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Bevis Frond Reissues – It Just Is, Sprawl and Superseeder

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Bevis Frond Reissues – It Just Is, Sprawl and Superseeder

Posted on 17 October 2016 by John Haylock

Apologies in advance if Neonfiller looks to be turning into the fan page for all things Bevis Frond. Don’t blame us, its the fault of the band’s founder Nick Saloman for being so bloody prolific.

Already over the last year or so we’ve reviewed five reissues from Saloman and co and next up is three more, moving us into the mid 1990s.

Given the rate he released records in that decade it begs the questions: did he ever get the urge to nip out for a beer or a packet of chocolate digestives? Or was he permanently plugged in to some antiquated amps in his bedroom, forever channeling his guitar heroes on a diet of Red Bull and fried egg sandwiches?

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There’s a classic 1961 Tony Hancock film called The Rebel in which he plays a frustrated artist, living in a small apartment surrounded by his artistic creations, including a huge half finished marble sculpture. His long suffering landlady is the wonderful Irene Handl, who is forever knocking on his door or banging on the ceiling telling him to be quiet. Whenever I think of Bevis Frond’s Nick I envisage his mum in the Irene Handl role, banging on the ceiling with a broom handle shouting ‘turn that bloody row down’.

Here then are the next tranche of reissues from Fire Records, with spunking guitars to the fore, bleeding fingers, rock ‘n’ roll introspection and dour doom a go-go. There are no radical departures from previous releases, no sudden synth pop, no choral interludes. This is steady as she goes, left hand down a bit, homegrown Nutsville solos with the occasional light acoustic break amongst the all consuming rifferama.

It Just Is (1993) is a good solid rock album but a little claustrophobic. Eighteen tracks and no particularly lengthy workouts on this one, with most songs averaging four minutes.

Financial constraints necessitated Saloman plays almost all instruments and sadly at least for this listener it is bereft of a certain unhinged quality that we’ve come to expect from Bevis Frond. It lacks the variety of other releases and just batters you repeatedly with a guitar palette that lacks bright colours. Yet it does have its redeeming factors, including the fabulous slow burning blues of Idiot Dance, and an angry and sardonic rocker called Desperate.

For what is basically a one man operation It Just Is is pretty nifty in a kind of Metallica meets Billy Corgan up a dark alley kind of way, but compared to Bevis Frond’s other numerous releases it’s a bit of a let down.

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Sprawl (1994 ) does exactly what it says on the tin. A massive double Bevis Frond album of sprawling rock tunes and budget constrained invention, now fleshed out with contributions from Andy Ward on drums, Tony Aldridge on violin, Jimmy Hastings on flute and David Tibet on vocals.

Central to the album is Right On (Hippie Dream) a mammoth exercise in sonic landscaping and around which all the other tracks orbit. It is one of Saloman’s finest audio concoctions.

This sonic mantra emerges as a  slowly unfurling freakout, clocking in at over 20 minutes and featuring backward guitars, flutes, spoken interludes; everything but the kitchen sink basically. Although, I’m sure there’s probably a mix out there with the kitchen sink still on it.

There’s also Innerwheel, a lovely slice of eastern tinged exotica, with flutes and bongos and meandering keyboards in the mix. There’s also 41 Years, a mellow-yellow, wry reflection on the ageing process.

I bought My Love A Lap Dog is a cracking stop start rocker from the top drawer.

Other memorable work outs include Love You More, Boa Constrictor and the fabulously dour The Puller. With no less than eight extra tracks on cd 2 this makes Sprawl another must buy.

superseeder

Finally, there is Superseeder (1995), which is housed in a distinctive sleeve made by Nick from an assortment of seeds from his local pet store. This album is a giant in the back catalogue, supplemented by long-time colleagues Ade Shaw on bass and Andy Ward on drums, with the obligatory in store guest appearance from Bari Watts on two tracks.

It starts as it means to go on with the ten-minute plus rocker Superseded, a track with an Eastern feel and bulldozing momentum. Then there’s Dolly Bug, which rattles along in a most pleasing punkish way, Stoned Train Driver on the other hand takes the tempo down a bit with a bluesy feel and some great locomotive based wordage.

I absolutely love the domestic fear and self loathing of the lyrics on Animal Tracks – think of Lou Reed but born in Walthamstow.

I Can’t Cry features some astonishing lead guitar work from the aforementioned Mr Watts and is a tremendous slice of rock action.

Loveland and Golden Walks of London maintain the quality work, although there’s a 16-minute studio jam called House of Mountains, which is around 14 minutes too long.  But this is a minor complaint as Superseeder contains a most wistful closing song called Could You Fly Higher, featuring an achingly beautifully concise guitar coda.

Superseeder would make a good entry point for the Bevis novice. Watch out for the next reissues, which is set to include Son of Walter. If you think I’m an over zealous fawning idiot fan, just wait until you hear what I have to say about that masterpiece.

For more information about Bevis Frond click here.

By John Haylock

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The Bevis Frond – New River Head, Any Gas Faster and London Stone Reissues

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The Bevis Frond – New River Head, Any Gas Faster and London Stone Reissues

Posted on 18 July 2016 by John Haylock

Frank Zappa 31, Jimi Hendrix 25, The Fall 19, with The Bevis Frond and XTC on equal footing with 13. These are the current high scorers in my CD collection. It’s probably a bloke thing but I also clean them regularly with a damp cloth, and when I get a free cover mounted CD like on the cover of Mojo magazine I replace the old jewel case with that shiny new one…and you’ll not be surprised that i put them in alphabetical order as well.

Hailing from the suburbs of London The Bevis Frond’s long haired focal point Nick Saloman is something of a cult figure in music. He plays live rarely and seems to wish to keep a low profile, despite almost single handedly releasing over three decades worth of fascinating recorded work.

Lethal combinations of extraordinarily, wild heavy psychedelic blues and blistering full on rock dominates the back catalogue but there’s plenty of room for gentle acoustic reveries and jangly power pop. He is the languid lord of lo fi, and probably the best guitarist you’ve never heard of.

Fire Records reissue of his back catalogue continues this month with three more chronologically correct titles from Saloman’s rainbow imagination. This time we’ve landed in his late 1980s, early 1990s period.

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Any Gas Faster (1989) is his fourth full album proper, with Nick playing everything apart from the drums; Martin Crowley has that honour.  As we’ve come to expect from Salomon this contains much that is brutal, in particular Eyes In The Back Of My Head, Olde Worlde, ‘Head On A Pole, as well as much guitar riffery on tracks Lord Plentiful Reflects, Ear Song and Then You Wanted Me.

There are hordes of brilliant guitarists out there such as Joe Satriani and Steve Vai who often sacrifice emotion for extraordinary technique and bombast. But for all their flashy showmanship they lack the guttural impact of someone like Saloman. This is where Nick trumps them, his best solos just ooze with feeling, be that aggressive or full of longing they more often than not hit the target.

Saloman doesn’t take himself too seriously either, which is extremely rare for a guitar hero, his work is littered with self-deprecating lyrical wit and questioning doubt. Many of these earlier albums are also peppered with original film dialogue and old music snippets, which make for a great listen.

New River Head (1990) is considered by many to be one of his finest collections. Originally a sprawling double album it is all over the place stylistically and not unlike Hendrix with amnesia.

It features additional musicians including Cyke Bancroft playing some mean sax especially on the opener White Sun, the folk violinist Barry Dransfield and Bari Watts, who was to become a long-term collaborator. Also present and correct is Adrian Shaw, ex Hawkwind and Arthur Brown bassist.

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I recently found an old interview with Saloman in which he was asked for his favourite solos. Unsurprisingly Jimi Hendrix featured more than once, and one of the tracks mentioned was one of Jimi’s wildest B sides The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam’s Dice (LSD geddit ?)  It’s a complete cacophony, with Jimi doing to the guitar what Captain Beefheart did to the English language on Trout Mask Replica. Saloman’s take on that vibe on New River Head is Solar Marmalade, a ridiculously over the top guitar jam that will test your patience if not your inner ear.

On the other hand, New River Head track Stain On The Sun is a lengthy, mournful yearning, blues epic that remains one of my all time faves. The vocal phrasing is perfect as is the chorus on what is a really nice piece of work. Then we go from the sublime to the ridiculously fast on the track Undertaker, which sounds like a lost punk classic but with Arthur Lee on guitar. Meanwhile, Waving is a brief respite from the whirling rock ‘n’ roll. There are so many reference points on New River Head, it would be awful of me to spoil it for you by mentioning more.

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London Stone (1991) from a year later only confirms what we’ve come to expect, that he’s a prime exponent of six-string wonderment, influenced as much by punk as he is by 1960s freakbeat. Again this is another treasure chest of aural goodies. Opening uncharacteristically with a little jig from fiddler Barry Dransfield it then moves into more familiar, rockier terrain. Coming Around Again, Well Out Of It and the title track pop in for a pint and stay till closing time. It’s a good album but unlike the previous albums lacks a certain spark, to these ears anyway.

All of these current reissues come dressed in replica sleeves with booklets annotated by Nick himself featuring photos and reminiscences and there’s also a plethora of demos and live tracks gracing these three reissues.

by John Haylock

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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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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.

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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.

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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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Bari Watts – There Was A Time

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Bari Watts – There Was A Time

Posted on 06 September 2016 by John Haylock

Bari Watts is a superlative guitarist in his own right and the purveyor of much psychedelic heavy rock, principally with his former band, the criminally overlooked Outskirts of infinity.

On this 2015 release he reins in the Hendrix inspired excess and lovingly recreates the Marc Bolan vibe, with an album populated by elves, dragons, wizards and hurdy-gurdy men.

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If you are in any way familiar with the work of the late Bolan, with all its attendant imagery and naive poetic license you’ll know that his early work was inhabited with phantasmagorical imaginings and all things fairytale, perhaps it’s true, the drugs were better back then.

Bolan like his contemporary, David Bowie, shone like a sexually ambivalent glitterball in an austere prog-rock landscape. It was as if he was translating The Lord of the Rings into rock ‘n’ roll; with relatively simple riffs and adornments he created musical worlds of enduring beauty and originality.

Watts is obviously enamoured by Bolan’s work and has set about trying to capture those crazy, fantastical hippy-vibes. It could have been a disastrous ambition but he pulls it all off with such consumate ease it’s a bloody joy to behold.

With Woronzow labelmates, Adrian Shaw and Nick Saloman (aka The Bevis Frond) they enter Mordor armed with some hot love and with stars in their (receeding) hair.

On Crystal Pagoda and Karenza (My Lady Love) in particular he sounds so like Bolan you might be forgiven you were listening to some of his late 1960s unreleased demos. Watts has got that tremulous vocal mannerism down to a tee and with sympathtic backing vocals and eastern percussion it’s a glam rock wonder to listen to.

From the laid-back whimsy of Here Be Dragons to the happy clappy Ratskull, to the proto-punk of Demon Love this is so much more than mere copyism. It is homage of the highest order.

An absolute joy……Bang a gong, get it on!

For more information  about Bari Watts visit his Facebook page here.

By John Haylock

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Top 30 Albums of 2015

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Top 30 Albums of 2015

Posted on 18 December 2015 by Joe

It’s been such a great year for albums that we’ve upped our usual 20 strong end of year list to 30. There will be some in run down that will be on many other end of year lists, but we’ve also tried to include some of our favourites from emerging artists, who unfairly find themselves struggling to get publicity at times.

If there is a theme to our list it is that it was a good year for pop and yet again another year where the quality from both new acts and experienced artists was equally high. Here is our Top 30 Albums of 2015.

30. Papernut Cambridge – Nutlets (1967-1980)

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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 fine collection features ten covers of his favourites from around that time. Read our full review here.

29. The Bevis Frond – Example 22

The Bevis Frond

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.

Here on the band’s latest release are no radical departures from previous works, just steady as she goes, bloody good rock songs with riffs a plenty and solos to make your knees go weak. Read our full review here.

28. Matt Creer – The Leeward Tide

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As calms after the storm go this latest album by Isle of Man singer songwriter Matt Creer is just about perfect. We first heard his beautiful take on folk music via a Tweet from Chris TT. We hope this placing in our Top 20 albums of the year so far prompts others to discover his remarkable talent. Read our full review here.

 27. Small Feet – From Far Enough Away Everything Sounds Like The Ocean

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The pool of talent in the Swedish folk scene just got deeper. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Tallest Man on Earth and First Aid Kit is Stockholm based trio Small Feet. With the epic folk of the Fleet Foxes, a band who inspired First Aid Kit, coupled with the intimacy of Ireland’s Villagers, Small Feet certainly have the sound to match their countrymen and women. This is a remarkable debut. Read our full review here.

26. Darren Hayman – Florence

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A simple idea, of a short winter holiday in Florence staying at the apartment of his indiepop chums Elizabeth Morris and her husband Ola Innset, of Allo Darlin and Making Marks respectively, provides the inspiration for this melancholy collection of songs. While a rare solo project it is far from being a lonely or sad album. Friendship is a key theme and there’s a cosy warmth to its winter setting too. Read our full review here.

25. Ricked Wicky – I Sell The Circus

Ricked Wicky I Sell The Circus

Robert Pollard has basically existed as a solo artist with a rotating team of supporting players for his whole career, but he always seems most energised when he is operating in band mode. Ricked Wicky is his latest band identity and this is the best of the three albums they have released in 2015 as Pollard remains music’s most prolific recording artist.

24. El Vy – Return To The Moon

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This collaboration between The National’s Matt Berninger and Brent Knopf is a mixed bag, but a consistently entertaining one. A captivating blend of pop and melancholy that makes good use of Berninger’s trademark baritone.

23. Public Service Broadcasting -The Race For Space

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As much as we enjoyed PSB’s first album there were doubts about the staying power of their approach to creating music. Their second album, about the golden years of the space programme, allayed any fears and is just as much fun as the first. Sounds even better live as well.

22. The Mountain Goats – Beat The Champ

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Fronted by John Darnielle and still very much a three piece, with Peter Hughes and Jon Wurster in tow, the Mountain Goats’s latest is a concept album about the very human tales of wrestling, from their young fans to the stars of the ring themselves. Heartbreaking and joyous. Read our full review here.

21. The Wave Pictures – Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon

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Is this the best dirty rock n roll album of the year? We declared as such back in February and so far few have come close. With Billy Childish on board for production duties the trio get down and dirty and even roll out a couple of Creedence Clearwater Revival numbers. Read our full review here.

20. Tame Impala – Currents

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With this their third album Tame Impala have truly emerged from mere interesting Australian psych rock act to global pop sensation in waiting. The weird trippy psych rock of their debut album Innerspeaker and the stomp of its follow up Lonerism are still here. So too are the synths you can lose yourself in and the quirky, phasered drum rolls and guitar licks. But here they sound far more pop, far more danceable, with the bass squelchier and the band’s key figure Kevin Parker’s vocals purer, almost soulful at times. Read our full review here.

19. SLUG- Ripe

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Any album that is connected with Field Music is likely to be enthusiastically received at Neon Filler towers. The band have produced some of our favourite music over the last decade. Ripe is the twisted brain child o their touring bass player Ian Black and has both Brewis Brothers on board for the ride. Imagine Queen producing their music in 21st Century Sunderland and you get a flavour of what is on show here.

18. Calexico – Edge of the Sun

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You know what you are going to get when you play a Calexico album, the smooth sounds of Californian country rock with a consistent undercurrent of Marichi brass. Edge of the Sun offers no surprises, but is their most satisfying release in years. Iron And Wine’s Sam Beam, Neko Case and Gaby Moreno all pitch in with vocal support on an album that would sound best listened to in a desert.

17. Evans the Death – Expect Delays

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The despair for young people under coalition and now Conservative government since 2010 is embedded in every scream, guitar riff and drum beat on this incendiary latest album from the London four piece. This is what it feels like to be young and pissed off in all its magnificent angst. Read our full review here.

16. Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek

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Mammoth Penguins, the new band formed by Standard Fare’s Emma Kupa, are one of the best new acts to emerge this year. At it’s heart it’s basic indie pop of drums, crunchy guitar chords, bass and bitter sweet lyrics. But an elevation comes from Kupa’s distinct vocals, which here seem clearer and more powerful than on Standard Fare releases. Plus there seems to be a sharper focus to the songs as well, which pack a real punch. Read our full review here.

15. Ralegh Long – Hoverance

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Gare Du Nord label artist Ralegh Long takes the listener into the world of the English countryside for a beautiful, rural inspired collection of romantic and thoughtful songs. Read our full review here.

14. Wilco – Star Wars

Wilco Star WarsWhen Wilco announced an unexpected new album it was a pleasant surprise, the four years since their last being the longest break yet in their career. But is this giveaway album any good? The answer is a pretty emphatic yes. Wilco don’t do bad albums and they haven’t decided to break their 20 year run of form, even for a freebie. Read our full review here.

13. Co-pilgrim – Slows to Go

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In song writer and frontman Mike Gale, Co-pilgrim they have one of UK music’s best kept secrets, with his bittersweet lyrics merging beautifully with ’60s guitars and melodies. How his tracks are not well known is seemingly a mystery and this is yet another stellar release from the band. Read our full review here.

12. Bjork – Vulnicara

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As break up albums go Bjork’s return to form this year is up there with the best of them. Written about her emergence from a crumbling relationship this is one of the year’s most emotional albums with tracks such as Lion Song, Stonemilker and the 10 minute long centrepiece Black Lake among the best of her career. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions and there may be tears when you listen but this is a deserved entry from an artist who very evidently put her heart and soul into this album.

11. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell

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His 2010 album The Age of Adz may have been his most successful to date but it never sat quite easy with us. Granted its electronica was innovative but Stevens always sounds best to us with a stripped back sound and a hanky to wipe away the tears from his sad lyrics. Here he reveals his most intimate album yet focusing on his uneasy relationship with his late mother Carrie and his adoration for his step father Lowell Brams, who he runs his label Asthmatic Kitty with. This album is magnificently sad and uplifting in equal measure, as all great Sufjan Stevens albums should be.

10. New Order – Music Complete

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New Order returning with a new album was a small surprise, it being their best album since Technique (17 years ago!) was a bigger surprise. Gillian is back on board but Peter Hook is not, compare this to Waiting For The Sirens Call and make your own decision about who is a more important member of the band

9. Destroyer – Poison Season

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Four years on from the breakout success of Kaputt we find Dan Bejar delving further into the pool of ’80s jazz pop. If anything this is a stronger, more entertaining set than the predecessor and one of the best albums lyrically you’ll hear for a long time.

8. Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

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Following a five year break between albums the Scottish indie pop legends were back with one of the best releases. With added disco chic on The Party Line they even dip their toe into politics, with The Cat with the Cream and its heart breaking take on coalition government era Britain.

7. Villagers – Darling Arithmatic

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There’s something so wonderfully precise about Villagers’ frontman Conor O’Brien’s voice. Each line is told with such clarity and on this, their third album, the messag O’Brien wants to convey is loud and clear; this is a love album and one made by a gay man from Ireland. Read our full review here.

6. Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes

Robert Pollard - Faulty Superheroes

Like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts I too love rock and roll. But sometimes the idea of putting another dime in the juke box baby fills me with horror. Then just when you’d almost given up hope an album comes along and renews your faith in rock and roll. This is that album. Read our full review here.

5. Southern Tenant Folk Union – The Chuck Norris Project

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The Folk and bluegrass collective took a bold step using the film titles of right wing action star Chuck Norris to take on the weighty issues of the world, from gun crime to racism. Thankfully it worked, especially on Slaughter on San Francisco, where their singer Rory Butler delivers one of the vocal performances of the year. Read our full review here.

4. King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard – Paper Mache Dream Balloon

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On Paper Mache Dream Balloon out go the distorted guitars and lengthy conceptual moments and in comes purely acoustic instruments. The result from this Australian psychedelic rock outfit  is a fantastic whimsical album, like the soundtrack to a lost kids pop show from 1969. Fans of more latter day psychedelic exponents such as Dukes of Stratosphear and more recently Papernut Cambridge will love this especially as it harks back so vividly to those innocent days of lava lamp pop. Read our full review here.

3. John Howard and the Night Mail

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John Howard’s story is one well told tale by us, of a singer-songwriter that almost made it big in the 1970s, dropped out of recording and performing for the next 20 or so years only to return around a decade ago to be greeted by a new, younger fan base. Here with a stellar band of performers and co-songwriters in tow, of Robert Rotifer, Ian Button and Andy Lewis, this is arguably one of his best releases and certainly one of the year’s best pop releases. Read our full review here.

2. FFS

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This merging of art rockers Franz Ferdinand with 1970s oddball pop duo Sparks is one of the few collaborations in music that works. The Sparks brothers of Ron and Russell Mael look to have the upper hand in directing this, at times utterly bonkers, collection of pop songs. Alex Kapranos and co seem content to follow their lead and enjoy the ride. Read our full review here.

1. The Go! Team – The Scene Between

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The whole album from start to finish is teaming with singles, with wonderful hooks, riffs and choruses shining throughout. Its perfect pop and we challenge anyone who professes to have any form of appreciation for a good pop song to dislike this album. This gained a rare 10/10 from us when released and deservedly tops our Top 25 Albums of 2015 list. Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers. Additional photos by Joe Lepper and Nic Newman

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Top 20 Albums of 2015…so far

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Top 20 Albums of 2015…so far

Posted on 03 July 2015 by Joe

At the year’s half way point we take a look back on some of our favourite albums of the year so far. There’s been a distinct up turn in pop amongst our largely indie and alternative releases, with Franz Ferdnand and Spark’s collaboration and the return of Go! Team and They Might Be Giants amongst the standouts. We also feature an homage to arguably the UK’s golden era of pop, a concept album about wrestling, some prog rock, some teen angst, a bit of adult angst and another regular placing for Robert Pollard, who retains his tag as rock’s most productive artist. Watch out for our end of year list in December.

20. Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek

 

Mammoth_PENGUINS

Mammoth Penguins, the new band formed by Standard Fare’s Emma Kupa, are one of the best new acts to emerge this year. At it’s heart it’s basic indie pop of drums, crunchy guitar chords, bass and bitter sweet lyrics. But an elevation comes from Kupa’s distinct vocals, which here seem clearer and more powerful than on Standard Fare releases. Plus there seems to be a sharper focus to the songs as well, which pack a real punch. Read our full review here.

19. Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color

 

alabamashakes

Our contributor Sarah Robertson’s favourite album of the year launches itself into our top 20 thanks to its “timeless, soulful” sound and a range of songs “that could provide the backdrop to a cult road trip film.” Read our full review here.

18. The Mountain Goats – Beat The Champ

 

mgoats

Fronted by John Darnielle and still very much a three piece, with Peter Hughes and Jon Wurster in tow, the Mountain Goats’s latest is a concept album about the very human tales of wrestling, from their young fans to the stars of the ring themselves. Heartbreaking and joyous. Read our full review here.

17. The Bevis Frond – Miasma and Inner Marshland Reissues

 

bevisfrondmarshland

Welcome reissue for the cult 1980s prog rock act’s first two albums. The band’s driving force Nick Salomon is still very much guitar noodling and plays for the second time in two years at Glastonbury this year. Read our full review here to find out why his band is so adored by guitar luminaries such as Jay Mascis.

16. Matt Creer – The Leeward Tide

 

creer

As calms after the storm go this latest album by Isle of Man singer songwriter Matt Creer is just about perfect. We first heard his beautiful take on folk music via a Tweet from Chris TT. We hope this placing in our Top 20 albums of the year so far prompts others to discover his remarkable talent. Read our full review here.

15. They Might Be Giants – Glean

 

TMBG

The iconic pop duo have revisited and updated their 1980s dial-a-song idea to release a song a week throughout 2015. Glean rounds up the best of those released so far and reveals they have lost none of their pop credentials. Read our full review here.

14. Papernut Cambridge – Nutlets (1967-1980)

 

papernut

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 fine collection features ten covers of his favourites from around that time. Read our full review here.

13. SLUG- Ripe

 

Slug

Any album that is connected with Field Music is likely to be enthusiastically received at Neon Filler towers. The band have produced some of our favourite music over the last decade. Ripe is the twisted brain child o their touring bass player Ian Black and has both Brewis Brothers on board for the ride. Imagine Queen producing their music in 21st Century Sunderland and you get a flavour of what is on show here.

12. Calexico – Edge of the Sun

 

26861-edge-of-the-sun

You know what you are going to get when you play a Calexico album, the smooth sounds of Californian country rock with a consistent undercurrent of Marichi brass. Edge of the Sun offers no surprises, but is their most satisfying release in years. Iron And Wine’s Sam Beam, Neko Case and Gaby Moreno all pitch in with vocal support on an album that would sound best listened to in a desert.

11. The Tigercats – Mysteries

 

Tigercats

Now signed to Fortuna Pop and with Allo Darlin’s Paul Rains in their ranks the London band have managed to nail the potentially tricky second album after the critical success of their debut Isle of Dogs. It sounds great and as ever the songwriting and lyrics are superb. Read our full review here.

10. Evans the Death – Expect Delays

 

evans

The despair for young people under coalition and now Conservative government since 2010 is embedded in every scream, guitar riff and drum beat on this incendiary latest album from the London four piece. This is what it feels like to be young and pissed off in all its magnificent angst. Read our full review here.

9. Ralegh Long – Hoverance

 

longalbumcover

Gare Du Nord label artist Ralegh Long takes the listener into the world of the English countryside for a beautiful, rural inspired collection of romantic and thoughtful songs. Read our full review here.

8. Southern Tenant Folk Union – The Chuck Norris Project

 

STFU-Cover-Larger-Email

The Folk and bluegrass collective took a bold step using the film titles of right wing action star Chuck Norris to take on the weighty issues of the world, from gun crime to racism. Thankfully it worked, especially on Slaughter on San Francisco, where their singer Rory Butler delivers one of the vocal performances of the year. Read our full review here.

7. The Wave Pictures – Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon

 

wavepictures

Is this the best dirty rock n roll album of the year? We declared as such back in February and so far few have come close. With Billy Childish on board for production duties the trio get down and dirty and even roll out a couple of Creedence Clearwater Revival numbers. Read our full review here.

6. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell

 

carrie-and-lowell

His 2010 album The Age of Adz may have been his most successful to date but it never sat quite easy with us. Granted its electronica was innovative but Stevens always sounds best to us with a stripped back sound and a hanky to wipe away the tears from his sad lyrics. Here he reveals his most intimate album yet focusing on his uneasy relationship with his late mother Carrie and his adoration for his step father Lowell Brams, who he runs his label Asthmatic Kitty with. This album is magnificently sad and uplifting in equal measure, as all great Sufjan Stevens albums should be.

5. Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

 

belle

Following a five year break between albums the Scottish indie pop legends were back with one of the best releases. With added disco chic on The Party Line they even dip their toe into politics, with The Cat with the Cream and its heart breaking take on coalition government era Britain.

4. Villagers – Darling Arithmatic

 

valbum2

There’s something so wonderfully precise about Villagers’ frontman Conor O’Brien’s voice. Each line is told with such clarity and on this, their third album, the messag O’Brien wants to convey is loud and clear; this is a love album and one made by a gay man from Ireland. Read our full review here.

3. Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes

 

Robert Pollard - Faulty Superheroes

Like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts I too love rock and roll. But sometimes the idea of putting another dime in the juke box baby fills me with horror. Then just when you’d almost given up hope an album comes along and renews your faith in rock and roll. This is that album. Read our full review here.

2. FFS – FFS

 

ffspic

This merging of art rockers Franz Ferdinand with 1970s oddball pop duo Sparks is one of the few collaborations in music that works. The Sparks brothers of Ron and Russell Mael look to have the upper hand in directing this, at times utterly bonkers, collection of pop songs. Alex Kapranos and co seem content to follow their lead and enjoy the ride. Read our full review here.

1. The Go! Team – The Scene Between

 

The Go Team The Scene Between artwork SMALL(1)

The whole album from start to finish is teaming with singles, with wonderful hooks, riffs and choruses shining throughout. Its perfect pop and we challenge anyone who professes to have any form of appreciation for a good pop song to dislike this album. This gained a rare 10/10 from us when released. Read our full review here.

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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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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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Glastonbury Festival 2014

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Glastonbury Festival 2014

Posted on 30 June 2014 by Joe

Everyone has their own Glastonbury experience. It’s so vast, with 200,000 people and thousands of acts scattered across two large Somerset farms that this giant muddy city is able to offer something for everyone. There are those that like the big name acts of the Pyramid and Other stages, some who can dance all night at Shangri-La and Arcadia and then there’s some like me who enjoy finding new bands and watching music in the many smaller, more intimate venues.

Storm clouds over the Pyramid Stage

Storm clouds over the Pyramid Stage

I was attending this year as a judge for this year’s Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition so was especially keen to catch up with some of the finalists. During this review I’ll cover each of my day’s trek around the storm hit, mud strewn site’s smaller venues to bring some new acts to your attention.

Friday

After discovering it was Kaiser Chiefs not my dream of Prince playing the surprise slot opening at The Other Stage I headed to this year’s best venue, William’s Green, where new bands rub shoulders with more established acts looking to play a second, more intimate gig. Ralfe Band were first on and provided the perfect start with Oly Ralfe’s accomplished Baroque pop on keyboards and acoustic guitar putting in great versions of tracks such as Crow and Ox.

Ralfe Band

Ralfe Band

As I made my way over to the BBC Introducing stage I stopped off to watch a little of Blondie. I knew it would be a soul destroying experience for this fan and was proved right. Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and one of the world’s best drummers Clem Burke remain from the original line up but they were supplemented with some rent a rock session musicians and were now very clearly a spent force. Harry shouted rather than sang her way through the classics like Hanging on the Telephone and their bland ‘new ones’ were met with groans and sighs from the crowd. Is it time to call it a day? In Blondie’s case, definitely.

Wood Burning Savages

Wood Burning Savages

Over at the BBC Introducing stage Dan Hyde proved a welcome antidote, backed by cello and giving a new take on the skinny jeaned young singer songwriter genre. Derry’s Wood Burning Savages were next and immediately looked like a band destined for bigger things. Every track in their short 20 minute set of fast paced indie rock sounded like a single, especially Lather, Rinse, Repeat. In singer Paul Connolly they also have a great frontman; part Bono, part Danny Kendall from 1980s Grange Hill.

Carnabells from Leeds were next at BBC Introducing and were brought on stage by fan Steve Lamacq. All giant hair, paisley shirts and velvet jackets they play rock and roll with a huge dollop of indie rock and did Steve proud.

The beauty of the BBC Introducing stage is it is next to the Gully Outer National stage for world music as well as John Peel for the more established BBC 6 Music style acts. Birmingham’s Eternal Taal – Bhangra Entertainment Team were hard to ignore with their energetic crowd participation act at Gully as were Temples over at John Peel with their carefully crafted late 1960s psychedelic rock. It’s a little Tame Impala light but they still do this genre justice.

Carnabelles

Carnabells

Following a brief burst of sunshine some menacing clouds began to appear. I sought shelter back at William’s Green to see We Were Evergreen. Anyone who has heard Canada’s Rural Alberta Advantage will be impressed by this smart, Parisian electro pop act.

The next event was the weather, with a truly frightening electrical storm bringing the festival’s music to a brief close due to health and safety fears. Everyone at the festival will have their tale to tell of where they were when this intense rain came down. For me it was in The Leftfield where Neonfiller.com favourites The Tuts were just getting going in their punk pop set when the generators were shut down. Billy Bragg, who is curating proceedings at The Leftfield apologised but audience didn’t care though as they launched into a Cliff Richard at Wimbledon style sing-along to Bohemian Rhapsody. The guitar solo bit was particularly funny.

Young Knives

Young Knives

Back at William’s Green and the electricity back on, Young Knives played a storming set, filled with tracks from Neonfiller.com top 20 album of 2013 Sick Octave and an incredible performance from lead singer Henry Dartnell as he snarled, barked and jerked around the stage.

Billy Bragg’s Friday night Leftfield show is a tradition of the festival. Tonight it was just him and telecaster and acoustic guitar, belting out his hits and reminding us of the late Tony Benn, who was a regular at the festival. It’s a political venue so the politics is ramped up through tracks such as Between the Wars and There is Power in a Union. But he’s also a preacher with heart and Handyman Blues about his father was among many tearjerkers. Bragg always puts on a good show, but there’s something special about his Friday night Leftfield slot.

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg

My evening ended with two Somerset based bands, Flipron and Nick Parker and the False Alarms who share members and played a great joint set at Avalon Café. Both Parker and Flipron frontman Jesse Budd were playing a number of times at the festival but you’d never know they were probably wrecked from exhaustion as they belted through their most festival friendly tracks. There was even dancing amid the tea drinking.

Nick Parker

Nick Parker

Saturday

John Peel openers Black Tambourines were one of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition finalists this year and left me impressed during their short set at the Pilton finals in April. It was great to see a full set from this Falmouth act, which owes a lot to the 1960s garage punk and mod sounds of the Unrelated Segments and other obscurities from that era.

The Black Tambourines

The Black Tambourines

At BBC Introducing by coincidence another Falmouth act, Polly Money, is proving that the Cornish music scene is in fine voice. Her intricate acoustic guitar work and looping vocals show she is another accomplished, emerging talent. After a surprise gig at BBC introducing from Little Dragon I headed back over to William’s Green for the billed psychedelic rock segment of the weekend, which started with the Nirvana-esque grunge-sters The Wytches, Brisbane’s Blank Realm, Smoke Fairies and Dinosaur Jr’s favourites Bevis Frond.

The Wytches

The Wytches

All these William’s Green acts were great in their own separate ways from Smoke Fairies’ style of dressing in designer white outfits, Bevis Frond’s love of life, Blank Realm’s insane vocals and The Wytches massive hair.

The Smoke Fairies

The Smoke Fairies

The evening was spent in the company of two great songwriters. Watching Nick Lowe sing What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding with his perfect pitch and intonation is one of those ‘things to see in music before you die’ moments. He was especially suited to the beautiful Acoustic tent with its hanging red drapes and giant disco ball.

John Grant

John Grant

John Grant at the Park was as amiable and fun as he appears to be on disc, with his clever lyrics and liberal swearing. As joints were being passed around at the front Grant dazzled us with tracks such as Mars and GMF, perhaps his greatest song. On the way back home that night (I live near the site and was popping in each day) I managed to catch the Arcadia landing show, an outstanding spectacle of fire breathing giant space spider pyrotechnics.

 

Arcadia

Arcadia

 

Sunday

The Black Tambourines and Wood Burning Savages prove the festival has emerging talent that has seemingly arrived fully formed. But some of today’s BBC Introducing stage acts showed that some have a little way to go in terms of stage presence. Glastonbury Emerging Talent finalists FURS have the right look and sound but fell into the trap of not looking like they wanted to be there. Kagoule have their chops around a distortion pedal but while excellent musically they looked nervous and were smile-shy.

Kagoule

Kagoule

We are told by the BBC DJ who introduced singer songwriter Lapsley that she will be one of those acts that will be making a swift move from the BBC Introducing to a main stage swiftly. It does happen, with Ed Sheeran playing the stage in 2011 and bagging a Pyramid slot this year. Lapsley could do well with her  haunting electronica. She has some nice touches to her act as well, especially through voice manipulation gadgets. But she’ll have to do a lot of work on her stage presence to follow Sheeren’s lead. She looked  like she was on work experience at an office, desperately trying to pluck up the courage to ask a manager where the coffee machine is, rather than at a music festival.

Gallery Circus

Gallery Circus

Gallery Circus though showed these acts how it should be done. This Newcastle duo of twins Graeme and Daniel Ross play sibling blues rock in the White Stripes vein and are  sensational live; Graeme’s frantic drumming especially. After seeing the energy they put into playing live I want them to get wider attention and a main stage slot that so many on the BBC Introducing are touted for but today only Gallery Circus deserve.

After the storms of Friday and Saturday the mud was thick and getting about the site was tough work. I decided to stick to one area for the duration, even if that meant missing the Festival’s buzz act Dolly Parton. The Park was my venue and provided the best segment of the festival as well as the best live act I’ve seen since Nick Cave’s astonishing Pyramid Stage set in 2013.

M+A

M+A

Phosphorescent brought the songwriting talents of Matthew Houck and key tracks, such as Song For Zula and Ride On/Right On from his Neonfiller.com Top 20 album of 2012 Muchacho, to the Park. He had a little wobble early on, having a hissy fit with a mic, slamming down the stand in disgust. Perhaps realising that this made him look like an utter knob he backtracked, thanked the sound engineers for their hard work and the gig resumed.

Ahead of next act Yoko Ono with Yo La Tengo I popped up to the Rabbit Hole, the crazy bar near the Park’s ribbon tower to catch a second gig from Glastonbury Emerging Talent winners M+A. Their blend of European pop and electronic trickery was superb in this tiny venue and they proved worthy winners of this competition.

Yoko One and Yo La Tengo

Yoko Ono and Yo La Tengo

I was not expecting Yoko Ono to be good. I was mostly there for the novelty of seeing such an well known figure of modern culture and had always been of the opinion that her and Lennon’s preaching was more pretentious than heartfelt. There was pretension, but she is such an engaging personality I can see why so many listened to her and husband back in the day. Before she came to the stage people with flowers in the hair went around the crowd handing out labels to write down wishes and hand back in a bucket. Then Ono arrived, tiny, focused and full of smiles backed this time by Yo La Tengo as the Plastic Ono Band.

Packed full of tales from her own life, including the tragic loss of her daughter due to a marriage break up and artists visiting her and Lennon, the audience immediately warmed to her. Musically it was pretty fine too. Backed by Yo La Tengo’s indie rock, Ono throat warbled her way through tracks such as We’re All Water and Mind Train as the audience beamed back at her.

St Vincent

St Vincent

St Vincent provided one of the most astounding show of the weekend. Looking sensational in gold trimmed black dress and stiletto boots she moved around the stage like a android doll that is smirking as it discovers rebellion and music for the first time. Coordinated dances with the band, a move onto a giant white pedestal, a coordinated roll back down it and two of the most insane crowd surfing moments I’ve witnessed then followed.

St Vincent being helped into the crowd

St Vincent being helped into the crowd

The crowd surfing was particularly impressive, still playing guitar she struggled through the mud in her heels, had to be helped up by security staff, fell over a number of times, jumped on people, managed to borrow a flat cap and then popped back on stage still in android doll character as if nothing had happened. How she managed to still look cool after that I’ll never know. Your Lips Are Red and a tender version of Prince Johnny were among many highlights of an incredible masterclass in performance and music for some of the emerging acts here to take note of.

dragon

Words and Pictures by Joe Lepper. All pictures are copyrighted to News and Features Ltd, if you would like to use any please email joelepper@newsandfeatures.co.uk

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