Archive | September, 2015

Levitation – Meanwhile Gardens

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Levitation – Meanwhile Gardens

Posted on 28 September 2015 by Joe

Levitation’s time was brief, beautiful and ended in acrimony, with its front man announcing his departure live on stage.

Back in 1992 the band, formed by former House of Love man Terry Bickers just two years earlier, was seemingly destined for a long and fruitful career. Their blend of psychedelic rock, with a keen focus on melody, was beautifully presented on their debut release Need for Not.

But ,with its follow up album Meanwhile Gardens completed and their live following growing, Bickers announced he was leaving. What’s more he made the announcement on stage at Tufnell Park Dome in North London in May 1993 during one of the band’s gigs. A disillusionment with the music was a key factor at the time, although later depression was cited as a major reason.

levitationcover

The band carried on for a brief time, drafting in Steve Ludwin from Some Have Fins to replace Bickers. They also remixed Bickers out of Meanwhile Gardens, which only managed an Australian release. But without Bickers, who at the time was very well respected among alternative and indie music fans for his time in House of Love, their time was over.

Three of the remaining members, guitarist Christian Hayes, drummer David Francolini and bassist Laurence O’Keefe regrouped in 1996, minus keyboardist Robert White, as Dark Star. But that too was a short lived project.

All this time the original Meanwhile Gardens was still sitting on a shelf. An aborted attempt to release it in 2007 through their label Rough Trade came to nothing after it went bust and Beggars Banguet who snapped it up were not keen on revisiting the band’s place in 1990s UK music.

Now for the first time the album is to get its long awaited release in its original form.

So all these years on how does it sound? In short, bigger and bolder than their original but still with an edge. The guitars are a huge factor, dated in places with their chorus effect, but wonderfully laid out, especially on the album’s centrepiece epic Even When Your Eyes Are Open.

Gardens Overflowing is another of many highlights with the era’s wall of distortion, with melody weaving around it, in full flow. There are elements of other bands of the era, Ride and Swervedriver in particular as well as Julian Cope’s increasingly experimental solo work, but with much more of a psychedelic focus.

Evergreen perhaps hints of an emerging sound, something more like a shoe gaze Talk Talk, which could have been a successful direction, especially in America.

Listening to it now it seems odd that Bickers felt this was the work of a band that had lost its way. It seems very focused, with nods to their debut album and hints of the future. A perfect second album. But if depression was at play then it is perhaps understandable that Bickers couldn’t see the positives of the band at the time.

So who will be interested? For starters us lot who were big fans of Levitation in their brief heyday. But we think this should also appeal to a younger audience too, keen to earn hipster points for knowing about one of the 1990s alternative UK music scene’s lesser known, but arguably better acts.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

Meanwhile Gardens is released on October 23rd by Flashback Records.

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The Bevis Frond – Example 22

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The Bevis Frond – Example 22

Posted on 16 September 2015 by John Haylock

There is no more underground act than The Bevis Frond, aka Nick Saloman. For many a year he’s been releasing quality psychedelic rock across more than 20 releases, relentlessly ploughing his own guitar driven furrow much to the delight of a devoted fanbase.

There are no radical departures from previous works across his career, just steady as she goes, bloody good rock songs with riffs a plenty and solos to make your knees go weak.

The Bevis Frond

The Bevis Frond’s Nick Saloman

With a band comprising ex-Hawkwind and Arthur Brown band man Adrian Shaw on bass, Dave Pearce on drums and Paul Simmons on yet more guitars Nick has surrounded himself with a rock solid foundation on which to build the current house of Frondian love and release album number 22.

Opener Are We Nearly There Yet is a mid tempo rocker that half way through confounds the listener with an unexpected lull in the proceedings as Nick takes his solo down a couple of notches and double tracks his guitar to pick out some lovely lines. Waiting for Sinatra is the polar opposite, an all too short blast of power pop with another great vocal, note the high notes!

Nick’s long time friend and collaborator Barri Watts makes the first of two appearances, firstly on I Blame The Rain, where his guitar playing is distinguished by two factors, volume and mind melting fretwork. Both are present and correct on this track which rattles along in a most headbangingly pleasing manner

Where is Egon Scheile is not only a fine name of a song, it’s also a great slow blues, whileWinter Breaks should not be played in a 30 mph zone unless you want a ticket for speeding and Pale Blue Blood builds on a repeated classic Bevis riff, the playing appearing effortless as those notes go spiralling away like a bunch of irate mosquitos who have just bitten your arse whilst on a day trip to Venice. It’s deliriously heady stuff and one of the highlights of the whole album.

Barri reappears on Second Son, in which he and Nick conjure up some really aggressively inspired lead magic. By God they must get through some strings; between them these two must be keeping Ernie Ball in business.

There are quieter moments of reflection and reverie such as on Vital Signs and Down Here but the focal points remain the big buggers, ManualLlabour and especially Well, a  heavy blues rock workout that works itself into a (surprise surprise) guitar frenzy.
So 16 tracks in total to devour, I’ll be gnawing on this one for quite a while.

The album is dedicated to Martin Crowley, long time Bevis Frond drummer who sadly passed away in 2014.

By John Haylock

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Together the People (Preston Park, Brighton, 5th and 6th September 2015)

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Together the People (Preston Park, Brighton, 5th and 6th September 2015)

Posted on 15 September 2015 by Nic Newman

The long awaited return of Brighton to the urban music festival scene finally came to an end with the inaugural offering from Together The People, a two-day event hosted in Brighton’s Preston and Park. Our intrepid reporters selflessly left their home and crossed one busy road to bring you all the highlights they could squeeze into an acceptable length article.

Preston Park is no stranger to public and private events, having already presented Brighton Pride and a Thai Food Festival in the weeks previous to Together The People, but we were initially taken aback by the modest size of the festival vs the ticket price. Still, mighty oaks and all that.

Access and entry was well organised and by the time we were through the slightly superfluous crowd chicane, the sunny space was laid out before us down the gently sloping grass and we were quickly able to get to grips with the music stages and tents TTP had to offer.

First up, and with a £5 pint of beer in hand, we headed to the small acoustic tent (more of a gazebo) to catch the acoustic guitar wizardry of Jye Whitman. Armed with a ton of skill and a beanie, Jye Whitman served up refreshing a portion of up-tempo acoustic tunes and songs that made a nice change from the usual earnest (and slightly dreary) output from the usual acoustic stage.

Jye Whitman

Jye Whitman

Cheered along by this, and with a cup of tea and slice of cake, we headed to watch the end of Lucy-Spraggen-off-the-X-Factors set, chock-a-block with attempted audience participation numbers and wait for Ghostpoet to take the main stage.

Lucy Spraggen

Lucy Spraggen

With three albums under his belt, Ghostpoet has come a long way from his self-produced days and has collected a tight and professional band along the way to back him up and provide a foundation to build his melancholy stories of modern living. Opening with tracks from his new album Shedding Skin, the skies briefly darkened to accompany the musical the atmosphere while Ghostpoet closed his set with the very excellent single, Liiines.

Ghostpoet

Ghostpoet

As the afternoon moved along and grass was flattened by picnic blankets and arses we looked forward to the arrival of everyone’s favourite Bolshevik balladeer, Mr. Billy Bragg, and what urban music festival would be complete without him? But it’s not the reliable renditions of old favourites like New England and Sexuality that really impresses us about Billy Bragg, but his unrelenting political optimism and faith in his fellow man.

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg

Maybe it’s this dedication to an uncynical attitude that makes the arrival of old Brighton favourites, The Levellers, on the stage less cheesy than it might have been to the jaded music fan. The sun was shining, the jigs were up-tempo and the delivery was as enthusiastic as it ever was. To not bop a bit was not an option.

The Levellers

The Levellers

Before the main event of the day came around we were able to catch the lion’s share of local super group, Brakes, thanks to a day of well-planned and well-maintained schedules. Formed by members of other local talents like British Sea Power and the Electric Soft Parade, Brakes fired out a volley of frenetic and deranged power-pop tunes like Porcupine or Pineapple? and All Night Disco Party to their core of loyal fans, and still managed to line up room for their more accessible country-leaning songs. These reviewers were particularly thrilled to hear Brakes cover of Camper Van Beethoven’s 1986 cult classic, Shut Us Down.

Brakes

Brakes

To bring day one to a close, festival favourites and Cardiff’s finest Super Furry Animals take the stage with an unassuming modesty during the intro to Slow Life that quickly leaves the audience with the peculiar certainty that this stage was built for this very moment. Resembling a Power Ranger taking a break from his decorating, Gruff Rhys and the gang segue through a list of greatest hits that include (Drawing) Rings Around the World, Do or Die and Hello Sunshine. Despite a slightly stodgy middle, Super Furry Animals baked a crowd pleasing song pie of well crafted furry hits and a crust of Juxtaposed With U and Golden Retriever that they eventually served to the audience on an extended platter of The Man Don’t Give a Fuck to make their playout ending and encore that would have to scores of mop-haired children who’d been running around the bottom half of the audience something to sing to their parents on the way home.

Super Furry Animals

Super Furry Animals

Day two arrived hot on the heels of day one and provided a clearer and sunnier early September day than before, the perfect festival weather that seemed to have failed to coax in the disappointing number of Sunday attendees.

Regardless of the low turnout, we headed off to the smaller BIMM stage to catch space over-filling enthusiasm Astrid’s Tea Party who belted out their three piece songs despite (or possibly because of) the audience-lite reception.

Big Dada signed Roots Manuva laid out his blend of hip hop dub across the main stage audience like warm blanket of summertime goodness and everything was right and good in the world – a sentiment echoed from the acoustic stage across the other side of the park by Tiago’s nostalgia-tinged songs and stories of growing up in Portugal.

Roots Manuva

Roots Manuva

The first surprise of day two came from another local Brighton talent who have been making a reputation on Soundcloud, Kudu Blue on the second stage. This was our first experience of the band, and their slick and soulful post-triphop proved to be a real delight to behold. Kudu Blue combine beautiful ambient layers of guitar textures and synth loops across a foundation of deep bass and crisp syncopated rhythms, polished off with a smooth, natural vocal that glues them all together. Take a moment to check out the video for their song Bones  and hear for yourself.

Kuda Blue

Kuda Blue

Things only get better when Public Service Broadcasting and a homemade sputnik take control of the main stage and spread instrumental joy and delight throughout the crowd. I’m not sure why anyone would want to, but it’s hard not to like them and their happiness and pleasure in what they do is infectious. Tracks like Theme From PSB, Spitfire, Go! and trumpet-tastic Gregarin provide the party vibe that any audience hungrily eats up like a festival burrito. We hope that TTP carries on in the future and are able to do something about the noise bleed between stages; some of PSB’s atmospheric moments were drowned out by nearby stages. However PSB provided one of the best performances of the weekend and could (even should) have headlined day two.

Public Service Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcasting

It seems fitting that such a new event might want an established act to lend it some history, and there aren’t many acts about today with the history of Martha Reeves & The Vandellas who graced the stage with the kind of authority you get after six decades of performing.

Martha Reeves

Martha Reeves

We couldn’t shake the feeling however that after Public Service Broadcasting, the party was already winding down, a sentiment shared by Luke Sital-Singh as he closed the second day on the second stage with stark and intimate versions of songs like Still from his new EP The Brakeneck Speed of Tomorrow and Nothing Stays the Same from The Fire Inside that sound like music for a Monday morning. “Depressedon Park…” he quips. Highly recommend catching Sital-Singh live, his connection to his audience through raw vocal performance and warm banter, definitely won over the last of the weekends revellers.

Luke Sital-Singh

Luke Sital-Singh

Finally the two day festival is brought to a close by Swedish singer songwriter superstar Jose Gonzalez as the September air chills the now straggling audience. Included in his set were some of his well-loved cover versions including Kylie Minogue’s Hand on Your Heart alongside material from his new album Vestiges and Claws as well as the odd Junip track thrown in for good measure, but it somehow didn’t quite cut the proverbial mustard. We are fans of all things Jose Gonzalez and Junip, but we can’t help feeling that this was the wrong choice to end the day. The beauty and intimacy of Gonzalez’s songs were simply lost in this setting and we headed home feeling chilly and serious.

Jose Gonzalez

Jose Gonzalez

Hats off to the organisers for producing such a well-managed event with a rich and varied line-up and opportunities to showcase so much up and coming talents. Together The People champions local arts, small business and community issues. We hope this festival has the opportunity to grow in size and offerings, whilst keeping costs accessible to a wider audience. If it does, we’ll definitely be back for more burritos and beats.

TTP end

By Lisa McDonnell & Nic Newman

See more of Nic’s pictures from the festival on our Flickr page.

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Top 10 – Superhero Songs

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Top 10 – Superhero Songs

Posted on 11 September 2015 by Dorian

Over the last decade films and TV shows about comic book heroes have become more and more popular. This trend shows no sign of slowing down and with the brilliant Daredevil TV show and the supremely entertaining Ant-Man movie 2015 is looking like a pretty good year.

Here at Neon Filler we’re big fans of comics, and it is hard to argue with Superheroes as being the predominant and most iconic images of the medium. Here, in celebration of our favourite spandex clad characters, we present the Top 10 songs about Superheroes.

10. The Wedding Present – Flame On

The Wedding Present are one of the only bands to have their own comic book, so this Watusi era b-side, with a Human Torch theme, is no surprise from Mr.Gedge.


9. XTC – That’s Really Super Supergirl

XTC (sort of) appear twice in this chart and this charming tune from Skylarking is their first appearance.


8. Guided By Voices – Matter Eater Lad

With thousands of Guided By Voices songs recorded it is inevitable that comic books get a mention, the choice of one of the more obscure DC characters fits the band to perfection.


7. The Clique – (I am) Superman

This 1969 track is better known as sung by REM nearly 20 years later and is the first appearance in our chart by the first superhero.


6. Wings – Magneto and Titanium Man

Who knew that Macca was a comic’s enthusiast that invited Jack Kirby to a Wings show? Not many people, and even less have heard this Venus and Mars era b-side about some iconic Marvel villains. Also a song that has a surprising (if passing) similarity to Belle and Sebastian’s ‘The Boy With The Arab Strap’.


5. Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes

The title track from Pollard’s latest solo album is not character-specific but still one of the best super-themed songs on record.


4. Darren Hayman – Spiderman beats Iron Man

One of the best songs from the excellent Essex Arms, and manages to reference a number of top-flight heroes as well as Top Trumps, which can only be a good thing.


3. The Dukes of the Stratosphere – Braniac’s Daughter

XTC’s psychedelic alter-egos make little sense with this tune about the super-villain’s progeny, but lots of great lines and references hide within.


2. The Flaming Lips – Waiting For Superman

It is no surprise that Superman gets more references in song than other heroes (see also Laurie Anderson) and this track from Wayne and co. has to be the best.


1. The Trait – Nobody Loves The Hulk

Researching a post like this is fun in itself and also also helps discover some previously unheard tracks, from unheard-of artists. This 1969 garage track is brilliant from start to finish. “We don’t allow no green skinned people in here!” indeed.

Compiled by Dorian Rogers

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Festival No. 6, Portmeiron (Sept 4-6, 2015)

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Festival No. 6, Portmeiron (Sept 4-6, 2015)

Posted on 08 September 2015 by John Haylock

The final festival flurry reaches its climax for 2015 with the technicolour extravagance of Festival number 6, one of the most unusual and original gatherings you could possibly imagine.

Occupying West Wales’s Portmeirion village, which is most famous for being the location of surreal cult TV series The Prisoner, this festival is a riot of colour and architectural splendour.

Eccentric festival types

Eccentric festival types

With a staggering view of the estuary and its golden beaches the site tumbles down to the seashore and during Festival number 6 every piece of landscape is used up for performances of music, situationist strangeness, raves on illuminated lakes and in woodland retreats, where lights and decorative bric-a-brac adorn trees and undergrowth.

You can even have a paddle, a wade or go boarding, you can drink champagne at £95 a bottle and eat fresh lobster whilst Andy Votel and Mark Ronson provide the soundtrack to your evening.

Continuing its eclectic choice of performers there were phenomenal sets from Kate Tempest and the Gypsies of Bohemia in The Central Piazza, as well as the chance to listen to former Fall member (one of many!) Brix Smith being interviewed on the estuary stage.

Even more eccentric festival goers

Even more eccentric festival goers

There was also Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy, whose between song banter is equally as entertaining as his music, and yes he’s still wearing that bloody hat.

The ghost of Joy Division is never far away. Last year saw Peter Hook and The Light play here, the year before that New Order blew the place apart, this weekend saw Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner and the late Ian Curtis’s wife Deborah being interviewed in detail about the gestation of the band and of consequent, tragic events.

On a lighter note the comedian Arthur Smith was on hand to destroy the songs of Leonard Cohen and in the woods we spied The Wedding Present’s David Gedge in the company of Arthur Baker, Stealing Sheep and Andy Weatherall. Unsurprisingly Bez was in the house doing his mad DJ sets, you couldn’t move for kids wearing horse heads and going mental.

Spring King

Spring King

Saturday kicked off with a scintillating set from Spring King, a dynamic punk beast with a beating heart of pop. They looked good, sounded good and by golly made you feel good as they breathed new life into the slightly knackered body of rock ‘n’ roll.

They were followed by the lovable Jane Weaver but the prospect of James playing with the Number 6 Ensemble drew us away to the Town Hall. After an extremely long wait a mere 70 people were allowed in to the small confines of this gorgeous building to witness a perfect match of genteel orchestration and perfectionist pop.

Meanwhile, outside Steve Coogan turned briefly into Pauline Calf and I hit the rum and coke.

Gaz Coombes

Gaz Coombes

Following Steve in the Central Piazza was the performance poet Mike Garry, who has recently recorded a charity single for cancer research ‘St Anthony’ that namechecks the late Tony Wilson. He performed it to a pre-recorded Andy Weatherall/Blue Monday kinda backing track, that went down a treat.

Catfish and the Bottlemen proved to be remarkably popular whereas I thought they were remarkably ‘been there done that’. I then went for a sit down, met the world’s biggest Belle and Sebastian fan then promptly fell asleep.

Bez must have been having a lay down in a darkened room because Craig Charles brought the funk in abundance to the house of rum tent. At 2 am I found myself back on the campsite in the tent next door having Welsh speaking lessons from two bladdered girls who appeared to be the sole members of the Jon Snow appreciation society. I can now say ‘Belle and Sebastian are really twee and get on my tits’ in Welsh.

Ghostpoet

Ghostpoet

After the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had in my life (next year I’m having a yurt, I don’t care how much it costs) Sunday whizzes past like a Welsh sheep on a ski slope.

A ceaseless parade of UK natural treasures, namely Gaz Coombes and Black Grape with Shaun Ryder proving he’s lost none of his ebullient gobbyness, start my day. Chilling declamations from Ghostpoet  and intensity writ large with Soak then follow.

Then there was a totally random set on a watchtower overlooking the sea from a Manchester band called Mother who were so cool it hurt my eyes. They had this girl on vocals with the voice of a fallen angel and her band took it beyond folk into outer space.

Let's Eat Grandma

Let’s Eat Grandma

If you go down to the woods today you’re sure of a big surprise, and so it proved, with an ambivalent and yet slightly crap name Let’s Eat Grandma took to the stage. Two visually arresting young girls, all hair and prettiness, in what looked like ballerina outfits thrown out of Wayne Coyne’s wardrobe, they played keyboards, drums, recorders, guitar and left me thinking I’ve just seen something amazing but I don’t know what or why.

Their songs are poppy with a hint of psychotic brutal murder. They dance, they do a pat-a-cake, they lay down on their backs, they sing, scream and generally are indescribable (this is from a man who can write 456 pages of total bollocks on early seventies prog rock without a full stop.) They have an album out early next year, I think it’s going to go down rather well. Psychotic murderers will love it.

Grace Jones

Grace Jones

How do you top off a weekend of woodland acrobatics, interactive set piece Prisoner scenes, human chess, three hour drum sets, the Brythoniaid Welsh Male Voice Choir doing the most rousing cover version of Uprising by Muse. Well, by giving the headline spot to the legendary Grace Jones, a rare treat indeed. Last year the stellar headliner was Beck, who blew us all away, but Festival number 6 this year belonged to Ms Jones.

Flamboyant is an understatement, she strode the stage like Lady Ga Ga with a bus pass, all glitter and flash, costumes seemingly created by Max Ernst on acid. Her voice was as strong and strident as ever, her band as muscular as the huge male pole dancer who made a lady pleasing appearance stage right. Kicking off with a disciplined Niteclubbing thru to the joyous My Jamaican Guy and diving into the dynamic Private Life she was absolutely amazing.

Fun overload. Next year cancel that week in The Canaries, brush up on your Welsh, I’ll see you in the rum bar, hic!

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Announce 2015 UK Dates

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Jon Spencer Blues Explosion Announce 2015 UK Dates

Posted on 02 September 2015 by Joe

Our favourite live band Jon Spencer Blues Explosion make a welcome return to the UK next month. The legendary act have announced a four date UK stint, taking in London, Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham, while they tour Europe.

JSBX500

Here are the dates in full:

Oct 20    Electric Ballroom    London, United Kingdom

Oct 21    The Fleece    Bristol, United Kingdom

Oct 22    Sound Control    Manchester, United Kingdom

Oct 23    The Oobleck    Birmingham, United Kingdom

The trio of Spencer, Russell Simms and Judah Bauer formed in 1991 and if you have yet to see them live then this is your chance. We first saw them at Belle and Sebastian’s Bowlie Weekender in 1999 and were blown away by their ferocity. Many more shows have followed and our search for a better live act continues.

The tour is to promote their most recent album Freedom Tower – No Wave Dance Party 2015, which the band bills as “a document of New York City, a chronicle of grit and terror and love”.

For more information about their forthcoming European dates visit here.

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