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.

Presenting…Disciples Of Verity

I must admit Disciples of Verity were a new name to me, as were the majority of the band, but lead singer Corey Glover is Living Color’s lead vocalist, which boded well. The rest of the band are ex-God Forbid drummer Corey Pierce, bassist George Pond (ex-Negative Sky), and guitarists Mark Monjoy (Sekond Skyn) and Danny Puma (Negative Sky), will release their debut record Pragmatic Sanction this winter.

The band has teamed up with guitarist Jeff Loomis (Arch Enemy, ex-Nevermore) for their new single “Worthy”, which you can hear below. I went in not sure whether I was going to like this, it was exactly what I needed to hear. This totally blows away the cobwebs and kicks a lot of arses into gear. On the evidence of this, bring on the album!

For best results play very loud indeed.

Gig review – Jarvis Cocker

JARV IS simply the new vehicle which Jarvis Cocker has assembled in order to play his best known songs from his back catalogue. He delivers a set that draws on the almost the entirety of Different Class, and the big hitters from Pulp albums His ‘n’ Hers, This Is Hardcore and We Love Life. It’s a set purely based on giving the audience what they want and it’s as if time has stood still. We don’t get any new songs, just the greatest hits set that we all come to hear and sing along to for a blast of easy nostalgia.”

Relax, folks. Those one hundred words bear no resemblance to JARV IS’ performance at the Edinburgh International Festival. Instead, the performance served as a reminder how, even at the height of Britpop – now a quarter of a century ago – Jarvis Cocker was always his own man, and always a compelling performer. Balancing himself on two boxes at the front of the stage, he may have given any health and services bods watching a heart attack, but the rest of us were in for a compelling performance.

‘Good Evening!’ he greeted us. ‘Are you prepared to take Leith of your senses?’ Well, we were – and it wasn’t the last time during the evening he would make a daft joke that he pulled off perfectly. During a performance of JARV IS’ sole release to date, the single ‘Must I Evolve?’ the pontification about becoming a father features a line about ‘dragging my knuckles…while listening to Frankie Knuckles’ and…well, maybe you had to be there, but it worked perfectly.

A greatest hits set this was not, but there were nods to his work across the decades. The title track of his second album ‘Further Complications’ gets an airing, and perhaps more surprisingly, he performs ‘Mary’ from the Relaxed Muscle project. So disconnected was this from his work with Pulp that this barely appears even on his Wikipedia page, but it fits in perfectly with the evening.

New material can always be risky, but it is clear that JARV IS are playing to a room full of Jarvis fans who clearly have more than a passing knowledge of his work. So we get some fantastic new songs that I hope will see the light of day on an official release soon. ‘Swanky Modes’ and ‘When Julie Rules The World’ are great but the highlight is ‘House Music’ about a man who doesn’t want to leave his house but stay there and listen to house music.

‘Would it be okay if we sought political asylum here? I’m not even kidding,’ he tells us. It’s apt that one of his most celebrated solo songs is the apt and very bitter ‘Running The World’ which even gets a singalong going, no mean feat for a song that features the ‘c’ word in its chorus. The encores give us a Pulp rarity –His’n’Hers’ (from a 1994 EP) and a spectacular finish with ‘Elvis Has Left the Building.’

We have not heard the last of him…

Gig review – Lauren MacColl

Photo credit: Somhairle MacDonald

Lauren MacColl – Edinburgh Queen’s Hall, June 26, 2019

There’s been some brilliant folk music that’s been played over at 17 Seconds Towers over the last wee while, but the two outstanding albums are Jenna Reid’s Working Hands, and Lauren MacColl’s The Seer.

The latter is a ten-track album that is music based on the life and prophecies of the Brahan Seer. Known as Coinneach Odhar or Kenneth Mackenzie, his prophecies may have been strange, but they included the Highland Clearances, the Caledonan Canal and Culloden (the last battle fought on British Soil). While there are those who question whether he existed at all, there are others who see him as Scotland’s Nostradamus.

Lauren MacColl has written this album, which draws on ancient legend and Scots fiddle playing, and tonight delivers it to a delighted crowd, to present us with something that feels fresh and current. No aural tartan tat here. As well as her accomplished fiddle, she is joined by Mairearad Greeb (accordion, pipes), Megan Henderson (fiddle, piano, vocals), Signy Jakobsdottir (percussion), Anna Massie (guitar) and Rachel Newton (harp, viola, vocals).

The album is a beautiful recording, but live the forty five minutes and ten songs become something else. There’s striking imagery courtesy of Somhairle MacDonald, but the intensity and sheer connection between the six musicians on stage is something not just to hear but to see. It very much stands as a piece in its own right, but the final two pieces ‘An Unkindness Of Ravens’ and ‘Lady Isabella’ are stunningly beautiful. Theres no wish to make notes on what’s happening, but instead just to listen and appreciate it. The standing ovation was utterly deserved, and I’ve played the album every day since…

The return of…Playing House

Hooray! I’ve been championing previous Playing House releases back in 2016 and 2017, and it’s great to finally have some new music from them.

‘Not Good’ is a change of direction from those first two EPs, with more of an electronic flavour, but as always, the urge to listen to the track again before it has even finished playing is there once again. When Mel Patman sings ‘tell me where you been hiding?’ the urge to yell ‘well, I’ve been waiting for you, too!’

Playing House openly identify as queer, feminist, body positive and readily support such causes, playing at queer spaces and charity events. (That’s the PR man talking, but he’s absolutely spot on!) Through their music conform and express ideas of love, identity , politics, as well as growing up and living outside of the heteronormative. Given the politics of the US and the UK at the moment, this is needed more than ever.

In the words of Mel herself ‘“Not Good is a surrealist look at the absurdity of the ambivalence to all things not good. “It’s a song that could only be written in the surreal reality that we’re living in right now, in the middle of the destruction of the planet, consumerism, inequalities, sexism, increased anxiety and depression. The song takes a pop at ambivalence, watching everything go wrong and doing nothing. It’s also about how those abuses take place in relationships. It was written following a really damaging relationship where there was gaslighting and manipulation but I couldn’t leave. Sometimes the safest thing is ambivalence when you are not permitted the power by people or society to change things. I wanted to write something that is both truthful and empowering.”

I’ve long been convinced that Playing House deserve to be playing massive venues, and hopefully this single will make that one step closer. Welcome back!

Album Review – Rev Magnetic

Rev Magnetic – ‘Versus Universe’ (Rock Action)

Rev Magnetic is the new band lead by the legendary Luke Sutherland, Scottish writer and musician. Versus Universe has been on my to do pile for reviews for sometime now, and I’ve put off writing it so far not because it isn’t a good record – it is – but because the 48 minutes within are so intense and otherworldly (not quite Trout Mask Replica, but not so far off in terms of being way out, if not musically) that I’ve been trying to get my head round it.

It is what would have once been described as a headphones album – the music within requires your attention, and there’s no point having it on in the background whilst getting on with the drudgery of day to day life. That way it starts to let you get a handle on it. Because, make no mistake, it is a beautiful record. Sutherland has been a frequent collaborator with Mogwai – it comes out on their Rock Action label – and that makes sense, too. Amongst others, the press release mentions Abba (I guess for the sublime pop within), Vaughan Williams (for the pastoral bits) and Stravinsky (for the utterly mental bits). While the phrase ‘our music is actually really hard to categorize’ is press releases is enough to drive most writers mad, this is an occasion when it’s hard to disagree.

This record was trailed by ‘Yonder’ and ‘The Gloaming’, both of which are very different tracks and yet give a good starting point for getting into this record. This record will take a lot of time to live with – and that may put it out of the reach of many – but those who do will find it rewarding down the line.

****

Versus Universe is out now on Rock Action