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Saturday 20 October 2012

Jake Bugg - Taste It ep

I have no idea why Jake Bug decided to breath some life into a mix of Skiffle and Mersey Beat, but that he has isn't something that I would feel the need to snort in derision at.
For everyone who wants to make some sort of big deal about it all having been done before I would ask them what they would rather have, Jake's interpretation of the past, or the plethora of chart acts that have swamped the airways with their lowest common denominator ear cancer crap?
It's not a difficult question, and if the rose tinted music snobbery was set aside I'm sure I could hazard a guess at the answer.
So now that this is out of the way I suppose that I should argue that as everything has been done before then what we should be really looking for is a fresh take on the past, or a slightly different mix of styles to give the illusion of originality.
If that is the case then I can quite easily live with this his skillful attempts of bringing a sound that was slowly gathering dust in the past into the glare of the present.
That it doesn't actually sound old, and instead sounds fresh and vibrant does it no harm either.
It doesn't seem to matter if he is looking to provide a burst of rockabilly, or like on Green Man a vocal that resurrects the sound of the jug as used by the 13th Floor Elevators it all sounds cool as fuck, and isn't that what the bottom line should be anyway?
Does it sound good?
Does it make you want to dance?
Does it make you feel something, anything?
If the answer is yes to any of the above then just go and buy this ep, and get his album as well.
In fact if you can get a ticket to see him then do that to
Consider it your own little rebellion.
A two fingered salute at David Guetta, LMFAO and the like.

The game is afoot

Have I ever shared with everyone that I'm a bit of a Sherlock Holmes fan?
I don't recall.

Anyway, I don't wear a deerstalker, carry a pipe around with me or claim that the game is afoot at every opportunity, neither do I play the violin or dabble in narcotics.
So most people who know me probably weren't aware of my fascination for Doyle's most famous character.
I actually own all the original books, and a fair smattering of the novels that carry the legend on into the present day.
I also have a rather sizeable collection of DVDs featuring the detectives detective from cinema to television.
These range from the 1954 US series with Ronald Howard to the more recent BBC success that starred the excellent Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role (and for those who haven't seen the 1954 series, and laud the originality of the more recent version, then you should have a gander and wonder at the audacity of the virtually word by word lift of certain scenes. Naughty, naughty to say the least for the lack of a credit).
Of course I also have the Jeremy Brett ITV series with the two Dr Watson's that most fans will still accept as the definitive Holmes, and who am I to argue the point.
Add in all the Basil Rathbone films, the recent Guy Ritchie directed blockbuster movies, some made for television feature length films, the Hammer studios version of Hound of the Baskervilles and more, and then bits and bobs such as the Murder Rooms series and such, and while I don't have nearly the exhaustive collection that some fans have I do seem to be able to claim to have a little more than a passing interest.

This all leads me to the new US series 'Elementary' that has had some fans wringing their hands and uttering such strong words as sacrilege.
I mean a female Holmes....well I never.

Apparently they wanted to simply make a US version of 'Sherlock' in a similar style to their versions of 'The Office' and more recently 'Shameless'.
Just a straight remake with US stars in the roles, but when that idea was knocked on the head for whatever reason, they still went ahead with a show starring Jonny Lee Miller in the lead role, Lucy Liu as Watson and Aidan Quinn as a sort of 'Lestrade' figure.

It's all rather interesting as that's now three roles that Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch have shared.
Both alternated between playing Doctor Frankenstein and his creation in Danny Boyles adaptation of Mary Shelley's iconic creationist tale, and now here they are playing the master detective.
This mirroring of characters they have played has obviously lent itself to some wanting to claim that ones interpretation is of course better than the other, and in general as the BBC series does lean more towards a modern take on Doyle's character, rather that the American show using the character as a springboard to introduce a rather new, and less conventionally recognizable Holmes, the fans are nailing their colours to Cumberbatch's performance as the one that is superior.
However that's something that I would maybe question.
After watching a couple of episodes of the new series it's like comparing apples to oranges.
It isn't really a case of one being better than the other, just different, and isn't there room for both anyway?

What I would say is that maybe they shouldn't have used Doyles characters at all, and simply went for a detective series that people could claim featured a lead character who was Holmes-esque.
In doing that they could have avoided all the negative fan loathing and just allowed the show to find it's own feet as one that pays homage to the Holmes character.
They didn't though, and instead kept with a tenuous link and what we get is Jonny Lee Miller playing Holmes as a thoroughly modern character.
Sort of like a Derren Brown on steroids.
He's flawed, he's had his problems with alcohol, and even seems to have had past relationship issues, he's tattooed, he's edgier than expected, and the loose cannon aspects seem less to do with the always held belief that the character is operating in the autism range, and more to do with a bit of psychosis maybe linked to his previous alcohol abuse paired with his level of intelligence.
It's a strong take on a modern Holmes and could be described as the dreaded re-imagining of the character, but I found him interesting and thoroughly watchable.
In fact I'll go as far as to say his portrayal of a Holmes grounded in the present is rather fantastic.
Similarly Lucy Liu isn't playing a Watson that has a strong link to the defined character as we recognize him, but instead she's a Watson who is paid by the father of Holmes to keep an eye on his wayward son and ensure he doesn't have a relapse into addiction.
Apart from her hanging about with Holmes as his sidekick and foil, the only real link to the well known character is a surname and her previous employment as a doctor (surgeon in this case).
This side stepping of the heavily defined characters is really what the draw is rather than it being a negative point.
That they aren't aping the 'Sherlock' series is its saving grace.
So as Sky have bought the rights to air the show here in the UK I would recommend it as a very entertaining new serious.
Give it a go and you may be surprised.
Just remember to put any preconceived ideas to the side.

Oh and if you do want a fix of a more traditional Holmes then read 'The House of Silk' by Anthony Horowitz as that nails the spirit of the originals with a nice twist.  

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Sean Kennedy - Love don't live her ep

Pop music has lost any sense of individuality it would seem.
Or you could be forgiven for thinking that if you were lending an ear to the national charts.
A parade of soundalike material that runs from r&b songs with a bit of rap, to rap tunes with some r&b added, and then there's the occasional boy/girl band, or solo boy/girl act, ploughing an equally redundant furrow.
The days of the singer songwriters making their mark in the public's consciousness seems to be consigned to the past.
Of course there are exceptions to the rule.
We have Paulo Nutini for one, and Gary Barlow and Ray Lamontagne to mention another two, but to paraphrase Ol' Blue Eyes they are 'then again too few to mention'.
Hopefully there's room for one more though, as Sean Kennedy has shows with his debut ep that rather than reaching for the bottom rung and looking to cling on, he has instead delivered material strong enough to ensure himself a solid footing next to those who are already enjoying a great deal of success.
Across the breadth of the five songs he displays a knack for writing material that immediately beds in, and even acts as a catalyst to thinking who could sing the songs if he limited himself to the song writing side.
From his acoustic tracks to the lush orchestral arrangements on others there's really no low points in the ep's totality.
Nothing jars, and it's a very smooth listening experience with the song writing and the musicianship maintaining a very high standard.
Someone like Simon Cowell would sell a limb to sign Sean Kennedy, and that's not to belittle what Sean is doing by mentioning his name in the same breath as the music fans 'he who cannot be named', but instead to draw attention to how the material is already perfectly formed and very obviously ripe to be put out there for a large demographic of the public to enjoy.
If this ep serves to ease the door open a bit, then a full album of a similar quality will kick it wide open and Sean's name could very well be hanging over the doors of some major venues.  

Monday 15 October 2012

The Rolling Stones can fuck right off.

Alton Towers most popular attraction in the year 2112

Like many others I watched Felix Baumgartner make his leap of faith in science yesterday.
From the edge of space he plummeted towards earth with the world watching.

Or most of the world.

Most because I noticed on the social networking site facebook that hidden in among all the very many comments about the jump, there was an alarming amount of people asking who he was, and what had just happened.
Even although those ignorant of what had happened were in the vast minority, there was enough of them for me to ask myself how they couldn't know.
People could be forgiven for not remembering his name, for failing to be able to rattle off the facts and figures, and more.
Even forgetting it was yesterday is fine.
No one really expects the guy next to them on the train, or the woman sitting in front of them on the bus, to be able to talk about how the suit Felix wore was designed, but I did find myself wondering how anyone in the western world who has the internet at the fingertips, frequent news reports on their televisions, and a plethora of newspapers and magazines at their disposal, could be unaware of what had happened in its totality.
Apart from the media informing them how could they have went through the week prior to it without even hearing a friend, colleague, or member of their family mention it?

To not know what was happening must have taken some effort.
There's a huge difference in not being interested in what this man was going to do, and not knowing he was going to do it is my point.

How does someone manage to get from day to day with this inability or unwillingness, to process what is going on around them?

Is it possible that they just lack enough intelligence to read, or hear, about it and keep it in their noggins, or are they so narcissistic that what colour they are going to dye their hair, or the complex consideration required to decide if they need to top up their tan, squeezes everything else out?
What's the worst of the two?

Obviously if someone has just grasped onto consciousness after being in a coma for a few weeks then we can let their ignorance of the event slide.
Likewise those who have far more pressing issues to concentrate on.
It's a fact that for some their lives are currently on hold as they deal with serious issues of their own, or that of a family member.
If that is the case then it's a bonafide reason, and not an excuse for them being unaware of what's going on in the world around them, but what about those who did post on facebook.
The people asking what was happening after the fact, with their 'whose this Felix guy' and 'what's everyone taking about' comments?
Are these people the same ones who can tell you who is joining the cast of Hollyoaks an hour after it's announced and insist that The Only Way Is Essex is reality a television show, but can't tell us who the current prime minister is?
I think they might be.

I suppose the thing that bothers me about this is that the total lack of awareness from some begs the question what else are they ignorant of.
If they can fail to pick up on a the media circus surrounding the jump then how many other more newsworthy stories are failing to register with them?
I wonder if they know that we are in the midst of a recession, that this government are tearing apart the NHS, the welfare state, and anything else that they can think of?

It's a scary thought.

Then again maybe they have the right attitude and I should just concentrate on remembering the schedules for the television soap operas and keep the real world outside.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Ray Davies - 12/10/12 - Royal Concert Hall (Glasgow)

My eighteen year old son is semi stuck in the sixties when it comes to music.
Occasionally he will wander into the seventies, but apart from a very few exceptions the eighties, nineties and the naughties hold little that manages to hold onto his attention, and you can forget pretty much anything from 2010 till now.
Give him Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and pad out a record collection with some Howlin' Wolf and his ilk and he's as happy as a pig in the proverbial.

Due to this the last few years gig wise has seen him ticking off a sort of bucket list of acts.
He's seen Dylan a few times, went to Amsterdam to see Roger Waters perform The Wall, and a bunch of other shows like that.
This week it was the turn of The Kinks, or to be more specific Ray Davies of The Kinks, who was playing in Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall.

Now I'm a fan.
I like the Beatles and The Stones as well, but both of these bands are so huge that it often pisses me off that people forget about how good The Kinks, The Animals, and more were, and in some cases still are if they are playing.
So I was looking forward to the gig as much as he was.

Before Ray was to entertain us there was however the support to be considered.
A young Londoner called James Walbourne who fitted in well as an opening act.
As the crowd were mainly of a certain age - with many of them obviously there for nostalgia reasons - it wouldn't have worked if the act supporting Ray Davies was an electro pop punk band with a transsexual front person.
Even if their name was Lola.
So it was fitting that James plays blues, country and a bit of skiffle sounding guitar. and accompanies it with a fine voice that wouldn't have sounded out of place in the sixties.
It's really exactly what the punters would have wanted, and it's what they got.
I was tempted to buy some of his Edwyn Collins produced CDs, but at six quid for an ep and a tenner for a four track 10” that was there I managed to keep my hands in my pockets.

While his set was enjoyable, and he's a talented young man, for me it failed to reach a point that I would want to invest money in any of his releases, or even make that much of an effort to seek him out to see him perform again.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy what he does.
Just that on this night, at that specific time, it didn't act as a catalyst to me exploring more.

Ray of course came on to a heroes welcome.
A much deserved one in my opinion, and with just his guitarist by his side went straight into a run of four Kinks songs semi acoustically.
It's not just his interpretations of his own songs that impress, but also the easy way he communicates with the crowd.
He's quietly self deprecating and comfortable in chatting, and if you just focus on him it would be easy to forget that he is performing in front of a rather large audience.
It all feels rather intimate when the surroundings fade into the background.
Anecdotes sit shoulder to shoulder with little jokes - like his impression of Johnny Cash singing Dedicated follower of fashion - and it all adds to the experience.
I thought I knew what was in store for us as I seen The Kinks play one year at Glastonbury, but Ray solo is a completely different deal.
He's better.
Or this performance was better than the Glastonbury one I should say, and not make grand claims that Ray solo is better than all the collected Kinks performances.

When the rest of the band join him to go full on electric the pace certainly picks up and the set is really just a best of The Kinks.
If you have a favourite song then there's a good chance he sung it.
This, for me, was the only very minor downside to the show.
While I do appreciate that he has a vast back catalogue of much loved material to pick a set list from, and that the vast majority attending want the classics, I wouldn't have minded a smattering of his own solo material as it's of a comparable quality.
As I said though, it's a minor downside and it would be churlish to make an issue of it when basically every song was a highlight in its own right.
Everyone will have their favourites, but for me the stand outs were Waterloo Sunset that went from acoustic to electric, the proto punk blast of all day and all of the night and the finishing on You really got me that included a full explanation of how it was originally written and performed by him before his brother Dave got involved with the iconic, and instantly recognisable, guitar riff.

It's safe to say that I'm hoping he honours his promise of coming back next year, because if he does then I'll be hoping to get front and centre for it.

The Wooden Sky/Evening Hymns/James Foley/Belle in the meadows - 13th Note - 10/10/12 (Glasgow)

Well that's another gig promoted by the blog done and dusted.
It's all been a bit of a whirlwind as there was only two weeks to sort out a venue, secure support acts, get tickets printed, posters and flyers distributed,,,,,,,,, and attract a crowd.
A bit of a tall order, but one made easier by the welcoming and professional attitude of the venue (13th Note), the speed that printmytickets managed to supply the tickets, the ever reliable Andrew in MBE for the printing of the posters and flyers, and the efforts of both the supports (James Foley and Belle in the meadows) in helping to spread the word.

Realistically I fully expected maybe thirty people would attend, and anything above that to be a bonus.
The headlining band (The Wooden Sky) had in mind a possible twenty as they were well aware of how difficult it is to promote a show in such a short time frame.
So that around eighty turned up (capacity one hundred) on a cold Wednesday night was something that blew my mind, and equally warmed the hearts of everyone involved.
The main attraction, as with any gig, is the quality of the acts though.
No matter how much work is done behind the scenes it is the entertainment supplied on the night that brings people out to experience the communal magic of a gig.
So I guess I should have expected no less, as all the very talented musicians playing are in my mind premier league performers.

Opening the show was the excellent Belle in the Meadows, an international trio who are based in Glasgow, and are quietly cementing a solid reputation as a live act to watch out for.
The story behind them coming to my attention isn't a complicated one.
What happened was that a few months ago I seen the band play a short quasi open mic set in a coffee shop in Ayr and immediately tucked the name away as an act that I would have to see again.
Then when I was approached to be involved in promoting The Wooden Sky gig it just seemed obvious that their addition to the bill would be a complementary one, and with a couple of messages online it was all sorted.
It really was that simple.
Prior to sending that message requesting them to play we had never conversed at all, so I was very happy to find that they were open to working with me without actually having any prior knowledge of who I am, or the little things that I dip my toes into.

On the night itself their performance was beyond criticism.
I doubt anyone would disagree.
The mix of keyboard, violin, acoustic guitar and harmonized vocals is well balanced and sounds richly weighty.
Regardless of the tempo of the song, or whether it's tapping into a folk vibe or getting a bit more funky, everything sounds as if it is sitting perfectly just where it should be.
In hindsight I would have to say that I couldn't have approached a better act to fill the slot.

After Belle in the meadows we had James Foley entertain us.
James is usually fronting his band 'Fole' but tonight he was going solo and while I have seen him play without being backed up by his band mates I could argue that this performance eclipsed all the previous solo ones that I have witnessed.
The strength in his vocal approach just seemed to have been pushed to the fore.
Maybe it's some newly found confidence in his own abilities, or he's found exactly how he wants to drive his material forward, but whatever it is it works.
Songs like Randoms and Shakespeare Says sounded as if they had been given a boost of new life and highlighted how good a songwriter James is, and equally showed his vocal skills off to.

In the coming months his band are looking to change their name and release some more original compositions, and it sounds like the second part of their musical career is going to be a large step forward from the debut ep that they released under the name of Fole.
Personally I'm looking forward to hearing what they have been working on and I suspect those who appreciated James on the night will be to.

Evening Hymns, the band, is really just a collective of musicians surrounding Jonas Bonnetta, and on this tour they are Sylvia Smith and The Wooden Sky.
Did I really say 'just'. I should take that back.
Augmented by, supported by, assisted by.
That's more like it.
He has the ideas, and along with his friends they provide the expertise to make the dream a reality.
Throughout his set he punctuated the songs with how they came about, and this sharing of personal experiences from simple things like the weather conditions when they recorded, to the heart on sleeve emotionally raw admittance of how much he misses his father who had recently passed on, allowed us all to participate in the performance.
When people say 'you had to be there' then this is the sort of night that they are talking about.
The sort that breaks down the divide between audience and artists and moves into a shared experience that isn't something that can be reached by repeating a formula.
When it happens it's rooted in an organic sharing of respect between those who are telling a story connect with those who are listening to it.
Jonas just opens himself up and gives, but at the same time holds his arms wide and welcomes us to step into his embrace and feel what he is doing.
There's people who have been playing for decades that don't have the ability, or even bravery, to do that.
It created a very special atmosphere.
Something that went beyond the experience usually garnered from participating in live performances as an audience member.

This feeling of communal respect was passed on to The Wooden Sky like a baton in a relay race and they ran with it.
Everything that I have said about Evening Hymns equally applies to The Wooden Sky.
Between them all it's really a large collective of musicians who are all travelling the same path.
They want to make a connection and have the talent to do forge it between them and their audience.
A few times different people approached me during their set and said roughly the same thing, and that was that they felt they were watching a band who were going to be huge.
I knew exactly what they were getting at.
If they find themselves in the right place at the right time with a hit single under their belts, then they could effortlessly step up to the global festival circuit and from there stadiums.
No one in the 13th Note watching them would be surprised if it happened.
If it does then I suspect the roughly eighty people who were there will swell to the hundreds who will claim that they were there, but we will know who is telling the truth as all we will have to do is ask how it made them feel, and if it mirrors our own experience then yes, they were there.
As the evening ran closer to a natural end the band stepped out from behind their mics and joined by Evening Hymns did a truly acoustic set from the midst of the crowd.
With this they created the second 'you had to be there' moment of the night and all that is left for me to say is thank you.
Thank you to everyone involved.
The bands, the venue staff, those who attended, everyone who participated in one way or another.
This was a gig that I can honestly hand on heart say that we pulled off together.
Magical really.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby - A Working Museum

'A Working Museum' shouldn't be treated simply as an album, a conventional release of a gaggle of songs, but as an invite down the rabbit-hole where in turn Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby will take your hand and guide you through their own DIY influenced magical mystery tour.
Raggedly poetic punk and psychedelic pop float in and out with a cinematic clarity that evokes eras that don't really exist outside of their heads, and now ours as they provide themselves as the spirit guides who will reveal all.
You don't really listen to this in the conventional sense, but instead it's more a collection of songs that you feel.
That you soak up.
Close your eyes and you're taking a ride in one of Bolan's white swans in a phantasmagorical fairground.
Drifting past is Luke Haines doing some disco moves, and then he gives way to The Beatles and the Stones watching reruns of The Simpons.
With headphones on you could imagine that you are standing arms outstretched in the dark as snowflakes  float down all around you, but as each pass closely by you can see that instead of them being snowflakes that they are all small photos from an anarchic scrapbook.
Some are family scenes and others are iconic images.
Decades of peoples lives are landing on your hands, eyelashes and lips and melting away.
Every time you slip the disc in and press play it's a different experience to participate in.
Different snowflake photographs.
An unerring work of genius. Utterly stunning at every turn.

Monday 8 October 2012

Let's party like it's 1899............

......after all the Victorian era is apparently back in vogue.

Here we are again.
It's Tory party conference time and as usual the spin doctors are leaking information on the hour every hour.
Add in the pre-conference interviews with our illustrious leader and I would suspect that by the time he takes to the stage to preach to the perverted that we could all claim truthfully that we have heard it all before.
It's extremely doubtful that he will utter one unexpected sentence to the assembled throng.
In fact most of us could probably write his script for him.
Cut out all the rousing 'we are all in this together' diatribe and to sum it up he will say that Labour left us in a more dire financial state than any of us could ever have imagined, and therefore to put the great back into Great Britain we will all have to tighten our belts even more, and count ourselves lucky that we aren't the Greeks, Irish or anyone else whose economy has tanked.
That some of us have tightened our belts to the extent that two size zero models could neatly fit inside and do a synchronized hula hoop display is neither here nor there apparently.
Of course the money that will be required will have to come from somewhere, so we can fully expect 'Call me Dave' to announce that it isn't going to be found from the deep pocketed, and equally short armed wealthy, or the continually profit making conglomerates who can well afford to pay their tax, but instead from those who can least afford it.
We have heard the song often enough now that we all know the words.

In fact he has already said that it will 'have' to come from the benefits pot.

Now today his partner in crime, the arch villain Mr Osborne who is presiding over financial genocide, is reiterating his masters 'cut and slash the finances of the poor' comments like a ventriloquists dummy.
Only this time there's some more nuggets of misery to think about as he has let it be known that the cuts are to the tune of £10 billion, and that they will be coming from housing benefit for the young and from child support benefits

It's the usually broad brush strokes announcement that relies on the manipulation of peoples perceptions to make them sound reasonable.

The unemployed young are shiftless.
Basically verging on feral.
So why should we assume any financial responsibility for them as they are undeserving of it?
Who wants one of these kids as their neighbour from hell?
The easy solution is to withdraw their ability to claim housing benefit and then they will have to stay at home with their parents.
Sounds fine and dandy when put like that doesn't it?
It saves us some hassle and cash.

Only let's look at some of the things that are never mentioned as it doesn't suit their final solution.

First, where are all these golden opportunities for the young?
How can anyone apply for a non existent job?
Why should they be demonised for not working when there is scant work available.

How about if you are a young man or woman who has sorted out a good job for yourself.
Moved out and grabbed some independence with two hands and are aspiring to get your foot on the property ladder.
Then find yourself out of work, or if you were lucky enough to hang onto employment found that your hours had been cut to the point that you have more going out than going in financially.
Your option to remain where you reside is to claim housing benefit, but no, not now.
You've been excluded.
Guess you will just have to move back in with your parents.
Unfortunately once you left the nest they decided that their home was too large for them to rattle about in and downsized.
So where are you going?
Don't look at me for an answer. I don't know either.

Then there's the harsh reality that some young people need to leave the parental home as it's a dysfunctional and abusive environment.
Their only hope for a happy future lies in leaving and severing ties with their past, but under the new housing benefit rules that option has been swept away from below their feet.
That's great, and goes a long way towards encouraging anyone to be a solid citizen.

Or how about if you were in a relationship and were enjoying the little house and the 2.4 kids life.
That is until your partner lost his or her job, or buggered off with someone they worked with, or sadly died.
The safety net for you is partially housing benefit.
Not for long though.
What happens if you also fall under the new rules for child benefit and are excluded from some of them depending on how many kids you have.
It never rains, but it pours eh?
There you were living the life one day, and the next you're plunging from the tightrope and plummeting headlong to the cold hard ground as a statistically acceptable loss in the deficit war.
Bit shit really, but don't worry. Everyone knows the young are resilient and you will bounce back.

Of course we are all in this together though.

Unless of course if you are under a certain age, or have too many kids.

It's not sounding so good now is it?
None of the scenarios laid out there fit in with how we should be perceiving those targeted.

Similarly the reduction in child support benefits that they claim will be aimed at those who have large families, and are unemployed, is mired in a skewed perception of the recipients.
Are they all the largely stereotypical benefit sponging families that are depicted in the press and so perfectly portrayed in the television show 'Shameless'?

Or as we are all aware, are many of them just victims of circumstances.
Should the family whose main breadwinner has just been made redundant with no pay out be treated the same as the habitually unemployed baby making machines that a very small minority are?
Should the recently widowed be targeted?

Many of us have had to deal with changes in circumstances that have necessitated a reliance of the state through no fault of our own.
Should a portion of us be left out in the cold now?

Apparently so.

In the next few days read what has been getting promoted as solutions from the Conservatives, and then consider what they really mean.
Put yourself in the shows of those who are about to lose out and try and think about how you would feel if you were to find yourself struggling and no lifeline was available to you.

It really is time for a change.
Time for people to start questioning who is really benefiting from the solutions to the global financial woes that are being broached.
It's not me, and I doubt it's many of you.

Sunday 7 October 2012

In conversation with Altered Sky

So how are things with you guys? What are you all up to today?

We’re good thanks! We’ve been in the studio for the past couple of days working on some brand new demos, so today we’re just chilling out, rehearsal tonight though!

As usual there's going to be people reading this who don't know who you are, so lets get that out of the way and in your own words fill us in on how you all met and the origins of Altered Sky?

I suppose it started because Ana (vocals) had been writing her own material for years but had no band to record/play with. We were all friends of friends I suppose. Ana knew Amy (drums+vocals) and Ross (bass) and Ross knew Rich and Neil (guitarists). Then we got together for an initial rehearsal, ended up hitting it off, wrote more songs together that we enjoyed and took it from there!

I'm just listening to your 'In This World' mini album and you must be very pleased with it?
As d├ębuts go it's certainly hits the ground running, and sets the bar high for your peers in the genre. Is it giving you all a warm glow?

Very pleased!
After having been gigging/writing for a year or so, it was great to have a nice, polished record to give to our fans at the time. Bruce (Rintoul, producer at LoFi Studios) was great to work with and we really learned a lot from him: from the process of tracking different instruments and vocals to his unhealthy obsession with Sainsbury’s…

You are all pretty young and the musicianship, song-writing and production is all very accomplished.
Has it been a steep learning curve for you from forming to getting to this stage? How much help, if any have you had along the way?

I feel we’re constantly learning and growing as a band. I can look back and see a definite improvement today from previous gigs and recording sessions. There’s still lots to learn, but I think we’re heading in the right direction. We’re entirely self-managed so any help we’ve had I think has come from the people we directly work with while gigging/recording. There’s nothing better than surrounding yourself with professional people and absorbing their knowledge and experience.

I was looking at your very professional website, and unlike a lot of bands who are at the level of being unsigned and trying to make a mark on the world you seem to be trying hard to cover all the angles with a solid approach to promoting yourselves.
It's as if from the word go you are emulating bands who are already successful with your own solid videos, a wide range of merch and a similar internet presence. Is this deliberate? Is the idea to act like a successful band and therefore you will be perceived as one? (That's a sound move if it is the intent)

We decided a long time ago that if we wanted to be treated professionally (i.e. paid!), we’d need to look and act as professionally as we could. This doesn’t mean wearing suits and being boring, more that we always make sure we’re organised, arrive to gigs on time, generally treat people with respect and try and make friends wherever we can.
It sounds cynical but the merch stall is our best way of making money, so we aim to make it as attractive as possible, with lots of things for sale in lots of bright colours! It’s also where we hang out at the show, the best place for us to meet fans in person.
As for the website, I (Rich) built it myself after realising how much it would cost to pay a professional web designer, so kind of making virtue of necessity!

In my experience there's a great deal of young bands who put a lot of effort into writing and recording, and then sit back and lose some momentum as they consider the job is done. So what's your next step now that the mini album is out?
How are you going to keep the ball rolling?
Currently dreams of rock stardom are being eroded away by a number of factors. The main issue being the ongoing demise of the major labels and their lack of faith in investing in anything that hasn't got a guaranteed financial return on it.
Gone are the days when a label would hang in their supporting an act until people caught up on how good they are. With that being considered what are your dreams for the band, and how do you think that you can achieve them?

Our next step is to play to as many different people as possible! That means touring as much as we can and also finding ways of getting our music heard online by as many people as possible.
We’re constantly working on new material as well so hopefully if we play somewhere twice, we’ll have something new for people as well as the songs on the EP.
We like to test out new songs on a live crowd: nothing like a bit of pressure for us and we get instant feedback on whether the song is a good one.
We’re also in the early stages of putting together a new EP, recording in early 2013 and releasing soon after. Our dream is to be able to make music our career.
At the moment we all have day jobs: juggling tours, recording and video shoots around work schedules is a nightmare! From what we’ve heard, labels want you to show that you can already make your own music, arrange your own shows and advertise yourselves before they’ll offer to step in and take you to the next level.

Normally in interviews the question of who it was that creatively influences a band normally makes an appearance, but instead of that why don't you each tell us who you are listening to just now that may well influence others in the years to come?

[Ross] At the moment I’m listening to a lot of Panic! At The Disco.
I only recently got into them and I fell in love with Brendan’s voice; his vocal melodies are so catchy! Also a massive fan of Dream Theater and Paramore, bit of an odd pairing, but hey it works for me!
[Rich] My music taste has gone nuts in the last couple of years: I used to be very much into technical shred metal stuff, but now I find myself listening to all kinds of things: enjoying the tunes more than any virtuosity, though anyone that can combine the two is incredible! (check out Marco Sfogli and Andy McKee!). I’m also a big Dream Theater fan.
My favourite band at the moment is Muse – really loving their latest album The Second Law – if you haven’t already, give it a listen: it’s sort of like Queen meets dubstep (that sounds like a horrific description, but believe me, it’s amazing!)
[Neil] Since my iPhone is broken it’s all about CDs just now! Which is kinda cool because riding in the car, you tend to listen to whole albums instead of just your favourite song. I kind of like that because it lets you hear where the artist was at when they made the album! But at the moment I’m listening to a fair bit of Linkin Park, LostProphets, James Brown, Herb Hancock, Deep Purple, G’n’R and Coheed & Cambria!
Oh and now I think of it, I dug Ascendancy by Trivium out from under a car seat the other day! That record has some major riffage, crushing!
Generally though I’m in love with Classic rock, Blues and Funk. Rhythm and groove make a song for me!
[Ana] I’ve got Lost Prophets, Crush40 and lots of videogame music (Sonic, Final Fantasy, Silent Hill…) on my iPod just now. I just stick it on shuffle.
[Amy] Very much into my pop punk! Love Yellowcard, Paramore and Blink 182, I feel a lot of my playing is influenced by those guys.
I grew up listening to Fleetwood Mac, Dire Straits and The Eagles so all of those bands still have a massive hold on me! Love a bit of Prog Rock as well Rush, Dream Theater are AMAZING!!

Saturday 6 October 2012

The baggage carriage of the nostalgia train has just rolled in.......

......and I'm jumping on it.
The very first 'real' gigs I went to way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth were all in the legendary 'Glasgow Apollo', and the opportunity to grab a tee-shirt is one that I'll not be passing up on.

You can get them here.

Excellent quality FOTL Heavys and professionally screen printed.
All sizes available - Sm/M/Lge/Xl/XXl
£10 each with p&p inc` UK/£12 EU/£14 ROTW
Reduced postage on multiple items.
Paypal -

and apart from the Apollo t-shirt there are more designs available that would warm the heart of most old punks.

You can ask about them here and if you are in a band then custom jobs can be accommodated.

The blame game

Well the whole Jimmy Savile kiddie fiddler (alleged at the moment) story seems to continue to be big news, and pretty much every seventies television/radio star is stepping out of the shadows to claim that they either heard rumours about it, or suspected it, but the one thing they all have in common is that none of them did anything about it.
Unsurprisingly here we are in 2012 and the backlash against their silence is building up rapidly.
So rapidly that every discussion about the specific allegations has to have Esther Rantzen, Paul Gambaccini, and the rest, considered as co-conspirators to the alleged abuse.

Is that very fair on them though?

My first thoughts were that it was the seventies.
The era of The Sweeney and Love thy neighbour.
When men were men, and women were to be good housewives and enjoy their second class citizenship.
That's not to excuse the behaviour of sexual predators who preyed on children though.
Far from it.
All I am doing is pointing out that this alleged abuse happened to the backdrop of an era when sexist, and even racist behaviour, was pretty much the norm, and that does make a difference.
An era when women were still finding their feet and fighting for real emancipation.
A time when the battle to be considered as equal to males in society was barely out of the gates.
It's a bald fact that allegations of abuse against females, regardless of age, were not given the credence that they would be given now.
This was decades before the war cry was zero tolerance.
In the seventies men could in general do as they damn well pleased, and rich men who enjoyed a famous profile could manage to go a step further again and be virtually untouchable.
Taken in the context of the era I'm not surprised that the people who heard whispers didn't speak out.
Especially as they claim it was rumours that reached their ears. Not that they had actually witnessed the abuse.
It's all so very easy to point the finger at these individuals safe from the comfort of the couch, and claim that we would all do different, but how many really would?
How many people see things on a daily basis that they should have a moral obligation to question yet don't?
Not even hearing idle gossip, but situations that we see happening?
Not necessarily child abuse of course.
Maybe we should cut these celebrities of the seventies - a woman and a gay man - some slack.
Without definitive proof they were never going to get anywhere.
Maybe instead we should be happy that off the back of the allegations from the actual victims that they are willing to now voice their concerns rather than maintain the silence that so many others probably are.

Of course it shouldn't really need to be said, but if anyone actually seen a child being abused then if they remained silent they are morally on very shaky ground.
I personally wouldn't feel the need to make any argument on their behalf to absolve them of their responsibilities.
They are in fact co-conspirators by proxy.
The people who are more deserving of our loathing are those who worked in the care homes and were told directly by the young girls what had happened.
They had a duty to act, and didn't
These are the people who chose to ignore abuse claims from the victims to maintain the flow of cash and the patronage of a famous man.
Their refusal to act at the time sickens me far more than the silence of the celebrities who had only heard rumours.  

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Mumford and Sons - Babel

Mumford and Sons are one of those bands who do very well.
They sell a great deal of records and can fill some good sized venues without breaking a sweat, yet it's hard to find anyone that I know who will admit to liking them.
For some reason that I can't fathom they are the band whose name must never be spoken.
It's as if it's rather fashionable in some circles to look down noses on their efforts without having to explain, or even justify why, they draw this passive aggressive loathing.
No matter how many awards they have picked up, nor how much critical acclaim they have attracted, or how large their fan-base is, I struggle to find anyone I know who will give them the time of day.
It's all rather strange.
When their debut arrived I felt it was a rather refreshing take on the indie folk sound.
It didn't bowl me over, but I could see the appeal, and to be frank anything that was going to disrupt the stranglehold of dross that is the charts is always welcomed by my ears.
Now here they are with Babel, their follow up to Sigh No More - an album that is creeping ever closer to having sold 3 million copies I may add - and while some bands would buckle under the pressure of having to  deliver an equally successful album they have instead created a release that has shot straight in at the number one spot in the US and is currently the fastest selling release in the UK.
Apart from the populist support it has received from the public, it would appear that the mainstream media are loving it to.
Yet will this success be enough to break down the walls and encourage those who dislike them to lend the band a fresh ear?
Probably doubtful, but when I listen to Babel I honestly can't dredge up enough of a fuck within me to make the effort to get those who would willfully dismiss the band to listen.
After all it's their loss as Babel is an album that will push the band to deserved stadium stardom with or without the patronage of the cool kids and the music snobs.
It's huge in every sense.
It's anthemic, but falls short of being bombastic. It's got heart and it's got soul.
It's effortlessly, and touchingly, introspective at times, and at others it's equally a rousing soundtrack to a singalong party that could exist in a corner bar, or even reach the back row of a football stadium.
It's quite possibly the every-man album of this generation.
There's really no reason to dislike it at all, unless you want to be a contrary cunt and claim that it's shite while arguing that the grass isn't green and the sky isn't blue.
Fashionistas be damned. It's a great album. Simple as that.   

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Tomorrows art today.

This painting was found in the basement of No10 Downing Street post peoples revolution.
It currently hangs in the rogues gallery section of the Tate Modern alongside portraits of Mussolini, George W Bush, Pol Pot and other illustrious dictators.

The name of the original artist is unknown.

Also found was a collection of hand carved wooden dildos with each having the glans resembling the head of a coalition cabinet minister of the time.
These are all currently in private collections with Tom Cruise allegedly very near to claiming ownership of the whole set.

Visiting times for the Tate Modern can be found on their website here.
Also worth checking is their 'death of a thousand cuts' exhibition that features an interactive Atos review.
It is worth noting that the interactive section is for those who are over eighteen as the lack of humanity involved is considered damaging to the psychological development of those below that age.