Thursday 28 July 2016

I’m In Love by Teenage Fanclub

I’m In Love is the new single by Teenage Fanclub as the band return following an extended break. Released to radio back in June, a new Brian Sweeney directed video has been released today to gee fellow Fanclub fans up ahead of the new album Here, set for release on 9th September.

The band have all been pretty busy since the release of 2010’s beautiful Shadows album. Norman has toured and released with Jonny, Jad Fair and the New Mendicants, Gerry delivered the summery delight of his Lightships album, Francis has released Building Jerusalem - a classical soundtrack and also an instrumental album, while Raymond has helped out Dave with Snowgoose and Dave has also been busy with Belle and Sebastian.

Naturally, it is a welcome return. Teenage Fanclub’s 2014 summer show at the Kelvingrove Bandstand was proof of the love that exists for this wonderful band. That has been demonstrated by the incredible response to the September warm-up shows and the winter tour, with many shows selling out quickly. I'm particularly looking forward to the Glasgow weekender!

On to I’m In Love. I first heard this song in May 2015 when I gave Norman and his very good friend Duglas a lift back to Bellshill from Edinburgh after they kindly played The Girl Effect charity show organised by my sister. The two were in fantastic form, bouncing off each other and discussing all kinds of music.

I couldn’t resist asking Norman what was happening with Teenage Fanclub and he was only too pleased to let me know, asking if I would like to hear some songs from the album! My wife Lynn is incredibly untechnical and couldn’t get Norman’s phone plugged in, so Norman was leaning over sorting this out as we sped along the M8!

Thankfully Norman got it sorted and we blasted out I’m In Love and a few other tracks, one that may be on the next Jonny album. My wife was a little drunk and commented ‘it’s very Teenage Fanclub’, causing us all to laugh!

I'm In Love is very Teenage Fanclub-y! It’s upbeat, positive, the harmonies sound as good as ever (if not better as I have missed them so much), a great guitar solo and it flows superbly. There is warmth, urgency, soul and it zips along, a 2 minutes and 41 seconds summery guitar pop wonder.

The video fits the song perfectly; showing the band getting together, recording, enjoying the scenery and hospitality offered by Edwyn Collins in Helmsdale. There are smiles, a kick about, the sun shines for TFC and a rainbow even makes an appearance.

Welcome back. Roll on the album and the shows.

You don’t know, what you mean to me
Girl I owe you my life

It feels good
When you're close to me
That’s enough, that’s enough
Isn’t life such a mystery?
I’m in love, with your love 

Sunday 24 July 2016

Introducing - Emme Woods

Photo by Brian Sweeney

Please meet Emme Woods, a 21-year old singer and songwriter who releases her debut 7-inch via Last Night From Glasgow Records tomorrow (Monday 25th July) when she also headlines King Tut's Wah Wah Hut as part of Summer Nights.

Emme used to perform under the guise of Something, Someone - a folky, rootsy and acoustic style won her a number of plaudits and fans. Things changed earlier on in 2016 when Emme bought her first electric guitar.

In came a slow, raw and bluesy style. Emme sent her first recording in this style to Ian Smith, just around the time we had set up Last Night From Glasgow. I think we were on our second or third meeting. 

Ian pressed play and the 6 of us sat round in silence, staring into space or at the speakers, enjoying the raw guitar sound, the slow and unrushed pace of the song and Emme's stunning vocals.

There was a moment of silence before Ian asked everyone for their thoughts. PJ Harvey was mentioned a couple of times before it was swiftly decided that this would be the second release on our fledgling label.

Rather a lot has happened since we launched the label at the end of March. One incredible thing (mentioned in my last label blog about Mark W Georgsson) is that acclaimed Scottish photographer Brian Sweeney is on board as Artistic Director!

Brian shot the beautiful cover for the 7-inch record (artwork above) and also the promo film below.

The black and white film fits the song perfectly and I think that when you watch it, the film enhances the song as they work so well together; Emme looks like a film star, its cinematic, sexy, edgy and evocative. As is the song.

Emme has bags of ability and is also full of ideas, I love the fact that she is exploring new sounds and wants to collaborate with others.  I look forward to watching her develop and to hear what she comes up with and I hope we can release something else on Last Night From Glasgow in the future.

I caught up with Emme for a quick online chat ahead of her Tut's show tomorrow.

EF -Has the move to electric guitar changed your writing style?

EW - It has a bit, it's kinda free'd me up to experiment more and to go a bit more mental. My playing style has transferred over to electric but has changed because some of the sounds you can get out of an acoustic are a bit different to the sounds on electric, but I'm feeling it.

EF - What do you hope to do/achieve over the next year or so? Are you writing with anyone?

EW - I'm still writing by myself a lot but I've recently started writing with an amazing musician and songwriter; Barrie James O'Neill. I've not long moved into a new house, it is a beautiful old Victorian house and the living room is amazing. It has great acoustics and a piano, so I just invite Barrie over and we write there. With the great space and me and Barrie bouncing ideas off each other it just feels such a creative space.

Over the next year I'm working towards getting an album out. Some tunes are coming together really nicely so I'm getting quite excited to hit the studio soon.

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Homemade Lemonade by Ette

Homemade Lemonade is the debut album by Ette, the solo project of Carla J Easton (my sister) from TeenCanteen. It has just been released on lovely bubblegum pink vinyl via Olive Grove Records. My daughter Zoe (Carla's niece) features on the cover.

It seems to be hitting a mark; the band had a 6Music session with Marc Riley on Monday night, host a launch party at the Old Hairdressers on Thursday and then have another session with Vic Galloway on BBC Radio Scotland the following week.

You can listen back to the Marc Riley session (for the next few weeks) HERE

Naturally, I'm a big fan, but also Carla's fiercest critic. Thankfully she never really gives me any cause to do least not with her music!

I'm not the only fan of the album. The Skinny have described Homemade Lemonade as 'FAN. FUCKING. TASTIC; rage pop, exhilarating psychedelia and a treasure trove of sonic surprises', while Scots Whay Hae have described it as 'pop music at its very best' and Last Years Girl have talked of 'sunny melodies being put through a psychedelic meat grinder.'

Written and recorded in the summer and autumn of 2015, it is a rich, raw, diverse, clever and beautiful album. Carla recorded the songs with Joe Kane from Dr Cosmos Tape Lab at his garage studio - it was a chance for them to explore, experiment and have fun with the songs that Carla brought to the table. The album was recorded in only 5-days.

Joe produced the album, plays on every song (multi-instruments) and also co-wrote the disco groove summer tune Heaven Knows. The two hit it off - big time!

Lead single Attack of the Glam Soul Cheerleaders (Parts 1 and 2) opens the album and in 2 minutes 45 seconds we are introduced to the Ette sound (which varies from song to song but is definitely POP). Handclaps, motown-esque beats, backing vocals, urgency, hooks, choruses and a brilliant false ending/slight return.

A boy said to me L O V E
That is a word that sounds new to me

Hey little sister, spell it to the mister
L O V E means empathy

There were no rules and experimentation was encouraged by both parties. At this point it was all about recording - no thoughts of an album or band. Carla remembers arriving at Joe's studios in glorious sunshine to hear him experimenting with dub reggae beats and grooves and asking if Carla might have anything to go with them. Bonfires is experimental dub reggae pop psychedelia and it is brilliant. An inspired raga rap by Leroy 'Shines' Moncrieffe gives the song an extra edge.

The studio set up - synths, keys and effects!

Bird In The Sky has a glorious free flowng melody, all kinds of instruments combine to create a beautiful psychedelic euphoria.

Carla's ability to create a melody from nowhere combines with her clever use of humour and reflection on I Hate You Song. It's a ferocious stomper, the music matching the fire and anger in the lyrics and vocals.

Did you know I have got all night
If you feel up to a fight

Although they seem so far
It's where I want to go

I hate you but I hate that I once loved you even more
I've got a score to settle

Fireworks is the oldest song on the album, originally written away back in 2011 and BMX Bandits recorded and released the song on their In Space album. Duglas from BMX Bandits is a tremendous friend to Carla and an amazing supporter of her songwriting.

Carla revisits the song on Homemade Lemonade and produces a beautiful version complete with a trombone solo that melts the heart.

If Carla was going through a tough time and reflecting on I Hate You Song, then the heady rush of falling in love is perfectly captured on Heaven Knows. I fell in love with it from the moment I heard the first raw version that Carla sent me. I hope the piano, Harrison-esque guitar/synth, the strings, melody, lyrics, disco beat, hooks, chorus, outdo (very Jackson 5) and the stunning vocals will win you over too. This was a real highlight when they played live at Oran Mor in June. The song has space to breath, it flows, soars and is full of fun, love and urgency.

The way you make me feel
Is so unreal, it’s so unreal
The way you make me feel
When I’m with you, when I’m with you

Joe Kane and Carla are a pop match made in heaven. Joe's musical and production skills are incredible, check his work with Dr Cosmos Tape Lab; Beyond The Silver Seas was my album of 2015.

Joe and Carla 

The vast majority of this album was written in a very short space of time; there is anger, reflection, love and memories.

I guess that when you're hurt then your Mum is someone you naturally turn to. My Mother Said has Carla singing her heart about phoning her (our) Mum and her telling her to come home and stay with her. She did and subsequently wrote this album and moved on.

My Mother said 'Carla when you go to bed, you will wake in the morning feeling rosie'
My Mother said 'Darling when you go to bed, you will wake in the morning feeling good'

The homemade psychedelic pop feel to the album comes across on Birthdays. A playful melody and more reflection.

I love the whole album but if I was asked to choose one highlight then I would go for Bones. Carla's voice is beautiful, the production again allows the song to breath, the melody flows superbly, the harmonies are glorious and the experimental music and performance is sublime. The lyrics are clever, stream of consciousness,

I only want to see the best in you
But you only give me all the rest of you
You're a constellation that I'll never know
Cause you're missing each and every star that glows

Spending Every Christmas Day With My Boy is another reflective song....this time it's not about a boy....but a cat!  Joe and Carla go into full on Spector mode with the beats, bells and jingles

I hear jingle bells when I think of you
And my heart is full of joy
Knowing I'm spending every Christmas Day with my boy

Homemade Lemonade is an inventive and eclectic album with loads to offer. It has led to Carla and Joe forming a band and I really hope it leads them back to the studio again.

Ette - with Marc Riley from 6Music

Sunday 17 July 2016

Wildflower by The Avalanches

The Avalanches Since I Left You was released in late 2000, becoming a word of mouth sensation and being a real favourite at house parties and cool bars in Glasgow all the way through 2001.

I fell in love with the stunning production, the feel, melodies and flow of the album. They played The Arches, coming on stage to a great mix of Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone and Marvin's What's Goin' On with a slice of Madonna's Holiday added in for good measure - this kind of impeccable taste was displayed on a mix-tape that I bought (and it may be up in my loft somewhere) called GIMIX.

The mix was sublime; The Smiths are mixed in with the likes of Ol' Dirty Bastard, The Beatles, Fatboy Slim, Daft Punk, Hendrix and Livin' Thing by the Electric Light Orchestra sounded euphoric when mixed in with house songs.

I loved the album and their taste so much that I travelled down to legendary Manchester club Sankey's Soap to see them do a DJ set. The place erupted and it was a hands in the air moment when they dropped in Queen's I Want To Break Free!

The Avalanches were hugely refreshing, the mix tape was the kind of mix that would be played a pre and post club parties when guests raided the cd/record collection of the host. The way they mixed styles and genres was sublime.

And the album Since I Left You was totally sublime. The title track was a slice of pure pop heaven, capable of brightening the darkest day. A Different Feeling and Two Hearts In 3/4 Time were similarly euphoric and feel good songs/creations.

Stereolab remix of Since I Left You

Elsewhere Frontier Psychiatrist was gloriously weird and clever, while Little Journey and the closing Extra Kings were gorgeous and soulful.

All kinds of rumours came out about the band - how many samples were on the album (estimated to be 3,500!), how long it took to make, how they made it, what they were going to do next.....

And then.....they did nothing.

Perhaps burnt out from the creation of a masterpiece, the reaction and the touring....The Avalanches disappeared.

(As I was writing this blog, this excellent feature interview on The Guardian came online)

And now, in 2016, The Avalanches with a current line-up of Robbie Chater, Tony Di Biasi and James Dela Cruz, are back.

Wildflower is the album that marks their return and the good news is that is brilliant. Listening to it has given me the same warm glow that Since I Left You gave me all those years ago.

Because I'm Me is the sound of summer; mixing pop, soul, funk, hip hop, disco and a beautiful sample of a boy talking and singing. The Avalanches tricks are out in force, a particular favourite of mine is when it sounds like they are changing the channel on a radio using an old dial and they just cut stuff out and introduce something that has been bubbling in the background. They pull this off with ease if you listen from 2 minutes to 2 minutes 20. Then the hip hop rap (by Camp Lo) comes back in to just lift it again. In a burst of just over 4-minutes, it's like The Avalanches have never been away.

Comeback single Frankie Sinatra makes you wonder just what The Avalanches have been smoking while they have been away. Answer - probably a lot! There is all kinds of stuff going on from oompah to hip hop with just about everything in between.

Subways is total genius and if I used the word sublime again here, I'll probably use it another half dozen times, but look up The Avalanches in the dictionary and that is the word that will be there! A child choir is cut in with uplifting strings, disco and a euphoric vocal.

Album artwork - as colourful as the music on it

The album is full of guests; Danny Brown, Biz Markie, Camp Lo, Jonathan Donahue, Toro Y Moi, David Berman and Jennifer Herrera.

Chaz Bundrick of Toro Y Moi fits in effortlessly on the beautiful happy vibe that is If I Was A Folkstar. His vocals are dreamy and woven into yet another happy sunshine song that The Avalanches have that special knack of creating.

I had the pleasure of catching Mercury Rev live recently and singer Jonathan Donahue was a delight to watch and listen to. His taste for psychedelia is actively encouraged by The Avalanches, Colours sounds like it has been dipped in the summer of love in1967 and brought back to 2016 via a 1970's New York disco club.

The 21 track album has main songs and lots of playful songs/instrumentals linking them, making it all seem like one effortless piece of work. Zap! is a particular favourite of mine; a dreamy kid talking over strings with The Avalanches tuning in via different radio dials in the background

The only bad part of flying is having to come back down

The Noisy Eater features Biz Markie and is a playful Gorillaz style, stoned take that samples kids singing The Beatles Come Together.

When you get the album and look at the tracklisting and see a song called Harmony then it is hard not to skip to it to see what The Avalanches have produced. It is beautiful - of course. The Avalanches cut in and out of various samples and styles but keep bringing it back to the harmony.

Live A Lifetime Love cuts something that sounds like The Beach Boys with hip hop and is proof that The Avalanches can pack more creativity into 2 minutes and 31 seconds than some bands do across a whole album.

The album as a lovely warm feeling throughout, dreamy, euphoric, just a good feeling. Park Music, Living' Underwater (Is Something' Wild), The Wozard of Iz and Over The Turnstiles all combine to glorious effect. Sublime!

Sunshine kicks in like a burst of.....sunshine. All warm rays and Avalanches style effects and sounds.

Kaleidoscopic Lovers sounds like you are looking into a Kaleidoscope and as you turn it round you hear all kinds of sounds to match the colours. There is a lot going on and then Jonathan Donahue comes in to treat us to yet more lysergic majestic wonder.

The rock n roll and life-liven voice of Jennifer Herrema from Royal Trux sounds brilliant, almost playground rhyme like on Stepkids.

The album ends with Saturday Night Inside Out containing beats, handclaps, brilliant samples and that warm feeling that lasts from start to finish.

Wildflower is an incredible album, my favourite of the year so far.

Introducing - Mark W Georgsson

How do you choose what song(s) will launch a record label?

Well in the case of Last Night From Glasgow Records, the label that I helped to co-found earlier this year, it kind of landed in our laps.

Mark W Georgsson has recorded a stunning album of celtic/folk/Americana songs with Rod Jones from Idlewild producing. I've known Mark for a number of years as he used to be in a band called the Velveteen Saints who I really liked.

Mark went off and did something completely different after the band broke up. The depth, maturity and quality that is displayed throughout the album (that the label will be releasing in January) is quite incredible.

So Mark sent me the album, around the same time Ian Smith and I started discussing forming a record label. We approached Mark and asked if he would be interested in releasing a single - a AA side as Mark's friends in Iceland had recorded vocals for The Ballad Of The Nearly Man in their native tongue.

So the A-side is a beautiful duet between Mark and his friend Katie McArthur and the AA-side is the same song in Icelandic by Mark's friends, including Arnarni who sings for the band Leaves.

AA-side artwork by Brian Sweeney

So Mark is pretty good at networking! Rod Jones for production, friends singing on his record and then as a friend and  fellow Albion Rovers fan, acclaimed Scottish photographer Brian Sweeney has provided the artwork. The AA side cover (above) is an Icelandic football pitch in the snow (quite stunning) and below is the A-side cover is a Scottish football pitch.

A-side artwork by Brian Sweeney

OK - now i'm going to ask you all to set aside 3 minutes and 13 seconds to watch Brian's beautifully shot promo film to accompany Mark's single.

I'll then tell you what I think of the film and song afterwards.

Well I hope you agree; song and film are beautiful.

The guitar is sparse and beautifully played, Mark's voice is gentle, weary and soulful, the lyrics paint a picture, the production allows everything to breath, there is no rush, a sense of reflection...

The barren winters cast a doubt
Upon his weary mind
As a storm brews out on the Atlantic Sea
Set to blow all his thoughts back to me

That sense of space, time and reflection is amplified by a truly gorgeous 40 second instrumental featuring some exquisite guitar playing.

Katie McArthur then joins us to beautifully sing a verse, before Mark returns towards the end and the two sing in tandem;

As a storm brews out on the Atlantic Sea
Set to blow my one true love, back to me

Brian Sweeney was introduced to me by Mark as 'a mad genius'. I've met Brian a few times and Mark's description is pretty perfect. He is literally fizzing with creative ideas 24-hours a day. His thoughtful and stunning film (featuring South Uist, Vatersay, Eriskay and Barra) is the perfect compliment to Mark's song. It is truly beautiful.

So yeah, I'm delighted with the first release on Last Night From Glasgow; the song, performance, artwork, film, the people involved......  we have many more to come.

Friday 15 July 2016

This Guy's In Love With You

Cover version of the month #14

Noel Gallagher covers Burt Bacharach - This Guy's In Love With You

I wasn't intending for this to be cover of the month for July, however earlier on this morning I was driven to listening to Burt Bacharach's beautiful What The World Needs Now after turning on the news to learn of the terrible attack on France last night.

Friends of ours have just returned from Nice. With two daughters, I imagine that if they had been there an extra week, then they would have been out to enjoy the Bastille celebrations. It makes you think.

I let Burt play on and YouTube returned a cover of Noel Gallagher covering Burt Bacharach....with Burt Bacharach at the height of Britpop. I remember reading about this in an old NME.

Noel was never one to shy away from talking about his influences; The Beatles, The Jam and Johnny Marr in The Smiths were often mentioned in his interviews. Yet Noel also talked of This Guy's In Love With You being one of his all-time favourite songs.

Noel has good taste and he has an exceptional ear. Listen to Bacharach's This Guy's In Love With You and then listen to Noel's Half The World Away.

Gallagher senior shaped his songwriting style and structure from the masters; verses, bridges, choruses, middle eights....

This Guy's In Love With You is a beauty of a song and Noel singing it with Bacharach at piano, backed by strings, at the Royal Albert Hall is two genius songwriters coming together. Gallagher's voice is rich and tender.

The way the song rises, falls and soars is something Gallagher mastered in songs like Don't Look Back In Anger, The Masterplan and Stop Crying Your Heart Out.

The song was written by Bacharach and Hal David and sung by Herb Alpert.

Alpert has to take a great deal of credit as Bacharach has recalled that Alpert asked him if he had any old compositions lying around that he hadn't used. Burt brought out This Guy's In Love With You that had been lying around gathering dust!

The song has been covered by everyone from The Supremes and The Temptations, Dusty Springfield, to (first and hopefully only mention in this blog) Des O'Connor!

Listen to the original HERE and the Noel version with Burt and an orchestra HERE

You see this guy, this guy's in love with you
Yes I'm in love, who looks at you the way I do?
When you smile I can tell, 
We know each other, very well.

How can, I show you, 
I'm glad I got to know you cause

I heard some talk, they say you think I'm fine
This guy's in love and what I'd do, to make you mine
Tell me now, is it so 
Don't let me be the last to know

My hands are shaking
Don't let my heart keep breaking

Cause I need your love
I want your love
Say you're in love, in love with this guy
If not I'll just die

Tel me now, is it so
Don't let me be the last to know

My hands are shaking'
Don't let my heart keep breaking'

Cause I need your love
I want your love
Say you're in love, in love with this guy
If not I'll just die

Previous covers of the month

Friday 8 July 2016

Stone Roses at T in the Park 2016

It's 2am, I'm home from T in the Park and wanted to get some words down.

The Stone Roses were magical tonight. Nothing will match the majestic Sunday at Heaton Park, but that was the best I have heard Ian Brown sing. He was top notch tonight.

Of course he was admirably backed by a truly magnificent band. Reni and Mani were particularly hot tonight. Squire's guitar could have been turned up at times, but all 3 are stunning magicians.

Pre-show tunes included Three Little Birds and Hey Jude, the atmosphere was extremely positive as the Roses came on stage at 2220; flares, cheers, dancing and lots and lots of smiles.

Ian said little throughout, thanking the crowd and waving a Scottish flag at one point.

Adored started with that familiar rumbling bass, a sprinkling of guitar and high hat from Reni and we were off. The chorus was loud and euphoric. The Roses were straight into Elephant Stone, then there was a beautiful mellow early outing for Shoot You Down.

Bye Bye Badman sounded superb. I spent most of the set dancing and singing, but it was great to look up and see Mani looking so happy on the main screen - the biggest Roses fan there is!

Sally Cinnamon was incredible; the band were on fire and this was psychedelic guitar pop heaven being served up. Squire coaxed extra little riffs as he went along.

Waterfall was a highlight and the band jammed into Don't Stop with ease. I was looking forward to Begging You but it didn't quite catch fire and and I think the band cut it short, sure they would have jammed on it for longer.

All For One might not have been the comeback single I was hoping for, but it sounded huge at T in the Park, everyone was into it - band and fans.

Ian patrolled the stage, thanking and encouraging the fans. The chorus of Made Of Stone could have been heard back at the old Balado site. People coming together en masse like one big choir.

Sometimes I fantasise
When the streets are cold and lonely

It was a magical moment and they kept coming. The atmosphere was incredible, there were people of all ages there, including some young kids that had Ian Brown haircuts that were there with their Dads. Must have been 10 or 11 and there was a great moment when Gordon put a young boy up on his shoulders.

Fools Gold was a delight, Reni and Mani were locked in a groove, Squire let leash and Brown looked and sounded fantastic.

Breaking Into Heaven and Love Spreads were superb, Squire's guitars were turned up the max and he just made it all look so easy.

She Bangs The Drums was pure pop heaven and my mate Gordon hoisted me on to his shoulders for an even better view of the T in the Park site going bananas.

This Is The One is probably my favourite Roses song when they play live, it gets me every time and tonight (last night) was no exception. Emotional, soulful and with a huge chorus.

Reni was let loose for a drum solo before leading the band into I Am The Resurrection with the extended outro. It looked like the Roses didn't want to stop...but sadly they did. A great night.

What next for the Roses?

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Introducing - Saint PHNX

On Sunday night Saint PHNX released their first music and video. The powerful video with images of war, politics and propaganda is interspersed with silhouettes of the two piece band - Stevie and Alan Jukes. Two brothers, Stevie on vocals and guitar, Alan on drums.

Familiar names?

Well they will be if you are a long time reader of this blog. Stevie and Alan were in Vigo Thieves.

Vigo Thieves disappeared; Stevie wrote a whole bunch of new songs, they recorded them at the excellent Rocket Science Studio in Glasgow, sent them around and people sat up and took notice.

Power, soul, emotion, big choruses and no messing about has been Stevie Jukes calling card for some time. Songs like Heartbeats, Believe, Steal Your Heart and This Love took them far....packing tents at T in the Park, selling out The Arches and the ABC in Glasgow.....

However they cut their teeth with the Vigo's. Saint PHNX are leaner, meaner and ready for business from the off. As I mentioned before - no messing.

Saint PHNX - Al and Stevie

Reload is the first song released. There is a sense of urgency from the off; the pounding drums, menacing synth, raw guitars and soulful vocals pleading

I only wanna open your eyes
You make me wanna touch the sky

Saint PHNX definitely want to touch the sky and kiss the sun. They play their debut show at the legendary Nice n Sleazys on Thursday 21st July. TICKETS HERE

As someone who has heard over an albums worth of tracks that the duo have recorded - Sleazys better bolt on the roof. Saint PHNX are armed with sky scraping anthems.

The Jukes brothers took aim before with Vigo Thieves, they have reloaded and they will not miss.

Saturday 2 July 2016

Underworld - Barbara, Barbara - We Face A Shining Future

Last weekend I stayed up to watch Underworld headline the West Holts Stage at Glastonbury. They played a blinder and it brought back memories of catching them at the Barrowland Ballroom when the reception for Born Slippy was one of the best I have ever experienced, and also of catching them at Benicassim in 2005 when they came on around 3am!

Karl Hyde is 60 this year, if he isn't already - I can't find his exact date of birth, but he was born in 1957!!! He still has a cheeky boyish, mischievous grin, he still bounds around the stage with a seemingly never ending supply of energy. Maybe not quite as chemically induced as it once was!

I've been meaning to buy their latest album Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future for a while and the blissed out versions of Ova Nova combining with Nylon Strung from that album cemented my decision to go for it.

I posted online about the songs and my friend Stephen Watt replied to say that the album was a beauty and he also loved these songs. Stephen was also watching Glastonbury at the time.

Stephen is a poet/spoken word performer, so I expected a well written feature....I got one!


Underworld – Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future

The reunion of raw-boned, platinum-haired singer Karl Hyde with bespectacled producer Rick Smith at this year’s Glastonbury may have engendered a slight incredulity that the Underworld pair had anything fresh or intoxicating to offer modern day ravers. What a miscalculation that would prove to be as the Essex dance trailblazers have recently reunited to create Barbara Barbara, We Face A Shining Future, a personal favourite record over the summer of 2016.

Lead single and album opener I Exhale is a glam-stomp, two-note rousing thumper. Upbeat and filled with Hyde’s celebrated diced lyrics, it withholds all the warmth which trance music permits its listener but moves into a synth-laden, hypnotic homage to krautrock. Even lines such as "Spangled top, leather jacket” appear to nod towards something more Germanic. The idiosyncratic groove of second track If Rah takes almost three minutes to find itself before bursting awake like a creature of the night snapping at the moon through Hyde’s repetitive chanting “Luna luna luna”. It is arguably the weakest track on the album but has its own charms once more through ambiguous lyricism which implies a sombre story being spun.    

The heavenly strings and ambient synths at the start of Low Burn conjures a glorious aftermath from the bones of the previous track’s disjointed effort. A haunting atmosphere floods the song in its entirety while the chain of Hyde’s lyrics “Time, the first time, blush, be bold, be beautiful, free” border on meditative, urging listeners to close their eyes and transport themselves towards more celestial plains. The curious Latino sounds which follow on Santiago Cuatro continue the dreamscapes which Underworld have crafted on BBWFASF. Cradle songs are not atypical of Hyde and Smith but this is a welcome prompt to remind listeners that the band’s love for experimentation will occasionally take them on journeys unexpected, but regularly enjoyed. This leads into the mid-tempo rhythms of Motorhome and its unquestionable nod to The Who’s Baba O’Riley. Sparse lyrics and a straightforward beat suggest that there is not much meat to chew over, but a delectable bass riff and piano interlude make this a fascinating, if a little abstruse, track on the record.

As the afore-mentioned Glastonbury appearance alluded, there were some true gems from the album waiting to be found and none more-so than the final two tracks on BBWFASF. Ova Nova is submerged in glorious, beatific harmonies sung in a higher octave than most of the record. Backed by the pair’s daughters Esme Smith and Tyler Hyde makes it a connecting, dewy-eyed number which reaffirms that, like the album title, the future is very much at the axis of the entire record. The gentle dance-beat may not be to all Underworld fans liking but shades of 2010 record Barking lead single Scribble continues the upward spiral which the band have taken in the latter part of their career. However, it is final track Nylon Strung which steals the show and showcases exactly what a special band Underworld can be. The vulnerable line “Open me up, I want to hold you, laughing” is at the centre of a slow but euphoric dance-beat which demands every ounce of love from its listener, again aided by the daughters of Hyde and Smith. This could well be the finest song produced by the band this side of the millennium, and its bittersweet paean flits perfectly between contemporary dance music lovers and veterans of the scene more accustomed to listening from the comfort of their own homes.     

It is difficult to believe that both Smith and Hyde are now around the 60yrs-old range, displaying a real knack for connecting with all ages and tastes in music. At seven tracks long, the album does not overstay its welcome. It revisits you, on the Monday morning trains – the after-work gym workouts – the last smoke of the day – the sodden bus shelters in which we wait, and makes everything just right again.

Friday 1 July 2016

It's All Gone To F**k by Stanley Odd

The State's inspiring hate
Something I conspire to break

It's all gone to f**k

What a crazy week! I was waiting to see if a band would come out with a political song and I've been rewarded with It's All Gone To F**k by Stanley Odd.

The song was written and recorded a few months ago, debuted live at the Stag and Dagger Festival in May. Released today, a week after the UK voted to leave the European Union, it perfectly captures the feeling by many across the country, especially in Scotland.

This isn't the first time Stanley Odd have commented on the state of the country or the world. In fact it's pretty much what they do, although things went viral in 2014 with the release of the beautifully poignant and soulful Son I Voted Yes. Listening to it now sends shivers down my spine.

In somewhat typical Scottish fashion, the hip hop outfit from Edinburgh (via Airdrie and Largs) get straight to the point with the  title and Veronika Electronika (great name) led chorus that starts off with gentle guitars before a pulsating electro synth bass comes in.

Solareye (Dave Hook) leads the listener on a merry dance and he skips through the verses with speed, wit, force and intelligence.

The third chorus (after the second verse) picks up speed, the bass and beats kick in along with energetic electric guitars and Solareye joining in with Veronika. It's playful and it sure as hell makes a statement.

A stunning film with drawing and animation by Kirsty Marquis accompanies the song and the film cleverly makes it own comment on the world, tying in superbly with Stanley Odd.

I look forward to catching Stanley Odd live in the near future. Odd??? Not really - honest, intelligent, funny, soulful and speaking from the heart - yeah. Maybe it is everyone else that is odd :-)

Check the amazing video here and the lyrics below. It's All Gone To Fuck is out now on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. Keep an eye on the bands Facebook page for live dates.

A rusty nail on a stick tae beat yi wi the irony
Forget the rivalry I took some time tae hibernate
Look lively mate. I’m trying tae be alive again
Hi – I’m Dave. I’m the hardest guy in the library
Don’t lie to me. Any questions fire away
I’m higher than a guy in a spire of skyward ivory
Highrise wi me. Fly away while sirens rage 
My touch is Midas-y with Golden Age variety
Drying ma eyes matey wi Mike Skinner’s Original Piracy
While piloting this hovercraft silently through cyberspace
Is that Matrix reference? Is this in the test professor?
I’m having a get together, all aboard the Nebuchadnezzar
Nae pressure, through the iris of a violent age
Any cunt fancy playing eye spy wi me?
Revolutions coming, no time for lies and games
The State’s inspiring hate, something I conspire tae break

I tried in vein the day tae keep ma eyes on the prize again 
But ma resolve dies when Beyonce shakes her thighs at me
I’ll write the slogans if you and yir mate buy the paint
Never plan tae buy cocaine but I’m easily swayed like Simon Says
I’ve got a sweet tooth but no saccharine in my refrain
Couldnae gie a flying fuck who Alan Sugar fired the day
Even if I utter a stutter I’d still defy an amaze
Here by the way it’d be nice nob’dy had tae die diddy died the day
I watched Inner Space and invented a giant ray
Miniaturised ma mate and then fried him in the microwave
Full ae cider I drew on a tigers face
Then went out tae paint the town violet when the giro came
What lies in wait? For live debate I tried to enlighten some right-wing apes 
Took ma time to state the case for peace, immigration and climate change
But they were more intae inciting hate 
With Solareye restrained and crucified on a Formica stage