The Moodists – Two Fisted Art

I recently got hold of a double album of rare early Australian garage rock and punk called “Tales from the Australian Underground 1976-1989” which starts with Radio Birdman and The Saints, who I know, and then works its way through a whole bunch of bands I’d never heard of, that is until I started reading David Nicholls’ detailed history of Aussie music “Dig”, occasionally touches on others I am acquainted with, The Scientists and The Birthday Party of course, and, which fills in a huge gap in my musical knowledge. Aside from The Birthday Party, who were what they were, the music is for the most part, fairly similar in that there are familiar elements from 60s and early 70s pop and rock and earlier blues roots in play. However nestled on track 2 of the second disc is “The Disciples Know” by The Moodists. It stands aside and apart from everything else in the collection in its completely unique approach.

I cannot remember when I first heard The Moodists. It would have been around the time that Hex Enduction Hour was occupying most of my listening time. I recall purchasing a selection of 12″ singles and the sole album and jealously reading of Bob and Jeff’s trips to London to see them, supporting The Fall of all people. On constant rotation at one point was the magnificent “Chevrolet Rise” which is up there in my 100 tunes of all time. Bob reported around 1985/6 seeing a new version of the band with Dave in a glittery show biz suit and moving in a different direction, and then they sort of wandered off my radar until Graney and Moore returned as Coral Snakes, White Buffaloes, and Coral Snakes again, but that’s a different story to be told elsewhere.

In 2003 it was pleasing to find out about “Two Fisted Art” a collection which covered the vast bulk of the bands recorded material. A Creation box set in 2016 would collect some rarities but that can be covered in a separate review. The history of the band is covered well in Nicholls’ aforementioned book, they get their own chapter, and rightly so. The Wikipedia entry is informative but I often feel there is more of a tale to tell about this important band.

What we have is music which fits well within the post-punk period, in that it moves on from the spirit and intent of punk, but doesn’t sit in the same camp, in the same way that The Fall, The Birthday Party, and Blue Orchids didn’t. It is completely unique and, sitting here thirty odd years later, it still retains the power to shock, and insists that you listen to it. What you have throughout is Moores’ insistent and busy drumming, a particularly unique bass guitar style from Chris Walsh, which Nicholls cites as a key part of the bands’ success, and importantly, guitar from Steve Miller and Mick Turner which is drawn from the blues, pre-punk, Zoot Horn Rollo, and, whispers of Craig Scanlon. What takes it above and beyond its contemporaries and allows it to retain its freshness are Dave Graney’s stream of consciousness lyrics and abstract vocal stylings, one part declamatory , one part Old Testament preacher in a carnival side show, and two parts rock ‘n’ roll icon.

“Two Fisted Art” is a good collection juxtaposing a disc of studio material with 19 tracks from various releases and the second disc of live versions recorded at the Sedition Festival and the Trade Union Club, Sydney April 1983., The Seaview Ballroom,St. Kilda on 21/12/84. and Dingwalls, London 16/7/85.

It is the songs that are perhaps the most important factor here. There are tunes in the collection which have stuck in my head for thirty years – the aforementioned “Chevrolet Rise”, “Frankies Negative” and the glorious “Runaway” and “Double Life”. All of these and many others in this collection shaped the way I listened to music for a long time afterwards. It was possible to use the bass as a lead instrument, Graney’s almost Kerouac like outpourings a manifesto for how to treat lyrics differently, the twin guitar attack which informed the way I approached  the instrument. A truly influential band.

Of great annoyance is the unfortunate revelation that I missed their gig at the Hacienda, which is fortunately captured  on video.   There are also some songs missing from this collection, the perhaps more accessible “Kept Spectre” and the other two tracks from the A side of “Engine Shudder” in particular. Also only “Someone’s Got To Give” is featured from the final EP from 1987.   There’s also video from London in 1984   which can be streamed on Amazon or purchased as a DVD if you search hard enough. Perhaps it will be time one day to collect the whole lot in a box set of some kind?

An important band, unfavourably compared with The Birthday Party at the time, they were as alike as chalk and cheese musically, the only thing that required comparison was the Melbourne connection. As I say, still as fresh today, and still as stimulating as when I first heard them.

Some sort of Discography for the band

  1. “Where the Trees Walk Down Hill” (October 1981) – Au Go Go Records
  2. “Gone Dead” (June 1982) – Au Go Go Records
  3. “The Disciples Know” (1983) – Red Flame/Virgin Records
  4. Engine Shudder (1983) – Au Go Go Records
  5. Thirsty’s Calling (April 1984) – Red Flame/Virgin Records
  6. “Runaway” (1984) – Red Flame/Virgin Records
  7. “Enough Legs to Live On” (1985) – Red Flame/Virgin Records
  8. Double Life (1985) – Red Flame/Virgin Records
  9. Justice and Money Too (August 1985) – Creation Records
  10. Take the Red Carpet out of Town (October 1985) – TIM Records, Time/Abstract
  11. The Moodists (February 1986) – TIM Records, Time/Abstract
  12. Two Fisted Art (2003) – W. Minc
  13. The Moodists – Live in London 1984 (2004) – Peacock Records
  14. Creation Artifact Box Set (2016) – Cherry Red (Creation Singles plus a Peel Session from 10th July 1985)

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The Necks – Unfold

Heavens above, a Necks album with more than one track. What is the world coming to?

I wrote several months back about seeing them at the Band on the Wall, and indeed there are echoes of that gig here. The arco bass, the busy, chittering, percussion, the romantic melodies spilling out from the piano. The difference here is the use of other keyboards to fill out the sound, Abrahams tends to use them as an ambient wash, or a measured  background feature, or on one track, replacing the piano completely.

Opener “Rise” does reflect the recent BOTW gig more than the rest of selections. The disparate, yet inclusive, three elements of the sound develop organically over fifteen minutes. Abrahams almost seems to be searching for the melody on this keyboard, and it is a restless exploration. Buck fills in the corners with a combination of what sounds like mutant castanets, and probing snare/tom statements. Swanton creates unworldly noises that weave in between the melody and the percussion. I imagine a Samuel Beckett play transformed into a musical form would sound like this. It builds to a frenetic, approaching manic, high with Buck dominating and taking the lead role as the piano falls away.

Track 2 “Overhear” retains the percussive motif of the opener, Abrahams leads on what sounds like a Hammond, and Swanton provides a bowed pulse in the background. It has that eerie sound Bo Hansson captured on his “Lord of the Rings” album. There’s an unrelenting hypnotic churning rhythm, as Abrahams delivers flurries of notes, that almost moves into a rock rhythm towards the latter end of the piece. Again it builds to a crescendo.

“Blue Mountain” is next, a little less abstract than the usual Necks construction. There is sense of some sort of preconceived shape for a while at least, but this does eventually develop into something more ethereal. Bucks brush and cymbal work is exceptional, piano dominates but there is an underlying Hammond element. Swanton is not so evident until a few minutes in when the bowed bass creates a restless counterpoint to the piano melody. After that it us pure Necks improvisation with sections of intense sound as the bass becomes a percussion instrument and the twin keyboards fight for space against a cinematic backdrop from the array of the other percussion devices.

The album concludes with the longest track, at 21 minutes, “Timepiece”. We are into more familiar free improv territory at the outset. Buck makes his kit sound like running water, or an alarm clock (hence the title I assume), Abrahams drops shimmering notes, Swanton plucks an occasional note, or a harmonic. It gently feels it’s way through an abstract jungle of sounds, with Buck perhaps the most dominant. Completely unique in that entrances this listener in a way that other improv does not in that it is reflective of what has gone before. There is no precedent or template for this music, other than prior Necks releases.

No doubt that people who cannot abide this sort of thing will come out with the usual “when does the tune start” comment, and therein lies the philosophy of this band, there is melody, percussion, and rhythm but it is completely unique, expect the unexpected.

The bonus of this, if one were needed, is that here is a Necks release I can feature in the podcasts without any editing.

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The time has come the Walrus said

So I set this blog up, a few years back now, to capture what I was doing when I was at the local radio station mostly, and since then it has grown to encompass a wider variety of things. In that time it has become a little disparate and unfocused. So for 2017 I have decided to tidy things up a little.

News of new podcasts, plus associated reviews of new releases, gigs , and general music news will now be captured at the separate Bob’s Podcasts 2017 site. For this blog the intention is to concentrate on more detailed overviews of bands and artists, both old and new, and perhaps to reflect in a more measured way the music that shapes my listening, and act as a historical archive of what makes up a ridiculously large music collection.

Watch this space.

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The Best of 2016 #3 – Singles and EPs

This one is going to be a little different due to the nature of releases this year. All will become apparent as I meander through things. The nature of what I do on an almost daily basis i.e. putting together radio shows/podcasts and running a record label means that a serious amount of individual tracks come in for potential airplay or indeed for release on the label. So trying to do a definitive list of the “best” is nigh on impossible – if they made it onto the podcast or got released by the record label they are, because they got through that gateway, “better than the rest” so i’ll generalise…..and this is in no sort of order of importance as I love them all with equal fervour……with the stuff at the bottom of the page being the “top of the pops” as it were

The Moss Brothers – various releases by Ian and Neil under various aliases – the work rate of Ian Moss is legendary, add his sibling into the mix and you have a an even faster production line of fascinating music – whether it be Ian & Neil, Sebastien the Tortoise, A Magpie and a Goldfish, or 2 Big Brothers it’s all great.

Taser Puppets : Fossil – their latest EP and first with German Shepherd proved to be their best yet. A health scare for front man Shaun put things on hold for a while but a barn storming set at the Salford Music Festival but them back on the North West musical map.

Alana Bondi : Alana Bondi EP – another artist who battled through health problems in 2015/6 to deliver a remarkable debut EP and stunning video to the opener “Four Walls” plus a run of shows including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The Sideshow : How It Goes – a remarkable single, pure pop for now people as Nick Lowe once said. Should have broken through this one and still a mystery as to why it didn’t.

The Screaming Love Collective : Three Singles – proof that repetition in music is still potent as a way of delivering ideas that are fresh.

The Mind Sweepers : The Mating Game – Vicky Middles asked if we could help out with this one and we were pleased to get involved. They call themselves genre defying and they certainly deliver on that score.

Bouquet of Dead Crows : Epicentre – a great collection of alternative versions, live cuts and a remix crowned a great year for the “Crows”  – a new album is in the pipeline and an album of radio sessions is promised for the new year.

The Madding Crowd – a good year, a great EP, an epic EP launch and a sense of renewed promise and hope for this north Manchester band.

Stalagmites : Between City and Cellar Door – back with a bang with a great EP, Brad Lynch is one of the best songwriters Salford has delivered with fantastic lyrics and epic tunes.

The Parish Church Fire : Locamente – another one where I sit here with a puzzled expression wondering why it wasn’t huge.

Staggs : Adult Loonies and A Rum Do – when I am fed up I turn to Staggs to cheer myself up – the diversity across these two releases is a testament to the skill and inventiveness of Ridley and Scott – punk, electronica and krautrock,  there’s something for everyone.

The Get : The Private Men EP – The Get are remarkable, their lo-fi approach to what they do, their relentless charm and enthusiasm is infectious. A great collection of songs.

Moff and Moss – aside from a remarkable debut album an epic single which dwelt on Mr Crowley and other strangeness. Expect new stuff in the New Year which is development at the moment – it will all become clear at the gig at the Castle in March!

Rose and the Diamond Hand : Universe Is Woman – should be huge, a remarkable voice, an amazing band, and a great live show, add a fantastic debut EP and you have a great year for Rose and co.

and the top three

3. KIT B – Weird Water – impressive song-writing from a great live band who broke into the festival circuit this year and garnered some impressive live reviews

2. m.t. scott – The Broken EP and 13 Queer Street – Michael left the wonderful world of Staggs for a while  to create two collections of aural wonderment. Cinematic in their scope and impressive in their musical depth he is clearly a creative force that requires/demands/deserves  a wider audience. I’ve been lucky enough to listen to these collections develop from ideas into fully formed pieces of aural magic.

1. The Graney and Moore Singles Releases – throughout the year Dave and Clare have released a digital single a month (more or less there will be one in January) in an effort, I believe, to escape the usual routines in the music industry. I can’t decide which is the best amongst any of them, so I’m bringing all ten into a collective number one, but if you were to push me the latest one “I Ain’t Hi Vis” is probably my favourite. The variety across this set of releases is impressive, the trademark Graney wit is in full effect, and musically, as is always the case, they are top notch. Notably there is more than a bit of a jazz tinge than is usual which of course ticks a lot of boxes for me. You can grab them all at the DG bandcamp page.  For the record the releases were:

I’m a Good Hater
This Is the Deadest Place I’ve Ever Died In
I Been Trendy
Drifting Donna Reed
Are You Out Of Your Mind? (Get Back In)
You Need a Kleek, Klook
Rupert’s Pet’s Grave
Matey, From On High
Let’s Kick this Mob Out
I Ain’t Hi Vis

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The Best of 2016 # 2 – Gigs

Having spent quite a lot of the year in and out of medical facilities for one reason or another the number of gigs attended has been somewhat constrained but having said that much improved on 2015 when I spent a good deal of the time in a plaster cast. In the most part the gigs I did attend were all great. There were a couple of bad evenings caused in the first case by an idiotic club owner and in the second case by a less than perfect sound engineering job, it is not my habit to name names, so I won’t, all I would say is that bands deserve more.

Ones I sadly missed due to ill health and diary clashes

  • Robert Forster
  • The Triffids
  • Kim Salmon

Here are the highlights in no particular order, apart from the top four gigs.

  • Manchester Jazz Festival – just a general message to say it was much improved this year with some fascinating bands seen especially in the performance space in Manchester Central Library – the price of the beer in the Festival Village is obscene though!
  • Soft Machine at The Band on the Wall – OK so we sat in the bar for most of the second set drinking and chewing the fat about music but the first set was pretty memorable and I realised a long held ambition to see this band.
  • The Junta at Night and Day – kabuki, mime and beats with El Generallisimo cooking up a techno storm.
  • Aidan Cross & Johann Kloos, Poppycock, Taser Puppets and West Coast Sick Line at Dulcimer, Chorlton. A fun packed night with a storming set from the Westies and a slight hiatus while Mr Maxwell found his guitar.
  • Moff Skellington, Mr Mouse, Loop-aznavour at The Fenton Leeds – a remarkable evening with a sparse audience but excellent performances from all three protagonists only somewhat ruined by the inability to get out of Leeds via the motorway necessitating a circuitous journey home via Harrogate
  • The Eagle, again, for the debut of the much anticipated new band lead by Ian Moss Four Candles , Cambridge rockers, stripped down to acoustic duo  for the night, Bouquet of Dead Crows, all the way from Modena Italy Saint Lawrence Verge, and to close the night the ever excellent Poppycock. A rather special evening.
  • Sam SmithGenevieve L Walsh and The Madding Crowd at The Moston Miners Club – a great set from Sam, memorable poetry from Genevieve,  and an epic set from The Madding Crowd.
  • The Junta, Bouquet of Dead Crows, The Scissors and Kit B at the Eagle as part of Salford Music Festival. Barnstorming sets from all four bands – we need to do this again.
  • Taser Puppets, Poppycock, JD Meatyard and West Coast Sick Line as part of Salford Musical Festival also at The Eagle – one of our most successful nights with a good crowd, fine performances, and a stellar set from Mr Meatyard.
  • Blaney album launch at Pacifica Cantonese. A great album and a memorable album launch with the added bonus of it being five minutes from where I live. It’s been a good year for Ed and he deserves the support he is getting at the moment

and the top four, who all happen to be Australian for some strange reason……

4.

The Necks live at the Band on the Wall – a special performance from an amazing trio of musicians. Unique and breath-taking music bereft of ego and full of invention.

3.

Harry Howard and the NDE with Poppycock at The Eagle – exploding keyboards and horrendous traffic conspired against us but Poppycock were the best I have seen them all year and Harry and co were exceptional given they had a stand in rhythm section with only a couple of days rehearsal.

2.

Dave Graney and Poppycock & Franco Bandini at the Eagle – a long held desire to catch Dave and Clare live was at long last realised. Most of the band were full of germs but still managed to deliver a set packed with classic tunes from across the Graney songbook. The added bonus of seeing Malcolm Ross play the guitar as well.

and my gig of the year….

1.

Dave Graney at the Betsey Trotwood, London – a memorable journey to the capital despite a dodgy knee. A pleasant afternoon drinking with Bob and Jeff in some fine ale houses. A fantastic set from Dave, Clare, Stu and Malcolm covering even more of the Graney songbook topped off by a great tribute to Prince.

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The Best of 2016 # 1 – Albums

It has been a busy year, and a bit of task to try and get down the 100s of albums that have come my way down to a top 25. This years list reflects, very much, the local music scene and our record label, a little display of nepotism perhaps, but I’d argue that if I didn’t like them then we would not put them out into the world.

So here we go with a handful of notables that did not make the list to kick off.

EPs of the year, singles of the year. and gigs of the year will follow over the holiday period……

Notable ones that didn’t make the list

  • Cavern of Anti-Matter – Void Beats/Invocation Trex
  • David Bowie – Blackstar
  • Dälek – Ashphalt for Eden
  • Van Der Graaf Generator – Do Not Disturb
  • Ten East – Skyline Pressure

25.

24.

23.

22.

21.

20.

19.

18.

 

17.

16.

15.

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14.

13.

12.

 

11.

10.

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9.

8.

7.

6.

5.

4.

3.

2.

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1.

Manchester – so much more to be proud of…

Local music, you would be forgiven for thinking it was all about a band from Stockport at the moment, or Oasis/Stone Roses revivalism,  nothing could be further from the truth. There’s a fundamental inter-connectedness at such a local level of course, and there’s so much going on it’s hard to keep up. I’m talking about Greater Salford of course, or Manchester, as it known by the inky press or the BBC.

So let’s start with Salford, as I take you on a short musical tour of the conurbation. Back when I was doing the local radio stuff one of the first bands I chanced upon was called The Souls, indeed we facilitated the release of a collection of early  songs. They became Stalagmites of course and have a new EP out called “Between City & Cellar Door”. Brad Lynch has been a great hidden Salford treasure of a Salford songwriter for too long and hopefully this new four tune collection will get some of the much needed attention they deserve.  There’s a growing strength to the bands’ work and the songwriting is just as strong. I guess you could call it epic indie but Lynch’s tunes are always something a little more than that. You can grab it at:

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/48sz58nJKAO63hyNynRaj6
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/…/between-city-cellar…/id1167317627

Here’s featured track Binary…..

And while I’m at it check out Brad’s excellent solo project “Bedroom Abyss” which comprises two tunes at the moment but promises a great deal more in the future.

North to Moston, and I reviewed the launch of the new EP from The Madding Crowd a couple of weeks back. It would be remiss of me not to mention the actual EP itself, the locally referenced “The 78th Bridge on the Rochdale Canal”. The connected thingy here of course is that the four song selected has been expertly produced and engineered by Sam Smith who appears on German Shepherd Records as Franco Bandini and The Parish Church Fire. The Madding Crowd have always had an epic sound, which bursts out of the North Manchester suburbs with a swagger and bravado, however Sam has moved it up to eleven with this set. The potty mouthed opener, which  will struggle to get day time radio play due to the Ofcom rules, sets the scene, but it’s the massive “January Begins” that hits you like a Roman Reigns spear and slaps you around a bit until you sink into it the sound. Impressive. Sav Patels drumming on “Sinking Low”is an impressive bedrock to a bluesy chunk of pop music with a field hollar chorus, meaty guitar, and silky bass from Claud Corry. Closer “Where’s The Glamour” offers another side of the band and gets props for mentioning Failsworth (an area in north Manchester), there’s an interesting structure which is a more defined “Madding Crowd” sound, which indicates an impressive development and future direction.

Down to south Manchester now and The Speed of Sound who have their debut album “Everything Changes” out now. The connection here is one of the two vocalists is Anne-Marie Crowley, who is also a member of Poppycock, who just happen to be on German Shepherd Records as well. A mammoth one hour sixteen minutes 20 song endeavour it took some time to absorb what is a fascinating collection. It is hard to find a neat little genre box to put this band into, which is always a good thing. They’ve been described as “atmospheric alternative rock” which is partially true but there’s a great deal more going on. The songs are lead by hooky guitar sounds which are both 60s and post-punk in their sound. John Armstrongs’ vocals have a an early Zimmerman edge to them, the lyrics are both rich and complex, and Anne Marie’s vocals add a haunting cinematic feel to the songs. Kevin Roache, bass, and Paul Worthington, drums, provide a sympathetic and driving rhythm section. Lucy Power, also of Poppycock, amongst other things, provides flute on “Little Miss Restless”. You’ll find a lot of good things here, and it’s great to hear Anne-Marie taking the lead role especially on the excellent “The Moment Is Now” which has a great pop feel and sounds like something Dusty Springfield would have sung in her pomp. The variety on this album is impressive, with nods to a Californian sound at times, especially the occasional snippets of Stills/Young guitar breaks,  This album has all of the elements of great Manchester pop as well, you will have to invest time in it, as it deserves to be listened to as a whole, but that time will be well spent. Quality stuff!

One that slipped through the net earlier in the year is the delightful collection from Parent who are essentially Jason Brown, who has of course been plying his trade with Brix and Extricated more recently, and Rachel Kern, who has a superb voice. Comparisons have to be made with Nick Drake in that it’s all about guitar and voice but there’s the superior use of cello, viola and violin which harks back to “Five Leaves Left” especially on the exceptional “You’re Not Broken”. A marvellous collection of acoustic treasures, and looking up their Facebook page it appears that a pile of my chums are already aware of them, I wonder why they didn’t share the information?

And finally east to the rural idyll of Glossop where my erstwhile colleague Mr Moss has been busy with his new band Four Candles and a debut album is in the can. I’ve heard it and it is rather special, but I can’t say any more at this stage or I’d have to ostracise myself. Keep your ears peeled for 2017 especially a gig at Fred’s Ale House in Levenshulme in January with Poppycock (them again) and Patchwork Rattlebag. To dangle a large carrot here’s a fine video from Rick Sarko which includes a number of German Shepherd alumni and features the heady delights of Oldham Street in the city centre.

Until the next time….