Something spooky for Hallowe’en!

numan09

I’m not really too fussed either way about Hallowe’en, but it seems to have been getting pushed quite a lot this year in Edinburgh.

So, if you’re in the mood for something spooky and disturbing for Hallowe’en (in a good way) then i would like to present the video for Gary Numan’s latest single ‘The Fall.’

Sure he may still be best known for ‘Cars’ and ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ but there’s a lot of people who realise that he is a genius. Watching the video, it’s clear that Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson and a lot of folk have clearly been paying attention over the years. And Kanye West and Prince have also spoken of their admiration, suggesting that it’s not just the goth/industrial crowd who see what he has achieved. Not to mention his contribution to Battles’ sophomore album Gloss Drop, earlier this year on the single ‘My Machine.’

This track is taken from Numan’s latest album Dead Son Rising, which was released last week.

He is on tour this December:
7 Leamington Spa Assembly Hall
8 Manchester Ritz
9 Southampton Guildhall
10 All Tomorrow’s Parties Festival with Battles
11 Hatfield University SU – The Forum

Album Review – Manic Street Preachers

manic-street-preachers

Manic Street Preachers -’National Treasures-The Complete Singles’ (Columbia/Sony)

It’s now twenty years since the Manic Street Preachers first appeared. Over the course of their first decade they went from being seen as four angry young men in Mascara (this really was as far away from the norm as possible in 1991) to being able to sell out the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on December 31 1999. The next decade saw their profile remain fairly if not quite as high, an ongoing addition to their legacy, so that being labelled national treasures isn’t too far from the truth. National being the UK as a whole (though they’ve always worn their Welsh heritage proudly) in the sense that they never majorly cracked other markets further afield.

It’s not the first Manics compilation either – nine years ago they issued Forever Delayed, which was much more focused on the big hits of their career -and indeed there have been many; over thirty of these tracks here were top forty hits. This compilation takes a different approach, running from their first single proper ‘Motown Junk’ to their latest, a cover of The The’s ‘This Is The Day.’ And sure, you’ve probably heard (and indeed, even own) many of these tracks. But unlike Forever Delayed, as well as the big hits – including two number one singles – there’s many that never had as high a profile, but were examples of why they had such a devoted fanbase. Perhaps the person in the UK high street wasn’t really aware of tracks like ‘She Is Suffering’ ‘Life Becoming A Landslide’ ‘Let Robeson Sing’ ‘The Love of Richard Nixon’ to pick just four, lesser known tracks here.

Bono has been questioning on the eve of the twentieth anniversary of Achtung Baby whether U2 still have any relevance (to which you get the feeling three middle-aged Irishmen are first in line to say that they probably would do if he could just put aside his Messianic complex and get on with what he did in the first place). There’s no question that two decades into their career, the Manics have certainly reached a number of high points, and they clearly still feel the urge to reinvent themselves, rather than quietly become a heritage act. But for a band who famously claimed that they were going to release one double album and then split up, they have done remarkably well. Sure, they are no longer so manic, and were never particularly street. But they preach from the heart, like those Preachers from the Valleys they hailed from, and for many of us, they’ve soundtracked the last twenty years to some degree or other. I’m sure I’m not the only one hoping that we haven’t heard the last of the Manic Street Preachers just yet.

****1/2

National Treasures-The Complete Singles is released on Columbia/Sony on October 31.

Get a free download of ‘Love’s Sweet Exile’ here

Album Review – Wake The President

zumutung

Wake The President -’Zumutung!’ (We Can Still Picnic)

Second albums are notoriously difficult affairs. You have to build on the template of your first album so that you’re not repeating yourself -and yet make sure that you don’t loose sight of what made people interested in you in the first place. I’ve championed Wake Te President for a number of years now, the band lead by twins Erik and Bjorn Sandberg, since I first saw them supporting Emma Pollock at the tail end of 2007.

Whilst this isn’t immediate as their debut You Can’t Change That Boy, repeated listens over the last few months since this dropped on the doormat at 17 Seconds have shown it to be an album with more facets than their debut. Yes, they still proudly wear their love of Postcard-era Scots Indie-pop on their sleeves, but the template is shifting. There’s a dreamier quality to parts of this album (no, not in the sense of being shorthand for shoegazing!) as best demonstrated by closing – and standout track ‘Stockholm’s Archipelago.’ But there’s also a more anthemic quality to the songs shining through, like on first single ‘Elaine’ and album opener ‘She Fell Into My Arms.’

The brothers Sandberg have been much involved in record releasing for other acts and events in and around Glasgow, they show truly here that they are up there with the best of the acts they are working with.

****

Zumutung! is available to download now and released physically on November 7.

She Fell into my Arms by Wake the President

Elaine (1st 7″ single from the new album) by Wake the President

Read my interview with the band from 2008 here

His name is/was Prince…and he was funky.

prince-when-doves-cry-3309

Prince was one of the coolest songwriters on the planet (though Mike Scott swears he didn’t write ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ about him, contrary to popular belief), and between 1978-1988 he was responsible for some of the greatest music on the planet between For You and Lovesexy. It did start to go downhill from the Batman soundtrack onwards, though…But when you listen to the first decade of his music, there were few who could touch him.

midnight

Glasgow based two-piece Midnight Lion (above)are Vocalist and Lyricist Stewart Brock and Lewis Gardner (production). They’ve taken on Prince’s awesome ‘When Doves Cry’ and down a version which strips it back, and reveals the song in a new light. Try this and see what you think…

Midnight Lion – “When Doves Cry (Prince cover)” from THE CULTURE OF ME on Vimeo.

This is in complete contrast to the version done by The Be Good Tanyas:

Be Good Tanyas -’When Doves Cry (Prince cover).’ mp3

Other great cover versions of Prince songs have included ‘Raspberry Beret’ by the Hindu Love Gods (Warren Zevon and everyone else in REM that wasn’t Michael Stipe)*, Soulwax’s take on ‘Pop Life’, Susanna and the Magical Orchestra’s version of ‘Condition Of the Heart’, Tori Amos’ reading of ‘Purple Rain’…think I can live without Tom Jones’ take on ‘Kiss.’ I’d love to get my hands on a copy of Dump’s Tribute album, tntiled, ahem That Skinny Motherfucker With The High Voice

Oh and most famously this. Don’t like it? Think that says a lot about you, frankly…and it isn’t good.

*No, that’s not REM in the clip but it is from the era so I linked to it.

Lou Reed & Metallica? Don’t knock it ’til you tried it!

lou-reed-metallica

I love much of the work that Metallica and Lou Reed have done independently over the years, but I have to say I was more than a little surprised when I heard that the two acts were collaborating together on an album. Surely it would end up like the audio equivalent of chocolate and salmon mouse?

Well, it might have done, but you can now stream the album Lulu on their joint website and it’s clear that it works rather well. This is the live performance of Reed joining Metallica in New York for a version of the Velvets’ ‘Sweet Jane’ in 2009 which lead to the collaboration. I was prepared to be perplexed – I ended up really enjoying it.

This is a film of Reed and Metallica discussing the album’s evolution:

It’s inevitable that there will be those who are diehard fans of one of the acts and can’t stand it. But both acts have survived an incredibly long time in a fickle industry by not constantly doing what is expected of them -Reed particularly. No douubt many hours could be spent trawling the ‘net trying to get the fans view of the album, but there are only so many hours in the day. Why not make up your own mind and lsiten below?

Stream the entire album here

Thank you for these, John

john-peel-grave

Seven years since John Peel died (as I pointed out yesterday).

A handful of tracks from acts that he championed. If you like them, do go and investigate further.

His favourite band…my favourite place to live:

The Fall -’Edinburgh Man.’ mp3

There was stuff before Punk, y’know…

Led Zeppelin -’Whole Lotta Love.’ mp3

He knew that there was stuff further than just England…

Jesus and Mary Chain -’Upside Down.’ mp3

Stuff from further afield than Europe and America:

Bhundu Boys -’My Foolish Heart.’ mp3

Bob Marley & The Wailers -’Waiting In Vain.’ mp3

Some stuff shoulda had a much wider profile:

Matching Mole -’O Caroline.’ mp3

Some utter classics:

The Smiths -’There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.’ mp3

…later covered in radical style:

Schneider TM -’The Light 3000.’ mp3

He certainly knew that it wasn’t just about guitars:

Aphex Twin-’Girl/Boy Song.’ mp3

…and I don’t think anymore needs to be said about this, other than…ENJOY:

The Undertones -’Teenage Kicks.’ mp3

What was it about Peel? This was my contribution to Fresh Air’s special:

To me, John Peel was the radio DJ that all others were measured by. His sense of humour and passion for music – ‘I just want to hear something I haven’t heard before’ was infectious. Right up to the day he died, here was a man who cared about music.

The list of bands he championed from early beginnings who went on to have a massive impact – even if only for a while – is very long but would include artists as diverse as Led Zeppelin, Kelis, Captain Beefheart, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Nirvana, The Cure, White Stripes, Happy Mondays, Queen, PJ Harvey, David Bowie…He took flack from the far right for playing reggae. He played the Sex Pistols when no-one else would touch them. He championed styles from Prog-rock to Dubstep to ‘world’; happy hardcore to folk to death metal. As a teenager I would listen under the bedclothes trying to stay awake until the end of the show (in 1992, if you missed a radio show, that was it, there was nowhere to go to listen again, unless someone happened to have taped it).

I’ve only done a handful of shows on the radio but when people say to me that they can hear the Peel influence, I’m flattered. It is not over-exaggerating to say that without John Peel the musical landscape of the last forty years in the UK (and indeed further afield) would have been vastly different were it not for him, and all the poorer for it.
I missed the night he read my name out on there, but fortunately by this stage the internet had come along).

If I’d ever been in a band that had got beyond the gigging and demo stage, given the choice between a Peel session and Top Of The Pops I would have chosen the Peel session.

Would I have been begging him to play 17 Seconds Records’ acts on his show? D’uh!

John Peel remembered

john-peel-2

Tomorrow marks seven years since legendary DJ John Peel died.

In my opinion -and many others – the greatest radio DJ who ever lived.

The man who championed so many styles of music, who gave coverage to bands as diverse as Napalm Death, Kelis and Frankie Goes To Hollywood, would have been seventy-two. His attitude was ‘I just want to hear something I haven’t heard before’ -and one I hold myself.

So, while there will be more stuff happening tomorrow, here for tonight are a handful of cover versions recorded as sessions for his Radio 1 show. Enjoy.

Nick Cave -’I Put A Spell On You (Screaming Jay Hawkins cover, Peel session 1984).’ mp3

Shop Assistants -’Ace Of Spades (Motorhead cover, Peel session 1986).’ mp3

Cat Power -’Wonderwall (Oasis cover, Peel session 2000.)’ mp3

Six By Seven -’Heldon (David Bowie cover sung in German, Peel session 1999)’ mp3

The Sisters Of Mercy -’Emma (Hot Chocolate cover, Peel session 1984).’ mp3

There will be John Peel-related goodness on Fresh Air tomorrow evening too…

Album Review – Shonen Knife

osaka_ramones

Shonen Knife -’Osaka Ramones- A Tribute To The Ramones’ (Tomato Head/Damnably)

Having had a busy year to mark their thirtieth Anniversary, cool-as-anything Japanese three-piece Shonen Knife have toured this year in support of their excellent album Free Time…and now they give us another album, this time a tribute to their heroes The Ramones.

The Ramones often held a fascination for indie-pop acts (see Helen Love, pretty much anyone involved with the Edinburgh branch of the c86-scene -AGARR prefix on Avalanche Records stood for As Good As Ramones Records). Much of this was to do with the sheer energy and fun of their music. Most of the thirten tracks on display in their original form should be familiar to anyone who has ever heard The Ramones (I’m really hoping that’s most of you).

So What we get is their take on numbers like ‘Blitzkreig Bop’ (surely Exhibit A in ‘Debut singles should sound like a manifesto’ arguments), ‘Beat On The Brat’ and ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker,’ amongst others. On their UK tour this year the band played their encores as the Osaka Ramones -and in Edinburgh we got ‘Sheena’ ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’ and ‘Blitzkreig…’ and excellent fun it was too. They are delivered in pretty much the same style throughout, without deviating drastically -and as the Ramones made an art-form of the ‘three chords good, four chords Jazz’ schtick, they don’t change much here.

Of course, The Ramones were very much a product of 1970s New York; ‘Chinese Rock’ is about scoring heroin. It’s not like Vanessa Paradis completely misinterpreting The Velvets’ ‘Waiting For The Man’ (about scoring heroin in Harlem ten years previously) but it seems a little strange on a song like this to be quite so cutesy, because it doesn’t come across as subversive. And the utter tragedy of ‘The KKK Took My Baby Away’ isn’t quite repeated in their reading. It is better than The Ordinary Boys’ version (quelle surprise), however.

No matter. Covers albums can be difficult things; one act doing an entire album of another’s songs could fall flat on its’ face.

This doesn’t. Ready for some fun? Gabba Gabba Hey…Let’s Go!’

***1/2

Osaka Ramones- A Tribute To The Ramones is out now on Tomato Head/Damnably.

Album review – Odonis Odonis

odonis-odonis

Odonis Odonis -’Hollandaze.’ (Fat Cat)

Imagine a world in which Lux Interior (RIP) of The Cramps fronted The Pixies in their prime and created a sound designed meet The Birthday Party head on and send The Horrors running back to their Mums in Southend. Welcome to the world of Odonis Odonis.

Hailing from Toronto, the band were originally a solo project for songwriter and bandleader Dean Tzenos, and indeed have only recently become a live band. As you’ve probably worked out by now, the end result is a debut album that sounds wildly, wonderfully, and aggressively raw. Making much garage rock sound overly slick and too-produced by comparison. The term avant-rock (as in almost pre-rock because it sounds so primitive) has been used by some in the past (The Wire magazine actually has an entire section devoted to

…Still on board? Good. Because this is a fantastic record. Whilst there are a couple of tracks where the quality seems to drop a bit and it gets a bit ploddy, overall this is an album which should be heard by all those loooking for people carrying the torch of Raw Power and Psychocandy. It will terrify the life out of some people, and confuse others, and many more will fall for its attitude.

Chosen your side?

****

Hollandaze is released by Fat Cat on November 7.

Album Review – The Moth and the Mirror

honestly-this-world

The Moth and The Mirror -’Honestly, This World.’ (Olive Grove)

It is believed that the first time the word supergroup was used was in conjunction with Cream, the sixties supergroup that featured the already established names of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker playing in the same band together. The Moth and the Mirror are a supergroup of sorts featuring the talents of (deep breath): Stacey Sievwright (The Reindeer Section, Arab Strap), on Vocals and Guitar; Gordon Skene (Frightened Rabbit) on Guitar and Vocals; Louis Abbott (Admiral Fallow, Song of Return) on Guitar and Vocals; Kevin McCarvel (Smoke Jaguar) on Bass with Iain Sandilands (Percussion) Peter Murch (Drums).

This is a very Scottish sounding record. Not in terms of an audio tartan tat sound of bagpipes and cheap drum beats, but in terms of the fact that the album manages to capture the magnificent melancholia that seems to be distinct to Scotland; the sound that many of their other acts have contributed to. Hopefully by now you’ve heard the singles ‘Germany’ and ‘Soft Insides’ but there are other great tracks here too, not least the awesome opener ‘Everyone I Know’ and the closing ‘Oceans and Waves.’

I’ve played this several times now, and each time I play it, I hear something new – always the mark of a great record. Olive Grove are another Scottish independent label making their mnark and this is the best thing I have heard from them so far.

****

Honestly, This World is out now on Olive Grove.