Friday, 12 April 2013

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #13

This week: my reaction and the music world's response to Margaret Thatcher's death, plus new albums from Karl Bartos, British Sea Power and Peace. Also featured are The Wonder Stuff, Beady Eye, Miles Kane, Bonobo, Phoenix, Space, OMD and Vampire Weekend. Steve Lamacq celebrates 20 years at the BBC, there's more news on Record Store Day, and a new RW/FF Compilation to listen to. Then in my weekly "rewind" I remember my debut as a DJ in February 1995.

So as you will no doubt know, one of Britain's most hated political figures is dead. Even though I hated Thatcher for everything she did, i'm not celebrating the news of her overdue death, even though I've always thought I would be when the time came. When the deaths of Bin Laden and Saddam were announced, the world was rid of two dangerous men. Thatcher was hardly a threat to anyone at the age of 87.

But when she was in power, the effects that her actions had on society were devastating, and have continued to spiral out of control ever since. She came into office and fucked over many people whose lives have never recovered, before retiring to live the rest of her life in luxury. She dies aged 87 at the fucking Ritz hotel, while many people die at younger ages after not getting the care and treatment that they need at an NHS hospital. Then after MORE cutbacks, everyone's going to have to pay for her funeral as well. So even when she's being put in the ground, she'll still be shitting on us.


She'll be shitting on us for many years to come too, as long as Thatcherism thrives in the form of out of control banking criminals, politicians targeting the poor as their victims, and many more examples that I don't have the time to list.

So I'm not celebrating. The damage has already done, and the death of an elderly woman isn't going to repair what has been inflicted on our country. But I can certainly see why people are celebrating her demise. People who have been deeply wounded by her actions. In an attempt to get 'Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead' into the charts, many are downloading the song, which actually stood at the top of the UK iTunes chart a few days ago.

So Radio 1 are unsure whether they should or shouldn't broadcast the song if it makes the Top 40 on Sunday. They're worried that it might be in bad taste and it could offend people. Don't preach to me about bad taste. You have One Direction on your playlist. And as for offending people, as a fan and supporter of musicians and creative intellectuals, I am offended by the singles chart on a weekly basis. Something else that offends me is the effort made by the mainstream media to restrict free speech and the broadcasting of any art that expresses an opinion on the world. But the song itself isn't even about Thatcher. It's hardly like we're asking them to play 'Maggie' by The Exploited ("Maggie, Maggie, Maggie, Maggie you fucking cunt!!!"). Just a song from The Wizard Of Oz that could be used in a different context. Political correctness gone mad? It's gone chronically insane.

The occasion couldn't go unmarked without a statement from Morrissey. "Every move she made was charged by negativity; she destroyed the British manufacturing industry, she hated the miners, she hated the arts, she hated the Irish Freedom Fighters and allowed them to die, she hated the English poor and did nothing at all to help them, she hated Greenpeace and environmental protectionists, she was the only European political leader who opposed a ban on the ivory trade, she had no wit and no warmth and even her own cabinet booted her out... As a matter of recorded fact, Thatcher was a terror without an atom of humanity."

Billy Bragg was for many, the voice of the working class during the Thatcher era. "One of those rare days when I'm not having to sleep on a moving tour bus, so I decided to treat myself to a lie-in. The phone rang a couple of times in the night, but I ignored it, assuming it was a wrong number... Headed out onto the streets of Calgary to find coffee. Power up my wifi and what do I find? Thatcher's dead and I've got a dozen emails to answer about her. Not content with destroying the ability of working people to organise in the workplace for decent wages, that damn woman has seriously messed up my day off."


Mistakenly labelled "one hit wonders" and veteran anarchists Chumbawamba split up last year, but not before recording an EP titled 'In Memoriam: Margaret Thatcher' in preparation for the Iron Lady's demise. They recorded it four years ago in 2009 but it didn't have a set release date. Not quite. Instead it was all ready to be immediately shipped out on the day of her death so that people could have something to soundtrack their parties with the next day. And surely enough all copies were sent out on Monday. Almost like a full stop to the band's career, and an appropriate one too. If you only know them for their 1997 novelty hit, then dig deeper. You'll be intrigued by what you discover.

In other Thatcher-related music news, Scottish post rock legends Mogwai inspired the idea of a party in Glasgow to celebrate her death, as many people decided to bring the title of one their tracks to life. The instrumental 'George Square Thatcher Death Party' was featured on their excellent 2011 album 'Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will'. Some people could have intentionally arrived there to pay homage to Mogwai. Others maybe searched the internet for 'Thatcher death party' and probably found the song along with the prefix 'George Square' and decided that as their destination. Maybe it was just a coincidence that it took place there, and Mogwai could have in a way predicted the future. Maybe they deliberately titled the track knowing that lots of people would soon be searching for the term 'Thatcher Death Party'. Whatever happened, I'm surprised the music news media hasn't picked up on this story.

Anyway that's enough about politics, here's the music.


Record Store Day is almost upon us, and I'm excited. It's the one day of the year where I get to queue outside of a record shop. Notice I used the term "get to" rather than "have to". It's all part of the experience. As well as the anticipation of getting hold of particular records I have my heart set on, it just feels good to play my part and continue to show my support. This year I am proud to be playing another role in Record Store Day, along with the others at GIITTV and a host of great artists. Yes, we have something planned, and all will be revealed over the next few days on God Is In the TV.

Steve Lamacq is probably the radio DJ who has had the biggest impact on my life. As a teenager I grew up with his Evening Session on Radio 1 (back when it was good), and discovered so much great music through that show. I'd say a large chunk of my record collection might not have been there if it wasn't for Lamacq. Today he celebrates exactly 20 years broadcasting on the BBC, a magnificent achievement for a champion of alternative music. Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie said "Steve Lamacq is that rare animal: a guy who really does love the bands and the records he plays. He believes in the power of music to move people. He has been a long time champion of the underground in this country. A real ‘indie’ guy, he’s a purist, a music lover and a good man. He can't be bought". So this afternoon, exactly 20 years after standing in for Mark Goodier one day, Lamacq's latest show can be heard at 4pm on the utterly priceless BBC 6Music. Cheers Lammo. HERE is an interview he did recently with Music Week.

When I saw Miles Kane playing live a few months ago, I was immediately impressed by the new material he previewed on the night. One of those songs was the excellent 'Don't Forget Who You Are', which with its insanely catchy "la la la" chorus has been wisely chosen as his next single. It's the title track from his second album (out June 3) and you can hear it HERE.

There is a brand new RW/FF Compilation for you all to listen to. The RW/FF Compilation is a companion to this column, which showcases the music that has featured over the last few weeks. You can listen to the whole thing via Mixcloud HERE... just sit back and enjoy the best new music of the last few weeks... These tracks are from artists mentioned in editions 9,10,11 and 12 of the column. It includes Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, British Sea Power, Charlie Clark, Edwyn Collins, John Grant, Karl Bartos, Low, Metamono, Peace, Primal Scream, Sam Lee, Steve Mason, Suede, The Hosts, The Leisure Society, The Strokes, The Wonder Stuff, Transplants and more.

Many of you will remember Britpop era Liverpudlian combo Space. After splitting in the early 2000's they are back on tour and releasing a new album entitled 'Attack Of The 50ft Kebab'. Release date is yet to be confirmed, but two new songs can be heard now. 'Frightened Horses' is weird and psychedelic, and certainly more promising than the other new track 'Fortune Teller', sub-Specials ska that falls flat. 'Frightened Horses' can be heard HERE, while 'Fortune Teller' is HERE.


Peace are a group who could be described as a "hype band" of recent times. Their debut LP 'In Love' implies that they could very well be the best of the current crop of bands that the likes of the NME are buzzing off. Following the shoegaze-pop opener 'Higher Than The Sun', 'Follow Baby' is a pleasing bit of baggy-grunge that suggests Nirvana, Pixies and Supergrass influences. 'Lovesick' is probably the weakest thing here, veering dangerously close to "landfill indie" territory, while 'Float Forever' is nice enough but hardly thrilling. After a slightly uncertain start, it seems to get better as it goes on. 'Wraith' and 'Delicious' recall the shuffle and funk of Foals, the latter a vibrant burst of melody and tasty guitars, and 'Waste Of Paint' slips into a robust Stone Roses-like groove. The excellent 'Toxic' is simply a killer tune delivered with refreshing energy, while 'Sugar Daze' and the lovely Suede-like 'California Daze' in particular provide a fine way to round the album off. Hardly the most original or groundbreaking thing you'll hear this year, but it's certainly home to some ear catching indie pop that impresses in terms of melody and sound. And they do what they do well. I'll say it's a 3.5 out of 5.

British Sea Power's 'Machineries Of Joy' is another recent album that I've been playing. I love how the title track's guitar line plays along with the strings towards the end. It's so good that you don't realise it runs for over six minutes. Elsewhere we are treated to more uptempo numbers like the raucous Manics-esque 'K Hole' and the pacey 'Monsters Of Sunderland'. Meanwhile the gentle breeze of 'Hail Holy Queen' and the tender centrepiece 'What You Need The Most' display the band's more introspective side, the latter being one of the record's finest moments. 'Spring Has Sprung' is a nicely arranged moment of graceful beauty that also provides another highlight. It's an album that's prevented from being brilliant by unremarkable fare like the vaguely post-punk 'Loving Animals' and the yawn of 'Radio Goddard', but most of it stands up pretty well, even if it does take a few plays to make its impact. I'll say it's a 3.5 out of 5.

Temples are a neo-psych group from the Midlands. I've only recently discovered them on a CD given away with MOJO magazine a couple of months ago, which features their excellent track 'Shelter'Love those vintage guitars and the heavy rhythm. Wonderful I think. Apparently they have a debut LP out later this year. Listen to the brilliant 'Shelter' HERE.

The Wonder Stuff have a new album out, their 7th full length effort. 'Oh No It's The Wonder Stuff' is a brilliant return to form, where Miles Hunt rediscovers the magic that won his group so much acclaim in the early 90's. I'll talk more about this LP next week when I have more time and column room. Until then listen to the (sort of) title track and single 'Oh No!' HERE.


I've just heard that new Vampire Weekend track. In fact I heard it about five minutes ago, but I've only just been told who it was. What the hell is going on with the vocal treatment? It's bizarre. What's the album going to be like? Fancying something a bit different from most of the stuff I usually listen to, I decided to check out the new LP from Bonobo. I'm liking it too. Phoenix have a new single out. It's called 'Entertainment' and it's taken from the forthcoming album 'Bankrupt'. Listen HERE.



A new and rather fantastic Beady Eye track found its way on to US radio earlier this week. It's called 'Flick Of The Finger' and it's taken from their second album 'BE', released June 10th. Just in time for my birthday two days later. Nice. It's understood that there is another new track premiering on Zane Lowe's Radio 1 show in a week or so. Meanwhile listen to 'Flick Of The Finger' HERE.

Karl Bartos was a member of Kraftwerk during their peak, and with his former group now regarded as one of the most important acts in musical history, and a modern day Ralf Hutter led line up playing a serious of highly acclaimed shows recently, it's certainly a fine moment for him to release his new LP 'Off The Record'. It's a collection of tracks that he has been working on for many years, some of them initially sketched out during his time in Kraftwerk.


The digital age production on this record sometimes taints the character of the music, which was surely perfected suited to analogue methods. Years ago Kraftwerk were making what they thought was the music of the future. It was. Now in the future, an ex member of Kraftwerk is still making music similar to that of their golden days. But ironically it's this future that drags the songs on this record down, it just comes across a bit too shiny in places and sometimes too clean to have any kind of an edge. The pounding opener 'Atomium' conjures up a sense of ominous dread, while the gloriously mechanical 'Musica Ex Machina' uses bits of the Electronic song 'Imitation Of Life', which Bartos co-wrote in 1996 with Bernard Sumner and Johnny Marr. There's some beautiful stuff elsewhere, the dreamy 'International Velvet' and the rather wonderful vocoder ballad 'Tuning Of The World' being two highlights.

Even though I've liked it enough to give it a lot of plays since its release, its flaws are hard to ignore, particularly in terms of the production. However, the melodies and ideas are often quite brilliant. 3 out of 5 for this one.

OMD's new album 'English Electric' is in shops this week, and unlike on the Bartos LP they bring their sound up to date when it's needed, while still retaining the essence of the style they are known for. I might talk about that next week. But then again another great new release could come along and I might end up talking about that instead. Sometimes an unexpected event occurs, and I have to find column space for my thoughts on it. I can never plan exactly what's going to be in next week's column, instead I just keep a list of things for possible inclusion. So next week will provisionally feature OMD, The Wonder Stuff, Chelsea Light Moving and that Roddy Woomble LP that most people probably reviewed months ago. It should also feature Six By Seven (who I am very pleased to see returning), Olympian, The House Of Love and more on Record Store Day.

After not having enough time last week, I continue the journey through my musical memories of 1995. What a year.


During the same week that Blur swept up at the Brit Awards, I also made my debut as a DJ aged just ten years old. My Dad managed a club, and it was there where I would become interested in the art of spinning records and filling dancefloors. I also became fascinated with the concept of mixing two songs together, something that I was hearing on dance compilations as well as from the DJs at the club. With a function room upstairs the club was also the ideal venue for my brother's 7th birthday party, and if I could learn how to use the decks and the mixer, then I would be the DJ. It took a while, but I eventually learned. My DJ debut at that party was by no means a demonstration of turntable wizardry, since I was just crossfading tracks rather than mixing the beats together, and I was also using one turntable, a CD player and a tape deck. Plus how could I have mixed the music that I was playing? It was hardly Jive Bunny.


'Strawberry Fields Forever' failed to get a room of six year olds rushing to the dancefloor, and I couldn't figure out why. My attitude was "It's a great song, so dance to it!". None of my Bowie records inspired any movement either. There was a slightly more enthusiastic reaction to Blur, but in the end I had to resort to sticking on a chart hits compilation and breaking up the songs with bits from a party mix tape. I also recall having a terrible hairstyle and a brightly coloured waistcoat on, since my Dad would frequently wear one behind the bar and I was very much like a mini version of him. I also remember refusing to dance with an admiring girl that my brother had invited from his class. I was a bit shy yes, plus a three year age gap feels like a whole generation to a ten year old. But I took the stance that a DJ shouldn't dance. It's uncool. I play the records, THEY will dance. Perhaps because I wasn't exactly cool and popular at school, it meant that I needed a way to feed my ego. DJing gave me that. And when I eventually became quite good at it, the ego became more of a confident sense of achievement. But I didn't become any good at it until I had learned more about dance music and embraced house.

In early 1995 I would just play novelty dance hits, new chart singles, well known classics and songs from my favourite new bands Blur, Suede and Oasis. I had at that point only heard one Oasis single 'Whatever', along with its electrifying B side 'It's Good To Be Free', but very soon a car journey to Yorkshire and the arrival of the band's next single would make them my heroes... More next week.

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