Welcome to Jackson Heights

The Seventy Twenty return with a brand new album “Welcome To Jackson Heights” in which James Burling coalesces the best of his first and second albums into a magnificent third.

Since last years “Joy” Burling has relocated permanently to the United States so the old Seven Twenty has gone and will have to be built up again from scratch. For this album James says “…..(it’s) all me except for an excellent New York based drummer called Josh Schusterman throughout, my Nashville country-hit-writer friend James Tristan Redding on bass on “Gods” and longtime Seven Twenty member and Scissor Stewart Harris on bass on ‘Untilted’.”

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The album has ten tracks making up thirty two minutes so there’s no padding or lengthy outings, indeed two tracks, called “Interludes”, little musical sketches, are very short indeed. The album length and track timings are no great issue as the quality of the songs is timeless. There is an effortless, yet epic, grandeur to these tunes, imagine the distillation of urban tropes that you will get from an early Tom Waits album, the brash Jersey Shore blue collar pop of early Springsteen, the melancholic beauty of a Ray Davies classic, and McCartney at his most melodic, and you are close to what Burling has created here.

Classic albums shouldn’t take up to too much listening time, and they should leave a nagging message in the corner of your mind, begging you to listen again. “Jackson Heights” does this, as it conjures and delivers the story of a transatlantic love affair which has reached a point of resolution. If the first two albums were the courtship period of that love affair then this album finds it reaching something more permanent. There’s a maturity to the tunes, there’s not the ongoing search for a pop melody as there was on the first two releases. The New York meta-fiction thing here is whether the protagonist is in love with the girl, or the city, or both. The psychogeography of the Big Apple, and Queens in particular, is a key component.

There are a variety of new musical avenues explored, the rich psychedelia of “Untilted” for example echoes and builds on The Beatles “Within You, Without You” by taking it into a drone rock nirvana with searing guitars buried deep in the mix.  Indeed the latter half of the album takes us into a range of areas moving seamlessly from pop to rock.  The hypnotic “Waves As Tall As Towers” is a tour de force, layers of instruments build in a hypnotic maelstrom of sound, Burling’s vocals are sensational here, as keyboards surge around a repetitive rhythm which breaks down into a funky bass interlude. The closing “Jackson Heights” however takes us back to the stripped down acoustic guitar journeys of the first album, a narrative in the spirit of Arlo Guthrie or Paul Simon. A poignant closer to a wonderful album delivers the message that love has won the day. Surely a message we need to be sending out on both sides of the Atlantic in the days of the Donald and Maybot.

Album one was my album of the year, album two was Dave Hammond’s album of the year in 2018, I wonder if we will synchronise on this one? It’s probably too early in the year to tell……

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Baby, I Wish I’d Been A Better Pop Star

It was a relatively fallow year for Graney fans in 2018. A handful of singles (all excellent) was all we got to sate our appetite for new music from Dave and Clare. Seemingly relentless touring and support to the “Workshy” book appeared to dominate the months. Online views of solo shows, radio spots, and gigs with the MistLy however began to reveal some new songs, all of which indicated a move back into the rock and roll arena.

A new single “Baby, I Wish I’d Been A Better Pop Star” appears on March 1st and comes from a new album, ZIPPADEEDOO WHAT IS/WAS THAT/THIS?,  which comes later in the month. I’ve been fortunate enough to hear the new album in full and can advise it is stunning. Pending that here is the first of the new material from Dave Graney and the MistLy for 2019. Dave promises yet another album later in the year so there is lot to look forward to.

Dave is always good with words so I’ll leave it to him to describe the track “The album begins with the post heist-gone-wrong confessional “Baby I Wish I’d Been A Better Pop Star”. A song that’s never been written before. Twelve string guitar, a swinging drumbeat and big glam slashing guitar chords. It starts with a sly groove and bangs straight into a vivid chorus.”

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New artist – Kopper

Kopper (2018) is the brainchild of visionary London musician and experimental filmmaker Jon Williams. Born in a soporific small town in Kent, the artist packed up to London to build something louder, fiercer and more anthemic.

Jon is joined by his fellow provocateurs, artists and all-round renaissance men, band members: Ed Smith and George Town.

Louche and sprawling slacker vibe with insistent repetitive guitar thang that develops into something more elegiac, cinematic, orchestral and emotional. Very clever and very promising. Sigur Ros meets Mudhoney.

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A Cow In A Field….

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…..a strange way to promote an album of eclectic popular music?

A lonely cow standing wistfully in a field in Cambridgeshire.

Odd, you might think, and in that context their is nothing run of the mill about Lizard Brain.

They have not come off of the Cowell conveyor belt. They are not being lauded as the next big thing on 6Music by Lamacq or Robinson (soon to be rectified I hope  with a quick tram journey down to the Quays to shove some memory sticks into the eager paws of some DJs). They are probably, at this stage only going to get airplay around Cambridge and in some select radio shows in the German Shepherd orbit. They probably won’t get on Joolz Hootenanny although they damn well ought to be on their as they wipe the floor with the tired old industry hacks that populate that show.

I am hoping this review gets them some more exposure as they deserve it.

They are  a remarkably talented set of musicians, writers and producers who have delivered a third album which bears comparison with Godley, Creme, Gouldman and Stewart at their peak. I first heard them in session on Dave Hammond’s Smelly Flowerpot show on Cambridge 105 and you can hear the band talking about this release on a recent edition of that show.

The new album “Stray” is pure pop music, UK style, at it’s best. It transcends trends and fads, it has been painstakingly produced over many months and honed to the point of perfection. It covers many genres but holds together as a cohesive collection. It is joyous, thoughtful, sad and in some cases a little disturbing.

Lizard Brain are:
Richard Jones: songs, keys, bass, vox, arrangements, production
Mark Fleet: songs, keys, arrangements, production
David Carter: songs, guitars, vox, bass, flute, sax, arrangements, production
Tony Jenkins: songs, vox, guitars, arrangements

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The 12 track collection finds the band delivering a heady cocktail of beautifully crafted and diverse songs. It was recorded in the purpose-built Lizard Lounge studio in Lode, Cambridge from late 2016 to late 2018. Album production was led by Richard and supported by Mark and David. Following on from their earlier albums Hold The Mind (2012) and That Has A Nice Ring To It (2016), the songs on the new collection emerged from a series of writing sessions using different combinations of band members whose wide musical influences resulted an album rich with variety.

The album kicks off with the Moroder drenched alt-disco groove of “Lost In Sound”, switches to the impassioned rock of “Gannets” and then swerves into Jamaican grooves with “Am I Just A Name Now”. In these three opening tracks the group evidence their skill and competence in delivering lyrically strong, well produced, quality material.

What follows is a varied menu of twangy psych pop, driving rock, Northern Soul, elegiac balladry, and an epic anthemic closer “Freedom”. Throughout there are strong melodies and hooks that will leave you going back for repeated listens.

If you like well crafted, intelligent and melodic popular music in the best UK tradition then you need to listen to this album. Straight into the albums of the year list for 2019!

You can hear the album on the Aural Delights Radio Show over the next few weeks or you can listen below.

More information about the band here

Noise Annoys

I was rather fond of Black Shape of Nexus, they had a certain something that set them apart from the usual purveyors of metal. From their ashes emerge Bellrope who from the opening minutes of “Hollywood 2001/Rolltrost” seem to be engage in some form of ritual disembowelment. Howling and screeching from the vocalist and the same from the guitarist doesn’t do a great deal for me. The second track “Old Overholt” has a little more structure to it pursuing a fractured motorik riff ,which is good but then they layer more noise of the top and it sort of loses focus. I imagine this is some form of catharsis for the protagonists however it seems a little inchoate to me,  it eventually settles down and gets into a repetitive groove which makes some sort of sense. Apparently it is  a paean to a form of whisky.

The title track “You Must Relax” features a very dirty bass sound and the morose duelling vocals of Arne Heesch and Yvonnne Ducksworth of label-mates Treedeon. I was reminded of The Fall’s Spector vs Rector in terms of intent. Guitars are extremely heavy.  After 11 minutes of being battered senseless you feel like you need a bit of break but it is not forthcoming from “TD200” which slams itself into you for another 11 minutes. I am sure it is deliberate but I can’t help but feel that the vocals needed to be higher in the mix. That this is followed by the 17 minute “CBD/Hereunder” is further evidence that the band are not going to give you an easy ride. Described in the promo as ” a heavy combination of chugging guitars and psych-like leads locking into a repetitive, almost entrancing groove”,  you need a strong stomach and backbone to last the course.

The band who dub themselves as “the total absence of tonal sanity” which is pretty spot on. The album releases  on Exile On Mainstream in February 2019.

Fans of Celestial-era ISIS, early-Cult Of Luna,  and Old Man Gloom will find something to tickle their ossicles here. For me there is something to hook onto especially on the concluding track but overall I feel a more coherent production but have served them better.

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Melting Moments 2.1 and 2.2

The grass roots independent music event “Manchester Meltdown” has returned for it’s second year. Curated by German Shepherd Records co-owner Ian Moss and based at The Peer Hat the five week series gives punters the chance to sample music from bands and artists that hover below the attention span of the cognoscenti of the cities entertainment industry.

The first two weeks of the January 2019 event have delivered eight excellent performances, which have been captured on video by the ever reliable Paul Forshaw offering music lovers the opportunity to see what they have missed and perhaps tempting them to attend the remaining gigs.

All five events are opened by “house band” Four Candles, lead by event curator Ian Moss. Now in their third year of existence, and with a new album “Nettle Rash” due soon, the quartet has a full song book to pick from for their 30 minute slot but the opening set is packed with new tunes. Car troubles have the band running slightly late but they are soon up and running with “Chastity Belt” from the second album “Spiritual Rapture”. The band’s effusive brand of what can only be described as “21st century punk rock” is muscular and relentless and starts the series of gigs off with a bang.  Live debutante “Animals Attack” is a waltz with choppy ska chords, which demonstrates the variety in the bands repertoire. Another new track “Fly In My Soup” is dominated by a searing guitar line from Mark Taylor , this is followed by another new one “Vikings” which feels like the mutant offspring of Van Der Graaf Generator, Kyuss, and Einsturzende Neubaten. Moss let’s rip on the national broadcaster with the cantankerous “BBC”, a vituperative attack, before the band finish with another new track the glorious “Volcano Burning Blue”.

Peer Hat mainman Nick Alexander is up next with a new looper pedal that he wants to experiment with. He delivers a series of magical songs with his excellent voice, his self-effacing stage presence drawing the audience into his unique and compelling sound world. Nick will be back with his full band Saturn Mansions on the 16th January for the third in the series of gigs.

Next up is the debut gig for Transcendental Equations featuring Ill bass player Whitney Bluzma. Blending samples of spoken world, Dik-mik like synth noises, motorik funk rhythms, and shoegaze guitar sounds they power through a series of instrumentals which deliver a hypnotic groove which gets the audience moving.

The closing act of the night is the up and coming Manc supergroup Weimar. Weimar began as a collaborative project between Manchester musicians and songwriters Aidan Cross (The Bacillus, Black Light Mutants), Johann Kloos (The Sandells, Erick), John Armstrong (The Speed of Sound) and Anthony ‘Eddy’ Edwards (The Deceased). Combining a range of influences and naming themselves Weimar after the German Weimar Republic of the 1920s in which experimental art, music and cabaret saw a boom period. Weimar’s music covers an eclectic range of influences ranging from post-punk to cabaret, chanson, torch songs and experimental rock, with lyrics born of a fascination with the murkier and seamier sides of culture and history plus the still current need for retaliation and expression in the face of oppression. Their set captured all of this and featured their new single which will be launched at The Eagle in Salford on 1st February and will be co-released by their own Marlene’s Hat label and German Shepherd. Unfortunately as things were running late Paul only captured part of the set.

Word must have spread about the event as night 2 saw an increased crowd. Once again Four Candles opened, this time with a more recognisable set with tunes from the first two albums. The mojo meter appears to have been turned up tonight with the band certainly exceeding what they did on night one in terms of delivery and intent. Kicking off with the hypnotic and dangerous “Strange Things (Are Happening)”. The title track of the first album “Killing The Image” follows, as does “Monkey See Monkey Do” from the same release. The as yet unreleased “Sex Toy” is captivating and blends post-punk repetition with searing guitar and effortless funky bass from Jon Rowlinson. A remarkable version of “Lenny Bruce” follows which echoes The Fall at their most-unforgiving, stunning!  The set finishes with the always glorious “You Can’t Be What You Pretend”. One can only imagine what they will deliver next week.

As a complete contrast Emily Oldfield is up next. She delivers 30 minutes of thought provoking and sometimes harrowing spoken word which holds an attentive audience spell bound. Unlike a lot of performance poets Emily does not use the heightened delivery associated with the genre but instead delivers in her native Burnley-ese some remarkable and very personal pieces. I much prefer her style of delivery over some of the more recognised poets I have seen of late. She was, to put it, simply excellent.

The beauty of Manchester Meltdown is that is indeed a broad musical church and from Emily’s solo set we move to the manic uber-glam Industrial/Anti-Pop/Noise and electronica of St. Lucifer who drive up the wattage and blast the audience with memorable tunes including a Big Black cover. Equipment problems seek to divert the band from their endeavours but these are soon resolved and some excellent music is delivered including from their latest release “Music is Violence” on Analogue Trash Records. Their performance ethic is second to none bringing a sense of fun and style to the tired indie whitewash of the Manchester scene.

Closing night 2 is Bury’s finest band of the moment the exceptional “Adventures of Salvador”. Combining the swamp rock of The Cramps. post-punk repetition and a punk rock snarl with theremin and mellotrons, coupled with lyrics that reveal the dark underbelly of Pardonian society, they send us away into the cold night with a breathtaking performance. This must be the fifth or sixth time I have seen them live and they reached new heights. With the excellent new single “Retroman” and an uncompromising closer of the Royston Vaisey-esque “Welcome to My Village” they are in fine form. Nigel Becks bass growls like a dyspeptic bear, and Mark Berry’s monster Gretsch sound echoes Poison Ivy, Jeffrey Lee Pierce and Kid “Congo” Powers with a nod to towards Link Wray. Loop-aznavour is his usual cuddly self a snarling intense combination of Johnny Rotten, Richard O’Brien and Mark E. Smith his hand coaxing the theremin into life as the band power to a remarkable conclusion. You really need to see this band.

And that, of course, is not the end of things. There are three more nights to go, details below. You would be daft to miss the opportunity to see some of the best live music in the Manchester conurbation at the moment. Music untainted by the pre-conceptions of an industry mired in nostalgia and a predilection for safe music that people know. Challenge yourself and pop down to the Peer Hat for a listen.

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Tour The Ruins

Float Here Forever is a three-piece alternative rock band from Detroit, Michigan featuring Darrell Bazian on vocals/guitar, Nick Marko on drums/percussion and Samantha Easterbrook on vocals/bass. Their first full length Tour the Ruins is released on January 1st 2019. The album was recorded at Temper Mill studios in Ferndale, Michigan by Grammy award winner Dave Feeny (White Stripes, Loretta Lynn) and mastered by Alan Douches (Dillinger Escape Plan, Brand New, Mastodon) of West West Side Music.

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Fourteen powerful rock tunes make up a highly enjoyable album which echoes the later days of Husker Du and Bob Mould’s next band Sugar. With the ability to carve out driving rock music but add a distinct melodic edge this band stands out amongst the alternative rock community.  Songs are short and to the point, not overstaying their welcome, the whole song book fitting into just over the 30 minutes. The dual vocals of Bazian and Easterbrook are particularly compelling. When the band slow things down the musicianship is particularly impressive with the three piece creating an epic sound.  A very impressive debut created by quality musicians who have honed their art to create great music.

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Darrell Bazian has spent the last 2 decades writing and composing music for bands that he formed, managed and played in. (Osmus, Singer Soldier) He has opened for platinum and gold selling artists and has had his music aired on regional radio stations. He spends most of his time with fellow band mate Nick Marko composing and engineering music for the ALP Music library.

Nick Marko (Singer Soldier, The Holy Fire) started playing clubs at the age of 14 and started releasing records on a national level in the 2000’s with The Holy Fire (Sony). He became recognized as a drummer by publications like Revolt Media and Amplifier Magazine. Billboard.com described The Holy Fire as a “vibrant mixture of shimmering melody and darkly literate post-punk texture.” Marko, a former Sony/BMG recording artist was produced by Michael Ivins of the Flaming Lips and has recorded with Grammy winner Dave Feeny.

Samantha Easterbrook joined Float Here Forever for the recording of Tour the Ruins. She has been fronting bands for over a decade in the Metro Detroit scene.

Float Here Forever released The Owl their first EP in 2016 and followed it up with the EP Inexhaustible in 2017.

The new album will be featured extensively on the Aural Delights Radio Show on Analogue Trash radio during January.