Sunday, October 25, 2020
I was diue to see this lot play in March in a small pub in Gosforth, Newcastle. Then Lockdown happened.
From the opening bars of their latest album A New Kind of Sky.It's fairly clear exactly where The Hanging Stars are coming from. They inhabit utterly the territory called Cosmic Country, in this case the patch once occupied by Gram Parsons and the countrified Byrds and first brought forth on albums like The Notorious Byrd Brothers and Gilded Palace of Sin.
Theirs is a gorgeous, swirling awestruck sound. The band, and they're from London not California or Texas, are fine musicians one and all and they understand exactly how to hold back as required and let the music flow from them with a measured, unhurried step. This is a record made by people who know all too well what they want to do and how to go about doing it.
Being in awe of a particular kind of music and setting out to recreate what makes it so special is not always the easiest trick to pull off. Bands as good as Ride and The Rockingbirds have in the past have fallen into the trap of being too reverent to similar source material and failing to bottle the magic they sought to capture.
The Hanging Stars do very well in this respect on A New Kind of Sky. Purely and simply because the songs on here are very good ones and they're not merely trying to catch a lift on a time machine taking us back to '68 or '69. This is a record that sounds just fine in the here and now and manages to be more than pastiche or period piece despite its unashamed influences.
The songs sound just fine and dandy and with a couple of exceptions towards the end of the record cast a spell and hold it. No real surprise that there's nothing here good enough to grace the albums mentioned above but there's certainly much to enjoy and possibly send you back to the originals to discover just how great they were once more. On Three Rolling Hills they conjour up the mariachi spirit of prime time Love, on (I've Seen) The Summer in Her Eyes they remind the listener of just how special The Byrds were at their peak.
Track after track flows with convinced momentum. The band have an ace in their hands in the shape of steel fiddle player Joe Harvey-Whyte and his deft touches inspire moments where the band seem to defy gravity and allow their songs to float in the ether.
The Hanging Stars are a fine band and this is a class record. It seems that they're destined to remain a cult concern as this kind of music is something of a niche concern these days. They're playing in a pub just down the road from me a week on Saturday and I'll do my best to be there because judging by this they'd really be something special in a small room. In the meantime, this will more than do.
Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 79 The Au Pairs - Playing With a Different Sex
'The Au Pairs need to be rediscovered because like Patti Smith and The Slits, they proved feminism was sexy.'
It's staggering to consider the sheer number of fine artists thrown up by New Zealand in the Eighties and Nineties and associated with the Flying Nun record label. The main players are well known and relatively claer enough for those with the remotest interest in these matters but lesser lights are still showing up and coming to my attention.
Take Dead Famous People as the latest example. Not a band I was even aware of until a few weeks ago when I read a review of their new album Harry and gave it a listen.A band that made little impact first time round, a couple of John Peel sessions and a period spent in London, before splitting in 1990.
Now they're back with Harry, their thrid album in all and it's a sunny little record, parking itself somewhere between Aztec Camera, Go Betweens and The Chills. Highly Poppy, highly positive, yearning, lovesick and very listenable. A band that have clearly not forgotten what it feels like to feel young and fancy another slug of the elexir.
This is a world where 'hold your hand' is always destined to rhyme with 'understand'. Some of these songs more than brush with cliche, (quite knowingly, to give the band their due), but that doesn't stop them being highly alluring for those prone to this stuff.
Saturday, October 24, 2020
An interesting look given the year we've had. From March:
Friday, October 23, 2020
From the end of January.
Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 77 Brian Eno - David Byrne - My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
Thursday, October 22, 2020
I'm pretty much a sucker for whatever trots out of The Allah Las stable. They're one of the most distinctive bands going. Not that there aren't any other similar groups out there, there are possibly far too many, but everything that any one of these Californian hippie slackers puts out seems to be distinctively theirs.
One of the offshoot projects they indulge in is PAINT, which customarily allows lead guitarist Pedrum Siadatian to truly unleash his inner '66 West Coast love child. Not a million miles away from what the Las do anyway but so determinedly laidback and gently frazzled in this case it's almost horizontal. As if Syd Barrett and Skip Spence had paired up inadvisably in the late Sixties.
There's very little on PAINT's latest Spiritual Vegas, that you might call essential really. At least on the surface. It's all far too self-consciously, almost artfully throwaway for that. Each of the sixteen tracks here is come and gone before you know it.
That doesn't mean there isn't quite a lot worthy of a second glance. Quite the opposite really. It's highly more-ish for fans of these things. Some things really stand out. Land Man for example has already been posted on my end of year run down list.
Siadatian is a considerable talent, even though he is far too self effacing to present himself as such. Several of the songs on Spiritual Vegas would easily grace an Allah Las album.I'm curious to see how much I come back to this despite the fact that it seems uneccesarily to draw its own disposability. I supect it's actually more accomplished than that. Only repeated plays will tell.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Bit of Sabbath in an empty pub with Abbey the barmaid on a Monday Covid-19 October evening in The Telegraph.
From a few days ago:
Fear of Music - The 261 Greatest Albums Since Punk & Disco # 75 Adam & The Ants - Kings of the Wild Frontier
'It could've just been his 19th Nervous Breakdown I guess.But what would make you so nervous in a little place like Londonderry.'
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
From January. Seems way back now:
Monday, October 19, 2020
Sunday, October 18, 2020
'Tell me the story of The Beatles again Daddy.The greatest (rock) story ever told and told and told and TOLD.'
Charles Shaar Murray wrote this in his NME review of Shout! Philip Norman's biography of The Beatles in April 1981. Strangely, almost forty years on they have some pretty strong competition. Typically, from a Manchester band.
The Joy Division bandwagon keeps rolling and rolling. Considering they were only together for less than four years their legacy is incalculable. But anyone who has an even passing interest in the band and Rock culture will know the story back to front and inside out. So why tell it all again?
Because it's such a good story and such an important one frankly. Jon Savage's This Searing Light, The Sun and Everything Else assembled from interviews old and new with the main players is as good a piece of evidence to the significance and endurance of this particular myth as any you'll ever find.
Some bands are good, some mediocre, some poor but very few are actually important. Joy Division were and are important. They mattered and matter. Not just their astonishing music but the way that they gave everything in a way that few bands actually do. Where they came from and where they went. Also as a bold and permanent statement from the North .
This is more than a book about music. It's about the incredible contribution it and the band made to empowering and rebuilding a whole city and region with belief and unstoppable pride. This sounds glib but read the book.
You get a ridiculously strong sense of the main casts character's coming out to you as you read. Bernard Sumner's sensitivity, just how funny Peter Hook is and how eccentric Stephen Morris is. How profound and foolish Tony Wilson was. The terrible sadness of Debbie Curtis and Annike Honore.
But most of all this is Ian's tale of course. His incredible ambition, his astonishing talent his phenomenal pain but the beauty he wrought from it in partnership with the rest of Joy Division. In the last twenty pages once his suicide and funeral have been detailed, each of the main players assesses exactly why he did what he did. The accumulation of evidence of the previous three hundred pages led me to the conclusion that it's no real surprise at all. That there was an absolute and dreadful inevitability to where this was all going given the circumstances of his life and the nature of his art.
I've always really enjoyed Savage's writing but didn't buy the book immediately when it was published last year. I wondered whether I really fancied hearing this story one more time, knowing exactly where things were heading. I was wrong to doubt it. I've devoured it in a series of long sittings in the last week or so and recommend it enormously.