappearing under a cloud of hairspray and lip gloss you could argue that Soul Remover have refused to entertain turning their back on the punk sleaze attitude of that era, and instead just took it into the gym and pumped it full of steroids and put it back out on the streets while telling it to walk like a man.
It's a macho thrill ride, but not in any misogynistic sense.

Both acts are a breathe of fresh air in what is increasingly becoming a stagnant scene
For What Worth ( are a whole different story again.
While they are a rock band they operate on a different level.
While we are all aware of the pop punk scene that came out of the US these young guys are more indie punk.
This is the sound of a band raised on Radiohead and Arctic Monkeys melding that UK indie rock genre to a more US based punk one while neatly giving the shiny teeth and smiley pop angle a body swerve.
It's difficult to watch them and appreciate that this is a band who are just setting out into the world.
Close your eyes and they sound like seasoned veterans who are finally drawing all their talents together to make something special.
Definitely an act to watch out for.

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