Friday, 19 October 2018

Carla J Easton - Impossible Stuff

If you are a regular or semi-regular reader of my blog then you'll already know of my sisters creative talents through the songs she has written and recorded with her bands Futuristic Retro Champions and TeenCanteen and her first solo album Homemade Lemonade that she released under the guise of Ette.

Carla is now stepping out as an official solo artist after a particularly productive couple of years that included the aforementioned Homemade Lemonade album, the Say It All With A Kiss LP and the Sirens EP with TeenCanteen, as well as videos, festivals and sessions

There have been collaborations with Belle and Sebastian - a co-write and lead vocal on Best Friend and with Kirsty Law on The Iron Railing, a writing retreat at the Banff Arts Centre in Canada and then a return trip to record the album with Howard Bilerman, who produced Arcade Fire's seminal Funeral LP, on production duties. Oh and she is making a documentary on Scottish girl groups, curated a night at the Edinburgh Arts Festival and I'm pretty sure I've missed something. Oh yeah, she has 6-songs recorded that might be on her next album plus a couple left over from Canada.

In short it has been fantastic to see my wee sister so creative and productive and receiving excellent support from all over the world. Her 2 visits to Canada in 2017 were, in her own words, 'life changing'. On a writing retreat at the Banff Arts Centre, she bloomed and was promptly invited back to record an album.

And so on to the album Impossible Stuff  . I originally started writing a blog on it last October when I first heard it, then deleted it, rewrote some, scrapped it, started it, left it ...... and finally decided just to go with what I have! So here is a short review, some of the videos released over the last year and links to other reviews and interviews. There has been a fantastic response to the album. I'm super proud of my wee sis. And there is a lot more to come from her!

Check the video for Dreamers On The Run (above), the opening track, with Carla representing Scotland at the Eurovision) opens the album. It's under 2-minutes long but there is a lot packed in. The song floats and flows, Fats Kaplin on violin is stunning and there is a strong Celtic melody and tone.

The title track is exceptionally melodic and playful with Carla utilising the talents of friends she made in Canada at the Banff Arts Centre. There are strings, crashing drums, a beautiful piano solo and then a build up to a glorious racket that starts at 2 minutes 12 seconds and brings in a choir and what sounds like every instrument Carla's friends could get their hands on. It sounds amazing! Check the video recorded with talented friends within 3-days of returning from Canada.

Impossible things just to hear your heart sing
Oh I'd do anything for you
Impossible stuff just to feel your love
Oh I'd do anything for you

Lights In The Dark was the first single to be released from the album back at the start of the year. Carla tells a story and her lyrics paint a picture, the 80's drum beat sounds cool and it's one of my favourite vocals from the album.

You can just take my heart
You can just pull me apart
I'm searching for the lights in the dark

Meet Me In Paris has a nice psychedelic tinge to it courtesy of some sitar action, the melody, feel and urgency in the song makes an immediate impact. Melodies pour out of my wee sister, almost literally on Never Had the Words, the vocal melody just tumbles out and doesn't stop, its a real favourite.

Next is second single Wanting What I Can't Have. I remember Carla sending me the demo that she recorded at our Mum's house and her being really proud of it, describing it as a little Primal Scream-esque. It's an epic, particularly good live.

The album spins from Carole King inspired numbers, to 80's drum machines and synths, to Spector-esque walls of sound, to stomping pop and Milk and Honey (video below) merges the last two.

Things slow down for Girl from Before, a late 50's/early 60's inspired ballad with soaring strings and at one point it seems like the vocal melodies are just going to keep building, before slowing back down. There is some stunning guitar playing towards the end.

Then Vagabond, the oldest song on the album and originally a b-side to the TeenCanteen 7-inch You're Still Mine, is rerecorded and it is just gorgeous. Here is a live version Carla recored with TeenCanteen.

The album ends with the Harrison produced by Spector Lullaby. All Things Must Pass is a favourite album of Carla's and I know she listened to it a lot en route to Canada. This is a spine tingler, the guitar solo is stunning.

Impossible Stuff delivers more on every listen, the quality shines through. Melodies are everywhere, the playing and production is exquisite, there is real heart on sleeve soul, playfulness and the sound of someone in the zone with a studio, producer, engineer and musicians who believe in her and can create the sounds from here head.

Impossible Stuff has been getting a lot of attention and people are saying some lovely things! In addition to airplay and sessions, here are some links to review and interviews, including a cracking track-by-track interview Carla did with The Skinny. You can buy the vinyl from Olive Grove Records and it should be in Monorail, Assai and Love Music.

The Skinny track by track

The List

Record of the Day - Milk and Honey 

Sunday Post 

Sounds Like Blog

The Fountain

Louder Than War

The Music Brewery

Friday, 12 October 2018

The Original Memphis Recordings by Primal Scream

In a world and time where many recordings are produced, compressed and mixed to within an inch of their life, lets step back in time, to 1993, when Primal Scream decamped to Memphis to record the follow up to their seminal Screamadelica LP.

The band hired legendary producer Tom Dowd who had previously worked with all kinds of legends including Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Booker T and the M.G.'s. If the hiring of Dowd didn't give an idea of the sounds the Scream were striving for, they also hired in David Hood (bass) and Roger Hawkins (drums), the Muscle Shoals rhythm section who had played on so many classic soul cuts.

For whatever reason (mainly Sony didn't hear a hit), the Memphis recordings were shelved and the album was beefed up. Rocks got a new drum beat and added sheen, Jailbird was also polished up a little and the album came out in 1994 as Give Out But Don't Give Up.

It's only now, 25-years later, that the original 9 recordings with Tom Dowd, plus a string of extras, are being released, being discovered in a cupboard in Andrew Innes' house.

And oh what a treat it is to hear a band cutting loose, jamming, having fun, blasting out some good ole rock n roll and writing some outstanding ballads - building on the exceptional Damaged from Screamdelica. This is country tinged soul, Gillespie pours his heart out, the band are in sensational form, free from the electronics of Screamadelica, free to play, to express themselves and play they do.

Jailbird pulses and thrills, its looser than the version released as a single an on the album back in 1994, but its all there. Stabbing horns, euphoric backing vocals and Gillespie sounding like he is having the time of his life. Living the dream.

It's interesting to hear Rocks without the pounding drums that usher in the 1994 single version. This is the sound of Primal Scream as a super cool rock n roll bar band, guitars driving the song, horns lifting it higher and Gillespie urging us to get our rocks off. It's super cool raw rock n roll and Martin Duffy has a cracking piano solo in it.

The Faces-esque rock n soul of Call on Me continues the upbeat start to the album. Gillespie and Denise Johnson combine brilliantly. Tom Dowd's production captures a band on fire.

Primal Scream's ballads are often overlooked in their career, but there are so many gems. Going back to I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have (transformed into Loaded) through to Sometimes I Feel So Lonley.

Everybody Needs Somebody is a stunner, Gillespie urges we got together babe over a gospel backing vocals, Throb (Robert Young) coaxes soulful riffs on lead guitars and you can just imagine Gillespie looking on in awe as his band jam on behind him.

A little bit of soul 
Is worth more than gold

The 'feel' that is captured on the Memphis recordings is stunning. The soul and passion leaps out. Sad and Blue with the bluesy slow harmonica and star reaching vocals of Denise Johnson utterly beautiful. From memory I recall an interview from the time where Bobby Gillespie says something like 'no-one can play as slow as us, it's beautiful'. Listen to this and you get what he means.

Shine a light on me sister, let your love light shine

This version of Big Jet Plane is gorgeous. The band feel their way in and Gillespie's stoned soul has never sounded better with the added sugar of a gospel choir coming in to lift the chorus. The horns are delicious. Mournful and soulful.

Gillespie hands lead vocals to Denise Johnson for the incredible Free. And oh how she soars. There is an almost jazzy feel to this recording, the sax, the piano, the slow groove. It's almost 7-minutes long and it's so easy to get lost in it.

Don't want you to touch me, don't you touch me, don't you touch me
Everything is broken, I believe in you no more

Jesus (which would become I'll Be There For You) is another stunning ballad, Gillespie singing over an organ before heavenly gospel backing vocals and the band lift the song to another level - towards the stars. The instrumental from 3 minutes 40 seconds is sublime. The Primals don't rush things, again they let the soul ooze out over 6.5 minutes and every second is vital.

Primal Scream really hit the mark with Cry Myself Blind, an uplifting soulful ballad that find Gillespie so broken hearted that he could do just that. The band play beautifully, Denise Johnson sings like an angel, Gillespie turns in another brilliant performance - possibly his most emotional vocal?, and if Robert Young's guitar could talk then it would be multiplying Gillespie's broken heart ten fold.

Have you ever had a broken heart?
Have you ever lost your mind?
Have you ever woke up screaming'
Cause you're so lonely you could die?

There is a heap of incredible bonus tracks. Sadly not available on vinyl, the instrumental Country Guitar is a standout, bluesy country tinged soul. Early jams on the likes of Sad and Blue, Big Jet Plane and Bobby singing lead on Free are excellent. Funky Jam (to be revisited on Give Out But Don't Give Up) does exactly what it say on the tin and there are some rough covers.

The Original Memphis Recordings capture a moment in time, it is a brilliant addition to the Primal Scream catalogue. Gillespie (vocals), Innes and Young (guitars), Duffy (piano) and Johnson (vocals) are in stunning form, raising their game to match the playing of the Muscle Shoals rhythm section an the reputation of Tom Dowd in the producers chair.

In Gillespie's words (now) it was a perfect album, 3 rockers, 6 ballads, but the album was rejected by Sony as they didn't hear a hit. So the album was pretty much rerecorded and by the time it came out it had cost around £1 million to make. Patchy sessions had already taken place at the Roundhouse in London before the band flew to Memphis.

25-years later, it's out and it is beautiful. The 9-track album is available on vinyl, all of the bonus tracks are on a deluxe CD and are also available on streaming and download sites. It would be hard for Primal Scream to revisit this album live without Robert (Throb) Young as his exceptional guitar playing is all over the album, but it is something I hope they are considering.

Monday, 8 October 2018


Cover version of the month #39 - Erasure cover ABBA

My kids recently discovered ABBA via the Mama Mia film, so our house has been full of pop perfection for the last month or so. Thankfully it isn't always the film that is on. There is only so much of Pierce Brosnan singing that I can cope with!

So it got me thinking about the monumental ABBA-esque EP by Erasure that came out in 1992 when I was 16. Erasure seemed to be everywhere with this - Top of the Pops, the Chart Show, in the papers, in magazines and all over the radio.

Andy Bell and Vince Clarke camping it up in drag in the Take A Chance On Me promo video is something that I'm sure most people from my generation will remember!

Erasure were huge in the late 80's and into the 90's, their 1992 compilation POP: The First 20 Hits emphasised their ear for pop with Sometimes, A Little Respect and Stop being favourites of mine. Vince Clarke is a pop genius, early Depeche Mode is really the only era of the legendary band that I enjoy and then his work with Alison Moyet as Yazoo produced some incredible synth pop soul gems, Only You must be one of the best debut singles released in the 80's.

After Yazoo, Clarke placed an advert in Melody Maker to recruit a singer and he discovered Bell. The duo have never looked back and hit upon formula of euphoric synth led pop that broke down barriers and led to critical acclaim and huge commercial success.

Covering ABBA was probably very natural to two people so infatuated with pop music. And Erasure set out to have fun whilst doing it.

Clarke provides the beats and synths and whilst its not quite karaoke, Bell is clearly enjoying himself and not taking it too seriously. As was the way in 1992, in Take A Chance On Me they duo introduce a female to sing a brief ragga rap.

Erasure covered Lay All Your Love On Me, S.O.S. , Take A Chance On Me and Voulez Vous on the EP. Remaining pretty true to the originals (especially in terms of vocal melodies) and bringing ABBA's pop perfection to a new generation. After a couple of number 2 singles, this EP gave them their first number 1.

And what can you say about the ABBA originals?! They are pristine and sublime slices of pop perfection. Lyrically, melodically, in delivery, structure and production. Timeless! They deserve an essay, but for now just take some time to revisit some masterpieces of pop.

Previous covers of the month

Thursday, 27 September 2018

God Knows It's True

Welcome to a feature blog on Teenage Fanclub's God Knows It's True single/EP. Originally released on Paperhouse in the UK, it was then released by Matador in the US. 

For me, the 7-inch of  God Knows It's True b/w So Far Gone perfectly captures the energy, sound and development of my favourite band at a crucial and extremely exciting point in their career. This release is a perfect bridge between A Catholic Education and Bandwagonesque . We have Gerry joining Norman on songwriting duties and in addition to the 2 main songs, the EP (12-inch and CD) contain the crazy Weedbreak and Ghetto Blaster - perhaps more fitting with The King LP.

So, with the Creation shows coming up, I thought it was an ideal time to revisit and review the release.

As well as my own thoughts, there is an interview with David Barker from Paperhouse Records who was present at the recordings and I am very honoured that David has shared some fantastic pictures to accompany his memories. 

And I am delighted that Gerry Love has shared his thoughts on recording his first song with Teenage Fanclub and a few other memories.

Before you go any further, dig out your vinyl or CD, get ready to stream, or click to watch the promo video for God Knows It's True below ...

A warm guitar riff introduces Norman Blake's God Knows It's True before the band fall in behind in that glorious Fanclub way - sounding like it might fall apart at any time, but hanging together. Beautifully raw and soulful. And extra little riff lifts us towards the first verse.

Norman, picture courtesy of David Barker

Blake finds a melody and his voice soulfully strains as he works his way through the first couple of verses that lead to the chorus. The band are off again, vibing on the cracking riff that the song is built on.

Maybe I just got it wrong
Express the feelings in a song
I didn't mean that much to you
I'm given such a tainted view

After the second verse and chorus the song is lifted with the singing with a different band middle eight before another chorus. The last 1-minute and 20 seconds is all instrumental and for me this is the incredible sound of Teenage Fanclub around this time captured on record. It was just before I got into them as a 15-year old through the release of Bandwagonesque - oh how I wish I had seen them live around this time. It must have been a joy.

Picture courtesy of David Barker

Gerry Love's So Far Gone starts at breakneck speed and barely lets up. The guitars are on fire, the drums have Keith Moon-esque rolls and the bass just about keeps it all together. Love asks questions and then sounds like he is head over heels in love/infatuation in the chorus.

Could you be the one who wants to turn me into something new?
Could you be the one to underestimate my point of view?

So far gone, so far gone
I'd love to turn you on

Love and Blake's voices combine brilliantly on the understand my way section before the band tear straight into another verse and chorus. At 2-minutes 10 seconds, after the third verse and chorus, the song breaks down before slamming into the final 43 seconds, climaxing in one final chorus.

Picture courtesy of David Barker

Teenage Fanclub sound like they are having the time of their lives on the two leads tracks. Ripping through 2 slices of guitar punk pop perfection. The energy leaps out of these songs and the recordings

Weedbreak sounds like it was conceived, performed and recorded on a uuummmmmm weedbreak. The band sound like they are jamming with no real purpose other than fun (the best purpose!) with an element of Sonic Youth to the sound.

Ghetto Blaster has ferocious drumming from Brendan O'Hare and the band tear into their guitars. Brendan's drumming is a real feature across the 4-tracks, driving the band on.

Raymond courtesy of David Barker

A query on the artwork on the Teenage Fanclub forum (a few years ago) led to Gerry Love confirming - It's a photograph taken at Dublin Airport on the way back from our first trip to New York in July 1990. We flew Aer Lingus and we were waiting for our connection to Edinburgh. The photo was taken by Raymond, possibly around 7 or 8 in the morning. I don't know if he meant the triple exposure but there are two snaps of me and one of Brendan.

Interview with David Barker who put out the bands early releases on Paperhouse Records.

EF - Can you remember how you first heard about Teenage Fanclub? What was the first song you heard?

DB - Stephen Pastel told me about them. They might have still been called Superdrug at the time (the original name). I worked with Stephen on my Glass Records label in 1986/87 and was just setting up the Paperhouse label at the time. Norman sent me a tape of A Catholic Education (a scan of the letter that came with it is inside the Deep Fried Fanclub CD booklet) so I guess the first track I heard was the first track on it. I liked the tape obviously and phoned him up.

EF - How did you come to work with the band?

DB - They had a gig at the Glasgow Art School, so I booked a flight up there. This must have been Feb or March 1990. Then Norman called to say they had a gig at the Bull and Gate in Kentish Town, London the day before, so I saw them there then again the next day in Glasgow. I told them I wanted to release their record and things moved fast from there. They already had interest from Matador in the US.

EF - What are your memories of that time? What did they bring to the table? What was your influence?

DB - So many memories. Supporting the Soup Dragons at the Forum, London when the stage was invaded. The security didn't bother going out for the support act. People really liked the group. Leeds, Liverpool, Doncaster (where we had a 'London Pizza' - which was pizza with chips on top), the front cover of SOUNDS. The New Music Seminar in New York, July 1990 I guess.

The recording of God Knows It's True with Don Fleming, who I introduced them to. CBGS where we met Urge Overkill and Superchunk. Ireland with Sonic Youth in the Autumn. The first European dates. All in 5 or 6 months. I had no influence on the sound but I may have introduced them to some music on the tour bus. They f**ked off to Creation and a year or so later so did I!

Don Fleming and David Barker, picture courtesy of David

EF - What do you think of God Knows It's True and So Far Gone all these years later?

DB - Still love them. My opinion of course carries a lot of memories with it. They were playing So Far Gone as an instrumental cos Gerry was a bit shy about singing live. When they recorded it of course he sang and it sounded fantastic. They next night they played CBGB'S and as Gerry went up to the mic to sing it ... he bottled it and they played it as an instrumental again.

EF - They have gone on to release some incredible music - in quality and quantity - do you have a favourite album? Could you pick a few favourite songs?

DB - Don't really have a favourite, but I spent time with them during the recording of Thirteen so feel close to it. Actually the handclap on Sparky's Dream is me. I think Paul Quinn and Chas Banks clapped too but I got credited on the sleeve ha ha. I like a few of the b-sides too like Long Hair and Maharishi Dug The Scene. I tend to go for the less commercial stuff. That's my taste in music.

EF - If you could spend a week in the studio with Teenage Fanclub what would you hope to achieve?

DB - I would like to record them like Steve Albini or like Dylan records. Two takes of each song and move on to the next one. Someone else can mix it.

EF - What are you up to these days? 

DB - I revived my old label Glass Records as Glass Modern and am actively releasing and re-releasing music again.

Thank you so much to David for sharing those special memories and pictures. And thanks to Gerry Love for sharing a few words on So Far Gone.

Brendan and Gerry courtesy of David Barker

EF - Was So Far Gone the first song you wrote for the band? Were you encouraged to join in songwriting duties? Had you written much before?

GL - Yeah So Far Gone was the first song I presented to the group as an idea. It started off as an instrumental, the first few times we played it live it was just a piece of music, although secretly I did have a melody and some lyrics. It turned into a song during the God Knows It's True recording session with Don Fleming in New York. After we had recorded A Catholic Education, played a few shows and become a real group, there was an openness for all of us to at least present ideas as possible future songs. Before that I had recorded lots of half ideas and little musical doodles at home on a 4 track but I had never let anyone hear anything so it was great to have an opportunity to be involved creatively.

EF - What confidence did this give you as it would seem like you entered a prolific period of songwriting afterwards into Bandwagonesque and Thirteen?

GL - Although it sounds a bit rough to me these days, the difference between the bedroom demo and the NYC recording of So Far Gone was massive. Hearing how a rough idea changed into a real song via quality musicians, talented engineers and great studios gave me a lot of confidence. Hearing that some people quite liked So Far Gone gave me a lot of confidence to try another one. Being involved with Norman and Raymond, who in my opinion were operating on a different level than most local musicians at that time, was completely inspiring. Learning chord progressions from watching them play, hearing Norman's harmonies and then gradually hearing them in my own ideas was inspiring. Being in what I thought was a really good group was inspiring. Hearing new music and hearing old music was inspiring. Being young and daft and curious and full of all possibilities was probably the most inspiring thing.

EF - There is a great energy that leaps from the two main tracks. It sounds like you are enjoying yourselves and that excitement is spilling on to the records. Do you have any memories from the recordings?

GL - There was a lot of energy in the group in those days and you can hear it, especially in that session. Here we were in New York, personally I had never left the British Isles before that, and we were certainly buzzing. New York was a pretty lively place in those days. We were definitely having a few drinks during the session and probably a few smokes. We recorded a whole load of cover versions. I was probably half-cut when I sang the lead vocal on So Far Gone. I was still a little nervous about singing but the drink, and the encouragement of others, probably pushed me over the line into action. I don't have detailed memories, more abstract due to the passing of time and the quality of the drinks/smokes, so there's a nice impressionistic haze over my recollections of that session. That first trip to the USA was pretty crazy. I have lots of mad memories.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Blue Flowers

Within the next week I'll be posting about Kipple Arcadia, the debut album by L Space. Ahead of that I felt compelled to write a short blog about the divine Blue Flowers video they have just released.

Blue Flowers is a song I first fell for coming on a year ago, leading to this blog and interview. I've caught the band a few times since then and have enjoyed watching them prepare for the release of their album.

Back in November 2017 I described this song by saying; think Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval fronting Portishead. The song might have been polished a little but it hasn't changed massively since the first recording I heard.  The trip hop beats and squelchy bass are essential to the feel, the sparse piano melody has a calming effect and singer Lily Higham is dreamy and lost in the song. 

The video is fantastic; taking in Mitchell Lane, the Botanics and hang outs in Glasgow and adding psychedelic Tron like effects when Gordon Johnstone's guitar fizzes and soars over pulsating Massive Attack like ferocious bass before it all calms down by going back to the beats and piano.

Quite simply, this is one of my favourite songs to have come out of the DIY scene in Glasgow over the last 10-years, I think it is stunning and Lily Higham could be a star with her style, musings and vision.

In the Skinny L Space say we subconsciously tried to write songs about better futures and better worlds ... even though some of the songs sound quite dark they have a hopeful message.

Check this gem out and you can order the vinyl LP, released this Friday on Last Night From Glasgow by visiting their online shop HERE

L Space play a trio of dates this week with Cloth and Domiciles in Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. 

Monday, 24 September 2018

Never Ending Mixtape Part 28

Welcome to the 28th edition of my Never Ending Mixtape. The latest selection of songs takes the mixtape (Spotify playlist) to 700 songs!

Tunes range from 60's classics by Thunderclap Newman, The Sonics and the MC5, also Time Song by The Kinks that I had never heard before. Scotland is represented by Camera Obscura, Strawberry Switchblade, Teenage Fanclub and Edwyn Collins. There is new music from Gruff Rhys and Amber Arcades, a couple of gems from Graham Coxon, including one from the excellent Netflix series The End of the F**king World and vintage Spiritualized, Pulp, Sleepy Jackson and Cornershop.

You can access my Never Ending Mixtape by searching Spotify for Everything Flows Never Ending Mixtape or CLICK HERE

Scroll down to near the end for the latest songs, or just delve in. I personally love just clicking on shuffle and enjoying.

Thanks for checking it out.

Babies - Pulp
French Navy - Camera Obscura
Good Dancers - The Sleepy Jackson
Since Yesterday - Strawberry Switchblade
Something In The Air - Thunderclap Newman
Kick Out The Jams - MC5
Have Love Will Travel - The Sonics
Sleep On The Left Side - Cornershop
Time Song - The Kinks
Where Did You Go - Amber Arcades
Stop Your Crying - Spiritualized
Baby I'm Just A Fool - Spiritualized
Walking All Day - Graham Coxon
Freakin' Out - Graham Coxon
Limited Edition Heart - Gruff Rhys
Guiding Star - Teenage Fanclub
Don't Shilly Shally - Edwyn Collins
Make Me Feel Again - Edwyn Collins
Fear of Flying - Teenage Fanclub
Tears Are Cool - Teenage Fanclub
Gene Clark - Teenage Fanclub
Negative Vibes - Gruff Rhys
Frontier Man - Gruff Rhys

Monday, 17 September 2018

Technique by New Order

Technique recorded in Ibiza and released early in January 1989 in perfect time for the Second Summer Of Love, is probably my favourite New Order album.

The band had experimented with synths and beats from the off, leading to some impeccable electro pop like Bizarre Love Triangle, Thieves Like Us, The Perfect Kiss and of course the more experimental side of things with Blue Monday. And if you explore their albums you'll find gems like Your Silent Face and Face-Up.

The band take things to another level with Technique - although the band started recording in Ibiza (in a sh*t hole of a studio - but with a swimming pool according to Peter Hook) they finished it in Peter Gabriels Real World Studios. The discovery of Ecstasy while in Ibiza may have influenced with the sound, style and lyrics on the album, but it didn't help with the work ethic and actually finishing anything.

Still, the 4-months in Ibiza laid a path not only for New Order but for the Hacienda, Manchester and Madchester as Factory Records label mate Bez came out to sample Ibiza and proceeded to import ecstasy to the Hacienda, transforming it overnight. Bez's autobiography and Peter Hook's books on New Order and the Hacienda are all extremely entertaining reads and really highlight how quickly ecstasy transformed a club, sounds, style and a generation.

Opener Fine Time sets the tone; high-hat action leads to synths, beats and squelchy bass. There are all kind of riffs floating about and all coming together to sound incredible. Sumner's vocals are whispery and then a Barry White style vocal kicks in (Sumner with effects) which is typical New Order humour.

At 2 minutes 28 seconds everything cuts out to a thumping beat over a high-hat before everything comes colliding into place after a Hooky bass riff.

New Order being New Order had to perform live on Top of the Pops rather than mime and Peter Hook describes the issues this caused with much hilarity in his book. Bernard Sumner looks he was enjoying himself!

Technique isn't all beats and synths though. All The Way is stunning guitar pop with Sumner singing about taking years to find the truth within himself and not caring what others say. The guitars shimmer, Hooky's bass grooves and it sounds like pure summer.

Love Less is built on a Hooky bass groove and Sumner sings as good as he ever has about a love broken down.

But you know
I watch every step that you make
To find some other fool you can take

Round and Round was another single from the album and it starts with real urgency in the synths before finding a groove. It's two verses and two choruses and then it takes off on a little instrumental journey, the synths programmed for stun, eventually leading back to the chorus.

The picture you see is no portrait of me
It's too real to be shown to someone I don't know
And it's driving me wild
It makes me act like a child

The darkest song on the album is probably Guilty Partner. Sumner's lyrics and song titles throughout the album perhaps indicate where he was at around this time. He injects extra urgency into the chorus and Hook's bass just jams and leads along throughout.

Then we come to Run, my favourite song on the album. This is just guitar pop perfection, Sumner plays a 12-string acoustic at times, then fires off a huge electric guitar riff after the first verse. Sumner is one of my favourite singers and guitar players. His ability to find a melody and let it flow is incredible, as is his knack of simple guitar solos. What a glorious uplifting outro.

Run was remixed and released as a single as Run 2.

Sumner's vocal melodies flow with ease on Mr Disco. The song almost comes as two, going off down a more electro path after 2 minutes 36 seconds before bring the chorus

I can't find my piece of mind
Because I need you with me all of the time
I used to think about you night and day
I used to feel what language cannot say
Oh I can't find you
I can't find my piece of mind without you

Then we progress to the astonishing Vanishing Point, this is New Order at their very, very best in my book. There is a euphoric 90-second intro before Sumner comes in. Musically, this is insanely good the way everything comes together, Hooky's bass before a hands in the air breakdown that then leads to the beats and chorus kicking back in - incredible.

My life ain't no holiday
I've been through the point of no return
I've seen what a man can do
I've seen all the hate of a woman too

Ibiza may have influenced the lyrics on Dream Attack. There is another beautiful intro and Sumner sings about waking up in the sunshine with the sound of music in his head.

There is a classic Sumner contradiction in the chorus; I don't belong to no-one, but I want to be with you before we are led to another piece of Peter Hook genius bass playing. Check how low he goes in the live video from 1989 below.

New Order were untouchable in the 1980's. To go from Ceremony and Movement in 1981 to Technique and Vanishing Point in 1989 is remarkable. Their resilience in the way they came together out of the tragic death of Ian Curtis, the way they experimented, created, pioneered and the sensational run of singles and albums they released is almost unbelievable to look back on.

The band went on to peak commercially in 1990 with the release of the England World Cup song - World In Motion. A lengthy break after the subsequent Republic album was brought to an end with the brilliant comeback single of Crystal and the Get Ready album.

Peter Hook and his band The Light continue their remarkable journey through the back catalogues of Joy Division and New Order in chronological order by playing Technique and Republic at SWG3 in Glasgow on Sunday 30th September.

I'll be there!

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Love Buzz

Cover of the month #38 - Nirvana cover Shocking Blue

I recently watched the Nirvana documentary Montage of Heck accompanied by a few bottles of beer. I was transported back to my teenage years and the wonder of falling in love with the power, punk soul and melody of Nirvana and the charisma and attitude of Kurt Cobain.

The sheer energy that Nirvana generated live as they were breaking was incredible. One of the live performances shown in Montage of Heck was their cover version of Love Buzz by The Shocking Blue. I was captivated.

Krist Novoselic was seemingly lost and fixated on the bass groove, Dave Grohl looked young and ferocious on the drums, hair everywhere. And Kurt ... well Kurt is being Kurt; driving his band on by attacking his guitar, spinning around the stage and simultaneously inspiring and antagonising the crowd.

I have included 3 films of Nirvana playing Love Buzz in this blog to highlight the power and intensity of Nirvana's live performances around this time and the brilliant way they transform the original.

1. Live at the Paramount, Seattle, 31/10/91
Kurt is almost throwing his guitar around as he plays, looking to inject extra energy, urgency and sound. Meanwhile Novoselic and Grohl highlight how tight they were with Krist just grooving on the bass riff and Grohl matching both Kurt's energy and the groove of the bass.

Kurt looks and sounds like he is trying to dismantle his guitar at one point, scratching and pulling at the strings as the rhythm section groove on, they bring it all back together with his guitar miraculously still relatively in tune for one final blitz on the riff.

This is top class live footage with someone on stage really capturing the movement and ferocity of the performance. Breathtaking.

2. Dallas, Texas, 19/10/91
With the stage set dangerously close to the audience, with no real height to offer protection, Kurt plays with added intensity. A couple of bouncers try to deal with stage invaders and crowd surfers as Kurt rips into the riff and screams into the mic. At 2 minutes and 8 seconds something snaps and Kurt launches himself over the heads of the front row, he is hoisted aloft and somehow still generating sounds from his guitar as a bouncer tries to pull him back to the stage. For reasons we'll never know, Kurt strikes out at the bouncer with his guitar before being dragged back to the stage and receiving a hefty blow to the head by the bouncer.

Krist and Dave jump in and Kurt is back on his feet almost immediately as his mates try to defuse the situation.

 The full show is available on the second video. Kurt has issues with the sound and after Polly he smashes the sound desk with his guitar at around 34 minutes 50 seconds in. By the time of Love Buzz Cobain's frustrations boil over and he launches himself into the crowd- as above.

Cobain pics his guitar up and plays what sounds like the riff of Something In The Way before tossing his guitar high and into the drums. There is a lot of noise and confusion before Nirvana play again with Kurt's guitar way out of tune for Penny Royal Tea.

Then in a remarkable show of resilience and character after the fight, Kurt and co tear in Negative Creep and On A Plain as bouncers/stewards gamefully try to keep people from invading the stage. The band end by ripping through Territorial Pissings. It is remarkable footage!

3. Live At Reading 1992
The above footage is incredible, both from October 1991, just a month after the release of Nevermind. Fast forward to the summer of 1992 and Kurt takes the stage at Reading in a wheelchair and hospital gown to take the piss out of rumours about his health.

The energy, passion and punk attitude from the above shows is still there as Kurt throws, smashes and detunes his guitar and then somehow manages to play it again. His unpredictability means that you just cannot take your eyes off him.

So Love Buzz is a favourite of mine, the energy leaps out of the song and the rhythm of Krist and Dave is sensational.

The original was released by Shocking Blue in 1969. The riff is there, but Nirvana electrify and magnify it, recognising its power and transforming it to their advantage. The original also has a bit of a crazy section before bringing the riff back in, but again, Nirvana take that to another level and Kurt's rasping vocal is just incredible.

Previous covers of the month

Friday, 7 September 2018

And Nothing Hurt

I like to sit around and dream you up a perfect miracle
Part the clouds and have the sun proudly shining on you
Take the stars and line them up to spell, darling I love you
And little by little, watch it all come true

The broken, world and life weary, dreamy, psychedelic lullaby voice of Jason Pierce, AKA J Spaceman, ushers And Nothing Hurt, the new Spiritualized album in. And we're off to get lost. In classic Spaceman form, opener A Perfect Miracle builds with multiple vocal layers, strings and horns. It's a beautiful and soulful love song, classically dreamy and with Spaceman lost in love.

every time I close my eyes, I'm just dreaming of you

I'm Your Man was the single to launch the album and it built up expectations. Thankfully they have been exceeded. Pierce plays up to his image and lays his heart on the line, his guitar soars over horns.

I could be faithful honest and true, holding my heart for you
Dependable all down the line, devoted all the time

But if you want wasted, loaded, permanently folded, doing the best he can
I'm your man, I'm your man

Pierce's fragile voice can seem shattered at times, full of joy and wonder at others. Here It Comes (The Road) is the latter, it's full of love and the simplicity of driving with the radio on, eventually leading to his house and the brilliant lyric;

And you can see my house from here
And the way my heart is beating
You'll hear the sound
It'll wake the sleeping

Pierce conjures such emotion through his lyrics, voice and music. Let's Dance is a gorgeous ballad that tips a nod to Big Star in the lyrics. It builds beautifully, the music sounds like it could be from the Beach Boys Pet Sounds sessions. Pierce allows plenty of space and time for the music to play and flow at the end. 

On The Sunshine is more of a psychedelic rocker but it's the fragile, tender ballads that are capable of building, soaring and swooping, that dominate and stand out on And Nothing Hurt.  One of them is Damaged and after a few songs where Pierce is in love, this is one where he's had his heart broken. No-one can write a song about losing in love quite like Pierce, Broken Heart from the seminal Ladies And Gentleman We Are Floating In Space album is the closest I have heard to the sound of a broken heart on record.

Having talked up the ballads, The Morning After is brilliant psych garage rock that sounds like The Velvet Underground jamming with Phil Spector's Wrecking Crew. The psych jam adds in Miles Davis and the MC5.

We dive back into the serene calm of The Prize and Pierce is contemplating leaving (dying? - see below re his illnesses) and debating if love is the prize from life. It's lush, it's dreamy, it's hypnotic

Some reports indicate that And Nothing Hurt may be the final Spiritualized album. If it is, then Sail On Through is a fitting finale. Pierce has been through a tough time in the 6-years since the last Spiritualized album, suffering from double pneumonia and also from liver disease.

Pierce is at his dreamy psychedelic lullaby best as he creates a rich sonic wonderland to get lost in.

If I could hold it down
I would sail on through for you
If I weren't loaded down
I would sail on through for you

And Nothing Hurt is a rich, deep, soulful and lush album with lots to discover and plenty of scope to get lost in. Expect it to feature high in my end of year list of favourite albums from 2018.

Spiritualized are playing live shows, with only one UK gig (London) confirmed at present. They have shows in America and on the continent. Fingers crossed J Spaceman comes to Glasgow - potentially for the last time.

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The The at the Barrowland Ballroom

Last night I witnessed the highly anticipated and exceptionally executed return of Matt Johnson's The The at the Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom, a venue that Matt described online as their favourite in the UK.

The gig sold out almost immediately and I took to Twitter in the weeks leading up to the event to alert fellow music fans that I was on the hunt for a ticket. Some weeks previously I had sold 2 Jimmy Cliff tickets for his Bandstand show at under face value as I couldn't go. Karma helped me out as I got lucky with a ticket for The The, so lucky that I picked it up at my daughters school gates! Thanks Fiona.

My good friend Phil had bagged a ticket from the off and two of his best friends from down south made the journey up to join him. One, Stephen, is known amongst The The circles for his remarkable collection of The The records, both had already been to see the band on their comeback and were hyped to see them at the Barrowland.

The band were due on at 8.45pm but strolled on to the stage at 8.35pm, dressed immaculately in black and proceeded to treat the packed venue to 2-hours of expertly crafted leftfield pop. 23 songs.

The set flowed superbly, Johnson had assembled a crack band to back him, including Little Barrie (Primal Scream) on guitar. Johnson patrolled the stage when he wasn't playing his guitar, draped his arm around his band mates and generally looked like he was having the time of his life.

He took plenty of time to speak to his devoted audience and his voice was top notch all night. Many will be going to see the band do it all over again at the Royal Concert Hall tonight. One thing that struck me throughout was how immersed in the music everyone was and the bands plea for no filming or photos definitely helped with that - hence I have no pics from last night.

There were many highlights; early on the run of The Beat(en) Generation, Armageddon Days Are Here (Again) and We Can't Stop What's Coming was pretty mind blowing. The band were super tight and Johnson's voice was soulful and true, the audience hung on every word, many knew them all.

We can't hate the river for flowing
Can't blame the wild wind blowing
Can't slow time from running
We can't stop what's coming

The beautiful flowing This Is The Day got an extra loud ovation, the crowd singing heartily;

This is the day, your life will surely change
This is the day, when things fall into place

The band were in their element as the set reached its climax, a cover of Hank Williams I Saw The Light was loud, raw and soulful and the subsequent run of songs through to I've Been Waiting For Tomorrow (All My Life) was spine tinglingly good.

Johnson returned to the stage alone after the encore, delivering a beautiful True Happiness This Way Lies, it is safe to say that this show brought true happiness to a lot of people. The band returned and Johnson introduced Uncertain Smile as the song you've all been waiting for.

What followed was a real Barrowland moment for me. I didn't time it, but this was the full 12-inch version of the song and the extended instrumental section was truly sublime, the piano solo as the band grooved was utterly magical. I won't forget this performance for a long time.

There was enough time for Matt and his band to reach into their catalogue for one more and the lyrics of Lonely Planet made perfect sense;

If you can't change the world, change yourself
And if you can't change yourself, change the world

This was an astonishing performance, as good as I have seen at the Barrowland. Johnson's lyrics, voice and craft were captivating. I hope they return to their favourite venue again next year.

Global Eyes
Sweet Bird of Truth
Flesh and Bones
The Beat(en) Generation
Armageddon Days Are Here (Again)
We Can't Stop What's Coming
Beyond Love
Love Is Stronger Than Death
Dogs of Lust
Helpline Operator
This Is the Night
This Is the Day
Soul Catcher
Bugle Boy
I Saw The Light
Slow Emotion Replay
Like a Sun Risin' Thru My Garden
I've Been Waitin' for Tomorrow (All of My Life)

True Happiness This Way Lies
Uncertain Smile
Lonely Planet

Monday, 3 September 2018

The Last Of The Gracious Losers

In this blog I've tried to combine 3 fantastic things I have experienced over the last week courtesy of Jonathan Liley and his band, The Gracious Losers.

- Firstly I had the pleasure of getting my hands on his bands debut LP. It comes in a stunning gatefold sleeve with artwork courtesy of Sean Phillips, the Elsner Award winning comic book artist. More about the music later.

- Secondly, I caught Jonathan playing an intimate acoustic show backed by his friend and band mate Heather on violin as part of a pop up record shop in The Doublet. I was struck by watching Jonathan in such an intimate setting at just how good he is on guitar. Sometimes with only 3 or 4 simple chords (that even I can play) - but he makes them sound a hell of a lot better than I can! He doesn't just play his guitar - he feels it.

The afternoon of music and beers in (and outside) The Doublet was fantastic and I was once again struck by the sense of community created by the Last Night From Glasgow label who organised the day. I don't know why it still surprises me as it has been evident since the label launch night, but it strengthens and develops with every release and event.

- And then on Friday night Jonathan's incredible band launched the album with a headline show at Glasgow's newest live music venue - The Great Eastern. I think The Gracious Losers had 13 people on stage at times and what a sound they created. The Great Eastern on Carrington Street, just off Great Western Road, is a care centre for the elderly during the day. The team from Synergy Concerts have signed a lease for a string of shows at the venue and it was easy to see why. The main room has high beamed ceilings and natural light floods in from windows on either side. A pop up bar was ceased upon by the thirsty crowd and it felt like a real event.

Picture courtesy of Richard Brown

Back to the album.....and more on the show.

The Last Of The Gracious Losers LP has a warm  natural glow from start to finish. The 9-piece (sometimes more) group formed by Jonathan Liley are all top notch musicians (including Johnny Smilie and Monica Queen from Thrum) and capable of jamming, improvising and creating wonderful moments.

Although captured well on vinyl, to see this wonderful group play live on Friday night was a joy. They took flight and the finale of Hey, I'm Riding Low and I Can Never Read the Signs was mind blowingly good. The former is a little over 7-minutes long and the band lock in like Crazy Horse with Johnny Smilie coaxing incredible sounds from his guitar. The latter has a false ending before Liley leads his band to even higher levels, helped by 3 backing singers and a brass section.

Liley is a warm host, bubbling with enthusiasm and a smile is never far from his face. It was easy to see and feel just how much the night meant to him.

The band opened by huddling close around Liley centre stage to sing acapella and harmonise on a new song Till I Go Home which immediately captivated the audience.

Picture courtesy of Richard Brown

The second song in was sensational and I later found that it was a cover of the Daniel Johnston song To Go Home, arranged in the style of the M Ward cover of the song. I was blown away by it. Power, passion and soul. You can check the M Ward version HERE, I hope that The Gracious Losers go on to record their own.

Back to the record Where The River Meets The Sea is counted in gently and for a brief moment it sounds like the guitar, piano and beats are finding each other .... and then they do ... and then we're off into the world of The Gracious Losers. Heartfelt vocals, instruments colliding then breaking, then coming back together and bringing in a friend for good measure. Horns, backing vocals and strings are all there but the song still has so much space to breath.

The harmonies on Moonlight Parade are spine tinglingly good and the band are given time to play, the slide guitar touches the soul. Liley's romantic soul is all over the album I wanna dance with you babe, in the moonlight parade.

Picture by Gary Sloan

Last weekend I got to see Jonathan play an intimate acoustic set, backed only by Heather Philips on violin. Give Your Pain A Name was (for me) a highlight of their set. It's so fragile, so tender, sometimes it feels like it is hardly there. It is a special talent to be able to write and play like this, to get so much feeling down on record. On the album it's Jonathan, his acoustic and mouth organ. Get your headphones on and close your eyes for this beauty.

Give your pain a name and you'll feel much better
It won't hurt so bad when it lets you down, down, down
Next time around

Hey I'm Riding Low is 7-minutes of joy on record. This is widescreen, this is classical, this is absolutely beautiful. We have 90-seconds where guitar and strings play and soar before the beat comes in and Jonathan sings with Amanda. Then the lead electric guitar just takes off like Neil Young and Crazy Horse, the rhythm is simple and kind of funky, and the guitar swoops and soars - wow! Honestly, if you do one thing from reading this blog then check this song and I bet you buy the record.

Johnny Smilie
Picture courtesy of Richard Brown

I Can Never Read The Signs is another epic, the song tails off at 5 minutes 30 before easing itself back in and coming in at a different level - the energy leaps from the record. What a performance!

This was the finale of the bands launch show and oh wow! It was special - Jonathan along with Gary Johnston, Rory McGregor, Johnny Smillier, Erik Igelstrom, Heather Philips, Amanda McKeown, Monica Queen and Celia Garcia (and others!) just soared where few can dream of flying.

The band were one as Amanda, Monica and Celia let rip with their vocals over horns my spine tingled and goosebumps miraculously appeared on my arms. Liley turned to play and groove with his super tight rhythm section and at the end brought everyone to the stage to take in the applause and he fell to his knees, probably wondering it it was all a dream.

I bet he had dreamt of this moment - well it came real.

You can order the gatefold vinyl (with download code) of The Last Of The Gracious Losers HERE

Photo courtesy of Richard Brown