Sunday, October 31, 2021
Saturday, October 30, 2021
Still slightly under the radar. North Street Air, the third album from Holiday Ghosts came out last Friday but escaped my notice until now. I loved their previous records. They chimed completely with my own tastes. Down at heel late Velvet Underground, Modern Lovers and Kinks played at you with warmth, humour, sincerity and beatnik charm in a small room above a cool pub.
Since their last album the band have moved base from Falmouth to Brighton but the switch doesn't seem to have impacted on their basic modus vivandi. North Street Air doesn't really change the line of attack, but refines it somewhat, they're definitely getting better at what they do.
Essentially a core duo, Katja Rackin and Sam Stacpoole, who pick up new members to flesh them out as a quartet from time to time. This never leads them to miss their stride stylistically. They have a clear vision and this new record is as clear a realisation of it as they've come up with thus far.
North Street Air, has an assurance and flow that reminds me of a lot of bands that I love. Early Clean and Go Betweens. The bunch of pioneers of this sensibility that I mentioned above. Holiday Ghosts embody a certain independent guitar driven insouciance, a beat spirit that's been detectable since the Fifties or probably before, a conviction that much of what's really interesting in society lies beyond the mainstream.
I'm very taken by this on first listen and so pleased to hear the band are still chipping away at their particular seam of Rock and Roll. While higher profile young English bands ransack the corpses of The Fall and The Gang of Four with ever diminshing returns, this strikes me as a much more honest approach to our shared musical and cultural heritage, and certainly a much more listenable one.
This band may not ever fully get their due but I'm so pleased that they exist and look forward to them visiting a venue near me one day. They're a night at the funfair, rich with small, affordable and pleasurable joys. North Street Air, should more than do me over the coming summer months and beyond.
It's entirely appropriate that Strawberry Guy, whoever he is, lives in Liverpool, although he originally hails from Wales. Because the most cursory listen to his latest album Sun Outside My Window, leads you to an immediate and overpowering conclusion. That he is deeply and inescapably under the spell of John Lennon, particularly the Lennon of the early Seventies, when he himself lay under a spell, that of his love for Yoko Ono.
Some of these Lennon songs are a little claustrophobic in nature but Strawberry Guy makes use of them to trace and altogether beguiling dreamscape on Sun Outside My Window. On his publicity release for the album he doesn't mention Debussy, Ravel and Monet and the allusions are actually highly apposite in relation to the rather lovely impact of the album.
Friday, October 29, 2021
Liverpool's Clinic are one of the more interesting bands to emerge from these islands over the last twenty five years. Probably influenced by Suicide, (the New York Punk band rather than the act of extreme self-violence), as much as anyone else, they've stuck to their own cool road ever since and never failed to be less than diverting.
The same goes for latest album, Fantasy Island, their ninth in all. Boasting a similar sound, not radically different from the ones before, it holds your intrest, or at least it held mine. They're the model of quiet consitency. Content to dwell on the margins. as they always have been.
The influence of Suicide is still there. But their's is as good a shadow to labour under as any. Suicide themselves are still one of the most original and particular Rock and Roll bands there have ever been. Clinic prefer the quieter, more melodic, less attritional Suicide these days. He,y we're all getting on.
Fantasy Island sticks to its guns and is a worthy new entry to their canon. Long term fans of the band will not be disappointed. Fantasy Island is spooky and brim full of their trademark, dark wit as you'd expect. It sticks to its guns and is a worthy new entry to their story.
Thursday, October 28, 2021
A lesson in looking on the bright side. I rather thought I might give the latest Chills record, Scatterbrain, a miss this time. I've been rather underwhelmed by their recent offerings and it seems rather late in the day for a late career masterpiece.But Scatterbrain was released on a quiet morning for notable new releases, so I gave it a listen. Then I played it gain, Then again. They're in fine fettle.
On first play I was underwhelmed. Second play and my interest was pricked. Third play I was chastising myself for my lack of faith in them. The Chills are rarely any less than likeable. Here they're truly lovable. In many ways this initially sounds a bit like a Martin Phillips solo album, as he's foregrounded a lot more in the mix, certainly much more so than on their best known Eighties records when it was always clearly a team effort. The band are there for sure here, but more content this time to play supporting roles.
But give them time. This lot know just what they are doing just like Teenage Fanclub and Dinosaur. Jr have proved they do in recent weeks and the record unwraps on each play revealing further gifts with modest but assured grace. The Chills have stood the course of time. More so even than either TF or D.Jr., they were always something of a paradox. Upbeat tunes, downcast, troubled interiors. More than immediately meet the eye. No change here.
This is very much a rumination on mortality, perhaps something you'd expect, given the band and particularly Phillips' advancing years and also their track record preoccupations. He was always a somewhat contrary, fatalistic type. Song titles like Hourglass and You're Immortal and lyrics almost everywhere else, underline this without the greatest subtlety. It's late in the day. Time to consider all of our final journeys. Our final curtains. For Phillips and Co. but also for the rest of the planet.
The Chills are the most pastoral of Pop groups, more almost than any band I can think of.. They always had an innate feeling for the undergrowth, the ocean bed, the verdant and nocturnal, and how entwined they are with the human condition. I'm pleased to report that these instincts are present, correct amd fully functioning here too. Scatterbrain scatters hints and clues for the listener on first play like adults planting clues for a birthday party scavenger hunt. You'll have to come back if you wish to discover how it all fits together.
These are bleak times in many ways. But this is far from a bleak record. The settings are arcadian and verdant, the band determined and more than able to make the most of the hand that life has dealt them. Scatterbrain is a record that takes a while to unfurl its charms but they're worth the investment of time. It's another fine product to add to the band's rich legacy. That's something I'm more than happy to endorse. Cheer up Martin, it might never happen.
Wednesday, October 27, 2021
Coming across as drunk, or stoned, or both in song is a particular gift. Jeffrey Lee Pierce could do it. So can Nick Cave. Beck,Shane McGowan, Dan Stuart of Green on Red, Tom Waits, Kurt Vile, Stuart Staples, Paul Westerberg. Masters of the art. It seems we can add young Canadian Whitney K to their ranks.
His latest album Two Years is a proper treat. Life viewed through the raised glass of the grizzled and dissolute regular at the end of the bar who's showing no desire to leave at this point of the evening even though he's already told the barmaid his life story three times tonight.
Konner Whitney, for he is Whitney K, hails from Whitehorse, in Northern Yukon and has recently moved back there. Two Years is a wonderful record, scarred and wizened but also sage and nuanced. There's much wisdom to be found in bars, as well as pain, fellowship, release and the bitter dregs of experience.
There are traces of The Velvet Underground here, both Reed and Cale, but it's both at their most Country and at a point where neither of them could care less anymore. Beck certainly raises his head at several points of the record too, the frayed trenchancy of Odelay.
There's plenty of wit here too but it's of the wry and mordant kind. Gallows humour essentially. Also plenty of variety. Two Years is a pleasant reminder that reports the death of this kind of songwriting has been greatly exagerrated, In fact judging by this, it's in rude health indeed. I'll drink to that!
Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Monday, October 25, 2021
We're all belately returning to the cinema and there are a number of proper ytreats beckoning us into the darkness. Todd Haynes ' Velvet Underground, much more than a documentary, a new Bond if that'syour thing, Dune, a Ridley Scott. Also The French Dispatch, the latest from Wes Anderson, certainly up there among my favourite directors of recent decades.
And to sountrack that. Jarvis Cocker, the most unlikely Parisian adoptee of all, singing a number of absolutely classic Gallic Pop songs of the Sixties in a truly terrible French O Level accent. It's a quite miraculous performance. He makes French sound like an unspeakable language.
What more could any fan of this kind of infantile ennui wish for. Not much, This, along with Elvis Costello & The Attractions Spanish Model and Tronco's spectral Nainonai is my fun album of the year. A place to retreat to when the travails of life become all a bit too much. That's rather often these days.
So Jarvis does Serge. He does Cristophe. He does Francoise Hardy and her grand amour Jacques Dutronc. He does it all admirably with his tongue in his cheek and his heart on his sleeve at one and the same time. Tres Bien! Jarvis. Tres Bien! J'irai voir le film plus tard dans la semaine.Merci Google Translate.
In a year of Post Punk wherever you looked. This was one of the finest albus to actually deserve that label:
Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs Present State of the Union - The American Dream in Crisis - # 25 The Brothers Four
Sunday, October 24, 2021
A record that reminded me of one of my best lifetime musical friends:
A terrific new record from a few weeks back that I've neglected to write about until now. Hey, there are a lot of really terrific new records coming out just now. This one particularly takes my fancy because its authors, Munich veterans The Notwist were particular favourites of one of my best friends, Matt, who died in very upsetting and vastly premature circumstances a couple of years back.
So while listening to The Notwist, and other particular musical favourites of Matt will always fill my chest with pain to some degree, I should really get over myself. This album,Vertigo Days, their umpteenth, (they've been putting out records for almost thirty years now), before I met Matt actually, is something that should be enjoyed and experienced. Because it's a wonderful record.
Nominally the start off point for The Notwist is certainly Krautrock. There are definitely echoes of Kraftwerk in particular here, the mysterious electronic chimes of machinery and motion. You're certainly in Europe here and Vertigo Days makes me realise how much I miss it. British musicians might be capable of imitating this but they couldn't ever make it. It has Mittleuropaisch DNA.
So Kraftwerk is here but Notwist deserve to be considered entirely on their own terms. They've been herelong enough. They're certainly good enough. They have the distinctive, specific genes of a great European band. Matt also loved so many of these. The Nits, Can, Deus, 22 Pisterpekko, Bettie Serveert. So many more.
There's a deeply nuanced sense of regret here, again something that most artists from other parts of the world simply cannot do and will never quite understand. There are some notable exceptions. Bowie, Iggy, Eno. An awareness of the Twentieth Century and the way the events of some of the terrible tragedies of those years drained the continent once and for all and somehow it will never, ever quite be the same.
Vertigo Days is by no means a difficult record to listen to though. In fact it's a very easy one. Matt would have loved it. Cheers Matt!
Saturday, October 23, 2021
It's been an interesting watching the Parquet Courts trip over the last ten years or so.When they really came good with blazing second album 2012's Light Up Gold, they seemed like a bunch who'd be content to stay on the ,margins in the shadow of their clear inspirational and guiding initial heroes Pavement, Sonic Youth, Mission of Burma and Guided by Voices.
Not so it seems. Every album since has seen them expanding their horizons, scope and ambitions further to an increasingly surprising and pleasing degree. Now with their latest record Sympathy for Life they seem nothing less than a twenty first century Talking Heads equivalent with a brilliant counter cultural, abrasive edge about them.
That'sTalking Heads things is a bold claim, but listen to the record. It's not necessarily an easy album to listen to as virtually every song here seems to set itself a quite different starting gate and end destination point. That's brave if nothing else. This makes it a record you'll need to get to know. Listen to a few times before you really get to know it and go with its different flows. Though I've instantly taken to it.
What seems clear is that the band are not content to behave as you might expect an alternative white guitar combo to behave and this is where the Talking Heads comparison seems apt. They're constantly looking to tease new funky directons for themselves. This puts them open to failure, as with disappointing recent records from the likes of Bon Iver and Tame Impala.
But I'd say on first listen to Sympathy for Life that it's a quite brilliant success. It might even have a good claim on being the best Parquet Courts record yet. That's not bad going for a band seven albums into their career.
This is a fabious, bold, inventive album. Perhaps coming too late in 2021 to get the full attention it deserves, it's nevertheless probably the best record of its sort that I've heard of this sort this year. Parquet Courts are properly firing on all cylinders.
Louisville, Kentucky's My Morning Jacket's eponynous new album takes a strange departure points. It is, it seems 1972. America's Horse with No Name is Number One in the Singles Charts.My Morning Jacket have just embarked on a cross country tour with Stillwater, the fictional namd from Almost Famous and all is very much right with that world.
There's nothing wrong with this approach and attitude to life. I like nothing better than sitting back on Saturday night to immerse myself in a well realised vision of the past, whether it be Withnail & I, Almost Famous or Dazed ^& Confused. Like them , I believe in yesterday.
My Morning Jacket is certainly a well realised vision of the past. Quite a triumphat one actually if that's your thing. Every solo is note perfect. Every lyrical croon spot on, hitting the missing link between Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Grateful Dead.
I really enjoyed listening through to this record although I did find myself wandering sometimes exactly why I was listening to it when I might have been listening to Zuma or American Beauty instead. Still, it's a set of beautifully registered songs of eternal yearning. Here's a band that very much know exactly what they want to do and My Morning Jacket fids them doing just that.