Saturday 26 September 2015

Sonny Marvello and The Insomniac Project

The second Everything Shakes night at The Admiral was held last night. DJ's played vinyl only and two of the best bands around were invited to play live.

The Insomniac Project were on first; a 6-piece from the outskirts of Glasgow - they soon won some new fans with their electro/disco infused tunes. Vocals were shared between Andrew, Mikey and Deborah - with Deborah's vocals absolutely soaring and generating conversation amongst the crowd. The first song was a standout, another song that may or may not be called No Smoke Without Fire was also brilliant, flowing superbly and Mikey did his best with the small space he had on stage to dance and get the crowd going.

The band played a full 40-minute set with their songs flowing well, saving debut single In And Out (Of My Head) to last - blogged about previously HERE - is an absolute belter. Euphoric electro disco pop.

This was only their fifth gig and they displayed enough in their 40th minute set to show that they have bags of potential and they are bound to generate some interest. They have clearly spent a good bit of time developing their sound - crisp and clean - with the ability to soar.

Sonny Marvello had brought a good crowd with them - this was their first show in Glasgow in a few years. The band had gone off the radar to record an album which they released under the guise of Flash Talk. It is a synth pop rock masterpiece, check my review HERE

The band have gone back to a more organic approach and decided to go back to the original name of Sonny Marvello. They opened with a quartet of new songs; Follow The Yellow King had echoes of The Flaming Lips while The Book Of Rays had echoes of Macca in his Wings days.

Mysteries in Motion was the song that generated the best response from the crowd. It is exceptional - full of hooks, a superb breakdown and a chorus you will be singing a-long to on first listen. I can't wait to hear this recorded.

The band then blasted out a couple of Flash Talk numbers; the powerful Tiny Little Sparks and the Bowie meets Kraftwerk Synthesise to the delight of their fans.

Then it was back to old school Sonny Marvello with the closing double header of Pull Me Up, 3 minutes of pure guitar pop and then Made of Magic with the false ending and again it is a song that has the ability to get people singing on first listen.

Sonny Marvello are made of magic; brilliant musicians led by a singer with songs pouring out of him, it is great to have them back.

Friday 25 September 2015

Peter Hook and The Light at Glasgow Art School

If Peter Hook wasn't on stage at Glasgow School of Art playing 3-hours of Joy Division and New Order songs last night, then his performance gave the impression that he would have been happy at home playing the songs on his stereo, singing a-long and looking through memorabilia from an incredible career.

Hooky is a fan - probably the biggest fan there is of two legendary bands that he has been part of.

As much as I would love to see Hooky and New Order kiss and make up, there doesn't seem like much chance - and f**k them - Hooky is having a blast.

At 7.45pm sharp he strode on to the stage and said 'Evening' before playing a set of Joy Division songs. The power of the songs was incredible, Hooky took deep breaths to ready himself for delivering Curtis' lyrics. Walked In Line was delivered with sheer power. Transmission was a delight.

There was a short break and the band returned to play the New Order albums Low-Life and Brotherhood. Hooky displayed incredible stamina and passion, he was on stage for almost 3-hours last night and it wasn't a one-off! His band are constantly touring around the world - and what a band - extremely tight and Pottsy (formerly of Monaco) helping on vocals was particularly brilliant.

Look at that for a setlist - and that is on top of the opening Joy Division set! It was joyful and Hooky was having the time of his life conducting the crowd and the band.

Thieves Like Us was superb, Bizarre Love Triangle greeted like a long lost friend, All Day Long and Every Little Counts were brilliant. Sooner Than You Think was sublime, Love Vigilantes and The Perfect Kiss were blissful, Elegia beautifully somber. Then the encore of Shellshock, True Faith and the glorious Temptation resulted in mass pogo-ing down the front.

What a performance, what a night! Hooky threw poses and sang his heart out, the band were amazing, the crowd even better.

Thursday 24 September 2015

TeenCanteen launch The Girl Effect 2

An exhausted but happy sister at The Girl Effect #1
watching Stanley Odd cover her song 'Honey'

Earlier on this year my sister Carla decided to do something rather special to mark her 30th birthday.

In actual fact it was truly special - Carla curated a night to raise funds and awareness for Scottish Women's Aid with a whole heap of bands and artists covering girl group songs from the 1950's through to present day.

The event at Summerhall in Edinburgh sold out and raised almost £3,500. Artists including Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines), Duglas T Stewart (BMX Bandits), Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), Broken Records, The Spook School, Machines In Heaven, Flash Talk, Stanley Odd and of course Carla's band TeenCanteen covered artists ranging from Martha Reeves and the Vandellas through to The Sugababes with Betty Boo, Destiny's Child, All Saints and TLC in between. A full list of artists and the songs they covered is available HERE

Scottish Women's Aid were so delighted with the awareness and funds raised that they asked Carla if she could do a second night to mark Glasgow taking part in 16 days of action this November.

Emma Davies from Scottish Women's Aid explained; "The 16 days take place every year between November 25th - the International Day of No Violence Against Women, and December 10th - Human Rights Day.

The global campaign sees communities, NGO's and charities hold events aimed at raising awareness of violence against women, and trying to influence behaviour and secure political commitment to ending it.

Every year as a different theme and 2015 is about the links between militarism and the right to education - both in conflict and in peace. The most recent estimates suggest that, worldwide, 31 million girls at primary level and 34 million at lower secondary level are not enrolled in school.

Scottish Women's Aid has used the 16 Days Campaign to raise awareness about domestic violence and to push for changes that make women and children safer."

It is 2015. Lets make a difference.

So here is the line-up for The Girl Effect #2 taking place at Mono in Glasgow on Thursday 26th November. All the artists, the production crew (La Chunky Studios) and the venue are giving their services for free!

Please spread the word and I hope to see you there! Who will SAY Award winner Kathryn Joseph cover? And will anyone cover 'Trouble' by Shampoo?! You'll need to attend to find out.

Thursday 17 September 2015

The journey of a music blog - Apple Glasgow

I have kindly been invited to give a talk about my blog at the Apple Store in Buchanan Street, Glasgow, next Thursday (see above). You can reserve a place for free by CLICKING HERE

During the talk I'll be publishing a live blog to launch The Girl Effect #2, curated by TeenCanteen to raise funds and awareness for Scottish Women's Aid. An incredible selection of bands will be covering girl group songs. The first Girl Effect night took place at Summerhall in Edinburgh back in May and raised almost £3,500. Can the Glasgow one top that?

I will hopefully proving the importance of Social Media in spreading news/launching events - if you come along you can certainly help and it would be great to see you. There will also be a chance to ask questions about my blog.

I'll also be discussing;

1. Why I started writing a music blog

2. What I write about

3. The people I have met

4. Who reads the blog and how do they find it?

5. Stats - the good and the bad

6. Tips for those starting/considering a blog

7. A chat with Carla from TeenCanteen re the importance of blogs

8. An update on stats from the blog launched earlier in the evening

Dave Hook, aka Solareye from Stanley Odd 

Sunday 13 September 2015

Slip Inside This House

Cover of the month #4 - Slip Inside This House

Primal Scream cover The Thirteenth Floor Elevators

Not so much a cover - a total transformation!

Track 2 on the legendary Screamadelica album, Slip Inside This House goes off on a total tangent from the Stone-sy opener of Movin' On Up and brings the listener slap bang into 1991 and Acid House.

Only, this isn't a Primal Scream song, it was originally released by The Thirteenth Floor Elevators back in 1967 - the original summer of love. So there was some kind of neat synergy that it was being updated by the Scream during the second summer of love and it was a nice nod to their love of 60's garage psychedelia.

Of course, being a 15-year old I had no idea it was a cover at the time. It was probably a few years later through reading interviews/reviews or the sleeve notes that I noticed it wasn't written by the band.

Primal Scream, like a lot of bands I fell for in the early 90's, introduced me to loads of good music. Bobby Gillespie is a walking, talking music Encyclopedia and would use interviews to highlight his impeccable taste and knowledge.

So I bought a re-release of The Thirteenth Floor Elevators Easter Everywhere album on vinyl, interested to hear the original. The Scream remain pretty true to the vocal melody, but everything else is transformed. The original has loads of verses and lasts for 8-minutes while the Scream version is just over 5-minutes and concentrates on beats and grooves for much of it before taking the listener on a delicious trip - especially when the bass kicks in.

Screamadelica was (and remains to this date) an important album for me. I remember one crazy night with my good friend Reddy where we listened to it about 7 times in a row when we came in from a night out.

It does sound like Bobby Gillespie, although he has said in interviews that he was so wasted that it was Robert 'Throb' Young that sang on it.

Slip Inside This House by The Thirteenth Floor Elevators is urgent, persistent and the searing guitar just lifts it higher. Primal Scream take it not only to another level, but to another dimension. Exceptional!

Check this live version from the first Screamadelica shows with Jim Lambie's psychedelic artwork only adding to the trippy feel. The original is below.

Saturday 12 September 2015

The Polyphonic Spree at SWG3 Glasgow

OK - where on earth do I start?

Is there any way I can even begin to convey the love and enjoyment that The Polyphonic Spree created through their performance in Glasgow last night? It was joyful, soulful, pure and true - like a dream.

My blog on The Beginning Stages Of gave you an indication of the warmth and wonder that The Polyphonic Spree are capable of creating on record (although hopefully you were already aware!). Watching them live for the first time in 12-years or so at the SWG3 last night - you could multiply that x 100.

Singer Tim DeLaughter had tears in his eyes and was left speechless by the response from the crowd, I had to wipe away some from mine and my sister burst out crying during and after the show. It was a life affirming, heart warming, heartfelt and euphoric performance.

13 members of the Spree took to the stage; 2 on horns, 2 guitarists, bass, drums, keys, percussion, 4 girls in the choir, 1 on cello....they started the gorgeous opening of Have A Day and then Tim DeLaughter strolled on to the stage to be greeted by a true Glasgow welcome. He began to sing but the crowd took over and Tim just gazed at his band in amazement and had tears in his eyes.

Tim led his band through their debut The Beginning Stages Of. You didn't have to be a mind reader to tell what this was meaning to him. Write and play good songs, give us a performance and the Glasgow crowd will respond like no other.

Hands were in the air from the off as my sister and I danced down the front, jumped up and down like loonies and sang our hearts out a-long with Tim, the choir, the band and the rest of the crowd.

If only you could bottle the magic and love that was created at SWG3 last night!

It's The Sun was utterly euphoric, Days Like These was gorgeous with Tim conducting his band, La La was brilliant fun, Middle Of The Day like a strange psychedelic lullaby, before the incredible run of Hanging Around , Soldier Girl both ecstatic and euphoric, Light and Day was simply beautiful - that gorgeous extended bubbling intro, before A Long Day brought us back down to earth.

The band looked resplendent in their robes, Tim was singing his heart out - this is what it is all about. It can't be easy or cheap to tour as the Polyphonic Spree. I hope that the response from Glasgow left Tim and his band in no doubt about how much love there is for them.

A quick break and a change of robes - with Tim coming back on in his tartan robe that someone had made him for T in the Park in 2003 - and the party continued with a short best of set.

New song Popular By Design was superb, psychedelic lights added to the electro disco feel, but it is still definitely the Spree with a huge soaring chorus. I had also forgotten how uplifting and euphoric Hold Me Now is.

A stunning cover of The Monkees Porpoise Song was like going into some kind of 60's happening. The lights, costumes, smiles and music - it was sensational.

Tim took someone's phone and held it up to his face so the crowd could see it through the phone, he shook hands, bounded around the stage and then towards the end there was a great moment where the band just stopped as if they had frozen and he wandered around mucking about with their instruments and creating all kinds of sounds.

My sister and I met Tim afterwards. He was literally speechless. We both thanked him profusely for his music and vision. I sincerely hope the band can return to the UK in the next few years.

Sunday 6 September 2015

The Lemonheads announce ABC show

One of my all-time favourite bands/artists is The Lemonheads and Evan Dando. They have just announced a UK tour and will be playing Glasgow's ABC on Tuesday 6th October. Tickets are on sale now.

Why are The Lemonheads one of my favourite bands? 

It's A Shame About Ray was a landmark album for me and many of my age/generation. I was 16-years old in 1992 when it came out; the warm guitar sounds (acoustic and electric combining), pop punk perfection and more delicate numbers like My Drug Buddy and Hannah and Gabi were all wrapped up in an album under 30-minutes in length.

Indeed - I have just double checked this! Yes, there is so much goodness, 13 songs, lyrical genius, hooks, choruses and lovely guitar sounds in under 30-minutes.

I remember hearing Evan playing an acoustic show live on the Evening Session back in 1992 (I think it was from Sheffield) and being deafened by the screams. He was, and is, a handsome guy! 

I dug deeper, the band had been going since 1986 and released a few albums. There were some cracking tracks like Ride With Me, the cover of Luka and Stove (all from Lovey, the album that proceeded ..Ray) but It's A Shame About Ray is when it all came together; Rudderless, Alison's Starting To Happen, Bit Part....just brilliant guitar songs.

The form continued into Come On Feel The Lemonheads, released swiftly the following year. Gems like Into Your Arms, It's About Time and a reworking of the beautiful and brilliant Being Around (originally a b-side of the Mrs Robinson single) gathered more fans for Evan and his band and propelled The Lemonheads into the top 5.

Evan always had an air of mischief about him and the success led to lots of attention....and drugs. Evan became a regular in the NME and Melody Maker, not just for his music, but for hanging out with Oasis, shagging Courtney Love, partying harder than most and generally being a rock star.

It took 3-years for a follow up and Car Button Cloth was a mixed bag but it still had incredible songs like If I Could Talk I'd Tell You (a co-write with Eugene Kelly), Hospital and the absolute class act that is Outdoor Type (written by Dando's friend Tom Morgan).

Since then there hasn't been a great deal of output; a cracking Dando solo album (also a rare live album), the eponymous album in 2006 and a covers album in 2013.

But Evan has always been relatively active; playing solo shows, touring with The Stooges, shows with Juliana Hatfield and occasionally getting a group together to tour as The Lemonheads.

I have caught the band and Evan live a number of times over the years and there have been some very memorable shows; two in particular spring to mind - Evan at Nice n Sleazys back at the end of 2003 was incredible. I literally got the last ticket in town so had to go on my own and I was right down the front - mesmerised, singing-a-long and very drunk. Then a long Lemonheads set at Benicassim in 2005 with Evan refusing to leave the stage was just sublime, perfect guitar pop.

It is great to have Evan and his friends back and here are the details.

The Lemonheads have announced details of a UK tour in October. The shows will be their first in over 3 years and follow a recent sold-out solo tour by Evan Dando. The line-up will feature Evan Dando (vocals/guitar), Chris Brokaw (guitar), Todd Philips (drums) and Jen Turner (bass). Tickets are on sale now.


Thurs 1st  - Birmingham -  Library

Fri 2nd - Cardiff - The Gate

Sun 4th - Belfast - Limelight 2

Mon 5th - Dublin - Academy

Tues 6th - Glasgow - O2 ABC

Weds 7th - Manchester - The Ritz

Thurs 8th - London - Indigo2

Thursday 3 September 2015

The Beginning Stages of The Polyphonic Spree

The Polyphonic Spree burst on to the music scene in 2002 with their debut album The Beginning Stages Of... 

The ambition, scale, enjoyment, wonder, talent and sonic adventure displayed on the album captured the imagination of many, including David Bowie who invited them to play the Meltdown Festival he was curating.

Polyphonic Spree rose from the ashes of leader Tim DeLaughter's previous band - Tripping Daisy. DeLaughter quickly recruited 12 friends and within 2-weeks the band had a 30-minute set of 9- songs - or sections as they like to call them.

They promptly recruited another 12-members and wrote a tenth song! Could they encapsulate the sounds DeLaughter was creating in his head - could he get them on record?

The answer was a euphoric yes. The Beginning Stages... is an absolutely sensational album that I am currently enjoying revisiting ahead of the band returning to Glasgow to play SWG3 on 11th September, playing the Liquid Room in Edinburgh the night before.

The band blew me away back in 2002 and 2003. It was my sister Carla who discovered them and she ended up speaking to De Laughter online. Their show at Glasgow's QMU around that time was like nothing I had ever seen before. DeLaughter led his 24-piece band through the crowd, dressed in robes, singing their hearts out, up to the stage, where they proceeded to produce one of the most soulful, heartfelt, heartwarming, fun and euphoric performances I have ever seen.

The Beginning Stages... is a life affirming album, born out of tragedy (DeLaughter's friend and bandmate in Tripping Daisy died of a drug overdose in 1999), Have A Day/Celebratory builds to a huge choir singing/echoing DeLaughter's thoughts/hopes.

Soon, you'll find the answer

It's The Sun is like a signature tune for the Polyphonic Spree - bursting with positivity in sound and chorus, yet with sadness, reflection and hope in the verses. This is sensational when they play it live.

Suicide is a same
Soon you'll find your own way
Hope has come you are saved

And the chorus, so simple, so effective;

Hey now it's the sun, and it makes me shine

Days Like This Keep Me Warm is gorgeous, like a blanket, soothing, melancholy, blissful and soulful. The instrumentation, melodies and variations are sublime.

La La is experimental, noisy and brash in comparison to the other songs on the album and Middle Of The Day is subdued; perhaps both are reflections of DeLaughter's state of mind when creating them.

Out of the noise and uncertainty comes hope and looking forwards in the shape of Hanging Around the Day Part 1 as DeLaughter gives himself a good talking to.

You're hanging around the day
You're filling yourself with blame

God only knows what you're missing

Soldier Girl has a kind of urgency from the start, that only increases as the song goes on - the choir kick in behind DeLaugher and the chorus is repeated again and again. The alternative version on the album is even more urgent and even more euphoric.

Light and Day is the sound of sunshine, hope and love, of a band truly finding a remarkable moment, soaring high and indeed - reaching for the sun. It bubbles into life sounding like the most delicious thing you could ever hear.

DeLaughter is singing his heart out and his band join in after he urges everyone to follow the day and reach for the sun. The song explodes in a glorious frenzy. Listening back is a joy.

Photo by Dana Donovan

The album closes with A Long Day, a collage of noise, bringing the listener back down to earth.

DeLaughter himself has said that The Beginning Stages... was essentially a demo album that took on a life of its own, the band went back to rerecord several of the songs for singles and most albums contain bonus versions of Soldier Girl, a combined Hanging Around, Light and Day and It's The Sun.

The original demos are gorgeous but DeLaughter and his band take them to a new level on the new versions. I can't wait to see them again at the SWG3. It has been too long - not that it is easy or cheap to take a 24-piece band and choir on the road!


Tuesday 1 September 2015

Sufjan Stevens at Edinburgh Playhouse

Every now and then I ask a friend to write a guest review; if I can't make a gig, or if they feel particularly passionate about an album or a band.

Sufjan Stevens was playing Edinburgh at the weekend. I could't go, thankfully my friend Kat could.

Here is Kat's amazing review - I think she may well become my Edinburgh correspondent! You can check Kat's photo website HERE 

Sufjan Stevens

Edinburgh Playhouse, Edinburgh International Festival - 30th Aug 2015

When Murray asked me to write a guest review about Sufjan Stevens gig I obviously jumped at the chance without first thinking about how I was going to put my experience into coherent full length sentences, rather than just a collection of one word hyperbolic gushes. Whilst I will stand by every single one of them it runs the risk of sounding trite and overblown so I will try and be as literate as possible.

Whilst Sufjan Stevens fans are a generally loyal bunch and appreciate, at the very least, the lion's share of his work, Carrie and Lowell has seen a welcome return to the sound many of us first fell in love way back when. To have the opportunity to see him live, following what many have deemed his best album yet, is something I don't think many of us thought we'd get the a chance to witness. I very nearly didn't, relying on social media to source a ticket barely 2 weeks before the gig, but lets not think about that now. With that in mind, the atmosphere at the Edinburgh Playhouse is understandably palpable with the highly anticipated arrival of Sufjan Stevens. But when the house lights go down and the stage lights bathe the audience in a bright orange glow there is a definite heightening of palpability and the man himself walks onstage to an unsurprisingly, raucous welcome of Glasgow crowd proportions.

Starting with 'Redford (For You Yia-Yia & Pappou)' from his third album Michigan (fitting in that he is wearing his Michigan T-Shirt) he moves onto Death with Dignity which begins our odyssey through the entirety of Carrie and Lowell. Devoid of onstage chatter Stevens takes us on a seamless journey through the songs that explores his coming to terms with the recent loss of his mother. The audience are spell bound; barely a noise made; hardly a phone lifted. The continuous swapping of instruments by his multi skilled band, which included sporadic appearances from The National's Bryce Dressner, couldn't even break the spell that Stevens was casting on the audience.

He ploughs through the album staying mostly loyal to the track list, each song accompanied by visuals of sprawling landscapes coelescing into super 8 home movies of which we can only assume are his own family, given the nature of the album's content.

The sparse sound of Carrie and Lowell is embellished by the band's additional instrumentation which allow the songs to swell and fade, filling the venue and enhancing the intensely emotional nature of his most personal and honest album to date. With his band never dropping a beat and his voice never faltering the audience are with him ever step of the way. So much so that there is an audible  intake of breath when he launches into Vesuvius from his last album, the critically acclaimed Age of Adz, before finishing with a sonorous electronic version of the final track from Carrie and Lowell, Blue Bucket of Gold  and exiting the stage to a standing ovation which didn't cease until he re-appeared for his encore. This time we are greeted by a more relaxed Sufjan Stevens who laughs and jokes his way through a 7 song encore which includes John Wayne Gacy Jnr, the first song of his I ever heard  on a compilation album I got free with Mojo nearly 10 years ago.

And soon it really is time for him to go. He finishes with, of course, Chicago, tells us he loves us and eventually walks off stage following another standing ovation of nearly 10 mins, leaving the audience awestruck. 

As the audience leaves the building and exhales for the what feels like the first time in nearly 2 hours, it was clear this was one of those gigs that will remain a stalwart in the list of best gigs of all time for almost every single person in that audience. With many of having waited 10 years or more to see Sufjan Stevens live this gig was proof that the best things really do come to those who wait.

Post gig social media is awash with those one word hyperbolic gushes that I mentioned at the start but, to say that they are merely hyperbole is to do Sufjan Stevens a huge disservice because this gig truly was 'phenomenal' 'breathtaking' 'inspirational' 'mesmerizing' etc etc but don't take my word for it, just type in #sufjanstevens and you'll see for yourself.

 Pic from The Guardian