Music for Grown Ups

Dave Graney and Clare Moore return with a second album for 2019 with the intriguingly titled “One Million Years DC”. The collection of 11 songs is uniquely different to the years earlier offering  Zippa-DeeDoo-What Is/Was That/This? , which was more rock based. Here we return to the cool jazzy pop sounds that were encountered on The Coral Snakes “Soft ‘n’ Sexy Sound” or The Dave Graney Shows “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” or  Dave and Clare’s “Hashish and Liquor” and “Keepin’ It Unreal” releases.

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The opening track “He Was A Sore Winner” sets the scene by kicking off with a slide guitar drenched attack on a specific politician (although to be fair it can apply to any of that breed) of which Dave says it’s like the Kinks, but it could apply to any number of anglo wonky pop types like Kevin Ayers or Robyn Hitchcock. This is typically Dave and Clare in delivery with layers of musical loveliness, and a tongue in cheek delivery. A modern protest song perchance?

However the pop opener is a bit misleading as we then head deep into Graney/Moore territory with the explorations of song forms and delivery that are specific to these artists.  “Hell Is You Babe” has the same vibe as tracks from the excellent “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” album, cool, smooth,  this is music for adults, none of your adolescent pop nonsense here, this is proper stuff for grown ups.

“Pop Ruins” is a sort of list tune, I love list tunes, referencing key influences from the mythos of underground music, the edge of populism, those hip albums that your mate owned that you always desired, those places you always longed to see a concert at ……Grateful Dead, Television, Husker Du, The Roxy, The Whiskey a Go Go…… Dave serenades them, channeling Melvin Howard Tormé , with Clare adding that marimba touch over shimmering guitar. Those old rock venues/temples are listed, prescient and apposite given the death of pub venues for music and their transformation into gastro/family friendly places. The world is changing and i’m not sure we like it anymore.

Dave’s exploration of his own role in the rock and roll firmament has been covered before with the likes of memorable songs like Heroic Blues, and I Aint Hi-Vis, “I’m Not Just Any Nobody” follows that autobiographical route with a peroration on the nature of identity and fame. Rock and Roll is where I hide indeed.

The music business theme continues with “Comrade of Pop” a delicate tune which name checks Mr Osterberg and Mr Morrison, picks lyrics from The Ramones, and makes a statement, I guess, about when it’s time for anyone to “hip” , to be a “comrade”, to be accepted by the purists. The interplay of pedal steel from Shane Reilly and Dave’s filigree guitar lines is excellent, nay gorgeous.

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro as  Hunter S. Thompson observed. Dave builds on this with “Where Did All The Freaks Go?” a wistful consideration of past days where you had some sort of idea where things ended and began. Great backing vocals from Harry Howard and Ed Preston make for a sixties sound , the original Star Trek theme came to mind, The Andy Williams show perhaps.

“You’ve Been In My Mind” was the title of a 2012 album from the MistLy but appears herein as a song which is all about Clare’s vibes and spacey sounds, if Dave and Clare were exploring the rock side of the 60s/70s on “Zippa-Deedoo” they are circling the light entertainment world here – John Barry, Bert Bacharach, John Mathis albeit through a semi-psychedelic fog, perhaps even a velvet one.

“Answering Machine” is all glitch and fret slides and features Coral Snake Robin Casinader on Mellotron and has a passing resemblance to Manchester’s Mark Corrin’s recent “Pub Bin” album with it’s wry/dry observational humour.

“You Can’t Have Your Boogie” again examines music, this time in the context of commerce, and is a perfect soundtrack for the bearded hipsters of the Manchester Northern Quarter and the tribute/nostalgia bands that infest the pubs and clubs. The parallels between Manchester and Melbourne are there to be mined and commented upon.  If London = Sydney then Manchester = Melbourne – there’s a whole psycho-geographical treatise to be written on that in respect of music, structure and place.

“I Come Clean” – autobiographical or observational? Hard to tell, as Dave is at his most abstract here, one of those songs, like “Dandies Are Never Unbuttoned” which will take some time to decipher. Regardless of that, the sound is exemplary

“Old Friends” closes the album with a journey through relationships, a heartfelt commentary on distance and the passage of time. More great backing vocals again this time from Emily Jarrett and Will Hindmarsh of Go Go Sapien. Dave says “don’t take this bad” he’s just got the horrors and appears to be exorcising them, albeit reflectively, and the album ends as all good albums should leaving you wanting more.

Graney and Moore have created two great albums in 2019, nothing more needs to be said. You need to listen, this is music for grown-ups but the young ‘uns can listen as well, they might well learn something.

And not a fur bikini in sight either……

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Pyroclasts

Sunn O))) have announced the release of Pyroclasts,  via Southern Lord on 25th October in LP and Digital formats.

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The new album is the result of a daily practice which was regularly performed each morning, or evening during the sessions for the previous album Life Metal. The music was laid down ar Electrical Audio during July 2018, when all of the days musical participants would gather and work through a 12 minute improvised modal drone at the start and or end of the day’s work. The piece performed was timed with a stopwatch and tracked to two inch tape, it was an exercise and a chance to dig into a deep opening or closing of the days session in a comprehensive musical way with all of the participants. The aim was to connect/reconnect, liberate the creative mind a bit and greet each other and the space through the practice of sound immersion. The players across the four pieces of Pyroclasts are Tim Midyett, T.O.S., Hildur Guðnadóttir, and as always Stephen O’Malley & Greg Anderson.

The music on Pyroclasts is inextricably linked to Life Metal. It exists on the very same tape reels, and was  recorded by Steve Albini.  It is a sister, or perhaps a shadow album.  Sunn O)))  invite and encourage the listener to use Pyroclasts as a lens to review and reexperience the complexity of the Life Metal album, and even to interrupt its sequence with Pyroclasts.

O’Malley and Anderson have dedicated thie album to the memories of Ron Guardipee, Kerstin Daley & Scott Walker.

Nettle Rash

Third album time from a band that has visibly evolved over the last three years.

Four Candles is a band comprising of ex Hamsters / Resist bassist Jon Rowlinson , ex Resist Drummer Phil Peak , Middlesbrough’s finest export Mark Taylor on guitar and ex Hamsters vocalist Ian ” Moët” Moss. They formed in June 2016 and it was soon evident the creative chemicals were flowing between the four individuals producing vibrant exciting music. Low on funds they scraped together enough cash for sixteen hours studio time in November , in five hours  ten tracks were recorded in one or two takes with minimal overdubs , the next eleven hours saw the album mixed, April 2017 saw the release of  “Killing The Image”.

Birthed in punk and post-punk the band expanded their genre reach with the deliberately shorter second 2018 album “Spiritual Rapture” embracing more rock elements and funky bass lines as well as bringing in the sax of David Wilkinson and keyboards from  engineer Simon “Ding” Archer.

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The third album from the band, “Nettle Rash”  finds them moving on further  and expanding their repertoire with the presence of Mark Taylor’s guitar coming to the fore, and Ian Moss’s words taking on a broad range of subjects from Climate Change, through political issues including the badger cull, to an exploration of the seamier side of sexual entanglements. There is humour in there as well to temper the more dystopian aspects of the album.  With guest vocalists Anne and Julia from the band Matthew Hopkins and again keyboards from engineer  Archer the aural palette of the band has been expanded. This is their strongest album yet.

The live energy of the band has been effectively captured with this release with Moss exorcising several kinds of demons over a tight and driving band. The added value of “The Matches” i.e. Anne and Julia as a counterpoint to Moss’s attack gives the band a whole new feel which builds on and enhances their reputation. The value and impact of the album is further enhanced by Mike Kerins stunning cover art.

German Shepherd Records subscribers will receive an additional exclusive track “Like Sheep”

 

Invisible Volatiles

Quality popular music is still out there. You may have to go to the other side of the world and another hemisphere to find it, but it’s there. Don’t believe all the hype you get fed by the pluggers and promo people, there are better things than the Oasis wannabees that are relentlessly paraded before you. There are young folk producing good music but you should not forget those of more mature years who still have the chops and attitude to produce quality content.

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A case in point is David McClymont with a new release called “Invisible Volatiles” which you can access as Pay What You Want via Bandcamp. McClymont of course came to notice as part of Orange Juice but his CV demonstrates a much wider and impressive career with The Moodists, Blancmange, Paul Haig, Mick Harvey, and a couple of fascinating  releases with Nick Currie (Momus). Of late he has had a run of solo/duo releases, from 2014 onwards, which have been consistently excellent with this latest offering being the best of the collection so far, although you should also check out his album with Rick Morris from last year.

There must be something in the water in Melbourne that ensures that the bulk of the musical material emerging from the city demonstrates quality and a commitment to push the boundaries. This collection of songs journeys between quality popular music, with a subtle hints of David Bowie, through near but not quite country rock, to more acerbic (but only slightly) tunes all written with attention to detail, specifically melody.

I commend it to you without reservation.

 

Dance Punk with an edge

The debut EP from the partnership of Ian “Moet” Moss (Hamsters, Four Candles) and Simon “Ding” Archer (AAAK, The Fall, Pixies, PJ Harvey, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry)  released on July 4th, they call themselves Unseasonal Beasts, badged as MUSIC FROM THE NORTHERN POWERHOUSE . The first of a series of four, the EP includes three brand new tracks of pumping electronic pop-punk/post-punk with special guest appearances from the Manchester music scenes finest – Dan Woolfie, Eoghan Clifford, Seth Leppard and Susan O’Shea. This powerful music has been constructed over several months at Ding’s legendary 6dB Studios in Salford. It follows on from the debut single from the pairing from 2014 X-Factor/Dum Dum Daze.

With subjects ranging from legendary Chilean/French film-maker Alejandro Jodorowsky (who is feted in a massive near seven minute dance epic) through the harrowing tales of migrant workers, to a discourse on the pressures of modern life, this is a powerful first statement from two legends of Manchester Music.

No gigs are planned at the moment although the duo have made one live appearance to date featuring two of the tracks from this EP.

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Welcome To Our Village

A psycho geographical journey across the hills of North Manchester (they are from Bury Man!) sees Adventures of Salvador reach new heights with their sophomore waxing “Welcome To Our Village”. Equal parts surf, punk, and rock with an Urban patina this is the sound of men growing old disgracefully.

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Honing their already unique blend of influences and instrumentation the quartet have delivered eight excellent tunes. There is no padding or filler on this album, it is top to tail high quality material.

Subject matters varies between the grotesque, picaresque, and humorous with cultural references aplenty,  this is rock music couched in a grand guignol cabaret. Finally some one has written a rock song to honour the cultural icon King Kong that matches Frank Zappa’s efforts from the late 60s. Finally someone has managed to capture the mystery of Walt Disney’s life and give him a good verbal drubbing. Finally someone has transferred the absurd world view of Samuel Beckett, Eugène Ionesco, and Harold Pinter into a rock song with “Welcome to My Village” a harrowing tale of village life. With catchy riffs derived from the back of Lux and Ivy’s motor home and the Partch like interventions of Loop-Aznavour’s theremin, and the “what shouldn’t fit but does” use of a mellotron you have what is one of the best albums of 2019.

Adventures of Salvador are

Nigel Beck – booming bass/vox
Mark Berry – Genie of the Gretsch
Dave aka Loop-aznavour – vox/keyboard/theremin
Mike “Complicated” Smith – DRUMS!

Produced by Tony Long
Mastered by Mike Tucci
Artwork by Jack Jerz

Recorded at Big City Jacks Recording Studio in Bury, Greater Manchester

Available now from German Shepherd Records in digital, CD and Vinyl formats.

Office Politics

By my reckoning we now have  the fifth Monkeys In Love full length after “Death Jeans”, “Will Pet and Cuddle You”, “Take The Biscuit”, and “Live in Stoke Newington”. It’s called “Monkeys In Love Are Ready For The Mountain”.  First thing to say is that, as usual, it’s excellent, and, as usual, it’s markedly different from what went before, a hallmark of the “Monkeys” approach.

The difference this time around is that the melodic hooks are not so overt. They are constructed to work seamlessly within the whole of a song rather than being a defined part that implies a change within the construct of a piece. There are trademark Monkey earworms in play but they take their time to sink in and lodge in your mind on the second or third listen. Musically there is some continuity across the ten songs giving an overall conceptual mood to the album as Steve narrates the story. The groups love of library and advertisement music is perhaps more palpable in these songs. In considering this release in the body of work as a whole, and specifically the preceding album, a comparison would be the difference between “Selling England by the Pound” and “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway”, or, “The Who Sell Out” and “Tommy”, in that there is a more theatrical feel to this album than its predecessors.

The band introduce the album as follows:

The album features ten new songs that trace the nervous breakdown and eventual quasi-spiritual rebirth of a beleaguered office worker. Musically speaking, there’s a kind of mid-80s college rock thing going on in our sound this time round and although we’d love to say it was a deliberate artistic choice owing to the alarmingly mid-80s political climate of late, we can’t honestly remember if it was a conscious choice or not.

The band admit that production/recording is  “ever so slightly slicker on this album. It’s still pretty lo-fi, but a lot less lo-fi than previous releases“. The lyrics also follow up on a couple of songs from the previous album ‘Monkeys In Love Live In New Stoke Newington’, but the listener is left to work out which those songs are and how they relate to this album.

The line up for this release is

Danielle McCullough: guitar, flute, recorder and melodica
Eamonn Murphy: guitar, bass and FX
Laura Simms-Luddington: singing
Steve Simms-Luddington: singing, keys, programming and FX

The plan is to re-release the whole back catalogue so comparisons can be made with previous material for those jumping on at this stage. Steve promised me an out-takes/rarities album for German Shepherd a couple of years back – still looking forward to that!

Any how – quality stuff, wrap your ears around it.

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