One for my big brother.
“Memory is what we are. Your very soul and your very reason to be alive are tied up in memory.” Nick Cave
Friday, May 31, 2019
It Starts With a Birthstone
As with April, May was a quite outstanding month for new albums. So once again you get a playlist of fifteen rather than ten!
Song(s) of the Day # 1,957 The Country Side of Harmonica Sam
You want a contemporary Swedish band dressed up to the nines as a mid Fifties American Country Hillbilly band and playing note perfect recreations of that sound? You've got it in The Country Side of Harmonica Sam. What a strange and wonderful world.
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Song(s) of the Day # 1,956 Dommengang
LA's wonderfully named Psych Rock trio Dommengang tear out of the traps on Sunny Day Flooding, (the first track on their new record No Keys ) like Hawkwind having a shot at Pere Ubu's Non Alignment Pact. Their guitars scream in a way that hasn't been fashionable since 1973. Not that Dommengang care. You get the impression that their record collections are full of fellow longhairs and they don't give a damn whether you approve or not.
The momentary resemblance to Pere Ubu turns out to be nothing but a glitch as Dommengang prove to be a legs apart, balls to the wall, wind machined hard rock concern. Though they never tip over towards metal and there's plenty of rationale to their howling down the night highway odysseys they're distinctly closer to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Black Oak Arkansas than Steppenwolf or Zep. Once you adjust to their bearings it's a pretty enjoyable, occasionally hair-raising ride.
In many respects, this is a more faithful take on this 'has to be played in a speeding car' stuff than Swervedriver's records because Dommengang show no shame on bowing their heads entirely to the hairy early Seventies when this stuff was at its height. The reason they get away with such brazen homage is that they're a fabulously tight band and every track rockets with oiled fury off into the night. I couldn't listen to this kind of thing day and night but when executed by such skilled practitioners as Dommengang I can definitely appreciate why it lures in so many.
Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Amyl & the Sniffers - Amyl & the Sniffers
What you see is exactly, exactly what you get. From starter's block to finishing tape. Australian Punk rockers Amyl & the Sniffers finally release their debut self-titled album and it sounds exactly. exactly as you would expect. Unreconstructed raw punk rock that you could hear everywhere in 1977 and '78 without the slightest update or hint of an apology.
Not that they need to apologise for anything. This is fun. Relentless, good time stuff. right the way through. Highlighting how Punk owed a debt to Trad Rock elements as well as The Stooges, MC5 and Dolls, how it certainly wasn't always about being cool so much as sheer release. There are many who will readily convert to this.
Song(s) of the Day # 1,955 She Keeps Bees
Coffee table rootsy blues cool from She Keeps Bees on their new album Kinship, their fifth in all. A Brooklyn based duo, they've been putting this stuff out since 2006 and clearly have mastered their art. Kinship is pure breeze from start to finish in the Joan as Policewoman, Cat Power, Portishead way of doing things. They make it all seem quite effortless and seamlessly tasteful while they're at it.
Perhaps lacking the full blooded emotional investment to jump from good to great, the record nevertheless is just smooth as silk. She Keeps Bees play it straight and maintain poker faces throughout. The result? A fine, consistent record.
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Sebadoh - act surprised
It's really quite refreshing to hear new records by bands like Sebadoh nowadays. They know that their golden days are behind them, that they're not going to be on magazine covers or sell truckloads of records. The pressure is off them. So they can do what they always did without anxiety of how it's going to be received. As a result they and their kind generally put out pretty good stuff.
So, following on from Buffalo Tom, Bob Mould and Meat Puppets, all of them contemporaries of Sebadoh first time round and all of whom have returned with noteworthy releases in recent months, their own new album act surprised is a very reliable piece of craftsmanship from the trio. Full of short, sharp bursts of the kind of tunes they were renowned for, slightly dark edged pop, bridging the gap between Grunge and The Buzzcocks.
The band know full well that anyone who liked them first time round will like this too. It does nothing that their original records didn't do but it does it just as well. Lou Barlow has a knack for this stuff after all. You'd probably need to act surprised to be taken back by what's going on here, but you might be pleasantly impressed. It's a really solid record.
Song(s) of the Day # 1,954 The Psychotic Monks
Something slightly different. The Psychotic Monks a band from Saint-Ouen a suburb in the northern part of Paris, who defy easy categorisation on their latest album Private Meaning First. Describing themselves as 'Post George Orwell' and naming Francis Bacon as their main influence is promising if slightly pretentious and they deliver on both of those fronts. Nothing wrong with pretension in rock music. It never did The Clash or the Manics any harm. Anyhow, this is a strange, disorientating and defiantly dark record.
Looking for musical signposts you'd probably plump for Sonic Youth, Birthday Party, Einstürzende Neubauten, Unknown Pleasures, or early Deus. So not easy listening then. The Psychotic Monks' is a dark clanging, dissonant, uneasy sound. They sing in English but you can't always make out what exactly they're singing but know they're not happy. On their Spotify page the band quote Macbeth: 'Life is a tale. Told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.' No jokes then.
If at times you might need to come to the surface for a lungful of oxygen, there's much here that's noteworthy. Psychotic Monks deserve respect for sticking to their guns if nothing else.
Monday, May 27, 2019
Songs About People # 858 Kelis
So while I can't really get behind the Plastic Mermaids, I am grateful to them for allowing me to push this series onwards with probably the best song on it. And what's not to like about Kelis anyhow.
Plastic Mermaids - Suddenly Everybody Explodes
Every year it appears that a fringe outsider indie band makes a record that hurtles them from the margins into the mainstream. Last year it was Hookworms, this year it seems likely to be the Isle of Wight's Plastic Mermaids with their debut album, Suddenly Everybody Explodes, just out. It's a record of such vaulting psychedelic ambition that it seems likely to make some kind of splash.
Unfortunately I can't get behind it. I just don't like it really. The main comparison point seems to be Flaming Lips and that was a band I never really went for, they seemed to me to make one vast and empty gesture after another and never really saw the need for a decent tune to couch them in.
Plastic Mermaids follow their lead in throwing huge shapes never mind the kitchen sink, but failing to touch me. Many of the songs here strike me as anthems in the making but though the record might shift and win the hearts of Q readers I find it all rather empty.
Song(s) of the Day # 1,953 Te Huhu
The kind of thing Cheech and Chong might be interested in listening to. Unashamed Stoner Rock from Te Huhu a partially long-haired collective from Auckland, New Zealand. Hits from the bong, one and all, on their latest album Recychedelia.
Opening track Strong Arm of the Law will be enough to catch their drift. Te Huhu lay out their wares and stick to their script. Laid back and utterly strung out in the way that Spacemen 3 and Brian Jonestown Massacre are, the band know what they like and are all intent on dotting all the 'i's and crossing all the 't''s that come with this particular rulebook.
The songs will seem longer than they actually are though that's no criticism. Te Huhu capture perfectly the sensation of a laid-back Friday afternoon at a friend's, passing a joint back and forth and choosing an appropriate selection of records as a soundtrack while you're doing so. If there's the cushioned, blurred paranoia that goes with these things, you know all along that you're in very safe hands.
Although it's perfectly clear where they're coming from, the heritage of this stuff, which stretches from Jefferson Airplane, The early Dead and Floyd to where we are now, the band are greatly adept at what they're doing and Recychedelia is a fine record. You might not trust Te Huhu to do your accounts but they're certainly in their element here.
Sunday, May 26, 2019
Songs Heard on the Radio # 315 Leonard Cohen
Mark Ronson, the always interesting cultural commentator, playing great music on BBC 6 Music on Sunday afternoon. Including Laughing Len, more ragged than he usually is.
Songs About People # 857 Monica Vitti
Song(s) of the Day # 1,952 Mavis Staples
'Gotta change around here...' You know exactly what you're going to get with a new album from Mavis Staples in 2019. Stripped back Soul, pared down to the bare essentials from one of the few survivors from the original era, her voice still remarkably intact.
It's sad that the message still needs to be driven home in the here and now. We can't trust that man...' she sings at one point and you know all too well who she's talking about. It's good that Staples is here to deliver the line. We Get By, Staples new album, is as classic a distillation of the form as you could ever wish for.
The title track, a duet with Ben Harper is as good a song as you will hear all year. The message is still as strong as it ever was. You get the feeling that not enough people will be listening to these songs of pride, reconciliation and unity. Those that will won't be disappointed.
Saturday, May 25, 2019
Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 393 Jackson Browne
Songs About People # 856 Willem Dafoe
Song(s) of the Day # 1,951 The Chemical Brothers
Back with another of those block rocking beats. What do once cutting edge dance artists do when they reach middle age and are no longer the draw they once were. In The Chemical Brothers case they keep on doing what they've always done. Twenty years and more since Dig Your Own Hole, new album No Geography is probably every bit as good as anything they've ever done. It just won't get so much attention.
It sounds every bit as inventive to me. Quite similar to what I know of them, I was never a huge devotee of what they put out even though it was plainly evident they they were pros. They still are plainly. So if you want to party like it's 1997 this might be your go to record in 2019.
Friday, May 24, 2019
Cate Le Bon - Reward
What a delight to wake up on a Friday morning to be able to listen to what Cate Le Bon did next. A Reward indeed, (as that's the name of her new album), the promise of a Bank Holiday stretching before me. Le Bon has a distinctly strange vision ,and I wondered in advance of her record this time whether she'd be able to recast it into new shapes while remaining true to herself. To keep the listener interested and surprised.
I'm so pleased to be able to report that this is exactly what she's done. Even more so that from the opening notes of Miami, the first track of Reward, that this sounds to me like the best thing she's done. By now, five albums in, plus numerous side projects and collaborations, she's established a signature sound and a way of working for herself, but now the challenge is to keep that fresh. This is a s fresh as it comes. There's an altogether admirable virtuosity not to say audacity on show here.
On the cover of the record, Le Bon is shown in eye catching red, making her way down a rocky hillside. The image reminded me of Bowie in The Man Who Feel To Earth, one of the most 'otherly' moments in the whole of Pop history. Bowie is certainly a huge influence on Le Bon, I imagine she's listened to Hunky Dory specifically a thousand times. Not that Reward sounds particularly like it, at least on the surface, but it accepts that record's invitation to be utterly different from the herd and take pride in that difference.
Each track pleased me more than the last. Wonderful, found wisdom, lyrics that make little sense, but actually do. In an effort to keep her vision fresh, Le Bon prepared for making the record by living in isolation in Stavely in the Lake District, re-training in furniture design and then, when she was ready to set her songs down relocating to Panoramic House a residential mountain studio overlooking the ocean in California.
Unorthodox methods that bear strange but juicy fruit. While I was seeing Aldous Harding at the Cluny in Ouseburn last Sunday evening, (apt really as Harding is a similar artist in many respects), a woman came round brandishing flyers for Le Bon's own performance there later this autumn. I've seen her play there before but having heard these songs, this wonderful kooky package, I'll have to go again, just to see them unwrapped again in the flesh. This is an altogether astonishing record from the leftfield. Just when I thought she couldn't surprise me again, she does just that. Cate Le Bon learns to accept her reward.
Covers # 104 Terry Melcher
A mother's instinct apparently urged Doris Day to advise her son to move out of his house on 10050 Cielo Drive on him telling her of his dealings with Manson. They recorded this cover of Jackson Brown's These Days together a couple of years later.
Songs About People # 855 Terry Melcher
With the new Tarantino film about Hollywood and the Manson Family at the end of the Sixties forthcoming it seems apt to post a song for Terry Melcher, record producer and associate of that scene.
Song(s) of the Day # 1,950 Lucy Roleff
Nick Drake playing in a band. Backing Sibylle Baier or Nico or Vashti Bunyan on a series of wistful songs, reveries to forgotten moments. These were my immediate thoughts when listening to Australian musician and artist Lucy Roleff's second, recently released second album Left Open in a Room. They were thoughts that remained as I made my way through the record.
Roleff has an interesting backstory. Classically trained and born to a German opera singing father and a Maltese mother, she's blessed with a rich cultural heritage and explores it here. If she's something of a musical magpie, half lifting the melody line to Cohen's Suzanne at one point in Rheingold, she has gifts of her own and this is an easeful and thoughtful record. If originality isn't it's main draw there's plenty here to recommend it anyhow.
Joni's fingerprints are here too. In the willingness to take things slowly to drive home the point. To concentrate on stillness, the innate poetry of words. Not a record that surprises after its initial songs set the mood but one that fans of this kind of thing might enjoy.
Thursday, May 23, 2019
Songs About People # 854 John Bonham
Song(s) of the Day # 1,949 Minyo Crusaders
Japanese collective who convene a fascinating blend of traditional Japanese folk elements, and Afrobeat, Reggae and Latin rhythms to formulate a genuinely original brew. Operating within the tradition of Min'yo folk and re-working standards, their pilfering and revamping of global musics, (though these will sound like no take on these genres that you've heard before), creates a quite startling hybrid which makes their recently released debut Echoes of Japan a genuine delight.
Labelling each track according to the musical tradition it's sourced from; Afro, Reggae, Ethiopian, Boogaloo and so on, is a helpful guide for the listener. The genuinely quirky and explorative vocals which provide the icing on their particular cake ensures there's not a dull moment throughout the course of its ten tracks.
An obvious draw for the festival circuit, their lyrics cover an eclectic range of subject matters, such as the return of spiritual ancestors, Japan's smallest bird and a wife's love of her husband's pockmarked face and the sheer oddness but bloody minded momentum of the delivery means that those without mastery of the Japanese tongue won't be disadvantaged in terms of savouring the end product for a moment.
The starting concept is a genius move in itself and it's a sheer delight to see Minyo Crusaders execute their plan with such panache. One of the more original Christmas gifts on offer this year to satisfy the completist relative, Echoes of Japan is one of the most audacious and purely enjoyable records you're likely to hear this year,
Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Song(s) of the Day # 1,948 Kelly Hunt
Old school. As in the kind of thing you might expect to come across in a Coen brothers movie. Kansas City artist Kelly Hunt and her debut album Even the Sparrow. Doing the kind of thing that Gillian Welch and Rhiannon Giddens do, Hunt is going to be very much loved by a specific community.Music that's deeply, deeply rooted in the rich traditions of American folk musics stretching way back before Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. Hunt has a plaintive, evocative voice and the banjo twangs and the fiddles sing in all the right places.
Even the Sparrow sounds to me like the kind of record that critics and devotees of this genre might make a small storm about in much the same way as they did over albums by Giddens and Margo Price in recent years. Over the course of its twelve tracks it casts and re-casts its spell again and again and by the time the record has run its course its still but unerring is hard to shake.
If hearing this kind of music being played afresh but utterly straight in 2019 always sound a bit incongruous, there are always some things that are never going to go completely out of fashion and Hunt does it all with great skill and resourcefulness. It's utterly heartfelt and immediately authentic. A quiet but powerful album, that understands the power of the silence between the notes.
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Songs About People # 852 Jules Verne
Song(s) of the Day # 1,947 Matthew Milia
Matthew Milia's, new record Alone at St.Hugo is a deceptive beast. At first on opening track Alive at the Same Time, you get the sense that you might be in the company of a carefree Elliot Smith looking through his box of memories. Or a better adjusted Alex Chilton from his Big Star days who ended up with a happy ending. Big Star are clearly a reference point. Alive at the Same Time paraphrases Thirteen, 'Tell your father what we said about Radio City'.
As the album moves on it becomes apparent that it's not all quite as well-adjusted as it initially appears. Alone at St.Hugo is an exercise in nostalgia as its cover, pictures from Milia's photo album attests. It's a document that shows that wallowing in memories is always a slightly dangerous exercise. The world stays young while we don't. Each song is crafted like musical honey while the lyrics choose a slightly darker path.
Milia is also a member of Frontier Ruckus but this record allows him to make a more personal statement and he grasps the opportunity with both hands. Good families and friendships have a way of coming back together even after suffering the most painful personal blows but the impact of these blows always remains somewhere beneath the skin that grows over the wound. Daydreaming about the girl you were attracted to in sixth grade isn't always going to help.
So this is bittersweet stuff and Milia handles it well. He understands that the world moves on from almost anything. There's plenty to unearth here and reward repeat plays. While Elliot and Chilton haunt the corridors of Alone at St.Hugo, he has plenty himself to add to the archive. If occasionally you might feel that you want to shake him out his reverie and urge him to just let it go, the human urge he explores here at length and in depth is a very real one and he charts the condition sensitively.
As the record moves on, Milia marks the passing of time as we move through the internet years. 'Did you update your status?' he asks at one point. All in all this is a finely crafted record but perhaps not one I'll choose to wallow in too often. Looking through your old photos is not something you want to do everyday. But Alone at St.Hugo is ready as an apt soundtrack should you ever choose to do so. Slip on your headphones and indulge yourself. While this is no Radio City or Either / Or as its debt to both is so readily evident, it's definitely a record that deserves an index mention when the book that's dedicated to this stuff comes to be compiled.
Monday, May 20, 2019
Songs About People # 851 Holofernes
Another from Minor Poet. Holofernes was an Assyrian general dispatched by Nebuchadnezzar to destroy all gods apart from himself. He was killed and beheaded by Judith a beautiful Hebrew widow. Whether he actually existed or not is not completely clear. The story is best known by this representation by Caravaggio.
Song(s) of the Day # 1,946 Minor Poet
Here's The Good News. Minor Poet is Andrew Carter, Richmond, Virginia songwriter and he's just released a six track EP, his debut for Sub Pop. The good news? It's a fabulous, literate, laid back chamber pop exercise. About as far away from the original template for that record label as you could possibly imagine. But he fits there hand in glove nowadays.
Full of the joys of youth. Not to mention spring. Almost like Aztec Camera meets Rufus Wainwright meets Phil Spector. Each song crafted with enormous care. Slightly detached but with an intimate knowledge of a specific seam of pop history, and a great lyrical turn of phrase, a sunny afternoon spent perusing the local museums and bookshops, with someone who appreciates the pleasure of that. Sometimes it's the small things as Carter knows only too well.
Sunday, May 19, 2019
Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 392 Sir Douglas Quintet
Important Gigs in My Life # 10 19/05/19 Aldous Harding
A couple of years ago New Zealand singer songwriter Aldous Harding used to do a cover of Kate Bush's Wuthering Heights while touring. It made perfect sense really. If anybody should be playing Kate Bush songs apart from the woman herself it's Harding. She did a great job of it. She has the range and the emotive artillery required and an understanding of the essential silliness but the equally essential poetry that's going on in the original. At the end of the song in the link I posted she makes a face of childish embarrassment to her audience. An 'I'm not worthy' look. There was no need. She's more than worthy. If Kevin Morby is the modern equivalent of Bob and Bill Callahan plays Leonard, then Aldous is just right for Kate. The comparisons are not a diminishment of any of the three. In fact a compliment. We're very lucky to have them.
I watched the clip this Sunday morning before going to see Harding play The Cluny 2 in the Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle in the evening. A prize ticket in a tiny, intimate venue to see a very special artist. I'd snapped it up a few months ago as soon as I'd heard she was playing and waited in great anticipation ever since. Watching her do Kate I wondered whether she'd play the song again that evening. Perhaps it was too much to hope for.
All in all it was a very special day. Nice weather in Newcastle as Spring becomes Summer. I had my lunch and wandered to my local, Rosie's, where James, the perennial barman nowadays, was manning the fort. It was quiet, midday and an empty pub. I put on a few songs, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Love, Cornershop, Mahalia Jackson, things that seemed to fit the early afternoon mood.
Then I wandered down the road to the Tyneside Cinema to watch the documentary about Aretha Franklin Amazing Grace which has just opened. That was an extraordinary thing in itself which will have to wait for a later post but it set me up for the evening. Called Mum and Dad who are both OK. Then after a couple more calls and some texts and another pint at Rosie's took a taxi down to the Ouseburn Valley to The Cluny.
When I got out at the other end there was a definite haze of dope hanging around the place. Lots of, mainly fairly early to late middle aged folk hanging round the venue, several of them dressed in Tie-Dye. The reason soon became clear. Gong, or what is left of them by this point were playing the main venue. Not for me. At least not tonight. I made my way into Cluny 2, just before the support act was due to start.
It was immediately evident that the mood of the evening was polite. Wonderfully so. Not a young crowd but not an old one either. Ranging from twenty to fifty. Stage set up by the venue door, which isn't where it always is. Not where I saw Courtney Barnett for the first time over five years back. Or for Bill Ryder Jones a couple of years later.
Courtney's Dead Fox was playing as support Laura Jean hit the stage. Apt really, as she's been supporting Courtney the last time I'd seen her late last year at Northumbria University. On that occasion Laura Jean had been rather lost on the big stage. Playing alone with guitar, keyboards, sax and effects she's made little sense. Here by contrast, she was in her element.
She played a short half our set of intimate, clever and honest songs and chatted between them to the crowd. Partly about Harding who she called Hannah and said she had looked after years back when she'd been living in Melbourne above a pub of derelict old men. It was great but I went up the winding stairs to catch the last of Newcastle's sunlight. Stood outside the venue for a few minutes and and realised that Aldous Harding was coming straight towards me to turn inside the venue door.
Our eyes met and I got the sense that you do when you see someone in the public eye that they're thinking 'Is he going to bother me?' I'm not like that so I said, 'You're wonderful. Have a good evening.' She thanked me, not once but twice and went downstairs. I went down shortly afterwards to catch the rest of the supporting slot.
After Laura Jean finished with a neat sax solo I followed her out of the doors, (seriously I'm no stalker), and thanked her for her set, telling her I'd seen her supporting Courtney and playing a wonderful version of the Go-Betweens Streets of Your Town with her and her band . She seemed surprised that I knew of them. I said I'd seen Courtney here a few years back, 'We play the circuit' she replied then said 'I'm Laura' and I told her my name and we shook hands.
Half an hour seemed too long to wait for Harding to hit the stage. I stood in a thin queue for the bar although I noticed a sneaky type avoiding this most English of laws and getting his beer before me. I got in conversation with the bloke in front of me. I asked him if he knew Harding and he said no, he was here at his girlfriend's behest. 'Sometimes you have to listen to your girlfriend' I said. 'Only about music', he replied. 'I have to manage everything else.'
And then, shortly after nine, Harding and her band were onstage. For a while it looked as if it was going to be a wonderful gig where I barely saw the artist concerned. Harding was almost unrecognisable from the person I'd seen just outside the venue shortly earlier. She'd pulled her long hair on both sides right across her face and crouched deep onstage. I caught only momentary glimpses of her for the first few numbers, all from her latest album Designer.
She's an intense and mannered performer. She positively gurns at stages, baring her teeth, rolling her eyes, leering. You'll never have seen anything quite like it. Not for everyone, although the crowd seemed to me to be absolutely in the palm of her hand. After the first song, the title track of Designer a middle aged Geordie voice was heard to say 'You're great' which she acknowledged politely and eventually moved onto the next song.
But I still couldn't really see her. A too tall man a few rows ahead was blocking my view. I shuffled horizontally trying not to break the polite, pervasive mood. Still couldn't really see her. The music was magnificent but I seemed destined to be denied a proper view.
Harding began to talk to the audience in between numbers. 'Usually I'm really funny, but it seems not tonight.' was her first rejoinder and from then on she opened up. I'd almost given up being able to see things properly so skirted round the back of the standing area past the bar and towards the exit. Just before it at the side of the stage I finally found the perfect view of Harding and her band. So there I stayed.
So what exactly does Harding do which make her so special? She has precedents and Kate Bush is definitely one of them but by now, moving onto her third album and beyond, she defines her own space. It's definitely intense, the long gap between songs ensures that, but it's a light intensity somehow, and a humorous one. Something quite special anyway.
The band left the stage but were brought back for an encore. A new song, 'Nowhere yet...' called No Peel where she accompanied proceedings by tapping a drumstick on a mug of coffee. Then they were gone. Harding rested her head on the doorway just outside the venue. Then I made my way out. Pausing first for a pee.
I said to the guy in the urinal next to me, 'Well that was something...' He replied, 'I didn't like it.' Each to their own. Outside the venue I saw the bloke I'd chatted to in the queue for the bar, this time with his girlfriend. I asked them if they'd enjoyed it and they both had although she said Harding hadn't played several of the songs she liked best. I told them that previously she'd been known to do Wuthering Heights and we agreed that would have been something. Then my taxi arrived and took me home.
It was one of the best things I've seen...
P.S. No she didn't play Wuthering Heights tonight. She didn't need to.
Songs About People # 850 Captain Beefheart
Song(s) of the Day # 1,945 Modern Nature
It's always good to get two for the price of one. Following the split of Ultimate Painting a while back, their two main players have put together new projects. I reviewed Six Lenins, the latest album from Proper Ornaments, which James Hoare is involved in when it came out a month or so back. It's great in its own small indie way. Now Jack Cooper is putting out his own new stuff through Modern Nature where he's working with Will Young of Beak among others and you can immediately see why Ultimate Painting might have had to go their separate ways because its an altogether more adventurous endeavour than the Proper Ornaments record.
Modern Nature's four track EP Nature came out a few weeks ago and it's a fascinating proposition. A whole raft of influences seem to have come together as starting points for what they're doing. The Free Jazz of Alice Coltrane and Roland Kirk, the kinetic groove of Ege Bamyasi era Can , the briefest taste of Stereolab and the Folk poetry of Pentangle and Fairport Convention. Altogether it's a fascinating mix and promises much. In addition to the EP I've posted their latest song and video Peradam which keeps up the momentum. It all augers very well indeed.
Saturday, May 18, 2019
Wreckless Eric - Transience
On 1977 it would have been nigh on impossible to imagine Wreckless Eric putting out Transience, the album he's just released in 2019. Back in those far off days he was supposed to be a flash in the pan, a one hit wonder. Considered by many to be something of a joke, reasonably enough as he projected himself of something of one, an afterthought on the bottom of the Stiff Records roster and on their package tours with the obvious talents of the label at the time Elvis Costello and Ian Dury.
But he was more than that then and he's much more than that now. In some respects he's outlasted both Costello and Dury as recording talents. Unfair in Dury's case of course as he's long since no longer with us. But Costello's last record did very little for me while Transience does a lot. First song Father to the Man alone makes it worthwhile. It's as good a summation of a life and career and relationship between a father and son as you're ever likely to hear. It says it all. 'I've got this name but it doesn't fit.' 'I love my dad but I don't want to be him. A history coming back again.' He's talking about right wing politics, which is what his dad espoused and is back in vogue with the swing of the pendulum of the last few years. The song is poignant, sage and touching, everything you want from a musician at his point of his career.
Elsewhere Eric rekindles his Pub Rock roots but sometimes comes on just as much San Francisco circa 1967 as Tottenham Court Road circa 1977. You get the feeling he's a happy man now. When I saw him a few years back playing in an upstairs room of a pub in Gateshead, I spoke to him afterwards and he was open and friendly, continually mentioning his talented wife, singer songwriter Amy Rigby and how he lived in the Catskills. It was almost as if he couldn't believe how his life had worked out himself.
Transience has a cosmic aura to it, almost as if the man has fallen hard for transcendental Californian mysticism. Some of it works well, some of it less so, the long songs are overlong, but you can't begrudge the man these moments of self indulgence. He's lasted the course and still has plenty to say.
Songs About People # 849 Mia Farrow
Song(s) of the Day # 1,944 Pozi
Young London trio with a drummer who sings lead vocals, a bassist, a violinist and no lead guitar. So all in all, a rather unorthodox sound. They've just released their debut album PZ1 and it's a really interesting mix. A gritty sustained love letter to the capital that recalls ATV, Wreckless Eric and lo-fi early Rough Trade signings of the late Seventies but recasts them in a distinctly modern setting.
Early evening BBC 6 Music DJ Marc Riley loves them and that makes sense. He's always got a great ear for this kind of guttural street punk. Singer and songwriter Toby Burroughs takes on weighty but real and pertinent subject matter; the Grenfell Tower tragedy victims, euthanasia, dogging. But the band are smart enough to keep things moving from song to song at a brisk pace.
Friday, May 17, 2019
Songs About People # 848 Laurie Lee
Olden Yolk - Living Theatre
It's wonderful to see New Yorkers Olden Yolk back so soon with their beautifully textured second album Living Theatre. (out today) Their eponymous record, released just a year ago, was a great favourite of mine but this is something else still. A definite thickening and enrichment of the sound and vision they formulated there.
The band, essentially a duo, work from a palette of familiar colours and textures. What they've always made me think of most is the New York of the Sixties, Greenwich Village Folk Cafes, people playing chess on Washington Square, Autumnal hues, a landscape populated by literary urbanites.
Though their sound is steeped in cultural memory it's not in thrall to any one particular sound or artist because Olden Yolk are eclectic magpies and reset all they collect into a record that sounds very much relevant to the here and now. There are a number of musical artists working incredibly creatively in this mode at the minute, Weyes Blood and Aldous Harding, to name but two, have put out records that had a similar unnerving effect on me in recent weeks and on first listening it's immediately apparent that Living Theatre will offer up measureless further listening delights. An opportunity to wallow in an undefined nostalgia.
One of the qualities that I'm more and more struck by with Olden Yolk is their evident but unforced cleverness. Interviews with Shane Butler and Caity Shaffer, the partnership that formulates the band, evidences a rich and varied seam of cultural inspirations from which they forge their sound. Indie in the loosest sense but far more diverse and evocative than the obvious and derivative product that you often get served up from bands operating under that umbrella which so often results in lazy plundering the gifts of the past. This by contrast, is anything but lazy.
I've been watching favourite films again in recent days. The Last Picture Show, Vertigo, West Side Story.Things that I recognise immediately but need to re-experience every once in a while to remind me of their beauty and permanence. Listening to Living Theatre, (in itself a wonderful name for a record), has had a similar impact upon me this morning. This time a nostalgia that I hadn't experienced before. It's an album that's a marked step forward from the debut record that preceded it, fine though that was in its own right. A record you'll want to listen to all day. Or at least one that I certainly do and will.
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