Thursday, 29 November 2012

BLUR: 13 That's where we meet when you're coming down

I am now the lucky owner of the Blur '21' box set (vinyl edition) - 13 slabs of shellac from one of Britain's finest.

The first album I took out its shrink-wrap and put the needle to was '13' from 1999. Its always been my favourite of theirs. Feelings all tied in with time and circumstances and the leanings of my melancholic soul.
Its been a while since I listened to it and I was struck by how thrilling and discombobulated the record makes me feel. Its a brave sort that opens an album with a sound as scratchy and low-fi as 'Tender' - vocals aching and melody childlike. I remember they opened their Reading 1999 set with it and it was a long way from that muted response to the cathartic chorus at Glastonbury ten years later.

'Bugman's crunchy guitars, the pop perfection of Coffee & TV, easily Graham's finest moment with the band, his detached lyric and two tone guitar. '1992' is a mellow gem of loss, BLUREMI a sneaky dig at the labels identikit Britpop indie bands. 'Trailerpark' is a loose jam with trip hop aspirations and a nonsense but funny lyric "I lost my girl to the Rolling Stones' Damon mumbles. the album's hidden treasure is 'Trimm Trabb' - great riff (stolen from Syd Barrett's 'Wined & Dined') and brilliant delivery from Damon.

In a way the album is sprawling and all over the place as I believe the band were at this point. This would be Coxon's last album with the band aside from one track on 'Think Tank'. Although this is Coxon's album sonically - woozy, stumbling and confused at the fag end of the 20th century - lyrically its all Damon and his broken heart. The aforementioned '1992' and the unbearably claustrophobic 'No Distance Left To Run' are the key pointer to his breakup with Elastica girl but its a vibe that spreads across the whole album.

I also found myself thinking how adventurous the album sounds and how much of it sounds like a template for Radiohead's 'Kid A'. The instrumental codas throughout, coming through like a daydream. the longer jammier material brings in dance beats and more avant-garde sounds. This is a far stranger album than many give it credit for, a step on from the lo-fi of 'Blur' to darker pastures.

 As I said, sprawling and lethargic but that why I like it - it was the end of the century and Blur never sounded less sure or more inspired to do what they hell they liked. Shame they couldn't keep it all together

Friday, 9 November 2012

The Return Of McAlmont & Butler (Blog)

An additional footnote to my love letter to McAlmont and Butler's 2nd album, 'Bring It Back'

I found out shortly after I wrote the blog that there was a promo only 7" box set edition of the album spread across 8 singles with live tracks and b sides. Being a vinyl junkie this became my "want it, want it, want it" item. 

Just this week, someone put a SIGNED copy of it on Ebay, which I duly bid on and with trembling fingers have returned home to find out I have won for just £11! Previous unsigned copies have gone form over £30

So, THIS will soon be nestling chez moi


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

And The World Says: World Party Live

World Party@ Oxford Academy 29th October 2012 

a new entry in the series "Pop Stars that look like Neil McNab"
(This time with David Hepworth's wig)

Ahh, those heady days of GLR (Greater London Radio, if you didn't know) of the very early 90's with its freewheeling mavericks, Baker, Evans & Morris' (Danny, Chris & Chris) of a weekend and chaps who could talk and loved music like Peter Curran and that Hepworth fella playing choice grown up pop music.

And if there was one band who were dancing in the heart of their playlists (although whether they actually we told what to play is a mystery) it was probably, the Waterboys. However when Karl Wallinger left that combo to start his own then GLR got right behind World Party.

As I escaped my metal phase (I was young, I was foolish) tried to connect with something new and reconnect with classic pop of the Beach Boys and the Fabs, World Party seemed to be there at the right time for me  Plus they seemed to chime with the public as they had modest hits.

Well, since then Danny Baker only plays MOR fake country gals in between his usual diverting nonsense, Chris Evans became an insufferable dick (maybe he always was) and Chris Morris made his own way in the world being a genius. The fact that he got the boot from the BBC for falsely announcing the death of Jimmy Saville on his radio show must be of supremely irony to a man who once made a devastatingly funny programme about the media coverage of pedophilia.

Karl Wallinger\ World Party continued to release albums but the public's interest waned. It must have been of little encouragement initially when his own record company took one of the songs from his neglected 'Egyptology' album and gave it to their star, Robbie Williams. He took the song and made a carbon copy of it and got a number one single. 'She's The One' became one of those tunes that no doubt is a popular choice for first dances at wedding receptions - a hook as hard hitting as Henry Cooper's with simple but beguiling melodies behind a love lyric.

So they may be a typical MOJO\Word act with little to excite for most but the above is why I made the trip through the wind and the rain to see them at the Zodiac, or rather the O2 Academy, in Oxford. It was half the price and about a twentieth of the size of the Royal Albert Hall, London two days later. First UK dates in 12 years so take your chances while you can

The gig was upstairs rather than the main room which made me wonder how many tickets they sold (I fear for the Albert Hall date) and it was fairly sparse crowd. Filled up a little before the support -Gemma Hayes.
I like her voice, she's from Ireland via LA so has an American accent when she sings - plenty of melancholy so right up my street. She announces a cover of 'Cloudbusting' at one point and I start to cringe, a) cos a lot of those lyrics about glowing yo-yo's  sound ridiculous in anyone else's mouth and b) cos I feared it would be another in a recent spate of breathy slowed down girlie versions of 80's classic so popular with advertising executives. Well she kept the power, speed and tension and did an excellent spare version of the tune and got generous applause for haveing the nerve to take a Kate Bush song.

 Gemma Hayes: cheer up love!

"I met Louis Walsh recently" she sighed as the room grumbled "he came to one of my shows and  afterwards he said he could 'make me a star' "I'd love to work with you, Gemma, I think you're great but I'd just want you to change two things" Intrigued she asked what those two things would be. "Stop writing songs, your songs are too sad, radio won't play them, I'm gonna hook you up with someone who will write you good happy pop songs. And secondly, you need to date someone famous, unless you are in the tabloids in the business you are nothing. So, are you in?" She's out and will go far.

So Karl Wallinger has filled out a bit and gone grey but in terms of voice and musical ability its business as usual. Opening with a new song from the rather spiffiing 'Arkeology' 5 CD box set of new, demos, covers, live and oddities from the past 20 years or so may appear a bit brave but as its more than a match for his older material then its a perfect choice. Such is the strength of the set tonight that he can afford to dispense with solid gold encore songs like 'Message In a Box and 'Is It Like Today?' so early in the set with the place singing along like its time to go home.

Must say that the audience really make tonight's gig. We may be few but our voices and sarky comments are strong. We've missed the old sod and we let him know it. The band includes David Duffy giving some fine fiddling (easy) and this is put to excellent effect particularly on 'Love Street' and the country stying of  'Sweet Soul Dream' which is a particular highlight for me. (Check out the version on the box set, its aces)

Another new gem 'Everybody's Falling In Love' - cover this un, Robbie! - before a couple of prime slices of sardonic pop 'Vanity Fair' and the rollicking fun romp that is 'Who Are You' from the utterly ignored last World Party album 'Dumbing Up'. Its 'Bob Dylan's 115th Dream' rhythm, delivery and hectoring style is clearly fun for the band to play and Karl cracks up a few times as he introduces the band to take their solos with his best Zimmy drawl "Whooo Are Yooooooouuu?". "Play it again!" someone yells from behind me and I concur - gawd, that was fun!

They finish the main set with a double whammy of 'Ship Of Fools' and 'Way Down Now'.  If they tour again I hope this band stays intact cos they do a brilliant job in recreating that special World Party sound. Ex-Oasis drummer, Chris Sharrock, is really on top of the songs tonight.And before you can say - WOT!!! NO 'All I Gave??????!!!! - they say thank you and goodnight with 'Thank You World'. I hope they come back sooner than later.


Waiting Such A Long Time
Is It Like Today?
Message In a Box
What Does It Mean Now?
When The Rainbow Comes
Love Street
She's The One
God On My Side
Call Me Up
Sweet Soul Dream
Everybody's Falling In Love
Vanity Fair
Who Are You?
Is It Too Late?
Ship Of Fools
Way Down Now
Thank You World 

Spiritualized Live: Like A Zonked Out Dr Phibes

Spiritualized @ Camden Roundhouse: 5th November 2012 

 Support band have officially one of the worst names I have ever heard
Keep pets outside & don't return to the real world as it may explode in your face 
Ladies & Gentlemen, its 'Guy Fawkes Up Without Medication Night'

Things rarely change in Spacemanland. When he wanders on stage you wonder if his spindly legs can get him all the way to his chair and you wish he'd have a few steak dinners so he had a little colour to his pallid cheeks.

So its Shades on, guitar in hand and looking stage left throughout - that's how we go for the next 2 1\2 hours. Occasionally he will spin on his swivel chair and face the audience for a minute or so of noisy riffing but whether he's actually looking at us is unclear. That along with a muttered "Thank You" is his zenith of communication with the audience. Although in a new development to his stagecraft during the heavier moments he took to stabbing at a keyboard like a zonked out Dr Phibes. Or when John Lennon goes mad during 'I'm Down' at Shea Stadium and started flailing at the keyboard with his elbows making a discordant squeal. That.

 See, told you he looked pale

When I saw the band at the Royal Albert Hall last year they played the as-then-unreleased 'Sweet Heart \ Sweet Light' album in its entirety which was a lot to take in. Add into that the worst sound I have ever heard at the grand old dump to make an overall dispiriting experience. I forgot to go to a date at the Hackney Empire (I hope Stargreen enjoyed my money nevertheless) so was looking forward to hearing the new stuff properly live.

The set kicked off after some introductory riffing and grooving with 'Hey Jane' the lengthy lead single from the album and a sparky 'Electricity' but from then on it was new album tunes that whilst being more "pop" than your average Spz still wigged out when it felt right. During 'Heading To the Top's  climactic space trip a noted a few young kids down the front engaging in some furious headbanging behaviour that they had seen on film of Cream at the Royal Albert Hall in 1968. Alongside them was a tall fellow doing some interpretative hippy dancing that to all intents recreated Cliff Richards' dance moves to 'Power To All Our Friends' from the Eurovision Song Contest in 1973. (Third? You robbing European bastards!)

a Spiritualized fan yesterday

The SHSL material sounded superb live - a little looser and flakier round the edges than on the LP and often with extended psychedelic codas. These nerve jangling, heavy sections were enhanced by simple & effective visuals that repeated, warped and collapsed in on themselves.  There were quieter and more reflective songs too, sadly some of the piano was lost in a slightly muddy mix. 'A' Song; a (hopefully provisonally titled) new song was a humungous blues riff filtered through the space waves. The 2nd new track 'Perfect Miracle' was a little L&GWAFIS Pt 2 but no worse for it.  The main set ended with a couple of oldies 'Take Your Time' and a ferocious 'Electric Mainline' with the bass punching you in the chest and reverberating gently to your toes in a sensuously hypnotic way. Dance to the trance. 

For the encore a giant roar went up when the sample of the title of their 1997 masterwork echoes through the old engine turning shed.  Always a favourite of mine (if I had a funeral song, this would be it) and Jason and the two backing singers performed it beautifully. A real surprise was to hear the Spaceman 3 song ' Come Down Easy' which I mistook for an 'In My Time Of Dying \ Fixin To Die Blues' cover at first.

Now I know what it sounded like when Hurricane Sandy hit New York - the end of 'Smiles' fair took my senses away with its glorious climax - a bass throbbing, guitar string snapping, drum pounding strobefest. The screens were filled with plain black and white lines and circles that added to the disorientation and confusion as your brain overloaded, making the room spin.

Not one for the casual fan this type of gig but a treat for the faithful. For some they're tedious & self indulgent. For me they're uplifting & life affirming - I'm right, you're wrong

Hey Jane
Get What You Deserve 

Too Late
 Hey Little Girl
Heading for the top
I Am What I Am
Life Is A Problem
So Long
'A' Song
Perfect Miracle
Take Your Time
Electric Mainline
Ladies & Gentlemen We are Floating In Space
Come Down Easy