Tag Archive | "The Bevis Frond"

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?

it-just-is

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.

sprawl

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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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.

bariwatts

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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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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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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