Sunday 29 April 2012

The Son(s) - Leviathan EP

To keep your identity hidden in the current age is pretty impressive and I personally find it quite refreshing. That is exactly what The Son(s) have done following the release of their self-titled debut album last year and Leviathan, the excellent 6-track follow up EP. The album is available to buy NOW and the EP is released on 7th May. Both are released via Olive Grove Records, the DIY label that may well make the jump to a respected indie within the next 2 or 3 years if it continues its current approach.

I was going to write this review on first listen, a write-while-I-listen approach, that can either work well or hopelessly mis-fire as songs grow on me.

That approach went out the window very quickly and I am now on my fourth listen of the opening track 'Roaring Around The Houses'. There are some beautiful harmonies, gentle acoustic strums, a stunning melody played on an instrument I don't know, (maybe a flute sampler or something?). The vocals are exquisite, as is the recording and production. I would highly recommend listening to this on headphones.

Only two-and-a-half minutes long, be warned, you may be like me and go back and listen to this again and again.

'If I Hear You Talk Apostrophes Again' takes me by surprise as it comes in on a Bowie type riff, there is another nice melody plonked out from a piano, the vocals are completely different - hushed yet with a menace about them, the harmonies are close and brilliant again but in a different way. As it is The Son(s) I have no idea if it is a different singer or the same person who sang the opener. I did read somewhere it was one person, if it is then the guy is incredibly talented.

'When I'm King you're first against the wall'

'Cocksure Boys' slows things down again. I don't know if The Son(s) listen to The Beach Boys or not, but I am kind of guessing they do. The intricate melodies and variety of instruments are so special that you could play this to a stranger and pass it off as a long lost gem from the 'Smile' sessions or something. Seriously, this is special music. The production is sublime again as it is throughout this gem of an EP.

'You, you're just the kind of fellow, who likes taking things apart, 
but can't put 'em back together'

Again, I had to go back and listen to this a few times. It truly is a gem.

The quality and variety of music on this EP is truly remarkable. One of those few occasions where the music hits you instantly yet you know it also has so much depth that you will keep going back to it. 

I do hope The Son(s) eventually play live. I do also like and appreciate the fact they remain a mystery. Apparently promoters and festivals wanted them to play last year...they turned them down. 

'Half Lived' changes pace again. It has a dream like feeling to it and has the hook that turns into a mantra;

'Please cover the kids in kisses from me'

'Shot Out A Cannon' has an Elbow like feel and quality to it. The lovely instrumental to close the song ends too soon, you could get hypnotised by it. 

'There Is No-one To Thank' is just over 2-minutes long, yet that is more than enough time for The Son(s) to work their magic. The guitar playing is exceptional and the melody picked out on a xylophone is just beautiful.

'There is no-one to thank. There is no-one to turn and say thank you too
You don't know where they've gone, and it's no consequence of where you come from'

This is the best thing I have heard in ages. I don't really know what else to say, hopefully the references to The Beach Boys, Elbow, melodies, hypnotic instrumentals, hooks, etc etc will lead you to check it out.

For now, you can stream the EP from the Olive Grove Records Soundcloud page....but you will want this on your ipod. Or you can buy a cassette! 

Ryan Adams @ Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 26th April 2012

It isn't often you get to witness a genius at work. On Thursday night I got to do just that when I caught Ryan Adams performing at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

Armed with two acoustic guitars and a piano, Adams took us on a 2-hour journey through his entire career. It was spell-binding. The audience lapped it up, sitting in awed silence before responding in rapturous fashion, with several songs receiving standing ovations.

The whole set was one long extended highlight. Adams moved from sitting centre stage playing one of his guitars, to stage right to stand and play his other, moving to piano for some stunning songs including 'New York, New York.' His between song humour ranged from the mickey taking 'here's another miserable song' to complete off-the-wall banter. There was also an 'Ode To A Cat' song sung at the piano that was hilarious.

Starting with 'Oh My Sweet Carolina' from his 'Heartbreaker' album just set the tone as he jumped about his albums, moving swiftly on to 'Ashes and Fire', the title track from his latest album. The range in Adams voice is evident on record, in a live setting it becomes even more apparent how talented he is. It seemed so easy and effortless.

'Winding Wheel' is one of my favourite Adams songs and tonight my love for it seemed to grow stronger with every second. 'Firecracker' was a dream, 'New York, New York' was turned into a piano heartbreaker.

There were some Adams nuts in the audience who applauded his every move, something that Adams took the piss out of at times after some guys applauded him for walking across the stage.

 The swift double hit of 'Lucky Now' and the gorgeous 'Come Pick Me Up' prompted huge applause as Adams left the stage to a standing ovation.

The crowd wouldn't let him go and he sauntered back on to leaf through a huge black folder contaning who-knows-what. I imagine there are some works-in-progress and some long lost gems.

Getting annoyed that he couldn't find what he was looking for he played a song called 'Round and Round', a cover by a band called RATT.

Oh My Sweet Carolina
Ashes and Fire
If I am a Stranger
Dirty Rain
Winding Wheel
The Rescue Blues
Please Do Not Let Me Go
Do I Wait?
Everybody Knows
Sweet Lil' Gal (23rd/1st)
Why Do They Leave?
English Girls Approximately
Chains of Love
16 Days
Mr.Cat >
The End
Lucky Now
Come Pick Me Up
Round & Round

Thursday 26 April 2012

The day I bought Mani a pint at lunchtime

The reformed Roses 

OK, OK, excuse me for going into Stone Roses overdrive. I have somehow managed to persuade my wife to fly out to Amsterdam at the start of June to catch my favourite band...that I have never seen live.

Our friend Lynn lives out in Amsterdam and she messaged me earlier in the week to say she had two spare tickets. Now I am already travelling down to Manchester at the end of July to catch the Roses at one of their Heaton Park gigs, but the Amsterdam show is at the 5,500 capacity Heineken Music Hall. At Heaton Park I could be a mile from the stage.

The romantic notion of flying out to Amsterdam with my wife 10-years after our first (and last visit) to the beautiful city to catch the Roses on their third comeback gig got me excited. Easyjet flights were duly booked and I cannot wait.

The excitement caused me to indulge in the memory of meeting one of my favourite band's members back in March 1999. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Back then I had just turned 23. I was working for Abbey National's Customer Service Desk on St Vincent Street. It was a Friday, a dress down day, thankfully as I wouldn't have wanted to meet Mani in my square work gear. I still remember what I was wearing; Penfield anorak, baggy (if

I was walking up Pitt Street to go to Greggs or something. I was nearing Sauchiehall Street when walking across in front of me was Mani, or someone who looked like Mani, with a mate.

I turned on to Sauchiehall Street. It was Mani. Some kind of reaction (excitement) caused me to to just shout out, 'MANI'!

Mani stopped in his tracks and turned round. I caught up.

Mani - 'Alright?'

Me - 'F**king great to meet you, what you up to?' (I don't normally swear but I was young and excited)

Mani shook my hand, pumping it with a huge grin on his face, happy to be recognised - I think. Mani has always made time for fans.

Mani - 'Just mooching about the shops man.' (He said this in a particularly Mancunian accent)

Mani's mate Phil Smith (Oasis tour dj) - 'We're looking for a bar called Ocho.'

Me - 'I know where that is if you want me to show you?'

Mani - 'Sound as a pound.'

My passion for the Stone Roses was well known at work, so here I was walking down Sauchiehall Street with a legend. Over 2,000 people worked in that building at the time, a number of whom saw me, including fellow Roses fans. I felt 10 feet tall, especially when I saw a girl who I knew was a massive Roses fan. Her eyes were popping out of her head.

Mani at the Rooftops in Glasgow, their first Glasgow show

I chatted about the recent United v Inter Champions League Quarter Final and mentioned that a couple of my Mancunian mates had met Mani out in Milan.

Mani - 'Fucking top Euro away man, this is our year.'

We got to Ocho...

Me - 'This is us.'

Mani - 'Do you want to come in for a pint?'

Me - 'Yeah alright then.' (Inside I was screaming YEEEEAAAAHHHH)

We walked up the stairs and into the bar...

Mani - 'What you drinking?'

Me - 'No I'll get them, I'd really like to buy you a pint. The Roses were my favourite group and I love Primal Scream.'

Mani - 'Mine's a Kroneburg, Phil?'

Phil wanted one too, so it was 3 Kronenburg's all round. I still think of this day whenever I drink one!

We sat down, the only people in the pub. Now I don't normally get starstruck but I have to admit to being on cloud nine at this point.

Conversation flowed easily, as anyone with even the slightest knowledge about Mani's larger than life personality would expect. 

Mani in full flight - lost in music

Mani didn't disappoint, answering my questions about current Scream recordings (to be released the following year as XTRMNTR - with Mani bigging up how central his bass was to the sound), talking about United and the possible treble, his memories of the Roses.

I must have come across as 'alright' as they said they were going to Greenock that night and asked if I wanted to come. I declined as I had to go back to work! How very conscientious of me!

If I had the chance again I would have stayed out at least for another few pints. But an hour in Mani's company was enough, it left me buzzing.

I got back to work to loads of emails titled Mani and a girl in my team asking 'Who were you out to lunch with?'

Me - 'Mani!'

What a day. When a hero lives up to expectations (and more) it is a great feeling. Mani is just full of energy, enthusiasm and lust for life. It is infectious. He was a joy to have a beer with.

Mine's a pint Mani. ;-)

Thursday 5 April 2012

A Case of Vinyl - Tim Burgess

Tim Burgess debut solo album 'I Believe' was upbeat pop with quite a few love songs. Rather a lot has happened since 2003 with Burgess splitting with his wife last year (I think).

A taster for the album, suggesting it may be one of those classic 'breakup' albums, has been released in the form of 'A Case of Vinyl', available on the free CD through the current edition of Uncut and about to be released on Record Store Day on limited vinyl.

Recorded in Nashville and co-written with Kurt Wagner from Lambchop, you can almost feel (or visually picture) that Burgess heart as been broken. This is soulful and mournful, Burgess trying to be philosophical about the way things worked out. 

'Just because I didn't win, my playlist hasn't changed all that much'

'those guitars all turn into violins, just because I didn't win'

The section beginning 'See those records stacked up in the corner' is surely a vocal highlight for Burgess. Staggeringly beautiful, incredibly gentle, intimacy on vinyl.

The second break is equally superb;

'....and then those songs might be lost forever, or until they're discovered again'

On the third verse it sounds like Burgess' voice is close to cracking, as if he is welling up. This is a song to listen to on headphones.

It is a long time since I have heard someone lay their soul so bare on a record, it sounds like the album is going to be a brave one in that context. I look forward to it.

Recorded in Nashville. Produced by Mark Nevers. 
Written by Tim Burgess & Kurt Wagner 
Release Date April 21st 2012 
7'' Clear Vinyl 
LP out in Sept 2012