Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Socks - The Socks (OUT NOW!)

Heavy wicker-rock! Classic heavy vibes from France for those that like it earthy and old school!

Was there something in the water in the '70s that increased hair growth in young men? And also gave them a pre-disposition towards making groove-propelled heavy rock? If so that water is in plentiful supply in Lyon, France. The Socks are a four-piece rock band from said city, whose music worships the Holy Trinity of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.

With one foot in the guitar shop buying overdrive pedals and vintage amps, and the other on the dense forest floor fighting off dragons and saving maidens this is classic heavy rock, with lyrics that have a mystical, mythical bent. Magik, dragons, sorcery and all that arcane malarkey. And why not? It sure as hell beats the real world don't it! This album has got that post hippie era feel, where rock had lost any notion of naïvety and became heavier, infused with a driving, dark energy.

The album's cover features a beaked mask made up of bark and leaves. There's a real forest undergrowth, pagan feel to it all, helped in no small part by the mushroom brown hues. It's art that hints at all things folkloric. Similarly the music has that earthy, organic feel. Like a more metallic version of Wolf People, this is music that goes against the grain of modern society and searches for truth and beauty in a sound that may hark back to previous eras but resonates with a truth and beauty that remains eternal.

OK, it won't be everyone's cup of nettle tea, and no amount of electric sorcery will turn mods into rockers after all. But for anyone who feels they were born a few decades too late, or is looking for something to remind them of rock's golden years this is just the thing. Wah-wah guitar solos, paint-stripping vocals, and a band that understands how to play heavy. A fine full-length debut from The Socks and a fitting addition to the Small Stone Records catalogue.

Click here for The Socks' website.
Click here for Small Stone Records

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Graham Day & The Forefathers – Love Me Lies (Ltd 7” - released 19th May)

Heavy slab of mod-rock from Medway legend. Part five in State Records' Soundgate Sound Acetate series.

State Records continue to release consistently good garage singles. As their tag-line says they release “records that sound like records”. Part six in their Sandgate Sound Acetate series could well be the best yet, and marks the vinyl debut for Graham Day's new band The Forefathers. The Medway garage legend is best known for his records with the Prisoners, the Solar Flares, and the Prime Movers. Though after these bands he's continued to put out some sterling music as leader as Graham Day &The Gaolers, along with his stint as bassist in The Buff Medways. Graham's new band the Forefathers sees him reunite with Prime Movers/Buffs drummer Wolf Howard,with bass player Allan Crockford completing the power trio line-up.

A-side “Love Me Lies” opens with piercing guitar feedback before the swaggering riff kicks in. It's the kind of ballsy mod-rock that recalls the best of Marriott, Townshend, and early Jimi Hendrix Experience, complete with a brash rawness rarely heard these days. Flipside “30-60-90” is a manic freakbeat instrumental which showcases just how tight a unit this band is. As a live group they must take your head off. This single is limited to 500 copies on heavy vinyl with hand-stamped sleeve. My guess is that it will sell out fairly quickly so get your pre-orders in early.

Click here for more on Graham Day & The Forefathers.
Click here for the State Records website.

Paul "Lefty" Wright - Songs From The Portal

Maverick session musician branches out with a sprawling double LP. It's an adventurous trip, expect the unexpected!

It's not often an record truly surprises you but this risk-taking gem has it all. Brimming with the sum of a myriad of musical influences, Songs From The Portal is a sprawling, playful mind-map of arcane musical avenues, recalling the best of '60s into '70s psych/prog, outré pop, Tropicália along with the odd foray into middle eastern scales and time signatures. Wright's love and enthusiasm for all things psychedelic shines through. From Os Mutantes to Aphrodite's Child, the influences are there though all presented with an arty playfulness that's sadly lacking from a lot of other modern psych records.

This is no re-hashed retro trip though, there's nothing predictable about this album, you just can't second guess it. It's the sonic equivalent of routing through a well-stocked olde curiosity shoppe, unearthing sounds and rhythms you'd forgotten about or never even knew existed. Wright has sifted through all manner of musical bric-a-brac and objet trouvé, and curated them in his own unique manner. It's an album that's not afraid to take risks, and while you may not like every song, (there are twenty one of them after all), you have to admire the far-reaching ambition.

There are surprising twists and turns along the way. Along with the ever present psych and prog feel you journey through piano jazz (Jam At Jim's), spaghetti western mariachi (Uncle John (Why Are You Crying?)), and the channelling of some musical greats – early Bowie on Hipgnomes, and David Axelrod on Hypnotist to mention just two. It's Wright's own personality and expertise that reigns supreme though. His wide-reaching musicality combined with a sense of fun are perhaps best represented on the opening track A Tap On The Shoulder. It's a spooky, supernatural tale complete with a bizarre and infectious late lyrical flourish. Vinyl-heads will be pleased to know there's a limited double LP version available. Buy with confidence, trust me, I just know you'll like it.

Click here for more Paul “Lefty” Wright online.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Beau - Fly The Bluebird

Brand new album from one of John Peel's early favourites shows that there is a future for musical protest.

It's been three years since Trevor Midgeley (AKA Beau) released an album of new material. Last year did however see the release of a lost album from the 1970s, a vinyl-only release entitled Twelve Strings to The Beau (You can read the full review here). This month Cherry Red are releasing a new album, Fly The Bluebird. As one would expect it's generously packed with wordy, intelligent folk-based songs that you don't often here these days, and harks back to the golden era of singer-song-writers. Think Bob Dylan, or Leonard Cohen. Though with a distinctly English perspective.

It's 45 years since his first album helped launch John Peel's Dandelion label. His sound has hardly altered in the ensuing years, he still backs himself with the same Harmony 12-string guitar, his recordings are simple - just one voice, and the one guitar. This continuity of sound, and disregard for changing fashions is to be admired, especially as none of his powers are diminished. If anything the advancing of years adds weight and authority to his songwriting. The voice and playing are also as strong as ever.

Though many of the songs are informed by modern political events they have a timeless quality, sounding like they could have been written in 2014, 1969 or for that matter 1869. Poetic and rich with imagery, there's a lot to absorb from the songs here. From environmental issues, through to skilful broadswords against capitalism, tyranny, terrorism and war, the songs have a biting social agenda not at first apparent due to the offsetting gentleness of much of the music.

Aside from the politics there's light relief as Beau weighs into a character we've all met, the overbearing social bore he documents on “A Curious Man”. There's also a sensitive treatise on the cruel effects of dementia in “When Gabriel Turns”. Humanistic, compassionate and full of love for mankind and what lies ahead as we head into the unknown future, it would seem that those supposedly outdated hippie ideals from the late '60s are very much alive if not so widely embraced. Perhaps we need them more than ever. Many more widely recognised musicians of Beau's generation have neglected these ideals, whereas he may just be the true keeper of the flame.

Click here for more on Beau.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Bananas Magazine #9 - OUT NOW!

Spring is here, and for garage rockers that can only mean one thing! The latest issue of the NYC-based garage zine is available now!

Great news for fans of fuzz, pych, garage and lo-fi punk. The latest issue of the scene's best quarterly magazine is ready for your perusal. I love this mag, it's a great read that always manages to point you in the direction of great new bands as well as reminding you why you fell for garage rock in the first place. And it has a sense of the genre's humour that other zines sometimes overlook in their quest for that all elusive authenticity.

On top of the comprehensive and informed reviews the mag has interviews with King Salami, Viv And The Sect, Shag Rats, Dead Ghosts, Giant Robots and more. There's also a feature on Benidorm's Funtastic Dracula Festival, as well as a spotlight on the artwork of Lluis Fuzzhound. (

The guitarists among us will have fun trying out the issue's psych-themed tabs which this time round have riffs and breaks by Iron Butterfly, The Troggs, The Attack and Teddy And His Patches. Plug in and play indeed! Hit the link below for a list of the magazine's ditributors or order direct from their website.

NB. As well as being an ace read, Bananas also features many amazing illustrations by the mag's editor, Christophe Lopez-Huichi. Check out the link to his website below to see more of his work.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Us And Them - By The Time It Gets Dark (Ltd 7")

Three track 7” of psych-folk loveliness from Sweden. Limited coloured vinyl release from Fruits De Mer Records.

It's a brave act that dares to cover a Sandy Denny classic. Sweden's Us And Them have done just that with their version of “By The Time It Gets Dark”. Sandy's late night thoughts and reflections are re-visited with a simple acoustic arrangement of guitar, xylophone, a light keyboard wash and closely mic-ed breathy vocals. It's this version's taste and simplicity that marks it out as something rather special and a fitting tribute to one of the country's greatest ever singers.

The EP's other cover ventures into a more surreal world, it being a version of Donovan's “Jabberwocky”. The Lewis Carroll prose which Donovan set to music for his HMS Donovan album has lost none of its childlike appeal. Daft, yes, but offset by a sinister darkness. Like the best psychedelia, it has that blend of venturing into the mysterious of the unknown while simultaneously returning to the sanctuary and security of early childhood. A comforting darkness as it were.

The EP's sole original track is the biggest revelation here, and the stands up with the two cover versions. “Do I Know You” is, if anything it's even more potent than the other tracks. With a simple nursery rhyme acid-folk tune evolving into a folktronic, slightly Krautrock middle section before returning to the ethereal folkiness of the opening section. Here's hoping for a full album of original material from Us And Them soon.

Click here for more on Fruits De Mer Records.

Boho Dancer - Gemini (Bonus Version)

Emotional nu-folk from Copenhagen. Boho Dancer re-release their debut album with an additional three extra tracks.

In his book Japrocksampler, Julian Cope presents a theory about similarities in the national outlook of British, Japanese and Danish people. It boils down to a backs-turned belief that all other countries would be OK if only they followed more closely our example. Having never travelled to Japan or Denmark I couldn't possible say whether this theory hold any water, though after having listened to Danish folk-pop trio Boho Dancer, it appears he may be onto something. Certainly the music they make evokes a mood and a landscape familiar to anyone fond of exploring the peaks, moors and dales of Britain's backbone. Their mainly acoustic instrumentation has a timeless, elemental, fire and brimstone quality, which when combined with their Brit-folk inspired melodies bring to mind frosty early mornings, the sadness of distant car headlights glimpsed from a windswept moor, dark skies and deep, still fjords.

Boho Dancer are Simun Mohr, Asker Bjork and Ida Wenoe. They hail from Copenhagen, the capital city sinister fairy tales. Their debut album Gemini is getting a deserved re-release next month as a bonus version with three extra tracks. For the most part it's acid-folk with a touch of Scandinavian noir. Frosted, breathy vocals combine with understated, tasteful playing to invoke a melancholy, wintry mood. It's music that's mysterious and enticing. Like a cliff-top romance it's welcome and exhilarating yet with an ever present sense of danger. Like a Bronte novel set to music. Emo-folk anybody? Over here in Blighty, we've recently cottoned on to Scandinavian crime dramas. On the strength of this album their music will surely find a similar place in our hearts. Fans of Pentangle, Sandy Denny, PJ Harvey, Karen Dalton, First Aid Kit, early Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding LP will find much to like here.

Click here for more on Boho Dancer.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Merrymouth - I Am The Resurrection

Ocean Colour Scene's offshoot folk group have covered the Stone Roses and the results are rather good!

OCS dudes Simon Fowler and Dan Sealey have a nice sideline. Along with keyboard player Adam Barry they have a three piece folk outfit called Merrymouth. The band's second album Wenlock Hill is out on May 5th and contains a brave cover of the Stone Roses "I Am The Resurrection". You can have a listen via the widget at the bottom of the post. Here's what the band have to say about it -

“It was really interesting to strip this tune down to a piano, strings and three part harmony,” Adam described. “We have always felt that although Ian Brown is never associated with folk, there is an influence in his vocal and melodies. Since songs are kept alive by different singers interpreting them, we wanted to add our own touches to this tune.” For a similar reason, their inspired reworking of The Stranglers’ track Duchess was because “it too had a great melody and could almost be a Ray Davies song,” he added.

Guest appearances include the legendary Chas Hodges on Salt Breeze, and award winning violinist John McCusker assisted on several further tracks, both artists having been of great influence on Merrymouth.  Also guesting were Catherine Harper (cello), Andy Derrick (trombone), Hugh Thomas (clarinet), Anthony Jones (muted trumpet) and Nick Lyndon (double bass).

Merrymouth will embark on a UK tour to support the release of Wenlock Hill, expect additional dates to be added:

Thurs. 8th May  The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
Fri. 9th May  Rothes Hall, Glenrothes
Sat. 10th May  Tolbooth, Stirling
Fri. 16th May   The Met, Bury
Sat. 17th May  The Mac, Birmingham
Sun. 18th May   The Glee Club, Nottingham
Sun. 1st June  The Glee Club, Cardiff
Mon. 2nd June  Kings Place, London