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”.

23244464_519013415145383_5457820468240893081_n

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

Advertisements

Salford Music Festival 2016

Dear reader it’s that time again, the last week in September, when I wax lyrical about the utterly wonderful Salford Music Festival. . Now in its’ seventh year this grass roots, no nonsense event, is part of the musical life blood of the city in which I live. Often overshadowed, in entertainment terms at least, by our noisy neighbours in Manchester, this Festival plays a big part in redressing that imbalance and puts Salford firmly on the map, where it deserves to be.

The difference between any other festival that you might care to join in on is that it is absolutely free for punters, no wristbands, no overpriced beer or food, and no tents. Ed Blaney’s desire for the events to be free is a key driver for the popularity and success of the three day celebration of music. And the added benefit is there isn’t a tribute band in sight.

The Festival has been stripped back to three days this year, Thursday 29th September to Saturday October 1st, and centres around the Chapel Street/Blackfriars area close to Manchester City Centre, and the peoples republic of Eccles and the delightful village of Monton, just five minutes up the road from where I happen to live. This more compact and focused approach makes this years Festival feel more important and vibrant than ever.

And of course I have a direct interest in that I am looking after two nights at the Eagle Inn – Friday and Saturday.

So what can you expect?  Well all the gigs are listed on the Salford Music Festival website so I encourage you to go there, but here are a few of my highlights from the three days……

THURSDAY

The ultra talented Tamsin Middleton (Mr Heart) has a solo show at The Crescent at 8:30pm followed by ded.pixel and The Kingdom

The excellent Salford Arms has Duke and the Darlings, Wintergreen and Crimsons

Bobby Peru close the night at the always  excellent Wangies in Eccles with support from The Comics and Sioux.

FRIDAY

The beautiful Sacred Trinity Church is the main stage for a headline concert featuring local big new things Cabbage, the excellent Blaney, Sound of Thieves and Jess Kemp

The Eagle Inn has the first of two German Shepherd Nights with The Junta, Bouquet of Dead Crows, The Scissors and Kit B.

Highly regard all female trio Liines play The Crescent.

SATURDAY

The second German Shepherd stage at the Eagle features Taser Puppets, Poppcock, JD Meatyard and West Coast Sick Line.

Highly regarded Death to the Strange play The Crescent.

A packed day at the Salford Arms sees seven acts on between 5pm and closing time.

Milton Keys duo The Rusty G’s play Wangies.

Y Key Operators with guest bassist John “The Junta” Montague play the Blue Bell in Monton.

Here are some examples of what to expect over the weekend. I hope to see you at the Eagle for what promises to be an excellent weekend.

13680859_1045354135499947_6862080887973532247_n

Urban Nature Album Launch

Friday night in Eccles, it’s warm. I’ve just left Old Trafford early after a rather poor display by Lancashire in the T20. I need cheering up. I wander up Church Street to Pacifica Cantonese, the upmarket chinese restaurant next the train station. Ed Blaney is launching his first “solo” album “Urban Nature”. Above the busy restaurant the clean chrome and marble lines of the room seem slightly incongruous as a place to launch a gritty urban rock and roll album. I grab a Tsing Tao from the bar and have a healthy chat with Jim Watts about music, progressive rock of a specific era being something we have mutual affection. There are a few familiar faces about including Terry Christian, Matt & Sue from Factory Acts, and a couple of members of Death to the Strange.

13268009_10208996462126026_1161446327415871130_o

It’s been a while since I’ve caught Ed live and it’s noticeable he is more at ease with this band than on previous occasions i’ve seen him. Kicking off with album opener “High On You” the band is tight, with crisp drumming from Ric Gibbs and pulsating bass from Garry Lewis, pushing the envelope.  Trigger Happy, and subsequently Fall, stomper “Rude All The Time” raises the temperature in the room. The wall behind the band is covered with TV monitors which display ambient scenes. By some strange twist of fate the monitors display an ocean scene as Ed delivers the pop stomp of “Poison Fishes”, stripped down to the four piece the album track gains a life of it’s own. Ed’s daughter Bianca joins in on vocals  for the moody “Mettle Claw” which, again, improves on the album version, to my mind. Father and daughter clearly have a strong musical chemistry.

Snapshot_20160529

The added bonus on the night was the return of Jenny “Girl Peculiar” Shuttleworth, who has been absent from live work due to illness, on vocals for the excellent “Winner”. A highlight of the album, the song, written in a holiday retreat, has a certain resonance, implying that being the “winner” doesn’t always mean you actually gain any benefits in the long run.  New tune “Loose Man” is a tale of Salford Scallies, co-written with Granada TV man Tim Scott, and promises that there is more strong material for the Blaney band for future endeavors. To close Bianca rejoins the band for a heartfelt version of the excellent “Diamond”, brimming with Salford soul and rock and roll. The band is well honed and on the button with Jim demonstrating his always memorable control of the guitar and Ed putting his heart and soul into the performance.

A highly enjoyable gig, topped off by a good chat with Ed afterwards about the Blaney project and the Salford Music Festival. Whilst the band bears his name he very much sees the as outfit as a collective. You should check out the album which I reviewed here but also you should see the band live as they build on the excellent recorded  material and turn it into a great live performance experience. There is a strong future for this project.

Another beer, a chat with Matt and Susan about music and politics and then a quick walk over the M602 bridge into darkest Monton and home. I do wish there were more gigs five minutes walk away from home.

13307275_10153699782212104_410615369317187486_n
Bianca, Jenny, Ed, Jim, Gary and Ric

 

 

The Sound of Salford

Blaney

Urban Nature

Yerrrr Records

27th May 2016

13164479_10153663166227104_256925679479279164_n-300x300

The most listened to track on the German Shepherd bandcamp page is “Cheers Mate” by Trigger Happy from that labels “Salford Streets” compilation. It outperforms the next best track by around 250%. That fact is a testament to, and a confirmation of, the good music that Ed Blaney can and has delivered over the years.  Blaney has, of course, other than his first band, the aforementioned Trigger Happy, had a long association with Mark E. Smith and The Fall, whether in his role as band member, manager, or his joint work with Smith. This new release is the culmination of a long desired wish to produce and release his own material, and continues that solid working relationship with Mark. Other key partners in this release are Jim Watts,  who many will remember as a key writer in The Fall, as well as local legends The Inflictors and other notable bands like Ugly Radio; the exceptional Jenny Shuttleworth aka Girl Peculiar, and Ed’s daughter Bianca, a successful artist in her own right.

Across 33 minutes and 10 songs Blaney delivers a fascinating range of material.  Starting with the anthemic “High On You”, a track which echoes the working class rock and roll of Trigger Happy, with busy drums and bass, searing guitar and real Salford muscle. Blaney is the LS Lowry of rock, reflecting the area he grew up in, and lives in, through his art. The opener is a positive reflection of the city of Salford,  its vitality and variety. Next up is “Poison Fishes” a glam rock stomper with a strong political message and instantly recognisable interjections from MES.

“Thinking of You”, lead by Smith, is pure proto-punk in a Velvet Underground/Seeds style with a searing keyboard , a nod to Sky Saxon, and one of those guitar breaks which is magical because it is not overplayed. “The Coat” harks back to the original Smith and Blaney releases as the two protagonists discuss various matters over a rolling, punchy post punk/rock sound, before moving into one of Smith’s spoken word pieces. Fascinating stuff.

“Diamond” is a rock and roll love song with a great chorus. Things get a little more pop oriented with the more reflective “Time For You To Go”, Smith adopts his more recent gnarled vocal style for this tune, which has that 60s Nuggets vibe about it. Jenny takes the front seat for the ever excellent “Secrets” which has appeared previously as a Girl Peculiar release. Pure pop magic with a beautiful ear-worm of a chorus, a song which deserves a huge audience and great success.

The Blaney trademark tune “Rude All The Time” is up next, in a slightly different form, but still keeping it’s punk/rock core. It’s full of Pendleton swagger, good time vibes, and dynamic changes. The experimental “Mettle Claw” harks back to the initial “Smith and Blaney” albums and has an ethereal other worldly feel to it. The rich layering of vocals and guitars is hypnotic. Matters conclude, as they should, on a high, with the stunning “Winner”, a funky little number which is rich with emotional content and brutal candour. Along with “Secrets” this is the highlight of a fine album.

This release is proof positive, yet again, of the richness of the music scene around these parts – notably Eccles, Salford and Greater Manchester, and a further testament to the no nonsense hard work that Ed and his friends put into the local music scene.

Order the album now at www.blaney.co or grab it from your favourite local record dealer or on-line store from 27th May. The album is launched at my local chinese nosherie the excellent Pacifica Cantonese in the heart of beautiful down town Eccles on 27th May, a mere five minute walk from this computer.

Highly recommended!