Friday, October 29, 2010


The biog of Dylan Baldi (aka Cloud Nothings) on extends to all of seven words: “18 years young. Pop music. Cleveland OH”. Succintly accurate if somewhat lacking in colour or expansive detail.

Cloud Nothings plays lo-fi basement pop - his parents’ basement to be exact. There is plenty of this stuff about and a brief disinterested listen might not immediately hook you into Cloud Nothings - like the above slim and uninformative biog perhaps? However perseverance is recommended.

What you will find is not unlike Wavves – taut, frazzled, two-minute guitar workouts but shorn of the abrasive distortion (mostly), the overdriven volume and the beach references. Cloud Nothings still does noisy – the vampire-heroin-addict tale of ‘I Am Rooftop’ is closer to the heavy and unhinged garage-rock of Times New Viking – but where he succeeds best is those moments where sonic clarity is not overly sacrificed and when the pop hooks shine through. Opening pair ‘Can’t Stay Awake’ and ‘Old Street’ are firmly in this camp - punkish energy counterpointed by college-rock melodies. Elsewhere the vocals maybe be murmured on ‘You Are Opening’ but the catchy bassline intro is pristine and soulful. ‘Turning On’ repeats the trick – lightly brushed drums and bass are crystal clear, the guitar and voice over this only gently distorted and the whole has a woozy sunshine rise-and-fall. ‘Hey Cool Kids’ muddies things up again but possesses just the right amount of lip-curl slacker-disdain to win over. And ‘Morgan’ is racing power-pop as jumbled lyrics and frantic guitar try to outpace each other, only pausing for the occasional surreal spoken word intervention (“Arthur Conan Doyle”?).

"Turning On" is a hugely likeable fizzying ball of energy - but not consistently so. Its flaws are exposed by its origins: it is a compilation of an EP, a single and some cassette-only releases, all the product of a prolific twelve month outpouring. So listening I want to break it back down into its constituent parts and cherish the brief rush of a vinyl single or enjoy the tape hiss setting as a Cloud Nothings song leaps out of a mixtape. Sometimes the sum is not greater than the parts.

Not necessarily a cohesive whole, there are still plenty more hits than misses here, a healthy sprinking of infectious scuzz-pop gems. And Baldi is already recording his first album proper due early next year. If can translate the momentum he has generated thus far on individual songs and singles into a full-length format, now that could be an album that really turns heads.

Cloud Nothings is touring the UK in a double header with Scottish indie-poppers Veronica Falls. A clever pairing and well worth heading out to Brighton, Bristol, Sheffield, Glasgow and Edinburgh to catch. The Manchester date is 9 November at the Deaf Institute. Further UK dates for Cloud Nothings supporting Les Savy Fav are here.

Clound Nothings - Turning On by FollyOfYouth

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

TONIGHT IN MANCHESTER: The Climbers, The Mariner's Children + Tristram

The front cover of the debut album from The Climbers features a paper boat. Such a flimsy construction doesn’t feel an appropriate vessel for an ever-expanding band that features members of The Leisure Society, The Sons of Noel and Adrian, The Miserable Rich, Shoreline and more.

Are they an off-shoot of the alt-folk Wilkommen Records or maybe its essence? It’s difficult to call. With three different lead vocalists and such a large number of players (22 in the studio) there are many textures and moods to their orch-folk-pop which ably sums up many of the acts of that Brighton-based label. Tonight The Climbers make their Manchester debut at Chorlton’s folk-bar Dulcimer.

If a Wilkommen supergroup wasn’t enough alt-folk or performers to fit on the small Dulcimer stage also on the bill is the stirring folk-rock of seven-piece The Mariner’s Children and the London four-piece Tristram – the latter recently described by The Guardian as “Mumford meets Mogwai”. A brief listen reassures that this is far better than it sounds on paper.

Tonight is a Hey Manchester promotion and advance tickets are just £6. Doors 7.30pm

The Climbers
The Good Ship [BUY]

Saturday, October 23, 2010


With a name as flowery and cryptic as The Maladies of Bellafontaine you’d expect a good back-story: “a coquettish little Welsh girl and her swarthy Spanish lover rustled up a blueprint to provide a solution to the world’s insipid musical malaise…[assisted by] a quintet of tousled troubadours”. If the name sounds overblown and possibly riddled with a wasting disease, their music isn’t. The seven-piece play a whimsical, and gently psychedelic folk music that sounds as though it has sprung to life in the mystical Welsh Hills rather than the more prosaic and post-industrial setting of Wigan, their current base.

The debut single from the band has just been released on Static Caravan. It’s available as digital download or on 7” purple vinyl limited to 400 copies - and 50 of these have already gone at one gig supporting Erland and the Carnival. The two songs - ‘Black Biro’ and ‘Long Socks’- are nostalgically imbued with childhood pastimes and preoccupations (“black biro, black biro be my to me”) but are not as wholly innocent or playful as they appear from the titles alone.

There is a gleeful hop and skip rhythm to ‘Black Biro’ with its skittering folk loops and warm organ-fuzz glow but also Rachel Pascoe’s cooing vocals, although wistfully beguiling, have a not-so-innocent and slightly eerie quality to them. Despite the folksy floating feel, there is a dark background hum that recalls early Broadcast gone all pastoral.

‘Long Socks’ appears to be about the September return to school with days shortening and “all the leaves are turning to brown”. Its chorus (“black kitten shoes and long socks”) is gloriously sensuous. However the verses are spookier – quivering clarinet gives the song a curious Eastern vibe, the overall tone is dark and autumnal and it all ends in a skronky folk freak-out of squealing instruments.

Static Caravan seems the perfect home for The Maladies of Bellafontaine - joining fellow purveyors of experimental folk like David Thomas Broughton, Tunng and Hannah Peel. A label of musicians that cannot be defined by a simple tag like ‘folk’ or even ‘alt-folk’ but by the truly individualistic sounds and quirks of the bands and players themselves. A highly recommended single - bring on the album soon I say.

The Maladies of Bellafontaine Black Biro [BUY or BUY]

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Since the early 90s Melt Banana having been bashing out their ultra-fast noise-rock, across six (or is it seven?) studio albums, several live and compilation discs and something like twenty-three EPs. Blending distorted guitars, layered effects and electronics and ear-piercing vocals, this is hardcore music in every sense – but with a keen sense of rock ‘n’ roll dynamics and a healthy dose of playful mischief.

Anarcho-punk rockers The Ex formed in the Netherlands in 1979. However they’ve spiralled way beyond this narrow description over the years throwing horns, free jazz and East European and African rhythms into the uncompromising and fertile mix.

Both bands are rabid collaborators, restless experimenters and with fearsome live reputations. They may have been playing for nearly fifty years between them but tonight’s concert is not about cosy retrospectives or playing it safe. Instead the newly re-opened Islington Mill will plays host to a night celebrating the loud and the unpredictable. See this great review from Brussels 2005 for more of what to expect from Melt Banana.

Tonight is a Pineapple Folk promotion. Support is from Jackdaw with Crowbar and Pocketknife and advance tickets are just £10.

Tonight is also the Manchester Blog Awards at The Deaf Institute. And I find myself in the curious position of having been nominated.

Celebrating gigs like this or music I feel passionate about is part of the reason for writing here but I regard it as a throwaway distraction, little more than a folly. So the recognition is flattering but I’m a bit embarrassed by it too. The awards will be held at The Deaf Institute with readings from author Chris Killen and DJing from James ‘Yer Mam!‘ Morton and Matthew ‘The Pigeon Post‘ Britton.

I’m still working out whether to attend the awards ceremony or to go and see Melt Banana. I’ll let you know which I do – and the awards results in the comments. In the meantime, if you voted for any of the nominees – thank you for taking the time and this is for you.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

THE PHANTOM BAND "The Wants" + UK Tour Dates

If you’ve been eagerly waiting for the second The Phantom Band album, like me you may have been wondering how it will compare to their exceptional 2009 debut “Checkmate Savage”. That record was Album of the Year for Piccadilly Records and high in many other end of year charts (number four for me). Recording of the follow-up started earlier in 2010 so when I saw The Phantom Band play in May this year I was surprised not to hear a single new song in that set. This only piqued my interest and increased my anxiety about the new record.

So “The Wants” is here (out this week). And is it “Checkmate Savage 2”? Initial comparisons are favourable: both albums are nine songs long; both open with a song 6 minutes and 25 seconds long and have another song clocking in at over 8 minutes; and both records were recorded at Glasgow's Chem 19 studio. So far, so good. Most importantly: it sounds like The Phantom Band. But of course – what was I thinking – it isn’t CS2. It is its own record.

I cannot think of a better summation of the PB sound than keyboard player Andy Wake’s pronouncement: “The Phantom Band was built on the site of an ancient Indian burial ground”. And the elements that made that burial ground sound ring out on “Checkmate Savage” are all present and correct on “The Wants”.

Less hard-edged and motorik than on its predecessor, “The Wants” continues the tradition of building up compelling and inventive rhythms with multiple, contrasting instruments and voices. And if the spirit of Captain Beefheart and Neu hovered in the wings on CS maybe here there’s a touch of funkmeister George Clinton or even new pretenders MGMT in the occasional softer rhythms and squelchy synth pulses? Again this being The Phantom Band these are only the faintest of traces – don’t go expecting “Maggot Brain”.

And all good burial rituals need their chants. Rick Anthony’s dark midnight incantations are still in place for ‘A Glamour’ or ‘Into The Corn’ but elsewhere his singing softens to include the cosy folk harmonies of acoustic ditty ‘Come Away In The Dark’ or the sweet, soulful strains over banjo and echoing piano of the intro to ‘The None of One’ (later on the songs sidesteps to another place altogether). And the dark forests of “Checkmate Savage” with their swamps, wolves, tooth and bone have become lighter woodland glade – birch, willow tree, stone and natural flame.

But the real power of The Phantom Band present on these two records is the act of alchemy. Take any elements of their music apart and it doesn’t make sense. Put them together and it’s a potent, magical brew. Their dark art is to make a sound that hints at many others but is so strongly their own that any form of comparison is left wanting. And on “The Wants”, they have pulled off a further trick: a record that sounds like their debut, and has all the components that made that such an extraordinary record, but is no mere carbon copy. Silly me for wanting CS2 when all along I wanted “The Wants”.

If you loved “Checkmate Savage” don’t delay in getting this (you probably already have it). If you’re new to the band, come join us at the burial ground.

Into The Corn - The Phantom Band by FollyOfYouth

The Phantom Band The Wants [BUY or BUY]

Following an appearance at CMJ Festival in New York and their first ever North American tour, The Phantom Band are back in the UK in November for just five dates:

17 Nov The Deaf Institute Manchester [BUY TICKETS]
18 Nov Queen of Hoxton London [BUY TICKETS]
19 Nov Brudenell Social Club Leeds [BUY TICKETS]
20 Nov Durham Live Durham [BUY TICKETS]
21 Nov Oran Mor Glasgow [BUY TICKETS]

Saturday, October 16, 2010

IN THE CITY 2010: Thursday 14 October 2010

Klaus had only three CDs to sell at the end of his set at this Fantastic Artists showcase at Night & Day. That’s all he could hand-write following a late night label-printer failure. This out-of-luck tale matched his songs: sob stories of cold winters, sleeping lovers and lifelong master-plans. Despite the despondency this suggests they are all delivered in richly warm tones – just deep voice and (borrowed) electric guitar. On this showing he should avoid joke-telling and stick to his barefooted and impish indieboy version of a more polished singer-songwriter.

Several of the songs from The Wobetides started as slow measured chanting over drum machine before bursting into noisy post-punk guitars and feisty live drumming. Initially this impressed but with what felt like brutally loud sound for such an early show and a creeping predictability, I was left feeling more ambivalent at the end of the set.

Napoleon IIIrd’s short set opened with loud crunchy guitar over looped samples and some animated drumming. Following songs had less guitar and slowed things down a bit but were still highly engaging even when he disappeared behind his Mac or crouched on the floor adjusting effects pedals. At least that’s what I think he was doing. Less raucous and less lo-fi than I expected – here he came across more like fuzzy-edged Caribou gone all hobo.

And a late running schedule meant that I once again had to miss out on seeing My First Tooth live. One day, one day. Instead I will just have to get on with ordering their debut album out this Monday.

After a break I re-entered the ITC fray only to spent a good thirty minutes watching sound-checks or arriving late, joining queues or being shut out completely. For Chad Valley at Soup Kitchen there wasn’t even room on the pavement outside to peer through the window.

So I took a flyer on Holden at Umbro Design Studio. The Edinburgh-London four-piece play a rough-edged roots-rock. There’s an occasional hint of Americana but their songs about freedom and escape remain distinctly downbeat and rousingly British. Sadly the mandolin promised in the programme did not appear.

At An Outlet whilst waiting for Golden Glow to set up The Pains of Being Pure At Heart were playing over the PA. How apt because Golden Glow deliver an excellent appropriation of their Brooklyn brand of classic indie-jangle, albeit all-male, slightly downcast and with a distinctly Mancunian streak. And Mancunian accent too – when Pierre Hall introduced one song I thought he’d called it ‘Bugs’ until I realised it was ‘Books’. And there was much more than jangle on offer - they finished with a song mixing sixties acoustic psychedelia with bursts of white-noise guitar. Excellent stuff. This was my first live encounter with them – and most definitely will not be the last.

The upstairs room at Gulliver’s, yet another refurbished Northern Quarter pub, is impressive. A spacious rectangular carpeted room, the high ceiling retains some original Edwardian features but the black painted walls are more starkly functional. One entire side wall had been stickered with black and white photos of bands from the last four decades. Without being deliberately scuzzy or decayed it still felt rock ‘n’ roll. And for once a late running programme was working in my favour. I arrived expecting to see the second half of Exlovers to find the band before them still on stage.

When Exlovers took to the stage they didn’t look too happy – but this could just be their stage demeanour. The London-based five-piece play a sombre indie-rock both dreamy and a touch noir at the same time – lush boy/girl vocals overly gently discordant guitars. They had to battle feedback and chatty Egyptian Hip Hop fans but I really warmed to their sweetly detached sounds. Another band to track down live again.

And on back outside on the pavement last night’s young hopefuls had set up and were playing again. Oh go on give them a plug for their persistent efforts – it was Shoshin.

The scale and inevitable stage clashes of In The City can be frustrating. But the broad selection of bands matched with the intimate Northern Quarter venues is a winner. And what really struck me about this year’s In The City was how good the many upgraded or refurbished venues looked and worked out. I only got to parts of two out of the three days and still managed to see fifteen bands. Next year need to make sure I have the stamina for all three days.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

IN THE CITY 2010: Wednesday 13 October

First lesson at In The City was learnt the hard way: don’t expect to waltz in at the advertised time for the band and expect to be able see. Kicking off the three nights of gigs across 17 venues in Manchester’s Northern Quarter was Advances in Mathematics. However seeing here wasn’t a problem – the band were fairly immobile but their music wasn’t: sublime instrumental post-rock that shimmered around a packed Common Bar. It ably competed head-on with early doors bar banter (after work drinking rather than ITC delegates I suspect) but as the band upped volume with great rolling drum fills they effectively neutralised it. One song mid-set with guest vocalist broke the post-rock pattern – but in some ways an unwelcome distraction as the pattern had in a short time become so entrancing.

Under atmospheric lighting, the wood panelling in the freshly refurbished back room of The Castle took on the qualities of plush velvet. The small room felt as peaceful and spiritual as a chapel. What better setting for the brooding melancholy of Christopher Eatough accompanied here by violinist Clare? Six quiet acoustic songs of loss and despair but for all their fragility there’s a tough resilience – not quite hope – in Eatough’s singing and playing. “Never will the Castle have sounded so forlorn” he’d said prior to this performance – and forlorn has rarely sounded this beautiful.

Drinks in the front bar brought a salutary reminder of Lesson Number One. Returning to try and see Young British Artists was pointless – you couldn’t even get into the corridor let alone the room.

So passing the entrepreneurial band setting up their kit out on the street near Night and Day, I headed for the Soup Kitchen to see Big Deal - lured by the Mazzy Star reference in the Live Guide listings.

Sound-checking immediately before performing with a crowd staring on might not put any band at their ease. But Big Deal seemed to find it particularly intimidating. A boy/girl duo (him on acoustic, her on Fender Telecaster) they successfully negotiated the crackly interference in the first song but never seemed to be completely at ease despite the tranquil setting. Not having the sultry confidence of Mazzy Star and remaining tentative throughout, they still impressed with sweet, fragile melodies that peaked in (relatively) intense strummed finales with woozy shared harmonies.

The Milk playing in the refurbished basement at Dry Bar didn’t live up to the promise of energetic movement in any sense. The four piece played a generic and - yes energetic - bar-room blues-rock that did have a swing to it, and refreshingly no swagger, but not much else beyond that. It was not what I was looking for from In The City.

Next headed to Band on the Wall to see Dry The River but with a late-running bill actually caught the last couple of songs from The Steals. The name suggests an identikit indie-rock band from the mid noughties - instead The Steals play an intense psyche-folk-rock based on the couple I heard. The barefoot female lead singer with long Pre-Raphaelite hair suggested a decades earlier period of folk but the intense drones gave it a much more contemporary feel. Like Big Deal, another band to check out properly at a later date.

This is the third time I’ve seen Brown Brogues and they already feel like familiar old friends. Familiar but utterly reliable in delivering thrillingly visceral primitive garage-rock. “Hello” said Mark Brown Brogue, “we’re No Age.” Ah the cruelties of festival schedules. Given their growing local reputation it could be forgiven for locals to seek other entertainment – but this first of three daily performances deserved more visiting ITC delegates. Two more days to catch up.

Next in Mint Lounge was a full-band show for much-blogged American wunderkind Oberhofer. I expected something more leftfield or an unfinished idiot savant rawness from the four piece. Instead Oberhofer came across like a more intense Vampire Weekend or a souped-up The Drums. They had an edge both those bands lack but I suspect full adoration – of the music and his pretty-boy good looks - lies in pages of NME rather than here.

So a good balance of Manchester and visiting bands from day one. And in the appreciation stakes, the locals definitely had the upper hand so far.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Despite the economic climate and swingeing public service cuts about to be introduced by the Coalition it seems that annual music industry jamboree In The City is unaffected and undaunted. Witness the 128 page A6 glossy full colour guide - hardly says ‘austerity measure’ does it? If these beauties have all gone you’ll have to make do with the obligatory iPhone app or if you have a mobile that has the functionality of an Early Learning Centre plaything like me, there’s always the downloadable pdf.

And once you downloaded your app or opened the guide, you will understand good planning is essential. As well as the higher profile headlining acts and thirty-strong unsigned bands in seventeen different venues across the main three days of the conference proper there are a myriad of fringe events and showcases which stretch over Saturday and Sunday too.

The joy of In The City is making your own discoveries and your own mistakes. But for the truly lazy you could do worse than the following suggested timetables of ten bands for each day. These ain’t predictions of The Next Big Thing – but a jumbled miscellany of what I know is good and what I like the sound of, all with a strong local bias. You should also have a listen to In The City’s Soundcloud pages and hop over to The Pigeon Post for proper good band advice.

Wednesday 13 October

6.30 Advances in Mathematics [listen, watch]
7.10 Christopher Eatough [listen, watch]
8.00 Brasstronaut [listen, watch]
8.00 Young British Artists [listen, watch]
8.20 Mazes [listen, watch]
8.50 Dog Is Dead [listen, watch]
9.40 Oh No Ono [listen, watch]
10.10 Dry The River [listen, watch]
10.40 Brown Brogues [listen, watch]
11.20 Oberhofer [listen, watch]

Thursday 14 October

7.00 Beans on Toast [listen, watch]
7.45 Songs For Walter [listen, watch]
8.00 Catherine AD [listen, watch]
8.30 worriedaboutsatan [listen, watch]
9.20 D/R/U/G/S [listen, watch]
9.40 Stricken City [listen, watch]
10.00 Golden Glow [listen, watch]
10.30 Exlovers [listen, watch]
10.50 Pulled Apart By Horses [listen, watch]
12.50 Ed Wood Jr [listen, watch]

Friday 15 October

Friday has got some exceptional programming from local labels/promoters in specific venues so my recommendation here is pick your night and stick to it.

Suffering Jukebox at Trof NQ
5.00 The Sun Electric Band [listen, watch]
6.00 Brown Brogues [listen, watch]

Akoustik Anarkhy vs Melodic Records at The Castle
7.10 Plank! [listen, watch]
8.00 Beat The Radar [listen, watch]
8.50 Working For A Nuclear Free City [listen, watch]
9.40 Standard Fare [listen, watch]
10.30 Windmill [listen, watch]

Now Wave at Band on The Wall
8.30 Dignan Porch [listen, watch]
9.20 Porcelain Raft [listen, watch]
10.10 Spectrals [listen, watch]
11.00 Yuck [listen, watch]

From Advances in Mathematics to Yuck. And somehow I’ve missed out Milk Maid (Friday 8.10pm Soup Kitchen) and Tim and Sam’s Tim And The Sam Band With Tim and Sam (Wednesday 11pm Band On The Wall) and no doubt many, many more. No austerity measures here – just a wealth of music.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Darren Hayman’s 2009 album “Pram Town” was centred on the Fifties New Town Harlow (Hayman grew up in nearby Brentwood). 2010’s “Essex Arms” broadens its scope to the Essex countryside as the second part of a planned trilogy about Hayman’s home county. As well as broadening its geographical focus, the new album is a musical growth from its predecessor. The gentle ruminative indie-folk of “Pram Town” was frequently nostalgic and occasionally tentative. Here the assorted ukuleles, banjos, mandolins, and guitars of Hayman and The Secondary Modern - augmented by members of Allo Darlin’, Fanfarlo and The Wave Pictures - sounds truly fully fledged, an able and assured folk-orchestra.

Lyrical references to car factories, woods, marshes, the Thames estuary and Southend are all here but never dominate. The real landscape of the record is the one defined by its inhabitants. People in the songs are never named – and it may even be a small cast of characters re-appearing across the dozen songs - but given the emotionally direct first-person singing of Hayman and his astute eye-for-detail lyrics they are never half-drawn or shadowy. In fact I’d challenge you to find more honest, tender and believable love songs in 2010 than 'Winter Makes Me Want You More' or 'Super Kings'. Even where the protagonists are flawed or cruel - the love-hate bickering of ‘Calling Out Your Name’ or 'I’ll Be Your Alibi' (“let’s do what dogs do, love with tongue and fight with tooth”) – or engaged unsavoury nocturnal activities (dog-fights, joy-riding, car-park sex), Hayman treats them with a humanity that borders on affection.

And it all sounds gorgeous to the ear. Whether quieter solo pieces (‘Super Kings’), the upbeat skiffle duet with Emmy The Great (‘Calling Out Your Name’) or the full-band numbers, all sound warm-hued and delicately orchestrated. And the little touches sometimes make songs. Initial listens to single 'Two Tree Island' left me thinking it was a weak link stretched to nearly seven minutes long. On further plays I’m hooked on the narcotic beauty of the languid pedal steel guitar and its simple yearning for escape to the point where I don’t want it to end.

“Essex Arms” is a record that never feels hemmed in by geography or by nostalgia (despite references to cream soda, top trumps and “you look like the lesbian from Brookside"). It may not have the anxious outsider feel of certain early Hefner songs and Hayman does sound at his most confident and relaxed but this doesn’t equate to cosy. As the liner notes say “beneath the hedgerow and honeysuckle lie rusted barbs and broken glass”.

This may well be what indiepop sounds like when it grows up but it’s not a dull ‘mature’ record. Instead it’s the sound of a songwriter – and a singer –stretching their idiom, growing in self-assurance and reaching a new place. If “Pram Town” was trying on a new (Fifties) two-piece suit for size, “Essex Arms” is assuredly wearing the made-to-measure replacement: impeccable hand-finishing and detail, timeless style and a handsome fit. Suits you sir. This is the most cogent, confident and consistent album Darren Hayman has made - and could well be his best. Yes - it’s that good.

Spiderman Beats Ironman - Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern

Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern Essex Arms [BUY or BUY]

Thursday, October 07, 2010

FROM THE VINYL RACK: The Fleshtones "Hexbreaker!"

The Fleshtones formed in Queens, New York in 1976 after finding instruments left by a previous tenant in the basement of their rented apartment. Despite sharing bills with The Ramones and other NY punks, the garage-rockers were shunned if not written out of the CBGBs story. In the early years of the following decade they signed to Miles Copeland’s IRS label and released three LPs starting with “Roman Gods” in 1982 and then the following year “Hexbreaker!”. From the liner notes of that record:

The theme of this album is NEW because after all, this is the FLESHTONES newest LP. And not only is it their newest but it’s also their wildest, most emphatic, most super-rock record yet! It’s been said the FLESHTONES aren’t just a pop group but an outlook, a way of life

“Hexbreaker!” if not as raw and rocking as it predecessor is an effective showcase of their blend of 60s organ-fuelled garage rock mixed with swinging dance moves, handclaps and wailing saxophone. A touch of 60s paisley, some 70s punk attitude and early 80s US indie meet a hedonistic party vibe that, especially given subsequent neo-garage revivals, sounds surprisingly fresh.

"You'll discover The Fleshtones sound noticeably tighter and more emphatic here than they did on “Roman Gods”; singer Peter Zaremba knows the secret formula that fuses power and cool, Keith Streng's guitar work makes room for all sorts of righteous rock & roll noise, drummer Bill Milhizer lays down an indefatigable backbeat no matter what's going on, and Jan Marek Pakulski's bass keeps the low end lively throughout. While most bands on the budding garage revival scene were content to resurrect the sounds and styles of the past, on “Hexbreaker!”, The Fleshtones brought together past and present and turned it all into a wild party where everyone was invited". Mark Deming – All Music Guide

The Fleshtones are recording today for Yep Roc Records which I naively assumed was a recent reformation. But watching the 2009 documentary of the band “Pardon Us For Living But The Graveyard Was Full” I realised that the band have been continually touring, and occasionally recording, every year since 1976 with Streng and Zaremba constant throughout – despite the lean years, the lack of a record contract and an inability in the 1980s to hold on to a bass player.

“Pardon Us For Living But The Graveyard Was Full” is a heart-rending but unmissable documentary. It shows a group of fifty-plus year old friends playing their hearts out every night to devoted fans – or even just to rooms of three people. Loyal support in Europe - particularly in France - has kept the band going financially plus selling records out of the trunk of their car and arranging all their own tours rather than employing a tour manager. The film’s gig footage is also testimony to the fact that playing live is where the band are in their element – even after nearly 35 years.

Critical and fan acclaim never translated into commercial success for The Fleshtones. Their highest placing album in the Billboard Charts was “Roman Gods”. It reached #174 for one week.

And echoing the plight of the band, the film-makers of “Pardon Us For Living But The Graveyard Was Full” never recouped the costs for this independently financed venture. So as well as buying the more recent releases of The Fleshtones or seeing their live performances, consider donating in return for a downloadable copy of the film. It’s a story - and music - that deserves a wider audience.

The Fleshtones
Hexbreaker [BUY – The IRS Years]
The Fleshtones on Yep Roc [BUY]

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


There’s You Tube footage of Drum Eyes playing Mad Ferret in Preston so DJ Scotch Egg's “drum thunder worship gang” are not strangers to the North West. But tonight’s gig at The Ruby Lounge is their first Manchester outing since the release of latest album “Gira Gira”, their first for new label Upset The Rhythm.

Drum Eyeswhip up a hypnotic maelstrom of tribal drumming trip-outs infused with sludgy doom and weird electronics. With songs that twist 180 degrees and equally sound as though beamed in from some alien kingdom, taking the weirdest forms of krautrock and hurling punk synth ideas, crushing walls of ambience and 8-bit frazzle into the mix, with relish”. Of course as well as DJ Scotch Egg – here masquerading as Shige – the five-piece feature a member of premier Japanese noisemeister The Boredoms.

I missed their appearance at End of the Road but heard the adoration. By all accounts a devastating live performance - see this report from their Scala show in London earlier this year on Spoonfed for example.

Doors at 7.30pm and support is from Warm Widow and The Detour. This is a Wotgodforgot promotion and tickets are £5 in advance.

Drum Eyes
Gira Gira [BUY]

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

CLINIC "Bubblegum" + UK Tour

When I asked them last December what 2010’s record, their sixth studio album, would sound like Clinic said “David Soul and a bit of Electric Eels”. Misdirection? Or was this cryptic combination actually the masterplan behind the sound of “Bubblegum” released this week?

For earlier this year it was announced that “Bubblegum” would be a ‘re-wiring’ of the trademark Clinic sound. This made me somewhat nervous. Not only am I of the “if it ain’t broke” school of thought, I love their - largely unchanging – art-punk-surf-garage sound. B-sides often offer a playground for experimentation with some bands but with Clinic these also conform to the decade-long formula (check the excellent compilation “Funf” for proof). Only the last track on 2008’s “Do It!”, the spoken word ‘Coda’, trod new ground.

The first outing for the new Clinic sound was the single 'I’m Aware' in August - and it admirably lived up to the promise/threat “of a dream state of harpsichord, dulcimers and strings”.

And the remaining twelve tracks? The first thing to say is that “Bubblegum” is still recognisably a Clinic album. And it’s not simply an acoustic makeover.

If previous Clinic songs were a magpie-raid on the sixties to purloin surf-rock and garage fuzz and make it their own, here the raiding party snaffle library music and acoustic psychedelia from the same decade. But be clear this is not lounge music – despite the title and cover artwork this is no bachelor-pad bossa nova soundtrack to making cocktails. Instead the basic structures are in place and recognisable – the chugging rhythms and hooks, the short repeated lines and the familiar vocals of Ade Blackburn. But it is all wrapped up in softer sounds, different instrumentation and a mellower vibe - and because it is less abrasive and cryptic (you can HEAR the words) it becomes more direct and emotionally engaging.

So the vocals on ‘Baby’ still possess an ambiguous (possibly menacing) tension but it is set against seductive wah-wah guitar and an Al Green-like slinkiness. Several songs address women by name suggestive of romantic sixties balladry but even the most ‘straight’ of these ‘Linda’ (“you’re high as a kite”) subverts its pleasant acoustic strum with some abrupt wind-tunnel whistles and hisses. Yes it is mellow chamber-pop but still on Clinic’s own terms. For those disoriented the most familiar territory is provided by ‘Lion Tamer’: vintage organ over an emphatic drum pattern – but also in the mix: a xylophone(?). And ‘Radiostory’ picks up where ‘Coda’ left off: a plum-voiced and eccentric spoken word narration that could easily pass for Vivian Stanshall.

Does it all sound like David Soul even with Electric Eels influence? Or Al Green? It’s as misleading or reductive as saying "Internal Wrangler" sounds like The Velvet Underground or krautrock or The Sonics. There's a surprising amount of variety on the album but I occasionally yearn for some of that acerbic edge, frenetic energy or noisy skronk - but there is an extensive back catalogue to satisfy that need. What “Bubblegum” has done in broadening their musical palette has given new depth to their songs and given me a fresh relationship with Clinic. And I’m sold.

I suspect many fans will be too. Now what I’m really interested to know is what those coming to Clinic for the first time make of this mellow state of affairs. Dreamy? Or disapproving?

Later this month Clinic tour the UK in support of “Bubblegum” before a US tour in November.

21 Oct SWN Festival, Cardiff
22 Oct The Deaf Institute, Manchester
23 Oct Static Gallery, Liverpool
25 Oct The Georgian Theatre, Stockton On Tees
26 Oct Stereo, Glasgow
27 Oct The Bodega, Nottingham
28 Oct Village Underground, London
29 Oct The Cockpit, Leeds

"Baby" by Clinic

Clinic Bubblegum [BUY]

Friday, October 01, 2010


Well I could spend a para or so bemoaning how busy “Rocktober” is for gigs and festivals in Manchester. But why waste breathe with so much going on? And it all kicks off this Friday evening with the highly recommended double-bill of Shrag and Standard Fare at Kraak Gallery (but you read this week’s interview with Emma and Dan of SF didn’t you?) plus at least SIX other gigs too tonight. And this is before we get to the not-one-but-two 3-day industry shindigs Unconvention and In The City this month. Or the one-dayers like Rowf Rowf Rowf or Oxjam.

As usual a mixtape of recommended gigs this month. And said mixtape and listings below don’t even touch the line-ups for these events (well I did sneak Yuck in who are playing ITC - too good not to). The full list of bands for In The City is now up on Facebook and a reliable guide of which new bands to see as always is over at The Pigeon Post. Link for the mixtape [58 mins / 61 MB] for the rest of October is in the post following this one.

Manchester Gigs in Music Mixtape: October 2010

Of Montreal Coquet Coquette [3.42] (5 Oct Academy 2 BUY TICKETS)
Grass Widow Shadow [6.39] (4 Oct Trof NQ BUY TICKETS)
The Black Angels Bad Vibrations [11.05] (10 Oct Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Sparrow And The Workshop The Cold-Hearted Twist [13.10] (5 Oct Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Mitchell Museum We Won Second Prize [15.24] (30 Oct Cafe Saki BUY TICKETS)
Bearsuit Itsuko Got Married [17.54] (30 Oct Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Mice Parade In Between Times [22.22] (7 Oct Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Dan Mangan Road Regrets [26.46] (11 Oct Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Gun Outfit In The Dark [28.29] (24 Oct Trof NQ BUY TICKETS)
The Climbers Anything [32.02] (27 Oct Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
Warpaint Undertow [37.52] (24 Oct Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Shrag Tights In August [41.29] (1 Oct Kraak Gallery BUY TICKETS)
Standard Fare Fifteen [44.42] (1 Oct Kraak Gallery BUY TICKETS)
Beach Fossils Daydream [47.46] (25 Oct Dream Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Clinic I'm Aware [50.41] (22 Oct Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Yuck Daughter [55.26] (15 Oct Band on the Wall BUY TICKETS)
Perfume Genius Learning [58.07] (18 Oct St Philip’s Church BUY TICKETS)

And not forgetting:
1 Oct Philadelphia Grand Jury Night & Day / 1 Oct Exit Calm Night and Day / 1 Oct Misty’s Big Adventure MoHo Live / 1 Oct Future Islands Islington Mill / 1 Oct Violens Ruby Lounge / 1 Oct Polar Bear Band on the Wall / 3 Oct British Sea Power 'Man of Aran' St Philip’s Church / 4 Oct Crocodiles Deaf Institute / 4 Oct The Miserable Rich The Ruby Lounge / 5 Oct Frankie & Heartstrings & Summer Camp Deaf Institute / 5 Oct Josephine Foster + Victor Herrero Sacred Trinity / 6 Oct Drum Eyes Ruby Lounge / 6 Oct Imaad Wasif The Corner / 6 Oct Blood Red Shoes Academy / 6 Oct Errors + The Twilight Sad Deaf Institute / 7 Oct Junip Deaf Institute / 8 Oct Jaguar Skills Deaf Institute / 8 Oct Brainlove Tour with Mat Riviere + Napoleon III + Stairs to Korea + Pagan Wanderer Lu Kings Arms / 11 Oct Maps + Atlases Deaf Institute / 12 Oct 22-20s Ruby Lounge / 15 Oct Cherry Ghost + Tim and Sam's Tim and Sam Band with Tim and Sam Academy 2 / 15 Oct Thea Gilmore RNCM / 15 Oct Jim Jones Revue Sound Control / 16 Oct Goldblade Academy / 16 Oct Young Rebel Set + Walton Hesse Factory 251 / 17 Oct Rowf Rowf Rowf Islington Mill / 19 Oct Peter Broderick Academy 3 / 19 Oct Demons Islington Mill / 19 Oct Dave Arcari Ruby Lounge / 20 Oct Dosh Night & Day / 20 Oct Yeasayer Academy 1 / 20 Oct Melt Banana and The Ex Islington Mill / 21 Oct Hot Hot Heat Academy 3 / 21 Oct Badly Drawn Boy RNCM / 21 Oct Dinosaur Pile-Up Ruby Lounge / 22 Oct Mystery Jets Manchester Cathedral / 23 Oct Ellen and the Escapades Night & Day / 24 Oct Pontiak Ruby Lounge / 25 Oct Tweak Bird Ruby Lounge / 25 Oct Nisennenmondai Soup Kitchen / 26 Oct iLiKETRAiNS Ruby Lounge / 26 Oct The Answering Machine Deaf Institute / 27 Oct Lissie Academy / 27 Oct Brian Eno’s Apollo RNCM / 27 Oct Happy Birthday Islington Mill / 27 Oct Tame Impala Ruby Lounge / 27 Oct Lichens Sacred Trinity Church / 27 Oct Chrome Hoof Band on the Wall / 28 Oct The Strange Death of Liberal England Ruby Lounge / 28 Oct El Guincho Deaf Institute / 28 Oct Wilder Fac 251 / 29 Oct Yann Tiersen Manchester Cathedral / 30 Oct Swans + James Blackshaw Academy 2 / 30 Oct Screaming Females Islington Mill / 31 Oct The Duke and the King Deaf Institute


Mixtape: October 2010 [58 mins/61 MB] - download here.