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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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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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.

Tour The Ruins Album Cover

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.

parasitic insects teach us humility

1987/8 …. the murky years between post-punk and the emerging Madchester.  The Manchester Music Scene was in some sort of flux. The nationwide scene was dull, with Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Stock, Aitken and Waterman dominating. On a wider stage the Sonic Youth influence was palpable, “Daydream Nation” was the album on everyone’s lips, the since self-disenfranchised “Moody Chops” had his first solo album out, “Surfer Rosa” was making the Pixies a thing. Michael Jackson dominated the charts. The Fall hit a pre “Brix-exit” creative high with “The Frenz Experiment” and “I Am Kurious Oranj”.  Similarly Wire returned with the incredible “A Bell Is A Cup”. “16 Lovers Lane” both celebrated and destroyed The Go-Betweens as Grant and Amanda’s romance ended. Dave Graney and Clare Moore were moving between The Moodists and Coral Snakes/White Buffaloes and London & Melbourne. In Manchester clubs went in another direction, availability of ecstasy started to change the musical landscape. Towards the end of the year “Bummed” presaged what was to come.

Out of this context Boz Vile and Art Carbuncle, plus a drum machine called Sissy, conceived and delivered Flea.

The Boardwalk was a venue and rehearsal rooms at the bottom of Little Peter Street, now long gone and replaced by the “Great Northern Square” – it was the venue of choice for aspiring rock acts and a central part of an ongoing music scene. Many of the bands that would dominate the emerging scene started there. Flea were part of that collection of artists. They were active between 1988 and 1993 playing at many of the key gigs in the city around that time period.

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Flea dissolved in 1993 when there particular brand “micro chip axe murdering” failed to connect to the psychedelic haze of Madchester in full flow.  Another example of genuinely talented musicians with cutting edge music being lost in a morass of the mundane. Their edgy, anarchic, sound was more in tune with what was happening in America and I have no doubt that if they had relocated to America’s West Coast they would have received a warmer welcome and achieved some longevity.

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“parasitic insects teach us humility” collects recordings from 1990/1 in Bedford and Manchester and the release on German Shepherd Records emerges from that labels’ relationship with Boz Hayward, and also an appearance at the Star and Garter in September 2017 supporting The Cravats when the duo (and Sissy) re-emerged after a 25 year gap. Rat’s other band Dead Objectives also played the gig. A follow up gig at this summers Manchester Meltdown lead to a continuing conversation about releasing the album. Several months later it gets general release on November 16th.

I don’t need to say any more – have a listen…..

Immediate

I’m late to the party as usual on this one. They are a Manchester band but a friend from Northampton brought them to my attention. They are a six piece (yes I know the photo only has five but it’s the only one I could be bothered to grab) called D.U.D.S. (or possibly d.u.d.s. depending on what part of the internet you are looking at). There appears to be quite a bit of internet chat and 6Music action so I suppose I ought to file them away in the “not obscure enough” pile but I was quite taken with the Trout Mask guitar of the opening track so I persevered.

As I continued it became clear I was back in 1982 again.

In summary it’s Beefheart plus Gang of Four plus James Chance/White plus Talking Heads plus early DEVO, maybe a bit of early Tuxedomoon,  plus any number of noisy guitar oiks who were hanging around Oldham Street/Swan Street at the time of Hex Enduction Hour. If you are as old as me you will have heard it all before and be mildly bemused about the rotational nature of music (time wise that is…if you hang around long enough all types of genres come back round again). If you are under 40 and haven’t mined the back catalogue of Manchester post punk (i.e. 1980 to 1985) then you are in for a pleasant surprise as their angular atonal brashness is quite arresting.

Of course Ian Moss invented this type of music with the Dodos (not the american ones) and The Stepbrothers so it once again proves he was way ahead of his time.

Anyhow I’ll be playing track a week on Thursday but here it is if you want to check it out…….

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Motus Octo

Bouquet of Dead Crows return with their second full length and a fuller, more aggressive sound emerges, consolidating the tension between the hard rock of the music and Toni Cooper’s melodic vocals. The music takes on a much broader more orchestral sound, the riffs are heavier, the structures are more complex. The band have demonstrated a clear development of their sound in this release.

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The title (referring to the fact that there are eight tracks on the album), essentially means ‘eight movements’, or eight emotions.

Limited Edition Colour Vinyl Versions of the album plus T-Shirts and gig tickets are available at Music Glue . CD copies have completely sold out.

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Bouquet of Dead Crows are:

Antoinette Cooper : Vocals
Neil Bruce : Guitars
Graeme Clarke : Bass
Andrew Coxall : Drums, Percussion, Trumpet, Synths & Keys, & Backing vocals

The album was recorded and produced By Neil Haynes at the Parlour and artwork was by Stewart Harris

It releases November 23, 2018.

Tour dates to support this release….

NOVEMBER

15th – Esquires, Bedford
24th – Motus Octo launch at The Blue Moon, Cambridge
29th – Gringos, Norwich

DECEMBER

1st – Smokehouse, Ipswich
6th – Mama Liz’s Voodoo Lounge, Stamford