Thursday 21 June 2018

Talking Dreads

This is somewhat connected to Swiss Adam's superb review yesterday of David Byrne's recent performance in Leeds. The enticingly-named Mystic Bowie has been performing reggae since the late 80s. He has released just a handful of his own records, but has collaborated on many more. Since 1992, he has been a mainstay in Tom Tom Club.

Clearly his work with Chris Franz and Tina Weynouth has lead to his newest project Talking Dreads. It almost sounds too good to be true, but belive me, it is true - a reggae take on classic Talking Heads songs! Indeed, I've found my soundtrack to the summer. Burning Down The House is already set to go on several playlists, as is Slippery People. And Psycho Killer has to be heard to be believed. There are even guest appearances by Freddie McGregor and none other than Cindy Wilson of the B-52's.

Here's the rather brilliant version of Once In A Lifetime:

'Mystic Bowie's Talking Dreads' is out now.

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.