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”

 

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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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Robert was indeed, legendary

I’m a grumpy old cynic these days. It takes a lot to get me excited music wise. Put it down to listening to music submissions all day. But it has been a good week for excitement, both music and in a sporting context with three days at Lancashire watching my local club play my town  of birth club (county = Northamptonshire)  in fine sunshine, capped off by an evening of wonderful music from Robert Forster and band on Thursday May 16th. When Robert played Deaf Institute last time around I missed the gig through some sort of ailment, this time he is at the Band on the Wall, which feels like a more intimate and  appropriate venue for his timeless songs.

Bob Auster South is up from the aforementioned Northamptonshire for two days of the cricket and the gig. Thursday proves a slow but entertaining days play at Old Trafford with Lancs moving towards victory. Missing the last session of play we hop on the tram at 5pm to ensure some food can be consumed before the gig, and, after a quick pizza in Croma, we enjoy pre-gig libation at the Lower Turks Head and then the Smithfield (which is much improved and has an impressive array of beers on offer).

The Band on the Wall is filling up nicely by the time we get there and we park ourselves next to a suitable leaning spot in front of the stage. Robert is onstage at 8:05pm and a foot numbing 1 hour 45 minutes later he and his fine band have delivered 22 songs including two encores of three songs each. Bob had seen Robert and band at the Union Chapel in London on the Monday and advises this is the same set.

The material is split between Robert’s solo work, the bulk of which is from the new album Inferno, and a fantastic array of classic Go-Betweens tunes, all the way from “Don’t Let Him Come Back” to tracks from Oceans Apart. Liberty Belle is the most mined album with glorious versions of “Spring Rain”, “Twin Layers of Lightning”, and “In The Core of the Flame”. A highlight of the evening is a stunning version of “The Clarke Sisters” from Tallulah, with Karin Bäumler’s violin creating a wonderful atmosphere. Guitarist Scott Bromiley has amp and pedal issues at one point during the show but this does not detract from what is a remarkable performance from a well drilled band who clearly enjoy their craft. The material from the new album sounds excellent live and a great version of “Born To A Family” from Oceans Apart is dedicated to Robert’s brother who is in the audience.

The Go-Betweens have been a big part of my life for many years, unfortunately I never got to see them. Robert both reminds me of what I missed but reconfirms my belief than both that band and his solo work is some of the best music ever created.

“Surfin’ Magazines” closes the a fantastic set with a bit of a sing-along and we shuffle out into the night for a quick pint in The Castle before getting the tram home. After that I’m a lot less cynical and grumpy. I could with more days like this. Probably the best gig i’ve ever seen at the Band on the Wall (with the possible exception of May 3rd 1982).

(photo by Vicki Egan)

Full set list courtesy of Robert Stow

The Morning – Inferno
Crazy Jane And The Day of Judgement – Inferno
Born To A Family – Oceans Apart
I Love Myself (And I Always Have) – Songs To Play
In The Core of the Flame – Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express
A Poet Walks – Songs To Play
Dive For Your Memory – 16 Lovers Lane
Life Has Turned A Page – Inferno
Remain – Inferno
Inferno (Summer in Brisbane) – Inferno
Man O`Sand To Girl O`Sea – Spring Hill Fair
Demon Days – The Evangelist
One Bird In The Sky – Inferno
Twin Layers of Lightning – Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express
Spring Rain – Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express
Here Comes A City – Oceans Apart

ENCORE ONE
Love Is A Sign – 16 Lovers Lane
Finding You – Oceans Apart
Learn To Burn – Songs To Play

ENCORE TOW
The Clarke Sisters – Tallulah
Don`t Let Him Come Back – People Say B side
Surfing Magazines – The Friends of Rachel Worth

LIVE at L’Ubu

In 2015, The Apartments released the album No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal in Europe and influential French Music magazine Magic made it the Number 1 Album of The Year, a feat never before been achieved by an Australian artist. This was not surprising given the huge popularity of the band in France, and also the excellent quality of said release.

To support the release of No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal, The Apartments toured France in September 2015 with a full band. Their show at Rennes’ legendary L’Ubu Club was recorded, resulting in this double album, LIVE at L’Ubu.

The live recording captures the dynamic line-up of a combination of Australian, French and English players in a seven-piece band. This format allows Peter Milton Walsh to, for the first time, drop the guitar and masterfully sing and perform a set of songs from the extant album along with others from The Apartments impressive back catalogue.

In the parallel universe that exists somewhere at the back of my subconscious Walsh is huge and Ed Sheeran doesn’t exist. His bitter sweet songs are the stuff of magic and he is someone that gets the “Grant McLennan” moment every time he constructs a tune. This collection of songs transcends criticism, it’s everything that popular music should be. Legitimate, honest and full of emotion. He has the tone and content of David McComb at his best. He is a master craftsman.

If you have not come across The Apartments before then start with this album and you’ll soon be reaching for the back catalogue. If you don’t like this music then I fear for your eternal soul. Personally I’d play this music to children at nursery school so they can get an early education on what good music is.

Available digitally and as a very limited double vinyl. Hopefully a CD version will emerge at some point for those of us who still like these things.