Album Review – Butcher Boy

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Butcher Boy -’Helping Hands’ (Damaged Goods)

Guess who’s back? Back again? Butcher Boy’s back, tell your friends…sorry,doesn’t quite scan, does it? Anyway, that’s irrelevant, because Butcher Boy are back with their third album and it’s great, so do go and tell your friends.

Reviewing Butcher Boy’s Eighteenth Emergency EP svereal years ago for Is This Music? I wrote that ‘the title track alone could make a hardened Glasgow ned cry into his Buckie as he waits for the last bus back from Sauchiehall Street. Even with his mates.’ And the thing is, the quality of music and songwriting remains just as high. It’s a mark of how good this album is that even the brief instrumental interludes on this album are brilliant, lovely and don’t feel like filler.

In 2011, it still appears that Belle & Sebastian are the Kings and Queens of Glasgow. With this set, containing as it does such fine songs as ‘Whistle and I’ll Come To You,’ ‘Parliament Hill’ and the single ‘Imperial’, Butcher Boy are seriously challenging for that title. Only the hardest of hearts could fail to fall for JOhn Blain Hunt’s poetic songs and awesome voice. THe album is also brilliantly scored.

If this album does not finally deliver them into the mainstream success that they have deserved since their first record, then that will be a travesty.

****1/2

Helping Hands will be released on August 29.

Read my friend Jim’s review over at the Vinyl Villain

Album Review – Unknown Mortal Orchestra

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra -’Unknown Mortal Orchestra.’ (True Panther Sounds/Matador)

For something that that seems to have begun as a side project, it would appear that the debut album from Unknown MOrtal Orchestra has taken on a life of its’ own.

New Zealand born, Portland based Ruban Nielson, had a vision of ‘junkshop record collector pop’. This has culminated in an album which feels like it has the Beatles’ ear for melody, shot through with a love for hypnogogic pop, hip-hop and krautrock. And quite frankly, it’s amazing.

OPening with ‘Ffunny Ffriends’ in the course of just nine songs and thirty minutes, this is an album which manages to put together an ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ approach into something coherent, listenable and loveable. If I’m not too sure about ‘Jello and the Juggernauts’ I’m pretty stooked about the rest of the album.

I have no idea if Mr. Neilson knew what he was doing – or if the project just simply took on a life of its’ own. Either way, it’s a damn good album.

****

Unknown Mortal Orchestra is out now on True Panther Sounds/Matador.

Stream the album at Spin

Unknown Mortal Orchestra – ‘Ffunny Ffrends’ from Bowlegs on Vimeo.

Yourstru.ly Presents: UMO “How Can You Luv Me” from Yours Truly on Vimeo.

Some covers for Friday

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As you will doubtless be aware, this year marks twenty years since Nirvana’s Nevermind was released, challenging forever people’s perceptions of what would get played on daytime radio, and ten years since Strokes’ Is This It? updated indie for the twenty-first century.

While not my favourite albums of those respective years necessarily (I’d plump for Massive Attack’s Blue Lines and Low’s Things We Lost In The Fire), there’s no doubt that they’re awesome records.

Spin magazine in the US have put a free download album together called Newermind, which features thirteen artists paying tribute to Nevermind by covering a song from the album in turn. The album features contributions from Cobain faves like the Meat Puppets and The Vaselines, as well as newer acts like EMA.

Go here to download

Meanwhile, Stereogum have put together a tribute to Is This It? featuring cover versions from Peter, Bjorn and John and Owen Pallett, amongst others.

Download here

Finally, a cover version of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back To Black’ will be released by Ronnie Spector. Out next week, proceeds go to Daytop Village Alcohol & Drug Abuse Charity. Go here to , er, hear it.

Album review – Luxury Condo

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Luxury Condo -’Hit the Strip.’ (Luxury Recordings)

This is the debut album from the Hackney-based band. There’s something about the vibes used on the opening, instrumental, title-track that suggests David Lynch (or should that be Angelo Badalamenti?) is as much an influence as the Doors on this record.

There’s a whole undercurrent of the less glossy side of sixties music here – Jim Morrison’s afoprementioned merry men, as well as surf bands, garage bands and the Nuggets compilation (I bet Lenny kaye would LOVE this album). As well as the three singles released so far (‘Gorilla, Gorilla, Gorilla’; ‘Escalado Man’ and ‘Don’t Shoot Mr. President’) there’s some excellent tracks here, including ‘Mission House’ and ‘Front Row Sleaze.’

While the style won’t appeal to everyone, those who like thier music smokey, sleazy, mysterious -but tuneful- will find much to enjoy here.

A whole heap of fun.

***1/2

Hit The Strip is out now on Luxury Recordings.

Amy Winehouse 1983-2011

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I’ve been away for the last four days, away from my computer (the last couple of posts were timed to go up), so it’s been frustrating not to be able to post about my thoughts on Amy Winehouse’s death.

Like quite a lot of people, I was aware of the first album, Frank, but really blown away by the second album Back To Black. It was runner-up album of the year the first year of this blog, an album that I only heard towards the end of that year, and was then blown away by.

There’s been a lot of coverage about her death -and there’ll no doubt be more as the weeks go by. I will just say that while I didn’t agree with some of her lifestyle choices, I thought she had an amazing voice and a big talent. I hope that this is what she’ll be remembered for.

If you didn’t hear her albums, that’s a pity. But if this track doesn’t get you…that’s a tragedy.

Rest in peace, Ms. Winehouse and God bless you.

The return of Ultrasound

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Many, many years ago, when the world was young (1997) there was a London record label called Nude, oh best beloved. And on that record label were three bands of note: Suede, who released five albums (including the best album of the 90s). There was Geneva (who came from Aberdeen and should have been bigger). And there was Ultrasound. They released one album…and split up. Not before making an impression on the world, not least the inaccurately named lead singer Tiny.

Their year of glory, 1999, also saw the emergence of a few bands still about today (Doves, Elbow, Muse and Coldplay) and their debut album, Everything Picture. They have reformed -and their new single, which will be released on Label Fandango (who also released an early single by 17 Seconds faves Broken Records) is out next month.

And it’s bloody awesome.

Ultrasound – Welfare State / Sovereign (Released Aug 29) by Label Fandango

I was taken aback, too. Saw them once at Pulp’s Finsbury Park gig in 1998 (also featuring Bernard Butler, Catatonia and Add N To (X) amongst others)…maybe I’ll get to see them again.

The Last Battle update

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The Last Battle have just released their new EP, The Springwell EP. Having issued their debut single ‘Ruins’ and their awesome album Heart of The Land, Soul Of The Sea through us here at 17 Seconds, this is a self-release and very good it is too.

It contains five tracks, including a radical reworking of ‘Ward 119′ which was the b-side to ‘Ruins,’ and ‘Viv Nicholson’, all about the eponymous sixties Pools Winner who vowed she would ‘Spend, Spend, Spend.’ (And yes, she was on the cover of the Smiths’ ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now.’)

Go and buy…you won’t regret it. Via the Bandcamp link at the top…or at Avalanche Records in person if you live in Edinburgh.

I feel way too close to the band to review this and give it a rating without being biased (or worse!) but it is awesome.

This is not on the EP – but it is a cover version of the Warren G and Nate Dogg track ‘Regulate.’

Kid Canaveral update

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Those lovely chaps and chappesses, Kid Canaveral are in the middle of a busy time.

This week has seen them put out a new single ‘…And Another Thing!’ which comes complete with a remix from Found AND a cover version of King Creosote’s ‘Missionary.’ Last month saw The Last Battle EP launch (more about which very soon) where Kid Canaveral backed King Creosote as the support act for the Battle (and yours truly was DJING!)

Stream the single here:

This is available as a very limited cassette.

Also…they are releasing a vinyl edition of their awesome album Shouting At Wildlife. Two tracks made my Festive Fifty at the end of last year and the album was no.5 in my top albums of last year. This will be coming out on the Fence label – you can read my review here.

The vinyl version is available from Monday; you can, however, see the band do an instore at Avalanche Records in Edinburgh this Saturday.

They will also be playing live in England and Scotland over the next few weeks - check out their bandcamp page for the dates.

Read my interview with the band last year here.

Album Review – Fountains Of Wayne

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Fountains Of Wayne -’Sky Full Of Holes’ (Lojinx)

Fifteen years and five albums into the career, it’s fair to say that Faountains Of Wayne are probably still best known for their 2003 single ‘Stacy’s Mum.’ The band have described it as a tribute to The Cars. While there’s nothing on here that’s quite as instantly catchy as that, there’s a fair amount of decent tunes here, in the style of US new-wave flavoured pop that they have become known for.

The two singles so far ‘Richie and Ruben’ and ‘Someone’s Gonna Break your Heart’ are decent songs, while other tracks like ‘The Summer Place’ and ‘A Dip In The Ocean’ are gorgeous, too.

Occasionally it can get a bit samey -’Hate To See You Like This’ feels like they are just going through the motions, for example -but this is a pretty solid album overall.

It’s not earth-chattering, but it’s Fountains of wayne doing well what they fo best -and if you can get a bit of sunshine this summer (easier if you don’t live in Scotland, I guess!) then this is a good soundtrack for it.

***

Sky Full Of Holes is released on August 1 on Lojinx.

Album Review – Paul McCartney (re-issue)

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Paul McCartney – McCartney II (Commercial Marketing)

Taking pot shots at McCartney for what he has done since 1970 is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. There are quite a few deserving targets. But these aside, there are a few things that do deserve praise. ‘Live and Let Die’ – best Bond Theme of the 1970s. Band On The Run. Much of the collaborative efforts that appeared on his and Elvis Costello’s 1989 albums, Flowers In The Dirt and Spike, respectively. ‘Another Day.’ ‘Hi, Hi, Hi.’ Wings may have had a stupid name. They certainly suffered from being McCartney’s post-Beatles band, but they had their moments. Over the course of the 1970s, they proved themselves successful in their own right.

This album was McCartney’s first solo album in ten years, recorded in 1979 and emerging in 1980, by which time there had been the infamous Japanese bust and Wings seemed to have imploded. ‘Solo’ album is accurate -even Linda isn’t on here. It’s quite highly rated in McCartney circles -largely because it is full of gems. Album opener ‘Coming Up’ is genuinely funky – and reportedly John Lennon loved it.

There’s definitely a sense of what was going on in the post-punk climate filtering through. Instrumental tracks like ‘Frozen Jap (not, as thought, a dig at Japan for imprisoning him, as it was recorded before the bust -but perhaps a silly title) and ‘Front Parlour’ see Macca experimenting with synths and producing work which has more in common with Sheffield electronic acts of the time (pre Dare Human League, Cabaret Voltaire) than might have been expected then or now.

There’s also Temporary Secretary’ which has become one of those tracks that the hipsters like to pull out of thin air (see also ‘Was Dog A Doughnut?’ by Cat Stevens). This marries the funk of ‘Coming Up’ with early Soft Cell (think ‘Memorabilia.’) nThis is worth the price of the album alone -but there’s other great stuff here.

Look: I’m not going to defend crap like ‘Ebony and Ivory,’ ‘The Girl Is Mine’ or ‘Mull Of Kintyre.’ BUt this album shows that McCartney did (and arguably still does) have an experimental side and that to assume Lennon was the only Beatle with an interest in the avant-garde and the experimenta was erroneous.

This is a treat of an album and well worth investigating. Now: anyone prepared to help me defend Back To The Egg?

McCartney II is out now on Commercial Marketing