Friday, 14 February 2014

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #42

The first RW/FF column in three weeks takes a look at the brilliant debut albums from Temples and The Hosts, plus 90's-era deluxe reissues from Cast and Gene, as well as the new 2CD compilation celebrating 30 years of ZTT Records. As well as those, there's new music from the likes of Beck, Thought Forms, Tim Burgess, Yuck, Mogwai, Metronomy, Coves, Goldheart Assembly, Menace Beach and Tom Williams And The Boat. Plus, after over a decade of waiting, there's finally news on Mansun man Paul Draper's long overdue solo album!

So last week (Tuesday 4 Feb) me and my mate Jason B paid our first visit to the new Raves From The Grave shop in Bath. As well as trading in Frome and Warminster, the independent record retailer opened their third branch of the shop in Bath last year. You can find a feature about it HERE. At the beginning of this year, the shop moved from its previous location in Widcombe Parade to Broad Street, a place closer to the city centre. Broad Street was where I used to go to get all my records in the late 90's, since the wonderful Replay records was there. Since that shop closed about ten years ago, it has always felt rather sad every time I have walked down Broad Street. Now, I can smile again. 


The shop's treasures are all to be found in a small but packed back room, filled with vinyl albums from many genres, old and new. As well as a selection of singles, CD albums, books and music memorabilia, the shop offers a friendly and knowledgeable service, with discounts on multiple purchases. The shop (as well as its two other branches) will be taking part in Record Store Day this year on April 19. Their website can be found HERE, and their Facebook page HERE.



Away from the spotlight of the mainstream, the last few years have seen the growth of a new psychedelic movement which has taken alternative music back to more interesting and ambitious places. Following on from the successes of The Horrors and Tame Impala as well as the emergence of many other nu-psych acts comes the arrival of a band who could take the whole thing to new levels. Temples only formed two years ago and have since blazed their way to critical acclaim with a number of outstanding singles, all of which are present on this, their awe inspiring debut album. 

Songwriters James Bagshaw (vocals/guitar) and Thomas Warmsley (bass/vocals) were previously members of mod revivalists The Moons, so a fondness for retro is something the pair have been known for. But there's a vitalising power in the music of Temples that transcends it above being a mere replica or imitation of the past. If anything, it invents its own version of the present, reconnecting with the far-out vibes of the 60's while bringing new ideas into the mix and always employing a refreshingly forward-thinking approach.The incredible 'Keep In The Dark''s trippy swagger rises upwards into a delirious singalong chorus as stomping glam rock meets theremin, sitar and shades of 'Sgt Pepper' in a retro-futuristic wall of sound. It's another highlight, but to call it that would be unfair to the rest of this fantastic LP, where the high quality songs just keep coming. The spectacular 'Colours To Life' is without a doubt one of those songs that suits its title, a dazzling explosion of bright light allowing the sight of magical scenery before leading you down a mysterious passageway, then hitting you with a tremendous stratospheric chorus. 

By embedding an ear-catching sense of melody into their music and wiring the past to the present in an imaginative yet accessible way, Temples have raised the bar. The new wave of 21st century psychedelica produces a modern classic. Read my full 9/10 review HERE.





Having grown up in the golden age of indie guitar music, it's fair to say that a lot of the more traditional alternative pop bands of the last few days just don't give me the same thrill that the Britpop bands of my teen years did. Many of the new guitar groups that have emerged over the last few years just don't have the tunes, or any real distinguishing features. The Hosts are different. A quartet from Sheffield who channel 50's romanticism through their charming indie epics, their debut LP follows on from two excellent singles which are both present here. Two tracks were produced by Richard Hawley, who has clearly had a massive influence on the four piece's sound.



'Softly Softly' opens with the dazzling 'Would You Be Blue?', a radiant declaration of love which sparkles with plenty of magnificent pop hooks as well as a melody that could warm even the coldest of hearts. A run of divine opening tracks continues with the melancholic swoon of the elegantly stunning 'September Song', a sublime single which sets heartbreak to a majestic chorus before the yearning, teary eyed waltz 'Where The Cold Wind Blows' provides another blissful moment. As well as the flavours of the rock n roll years there's a hint of late 90's indie that occasionally recalls the anthemic power of Puressence or even stadium-era Manics, yet none of their music actively plagiarises. In fact it's a new combination of old things, and it's rather lovely. Demand more magic from your indie music. If you want nothing less than brilliance, give The Hosts a chance and they may just be the band for you. Read my full 8/10 review HERE.



Mansun legend Paul Draper is finally working on his long overdue solo album! After finishing work on his recent project The Anchoress (a fantastic collaboration with Catherine A.D which will be released soon), the former Mansun frontman has revealed that he is recording his debut solo album. Entitled 'Spooky Action At A Distance', the songs were written a few years ago before the project was abandoned. On a new Facebook page he posted: "I just shot this bit of footage of my new band tuning up in the studio, we are working on recording the songs from SPOOKY ACTION, the album I wrote a long time ago and hoping to get something released later this year... Im hoping to get something ready to listen to for the Mansun Convention in August, hope thats not to long to wait!" Details about the Mansun fans convention can be found HERE, while Draper's new Facebook page is HERE. Go HERE to read an exclusive interview that I did with Paul a while ago...



Following the news that Thought Forms and Esben and the Witch are to release a split LP on Invada Records on April 7th, the label has premiered a track by each band from the forthcoming record. It will be available on 12" vinyl and digital formats, and features 4 new songs from each group. The new Thought Forms offering 'Sound of Violence' has a title that does what it says on the tin, and doesn't disappoint. With its earworm riff, intense drumwork and post-rock panorama it's a storming combination of many things Thought Forms excel at, and this time vocals are more prominent than ever before.

Here's what Invada say: "The release recalls the classic era of split singles in the US underground – think of those heady early Sub Pop days, where you’d get Mudhoney and Sonic Youth covering one another on either side of a 7”. In other words: record collector heaven. Both bands will be touring together in the UK, Europe, and the U.S around the time of release to promote this split.

Read my review of the brilliant Thought Forms LP 'Ghost Mountain' from 2013 HERE, and see lots more articles on the group HERE.


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: http://smarturl.it/morning.


Following on from their brilliant second album 'Glow And Behold', which made it in to RW/FF's Best Albums Of 2013 list, Yuck are soon releasing a brand new four track EP. From it, they have just unveiled the beautiful 'Athena', which builds on the more sombre, reflective moments of their previous work. On the band's Facebook page they posted: "This Christmas instead of staying in and watching TV we got together and recorded a few new songs, the first of which we're extremely proud to show you right now. I hope you enjoy it! Keep your ears to the ground for more new songs in the next few weeks! And special thanks to everyone who's come to our shows on our US tour so far, its been a blast..." Read a review of last year's wonderful 'Glow And Behold' HERE.

More info about the EP will be confirmed soon. 


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."


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. 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.


A fine psychedelic shoegaze dreampop number that was introduced to me by Reuben from Raves From The Grave in Bath when I visited the highly recommended record shop. As well as magnificent female harmonies, superb drum sounds and jagged guitars, you can hear traces of The Beatles' 'Tomorrow Never Knows' drifting through its nagging, insistent verses. Coves are a duo from the Warwickshire town of Leamington Spa who consist of vocalist Beck Wood and multi-instrumentalist John Ridgard. 'Cast A Shadow' is released as a single on 17 March before the debut album 'Soft Friday' follows on 31 March. The duo are also touring the UK with Band Of Skulls throughout March.


This quirky, upbeat slice of indie rock from Goldheart Assembly is a world away from the acoustic based sounds on their 2010 debut 'Wolves And Theives'. Taking a lyrical swipe at a certain unnamed overhyped band, the guitar lines are addictively tasty, the chorus is a thriller and the whole thing thrives with lively vitriol. 

This fine tune is taken from their second album 'Long Distance Song Effects', which came out last year. You can get 'Oh Really' as a free download from the band's website HERE. Just a brief word to say that our new single ‘Oh Really’ is available as a free download. The band have recently announced a very special show at the Lexington in Kings Cross on Friday March 7th 2013, where they will be playing the great 'Wolves And Thieves' in its entirety. Additionally, they will soon be releasing both of their albums on wonderful vinyl. "This will happen, along with some free bonus material, during the first week of March" say the band.


A new single from Tim Burgess will be released as part of Record Store Day, which takes place on April 19. ‘Oh Men’ will be released on The Charlatans legend's O Genesis label and once again finds him collaborating with Lambchop main man Kurt Wagner. On the B Side to the release there will be a cover of Arthur Russell’s ‘I Couldn’t Say It To Your Face’, a song Burgess has been performing live on recent tours. Tim told The Quietus (in an interview that you can read HERE) "We loved performing it but it was always on my mind to record it. By a series of various alignments of New York minimal disco planets I found myself working with someone who worked closely with Arthur, a composer/arranger/genius called Peter Gordon, who also happened to be the head honcho of Love Of Life Orchestra. Peter had worked on much, if not most, of Russell's recorded material and was the key member of his live set up too. I wasn't sure if it was the dumbest thing imaginable to ask him to work with me on a cover of a song that he played on so long ago. Peter said it took him 35 years to get that song out of his head, now it's back again... He wasn't sure if it was the dumbest thing imaginable, too, so we recorded 'I Couldn't Say It To Your Face'...". Here is the A side, built around a low key electro loop complimenting soulful piano, dreamy saxophone and an introspective vocal from Burgess that slips into a charming falsetto near the end... The stream of the siong has been taken down temporarily, but will be back online soon, and links will be here: https://www.facebook.com/timburgessmusic


Menace Beach are a Leeds-based duo consisting of Ryan Needham and Liza Violet, but occasionally become something of an alternative rock supergroup when joined by other names such as Matt "MJ" Johnson of Hookworms, Rob Lee of Pulled Apart by Horses, Nestor Matthews of Sky Larkin and Matt Spalding of You Animals. Needham was formerly in a band called Komakino, who were produced by former Mansun legend Paul Draper, who also occasionally contributes on backing vocals and guitar. Their latest EP 'Lowtalker' is a five track release that came out in January on the Memphis Industries label, and from it here is 'Fortune Teller'. Droning, ragged guitars meet dreamy harmonies, woozy organs and heaving shoegaze vibes on the lysergic uproar of what is one the EP's standout track.



When you consider its title, this song's rather stormy nature comes across as very appropriate. Following their first two studio albums, Tom Williams And The Boat have been recording their third, which has been funded by fans via the PledgeMusic site. 'Easy Fantastic' is due on May 19. The band said: "Weʼve spent the last year, quite uncharacteristically, holed up in darkest North London making our third album. We got the chance to work with a new producer Ian Grimble, who has worked with everyone from Manic Street Preachers and The Fall, to Siouxsie And The Banshees and KT Tunstall. The record sounds amazing and we’re so excited about it. Firstly, you can pre-order or ʻpledgeʼ for the new album on either digital, CD or vinyl formats, which will later be sent to you as soon as the record’s ready. But thereʼs also much more on offer…weʼre offering signed CDs, signed vinyl, personalised mixtapes (actually on CD), huge signed posters, pirate golf with the band, sunday lunch and rehearsal with the band, exclusive house concerts and even the chance for you and I to write a song together. No matter what you chose from the list on the right hand side, weʼll throw in a high quality digital download of our new album a week ahead of the general release date. There’s also a particularly odd pledge including our beards and a bag, for all your oligarchs out there, but I’ll leave you to find that one…." http://www.pledgemusic.com/artists/tomwilliamsandtheboat



Rewind
Having completed writing my memories of the early 90's HERE, 1994 HERE, and the great year of 1995 HERE, I am about to start gathering together my recollections of 1996. However, the last few weeks have seen a number of Britpop era reissues, which I have been heavily indulging in, as well as a two disc ZTT Records compilation...


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.

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. Read my full in-depth report on the entire Cast back catalogue HERE.








In hindsight, it's easy to see why Gene stood out amongst all the other British guitar bands that emerged in the mid 90's, but it would also be a lie to claim that they had nothing to do with Britpop. Some who dismiss the genre as homogenised and derivative forget that as a whole the scene consisted of a variety of groups with their own individual styles. After all "Britpop" is an abbreviation of "British Pop", a term that hardly narrows things down. Gene may have had their own sound but they arrived when Britpop did, and were one of the groups who were able to break through to a wider audience thanks to indie guitar music being very popular at the time. Now, two decades have passed since the band's rise into the public eye, and over it's been over ten years since they split amicably, bowing out with dignity. Bringing together their entire output and some rarities, five deluxe edition reissues of each Gene album offer an ideal opportunity for listeners to delve deeper into the back catalogue of this hugely underrated band.


 Attitude and style-wise, they had very little in common with the likes of Oasis, and never considered themselves to be part of the Britpop movement. However, there's no denying that Gene's music reflects the positivity and hopefulness of the era, and their success may not have happened in a different musical climate. 

They didn't fade out in an undignified manner or crash dramatically, instead they bowed out with class and integrity still intact. Rounding up their entire back catalogue with reissues of 'Olympian', 'To See The Lights', 'Drawn To The Deep End', 'Revelations' and 'Libertine' provides a fine opportunity for people to discover more about this incredible and often overlooked band whose output certainly deserves further exploration. Read my full reviews on all the Gene albums HERE.







If you feel like gorging yourselves on more Britpop-era goodness, God Is In The TV is running 'Britpop Month' all the way through February, which I have been making plenty of contributions to. Read all those articles here: http://www.godisinthetvzine.co.uk/tag/britpop-month-on-giittv/



If it wasn't for ZTT, popular music during the 80's would have certainly been less interesting. 

Redefining what pop could be, the label wanted to create an experimental hit machine that could break boundaries as well as entertain. In a way it was a music factory producing songs strategically aimed at the charts, but with far more substantial and imaginative ideas than the rubbish that comes from Simon Cowell's modern day shitepile. The artists had talent too, skills which were taken to odd yet accessible new places with the famously perfectionist production skills of Trevor Horn. With Horn dealing with the musical side, his wife Jill Sinclair took charge of the business element, and NME journalist Paul Morley took the role of PR man to completely unprecedented levels, catching the attention of the public with unusual slogans and maverick promotional tactics. Until the late 80's, the label had its own internal cataloguing system where singles and albums designed with hits in mind were released as part of the 'Action Series', while the 'Incidental Series' featured experiments and more unusual records. Even objects, people and moments that the label had contributed to the era's culture were given their own 'ZTTIS' catalogue number, with examples including the day 'Relax' was banned and Holly Johnson's walking stick. 


"The business is as good as people make it... We've got to make the marketplace a more exciting place for everyone to be" Horn said. Celebrating three decades since the company's birth, the tracklist of this two CD compilation ('The Organisation Of Pop: 30 Years Of Zang Tuum Tumb') reflects the diversity of ZTT's roster, inevitably making for a rather hit and miss collection. It would tell more of a story if it was sequenced accordingly, yet I suppose if they put all the label's best hits in chronological order, you'd have multiple tracks from the same artist together, which is often grating. But then again it's not as bad as just separating these tracks slightly... We get two helpings of Seal during the first 7 tracks, and just three songs are placed between two of the Frankie numbers. So they may as well have just featured the songs in order of release rather than put such little thought into the running order.

It does also feel like an incomplete document, and maybe they could have instead featured all 45 of the label's UK Top 40 hit singles across the two discs, and released the oddities plus more on another compilation. Since the hits ran dry after the 90's, ZTT has focused mainly on constantly reissuing it's back catalogue and no longer looks forward like it used to, so maybe a more extensive overview of the hits could appear one day. However, the eclectic nature of 'The Organisation Of Pop''s combination of hits and oddities is one of its most endearing qualities. An interesting and varied bag. Read my full 7/10 review HERE.




And since it's Valentine's Day, here's some Barry White. There really is nothing quite as seductive as THIS...


See you all next time.

No comments:

Post a Comment