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Papernut Cambridge – Outstairs Instairs

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Papernut Cambridge – Outstairs Instairs

Posted on 22 June 2018 by Joe

Feeling glum? Don’t worry, Ian Button and his Papernut Cambridge friends are about to pop round to put the kettle on, listen to your troubles and give you a lovely, warm hug.

This latest from the former Death in Vegas man’s invented 1970s pop combo is “not quite the full on death and religion Papernut album everyone’s been waiting for”, says Button, “but it’s close”.

That sums it up well. Here we find Button in reflective mood with his late father, who passed away in 2016, a strong presence.

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Themes of grief and loss are inescapable for someone who is so recently bereaved. Sometimes its tough going, such as on second track, Crying. Here Button consoles someone in tears, through the presumably non-British Psychological Society approved technique of screaming “crying” at them, while Papernut chum Stabbs MacKenzie squeals away on his sax.

But in the main the tracks offer inspiration and hope, particularly on No Pressure, where Button passes on words of wisdom from his father. You can almost feel the clouds of gloom pass with this sunshine-pop, foot-stomper.

There’s more happiness too on the final, upbeat track New Forever.

And along the way Button’s adoration of the UK’s golden era of pop, the late 1960s and early 1970s, also serves up further moments of joy. This is particularly the case on the wonderfully psyche-titled opener Buckminster Fullerene.

Mr Shimshiner, on the album’s second half, is another high point.

Tea drunk, hug delivered and Button and his Papernut Cambridge pals depart, leaving you, hopefully, with a smile on your face.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

Papernut Cambridge – Outstairs Instairs is released by Gare Du Nord Records. More details here.

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Picture Box – Songs of Joy

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Picture Box – Songs of Joy

Posted on 10 May 2016 by Joe

One of the most enduring memories I have from living in Canterbury was one night seeing a tall, hooded, ghostly figure walking towards me in a dark underpath from the university into the city centre.  As he approached,  in shadow of a nearby streetlight,  I was genuinely worried.

Luckily though he was no ghost or mutant ‘hoodie’, but a tall, friendly monk, who smiled as he passed me by. This for me sums up Canterbury, a city where England’s ancient, religious past mixes, often incongruously, with modern small city life.

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As well as friendly monks, the Kent city also has a rich musical heritage. Stopping into the Cathedral during a Saturday spent in its record shops I was often treated to its choir rehearsing. The then modern day 1940s pilgrims in Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Canterbury Tale enjoyed a similar treat.

Then in the 1960s and 1970s the Canterbury “scene” of Caravan and Soft Machine dominated and in the 1990s  the Acid Jazz scene bands from nearby Medway frequently played in the city.

But much has changed since then. Music venues are in short supply but at least its musical heritage continues through among others Robert Halcrow, self styled exponent of “wonky pop and Canterbury lo-fi”.

As part of the Gare Du Nord stable of artists, which also includes another musical Canterbury resident Robert Rotifer, Halcrow’s latest slice of wonky pop is heavily influenced by the lesser known nooks and crannies of the Kent city, taking in the demise of its speedway team the Canterbury Crusaders, its streets, hospitals and even its pet fish shops.

Best of all though is one of the year’s most surprising and arguably best cover versions. On first hearing Garden Song, I thought it was a fine flashback to the psychedelic pop of Canterbury’s past. It’s actually written by children’s TV legend Matthew Corbett from his days in the 1970s as part of musical act Rod, Matt and Jane on ITV kids show Rainbow. Children were lucky blighters back then to have such musical talent on tap.

Another highpoint is Disgusting. With the opening line “You think its disgusting, but everything smells. I don’t feel well” reminded me St Mildred’s Tannery, which until its closure more than a decade ago brought a truly unpleasant stench to an otherwise pleasant city centre stroll. From the rest of the song’s lyrics it seems to be more about a hangover, but I’d be surprised if Canterbury’s pungent, former landmark wasn’t near to Halcrow’s thoughts when writing this.

This  album is not just a quirky ode to Canterbury’s lesser known landmarks though. Above all it’s a good listen, full of English eccentricity and quality, albeit wonky, pop.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

To order  Picture Box – Songs of Joy click here.

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Papernut Cambridge – Nutlets 1967-1980

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Papernut Cambridge – Nutlets 1967-1980

Posted on 08 June 2015 by Joe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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