Finally…from Motorcycle Boy

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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.

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.

Interview – Karine Polwart

Over the years of writing this blog, there’s been interviews conducted via email, Skype and phone, but it’s always nice to be able to do them in person. So it happens one very nice July day that I find myself driving deep through the Midlothian countryside, south of Edinburgh. I’m less than twenty miles from Scotland’s capital city, but it’s as if I’m miles from anywhere, as I head to my rendez-vous. It’s the lady herself who opens the door and fixes me a coffee.

She’s just released her new album, Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook. I start by asking how the album came into being. She explains that the basis of the idea was born out of the exhibition on Scottish pop music that took place last year at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh (as one of many attendees, I can attest that it was very good). Alongside this was the night of Scottish pop in a folk style that she curated at the Leith Theatre. ‘The amount of effort for one night led to four days in a studio,’ with her realising quickly just how important the songs were. ‘How can you make a go of them in a way that’s not shit karaoke?’

Don’t think that a cover album is simply a holding operation or an easy option, either. ‘I’ve never put so much effort in [to making a record]!’ she says. The eleven songs within are radical interpretations of songs from the last fifty years of Scottish popular music, done in a radically different style. ‘If you’re a traditional singer in the folk idiom, you’re going to be interpreting [the songs] raw.” The album opens with her cover of the Waterboys’ ‘The Whole Of The Moon.’ This gives an idea to what her approach of the whole album was like.

The original is perhaps marked by the distinctive trumpet playing of Roddy Lorrimer. Yet her version has no trumpet. ‘I deliberately took the anthemic element out of it,’ she acknowledges. What she didn’t do, was to remove the lyrics and the wonder within.

But whilst it might seem that it’s a raw look at what the songs might look at in written, rather than recorded form, the approach to the recorded form of her interpretations adds another level to the songs. Her cover version of Strawberry Switchblade’s ‘Since Yesterday’ features the voice of her late Grandfather. Though the recording was made in the 1980s, it was only this year that she heard his voice. ‘How I heard [‘Since Yesterday’] is a song about aging and loss. It allows me to set up the meaning of the song without staging.’

There was a massive list of songs originally considered for the project – including many that were featured in the performance that were not included in on the album. I ask her if she envisages making a second volume. ‘No concrete plan!’ she tells me. The amount of work involved in this project ‘put paid to the idea that I could just rattle one off!’

I ask her if she thinks there’s a noticeable difference between pop music and folk music at this point in history? ‘Much less now,’ she says, thoughtfully. ‘Loads of the songs stand up in the same way that folk songs do. If you can pull away the layers, it’s a folk song.’ Her favourite song on the album is her version of Big Country’s ‘Chance.’ ‘I really wish [Stuart Adamson]’ was still alive,’ she tells me with feeling.

Of course one way in which there are differences between folk and pop singers is the issue of accents. ‘Folk singers have always sung in their own accents,’ she tells me proudly.’ Yet for many years the same could not be said of many in the rock and pop world, who preferred to use an American accent, despite the fact that their roots were far closer to home. I suggest the Proclaimers as an act who stuck to their guns. ‘the Proclaimers nailed it,’ she concurs. Thinking of others, she adds’ you can tell Eddi Reader’s Scottish, she’s not labouring it.’

As well as working on this collection, she has done a number of collaborations. Her collaboration with Sushil K. Dade (AKA Future Pilot AKA) singing ‘Shenandoah’ on his fourth album, Secrets From The Clockhouse. Having been introduced backstage at Celtic Connections, it was her first foray into something ‘cool and not folky’ – the album also featured members of bands including the Go-Betweens, Belle & Sebastian and Sonic Youth. Ten years ago she also ended up collaborating with a number of 17 Seconds favourites on the Burns Unit project.

‘ It was a funded project that grew out of Burnssong, Burnssong was a funded project,’ she recalls. ‘We were sent to a house to write songs for a week.’ The ‘we’ included not only Dade, but the likes of Emma Pollock and King Creosote. ‘Now there’s a big growth in these collaborations.’ She recalls the experience as giving her the opportunity to work with a good bunch of people, adding ‘these projects don’t work if everyone’s a maverick.’

Scotland’s certainly a fertile place to work, and given its size, eighteen years of living here has shown me just how well it punches above its weight. There’s still problems that face artists here that would affect them anywhere. ‘The decimation of physical and digital sales can’t be avoided,’ she admits. She points to the fact that her profile is higher than it’s ever been, but that her sales are half of what they were.

Hopefully it’s not a situation that will remain that way for long. Shortly after we talk, the album becomes her first UK Top 40 album, and reaches no.2 in the Scottish charts. And the next twelve months look set to be just as busy. She’s playing the biggest venues she’s ever played, including the Barbican in London and the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. Not only that but she’s working on a new piece of theatre, inspired by supernovas, Greek myth and nuclear waste disposal.

And with that, we have to bid farewell, she to another interview with the New Statesman, 17 Seconds to return to 17 Seconds Towers. But it’s to listen yet again to the Scottish Songbook, a fantastic piece of work.

Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook is out now on Hegri music.

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…