Tuesday, 25 July 2017

It's Time For You To Have Your Say

In the Anything Should Happen Blog Days, an annual feature used to be to get what the users and followers actually thought and wanted. It strikes me that with I Don't Hear A Single now expanding into so many different directions, that it may just be the right time to find what you want. ASH never stood still and why should here?

So please be free with your thoughts on what you want from here, it's about the music and supporting the bands. Would you like more of the same or something different? Do you like the format? Do you like the new Blog Look? Should the Blog be promoted more or less?

Are you interested in Archive stuff or do you want a separate place for that? Should everything I write and review go on here or should it remain for the new and under appreciated?

What do you think of the Radio show? Do you like the format, would you like additional shows concentrating on different things, more chat or just the one show to be extended. Facebook wise - is there too much or too little promotion?

Should we get more people involved to offer up different views? Do you want to be involved? Do you want your Blog or Radio Show affiliating into here, do you want this affiliating into yours. Any comment or opinion is valid. I don't cry if people tells me something is rubbish, I just take it out on Crash.

Whether you are a fan, reader, musician, label, promo company etc, all views are welcome. You can comment in this thread, via email, Facebook, Twitter, whatever makes you most comfortable. I'll leave this thread open for a week or so.

Please be honest too, if something bugs you, just say. This is an ideal opportunity for you to get the music site/s you want.

Over to you!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Various - Songs. Bond Songs : The Music Of 007

I'm not usually a fan of Cover or Tribute albums, I don't often see the point, but Andrew Curry does a great job when he fashions up one for his Curry Cuts label. Often it's the subject, Lite Rock, The UK Second Wave and now Bond Themes. More often it's the artists he gets involved, the majority of which are Power Pop Royalty.

I was talking to Ray at Kool Kat earlier in the year and were both agreed on Tribute albums, but were looking forward to this, Ray also suggested an Odyssey And Oracle tribute and I'm looking forward to Futureman Records take on Matthew Sweet, but I digress.

The problem with Bond songs is that the originals are definitive versions, known to all, so to beat this you have to a cracking note perfect version of the original, something completely left field or the artist has to be worth the admission alone. Fortunately, Curry's compilation manages all three.

The gem is The excellent Corner Laughers covering the Italian Version of Diamonds Are Forever, this left field approach works beautifully. The way Lisa Mychols rocks up The Man With The Golden Gun is also a real treat.

Freedy Johnston's Acoustic strip down of For Your Eyes Only is great, Jay Gonzalez does a similar Tex Mex strum through A View To A Kill. Brandon Schott gets Jake Gideon involved in an intriguing sped up Tomorrow Never Dies.

Cliff Hillis, who is currently going through a real top notch phase does a cracking lazy version of Writing's On The Wall. In all these unusual takes though, my absolute favourite.is Popdudes cover of Live And Let Die, it's a truly faithful rendition and suitably ace.

The concept worried me a bit because of the strength of the original versions, but Curry Cuts has done a great job of providing a new look at the songs and garnered some fine names to do them. You can listen to and but the album here.

Fast Romantics - American Love

Canada's Fast Romantics have always been an interesting band, but have suffered from a revolving door line up centred around Matthew Angus and Jeffrey Lewis. Angus and Lewis have now expanded the band into a really interesting six piece and here's hoping it can stick together, because the resulting American Love is a fine album.

The addition of Kirty, a singer songwriter and multi instrumentalist has expanded the sound further, particularly in her accompanying background vocals. The sound is big, certainly E Street like. although the sound reminds me more of big sounding UK Bands like The Alarm and Simple Minds.

There is a 80's Rock vibe to the album, but 80's in a good way, the keyboards aren't up front and the riffs aren't echoed. There is also a real political theme in the lyrics, but I suspect many won't necessarily pick them out, although Anti Trump lovers will like them a lot.

Julia was the single that showed what this incarnation of the band was capable of and it still sounds great here, almost Pete Wylie's Wah like. Runaway Girl does sound very Noughties' Springsteen, but I think it sounds more like Springsteen doing Ian McNabb a la Girl In Their Summer Clothes.

How Long Is This Gonna Last is Kirty on lead vocals and again it feels UK, almost Transmission Vamp. Matthew Angus is a great front man and band leader, you feel him and his songs will end up rocking some Stadium and there would be some joy in that, certainly more than hering the medioctiry of the likes of Kasabian.

A lot seems to have been made about how American the album is. I can see bits of that and the album's title emphasises this. But to me it feels far more like a big sounding UK album. The sort that used to be made when budgets were much higher. Either way, American Music is a great album and more than worth your attention and cash.

You can buy the album everywhere.

Star Chamber - Seeing Circles

Los Angeles's Star Chamber offer up their debut album and it's a great listen. The band consist of three Tamaccio's and Corey Bissell and although it's obvious that singer, Amanda will get most of the attention as she fronts the band, they really are the sum of their parts.

Her vocals are sugar sweet and probably more at home in a Power Pop outfit, but there's a real crunch to the band with a great rhythm section and some stunning guitar at times from Bissell. Whilst Star Chamber will get lumped in with the Indie Rock brigade, there is far more to them that.

The Classic Rock solo on Roadrunner and Proto Prog riff on Cold reveal a variance and adaptability unusual in the genre. Sleeper is a wonderful thing, a brooding strum with western overtones, a real gem of a song.

Although Amanda shows she can croon great pop on Take My Hand, almost Fairground Attraction, Star Chamber seem most content as a cross between early Radiohead and Porcupine Tree. Imagine if either of those were fronted by Natalie Merchant and you get the idea.

Seeing Circles is an intriguing mix of styles, beautifully played and captivating. The fact that it's a debut album gives the band even more kudos. Well done all! You can buy the album here.

Paul Heaton And Jacqui Abbott - Crooked Calypso Deluxe Edition

I was losing faith in music before The Housemartins rattled my cage. The New Romantics had left me cold, it was all about dressing up, not the songs and MTV meant even Top Of The Pops became a showcase for multi million pound videos on exotic islands. I sort refuge in the States, listening to Paisley Pop, IRS and Mitch Easter related bands.

The UK had become a wealth obsessed pile of self obsession. Bar the odd Aztec Camera or Icicle Works, none of what I heard related to my life. When you see every industry around you being closed down because it could be, a dole generation, someone singing on a yacht meant contempt. Then in 1986, I heard The Housemartins. This was great lo fi pop, beautifully and intelligently written, hints of Soul and Gospel, but at it's best when the three minute ditties were politicised. You could hare Thatcher tunefully. Me And The Farmer is probably my favourite single of the 80's.

By 1988, it was all over. Paul Heaton and Dave Hemmingway formed The Beautiful South. The choruses were still there, as was the acidic wit, but the music had greater depth, ranging from pop to easy listening, the bite was still there though. In a collection of songs known more for singing along to, the masterpiece is Let Love Speak Up Itself, a jazz tinged masterpiece.

For their fourth album, Miaow, Jacqui Abbott joined. This was a double bonus for me as Abbott is from my hometown St Helens. A Town that isn't famous for much now that the Glass has gone. She added a country tinge to the songs, another variation on the pop theme and songs such as Good As Gold, Don't Marry Her, Perfect Ten and Rotterdam became chart and fan favourites.

This was my favourite period for the band and after Jacqui Abbott left in 2000, the band continued until 2007 with diminishing returns. Paul Heaton's solo career was interesting, he could never be anything but, however it wasn't widely appreciated apart from those who took the time to listen.

In 2013 Heaton And Abbott reunited, culminating in the 2014 debut album from the duo, What Have We Become. The album is a real mix of styles, Abbott's voice is in wonderful form and it was Paul Heaton's best writing since the criminally underrated, Painting It Red. The album was a hit and I hoped for more.

2015's Wisdom Laughter And Lines continued the variation and the great mix of voices. There's even a Rock out on The Horse And Groom and some great pop on The Austerity Of Love. Overall the album is more reflective, perhaps a tad too much. So what about their third album?

So we reach 2017 and the good news is that Crooked Calypso is probably the best album of the three thus far. There is certainly less quirky pop. Heaton's writing is as bitter sweet as ever, but this feels very much like Abbott's album. Her voice is in fine form and she leads on the more memorable songs.

There's a real soul tinge on the album, Gospel Soul on I Gotta praise, Disco on He Wants To, which is very much in Sharlene Spiteri territory. She's Got The Garden is one of those bitter relationship rants, lyrically superb, to a Motown beat. It's Philadelphia late 70's on People Like Us.

Blackwater Banks is Irish Folk, The Lord Is A White Con is all Brother Lee Love, Silence Is Blue Mink with reminders of Ob-La-De Ob-La-Da. Love Makes You Happy is all Roy Orbison backdrop. He Can't Marry Her is the sort of big ballad that Glen Campbell was noted for. It could be a Jimmy Webb song.That's not to say the Pop isn't sprinkled around. Your Bit Of Stuff is classic Housemartins and The Fatman is a real romp through the best of Beautiful South.

The Deluxe Edition adds four songs and it gets even more interesting here. Since My Dearest Husband is all jaunty Brass with a killer chorus, The Future Mrs Heaton is lounge Jazz, the sort of moody ballad that Heaton does so well. Market Street is a 9 minute calypso. The Dice keeps that feel with a shorter more melodic bite. think 10CC's From Rochdale to Ocho Rios.

The Deluxe Edition is the one to buy, although 16 songs may be a little much for the casual listener, the additional four add a lot of variance. Heaton's songwriting remains as wonderful as ever, he's one of the better lyricists that this country has produced and the blend of voices works beautifully. Finally the band seem far more accomplished than Beautiful South days and the arrangements have more depth.

Highly recommended, Crooked Calypso is a fine album, a reminder that talent will out in these days of manufactured mediocrity. You can buy the physical product here and the download is available everywhere.

Dream Machine - The Illusion

Matthew Melton is a talented guy. For 10 years, his Power Pop and Pop Rock reputation has grown and grown via Snake Flower 2, Bare Wires and most notably, Warm Soda. Warm Soda became College Rock darlings who were breaking out to a much wider audience.

Warm Soda's fourth album, released in May, suddenly became their final album. There was no touring, no promo, just an announcement that Melton was now part of Dream Machine with his wife, Doris. The sound is a marked departure.

Doris Melton is a heavy influence on Dream Machine, her keyboard playing has fashioned up a mix of Prog Rock similar to the likes of Rick Wakeman and ELP. This 70's feel is complemented by more than a nod to late 60's Psych.

Matthew Melton's pop sensibilities are still around and so amidst all this trip out stuff, there are still plenty of choruses such as on the Deep Purple esque, I Walked In The Fire with it's glam chorus. Caught In A Trap is all Classic Rock. Nothing Left's dreamy background has another great chorus hook.

The Illusion was released simultaneously with the Warm Soda album, providing confusion, but the album is splendid in what it does. In a world were Psych has become so derivative and Prog so over produced, this album hits all the right notes and sounds.

As ever with Matthew Melton, chaos seems to follow. The promo for the album included an interview that expressed the couple's views on immigration and feminism that led to them being dropped by their label, Castle Face Records. The album is now self released on Fuzz City Records. The demise of Bare Wires showed that nothing is ever simple with Melton.

One thing I've learned, over too many years to recount, is that it is best to separate the music from the musician. I've met a lot of my heroes and sometimes you wish you hadn't. Two of my greatest friends have political views that I disagree with intensely. To me it's about the music and if you get along with the artist or agree with them, that's great, but I find it best not to confuse the two.

You'll also find no Facebook presence from the band. The Meltons look upon Facebook as something that brings the worst out in people and perhaps this is a decent point. We do surround ourselves with like minded people. It's slightly different for me with what I do, but I certainly do not want to see another plate of food or someone telling someone sat next to them how much they love each other.

There is a second album planned for October which is more piano led and it would appear that Dream Machine will be a vehicle for experimentation. No mean thing. This is a great album, a listen from start to finish thing, just don't expect Warm Soda.

You can listen to and buy the album here.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Davey Lane - I'm Gonna Burn Out Bright

I've always been a You Am I fan, they are ensconced firmly in Indie Rock and where as that can be a bit ten a penny over here, it's less so in Australia which as always done bluesy grit rock and Power Pop and more recently singer songwriters and an edge towards Country.

There's no doubt that when Davey Lane joined as Lead Guitarist, first appearing on 2001's Dress Me Slowly, the bands sound got bigger. It also departed more from the template with hints of Psych and Power Pop at times. They had found themselves one hell of a guitarist.

So when Davey Lane's first solo album was muted around 2014, there was the usual worries of great guitarist going solo. I dreaded it would go all Big Boy Rock, particularly with his time spent in Jimmy Barnes's live ensemble. There's also a worry that band members who go solo, try to show how much talent that they've got and how they are so different than their band. Most end up over produced messes.

The resulting Atonally Young was far from that, there was variance, it was different to You Am I, but it nodded more to Beatlesque Pop and late 70's New Wave Stiff Records than Guitar Extravaganzas. Perhaps having been a one time addition to the Crowded House live band, should have given us all a clue.

Atonally Young was crowd funded and made for 15 grand and it sounded as though it cost much more. Even more impressive was a Covers Disc that was part of the Crowd Funding Project. The covers were inspired, a mixture of The Beatles, Nick Lowe, Todd Rundgren and even XTC's Earn Enough For Us.

So we arrive in 2017 with Lane's second solo album and it's even better than that debut. Overall it's firmly in the Clever Pop Department, with lots of hints of Psych and certainly far more keyboards than you'd expect.

The opener, I'll Forget Yr Name is all riff, with a chorus that hints at Supertramp's Logical Song. It's like an update on Mid 70's Pop Rock or Martin Rushent getting hold of a UK late 70's New Wave outfit. It's a stormer.

She's A Timebomb is like a psyched up Cheap Trick. A Lesson In Cause And Effect is Feeder type Brit Pop, I'll Set U Free is like Small Faces on LSD. Sinking May is pure Roddy Frame fronting The Motors.

The whole feel of the album is poptastic, wonderfully melodic. As a Psych Pop fan, I love it when the album veers that way and both the early Floyd like Komarov and the trippy Hit The City are wonderfully so.

At times, Lane's voice is very similar to The Orgone Box's Rick Corcoran, a real compliment. That really works on the brooding meandering Headley Grange, the only time the album slows down and it still morphs into a Brian May type Guitar solo.

The only downside is Witch In My Mind, which does seem forced, a Nile Rodgers type groove that is a bit plastic funk. However this is a minor quibble and after all this goodness, you'd expect the album to end on a high and boy, does it. You Had Me On Side is anthemic, it starts as a sort of lounge affair, rocks out and then ends as a soundtrack to an 80's Industrial Wasteland Film Soundtrack. A corking 8 minutes plus.

If you'd have said to me at the start of the tear that a guitarist from You Am I would be vying for my album of the year, I'd have laughed at you. As we reach the end of July, I'm Gonna Burn Out Bright is certainly doing that. It's a wonderfully cohesive effort, plenty of variance, but demonstrably melodic.

Well done that man!