Sunday, 13 April 2014

Beau - Fly The Bluebird


Brand new album from one of John Peel's early favourites shows that there is a future for musical protest.


It's been three years since Trevor Midgeley (AKA Beau) released an album of new material. Last year did however see the release of a lost album from the 1970s, a vinyl-only release entitled Twelve Strings to The Beau (You can read the full review here). This month Cherry Red are releasing a new album, Fly The Bluebird. As one would expect it's generously packed with wordy, intelligent folk-based songs that you don't often here these days, and harks back to the golden era of singer-song-writers. Think Bob Dylan, or Leonard Cohen. Though with a distinctly English perspective.

It's 45 years since his first album helped launch John Peel's Dandelion label. His sound has hardly altered in the ensuing years, he still backs himself with the same Harmony 12-string guitar, his recordings are simple - just one voice, and the one guitar. This continuity of sound, and disregard for changing fashions is to be admired, especially as none of his powers are diminished. If anything the advancing of years adds weight and authority to his songwriting. The voice and playing are also as strong as ever.

Though many of the songs are informed by modern political events they have a timeless quality, sounding like they could have been written in 2014, 1969 or for that matter 1869. Poetic and rich with imagery, there's a lot to absorb from the songs here. From environmental issues, through to skilful broadswords against capitalism, tyranny, terrorism and war, the songs have a biting social agenda not at first apparent due to the offsetting gentleness of much of the music.

Aside from the politics there's light relief as Beau weighs into a character we've all met, the overbearing social bore he documents on “A Curious Man”. There's also a sensitive treatise on the cruel effects of dementia in “When Gabriel Turns”. Humanistic, compassionate and full of love for mankind and what lies ahead as we head into the unknown future, it would seem that those supposedly outdated hippie ideals from the late '60s are very much alive if not so widely embraced. Perhaps we need them more than ever. Many more widely recognised musicians of Beau's generation have neglected these ideals, whereas he may just be the true keeper of the flame.


Click here for more on Beau.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Bananas Magazine #9 - OUT NOW!


Spring is here, and for garage rockers that can only mean one thing! The latest issue of the NYC-based garage zine is available now!


Great news for fans of fuzz, pych, garage and lo-fi punk. The latest issue of the scene's best quarterly magazine is ready for your perusal. I love this mag, it's a great read that always manages to point you in the direction of great new bands as well as reminding you why you fell for garage rock in the first place. And it has a sense of the genre's humour that other zines sometimes overlook in their quest for that all elusive authenticity.

On top of the comprehensive and informed reviews the mag has interviews with King Salami, Viv And The Sect, Shag Rats, Dead Ghosts, Giant Robots and more. There's also a feature on Benidorm's Funtastic Dracula Festival, as well as a spotlight on the artwork of Lluis Fuzzhound. (www.lluisfuzzhound.com)

The guitarists among us will have fun trying out the issue's psych-themed tabs which this time round have riffs and breaks by Iron Butterfly, The Troggs, The Attack and Teddy And His Patches. Plug in and play indeed! Hit the link below for a list of the magazine's ditributors or order direct from their website.

NB. As well as being an ace read, Bananas also features many amazing illustrations by the mag's editor, Christophe Lopez-Huichi. Check out the link to his website below to see more of his work.

www.bananasmag.com
www.clopezhuici.com


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Us And Them - By The Time It Gets Dark (Ltd 7")


Three track 7” of psych-folk loveliness from Sweden. Limited coloured vinyl release from Fruits De Mer Records.


It's a brave act that dares to cover a Sandy Denny classic. Sweden's Us And Them have done just that with their version of “By The Time It Gets Dark”. Sandy's late night thoughts and reflections are re-visited with a simple acoustic arrangement of guitar, xylophone, a light keyboard wash and closely mic-ed breathy vocals. It's this version's taste and simplicity that marks it out as something rather special and a fitting tribute to one of the country's greatest ever singers.

The EP's other cover ventures into a more surreal world, it being a version of Donovan's “Jabberwocky”. The Lewis Carroll prose which Donovan set to music for his HMS Donovan album has lost none of its childlike appeal. Daft, yes, but offset by a sinister darkness. Like the best psychedelia, it has that blend of venturing into the mysterious of the unknown while simultaneously returning to the sanctuary and security of early childhood. A comforting darkness as it were.

The EP's sole original track is the biggest revelation here, and the stands up with the two cover versions. “Do I Know You” is, if anything it's even more potent than the other tracks. With a simple nursery rhyme acid-folk tune evolving into a folktronic, slightly Krautrock middle section before returning to the ethereal folkiness of the opening section. Here's hoping for a full album of original material from Us And Them soon.


Click here for more on Fruits De Mer Records.


Boho Dancer - Gemini (Bonus Version)

Emotional nu-folk from Copenhagen. Boho Dancer re-release their debut album with an additional three extra tracks.


In his book Japrocksampler, Julian Cope presents a theory about similarities in the national outlook of British, Japanese and Danish people. It boils down to a backs-turned belief that all other countries would be OK if only they followed more closely our example. Having never travelled to Japan or Denmark I couldn't possible say whether this theory hold any water, though after having listened to Danish folk-pop trio Boho Dancer, it appears he may be onto something. Certainly the music they make evokes a mood and a landscape familiar to anyone fond of exploring the peaks, moors and dales of Britain's backbone. Their mainly acoustic instrumentation has a timeless, elemental, fire and brimstone quality, which when combined with their Brit-folk inspired melodies bring to mind frosty early mornings, the sadness of distant car headlights glimpsed from a windswept moor, dark skies and deep, still fjords.

Boho Dancer are Simun Mohr, Asker Bjork and Ida Wenoe. They hail from Copenhagen, the capital city sinister fairy tales. Their debut album Gemini is getting a deserved re-release next month as a bonus version with three extra tracks. For the most part it's acid-folk with a touch of Scandinavian noir. Frosted, breathy vocals combine with understated, tasteful playing to invoke a melancholy, wintry mood. It's music that's mysterious and enticing. Like a cliff-top romance it's welcome and exhilarating yet with an ever present sense of danger. Like a Bronte novel set to music. Emo-folk anybody? Over here in Blighty, we've recently cottoned on to Scandinavian crime dramas. On the strength of this album their music will surely find a similar place in our hearts. Fans of Pentangle, Sandy Denny, PJ Harvey, Karen Dalton, First Aid Kit, early Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding LP will find much to like here.


Click here for more on Boho Dancer.


Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Merrymouth - I Am The Resurrection


Ocean Colour Scene's offshoot folk group have covered the Stone Roses and the results are rather good!

OCS dudes Simon Fowler and Dan Sealey have a nice sideline. Along with keyboard player Adam Barry they have a three piece folk outfit called Merrymouth. The band's second album Wenlock Hill is out on May 5th and contains a brave cover of the Stone Roses "I Am The Resurrection". You can have a listen via the widget at the bottom of the post. Here's what the band have to say about it -

“It was really interesting to strip this tune down to a piano, strings and three part harmony,” Adam described. “We have always felt that although Ian Brown is never associated with folk, there is an influence in his vocal and melodies. Since songs are kept alive by different singers interpreting them, we wanted to add our own touches to this tune.” For a similar reason, their inspired reworking of The Stranglers’ track Duchess was because “it too had a great melody and could almost be a Ray Davies song,” he added.

Guest appearances include the legendary Chas Hodges on Salt Breeze, and award winning violinist John McCusker assisted on several further tracks, both artists having been of great influence on Merrymouth.  Also guesting were Catherine Harper (cello), Andy Derrick (trombone), Hugh Thomas (clarinet), Anthony Jones (muted trumpet) and Nick Lyndon (double bass).


Merrymouth will embark on a UK tour to support the release of Wenlock Hill, expect additional dates to be added:

Thurs. 8th May  The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
Fri. 9th May  Rothes Hall, Glenrothes
Sat. 10th May  Tolbooth, Stirling
Fri. 16th May   The Met, Bury
Sat. 17th May  The Mac, Birmingham
Sun. 18th May   The Glee Club, Nottingham
Sun. 1st June  The Glee Club, Cardiff
Mon. 2nd June  Kings Place, London

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Bronco Bullfrog - Time Waits For Norman (Ltd. edition 7")


Soft suburban psych-pop! The Broncos celebrate a day in the life of an average everyday misfit.


Following on from last summer's super single, Clarifoil, the Broncos are back with a three track EP which further showcases their mastery of mid '60s mod-meets-art-school guitar pop. With a sound that channels The Kinks, The Move, The Iveys and early-Jam, the lead track Time Waits For Norman catalogues a day in the life of suburban oddball Norman as he negotiates life's petty frustrations.

In the tradition of sweetly observational English psychedlia, it celebrates the oddness in the ordinary. In much the same way as The Small Faces' Lazy Sunday Afternoon references Mrs. Jones and her Bert's lumbago, here we get fizzy pop, corner shops and small talk with the neighbours. It may also be the only pop song to ever mention chicken paste. As with all the Bronco Bullfrog releases there's a keen ear for period detail, right down to the studio phasing and Beatle George-ish guitar break.

Rocking Horse Mender, the EP's other original track, has a more melancholic bent and pays homage to a lost age of innocence and the joys of a simple wooden toy while Listen To The Sky is a spirited cover of a Sands B-side. Sands being a short-lived psych-pop band who only ever released the one single. No doubt an original copy of said disc would fetch a small fortune on Ebay. For those of us with diminished purchase power this lovely three track EP will more than suffice.

Released by Fruits De Mer Records on limited edition coloured vinyl.


Click here for more on Fruits De Mer Records.

Fitness Forever - Cosmos (OUT NOW!)


Lounge friendly mix of lite-jazz, light entertainment and euro-pop. (Out now on Elefant Records.)


Madrid indie label Elefant Records are on a roll at the moment. Hot on the heels of The Magic Theatre's second album comes another winning release. Cosmos is the second long player from Italian septet Fitness Forever. With a name like that you might think their music would be the perfect soundtrack for a strenuous gym workout but it's anything but. Instead it's a sophisticated, lounge-friendly mix of lite jazz, light entertainment and euro-pop. More smartly tailored mohair suit and patent leather shoes than lycra and headbands.

Sweeping in from the Mediterranean (Naples to be exact) is a warm front of sunny, orchestral pop which gently shifts from chintzy euro-pop, through jazz-infused swings and orchestral sweeps, into beach-friendly Tropicalia. With a cappucino at your side it's the perfect soundtrack for flicking through vintage copies of Vogue or Nova magazine. Add to this the album's all Italian vocals and true-to-period nod to bygone light entertainment and you get an idea of the record's charm.

Much like David Axelrod's early '70s output, the album is immensely sample-worthy, though with a less serious and weighty feel. Alongside Axelrod, the album's other musical touchstone is another musical great, the no less talented, sadly deceased Ronnie Hazelhurst. This thread of retro light entertainment runs right through the album. Despite the all Italian vocals, many of the tracks could be the theme tune to some short-lived and long-lost, vaguely melancholic US sitcom from the mid '70s economic lull. You know that two girls struggling in the big apple kind of vibe.

Cosmos has a unique appeal that just about steers clear of kitsch and manages to be both retro and modernist, nobody else is making music quite like Fitness Forever.


Click here for more on Fitness Forever.


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Beatpack - I'm Walkin'/Hey Senorita 7"

 
Hot-blooded R&B from reformed hairy garage legends. Part five in State Records' Soundgate Sound Acetate series.


It's been 23 years since The Beatpack disbanded. But thankfully the lure of making music again was too strong to resist. The reformed Beatpack features three original members with new blood on drums and rhythm guitar. Their first recordings since 1991 have found what seems like a natural home on State Records, Folkestone's bespoke recording facility and record label.

A-side “I'm Walkin'” ably demonstrates the band have not lost their touch when it comes to making breakneck R&B. Blues harmonica wails defiantly over the barely restrained rhythm section, who seem as if they're chomping at the bit to make up for lost time. It's a sound that calls to mind Van Morrisson's Them, tearing it up during their wild residency at Belfast's Maritime Hotel.

As a contrast to the A-side's leaving song, B-side “Hey Senorita” celebrates the prospect of new love with a slightly more beat-pop feel. All in all a nice re-introduction. Welcome back chaps!

Limited to 500 copies on 70g 7” vinyl in a hand-stamped sleeve.
Click here for the State Records website.

PYPY - Pagan Day


Distortion, speed, chaos! Art-punk from Montreal.

PYPY is something of garage punk supergroup, made up of members of Montreal's CPC Gangbangs, Red Mass, and Duchess Says. With a sound that's a mix of the Slits and Cale-era Velvets drone, injected with the amphetamine rush of garage rock. The overall effect is like Link Wray's been to art college.

Opening with the album's title track, a slashed speaker, graffiti splattered wall of noise complete with freakout guitars, fuzzed-up bass, and football terrace, glam-stomp beats. The mantra being - If three chords is good, then two chords is better, and it's a tactic that suits the band well. Like the title suggests, it's time to put away any beliefs, get primitive and back to basics and well, see what happens!

Molly is the closest the album gets to pop, with traditional verse/chorus/verse structure and girl/boy vocals. Any notion of safe territory thankfully scuppered by a Tom Verlaine-esque guitar solo. Daffodils has echoes of art-infused post-punk. Think PIL or Siouxsie, it's punk but with an eye on the disco floor. Hypnotic and slightly sinister.

Too Much Cocaine is a nightmare journey about having taken too much cocaine (who woulda thought?!?) Its a manic diary of paranoia over a jerky dance-spasm rhythm. Lesson indeed to just say no, eh kids! She's Gone takes the glitter beat and gives it a space-punk makeover, with wah-wah guitar breaks reminiscent of Loop or Spacemen 3.

Ya Ya Ya is a short, sharp blistering ode to dumb-assery, which gives way the album's closing instrumental track Psychedelic Overlords which edges towards stoner rock territory. It's these two final tracks that perhaps best sum up the dual nature of PYPY; a garage rock band that's not afraid to venture out of the genre's narrow confines, towards something more adventurous and experimental. Good on 'em I say! If you're looking for something to take you out of your comfort zone this could be just the thing.

 
Click here for PYPY online.
Pagan Day is out now on Black Gladiator/Slovenly Records.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Freedom Hawk - European Tour Dates


One of the best heavy rock albums of the last couple of years was without doubt Holding On by Virginian rock quartet Freedom Hawk. Good news then that the band are due to play some rare European dates this April. Unfortunately good ol' Blighty is not on the itinerary but hey, the mainland just a short hop these days.

April 5 - Siegen, Germany, VORTEX
April 6 - Antwerp, Belgium, AMC
April 7 - Paris, France, Le Glazart
April 8 - Dusseldorf, Germany, The Pitcher
April 9 - Berlin, Germany,  Jagerklause
April 10 - Tilburg, Netherlands, Roadburn Festival
April 11 - Wurzburg, Germany,  Immerhin
April 12 - Munster, Germany,  RARE Guitar


www.freedonhawk.net

 

Smoke Fairies - Tour Dates Plus New LP


Good news for fans of ethereal bluesy folk duo Smoke Fairies. A string of live dates have been announced for May and June, along with the promise of a new eponymous album due for release on April 14th on Full Time Hobby.

The album will be available on CD, heavyweight vinyl, download as well as a special deluxe edition. There's also going to be a limited Record Store Day only vinyl version. The deluxe edition box will be available for pre-order from 4pm GMT this Friday via www.smokefairies.com

Luder - Adelphophagia (OUT NOW!)


A winning mix of shoegaze and Sabbath-inspired riffage from female-fronted Detroit four piece.


If a band was to pick a Davie Bowie song to cover, most would opt for for something from his '70s or early '80s output. There are not many bands that would choose Bowie's 1997 single “I'm Afraid Of Americans”. But there again Luder (for it is they) are no ordinary band. On Adelphophagia, the band's 2nd long-player and follow up to 2009's Sonoluminescence, the band's version of the lesser-spotted-Bowie-single adds a rock guitar slant to Bowie and Eno's squelchy electro-funk. It's a choice that tells you much about Luder. They've one foot in the four-square grunge rock classicist camp, while slyly casting admiring eyes and taking note of the more avant-garde, artful and experimental. The Lady Gagas of rock if you can picture that for a second. Well maybe not, but if anyone remembers electronic rock duo Curve, that may give you an idea of what we're dealing with.

It's this mix of leftfield rock and big choruses that gives the album it's strength. It's moody, but big on groove. The album's release on Small Stone Records marks something of a stylistic departure for a label that's usually associated with a more macho stoner rock sound. This branching out into more cerebral meditative territory can do no harm though. The riffs when they do come will still satisfy die-hard rock fans, they're hard hitting and perhaps all the more effective for the band's otherwise restrained use of dynamics. While difficult to pigeon-hole into one stylistic genre, as there are various strands in Luder's musical DNA, it's this effortless blending that ultimately stands in the band's favour, and anyone willing to listen will no doubt be won over. Oh and the album title? It's what happens when an embryo consumes another in utero. So now you know!


Click here for Luder's website.
Click here for Small Stone Records.

 

Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou + Benjamin Folke Thomas Cafe Tour


Next month sees two our our favourite acts, Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou, and Benjamin Folke Thomas, take to the road for a small tour of cafes and coffee shops (see dates above). So as well as having your mind and soul replenished by some inspired folk-based songwriting and musicianship, the body can also benefit from a cup and a slice. Nice!

For a chance to grab a couple of free tickets along with Trevor and Hannah's three LP releases to date, head over to their website - www.trevormossandhannahlou.com

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Nightmare Boyzzz - Bad Patterns


Booze-sodden new punk anthems for fans of The Ramones, The Boys, The Briefs Buzzcocks, The Exploding Hearts and all that '77 style punk.


Fans of '77 style punk-pop will be frothing at the mouth over the latest release on the legendary Slovenly label. Bad Patterns sees the Nightmare Boyzzz from Huntsville, Alabama unleash 11 tracks of self-loathing, booze-sodden anthems for dispossessed romantics everywhere.

With nifty I, IV, V chord permutations (and some relative minors for the middle eights), more hooks than a chain of haberdashers, and lead guitar lines worthy of The Damned's Captain Sensible. (Or should that be Jimmy Page on cheap speed and snakebite?)

There's some shades and nuances to keep any non-purists happy; You're A Star tips a hat to punk's glam roots, while My Body Breaks Down may just be the best new powerpop tune you're likely to hear all year. Puke My Life Up reworks the Velvet Underground's Sweet Jane Riff into the ultimate slacker-punk manifesto.

Available now on CD or LP, the album comes complete with gloriously gonzoid cover art by none other than Pork Magazine's Sean Äaberg. Check out selected tracks on the the band's widget type thingy below.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Magic Theatre - The Long Way Home

Quietly ambitious second album from the Liverpool duo packed with lyrically and musically rich baroque indie-pop. (Out Now on Elefant Records.)


It's easy in the modern world to feel jaded and world weary. Despite the technological advances we've experienced in the last few years, advances that our ancestors would never have believed possible, we still bemoan slow wi-fi, the intrusiveness of social media, and having to wait over 24 hours for the delivery of our online shopping. Which is why this album by Liverpool's The Magic Theatre is so refreshing and does much to re-install a much needed sense of wonder in the modern maze.

Take the album's opening track 'The Sampler', not as you might think a homage to a piece of kit by Korg, but a song sung from the perspective of a young Victorian girl, 200 years ago, busy embroidering her needlework in time for her birthday. A timely reminder that once people put their heart and soul into a craft rather than constantly updating their Facebook status.

The pleasant surprises don't end there. 'It Was Glorious' looks back at the initial rush of new young love in the height of summer. Passionate and alive, and full of warm sentiments. Glorious indeed! 'Festival Of Fire' throws in some Bollywood touches, which along with the samba percussion on 'I Got The Answer' indicates a tasteful musicality not often found in the indie pop world.

The album's centrepiece 'Cathedrals Of The Mind' takes a wry look at human achievement in science, art, music and architecture. As is said in the song - ”with bi-polar grandiosity....what high achieving deadly apes are we”, it's both a celebration and an acknowledgement of our status as a dying species. On top of that it may just be the greatest list song since The Beloved's 'Hello'. Yes that good!

The album's sole cover is a delightful version of 'Love Is Blue', Luxembourg's entry in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest. Underpinned by harpsichord and lush orchestration. It's an indication of The Magic Theatre's inspirations, baroque '60s pop, sensual and sophisticated ballads, and lushly sympathetic orchestration.

Song after song there's a compounding sense wholesomeness and heartfelt goodness that would come across as twee in lesser hands, but here is as refreshing as a mountain spring. An album unlike any other you'll hear this year. And one which might just make you see the world afresh.


Click here for more on The Magic Theatre.