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Monday 31 March 2014

Just no. Honestly no. It's not even funny any more.

I don't have any guilty pleasures, and I shy away from musical snobbery.
After all what is music but a form of entertainment?
It is there to be enjoyed, and one persons poison could very well be another's nectar of the gods.
What is acid in the ears for one is a honeyed balm for another.
However there are exceptions to the rule and I don't mind admitting that releases that could very well be parodies, but are in reality not, twist my melons.
And celebrity endorsed compilations are most definitely not on my desert island discs list.
So it is with a overwhelming degree of distaste that today I discovered that the Joey Essex ''Essex Anthems' is in fact a real thing, and not just a sly satirical bite at the brain dead modern consumerist.

Note down the date folks as today is when the music really died.
Or at least suffered a blow that may well kill it off.
By the time we reach August the countryside will have to be set aside as landfill areas just to accommodate all these jewel cases that hold this ugly abortion of an idea.
Every town will have an Essex Anthems hill made of these that will rise so high that they will block out the sun leaving children growing up deficient of Vitamin D leading to middle aged rickets that will be rebranded as Joeys disease.

Grown men and women will fall weeping to the ground as perma-tanned oil slick haired white toothed erections in convertibles drive by pumping this noxious shite out from speakers that would be more suited to hanging around on the sides of a festival stage.

There will be no good that can come from this. No good at all.
Its release is the harbinger of doom.
It's Mother Earth telling us that our 'tea is oot' and Armageddon has started.
The clock is ticking as the four horsemen of the apocalypse, Death, Famine, War and Fuckin' Joey Essex are about to ride in to town and rape our ears before casting us all into the fiery pits of hell.
Pits of hell that we will gladly tumble into as we consider being roasted on spits forever as the better option when it could be an eternity of listening to 'Essex Anthems' on repeat instead.

Everyone involved in releasing this are most definitely misanthropes.
No one with an ounce of compassion for anyone else on this planet would consider doing such a hurtful, nasty and darkly negative thing.

It's just so wrong.
Its the dark matter of album releases.

Homesick Aldo EP Launch - The Venue - Methil.

When you think of Methil in Fife the last thing to spring to mind is that it is a hub of musical expression.
The reason for it failing to register as such is because it’s not, or to be more accurate it hasn’t been, but that may well be about to change.
Change because Homesick Aldo is back, and with a rejuvenated outlook on what the future holds and a new ep all locked down he needed a launch night and Methil was calling.
Okay that may not be strictly true, but instead of thinking why should I have it in Methil, he instead asked himself why he shouldn't, and then failed to come up with a good enough reason not to and plunged in feet first to make the thought a reality.
And this is of course why we love him.
So while the world looks to the major cities to provide top class entertainment that whole idea will be turned on its head on Friday the 18th of April as the real heartfelt outpouring of talent will be found in a venue called imaginatively ‘The Venue’.*
Apart from a night that will be part delta blues, part Jamaican dancehall and part what the hell is this that’s going on from Homesick Aldo, there will also be some fantastic supports in the shape of wrestling garage punk aficionados The Bucky Rage, more traditional sounding 60’s inspired nuggets from Kosher Pickle,s and some rock and roll madness that sounds as if it has been in a head on collision with indie power pop from the mighty fine sounding ‘The Twistettes’.
It’s an evening that deserves a solid level of support purely because of its bloody minded refusal to play by the rules, and as they entertainment on offer isn’t too shabby it’s a bit of a win-win as you can raise your middle finger to convention and shake your money maker to cool tunes at the same time.

* Say what you like about Fiifers, but they like to keep it simple.

Thursday 27 March 2014

Matt Scott - Stairway Songs (From Hillfoot Avenue, Rutherglen)

There’s many ways to listen to music.
Some are perfectly adequate and lend themselves to being used to spread the sound out in the background while you do this or that.
Think of the radio, the television tuned to a music channel, an i-pod docked and a PC playing a CD.
Then there are the earbud headphones and mp3 players for when we want to sit on public transport and look to drift away from our surroundings.
And then at the top are the audiophiles stereos designed to take the music and immerse you in it.
Best of all is when you use the latter with quality headphones.
Music that you liked you love, music that tugged emotionally at you instead draws something from deep within you, and if you want to get lost in a song this is how you do it.
And it’s with headphones clamped to my head that you can hear Matt Scott’s ‘Stairway Songs’ blossom into life.
It’s an immersive experience that is difficult to convey with words.
An experience that takes you directly into the room with Matt and his brother John as they snatched at something a bit intangible and ultimately managed to do what so many others fail to and captured a moment in time.
There’s are no frills to the recording and it could be described as coming from the bootleg end of the spectrum rather than that of the polished studio, but in this instance that is a strength rather than a weakness.
Close your eyes and the sound fills your head, everything else fades, and there you are.
There’s no cackling hen nights intruding with their chatter, there’s no drunk at the bar roaring his order at a busy bartender and the recording simply brings you in to directly engage with the music on a one to one basis.
There’s been much said about the traditional qualities that Matt Scott brings to his music.
A rich tapestry that begins in the cotton fields with the blues, that then coasts over the dustbowl with the sound of the folk protest singers floating on the wind before settling on the blue collar rock of the US with its home grown Frankie Miller rasp and the barfly eulogies of an early Tom Waits flavouring it all, but it’s worth pulling back from all of that and listening to the lyrics, and how Matt address them vocally, as that’s where the power lies
With six tracks recorded in a hallway between either one or two microphones, depending on what John Scott was looking for, the pair of them have genuinely turned in a body of work that should be able to pull a great deal of positive praise as the session quite literally stands head and shoulders above a very large percentage of music that I hear that is classed as part of the folk/blues genre.
It’s actually difficult for me to lay claim to this as I am personally friendly with Matt and could be accused of gilding the lilly for a mate, but if you want to hear what undiluted talent sounds like, the real deal prior to it being manipulated to suit the bland taste buds of a mass market then you need look no further.

This is an astounding recording and I am very proud to have played a very small part in bringing it forward to this stage just by being a sounding board to a young man who really deserves a great deal of recognition.

Mark Morriss - Memory Muscle

If there was any justice in the world then Memory Muscle from Mark Morriss would draw a line under his previous career as frontman of The Bluetones and allow him to start afresh.
It’s not that there is anything wrong with The Bluetones, but only that sometimes - and more often than I am comfortable with - the perception of an artist maintains focus on an era to the detriment of what they are doing in the present.
It makes it difficult for them to draw people along with them as their career progresses.
The problem is more one of the fan stalling on their appreciation, rather than that of the artist failing to live up to past glories though, and we can possibly see this outing as an example of that.
With it being a current release the sales figures will be slowly being revealed on a week by week basis, and there is no doubt that it will not be flying off the racks in the way that Expecting to Fly did, but it should do as it’s as good if not better in places.
And that is as it should be as we are now looking at virtually twenty more years of evolving musicianship and songwriting from him.
Basically people just need to be open to the possibility of that, and then let the music take root until they find some sort of newfound appreciation for it that isn’t linked directly to it being viewed through the nostalgic hue of rose tinted spectacles.
With Memory Muscle Mark isn’t simply treading water, and instead he is continuing his musical journey with a great deal of experience and nuanced panache.
He’s heralding a new dawn and hoping that those listening will understand that.
Of course with his recognisable voice we aren’t looking to make a great leap into the unknown, and those who have enjoyed his output over the years are not being asked to put some faith in his own metal machine music, but rather the hope will be that they will appreciate the shading applied and enjoy the evolution of the material.
It’s without a doubt an accomplished release and one that I can whole heartedly recommend to fans old and new.

Worth mentioning is the addition of a nicely reworked version of Alcoholiday the Teenage Fanclub track, and Lee Hazelwoods My Autumn Done Come, with both helping to round out an already impressive body of work.

PS - Just had to go over that and change Bluebells to Bluetones. I need a proof reader.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Matt Scott - Stairway Songs EP Launch - Bakers Sat 29th March (Kilmarnock)

It's a rare performance from Matt Scott that doesn't end with him being approached by people wanting to buy a CD.
Unfortunately while Matt had the songs the recording process has not been a quick one, and he has often had to resort to the fall back position of saying 'it's in the pipeline' to more people than he would probably have wanted to.
Those days are now behind him though, and with his brand spanking new ep delivered from the pressing plant he found himself with another dilemma.

Where should he launch it from?

Ideas were thrown about with the decision settling on it having to be either Glasgow or his home town of Kilmarnock.

On one hand Glasgow is a solid hub of musical activity and he has a solid track record of playing there with a couple of successful King Tuts appearances under his belt, and who could forget the opening slots to touring acts that widened his fan base.
On the other hand is that the people who supported him up until the point that he felt comfortable in playing in a major city are predominately all Ayrshire folk, and the temptation to return some of the love has a pull all of its own.

So ultimately in a battle of the heart and mind it was the heart that won out and the latter option was firmly grasped with Bakers being selected to host the evening.

Then, as is usual, another dilemma raised it's head.

Who should he approach to support him?

It was only then that the word support started to take on a rather egotistical force of its own, and the idea that it should be a mutual appreciation society event of like minded friends who have all shared the same stage on the their musical journeys solidified.
And with that Brown Bear and The Bandits, Rose Parade and Ross Crawford were sounded out and took up the offer in the spirit it was intended.

So no real supports, and instead special guests, and that's how from the humble beginnings of an idea it has become an evening where a good percentage of the cream of the talent that have worked tirelessly to enhance the entertainment options that are available to Ayrshire music fans came together for a special night.

Tickets are available from RGM (Kilmarnock), Big Sparra Vinyl (Ayr), the bands themselves and a limited amount will be available on the door.

Nothing to see here.

Move along. 

Tuesday 25 March 2014

The Bonnevilles

With MOJO here in the UK bestowing the band with a 4/5 review and pretty much everyone on the blues/garage rock circuit getting all hot and bothered about the band it is with great pleasure to tell everyone that I've got them booked for a show this Thursday (27/03/14) in Glasgow.

The gig is in the 13th Note and support will be provided by The Brutes and Geek Maggot Bingo.

Apart from MOJO, the critical acclaim keeps rolling in with Dan Hegarty of RTE giving the bands latest hitting the number six spot in the Top 100 Irish Albums of 2012. Then the Irish Times gave them a 4 out of 5 and said “…grief lurks over their second album like a leaden spectre. McGibbonʼs whiskey-soaked voice is a powerful tool… Occasionally recalling the shady stalk of contemporary artists such as Dan Sartain…”

High praise indeed.

Incognito Magazine placed 10,000 in the top for the year, while More Than Music jumped in with an 8 out of 10 review while saying “Imagine a two-headed fuzz delta garage punk fusion that comes on like an incestuous relationship between The Black Keys and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion channelled via Rory Gallagher, Howlinʼ Wolf and Willie Dixon.“

Alternative Ulster Magazine were quick to follow withy ‘Itʼs dense, itʼs thrashy, and oh-so-dark. While giving it an 8 out of 10, and
Red Wine On A Sunday stated that “Folk Art & The Death Of Electric Jesus sounds like the The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Mainstreet on steroids”

And Rick Saunders of Deep Blues lumped even more praise on the band with “The Bonnevilles are one of the very best of the post- (early) Black Keys/white stripes-influenced bands…deep dark punk and stylish hard roots music with good pop-sense & without a whiff of retro poly stink”

As press goes they seem to be able to do no wrong, but it’s testament to their own skills that they are also seen to be a band that can walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

See you at the bar.

Chris Devotion and the Expectations - Don't you call on me

More goodness to give you an eargasm.

(Sort of) Band of Skulls review - Queen Margaret Union - 24/03/14 (Glasgow)

Mark Hickey unconscious circa 2012 after Band of Skulls
The last time that I seen Band of Skulls was at the insistence of a mate called Mark Hickey.
It was in 2012 and the night is still partially a blur as getting a train to Glasgow from Kilmarnock descended into a bit of a pub crawl with each of us slowly succumbing to temptations put in our way by the gods of bevvy.

So with that night as a warning on how not to attend a gig we decided prior to this one that we would wear our sensible hats and meet up early and make a more sedate trip to Glasgow to see the band in the Queen Margaret Union.
(A venue that has the most unrock and roll name ever.)

And then that’s where things went wrong.
Meeting early really just means there’s a surplus of idle time that has to be filled with something, and with all the museums closed we ended up in a bar.
To our ever lasting shame we hadn't even managed to make it out of Kilmarnock.
And then with Matt Scott – the third musketeer - running a bit late we made another mistake and thought it was a good idea to sample some craft beers.

Now my understanding of craft beers is that they are normally made by people who shouldn't be encouraged to go near a kitchen for hygiene safety reasons, and I think I have a good grasp of the concept now as the one that we sampled tasted as if it had been left to ferment in a bath with some tramps socks, but we gamely drank it, and another and another.
Once Matt arrived we were at the stage of thinking that introducing him to a pint of cheesy cock, or whatever it was called, was a good idea.
He grimaced as it past his lips and after finishing it had to wash the taste out of his mouth with a more traditional lager.
It really is a disgusting drink.
Irene who I hadn't seen in what
must be twenty years.

Mark was still trying to assume a degree of responsibility for delivering a smooth night of rock and roll for us all and managed to bravely extracted us from the bar with the insistence that we really should catch a bus.

We missed it though, and Matt worked out that in the time that we would have to wait we could probably squeeze one more drink in at the nearest hostelry rather than stand around in the cold.
He’s always a man with a plan.
Usually a crap one, but at least he has a plan.
Now as everyone knows when working out drinking time it makes a big difference if it’s a pint or a short and Mark and me decided it was now time that we introduced bourbon and vodka to the night and ended up having a few rather than a one solitary pint.
It would be fair to say in hindsight that this was when we started to tempt fate, and it was with a bit of an effort that we managed to pull back from the bar fly precipice and actually catch a bus.
Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on what frame of mind you are in, it stopped outside another bar in Glasgow, and as my bladder was doing an impression of a space hopper ready to burst my need to use their toilet was an excuse for yet another drink.

It wasn't looking good now.

The Band of Skulls trip was now touch and go, but again we rallied and jumped on the subway and made it to the venue around the same time as the band took to the stage.

And now here is the review bit for the Band of Skulls fans.

Aye, sounded very good, but as the floor has no incline in the venue, and we were at the back, I couldn't see anything other than the backs of people heads.
Tonight Matt Scott and me are
The Jesus and Marychain
Another friend had a similar experience at the Roger Daltrey/Wilco Johnson gig in London.
You don’t just go to hear a band, but to see them to, and remove one or the other from the night does impact on the entertainment on offer.
So that wasn’t too good at all.
Bit rubbish really, but thankfully the company made up for it and while I couldn't say anything negative about the bands performance it is doubtful I’ll bother attending anything in the QMU again.
It all seems a bit pointless really.
We wandered about a bit trying to find some sort of vantage point and ultimately gave up and went to stand near the bar, and then it was finished.
I was a bit bemused and I am sure the set in the Arches was longer, but maybe not.
However I doubt Band of Skulls are going to give Springsteen a run for his money in the endurance stakes any time soon.

After the show we managed to take in another drink in Ashton Lane before making our way to the city centre where we squeezed in yet another in Pivo Pivo before catching a late bus back to the ‘shire.

Ultimately a great night out that had little to do with Band of Skulls and nothing to do with the QMU.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Daniel Wylie - The Old Hairdressers - 22/03/14 (Glasgow)

If donning a turtleneck sweater, sporting a goatee, carrying a book written by Sartre and attempting to pull off the wearing of a beret while clamping your lips around the electronic version of a Gitane between quoting Kerouac is your sort of thing then the Old Hairdressers is probably your type of drinking den.
The neat mohican and over large beard combo also fits in nicely with the décor to.
As does the baring of the hairy ankle as the ongoing sans socks fashion statement continues to dent the profits of the hosiery market.
None of this is however a problem for me as I am of a vintage that considers hipster hate to be a rather immature response to people just doing what they want, but it is fair to say that the venue does attract a certain demographic that could encourage the owners to rebrand under the banner of Hipster Heaven.
On entering the place my first thought was ‘Oh this is where people go when Costa in Waterstones closes’, but it was honestly just an observation rather than a criticism.

The bijou no frills upstairs space that is set aside for exhibitions and gigs was however very different.
It really is simply a space that lends itself to being filled with anything, and for this evening it was to be a Stripped Session from STG promotions who had coaxed Daniel Wylie out to play a bare bones acoustic set supported by an act called Bullit.
A band who I have just noticed are a sh away from an unfortunate moniker.
They are of course not full of it though, and instead are a very talented trio who play material that hovers around settling on west coast garage psychadelia that would comfortably exist on an acoustic pebbles album.
There’s also the residue of the Britpop years hanging off the material, but not to the extent that the songs sound like a homage to fag end years of Oasis and Blur trying to outdo each other in the ‘are they still arguing’ stakes.
It’s more just some shading and mainly sits on the shoulders of the swagger the vocalist has.
All in it’s not a bad thing and allows the songs to spread out over a few eras and draw in the listener.
The harmonizing and additional backing vocals that filled the sound out deserve to be highlighted as it is their well handled inclusion that lifts the band from being a good one to something with a bit more to them.
The addition of a reworked Black Crowes song was a bit of a surprise, but a welcome one.
As opening acts go it’s doubtful that anyone felt short changed with their performance and it’s actually a no brainer to say that others should check them out if they have the opportunity.

Meanwhile the Daniel Wylie performance was less of a gig and more of a gathering of the clans.
With it being billed as an intimate performance it certainly lived up to that with the audience seemingly being made up of mainly family and friends with a smattering of fans.
Either that or Daniel knows literally everyone.
With dedications being made, anecdotal stories being told and a guest appearance from his son this was a show that could be used as the template for other artists to learn from.
It’s probably all to do with promoting a relaxed balance and keeping the flow of chat and songs going until they pick up their own momentum, but with so many trying to achieve this and failing it’s worth mentioning how effortlessly Daniel, along with Neil Sturgeon, managed it.
It’s certainly a nice touch, and one that doesn't seem to be contrived in anyway.

As for the music there is only one word to describe it and that’s sublime.
From start to finish it really did hit the heights.
While I'm happy to admit to being a fan of Cosmic Rough Riders, and Daniels solo material, I never really picked up on how big REM were as an influence until this show, and I have no idea why.
It’s just so bloody obvious.
Maybe it was sitting in some aural blind spot, hanging about on the periphery of what I was hearing, but it’s down to me for not picking up on something that was probably screaming right in my face ‘look at me, look at me’
Live it really does come to the fore though, and it is probably more apparent with the material being stripped down to the basics of just voice and guitar.
With an excellent rendition of The One I Love they just nailed their colours to the mast of the boys from Athens, Georgia, and I am very pleased that I was there to see this.
Sort of maybe edging on feeling privileged.

One of the most impressive things that I picked up on was that this show as not hung on a nostalgia peg, and there was no real push from the audience for Daniel and Neil to provide a trip down memory lane with an all Cosmic Rough Riders set at the expense of them showcasing post CRR material.
Instead everything was equally welcomed and appreciated, and that’s something that is as rare as a natural tan being seen at any Glasgow taxi rank at 3am.
So big round of applause for the audience whose openness to appreciate the music in its entirety restored my ever increasingly cynical view of live events not really attracting music fans.
Thankfully last week I didn't say that I would eat my hat if I was to experience a night like that as right now I would have to be biting down on it, and that would have broken my heart as I really do love my hat.

However no matter how good the night was it was made even better by the company.
I was stunned in the nicest possible way to hook up with friends from Newcastle who surprised me by attending unannounced.
A real icing on the cake part of the evening and one I hope is repeated sooner rather than later.

Take a bow Billy and Elaine for making my night better than I could have dreamed of.

Friday 21 March 2014

Andy Kershaw, Presales, and the gigs that weren't to be.

A few days ago I noticed a comment posted on social media from Andy Kershaw about two of his gigs being cancelled.
The reason for the cancellation was a lack of presales and the promoter had pulled them.

No one likes that do they?

Andy Kershaw will have had an itinerary sorted and there will be financial forecasts done that are based on the events planned.
Now any notes on that will be lying like confetti at his feet.
It’s really not just a case of turning up and then leaving a little later in the night.
There really is far more to touring than that.
Travel plans and accommodation may have already been made, and if so then it’s possible that there would have been a few phrases that would make a sailor blush that passed his lips when news came in about the shows being pulled.

Then there are the venues that will now be left with holes in their schedules, and knowing venues - and I do - this is never something they are very happy about.
If you were to put a scale on being unhappy, and one was how you feel when your biscuit drops off into your tea, and ten is when you are so unhappy that you are contemplating breaking the kneecaps of the person who has annoyed you, then the cancellation of a show draws a reaction that hovers around eight from a venue.

And without a doubt the promoter will be wondering why (s)he even bothered, (although apparently there wasn't a great deal of actual promoting done and some blame may need to be shouldered here) and I fully expect will now be ducking and diving around looking to stitch a pigs ear out of what could have been a silk purse.

See what I mean about no one liking this?

And ultimately let us not forget that there are those who did commit to going to the shows and are now left wondering why they even bothered to leave their cash resting in the account of someone else for a while.

None of it is very good is it?

There are a couple of reasons for the poor response to the tickets going on sale for any event though.
One is a lack of promotion.
It is a very real issue.
It doesn't take a great deal of common sense to wrap your head around how keeping the shows secret equates to no one attending, but the other that will have had an impact is that sadly people are simply waiting until the last minute before deciding what they are going to do, and while they have every right to do so this lack of commitment to an event leaves the promoter, the venue and the artists(s) in a very difficult position.

For instance I have been at the sharp end more than once of presales for a show failing to reach double figures and it takes a financially suicidal leap of faith not to cancel.
In the main my never say die attitude has often resulted in a successful night for everyone involved, but it hasn't always been the case, and I have put on gigs that have had acts play to little more than the bar staff of the venue, a few random strangers and the obligatory hardcore fan who always attends the bands shows with the full tally of people attending maybe being five.
The end of the evening ends up with the venue being extremely unhappy, the artist or band(s) being dejected, and for myself, well I slope off under a cloud questioning my taste in music and with my pockets far lighter than I would care to mention as people may weep.*
Basically it’s all just too depressing to contemplate.

In the case of the Andy Kershaw dates I fully expect they would have ultimately been fine as he is pulling an audience wherever he goes, but it would seem to be that the combination of the new-found apathy from the public about committing to shows, and a dearth of any real promotion hammered the nails into the coffin.

So while the promotion side of things is nothing much to do with the public there does need to be some partial responsibility taken.
Today I have seen posts from people who are a tad annoyed that they are unable to attend a show that is sold out.
None of them claim they were short of funds and couldn't buy a ticket and equally I've not seen anyone say they didn't know about it, but instead it’s been stated more than once that ‘I was just going to pay on the door’.

Not now they’re not, but let’s just forget for a moment that this is a sold out show and consider that it is this attitude that leads to gigs being cancelled.
After all how are the artists, the venue or the promoter to know what anyone’s intentions are?
If a ticket hasn't been secured by anyone then there’s no guarantee that it wont be left on the shelf come the night of the show.

Strip everything down and consider that you have booked a venue, arranged a backline and pa, sorted out accommodation for the acts, paid for tickets, posters and fliers to be printed and then with one week to go there has only been six tickets sold.
How many would seriously hang in there with a hope and a prayer?

If we were in a classroom I don’t expect that a forest of hands would be waiving about.

So what is the solution then?
Well actually promoting a show is one, but committing to attending it is another, and I don’t mean clicking on the attending option on a facebook invite page either.
Go and buy a ticket.

*I'm not a big fish in the promoting pond and I just randomly put shows on of artists that I like.
It's never been a money making venture and I either break even or lose. If there is money left over I normally share it among supports and on a really good night buy merchandise from them so that it goes back into their pot.

Anyhow, here’s my next gig.
It’s the Bonnevilles and while I could say they are fantastic I’ll leave it to you to have a listen and see for yourself.
Mojo seems to like them.

Also here’s some Andy Kershaw dates.
Do yourself a favour and buy a ticket.
4th Menia BridgeVictoria Hotel
5th Tywyn – Magic Lantern
12th Colchester – headgate Theatre
29th Bridgewater – Arts Centre.


What's so funny about compassion, kindness and being nice? Tom Fletcher.

Over recent years I've felt that a great many terms that should be championed have been left sliding out of sight, and in some cases they are being perceived as something that they are not.
An example would be compassion.
It’s a beautiful trait to have, but for some reason it can often be seen as a weakness.
Kindness is another.
Taking the time to be kind to another person is not a waste of time, but you could be forgiven for thinking that it is seen to be.
What else is there?
It sounds a bit soppy, and once again sort of weak.
Girls don’t like the nice boys.
Nice guys finish last.
We have all heard the phrases, but what’s so wrong about being nice, being compassionate or being kind?
What’s so wrong about caring for others, caring about your family, your friends, and even strangers?
The answer is of course that nothing is wrong with them.

So in the spirit of being nice here’s a nice video.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Space / Republica - King Tuts Wah Wah Hut - 18/03/14 (Glasgow)

For many the Space and Republica double header tour is all about nostalgia.
It’s an opportunity to relive the good times from the late nineties by a certain type of music fan that worshipped at the altar of top of the pops.
And of course that’s fine, but within minutes of Republica taking to the stage it became very obvious that no one had sent the band the memo outlining that they were to do a by the numbers set.
Instead here they were storming out of the gates and sounding as hungry as any band of young guns looking to make a name for themselves.
It’s probably a bit of a surprise to some that the pop element of the bands sound is left sitting in the backseat while the punk attitude is put firmly up front and given the steering wheel, and it must feel like a slap in the face.
The equivalent of being shook hard while the band shouts in their faces that they need to wake up and smell the coffee.
It’s pretty exhilarating to be honest.
If the intent of the band was to blow apart all the preconceived ideas that some may have held then they do it in fine style.
The hits are played, but it doesn’t sound like they do them to pacify anyone, but purely because there’s still plenty of fuel in the materials tanks and they deserve to be set loose to burn off some energy.
A common problem for bands that are looking to make a return into the spotlight is that fans are very rarely appreciative of their current endeavours and just want the hits of yesteryear to be played.
So when they try and introduce anything circa now the set can grind horribly to a halt, but Republica effortlessly managed to slip in songs from last years ‘Christiana Obey EP’ with no noticeable blip in the energy flowing back and forth between them and the crowd.
Not many bands can do that, and it’s to their credit that they make it appear an easy task to carry out.
It was all a bit of a revelation for me as I was there to see Space, but next time Republica come to town I’m there, and I doubt I will be the only one.

Space are less of a nostalgic blast from the past as they never really made an effort to fit into a specific era, and instead just existed in their own little bubble of sound, a sound that isn’t in or out of fashion, that doesn’t sound dated or even fresh for that matter, it just is.
Space are simply just Space, and it’s good to see them back.
It’s also very obvious from the reaction of the sold out crowd that I am not alone in feeling that the balance of the universe is now restored with the bands return.
With drive-in adverts playing on what looked to be a large white sheet draped onto the back of Tuts wall, and a countdown involved that gave us all a minute by minute update on when they were due to appear, the excitement was ramped up a bit and then when they did step up onto the stage it was to a heroes welcome.
Before a note had been struck the band had already won a sizable portion of the crowd over.
And then it got better, and better and better.
For portions of the show it was like singalongaspace as everyone roared out the words to the familiar material and gamely made the effort to mouth along to the songs from Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab.
There was a bit of skanking, but that may have just been me, but who cares as it was a sort of a let it all hang out night by that point anyway.
Tommy getting down into the face of the crowd to have them display their own vocal talents on Female of the Species was enthusiastically received to the extent that when the band decided to do an encore they did it all again.
A mate, Gerry Corr, was suitably impressive as he sang out the refrain, and while I am very pleased that he managed the grab the opportunity my chance of being picked up by a random music scout was cruelly dashed when Tommy offered me the mic and a drunken fella leaned in over my shoulder to ask if he could get the red wig from the stage.
Cue Tommy buggering off and my chance was gone.
My dream of being plucked from obscurity was stamped into the dusts and I was left with the understanding that after the show I would have to return to me everyday life.
Bloody heartbreaking!
Then again I’m a shit singer so crushed fantasies aside I picked myself up and got back into it all.
You know those gigs that you just want to go on for ever and ever?
This was one of them.
I’m still buzzing, and as first nights of a tour goes, I think Space can consider that the bar has been set high.
So bring on the rest of the tour, a decent level of sales of the album, another album and another tour and another album and another tour ad infinitum.

Photo by Amanda Robinson

Monday 17 March 2014

Space - Attack of the Mutant 50ft Kebab.

See me. I bloody love ‘Space’.
Not as a guilty pleasure, but more the full heart on sleeve love for a band.
The first time I seen them was way back in the mists of time in King Tuts in Glasgow, and while everyone and their aunt claimed they had been at that early gig the truth is that it wasn’t that busy really, but I was blown away none the less.
They were a bit manic, certainly sweat drenched, and undoubtedly playing songs that were very different from what everyone else was doing at the time.
Like that fuckin’ Kula Shaker for example.
Remember them?
Tattva was it?
To this day they’re a band that can still make me feel queasy every time I hear snippets of them.
If I had been in Deep Purple then no royalty check for Hush would have been enough to stop me from issuing a fatwa on their arses.
Anyway, maybe my memory is playing tricks, but it only seemed to be a matter of months before they made a well deserved return and played to a capacity crowd off of the back of ‘Spiders’.
That show was the sort that gets filed under M for mental, and they were obviously enjoying being the devils in our midst as they were still making no effort to be anything other than what they were.
After that I was most definitely hooked, and I've lost count of how many times I seen them.
It was a sad day when the knocked it on the head - well it was for me - but never fear as similar to many other acts from the past a pledge campaign has served to jump start the bands career and they are back with ‘Attack of the Mutant 50Ft Kebab’, and of course I was all over that.
The first thing that jumped out when listening to it is that nothing seems to have changed at all, and while that may suit older fans of a band I usually want some progression, but as Space were perennial outsiders anyway they are proving to be the exception to the rule with their ‘more of the same’ shtick and I’m not complaining at all.
Best thing about it is that there’s nothing dated about the material as there would be for so many other bands.
It’s sounds as fresh as they claim a modern sanitary towel keeps the modern girl about town, but I guess I could say the same about Spiders and Tin Planet (I’ll not comment on Suburban Rock and roll as I’ve not heard it) as if you listen back to both of them right now they pretty much sit alone outside time and space.
You can’t really listen to the band and neatly tuck them into an era, and it’s this ability to come at everything from leftfield with their tongues in their cheek that makes them sound ever fresh I suppose.

So if you liked these guys first time around then you will love this, and if you haven’t a clue who they are then shame on you, but I suppose I’ll forgive you if you go out and buy it and help them buck the trend and bounce back to snatch a late career goal from the jaws of obscurity.  

King Eider - The Deeper the Water.

The UK wide folk scene may well have seen a bit of a resurgence with yet another wave of bands coming crashing in on the shore, but while the cable knit sweater wearing beardy types struggle with the populist attraction that ‘their’ music is drawing across the nation, it would be fair to say that while the scene has ebbed and flowed in places that it is here in Scotland that it has always found a home.
We seem to have an affinity with the sound. and it has never really been in, nor out, but just maybe more so that it is there where it always has been and it isn't going anywhere.
Maybe it has something to do with the sea, the windswept crofts, the sound of the fiddle, or the roots element of it that can be transferred from the stage to the kitchen.
Who knows?
It could be one of a million things, but it is simply a truism that the folk scene has always been a robustly healthy one in this nation, and there are no signs that it will loosen its grip on us any time soon.
If anyone does require proof of this - and of course there is always one - then they need look no further than to listen to the ongoing vitality can be found on King Eider’s début album ‘The Deeper the Water’.
With headphones clamped to my head I can hear a sublime balance to the material that will act like the sirens song and bring the traditionalist fans, and the indie pulse holders, drifting in to freely lend an ear.
There’s a great deal of inclusive magic woven through the songs, and come the summer I hope they have some solid festival slots booked as it is from those stages that the band could spring up the musical ladder of success from.
If they don’t all is not lost though, as with such a strong début it’s doubtful that they are going to slip by unnoticed in the coming months.
After all they could equally comfortably fill the corner of a bothy as they could a large venue, and bring the same intimacy to them both.
Yet another example to be used in the argument against those who vocally promote the view that there’s nothing new out there to listen to that can hold a candle to the music of their youth.

They’re wrong, I’m right and here’s King Eider to prove it.

Friday 14 March 2014

Tony Benn - 3 April 1925 – 14 March 2014

Whenever I am asked if I have a personal hero I usually reply that I don’t go for the concept.
Partially this is because the term itself has been diluted over the years to such a ridiculous extent that it virtually has no real meaning.
Martyrs for a cause that benefited many were/are heroes, self sacrifice in certain cases can be heroic, the paramedics and fire fighters who run into burning buildings are definitely heroes, but instead, in the main, we have pop stars, and z list celebrities who have come out of the other side of a manufactured relationship dubbed as heroes, and as the media readily do this they then diminish the endeavours of the former, while elevating the mundane lives of the latter, until ultimately the word hero means very little at all.

Yet if I am to be completely honest I will admit that while I say I don’t prescribe to the concept I am actually telling a lie, because if I am pushed on it then my gut reaction has always been to name Tony Benn.

Some claim him to be the best prime minister that this country never had, but we all know that there was no way a man such as he would have ever risen to that level within politics.
Not because he fell short of what was required to do the job, but because he held tightly to so many positive and admirable characteristics while promoting compassion and equality.
And those two qualities mentioned are pretty much unwanted traits in a leader. (Not from the people I expect, but from within the bubble that is Westminster politics.)
So of course while anyone with a lick of common sense knows that this is wrong, fundamentally wrong, we do live in an era that seems to consider both as weaknesses rather than strengths, and we only have to look about us to see where that has brought us.
It has led us to instead of having a man at the helm that may have been a catalyst for great social change, we get a procession of smiling psychopaths advocating war and widening the gap between the rich and the poor.

However I couldn't say that his not assuming the role of prime minister is something that could diminish who he was.
He was much bigger than that.

I could go on at length about his life, but the question I really have to answer is why is it that I personally, and so many others, lean towards bestowing the hero tag on this man?

Well I suppose I could start by listing his many achievements and it would be rather obvious, but today the internet and the media will be awash with them, and instead I will keep it simple and say it is because he cared.
That’s it.
He simply cared for you, and me.
He wanted what was best for us all, and over decades never stopped pushing to make a better world a reality.
He worked tirelessly every single day to achieve this, and would not tolerate setting his ideals aside.
In some ways I suppose he was akin to a father figure to. 
A parent who loved his children and wanted to give them the tools and opportunities to better themselves, and to create a world that everyone without exception could flourish in.

Now that’s a hero.
That’s someone that fully deserves the plaudit.
A man who was an example to others and practised what he preached on a daily basis.
A caring man with the heart of a lion.
A real hero.

Today I will mourn his passing, but tomorrow lets build a better future in his memory.

Thursday 13 March 2014

J Roddy Walston and the Business - Essential Tremors.

A few weeks ago I had never heard of J Roddy Walston and The Business.
In my world the simply didn't exist.
Then a mate - Tony Gaughan - stumbled across them when they played a date in Glasgow.
He wasn't even specifically there to see them, and until that point he hadn't heard one note from them.
However he was blown away by their live performance, and the very next day he was ordering the back catalogue online and spreading the word.
With one link to a video on social media I was feeling the excitement, and after half an hour of trawling online to listen to the band I was hooked, and like Tony I was placing orders on-line, but unlike Tony I was kicking myself for letting my finger slip from the pulse of what was going on and missing them.
Now, and I mean right now, there’s a slab of vinyl spinning round at thirty three and a third revolutions per minute and spilling J Roddy and his band out into my life.
Marc Bolan and Mungo Jerry are casting shadows on the wall and the Kings of Leon are sipping on some southern comfort and slowly coming to the realization that this is a band that are everything that they at one time wanted to be. Meanwhile Jerry Lee Lewis is looking dangerously at everyone sporting short hair, a beard and skinny jeans and it’s on the tip of his tongue to ask why no one is wearing socks.
It’s that sort of sound that the band deal in, a wee bit chaotic, a little bit dangerous and a whole lot of raw rock and roll being tapped into.
I noticed someone mention that they were like one of those southern rock bands that it’s cool to drive along to, and of course that is correct if when they say drive along to they mean on the wrong side of the road while leaning out the window slugging from a bottle of JD and giving a rebel yell while considering a speed limit to be for pussies.
Love it when I'm blind sided by music like this.
To my mind there is nothing that could be criticized on ‘Essential Tremors’.
I'm dancing now……………..seriously……………neighbours are going to complain soon.
Oh. Sublime honky-tonk piano. Bring it on home boys.
It’s the fifties, sixties and seventies effortlessly stitched together to make a fucked up Frankenstein’s monster of sound.

Utterly spellbinding.


Dracula - 1931 George Melford version.

When horror movie aficionados discuss the golden age of Universal they will in the main proclaim that the Spanish language version of Dracula that was directed by George Melford is far superior to the Tod Browning one.
Very often they will base this on third hand information gleaned from articles from those who have seen it rather than from personally sitting through it themselves.
It is now one of those comments that has been repeated so often that it just seems to be a throwaway fact.
However last week I was listening in to Gil and Roscoe’s Bodacious Horror Podcast as they discussed watching it as part of the extras on the Blu-Ray release, and their first hand enthusiasm acted as the catalyst for me to splash some cash out on the Universal Box set of classic monster movies.

So here I am and the final credits have rolled and guess what?

It is damn good.

Carlos Villarias as Dracula is as good as Lugosi, Lupita Tovar playing Eva - as she is called in this rather than Mina - has a stronger presence than Helen Chandler, and best of all is Pablo Alvarez Rubio, who as Renfield commands every scene he is in with a gonzo performance.

Yet sadly their performances are rarely focussed on, and instead it is the camera angles, the lighting and even the pace of the movie that is praised more often than not - and quite rightly so as this is a dream of a production - and it just seems that someone somewhere needs to acknowledge that the strengths of the film are enhanced by the key players performances, rather than just the technical approach that surpasses Brownings version at every turn, and here I am more than happy to be that guy.

So I am taking my hat off to the cast.
Just bloody brilliant.

Of course when watching this it is best to leave a degree of expectation at the door as we are talking about a movie made in 1931 and not in the modern era.
The bat hanging on the end of a wire as it dances above the heads of the horses as they gallop through the Carpathians to Dracula’s castle is as hokey as you would expect, but as Melford didn't have a host of CGI experts at his beck and call then I don’t feel the need to get hung up on scenes such as that.
Instead it is far easier to just turn the lights out and allow yourself to become immersed in what is definitively the better version.

It can be said that modern audiences may not be too sure about indulging in this as the lack of gore may be an issue, and the lack of shock scenes that make you jump could well be a turn off, and if we are going to be brutally honest watching a film with subtitles isn’t some peoples bag either, but if you seriously consider yourself a fan of the horror genre in movies then it’s a must see in my opinion.
So give yourself a treat and order up the blu-ray, sit with your popcorn, and keep telling yourself that in so many ways this is where it all started and enjoy.

Then when you have soaked it all up go and check out Gil and Roscoe’s podcast for more entertainingly insightful discussions that are heavy on the shenanigans.


Wednesday 12 March 2014

Johnny Cash - She used to love me a lot

Johnny Cash now sits comfortably on an unassailable throne reserved for the legendary, but it wasn't always this way.
Revisionist historians will claim he was always a huge star, but the reality is that his career rose and fell more than once.
When I was a kid of pre-school age I would sit in the home of my uncle with oversized headphones clamped to my tiny head and listen to Johnny and others.
When I started school it seemed that everyone knew who Elvis was, and of course a few had heard of “the man in black” to, but in the main he was a country star and existed in parents record collections gathering dust.
He certainly wasn't someone that the cool kids gravitated towards.

Then during high school it wasn't much different, and I clung to my vinyl albums at home while alternating between listening to him, Sinatra, punk and heavy metal.

It’s really on in recent years, with Rick Ruben coming along and the biopic doing so well, that Johnny’s star has risen so high that it has become firmly lodged in the firmament.

It now seems to me that you can’t have a quiet drink in a bar without at some point seeing a young man, or woman, sauntering past with Johnny’s middle finger emblazoned on their chest challenging the world to say something.
Yet I'm not an old curmudgeon who cares if it’s a fashion statement, or whether the wearer is a real dyed in the wool fan, because a part of me loves the idea that Johnny has now joined the ranks of those who will never be forgotten.

Very soon an album of lost tracks will be available and here’s “she used to love me a lot” from it.

I've listened to it three times now, and this isn't going to take anything away from Johnny.


Spunk Volcano and The Eruptions EP

Over the last couple of years many punk fans have been brushing up against Dirt Box Disco and coming away with a smile on their faces.
It’s a natural reaction, and you would be hard pushed to read a less than glowing review of the bands albums, or their shows.
The main issue the band probably have – and it’s a good one - is keeping up with demand for fresh material, but to assuage our withdrawal symptoms here we have Spunk Volcano, and his aptly monikered Eruptions, dropping a five track EP on us that will very easily carry the fans over to the next studio outing from Dirt Box Disco.

Best of all though is that it’s not just more of the same as some would expect, but a glorious racket of pop infused rock that’s standing tall on its own two feet.
Imagine for a second that Spunk has stuffed The Dickies, The Ramones, Buzzcocks, Twisted Sister, and even grebo heroes Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Reaction, into a blender and then chugged back the contents as the rest of the band shout “down it, down it, down it” at him.
Once the last drop slips past his tonsils he spins around in his underpants and with a roar he changes from spunk volcano lower case punk rocker to the upper case SPUNK VOLCANO KING OF CARTOON PUNK supercharged with the heroes of the past.
In some alternate universe kids are probably watching that television show right now, and it’s a world I want to grow up in.
Every Saturday morning would be filled with a day-glo cartoon where Spunk fights evil with his trusty sidekicks armed with nothing more than a leer and a punky song to throw at them.
It would be brilliant wouldn't it, and in these five tracks we have the perfect soundtrack to it.

Close my eyes and I'm nearly there. 


Stiff Little Fingers - No Going Back

Eleven years in the making.
Give or take a month or two that could be four thousand and fifteen days of musical ideas swirling about heads until they were spewed out in a studio.
Apparently Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel in four.
So he would be on the last stretch of his third in the same time-frame that it has taken Stiff Little Fingers to record and deliver twelve songs.

Taking that into consideration, then the fans could be forgiven for raising their expectation up and confidently thinking that every single note would be a masterpiece in its own right.

However this is a strange one.

It’s difficult to put a finger on what is wrong, if there even is something wrong, but there’s something that is not quite right.
Lyrically it’s very good.
So good in fact that song after song it consistently maintains a level that is comparable to the best material from the bands career.
As for the musicianship it similarly can’t be knocked.
It has the signature SLF sound and rattles along at a fair clip.
So what is it that I'm failing to get from it?

Well the answer may be that my expectations have been hovering at a level that was never going to be matched.
As each year slipped into the next it was difficult not to think that with the amount of time dedicated to writing and recording that when it finally seen the light of day then it would be an album that left us all breathlessly gape jawed in amazement, and yet it doesn't.
I can nod my head along to it, tap my toe to the beat, but what I wanted to do was slip the CD into the tray, turn the speakers up, and pogo until my heart felt like it would burst.
Then as the last song raced for the finish line I’d want to hit the repeat button and do it all again.
Yet here I am looking at a J Roddy Walston and Business CD that is sitting a few feet away from me and thinking I really want to put that back on.

With ‘No Going Back’ there’s a fire flickering away there, but it’s not the aural conflagration that I was so desperately longing for.

Yeah. I wanted more. That’s it in a nutshell.

If this was a début from some young guns I would probably be raving that it had ticked pretty much all the boxes, but it’s not from some young guns.
It’s not the culmination of work carried out in a bedroom and let out to run free in local pubs.

I don’t doubt that live the material will come alive and be everything that they can be, but the studio isn't where they are living and breathing for me.

It feels like I'm standing on a cold corner with SLF and I can hear myself say “It’s not you, it’s me. I wanted too much. You tried, but I kept asking for more.”
Then I walk away, and as soon as I am out of sight I meet up with J Roddy Walston and dance with him until my heart does burst.