Friday, 18 April 2014

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #46

This week: the fantastic new album from The Crookes, and the split LP from Thought Forms and Esben And The Witch. New music from Echo And The Bunnymen, The Diaphanoids, Cherry Ghost, The Juan MacLean, The Amazing Snakeheads and Johnny Cash (OK, so THAT one isn't exactly new). All that plus the pick of this year's Record Store Day releases from Paul Weller, Temples/Jagwar Ma, Django Django and the insane King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard.



Last year, Wiltshire-based post-rock trio Thought Forms joined Esben And The Witch and the mighty Teeth Of The Sea for a triple headed tour around the UK. At the Bristol leg of the tour, Charlie from Thought Forms revealed to RW/FF that they were planning a split LP with Esben, a prospect that left me waiting for this with much anticipation. Its arrival doesn't disappoint, as both bands deliver sides that compliment the other brilliantly and fit together cohesively as a whole. 


The first side of this Invada-issued piece of vinyl belongs to Thought Forms, who begin with the patient, intricate drumwork and ghostly ambience of 'Your Bones'. Sullenly atmospheric guitars ring through an ethereal mist as the icy glide of carefully applied vocals ascends throughout, before erupting into heavier moods. Going off with a bang from the outset is the excellent 'For The Moving Stars', where the thriving energy, zippy riffs and MBV flavours provide a brilliant moment that's as accessible and immediate as this band have ever sounded. They switch to a lower gear for the tortured, downbeat Sonic Youth-meets-Nirvana vibes and howling guitars of 'Silver Kiss', rounding off side A in bleak fashion.


Turn the record over, and it's apparent that Esben And The Witch aren't fucking about. From the moment it bursts in, it's their astonishing 'No Dog' that provides the record's highlight, a deep, intense blast of ferocity and claustrophobia, pushing forwards with menacing momentum and awesome melodrama. Although it's length and split LP status makes it feel a bit like a gap-bridger in places and perhaps a warm up for what's to come next from both parties, if you're a fan of either band, you'd be an absolute fool not to add this to your record shelf. For everyone else, I'd say this is a great place to start. Read my full 8/10 review HERE.



Combining 50s era romance with vibes from the indie disco is something that Sheffield four piece The Crookes have been doing rather well for the last few years. They've produced some very promising moments, yet stretching the magic out over the course of a whole album seemed to prove a challenge for them. So while 2011's 'Chasing After Ghosts' and its follow up 'Hold Fast' certainly had a few high points, neither felt consistent enough to really hit the mark. With their third album the band realise their potential and move themselves up to a new level. A sense of isolation emerges every so often, maybe due to the LP being recorded in an old abandoned church located in the Italian Alps. 



The pacey 'Before The Night Falls' glistens with chiming guitar hooks and comes charged with vitality and vibrancy, storming into a powerfully emotive chorus. Towards the end, another spellbinding melody arises and knocks you off your feet once again. An exciting highlight that displays The Crookes at the very top of their game. 'Outsiders' puts forward magnificent melodies that set the heart racing, and exemplifies the spirit of these bright underachievers who revel in being out of step with popular fashion, taking great pride in doing things their own way. 


Proof of just how far the songwriting has come is demonstrated with the beautifully resigned elegance of 'Howl', one of those songs with a melody so good, it's hard to believe nobody thought of it before. Something has happened to The Crookes. They've moved up more than a few notches to the point where they are no longer a promising indie band, but a great one. Read the full 8.2/10 review HERE.


Quite often, the quality of posthumously released albums from well-loved artists can vary wildly. After all, most unreleased material stays unreleased for a good reason, certainly the case with the terrible Michael Jackson rejects that have been issued since his death. So when it was announced that a long lost Johnny Cash album that was recorded in the 1980s had been discovered and was being prepared for release, it sounded a little bit iffy to me. Luckily, 'Out Among the Stars' is a most enjoyable listen indeed and a fine addition to his back catalogue. Cash did some sessions in the 80s with famed countrypolitan producer Billy Sherrill, and the results were shelved by Cash's record company Columbia. Cash also recorded the 1981 album 'The Baron' with Sherrill in an attempt to turn around his dismal album sales but the strategy did not work, leaving his record executives eager to dump him. Many years later it's rather a different story indeed. God Is In The TV remarked that "Not surprisingly, there are no classic gems to shine out and it contains just two self-penned songs. It is, however, a worthy release, so here’s the title track for you." I'd agree with that. Here's his version of the darkly amusing, tongue-in-cheek 'I Drove Her Out Of My Mind', which was written by Gary Gentry and Hillman Hall. "I was really upset when it didn't come out," says Gentry, "when Cash did that song, it was like God saying, 'You did good getting off cocaine and whiskey, so here's a little gift from me.' I was there the day he cut the song, so I knew he'd done it, and I just wanted to hear it...


Excellent new track from the legendary Echo And The Bunnymen, taken from the upcoming album 'Meteorites'. The LP is the band's first material in five years and follows 2009's 'The Fountain'. Anthemically psychedelic and seven minutes long, it's an epic that sees Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant back on tremendous form. Mac says: "At long last we’ve made the worthy successor to ‘Crocodiles’, ‘Heaven Up Here’, ‘Porcupine’, and ‘Ocean Rain’. ‘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."

I went to see Echo And The Bunnymen last year when they were on tour with James. See a review of their Bristol gig HERE



Since their last album 'Beneath This Burning Shoreline' was fantastic, it gives me great pleasure to welcome back the wonderful Cherry Ghost. That last album was released four years ago, so new material has been a long time coming. Luckily what I've heard so far is lovely, particularly this beautifully melancholic but dreamily hopeful little number. 'Herd Runners', which will be their third album, comes out on May 12 via Heavenly Recordings. "Exploring different styles has helped my own songs,” says frontman and songwriter Simon Aldred, “Musicians need to stretch themselves and keep on learning... These songs aren’t as dark as those on previous records. This time round I thought it was important to keep a real empathy for the people I’m writing about.” Recorded in Sheffield with long-term Richard Hawley collaborator Colin Elliot and mixed in Bath with Dan Austin, 'Herd Runners' is described in a press release as "ten perfectly crafted tales of heartbreak and hope." Throughout May 2014, Cherry Ghost will tour with ex-Beautiful South and Housemartins frontman Paul Heaton as he releases his fourth solo album alongside fellow Beautiful South singer Jacqui Abbott.



OK, I've managed to wait a few weeks before featuring anything from this record, but I can wait no more. 'LSME' by The Diaphanoids is a seriously good album that has been ruling my world over the last month or so, and I am very excited to introduce the group's music to my readers. Consisting of eight trippy instrumentals, 'LSME' is described as "an acid psychallucisergic album full of seventies' kosmische flavours fuzzed-out guitars and motorik rhythms." Psychallucisergic? It has to be good when only a made up word can sum it up. The Diaphanoids also have a VERY interesting background, one of them (Andrea Bellentani) wrote songs for Pavarotti, and the other half of the duo (Marco 'Simon' Maccari) is an Italian dance producer who worked with 'Ride On Time' hitmakers Black Box! Dipped in cosmic funk and eastern instrumentation, the title track is like an intergalactic downwards rollercoaster speeding in constant motion, punctuated by low, meaty stabs of bass, effective use of repetition and guitars that glide across the surface. Sounding not unlike an orchestra being shot into space, the term psychedelic big beat comes to mind. Astounding. A slightly edited version can be heard below... 'LSME' is released through Tirk Recordings on April 28, which is looking like a bumper day for new releases... 



Quite simply an essential resource for any true music lover, BBC 6Music continues to guide me to some incredible stuff. The man who introduced me to a lot of the music I bought in the late 90s is still doing his thing on air, with 6Music his residence. Yes, I'm talking about indie scene legend Steve Lamacq, who played this superb tune on his show last week... 

A band I'm still completely unfamiliar with, The Amazing Snakeheads are due to release their debut album 'Amphetamine Ballads' next week on April 14. They are signed to Domino Records and are from Glasgow. Imagine if Joy Division and The Stooges formed a supergroup and then boarded a rocket to space. Raw and energised intensity.



Here's one that was actually released a while back, but which has only come to my attention recently after receiving some airplay from Lauren Laverne on BBC 6Music. 

Seriously infectious disco-shaped excellence coming out of New York, featuring the vocals of Nancy Whang (ex LCD Soundsystem), whose savvy tones make this chunk of dancefloor gold even more irresistible. 

Released on DFA Records, 'Get Down (With My Love)' precedes a full length album, which will be coming later in the year. 


Tomorrow (April 19) music fans, collectors and opportunists will be queuing outside record shops up and down the UK for Record Store Day. I feel a strong need to remind people that the yearly event shouldn't just be about buying overpriced and often unnecessary reissues or snapping up rare items to flog for a profit. In my opinion it should be just as much about digging through the crates, scanning the shelves and finding something that appeals. Even if your budget and financial priorities limit your choices to a browse through the bargains section, even that's enough to do your bit. A couple of weeks ago when I visited Weston-Super-Mare, I discovered a brilliant little vinyl shop called Revolver. I liked it so much, I wrote an article about it and interviewed the shop's owner Andy. Read that HERE. Since its Record Store Day tomorrow, I have also been re-publishing some old features, including this one HERE about record shops in Wiltshire and Bath past and present. You can also see what RW/FF got up to when RSD came to the city of Bath for the first time last year in this article HERE. In fact to save you some time, just go to THIS link and you can read every single RW/FF post related to record shops.


Record Store Day may mainly deal in re-releases and pricey collectors items, but each year there are also always a number of undeniably special records on offer, one of them being a beautifully coloured picture disc that features two of the most exciting bands to emerge in recent times. On one side, Jagwar Ma give the Temples treasure 'Shelter Song' a bassy house makeover while reinterpreting the psychedelic moods in a contemporary, dancefloor-friendly fashion. Alternatively you can opt for the flipside where the Kettering-based four piece put their big drums and 60s flavours on to Jagwar's fantastic 'Man I Need'...


Another track being released on stunning multicoloured vinyl by Heavenly Recordings, available tomorrow. You can also find this on an album entitled 'Float Along - Fill Your Lungs' which was released last year in 2013. The brilliantly named King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard are an Australian band who are described as "Completely fried theremin-wielding psychopaths." Sounds like a recommendation if there ever was one.

Beginning as a heavy, lumbering sitar-powered drone, the vocals enter at a surprisingly early point for such a lengthy track. But this is pretty much a two-parter as the title suggests, and although the latter bit kicks in under four minutes into this crazed 16 minute celestial epic, it doesn't peak too early and seems to be running on some sort of musical superfuel. Astonishing sounds will fill your head and you might feel a touch overwhelmed after being taken on such a demented journey. Listen now. You'll be glad you did.


I suppose I'd better cram in more RSD releases before the big day. Here's one from the brilliant Django Django, their first new material in two years. Excpet technically it's not, since the song is a cover. A cover of a Monkees track! Don't worry, it's a good one. Although best known as a made-for-TV boyband, the soundtrack to their 1968 movie 'Head' is regarded as a psychedelic classic in many quarters. I still haven't ever heard it, but one day my curiosity will change that. Django Django's version of 'Porpoise Song' can also be found on the upcoming 'Late Night Tales' compilation which the band have compiled. More info on that HERE.



Tomorrow will be the fifth year that I have taken part in the event, but this year has seen a bit of negativity surrounding the event. I agree completely that out of the 700+ releases hitting the shops tomorrow, most of them are pointless and completely inessential in every way possible. Which means that all the best stuff is going to be buried in amongst all the junk. To be honest, as a music buyer, I am only interested in buying music that I don't already own. So the stream of overpriced reissues is of no interest to me. Instead, I am going to do what music lovers should be doing on Record Store Day... Buying records. Records that I actually need. I buy records all year round, and tomorrow is going to be no different. However as well as the Temples/Jagwar Ma 12", I am still tempted to shell out some cash on this brand new and rather 'White Album'-esque Paul Weller track, which is also going to be appearing on his upcoming 'Modern Classics 2' compilation, an album that rounds up the highlights of his career from 1999 to the present day. Because I own all the tracks on that compilation, it would make more sense for me to purchase the single instead, hence why The Modfather's RSD offering is at the top of my list.



After trying to decide which I was going to queue outside on the day, my mind has been made up for me by the folks at the original Raves From The Grave shop in Frome. A little while ago, the highly recommended Somerset record shop announced that the legendary Billy Bragg has agreed to play an instore gig for this year's Record Store Day. Bragg will be performing at 3pm (giving him time to buy his RSD vinyl first!) Recommended local singer/songwriter Jordan Whatley will also be playing a set at the Warminster store at 11am. Copies of his debut EP 'The Shadowed Planet' will be available for sale, and a review of that release can be found HERE.



If you live in or near Bristol, the fantastic Rise Records has a whole day of live music planned, including the amazing East India Youth at 8.30pm. More info HERE.


Rewind:
Yes, I know I've been promising the next instalment of my musical memories for ages now. Since Christmas in fact! It WILL be coming soon, do not fear...

Back next week. Or possibly the week after.

http://rwffmusic.blogspot.com/

Track Of The Day: Paul Weller - 'Brand New Toy'

As I'm sure all readers are aware, tomorrow (April 19) is Record Store Day. It will be the fifth year that I have taken part in the event, but this year has seen a bit of negativity surrounding the event. I agree completely that out of the 700+ releases hitting the shops tomorrow, most of them are pointless and completely inessential in every way possible. Which means that all the best stuff is going to be buried in amongst all the junk. To be honest, as a music buyer, I am only interested in buying music that I don't already own. So the stream of overpriced reissues is of no interest to me. Instead, I am going to do what music lovers should be doing on Record Store Day... Buying records. Records that I actually need. I buy records all year round, and tomorrow is going to be no different. However as well as the Temples/Jagwar Ma 12", I am still tempted to shell out some cash on this brand new and rather 'White Album'-esque Paul Weller track, which is also going to be appearing on his upcoming 'Modern Classics 2' compilation, an album that rounds up the highlights of his career from 1999 to the present day. Because I own all the tracks on that compilation, it would make more sense for me to purchase the single instead, hence why The Modfather's RSD offering is at the top of my list.



REWIND: The Coral - 'Spanish Main'

Today's 'Rewind' comes from The Coral

They've been out of action for a while. Since 2010 in fact. But their record label Skeleton Key Records has been releasing some rather interesting stuff lately, including an album by Neville Skelly entitled 'Carousel', which was reviewed HERE a while ago. The Coral's last album 'The Butterfly House' was a wonderful record that had me awaiting their next move with anticipation, so I shall be pleased when I hear news of their return. But today here's one from their excellent self-titled debut from 2002, one of that year's finest LPs, and one of the decade's best debuts. 

Combining sea shanties, psychedelica and Merseybeat, 'Spanish Main' is the album's terrific opener. It's brief, but it's a killer. And if you like it, have a listen to the rest of the album pronto!




Thursday, 17 April 2014

Track Of The Day: Django Django - 'Porpoise Song'


With Record Store Day happening in two day's time, I suppose I'd better cram in more RSD releases before the big day. Here's one from the brilliant Django Django, their first new material in two years. Excpet technically it's not, since the song is a cover. A cover of a Monkees track! Don't worry, it's a good one. Although best known as a made-for-TV boyband, the soundtrack to their 1968 movie 'Head' is regarded as a psychedelic classic in many quarters. I still haven't ever heard it, but one day my curiosity will change that. Django Django's version of 'Porpoise Song' can also be found on the upcoming 'Late Night Tales' compilation which the band have compiled. More info on that HERE.



REWIND: Placebo - 'You Don't Care About Us'

A bit of Placebo for today's 'Rewind' selection. No reason why, just fancied it, that's all. I remember one holiday I took with my family in Newquay back in 1998, where I spent a lot of the Monday of that week bugging my Mum to hurry up with her daily activities so we could go to the local record store and buy a copy of the 'Pure Morning' on the day it was released. Still feel guilty for that until this day. My mum must have spent epic amounts of time being dragged around music retailers when I was young, and for that I am forever grateful. This single followed 'Pure Morning' about a month or so later, and landed at number 5 in the charts. Soon after that I bought the band's second album 'Without You I'm Nothing', which contained both tracks. Don't make the mistake of thinking that their more recent material is anywhere near as good. It isn't. A review I wrote on last year's 'Loud Like Love' can be read HERE.



Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Track Of The Day: King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard - 'Head On/Pill'

Another track being released on stunning multicoloured vinyl by Heavenly Recordings, available on Record Store Day this weekend, Sat April 19th. You can also find this on an album entitled 'Float Along - Fill Your Lungs' which was released last year in 2013. The brilliantly named King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard are an Australian band who are described as "Completely fried theremin-wielding psychopaths." Sounds like a recommendation if there ever was one.

Beginning as a heavy, lumbering sitar-powered drone, the vocals enter at a surprisingly early point for such a lengthy track. But this is pretty much a two-parter as the title suggests, and although the latter bit kicks in under four minutes into this crazed 16 minute celestial epic, it doesn't peak too early and seems to be running on some sort of musical superfuel. Astonishing sounds will fill your head and you might feel a touch overwhelmed after being taken on such a demented journey. Listen now. You'll be glad you did.



REWIND: Symposium - 'Bury You'

One thing I love about the summer coming closer is the sudden emergence of car boot sales in my local area of Wiltshire. A few days ago I spent a pleasant Sunday morning at one in Lacock, where I was searching for vinyl and old Doctor Who books/merchandise. I didn't find any of those things, but I did come back with a load of CD albums. One of them was 'On The Outside', the debut (and only) studio album) from Symposium


Although I bought all the singles from it back in the day, CD albums seemed to be more expensive then, so 'On The Outside' remained unpurchased until two years ago when I got myself a digital copy. I used to hear this lot quite often during the late 90s, since their punky brand of indie rock was played regularly on The Evening Session, which I used to listen to on Radio 1 every weeknight from 1997 to 2001. Symposium split in 2000 and seem to have been forgotten about by many. Maybe a reunion would jog peoples' memories... 'Bury You' reached number 41 in the UK singles chart. I bought this single when it was released back in 1998, but still have a bit of trouble understanding the sentiment behind the lyrics "I wouldn't bury you, not even if you died". A bit odd. Superb tune though.




Tuesday, 15 April 2014

REVIEW: The Crookes - 'Soapbox' (Fierce Panda Records)

Combining 50s era romance with vibes from the indie disco is something that Sheffield four piece The Crookes have been doing rather well for the last few years. They've produced some very promising moments, yet stretching the magic out over the course of a whole album seemed to prove a challenge for them. So while 2011's 'Chasing After Ghosts' and its follow up 'Hold Fast' certainly had a few high points, neither felt consistent enough to really hit the mark. With their third album the band realise their potential and move themselves up to a new level. A sense of isolation emerges every so often, maybe due to the LP being recorded in an old abandoned church located in the Italian Alps. But there are other things that characterise 'Soapbox', as guitarist and lyricist Danny Hopewell explains: “The most obvious theme that runs through the entire album is the idea of The Outsider. As a band that seems to suit us…never invited inside, but never wanting to be. I can empathise more with the madman standing on his soapbox, slowly gaining an audience by speaking with passion and honesty”.


Although George Waite's familiar croon is still very much present, it comes with more of an edge on the jaunty opener 'Play Dumb', admitting "I've had my mid life crisis by the age of 25" before bursting into a bright, singalong chorus. But underneath this light, there's always an undercurrent of darkness brooding throughout the albums ten tracks, evident within the self deprecating charm of the irresistible 'Don't Put Your Faith In Me', and the Smiths-esque 'Echolalia', both memorable tunes that make good use of their evocative lyricism.


The pacey 'Before The Night Falls' glistens with chiming guitar hooks and comes charged with vitality and vibrancy, storming into a powerfully emotive chorus. Towards the end, another spellbinding melody arises and knocks you off your feet once again. An exciting highlight that displays The Crookes at the very top of their game. The brief, beautifully dynamic 'Holy Innocents' is built around a sparse piano and vocal arrangement and the intimacy of a perfectly applied vocal, where every draw for breath is clearly audible. 'Outsiders' puts forward magnificent melodies that set the heart racing, and exemplifies the spirit of these bright underachievers who revel in being out of step with popular fashion, taking great pride in doing things their own way. 'When You're Fragile' has wickedly dark humour laying beneath its melodic charm, while the post-punk pop of 'Marcy' is a bit of a throwaway perhaps, but pleasing nonetheless and somewhat heavier than much of the LP. 


Proof of just how far the songwriting has come is demonstrated with the beautifully resigned elegance of 'Howl', one of those songs with a melody so good, it's hard to believe nobody thought of it before. Rounding off their strongest album yet is the triumphant title track, where feelings of doubt are turned around into a self assured rallying cry endowed with tingling optimism. Climaxing with a full throated surge of energy, it's a fine way to end an accomplished piece of work.

Something has happened to The Crookes. They've moved up more than a few notches to the point where they are no longer a promising indie band, but a great one. 8.2/10

Track Of The Day: Temples - Shelter Song (Jagwar Ma Jono's Wrong Mix)

Record Store Day may mainly deal in re-releases and pricey collectors items, but each year there are also always a number of undeniably special records on offer, one of them being a beautifully coloured picture disc that features two of the most exciting bands to emerge in recent times. On one side, Jagwar Ma give the Temples treasure 'Shelter Song' a bassy house makeover while reinterpreting the psychedelic moods in a contemporary, dancefloor-friendly fashion. Alternatively you can opt for the flipside where the Kettering-based four piece put their big drums and 60s flavours on to Jagwar's fantastic 'Man I Need'...

REWIND: The Teardrop Explodes - 'Treason'

Trying to constantly keep up to date with new music means that I don't find a great deal of time available to listen to my older purchases. On Sunday night, I had a look through my black record box which contains things that I've lined up to play at some point. At the front was a copy of 'Kilimanjaro', the fantastic 1980 album from The Teardrop Explodes. I actually bought a 7" copy of the 'Reward' single (featured HERE) after I heard it in the mid 90s, and I already knew about frontman Julian Cope since my Dad's mate John was a big fan. 'Treason' appears to be a favourite of BBC 6Music DJ Chris Hawkins, since it always seems to be on his playlist whenever I tune into his show. I wonder if he knows how good the rest of the album is?



RECORD SHOPS: Record shops in Wiltshire and Bath


On Record Store Day last year (2013), I gave my custom to Raves From The Grave in Bath, after the shop had only been open for a few weeks, and you can read an article HERE that I did on their first day of trading. There is also a feature HERE about RSD 2013, which features lots of photos from the Bath shop. At the end of last year the shop moved to a better location on Broad Street, closer to the city centre. Broad Street was where I used to go to get all my records in the late 90's, since the wonderful Replay records was there. Since that shop closed about ten years ago, it has always felt rather sad every time I have walked down Broad Street. Now, I can smile again. 

The shop's treasures are all to be found in a small but packed back room, filled with vinyl albums from many genres, old and new. As well as a selection of singles, CD albums, books and music memorabilia, the shop offers a friendly and knowledgeable service, with discounts on multiple purchases. The shop (as well as its two other branches) will be taking part in Record Store Day this year on April 19. Their website can be found HERE, and their Facebook page HERE.

I first visited Raves From The Grave not long after they opened the original shop in Frome in 1997. I can remember buying some Radiohead singles from there. Raves From The Grave has been in Frome since the 90's and really is a great place to buy music from. You won't find them stocking any pointless chart pop, instead the shelves are filled with an impressive selection of new releases on CD and vinyl, albums and singles. Rich, the guy who runs the shop is passionate about what he does and goes to extraordinary lengths to satisfy his customers. A pleasant experience with every visit. Read an article HERE about RSD 2012 at the Frome shop. A few years ago Raves From The Grave expanded to a second shop in Warminster. Going there is like stepping into a glorious era when record shops supplied generations of music lovers in many towns in the UK. 

At the front of this superb Warminster shop is a shelf of recently released CD and vinyl albums, most of which you certainly wouldn't find on the shelves of the local supermarket. Interesting and truly special music has to be stocked somewhere other than the stock room of an internet mail order company, and shops like this are part of music's heart and soul. Every music lover of a certain age has special memories of particular record shops, and even in the digital age there are many who are still keen to carry on creating those memories. Along with some excellent posters (that are far better than most of the ones any HMV stock), some bargain £1 vinyl and hip hop records, there is also a massive wall of CD albums spanning a huge range of genres. A selection of top quality music T shirts are on sale for £10 each, cheaper than most internet prices as well as better value than the chain stores. 

Then we get to the vinyl. Towards the back of the shop plays home to shelves and shelves of LPs and 12"s, a mouth watering array of indie, punk, funk, soul, electronica, rock, reggae, metal and lots more. The racks filled with 50's and 60's records come with an impressive range of Beatles albums at excellent prices and in fine condition. Against the back wall stands a shelf packed with new release vinyl, and on this occasion there's some leftover Record Store Day stuff too at far better prices than what these limited releases are changing hands for on the internet. All of this sounds great, and by now you will be aware that this is quite a fantastic shop, but it doesn't stop there: there's a downstairs as well. 

Walking down the stairs to the vinyl basement allows a view of some collectable and rare vinyl before you enter the dimly lit main room filled to the brim with more vinyl LPs and 7" singles including plenty of compilations, soundtracks and nicely organised sections dedicated to countless artists. In another small room, as well as more 7" singles there are shelves full of CD singles, mostly from the 90s and 2000s: perfect if you're after a favourite B side or looking to complete your collections. In another room lays a vast collection of classical, folk, easy listening and country LPs, and elsewhere in the basement you'll also find books, old music magazines, posters, various collectables and some very cheap picture discs. 


Now, I'm going to remember some of the shops where most of my CDs, records and tapes were bought from. Sadly, most of these shops no longer exist. 

My hometown of Melksham had a Woolworth's on the high street, and most of the singles and albums I loved during the 90's and early 2000's could be found there, since the charts actually featured some proper music back then. I loved their bargain bin, where unsold singles that had dropped out of the charts would be placed at a reduced price. Quite a few Super Furry Animals ones came from there, as well as the Charlatans, the Seahorses, James, Shed Seven, Catatonia and a few of the Babybird singles taken from the Ugly Beautiful album. In terms of albums, some of the cassette releases would be priced at around a fiver, making them at least half the price of the CD version. If it wasn't so cheap, there's a chance that I might not have bought Primal Scream's incredible Vanishing Point, and my musical outlook would be a LOT more narrower today. 

Woolworth's was there for the longest period of time, but there were one or two other places in town where you could buy some of the stuff Woolie's didn't stock. PR Sounds was about a five minute walk from my old house, it was open till 9pm, and by the time I was old enough to be a customer, it was mainly a video rental shop that sold expensive hi fis and a selection of CDs and cassettes. They rarely sold singles, although I did manage to pick up a copy of Teenage Fanclub's 'Start Again' from there. Or was it 'Ain't That Enough'? I also bought my second ever Fall CD from there, a copy of the excellent 'I Am Kurious Oranj', as well as 'Hell's Ditch' by The Pogues and 'Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants' by Oasis. In the picture to the right you can see where PRSounds used to stand. It's now an accountant's firm. 

There probably aren't many people who remember Taylormade Sounds, a small shop that used to be next to the Iceland supermarket. It's now an amusement arcade. During my club DJ days, I would often buy CD singles from there including dance hit 'Be As One' by Sasha And Maria, and (bizarrely) 'When Love And Hate Collide' by Def Leppard. I don't know why that particular one has stayed in my memory for so long. They'd sell pretty much the same stuff as Woolworth's, but they did have more of a dance selection as well as live DJs at the weekend, who were most likely the shop's staff. It didn't stay open for long. From what I can remember it opened in 1996 and closed the same year. There was also a DJ (who shall remain nameless) who ran a shop selling disco equipment and "not for resale" promo CDs and records. Naughty man. I bought my first Ultrasound single from there! Now Woolworth's is no more, there is nowhere in Melksham to buy music, unless you count the horrors that ASDA flog in their "entertainment" section. No that REALLY doesn't count.


In nearby Trowbridge there was the record section at the Knees department store, where I would regularly find some great singles in the late 90's that Woolie's didn't have. The shop is still open, but the record and cd section has since disappeared. Trowbridge also had The Record Collector's Shop near the post office, the American chain Sam Goody, and in the late 2000's a shop called Sounds Interesting, which then moved to Devon. But the most notable music retailer in town wasn't a shop, but an indoor market stall by the name of Heroes Records selling second hand vinyl and CDs as well as band t shirts. During my punk phase of the mid 2000's, my entire wardrobe came from there. But more importantly it's where I bought my first record, a 7" picture disc of Bowie's 'Fame 90'. Brilliantly Heroes is STILL there now, and run by the same guy, a hard rock fanatic called Gordon, who always has some great stories to tell. He also has a few boxes of vinyl priced at £1 each. I always come home with a bargain or two every time I pay Gordon a visit.


Then there was Falcon Records in Chippenham, open in the late 90's up until about five years ago. I chose to do my school work experience there back in October 1999. One of the most enjoyable weeks of my life. Some of the things purchased there include Leftfield's Phat Planet single, Embrace's 'Hooligan', the Jam tribute compilation 'Fire And Skill', and the Ocean Colour Scene album 'One From The Modern'. There is also a floor of second hand records and CDs at Magpie Antiques that opened in 2009. I bought Bowie's Berlin trilogy from there at a bargain price, and as far as I know they're still open for business.

But when there was a special record that I couldn't find in any of the places I've mentioned, Bath would always be the place to go. They had (and still have) an HMV, which at the time had a huge selection of both albums and singles. But it was the independent Replay on Broad Street that was always my favourite. Whenever I heard a cool new band on The Evening Session or John Peel, Replay would usually have them on their shelves. With five pounds pocket money each week, I'd usually go in there and come out with two CD singles and a 7". Great days. 

A few doors down was the 10/15 Record And Tape Exchange, a dark shop with three floors, where I foolishly sold lots of dance 12"s from my DJ days for a pitiful sum. £10 for about 50 records. On the buying side, I can recall buying a few New Order records from there, in fact they seemed to stock a lot of indie music from Manchester bands. The basement of the shop with its massive vinyl section was a wonderful place to spend Saturday afternoons. 


In the small Corridor shopping centre was a shop called Rival Records, which sold CDs on the day before their official release, and due to my impatience I would visit on a Sunday quite often. That's where I bought 'Kid A' and Blur's 'Tender' single. In 2002 or possibly 2003 I received a tax rebate cheque of about £500. Coincidentally a new Fopp store had just opened in Bath on the same day. So after a couple of hours, I returned home with three bulging carrier bags, a receipt longer than my arm and a considerably emptier wallet.

Not so long ago this city played host to a number of music chains and smaller retailers, but except for the (hanging on a thread and not entirely a music retailer) HMV, all have since disappeared. So the opening of Raves From The Grave in Bath comes as a massive boost to the city's music lovers, and once again I feel excitement every time I go shopping in Bath. Since Replay closed, every visit to the city has made me sense a huge void. But now I can go there knowing that once again there's somewhere to buy records and CDs. All of the records and CDs I own have memories attached to each one, including where and when I first purchased the record. Yes, you can also buy them off the internet, but on a web page you're just looking at a photo of a product rather than holding the real thing and knowing that you could be taking it home and adding it to your collection. In order to carry on feeling magic experiences like these, we need record shops. 

Without them, we would be lost.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Track Of The Day: The Juan MacLean - 'Get Down (With My Love)' (feat Nancy Whang)

Here's one that was actually released a while back, but which has only come to my attention recently after receiving some airplay from Lauren Laverne on BBC 6Music. 

Seriously infectious disco-shaped excellence coming out of New York, featuring the vocals of Nancy Whang (ex LCD Soundsystem), whose savvy tones make this chunk of dancefloor gold even more irresistible. 

Released on DFA Records, 'Get Down (With My Love)' precedes a full length album, which will be coming later in the year.