4AD continue to be one of the most consistently brilliant independent labels, nearly forty years after they were founded. A mere couple of days after new music from The Breeders (see below), Meg Remy (AKA U.S. Girls) has released her new subversively pop tune ‘Mad As Hell’ – and it’s absolutely fabulous.
The press release – accurately – describes it as a ‘candy-coated Trojan horse for her powerful call to action for pacifism and impassioned critique of military spending.’ Protest music takes many forms – not least with the video. Directed by Remy with Emily Pelstring, it brings together historic, patriotic and military imagery. Remy performs throughout the video duplicated in synchronized dance moves flipping off her subjects recalling backup dancers of ‘60s pop girl groups. Indeed the song sounds like an alt-pop take on an 80s take on 60s girl bands.
Struggling to make sense of that? Watch the video below. The track is taken from the follow-up to 2015’s Half Free, about which more details are set to follow…
I guess like a lot of people, my initial interest in the Foo Fighters was because Dave Grohl had been in Nirvana. I bought the debut album the week the self-titled debut came out in 1995 (if memory serves, the day before school finished for me for ever) and I’ve enjoyed them on their own terms ever since.
In the last week they’ve unveiled a new song ‘ Run’ and not only is it a fabulous song, but the video is fantastic. With a sentiment about getting old but not taking any crap that hasn’t been shown so much since Pulp‘s ‘Help The Aged’ (bloody hell, that’s 20 years old now as well), the six-minute-plus promo sees the now six-piece showing that there’s no harm to be had in rocking out, and taking no prisoners while they do it. Without wishing to give too much away, the band feature as part of a bunch of elderly miscreants who cause havoc in a church before carjacking some kids. As you do. Pipe and slippers can wait.
As the birthday cards say ‘Growing old is inevitable, growing up is optional.’ Damn skipper!
Many moons ago, NME (back when it was better than the sadly-depleted freebie it is now) ran a feature on the most rock’n’roll films. A Clockwork Orange came out top.
Anthony Burgess may not have liked Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of his novel, but it seeped deeply into popular culture. Even though it was banned in the UK for the best part of thirty years (Kubrick withdrew it), it informed so much of popular music. Blur’s video for ‘The Universal’ is an obvious reference point, but an entire book could be written about how it informed youth culture in Britain for decades afterwards (there probably has already been a book or two on this). As a teenager growing up in the early 90s it had a whole mystique attached that’s harder for a younger generation to figure out now, much of it in the fact it was so hard to see legally in the UK.
I mention this because a video popped into my inbox that’s very much informed by A Clockwork Orange. Not so much the ultraviolence, hanging out with droogs or even Beethoven but more the controversial ‘cure’ (if you have seen the film, you will understand the quotation marks). Jon Mills is the director and he has produced a great pop video.
My Pleasure is a Hull-based solo musician who has received acclaim from the likes of Steve Lamacq and Tom Robinson. This track ‘I Want To Keep This Feeling Going’ is a joy, like Momus covering XTC (and I mean that as a compliment). This is taken from the EP Party Popper which is available for free (sic), you pay only P&P (see here for details).
It wasn’t my intention to stop writing the blog for 6 weeks, merely that a day or so after my last post I was taken ill with what turned out to be chronic pancreatitis and I’ve been frankly bloody exhausted. As I return to the blog, I find that updates seem to have made the blog harder to edit and I am trying to sort these out as well.
I have written a few articles for God Is In The TV in the meantime, and so I would like to point people towards my review for Michael Kiwanuka’s excellent sophomore album Love and Hate, and Frank Ocean’s utterly astonshing’s Blonde.
This was another song that arrived in my inbox that I just happened to give a spin to one morning, and found myself singing for the rest of the day.
There’s not much I can say about High Violet – whilst their name is also that of an album by The National, the four members – Smem, Ricky, Dan and Emily seem to pick up where Haim left off, a glorious take on 1980s Fleetwood Mac. This is a debut single – and while I can’t find out much more about the Australian four-piece, other than that they seem to come from Sydney and Adelaide, just take this song on its own merits. It’s bloody fabulous!
It’s probably not fair to judge a band on the basis of one track alone, but before my first play of ‘New Haircut’ by Playing House had even finished, I knew I had to feature them on the blog.
Formed just ten months ago in East London, Playing House are Mel Patman (vocals & guitar), Izzy Cox (vocals & bass) and Killian McCorley (guitar). Shortly to release their debut EP New Haircut, the first track to be released from that is the title track. To describe it as youthful is not to infer it is naive or unpolished; rather it is to say that there is an optimism and freshness in the sound, an excitement that is infectious, and like all decent pop songs, before you’ve even finished playing it, you know you want to play it again and again.
Playing House say that their name ‘comes from the idea that we are all learning how to be a grown up and the pressure to keep it all together” and their songs are full of honest observations on life, love and a fear of everything.’ On the evidence so far, they’re going to be just fine.
This is a live video of another song from the forthcoming EP ‘Grapefruit.’
This is another song from YouTube ‘Lion and the Lamb.’
For a town of roughly 20,000, Bellshill has more than punched above its weight musically: not only were Sharleen Spiteri and Sheena Easton born in the town, so too were Teenage Fanclub, BMX Bandits and the Soup Dragons formed here, and also De Rosa.
This is the band’s third album, and their first album in 7 years. Having released Mend and Prevention on the Delgados’ Chemikal Underground label, the band have moved to another Glasgow independent label, run by another of Scotland’s most acclaimed bands, in this case Mogwai’s Rock Action.
The album starts off very strongly indeed. The opening ‘Spectres’ moves from understated to anthemic and back again. It would have been easy to fill the album with tracks like this – fortunately the band and consequently the album (up to a point) are stronger for them not doing so. Second track ‘Lanes’ sees them in more frail musical territory, as if forging a link between Alasdair Roberts and Frightened Rabbit. Then ‘Chip On My Shoulder’ takes the album to someplace else, whilst continuing the theme of the album
– and it’s deservedly been another one of the tracks to do the rounds from the record.
The thing is that while there’s a beautiful Scottish melancholy running through the album, it does let go slightly of your attention from the fourth track ‘Scorr Fank Juniper’ (no, that’s not a spelling mistake) onwards until the penultimate track ‘Devils.’ The reality is that losing attention with the middle part of this album is something that happened several times with the album, not just after one play.
So, it’s good to have De Rosa back, and on the evidence if this album, they certainly have it in them to make a really strong album, and I think their style is far better served on an independent label than a major that would have most likely insisted on several facsimiles of a couple of tracks. Let’s hope that however long their fourth album takes, that they make sure it plays to all their strengths.
It’s now 20 years since then ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler linked up with the stunning singer David McAlmont for the first time, producing two classic singles in ‘Yes’ and ‘You Do’, both big hits, and with the attendant b-sides (remember those?) forming the basis of their debut album The Sound of McAlmont & Butler.
They’ve reunited subsequently throughout the last twenty years, as well as having successful solo careers, but with the news of a short tour in November, and a twentieth anniversary reissue of the debut album, why not share the stunning ‘no.8 hit that was ‘Yes?’ To me this is a song that still sounds fresh, whilst reminding me of the summer I left school. And still failing to understand why David McAlmont isn’t lauded as one of the best British singers of his generation. Funny buggers, humans…
And as a bonus, the other single they did in 1995 ‘You Do.’
The album is reissued on October 2 and the tracklisting is as follows:
1. Yes (Full Version)
2. What’s the Excuse This Time?
3. The Right Thing
5. Don’t Call It Soul
7. The Debitor
8. How About You?
10. You’ll Lose a Good Thing
11. You Do (Full Length Version)
2. Yes (Four Track Demo)
3. Yes (Instrumental)
4. You Do
5. You Do (Mix 1)
6. Don’t Call It Soul
7. Don’t Call It Soul (Original Single Version)
8. How About You? (Original Single Version)
9. Tonight (Oompah Demo)
10. You Do
11. Walk On
12. Tonight (Overnight)
13. What’s the Excuse This Time?
14. Yes (Bernard Butler & Nigel Godrich 1995 Remix)
15. The Argument
The accompanying DVD is as follows:
1. Yes (Promo Video)
2. You Do (Promo Video)
3. Yes (‘Top of the Pops’, 18/05/95)
4. Yes (‘Top of the Pops’, 25/05/95)
5. Yes (‘Later. With Jools Holland’, 10/06/95)
6. You Do (‘Later. With Jools Holland’, 10/06/95)
7. You Do (‘Top of the Pops’, 02/11/95)
8. McAlmont Vs Butler (Interview)
9. Don’t Call It Soul (Live Acoustic, June 2015, London, NW6)
10. How About You? (Live Acoustic, June 2015, London, NW6)
11. You Do (Live Acoustic, June 2015, London, NW6)
One of the consequences of writing this blog over the last nine years or so is that I get invited to all sorts of events. Some of them are things in Australia and America but being based in Scotland means I can’t go.
And then sometimes, it’s something that’s happening just a few blocks away from where I live. Like on Friday night (August 7) when the Edinburgh International Festival launched with an amazing double bill of Beethoven and John Adams at the Usher Hall. I was privileged to be at the concert inside the Usher Hall of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia in C Minor and John Adams’ Harmonium. Performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra in conjunction with the Edinburgh Festival Chorus it was awesome.
And then outside we were treated to Harmonium again with projections by 59 Productions. Some kind person has recorded the entire event on their mobile – and it was great to see so many people (must have been 10,000) taking over the normally busy Lothian Road to watch and listen to awesome music.
It’s always pained me when people see something like classical music as being elitist and difficult to get into. It doesn’t have to be.