Saturday, 22 March 2014

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #44

After a week off, there's a lot of stuff to fit into this week's RW/FF round-up. New albums from Jimi Goodwin, Neveille Skelly, Elbow and the Minibus Pimps are reviewed, while elsewhere there's new music from The Horrors, Eels, The Fauns, SJ Esau, Nudybronque, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Esben And The Witch, Tensnake (ft Nile Rodgers), Teleman, Black Submarine and Broken Hands. All that plus the new RW/FF Compilation, this week's RW/FF Radio show, as well as news on Charlie Clark and the BBC's Britpop season... In the 'Rewind' part, a classic for the late Stooges drummer Scott Asheton.


A lot of the time when a frontman of a well loved group goes solo, the resulting material can sometimes end up sounding a bit like their usual band but not quite as good. While Manchester trio Doves have been on hiatus for the last four years, Jimi Goodwin steps out into the musical world with his very own debut offering. It's by no means a low-key affair either, more of a wild adventure at times.

Blaring bursts of brass open the album with the Bond theme-like drama of the mean 'Terracotta Warrior', where the hunger in his delivery is evident. You soon realise this is neither a Doves album or a little side project. 'Didsbury Girl' unexpectedly starts as a sample driven piece trip hop before it blooms into a mysteriously dreamy highlight that is perhaps the moment here most reminiscent of his band. On the striking 'Live Like A River', 90's dance flavours that have been lying dormant inside the former Sub Sub man for the best part of two decades rise to the surface again as urgent hooks partner infectious melodies and almost EDM-like sounds. Characterised by piano jazz and brushed beats, the elegantly reflective 'Keep My Soul In Song' provides one of the record's best bits, as does the fantastic 'Oh! Whiskey'. With an air of bar room wisdom, bright acoustic guitar and harmonica take part in a lovely organic arrangement before effortlessly progressing into a beautifully fitting middle section and slipping into a alluringly melancholic outro.


A surprising, diverse and strongly assured solo debut from a man who has defied and surpassed expectations. At times a slow burner perhaps, but plenty to enjoy. You can read my full 7.7/10 album review HERE.






The second album from Liverpool singer songwriter Neville Skelly is a warming collection of songs highlighting his gift for graceful balladeering and hushed moods. Featuring a couple of relatives from The Coral and partly inspired by his experiences of being a father, 'Carousel' is an intimate, heartfelt record which has an atmosphere that could partly be attributed to it being recorded in the kitchen of a terraced house. An compellingly understated string arrangement lends itself wonderfully to the folk jazz backdrop of the opening title track, and Skelly's alluring croon recalls echoes of John Martyn on the gentle acoustic breeze of 'Falling Leaves', one of the LP's most captivating moments. 

It's probably a bit too laid back to hold the attention of certain listeners, but it's definitely suitable for those looking for something warm, tender and sumptuous. Hardly original or groundbreaking, but a pleasant listen all the same. Read my full 7/10 review HERE.





Below is the 15th edition of The RW/FF Compilation, which you can listen to via the Mixcloud player below. It showcases the music that has featured in the column over the last few weeks, mostly stuff from February and early March. Just imagine if the 'Now!' albums featured the best recent music instead of a load of lowest-common-denominator shite... they would sound like this! I don't have regular dates set for each of these mixtape-type things, instead I just wait until I have an 80 minute CD's worth of great new music to make up each compilation. Contrary to what some ignorant people think, there is plenty of excellent new music out there, as is proved by every one of these brilliant mixes. The idea is to buy all of these tracks and burn onto a blank disc, hence why each compilation will be roughly the length of a CD.

Featuring: YUCK, TOM WILLIAMS AND THE BOAT, STEPHEN JONES, SPIRITUALIZED, COLOURMUSIC, TEMPLES, EAST INDIA YOUTH, CuT, MICHAEL KIWANUKA, VELVET MORNING, BUDADA, DAMON ALBARN, GRUFF RHYS, THE LUCID DREAM, THE HORRORS, SJ ESAU, MARK MORRISS and THE HOSTS.




In terms of other things I've been listening to over the past couple of weeks, there are plenty. Elbow have released their sixth album '', a record which initially received some rather mixed reviews. Some are saying it's their finest work yet and others reckon it's a bit boring. After only three listens I'm currently of the opinion that some of it is Elbow at their best, and some of it is Elbow at their most mundane. The only thing I know at the moment is that I don't quite understand it all yet and none of it has really sunk in. It clearly needs more plays. As well as upcoming albums from Merrymouth, Horse Party and the superb split LP from Thought Forms/Esben And The Witch, a fascinating record from The Diaphanoids has also been infiltrating my headspace. An instrumental beat-driven cosmic mind bender, 'LSME' consists of eight tracks and comes out in May. 

Recently I have been tidying up the RW/FF site, correcting the layouts and fonts on old posts, and fixing dead links. Since a lot of these entries were posted when the site didn't have so many readers, I've decided to start sharing them on Twitter and Facebook for those who missed them first time around. After posting guitar music from the mid 90's every day throughout February to coincide with God Is In The TV's Britpop Month, I've tried to make the daily 'REWIND' entries a bit more eclectic during March. So after some ambient techno, krautrock, Detroit soul and 60's Californian pop, this last week has featured a mixture of hip hop, garage rock, early 90's dance and other stuff. So for those upset at the lack of the usual indie stuff, fear not for some shall come next week. Plenty of it too.

RW/FF now has it's own weekly radio show, broadcasting live every Monday night on my hometown's self-funded station Melksham Town Sound. I have in fact been doing a weekly show since last summer entitled The BPS Broadcast, but since every show features the same stuff I feature on the site every week (ie the best new music and picks from the past) I thought it would make more sense to just name it after the site. After all it is pretty much RW/FF in a radio format, so renaming it RW/FF Radio seems logical and appropriate. You can now listen again to the shows online, with this week's episode from Monday night (March 17) available below.





One of the finest bands of the last decade The Horrors are ready to release their fourth album 'Luminous', which the group have been busy recording over the last 15 months or so. This tremendous single 'I See You' is the first taste of what they have in store for us this time around, with the full LP coming on May 5 through XL Records. As well as a rebooted modern touch of 'Baba o Riley' at the start, hints of 'I Feel Love' are present throughout the first few verses too, as are heavy flavours of Echo And The Bunnymen, and that bridge even recalls Manchester legends James. But overall these are just little edges to a sound that ultimately belongs to The Horrors, an expansive thing with a cataclysmic groove and a beaming, anthemic chorus. Brightness shines from it in a most euphoric fashion, before moving towards the light in search of higher orbits. Bassist Rhys Webb has said of the upcoming LP: "It’s not so much about heavier guitars as a heavier potency… We want to make music you can dance to, music that elevates…". With this, they've certainly not failed.



A new Eels album is on the way. If the first two singles are anything to go by, 'The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett' seems to be a more introspective outing than last year's 'Wonderful Glorious', and indeed the seventh Eels LP has been described as "his most personal project to date". Where the sombre 'Agatha Chang' was tinged with regret over lost love, 'Mistakes Of My Youth' is where Mark 'E' Everett finds a new sense of purpose in amongst all the self-doubt and back luck, determined to keep his head held high. Both new songs aired so far seem to be slightly reminiscent of the 1998 classic 'Electro Shock Blues', also a very personal record. In my opinion there hasn't been a truly great Eels album since 2000, but signs are looking very promising for this new one... It's out April 22.




The brilliant Charlie Clark will be playing an exclusive online gig for fans this Sunday (March 23). The Scottish singer-songwriter and ex-member of the fantastic 90's indie combo Astrid will be doing the live webshow on the Concert Window service. It starts at 9pm UK time (4pm EDT, 1pm LA time) and tickets can be purchased via the link in the comments section below. Charlie will be performing songs from the wonderful 'Feel Something' EP (one of 2013's best releases, review and interview HERE) and will also playing some new songs. Joined by the hugely talented Brandi Emma and their band, it promises to be a real treat. And since Charlie lives in Los Angeles, this is probably the closest any of us UK folk will come to seeing him play live. Wherever you are in the world, you can tune in! Online tickets are for sale on a pay-what-you-want basis.




"What the fuck?" I hear you cry, "have you lost the plot?". Well if liking the new album from Sophie Ellis-Bextor is losing the plot, then people are going to be surprised when they themselves lose it too, because the formerly lacklustre pop star has recently released an LP that is rather brilliant indeed. People will be surprised. 'Wanderlust' is her fifth album and was co-written with Ed Harcourt, featuring 11 wonderfully atmospheric songs that bring out the very best in SEB's talents, including this elegantly haunting slice of melancholy. On this album Bextor abandons the disco-pop in favour of beautifully organic moments that are perfectly suited to her voice and sometimes recall her early days as lead singer of late 90's post-Britpop indie types theaudience. I still love that band and always will. 'Wanderlust' debuted on the UK Albums Chart at number four, becoming her highest-charting solo album since 2001's 'Read My Lips'...




Regular RW/FF readers may remember indie three piece Nudybronque from a while back when their marvellous 'Allsorts' featured as a Track Of The Day. As well as that lovely number, four other songs feature on their new 'Moondog' EP, released today (March 22) at a launch gig, more details of which can be found HERE. The one that's caught me most is the charmingly vibrant 'Peachy Keen', a sharp character assassination veiled under a nice melody. They're definitely not another group that are "a bit like Franz Ferdinand", but certainly a band that share the same influences. You can definitely hear Orange Juice and Pulp in there, along with sharp post-punk flavours and touches of melancholic pre-Britpop indie. However this Wiltshire-based trio present these influences in a different manner, with a greater emphasis on dynamics for a start. The new material takes a darker, more reflective look at things and pulls away from the bright indie pop of their debut 'Bottled Blonde' EP. Developing well and showing signs of growing up while still retaining plenty of quirks, it's very much the sound of a band taking a confident step forward. 

The group spoke to RW/FF about their new material and the background behind the EP in an interview which you can read HEREThe band release the EP today (March 22), and play a launch gig at Riffs Bar in Swindon later on tonight, with a host of support acts. Details about that show can be found HERE. Copies of 'Moondog' can be purchased from Secret Chords Records at their website HERE.



While they're working their second album, Carlisle-based four piece The Lucid Dream have released of a brand new 7" single. 'Moonstruck' b/w 'The Emptiest Place' via Too Pure, as part of their singles club. The Lucid Dream were formed in 2008, and after three 7" single releases ('Love In My Veins' 'Heartbreak Girl' 'Hits Me Like I'm Stoned'), the band found themselves playing support slots with A Place To Bury Strangers, Death In Vegas, Spectrum, Crocodiles, Captain Beefheart's 'The Magic Band' and The Aliens to name just a few. Their debut album, 'Songs Of Lies and Deceit', was released in August 2013. The thrillingly hallucinogenic 'Moonstruck' recalls Clinic's early work in places, driven by urgently pulsing organs and hypnotic vibes before it works itself into a climactic fury. On the awesome b-side 'The Emptiest Place', reverb drenched vocals and spacey guitars embed psych moods into spaghetti western flavours and dark rockabilly elements...




Thought Forms (championed by this site for quite some time now) and Esben and the Witch are to release a split LP on Invada Records on April 7th, available on 12" vinyl and digital formats. It features 6 new songs, including this absolute monster from the Esben And The Witch side. 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 a gig review that I wrote when I went to see both bands play on a joint tour with the mighty Teeth Of The Sea HERE.




Not the sort of style usually found on these pages, but I guess decent pop/dance music is hard to come by these days. Last week Tensnake (AKA German DJ and producer Marco Niemerski) released his highly anticipated debut album 'Glow', which features a wide range of collaborations including Stuart Price (AKA Jacques Lu Cont), MNEK and the legendary Nile Rodgers. The superb 'Good Enough To Keep' is one of two tracks on the album which features Rodgers. This is snappy, insistent 80's funk-pop with 90's dance undertones, and if you;re going to make music that's this unoriginal, then it needs to be do the business tune-wise. Luckily, it's a cracker. May have to listen to the album now...




Teleman have announced the details of their debut album 'Breakfast', which will be released via Moshi Moshi Records on May 26. The LP was produced by the legendary Bernard Butler (also busy with his own new band Trans), so it's ironic that Teleman were the support act when I went to see Butler's former group Suede last year. Without a doubt the finest thing I've heard from them yet (and that includes the material they released when a couple of them were members of Pete And The Pirates), 'Lady Low' is a sleepy helping of lovelorn melancholy that slips into some absolutely stunning saxophone towards the end. Most enchanting indeed. Brilliantly, this wonderful track is being given away as a FREE download! Get it here: http://bit.ly/LadyLowFreeDL

They play a full headline tour in May following support stints with Maximo Park in the UK and Franz Ferdinand in Europe.



Out now, an absolutely cracking new track from a Kent-based four piece with a bright future ahead of them. This track has even made it through to the Radio 1 playlist! Real music? On Radio 1? Wow. Bold and wild, the sound that Broken Hands make is infectious, loud and in your face. On the fantastic 'No One Left To Meet', fierce, full blooded riffs snarl over what could possibly be described as a grunge/shoegaze hybrid. One thing it can definitely be described as is exciting. Just back from an appearance at SXSW, the band are due to play the Camden Rocks festival on May 31.



When December comes every year, new albums can sometimes slip under the radar due to the distractions of Christmas and us music journo folk focusing on our end-of-year lists. In my case, I somehow missed checking out an album by Bristol indie noisepoppers The Fauns entitled 'Lights', which was released at the end of 2013. It's not technically a new release, but because of it only coming to my attention recently, and of course due to it being wonderful, the blissful 'Seven Hours' is featuring as Track Of The Day. Through shoegazey guitars, hazy beams of colour crash through a beautifully explosive daydream as sweet, soft vocal tones drift across the surface with a cooling effect. Sublime stuff which means I'm DEFINITELY going to have to listen to that album now! 

I'm also featuring this because The Fauns have just announced a set of tour dates for the coming months, which can be found HERE. The video for 'Seven Hours' was directed by John Minton, the man behind Portishead's live visuals and Savages' clip for 'Husbands'. The LP was released through Invada Records and was co-produced by well-respected Bristol figures Jim Barr and Tim Allen along-side the band’s own Michael Savage.


Last week saw the release of the debut full-length offering from Black Submarine. No they're not a gothic Beatles tribute band, but a five piece who include Nick McCabe and Simon Jones, who were both members of The Verve

The pair are joined by Davide Rossi (multi-instrumentalist/string arranger for Goldfrapp and Coldplay), Michele ‘Mig’ Schillace (ex-drummer for Portishead and Santa Cruz) and Bristol-based vocalist Amelia Tucker. A refreshing burst of euphoric vitality, the new single 'Here So Rain' is a mysteriously graceful breath of fresh air, where the epic power of McCabe and Jones' former band is very much evident. Swirling guitars provide plenty of atmosphere, while Tucker's evocative vocal lends the song plenty of class. For years everyone was depending on Richard Ashcroft to reprise the magic of The Verve, but a string of patchy solo albums later and it's his former bandmates who are moving onwards and most definitely upwards.



One of the more tranquil moments from his mad-as-fuck second full-length album, 'Remotely' shows a more reflective side to the music of SJ Esau, the Bristol-based maverick whose real name is Sam Wisternoff. As I said a few weeks ago when I featured 'Stubborn Step' as Track Of the Day, "it's fair to say that the gracefully tranquil hum of the gorgeous 'Remotely' is a world away from the utter insanity found elsewhere on the joyfully polylithic 'Exploding Views', an album that skips around genres, bringing its musical vision to life with bizarre instrumentation and many unusual ways to twist melodic yet skewed pop melodies into the sort of stuff that could seriously mess with one's head..."


Monolith Cocktail also reviewed the album recently, in a report where editor Dominic Valvona writes: "Esau returns with a cyclonic ‘explosion’ of brash barracking drums, algebra rock and skittish mind-melting dial trickery: the stars look very different indeed where we’re heading. Fluctuating – in a promising, madcap manner- through a musical landscape that evokes (in my tiny ill-adjusted mind) visions of an English comprehensive school version of The Flaming Lips, or the Klaxons covering XTC’s calico wall shenanigans (The Dukes Of The Stratosphere)…or even, a hallucinogenic neo-geo Adam and the Ants. Questioning song titles (‘’Who Isn’t?, ‘Why Angry’, ‘What Is It Now?’) give a faint and obscure guidance to this peregrination, which shoots off like a rocket into some imaginable kaleidoscopic, but often ominous and seething with dark matter, expanse of space." Read the rest of that piece HERE



Appropriately, last week marked my debut contribution to Monolith Cocktail where I reviewed the new album from Minibus Pimps, the rather challenging experimental project from Helge Sten and Led Zeppelin legend John Paul Jones... That review can be found HERE.

Lots of exciting news bits from the last few weeks include the BBC's announcement of a special Britpop themed series of shows that take place in April. More details HERE. The weekly RW/FF news round-ups can be found HERE, while the latest stories are often posted on the RW/FF Facebook page, which you can follow HERE



Rewind
So while I'm busy writing the next instalment of my musical memories (which shall deal with the year 1996) you'll have to wait a week or two for my story to continue. In the meantime all my previous "Rewinds" through my musical past can be found HERE.

So in the absence of a new batch of musical memories, here is a selection is in honour of the memory of Scott Asheton, the drummer for The Stooges who died a few days ago on March 15 2014. Making the news public, Iggy Pop wrote: "My dear friend Scott Asheton passed away last night. Scott was a great artist, I have never heard anyone play the drums with more meaning than Scott Asheton. He was like my brother.He and Ron have left a huge legacy to the world. The Ashetons have always been and continue to be a second family to me. My thoughts are with his sister Kathy, his wife Liz and his daughter Leanna, who was the light of his life.”

Scott Asheton was a founding member of the group, and retired temporarily in 2011 after a stroke. He rejoined the band for the 2013 album 'Ready To Die' but did not tour with them due to ill health. He was aged 64. Here's the excellent 'Down On The Street' from their second album 'Fun House', released in July 1970 through Elektra Records and considered "integral in the development of punk rock."

See you all next week. Maybe.

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