Saturday, 5 April 2014

RW/FF With Ben P Scott #45

This week's RW/FF round-up features the new album from Wilko Johnson And Roger Daltrey as well as brilliant music from Gulp, The Moons, Plaid, Spectres, Broken Records and Elbow. All that plus a night with Temples, Royal Blood and Interpol on the NME Awards Tour 2014. Since I've been too busy to get the first part of my 1996 memories ready for this week, there's a playlist tribute to Kurt Cobain to mark exactly 20 years since the grunge legend's death.

It's fair to say that the music world owes a lot to Wilko Johnson. His unique and exciting style of guitar playing has inspired many ever since he first stepped on to a stage, and without the renowned Dr Feelgood, punk rock wouldn't have happened and neither would everything after it. In early 2013, Wilko was diagnosed with terminal pancreas cancer, and given ten months to live. The guitar icon says a euphoria overcame him after hearing the news. He embarked on a farewell tour, but as the months passed, found he had no reason to slow down. “I did think this year would be a tapering-down, but the plan is to just keep going until it hits me. I was supposed to have been dead in October... I just don’t know how long I’m going to live.”

Johnson and Who legend Roger Daltrey discussed working together several years ago, and eventually got together to record in November last year. Taking not so much a walk but a buoyant lap of honour down memory lane, the fantastic 'Going Back Home' serves up 12 brusque rhythm and blues selections from Johnson's back catalogue. While Daltrey's vocals are powerful and spot on, it's Johnson who steals the show as he genuinely gets stuck into each riff like it's the last he'll ever play, a man giving it his all while he's still on this planet to dish it out. Nostalgic, but never sad or dejected, 'Going Back Home' turns out to be a fun, invigorating testimonial. Cheers, Wilko. Read my full 8/10 review HERE.




The annual NME Awards Tour arrived in Bristol last week (26 March 2014) to bring the audience at the Academy another four acts of the moment. This year the night kicked off with a set from indie types Circa Waves, who I missed due to being held up by diversions on the way to Bristol. Luckily I didn't miss the impressively powerful duo Royal Blood, who seem to make one hell of a sound for an act consisting of just two people. If you didn't have a good view of the stage, you could be forgiven for thinking that this was a five piece band. Singer and bassist Mike Kerr dishes out meaty riffs while Ben Thatcher provides strength and fat rhythms from behind the drumkit. With a sound laying somewhere between Queens Of The Stone Age, Rage Against The Machine and The Black Keys, they provide British rock with a much needed new ray of hope.  


It gives band of the moment Temples a challenging task to match such brutal power afterwards, and the drop in volume hardly does them any favours. But you have to bear in mind that they operate differently to the previous act, and exist in another musical world altogether. Played live their songs become something quite different to what we've heard on their stunning debut LP 'Sun Structures', certainly more intricate and tackled with precision and feeling rather than blasted out at deafening volumes. As a result of following Royal Blood's thunder, the opening 'Colours To Life' sounds more like a cry from the darkness rather than an explosion of light. However, it's just a warm up to ease the crowd into this short set of marvellous modern psychedelica, with the driving cosmic missile 'Sun Structures' amping things up and providing the best song of the whole night. 


The Kettering based four piece's performance is impressively tight considering they've been around for such a relatively short period of time. However, their debut is definitely an album where the studio is used as an instrument, and the absence of that booming drum sound and layers of melody causes 'Keep In The Dark' to lack the bite of the superb recorded version. Luckily, 'Mesmerise' hits the mark brilliantly and the enticing haze of 'Move With The Season' drifts through the venue like a gently intoxicating cloud of smoke as the band are covered in projections of moving dots of light.


Returning to live action after being on hiatus since 2011, Interpol seem to have turned this annual tour into more of a showcase for their return, since the venue appears to be packed with people that are primarily here to see them. And most of them can't have been disappointed with their set composed mostly of well loved tracks from their first few albums. Performance wise they've lost none of their taut post-punk operatic moodiness, and the dark deadpan delivery is still very much intact. Initially the new songs don't seem to have much weight, but it's hard to tell how good they are until they become more familiar over time. Their audience seem to revel in each number, and warmly welcome the band back from their extended break with rapturous applause and cheers.


But for this reporter, it was the magnificent Temples and the startlingly powerful Royal Blood who owned the night. Sometimes the new breed ARE capable of outdoing the veterans. This has been one such occasion. Read my full gig review, and see some photos from the gig HERE.



Had a nice couple of days in Weston-Super-Mare by the sea earlier this week. While I was there, I found a very cool little record shop called Revolver, which I spent a considerable amount of time investigating. A great shop selling an impressive range of vinyl at brilliant prices, as well as a few new releases and second hand CDs, Revolver will be profiled on the RW/FF website next week at some point. 

Here's another one that's been a out for quite a while and has only just caught my attention. Well, I couldn't feature it without knowing that it was good could I? This excellent track from Spectres was released in January on the Too Pure Singles Club as a limited edition 7" single. The Bristol-based psych rockers are currently in the studio working on their debut full-length long-player, until then you can check out their already-impressive cannon of tunes by visiting the links below the video. On the superb A-side 'The Sky Of All Places', hazy, washed-out vocals penetrate through a sheet of noisy guitars and driving rhythms as weird melodies shine over a space rock drone before exploding into the stratosphere towards the end. Keep an eye out for them.



Available now, the new single from The Moons is the first taste of their upcoming third LP, due in July and titled 'Mindwaves'. A dangerously infectious glam rock stomp boosted by vigorous Britpop-flavoured brass and Mick Ronson-esque riffs, 'Heart And Soul' finds The Moons sounding bolder and more assured than ever. Just when you thought retro-rock was dead and buried, this newly invigorated outfit pull out an ace card like this. This next album of theirs is suddenly looking like a very promising prospect... The band are currently on a UK tour (including a Bristol show tonight), where you can pick up a very limited 7" copy of this cracking tune...


Following on from their critically acclaimed second album 'Let Me Come Home', March 24th marks the return of Broken Records with the release of their new EP ‘Toska’ and a short run of UK live dates. The four track EP precedes their third full length LP, 'Weights And Pulleys', which is due for release in May. Produced by Tony Doogan (Mogwai, Delgados, Belle And Sebastian, Astrid) the ‘Toska’ EP is according to the press release "a visceral cathartic body of work that revisits the masterful orchestration of the first album while combining the intense, relentlessly aggressive and turbulent sound of the last. "

The second track 'See You On The Way Down' is where a dark, graceful waltz meets unhinged, emotively intense vocals, sometimes a little reminiscent of Nick Cave. Brushed drums, striking piano and defined hums of bass feature in a brilliant arrangement that matches the quality of the songwriting and grabs the ear like nothing else on the four track EP. Formed in 2007, Broken Records are an indie folk band from Edinburgh, Scotland.


Along with the magnificent 'Fly Boy Blue/Lunette', this has to be my personal highlight of Elbow's recently released sixth studio album 'The Taking Off And Landing Of Everything', a record which has at last provided the band with a much deserved number 1. On the first few plays, I didn't think much of it. But I think the same thing every time I hear a new Elbow record. They take time to grow, and it's usually time well spent. Our man Nickolai Rainbow from God Is in The TV gave the album a remarkable 4.5/5 rating and remarked that "'The Take Off And Landing Of Everything’ is the first Elbow album since ‘Leaders..’ that will have you running to replay it once the record finishes, and not an everyman anthem in sight this time to ruin the flow, this is another quality Elbow album and though not their best (I’d still pick ‘Cast Of Thousands’ for that accolade) is definitely their best since their opening trio of excellence..."

My personal thoughts on it a week or so ago were that "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." I still stand by that, although the "mundane" is becoming slightly more interesting with each listen. One thing's for sure, the sadly uplifting, hymnal elegance of 'My Sad Captains' sees the Bury heroes at the top of their game. Beautiful.


Despite the masses of musical offerings out there every week, sometimes there are still rare occasions when the musical world does feel like a small place. Like over the last few days I have been listening to an amazing track from a band called Gulp, without having read any info about this group. All I knew was that the deliciously moody 'Vast Space' is a darkly wondrous thing blending surf guitars with driving psychedelic vibes. So imagine my amazement when I found out that Gulp are in fact a side project of Super Furry Animals bassist Guto Pryce. With SFA currently still on a lengthy hiatus, it's good to see that it's not just Gruff keeping himself busy. 



Warp Records have recently announced the release of the electronic legends Plaid’s tenth album, 'Reachy Prints'. Here is the first taste of the LP, a beautifully robotic yet emotionally bright track entitled 'Hawkmoth' According to the good folk at Warp, "the work confirms their position at the vanguard of underground electronic music production incorporating the latest synthesis technologies in these compositions, whilst retaining their trademark emotive, yet playful, signature style present throughout their career." It's also described as an album that "continues the evolution in Plaid’s long nurtured sound - and reveals some of its hidden, most complex domains." The LP is released on May 19.


Pre-order 'Reachy Prints' here: https://bleep.com/release/50607-plaid-reachy-prints


Rewind:

Wow. 20 years ago. Doesn't time fly? Today (April 5 2014) marks twenty years since the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. I was nine years old at the time and clearly remember my parents talking about the news while we were at a pub called The Three Magpies in Seend, Wiltshire. Cobain's suicide marked the end of the American grunge boom and during that same month of April '94, the tides were beginning to change and the focus was shifting onto Britpop. 

Were Nirvana overrated? To a certain extent yes, and I do think that Kurt's suicide and subsequent status as a rock n roll martyr has led the band's music to be held in a higher respect. But there's no denying his influence and impact. Posthumously, he has sold more records than any other artist. There was a period in the early 2000's where things were once shifting back to American rock, and I became briefly obsessed with Nirvana for a while. Their music also led to me investigate the group's influences, which then led to me discovering the Pixies, who I now consider to be the superior band.

So to mark twenty years since Cobain's death and to reflect on his contribution towards musical history, HERE are ten of my personal favourite Nirvana moments. A Spotify playlist featuring these tracks is also available below.


See you all next time, when I might have hopefully written the first part of my 1996 memories...

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