Saturday, February 23, 2008


Last week Jim Jones died of a heart attack at the age of 57 after many years of illness. Jim was guitarist with Pere Ubu, Home and Garden and many other Cleveland bands. I didn't know him, never met him and probably only saw him play once (Worlds in Collision tour 1993, London Marquee) but I feel strangely saddened at his death.

Read about his impact on the Cleveland scene and other musicians here. David Thomas of Pere Ubu is strongly against unauthorised posting of their material (see here) but I hope he doesnt't mind the following as a tribute to Jim.

Home and Garden
History and Geography [BUY]

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"And now I get my fortunes told for free"

I've just started listening to the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss album "Raising Sand". It isn't bluegrass. And it isn't blues-rock. More like desert balladry. It reminds me a lot of Howe Gelb and Lisa Germano on the OP8 "Slush" album from 1997. It's only my first listen or so to Plant & Krauss but I'm not sure it will find a permanent place in the Archive.

But one song did stand out: their cover of the Allen Toussaint song "Fortune Teller".

Now I don't believe in seasonal postings. But let's make an exception and link this to Valentine's Day.

Several years ago now Mrs A and myself walked down the aisle after tying the knot to Benny Spellman singing "Fortune Teller". It was a register office naturally with us being atheists - and we don't have "our song" but this song was just too perfect not to be played. There are several versions about (notably The Who on Live From Leeds 1974) but nothing has topped the original Benny Spellman one to my mind. But the Plant & Krauss does come close.

So Happy Valentines Day Mrs A. I know it's only a blog post. But it's more than you got last year.

Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Raising Sand[BUY]

Benny Spellman
Fortune Teller [BUY]

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


One thing that is great about Brakes is hearing four musicians play short, sharp, fast and loud songs. With electrical instruments and amplification. So how was this going to work acoustically?

OK so obviously the electrical instruments, band and loudness were missing but what came through - mostly - was the quality of some of the songs. Given the brevity of some of Brakes songs (first single Pick Up The Phone clocked in at a mighty 24 seconds), it can be easy to dismiss them as a novelty. But listening to the songs played and sung by Eamon with just an acoustic guitar showed there is more to the songs than either noise or speed. The ones that worked tended to be the slowies and the "heartbreakers" (in Eamon's words) such as No Return or Fell In Love With A Girl. But even Spring Chicken and Heard About Your Band felt fresh, even lively, delivered acoustically. Some didn't fare so well including All Nite Disco Party despite audience participation (but to my mind this is their novelty song).

First time in Ruby Lounge. It is doesn't live up to the owner's own hype (see here). Worked well for three solo(ish) peformers and given small attendance (I reckon there was only 40-50 in) but would hate to see a band with a capacity crowd of 350 in. It's basically a spacious basement bar with a small, wide but shallow stage in one corner. The area immediately in front of the stage has two great supporting columns. So I guess you're OK if front and centre but further back or to the side could be a nightmare.

But I'm being picky. Great night despite low attendance. Three acts for £7 (shame about the exorbitant fees from See Tickets). First support was John Fairhurst. Played acoustic guitar and occasionally sang, accompanied by harmonica/spoons and bongos/tablas. Mixture of John Fahey-esque, almost trippy instrumentals and bluesy drawls. Couldn't help but imagine him being big on the festival circuit playing late night in a tent in the middle of nowhere.

Second support was The Voluntary Butler Scheme who had been playing with Eamon on several of these dates. VBS is one man - Rob Jones - with a very big fringe. Difficult to see his face through much of the playing because of his hair but also he moved between instruments fairly rapidly and had to concentrate fairly hard on this. For some songs he looped some percussion or guitar chords and then played guitar or keyboards over this. On one song he played kazoo and ukelele at the same time whilst beating a rhythm with his foot on a bass drum. Impressive stuff but the songs were pretty good too. Don't think anything has been officially released but bought the Tomatoes, Peppers, Garlic & Mushrooms CD-R 4 song EP of him at the end. It comes in a limited edition, hand-printed paper bag:

Songs reminded me of the playfulness of Aidan Smith, mixed with the bedroom romanticism of say Babybird or Momus (but not as artful). One to watch as they say.

Eamon's set:

Spring Chicken
Ring A Ding Ding
If I Should Die Tonight
"Don't Take Away My Space Man" (new song)
Heard About Your Band
You're So Pretty
No Return
Beatific Visions
Pick Up The Phone
Cheney (three times)
"Thought, Thought Until It Had Been Thunk" (new song)
Fell In Love With A Girl
On Your Side
All Nite Disco Party
Hold Me In The River
What's In It For Me?
"Consumer Producer Chicken Egg" (new song)
Porcupine or Pineapple
NY Pie
Comma Comma Comma Fullstop
Take A Whiff Of Me (Leadbelly song)

The Beatific Visions [BUY]

The Voluntary Butler Scheme
Tomatoes, Peppers, Garlic & Mushrooms EP [BUY]

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


First time I've ever had ticket number one? Pete & The Pirates played The Roadhouse tonight as part of UK tour in advance of their album coming out on 18 February. Having seen them at the End of The Road Festival and being very impressed (see here) hopes were high for tonight's gig in Manchester.

But probably the shortest set I've ever heard from a headlining band. It was good - don't get me wrong - but woefully too short. The new album is about 35 minutes long - and I think the set was shorter. Surely not right? And only one crappy photo because camera phone decided to have a hissy fit.

Early part of set was quite quiet (band and crowd) but definitely picked up. They've got some great songs (see all their singles). I've been struggling to think of a comparison band - always a mistake. The nearest I can get is The Undertones: nervy, clattery guitars; strong melodies but equally strong punkishness; very short; all about girls. But very English.

I thought the audience were really passive (surprisingly so) but maybe lack of familiarlity with the material? Appreciative but subdued. The band did get more into their stride but was over before they started - and no encores. All done by 10 pm - a good 30 minutes before the club night that was meant to be the reason for the 10.30pm curfew.

So next time: more of the same but longer.

The one that was written in Manchester apparently...
Pete & the Pirates
Little Death [pre-order]

Friday, February 01, 2008


This was a competition winners-only event at BBC Radio Merseyside's performance space. Well the performance space was more like an office foyer with bright lighting with some amps and musical instruments shoved at one end. The lack of an obvious stage, the harsh lighting and no bar meant that most people (about 50 or 60 or so in attendance) were milling around until someone (a BBC Radio Merseyside DJ) introduced Clinic playing their first hometown gig in over 10 years. Clinic entered in the usual surgeon's masks, olive green North Korean-leader-style suits plus mop-top wigs. They played a no-nonsense, tight 45 minute set with five new songs including FREE NOT FREE which is available to download free today.

There might not have been much atmosphere due to the 'venue' but it was an impressive performance with the new songs fitting in well with classics like Cement Mixer and The Second Line. Great appetiser for the April UK tour (dates here).
This was the set-list:
Walking With Thee [BUY]

First single (available free from from new album DO IT (due 8 April)