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Kirk Brandon speaks to Eyeplug

What first got you into music, specifically forming a band?

I imagine it was the turning away from education, as in my school. Classic ‘I don’t fit in with anyones thinking about who or what I should be’. Forming a band meant to me, I’ve got a self-expression machine… trouble is, I was pretty clueless as to what it was I wanted to articulate. Young, slim and dim. A lot of insecure feelings pointed in no particular direction.

Which artists did you like when you first got into music? Are they different to the ones you were into when you first became a musician?

Initially it was Blues, The Free, Sabbath, Van Der Graaf Generator, The Groundhogs… then Punk Rock happened and the world was turned upside down. It meant people could express themselves in an anti establishment way and think for themselves. Amongst all this, I was growing up doing a whole host of doss house crummy jobs going nowhere. Punk spoke to a lot of people. It was a ‘state of mind’. It vanished quick enough but, there was enough residue to father a whole host of bands from the Pistols through to Nirvana or Green Days.

Which of today’s artists do you like? How do you think they compare to your earliest favourite artists?

I heard the XX and enjoyed listening to their album recently. It didn’t smash me in the fave but was cool just have play. I hear things all the time, I think I’ve gone eclectic. Heard Howling Wolf the other day and as good now as then. Many things nowadays seem to be fourth or fifth generation generic in this so-called Babylon… so many voices, all speaking in hidden tongues. Perhaps it’s just I’m waiting for a bit of pure bravery.

If you had to describe your music to someone who had not heard you before, what would you say?

Often called Post Punk, but transcended that while it died off. Angry, end of days music, loves labour lost

What songs or arrangements of your own are you most proud of, and why?

There’s many for all different kinds of reasons. ‘Iceman’… ‘Propaganda’… Judas’…’Sputnik’… Titanium Man’ They all come with very different approaches to them. Their difference I’m proud of. No two the same. Some are sweeping in context, either anti-establishment or almost dream state. ‘Sputnik’ is a requiem, ‘Propaganda’ is anti-establishment, ‘Judas’ was someones betrayal of me, ‘Iceman’ is the 5,000 year old man they found in the ice on the Italian border in the mountains, ‘Titanium Man’ is simply the Russian doomed anti-hero who was an enemy of Ironman, betrayed by his own regime.

How well did you cope with fame at an early age?

Fame at 25 took my head off. I never ever imagined it could have possibly have happened. It was impossible. When the covers of magazines came along and 3 times on TV in two weeks… It would be a complete lie to say, yes I took it all in my stride. There was no one there to help/advise me, the management assumed it would nose dive at any moment. What I/we needed was proper guidance, not smash and grab thinking as the Titanic was going down. It turned out I wasn’t going down. There are lulls to all careers.

Which person has had the most significant effect on you? Why?

My daughter Siff. She has made sense of life in a very fundamental way. This is her world now, not mine. I’ve had my time. She and her generation have the unenviable task of walking forward into a very insecure, unstable future. She has to be brave all the time.

When touring/visiting, which country had the most profound effect on you, and why?

America. I lived there for almost 4 years. There are certain freedoms over there that are unique. It has to be experienced. For all the negative things going on over there, there is an opposite amount of great things. Every state is a country virtually. There are thinkers over there that broaden mankind’s perspective, and I don’t mean the gold diggers of silicon valley.

If you could backtrack through your career, what would you edit, if anything?

I’m afraid I am the product of all my own stupidities and follies. For better, for worse. To erase one might erase the other. Sometimes I’m all the fools I never wanted to ever be, sometimes and just sometimes, I do something right. Don’t wait up…

Which invention or piece of art would you like to have prevented coming into being?

Undoubtably the Bomb and its descendants. It was brought into being by a group of scientists who raided Einsteins mathematics and knowingly did the unspeakable. They gave it life ever after.

If you were to meet yourself in your early twenties, what advice would you give yourself?

Complicated. Find a lawyer that understood what was or was about to have happen to me. Or as the late great Trevor Ravenscroft quoted to me ‘To Thine Own Self Be True’

 

Theatre of Hate

theatreofhate_westworld

Westworld De Luxe Edition

(Cherry Red Records CRCDMBOX31)

Cherry Red’s welcome re-release of Theatre of Hate’s sole studio LP, ‘Westworld’ comes expanded with some bonus alternative tracks, and two juicy extras; a disc of BBC sessions, and a live concert, from Vienna.

At a distance of 34 years, we may at last be able to get some perspective on Theatre of Hate’s individual take on post-punk rock. The band, here consisting of singer and songwriter Kirk Brandon, bassist Stan Stammers, sax/clarinet player John ‘Boy’ Lennard and drummer Luke Rendle, took on the serious issues of war, politics and propaganda, and set it to galloping martial music. The sparse, desert-like landscapes of Spaghetti Western soundtracks are never very far away, the wailing sax often providing a spectral atmosphere, and over it all, the soaring voice of Kirk Brandon. Produced by The Clash’s Mick Jones, the LP arrived like a hot spark out of the fire, amid the low pop and polished adult orientated rock of 1982, doing respectable business into the bargain.

tohinnner2

The thunderous abandon of ‘Do You Believe in the West World?’ opens, with the band galloping over the plains, Kirk in full throat in what surely deserved to do better than the top 40 single place it ended up with. This is tempered by the shimmering cymbals and funeral trumpet of ‘Judgement Hymn’ and the trip beat of ‘G3’. ‘Love Is a Ghost’ has a tension about it that saves it from being merely a mournful lament, and ‘The Wake’s tense, anxious tones take the listener places he may not want to go. ‘Conquistador’s sleek gallop and rising voice reflect the danger and excitement in the lives of these notorious figures from history, and ‘The New Trail Of Tears’ open, plain-like vistas evoke the cinematic West of legend.

‘Freaks’ may not add much to the canon with its standard TOH beat, but is followed by the shiver-inducing lullaby of ‘Anniversary’. ‘The Klan’ is a suitably nightmarish evocation of antagonism and terror, the imploring vocal shredding the air over an unnerving piano roll. The 7’’ and dub versions of ‘West World’ follow the former a triumph, the latter something of a let-down, with its attempt at a ‘club’ sound hampered by its sheer attack. The alternative take of ‘Propaganda’ shows improvement on the original cut, with stronger beat, and closing track ‘Original Sin’s fear-response guitar and oriental feel making a surprising, late addition to the palette.

tohinnner3

The BBC CD offers up much the same basic material, and in almost every case, the studio takes for the John Peel show and ‘Top of the Pops’ are far superior to their original LP versions. The music is tighter, the vocals more assured, and the overall feel is that of a band who were surely going on to bigger and better things. The ‘Live in Vienna’ CD showcases the band’s winning sound for all to hear, and again, it exceeds the studio LP on almost every cut. We now know that Theatre of Hate would split with little to show for their efforts, and so the strident sound of the live CD and the punchy, engaging BBC sessions are ever more valuable artefacts for those who found the general run of 1982’s pop a little tepid for their tastes. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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November 28, 2016 By : Category : Eyeplugs Front page Interviews Music Reviews Tags:, , , , , , ,
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Edwin Astley – Scenester Reviews

edwinastley

International Detective/ Man from Interpol

El Records ACMEM321CD

This neatly packaged CD contains a snappy selection of work from the prolific Edwin Astley,one who needs no introduction to fans of the TV detective and crime-fantasy genre. Articulating all the tension, excitement and intrigue depicted on screen in these two popular shows, these largely instrumental works will enliven many a jaded palate.

The ‘International Detective’ theme’s urgent brass reveille gives way to some mellower notes of success and glory, taking us straight to ‘Murder Strip’, a sinister drum hiss, short, sharp blasts of brass and clarinet meandering its way round a locality filled with danger. ‘Theme for Larceny’s high, harsh fanfare, interrupted with sudden, shock notes conjures up the murky world of crime, if not horror itself, perfectly.

‘Night Patrol’s cha-cha rhythm lulls you into a sense of false security with its suggestion of humour and a nod to children’s rhyme ‘A tisket, A tasket’, with ‘The Badge’s mellow country guitar and flute taking the theme further. We’re then into the cool drum brushwork and accusatory brass of ‘Manhunt’, and the adversarial notes of ‘Shock Tactics’, with its own nod to horror film themes. ‘Murder Chase’s stabbing notes and fugitive brass works well, the latter’s slightly undisciplined feel adding to the tension, leading to a reprise of the title track, this time more strident and with a characteristic wide-awake vocal.

‘The Menace’s vortex of hissing cymbals and swaggering brass is one of the finest selections here, followed by the ‘Concerto In Law’, with its mocking brass, bongos and clarinet. ‘The Net’ delivers a gentle shock with its strip club voodoo drums and powerful brass in an ironically playful tune. ‘After Dark’s breezy tones and easy going melody acts as relief, with ‘Gang Busters’ piano runs echoing up and down the keyboard, working well here. ‘Ten Four’s tense, moody strut soon turns into a meandering, hesitant sort of tune, suggestive of close, impending danger, with a sudden-death crescendo to end on. ‘Opus in Blue’s muted horns, train-like rhythm and hint of seduction in the plucked guitar is an evocative piece, followed by the brassy, high piping swagger of ‘The Avenger’. Reprising the title track twice, the strong twangy guitar flanked by brass is easily the standout track pairing here.

‘Man from Interpol’s timpani rolls and high, shrieking brass describes imminent danger well, with the leaping notes giving a slightly comic edge to ‘Interpol Chase’. ‘Slow Boat’s dolorous, pedestrian beat, supported by tidy xylophone and drums is a little too laid back for these ears. ‘My Fair Laine’ is much a livelier affair, its sax wickedly expressive, with ‘Fordaire’s call and response horns leading into ’Motor Museum’, a bright and breezy tune, reminiscent of a typical TV game show of the period. ‘The Toff’s light piano opening and slow, sultry sax sharply contrasts with the title, but ‘Breezy Capers’ twee xylophone tune delivers little but irritation. It’s up to the splendidly titled ‘Blues Macabre’ to deliver the thrills, with its capable sax and xylophone backing providing the setting for a free expression piece leading to a fine horn outro.

‘Samba De Janeiro’ is a predictably upbeat piece, with bongo intro, high, piping flutes and meandering sax, underpinned by wild xylophone beating. ‘Beaulieu Blues’ urgent horns, clashing, thumping percussion and crazy sax enlivens, with ‘Nightprowl’s ironic light touch making a good, contrasting companion piece. ‘Domus’s low, quiet double bass leads into a freely expressed sax workout, followed by ‘Panic Station’s strong horns and bongos, leading into free form sax and piano breaks. The wryly comical ‘Interpol Cha Cha’ has plenty to distract, and the somewhat literal ‘Escape to Hawaii’s holiday vibe is both welcome and knowing. ‘Perpetual Lover’s swing beat is held together well by piano and horns, if a little too laid back, and ‘Shapes’ suffers from the opposite problem of being too wide awake, with its piano noodling proving ultimately irritating. ‘Beguine Portrait’s gentle horns and slow, late night feel is exactly what we need at this point, before we end on a reprise of the blaring horns and thumping drums of ‘Man From Interpol’. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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January 4, 2017 By : Category : Front page Music Reviews Tags:, , ,
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Mohair Sweets – Scenester Reviews

Dream Filled Nights

An EP of four highly varied works from Mohair Sweets, the eponymous title track has a languorous opening, but soon settles into the sort of hard, gutsy driving blues/rock riff and throaty vocal MS fans will be more familiar with. ‘Black Leather Jacket’s traditional rock ‘n’ roll will please the no-nonsense heads down brigade, but where the EP really hits its stride, is in ‘Blues For Bobby’, a churning vortex of sound with bongos and trumpet rounding out this funk/jazz maelstrom, that even takes on techno – and wins – before its crazed keyboard demise. With this hard track to follow, ‘Mr. Sinclair’ manages it pretty well, the muted staccato guitar barking over frantic drumming, evoking the spirit of arch 70’s space-rock.

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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January 4, 2017 By : Category : Front page Music Reviews Rock Tags:, ,
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Action Time Vision – Scenester Reviews

A Story of UK Independent Punk 1976-1979 (4 CD Set)

(CRCDBOX27)

Diamond blades and abrasive discs?

Whether taking issue with every conceivable aspect of their upbringing, proposing radical political solutions, or just raising merry hell in their local scout hut, punk cannot be relegated to the side-lines of the musical past. This comprehensive collection over four CDs, taking in famous and not so famous names alike, and with lavish sleeve notes, is a must-have for anyone with a serious interest in early British punk.

Crashing through the door, the first UK punk single, The Damned’s ‘New Rose’, a growling, leader-straining Rottweiler of a tune that set the standard for sheer, unbridled power. Eater’s ‘Outside View’ has all the shouty, snotty vocals, nodding dog basslines and sheet-metal guitars that were the signature style of most punk bands, but with the surprising addition of phasing on the guitars. It is surely Eater’s finest hour. The Radiators from Space’s ‘Television Screen’ weathers well; a great, classic rock and roll riff with cheery, slightly comic lyrics on the inevitabilities of life. The Cortinas’ punk-by-numbers ‘Fascist Dictator’ still has plenty of punch and some nifty guitar work, but it’s The Drones who get the prize for ‘Lookalikes’, a hard, driving rejection of the idiot conformity within-and without-the punk movement. The Lurkers’ ‘Shadow’, a lo-fi chugger with a fear-response guitar shriek is a solid piece of stalking punk, nicely balanced by The Rezillos spinning, riffing ‘I Can’t Stand My Baby’; Fay Fife’s parodic 60’s trash pop vocals shrieking brilliantly over it all.

999’s ‘I’m Alive’ has enough crotch level guitar and snot-nosed vocal to make it a punk classic, and the sheer excitement of the riff makes it one of the finest on offer here. Johnny Moped’s barking cockney voice injects an element of humour into ‘No-One’, it’s hard, churning riff delivered stony-faced by his capable band. Sham 69’s ‘I Don’t Wanna’ has a thundering riff, but only hints at the greatness that would invade the cosy family friendly culture on BBC’s Top of the Pops. Puncture’s ‘Mucky Pup’ will be recalled with affection by those who felt that punk was way too serious in its early days, as will The Snivelling Shits ‘Terminal Stupid’, a slack, neo-psychedelic confection with Teen/B-Movie imagery. Say what you like, punks could write great titles.

The Vacants’ ‘Worthless Trash’ may be identikit punk, but that echoing, barking vocal and buzzsaw guitar perfectly encapsulates the sound of the period. The Zeros ‘Hungry’ shows a Stooges-infused, more positive side to punk. Maniacs’ joyous racket, Chelsea 77, could have been released in the post punk days, and would probably have got more attention, then. The ringing guitars and full throated, gutter vocal, enriched with stuttering, is an absolute classic. The Outsiders ‘One to Infinity’ has more going on than is immediately apparent and repays repeated listening.

The Killjoys’ ‘Johnny Won’t Get To Heaven’ is a slice of pure, angry confrontation, with Kevin Rowland in his first band, delivering a hoarse, aggressive vocal that is perfect for the style. The magnificently named Johnny and the Self Abusers throw a mean left hook in ‘Saints and Sinners’, while The Unwanted’s ‘Withdrawal’ and The Pigs ‘Youthanasia’ feel more like the speedy, stereotypical punk of the time. The Wasps’ ‘Teenage Treats’ leans towards the power pop that would follow punk later in the decade, and Lockjaw’s ‘Radio Call Sign’ hints at jerky post punk a little before the style was ready.

Neon Hearts squall-like ‘Venus Eccentric’ brings in that rarely used instrument in punk bands, the saxophone, but to little memorable effect. Further proof that punks had a sense of humour, is the Jerks’ ‘Get Your Woofing Dog off me’, but The Panik’s shouty, disgruntled vocals of ‘Modern Politics’ takes us back to punk-a-like territory. Some Chicken’s ‘New Religion’ has all the muddy guitar riffing and complaint rock vocals you would expect, but does little to light the fires at this distance in time.

The Carpettes ‘Radio Wunderbar’ is a pleasing, power pop racket; with The Flys’ singalong ‘Love and a Molotov Cocktail’ may be the best chorus, here. Only the meanest, most curmudgeonly critic would grumble about the inclusion of the Albertos Y Los Trios Paranoias’ gloriously funny ‘Gobbing on Life’. Our first CD closes on a high, with The Only Ones off-kilter, yet beautifully melodic ‘Lovers of Today’ and Suspects’ screaming guitar-infused ‘Nothing to Declare’, playing live at The Vortex.

CD2 opens with the fondly remembered, cross-riff laden Swell Maps’ ‘Read about Seymour’, and passes on to original punk poet Patrik Fitzgerald’s whimsical ‘Safety Pin Stuck In My Heart’. A cracking demo of the Boys’ ‘No Leaders’ opens with harmonics you don’t expect and the great fuzzy guitars you do. The Stoats’ irresistibly cute ‘Office Girl’ proved even punks could be sweet, followed closely by Acme Sewage Co’s riffy but stereotypical ‘I Don’t Need You’. V2’s ‘Speed Freak’, opening with the ever popular air raid siren, launches itself headlong into an insistent guitar hook and stentorian vocal, without distinguishing itself much. Bazoomis’ ‘Give It All to Me’ has more going for it than the average effort, and with a chorus they did well not to put into the title. Raped’s ‘Moving Target’ is more of the same grumble-heavy rock, as is Big G’s ‘I Hate The Whole Human Race’, albeit with a killer guitar churn and a great, music hall chorus.

The thundering battery that opens Subs ‘Gimme Your Heart’ promises and delivers much, and Tubeway Army’s ‘That’s Too Bad’ has none of the icy electronica of their more famous incarnation, but nevertheless a nimble bassline and some neat guitar wash to complement Gary Numan’s signature whine. It’s up to Xtraverts’ ‘Blank Generation’ to inject some bile into the proceedings, but is neutralised by the power pop music hall humour of Fruit Eating Bears’ ‘Door in My Face’. Front’s ‘System’ offers up some excellent twangy guitar and vocals more reminiscent of the early 70’s than the year it’s credited to.

The brilliantly named Satan’s Rats’ ‘You Make Me Sick’ is a standard workout peppered with a clanging guitar solo, but it’s the mighty Stiff Little Fingers who shine here, with the barnstorming ‘Suspect Device’. Menace’s ‘GLC’ takes us back to standard punk shout-a-long, enriched with a chorus that would win them no airplay. The Dyaks’ ‘Gutter Kids’ chiming guitars and homeboy charm has a lot going for it, and Skids obviously hit upon their signature sound early with ‘Reasons’. It has another fine guitar solo in a musical style often blamed wrongly for being totally unmusical. Rudi’s hard to resist ‘Big Time’ fires on all four cylinders from the start, a totally satisfying single.

If your bag happens to be crazed, shouty nonsense, then The Art Attacks ‘I Am A Dalek’ will do for you, Bears’ ‘On Me’ offers a winding bass riff and shouted, soaring vocal that lingers in the mind long after even one listen. O Level‘s ‘Pseudo Punk’ is a standard punker-than-thou slanging match, contrasting with The Members’ ode to the loneliness that characterises many big cities, ‘Solitary Confinement’, because hey, punks can be sensitive too. Nipple Erectors ‘King of the Bop’ is a shambling, bragging rock ‘n’ roll affair, and all the better for it. The Angelic Upstarts ‘The Murder of Liddle Towers’ is perhaps the angriest of all punk singles, the incendiary vocal shredding the air over wild backing, with a truly nerve-jangling interlude. Our second CD closes with Mean Streets’ music hall bop, ‘Bunch of Stiffs’, an indication that, for all the supposed antagonism between punk and rock ‘n’ roll, the two cults remained close cousins.

ATV open the third CD with ‘Action Time Vision’, after which this compilation is named, an elevating song with an insistent repeat riff and Mark Perry’s strangely affecting voice making it a stand out track. Social Security’s ‘I Don’t Want My Heart To Rule My Head’ has more a classic 60’s punk feel to it, all descending chords and yelping vocals. The Tights’ ‘Bad Hearts’ has the feel of a well-produced routine workout, as does Riff Raff’s ‘Cosmonaut’. The Dole’s ‘New Wave Love’ is a breath of fresh air, a little bit of jaunty keyboard in with the buzzing guitars, and with a cheeky lyric. The raw, unprocessed Joy Division perform a V-U inspired ‘Failures’, as muddy and lo-fi as they wanted to be, and as if by way of complete contrast, Leyton Buzzards slap down a punk by numbers ’19 and Mad’. These men would, within a couple of years, be singing ‘Ay y Ay Ay Moosey’ in shiny suits. Demon Preacher lay aside the black Eucharist to treat us to an uninspired girl-baiting ‘Little Miss Perfect’, followed by the much more listener friendly ‘Just another Teenage Rebel’, a danceable slice of near-surf by The Outcasts.

In amongst all this dumb furore, there were some well-read souls who would wield a scalpel to the zeitgeist. By the pricking of my thumbs, it’s The Fall, and their full frontal attack on abusive mental hospital staff, ‘Pyscho Mafia’. This song sounds as powerful, as uncompromising and as far-removed from the general run of pop music as it did then. Chelsea’s ‘Urban Kids’ is one of their less distinguished sides, but no matter, Protex’s ‘Don’t Ring Me Up’ has plenty of classic punk riffs and a tune that would cheer up a manic depressive. The Cravats’ shambling ‘Gordon’ has a neo-psychedelic charm not lost on this reviewer, with the punk by numbers football chant ‘England 77’ by Horrorcomic in hot pursuit.

UK Subs do what they do best with ‘C.I.D.’, a hard, driving warning to those in search of vicarious thrills. Spizzoil’s ‘6000 Crazy’ sets the tone for veteran punk Spizz’s many incarnations, an avant-garde guitar-pounder strangely reminiscent of ‘Do The Strand’. Brighton’s The Dodgems ‘I Don’t Care’ (full version, as threatened) has all the humour that some folk felt punk lacked. The Users can’t resist a good driving riff, with ‘Kicks in Style’, with Peter and the Test Tube Babies helpfully keeping us up to date with the news in ‘Elvis Is Dead’. The Ruts’ magnificent ‘In a Rut’ takes pride of place on this third CD, its tough love message particularly poignant considering the tragic fate of singer Malcolm Owen.

The amusingly named Disco Zombies’ ‘Drums over London’ is a good example of why only some bands can get away with titles like this. The quirky Nicky & The Dots ‘Never Been So Stuck’ reminds us why punk was a broader church than it was ever given credit for. The Shapes childish chugger ‘Wot’s For Lunch Mum?’ (Not B***s Again) perhaps beggars the reply ‘Sh*t With Sugar On’. No Way’s hard, shrieking, grinding ‘Breaking Point’ is a standout, followed by a cheeky Joy Division-like secret track. The Wall’s reggae tinged ‘New Way’ has a lot going for it, and our third CD closes with The Hollywood Brats’ guitar-mangling, shouty madness, ‘Sick on You’, taking punk to its inevitable conclusion.

With our hearts in our mouths, we pass on to CD4, opening with the mighty Adam and the Ants, swaggering their way to fame and fortune with ‘Zerox’, albeit in different directions. If anyone out there can tell whether Notsensibles’ ‘Death to Disco’ is for or against that popular style of music, please let me know. The Vice Creems’ rough-as-robbery ‘Danger Love’ is a delight to the ears, and at least primes you for the macabre horror comic strip of Murder the Disturbed’s ‘DNA’. Speaking of comics, The Cockney Rejects’ ‘Flares and Slippers’ would bring a smile to the face of the worst type of misery guts. Psykik Volts’ knew more about music than they’re letting on, in their classically-inspired march, ‘Totally Useless’.

The Molesters get five points for the band name and a three for effort with their ‘The End of Civilization’, a capable dirge that bears up to repeated listening. The Newtown Neurotics take us back to basic, snotty punk with ‘Hypocrite’, and nothing wrong with that. Pure Hell’s unnecessary cover of ‘These Boots Are Made for Walking’ adds little more than a speed riff to the old 60’s chestnut. Fire Exit’s ‘Timewall’ shows us a richer colour palette than the standard punk thrash of the period, and a flashy guitar solo to boot. The Pack’s ‘King of Kings’ shows the fury and promise which would later transform into Theatre of Hate. Steroid Kiddies’ ‘Dumb Dumb’ has welcome elements of 60’s punk buoying it up, and English Subtitles ‘Time Tunnel’ takes us in a definite post punk direction with its melancholic guitar and military beat.

The Proles’ ‘Soft Ground’ also leans toward a neo-psychedelia, underpinned by standard punk guitar, and The Adicts urgent, slicing guitar figure and shocked vocal on ‘Easy Way Out’ once again elicits the fear response, to great effect. The Dark’s ‘My Friends’ has no such sepulchral corners, a fun love song to that drug of the nation, television. The magnificently named Woody & The Splinters’ rather ruin it by making a record, in this case, the busy but ultimately uninteresting ‘I Must Be Mad’. A similar fate awaits Victim’s childhood joke, ‘Why Are Fire Engines Red’. The X-Certs’ ‘Anthem’ approaches country picking but loses itself in its desire to go somewhere fast. F-X’s ‘Slag’ is more fun than you might expect, and the sound effects and stage cockney voices propel punk into the music hall it surely had some vestigial roots in.

The Rivals’ ‘Future Rights’ moody Who-like opening pays dividends, a great marching beat that raises itself head and shoulders above the usual output of the times. Silent Noise’s ‘I’ve Been Hurt (So Many Times Before) can’t quite decide whether to sound like the Mancunian love-lorn band of legend, or the West London spikies, but I’ll not hold it against them. Vice Squad’s screaming tirade, ‘Nothing’ is a fair example of the ‘Don’t Mend What Isn’t Broken’ school of thought, and The Prefects ‘Things in General’ takes the prize for the most disinterested title, and song, in the whole collection. The Licks’ ‘1970’s Have Been Made in Hong Kong’ couldn’t possibly live up to its eloquent title, as its staccato punk stodge proves.

It’s left up to Fatal Microbes to deliver the chilling parable ‘Violence Grows’ and Poison Girls’ searing attack on Big Pharma and its handmaiden, psychiatry, in ‘Under The Doctor’, to close this eclectic, varied and above all, honest collection of sounds from the first punk era. From a snotty, teenage craze to viable all-ages lifestyle in just a few years, punk regularly thumps its sweaty fist on the table, to remind us that not only is it still very much alive, but it’s got no time for the likes of you. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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December 3, 2016 By : Category : Front page Music Punk Reviews Tags:, ,
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Fool Britannia -Scenester Reviews

Fool Britannia – Scandal – Stop the World I Want to Get Off – TW3

(El Records ACMemo316CD)

‘Fool Britannia’ takes us back to an age when politicians learnt that respect was earned, not given, and a moment’s indiscretion could bring the house down. This collection of ephemera, stretched over two CDs, is essential listening for those interested in Britain in the late 50’s/early 60’s, satire, pop music and the power of the press.

Written by all-winning song writing team Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, and ably assisted by Peter Sellers and Joan Collins, ‘Fool Britannia’ rips the merciless out of the then highly topical Profumo Affair. At a time when politicians were generally respected by the media, even held in awe, the news of the brief love affair between Secretary of State for War John Profumo and Christine Keeler, a would-be model would have repercussions far beyond any personal embarrassment caused. That Keeler was simultaneously having an affair with Soviet Naval attaché Yevgeny Ivanov, and the revelations about the somewhat sordid details of the case would contribute to the fall of Harold MacMillan’s Conservative government. It was the gift that kept on giving, especially for newspaper owners and comedy writers involved in the popular satire boom.

Performed before an invited audience at the RCA Victor Studios, New York, on 6/8/1963, it opens with Sellers doing a spot-on impression of Newley writing a song live in the studio. ‘There Goes That Song Again’ works on more than one level, not least of which are the awful rhymes so typical of the ‘bash ‘em out and sell ‘em cheap’ school of Brit song writing at that time. ‘The House That Mac Built’ stages a speech by PM MacMillan in the bear pit that was the House of Commons, tripping himself up with almost every word, every accidental admission. The impression almost out-does Peter Cook’s own, Cook only trumping when he performed it live before MacMillan, one night.

The hypocrisy of sexual manners during this time period is elegantly brought out in ‘Wry On The Rocks’, but for true venom, you need to cock an ear to ‘They Only Fade Away’, which goes from bar room vulgarity to buffoonish Chinese whispers to amuse us. The biting innuendo in ‘Countess Interruptus’ and the sharply drawn Royal-baiting of ‘We Are Not Amused’ would have given the average radio producer a coronary at the time, but this are only paving the way for the newspaper bidding frenzy of ‘Mightier Than The Sword’. Tony, Peter, Lesley and Joan all give their best in this staging of the scramble for
Mandy Rice-Davies’ story.

The international reaction to the scandal is brilliantly satirised by way of parodied news reports in near-enough foreign languages, and followed by what may be the best one-liner of the entire satire boom: (French accent) ‘Eh, want to buy some filthy English postcards?’

For all-out belly laughs, the telephone conversation between two dubious film producers and an agent acting for one of the girls cannot be bettered. Intending to add Mandy’s story to their already impressive roster of forthright, thought provoking films, such as ‘Too Young To Strip’ and ‘I’m Sixteen and not Ashamed of my Body’, they negotiate the rights from a malodorous telephone box in Old Compton Street.

Punctuated with sharp one-liners and taking in public reaction to the whole Profumo debacle, ‘Fool Britannia’ may not crack up a modern audience at fifty years’ distance, but as a document of the style of humour and public attitudes, it can’t be beaten. An interesting side note here: major record companies would not touch this piece with a bargepole at the time. It was Jeffrey S Kruger’s ‘Ember’ label which saw its release, and its subsequent 10 week long residence in the
LP charts.

Highlights of the soundtrack from the film ‘Scandal’ (1989) are well chosen, ranging from Frank Sinatra’s sublime ‘Witchcraft’ to Guy Mitchell’s hilarious ‘She Wears Red Feathers’. The full album is well worth investigating for its highly representative choices of popular (rather than ‘pop’) music of the era, the only original song being Dusty Springfield’s ‘Nothing Has Been Proved’, written by Pet Shop Boys.

Disk 2, although bearing a facsimile of the cover from ‘Stop The World I Want To Get Off’, with Anthony Newley in Pierrot costume, actually opens with Mandy Rice Davies’ efforts to become a pop star; four songs which should have convinced everyone she was not suited to this particular walk of life. The upbeat ‘You’ve Got What It Takes’ makes considerable use of echo on Mandy’s thin voice, recalling the tuneless Yvonne in ‘Smashing Time’, and the smoochy jazz of ‘Close your Eyes’ is no better served. ‘All I Do Is Dream of You’ pitches Mandy as an innocent, and the mercifully final selection, ‘A Good Man Is Hard to Find’ must have had the listeners in fits at the suggested Spoonerism in its title. Not that Mandy was the only one seeking to make a quick buck out of this incendiary story: Joyce Blair, labouring under the well-chosen moniker, ‘Miss X’, turns in a sexily humorous one-sided conversation in ‘Christine’, and as if to ensure a complete radio ban, the sultry ditty, ‘S.E.X.’

‘Stop The World I Want To Get Off’ occupies much of the second disk, and if you’re not familiar with this funny, satirical piece from the days when going to a musical was not the dull, predictable affair it is today, then you should listen to it without delay. Basically a story of an ordinary Joe’s path through life, taking in early marriage forced on by his girl’s unexpected pregnancy, work and its joys, and finally, his transformation into a populist political hopeful, every song is tuneful, memorable and barbed in a way that would never do in today’s no-risk
light entertainment.

Following this are selections from the ever sharp, slyly digging world of ‘That Was the Week That Was’, the BBC television show (1962-63) which capitalised on the satire boom. Using impressions, song, narrative and the week’s news as its raw material, ‘TW3’ had a huge array of writers, a wealth of talent and presented by the legendary David Frost, it was the BBC’s most strident and most feared show.

TW3 took on the establishment in a weekly sparring contest, and ran it round the ring until it was too exasperated to defend itself further. The previously untouchable subjects of sex, religion and class, Britain’s much diminished place in the world and the private lives of our leaders all came under scrutiny and were mocked mercilessly. The week’s news, sung by the lovely Millicent Martin makes for a good start, and the real life meeting between pop singer Adam Faith and the Archbishop of York is given a cheeky twist with ‘Adam’s Not A Sinner Anymore’, sung in the adenoidal style, then still popular from the time of Buddy Holly. Lance Percival’s impromptu calypsos may sound a little tame today, but were revolutionary then, but perhaps the finest sketch on offer here is the terribly well-spoken man and woman, skirting around the question of whether to have sex on their presumed first date. Our sexual manners may have moved on since the early 60’s, but the humour of embarrassment is still the same.

We can enjoy this world of 60’s satire in sound again, thanks to this excellent double pack. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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October 20, 2016 By : Category : Front page Music Pop Reviews Tags:, , , ,
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Silverhead and Michael Des Barres – Scenester Reviews

Silverhead (Purple 001)
16 and Savaged (Purple 002)
Live At The Rainbow (Purple 003)

Three LPs of work by one of the glam rock period’s great forgotten bands, Silverhead, and its singer, later turned actor, Michael Des Barres, is surely one of the year’s most unexpected re-releases. Purple Records have done the honours, and included a wealth of bonus material in amongst the original music and artwork.

‘Silverhead’ appeared in 1972, at the height of the Glam Rock period, its cover styled in Art Deco interlocking frames and featuring singer Michael Des Barres in voluminous baggy trousers, his face a scary clown mask, his hands conjuring 7’’ records out of the air, and arranging them in an elegant arc to complete
the arabesque.

silverhead

Musically, it’s easily the best of these three LPs, opening with ‘Long Legged Lisa’, with its slow, choppy intro lick and salacious lyric. The slide guitar work is classy, but the band knew which way the wind was blowing in rock, and kept to the glam/trash model as far as they could. With its cast of character like ‘Sharp Shootin’ Sheila and the aforementioned Lisa, it’s hard to say whether this was all inspired by Marc Bolan, Muddy Waters or John Gay, but it’s good, trashy fun, so who’s bothered?

‘Underneath The Light’s steady rocker is brought to life with a good, tight lick and Michael’s in fine voice, with some capable screaming guitar riffs thrown in for good measure. ‘Ace Supreme’s exciting riff masks some horribly clichéd lyrics, but that was far from being a crime in the glam 70’s.

‘Johnny’ sees the acoustic guitar getting an airing, in a rather half-hearted lament that was an obvious play for a US FM audience. ‘In Your Eyes’ sticks with the mawkish sentiment, and rather shows up the limitations of Michael’s voice in this piano-led number. Such material would be best left to the expert in this field; your Elton John.

Happily, this introspective section is over with, and it’s back what Silverhead do best; the great, throwaway scuzzy rock of ‘Rolling With My Baby’. It’s a shame to follow this up with ‘Wounded Heart’, the band taking a walk on the Gospel side, and to no great effect. No matter, ‘Sold Me Down The River’ sees them back on the wrong/right side of the road again, with a classic turnaround for the traditionalists out there.

‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Band’ is surely to be regarded as Silverhead’s fighting song, a plea to be taken seriously, at a time when many lesser bands were achieving greater, often undeserved success. The short, sharp ‘Silver Boogie’ has a charm to it that puts you in mind of ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’, and is a fairly unique way to close this debut LP.

Bonus tracks have more going for them than most CD fillers; ‘Ace Supreme’s thunderous echoing sound shows what a great live prospect they were, and ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Band’ in the live arena is a revelation; great, scorching hot guitar licks pepper the lengthy take, and again the powerful sound showing evidence of no mean ability. The clearly audible female laughter suggests a surreptitious recording, somewhere in the audience, and all of Michael’s various attempts to fire up the crowd are there for posterity.

‘Sold Me Down The River’ has more desperate jollying up to its live outing, to little effect, and then we’re into the 7’’ versions of ‘Ace Supreme’ – a potent start-up, the homoerotic tale worked well, ‘Oh No No No’s tepid rocker and ‘Rolling With My Baby’s well produced, tighter sound, surely hinting at great things
to come.

silverhead_16andsavaged

‘16 and Savaged’, their second LP was released in 1973, and sporting the sort of cover image that would be unlikely to go down well in today’s more sensitive times. The LP’s nine tracks have been expanded to include live and unreleased material, more than doubling the musical content.

‘Hello New York’s guitar skids the LP into action, in a sub-Alice Cooper piece of jet-rock, and lets it settle in our brains by following it with a slow roller, ‘More Than Your Mouth Can Hold’ (ermm…) the US style vocal delivery perfect for this type of unashamedly dirty rocker. ‘Only You’ follows hot on its heels, some fine bluesy guitars leading up to a grand swell that reminds this listener of Humble Pie at their raunchiest.

‘Bright Light’ opens well with a swaggering guitar lick and rocks steadily throughout, but the shouted vocal turns out too jokey to carry what’s otherwise a good, steady roller. The generic 70’s stomper ‘Heavy Hammer’ doesn’t do what it says on the tin, but the wild ‘Cartoon Princess’ more than makes up for it. The talking guitar intro, topped off with ‘yacking’ vocal and punctuated with a neat bass turnaround keeps the momentum up, until the long lead out.

Sticking to what they know best, ‘Rock Out Claudette Rock Out’s title tells you all you need to know about this generic rocker, and it’s a shame that the chorus is as weak, with such a great title as this. The unfortunately named ‘This Ain’t A Parody’ sounds exactly like one, a slow blues with a predictable ‘crone’ voice, typical of many rock songs of the era. Closing track ’16 And Savaged’s powerful drum battery and slick guitar lick perfectly complement Michael’s performance as, at last, he lets his voice rip, in obvious 7’’ single material.

This is where the official LP ends, but the reissue extends to double the tracks, starting with a somewhat homoerotic tribute to the even then, much eulogised James Dean. It possesses some gritty guitar, a throaty vocal but cliché’d lyrics are all too evident. We continue in this vein with ‘Marilyn’, a standard rocker but with little else to recommend it.

Two Michael des Barres’ solo outings, and a change of pace in ‘Leon’, with its starry, Disney-fied opening, a little reminiscent of Elton John’s output of the time, it’s a gloomy tale of receiving news of a friend’s death in Amsterdam. The welcome bluesy rocker, ‘New Moon Tonight’, has the makings of a single in it, with a good, clean vocal sound and tidy backing. A brace of live tracks from the band follow, with an echoey sound that suggest ill-attended gigs in large, impersonal halls; either that, or the Nazareth/Uriah Heep headliner fans shoved off to the bar whilst Silverhead strutted their stuff. No matter; their guitars are strong, Michael’s vocal is helped by the weird acoustics, and the band play like their lives depended on it.

silverhead_live_rianbow

‘Live At The Rainbow London’ credited to ‘Michael Des Barres – Silverhead’ has only one cover version, the pugnacious, fuzzy closer of ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, but there are riffs aplenty before we get there. ‘Hello New York’s hard, rocking guitars complement Michael’s harsh delivery well, into the steady chugger, ‘James Dean’, the voice far better than on record, and buoyed up by good guitar work. ‘Sold Me Down The River’ creeps in, Michael’s Jaggerisms well to the fore, and the song ends with a mild-dare I say it?-mellow ‘Man Of The World’-style riff.

‘Rock Out Claudette Rock Out’ is prefaced by a long and predictably lecherous explanation of the song’s genesis, doing nothing to help what is basically a reliable rocker of a song, followed by the slow lament ‘Only You’. ‘Ace Supreme’ turns up like the proverbial bad penny, fouling the air with its twin exhausts, and ‘Rolling With My Baby’s piercing guitar uproar rolls along well, but the strain on Michael’s voice is all too evident here. ‘Will You Finance My Rock And Roll Band’ has some excellent staccato guitar, and may well be Silverhead’s finest hour.

The second half, recorded at the Paris Theatre, London, opens with the great, driving ‘Hello New York’, tightly delivered, the announcer leaving us to wonder how Silverhead were ever placed on the same bill as Peel-endorsed, jaws harp enthusiast hippie duo, Medicine Head. ‘Rock Out Claudette Rock Out’ works tolerably well, but ‘Rolling With My Baby’ has the sort of chops we all came for, a standout live track. ‘Bright Light’ sticks to the template, closing with ’16 And Savaged’, given pepped up guitars and powerful drums to great success with the crowd, and the very old fashioned BBC announcer’s voice kept in, just for the hell of it. It’s not over; an alternative, highly aggressive take of ‘James Dean’ hints ta what might have been and the classic rocker, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ putting the tin hat on it.

Why Silverhead didn’t become stars, is a little beyond me. They had the look, the star quality and the chops, as the live LPs attest. What may have been their Achilles heel, was how they sounded in the studio. Compare and contrast their Live At The Rainbow (where they supported the mighty Nazareth) to the sound of ’16 and Savaged’; the latter is a pale shadow of their live thunder. Perhaps their sound just couldn’t be captured in the antiseptic confines of a studio. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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September 22, 2016 By : Category : Front page Glam Live Music Reviews Tags:, , , ,
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George Jones – Scenester Reviews

A Picture Of Me (Without You) & Nothing Ever Hurt Me (Half as Bad as Losing You)

Morello MRLL57

It is surely impossible to overrate the importance of George Jones to modern music, with his long, somewhat chequered career that nevertheless netted him some 150 hit records, his numerous marriages and divorces, and his more enduring relationship with the bottle. Two George Jones LPs from his troubled 1970’s on one CD is still too good an offer to pass up, and those good people at Morello have done the honours.

‘A Picture of Me (Without You)’ begins with the eponymous title track, a piano stroll with simple words, gently crooned. ‘The Man worth Lovin’ You’s lively tune doesn’t turn away totally from the country singer’s standard yearning, but perhaps George’s voice isn’t up to the swell in the tune. ‘She Knows What She’s Crying About’ would win few points for sensitivity from the ladies, but does show a vulnerable side, among the bravado of the lyric.

It’s ‘Second Handed Flowers’ which takes an early prize for a strong, regretful lament, a mawkish tale of a man who goes on a visit to an old girlfriend, only to find he’s not the only one with flowers in his hand. ‘That Singing Friend of Mine’s tall tales, heavenly choir and a clear indication as to the subject of the song, possesses an element of comedy that lightens the collection nicely. ‘She Loves Me (Right out Of My Mind)’s slow, sweet tribute to the distaff side has a few strange key changes to prepare you for the sorrowful ending.

‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ would win few points from the soon to be married, and its basic hopeless message may be a step too far even for aficionados lovelorn country-style, leaving it to the wistful, pleasant, ‘Another Way To Say Goodbye’ to bring us back into something like a comfort zone. ‘On The Back Row’s guitar twanger has more going for it than meets the ear, with its slightly misleading title and its faint hope of reconciliation, is hokey, yet touching.

‘Let there be a Woman’s religious references may put off many of you born outside of the Bible Belt, but ‘We Found a Match’s down home simple metaphor for new-found love would warm the heart of even an old curmudgeon like me.

Segueing straight into LP2, ‘Nothing Ever Hurt Me (As Bad As Losing You)’ sets up a jokey hoe-down, and it’s all the better for it. ‘You’re Looking At A Happy Man’s song of freedom from a bad woman might not sit too neatly in the Gospel style it’s played in, but it’s cheerful and it has a fine guitar part to stretch your legs to. ‘Never having you’ continues the happy tone, a routine strummer but not unpleasant. After all this uncharacteristic country jollity, ’Made For The Blues’ comes as a jarring but welcome change, the sad harmonica and plodding beat underlining the inevitability of feelin’ blue.

‘What’s Your Mama’s Name?’ is played as a heartfelt tale of love and longing, in the way only Country can. ‘Mom And Dad’s Waltz’ tugs at the heartstrings (again) in something that’s more a tale of child estrangement than everlasting love. ‘You’ll Never Grow Old (To Me)’s backhanded compliment works well, although another plodder when it comes to rhythm, and ‘What My Woman Can’t Do’ turns cynicism on its head for a genuine, and long overdue tribute to the womenfolk. ‘My Loving Wife’ follows straight after, and it would take a lady with a tolerant sense of humour to see the funny side of this man’s dissipated ways.

‘Love Lives Again’s expectation of eternally renewing love can’t be faulted for its optimism, the LP ending with ‘Wine (You’ve Used Me Long Enough)’ a bitter lament for an old lover. George ain’t kiddin’ ‘bout it, neither. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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August 26, 2016 By : Category : Front page Music Reviews Tags:, , ,
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Unit 4+2 – Concrete & Clay – Scenester Reviews

The Complete Recordings (RPM Retro D944)

Active between 1964 and 1969, Unit 4+2’s relatively brief career packed in twelve singles, two LPs and a fair number of line-up changes. Starting out as a very capable vocal harmony group, the band’s sound diversified into a pleasing Latin/Flamenco sound, going completely against the grain of the wildly successful beat sound of the period. The band will always be remembered for their top notch No 1 hit, ‘Concrete and Clay’, with its distinctive Latin sound and urgent lyrical declaration of love. It’s here of course, but so is much more, varied material, much of it written by singer Tommy Moeller and guitarist Brian Parker.

‘The Green Fields’ rolling country banjo number has you on your feet and ready for a hoe-down soon enough, in a song of lost and hopeful new love. ‘Swing Down Chariot’s sweet gospel harmonies works hard to get into the most stony of hearts, with its bright, happy message, and ‘Sorrow and Pain’ borrows the banjos and sings a gentle tear-jerker to one who caused it all. ‘The Lonely Valley’s play on self-pity and solitude may have been a step too far into the saccharine, but with the sublime ‘Concrete and Clay’ following it, it’s almost forgivable.

This harmony band’s strength definitely lay in the standards and their gentle, subtly instrumented take on classic ballad ‘When I Fall In love’ would pass muster in any company. ‘Woman from Liberia’s banjo-ridden jokey gospel will raise a smile, followed by enjoyable-enough jaunty Mex country plicker ‘Wild Is the Wind’. The band’s keen-as-mustard take on ‘Cotton Fields’ stands in the long shadow cast by The Beach Boys, and suffers from the comparison.

‘Cross A Million Mountains’ rhythmic journey song recalls The Hollies’ Latin tinges, and the lively guitar/banjo workout ‘To Be Redeemed’ reminds us of The Weavers’ ever-energetic approach. ‘(You’ve) Never Been in Love like This Before’s gentle stroll, assured lead guitar and numerous changes is kept together well with a great chorus. ‘Tell Somebody You Know’ is a tentative step into a more pop/rock and roll sound, in a song of hope for the loveless.

‘Couldn’t Keep It To Myself’ returns to the gospel sound the band seem most comfortable with, followed by a departure, in the form of ‘You’ll Remember’, with its Beach Boys style start up and slow, steady build. ‘500 Miles’ harmonies carry well, in what is basically another sorrowful departure song, followed by their take on ‘La Bamba’, an excellent version, with a few extra beats to vary the rhythm. I wish I could say the same for their maudlin cover of ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, which suffers on its own choices, and not just by comparison with The Righteous Brothers’ sublime original.

The band’s cover of ‘Girl from New York City’ is a most enjoyable one, and I’d certainly like to see this girl who’s ‘Cute In her Mohair Suit’ for myself. ‘Hark’ takes us to some other place where there’s sun and sand, in a sultry country song that may be the best treatment here since their immortal hit. ‘Stop Wasting Your Time’ utilises the band’s famously good harmonies in an otherwise routine song of jealousy, and ‘You’ve Got To Be Cruel To Be Kind’, introduced by some tense bass and minimal triangle, has a rich stew of guitars, handclaps and thumping rhythm, with a great lead vocal to keep you interested. The CD closes with the poppy ‘I Won’t Let You Down’, whose rock and roll beat and twangy guitar underpins a really great vocal performance.

CD2 opens with ‘Baby Never Say Goodbye’, one that borrows a little of ‘Concrete and Clay’s jaunty rhythm. The clapping intro to ‘Rainy Day’ sets the scene for a fairly routine piece that must have sounded out of date by the early 60’s, never mind the latter part of that decade. ‘For A Moment’s bass pulse and climbing verse and resolution puts you in mind of the glorious pop of Dave Dee & Co, with an added surf sound they would have been wise to pursue further. ‘Fables’ late 60’s trippy hippy sound is pleasing enough, and is followed by what is surely the most elegantly worked song on this compilation, ‘I Was Only Playing Games’. The quiet guitar chords and gentle voice, backed by tense cello sawing and confessional lyrics lead into a mighty, beautifully orchestrated swell.

‘I’ve Seen The Light’ s poignant feel and marching beat is another standout, perhaps suggesting that this band took a while to hit its stride after the huge hit. ’Too Fast Too Slow’s Spanish guitars drive the song well, with ‘Booby Trap’s beaty, twangy psyche-lite dutifully earning its place on the record. ‘Butterfly’s soaring chorus and medieval strings send us into a nostalgic reverie, perfectly suited to the song’s subject, making its chirpy neighbour, ‘A Place to Go’ sound a little trite by comparison.

‘Loving Takes A Little Understanding’s wailing mouth organ and sultry marimba atmosphere suits the arrangement well, even if the ‘Lesson One’ lyrics would have sounded a little old-fashioned by then. ‘Would You Believe What I Say?’ is a beatier, funkier affair, and all the better for it, and the band seem to revel in their new-found Stateside twang, in Bob Dylan’s ‘You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere’, which they performs as a West Coast piece with a smooth, swinging sort of beat.

‘So You Want to Be a Blues Player’ has a lively, danceable and most un-bluesy beat, but is nevertheless one of the best selections here. The echoing, haunting ‘3.30’ seems less than the sum of its parts, and ‘I Will’ reprises the faintly medieval sound that so enlivened an earlier song. With all these borrowings from the hippie phase, we are once again puzzled by an unmistakably late 50’s Drifters-style treatment of ‘Face in My Head’, with its ‘fool’ voice and tight orchestration. The simple, joyous ‘Something I Can Believe In’ is a slight, but celebratory track in the final run up of this collection, followed by the maudlin start to ‘(Living In) The World of Broken Hearts’, a song well worth persisting with for its drama and great chorus. We end with the bouncy ‘I Can’t Stop’, and this is where the story of Unit 4+2 draws to a close, also. Packed with extensive liner notes, photos and record covers, this CD is a worthy addition to anyone’s music library. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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August 2, 2016 By : Category : Front page Music Reviews Tags:, , , , , ,
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Beach Party by The Ventures – Scenester Reviews

The Ventures

theventures

Beach Party 

(El Records ACMEM308CD)

Summer’s coming, and there’s only one acceptable soundtrack to it; that’s Surf Music. Arguably the greatest exponents of that no-compromise style of guitar craziness, The Ventures, have had thirty four of their finest tracks assembled on CD to liven up your long drive to Newquay for the weekend. Illustrated with some cool pictures, a band members list, a source discography and discussion with the band from more recent times, it’s a cut above the usual bash ‘em out and sell ‘em cheap compilations.

Providing the sounds to innumerable 60’s dances proved highly successfully for this team of crack musicians, selling over 100 million records and earning them a well-deserved place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Opening with ‘Lucille’s understated beat, relaxed strut and high, twangy guitars, a good, clean sound is established early here, with a surprise key change, and a fade out so characteristic of the style. ‘Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)’ swings along, with a raucous vocal, great drum rolls and a perfectly blending lead guitar. The edgy, hesitant tones of spy film themed are riffed on, in ‘Hernando’s Hideaway’, the lead guitar dragging us to a nervous ending.

‘Mashed Potato’s jokey, clap along beat wins us over straight away, with pizzicato strings thrown in for good measure. The classic, and beautiful ‘Summertime’ is treated with the respect it deserves, with slow, lamenting guitars building and setting up the interplay of twang and lead, set off with subtle drum work. ‘Hot Summer (Asian Mashed)’ continues the spy film style, leading us into the classic ‘Poison Ivy’, building up strongly and with an irresistible hint of vibrato.

No beach dance party would be worthy of the name without ‘The Wah-Watusi’, and The Ventures’ relaxed, swinging take on this classic doesn’t disappoint. ‘Instant Mashed’s call and response guitars please well, with the powerful Red Indian beat supporting throughout. ‘Scratch’ builds well, goes up, and then signs off so neatly, you actually feel jealous of the damn riff.’(Baby) Hully Gully’ has some great twists and turns, and might well be the definitive cover of this
classic track.

‘Spudnik’s neat and tidy theme, tight as a belt and with lapping water guitar, the slowing train ending shows the band could easily have been called The (Ad) Ventures. Sticking with space, ‘Telstar’ may lack the unhinged genius of Joe Meek’s production, but with its ray-gun sounds and fairground organ, it’s worth persisting with.

‘Calcutta’s treatment reminds this listener of the fodder intended to please children on light radio shows of the period, and the band’s take on the mighty ‘Apache’ is nowhere near as dramatic as The Shadows own. ‘Green Onions’ offers plenty of consolation, however, with a head full of fuzz and swaggering lead.

‘Theme From Come September’ fails to excite with its uneventful climb, but ‘Venus’ makes up for this, with its romping rhythm, clear, Summer contentment and chiming guitars. ‘The Intruder’s tense, moody riff goes through tension and partial release, mixing with the listener’s expectations in a little piece of surf-istication. (Sorry) ‘Lolita Ya-Ya’s double note twang and girly Wow Wow Yeh Yeh vocal lends an air of implied sleaze to an otherwise anodyne tune.

‘Driving Guitars (Ventures Twist)’s aggressive bass rumble, confident lead and wild yelps are kept very tight, very neat and hit all the right buttons. ‘Gringo’s stroll, with twangy guitars providing a conversational style, sounds a little too staid to these admittedly long-punished ears, but is partly rescued by ‘Besame Mucho’s gorgeous bass, Mex Country twang and expert arpeggios. ‘Silver City’s jokey Country and Western still has a little swagger, and ‘Blue Moon’ builds well, while ‘Perfidia’ descends like a demented switchback ride, chased by the nervous guitars. ‘Ginchy’ feels like a repeat of ‘Blue Moon’ though enjoyable enough, while ‘Home’s sad, heartfelt atmosphere and confessional feel shows the band’s emotional side well.

This compilation could not possibly omit ‘Walk-Don’t Run’s ironic understatement, nor ‘2000 Pound Bee (parts 1 and 2)‘ dirty, fuzzy riff, that spawned many copyists. ‘Genesis’ echoing, moody lament is a departure here, its haunting riff bringing in some chilling tinkling piano to great effect, before ‘Walk-Don’t Run is reprised not once, but twice in a wash of breezy confidence.

Your reconditioned Morris Minor needs this CD thundering through it.
BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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May 6, 2016 By : Category : Front page Music Reviews Tags:, , ,
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Scenester LP Reviews January 2016

Eater

eater

The Album (Anagram Records CDPunk143)

Among the many punk originals, Eater had something on their side which few others had; youth. Drummer Dee Generate was just fourteen years old, the rest not much older, when they first played live, and went on to be supported by such luminaries as The Damned and Johnny Moped.

Eater did not go on to have the stellar careers that some of the originals did, and split in 1979 after just one LP and five singles. This compilation CD has the lot, and some live tracks to boot. Opinion was divided about the young band at the time, some feeling they were standard punk fayre, some pumping them up as the true voice of the movement. However you feel about this rough ‘n’ ready artefact, at least you’ll be spared the sanitisation of remixes and remasters.

From the word go, ‘The Album’ is a primitive affair, the no-frills plicking guitar and threatening voice on ‘You’, an early challenge. ‘Public Toys’ takes on a more energetic, rangy riff, with a ringing guitar that might just have picked up a few stray fans from the Buzzcocks camp.

‘Room for One’s hard, fast, pub-rock opening, bursting into strident rock ‘n’ roll is an early standout track, in a surprisingly reflective relationship song. It’s not long before the boys are back into basic punk chug along mode, however, with ‘Lock It Up’, one which holds hints of the aforementioned stage-sharing Mancunian band.

Their totally scuzzy cover of ‘Sweet Jane’ gives the song a harder, faster treatment than might be expected from such a youthful bunch, and fails to please this reviewer, but their cover of Alice Cooper’s ‘Eighteen’ (retitled here ‘Fifteen’) encapsulates the adolescent frustration in its primal riff and does not neglect Alice’s schlock-horror overtones.

‘I Don’t Need It’s snarling delivery and dual note start-up, masks a bit of a departure, construction wise, later in the song, with a (gasp!) guitar solo being smuggled in. ’Anne’ continues the trad r ‘n’ r theme, with a decidedly Chuck Berry style riff that proves that Eater were no line-toers in the punk universe.

The nasty, fuzzy riff, heavy breathing and resentful vocal tones of ‘Get Raped’ would have won few prizes for sensitivity then, let alone today, but only make this listener wonder what future generations will make of late 90’s, early noughties rappers and their own particular attitudes.

The predictably basic ‘Space Dreamin’ holds no surprises, despite the interesting title, and the too-fast cover of ‘Queen Bitch’, which also pays scant regard to key or atmosphere is another that should possibly have been worked on more.

‘My Business’ fine opening riff, rising tune and better than usual lyrics is a strong contender for best track, but followed, disastrously, by their cover of ‘Waiting For The Man,’ its opening, a baby’s toy squawk, and its ending a sudden death playoff that comes as a merciful release. ‘My Business’ fine opening riff, rising tune and better than usual lyrics is a strong contender for best track, but followed, disastrously, by their cover of ‘Waiting For The Man,’ its opening, a baby’s toy squawk, and its ending a sudden death playoff that comes as a merciful release.

‘No More’ shows the band back on form in this driving riff, with its classic punk two-note guitar solo, and ‘No Brains’ comes on like a totally demented Beach Boys parody, achieved by a roaring vocal, ringing guitars, speeding up to a more conventional delivery later on.

The LP closes with the jokey, join-in of ‘Luv and Piece’, starting out as a Velvets-lite, turning into a wild rant.

‘The Singles Plus’ takes us on a more concentrated study of the period, the snotty urgency of ‘Outside View’ and the pointed threat of its close cousin, ‘You’ as good an opening duo as any.

‘Thinking of the USA’s churning, psyche-like riff and sneering lyrics ironically typifies punk singles of the period, and the slight echo on ‘Space Dreamin’ improves it no end.

‘Michael’s Monetary System’ leans once more into psyche-territory, albeit one inhabited by a cockney Syd Barrett with a world weary view, tempered by a no-frills cover of ‘Jeepster’, falling firmly into the ‘shouldn’t have bothered’ camp.

The live tracks, ‘Debutante’s Ball’, tightly riffed and with a typically angry vocal, is a lost gem, and together with ‘No More’, deserve a place on the punk curriculum. The slicing guitars of ‘Thinking of the USA’ complement the vocal perfectly, and the MC5 – a-like ‘Holland’ careers about like a runaway car.

‘What She Wants She Gets’ has a great 70’s riff and singalong chorus that raises it above much of the rest of the collection, and ‘Reach For The Sky’ continues the lively, rising theme, pointing toward a post-punk career path for these boys, which did not, in the event, pan out.

‘Typewriter Babies’ pitches a descending riff with great positive upturns and scathing lyrics, and ‘Point of View’s opening maelstrom of hard, driving guitars suggest that Eater may have been born a little too late for their strong, early 70’s rock leanings.

‘I Don’t Need it’ takes us back to basic punk scowling, (but it is very good punk scowling), and ends with a shaking, thumping ‘Fifteen’.

Punk’s present day mainstream status was unthinkable in those far off days of the late 70s, when the trappings of the style were enough to get you beaten up by your local Neanderthals, but it does the soul good to recall what early punk sounded like, in all its flaws as well as its glories. BUY HERE!

Colin Blunstone

colinb

Planes & Never Even Thought (Cherry Red CDMRED665)

Available for the first time on CD courtesy of Cherry Red Records, Colin Blunstone’s fourth and fifth solo LPs, originally recorded for Elton John’s Rocket Records, surfaced in 1976 and 1978. The John/Taupin connection doesn’t end there, as the unbeatable song writing team’s ‘Planes’ is the title track of the first mentioned LP. There are plenty of self-penned numbers here, however.

‘Planes’

The soft rock and country sound of mainstream mid-70’s is very evident here, with ‘Beautiful You’, its country feel fleshed out with brass and drum, and its robust beat giving a country/soul tinge to this piece of whimsy.

Title track ‘Planes’ is easily the best track here, a gentle swinger with subtle orchestration, light touch keyboard and sensitive singing by Colin, and small wonder it became a single.

‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ starts with a tense note, contrasting with the lyrics, a gentle roller with a little slide guitar, slightly reminiscent of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Dead Flowers’.

‘Ain’t It Funny’s piano backing reinforces the wry humour of this give-and-take meditation on happiness.

Dennis Wilson and Mike Love’s maudlin ‘Only With You’ is an interesting choice of cover from ‘Holland’, and benefits from the lush orchestration.

‘I Can Almost See The Light’ is another high spot, a good soft rocker with tweaked guitar sound, and a rousing chorus.

‘Good Guys Don’t Always Win’ continues the jaunty soft rock theme, this time with a hint of soul in a very free and easy treatment.

The Kiki Dee classic ‘Loving and Free’ is given a subtle string and guitar treatment and Colin’s voice handles the song well, if a little hastily delivered.

Colin’s own ‘Dancing In the Dark’s private sort of love song is wistful and nothing profound, and ultimately fails to engage.

‘It’s Hard to Say’ has flute and guitar to evoke the right atmosphere in this song of relationship breakup.

‘(Care of) Cell 44’ is a welcome return to a bouncier sort of tune with a more carefree atmosphere, and some great harmony backing that show Colin’s voice at its best.

‘Tell Me How’s galloping, plucky guitar and ‘50-‘s style harmonies make for an insubstantial closing track.

‘Never Even Thought’

‘Never Even Thought’ opens with a lightweight but nevertheless pleasing soft rock number, ‘I’ll Never Forget You’, with some good, soaring verses.

‘Lovelight’s gentle guitar arpeggio and high, bright guitar notes lay out a strolling number with a sweet finish.

‘Ain’t It Funny’s initial solemnity gives way to relaxed chords, a lush string backing and a plaintive vocal from Colin.

‘Who’s That Knocking ?’ has a ‘30’s shuffle figure to it, a sweet sax break and some ‘gurly’ vocals, but all a little insubstantial for this listener.

Title track ‘Never Even Thought’s gentle love song, with a good vocal, a light touch guitar and slightly ominous piano chords gives in to a maelstrom in the middle, leading to a surprising funky break that makes the backing far better than the actual song.

‘Touch And Go’s supper club vibe does Colin’s sensitive vocal no favours.

‘You Are The Way For Me’ is far better than its predecessor, with its exciting, bouncing beat, good chorus and lead out.

‘Photograph’ sees us back in late night club territory, all lush piano and organ, with some deft guitar/piano interplay, but the effect is largely wasted on this lightweight song.

‘Do Magnolia Do’s pumping, military beat and soulful organ work is a fine closing track, but it’s doubtful whether anyone would still be listening, after the paucity of engaging tracks on offer here. BUY HERE!

Scenester

Scenester lives in London and Brighton, as time allows. Enjoys music, film, television, books, design and anything else which won’t leave well alone. Old enough to know better.

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January 4, 2016 By : Category : Front page Music Punk Reviews Rock Tags:, , , ,
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