Gig Review – Dominic Waxing Lyrical

Gig Review: Dominic Waxing Lyrical/Norman Silver & The Gold
Edinburgh Henry’s Cellar Bar, November 25

Henry’s Cellar Bar is exactly that – in the best possible way, it’s a bar, it’s a cellar and if the person in front of you isn’t taller than you, it’s close enough to see the whites of the performers’ eyes. And it’s a packed show for two excellent bands who make a wonderful noise on a cold evening in Edinburgh.

I must confess that Norman Silver & The Gold were a new name to me. But their wonderful mix of punk, country, surf and rockabilly would probably lead to a knees up in a graveyard. Their very nice guitarist Neil Lincoln Bateman actually gave me a copy of their last album, War Memoirs on vinyl before the gig (seriously, why can’t more bands be this generous to reviewers? We *might* be more generous in return!). They kick off their set with that album’s opener The Gathering Storm’ and it’s a welcome start. With other soongs like ‘Promised Land’ and ‘China Doll’ this is a band who make one helluva racket in a glorious, wonderful way.

It’s been eighteen years since Dominic Waxing Lyrical released their first album. I’m not quite sure what Dominic Harris has been up to in the last eighteen years, exactly, but having heard his forthcoming Woodland Casual album, he’s been writing some great songs. Though not officially out until next year, tonight is the launch party for Woodland Casual, which is a fantastic album, and if there is any justice, will be seen as one of the great records of 2015 (after the year I’ve had, I’m not sure there is much justice in the world, but that’s by the bye). With the help of his mates from Aberfeldy (guitarist Riley Briggs, drummer Murray Briggs and Ken McIntosh on bass) they tear into the album.

There’s a great amount of banter going on, and Dominic gives Riley a bell to ring if he goes on too much. Either way, it’s entertaining. They play the album through in sync – and at the moment, I think my favourites are ‘Scarecrow’ and ‘Janitor.’ The rumours around Dominic are legend – and given that the encore features him dressing as a bishop (without a mitre) and singing the first lines of various hymns – many of which I remember before my fall from grace – it ends an entertaining evening…

Getting ready for 2015 part 4: Wasted Wine

I must confess that these guys were new to new to me, but the seven-minute epic ‘The Post Office’ manages to combine US angst with gypsy and East European mystery, and then coda with a piano interlude which comes from nowhere. All of which makes their forthcoming album Wasted Wine vs. the Hypnosis Center, due out in February 2015, a rather exciting proposition.

The band have evolved since their inception in 2006, but they are currently Robert Gowan (front man/violinist/multi-instrumentalist); guitarist Buck Dollars (guitar NB this *MAY* not be his real name); Lou Buckingham (bass), and Tim DeLisle (drums). There are ‘occasional appearances by wayward vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Adam Murphy and most impressively, live the band is often accompanied by Discordia Arts, who add theatrics, dance, and fire. Presumably South Carolina has less stringest Health & Safety Nazis than we have in the British Isles.

The tracklisting for the album Wasted Wine vs. the Hypnosis Center is as follows:

1. [Instructions]
2. Fall Upon Me
3. Shoreline Senorita
4. The Strangest of Eyes
5. The Post Office
6. MFR
7. (Shoreline Again)
8. The Bourgeoisie
9. I Told You
10. Heaven
11. (& Etcetera)

Gig Review – Stanley Odd

Stanley Odd
Edinburgh Liquid Rooms, November 21

‘When I was ‘Stanley’ you say ‘Odd! STANLEY!’ ‘ODD!’

Edinburgh Hip-Hop collective Stanley Odd have just released their third album, A Thing Brand New, and even as a long-time champion, it’s clear that this is their best album yet. Their profile is continuing to rise and deservedly so. Not only because they’re working so goddamn hard at it, but also because they deserve to.

Frontman Solareye (Dave Hook to his family and friends) bounds on stage alone, freestyling (as he does throughout much of the gig) and joined shortly afterwards by the other five members. Tearing into A Thing Brand New‘s opening track ‘Get Back In The Basement’ they have honed their show to the point where they seem both polished and yet it comes over as organic. Modestly alerting us that this is only the second time they have played some of these songs live, it matters not one jot. They’re on home-turf and the crowd are here for them.

But if you see this as just preaching to the converted, this audience has been worked on over time. There’s still people who can’t get their head round the idea of people rapping in any accent that’s not American. More fool them. The album contains excellent tracks like ‘To Be This Good Takes Stages’ which could be seen as an accurate summation of where they are, along with songs like album highlight ‘Her Name Was Hip-Hop’ and ‘Draw Yir Own Conclusions.’

Earlier material like 2012’s ‘Get Out Ma Head space’ from 2012’s sophomore album Reject, gets an airing too, but one of the biggest cheers of the night is for album closer ‘Son I Voted Yes’ which deals with the recent Scottish independence referendum. It’s genuinely emotional listening to it live. Yet they absolutely tear up the place on early single ‘Think Of A Number’ for their closing moment.

And if you google Stanley – interestingly, Stanley Odd comes up before Kubrick. Just saying, likes…

Getting ready for 2015 part 3: Laura Welsh

To my shame, I must have missed a couple of emails about Laura Welsh, because this sounds brilliant. Gorgeous, soft-electro-pop the sort to delight daytime radio and trendies alike, if there’s any justice.

Staffordshire-born but London based, Laura Welsh worked with a number of big names on her forthcoming debut album, Soft Control including (deep breath!): ODev Hynes, Robin Hannibal (from R&B minimalists Rhye, Jonathan Lipsey (Alicia Keys, Amy Winehouse) on ‘Ghosts’, Greg Kurstin (The Shins, Beck, Lily Allen), Emile Haynie (Lana Del Ray, Kanye West), Scissor Sisters’ Babydaddy and Amanda Ghost. The album also includes awith John Legend, ‘Hardest Part’.

For fans of Florence and the Machine, Sia and Paloma Faith – but on the evidence of this, people might be saying for fans of Laura Welsh.

The album tracklisting for Soft Control, which is released on January 19, is as follows:

1. Soft Control
2. Ghosts (stream at the top of the page!)
3. Break The Fall
4. Unravel
5. God Keeps
6. Cold Front
7. Hardest Part
8. Still Life
9. Breathe Me In
10. Call To Arms
11. Hollow Drum

Three of these tracks can br streamed below:

Getting ready for 2015 part 2: Alasdair Roberts

Blimey, 2014’s not yet over, but already the signs are that 2015 is going to be another good year for music. January 26 will see Scotland’s Alasdair Roberts release his eighth solo album, through Drag City and this time it’s a self-titled effort. At the top of the page you can stream the first track to do the rounds ‘Artless One,’ as well as see the artwork.

The tracklisting for the record is as follows:

1. The Way Unfavoured
2. Honour Song
3. The Problem of Freedom
4. Artless One
5. Hurricane Brown
6. The Final Diviner
7. In Dispraise of Hunger
8. The Mossy Shrine
9. This Uneven Thing
10. Roomful of Relics

Getting ready for 2015 part 1: The Very Best

I’ve covered the fantastic The Very Best on 17 Seconds before. In 2009, their debut Warm Heart Of Africa and in 2012 their second album MTMTMK both earned ****1/2 on this very blog.

The band – who are Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya and Swedish producer Johan Hugo – are set to return in Spring next year with their as-yet-untitled third album. The first track to be released is the chilled and hypnotic ‘Hear Me,’ the video for which was released yesterday and you can stream at the top of the page.

Whilst I am usually loath to simply copy and paste an entire press release – in this case, I believed it to be worth it.

“Of the track, Johan Hugo says: “We wrote this song in May 2014, just days before the Malawi general elections. It was also the 50th anniversary of Malawi independence from colonial rule. One day we where sitting outside the house listening to the radio and Joyce Banda (the president that day) was talking about something to do with the election and progress, or lack of progress for Malawi as a nation. We put an iPhone next to the radio and recorded her voice. Thats the voice you can hear at the beginning of the song. Esau really wanted to write a song about the corruption, poverty and struggle of Malawi, and how frustrated he was about the fact that very little has changed since independence. We recorded the whole song that day, and the next day we asked the local church choir to come in and record some choir vocals for it. As with most vocals and instrumentation on this record, we recorded them outdoors, on the beach, singing the bridge and last chorus with Esau. Back in London a month later Chris Baio from Vampire Weekend came in and played bass on the song.”

Of the video he adds: “The Hear Me video was shot in M’dala Chikowa village in south Malawi, on Lake Malawi. M’dala Chikowa was also the location for the writing and recording of the album. Between writing songs and recording we would climb the mountains above the lake and set the camera up to take time lapses. Any time we wanted a break we would bring the camera on a tripod to the shop or to someone’s house and always leave it taking time lapses. We would sit for hours in the dark while the camera clicked away, working on a song, tweaking melodies or words. Mosquitos everywhere. Sometimes we would leave the camera running and trek back to the house, hoping no one would find it.”

Interview – New Street Adventure

New Street Adventure

In which 17 Seconds catches up with a hungover Nick Corbin from New Street Adventure, and find out from the singer about redneck weddings in Stoke Newington and why they’re not a political band.

17 Seconds: First things first, how are you?

Nick: Hungover. There was an event on Carnaby Street last night sponsored by a fashion magazine and all the shops were giving out free drinks. You didn’t even have to feign interest in what they were selling!

17 Seconds: How did the band come together?

Nick: Very gradually. It’s no secret we’ve had a lot of line-up changes but we feel very settled with the current outfit. (For the record this also includes Ashley Hayden (bass, backing vocals); Jeremy Paul (drums), Charlie Myers (keys, backing vocals), and Billy Farr ( guitar, backing vocals)).

17 Seconds: No Hard Feelings is your debut album – do you read your press, or do you try not to pay too much attention?

Nick: Yeah we do read it. It’s interesting to see how people interpret what we’re doing and, on the whole, we’re delighted with the impact the album has had so far- people are saying some very flattering things!

17 Seconds: There’s quite a concern with the world [understandably!] given lyrically on your album. Do you think of yourselves as a political band? Would you get involved with any political organisations as a band or play particular benefits?

Nick: I wouldn’t call us a political band. The songs aren’t written to be political, they’re written from personal experience and people should interpret them as they see fit. I’d feel uncomfortable being involved with politics because I’d feel out of my depth; I don’t want to be a crusader for the over-educated and under-employed! If people can relate to my lyrics that’s enough for me.

17 Seconds: Who are the artists that most shaped your sound?

Nick: Alex Turner for lyrical style and retaining my Britishness! Musically Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions helped me understand soul music and how to structure a song. Bobby Womack for delivery and groove. Gil Scott-Heron made me realise you don’t have to always sing about the same thing. You can open an album with “The Revolution will not be televised” and still come in with something as beautifully simple as “When you are who you are”.

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

Nick: We played at a weird little venue in Stoke Newington a couple of years ago and it was full of actors playing all sorts of weird characters. Charlie, our keyboard player ended up getting dragged into “marrying” this redneck woman in a wedding dress. We just wanted to get the fuck out of there.

17 Seconds: What new acts would you recommend that readers should check out?

Nick: Normanton Street from Brighton- brilliant jazz/hip-hop group. The Tapestry from Manchester- great indie-pop band we’ve played with a few times. Birdsworth from Woking- the singer, Jack, is a really good songwriter.

17 Seconds: What’s been the best part of the New Street Adventure, er adventure, so far?

Nick: For me it has to be releasing the album. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, shortly followed by our launch show at the 100 club, which was completely sold out!

17 Seconds: Who would be your dream collaborations?

Nick: Arctic Monkeys or Noel Gallagher for me. I can’t speak for the rest of the band though!

17 Seconds: Finally, what are your plans for the next 12 months as a band?

Nick: Touring our next single (which should be announced shortly) culminating in a headline gig at the Jazz Café on March 12th. Then we’ll see!

No Hard Feelings is out now on Acid Jazz.

Album Review – Wedding Present (re-issues)

The Wedding Present

The Wedding Present, Top of the Pops for ‘Brassneck’ 1990

“The boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Era. You may dispute this, but I’m right and you’re wrong!” The late John Peel.

Blimey. This is how to do re-issues. For these eight discs – five albums, one mini-album and two compilations, Edsel have been staggeringly comprehensive. Not only do they contain the original albums – but they are all presented here in 3 CD plus DVD editions with attendant b-sides, radio sessions done for John Peel, Mark Goodier and Andy Kershaw amongst others, and all promotional videos. Additionally there’s TV performances, and entire gigs from the respective period. If there’s much else recorded or filmed by the Wedding Present between 1985 and 1997, and you’re still seeing gaps here then you’re presumably not so much a fan as an obsessive stalker.

Much like The Fall, The Wedding Present have only had one consistent member over the years, singer and guitarist David Gedge. Like the Fall, the band’s line-up changes are many, the dicography sprawling and they had many, many entires on John Peel’s Festive Fifty. The band rose from the ashes of Leeds band The Lost Pandas, which included David Gedge (vocals, guitar) and Jaz Rigby (drums). The Lost Pandas became The Wedding Present (or The Weddoes as they were often referred to) when Peter Solowka (guitar) and Shaun Charman (drums, backing vocals) joined the band for the first lineup. Their first single ‘Go Out And Get ‘Em Boy!’ was released in 1985 on their own Reception Records. The first four singles and selections from the Peel sessions are compiled on Tommy, which was originally released in 1988 (****). Not only does the album feature fantastic singles like the aforementioned ‘Go Out!’ and ‘My Favourite Dress’ (which remains one one of this scribe’s favourite Weddoes songs), it also features a Peel session’s take on Orange Juice’s ‘Felicity’ which shows their roots well.

The band’s first studio album was 1987’s George Best (****1/2). Named after the legendary footballer, who adorns the front cover, this album still sounds gloriously fresh nearly thirty years later. The band weren’t happy about being lumped in with the C86 crowd (despite the fact that they appeared on the original NME cassette from which the ‘movement’ took its name), but – and I don’t mean this as an insult – you can see why journalists at the time might have done so. Starting off with the wonderful ‘Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft’, herein lie 14 tales of love and frustration, worth it for the titles alone (though a few years later they’d got fed up of being mocked about this in the music press) – until you hear the tunes. It was so good to hear people singing in their own accents at this point in time. And amongst the extras on this package are the two singles that followed in 1988 -‘Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm’ and ‘Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?’

By late 1989, the band had signed to RCA. Their second studio album Bizarro (****) actually managed the feat of both sounding tougher – and also saw them get actual top 40 success. It’s typical of the album that a song like ‘Crushed’ sounds far more acerbic than much of the material that had been on independent releases. ‘Kennedy’ made the lower reaches of the top 40 and a re-recorded version of album opener ‘Brassneck’ would get them their first (albeit uncomfortable) Top Of The Pops performance. ‘No’ is an underrated gem which perhaps could have been a single. Oh, and one of the covers that appears on this package is their take on Tom Jones’ ‘It’s Not Unusual’ which as ever, they managed to make their own.

The Bizarro album lead into the next stage of their story, which saw them working with the legendary Steve Albini. Ahead of their third album, 1991’s Seamonsters, (****1/2) they worked with Albini on two EPs, one a reworking of ‘Brassneck’ (which can be found on the Bizarro package) and the other the 3 Songs EP. The latter’s lead track was a cover of Steve Harley’s ‘(Come Up And See Me) Make Me Smile’ which Harley loved, saying that of all the versions (and there’s about 120 covers of it in existence) the Weddoes were the only ones who had truly understood the venom in the song. Seamonsters isn’t a venomous album, exactly, but Albini helped them to deliver a suitably intense album of psychodramas, on songs like the single ‘Dalliance’ and the brilliant ‘Dare.’

1992 was a different story entirely. As has been well-documented, this was the year that the band released a 7″ single (then a format considered to be on the way out) on the first Monday of each month. Working with different producers, including Lightning Seed Ian Broudie and former Stones producer Jimmy Miller, the band equaled Elvis Presley by scoring 12 top thirty hits in a 12 month period. Collected together on Hit Parade (****1/2), each song was a gem and utterly varied from the angry ‘Sticky’ to the beautiful California’ and their first (and criminally, so far only) top ten hit, ‘Come Play With Me.’ The b-sides included their versions of songs as diverse as Isaac Hayes’ ‘Theme From Shaft’ Mud’s ‘Rocket’ and the Go-Betweens’ ‘Cattle And Cane.’ It was an unusual approach in 1992 – and it would see the band part ways with RCA in early 1993. No matter now – this is an artistic triumph.

Signing with Island for their next album, Watusi (***1/2), 1994 saw a rejuvenated Wedding Present making lo-fi ’60s-influenced pop. This has been described as being an atypical Wedding Present album, but to these ears -and looked at with the benefit of a couple of decades’ hindsight, it makes sense. You really shouldn’t deny yourself the joy of songs like ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah’ or ‘Swimming Pools. Movie Stars.’ And ‘Click Click’ still evokes an earlier Weddoes sound. This may be one of the underrated albums in their entire catalogue. It was, however, the only album that they made with Island – and yet, given the sounds that Blur would be making a couple of years laer, or that Pavement were doing at the time, you wonder why it didn’t pick up more fans. No time like the present.

For their last two album releases in the first part of their story, the band were with Cooking Vinyl. David Gedge has joked that the 20th anniversary tour for the Mini album (***1/2), originally released in 1996, may be an early night for him, as the original album was only six songs long. And it was a pun of sorts. It’s a mini album, and therein lie six songs about cars and travel. Opening with ‘Drive’ this combines the 60s sound of Watusi with a sound reminiscent of the Reception-era stuff. The final studio album, Saturnalia, (****) which followed later in 1996 saw a new approach yet again. In the sleevenotes, Gedge says that there isn’t a distinctive sound to this album – which was their most experimental. Album opener ‘Venus’ hints that the sounds to follow may take you to unusal places, as it mixes indie-thrash with a more twee approach towards. ‘2, 3, Go’s outro sees the song fade out among feedback and an old advert they found lying around in the studio. And great as ‘Snake Eyes’ is, the album’s highpoint is ‘Montreal’ which has to rank up there with the band’s best songs of love gone wrong. Actually, it’s one of their best songs, period.

And then, in early 1997, the band went on hiatus. Gedge was feeling the need to work by himself for a while, which would result in the very different – but excellent Cinerama. The band would re-appear in 2004, and ten years later are still (thankfully) with us. In terms of stats alone they have done pretty well for the period covered by this review: all nine releases reached the top fifty of the album chart (with Seamonsters reaching no.13); eighteen singles making the UK top 40. They were long-championed by John Peel, who they recorded nine sessions for between 1986 and 1994, and scored 44 entries in his legendary Festive Fifty between 1985 and 1996. But this body of work is a most impressive thing, so make sure you treat yourself.

The re-issued versions of George Best, Tommy, Bizarro, Seamonsters, The Hit Parade, Watusi, Mini and Saturnalia are out now on Edsel.

From Bizarro ‘Kennedy.’

From The Hit Parade ‘Sticky.’

From Watusi ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah.’

New David Bowie single

David Bowie – Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) on MUZU.TV.

I wrote last month about the new David Bowie single ‘Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)’ which is released next week (Monday November 17), as a 10″ single and download and also appears on his latest greatest hits compilation, Nothing Has Changed, which is released the same day. The video has now been unveiled, which is suitably noirish (and no, I don’t just mean it’s black and white) and can be watched at the top of the page.

The b-side ‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore’ is available to download via iTunes and can be watched below. It’s utterly different – some Bowie fans have suggested it could date from the Heathen sessions. It’s not on the Nothing Has Changed compilation, just for the record.

So: two VERY different Bowie songs and a continuation of an amazing fifty year career…