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Green Man Festival 2018 – Psychedelic awesomeness

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Green Man Festival 2018 – Psychedelic awesomeness

Posted on 23 August 2018 by John Haylock

Our big green friend, the Green Man Festival, never disappoints and once again provides one of the best festival weekends this side of Pluto.

As always the depth and quality of performances was magnificent, with nary a dud in evidence. The oh-so unpredictable Welsh weather remained the right side of sub-Arctic, and on more than one occasion I spotted people applying sun tan lotion. Yes, suntan lotion! Not something I can remember ever seeing in Wales before.

Friday

Arriving with the dawn on the Friday via a breakfast at Waitrose in Abergavenny, we threw ourselves into putting up a tent badly.

This done we were lured by The Lovely Eggs up at the Far Out marquee and were greeted by some very lively punk action. Guitarist Holly was great, playing speedy tunes and throwing shapes. Despite the garish yellow tights she looked and sounded like a star. The crowd loved them.

The lovely eggs

The Lovely Eggs

An hour later The Lemon Twigs played Beatlesque slacker pop to an enthusiastic crowd. They certainly won me over but by then whiskey had been taken, so they could have been rubbish, who knows ? Nice vibes, I think.

The best at the Green Man Festival on Friday was a superb set from Joan as Policewoman. A small woman with big talent,  blessed with a multi octave voice that transports you to heaven via Bonnie Tyler’s chip shop in Crickhowell. Her band was super tight, soulful and classy, and what did she do as an encore? Only bloomin’ well Kiss by Prince. Utterly sublime and it’s not even teatime.

Joan as Policewoman

Joan as Policewoman

The  Green Man Festival layout is great. It’s not too big although there did seem to be larger numbers of people here this year, which was slightly disconcerting. You don’t expect the Walled Garden to be rammed mid-afternoon listening to obscure Australian folk singers.

In the past there was always room to collapse in a semi-catatonic heap next to a rubbish bin and not get your head trodden on.

Next up was a look at the Green Man Rising emerging talent competition, to sample the delights of fresh new blood. They don’t get any fresher (or madder) than Gentle Stranger.

Gentle Stranger

Gentle Stranger

The compere said they were like the bastard sons of Ian Curtis and Talking Heads, which is rubbish. In fact, they were more like the bastard offspring of the Mothers of Invention and a small white sliced loaf.
Among Gentle Stranger’s line up was a drummer who also played oboe and looked like he should be at a Metallica covers band audition. A skinny bassist in awful make up laying on his back holding his bass guitar with his feet whilst applying hair gel. They also featured a topless hairy bloke with braids in a blue midi skirt and hobnail boots playing guitar and blowing on things. Totally fantastic.

The Hungry Ghosts

The Hungry Ghosts

Were also impressed by the dirty, rock ‘n’ roll filth of The Hungry Ghosts from Birmingham. Then had to administer self flagellation for missing Snail Mail, which shows the depth of talent at this year’s Green Man Festival.

Back at the main stage it was time for  headliners King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. The Australian psychedelic rockers have inexplicably become hip. Their lengthy guitar work outs, nimble ensemble playing and nicely complimented vocals went down well. But I failed to achieve orgasm, unlike the other five thousand other folk in the crowd. Mind you their 2016 track Rattlesnake was groovy.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Time to party until the late hours, 11:55pm in our case. We were knackered.

Saturday

We awoke to no rain, at all, not even drizzle, remarkable.

After a dodgy dinner the Walled Garden played hosts to Goat Girl who seem more popular than The Beatles. The place was full, and quite rightly as they did their no nonsense pop-lite thang.

A duo under the name of Ider did it for me. Poppy niceness to the fore. They should be pop stars tomorrow with their nice bouncy tune and big singy choruses.

Baxter Dury

Baxter Dury

Happiness achieved but  had to curtail my enjoyment to rush over to the main stage to catch the late Ian Dury’s son (thats him on the cover of new boots and panties), Baxter Dury.  Top notch swearing and funky jams predominated the proceedings. He seemed slightly aggrieved but was all the better for it. A riveting set.

The evening then turned into a cosmic trip with a visit down memory lane with the ever dependable Teenage Fanclub.Boy Azooga, despite a hesitant start, won in extra time but then it was time for John Grant.

If you know Grant, you’ll know he was inevitably superb and if you’re unfamiliar with him then where have you been for the last few years?

It’s been heartening to witness  him graduate from touring half full pubs with Midlake five years ago to thrilling eight thousand people in a Welsh field on a nippy night.

John Grant

John Grant

Such is his charm and self-depricating wit that he can make these intimate, lyrically subversive songs work even on a grand scale.

They don’t get grander than Queen of Denmark which tonight is bombast incarnate, yet there is so much more to his music. You have the whimsy Marz. The electro incisiveness of Black Belt and Pale Green Ghosts. The beautiful Glacier and even an almost hit-single singalong GMF.

I asked Grant before he went on to sign a Barry Gibb and Barbara Streisand album. He laughed, signed it and then asked him to do a Bee Gees number. He said he’d think about it but sadly it didn’t happen [what an anecdote that wasn’t].

This Green Man Festival gig was one of the last times you’ll hear this material for a long time, he admitted. It’s new stuff from now on in , and personally I can’t wait to see where he’s going to go next. It is certain to be intriguing.

One of the absolute standouts of the entire weekend was an appearance by Simian Mobile Disco, performing with Green Man Festival regulars Deep Throat Choir.

This was an aural massage the likes of which will live long in the memory of those who witnessed this performance. The two guys within  their jumble of leads, decks, cables , laptops and other magical devices (probably stolen from magic pixies on a night with a full moon), delivered the most deliriously sublime set. Murmerations was performed in its entirety. The choir building up tension as waves of beautiful sound crashed like waves of pure love over our collective heads. I forgot the number of people I spoke to  the next day who thought it was astonishing.

Two hours later and we’ve still not got back to the tent. There were a few distractions. Impromptu Aretha Franklin singalongs, a cocktail bar, a merman and a mermaid, an art installation that was just some lights outside the toilets and a chat with a bloke dressed as a bacofoil deep sea diver thankfully was all I can remember.

Sunday

Sunday and your despicable soundchecks from War on drugs. I’d only been asleep three hours, still we are veterans after all and by 10 o’clock we were asleep again.

First band on at the Mountain Stage at dinnertime were the new project featuring Simon Raymonde from the Cocteau Twins, called Lost Horizons.

Black Angels

Black Angels

They excel at atmospheric gritty soundscapes with vocal contributions by the bassist, the keyboardist and especially their very expressive lead singer.  A very good way to start the day.

Such is the current vogue for glamping we found an area where you can sit in a hot tub and be served champagne. We were quite rightly immediately ejected.

We tried to enjoy Anna Calvi. But I appeared to be sitting next to the Abergavenny under-fives acrobatic team. It was difficult to concentrate but she was good and the version of Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy was stunning. As was the encore  – a cover of Ghost Rider in the Sky from Suicides’ debut album.

An evening of dark intense brooding rock ‘n’ roll at the Green Man Festival followed. First up Chilean trio Follakzoid who put in an unbelievable performance.

They only did two songs, the first was 25 minutes long, the second 20 minutes and that was only shorter because their enigmatic guitar shaman Domingo Garcia got increasingly angry over the mixing desks inability to hit maximum volume on his monitors. He pulled over the speakers and flounced off in a Chilean huff. After five minutes he came back on due to public demand and finished off the set.

It was great to watch as he played about with his pedals and various fuzz boxes. Then he’s doing the dance of the seven veils and swinging the guitar round his neck as it squeals its protests.

This was in the Far Out tent as were the three remaining acts we saw.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Rolling Blackouts Coastal  Fever from Australia recalled fellow brethren The Triffids, with some great guitar interplay and punchy tunes.

But the  best was to come. The Black Angels were relentless –  a fucked up marathon boogie  kept in the air by non stop drumming from Stephanie Bailey, the likes of which I haven’t witnessed for years. The woman is a machine built of steel and unsmiling stamina. It was like the Velvet Underground but with better tunes.

The icing on the  psychedelic cake of this year’s Green Man Festival was an appearance by the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Imagine the aroma of late 1980s Primal Scream inhaled from a pipe of Exile on Main Street. Loose but tight. Rough but nice. Good cop, bad cop but mostly bad cop. Oh man, this is my rock ‘n’ roll.

Brian Jonestown Massacre

Brian Jonestown Massacre

I am unable to describe any further events of that Sunday night as I appear to have run out of superlatives.

Not one bad band or performer at Green Man Festival all weekend. No hassle and no downsides, apart from the small matter of missing the Wedding Present, Tom Wrigglesworth, War on Drugs, Public Service Broadcasting, Kelly Lee Owens, Phil Wang and Teleman.

This festival spoils you every time and you have to make choices.

I choose Greenman.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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Green Man Festival 2018 Preview

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Green Man Festival 2018 Preview

Posted on 03 May 2018 by John Haylock

We’ve been regular visitors to the Green Man Festival over the years. Nestled in the Brecon Beacons it’s line up is always one of the best in the festival calendar and this time around is no exception.

Among the many highlights are Australian psychedelic rockers King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. After seeing them twice at Glastonbury we can confirm their live shows are not to be missed.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

John Grant, another we have seen live on a number of occasions, is also an essential act to catch, as are Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors and Fleet Foxes.

Further down the bill Teenage Fanclub are a welcome addition to any festival line up. We have being watching them at venues across the UK for nearly 30 years and they always delight us.

John Grant

John Grant

New bands also feature strongly, with Atlanta act Omni’s jerky pop and Amber Arcades among our top picks.

Big Jeff is there too DJing! Jeff has been a regular gig-goer in Bristol for the last 15 years and will be drawing on that vast array of experience to delight you. If Jeff’s there you know it’s the best gig in town.

Greenman2

For more information about Green Man, which takes place August 16-19, visit their website here.

by John Haylock

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Glastonbury Festival 2016 – Small Stages Highlights

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Glastonbury Festival 2016 – Small Stages Highlights

Posted on 27 June 2016 by Joe

Even festival organiser Michael Eavis, a man well used to the unpredictable Somerset summer weather, says this year was the muddiest Glastonbury ever. He wasn’t wrong. Getting about in ankle deep sludge for most of the weekend was indeed tough going as the weather and Friday’s shock Brexit vote conspired to give this year’s event a distinct vibe.

mud

For the acts the political developments fueled a sense of rage that gave their sets some extra steel. Meanwhile, the mud made audiences seem even more grateful than usual. They’d fought through mud to reach a band and by gum they were going to enjoy themselves once they got there.

Meanwhile, the Leftfield tent became a Mecca for the confused, as young and old alike looked for answers across its line up of politicians, activists and bands.

Here’s our look across some of the highlights on the smaller stages. Were you at any of these gigs? If so let us know what you thought.

Dan Stuart

Dan Stuart

Opening the John Peel stage on Friday a few hundred hardy souls gathered where the mud was less porridge-like to see a rare UK performance from Green on Red’s Dan Stuart. He didn’t disappoint, having flown in from his home in Mexico together with his be-suited and excellent band Twin Tones.

Brexit naturally was mentioned, so too were tracks from Stuart’s  latest album as well as Green on Red standards, all delivered with a wry grin and plenty of passion. Solo track Last Blue Day was dedicated to us poor post-Brexit vote Brits, while Death and Angels more than satisfied those that remember Green on Red’s heyday.

Michelle Stodart

Michelle Stodart

Over at the Acoustic stage the weather was the main protagonist to help along Michelle Stodart’s fine country folk set, accompanied by a backing group that included her brother and fellow Magic Number, Romeo. For artists playing in a tent on a Friday afternoon bad weather is a godsend. Her set was perfectly timed with a month’s worth of rain descending and the crowd soon swelled looking for warmth and comfort. Ain’t No Woman from her forthcoming album as well as Invitation to the Blues were two of many highlights for this packed Acoustic tent.

William’s Green is often our favourite venue at the festival, always showcasing new and innovative bands who know how to please a crowd. Friday afternoon provided two excellent examples of their stellar booking policy with Yak, and then Vant.

Yak

Yak

London based trio Yak are slowly building up a strong reputation for their incendiary live shows, with frontman Oliver Burslem the catalyst, full of Jim Morrison freak outs on their single Use Somebody in particular. If you ever despair of the future of British rock music go and see this band.

Vant

Vant

Vant are more polished, a little Nirvana like in places, but cut from the same indie rock cloth as Yak. Live they are intense. Brexit again gets mentioned, with frontman Mattie Vant ordering any leave voters in ‘his tent’ to do just that. He was genuinely pissed at the vote, summing up what so many young people feel. It was another example of politics fueling a performance with this proving to be one of the best sets I’ve seen at William’s Green. Bigger tents and stages beckon for them.

With the soup of mud threatening to become knee height I waded through to the nearby Leftfield stage to station myself for the night. I wasn’t the only one. Plenty more were there to escape the mud and find some answers to the political malaise, from tonight’s headliner Billy Bragg.

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg

I often go to Bragg’s regular Friday night set here but this was by far the best with the aftermath of the electorate’s decision firmly on his mind. The crowd’s roar after hits like Milkman of Human Kindness and Sexuality was “just what I needed”, he said. Even Bragg admitted towards the end that this had been one of his best ever gigs and certainly it was the busiest I’ve ever seen the Leftfield in five years as a regular. There Is A Power In A Union sing-a-long was intense with its added topicality and New England was rousing. Bragg kept urging the crowd to pick up their guitars and get out there and be the protest singers of the future. Over at William’s Green Mattie Vant was doing just that a few hours before.

Man and the Echo

Man and the Echo

Supporting Bragg were Warrington’s Man and the Echo, a curious highly polished indie pop act that somehow emerged straight out of the early 1990s, via the 1960s for a stop over, for our 2016 delectation and delight. Smart, fun and in their own words the favourite band of ten people, ten very wise people that is. Here’s a clip of Vile As You Want, by the band.

Rhoda Dakar

Rhoda Dakar

Also on the Friday night bill was ska legend Rhoda Daka, whose engaging banter with the crowd and with her band, who incidentally were as good as a ska band gets, providing the most fun gig of the weekend. Easy Life and Let’s Do Rock Steady from her Body Snatchers days got the biggest cheer and rightly so.

Sam Lee

Sam Lee

Among Saturday’s small stage highlights was a mesmerising performance from former Mercury Music Prize nominee Sam Lee and his band at the acoustic tent. In recent years Lee has made it his mission to collect and record ancient songs from across Britain, particularly among the traveller communities. This gives Lee’s  gigs an extra dimension as he details the various travellers he has met and sung with, including Freda Black an octogenarian Romany singer from Kent who provided him with the Napoleonic epic Bonny Bunch of Roses. He’s developed a great relationship with those communities he meets and as a modern day Cecil Sharp now provides one of modern music’s most interesting and ancient sets.

William’s Green’s excellent Saturday line up included Boxed In, a band we’d touted before. They didn’t disappoint with their take on keyboard driven pop and the track Mystery proving a particular highlight.

Meilyr Jones

Meilyr Jones

New favourite artist alarms rang immediately during another intense set, this time from former Race Horses singer now solo artist Meilyr Jones. Stage diving can get a little tiresome but I’ll let Jones off as he took the strategy to new lengths with the aid of an extra long mic lead. Somehow during the meander he ended up atop a nearby bar with his mud covered bare feet gleaming by the pumps. Billed as chamber pop, his band rocked far too much to warrant that fey tag. Incredible performance.

John Grant

John Grant

Our final look around the smaller stages was to see John Grant. Poor John had flu but this somehow made his performance at the John Peel stage better, with the crowd urged to sing-along and wave their arms around to keep him going. He has come along way as a performer since I last saw him at Glastonbury two years ago and he is now a proper diva, albeit one in a country and western shirt and a massive beard. Queen of Denmark, Greatest Mother Fucker were highlights but Glacier blew the whole gig apart with its emotional brilliance.

glastclouds

The mud may have meant many gigs were missed, and many were stumbled upon by accident but the weather along with the shock Brexit vote ensured this year’s Glastonbury had an edge that the acts on the smaller stages in particular met head on to put in some career high performances.

By Joe Lepper

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John Grant – Sheffield Octogan (February 11, 2016)

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John Grant – Sheffield Octogan (February 11, 2016)

Posted on 12 February 2016 by Joe

It’s a much needed confirmation of people’s recognition of good taste to see the rise and exponential rise of the big beardy mountain man, John Grant.

Was it really five years ago since he was nervously supporting Midlake on a UK tour of pubs and clubs with audiences measured in their tens?

John Grant

John Grant

It certainly was, and now after extensive touring and three solo albums under his belt (an appearance on Jools Holland Later didn’t harm his popularity) he’s getting pats on the back from all and sundry, he has friends in high places and remarkably this tour will see him eventually play the Royal Albert Hall.

His third album enigmatically titled Grey Tickles, Black Pressure is currently dividing opinion and is the latest instalment of his trademark melodic bluntness – an iron fist wrapped in a big bear of a duvet.

The current tour schedule sees an appearance at the Sheffield Octagon with a band now supplemented by the legendary powerhouse of a drummer, Budgie, who is perhaps best known for his time spent with Siouxsie and the Banshees.

Budgie really alters the dynamic of the band, adding firepower and percussive intensity to an already simmering concoction. Grant still has the long serving Chris Pemberton, tonight sporting a very tasteful curly moustache on keyboards, Jakob Magnussen on bass and Peter Hallgrimson on lead guitar.

What you will immediately notice though, is the continuing evolution of these now wonderfully familiar tunes, from their gentle birth on record to the fully fleshed out live renditions they have morphed into strident rock songs, in particularly Geraldine and Snug Slacks. Then there’s the polar opposite with frenetic dance epics like Pale Green Ghosts and You and Him, at times sounding more like New Order than our sensitive piano guy.

Joined onstage by Richard Hawley

Joined onstage by Richard Hawley

All the time Budgie drives the band on like a grinning drummer boy on speed. Obviously the emphasis tonight is on the newly released album so they also perform Down Here and the title track before putting on the handbrake and revisiting Marz and the aforementioned Pale Green Ghosts before another about turn as he rocks out with Snug Slacks. Queen of Denmark still retains its incredible emotional clout and is devastating tonight.

John introduces tonight’s star guest, local swearing expert and crooner extraordinaire Richard Hawley. They run through a crowd pleasing GMF and a super version of Disappointing, which soared.

The encore was brilliant, the most upbeat tune on the new album You and Him with it’s irresistible dance chops and viciously savage lyrics, then back to the keyboard for the closing two numbers, the very moving Drug and Caramel. Sincere, funny, self deprecating, Grant is at the top of his game. He leaves the stage drained, we were in a similarly emotional state too.

*Support on this tour is 30-year-old Icelandic singer songwriter Solly. Please try and catch her short time on stage, she’s captivating. Her first tune was on guitar and her voice was a little like Sinead O’Connor’s in her quieter moments. For the rest of her set she was on keyboard, with additional gizmos. In her broken English she sang and spoke her way into the hearts of a reverential and rapt audience. Such was her popularity she was besieged by people at the merch stall afterwards asking for autographed vinyl. She was an absolute delight

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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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.

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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

To see more photos from the weekend head over to our Facebook page.

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Glastonbury Festival 2014 – Ten Must See Acts

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Glastonbury Festival 2014 – Ten Must See Acts

Posted on 04 June 2014 by Joe

Away from the Pyramid and The Other Stage, the Glastonbury Festival offers an array of venues of all sizes, packed full of emerging talent and more well known bands looking for a more intimate gig. From the Leftfield Tent, where Billy Bragg helps curate a political and talented musical line up, to the BBC Introducing Stage, where regional radio DJs showcases their favourite local acts, there is plenty to see away from the BBC cameras.

For the third year running we will be attending and have compiled this list of our recommended acts away on some of the festival’s smaller stages, with West Holts and Park Stage the largest we will focus on.

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In our list we have an Emerging Talent competition winner, one of Somerset’s best bands as well as more familiar names that are performing at the festival for the first time or are back again after impressing before. So for those looking to avoid the stadium rock of Metallica and Kasabian here is our pick of the ten must see acts across the festival site.

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For the second year running we were delighted to be among the judges for the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent competition. This year’s deserved winners put in an incredible set during the finals in April in nearby Pilton, Somerset, and we are keen to see much more of their exciting, fun and packed full of humour take on pop music when they open Sunday‘s proceedings at West Holts.

John Grant

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Everyone we recommend Grant to turns round and says “wow!” Yes, he’s that good and has that much of a wide appeal. Across his two albums Queen of Denmark and Pale Green Ghosts, Grant has emerged as an excellent song writer and performer and is part of an impressive line up at the Park Stage this year. He is due on around 9pm on Saturday night.

St Vincent

We stick with the Park Stage with our next recommendation, art rockster St Vincent. Her collaborations with David Byrne and Andrew Bird left us impressed and so too has her recent self titled album. Judging by her live performances recently The Park Stage crowd are in for a treat on Sunday evening.

Public Service Broadcasting

Public Service Broadcasting's J. Willgoose Esq

Public Service Broadcasting’s J. Willgoose Esq

Crazy dance music and pop backed by clips from wartime information films has proved a winning conceit for Public Service Broadcasting duo, J. Willgoose Esq and Wrigglesworth. We saw them at onef the smaller Glastonbury Festival stage William’s Green  last year and they put in an exciting show, backed by a  giant TV on stage and full of humour,  with all banter carried out through pre-programmed robot responses. Their reward for last year’s excellent gig is a move to the far larger West Holts Stage on Sunday afternoon.

Parquet Courts

Just as alternative guitar music looked to be in the doldrums up popped Parquet Courts last year with their Neonfiller.com Album of the Year, Light Up Gold. They have attitude in abundance with their exciting take on the music of Pavement, Wire and The Fall and are yet another excellent addition to The Park Stage’s Friday late afternoon line up.

The Tuts

The Tuts were one of the highlights at last year’s Indietracks and we are delighted that they’ve secured a Friday evening slot at the Leftfield Tent this year. Appearing on the Friday evening they ooze pop appeal and are a slick bunch live, thanks to a support slot on Kate Nash’s tour last year. They kindly let us use their song Tut Tut for this video diary we made for last year’s Indietracks festival.

 

Wolf Alice

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Another band to impress us at another festival, is Wolf Alice, a highlight of 2013’s The Great Escape. We predict they will be one of the most talked about of the John Peel stage’s acts, where further acclaim beckons. We also named them as one of out Top Ten Bands to Watch Out for in 2014 and guarantee you won’t be disappointed. They are due on stage around 4pm on the Saturday.

Dry The River

We’ve been banging on about this London folk rock band for years now, after seeing them at Glastonbury and Great Escape in 2011. Live they put on an incredible show both times and are tailor made for a festival crowd with their big sound and stage presence. Be sure to catch their set when they take to the John Peel Stage on Sunday afternoon.

Flipron

Formerly based in London now of Glastonbury, the town that is, they are one of the Festival area’s best  local acts and with a national following as well. They blend a range of genres from folk to rock to pop to ska, but above all they are fun and are a great live act full of invention. In recent year’s they’ve even teamed up with Specials man Neville Staples and are due to perform at the Bandstand around 7pm on the Friday and are penciled in for around 11pm at the Avalon Cafe on the same night.

Young Knives

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How good are Young Knives live? Very much so, according to two of our reviewers who saw them on their own headline slot in Brighton this year as well as supporting The Flaming Lips in May. The fact that they nabbed the Lips support gig proves they are a force to be reckoned with on stage. Fun, quirky, inventive are just some of the adjectives we have used to describe this Leicestershire trio. Pop along and see them at the small but wonderful William’s Green stage early Friday evening.

To plan your festival Clash Finder have this useful timetable with stage times filling up as the get confirmed.

Compiled by Joe Lepper

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Top 20 Albums of 2013

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Top 20 Albums of 2013

Posted on 11 December 2013 by Joe

The first half of the year was a pretty poor period for releases but we just about scrabbled together our June feature,  Top ten albums list of 2013…so far. But since then the rate of excellent releases has picked up pace and now in December we find ourselves struggling to cram them all into a Top 20.  It is therefore with a heavy heart that we chop off some superb 2013 releases by the likes of Jackson Scott, John Howard, PINS and Josh Rouse from this list. We think we’ve got a good range for you here and urge you to read our full reviews, buy their albums and go see them live. Anyway, enough of our guff, on with the list.

20. Young Knives –  Sick Octave

Young Knives

Finally, after over a decade on the sweaty coalface of jerky punk rock,  some long overdue acclaim for this industrious trio. It’s taken a series of well received EPs, extensive tour schedules and three studio albums to get them thus far,  but this fourth offering will, our reviewer John Haylock confidently predicts, cure your jaded and cynical hearts. Read our full review here.

19. Wave Pictures – City Forgiveness

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Conceived on a US tour with Allo Darlin this latest album from the perplexingly under rated Wave Pictures is heavily influenced by the American blues. Thankfully in their stellar guitarist David Tattersall they have a musician who can pay tribute to the blues and put the band’s  very English slant on the genre with aplomb. Some say it’s a little long. But we say, who cares when the bulk of it is so good. Read our full review here.

18. La Femme – Psycho Tropical Berlin

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After watching this video for Antitaxi, the opening track on the debut album from Bairritz based surf popsters La Femme, I’m fairly convinced they are just about the coolest band on the planet, well, in France at least. Blending 60s guitar pop with psychedelia and electronica this album is among the most creative and original of the year. Read our full review here.

17. Thirty Pounds of Bone – I Cannot Sing You Here, But For Songs of Where

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This third album of folk music by Thirty Pounds of Bone, aka Johny Lamb, manages to sound traditional without ever slipping into genre cliche. It is one of the best folk albums released this year and one of the best albums of 2013 full stop. Read our full review here.

16. Mogwai – Les Revenants

mogwai

Mogwai’s soundtrack for Les Revenants, the French TV series about the dead returning to haunt a small town, perfectly matches the show’s sense of foreboding. The dead in Les Revenants have feelings too and this is perfectly formed in Mogwai’s brooding mix of piano, cello and percussion and tender glockenspiel. One of the best TV soundtracks you will ever hear.

15. Just Handshakes –Say It

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This impressive debut from Yorkshire’s Just Handshakes features many a familiar C86 sound, with whirly-gig keyboards, chorus pedals and  choppy insightful melodies, all providing the perfect backdrop to the sumptuous, earthy English folk vocals of singer Clara Patrick. Indie pop with a distinct folk twist. Read our full review here.

14. Mum – Smilewound

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Icelandic foursome Mùm’s sixth album Smilewound will draw inevitable comparisons with fellow Nords Sigur Rós. Fortunately this is for all the right reasons. Our reviewer Rob Finch says this is a damn-near perfect album, punch-packed with effortless experimental Scandi dreampop and intelligent, intelligible lyrics. Read our full review here.

13. Robert Pollard – Honey Locust Honky Tonk

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This is Guided by Voices frontman Robert Pollards self-proclaimed country album, but aside from the name, cover and one song (‘I Killed a Man Who Looked Like You’) it would be hard to hear any strong country influences on this album. Our favourite of Pollard’s many solo and Guided By Voices releases this year. Read our full review here.

12. Okkervil River – Silver Gymnasium

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The band’s first on ATO Records is the most autobiographical yet of singer/songwriter Will Sheff’s tenure as Okkervil River frontman as he takes the listener into a brief period of his childhood in the small New Hampshire town of Meriden, where his parents worked in 1986 as teachers at a local boarding school. Its full of influences from the era and the band have even drafted in Cyndi Lauper’s producer to give it that 80s sheen. Read our full review here.

11. Low – The Invisible Way

low-the-invisible-way1

Centred around husband and wife duo Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker Low have been fine tuning their brand of so-called slow core rock across ten albums now. The Invisible Way takes the haunting, tender ethos of previous album C’mon one step further. Gone are the overt ’50s and ’60s electric guitar sounds  to be replaced with piano, acoustic guitar and an even softer Americana feel under the direction of producer, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Read our full review here.

10. Tullycraft – Lost in Light Rotation

Tullycraft_LILR_Cover

While many of their twee peers are still drinking weak lemon drink from a flask and grumbling about this and that, America’s veteran indie pop outfit Tullycraft have added a good splash of gin to this poor metaphor of a flask and are belting out optimistic happy pop as if the recession and all the other ills since their last album in 2007 had never existed. Read our full review here.

9. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

neko-case-the-worse-things-get

Arguably the longest album title of the year, but one of the most simple albums of the year. Great songs and great voice from the peerless Case. Fans will know there is a darkness to all her albums and this is a much darker beast  than the upbeat Middle Cyclone. One of the true great North American singers. Read our full review here.

8. Mark Mulcahy – Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You

mulcahy

Classic guitar pop from the former Miracle Legion frontman. Great vocals and some killer tunes here including ‘Poison Candy Heart’  and ‘She Makes The World Turn Backwards’, which our reviewer Dorian Rogers believes should be available in every karaoke booth round the world. Read our full review here.

7. The National   – Trouble Will Find Me

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Born out of the chaos of the hurricane that ripped New York state apart last year the Brooklyn based band have produced one of their most calming and satisfying releases yet. Read our full review here.

6. Southern Tenant Folk Union – Hello Cold Goodbye Sun

STFU Hello Cold Goodbye Sun Cover500

Conflict about musical direction, song choices and album themes, can be a destructive influence for some bands. Fortunately for Southern Tenant Folk Union, the Edinburgh based collective that loosely falls under the folk/bluegrass banner, the opposite has happened and pre-production disharmony has conspired to create one of their best releases and one of the year’s most innovative albums. This is folk and bluegrass like you have never heard it before. Read our full review here.

5. Matthew E White – Big Inner

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White is part of an eclectic country, rock, soul, gospel, you name it, collective of musicians in his native Virginia who are put through their paces with on this, his first album. The end result is timeless country soul at its best and fans of Lambchop’s Nixon are going to love this. Read our full review here.

4. Phosphorescent – Muchacho

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American album of the year and our favourite so far as Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck expertly blends country, soul, electronica and rock. Perhaps the greatest exponent of sounding epic and in need of a good night’s sleep in modern music. Marvellous stuff. Read our full review here.

3. John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts

john-grant-pale-green-ghosts

In Pale Green Ghosts, sweary ex-Czars man, John Grant, presents an album of wonderful contradictions. In parts almost dirge-like folk rock, this incredibly raw and openly confessional record is also awash with poppy electronica. Read our full review here.

2. Rotifer –The Cavalry Never Showed Up

rotifer

Clever political lyrics mixed with some fine guitar pop make this the best album yet by Austrian broadcaster, artist and now resident of Canterbury Robert Rotifer and his band. With the track  I Just Couldn’t Eat As Much As I’d Like To Throw Up this trio has also served up our favourite song of the year. Read our full review here.

1. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

parquet-courts-light-up-gold

This US band emerged this year with a sound that has captivated us. Part Sonic Youth, part The Modern Lovers  and with a liberal sprinkling of  Pavement at their most Fall-obsessed this is a noisy, snotty album and the 15 songs fly by with several bum notes but no duff tracks. Read our full review here.

Thanks to all our album reviewers during 2013: Rob Finch, Patricia Turk, Conal Dougan, John Haylock, Scott Hammond, Kevin McGough and Matthew Nicholson.

List compiled by Neonfiller.com co-editors Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers.

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John Grant, Leeds Met (May 11, 2013)

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John Grant, Leeds Met (May 11, 2013)

Posted on 13 May 2013 by Joe

John Grant’s beautifully realized debut ‘Queen of Denmark’ was an undisputed landmark album, heralding the arrival of a major new singer songwriter.

Word of mouth and a huge touring schedule subsequently won him a devoted fanbase, and three years later his much anticipated follow up album Pale Green Ghosts is with us. Produced by  Birgir Þórarinsson, a.k.a. Biggi Veira, of Iceland’s electronic pioneers Gus Gus, it’s a radical departure from its Midlake produced folk rock predecessor, discarding the skeletal arrangements of old and dipping its toes in the waters we call disco. It was a brave move and one that could have possibly backfired; I mean, how can you be sensitive without a very large shiny grand piano?

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Somewhat surprisingly, John is now using a five piece band, gone apparently are just his vocals and keyboards, so when he launches into Queen of Denmark tracks such as You don’t have to and Marz the songs are fully fleshed out.

It’s a little disconcerting to hear the fragility of these Queen of Denmark originals revamped and rewired, it works on some such as Dreams and Sigourney Weaver but is slightly overbearing on others. Caramel for example takes quite a battering, the only old track that benefitted hugely from the overblown rock action is Queen of Denmark. This is always a stunning tune and really hits you in the face with its supplemented guitar, bass and  drums.

Finally the new material arrives amid a polite light show, and much bleepage, Pale Green Ghosts, Sensitive New Age Guy, Vietnam and best of all the fantastic Blackbelt  (with the greatest use of the word ‘supercilious’ in a rock song ever ). They all sound tremendous, and whilst heading off into Giorgio Moroder/New Order territory, the resulting aural melee provides John the opportunity to throw some shapes, not something I ever expected to see! But these new tunes are so funky you have to have a little dance.

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The new album proves to be more enjoyable than the older tunes, proving effortlessly that you can be sensitive and not have a grand piano. GMF is greeted with the same audience reaction as the winning Wigan goal one hour previously (in the FA Cup Final), we sing, we laugh, we cry and  Glacier takes our breath away.

Three encores later he leaves us with love, sore feet, and grovelling to the security to pass us the set list. Job done. Pale green ghosts better than QOD? You better believe it.

*Support was from a nervous new kid on the block, an Icelandic artist called Asgeir Trausti who is blessed with a trembling and distinctive voice pitched somewhere between Jeff Buckley and Jónsi Birgisson from Sigur Ros.

He’s evidently self conscious and kind of shy, only playing a handful of tunes but going down really well, although the presence of his band seemed slightly superfluous. They tended to drown out the subtleties inherent in the music and I got the feeling he may be better served playing solo. Enigmatic and engaging, though, here’s somebody we might be hearing lots of in the future.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts

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John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts

Posted on 25 March 2013 by Joe

In Pale Green Ghosts, sweary ex-Czars man, John Grant, presents an album of wonderful contradictions. In parts almost dirge-like folk rock, this incredibly raw and openly confessional record is also awash with poppy electronica.

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This makes Pale Green Ghosts frustratingly changeable in pace and likeability. But perseverance pays. Grant’s ability move seamlessly from flabby beats, synthy strings and squeaky tweets to staid rock – and back again – makes this feel like a complete Radiohead retrospective condensed to 12 tracks.

In places it threatens to provide schoolboy poetry. Glacier particularly fringes on the more winsome elements of The Divine Comedy. Yet like the Divine Comedy it soars most unexpectedly out of these am-dram moments to be a thing of beauty. Grant’s rich, deep vocal also brings Neil Hannon to mind.

On Why don’t you love me any more?, Grant tells things as they are, yet remains poetic. In some ways he’s a bit like Morrissey. But clearly these fussy meanderings are derived from a bucket full of black emotion from Grant’s personal life. The singer has gone through drink and drugs problems and recently revealed that he has been diagnosed HIV positive. This helps dispel doubts about his lyrics, putting them in serious context.

More happily meanwhile, Blackbelt is a slice of Scissors Sisters underpinned by words written by a man who has seemingly swallowed a dictionary. It is a stomping, bleeping, slapping masterpiece. And the bass-y title track should be cranked up to 10 on the car stereo, with the windows down as you cruise slowly around a small town striking fear in the hearts of members of the local Rotary Club.

Tracks with downbeat titles such It doesn’t matter to him, and I hate this town, mean this collection has little mass-market appeal for sure. What’s more, Pale Green Ghosts’ genre-crossing nature makes it one for a musical connoisseur. But you’re a connoisseur aren’t you? Otherwise why would you be reading a review on Neonfiller.com?

So go on. Give it a listen.

9/10

by Rob Finch

Editors note: It’s also worth checking out John Grant’s debut album Queen of Denmark, where he is backed by the mid 70s folk rock sounds of Midlake. It is also a marvelous album. Here’s a clip of one of its standout tracks Mars.

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