The continued rise of Spook School


I bigged up Edinburgh’s Spook School several times last year on these pages, and their track ‘History’ made my Festive Fifty at the end of last year.

It’s great to report that they have linked up with US label Cloudberry to put out a 7″ single, entitled ‘Here We Go/Cameraman.’ It’s really rather fab.

Stream it here:

You can buy the 7″ at Cloudberry’s online store and you can watch the video below:

If you haven’t heard their previous releases (come on!) check them out here

Album Review: Ty Segall


Ty Segall -‘Twins’ (Drag City).

Twins is actually the third album that Segall has put out this year, following on from records with his band Slaughterhouse and a collaboration with White Fence. Now, at the time of writing I haven’t actually heard those records, but this album is strong enough to make me want to investigate his whole damn back catalogue.

‘The Hill’ was the first track to do the rounds from Twins. The good news is that it’s typical of the spirit of the album, but that the other eleven tracks aren’t rapidly degrading sonic carbon copies. See, Segall has a love of music that incoporates not an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ approach but an understanding of what makes people like The Byrds, Barrett-era Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and The Stooges so special. And he mixes it up, with the end result that it’s a record that’s a delight from its first hearing, and is still revealing surprises several listens down the line.

‘Thank God for sinners’ is the title of the opener, which gets the album off to a cracking start, but really, thank God for Ty Segall. Too good to simply be a cult secret. Please spread the word.


Twins is out now on Drag City

Interview: Shy & DRS


For every city with a thriving, envied music scene, pretty much anywhere in the world I’d be willing to bet, there are heaps of other towns and cities where the music scene is not so much underground as virtually non-existent. ‘There’s nothing happening in Aberdeen,’ sighs Shy from Shy & DRS down the ‘phone one Friday night. ‘Even on the rock scene, there’s nothing happening.’

After all those years when UK Hip-Hop seemed to be a cult thing, the last few years have seen it blossom, thrive and explode. Here in Scotland, there was suspicion about the idea of Scottish Hip-Hop, until people realised that a) it was actually happening right under people’s noses and b) it’s actually pretty good.

Shy recalls that when he and his brother DRS (possibly not what their Mum calls them, I suspect) people simply thought they were trying to be Eminem. Now Mr. Marshall Mathers’ band D-12 will feature on their debut album, due out next year at the end of January.

It’s not their only collaboration. One of the songs on their forthcoming album features Dan McCafferty of of Scottish rockers Nazareth. ‘It ws a totally random collaboration!’ Shy tells me. ‘We were sampling lot of stuff, but it was costing a lot [in terms of clearance]. One of our lawyers suggested getting Dan.’ The resulting track was recorded in Germany -‘a good, weird experience’ and will be released as a single next year.

In the end, the only sample they ended up keeping for the album is from Marillion’s 1985 single ‘Kayleigh’ which features on their debut single out this week ‘The Love Is Gone.’ This features vocals from Sandi Thom, still best known for the no.1 single ‘I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker.’ ‘ We recorded it back in 2009 -that’s how old it is -with Sandi. It was the opener, it sparked the rest of it [their recorded output].’ We knew Sandi, she was signed with Sony at the time. She liked the idea of Scottish rappers. We were going to put it out ourselves, then we got new management -and finally it’s out!’

It may have taken for now for the Scottish Hip-Hop scene to flower -something Shy puts down to the changing attitude of people ‘now that the English Hip-Hop scene is blowing up’-and things are starting to get busy for them. There’s plans for a Scottish tour next yearas well as that debut album. For now there’s only a few gigs lined up -but they are playing a mini-tour with Sandi Thom. They have yet to actually meet the likes of Young Fathers and Stanley Odd, but it is surely only a matter of time…

Oh, and performing in front of Royalty, too, it would seem. ‘We’re going to be playing in front of Prince Edward at a Community Centre in Aberdeen!’ exclaims Shy. The only way is up.

‘The Love Is Gone’ is out now on Guardian Angels Records.

Interview: We Are The Physics


It can be a tricky business, this interviewing rock bands lark. Not just because you often have to go through PRs, and deal with conditions of interviewing bands or and because they may not be wanting to do interviews -but actually because of things like, well, the day jobs. Theirs as well as mine.

It’s a Friday afternoon when I catch up with Michael from We Are The Physics (there’s three Michaels in the band, which adds to the confusion), on a break from his day job. ‘I just work in offices,’ he explains, almost apologetically.

But soon he’s about to take a break away from the water cooler and the fax machine, and spend his annual leave heading out on tour with the band, in support of their sophomore album, Your Friend, The Atom. It has been four years since their debut We Are The Physics Are OK At Music came out. There is a reason for this, of course.

‘We’ve always been a DiY band,’ Michael says. ‘[The sophomore album] has taken so long to do, it’s almost a like a death, a terminal illness.’ That brings a new slant on the concept of a release schedule, I suppose. ‘We were writing the second album as soon as we finished the first, but we toured it for a year. We started to demo it in 2009.’ Ultimately, he explains, it comes down to economics. The reality of being in a do-it-yourself- band is, by definition, that you are doing these things yourselves, and that includes getting the money together to record your music.

The same goes for the band’s videos, fantastic affairs which have been doing the rounds in anticipation of the new album. ‘We just pull in favours from friends, no-one’s getting any money for it,’ Michael tells me, acknowledging that ‘it’s nice of them.’

The band release their albums through This Is Fake DiY Records, but they’ve been responsible for founding the album, with the label being responsible for manufacture and PR. He recalls experiences of negotiating with other labels when it appeared that A&R were hanging around offering opinions. ‘You always feel that you’re going to compromise when you’re on a major or an indie,’ he says. But they got to record with Thomas McNeice, the current drummer of Gang of Four, who he acknowledges as a major influence. He also tells me how indebted the band are to the likes of Devo and the Skids, but also is quick to mention Brainiac. ‘Off the wall, sqaure peg bands!’ he tells me.

Perhaps more than any other city in the British Isles, Glasgow is often portrayed as being a band where everyone is part of the scene, where everyone hangs out together and lives nearby to another. This isn’t the case with WATP. Although they all live there, they’re all doted around the city, not all living around the fabled West End hanging out at the legendary drinking holes around Hillhead. They don’t consider themselves part of any scene. ‘You need bands that don’t fit in,’ Michael believes. Whilst many Scots acts profiles start to tail off the further south you head of Gretna Green, the opposite has been the case for them.

The reality is that they have set their sights far further afield than just their hometown. ‘We’ve always seemed to do better in England than in Scotland. We’ve never done as well in Glasgow as [they have] in London. We struggled to build a fanbase in Glasgow,’ he adds, though it is evident that they have done so. ‘We wanted to play to as many people as possible’ -and one of those places is…Russia?

‘We’ve toured Russia twice,’ he reveals. Although he admits that it is a ‘scary country’-alluding to the current stories about the imprisonment of Pussy Riot and banning of anything that constitutes ‘homosexual propoganda’, they have played both Moscow and St. Petersburg. This came about after a chance encounter at a gig where someone was a promoter who puts on bands in Russia. I ask if it’s influenced their songwriting at all. After consideration, he says that the the space race era of the 1960s is something that they write about, although he owns up to being unsure if it ended up on the new LP.

Proudly going against the grain, the fitting in of gigs around the day jobs to pay their rent means that ‘We always make our gigs an even’ adding ‘that’s our only weapon, that we’re quite good live.’ The forthcoming tour will see them supporting We Were Promised Jetpacks on some dates – and he relishes the fact that they’re both quite different bands in their sound. ‘There’ll be an audience to win over!’ He enthuses. ‘It doesn’t seem to work when we play with similar bands.’

Your Friend, The Atom is out on This Is Fake DiY Records on October 22.

Album Review: Trapped Mice


Trapped Mice -‘Winter Sun.’ (Armellodie)

Glasgow’s Armellodie label have released some fine bands over the last while, including the Scottish Enlightenment, Chris Devotion and the Expectations and Le Reno Amps. But I think this is their finest release so far.

The Edinburgh five piece Trapped Mice have been around for a while now, but this debut album, Winter Sun, is as wonderfully beautiful and touchingly melancholic as you would hope an album with that title would be. First single ‘Mona Lisa’ mixes reflective organ and mournful violin and proves itself to be a pretty fine tune. Sure there’s angst, but there’s humour here, too. And on the evidence of this whole album, the band more than hold their own against the likes of Meursault, Withered Hand and the Savings & Loan, to pick three very fine bands from the contemporary Edinburgh scene.

And like the best albums, even before it’s over, you just know that this is an album you’re going to want to play again and again. It’s one of the strongest albums I’ve heard this year-so make sure you hear it, too.


Winter Sun is released on Armellodie on November 5.

The continued rise of Randolph’s Leap


I’ve featured the rather fine Randolph’s Leap here before and had the pleasure of seeing them when they supported Matt Norris and the Moon at their EP launch earlier this year.

They have now signed with Fence Records (as have eagleowl, I am chomping at the bit for their LP, by the way) and the first release for the label they are doing is the Hermit EP. This will be released as a 7″ and download. The four track EP will include a remix of the title track by Jonnie Common.

The same day as the EP is released, October 26, the band will play at the Glad Cafe in Glasgow with support from The Fence Collective.

You can hear the track below…

…and watch the video here.

Album Review: Roxy Music


Roxy Music -‘The Complete Studio Recordings 1972-1982’ (EMI)

Well, where do you start? Roxy Music stand as one of the most original, innovative and inspirational bands of the post-Beatles era. When punk’s scorched earth policy (or, at least gave the impression of having such a thing) rendered much of music pre-1976 obsolete, Roxy Music were permitted to remain. After all, a very early lineup of the Sex Pistols were called The Strand, and it was at a Roxy gig that the future Siouxsie Sioux and Steve Severin met. Other acts who have hailed them as an inspiration include acts as diverse as Madness, Morrissey, Kate Bush and Jarvis Cocker.

Their self-titled debut from 1972 is one of the great debuts. As in: holding its own against the likes of You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever, Psychocandy, Blue Lines and Searching For The Young Soul Rebels. Never mind just debuts, it’s one of the great albums. Period. Right from the sleeve onwards (Ferry reasoned that pretty girls were used to sell everything from cars to toothpaste, so why not records?), this was a record that sounded amazing -and still does forty years later. Songs like the Bogard tribute ‘2 H.B.’, ‘Ladytron’ and ‘Re-make/re-model’ were pop songs -and yet, so utterly unlike almost anything that had gone before. (NB: to people wondering where debut single ‘Virginia Plain’ is, it’s actually on the last two CDs of this set, which compile the non-album tracks, which this was.)

1973’s For Your Pleasure saw them come pretty close to repeating the feat, with a darker take on their debut. ‘Do The Strand’ opens the album, with its intoxicating mix of high-class glamour and danger. Ferry was moving ever closer to becoming the embodiment of the rock star as debonair aristocrat, which he still does today. The album’s two main highlights are ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ and the nine-minute-plus ‘The Bogus Man’ which can only be described as Roxy’s take on funk.

Later that year, with Ferry’s first solo album These Foolish Things out, the band issued their third set, Stranded. There is a school of thought that sees this as the first album where things were no longer quite the same, mainly in part due to the fact that Brian Eno had now left the band, en route to pretty much inventing ambient music and becoming the producer of choice for those stadium indie bands trying to exert some leftfield credentials (U2, James, Coldplay…). Though ‘Street Life’ is the single representing this album on the best-of comps, it’s the final three song volley of ‘A Song For Europe,’ ‘Mother Of Pearl’ and ‘Sunset’ which show that even minus Eno, the band were still functioning pretty highly at this point in time.

The following two albums, 1974’s Country Life and 1975’s Siren continued to be commercially successful, the former providing their US chart breakthrough and the latter the evergreen ‘Love Is The Drug.’ Country Life is markedly less flamboyant than the previous three albums, but it still has a number of career bests in ‘The Thrill Of It All,’ ‘Out Of The Blue’ and ‘All I Want Is You.’ But in a song like ‘If It Takes All Night’ there’s a sense that somebody somewhere was saying: ‘If you could just get this art school posturing out of your system, America would love you guys.’ Siren has dated poorly compared to the four earlier albums, and other than the aforementioned ‘Drug’ and ‘Both Ends Burning’, it just feels like a lesser band.

Over the next four years, Roxy were on hiatus, while Ferry’s solo career continued to rise. Oddly enough, the girl on the cover of Siren was none other than Jerry Hall, who was Ferry’s girlfriend for a number of years, but by his 1978 solo album, The Bride Stripped Bare (featuring one of his best solo tracks ‘Sign Of The Times’) she had left him for Mick Jagger. And Roxy Music-at least the core of Ferry, Manzanera and Mackay-came back together for three more albums.

Manifesto, released in 1979, might just be the most underrated album in the Roxy canon. As an album, it pulses with Roxy menace, perhaps for the last time they would achieve this on record. The title track and ‘Trash’ reflect the classic Roxy sound, while the album version ‘Angel Eyes’ is markedly different (and better, frankly) than the single version that crops up on the greatest hits compilations. Tellingly, their support act on tour were Wire, which at least on paper reflected a passing of the torch, even if this wasn’t how things were in reality.

As nadirs go, Flesh and Blood, released the following year, isn’t awful. What really lets it down are the two covers. The album opens with a pointless, and frankly anaemic cover of ‘In the Midnight Hour’ and also features their take on ‘Eight Miles High’ which strips the original of all the wow. That said, ‘Oh Yeah (On The Radio)’ and ‘Same Old Scene’ are fine singles: not like the early ones, perhaps, but redeeming.

Avalon, the final album from 1982, was a fine place to sign off. Sure, they had left the Art School movement a long way behind, and Brian Eno had forged a very different path, but the world had been through many changes in that time, and so had Roxy. Understandably best remembered for the two big hits, the title track and ‘More Than This,’ it’s a sophisticated album, in this best possible sense. And it’s certainly the best album of the last three.

The final two discs on this collection are made up of non-album singles, b-sides and various edits and live versions. Telling that the era of the 7″ edit and 12″ remix had crept in. But when these also contain debut single ‘Virginia Plain’ and its’ fine b-side ‘The Numberer’ ‘Pyjamarama’ and their take on Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’ (their only UK no.1), who’s complaining?

Roxy Music have had a successful critical and commercial reputation, and if you haven’t grasped their importance before now, this box underlines what many have never forgotten.


The Complete Studio Recordings 1972-1982
is out now on EMI.

Album Review: Alphabet Backwards


Alphabet Backwards -‘Little Victories’ (Highline)

After a series of singles, Oxford’s Alphabet Backwards have released their debut album Little Victories. And sure, it’s unashamed c-86 indie-pop with a folky feel-and it’s all the better for it!

Sure, you could be a boring sod and say that they sound like…but why do that, when you could be having the joy of listening to songs like ‘Ladybird,’ album closer ‘Elton John’ (which sees them go eighties in a way that, erm, most c-86 bands wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing a quarter of a century ago) and album highlights ‘Blink Of An Eye’ and ‘Taller.’

And summer may be over, the nights may fair be drawing in, but stick this on, and your heart lifts. And in these dark and uncertain times, that’s more than we can ask for from any album. More than just a little victory.


Little Victories is out now on Highline.

Album Review: I Am Giant


I Am Giant -‘The Horrifying Truth.’ (self-released)

Though the name might suggest something akin to black or death metal, I Am Giant are actually far more melodic and more at the Enter Shikari/Lostprophets spectrum of the metal scene.

On their debut album, they show that they can pen rock anthems that will appeal to those who enjoy this type of metal -and with songs like ‘Purple Heart’ theyhave won the admiration of the likes of Zane Lowe, so this may well provide the support to help them to break through to a bigger audience.

I’m not sure whether this will appeal to those outside of the rock and metal scenes -and that may well be missing the point. But – I gave this album a listen out of interest and was pleasantly surprised. For those who are immersed in the metal scenes, this will doubtless prove a welcome addition.


The Horrifying Truth is out now

The continuing rise of We Are The Physics

I wrote about We Are The Physics a couple of months ago on the blog. They will be releasing their sophomore album Your Friend, The Atom in two weeks’ time.

Today they have just released the third single from said album, entitled ‘Napoleon Loves Josephine’, which is as wonderfully frenetic as you would expect.

The rather wonderful video is here:

The tracklisting for the album is as follows:

Go Go Nucleo -> For Science
Applied Robotics
  (e.g. Apollo 11)
Napoleon Loves Josephine
And So Now We’re Wrestling With The Body Politic
There Is No Cure For The Common Cold So Don’t Expect A Cure For Cancer
Goran Ivanisevic
Eat Something
All My Friends Are JPEGs
Junkie Buns
Circuit Babies
Olivia Neutron Bomb

They are also on tour…

16 Oct BIRMINGHAM Hare & Hounds*
17 Oct OXFORD Jericho*
18 Oct KINGSTON Banquet Records instore (6pm)
18 Oct KINGSTON New Slang at McClusky’s*
19 Oct ABERDARE Elliot’s Bar
20 Oct BRIGHTON Prince Albert
21 Oct MANCHESTER Carefully Planned Festival
31 Oct GLASGOW 13th Note
07 Dec EDINBURGH Voodoo Rooms
08 Dec LONDON Buffalo Bar

*with We Were Promised Jetpacks