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Music fan by instinct

Album Review – The Motorcycle Boy

A street photograph of a Harlem Motorcycle Gang, photographed in New York City, USA for Queen magazine, 1959.

The Motorcycle Boy – ‘Scarlet.’ (Forgotten Astronaut Records)

There’s no shortage of records that we have had to wait an aeon for. Through my teenage years, it was The Stone Roses’ Second Coming which took five years to follow-up their self-titled debut, and then as I got older it was the dozen years that went by before Kate Bush finally released Aerial, the follow-up to 1993’s The Red Shoes.

But there are, also, those records that sit in the vaults, while rumours circulate, and bootlegs may issue forth. So let’s take a brief step back…In 1985, contemporaries of the Jesus & Mary Chain, Meat Whiplash, took their name from a Fire Engines b-side and released their one and only single ‘Don’t Slip Up‘ on the legendary Creation record label. Meanwhile, over in Edinburgh, there was a band called The Shop Assistants, who were fronted by one Alex Taylor. After the band released their only album, Will Anything Happen she left to join up with the members of Meat Whiplash and guitarist David Scott and The Motorcycle Boy was born.

Of course, this should have been the start of something brilliant. In a way, it did start brilliantly. The band debuted with a cracking single ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain‘ which made the Peel Festive Fifty and saw them get an NME cover. They signed to Chrysalis, but sadly, momentum got lost, and while a couple of singles were released in 1989, the album that got recorded was never released…until now. But with an interest in indie guitar pop always bubbling away under the surface, the band haven’t been forgotten, and the release of the album has certainly piqued the interest of many.

So what does the record actually sound like? Album opener ‘Hey Mama’ is dancey, and dallies with the sounds that were emerging out of the dance scene, involves sequencers and keyboards. ‘Valentine’ is that underrated point where shoegazing meets c-86, and ‘World Falls Into Place’ is that gorgeous sixties influence that had such an influence over many of the 80s indie bands (while we’re at it, I genuinely think the first c-86 record may well have been The Byrds version of ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’). Oh, and if you’ve never heard it before, ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’ is here, too. It should have been filling up indie dancefloors for the last thirty years, and hopefully it now will do, too. Historically, it belongs with a whole host of bands that decimated the charts like Primal Scream and the aforementioned Mary Chain, the cult heroes The Pastels and the criminally underrated Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes.

It’s great, too, that the last two tracks on the album are an unreleased single ‘Sweet Dreams Pretty Baby’ and ‘Days Like These.’ If you look up the band’s releases on Discogs or Wiki you can see that there are other versions and recordings that could have filled an entire second disc. In the meantime, celebrate the fact that this release has finally seen the light of day, and check out the other bands on the family tree.

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Scarlet is released on Forgotten Astronaut Records on October 25.

Does there have to be a reason?

I’ve just returned from a trip to London, and inevitably, there was a bit of record buying. For the first time in many years, I’ve actually started buying CDs again – you can pick up some great stuff in charity shops for as little as a pound – and often a lot less. Why would I buy CDs when I prefer vinyl or I could stream it? Firstly, because there are albums you can pick up for the price of half a coffee that will cost fifty times that on vinyl (and I do have other commitments apart from expanding my music collection). Secondly, because not every album ever made is on streaming services and thirdly, because I don’t have a car that stream music either. Today I have been rediscovering David Holmes’ This Films Crap Lets Slash The Seats (sic).

Of course, I also picked up some vinyl, and while I can’t believe it’s seven years since this came out, I was thrilled to finally own Bobby Womack’s final studio album, The Bravest Man In The Universe on vinyl. Enjoy!

Presenting…Emma Russack & Lachlan Denton

So…we’re into autumn here, and in Scotland that means that it’s getting cold, wetter than normal, and more significantly, grey.

But what better than a (musical) ray of sunshine from one of 17 Seconds’ favourite cities in the world, Melbourne, Australia? Emma Russack and Lachlan Denton will release their third album together on October 19, entitled Take The Reigns, and the three tracks here on their Bandcamp are absolutely fabulous. That gorgeous Aussie accent reminds me of Frente! and Courtney Barnett.

I knew absolutely nothing about them (though you can read an interview here) and the music speaks absolutely perfectly for itself. Give these three tracks a listen, I’m off to beg for an advance copy of the album! If you’re pushed for time ‘Catch’ is the highlight.

Finally…from Motorcycle Boy

group2.jpg

A mere thirty years after it was recorded, Motorcycle Boy’s one and only album, Scarlet, will be released on October 25.

This is grounds for celebration, and to mark that, why not enjoy the band’s debut single from 1987 ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain.’

The tracklisting can be found here and the album can be bought here, though you might also like to support your local independent record store.

New from Leonard Cohen

Let’s face it, way too many great musicians died during the past decade, and the year ain’t over yet. Hell, in 2016, everytime someone started trending on twitter, it became way too easy to fear the worst. One of the most missed around 17 Seconds Towers is the Canadian legend Leonard Cohen.

However, a posthumous album is on its way on November 22. Entitled Thanks For The Memories, it’s been developed by his son Adam, and sees him completing the musical sketches that he left behind for his final album, You Want It Darker.

The album tracklisting is as follows:

  1. Happens To The Heart
  2. Moving On
  3. The Heart Of Santiago
  4. Thanks For The Dance
  5. It’s Torn
  6. The Goal
  7. Puppets
  8. The Hills
  9. Listen To The Hummingbird

The first track to be made available ‘The Goal’ is scarcely more than a minute long (i.e. it’s even shorter than ‘Velocity Girl’ or ‘Final Day’ but it’s amazing.

As a bonus, here’s the maestro doing ‘Take This Waltz’ from London (circa 2008, I think), it’s stunning.

Forthcoming from Spearmint

Photo credit: Ben Knight

Apart from posting their rather brilliant late 1990s’s single ‘Sweeping The Nation’ many years ago, I seem to have rather neglected with wonderful Spearmint on this blog. So it’s time to put that right.

On November 1, the band will release their new album Are You From The Future on their own hitBACK label. I have heard the album already The indiepop band (with a lot of soul) will be playing London Water Rats on November 14.

The album tracklisting is as follows:

1. 24 Hours in A and E
2. Pick The Papers Up
3. Senseless
4. Fireflies
5. Thomas
6. I Don’t Sleep Well Without You
7. Boom Boom Boom
8. As I Write This
9. St Thomas In The Darkness
10. I Met A Boy
11. The West Pier
12. It Won’t Happen To Me

Note: I keep trying to work out what the best track is – but it keeps changing. SIgn of a very good album. The first track to be released from the album is album opener ’24 Hours in A and E’ which you can stream below…

…and because it’s twenty years since the band’s debut album A Week Away came out, here’s a couple of tracks from that album:

PREMIERE: Blessed Is Ruby

A few days ago, this arrived in my inbox, and ‘would I like to premiere it?’ Well, it is rather lovely, so how could I say no?!

Oli Rose is the creator of Blessed Is Ruby. After graduating from Westminster University, Oli was discovered, picked up and mentored by the legendary producer Cameron McVey (Massive Attack, Portishead, Neneh Cherry) straight out of university, and then subsequently being taken under the wing of prolific A&R man Felix Howard (Amy Winehouse, Sia).

Blessed Is Ruby is the story of a 22-year-old woman who, after losing her father, is on a mission to find a spiritual connection with him in order to truly move forward with her life. After a lot of soul searching, Ruby gains the confidence and self-belief to start moving forward on her own path and, slowly finds her way to great successes as an intelligence officer, and interrogator, for the SIU (Secret Intelligence Agency) – an independent organisation that recruits spies for the most sensitive of missions. Ruby slowly becomes a master in her field and, one day, when a mission entitled ‘Protect Mount Ekel’ lands on her desk, her life truly changes. This is the soundtrack to her story.

‘Blessed’ is really a rather lovely track, that feels kinda spiritual, and even this agnostic feels kinda blessed listening to it. It’s released on Here And Now Recordings on Friday September 20.


The return of Field Music

Given how many press releases are about going through the same motions, it’s nice to get something a bit different for a new single (especially if it’s for a band that you like, as well). A couple of days ago, I was sent over the new Field Music single, and it’s a corker as you might expect.

The band’s new album is called Making A New World and it’s out on January 10. It’s a 19 track song cycle about the after-effects of the First World War. But this is not an album about war and it is not, in any traditional sense, an album about remembrance. There are songs here about air traffic control and gender reassignment surgery. There are songs about Tiananmen Square and about ultrasound. There are even songs about Becontree Housing Estate and about sanitary towels.

The first single is reminiscent of prime Talking Heads, ‘Only In A Man’s World’ is out today and it’s the track about sanitary pads.

In the words of the band’s David Brewis: ‘ I found myself researching the development of sanitary pads – not a statement I’ve ever imagined myself making – and was surprised at how little the advertising material has changed in a hundred years. It’s still, Hey Ladies! Let’s not mention it too loudly but here is the perfect product to keep you feeling normal WHILE THE DISGUSTING, DIRTY THING HAPPENS. And you realise that it’s a kind of madness that a monthly occurrence for billions of women – something absolutely necessary for the survival of humanity – is seen as shameful or dirty – and is taxed MORE than razor blades?!

At every stage of making this song, I had to ask myself, am I allowed to do this? Is it okay to do this? And I cringed in the next room when I first showed it to my wife. But I think confronting my own embarrassment is a pretty fundamental part of what the song is about.”

The band will be on tour in February 2020:

February 1 – Glasgow Kelvingrove Art Gallery

February 21 – Nottingham Recue Rooms

February 22 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club

February 27 – Whitley Bay Playhouse

February 28 – Manchester Dancehouse

February 29 – London EartH

I’m back…again!

It’s been a stressful few days, as the blog seemed to disappear without trace.

I got passed from pillar to post, and was eventually helped by a wonderful person online. Problems with migrating hosts, apparently.

Hmm.

Anyway, this calls for something very loud and celebratory, and the Peel session version of PJ Harvey’s ‘Victory’ (which would later appear on her debut album, Dry, hits the spot very nicely indeed.

Presenting…The Heartland Roots Band

Leicester’s Heartland Roots Band have been going for a few years now, but their new single, the rather lovely and very catchy ‘Breaking Away’ is the first release by a record company, Animal Farm.

The country-rock band are (fanfare please): Callum Bishop (lead guitar), Adie Causier (guitars, keyboards, mandolin, dobro, vocals), Anna Causier (keyboards, percussion,whistles, saxophone), Richard Daniels (bass, vocals), Samantha Hobson (lead vocals, guitar) and Steve Ward (drums).

The single has just been released and the video – with a sense of humour – can be streamed below. It’s a fantastic introduction to the band, who have got some excellent tunes (and will hopefully play Scotland at some point in the future).

They previously released the album Here And Now album in 2017 and the Back For More EP in 2018. You can stream them via Spotify or Deezer.