This week, I suffer a technological disaster that wipes out over a month's worth of writing, and talk about the new Suede album. Plus The Fall, Sam Lee, David Bowie, Nick Burbridge, Roddy Woomble, Low, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, John Grant, Steve Mason and more. The in the second half of the column I recall the moment in 1994 when the mighty Oasis swaggered into my life...
Writing this column each week takes up a lot of my spare time. Recently there have been many new releases that I've been featuring, so the last few months have been rather busy in terms of that. This week is no exception. As part of our Bowie Month on GIITTV, I've spent the last few weeks working on a piece entitled 'What Bowie Means To Me', writing reviews on new albums from Steve Mason and John Grant, plus putting together a feature on former Astrid member Charlie Clark, who has returned with a superb new record. Then there was my review of Suede's comeback LP 'Bloodsports', which I have gradually been writing in bits ever since I was sent a promo copy of it about a month ago. Lots of work that was all nearly ready to publish this week, and all stored in my phone.
Because I'm too skint to afford a new laptop for our flat, I have to compose all of my blog posts on a mobile blogging app and then transfer them to the computer at my old house to get them online. On Saturday, that mobile blogging app proved itself to be a real nuisance. I own a touchscreen phone that displays the app on the menu screen as an icon, which just needs to be touched in order to open up the application. But if you touch it in the wrong place (or more specifically on the little 'x' in the corner of the icon), it deletes the app. And that's exactly what happened to me, and because I didn't have my mobile drafts saved to my desktop drafts, weeks and weeks worth of work disappeared.
Needless to say I was furious, especially since I knew I wouldn't have much spare time this week to rewrite all those articles as well as write this weekly column. So apologies for a shorter RW/FF than usual. Hopefully you won't mind too much, because less words to read means more free time that you can spend listening to The RW/FF Compilation Volume 3, which features the best music mentioned in the previous three editions of this column. Amongst others you can hear Primal Scream, David Bowie, Atoms For Peace, John Grant and many more. I make each compilation CD length so that you can buy all the tracks and burn them onto your own disc. You can listen to the rather brilliant Volume 3 right HERE.
Some great news I've just learned: UK folk legend Nick Burbridge has won the award for Best Songwriter at the Spiral Earth Awards. Nick is an incredible artist who has been making music for many years, inspiring lots of people and musicians along the way, without ever getting the recognition that he deserves. Well thanks to all the people who voted for him to win this award, others will hopefully discover his work, and this superb artist may begin to enjoy the credit that he is due. You can listen to his wonderful album 'Gathered' (made with collaborator Tim Cotterell) by going HERE. Trust me, it is a sublime piece of work and one of the finest folk records you're ever likely to hear. Well done to Nick, if you're reading this!
It’s a great pleasure to be contributing towards Bowie Month on God Is In The TV, and it’s been equally enjoyable reading some of the other contributions from my fellow writers. Dominic Valvona‘s input has been terrific, and there have also been some brilliant articles from Sean BW Parker and editor Bill Cummings. There’s more to come too, including our exclusive Bowie covers compilation ‘Ashes To Ashes’, featuring a range of excellent bands and artists. I've spent the last few weeks writing an open love letter from me to my idol. Read that article HERE, and join me as I worship at the altar of Bowie.
When a legendary band reforms, it's often a case of just touring the old hits. Coming back with new material can carry the risk of tainting a legacy, but in Suede's case the release of a brand new studio LP gives them the chance to redeem themselves after the damp squib of 2002's disappointing 'A New Morning'. From the opening headrush of 'Barriers', it's clear that the fire is burning bright once again. Its epic melodrama and statements of undying love provide a superb start to a record that sounds like it could have been made at any point in the mid 90's. And for Britpop nostalgists like myself it's worth buying for that reason alone. But what we don't get is a group simply relying on a sound similar to that of their best work to try and win back what they once had. Sometimes a band can end up making a poor record and mistakenly believe that it's good because it's in the same style as their most celebrated work. The Oasis album 'Heathen Chemistry' is a prime example. But thankfully Suede haven't fallen into that trap. These songs just remind the listener of the old stuff because it's packed with just as much heart, guts and epic bursts of emotion. It's the sound of a group who have somehow rediscovered the magic. Brett Anderson's vocals are positively awe-inspiring, and it's a fine way to return.
It's been a while since Suede came up with some real anthems, but from the third track, we get a four song run of classics that can all proudly stand alongside their best moments. The only gripes I have with this record is its lack of a dirty, strutting rock and roll moment that would have given 'Bloodsports' more variety, and certainly more of a kick, something that its downbeat second half could do with. Eight great tracks out of ten doesn't leave much to complain about. They sound like they've reignited that spark and rediscovered what they once thought was lost forever. Overall it's not quite up there with the truly perfect 'Coming Up', but its best moments provide us with something we thought we'd never hear again: Suede producing some new classics and proving that their glories aren't all in the past. Read my full album review HERE.
So like I said, my reviews of the wonderful new John Grant album 'Pale Green Ghosts' and Steve Mason's refreshingly confrontational 'Monkey Minds In the Devil's Time' were wiped out by my recent technical mishap. I'm also going to be mentioning Low's new album 'The Invisible Way', and 'Listen To Keep', the new one from Idlewild frontman turned folkie Roddy Woomble, which is a most heartwarming listen indeed. Then there's the weird and disturbing new Black Reindeer album that was released via Bandcamp last week, Black Reindeer being the latest alias of Babybird's Stephen Jones. You can listen to that HERE. Talking of other black things, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are about to release their new album 'Specter At The Feast', which is perhaps best described as a grower. It certainly isn't as instantly thrilling as previous records, but it does have its moments. I'll have to talk about those in next week's column since I'm running out of time to get this one published in time for Friday!
I went to see Mercury Prize-nominated Sam Lee play a gig at the Bristol Folkhouse earlier this week, and what a joy it was too. I didn't know what to expect from his live set-up, but both he and his marvellous backing band delivered the goods brilliantly. Ancient songs steeped in history brought to life in a unique and innovative way. Songs that have been sourced from travelling communities and presented to a new generation of listeners. His voice is glorious, his band superbly dynamic, and the songs have many stories to tell. But for me the star of the show was the incredible Tom McCarthy, who sang unaccompanied songs that have been passed through many generations of his family. Sometimes a voice can express more emotions than the sound of a 200 piece orchestra could, and Tom McCarthy is the owner of such a vocal gift. He well and truly puts the autotune generation to shame. It's a voice that doesn't just reach the ears, but the deepest depths of the heart. More about that next week too.
I've seen the line up for this year's Beautiful Days, an excellent grass roots festival organised and run by UK folk-rock legends the Levellers. Headlining are the mighty Primal Scream, ever-reliable live favourites Ocean Colour Scene, and of course the Levellers themselves. They've also got many other acts including the iconic Roy Harper, The Wonder Stuff and The Selecter. Beautiful Days is now approaching its 11th year, featuring music and entertainment across six stages plus a huge children’s area in the centre of the festival, walkabout theatre, amazing site art, comedy, theatre, family camping, food and craft stalls, healing area, play areas and real ale bars run by Otter Brewery.
Beautiful Days is a family-friendly weekend camping festival attended by people of all ages. It won BEST FAMILY FESTIVAL at the 2011 UK Festival Awards and does not advertise or rely on corporate sponsorship or branding. This year's line up is the strongest yet, so tickets will probably go fast. Weekend camping tickets are priced at £120 with tickets for under 16s available for £60. The festival website is HERE. I went to Beautiful Days in 2009, and enjoyed myself immensely.
Also very pleased to hear that The Fall are returning very soon with their 30th studio LP 'Re-Mit', which will be out on Cherry Red in April. There will also be a limited edition 7" single for this year's Record Store Day, which takes place on April 20th...
'Sir William Wray' and 'Hittite Man' are alternate versions of tracks from the forthcoming new album, while 'Jetplane' is exclusive to this release.There will be 1500 copies available worldwide. Mark E Smith has recently said that he didn't think highly of the band's previous album, 2011's 'Ersatz GB'. "I don't like any of them. You've got to be honest for the fans." He added: "I would say five songs on the last record were bad, but I will make it up... 'Re-Mit' is going to terrify people. It's quite horrible. The Fall have had enough and we're coming for you."
The band also hit the road for a UK tour in April and May. More info HERE.
Also setting my ears alight this week have been new tracks from Olympian, The Hosts, and the Edwyn Collins-produced Charlie Boyer And The Voyeurs. More on those next week.
In 1994 I had discovered Blur, become obsessed with Bowie, and had also become keen on The Pogues. My Dad was the manager of Bentley's, a club in Corsham. Because of the venue's location near a block of flats for the elderly, they were refused a late licence. But it was more of a pre-nightclub place where people from Corsham would start the night at before moving on to the bigger clubs that opened till the early hours of the morning. But even though the DJ sets there consisted of mainly commercial dance music, it was something I took an interest in.
I liked the idea of being a DJ. The sound of the clubs appealed to me as well, and the light displays and sheer vibrancy of the dancefloor was something that I wanted a piece of. Away from the commercial side of things, there was some incredible stuff going on in the world of dance music, with Orbital, Leftfield and The Orb all at their peak. But it was the house music and club anthems that became my sounds of choice, since I thought that they would make me the sort of DJ that I wanted to be at that point.
But it was late in 1994 when I heard Oasis for the first time. These refreshingly no-nonsense northerners reminded me of a modern day Beatles, lots of beautiful melodies with an exciting rough edge. They seemed more serious than Blur, and certainly seemed to be coming from a different place musically. I didn't know it at the time but two equally cool exciting bands and a few others coming along at the same time makes a scene, and that scene was to become Britpop. Even if Blur, Oasis and Suede were all completely different musically and stylistically, it became obvious that Britain was producing some phenomenally good bands, and a golden age had begun. I bought a cassette from Woolworths in Chippenham, the Oasis single 'Whatever'. At that point I hadn't even heard their previous four singles, but there was something majestic about this song. An absolutely joyous encapsulation of the giddy excitement that the mid 90's held. It certainly wasn't to be the last Oasis single I ever bought... Another hugely significant group had stepped in to my life, and things were never quite the same again.
And with Britpop rising, and a number of students frequenting the club, my Dad saw an opportunity to attract this growing indie crowd. So a student night was organised, although I can only ever remember two of them taking place. One was an amazing indie disco night, where I fell in love with 'Fools Gold', 'Loaded' and 'Blue Monday'. The other student night I remember well involved a live band, who played that Oasis song that I loved, plus other stuff that I'd probably recognise now.
Next week I reveal details of what I class as my first ever proper gig. Yes, I'd already seen a couple of covers bands in pubs by that point, but my Dad's club was about to host a gig from a superb group that I still have very fond memories of... Read about that next week.