Friday, July 25, 2008


Escaping to the beach for a few weeks. No gigs, no internet, no blogging. And the point is?

Given the beach is in Wales and this is the Great British Summer, may be returning with trenchfoot.

Back soon.

The Barracudas
Drop Out With The Barracudas [BUY]

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I really don't like awards and award ceremonies. And I particularly despise music awards. So what to make of British Sea Power being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize? Sorry - the Nationwide Mercury Music Prize (so good they had to sponsor it twice?).

The full short list is here. For the last couple of years, when I have bothered to pay the Mercurys any attention at short-list stage, there's always been a moment when I got excited about someone on that list and thought "now THEY would be a worthy winner" - see The Go! Team in 2005, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan in 2006, The Young Knives in 2007 etc.

But nothing too interesting ever wins: the Mercurys (or any mainstream music awards) either appear to reward mediocrity and middle-of-the-road-ness (M People's 'Elegant Slumming' anyone?) or go for the 'popular-at-the-time-supposedly-alternative' option (Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys) .

Now wouldn't it be good to see this performed live at the awards ceremony as worthy winners?

Yes?! Well I don't think it is going to happen. There's some concern on the BSP forum that such awards = success = playing arenas = not being the band we loved in the first place. Well BSP are too interesting (read 'niche', 'cult') to play arenas or to win an award like this. And I don't think the short-list necessarily helps with acclaim, recognition or sales. What did it do for The Delgados and 'The Great Eastern' in 2000? Now THAT would have been a worthy winner ...

See what I mean?

Anyway to show my loyalty(?!) I think I will have a tenner on BSP at 12/1, publicly predict Laura Marling but fully accept that The Last Shadow Puppets have it sewn up.

Graham Parker & The Rumour
Squeezing out Sparks [BUY]

The Delgados
The Great Eastern [BUY]

Monday, July 14, 2008


Well three quick observations:
1. There's me posting yesterday about having no gig tickets booked for July and August but then managed to fit this gig in at short notice.
2. The Deaf Institute is now my new favourite venue.
3. This was a bloody brilliant night.

The Deaf Institute is (literally) the building that housed Manchester's Deaf and Dumb Institute. Rescued and renovated by the lovely people who run Trof in the Northern Quarter, it now has three floors: basement bar, ground floor bar and cafe, and first floor Music Hall. The latter is a large high ceiled room with a high stage at one end and a huge alcove opposite it that has tiered wooden pews inside. On the stage left there is a bar down one side and an exit to a rooftop terrace; stage right more seating and a glass and steel balcony. The late Victorian building has period wallpaper on every level but feels light, airy and the contemporary bars and lighting give it a warm, bohemian feel. And the Music Hall has a fabulous and rather large mirror ball. It all felt decadent and welcoming at the same time. And on this night the sound was great too.

First up were Walton Hesse who were new to me. A six piece who play country-rock in a Jayhawks/early Wilco-style; the male vocal lead was very Jeff Tweedy at times (this is a good thing). And despite the checked shirts and facial hair to give that authentic Americana look they are, apparently, "local". More dates coming up in Manchester in August - definitely worth seeing.

Following a short tour of the Deaf Institute's three floors to admire the decor, it was back for more drinks and The Voluntary Butler Scheme. Saw him last here and since then he has supported Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong and confused their Smash Hits (sic) teen audience expecting ROCK with his kazoo- and ukelele-accompanied songs. Floppy of fringe and casual of demeanour, Rob Jones ("a sportsman's name" hence the convoluted 'band' name) is a talented multi-instrumentalist who loops live samples (e.g. tapping back of ukelele or tambourine) to create rhythm tracks he then plays keyboard or guitar over. It's very inventive and great fun to watch but he's got the tunes to back it up too. He included a cover of The Foundation's Build Me Up Buttercup (played for a Radio 2 session recently because they wanted something 'appropriate') and I felt that most of his songs were better.

And then Sweet Baboo. I tend to avoid anything "hotly tipped" as preposterous hype. And it was interesting to note appearances in the relatively small crowd (of about 80?) of radio DJs Marc Riley and Stuart Maconie (sessions ahoy?) plus also poet Simon Armitage(?!). Now good though Sweet Baboo was, he just ain't going to be the huge star this suggests - he's just too plain odd for mass acceptance.

SB performs solo, seated, with only an acoustic guitar. But he is as much an acoustic singer-songwriter as Daniel Johnston is. Or as much a blues singer as Tom Waits. He spins surreal tales involving rabbits, girls, drugs and going to town, mostly at a sedate tempo. As self-deprecating as The Voluntary Butler Scheme between songs, he is also very funny in reflecting on his own short-comings. He confessed to only knowing two covers and played both: 'I'm A Tiger' by Lulu (must get a copy of the original!) and 'True Love Will Find You In The End' by Daniel Johnston. The latter was heart-stoppingly beautiful - particularly with the mirrorball throwing light across him, the room and the audience. He then finshed with a song called 'Jonathan Richman' (a duet for one!) and then 'Tom Waits Rip Off' (a radio session version of this is on his MurdochSpace site).

Three acts in a beautiful setting for £5 (or £3 if you are on the mailing list - here - and get on the Cheapo List). Bargain.

Accompanied tonight by Ms L, I asked her what she made of our two surreal solo performers: although she enjoyed both she did confess "I prefer a lot going on". And we'll leave it there.

The Voluntary Butler Scheme [BUY]

Daniel Johnston1990 [BUY]

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Well summer is here in the UK at least for one sunny day. But I find myself without any tickets in hand for gigs in July or August (or September for that matter).

And despite the exceptionally good time had here last year, unlikely I'll be getting to any festivals this summer either. So a pretty bleak prospect. And not due to plenty of good things on.
So to make up for this, I'll construct my ideal summer festival circuit. If I had the cash and the time and no other commitments. All on the boutique side and all programmed by people who love music.

TRUCK FESTIVAL 19 & 20 July Steventon, South Oxfordshire
The grandaddy of the festivals here at 10 years old but still doing well what it always has: putting on great music on a small-scale (5,000 capacity) supported by local suppliers and with profits going to local charities. The site is a working farm with bands performing on the back of trucks and in cow sheds.
As usual, we will not be making a full line-up announcement: TRUCK is about discovering your new favourite band, and rediscovering those resident eccentrics on the fringes, whilst chewing a burger from the Rotary Club or an ice cream from the Vicar, before buying a few pints from those cross-dressing bar staff!
We can announce that The Lemonheads will be headlining! their set will include a start-to-finish rendition of the classic LP 'It's A Shame About Ray'
The Lemonheads
It's A Shame About Ray [BUY]

The Television Personalities
My Dark Places [BUY]

Camera Obscura
Underachievers Please Try Harder [BUY]

INDIETRACKS 26 & 27 July Midland Railway, Butterly, Derbyshire
Well this is an indiepop festival. With indiepop. Lots of indiepop. Played on a train and in a station. If indiepop or trains are not your thing, avoid. However if they are ... plus there is lovely double CD available here from Make Do Or Mend Records: 45 songs for only £6 including postage. Bargain.
A Classic Education, Airport Girl, Allo, Darlin, Amida, Ballboy, The Bobby McGees, Brontosaurus Chorus, Cocoanut Groove, Colin Clary, The Colliding Lemons, Comet Gain, Darren Hayman, The Deirdres, Dirty Fingernails, Esiotrot, The Foster Kids, The Good Natured, Gregory Webster, Harvey Williams, Je Suis Animal, The Just Joans, The Kabeedies, KateGoes, The Kick Inside, Lardpony, Liechtenstein, Little Things, The Lodger, Los Campesinos!, The Mai 68s, The Manhattan Love Suicides, Marjit Vinjerui, Mexican Kids At Home, The Middle Ones, Milky Wimpshake, Mono Taxi, The Occasional Flickers, The Parallelograms, Pocketbooks, Punk TV, Red Pony Clock, The Retro Spankees, Roadside Poppies, Rory Hill, The Rosie Taylor Project, Shrag, Silence At Sea, Silverdrop, Slow Down Tallahassee, The Smittens, Socks & Shoes, Still Corners, The Starlets, St Christopher, Strawberry Story, Tortoise Shout!, TottieTown Bike, Voluntary Butler Scheme, Winston Echo, The Wave Pictures, The Wedding Present, The Zebras, Zoey Van Goey.

Los Campesinos!
Hold On Now ... Youngster [BUY]

Arts and Crafts EP [BUY]

The Just Joans
Hey Boy You're Oh So Sensitive EP [BUY]

OFF FESTIVAL 8 - 10 August Myslowice, Poland
A festival put together by musician Artur Rojek near his home town in Poland which blends local bands (Dick 4 Dick?! Kammerflimmer Kollektief?!) with some great alt-rock names. And very cheap tickets!
Mogwai, British Sea Power, Clinic, Of Montreal, Iron & Wine, Caribou, Hey, Izrael' 83, Leszek Możdżer z projektem Lutosphere, Waglewski Fisz Emade, Menomena, James Chance, Dat Politics, So So Modern, Singapore Sling, Kling Klang, Modified Toy Orchestra, Felix Kubin, Kammerflimmer Kollektief, Homo Twist, Budyń i Sprawcy Rzepaku, Dick 4 Dick, Lao Che, L.u.c & Rahim, Czesław Śpiewa, Kawałek Kulki, Transkapela, Afro Kolektyw, Baaba, Muchy, Reuber, Klangwart, Shofar, Karpaty Magiczne i The Band Of Endless Noise, The Poise Rite, Bajzel, Renton, Karol Schwarz All Stars, Plazmatikon, Polpo Motel, Jacaszek.

Visitations [BUY]

Iron & Wine

Our Endless Numbered Days [BUY]

Kling Klang
The Esthetik of Destruction [BUY]

END OF THE ROAD FESTIVAL 12 - 14 September, Larmer Tree Gardens, North Dorset
Well you get the well-known headliners (Mercury Rev, Low, Conor Oberst, Tindersticks) plus some of my personal favourites (BSP, The Wave Pictures, Darren Hayman, The Mountain Goats. And I could go on) but what made EOTR last year for me was discovering new and unfamiliar bands. In a great setting. With peacocks. And The Somerset Cider Bus. In addition to the published line-up below there's a couple of additions worth seeing in The Local: The Pictish Trail and The Singing Adams.
A Hawk And A Hacksaw, Absentee, The Accidental, The Acorn, Akron/Family, American Music Club, Angelo Spencer, Baby Dee, Billy Childish, Bob Log III, Bon Iver, Bowerbirds, Brakes, British Sea Power, Calexico, Cate Le Bon, Cats in Paris, Christopher Rees, Congregation, Clare and the Reasons, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Darren and Jack play Hefner songs, David Thomas Broughton, Dead Meadow, Devon Sproule, Dirty Three, El Guincho, FM Belfast, Friska Viljor, The Gentle Good, Gossamer Albatross, Hey Negrita, House of Brothers, Hush The Many, Jason Molina, Jeffrey Lewis, Kelley Stoltz, Kimya Dawson, Kurt Wagner (Lambchop), Laura Marling, Lets Wrestle, Liz Green, Lonely Ghosts, Low, Mercury Rev, Micah P Hinson, The Mountain Goats, Mumford And Sons, Noah And The Whale, Over the Wall, Pete And The Pirates, Peter And The Wolf, Pyramids, Revenge of Shinobi, Richard Hawley, Robyn Hitchcock, Screaming Tea Party, Seabear, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Sons of Noel and Adrian. Sun Kil Moon/Mark Kozelek, The Sylvias, Thinguma*JigSaw, Threatmantics, Tindersticks, Two Gallants, The Wave Pictures, Woodpigeon, Zombie Zombie

The Mountain Goats
Tallahassee [BUY]

The Ghost That Carried Us [BUY]

Kelley Stoltz
Circular Sounds [BUY]

And it's not quite a festival but special mention must be given to A Day At The Races on Saturday 2 August here in Manchester. Line up here and tickets here.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

FROM THE VINYL RACK ... "Mister Heartbreak" by Laurie Anderson

Well I've never worked in a record shop. And I will never own a record shop. But I do own a record shop rack to keep my vinyl in. (Mrs A can barely bring herself to mention its existence she thinks it is so tragic).

The vinyl that I still own is quite selective though. In the early 90s I sold out huge chunks of my record collection to 'upgrade' it CD. What I kept was what was important to me (The Smiths, Pixies, Pere Ubu) or to Mrs A (her Kent Northern Soul albums - more of this on a future occasion) or the stuff I wasn't sure I wanted to 'upgrade'. So I'm left with an odd selection of loved and overlooked - most of it, almost exclusively, from the 80s.

Part of my justification (not that it's needed) for having a rack is that it's easy to access this part of The Archive. Well hasn't happened much to date. But here's where I start digging out old favourites or unfortunate mistakes.

First up is Laurie Anderson's Mister Heartbreak - her second album from 1984.

Now Big Science is an essential purchase in my book; and I swiftly replaced my vinyl copies of this and Home of the Brave. But Mister Heartbreak languished in the 'vinyl-only' pile. I remembered an over-reliance of of-the-moment early 80s synthesisers and a really annoying duet with Peter Gabriel.

Well listening to it today, the duet with Gabriel I still find annoying but there is plenty to admire and enjoy. And I forgot what a fantastic collection of musicians are on the record (Nile Rodgers, Bill Laswell, Anton Fier, Adrian Belew). Here's what All Music says:

Probably the most pop-accessible of Laurie Anderson's recorded work, Mister Heartbreak features a number of stunning luminaries on the cutting edge of popular music at the time. Striking guitar work by
King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew permeates this disc — notably on "Sharkey's Day" — punchy and angular. The production and bass work from Bill Laswell is superb. Peter Gabriel — at the time still coming off the buzz of his departure from Genesis — is featured in a duet with Anderson on "Excellent Birds." There is a heavy reliance on early-'80s synthesizers which would normally be very off-putting, but here they are executed well. Nowhere does the music slip into irreparable '80s cliché; it is still an entertaining listen. Lyrics are typical of Anderson' work — complex, literate, provocative, difficult to fully comprehend. Haunting "Gravity's Angel" borrows imagery from Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Spoken word delivery on "Sharkey's Night" is given by the legendary William S. Burroughs. This is a very satisfying listen and a great intro for those unfamiliar with Anderson's work.

I'd still say start with Home of the Brave or Big Science ...

Laurie Anderson
Mister Hearbreak [BUY]

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Here's My Hello From Where The Filthy Flowers Grow

I first came across Thomas Function on the Obscure Sound blog and on the strength of hearing a couple of songs bought the album Celebration. It's great. As simple as that.

It's good sometimes to hear music without any prior knowledge/reference points/baggage. It turns out they (a four-piece band rather than a person) are from Alabama, signed to a label based in California, with an album recorded in Ohio at the legendary Suma studios. But that doesn't tell you about the music.

After a few listens I'm still hearing different bands, from different decades. There's some alt-roots-rock (Filthy Flowers could - almost - be Green on Red); there's stomping punky garage rock (Can't Say No), there's late 70s power-pop meets new wave (Swimming Through a Sea of Broken Glass) and in the yelping, nasal whine of vocalist Joshua Macero I hear both Violent Femmes AND the Buzzcocks at different times. So a refreshing breathe of old air. But still sounding fresh. Highly, highly recommended.

I think Can't Say No could be on a end of year compilation or two ...

Thomas Function
Celebration [BUY]