Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Memories of 2018 gigs #2

Glee Club, Cardiff - 11th June 2018

I have vague memories of seeing Belly at Glastonbury one year, possibly ’92 or ’93. They also opened the bill for R.E.M. in Cardiff in ’95 but we got there too late to see them. Twenty-odd years on then, going to see Belly live is like seeing them for the first time, yet at the same time reassuringly familiar. Part of the new experience feeling is down to the venue. The Glee Club is normally a comedy club but they do host occasional music events. It’s located in Cardiff Bay which, bearing in mind the glorious, hot weather we’ve been having, is an idyllic setting for visitors to our capital. It was mine and MrsRobster’s first time at the Glee, but Our Mate Colin (who was joining us) had previously been there to see The Pierces a couple years back.

Belly’s comeback was most welcome. They broke up prematurely after just two albums. Tanya Donelly has gone on to make some more than decent solo material in the two decades since, but I always thought her band had unfinished business. So it proved with this year’s comeback record ‘Dove’, one of my fave albums of 2018 so far.

No support band tonight, instead Tanya, Gail, Tom and Chris played two sets. Sadly, the first set was beset with sound issues – not enough guitars in the monitors, Tanya’s earpiece wasn’t working, too much bass here, not enough drums there... All rather tedious, and to my ears, never fully resolved throughout the night. But the mood was lightened by Gail Greenwood’s relentless banter, even if she did sometimes sound like a hyperactive teenager. My spirits were also lifted by the sight of Tanya’s smile! At the risk of upsetting a certain MrsRobster, I would just like to say how gorgeous Tanya looks. Talk about aging well, she’s barely changed since her Throwing Muses days.

Anyway, before I get a blunt object launched at my head, better talk about the music. As you might expect, there was a fair proportion of new material in the set, with varying degrees of success. Human Child, one of my favourite tracks on ‘Dove’, was stunning, as was Starryeyed which closed the first set. Army of Clay and Faceless also stood out, but Stars Align and Shiny One both suffered from the rather poor sound.

As you might expect though, the oldies received the biggest cheers of the evening. Super-Connected (from second album ‘King’) opened the night, and we were subsequently treated to welcome airings of Gepetto, Feed The Tree, Dusted and Slow Dog (possibly my personal favourite Tanya song ever). There were rumours that an old friend was in the audience – Brian Futter, formerly of Catherine Wheel (now there’s a band who I’d love to reform for a few shows. I’d definitely buy a ticket!). They dedicated Red and Low Red Moon to “the ginger motherfucker” (as he’s so delicately dubbed by drummer Chris). There was also room for an old b-side, fan favourite Superman, during the encore.

While the sound remained a bit iffy throughout, this was a fun little gathering. The songs rose above the technical issues to shine on their own, a point that raises the old question: why the heck weren’t Belly absolutely massive? Their critical acclaim has grown steadily over the past 2½ decades in their absence, yet they remain criminally underrated. I’m not expecting Belly to take over the world this time around either, but all the same, it’s good to have them back with us. Hopefully they’ll stick around for a bit and make another record.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Totally wired

Wire's first three albums have been reissued. Again. This time there are vinyl versions. If I'm being totally honest, I'm not a big fan of '154'. There are a few really good tracks on it, but it doesn't hold me like the first two records. Now I'm not going to go on about what huge influences Wire were to so many bands that came after them - you can still hear that for yourselves. Neither am I going to use the word 'seminal' like it has become de riguer to do whenever someone mentions these albums. I am, however, going to draw your attention to one particular track that seems to get overlooked.

French Film Blurred appears on 'Chairs Missing' and, to me, could quite easily appear unaltered on one of Blur's later LPs and you wouldn't notice the difference. The hint is there in the song title for starters. Go on - try dropping it randomly somewhere in '13' and see what I mean.

The new 'Special Editions' of 'Pink Flag', 'Chairs Missing' and '154' come with a batch of extras, including numerous demo session recordings. There are two demos of French Film Blurred, both from different sessions and both completely different to each other. The first is a straight-out punk blast lasting little more than a minute. The second is much more akin to the finished album version, only less polished and with a rather abrupt ending.

I would like to dedicate this post to our mate Brian, a wonderful fella who very kindly sent me a vinyl copy of Kate Bush's 'The Dreaming' all the way from the States. Seems he found it while perusing the wares at Crossroads in Portland. Dunno whether this was just before or after his encounter with the lady with the Postcard Cat tattoo... I really hope I can repay him someday soon. What a top bloke!

Friday, 1 June 2018

A song for... June

Today is a special day. It's our Wedding Anniversary. Fourteen years ago today, MrsRobster finally made an honest man of me. Sort of. To be fair, she'd pretty much done that over the previous 8½ years, but this just made it legal. She bemoans the fact that I didn't marry her sooner as "it'd be a good anniversary by now." By that, she means that had we married sooner, we'd have better gifts this year than we actually do. Each year of marriage represents something different, apparently. One year is paper, two years is cotton, etc. Interestingly, 27 years is music. Blimey, we've been celebrating that one for more than two decades already...

Anyway, this year (according to the modern list) is gold jewellery. She's happy about that. Now MrsRobster is absolutely not a materialistic person, quite the opposite. But the prospect of gold jewellery does bring a smile to her face. I should point out though that we've never actually bought each other gifts that conform to this daft system, so she shouldn't get too excited. I might buy her a cake. Knowing her the way I do, that would be far better received than some silly gold earrings or the like!

Anyway - this month's song comes from one of the very first recordings made by Smashing Pumpkins. Bye June was cut in 1989 and originally featured on the 'Moon' demo. A couple of years later, that same version was included on the 'Lull' EP following the release of the band's debut album 'Gish'. It's a simple acoustic track which belied their more recognisable aggressive alt-rock sound, but I quite like it.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Drip drip drip drip drip drip drip drip...

When MrsRobster works on a Saturday, I do the housework. How very modern of me. Once the vacuuming is done, I stick a record on to help me through the rest of it. Saturday is vinyl day, see. This past weekend, for some reason, I wanted to listen to something old that I haven't heard in a while. I chose the first Cure album 'Three Imaginary Boys'. Don't know why, but who needs a reason? It was like listening to something new - I haven't heard most of those songs for so long.  I can't pretend to have bought this when it came out - I was barely 8-years-old. I recall picking it up when I worked in Our Price. I spotted it in a pile of marked-down stock and grabbed it then. It was probably a mid-price reissue rather than an original, but it did have the illustrated insert. I also realised that I had noted down the tracklist on a piece of Our Price notepaper, being that the album itself doesn't contain any song names whatsoever. Instead we get a rather pretentious set of pictures and symbols to 'inform' us of the songs. Such nonsense.

Of course, 10:15 Saturday Night remains the record's best known track for good reason, but this one went down really well during my cleaning sesh:

Here's two very different demos of the aforementioned classic for good measure. Both vary distincltly from the final album version, but the early Robert Smith solo demo is barely recognisable.

Then on Sunday, MrsRobster and I prepared fajitas for ourselves, TheMadster and TheEmster, her other 'alf. Our soundtrack was my compilation of every Cure single, though of course we didn't get through the whole lot. "I forget how much I like The Cure until I listen to them again," she told me. I've already told you that Pictures Of You is our song, but I've also long been a big fan of A Forest, a proper gloomy goth classic, worthy of being posted here in its full-length album form.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

A song for... May

This could have been Month of May by Arcade Fire, but in the end the temptation to post something by my beloved Raveonettes proved too strong to resist. The Rains Of May featured on their 'Pe'ahi' album which was my fave record of 2014. It's wonderfully fuzzy, woozy and retro, everything I love about the dynamic Danish duo. I love the way the song completely changes halfway through. But maybe that's just me.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

RSD: Feel it

Like many, I initially welcomed Record Store Day at its inception as I believed (and still do) that independent record shops are the lifeblood of the industry and should be supported. At the time, I wasn't buying vinyl as my purse strings were too tight. However, the fall out of the event annoyed me. The vulgar display of reselling at inflated prices on eBay by non-music fans riled me so much, I deliberately avoided Record Store Day every year from that point on. Until last year that is, when I so desperately wanted to pick up the beautiful triple-coloured-vinyl reissue of 'Copper Blue' by Sugar. I queued outside Spillers for a couple of hours and chatted with people the whole time. 'Twas a rather enjoyable experience.

This year, there was just one thing I saw that I thought would be nice to have but it wouldn't have broken my heart had I not got it. I didn't queue at all this year - couldn't be arsed. I didn't even go as far as Cardiff. Instead I just strolled into Newport to visit Diverse around lunchtime. By that point, the shop was very quiet, the rush having come and gone. Some muppets had been queuing from 4am in order to grab an overpriced rarity or two!

If I had a far less limited budget, I could go a bit crazier on RSD. Instead, I tend to restrict myself to a couple of items. This year, the only thing that really grabbed my attention was 'Feel', an exclusive EP of new material by Belly on 10" blue-spattered vinyl. Diverse, sadly, had sold out by the time I got there. No matter - I trotted off to Newport Market where Kriminal Records is located. I hadn't realised, but a record fair was being held there too and it was there I managed to grab a copy of 'Feel'.

I hadn't been to a record fair in years. Decades, in fact. Back in the day, I would have spent a fortune, but I'm much more disciplined these days and instead was just content to browse the wares on each stall. I'm still in the process of tracking down vinyl copies of my 50 albums to take to my grave, but the ones I have left to find are proving elusive. I figure if I'm going to find them, then a record fair is a pretty good place to start. Not this time though. I left with just my Belly 10" under my arm and headed for the barbers. Despite not bagging any more goodies, I was happy; that old feeling of flicking through crates of records, never knowing what you might come across, the occasional item bringing a nostalgic smile to my face - ah, you can't beat that.

I haven't checked eBay or anywhere like that to see what the mercenaries are flogging their purchases for - it'll only depress and anger me. At least RSD hasn't proven to be the hysterical free-for-all I imagined it to be.

Here's a track from the Belly EP that won't be on the forthcoming comeback album.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Korea Opportunities #2

Remember last month when I struggled to find a half-decent band from Korea to post for TheDoopster's birthday? I knew there had to be plenty of good bands over there, but they proved so elusive to me. Then last week, I discovered Say Sue Me, a band from Busan whose sound is reminiscent of classic British indie bands from the 80s and 90s. They've just released their second album 'Where We Were Together' and it's rather good. Here's my favourite track from it, one of their faster, more raucous numbers.

I also love closing track Coming To The End. It was one of the last tracks they recorded with their drummer Kang Semin who had a fall while making the record and ended up in a coma. He remains a member of the band, though his role is being taken on a temporary basis by stand-ins while he recovers. I've made an edit of Coming To The End as a sample for you - the album version is 7½ minutes long. If you want the full version, buy the album from their Bandcamp page, along with their brand new covers EP, released for Record Store Day.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Holy psych!

Blackwater Holylight is not a band name that trips of the tongue all that easily. It sounds like a doom metal band name too. This lot come from Portland, OR. and while there are musical infuences galore in their sound, you can't go far wrong if you wanted to just call them 'psych'. In fact, their record label describes them thus: "Heavy psych riffs, gothic drama, folk-rock vibes, garage-sludge and soaring melodies." Yup, there's a lot going on in there.

Their self-titled debut album has just come out and it's a bit of a treat. Think September Girls, only more spacey and ethereal. Here's some footage of them playing Babies, a track from the album, live. Loving this lots at the mo.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

"When your dinner isn't ready, I'm your uninvited guest."

After a somewhat slow start to the year in terms of good new music, things are really trickling through now. I was delighted this week to learn that there's a new Gruff Rhys album due in June. It's his fifth solo record and he's really gone to town on it. It features the 72-piece BBC National Orchestra Of Wales with each song scored by Swansea composer Stephen McNeff. Lead single Frontier Man still sounds like Gruff Rhys though, albeit a Gruff Rhys singing a classic orchestrated country tune. Lyrically he's on top form too.

I love Gruff. He should be given the title of Prince of Wales. No one ought to mind the Severn Crossing being renamed then...

Thursday, 12 April 2018

"Razors cut your grace!"

Le Butcherettes have signed to a metal label and put a new song out called spider/WAVES. As expected, the narrow-minded misogynists who subscribe to metal label channels on You Tube aren't thrilled. But fuck 'em. Le Butcherettes are one of the most exciting bands around right now, especially live. I'm absolutely loving this new song. Hanging out with the Melvins and At The Drive-In has clearly rubbed off on our Mexican amigos. And Teri Gender-Bender is as fantastically nuts as ever. If this is what the new album's going to be like, bring it on!