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!

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

"How long 'til we take responsibility?"

Another brilliant new release is the debut album (proper) by madcap Mancunians Cabbage. I think it may have been Swiss Adam who brought their name to my attention two or three years ago. Shortly after I caught them supporting Yak in front of a few dozen people at a tiny Cardiff venue. They were chaotic, exhuberant and a little bit weird - all very good things. Since then, they've released a clutch of EPs and singles and been touted as one of the most exciting new bands in Britain. They're certainly one of the most confrontational, socially-aware and political bands around, in a time where most artists sing about nothing in particular while the country's being ripped apart by Tories, white nationalists and an agenda-ridden media.

Arms Of Pleonexia is a song that's getting stuck in my head quite a bit, but the whole album (entitled 'Nihilistic Glamour Shots') is definitely worth a listen if you like something a little more hard-hitting and challenging than bearded blokes with acoustic guitars and synths. I should at this point say that some people (bearded blokes with acoustic guitars and synths, perhaps?) may find this video a little disturbing. Diddums...

Sadly, in answer to the question the band poses, I fear if "we" ever will...

Friday, 6 April 2018

"You're the man for me..."

Goat Girl's self-titled debut album is released today. It has 19 songs on it yet still barely reaches the 40-minute mark. My fave track of theirs (that I've heard so far) is The Man, a devastatingly simple, yet absolutely cracking rock 'n' roll tune with a brilliant Hard Day's Night pastiche video. This record will be soundtracking my commute quite a bit in the coming weeks methinks...

Sunday, 1 April 2018

A song for... April

It's April Fool's Day. No tricks, jokes or high jinks here. I'm not clever or witty enough to pull it off. Instead, a song by an artist who has had quite a profound effect on me over the years. Patti Smith's debut album 'Horses' is one of the greatest albums of all time and she remains a huge influence on many musicians, male and female. She's 71 now and still going strong, recording, performing, writing and making all manner of art. Today's aptly-titled track is from her 2012 album 'Banga', one of her most highly-accaimed records in decades.

Monday, 19 March 2018

The hidden world of R.E.M. #25

The final instalment? Hmm, maybe. For now, anyway. Depends on demand and right now there doesn't appear to be very much of it.

In 2004, 'Around The Sun' was released. This was R.E.M. at their absolute nadir. Even the band decried it as a poor record some years later. Peter Buck called it "unlistenable... It sounds like what it is - a bunch of people that are so bored with the material, they can't stand it anymore." This, however, did not mean R.E.M. were no longer an exciting live band. On the contrary, it was during the subsequent tour in 2005 that the band's first official live album was recorded. Perhaps another hint at their lack of creativity around this time was that record's title: 'Live'. Wow.

In the summer of 2005, R.E.M. were one of the headliner's at the 20th anniversary of Germany's biggest rock festival Rock am Ring in Nürburg. The set is very different from that eventually released on 'Live' (which was recorded in Dublin some four months earlier). The Outsiders featured on 'Around The Sun' and is pretty typical of the rest of the album in that it's a mid-tempo plodder that is largely forgettable. It did, however, feature a turn from rapper Q-Tip (of A Tribe Called Quest fame). This was not the first time R.E.M. had roped in assistance from the hip hop community - KRS-One appeared on the execrable Radio Song on 'Out Of Time'. Is The Outsiders a better song than that? Hmm, maybe, and this live take certainly beats the crap out of the studio version. Out go those awfully dull keyboards and, in their place, a lovely swampy guitar sound. Stipe does the rap himself.

Animal was one of two new songs that appeared on a greatest hits album called 'In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003' the autumn before 'Around The Sun' came out. It's a rather gnarly minor-key rocker that I actually rather like. Considering it came between the double-travesty of 'Reveal' and 'Around The Sun' it stands out as one of their best songs of the era. Live it sounds even rockier, shorn of some of the electronic pizzazz that graced the studio version.

It's worth mentioning that while 'Live' was R.E.M.'s first official live album, 1996's 'New Adventures in Hi-Fi', their last record with Bill Berry, was largely recorded live during soundchecks and concerts. I think 'New Adventures' was the first R.E.M. record to suffer from excess length, but that aside, I've always really liked it. Michael Stipe rates it as his favourite R.E.M. album, and Mike Mills thinks it's their third best, with only 'Murmur' and 'Automatic For The People' above it. My favourite track from 'New Adventures In Hi-Fi' was, and still is, Leave. It's a bit of an epic and the longest song the band ever recorded. For whatever reason, it was hardly ever played live. The album version consists of an instrumental version played during a soundcheck with Stipe's vocal added later in the studio. Stipe sang snippets of the song acapella a few times during the 'Up' tour in 1999, but it wasn't until 2005 that Leave finally made it into the band's live set, aired about 18 times in all. Then it was never played again. It didn't make it onto 'Live' so unless you have a bootleg of one of those shows, you'll never have heard it. Until now! Here they are performing Leave in Germany. A cracking rendition only slightly marred in parts by Bill Rieflin's over-enthusiastic drumming.

And on that note, I'm going to Leave it at that (arf!). I haven't decided if I'm going to continue this series any further, though it's unlikely to be honest. If I do, it'll be a while. Don't hold your breath.

Friday, 16 March 2018

What's the Deal, Kim? #2

Two very contrasing songs today. Kim Deal has written some extraordinary songs in her career. She pretty much defines the entire alternative rock movement, in both sound and attitude. By attitude, I mean her total independence, her don't-give-a-fuck-about-hit-records belief. She's stayed true to herself. That doesn't mean it's all been about crunchy guitars and feedback. She has written some absolutely beautiful songs too, ones that many balladeers would give arms and legs for.

A few years ago, shortly before Kim reformed the 'Last Splash'-era Breeders, she released a series of lo-fi 7" singles. One of them was the most touching song in her entire catalogue. Are You Mine? is about her mother. She suffers from alzheimers. It affects her memory and often greets her children with the question "Are you mine?" Jeez, I never thought a Kim Deal song would bring tears to the eyes, but this one...

How do you follow that? Well, you can't. So here's a song about having sex with a man with a very large penis. This was the first song Kim wrote for Pixies. Despite being my favourite band and therefore immune from any criticism whatsoever, I can't help but think Kim should have been allowed to contribute more. Gigantic remains one of the band's best known songs. Apple remade the song for one of their ad campaigns a few years ago. I cannot believe they didn't bother to find out what the song was about! I've always thought Apple and the people who buy their overpriced products were all utter cocks though, so maybe it's appropriate...

This was recorded in Holland in 1988. Someone in the You Tube comments section wrote: "Sweaty 1980s Kim Deal - ah, they don't make them like her any more." How right you are!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

What's the Deal, Kim?

The new Breeders album 'All Nerve' is AMAZING! Seriously. It's rather dark and brooding, more like their debut 'Pod' than 'Last Splash'. It takes two or three listens to really 'get' some of the tracks, but once you're fully immersed in its greatness you float in a sea of awesome. Yeah, I'm a fanboy, but anyone who doesn't agree with me that Kim Deal is the coolest fucking person on the planet is just wrong and doesn't deserve to have ears. In fact, Kim and Kelley are the coolest twins on the planet.

Here's proof. Two songs from the new album performed live on French TV. Exquisite, certainly. Josephine Wiggs oozes understated coolness at stage right, and Jim MacPherson looks not unlike Guy Garvey. Imagine, Guy Garvey playing drums. For the Breeders.

My copy of 'All Nerve' on orange vinyl is my new prized and favourite possession. In July, a week before my birthday, we're off to see The Breeders at their sold out show in Bristol. I'll probably post a few more Kim-related things before then. I was thinking of doing a Genius of Kim Deal series, but I've vowed not to commit myself to series any more (other than the R.E.M. one which may draw to a close soon), so I'll just stick to some random posts.

In the meantime, here's a great clip from 1993 around the release of 'Last Splash'. Not only do the band play live, but Conan O'Brien interviews them too, which is something he rarely ever did with the bands on his show. Kelley's string breaks during the performance which fucks things up somewhat - even Kim misses her part, but both keep smiling. Then afterwards, Josephine jumps on Conan and gives him a "hickey" (UK trans: lovebite).

Monday, 12 March 2018

The hidden world of R.E.M. #24

This week we return to Utrecht in 1987 and the other two missing cover versions from the show that was issued officially as part of the 25th Anniversary edition of 'Document'. If you remember, the band played four covers during the set, but these were omitted from the 'Document' discs. They did, however, include three songs I never had on my bootleg, entitled 'A Bucketful Of Worksongs'.  famvid, who commented on my original post - and who claims to have been at the show itself, mentioned these three songs were not broadcast on Dutch radio which is probably why they were missing from my bootleg. So combining these official and unofficial sources I now have the complete show!

The final pieces of the jigsaw come from my bootleg. Strange, as you all know, featured on 'Document' and was a version of the early song by Wire, featuring on their seminal debut album 'Pink Flag'. Here Stipe refrains from delivering his full sneering vocal as on the album, opting instead for something more casual, almost spoken rather than sung.

Funtime is the Iggy Pop song. R.E.M. later recorded it in the studio and released it as the b-side to Get Up in the States. The song was played extensively the previous year on the Pageantry Tour, but only about half a dozen times on the Work Tour, just the once during the Green Tour in 1989 and twice in 1992 before retiring it from the set for good. Here, it sounds as if Stipe is reluctant to end the song, forcing his bandmates to play on for a final verse despite them thinking they'd finished!

Finally, you may well be aware that for the final encore, Stipe and Buck performed alone. They did achingly beautiful versions of Time After Time and So. Central Rain. As a segue between the two, Stipe sang a snippet of Peter Gabriel's Red Rain. The full three-song medley appeared on the b-side of Finest Worksong as Time After Time Etc. [live], but the 'Document' reissue only included the latter of the three tracks. So if you have said 'Document' anniversary edition and want the complete show (and providing you grabbed the two songs I posted back here), here's what you need to do:

Drop Superman between Fall On Me and Just A Touch; place Strange and Funtime either side of Disturbance At The Heron House - that's the first encore sorted; Harpers begins the second encore (so that goes just before Moral Kiosk); and finally insert Time After Time/Red Rain (which I'm including here as a bonus for completion's sake) immediately before So. Central Rain. Got that?