Monthly Archives: May 2013

THE SMEARS ‘DIRTY PROTEST’

“Sugar and spice and all things nice”, that might be what ‘little girls’ are made of, but ‘riot grrrlz’ are completely different matter! In 2007 Indiana ‘riot grrrl’ band The Smears released an album ‘Asthenic Process’ but this band of the same name, a three-piece consisting C Doll, Miss C and Maimee V (Em) from Nottingham make their American cousins seem rather tame. Classifying themselves as a ‘grunk’ band, combining grunge and punk, I was thrilled when I stumbled across their album ‘Dirty Protest’. In the best traditions of punk they blast out a series of short insistent songs that grab the listener by the throat whilst the aural assault progresses unchecked. They couldn’t be further from the highly polished and formatted clone acts that seek to achieve their ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ on various TV ‘talent’ shows. I doubt very much if Em’s vocals would result in any of the so-called judges on ‘The Voice’ turning their chairs to select to be taken under their wing; similarly I doubt even more if she would ever consider attempting to pursue such a route. Having said so, however, a photo of the three of them dressed in identical dresses strutting along a city street with the title ‘Smears In The City’, suggests that they have a wry sense of humour, so who knows? I find it really quite reassuring to know that such bands still exist and are determined to forge their own path. Simply great fresh punk, packed full of raw energy and blended with 21st century attitude. The world needs more bands like this to provide an antidote to the bland corporate material that seems to be intent on taking over the mainstream media.

Maimee V (Em) – lead guitar / vocals

Miss C – bass / backing vocals

C Doll – drums

1/ Freak Show

2/ Halloween

3/ Prowling Hyenas

4/ Rise Of The Liars

5/ R&R

6/ Horribly Wrong

7/ So Pretty

8/ Scrape Patrol

9/ Handcuffs And Powder Puffs

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PARAMORE ‘PARAMORE’

I may have stated this before but I aim never to write a review without listening to an album a number of times. I believe that this album is a perfect justification for my stance. Having played it two or three times whilst I was doing some home improvement work, I was about to write it off as an example of a band that had become complacent and lost its edge. Then I persevered and listened more intently without distractions – now it has been on virtual repeat for a few days as I have revelled in immersing myself in its brilliance!

Accomplished and layered, this eponymous album allows Paramore to display the full range of their talents. Somebody once remarked to me that it is impossible to play a ukelele without raising a smile – the three interludes contained here prove this. Other tracks offer an insight into their versatility and is a real pleasure to listen to. ‘Daydreaming’ manages to have me remembering The Cranberries whilst the swirling guitar work in ‘Part II’ suggests influences from another Irish source, in The Edge of U2. Then there is ‘Last Hope’, providing a glimpse of yet another facet to their musical abilities, whilst ‘Still Into You’ provides yet another wonderful example of Hayley’s vocal range.

Hayley Williams – vocals

Taylor York – guitar

Jeremy Davis – bass

1/ Fast In My Car

2/ Now

3/ Grow Up

4/ Daydreaming

5/ Interlude: Moving On

6/ Ain’t It Fun

7/ Part II

8/ Last Hope

9/ Still Into Youngsters

10/ Anklebiters

11/ Interlude: Holiday

12/ Proof

13/ Hate To See Your Heart Break

14 (One Of Those) Crazy Girls

15/ Interlude: I’m Not Angry Anymore

16/ Be Alone

17/ Future


CATAPILLA ‘CHANGES’

In addition to trying to keep on top of the exciting new music that crosses my path I continue to dip into my collection of older items stored on vinyl, cassette etc. I recently dug out Catapilla’s second album on Vertigo; one of the distinctive things about early Vertigo vinyls is the centre labels with side A not having any text, just a vertigo inducing black and white pattern – track listing for both sides being printed on the B side. Having eaten its way through an apple as documented on the cover of their eponymous debut album, Catapilla’s second album saw the ‘creature’ move on to start on a savoy cabbage leaf. I loved the album cover artwork as soon as I saw it, albeit the cut profile was a touch impractical and left the caterpillar’s head prone to being damaged, my copy had to be patched up with sellotape. The music was similarly amazing, with the sounds of Anna’s soaring vocals, Graham’s guitar and Robert’s saxophones being particularly memorable. The soprano sax is absolutely sublime, whilst the remaining instruments combine to provide a truly unique and memorable atmospheric soundscape. With two track on each side of the vinyl, this is no collection of short snappy songs, but rather something that provides a wonderful example of the soundtrack to my life in the early 1970s. There are hints of jazz but in some ways can be seen as a forerunner of what would later develop into a more ambient style.

Graham Wilson – guitar

Ralph Rolinson – organ, electric piano

Carl Wassard – electric bass

Brian Hanson – drums

Robert Calvert – soprano/alto/tenor electric and acoustic saxophones

Anna Meek – vocals

1/ Reflections

2/ Charing Cross

3/ Thank Christ For George

4/ It Could Only Happen To Me


EASTER STREET ‘FIRE TOGETHER / WIRE TOGETHER’

In the diverse world of contemporary music, if One Direction represents the homogeneous high street comprising bland and corporate chain store units, Easter Street is most definitely a serendipitous alternative street with an enticing range of idiosyncratic boutique emporia. In such a townscape each street might contain options of food, clothing and appliance outlets – but those that may be found in Easter Street are far more interesting and captivating.

As a band, Easter Street provides a wonderful selection of musical offerings that infuse echoes of many decades. I was able to sense influences from the 1960s similar to Neil Young’s Crazy Horse – does this have anything to do with singer/gutarist Derek’s Canadian heritage? I was also reminded of 1970s glam rock, although having seen the band play on a number of occasions I would be very surprised to see them donning satin flares and platform boots. Other eras are detectable with hints of Manic Street Preachers and Muse to name a couple more. Having listed these other bands does not infer that Easter Street simply aim to replicate the sounds of others; rather, like the best, they appear to have soaked up a range of influences in order to produce their own unique sound.

This is their second album; following 2012’s ‘Cause And Effect’ this provides a further progression and showcases their tremendous musical talent. At times they present as a classic power trio; Derek’s virtuoso guitar is extremely accomplished but not narcissistic and overbearing, Murray’s bass is solid and complex whilst Daniel’s driving beats on the drums finish off a perfect combination. In addition the intelligent lyrics are delivered with Derek’s distinctive vocals, supplemented by interesting harmonies and some subtle keyboards. One track is particularly evocative and with its lilting accordions and acoustic guitars it wouldn’t be out of place at Celtic Connections or similar locations.

Being a local band and having seen them play live simply adds to my enjoyment of this marvellous recording, particularly as I had the privilege of them playing one of the tracks in public for the first time during an acoustic session in the studio during my 24 hour radio show last September.

Derek Huffman – guitar / lead vocal

Murray Warnock – bass / backing vocal

Daniel Dishington – drums

1/ (Please Talk) Behind My Back

2/ Old Canal

3/ Let Me Walk You Home

4/ I Won’t Sing Another Song

5/ Gimme A Thrill

6/ Ships In The Night

7/ Lifeboat

8/ No Definition

9/ 1989

10/ When We Walk Out That Door


TIGER LILLY ‘REVOLVING DOORS’

Tiger Lilly is one of a growing list of artists that I feel so privileged to have come in contact with. It has been a joy to watch and listen as she has pushed hard to develop her musical career. I addition to her most engaging and inspiring music she has at the same time been successful in establishing her ‘Tiger World’.

Following on from her wonderful 2012 album ‘Memory Lane’ which offered an opportunity to enjoy a softer side, this three track EP places greater emphasis on her ‘rock chick’ credentials. Whilst her lyrics have always been intelligent and thoughtful, I sense that her confidence and maturity continue to develop.

The production is excellent, but I expected nothing less! Each of the three well crafted songs stand on their own as great individual offerings whislt the trio is bound together by her distinctive and engaging vocals. In addition to the nuanced instrumentals her lyrics continue to be hopeful and challenging, such a refreshing change from much of what is routinely churned out by syndicated commercial radio and found in the charts.

1/ Silence Is Golden – an upbeat rocker, with edgy lyrics analyses a struggling relationship and is presented with a determined ‘I Will Survive’ attitude.

2/ Throw Me A Line – a slower tempo song which seeks answers without much in the way of a positive response.

3/ Walk A Mile – acoustic and slower still, this is plea for understanding; in a world of great diversity it is important to retain your own identity whilst recognising the we all have our own perspective and shouldn’t rush to impose our judgements on others.

“Do not judge me, I bleed just like you do.

My skin may be different, but I’m just the same as you.

You can stand up and be proud,

Dance to your own song and be proud.”

Tiger Lilly’s voice is so well suited to such bitter-sweet lyrical content, and is such a pleasure to hear.

I sense that these three songs will be fighting each other for places in future playlists in my radio shows – they are each special in their own different ways. I sense an ‘edgier’ attitude in both voice and lyrics, and that’s definitely not a complaint, it simply shows progress and development. Good as ‘Memory Lane’ and ‘Reflections’ (her first album) are she is clearly determined not to get ‘stuck in a rut’. In common with the best, she manages to retain her distinctive style and sound whilst exploring and blossoming, much as the blooms in the album cover shot.


PRINCIPAL EDWARDS ‘THE DEVON TAPES’

I could write a whole blog post to explain how I came across this completely unexpected album but I’ll just stick to noting that it came as a complete, and welcome, surprise when I saw it offered for sale on e-bay recently. After so many years since I got the two vinyl albums released by Principal Edwards Magic Theatre (PEMT) I really hadn’t anticipated that I would discover a complete album of unheard tracks in a different century. Thanks to the comprehensive insert notes I found that ‘The Devon Tapes’ is a collection of new tracks recorded by a slimmed down version of PEMT when they spent some time in a Devon cottage; the recordings were only ever intended as ‘demos’ with a hope that more produced versions might be recorded under recording studio conditions at a later date. Bearing that in mind, I found it to be a fascinating experience to listen to this and wonder what might have been had the band got as far as a proper studio production.

The missing ‘Magic Theatre’ from the band’s previous name signifies much more than just two missing words; the commonality between Principal Edwards here and the former fourteen strong ‘community’ of PEMT that I have known and loved for many years is actually fairly limited with Root Cartwright and Belinda Bourquin providing the only true continuity. There are many things that I missed, most particularly the wonderfully exquisite vocals of Vivienne McAuliffe, but things change and I can always return to the earlier recordings to appreciate her voice.

I believe that it is Belinda’s masterful musicianship that helps make this a very special recording in my opinion – in particular her violin playing adds an extra dimension. Having said that is in no way meant to play down the excellent musicianship of the others.

All told I found it really quite fascinating to be able to discover this archive from a different age; whilst listening I found myself recalling a whole range of music that had formed a significant part of my youth. It was certainly interesting to hear how the band’s sound had moved on form that produced by the original collective to a tighter more ‘prog rock’ orientated one with this leaner line up. The fact that this was only ever intended to be a recording of some exploratory sessions leaves me wondering what could have been, and glad to have been able to have the opportunity to share their time in that Devon cottage (and to finally see photos of ‘The Whizzmore Kid’).

Root Cartwright – guitar, mandolin

Nick Pallett – vocals, guitar

Belinda Bourquin – keyboards, violin, vocals

Richard Jones – bass guitar, vocals

Peter White – keyboards, guitar

Geoff Nicholls – drums

1/ The Beast

2/ Saccharine Lady

3/ Assassin Senorita

4/ Shipwreck

5/ Double Jointed

6/ Helix

7/ Yes, She Said Yes

8/ The Alamo

9/ Over And Out


WELL HUNG HEART ‘YOUNG ENOUGH TO KNOW IT ALL’

I sense great things on the horizon for this creative powerhouse from Orange, California. Nominated in ‘Best Video’ category at the recent OC Music Awards, for ‘Devil’ they lost out to veteran band No Doubt’s ‘Settle Down’ – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_0pDENGkYU. I doubt very much that Greta and Robin are likely to settle down after this defeat; with the release of this exciting album I fully expect them to continue their determined push to bring something fresh and invigorating to our ears, indeed an exceptionally intriguing video for their last single release ‘This Is Not Love’ has just been posted – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AKqYQD39uU&feature=em-uploademail.

I have been closely following the progress of Well Hung Heart for quite some time now and have already posted a review of their EP ‘The State Of America’, rather appropriately on Guy Fawkes’ Day in November 2011. Just as Guy Fawkes’ Day is rife with imagery, so is the music produced by WHH. In particular the fact that the day was known as ‘Pope Day’ in North America prior to the American Revolution, with Puritans preaching about the perceived dangers of ‘Popery’; this seems quite apt given the controversy that was aroused when the band’s video for ‘The Music made Me Do It’ was banned from YouTube after 12,231 plays in six days due to its alleged Anti-Pope message. Thanks to Vimeo, the video is still available and has now been viewed over 26k times! – http://vimeo.com/12772208. As a footnote, we now have a new Pope who really does seem intent projecting a more ‘humble’ profile whilst seeking to raise awareness of the poor and disadvantaged – maybe ‘the times, they are a changing’!

This album offers a chance to hear some of their songs that have previously been available alongside an diverse range of new ones. For those who choose to listen sequencially there is no gradual build up, track #1 ‘Bulls#!t’ does much more than simply ‘blow the cobwebs away’, I can’t even see any spiders! Robin’s insistent ‘kickass’ guitar and Phil’s steamroller drumming provide the perfect foundation for Greta’s ‘take no prisoners’ vocals as she gives more than a hint of her determined and confident attitude. Another previously available song, ‘Devil’, continues in a similar vein, but it is most definitely a different track that stands well on its own, whilst the shortened single version of ‘This Is Not Love’ offers a glimpse of yet another facet of the cut diamond that is Well Hung Heart. Following the first three tracks come eight tracks that are all new to me.

‘Wedding Song’ shows us another facet, with its gentler opening phrases and less distorted, more melodic guitar. Greta’s harmonies add yet more depth – but the song develops to a more insistent crescendo. Although the lyrics include the line “your love is killing me softly”, don’t ever expect anything remotely resembling Roberta Flack’s ‘Killing Me Softly’! ‘Savioritis’ continues to demonstrate the band’s versatility whilst ‘You Got Me’ transports me back to my youth and the great blues/rock bands that kept me entertained and motivated then, it is a great opportunity to showcase some of the band’s main influences. ‘Oh Girl’ maintains to 70s retrospective whilst ‘Love Me Baby’, with it’s insistent drum led intro is actually rather timeless. ‘If You Want It’ offers an almost ‘singalong’ option whilst ‘Die In A Dream’ does tend to suggest the culmination to an excellent and varied collection of tracks all underpinned by the powerfully insistent guitar and drums that provide an excellent counterpoint to Greta’s versatile and confident ‘grab you by the throat’ vocals. To bring things to an intriguing close is the unpolished ‘Get The F Out Of California’ which had me recalling the song of some early Bob Dylan bootleg albums (usually on flourescent vinyl if my memory serves me well).

I have previously commented on the ability of social media to allow fans to maintain a close contact with bands and artists that are prepared to honestly embrace it; the ability to feel an affinity with artists as they develop and plan their progress adds a wonderful extra dimension so that ‘new’ albums do not simply appear ‘out of the blue’ but are, rather, able to be experienced as the end result of a partially shared process which adds extra significance for the listener. I certainly look forward to following the journey towards the next album from this talented group of people.

Well Hung Heart are:

Greta ‘GV’ Valenti

Robin Davey

+ Phil Wilson on drums

1/ Bulls#!t

2/ Devil

3/ This Is Not Love

4/ Wedding Song

5/ Savioritis

6/ You Got Me

7/ Oh Girl

8/ Love Me Baby

9/ If You Want It

10/ Die In A Dream

11/ Get The F Out Of California