Sunday, 5 July 2015

Track Of The Day: Charlie Clark And the Majestic 12 - 'The Devil's Pulpit'

A brand new offering from RW/FF favourite Charlie Clark and his new outfit The Majestic 12. 'The Devil's Pulpit' reprises the bright, energetic sound of his old band Astrid and layers shoegazey textures to wonderful effect. The song is their debut single and was released a couple of weeks ago on June 26th via Manimal Vinyl. Led by Scottish indie veteran and cat whisperer, Charlie Clark (Astrid, Reindeer Section), the band also features drummer/singer and undefeated national pie eating champion, Dash Hutton (HAIM) as well as bassist/producer and wicker duck enthusiast, Eric McCann (The New Amsterdams). After releasing some excellent solo material over recent years (see an interview and a review of his most recent EP 'Feel Something' HERE) Clark is also one half of Broken Arrow, along with singer Brandi Emma. More info about them HERE.

RW/FF spoke to Charlie about his latest project: "The whole MJ12 project came about because I had some down time from the Broken Arrow record and I'd written some songs and demoed them at home. when I heard them back they didn't seem like they'd sit well with my solo stuff and were not the right vibe for Broken Arrow either. I really liked them though and I'd been hanging out with Dash Hutton at that time (Haim drummer) who said he'd be down to play drums and sing harmonies. Eric McCann who plays bass in all my projects and produced this record and 'Feel Something' suggested we just go in and record 2 songs right away at his studio, which we did. We all had a similar feeling about making a fun record, quickly and right after we handed the songs to my manager Manimal agreed to put it out so we shot a video for each of the tracks with director Xia Magnus. We did all of this in less than a month. We've still never played a show together, but the 3 of us have a really good relationship and we've decided that whenever we can all get together we're going to keep recording songs 2 at a time and have around 6 or 7 finished so we're going to play our first show in L.A next month and start rehearsals this week..."

REWIND: Elbow - One Day Like This

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Track Of The Day: Django Django - 'Giant'

Superb opening track from Django Django's impressive second album 'Born Under Saturn', which was released last month in May. The genre-blending four piece from Scotland have delivered the goods.

REWIND: Muse - 'Newborn'

With Muse's brand new studio album 'Drones' released next week, here's a classic from their 2001 masterpiece 'Origin Of Symmetry'. The storming 'Newborn' was released as the album's second single, and was also the opening track.

Monday, 27 April 2015

REVIEW: Blur - 'The Magic Whip' (Parlophone Record‏s)

Its not everyday I get to review an album quite like this one. When the band that changed my life release their first album in 16 years, this becomes more than just a record, a life event in fact. 

A lot of groups fade out after the creative rot sets in, things have to come to a natural end, and the members move onto other things in the hope that they can reinvent themselves. This was not the case with Blur. In the late 90s, their last two albums as a four piece saw them on a creative high which cemented their reputation as legends. The magic was still there, and there could have been plenty of it to come, as proved by the tantalising non-album single 'Music Is My Radar'. None of us knew it at the time, but behind the scenes there was major turmoil tearing these four friends apart. Strained relationships and high tensions within the band led to Graham Coxon's exit in 2001. Blur were weakened, and one of music's greatest relationships was cut short. Who knows what they could have accomplished had they stayed intact...

The Coxon-less Blur hobbled on and re-emerged in 2003 with the patchy 'Think Tank', an album that was clearly missing something. The void became even more apparent when the band went out on tour and with Damon Albarn feeling more inspired by his other projects, activity within Blur gradually ceased as they all embarked on their individual lives. Without Blur, British music dried up as the noughties went on and many of us were feeling their absence by the time we'd realised it had been six years since their last appearance.

In 2009 it was hugely exciting to hear that Graham and the rest of the group had put their differences aside and were playing together again, leading to a triumphant and emotional return at Glastonbury that year. With their hits now all-time classics and their albums regarded as seminal works, the prospect of new material seemed somewhat unimaginable. What would Blur sound like after so many years away and could it ever be as good as it was the first time round? Rather than striving for a grand comeback hit, in 2010 they surprised us with the limited edition single 'Fools Day', a subtle, low-key reconnection, and more of a "hello again, how's it going?" rather than a sensational return. What was obvious was that 'Fool's Day' was a comma that suggested unfinished business, but with Albarn constantly distracting himself with other musical endeavours, it seemed that the four of them only had time to get together and bash out the old hits. To coincide with a series of brilliant shows in 2012, the band released two more new songs, and although I described 'Under The Westway' and 'The Puritan' as "wonderful", in retrospect they sound somewhat subdued, and again more of a hint that this was just them warming up for bigger events.

Myself and many other fans longed for a fully active Blur to return with a new album, and were certainly frustrated as the years produced nothing but "it might happen one day" replies from band members and rumours of "brilliant" recording sessions being halted. Fans cried out a hopeful cheer as news came in 2013 that the band had started making an album during a week's break from touring in Hong Kong, but our hopes were again extinguished. "I just haven’t got the time,” said Damon when questioned about making a new Blur album, adding that the other members were “just all doing other stuff” and that he couldn't "foresee us in the near future being in a position to finish" the material. In July 2014 he claimed that the album "may just be one of those records that never comes out", blaming the Hong Kong heat for the band returning home before work could be finished on the album. “If I’d been able to write the lyrics there and then about being there, we’d have finished the record,” he said. “I like making records in short periods of time… Sometimes, if you can’t do it all at once, it dissipates…”

Damon's successful solo album 'Everyday Robots' and subsequent tour kept him busy throughout 2014, and with a musical in the pipeline as well as talk of new material from Gorillaz and The Good, The Bad And The Queen, up until a few months ago it seemed unlikely that we'd hear from Blur anytime soon. Then on one morning in February 2015 came rumours that the band were set to announce a new album, and all of a sudden years of waiting finally came to an end as 'The Magic Whip''s existence was revealed to the world. Determined that there would be a new album, Graham Coxon returned to the recordings that were started during the five days spent in Hong Kong and reunited with producer Stephen Street to shape hours of elongated jams into structured compositions. "It was something we did off our own backs," Coxon explained. "It was quite an overwhelming project. There was jamming and sonic landscaping. I said, 'Damon, can I have a little chat? I said, 'Do you mind if I have a look at this music and see if there's anything worth pursuing. Id compare it to someone's notes, scrawling all over the page. We slung it over to Stephen and he looked through bits of it." After Alex James and Dave Rowntree laid down additional parts, Damon and Graham returned to the studio in December to write lyrics and complete the record. “They did some editing and some production work and sent around the initial tracks and we all realised we’d done something quite special there,” said drummer Rowntree. “There was 18 months [in-between recording the songs] which allowed us to have a bit of perspective on it. When they played it back, that was the time everyone got very excited.” Since the album’s completion last year, the band kept information about the new record under wraps. “We had a blood pact between us about who we were allowed to tell and who we weren’t..." said Rowntree. 

While fans were thrilled, a few pessimistic voices on social media posed questions such as "What's the point in Blur coming back with new stuff? Damon's solo work was getting really interesting, why resort to nostalgia?". Which was missing the point entirely, since the new music was made to escape being trapped entirely in the past. I myself was a bit cynical, but not about the reunion or the release of a new album. Instead, as a fan I was concerned that the way the record was put together might not lead to what I'd hoped for. I was both excited and very nervous about what 'The Magic Whip' would sound like. This is the band that soundtracked my youth, and because of that it seemed inevitable that nothing was ever going to live up to the songs they released during those years: "Although I have longed for a new Blur record for years, the last thing I'd want would be for them to record songs because they felt forced." I wrote in a blog post. "To make a great record, you often need to be inspired. I just hope that this album is more than a load of recordings made under pressure. It's also a bit odd that this seminal band are releasing a comeback album comprised of songs that have been put together in such an unorthodox and non-organic way..."

The fact that they decided not to continue with the recording sessions suggested that their hearts just weren't in it. It also looked like some of the band were more desperate to make a new record than others, and editing down a load of studio jams was "the only way it was going to happen". I've wanted a new Blur album more than anything, but not a half-arsed one that they felt pressured to make. Talk of these songs made from "anything we could salvage' didn't exactly fill me with confidence. However, it turns out that working in such a way may have actually resulted in their most natural record. 'The Magic Whip' is everything I wanted in a new Blur album and more.

As the album begins we are taken to a familiar scene as 'Lonesome Street' revisits the sound of 'Modern Life Is Rubbish' and 'The Great Escape'. Re-establishing the connection perfectly, it's like finding yourself in a vibrant place after a long absence and being greeted by some old mates who take you down various different streets, filling you in on all that has changed and the things that remain. With lyrical imagery involving things like "the 514 to East Grinstead", you might initially be fooled into thinking that the once forward-thinking Blur have taken a backwards step until Damon's pastoral shades, chord changes and Coxon's odd Syd Barrett-esque bridge pull you down unpredictable avenues, leaving you in no doubt that this is the beginning of an eventful and thrilling journey. After being transported from the backdrop of London in the mid 90s, the setting of the majestic 'New World Towers' is a very different one indeed, fast forwarding to the technologically connected and emotionally disconnected climate of 2015. Continuing on from the sensual melancholic atmospheres of Albarn's 'Everyday Robots' LP, its ghostly emotional impact and graceful, meditative beauty are achieved via an intricate, spacious arrangement. "I wanted that song to be a sort of science-fiction 'Greensleeves', so I was putting my energy into making it sound very English, but in a slightly off-kilter way" says Graham. "It's a bit like that weird cylindrical planet at the end of Interstellar – I loved that image from the film, so I was trying to write some chord sequences that sounded quite traditional, but putting these 1970s-sounding futuristic effects on top of them."

For an album shaped so heavily by Graham, there aren't as many distorted guitars as you'd expect. Maybe that's because most of them are crammed into the awesomely noisy Go Out.
Underlining their versatility as a unit, Coxon unleashes a torrent of stinging guitars against the thick wallop of the rhythm section before Damon's foghorn chorus vocal accompanies the blazing noise to lift the whole thing forcefully off the ground. It's exactly the sort of gloriously abrasive racket that we've been in dire need of since '13'. Close your eyes, turn it up loud and listen to everything Coxon does across the track's broodingly raucous 4 minutes and 40 minutes. The darkly playful melodies and the fat slinky groove of 'Ice Cream Man' prove to be a most infectious combination, reminiscent of what 'Think Tank' might have been like had Graham been involved. It's ominous vibes and sing-along verses won't take long to dig their way into the listener's conscious, but the following 'Thought I Was A Spaceman' is much less of an instant gratifier. A deep and substantial piece where a sad tranquility gathers instensity throughout, it requires a patient and attentive ear to absorb its layers of intricacies. It also finds the band continuing to evolve, with a cleverly executed Planet Of The Apes-style lyrical concept set to stratospheric atmospheres, with the patter of drum machines and shady, jazzy chords gradually leading to a mass of guitar noise taking off like a rocket as it builds to a climax. A psych-rock epic is the last thing you'd expect from an album that begins with a song like 'Lonesome Street', but such is this album's urgently eclectic and adventurously vitalised nature.

The quirky pogo punk romp 'I Broadcast' returns to far more familiar territory and comes loaded with driving Coxon riffs. Evoking the hectic nature of the place it was recorded in, it brings to mind a 21 year old lovechild spawned by 'Tracy Jacks' and 'Jubilee'. Its boisterous chant-along chorus will no doubt reawaken something inside many listeners, and its lively character is perfectly placed on the album to break up the more introspective moments. One such moment arrives in the form of the hauntingly fragile tearjerker 'My Terracotta Heart', a song that will strongly resonate with anyone experiencing the breakdown of a relationship, whether it be a musical partner, friend, family member or lover. Casting a poignant spell with its achingly soulful vocal lines, weeping guitars and mournful harmonies, again it's more reminiscent of Albarn's more recent musical territory. Lyrically it sees the frontman laying his heart bare once again as he laments the damage that his friendship with Graham has suffered over previous years. “I knew it was going to be an incredibly sad song, which is why I put that crying guitar on there,” says Coxon. “What I didn’t know at the time was that the lyrics would turn out to be about Damon and I, our long friendship and the ups and downs we’ve had.” 

The darkness at the heart of this album is displayed further with the magnificent 'There Are Too Many Of Us', one of the most surprising things here, where striking synth strings and military snares lead to a groove evoking the sound of a dangerously overpopulated human race marching towards their own doom. Growing in stature throughout, much like the overcrowded tower blocks that it conjures up images of, its apocalyptic cosmic disco sound isn't a million miles away from 'Magic Fly' by 70's outfit Space. Utilising qualities perfected during Damon's years spent working on the Gorillaz records, it's hard not to shed a tear of joy during the gloriously laid back 'Ghost Ship', a glistening glimpse into heaven where sumptuous notes, and a wondrous arrangement distract you from the fact that a Britpop band playing reggae really shouldn't sound this sensational. After that particular ship sails happily off into the sunset, gathering spells of darkness lay straight ahead as the heavy, claustrophobic moods of the creeping 'Pyongyang' rise to the surface. Yet somehow, glorious rays of sun burst through the clouds during a high reaching chorus that sits somewhere between 'This Is A Low' and 'To The End' while arriving from another previously unexplored place.

After such intense stuff, the ultimate helping of light relief arrives as the triumphant, celebratory singalong 'Ong Ong' captures the heart and the memory with immediate and joyous effect. Quite simply one of the most brilliantly direct pop songs Albarn has ever penned, its humble sweetness and instinctive hooks are impossible to resist, as is the noisy guitar that joins in for the last couple of bars. A classic. 
Again visiting a completely different territory, the powerful cinematic finale 'Mirrorball' moves slowly, slipping away mysteriously into the night with its shadowy guitar figures and a subtle breeze of darkly elegant strings.
Staying cool under pressure and delivering an effortlessly superb piece of work, Blur use the things that made them great in the past, combine them with the things they've learned since, and emerged revitalised to create something that feels familiar yet fresh. It has a sense of space not present on the previous albums, as well as a sense of alienation that stems from 'The Magic Whip' sounding appropriately very much like a British band making a record in Hong Kong. In places it's brighter and more anthemic than much of '13' and 1997's 'Blur', yet darker and more introspective than 'Parklife' and 'The Great Escape'. It's more focused and far more consistent than 'Think Tank' and more eclectic than 'Modern Life Is Rubbish' and 'Leisure'. It remembers how the world was the last time they met with us, and how things have changed since, while embracing being all grown up in the present day with a newfound sense of purpose. And like any great Blur record, it sees them evolving and exploring new ground. 

I was worried that a new album wouldn't live up to the ones that these four men released during my teen years. As it turns out, these new songs give me back the buzz I had in my youth and make me feel like a teenager all over again. If this does turn out to be the last time we ever hear from Blur, then what a brilliant way to end things on a high. However, music this great suggests a recharged unit who still have plenty of this sort of brilliance left in them, and 'The Magic Whip' could be just the start of another chapter in the story of this remarkable band.

The most complete and astonishing album that anyone has produced in years. And trust Blur to be the ones that made it. Thank you for not letting us down. 9.9/10

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Track Of The Day: Blur - 'My Terracotta Heart'

With the release of 'The Magic Whip' just over a week away, Blur have unveiled another new song song from the upcoming album. The stunning 'My Terracotta Heart' is perhaps the album's most brutally sincere and heartbreakingly fragile moment, especially when you hear the story behind the lyrics. Graham Coxon said: "I knew it was going to be an incredibly sad song, which is why I put the crying guitar on there. What I didn't know at the time was that the lyrics would turn out to be about Damon and I, our long-term friendship and the ups and downs we’ve had."

"Damon and I have an increased respect for each other because of this record, and we're not ashamed to let each other know about that increased respect. But what we also have a lot of history, and our friendship – like any friendship between two people in a band together – has had to go through a lot. It’s been put to the test, and we’ve often let each other down. This record was a way of saying, ‘Sorry for being such a pain in the arse for the last 20 years.'"

Meanwhile, fans in Los Angeles were able to hear 'The Magic Whip' in its entirety today (April 18) as an ice cream van rportedly travelled to various record stores in the city. People who have purchased a record (presumably meaning pre-ordered 'The Magic Whip') will be given free ice cream while anyone using the secret code 'THE MAGIC WHIP' will receive a flexi-disc featuring 'Lonesome Street' on it. 'The Magic Whip' is out on April 27, and is the first proper Blur album since 1999's '13'.

Friday, 17 April 2015

REWIND: Gat Decor - 'Passion (Naked Mix)'

The weekend is here, and it's time for the Friday Banger. Originally released in 1992 on Effective Records, the original version of Gat Decor's pivotal progressive house classic 'Passion' (The Naked Mix) was an immediate success and eventually became a hit on the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number 29. A few years later a vocal version of 'Passion' became an even bigger chart hit, but is a vastly inferior track. Since the 90s, the song has gone on to feature on countless compilations and in many DJ sets. Many different remixes and mash-up versions of the track have been made down the years too. Gat Decor were a house music production team who featured Simon Slater, Lawrence Nelson and Simon HansonAlthough the outfit released a number of remixes for various acts in the early 90s, Gat Decor only released two singles, the other being 1996's 'In The Head'.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

REWIND: Add N To (X) - Metal Fingers In My Body

From the year 1999, the brilliant and now sadly defunct Add N To (X) and a song about having sex with a robot. 

I remember buying this from Replay Records in Bath, back when it came out as a single on 12" vinyl. I played my copy for the first time in ages the other week and it still sounds fantastic. 

Check out the utterly obscene promo video below (if YouTube haven't made it unavailable in your country).

The song was taken from the band's third album 'Avant Hard', which was released on Mute Records.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Track Of The Day: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - 'Riverman'

21 years after setting British music alight, the legend that is Noel Gallagher continues to produce the goods, as his superb second solo album 'Chasing Yesterday' sits at the top of Amazon's best selling albums of 2015 list. It's also the fastest selling album of the year so far. The record's opening track 'Riverman' will be released as the next single on May 11th. There is a limited edition coloured 7" vinyl available to pre-order here: featuring the B-Side 'Leave My Guitar Alone', alternatively get the download here:

While the album title 'Chasing Yesterday' may suggest an exercise in nostalgia and returning to the sound of the glory days, the relaxed, acoustic-driven 'Riverman' immediately reveals that (at times) a rather different path lies ahead, conjuring up images of smoky rooms, and even stepping into space-jazz territory with a wild saxophone solo near the end. Read the full album review HERE.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

REWIND: The Bluetones - 'Cut Some Rug'

Only four years after going their separate ways, 90s indie legends The Bluetones are getting back together for some gigs this September. The news was announced today via the band's Twitter and Facebook accounts, along with a list of tour dates that can be seen HERE. The shows are to mark the much-loved group's 20th anniversary, and will no doubt feature all of the brilliant and massively underrated hit singles that the four-piece delivered over their career. One such piece of magic is this from the 1996 debut album 'Expecting To Fly', and a song that I purchased on cassette single from a Woolworths bargain bin. A bargain indeed. Reaching number 7 in the charts. 'Cut Some Rug' was one of thirteen Top 40 singles that the band enjoyed.

With the band reunited, I hope that frontman Mark Morriss continues with his solo career. His solo album 'A Flash Of Darkness' from last year is a superb piece of work, and is reviewed HERE. Give it a listen!

Track Of The Day: East India Youth - 'Turn Away'

I didn't think it would be easy for William Doyle aka East India Youth to follow-up his Mercury Prize nominated debut album 'Total Strife Forever', and yet the new 'Culture Of Volume' has exceeded the quality. A truly essential record for those who like electronica, indie, and techno mixed with a generous dose of 80s pop, the album was released via XL Recordings last week on Easter Monday (April 6). From it, here is the beautifully melodic, elegantly arranged 'Turn Away'.

'Total Strife Forever' was named as one of RW/FF's Albums Of 2015 HERE and a full review of it can be found HERE.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

REWIND: Air ft. Neil Hannon - 'Somewhere Between Waking And Sleeping'

Unbelievably I only discovered this song for the first time today, despite being a longterm fan of The Divine Comedy and having a healthy interest in Air's work. 

This track from the French duo's 2007 album 'Pocket Symphony' features Divine Comedy vocalist Neil Hannon lending his warming tones to the lush, haunting melancholy that comes delivered in a magnificently elegant arrangement. 

I actually found out about this track after reading an article on Pulp, whose mainman Jarvis Cocker also features on two of 'Pocket Symphony''s other tracks.

Track Of The Day: The Maccabees - 'Marks To Prove It'

This vitalized burst of indie-rock fury is the new single from London five-piece The Maccabees. The band have just finished recording their fourth album, which will be their first since 2012's 'Given To The Wild'

Directed by Joseph Connor, the video intersperses time-lapse clips of London streets, Underground trains and construction sites with footage of the band playing in a rehearsal room. Felix White from the band told NME that the three year gap between new material was to ensure quality. "It just had to be good enough. We thought it was going to be finished a year ago, but it just wasn't quite there and now I think it's magic, so it's done." Hugo White added: "These new songs are a reminder of why we started the band. With the enthusiasm to play music that’s exciting and makes us excited."

Saturday, 11 April 2015

REWIND: Teenage Fanclub - 'Mellow Doubt'

It's that time again where every week I pick my favourite song from those that entered the UK singles chart 20 years ago in 1995. This chart is from April 2 1995 and can be seen in full HEREEvery week a Twitter account called @ThisIsMyJam95 invites followers to pick their favourite new entry of the week, and I have decided to take it a step further by listening to ALL of the new entries before picking the best of the bunch.

At number 40, 'Spirit Inside' by Spirits is a soulful piano house track that's uplifting yet slightly let down by uninspired lyrics and overcooked vocal delivery... It has qualities that many will enjoy, but it's not for me... Featuring a video that sometimes looks like a poor remake of Massive Attack's 'Unfinished Sympathy', Mica Paris's pale trip hop cover of U2's 'One' does not impress, coming in at number 29. Taken from the tastelessly named album 'Vibrator* (*Batteries Included)' and mixing AOR with horn-decorated soul, Terence Trent D'Arby's number 22 'Holding On To You' isn't an easy thing to love, although it does demonstrate the diversity present in 1995's charts.

The week's finest intro has to be the spoken word opening to Barry White's number 36 entry, which was sadly his last UK Top 40 hit during his lifetime... The seductive mellow funk of 'I Only Want To Be With You' is Barry at his best, featuring lines like "I don't make the kind of love that's only for a minute, I'll be inside of you as long as you want me in it". Meanwhile at 33, 'Vegas' was the fourth and final single to be released from their debut album Smart in March 1994 (see 1994 in British music). Addressing conspiracy theories about Elvis Presley's death, the single version is a completely re-recorded version of the song originally featured on their debut album 'Smart'. This was the fourth and final single to be released from that album, and features saxophone credited to "Morgan C. Hoax"- an anagram of Graham Coxon from Blur, who recorded his contribution after Sleeper supported Blur on tour. Filmed at Southend Airport, the video features singer Louise Wener as an air steward attending to a plane full of Elvis impersonators. 

Coming in at 27, and topped with some unfortunate keyboard trumpets, Birmingham-based UB40 associate Bitty McLean's 'Over The River' is an infectious Carribbean singalong, although it does pale in comparison to the 1964 original by ska outfit Justin Hinds And The Dominoes. But it's a respectable 90s pop update of the track that brought this obscure gem to a slightly wider audience. Another Brummy reggae man linked with UB40 makes an appearance at number 25, and after featuring on lots of other (mostly white) artists' songs in the 90s, Pato Banton gets a starring role in the catchy 'Bubblin' Hot' which features The Beat's Ranking Roger. A partial update of Peter Tosh's 'Comin' In Hot', the song comes with a terrible video featuring the pair as chefs cooking up some soup. The moody 'Hypnotised' provides Simple Minds with one of their last UK Top 40 hits, in fact the number 18 song isn't one of their worst moments. 

Italian dance collective Corona's energetic 'Baby Baby' delivers an infectious bit of Euro dance, and again is another great song that actually sounds less great after discovering the original version for the first time, in this case a 1991 house track from Joy And Joyce called 'Babe Babe'. After further research it turns out that Joy And Joyce was a previous alias of Corona member Francesco Bontempi (AKA Lee Marrow). Although I couldn't stand Take That, I've never been able to argue with the undeniably touching 'Back For Good', which remains by far the best thing Gary Barlow ever penned, and a very rare example of good quality boyband pop. Its quality gave it a wide appeal that led to the song going straight in at number 1.

For the first time, my decision has resulted in joint winners of my single of the week prize. Firstly, a classic floorfiller released on the legendary Perfecto Records. Grace were a dance act formed to showcase the skills of DJs/producers Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osbourne. Their magnificent number 8 single 'Not Over Yet' remains a landmark trance anthem and a fine bit of songwriting that has stood the test of time down the years. But since I'm going to save this song to publish as next weekend's 'Friday Banger', for today's 'Rewind' selection, I'm going for the single makng the number 34 spot yet deserving a much higher place. Teenage Fanclub's lovely 'Mellow Doubt' is one of those songs where the title perfectly sums up the sound. This laid back helping of acoustic-driven beauty was taken from their acclaimed album 'Grand Prix'. Teenage Fanclub are due to release a new album this year, the first since 2010's 'Shadows'.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Track Of The Day: Stephen Jones - 'To Live It Again'

Stephen Jones, the brains behind Babybird is known for his prolific workrate, but hadn't released an album of "words and music" in over three years. Now, three come along within the same month.

Following on from the magnificent 'Meloncholy' (which is reviewed HERE) and last week's 'Outsider', 'No Message' is the final installment of the trilogy, written, recorded and released in the space of a week. After spells with Echo Records in the 90s and American label Unison Music, Jones now finds himself working as a 100% DIY artist and can see that the fast pace of the internet age means that a lot of music has a "short lifespan". From 'No Message', the glorious 'To Live It Again' plays at the other end of the extreme, providing a moment of sensual melancholic bliss. It's hard not to be touched when Jones sings the words "life, i don't wanna live it again, I'm fine with the way that it is". Humble, sincere musical majesty from the man who rejected pop stardom in favour of creativity and musical invention. Like much of 'No Message', it effortlessly demonstrates that gift for coining melodies that ring with such clarity, that you're sure you've heard them somewhere before. 

Read the full album review HERE.

REWIND: Strike - 'U Sure Do'

Another week has come to an end, and another weekend arrives, along with the traditional RW/FF Friday Banger. Like most of the recent Friday Bangers, this one is from 1995 and entered (or should I say re-entered) the UK singles chart just over 20 years ago in 1995. What a glorious and brilliantly diverse year for music. Dance music in particular was on a real high, as proved by this superb disco-house floorfiller from Strike. This is one of my favourite dance tunes from the 90s, and brings back great memories. On its original 1994 release, the song reached number 31 in the UK charts, but after receiving regular play in clubs throughout 1994/1995, it was re-released and landed at number 4. 

Strike formed in 1994 and consisted of Matt Cantor, Andy Gardner and the vocalist Victoria Newton. They scored three more UK Top 40 hits, and released an album 'I Saw the Future' in 1997. Regarded as a 90s dance classic, the insanely infectious 'U Sure Do' samples Donna Allen's "Serious" for the vocal on the chorus, and Cubic 22's "Night in Motion" for the main synth, but in terms of the verses and the structure, this is a fine example of how quality songwriting in the dance music world was often overlooked.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Track Of The Day: Leftfield - 'Universal Everything'

The first new Leftfield album in nearly 16 years will arrive in June 2015, and will be titled 'Alternative Light Source'. 

As with previous Leftfield albums, the LP will feature a number of guest vocalists, including Channy Leaneagh (Poli├ža), Ofei, Tunde Adebimpe (TV On The Radio) and Sleaford Mods. From it here is the fine 'Universal Everything'.

Following the seminal 1995 LP 'Leftism' and its 1999 follow-up 'Rhythm And Stealth', the duo of Matt Barnes and Paul Daley went their separate ways in 2002, but Barnes revived Leftfield in 2010 and after touring the globe, began work on a new set of Leftfield tracks. The album's release comes two decades after 'Leftism'.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

REWIND: Portishead - 'Glory Box'

Because I review the charts from 1995 every week, I've been posting a lot of 'Rewind' entries that charted 20 years ago. This one made the Top 40 in January 1995 and is taken from Portishead's debut album 'Dummy', which was released the previous year in 1994. The song samples "Ike's Rap II" by Isaac Hayes, as does Tricky's 'Hell Is Around The Corner',another song from a Bristol-based act released the same year. Apparently, the main repeating melody of the song is sampled from the theme tune to 1960s TV series The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. As soon as I've finished wrting this article, I'm going to be comparing the two pieces of music...

Geoff Barrow has recently hinted at plans for the band's long awaited follow-up to 2008's 'Third', which itself followed on from 1997's self-titled release. Speaking to Rolling Stone, Barrow said: "I am calibrating my brain to Portishead mode and got some ideas of what I want to do there — at long last." Adrian Utley revealed last year that "We're clearing our schedules so we can get on with it, otherwise it will be another 10 years," he commented, referencing how busy individual members are with other projects. Utley added that he had recently discussed plans for a new LP with Barrow. "We were both really enthusiastic, and enthusiasm counts for a lot in Portishead world," he said. 

Track Of The Day: 8:58 - 'Please' (ft Robert Smith and Lianne Hall)

After the legendary electronic duo Orbital called it a day for a second time last year in 2014, Paul Hartnoll announced the beginning of a new project 8:58, and a self titled album, which was released last week on March 30. As well as bearing the bright, lively trademark Orbital sound, this standout track also features vocals from The Cure's Robert Smith and Lianne Hall. “I’ve always been interested in time,” says Hartnoll, “I’ve always had a thing for clocks, and for time as a powerful force — but also the way time oppresses you. It’s one of those things I keep coming back to. Orbital had stopped working properly.” Paul explains. “We’d had a great four years since getting back together in 2008, but it was time to move on.” 

“For me, 8:58 is a moment of choice,” Paul explains. “It’s almost 9 o’clock. Are you going to school? Are you going in to this job that you hate? Everybody faces that decision now and again. 8:58 am is when you’ve got to make up your mind. Doing this music was an 8:58 moment for me too. Am I going to be truthful to myself? Do I keep battling on with Orbital or do I make a break and try something new? It was decision time.” 

“The album’s a development of where I was going with Orbital. Our last album ‘Wonky’ was designed to be played live. But I wanted to do something more collaborative, more of a film soundtrack or a concept album. There are plenty of beats,” he adds, “But I wanted to exercise my more compositional side too, and bring in a witchy, ‘Wicker Man’ aspect.” 

Monday, 6 April 2015

REWIND: The Stone Roses - 'Ten Storey Love Song'

When you end up recording the perfect album, where do you go from there? The Stone Roses found following their seminal 1989 debut a bit of a problem, taking 5 years to record 'Second Coming'. The album wasn't as bad as the critics initially made it out to be, and rather sensibly they decided to explore different avenues rather than rehashing the first album. While a lot of people wish that the band had continued where they left off with the funk sound of 'Fools Gold' and 'One Love', the second LP took on a more riff-heavy approach. The beautiful yet weary-sounding 'Ten Storey Love Song' was one of the rare moments where they reprised their melodic, Byrds-inspired sound of old. I'm also featuring this because it reached the UK singles chart just over 20 years ago last month, in March 1995. Reaching number 11, it was the second single from 'Second Coming', and the B-sides 'Moses' and 'Ride On' were (at the time of writing) the last new songs that the band released.