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Monday 30 July 2012

Buzzbomb - Secondary Objectives

The punky goodness just keeps coming today.
This time it's the turn of Buzzbomb to blow the cobwebs away, and it's something that they do with relative ease on 'Secondary Objectives'.
It's pretty much a pedal to the metal release. A Mach-II assault on the senses that manages to keep a firm grip on the melody.
It's that grip that elevates it above the vast majority of self professed punk bands who seem to consider that shouting loud in an aggressive macho manner is all that's required.
It's not.
In fact it's a boring dead end of creativity that those who pander to it are stuck in.
Some would argue that I'm wrong, but I care not a jot.
One dimensional punk rock bores the tits off most people, and thankfully this is the polar opposite of that.
This is fast and aggressive, but at the same time full of rollicking good fun.
Take the US bands of the eighties who were the bastard offspring on The Ramones and filter them through the history of the UK punk scene and the end result is Buzzbomb.
Pretty much the perfect balance between the two sounds.
A transatlantic behemoth of impressive stature that given the audience should impress on both sides of the ocean and everywhere else for that.
Full kudos goes to the guys in the band for breathing some fetid breath into the classic Sonic Reducer as well.

Jimmy Cliff - Rebirth.

I could virtually taste the Red Stripe and feel the sun on my face as I waited in anticipation for Jimmy Cliffs return with the Tim Armstrong (Rancid) produced 'Rebirth'.
Especially after the taster ep was released.
Then it landed and the full horror of the naff lyrics has trampled all over my expectations.
Jimmy Cliff himself sounds in fine voice and the musicianship is beyond criticism, but lyrically it's basic stuff.
In fact it's a struggle to listen to it from beginning to end.
A major disappointment.
It's not all bad of course, just horrendously patchy.
When it's good it's very good, but when it's bad it's very bad.
Unfortunately the majority of it is bad.
It's like the british weather. Every once in a while the sun breaks through, but a cloud is sure to follow and rain on the parade.
I never thought I would say this, but head to the loathsome i-tunes and pay for the good stuff and make yourself a solid mini album from it and leave the rest of it well alone.
Or wait a month and you will get it cheap in the bargains bins that it is destined to wash up in.
I need some Jaya the Cat the wash the taste of this away.
Feels like Jimmy has done a shit in the mouth of Bob Marley.

The Zips - 19 FOREVVA

When punk rock exploded onto the headlines of the nationals in the late seventies the effect would be seismic.
The aftershock rippled across the whole of the UK and the disenfranchised youth from everywhere answered the call to arms.
Of those who immediately stuck a safety pin through their heart and formed a band there's not that many from the provinces that are still around, and sadly those who are seem content to celebrate their own past glories and little else.
One of the exceptions is of course Scotland's very own The Zips, a band who have been kicking about in one form or another forever, and one who appear to have a fire that simply can't be extinguished.
I'm sure that a young Jon Zip, who watched the seventies give way to the eighties, could never have imagined that in 2012 he would still be fronting a band he formed then and would be continuing to release pent up energy through punk rock.
Yet here he is proclaiming he will be '19 Forevva', and along with his band-mates doing it with a great deal of heartfelt panache.
Music wise there's echoes of The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers that are evident throughout, and both influences allow the listener to comfortably slip into the groove without the need to acclimatize themselves to a sound that is initially completely unfamiliar.
This is what most would describe as traditional punk rock.
It's passionate, it has a point and it's sparks with life.
You could have a list and tick points off on it.
Political commentary, tick.
Outsider angst, tick.
Anthemic choruses, tick.
It's all there, and all very well done.
Especially on the track 'Straight to Helmand' that eloquently questions the loss of life in foreign lands and how we perceive it in society.
Who says modern music doesn't say anything anymore?
Here's the proof that they're wrong.
Get on this. You wont be disappointed.

Choking Susan - I was a teenage tranny

Choking Susan with their evocatively titled 'I was a teenage tranny' release are without a doubt worshipping at the alter of 'Da Brudders'.
There's no way around not mentioning it.
Every track could have been spawned from the pen of Dee Dee, but only after he's spent a night on the town with Jayne County and fried his brain with amyl nitrate.
It sounds like a filthy audio travel guide to the sex clubs of the Bowery. And that's a good thing.
Can you imagine Joey singing 'Oprah's Sweet Tampon'?
No, neither can I. So that's where Colleen Caffeine fearlessly comes in and kicks the shit out of the song.
In parts it's like the Lunachicks with balls.
In other parts it's just like a dirt bomb going off in a strippers closet.
This is actually what I want from my punk rock.
A fistful of real songs with a sense of humour that I can bounce about punching the air in time with.
Fuck all that testosterone fuelled heavy metal bollocks that masquerades as punk rock.
This is far more anti authoritarian as it pushes its outsiders status with it's tongue firmly in its cheek.
It's a debauched classic that stinks of the morning after the night before.
A glorious celebration of pushing the envelope of good taste, whatever that may be.
Somewhere the moral majority can feel their bowels loosening in fear at the thought of Choking Susan coming to town, and that pleases me.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Tommy Reilly/Tragic O'Hara/Little Fire/Chloe Simpson - Su Casa - 28/07/12 (Ayr)

Is this the winds of change happening?
Two gigs in Ayrshire last night that I know of, and both sold out.
In Kilmarnock the newly reformed Ideals played to a packed Bakers, and according to all early reports it was in colloquial terms a 'belter'.
Meanwhile in Ayr Tommy Reilly stormed Su Casa with some able support from Tragic O'Hara, Little Fire and Chloe Simpson.

While it's sad that in both cases people were being turned away at the doors of the venues, it's also something that I am quietly pleased about as for once the audiences were pulling their weight and making the effort to sample what is on offer from the many talented people we have playing for us around this area.
Speaking of talented people that neatly brings me to Chloe Simpson who was opening the night in Su Casa.
This was the second time that I have seen her play and it was a very different performances than the previous one.
Last time there seemed to be a pop angle to how she was promoting her songs. Akin to someone like Kate Nash. Yet on this outing it's a more modern folkish take on the same material.
Even now in the cold light of the morning after the night before I'm not sure what one I prefer as both are equally as entertaining.
It's not an issue though, as at eighteen years old Chloe has plenty of time to experiment with her own material, and very obviously has the talent to take it in whatever direction she wants.
There's no doubt that it's going to be interesting keeping tabs on how she is getting on.
While a great deal of precocious talent has graced Su Casa it would be fair to say that along with other young women - like Megan Blyth and Anna Sweeney - that Chloe is up there leading the pack.

Following on from Chloe was Little Fire who was playing his second gig after being involved in an accident that left him out of commission for a while.
I'm not sure if he was just enthused at being back playing, or felt that he had some ground to catch up on, but this was a muscular performance with him attacking his material with renewed relish.
Everyone is still waiting with anticipation for the release of his debut album, and performances like this are raising the bar on what to expect.
Yet personally I feel quietly confident that he will deliver on all that is promised.
There's a warmth to his material that's an attraction, it brings people in, even when it is being lustily pushed forth into a crowd as it was here.
It's that spark of a connection that is the sign of a performer having something special, some attribute that not all artists have regardless of their virtuosity, and that something special can't even really be quantified, but Little Fire has it and he proves it every time that he picks up a guitar and sings.

It feels like a long time since I last seen Tragic O'Hara play, and that's probably because it is.
So this was a welcomed opportunity to reacquaint myself with his oeuvre.
I'm not sure if this was a case of absence making the heart grow fonder, but it was as if I was hearing him with fresh ears, and what I was hearing could be described as a master-class in how to entertain.
Solid songs, unbridled talent and an easy, but humorous rapport with the audience made this a real stand out performance.
Along with his own material he threw in his take on the Cypress Hill track 'Hits from a bong that features a nice segue into 'Son of a Preacher Man' while accompanying himself with the aid of a loop pedal.
It all seems so effortless, but of course it isn't of course.
Big surprise for me was the de-constructed 'Jump On' that features a higher pitched vocal performance.
The reworking of it manages to mould it into a whole new song that exists separately from the original recording. Both of them excellent.
In fact lets just say that this was pretty much a faultless performance, and it was one that I thought Tommy Reilly would have a problem following.

Fortunately the night didn't end on an anti-climax and Tommy - who seems to be the shyest most self effacing man in music - delivered a fantastic performance of material old and new.
It's the new songs that really shone though. That's not to take anything away from the older material, but it seems glaringly obvious that Tommy has went from being a very good songwriter to a great one.
Take 'Six Billion People' as an example. It's quite possibly a world wide hit in the waiting.
It's a song that sounds like an acoustic take on a late seventies power pop classic that's bolstered with a chorus that could very easily be transferred to the terraces and roared back at him like an anthem.
Absolutely stunningly good.
Then there 'Shut My Eyes'. A song that if there's any justice should jettison him firmly front and centre of the wider public's consciousness.
I pledged for the forthcoming album that these songs will feature on and while I've heard both from seeing him play before, and revisited them a few times on the excellent Tenementtv, it's only now that I'm feeling that the day the CD lands on my doormat can't come soon enough.
He deservedly left to an enthusiastically baying crowd who wanted more, and while that was the end of the set in Su Casa he will be back in the line ups for both Prestfest and Live@Troon.
Right now it seems that Ayrshire can't get enough of Tommy and based on this performance it's very obvious why.

Back in the saddle.

Apologies for the extended break from updating the blog.
Especially to those who have sent me review material and Willie Dick and Gary Sunshine who both graciously gave their time for an interview.
Today will be spent catching up.
The reasons for the lack of activity are the usual combinations of work commitments, family life and the general trials and tribulations that are cast in the paths of us all.
I actually ended up turning off my mobile phone, dropped out from social networking and recharged my batteries by filling the time with watching movies with my kids and reading.
I'd recommend that everyone does this.
Even for a week as it was thoroughly refreshing.
Anyway. Willie Dick is coming (pun intended) and so is Gary Sunshine.
There's going to be a review of Tommy Reilly's fantastic show at Su Casa.
There's some Wickerman stuff coming as well including an interview with Finding Albert and Tragic O'Hara.
Along with that lot there's going to be more reviews than you could shake a stick at, and no, I've never understood what that means either.
Meanwhile as everyone waits in anticipation for me to actually deliver on all this, here's a nice relaxing image for you to look at. 
Now just imagine yourself on that beach. Close your eyes and soak up the sun.
I'll be back to rudely interrupt you later.
Cya soon.   

Monday 16 July 2012

Punk across the Globe

Here's the itsaXXXXthings idea of a chain letter.

Pass this on to at least ten friends, or bad shit will happen to you.
I mean really bad shit.
Shit so bad that any previous shit that has happened will pale into insignificance next to the outrageous amount of shit that you will experience.
Think of the shittiest day that you have ever had, and then multiply how that felt by twenty then consider how bad that was.
Really think about it. Relive it. Taste the pain of it.
Now consider that to be only one tenth of the shit that will befall you if you don't pass this on.
Now that's bad shit isn't it?
On the plus side if you do pass it on you will be as happy as a unicorn who farts rainbows, and that's damn happy.

So here's the deal.
A mate of mine who goes by the name of Kyle Thunder, the mighty drummer of Filthy Little Secret and equally mighty bassist of The Bucky Rage - by the way that's his full name. He wont answer to Kyle, or even Kyle Thunder. You need to add 'the mighty drummer of Filthy Little Secret and equally mighty bassist of The Bucky Rage' to get a response from him now - has decided that he wants to do some free online punk compilations.
All you have to do is donate a song to a comp and he will do the rest.
It's non profit making and the artists keep the rights to all the songs.
All he wants to do is build up a shitload of comps from every corner of this ball shaped world.
He's going to be a punk rock evangelist spreading the word.

If anyone is interested in joining him on this venture, or knows anyone who would be interested then you can message him here for more details.

Sunday 15 July 2012

Love Music punk festival

Love Music, the record store, is virtually the last man standing in the war against the supermarkets, the online offshore tax avoiding outlets, and the convenience of downloading.
It's a war that has taken many casualties across the whole of the UK, and those who are trying hard to hold their ground are often finding themselves brought to their knees by the major companies.
Companies who are aided and abetted by a public who seem intent in pursuing aural mediocrity to consume like fast food.
It's a very sad state of affairs and very often the owners of independent record stores must look out from behind their counters at the lone shopper and wonder if it really is worth their while, if there really is any purpose to them sweating blood, and probably dispensing tears, to provide a service to a community that largely seems indifferent to their efforts.
Fortunately there can be a light at the end of the tunnel, but it can only be reached if people are willing to throw themselves behind the owners of independent record stores, and not just pay lip service, but actually go in and purchase some CD's and vinyl from them.
However for people to do that they need to be aware that stores like Love Music still exist, and it was to this end that Fraser of Glasgow punk band The Murderburgers and Sandy, the owner of the store, arranged an afternoon of free live entertainment in an effort to draw the music lovers to them, and to hopefully press gang some people into action.

The first person to perform, Cal Murray, was drafted in at the last minute to replace Uniforms, and to be frank that suited me fine as I've never heard Uniforms, but I'm very impressed with the direction that Cal (Plimptons/Jumkman's Choir) is taking his solo material in, and I'm always keen to see it getting a live airing as currently that's the only place you can lend an ear to it.
While it's true that young Cal has been treading the boards in bands for years - and all of them being very good bands - it's my opinion that it's with his own material that he really delivers.
While people drop the name of Frank Turner with alarming regularity as they promote their love of acoustic punk troubadours, I could argue that they are only doing so until they hear Cal.
While Frank pushes the earnest protest folk singer angle to great effect, Cal effortlessly manages to cover similar ground, but with much more humour, and dare I say honest passion, to it.
Whether he's singing about gender rights, how to kill a dog or questioning relationships he finely balances it all together and makes it sound hugely accessible, and it takes no great leap of the imagination to consider that great things could just be around the corner for him.
Today the corner of a record store, tomorrow the world.

Jon Zip was quick to follow Cal.
He's the elder statesman of the Glasgow punk scene.
He's been leading his band The Zips since 1978 and with a new album already out he's showing no signs of slowing down.
Equally he's providing audiences with no reason to say that he should.
Outside of the band format he's been stripping down old and new Zips songs and performing them acoustically, and similar to how someone like TV Smith can do the same with the songs of the Adverts, they don't lose any of the power they possess.
A song off the '19 Forevva' album called 'Straight to Helmand' amply provides proof of that.
It's strength lies in it being able to raise questions about the the loss of life that our government demands from those who are in the armed services while not banging a nationalistic drum, and juxtaposes that with the adulation that is given to television reality stars by the public.
Heavy stuff, but Jon's keeping the spirit of punk alive by vocally putting it out there.
Hopefully it wont be long until I see the whole band playing.

Next was Roscoe Vacant and the Gantin Screichs who easily maintained the momentum.
Each time I see them it sounds completely different. Mainly because there always seems to be variations of the line up.
Sometimes it's just Roscoe himself, on others it's the full electric line up, or as in this case it's sans drummer, but with new member Cal taking the place of the equally talented Ross Gilchrist.
Regardless of who is playing I've yet to be disappointed with whatever the band come up with, and this time they surpassed themselves in the entertainments stakes.
I couldn't really put my finger on why.
Maybe it was the quality of the sound which was excellent, or the bass lines that David Burns provided as they seemed to be right to the fore, or maybe it was the vocals that Cal brought to the mix.
In all probability it could possibly be a mix of all of the above.
Roscoe's delivery of the material itself was consistently strong, and even though he felt that his voice was giving out nearer the end as they went into Shortbread Tins and Tartan Hearts, it wasn't something that took from the performance, but instead gave it yet another twist.
Outstanding. Yet again.

Last time I seen Billy Liar was at the Wickerman festival virtually a year ago and for some reason I thought that this would have picked up from that point, but I was wrong.
In that year between then and now Billy has been road testing new songs, working on releasing more and grinding out performances all over Europe........and you can tell.
He's went from being an artist who would have been filed away as one to watch to being one who is here in the present delivering on every unuttered promise.
There's a bit of Hamish Imlach's observational humour being injected into his songs and along with how he barks it it, and thrashes at the strings, it packs a solid punch, even although it's being accompanied by a smile.
If he can capture even fifty percent of how it comes across live in the studio then I expect that we are about to get something that's going to cause some waves in the acoustic punk scene, and no doubt beyond that to.
It's very apparent to anyone who was in Love Music that the talent playing could hold their own against any of the major bands who play the much larger venues and draw much larger crowds.
Billy himself is an excellent example of this.
Give him some heavy rotation on a music channel and slap his face on the cover of some mainstream magazines and he would sell out the ABC that's owned by O2.
It's not that he would have to promote a different image, or even tailor his material to a different audience.
It's just that those who wouldn't make a trip to a local independent record store, or feel that they should check out an unsigned band in a club, need to have him thrust in their faces for them to begin to appreciate how good he is.

Sadly once Billy finished I had to leave and missed what I expect was a great set from the Murderburgers. (If anyone wants to review it then I'll put it up)
However as an afternoon for reaffirming my faith in independent music, and those who provide us with it goes, the job had been done, and apart from the smile I was wearing as I left I also had a vinyl copy of The Bucky Rage's 'Cut 'Em Down' under my arm.

Top drawer entertainment in a real music lovers environment.
You can't beat it.

Love Music Record Store

Murderburgers review by The Murderburgers.

"If these ugly young men had used less fireworks indoors then less people would have got hurt."

Saturday 7 July 2012

Brown Bear and the Bandits/Little Fire/Megan Blyth - Su Casa - 5/7/12 (Ayr)

It's the dawning of a new era for Su Casa.
Gone is the regular weekly showcase of talent that blurred the lines between an open mic night and a gig proper, and in its place is the more traditional fair of headline act and supports.
It's a natural evolution for the small coffee shop that has carved a name for itself as one of the main spawning pools for talent in Ayrshire, and a move that should be mutually beneficial for the venue itself, the artists that play there and the audience who keep coming back for more.
Tonight it's local heroes Brown Bear and the Bandits making an appearance to celebrate being together for a year by returning to the scene of the crime that was their first ever gig.
Handily, and in the spirit of killing two birds with one stone, it's also the opportunity to stretch their muscles and loosen up before they take T in the Park by storm.

The night however doesn't start with Brown Bear and the Bandits.
Instead Su Casa mainstay Little Fire - who I last seen in Su Casa finishing a night off - neatly provides the link between what was then and what is now.

With the new set length that the venue provides he breathes more easily in the time frame and positively widens the scope of the material that he can push out to the audience.
While it's true that I've lost count of how many times I have seen him perform, I've yet to see a set that hasn't had at least one fresh moment included in it.
Watching Little Fire is akin to participating in a work in progress. Ideas are formed, tempo's are changed, the passion of the delivery is tweaked and the spirit of the music is ever growing and reaching out to ensnare new listeners.
This time was no different with the inclusion of a song that will feature on his forthcoming album length release of original material, and an old one called Horny that was resurrected and pumped full of vigour.
Refreshingly refusing to be pigeon holed with a folk, indie or even pop tag Little Fire is moving forwards towards being the singer/songwriter/performer who will be all things to all men - and of course women to.

Following on from Little Fire with her debut at Su Casa was Megan Blyth, and an impressive debut it turned out to be.
A precocious talent, she has the ability to mould her vocals warmly around the simple guitar accompaniment that she provides, and in doing so magically creates a rich tapestry of folk influenced songs that simply soar in the live setting.
If this is the sound of a young women taking tentative steps into a career as an musical artists then what the future could hold for her is something I can't actually wrap my head around.
It sounds like she is starting off at a point that often takes other talented artists years to reach.
Imagine hearing Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins actually enunciating words and refraining from delving into a Gaelic version of singing in tongues.
If you, like me, loved the whole idea of that band, but struggled with that ethereal aspect of them, then Megan is going to provide the alternative that will tick more boxes.
That she is already at a level to deliver that alternative is pretty much mind blowing.

Unfortunately I missed the immensely talented Paul McGranaghan who played next. I know that he has talent in abundance as I've seen him before, and as I could hear hear plenty of rapturous applause from within Su Casa there's no doubt in my mind that his set wasn't one that could come close to being described as falling short on delivering.

That draw of the evening were of course Brown Bear and the Bandits, a band whose star is definitely ascending rapidly.
Matthew, Kay and Stuart must feel that someone has hit the fast forward button on the single year of the bands existence.
Yet I sincerely doubt that you could find anyone who would begrudge their success as they are sickeningly good, and genuinely nice people to.
In a world where it often seems that the majority are happy with what could best be described as lowest common denominator entertainment, paired with a lust to laud petty nastiness as an attribute that we should all aspire to, they are swimming against the flow and gaining well deserved kudos for being everything that isn't shiny and shallow.
This is a real band, a band that fit together perfectly, and a band who still possess a degree of innocence, freshness and vibrancy about them that works as an integral part of the attraction.
That they are within arms length of achieving everything that a young band could wish for is also something that is tangible in their live performances.
It often seems that when everything is going well in life, it is then that we are at our best, and right now everything is going very well for Brown Bear and the Bandits and it shows.
When they start their set in Su Casa they immediately set the bar high for themselves and maintain an exuberant pace throughout.
There's no real let up from start to finish, and it's all done with huge smiles.
I can't help but think that their set could be the template that's used to give other less entertaining bands a clue about how it should be done.
Familiar songs from their ep burst out of the gate, some solid new material is tried out, and a cover of the Talking Heads classic 'Psycho Killer' probably had Tina Weymouth restlessly moaning in her sleep due to sensing that someone somewhere was showing people how the bass line could be turbo charged.
It's pretty much a faultless gig. 
In fact scratch that 'pretty much' bit. 
It is a faultless gig.
As the weather report for T in the Park is torrential rain it could be likely that Brown Bear and the Bandits will be the act that provides a real ray of sunshine that lifts the spirits of the damp festival goers.
They certainly lifted the spirits of the audience in Su Casa.
If you haven't seen them yet.
Then do yourself a favour.

ep launch review (Su Casa)
Brown Bear and The Bandits interview

Thursday 5 July 2012

Deer Tick rock my world

Every once in a while someone will ask me what the blog is all about and I often struggle to give a cohesive answer.
Strip away all the bullshit and distill it down to the most basic level and I suppose all I'm really doing with it is communicating.
Some of it is sharing a joke with a mate, a nameless and faceless mate that's out there somewhere.
Other bits are akin to political arguments over a pint.
Mainly though the blog is just the modern version of me walking to a friends house with records under my arm so that we can have a night ooohing and aahing over new, or newly discovered, sounds.
So in that spirit here's Deer Tick.
I got a CD of them today and I know virtually nothing about them, and I'm sure some friends will jump ion here and say 'how te fuck had you not heard of them' but that doesn't matter.
What matters is that I want to share them with you now.
So here they are.

Buy Deer Tick stuff here. You can thank me later.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Gums - A Glasgow Summer ep.

Who would have believed it.
Self proclaimed super group 'Gums' have finally managed to actually record something.
I suppose it is at this point I should put in a disclaimer about the super group tag.
When they say super don't think of it as a collection of famous musos jamming, instead think of super as being interchangeable with fandabidozi or cool as fuck.
You got that?
Right. Who likes Arab Strap?
Nah. I'm not a big fan either, but there is about 10% of the concept that I do like if I round it up from 5.1%.
So anyway consider Gums as the band who flushed the 94.9% of the dreary meanderings of Arab Strap down the pan and squeezed loads of poppy goodness out of the remaining 5.1%, and even magically kept a wee bit of the Saturday morning after the Friday night hangover in there.
If you can wrap your head around that then add in that on the Friday night they were drunkenly listening to Teenage Fanclub, and when the hit the studio feeling a bit worse for wear some of that filtered into what they were doing as well.
Still with me?
Next try to imagine that you have at some point of your life lived within five mile radius of a train station that links with Glasgow Central.
(You don't have to do this if you do, or have.)
Now imagine that throughout your life you have visited Glasgow and drank under the trees in its many parks, wandered the street in the rain at 3am, slept behind a skip and been pished on at least once.
Hold that thought.
Let it seep in.
Got it?
That's the 'Gums' ep.

PS. I haven't listened to Arab Strap in years so the percentages may be off by a point or two.

Download it here for free....yes free.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Cats come out in opposition to cuts.

This morning I had my usual depressing perusal of the news.
The loathsome bankers are deservedly getting it in the neck.
The European Union is in the headlines again with yet another call for a referendum.
There's still countries on the brink of fiscal collapse.
The Scottish independence discussion is rumbling on with a great deal of fire and little illumination.
Then there is talk of cuts, more cuts and guess what?
That's right.
Even more cuts.
While the nation itself is being bled dry from this death of a thousand plus cuts ideology that the Conservatives myopically cling to I noticed in an article about it from the Guardian that a man had set himself on fire outside his local job centre.
Allegedly he has some mental health issues and it had been decided that they weren't something that was a hindrance to him finding work.
It would be easy to claim it as an isolated incident, but the reality is that suicide rates are rising, and many would argue that the rise is linked to benefits either being lost completely, or being diminished to the point that the person receiving them is no longer in a position to care for themselves.
Some will however state with some authority that this is balderdash, and that evidence such as the suicide notes stating that a person can no longer face the future due to their financial situation are a red herring that do nothing more than muddy the waters as benefit changes are necessary.
(Not as necessary as closing tax loop holes that benefit the rich though).
Regardless of that opposing argument so well put I would think that most people possessed with a degree of common sense can spot the connection.

So anyway. I posted a few links on facebook to a couple of the stories, but then I got to thinking.
Is anyone really clicking on them?
Are these stories just too depressing to contemplate, and therefore a turn off?
Isn't it just easier to focus on what a mate had for breakfast, a comment on the weather or the picture of a fluffy kitten doing something cute?
I suppose that it actually is.
Who really wants to give their undivided attention to the reality of the world while there's an alternative that doesn't feel so emotionally bruising?
I commented that the attraction of the fluffy kittens is akin to Nero fiddling while Rome burned…..........and that sparked an idea.
I got to thinking that maybe I could pair the fluffy kittens with a more biting comment than 'I'm fluffy, ergo you must love me'.
So that's what I did.
Here they are, and feel free to share them about.
Nothing to look at. Move along folks. Nothing important here to think about.

Monday 2 July 2012

Ginger Wildheart - 555%

I remember when the Clash released Sandinista!
That huge, and flawed, treble album of experimental muscle flexing that pushed the boundaries of punk.
While it drew plenty of critical praise for attempting to deliver a potpourri of genres, while retaining the character of the Clash, it also left many fans considering it to be too large a portion to devour all at once without it repeating on them like aural indigestion.
In hindsight it's an album that lends itself to being dipped into, and not one that should be approached in one sitting.
The reason I mention the Clash album is because as soon as I pledged to buy the self released Ginger Wildheart treble album the spirit of Sandinista visited me like a Dickensian ghost to point out everything that could go wrong with the idea.
Like a black cloud it followed me around coaching caution even as the video updates from the Ginger Wildheart camp flowed in with reassuring regularity.
No matter how often we pledger's were invited behind the scenes to see how the album was progressing I couldn't shake the thought that maybe, just maybe, like the trailer for a Hollywood blockbuster we were getting to see all the best bits.
Thankfully the progress of the album ran smoothly and we investors who showed faith didn't have to fret about breakdowns in communication between the musicians, breaks to recharge batteries, or weeks of zero information being released that would lend itself to chipping away at the trust placed in the project.
Instead from the outside looking in it was plain sailing all the way and the album was delivered as promised leaving us with just one thing to consider.
And that's is it any good?
It could be easy to be distracted by the media circus that has sprung up around it.
The press are loving the David and Goliath aspects of the release.
With one mighty swing Ginger has launched a copy of 555% from his catapult and lodged it in the eye of the mighty behemoth that is the record industry.
Yet if we ignore all that and focus on the album the question of 'is it any good' still hovers there demanding to be answered, and the answer is that it isn't just good, but it's damn good.
It's not just a triumphant middle fingered salute at the major labels, but also a stand alone work that's verging on genius.
Over the course of the three discs the music touches on the eclectic tastes of Ginger while maintaining pop driven hooks that enable it to be a hugely accessible listening experience.
This is his shiny pop album, and within the framework of that he visits the sounds of rockers like Cheap Trick, ELO, Sparks and Queen, the global big hitters like the Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel and embraces rap, funk, post punk electronica, and even some hints of world music, while throughout maintaining the spirit of his band The Wildhearts.
It delivers on every promise he made about this release, and every unsaid promise that his previous material has hinted at.
If anyone doubted that Ginger could release a single solid pop album, then this treble disc affair is his coup de grace to the non believers.
By gently, and comfortably, pushing at the boundaries - instead of taking a blitzkrieg approach - he's held it all together and by-passed the problems that Sandinista had, and instead of going hell for leather to mess with your head it challenges expectations without leaving a bruise to the psych.
It's as clever as it is entertaining and I suspect that right now Ginger is sitting somewhere and wondering if this is all a dream that he will wake up from.
If so, then someone lean over and nip him, look him in the eye and say 'you did fuckin did it'.
The future is bright, the future is Ginger (sic)  

How it all began.

Sunday 1 July 2012

The Dreaming Spires - Brothers in Brooklyn

When the rain continues to tap a cadence on the window panes, and the summer sun seems to be something that only exists in my memory I've found myself reaching for 'Brothers in Brooklyn' by The Dreaming Spires, closing my eyes and drifting off to warmer climbs.
If I lose myself enough in the music I could swear that I can feel the heat of the sun on my face as I travel with the band on a tour of the USA.
It's a journey that has grand rural vistas rolling past as the miles are eaten up, it's got large mirrored tower blocks with a thousand suns reflected in them that are vying for attention with shimmering highways that point to the horizon.
It's not often that an album can manage to transport the listener so completely - and keep them in the world that the music conjures up - but 'Brothers in Brooklyn' does.
The quality of the songwriter is beyond reproach, with the music and lyrics appearing to simply flow into existence.
I suspect that while many of us have an idea in our heads that we fail to transfer over into reality, that this is quite probably very close to what brothers Robin and Joe Bennett heard in theirs.
That they managed to take thoughts, feelings and experiences and provide such an organic sounding facsimile is something that I would consider to be a very rare thing indeed.
There's the essence of The Byrds, Tom Petty and more big hitters from the US flavouring the album, but it's all filtered through the eyes of strangers in a strange land, and it is this mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar that adds a little more frisson to it than most can provide.
Even when the rain does fall, as it does on the beginning of Strength of Strings, it manages to add to the sonic shading, rather than stand out as a pothole in the road that jars.
Instead of approaching this as an album of a collection of songs it should rather be considered as a ticket for an enjoyable journey.
One that will leave you feeling relaxed, refreshed, recharged, and ready to take on whatever the world wants to throw at you.

Dirt Box Disco - Legends

As mad as a box of frogs who have participated in too many hallucinogenic drug trials they may be, but Dirt Box Disco are no mere novelty act.
Underneath the greasepaint, and behind the post apocalyptic graphic novel imagery, is a band who can write and delivery material that given half a chance would put the majority of punk and rock media darlings that magazines like Kerrang promote firmly into the shade.
If this was a movie then they're the band playing on the radio as the anti hero barrels down a highway littered with burnt out vehicles as he leaves the ruins of a city in the rear view mirror.
Remember when My Chemical Romance released Danger Days and mixed some Mad Max. Jamie Hewlett and glam trash punk rock together?
Well while most punks wont have a clue what I'm talking about, I was actually very impressed with that, but this might have been the album they were really reaching for.
If that album was the foreplay, but this is the money shot.
'Legends' is Dirt Box Disco channeling the spirit of Turbonegro in a Clockwork Orange bar covering the UK Subs in a suburb of the City of Oz with amps whose lowest setting is eleven........and then they burst into the next song and you're transported somewhere else, somewhere that Twisted Sister are professionally arm wrestling with Sigue Sigue Sputnik as the Ramones look on.
Every song is a phasers set on stun party.
'Legends' indeed.