The return of Wire

Wire 2015

The next few months look busy for some of the acts who first came to prominence during the post-punk era – and who refused to join the heritage circuit. Wire, who released their debut Pink Flag in 1977, will shortly release their 13th album, entitled Wire. The line up is now Colin Newman (vocals, guitar); Robert Grey (drums); Graham Lewis (bass, vocals), and former It Hugs Back guitarist Matthew Simms, who joined the band in 2012.

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1. Blogging
2. Shifting
3. Burning Bridges
4. In Manchester
5. High
6. Sleep-Walking
7. Joust & Jostle
8. Swallow
9. Split Your Ends
10. Octopus
11. Harpooned

You can stream ‘Joust & Jostle’ below:

Album Review – Fireworks

Fireworks -’Switch Me On.’ (Shelflife Records)

The debut album from London’s Fireworks is as sparkly and incendiary as their namesake. The London four-piece are firmly at the pop where c86 indie-pop meets the more aggressive side of shoegazing, and several listens in show this to be a really rather fine debut album.

Right from the opening ‘With My Heart’ this is glorious noisy pop to jump around to, to find yourself in as much as lose yourself. And repeated plays make this a somewhat addictive listen. Added to the fuzzy glow are the glorious vocals of both Matthew Rimell and Emma Hall. Amongst the highlights here are ‘Runaround”Tightrope’ and ‘Corner Of My Mind’, the latter sounding like it has been blessed by none other than J Mascis himself.

Sure, some people might complain that it’s blatantly obvious what records they’ve got in their bedrooms. This is to miss the point entirely. Even without having seen them live, the rhythm section sound cool as anything (if drummer Sean Charman doesn’t play standing up like Mo Tucker or Bobby Gillespie I’d be surprised), and this adds up to one very addictive whole. Talent borrows, but genius steals. Turn it up, and dance like no-one’s watching.

****

Switch Me On is out now on Shelflife Records.

Album Review – All We Are

All We Are album

All We Are -’All We Are’ (Double Six/Domino)

There’s an urban legend (probably apocryphal) that at one point in the ’80s, Prince tried to sign the Cocteau Twins to his label Paisley Park. I bring this up, because although Irish-Norweigian-Brazilian trio All We Are have described themselves as being like the Bee Gees on Diazepam, they sound more like a meeting between the finest offerings of Minneapolis and Grangemouth.

Tipped for quite sometime, the trio’s self-titled debut has been anticipated for quite a while and for a debut album it shows a lot of promise, going some considerable way to deliver on the buzz that has been building around them for the last eighteen months. Indeed, the opening salvo of ‘Ebb/Flow;, ‘Stone’ and ‘Feel Safe’ is pretty damn impressive.

It’s not to say that the album goes downhill from here per se – it’s just that it loses a bit of its momentum from then on, and while it picks up at times, overall the magic of the first part of the album doesn’t really extend to the whole. And several plays in, it still feels the same way. In this day and age of people being able to cherrypick the tracks they buy or stream (if they pay for it at all), it’s more important than ever to keep the consistency up.

So a promising debut, then, if not amazing.

***

All We Are is out now on Double Six/Domino

Gig review – Laura Marling

Laura Marling – The Caves, Edinburgh
February 4, 2015

Ahead of the release of her fifth album Short Movie, Laura Marling is playing a handful of dates in small venues. And given that she’s played venues like the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Albert Hall, playing a venue like Edinburgh’s Caves is a rare opportunity to see her in a small place.

Her last album, Once I Was An Eagle, was a stripped back affair, but tonight, fronting a four-piece band and most playing an electric guitar, she’s more rocky. Whether this is a result of her living in the US or not isn’t clear. But for a performer who still has a reputation of being shy, this was a gig that showed she has gained in confidence, and is far better at stage patter than she thinks she is.

As she opens with one of the tracks of the new album ‘False Hope’ that voice leaves me pondering whether she may well be the missing link between Linda Thompson and latter-day PJ Harvey. Though she addresses the crowd in her honeyed Home Counties tones, her singing voice has far more of an American accent. It’s an interesting parallel between the slightly self-conscious person she seems between songs and the increasingly feisty person she seems when performing.

I’ve yet to hear the forthcoming album in its entirety – but the strength of the new songs like ‘Gurdjieff’s Daughter’ and the closing title track, mixed in with earlier songs from her back catalogue like ‘Master Hunter’ and ‘I Speak Because I Can’ suggests this is a record that will see her profile rise yet further and a new chapter in her recorded output.

Album Review – Dominic Waxing Lyrical

Dominic-Waxing-Lyrical-Woodland-Casual-front-cover-large-300x300

Dominic Waxing Lyrical -’Woodland Casual.’ (Tenement)

The return of Dominic Harris has been a longtime coming. It’s been nearly eighteen years since the Edinburgh artist released his debut, self-titled album (now going for quite a lot of money on discogs). Those gigs in the past reportedly included blood, nudity, police raids and ‘shoddy transvestisism’ amongst other things.

This album is more band-orientated, and sees him joined by labelmates Riley and Murray Briggs of Aberfeldy and George McFall of Clean George IV (now trading as CGIV); at live gigs Aberfeldy bassist Ken McIntosh has joined the lineup. The album launch a few months ago indicated that this sophomore album from the man once described as punk Jake Thackeray was special, now it gets a full release and it most definitely is.

Quirky and deliciously dark, the album features songs in Waltz-time that suggest Tim Burton shuld look no fruther for the man to write the soundtrack to his next film. With song titled including ‘Scarecrow’ ‘End of the world’ and ‘Hell On Earth’ you know this is no set of demos for the next One Direction album, but rather that of a master maverick songwriter at work. My personal favourite is the sinister waltz that is ‘Janitor’ – but amongst the other highlights are ‘Thursday (Searching)’ and ‘Nightwatchman.’

A gorgeously, dark cult treat.

****

Woodland Casual is released on February 2 by Tenement.

Prides – Interview

Prides

I’ve featured Glasgow trio Prides on this blog before, and you can read my interview with Stewart from the band over on God Is In The TV.

The band are off on tour round the UK next week:

Thursday, 5 February – Ironworks, Inverness
Friday 6 February – Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
Saturday 7 February – Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh
Wednesday, 11 February– The Haunt, Brighton
Thursday, 12 February – Heaven, London
Friday, 13 February – Bodega, Nottingham
Saturday, 14 February – The Leadmill, Sheffield

Album Review – Alasdair Roberts

Alasdair roberts

Alasdair Roberts -’Alasdair Roberts.’ (Drag City)

Though he has quite an impressive indie pedigree, Alasdair Roberts’ work under his own name mostly belongs under folk. This latest album sees him continue to investigate traditional Scottish folksong, even though all of what he presents are his own compositions.

For those who associate ‘folk’ with artists that might simply be using a an acoustic guitar or banjo, this may seem an unfamiliar world, but it’s one that’s worth taking time to get to grips with. Sure, it might seem odd that someone in 2015 is writing songs with names like ‘The Final Diviner’ or ‘The Mossy Shrine’ but whilst he may be a fan of traditional structures and sounds he avoids the snobbery that characterises (and puts off outsiders the stereotypical image of the folk purist.

So while this album may not reveal all its charms immediately, songs like ‘Artless One’ and ‘In Dispraise of Hunger’ reveal a singer-songwriter working in stripped down, but definitely not bland, traditional stylings. And I promise you: each additional play will warm your heart just a little more.

***1/2

Alasdair Roberts is out now on Drag City.

Album Review – Viet Cong

Viet Cong album cover

Viet Cong -’Viet Cong.’ (Jagjaguwar)

Before the release of this album, there were two tracks doing the rounds, and one of them was ‘Silhouettes.’ I bring this up as it’s a great track if not necessarily typical of the album as a whole.

Canadian band Viet Cong has been described as being post-punk, which they are in spirit, but it should be noted that their spiritual forebears are the uncompromising likes of Pere Ubu, Throbbing Gristle and PIL (without so much of the dub reggae of the latter). It is a very good album, and doesn’t take any prisoners. Right from the off, it grabs your attention with ‘Newspaper Spoons’ and holds your ears in its vice-like to the closing moments of ‘Death,’ which clocks in at over eleven minutes.

Post-punk was about exploring possibilities beyond what was perceived as the ultimate limitations of punk. It’s perhaps a mixed blessing that it’s utterly conceivable that this record could have come out in 1979, but the ultimate thumbs-up is that it would be a challenging but rewarding listen in ’79 or 2015.

***1/2.

Viet Cong is out now on Jagjaguwar.

Album Review – Belle and Sebastian

Belle & Sebastian 2014

One of my most anticipated albums of 2015 is the latest album from Belle and Sebastian Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance. The album has now arrived, and it is the best album I have heard so far this year, out of about fifteen or sixteen.

You can read my review over at Is This Music?, a Scottish online music magazine I have contributed to for many years.

‘Nobody’s Empire’ may be the best track they have done in a decade…