Presenting…Delta Mainline

Delta Mainline

Another night, another mountain of emails containing more submissions than I will EVER have the opportunity to listen to.

So I am incredibly grateful that I took a gamble and listened to Delta Mainline’s debut single ‘Vultures.’ A band who have been described as ‘Gloriously out of step with the rest of Scottish music’ this is an Edinburgh-based band who take the shoegazing/dreampop template and run with it. Shimmeringly beautiful and a song that deserves to be turned up as high as it will go. ‘Vultures’ is released this Friday (August 14).

There are also two excellent remixes available from Miaoux Miaoux and Remember Remember.

…and indeed a whole heap of stuff to investigate on their soundcloud page.

Finally, the video:

Forthcoming from The Twilight Sad

Twilght Sad

Long-time 17 Seconds faves The Twilight Sad have announced the release of a new album Òran Mór Session, which as the name might suggest, documents a stripped back performance at Glasgow’s Òran Mór. It’s released on long-term label Fat Cat on October 16.

This is a gorgeous version of ‘It Never Was The Same.’

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1. Nobody Wants To Be Here And Nobody Wants To Leave
2. Last January
3. It Never Was The Same
4. Pills I Swallow
5. I Could Give You All That You Don’t Want
6. Drown So I Can Watch
7. The Airport
8. Leave The House
9. I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face

Harmonium Project at Usher Hall

harmonium-project_0

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.

Take the time to watch this…

Read more about it here

Album Review – Maccabees

The Maccabees_Marks To Prove It_album artwork[3]

Maccabees -’Marks To Prove It.’ (Fiction)

The Maccabees have spoken about this, their fourth album, as being a difficult one to make. The word ‘traumatic’ has been banded about. This seems to be as much to do with the fast-changing world around the five-piece in their base of Elephant and Castle in South London as well as the pressure of following up their most commercially successful album yet, 2012′s Mercury-nominated Given To The Wild.

The album opens with the fantastic rush of the title track. Strangely, it’s melodically reminiscent of Beck’s ‘The New Pollution’ (without actually sounding much like it). It’s an opener that grabs your attention and sets you up for what newcomers might assume is a mix of the fun of Supergrass meeting the energy of The Cribs.

…only, the album doesn’t actually pan out like that. The next couple of tracks are melancholic, which is fine in itself, but it’s a dirge-like melancholy like you would find on a run of the mill indie-by-numbers record. Whilst it strives for authenticity, it’s not anything new, and despite listening to the album several times, I found my attention wondering at this point, frankly.

On the fourth track, ‘Spit It Out’m the Maccabees start to rediscover themselves, as the track slowly builds and builds like it’s getting itself on track. The second half of the album is much stronger than the first, holding your attention far better, and it’s here that the albums two strongest tracks lie.

‘River Song’ with its refrain of ‘You’re not getting any younger’ (oh, don’t I know it) is hauntingly beautiful. And the album comes to a close with the gorgeous ‘Dawn Chorus.’ This can be alikened to Syd Barrett discovering brass and Americana, and the only fault I can find with it is that it’s over far too quickly.

Some alright bits, some excellent songs, and some bits you’ll find that you can live without.

***

Marks To Prove It is out now on Fiction

Getting ready for August in Edinburgh

edinburgh-fringe-festival-3

As you are probably aware, Edinburgh is host during August to an unbelievable amount of music, comedy, theatre etc.. under the heading of the Edinburgh International Festival and the even bigger Fringe festival.

Many, many wonderful things will be taking place – but if you fancied checking out the local music scene (and why wouldn’t you?) then you should be checking out the Pale Imitation Festival put together by Matthew Young, AKA Song, By Toad.

All the gigs, bar one, take place at Henry’s Cellar Bar on Morrison St, just off Lothian Rd, except for the Supermoon and Rob St. John one, which takes place at Summerhall (a block away from the south-east end of the Meadows). A number of the acts I have featured on this here blog over the years (including eagleowl, who topped the 17 Seconds Festive Fifty back in 2010),

Saturday 1st August – Numbers Are Futile, Beam, DTHPDL
Thursday 6th – Garden of Elks, Bat Bike, Passion Pusher
Saturday 8th – Sharptooth, Lush Purr, Breakfast Muff
Thursday 13th – Spinning Coin, Min Diesel, Dune Witch Trails
Saturday 15th – Save As Collective (featuring Jonnie Common, Glamour Muscle, River of Slime & MC Almond Milk)
Thursday 20th – eagleowl, Now Wakes the Sea, Faith Eliott
Saturday 22nd – Adam Stafford, Wolf, Tryptamines
Thursday 27th (at Summerhall) – Supermoon & Rob St. John
Saturday 29th – Happy Meals, Apostille, Clip Art

All the gigs start at half seven and are £5, with a season ticket available for £25. As Toad puts it ‘As the cherry on the top, the awesome Kitchen Disco will be DJing and providing free cakes for everyone on each and every night.’

You can get tickets online here

And Matthew has even put together this very handy playlist of all the bands playing.

What are you waiting for?

Album Review – Mark Morriss

Mark Morriss

Mark Morriss – ‘The Taste Of Mark Morriss.’ (Acid Jazz)

It’s a bit of a shock, to be honest, for this self-confessed ageing indie kid to realise it’s now twenty years since Mark Morriss first appeared as frontman of The Bluetones. They’re about to embark on an anniversary tour, but in the meantime he’s releasing his third solo album, The Taste Of Mark Morriss.

According to the press release, this is Morriss selecting his ‘favourite “blast from the past” songs that helped to form his musical tastes and shape the songwriting abilities we all know and love, picked them apart and re-invented them with his own flair.’ It has to be noted that the album does not get off to a promising start, with its cover of Jess Conrad’s ‘This Pullover.’ Whilst this song was reportedly voted in the top ten of Kenny Everett’s Worst Records list, it’s hard to know exactly why it’s here. It’s so exasperatingly twee it’s enough to make The Pastels and Belle & Sebastian want to grate kittens.

There are, however, some excellent songs here which Morriss’s reworkings do justice to. So The Sisters of Mercy’s 1988 single ‘Lucretia My Reflection’ manages to show that it can lose the bass riff which underpinned it and come up smiling. Meanwhile his take on Laura Brannigan’s 1984 hit ‘Self Control’ shows that that song was always pretty dark underneath that glossy eighties production.

Perhaps what surprises the most are his covers of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’s ‘Souvenir’ which manages to be almost as lovely as the original, minus the synths and the darkness he brings to Madonna’s ‘Angel’ as if to balance up de-gothing the Sisters of Mercy elsewhere on the album.

Overall, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. It’s fun and no doubt selected tracks of these will do the rounds of people making lists of interesting covers. It doesn’t stand up as well as some other albums comprised completely of covers (thinking of Bowie’s Pin-Ups or Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Through The Looking Glass), but there’s some fun to be had here.

***

The Taste of Mark Morriss is released by Acid Jazz on July 31.

New from New Order

New Order 2015

As outlined previously, New Order will release their first new studio album in ten years, Music Complete on September 25.

After a couple of videos acting of samplers have done the rounds, they have now shared the first fruits of the forthcoming album, the album track ‘Restless.’ You can stream it below. The album will be their first on their new label, Mute, who have previously given the world 17 Seconds faves such as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Depeche Mode and Yazoo. To these ears this is pleasantly reminiscent of their 2001 single ‘Crystal.’ According to their YouTube page, this track will be available digitally from tomorrow.

Album Review – Jesus and Mary Chain

Jesus and Mary Chain

Jesus and Mary Chain -’Live At Barrowlands.’ (Demon)

There they came. A band who took no prisoners, led by two brothers whose fractious relationship would see them put Alan McGee’s Creation records on the map and implode spectacularly a decade and a half later, having created some utterly spellbounding music, and releasing a debut album that would overshadow much of their subsequent output.

If you think that I’m talking about Oasis and the Gallagher brothers…well I could have been, but to many people, the Mary Chain did far more to shake up rock’n'roll than Oasis ever did. That debut album, Psychocandy, now celebrates its thirtieth anniversary. In doing so they paved the way for much of c-86 and shoegazing, and influenced an entire generation of people determined to push forward what guitar music could do. This, then, is a live document of the reformation shows which took place last year at Glasgow’s legendary Barrowlands venue.

While some artists create such a strong piece of work with their debut album that everything subsequent makes them look like Orson Welles, producing great work but unable to truly equal it (have you ever met anyone who seriously thinks that Lloyd Cole has equaled Rattlesnakes?), the Mary Chain did produce some great songs subsequently, and the album kicks off with a selection of these. So we get their two top ten hits ‘April Skies’ and ‘Reverence’. The latter is particularly strong, and indeed long, here. Rarely has nihilism sounded so utterly cool. We also get that astonishing debut single ‘Upside Down’, the banned from Radio 1 because it was ‘obviously’ about heroin ‘Some Candy Talking’ and the song ‘Psychocandy’ which wasn’t actually on the album. Alas, I wasn’t at the gig, but this truly brings me (and anyone else listening) as close as we will come.

Debate rages about whether bands should reform at all, and whether there’s any point in doing shows or tours which focus on one classic album. Whilst the thought of watching a dead horse being flogged may be depressing, I wonder how many of those who sneer really would rather starve than pay the bills and put food on the table. The fact is it may not be for money – classic albums are worth celebrating -and if they do it with as much style as the Mary Chain do it here, it underlines just how damn good the original record is. (And – here’s a thought – supposing you were too young to be there the first time round?)

So yes, the second part of the album is Psychocandy played in its entirety. From the opening ‘Just Like Honey’ to the closing ‘It’s So Hard’ what is delivered is a fantastic set that shows an album that truly is seminal, and which live sounds like it made the Barrowlands sweat rock’n'roll even more than it usually does onto its sticky floors. The brothers Reid – and their hired helps – were truly on fire on this night, and only added to an already impressive legacy. This is not an album to replace the original studio album, nor do I imagine it was conceived as such. It’s a welcome addition to their catalogue, and a reminder of why they were so utterly necessary.

****1/2

Live At Barrowlands is released on Demon on July 31.

Album Review – The Jam

The Jam ... About The Young Idea (UMC-Polydor).

The Jam -’About The Young Idea – The Very Best of The Jam.’ (UMC/Polydor)

What? Another compilation of The Jam? This one, however, is to tie in with an exhibition taking place at Somerset House in London, entitled About The Young Idea. This compilation serves as a reminder that between 1977 and their split at the peak of their fame, just five years later.

The title of this latest compilation comes from the band’s debut single ‘In The City.’ Nearly forty years on, it still sounds like a remarkably fresh call to arms from the eighteen year old Paul Weller, and like any great debut single, sounds like a manifesto. It’s widely recognised that the Sex Pistols’ fourth single, ‘Holiday In The Sun’ borrows from it.

What this compilation – like a number of the many Jam compilations over the last thirty years – does do is cherry pick from that time, and the reality is that the first two Jam studio albums, In The City and This Is The Modern World are patchy affairs. But in 1978 ‘News Of the World’ showed that bassist Bruce Foxton was also a writer (and indeed singer), and that the band would produce a number of singles that would not appear on the albums. By the end of the year All Mod Cons showed just how much they’d matured, and how sharp Weller’s writing had become. ‘A’ Bomb in Wardour Street’ and the still-astonishing (and not a little horrifying) ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’ were the singles and just a glimpse of how bloody good they were. They would never again be recording slightly pointless cover versions of the ‘Batman’ theme for fleshing out albums; The Jam’s b-sides were frequently just as good as the a-sides (see ‘Tales From The Riverbank’ ‘Dreams Of Children’ and ‘The Butterfly Collector’ for evidence of this).

And until 1982 the quality did not abate. In 1979 they released ‘Strange Town’ (the first video they would work on with Steve Barron), and a contender for one of their finest songs. The anger was still there, but ever more focused, as on ‘Eton Rifles’, which decades later would infuriate Weller when British Prime Minister praised it. They’d come through punk, but Weller’s love of soul was beginning to show through.

Who knows what could have happened had the band stayed together beyond 1982? Many people have never forgiven Weller for splitting the band up. Whilst it has ceased to be worthy of comment when a single debuts at no.1 in the British charts for a couple of decades, the Jam did it several times when this was almost unheard-of. And they deserved to, with ‘Going Underground,’ ‘A Town Called Malice’ and ‘Beat Surrender.’ Hell, the Jam also scored high-selling (and charting) import singles with ‘Just Who Is The 5 o’Clock Hero?’ and ‘That’s Entertainment.’

The chances are that many reading this will have bought a Jam compilation (and perhaps studio albums, I certainly hope so). Whether or not people will feel that they can or cannot live without owning the radio advert for the ‘In The City’ single which opens this album is one of only two unreleased tracks here, let this not discriminate from what is still a fine body of work.

****1/2

About The Young Idea – The Very Best of The Jam is out now on UMC/Polydor.

The return of Chvrches

About five years ago, I reviewed (Favourably) the debut EP from a band called Blue Sky Archives. It’s impressive to see just how far singer Lauren Mayberry has come. (And of course Iain Cook was in Aereogramme, the cruelly underrated Scots band of the 200s). Following on from a host of excellent singles and a great debut The Bones Of What You Believe, the band are due to release their justifiably anticipated album Every Open Eye on September 25.

The tracklisting for the album is as follows:

1.Never Ending Circles
2.Leave A Trace
3.Keep You On My Side
4.Make Them Gold
5.Clearest Blue
6.High Enough To Carry You Over
7.Empty Threat
8.Down Side Of Me
9.Playing Dead
10.Bury It
11.Afterglow

The lyric video for ‘Leave A Trace’ can be seen below: