‘Understated’ is an apt title for an album by a man like Edwyn Collins, for his influence on indie music is exactly that. But in 2005 his life was shattered after suffering multiple brain haemorrhages, a trauma that many people don’t bounce back from. It was a relief that he survived the tragedy, and just knowing that he was still with us was a blessing. While the man may have lived to see another day, many people assumed that we would probably never hear the musician again. But Edwyn Collins doesn’t give up that easily. And here we are eight years later listening to his new album, his second since his return to doing what he loves most.
For 2010’s ‘Losing Sleep’, a range of high profile collaborated were enlisted to help their hero get back on track after the major setback he suffered, and after re-acquainting himself with music again, this latest album sees him take centre stage.
Opener ‘Dilemma’ kicks things off with smart horns and a simple yet massively infectious tune, while the strutting ‘Baby Jean’ tells of how his art has kept him going. But not once does he sound like a man playing for sympathy or feeling sorry for himself, as the truly buoyant northern soul stomper ‘Too Bad (That’s Sad)’ demonstrates, a classic break up song put to the most uplifting of musical settings.
Some of the wit and lyrical sharpness of his pre-2005 material may have been blunted, but in its place are honest autobiographical reflections, and a newfound sense of perspective, while the determination and sincerity powering his performance is nothing short of awe inspiring. ‘Forsooth’ grows from a soft Velvet Underground-like melody into a wonderfully underplayed gospel chorus. Because music has given him so much, he’s giving himself to the music and can be heard truly singing from the heart. When he sings “I’m so happy to be alive”, you can tell that he means it. The thrilling ‘In The Now’ sees him celebrating survival with a defiant energy, pleased to be not only “living and breathing” but also “working”, while the fantastic title track provides another catchy direct hit.
‘Understated’ is more than just another step to recovery, it is indeed a fine record in its own right, and utterly life-affirming. It’s also perhaps the ultimate testament to the healing power of music. He lost the ability to read, write, and lost movement in half of his body, but what he didn’t lose was his gift for coming up with an ear-catching tune, as is proved here. It will make you smile, it may even make you cry, and its an album that reminds you how good it is to be alive. Go HERE to read my full review.
Record Store Day is nearly here. April 20th sees the UK’s finest music retailers filling their shelves with ultra-limited releases from a massive range of artists and labels. A full list can be found HERE. In the run up to the event, God Is In The TV will be running various features, including profiles of our favourite shops, previews of some of this year’s RSD releases, my very own RSD2013 mixtape, and lots of other articles celebrating the magic of the record shop. We will also soon be announcing something VERY special that we have in store. Or should I say in STORES… News of that coming very soon.
Raves From The Grave in Frome is a shop I’ve mentioned before, and how could I not? For the last three years I’ve been up at the crack of dawn to queue outside for Record Store Day. The Frome shop has been going strong since 1997, and over the last few years they’ve expanded to a second shop in Warminster, a store rich in glorious vinyl old and new. In fact they’ve got a whole basement dedicated to it, as well as an impressive selection on the main floor. Nearby Bath has been crying out for a good music retailer since the much-missed Replay closed a few years ago, so Raves opened up a small pop-up shop in the city. It’s proved such a hit that this weekend (Saturday 30th March) their new permanent store opens full time. Run by passionate and well-informed music fanatics, they set their standards very high and take immense pride in what they do. While other shops have been closing down at a frightening rate, Raves has not only managed to survive, but also thrive and expand. Their prices are excellent, their range of music extensive, and they well and truly embody the spirit of independence. They do things their own way, and can easily adapt to the needs of every customer. So if you’re in the South West (or even if you’re not) then come on over to Bath tomorrow for the launch. More details can be found HERE on their website. In a few weeks time all three of their shops will be taking part in Record Store Day. It’s times like these that I LOVE living in this part of the country
A charity gig at The Kings Arms in Melksham took place last weekend (Sat 23rd March) featuring headliners Thought Forms, Hell Death Fury, Terrapin and a covers group called The Regaling, who offer something a great deal more refreshing than the average covers band. It would be lazy to describe Terrapin’s sound as Radiohead-esque, but there’s certainly no ignoring Thom Yorke‘s influence on the vocal style of frontman Luke Bailey, who seems to be growing in confidence as a performer. But copycats they’re not, in fact they have a diverse range of influences that add interesting dimensions to the music, while their rhythm section are more than capable of pulling out the grooves. Post-rock funk? Perhaps. They even managed to impress during some technical troubles, improvising to hold the sound together nicely. Admittedly they are still a work in progress, but their ability and some of their material promise big things for the future. There are a lot of ideas, and when they find a way to gel them all together, I can see big things happening for them. Their Soundcloud page is HERE.
Hell Death Fury are another group from my hometown, and in my opinion one of the best that have ever roamed these streets. A mixture of ska, metal and a tiny hint of dubstep, their rip roaring tunes are bashed out with boundless energy. Co-frontman Bean (aka Paul Walton) is a man of many talents. A skilled guitarist and saxophonist, he also has one of the best, most ear splitting screams you will ever hear. When I spoke to him afterwards, he was complaining of a sore throat. Why doesn’t that surprise me? The insanely catchy ‘Green Lane’ is an awesome moment that concerns someone losing their sanity after doing too many drugs and being carted off to the local loonie bin. Sample lyric “you’re paranoid as fuck, a schizo soon, they sectioned you, you’re a certified loon…”. Their adaption of the Technohead classic ‘I Wanna Be A Hippy’ is something that could probably jolt life into even the most static of crowds. Their 2010 debut album ‘Free Porn’ can be heard HERE. It’s good job I provided this link, since a Google search would undoubtedly deliver results that may end up distracting your minds elsewhere…
Topping the bill were the mighty Thought Forms, who treated this triumphant homecoming as the perfect excuse to have a few drinks in celebration of their recent success. A lot of groups can be sloppy after consuming a few pints, but this brilliantly dynamic three piece were absolutely fierce. ‘Sans Soleil’ provided blissful soundscapes and some truly explosive drum work, while the expansive atmospherics of ‘Burn Me Clean’ could easily soundtrack the apocalypse. Go HERE to read my recent review of their ‘Ghost Mountain’ LP, one of this year’s finest albums so far. After the venue closed, me and my good friend Jason B (who also took these accompanying photos) joined various members of the bands for an unplanned aftershow gathering, which went on into the early hours of the morning. I had a few drinks too, something which happens VERY rarely these days. Although I don’t become out of control, I’m well aware that I ramble on a LOT. So apologies to those who had to tolerate it.
So who would have ever thought it? Noel Gallagher sharing a stage with someone who he once wished “would catch AIDS and die” and another member of his fiercest Britpop-era rivals. Yes, it was the historic moment when Noel joined forces with Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon for a joyous rendition of Blur‘s classic ‘Tender’. And with Weller on drums too. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it. Did that REALLY happen? The stuff dreams are made of. That magic moment can be seen HERE. The only war that seems to be going on these days is the ongoing feud between Noel and his younger sibling, who not only berated him for playing with “Blue”, but also for “sipping champagne with a war criminal” in the 90’s. I have to admit, that last bit WAS funny. But it wasn’t Noel who embarrassed himself with a piss poor performance at the Olympics Closing concert before posing for pictures with the fucking Spice Girls afterwards. Liam, you’re a legend. But you certainly can be an idiot at times.
Primal Scream‘s recent comeback single ‘2013’ was a superb step back into action, and a brilliant taster for their upcoming ‘More Light’ LP. A wildly diverse group, their new track ‘It’s All Right, It’s OK’ is somewhat reminiscent of ‘Screamadelica’‘s joyous gospel house, promising interesting things for the forthcoming album. Listen to it HERE.
Depeche Mode‘s new LP ‘Delta Machine’ is in shops this week. It’s fair to say that initially it sounds like Depeche Mode being Depeche Mode, although noticeably it does have more of a punch than the last few albums. I still haven’t had a chance to listen to it more than a couple of times, but that’s something else I’ll be playing more over the next few days, so no doubt I’ll be reporting back on that in next week’s column.
Misty’s Big Adventure are a band who have been brought to my attention via their highly enjoyable new single ‘Aggression’, a bouncy slice of ska with a brilliant video that seems to sum up British nightlife in a nutshell. Featuring brawls in takeaways and tattooed women you wouldn’t want to mess with, that video can be seen HERE. The single is out this week. In other news, Daft Punk have confirmed that their new album ‘Random Access Memories’ will be released on May 21st. Looking forward to that. The hotly tipped Peace have their debut album ‘In Love’ out this week. I’ve yet to hear it, but may investigate over the next few days.
As 1994 turned into 1995, something exciting was coming to life within the music world as Blur and Oasis were beginning to shake things up in a massive way. By this point, aged ten I had become a fan of both bands, although I wasn’t ignoring the other stuff in the charts. Back then, there seemed to be something for everyone. It’s why I argue that the 90’s was the best decade of all time, since it had absolutely everything. Just have a look at the singles chart back in 1995. There was the phenomenon of indie going overground, a time when the alternative was becoming a huge part of the mainstream. There was also electronica, american rock, trip hop, cheesy euro-dance, as well as the AOR acts, rap groups and weak boybands. There was so much to choose from. The radio also seemed to reflect this, even the local station GWR was playing a varied mixture of stuff. Well varied compared to the horror that the station descended into a few years later before being bought out by the ghastly Heart FM. Radio One had a bigger playlist and would play stuff that GWR’s presenters wouldn’t have been aware of. So even though the radio reception was weaker for Radio 1, and the presenters seemed to talk a lot more, it became my station of choice. However, I still settled for GWR whenever I couldn’t get a good R1 reception, because in 1995 it didn’t sound that bad to me.
As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, my Dad managed a club in Corsham, where the DJs at the time would play a mixture of dance hits, club mixes of pop songs and house music.
Of course this made me think of how cool it would be to get paid for playing records, and yes I did indeed want to be a DJ one day. But what sort of a DJ was I going to be? I had a major love for classic and alternative music but the sound of the clubs was beginning to make an impression on me. My dad had also developed a fondness for dance music, perhaps it was from running a club or perhaps it was his way of showing that his age didn’t mean he was entirely out of touch. Of course sometimes he was a bit: he was impressed by a mixtape that included a ridiculous amalgamation of The Grid‘s ‘Swamp Thing’ and George Formby‘s ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’. At this time I myself was (for some unknown reason) impressed by this as well, perhaps because I thought the songs on the tape had all been mixed by the club’s resident DJ. But after hearing the Grid/Formby mash-up on the radio, I realised that this was not the case.
I’d discovered Blur the year before, and now in February 1995 the band sensationally swept the board at that year’s memorable Brit Awards. You could feel the excitement everywhere, and there was a sense that this group had set a new standard. It felt like this was how things were going to be from then on. It was too good NOT for it to stay that way. Well, that’s how it felt at the time anyway. The day after the Brits, the band were household names as well as critic’s favourites, and became part of the British culture that had inspired ‘Parklife’. I had a recorded copy of it on tape, but this was undoubtedly THE album of the time. So essential that I NEEDED to own a proper copy, and indeed I did end up owning one, purchased on cassette from WH Smith’s in Swindon. From what I can remember I also bought the Simple Minds single ‘She’s A River’, which I probably got because I might have had a pound left after buying Parklife. I can’t think of why else I would have bought it at the time, since I didn’t have a clue who Simple Minds were.
I was lucky enough to be around as Britpop was on its way to becoming the most phenomenal musical movement in years. As a ten year old kid, it seemed even more thrilling to me. And it all happened at just the right time to influence my life in a massive way…