Monday, 1 September 2014

Track Of The Day: Martin Carr - 'The Santa Fe Skyway'

It's a pleasure to welcome back to the music world the songwriter behind the brilliantly colourful 90s four piece The Boo Radleys. The band split at the end of the 90s after their final album (and my favourite) 'Kingsize', and Martin Carr returned a short while later as Bravecaptain, and despite his dazzling talent for writing pop gems, seemed more at ease making music for a non-mainstream audience. The first release 'The Fingertip Saint Sessions Vol 1' is particularly recommended. He's also released a couple of albums under his own name, finally feeling like he's able to step out of the shadow. 'The Breaks' is his first LP in five years, and opens with this glorious helping of Stax-flavoured dream-soul. "A theme running through my work is not fitting in,” says Carr. “Whether it was at school, work, in a band and even now, a 46-year-old with two small children – I always feel slightly alienated from the process. I think everybody knows what’s going on except me.” There's more intimacy throughout this record, which allows the listener a deeper insight into Carr's life and a swim through his headspace. By the end of 'The Breaks', we've learned a lot more about this man and feel like we're finally a little bit closer to actually knowing him. And any album that features the line "If Jesus ran a chip shop all our fish would be free" has to be worth checking out doesn't it? The album is out via Tapete Records on September 29.



REWIND: The Pioneers - 'Let Your Yeah Be Yeah'

Up until a minute or so ago, I had absolutely no idea that this all-time reggae classic was in fact written by the legendary Jimmy Cliff. A slice of gold from the great Trojan Records, 'Let Your Yeah Be Yeah' was recorded by The Pioneers and produced by Cliff himself. It was released as a single in 1971, reaching number 5 in the UK charts. It can also be found on the band's album 'Yeah!', which was issued the same year. Will have to give that listen later, since the only other song of theirs that I'm familiar with is 'Long Shot Kick De Bucket'. They formed in 1962, and in the early 70's went on to become one of the first reggae acts to enjoy international success.


Saturday, 30 August 2014

Track Of The Day: Death From Above 1979 - 'Trainwreck 1979'

Apologies for the lack of activity on the site this past week. My new full-time job and a delay in broadband being installed at my home has meant that I have had no spare time in which to publish articles on the blog. However, after having bought a brand new laptop and awaiting for my internet to be sorted on Monday, RW/FF will then become even more active and regular than ever before. Death From Above 1979 were a band who I never found out about until after they reformed in 2011. Released in a few week's time on September 9, 'The Physical World' will be the first DFA1979 album in a decade. From it, the awesome 'Trainwreck 1979' is an absolute belter of a tune that shakes itself around inside your head and lodges itself there... Speaking to NME, the band's Sebastian Grainger explained that the new LP partially came to fruition to appease their fans: "No matter what Jesse (Keeler) and I do, on whatever scale of success it’s sat on, there’s always some kind of reference to Death From Above. It’s only frustrating because it’s so lazy. So we’re putting out a Death From Above record and if the press is like, ‘It’s not what we expected,’ or however they react to it, it’s like, ‘Well, you’ve been fucking asking for it.'"



REWIND: Amsterdam - 'Does This Train Stop on Merseyside?'

Today (August 30) is the birthday of radio broadcasting legend John Peel, a man who a substantial amount of music lovers owe a huge debt to. Yesterday, Steve Lamacq's BBC 6Music show marked what would have been John's 75th birthday with an hour of songs that featured in Peelie's annual 'Festive 50' countdowns, including this one that I have somehow NEVER heard before. Amsterdam formed in 1999, around the time that I began listening to JP's unforgettable Radio 1 late evening show. From 2004, here's the band's beautiful 'Does This Train Stop on Merseyside?'. John Peel was said to have been so moved by this song, that it reduced him to tears on every occasion he played it. It made the Festive 50 at the end of the year, by which time the great man had gone. This song went on to be covered by folk legend Christy Moore in 2009.


Monday, 25 August 2014

LISTEN: RW/FF Radio Specials - The Early Years #1

As well as the regular weekly fix of RW/FF Radio, last week (August 18) saw the debut of the brand new RW/FF Radio Specials. The first one was a sort of introduction to myself via the music I listened to in my early years during the 90s. You can listen to the regular edition of the show HERE.

The very first of the RW/FF Radio Specials is all about The Early Years of my life as a music fanatic. As well as hits of the early 90s from 
Depeche Mode, Suede, U2, Sub Sub and even Ace Of Base, other music I discovered as a kid includes The Beatles, Queen feat. David Bowie and Guns N Roses. You can read more about the musical memories of this period in this article HERE.

The next RW/FF Radio Special will be part 2 of The Early Years, on air tonight at 6pm followed by the new edition of RW/FF Radio, which will be live from 7pm till 8pm at this link HEREDance Class with Jason B follows at 8pm... More info on his show can be found HERE

For more info on RW/FF Radio, the RW/FF Specials and Melksham Town Sound, go HERE.


LISTEN: RW/FF Radio - 18/08/2014

As well as the regular weekly fix of RW/FF Radio, last week (August 18) saw the debut of the brand new RW/FF Radio Specials. The first one was a sort of introduction to myself via the music I listened to in my early years during the 90s. You can listen to that HERE.

This edition of RW/FF Radio features new music from The Fall, Trucker, Ziguri, the Levellers feat. Frank Turner, Negative Lovers, and Childhood, while sounds of the past come courtesy of Mansun, Prince Fari, The Rolling Stones, Martha Reeves And The Vandellas and The Chemical Brothers. Plus there's a tribute to the legendary Robin Williams...

The next RW/FF Radio Special will be part 2 of The Early Years, on air tonight at 6pm followed by the new edition of RW/FF Radio, which will be live from 7pm till 8pm at this link HERE. Dance Class with Jason B follows at 8pm. More info on his show can be found HERE

Ben Scott hosts RW/FF Radio every Monday night 7-8pm on Melksham Town Sound. As well as the most essential new releases, you'll hear lost treasures and classics from the past. Expect everything from indie, shoegaze, electronica, krautrock, psychedelica, funk, soul, reggae, punk, alternative, rock and much more.

For more info on RW/FF Radio, the RW/FF Specials and Melksham Town Sound, go HERE.



Track Of The Day: Headman/Robi Insinna feat Emperor Machine - 'Der'

I for one may be completely new to his music, but artist, producer and DJ Robi Insinna (aka Headman) has released four full length albums since his first, 'It Rough' in 2001. He has also remixed the likes of Roxy Music, Gossip, Franz Ferdinand, Richard Fearless, Nitzer Ebb, and The Units, amongst many others. His new album '6' is released on September 15, and according to the press release "feels like the conclusion of the music he has been putting out over the years. There are many collaborations on the album, with friends and artists he has worked with over the years. Featuring on the album are Brassica, The Emperor Machine, Red Axes, David Shaw, Sam from Gramme, Rosie from hot new Berlin Act Ballet School, Brassica, Bozzwell and Tara from It Rough fame... Some tracks can sound more like post punk ESG influenced, some more like pre-detroit machine funk, and some of the vocal tracks have a more pop sensibility...

The album was produced with loads of analog equipment which gives that organic feel, but Robi always stresses that he does not want to be just retro, but take the best from the past and use it together with the technologies from now to create something modern. From it, the addictive Kraut disco funk stomp 'Der' is a major highlight that lays acidy grooves over spacey analogue synths, like early Daft Punk with a more Teutonic outlook. Keep an eye out for the album when it's released...




REWIND: Psychic TV - 'Godstar'

Here's one from a band who up until now, I have known nothing about, with a sing that I first heard after a Facebook friend posted it. Featuring many different members and collaborators over the years, Psychic TV was a band formed from the ashes of Throbbing Gristle

A melodic gem of a tune, one listen to the lyrics was all I needed to realise that their 1985 single 'Godstar' is a tribute to Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones, and tells the (highly contested) tale of his tragic and early death. According to Wikipedia, Psychic TV mainman Genesis P-Orridge has "a peculiar fascination" with Jones...



Saturday, 23 August 2014

Track Of The Day: Camera - 'Roehre'

Repetitive yet progressively explorative, the new album from the Berlin-based group Camera is a brilliant thing. 'Remember I Was Carbon Dioxide' combines recrafted jams and impulsive improvisation to great effect across the 12 tracks to create what sounds very much to my ears like a modern Krautrock classic. During the forceful 'Roehre', a chunky driving rhythm provides the momentum as snarling drones of bass and guitar do battle with squealing free jazz sax and subtle electronics. Explosive and sensationally addictive. The album is out on September 15 via the Bureau B label. Tagged "Krautrock Guerillas" by fellow Berliners for crashing award ceremonies and jamming in Berlin Train stations (like in this video HERE), the brilliant Camera are beyond hipster tags. Do keep an eye out for that album....



What Mansun mean to me by Ben P Scott

Today, August 23 2014 is the day that Mansun fans have been waiting for, as a convention celebrating the legendary band's music takes place at The Live Rooms in Chester. The event is sold out, and as well as a CD of Mansun covers by various artists entitled 'We're In This Together', a programme is also available to purchase. Along with the likes of Mark Beaumont, Damien Jonez, Paul Lester, Simon Price, John Robb and Zoo Zero frontman Tom Pinnock, I have contributed a short piece to the programme. Here is that edited article in its full glory...

Mansun were without a doubt one of the most interesting and unusual group to grow from the Britpop era of the mid 90's. While Oasis sang about being a rock n roll star, and Blur were observing British culture, this four piece from Chester were collaborating with Doctor Who's Tom Baker, sampling 'Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairy' and writing songs about cross dressing clergymen.

When did I first discover Mansun? Not as early as most of the devotees, since I was only 12 at the time. After sending away one of those mailing list cards that came with a Blur CD, I started receiving the regular 'Flavour Of The Month' newspapers that Parlophone Records used to send out. It was here that I first read about Mansun, back in early 1997. A short while later me and one of my few school friends were discussing the Liverpool band Space, when he mentioned that Mansun's album was great and that I should listen to it. In retrospect, rather alarming that they'd be mentioned in the same bracket as Space, but I suppose both groups shared a dark quirkiness. Except Mansun turned out to be well beyond "quirky", as I found out when my mate brought into school a taped copy of the album for a few of us to listen to in the music rooms at lunchtime. Hard to believe kids doing that sort of thing now. 'Stripper Vicar' was hilarious, rousing and strangely energising. Immediately this music sounded rather mad compared to a lot of the other stuff that was being released before 1997 saw some inventive and inspired music making a big impression on the mainstream. But 'Attack Of The Grey Lantern' was one that stood out in particular, a bizarre twist on British guitar pop that consisted of a diverse mixture of sounds put to freak anthem choruses, absurd lyrics about small town weirdos and a style that was refreshingly out of step with the rest of the British guitar scene. There was Paul Draper with his twisted and instinctive talent for maverick pop songwriting, Dominic Chad with his intergalactic guitar solos, and the resonant rhythms of the band's "engine room" Andie Rathbone, one of the greatest and most underrated drummers to have ever picked up a pair of sticks. Then there was bassist Stove King, who just had a funny name. I'm tempted to say that Mansun were ahead of their time, but they weren't. They weren't even symbolic of their era, more like something that was being beamed in from a parallel universe. They were if you like, of their very own space and time, something I'm sure fellow Doctor Who enthusiast Paul Draper is happy to know. 

I spent months listening to that taped copy of the album, and bought a proper copy when I could afford one. Even now, I will always associate the word "graceful" with that sweeping intro to the stunning opener 'The Chad Who Loved Me', which soars with majesty before exploding into the heavy, sensational Bond-esque epic that its title suggests. 'Mansun's Only Love Song' sounds like it's designed to be a musical definition of the term "soulful". They dive deep into these styles and deliver them with effortless perfection. 'Taxloss' was the first of their singles that I purchased, in fact it was one that I bought prior to upgrading my C90 tape copy to the CD version. I didn't buy it thinking the b sides were also going to be superb, but I was in for a surprise. And who could forget that 'Taxloss' promo video where £25,000 in cash was thrown from a balcony at Liverpool station as both an experiment and a statement. A lot of people forget that 'Attack Of The Grey Lantern' was a number one album, and a truly classic one too. Hot on the heels of the LP came the standalone single 'Closed For Business', released as an EP across two CD formats that again featured some remarkable b sides. It was then that I realised this was a band who didn't just churn out any old garbage to fill the spaces on CD single, but a group who valued the importance of never letting the quality slip. They would approach non-album tracks like they were simultaneously recording a separate album that ran parallel to the main one, a contrast to lazy groups trotting out poor remixes and below-par fillers. And surely enough when I started buying all the subsequent Mansun CD singles, I'd compile the b sides together on to a cassette, all in the sequence that they appeared on the CDs. I also made sure that any remixes, live tracks or alternative versions were separated from the actual b side songs, so the result would flow better as an album. 

When the release of their second album was announced in 1998, I was excited and curious to know what direction the band would take next. I expected either songs with ridiculously funny lyrics and even catchier choruses, or a set of sombre epics like 'Closed For Business'. So when I eventually found out what 'Six' was like, I was baffled to say the least. But first came the marvellous 'Legacy', anthemic certainly, but in retrospect a haunting and poignant insight into the mind of an evidently troubled songwriter, who was now writing from a brutally personal angle. Shortly after the single went top ten, it was announced that the band were to preview tracks from the new album on the very first edition of the Radio 1 show 'Lamacq Live', an extended Monday night version of 'The Evening Session' that featured a live set from the BBC's Maida Vale studios each week. I had read in the music press that the new record was a lot darker, but nothing could prepare me for the ferocious live debuts of 'Shotgun' and 'Negative'. At that point, all I could think was that the studio versions might be more accessible and less rough-edged than the raw, abrasive and shape shifting oddities that the band fired out during that performance. If anything, the album versions were even more startling. 'Being A Girl' was amazing, but back then I thought it was a very odd choice for a single. Then I heard the rest of 'Six' and realised that any of the tracks would have been odd as singles. With lyrical passages referencing failure, self destruction, Taoism, Winnie The Pooh, 'The Prisoner' and the death of Brian Jones, there wasn't a jovial 'Stripper Vicar' singalong anywhere in sight. It was like having a handful of songs divided up by lots of segueing movements rather than an album full of potential hits. I can only begin to imagine what the people at their label thought of it. It was and still is hard to believe that a commercially successful band had followed up a number one debut album with this sprawling jigsaw of insane ideas and uncompromising, multi-directional song fragments. It's a post-punk prog masterpiece that didn't make any sense in the indie rock scene of 1998, because it wasn't meant to. Railing against the musical complacency of the surrounding mainstream climate, one of the reasons 'Six''s appeal hasn't worn off is because it doesn't sound dated. You can't put a date on the genuinely one-off sound and style of 'Six'. Although it has influenced a number of people, nothing quite like it has been made since. It isn't relevant to 1998, and neither is it relevant to any other year before or after it. It is a remarkable, incomparable and timeless musical oddity.

One of the important things that 'Six' taught me is not to dismiss an album just because it sounds unusual and confusing on the first listen. It's impossible to take in, absorb and understand such deeply revealing music on the first listen, which is why I wondered what the fuck Mansun were playing at. They must have known those songs were too bizarre and out of step to continue their mainstream ascendancy. After a short while I realised that perhaps staying true to their artistic instincts was far more important to this band than fitting in and running on the commercial treadmill. Years later, many albums from 1998 aren't really played in my house, even the very best ones. Why? Because even though they're great, I've heard them all too many times for them to reveal anything new. Wheras 'Six' still fascinates and intrigues my senses 16 years on, while my ears still manage to find new things to focus on every time I hear the album. 

Back in the late 90s, I was the writer of my own handwritten and photocopied fanzine called 'Supernova', which I used to give to local record shops to stock. When it came round to reviewing 'Six', my 14 year old self found it an overwhelming task to describe the sounds of such an extraordinary record in words. I realised I had to raise my game. This record challenged me to become more imaginative with my writing, and pushed me to become better at what I did. And since I eventually returned to writing about music in 2010, the album still remains something that helps inspire my mind to flow more creatively whenever I suffer from writer's block or fatigue. One of the greatest albums of all time? I'd answer that with a certain and resounding "yes".

When the band returned in 2000 with the incredible 'I Can Only Disappoint U', I had high hopes for the third album. 'Little Kix' sounded the result of being told by Parlophone "you've had your fun, now it's time to deliver some hits". With a lot of the edges smoothed away, the music was still great but undeniably restrained, especially in hindsight. Despite classics like 'Love Is' and 'Comes As No Surprise', I'm not sure if anyone who's heard all the albums would choose the beautiful but flawed 'Little Kix' as their favourite. It's more likely that many fans would have preferred some of the splendid b sides from that period: the majestic Bowie-esque 'Decisions Decisions', Chad's 'Golden Stone' and the infectious 'My Idea Of Fun'.

The band's existence pretty much mirrored and ran alongside my love affair with indie guitar music in the 90s and early 2000's. By 2003 the scene that defined my youth had become tired and uninspiring, a situation caused by most of my favourite bands slumping to bad form or splitting up. Mansun falling apart that same year was like a symbolic example of that era coming to an end. My love of music hadn't died though, instead I immersed myself in the punk rock scene. One of the first songs that made me want to start investigating punk music a bit more? Magazine's 'Shot By Both Sides', which I discovered after Mansun covered it for a b side.

Our memories of the band haven't been tarnished by bad records or half-arsed reunions, instead their legacy has been left fully intact. As the possibility of them ever reforming becomes less and less likely, the fans have the music itself and the memories of those years to treasure. If one of Paul Draper's ambitions was to leave a deep and lasting impact on people, then job done. However, despite the impression they've left on the people who remember them, it's undeniable that Mansun's achievements should be recognised more often by the mainstream media. It seems that standing out from the crowd, and crafting a style at odds with that typical of the era have meant that music journalists can't easily include the band in nostalgic celebrations of alternative music from the 90s. They don't fit conveniently into pigeonholed visions of pre-millennial indie rock. 

They taught me to be proud of being different, and that given the chance, you have to do what you believe in, even if you risk initial failure. They taught me that even the greatest bands in the world can't last forever, and that those bands sometimes leave behind music that has the ability to sound alive and vital for many years to come...

If you go HERE, you can read an exclusive interview that I did with Draper himself...

Go HERE to read lots of other Mansun/Draper-related articles.


REWIND: Alcatraz - 'Giv Me Luv'

Due to not having much spare time over the last week, the latest Friday Banger is actually a Saturday Banger. Better than having no banger at all. This chunky dancefloor monster from 1995 was one that I used to play a lot back when I was a very young club DJ. Alcatraz were a US house production duo comprising of Victor Imbres and Jean-Phillippe Aviance. Their one and only single 'Giv Me Love' was a massive international club hit and the track's success lead to the duo producing several remixes for names including Apollo 440, Lil Mo' Yin Yang and BT... This house classic entered the UK singles charts at number 12 back in February 1996.



Thursday, 21 August 2014

REVIEW: Negative Lovers - 'Faster Lover' EP ( Picture In My Ear Records)


Negative Lovers are a four piece noise rock band who hail from the Indonesian city of Jakarta. The six track 'Faster Lover' EP is their second release under their current name, after formerly being known as Denial. They appear to have been influenced by a number of legendary bands (Primal Scream, Spacemen 3, Can) but add plenty of their own potent ingredients to the mixture, focusing and expanding on various ideas to brilliant effect.

Kraut-trance. Is that a sound that you're familiar with? No? Well side A of this record is something that you will need to hear. A sharp, energetic fusion of industrial psychedelia and krautrock-infused punk, 'Faster Lover' is a fresh blast of excitement that digs further into the brain with each insistent bar. The incredible Jagz Kooner remix of the track emphasises the motorik rhythms and rearranges it into a remarkable German-flavoured odyssey, while its somewhat trance-like side is explored further with the dub mix of the song that Kooner also provides.

Flip over to side B, and as well as communicating to the listener with what is described as "a voice that calls out to you from the urban shadows", they're taking you into a colourful sea of carefree surf-psych euphoria with the vibrant 'Hit And Run', hitting the senses with the trippy, driving whack and dense guitar feedback of the Mary Chain-meets-Neu! dazzler 'Last Sex', and rounding off the journey with the free jazz-shoegaze-industrial-techno fusion of Cy Spectrum's superb remix of 'Classwar'.

In terms of EPs, one of the finest things that 2014 has produced so far, an elevating explosion of psychedelic rock n roll that entrances and invigorates. Definitely not to be missed. 8.5/10




Track Of The Day: Echo And The Bunnymen - 'Explosions'

Ian McCulloch wasn't exactly understated in his promises when it came to announcing the new Echo And The Bunnymen album 'Meteorites'. "At long last we’ve made the worthy successor to ‘Crocodiles’, ‘Heaven Up Here’, ‘Porcupine’, and ‘Ocean Rain’" claimed McCulloch. "‘Meteorites’ is what Echo and the Bunnymen mean and are meant to be…up there in Heaven…untouchable, celestial, beautiful, and real…it has changed my life." Promises like this make it even more disappointing that their twelfth studio album doesn't hold a candle to 'Ocean Rain' or any of the other early Bunnymen classics. But there are a few occasions (four to be precise) when we get a few genuine glimpses of that old magic. 'Explosions' has a strident yet reflective melody that charms and satisfies, although the lyrics could have done with a little bit of fine tuning... Read my full 5/10 review HERE.



REWIND: Super Furry Animals - 'It's Not The End Of The World?'

Music formats have come and gone over the years. I was in my teens when the industry was hailing the Mini Disc as the future of listening, possibly pushed harder by desperation to distract people from MP3 players. At the time it was pretty cool though, like a cassette tape that had nearly the same sound quality as CD and that you could skip and search through rather than rewinding or fast forwarding. I would hook my mini disc player up to the TV with an audio lead and record various things from MTV 2, which was a more alternative/rock leaning sister version of the former music channel. Having been keen on the Super Furry Animals for a few years, I was excited when they announced that their 2001 album 'Rings Around The World' would also be accompanied by an animated film and played in full on the channel. So I "MD-ed" it. A form of piracy that existed in between home taping and illegal downloading, one that I'm sure all others who owned the devices must have been doing at the time. In that year after leaving college, various mundane jobs included Burger King and a few temporary shifts on dull packing/production lines. My 'Rings Around The World' MiniDisc brightened up those drab days and helped the hours fly by. I bought the CD a few weeks later. From it, here's the glorious 'It's Not The End Of The World?', a stunning number that highlights the band's gift for heart capturing moments of alluring melancholia...



Monday, 18 August 2014

Track Of The Day: Negative Lovers - 'Faster Lover' (Jagz Kooner Remix)

Kraut-trance. Is that a sound that you're familiar with? No? Well, side A of the new Negative Lovers record is something that you will need to hear. A sharp, energetic fusion of industrial psychedelia and krautrock-infused punk, 'Faster Lover' is a fresh blast of excitement that digs further into the brain with each insistent bar. The incredible Jagz Kooner remix of the track emphasises the motorik rhythms and rearranges it into a remarkable German-flavoured odyssey, while its somewhat trance-like side is explored further with the dub mix of the song that Kooner also provides.

Negative Lovers are a four piece noise rock band who hail from the Indonesian city of Jakarta. The six track 'Faster Lover' EP is their second release under their current name, after formerly being known as Denial. They appear to have been influenced by a number of legendary bands (Primal Scream, Spacemen 3, Can) but add plenty of their own potent ingredients to the mixture, focusing and expanding on various ideas to brilliant effect. 




REWIND: Prince Fari - 'Throw Away Your Gun' (12" Mix)

'Virgin Front Line - Sounds Of Reality' is a 5 CD box set, released last week on August 11. As well as excellent roots gems from The Gladiators, The Mighty Diamonds and classics from toasting legends U Roy and Big Youth, there's a number of top notch dub selections too. Highlights include The Twinkle Brothers' liberation cry 'Free Africa', Culture's 'Can’t Study The Rastaman', Poet And The Roots' 'Dread Beat An' Blood', The Abyssinians' 'Hey You', Doctor Alimantado's incredible 'Slavery Let It Go' and Jah Lloyd And The Black Lion's 'Bone Dub'. One particularly killer track is Prince Fari's outstanding 12" mix of 'Throw Away Your Gun', which extends the song to a brilliant 8 minutes. A version of the track can also be found on his 1980 album 'Showcase in a Suitcase'.

On 10th March 1978 Virgin Records launched a label that throughout the remainder of the decade would set the benchmark for Roots Reggae: Front Line. In the space of just under two years, some 46 albums and 26 singles saw issue on the iconic imprint, with its releases consistently of the highest calibre and rating among the very best music Jamaica had to offer. Front Line’s brief but glorious existence as the world’s greatest Roots Reggae label is celebrated with this deluxe box set, which across its 5 discs features many of Jamaica’s greatest talents, performing 92 of the most enduring Roots, Dub, Lovers Rock and DJ sounds of the seventies, with a third of the 31 tracks new to CD previously unissued. Also included in the package is a 52 page booklet, which opens with a typically captivating foreword from John Lydon, whose talent-scouting trip to Jamaica with Richard Branson early in 1978 was key to Virgin’s acquisition of some of the finest Reggae recordings of the era.

Peppered with fascinating imagery, including numerous previously unseen shots from the trip taken by world renowned photographer Dennis Morris, every key episode during Front Line’s brief yet glorious history is disclosed, courtesy of fascinating anecdotes from Don Letts, the label’s original manager, Jumbo Vanrenen, and its designer Brian Cooke, whose original drafts for the iconic imprint are revealed for the first time ever. As an added bonus, the set also contains four high quality reproductions of classic Front Line posters from the seventies, as well as a car sticker, based on the now impossibly rare Front Line Rockers badge from 1976. This, the most comprehensive collection of Front Line tracks ever to see issue, pays due homage to the legendary label and flawlessly illustrates just why it continues to be widely revered by Reggae fans around the world, more than 36 years after its launch.


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Track Of The Day: Trucker - 'Radioactive Stars'

It didn't take long for former Babybird man Stephen Jones to follow the outstanding and immersive 'Ambition Expired' with another album. Just over a week in fact. However, this one doesn't bear his name, neither is it another instrumental set of atmospheric pieces from his Black Reindeer project. This is his latest alter-ego, Trucker. The beautifully understated 'Radioactive Stars' is pretty much the only track of its kind on 'Songs To Truck To', a spacious and euphoric electro lullaby that glows sweetly. It feels slightly out of place amongst the other pieces here, and could probably be considered relatively normal compared to what surrounds it. The remainder of the 72 minute drive provides us with some of Jones' strangest work to date, heavily electronic and themed entirely around trucking. These ideas must come from a part of his brain that other people don't have.


As well as intergalactic ambient techno, nocturnal garage grooves, warped hip hop, spacey synth ballads, and dreamy piano laments, there's the acid house trucking anthem 'I Like To Truck', and the genuinely sinister 'Something's In The Back Of My Truck' which conjures up all sorts of dark images, as well as capturing the heavy weariness of long distance overnight driving. The spoken word bit at the end is particularly exceptionally twisted. All vocals are delivered in a seedy deep Southern USA accent, highlighting Jones' ability to slip into the roles of convincing characters. Amongst many other diverse and weird things, we get the acid electronica of the spiralling 'Motherfuckingtruckerfucker' and the unsettling varispeed vocals on 'I Dream About My Truck When I'm Driving Her', describing a scene in a motel room, sticking "duct tape newspaper to the window" and keeping "a gun under my pillow, next to a picture of my third wife". It's moments like these that make you wonder if Jones leaves his windows open whilst recording the bizarre vocals and creepy spoken word segments. What must his neighbours think? Only a true maverick like Jones could create something this fucked-up and brilliant.

And just as I finish writing this article, I discover that he's already put out another release, this one a sprawling triple album entitled 'Dream Walking'. Not a Trucker album though, but a soundtrack to a forthcoming movie. Those who have stuck with him since the Babybird days are certainly reaping the rewards.





REWIND: Depeche Mode - 'I Feel You'


As of this week, there will now be two RW/FF Radio shows every Monday night. Featuring the most essential new tracks and treasures from the history of recorded music, the usual RW/FF Radio shows will continue each week at 7pm until 8pm, but will now be preceded by the new hour long RW/FF Specials at 6pm. Each week will look at a different theme, year or genre. The first show will feature music from my early years. Read about some of the stuff I used to listen to as a youngster HERE in this piece entitled 'Musical Memories from 1984 - 1993'.

For more info on RW/FF Radio, the RW/FF Specials and Melksham Town Sound, go HERE.


I was (shamefully) keen on the camp electro pop duo Erasure in the early 90s, and was surprised when I learned that Vince Clark was once a member of this dark, powerful and enigmatic group called Depeche Mode. Even though he was no longer part of the band, I still thought it was odd that two such differing styles of music could have a common connection. I remember seeing the video to 'I Feel You' being played a lot on The ITV Chart Show and MTV in 1993, and was intrigued further by this band when I realised that the majority of my Uncle Justin's CDs and records were Depeche Mode releases. But I was too young and distracted by other things to delve any further into their music, and a couple of years later Britpop and dance were what held my attention. Ironically Britpop led me back to Depeche Mode in a slightly tenuous way, when I started buying Q magazine mainly to read about Oasis, Blur, Suede and all the other British guitar greats of the mid 90s. In late 97, the magazine came with a free CD featuring 'The Best Tracks From The Best Albums Of 1997', one of which was 'Barrel Of A Gun' from the 'Ultra' album. 'It's No Good' followed, and equally impressed. A third and this time permanent spell as a Depeche Mode enthusiast began about 4 years ago when I picked up a vinyl copy of a singles compilation that collected classic material from the 80s. I've been collecting vinyl copies of their albums ever since...

Taken from the superb album 'Songs Of Faith And Devotion', this track was the band's highest-charting single worldwide.



REVIEW: Echo And The Bunnymen - 'Meteorites' (PledgeMusic)

A late review I know, but one that was written months ago and temporaily lost on a USB stick...

Ian McCulloch wasn't exactly understated in his promises when it came to announcing the new Echo And The Bunnymen album 'Meteorites'. "At long last we’ve made the worthy successor to ‘Crocodiles’, ‘Heaven Up Here’, ‘Porcupine’, and ‘Ocean Rain’" claimed McCulloch. "‘Meteorites’ is what Echo and the Bunnymen mean and are meant to be…up there in Heaven…untouchable, celestial, beautiful, and real…it has changed my life." Promises like this make it even more disappointing that their twelfth studio album doesn't hold a candle to 'Ocean Rain' or any of the other early Bunnymen classics. They've fallen into the trap of mistakenly thinking that making songs in the same style as their most acclaimed works will qualify as a "return to form", forgetting that the quality of the songs was what made those earlier records so special.


But let's concentrate on the good bits, during which we get a few genuine glimpses of that old magic, the yearning opening title track being one of two clear highlights, full of shadowy drama and despairing elegance. The other stand out comes later in the record on the superb 'Market Town', a colourful psychedelic epic loaded with sitars and big hooks. Elsewhere, 'Explosions' has a strident yet reflective melody that charms and satisfies, although the lyrics could have done with a little bit of fine tuning. 'Lovers On The Run' is a dark, dramatic sequel to 'The Killing Moon' which is actually enjoyable song, despite the fact that you can almost hear McCulloch telling us: "it sounds like the old stuff, so it's just as good!"

Undoubtedly, it would have been better for McCulloch not to compare 'Meteorites' to the magnificent 'Ocean Rain'. Sometimes approaching an album with low expectations can leave you pleasantly surprised by the positives.  Telling your fans that you've equalled your greatest moments is going to lead to disappointment when they're served with the sort of Bunnymen by-numbers found on the majority of this record. 'Holy Moses' becomes pedestrian before it's given a chance to get going, while on 'Constantinople', the excitement created by an excellent guitar hook is dampened by the song's overall lack of direction, and any claims that the likes of 'Is This A Breakdown' could equal the band's classic works are completely ludicrous.

A lot of it just sounds too slight, and doesn't really stick, 'Grapes On The Vine' being a prime example. Occasionally, the promise made by a great verse is dishonoured by a flaccid chorus (completely wasting 'Burn It Down'), and at times it sounds like a little more effort could have been made here and there. Take for example 'New Horizons', where a wonderful verse clearly deserves to be paired with a chorus that doesn't just consist completely of the two words from the title.

For a band whose early works are among the greatest albums of all time, it's a shame to hear them sounding this uninspired. It's not an awful record, just disappointing and sometimes slightly mediocre. What makes it worse is all McCulloch's talk of it being up there with his finest works. Certainly didn't do himself any favours there. 5/10