Sunday, 17 February 2019

Bis and Cloth at the Old Hairdressers

Last night was one of those nights when everything seemed to come together. Bis, the DIY pop punk band who burst on to the scene in the 90's as the first unsigned act to play on Top of the Pops, were celebrating their new album, released on Last Night From Glasgow, the modern crowdfunded not for profit indie DIY label.

The rammed show in the Old Hairdressers was the second in a trio of sold-out weekend shows across Glasgow to promote Slight Disconnects, their first album in 5-years.

The Old Hairdressers is one of my favourite venues in Glasgow. It started out as a pop-up bar/arts venue and thankfully it has never lost that sense of atmosphere. Downstairs is sparse, open brickwork, the odd poster, some hastily assembled tables and chairs, fairy lights and a tiny bar. It is dimly lit and full of music fans - my kind of place.

Upstairs through a maze of stairs is what I describe to friends as a New York loft style party venue.  There is no stage, a tiny pop up bar in the corner, a merch table as you come through the door and a soundesk in the far corner. It's the kind of venue that some bands can take by storm, others might fall, there is no hiding behind a fancy light show or huge soundsystem at the Old Hairdressers, you've got to be on it.

Cloth at the Old Hairdressers by Brian Sweeney

Support for the night was fellow Last Night From Glasgow signings Cloth, a band turning more than a few heads thanks to recent 6Music and Radio Scotland sessions. The band have been releasing a song every couple of months, building a growing word of mouth buzz thanks to their sound which I can't help but liken to The XX in the way they play their guitars. Twins Rachael and Paul Swinton front the band playing guitars with Rachael on lead vocals. They are brilliantly backed by Clare Gallagher on drums who switched seamlessly between a standard kit and an electronic one.

This was the third time I have seen them and it was the best. Their reverb-y, sparse guitar riffs and melodies are all kinds of dreamy and Rachael's voice is one that is easy to fall for. Tripp was a highlight for me last night. Cloth probably haven't made it to double figures in terms of gigs, but on last nights evidence they are full of confidence, mystery and invention. 

Rachael Swinton by Brian Sweeney

Check them out on all the usual online platforms. Enjoy watching them build towards their debut album later in the year. They head to London at the start of March to play the Sebright Arms and have announced Glasgow shows with Broken Chanter at the Glad Cafe and the Hug and Pint in May.

Bis at the Old Hairdressers by Brian Sweeney

On to the headliners. Bis were an absolute delight last night, full of punky teen energy, angst, humour and hooks. They didn't build up their set, more like they started in fifth gear with the opener Sound of a Heartbreak off their new album and then just kept their feet on the pedals.

Sci-fi Steve, John Disco and Manda Rin were in brilliant form, clearly enjoying themselves and that spread quickly and easily to the audience. The bounded, pogo-d, yelped, screamed, shouted and bopped their way through high energy pop. The chemistry between the three friends is crystal clear to see. Another newby There Is No Point was delivered ferociously, it sounds fantastic on vinyl but for me Bis are a band that really come into their own when you see them live.

Bis at the Old Hairdressers, picture by Brian Sweeney

Old Bis classics, that Steve and John both joked should have been massive but reached number 74 in the charts, were aired along with plenty of new songs. Kandy Pop was a 100mph romp and Eurodisco started the encore even faster and there was even more dancing and singing.

The Big Sunshine which closes the new album is an absolute beauty, written in memory of a lost friend, it has echoes of New Order and it sounded superb last night.

There was no chance that the band were getting away with a two song encore so they had one last blast with Kill Yr Boyfriend before a well deserved rest. They play the Hug and Pint in Glasgow tonight and after 3 sold out shows over a weekend I suspect there will be a larger Glasgow show later in the year. Oh and any festival bookers who happen to read this blog should book them up now.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Varshons 2

Evan Dando and his latest incarnation of The Lemonheads are back with a new album, Varshons 2 is their second album of cover versions and, as you would expect from Dando's exquisite taste and thirst for music, it is full of lyrical and melodic gems.

Songs by Yo La Tengo, Nick Cave, The Bevis Frond, NRBQ, The Eagles, Paul Westerberg, The Jayhawks, Lucinda Williams and John Prine are treated with love and affection by Dando. I had only heard a few of the songs before, so I'm also enjoying searching for the original versions.

I missed The Lemonheads recent SWG3 show but Dando's solo show at Saint Luke's in Glasgow two years ago saw him play stunning acoustic versions of some of the songs on this album alongside his wife.

As for Vashons 2, released 10-years after Varshons, it contains all the things I love about The Lemonheads. Dando's voice is equally soothing and world weary, it combines beautifully with his wife's vocals, the band sound like they are having fun, the production captures the fact that this is a band enjoying playing songs they love, at times it is deliciously raw in an age where many songs are (over) produced to within an inch of their life.

Varshons 2 is a strong and enjoyable album, though there are some standouts for me. The Jayhawks Settled Down Like Rain is glorious, bringing a big smile to my face. Things by Paul Westerberg is classic Dando, brilliant wordplay with the whole song having a flowing feel to it.

Things I'm bound to tell you, like that dress looks great on ya
I could use some breathing room, but I'm still in love with you

Speed of the Sound of Loneliness is a gem by John Prine, a grammy award winning songwriter who (after googling) has been on the road for 50-years. This is a stunning song with the brilliant line you're out there running just to be on the run.

Dando's love for humour and storytelling through song shines through on Magnet by 60's rock band NRBQ. You're like a magnet, I'm like a piece of steel. This song is so playful and enjoyable.

My favourite track on the album is a song called Round Here by an artist called Florida Georgia Line.  I hadn't heard this before until Dando played it in Glasgow a couple of years ago. The original is a modern country song, but it suffers, as I have mentioned above, from being over produced.

Dando transforms it, making it feel so much more intimate and magical with just him, his acoustic and some beautiful harmonies from his wife.

Evan Dando is an artists I have been following since falling for It's A Shame About Ray as a 16-year and I have fond memories of bootlegging Dando playing live on the Evening Session from those times. He is an artist I turn to regularly, an artist I feel is improving with age, someone with impeccable taste and knowledge of music, from obscurities like Australian band Smudge (who he has covered and co-written with) through to Gram Parsons, Nick Cave and The Eagles with plenty of love for indie pop punk in between. I look forward to hearing what he comes up with soon and I definitely won't miss him when he returns to Glasgow.

The album is available on coloured vinyl from Monorail and all good record stores.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Never Ending Mixtape Part 32

This months additions to the Never Ending Mixtape on Spotify begin with three songs from Scottish artists; The Bluebells Forever More, Flying by newcomers Hairband with the beautiful refrain I know a place where we can try to learn how to fly and Girasol by Lightships (Gerry Love).

Elsewhere we have Scotland represented by Stealer's Wheel, Eurythmics and Teenage Fanclub. In between we have a gem from Nick Drake that you imagine Stuart Murdoch must have listened to a few hundred times. Rainbows by Dennis Wilson is a song that I am always blown away by, Carole King at her absolute best with Where You Lead, Gene Clark is well represented, we have Burt Bacharach and even Petula Clark. And if you don't get a shiver down your spine when you listen to Harry Nilson's Without You then ......

Search for Everything Never Ending Mixtape on Spotify or CLICK HERE.

The playlist is now approaching 900 songs. Play from the start, anywhere in between, click on shuffle or scroll to near the end to play the latest additions that are listed below.

Forever More - The Bluebells
Flying - Hairband
Girasol - Lightships
Hazey Jane II - Nick Drake
Reason to Believe - Karen Dalton
The Shining - Badly Drawn Boy
Come Pick Me Up - Ryan Adams
Rainbows - Dennis Wilson
Spanish Dance Troupe - Gorky's Zyngotic Mynci
All You Good Good People - Embrace
Stuck In The Middle With You - Stealers Wheel
Where You Lead - Carole King
Here Comes The Sun (live) - Ritchie Havens
Up With The People - Nixon
Wow and Flutter - Stereolab
Tired of Waiting for You - The Kinks
Strength of Strings - Gene Clark
Some Misunderstanding - Gene Clark
Why Not Your Baby - Dillard and Clark
Eight Miles High - The Byrds
You Tore Me Down - Flamin' Groovies
I Got Kinda Lost - Chris Bell
Fallen Star - Flamin' Groovies
Johannesburg - Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson
Without You - Harry Nilsson
South American Getaway - Burt Bacharach
Don't Sleep In The Subway - Petula Clark
(They Long To Be) Close To You - Burt Bacharach
You Don't Own Me - Dusty Springfield
Love Is A Stranger - Eurythmics
Thorn In My Side - Eurythmics
So Much Love - Dusty Springfield
Then He Kissed Me - The Crystals
Don't Look Back - Teenage Fanclub
Going Places - Teenage Fanclub