Saturday, April 30, 2022
Not much that made me prick up my ears in terms of new releases this Friday. So I went back instead. An article in the latest copy of Mojo led to me listen to the eponymous album from 1969 by British band Mighty Baby.
It's truly a time capsule to the time it was released. A rabbit hole to simpler days. Mighty Baby were previously working class North London Mods. But LSD and Pet Sounds led them off down a different path. To grow their hair and moustaches and take an Acid Folk route.
Inspired by The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Grateful Dead, Moby Grape and of their British contemporaries most obviously Fairport Convention, (and posssibly Traffic and Family), this is real Age of Aquarius stuff. Middle Earth. Not all to my taste, Mighty Baby is sometimes a bit too meandering and fond of freewheeling guitar solos for my liking.
Apparently turned on during a stay in Bognor Regis where they also opened up to Sufism, Islam and Buddism. There's very little of their Mod roots showing here. Tapping into Hippie interests; lay lines, the Occult and Stonehenge. Ther are too many influences at play hear to really gel, you can hear the formative seeds of Prog and early Seventies Metal here, but it remains an interesting listen.
Friday, April 29, 2022
Sarah-Beth Tomberlin's debut At Weddings was an instant delight and favourite as soon as I heard it on its release back in 2018. Tender and fragile songs with minimal instrumentation and production. The documentation of a difficult coming of age as a Baptist pastor's daughter in Illinois. Its simplicity was an essential and attractive part of its quality and strength.
Second album i don't know who needs to hear this... is built on similar straightforward qualities and is another immediate winner. She has a warm, emotive voice and her willingness to lay herself and her frailties and vulnerabilities bare is a rare one.
Honesty is a wonderful characteristic and this is another incredibly honest album. Comparisons with other female singer songwriters who write, play acoustic guitars and sing the songs they've written is superfluous and unecessary here as the best thing about i don't know who needs to hear this... is that its the sound of an artist becoming herself.
Thursday, April 28, 2022
My feelings, relationship and memories of the albums I've loved. is often specifically related to the format which I initially bought them in. My first and true loves, are ones I generally have in vinyl format. Bought from the early Eighties to the early Nineties or else in the last ten years. My CD phase, from about 1993 to 2010 where I made lesser connections and less deep loves before I was reunited with my record collection and bought another player.
Then there was my short lived cassette period 1994 to 1996 during a couple of phases where I lived in Warsaw. There were a couple of pirate stalls on Marzalkowska one of the main thoroughfares of the city, I bought a few that meant and still mean a lot to me. Nas's Illmatic, Radiohead's The Bends, and this, the first, and in my opinion by far the best album by Foo Fighters.
To place this within a context you need to be taken back to those times. The death of Kurt Cobain was incredibly tough to deal with for anybody who cared about him and Nirvana. It was one Rock star death that far transcended his immediate friend and family circle because of what the music he and Nirvana made had meant to so many.
So imgine what it must have been like for Dave Grohl, drummer of that band. He had joined Kurt and Krist Novolesic just before Nevermind was recorded and they launched themselves on that tidal wave that changed them and music once and for all.
It doesn't often happen and it had all appeared to be so much fun for a short while. Revenge of the meek, the freak and the geek. Whatever you want to call it. But that sense of pure joy didn't last for long. Kurt wasn't built to last and once he met Courtney and Nevermind was released and blew everything open, the trajectory was pretty much set. The die cast. He was gone a couple of short years later.
It must have been an utterly appalling experience for Grohl. Essentially an optimist to Kurt's essential pessimist. He wondered for a while apparently whether he ever wanted to make music again and no wonder.
Eventually he returned to the studio to lay down some tracks he'd written which he recorded and played himself, (playing pretty much every instrument you hear on the record) as a carthartic experience, a heartfelt but necessary process of trying to recover the joy.
It's still a wonderful listen, more than twenty five years on. The sound of Grohl's own poppy expression of his first great musical love. Minor Threat, Husker Du, Minutemen, Sonic Youth the sound of the Eighties American Underground realised in Pop sunlight.
The record has some light and shade. Last track Exhausted is the only one that seems directly related to Nirvana, expressing some of Kurt's eternally depressive undertow. Elsewhere Grohl is straining every sinew to surface and a lot of people who were hit hard by Kurt's loss would have been cheering him on.
I was one of those. This wasn't perhaps the best period of my life. I didn't have the most confidence in myself and experienced a nasty and painful break up during this time. I'm sure Foo Fighters helped me more than once during this time. It's an expression of recovery, pretty much more so than any rother album I can immediately call to mind.
Nothing Dave Grohl has done has touched me as much since. He's not one to lay himself bare easily and though Foo Fighters have made plenty of great Pop / Rock records since I've never been particularly drawn to listen to them. This is more than enough for me. It still sounds just great. Perhaps I need to hunt myself down a vinyl version to confirm my love.
Fletcher dutifully provides the required background Manchester detail. The Industrial revolution, The Peterloo Massacre, the Irish heritage of both Morrissey and Marr, the Kitchen Sink films which provided such a formative education, the Moors Murders which provided the background information for Suffer Little Children, one of their key songs.
Wednesday, April 27, 2022
The Smiths story if an oft told one by now. But as it says in the title here, it's an enduring one. In many ways, the independent band of the Eighties, their legacy is undeniable. A sister-in-law who understands my tastes bought this for me for Christmas and I'm making my way through it now, 25 pages a day.
Tony Fletcher, a workmanlike rather than flashy writer lays down his modus vivendi in the introduction, documenting the crucial meeting of Marr and Morrissey that afternoon in May 1982 at Morrissey's mother's house at 384 King's Road. A legendary moment, just as everything connected with the Smith's story came to be legendary. Marr, heading straight to Morrissey's record collection once invited upstairs choosing a Marvelettes record, and choosing crucially the B rather than the A Side.
I hear a lot of things that remind me of Eighties Pop production these days. That big, unashamed radio friendly sound which doesn't seem to have any electric guitars on it. Or if it does, they certainly don't sound like they did in the Sixties and Seventies. Madonna, Cindi Lauper, Thompson Twins, Tears For Fears Big Chair album.
The first track on CRY MFER, the new album from My Idea, a collaboration between Lily Konigsberg and Nate Foster sounds like this but it's slightly deceptive. There are guitars which sound like guitars elsewhere on the record. But mostly its a big synthetic Pop Record.
I don't generally like big synthetic Pop Records but this is OK. I don't care for it as much as I have for some things Konigsberg has been involved with; Palberta for instance or her most recent solo album. She's definitely one to keep an eye on.
Tuesday, April 26, 2022
Monday, April 25, 2022
Kristen Hersh is an artist I have slightly mxed feeling about. I was very struck by the first Throwing Music album when it came out in 1986 and played it loads. I'm not sure I've bought a record she plays on since, possibly her solo career highlight Hips & Makers.
The reasons for this slight ambivalence of mine towards Hersh's work are all over her latest release, Black Pearl the latest album from one of her projects Rock trio 50 Foot Wave.
They've put out seven albums in all since 2004 though I haven't really been aware of them since listening to their latest Black Pearl the other day.
It's trademark Hersh right from the off. Gothic melodrama. Spiralling, freeform guitars. Harpie, asylum bound shrieking Hersh vocals. Straightjacket indie. Hersh's long term issues with schizophrenia have been well documented, most of all by herself since Throwing Muses' earliest days and her records have always throbbed with unease, pain and anger.
My reaction was much the same as my reaction to most of the records she's associated with. Black Pearl is perfectly competent without really having a single song that really strikes home. Once more I think I'll be leaving it to her devotees.
Sunday, April 24, 2022
Fontaines D.C. continue to pave their own singular path on third album Skinty Fia,just out. They're the most significant and interesting of this new wave of angry young Irish men and women that's been gathering and building these last few years and though a lot of these bands and artists sound not disimilar to FDC, none of them quite have their focus, scope or power.
I took to Skinty Fia on first listen, which slightly surprised me as sometimes Fontaines records take a while to get under my skin. Writing this blog on a daily basis means that I'm not able to revisit records I review much, so I haven't been back to their first two as much as I could have and as much as I might have since giving them my initial stamp of approval,
Still, there's evident evidence of growth and change which is all you can really ask of any young bans. This is particularly good to witness as the base of their actual sound has aways been a fairly basic one. Predicated on the most basic Punk sounds, they remind me of Stiff Little Fingers more than any of those bands and SLF never painted the most sophisticated canvas.
The FDC sound is pretty much the same now as when they first set off ,but they do different things with it, are more adept in terms of sonic build and deciding when and where to land their big punches. So what we have here is a fairly glum, (they're all rather glum due to the vocal delivery, which doesn't have enormous range), literate and highly politicised rock songs whose roots are always embedded somewhere between 1977 and 1981.
Given that pretty narrow basicmusical horizon, they're doing incredibly well to maintain such an interesting, continually rising trajectory. Skinty Fia strikes me as their third highly successful album out of three and that's no mean strike record.
Saturday, April 23, 2022
Friday, April 22, 2022
Spiritualised are back with a new album Everything Was Beautiful their first since 2018. This is by no means a necessary record. They, more than anyone I can think of immediately are the example of a band who worked towards discovering a formula that worked for them and then repeated it with minor refinement thereafter.
This is by no means a criticism. They remain very, very good at what they do. Devotees of the band will be completely satisfied with htis. It does what you want them to do. A chilled, refined hymn of praise to one track really and the sentiments and sensibilities behind it.
That track pf course is Heroin by The Velvet Underground. But Everything Was Beautiful also ticks the other Spiritualised staples. Iggy, Stones, (Country Stones this time round on), Gospel, Rock & Roll, Spacy Jazz, euphoric ecstasy, being strung out and elegantly wasted, a British tradition of vaguely arisocratic or certainly well heeled decadence and self-indulgence going way back in time to the days of Lord Chatterton.
Seen on these terms, this is a very, very good record indeed. Jason Pierce, who has always been the guiding hand at Spiritualised wheel is a master at what he does and he does it again. I find it difficult to place within their canon not having listened to all of them and haing no intention to. It's another fine record in their tradition of fine records. It's also nice to hear them a bit happier with their lot for once They seem in pretty rude health in every respect imaginable.
There's a new Stereophonics album out. It is called Oochya! It won't get that much attention. No one has been waiting for a new Stereophonics album. Except perhaps for Sterophonics fans. It sounds exactly, but exactly like old Stereophonics records. Never mind. I'm at a loose end. I'll review it here.
Originally a trio, formed in their hometown Cwmamon in Wales in 1992, they broke big at the end of the decade. Their sound is best described as the 'Meat & Potatoes' one that Oasis created an enormous market space for. Never really my thing but it defined a place and time. Certainly the UK from about 1997 until 2000 until The Strokes turned up with a slightly more promising vision for young bands playing guitars.At least to my ears.
Stereophonics kept shifting records for a few more years after this. They had a pretty good run all told. They sold over ten million during their long career. They have their own tale of tragedy, Original drummer Stuart Cable died a few years after being sacked from the band in 2010, in very sad circumstances which left scars that will surely last forever for Kelly and Richard Jones, (original bassist, no relation).
Nothing the band has ever done has excited me hugely and the same goes for Oochya! It's still meat and potatoe fare. Clearly heartfelt and competent. Jones has always had a good voice and that's still the case. There's a touching track on here, (Right Place, Right Time) where Jones tells the band's story in slightly cliched terms and pays tribute to the love of his life and clearly put him back on the rails when he was in danger of coming off them once and for all.
Apart from that, it's another Stereophonics record, sounding first and foremost like a Stereophonics album, which is probably exactly what their fans want. I'm not going to knock it even though I have no intention of ever listening to the record again.
Thursday, April 21, 2022
Mark Lohmann who works as Moon Moon Moon comes from a familiar place. Latest album Silly Symphonies, is a set of field recordings which come across as bed time stories for disconcerted children, the sound of a cosy suburban family house being put to bed late at night.
With song titles names taken from Thirties Disney horts, this is bedroom folk a set of npcturnal narratives of warmth and love. Musically I was reminded of some kind of holy union between Sufjan Stevens and Belle & Sebastian, comparison points which should give you a sense of the sense of melody and wonder at play here.
An altogether lovely collection of songs. The melodic similarities to other artists and in the case of Sufjan, evident stylistic debt, is sufficiently evident to ensure that Silly Symphonies, falls short of classic status. I've heard this before essentially , but its an altogether lovely listen nonetheless.
Wednesday, April 20, 2022
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
Colchester's finest and certainly youngest band of note. It's great to see any British band who give off different immediate vibes from Gang of Four and The Fall these days and Anorak Patch certainly do and very exciting ones judging by the songs being I'm posting here.
Sounding like some exciting hybrid between Goat Girl, Throwing Muses and unusually to me. This certainly makes me want to hear more. Apparently already getting attention from 6 Music and for once it's merited.
Monday, April 18, 2022