Album Review – The Burns Unit


Burns Unit -‘Side Show’ (self-released)

Every so often, there’s a collaborative effort in Scotland that shows just how wide the talent is here, and how people from different musical backgrounds can come together to produce a standalone classic. In the early part of the last decade, Snow Patrol’s Gary Lightbody put together two albums under the heading of The Reindeer Section (featuring members of V-Twin, Belle and Sebastian, Arab Strap etc..) for two excellent albums Y’all get scared now, ya hear and Son of Evil Reindeer. Later on there was a collaborative effort between music and literature that saw the likes of Edwyn Morgan, Ian Rankin and A.L. Kennedy collaborating with artists as diverse as Mike Heron to Aereogramme to produce Ballads Of the Book.

And in 2010, there’s Side Show by the Burns Unit. Not only because it’s a fine collaborative effort involving the cream of Scotland (with some help from two Canadians) but also because the end result is very much at least equal to the sum of its’ parts. Eight of them, no less. First up, there’s the high priestess of Scottish indie, Emma Pollock; King Creosote, Future Pilot AKA (Sushil K. Dade, who has been a member of (deep breath) the Soup Dragons, Telstar Ponies and the BMX Bandits), folk royalty Karine Polwart; multi-instrumentalist Kim Edgar; Canadians Mattie Foulds and Michael Johnston, and last but definitely not least, the fiery MC Soom T.

I’ve been really enjoying this album over the last week or so; it was an album I expected to find at the very least interesting and worth hearing -but it’s an album that works. The idea of an album that is a fusion of styles and could be described as organic is enough to make many self-respecting music fans want to scream, but here, it really, really works. Watching the band live on stage at the Queen’s Hall on Monday, eight very different personalities. I did find myself almost imaging it as eight different classroom personalities, but I won’t reveal who was who here. I’ve interviewed both Emma Pollock and King Creosote and they’re lovely people -and Scotland’s too small to wind the wrong people up.

There’s a lot of great songs here, the opening ‘Since We’ve Fallen Out’ is a gorgeous duet between Karine Polwart and King Creosote (Kenny Anderson to his mum, well, presumably). ‘Majesty of Decay’ is sublime and ‘Trouble’ is as good as anything Emma Pollock has been involved in over the last decade and a half. But live and on record, the highlight of the album for me is ‘Send Them Kids To War’ led by MC Soom T’s furious rapping. She’s collaborated with the likes of the Bug and Asian Dub foundation, amongst others, though I think she’s got plenty of her own style. I promised not to let the classroom analogies slip through, but she is the small lass with the big mouth, the big heart and the big talent who steals the show (did I hear her tell Michael Johnston to ‘Shut it, posh boy?’ No, can’t have done…) With the underlyling harmony from Kim Edgar and Karine Polwart while messrs. Creosote and Pollock are having serious fun with their guitars this is a tune that will stay with you for long, long time. And one of the highlights of this year.

Catch them live when you get the chance. Go and buy the album now.


Stream the entire album here

17 Seconds Radio show: an update


In the process of putting together this week’s radio show, which will feature another interview and also a live session with an artist yet to be confirmed!

Music will include new up and coming scottish bands, such as Call To Mind, Cancel the Astronauts and Veronica Falls, as well as a ‘gone but not forgotten’ Scottish band, a cover version of the week and another track from the album of the month, Aberfeldy’s Somewhere To Jump From.

There will be a posting of the entire show, but for now, enjoy the two session tracks from White Heath…

White Heath -‘Election Day (17 Seconds Radio session).’ mp3

White Heath -‘Gigi (17 Seconds Radio session).’ mp3

UPDATE: This week’s session guests are confirmed: It’s the Last Battle!

When a cricket fan goes to India…


It’s August in Edinburgh and it’s the fringe. Whilst I continue with my hypocritical treatment of people pushing flyers into my face (hell, I was one of those people once), there’s one person whose shows I always make sure I go and catch.

My little brother.

This year his show is about him getting fed up with prancing around in a pink kilt and going round India trying to pass himself off as a cricket commentator. I went last night, and even if I’m biased (no kidding!) it was pretty funny, and the soldout audience were killing themselves laughing. Truth is stranger than fiction.

So, if you’re in and around Edinburgh during the fringe, and even if you’re not particularly interested in cricket, go and see it.

There’s not been much reference to cricket in music but this is one very fine example.

Roy Harper -‘When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease.’ mp3

Oh, and last year’s Duckworth Lewis album too…

17 Seconds radio show


Well, that was fun!

I’ve been asked by a few people for the tracklisting for my show tonight on Fresh Air, so for what it’s worth, here goes:

Kid Canaveral ‘Stretching The Line.’
Tokyo Knife Attack ‘Cool Kids.’
Last Battle ‘Ruins.’
ALBUM OF THE MONTH Aberfeldy Somewhere To jump From :’Lisa-Marie.’
Session tracks from White Heath:
‘Election Day’ and ‘Gigi.’
Cover version of the week: Schneider TM ‘The Light 3000.’
Endor ‘Without The Help Of Sparks.’
Gone but not forgotten: Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes ‘Grand Hotel.’
Idlewild ‘Younger Than America.’
X-lion Tamer ‘Hope.’
Blue Sky Archives ‘The Highest of Fives.’
Stanley Odd ‘Think Of A Number.’
Underworld ‘Scribble.’
The Suzan ‘Home.’
The Futureheads ‘Heartbeat Song.’
Stornoway ‘Zorbing.’
Tango In the Attic ‘Seven Second Stare.’
Unwinding Hours ‘Knut.’
Zola Jesus ‘Seatalk.’

Many of these tracks have been posted here in the last week, so scroll down…

the show will be available to download soon, so watch this space…

E.P. review – Blue Sky Archives


Blue Sky Archives -‘Blue Sky Archives EP’ (self-released)

Glasgow five-piece Blue Sky Archives describe themselves as making post-rock pop music with a heart. This is actually a fairly accurate description, there’s a scope to them but an edge that means epic and anthemic wouldn’t do their sound justice.

Comprising Ross Rankin (drums), Lauren Mayberry (vocals, synth, percussion), Matt Phelan (Vocals, guitar), Pete Flett (bass0 and Paul Mark McGreath (vocals, guitar), this is an impressive debut. Of the three songs on here, ‘Crash Your Face, ‘ ‘Sleeves Rolled Up, the Team Rolls Up!’ and ‘the Highest Of fives’ I think it’s actually the latter that’s far and away my favourite. It’s the one that suggests just how much promise they have and where they might be going.

Post-rock pop doesn’t have to be an oxymoron; these guys and gal show that there’s blue sky thinking going on here, and very impressive it is, too.


You can stream the EP at myspace, and you can also hear it and buy it from their bandcamp page

The return of Darren Hayman

Darren Hayman, one of the hardest working people in the music business, returns with yet another new album, Essex Arms.

This track is not going to be a single, but it’s got a cool video and it’s called ‘Two Tree Island’, so just…enjoy!

It’s that time of year…yet again!


August in Edinburgh.

The International Festival, The Book Festival, The Fringe (Film Festival now takes place in June)…an extremely busy time for the city, but one I look forward to every year.

And then proceed to grumble about when tourists get in my way, and I spend my life saying ‘No I don’t want your flyer.’

Quite forgetting of course, that I arrived here nine years ago, knowing no-one in this City, to see my brother doing his stuff on the fringe…and I stayed. And earned money by flyering. And if some of my dreams crashed and burned, then many of them came true. I met my wonderful wife of three years and married here, met some of my best friends, started interviewing and reviewing bands, DJing, worked in various record shops, and started my own label. Not a bad outcome for a week’s holiday.

Mark E. Smith lived here for a time twenty years ago, so this song has a sorta resonance for me.

The Fall -‘Edinburgh Man.’ mp3