Album Review – The Cult

the cult hidden city cd

The Cult -‘Hidden City.’ (Cooking Vinyl)

Hidden City is the Cult’s tenth studio album. It’s 32 years since their debut Dreamtime, and in that time Messrs Astbury and Duffy, with a long list of members (one-time drummer Matt Sorum reputedly joined Guns’n;Roses for a bit of peace) have by and large raised a hearty two fingers to the post-punk scene they emerged from, and shown that what they want to do is rock. That attitude may not have endeared them to sections of the British music press, but it’s won them a lot of fans, and certainly at times has seen them, ahem, straddling the camps of goth, metal and indie.

Having originally called time on the band in 1995, the band have now been reformed longer than they were split. This album is the final part of a trilogy that began with Born Into This and continued with Choice Of Weapon. For the most part, it’s a fairly solid Cult album. The three tracks that did the rounds before the release of the album ‘Hinterland,’ ‘Deeply Ordered Chaos’ and ‘Dark Energy’ are among the strongest tracks here. Indeed, ‘Dark Energy’ is a very strong start to the album, the problem is that it perhaps overshadows some of the rest of the album, meaning that some of the record pales a bit by comparison. It’s not an overlong record, although perhaps a couple of tracks left off the record would have made it a bit stronger overall.

Whilst it’s perhaps unlikely to win them lots of new fans, those who have loved The Cult for many years (including this scribe) will find much to enjoy here. And it’s clear that well over a quarter of a century that decades after their emergence, there are many who are still interested in what the band have to say.


Hidden City is out now on Cooking Vinyl

Album Review – Plastic Animals

SbTRA038 Blackout Outer Sleeve EX

Plastic Animals -‘Pictures From The Blackout.’ (Song, By Toad Records)

Well, no-one could accuse Plastic Animals of rushing things. It’s been a number of years since their debut EP A Dark Spring, and finally we get their debut album Pictures From The Blackout. Signed to Edinburgh’s Song, By Toad Records, a label who have put out much fine stuff over the best part of a decade now, it’s important that they found a label who understood what they were doing and gave them time to develop (as opposed to some coked-up London twat sitting their stroking his hipster beard and wondering where the singles were).

So yes, the reality is that Plastic Animals will come under the heading of those artists who take their time (see also: eagleowl, Blue Nile, Stone Roses), rather than those who work at a terrifying rate (see: The Fall, Ty Segall). But the reality is that it has been worth it. In a world drowning with indie by numbers bands devoid of charisma (no wonder so many people fall for ‘pop’ music, which is a whole lot more fun), Plastic Animals show that indie rock does still have some tricks up its sleeve. So while they describe themselves as being ‘atmospheric sludge rock’, there’s hints of shoegazing at its most dreamy, krautrock at its most rocky and least formulaic and most importantly of all, actual, y’know, songs. Each successive play of this album has shown this to be an album I would be pleased to have bought, as the waves of noise, psychedelica and everything else, that kick in right from album opener ‘Ghosts’ and by track three ‘Colophon’ seem to be bringing in a wave of melancholia – and that’s not just the Sunday afternoon slump kicking in.

A debut album for the band to be proud of, then.

…Oh, and how much do I like this album? Put it this way: even though I was sent a copy to review, I’ll be buying a physical copy out of my own pocket. That good.


Pictures From The Blackout is released on Song, By Toad Records on February 8, 2016

Album Review – Emma Pollock


Emma Pollock -‘In Search Of Harperfield.’ (Chemikal Underground)

This year marks twenty-one years since Emma Pollock co-founded the legendary Scottish label Chemikal Underground, and released her first record as part of the seminal Scottish band The Delgados ‘Monica Webster.’ And yet with the release of this, her third solo album, and first solo album in six years, she shows that musically she is not harking back to the past but rather moving forward in the present.

That said, it’s a record that’s shaped by her family history, and she makes sense of it in the here and now. The first track to do the rounds was ‘Parks And Recreation’, which recalls the teenage experience of just wanting to enjoy life in the local park, without the local bullies spoiling it for everyone. That’s not the only reference to history here.

The title refers to the very first home that her Parents, Kathleen and Guy Pollock bought a few years before she was born. The man on the front of the album sleeve is her father, working on the land. Pollock has acknowledged that the death of her mother and her father’s illness have shaped this album.

Musically, this might just be the most accomplished album she has been involved in since The Delgados’ The Great Eastern. It’s shaped by the gorgeous arrangements of Malcolm Lindsay and Pollock’s
husband Paul Savage which add yet another depth to the record, in the same affecting way that Dave Fridmann’s production on the aforementioned Eastern album revealed new textures to the band’s sound. Like all skilled artists, there’s a number of songs that stand out on their own merits (were she in the unenviable position of being on a major, the A&R guys would be able to hear loads of singles on
the record), and amongst the highlights are album opener ‘Cannot Keep A Secret’, the devastating ‘Intermission’ and ‘Alabaster.’

So a happy coming of age to her recording career and record label running then, and what better way to mark it than with the release of this album?


In Search Of Harperfield is out now on Chemikal Underground

And from the archives, an interview I did with Emma Pollock back in 2007

The long-awaited return of PJ Harvey


Five years since her last album, Let England Shake, PJ Harvey will release her sixth album The Hope Six Demolition Project on April 15. It’s her ninth studio album since 1992’s Dry album.

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1. The Community of Hope
2. The Ministry of Defence
3. A Line in the Sand
4. CChain of Keys
5. River Anacostia
6. Near the Memorials to Vietnam and Lincoln
7. The Orange Monkey
8. Medicinals
9. The Ministry of Social Affairs
10. The Wheel
11. Dollar, Dollar

The first track to be released from the album is ‘The Wheel’ which is available to download now, and will be available as a 7″ shortly.

A song for today #25


Another day, another scary amount of submissions in my inbox (hint: try and write something that’s going to grab mine or any other blogger’s attention).

” I´m an independent artist from Germany. My name is TYGAPUSS and I make fast Garage music for women who work smart and party hard;)!

Currently I´m working on my debut album. As a bloody newcomer I would love to get a review!”

This debut single is fun and punchy. I don’t know a lot about the band, but I can tell you this much:

They are Anna Gette (vocals), Hannes Weißbach (guitar), Jo Heger (bass) and Youbi Deinas (drums). This song ‘He’s Savage Like An Animal’ is a whole heap of fun, and you should turn it up loud, annoy your neighbours and enjoy the video at face value.


woodpigeon 2016

I’m both surprised and embarrassed to discover that I haven’t featured Woodpigeon on this blog before.

Firstly because they are absolutely brilliant, secondly because main man Mark Andrew Hamilton is someone who I used to work with in Fopp many years ago, when the Canadian was based in Edinburgh. And he’s collaborated and played with a number of Edinburgh acts, including eagleowl and and Withered Hand, both of whom have been featured on this blog many times before.

The new Woodpigeon album is entitled T R O U B L E and is released worldwide on April 1. Damn Clash for describing the first track ‘Faithful’ as as Roxy Music meets John Grant, because that’s exactly what it sounds like, Godammit. Simultaneously frail and classy, and the sort of song that you want to listen to again and again. Very beautiful indeed. Take the time to listen to it.

Whilst I’ve been away…


…from the blog, not from writing or music, obviously!

I didn’t intend to leave the blog for a week, but I have had a couple more pieces published over at God Is In The TV.

First up, the rather fantastic fifth album from the Mystery Jets, entitled Curve Of The Earth, which you can read here. I’d always sort of liked them, but this new album has made me want to investigate them a lot more thoroughly.

You can watch the video for ‘Telemere’ from the album below:

Additionally, I’ve also profiled a rather ace tune called ‘Wonder Why’ by Malka which you can read all about and stream (ahead of its release in two weeks) here

Meanwhile, something that arrived in my inbox today, which I didn’t expect to like, was the debut single from Zayn, he once of One Direction, a band I had no time for whatsoever.

To my surprise, this track and video are absolutely brilliant. Whether he will do a George Michael/Michael Nesmith/Robbie Williams/Justin Timberlake remains to be seen, but just try and take this at face value…

Forthcoming from Mogwai

Mogwai 2015 01 - credit Steve Gullick

Mogwai picture by Steve Gullick

A mere matter of months since the career-spanning Central Belters compilation, Mogwai have unveiled details of a new album.

Atomic will be released on April 1. The album is composed of reworked versions of the music recorded by the band for the soundtrack to director Mark Cousin’s acclaimed documentary Atomic: Living In Dread and Promise, which was first shown on BBC Four last summer. Constructed entirely of archive film, Atomic is an impressionistic kaleidoscope of the horrors of our nuclear times – protest marches, Cold War sabre-rattling, Chernobyl and Fukishima – but also the sublime beauty of the atomic world, and how x-rays and MRI scans have improved human lives.

Director Cousins says of the film: “I’m a child of the nuclear age, and in my teens I had nightmares about the bomb. But physics was my favourite subject in school, and I nearly studied it at university. Learning about the atomic world excited me. It was like abstract Star Wars.”

Meanwhile Mogwai leader Stuart Braithwaite says ‘The Atomic soundtrack is one of the most intense and fulfilling projects we’ve taken on as a band. Ever since we went to Hiroshima to play and visited the peace park this has been a subject very close to us. The end results, both the film score and the record are pieces I’m extremely proud of.’

It’s not the first time Mogwai have tackled soundtrack work, having been responsible for the scores to both French TV series Les Revenants (The Returned) and Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait.

The tracklisting for Atomic is as follows:

1. Ether
3. Bitterness Centrifuge
4. U-235
5. Pripyat
6. Weak Force
7. Little Boy
8. Are You A Dancer?
9. Tzar
10. Fat man

The first track to be heard from the album ‘U-235’ can be streamed below:

Presenting…The Shimmer Band

Shimmer Band

A band’s debut single should sound like a manifesto.

And several plays of The Shimmer Band’s debut single ‘Shoot Me (Baby)’ sounds like a band who have a lot to say. A submarine emerging through the stagnant waters of a January seemingly overrun by Justin Bieber and the horrible realisation that David Bowie isn’t coming back.

The band are Tom Newman (singer), Willz Hatcher (drums), Tom Smith (guitar / synths), Tom Kuras (bass) and Babsy (guitar). On this, their debut single they draw on the nihilist electronics of Suicide with the party anthems of Sly and the Family Stone meeting Krautrock and sound like they’ve come to remind Kasabian of how it ought to be done. Is it groundbreaking? No, it’s not – but it sounds like so much bloody fun.

For all I know, the band may burn out within six months or fail to release anything of worth to match up to this single. But to paraphrase Casablanca, we’ll always have ‘Shoot Me (Baby).’ Amongst those to have supported the single are 6Music’s Steve Lamacq. Let’s hope it snowballs from here – reportedly their debut album will be out in the spring.

David Bowie remembered


To say I am gutted by the death of David Bowie at the age of 69 is an understatement.

I had written the review of his latest album Blackstarthe day it was released, it appeared on God Is In The TV, then both that site and this blog hit problems.

After careful consideration, I am going to publish the review below just as it was on Friday. Fair to say the two promotional videos, as displayed below, can only be viewed in a different light now.

David Bowie -‘Blackstar.’ (ISO/RCA)

Well, Happy Birthday to you Mr. Jones, and may I say…oh, a present for us, a new album?

Of course, David Bowie’s new album has been on the cards for some months, and it’s fair to say that fifty years into his career, a new David Bowie album is still an event for a lot of people. It may not be delivered in a ‘WOW! Look how big my ego is’ kind of way, but what is impressive is that this many decades in, it’s about what this artist can still deliver, as opposed to displaying a polite interest because of past glories.

Three years ago, on his 66th Birthday, Bowie re-appeared, from what many had assumed to be retirement (though this was never publicly acknowledged) and announced the imminent arrival of The Next Day, his first studio album in ten years. Listening to that album now, rapturously welcomes as it largely was at the time, it wasn’t one of Bowie’s more adventurous records. But Blackstar is Bowie experimenting again, as he has done throughout much of his career, forging new paths, sometimes so ahead of himself that the public have been scared to follow.

A little over a year ago, Bowie released a career-spanning compilation Nothing Has Changed. The token new track on that album ‘Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)’ and its b-side ‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore.’ Both those songs appear here – but in radically different form. Sure, there’s a still a hint of jazz about the proceedings (in a good way), but any concerns that Bowie might have unleashed an album of jazz-rock monstrosities on the world should be discounted. Whilst there was much pontificating on the internet about what this album would consist of, it’s clear that whilst Bowie has been taking in Kendrick Lamar (particularly on ‘Girl Loves Me’), he’s still managed to make a record that sounds like David Bowie. The voice is as strong as it has ever been, the lyrics slightly impenetrable – or should that be *probably* based on the Burroughsian cut-up techniques that he has used for many years.

‘Lazarus’ the second single to be released from the album is probably a case in why this album is worthy of your attention. It hangs together as a stand-alone song, yet explores so many ideas with its Berlin trilogy atmosphere meeting Faith-era Cure before smoothly blending into Portishead meets Bernard Hermann. ‘look up here I’m in heaven/I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.’ It contains as much mystery as Bowie has ever given us – and yet if Bowie were ever to play live again (don’t count on it), it would be a song that you could imagine people singing along with.

And it seems almost noteworthy in this day and age that the album is only seven tracks long and clocks in at less than three-quarters of an hour. There’s a lot of ground covered in that time, but there’s no flab on here. It does require quite a few listens as an album in order to get to grips with it, but Bowie has rarely concerned himself with making albums that are simply background music.

There’s no question that some will grumble that Bowie hasn’t made an album like [insert particular Bowie album here]. The reality is, though, like a handful of other members of rock’ aristocracy (Dylan and Neil Young, for example), he has continued to reinvent himself over the decades. It may be questioned whether people would be interested in this album if it didn’t feature Bowie’s name on the front. Leaving aside the pertinent issue of marketing and PR of any new album, I can only hope so, being as this album features strong songwriting, great vocals and a wish to push the envelope all on the same album, which few artists a third of Bowie’s age can do. On its own merits, it’s a good album. In the Bowie canon, it’s not perhaps his best, but given the run of albums he had, particularly between 1971-1980, that is hardly surprising. It certainly makes sense as part of Bowie’s awesome body of work, and if this time it did turn out to be Bowie’s final studio album, it would be a perfectly acceptable way to end his career, in a way that seems unmistakeably Bowie.