The return of Le Reno Amps…

le-reno-amps

…and indeed, Happy Hallowe’en!

This is a suitably spooky track and I figured that something like this would do the trick.

Le Reno Amps will return with their new album in the New Year, having delighted us with the fine Tear It Open LP and the equally good The Stand Off EP last year.

There’s not much info on this now – although they are playing at the 13th Note in Glasgow this week on Thursday November 4 – the same day that labelmates The Scottish Enlightenment play Edinburgh’s Art College (with 17 Seconds Records’ very own The Last Battle in support).

This is creepy as, and very, very good…

Never Be Alone by Le Reno Amps by Armellodie

Interview – Penguins Kill Polar Bears

penguins-kill-polar-bears-september-2010

Penguins Kill Polar Bears: (L-R) Fraser Sanaghan, Gavin Cormack, Ben Proudlock and Kieran McGuckian

It’s a lovely Saturday afternoon in September when I meet Penguins Kill Polar Bears at Edinburgh’s Southern Cross cafe. Although drummer Kieran McGuckian is missing, the rest of the band – bassist Gavin Cormack, singer Ben Proudlock and new guitarist Fraser Sanaghan, and manager Murray Reid (AKA Manky Bastard) join me for a coffee fulled hour or so at the back of the cafe.

There’s much chuckling about the poor gag that I once started one early feature on them (a bad joke involving polar bears and penguins -if you haven’t heard it, it’s really not that funny). However, it transpires that this isn’t the first time that they’ve been in a band named after an animal. Ben admits that the band PKPB emerged out of were called the Peacocks. Who did they sound like? ‘Um, Kings Of Leon and the Red Hot Chili Peppers!’ However, when their bassist left, Gavin joined and they became Penguins Kill Polar Bears. At the time they were all still at school at Linlithgow Academy (apart from Fraser – the most recent member to join and previously a member of Lions. Chase. Tigers). Though the recent, excellent Dawn EP is their first release proper, an early release called ‘We All Got Saved’ was sold at school gigs.

And if you’ve heard said EP, then you’ll know it’s not the likes of Kings Of Leon and the Red Hot Chili Peppers that PKPB evoke now, but rather the sound of a scottish band mining their own wonderful post-rock sound. They’re quite proud of the fact that the only notable alumnus of Linlithgow Academy is Iain Cooke from Aereogramme, who they definitely cite as an influence. They’re now based in Edinburgh, but feel that there’s a cliqueness in the music scene here, with a bias towards folk music. They are, however, too polite to name names! Ben particularly states that he would rather see a band ‘outside a scene.’

There are of course those acts that it’s fair to say are fellow travellers. They’ve mainly had coverage from blogs rather than the radio but there’s also been bands tipping each other off about them. Frightened Rabbit for example tipped off There Will be fireworks about them They will be recording their debut album at The Mill theatre in Strathaven, which is where Fireworks recorded their debut album. Other bands that they’ve shared stages with include the likes of the Twilight Sad, the Gothenburg Address and Pensioner. However, they are trying to break out of the same circle -’there’s a risk of playing the same gigs with same people everytime,’ they note, sagely.

Their gigs both north and south of the border have elicited praise but also some weird behaviour. In Dundee one local nutter turned up and started to attack the merchandise stand whilst the band were playing. And then there was the guy who turned up with the Tazer in Stirling…Still, I have to laugh with them at their description of Edinburgh’s Electric Circus venue as being ‘like a strip-club out of Bladerunner.’

Having played south of the border as well, I ask how they feel they go down there. Discussing the notion of scottish bands and how they’re portrayed down south, Gavin is quite philosophical on this issue. ‘ There is a hype about the scottish accent, maybe in England it doesn’t go down so well,’ he says, thoughtfully. ‘I’ve gone off bands that sing with an American accent. Sing with your own accent!’ he adds, forcefully.

Although they describe themselves as being ’9-5 slaves to the wage’ they have been writing and touring throughout the course of the year. There’s no fixed plans for an album as yet, though there is some talk about writing 15 songs and selecting 10. There’s another ten gigs scheduled between now and the end of November, but the plan is that come December and January they’d like to focus on studio work.

‘Dawn’s a collection of songs that we’d written over two years,’ explains Gavin. ‘We’ve always tried to do something a bit different from other bands. We wrote ‘Sandcastles’ two guitarists ago!’

The aim is for the album to be a complete piece from start to finish, and it’s going to be the next chapter in the band’s history. However -perhaps indicative of the age we are in both financially and independently – they are not looking for a record deal to put their album out. ‘We can make enough press for ourselves,’ they reason. ‘The major benefit of a label is them putting the money in -but you then have to pay them back.’ Murray: money’s not the most important thing. As long as we get petrol.’

Progressing like they are, I’m sure they’ll more than get their travel costs paid!

Penguins Kill Polar Bears’ bandcamp is here

Album review – Violens

violens-amoral-lp

Violens -’Amoral.’ (Static Recital)

Having really enjoyed Violens’ self-titled EP from last year I was really looking forward to reviewing this album. After the first couple of hearings, I must admit that I felt slightly disappointed. A love of eighties jangle pop -and indeed 80s indie in general – no bad thing in itself, but haven’t The Drums rather got that sewn up at the moment? I’d be willing to bet that they own The Smiths, You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever and Lowlife

Yet by about the third listen, it starts to click. Yes it is very eighties indie-influenced, but even with the listener bearing this in mind, the NYC trio have drawn on their influences to produce a pretty solid debut LP. It is a tad over-produced at times, particularly on opening track ‘The dawn of your happiness is rising’; nevertheless it hangs together quite well as an album.

And while it’s easy to hear their influences, it isn’t if all the songs are re-writes (though if you want to hear a band that shamelessly re-wrote 80s indie stuff, check out Dutch band The Essence who wore their love of The Cure on the sleeves to the point of cringemaking). ‘The dawn of your happiness is rising’ evokes the Smiths at their most upbeat and ‘Acid Reign’ reminds me of prime New Order.

A good start, let’s hope that they find their own voice on their next album.

***

Amoral is out now on Static Recital.

Violens -’Acid Reign.’ mp3

Violens -’Violent Sensation Descends.’ mp3

Presenting…Esben and the Witch

esben-and-the-witch

Even as I head into my mid-thirties, I’m still of the belief that music has a duty to disturb as well as to delight, to intrigue, and perplex. This track was waiting for me in my inbox when I got home, and four plays in the last half hour alone, I’m still trying to get my head around this track by Esben and the Witch, entitled ‘Warpath.’

Esben and the Witch hail from Brighton and they are Daniel, Thomas and Rachel. Signed to the still achingly cool indie Matador, they are set to release their debut album Violet Cries. The press release jokes about them ‘petitioning retailers to add an “Uneasy Listening” bin card to their sales floor.’ Actually I like that idea. Their stuff is beyond ethereal. Their myspace is spooky and not in a shlock-horror way either. And it is -somehow-delicious. The only band in the world I can think to compare them to is Siouxsie and the banshees circa Juju.

This is not a track to fall asleep to, or to dance to. It is a track to give your complete and undivided attention to.

Esben and the Witch -’Warpath.’ mp3

So far they have released the 33 EP and the limited-edition 7″ and 12″s ‘Lucia, at the Precipice’ and ‘Marching Song.’

The video for ‘Marching Song’ is very simple, very disturbing and very good:

And this video for ‘Lucia, at the precipice’ -probably wrongly -reminds me of Whistle and I’ll Come to You

Keepingitpeel day, part 2

breeders-original-lineup

I know I’ve posted this before, but I thought I’d post this again in honour of Mr. Peel

Breeders -’Hellbound (Peel session).’ mp3

Breeders -’When I Was A Painter (Peel session).’ mp3

Breeders -’Iris (Peel session).’ mp3

Breeders -’Fortunately Gone (Peel session).’ mp3

For more info on the session, please see here. And if anyone knows who played bass or drums, I’d still like to know.

BONUS:

Two cover versions from The Breeders.

First up, this was taken from the Breeders first album Pod, which was recorded in Edinburgh (and is actually my favourite of their four albums):

Breeders -’Happiness Is A Warm Gun (Breeders).’ mp3

…and this is from their Safari EP, which came out in 1992:

Breeders -’So Sad About Us (Who cover).’ mp3

Keepingitpeel day

2homeandfriends

John Peel and his wife, Sheila, affectionately known as ‘the Pig.’

OK folks, a veritable pot-pourri for you today, in honour of the great John Peel:

First up, Wire’s 2002 session for the programme

Wire -’Spent (Peel session).’ mp3

Wire -’I Don’t Understand (Peel session).’ mp3

Wire -’First Fast (Peel session).’ mp3

Wire -’99.9 (Peel session).’ mp3

…and one or two other bits and pieces that turned up in the programme.

Like Six By Seven covering Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ – in German, obviously.

Six By Seven -’Heldon (Peel session).’ mp3

And the Shop Assistants covering Motorhead:

Shop Assistants -’Ace Of Spades (Peel session).’ mp3

While Blur and Pulp recorded sessions for Peel, and he championed the Bluetones too, and even Suede got an entry (‘The Drowners,’ natch) the biggest stars of Britpop -Oasis, duh -only scored an entry in the hallowed Festive fifty courtesy of Cat Power:

Cat Power -’Wonderwall (Peel session).’ mp3

Finally, two very long session tracks that I’ve posted before but I think are worth posting again:

Godspeed You Black Emperor -’Hungover As The Queen in Maida Vale (Peel session).’ mp3

Orb -’Loving You (Peel session).’ mp3

I would also recommend that you read my friend Steve’s blog, Teenage Kicks, which covers the Festive Fifty in awesome detail, and as well as Football and music who started this ball rolling (thank you!), my friend Jim over at The Vinyl Villain has also been flying the flag for today for some weeks past. Including posting another, earlier Wire session that they recorded for Mr. Peel.

Keeping it Peel

john-peel-2

Tomorrow marks six years since John Peel died.

Keepingitpeel is being organised by Webbie, the guy behind the Football and Music blog, to mark six years since the legendary DJ’s untimely death.

My own radio show will be starting again soon on Fresh Air, and while it’s nowhere near as good as peelie’s were, I try and pay respect to him above all other DJs when I’m presenting it. The sessions people recorded for his show became legendary, and indeed many bands formed solely so that they could get a session -and then called it quits once they had achieved his aim.

As well as recording songs to promote the latest single or album, there were also some wonderful curios thrown up over the years, like this cover

Sisters Of Mercy -’Emma (Peel session).’ mp3

Yes, it really IS Andrew Eldritch and co. covering the Hot Chocolate hit.

I’ll be posting something different for tomorrow…

The debut album of the year? Discuss

warpaint-press2010-608x4021

Warpaint’s debut album The Fool is getting quite a few publications frothing excitedly. such as The Guardian, The Fly, the NME and across the blogs too.

It has of course been a year for some awesome debuts – Scotland alone has produced Kid Canaveral, Mitchell Museum, the Unwinding Hours,Sparrow and the Workshop and the forthcoming Scottish Enlightenment album, and there have also been strong releases from The Drums and the Soft pack, and that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head (also the last Battle’s debut, which I can’t add to the list as I put it out!)

See what you think…

I know I’ve posted this before but what the heck!

Finally, this track is not on the album, but is a beautiful cover of an awesome song, David Bowie’s ‘Ashes To Ashes.

Warpaint -’Ashes To Ashes.’ mp3

And as ever, I would love to know what you think!

Ari Up remembered

point_ari_up

It’s already been a bad year for losing musicians -and I’m absolutely gutted to learn today that Ari Up, lead singer of The Slits has died, at the age of cancer at the age of just 48.

If punk was supposed to have a scorched earth policy, there were certain acts who showed just how conservative peole might be, underneath it all. One act that might apply to was Suicide, but another was the Slits. At just fourteen Ari (born Ariane Daniele Forster) was the singer of the Slits, and they were touring and terrifying the life out of people. I was privileged to interview guitarist Viv Albertine earlier this year. She talked of it being a difficult time being in The Slits were people were incredibly anatgonistic, and where John Peel was the only person prepared to support them.

But Island Records released their debut album Cut, which plays as I type this. Not only did the cover unnerve people – the Rough Trade allegedly had a meeting about whether they should be stocking it, but this take on punk and reggae was something new and very raw. Yet like many records of that year – The Pop Group’s Y and PIL’s Metal Box being two other examples – shows just how ahead of the game they were. After a second album in 1981, Return Of The Giant Slits, the band split. But not without influencing a huge number of female artists – most notably Madonna. Ari also contributed vocals to one of my favourite cover versions ever the New Age Steppers’ ‘ take on Junior Byles’ ‘Fade Away.’

Having spent much of her time travelling and raising her sons, as well as being ivolved in the Dancehall scene, Ari reactivated the Slits in the last decade, releasing the Revenge of the Killer Slits EP and the Trapped Animal album.

A true original, responsible for music that was both ground-breaking and gere-bender, the press may be commenting on whose step-daughter she was, but first and foremost, she was the leader of one of the most wonderful bands Britain ever produced.

My favourite Slits song…

The Slits -’Typical Girls.’ mp3

Two awesome covers…

The Slits -’I Heard It Through The Grapevine.’ mp3

New Age Steppers -’Fade Away.’ mp3

Album review – Super Adventure Club

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Super Adventure Club -’Chalk Horror’ (Armellodie)

Much to my chagrin, I have yet to see Super Adventure Club live. Not because I think I need to see them live to really ‘get’ them -on the contrary, I ‘get’ SAC just fine, both this re-issue of their debut, and this year’s sophomore release Avoid Zombies. It’s because their gloriously raucous, unmanicured noise just sounds like so much god damned FUN.

Unrelenting, unpretentious, and undeniably quirky, this is like a sppedball of the Cramps’ shlock horror rockabilly meeting Sonic Youth in a Glasgow indie disco on Hallowe’en all the year round In a little of thirty minutes and eight tracks this album gives you plenty to enjoy, including ‘Tommy Sheridan’ and the album’s two bookends ‘In the wee Wee Hours’ and ‘Show People.’

If you didn’t pick up on this album the first time round, go and get it. And then go and get Avoid Zombies. With Armellodie’s roster also including Kill the Captains, Cuddly Shark, Le Reno Amps and the Scottish Enlightenment (whose forthcoming debut album is nothing short of astonishing) these are bands and a label to notice.

****

Chalk Horror is out now on Armellodie.

Stream it here

Download the mp3 for ‘Tommy Sheridan here at their bandcamp…

…and watch the video right here.