Saturday, 2 November 2013

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #35

This week: I pay tribute to the legendary Lou Reed, review the 'Anticlockwise' compilation from folk-punk stalwarts McDermott's 2 Hours, and there's new music from the likes of Suede, Metamono, Gaz Coombes, TOY, Black Submarine, Samaris, Pins and Weatherbirds. Plus news about Paul Draper, reclusive ex-frontman of the brilliant Mansun...

It's always sad and something of a shock when any great musician passes away, but living in a world without Lou Reed is sure going to take a lot of getting used to. Last night, my reaction at the breaking news of his death at the age of 71 was sheer disbelief, followed by sadness and then an evaluation of what this man's work has meant to me since hearing him when I must have been about 10.

Like with many others, 'Walk On The Wild Side' was my first taste of Lou Reed. I heard it on a white cassette (with no cover or case) that my Dad owned called 'Rock Anthems'. Coming to think of it, I now remember my Dad often referring to the man as "Louie Reed". There was something about his lyrical approach that intrigued me, as well as his very casual vocals, an effortlessly cool style that seemed to not give the slightest hint of a fuck about anything. But I was also confused about the line "she never lost her head, even when she was giving head." What did it mean? Obviously I know now, but back then it seemed like a puzzling phrase. The stunning 'Perfect Day' was something that couldn't fail to move and amaze me upon hearing it for the first time. My first encounter with The Velvet Underground was an unexpected one, an otherwise very MOR compilation entitled 'Top Gear' included the overwhelmingly dark 'Venus In Furs' alongside the very unlikely company of ZZ Top, Queen, Fleetwood Mac and other groups that seemed to be on a far more basic level than this extraordinary blacker than black monster emerging from the speakers. Of course, what I also didn't know was that this song was about bondage. In the late 90's I got myself a copy of 'The Velvet Underground And Nico', mainly because I'd read many of my favourite bands raving about their influence. And what an album it was. The pounding 'Waiting For The Man', the gorgeous 'Sunday Morning' and the raw, uncomfortable intensity of 'Heroin' made me aware of what all the fuss was about. Since then I have added a number of Reed's other records to my collection, however somewhat unbelievably I have yet to acquire the classic 'Transformer'. Now would be a fitting time for me to correct that.

He left this world having spent decades exploring new sounds and ideas, creating a legacy of his own. He didn't waste his years compromising or treating commercial success as a priority over his art, and for that reason alone, the countless musicians that he has influenced in one way or another have a lot to thank him for. Always challenging himself and others, right up until the end he continued to rage against the dying of the light. The world is now short of one more genuinely unusual, maverick mind but is all the richer for him having been here in the first place. His influence on subsequent generations was utterly profound and to say that we will never see anyone like him again is no overstatement. So now the final curtain has come down on the lifetime of this true legend, a round of applause is in order. Read my full Lou Reed tribute HERE.


To some, Brighton would seem an unlikely breeding ground for Irish flavoured folk-rock with a burning punk spirit, yet the town has played home to the two groups who have done it best over the past few decades. One of them, the Levellers, are familiar to a lot of people. The other band are McDermott's 2 Hours, the lesser known but hugely influential unit led by Nick Burbridge. Members of both groups have crossed paths many times, teaming up for three collaborative albums, as well as touring together. Despite having such a close connection, the two groups have travelled very different paths. While the Levellers scored more gold and platinum discs than any other UK artist during the 90's (a little known fact, but true), Burbridge preferred to use his talents for various artistic outlets rather than for any sort of commercial purposes, writing novels, poems and theatre plays as well as continuing to make some fine records. 'Anticlockwise' is a 14 track compilation that brings together some of the best moments from the six previous MD2H albums, along with two awesome new tracks. 

Active for over 25 years now, they remain one of British music's best kept secrets, a lack of commercial success being the result of never fitting in with any trends and always refusing to compromise. Besides, the mainstream and the music industry don't deserve them anyway. Burbridge doesn't play the game, instead he gets more satisfaction from bringing his ideas to life in an unmistakably raw, expressive way. Those tired of the increasingly conservative, industry-approved coffee table folk that has become popular in recent years will find these songs a refreshing and encouraging antidote. They rage with the spirit of the underdog, a voice that acts as an outlet for pain, fury and dogged defiance. And these are songs that could have only come from the mind of someone who has experienced as much turbulence as Burbridge has throughout his life. He's able to channel the pain of others as well, the storming opener 'Dirty Davey' based on a real life story concerning the death of a punk in police custody, a classic track that was covered by the Levellers themselves in 1993. Buoyed by the same uptempo momentum is the excellent 'Darkness And Sail', while the medieval-sounding 'World Turned Upside Down' is a truly remarkable piece of songwriting topped with Gregorian flavours, tangled acoustic guitars and some utterly superb vocal arrangements. 

These are songs of despair, songs of anger, and songs of hope. They also provide a fantastic introduction to the work of this massively underrated artist, a true genius in the world of modern folk music. Although Nick Burbridge never gets the credit that he deserves, his recent and well deserved Spiral Earth Award for Best Songwriter may be a sign that more people are starting to acknowledge his brilliance. After hearing these 14 songs, you may very well be glad that you also took notice. Read my full review HERE.

The magnificent Suede played at the Academy in Bristol on Thursday 24 October, one of the best gigs I have ever been to in my life. An absolutely superb night of music from the British indie legends. My collection of photos from the night can be seen HERE. A review of the gig will be coming to these pages soon in the Gig Reviews section HEREThe gig coincided nicely with the release of the new single 'For The Strangers', the latest track to be lifted from their highly recommended 'Bloodsports' LP. This single was released earlier this week on October 21, and is available digitally or as part of a double 7" single which also includes 'Hit Me'. It also comes backed by new B sides 'Human Tide' and 'Darkest Days'. This week also saw the release of the band's vinyl boxset, containing all of their albums plus the B sides compilation 'Sci Fi Lullabies'.



With advancing technology, these days anyone can put together a dance track made up of many different sounds, meaning that many unworthy mainstream nobodies have been trying to hide a lack of talent, skill and creativity behind a load of shiny, buffed-up digital sounds. Aware of the abysmal direction electronic music could be heading towards,Metamono create music using only old analogue instruments, and have completely abolished digital recording and production as a rule. In fact they work around an innovative manifesto, which can be seen HERE at their website.


Stripping away the last few decades of dance music and building a new alternative from scratch, when sources are restricted, a greater degree of imagination has to be applied. And imagination is a vital ingredient for great music, a fact underlined by this pinging, fizzing, screeching, buzzing analogue wonder. Following on from a couple of excellent EPs, the debut album 'With The Compliments Of Nuclear Physics' is released Monday (October 21), a fascinating and rewarding record that spans four sides of vinyl, reflecting four different sides to the sound of these visionary electronic musical scientists. A full write up will be coming soon to the reviews section...



Absolutely loving this. 'Join The Dots' is the title track taken from TOY's second album, recorded with Dan Carey in his South London studio and released last week (October 21) as a limited hand-stamped 7" single (300 copies only). The LP is released on Heavenly Recordings on Monday 9th December 2013. 


It's very, very lazy when a music journalist describes any Icelandic female singer as "a bit like Bjork." This particular track from this teenage trio from Reykjavik does in fact have a little hint of the ex-Sugarcube about it (although it's a LOT more laid back), as well as lush, expansive moods not too far from Sigur Rósterritory. Sung completely in their native tongue, Icelandic really is a beautiful language to listen to, and the fact that I have no idea what the words mean only adds more mystery and intrigue to this gorgeous tune. I also love the fact that (as with their other tracks) it features a touch of haunting clarinet, an instrument not usually paired with smooth, icy electronica of this sort. This is taken from the band's self titled debut album, which came out in July on One Little Indian Records. Samaris consists of Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir, Jófríður Ákadóttir and Þórður Kári Steinþórsson.


Former Supergrass man Gaz Coombesreleases a brand new single 'Buffalo' this week. Going solo has clearly allowed room for Coombes to explore more imaginative ideas, yet that gift for crafting ear catching melodies remains evident throughout much of his brilliant solo material. With its changing verse and chorus rhythms, 'Buffalo' isn't too far from something that could fit on Supergrass's self titled third album from 1999, yet its sonic flavours bring it into 2013 with ease. Pre-orders have begun for a signed, limited edition 7" vinyl and download, available worldwide from Gaz's store HERE. The vinyl will also be on sale at Gaz's UK shows while stocks last. “I've been tucked away in the studio these last few months recording my follow up to Here Come The Bombs,” says Gaz. “The whole process is coming together really well so I was keen to get a track out there to give people a flavour of what I'm up to.”


Black Submarine are a five piece band, with two particular members going by the names ofNick McCabe and Simon Jones. Do those names sound familiar? If so, that would be because the aforementioned gentlemen were once members of The Verve. And judging by this new material of theirs, they seem to have more fuel in their tank than their former bandmate Richard Ashcroft, who seems to gone to ground after the poor attempt at reinvention that was his United Nations Of Sound album. McCabe and Jones formed the group in 2008, originally going by the name Black Ships before a legal threat by an American electronic duo changed that. As well as the ex Verve pair, the group also includes Davide Rossi(multi-instrumentalist/string arranger for Goldfrapp/Coldplay who did work on The Verve's final album 'Forth'),Michele ‘Mig’ Schillace (ex-drummer with Portishead/Santa Cruz) and Bristol-based vocalist Amelia Tucker.

'Black Submarine' is the first taste of their upcoming debut LP New Shores', set for release on February 3 2014. It's atmospheric and weird, and I certainly didn't expect them to sound this electronic, but it's undoubtedly more song based than material from the 'Kurofune' EP they released in 2011 under their former moniker. You can listen to the new track below and download for it free from the band's website HERE. The press release describes their sound as being made up "of spaced-out vocals, deep beats, rolling bass-lines, molten soundscapes, meditative chord sequences and explosive string-arrangements."


This primitively cool yet enjoyably hyper piece of post-punk fun may have been released a month or two ago, but I wouldn't want my readers to miss out on something this great just because it isn't an exclusive. Where other sites like to feature music as soon as it's released and then forget about it as soon as they move on to the next thing. I like to keep great music in the spotlight for longer. You may have heard this track on other music sites, and hopefully this will jog your memory or provide that extra play that makes it grow. And if you've never heard it before, you can be glad that I still feature music weeks after its release. Channelling the spirit of Siouxie, The Slits and (an improved) Yeah Yeah Yeahs while riding on a simple, effective Joy Division-esque bassline, this is a cracker. It can be found on the four piece band's debut album 'Girls Like Us', which was released on the Bella Union label back in September. Pins are giving this track away as a free download at their Soundcloud HERE.


Something rather different to most of the music recently featured on the site, after all diversity is a healthy thing. Bands who make this kind of music have to do it very, very well for me to even listen to it twice, but the vast majority of them are a chore to listen to. Weatherbird sound like one of the good ones if this is anything to go by. Listing Nirvana, Pixies and R.E.M as influences, this Birmingham four piece are still in their teens, and have an admirable energy about them. In places similarly flavoured to the likes of Billy Talent and Against Me, it has a muscular sound and a chorus that goes off like a bomb. 'Johnny Strange' is taken from their new EP 'Cut Me Loose', which came out earlier this week (28 October).

Mansun were without a doubt one of the most interesting and unusual group to grow from the Britpop era of the mid 90's. While Oasis sang about being a rock n roll star, and Blur were observing British culture, this four piece from Chester were collaborating with Dr Who's Tom Baker, sampling 'Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairy' and writing songs about cross dressing clergymen. Their lyrics were brilliantly surreal, sometimes fascinating, and their tunes were nothing short of awesome. 

After various troubles (FAR too much to go into) the band split in 2004, and despite promising solo material a number of years ago, frontman Paul Draper hasn't been seen since. Following a live guest appearance with The Joy Formidable back in 2010, Draper made another very rare performance last night (October 31) playing with Leeds-based supergroup Menace Beach, who were doing a session for Marc Riley's excellent evening show on BBC 6Music. Having found a way to contact the reclusive Draper via the programme, fans sent emails declaring their love for his music and their hopes for his return. In a recent radio interview he suggested that he would release the post-Mansun material that he has worked on over the last decade if enough people expressed an interest in wanting to hear it. So taking his words quite literally, members of Facebook fan group Mansun's Only Love Song have set up a 'petition page', where they are hoping to attract as much support as possible to get this fantastic songwriter out of retirement. If you would like to hear more music from Paul Draper (and I know I certainly would), then HERE is the place to make yourselves useful... 


So once again the 'Rewind' part of the column is given a miss for another week. Since the first edition of this column I have bringing you a bit-by-bit account of my musical memories, and the part dedicated to 1995 has been going for months now. Yes, it was a memorable year, and a year that changed my entire outlook on music forever, but perhaps the reason I'm taking so long getting through my accounts of the year is because I never wanted it to end, and subconsciously my mind is telling me to relive 1995 for as long as possible. But I HAVE been writing the final chapter that details the last month of the year. I've also been promising for many weeks that my 18 years belated 'Best Of 1995' compilation will be online soon, but compiling the thing is taking ages. Again, maybe wanting to relive the year so much is what's making me take so much time over this... Back next week. Ciao for now.

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