Friday 28 June 2013

Kingdom of Wires by Kevin Harper

Once I loved a girl while i was broken hearted
So we were doomed from the minute it started

So begins 'Kingdom of Wires', the debut solo album by Kevin Harper, one of the most talented songwriters in Scotland.

Anyone familiar with Harper's work from his fondly remembered band Little Eskimo's will know that he isn't afraid to pour his heart out into his songs. 'Kingdom of Wires' takes things further, Kev has lived a life, he has loved and lost, several times, friends included.

Once I had a brother a friend for a lifetime
Until he left us, he suddenly left us

The title track flows superbly with guitars powering through and ringing true, much like Kev's lyrics.

Harper's love of American guitar music is evident throughout the album, perhaps displayed at best with 'Couch'. Catchy, personal and with an element of self depreciating humour, 'Couch' is brilliant.

In a year from now I will miss you still
If i could tell you I'm sorry, Jennifer i will

'Get Me Down' slows things down - well a little bit. There is a sense of urgency throughout the album, almost like these songs have been stored for a while and during recording (with Harper playing pretty much everything) they were just bursting out.

'Better Ways' rumbles into life and once again Harper is opening his heart to the world. The song fizzes into life like a classic Foo Fighters single for the chorus.

'I Was A Sailor' is a song I first heard many moons ago and it is great to hear it on record. I sometimes think that Kev must have lived in America in a previous lifetime. Real humour and playfulness on this track, although again there is that sense of hurt and looking for something new.

Gotta get some light in here
I can hardly see
I gotta get some air in here
I can barely breathe

'Said It All' has another soaring chorus and the guitars across the album sound fantastic.

A secret in the morning can be a ruin by the afternoon
'Glory Box' by Portishead can ruin the day for you

So begins 'Used It Well' before the chorus explodes into life - seriously, the way the choruses flow on this album are exceptional. The closing hook 'You gotta come back down' is the killer blow.

'Forgotten Girls' starts with just an acoustic guitar and drum machine and Kev's heartfelt vocals. Synths help power the chorus to this song, rather than the usual guitars. In that sense, it does break up the album quite nicely, offering something different and leading into some slower tracks.

The album goes off in a completely different direction with 'Oxygen' with Kev singing about another lost love who has a new boy who just uses her for 'idle entertainment'. The chorus on this song soars in a different way to others, there is barely anything backing up Harper other than emotional synth sounds.

The epic 6-and-a-half minute 'Jacqueline' closes the album in spectacular manner. There is a welcome increase in the speed and urgency of the song from the previous two songs 'Majorette; (ripe for an American sync deal!) and 'Gibraltar'. This is Kevin Harper and the Heartbreakers, acoustic guitars married perfectly to synths and electric guitar.

The guitar solo is scorching and Kev even allows a nice 'alright' during it, recognising the groove he has found with this tune. The song progresses into a real synth jam - brilliant.

Kevin Harper and his band play King Tuts on July 29th. The bands on after him better be on top of there game or he is going to blow them off the stage. See you there!

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Stone Roses at Glasgow Green 2013

My favourite band in my home town, it was all set up to be a momentous occasion to rival the incredible high I had for weeks after Heaton Park last summer....

So why did I walk away from the event a little deflated? 

Did the comedown from Heaton Park finally kick in?

The Roses at Glasgow Green was a real mixed bag for me; I got to spend the day with family and friends, have a good time, see 2 of my fave bands and even make a rare (these days) excursion to go clubbing at the Arches. However the sound wasn't great, Ian's singing was awful at times and the atmosphere at times really threatened to turn extremely sour.

That said, there were moments of sheer brilliance, notably 'This Is The One', 'Made of Stone' and 'Resurrection' at the end.

The atmosphere in Glasgow was electric. I was in town on the Friday for the Ian Tilton 'Set In Stone' exhibition and then on to Primal Scream's secret show at the Poetry Club (blog review to follow) and everyone was talking about the Roses coming to town, there were pre-show-pre-show parties a-plenty, everyone was up for it in a big way.

I met a crowd of friends and family on Saturday afternoon to get in the mood and we got into town early evening, meeting loads of people we know en route to the venue. Everyone was out for the hottest ticket in town. I've never seen Glasgow go nuts like this for a band before.

There was no problems getting in, we all waltzed in with no-one being checked for bottles, cans or anything else. Jake Bugg was still playing, the sun was shining, the weather was sweet...

We got split up almost immediately due to the crazy crowd for beers and the fact that mobiles weren't working. My crowd headed towards the sound-desk to make sure we could hear what was going on.

Jake Bugg's Dylan-esque melodies sounded brilliant in the early evening sunshine and all seemed sweet.

Primal Scream came on and after a promising opening their set turned rather flat with the airing  of 2 of the more subdued tracks from their new album. With the Scream's back catalogue you would have expected them to fire off a set to rival the Roses, but perhaps 2-years of Screamadelica and the punk ethic in Bobby G meant that he stuck to his guns to promote the new album. '2013' sounded fantastic though and 'Loaded' could get any party started, never mind one containing a load of people who were...loaded. As good as Primal Scream can be on their day, the crowd were here for one band only.

A torrential downpour didn't dampen the spirits, anything but! The crowd just cheered as the rain got heavier and then a double rainbow appeared just in time for the Roses taking the stage.

Before they did we moved from our position as a fight broke out between 2 groups of lads. I'm not sure how it developed but some serious punches and kicks were being thrown and the mood turned nasty. Given the amount of people unable to walk or talk due to drink or drugs, I wasn't surprised, people were falling around banging into others and creating tension. It seemed harmless at first, a bit of shoving and pushing, but it got nastier and with my wife and sister there we moved forwards to the front right of the sounddesk.

The Roses came on to 'Stoned Love', Ian Brown looking super cool in a yellow anorak, his haircut reminiscent to the one from those iconic shots in the inside cover of the debut album from 1989.

Mani was up for it big style, flares were being let off, everyone was in the mood. The rumbling bassline of 'Adored' kicked in to a huge cheer and then Squire's lazy, melodic guitar lines kicked in sounding beautiful, Reni held it all together. They sounded incredible, no-one else can play like that.

'Elephant Stone' followed, the place was going nuts. There was another couple of scuffles around us and the sound seemed to become a little distant in comparison to 'Adored'. 

'Ten Storey Love Song' kept things going, generating one of the biggest sing-a-long choruses of the night, people were hugging as Brown patrolled the stage and Squire's guitar chimed beautifully.

The sound didn't seem quite right, it seemed to rise and fall rather than be consistent like Heaton Park. Maybe it was where I was standing (doubt it as it was near the sounddesk), maybe it was the weather, maybe it was just the sound or maybe it was because Glasgow Green has a residential area around it so the sound can't be as high as Heaton Park.

Anyway, it didn't seem right to me. I was struggling to get into the gig as a result. The increasing number of people seemingly up for a fight also wasn't helping my mood.

'Sally Cinnamon' sent the place even more ballistic and a few people fell over where we were standing as flares were held aloft. Then a flare was thrown, then some glasses of piss and beer were thrown, then what looked like a Buckfast bottle was thrown. 

Things were raining down from all angles. A few people got clobbered, a few of them went looking for the culprits. The mood was turning.

'Fools Gold' didn't seem to generate the same feeling as it had at Heaton Park, the sound seemed swampy. 'Something's Burning' seemed flat.

'Waterfall' lifted things, the outro was played at a furious pace but then things went horribly wrong for Ian Brown during 'Don't Stop'. He was so far off key it was embarrassing. The last time I saw Brown solo I walked away, he was that bad. My brother and I cringed, 2 huge Roses fans at our home town show. Brown was awful.

He picked it up thankfully and the closing third of the show was the best as the Roses romped through 'Drums', 'This Is The One', 'Made of Stone' and 'Resurrection'.

Maybe it was just me, but 'Love Spreads' and 'Breaking Into Heaven' sounded leaden in comparison.

By this time we had edged out to the side near a speaker to try and get a better sound and to escape the mayhem where we had been standing.

The heady atmosphere had turned for me, too many people were incapacitated through drink  and drugs. As Ian Brown himself once said 'tune in, turn on, don't drop out.' Too many people seemed to be there to get as fucked as possible rather than to see and hear the band.

We headed to the Arches a little subdued, talking about the good things but also the not so good. After a while we were dancing to Hacienda classics.

Back in 1999 I witnessed United lift the Champions League in Barcelona to complete a historic treble. It took a while to come down.

I think Heaton Park will always be my Barcelona - never to be repeated, yet I'll always strive for that high...hooked.

My thoughts go out to the poor girl who passed away following the show. R.I.P