Friday, 31 January 2014

Track Of The Day: Angels Die Hard - 'Angel Ride'

Named after a 70's biker movie, Angels Die Hard are an Antwerp-based three piece made up of Alex Van Herk, Rob Eelen and Thomas Noope, who have all played in another Jezus Factory act, Strumpets. Their recently released self titled LP is definitely an unusual mixture of stuff, definitely best appreciated over the course of repeated plays. 'Angel Ride' journeys into space rock lounge bongo jazz territory and provides one of the album's best moments. It may sometimes seem a bit aimless in places on the first listen, but there's no denying that Angels Die Hard's debut takes you from one place to another throughout the course of its eight tracks. An odd and rewarding listen. Read my full album review HERE.

REWIND: The Cure - 'Friday I'm In Love'

A classic from Robert Smith and co, to celebrate the announcement that The Cure will be playing not one but TWO shows for this year's Teenage Cancer Trust gigs. After tickets for the first show sold out on fan club presales alone, the band will now play the venue on March 29, as well as the previously announced night on March 28. This was the first Cure song I ever heard, as the video was played a lot on the much-missed ITV Chart Show back in the early 90's. My Auntie Julie was a big fan of the group, and I think I may have borrowed one of their albums from her when I was young. The Cure were one of the first alternative bands to have chart and commercial success in an era before alternative rock had broken into the mainstream. The band is estimated to have sold over 27 million albums as of 2004. Their last album was released back in 2008, so hopefully that six year silence will be broken soon...

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Track Of The Day: Metronomy - 'Love Letters'

On March 10, Metronomy will follow up their highly acclaimed 2011 LP 'The English Riviera' with a new album called 'Love Letters', and this fantastic title track is being lined up as the next single. 

The band also have announced a UK tour, dates below... Sounding like it was made entirely on some old 70's mixing desk, 'Love Letters' is almost like a disco Bowie homage. I love it. 

Frontman Joe Mount recently told the NME that the LP is inspired by The Zombies, Sly and The Family Stone and the birth of his first child...

'Love Letters' is the band's fourth album, and was recorded at London's analogue Toe Rag studios.

01-29 Brighton, England - The Old Market
02-05 Brooklyn, NY - Music Hall of Williamsburg
03-12 Ireland, Dublin - Olympia Theatre
03-13 Liverpool, England - Liverpool Academy
03-14 Manchester, England - Manchester Ritz
03-17 Nottingham, England - Nottingham Rock City
03-18 Leeds, England - Leeds Academy
03-19 Glasgow, Scotland - Glasgow ABC
03-20 Newcastle, England - Newcastle Academy
03-21 Birmingham, England - Birmingham HMV Institute
03-23 Portsmouth, England - Portsmouth Pyramids Centre
03-24 Bristol, England - Bristol Academy
03-25 Oxford, England - Oxford Academy
03-26 Norwich, England - Norwich UEA
03-28 London, England - London Brixton Academy

REWIND: Super Furry Animals - 'Play It Cool'

I didn't know about the Super Furry Animals until 1997, maybe because of the fact that their most popular song was never aired in the radio due to it containing over 50 examples of the word "fuck".

Then in 1997, the department store Leekes opened their very first English branch in my hometown of Melksham. The special guest at the opening ceremony? None other than football legend George Best. Famous for his drinking, I had an inkling that George may not have been 100% sober after I asked him to sign an autograph for my mum. "Who shall I write to to?" he asked. "Jayne" I replied. So i was quite surprised to be handed back a bit of paper that read "To Shane...". I wonder if he knew many other women called Shane...

I digress. Also at Leekes on that day was the local GWR roadshow, a radio station which sadly became gobbled up by the despicable Heart FM a few years ago. What they did at these Roadshows was have prize giveaways, basically a good way of getting rid of all the many promo CDs they were sent. Since they had quite a limited playlist, they probably gave away some incredible stuff. In fact I know they did, since I was the recipients of one of their 'goody bags', which contained a CD copy of 'Play It Cool' from the Super Furries, with b sides too. It wasn't long before this bright, fascinating group became one of my favourites, and I soon rented out a copy of their classic second album 'Radiator' from the local library. After that, I was truly converted.

I love the feelgood breeze of the song plus such enjoyably quirky lyrical treasures as "raising money for the sex appeal". In some fresh, off-the-press news, frontman Gruff Rhys is preparing his fourth solo album for release, and this one sounds rather ambitious... 'American Interior' is "a multi-sensory experience telling the incredible true story of John Evans" to be released on 5 May. Evans was a Welsh farmhand who travelled to America in 1792 to try and discover more about a Welsh-speaking Native American tribe. More details can be found HERE.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Track Of The Day: Mogwai - 'Simon Ferocious'

Considering I've been a fan of theirs since the late 90's, it's brilliant to see that the Scottish legends Mogwai have just scored their very first Top 10 album with their new one 'Rave Tapes'. The Skinny says: "'Rave Tapes' is filled with expert contrasts, making this a pulse-quickening return from a band that’s still evolving, and still amazing", while MusicOMH commented that "'Rave Tapes' might not be a complete change in direction for Mogwai, but it is different enough to suggest that there’s plenty of inventiveness left in the band yet'. Tim Russell, our very own correspondent at God Is In The TV gave it a 3 out of 5 (which I think is a bit of a lower score than it deserves) and gave the following advice: "For those who prefer the speaker-shredding, face-melting, Blur-baiting Mog of yore will find little joy in Rave Tapes which, despite a moniker promising glowstick-waving hands-in-the-air exuberance, is a mature, restrained affair, much closer in tone to their wonderful Les Revenants soundtrack than the balls-on-the-monitor rock thrills of 'Hardcore Will Never Die...'. It reveals its delights slowly. But when it clicks, oh man, it clicks."

I myself will soon get round to doing my own review of the excellent LP, but in the meantime here's the rather spooked 'Simon Ferocious'. Just in case you don't know why they gave the song that title... 

Queen roadie Peter Hince: "One day we were in the control room and Fred was sat at the desk. And suddenly we heard this voice and it was Sid Vicious who had come in (the Sex Pistols were recording in the next studio). And he was clearly the worse for wear... And he called in to the room to Freddie: “Have you succeeded in bringing ballet to the masses yet?”

Freddie Mercury: "I called him 'Simon Ferocious' and he didn’t like it at all. I said, “What are you going to do about it?... He hated the fact that I could even speak like that... I think we survived that test."

REWIND: theaudience - 'A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed'

So in a few days time it will be February, which means the beginning of Britpop Month on God Is In The TV, where we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the year that British music truly came alive. As well as recalling my memories of the glorious era, I will also be doing a short feature on the Post-Britpop bands who appeared at the end of the 90's. One of my favourites from back then was theaudience (yes it's supposed to be all lowercase with no gap) who were fronted by the striking looks and captivating voice of the young Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Very much like Sleeper, the group centred round an attractive and talented female singer backed by a group of non-descript men who you probably wouldn't recognise anywhere. But one of the "theaudienceblokes" was the songwriter Billy Reeves, an influential figure on the indie scene whose brilliant guitar pop tunes were a perfect match for Bextor's Hynde/Harry-tinged tones. 

Hotly tipped by the music press, the band released four fine singles the latter two reaching the Top 40, before bringing out their self titled debut album in the summer of 1998. The LP received mixed reviews and wasn't a commercial success. By this point there were problems within the group too, and Reeves soon departed, leaving the rest to attempt the songwriting themselves for their planned second album. Their label Mercury rejected the LP, which remained unreleased after the band soon fell apart. Just a few years later, and following on from supplying vocals on a massive dance hit, Sophie Ellis-Bextor became a successful and very well known pop star. Fans of her solo work soon discovered her old band, which led to a couple of former members of theaudience giving the unreleased second album demos to a fan, who uploaded it to the internet as a bootleg. I only found out about it last night, but it turns out that the lost 2nd album 'Quiet Storm' is well worth a listen. Personally I think it deserves a proper release, and there could be an audience for it (excuse the pun) now the group's singer is so popular. 

But here's a fantastic track from the debut (a number 22 in the album charts), and a single that reached number 27 in the charts back in 1998, giving theaudience their 2nd biggest hit. But there's one problem: do I put them under 'T' in my collection as 'theaudience' or do I feature them as an 'A' artist? At the moment I have them as the latter. What do I do?

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

REVIEW: Cast - Deluxe Editions: 'All Change'/'Mother Nature Calls'/'Magic Hour'/'Beetroot' (Edsel Records)

During the mid 90's, British music suddenly became very exciting again, entering a golden age not seen since the 60's. Although nowadays not ever regarded by critics as legends of the Britpop era, Liverpool four-piece Cast still earned their place in musical history with a string of memorable singles and their classic debut album 'All Change'. Like many others from the time, the band went their separate ways in 2001 and reformed nearly a decade later. After their comeback album 'Troubled Times' from 2011, the four albums that Cast released between 1995 and 2001 are being reissued as 2CD deluxe editions, each containing all the extra songs, live tracks and remixes featured on the original CD singles. In addition, there are all the BBC radio sessions and a few interesting rarities.

If you're used to hearing the old version of the album, the remastered sound given to the terrific debut 'All Change' noticeably has more strength, more dynamics, and more life than the original release from 1995, yet it doesn't seem to lose any of its 19 year old character. Back then, its mod-rock sound came along at just the right time, as the spirit of Britpop was in full flow. It was Polydor Records' fastest selling debut album of all time, and shifted over a million copies. The sprightly opener 'Alright' perfectly captures the optimism of the time and provides one hell of a singalong too, but as well as the other unforgettable anthems here, we also get some top quality album tracks. The brilliant intro of 'Promised Land' is so joyfully retro that no matter what format you're listening to it on, it sounds like some bit of vinyl from the 60's, while the track itself thrives on the same unstoppable guitar-powered zest that can be heard throughout much of the LP. 

'All Change' shows how a great melody can make a few basic chords and not the most original of styles sound fresh, exciting and very much like the product of magic. The terrific psychedelic-tinged rocker 'Sandstorm' is still as exciting and empowering nearly two decades later, and on this remaster that fantastic guitar solo seems to stand out more. Without a doubt, a true anthem of the period. A jolt of Who-like energy shoots through the driving 'Mankind' before the superb 'Tell It Like It Is' delves into a darker side of Cast, in places recalling frontman John Power's previous outfit The La's. The moodier vibe continues on the excellent 'Four Walls', a slice of shadowy Merseybeat with a delicious mixture of acoustic and electric guitars as well as another fine melody. 

The strident breeze of hit single 'Fine Time' again turns simple ingredients into something that still shines brightly years later, another truly exuberant tune that encapsulates the wide eyed positivity of the mid 90's. The buoyant 'Back Of My Mind' is another effortlessly addictive number that precedes the stunning 'Walkaway'. Its heartstring-pulling hooks and tearful anthemics are put together magnificently and as a song it easily equals any of the big Oasis epics. Another all-time classic. The pace and mood turns a lot more stormy on the urgent 'Reflections', while the irresistible stomp of 'History' really does feature some of the greatest guitar sounds ever put to record, and is a track that benefits hugely from John Leckie's top class production. 'Two Of A Kind' puts together jangly chords with Northern romance and a chaotic outro to close the main album in a bright but reflective fashion. 

After a rather lovely excerpt from 'Walkaway''s string section, CD1 continues with all the B sides from the album's singles, and impressive many of them are too. As well as the Small Faces-esque 'Better Man' and primitive rock and roller 'Satellites', there are the spacey guitars and insistent rhythms of 'Follow Me Down' as well as the basic but effective riffage found on 'Meet Me'. The upbeat 'Hourglass' is something that could have easily made it on to most band's albums, and the same goes for another b side highlight 'Fulfill', which brings out more of their darker, psychedelic side. The catchy Rolling Stones-like 'Mother' is equally pleasing, however 'Between The Eyes' is typically average bonus track material. All of these are overshadowed by the breathtaking non-album single 'Flying', one of Britpop's most magical moments and a snapshot of Cast at their peak. All the nostalgic memories of the era are impossible to forget while hearing it, and it's one of those songs that has grown even more powerful as the years have gone on. An underrated classic of the times. The selection of non album songs is concluded with the alluringly subtle 'For So Long', ending a sort of 'All Change' companion album that shows Oasis certainly weren't the only British guitar band to be throwing great moments onto the b sides of their singles. Two unreleased outtakes from the album are included near the end of CD2 after five live numbers and 11 BBC session tracks. Like other Cast numbers, 'All In You' is rather Who-like and features some great guitars, but ended up being given a complete musical makeover and a new chorus to become 'For So Long'. The other outtake 'All My Days' is a nice little waltz-timed number that could have made a good b side, and although it would undeniably sound weak alongside the stuff from 'All Change', who knows why it didn't appear on later releases.

After Britpop became a phenomenon, the most popular music was once again being made my talented musicians with their own ideas. Many saw it as the ideal opportunity for mainstream music to become revolutionary, creative and interesting again, like in the golden days of the 60's and 70's. Cast stuck to their template, yet tried something slightly different and at times less commercial on their second album, 1997's 'Mother Nature Calls', an LP that disappoints now just as it did then. However, it does contain a handful of great moments that saved Power and co from disaster, one of them being the fantastic 'Free Me'. Like on much of the debut, it's built around simple chords played in a straight forward way and yet it still has plenty of refreshing energy, that unknown magical ingredient that makes it lift you up when you hear it. It's also tailor-made for those 'Top Gear' compilation CDs, definitely one to hit the road to. 'On The Run' takes the quality down immediately, a mid paced trudge through what sounds like b side territory, and not particularly great b side territory either. It's a good job that the resigned yet rousing 'Live The Dream' puts things firmly back on track with something that falls somewhere between The Kinks and dusty country-blues, delivering another knockout chorus. Such high quality doesn't last long though, as the dull, rambling 'Soul Tied' fails to hit the mark and is overshadowed by the Lynard Skynard-esque 'She Sun Shines', which brings back the upbeat vibe of the first album but undeniably lacks the same vitality. The centrepiece and third highlight of 'Mother Nature Calls' is the powerful, elegant weep of 'I'm So Lonely', a shining example of how string epics should be done, and a majestic Britpop ballad up there with the work of Gallagher and Albarn.

It's one of those albums where it sounds like all the magic was all used up on a handful of tracks, and a selection of fillers were knocked out to make up the numbers. It's not terrible, just very unremarkable. Listen to the directionless 'The Mad Hatter' and you'll know what I'm talking about. The straight-up retro rock romp 'Mirror Me' is when Cast get it right, and even though it's hardly groundbreaking, it again highlights their ability to turn the basics into the stuff of greatness. The classic 'Guiding Star' is even better, and years after its infectious verses and nagging chorus provided them with another smash hit single, it's lyric about "the glimpse of a forgotten dream" against the jaunty, carefree backdrop stirs up more nostalgia for those simpler, brighter days. The mildly psychedelic 'Never Gonna Tell You What To Do' is put in the shade by the dark, epic drama of the closing 'Dance Of The Stars', which flows and builds in a way similar to 'Champagne Supernova', also pointing forwards to the occasionally grand 'Magic Hour' that would follow two years later. 

Many of the additional tracks that appeared across various formats of the album's four singles provided more quality than a lot of the actual LP itself. It's a mystery why a fine bit of rock n roll like 'Come On Everybody' (not an Eddie Cochran cover) was left off the album in favour of much weaker tracks, and the same can be said for the darker, La's-esque 'Canter', which is more engaging and also a great deal more interesting than some of the fodder on the album, ending in a riot of Spanish guitar. I guess it wasn't to Polydor's taste. After annoyingly being broken up with an acoustic version of 'Free Me', the selection of b side songs continues with the delta blues-psychedelica of 'Release My Soul', a song that would be raved about by critics if it was the Arctic Monkeys that came up with it. The acoustic 'Dancing On The Flames' is given extra charm thanks to the subtle banjo that surprisingly arrives halfway through, while 'Out Of The Blue' sounds not unlike a grittier take on 'All Change''s Who flavours. 

CD 2 begins with the likeable 'Keep It Alive', before being interrupted by four live tracks. Someone really should have put more thought into this running order rather than just featuring the tracks in the sequence that they appeared on the CD singles. 'Hold On' is perhaps an indication of the more tender sound that appeared in places on the next album, and has a lovely drum sound, while the pub rock of 'Flow' contains lines as bad as "you've got to bake the cake that we can eat", and is best avoided. 'Effectomatic Who' is a lot more enjoyable, even if it is the obvious imitation of the group that its title suggests, but again two acoustic/demo tracks halt the flow of what would be 'Mother Nature Calls'' companion album. After those, the rather downtrodden 'The Things You Make Me Do' fails to ignite much excitement before 'Theme From' occasionally hints at the more downbeat reflection of their next offering that would arrive in 1999, but does sound like a typical fourth-single-from-an-album b side. 

The second disc is completed by a live track, two acoustic selections from a Radio 1 session and two fine remixes of 'History' that both make good use of that excellent guitar line. One of them comes from the great 90's big beat-punk collective Lo Fidelity Allstars, who stretched the original into nearly 10 minutes of hard punching funk beats and the maverick vocal mayhem of Lo Fi's vocalist and "urban poet" Dave 'The Wrekked Train'. It's the sort of thing that Power would try and replicate for the band's doomed fourth album that came four years later, but we'll get to that later...

Four superb lead tracks, a number of great b sides and two top notch remixes made purchasing these singles even more of a pleasure when I did so in 1997 and 1998, but after hiring the album from the local library and not taking to it much, it would be over a decade before I eventually bought myself a copy. 17 years on, 'Mother Nature Calls' still sounds like four fine singles held together by what is mostly forgettable filler, while the b sides from the period often revealed a slightly more interesting side to the band. The album wasn't a critical success, and as the Britpop movement they were associated with gradually faded bit by bit, Power talked of refreshing the Cast sound for their third album. 

1999's 'Magic Hour' was to produce three of Cast's greatest moments, four very good ones and five not so great ones. They hadn't managed to record another solid album like the debut, and had to make do with a few great songs plus whatever they could come up, very much the same as with 'Mother Nature Calls'. But knowing that album still sold enough to please them, and supplied them with more radio staples and Top Of The Pops appearances, they thought they could do it again. But times had changed, and the bands of the Britpop era were having to do more to impress, and to prove themselves to critics.

This time around the sound displays two contrasts: the rock numbers given a harder edge by producer Gil Norton, and the sweeping moments of orchestral beauty (provided by David Arnold) that give the album a softer side. But to this very day I'm not sure exactly what opener and lead single 'Beat Mama' is supposed to be. The rhythm suggests funk, the chorus recalls 80's metal, the guitar line hints at reggae while Power delivers something that could almost be described as Merseybeat rap, and yet it still has that classic British rock vibe running through it. Some hate it, others love it, but there's no denying that it's one of the most interesting moments in the Cast cannon. Which is a lot more than can be said for the rather plain mod-rock of 'Compared To You', which is pleasant but uninspired. 'She Falls' is an improvement, combining both the heavy and gentle elements of this album in an enjoyably subtle fashion, while 'Dreamer' may be another Who homage thinly disguised with some obligatory modern electronic squiggles, yet it comes close to the simple, direct appeal of their early work and in terms of songwriting it's almost Cast at their best. 

But everything before it is put in the shade by the magnificent title track, which may very well represent Cast's finest single piece of work. Chiming with a tranquil elegance, the stunning 'Magic Hour' sets a charming atmosphere to the sort of humble, melancholic beauty not usually associated with a band that many labelled "dadrock". You can almost picture the four of them sailing away peacefully into the sunset. Blissful and hugely underrated.

The catchy 'Company Man' has more bite than anything else here and recalls a rougher, pissed-off relative of 'Free Me', while the magnificent orchestral drama of 'Alien' provides the second major highlight and manages to top both 'Walkaway' and 'I'm So Lonely' in terms of epicness. At 03:35 we get the most magical thirty seconds of the group's entire career, as the glorious strings and soaring guitar solo glide together in beautiful harmony. It makes the substandard fare that immediately follows it sound all the more underwhelming: 'Higher' and 'The Feeling Remains' are both Cast by-numbers with some fancy sounds bolted on, while the uneventful limp of 'Chasing The Day' is the point where it would have been impossible to deny that ideas were starting to wear thin. 'Burn The Light' tries to weld a dull chorus to a heavy verse and achieves very little apart from a rather ugly mess. 

Luckily 'Magic Hour' ends on a high note with the brooding string epic 'Hideaway', which occasionally brings to mind a hybrid of 'I Am The Walrus' and The Boo Radleys' 'Lazarus', and is the sort of thing that could have put Oasis back at the very top if Noel had penned it. And if that isn't enough, the LP has one final treat in store at the very end, as a splendid solo reprise of the strings from 'Alien' closes the album, highlighting just how great its orchestral arrangements were.

After the main LP, we get three remixes of 'Beat Mama': a chunky but monotonous hip hop take, a light funk-tinged reworking that keeps the entire song structure, and best of all, the 'Fire Island Classic Boys Own Dub' which completely reimagines the track as a pumping 4/4 house floorfiller.

Following a pointless radio edit of 'Beat Mama', we get the B sides. 'Get On You' throws some typical but enjoyable classic rock shapes and would have been good on the album in place of one of the weaker tracks. It was probably left off because people may have considered it to sound too much like Oasis. '3 Nines Are 28' isn't just a bad bit of maths, but an ill-advised experiment with offbeat rhythms that grates horribly, while 'Hoedown' is every bit the weak, throwaway Wild West parody that its title suggests. The shadowy acoustic-flavoured 'Whiskey Song' (which has a touch of The Doors to it) and the sombre Spanish-tinged 'Gypsy Song' provide two interesting, rewarding moments that again could have improved 'Magic Hour' if they had been included. Bleaker moods also filter into the grey, mundane 'I Never Wanna Lose You', while the more satisfying 'What You Gonna Do' and the Beatles-like 'All Bright' provide a brief return to the band's early sound. Their version of The Who's 'The Seeker' highlights just how much of an influence the 60's legends had on Cast, and is followed by a selection of 'Magic Hour' songs played live for Radio 1. I'm quite sure this is the set they played on the 'Lamacq Live' show the week the album was released, because I remember listening to it and recording it off the radio back in the day. And since I lost the tape years ago, the inclusion of the session on this CD is most welcome. 

Although 'Magic Hour' gave the band a Top 10 album and 'Beat Mama' was a number 9 hit, they failed to match the success of the first two LPs. By this point the band's music was no longer receiving the same amount of support from radio and telly, while the music press had marked Cast (along with many other Britpop-era bands) as targets for criticism. They were no longer surfing on a wave of popularity and were aware that their style was becoming stale. So what happened? Power attempted to refresh things by reinventing the group's sound... With disastrous consequences.

'Beetroot' killed them stone dead. Lead single and opening number 'Desert Drought' didn't sound that bad when it first heard it in 2001, I was just interested by their major change in direction: I certainly didn't expect the new Cast tune to feature beats, electronics, brass and gospel choirs. It didn't take long to realise that it wasn't a great song. Not even a good one. Frankly it's a mess, however you can't blame John Power for trying something different. But then it all gets a bit too much. 'Heal Me' is almost like a scouse Primal Scream in places, but very awkward sounding indeed, and on 'Curtains', jumbled beats pile up to distract from the fact that John hasn't really bothered writing much of a song here. 

The acoustic guitar and breakbeat combo on 'Kingdoms And Crowns' is pretty dire, as is the song itself. A lot of the tracks follow that same path: 'Giving It All Away Again' has a nice Kinks-esque verse, but again the arrangement is awful and the chorus completely deflates the whole thing, while 'Lose Myself' would actually be a good Cast song if they applied their more familiar style to it. Here, it just sounds like a crap remix. 

The highlight is definitely the nice Beach Boys esque ballad 'I Never Can Say' which doesn't employ the use of the ill fitting, overdone samples and beats found elsewhere. It quickly turns to shit again though: 'High Wire' is pointless, 'Meditations' excruciatingly pairs banjos with hip hop beats, 'Jetstream' features painful lyrical cliches about hitting the open road and is even sadder when little hints of the old Cast magic appear every so often, buried underneath lots of electronic blubber. The cod-funk of 'U-Turn' makes a dreadful bit of songwriting even worse, while the oompah brass flavoured 'Universal Grinding Wheel' is an admirable attempt at doing something different arrangement-wise, but again, another very weak moment. 

The unexciting b side 'Cobwebs' begins with seal noises and a bit of Power leaving an answer machine message containing the tracklisting. The song itself is just unnecessary, like much of the regrettable offerings on the album itself. Fans didn't take kindly to 'Beetroot': it reached number 78 in the album charts and the group split just days after its release. Throughout the 2000's, most of the other groups from their era had either disbanded or been completely forgotten about, but as the decade went on, many realised that there hadn't been another proper musical phenomenon since Britpop. As many of the scene's greatest names soon reunited, Cast returned in 2011 with the back-to-form album 'Troubled Times' and some great live performances. This time round, they've learned what their strengths are, and stick to what they do best. 

So there you have it. The songs that you need to check out, and the ones that are best avoided. For fans, all of these reissues are essential purchases, just for the b-sides being collected together. For those looking to investigate Cast's music, I would recommend these versions of all the first three albums for the extra tracks that bring together the rest of the group's output, which was often just as interesting as some of the album material. They may have had their musical limits, and they certainly weren't the most consistent of bands, but Cast's best moments were just as essential as anything from the era. 

'All Change' 9/10
Deluxe edition: 9/10

'Mother Nature Calls' 7/10
Deluxe edition: 8.5/10

'Magic Hour' 7/10
Deluxe edition: 8/10

'Beetroot' 3/10
Deluxe edition: 3/10

You can also read a review of their comeback LP 'Troubled Times' from 2011 HERE.

Track Of The Day: Beck - 'Blue Moon'

A lovely new track from Beck’s new album 'Morning Phase' which is out on February 25, and is apparently a “companion piece of sorts” to his fine 2002 LP Sea Change. 

You can definitely hear shades of it here. The long-awaited follow up to 2008's Modern Guilt is released through Capitol Records, and will include a number of guest stars, such as Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Joey Waronker, Smokey Hormel, and Roger Joseph Manning Jr. Beck explains how he made the LP after being out of action with a spinal injury: "(When I was able to play guitar again) there was a jot of joy. It was a relief for me. I'd been looking at that guitar for years, wishing that I could pick it up, wanting to be able to play it again. So there was a lot of emotion when I finally did."

Pre-order 'Morning Phase' on iTunes and get 'Blue Moon' instantly as a download:

1 To Z: 999 - 'Emergency'

Another track in my '1 To Z' series. Technically, I'm supposed to be going through them alphabetically but I have found myself missing out certain artists/bands and having to add them in later! So today, here's a band who should have been featured alongside 2 Wounded Birds, 3 Colours Red and 808 State when we were doing the numbers. I first heard this on various punk compilations during the late 90's, possibly early 2000's. It was certainly before I got majorly into punk old and new during the mid 2000's. As far as I can recall, it was in the early 2000's that I purchased these two budget price punk compilations (pictured here) from Woolworths for £3.99 each during one of their sales, and it was on these compilations that 999 featured. Here is the classic 'Emergency'... Despite having formed in 1976, 999 have only experienced two permanent changes to their original lineup and has continued to record and play live to the present day, leading Allmusic to describe the band as "one of the longest-lived groups of the punk era."

All previous '1 To Z' entries can be found HERE

Saturday, 25 January 2014

RW/FF with Ben P Scott #41

This week's column is pretty much a round-up of all the new music featured on the RW/FF website over the last couple of weeks, including new albums from East India Youth and Angels Die Hard. As well as those, there's new music from Damon Albarn, The Anchoress, Elbow, Breton, Mode Moderne and more.

For me, the first few weeks of 2014 have been spent listening to the growing selection of new music being prepared for release over the coming months. These include a number of reissues from 90's legends Gene and Cast, both coming out through Edsel Records in February. So since I've taken on the task of reviewing the entire back catalogues of both bands, I've been hearing a lot of them recently. My articles on those will make up part of God Is In The TV's 'Britpop Month', which starts in a week or two. More info on that HERE.

My weekly radio show The BPS Broadcast can now be heard online at Mixcloud HERE, and from now on I will be recording all future shows for listeners to catch just in case they can't listen live every Monday night from 7pm-8pm. My MTS radio colleague Cameron Bianchi hosted part 1 of a rather good UK vs USA 'Battle Of The Bands' show this week, which can be heard HERE.

It's always sad when a great band breaks up, especially if they never achieved the success they deserved. British indie combo Doyle And The Fourfathers were a hugely promising group who split in 2012 after one wonderful, but unnoticed debut album. However, there was a major silver lining around the cloud as frontman William Doyle returned with a bold and unexpected new electronic solo project that has already gained him more acclaim than ever before. And when I first heard his work as East India Youth, I was hugely impressed at how natural Doyle sounded within his new musical surroundings, taking to a majorly new way of working like a duck to water. On the brilliantly inventive 'Total Strife Forever', he lets his imagination free and demonstrates his effortless flexibility as a musician.

With his previous work in mind, starting a debut solo album with the glitchy beauty and digital/analogue drones of 'Glitter Recession' is something that demonstrates a great deal of confidence. Bright electronic arpeggios emerge and chords change in unexpected places, as a rising glare of white light consumes the track. On 'Total Strife Forever I', analogue synth sounds are layered over each other and joined by perfectly positioned electronic noises that push and rise together in beautiful harmony. It sounds like the work of a genius who has worked in electronic music for many years rather than something made by a man who was the frontman of an indie pop group not so long ago.

One of only four tracks that use vocals, the dazzling 'Dripping Down' combines the gift for melody that he demonstrated in his former band with a wealth of wonderfully constructed machine sounds, while another major highlight arrives in the shape of the superb ambient-meets-acid techno workout of 'Hinterland' which is constructed masterfully; progressing, building and peaking at all the right moments. The vocals reappear again on 'Heaven How Long', a sublime piece of euphoric 21st century leftfield electro-pop that learns from the past and creates its own present, leading into a driving instrumental coda that rides freely until the song's close.

The mesmeric 'Total Strife Forever II''s hypnotic ambience pairs Eno-esque synths with angels voices, before the yearning melancholic glow of 'Looking For Someone' brings together Doyle's more traditional songwriting qualities and electronic beams of sound that crash through each other wonderfully. 'Midnight Koto' blows Haunting eastern tones drift across a foggy soundscape, and on the beautiful 'Total Strife Forever III' we get joyous noises that zip over the music, sounding not unlike buzzers from the old episodes of 'Catchphrase'. Elsewhere, the broken-up classical fragments of 'Song For A Grandular Piano' evoke an almost Radiohead-like moment, but is still unique enough to cast a different sort of atmosphere. The closing 'Total Strife Forever IV' gradually builds from heavy static noise into the cries of buzzing keys that open up the gateways of heaven halfway through, ending the album blissfully.

Sounding like a man determined to make his work as unclassifiable as possible, Doyle fuses genres and influences effortlessly to create something that sounds very much like 2014 should. Clever, enjoyable, uncompromising and highly recommended. 8.3/10

Named after a 70's biker movie, Angels Die Hard are an Antwerp-based three piece made up of Alex Van Herk, Rob Eelen and Thomas Noope, who have all played in another Jezus Factory act, Strumpets

This self titled eight track LP is definitely an unusual mixture of stuff, definitely best appreciated over the course of repeated plays. While the opening 'Blue Mambo' piles noises from the deepest darkest part of the jungle on top of interesting rhythmic patterns, 'Angel Ride' journeys into space rock lounge bongo jazz territory and provides two of the album's best moments. The mayhem of 'Unga Dunga' perhaps isn't as great, and although some may warm to the noisy percussion, cheap keyboards, and guitar lines built on repetition, it sounds like the band had more fun making it than what the listener gets from hearing it. 

As it takes a trip through heavy post-rock atmospheres, the top notch 'A Walk In The Black Forest' fuses kraut-funk with touches of old school metal and tops it with screaming theremin to create a freakout of impressive proportions, while 'Fr├╝hst├╝ckstelle' puts a Klaus Dinger-esque rhythm to subtle electronics, occasional melodica and hazy, droning guitar before the stormy 'Tropical Hibernation' occasionally brings to mind a prog Deep Purple. 'Angels Across The Pacific' lays dry funk rhythms over ominous chimes, twin guitars and buzzy analogue synth to deliver the most progressive of all the tracks here. Closing the LP, highlight 'The Lonely Angel' is certainly more easy going and relaxed than much else here, as dreamy guitars laze over gentle drums to end with a touch of tranquility.

It may sometimes seem a bit aimless in places on the first listen, but there's no denying that Angels Die Hard's debut takes you from one place to another throughout the course of its eight tracks. An odd and rewarding listen. 7.9/10

2014's release schedule is promising some great musical treats from artists old and new, but the upcoming debut LP from The Anchoress is the one that has got me buzzing with excitement. Even more so now this killer track has been unveiled. A collaboration from the highly talented multi-instrumental songwriterCatherine A.D. and former Mansun genius Paul Draper, the album is described as having a theme of "revenge pop", and this first single delivers that superbly.

Catherine A.D's icy purr is a perfect partner for Draper's extraordinary musical instincts on the fantastic 'What Goes Around', which is released as a 7" single on May 5, via the Too Pure Singles Club. Mansun fans will easily recognise this as the work of Draper (who co-writes, plays guitar and produces), and will be glad to hear that the magic is still alive. Dark, infectious and very classy, it marries smart piano and a subtle touch of strings with the rousing venom of its classic rock-shaped chorus, while the biting lyrics make you wonder if there was anyone in mind when the song was being written... "When you embark on revenge, you'd better dig two graves my friend". It's one of those rare tracks that grabs you on the first listen and still continues to reveal more with subsequent plays. 

In a recent interview that I did with the legend Draper, he talks about The Anchoress: "I didn't discover Catherine as such, she discovered me, it was the opposite way around. I was looking for a project and so was Catherine. Catherine hired me as co-producer with her to realise her songs in the form of a band, which we did. She's my favourite songwriter of the moment. The songs are divided between Catherine's and ones I've chipped in writing with her. We both love the collection of songs she's put together and are really excited about people hearing them!"

Pre-order the single from Too Pure HERE

Out of all the legends that emerged from the Britpop era, Damon Albarn stands out as the one who has found strength through development, and always continued to hop from style to style. The number of different groups and projects he has been involved in is easy to lose count of since there are that many, but finally we now have the first "proper" Albarn solo album coming. That's the first not counting the limited edition vinyl release 'Demo Crazy', a collection of musical sketches from 2003, or 2012's often brilliant soundtrack for the folk-opera 'Dr Dee'. The beautifully haunting title track from the upcoming 'Everyday Robots' demonstrates his great ability to combine and adapt various musical elements. A press release about the album says that the songs "invite the listener into Albarn’s world for a genuine 'one-to-one' and are the most soul-searching and autobiographical since his musical journey began." With a theme of 'nature versus technology', the LP features guests Brian Eno and Natasha Khan (Bat For Lashes), and is produced by XL's Richard Russell.

Although some claimed it was a bad time for music, I really enjoyed the post-Britpop years of the late 90's. One if the finest bands to emerge from those times was Manchester's Doves. They were also one of the few indie bands to carry on making great music in the 2000's, in fact without their four albums the decade would have been a lot worse. After releasing a 'best of' collection four years ago the trio have been on an extended hiatus. But this has given frontman Jimi Goodwin the opportunity to make a solo record, which will be coming in March of this year. 'Odludek' was co-produced by Jimi and Dan Austin (Doves, Pixies, Cherry Ghost), and is set for release on Monday 24 March 2014 through Heavenly Recordings. 

'Odludek' is a Polish word, meaning "recluse". Goodwin spoke about the LP: "I wanted to make this mad mixtape, the kind you’d pass back and forth with your mates. That’s the way we’ve all discovered music over the years isn’t it? We join our own dots to make it all make sense. As I got into making the record, it felt like I was proving something to myself, making a point that I could do all this on my own. You know - I can play bass, I can play guitar, I can orchestrate. As the methods changed, the original concept stayed intact. It’s me, powering through ideas, kapow kapow, no pause for breath. It’s not trying to be wilfully eclectic; it’s just a reflection of how I schizophrenically devour music." On 'Oh! Whiskey', his voice is emotive, authorative and wonderful throughout, as hints of Dylan and Springsteen join with that distinctive Northern melancholy that Goodwin does so well. He will support Elbow on a series of arena gigs in April, including Manchester on Wednesday 9 April 2014. 

Following on from their 2012 debut 'Other People's Problems', the multimedia art/music collective Breton have issued a groovy new single, taken from their upcoming second full length 'War Room Stories', which comes out on Feb 3. Loving those steel drums. To my ears the sound is not unlike a hybrid of Foals and Birmingham's bright hopesTroumaca, yet you couldn't accuse it of imitating any song produced by either of those two bands. But style-wise, 'Envy' could certainly appeal to music lovers who are fond of those two aforementioned acts.

Judging by this impressive new single, ear-catching hooks, post-punk moods, darkly emotive guitar lines and ghostly synths are all things that you can expect from the music made by Mode Moderne

With of Joy Division here, bits of The Smiths there and touches of The Cure in other places, 'Unburden Yourself' is a great little number that's well worth hearing. 

The new wave-inspired Canadian outfit have just released their second album 'Occult Delight', which can be heard HERE for a limited period of time on Soundcloud. Listen to 'Unburden Yourself' HERE:

The sixth Elbow album is coming on March 10, via Fiction Records. But before the Manchester band return with 'The Take Off and Landing of Everything', this lovely new track 'Fly Boy Blue' (partnered by the tranquil 'Lunette') is available instantly when you pre-order through iTunes. It's not too far from the gently psychedelic folk-tinged sound of the recent Midlake album 'Antiphon', though its arrangement and tone is something different, and it doesn't exactly sound like Elbow at first either. While the second half of this medley returns to more familiar Guy Garvey territory, it's a comeback song that takes a little while to sink in, and as it does, you find more and more interesting surprises in there...

Due to having my ears stuck into a load of Britpop reissues, there hasn't been time for me to continue writing my 'Rewind' entries, which tells the story of my life in music. 
But you can read previous entries here: 
Musical Memories from 1984 - 1993
Musical Memories from 1994
Musical Memories from 1995 Part 1
Musical Memories from 1995 Part 2

As promised (for a long time) my 1995 compilation featuring the finest tracks of the year WILL be coming son, just in time for GIITTV's Britpop celebrations...