Friday, 9 December 2016

50 albums to take to my grave #47-50

Tough. That's how this series has been. Many people would struggle to name 50 albums they've ever heard, but when you've been listening to music obsessively for nigh-on four decades, it's hard to set yourself a strict limit of records you'd take with you to your grave, particularly when you factor in other self-imposed rules (one LP per artist, mustn't overlap with songs in the other list, etc...)

My 50 songs series was the same, and if I revisit these lists in 5-10 years, I'm sure there would be a few changes. But they are what they are. This list has to end now, but I still struggled to decide what to include and what to leave out. You see, there are plenty of 'proper' albums I could include, but there are some acts whose music I really want to take with me but I just can't narrow down to one album over another. One reason is that with some artists, I'm most likely to play a compilation of singles over any particular album.

This might be seen as a bit of a cop out to some, but I'm going to conclude this series with four 'best of' compilations. I make no apologies for that. I kind of have a bit of a problem with it myself though, in that no 'best of' comp is ever going to be perfect. Truth be told, I generally compile my own so I get what I want. But the rule I'm setting myself here is they must all be commercially-available compilations. Box sets and special editions are not permitted either.

#47: 'The Singles' - Inspiral Carpets
Put simply, Inspiral Carpets were one of the best and most consistent singles bands of the 90s. Even their new stuff is decent, but there's not a bad track on this. Their albums got progressively better, but their singles remained top notch throughout, even if little ever topped This Is How It Feels for me (though there's probably a reason for that...)

#48: 'Best Of' - The House Of Love
This is a particularly good collection as it includes album tracks as well as singles. OK, so it's missing the really early singles (Real Animal and the original Shine On) as well as anything from the final pre-split album 'Audience Of The Mind', but it covers pretty much everything there is to love about the House Of Love, including Destroy The Heart. Especially Destroy The Heart!

#49: 'Great Expectations: The Singles Collection' - New Model Army
'Thunder And Consolation' so very nearly made it onto the list, but I decided it would mean leaving too many other great tunes behind (like No Rest and Here Comes The War), so I plumped for this US-only set instead which covers material from 1983-2000. OK, so the recent stuff is missing, but there hasn't been an update. A shame, as the most recent three NMA albums have been excellent.

#50: 'The Singles 86>98' - Depeche Mode
This was so nearly The Coral 'Singles Collection', but I opted for Depeche Mode in the end as there is a distinct lack of electronic music on this list and it would satisfy any craving I have. This period of 'The Mode' is easily my favourite. The early stuff is too 80s synthy for my liking, as good as the songs are. Some of their recent stuff is decent, but from 'Black Celebration' to 'Songs Of Faith And Devotion' they were pretty much flawless, certainly from a singles perspective, at least.

So that's it, another series complete. At last! Thanks for humouring me.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

World Tour

l-r: Yung; The Good, The Bad; Agnes Obel; Pale Honey
Week 14 - The Nordic Countries (part one)

No problems finding music from this part of the world. Yep, we're in northern Europe - Scandinavia to be precise. Well, I think so. You see, what exactly constitutes Scandinavia? Officially it's just Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Ah, but what of Finland, you ask? Or Iceland? That's what I used to think, but apparently... oh look, it's complicated. Wiki explains it quite well. Anyway, that's why I've termed this part of our trip 'The Nordic Countries' to ensure accuracy.

I should also point out that Iceland is not a destination this time around - I have something lined up for 2017 which will take us there regularly. Oh, and Greenland was featured a couple weeks back. Right, so where were we? Ah yes, leaving Germany. It takes 5½ hours to drive from Münster to our next destination, Denmark's second-biggest city Aarhus. Denmark is home to the Raveonettes, one of my very favourite bands. They're perhaps a little too well-known to feature in this series. I have found a couple lesser-known acts for you though. Yung  are very highly-rated by SWC, who called Nobody Cares from 2015's 'Alter' EP "probably the finest thing released last year." They released their third full-length album back in June called 'A Youthful Dream' which is also very good. A Stain is the closing track on 'Alter', and is superb, while Pills is a highlight from the current album.

Now, Denmark consists of the peninsula of Jutland (the bit attached to the European mainland at the border with Germany) and an archipelago of 443 islands. The largest of these islands, Zealand, is where we will find the Danish capital Copenhagen. We can actually take a train there as there are two bridges and a tunnel that cross the Storebælt Strait, and it'll take less than three hours.

The Good The Bad "hail from a nuclear bunker in Copenhagen", or so they claim. Their sound is best described as 60s garage-surf with a bit of, erm, adult titillation thrown in for good measure. The video for 030 is so saucy, you have to log in and verify your age on You Tube to see it! As this is a family blog (*ahem*) I'm not posting it here, but if you want to watch it, here's a link. Be warned, it's totally NSFW! In the meantime, here's an alternative from their second album, 2009's 'From 018-033'.

As you may have gathered, all their songs are numbered rather than titled. They are currently working on their fourth album which will probably begin with a song called 051. How do I know that? Well, their third album was called 'From 034-050' and featured songs numbered from 034 to 050. See what they did there? So here's a rather good song from that one.

While we're in Copenhagen, I want to introduce you to Agnes Obel, a quite wonderful artist who treads a wire between pop, folk and classical genres most delightfully. She released her third album just a few weeks ago. Here's a track from it, followed by an MP3 of one of her earlier tunes.

Another train, another bridge. This one is really famous, too. Linking Copenhagen in Denmark to the city of Malmö in Sweden is the Øresund Bridge. It is the longest combined rail and road bridge in Europe and was the setting for the hit drama series The Bridge. It is also the bridge inferred in the Manic Street Preachers track Take Me To The Bridge. Now, it doesn't get us all the way to Sweden on its own; the first third of the 12km journey is by under-sea tunnel to the Danish island of Amager where we pick up the bridge. Once we get to the other side, our journey continues north up Sweden's west coast.

Anyway - as you know Sweden is one of the world's most musically rich nations. In fact, it is the third biggest music exporter in the world (after the US and the UK). Some of my fave bands come from Sweden - First Aid Kit, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, The Wannadies to name but three. I'll probably feature the country in more detail at a later point, but for now, I thought I should at least pay a flying visit if only to catch Pale Honey.

Here are a couple of young ladies from Gothenburg who made one of the best debut albums of last year, and apparently they have some new stuff to hurl at us. I say hurl because they're not going to do it gently! The first track to emerge from the new record is called Real Thing, and the spooky video seems to be inspired by Stranger Things which I haven't got around to watching yet, but will do so once I've got through all six series of House... So here's that vid, plus a track from that brilliant self-titled debut.

More Nordic excursions next week.

Monday, 5 December 2016

New Order Covered part 3

The final trio of New Order covers brings together two artists beloved of John Peel and one who I'm sure would be if he were still with us. The Boo Radleys were championed in their early days by Peel, and in their third Peel Session in 1991, they recorded a fuzzy, feedback-fuelled version of True Faith, almost as if the Jesus And Mary Chain were doing it.

Peel made no secret of his love for Laura Cantrell, even calling her debut album 'Not The Tremblin' Kind' "my favourite record of the last ten years and possibly my life." Here, she takes on the part of the ghost soldier in Love Vigilantes, one of my favourite New Order songs. There have been quite a few decent versions of this over the years, my favourite being the version put out by the Oyster Band as a single. But Laura's take on it is far from shabby.

Wussy were formed in Cincinnati in 2001 and put their first record out in 2005, a year after John Peel passed away. I think he would have approved of them. Earlier this year, they put out a cover of New Order's debut single Ceremony as a limited edition 7" for Record Store Day. It's fairly faithful to the original, but well worthy of a listen.


Friday, 2 December 2016

50 albums to take to my grave #46: Station To Station

This piece is pretty much directly lifted from my series of critical reappraisals of Bowie's discography last year, when he was *sob* still with us...

(first published 24 April 2015)

On his tenth album, Bowie and his cohorts adopted an experimental approach to the recording process. There are a lot of sounds on 'Station To Station' and there is a clear pointer towards the motorik style of the Berlin trilogy. Elsewhere, the funk feel of 'Young Americans' is still evident - on Golden Years and Stay, in particular.

As a whole though, 'Station To Station' is sensational. There may only be six tracks, but each one is of as high a quality as Bowie had produced to date and would produce in the future. The title track, which opens the record, is a 10-minute epic that criss-crosses Bowie's recent history and his near-future. There's a bit of funk in there, some glam rock and a bit of the Krautrock experimentation that would serve him well to the end of the decade. It's a real headphones track, especially during the first half.

It's clear that Golden Years was the first track written for the album. It wouldn't have been out of place on 'Young Americans'; TVC 15 was a somewhat strange inclusion musically - the album's most obviously pop moment - but lyrically it was in keeping with the dark undertones of the other tracks, based on a hallucination that Iggy Pop had in which he saw his girlfriend being eaten by the TV set. The darkness and almost surreal nature of the songs can undoubtedly be aligned to Bowie's chronic cocaine use at the time, but like so many such situations in rock music history, the dark times often result in some of an artist's finest work.

Word On A Wing was written during the making of the movie 'The Man Who Fell To Earth', a time of "psychological terror", according to Bowie. It was his protection against some of the things happening to him at the time. It's a beautiful song, one of the best ballads of his career. But the very best is saved 'til last. Bowie's take on Wild Is The Wind still rates as one of his greatest moments of all. His vocal is phenomenal and the track as a whole is a thing of awe and wonder.

Bowie may have been going through a rather turbulent and disturbing period in his life, but by playing it out on record, he produced a masterpiece. 'Station To Station' is my fave Bowie album because of its depth and candidness. The Thin White Duke - Bowie's newest persona - may have been, in his own words, "a nasty character indeed", but as the muse through which this record was created, he was an extraordinary, and welcome, addition to the Bowie cast.


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

World Tour

l-r: Ania, Manon Meurt, Fabian, Messer
Week 13: Central Europe

Mainland Europe is fairly easy to get around, so we're driving north out of Kosovo, through Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia to Poland where the wonderful Ania Dąbrowska resides. Her hometown is Chełm, in the south east of the country, a city that once belonged to Imperial Russia. Ania (as she is credited on her records) was featured a couple of times on my old blog. She finished 8th in a series of Idol (Poland's version of Pop Idol) in 2002 and has gone on to have four number one albums in her homeland. However, she isn't like your average talent show wannabe pop star - Ania sounds like a sort of cross between Saint Etienne and Stereolab, a real retro-European vibe.

Here's a track from her second album 'Kilka Historii Na Ten Sam Temat' from 2006, followed by a truly brilliant video for her version of Nancy Sinatra's Bang Bang from her album of songs from movies. Reckon her bright yellow dress is a reference to THAT outfit worn by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill?

Driving west, we eventually leave Poland and enter the Czech Republic. West of the capital Prague is Rakovnik, an unremarkable town other than the fact that it is the hometown of Manon Meurt. This lot play lovely ethereal shoegaze and seem to be getting a bit of a following. They completed a successful European tour back in October, and their debut EP - initially only released in their own country in 2014 - was recently picked up by Label Obscura in Canada and given a worldwide release. Here's a track from said EP.

Next, we're going north to Germany. It's a mere three-hour drive to the city of Leipzig, once one of East Germany's most important cities. It also has a rich musical heritage. Richard Wagner was born there, and the likes of JS Bach, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Mahler all lived and worked there.

These days, Leipzig is known for its independent music scene and is home to a number of indie labels and small music venues. It also hosts Wave-Gotik-Treffen, the world's largest Goth festival, and is the hometown of Fabian, a young post-punk band fronted by the wonderfully-named Vitiko Schell. They have so far released an EP and an album - both self-titled - and you're getting a track from each. Dark and a little bit frightening - just like this sort of thing should be.

I want to stay in Germany for a little while. I went there more than 30 years ago to visit family friends. I loved it; I remember buying lots of records. Besides, I want to visit a couple of German buddies. I believe Walter lives in or near Stuttgart in the south west and I think I owe him a beer or two for the fine music he's introduced me to over the past few years. And then there's the one and only Dirk. I'm not sure where he lives, but I'm sure I'll track him down. I'll just follow the sound of classic punk and new wave music and the uproarious laughter that he seems to bring out in others - one of the funniest people on the internet, he can only be more fun in the flesh.

Then we're off to Münster in the north west, a city that claims to be the bicycle capital of Germany. It is also where Tanita Tikaram was born. Now, I mentioned that Walter has introduced me to lots of great music. One of the bands he featured earlier this year is Messer. Now I have to say I was already aware of this band and they were always going to feature here, but it shows what a purveyor of good taste he is.

Messer make a splendid post-punk noise from a similar mould to Eagulls, although their new single Die Hölle is something more Krautrock-sounding, verging on Kraftwerk territory, even. Their third album is about to be set free (might be out by now....). However, I've gone for a couple of songs from their previous releases.

This track is from the 'Kachelbad' EP which was released back in the summer.

I was tempted to take in Austria, but Walter has featured some excellent bands from that country over the past several months so he's pretty much got that covered. Therefore, we continue north next week as we venture into Scandinavia.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Memories of 2016 gigs #9 & #10

#9: New Model Army
Tramshed, Cardiff - 18 November 2016
Support: Mad Dog McCrea

I'd never seen New Model Army live before. This baffles me. More than 30 years into their career, they are still churning out some great stuff, their most recent offerings being as strong and absorbing as anything they've done. What exactly keeps them going? And more to the point, what keeps them so relevant? Having now broken my duck and seen them live, it's as clear as the nose on my face.

One of their secret weapons is their fanbase. Many of the people at the Tramshed were probably there right at the start in the early 80s as NMA emerged from the post-punk and New Wave wasteland, crossing politically-charged punk rock with folk music as Thatcher's evil empire took hold. There were a lot of angry souls back then, and there are many angry souls now. More than half the audience looked exactly as I imagined more than half the audience would look like - they'd survived the dark times once and were now raging once more - older and wiser, but as angry as ever.

My politically-active years were the early 90s when I caught on to the sort of bands New Model Army undoubtedly influenced. Which is probably why the support band didn't do much for me. Mad Dog McCrea can be best described as a Levellers-lite pub band. Sorry, but I'd seen it, done it, bought the t-shirt, got bored and left that party more than 20 years ago. Nothing new, nothing interesting.

The Tramshed recently celebrated its first anniversary. "Nice place," observed Justin Sullivan. "Bit new though; be better in 25 years. We'll still be around." It has been a good year for the venue, but I doubt it had seen a better show than the one that was about to take place, for New Model Army were simply outstanding. The set was not what I expected, comprising mostly of new and recent material. There were a few predictable cries from the audience for No Rest (which ultimately went unheeded), and one shout of "Play some old stuff!" But if I'm being honest, I can't fault what was played. I love NMA's recent albums and their new stuff has an angry almost tribal feel to it. In fact the drums dominate the sound, with the bass player doubling up as a second drummer in places. The performance was superb, the energy and dynamism on stage undoubtedly fuelling that of the crowd, and Justin's voice is as strong and growly as it ever was.

There were highlights a-plenty, but among my faves were Part The Waters, Die Trying and Eyes Get Used To The Darkness from the current album 'Winter'; Stormclouds from 2013's 'Between Dog And Wolf', and the oldies Wonderful Way To Go, 51st State and Poison Street. The ardent fans seemed to appreciate the old songs, but they hollered the new ones with as much abandon as the classics. This is another reason why New Model Army keep doing what they do; their fans allow them - nay, demand of them - to stay fresh. No greatest hits cabaret circuit for this lot, and for that they must be applauded. Not even the first encore yielded a nostalgia-fest, though we were rewarded in a second encore (which is in itself something I haven't known a band do for quite some time).

Before the band came back on for one final showing, the strains of the violin were heard. The guest violinist walked on, playing solo, followed shortly afterwards by Justin who picked up a guitar and played along. The pair meandered around the stage duetting, constantly looking at each other before the familiar strains of Vagabonds broke out. The pair of them played the first verses and choruses together before the rest of the band joined in, with THREE of them playing drums in an uproarious rendition of the long-time crowd pleaser. And when it seemed that it couldn't get any better, they closed with I Love The World, one of my favourite NMA songs. As Justin sang "You blind yourselves with comfort lies like lightning never strikes you twice / And we laugh at your amazed surprise as the Ark begins to sink," you realise exactly why New Model Army remain so relevant. If ever two lines sum up the state of the world right now, it's those words right there. I, and pretty much everyone else in attendance, bellowed "Oh god I love the world, I love the world, I love the world, I love the world," as much in defiance as despair.

It was bloody hot and the sweat was dripping from me at the end of the night, which made walking out into the freezing (yes, actually freezing) November night more than tolerable. All three of us (Our Mate Colin, MrsRobster and I) reckoned this was the best gig of the year so far. Sure, we've got some pretty big shows coming up in December, but the bar has been set incredibly high.

MrsRobster's verdict: "I nearly texted my boss to tell her 'That's it, I quit! I'm going on tour following New Model Army!'" And that, ladies and gentlemen, is probably the most fervently enthusiastic response I've ever heard from her!


Here's Justin Sullivan performing Die Trying, a song about the plight of the Calais Jungle refugees from the latest album:

#10: Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls
Great Hall, Cardiff University - 26 November 1016
Support: Felix Hagan & the Family, Esmé Patterson

This was TheMadster's birthday present. I bought her two tickets and asked who she would be taking with her. She seemed puzzled at the question. "You, of course," she replied. There can't be many 19-year-old girls who actually want to go to a gig with their dad. I should be proud and honoured. Except that she knows I'd probably end up driving us there, buying the drinks and shelling out 25-quid for a t-shirt!

Anyway, we watched American singer-songwriter Esmé Patterson from the back which wasn't the best idea because the sound was terrible back there. Perhaps unfair to judge her on that. We moved forward a bit for the next act, the exuberant Felix Hagan & the Family. Now, how can I describe this lot? Kind of like the Scissor Sisters with some glam rock mixed in. Cornier than a ripe cornfield. Camper than Carry on Camping. Really not my thing at all, and I suspect someone else wasn't taken by them - before the first song was over, a fire alarm went off! The sound cut out and the lights came on. After a five minute delay, they came back on and finished their set, but this was another first for me.

Pic by TheMadster
The one thing you can say about Frank Turner's audiences is they are LOUD! So loud, I couldn't actually hear him for the first two songs! His fans are rabid, singing every song word-for-word as loudly as they can. Now, I'm not blown away by much of his music and have grown a little weary of him of late. But the one thing I cannot deny is the guy knows how to work a crowd, and he makes sure he involves them at every opportunity. At tonight's show, he pitched one side of the audience against the other, every so often telling us which side was best. To decide it once and for all, he pulled a girl from the middle (or Switzerland, as he called it), and had her crowd surf to a guy in one corner, then across to a guy in the other corner, then back on stage where she had to judge which side was best. (It was our side, by the way.)

In the encore, Frank ordered a circle pit for a massive mosh (Madster went straight in!) and a Wall of Hugs, a nicer version of the death metal Wall of Death in which instead of charging at each other, we were instructed to hug a stranger. Yeah, a bit gimmicky and cringey for an anti-social old fart like me, but someone thought I was worth it as he grabbed me from behind, squeezed me and moved on to the next person.

By far the best track of the night for me was a solo acoustic rendition of Josephine, proving there's only so far you can go with shouty raucous anthems. Frank finished off by crowdsurfing himself while singing Five Simple Words. A heck of a showman, for sure. I'd like him to do something a bit different for his next album though.

TheMadster's verdict: "These hands have been blessed." Yep, she copped a feel of Frank's leg as he surfed the crowd. And: "I got stamped on a lot." She said this with a smile on her face, which is such a great thing for a dad!


Friday, 25 November 2016

50 albums to take to my grave #45: Dry

So this is the reason I expunged Sheela-Na-Gig from my list of 50 songs to take to my grave. One of my self-imposed rules was that I couldn't have an album that included one of the 50 songs. Makes sense I suppose. As the 50 albums series continued, I realised I just can't be without PJ Harvey's sensational debut, so a swift edit to the 50 songs list had to be made.

I actually wrote about 'Dry' when I did my PJ Harvey albums series last December, so this piece is basically that same one (with minor tweaks).

(originally published December 2015)

Having played with bands in and around her south-west home (The Family Cat, Automatic Dlamini, Grape), Polly Harvey had never had an outlet for her own material. With a bunch of songs ready to go, she formed her own power-trio and branded them with her own name, figuring that whatever happens in the future she could always take the name with her. And so it was that PJ Harvey the band went into a studio in Yeovil in the latter half of 1991.

Harvey has said of the resulting album: "[It was] the first chance I ever had to make a record and I thought it would be my last. So, I put everything I had into it. It felt very extreme for that reason." She wasn't joking. 'Dry' is phenomenal in its ferocity. It's raw and sparse, yet it's so unashamedly in your face your first impression is sheer terror. Listening to 'Dry' more than 20 years later, it still strikes me as one of the most intense records I've ever heard. Yet it's so honest, also. Other than the use of some cello, violin and double-bass, there are very little adornments to the guitar-bass-drums-vocals setup. Those embellishments are essential though. Dress stands out for the way that bowed double-bass and Polly's violin dance demonically throughout. The almost discordant strings on Plant And Rags sound as menacing as Harvey's lyrics: "The sun doesn't shine down here / In shadows."

Sheela-Na-Gig is arguably one of the best singles released in the 1990s. It sits right in the middle of the whole thing, taking us to a peak rarely surpassed by anyone. But it's the beginning and the end that sets the pulses racing. Oh My Lover wastes no time at all presenting Harvey as not-your-average wannabe pop star: "Oh my lover / Don't you know it's alright / You can love her / You can love me at the same time." O Stella deals with religious iconography, the Stella of the title being Stella Maris (aka: the Virgin Mary). Her devotion is expressed in an outpouring of fuzzy guitar and screams of "Gold / No! No!" while in Dress, she becomes "a fallen woman in a dancing costume."

Then, to conclude, Water builds like a storm before the final strains of Harvey and Rob Ellis yelling "Waaaa-teerrrrrr!" can be heard. It ends. The dam is fit to burst. If Harvey really did make this record as if it were her last, she certainly ended it sounding like there was unfinished business. This particular listener was left wanting more.

The acclaim heaped on 'Dry' since its release is fully deserved, yet still feels woefully inadequate. It is one of the most tense and emotional albums you'll ever hear, and the fact it is the work of a 22-year-old Dorset girl makes it even more startling. I had never met any woman close to my age who could make my hairs stand on end like Polly Harvey could. Words just can't cut it; 'Dry' is an experience you simply have to live through to get it.


Video for Sheela-Na-Gig:

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

World Tour

l-r: Fine, It's Pink; Lower Cut; The Glasses
Week 12: Southeastern Europe

We're driving a long way today. We're leaving southeast Ukraine heading west, crossing into, through and out of Moldova and, just a short distance over the border we reach the historical Romanian city of Iași, in the heart of the former region of Moldavia. The city was burned to the ground three times - THREE TIMES! - by invaders between 1513 and 1686.

Nowadays it is an important economical hub with health care, education, tourism, technology and culture among its core sectors. In fact, Iași has long been feted as one of the leading centres of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life. So it makes sense that we should stop off here and look for our next act. And I've found them, a band with perhaps the most intriguing name of our tour so far - Fine, It's Pink.

Ambient electropop? Dream pop? Post-indie? All adjectives that Fine, It's Pink have scattered about their Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages. They do remind me of several things, but nothing I can quite put my finger on. I suppose that's a positive as they clearly have something different about them. They've self-released two or three singles as well as last year's 'Young Burns' EP which features the track Kids. Also, here's a video of the band performing a live cover of Landfill by London folkies Daughter.

Trying another new file host that looks clean and friendly. Feedback appreciated as always...

Back in the car we go, and we're southbound, through Romania, through Bulgaria and into Greece. Right down in the south, where it's by far the warmest place we've been for quite some time, we arrive in the capital Athens, the second city of that name we've visited. But this one's been around for some considerable amount of time longer.

I've found a band from Athens I'm quite excited about. Lower Cut have released two EPs (that you can grab for free from their Bandcamp page) and an excellent debut album. That latter release came out in 2014, but this year they returned with a rollicking new single. Among the descriptive tags on their Bandcamp page are 'dream rock' and 'postgaze'. Make of that what you will, but I strongly recommend you listen to these songs. The video is for the recent single, the MP3 is a highlight from the album.

We finish this week's leg in a country that is only partially-recognised as an independent state, a place that has seen its fair share of troubles in recent years. Kosovo is still claimed by Serbia, and many countries support this claim. Nonetheless, it has its own flag, its own parliament, its own president and, since 2015, its own official national football team. Kosovo is about half the size of Wales, making it one of the world's smallest nations. It is also one of Europe's poorest with high unemployment, still not having fully recovered from the war in 1998-99.

The music scene is Kosovo is small and there aren't many venues for bands to play. However, there are rock bands and one of them takes inspiration from some of the biggest bands in Britain. The Glasses cite the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Arctic Monkeys among their main influences, as well as Jack White, The Strokes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. On first listen, I definitely heard early Arctic Monkeys in them, but there are other things creeping into their sound.

Here's a couple of tracks from their debut album.

Central Europe beckons. Dirk and Walter are awaiting our arrival. Get the kettle on, chaps.

Monday, 21 November 2016

New Order Covered, part 2

'Power, Corruption And Lies' is widely accepted as being New Order's best album. You can debate that as much as you like, but it was the one that probably made the band's biggest statement. The gloom of Joy Division was still evident, but on PC&L New Order decided that electronic was the way to go. The drum machine used was cutting edge at the time and the experimentation that came with learning to use it resulted in Blue Monday being written.

You know of my love for Buffalo Tom, so little point in banging on about it. In 2011 they put out an acoustic EP which featured their take on PC&L's opener Age Of Consent. The original is one of my favourite New Order tracks. As much as I love BT and, in particular Bill Janovitz's voice, I'm not sure they really do it justice here. It is a live take, mind, so that probably accounts for its roughness.

Destroyer, from Canada, are one of those bands I feel I really should know more about, but don't. I call them a band, but they're actually more of a conduit for the musical talents of Dan Bejar. This version of Leave Me Alone, PC&L's closing track, was recorded for Mojo magazine's 'Power, Corruption & Lies Covered' CD from 2012.

And finally, well how could I miss this one out? The Jolly Boys have been one of Jamaica's top folk bands for more than six decades. Some of their members are well into their 70s and 80s. The style of music they play is called mento, a form of folk music that heavily influenced ska and reggae. In 2010, The Jolly Boys released 'Great Expectation', a collection of covers including Passenger (Iggy Pop), Rehab (Amy Winehouse), Ring Of Fire (Johnny Cash) and New Order's Blue Monday. It's even more utterly brilliant than it sounds!

(Think I've found a file host that allows streaming of the file as well as download. Not as malware-laden as Zippyshare, with any luck. Let me know how well it works for you.)


Friday, 18 November 2016

"I kinda dig these awkward silences"

Here's a band who have a sound I really really like. To be honest, I've never actually followed The Hold Steady or know much about them. They just happen to be on my radar and I like what they do. While The Hold Steady don't do much on the way of choruses, they don't shy from a good song title - Charlemagne In Sweatpants, Chips Ahoy! and I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You being some of my favourites.

Coincidentally, this post ties in with the reissue of the Hold Steady's first two albums. Honestly, it is a concidence. Anyway, here's a handful of my fave tracks. The first one is from the band's second album 'Separation Sunday', released in 2005. The second one is from 2014's 'Teeth Dreams', and the video is a terrific live version of my favourite Hold Steady song, originally from 2007's 'Boys & Girls In America' album.