I have just read that The New Musical Express is going to become a free paper. Once the bastion of quality and uncompromising journalism, it rode roughshod over any competition, making its writers as famous as the music makers it featured. But its recent history has not been so healthy and becoming a free paper is just the inevitable final chapter I guess. In a world where most people read journalism and short form writing via mobile devices, a free magazine of pictures and soundbite journalism makes perfect sense. But is the musical equivalent of Hello magazine for short attention span fashionistas written by 6th form columnists with little insight into the history and cultural position of music really what we need? Great if you want to know Pete Doherty favourite cheese probably not so good for an examination of Father John Misty’s myriad musical references. I don’t want to seem a grumpy old man and adopt the “it was all better in my day” approach but I am and in the case of music journalism…it was. In the distance you can just hear Mick Farren spinning in his grave.
Someone probably running way under it’s radar can be found at The Victoria tonight. As part of cult, west-coast band FAR Jonah Matranga’s songs helped design a post-hardcore musical template that would later elevate the likes of Biffy Clyro and Jimmy Eat World to global success. These days playing solo and under his own name you can expect a ridiculously diverse collection of noises from his acoustic guitar and one of the most diverse voices in alternative rock. Support comes from indie-folksters, Tonight We Fly and the eclectic Shaun Buswell.
Meanwhile, one way tourist, serial wanderer and soulful roots musician George Breakfast is back at The Beehive with a bag of songs that are so finely crafted and perfectly pitched at the audiences sensibilities that you will think they are old, familiar classics… one day they will be.
If there was an award for “rock and roll survivor” or maybe even for “clawing failure from the jaws of success” then John Otway (pictured) would be deserving of it and you can find out why at The Victoria on Friday. Playing a collection of his hit (singular) he will also be re-imagining classic songs in his own inimitable style with a range of homemade props but there are also moments when his skills as a serious musician are given an outing too. Support comes from Ian Doeser.
The bottom end of town is going to act as a bit of a time machine as both The Rolleston and The Locomotive take a bit of a retro trip. At the former you can catch The Imperial G-Men whose saxophone and guitar front line mix with swing beats and pounding bass to rapture the jump and jive era of the post war dance hall. The latter’s contribution comes in the form of The 58 Shakes whose collection of country, soul, swing, bop and rock and roll remind us that between the likes of Elvis and Eddie Cochran there is so much more great music to be celebrated.
On Saturday, after a run of cover bands to put the venue on the map, The Locomotive dips its toes into more original waters. Currently on tour to support their sophomore album, What’s Your Tonic? Kaleidophone’s music is a montage of sounds that mixes pain and beauty, ambience with a darker edge and a lyrical vulnerability that has seen them described as “ an English Vampire Weekend.” Add to that local rising stars Yves opening the night and you have a brilliant statement of intend on the original music front.
Fans of heavy classic rock will be heading to The Victoria for a night with Shepherds Pie for a set of songs that form the corner stones of the genre whilst at The Rolleston Las Pistolas blend rockabilly, retro-rocker and psychobilly into one of the slickest live shows around, greasers, punks, teddy boys, rockers and skaters take note.
Even the full contingent of regular band members not being available isn’t enough to keep some bands down as The Toxic Girls prove at The Castle on Sunday. Pretty much what it says on the tin, the girls from Toxic doing their own set of covers proving that they don’t always need the guys present to put a cracking show on.
And that brings us to Wednesday and the point in the musical calendar that many music fans have been waiting for, the start of the ninth Swindon Shuffle. This year you can ease in gently with an acoustic show at The Roaring Donkey featuring Phil Dean, front man of Melbourne based folk-rockers Zeptepi and the crystal voiced folk songstress Eleanor Dillon. Alternately you can catch Swindon Shuffle: The Movie with Swindon Viewpoint’s presentation of archive film footage of performances from the past nine years dedicated to the memory of Colin Radbourne. That’s at The Beehive.