Monday, 12 November 2018

Track Of The Day: Morrissey - Back On The Chain Gang

No matter what you think of Morrissey and his views, there's little doubt that his voice is one of the most recognisable and iconic in music. That voice makes this cover of the 1982 single by The Pretenders sound very much like his own, almost like a Morrissey original. I may even prefer it to the original, since it actually sounds like some sort of long lost Smiths recording. It can be found on the upcoming deluxe edition of his 2017 album 'Low In High School'.

Rewind: Puressence - All I Want

Released 20 years ago in November 1998, reaching number 39 in the UK singles chart. Powerful, epic emotional indie rock was something that renowned Manchester combo Puressence did very well. Along with their previous singles, the stunning 'This Feeling' and the glorious 'It Doesn't Matter Anymore', this track was taken from their second album 'Only Forever'. They formed in the early 90s after the band met each other on a bus travelling to The Stone Roses' Spike Island gig. After six LPs, they broke up in 2013. 

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Track Of The Day: Peeping Drexels - Ray Purchase

Grubby, aggressive, infectious punk rock from London band Peeping Drexels. Describing their music as "Sloppy beats and sleazy melodies from South-London scum", the band "make music about horrible people. From tales of drunk driving to songs exploring the ignorance of modern Britain, their music is the reflection of an angry working class, abandoned by their government in a post-brexit, post-progressive world." Recently playlisted by Steve Lamacq, the brilliant 'Ray Purchase' is out now.

Peeping Drexels are: Dylan Coates, Joe Love, Finton Hurst, Otis Hurst and Pablo Bagshaw.

Rewind: BT - Godspeed

Released 20 years ago this week in November 1998, reaching number 54 in the UK singles chart. Godspeed was taken from BT's third album, Movement In Still Life. The American DJ and producer (real name Brian Transeau) has so far released a total of nine albums, with an extensive catalogue of singles, the most recent one being this year's 'The Noetic'.

LIVE REVIEW: Estrons - The Louisiana, Bristol - 08/11/2018

Tonight is one of those nights where this reviewer wouldn't want to be at any other gig in the world. A moment in time turned into a joyous, thrilling, life-affirming experience thanks to two of the most exciting bands on the planet right now. Headlining are the Welsh outfit Estrons, who have spent the last few years building up an adoring following and honing their sound, before releasing their killer debut album 'You Say I'm Too Much, I Say You're Not Enough' last month in October to a call of critical acclaim. Tonight confirms that they are also a truly seismic live act, whipping up the sort of fevered, sweaty energy that only the greatest bands can produce. 

An intimate, hot, buzzing venue like The Louisiana in Bristol is the perfect place for up-and-coming acts to take the next step up, and it's completely sold out tonight. Those lucky enough to get tickets are rewarded for arriving early with the presence of the excellent support act, Glasweigan four-piece Lucia. With a sound occasionally recalling the likes of Pixies and Belly, there are hints of Lush, as well as spells of melody that reach for Phil Spector-like heights. The title track from their new EP 'Cheap Talk' is an awesome brew of new wave flavours, with a big chorus and a bright zing, while 'When I Think Of You' is 60s pop with a biting simplicity. Blissful, bittersweet indie pop gem 'Summertime' has a sugary charm, 'Lose My Mind''s atmospheric guitars are countered with stroppy alt rock, and 'A Little Pick Me Up' pushes up the tempo with a helping of bouncy ska punk. Best of all is the instantly rousing 'What Am I', a grungy glam rock steamroller that catches the ear with its intensity and angst. As well as suggesting the influences of The Breeders and Hole, the closing 'Melted Ice Cream' also demonstrates the fantastic stage presence of singer/guitarist Lucia Fairfullwho goes walkabout amongst the audience, serenading members of the audience, almost like a Riot Grrrl burlesque act. After half an hour with this group, I'm already wondering where I can hear their two EPs (which turn out to be very good indeed), and feeling privileged to be made aware of them via this excellent set, which warms up The Louisiana for the headliners very effectively.

I've been listening to a lot of new bands over the last eight years since writing reviews and articles for various websites, yet Estrons have hit me like a bolt from the blue. A genuinely life-changing group whose personalities and experiences are channelled into astounding, energising, transcendent songs. They remind you that while life can be shit for all of us, we all have to power to turn it into something brilliant. Despite only being in their 20s, the core members of the group have already learned that life can be a tough ride, and it's musicians like this who will never need to manufacture their emotions. Every note and word you hear is the result of their blood, sweat and tears. They teach us that we are not alone, and that while we are all human, every one of us of us is a unique person. WE are made up of our experiences, just like the music of Estrons is made up of theirs.

They are fronted by the lionhearted Tali Källström, a strong, determined and upfront character who sees and says things as they are. In the eyes of many here, Källström is already a star. Exactly the sort of person the music world needs right now. Intelligent, strong and not afraid to speak out. Not one artificial thing about her, down to earth and 100% human. But also extraordinary in her talent as a performer, as well as having a great vision and approach as a lyricist. When that gift bounces off of Rhodri Daniels' electrifying riffs and brilliant musical logic, it's an earth-shattering combination. The stormy intro of 'Lilac' approaches like an oncoming hurricane, before lifting off and delivering an unruly, rip roaring opener, before recent single 'Body' reminds us that we are better than the image-obsessed, airbrushed culture that infects people's mindsets in the 21st century. Estrons bring new life to guitar music with songs like this, and the sexually-charged 'Body' is essentially a booty shaking chunk of RnB with a filthy, heavy edge and a chorus that rocks hard. I recently hailed 'You Say I'm Too Much...' as the debut album of the year, awarding it a full 10 out of 10 in an album review. Some of you may be forgiven for thinking I'm sounding hyperbolic, but if you don't believe how good this record is, just listen to the astonishing tracks that WEREN'T included on it. The menacing, gritty 'Strobe Lights' is one of them, thrusting forward in raucous fashion as Kalistrom's commanding vocal rings out over its contagious, explosive drama.

Daniels thrashes out choppy, abrasive riffage on the terrific 'Killing Your Love', which boils with a hotheaded temperament before unleashing a blizzard of supercharged fury, shifting into a hazardous high gear. It's bolstered by the fat, dirty bass work of Steffan Pringle, who also does some stellar work as the band's producer. Källström and Daniels are a partnership fuelled by the fire of their contrasting tastes and ideas, which imprint themselves into the label-defying agility of their music. Proving their versatility, the pace slows down for the beautifully sorrowful 'Strangers', a vulnerable and powerful moment that seems be as warmly embraced as the more hectic numbers from tonight's set. But the place goes nuts when they kick into the lustful, carnivorous trailblazer 'Make A Man', which marries the dominant female sexuality of Missy Elliot to riotous punk rock. Taking songwriting cues from a variety of unexpected places, as a whole Estrons are too multi-faceted to be labelled "punk", although they are without a doubt a punk band in the true sense that they play by their own rules and thrive with a defiant, rebellious zest. The monster-sized 'Jade' sounds crushing and brutal in its live incarnation, erupting with anger and desire, while the hard hitting temper tantrum of 'Cold Wash' offers more of that forceful, chugging bass. 

There's an endearing warmth to the casual conversation between Källström and the crowd between songs, as well as a wicked sense of humour and an unmistakably no-bullshit attitude. You get the impression that her mood can be highly temperamental, and what else could you wish for when it results in music like this. At times we see a ball of magnetic, burning energy and a ferocious, ravenous being who could eat you for breakfast. At other times we see an admirably humble performer overwhelmed by the reaction and reception that her band's music and words inspire, occasionally bordering on tears. The emotions reach a peak with the stunning 'Cameras', where angular guitar plays against a spellbinding, hooky verse and a dazzling vocal that sends chills down the spine. Even when Estrons offer more introspective moments like this, the mood is never complacent when the feelings present themselves with such unabashed strength. Having whipped the room into an overpowering, hot, sweaty frenzy, the stinging 'I'm Not Your Girl' sets off the mayhem again with sassy, ego-slaying anthem that could puncture the expectations of any sleazebag with its gutsy outbursts of ill tempered rage, and bold resistance to unwanted sexual advances.

Rebelling against a world that tries to change us, the outsider singalong 'Aliens' finds Daniels' direct, insistent chords building throughout until it climaxes with a violent, euphoric change of pace that punches even harder when played live. The hour blazes by in a flash, with barely a moment to breathe and the concept of time completely forgettable when not a single moment is wasted this evening. There's a jubilant unity between band and audience, not one barrier in place as the reckless, disorderly 'Drop' closes the exhilirating set like a dangerously speeding vehicle racing to the finish line, signing off with a defiant rallying call before the four members of Estrons depart the stage to a rapturous applause.

The world has been waiting a long time for a band with an insightful view on the world, and the wild confidence to present it in such a confrontational and intelligent way. Open, vulnerable confessions and honest, true statements of intent from a band whose songs have the ability to truly connect with people. Inspiring, arousing and appealing to every emotion, their music provides a pathway to the soul and a tonic for the mind. This band could even save your life.

After tonight, there is no reason why I shouldn't declare Estrons to be the best thing that this decade has produced. I hope they go as far as they possibly can, and I hope that Tali and Rhodri never stop reaching. When you have the power to create such magic, and install such a fire in people, anything is possible. 

Friday, 9 November 2018

Track Of The Day: Drenge - Bonfire Of The City Boys

Mark E Smith may have departed from this earth earlier this year, yet the new offering from Drenge has the imprint of The Fall all over its dangerous sound. 'Bonfire Of The City Boys' comes from their upcoming album 'Strange Creatures',which is out in February 2019. 

The band said: "It comes after months of chiselling away, ripping themes and ideas apart, sewing them back together, stepping away and coming back with fresh ears. Sometimes, a song appears fully formed and ready to go, and sometimes, a song just needs time to ferment. Fine tuning small details, nipping between songs, picking out small things and accentuating them until they take over or become something else entirely."

“The result is the most considered record we have ever made. It’s a nocturnal record. A psychological horror movie on wax. Warped hallucinations from mundane observations as you move through it. Is that a school or a skyscraper on fire in the distance? Or maybe it’s just the ski village? You drive nearer, past roadside diners jammed with dancing teenagers, through Uncanny Valley, past the most unhygienic nightclub in the world. The stereo sounds like its going to fall apart at any moment. The car judders to a halt and all you can hear is the sound of the sea.”

Rewind: Stereophonics - The Bartender And The Thief

This indie guitar hit by Welsh rockers Stereophonics, was released exactly 20 years ago today on 9 November 1998. It was the first single taken from their second album Performance and Cocktails, which came out in 1999. The song reached number three on the UK Singles Chart.

ALBUM: Muse - Simulation Theory

A return to form? Very possibly. Muse release their eight studio album 'Simulation Theory' today. 

You can listen to the album in full below via YouTube. 

If you appreciate the music, we encourage you to support the artists by buying their music digitally or physically online or from your local record shop.

With sleeve art recalling Star Wars and Stranger Things, and a theme centering on "fantasy becoming real", the LP features the singles 'Pressure', 'The Dark Side', 'Something Human' and 'Dig Down'.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Track Of The Day: Estrons - Cameras

Last month, the Welsh trio Estrons released the debut album of 2018. 'You Say I'm Too Much, I Say You're Not Enough' is a fierce, captivating, and empowering record from a band whose vitalising energy is thrillingly infectious. With an explosive collision of raw guitars and contagious melodies, the band are currently on tour throughout the UK. Tonight they arrive at The Louisiana in Bristol for a sold-out show, and RW/FF will be there to witness the action. 

Jagged guitars play alongside the captivating melody which sweetly wraps itself around the charming verses of 'Cameras' before leaping into a stunning chorus, where Tali Källström's phenomenal voice soars with maximum emotion that resonates terrifically. Along with its sky high solo, this is truly awe-inspiring stuff, and a life-affirming expression of unconditional love. Read the full album review HERE.

Rewind: Air - All I Need

Released as a single 20 years ago in November 1998, reaching number 29 in the UK charts. This blissful downbeat beauty was taken from French duo Air's highly acclaimed 1998 album 'Moon Safari'. The track was written by Air (Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel) along with the American singer Beth Hirsch, who provided the wondrous vocals as well as the lyrics. Their most recent album was 2014's soundtrack for 'Music for Museum'.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Track Of The Day: The Good, The Bad And The Queen - Gun To The Head

Another superb new helping of Damon Albarn and his illustrious band The Good The Bad And The Queen. Bringing to mind 'Hunky Dory'-era Bowie composing circus soundtracks, the dark jaunty flavour of 'Gun To The Head' also bears echoes of the British music hall elements that occasionally filtered into Blur's 'Parklife' album. Its swooning, melancholic drift of an outro takes the song to another level.

Prolific as ever following two Gorillaz albums in the space of a year, the legend that is Damon Albarn has been in the studio with his supergroup that also features Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Verve guitarist Simon Tong and afrobeat drummer Tony Allen. 11 years on from their self-titled debut album, their second LP 'Merrie Land' is due on November 16. 

The LP will be self-released on the newly created label Studio 13. Produced by Tony Visconti and The Good, The Bad and The Queen, Merrie Land contains 10 new songs - written during the current period in which the UK is preparing to leave the European Union - creating a reluctant good-bye letter, a series of observations and reflections on Britishness in 2018.

Merrie Land’s focus moves beyond GBQ’s London-themed first album to a wider land, with a beautiful and hopeful paean to the Britain of today, an inclusive Britain, currently in an Anglo-Saxostentialist crises at the end of a relationship, wondering  what might be salvaged. Could there be a more perfect band - with their creative symbiosis of pasts and present and shared acclaimed music histories - to reflect on the anticipation, disorientation and confusion of current life.

Rewind: Freestylers - Warning (ft. Navigator)

Released 20 years ago in November 1998, reaching number 68 in the UK single charts, breakbeat and dancehall vibes race through this fired up offering from the Freestylers. The outfit are based around DJs and producers Matt Cantor and Aston Harvey who have been making music together since 1993. Since the release of their fifth album 'The Coming Storm' in 2013, the group have now been releasing their new material on Instant Vibes label, partially owned by Krafty Kuts. 

Taken from their 1998 debut 'We Rock Hard', this track samples Constant Deviants's 'Competition Catch Speed Knots', the 1974 track 'Nautilus' by Bob James, and Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five's 'Flash It to the Beat'.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Track Of The Day: The Prodigy - We Live Forever

The Prodigy released their new album No Tourists on Friday. 

There are occasional hints of 1994's 'Music For The Jilted Generation' alongside the slamming electronics, which is certainly true of the astonishing 'We Live Forever', where the 'No Tourists' bus takes a joyride through old school rave territory. Delivering hyperactive beats, sped-up rap samples, rock drums and vocoder, it heightens the totally hectic state of alarm. 

It's far too early to put it up there with the first three albums, and time will tell whether it still stands up in years to come, but 'No Tourists' is a welcome blast of high octane fury that underlines the band's status as dance music royalty. More memorable than 'Outgunned', more substantial than 'Invaders', sharper and containing less filler than 'Enemy', it's a pleasure and a thrill to have The Prodigy firing on all cylinders again. Read the full review HERE.

Rewind: Bis - Eurodisco

Released 20 years ago this week in November 1998, reaching number 37 in the UK single charts. A supercharged helping of fun indie techno pop. The song was the first track to be released from the second Bis LP 'Social Dancing'. After three albums, the Scottish band broke up in 2003, but re-formed briefly for some gigs in 2007. In 2009 they re-formed again this time with a bass player and a drummer, and released a new album in 2014. Recent news was that they are currently working on their fifth album which is due for release in 2018.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Track Of The Day: Underworld - Another Silent Way

Relentless, thumping techno from the legendary Underworld. The hi energy, acid-infused track is a brand new release, part of their newly announced 'Drift' series. Rather than making another album or EP, the duo have launched "an epic year-long road trip in collaboration with friends old and new, from playwrights to DJs in jazz and techno to painters and poets..." One hopes that the products of this series will eventually find a release at some point in physical album form.

It's an ongoing experiment that will regularly publish new Underworld material – music, film, stories, etc – via The first release of Drift Episode 1 sees 'Another Silent Way' soundtracking a film made in collaboration with the UK drift racing community and Tomato, shot entirely at the Rockingham Speedway in Corby in summer 2018.
Further elements of Drift Episode1 will be released weekly every Thursday.

Rewind: Beck - Tropicalia

20 years ago this week, the monolithic Beck released his third studio album Mutations. From it came this excellent track, which delivers some strange, infectious Samba stoner crossover. This and the other tracks from Mutations represent a significant departure from the hip hop, lo-fi sounds of it's predecessor 'Odelay'. Read more about the album and listen to it in full HERE.

"I've always loved a lot of different exotic music," Beck commented. "I've been listening to Brazilian music since I was a kid, but I haven't really felt it was something that would come naturally until the last few years. I think for something like 'Tropicalia' I needed to go to places where that music existed in order to get to the point where I could do it myself. I wrote it in the back of the bus on tour, and then later I put lyrics to it. A lot of times I write the melody and the chords of the songs sometimes years before I ever get around it writing lyrics, so it just sits there incubating."

The song was released as a single the following month on 8 December 1998, reaching number 39 in the UK single charts. The CD contains the interesting analogue lo fi flavours of B side 'Black Balloon', which was exclusive to this single release.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

LIVE REVIEW: The KVB - The Louisiana, Bristol - 01/11/2018

After being captivated by The KVB's incredible new album 'Only Now Forever', I discovered that they were playing in nearby Bristol. A gut feeling told me that I had to go and see them live. Tonight's show proves my instincts were right. 

As well as it being my first KVB gig, this is also my very first time at The Louisiana, despite having been to Bristol countless times to watch live music. I didn't expect it to be a pub with a performance room upstairs, but it's in intimate venues like this that new music truly thrives. Tall, floppy haired electronic wizard Autumns warms up the full capacity crowd with a set of pounding techno that heats up the atmosphere with hypnotic repetitions and thumping beats. 

It's only a few minutes before The KVB take to the stage to a warm reception. Described as "darkwave" by some, and "psychedelic electronica" by others, to these ears, the London duo's music brings together the influences of Joy Division, OMD, the Jesus And Mary Chain, Neu! and the vast majority of the Mute Records back catalogue in a lysergic, dreamlike brew of shoegaze, Krautrock and techno pop. Having only recently discovered the prolific, restlessly creative duo via their sixth album 'Only Now Forever', tonight is a perfect opportunity to check out other tracks from their back catalogue. As it turns out, the new LP and this setlist make a perfect introduction to this hugely engaging twosome.

'Only Now Forever''s potent title track may not start the album, but its dizzying electrical rush provides the ideal opener for tonight, as its gently rippling beauty and surf vibes play against an airborne pulse covered with ultraviolet trails. The mesmerising visuals are supplied by Kat Day, who also takes command of the synths and analogue electronics, while Nicholas Wood provides voice and guitar. The sound of post punk emerges during the animated bounce of 'Always Then' as it buzzes along mysteriously with its lucid keys and vaporous vocals. Afterwards, the forceful, moody aura of the brilliantly efficient 'In Deep' offers surging, transcendental atmospherics carried along on a buoyant rhythm. 

Its a testament to the strength of their back catalogue when they have just released one of the decade's most essential records and choose to air only five tracks from it this evening. The sullen, menacing 'Afterglow' is one of them, where a black, slow machine groove is countered by luminous, hallucinatory tones. As well as bringing forth reverb-drenched notes, its industrial demeanour is noticeably touched by the spirit of Berlin, where Wood and Day have resided for the last five years. Creating a dense fog of an ambience, the dusky 'Awake' is topped with articulate touches of guitar, while the breathtaking 'On My Skin' provides their most romantic moment yet. Charming with the wondrous introspection tied to its graceful melody and breeze of a chorus, it's a synthpop treasure that stands as The KVB's most accessible offering so far.

The gorgeous, otherworldly 'Violet Noon' ventures down similarly calming, ethereal avenues, glowing with a sad beauty as it slows down the pace. Its blissful, aeronautical properties are complimented wonderfully by its misty chords, demonstrating how the duo's sound is developing from the earlier material which focuses less on melody and more on mood and sound. From 2016's 'In Desire', the marvellous 'White Walls' bathes in dazzling light as Wood's looming vocals ring out over its disciplined kinetic patterns and analogue textures. Getting busier as it builds into a lifting cosmic sensation, it's followed by the shadowy 'Night Games', where a dark, overcast climate plays home to piercing notes and delicious drum machine. 

One of the pair's biggest strengths is their unique, instinctive way of combining dark moods with colourful sounds, a quality reflected nicely by the versatile 'Never Enough', a song beaming with celestial elegance and a simple, melodic inclination that is fascinating in its streamlined brilliance. Slipping down another post-punk passage, the propellant bassline of 'From Afar' drives its vibrancy while a lysergic cloud of synth drifts overhead, and the striking single 'Above Us' surges through euphoric passages. Its motorik shoegaze flavours collide head on with effervescent, kaleidoscopic electrical sequences, resulting in a vivid, defiant and thoroughly energising construction. The hypnotic visuals are awe-inspiring throughout the 14 song set, bolstering each track's characteristics to achieve maximum effect, and revealing that their astonishing music is only part of The KVB experience.

Originally released in 2012, the steady, arresting 'Here It Comes' evokes a delicate magic in its billowing melody and voltage-powered radiance, before the set finishes with the monstrous 'Dayzed', where the heaving riffage and feedback-fuelled sonic assaults recall MBV at their peak. With its ominous mechanical march and intense, robust temperament, it delivers a fearsome, magnificent climax. 

Wood's intricate, efficient and dynamic guitar work is perfectly matched to Day's technical brilliance, and their remarkable artistic chemistry is a blessing for music in 2018. The alternating measures of psychedelica, synthpop, shoegaze and electronica contained within their sound form a style that plays well with their increasingly accomplished songwriting, while the awesome graphics surrounding them brings the music to life in stunning fashion. 

As a recent convert to The KVB, it's a real treat to hear some of the highlights from 'Only Now Forever' live and within the setting of Kat Day's amazing visual creations. On top of this, hearing their older material for the first time is an absolute revelation. Off I go to buy more KVB records and investigate these treasures further... You should do the same.

Track Of The Day: The Vryll Society - Shadow Of A Wave

The colourful, driving opening track from The Vryll Society's acclaimed debut album 'Course Of The Satellite'. The Liverpool band released the LP via Deltasonic Records a few months ago in August.

A review of the LP on XS Noize awarded it 9/10, commenting: "There are fascinating, layers of melodies on here that flow effortlessly. The Vryll Society have their own take on krautrock and evocative, dreamlike vibes. Course of the Satellite contains authentic magical songs that are both poetic and mesmerising. An impressive first album that was worth the wait." Read that review HERE

Rewind: Glamma Kid - Fashion '98

Released 20 years ago in November 1998, this David Bowie-sampling slice of ragga hip hop reached number 49 in the UK single charts. Some would call this sacrilege, but as a Bowie fan I think this is a rather fun little novelty, although its production is weak and totally lacking the raw clout of the original. Far from being precious over his past, Bowie always had faith in the possibilities of taking bits of old stuff and constructing them into something new, which is probably why he allowed London-born Glamma Kid to repurpose his 1980 classic. Four other tracks from his album 'Kidology' were Top 20 hits the following year in 1999. To date, it is still his only official studio album, but he has released a number of singles since, including this year's 'Weight Lift'.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Track Of The Day: Mattiel - Count Your Blessings (Live on Later... 30/11/2018)

A slight departure from the usual daily new music selections, although it is technically new... I was stunned after hearing this when I tuned into Later with Jools Holland on Tuesday night. After checking out the recorded version of this track from 2017, I found it to be lacking the power and darkness of this awesome performance. Mattiel Brown is a musician as well as a designer and illustrator, born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. The self-titled 'Mattiel' album was released earlier this year on Heavenly Recordings. Mattiel will be featuring on Later... again on the full length show, aired tonight on BBC Two.

Rewind: Mercury Rev - Goddess On A Hiway

Released 20 years ago this week in November 1998, reaching number 51 in the UK single charts. One of the glowing highlights from their hugely acclaimed 'Deserter's Songs' album, the astounding 'Goddess On A Hiway' was Mercury Rev at the very height of their songwriting powers, a striking magical beauty. It was re-released the following year, reaching number 26.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Track Of The Day: Suede - Wastelands

Taken from the London band's superb new album The Blue Hour, Suede's grandest, most epic record yet.

'Wastelands' boasts a magnificent chorus, enticing chord changes, and a familiar swagger toughening up its emotion, all coming together to deliver another big "me and you in this together" Suede anthem.

The video is directed by Giles Campbell Longley and executive produced by Mike Christie, who also made the video for previous single Life Is Golden, as well as the upcoming Sky Arts documentary, Suede: The Insatiable Ones (aired on November 24). The video features 17-year-old parkour athlete Robbie Griffith. Griffith had a viral hit in 2017 when his Trainspotting inspired video ‘Choose Parkour’ received significant media attention, gaining over half a million YouTube views in just over a day.

Speaking about the inspiration for the video, Mike Christie explains:

“When we were talking through ideas, the band brilliantly recalled the finale of the movie 400 Blows as a reference and it rapidly conjured a mood and an idea. This promo is the Suede world response to that: A grim unseen threat in the deserted streets, a desperate flight into the wastelands, and the ultimate discovery of a joyous and unexpected playground offering a surprising yet somehow fitting escape.”

Rewind: Paul Weller - Brand New Start

This wonderful single by Paul Weller was released exactly 20 years ago today on 2 November 1998, reaching number 16 in the UK single charts. A gorgeous acoustic number that charms with its introspection yet uplifts with its melody and Weller's magnificent vocal. The song was recorded for the 1998 Greatest hits collection 'Modern Classics', and received criticism from members of the press who at that point regularly dismissed the songwriting legend's music as "dadrock". Dadrock or not, it's a stunning track.

In case you didn't know, Weller recently released his excellent new 'True Meanings' album, which reached number 2 in the UK charts. A highly recommended record.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Prodigy - No Tourists

The Prodigy release their new album No Tourists today. 

You can listen to the album in full below via YouTube. If you appreciate the music, we encourage you to support the artists by buying their music digitally or physically online or from your local record shop.

I wasn't expecting much from the new album by The Prodigy. Ever since the Essex group revolutionised both dance music and rock with their seminal 1997 album 'Fat Of The Land', they have struggled to hit the same heights. However, with seventh LP 'No Tourists' the trio have found their way out of a 21 year transitional period and delivered their strongest effort in years

Struggling to think of ways they could match or improve on 'Fat Of The Land', it would be three years before The Prodigy re-emerged with the 2002 single 'Baby's Got A Temper', which most will agree is an awful track. Brought back down to earth with a bump, it would take another two years for the album 'Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned' to finally see the light of day. Keen to start again and return to basics, it was something of a low key return, recorded entirely by Liam Howlett using computer software. With their fanbase keen to hear a "proper" Prodigy album, 'Invaders Must Die' arrived four years later in 2009, bringing back the input of Keith Flint and Maxim Reality and adding a hard edge to the sort of digital sounds that the band's successors in the world of dance and electronica were known for. It won them new fans and was praised by much of their audience, but it received a lukewarm reception from critics. It would take six years for them to record 2015's menacing 'The Day Is My Enemy', which was a more collaborative effort from the trio, amping up the aggressive punk elements of their sound. While it seemed to earn better reviews than its predecessor, it was an overlong record, at times certainly guilty of sounding like self parody. 

'No Tourists' has taken a relatively fuss-free three year period to record, suggesting the creative momentum of their early years has been rediscovered. While it's a return to form, it's far from the expansive, epic journey that 'Fat Of The Land' was. At 38 minutes long, it's more like ten punches to the face.

It goes off like a bomb from the offset as explosive opener 'Need Some1' kicks out of the bass bins, evoking the kind of dirt and debauchery that powered 'Smack My Bitch Up', and immediately triggering the panic attacks and chaos that thrives across these ten tracks. The lethal 'Light Up The Sky' gets stuck right into the action, like a heavyweight stepping into the ring and knocking out the opponent with fatal blows as the sounds explode like fireworks. There are occasional hints of 1994's 'Music For The Jilted Generation' alongside the slamming electronics, which is also true of the astonishing 'We Live Forever', where the 'No Tourists' bus takes a joyride through old school rave territory. Delivering hyperactive beats, sped-up rap samples, rock drums and vocoder, it heightens the totally hectic state of alarm. 

Intensity and suspense surge through the chunky, cinematic title track as a heavy hip hop rhythm punches through distorted electronic noise. The violent, confrontational 'Fight Fire With Fire' produces lethal bass that makes dubstep records sound light, administering a heavy dose of raw energy, devastating power, and "sounds to melt your motherfucking face."

On the hard punching 'Timebomb Zone', spells of surprisingly bright, pitched-up pop hooks are knocked to the ground by another brutal strike as infectious razored bass cuts through the track like a saw. With its apocalyptic might, 'Champions Of London' is lifted by massive, urgent breakbeats and drum n bass flavours, and the brutal 'Boom Boom Tap' is somewhat typical of the sinister mood throughout the album. Elsewhere, the battering ram 'Resonate' offers robotic dancehall vibes, twisted synth guitars, more old skool rave essence and more thumping beats to create an odd big beat/dubstep hybrid, before the LP closes with the roaring bass and savage guitars of 'Give Me A Signal', where punk rock is bolstered by blaring beats and an energy which revels in acidy madness.

It's far too early to put it up there with the first three albums, and time will tell whether it still stands up in years to come, but 'No Tourists' is a welcome blast of high octane fury that underlines the band's status as dance music royalty. More memorable than 'Outgunned', more substantial than 'Invaders', sharper and containing less filler than 'Enemy', it's a pleasure and a thrill to have The Prodigy firing on all cylinders again. 8/10

ALBUM: Oasis - The Masterplan (1998)

Exactly 20 years ago today on 2 November 1998, Oasis released their classic B sides compilation 'The Masterplan'. 

You can listen to the album in full below via YouTube. If you appreciate the music, we encourage you to support the artists by buying their music digitally or physically online or from your local record shop.

The flipside to an astonishing era in British music, The Masterplan documents some of the highlights featured on the band's singles from 1994 to 1998. 

It's almost what could've been if Noel Gallagher had saved up these tracks for the third album rather than casually throwing them onto the b sides of the singles. He obviously thought the magic streak would never end. Instead it did (for a while anyway), and the band were left with the songs that ended up as Be Here Now.

It's an LP that exhibits every side of Oasis and proves them to be more versatile and dynamic than many claimed they were. Opener 'Acquiesce' kicks up a storm with its fierce guitars and brilliantly effective duet between Liam and Noel that perfectly encapsulated their fire and water combination. 'Underneath The Sky' is an upbeat, carefree sounding tune that skips along pleasantly, but as well as a dose of that unmistakable attitude, there's something weird and psychedelic going on in there somewhere. 

The tender, acoustic 'Talk Tonight' was written by Noel after he left the band on an American tour, on the verge of walking out for good. British music owes a big favour to the woman who took him in for a night and inspired him to change his mind... Written before superstardom but recorded at the height of Oasismania, the wonderful 'Going Nowhere' demonstrates why Noel's voice was necessary for the more graceful moments. It's also a song that reminds us that dreams can come true, and that anything is possible. 'Fade Away' rages with that fierce energy that brought the band to people's attention, a thrashy edge that's also noticeable on the powerful 'Listen Up', and then there's the heaving, snarling cover of 'I Am The Walrus'.

There's the sublime Bacharach-like 'Half The World Away', where the yearning qualities of Noel's vocal embellish an exquisite bit of songwriting. The wonderful 'Roll With It' flipside 'Rocking Chair's demonstrates the thuggish vulnerability that Liam's vocals added to the more introspective moments and shows his more tender side. In direct contrast, the vicious 'Headshrinker' features LG's most exhilarating and ferocious performance of all time, spitting out the words with venom as punk rock riffage and supercharged intensity rip through the song. Meanwhile 'It's Good To Be Free' is a seismic, swaggering monster designed to make you feel ten feet tall, and the joyous, life affirming 'Stay Young' is a snapshot of the Manchester giants at the peak of their powers. Why it was left off 'Be Here Now' remains one of rock music's biggest mysteries.

It wouldn't be complete without its title track and grand finale. To class 'The Masterplan' as B side material is laughable. It is in fact a majestic piece of work that stands tall as one of Gallagher's strongest compositions.

These songs may have just been extra tracks on CD singles, yet became more massive and ingrained in our culture than many chart hits of the time.

ALBUM: Beck - Mutations (1998)

Exactly 20 years ago today on 2 November 1998, Beck released his third studio album Mutations. 

You can listen to the album in full below via YouTube. If you appreciate the music, we encourage you to support the artists by buying their music digitally or physically online or from your local record shop.

A less eclectic record than his previous outing 'Odelay', it was another brilliant change in direction. 

Produced by Nigel Godrich, Mutations won a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album, and as of 1999 it has sold over one million copies worldwide.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Track Of The Day: Steve Mason - Stars Around My Heart

Joyously catchy new single from Steve Mason. The former Beta Band man is releasing his fourth solo album 'About The Light' in January 2019. “I decided with this album that I wanted to get my live band involved at every stage because I wanted to capture the energy that we produce when we play live shows, so this time the band and myself worked on a collection of songs over the course of last year,” Mason explains.

The Smiths and Blur producer Stephen Street was at the controls for this LP. Street says, “Steve explained that he wanted to make this album with his band playing more ‘live’ than on some of his previous offerings and also to augment the songs with brass and female backing vocalists. I felt this approach of first stripping back the songs to a more ‘live’ feel to create more space for the more ‘soulful’ elements to breathe in was an interesting one and we got down to work!”

Mason commented “When I listen to this album it feels and sounds like the first ‘legitimate’ record that I have ever made. It’s hard to explain but it sounds like a ‘real’ album. I think that is partly the production, the playing and the work that I did with the band for all those months in our rehearsal room on the South Coast.. It’s a beautiful, confident, positive, angry, loving and gentle album which once again moves what I do forward.” He adds “David Bowie said that you should always be slightly out of your comfort zone if you want to achieve greatness, and for the first time perhaps ever, I deliberately pushed myself into that place. Who doesn’t want greatness?”

Rewind: R.E.M. - Suspicion

R.E.M. released their underrated 11th album Up 20 years ago this week on 26 October 1998. From it comes the sweet mysteries of the gently alluring 'Suspicion'. This song would be released as a single in 1999, and unbelievably failed to make the UK Top 40.

With subtle hints of electronics and more effective use of arrangements, this was the group's first album following the departure of drummer Bill Berry the previous year. In his place were drum machines and session drummers. Apparently, the group almost split while recording 'Up'. A good job they didn't since it's a fine record. Read a review of it and listen in full HERE.

Three years later, R.E.M decided to take a step backwards with the more commercial 'Reveal'. More albums would follow, until the band's split in 2010.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Track Of The Day: Metric - Now Or Never Now

Shimmering indie synthpop magic from Metric. This uplifting, infectious track can be found on the Canadian group's seventh album 'Art Of Doubt', released last month in September.

Rewind: Mansun - Negative

Released 20 years ago this week, reaching number 27 in the UK singles chart. 

Against the backdrop of 90s Britpop, Mansun always seemed like a weird bunch. Their 1997 debut album Attack Of The Grey Lantern was undoubtedly one of the most unusual records to ever reach the number 1 spot. But it's 1998 follow-up 'Six' baffled even the most open-minded of critics, and probably offloaded a lot of the band's more pop-inclined fans. 

Following the beautifully bleak 'Legacy' and post-punk riot 'Being A Girl' (which addressed the issue of toxic masculinity decades before many others), and without many other chart-friendly contenders for singles, the Chester band released the storming 'Negative' as the third single from 'Six'. 

Out of all the tracks from the LP, 'Negative' is the one that immediately stands out in terms of brilliant guitar work, as Dominic Chad's sky high notes and spiralling riffs add to a stubborn tantrum of a rhythm, while Paul Draper's dynamic vocals increase the song's darkly rousing power. 

In a blog a few years ago, Draper commented that "The backing track was worked out without me involved, at the legendary Olympic Studios. I edited it into shape and played the rhythm guitar on the chorus. We captured the live sound of the band for this track. I came up with a top line melody over the top and got the lyrics from my notebook. I'd keep a record of my daily activities in a notebook to get song ideas from. This was about the day I went for a mortgage application. 'Negative' is about taking a blood test for a mortgage application. I loved this lyric, nobody knew what it was about. Fucking hilarious being at Brixton Academy singing about a mortgage application with loads of kids in black eyeliner going apeshit, awesome! We all got mortgages after the first album and you had to do a blood test as part of the mortgage application. It was using the word negative as a positive. It's secretly an uplifting song but sounds really dark, pretty simple really, sort of wrong foots the listener, and nobody knew. The 'I look downwards' bit was just about reading the forms, and getting the OK, all good stuff."

Known for featuring top quality songs as B sides, Mansun released 'Negative' in cassette and vinyl format, as well as on two CDS.

Draper told XS Noize: "The idea was to do enough material to make an album where we could have some relatively straight forward pop songs in case it all went tits up with ‘Six’, the thing is it did go all tits up with ‘Six’ or I wouldn’t be here now otherwise (laughs). That other album was made at the same time, we didn’t come back later and just throw together the B sides, it was all done together. We had been piecing together the ‘Six’ project and then we would come off it for a day and record those songs. The very first one we did was ‘King of Beauty‘ and I just did it and I thought 'I don’t want to do another album of these pop songs'. So the second thing we did was the song ‘Six‘, which was a crazy idea really because everyone said as an artist you have to be original and don’t copy any other styles of music, get your own style. I think Mansun really did have its own sound on the first album, but me just the way I thought and my obtuse view of making records, I thought “okay fuck that! I’m going to do a record that goes through six different styles of music and back to the start and see if I can do it“,so it was just an exercise in doing that, but that’s all it was really. I was just trying to piss off the record company or the managers and the rest of the band (laughs)." 

The first CD single featured the introspective atmospheres of the shadowy 'When The Wind Blows', where a haunting melody, stark piano notes and more sublime guitar sounds deliver something with more hit potential than anything on 'Six'. Draper said: "'When the Wind Blows' was going to be part of my cartoon song 'Shotgun', but evolved into its own song. It's about the animated film of the same name. The recording misses a big dirty guitar on the chorus but I didn't have enough time to fully finish it." The film in question had a theme tune by David Bowie, one of Mansun's biggest musical influences. On 'King Of Beauty', opening acoustic chords and bleak melancholy make way for the dirty riffage and sneering attitude of its chorus. There are some interesting electronics 3 minutes in, and the track is brilliantly produced like the rest of Six and the B sides that accompanied the singles from it. According to Draper, "This song is about someone in a band... but not myself."

CD2 of the 'Negative' single featured a superb live version of 'Take It Easy Chicken' recorded at the Glasgow Barrowlands. Also on it was was the fantastic 'I Deserve What I Get', a solemn, darkly alluring helping of cold, creeping funk. It's very much like how the third Mansun album 'Little Kix' could have been without record label interference. I'd argue that it's ahead of its time compared to the sounds other indie guitar groups were producing at the time.

About the track, Darper said: "This was me trying to do a Prince stylee track and get away with it, which is virtually impossible if you're white and from Liverpool... I did it with my LINN drum machine originally, which is how Prince made all his good records.'. Andie played over the Linn Drum machine patterns that run through the track and played some cool hi hats and beats especially at the end. I play all the keyboards and the synth bass line. Chad overdubbed a single note lead line as usual onto the song thru a Lovetone 'Big Cheese' pedal. I can't remember who played the zither on the bridges..."

The group's next single would be a less maverick re-recording of 'Six''s mad title track. After their third album 'Little Kix', aborted sessions for a fourth Mansun record resulted in the band splitting in 2003. Following a number of harrowing experiences, Paul Draper would finally re-emerge years later in 2016 with long awaited solo material, releasing his debut album 'Spooky Action' in 2017. This year he has been playing Attack Of The Grey Lantern in full during a highly successful UK tour, and next month in November will play a series of intimate acoustic shows. The gigs will feature Mansun classics, solo tracks and new material from his upcoming second solo LP. 

As part of an ongoing series of reissues, 'Six' will be released as a deluxe edition next year in a variety of formats, and Paul Draper is planning to play the album in full.