RW/FF With Ben Scott #57

This week’s RW/FF round-up features albums from Noel Gallagher, ex-Babybird genius Stephen Jones, and The Charlatans. As well as new music from The Orb, andhim, Martin Gore, The Leisure Society and Muse, there’s a review of the Levellers film ‘A Curious Life’ and the band’s acoustic gig at The Forum in Bath last weekend. And in addition to a new RW/FF mixtape, once again I have a look at the songs making the charts 20 years ago in 1995, including tracks from Elastica, Gene and Radiohead





When you’re currently writing some of the best music of your career, it must be frustrating to keep being asked when your old band are going to reform. But it clearly hasn’t affected Noel Gallagher‘s post-Oasis creative resurgence as is proved by his second solo album ‘Chasing Yesterday’. 


Its title may suggest an exercise in nostalgia and returning to the sound of the glory days, yet the relaxed acoustic-driven opener ‘Riverman’ immediately reveals that a rather different path lies ahead, conjuring up images of smoky rooms, and even stepping into space-jazz territory with a wild saxophone solo near the end. Don’t go expecting some sort of radical reinvention though: writing solid, instinctive tunes for people to sing along to at the top of their voices is what Noel does, and there’s no sign of him stopping any time soon. 




The growing influence of The Smiths continues to find its way into the music, no more so than on the elegantly melancholic verses of ‘The Dying Of The Light’, a song that seems to lament the decline of popular culture and all the great things that have disappeared from it. “The world had turned and I’d become a stranger, and I’m tired of watching all the flowers turn to stone”. Having first heard Noel’s songs while he was still rising to the top in the mid 90s, it makes me feel my age when hearing him musing over the past in such a way, but also strikes a chord with me topic wise, as it will do with many others. Although we find Noel reminiscing about the good old days and coming to terms with the detritus of popular culture, you also get the impression that he’s a lot more comfortable recording and releasing records without being surrounded by the madness that defined Oasis. 


After such a reflectively anthemic moment, the distinctly chilled Pink Floyd-meets-Primal Scream psychedelic jazz groove of ‘The Right Stuff’ will annoy those hoping for a whole album that sounds like Oasis, but the rest of us will surely welcome this most surprising departure. Feeling more liberated, Noel has started using his solo status to his advantage by going down routes that were restricted when he was part of a stadium rock band. Meanwhile the wondrous ‘While The Song Remains The Same’ is another beautifully introspective track which again bears echoes of The Smiths and finds Noel revisiting his home town to “walk the streets of my life while they still remain”. It’s another grower which in time reveals itself to be one of the man’s finest. 



The previous LP may be slightly more consistent and more immediate, but ‘Chasing Yesterday’ boasts brighter highlights and has a lot more to reveal underneath the surface. It’s a record with one eye on the past and one on the new possibilities that lie ahead. Looking back at his history to determine where to go next, Noel seems to be both comfortable in his current position, and not afraid to step out of his zone with the occasional expectation-defying surprise. For those of us who have wisely kept the faith, The Chief continues to dish out the rewards. Read the full 9/10 review HERE.

Although many people won’t have any idea of what happened to Babybird since the chart hits of the ’90s, Sheffield cult hero Stephen Jones has actually been releasing a huge amount of new music via his Bandcamp page over the last couple of years or so. In fact, this most prolific musician seems to put something new out every week. But this new album, entitled ‘Meloncholy’, is particularly notable for being the first album of “music and words” since the final Babybird album ‘The Pleasures Of Self Destruction’ from 2012. Apparently “a new name to replace “Babybird” would have been used” for this album but is “being kept secret for a future release”. 



After a relatively long time releasing mostly instrumental and atmospheric music, it’s good to see that Jones hasn’t misplaced his ability for putting great lyrics and melodies together. Beginning brilliantly with the elegantly arranged dark beauty of piano and percussion-led opener ‘Funny’, second track ‘Teenager’ is a breezy, understated helping of lo-fi pop, while the confessional ‘Wrecked’ requires a patient ear, but soon gets under your skin after a few plays, as does the sad, bewitching highlight ‘Oh Your God’. As well as the creeping ‘The Children’ and the charming ‘Best Friend’, we get the sparse, ambient wonder of the breathtaking ‘No Cameras’ where Jones’s vocal, drops of piano and a splendid arrangement combine to work magic. It may very well be the most beautiful song he’s ever made.



While the lyrics that accompany the delicate twinkle of (almost) title track ‘Melancholy’ remind you that sadness is part of human nature and should sometimes be embraced, the moody hip hop flavours of ‘No One Home’ provide another example of his talents for penning disturbed love songs. The intense lo-fi piano lament ‘Dance On Your Feet’ is perhaps the track that requires the most patience, but fits well as a finishing moment. 



Growing more sentimental with age but often maintaining that dark, unsettling edge, ‘Meloncholy’ combines the spacious, atmospheric instrumentation of Jones’s more recent projects with the magnificent songwriting of the Babybird albums. A cohesive set of songs that sees a hugely underrated genius making a welcome return to doing what he does best. 8.2/10

There aren’t many bands who have been through as much turmoil as The Charlatans, and there are even fewer that have managed to survive. Yet after over 25 years after their formation, they are back with one of their strongest pieces of work to date. ‘Modern Nature’ is their first album since 2010’s ‘Who We Touch’ and the first to be released since the sad death of drummer Jon Brookes in 2012. I promised a belated review of this in the last RW/FF round-up, and now you can read that review in full HERE. Packed full of the things that make The Charlatans so special, while also picking up new influences and moving forwards with great optimism, ‘Modern Nature’ is a joy to listen to. More proof that grief can inspire absolute magic. 

On a busy Saturday night in the city centre of Bath, lots of people mostly over the age of 30 have gathered at The Forum, a wonderfully preserved Art Deco cinema built in the 1930’s. Inside the auditorium, what looks like a full house takes their seats to watch ‘A Curious Life’, a film documenting the lives of UK folk-punk legends the Levellers





Directed by former Chumbawamba member Dunstan Bruce, it’s more of an insight into the lives of the group rather than a comprehensive document of their career. Billed as a tale of “25 years of subsidised dysfunctionality”, a lot of the band’s story is told by the film’s central character, the band’s bassist/artist/archivist Jeremy CunninghamAt just 78 minutes long, you get the feeling that more could have been explained about each album to make up a clearer account of the highs and lows, but ‘A Curious Life’ takes a different and far more intimate approach. However if you’re looking for a full, in-depth history of the Levellers, THIS lengthy article I wrote last year does the job nicely.




Following a humourous and enlightening audience Q-and-A session with Bruce and Jeremy, the band appear for an acoustic set. Well, acoustic except for the presence of Matt Savage‘s keyboards. They begin with perfect renditions of ‘The Boatman’ and ‘The Road’, which inspire sections of the audience to leave their seats and dance their way to the front, to the displeasure of the limited amount of venue staff. Everyone is told to go back to their seats until later, and as it turns out, for good reason.




Admittedly, the seated venue isn’t what I’m used to when watching the Levellers either. But unlike being packed in amongst a sweaty crowd, one can better appreciate the intricacies of the band’s slower, more reflective material when seated comfortably in a setting like this. The subtle details of the magnificent early EP track ‘Hard Fight’ benefit from the increased degree of concentration between the audience and band, while a lovely ‘Confess’ proves that even under-par albums like 2005 ‘Truth And Lies’ still had their stand out moments. A spellbinding ‘Maid Of The River’ reminds you that the 1995 number 1 album ‘Zeitgeist’ is now 20 years old, and begging to be played in full on an anniversary tour.




The pace is upped and the energy increased for a resonant blast through ‘Barrel Of A Gun’, which immediately tempts the crowd from their seats once again. And after a superb ‘Truth Is’, a riotous ‘Dirty Davey’ and an equally charged ‘Burford Stomp’, a large percentage of the seats are empty as the front of the stage fills up. The band reappear for a hugely enjoyable encore of ‘Carry Me’, before the frantic energy of ‘What You Know”s climax sends the assembled crowd into a frenzy one last time.



Not the first memorable night I’ve enjoyed with the Levellers, and probably not the last, but certainly a different experience, and a rewarding one that really demonstrated their versatility. Read the full version of this review HERE.

Expand your horizons, discover some incredible new sounds, and stay a step ahead of the mainstream… It’s the regular new music mixtape from RW/FF. The latest edition can be listened to via the Mixcloud player below.

It showcases the music that has featured on the RW/FF site over the last few weeks, and around 80 minute CD’s worth of great new music makes up each compilation. A lot of people mistakenly think there’s no new music worth listening to these days… Think again. These regular compilations make sure that you don’t miss out on the good stuff.

 

 

Idlewild – ‘Collect Yourself’
Blur – ‘Go Out’
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – ‘Ballad Of The Mighty I’
The Charlatans – ‘Come Home Baby’
Gaz Coombes – ‘Detroit’
Paul Weller – ‘White Sky’
Ash – ‘Cocoon’
The Prodigy – ‘The Day Is My Enemy’
Django Django – ‘First Light’
Black Rivers – ‘The Forest’
The Cribs – ‘An Ivory Hand’
Drenge – ‘We Can Do What We Want’
Crushed Beaks – ‘Overgrown’
The Staves – ‘Black And White’
Boxed In – All Your Love Has Gone (Michael Rother remix)
Gulp – ‘The Way’ (Cian Ciarán Remix)
The Lucid Dream – ‘Cold Killer’
Wire – ‘Joust And Jostle’
East India Youth – ‘Carousel’

On April 13th, The Leisure Society release their fourth album ‘The Fine Art of Hanging On’, via Full Time Hobby. Taken from it, here is the beautiful, elegantly yearning ‘Tall Black Cabins’.



A press release states that “The intricate production, playing, arrangements, songwriting and broad-ranging instrumentation all indicate an outfit at their most purposeful and assured best. Alongside an audible new creative peak tied together by a distinct theme, The Leisure Society’s acclaimed prior trademarks are still present – namely Nick Hemming’s intensely personal and honest lyrics which adorn the band’s warm, timeless, seamless blend of folk, grandiose pop and indie.”



“‘The Fine Art of Hanging On’ is a recurrent, linking theme, although this wasn’t an intentional concept album”, explains Nick. “It’s about clinging to something – be that a relationship, a career, or life itself. All the way through writing the album a friend of mine was battling cancer.  I reached out by sending him the rough demos of this album. By giving him this access to the work in progress and by him giving feedback, we formed a close bond. Sadly he lost his battle, but his input and presence is there in the album.”


 

Last year, legendary electronic duo The Orb released a 3CD compilation of remixes, live tracks and singles from the 90’s and early 2000s. You can read a review of it HERE. Following on from that collection, their 21st century catalogue is highlighted on ‘History Of The Future Part 2’, released on the Malicious Damage label a few weeks ago. From it (and featuring Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry) here is Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer‘s Villod remix of ‘Soulman’, which has been edited by Orb member Thomas Fehlman.



A press release reads that “This collection serves as a comprehensive, second closing compendium on the Orb’s illustrious history, before focus moves to their new album, planned for release on Kompakt during summer 2015.



‘History Of The Future Part 2’ starts after Alex Paterson left his major label experience with Island Records behind him and struck into the new millennium with different record labels, new and old collaborators and a volley of sonic experiments which, while retaining the essential Orb ethos, charted new stratas while returning to the underground which spawned it. While casual attention often seems to fall on early Orb hits such as ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ and ‘Blue Room’, the 21st century saw the fullest realisations of Alex Paterson’s original Orb mission. 



The Orb’s spaced odyssey since the 90s hits period was, in many ways, more exciting, innovative and even fun now the pressure was off and the real mischief could start. But the last 15 years have also seen some magnificently ground-breaking music, as beautifully displayed in this sparkling new collection. Bass is the place.”

 

This warm house gem is the lead track from German duo andhim’s new ‘Spayce’ EP, which was released last week on February 27.



According to their label: “A couple of years into honing their skills in the studio and behind the booths, the very dynamic duo known as andhim returns to Get Physical to present us with ‘Spayce’, the latest specimen of their self-christened “Super House” genre. Raised on a steady diet of hip hop and jazz, the Cologne-native pair have proven to many far and wide that they are entertainers at heart and envelope-pushers by nature. Taking turntables where they seldom go to turn them into instruments, as well as the heavy use of samples and real-world inspiration to set their own creations apart, it’s fair to say that ‘Spayce’ is just another example of the duo’s eclectic, eccentric inclinations. Two tracks long and spanning from dance floor epic to quirky by way of some particular glitch, piano work and musical hiccups, ‘Spayce’ EP is a very sweet addition to an already original discography.”

 

Depeche Mode legend Martin Gore has announced the release of a new solo album entitled ‘MG’. It’s released on April 27 via Mute Records. The tasty ‘Europa Hymn’ provides a first taste of ‘MG’, and can be heard below.



Written and produced by Martin Gore, work began on ‘MG’ following the final dates of Depeche Mode’s ‘Delta Machine’ tour in March 2013 at Gore’s home studio in Santa Barbara. An entire instrumental album had been in his thoughts for some time, particularly since he has been writing instrumentals for Depeche Mode since 1981. “I wanted to keep the music very electronic, very filmic and give it an almost sci-fi like quality,” Martin explains. “Music is a necessity for me. I go into the studio at least 5 days a week, every week, so once I had the idea and the template, the process was quick and fun.” ‘MG’ is a soundtrack to an emotional and mysterious film of your own design. From the Angelo Badalmenti – like atmosphere of ‘Elk’ to the industrial electro swagger of ‘Brink’, it landscapes a unique and arresting vision. 



Explaining the decision to release the album under the acronym, MG, Gore says, “As the album is very electronic and has no vocals, I felt it deserved another persona so decided to carry on the MG concept from the VCMG album.” ‘MG’ showcases another side to this multi-talented musician. “As a songwriter, I am aware of the power of words,” Martin admits. “Especially when they are juxtaposed in the right way with chords and melody. I am also aware of the power of pure music and the emotions that can be created by musical atmospheres and that is what I wanted to capture with this project.”

Well, this is more like the Muse that I used to love. The trio have just unleashed their new track ‘Psycho’, which is the first to be taken from their upcoming album ‘Drones’, released on June 8. Opening with an aggressive ‘Full Metal Jacket’-style intro before launching into fat, pulverising glam rock riffs, ‘Psycho’ marks something of a return to form after their mostly disappointing previous album ‘The 2nd Law’. The concept behind ‘Drones’ sounds pretty fucked up, and take a look at that artwork… Matt Bellamy says: “To me, ‘Drones’ are metaphorical psychopaths which enable psychopathic behaviour with no recourse. The world is run by Drones utilizing Drones to turn us all into Drones. This album explores the journey of a human, from their abandonment and loss of hope, to their indoctrination by the system to be a human drone, to their eventual defection from their oppressors.” Crikey.



Rewind

It’s that time again where every week I pick my favourite song from those that entered the charts 20 years ago in 1995. Every week a Twitter account called @ThisIsMyJam95 invites followers to pick their favourite new entry of the week, and I have decided to take it a step further by listening to ALL of the new entries before picking the best of the bunch. This week’s chart is from February 25 1995, and can be seen in full HERE.

 

At number 25 we have Mike And The Mechanics with the friendly but dull ‘Over My Shoulder’, and Stevie Wonder’s sickly number 23 entry ‘For Your Love’ is way below the standard of his best work, but this is admittedly due to its woeful production. At least Stevie’s songwriting talents hadn’t quite sunk to the level of whoever penned PJ And Duncan’s ‘Our Radio Rocks’, which stunk out the number 17 position.



Punk rockers The Offspring entered the charts at 37 with the brilliant, angsty ‘Self Esteem’, while Pearl Jam’s enjoyable ‘Not For You’ went in at number 34, and Thunder bagged a number 31 place with their wildly unfashionable but catchy classic rock number ‘River Of Pain’. At number 29, Gun’s country-flavoured beauty ‘The Only One’ proved their was a lot more to them than their cover of ‘Word Up’. Moby’s uptempo number 28 entry ‘Everytime You Touch Me’ provides the chart with a fine bit of 90s Euro-style techno cheese, and EMF scored what must have been one of their last chart entries at 27 with the rather funky ‘Perfect Day’. Bon Jovi’s ‘Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night’ has to be one of the finest songs by this love-or-hate-them group who are definitely one of my guilty pleasures. It was the week’s second highest new entry at number 9, while Madonna’s hypnotic ‘Bedtime Story’ took the number 4 spot. But there can only be one winner this week: the song that went in at number 13, which happens to be a classic of the Britpop era. Elastica‘s ‘Waking Up’ was taken from the band’s superb new wave/post-punk flavoured self-debut album, which was released the following month. The album hit number one. Vocalist Justine Frischmann‘s then-partner Damon Albarn contributed keyboards to the song.

Elastica were sued for plagiarism by the publishers of The Stranglers, Complete Music, who (quite reasonably) claimed that ‘Waking Up’ resembled The Stranglers’ track ‘No More Heroes’. The case was settled out of court before Elastica’s album was released. Elastica agreed to pay Complete Music 40 percent of the royalties from the album, and The Stranglers were also given a co-writing credit on the song. Yesterday (March 14) marked 20 years since the debut album was released on February 14, 1995. It was perhaps the most spiky and post-punkish of all the records associated with Britpop. It was also the fastest selling UK debut album of the 90s. After the success of this album turned them into one of the coolest things around, they ended up becoming addicted to heroin, taking 5 years to make a bad follow-up album, and then splitting up. 


It’s unlikely that we’ll ever see this lot reform, but what a superb debut album.

The following week’s chart is from March 5 1995 and can be seen in full HERE



At number 36 was the rather appalling ‘All I Want’ by Those 2 Girls (who featured future TV presenter Denise Van Outen) and at number 24 were Drizabone with the soulful but bland ‘Real Love’, which was originally released four years earlier in 1991. At number 16 was Elton John with the dreary ‘Believe’.



Rozalla’s ‘Call You Baby’ was a rather camp slice of piano house that took the number 26 poisition, while the number 23 ‘Respect’ by Judy Cheeks was another slice of house but with a heavy soul flavour. Both OK songs, but not quite as fine as some of the other new entries in a dance-heavy week. Coming in at number 14 were dance act Clock with a lively version of ‘Axel F’. Reminiscent of a British 2 Unlimited, I recall buying a few singles of theirs during my years as a very young DJ at my Dad’s old club in Corsham, including one with a Clock Megamix on the bside. Even during Britpop my tastes could vary wildly. Interestingly, although they set a record for the act to score the most UK chart hits with cover versions, Clock showed their true flavours by releasing hardcore versions of their songs under the alias Visa. 



Sadly deceased hard house legend Tony De Vit’s brilliantly energising ‘Burning Up’ gave him his breakthrough hit and charted at 25, and at number 13 were The Bucketheads with the brilliant Chicago-sampling ‘The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)’. Another massive club anthem to hit the Top 40 that week was the Nightcrawlers classic ‘Push The Feeling On’, which was enjoying its third and most successful re-release. The original 1992 track is a barely recognisable and hugely inferior song which was cut up and fattened by American producer Mark Kinchen to make the more familiar version that many of us know and love, aka ‘The Dub Of Doom Mix’. 



But the week’s very best new entry is another golden great from the Britpop scene, the number 32 ‘Haunted By You’, from the marvellous Gene. Often dismissed as Smiths wannabes, the more attentive always knew that there was a lot more to them than that, although ‘Haunted By You’ does remind me of a more sentimental ‘What Difference Does It Make’. Gene went on to release four studio alnums before eventually disbanding in 2004. Those albums were all reissued last year with lots of bonus material, and a full review of the whole collection can be found HERE. Meanwhile, frontman Martin Rossiter released his long awaited debut solo album ‘The Defenestation Of St Martin’ in 2012, which turned out to be a wonderful record. More about that HERE.

This week’s chart is from March 11 1995 and can be seen in full HERE.



Although it features some nice trumpets, I can’t say I’m that keen on ‘Close To You’, the number 38 from The Brand New Heavies, while the number 37 entry credited to MC Spy D And Friends turns out to be the work of Brian May. And since ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ is terrible, it’s no surprise. Although I loved some of their work, The Cranberries’ number 35 ‘I Can’t Be With You’ firmly establishes Delores O Riordan’s voice as an acquired taste, and lacks the appeal of their other singles. As for Aaliyah’s number 32 ‘Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number’, I don’t like this bland style of RnB and I don’t care much for the song either. I wasn’t aware of the BBC comedy series The Glam Metal Detectives, but I remember the number 29 hit that it spawned, ‘Everybody Up!’, which sounds worse now than it did then. Sophie B Hawkins scores a number 24 entry with the nauseatingly lightweight ‘As I Lay Me Down’, while Des’Ree’s notoriously dull ‘You Gotta Be’ gets a re-release and enters at number 19.



Sparks deliver an infectious helping of high energy, euro-flavoured melodrama with the brilliant ‘When I Kiss You I Hear Charlie Parker Playing’, which comes in at 36, Rockford Files and the excellent house floorfiller ‘You Sexy Dancer’ enter at 34, while the Hardfloor mix of Mory Kante’s 1987 gem ‘Yeke Yeke’ comes in at number 25.



Dodgy’s wonderful ‘Making the Most Of’ was re-recorded for a single release, which reached number 22. The guitar solo is excellent, and Britpop era brass combo The Kick Horns were more prominent on the song, but the verses just don’t sound right compared to the original from the ‘Homegrown’ album. Faith No More’s rocking ‘Digging The Grave’ comes in at 16, but it’s three 90s classics that provide the three highest new entries this week, all fine songs that have gone on to stand the test of time. At number 11,  the beautiful ‘Ten Storey Love Song’ was the second single from the second Stone Roses album ‘The Second Coming’, and the B-sides ‘Moses’ and ‘Ride On’ were the last new songs that the band released. At number 9, the sound of Summer 95 arrives early with ‘Wake Up Boo’, which gives the Boo Radleys the highest new entry. It’s a shame none of their other (and better) songs made it as high.



But my pick of the week goes to the number 17 entry, Radiohead‘s classic ‘High And Dry’, one of the band’s most infectious and anthemic songs, and one that still works magic 20 years later. ‘High And Dry’ was taken from their magnificent second album ‘The Bends’. According to Wikipedia: “”High And Dry” was recorded during the Pablo Honey sessions but was dismissed by the band, who thought that it sounded like a Rod Stewart song(!). However, during the sessions for The Bends it was rediscovered and remastered, as it was felt that it worked well with the rest of the album’s content. The version that appears on the album is the original demo; it was never re-recorded. The song is widely regarded as Radiohead’s most accessible pop hit, and was a live favorite, though it has not been performed in almost two decades. In a 2007 interview with Pitchfork Media, Thom Yorke stated that he did not like the song, saying “It’s not bad… it’s very bad”. He also stated that he was pressured into including the song on The Bends.”



Unbelievably, ‘The Bends’ celebrated its 20th anniversary two days ago (Friday March 13). A powerful and dynamic record that sounds just as brilliant now as it did when I first heard it two decades ago.




Meanwhile in the album chart, The Fall’s ‘Cerebral Caustic’ enters at 67. Certainly not one of their best albums, although ‘The Joke’, ‘Don’t Call Me Darling’ and a few other tracks provide stand out moments. Meanwhile, Tricky is at number 13 after releasing the superb ‘Maxinquaye’, which entered at number 3 a week earlier, and Leftfield’s seminal ‘Leftism’ is at number 35, spending its 5th week on the chart. PJ Harvey’s ‘To Bring You My Love’ enters this week’s chart at number 12.

Back next week, or maybe the week after.

Stephen Jones – ‘Meloncholy’ (Bandcamp)

 

Although many people won’t have any idea of what happened to Babybird since the chart hits of the 90s, Sheffield cult hero Stephen Jones has actually been releasing a huge amount of new music via his Bandcamp page over the last couple of years or so. In fact this most prolific musician seems to put something new out every week. But this new album entitled ‘Meloncholy’ is particularly notable for being the first album of “music and words” since the final Babybird album ‘The Pleasures Of Self Destruction’ from 2012. Apparently “a new name to replace “Babybird” would have been used” for this album but is “being kept secret for a future release”



After a relatively long time releasing mostly instrumental and atmospheric music, its good to see that Jones hasn’t misplaced his ability for putting great lyrics and melodies together. Beginning brilliantly with the elegantly arranged dark beauty of piano and percussion-led opener ‘Funny’, second track ‘Teenager’ is a breezy, understated helping of lo-fi pop, while the confessional ‘Wrecked’ requires a patient ear, but soon gets under your skin after a few plays, as does the sad, bewitching highlight ‘Oh Your God’. As well as the creeping ‘The Children’ and the charming ‘Best Friend’, we get the sparse, ambient wonder of the breathtaking ‘No Cameras’ where Jones’s vocal, drops of piano and a splendid arrangement combine to work magic. It may very well be the most beautiful song he’s ever made.



While the lyrics that accompany the delicate twinkle of (almost) title track ‘Melancholy’ remind you that sadness is part of human nature and should sometimes be embraced, the moody hip hop flavours of ‘No One Home’ provide another example of his talents for penning disturbed love songs. The intense lo-fi piano lament ‘Dance On Your Feet’ is perhaps the track that requires the most patience, but fits well as a finishing moment. 



Growing more sentimental with age but often maintaining that dark, unsettling edge, ‘Meloncholy’ combines the spacious, atmospheric instrumentation of Jones’s more recent projects with the magnificent songwriting of the Babybird albums. A cohesive set of songs that sees a hugely underrated genius making a welcome return to doing what he does best. Rating: ★★★★☆

 

 

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday (Sour Mash Records)

When you’re currently writing some of the best music of your career, it must be frustrating constantly being asked when your old band are going to reform? But it clearly hasn’t affected Noel Gallagher‘s post-Oasis creative resurgence as is proved by his second solo album ‘Chasing Yesterday’. 

Its title may suggest an exercise in nostalgia and returning to the sound of the glory days, yet the relaxed acoustic-driven opener ‘Riverman’ immediately reveals that a rather different path lies ahead, conjuring up images of smoky rooms, and even stepping into space-jazz territory with a wild saxophone solo near the end. Don’t go expecting some sort of radical reinvention though: writing solid, instinctive tunes for people to sing along to at the top of their voices is what Noel does, and there’s no sign of him stopping any time soon. “Strength” is the word that comes to mind when ‘In The Heat Of The Moment’ punches you in the face with its irresistible chorus, but ‘The Girl With X-Ray Eyes’ is without a doubt something of a grower, based around a chord structure that initially comes across as rather unsettled. However after a few listens, it reveals itself to be a treasure, complete with a vibe that fuses Bowie‘s ‘Moonage Daydream’ with ‘Stairway To Heaven’. Roaring in with layers of no-nonsense guitars, the electrifying ‘Lock All The Doors’ inspires that same invincible feeling as ‘Hello’ or ‘Morning Glory’, and took Noel over 20 years to finish writing. It’ll certainly keep the Oasis fans happy.

The growing influence of The Smiths continues to find its way into the music, no more so than on the elegantly melancholic verses of ‘The Dying Of The Light’, a song that seems to lament the decline of popular culture and all the great things that have disappeared from it. “The world had turned and I’d become a stranger, and I’m tired of watching all the flowers turn to stone”. Having first heard Noel’s songs while he was still rising to the top in the mid 90s, it makes me feel my age hearing him musing over the past in such a way, but also strikes a chord with me topic wise, as it will do with many others. Although we find Noel reminiscing about the good old days and coming to terms with the detritus of popular culture, you also get the impression that he’s a lot more comfortable recording and releasing records without being surrounded by the madness that defined Oasis. 


After such a reflectively anthemic moment, the distinctly chilled Pink Floyd-meets-Primal Scream psychedelic jazz groove of ‘The Right Stuff’ will annoy those hoping for a whole album that sounds like Oasis, but the rest of us will surely welcome this most surprising departure. Feeling more liberated, Noel has started using his solo status to his advantage by going down routes that were restricted when he was part of a stadium rock band. Meanwhile the wondrous ‘While The Song Remains The Same’ is another beautifully introspective track which again bears echoes of The Smiths and finds Noel revisiting his home town to “walk the streets of my life while they still remain”. It’s another grower which in time reveals itself to be one of the man’s finest. 

‘Chasing Yesterday’‘s only flaw comes in the form of ‘The Mexican’, which has a verse melody far too similar to that of ‘In The Heat Of The Moment’ and comes across as a throwaway, especially in the company of the strong material that the rest of the album boasts. Noel has described this record as a ‘hybrid of Queens Of The Stone Age and T Rex’, which is a pretty accurate summary, although the octaved “la la la la” bit after the chorus brings to mind Bowie again. Such shortcomings are made up for with the magnificent ‘You Know We Can’t Go Back’, a lively piece of classic Gallagher magic with an absolutely belting singalong chorus. The album closes with the shadowy power-disco of ‘The Ballad Of The Mighty I’, another example of the interesting twists and turns and unpredictable chord changes that Noel wouldn’t have even attempted in the 90s. Featuring some effortlessly brilliant guitar from Johnny Marr, it’s a fine ending to a stellar piece of work.

Then we get the extra songs on the deluxe edition, the modern-day equivalent of those old Oasis B sides that were sometimes just as good as the album tracks. And indeed ‘Chasing Yesterday’ would be even better if ‘The Mexican’ had been replaced with the riotous sax monster ‘Do The Damage’ or the infectiously uplifting ‘Revolution Song’, another track written and demoed during the Oasis years. The powerful potential Bond theme ‘Freaky Teeth’ is also superb.

 Gallagher’s previous LP may have been slightly more consistent and more immediate, but ‘Chasing Yesterday’ boasts brighter highlights and has more to reveal itself beneath the surface. It’s a record with one eye on the past and one on the new possibilities that lie ahead. Looking back at his history to decide where to go next, Noel seems to be both comfortable in his current position, and not afraid to step out of his zone with the occasional expectation-defying surprise. For those of us who have wisely kept the faith, The Chief continues to dish out the rewards. Rating: ★★★★½

 

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #56

This week on the RW/FF round-up: many of the legendary musicians who soundtracked my youth seem to be returning at the same time with incredible new music, giving me back the buzz I had when I was a teenager. I’ll be welcoming back the mighty Blur, reviewing the new Idlewild album and looking at fresh tunes from Ash, The Charlatans, Paul Weller, The Supernaturals and The Prodigy. As well as all that, there’s something new from post-punk legends Wire, the debut album from Spectres, plus a look back at the songs making the charts 20 years ago in 1995 (which includes Supergrass) and a pair of classics from the Manic Street Preachers and Nirvana.

 

Absolutely incredible news. After years of teasing us, Blur have finally announced that they are releasing a brand new album, their first in over a decade. ‘The Magic Whip’ is out on April 27, and the first single from it is the raucous ‘Go Out’.



I was only 14 years old when 1999’s ’13’ was released. It turned out to be the last proper Blur album, since guitarist Graham Coxon had left before the band released 2003’s disappointing ‘Think Tank’. Despite never officially announcing a split, the three remaining members of Blur gradually drifted off their separate ways. In 2009 they announced that they would be reuniting with Graham, and played an astonishing Glastonbury headline set as well as a few other shows. In 2010 they released a new song ‘Fool’s Day’ as a limited edition 7″ single, and 2012 saw them return with the single ‘Under The Westway and its b side ‘The Puritan’, which coincided with a triumphant series of UK shows.
Since reforming, the band have constantly been questioned about the possibility of a new album. It became quite a saga in fact. “Every now and then we like to meet up and record a few things,” Coxon told NME back in 2011. “Maybe turning the tape recorder on and jamming around a few ideas … I suppose it might turn into an LP in six years or something … We just do stuff when we feel like it.” In 2012, ’13’ producer William Orbit claimed that Damon Albarn halted some “amazing” recording sessions to the dismay of the rest of the band. During a 2013 gig in Hong Kong, Damon told the crowd: “We were supposed to be playing in Japan next week,” said Albarn on stage during a live show in Hong Kong. “Due to unforeseen circumstances we were unable to go there, although we will go there at some point. So we have a week in Hong Kong, and we thought it would be a good time to try to record another record, so we’re going to make one here in Hong Kong.” However, fans were left disappointed when Damon sad in a 2014 interview that “I just haven’t got the time,” to make a new Blur album, and that the other members were “just all doing other stuff”, adding that “There is material, but I can’t foresee us in the near future being in a position to finish it.” In July 2014 he claimed that the album “may just be one of those records that never comes out”, blaming the Hong Kong heat for the band returning home before work could be finished on the record. “If I’d been able to write the lyrics there and then about being there, we’d have finished the record,” he said. “I like making records in short periods of time… Sometimes, if you can’t do it all at once, it dissipates…”


I had given up hope on Blur ever releasing another record. Some fans were getting sick of the constant “will they, won’t they” and worried that these British legends were becoming a nostalgia act. ‘Black Book’ author Drew was one of them: “if you’re not going to make a legitimate attempt at making new music, please call it a day. I couldn’t bear to see your legacy get chipped away bit by bit any more.” That full article can be seen HERE
With Damon announcing his involvement in a new stage musical, and the news that he has reactivated Gorillaz, everyone assumed that any more Blur activity would be a while away. So today’s news has thrilled me like no other news ever has before.



Earlier today The Sun carried a mysterious advert, showing an ice-cream cone and Chinese symbols lit up in neon. After the NME translated the text, they reported that it read “Blur: The Magic Whip”, prompting rumours of an album announcement. Surely enough, a press conference took place at a restaurant in London’s Chinatown, where the band confirmed the release of the new record, along with a massive Hyde Park show that will take place in June. While the rest of the world thought that we’d never hear a new Blur album, it turns out that Coxon revisited the Hong Kong sessions and presented them to long-time producer Stephen Street, who went on to develop them with the guitarist. Albarn explained that while he was touring and promoting his solo album ‘Everyday Robots’ last year, he was approached by Graham to see if anything could be salvaged from the recordings. “It was something we did off our own backs,” Coxon explained. “It was quite an overwhelming project. There was jamming and sonic landscaping. I said, ‘Damon, can I have a little chat? I said, ‘Do you mind if I have a look at this music and see if there’s anything worth pursuing. Id compare it to someone’s notes, scrawling all over the page. We slung it over to Stephen [Street] and he looked through bits of it.” Damon and Graham returned to the studio in December to write lyrics and complete the record.


“They did some editing and some production work and sent around the initial tracks and we all realised we’d done something quite special there,” said drummer Dave Rowntree. “There was 18 months [in-between recording the songs] which allowed us to have a bit of perspective on it. When they played it back, that was the time everyone got very excited.” Since the album’s completion last year, the band have kept information about the new record under wraps. “We had a blood pact between us about who we were allowed to tell and who we weren’t so I’ve had to do a lot of catch up phone calling today!” said Rowntree. “A fair few angry people going ‘Why wasn’t I in the circle of trust!” The songs featured on “The Magic Whip’ were influenced by their surroundings in Hong Kong. “There’s nothing pastoral about it – it’s very urban,” said Albarn. “It wasn’t a flash studio, it was pretty claustrophobic and hot. We went in and knocked about loads of ideas.” One track, Ong Ong, was described by bassist Alex James as a “banger”, while ‘Pyongyang’ is said to describe Albarn’s thoughts on North Korea. “It’s my impression of the place, in an abstract, veiled way,” he said. You can watch a video of the press conference HERE.



I’m both excited and very nervous about what ‘The Magic Whip’ is going to sound like. This is the band that soundtracked my youth, and because of that it’s inevitable that nothing is ever going to live up to the songs they released during those years. Although I have longed for a new Blur record for years, the last thing I’d want would be for them to record songs because they felt forced. To make a great record, you often need to be inspired. I just hope that this album is more than a load of recordings made under pressure. It’s also a bit odd that this seminal band are releasing a comeback album comprised of songs that have been put together in such an unorthodox and non-organic way. But it’s a relief to report that the abrasive ‘Go Out’ is a very promising taste of what’s to come, and comes complete with some superb guitar noise from Graham, something that ‘Think Tank’ was missing.

Welcome back boys, we’ve missed you.

 

 

 

This exciting news has confirmed something that I suspected a while: that 2015 is going to be an amazing year for music. Not only are Blur properly back, but Noel Gallagher is about to unleash a superb album that will surprise many people. Both are acts who had the biggest impact on me when I was growing up, and for them to both be returning at the same time is like a dream come true. Along with that, Suede are due to bring out a new LP this year, as are Teenage Fanclub and Dodgy. Also, if what Mani says is right, we may even finally see the third Stone Roses record. Rather thrillingly, Pulp have also talked about the possibility of new material soon. Please! Add to those ‘Matador’ the excellent new album from ex Supergrass man Gaz Coombes, which I reviewed HERE. The best record that man has made in years.



When I was young, I always thought that the bands and artists I was obsessed with at the time would continue to guide me through life and that in years to come I would still be listening to them. All of them have had patchy periods over the years, and there were a few who fell off my radar for a while, but in 2015 many of them seem to be in rich musical form and have given me back the buzz that I had as a teenager.


Scottish indie legends Idlewild return after a six year hiatus with their seventh studio album, and it doesn’t disappoint. Sturdy opening track ‘Collect Yourself’ bursts in with hungry vigour, matching the slinky groove of its verse with a joyous chorus and a fattened riff that packs one hell of a punch. But don’t let it fool you into thinking that the band have returned to the heavier sound of their early days, as the remainder of ‘Everything Ever Written’ demonstrates the sort of wisdom that comes with natural maturity. The steady ‘Come On Ghost’ is an effective marriage of folk and classic rock, ‘So Many Things To Decide’ evokes the sleepy charm of remote Scottish countryside, and the brilliant ‘Nothing I Can Do About It’ mixes melancholy with infectious resonance to provide one of the highlights of not just this album, but the group’s career.



The reflective ‘Every Little Means Trust’ is the record’s lighters-in-the-air moment, while centrepiece ‘(Use It) If You Can Use It’ is a bright grower that develops into a surprising, almost Krautrock-esque jam before breaking the volume levels towards its massive climax. After the gracefully decorated ‘Like A Clown’, another one of the record’s best tracks arrives with the excellent ‘On Another Planet’, an uptempo blast of much-needed energy that’s more reminiscent of early Idlewild than anything else here. ‘All Things Different’ brings unexpected spells of saxophone and rich piano to compliment its endearing lyrical imagery, and the lovely ‘Radium Girl’ thrives with some nice melotron, another bold uplifting chorus and effortlessly brilliant basslines from new recruit Andrew Mitchell. With its fine instrumentation and dark elegance, ‘Left Like Roses’ is another treat, and the sparse, beautifully arranged closer ‘Utopia’ bathes in a wondrous ambience which frames Roddy Woomble‘s glorious voice so well.




‘Eveything Ever Written’ is possibly a couple of tracks too long, and could have made more of an impression as a slightly shorter album, however its high points are marvellous. Listeners will need a patient ear to fully appreciate this alluring piece of work which combines the wistful quality of Woomble’s solo work with the power of vintage Idlewild, but such patience will be rewarded. 8/10

 


 

 

Another band who I was a huge fan of during my teens are The Charlatans, who have also recently returned with the wonderful ‘Modern Nature’ album. Their first album in five years and the first since the sad death of drummer Jon Brookes, the band have once again triumphed over tragedy with a stellar set of tracks coloured with melancholic sunshine, soul vibes and subtle shades of funk. A full (and rather belated) review will be on the RW/FF site very soon, and will probably form part of next week’s round-up. In the meantime I’ll leave you with this absolute stunner.

 

Last year during RW/FF and God Is In The TV’s Britpop month, I featured Scottish combo The Supernaturals, presuming that they had no plans to reform. So imagine my surprise when a little while ago I found out that the band have new album out in April, and that they’d been playing together again since 2012. I’d refer to The Supernaturals as more of a “post-Britpop” group, as they fitted in with the style and sound but arrived on the scene too late. They were bloody good too, taking inspiration from Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys rather than The Beatles or The Kinks. A five piece from Glasgow, the band were signed to Parlophone Records in 1996, scoring five Top 40 entries in the UK Singles Chart between ’96 and ’98. Best known for their hit ‘Smile’, in May of 1997 they released their debut LP ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’, (a Number 9 chart entry) but personally I prefer the 1998 follow-up ‘A Tune A Day’. It was released during the same week that I went to see the band at the Fleece And Firkin in Bristol where they were supported by Carrie. Great days. After that album only reached #21 following a lack of promotion, they were dropped by their label before re-emerging four years later with their third, synth-flavoured effort ‘What We Did Last Summer’. The band soon split after that. ‘360’ will be their first new material in over a decade, and sees the original line-up returning to their original sound and style, as reflected by the album’s title.

A press release states: “The band hark back to their Sixties roots in what is a resounding return to form with their knack for offbeat, wry story telling welded to classic melodies. The cover of the album, the shoreline of the Firth of Clyde, refers to the sea journey undertaken in the last song on the album, 360.” More details can be found at their website and Facebook page, which are both linked below. In the meantime, HERE is a review of the album from the highly recommended blog A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed, and below is the new track ‘Born Again’.

After the ‘A-Z Series’ from a few years ago turned out to be a disappointment, I wasn’t expecting much from the new single from Northern Irish indie rock heroes Ash. But it’s turned out to be an impressive thing that suggests something of a return to form from the trio. Their last proper album was 2007’s ‘Twilight Of The Innocents’, making it 8 years since their previous full-length. ‘Kablammo!’ will be the band’s sixth album, and is released at some point over the next few months. Drummer Rick McMurray has described ‘Cocoon’ as “Ash at their frenetic best: a wall of guitars and a shot of adrenaline with a sweet melodic chaser… Having this much fun crammed into two and a half minutes is probably illegal.” Rick also spoke about the album: “After a wait of eight years, and a long string of singles, we’ve gone on to do what we said we would never do again: we’ve only gone and recorded a brand new album! We set out to capture the live essence of Ash, the closest sonic predecessor would be 2004’s ‘Meltdown’, with the songwriting of the Free All Angels singles.”



“We’ve stripped away the electronic overtones of the A-Z Series and made a streamlined blazing guitar record. On every song you can hear what makes this band tick, our beating (atomic) heart. It’s a visceral expression of what has driven us since 1992. Passion, melody and Ash.”

The Modfather himself Paul Weller returns with his brand new album ‘Saturn’s Pattern’ on May 11. It will be his 12th studio album and the first since 2012’s ‘Sonik Kicks’. It will comprise of nine tracks, including this heaving blast of space-age blues-rock that Weller has unveiled as the first taste of the LP.



“I think it’s one of the best things I’ve done. And it’s been a pleasure doing it. There’s been no headaches,” Weller said. “I can’t compare it to any of my other albums. I think it’s different not just for me, but different from what else is around. It’s been pretty quick, really. We did a bit of work before the summer, then I took a break because I was out on the road. We started back in October. It’s taken us a couple of months, maybe.” Excitingly, ‘Saturn’s Pattern’ features a “kazoo through a fuzzbox” and was recorded with his usual bandmates Steve Cradock and Andy Lewis, as well as members of psychedelic jazz group Syd Arthur. Weller has said that the album is “certainly progressive in the literal sense of the word. It’s defiantly 21st Century music.” 

The Prodigy have returned after a very lengthy break, six years in fact. Their new album is called ‘The Day Is My Enemy’, and comes out on March 30. A few weeks ago the band released the first single from the album, a rather underwhelming track by the name of ‘Nasty’. Luckily the title track from their sixth full-length effort is exactly the sort of thing I wanted to hear from Liam Howlett and co, a raging brute that could flatten anything in its path. The album title has an unlikely origin, it is in fact a reference to the Cole Porter song ‘All Through the Night’, in particular its lyrics “the day is my enemy, the night my friend”, Liam Howlett has said of the album: “I can’t tell you why this record came out so angry, I think it’s just in-built in me, It’s more about what I like music to do. I’ve always seen music I like as a form of attack. That’s what I use music for, it’s an attack. I didn’t plan this album to sound violent, it’s just the sound that came out of the studio, a kind of build-up over the last four years. ‘Anger is an energy’, that’s a lyric which always resonated with me. The tension is buried deep in the music right from the first drop. It’s all about the sound having that sense of danger. That’s what The Prodigy sound is about.”



This track features vocals by Martina Toppley-Bird, who is best known for her work with Tricky.

Post-punk legends Wire have announced the release of their brand new album. The self-titled record will be their 14th full-length release since their formation in 1976. Recorded at the famed Rockfield studios in Monmouth, the album will comprise of material that has featured in the band’s most recent live shows, as well as songs that frontman Colin Newman introduced to the group just prior to recording. It’s out on April 13 via the band’s own Pink Flag label, and the first music to be unveiled from it is this fine new track entitled ‘Joust And Jostle’. Wire will be touring the UK in April to support the LP, and tour dates can be found HERE.
 
 
Apologies to the readers who are wondering where all the new bands are this week, but this should please… It’ll please some anyway. Spectres are a band from Bristol who are releasing their debut album ‘Dying’ tomorrow (February 23). It’s a very dark beast indeed, full of forceful blasts of noise and decay, hallucinogenic passages and characterised by some hugely impressive dynamics. Those who like lots of reverb, distorted guitars and far-away vocals will love it, those who don;t like those things won’t. The album is streaming in full below. Have a listen.
 

 

Rewind

Time once again to have a look at the songs making the singles charts 20 years ago this week. This chart can be found HERE and is from February 18 1995. Every week a Twitter account called @ThisIsMyJam95 invites followers to pick their favourite new entry of the week, and I have decided to take it a step further by listening to ALL of the new entries before picking the best of the bunch.



There were no less than fifteen new entries in the Top 40 in this particular week. No wonder there was so much variety at the time. As usual, we’ll get the bad eggs out of the basket first… Despite some tasty house piano, Lovehappy’s number 37 ‘Message Of Love’ comes across as insignificance, while Garth Brookes enters at 36 with a re-release of two tracks from 1990. At 28 we have Melanie Williams and Joe Roberts with a pointless cover of ‘You Are Everything’… That’s the same Melanie Williams who sang on SubSub’s classic ‘Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use)’. I expected better from her. The American dance/hip hop flavoured pop act C+C Music Factory went in at 26 with ‘Take A Toke’, easily the blandest song about puffin’ da herb that I’ve ever heard. And even though the intentions of BMU (Black Men United) and their number 23 charity single ‘U Will Know’ were decent enough, the song itself is a stinker. The fact that Gloria Estefan’s dreadful ‘Everlasting Love’ cover entered the chart at #19 above Supergrass well and truly defies decency, and Annie Lennox’s ‘No More ‘I Love You’s’ was another new entry that reached an undeservedly high position, number 2 in fact. 



Aswad’s number 35 ‘You’re No Good’ is a pretty neat bit of dancefloor-flavoured reggae that I hadn’t heard for years, and at number 29 were reformed five piece The Go-Go’s with the brilliant ‘The Whole World Lost Its Head’, a single I bought on cassette from the Woolworths bargain bin a few weeks later. It was the band’s only Top 40 hit in the UK. The group are notable for being the first, and to date only, all-female band that both wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to top the Billboard album charts.



At number 27 is Jon Of The Pleased Wimmin with the enjoyable housey club hit ‘Passion’, which was remixed by Tin Tin Out and released on the legendary Perfecto label. Taken from their album ‘Twisted’, the lovely ‘Here And Now’ provided the fondly remembered Del Amitri with a number 25 hit. I can recall my mum being very keen on them. The blonde punk-pop duo Shampoo were best known for ‘Trouble’, but the classic rock orientated ‘Delicious’ was equally fantastic, and went in at 21. Alex Party’s floorfiller ‘Don’t Give Me Your Life’ was an incredibly infectious tune that I used to play to death during my DJ sets at my Dad’s old club. Landing at number 10, it was their biggest hit and the week’s second highest new entry.


But this week’s winner can only be the mighty SupergrassLike a lot of people who got into indie music via Britpop, ‘Alright’ was the first Supergrass track I ever heard, but it’s the awesome ‘Mansize Rooster’ that I will be featuring today. When I talk about the era I often refer to the excitement and positivity of the times… Well, this storming track has it all: a combination of jaunty Blur/Madness music hall bounce and a blast of British punk fury during the chorus. Thrilling indeed. 

‘Mansize Rooster’ was released as the second single from ‘I Should Coco’. It went in at #20 in the UK Singles Chart, remaining on the chart for three weeks. According to Wikipedia: “The song, although this not necessarily obvious from the lyrics, is said to be about someone who has a large penis despite their young age.” Well I never. It was played as Supergrass’ first ever live television performance on The Word in 1995 (which can be seen below).

 

Yesterday (February 21) was the 46th birthday of Manic Street Preachers legend James Dean Bradfield. To celebrate, here is a magnificent track from the 1998 album ‘This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours’, which stands as a very underrated piece of work. ‘Ready For Drowning’ was inspired by the Welsh village of Treweryn, a village in North Wales that was evacuated and drowned in 1965 in order to supply water to Liverpool and Birmingham… Powerful and astonishing…
 
 
 
Had he still been alive, yesterday would have also been the birthday of Kurt Cobain. He would have been 48 years old. Last year I picked my 12 favourite Nirvana songs to mark the 20th anniversary of Kurt’s death. You can find it HERE, and listen to the playlist below, along with the superb ‘All Apologies’…
Back next week. See ya.

Blur finally confirm new album and share new single ‘Go Out’


After years of teasing us, Blur have finally announced that they are releasing a brand new album, their first in over a decade. ‘The Magic Whip’ is out on April 27, and the first single from it is the raucous ‘Go Out’.

I was only 14 years old when 1999’s ’13’ was released. It turned out to be the last proper Blur album, since guitarist Graham Coxon had left before the band released 2003’s disappointing ‘Think Tank’. Despite never officially announcing a split, the three remaining members of Blur gradually drifted off their separate ways. In 2009 they announced that they would be reuniting with Graham, and played an astonishing Glastonbury headline set as well as a few other shows. In 2010 they released a new song ‘Fool’s Day’ as a limited edition 7″ single, and 2012 saw them return with the single ‘Under The Westway and its b side ‘The Puritan’, which coincided with a triumphant series of UK shows.

Since reforming, the band have constantly been questioned about the possibility of a new album. It became quite a saga in fact. “Every now and then we like to meet up and record a few things,” Coxon told NME back in 2011. “Maybe turning the tape recorder on and jamming around a few ideas … I suppose it might turn into an LP in six years or something … We just do stuff when we feel like it.” In 2012, ’13’ producer William Orbit claimed that Damon Albarn halted some “amazing” recording sessions to the dismay of the rest of the band. During a 2013 gig in Hong Kong, Damon told the crowd: “We were supposed to be playing in Japan next week,” said Albarn on stage during a live show in Hong Kong. “Due to unforeseen circumstances we were unable to go there, although we will go there at some point. So we have a week in Hong Kong, and we thought it would be a good time to try to record another record, so we’re going to make one here in Hong Kong.” However, fans were left disappointed when Damon sad in a 2014 interview that “I just haven’t got the time,” to make a new Blur album, and that the other members were “just all doing other stuff”, adding that “There is material, but I can’t foresee us in the near future being in a position to finish it.” In July 2014 he claimed that the album “may just be one of those records that never comes out”, blaming the Hong Kong heat for the band returning home before work could be finished on the record. “If I’d been able to write the lyrics there and then about being there, we’d have finished the record,” he said. “I like making records in short periods of time… Sometimes, if you can’t do it all at once, it dissipates…”


I had given up hope on Blur ever releasing another record. Some fans were getting sick of the constant “will they, won’t they” and worried that these British legends were becoming a nostalgia act. ‘Black Book’ author Drew was one of them: “if you’re not going to make a legitimate attempt at making new music, please call it a day. I couldn’t bear to see your legacy get chipped away bit by bit any more.” That full article can be seen HERE
With Damon announcing his involvement in a new stage musical, and the news that he has reactivated Gorillaz, everyone assumed that any more Blur activity would be a while away. So today’s news has thrilled me like no other news ever has before.



Earlier today The Sun carried a mysterious advert, showing an ice-cream cone and Chinese symbols lit up in neon. After the NME translated the text, they reported that it read “Blur: The Magic Whip”, prompting rumours of an album announcement. Surely enough, a press conference took place at a restaurant in London’s Chinatown, where the band confirmed the release of the new record, along with a massive Hyde Park show that will take place in June. While the rest of the world thought that we’d never hear a new Blur album, it turns out that Coxon revisited the Hong Kong sessions and presented them to long-time producer Stephen Street, who went on to develop them with the guitarist. Albarn explained that while he was touring and promoting his solo album ‘Everyday Robots’ last year, he was approached by Graham to see if anything could be salvaged from the recordings. “It was something we did off our own backs,” Coxon explained. “It was quite an overwhelming project. There was jamming and sonic landscaping. I said, ‘Damon, can I have a little chat? I said, ‘Do you mind if I have a look at this music and see if there’s anything worth pursuing. Id compare it to someone’s notes, scrawling all over the page. We slung it over to Stephen [Street] and he looked through bits of it.” Damon and Graham returned to the studio in December to write lyrics and complete the record.



“They did some editing and some production work and sent around the initial tracks and we all realised we’d done something quite special there,” said drummer Dave Rowntree. “There was 18 months [in-between recording the songs] which allowed us to have a bit of perspective on it. When they played it back, that was the time everyone got very excited.” Since the album’s completion last year, the band have kept information about the new record under wraps. “We had a blood pact between us about who we were allowed to tell and who we weren’t so I’ve had to do a lot of catch up phone calling today!” said Rowntree. “A fair few angry people going ‘Why wasn’t I in the circle of trust!” The songs featured on “The Magic Whip’ were influenced by their surroundings in Hong Kong. “There’s nothing pastoral about it – it’s very urban,” said Albarn. “It wasn’t a flash studio, it was pretty claustrophobic and hot. We went in and knocked about loads of ideas.” One track, Ong Ong, was described by bassist Alex James as a “banger”, while ‘Pyongyang’ is said to describe Albarn’s thoughts on North Korea. “It’s my impression of the place, in an abstract, veiled way,” he said. You can watch a video of the press conference HERE.



I’m both excited and very nervous about what ‘The Magic Whip’ is going to sound like. This is the band that soundtracked my youth, and because of that it’s inevitable that nothing is ever going to live up to the songs they released during those years. Although I have longed for a new Blur record for years, the last thing I’d want would be for them to record songs because they felt forced. To make a great record, you often need to be inspired. I just hope that this album is more than a load of recordings made under pressure. It’s also a bit odd that this seminal band are releasing a comeback album comprised of songs that have been put together in such an unorthodox and non-organic way. But it’s a relief to report that the abrasive ‘Go Out’ is a very promising taste of what’s to come, and comes complete with some superb guitar noise from Graham, something that ‘Think Tank’ was missing.

Welcome back boys, we’ve missed you.



‘The Magic Whip’ tracklisting

Lonesome Street

New World Towers

Go Out

Ice Cream Man

Thought I Was A Spaceman

I Broadcast

My Terracotta Heart

There Are Too Many Of Us 

Ghost Ship

Pyongyang

Ong Ong 

Mirrorball