Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Before we was Fab...

After reading some ill informed drivel in a daily rag about how good Cliff Richard is and how it was a disgrace that he wasn’t being played on 60’s radio due to the fact that he was deemed ‘not cool’, I felt compelled to fight the corner of the radio station.

Firstly he isn’t cool, he never was. He was a diet coke Elvis but with none of the sexual aspects or raw hillbilly rebel swagger to his character that Elvis had in spades. He was for all intense purposes simply rock and roll for your Nan to tap her foot to. The idea that he was some full on heavy rock and roller like Gene Vincent or Elvis is laughable. Firstly he was backed by The Shadows, a group so un-hip and vacuous that they took boring to a new level. Many people might talk in hushed tones about Hank Marvin's guitar ability and his introduction and use of the fabled ‘Whammy Bar’ but the gentle shimmer he gave was nothing compared to the out and out sonic abuse Ike Turner was dishing out over the pond in the USA at the same time with the same tools.

The writer in question who spoke about ‘Move it’ being the best rock and roll record to come out of pre-Beatle Britain has obviously never listened to any of the following that blast it out of the water.

Here are just 5 pre-Beatles British Rock and Roll Records that I picked out from a handful that I would say argue my case…

Shakin’ All OverJohnny Kid & the Pirates
Johnny Remember MeJohn Leyton
Wondrous PlaceBilly Fury
No Other BabyThe Vipers
TelstarThe Tornados (the first UK record to reach #1 in US charts)

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


As with all BEST OF ALBUMS list you can be sure once the page has been turned and the advert from HMV SUPER SALE has been ignored there will then be the BEST TRACKS of 2011 they ever let you move and make your own minds up? Of course log into Spotify and find these slices of gold from the year formally known as twenty eleven...

On The Rebound - Dave Cloud & The Gospel of Power

I'll Let You Be My Baby - Agent Ribbons

The Stars Came Out Once The Lights Went Out - The Veils
A great track from a very average so-so EP by The Veils, a disgrace that this wasn't a massive hit.

re sledging - Screaming Maldini
Just for the out and out punk rock of putting a classical string arranged piece slap in the middle of an album full of indie rock. Pure beauty and criminally short.

Love - Rodeo Massacre
Woodstock nation, rise up...Rodeo Massacre seem like a group that were beamed from 1968 and literally have no interest in anything post Altamont. Grace Slick vocals over classic rock turned up to ten.

Whirring - The Joy Formidable

Shark Ridden Waters - Gruff Rhys

The Hellcat Spangled Sha-la-la-la - Arctic Monkeys
A great album and live track from the group. The sort of song Alex Turner casually knocks off in 20 minutes but that a group such as Viva Brother would spend their career trying to accomplish (and failing).

Suzanne And I - Anna Calvi

Piledriver Waltz - Alex Turner
I'm going to actually forbid myself from discussing 'Submarine' and it's soundtrack tracks, if you haven't got it by now then you never will...Like trying to explain 'The White Album' to a goldfish.

2012 is almost here...prepare thyself for flying cars, entire meals in pill form, teleportation and another handful of obituaries of great artist overlooked until the 2013 release of their posthumous anthologies...

Monday, 21 November 2011

awkward silence...

The hardest thing a writer has to face is the fact that there isn’t always something interesting to write about. You can always just churn pieces out ten at a time without breaking a sweat but after the first few pages you start to feel your own eyes glazing over in boredom, which strongly signals that if the writer responsible for the words that are appearing on the page are not even worthy to be read as they fall into creation then what are the chances that the poor soul unlucky enough to have stumbled on the article would possibly react any different?

I am currently in the middle ground, the writer’s purgatory just after questions have been submitted for interviews but also before deadlines are due, so work cannot be presented to the readership immediately. For the more keen eyed readers of my blog will see there have been some clues to future interviews and pieces scattered through previous write ups with only some actually coming into fruition fully (bleedin’ pre- Madonna rock stars and their wily ways) At this moment I currently have 1 write up awaiting a response and as the person is volatile (i.e. tantrum prone) to say the least I will leave it a few days before battering on his cyber door demanding some answers to my probing and probably rehashed questions that were presented.

Upcoming in the next month I also have the job of attending the Artrocker Awards to interview some of the winners, losers and those simply on a freebie locking for a few free drinks and free publicity. I will of course quote warmly and accurately.

In the mean time here are some spotify gems to help warm the cockles of your soul on this cold winters afternoon.

Her Eyes Are a Blue Million MilesCaptain Beefheart
Dinah (take 2)Thelonious Monk
Five YearsDavid Bowie
Soul SurvivorThe Rolling Stones
I Second That EmotionSmokey Robinson & the Miracles
Tell Me Something I Don’t KnowHerman Dune

p.s. I also have my BEST ALBUMS of 2011 going up DECEMBER 1ST.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


As 2011 rapidly draws to an end the world of music publications and websites all fight and struggle to get their reviews into the editors sweaty palm a month in advanced to make sure their opinions are taken into consideration over the other proles and hacks, in fact I’m sure all the ‘best of’ lists for 2011 are being typed up as we speak so it would only be fitting for my ego and drastic self grandiose style of writing to present my own personal fav’s.

I have been pretty lucky this year in the sense that I’ve been handed various music from a wide range of bands and artists to review and on the whole there have only been a few real stinkers (my impeccable manners stop me from mentioning such bands/artists i.e. Viva Brother.) Instead I was lucky enough to get albums from groups such as Arctic Monkeys as well as more left field artists such as the exquisite Agent Ribbons with their own brand of garage rock and pre war Berlin waltzes.

My top 10 of 2011 are as follows. I have attached links to my original reviews rather the rehash the same opinions. A dog never returns to his vomit after all…

10. Practice in the Milky WayDave Cloud & the Gospel of Power (Fire Records)
Original review:

09. Chateau CroneAgent Ribbons (Antenna Farm Records)
Original review:

08. What Did You Expect from the Vaccines?The Vaccines (Columbia Records)

07. Colour of the TrapMiles Kane (Columbia Records)

06. Rome - Danger Mouse/Daniele Luppi (Capitol Records)

05. Hotel ShampooGruff Rhys (Ovni Records)
Original review:

04. Suck It And SeeArctic Monkeys (Domino Records)
Original review:

03. If You Can’t Smoke Em’, Sell Em’Rodeo Massacre (Smoky Carrot Records)
Original review:

02. Submarine (original Soundtrack) – Alex Turner (Domino Records)
What is their left to say about this album that I haven’t already bored everyone to tears with already? Run out and get this immediately. Alex Turner is definitely hitting a peak with his song and lyric writing and this album is the proof that he is now at the head table with his own heroes and contemporaries and in fact all the initial hype that followed him around at the start is completely justified and in fact deserving.
Original review:

01. Anna CalviAnna Calvi (Domino Records)
Well, well it seems that the best album of the year is in fact one of the earliest ones to be released in 2011. I first saw Anna Calvi LIVE at London’s Borderline and hadn’t heard any of her material beforehand. There aren’t many original artists out there today (especially on the live circuit) and to behold one so complete and still only on her debut album is a real treat. Her sound is colossal and especially when you consider her line up is so minimal i.e. Drums, harmonium/various percussion and Anna and her guitar. I’ve seen bands with double the number of players on stage come over like a wasp being recorded in an empty coke can but the Anna Calvi Group is a wave of sound washed in reverb alternating between blitzkrieg and a pin drop. The album itself is great throughout and in any order also (thank you shuffle mode) when mixed with the single ‘Jezebel’ and it’s Jeff Buckley influenced B-side ‘Moulinette’ you find yourself not bothering listening to any other music for days and days on end, a beautiful sonic poison. Choice favourites on the album itself are the overtly dramatic tracks such as the David Lynch-esque ‘The Devil’ as well as the guitar tour-de-force ‘Love Won’t Be Leaving’, although the introduction ‘Rider To The Sea’ (which I still believe is the opener when performing live) sets the mood for the whole record perfectly. If you’ve been living under an indie rock for the last year and have missed the attention and press she has been getting from artists such as Nick Cave, Brian Eno etc, then look no further for your new favourite band.

Original review:

Monday, 7 November 2011

The Last Noel...

Growing old gracefully in music is something a lot of artists are destined to do whether they like it or not. The years of abuses and fast living either take their toll and cost the person their lives or they clean up and steadily make their way towards the middle of the road, where they decide to churn out nice comfy music for their fans (and themselves) but without any of the initial spark that made them exciting in the first place.

That’s the first option.

The second is that of the artist that doesn’t change physically, to whom maybe drink and drugs never played a big part in their psyche and instead it has just been their way of life and outlook that has changed. From being the rough and ready working class heroes with a gut full of fire and opinion now regulated to a public ‘face’ who’s main obligations and worries go no further than deciding which Savile Row suit goes with which pair of Gucci shoes and how much alimony they have to fork out each month to various ungrateful ex’s. It’s not to disregard this change of statue or lifestyle as being wrong of course, but your head on perspective has to change if the hunger that pushed you from the council flat has now assumed its place at the head table of music dignitaries. Basically your membership to the Eric Clapton, Elton John, Phil Collins and Paul McCartney party is in the post and feel free to leave your balls at the door.

Of course there are exceptions to the rules and from my viewpoint it seems that the only way to keep out of the comfort zone is to seek out new things no matter the consequences. David Bowie for example isn’t chained to a particular generation or ‘sound’ and is someone that still has that artistic drive and curiosity to try something new and damn the consequences, from his glam rock 70’s initial albums to his synth based pop in the early 80’s to even his jungle and industrial Reznor-esque tracks in the 90’s he has always morphed and reinvented himself along the way. He moved on along down the road where a lot of his contemporaries decided to dig themselves a hole and stay put as they were either un-able or are unwilling to add another aspect to their work in case it didn’t work out and the whole thing came crashing down around them.

There is a third view also and that is the band/artist that never fit on the scene in the first place. The outsider artist that was never in fashion, sold moderately and attracted the more cult like fans. Although even these so called rebels and mavericks aren’t willing to change the formula too much in case they go too far and actually get a hit! Suddenly they have gone up a notch, their pale young awkward fans desert them and they are now in the world of meetings concerning the budget for their next promotional video and plans for a world tour. It’s a tightrope of coolness.

Where are you going with this I hear you ponder? Well you’ve committed your time this far I guess so the least I can do is offer you the payoff. I have finally sat down and listed to the first solo album from Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds. It’s OK. That is really all I can say about it. I have listened to both the singles and the ‘padding’ filler tracks equally and although there are nice moments that don’t entirely rely on his tried and tested bag of tricks (the excellent ‘If I Had a Gun’ for example is a great addition to his cannon) there is nothing that makes me want to play it again once it’s finished. Whether its series 8 of Friends, Back to the Future part 3 or that 2nd time you tried mind altering substances nothing is going to grab your attention like the first time. Once the elastic has gone in your socks…it’s gone. For Oasis fans like myself (and I think for a lot of us if we are honest) when Noel used to pull his acoustic out and Liam took a break at LIVE gigs that was the perfect opportunity to get a loo break and queue up at the bar until the gig started again. Noel isn’t Neil Young or Bob Dylan and he can’t captivate an audience one on one with just his voice and guitar. Yes the songs are of a quality and professional to the last but there is no danger involved in the sense that the same songs performed at a gig tonight will be the same ones from last night and the same tomorrow. Neil Young for example might decide to pull one out of the bag from 1972 that he never released where Dylan might play his biggest hit in a different key as a waltz this time, Noel doesn’t seem ready to take that chance and will always play what is expected of him from the audience.

We are told that there is a real departure follow up album being released next year with his collaboration with Amorphous Androgynous and that it’s going to be more psychedelic and trippy and blah, blah, blah but lets cut the crap it’ll be as trippy as ‘Who Feels Love’ and at a push the craziest the whole thing would ever get would be comparable to his tracks with The Chemical Brothers in the 90’s, so ‘Revolver’ for dummies.

In my humble opinion...OK in my loudest of ‘know it all’ proclamations I think that Noel needs a band, he needs to be in Oasis. I think that Gem, Andy and to an extent Liam need to concentrate back on the singing and playing and leave the song writing to Noel, I mean you’d need some balls going up to the guy that wrote ‘Live Forever’ and handing him a track as weak as ‘A Quick Peep’. Everyone has a place in the band and towards to the end it was lost and out of balance. Check your egos at the door and do an album that stands up on its own merit rather than trying to blag it to the top of the charts under the power of hot air and obnoxious quotes about other bands, we’ve seen the strings and know how it all works now. Be HERE now… or in about 2 year’s time.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Bill Ryder-Jones Interview

The following interview is with Bill Ryder-Jones, former guitarist with The Coral and someone that has been praised and lauded by rock royalty for his guitar playing skills with the group. He left the band at the height of their popularity in 2008 after previously deciding not to tour with the band on live dates. Since then he has guested with artists such as Alex Turner (see 'Submarine' soundtrack) as well as created his own solo material. Below is the transcription of our recent Q&A session.

Q) Listening to both ‘If…’ and ‘A Leave Taking’ it is surprising that there is so little guitar in the forefront as this is something you are mostly regarded for (and indeed praised for from people such as Noel Gallagher and Graham Coxon) Is your guitar purposely taking a back seat for the time being?

A) I guess I stopped playing guitar properly and for fun a good few years ago. I didn’t realise there wasn’t much guitar on the record until we mixed it. I’ve always played other instruments though so I don’t think I've ever thought of myself as a guitarist y’know.

Q) I’ve read that ‘If…’ was influenced by the book of the same name and acted as an almost alternative soundtrack. Do you prefer working to an already established frame work such as a novel or instead starting an album with a complete blank canvas.

A) The record is meant to be a soundtrack to the novel ‘If on a winter’s night traveller’ by Italo Calvino. It’s more of an interpretation than anything, the canvas was still pretty blank mind. It started out as a little idea and just grew really, it became the perfect start really. I didn’t want my first record to ‘say’ too much about myself and would hate to have to give away more than I need to. I’m a pretty private person I guess.

Q) Your departure from The Coral was surprising for the fans and I’m sure the group as a whole, do you feel it was a necessary step that had to be taken for this side of your song writing to flourish and come into existence?

A) No I wasn’t thinking about songwriting or careers when I left the group. I just felt that I needed to leave, and that was it to be honest. Whether I’d be writing like I am now if I had stayed I don’t know, probably not. Now it’s all I do, all the time.

Q) Do you feel the groups ‘sound’ and format restrained you too much in this area? (song writing & arrangement)

A) Not really. I’d co written a bit with the band but they’ve got Jay (James Skelly) who writes so much and is so brilliant and all the other lads are great writers too so I guess there wasn’t that much room. I’d arranged strings with them too but it wasn’t until I left that I started to think about who I was musically I think.

Q) Listening to the arrangements there seem to be sonic footprints from people such as Robert Kirby and his work with Nick Drake as well as more recent ‘Coles Corner’ era Richard Hawley. Has either been influences on your work?

A) Well I still see myself as a blagger really. Someone like Robert Kirby I’d be embarrassed to be compared to but yeah his scores for Nick Drake are unreal. I think the arrangement that Harry Robinson did on River Man is the best on 'Five Leaves Left' mind. The first time I heard that tune it kind of made me feel silly about playing my guitar. The strings moved in this really unpredictable way and did this that I didn’t understand. That was probably the start of all this thinking about it.

Q) Who are you currently influenced by? Either musically or culturally (i.e. books, film etc)

A) I'm obsessed with Elgar 'Cello Concerto in E-minor' at the moment. It reminds me of poppy day in school somehow. I think if I wrote something that had like 10% the light that that piece has then I’d die happy. Other than that Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci are always there, Pink Floyd, Michael Galasso, Chopin.Book wise I mostly read history books. I like reading about European cities.

Q) The fact that a good portion of the music is instrumental didn’t seem to restrain the lyrical aspects to the melodies and the fact the vocals were only used sparingly throughout the album didn’t lose anything in translation. Do you think there is a stigma to ‘instrumental’ music in rock and roll rather than classical and jazz where it’s regularly accepted as ‘the norm’?

A) I've not thought about it really perhaps there is. I guess something like ‘The Rumble’(Link Wray) is a good example of not needing words to make an impression.

Q) Are there any plans to take either album out on the road? Do you worry about requests for ‘Bill McCai’ or ‘Dreaming of You’ from some of the die-hards?

A) Not yet, the album would be hard to do live. Maybe a one off show if I can blag an orchestra. I don’t pretend that I don’t hate playing live though so if there’s any way I can duck it then I probably will. I doubt people who want 'Dreaming of You' would come and see me, they’d be disappointed if they did.

many thanks to Paul Sandell at Domino Records
photo by Sophie Jarry