So as I mentioned in last week’s column, I had a great night in the company of Mark E Smith and The Fall in Bristol. The uncompromising brilliance of Smith’s unique vocal style is backed with the tight, insistent hooks repeated by the four other members, who are all in good form. It’s a short set that finishes almost dead on time for the 11pm curfew, and Smith seemed to be offstage throughout a lot of it, and yet no-one seems to be complaining. But one thing’s for sure, every Fall gig you go to will be nothing like the last one. Like the band’s biggest fan John Peel once famously said: “always different, always the same” (cliche alert!!!). Read my full review of the gig HERE…
Liam Gallagher has announced that Beady Eye will be performing on hideous televised karaoke contest The X Factor. There’s two sides to this. It’s sad, desperate and degrading. But then again (sadly) the only way “average” people will have a chance of actually hearing some real music on prime time telly is for a proper band to reduce themselves to appearing alongside some of the world’s most talentless people. Liam says “you can’t argue it’s a huge audience”… an audience who have been brainwashed into accepting any old crap they hear. is that a good thing for Beady Eye? By going on that vile show they may very well lose a lot of the audience they already have.
Of course BE have been less successful than Oasis. But at least so far they’ve done things their way. I’d rather fail and stay true to my principles rather than sell out, fail even more and look like a total dick. That’s what will happen, you watch… But I’m not about to start slagging off the band because of this unfortunate choice, which was probably suggested to them by their label Sony. Maybe their label threatened to drop them if they didn’t agree to do it. Whatever happens, there’s nothing that will change the fact that the band’s new album ‘BE’ is actually sounding rather brilliant after just one listen. Some BIG standout tracks on there for sure…
Queens Of The Stone Age release their new album ‘Like Clockwork’ next week. I’ve had a listen to it, and it’s sounding pretty brutal. Even the guest spots from Elton John and Jake Shears seem to fit in perfectly. Miles Kane‘s second album ‘Don’t Forget Who You Are’ is also out next week. ‘Better Than That’ is one of the most ecstatic songs you’ll ever hear, the sound of a young man absolutely high on life and truly buzzing. It also bears an uncanny resemblance to Elvis Costello’s ‘Pump It Up’. Listen to a stream of the album HERE and listen to a live version of ‘Better Than That’ below.
Ex Babybird man Stephen Jones is someone who features in this coluymn quite often. Mainly because he won’t stop releasing Black Reindeer albums, the latest of which appeared online earlier this week. The 6th BR record is titled ‘Just For Today History Is Wrong’, and its 11 tracks offer more atmospheric beauty and twisted emotions. Jones says: “Get a baseball bat, smash out every light in the house and put your second head on, THIS IS A GODDAMN VERY HAPPY ALBUM… A “happy to be alive” album. This is also an album you don’t need eyes for – just ears. But make sure no one else can get hold of and share or peek a snatch or de-personalise. Because it’s personal and personally i fucking love this album.” Nope, I don’t have a clue what he’s on about either… Listen below to the lovely ‘Not Every Album Needs A Happy Song But If You Have One… It Helps’ and purchase the full album HERE.
No Thee No Ess is a collaboration between two established figures in the South Wales arts and music scene – Andy Fung (Dererro, Cymbient) and Paul Battenbough (King of Despair). ‘Spring Dawn Glow’ is the band’s fourth album and is released on June 17 through Folkwit records, who say: “It’s a wonderfully complex and engaging album with great songs, in places expansive and densely layered, elsewhere simple and melodic and awash with intensely catchy tunes.” ‘Collapsing Realities’ is the first single from ‘Spring Dawn Glow’ and can be heard below.
Hookworms played a storming session last night on Marc Riley‘s BBC 6Music show. Following on from the debut album ‘Pearl Mystic’, the Leeds-based five piece have released 750 limited edition copies of their fantastic new single ‘Radio Tokyo’ on the Too Pure Singles Club. Go HERE to buy a vinyl copy, or get a digital one for £2 from their Bandcamp page HERE.
Frankie And The Heartstrings return with their second album ‘The Days Run Away’, produced by legendary guitarist Bernard Butler. It’s their first since 2011’s debut ‘Hunger’. According to the group: “For various reasons this record was recorded, half in in the North East, half in London. Bernard Butler was the sixth member of the band on this occasion. We lived and breathed this record for over a year…” Listen to the album in full HERE, and check out the single ‘Nothing Our Way’ below…
Some of you may be familiar with Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess‘s 2012 solo album ‘Oh No I Love You’. A few weeks ago Record Store Day saw the release of a remixed version of the LP, entitled ‘Oh No I Love You More’, and now the album gets a full release, via Tim’s own OGenesis label. The original songs were co-written with Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner, but soon the tracks “took on their own lease of life and before long enough remixes and alternative versions of the songs were gathered in from Tim’s friends – enough for a whole album”. You can buy a signed copy of ‘Oh No I Love You More’ HERE, and listen HERE via Spotify. My favourite track from it must be Django Django‘s superb rethink of ‘Anytime Minutes’, but personally I think the LP should have included Prince Fatty‘s brilliant dub reworking of ‘The Economy II’, which you can listen to below via SoundCloud.
Here are a few more new tracks I’ve been enjoying lately…
The RW/FF Compilation is a mixtape I do every now and again, featuring music that’s been the subject of recent columns. The RW/FF Compilation #6 features Deej Dhariwal, Primal Scream, The Fall, Savages, Queens Of The Stone Age, Editors, Dingus Khan, Gary McClure, These New Puritans, GDLLF, Mugstar, Electric Eye, Gentleman’s Dub Club, Daft Punk, Delta Mainline, Gaz Coombes, Charlie Boyer And The Voyeurs and more. You can listen to it in full HERE.
June 1995 was memorable, as was the rest of the year. As is sometimes the case now with manufactured boy bands, when a group became a pop phenomenon, publishers would see an opportunity to cash in by releasing “unofficial” magazines featuring stories and lots of posters. In a short space of time, Blur had come a long way and by this point had become a household name after their triumphant night at that year’s Brit Awards. I was still buying Smash Hits, which at this point was featuring more of Blur, Oasis and a growing number of other guitar bands. Because of the pull out posters that came inside the magazine, my bedroom walls were covered with Blur and Oasis, as well as a few Chelsea football posters. At the time all I knew was classic music from the past and the chart hits of the day, so Smash Hits didn’t seem like it was missing anything. It featured people I liked and people I didn’t like. I remember wishing that guitar music would become big enough to take over the magazine and banish all those rubbish boy bands from its pages. It wouldn’t be too long before that came close to actually happening.
As the summer holidays were approaching, we were entering the last few months at primary school, and to mark the occasion the class and our teachers went camping in the Wiltshire countryside for a week. It also happened to be the week of my 11th birthday. The clearest memories I have of this included bringing a Blur magazine on the trip and reading it a lot. I remember me and my mate (and tent partner) Mark putting on some “hair gel” in an attempt to look smart for the evening, only to find that it was some sort of weird gel shampoo. And since someone as legendary as John Peel can write about shitting his pants on a bus in his autobiography, then I can also admit to a toilet-related accident of my own that happened during a long walk back from Stonehenge. I have recently uncovered some photos from this trip, taken back in 1995. As soon as I’ve figured out how to work my scanner, those will appear in a future column maybe. I also found photos taken on my brother’s birthday party that marked my debut as a DJ.
Although I wasn’t keen on some of the boring releases from older AOR artists and the squeaky clean boy bands who had formed in the wake of Take That, there wasn’t a lot of music I disliked back then. As a kid growing up in the mid 90’s, I would hear all sorts of different stuff on the radio, and although the overall selection would be limited, there were enough different genres played to give the mainstream radio stations a sense of variety. I say “mainstream” stations as if there were any other choices back then. There weren’t.
In the UK during the 90’s there were a lot less radio stations around than there are today, so because there were no specialist stations where people could hear their preferred type of music, everyone had to listen to the same thing, meaning that the main stations had to cater for everyone. This meant that as well as the main pop hits, they’d also have to pick a number of indie, dance and other tracks. In fact most people would listen to Radio 1 or their local commercial station (ours was Wiltshire’s GWR FM). There were no specialist stations apart from Classic Gold (which played hits from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s), Classic FM (which played classical) and the dance orientated Galaxy 101. Radio 2 was seen as old, uncool and out of touch, as were the local BBC stations. All the other stations were all on MW or LW frequencies, which meant poor sound quality. So by default most people listened to Radio 1 or their local station. Everyone from different walks of life would all be tuned into the same thing. It was something that couldn’t happen in 2013: lots of different types of music being played in the same place, with lots of different people listening. The closest thing you could get to one nation under a groove.
With Britpop rising, daytime radio would allow a limited number of indie songs on the air, and because those songs were the only indie tracks being played regularly, the indie fans would focus on those songs more than they would have if the whole playlist was made up of that style. They stood out. Plus the fact indie music was played on mainstream radio meant that the neutrals had a chance to hear it alongside everything else and it even meant that some pop fans were converted to indie. I would easily describe my 11 year old self as a neutral listener who would listen to all genres, but I had definitely become more of an indie and dance fan, although I hadn’t yet developed a distaste for cheesy pop music. I was lucky to have grown up during a time where everyone was hearing and buying such a diverse range of music. It enabled me to sample everything that was on offer and make my decisions as to what I liked the most. If I’d been unlucky enough to grow up in the current decade, I’d have no chance of hearing indie within the mainstream.
Because my tastes were varied and the musical climate was too, the DJ sets I did at the club my Dad managed always delivered a good mixture of stuff. A few examples from around about June ’95-ish… Rednex – ‘Cotton Eye Joe’, N-Trance – ‘Set You Free’, Paul Weller – ‘The Changingman’, Perfecto Allstarz – ‘Papa’s Got A Brand New Pig Bag’, McAlmont And Butler – ‘Yes’, Alex Party – ‘Don’t Give Me Your Life’, Edwyn Collins – ‘A Girl Like You’, The Bucketheads – ‘The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall into My Mind)’, The Boo Radleys – ‘Wake Up Boo’, Strike – ‘U Sure Do’, Grace – ‘Not Over Yet’, Oasis – ‘Some Might Say’…
OK, Rednex were ridiculously shit, but at least they weren’t dull. Nowadays rather than exciting variety, what’s classed as the “mainstream” is mostly boring homogenised nonsense that all sounds the same. In fact there isn’t really a mainstream anymore, certainly not one that represents the many different sections of listeners that make up this country. Everyone likes to stick to their own thing and hear more of it, rather than having to put up with stuff they don’t like while waiting for something good to come on. Indie fans listen to the indie stations, commercial pop fans listen to what are now commercial pop stations, and so on.
We’re not all tuned into the same thing and experiencing each other’s music anymore. In the 90’s it was a shared experience and most of the nation was the audience. Today, it feels like we all live in our own little worlds when it comes to music. Britpop was to be the last time that the nation would unite and sing together in harmony… What a fantastic time to be a kid.
Next time: I remember the glorious 1995 summer of Britpop…