Archive | July, 2018

Nicholson Heal – Big Jupe

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Nicholson Heal – Big Jupe

Posted on 23 July 2018 by Joe

We first heard Bristol based Nicholson Heal last year while helping to judge the Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition. As soon as we heard his submitted track, Lacuna, with its twinkling guitar picking, fine melody and brass section we were hooked.

This was deservedly long-listed by us and we’ve been eagerly awaiting his debut album ever since.

Finally released this month we are not disappointed. Throughout it has the same keen focus on melody and that brass section still sounds great.

NicholsonHeal

Lacuna is here thankfully and is among a number of  high points such as Homespun Shotgun, which is elevated by an epic, cinematic chorus. Think Ennio Morricone meets Radiohead.

Lost at Sea is another strong track, displaying a radio friendly pop savvyness, while Diving Bell has some smart afro-beat guitar work. This will appeal to those who like London band Tigercats latest album in particular.

Granted there’s a bunch of nonsense in the press release that did its best to put us off. It’s talk of “a subconscious reflection on the existential questions that pervade the album” almost sent us to sleep. But we do urge other music journalists who are sent this release to forget that tosh and just listen to the album instead.

Nicholson Heal’s Big Jupe sounds great and is packed  full of good songs. That’s our two key reviewing boxes ticked.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information about Nicholson Heal and to order a copy of Big Jupe visit here.

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Robert Rotifer – They Don’t Love You Back

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Robert Rotifer – They Don’t Love You Back

Posted on 17 July 2018 by Joe

Robert Rotifer has found something positive from his worst nightmare. How very stiff upper lip. How very English of him.

The Austrian, who has been living in the UK for decades, is among the very many left shell-shocked by 2016’s Brexit vote. For him and his family in Kent it has extra resonance. Will he even be able to stay in the country? Still such important questions are up in the air.

He’s been rallying against the decision ever since with incredulity, anger, despair and sometimes humour. The whole omni-shambles of Brexit does often seem more akin to political satire. Sometimes you just have to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

Rotifer - they don't love you back

Amidst this state of confusion, John Jervis of Wiaiwya Records stepped forward to give Rotifer a small lifeline and the chance to put all these swirling thoughts onto disc.

His offer was to be one of seven artists, who are each recording a 77 minute track to raise money for Médecins Sans Frontières. Brexit was the obvious muse for Rotifer’s part to the  project, which has also helped him fulfill a long held musical desire.

He explains:

I’ve always wanted to do one of those long-form psychedelic song suites with playful bits, recurring motifs, extended hypnotic bits and found sound segues.

Coupled with this long standing desire he also decided to record mostly at the moment of writing, to give it a spontaneous feel. The format and this method perfectly suits his experience of Brexit and the dream like state the UK has been left in.

The voices of those affected, Europeans dealing with racism and news announcements of the whole political mess, drop in and out among his finger picking and strumming on this largely acoustic guitar based psychedelic folk album.

There’s a family trip to the beach from his home town, Canterbury, that’s full of warmth and fear for the future in equal measure. There’s an ode to Jervis too.

Some songs within this 77-minute are more structured, such as the They Don’t Love You Back segment. Other times its like a frantic folk jam. It’s almost like Rotifer’s trying to get as many notes onto disc as he can before the Prime Minister Theresa May kicks him out.

The end result is excellent – a swirling, whirly-gig of summery folk. Part rant at Brexit, part love letter to England – which, sadly, for 51.9% of voters at least, is not loving him back.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

For more about Wiaiwya’s 77 project click here. The project’s Just Giving page can be found here.

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Half Man Half Biscuit – 02 Forum Kentish Town (June 8, 2018)

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Half Man Half Biscuit – 02 Forum Kentish Town (June 8, 2018)

Posted on 10 July 2018 by Joe

One of the few positive things to come out of Margaret Thatcher’s policy of mass unemployment, was the formation of Wirral’s finest, Half Man Half Biscuit.

Thirty-four years later, they stroll out onto the stage of the Forum to rapturous applause and launch straight into “Fuckin’ Ell it’s Fred Titmus”. Nigel Blackwell is still fronting the band and playing guitar. He is joined by Neil Crossley (also a founding member) on bass, long standing drummer Carl Henry. New boy Karl Benson completes the line up on guitar.

Half Man Half Biscuit

When this song was released, an obsession with obscure celebrities was somewhat outside the mainstream. Now, well look at Love Island (or perhaps don’t) …

After this blast from the past, Half Man Half Biscuit play a song from their latest album, “No one cares about your creative hub so get your fuckin’ hedge cut”. Appropriately enough for a band who are getting well into their fifties and presumably have half an eye on their upcoming free bus passes, “Terminus” is a song about bus journeys and getting old, while the next song, “The evening sun goes down” also alludes to getting old and the paucity of music on offer as you do so.   Sentiments that I and the majority of their forty to fifty something audience can well identify with.

Made famous by turning down a TV appearance on the Tube to watch Tranmere Rovers, Half Man Half Biscuit are the antithesis of the 80’s performers trawling the circuit.

Still producing great albums, it seems unlikely that Jo Cox will be playing them at her 80’s night at the same venue the following week. Next up comes “Running Order Squabble Fest”, one of a number of songs this evening that lampoon the absurdities and hypocrisies of every music scene ever. “Look Dad No Tunes” is perhaps the highlight tonight of this vein with its skewering of the middle-class angst that powered grunge.

Over the course of the evening, Half Man Half Biscuit run through a sizeable portion of their not inconsiderable back catalogue and about half of their latest offering. Resolutely anti-commercial, they have produced thirteen albums in their thirty-year career (they took a few years off in the late 80’s to avoid fame and success), not bad going for a bunch of dole bludgers from Birkenhead. Talking of which, one of tonight’s highlights is “A Lilac Harry Quinn” containing the immortal line “if God had meant for us to work, then I’m sure he would have given us jobs.”

One of the original C86 bands, Half Man Half Biscuit’s set is dominated by songs that peel back the fancy wrapping of modern life to reveal the shoddy goods beneath their façade.   Indeed they make cynicism something of a virtue as they contemplate the vagaries of modern life in songs such as “National Shite Day” and “Every Time A Bell Rings”, railing against the axis of evil that is “Primark FM”, Bus replacement services and TV movies.

Half Man Half Biscuit 02

Although a band of the 80’s their roots are still in the punk of the 70’s. There is something reminiscent of the Ramones in the succession of acerbic three minute tunes they play.

Additionally, their subversion of folk music, on songs such as “Paintball’s Coming Home”, gives their music a traditional feel that jars pleasantly with the modernity of their lyrics. Indeed, despite their seventies roots, the playlist they pluck tonight’s songs from is like a cultural guide to the British Isles over the last thirty years. The irony of the couple ridiculed in “Paintball’s coming home” for knowing “where things are in B and Q”, and naming their Dog “Prince” (“The one called Sheba died”, is reminiscent of the intro to Trainspotting, and what  Half Man Half Biscuit do so well is tap into the great groundswell of scepticism lurking beneath the surface of this rather cynical sceptered isle.

The irony inherent in their songs and their pop culture references, make them easy to dismiss as a novelty band. But songs such as “Fix it so she dreams of me” are tinged with both sadness and a beauty that prevents them being mixed up with Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine or Weird Al Yankovic.

But  let’s not spend too long in Pseud’s Corner.

At their heart Half Man Half Biscuit is a great rock ’n’ roll band. This is something not lost on me as I spend the last ten songs po-go-ing away like it’s 1991 again. They leave to last one of my favourites, “Everything’s AOR”. With its off beat guitars and its lyrics berating swivel chairs and business acumen, it just goes to show that not too much has changed in the intervening years.

Words and pictures – Gavin McGarvey

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The Billy Shinbone Show – The Billy Shinbone Show

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The Billy Shinbone Show – The Billy Shinbone Show

Posted on 06 July 2018 by Joe

Late, great Glastonbury music scene legend Dan Bradford had a great way of describing his music – “Bitsa – bits of this, bits of that”.

It’s been three years since he died but his tradition lives on with another Glastonbury based artist, Billy Shinbone (aka Jesse Budd from psychedelic popsters Flipron and the Neville Staple Band).

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For this debut album Jesse has taken his love of 1960s psychedelia and merged it with bits of the old country and Cajun music he became engrossed in while touring the USA with Flipron.

It’s a combination that proves effective as within his guise of Billy Shinbone, he creates, inhabits and owns his own world – of an Englishman with eclectic tastes, suited up, with banjo, guitar, accordion and more taking to the stage in the smokey dives and bars of Texas and Tennessee.

From the reverbed guitar, whistling and accordion of opener Mostly Cloudy, Occassionally Sunny to the psychedelic, country finger-picking of Hoard of Hope and Plunder, there is plenty of opportunity to showcase his instrumental skills.

If You think You’ll Get Away With It also has all the hallmarks of lead single. This foot stomping, banjo and harmonica driven track has the best chorus on the album.

Temptation’s Got The Good Stuff, with some smart guitar dampening, runs this track a close second as our current favourite.

There’s a bit of a hoedown going on later on the album with Another Bunch of Flowers before last orders are called for the mean and moody Thanks But No Thanks, Baby.

Fans of Robyn Hitchcock are among those urged to catch Jesse when he tours his Billy Shinbone Show in the coming months in the UK. Hitchcock’s own “bitsa” mentality, of combining the music of his adopted home Nashville with whimsical English pop and psychedelia, is arguably a good point of reference.

With a bit of this, a bit of that working so well here, Dan would have been proud.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information about The Billy Shinbone Show visit his website here.

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

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Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

Posted on 04 July 2018 by Dorian

This is going to be a short review. It is, to some degree, written out of necessity. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever are a band that are completely new to me. I hadn’t heard anything from their debut album, Hope Downs, or either of their previous two EPs prior to this week. Within a couple of days I‘ve purchased tickets to see them play in October and they are currently my new favourite band.

Hope Downs

They are everything I love about guitar music. Great melodies, interesting lyrics, vocal harmonies and the perfect blend of professionalism and sounding like they are just on the edge of losing it.

They remind me of Eyelids if they’d come from Melbourne rather than Portland, or Parquet Courts if they’d grown up listening to The Go-Betweens rather than Sonic Youth. Lazy comparisons aside they are just a great band, three guitarists all singing and song writing backed by a solid rhythm section. Ten excellent songs coming in at an economical 35 minutes.

It is a great album from start to finish but smartly hits you with a knock-out three-punch of ‘An Air Conditioned Man’, ‘Talking Straight’ and ‘Mainland’ (surely the feel-bad hit of the Summer?) at the start of the record.

It’s only July but we have a serious contender for album of the year on our hands.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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