Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Best Friend

Last month Belle and Sebastian released the final EP in their trilogy entitled How to Solve our Human Problems. I had been eagerly awaiting its release, not only because Belle and Sebastian are one of my favourite bands, but because I had known for some time that it would contain a song my sister (Carla J Easton) had co-written with Stuart Murdoch! The song, titled Best Friend, also has Carla on lead vocals!

I was super excited when Carla told me stories about going to Stuart's flat to write and bounce ideas off each other and loved when Carla went into the studio and told of how the band were so impressed when she nailed the vocals.

And then there was the wait......... Carla sent me an unmastered version of the song, but I was sworn to secrecy......and I pretty much kept schtum. Why has it taken me so long to write about it?! Well I have just been super busy, but I didn't want to let this pass without a short blog.                                                                                                                                                  I was immensely proud when the song came out to the world at large. It is a beautiful flowing song with a gorgeous melody, containing observational, poignant and humorous lyrics. There are strings, handclaps and Stuart Murdoch on backing vocals. And like all the best Belle and Sebastian songs (and there are many!), it all sounds rather effortless - the groove and the flow... it seems and feels so natural.

I'm not saying that we will be best friends
But I'll take you dancing at the weekend

I've yet to get my hands on the trio of 12-inches, I really must get into Monorail! So expect a blog on all the EP's after I get my hands on the vinyl - although all are available on Spotify.

Belle and Sebastian have been (and are currently) touring extensively and have Scottish dates coming up at the Perth Concert Hall on 23rd March, I'm venturing through to see them at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on 24th March and then they play the SWG3 Galvanizers Yard on 25th May.

Meanwhile Carla released her 'debut' (at least under own name) solo single, the brilliant Lights In The Dark, in January and has Lights In The Dark a cracking follow up coming soon. She plays Nice n Sleazy on 4th April and Sneaky Petes on 11th April with excellent support from West Princes.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

I Don't Wanna Grow Up

Cover version of the month #34
Scarlett Johansson covers The Ramones/Tom Waits

UPDATE - I usually research the history of a song before writing a blog about a cover version. However I was so confident that this song was a cover of The Ramones that I didn't bother! So thanks to Jamie Keenan from the La Fontaines for pointing out that it is in fact a Tom Waits song, released on his 1992 album Bone Machine.

Check the original version here, before my unresearched blog below. Lesson learned!

I'm not overly familiar with the back catalogue of The Ramones (who may feature in this regular feature again soon with their cover of The Ronettes) at all. Other than owning some of their 'hit' singles on various compilation albums, they are not a band who have inspired me to dig deep into their history.....or buy a t-shirt!

This is yet another song that I discovered through a cover version. I was browsing Scarlett Johansson ....(ahem!) on Spotify and loved the song title so clicked on play.

The almost homemade electro vibe captivated me immediately, and then Scarlett's treated vocals made me fall (further) under her spell.

The lyrics are brilliantly young, naive and innocent, yet at the same time some of them speak out and capture things that everyone thinks about at times.

Nothing ever seems to turn out right
I don't want to grow up

Seems that folk turn into things
That they never want
The only thing to live for is today

The song lists observations about the world and society, cutting through everything from watching the 5 o'clock news, to getting a loan, to hair falling out.

The Ramones version is predictably punk pop and it's great fun. But Scarlett's version would always get my vote as I think it capture that young frustration and is more believable than The Ramones.

She finds extra beauty in the song, in the lyrics and in the melody. And the sparse electro backing modernises the song brilliantly.

Previous covers of the month

Monday, 5 March 2018

Normandy (On A Beach) by The Waterfront

The Waterfront, the band John Squire and Gary 'Mani' Mountfield were in before the Stone Roses, are receiving a vinyl release for Record Store Day.

The band never played any shows, but did come together in 1983 to cut two indie guitar gems that are closer in sound to post Sally Cinnamon Roses, rather than the early tracks accumulated on the early Roses Garage Flower compilation album (not released until 1996) including debut single So Young b/w Tell Me.

Normandy (On A Beach) b/w Where The Wind Blows will receive a limited edition 12-inch Record Store Day release with all proceeds going to The Christie in Manchester, the largest cancer centre in Europe.

The demos, long talked about among Roses fans, have been remastered and I for one will be trying to track down the 12-inch on 21st April.

The Waterfront consisted of John Squire (guitar), Mani (bass), Chris Goodwin (drums and later of Doves), Andy Couzens (guitar and laterly of early Stone Roses and The High) and David 'Kaiser' Karty on vocals.

Ian Brown was asked to join the band as a second vocalist; "John and I had an idea of having Ian and Kaiser at the front trying to do a counterpoint with one another. That's what we were trying to push, this question-and-answer thing with these two lads at the front singing sweet pop music." Andy Couzens told the bands biographer, Simon Pence.

Normandy (On A Beach) is definitely sweet guitar pop music with echoes of Orange Juice. Mani's bass grooves from the off and there are chiming guitars over a shuffling beat with vocals that could easily be mistaken for Ian Brown - that Manchester choir boy from a council estate kind that captivated so many hearts.

Where The Wind Blows is a little rougher round the edges, moving to the more brazen punkier side of The Roses that features on Garage Flower, the album they recorded with legendary Martin Hannett on production duties. The lovely guitar riff and bass breakdown after the early bizarre (whistling solo) are pure Roses.

The group seemed to just naturally fold almost as quickly as it came together. Mani tried to form a group with Brown and Clint Boon from the Inspiral Carpets but it never materialised.

Quite how Mani fell out of the picture as Squire and Brown formed the Roses without him isn't clear from any articles or books I have read on The Roses, but they got there in the end.

For me it sounds like the Roses almost took a step back from The Waterfront tracks to move forwards. There is no doubting the power and urgency of So Young and Tell Me, but much of the other Garage Flower era tracks leave no impression on me at all. The early version of This Is The One is raw yet still shines, Adored just doesn't contain the subtlety of the final version. There is no doubt that when the Roses classic line-up finally formed and they were matched with producer John Leckie, that is when things finally clicked into place. It was only in 1987, after the Garage Flower recordings and  fresh batch of Brown/Squire originals had been written that Mani joined the band and in Brown's own words "When Mani joined it almost changed overnight. It became a totally different groove...straightaway, everything just fell into place."

This Record Store Day release is sure to be much sought after by fellow fans of the Stone Roses.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Never Ending Mixtape Part 21

So my Never Ending Mixtape (Spotify playlist) reaches 500 songs! And it does so by bringing together 27-songs that largely have a very indie guitar vibe to them.

I add songs to my Never Ending Mixtape on a regular basis and do a catch up blog monthly. And I have to confess that I listen to it a lot myself! Even more so now there is so much on it. Shuffle is my preferred option, but if you want to listen to the latest additions back-to-back then you will need to scroll down t near the bottom of the playlist.

In February I discovered Ezra Furman and wondered why I hadn't before now. He comes across as an artist just pouring with imagination, stories, ideas and energy. Like a pilled up Dylan jamming with Springsteen and Arcade Fire. His latest album Transangelic Exodus should feature in many end of 2018 polls/blogs and he plays the ABC Glasgow on Monday 28th May.

Elsewhere Australia is represented by Smudge, Grant McLennan ad The Go-Betweens. We have the purity of Daniel Johnston, the playfulness of the Moldy Peaches, heartfelt indie gems by Sebadoh and a whole lot more; including Spotify discoveries of Sloan, Miracle Legions, Insecure Men and the crazily names Cleaners from Venus!

Dig in and enjoy. All feedback welcome.

Search for Everything Flows Never Ending Mixtape on Spotify or CLICK HERE.

Here are the latest additions.

Suck The Blood From My Wound - Ezra Furman
Take Off Your Sunglasses - Ezra Furman
Are You Gonna Break My Heart - Ezra Furman
Impractical Joke - Smudge
Easy Come, Easy Go - Grant McLennan
Black Autumn - East Village
True Love Will Find You In The End - Daniel Johnston
Anyone Else But You - Moldy Peaches
I Will - Sebadoh
Think (Let Tomorrow Bee) - Sebadoh
Brand New Love - Sebadoh
Rebound - Sebadoh
It's So Hard To Fall In Love - Sebadoh
Everything You've Done Wrong - Sloan
Bout des doigts - Brian Jonestown Massacre
The Ballad of Red Buckets - Yo La Tengo
Psychocandy - Jesus and Mary Chain
Can't Hardly Wait - The Replacements
All For The Best - Miracle Legions
Let's Go - The Feelies
Keep It Surreal - Ride
I Don't Wanna Dance (With My Baby) - Insecure Men
Depreston - Courtney Barnett
Bye Bye Pride - The Go-Betweens
My Favourite Dress - The Wedding Present
Holdin' On - The Clean
Corridor of Dreams - The Cleaners From Venus

Monday, 26 February 2018

Baby Honey

Last week I enjoyed reading some tweets from Allan Hutton, a fellow music fan that I follow on Twitter, about tracking down a vinyl copy of The Pastels Baby Honey.

I tweeted Allan, we exchanged some messages and then Allan kindly agreed to write a guest blog for me. I'm glad I asked!

The great thing about this blog is that it highlights how some bands will always be mentioned and handed down. Some will pass people by - but bands like The Pastels will always be recommended in some shape or form - be that from bands, fans, labels, journalists or record shops.

Read on....

Baby Honey by The Pastels
Guest blog by Allan Hutton

I have to admit I was late to the party with regards to the Pastels.

I'd never been an Indie Kid, My Youth Culture rite of passage was via Punk then Mod in the late 70's and very early 80's.

Music was then and always has been a big part of my life.

I was blissfully unaware of The Pastels in the 80's as I was mourning the end of The Jam and into the Style Council, Aztec Camera, The Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes to name but a few.

By the time the 90's arrived I started hearing great things about Teenage Fanclub and was getting into them. Through them I got to know about the Pastels and BMX Bandits etc.

I'm not exactly sure where I first heard the Pastels it might have been on Peel, I was intrigued by them but never owned any of their stuff until the late 90's when I got a hold of Illumination.

I really liked that album and decided to seek out their earlier stuff which had passed me by.

Among the Pastels melodic shambling clang, there was a B-side that shone like a beacon in the night for me! The jaw dropping and mesmerising, psychedelic Baby Honey. It is just one of those songs that you really get into and feel connected with. It has the deadpan coolness of the Velvet Underground and the repetition of The Fall which climaxes into a crescendo of beautiful and intense noise that you never want to end!

For me this song is and always will be the Pastels finest moment.

When I first heard it that song must have been about 14 or 15 years old therefore a vinyl copy of Million Tears with the spellbinding flip side was hard to find. I searched everywhere for a copy all to no avail.

As the years rolled by I succumbed to CD's and downloads and  kind of gave up on ever acquiring a vinyl copy and settled for the digital version on Up for a Bit!

However, the resurgence of vinyl four or five years ago rekindled my interest in records and once again I was on the hunt. However I still couldn't turn up Baby Honey! Until last week!

As I routinely searched Discogs of an evening, to my astonishment a near mint 12" copy was available. I was gonna have to pay a bit more than I would have liked, but I just bit the bullet and clicked that button! 

Two days later it was spinning on my record player and it hadn't aged one single bit as Baby Honey still sounded as enthralling now as when I first heard it all those years ago!

There is magic in her fingertips
There is magic in the lips I kiss
There is magic in her beautiful eyes
To justify the tears I've cried

The Pastels in November 2017 at the Concert for Stewart Cruickshank

Monday, 19 February 2018

Silver Dollar Moment

I always intend to blog about every album I buy or check out, but that never happens. I tend to write feature length blogs going into every song - so that can take quite some time!

So I do intend to write some shorter snapshot blogs on bands, albums, EP's and songs this year.........here is the first.

One band who have been on my radar for a while is The Orielles who have just released their debut album Silver Dollar Moment on Heavenly Recordings. Two of the band are still teenagers, with guitarist Henry set to sit his A-Levels this year if their schedule allows. Singer and bassist Esme studies English Literature in Manchester while her sister and drummer Sidonie still works in a Post Office in Liverpool.

These days it is rare and refreshing to see and hear such a young band (the drummer is still only 17!) receiving the backing of an established indie label. Heavenly are really behind The Orielles and so, it would see, is a network of record shops, indie loving journalists, promoters and fans.

It is pretty easy to hear why. Silver Dollar Moment is one of those albums that captures a band at just the right time. Everything about it seems right - the songs, playing, the in-jokes, references, song titles, sound and production.....

Dive in and listen to the chiming reverb laden guitars, cool and a times ferocious beats, groovy bass lines and crystal vocals. There is so much to love about The Orielles and Silver Dollar Moment - they can play and they can groove, listen to outro instrumental to Let Your Dogtooth Grow which builds to a great wee riff and repeated chorus

Elsewhere Mango is power indie jangly pop with a lovely bit of hammond/keys coming in towards the end. I Only Bought It For The Bottle arrives at the chorus in under a minute and it lifts the song superbly. Many of the songs contain brilliant dreamy little backing vocal coo's and ooh's, the band let things flow naturally. I guess that is the best thing about the album - it all sounds so natural.

The Orielles play Mono Cafe Bar in Glasgow on Thursday. Unfortunately I'll be on a train back from London. I think it could well be one of the gigs of the year.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Pocket Knife at BLOC

Last night I exchanged a few text messages with a friend to determine whether or not I was venturing out on a wet Thursday night to see Pocket Knife at Bar BLOC in Glasgow. I decided I would try and find out what time they were on.

If they were on too late then I was just going to sit in and enjoy Peaky Blinders with my wife. Hey, I'm 42 and had an early start today!

At 8.34pm precisely I received a text that said 'They're on at 9.15pm, I'm going to head in'. I swiftly replied that I would make it in. Peaky Blinders could wait.

I'd only heard one song by Pocket Knife previously, the stunning Half the Presents on the Olive Grove Records Christmas album which saw the band discuss Jesus being such a Capricorn over a funk cool Belle and Sebastian-esque style groove. The groove, humour, cheek and melodies captivated me and I played it over and over.

So when I found out that they were playing BLOC I kept it in mind. I'm glad I ditched Peaky Blinders.

Nursing a non-alcoholic beer (the 18-year old me would not be impressed - what is the point?!) after driving in to make the start, I caught up with my friend as the band soundchecked.

They eventually came on at 9.45pm. A two-piece; Louise on vocals, synth and drum machine and Michael on bass and very occasional backing vocals.

The opening rumble of activity sent people scurrying from the bar and all of a sudden, from having a perfect view at the sounddesk we had to push through to see what was going on.

Smoke billowed from the BLOC smoke machine and the lights changed. I suddenly remembered what a cool little venue BLOC is. It had been a while.

Basic synth chords underpinned a beat while Michael grooved on the top and Louise sang sweet melodies, riffing off herself. We were immediately transported into the world of Pocket Knife. Bedroom/living room recordings suddenly springing to life in the BLOC.

We had a song that had been written just 2 days previously, a song in French, a beautiful laid back cover of Rip It Up by Orange Juice (bonus), a super cool song called Custard Cream and a cracking tune which had Louise talking to herself and saying

Just be cool, be cool
You're trying to hard

The duo looked like they were having fun. There were smiles and giggles as they introduced and played songs. Louise asked if the drum machine could be turned up and found the space to dance.

In a short 25/30-minute set Pocket Knife won me over with their fun, sparse, laid back grooves and I look forward to catching them again throughout the year. The band are planning a release via the excellent Olive Grove Records and through OGR they have contributed to an Indie Sampler released on Gold Mold Records bringing a number of bands on different DIY labels together.