Archive for December, 2019

74936944_415877582692258_557440128855834624_o.jpgStay Lunar has to be one of the more interesting young bands straddling the indie-pop divide at the moment and I’m not saying that just because they probably know where I live and no, I don’t owe them money. It’s true. Indie seems to have become a tad formulaic of late, the realm of airbrushed kids sporting the right clothing brands and more concerned with their complicated hair than the music, and mainstream pop is still the bastion of production line, industry puppet shows. But, as I pointed out when listening to Brainshake, their ability to bring the best bits of both genres together and not pander to the cliches is what makes them stand out from the crowd.

Catch Up sees them playing with an oriental infused synth riff that would have been at home in an 80’s New Romantic classic but rather than merely plunder those nostalgic sounds they instead seem to be inspired by them and the song sounds nothing but contemporary and forward thinking. Guitars gentle cradle the signature sound and the rhythm section play tastefully understated rhythms. Infectious to a fault, chart ready yet street smart, youthful and buoyant, this is everything the mainstream pop sound should be. Get behind it and help make the changes you want to see in the pop world. That’ll be a meme by the weekend, you wait and see!


January’s Musical Musings

73320216_3227727390587092_1165816366524006400_nIt’s odd writing a What’s On guide for January this in early December (such is the nature of the deadlines and stuff) but I guess it is the closest I will ever get to time travel. So by the time you read this the floor will be covered in Christmas Tree needles, there will only be a quart of turkey curry still to get through and we will have already had to endure enough jokes about 2020 vision and the like from tabloid headline writers to last a lunchtime.You can always distract yourself from such niggles by checking out some live music, which is, understandably, a bit thin on the ground but what there is is certainly worth the effort.

It may be a new decade but some things never change and if you head to The Rolleston on 11th for a slice of Hamsters From Hell there are plenty of guarantees. On the one hand there will be blue humour, swearing, toilet references and the sort of raw R&B that can strip wall paper. On the other hand there will be a surprisingly fine plethora of musicians (looks are deceiving) a wonderfully raucous night out to be had and …well, the sort of raw R&B that can strip wall paper.

At the same venue on 17th Innes Sibun will be delivering his trademark blend of searing rock and roll and soulful blues. There is a reason why none other than Classic Rock magazine dubbed him “The best kept secret in British blues, “ pop along and find out why.

Rock is also on tap at the Victoria on 23rd as Scarlet Rebels and Revival Black bring their Rising Tour to town. They may sound like a couple of pints from the more expensive end of a craft ale bar but the former infuse Therapy? style punch with the suppleness of Muse and the latter have one foot firmly in the classic 70’s rock sound…which is why they get to call none other than Whitesnake tour buddies!

On 23rd The Tuppenny gets back in business with a wonderful double header. Both Phil Cooper and Jamie R. Hawkins (pictured) channel classic acoustic sounds, from James Taylor to Crowded House. Whilst they are often found on stage with Tamsin Quin, this is a chance to remind yourself what fantastic players and songwriters each of them is in his own right.

If something more weighty is to your taste then Bots at The Victoria on the very same evening offer some jaunty indie tempered with some solid rock riffs. A newish local band, so go along and support your scene why don’t you?

And moving along into February, Still Marillion return to Level III on the first of the month. Okay, I don’t normally talk about tributes in this column but I spent my formative years watching the real deal and still have a soft spot for their proggy ways.

Finally on 6th Feb head along to The Tuppenny for a stripped back take on Raze*Rebuild’s usually soaring punky Americana. They say that the true test of whether a  song is any good is if it sounds okay on an acoustic guitar. Let’s find out shall we? Support comes from the ubiquitous Charlie Miles and a musical cohort who go by the name of New Bedlam Asylum…which sounds perfectly ambient and reserved…dontcha think?

80049445_2753975768001450_2790020960323895296_nOver the last year or so I have found myself musing on the thought that surely in such a dark age, in the face of widening social divides and entrenched, broken political debate that there would be more music being made echoing the thoughts of those looking to kick back. I often point out that rock ‘n’ roll, punk, hip-hop and the like were all born out of frustration and social change, disaffection and rage. I would have written something on the matter for this site bit I have just read an elegant and eloquent post by that splendid chap Scott Rowley and so thought I’d post his words in full instead. Thank you for putting into language what is confusing my small brain these days.

“It’s impossible to imagine the world of December 14th, 1979, when London Calling was released but let’s give it our best shot.

Imagine if you will a Britain where right wing politics is on the rise. Where the rock revolution you were a part of has become insular, hell-bent on repeating itself and recycling the past. Where the charts are full of novelty pop and the TV full of Yankee detectives.

A world where the working class are under attack: the victim of right wing policies designed to take from the poor and give to the rich. Where they’re either denounced as knuckle-headed thugs or romanticised as noble savages living in squalor, and the political choice offered them is between England-for-the-English nationalism or up-the-workers socialism. A world in which immigration is blamed for all our ills and families who’ve lived here for decades – whose culture (language, music, cuisine) has totally influenced, informed and improved “British culture” – are under attack.

Their sons and daughters represent our country in sports – they are our greatest football players, but still there is racism on the terraces. The Labour Party is split – low in the opinion polls after their last time in government and riven by internal conflicts. Anew controversial figure has become Prime Minister. Scotland wants independence. There is civil unrest.

That was 1979. It’s a world so radically different to our country today you can scarcely imagine it, right? But c’mon, give it yer best shot.

London Calling is the sound of The Party At The End of the World. The title track itself looked at a forthcoming environmental apocalypse (“the ice age is coming”) – and said, “Fuckin bring it on.” (‘London is drowning and I live by the river…’). Joe Strummer later said that he was most proud of the fact that The Clash weren’t “Little Englanders”. The dirty punks wanted Oi! The Clash gave them soul, reggae, rock’n’roll, R&B.

Encouraged by producer Guy Stevens (as head of Sue records, he’d introduced the likes of Ike and Tina Turner, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Inez and Charlie Foxx to the UK. He’d produced Free, named Procol Harum and formed Mott and he produced like Jurgen Klopp manages – the boys just wanted to play for him.

He generated team spirit. They literally played football every day. Stevens would play war films in the background while they recorded and smash chairs jubilantly.

Train In Vain grooves like classic soul. Guns Of Brixton conjures up genuine London reggae. Rudie Can’t Fail was ska-punk in excelsis. The Right Profile, Revolution Rock, I’m Not Down – the songs on London Calling are a righteous, raucous rave-up.

We need music like that more than ever.”

With great thanks to Scott Rowley.

11133786_10153234946553064_9116099339198896169_n-1Finally, a Christmas song I can get behind. Okay, there have been a few that have tickled the old seasonal baubles before…Fairytale of New York (currently the subject of its own PC hyperbole due to MacGowan’s typical choice words, God knows what would happen if anyone in power really looked into some of his songs,) Stop The Cavalry and Give Peace a Chance (with their anti-war messages) are most of the short list which work for me. So the fact that Phil Cooper, in his usual deft and deliberate fashion, has side-stepped the schmaltz and sentiment that normally infects such sonic fare and with tongue firmly in cheek has tackled the click bait mentality of tabloid journalism and those who (knowingly?) fall for it, means that it can be added to that very short list.

Rocking out in full band mode for change is a great move, it all adds a bit of weight to the message. Making it brilliantly singalong and musically infectious doesn’t hurt either. But it is, as is often the way in Phil’s world, the words which are paramount. As he points out, no one is trying to stop you celebrating Christmas, or any other significant day, as you would like. No-one is bowing down to other cultures, communities or creeds; health and safety isn’t ruining your fun and political correctness isn’t a problem unless you choose it to be. Newspaper headlines and clickbait journalism, instead, are the real problem, but in a world where people’s attention span seems to be measured in scales normally used only in Quantum Physics, people love to let a headline not only ruin their day but colour their world view.

A great song, a great sentiment and I didn’t even mention Brexit or The Daily Mail once!