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Wednesday 26 October 2011

Pardon. What didn't you say.

This reading between the lines of conversations is a terrible thing don't you think?
It's really quite a waste of time.
You know what I'm talking about don't you?
Or do you?
Maybe right at this minute you are thinking 'I know what he is saying, but I wonder what he really means'.
The truth is that I'm a plain speaking sort of guy so when I say something it's out there just as it is.
There's no unspoken hidden clues as to what I really mean.
No one should treat a conversation with me as if they are approaching a Dan Brown novel.
There is nothing to be divined from a plain and simple comment.
No mystery to solve and very little is said with a nod and a wink.
I'll give you an example of what I mean.
Say for instance you asked me if I wanted a sausage roll from Greggs and I declined with the response that I wasn't hungry.
From that you can take that I am not hungry. Nothing more.
I don't have an upset stomach.
I don't have an allergy to sausage rolls.
I'm not boycotting Greggs.
I'm not a vegetarian.
I'm not playing the 'opposite day' game and really mean I want a sausage roll.
I haven't shagged the lady serving and now looking to avoid her.
I haven't been banned from Greggs and just don't want to mention the incident with the doughnut to you.
None of these, or any more that you can think of, are applicable to my refusal of the offer of a sausage roll.
It honestly will be because I wasn't hungry. Nothing more than that.
You can work that out from me saying so. It really is that simple.
Just out of curiosity how many times in a week do you make a statement and someone responds with 'what you mean is....'?
How many minutes are taken up with having to explain that the first thing you said was all that you meant?
How many misunderstandings are rooted in someone walking away from a conversation with the impression that what you said was a hint at something else entirely.
Women appear to indulge in this more often then men.
While making a cup of tea say to your wife, partner or female friend 'You want sugar in this?' and they will reply 'are you saying I need to go on a diet', and probably follow that with a comment about the pot and the kettle.
Nothing was mentioned about weight, diets or their appearance at all, but in a weeks time if you ask them what was said they will emphatically tell you that you said 'I'll leave the sugar out as it's goes straight to your hips' and when you deny that they will say 'but that's what you meant'.
There's no going back from it either because how can you disprove something that another person claims you thought.
All you can do is deny it and the more you do the more they think they were right.
Men aren't immune to communicating like this either though.
Ask a man if he wants a soft drink when you are going to the bar and he will hear you loudly proclaim in front of anyone in earshot that you consider him to be a lightweight drinker and therefore are challenging his sexuality in the public arena.
He may even want to fight you for not saying something.
It's all bollocks isn't it.
Maybe I'm the only one who notices this though, but I do yearn for a simpler way of communicating.
Similarly I've noticed that people often don't even respond to the question at hand.
Ask someone if they want to go out on Monday night and they might say that they are going out on Friday in reply.
Personally I'm not that interested in their plans for any other night other than the Monday so why are they telling me this, and in doing so they haven't really answered my initially question.
Unless of course they want me to read between the lines and what they mean is.
I can only afford to go out one night a week.
My wife says I've not to associate with you any more.
I don't socialize on any day with the letter M in it.
I get a pedicure on a Monday and I don't want to share that as you may feel that it's a bit strange but I love the felling of it and I'm not giving that night up for anyone.
Or maybe Mondays are pre-booked and he spends them plotting my downfall with all the other people who said they can't go out on a Monday night with me.
...and now I'm back to where I started.
Do you see how confusing all of this is.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Stars of the Silverscreen - S/T

There must be something in the water in Sweden, because whenever the world needs a rock and roll band to come forth and keep the flame burning you can always rely on them to throw forth one who will tick all the boxes and deliver when no one else is doing it.
So right at this moment in time step up 'Stars of the Silverscreen' with their self titled debut to show us all how down and dirty rock and roll with screaming guitars and a shit load of attitude should be played.
The album may have original surfaced in 2009, but here in the UK we better be quick and play a bit of catch up and get behind these guys.
They're not reinventing the wheel, but that argument is a moot one as the wheel doesn't need reinventing, and neither does this style of rock and roll.
There's plenty of evidence here to show that they've got the guts and passion needed to carry it of, and then some.
Given half a chance these guys will provide you with the only soundtrack you will need for a full on party.
So crack open a bottle, crank it up and get into the groove with them.
If you want thirteen rockers that will reaffirm your faith in rock music then this is the album that will do it.
Bloody fantastic.

Matt Scott, Tragic OHara, Nicky Smith, Masters of the Sea, Taylor Buntain - Jollys 14/10/11 (Kilmarnock)

I really should write the reviews within a couple of days of the gigs.
All the little mental notes I make seem to have slipped away between then and now, but here goes.
This was the first of a couple of gigs that my good friend Wullie B has organised to raise funds for the McMillan cancer charity. A very worthy cause as I'm sure everyone would agree.
First performer of the night was Taylor Buntain who I have come to know since giving a less than positive review many moons ago.
He's a nice guy and technically the best guitarist that we have locally.
His drifting is very well done as is everything else he does as his fingers dance across the frets. Think of John Butler or Newton Faulkner for a reference point.
I'm sure that fellow musicians must sit slack jawed in admiration when watching him, but there is a problem and that is that his voice isn't managing to match his skills on the guitar and banjo.
No matter how good the material is it is always going to have attention drawn away from it due to the vocal delivery.
Within another project, out-with playing solo, his abilities would allow him to shine more.
I would love to sing his praises from the rooftops, but as long as it's a one man show I don't think I'll be able to.
He has said that he is exploring other options so it is probably only a matter of time until he can come across with the goods. The talents there. It's just a matter of getting it across to an audience in a form that they can get on board with.
Now this is where my memory fails me.
Was it Masters of the Sea next or Nicky Smith?
Lets just say it was Masters of the Sea.
It's been a while since I've seen such a drunkenly consummate performance and I loved it.
Friends have been urging me to see these guys, and all their superlative praise has been underplayed to an extent.
Simply saying a band are great and you need to see them doesn't really convey just how great they are. Even within a stripped down acoustic set what they do is rock solid.
There's very little point in trying to offer a name forth that could allow someone to get a rough idea of who they sound like because they don't sound like anyone apart from themselves.
Of course the music is in a recognisable framework and they aint banging randomly and discordantly on things, but instead what they have done is taken a bunch of influences and distilled them through their own take on what a song should sound like and what they have come up with works.
The fact that their front man could barely bite his fingernails never mind remain balanced on a stool added to the performance rather than detracted from it and his drunken state was really on apparent when talking between songs.
As soon as he was need to sing and play guitar that drunken part of his brain must have been sectioned off and his fingers and vocal chords went on and done their thing.
There playing again soon and I'm now gagging to see the full electric experience.
All hail Masters of the Sea.
Nicky Smith who was up next was another surprise.
Just guitar and vocal, but very well done and while much of the performance has slipped from my head I did enjoy the set and have mentally logged the name away to check out again.
Tragic OHara followed Nicky and once again anyone witnessing his slot must be left asking when is he going to make that leap into the wider public's eye.
Everything is in place. It really must just be a matter of time.
Due to the headline act 'All my logic' failing to make an appearance through reasons unknown to me local artist Matt Scott assumed the position, but unfortunately by this point the downing of pints and shots had laid waste to may of the audience and Matt was left to perform his set in front of a crowd who were paying him scant attention.
It was there loss as he really is a fantastic talent.
There's some Tom Waits in there. A bit of Dylan and Springsteen and a whole lot of Frankie Miller.
Yet he isn't a patchwork quilt of their talents, and instead has his own personality to push.
I've missed blues imbued vocalists who have the rock and roll attitude, and now with Matt we have one of our own.
Note his name down and keep an eye out for him playing.

Florence + the Machine - Ceremonials

Whenever anyone makes the blanket claim that the charts are bereft of anything worth listening to I'm never short of examples that I can use to shoot their statement down in flames.
Of course much of what the mainstream provides is a tad vacant and does appear to be created to entertain those who want a quick fix of bright and shiny unchallenging nonsense.
Fast food for the ears so to speak, but there are exceptions.
I think Bruno Mars is a talented and soulful sounding young man for a pop star, and Ed Sheeran is without a doubt well endowed with song writing skills, and I feel completely comfortable in saying that as I don't consider myself a music snob bogged down in genre loyalties.
Another who never fails to impress is Florence with her Machines.
The first time that I heard her I was taken aback by the power of her vocal performance, and then when I seen her live I was equally impressed.
Since then her debut album caused a bit of a stir and she even has managed to gatecrash the mainstream party without diluting her art.
MTV hits and award show appearances along with festival slots was the order of the day and she dealt with it all with a great deal of casual aplomb.
Now she's back, and back with a bang, and anyone who hitched themselves to her wagon during the 'Lungs' period will love 'Ceremonials' as it has enough of that sound to maintain a level of familiarity.
However, unlike many who have garnered success over the last decade and attempt to maintain it by simply releasing the same album again and again, Florence is not standing still.
She's a modern day Kate Bush with all that reference entails.
If Lungs was a template then Ceremonials is the prototype, and in years to come we can be assured that with each and every release there will be something new to savour.
Only time will tell if this can emulate the success of Lungs, but if not I don't really think that will matter.
Similar to a band like the Arctic Monkeys, Florence will be an artists that that will maintain a solid fan base through releasing quality material.
Hit singles are for the here and now and in Florence we have a an artist who will be defined by her whole body of work rather than her 15 minutes of fame.

Tom Waits - Bad as me

I've had a fractious relationship with Tom Waits over the years.
I've never really fallen out of love with with him, but sometimes he's pushed it to the limits with his more avant garde wanderings.
Thankfully on 'Bad As Me' he's back to what he does best, and that's sing like a Broadway star who took a wrong turning and ended up on skid row with a bottle of bourbon and a handful of dreams to get him through the night.
Even if on 'Raised Right Men' he has steered far too close to Nick Caves 'Red Right Hand' I'll forgive him simply for getting some rockabilly swing going on in 'Get Lost'. It's as fine a track as he has ever put out.
Elsewhere there is a distinct feeling that he has come full circle and is now back to being the bar room troubadour that many of us know and prefer.
If you lost your way after his Asylum years, or started to struggle with the material post 'Swordfish Trombones' then this just might be the album that will entice you back.
It's been a while since Tom Waits has managed to hit as many of my buttons as 'Bad As Me' has, but with this I've finally got the proof that it was worth hanging in over the years keeping the flame alive.

Lou Reed & Metallica - Lulu

When Lou Reed and Metallica announced that they would collaborate the world took a deep breath.
When they exhaled it was to say that the fruits of their labour would either be the worst or best thing ever.
As usual it's neither.
It's not the car crash in slow motion as the naysayers were quick to claim it would be, but neither is it an album that fans of Lou and Metallica will consider needs to be filed away as the best thing since sliced bread either.
Strip away the fanfare and hyperbole and what we have is an album that sound exactly what you would think that a Lou Reed and Metallica album would sound like.
Neither artist nor band have really pushed into new areas, but instead Lou does what Lou does and Metallica weave their bludgeoning magic behind the lyrics.
What I mean by that is take Lou out and what you hear is a Metallica album sans vocals and remove the music and it's a typical Lou Reed album.
So neither as bad, nor as good, as expected.
However fans of both are going to be far from disappointed in what they have come up with, and I'm sure in some quarters there will be some that will consider this to be something rather special.
Personally I'd rather have Transformer or Master of Puppets over this, but I'm not really complaining.

Luke Haines - 9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s & early '80s

For people of a certain age* Saturday afternoon wrestling has nothing to do with the steroid heavy star spangled million dollar franchise that the world now considers to be the norm.
Instead wrestling is the key to the past. It's the ticket for the nostalgia train.
A single mention of Kendo Nagasaki, Big Daddy or Giant Haystacks is all that it takes for the rose tinted memories to come flooding back.
Saturday afternoons spent watching men - who wouldn't look out of place in your local pub - dramatically, and comically, throwing each other about dressed in what appeared to be swimming trunks was what it was all about.
Come Monday morning at school and the bouts of the weekend would be the talk of the playground.
Mick McManus was the anti hero who we loved to boo and hiss at. Oh what we would do to him given five minutes in an alley.
Catweazle was a bit of a joke, but we secretly loved him to, and what the hell was Gorgeous George all about?
Now in 2011 we have Luke Haines magically providing a concept album geared around those times, and when I slip it on it's like wrapping myself in childhood memories.
Every wrestler of note is lovingly woven into the story, and every single nuanced moment of this album appears to be designed to ease you into a time and place that no longer exists.
Through music time travel is indeed possible.
Forget the nostalgic compilations that proliferate supermarket shelves. Here is the real key to recapturing the past, and very cleverly it's also an album that's equally at home in the present to.
In writing this Luke Haines has created yet another work of genius and it's about time that the critical acclaim he garners is translated to public acclaim.
I would urge everyone to buy this and wallow in its working class grace.
Now where's my swimming trunks and dressing gown as I think I'm going to have to listen to it again.
* My age.

Friday 14 October 2011

Su Casa - Anna Sweeney/Tragic O'Hara/Craig Ward/Seán & Robyn Gray/Folé. 13/10/11

Another Thursday evening and another smorgasbord of aural delights from Su Casa.
We arrived just in time to catch the end of the always entertaining Little Fire who even managed a little duet before handing the stage over to the very young Anna Sweeney.
She's a bit folk, a bit country and a whole lotta nervous, but there's a great deal of charm in her performance, and given some time and a relaxed environment to ply her craft in she could be onto something with her material.
Tragic OHara followed, and went straight into unveiling a couple of new songs, and in doing so showed the crowd why when anyone talks about big fish in small ponds it's Tragic, along with a few others, who are always mentioned.
After a period where things seemed to stall for him it now appears that all the hard work is starting to create some positive returns.
The recent personal request from Pete Docherty to support him being just one of them.
I'm going to keep my fingers crossed and hope that in the coming year all his dreams come true as he certainly has a talent and a work ethic that deserves to be rewarded.
Craig Martin Ward was the big surprise of the night though.
I'd heard good things, but what I was expecting and what I got were two different things.
There's a great deal of self effacing humour in his rapport with the audience and I liked that.
There's a good sense of you get what you see with him to. A distinct lack of artifice, and that transfers over into his material.
As singer songwriters go Craig isn't the run of the mill indie folk warbler, but something else entirely. I'm not sure if I can put my finger on it, but maybe it has something to do with the attitude.
It's a refreshing change anyway.
If you've been following the blog you will have read a review of the Fole ep that came out a couple of weeks ago, and prior to that a mention of the lead singer James doing a solo set in Su Casa where I was suitably impressed, but here they were and I was finally getting the chance to see the full band perform and that's a whole new deal in itself.
The material really comes alive.
If James solo was the start of a journey, and the ep is the midway point, then this is the final destination. All the pieces fall into place when they are performing together and once again Ayrshire has yet another band that is brimming with promise.
Brother and sister act Sean and Robyn Gray were the last performers we seen.
Their mix of traditional violin accompanied by some jazzy guitar is well played out.
While it wouldn't necessarily be the sort of music that I would normally indulge myself in I found myself enjoying them immensely.
Especially their take on Katy Dear.
A song that seemed to morph into being called Silver Dagger by the time it got the US many many years ago.
Maybe some will have heard Joan Baez or the Eagles sing it, but I was more than happy with this more traditional version.
Sadly we didn't get to see Alan Frew as time was rolling on and we had kids with us.
Once again I really can't fault the entertainment on offer, and if I had the time I would certainly grab a couch in Su Casa every single week.

Magazine. - No Thyself

Avoiding the pitfalls of being classed as purely a nostalgia project Magazine are back with an album of new material.
They're a band who I have a hate love relationship with.
I always initially hate what I'm hearing and then after allowing myself to be beguiled I end up in love with it all.
Similarly when I first heard 'No Thyself' I was unimpressed and loathed what Devoto had come up with.
Inside my head a voice was screaming 'WHAT! IT TOOK THIRTY YEARS TO COME UP WITH THIS?', but unsurprisingly after a few days I'm now past that and into the getting to know you part of my relationship with Magazine.
There's already some mutual points we can get along with, and while I'm not yet comfortable in letting my feelings out I'll tentatively admit that I may quite like some of this, but then again maybe not a great deal of it as it is taking longer than usual to bed in.
The keyboards are a bit of a stumbling block to be honest.
They're pretty much ever present and overbearing in eighties cheesiness, and no matter how much I try and get on board with them I just can't.
It's a frustrating process this and I'm very close to throwing in the towel
They are so omni present that I think that I'm just going to have to sit this aside and if anyone asks say that they should approach the album with caution.
Lets just say it isn't the return I expected after witnessing them in full flow live.
Less post punk and more prog rock, but not in a good way.

The Shell Corporation - Force Majeure

We seem to be on the cusp of a people power generated social revolution on a global scale, and arriving right on time to provide the soundtrack to those of us who are calling for a change is The Shell Corporation.
Featuring ex members of Time Again, A Wilhelm Scream, Madcap, The Briggs and Le Mu Le Pur they have hit the ground running, and running fast.
Similar to the Occupy Wall Street Movement there will be those who will ask what the message is within what they are shouting for.
Those who like it all neat and tidy will want an issue specific agenda to mull over. Something to pick at and consider from all the angles.
Well fuck that. What we want is change in itself. We want a new global community that cares. A clear line between what is right and wrong.
Don't starve people, don't enslave them, don't profit on the misery of others....just stop fucking with us.
The Shell Corporation manage to articulate that amorphous agenda with spit, anger, and punk rock hooks a plenty.
When I slip this on I can feel the blood rushing through my veins. I get the same feeling that I did when in my youth I first heard the Dead Kennedy's, and again when I heard The Redskins, Bad Religion, The International Noise Conspiracy, Anti-Flag and the World/Inferno Friendship Society.
This is socially conscious rock and roll at its best and if one person out of every ten who get to hear this reconsiders their world due to a lyrical nudge by The Shell Corporation, then the guys should be very proud that they have changed one life and that one person could change another persons.
They say that music can't change the world.
I say that's what they want you to think.
Grab a copy of 'Force Majeure' and think about it. What do you want to be? Part of the problem or the solution?

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds.

Sibling rivalry and the sport of one one-upmanship is alive and well in the Gallagher household.
First we had Liam upsetting the apple cart when he silenced the critics with his Beady Eye release, and everyone - including myself - grudgingly admitted that brother Noel, who is often considered the real talent of the two, may have a problem in matching 'our kids' endeavours.
The faithful rallied at that point and stated loudly and clearly that Noel was the voice and song writing talent of Oasis, and once he did manage to get his material out then young cocky Liam would have to eat crow and accept that his big bro was, and always would be, the uber talented Gallagher.
Now, with his High Flying Birds, Noel is back, and after all that time crafting his response to Beady Eye the results are...............well rather lacklustre.
Sid James would be proud as Noel has simply carried on regardless with an album that could very easily be the next in line to chart the decline of the once wonderful Oasis.
Similar to the Oasis albums that preceded this it's an album that sounds tired and bereft of any spark of imagination or life.
While Liam dragged his trademarked cocksure swagger forward in a very slightly different direction, Noel has played safe and given people nothing much to write home about.
This is a truly awful album of substandard pop psychedelia filtered through the Lennon and McCartney songbook.
Now where did I put that Beady Eye album. I need a pick me up after listening to this dirge.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Rhianna/Calvin Harris - SECC - 10/10/11 (Glasgow)

Well here I am back in the SECC to dip my toe into the populist bollocks that passes as what is hot in the world of mainstream chart acts.
This time it's to see Rhianna supported by superstar DJ Calvin Harris.
Every once in a while I find myself doing this as part of my parental role.
I could say that it's a tough job, and someone has to do it, but if I'm honest about it then I would also have to say that it's no great chore really.
It gives me one to one time with my daughter, and the large stage shows and effects are pretty spectacular.
I even enjoy the dance routines, the costume changes and all the other little bells and whistles that are part and parcel of how this sort of show is promoted to the public.
It's all very slick and there's obviously a great deal of effort goes into it, and I can appreciate that.
I even get a perverse kick out of people watching, and similar to how many of us can watch Jeremy Kyle and feel a sense of superiority over his guests, I can get the same kick from being stuck in a crowd of sheeple.
For instance while lining up and waiting to go in I noticed that every third young woman was wearing either brown trousers, leggings or shorts.
Obviously earth tones are in this season on the high street, but seriously, when you add the amount of bare legged spray tans I seen to the equation, then it looked like they had all waded through rivers of shit to get to the SECC.
From the darker shite tones sported by those who must have just climbed onto the banking, to the lighter looking shite tones of those who had obviously been drying out for a while, all I could see was a a world painted in brown.
Now I don't really want to slag those who share the planet with me (liar), but c'mon, where did free will go to.
Is imagination and individuality a concept that has been lost on the majority.
Just because it's on the rack doesn't mean you have to buy it.
Similarly what is the score with the skyscraper platform and heel combo that they are all wearing.
Every second person is staggering about like a sailor on shore leave.
I could get along with people risking ankle and tendon in the pursuit of making a fashion statement, but what is that statement when out of a thousand young women nine hundred and ninety eight are wearing the same thing.
What does that actually say about them all?
The uniformity of the youth is really quite a sad spectacle.
It also dawned on me that while I despise the cattle shed style of the SECC and the way that staff herd the fans about like dumb animals, that maybe this is actually the norm.
If a very large crowd of people display very little intelligence and ape a herd mentality then isn't it appropriate that the tried and tested process of how to control the herd is used?
Just a thought.
Anyway, Calvin Harris and Rhianna.
I'm not unfamiliar with Calvin Harris as I seen him do a DJ set many years ago when he was first making a name for himself.
Back then I was impressed with the breadth of the songs he was sampling ,and his ability to segue everything together seamlessly.
Now he appears to have taken his abilities on the decks and transferred them across to delivering the lowest common denominator crap to the masses.
He's still spot on with the beats and the mixing, but the choice of material is bland, bland, bland, and I found myself drawn to watching the generated graphics that were hypnotically pulsing in front and behind him instead of paying that much attention to the material.
I suspect that in a club he will tear a roof off, but in this sort of environment it's a case of give the people what they want, tuck the cash away, and try and forget it ever happened.
Rhianna on the other hand has it all. She can sing and there wasn't a hint of a backing track being played.
Instead she relies on the backing singers to keep it all held together, but that's not to say that she doesn't pull her weight vocally and there's no doubt that she is the star of the show.
The highlight for me was a was a very raunchy cover of 'Darling Nikki' that captured everything that Prince gave it and a little more due to it being sung by a woman.
However it was a serious lull in the flow of the gig as the vast majority were unfamiliar with the song and you could feel the interest waning as she sang it.
Apart from that my unfamiliarity was a bit of a barrier to my enjoying the show fully, but it was very obvious that the musicianship was top notch as was Rhianna herself.
So yes. I get the appeal. But it's really not my thing.
It comes across as very manufactured.
Sort of music done by numbers that's designed to have a mass appeal at the expense of any artistic integrity.
It's entertainment appreciation rather than music appreciation.
An extension of the material we get on shows like the x-factor. All bling and just enough substance to get by.
So if that is what rings your bell then a Rhianna gig will cover all the bases.
If not, and you want to find something with a bit more balls, more integrity and even maybe a bit more sweaty, then you will find that in the clubs at a fraction of the price and no doubt without an earth tone in sight either.

The Plimptons/Filthy Little Secret/Fleeto Bandito - 13th Note - 8/10/11 (Glasgow)

Can you really have too much of a good thing?
I suppose you can because on Saturday night Glasgow had Scottish punk legends Distorted Truth headlining a Phoenix Rumpus Punkfest event in the Classic Grand, Eddy & the T-Bolts were playing in the 13th Note, Bob Dylan was at the Braehead, The Media Whores had a gig on and so did the Dub Pistols.
As it's impossible to physically be in two places at the one time I resorted to tossing a coin and ended up going to the 13th Note to see the T-Bolts along with the Plimptons, Filthy Little Secret and Bandito Fleeto.
Sadly on arrival we found out that Eddy had been playing rugby that morning and had suffered a concussion at the very least, and a fractured cheekbone and concussion at the worst.
That was the bad news, but the good news was that the gig was going ahead as planned.
First up were Bandito Fleeto who I'd never seen before.
It's was all a bit shambolic, maybe even deliberately so, but the between song banter and the rapid fire Queers/Sreeching Weasel styled pop punk easily made up for any lack of cerebral eloquence in their songs.
Their moto should be 'it's not quantum physics, it's a party' and if based on that then no one should have any complaints.
It's been a long time since I've seen Filthy Little Secret play and since then a few new songs have been completed and are currently getting road tested.
There's nothing new in the delivery, but it feels different.
Haj still yelps them out with the best of them and the rest of the band still push the pedal down hard while delivering the tunes, but the thing that seems different is that within the frantic pace of the songs there's a calm 'we know what we are doing' vibe.
Hopefully 2012 will be the year that they reap some sort of reward for the effort they are putting in.
I was under the impression that this night was a joint album launch deal, but on speaking to Cal from the Plimptons I found out that while the new album is virtually finished they are going to wait until early next year to sort out a release date proper.
No worries though as I was there to see them play a gig and not to buy a CD.
The set they did was the usual anarchic, verging on falling apart, but managing to cling to sanity by the skin of their teeth sort of show that anyone who has seen them appreciates.
No one else really sounds like The Plimptons.
They're a pop band with a punk edge, or maybe a ska band, with a touch of a folk sound. Then again they might be a sort of rock band, but not rawk and roll as such, although maybe for a couple of seconds they are. There's a liberal dosing of surrealist comedy scattered through a performance, but they're not a comedy band, or maybe they are when it suits them.
The Plimptons are actually all of the above and more.
If you haven't seen them. Then do so.
That's the short review and all you're getting as I'm knackered.

Sunday 9 October 2011

KA Radio

Over the last two decade or so the way music has been delivered to the public through the medium of radio has changed.
Once it was a vibrant and eclectic mix that genuinely provided something for everyone.
There were shows devoted to whatever genre you could care to mention, sometimes even within the format of one station.
Now it seems that mainstream radio is only there to promote the artists who are backed by those with the deepest pockets, and sadly those major labels stopped investing in discovering new and exciting talent many years ago.
Instead they prefer to spend their money on something with a proven track record.
The music business is certainly a small m and capital B concern.
So now what we have are presenters who have no choice in what they play, and a steady diet of RnB and rap being spoon fed to us.
It's bland and repetitive.
A boring diet of empty promises that neither entertains nor nourishes us.
In response to this there are currently many internet shows that have the passion and heart of the old pirate stations blasting out everything from punk to reggae from bedrooms, huts, and garages all over the world.
They are the ideal alternative, but they have one drawback, and that drawback is that in the main they are one man shows with limited time on air, or even if they do have a schedule they are only able to spread their name about amongst a small group of loyal listeners and fall short of being able to challenge the FM stations.
So now it is time for a change, and I'm pleased to say that this change is happening in my home town with the launch of KA Radio.
As of tomorrow (10/10/11) this little internet station will be operating five days a week, twenty four hours a day, and has a full schedule of presenters from all backgrounds waiting to play their own, and your, choices.
There will be request shows, drive time shows, genre specific shows, local talent being given a platform to shine from and in general an eclectic mix of the new and the old that would put a grin on John Peels face, and maybe provide him with some respite from spinning in his grave at the thought of how one dimensional radio has become.
This is going to be community radio taken to the next level, and come 2012 an FM license will be applied for and when that time comes, then along with an internet presence, KA Radio will be offering listeners a real alternative to what currently passes as radio entertainment.
You can get it here by cutting and pasting this into your web browser.

Friday 7 October 2011

Brown Bear and the Bandits/Mechanical Smile/Athos/Trusty and the Foe/Sam Christison - Su Casa (6/10/11)

Su Casa was gridlocked.
For a cold and damp Thursday night this flies in the face of the normal midweek turn out for a gig.
Once every seat had been taken and the remaining gaps in the room had rapidly filled with standing room only bodies a young Sam Christison took to the microphone to entertain what was literally a captive audience.
Initially over the course of his first song I was unimpressed as the vocals seemed at odds to the self penned song.
That's actually pretty unusual as who knows how to best sing a song other than the person who wrote it?
Thankfully he rolled into a cover song to follow it and in doing so managed to pull things back a bit.
Maybe it was just a case of opening nerves that sabotaged the first song as when he approached the third track, and second original of the night, everything managed to click into place.
There's some nice guitar work on display, some Dylanesque harmonica and a good grounding in providing a performance.
Yet another young artist to keep an eye on that the Su Casa nights throw into the public eye.
Next was an unannounced set from Trusty and the Foe and it is safe to say that familiarity does not breed contempt. In fact the opposite is true as I'm quickly becoming increasingly enamoured with their soft take on indie folk.
The vocals seem to float on top of the finger picking guitar work and while what they do may not appeal to a crowd looking to rock out it is still a thing of sublime beauty.
It's about time they got into a studio and laid down some tracks, and the sooner the better in my opinion.
Athos (who I'd seen playing an accomplished electric set a few weeks ago in the Monkey Bar in Kilmarnock) set up next to do their very first acoustic show and it was a bit of a game of two halves.
The problem is that the acoustic side of things sounds like a work in progress. The first three songs were nearly there, but falling short of nailing it.
It was only midway through the second song that I thought I could put my finger on what was missing and that was the singer loosening up a bit and letting go with a bit more of a roar.
This guy has a voice. I've heard it, but in trying to convert what they do to an acoustic setting he seemed to be trying to interpret it with a different vocal interpretation and it was only partially working
I'd like to see them play acoustically six months from now as I reckon that once they are comfortable with the format it will deliver huge dividends.
The second half of their set seen them becoming more comfortable and there was a definite light at the end of the tunnel.
It's just a bit out of reach at the moment.
Mechanical Smile who were playing this gig as the second night of their Scottish tour were the band who I was very keen to see, and along with Brown Bear the reason why I made the trip to Su Casa.
The last time I seen them live I felt that all the parts were in place, but similarly to Athos acoustically that they were within reach of the prize but falling short of grabbing it.
Now all these months down the line and with a fantastic ep tucked under their belts and loads of gigs ground out they have reached the point of having done that and bought the t-shirt.
All the promise I felt was there has now been delivered upon.
Strong material, tight musicianship and best of all the attitude of a band that know what they are doing and have their eyes set on a bigger and better future.
These guys are far more than a post grunge rock act as their acoustic set proves.
As with all bands a great deal of effort is put into getting a foot on the bottom rung of the music business, and all the effort from Mechanical Smile has brought them to that point right now.
It's going to be interesting to see if they can start climbing higher now.
Last band of the evening was the much lauded Brown Bear and the Bandit.
A band that I seem to have managed to miss again and again until now.
From the moment that the first chord was struck it was very obvious that their reputation as a band to see was well founded. It's an electrifying experience that deserves more than the usual superlative praise that can be heaped on a band.
The guitar, bass and cajón drum is used to mix a heady brew of sound and it's all delivered with a bit of an anarchic edge.
Styles and genres are all there for the picking and the band are elbow deep in bringing it all to the table to flavour their songs.
This is a band that if there was any justice would be featuring heavily in all the 'bands to watch in 2012' lists that proliferate in the 'must read to be classed as cool' magazines, but the main difference from the rest mentioned is that they they really are the band to watch.
So bring on 2012. Brown Bear and the Bandits are ready. Are you?
Truth or Dare by brownbearandthebandits

Fole - Better Sights

What a strange idea Fole have had.
Usually for a début ep a band collectively consider that the best option is to start off strong and grab the listeners attention, but instead they appear to have picked the weakest song of four as an introduction.
That's not to say that 'Better Sights' is a bad song, but in comparison to the rest it doesn't really convey how good the band are.
Of course by saying this I'm leaving myself open to the criticism that music appreciation is a subjective matter, and while this one singular track hasn't bowled me over it may well be some other listeners firm favourite.
Of course that's true.
It's a fair comment, but I would wager money that once the ep is listened to in its entirety that anyone stating that as the case would be promoting a minority view.
The real treasures on this release only begin to be revealed on 'Shakespeare Says'. (The track that I would have personally opted for as the song to open proceedings.)
It's captivating in the way that it casually impresses, and as a vehicle to showcase James Foley's talents as a songwriter it easily trumps the opening track.
'Randoms' then comes along to show that it was no mere fluke.
The lyrics have a sharp and honest strength to them, and musically there's the perfect amount of instrumentation helping to push them to the fore. It's as well balanced a song as you could expect and while many acoustic solo acts and bands fall on the side of twee Fole instead refreshingly opt to have a bit more of a bite to what they do.
The closing track 'Stitches' continues in the delicate acoustic manner of its predecessors, but similarly has more of a lyrical kick than expected.
It's in this juxtaposition between the music and the lyrics that the bands strengths lie.
Unfortunately a casual listener might not pick up on these strengths, and it will only be those who are willing to give the music time to bed in that will reap the rewards, but it is most certainly worth making the effort.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

The Daily Fail

When is the news not the news?
When you pre-report it. That's when.
Today Amanda Knox, who had previously been convicted of the murder of Meredith Kercher, won her appeal.
That is the reality, but the Mail Online already had the story written for a failed appeal, including descriptions of the actions of those attending the case and quotes from unnamed sources.
How do I know this?
Well because they managed to post it in its entirety and someone was quick enough to snatch a screen shot of it.
Hello. Is there a copywriter in the house? No? No one? Oh well.
There's been some talk about it being simply a journalist doing work covering any eventuality and then it could be edited to suit the facts, but in my opinion that's the gate being shut after Shergar has bolted to pastures unknown.
Does anyone really believe that someone is slaving over a keyboard writing two stories when they could wait for the breaking news and write one?
It makes you wonder how many others stories are pre-written, and how much of the fictional references manage to make their way into the leading articles of each day.
Or maybe it doesn't.
It's possible that the people who buy the Daily Mail aren't looking to be informed of foreign and domestic issues in a fair and balanced manner, but do so only for it to bolsters the opinions that they already hold.
Non whites are to be mistrusted unless they have loads of cash, Muslims are all terrorists even if they have loads of cash, homosexuals want to adopt babies and eat them, and any heart defect that they may have that kills them is Gods will, the sexualization of kids is wrong unless you're a celebrities kids, especially the kids of a celebrity who is a practicing Scientologist, etc.
The people who hold these opinions deserve the newspaper they get and that paper is The Daily Mail.
Spreading hate and misinformation since 1896.
Maybe someone should send a strongly worded letter to the press complaints commission. Although I doubt they would get very far as Paul Dacre is the PCCs Chairman and when he's not doing that he is the current editor of The Daily Mail.
Click on the images for a larger view.

Monday 3 October 2011

Change is up to us.

There's something wrong with the world today.
That's a comment that seems to be rolling from peoples tongues more often than it used to.
I couldn't disagree to be honest.
There's something very wrong with the world.
I wouldn't dispute that it is probably a comment that has been uttered by somebody somewhere since the very first day that we started questioning our environment, but because it is a common used phrase doesn't mean that occasionally we shouldn't stop for a minute and reconsider what we actually mean by it.
I can only speak for myself, but when I say those exact words what I mean is that in 2011 we really should be past people starving in the world, random and senseless acts of violence happening on our streets, governments advocating war for economic reasons, and we should especially be long past kowtowing to those in power who put the minorities interests before the majorities.
We should have eradicated all of that, and more, by now.
Where is our Utopian society that we should have been forever moving closer to?
Why aren't we in reach of it?
The main reason would appear to be that we simply can't be bothered expending the effort to make the world a better place, coupled with compassion and empathy being too easily set aside in the pursuit of personal gain.
We are lazy and greedy.
We are really just getting the existence that we deserve and I guess that we really do have a bit of a cheek to be complaining don't we?
Another problem that has led us to this point is the huge gulf between what we say and do.
We say murder is wrong, but support wars promoted to us on the flimsiest reasons and shout for the return of the noose at every hysterical headline that is designed to key into a primal urge for revenge.
We say poverty is wrong, but advocate a system that allows children to expire in gutters as long as that gutter isn't at the bottom of our paths.
We say greed is wrong, but in the main we would take the last slice of whatever was on offer before considering sharing it with another.
I could go on and on.
I read today that to eradicate hunger from the world would take an investment of $30 billion a year.
It's a huge sum of money and I'm sure that in these difficult economic times it would be understandable that most people would see that as an impossible task.
Yet would they still think that if they knew that the world allegedly spends that every eight days by pouring it into supporting military forces, wars and conflicts.
Now I would be fine with anyone attacking those figures, but double what is needed to eradicate hunger and half what is spent on conflict and the balance still seems.............well wrong.
So I ask you why? Why are we doing something that is so blatantly and fundamentally destructive?
Strip away much of the arguments and simplify them and what we really need to ask ourselves is why would we want to spend anything on wars when we could be spending it on building hospitals, schools, educating people on how to manage crops, creating vaccines and more?
There's that gulf between what we say and do right there.
Most of us would say we don't want to fund wars and we would rather our tax contributions went to more ethical projects, but what we do is allow it to be used to kill the guilty and innocent alike for reasons that most of us can't fathom.
Why don't we just listen to our hearts and stop trying to rationalise everything to excuse our behaviour and that of others.
The greed, the hate, the loathing for everything and the promotion of the welfare of the few over the welfare of the many has to simply stop.
This is a very beautiful world we live in.
This planet is lush with wonders and even we as a race, with all our flaws, are beautiful to.
We are unique in the universe.
So just stop for a minute, really stop and think.
What is going to make you happy, really happy?
The idea of making everything fairer for all, or the reality of making everything fairer for all.
We appear to be on the cusp of change. We are hanging on that moment before it all collapses, but this time lets make whatever we have that rises from the ashes better than just the repeating of the mistakes of the past.
Tomorrow really is another day. It really is another beginning. Lets not waste it.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Ross Gilchrist

I know quite a few very talented people.
So many that I really should have some sort of inferiority complex through associating with them.
One of them is multi-instrumentalist Ross Gilchrist who writes, records, produces and mixes everything himself, and in doing so he puts most full bands to shame.
Apart from his own material he is also the guitarist, backing singer and one fourth of Roscoe Vacant and The Gantin' Screichs. (A band who I consider to have released one of the strongest albums that I have heard this year.)
He's a busy man, maybe some would even say driven. A full on music machine who exuberantly pushes the envelope while maintaining a great deal of pop sensibilities in the music he writes.
It's sort of mind blowing to sit down and consider how much he does and the effort it must entail.
I think it's quite possible that he can bend time to fit everything he wants to do into a day.
Either that or his days are 32 hours long and he never sleeps.
When he plays live I usually stand there in slack jawed amazement, and that's not a good look for me, but I really can't help it.
He's a genius, a very entertaining genius, and one who I'm sure he will be outrageously embarrassed at me naming him as such, but I'm not the only one who thinks so and I guess he better get used to it.
Over the last year he released a little ep of mainly self penned numbers and then followed it with an album called 'Feersum Enjiin' that will soon be getting a release proper on Newtown Products Records.
So as this album will soon be available for everyone to buy I thought I would use it as an excuse to give him a mention on the blog and up some soundcloud links so that others can understand why I unashamedly name check him at every opportunity.
Acoustic tracks.
Thae Khali Yoonie Seshuns by Ross GIlchrist
Covers by Ross GIlchrist
Feersum Injiin
Feersum Enjiin by Ross GIlchrist

Saturday 1 October 2011

The Brains - Drunk Not Dead

On one hand the Misfits have just released an album that is overwhelmingly underwhelming, and on the other we have The Brains releasing 'Drunk Not Dead' that shows the 'Fits how it should really be done, but who wants to lay bets on what will sell more?
There's something very wrong about this because anyone who does love the Misfits must be hanging out for a real fix of that ol' graveyard rock and roll and here it is.
It's right here under their noses just waiting to be discovered.
Throughout the album it is everything that a horror punk album should be, and more.
The Brains know how to mix the perfect brew of darkness and humour.
This isn't death metal. It's Hammer horror, it's plan 9 from outer space, it's even rebel without a clue careening towards a party in hell in 3D.
So ditch the old and hitch a ride on this ghost train.
The party is in full swing and you're late already. Nuff said.