Dunce Confederacy

There’s a point towards the end of the Lords of Zubos album “The trouble with Paté”, i.e. the release that precedes this one I am going to talk about here,  where John Rowley berates John Senior and his brother Mike plus Paul Hogg for spending two years messing around, getting stoned and creating a muddled mess. There’s some validity in that tongue in cheek badinage as,  whilst the Zubos album is a sometimes confused, sometimes suspect, melange  of Firesign Theatre like surreal theatrical snippets, its successor “Road Trip (Fall of the Rebel Angels)” takes the bones of that experimentation and transforms their work method into a collection that transcends comparison with any other contemporary releases in 2018, and stands as a unique piece of art and music regardless of the year. The Zubos album ought to be heard in advance of the Aliens album as it, despite its sometimes worryingly laddish humour, creates a framework with which to listen to the latest release.

Hull has a fine track record of producing good music. Last year I was taken on a between pub trip around the City Centre by some locals who introduced me to the rich history of the cities musical heritage which is not all about Mick Ronson despite rumours you may have heard to the contrary. Of late Warren Street Records, and Lou Duffy Howard and her various projects, and the annual Humber Street sessions have continued to cement the Hull reputation with a rich vein of material. Bands like Life, Loudhailer Electric Company, El Whaeko, La Bête Blooms, EMBRS, and  The Evil Litter are all fine examples of what Hull is delivering at the moment. Add to that list Ten Million Aliens.

Ten Million Aliens are the latest incarnation of the partnership of  John Senior with producer John Rowley, ex-guitarist from John Peel favourite’s Red Guitars (of which the aforementioned Lou was the bass player). The duo remains largely unknown outside of their local music scene and has worked together for years on some fascinating studio projects including the aforementioned Lords of Zubos and more recently a similarly fascinating and fantastic album “On The Beach” which features the late Eddie Smith. Senior has recently remixed one of the bands on the German Shepherd record label – The Mind Sweepers.

With the addition of Rich Banks on bass and guitar, they have taken matters to another level from Lords of Zubos with this new album.

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There must have been some degree of pre-cognition in play when the album was started two years ago as some of the subject matter covered eerily mirrors and reflects Trump’s current Republican base with chilling accuracy. It also echoes, to some degree, John Kennedy Toole’s picaresque novel “A Confederacy of Dunces”, in that it lays bare some of the more absurd and obsessive elements of American culture. I was pondering a while back as to why there was not a current protest movement in the music biz which reflected the state of things in both this country and the States. To some degree, this album covers that gap. It also strikes me that this album is a musical counterpart to the visual art of Garth Ennis’ Preacher series, an America which is both familiar and alien.

The opening “A Confederacy of Fools” mirrors the Toole novel in both title and content by exposing the partisan simplicity of the dialogue of the right, and indeed the far right. The music reflects the place and is wonderful, the words reflect some rather worrying thought processes that have been given a wider stage by the orange man-baby of late.  The puerile arguments against countries that play “soccer” instead of “proper” football (i.e. American) is both chilling and hilarious.

It’s not all about politics mind you, there is a heartfelt tribute to Jerry Lee Lewis via “The Killer” which collates some remarkable comments from the great man. Americas tortured history with regard to race discrimination is forensically examined with “Long Time Coming”  which is brutal but captured beautifully in a remarkable piece of music which is reminiscent of John Zorn’s cut-up technique used on “The Big GunDown.  The remarkable “Soul Food” is a hilarious take-down of American Food Culture which would turn any dedicated meat eater into a vegan overnight.

“Cuban Nights” cheekily borrows an Afro-Cuban jazz motif to contain the story of The Bay of Pigs crisis and the chilling time of the Cold War in the early 60s. “Rocket Clank Clank” starts off with Jeff Tracy and then embarks on a trip around 50s sci-fi movies with a Nuggets-style vibe. Any track which includes my favourite movie “Forbidden Planet” and Star Trek TOS is always going to get my vote, that they launch into a post-punk hook in parts of the song is both baffling and fascinating. “From A Buick 8” centres on both American car culture and the advertising industry of that country with a bluesy piano work-out. “Cops and Robbers” adopts a Bill Burroughs/Brion Gysin cut-up technique by marrying cop-show funk with a seemingly random series of excerpts from tv and film, Senior’s piano on this track is particularly fine. “Dust to Dust” provides a jazzy interlude with spacey guitar and reflects elements of American history. Like a lot of the music on the album seemingly incongruous found sounds float around to create a feel which reminds me of the work of Hal Willner (particularly his Charles Mingus hommage “Weird Nightmare”). The brilliant “Don’s Guns” takes a George Clinton/Bootsy Collins/James Brown riff and morphs into a guitar/organ Jimmy Smith style freakout while tuning into various sounds from Nixon, Reagan through to Quinn Martin via various other destinations before commenting on the current Second Amendment debate which bedevils the USA.  “Bound for Glory” reflects the Trump presidency before embarking on a fractured journey from Bill Black/Scotty Moore to Mary Halvorson via techno and hi-life. The musical hooks here are intelligently constructed. Obama’s hopeful message is left hanging as the train whistle blows. The plaintive closer “Mr Tangerine Man” which quotes John F’.. Kennedy, and 9/11 disaster, and other key moments,  before getting into the utterances of the latest incumbent of the Presidency is sanguine food for thought and the perfect closer to an album full to the brim with outstanding creativity.

I unreservedly recommend this album to you as one of the most outstanding pieces of work I have heard. The irony is, I guess, that it took a couple of guys from Hull to make one of the boldest statements about America in a long long time.

Parts of the Lords of Zubos album can be streamed here but I suggest you acquire the whole thing as there is a narrative which runs through the complete set.

More info and shop here – http://ten-million-aliens.co.uk/

Many thanks to John Rowley and John Senior for their generosity and special thanks to Brad Cain for bringing the album to my attention in the first place.

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I Had A New York Girlfriend

When music historians look back on the latter half of the 2010s two key things will become clear from their research. Firstly how the hell was Ed Sheeran/Mumford and Sons/Coldplay (delete as applicable) so successful when other bands and artists, clearly more talented, remained largely unnoticed?

Secondly, why didn’t my DJ chums (with the notable exception of Dave Hammond) pick up on the first The Seven Twenty album when I made it my album of the year in 2015.

Three years on from that first album The Seven Twenty are back with a collection of songs that were written around the time of the first release and have been languishing waiting for a record label with any degree of common sense to pick up on them. Such are the vagaries of the music biz these days the band have set up their own label to release it.

In a pub in Prestwich about a year ago I was berating Stephen Doyle about the need to find “The Grant McLennan Moment” in the outpourings of singer we were watching, who was trying hard but I was not connecting with. The “Grant” moment is that bit in a song where you get a shiver up your spine and you smile from the inside out. Very few musicians can do it. Capturing a moment in time through songwriting and making it last is an art. James Burling can do it, and he has a group of musicians around him that can deliver his vision. Their new album does the “Grant” thing on every track.

The Seven Twenty - band promo image 2018 - please credit Stag Lites Photography where used
The Seven Twenty (credit: Stag Lites Photography)

“Joy” is the second album from The Seven Twenty. It was written on a plastic guitar in New York in four days and brought back to the UK where it was polished and developed, before being finished in New York in the Summer of 2016. They have created a collection which is every bit of a triumph as the debut. I’d go as far as to say it’s better than the eponymous first release in that it is better produced and has a complete suite of songs feel about it. The thematic thread of the album is love, but a love separated by distance, lack of resources, cultural divides, and other distractions. New York, as a place, runs through the album with Paul Auster like psychogeographical abandon. Musically it is rich and memorable, with lush string arrangements, epic sweeping moments and also a  great deal of fun.

Burling can be firmly placed in the list of great songwriters like Forster & McLennan, Ray Davies et al. He captures the essence of pop/rock music and modernises it, you will recognise some of the themes, arrangements and melodies in that he has taken the ingredients that make a great song and distilled them into perfect little parcels. On one occasion the similarities to a track by a group from Birmingham are a little less tangential than they ought to be but manage to avoid being a copy/pastiche, in any event, anyone under the age of 55 wouldn’t probably get the allusion/illusion/connection that I got.

Comparisons can and should be made, in part, with The Go-Betweens. A female drummer and great songs are the pedantically obvious points.  What I mean is that this is a quality album in the adventurous spirit of Spring Hill Fair with the sentiment and accessibility of 16 Lovers Lane. And of course, Robert Forster had a solo album called “I Had A New York Girlfriend”.

 ‘Joyʼ is released on 22nd June 2018 on limited run vinyl and digital formats.

The Seven Twenty are James Burling (guitar, lead vocals), Stewart Harris (bass, backing vocals), Geoff Hinkins (keys, backing vocals) and Helen Robertson (drums, backing vocals). Stewart also plays in The Scissors and Helen & Geoff play in Goddamit Jeremiah (whose album I must get around to reviewing as well).

 “Joy “is the first release on the bandʼs Whiskey Ward Records label.  Order it here.

The promo says the album is already being described as a “cult” classic. It transcends cult status in my mind, it ought to be huge. Whether they will be able to break through the 6Music glass ceiling is in the hands of the gods, and luck, I’d guess but I already know that at least three community radio DJs will be featuring the band, I challenge my other DJ chums to ignore it at their peril.

Will it be album of the year 2018? Possibly but there are already six other contenders which are as good, and it is only June, so you’ll have to wait until December to find out.

As for Ed Sheeran and the others? Well, I don’t really care about them.

The Seven Twenty - Joy cover art

Landscapes of Insanity

Good music can always capture and reflect on moments in history.

It can deal with politically important issues without resorting to polemic. It can anthologise without being trite.

Mr Moss has been poorly over the last few years. He has battled two major health scares. His indomitable spirit has fought through these catabatic barriers and he has emerged phoenix-like with his mojo renewed and wholly intact.

I may have said elsewhere that Four Candles is the best band that Mr Moss has ever had, this is confirmed and exemplified by “Spiritual Rapture” their new release. Said band is Phil Peak – drums, Jon Rowlinson – bass and Mark Taylor – guitar.

Back in January, at the Peer Hat in Manchester, the six songs on this album were premiered and worked through. At the time I was struck by the huge change in the band from the sturm and drang of “Killing the Image” to a more measured and, dare I say it, progressive approach to the music.

Mr Moss writes internally for his solo stuff with various collaborators. For band projects he writes externally, he observes and comments, he anthologises, he is political, and also is a biographer.

The music here is mature and considered.  Mr Moss provides a balanced attack, both bucolic and bellicose. There is saxophone from David Wilkinson to add fire and fervour to the sound, especially on “Chastity Belt” the 657th song in the canon about the dissolution of a band which we don’t talk about anymore. The rhythmic interplay on said song between Taylor, Rowlinson and Peak is breathtaking.

“Dipping A Toe In The Water” is a song about a Muddy Waters’ tour in the UK and yet another swipe at the conservative idiots who are so-called music fans. Taylor plays one of many earworm guitar figures that appear across the album. Rowlinson and Peak swing effortlessly as Taylor arpeggiates and Moss testifies. Hypnotic music with a strong message.

“C33” has appeared, lyrically at least, elsewhere as a Moss Bros concoction. Here it most resembles the music that was on “Killing The Image”. Live it is a monster, big riffs and call and response vocals. Moss emotes his huge regard for Oscar Wilde, the rhythm section attacks with motorik menace, and the guitar assaults your senses.

The absolute triumph is “You Can’t Be What You Pretend” – rhythmically starting somewhere in Psycho Killer territory, all backbeat and attitude, but carried forward with one of the best guitar figures I have heard in a long while. If you are not moving sinuously in a slinky fashion across the dance floor on hearing this then you have no soul. Moss berates and bellows moving from declamatory to intense, this is head-shakingly, hip-movingly hypnotic stuff. It’s damn sexy. It transcends to a huge climax relentlessly drawing you in.

What to do after that?  Well, the answer is to dive into a delta blues with abandonment. A mutant blues which takes no prisoners. Moss tears his vocal chords apart as the band charge headlong into the heart of darkness that is Basket Weaving.

And back to the start…..the opening track is “Strange Things Are Happening” a masterpiece of restraint musically, with delightful guitar, Wilkinson’s sax, and the interesting interjection of a guiro as a rhythmic colour. Moss evokes the current political climate perfectly, he reflects the fear and concern that government is driving us to strange places where retaining a grip on reality is increasingly impossible. It is the other triumph in the set and a brilliant way to start an album.

The album was recorded at 6dB in Salford by Simon “Ding” Archer who has captured the band at their best.

There are around five albums vying for the best of the year at this point – this is one of them.

“Spiritual Rapture” will be available from Friday 22nd at the German Shepherd bandcamp page in CD format and will be released digitally as three double-A side singles in June, July and August

You can see Four Candles at Manchester Meltdown on June 23rd at The Peer Hat, Manchester.

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Blaney – A new chapter

“It’s like writing a book – many people start it, but don’t finish it. We did it.” – Ed Blaney

You get a sense of a long-desired renaissance from Ed Blaney. The title of the new album from his band Blaney “The Severance”, the follow up to last year’s critically applauded “Urban Nature”, implies a change, a break from the past, and a positive future direction.

Is it a that difficult second album or is it something new entirely?

When asked about this Blaney is candid:

I think it was a bit of both, ‘ leaving it all behind, a cleansing of the mind is’ a line from The Severance. Indeed it is a total break away in many aspects, that was the whole idea and in the new songs you will hear and feel a sense of freedom, there’s a nice rawness, a complete coming together of the people involved. It was very spiritual for me and it worked a treat with the band. We all got and understood the concept of ‘ The Severance ‘. I have few regrets about my past musically but I felt it was time to escape from it.

Blaney is justifiably proud of the first album which garnered countless positive reviews. He found a new set of fans, and shocked a few people, with an album he describes as “a gathering of the ghosts” where a few past demons were exorcised and a strong platform for future endeavours was built.

Ed Head Shot

A proud son of Salford, Ed Blaney’s first musical venture, the band “Trigger Happy”, was co-opted into The Fall in 2001 and Ed’s own musical career was put on hold for a while. However, the last few years have seen successful duo collaborations with Smith, the rebirth of Trigger Happy, a number of other successful projects, and eventually last year the emergence of the Blaney band. Much of Ed’s time in the last few years has been taken up with the creation and management of the highly regarded Salford Musical Festival which is on hiatus this year as Ed concentrates on this new album.

Whilst Ric Gibbs remains on drums the band has seen a change since “Urban Nature”.

Blaney says “The last ‘ line up ‘ was kinda cobbled together as a “mates” thing just for the 12 or so gigs we did, it was a good thing for what it was but was never gonna be a permanent fixture as a band.”

The new bass player is Lian Pienaar, and on guitar and piano, is long time Blaney associate Sophie Labrey, best known as a drummer, previously with Girl Peculiar, Shuttleworth and Shoshin, she also played on “Urban Nature. Indeed Ric, Sophie and Ed had planned this “second phase” of the project before the release of “Urban Nature”.

“The Severance” was recorded in Berlin, where two of the band members are based, heading away from the constant distractions of Salford/Manchester and embracing the multicultural vibes and the creative attitude of the German capital were key elements in that choice. The idea of recording in Berlin came about after a few beers, Ed and Ric had a chat about it and Sophie was asked to look into it as a viable option. In the past Blaney has not always enjoyed recording in UK studios finding their corporate feel restricted creativity and did not allow band members to relax into the creation of the album

Blaney says ….” In Manchester band members have the option of going ‘ home ‘ when things were starting to happen creatively, being distracted by day to day things. Being right out there in Berlin, almost in a blind sense. really worked, considering probably 7-8 of the songs were written over there in the studio. I followed my instincts and all the signs were pointing to Berlin. I don’t think we could have landed on our feet the way we did in any other studio or city in the world, it was that good. Everything we had discussed came to be, the idea of going over with no instruments and just the title song of the album sounded like a great idea to us, crazy in some ways but also perfect. Tito who owns the studio is an incredible person to work with, we hit it off straight away over emails. He listened and understood exactly what we were looking for. The studio itself was an old 1950’s cinema previously, it had so much history I could feel and was a really brilliant space to be creative in. Having been there on 6-7 trips since February, the locals have got to know us and have took to us too, it was a really great experience indeed”.

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Those who enjoyed “Urban Nature” will love “The Severance”. As with the first album it’s a good mixture of swagger meets sensibility, but it is much more accessible, and those who think they know Ed Blaney and his music are in for a bit of a shock, albeit a pleasant one. In terms of subject matter there are both autobiographical and political elements. Reflection on growing up, how things have changed not necessarily for the good, society wise, learning from past mistakes in love, and at the same time, keeping a positive fresh approach. All of these spill out of the tunes with typical Blaney enthusiasm.

Self-belief, spirituality , escapism, new beginnings, realism, forgiveness and understanding are all key themes of the albums’ title track.

Ed says …”….in the track ‘ The Arrival ‘ which is a funny upbeat song, we basically stick up a nice two fingered salute to any doubters about my persona”.

Wandering around Eccles on my daily perambulation with the I Pod blasting out the new album I got a real buzz from the positive vibe bursting from the ten tracks on the album From the pulsing bass of “Happy Return” which builds a tension that releases with a punk chorus and kicks the album off with a statement of intent, this is joyous stuff.

The album captures not only the raw energy of those early Clash records,  but also the Manchester pop sensibility of 10cc, and the unbridled joy of 90s Madchester. Once in a while the Greater Manchester conurbation gets back to what it is good at, making perfect pop and rock music, and this is a perfect example of that long held tradition,

All of the tracks move on from the excellent benchmark set by “Urban Nature” but there are several absolute classics that stand out.  My favourite is “Blackpool” a glorious piece of writing and an indication of the potential of this band. The glam rock bounce of “Feel The Rain” and the soul-pop strut of “Bin Liner” are refreshing,  there’s a tendency these days to make pop music too complicated and too muso, those two tracks prove you don’t need to do that,  you can get down to the elements that make good music great, strip back, get back to basics, and deliver, that’s a winning formula. Title track “The Severance” sums up the thinking behind the album in a perfect pop/rock tune.

There are a couple of interesting variations in the mix with the dub reggae version of “Thinking Of You”, originally a garage rock tune on Urban Nature, which should have people making shapes in a live setting. “11007 days old” dials things down with a plaintive pastoral feel and a nice mid album relaxer before things build to an explosive conclusion. An emotional recollection of days past with memories of childhood. The delightful “Tessa” is pop magic, “The 11th Man” is an excellent driving rock song, and the sheer joy of closing track “The Arrival” spills out the speakers and sums up the positive nature of the album…….the only thing to have a word with Ed about his lack of appreciation of cricket!

The album will be launched at a gig at Posh Teckel Berlin on 23rd November.

A home town launch will follow at The Castle,  Oldham Street, Manchester on Thursday November 30th.

The album is released on Friday November 10th. (CD/Vinyl ). You can order it via http://www.Blaney.co or grab it at HMV,  Amazon and all other good record stores. I think you should it’s bloomin’ marvellous.

Blaney Gig

THE BAND MEMBERS

Ed Blaney
Ric Gibbs
Sophie Labrey
Lian Pienaar

LINKS

FACEBOOK

WEBSITE

Somewhere between something and the other

So much music I get sent, and I get sent a lot, tends to be bland and cloned. It’s as if there’s a factory/laboratory somewhere in a nameless city/town/village (delete as applicable) where the “magic formula” that made Busted “successful” is applied to fifteen year olds to turn them into avatars of that inane indie guitar thang. The guitars all sound the same. the vocals all sound the same. the chords are inevitably major and all predictable. I guess there is a human capacity for some to mimic/imitate what they like and try and replicate it in the hope of some sort of career coming out of it. Some have the mystery element of being able to turn it into something new and interesting. Others are merely copyists and either pass it off as new or end up in tribute bands. Nothing to get too hung up about I guess but a reason why my radio shows tend to feature stuff, in the most part, that doesn’t sound like anything else, hopefully.

I’ve also been around long enough to realise that some things are cyclical and styles tend to come back so you may not have heard it before but I have.

There’s a lot about Havania Whaal that you will have heard in other bands but they have a knack of altering/subverting/enhancing what has gone before them. Which is why they get my attention.

Their Bandcamp bio says:

Havania Whaal is a three piece noise pop band from Portland, Oregon that formed in a musty basement during the cold winter months of 2012. Drawing inspiration from a large spectrum of artists like Joy Division, Sonic Youth and Cocteau Twins, Havania Whaal’s sound has been described as “stargaze pop” by two girls in Olympia.

They have a big sound for a three piece and in no small part the three voice attack and Noelle Magia’s full poly-rhythmic drum attack make up the major part of the wall of noise which emerges from their new one “Elaborate Minor Crisis”. Paul Billy Sobeich conjurs huge layers of shoegazey/sonic youth noise from his guitar, The trio is expanded on some tracks with effective additional violin tracks provided by Melody Wilbrecht.  Caroline Jackson holds it together with some pungent bass which locks seamlessly with Magia’s rhythms.

This is an album which explores several angles of the same overall sound, which feels like something like some other stuff you will have heard, but also manages to emerge in other directions into areas which you will not have heard before. It’s definitively American, it’s plain daft in places, “The Party” feels like a Thurston Moore laconic ramble through a Bongwater track with a no wave bad attitude nibbling at your ears. Other parts are plain shoe-gazey in a Cocteau’s stylee. Sometimes, on “Chambers” particularly, Sobeich channels Ian Curtis, which is slightly incongruous, and in particular said track heads in an early goth direction  before sounding like it has leaped, kicking and screaming, from the back entries of Northampton in the 1980s. “Spiral Out” is particularly memorable juxtaposing a poppy Liz F verse with a punky Coathangers chorus. Closer “Dylan McKay” is as relentless a closer as any band would sell their souls to Jools Holland for.

All in all it’s a damn good set of tunes. Click on the thing below to see how to get it.

Havania Whaal

Cowboys, Brollies and Krautpunk

There has been a lot of commentary about Manchester Music resting on its laurels recently. Supposedly bathing in some sort of fuzzy nostalgia as ongoing  bands from the late 70s and early 8os continue to plough a well known furrow, or their contemporaries reappear looking somewhat weathered due to inevitable catabasis but deliver more or less what they were doing 40 years ago. Or perhaps it is that new and emerging bands don’t quite cut it or tend to sound like what has gone before.  Maybe it’s a symptom of the predilection for tribute bands and promoters who know they can turn a fast buck with the latest iteration of musicians who have turned to copying rather than creating. However do not despair dear reader as beneath the veneer of that supposed nostalgia fest or perceived lack of forward momentum is a vibrant scene which demands but rarely gets a larger audience.  Two parts Salford and one part Manchester  (The) Sandells offer hope in a city that perhaps needs a kick up its musical fundament. Their album is called “Forwards!” and never was an album more aptly named.

Turn the clock back some seven years and venture into studio 2 at Salford City Radio on a Saturday afternoon and you will see a station manager pulling his hair out because I have crammed a live band into a very small room to record a radio session. The Sandells viz Johann Kloos (guitar) Tim Lyons (bass, vocals) and Brian Benson (heavily muffled drums) deliver a set of songs – with Dave Thom on guest keyboards. I was on a steep learning curve at the time and I thought I could record a four piece band with three microphones – foolish I know.  I just about managed to capture something and spent three or four days trying to craft something for broadcast that the band were happy with it. That band were and are (The) Sandells and at long last they have released an album which properly captures what I was attempting to record.

The music business is a fickle thing – Sandells recorded the album  a while back but matters conspired to delay the release until now. In that time Lyons has pursued the return of The Things with some success, Kloos has continued his remarkable solo career with a veritable deluge of albums and Benson has pursued his artistic endeavours. It was inevitable though at some point that the three of them would get back together to deliver this album, the quality of the music was obvious back in 2010 and has not lost any of its attraction in that extended period of delay. It needed to be heard.

The musical pedigree of the three protagonists is such that something new was going to emerge once they combined and began exploring what they could achieve. The result is described by the band as “Kraut-Punk” which to some degree reflects the content but also tends to underplay what is a remarkable distillation of various genres. Bensons’ polyrhythmic approach is at the heart of the successful delivery of remarkable music. Anchoring the pulse is Lyons enormous bass sound which serves as the punk end of the mix. His vocal dexterity is known of course from The Things and latterly the wonderful Harvey’s Rabbit and with The Sandells he reaches a new level of quality, especially lyrically,  taking a unique set of ideas into the rock idiom. Kloos is of course a master guitarist and great tune-smith and freed of the responsibilities of being the sole front man his delivery and execution are parless.

Two of the tunes from that aforementioned session make it onto the album – the hypnotic “No Way Out”,  and the exceptional “Cowboys Don’t Have Brollies” a title derived from an off hand remark from producer Joe Meek. Missing is the rather marvellous “Girl from Iphigenia” and perhaps the final track of the session “Glissando” finds itself somewhere in between closing tracks “Reach” and “NAC”.

At at time when so called “psychedelic” music is nothing more than watered down AOR copies of things that came out of Haight-Ashbury in the mid 60s how good it is to hear a band that deliver the essence of what that music should be about. Driven, intense and complex it sets an agenda for those who would wish to properly evoke the spirit of  what that music should be but adds that mid 70s punk drive which sets it apart and brings the unique element that hopeful audiophiles wait in anticipation for. I hesitate to bring Space-Rock into the conversation but there are elements of that beast of a genre in here as well but with a relative degree of restraint which means it does not descend into the pomposity that corner of the music world is want to engage in. Both more than all of that all of those elements and more have combined to create a fresh and exciting sound.

An album I have waited a long time for – well worth the wait and more than highly recommended.

The Sandells will be performing ‘Forwards!’ live at Gullivers, Oldham Street, Manchester on Saturday 29th July 2017 with support from Factory Acts and Shaking Chains. Doors open 7.30pm. Entry £5. I shall be there.

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Top Ten Albums of 2017, so far

Seems like everyone else is doing half year lists so I may as well have a go…..it helps to remind me when I’m totting these things up at the end of the year as well….there’s no one in the list from our record label as it’s taken as read that they are top notch anyway and it would be a tad self indulgent to include them so I’ll deal with them at the end of the year…anyhow as for the rest here they are  in no particular order

IGUANA LOVERS – SURFING CAOS

Strictly speaking this came out in 2016 but it’s only made its way over here recently from Buenos Aires. A sublime mixture of rock in a shoegaze kitchen. Scuzzy guitars, howling and gurgling synths and bubbling drums however add a space rock vibe. It’s relentless and fun filled and I would imagine quite exciting live.

THE BLACKEYED SUSANS – CLOSE YOUR EYES AND SEE

Delicious and lush music which hovers between country, blues, and rock. Snarski’s velvet voice is delightful,  the words observational and compelling. A band at their peak, delivering quality material.

TOTAL VICTORY – ENGLISH MARTYRS

A much anticipated  third album . They have a unique sound and they remain steadfast in their delivery of their music.  We were kept happy with an EP compilation last year but its been a long while since National Service. They are big in France but no so much in their own back yard which is bleedin’ typical of the scene in general around hereabouts. Dan Brookes vocals and words are as usual unique and outstanding and the band create mesmerising post-punk vistas.

DAVE GRANEY AND CLARE MOORE – LET’S GET TIGHT

This emerged as a series of singles over twelve months so it’s a bit hard to regard it as an album from 2017, but it is. A playful collection, a mixed bag of styles, with DG and CM exploring new angles and options. Dave’s observations on the music world and the wider world at large are always apposite and often give pause for thought.  They can do no wrong.

THE SEXUAL OBJECTS – MARSHMALLOW

Seems odd that a band this talented only manages an album release once every seven years. Anything with Davey Henderson’s name associated with if is guaranteed to be good and this is no exception.  A rich sound which matches Henderson’s unique vocal delivery with superior guitar music.

KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD – FLYING MICROTONAL BANANA

Extremely difficult to keep up with these chaps who appear to be as prolific as Acid Mothers Temple with three albums so far this year, this being the first, and two more planned. The motorik repetition of Rattlesnake sets the tone and demonstrates a band that seem to be totally attuned and in sync. The important thing is that they continue to develop and explore.

SANDELLS – FORWARDS

Long delayed debut from the recently reformed trio. Self described as Kraut-Punk the sound is refreshingly unique driven by Brian Benson polyrhymic drums. Some of Tim Lyons best work lyrically and with the signature sound of Dr Johann Kloos’s hypnotic guitar this beats the so called psychedelic bands out there back into their Haight-Ashbury contrived miasma. Forwards is the correct title, it explores new territories and does not dwell in the past.

LUSTERLIT – LIST OF EQUIPMENT

OK i’m pushing my luck here as it’s really an EP but it’s so damn good I’m including it. Susan and Charlie exceed at writing and delivering exceptional tunes with a literary angle. It blew me away when Charlie sent it my way and it still provides intense listening pleasure never losing its power to please.

DANNY SHORT – FORM YOUR OPINION

He seems to be constantly busy with the Transmitters these days so It’s a wonder he has managed to find the time to record and release this album. A mix of powerful pop punkery interspersed with more languid pastoral pieces. Another Boltonian who deserves wider exposure of his considerable talent. Some fantastic tunes in this collection.

THE STEVENSON RANCH DAVIDIANS – AMERIKANA

Impressive stuff. In which I learned the difference between Psych and Psyche. Vignettes of American life merging an abstracted country sound nestling in a mesh of guitars and vocal washes – the best music defies genre conventions and this does that very well.