Tuesday, 12 December 2017
In last week's Xmas affair, I compared Brian Bordello to Martin Newell, I could give him no greater compliment. I've fawned and waxed lyrical about Newell on this very Blog here and here. So here is a third wave of fanboy stuff.
The Cleaners From Venus tapes are what introduced me to all things Newell and I've relished every minute since. So a collection of Martin's Demos And Outtakes is something to feast on. 17 songs from 1975 to this year are present and these recordings enhance his reputation more.
I've often wondered how Newell would have fared with a label giving him some cash and backing his adventures. He'd certainly with the likes Of Robyn Hitchcock and not only as an Indie Andy Partridge. The Cleaners From Venus have always been Lords Of Lo-Fi. These songs sound wonderful, even as 4 Track recordings or in some case mono tape to tape. He makes a 4 Track sound like a much more modern recording device.
The earlier songs reveal a different side to the Greatest Living Englishman (TM). Ain't No Silicon Chip and My Rocking Days blend perfectly with the New Wave Pop of the time. There's also some wonderful solo at the Piano stuff, most notably the splendid Moonraking, which is like a chirped up Peter Skellern.
English Girl On A Horse is so Hitchcock and the Psych Pop Morrissey pastiche of The Luxury Of Misery is hilarious. She's Got Talent is another laidback joyous song, all sing-a-longa-Newell. A great slice of Sixties Pop.
It's the trademark Psych Pop that grabs you most though. This is what garners the most XTC comparisons, very Oranges And Lemons. Scarecrow Hair And Saucer-Eyed is all Orgone Box and this year's Red Guitars And Silver Tambourines shows that no talent has been lost over the years. It's simply wonderful Psych Pop.
A collection of Martin Newell demos is far superior to most's Best Ofs. The man really should have greater acclaim. I think I'll start to build a plinth in anticipation now. You can listen to and buy the album here.
The debut album from David James Situation is slap bang in Classic Rock Territory. It's a cracking album in a genre that I avoid these days because it's littered with lazy derivative boring Blues Rock or Bon Jovi wannabes.
Aquarium Comedown isn't any of those things. It feels very much like a 70's album, but there are hints of everything, Psych, Prog, Rock and a good bit of Jangle. In The End is like an Americana Blue Mink, yet Green Eyed Lady is all late 60's Kitchen Sink drama.
End Of The World could be The Strawbs or The Moody Blues. End Of The World could be Noel Gallagher, Things Remain is Pure Prog and Throw Me A Line so Rockpile. God (Must Have Tricked Me) is a real Pop Rock out with an almost Monkees feel.
There are some real hooks in the choruses and tons of variation, but the thing that stands out is the James's stunning Guitar playing. whether that's Acoustic, Jangle or full on Rock, there's a real adept touch here.
It is fair to say that despite all the changes in direction, Aquarium Comedown is at it's best when it Rocks. Great examples of this are Footsteps and the outstanding, Lay Off. We've been laughing at how bad the current Noel Gallagher album is, this is how a Rock album should be approached.
At well over an hour and 16 songs, the album is a little long, you can't grumble at the quality and the urge to get all this great stuff out there. But the album's low key start doesn't really do the rest of the content justice. Maybe, just maybe, the first two songs could have been left off to let Green Eyed Lady open the album in poptastic style. This is a minor quibble.
David Bash and I both agreed that early December Album Of The Year charts are too early. This has arrived later in the year, but has every chance of making my Top 10. It'll certainly be up for best Newcomer too.
You can listen to the album and buy it here.
There are lots of debates about what Power Pop is and isn't and of course they always end with everyone and no one being right. Power Pop is also a title that some artists love, others find it limiting and off putting to potential buyers.
The other great dispute is what band / artist started Power Pop. Many point back to Buddy Holly and The Beatles, others note the 70's and Badfinger and Big Star. I'm amongst the subscribers to The Searchers' When You Walk In The Room, even though Jackie DeShannon beat them to the song the year before.
Whatever your thoughts, people cannot dispute The Searchers contribution to Jangle Pop in those heady Merseybeat days. Seymour Stein couldn't believe that The Searchers were still not recording and subsequently these two albums remedied that.
The late 70's now is looked upon as a heyday for Guitar Pop. In the UK, Punk partly morphing into New Wave is seen as a glorious revival of Pop with Power. It certainly didn't feel like it at the time and was only a small part of what was going on musically, but the likes of Stiff, Rockpile and Squeeze returned to great Pop songs mainly about love lost or found.
It's easy to summon up hindsight to say how fantastic the scene was, when many of the bands now are lauded when they were looked upon as inconsequential at the time. As with Brit Pop, it's the undercard that was most interesting, the likes of The Motors and The Records.
Which brings us to the first self titled album, released in 1979. The band were as on form as ever, but looked largely to those New Wave talents for the songs. Hearts In Their Eyes, written by Will Birch and John Wicks, was a song by The Records. Switchboard Susan is a Mickey Jupp song that appears on Nick Lowe's magnificent Labour Of Lust. A song he still performs live to this day.
The jangle continued with Tom Petty's Lost In Your Eyes. Three Bonus Tracks are added to the original album. Love Melodies (Play For Today in the States) was the second sophomore album, released in 1980. This time The Motors' Andy McMasters has Love's Melody covered and there is a cover of Power Pop Classic, Big Star's September Gurls amongst another fine collection of songs.
Four Bonus Tracks are added to Love Melodies, including the previously unreleased, John Hiatt song, Ambulance Chaser. Sadly, the albums didn't sell well and Sire passed on the option of a third album. It's a shame, because both these albums complement that UK late 70's wave of Power Pop beautifully.
Lots of jangle, singalong choruses and good time listening. This double disc is a worthy release and adds more credit to the Omnivore label. Omnivore mix the releasing of the new and old albums, beautifully. It would be great if a UK label could offer UK artists of similar stature to Cait Brennan and Chris Price recording deals.
You can buy the album everywhere.
Friday, 8 December 2017
There are lots of plans for the rest of the year here and the regular Radio show is all mapped out. However this is your chance to participate in a Special and stamp your thoughts on it. Normally when Participation is encouraged, people run and hide or have to wash their hair. So if there isn't the input, we'll just not do this.
As you will be aware, I am doing an end of year Chart for the first time ever. However, there is an extra opportunity to choose 14 or 15 albums that are recommended by you. One per person, noting what your Album Of The Year Is.
You have to do a little something, apart from to obviously tell me your choice. You have to record a 30 - 60 Second Intro (you can do this on your phone) and email or send a message to me with your sound file.
I will then put out a Radio Special which features your intro and a track from the album. This is just a way of you being able to express an interest and participate. If we don't get enough suggestions, then we won't do it. If we get too many then I'll select the 15.
I hope plenty of you are up for it. Deadline for Submissions will be Sunday 17 December. Show you care about the artists you love!
Thursday, 7 December 2017
In an unusually organised manner, the Radio Show has been dispatched to KOR as we hit the quarter century.
17 songs, all but 2 are new and the archive tracks feature a reissue and a new version of a song you'll know.
We continue weekly as always, but this will be the last of the year featuring new releases. The two before Christmas will be a Best OF IDHAS 2017 featuring songs you've heard on the show or read about on the Blog.
The final show of the year will be the unveiling of the Top 10 Albums Of The Year, with chatty bits to tell you why they were chosen.
Broadcast on KOR Radio at 8pm UK Time on Fridays, repeated at the same time on Saturdays. Due to increased popularity, a Monday Night Repeat has been added at 8pm.
You can listen to it here.
Also, a reminder that the show is archived the following week on Mixcloud. You can listen to the first twenty four shows here.
The response to the two Mixcloud Only Special Xmas Shows has been amazing. You'll see the first of those appear on Mixcloud before the end of the week.
Here is this week's playlist :
01 The Searchers - Hearts In Her Eyes
02 The Eskies - All Good Men
03 The Galileo 7 - Mystery Train
04 The Golden Rail - Metal And Shells
05 Kyle Vincent - Soon
06 The Spook School - Best of Intentions
07 Fits - Ice Cream On A Nice Day
08 David James Situation - Green Eyed Lady
09 Blaine Campbell - Keeping Your Distance
10 Scarborough - Let's Fall In Love
11 Clockwork Flowers - Out Of My Mind
12 We The Kings - Secret Valentine
13 Howie Payne - Thoughts On Thoughts
14 Vortex Surfer - Choices
15 Sci-Fried - Luke And Scotty
16 Ray Paul - I Need Your Love Tonight
17 Midge Ure - The Voice (Orchestrated)
Wednesday, 6 December 2017
This week's Garden Of Earthly Delights hands itself over to Christmas. There's been a lot of things I said I would never do this year, showing aging doesn't mean set in his ways. I've usually baulked at Top 10's, never seen the point. I had them as something that music fans do to avoid fixing the leak in the shed. Well there will be some on here as well as a Smash Hits / NME type of thing, presenting ridiculous awards in made up categories.
Secondly, I've always avoided Christmas Song Reviews. I've left Christmas to my good friend Stephen Schnee who covers them in a way that makes all others redundant. It's the forced jollity that does me. Every time someone says it's X sleeps until Christmas, I reach for the wet fish and a slapping session. It's days not sleeps, you are not ten blah blah etc etc.
There are positives, you get to see Roy Wood once a year, but if I never heard Last Christmas again, it would be too soon, even if it was for someone special. See what I did there? But seeing as The Garden Of Earthly Delights is about choosing four recordings and there are four such things around this year, it makes sense to tell you about them.
The Bordellos - The Bordellos Do Christmas
I spent most of my growing up in St. Helens, a town aided by it's proximity to Liverpool for the musically inclined. It was always a bugbear that we had no musician to celebrate from the town. We clutched on to Gravy Train who had largely been and gone by the time Senior School started and there was Bernie Clifton who did some appalling covers of the songs in the chart on Crackerjack.
As the 80's rolled on after New Romantic's dismal years, we even tried to adopt Rick Astley, he was from the Borough, but Newton isn't St. Helens. Now, of course, we've got Jacqui Abbott and there is one special band to mention in between.
The Bordellos are magnificent. Anywhere else and they would be celebrated from the roof tops, instead we'd rather celebrate some young lady shouting the life out of Hero or Hallelujah. People who look to other things than the TV and local press, know how magnificent they are. Their lo-fi indie credentials can stand up with anyone.
Brian Bordello is an unsung hero, the wit and invention that goes into his writing should have him compared to the likes of Mark E. Smith and Martin Newell. It's the true that what he does isn't for everyone, but there are more than enough people out there who like similar artists that should be delving into their Back Catalogue. The Bordellos should be more than a Cottage Industry.
So we have six original songs here that use all the tricks of the trade that have been learned over a fabulous recording career. Don't expect a wall of sound, but do expect to have your thoughts provoked. You can download the EP here for Free and you should head off there when you've read the rest of this post. I'd suggest you bookmark it now.
The Minus 5 - Dear December
Scott McCaughey's current Stroke related illness, puts this release in perspective, particularly at this time of year. His R.E.M. credentials have always been there to see, but The Minus 5 has always leaned more towards Indie Power Pop and it's splendid that it does.
Here we have 11 new songs for the Festive Season. Peter Buck as ever is present as head Guitar Boy and there are guest appearances from The Posies, Mike Mills, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists, Benjamin Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, Chuck Prophet, Tammy Ealon, Kelly Hogan and more.
It's an absolute joy to listen to, wonderfully melodic, a perfect accompaniment to the Sherry and Mince Pies. You can listen to and buy it here.
Lisa Mychols - Winter Is Here
Few would argue that Power Pop can be a Boy's Club, but Lisa Mychols has consistently challenged this. Her Sunshine Pop and Sugar Sweet Vocals are joyous. Everything seems so much brighter when she sings.
Those vocals come in somewhere between Susanna Hoffs and Kirsty MacColl, but the beauty is that everything is upbeat and jangly. On In Love With Love, Mychols even sounds Spectorish. Mr Santa is all New Wave.
These six songs but the Merry into Merry Christmas. If this is a time for positivity and celebration, this should be the soundtrack. You can listen to the EP and buy it here.
Cheap Trick - Christmas Christmas
The fourth of the four is given to my long time favourites, Cheap Trick, This could have been a disaster, particularly with only three originals amongst the 12 songs. But Cheap Trick pull it off due to the sheer delight of it all.
There are the obvious Slade and Wizzard covers, the band obviously want to contribute to Roy Wood's pension fund with their constant raiding. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday is rocked up though with Rick Nielsen's guitar.
It's the covers away from the obvious that are most interesting though, Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight) and particularly Nilsson's Remember Christmas. Robin Zander's vocal on the latter is wonderful and in fact throughout, this sounds like a Zander album, his pipes are in fine form.
The three new songs include a guitar less, choir accompanied, Our Father Of Life and a song that may make it onto Christmas playlists for years to come in Merry Christmas Darlings. That song is classic Cheap Trick, everything that they do well is contained within. included the cheery lounge like interlude. The album is available everywhere.
Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Brooklyn's Fits have a reputation as a thinking man's Pop Punk band and that's were labels fool you. Nicholas Cummins's outfit have fashioned up that is something so much more. All Belief Is Paradise wouldn't feel out of sorts on Fruits or Megadodo. This is great Alt Pop, bordering on Classic Psych.
My greatest bugbear involves bands that make three minute ideas drone on for double the time. Not a hint of that here, when a song is done it's done. These 12 tracks come in at just over 20 minutes, it's as though Prog never happened.
There's a real DIY charm to the album, built largely around the Bass And Drums, not in a dance way, but rhythmically. When the Guitar breaks out, it doesn't half rock, particularly on the likes of Ice Cream On A Nice Day and All The Time.
In all this lo-fi wonderment, the Guitar is reminiscent of Jonathan Richman, but it would be really unfair to confuse this sparseness with a lack of ability or ideas, because despite the album's brevity, the ideas are fighting to get out.
The Ground is a great example of how wonderfully inventive the whole thing is. It isn't instantly accessible, but you will get hooked. There's also Pop sensibilities aplenty, Mango could be Buzzcocks. The spirit of US New Wave shines here, but Fits take it one stage further.
This is a gem of an album, something you don't generally discover per chance. I'm so glad I did. You can listen to and buy the album here.
There seems to be a theme starting to develop here. Following on from Partner, here's a second Canadian female band to enchant your ears. Where as Partner nod towards Classic Pop, Toronto's The Beaches are a much more direct affair.
Comparisons will obviously be made to Haim, but this lot are nowhere near as one dimensional and whereas the recording studio seemed to temper Haim down, this debut album appears to do the opposite.
Late Show hints that The Beaches could be anything that they want to be, the album is that varied. Contrast the opening pop stomp of Back Of My Heart to the Garage Rock of the closer Sweet Life. Money has a Joy Division vibe, whilst Moment could be Girlschool.
There are so many bands you could point to here, early Blondie, The Runaways, early Go-Go's amongst them. Then they can come up with something as gloriously chorus led as One Night Stand. Keeper is a pure blast of US New Wave in the verse and then blasts into a chorus that Pink would feel at home with.
The title track could be on the Go-Go's debut, yet Highway 6 is all Everything Could Be The Girl / Cocteau Twins sweeping moodiness. Gold is ultra modern, you can imagine some diva on The X Factor murdering it.
Turn Me On is wonderfully minimal, before breaking into a stomping chorus. T-Shirt comes over all Mink De Ville. It's a long time since I've hears such a varied accomplished debut album. Driven by a superb rhythm section and Jordan Miller's vocals with attitudes. The album deserves to be heard by a far bigger crowd than da kidz.
You can buy the album everywhere and listen to the album at your place of choice here.
For those of you are paying attention, you will remember the review I did of The Jangle Band's Edge Of A Dream last year. If you didn't you can find the review here. I'd head there first, because you will be tested on it in the end of the year exam.
Where as the band's name gives away the direction of Edge Of A Dream, The Golden Rail largely hit another vibe. There is some jangle, but Electric Trails From Nowhere casts it's net far wider. For all the twang on Imperfectly and Metal And Shells, the album is rooted in a hinter land, somewhere between San Franciscan 70's Rock and vintage UK Pop Rock.
Many of you will be familiar with the stalwarts that are Jeff Baker and Ian Freeman, if not from bands mentioned in the previous review, then definitely from the DM3 and Summer Suns. Although the album isn't as chorus led as those two bands, there is a laid back gentleness that just grips you. Look Both Ways is a gem of a song, a lovely lovely affair.
The playing is wonderful, guitar hooks that just grab you, rock you but gently. There's plenty of nods to the likes of Jackson Browne, The Eagles, even Manassas, particularly on the likes of The Silent Birds.
The album is very much song with a story led. The Last Days Of Summer is in Doolin' Dalton territory. It's Time is very much in that mid 70's Jigsaw mode. This is a fine affair, sit back in the armchair joy. It's well worth your attention. You can listen to and buy the album here.
Friday, 1 December 2017
It's album number five in the XTC reissue series and Steven Wilson is again on board and has done a fine job as ever. Black Sea has had a surprisingly low key release considering it was the album that broke the band, particularly in the States. I've purposefully not read the sleeve notes yet, so that I can give my own uninfluenced take on it.
My favourite XTC album is always debated and usually ends up as Oranges And Lemons, but Black Sea is always up there. Drums And Wires had hinted at the Rock that was trying to get out after Dave Gregory had replaced Barry Andrews, here it just exploded into the musical sphere.
Pop sensibilities came to the fore. Only Travels In Nihilon hinted at what had gone before, Black Sea was all choruses with a big unabashed sound and the singles shone. Sgt. Rock is one of the great singles, although fans may acknowledge Senses Working Overtime more, it's rah rah is infectious.
Generals And Majors is up there with Oliver's Army as a great anti War song and Respectable Street is in the Ray Davies Kinks mould. In fact, Blur seemed to copy it's template to extremes. It's the big songs that grab you most and marvel at how much the band had progressed in such a short period of time.
Aided by a much more coherent live sound and the guitar mastery of Dave Gregory, both Towers Of London and No Language In Our Lungs are epics. The latter is not only my favourite XTC song, but one of my favourites ever.
Much has been made of the production over ensuing years. Steve Lillywhite and Hugh Padgham's big Drum sound is certainly prevalent and became a feature of the 80's and it's highly identifiable here and particularly in the new Steven Wilson mix.
However concentrating on ignores the songwriting progression of Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, what Dave Gregory brought to the sound and how good a Bass Player, Moulding is. The instrumental mixes are inessential to a lot of fans, even for Karaoke, but they reveal Moulding's excellence.
Indeed, through the 80's I was often surprised at how many Bass Players cited Moulding's influence. On the Instrumental version of the album, you hear what a fantastic Rhythm Section, Terry Chambers and he were.
Fans have also remarked about the second disc on the reissues being Blu Ray and therefore needing a player to listen to it. It was explained to me a while ago that this was because Blu Ray was a format that got round copyright issues with Virgin.
There are many who like the 5.1 Mixes which take up a lot of disc space. I don't have a view on this as my hearing is shot these days, but I have many friends with better hearing who tell me the benefits are enormous. However anyone with a Blu Ray player for the computer can get the additional stuff to a manageable and more portable format.
Colin Moulding has also stated that he would prefer the releases not to contain as many outtakes and demos, but Andy Partridge states that the fans want to hear them and of course we do. The extra stuff on the Blu Ray Disc is great. There is the aforementioned 5.1 Mix, the original album mix and the album in Instrumental form, but we all want the things we haven't heard.
So there's the Phonogram Studios early recordings which are obviously sparser, but no less interesting. There are also six Andy Partridge Demos, three I've heard before, but I hadn't heard the three Swindon Town Hall Demos. Three Promo videos are also included.
The Audio CD contains the Steven Wilson Mix and although this doesn't bring out as many things that you hadn't noticed before as previous releases have, it does sound incredible. There's also additional B Sides, Ban The Bomb and the splendid Take This Town included with it.
XTC were at their most relevant to the outside world here, they would develop into a mixture of my little secret and a lack of understanding as to why everyone didn't appreciate them to me personally. Black Sea was the album that showed that the band were not just a frantic Punk / New Wave Band.
It peeled back the layers to reveal a proper band who had their own sound but could write Pop that people wanted to listen to. The album remains a fantastic listen and if you don't own it you should and if you do, you will want this version more than ever.
You can buy this everywhere, but I support Burning Shed which handles all the Ape label stuff and much more. You can buy it from them here.