Gig Review: Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson
August 14, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh

When I saw the programme for the Fringe, it was clear to me above all: whatever happened, I had to get to see Richard Thompson at the Queen’s Hall. Not that I hadn’t seen the man before (twice before, at the very same venue, 2005 and 2006) – but live he is so good that it tends to focus all your other priorities.

And yet again, this quietly unassuming singer-songwriter did not disappoint. Armed with just an acoustic guitar and a couple of effects (used well on ‘Crawl Back’), we got an hour and a half set. He’s a witty man, without coming across as trying to show off, and he held the audience (with an age span of about fifty years by my reckoning) in the palm of his hand.

Before the gig, I’d sat with my friend Jared trying to work out what our fantasy Richard Thompson setlist would be. So, I didn’t get ‘I Feel So Good’ or ‘Turning Of The Tide’ or ‘Shoot Out the Lights.’ It really didn’t matter. The sheer joy of being there, wowing at his still amazing voice (McCartney and Elton are barely older than him, but their voices are going, Thompson’s is as strong as ever) and guitar playing that makes you marvel it’s just him doing it. But we did get three songs off my personal favourite Thompson album Rumour and Sigh: ‘Don’t Sit On My Jimmy Shands’, ‘I Misunderstood’ and my favourite Thompson song of all ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning,’ his (successful) attempt to write an English road song.

Two amazing moments that stand out. He’d just played the annual Fairport Convention, er, Convention that is Cropredy, and the version of Sandy Denny’s ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ was beautiful beyond description. There seemed to be a lot of deep swallowing going on around me. It wasn’t just me trying to blink back the tears. And the encore was ‘From Galway To Graceland’ the story of an Irish housewife obsessed with Elvis who goes from…oh, you’re ahead of me. Anyway, it was a perfect finish to an awesome concert.

It is hard with someone you admire as much as I admire Richard Thompson to write a review that doesn’t come across as sycophantic or worse. Too bad. Once again, I can only marvel and wonder why he isn’t lauded as much as he ought to be.

Photos from the gig can be seen at the Queen’s Hall Flickr page

Not from the gig, but this does demonstrate why so many hold Mr. Thompson is such high regard.

Live on Fresh air!

getattachmentaspxTune in and hear me on

1. Dead Can Dance ‘Children Of The Sun.’
2. Kate Bush ‘Running Up That Hill.’
3. Twin Shadow ‘Five Seconds.’
4. We Are The Physics ‘Applied Robotics.’
5. Aggi Doom ‘Bring Me The Head.’
6. Shamen ‘Jesus Loves Amerika.’
7. Soap&Skin ‘Wonder.’
8. Cancel The Astronauts ‘Making Dynamite.’
9. Matt Norris and the Moon ‘Roots Below.’
10. The Delgados ‘Mr. Blue Sky.’
11. Grimes ‘Genesis.’
12. Antony & the Johnsons ‘Cut The World.’

Album Review: Antony and the Johnsons


Antony and the Johnsons -‘Cut The World’ (Rough Trade)

If you were going to talk in fairly blunt terms, you would simply say that this is Antony Hegarty’s first live album, and draws on his four studio albums so far.

Which, technically speaking, is true, but, there’s so much more to it than that. The album’s title track and opener is a new song -and it’s a pleasure to have your heart broken in this way -once more- by Antony and the Johnsons. Recorded in Copenhagen last September with backing from the 42-piece Danish National Chamber Orchestra, these are reworkings of some of the thought-provoking and wonderful music he has recorded over the last fifteen years.

‘You and Your Sister’ may not feature Boy George on this version, but it still manages to compete admirably with the original. The thought of a seven minute spoken word piece on feminism might put some people off, but Antony has a speaking voice that is easy to listen to, so that you do get drawn to what he is saying. And the versions of ‘Cripple and the Starfish’ and ‘Swanlights’ -hell, the whole album!- make it worth the price of admission.

If only all live albums were as beautiful and worthwhile as this.


Cut The World is out now on Rough Trade

NB The video for ‘Cut The World’ is very good, but quite violent in parts. NSFW. You have been warned.

Album Review: Dead Can Dance


Dead Can Dance -‘Anastasis’ (PIAS)

Right from the opening bars of album opener ‘Children Of The Sun’ it is clear that the first album from Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard in sixteen years is a winner. Whilst the notion of ‘World Music’ is, frankly, rather naff, and more often than not, more than just a little patronising, this is an album that truly is global in its approach to sound.

Yet, the thing is, not only did they produce music that was jaw-dropping, they could write songs and produce work that was astonishingly easy to love. Sure, it might be hard to categorise them – they would appear on goth compilations, topped world music charts, and were signed to seminal arty indie label 4AD during the 1980s and 1990s -but that may just have been more about listeners trying to get a handle on a very special act.

‘Return Of The She-King’ manages to evoke Scottish folk, Gerrard’s soundtrack for Gladiator and with vocals from Perry that sound almost incantation like -but it’s never too clever, never leaves you feeling that this is music to be appreciated, rather than loved. It is both -and all the better for it.

Awesome, awesome stuff.


Anastasis is out now on PIAS

Presenting…We Are The Physics


Glasgow’s We Are The Physics are shortly to release their second album, the long-awaited follow-up to We Are The Physics Are OK At Music, via This Is Fake DiY.

Though as yet untitled, they released the first track ‘Goran Ivanisevic’ last month, and tomorrow will release ‘Applied Robotics.’ Both tracks give a fine idea of what to expect from the band, coming on like an even more frantic version of The Futureheads and Devo, with a hint of Clinic. According to Wikipedia they are Michael M (vocals/bass), Michaelguitar(guitar/vocals), Michaeldrum (drums/vocals) and Chris (guitar/vocals)They have been described as being ‘Science Punks.’ Rather fine, as a proposal, and even better when you hear them:

…and these are the videos for the tracks. Hugely enjoying these guys.

Forthcoming from Dog Is Dead

Circus Performers and Dogs

Dog Is Dead have revealed details of their new ‘Talk Through The Night’ released on October 1 on Atlantic. The band are Rob Milton (lead singer/guitar), Joss Van Wilder (keyboards), Trev (bass/sax man) Paul Roberts (guitar) and Daniel Harvey (drums).

To these ears, the song is where Dogs Die In Hot Cars meets Bwani Junction. In the words of Rob Milton: ‘Talk Through The Night is an ode to the anti-cool, our homage to friendship and not giving a shit – the school geeks’ summer anthem.’

Stream it below:

Meanwhile, the band have announced details of their debut album, All Our Favourite Stories, released on October 8:

1. Get Low

2. Do The Right Thing

3. Teenage Daughter

4. Talk Through The Night

5. Two Devils

6. Hands Down

7. Glockenspiel Song

8. Heal It

9. River Jordan

10. Any Movement

The deluxe version also includes the following:

11. Young

12. The Well

13. Ricochet

14. Burial Ground

15. Talent Show

16. All Our Favourite Outtakes

The band are also touring the UK and Ireland during October and November:


23 Manchester Academy 3

24 Birmingham O2 Academy 2

25 Newcastle The Other Rooms

26 Edinburgh Electric Circus

27 Glasgow King Tuts

29 Dublin O2 Academy 2

31 Bristol Thekla


1 London Scala

2 Exeter Phoenix

3 Brighton The Haunt

6 Leeds Cockpit

New Liars video for ‘Brats’ unveiled


It’s easy to forget -when MTV seems to have forgotten just what its original purpose was- that there are still great music videos being made. Not least the fact that they probably wouldn’t be showing some of the year’s best at a time that those of us with 9-5 jobs and children probably would have time to watch.

The first single and video from Liars’ sixth LP WIXIW was the brilliant and not a little disturbing ‘No.1 Against The Rush’ which I wrote about here.

‘Brats’ looks and sounds completely different. This is still mental – just different mental!


Read the 17 Seconds’ review of WIXIW here

Gig review: Withered Hand/ballboy/Darren Hayman

Withered Hand/ballboy/Darren Hayman

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, August 4.

Over ten years of living in Edinburgh has convinced me that the place with the best programming (particularly for leftfield music) has got to be The Queen’s Hall. That period has seen me see some great acts here (Tindersticks, King Creosote, Low, Sons & Daughters, Yo La Tengo, The Delgados, Mogwai, Divine Comedy, Echo and the Bunnymen, Daniel Johnston, Idlewild, Broken Records, Elbow…those are just the ones I can think of, off the top of my head), and tonight is no exception.

It’s a triple bill that has pulled together three excellent acts, and is compered by Josie Long, who is hysterically funny and a reminder that whilst the fringe goes on outside, there are plenty of great acts in amongst the dross. First on is Darren Hayman, whose prolific output is all the more impressive given how high in quality it is. He begins at the piano for three songs, including the absolutely beautiful ‘Ship’s Piano.’ There’s no outing for tracks off his forthcoming Lido, but we do get an insight into yet another project he has on the go, all about the Essex Witch Trials. He told me afterwards that it has all been written -so I think we can safely expect to see this in about six months.

The first time I saw ballboy was at this very same venue -supporting The Delgados. That night he blew our minds with a reworking of ‘Born In The USA.’ Tonight, he gives us several new songs ‘Slip Into The Ocean Slip into The Sea’ and ‘The Parade.’ His dry sense of humour makes us laugh when he introduces ‘I Gave Up My Eyes To A Man Who Was Blind’ by telling us that someone once asked him -apparently in all seriousness -if it was a true story. Gordon McIntyre is a lyrical genius, and it’s clear why the late, great John Peel (and many others) have and continue to hold him so high.

Now, Dan Willson AKA Withered Hand started recording after Peel died -but I’d be willing to bet that he would have had as many entries on the hallowed Festive Fifty as the two other guests of the night. Dan arrives on stage solo, and the version of ‘Cornflake’ he gives us is brilliant. He’s joined by a number of guests, the first one of which is Neil Pennycook from Meursault, who joins him for a new song ‘Love Over Desire.’ Malcolm Benzie from eagleowl contributes violin and mandolin to much of the evening’s proceedings, including ‘Gethsemane’ from this year’s Heart Heart EP and another fine new song ‘Jubilee.’

THe first time I saw Dan live was third on the bill at the much smaller Cabaret Voltaire at the end of 2009. He’s come a long way in profile since then, but he still seems genuinely humbled to be headlining the Queen’s Hall. Yet there’s so many people here, so thrilled for him to have got here. He dedicates ‘New Dawn’ to the BBC’s Vic Galloway thanking him for his support (Galloway is one of many from the Scottish music scene in the hall tonight). It’s now been three years since his debut LP Good News, and I’m itching for the follow-up, when he’s ready to give it to us. There’s a new 10″ that he’s been teasing us with on his web page.

THe highlight though is the expanded Withered Hand line-up bolstered by the Second Hand Marching Band for ‘Religious Songs.’ On vinyl, this is a joy -but I hope someone recorded tonight’s version, because with the crowd singing along to every word, the effect is brilliant, and I don’t know whether to cry or scream for joy.

Three very talented songwriters, all who have given us so much already-and who, hopefully, have far more left for us to hear.

The return of Cat Power


I mentioned earlier on in the month how there were quite a few releases coming out over the next few months that I am really looking forward to.

One of these is Sun, Cat Power’s first studio album of new material in six years.

The tracklisting is as follows:

Always On My Own
Real Life
Human Being
Silent Machine
Nothin But Time
Peace And Love

‘Sun’ has been made available as a free mp3 for a while now – but here is a link to download it free and legally:

Cat Power -‘Sun.’ mp3

Meanwhile, you can download album opener ‘Cherokee’ and a remix of the track by following this link to her website

Sun is released on Matador on September 3.

Presenting…Alphabet Backwards


There’s no shortage of bands playing indiepop -yet there’s something subtly infectious about Alphabet Backwards. Straight outta erm, Oxford, they are lead singer James Hitchman, Josh Ward on bass, and Paul Davidson on drums. The band allegedly found their keyboard player Rob Thomas playing the organ at the local church, and vocalist Steph Ward joined the band after her brother Josh heard her singing in the shower.

Of such stories are the world made -I don’t care if it’s not true, it sounds brilliant!

As does their forthcoming single ‘Taller’ taken from their debut album, Little Victories, due on October 1. If you like the likes of Los Campesinos! and Dogs Die In Hot Cars, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy these guys, too.

They are playing the following live dates:

September 8th – Academy, Oxford
September 13th – It’s All Happening, London (Venue TBA)
September 20th – Golden Fleece, Nottingham
September 21st – Jam Cafe, Nottingham
September 23rd – Brixton Windmill, London
October 7th – Walk the Line Festival
October 13th – Guided Missile Club, London

This is their British Explorer EP, released late last year.