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Monday 19 January 2015

Christie Connor-Vernal and Roadway - NHC Music - 17/01/14

So far the NHC should be four instore acoustic shows into 2015, but there seems to be a curse on the Sundays.
Last week Genesee had to pull out due to ill health and this week it was the turn of AWOL with an injury, but never fear as both shows, and a set from Arno Blok, will all be sorted out for the future.

Meanwhile what can be said about the Saturday nights though?

Well we kicked off with GR Harrow last week (review here) and he seriously blew us all away, and then just as we thought we could catch a breathe Christie Connor-Vernal and Roadway snatched it from us with a couple of performances that hit every button and ticked every box.

As a coupling they are a rock aficionados wet dream, and I wouldn’t hesitate in going on the record to say that both could give any established act - that people pay silly money to see - a run for their money.

In fact it’s actually difficult to convey how good this show was.

I’m no spring chicken and I have been going to see bands for decades all over the country and sets such as they played are up there with the best that I have witnessed.

In some ways the environment does lend itself to the performances being that bit special though.
As one audience member said about the shop that ‘it’s like an underground speakeasy’ and another claimed that ‘if CBGBs was a record shop then this would be it minus the dog shit on the floor.’
We can live with praise like that, and it’s better than having to claim it myself.

Anyway in the case of Roadway they are not known for playing acoustically, but within the NHC, and in front of a supportive audience, they were free to give the material a run through and see how it feels resulting in what was a stunning set from them.
It’s most definitely another string to their bow and hopefully they are considering exploring acoustic angles on more material as their recorded output that is full on electric certainly deserves to be heard stripped down.
It simply adds a whole new dimension to their sound, and it’s one that most fans – if not all – would welcome with open arms.

If for some reason anyone reading doesn’t know who Roadway are then you really should rectify that straight away.
Especially if you long to hear Classic Rock played with passion and attitude as these guys have both in spades.

There’s no downside to what they do and well written material performed well never goes out of fashion.
Next time they are in Glasgow I’ll be looking to attend and hopefully in the future they will return to us as the door will always be open for them.

And Christie?
Well if you needed a one word review it would just say ‘wow’.
The progression in literally everything since the first time I was told to check her out is partially mind-blowing.
As a songwriter and as a performer everything just keeps getting better and better.
Last time the full band experience had me asking why she wasn’t already in the public eye and gracing larger stages, but equally her solo acoustic shows are similarly of that level.
Surely the next step on the ladder is in reach.
The new songs, and the maturity in approaching the subject matter therein, would seem to indicate that the tipping balance from struggling artist to successful artist has been reached.

Well fingers crossed etc.

A last minute addition to the performance was the inclusion of a duet with Dougie McSween of Scarlets, a band that Christie is currently collaborating with, and this was once again that little magic moment thing that the shop lends itself to.
We were striving to create an atmosphere that anything could happen in and with this song we got that.
It was only a week ago that they started working together and as far as I am aware there has only been one singular working session between them and already the results are far beyond what could have been expected.

All I can really do is jump back and say again that it’s difficult to convey how good this show was.

Everyone should take a bow, the artists and those who turned up for this and made it such an incredible evening.

You’re all heroes. 

Event pages for the next live in-stores.

Thursday 15 January 2015

itsaxxxxthing diary dates - Eureka Machines, Scaramanga Six, The King Lot, Rank Berry.

As promised here's another announcement on the gig front.
Drum roll please...........................ratatatatatatatatatatata.
It's Eureka Machines.
You may know them from their Wildheart and Ginger Wildheart supports, or maybe from their rather excellent headline slots.
Last time was in Audio, and previous to that it was in Pivo Pivo.
Now they are back in Audio and it is my distinct pleasure to be promoting the show again.

Not only that, but this will be the third time of working with Scaramanga Six who will be coming along to offer their support.

Between Eureka Machines and Scaramanga Six you don't get any more bang for your buck on the gig circuit.

Oh, but wait a minute. 

Where are the Scots bands I hear you ask as I hold my hand to my ear panto stylee.

Okay, well talking bang for your buck we also have both The King Lot and Rank Berry on the bill to.

(Due to circumstances outwith my control The King Lot will no longer we performing. Instead both The Scaramanga Six and Rank Berry will extend their sets)

Tickets will be available from Tickets Scotland from next week, but right now, right this very minute you can get them from the New Hellfire Club, and apart from getting them that bit earlier you can also get them at the bargain price of a fiver rather than the face price of seven quid.

Last time the gig was very well attended, and this time as soon as the band announced their tour dates and provided links to get tickets they started to sell before I had even started to promote it myself.

Now I could wax lyrical about the band, but here's what the mainstream press have to say. (not often you will get me agreeing with them, but occasionally they do get it right.)

‘Oh that magical and rare occasion when you hear an album and know you’ll still be playing it a decade later…. a triumph for the band, their fans, the PledgeMusic concept…. and rock music as a whole (5/5) – The Sun

‘grandstanding, impassioned and ambitious, it’s multi-layered, intricate and still hummable’ – Classic Rock magazine
‘razor-sharp riffs…. an effin’ riot of colour’ – Rock Sound magazine

‘power-pop perfection – a dazzling debut (4/5)’ – The Sun

‘power pop stomp…. brilliant vocal harmonies…. ridiculously catchy’ – Classic Rock

‘locating the sweet spot between Green Day and 10CC’ – Spin Magazine

‘an enjoyable album from start to finish (4/5)’ – Big Cheese magazine
‘impossible to listen to without grinning like a loon…. it’s ridiculous that Eureka Machines could be the best band you've never heard (4.5/5)’ – The Sun

‘the suited and booted foursome hark back to the glory days of Britrock…. hard-hitting drummer Wayne Insane could be Dave Grohl in disguise (8/10)’ – Rock Sound

‘Beach Boys harmonies, Joe Strummer’s guitar…. what’s not to like? It’s a rare gift Eureka Machines have; celebrate it’ – Classic Rock

‘Imagine if the Beatles and the Beach Boys met Motorhead, jammed with the Cardiacs and created the best band you’ve never heard. Until now.’ – Sandman Magazine
‘a glorious cacophony of power pop noise that distills the best bits of Jellyfish with a dash of early Manics and even tosses in a smidge of Beach Boys chorus catchiness’ – Classic Rock

‘will have you clapping along on first listen, singing along on second listen and leaping around your room on third listen (4/5)’ – Leeds Guide

‘a collision of riotous rock, punk energy and orchestrated heavy metal guitars welded to solid vocals, Do Or Die explodes with a regiment full of harmonies and the pummelling power of bass and guitars that feed off the supernova sounds of both QOTSA and MUSE…. purely and simply, class’ –
‘it is an album that staples Chris’s name in the histories as a genuinely super superstar of British music and one that gets better with every single listen…. wonderful stuff (8/10)’ – Subba-Cultcha

‘an album which you can just scream at the top of your voice in your car or even in the shower…. a really immense guitar rip roaring work of art’ – Mark Moore,

So what else could I add?
Links I suppose.

Here's the pledge campaign. Buy the new album, get the updates, download the free ep and live album. Click me.

You want a ticket? Then click me.

And here is the event page right here.

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Northern Soul

As a music junkie I have always approached biopics of stars, or those that focus on a particular scene, with trepidation.
Mainly because the errors that are usually writ large feel like a personal affront.
I mean how dare there be a poster for Hunky Dory on the wall when the scene takes place in 1970 and it wasn't recorded until ’71.
All it can take is one guy sporting a three foot tall mohican and a Black Flag tattoo on his bicep at a gig taking place in 1976 and I am off on a rant.
No matter how good the script and the acting it is these schoolboy errors that draw the eye and somewhat ruin the experience for me.

However over the last few years that sort of thing has started to fade away as these movies appear to be being made by real aficionados who would baulk at these inaccuracies rather than cash in by jumping on a populist bandwagon.

There are a few turkeys such as the CBGBs movie, but in the main right now ain't too bad when it comes to music in the cinema.

Shane Meadows with his ‘This is England’ probably has to be given the credit for this angle on accuracy though.
When I watched his skinhead homage to the kitchen sink drama I could virtually smell the era.
The clothes, the housing schemes, the shops that they visited, the flats that they hung out in, the attitudes displayed and the music was for me a perfect representation, and if there are faults then I didn't pick up on them as I was washed away on a sea of nostalgia.

Similarly ‘Northern Soul’ does the same.
‘Evocative of an era’ seems to be the most oft repeated praise it has received and who am I to disagree.
Driven by dexy’s (not the band) the story rattles along at a pace as it explores the highs and lows of the scene through the eyes of the lead character John Clark (played by Elliot James Langridge), a young man who discovers there is more to life than the factory drudge and the working men’s clubs.
Along with him we get to experience the thrill of this unique home-grown scene that can probably never be emulated, and it’s a warts and all reflection of it.
Forget the Hollywood sheen as there’s none to be found.
This is ‘it’s grim up north’ life and the music and those who gravitate towards it are looking for an alternative to the life they are expected to graciously, and quietly, accept.
They work hard, they play hard, and happy endings are not guaranteed for everyone.
In short it’s a slice of life with a great soundtrack and Elaine Constantine who directed this has hit the nail on the head with those who did participate and attend places like Wigan Casino stating rather emphatically that this is a perfect facsimile of their youth.

Fans of the work of directors such as Ken Loach and Shane Meadows will fall in love with this and I'm looking forwards to what Elaine Constantine devotes her attention on next.

Monday 12 January 2015

Emotive enough for it to matter?

The door slams hard in its frame and with enough force to gives the illusion that the house has been shaken on its foundations.
From the window I can see Laura storm down the street with her arms tightly wrapped around herself.
I can imagine there will be tears in her eyes.
It’s been sub zero temperatures for over a week now and the rain hasn't stopped in a couple of days.
She will already be shaking and not in anger anymore.
She seems to be such a tiny little figure.
One gust and she could take off.
It’s only minutes that have passed but I'm already unsure of why we were arguing.
For months now every little thing can be the catalyst for a full on meltdown.
My sister laughs and talks about our teenage years and how we were as bad, but I can feel the pressure of tears building up behind my own eyes.
I don’t want our life to be like this.
In so many ways I just want my little girl back.
It doesn't seem that long ago when she would sing and dance to every song, when I would carry her sleeping upstairs to her bed.
Now there are just far too many days filled with stress and anger and both of us walking on eggshells as we try and work our way through this nightmare that everyone claims is hormonal.
She’s fifteen going on forty one minute and then fifteen going on five the next.

She reaches the corner of the street and takes a sharp left and vanishes from view.
If she sticks to her own pattern then in five minutes she will be in her friend Amy’s house pouring out all that she perceives to be wrong with her life and between nine and ten she will return home and go to her room without speaking.

It’s just another day.

She didn't come home last night and I am worried, but deep down she is a sensible girl and I expect she is just looking to make more of a statement than storming out does.
That’s become too common and the ante has to be raised I suppose.
She will phone or answer a text soon enough.

Amy hadn't seen her.
No one has.
The police have just left with a description and platitudes about how they usually turn up with their tails between their legs.
I feel physically sick.
Everyone has been called and Amy has been great sharing messages online, but still nothing.

Three days and there has been no contact.
The police spoke about how I could contact victim support and I broke down and cried.
The word victim just eclipsed everything else.
How could my Laura be a victim?
We just argued and it was nothing.
I've barely eaten. Each time I try my stomach lurches and I can’t.
Every time the phone rings I jump to it, but it’s either a cold caller or someone asking for an update.

A week has gone past and the stress is leading me to feel slightly unhinged.
For two nights now I have went out and walked the streets looking for her.
Hours spent in the rain going down every road and showing the odd person I meet in the early hours of the morning a photograph of her.
No one has recognized her.
I haven’t slept in over fifty hours.  
The police have been supportive, as have friends and family.
My sister visited and slept on the couch last night.
She cried for over an hour straight as I tried to give her tea and be the strong one.

The police called today. It’s been ten days since Laura walked out.
A police woman stood in my living room and told me that there was a body that matched the description of my daughter and if I could come with them I could assist with them either confirming or ruling this out.

It was her.
She would look like she was sleeping if it wasn't for the bruising.
I sat in a room holding a cup of something warm that I couldn't remember anyone giving me.
In fact I couldn't remember walking to the room.
A police officer fidgeted a bit in front of me and then explained how they had two men in custody. He said men, but they are nineteen years old.
Just kids themselves.
They had been drinking and on the way home one had went to urinate in an alley and found Laura in a sleeping bag.
Apparently there were some words and he started to kick her and his friend joined in.
Someone passing by alerted the police and had given a statement.
Allegedly one of the men was shouting that she should go home to her own country.
Called her a filthy beggar.
It makes no sense.
She died in the ambulance because one, or both of them, had repeatedly stamped on her head.

I was offered a lift home and I sat quietly in the back seat.
As we arrived on the outskirts of town I noticed a sign outside a newsagent that said ‘Hunt beggars out of Ayr’.
Was this my Laura they were taking about?
In the space of ten days had my beautiful daughter become something that should be hunted like an animal, a vile creature that deserved to be put down?
I’m trying not to blame anyone, but it’s difficult.

I've always thought the guy who sits outside Greggs asking for change was a nuisance, but he is someone’s Laura.
There will be a mother and a father somewhere who might be looking for him.
Maybe a brother or sister who he has lost touch with and would dearly like to meet him.
If this is the case then I hope they find him. I hope they all get to spend some time together, mend bridges, start afresh, put all that has went before behind them.

I hope he isn't my Laura. 

But he could be couldn't he?
No one knows what led him to that point in his life.
He's just a filthy beggar.
Less than human

Dipping a toe back in with The Bloodstrings.

Okay, I've had enough time off and a few gigs have been booked.
First of these will be German rockabilly/psychobilly band The Bloodstrings.
Touring the UK in support of their debut album 'Coal Black Heart' this is their first time in Glasgow and I am hoping that it won't be their last.

If you love the sound of the Horrorpops, Kitty in a Casket and The Creepshow then these guys will tick all your boxes.

Along with them will be The Sux Pastels and Party Asylum.
Most people will know the latter as they go from strength to strength with every gig, but the former from East Kilbride have all been doing the rounds for a number of years in one band or another such as Jesus and Mary Chain and Baby's got a Gun to name just two.

It's looking good.
A solid three band bill at a fiver.
Maybe Wednesdays will be the new Fridays.
School night rock and roll a go go.

Over the next few days another couple of gigs will be announced.
Just awaiting tickets for this one and they will be on sale from Tickets Scotland and NHC Music* and of course The Sux Pastels and Party Asylum.

* No booking fee from NHC

Event page (Feel free to invite people)

NHC Music

Tickets Scotland

Sunday 11 January 2015

GR Harrow - NHC Music - 10/01/15 (Glasgow)

The first live music experience of the year for me has certainly set the bar high.

On what will go down as a thoroughly miserable night of wild weather - forcing most to seek shelter in their own homes rather than venture out - GR Harrow returned to NHC Music (Glasgow) pulling a healthy crowd along with him, and then within the intimate setting of the record shop played a two hour set of mainly originals that chronologically covered his career to friends old and new.

It was the sort of performance that gets filed away as ‘you had to be there’ as he worked his way through his life from his formative years in Ayrshire to those when he went travelling to other continents, and then bringing us all up to date with his now being a settled family man.

If you could imagine someone opening a worn book of photographs and sharing all the moments with their close friends and family then this was in many ways the aural equivalent.
And even though there was a solid contingent of personal friends attending it is doubtful that those who don’t know GR Harrow would have felt excluded.
I certainly didn’t.
In fact the atmosphere was one of casual welcoming warmth.
Somewhat magical in many way and the credit for that has to go to GR Harrow himself who between songs guided us through the process of writing them and comfortably engaged with everyone in attendance.

In a larger venue there is much of the intimacy of this performance that would probably be lost, or changed to accommodate how he could reach out to people, but it was a testament to how comfortable he was in this sort of environ that he even added some new material that had not been publicly aired to the set to see how it would go.

And how did they go?
Very well actually.

Over the course of his set you can clearly hear his journey as a songwriter and while he certainly wears his influences on his sleeve, and it’s the accomplished song writing of the Finn brothers, REM and Jellyfish that flavours his own material, he has now reached a point that the influences don’t necessarily overshadow his writing, and with some recording sessions in Paris with Ken Stringfellow (Posies/REM/Big Star) at the planning stages he could be on the cusp of not just dipping a toe into the artistic world of his heroes, but instead plunging in to join them.

Only time will tell, but regardless of what the future holds the door of NHC Music will always be open to him and his extended family of fans. 

Saturday 10 January 2015

Anything you can do I can do better. (Including spreading hate)

From the latest fashions to art, entertainment and opinions it is the capitals and major cities of the world that dictate the pace of change.
There they sit keeping sharp the cutting edge of literally everything as those of us who do not reside on their busy streets look to play catch up.
The dress or suit we see on the catwalk in Milan may be in the shop window of a retailer in London within days, but it could be a year before a watered down version of it reaches the high street of what some would call ‘the sticks’.
Similarly you can take in a show featuring the biggest stars in our capital, but it will most certainly be a few years before a touring version facsimile is even considered.
And of course more importantly it is in these global hubs where government and business meet and maintain a grip on the direction that a whole country will take.

However there is one small problem with how they forge ahead and have us all trailing in their wake, and that is sometimes where they are taking us all is not a place many of us want to go.

A good example of this is how they try and address the issue of homelessness, rough sleepers and beggars.
They do so in what is apparently a compassion vacuum.
Suggestions of making feeding the homeless a criminal act is often touted and the rise of ‘defensive architecture’ designed to make it impossible for a homeless person to seek shelter in a doorway nook or cranny of a building is on the rise.
In recent weeks we even seen the police dismantle a soup kitchen and moving on everyone who had volunteered to distribute what they had to the most vulnerable in our society.

It’s not something that anyone that I know is comfortable with.
And from our outside looking in position we do often feel free to criticize as we sit on our moral high horse and claim it wouldn't happen in our towns or villages.

Until now that is.

Only this week in Ayrshire our local newspaper - the Daily Record owned Ayrshire Post – ran a front page article that masqueraded as some sort of journalistic expose on ‘the beggar problem that Ayr has’.
In it there was a smell of week old xenophobia as Eastern Europeans got a tongue lashing, and in general anyone sitting on a cold wet pavement with their hand out was demonized within an inch of their life.
As I read it I could imagine the journalist writing it whistling ‘anything you can do I can do better’ with one eye on the shameless and manipulative headlines that oft scream at us from the tabloids.
It was a poor show and the only positive I could take from it is that the majority reading it are not stupid enough to subscribe to the drivel written.

Then it got worse.

In making an attempt to advertise the newspaper we had on our streets at least one sign with the comment ‘Hunt Beggars out of Ayr’ emblazoned across it.
Not asking them politely to leave, or how about we look to do something to help those less fortunate than ourselves, but hunt them out.
It just draws short of having a small print ‘unleash the hounds’ subtext to it.

Then again maybe the original article is a really a sponsored advert from the pitchfork makers of Ayrshire and they are looking to make hay as everyone runs to secure one for the Kristallnacht of the homeless that is to follow.

Seriously though, if any homeless person is assaulted, or worse, due to this shameless propaganda being put out there then this sign is nothing more than the promotion of a hate crime.

If there are people who don’t really understand why that is then they could try and swap beggar to anything of their choosing.
Jew would be the stereotypical first port of call, but what about nigger, paki, Muslim, homosexual or the similarly ridiculous ‘Hunt ginger people out of Ayr’.
Of course there’s some unpalatable language used there, but there is a point.
How accepting would the majority be if any of those where used?

The Ayrshire Post, the Daily Record and the individual who wrote the article, the person who chose the language of the poster and those who found it acceptable to go public with them are all guilty of spreading hate.
They are guilty of targeting the most vulnerable and painting them as the cause of a problem rather than the outcome of one.

As is usual there has now been a social media group created to draw attention to this insidious article and you can join it and add a comment here.

Or if you feel very strongly about this then you can contact the press complaints commission here

Thursday 8 January 2015

Religion doesn't kill people. People kill people.

Another day, another atrocity and we have to ask ourselves is there no end in sight to this taking of lives?
Do we really have to exist in a world where violent death and destruction is part of who we are?

If we honestly look to answer this, and base a response on factual evidence, then it would have to be said that currently there literally is no end in sight and in many ways violence is our default setting.
We appear to revel in wading through life as if it is a river of blood to be traversed.
It’s actually disgustingly depressing that we are capable of so much as a species, and yet addressing this fundamental flaw in our makeup is beyond us.
Give the human race a task and with time and effort we can achieve what was originally considered the impossible, except for excising violence from the world.
And if we are brutally honest with ourselves then the reason for this is because we probably don't really want to.
Violence is too useful a control tool to set aside for the greater good.

Can any of us realistically imagine a time within our own lifespan when the world will step away from meting out death as a control measure.

Because when you strip away all the religious arguments that are floating about, remove the talk of false flag conspiracies, and dig deeper, then at the root of the deaths in Paris is simply that one group of people wanted to control the actions of another.
In this case one side doesn't want the other side drawing some cartoons so they decided death and destruction was how to achieve their aims.
When said out loud, and as basically as that, it sounds completely ridiculous, and that’s because it is.
And yet similar happens everywhere, and always has done.
The people in Paris with the guns in their hands are no different to the Israeli soldier opening fire on a Palestinian, or even to the Palestinian who has strapped a waistcoat of Semtex to himself.
They are no different to the soldier of any country who has their finger on a trigger right now, or the anti abortionist who is considering planting a bomb in a clinic.
In fact they are no different from the partner in a relationship who uses their fists to shape their relationship.

What they all have in common is that they are looking to impose a world they want onto everyone else.
Sometimes it isn't even their perfect world, but instead that of their glorious leaders, but it doesn't really matter as it still boils down to the same thing.

We can claim the deaths in Paris are a religious problem, and of course that is part of the issue, but in many ways the belief systems - regardless of what they may be - are just the wrapping paper that covers our inherent need to control.

Maybe one day we can all step forward away from all of this, but there's nothing out there just now to lead me to believe it.

Very sadly depressing on every level.

And seeing as everyone and their brother is sharing Voltaire quotes here is one that isn't the first to be uttered.

Fanaticism is a monster that pretends to be the child of religion.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Junebug - Wild (New release)

Sometimes you have just got to share good music because it deserves to get to as many people as possible.
So take five minutes out of your day and wrap your ears around this.
I have said it so often that I am boring myself, but this is what people are missing when they claim there is nothing good out there anymore.
Nothing good?
Just listen.

Monday 5 January 2015

The Cundeez – Sehturday Night Weaver

There was a bit of me that considered attempting to write this review in the Dundonian dialect of Oary, but then common sense jumped forth to slap me down and remind me that doing it would be the same as writing a Bob Marley review in a dodgy Jamaican accent.
The world doesn't need that, and similarly neither does it require a review in Oary unless it comes direct from source.
So instead I will just rave on about how damn good it is.

So bagpipes and punk anyone?

Some may say that never the twain should meet – in fact some people will say that bagpipes and pretty much anything shouldn't meet - but the marmite of musical instruments fits hand in glove with the full on punk rock that the Cundeez deal in.
Just file their releases under the heading ‘fact is sometimes stranger than fiction.’
It really is a case of on paper this shouldn't work.
I mean who sits down with the intent to write a punk album and then considers doing much of it in a localized dialect before then deciding that the one thing missing is bagpipes?
The answer is….Only the Cundeez.
And it is this ripping up the rule book attitude to delivering what is at heart some traditional punk noise that is the element that makes it all work.
It’s aggressive, it’s funny, it’s got some damn accomplished musicianship on display, and in an alternate universe these guys are probably strutting about in kilts like fuckin’ rockstars.
Or they bloody well should be.

Like many I am rather tired of the indistinguishable pap that is being force fed to the public from the major labels and yearn for an alternative to the safe insipid drone that is passed off as currently relevant.
Thankfully there are bands like the Cundeez who can deliver that alternative.

More people should listen to them and challenge their own notions of what is entertaining.

Acts like the Cundeez who blatantly refuse to be anything other than true to themselves warm the cockles on my heart.
The revolution starts here.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Colin’s Godson –

Half Man Half Biscuit once had an idea that they would listen to lots of Abba and then write an album that would be produced by Luke Haines.
Everyone agreed that it was a genuinely superb idea and they approached Luke who immediately agreed to get involved.
Some people thought it was a joke, but everyone that was participating in the sessions swore blind that it wasn’t.
They were serious.
They were very serious.
A month went by, and then another, followed by yet another and before they knew it a whole year had slipped by, but that was okay because as they all emerged blinking from the darkness of the studio where they had been ensconced for so long they had with them a master tape that was filled with songs that they felt captured something that they considered no one had ever done before.
For a couple of days they sat on it while they all discussed what they should do with the songs.
Should they release it themselves?
If they did then it would have to be a limited run as financially that was all they could afford.
Or to reach the audience it deserved they could look to the major labels and see if any of them wanted to put their weight behind it.
The arguments for one or the other raged late into the night and then they came to the conclusion that the material was so strong that the more people that would hear it the better and ultimately concluded that the latter was the best option.
So to this end they hired a venue and invited all the major labels to attend for a listening party.
On the day they sat and watched the reactions of the fat cats as they puffed on cigars and listened to the mastered album from start to finish.
This singular piece of genius, this wholly original work of artistic expression blasted out and begged for something to be said.
Slowly one man stood up and turned towards the band.
They all looked at him as he ran his eyes around the room, licked his lips and then said ‘Is this Colin’s Godson? Sounds like them.’
All the fat cats nodded.
An awkward silence filled the room until it was broken when Luke Haines said ‘Who the fuck are Colin’s Godson?’ 


Saturday 3 January 2015

Dead Man's Town - A Tribute to Born In The USA

Homage albums where artists cover a whole release can be a bit hit and miss.
In fact to be blunt about it there are more misses than hits, but every once in a while one is released that doesn't just hit the barn door, but takes it clean of its hinges.

Dead Man’s Town is one of those.

Similar to the limited release from Clubhouse Records that covered Nebraska this is an exercise in simply ‘getting it’.
In understanding that what is really required to pull it off well is that the artists performing the material have to know how to deconstruct the songs, break them down to subatomic level, and then build them back up until they can be worn like a well tailored suit.

The best example from recent years is the much lauded take on Hurt that Johnny Cash released, and each and every song on this album is quality wise up there standing shoulder to shoulder with it.
Everyone involved appears to fundamentally understand that the essence of the material has to be maintained, but the delivery can be their own.
And when that is taken into consideration, and accepted, then the listener can appreciate that at no point at all is there a weak spot on this compilation.
All we have are examples of greatness, and then some tracks that are taken further down the road to reside in magnificence.

It is on this release that the much misconstrued album opener that is Born in the USA is finally wrestled from the hands of the Reaganites and put in the proper context of it not being a tub thumping anthem, but rather a condemnation of how those who lead can so readily abandon those they are supposed to look after.
There is no room for it to be misconstrued as anything other than what it is.
And then, seemingly effortlessly, each and every song that follows it is valiantly rescued from the eighties production that the original had and delivered stripped bare in a style that would sit comfortably as a companion release to Nebraska. 
This is an album that can make you swoon with appreciation.

Right now it’s dark outside. 
As I am writing this the rain is hammering against the windows hard, and to accompany the sound of it is Nicole Atkins singing Dancing in the Dark.
The emotional delivery of the song feels like a punch to the heart.
With the vinyl spinning and the rain assaulting the windows there is a perfect symbiotic balance to the moment. 
Again it is the ability to look deeper into the song and embrace its essence that is the appeal.
And therein probably lies the magic
From start to finish it has to be said that no one involved in this release has misappropriated the source material in any way at all.
Instead they have enhanced it.
Everyone has managed to portray a true reflection, albeit from a different angle.

In addition one listen to this in its entirety also highlights that the listener isn't required to be a fan of the original album, or even Springsteen, to engage with it.
All they need is an open mind and a pair of ears. 
The latter is common, the former maybe not so much, but there are treasures here.
Very rich treasures and it would be a great shame if they were overlooked due to a misconceived idea of what is on offer. 

Friday 2 January 2015

Duncan Reid and the Big Heads – The Difficult Second Album

While many of the peers of Duncan Reid are happy to regurgitate past glories and pass them off as relevant in the modern age he appears to have decided that travelling down that path is not going to take him anywhere he wants to end up.
Instead he resurfaced with his Big Heads and clutching a crackin debut in 2012 in his hands that managed to reference his past without being bogged down by it, and simultaneously happily laid out some clues as to what direction he would be comfortable in taking.
It could be said that he released an album that was designed to be a bridge that could carry his fanbase from the past into the present and ease them into a position where they would be comfortable in joining him on a trip into the future.
And with that being successfully done the fruits of the seeds he planted then have now come to bloom on his tongue in cheek titled ‘The Difficult Second Album’.
A release that delivers a smorgasbord of aural delights that will satisfy the palate of every power pop fan that ever drew breath.
In fact scratch that.
Anyone that classes themselves as a music fan and appreciates that pop is not a slur will find something on this that will set their heart a flutter.
There’s some quintessential Englishness that is explored that resides in the sound of bands from The Kinks to XTC, and maybe even takes in a bit of the brit-pop era with some Cocker styled social commentary.
That’s Jarvis and not Joe by the way.
Of course there is s till the sound of The Boys that can be heard on C’est la vie, End of the World and One night in Rio, and fans from that period of his career are certainly not being left behind, but it’s fair to say that the train has left the station and a tipping point has been reached with the lions share of the compositions living and breathing in the here and now rather than celebrating something that has been and gone.
It’s a brave move really, and one that should be celebrated.
The option was there to go with the familiar or cast caution to the wind and create something new.
I’m glad that Duncan with his Big Heads chose the latter.
It bodes very well for the future.


Thursday 1 January 2015

The Bucky Rage – Under the Underground.

Garage punk is, and always probably will be, in rude health in the strangest places across the globe.
Self-sustaining scenes of ramalama mayhem exist everywhere under the radar of the mainstream.
In the basement clubs and the backrooms of bars from Austen to Auchtermuchty the sounds of unfiltered and untamed rock and roll can be heard, and one of the most excellent of those who keep the flame alive are Scottish reprobates ‘The Bucky Rage’.
With their Luchador masks and stocking clad faces they are a band who lean towards eschewing normality and instead prefer to dive headlong into an underground scene that unless experienced will never really be understood.
Perennial outsiders they may well be, but proudly claiming that it is better to be the kings of your own fantasy kingdom than hang on to the bottom rung of a passionless music scene could be their motto.
On their latest release, the full length twelve track, ‘Under the Underground’ they hammer the point home gleefully that hitching their star to a populist bandwagon is certainly not under consideration, and instead look to dazzle with tracks that will warm the cockles of the hearts of garage aficionados near and far.
There’s no point in trying to pin down a specific era theme across the breadth of this release as there is none.
From the fifties through the sixties and seventies they are touching bass with the sounds that illustrate why rock and roll played with wild abandon will never go out of fashion.
Shading the material with everything from The Sonics to The Cramps and then smothering it with the attitude that lurks at the bottom of a bottle of tonic wine just makes it all sound so….so….sooo…..well so fuckin’ magical just about covers it.
Leftfield surprise of the album is the inclusion of what is their version of a sea shanty called O’ Ragin’ Sea, a song that with repeated spins beds itself in a classic, a shining jewel thrown before swines.
Square kids won't get it.
Don't be square.


Happy new year, some casual promises that may not be kept, and a news roundup.

It’s the New Year and time for everyone everywhere to look at all the things that they don't like about themselves and promise that they can, and will, change them.
Realistically only 0.0003% of the worlds population will manage to do this with a degree of success.
That’s a fact.*
The result of the failure of the majority will undoubtedly be that many of us will dive into a tailspin of self loathing and depression.

So basically 2015 is going to be no different from 2014.

For myself I am going to try and stop looking to squeeze 26 plus hours into 24 hour days.
It’s just not working for me.
So time and management will be my new watchwords.
Multitasking will be cast aside as I've found that it just means I do lots of things poorly rather than one thing at a time done well.
This is something that I hope will directly impact on the blog.
Although this doesn't mean that I am promising anything.
That’s something else that I am going to do, or not do to be more accurate.
Make promises.
I think with a bit of effort I can manage that one.

Anyway I think that a weekly news update, a few reviews, one interview and a social commentary article should be within what is reasonably achievable for the blog each week, and that’s what I am going to aim for.
So that’s what to expect, but don't hold me to it.

And in an effort to start off as I mean to continue here is the news roundup.

Independent artists all across Europe have in the past week been running around in a panic tearing at their hair, beating their chests and in general trying to pull their twisted knickers into more manageable positions due to the European Unions decision to introduce the application of VAT to all digital download sales from January the first of 2015.
The idea is allegedly to ensure that the big boys like Amazons and i-tunes pay their dues, but as they employ very clever, but often immoral, people to exploit every single financial loophole that is out there it is doubtful that it will matter much to them.
However, as is the norm, it seems that the little man/woman will feel the pinch far harder as the governments vacuum up the cash by picking pennies out of the pockets of the many rather than the pounds or Euros from the few.

All we are having implemented is a system that will make it increasingly difficult for independent artists to find a sustainable financial footing.

The response to this news has been a fervent outcry from musicians and music lovers who have signed petitions and lobbied the parliamentarian representatives and everyone is currently waiting with baited breath to see if this delivers anything worth smiling about.
You can assist with the campaign to oppose this here.

And meanwhile in the background of all this ‘Bandcamp’ have played a blinder.
As social media erupted and what was about to happen sunk into the heads of their users they did a classic bit of misdirection.
After a bit of a kerfuffle they have said they will sort it out on behalf of those who have their music uploaded to them for distribution.
Instead of musicians having to register to pay VAT and become directly cosy with the taxman they will deal with it all at source.
But wait just a second.
The issue was not about having to do tax returns, but being taxed on often meagre incoming revenue.
So while many are patting Bandcamp on the back what is it they have actually done?
As of today the tax is being implemented.
The VAT is still going to be taken off the digital sales.
It seems like a bit of a non victory.
The crowds are cheering, but the original issue still exists.

On a more positive note the rumblings of opposition to the legal ticket tout businesses such as getmein and the like are starting to gain some prominence again.
On the coattails of the AC/DC tour selling out and the magically over inflated tickets becoming available at the same time as they were released to the public the hordes of rock lovers have finally awoken from their slumber.
Social media and music related blogs are full of the cries of the ticketless potless that are in a rage at their inability to secure affordable tickets that they now perceive – rightly – as being snatched from them by the greedy corporations.
It’s been a while since Dispatches outed the practices of these companies – most notably Viagogo – and the government supported their right to abuse music fans, but instead of considering that to be the end of the story music lovers should consider it the opening chapter.
Watch this space for updates.

Another positive to report on is one that I am involved with.
In March the New Hellfire Club of Glasgow will be hosting a few events under the banner of ‘the big pay day’.
The idea is to draw attention to how there are alternatives to paying to play and dodgy ticket split deals.
More details about that will follow including venues and line up.
Meanwhile you can jump over to NHC Music and grab an anti pay to play t-shirt.

Remaining with NHC music it is also worth checking out the weekend events that have been booked for January.
All are intimate acoustic sets that are free to attend, all ages are of course welcome, and if you are over eighteen then you can bring your own bottle although we do encourage people to drink responsibly.

And in closing itsaxxxxthing would like to say goodbye to Joe Cocker whose passing has left the world of rock a darker place, and jazz clarinettist Buddy DeFranco who fully deserves to be remembered for his work with Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and more.

*One that I made up.