Album Review: Snide Rhythms


Snide Rhythms -‘Snide Rhythms’ (Bonjour Branch)

Maybe I’m biased, what with having lived here for over a decade now, but it still makes me annoyed when people suggest that Edinburgh’s bands can’t match up to its’ neighbour Glasgow’s scene forty or so miles to the west. Yes, I could sit here and reel off a list of great acts that call Edinburgh home*, but tonight, Matthew, I’d like to focus on Snide Rhythms.

Led by singer Colvin Cruickshank, the Edinburgh trip have produced a debut that not only proves that Edinburgh is not just about folk music, but that maybe indie music does still have some ideas. Yes, the band know their way around their record collection -‘I Can’t Keep Up’ and the short but excellently titled ‘Yah vs. Schemie’ nod to The Fall, for example, but there are hints of both electro and even rockabilly here.

This is the sound of a band having fun and producing something fresh and exciting. A joy to the ears, a delight for the feet and a treat you can gorge yourself on.


Snide Rhythms is out now on Bonjour Branch

*if you insist: The Last Battle, Aberfeldy, Meursault, Randan Discotheque, Broken Records, Matt Norris and the Moon, Withered Hand, Wounded Knee, Jesus H. Foxx, ballboy, eagleowl, Bwani Junction, Clean George IV, Cancel The Astronauts, Spook School…

Interview: Cancel The Astronauts


Back in September, Cancel The Astronauts released their very fine debut album Animal Love Match. We tried to set up an interview…and eventually, it happened!

17 Seconds: Please introduce yourselves

Matthew Riley: We are Cancel the Astronauts, an indie-pop band from Edinburgh who are slowly trying to become a bit less pop and a bit more indie. Individually are names are, in order of handsomeness, Matthew Riley (MR). There are four other members of the band, who in the interests of accuracy I will call Kieran McCaffrey (KM), Michael Craig, Neil Davidson and Chris Kay. They play the instruments that I don’t play, which is mostly most of them and sometimes all of them: guitar, synth, bass and drums.

KM: Hello.

17 Seconds: How did the band come together?

MR: Kieran, Michael and me went to school together and moved up to Edinburgh at the same time for university. We all lived together in second year and we started making music together. Me and Kieran had been writing songs together for various ‘bands’, none of which ever did any gigs. ‘Rehearsals’ for these ‘bands’ often involved ordering Chinese from Hurlford’s finest takeaway (5-star?) and watching films. It was only really after we moved up to Edinburgh that we started to take it in any way seriously.

KM: It was the Peking Star, was the Hurlford takeaway. The Five Star is in nearby overspill town, Kilmarnock. It’s quite an arrogant name for a takeaway though, isn’t it? Five Star. I’ll decide! It was pretty good.

17 Seconds: Who are your influences?

MR: 90’s Britpop.

KM: 00’s Scotpop.

17 Seconds: What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a gig?

MR: Getting paid is quite unusual.

KM: As a veteran of over twelve gigs by now, I can’t think of a single thing. That’s depressing. I fell over on stage one time, but that was more embarrassing than strange. I’m blanking here. Move on!

17 Seconds: Do you read your press? If not, why?

MR: Yes, when we get any. I’m an extremely vain and self-centred person and I love to know what people think about us, good or bad. Unfortunately most people don’t seem to think about us at all, but when they do the press has pretty much always been good. It’s encouraging when people don’t think you’re completely shit.

KM: We’re cursed by our easily searchable name — nobody wants to actually cancel the proper astronauts, and nor should they. But if opinion ever started to sway that way, we’d know about it first. We do all our (cough) PR ourselves though, so most of our press comes from people we’ve personally sent promo cds to or have been emailing or otherwise dancing in front of. This mean we get to be vain and sad and read everything anyone’s ever written about us and pretend we’re just being diligent PR bods.

17 Seconds: Do you think the word ‘indie’ still means something in 2012? If so, what?

MR: Somewhere in the mid-to-late 00’s it came to mean guitar music played by five guys in skinny haircuts, but I suppose it’s actual meaning has been massively diluted since the 80’s, when independent bands and record companies began to make successful, commercial music without major label support. I would say we’re indie because we’re 5 guys who make guitar music (although we don’t have skinny haircuts) and because the music we make is completely independent- it’s recorded, produced, released, promoted and paid for by us and us alone. We don’t even have a little micro-label to help us. We’re actually the most independent band I know of! I’m not particularly proud of this fact- I’d be happy to sign to Parlophone for a million bucks. I think then that ‘indie’ has more relevance now than it has for many, many years, although it’s definitely more accurate now as a philosophy or a circumstance than as an indicator of musical style.

KM: You could argue that our methods are more DIY than indie, but we describe ourselves as ‘indie-pop’ rather than ‘DIY-pop’ because DIY seems to speak to an aesthetic we’re not a part of (or are we, nowadays? And etc…). I suppose indie works as a sorta useful but ultimately reductive nod towards what we sound like. Genre labels are confusing. I don’t use them on my computer.

17 Seconds : Who would you most like to cover one of your songs, and which one?

MR: I would like The Smiths to reform and cover ‘I Hate You All And I Wish You Were Dead.’

KM: We got an email once from a teenager asking for the lyrics to Fanclub because his school band wanted to cover it. I don’t think it ever came to anything, but I would have liked to have heard that. Inspiring the next generation and all that.

17 Seconds: What are your favourite albums?

MR: Prepare yourself for some VERY boring choices: Automatic For The People by REM, Definitely Maybe by Oasis, A Rush Of Blood To The Head by Coldplay, Strangeways Here We Come by The Smiths, and Different Class by Pulp. I’m falling asleep just writing them down.

KM: Boring! Mine are In Rainbows by Radiohead, Rounds by Four Tet, The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit, St. Thomas by The Scottish Enlightenment, and High Violet by The National.

17 Seconds: If you could work with one other musical act, alive or dead, who would it be?

MR: I’d dig a very big hole in a very hot country with Cheryl Tweedy, and I’d let her do most of the work.

KM: I think she goes by Cheryl Cole, and I have to question your motivations. I’m going to plump for noted recording artist Scarlett Johansson.

17 Seconds: What are your plans for the next year?

MR: I’m going to release 4 solo albums (you heard it here first) and Cancel the Astronauts are going to write the greatest album the world has ever heard. One so good it will make your ears bleed piss and push A Rush Of Blood To The Head by Coldplay out of your Top 5 list.

KM: Somewhere in the guts of my guitar a loose connection is playing occasional havoc at pivotal times. I should probably fix it.

Animal Love Match is out now on Riley Records

Album Review: Stumbleine


Stumbleine -‘Spiderwebbed’ (Monotreme)

This is the debut album from Bristol producer Stumbleine, who also records as one third of dubsteppers Swarms. There’s a glorious mixture of dubstep, hypnagogic pop and chillout here – the RIYL of the Cocteau Twins, Burial and Neon Indian is pretty accurate.

Having been enjoying this album since it arrived, I’ve been pretty impressed by the different strands I hear within. Sure, it’s chillout -yet there’s also hints of shoegazing, a melancholia that’s worthy of the cream of the scottish indie scene…and yet it is also a very warm album, making succumbing to its charms pretty easy.

Amongst the tracks to do the rounds from this album ahead of release are the rather fine cover of Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’ (which is a fine reworking of the original) and the single ‘The Beat My Heart Skips.’ A perfect soundtrack to these sad autumn evenings…


Spiderwebbed is released on Monotreme on November 19.

Stream the entire album:

Album Review: The Jam (re-issue)


The Jam -‘The Gift’ (Polydor/Universal)

There’s an alternate, inferior parallel universe to this one, where The Jam split up after a disappointing reaction to their second album, This Is The Modern World. I say inferior, because the The Jam produced a heck of a lot of great music in their time together as a band. However -they truly came into their own with the release of 1978’s All Mod Cons (a pun on ‘mod’? Well, what do you think?).

They were an excellent singles band (my personal favourite being the non-album cut ‘Strange Town’ from 1979), and produced some excellent albums. In 1982 they bowed out at the end of the year on a high, integrity intact and leaving their audience wanting more (there’s quite a few bands who should bear this in mind). Whilst the three members -drummer Rick Buckler, bassist Bruce Foxton and singer/guitarist Paul Weller (you may have heard of him) worked in combinations over the years, they have never reformed, and only The Smiths are more tightly debated in terms of reformation.

As I said, 1982 was the year they bowed out on a high. This was their final studio album, and despite the considerable number of UK no.1 singles they notched up, their only no.1 album. It’s long been my favourite Jam album. The single ‘Town Called Malice’/’Precious’ became a massive hit, and showcases Weller’s growing interest in soul and funk (though this can be traced back far earlier on in the Jam’s career). But -as well as the Dutch only single ‘Just Who Is The 5 o’clock Hero? (which charted in the UK on import) -there’s a number of excellent album cuts.

Album opener ‘Happy Together’ nods to the post-punk sound that the band had explored on the previous year’s ‘Funeral Pyre’ and ‘Carnation’ (later covered by Steve Cradock and Liam Gallagher) is in some ways like ‘English Rose part 2.’ But the second track ‘Ghosts’ remains one of the finest songs The Jam ever recorded (and no, nothing to do with the Japan track either).

With additional discs on various editions given over to various extras, including demos and a gig from Wembley Arena in December 1982, this a comprehensive overview of The Jam’s final year together. Not least because it also sees the addition of yet more non-album singles in ‘The Bitterest Pill I Ever Had To Swallow.’

The finest Jam album, and comprehensive reissue.


The Gift is re-issued by Polydor/Universal on November 19.

Album Review: Golden Void


Golden Void -‘Golden Void’ (Thrill Jockey)

OK, first things first. San Francisco quartet Golden Void aren’t the most original or groundbreaking band you’ve ever heard in your life (unless you really don’t listen to much rock music). But that’s to miss the point, pretty much. They don’t come on like a retro-act, but instead a band who know their influences (prime period Zeppelin, Sabbath and Stooges) and and having a whole heap of fun.

And unless you’re a po-faced idiot, so will you. Sure, it would be easier to put this in the ‘stoner rock’ category- but it’s focused enough that it never strays into self-indulgence, in the way that less bands might do so.

Single ‘The Curve’ may be the strongest track here, but this is a fun way to spend 36 minutes.


Golden Void is out now on Thrill Jockey.

The return of Yo La Tengo


Yo La Tengo have announced that they will release their thirteenth studio album, Fade, on January 14. The first track to do the rounds is the gorgeous clsoing track ‘Before We Run’ which you can watch below:

The full tracklisting is as follows:

1. Ohm
2. Is That Enough
3. Well You Better
4. Paddle Forward
5. Stupid Things
6. I’ll Be Around
7. Cornelia and Jane
8. Two Trains
9. The Point of It
10. Before We Run

They will also be playing a handful of dates in the British Isles as part of a European tour:

March 20 2013 London – Barbican
March 21 – UK, Manchester – The Ritz
March 22 – UK, Glasgow – O2 ABC
March 23 – Ireland, Dublin – Vicar Street

Interview: Claudia Brücken


Perhaps best known for fronting Propaganda and hits like ‘Duel’ and ‘Dr. Mabuse,’ German icon Claudia Brücken has just released a covers album entitled The Lost Are Found. Here she talks to 17 Seconds about finally getting to work with producer Stephen Hague, hanging out with Frankie Goes To Hollywood and of course ‘Dr. Mabuse.’

‘It feels like a relief!’ Claudia Brücken tells me down the ‘phone from her home in London. The day we speak, she has just released The Lost Are Found that very day, and she’s looking forward to celebrating with friends. Producer Stephen Hague is coming up from Hastings. I start by asking how working with him came about.

‘In the eighties, I always wanted to work with him, but our paths never crossed,’ she recalls. Eventually they met at a Mute Records party. They worked together on new tracks on Combined, her retrospective album released last year. They worked on an Electric Light Orchestra b-side -‘One Summer Dream-‘it was his idea, she tells me. The coming together worked: ‘we enjoyed the whole process of working together. I like an easy-going atmosphere.’

The tracklisting for the album features songs from both well-known and lesser-known artists. I tell her that I was particularly pleased to see that she had covered ‘The Day I See You Again’, originally by Dubstar on their electro-pop masterpiece Disgraceful. I ask her if she saw Dubstar continuing the work she had done with electropop.

‘I can see influences, and I also wanted to honour that, ‘ she says. ‘I like the way we are influenced by everything around us, but acknowledge that it works both ways. I am happy to hear that they are working together again.’

As for why the tracks that make up the eleven songs on the album ‘we really liked the storylines. The whole process of this album was a smooth journey. I put a lot of trust in him and he in me.’ The songs go back to the 1960s, including The Bee Gees’ ‘And The Sun Will Shine.’ She confesses to being in awe of Robin Gibb’s song, understandably amazed that he wrote the song when he was only 17.

What’s intriguing is how while some of the artists are pretty well-known, the songs may not have been the most obvious ones, at least to the general public. David Bowie is represented – but by his 2002 single ‘Everyone Says ‘Hi.’ Was he important to her growing up?

‘He was my everything!’ Claudia says. ‘To be honest, there was Patti Smith and David Bowie. I was really mesmerized by him. He was just as popular in Germany [as in Britain].’

If some people are tempted to see covers albums as a cop-out, or a running out of ideas, (I don’t say this to her, but they are often portrayed as being such), it’s clear that Claudia has a refreshingly different take on it all. ‘I like the exploration of what other songwriters are doing. I’m learning from this. It’s a matter of studying,’ she says, thoughtfully.

She has tackled a number of cover versions thorughout her career. On Propaganda’s A Secret Wish album, they produced a radical reworking of Edinburgh indie band’s Josef K’s ‘Sorry For Laughing.’ ‘For me it’s always been part of what I was doing, it started with covering the Velvet Underground’s ‘Femme Fatale.’ For her ‘it’s about honouring other people, and also about identification. These are people that we admire strongly. I always feel like a singer needs a good song,’ she explains.

With one track in particular – her cover of the Pet Shop Boys’ ‘King’s Cross’ (originally the closing track on their 1987 album Actually) – it’s the second time that Stephen Hague has produced the track. ‘Neil Tennant is such a clever writer!’ she enthuses of the song about Thatcher’s Britain. ‘The ending of King’s Cross is madess, it fitted the bill!’

The eighties ended up being quite an eventful decade for her. At the start of the decade, barely out of her teens, she joined Propaganda in Dusseldorf. ‘When we were working togther in Dusseldorf, I was only 19 or 20. Conceptually Ralf (Dörper, also of Die Krupps) had a very Germanic idea of the band. It was very much his idea to do a song about Mabuse. It was written in German – the English version is a direct translation.’ Dr. Mabuse became a hit in England -and the band were signed to ZTT.

Most famously the home of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, who made 1984 their year, the label was also home to Art of Noise, the band featuring Anne Dudley, Trevor Horn and one Paul Morley. The latter masterminded Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s career -and who in 1985 married Claudia Brucken (the two of them have a daughter, Maddy). So it came to pass that having just left Germany, the band found themselves at Sarm West Studios whilst all three acts were recording in the same building. ‘Whilst we were recording A Secret Wish, Trevor [Horn] was recording Frankie and Art of Noise were in the same building!’ she marvels. ‘We were hanging out on the roof, all these fans outside.’

By her own admission ‘I walked into this all very inexperienced. I was as young as my daughetr is now. I had the chance to work with Trevor Horn -I didn’t even know who he was!’ she confesses. But she admits ‘it was my golden ticket to work with him.’ She left Propaganda in 1986, and over the years has collaborated with a number of the prime movers in the eighties pop scene. She’s collaborated with OMD’s Paul Humphreys (the pair live and work together in London) as OneTwo, as well as Thomas Leer as Act. People like Andy McLusky and and Andy Bell (OMD and Erasure are mates), and she reveals that the night before our interview she went to see her friends in Heaven 17 play live.

Looking ahead to the future ‘we’re going to tour in March and England and the UK. We’re trying to coincide these with dates in Germany,’ she reveals, ‘I really want to go. I thought it would be a good idea to get to know the songs…’ And bless her, she offers to buy me adrink after her gig in Glasgow in March. I’ll hold you to it, Claudia!

The Lost Are Found is out now on There (there)

New Scott Walker video


Somehow, you just know that there are going to be people out there who wonder why Scott Walker can’t continue making records full of songs like ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ and ‘No Regrets.’

Granted, they may be more accessible than the work he has produced over the last thirty years. But with his new album Bish Bosch, he’s certainly continuing to pursue a vision of enquiry that is more radical than many of his contemporaries from the 1960s. Actually, more radical than many other musicians full stop.

This is the video for ‘Epizootics!’ the first track to do the rounds from Bish Bosch. It’s porbably best summed up by a comment on YouTube which says: ‘Brilliant music. Creepy, enigmatic visuals. I’d like to imagine David Lynch sees this today and says “Shit, I’ve got to step up my? game!” ‘


Album Review: Sonic Youth


Sonic Youth -‘Smart Bar, Chicago 1985′ (Goofin’ Records)

Released on the band’s own label Goofin’ Records, in simple terms this is as it says, a live gig at Chicago’s Smart Bar. The thing is, it’s a fantastic snapshot of one of the most important bands of the last thirty years at an important part in their history.

Steve Shelley had just joined on drums, and the band had released their third studio album Bad Moon Rising and they were working towards what would be their fourth album, Evol. By comparison to the material they would put out on Geffen from 1990 onwards, this seems raw-but no less thrilling. It may start out with a slightly dodgy recording of ‘Hallowe’en’ -but it transpires this was due to someone not de-pressing pause when recording the gig. Once they do, it opens up to an album that matches the likes of the Stooges or Dinosaur Jr. for sheer volume and intensity.

And whilst the band had yet to make a commercial breakthrough (hint: there was a reason why this music was known as ‘alternative’ at this point in time), there are songs familiar to those who are familiar with the studio records of the time. So the legendary ‘Expressway To Yr Skull’ appears, as do astonishing versions of the likes of ‘Flower’, ‘Intro/Brave Men Run (In My Family)’ and a version of ‘Death Valley ’69’ that may not have Lydia Lunch but is oozing with power and presence.

With the news late last year that Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon have separated, there is, no doubt, going to be speculation about whether the band will be a going concern. Don’t focus on that, focus on an incendiary performance that grabs you by the balls and makes you yell for more. Despite what some reviews have suggested, this is not just an album for fans, but rather an album that gives an insight into what the band were about and where they were going.


Smart Bar, Chicago 1985 is released on Goofin’ Records on Noevmber 12.

Avalanche Records to close?


Over the last few years, with Independent Record Stores struggling to keep their heads above water, Record Store Day has been promoted as an initiative to try and get more people into record shops. As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, this is only a success if it actually gets people into the shops more than on just one day a year. As Matthew at Song, By Toad pointed out ‘In a sense Record Store Day reminds me a little of Valentine’s Day or, to be a little more facetious, Don’t Beat Your Wife Day – yes the message is the right one, but what, only today? What about the other 364 days of the year?’ (There are some excellent posts on Song, By Toad about the pros and cons of Record Store Day – if you have not read them, I suggest you do so).

It is with sadness that I found out this morning that Avalanche Records in Edinburgh will be shutting on January 6 2013. Owner Kevin Buckle and I may have had some frank exchanges of views over the years, but I am a regular customer. It might be overegging the pudding to say that Avalanche (along with Fopp, in its’ pre-HMV incarnation) was one of the reasons I moved to Edinburgh, but it wasn’t something that put me off, shall we say. It has had a major impact on my music collection as somewhere to buy, sell and exchange music* and was one of the first places to stock physical releases that I put out through 17 Seconds Records.

There may be some glimmers of hope, but the prognosis is that things will have to change. As Kevin says in his statement: ‘ I have to draw a line in the sand somewhere and that date is Sunday January 6th 2013. I hope that by then there will be a plan but at worst I will simply close the shop and concentrate on expanding our online presence and pursuing other opportunities. I’ll always be keen to support Scottish artists but maybe the focus on how that is done will need to change. I’m happy to listen to all ideas of course. Avalanche is a fantastic shop window quite literally for Scottish artists and their music but sadly it is often taken for granted.

Up to that date I will need to take as much money as possible to catch up on just about everything (rent, rates, tax, record company bills etc) and therefore will have the sale I vowed I wouldn’t have. We are not short of stock and hopefully a sale when added to some Christmas business and the visitors here for the festive period will enable us to catch up. With the announcement that the new Frightened Rabbit album will be released on February 4th in an ideal world a new revitalised Avalanche would be in place by then but … unless there is a noticeable and prolonged improvement in business we simply can’t survive where we are.’

Read the full statement here

Avalanche have supported many Scottish artists particularly over the years. Not only did various members of bands work there at various points (including Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes, X-Lion Tamer, Broken Records and Usurper, and that’s just those I can think of off the top of my head) but it has given a platform for people to hear new stuff. And in the internet age that’s actually more important than ever. I helped out in the store last week -and yes, people do actually come in and ask for recommendations about scottish artists. Trust me, ‘customers also bought this’ on certain online and download stores really ISN’T the same thing.

The music industry is changing, and it’s far from only being the small indies who are struggling. But in a very real sense, the message is clear: ‘Use it -or you’ll lose it.’

Here’s a couple of bands who have benefited from exposure in Avalanche, but I could name many more labels and artists…

eagleowl -‘Blanket.’ mp3

Meursault -‘Crank Resolutions.’ mp3

Vaselines -‘Son Of A Gun.’ mp3

Mogwai -‘Rano Pano.’ mp3

*Do you honestly think I keep every single physical release I am sent? I’m not paid to write this blog!