Tuesday, 31 March 2015

REWIND: Guns N' Roses - 'It's So Easy'

Although I will always love 'Paradise City' and 'Sweet Child O Mine', soon after picking up a copy of the classic Guns N' Roses LP 'Appetite For Destruction' I soon realised that the other (and less overplayed) tracks on the album were (mostly) just as spectacular. I can't remember exactly where I picked up my original vinyl copy of the album, all I know was that it must have been dirt cheap, since the late 90s and early 2000's were the days when vinyl seemed like a second choice to me, and I'd only buy unmissable bargains. Considering my copy of the 1987 album features the original banned sleeve (which would cause even more offence today), I certainly did get myself a bargain... Selling over 30 million copies worldwide, the album is still the biggest selling debut LP by any American act. On the vinyl and cassette editions, the two sides were not conventionally labeled "A" and "B", but "G" and "R". Tracks 1–6 which compose side "G" all deal with drugs and hard life in the big city ("Guns" side). The remaining tracks, which compose side "R", all deal with love, sex and relationships ("Roses" side). I've chosen 'It's So Easy' firstly because it rocks, and secondly because of the aggressive, stiff-upper-lip "fuck off" before the guitar solo.

Track Of The Day: Muse - 'Dead Inside'

Following on from the storming 'Psycho', Muse have unveiled another track from their upcoming new album 'Drones'. 

Matt Bellamy explains the new song 'Dead Inside', where alongside the guitars, something of a Visage-meets-Bowie feel creates a creeping sense of unease: "This is where the story of the album begins, where the protagonist loses hope and becomes 'Dead Inside', therefore vulnerable to the dark forces introduced in 'Psycho' and which ensue over the next few songs on the album, before eventually defecting, revolting and overcoming these dark forces later in the story." 

'Drones' will be released on June 8 and is co-produced by Muse and Robert John 'Mutt' Lange. 

Monday, 30 March 2015

REWIND: The Cramps - 'Domino'

This fine helping of insanity can be found on 'Off The Bone', a 1983 compilation featuring various singles and other tracks by The Cramps. This (as I only found out today) is in fact a cover version of a Roy Orbison song, written by Sam Philllips. The track can also be found on the band's first EP 'Gravest Hits' from 1979. The original release of 'Off The Bone' featured an anaglyph on the cover and a pair of paper red and blue "3D glasses" inside the sleeve for viewing it.

Track Of The Day: Run The Jewels feat. Zack De La Rocha - 'Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)'

A fat chunk of modern day hip hop makes RW/FF's Track Of The Day today, a rare thing since I only feature hip hop that is of the very best quality. The second album from American duo Run The Jewels was definitely the finest hip hop record that reached my ears last year in 2014, and now they are releasing one of its best tracks as a single. The storming 'Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)' also features the added bonus of Rage Against The Machine frontman Zack De La Rocha, and comes with a powerful black and white video depicting police brutality. "This video represents the futile and exhausting existence of a purgatory-like law enforcement system," said Killer Mike from RTJ "There is no neat solution at the end because there is no neat solution in the real world. However, there is an opportunity to dialogue and change the way communities are policed in this country." His musical partner El-P added: "This is a vision of a seemingly never-ending struggle whose participants are pitted against each other by forces originating outside of themselves."

The video's director AG Rojas said: "We had to exploit the lyrics and aggression and emotion of the track, and translate that into a film that would ignite a valuable and productive conversation about racially motivated violence in this country. It's provocative, and we all knew this, so we were tasked with making something that expressed the intensity of senseless violence without eclipsing our humanity."

"Our goal was to highlight the futility of the violence, not celebrate it..." 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

REWIND: The Mock Turtles - 'Can You Dig It?'

Today's REWIND selection is an early 90s indie classic, which was born in an unusual way. Manchester indie band The Mock Turtles were due to release their song 'Lay Me Down' as a single, when their record label asked them to list the songs they would be using for the B-sides, so that the sleeve art could be produced. They hadn't yet come up with any of these songs, so instead they made up a song title on the spot and wrote it afterwards. Singer Martin Coogan had been watching The Warriors which featured the rallying call, "Can you dig it?", hence the song was born. After being released as 'Lay Me Down''s B-side in 1990, 'Can You Dig It' was re-released as an A side a year later in 1991, reaching number 18.

Formed in 1985 and occasionally still active now, the song was The Mock Turtles' only Top 40 hit. As well as having a bridge that's even more Stone Roses than The Stone Roses themselves, it would be impossible to write an article about this song or The Mock Turtles without mentioning the interesting fact that frontman Martin is the brother of comic legend Steve Coogan. Since I'm not aware of any other music from the band, I'm going to take a listen to their 'Best Of' collection that also shares its name with this hit single.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Track Of The Day: The Slow Readers Club - 'I Saw A Ghost'

The Slow Readers Club release their highly anticipated second album 'Cavalcade' on Monday April 14th. It will feature the band's lovely new single 'I Saw a Ghost'. The Manchester based four piece produce brooding and mesmeric indie electro, which has drawn comparisons with Interpol, The Killers and The National and their new single is one of their most powerful offerings yet.  

Vocalist Aaron Starkie wrote the song about depression. He explains "It's about appearing to have a normal happy life but carrying something with you that can descend at any moment and make everything appear bleak." The band's previous four singles have enjoyed extensive airplay on BBC 6 Music and the band have played support slots for the likes of Catfish And The Bottlemen, The Struts, Reverend and the Makers and The Sunshine Underground. The band will be touring 'Cavalcade' throughout April 2015.


REWIND: Leftfield - 'Original'

It's time for me to pick my favourite song from those that entered the UK singles chart 20 years ago in 1995. This week's chart is from March 19 1995 and can be seen in full HEREEvery week a Twitter account called @ThisIsMyJam95 invites followers to pick their favourite new entry of the week, and I have decided to take it a step further by listening to ALL of the new entries before picking the best of the bunch.

Among the songs that made up the worst of the bunch included Alysha Warren's forgettable RnB effort 'I Thought I Meant The World To You' which entered at 40, and despite the fact that I loved most of Apollo 440's work, their number 35 cover of Blue Oyster Cult's '(Don't Fear) The Reaper' is something that I've never been keen on. Meanwhile, rapper Warren G is someone who I've also never been keen on, and tracks such as the number 29 entry 'Do You See' have never struck a chord with me. Despite a couple of wonderful hits in the early 90s, Duran Duran continued a bad run of form with their slightly altered 90s line up and a weak cover of Lou Reed's untouchable 'Perfect Day', which the British public liked enough to take it to number 28. Award for the week's most dreadful entry goes to EastEnders actor Sean Maguire and his woeful 'Suddenly', which goes in at number 20. One of the most diabolical singles I ever owned entered the charts at number 11, and I purchased it to play at the DJ sets I did on the weekends at the club my Dad managed in Corsham... It was hillbilly dance act Rednex with the follow-up to 'Cotton Eye Joe', which had only been in the charts the previous week, and deleted to make way for the release of the equally ridiculous and almost identical 'Old Pop In An Oak'. The week's highest new entry comes from serial chart botherers Wet Wet Wet, whose dull Beatles pastiche 'Julia Says' lands at number 6.

Compared to some of the previous weeks in 1995, it's not the strongest set of new entries this week, but there was still a generous helping of of good stuff though: dutch Euro-house vocalist CB Milton's 'It's A Loving Thing' is a rather catchy thing that goes in at number 34, while Ned's Atomic Dustbin win a number 33 position with the pounding 'All I Ask Of Myself Is That I Hold Together', and Amos scores a number 31 entry with 'Let Love Shine'. The leading Clubzone Mix of the latter song takes on a slightly faster and more Euro-styled flavour than the brilliantly housey Cleveland City mixes that also featured on the 12". At number 22, the infectious 'Here I Go' provides Dutch dance duo 2 Unlimited with one of the ir finest moments, and even though I'm not fond of their subsequent singles, Tin Tin Out's update of 'Always Something There To Remind Me' brings back nostalgic memories and has a sound that is very of its time. With a sound that's like a bargain basement version of The Shamen in places, East 17's number 11 entry 'Let It Rain' was pretty hardcore for a boyband and is possibly one of their best songs. I probably thought it was shite at the time, but it's rather pleasing now. 

But the week's most dazzling new entry is the powerfully mysterious 'Original' by Leftfield, featuring vocals from Curve singer Toni Halliday. The song was taken from their seminal debut album 'Leftism' and entered the charts at number 18. It would take them four years to release its follow-up 'Rhythm And Stealth', before the duo of Neil Barnes and Paul Daley went their separate ways in 2002. A few years later Barnes decided to revive Leftfield without the involvement of Daley, and has just announced the release of a brand new album which will be called 'Alternative Light Source'...

Friday, 27 March 2015

Track Of The Day: Horse Party - 'Out Of Sight'

This highly pleasing recent track from Suffolk-based trio Horse Party sees them taking their infectious sound up a notch, and makes up one side of a double A side single. Last year the band released their debut album 'Cover Your Eyes', which an RW/FF review described as "a treat for those who like ragged guitars, sultry vocals and bags of attitude". Read the full review HERE

'Out Of Sight' and it's equally brilliant flipside 'Receiver' are available from Horse Party's Bandcamp page HERE, as a 7" that is strictly limited to 300 copies. This single will not be available via iTunes/Spotify etc. Each copy comes with a lyric insert, badge and fanzine. Plus unlimited streaming of Out Of Sight/Receiver - 7" single via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

REWIND: BT - Embrace The Sunshine (Sasha's Remix)

Another week has come to an end, Friday is here and so is the traditional RW/FF Friday Banger. Continuing with the 1995 theme from last week, here's another classic floorfiller that entered the UK singles chart just over 20 years ago. Last week I looked back at the new entries from March 12 1995, which included BT's wonderfully euphoric progressive house masterpiece 'Embrace The Sunshine'. Read that article HERE, and get your ears around this magnificent 13 minute mix from Sasha. A version of the track can be found on BT's album 'Ima'. If you weren't aware, BT's real name is Brian Wayne Transeau.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Track Of The Day: Blur - 'Lonesome Street'

Blur have unveiled the third song to be taken from their upcoming eighth studio album 'The Magic Whip'. The album opener 'Lonesome Street' may have been conceived in Hong Kong, but it's as British as it gets. It's characterised by three different elements: a jaunty, insanely catchy verse that harks back to the days of 'Modern Life Is Rubbish', brief spells of melancholy that carry on from Damon's 'Everyday Robots' LP from last year, and a Graham-sung bit of cockney-psychedelica highly reminiscent of legendary loon Syd Barrett singing something written by Madness.

Considering the way these new songs were recorded, I had doubts about the new album and was worried that it wouldn't live up to my massively high expectations. You can read my thoughts on that HERE. But now, having the band playing the album in full at a secret gig on Friday night (March 20) I can already tell that 'The Magic Whip' is going to be a very special treat indeed. Bringing familiar elements from their past into the 21st century and often utilizing a greater sense of space, this may very well be the greatest comeback record of all time, and that is not an exaggeration. What can be more exciting that your favourite band returning with their first proper album in 16 years? 

'The Magic Whip' is released on April 27.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Track Of The Day: The Fall - 'First One Today'

Just in case you've lost count of the amount of studio albums The Fall have released, it's officially 30. The total will increase to 31 on May 11 2015 when Mark E. Smith and his ever-evolving group of musicians release their new album 'Sub-Lingual Tablet'. From it (and featuring an introduction from MES himself) is the new track 'First One Today', which premiered on BBC 6Music a few weeks ago. The band's label Cherry Red claims that the new LP features Wall the trademarks of a great Fall record" and comprises 11 tracks. It will be released on CD and a limited edition vinyl, which features different mixes.

The Fall is noted for its prolific output: in addition to the studio albums they have released more than triple that, counting live albums and other compilations.   

Founded by its only constant member, Mark E. Smith, The Fall formed in Manchester in 1976 and has existed ever since. Musically, there may have been several stylistic changes over the years, but it is often characterised by an abrasive guitar-driven sound and frequent use of repetition, always underpinned by Smith's distinctive vocals and often cryptic lyrics. The current Fall line-up is as follows: Peter Greenway, Keiron Melling, Elena Poulou, Mark E. Smith, Daren Garratt (the band's recently recruited second drummer) and David Spurr.


Venice With The Girls 
Black Root 
Dedication Not Medication 
First One Today 
Junger Cloth 
Stout Man 
Auto Chip 2014-2016 
Fibre Book Troll 
Quit iPhone 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

REWIND: The Prodigy - 'Poison'

It's time once again for me to pick my favourite song from those that entered the UK singles chart 20 years ago in 1995. This week's chart is from March 12 1995 and can be seen in full HEREEvery week a Twitter account called @ThisIsMyJam95 invites followers to pick their favourite new entry of the week, and I have decided to take it a step further by listening to ALL of the new entries before picking the best of the bunch.

Which means that every week I am faced with bad music and good music. This week's bad stuff: Prince's 'Purple Medley' is nothing more than a reductive splicing of hits, yet it still makes the number 33, while Janet Jackson's carefree yet annoying 'Whoops Now' comes in at number 10. American "hip house" duo The Outhere Brothers are possibly partly to blame for a future trend in dance/hip hop combinations with lyrics about "booties", and for that reason alone, hearing it will always irritate me.

A rather ill fitting combination of Neneh Cherry, Chrissie Hynde and Cher teamed up with Eric Clapton for the the overbaked emotion of 'Love Can Build A Bridge', which landed a number 5 position. It's not a terrible song, and the sentiment is nice, but the harder it tries to be an anthem, the flatter it falls. Even though hearing it so often annoyed me a lot at the time, Freak Power's 'Turn On Tune In Cop Out brings back great memories and lays on a pretty lazed groove. On the other hand I've never rated it as a song. The project was formed by trombonist Ashley Slater and Norman Cook, who contributed a house-flavoured remix of the track under his Pizzaman alias. The single gained a lot of exposure after being featured on a Levi's advert, and is this week's highest new entry at number 3.

The songs that did strike a positive chord with me begin with BT's wonderfully euphoric progressive house masterpiece 'Embrace The Sunshine' at 34, which comes with a magnificent 13 minute mix from Sasha. A version of the track can be found on BT's album 'Ima'. 49ers Feat Ann Marie Smith's number 31 club hit 'Rockin' My Body' was led by a very of-its-time mix by Capella, while on an American punk tip, Green Day's mischievious wanking anthem 'Longview' enters at 30. 10cc scored a number 29 entry with an acoustic rerecording of their classic 'I'm Not In Love', while Terrorvision's number 22 entry 'Some People Say' was one of the band's more reflective moments, and was lifted from the previous year's album 'How To Make Friends And Influence People'. I can actually remember buying a cassette copy of The Human League's sweet electro ballad 'One Man In My Heart', which comes in at number 18.

But the prize for new entry of the week goes to The Prodigy's vicious number 15 entry 'Poison', which has lost none of its brutal power two decades later. It was the fourth single from their awesome second album, 1994's 'Music for the Jilted Generation'. The drums on this track are samples from "It's a New Day" by Skull Snaps, "Amen Brother" by The Winstons, "Heavy Soul Slinger" by Bernard Purdie, and "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley, Your Tie's Caught" by Incredible Bongo Band. Fast forward to the present day, and The Prodigy's long awaited new album 'The Day Is My Enemy' comes out in just over a week's time on March 30...

Track Of The Day: Hysterical Injury - 'Woken With A Warning'

Consisting of drummer Tom Gardiner and bassist-vocalist Annie Gardiner, brilliantly dynamic Bath-based duo Hysterical Injury have just released a new EP entitled 'Blood Burst', their first new material since their 2012 debut album 'Dead Wolf Situation'. The EP is available now as a limited edition CD or digital download from their Bandcamp page HERE. While lead track 'Under Milk Wood' kicks up a storm, the following 'Blood On The Daisy' is somewhat playful in comparison, until its noisy chorus rises up from the darkness. But it's the excellent 'Woken With A Warning' that shifts the EP into a new gear, building up the suspense throughout while twisting into tangled rhythms and building throughout before a blast of mayhem ensues towards the end. Closing the EP, 'Ready To Burst' broods and creeps during the verses and spins into a striking bout of rage as it nears its end, perhaps pulling off the best trick across the course of the four tracks.

The brother and sister duo, known for their highly energetic noise pop, joined up with producer Gordon Raphael (The Strokes, Regina Spektor) who brought a cosmic touch to recording the new EP. Like 'Dead Wolf Situation', it was recorded in Bristol at JandJ studios, assisted by Oliver Baldwin and studio owner Jim Barr (Portishead, Get the Blessing). Hysterical Injury have been circling the music scene like the rings of Saturn since 2007. Previous releases include The Hysterical Injury EP (2008), and Our Lives Are A Futuristic Nightmare EP (2009). Since the release of 2012 album Dead Wolf Situation, the band embarked on a headline tour of UK and Ireland and have continued to play all over the UK with the likes of Mike Watt, The Primitives and others.

Friday, 20 March 2015

REWIND: The Bucketheads - The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall into My Mind)

The weekend is here, and so is the traditional Friday Banger. To run alongside my regular retrospective look at the singles charts from 20 years ago (a lot of which can be found HERE) today's Friday Banger is a house classic from 1995, which reached number 5. 'The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall into My Mind)' was produced by Masters At Work member Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez, and features samples from Chicago's 1979 track 'Street Player', although the subtitle of the song is a mondegreen; the actual lyrics from the Chicago sample are "Street sounds swirling through my mind...". This song was later featured on the project's only album 'All In The Mind' and is one of only a few dance tracks that I've always preferred the radio edit of...

Track Of The Day: Blur - 'There Are Too Many Of Us'

As the release of Blur's long waited comeback album 'The Magic Whip' draws nearer, two things happened today. Firstly, the band played the whole album in full to a crowd of just a few hundred people at the Mode venue in London, with various Twitter users declaring the new songs to be brilliant. Secondly, the group premiered the second track to be taken from the album along with a rather lo-fi video. Unlike the previous 'Go Out', the dark, mournful grower 'There Are Too Many Of Us' proves that Blur aren't simply replicating their old sound'.

Kicking off with military snares and symphonic keyboards, it's an odd an unexpected intro which begins to grow as soon as the guitar enters along with Damon Albarn's enchantingly melancholic vocal and a well arranged musical backdrop. Moody and atmospherically cloudy, it suggests that the new LP will be a rather eclectic piece of work

Produced by Stephen Street, 'The Magic Whip' will be released on April 27 and is the first album Blur have recorded as a four piece in over 16 years. Listen to the refreshingly noisy 'Go Out' and read my thoughts about the upcoming release of 'The Magic Whip' HERE.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

REWIND: Depeche Mode - 'Personal Jesus'

Back in the early 90s when I was a young kid, I was (shamefully) keen on the camp electro pop duo Erasure in the early 90s, and was surprised when I learned that Vince Clark was once a member of this dark, powerful and enigmatic group called Depeche Mode. Even though he was no longer part of the band, I still thought it was odd that two such differing styles of music could have a common connection. I remember seeing the video to 'I Feel You' being played a lot on The ITV Chart Show and MTV in 1993, and was intrigued further by this band when I realised that the majority of my Uncle Justin's CDs and records were Depeche Mode releases. But I was too young and distracted by other things to delve any further into their music, and a couple of years later Britpop and dance were what held my attention. Then in 1997 I was wowed by the 'Barrel Of A Gun' single and became interested once again. After my "punk rock and reggae only" years between 2003 and 2008 had ended and musical variety once again took hold of me, I picked up a few Depeche Mode albums from car boot sales and became areal fan. It was around that time that I bought the stellar 1990 album 'Violator' on CD for 50p, and a few months later found a vinyl copy for just £1. The very definition of a bargain.

And today (March 19) the magnificent 'Violator' is exactly 15 years old. The LP was their seventh studio album and is regarded by many to be their finest work. From it here is the unforgettable hit single 'Personal Jesus', a song which has also been covered by Johnny Cash and Marilyn Manson (individually of course, a duet involving those two would be unimaginable). 

Track Of The Day: Squarepusher - ‘Stor Eiglass’

An absolutely rampant new offering from electronic maverick Squarepusher provides RW/FF with today's Track Of The Day. 

Taken from new album 'Damogen Furies', ‘Stor Eiglass’ explores the harsher, more diverse realisation of Squarepusher’s work. The album is a fusion of his ability to meld and mold his unique breed of pioneering electronic composition and boundary-warping drum n’ bass which has become synonymous with his cult legacy. 'Damogen Furies', released on 20th April, is a record that has the brutal energy and vivaciousness of a debut. It sees the peak and confluence of the preoccupations that have emerged throughout Squarepusher’s career, approached with the antagonism and audacity of an artist who still believes in the power of intervention. “Through this record I aim to explore as forcefully as possible the hallucinatory, the nightmarish and the brutally visceral capacities of electronic music" says Squarepusher (aka Tom Jemkinson) of his upcoming LP. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

REWIND: Cornershop - 'Good To Be On The Road Back Home'

The other day I decided to dust off my CD copy of Cornershop's 1997 album 'When I Was Born For The 7th Time' and give it a play for the first time in bloody ages. Like the majority of people I discovered the duo when a Norman Cook remix of 'Brimful Of Asha' became a massive radio staple, and entered the charts at number 1. After enjoying the follow up single 'Sleep On The Left Side' (which didn't enjoy the same level of commercial success) I knew I had to investigate the album, which I bought in 1998 from a sale that Woolworths had on at the time. An eclectic album blending Indian music, funk, hip hop, country, indie and psychedelica together with surprising ease, those who only knew the big hit certainly missed out on some fine music. Luckily I didn't, which is how the marvellous 'Good To Be On The Road Back Home' became my favourite song on the album...

Frontman Tjinder Singh described the recording process as "very intense. There was a lot of smoking going on, it was a very relaxed time, and very enjoyable all the way through. At the end, our engineer had to go for medical assistance. He got freaked out. He smoked so much and then he stopped and he went loopy. He was on medication. His body couldn't take it."

Track Of The Day: The Phantoms - 'Wasting Time'

This brand new track from Scottish four piece The Phantoms is a great little tune with a simple yet anthemic chorus. The band are made up of Colin Simpson (Vocals, rhythm guitar) Colin McKillop (Lead guitar) Peter Stewart (Bass, backing vocals) and Blair Cullen (Drums), who hail from Broxburn, West Lothian. The band formed in March 2012 and their gradual rise has seen them support the likes of Catfish and the Bottlemen. 

Described as sounding like "Oasis if they had listened to The Doors instead of The Beatles", to my ears 'Wasting Time' is more like a refreshing hybrid of The Cribs and New Order, with an added twist of Britpop. Melodic with an edge, this definite grower is available now as a digital single.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

REWIND: Black Grape - 'Reverend Black Grape'

After going to the Bahamas and blowing a fortune of their record company's money on drugs, the Happy Mondays released the disappointing 'Yes Please' in 1992 and split the following year. A new start was in order, and with that Shaun Ryder and Bez formed Black Grape with rappers Paul "Kermit" Leveridge and Carl "Psycho" McCarthy, drummer Jed Lynch (like Leveridge, a former member of Ruthless Rap Assassins), and guitarist Paul "Wags" Wagstaff. 

Their 1995 debut 'It's Great When You're Straight Yeah' reached number 1 in the UK album charts and was hailed as a triumphant return to form for Ryder and Bez. 

The infectious first single 'Reverend Black Grape' even outsold the biggest Happy Mondays single 'Step On', and gave the band the first of three Top 20 hits. Things that stick in my mind regarding this song include my Auntie Julie telling me that it reminded her of one of the counting songs from Sesame Street, and a radio DJ saying that Ryder's vocal sounded like Grandpa from The Simpsons. And of course there are those ridiculously sublime lyrics which include the unforgettable opening line "there's nothing more sinister than ministers in dresses"...  

The band's second album 'Stupid Stupid Stupid' wasn't so well received, and in 1998 Shaun Ryder gradually sacked the whole group one by one. However in 2010, they reformed for a one-off gig, with a slimmed down line-up consisting of Ryder, Kermit and producer Danny Saber. 

With the classic line-up of the Happy Mondays busy touring and Ryder recently finishing his second solo album, I didn't expect to hear that Black Grape would be reforming. However the news has been confirmed, and the band will be playing an 800-capacity homeless and anti-fracking benefit gig at Old Granada Studios in Manchester on April 11. Festival appearances and a full tour are soon to be announced, and new material is even a possibility. Ryder said "We went into rehearsals and we’ve got a great band together: Dan (Saber), Mikey (Shine), and some great sessions guys. I went in with Kermit and they’d got six songs down; me and Kermit did our bit and it was like we’d be practicing for 20 years. It was like putting an old pair of comfy shoes on. It’s like that with the Mondays; it’s just a pleasure now. Age, maturity, we can enjoy what we’re doing. No treadmill bullshit." Ryder puts his newfound flurry of activity down to "the Superman jab", a testosterone replacement therapy injection. He said: "It's a mixture of enjoying life and also I have testosterone injections that make me feel like a 21-year-old... I'm a dad, and I get to do that right this time around. Last time around, you're making your career and you're a kid yourself."

Sunday, 15 March 2015

RW/FF With Ben Scott #57

This week's RW/FF round-up features albums from Noel Gallagher, ex Babybird genius Stephen Jones, and The Charlatans. As well as new music from The Orb, andhim, Martin Gore, The Leisure Society and Muse, there's a review of the Levellers film 'A Curious Life' and the band's acoustic gig at The Forum in Bath last weekend. And in addition to a new RW/FF mixtape, once again I have a look at the songs making the charts 20 years ago in 1995, including tracks from Elastica, Gene and Radiohead...

When you're currently writing some of the best music of your career, it must be frustrating to keep being asked when your old band are going to reform. But it clearly hasn't affected Noel Gallagher's post-Oasis creative resurgence as is proved by his second solo album 'Chasing Yesterday'. 

Its title may suggest an exercise in nostalgia and returning to the sound of the glory days, yet the relaxed acoustic-driven opener 'Riverman' immediately reveals that a rather different path lies ahead, conjuring up images of smoky rooms, and even stepping into space-jazz territory with a wild saxophone solo near the end. Don't go expecting some sort of radical reinvention though: writing solid, instinctive tunes for people to sing along to at the top of their voices is what Noel does, and there's no sign of him stopping any time soon. 

The growing influence of The Smiths continues to find its way into the music, no more so than on the elegantly melancholic verses of 'The Dying Of The Light', a song that seems to lament the decline of popular culture and all the great things that have disappeared from it. "The world had turned and I'd become a stranger, and I'm tired of watching all the flowers turn to stone". Having first heard Noel's songs while he was still rising to the top in the mid 90s, it makes me feel my age when hearing him musing over the past in such a way, but also strikes a chord with me topic wise, as it will do with many others. Although we find Noel reminiscing about the good old days and coming to terms with the detritus of popular culture, you also get the impression that he's a lot more comfortable recording and releasing records without being surrounded by the madness that defined Oasis. 

After such a reflectively anthemic moment, the distinctly chilled Pink Floyd-meets-Primal Scream psychedelic jazz groove of 'The Right Stuff' will annoy those hoping for a whole album that sounds like Oasis, but the rest of us will surely welcome this most surprising departure. Feeling more liberated, Noel has started using his solo status to his advantage by going down routes that were restricted when he was part of a stadium rock band. Meanwhile the wondrous 'While The Song Remains The Same' is another beautifully introspective track which again bears echoes of The Smiths and finds Noel revisiting his home town to "walk the streets of my life while they still remain". It's another grower which in time reveals itself to be one of the man's finest. 

The previous LP may be slightly more consistent and more immediate, but 'Chasing Yesterday' boasts brighter highlights and has a lot more to reveal underneath the surface. It's a record with one eye on the past and one on the new possibilities that lie ahead. Looking back at his history to determine where to go next, Noel seems to be both comfortable in his current position, and not afraid to step out of his zone with the occasional expectation-defying surprise. For those of us who have wisely kept the faith, The Chief continues to dish out the rewards. Read the full 9/10 review HERE.

Although many people won't have any idea of what happened to Babybird since the chart hits of the 90s, Sheffield cult hero Stephen Jones has actually been releasing a huge amount of new music via his Bandcamp page over the last couple of years or so. In fact this most prolific musician seems to put something new out every week. But this new album entitled 'Meloncholy' is particularly notable for being the first album of "music and words" since the final Babybird album 'The Pleasures Of Self Destruction' from 2012. Apparently "a new name to replace "Babybird" would have been used" for this album but is "being kept secret for a future release". 

After a relatively long time releasing mostly instrumental and atmospheric music, its good to see that Jones hasn't misplaced his ability for putting great lyrics and melodies together. Beginning brilliantly with the elegantly arranged dark beauty of piano and percussion-led opener 'Funny', second track 'Teenager' is a breezy, understated helping of lo-fi pop, while the confessional 'Wrecked' requires a patient ear, but soon gets under your skin after a few plays, as does the sad, bewitching highlight 'Oh Your God'. As well as the creeping 'The Children' and the charming 'Best Friend', we get the sparse, ambient wonder of the breathtaking 'No Cameras' where Jones's vocal, drops of piano and a splendid arrangement combine to work magic. It may very well be the most beautiful song he's ever made.

While the lyrics that accompany the delicate twinkle of (almost) title track 'Melancholy' remind you that sadness is part of human nature and should sometimes be embraced, the moody hip hop flavours of 'No One Home' provide another example of his talents for penning disturbed love songs. The intense lo-fi piano lament 'Dance On Your Feet' is perhaps the track that requires the most patience, but fits well as a finishing moment. 

Growing more sentimental with age but often maintaining that dark, unsettling edge, 'Meloncholy' combines the spacious, atmospheric instrumentation of Jones's more recent projects with the magnificent songwriting of the Babybird albums. A cohesive set of songs that sees a hugely underrated genius making a welcome return to doing what he does best. 8.2/10

There aren't many bands who have been through as much turmoil as The Charlatans, and there are even fewer that have managed to survive. Yet after over 25 years after their formation, they are back with one of their strongest pieces of work to date. ‘Modern Nature’ is their first album since 2010's 'Who We Touch' and the first to be released since the sad death of drummer Jon Brookes in 2012. I promised a belated review of this in the last RW/FF round-up, and now you can read that review in full HERE. Packed full of the things that make The Charlatans so special, while also picking up new influences and moving forwards with great optimism, 'Modern Nature' is a joy to listen to. More proof that grief can inspire absolute magic. 

On a busy Saturday night in the city centre of Bath, lots of people mostly over the age of 30 have gathered at The Forum, a wonderfully preserved Art Deco cinema built in the 1930's. Inside the auditorium, what looks like a full house takes their seats to watch 'A Curious Life', a film documenting the lives of UK folk-punk legends the Levellers

Directed by former Chumbawamba member Dunstan Bruce, it's more of an insight into the lives of the group rather than a comprehensive document of their career. Billed as a tale of "25 years of subsidised dysfunctionality", a lot of the band's story is told by the film's central character, the band's bassist/artist/archivist Jeremy CunninghamAt just 78 minutes long, you get the feeling that more could have been explained about each album to make up a clearer account of the highs and lows, but 'A Curious Life' takes a different and far more intimate approach. However if you're looking for a full, in-depth history of the Levellers, THIS lengthy article I wrote last year does the job nicely.

Following a humourous and enlightening audience Q and A session with Bruce and Jeremy, the band appear for an acoustic set. Well, acoustic except for the presence of Matt Savage's keyboards. They begin with perfect renditions of 'The Boatman' and 'The Road', which inspire sections of the audience to leave their seats and dance their way to the front, to the displeasure of the limited amount of venue staff. Everyone is told to go back to their seats until later, and as it turns out, for good reason.

Admittedly, the seated venue isn't what I'm used to when watching the Levellers either. But unlike being packed in amongst a sweaty crowd, one can better appreciate the intricacies of the band's slower, more reflective material when seated comfortably in a setting like this. The subtle details of the magnificent early EP track 'Hard Fight' benefit from the increased degree of concentration between the audience and band, while a lovely 'Confess' proves that even under-par albums like 2005 'Truth And Lies' still had their stand out moments. A spellbinding 'Maid Of The River' reminds you that the 1995 number 1 album 'Zeitgeist' is now 20 years old, and begging to be played in full on an anniversary tour.

The pace is upped and the energy increased for a resonant blast through 'Barrel Of A Gun', which immediately tempts the crowd from their seats once again. And after a superb 'Truth Is', a riotous 'Dirty Davey' and an equally charged 'Burford Stomp', a large percentage of the seats are empty as the front of the stage fills up. The band reappear for a hugely enjoyable encore of 'Carry Me', before the frantic energy of 'What You Know''s climax sends the assembled crowd into a frenzy one last time.

Not the first memorable night I've enjoyed with the Levellers, and probably not the last, but certainly a different experience, and a rewarding one that really demonstrated their versatility. Read the full version of this review HERE.

Expand your horizons, discover some incredible new sounds, and stay a step ahead of the mainstream... It's the regular new music mixtape from RW/FF. The latest edition can be listened to via the Mixcloud player below.

It showcases the music that has featured on the RW/FF site over the last few weeks, and around 80 minute CD's worth of great new music makes up each compilation. A lot of people mistakenly think there's no new music worth listening to these days... Think again. These regular compilations make sure that you don't miss out on the good stuff.

Idlewild - 'Collect Yourself'
Blur - 'Go Out'
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - 'Ballad Of The Mighty I'
The Charlatans - 'Come Home Baby'
Gaz Coombes - 'Detroit'
Paul Weller - 'White Sky'
Ash - 'Cocoon'
The Prodigy - 'The Day Is My Enemy'
Django Django - 'First Light'
Black Rivers - 'The Forest'
The Cribs - 'An Ivory Hand'
Drenge - 'We Can Do What We Want'
Crushed Beaks - 'Overgrown'
The Staves - 'Black And White'
Boxed In - All Your Love Has Gone (Michael Rother remix)
Gulp - 'The Way' (Cian CiarĂ¡n Remix)
The Lucid Dream - 'Cold Killer'
Wire - 'Joust And Jostle'
East India Youth - 'Carousel'

On April 13th, The Leisure Society release their fourth album 'The Fine Art of Hanging On', via Full Time Hobby. Taken from it, here is the beautiful, elegantly yearning 'Tall Black Cabins'.

A press release states that "The intricate production, playing, arrangements, songwriting and broad-ranging instrumentation all indicate an outfit at their most purposeful and assured best. Alongside an audible new creative peak tied together by a distinct theme, The Leisure Society’s acclaimed prior trademarks are still present - namely Nick Hemming’s intensely personal and honest lyrics which adorn the band’s warm, timeless, seamless blend of folk, grandiose pop and indie."

“‘The Fine Art of Hanging On’ is a recurrent, linking theme, although this wasn’t an intentional concept album”, explains Nick. “It’s about clinging to something - be that a relationship, a career, or life itself. All the way through writing the album a friend of mine was battling cancer.  I reached out by sending him the rough demos of this album. By giving him this access to the work in progress and by him giving feedback, we formed a close bond. Sadly he lost his battle, but his input and presence is there in the album.”

Last year, legendary electronic duo The Orb released a 3CD compilation of remixes, live tracks and singles from the 90’s and early 2000s. You can read a review of it HERE. Following on from that collection, their 21st century catalogue is highlighted on ‘History Of The Future Part 2’, released on the Malicious Damage label a few weeks ago. From it (and featuring Lee 'Scratch' Perry) here is Ricardo Villalobos and Max Loderbauer's Villod remix of 'Soulman', which has been edited by Orb member Thomas Fehlman.

A press release reads that "This collection serves as a comprehensive, second closing compendium on the Orb’s illustrious history, before focus moves to their new album, planned for release on Kompakt during summer 2015.

‘History Of The Future Part 2’ starts after Alex Paterson left his major label experience with Island Records behind him and struck into the new millennium with different record labels, new and old collaborators and a volley of sonic experiments which, while retaining the essential Orb ethos, charted new stratas while returning to the underground which spawned it. While casual attention often seems to fall on early Orb hits such as ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ and ‘Blue Room’, the 21st century saw the fullest realisations of Alex Paterson’s original Orb mission. 

The Orb’s spaced odyssey since the 90s hits period was, in many ways, more exciting, innovative and even fun now the pressure was off and the real mischief could start. But the last 15 years have also seen some magnificently ground-breaking music, as beautifully displayed in this sparkling new collection. Bass is the place."

This warm house gem is the lead track from German duo andhim's new 'Spayce' EP, which was released last week on February 27.

According to their label: "A couple of years into honing their skills in the studio and behind the booths, the very dynamic duo known as andhim returns to Get Physical to present us with 'Spayce', the latest specimen of their self-christened "Super House" genre. Raised on a steady diet of hip hop and jazz, the Cologne-native pair have proven to many far and wide that they are entertainers at heart and envelope-pushers by nature. Taking turntables where they seldom go to turn them into instruments, as well as the heavy use of samples and real-world inspiration to set their own creations apart, it's fair to say that 'Spayce' is just another example of the duo's eclectic, eccentric inclinations. Two tracks long and spanning from dance floor epic to quirky by way of some particular glitch, piano work and musical hiccups, 'Spayce' EP is a very sweet addition to an already original discography."

Depeche Mode legend Martin Gore has announced the release of a new solo album entitled 'MG'. It's released on April 27 via Mute Records. The tasty 'Europa Hymn' provides a first taste of 'MG', and can be heard below.

Written and produced by Martin Gore, work began on 'MG' following the final dates of Depeche Mode's 'Delta Machine' tour in March 2013 at Gore's home studio in Santa Barbara. An entire instrumental album had been in his thoughts for some time, particularly since he has been writing instrumentals for Depeche Mode since 1981. "I wanted to keep the music very electronic, very filmic and give it an almost sci-fi like quality," Martin explains. "Music is a necessity for me. I go into the studio at least 5 days a week, every week, so once I had the idea and the template, the process was quick and fun." 'MG' is a soundtrack to an emotional and mysterious film of your own design. From the Angelo Badalmenti - like atmosphere of 'Elk' to the industrial electro swagger of 'Brink', it landscapes a unique and arresting vision. 

Explaining the decision to release the album under the acronym, MG, Gore says, "As the album is very electronic and has no vocals, I felt it deserved another persona so decided to carry on the MG concept from the VCMG album." 'MG' showcases another side to this multi-talented musician. "As a songwriter, I am aware of the power of words," Martin admits. "Especially when they are juxtaposed in the right way with chords and melody. I am also aware of the power of pure music and the emotions that can be created by musical atmospheres and that is what I wanted to capture with this project."

Well, this is more like the Muse that I used to love. The trio have just unleashed their new track 'Psycho', which is the first to be taken from their upcoming album 'Drones', released on June 8. Opening with an aggressive 'Full Metal Jacket'-style intro before launching into fat, pulverising glam rock riffs, 'Psycho' marks something of a return to form after their mostly disappointing previous album 'The 2nd Law'. The concept behind 'Drones' sounds pretty fucked up, and take a look at that artwork... Matt Bellamy says: ""To me, 'Drones' are metaphorical psychopaths which enable psychopathic behaviour with no recourse.  The world is run by Drones utilizing Drones to turn us all into Drones.  This album explores the journey of a human, from their abandonment and loss of hope, to their indoctrination by the system to be a human drone, to their eventual defection from their oppressors." Crikey.


It's that time again where every week I pick my favourite song from those that entered the charts 20 years ago in 1995. Every week a Twitter account called @ThisIsMyJam95 invites followers to pick their favourite new entry of the week, and I have decided to take it a step further by listening to ALL of the new entries before picking the best of the bunch. This week's chart is from February 25 1995, and can be seen in full HERE.

At number 25 we have Mike And The Mechanics with the friendly but dull 'Over My Shoulder', and Stevie Wonder's sickly number 23 entry 'For Your Love' is way below the standard of his best work, but this is admittedly due to its woeful production. At least Stevie's songwriting talents hadn't quite sunk to the level of whoever penned PJ And Duncan's 'Our Radio Rocks', which stunk out the number 17 position.

Punk rockers The Offspring entered the charts at 37 with the brilliant, angsty 'Self Esteem', while Pearl Jam's enjoyable 'Not For You' went in at number 34, and Thunder bagged a number 31 place with their wildly unfashionable but catchy classic rock number 'River Of Pain'. At number 29, Gun's country-flavoured beauty 'The Only One' proved their was a lot more to them than their cover of 'Word Up'. Moby's uptempo number 28 entry 'Everytime You Touch Me' provides the chart with a fine bit of 90s Euro-style techno cheese, and EMF scored what must have been one of their last chart entries at 27 with the rather funky 'Perfect Day'. Bon Jovi's 'Someday I'll Be Saturday Night' has to be one of the finest songs by this love-or-hate-them group who are definitely one of my guilty pleasures. It was the week's second highest new entry at number 9, while Madonna's hypnotic 'Bedtime Story' took the number 4 spot. But there can only be one winner this week: the song that went in at number 13, which happens to be a classic of the Britpop era. Elastica's 'Waking Up' was taken from the band's superb new wave/post-punk flavoured self-debut album, which was released the following month. The album hit number one. Vocalist Justine Frischmann's then-partner Damon Albarn contributed keyboards to the song.

Elastica were sued for plagiarism by the publishers of The Stranglers, Complete Music, who (quite reasonably) claimed that 'Waking Up' resembled The Stranglers' track 'No More Heroes'. The case was settled out of court before Elastica's album was released. Elastica agreed to pay Complete Music 40 percent of the royalties from the album, and The Stranglers were also given a co-writing credit on the song. Yesterday (March 14) marked 20 years since the debut album was released on February 14, 1995. It was perhaps the most spiky and post-punkish of all the records associated with Britpop. It was also the fastest selling UK debut album of the 90s. After the success of this album turned them into one of the coolest things around, they ended up becoming addicted to heroin, taking 5 years to make a bad follow-up album, and then splitting up. 

It's unlikely that we'll ever see this lot reform, but what a superb debut album.

The following week's chart is from March 5 1995 and can be seen in full HERE

At number 36 was the rather appalling 'All I Want' by Those 2 Girls (who featured future TV presenter Denise Van Outen) and at number 24 were Drizabone with the soulful but bland 'Real Love', which was originally released four years earlier in 1991. At number 16 was Elton John with the dreary 'Believe'.

Rozalla's 'Call You Baby' was a rather camp slice of piano house that took the number 26 poisition, while the number 23 'Respect' by Judy Cheeks was another slice of house but with a heavy soul flavour. Both OK songs, but not quite as fine as some of the other new entries in a dance-heavy week. Coming in at number 14 were dance act Clock with a lively version of 'Axel F'. Reminiscent of a British 2 Unlimited, I recall buying a few singles of theirs during my years as a very young DJ at my Dad's old club in Corsham, including one with a Clock Megamix on the bside. Even during Britpop my tastes could vary wildly. Interestingly, although they set a record for the act to score the most UK chart hits with cover versions, Clock showed their true flavours by releasing hardcore versions of their songs under the alias Visa. 

Sadly deceased hard house legend Tony De Vit's brilliantly energising 'Burning Up' gave him his breakthrough hit and charted at 25, and at number 13 were The Bucketheads with the brilliant Chicago-sampling 'The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)'. Another massive club anthem to hit the Top 40 that week was the Nightcrawlers classic 'Push The Feeling On', which was enjoying its third and most successful re-release. The original 1992 track is a barely recognisable and hugely inferior song which was cut up and fattened by American producer Mark Kinchen to make the more familiar version that many of us know and love, aka 'The Dub Of Doom Mix'. 

But the week's very best new entry is another golden great from the Britpop scene, the number 32 'Haunted By You', from the marvellous Gene. Often dismissed as Smiths wannabes, the more attentive always knew that there was a lot more to them than that, although 'Haunted By You' does remind me of a more sentimental 'What Difference Does It Make'. Gene went on to release four studio alnums before eventually disbanding in 2004. Those albums were all reissued last year with lots of bonus material, and a full review of the whole collection can be found HERE. Meanwhile, frontman Martin Rossiter released his long awaited debut solo album 'The Defenestation Of St Martin' in 2012, which turned out to be a wonderful record. More about that HERE.

This week's chart is from March 11 1995 and can be seen in full HERE.

Although it features some nice trumpets, I can't say I'm that keen on 'Close To You', the number 38 from The Brand New Heavies, while the number 37 entry credited to MC Spy D And Friends turns out to be the work of Brian May. And since 'The Amazing Spiderman' is terrible, it's no surprise. Although I loved some of their work, The Cranberries' number 35 'I Can't Be With You' firmly establishes Delores O Riordan's voice as an acquired taste, and lacks the appeal of their other singles. As for Aaliyah's number 32 'Age Ain't Nothing But A Number', I don't like this bland style of RnB and I don't care much for the song either. I wasn't aware of the BBC comedy series The Glam Metal Detectives, but I remember the number 29 hit that it spawned, 'Everybody Up!', which sounds worse now than it did then. Sophie B Hawkins scores a number 24 entry with the nauseatingly lightweight 'As I Lay Me Down', while Des'Ree's notoriously dull 'You Gotta Be' gets a re-release and enters at number 19.

Sparks deliver an infectious helping of high energy, euro-flavoured melodrama with the brilliant 'When I Kiss You I Hear Charlie Parker Playing', which comes in at 36, Rockford Files and the excellent house floorfiller 'You Sexy Dancer' enter at 34, while the Hardfloor mix of Mory Kante's 1987 gem 'Yeke Yeke' comes in at number 25.

Dodgy's wonderful 'Making the Most Of' was re-recorded for a single release, which reached number 22. The guitar solo is excellent, and Britpop era brass combo The Kick Horns were more prominent on the song, but the verses just don't sound right compared to the original from the 'Homegrown' album. Faith No More's rocking 'Digging The Grave' comes in at 16, but it's three 90s classics that provide the three highest new entries this week, all fine songs that have gone on to stand the test of time. At number 11,  the beautiful 'Ten Storey Love Song' was the second single from the second Stone Roses album 'The Second Coming', and the B-sides 'Moses' and 'Ride On' were the last new songs that the band released. At number 9, the sound of Summer 95 arrives early with 'Wake Up Boo', which gives the Boo Radleys the highest new entry. It's a shame none of their other (and better) songs made it as high.

But my pick of the week goes to the number 17 entry, Radiohead's classic 'High And Dry', one of the band's most infectious and anthemic songs, and one that still works magic 20 years later. 'High And Dry' was taken from their magnificent second album 'The Bends'. According to Wikipedia: ""High And Dry" was recorded during the Pablo Honey sessions but was dismissed by the band, who thought that it sounded like a Rod Stewart song(!). However, during the sessions for The Bends it was rediscovered and remastered, as it was felt that it worked well with the rest of the album's content. The version that appears on the album is the original demo; it was never re-recorded. The song is widely regarded as Radiohead's most accessible pop hit, and was a live favorite, though it has not been performed in almost two decades. In a 2007 interview with Pitchfork Media, Thom Yorke stated that he did not like the song, saying "It's not bad... it's very bad". He also stated that he was pressured into including the song on The Bends."

Unbelievably, 'The Bends' celebrated its 20th anniversary two days ago (Friday March 13). A powerful and dynamic record that sounds just as brilliant now as it did when I first heard it two decades ago.

Meanwhile in the album chart, The Fall's 'Cerebral Caustic' enters at 67. Certainly not one of their best albums, although 'The Joke', 'Don't Call Me Darling' and a few other tracks provide stand out moments. Meanwhile, Tricky is at number 13 after releasing the superb 'Maxinquaye', which entered at number 3 a week earlier, and Leftfield's seminal 'Leftism' is at number 35, spending its 5th week on the chart. PJ Harvey's 'To Bring You My Love' enters this week's chart at number 12.

Back next week, or maybe the week after.