Tuesday 31 December 2019

The rest of 2019

One last post from me until... well, whenever I can be arsed, really. Don't hold your breath. I want to round things off with a list of other records I've really enjoyed this year, plus a few other things that have either excited me or left me a little disappointed. Oh, and I'm not going to mention the 'B' word...

Music-wise, there has been so much good stuff this year - far too much to write about - so here's my best of the rest (in no particular order). Some bleddy good records in here and I'm sure I've still missed some blinders out. Click the album sleeve to sample a track, especially the Karen O & Danger Mouse one, where you will see THE live TV performance of the year! (There's also a Bowie cover in here too, but I'm not telling you where...)

Karen O & Danger Mouse
'Lux Prima'
Jade Bird
'Jade Bird'
Imperial Wax
'Gastwerks Saboteurs'
Feet  'What's Inside
Is More Than Just Ham'
'Love & Evol'
'Future Ruins'
The Murder Capital
'When I Have Fears'
Sloan Peterson
'Midnight Love vol. 2'
'Into Red'
'Giants Of All Sizes'
'A Picture Of Good Health'
Sunn O)))
'Life Metal'
Foals  'Everything Not
Saved' (pts. 1&2)
Bob Mould
'Sunshine Rock'
'This Is Not A Safe Place'
Du Blonde
'Lung Bread For Daddy'
'Spiritual Instinct'
Yak  'Pursuit Of Momentary Happiness' Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky 'Droneflower'
'Silver Tongues'
The Hold Steady
'Thrashing Thru The Passion'
The Y Axes
'No Waves'
'Deep Dark Creep Love'
'Leaving Meaning'

Extra credit:
A few cracking singles that have also tickled my fancy...

beabadoobee - I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus
She's only 19, has blue hair and has been building a large online following, mostly among angst-ridden, lovesick teenagers. But let's face it, any 19-year-old who wishes she was the frontman of Pavement is certainly deserving of respect from old farts like me! Watch out for Bea in 2020 - it could be her year.

Jade Imagine - The News
MrsRobster likes this one - gets right stuck in her head it does.

Lizzo - Juice
No arguments here, OK? This is the best damn pop song of the year, if not the decade! Ya-ya-ee!

And this...
She Drew the Gun - Trouble Every Day
...is the cover version of the year, for sure.

Must do better:

Pixies 'Beneath The Eyrie'
I've already mentioned how disappointed I was with the new Pixies record, especially after I'd pre-ordered the deluxe vinyl box set on the strength of the really rather good single On Graveyard Hill. Most of the other songs on it sound like they were reclaimed from Frank Black's solo years. At least the box set (which is rather lovely, actually) included a second LP of unreleased songs from the sessions, which for the most part is better than the album itself.
Best track: On Graveyard Hill by a country mile.

Hatchie 'Keepsake'
Hatchie's debut release, the 'Sugar & Spice' EP, was undoubtedly one of last year's highlights. Expectation was high for her first full-length, which I pre-ordered on signed clear vinyl - but I'm left underwhelmed. It's just drenched in too many synths to allow the true nature of the songs to break through. There's a lot of anguish and darkness in those lyrics, but it all just sounds too light and fluffy.
Best track: Without A Blush - a really good chorus.

Weezer 'The Black Album'
What is going on with Weezer? They, too, have fallen prey to the 80s nostalgists who insist that synths take centre stage on every recording. What a poor record this is as a result.
Best track: High As A Kite, but even this is weak by Weezer's standards.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds 'Ghosteen'
Look, I know I'm risking a right pasting here, but I'm sorry - there's only so much grief-wallowing a guy who suffers from depression can take, especially when it's someone else's grief. I will always worship at the alter of Mr Cave, but I really do not need 'Ghosteen', no matter how beautiful the critics say it is. Apparently a new Grinderman album is in the works. That should wake me up.
Best track: Waiting For You. Devastatingly beautiful ballad like those he's renowned for.

And finally...

I'd like to finish off by remembering the late Mr Timothy Badger who left us all too soon in 2019. A man of great taste, wit and talent and a good friend to this blog. I dedicate this month's posts to his memory.

Right. My cave awaits. Thanks for humouring me this past month, it was nice seeing you all again, but I must retire once more. Have a good one, whatever it is.

Sunday 29 December 2019

Memories of 2019 gigs #6-7

Pom Poko
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - Friday, 25th October 2019
Support: Orchards

As I've already mentioned, 'Birthday', the debut album from quirky Norwegians Pom Poko, is one of my favourite records of the year. It's sublimely peculiar, yet irresistably catchy at the same time. The band have been making their name on the live circuit with a string of very well-received festival shows over the summer, so a show at a compact venue like the Clwb was definitely too good to resist.

It was a godawful night weather-wise - well the whole day had been miserable - so we left it late to brave the rain and make the trek into Cardiff. We arrived during support band Orchards' last song, which was a shame as they sounded really good. Would like to have seen more of them.

I hoped Pom Poko would bring some of their album's idiosyncracies to their live show as well as the energy and joy it exudes in great quantities. The myriad rhythms, time signatures and arrangements would be difficult for many bands to pull off onstage, yet Pom Poko do it effortlessly. So effortlessly in fact, you could be forgiven for thinking they mime along to the record - they sound so on point.

The set centred around said debut album, but also found room for a smattering of new songs and an early single or two. Singer Ragnhild bounced around the stage like Zebedee for the entire set, wearing a permanent grin as big as the band's backdrop - there was the energy, right there, in abundance. It's difficult to pinpoint where Pom Poko's sound comes from, though they do cite the likes of Ali Farka Touré and Death Grips among their influences so its little wonder there is such exhuberance.

Highlights included the cowbell-heavy Crazy Energy Nights, My Blood, Leg Day, It's A Trap, Follow The Lights and Day Tripper. And then there was this gem: "This is a song about milk," Ragnhild informed us as she introduced Milk Trust. "If you like milk, it's a good song for you. If you don't like milk, well it might still be a good song for you." A loud, Welsh-accented voice bellowed: "I'M LACTOSE INTOLERANT!" "Then you have no hope," replied guitarist Martin amid the laughter. You can always trust a loud Welshman to give good banter!

We were all done by 10pm, but blimey, what a great show. I stuck around to buy 'Birthday' on vinyl (which I had somehow neglected to do before then) and the band duly signed it. As well as one of my top albums, Pom Poko delivered one of my top gigs of the year too. Back outside, it hardly mattered that it was still raining - we'd had a bit of Norwegian sunshine to brighten our lives.

I found this full live set online and thought you should see it. It's from some German festival, possibly some industry thing, the setup is a bit weird. But Pom Poko's performance is superb.

New Model Army
Tramshed, Cardiff - Sunday, 17th November 2019
Support: The Secret Faces

Almost exactly three years to the day after we last caught New Model Army at the Tramshed, we were back there to see them again. Not a lot has changed in that period, socially or politically, so a chance to let off steam with one of the best protest acts around was more than welcome.

Support came from local act The Secret Faces, a very talented, tight bunch of musicians. Sadly, they didn't grab Our Mate Colin, MrsRobster or myself. They had too many slow and mid-tempo songs to set things alight. But as professional-sounding as a support band can get, that's for sure.

New Model Army have been at this sort of thing for 39 years now - next year is their 40th anniversary - so they really know what they're doing. They typically shy away from the hits and crowdpleasers in favour of more recent material. So it was a huge surprise when they came onstage and Justin hollered "There is no rest for the wicked ones / Dear god what is this evil that we've done?" as the set was launched with No Rest. A brave move for sure - how do you follow one of your most loved songs? Well, as I mentioned the last time I reviewed them, New Model Army could play anything, their fans would still go nuts.

Obviously, new album 'From Here' featured heavily: Never Arriving, The Weather, End Of Days, Where I Am, Great Disguise, Setting Sun and the brilliant Watch And Learn all got an airing, but there was more than a fair old smattering of older (if lesser-known) tracks too, spanning their four-decade career. States Radio, Believe It and Betcha were drafted in amongst classics like 51st State ("an old song that's back on the agenda" according to Justin Sullivan) and the ferocious Here Comes The War, one of my fave NMA songs. Also of note was Justin's mesmerising and spine-tingling solo rendering of Over The Wire.

Next year's 40th Anniversary tour will no doubt prove to be a real treat as "we may feel slightly obliged to play some songs people want to hear" - I'm holding out for Green And Grey, White Coats and I Love The World. That's not to take away from this explosive encounter with the Army in any way, mind - they remain as important as they always have. "Did you think we were born in peaceful times?" Justin (and the crowd) sang in Here Comes The War. We already know the answer to that one, but perhaps NMA wouldn't need to exist if there was nothing for them, or us, to stand up for. Silver linings, I suppose.

No quality footage from Cardiff, but here's my fave track from the new album played at a date earlier in the tour:

And if you want to hear a couple of classics, here's 51st State and Here Comes The War live in Leeds the night before Cardiff. A marvellously vocal crowd!

So that's rounded up all our live experiences of 2019. So far next year we have just the one show confirmed (Marika Hackman, since you ask), but I'm pretty sure there will be more. Nick Cave won't be one of them though - the ticket prices have put paid to that! 

One last post to come on NYE...

Thursday 26 December 2019

Class of 2019 [4]

A day late, sure - but it was Christmas Day yesterday! Does anyone read music blogs on Christmas Day??? Anyway, it's the final batch of these, but watch out for one more post choc-full of stuff on New Year's Eve.

Amanda Palmer - 'There Will Be No Intermission'
It took me a while to listen to this album. I mean reeeeally listen to it. To say it's an emotional rollercoaster is something of an understatement. There are songs on here that will make you angry, and songs that will make you cry, and songs that will make you think and songs that will make you reminisce and songs that will stop you dead in your tracks. Based around Amanda and her piano, this is an astonishing work, 78 minutes that sum up the world today and nearly every emotion you've ever experienced. Stunning.

The Futureheads - 'Powers'
One of those bands who kind of fizzled out, but came back in 2019 with not so much of a bang, more a sonic BOOM! The first Futureheads album for, oooh, too long is probably their best to date. Good Night Out quickly became a favourite of mine - a very fine track indeed. Shame the video is shite!

The Raconteurs - 'Help Us Stranger'
Yay! After a rather polarising solo album last year in which Jack White seemingly disappeared up his own backside, he kissed and made up with his old friends and reformed The Raconteurs. 'Help Us Stranger' was a great comeback, very possibly their best record yet in fact. This record is the reason why Jack should stop fannying around trying to impress hipsters and just make solid rock & roll! That said, the best track on the album has Brendan on vocals...

Yeasayer - 'Erotic Reruns'
You probably know I have a bit of an aversion to electronic music and electropop. But there are always exceptions to every rule, and once again, Yeasayer have proven it so. Their fifth (and as it turns out, sadly, their last) album is another chunk of brilliance, even if it is less than 30 minutes long. I'm not sure why they tick my boxes, but I'm a sucker for a good melody, and there's plenty of that. Ecstatic Baby is a tune that won't leave my head, but that's no bad thing.

Sunday 22 December 2019

Memories of 2019 gigs #5

Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff - Friday, 13th September 2019
Support: The Big Moon

I suppose it had to happen sometime. Pixies' seventh album 'Beneath The Eyrie' released this year is their first duff one. Its mid-tempo melancholy failed to ignite the spark that explodes in me when I listen to them. Such a disappointment. But Pixies in the live setting is an altogether different prospect. Some of the songs from their previous record 'Head Carrier' didn't come to life for me until I saw them on that tour. So there was hope.

Opening on this tour was London four-piece The Big Moon who were about to release their second album. They've gone more synth-based for this record, which is a shame, but they still exuded a lot of energy onstage, winning over an audience that grew throughout their set. Their first album 'Love In The Fourth Dimension' is well worth checking out. The new one might be too, but it's not out 'til the new year.

Pixies are known for trying new ideas for their live shows. On this tour, they emerge onto the stage with no set list. Instead, Black Francis has an extra mic into which he says the next song to be played. Fellow band members, sound desk and lighting crew pick up the instruction via earpieces and are expected to be ready. It's a neat idea, but it does mean there are pauses between many of the songs, not something you usually get at a Pixies gig. There was also one occasion when drummer David Lovering seemed to mis-hear a song title and started playing something entirely different to everyone else...

Kicking off with Where Is My Mind? and Here Comes Your Man, it seemed we were in for a set of unbridled classics, although one thing concerned me even at that early point - they're not exactly songs that gets a mosh pit going, are they? And that, sadly, set the scene for the night. A couple of new songs followed and any early optimism dwindled.

To be fair, the show took place on the same day of the new album's release so most of the songs hadn't been heard by the audience before. However, I had obtained a pre-release copy a week before so was getting familiar with it, and I have to say it was difficult to see how these songs would wow an energetic crowd wanting to let themselves go. My concerns were justified. When we got a Debaser or a U-Mass, we then got a Ready For Love or a Los Surfers Muertos. I mean, slower songs are OK - Pixies have always slowed down the tempo with songs like Ana and the 'surf version' of Wave Of Mutilation (both of which were present tonight) - but the audience has for the most part been very familiar with these songs, and you generally get something upbeat and raucous to follow. On this occasion though, things just went flat and rarely took off again, not to mention these new songs are not nearly as good or memorable.

OK, so when Paz did Gigantic, it went wild. Bone Machine, Gouge Away, Head On and the aforementioned Debaser all met with similar chaos. Even On Graveyard Hill from the new album, one of its rare upbeat numbers and one of the best things they've written since their comeback, was greeted with fervour (probably because, as the lead single, it had been out for a couple months prior). But just as things seemed to get going, they chucked in another mid-tempo plodder and the momentum was lost. The most ferocious the set got was the humongous blast of Rock Music, which was followed by... well, nothing initially. The band did their customary coming together at the front of the stage, bowed and left. Well, Paz and Joey left. Charles and Dave remained, had a chat, then ushered their bandmates back onstage. Paz looked amazed as she returned - Pixies don't do encores. Yet tonight, they were doing an encore! A single song, Hey (again, not a particularly fast one), and then they went for good.

I had vowed to dive into the moshpit once things got going, like I did the last time they played here, but instead I remained with MrsRobster throughout the show as I never felt excited enough to head down the front where there may have been an intermittent pit. You know how she can sum things up in just a few words? Afterwards she said: "It was weird, wasn't it?" And that is all you need to know.

Here's one of the new songs and an extraordinarily brilliant version of an old favourite, performed just two days before the Cardiff show...

Wednesday 18 December 2019

Class of 2019 [3]

Here's another four brilliant records I've listened to lots this year, once again illustrating what a quality year 2019 has been for music.

Pom Poko - 'Birthday'
Another of my favourite discoveries of the year is this Norwegian four-piece who made one of the debut albums of the decade. 'Birthday' is so choc-full of spiky, fun-fuelled art-punk tunes it's impossible to dislike it. They also use plenty of cowbell. I love a good cowbell...

Drenge - 'Strange Creatures'
Well, this was a shock. I mean, I've always liked Drenge - I saw them five years ago while they were still touring their debut album. But I didn't expect them to put out anything quite as good as 'Strange Creatures'. Some really good, strong tracks on this record, but the opener, Bonfire Of The City Boys, sounds like Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds circa 'Dig Lazarus Dig'. On steroids.

New Model Army - 'From Here'
Who'd have thought that New Model Army would be one of the most relevent acts of 2019? These are dark times we are living in, but who is writing the protest songs, the social commentary, the music we really need right now? Stormzy you say? Hmmm, OK, but what about guitar bands? Who? New Model Army, that's who. 'From Here' is a dark record reflecting how things are in the world. As such, it's not an easy record to get into initially, but persevere and you will be rewarded, trust me. Powerful stuff.

Stephen Hero - 'Deciduous Eccentric'
Patrick Fitzgerald has recorded under lots of different monikers over the years. He's been a member of Kitchens Of Distinction, Fruit, Lost Girls and Oskar's Drum. As Stephen Hero, he's put out five solo albums. Sadly, however, he's announced his latest is his last. He's not explained why, but when you consider the serious health problems he's been suffering over the past decade or so, it adds a real touch of sadness. Not least for me because I was a big fan of the Kitchens, and when I wrote this piece a few years back, Patrick himself commented on it on Twitter. 'Deciduous Eccentric' is a lovely farewell, delicately arranged for piano and strings, its songs were written from Patrick's personal memories. My favourite track Patient Here Myself is simply wonderful.

Sunday 15 December 2019

Memories of 2019 gigs #3-4

A couple of summer shows this week, including one where all the band members are well under the age of 40!

Goat Girl
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff - Wednesday, 26th June 2019
Support: Pet Grotesque, Teddy Hunter

Goat Girl's fuzzy psych-fuelled debut album was one of 2018's highlights for me. It's the sort of sound I've really been into of late, so a Cardiff show was more than welcome. We arrived early enough to catch both support acts. Teddy Hunter describes herself as a "Cardiff-based sound artist working in electronic music and soundscapes" and her music as "looped, ethereal vocals and a gentle fluxus of synthesized melodies". Which all sounds very lovely and all that, but it's not really my thing or MrsRobster's. However, she was infinitely better than what came next.

Pet Grotesque. Right, where do we start? After Teddy Hunter left the stage, she and her crew cleared up and another lone roadie set up for the next act. Except it turns out said roadie was the next act. A tape started, some neo-soul type muzak came through the PA and the guy - barefooted on a rug - took the mic and sang. Sort of. And then came the 'dancing' with every move and postulation over-exaggerated to the point of parody. It reminded me of Eddie Murphy as Randy Watson in Coming To America. The audience didn't seem to know how to take him either - some looking quizzically in a "is he taking the piss" kind of way, others filming and taking photos, giving ironic-sounding cheers after each song. Undoubtedly one of the weirdest half-hours I've ever experienced. "Thanks very much Cardiff," he said at the culmination of his set. "I'll see you again... sooner than you think."

And it was. Goat Girl took to the stage with an extra member on keyboards - it was Pet Grotesque man! Yes, he's a touring member of Goat Girl too. It's a much better role. Goat Girl more than lived up to expectations. Most of said debut was aired (though sadly not Little Liar) along with a couple new ones. While the studio environment clearly suits their sound and allows them to explore some weird and wonderful effects, Goat Girl seem equally happy in the live setting. More raw, for sure, but excellent nonetheless. And let's face it - songs like The Man, Cracker Drool and Viper Fish would probably sound great if you hid all the band's instruments and gave them some tin cans and a stick instead.

With any luck there'll be some new stuff coming soon. Just as long as they don't go down a dodgy soul route inspired by their keyboard player.

Real lack of good sounding live footage out there, and this clip from their Glastonbury set doesn't really do them justice, but it is what it is.

Tramshed, Cardiff - Friday, 23rd August 2019
Support: Novacub

Like The Coral, I've been following Ash since their early days, yet still never seen them live. They are, also like The Coral, without a doubt one of the best singles bands of the past 20 years. Let's not forget they released an unbelievably brilliant compilation album in 2002 when the oldest band members were still only 25! They've continued in a similar vein ever since.

We arrived shortly after support band Novacub took to the stage. This lot have only released a handful of songs to date (at the time of writing) and feature two members of Bloc Party. First impressions suggest they could be worth keeping an eye on with pretty much every song they played being significantly better than everything on the last Bloc Party record. Mind you, that's not saying much...

Ash were touring in support of a box set of seven-inch singles documenting their a-sides between 1994 and 2004. So a hits-filled set was in order. Sure enough, they were all trotted out, one after the other - Goldfinger, Shining Light, Orpheus, Angel Interceptor - along with a smattering of songs from the most recent album, last year's 'Islands' - including Annabel, All That I Have Left and the searing, potty-mouthed Buzzkill.

Not for the first time, the Tramshed's sound struggled a bit, but in general Ash transcended the limitations of being a three-piece. The Tramshed was rammed, the gig originally having been scheduled for the tiny Globe, but moved due to demand. It proved to be a wise decision. There were almost minor earth tremors when Kung Fu and Girl From Mars were blasted out, but closing song Burn Baby Burn, perhaps predictably, blew the roof off.

The mix of ages in the audience suggests that Ash are still relevant, and let's face it, with songs of this quality, it's unlikely there will ever be a time when it's uncool to listen to them.

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Class of 2019 [2]

Here's another batch of vinyl I purchased this year. As has been the trend in recent years, most of the best new stuff has come from female artists. I had a discussion recently in my local independent record store Diverse with a member of the legendary Goldie Lookin' Chain (he works there). We ran off a list of female and female-fronted acts we've enjoyed albums by this year and he agreed the boys are lagging behind somewhat.

Last week I listed Stella Donnelly and Aldous Harding as two of my fave records of 2019. Here's a few more ladies who make the cut.

Cate Le Bon - 'Reward'
Without a doubt one of the best records to come out of Wales this year and it proved (if it ever needed proving) that Cate Le Bon is one of this proud nation's finest musicians. 'Reward' is another combination of psych and offbeat Welsh quirkiness along with some cracking songs. This amazing video for Home To You was shot in Bratislava, Slovakia. I don't know about you, but I'd love to hear that community orchestra's version in full...

Pip Blom - 'Boat'
From Wales to Holland. I remember introducing our good friend Brian to Pip Blom last year when I reviewed her support slot with the Breeders. I do hope he went out and bought 'Boat', Pip's debut album. It's really rather wonderful - old-school indie pop of the very highest order. Ruby is such a good song, isn't it?

Marika Hackman - 'Any Human Friend'
What a record this is. 'Any Human Friend' is Marika's boldest album to date. And boy does she do it in style. To be honest, even if The One was the only decent song on it (which it isn't, btw) I'd probably still love it. This song is so good because 1) it sounds like Heart Of Glass; 2) it's really rude and sweary; and 3) IT JUST IS, OK? Kick ass video too. As she herself puts it: "For all you attention whores and big-headed beauties, here is a song from the depths of my extraordinary ego."

Mattiel - 'Satis Factory'
As I write this, I cannot believe how good this year's albums have been. I'd be so hard pressed to name a top 5, there would be too many contenders. Mattiel's brilliant 'Satis Factory' would almost certainly be in with a huge shout. I love her glistening retro vibe, and her second album is drenched with it. I did think it would be difficult for her to top Count Your Blessings, but then she released Keep The Change. A stunning tune. The only flaw with the album is that its version of this song omits the backing vocals which I think are divine. But don't let that put you off.

Wow! Not sure how next week's tunes can match these, but we'll see...

Sunday 8 December 2019

Memories of 2019 gigs #1-2

You probably won't have noticed, but the one thing I have been doing during my extended hiatus is working on my gig list and keeping it up-to-date. It's been a strange year for shows really. There haven't been as many as in recent years, they've all been in Cardiff and most of them have been for, what you might call, 'bands of a certain vintage'.

I know some of you used to enjoy my gig reviews, so I'm devoting Sundays this month to my live experiences of 2019, starting with these:

The Coral
Tramshed - Thursday, 14th March 2019
Support: Cut Glass Kings, Marvin Powell

I said once before on this blog - I fucking love the Coral. But, somewhat bizarrely, I had never seen them live before this year. Can you believe that? Shocking. So I was excited for this one. Both support acts are signed to the Coral's own label, though we arrived too late for opener Marvin Powell. We walked in to a gargantuan noise in the form of Cut Glass Kings, a two-piece in the mould of Black Keys and Royal Blood. And that's pretty much what they sounded like, to be honest. Some good tunes too.

My anticipation of seeing the Coral might well have led to disappointment. They are one of the most consistently brilliant singles bands of the past 20 years, and most of their albums are top notch too - 2016's 'The Distance Inbetween' being the highlight IMO. Such a solid back catalogue should lead to a cracking live set, shouldn't it? Thankfully, there was no disappointment. What a good band The Coral are live. Forget that the set was rammed with classics, crowdpleasers and all the best of the recent material - this was one of the tightest, best-sounding shows I've been to in recent years.

I often point out highlights in my reviews, but that would be impossible in this case. I've taken the liberty of including the setlist below so you can see what they played. If you're a Coral fan you'll probably wet yourself.

Sweet Release, Chasing the Tail of a Dream, Something Inside of Me, Outside My Window, She’s a Runaway, Jacqueline, Pass It On, Bill McCai, In the Morning, Holy Revelation, Miss Fortune, In the Rain, 1000 Years, Reaching Out for a Friend, Eyes Like Pearls, Heart Full of Soul (Yardbirds cover), Stormbreaker. Encore: Goodbye, Dreaming of You.

Here's a sublime, beautifully rich rendition of Eyes Like Pearls. Stunning!

The Wedding Present
Tramshed - Thursday, 2nd May 2019
Support: The Flatmates

Yeah yeah, another year, another Wedding Present gig. Nothing to see here? Well, maybe, maybe not, but think about this - and prepare yourselves... this was the tour to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the band's second album 'Bizarro'. Let that sink in a moment - THIRTY YEARS since the release of 'Bizarro'. If that depresses you, I suggest you go and give the record a spin at high volume. It'll make you feel better.

As if that isn't enough to make you feel old, the re-emergence of fellow C86-ers The Flatmates surely must evoke some distant memories in some of you. There was bound to have been some murmurs of "Now this is what you call music, not like the crap you hear today..." etc from certain members of the audience. To be fair, I never really got into the Flatmates - this was a time when I was in flux between being in school having crap music taste to going to college and discovering the Wedding Present, so I guess they flew under my radar first time around. They did only release five singles at the tail end of the 80s so that's understandable I suppose. But there were still plenty of knowing smiles in the crowd when Happy All The Time was aired.

The boy Gedge has tweaked the Wedding Present line-up yet again, but drummer Charles Layton is revealed as being the longest-serving member of the band bar Gedge himself, having been a constant fixture behind the kit for a whole decade now. However, I'm not sure how old the female members of this line-up would have been when 'Bizarro' came out...

Of course, all songs from that record were played in order, although they were interspersed with choice cuts from the Wedding Present's vast back catalogue - some obvious, but many not so (I mean, when was the last time they opened with two b-sides like Dan Dare and Nothing Comes Easy?). But that's the beauty of a Wedding Present gig nowadays, you always know what you're going to get, while never really knowing what you're going to get

While performance-wise this wasn't one of the best Weddoes shows I've been to, it was still a Wedding Present show, so hugely enjoyable.

Very little decent live footage from 2019 online, but I found this from a show in Sweden later in the tour. I'm sure it won't disappoint...

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Class of 2019 [1]

Off we go then. To start off, here's a taste of what's to come this month - a few of my very fave records of 2019. I've been buying plenty of vinyl ("Too bleddy much!" ~ MrsRobster) and here's a few that have graced the turntable more than a few times...

Fontaines D.C. - 'Dogrel'
If you haven't become intimately acquainted with Dublin's finest this year, then really, where have you been? I hate to say I told you so and all that, but I did big them up last year when I saw them support Shame. Although, I did get their nationality wrong... oops! Anyway, I could play Boys In The Better Land on a constant loop 24/7 for a month and still not tire of it! The debut album 'Dogrel' is an absolute blast - but then, if you have any sense, you'll know that already, right? My album of the year...

And running a very, very close second...

Stella Donnelly - 'Beware of The Dogs'
Another debut and another stunner, although in a very different way. Stella Donnelly has the most gorgeous voice, so sweet it can melt even the hardest of hearts. But beneath the surface, it's clear Stella has scores to settle, as some of the songs on 'Beware Of The Dogs' reveal. One of my biggest disappointments of 2019 is not getting tickets for Stella's show in Cardiff - it sold out super quick! Lunch is one of my top three songs of the year - simply wonderful. Oh, and you'd be right in detecting the Australian tinge in her voice (she's lived there since early childhood), though Stella is actually one of our own - she was born in the (Old) South Wales town of Morriston. There's a really nice full-band version of Lunch here, but I actually prefer this captivating stripped down version:

Le Butcherettes - 'bi/MENTAL'
You know I love Le Butcherettes, don't you. Five albums in now for the Mexican maestroes, and I reckon this is their masterpiece - no doubt their best set of songs to date. Teri is still gloriously bonkers too which adds to the appeal. give/UP is my fave track, but there isn't a duff one on there if I'm honest. There's a new EP due in February so keep your eyes and ears open for that.

Aldous Harding - 'Designer'
Talking of bonkers... New Zealand's Aldous Harding flew under my radar until she released The Barrel this year. Intrigued, I bought her third album 'Designer' and now I can't get enough. Very understated her music may be, but there aren't many singer-songwriters out there with as much startlingly original talent as her around. In this video, she makes Teri of Le Butcherettes seem shy, reserved and rather conservative... Nowadays she lives in Cardiff (yay!) with local legend Huw Evans, who you may know as H. Hawkline.

That'll do for now. See you at the weekend for some gigs.

Sunday 1 December 2019

December Will Be Magic Again (or the slight return of ITTL?)

...and from out of the darkness, it returned...

Don't get too excited. I'm not back for long. I just have a few things I want to say and then I'll be on my way again. I have to be honest, in my year off from blogging, I haven't missed it one jot. I've actually found it quite liberating not having to think about it, which merely confirms that letting it lay dormant was absolutely the right thing to do. It had become a chore, not something I enjoyed. That also goes for not visiting or commenting on other blogs (though I have secretly dropped in on one of two of them in that time).

So what's prompted a revival of ITtL? Well, there has been some amazing music this year and I wanted to share with you what I've been listening to. I've been preparing some pieces since the autumn as I didn't think I could be arsed to sit down and trot them all out in a week. It also means I don't put pressure on myself and end up hating writing. It also doesn't matter if no one reads it - I'm doing this for me, simply to satisfy an urge, nothing more. But hey, if you are reading, do say hello in the comments. I actually missed you guys.

So I've therefore decided that twice a week up to the New Year I'll share some music and thoughts with you - the music I've been listening to, the records I've bought, the gigs I've been to and one or two other things I think of as I go. After that, I'll probably crawl back under my comfy little rock and hibernate again.

So by way of announcing my underwhelming comeback, I thought I'd post another one... Sleeper released 'The Modern Age', their first record since 1997's 'Pleased To Meet You' this year. It was everything I expected of a Sleeper album: two or three decent songs and quite a bit of below average filler. That pretty much sums up their career. This was by far the highlight of the thing - the comeback single Look At You Now. Nowt different for them but a good choon nonetheless.

I have better stuff lined up, I promise...