Monday, 18 September 2017

The Genius of Nick Cave

#26: Shivers

Now, the first thing to point out here is that Shivers was not actually written by Nick Cave. It was penned by Rowland S. Howard who brought it to Boys Next Door when he joined the band. The reason I'm including it in this series is because of Nick's vocal. My god, it's incredible, isn't it? This was released in 1979 when Nick was but a mere lad, yet it remains one of his greatest vocals. Shivers closed The Boys Next Door's debut LP 'Door Door', an album Nick once described as "complete wank." Certainly side one is the sound of a young band churning out basic three chord punk songs, but side two - recorded after Howard came on board - hinted at what would happen as they morphed into The Birthday Party.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Alvvays and forever...

Absolutely loving this new song by Alvvays. It's from their new album 'Antisocialites' and was apparently influenced by supporting the Jesus & Mary Chain. Which begs the question: if this is an ode to Jim, where's William's ode?

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Reggae Wednesday

You know, I might be labouring for material, but I feel like I could continue this series forever. After 20 instalments though, I think it's time for a break. After all, summer's technically over, even though the best sustained period of good weather we've had this year has been over the last three weeks. But I have to draw the line somewhere, and I think September has to be it.

To conclude things then, we get a London-born, Jamaican-raised singer with a track boasting a production by the legendary Harry J, an arrangement by last week's Reggae Wednesday stars Sly & Robbie and the writing genius of, erm, Sting. Well, let's be fair here, Sting was actually pretty good once upon a time.

Sheila Hylton released more than 25 singles between 1976 and 1983, but there was just the one, self-titled album in 1979. Its follow-up 'Steppin' arrived some 27 years later in 2006 and since then - nowt. She enjoyed a UK Top 40 hit in 1981 with a cover of The Police's Bed's Too Big Without You. It doesn't deviate too much from the original, keeping Sting's distinctive bassline and the minimal instrumentation. This is the original full-length 12" version.

And as a special bonus, here she is performing the song on Top Of The Pops back in 1981:

Monday, 4 September 2017

Memories of 2017 gigs #7

Wolf Alice
The Muni Arts Centre, Pontypridd - 21 August 2017
Support: Head Noise

Wolf Alice? At a small local arts centre in the Welsh valleys? Nope, I didn't dream it. Wolf Alice really are playing some tiny venues you've probably never heard of in the lead up to the release of the second album in September. The last time I saw them was in the tiny Cardiff venue The Globe just before they released their debut. Since then they've been all over the place playing to huge crowds around the world, doing TV and radio and have generally been adored. They've already sold out some of their larger-venue tour in October so the chance to see them again in a small space was just too much to resist. Tickets were scarce (only 200 available) and quite difficult to get but I snapped up three - one each for MrsRobster and I and one for TheMadster as the show was taking place on her 20th birthday! Two of my colleagues Neil and Pete were there too.

The Muni was saved from closure by a consortium of investors and reopened in its current form as a charitable concern in 2015. That's a good thing as it is a really nice little space, ideally suited to gigs. It was our first visit, but Neil regaled the tale about tagging along with a friend who had a free ticket to a show there once. Neil was too embarrassed at first to reveal who he'd seen, but later confessed to it being "the singer from Dr Hook." So not even Dr Hook then, just the singer...

Local bands have been given the opportunity to support during this tour and tonight was the turn of Head Noise from Cardiff. Here are three young guys who soooo desperately wish it was the 80s. The singer in particular looked like he should have been in The Goonies. He even played a bloody keytar. Sadly, they didn't do it for any of us. Maybe the excitement of the occasion was too much, maybe they had too much fizzy pop before going onstage, but they sounded shambolic and untogether. Their recordings sound a little better (even if it's not my thing at all - I never much cared for 80s synthy stuff in the 80s, I sure as hell don't like most of the 21st century derivatives) so perhaps you're better off listening to some of them over at their Bandcamp page than take my word for it. However, their attempt at covering the Chemical Brothers' Hey Boy, Hey Girl (with a verse of Get Free by the Vines woven in) was absolutely woeful. I cannot give them any benefit of any doubt whatsoever for that one!

For the record though - I LOVED The Goonies. Like, who didn't?

Wolf Alice kicked off with a new track - Don't Delete The Kisses - followed by a couple of old familiar ones before launching into the raucous (and somewhat hilariously-titled) Yuk Foo, the lead single from the new album. And that set the tone for the night really - a set of crowd pleasers interspersed with new songs, some of which hadn't been heard yet. My personal highlights were You're A Germ, Moaning Lisa Smile and Yuk Foo.

pic by TheMadster
But here's the rub - Wolf Alice are an exceptional band. They have some really good songs and make some great sounds, and live they can certainly kick into another gear and ratchet things up a level. Yet neither of the times I've seen them have they made me go 'wow'. They've not blown me away, and I think they're the kind of band who ought to. I can't explain it - and I'm certain most of the (admittedly very young) audience there were completely blown away - but I still yearn for that moment even 29 years after my very first live show. And it still does happen now and again, just not this time.

But this show does have its significance. Wolf Alice came on stage at 9:30pm. Exactly 20 years earlier at that exact time, TheMadster came onto life's great stage in the maternity unit at North Devon District Hospital. MrsRobster summed up the moment. "I just thought as they came on stage that this was the moment you dreamed of 20 years ago," she told me. "That she'd be at a gig with us and say 'I'm going in the mosh pit'." It wasn't Madster's first gig, and it wasn't even her first mosh pit, but MrsRobster (as usual) is so right. For that alone, this show will stay long in my memory.

And TheMadster herself? Well, following a day dragging her boyfriend round the shops (during which she picked up Wolf Alice's first record on vinyl), she drank vodka, joined the sweaty masses in the pit, took some photos and bought a t-shirt. Sounds like a pretty damn good birthday to me!

Friday, 1 September 2017

No Plan

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, the blog is becoming a bit of a chore right now. That said, I don't want to end it as it does act as something of a release for the (very limited) creative side in me. It does mean, however, that I'm going to make it less regimented. You'll probably find a decrease in the number of posts I make here and fewer series. I want to be more sporadic and only post when I have something to say, rather than feel I have to continue a series until I reach a certain number of posts.

Well, that's the plan - for now, anyway. So some weeks I may post three or four things, other weeks may yield nothing. The plan is no plan. Well if it's OK with Mr Bowie it's OK by me...

This song was written by Bowie for the Lazarus musical where it is performed by teenager Sophia Anne Caruso in her role as 'Girl'. She made her debut in the part aged just 14! The full cast recording was made shortly after her 15th birthday. OK, so it's a little bit stage-school in its delivery, but theatre is supposed to be different to rock & roll, isn't it.

Couple of things to come next week so stay tuned for that...