Archive | November, 2011

Luke Haines – 9½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s & Early ’80s

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Luke Haines – 9½ Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s & Early ’80s

Posted on 13 November 2011 by Dorian

Luke Haines has had a pretty interesting and varied musical career. Almost winning the Mercury Prize and recording with Steve Albini as The Auteurs, twisted pop as Black Box Recorder, a concept album about terrorists, a very variable solo output and ‘Bad Vibes’ the best book ever published about the Brit Pop era. 21st Century Man, his 2009 album, was a return to musical form that showed an artist with a warmer, more nostalgic, approach to music. Even given all of this it would have taken Derren Brown to predict that his next album would be a concept piece about the classic era of British Wrestling that was watched on ITV’s World Of Sport on a Saturday afternoon through the 1970s and early ’80s.

Luke Haines Wrestling

You have to wonder what the young Luke Haines would have felt about his older self producing music as  nostalgic as this. Despite the typical bile filled vocal delivery this is a loving depiction of an era, warts and all. The lyrics are typically brilliant and anyone who grew up in Britain during the period will be able to identify with his depiction of Saturday afternoons spent with liver sausage sandwiches, broken boilers and the Big Daddy splash.

Each song is a picture perfect vignette of the era and every significant figure of the time gets a mention from ‘Bomber’ Pat Roach to Giant Haystacks and Gorgeous George. The songs manage to be simultaneously warm, affectionate and sinister in a way that only a songwriter as skilled as Haines can pull off. There is a lot of humour here (a song called ‘A Rock Opera: In the key of Extistential Misery’ can’t be taken seriously) but you never get the sense that the era is being mocked. It is an affectionate tribute to a period in time that Haines misses but would never wish to return to.

“Egg and chips from the transport caff was the worst food that I’d ever had. Do you want some more? Oh dear god no.”

It is an old fashioned album in other ways, it is a 10 song cycle that works brilliantly when listened to in one sitting. That isn’t to say that individuals songs don’t work on their own but the whole album experience is when it hits near perfection. In an age where single track downloads  become more and more common this is as much of a nostalgic relic as the British wrestling scene recorded in the album’s songs.

Musically it covers themes that will be familiar to anyone who has listened to Haine’s previous output, and carries on where 21st Century Man left off. On the glam rock stomp of ‘Linda’s Head’ Haines sounds eerilylike a sinister Marc Bolan. The synth pop of ‘Big Daddy Got A Casio VL-Tone’ tells the brilliant imagined story of the man himself trying out his musical ideas on the synthesiser of the title.

I have to admit that I came to this album with a positive frame of mind. I love a lot of Luke Haine’s previous work, and the subject matter appealed to me enormously. Even taking that into account I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed the album and it is possibly my most repeated album of the year in a very short period of time. Witty, concise, well executed and completely unlike any other album I’ve heard this year. This isn’t just one of the best albums by a British artist that has been released this year, it is also one of the best albums by an artists with a pretty impressive back catalogue.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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11 songs about 11 to mark 11.11.11

11 songs about 11 to mark 11.11.11

Posted on 10 November 2011 by Joe

To mark this momentous date when the same number  is repeated frequently we proudly present 11 songs about the number 11. For best results we advise listening at 11:11am on Nov 11.

11. Ned’s Automic Dustbin – Song 11 Could Take Forever

10. U2- 11 o’clock Tick Tock

9. Kimya Dawson – Eleventeen

8. Incubus – 11am

7. Nine Below Zero – 11 plus 11

6. Arovane – Eleventh!

5. Julian Casablancas – 11th Dimension

4.The Magic Numbers – Mornings Eleven

3. Blondie –  11:59

2. Ramones – 7-11

1. Sesame Street – Lonely Number 11

compiled by Joe Lepper

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Matt Stevens – Relic

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Matt Stevens – Relic

Posted on 09 November 2011 by Dorian

Matt Stevens’ third album Relic is a refreshing listen for this reviewer, being an album that I knew nothing about prior to my first play. I hadn’t heard his previous works, or his output with the band The Fierce and the Dead. Being a slightly judgemental music listener (I try not to be, but I know I am) I may not have given it a try had I known about his support gigs with Barclay James Harvest and Fish prior to listening to the album. However, I listened to the album with an open mind and I’m glad that I did as it is a bit of a gem, and a genuinely different musical experience.

Matt Stevens - Relic

The album does have some obvious influences, Radiohead, prog rock, 1990s heavy metal and celtic folk all rear their heads over the ten tracks. However, it is a surprisingly cohesive album for all that, and has an identity and individuality that reflects Stevens himself as much as his inspirations.

It is very much a guitar album, and he multi-tracks and loops his guitar parts to great effect, but he crucially avoids peppering the album with too much trickery and soloing. In fact his playing is remarkably restrained, although a great amount of skill is on show here it isn’t until the second to last track, the heavy metal assault of ‘Frost’, that he lets self-indulgence get the better of him and by that time you don’t mind.

It is a uniformly good album, and one that is remarkably free of flab (especially considering his prog influences) but there are a couple of tracks that stand out. ‘Rusty’ brilliantly mixes Spanish guitar, folk fiddle and some impressive percussion before the next track ’20 GOTO 10′ offers something much more sparse and self-consciously modern, but with equal skill. This track brought to mind the work of Japanese left-field pop performers with the distorted computer sounds building to expansive guitars.

It is a slightly jarring album, something I quite enjoy but not something that makes for a an easy relaxing listen. There are also some production issues on a few of the tracks, they felt a bit cold and hard where a warmer production would have suited them better. These are minor criticisms though and don’t really detract from what is a really interesting and unusual album.

8/10

By Dorian Rogers

You can pick the album up (in physical or digital form) by going to Matt Stevens’ Bandcamp page.

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The Miserable Rich @ St John the Baptist’s crypt, Bristol, Nov 8, 2011

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The Miserable Rich @ St John the Baptist’s crypt, Bristol, Nov 8, 2011

Posted on 09 November 2011 by Joe

The Miserable Rich are really throwing themselves into the promotion of their latest album Miss You In The Days, which mixes ghost tales with stories of love. Not only was it released on Halloween but they have decided to select some creepy, haunted venues for their promotional tour.

In Bristol’s St John The Baptist’s church crypt they may just one have found the best venue yet. With its knights’ tombs and low, ornate ceiling it is like no other gig venue I’ve been to.

With no toilets, they were provided by the nearby car park and pub, and  a bring your own booze policy this venue is low on amenities but high on atmosphere.

To get us in the mood the band have selected comic bard Alabaster de Plume as one of the support acts. While his medieval and modern tales of  swearing, sex and drinking would have gone down a storm down the A37 at the Glastonbury Assembly Rooms this largely  urban  crowd just seemed a little confused , especially by one song seemingly about a “wank stained goatee.”

Alabaster fared much better introducing the band, providing an extended intro to their opener Imperial Lines and some surprisingly good saxophone work when he joined the band for some later tracks.

The encore among the crowd

During the hour long set The Miserable Rich  (who were named as one of our Top Ten Acts To Watch out for in 2011) are clearly and  quite rightly pleased with their new album, giving the bulk of it an airing tonight. Live lead singer and songwriter James de Malplaquet also gets a chance to explain some of the stories behind the tracks, from the hitchhiker who never reaches his destination to the pauper who kills himself after being separated from his aristocratic lover.

Among the highlights were final track in the set Ringing the Changes. While on the CD this waltz like number conjures up images of a Victorian couple dancing surrounded by ghouls and spirits, live it transforms into a rowdy Elizabethan drinking song.

A couple of older songs, Let Me Fade from their second album Of Flight and Fury, which was one of Neon Filler’s Top 20 albums of 2010, and Boat Song, from their debut Twelve Ways to Count also got an airing. The former because it has similar themes of love and loss and the second because it was perfect for the special encore they surprised the crowd with.

This involved the band coming among the audience, an easy feat for de Malplaquet , less so for the double bass player. The version of Boat Song they performed in this intimate, completely acoustic setting was for me the highlight. The final song of the encore, performed back on stage, was True Love, the one about the lovesick pauper.

Among the lasting impressions is just how good this band are as musicians, especially violinst Mike Siddell. I was informed by my more musical companion that Siddell apparently is a master of the flautando,  something very complicated involving making a violin sound a bit like a flute. De Malplaquet also deserves credit for a vocal performance that was precise and beautiful, not a description often used for male singers.

The only downside, and it’s the same gripe we had when we saw Singing Adams in Bristol in September, where were all the people? Around 50 turned up, thankfully enough to give the creepy venue some added atmosphere, but that is just 50 people seeing one of the UK’s best live bands, and what’s more playing a unique gig.  De Malplaquet pledged to come back to the venue but “with better publicity next time.”

“We’re just a small band trying to push our music, so thanks for making the effort to come and see us,” he added. Not sure how small they will continue to be on this evidence.

9.5/10

By Joe Lepper

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Danny Kendall Live @ The Bleeding Hearts Club 07/11/11

Posted on 08 November 2011 by Dorian

The video below is two songs from Danny Kendall (AKA Ben Murray) at the Bleeding Hearts Club in Brighton on Monday 7th November 2011.

The two songs are ‘A Good Man Is Hard To Find’ and ‘We’ve Never Been To Singapore’ (featuring Jen Macro from the band Something Beginning with L).

The excellent evening of music also included sets by Something Beginning with L and Chris T-T.

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Fortuna POP! Live @ The Scala 03/11/11

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Fortuna POP! Live @ The Scala 03/11/11

Posted on 05 November 2011 by Dorian

In celebration of the 15th birthday of Fortuna POP!, the fiercely independent record label, three gigs were held at London’s Scala. This third and final night was the pick of the bunch featuring The Ladybug Transistor, The Tender Trap, Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern and Allo Darlin’. Arriving at the venue it was immediately obvious that we were at a “Twee” night, with a prevalence of floral print dresses and badges on show. In fact it is pointed out to me that one such badge festooned punter even has a badge sporting the legend “Twee”. So far so good, I love pop music, twee or not, and I like badges.

The Tender Trap

The Tender Trap

Arriving at the venue late, caught out by an early start and a need for pre-gig sustenance, we had missed the Ladybug Transistor (a band that I had seen once before, but many years ago at a Track and Field ‘Pow to the People!’ event). First up for us was Amelia Fletcher’s current incarnation The Tender Trap, the band of the night that best fits the twee label. The songs are lively, punky and cute, and the playing simple but effective with Fletcher looking a lot younger than can be possible given her long history on the indie pop scene. There is a sense that you are hearing something you have heard before, but considering that the person on stage pretty much invented the whole scene that is fair enough. It is a fun set and a great start to (my) evening.

Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern

Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern

Darren Hayman is up next, and playing today in full band mode with a trumpet player as the latest edition to The Secondary Modern. A crowd pleasing set features a Hefner classic early on, ‘The Hymn For The Postal Service’ isn’t one of his older songs I expected to hear, but it sounds great and goes down a storm. The whole set plays brilliantly, with Hayman on jovial form and the addition of trumpet adding to the already full sound of the band. The brilliant Pram Town, a Neon Filler album of the year, supplies the highlights of the set but songs from Essex Green and The Ships Piano are near perfect as well. The closing song is no surprise, Amelia Fletcher returning to the stage to add her vocals to ‘Good Fruit’ some 11 years after she originally recorded it with Hefner, and it is a perfect way to finish the set.

Allo Darlin'

Allo Darlin'

Before Allo Darlin’ take the stage there are video tributes to the record label, and label boss Sean Price. It is great to see a label that inspires so much loyalty and respect from the artists, something that is pretty rare these days.

Allo Darlin’ have become one of my favourites bands since I first saw them at the End of the Road festival in 2010. Their debut album is such a charming set of sweet pop moments, and they are a very enjoyable live act. The set is predominantly drawn from the debut, unsurprising as only have one album to draw upon and are too savvy to fill their set with unknown songs from their next release. Set highlights (of which there are many) include ‘Let’s Go Swimming’, with Dan Mayfield moonlighting from The Secondary Modern on fiddle and ‘Kiss Your Lips’ which is just one of the best singles of the last few years.

Allo Darlin’ manage to be that little bit special thanks to a few key factors, the most obvious of which being Elizabeth Morris. Her distinctive vocals, enthusiastic ukulele playing and confident stage presence give the band a strong central focus. The rhythm section is skilled, tight and unfussy, propelling the pure pop along with real energy. The band’s secret weapon though is guitarist Paul Rains, his playing is sophisticated and shows far more skill than you’d expect from a punky twee pop band. I heard more than one person on the night compare him to Johnny Marr and I would agree that he can sit comfortably in that company.

The final song of the night brings The Ladybug Transistor’s Gary Olsen to the stage to duet on ‘Dreaming’, which brings things to a close pretty perfectly. I for one am looking forward to 2017 for the 21st birthday celebrations.

By Dorian Rogers

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The Spills – Occam’s Razor

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The Spills – Occam’s Razor

Posted on 03 November 2011 by Dorian

The Spills debut album is one that will get better and better every time it is listened to.  Released on the Philophobia  Music label and produced by Lee Smith and Jamie Lockhart at Greenmount studios, this is an album which keeps to a style without becoming predictable.  It has moments from a hazy summer mixed in with atmospheric drones which are broken up by thrashing guitars and choruses.

Occams Razor

‘Summer Vibes’ is a summer pop/rock song with attitude that would be completely at home on a sunny afternoon at a festival, as would ‘Coiled Springs’ which has a happy and hyperactive Nirvana style to it.

‘Oh Say Do’ sticks to this theme with a more relaxing feel to it and a catchy chorus, with vocals reminiscent of The Walkmen.

In between these tracks however is ‘Heat Death Of The Universe’ which changes the pace as well as demonstrating the instrumental as well as vocal ability of the Wakefield band.  Similarly ‘Silver Bullets’ and ‘White Flag’ add some melancholic atmosphere with the latter again showing good vocals in contrast to the snarls in ‘Jury’s Out’.

The songs are positioned well in this album with the first half more lively than the second.  However the changes in tempo within the songs mean that the album flows from one song to another and does not feel disjointed.  The Spills strength is their instrumental ability and vocal variety which shine through most prominently on the more light hearted, up-tempo songs such as ‘Summer Vibes’.

‘Occam’s Razor’ is well worth a listen, particularly when the sun is shining , and although the rawness of this debut adds another dimension, one can’t help but think that there is more to come from this band.

6.5/10

By Danny Foy

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