Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Pugwash - Silverlake


Eleven top tunes from Thomas Walsh! FFO The Beach Boys, ELO, McCartney and grown-up tuneful pop!


Regular readers of this here humble blog will know that one thing I particularly like is a song that's genuinely melodically memorable. After all there are lots of records that are sonically pleasing and great enough to listen to, but even after several listens you're hard pushed to actually remember the tunes. That's what makes this latest album from Pugwash such a delight. All eleven of its tracks have such soaring pop melodies, each one strong enough to warrant releasing as a single.

I'm saddened to say I've not had the fortune of stumbling across Pugwash before as this is actually their seventh LP, the band having formed 20 years ago. The man behind the melodies is Thomas Walsh, resident of Drimnagh, South Dublin. For this record he's joined by Jason Falkner of Jellyfish fame. Incredibly Walsh wrote all eleven songs on Silverlake within a week, and recorded them with Falkner producing at the latter's LA studio. If a record as strong as Silverlake doesn't bring Walsh to wider recognition it's difficult to think what would.

At various times recalling and rivalling the pop nouse of Brian Wilson, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney and Andy Partridge, the cumulative effect of so many earworms makes this one of the best feelgood albums of the year, or any year for that matter! From the opening summery pop of 'The Perfect Summer' onwards, Silverlake is intelligent, tuneful, heartfelt and wrapped in lush production. Very highly recommended!


Click here for more on Pugwash.
Click here for Lojinx Records.



The Pretty Things – The Same Sun (Ltd. Colour 7”)


The Pretty Things! Coloured vinyl! Acidic psych-rock! What's not to like!?!


The word legendary is is often mis-used or over-used when it comes to bands. But in reference to The Pretty Things it's apt. Not only have they been around since since the '60s Brit-Beat & Blues Boom, they were the only band (The Beatles aside) to make The Rolling Stones feel threatened. And you can go see them play live without having to re-mortgage your house to do so.

They made some of the '60s most vital records and unlike The Stones they still make music that has an edge. Anyone who doubts this should take a listen to this four song EP set for release early in the new year on Fruits de Mer. The Lead track 'The Same Sun' is taken from their most recent LP The Sweet Pretty Things (Are in Bed Now of Course...). It's a modern psych-rock classic extolling the virtues of communion and wide-eyed wonder.

Next up the band cover The Byrds' 'Renaissance Fair'. As far as I can gather this studio version is exclusive to this release. It's fairly faithful to The Byrds' version albeit injected with a dose of acid-punk attitude.

The two live tracks on the B-side are from the band's box set Bouquets From A Cloudy Sky, thought to be from a late '60s Hyde Park gig. They'll be familiar to fans of the band's '60s output. 'She Says Good Morning' is of course from S.F. Sorrow with Alexandra being from the Electric Banana Sessions.

If you're a longtime fan you'll want to bag a copy of this very special piece of plastic. Newbies are well advised to check it out too. It encapsulates all that's great about one of this country's most marvellous musical treasures.


Click here for the Fruits de Mer website.
Click here for more on The Pretty Things.



Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Popincourt et French Boutik Chantent The Jam (Ltd. 7”)


 Two of Weller's deep cuts get a Gallic makeover! All profits to benefit the Teenage Cancer Trust!


There's always excitement round our house when our good friends French Boutik feature on a new piece of plastic. This new 7” comes in a lovely gatefold sleeve, is a tribute to The Jam and all profits will be donated to a charity that benefits the Teenage Cancer Trust (see links below).

To make matters more interesting it's a split single with an act who are new to me but very much worth investigating. The very wonderful Popincourt, I've since discovered, has made a series of records that blend soul, mod, lounge and baroque into a sound that's all his own. On this disc he's covered 'Tonight At Noon' from The Jam's second LP This Is The Modern World. For all Weller's mod credentials even at that stage in his career were clues to his wider tastes. The song's title is pure '60s psych-pop, an element brought to the fore in this dreamy version. Organ, harpsichord and guitar jangle back the almost whispered vocal. A great re-imagining.

The French Boutik side of the single is a French language version of 'The Place I Love' which features on The Jam's classic All Mod Cons LP. It's a great jangle pop take, driven by a lovely sinewy bass line and intertwined boy/girl vocals. Mirroring the psych-pop vibe is some neat backwards guitar towards the latter half of the track. Like all of French Boutik's records this is worth tracking down and is all for a great cause. Get on it!

All profits from this 7” will be donated to Specialized Project which benefits The Teenage Cancer Trust. - www.specializedproject.co.uk


Click here for Copase Disques.
Click here for Popincourt.
Click here for French Boutik.




Thursday, 26 October 2017

Sundowners - Cut The Master


(This review first appeared in issue #66 of Shindig! magazine.)

Skeleton Key CD / LP

“Times change and we move on” sing Niamh Rowe and Fiona Skelly on album opener 'Before The Storm'. Indeed they do. The Sundowners have blossomed from their Byrdsian roots into confident, forceful purveyors of contemporary psychedelic rock. Cut The Master, their second long player is in part produced by The Coral's James Skelly and Finders Keepers supremo Andy Votel, with the latter providing short cinematic interludes between the tracks. A nice touch which aids the album's flow but it's the band and the songs that are the real stars here.

Space-rock, folk-rock, sinewy bass-lines, propulsive beats and a synthy ambiance combine into a truly special brew. And then there's those dual female vocals. Low points? There aren't any. This is modern psychedelia at it's best, an album that hits big with analogue textures and timeless melodies. The Wirral five-piece have stepped up. There must be something in the water up there!

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Robyn Hitchcock - Robyn Hitchcock


(This review first appeared in issue #66 of Shindig! magazine.)

Yep Roc CD / LP

Lemmy once said a problem of being a living legend is that no one listens to your most recent LPs. Robyn Hitchcock may be the best exception to this rule, with each new LP being essential listening. This eponymous album shows no let up in his knack for heart-on-sleeve lyrics combining childhood memories, skewed observations, compassionate worldviews and juxtapositions of the absurd with the everyday.

Producer Brendan Benson (Raconteurs) brings out a powerpop punch but maintains Hitchcock's left-of-centre edge over the stylistically diverse tracks. From the album opener 'I Want To Tell You What I Want' where Hitchcock states his desire for the future (“world peace, gentle socialismo, no machismo”) through to the Nashville country knees-up of 'I Pray When I'm Drunk' and the Revolver-esque guitar-pop of 'Virginia Woolf' and 'Time Coast'. Best of all is the eastern strings and backwards guitar on 'Autumn Sunglasses'. Thought provoking and essential as ever.

Monday, 23 October 2017

The Slow Slushy Boys - Whelk Time!

(This review first appeared in issue #66 of Shindig! magazine.)

Larsen LP

Slow and slushy by name, not by nature. This French band have helped popularise revivalist beat music not only by the many sides they've released since their 1990 debut, but also via Larsen, the record label and magazine started by the band's leader Denis Oliverès. This collection collates the best of the band's releases from 1994-97, twelve tracks previously only available on limited-run 7” singles and 10” LPs. Firmly rooted in hip-shaking garage-y R&B, the band pay homage to their inspirations with covers of The Real Kids ('Do The Boob'), The Sevens ('Seven'), Shindiggers ('Say You Will') and Dutch band The Outsiders ('Won't You Listen'). The original tracks are equally as taut and snappy and contain a contender for the best song title ever with 'Can The Poseur Do The Whelk?'

With ace sleeve notes by Shindig!'s own Lenny Helsing this is a fine introduction for uninitiated toe-dippers and a handy collection for long-time fans.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Tangerines - Into The Flophouse

(This review first appeared in issue #66 of Shindig! magazine.)

RIP CD / LP

Tangerines are interestingly out of step with their indie scene contemporaries. Though they mix Graham Parker pub-rock and Dylan-esque vocal phrasing, the south London quartet are no mere nostalgics, documenting life in a city that's paved not with gold but with empty beer cans and broken dreams. Lead single 'Peckham Boys' sets the tone, borrowing the riff from Warren Zevon's 'Werewolves of London' and letting louche tales of self-medication take centre stage. Frontman Gareth Hoskins is a skillful lyricist, in possession of youthful but jaded vocals. He draws you into a world of street level romance and modern bohemianism. It's a place where seediness and artful aspiration feed off each other.

The traditional two guitars, bass and drums sound is strengthened by sleazy saxophone skronk on several tracks, and guitarist Miles Prestia comes across as a gifted if understated guitarist, helping the dynamics shift with spirals that Tom Verlaine would be proud of.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Derrick Anderson - A World Of My Own



Omnivore CD

Though a solo record, the contributor list marks this out as an all-star affair. Matthew Sweet pops up on guitar. The Smithereens, The Muffs and The Cowsills all make appearances. As do The Bangles (for whom Anderson has played bass since 2008). There's also a reunion for Anderson's eponymous nineties combo, The Andersons. A proven team player then, but this is an album made in Anderson's image, infused with taut mid-'60s songwriting values, where Anglophilic beat music mixes with punchy powerpop and soulful mod-rock.

Quite why the Los Angeles based musician has taken so long before venturing out on his own is a mystery, or maybe he's just been stockpiling this set of guitar-driven Revolver-esque tunes. Highlights include 'Phyllis & Sharon' (a tribute to the US soap opera The Young and The Restless), and the album's bonus track, a cover of The Beatles 'Norwegian Wood', albeit with a funk-rock makeover. Foxy!

Click here for Derrick Anderson's website. 


Shadow Band - Wilderness Of Love


 (This review first appeared in issue #65 of Shindig! magazine.)

Mexican Summer CD / LP

The UK's acid-folk scene of the late '60s is a well-mined seam of inspiration these days. In lesser hands there's a danger of style over substance. Not here. The Philadelphia band's debut may concern itself with Mother Nature and owe a debt to Pentangle, Vashti, The Incredible String Band et al but it's no nostalgic trip through the faerie forest. This is as contemporary a record as they come. With recurring themes of seasons turning, light and dark, and portentous meteorological metaphors it chimes with the global mood of the day.

Though not initially apparent the album tackles today's toxic political climate, using soft poetic power and delicate acoustic instrumentation. It's nuanced and made for quiet reflection. For all their tasteful parsimony this is a band that can also do loud when required. Check out the buried howls of feedback on 'Darksider's Blues' for evidence of the rock band that lurks within.

Click here for Shadow Band on Facebook.
Click here for Shadow Band on Twitter.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Heath Green & The Makeshifters - Heath Green & The Makeshifters


 (This review first appeared in issue #65 of Shindig! magazine.)

Alive Natural Sound CD / LP

Heath Green possesses a voice that's not only lived-in, it may also have hosted a fair share of all-night house parties. Gritty, gravelly and full of that good ol' southern soul, the man sure as hell can sing! Based in Birmingham, Alabama, he's been the city's best-kept musical secret for the last two decades. He and his killer band make a fiery hybrid of soul, blues, rock and gospel, breathing new life into the region's musical heritage and traditions.

Alternating between Saturday night revelry and Sunday morning redemption with the trials of grown-up relationships thrown in, this earthy, blue-eyed and blue-collar soul recalls Jerry Lee Lewis, Otis Redding, The Faces, Joe Cocker and The Black Crowes yet is beholden to none. Equally adapt at guttural howls and soulful sophistication, quite why Mr. Green has not broken through to wider recognition is a mystery. With this album his dues must surely come.

Click here for Heath Green & The Makeshifters' website.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Elfin Bow - Elfin Bow


 (This review first appeared in issue #65 of Shindig! magazine.)

Self Release CD

Elizabeth Anne Jones resides in North Wales and makes pastoral, psych and traditional folk under the stage name Elfin Bow. Her debut album contains stately ballads and nursery rhyme folk darkness, with a backing of deftly picked acoustic guitars, mandolin, banjo, violin and a hint of electronica.
Lyrically astute, melodically inventive and in possession of pure singing tones, Ms. Bow has made a deceptively gentle record. Scratch beneath the surface however and you'll find weighty themes. 'Hey Auld Friend' is as dark a song as they come; a kiss goodbye to this mortal coil via drowning. Similarly 'Holler In The Hollows' deals with mourning and hardship.

Elsewhere 'Grimshaw And The Fingerclaw' and 'Edith's Song' form a short song suite with a wyrd old Albion vibe. Lightness comes via 'The Wisdom' with its sense of wonder at the world, and the bluegrass-tinged 'Prairie Madness'. An album full of intimate, homespun charm and mystery.


Click here for Elfin Bow's website.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Interview with Green Seagull


(This feature first appeared in issue #64 of Shindig! magazine. I think the band have since changed drummers since this ran. I love this band and can't wait for the LP! To read the full interview click over the jump at the bottom.)

 
London's latest baroque-beat band mix peppermint and incense on their first recordings. Duncan Fletcher sees them take flight.

Taking their name from a misheard lyric in The Stones' 'Paint It Black', Green Seagull formed in early 2016 around the songwriting talents of Paul Nelson and Paul Milne, formerly of New Electric Ride and The Magnetic Mind respectively. The chemistry was completed with the addition of keyboardist Sarah Gonputh and drummer Carlos Redondo.

“For me, psychedelia is a very open-ended style that gives you a lot of possibilities. You can take elements from virtually any genre - garage punk, acid rock to flamenco and classical - and it wouldn't necessarily jar if you did it right” says bassist/vocalist Milne. Do it right they do, as heard on their rehearsal room recordings on four-track cassette. Influenced by The Left Banke, The Association and The Beach Boys, the two songs on their Soundcloud page feature pop melodies spiked with sinister chords and arrangements, successfully pairing light and shade.

“The lyrics in 'Scarlet' are pretty much about infatuation and obsession and hint at a possible illness of the mind for the protagonist” says guitarist/vocalist Nelson. “'They Just Don’t Know' is based on a nightmare I had where I was some kind of world leader in a Cuban Missile Crisis-type scenario. I think I was watching too many cold war documentaries at the time! Hope it wasn't a premonition of some sort!” adds Milne.

The band are currently re-recording the tracks along with a prospective LP at London's Sausage Studio, making full use of its vintage gear. “We're fortunate that Sausage Studio is run by my boyfriend, Seb Kellig (My Drug Hell) with our friend Nick McCarthy (Franz Ferdinand/FFS)”, says Sarah. “The place is an absolute dream and I feel so lucky to be part of the Sausage Studio family. It's vintage keys and analogue synthesiser heaven... for our forthcoming single I've been playing the Philicorda organ and the Wurlitzer.”

'Scarlet' b/w 'They Just Don't Know' was released in May 2017 on Mega Dodo Records.

(Click over the jump for the full interview.)

Willie Gibson - Vivaldi: Seasons Change


Synths! Baroque Classical music! Futurist-retro mix-up! Droogs with Moogs!


Synthesisers are fascinating things aren't they. A confession here - my preference has always been for guitars, mainly because during my teenage years I hated all those keyboard bands on Top Of The Pops. It also became apparent to me that technology was moving so quickly that if you bought a keyboard it would soon be out of date. It was a musical arms race in the '80s. Whereas, buy a decent guitar and it would age and sound better in 20 years time. That was my theory then anyway...

Oh how young, innocent and stupid I was. Some of those keyboards are probably worth more than my house now. And the sounds have a pleasing dated but unique and quirky appeal that makes a Fender Telecaster look pretty limited by comparison. That's the thing with synths isn't it. At the time of release they sound so far ahead of themselves but then become quickly associated with the era of their production after technology and tastes moves on. If you're a fan of all things retro though, these pieces of outdated kit can end up having a holy grail-like aura.

I mention all this after listening to an album that's coming out on Gare du Nord Records next week. Willie Gibson's take on Vivaldi's Opus 8, Il Quattro Stagioni, fitting re-titled Seasons Change, has been created using a Eurorack format modular synthesiser. Having not kept up with the afore-mentioned arms race I'm not entirely sure what a Eurorack format modular synthesiser is, but what I can tell you is that it sounds not unlike the beginning of The Who's Baba O'Reilly, or the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange.

There's a commonly-held but false belief that synth music is an easy option, that it's made simply at the push of a button. Not so. Season's Change took a year to make with Gibson painstakingly creating the music layer by layer, one part at a time. It's worth mentioning here that Willie Gibson is not the artist's real name, it's a pseudonym for George Barker, a successful music producer and publisher whose career dates back to the late '60s/early '70s when he started out as a trumpet player for the likes of J Jackson, Tony Orlando, Dawn and Arthur Conley.

Season's Change is an immensely likable piece of work, a true curio and quite unlike anything else out there at the moment. It appeals to futurists, retro-heads and especially fans of baroque classical music. How's that for a coming together of the tribes!

Click here for Gare Du Nord Records on Twitter.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Stay - Always Here (Ltd. Col 7" +DVD)


Barcelona psych-rockers latest five-track EP!


Spain is fast becoming a hot-spot for home-grown indie music, a must tour destination for British bands, and home to one of Europe's best DIY networks. Promoters, radio shows, venues, labels and gig-swappers all seem to be at the top of their game in Spain at the moment. It's within this hothouse environment that a band like Stay can flourish. Their latest five-track EP on Fruits de Mer Records mixes a couple of original songs with three choice covers. The Bee Gees (' Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You'), The Kinks ('Where Have All The Good Times Gone'), and Buffalo Springfield ('Rock and Roll Woman') all get a Stay makeover.

These tracks give you a clue to where their heads are at – melodic and psychedelic, all shimmering guitar jangle and the rhythm section's taut driving push, but it's the original songs that are the stars of the show. Lead track 'Always Here' sets out the stall. Any song that has the word “mind” in its first sentence always gets my vote. It may be shorthand for instant psych but in this instance works a treat. Classic modern guitar-based psych-pop at its best.

'You Know It's Right' is the other self-penned tune, this version being a remix with added guitar courtesy of Andy Bell (Ride, Oasis). It's rooted in the folk-rock sound of The Byrds but with a modern speaker-pushing sheen. Neat! This limited edition coloured vinyl 7” also comes with a DVD insert, featuring a documentary about the recording sessions for the band's latest LP The Mean Solar Times. What the hell is not to like!


Click here for the Fruits de Mer website.
Click here Stay's website.
Click here for Stay on Facebook.
Click here for Stay on Twitter.


Joss Cope - Unrequited Lullabies


Guitars! Songs! Poignant English psych-pop that your milkman can whistle!


An album that's been a soundtrack to my daily commute over the last few weeks is this gem by Joss Cope released on the ever reliable Gare du Nord label. Despite being recorded in Helsinki with a group of Finnish musicians it's as English as they come, due to Cope's knack of capturing the melancholy, humdrum observation and poignant humour that forms our much lauded national psyche. I should mention at this point that Joss is the brother of Julian Cope, so the shared upbringing, genes and collection of 45s must have fed into his worldview. Anyway that's enough about that, who wants to be compared to their elder sibling. Not me, so I ain't gonna do that here!

If you wanted to pigeonhole Unrequited Lullabies with a genre, we can call it guitar-driven psychedelic pop. But really it's all about the songs which have a point, a poignancy and are some of the most melodically memorable I've had the pleasure of hearing in recent months. 'Turned Out Nice Again' captures the sadness masked by everyday small-talk. It's just one example of how, in a similar way to someone like Robyn Hitchcock, mixes kitchen-sink ordinariness with cosmic observation.

Cope also has a pleasing way with words, twisting and adapting everyday idioms and sayings, - “drowning in a sea of familiar faces”. He also comes up with succinct and pleasing couplets throughout that seem to capture something of where we are now as a species and a society. It all makes for intelligent and literate pop that even references Rudyard Kipling's If on 'Triumph or Disaster'. Don't let that fool you into thinking it's a heavy ride, it's as fun as they come and the tunes will be swirling round your head long after the disc is out the drive (other formats are available but you catch my drift!)

Click here for Gare Du Nord Records on Twitter.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Real Numbers - Frank Infatuation b/w Leave It Behind(Ltd. 7")


FFO C86, Television Personalities, Shop Assistants, Wedding Present! 300 copies only!


Another July release from Market Square Records that deserves to not slip through the net is this absolute belter from Real Numbers. The A-side reminds of those jaunty but sad songs from my own personal year zero when the likes of The Pastels, The Wedding Present and the like were constants on my turntable. Though it also sounds like, well you know, now!

The flip is a slower though no less satisfying track, a dreamy floaty melody over a two chord backing. Lo-fi and heartfelt. Apparently the band have been around making records in their hometown of Minneapolis for quite some years but I'd not been hipped to this groove until now. Another notch of credibility for Market Square. If the vinyl is sold out don't forget today is a digital world too. So suppost the label and have the music on your mobile, mp3 player or ipod docking station. Hell, you couldn't do that in 1986!

300 copies only, housed in Risograph fold-over sleeves.

Click here for Real Numbers on Facebook.
Click here for Market Square Records.

The Shifters - A Believer b/w Contrast Of Form (Ltd. 7")


Australian lo-fi punks' latest 7” on Market Square Records! 300 copies only!


2017 may still be a terrible year for politics but it's been an amazing year for new under-the-radar music. So much so that it's sometimes a struggle to keep up and write about it as much as I'd like. One of my favourite small labels keep coming up with the goods, outta Billinghurst of all places. This 'lil platter actually came out at the tail end of July and according to the label's website is sold out. But with a bit of luck and the aid of Discogs notifications you may be able to track down a copy. Or try the band direct via their Facebook page.

The Shifters are a a lo-fi punk band from Melbourne, Australia who make music that sounds somewhere between The Fall's lesser heard melodic moments and the Dunedin sound that came out of New Zealand back in the '80s. It's pretty cool. I like it and I think you will too. They also remind me of an American band called Phantom Buffalo who I think are from Portland Oregon. They put out a couple of albums that I really dug. I miss them. But hey this 7” is helping me get over it. Shame Melbourne is so far away as they sound like the kind of band who would be very enjoyable and accessible at a gig. Do check them out!

Click here for The Shifters on Facebook.
Click here for Market Square Records.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Mark McDowell and Friends - Dark Weave


Fifth LP from south-west psych-folk collective. Pastoral folk, drones, subtle electronica and good vibes!
 
I've not been able to post as much on here recently for various reasons. Mainly too busy with work, family commitments and magazine stuff. I'm not complaining as work, family and writing is pretty much my holy trinity for a happy and useful life. I mention this as there have been a few albums and such that I've been sent that deserve my and your attention. Especially this one! I've written briefly about Mark McDowell before, albeit quite some time ago. What I didn't know was that apart from his solo records he also makes music as part of a psych-folk collective called Mark McDowell & Friends. This is their fifth long-player but the first one I've heard so I'm coming in fresh to this as it were.

Dark Weave came out at the end of July and I was able to listen and let it get under my skin before I left for a family holiday in Rhodes. There's something about high summer that always sharpens my emotions and makes me more receptive to music, art, literature etc. You know, all the good stuff. Maybe it's the longer hours of daylight, increased temperatures, more time spent with good people. All these things. Anyhow before I set off on my hols this album was my soundtrack on the daily commute to work. It struck me that despite the use of Indian strings, exotic hand-drums and analogue synth washes and swirls, Dark Weave is an album that could only have come from the British Isles. It simultaneously harks back to the golden era of acid-folk, (when Forest, Comus, Spirogyra and their ilk were the most happening acts around), but also sounds like now. Timeless is not the right word but it certainly taps into and strengthens some kind of tradition that resurfaces every few years and captures the imagination of a new generation. As a kind of nationalism it certainly beats that touted by many of our current political leaders.

So off I go on my holiday to Rhodes in early August. The change of scene, light, temperature and vegetation was a real jolt to the senses. I was struck by how dry, dusty and scrub-like the hills away from the coast were. The geographical distance also made me think about home, where it's not dusty and scrub-like. Where the ground is moist and loamy, damp and full of vegetation. And in my head thoughts kept turning to this record. It seemed to capture this richness that and uniqueness that we quite often lose sight of here.

Apologies to Mark McDowell if this is not like a standard album review. For once I wanted to write in a different way about music and how it can affect us. Suffice to say that Dark Weave has been my favourite album of the Summer and will be getting played over and over as we head into Autumn and Winter. It's that kind of record. Pastoral folk mixed with subtle electronica if you want to place it within genres. But I suggest just listening with open ears, hearts and minds and seeing where it takes you. Music ripe for reflection. 


Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Bordellos - Underground Tape Vol. 7

 
So it appears that The Stone Roses have split again. Or maybe they haven't. Who knows? Or who cares? Well a horde of middle-aged “lads” do, I suppose. Anyway my point is as reformations go it was pretty lame. OK so they sold out Wembley etc. etc. But in terms of coming up with the musical goods it was a non-starter. Two (not all that good) tracks in five years was not exactly reclaiming the crown of Britain's best band.

I mention the Stone Roses because they have roots and connections in Warrington, a stone's throw away from St. Helens, where another band of less reknown but higher output resides. The Bordellos are a band that will probably never sell out The Dog And Duck in Wembley let alone its auspicious stadium, but they do at least make music and put it out for consumption. They don't beg to “be adored” either. In fact I get the impression they'd rather get up the noses of middle-aged “lads” than have them fawn over them.

Their latest release, Underground Tapes Vol. 7 is picked from a mass of unreleased home recordings. Funny, confrontational, self-aware, and always with a point to make. It's a beautiful thing! It won't make any charts or get featured in Clash or NME but I don't suppose they'll be bothered. I think they'd like it if you took a listen though, and I recommend that you do. Among its homespun alt-folk and lo-fi charms is 'Tesco Chainsaw Massacre' and my personal personal favourite 'Jolly Old England',a song that namechecks Cannon and Ball, Irene Handl, free Weetabix and the death of football. All this and not a John Squire guitar solo in sight! Get in!

Click here for The Bordellos on Twitter.
Click here for The Bordellos on Facebook.

 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

In Gowan Ring - B'ee's Pent Pouch


Fragile mystic folk surfaces on a variety of limited releases!


An artist new to me but very welcome is In Gowan Ring, the artistic vehicle for the mysteriously named B'ee who's been making low-key but intoxicating folk-based music for the last 20 years. In 2012 B'ee spent several months constructing a five-sided tent as a recording/living space in a forest behind a chateau in a sparsely occupied area of the Massif Central in France. (I know, right!)
The recordings he made in that time, known as the Pent Pouch album were released as a limited edition of 55 copies given away to people who helped finance the project. Five years later these recordings are getting a public release digitally as well as in a variety of limited physical formats. There are five copies on both pentagonal vinyl (yes really!) and CD released in a five sided box format but 150 copies on both pentagonal vinyl and CDin a five-sided corduroy pouch. Nice! So top marks for the packaging but how about the music?

B'ee describes his music as symbolist folk, and that's pretty accurate. Infused with a sense of something bigger – a spirituality maybe, or affinity with nature, the seasons, and eternal truths. It's music for the dusk of late evenings or the mist of early mornings. Echoes of Nick Drake, the Incredible String Band, early and rennaissance music all fuse into something unique

If you miss out on the limited versions head over to the In Gown Ring Bandcamp page for a a digital copy along with a plethora of other releases of a similar high quality available via the Moonlit Missives subscription service.

Links
Click here for In Gowan Ring's website.
Click here for Moonlit Missives.


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Brent Cash - A New High

 (This review first appeared in issue #63 of Shindig! magazine.)
 
Marina CD / LP

There was a wave of song-crafters from the mid '60s, influenced by Brill Building classicism, who further pushed the possibilities of what a pop song could be. Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson and Jimmy Webb being just three examples of writers that added sophistication, sly subversion and progressive optimism into pop. Georgia's Brent Cash is the latest name in this lineage, back after a five year hiatus with his third and strongest LP to date. Bar the strings Cash plays every instrument on the record.

It's oddly fitting that the album's title track references Richard Nixon, whose political demise roughly coincided with the end of sunshine pop's time in the sun. Here earworm melodies sit atop obliquely shifting piano chords and inventive arrangements. Beneath the light and breezy soft-pop feel lies some serious alchemy. Cash has created a sound that both pays tribute to his forerunners and adds new depth. Dig the new breed.

The Hardy Tree - Through Passages Of Time


(This review first appeared in issue #63 of Shindig! magazine.)

Clay Pipe Music LP

As London town continues to morph ever more rapidly into structures of steel and glass, the ghosts and echoes of its past are still there for those prepared to listen. That's the thinking behind this album from Clay Pipe Music's founder Frances Castle. With a palette of Mellotron, vibes, sequenced Moogs and viola courtesy of The Left Outsides' Alison Cotton, The Hardy Tree paint a musical elegy to the Smoke's lost landmarks, both big and small.

Interspersed with recordings of market street hawkers, running water, church bells, creaking doors and the sound of building work, this collection of instrumental pieces is uniquely affecting and owes a lot to music made for music for schools and colleges TV programmes in the 1970s. Imagine Nick Drake trying his hand at strange, spooky electronica. Hauntological library music that will have you falling in love with the city and its history all over again. 


Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Super Dooper Love: Mainstream Hits & Rarities 1973-76


(This review first appeared in issue #63 of Shindig! magazine.)

Ace CD

New York in the '70s may have been a city on the verge of financial meltdown but judging by this 24-track compilation its soul scene was in rude health. Mainstream Records started out as a jazz label but by the mid '70s focused almost exclusively on soul, with a roster that included big name signings (The Dramatics, Little Richard), established R&B names from the '60s (Doris Duke, Lenny Welch, Freddie Scott) alongside less well-known singers and groups.

Highlights include the slinky and seductive 'The Lonely One' by Special Delivery Feat. Terry Huff, pentatonic bass riffs on '(I'm Your) Friendly Neighbourhood Freak Pt 1' by Calvin Arnold, and the strings 'n' funk mix on Doris Duke's 'Business Deal'. You'll also find vocal harmony groups, proto-disco, Afrobeat and woman-to-woman style talked vocals. Not everything here is killer but you'll be hard pushed to find a collection that better encapsulates the time, place and spirit.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Nick Piunti - Beyond The Static


(This review first appeared in issue #63 of Shindig! magazine.)

Sugarbush LP

Not strictly a new release, but this 2015 album by Detroit's Nick Piunti gets its debut on limited blue vinyl. For those uninitiated the former Respectables front man is one of the leading exponents of guitar-driven, uptempo, melodic pop. Put simply this is top notch power pop. Twelve tracks with not a duffer among them. Aside from his knack for boss tunes Piunti can also turn out neat, sharply barbed lyrics - “She's in six bands, none of them good”, or “while I'm burning both ends, you're just fanning the flames” delivered by his slightly raspy vocals. A little lyrical sourness to offset the sweet melodies.

Detractors may say there's no new surprises with Piunti staying well within the parameters of the genre. But if you do something this well, why change? Fans of Red Kross, Nick Lowe and Silver Sun need to get on this. Let's party like it's 1979!


Ronee Blakley - Ronee Blakley


(This review first appeared in issue #63 of Shindig! magazine.)

Man In The Moon CD

Although best known as an actress with a resume that includes roles in Robert Altman's Nashville and Dylan's Renaldo And Clara, Ronee Blakley's parallel singing career generated some fine records, not least her eponymous 1972 debut for Elektra Records. With a predominate slant towards country music, it's a record that's stood the test of time, and still sounds fresh mainly due to Blakley's pure, crystalline voice and the musicianship of her assembled session players.

Alongside the country tracks are more introspective, piano-led songs ('Attachment', 'Graduation Tune') which compare favourably to those released by Blakley's friend and contemporary Joni Mitchell. Also of note is 'Fred Hampton', a protest song about the death of the Black Panther, shot by Illinois police at the age of 21.

Poor sales meant there would be no more records for Elektra though Blakley recorded a 2nd LP for Warner Brothers and continues to self-release music via her website.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Anton Barbeau - Heaven Is In Your Mind (Ltd. col. 7")


Four song 7” from your favourite pre-apocalyptic psychedelic popster!


I've written about the music of Anton Barbeau before on a sadly now defunct website, his Empire Of Potential LP being something of a delight and a great entry point into his work. With that in mind it's good to know that since re-locating from Cambridge to Berlin he's still coming up with the goods musically. His latest single on the ever reliable Fruits de Mer label is a four song affair, sixteen minutes of music on one coloured 7” (nice work by the cutting engineer!)

The bad news is there's only one Barbeau-penned track here – 'Secretion Of The Wafer' is melodic, elegant, driven by synthy swells and sparse piano notes, and full of sphinx-like mystery. The musical equivalent of a Buddhist koan.

To say that's bad news is misleading as the the rest of the single is made up of three very enyoyable (and brave) covers. Traffic's 'Heaven Is In Your Mind' being the title track of along with versions of Big Star's 'September Gurls' and David Bowie's 'Scary Monsters'.

This blue or yellow vinyl only set is released on July 24th but if you want more Anton Barbeau head to Fruits de Mer's annual three-day summer festival in Wales where Mr. Barbeau will be playing a solo set. The 15th Dream of Dr. Sardonicus runs over the weekend of August 4th-6th in Cardigan. Visit the Fruits de Mer website for more info.

Click here for the Fruits de Mer website.
Click here for more on Anton Barbeau.




Cyanna Mercury - Archetypes


Athens based Cyanna Mercury debut LP gets vinyl release plus new video!


Here at Harmonic Distortion we've followed Cyanna Mercury since their first self-released single 'Ode To The Absent Father' back in 2014. Since then the band have gone from strength to strength getting better with each release and have recently released their debut long-player. Archetypes fuses western psych-rock vibes with eastern scales and dynamics. I think you'll like it. Oh and the band have some tour dates coming up. Check out their website for full details.

I'll resist from giving a track by track breakdown and just let the music speak for itself, check out the album via the embedded Bandcamp player below. The album is available digitally and on CD, as well as on very desirable gatefold 12” vinyl. Yes indeedy! For the more visually-inclined there's also a new video for the track 'Nothing We Can Do'. Sit back, turn it up and enjoy!




Click here for Cyanna Mercury's website.
Click here vinyl goodies from Cyanna Mercury's Bandcamp page.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Aquaserge - Live dates plus new video!



Following the release of their new album Laisse ça être and after a string of shows in France and Italy, experimental pop band Aquaserge are embarking on a new leg of their tour, which will see them perform in Spain, Belgium, the UK, Poland and Sweden. Autumn shows in the Netherlands, Germany & more will be announced soon.
Most noteworthy are their concerts in London (sharing the bill with their friends Laetitia Sadier and Vanishing Twin for a triple-header show at Corsica Studios (June 27), and at the Different Sounds festival in Lublin (Poland) as part of the Crammed focus, alongside Tuxedomoon, Skip&Die, Kasai Allstars and Aksak Maboul (with whom Aquaserge members will collaborate onstage).
Aquaserge’s hyper-imaginative and delightful album Laisse ça être garnered a lot of kudos from the press, as witnessed by the quotes below. Their music takes on yet another dimension onstage.
To celebrate the start of this series of concerts around Europe, Aquaserge are releasing a new video, for the song Tour du Monde (Around the world). The video was made for the band by their friends Amanda Robles and Matthieu Salabura, who lmed their personal collection of postcards, in a single take. They intended this to be a kind of ‘good luck’ message (meaning: ‘may this song get you to travel around the world”). Incidentally, this is what the song’s lyrics tell us: “If you’re walking in your own footprints, you must’ve walked around the earth”...

JUNE
1st  RENNES, UBU
2nd ALLONES La Péniche Excelsior
6th BRUSSELS Atelier 210
8th BOURGES Emmetrop
10th CHOLET Parcours Secret
27/06/2017 LONDON, Corsica Studio
28/06/2017 BRIGHTON, Prince Albert

JULY
6th LUBLIN Different Sounds Festival
8th STOCKHOLM Gagnef Festival
0th LIEGE Les Ardentes
22ND LA JEMAYE Festival Le Grand Souk
Aquaserge - Tour du monde
Aquaserge - Tour du monde

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Paperweight Array - Transmisssions From A Distant Star EP


One of the more enticing releases to have come to my attention recently, this time via the magic portal that is Twitter, is the debut release by Northampton/London-based trio called The Paperweight Array. Their three-track EP 'Transmissions From A Distant Star' brims with melodic invention, accomplished harmonies and side-stepping chord sequences that conjures up an impressive list of possible influences. Pink Floyd, The Beach Boys, ELP, Jellyfish are just a few names that spring to mind.

Like all good bands though they're more than just a photocopied version of their favourite bands with a sound that both pushes boundaries but not at the expense of accessibility As is said in music industry parlance they're definitely "ones to watch". Intriguing to see what they'll come up with next. Check out the EP via the player above. 

Click here for The Paperweight Array on Twitter.
Click here for The Paperweight Array on Facebook.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Girls Want The Boys! Sweden's Beat Girls 1964-1970


(This review first appeared in issue #62 of Shindig! magazine.)

Ace CD

Sweden in the 1960s had yet to prove itself as an international pop force yet this compilation shows it had a wealth of home-grown talent waiting in the wings to help its exportation of pop rival that of Volvo. The collection kicks off with a track apiece from pre-ABBA Agnetha and Anni-Frid before expanding into lesser known femme-pop territory. It's a stylistic smorgasbord ranging from funky soul grooves, breezy MOR, sassy girl group sounds to street-smart contemporary pop.

Sweden's pop industry clearly took its cues from Britain and the US as shown by a heavy reliance on covers: 'Summertime', 'Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)', 'Gimme Little Sign', 'Music To Watch Girls (Boys?) By' and more are all given a Swedish language makeover. While some tracks may have had a whiff of cash-in at the time they sound remarkably fresh and spirited now. Proof the Swedes had much to offer before ABBA mania.


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Federale - All The Colours Of The Dark


(This review first appeared in issue #62 of Shindig! magazine.)

Death Waltz CD / LP

In the wrong hands a spoof spaghetti western soundtrack could be an ill-advised dish. Not a problem here, Federale's third LP is cooked to al dente perfection. Its musical cues are taken straight from the master, Ennio Morricone: haunting whistled melodies, twangy guitars, high strings and mariachi brass all present and correct. Though they're not the only band to attempt this sound, with the likes of Spindrift ploughing a similar furrow, what really sets them apart is the vocal narrative: sinister tales of vengeance and violence delivered in a pleasingly deep baritone. Think Nick Cave and Scott Walker singing a song-cycle set on the Andalusian plains.

For an album that wears its influences so proudly on its sleeve, (literally with artwork that pays homage to Scott 3), it's a true gem, packed with all the darkness and drama you can handle. Widescreen, cinematic Americana doesn't get much better than this.


Monday, 15 May 2017

Billy Ritchie - The ABC Of 1-2-3


(This book review first appeared in issue #62 of Shindig! magazine.)

Ingram

The reputation of 1-2-3 has been steadily growing since the first magazine articles appeared in the mid-'90s championing the Scottish trio. “The greatest band you never heard of” claim carries weight when you stack up the musicians who've cited the band as a major force or influence. Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney and David Bowie were all big fans. Marquee manager John Gee would go on to say they were the best band he saw in all his years at the club.

Billy Ritchie's place in popular music history is assured by being the man who introduced David Bowie to Jimi Hendrix but his true legacy is his musicianship. As a self taught child keyboard prodigy and through a succession of bands Ritchie made the journey from post-war Forth, Scotland, to the hip hangouts of swinging London and stadium tours of the States before walking away from music altogether.

Ritchie convincingly makes the case for 1-2-3 having been pioneers and architects of what would later become keyboard-led progressive rock, openly naming and shaming those who took influence from him and went on to reap vast rewards. (I won't spoil it for you here by repeating the names!)
Unflinchingly honest about the musical decline and industry machinations that failed to keep the band in the public eye, Ritchie is equally adept at analysing band chemistry, breaking down that elusive alchemy all collaborative musicians yearn for. A fascinating read and one which will have you re-thinking everything you know about the history of progressive rock.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Leviathan - Leviathan


(This review first appeared in issue #62 of Shindig! magazine.)

Grapefruit CD

First time on CD for this legendary lost album, and bolstered with the addition of three 7” tracks. The band formerly known as Mike Stuart Span were only the third UK band to sign to ultra-hip Elektra Records. After changing their name at label boss Jac Holzman's request in order to be promoted as a new band, their 1969 recordings for what should have been their debut album were rejected as not strong enough. In truth they probably lost something in transatlantic translation as they chime nicely with the heavy-psych and hard rock scene happening in the UK at the time.

With phased drums, incredible lead guitar work and occasional Beatle-isms Leviathan sound not unlike a pre-glam Slade, or a more melodic, less blues-based Zep. Quintessentially heavy, right down to the band's whale-shaped logo. A nice follow up and companion piece to Grapefruit's recent I'm A Freak Baby box set.


The Shacks - The Shacks EP


(This review first appeared in issue #62 of Shindig! magazine.)

Big Crown CD / 10”

It takes confidence to open an early release with a cover but here it's fitting; The Shacks' take on Ray Davies' 'This Strange Effect' enchants and unnerves in equal measure, setting the tone for the rest of the EP. They display a musicality and restraint that belies their youth, with their own compositions as satisfying as their choice of covers.

With closely mic-ed vocals set to barely more than a whisper and lo-fi bedroom indie backing, comparisons with Mazzy Star, Jane Birkin and the Velvet Underground's third LP are not unfounded.
This young New York boy-girl duo have created the sonic equivalent of Coraline, eerie yet familiar and certain to draw you in. Also notable is the rocksteady backing provided by The Frightnrs (Daptone Records) on 'Hands In Your Pockets'. With seven tracks on the vinyl (nine on the CD), this is a generous appetiser for their debut LP due early next year.