Archive | June, 2015

Glastonbury Festival 2015 – Best of the Small Stages

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Glastonbury Festival 2015 – Best of the Small Stages

Posted on 29 June 2015 by Joe

“Why aren’t you playing the Pyramid Stage,” shouted a heckler at Billy Bragg’s headline set at The Leftfield tent on Friday. Bragg’s response, to remind him of the event’s varied 100 plus stages, was obvious but too often forgotten by those at home watching on TV.

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg

In the spirit of Bragg’s comments this article will take you away from the 50,000 strong crowds of the Pyramid and Other stages to focus on those smaller venues, which this year offered a world of prog rock, punk legends, French eccentricity, young stars of the future and even Ron Mael from Sparks having a laugh and a dance.

Friday

As with last year the tented William’s Green stage continues to impress with the most eclectic and interesting line up. Opening on Friday was Declan McKenna, the winner of this year’s Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition. As a judge in the competition I was keen to see how this teenager, who has already garnered Radio 1 airplay, would tackle the festival crowd.

Declan McKenna

Declan McKenna

Turns out McKenna performed like an old pro, with his guitar and vocal looping allowing the tracks to build up before turning into perfect pop, in particular his best song Brazil. He even threw a beach ball into the crowd to gee up the weary Friday morning crowd as he proved he was certainly not intimidated.

Canada’s The Burning Hell sound like a cross between Camper Van Beethoven and King Missile, were full of laughs, have been going for a decade and have seven albums already. I’d never heard of them until Friday afternoon at William’s Green, where they completely won me over with tracks such as Nostalgia. How have they passed me by?

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Over at The Park stage and once again away from any TV cameras King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, the seven strong psychedelic Australian act, were putting on one of the best sets of the day. They are surely destined for larger stages on this evidence for future festivals, especially thanks to singer Stu Mackenzie tongue wagging and guitar noodling.

Heavenly Records are 25 years old this year and William’s Green snapped up their latest crop of acts for the rest of the afternoon. Hooton Tennis Club are for those that adore the likes of Teenage Fanclub, but it was Stealing Sheep who stole the show. Although their second album, which dominated their set, doesn’t have the same quality of songs as their debut this Liverpool trio’s great stage presence and sense of fun makes the tracks far better live. Roping in Dutch Uncles singer Duncan Wallis to sing with them for a track was also great to see.

Stealing Sheep

Stealing Sheep

Rain can really scupper plans at Glastonbury. It can also reveal some surprises. As I ducked for cover at the Acoustic Tent during a late afternoon shower I made a new discovery – rock ‘n’ roller JD McPherson, who was one of Rolling Stone’s artist to watch in 2012 for good reason. His was a blistering proper rock ‘n’ roll set. Speaking of which the TV cameras missed a trick in not popping by the Acoustic Stage after JD McPherson to catch the legend that is Wilko Johnson.

Wilko Johnson

Wilko Johnson

Like a crazed bird Johnson made a mockery of the cancer that last year threatened to take his life, as he weaved around stage, machine gun chording the audience with his trademark Fender telecaster. He and his band’s bassist Norman Watt-Roy are a sheer joy to watch.

Back at the Leftfield for the end of my night Billy Bragg was doing more than putting hecklers in their place. On the day the US Supreme Coast legalised gay marriage his version of Sexuality took on an extra special meaning. He never fails to deliver as a live performer and the hits came tumbling out on his now regular Friday night Leftfield set.

Saturday

At the foot of The Park area lies the tiny Bimble Inn, which proved a great venue for emerging singer songwriters and folk artists over the weekend. Kezia, from Falmouth was among the best I saw here. It took me a while to pinpoint who she reminded me of, as I searched for female singer songwriters to compare her to. Turns out it wasn’t a woman at all, but Sufjan Stevens. She must surely be a fan, with her whispering vocals and introspective lyrics showing another hidden talent at the festival this weekend.

Kezia

Kezia

A few years back I saw Giant Sand in the giant foyer venue at one of ATP’s festivals at Mineheads Butlins. It was a poor choice of venue for Howe Gelb and co’s sultry brand of American indie rock. The blazing, and I mean proper blazing sunshine, of the dusty Park was far better. Here joined by JB Meijers and Ilse DeLange from The Common Linnets Gelb took in a perfect festival set, mixing old and new as well as slow and fast paced reminders of their trailblazing 1980s indie rock roots, including a great version of their 1985 track Tumble ‘n’ Tear to end. The TV cameras turned up for this one and rightly so.

Giant Sand

Giant Sand

On my way back over to William’s Green I passed a couple of more smaller venues with interesting acts. Just a Couple of Mums, the Sussex based, energetic feather-duster waving DJ pair were putting in a stonking set at Spike’s Bar, while at the Fluffy Rock Café youngster (and I mean youngster as in primary school age) Tom Smith, was dazzling the crowd. Often little kids can’t sing, but we smile and nod in appreciation anyway. That’s not the case with Tom, he can actually sing and play really well. One of the festival’s youngest stars.

Tom Smith

Tom Smith

Performance of the day, perhaps the weekend, was La Femme, from Paris. I already knew their eccentric surf dance pop tracks from their excellent debut album Psycho Tropical Brazil and live they are nothing short of incredible. At their William’s Green set there was crowd surfing, crazy dancing and wonderful banter. This is a fun party band and I urge you to see them if they play near year.

La Femme

La Femme

To round off my day Father John Misty was putting in a rock star performance, running into the crowd and rolling all over the stage. Passionate performance barely touches on describing how good he was.

Sunday

Ron Sexsmith is celebrating two decades of music this year. How he has evaded me all this time remains a mystery. Those that saw his Acoustic Tent afternoon were treated to a career spanning set from early tracks like Strawberry Blonde and There’s a Rhythm to the more recent Getaway Car. Crowd pleasers for fans and newbies like me alike.

Ron Sexsmith

Ron Sexsmith

Success has consistently evaded The Bevis Frond, as its mainstay and frontman Nick Saloman tells his audience. He’s at the stage now in his career where he’s just happy that people want to hear him, however small the crowd. Saloman though has every right to expect more, not only are his songs great but his guitar playing is superb. Billed as prog rock, he’s more than that after pretty much laying down the blue print for Dinosaur Jr and grunge in the 1980s. Highpoints included Saloman bringing out his electric-sitar guitar for some complex noodling mid way through.

The Bevis Frond

The Bevis Frond

Saloman and co loved every second of playing, even in front of a half full William’s Green due in part to the blazing sunshine outside. Meanwhile, The Phantom Band, who followed, looked like they’d rather be anywhere else. During a subdued performance dominated by their excellent latest album Strange Friend they looked like band going through the motions, yearning to be out in the sun with everyone else.

The Fall are both brilliant and terrible all at once. Mark E Smith shouting and mumbling over a pounding rhythm section thanks to the addition of an extra drummer in recent years. Its hypnotic and wonderful, but as ever Smith seeks to create tension, twiddling the knobs and instruments of his drone musicians, as he wanders around stage picking up random mics to shout into.

The Fall

The Fall

Nowadays Smith’s drones, including wife Eleni on keyboards, are used to this part of the act and smile through it. They say play the hits, nothing but the hits at festivals. The Fall ignore this though with their recent album dominating the set and nothing older than 2003’s Sparta FC for those craving something recognisable.

Another Manchester punk legendary act Buzzcocks are surprisingly playing at Glastonbury for the first time in their 39-year history. They have plenty of hits, and in stark contrast to The Fall play pretty much all of them as they rattle through Noise Annoys, Promises, Ever Fallen In Love and many more. Singer Pete Shelley still sounds great and although larger of build and greyer of hair still has that boyish glint in his eye.

Buzzcocks

Buzzcocks

Buzzcocks’ Guitarist Steve Diggle was in full rock star mode, and even walked on clutching a bottle of Moet. He clearly loves every minute of playing live and spent the set going through the full list of rock guitarist clichés with his foot on monitor and arm aloft after each chord. It was great though, the guy’s happy and his constant winks and smiles at the audience made you realise that underneath that rock pomposity is a lovely bloke.

For my final act of Glastonbury I ventured over to the half full John Peel Stage to see FFS, aka Franz Ferdinand with Sparks. They were competing with the Chemical Brothers and The Who after all, but this didn’t stop them putting on a great set as they ripped through each other’s hits and showcased their remarkable and fun debut album from this year.

FFS

FFS

Highlights included Alex Kapranos and Russell Mael’s endearing acting during the splendidly ironic Collaborations Don’t Work. Top moment though was the surprise sight of Ron Mael emerging from behind his keyboard to laugh and dance for a quick 30 second mesmerising burst of pop history. Not bad dancing skills for a man for whom John Lennon once said “bloody hell, its Hitler on TV.”

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

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Brakes – Concorde 2, Brighton (June 17, 2015)

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Brakes – Concorde 2, Brighton (June 17, 2015)

Posted on 24 June 2015 by Dorian

Brakes (or BrakesBrakesBrakes to their US based fans) are the best band to have come out of Brighton. Better than related acts British Sea Power and Electric Soft Parade and better than The Levellers (despite them holding the surprising record for the largest ever crowd at the Glastonbury Pyramid stage). They released three excellent albums and played many excellent live shows before seemingly disbanding around 5 years ago.

So, it was very welcome news when they announced a home-town gig in celebration of the anniversary of their first album Give Blood. This news was followed with a handful of festival dates, but it was no surprise that the Concorde 2 gig was a capacity event.

Rose Dougall

First up on stage was former Pipette, Rose Dougall, an artist that I had no knowledge of outside of her former band. Live on stage it was a very pleasant surprise as she carried us through a set of 80s tinged pop numbers and demonstrated some impressive vocal prowess. The immediate comparison point that sprang to my mind was Brighton act Fear of Men, in the sound of the singing if the not the song-writing. It was another pleasant surprise to see her accompanied on stage by Gare Du Nord stalwart Ralegh Long, stepping out from behind his keyboard to prove to a very able guitarist.

Brakes

It was still bright outside when Brakes took to the stage, this being a mid-Summer gig and also an early show, but the venue was packed to the gunwales with a very partisan crowd. The band launched in to ‘The Most Fun’, which is both one of their most “Brakesish” songs but also a pretty good review of the gig to come.

The band knew that their time on stage was limited and they were in no mood to hang around, a plan to play 30 songs in the set added a degree of urgency to proceedings. The fact that so many songs in their arsenal are two minutes (or much less) in length certainly made this more achievable.

Hearing them throw out songs from across their three albums showed what a consistently inventive, fun and exciting band they were. Too odd to become household names but playing such a range of songs that they would have something to appeal to almost anyone. Be that the (near hit) of ‘All Night Disco Party’ or the well crafted rock out ‘Take Me To The River’, songs that are just too good to ignore.

The bands taste in cover versions is also pretty faultless with the Johnny Cash/June Carter single ‘Jackson’ fitting perfectly in a set along with the Camper Van Beethoven track ‘Shut Us Down’. This is a band just as comfortable playing country, folk, punk, rock or indie-pop across their albums and live shows. Brakes certainly sound like a lot of other bands tonight, but it is telling that no other band around sounds anything like Brakes.

The band have a very solid rhythm section, with bassist Marc Beatty and drummer Alex White coping well with a wide range of styles and pace changes. Singer Eamon, back in town having played with British Sea Power the previous week, is a real one off. His vocal style is unusual and his song-writing even more so, but he does things so well that his disappearance from the music scene is a real shame. However, the star of the show for me is guitarist Thomas White. I have not been fully convinced by his solo records but his skill with an axe is unquestionable, every style played brilliantly and (despite some amp malfunctions) barely a duff note all evening.

I don’t know what the future holds for the band, or if they have any future as a unit at all. Perhaps  a succinct and exciting set of albums is the best place for them to leave it and not attempt any further recordings. What I do know is that on this form they are about the best live act in town, catch them at one of their festival shows if you can.

By Dorian Rogers

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Richard Thompson – Still

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Richard Thompson – Still

Posted on 19 June 2015 by Joe

Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy freely admits that his role as a producer is made easier by working with some of the music industry’s best talents. Those he has produced or collaborated in recent years, from Bill Fay to Low to Mavis Staples probably don’t need much producing. They just need to turn up, play their stuff, Tweedy presses some buttons and everyone goes home. Of course there’s more to it than that, but you get the sense with his latest production credit, working with one of his guitar heroes Richard Thompson, that as with Low and others he was happy to let the talent play their stuff and not really interfere.

RichardThompsonStill

That is probably the smartest move a producer can make when dealing with someone like Thompson. Hand holding and nurturing is more for newbies who are lost in the studio (see John Leckie’s work with The Stone Roses).

The result here is that thanks in part to Tweedy Thompson has delivered another high point in an enormously long career that is now in its sixth decade.

The key to this album’s success is some quality songs. In fact some of Thompson’s best of his career, in particular Patty Don’t You Put Me Down, which is sure to be a live favourite for years to come.

This is firmly an electric guitar album. It’s an important distinction as Thompson excels at both acoustic and electric guitar driven tracks. It’s not rock but its up their with Front Parlour Ballads in terms of great recent Thompson albums.

The recording in Tweedy’s Chicago based Loft Studio and familiar personnel including Thompson and John Cale’s tour drummer Michael Jerome, also give the album a warmth and intimacy. This is further shown through Thompson’s low key playing. To say he’s a good electric guitarist is one of the biggest understatements it is possible to make. But here he is far from over the top, he keeps the guitar as one ingredient to the songs, rather than overshadow them.

This allows She Never Could Resist A Winding Road to build up momentum nicely. On the almost prog rock-like Pony in the Stable some of the guitar playing is eye wateringly good, but still the song remains king.

So while Tweedy may have underplayed his input its clear that his less is more approach is still key to this album’s strengths, as he successfully brings out the best of one of modern music’s most enduring figures.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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FFS – FFS

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FFS – FFS

Posted on 11 June 2015 by Joe

Luke Haines is an utter bastard. There I was ready to write my review of FFS – the collaboration between 1970s oddball pop duo Sparks and latter day art rockers Franz Ferdinand, when the former Auteurs man wrote this perfect review of their album.

So gone are my lines about the playground chatter concerning Sparks’ emotionless keyboardist Ron Mael looking like Hitler. Gone are the references to FFS putting younger bands to shame with their inventiveness and clever take on pop and rock. Haines has already covered that.

ffspic

So what I’m left with is simply an echo. This album is just great, with the pop and witty lyrics of stellar tracks such as Johnny Delusional or Police Encounters providing power, bombast and a tonne of other adjectives that make you want to get up a dance. Even the slowy, Little Guy From the Suburbs, is full of clever, Bowie like balladry.

From start to finish it feels hectic, fun, insane and emotional, especially with Ron’s brother Russell’s high pitched vocals in full effect here.

What also emerges is one of music’s best collaborations, and one that had an inevitability to it, with Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos being a huge fan of Sparks. Russell and Kapranos’s deep and high vocals are also perfect aligned here, like Difford and Tilbrook in Squeeze they deserve to be together.

While both acts have a solid back catalogue to fall back on for the tiresome heritage pop trail, here they’ve created something wholly new, which as that eloquent git Haines points out, shows a band that is “experimenting and unafraid, whilst the younger dudes are sticking to the stencil.”

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Lunar Festival – Tanworth in Arden (June 5-7, 2015)

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Lunar Festival – Tanworth in Arden (June 5-7, 2015)

Posted on 08 June 2015 by John Haylock

On perhaps the warmest day of the year what better way to spend a blazing hot Sunday than enjoying a psychedelic breakfast, dinner and teatime in the unlikely environs of Solihull at the Lunar Festival.

Nestled in the West Midlands countryside, amid much greenery and posh houses, our festival’s location of  Tanworth in Arden is famous for only one thing, but it is a GREAT thing, it’s the birthplace of the late Nick Drake.

nickdrake

His shadow oversees this little festival. You’ll find a huge painted portrait of him at the top of the site and not a few performers are seen to do covers from his cruelly small catalogue of folk greatness.

A more genteel laid back gathering would be hard to imagine. Lunar Festival is like a country fete on the green but with hippy dancing instead of cricket. At various points throughout the day, time not only seemed to stand still it went backwards and at one point, during Sunspots by Julian Cope, sideways.

After a mildly vile veggie curry we sat down to enjoy Zun Zun Egui  but no sooner had we put our bikinis on  than the crowd were informed they would not be playing and would we ‘please make some noise for Follakzoid‘. Ladies and gentlemen, of all the Chilean rock bands I’ve ever seen,  these were the best, they immediately woke people up with a simple but brutal bass line over which the young guitarist riffed out with lots of delay.

Follakzoid

Follakzoid

Anyone who digs Krautrock would have turned to you and mouthed the words Can and Neu!, add in a swirling synth and some pummelling, repeated drum patterns and you had a steamroller of riffery knocking on your skull. Their long instrumental passages of groove laden simplicity enveloped a most receptive crowd, who rewarded the band with some of the best trippy dance moves I’ve seen for years.

We caught up with them afterwards in the vinyl tent where we helped them buy some albums, we recommended the second Roxy music album and Thank Christ for the Bomb by The Groundhogs  and did them a massive favour by telling them not to invest in an ELO album, the word ‘shit’ we found is a universal language and they thankfully put it back in the rack.

We specifically chose Sunday to pop by this festival, as two gifted giants of English underground loonery were playing, namely Julian Cope and Robyn Hitchcock. Julian appeared first on the main stage at 5.45pm resplendent in his now familiar military garb, it was great to actually see him play as most of the previous occasions we’ve seen him was as a guest in various literary tents ranting and raving about his new book(s) and being interviewed with great difficulty by confused looking interviewers.

Julian Cope

Julian Cope

Half an hour before he went on I asked Julian what sort of set we could expect, would it be a greatest (almost) hits set ? New stuff ? A bit of both ?…..he quickly responded with a conspiratorial glint in his eye ‘it will be a SMORGASBOARD’ ….you can’t beat a smorgasboard on a hot afternoon I replied. It was indeed a feast, armed only with a semi- acoustic guitar and some basic flanging pedals he played absolute classics to perfection despite his ramshackle appearance, his voice if anything is better now than it ever was.

He opened with I’m living in the Bunker they found Saddam in, he squeezed in the Greatness and Perfection of Love, Soul Desert and a killer version of Hard Drugs. His between song banter is priceless as he chats about lack of chart success, his former band The Teardrop Explodes, Stonehenge and being “a survivor.”

Cope tells us he’s come to terms with the Teardrops legacy, for many years he’s refused to play their songs but admits he views them now with affection, so we get Culture Bunker from Wilder (1981). After a long ramble about visiting Japan in the wake of his classic album Fried, Sunspots makes a welcome return.

Double Vegetation was superbly executed, Cope airs a new song, Let the Beer Flow Over Me, all about his new found love of beer. After 20 years of being teetotal he has rediscovered his inner brewery and wants this song played at his funeral, amid great gnashings of teeth and much shirt rendering, women throwing themselves on his funeral pyre. He then finishes his set with a brilliant version of Pristine. An absolute star.

Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn Hitchcock

With the chorus to Pristine ringing in our ears we race to the opposite side of the site to sit at the feet of the mighty Robyn Hitchcock, sporting his now trademark dotted shirt. But get this fashion fans, no white spots on black today, no it’s white spots on BLUE.

I put this down to a reflection of his relationship status, he has a new girlfriend Emma who joins him on vocals for half the set, a set which starts with Only the Stones Remain. Wow this is going to be special, indeed the second song was an absolute highlight of my day, he tackled Nick Drake’s Riverman, capturing Nick’s incredibly difficult guitar technique and delivered in  his own uniquely  breathy enunciation of the lyrics. It was so moving and emotionally loaded and he nailed it big time.

Hitchcock followed this with My Wife and my Dead Wife, which I always thought a jolly little throwaway ditty but played today I saw a deeper layer in this fantastic, sad tale of a man deluding himself to such a degree that he is unaware of the entropy enveloping his life.

Like Copey earlier, stage banter is part and parcel of the whole deal, he goes off on one about the size of Crunchies in Australia, God being in the pointy bit of an upside down church steeple and the absence of  Goan fish stalls. Dismal City, documenting the misery loving Brits done in a Kinks style is fabulous, Trams of Old London with Emma is gorgeous, Queen Elvis from 1989 is given a polish. All in all a far too short set of lovely erudite, humourous whimsy that make Robyn a national treasure.

A sizzling day of fine wine, poor curries but absolutely wonderful music and people and as Nick Drake sang on Road from the timeless 1972 Pink moon album…

You can say the sun is shining if you really want to
I can see the moon and it seems so clear
You can take the road that takes you to the stars now
I can take a road that’ll see me through.

That’ll be the A 435 to Tanworth in Arden.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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Papernut Cambridge – Nutlets 1967-1980

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Papernut Cambridge – Nutlets 1967-1980

Posted on 08 June 2015 by Joe

So it appears Hot Chocolate used to be cool. Who knew? Well, Ian Button, who releases under the Papernut Cambridge moniker, did. The former Death in Vegas/Thrashing Doves man is something of a 1970s pop expert and this collection features ten covers of his favourites from around that time.

papernut

It’s the source material, if you will, to his 2014 album There’s No Underground, which is heavily influenced by those flares, fuzzed-up chords and sax-ridden stomps of the 1970s and was our favourite album of the year. If you heard and loved that album you will love this too.

So back to Hot Chocolate. It’s their track I Believe in Love from the early 1970s, when they were trying to find their feet in the pop world that features here. It comes at a time before they settled on their blend of bland soul pop, and were experimented in flange guitar technology (actual technology may not exist) and created this little known gem. It’s one of many standouts on this album and makes me want to immediately check out Hot Chocolate’s earlier work.

And if you think it’s a tough ask to convince someone that Hot Chocolate was once cool, Button even manages to make Lynsey De Paul sound great. Add a few squelchy synths and he brings out the dark side of her saccharine pop track Sugar Me marvellously.

Button has also popped up to see Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, registered the requisite smile and delivered an even more fuzzed up version of their What Ruthy Said.

Its back to the late 1960s for the next track, Jesamine by The Casuals and written by Marty Wilde. Here Button gives it a little bit more Dear Prudence than Jesamine and it’s another hit for this covers collection.

As one hit wonders go Edison Lighthouse had one of the best in Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes, which quite rightly was number one for five weeks in 1970. Its still instantly recognisable to this day and Button’s version oozes respect. Its my favourite on the album. What a great track, pop pickers!

Speaking of fun, there’s something so wonderfully innocent and girlish in Jacky’s theme to The White Horses TV show, another instantly recognisable track. Being sung by a man takes the listener a little by surprise, but it still works wonderfully.

As the album progresses you realise that this is more than just a listening experience. This is a history lesson of an era of pop, actually arguably the best era of British pop.

Among its icons and characters none seem more menacing now than the late Alvin Stardust, aka Bernard Jewry from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. Dressed like a cartoon, villianous version of Elvis and asking girls to “groove on the mat” with him, he looks sinister now with our post Jimmy Savile and Gary Glitter scandal eyes. Despite appearances though he was one of the good guys of the era. His track Jealous Mind is featured here and Button thankfully loses none of Stardust’s then innocent, now downright odd take on rock ‘n’ roll.

Rockers Delight by Mikey Dread closes this trip down memory lane and closes the decade as well, as Stock ,Aitken and Watermen began preparing themselves to destroy all that went before them. It’s a reggae gem that proves a fitting end to this enlightening and entertaining look at the golden age of British pop.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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The Bevis Frond – Miasma and Inner Marshland Reissues

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The Bevis Frond – Miasma and Inner Marshland Reissues

Posted on 05 June 2015 by John Haylock

Guitars, guitars, guitars – our lives wouldn’t be the same without them, whether acoustic, electric, big, small, bass, left hand, right hand, amped up to eleven or gently strummed, we love them all. Every piece of music that you cherish probably has a guitar in there somewhere, power chords to the left of me, guitar solos to the right, here I am stuck in the middle eight with you.

Nick Saloman alias The Bevis Frond has been in a long term serious relationship (bordering on the psychotic) with a huge number of guitars, he regularly takes them into his bedroom and has been having his wicked way with them for years, he’s a one man lo- fi unsung genius who for over three decades has been quietly creating a large body of self penned work that once heard becomes an obsession.

He takes psychedelic music to the cleaners, brings it home from the cleaners, squeezes it through a cosmic mangle, dries it out, puts it on a washing line then gets out his lysergic ironing board of love and puts creases in it where creases shouldn’t be.

Cherry Red Label has now secured his fairly huge back catalogue and will be releasing it in chronological order over the coming months, complete with additional tracks and sleevenotes by Mojo magazine’s Dave Henderson.

miasma

As a result these early albums are thankfully now available to mankind at reasonable prices as opposed to the exorbitant rip off prices asked for on Amazon etc. So what we have here are debut album Miasma and Inner Marshland both released originally in 1987. The first thing you’ll notice is the decidedly primitive (as compared to today’s) recording quality, understandable really when you consider these were literally made in his bedroom on a Tascam Porta One four track.

Never expecting anyone to be interested he released these albums as a labour of love on a wing and a prayer and was as surprised as anyone when by word of mouth alone, folks started picking up on a singer-songwriter from the wilds of Walthamstow. The titles are frivolous and playful, the guitar playing undeniably aggressive and at times over abundant but many of the songs are little crackers, you’ll find snippets of studio conversation, an appearance of Harry Corbett from an early Sooty show, poetry, a snatch of The Goons, messy feedback, controlled feedback, cheap organ accompaniment and lots of echo.

It comes together to forge a tiny self contained bedroom of sound that totally ignores the mainstream, in much the same way  as other great british underground icons such as Robyn Hitchcock Andy Partridge Nick Nicely and Syd Barrett have created their own idiosyncratic musical universes.

Miasma merely hints at the promise of future recordings, containing boisterous pop psyche tunes like She’s in Love with Time, The Newgate Wind and Wild Mind. There’s a very short but nevertheless very cool FX laden number called Wild Afternoon, but best of all is Splendid Isolation. Ever wondered what REM would have sounded like with Hendrix at the helm instead of Peter Buck? Try this.

Seven extra tracks are included, perhaps a little too much for the initiate but intriguing nonetheless.

bevisfrondmarshland

Inner Marshland came quickly on Miasma’s heels, it fizzes along amid much explosive soloing, Window Eye and I’ve Got Eyes in the Back in My Head are two dynamite rough and ready rock songs.

But he still retains his love of the surreal so the aforesaid Sooty puts in an appearance on Once More, there’s an incredible wig out with Nick’s good friend and equally talented guitarist Barri Watts, and Termination Station Grey emerges as a pop song but one deep fried in acid batter.

There’s six bonus tracks on this one, all super duper, best of which are a gently undulating (at least until the gripping guitar solo comes in) Walking in the Lady’s Garden. Parapsynquiry on the other hand could be a number from any one of  Lenny Kayes. Tremendous Nuggets compilations, total freakouty goodness.

If like me you are enamoured by the weird and wonderful, the strange and sublime or just love a bloody good guitar solo these remastered recordings will send you into paroxysms of delight. I urge you to vote Bevis Frond, ladies and gentlemen I recommend Nick Saloman to the house.

By John Haylock

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Glastonbury 2015 – Best of the Small Stages

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Glastonbury 2015 – Best of the Small Stages

Posted on 02 June 2015 by Joe

Shock revelation of the day – Glastonbury is so much more than the BBC coverage and the main Pyramid stage line up. So for all you Kanye West haters with tickets in your hand why not pop over to some of the event’s many and varied small stages.

We’ve had a scan through the full line up, which was released this week, and  have come up with our pick of the small stage acts. As with last year William’s Green continues to impress, especially as it hosts this year’s 25th anniversary of Heavenly Records. We also have some old punks, the best of Somerset’s local bands and one of the best indie bands around at the Leftfield.

Stealing Sheep

William’s Green, 4:30pm Friday

We first saw this Liverpool trio supporting Field Music in Bristol three years ago. They play as part of the Heavenly Records contingent, at what has become one of our favourite small venues at the Festival, and are one of the best live acts we have seen. Blending folk, indie and 1960s surf music they are not to be missed.

Declan McKenna

William’s Green, 10:45am Friday

The deserved winner of this year’s Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Competition opens proceedings at the William’s Green stage. Be sure to get up early to see why this teenager won the world’s toughest Battle of the Bands competition.

La Femme

William’s Green, 5:30pm Saturday

From France, via California, this stunning live act blend electro-pop and are another in our list to borrow from 1960s surf culture. Their 2013 album Psycho Tropical Berlin was one of our albums of the year for good reason.

The Phantom Band

William’s Green, 6pm Sunday

Their 2014 album Strange Friend was their best to date and proved why they are one of Scotland’s best bands as they merge rock and electronica effortlessly. Get there early at 5pm to see legendary prog rockers The Bevis Frond beforehand. Both great bookings for William’s Green.

Martha

Leftfeld, 6pm Friday

At Indietracks a couple of years ago Martha was the most talked about band there and for good reason. They are injecting some much needed energy into an increasingly introspective UK indie scene. Billy Bragg and co, who curate this stage, certainly know their indie music. An impressive booking.

Buzzcocks

Leftfield, 9pm Sunday

Leftfield again impresses and has bagged the legendary punk act Buzzcocks. With guitarist Steve Diggle still playing like a 17-year-old on stage and Pete Shelley’s timeless lyrics of love this looks like one not to be missed.

Nick Parker & the False Alarms and Flipron

Nick Parker and the False Alarms Avalon Café, 7:30pm Friday

Flipron, Avalon Cafe 1:30am Saturday and Bandstand 7:30pm Sunday

Nick Parker and the False Alarms

Nick Parker and the False Alarms

Two of Somerset’s best live acts are back again at Glastonbury, which once again is showing a strong commitment to promoting local talent. While Parker and crew focus on bittersweet folk rock  tales of love and life, Flipron will be showcasing their trademark brand of whirly-gig hipster new wave (note: actual genre may not exist).

Compiled by Joe Lepper

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Chuck Prophet – The Maze, Nottingham (May 31, 2015)

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Chuck Prophet – The Maze, Nottingham (May 31, 2015)

Posted on 02 June 2015 by Joe

Mention Gas, Food And Lodgings, Green on Red’s 1988 album to any self respecting music fan and they’ll wet themselves with glee. It’s the best of a handful of their classic grizzly rock ‘n’ roll albums from back in the day, made by two legends of latter day Americana, Dan Stuart and Chuck Prophet.

Chuck Prophet

Chuck Prophet

Dan’s current recording career is pretty subdued, he appears to have checked himself out of the music business hotel with only a couple of solo albums since their split in 1992. But Chuck on the other hand has been super busy ever since, continuing to regularly put out new material and tour.

For his latest visit to the UK he is showcasing tracks from his 13th studio album Night Surfer, which is full of snarly blues rock and gritty, anthemic tales.

The Maze in Nottingham is a a small room in the back of a pub and it’s heaving, it’s hot, the beer is flowing, and everyone is jostling for a good vantage point, so what better way to get us all warmed up and ready to expend copious amounts of sweat than some wordy acoustic action from tonight’s support band the Oxford based and frighteningly talented Dreaming Spires. They usually perform as a three piece power pop trio but sadly the drummer is absent tonight so it’s a slimmed down almost acoustic set. Brothers Robin and Joe Bennett turn in a short set that even has time for a super version of one of Springsteen’s achingly beautiful songs Atlantic City.

They also do the title track from their new album Searching for the Supertruth and best of all is a couple of tracks from their debut album Brothers in Brooklyn, Everything All The Time and the clever lyrical observations of that album’s title track.

Chuck Prophet

Chuck Prophet

Chuck Prophet takes the stage at nine, with his ultra cool band including his wife Stephanie Finch on keyboards, guitars and vocals. There’s no messing and immediately Chuck is in the zone, grinning and stomping like a man possessed, giving us the evil eye and peeling off paint stripping guitar solos that would have made the late Stevie Ray Vaughan weep with joy.There’s just no filler. Countrified Inner city Technological Man, Sonny Liston’s Blues and especially Ford Econoline hit you in the face like a rock ‘n’ roll boxing glove

The band take it down a notch so as to allow Stephanie to shine on the innocently sweet versions of Queen Bee and Tina Goodbye, then the stomp returns with some hearty call and response on Temple Beautiful. Then there’s a ripping solo at the conclusion of Summertime Thing, with Chuck walking into the audience and literally staring me in the eyes as he struts his stuff. There’s much humourous between song banter as he talks of his bemusement of cricket and mentions the D word (Derby) which aroused much hissing; we don’t mention that place down here.

Finally, he warns any old timers that the next song is really heavy and will probably have a detrimental effect on the elderly in the crowd and that it might be a good time to leave if you have a heart condition. He then proceeds to blast out the crazy-doolally-singalong You Did (bomp shooby dooby bomp) much to everyone’ s delight. Absolutely bloody awesome.

It’s nights like these that you know the rock ‘n’ roll flame will never go out. This is not just good music, it’s kind of a religious thing and we went to big church. Hell yeah, brothers and sisters! Hell yeah!

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes.

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