Of words and music……..

Six weeks since the last post on here. Not good!

To be fair to myself we have been rather busy with a number of gigs and three albums released in one day last Friday. Plus I’ve been catching up on my reading, which is a discipline that has been neglected, what with one thing and another. It is important, I think, to keep the mind stimulated with both the written word, as well as listening to music.

The content this time around includes a rainy night in Bury and covers in the main the latest release from Dave Graney and Clare Moore, in between several books, a lot of music and the first glimmers of Spring amongst biblical rain events.

This is in no particular order in terms of time, more a series of thoughts which may, or may not, be related.

So i’ll be hopping around the time line.

The latest offering from Dave Graney and Clare Moore struck a chord, a mental note if you would. This time last year when I was stood in the corridor outside the gig room at the Eagle trying to convince a passing punter to watch the visiting aforementioned Antipodeans, I was struggling to codify what the “Graney” sound was all about within the narrow strictures of genre. “Err sort of blues, rock, country and jazz all rolled into one” was my miserable attempt to describe what Dave & Co are about. The revelation on listening to Dave and Clare’s latest “single” release ‘How Long Does The Raunch?” was more of a literary than a musical one. But you need to listen to it first to appreciate what I am about to expand upon.

Dave calls is “jazz pop” or more mysteriously “Bolan Jazz” in the Cockaigne Records blog. On the surface it’s an amalgamation of jazzy chords and circular Reich leaning marimba and vibes, with an off kilter bass line, the trademark Graney unconventional song structure and words that hang between street jive and the complex text of say Samuel Beckett, or Thomas Pynchon, or perhaps more closely John Cowper Powys, or Paul Auster. And there was the revelation, and synchronicity, and serendipity for me, that listening to Graney/Moore is the aural equivalent of reading any of those aforementioned writers.

Mark E.Smith once used the phrase “Scientists and their bloody childish reading habits”  (ten points to the reader who can get the song that line comes from) and to some extent that sums me up, at least for half the time. I’m Just as happy these days reading Auster or Pynchon as I am reading Martin Scott’s Thraxas books, or Malcolm Pryce’s Louis Knight books.  Being trained as a scientist, before I realised it wasn’t for me, I recall that there was above average chance that the sort of books, or more often than not the comics (Marvel, DC etc) , that myself and my  contemporaries were reading back then, would be pulp crime or SF or fantasy works, rather than deeper and more complex prose. So for a good chunk of my adolescence I was reading “easy” stuff of a non-literary nature, there was not  the academic discipline in the school/university curriculum  to train a growing mind in both the scientific world and its  literary equivalent, unless you count the very odd “German for Scientists” course I was shoe horned into t Uni!  No wonder this fledging scientist reverted to the latest Michael Moorcock for some light relief after ploughing through some dense prose on the Tricarboxylic Acid cycle or the structure of DNA.  A change in career was the damascene journey from the pulp of my youth to later years when the artistic side of my brain was allowed to flourish

As an aside, one of the key way stops on the way to the literary  Road to Damascus thing for me  was a book from the Bloomsbury press called “M.H. Zools Good Reading Guide to Science Fiction & Fantasy” (1989) and specifically within that tome a series of very good and informative  reading recommendations, most notably the entry on Phillip K. Dick who I had been focusing on around the time it was released. The structure of the guide is quite helpful in that it gives a brief biography of an author, lists their key works and then extrapolates further reading from other authors that has some congruity with the subjects work. In the PKD list was a book by Paul Auster called ‘The New York Trilogy’,  alongside ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ by Hunter S. Thompson, and ‘The Naked Lunch” by William Burroughs. All three of those authors would be key actors in the developing shift from the simple to the complex in my home library. A short listing on page 56 of Zool entitled “The Edge of SF”  included ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’ by Thomas Pynchon, alongside Borges, Marquez, and Wolfe. Pynchon also appears in a list entitled “Theatre of the Absurd”, and also in the Kurt Vonnegut list of alternative reading. In one respect the Zool could be seen as a clever marketing ploy to get the reader to go out and spend all their money on books. It worked on me, and there was a sustained period in my mid to late 20s when the book collection grew exponentially, Picador press being one of the main benefactors from my hard earned wages.

But I digress. So, the revelation after listening to  “How Long Does The Raunch?” was that Graney & Moore were the musical avatar that took me on the same journey as Beckett, Pynchon, Powys and Auster et al. did from a literary perspective. It started to some degree with ‘Dandies Are Never Unbuttoned’  from “The Soft ‘n’ Sexy Sound” by The Coral Snakes, continued in “Heroic Blues”, and “The Brother Who Lived”, and reached a critical peak with “Fearful Wiggings”. It also emerges amongst the thirteen songs that have been  released over the last year and will be brought together in a CD collection called “Let’s Get Tight” soon. Graney & Moore as a whole requires concentration, attention and commitment because they step outside of  the conventions of structure and language of “rock and roll” in the same way that Auster, at his best, defies the structural norm, and that Beckett uses language in a completely different way. As an aside and a coincidence I am currently reading Auster’s novella “Travels In The Scriptorium” which has a bit of good Old Sam about it.

Speaking of “rock and roll” leads me to a trip to Bury several weeks back to catch Adventures of Salvador. Some months back an over zealous sound man ruined my first live exposure to this band so I was pleased to accept SDs offer to see the four piece again, this time in their home town. As is usual at this time of the year the level of precipitation, coupled with an “incident” on the Metrolink network , mitigated against a stress free journey into Manchester. We met in an overcrowded Moon Under Water, grabbed a quick meal, and then hopped on the Bury tram at Victoria station. A quick pint on arrival amongst the distracting gaggle of some sort of hen do and then into the compact basement venue of the Blind Tiger  to catch AOS. The revelation is Ollie Nicholson’s drumming which is exceptional and which adds to a musically very competent band with great songs and a style that teeters between power pop, post-punk and mutant country blues. They are highly recommended and very entertaining.

I may have mentioned before I try to stay away from rock biographies as they tend to end up depressing me, and more importantly, breaking the fourth wall between the rock and roll world and reality, bringing all that glorious hope and vision back to the mundanity of day to day existence. I could not, however with all conscience, duck out of reading Robert Forster’s semi-autobiographical book “Grant and I”, given the importance of that band in my own personal musical history. It arrived via the Book Depository from the other side of the planet at the end of last week and I devoured it within three days. The speed of reading is in no small part down to the Forster writing style which is measured and clear. He takes you back to his youth, the formation of the band, the relationship with Grant and Lindy and through the trials and tribulations of one the key Australian bands of the late 20th Century. In comparison with the scattered fanzine like structure of David Nicholls book on the band there is a more coherent narrative, although there are giant leaps in the  time frame in some parts. What is missing for me is perhaps a better understanding of how songs were crafted. What is clear is the propensity of the wider music business to completely miss out on the opportunity to promote good quality material, and the importance of the more grass roots elements of the business in helping bands like The Go-Betweens to survive. It struck a chord with our work with German Shepherd records. The sad part of the tale comes towards the end where the impact of a rock and roll life style way heavily on the two main protagonists and their health, and like David McComb, how alcohol eventually snuffs out the genius of Grant McLennan far too early.  It made me want to go back and listen to the music again, which is perhaps the more important legacy, especially the suite of solo albums that the two produced between the two main phases of the band.

The three aforementioned releases from last Friday are worth a mention, if only as part of a heavy handed form of marketing. The first thing to mention is the compilation called Cambridge Calling Volume One. A more detailed piece on the background of the album and the bands involved can be found here. Suffice to say it is an eclectic mix of the bands that make up the music scene in the city and more volumes will follow in due course. All proceeds for the this first release will go towards the Arthur Rank Hospice in Cambridge. Many thanks go towards Dave Hammond for his hard work in pulling this together and allowing us to participate in the project.

Out of the above and again with thanks to Dave Hammond for providing an introduction we also had the pleasure of releasing the latest album by Keltrix, who appear on the album above. Dave provides an excellent review of the album in Sounds On-Line so I won’t event try and emulate that. What I will say is that this album fits perfectly within the German Shepherd ethos. The ability of Sharon and Keri to take a traditional musical form and merge it with modern electronica, dance and techno, and their capacity to bring in guest producers to transform their sound is notable and remarkable. Keri’s voice is unique and Sharon’s lead instrument, the violin, fits well with an entirely modern musical framework. There are some exceptional songs here and it is an early candidate for album of the year for me. This band deserves to be heard by more people.

So, and to conclude, last Friday. It’s raining again. I meet SD in a Waterhouse pub again, we go for  a bite to eat again, some excellent Asian Street Food on this occasion, and then wander around the back streets of Piccadilly to the bohemian darkness of The Castle. I was wondering for future gigs if we should use The Castle rather than the Eagle but I am more comfortable with the layout of the latter, and it’s general sound and friendliness of the staff. However it is just about right for the musical endeavours of the evening which include Ian Moss, Moff Skellington, and Loop-Aznavour. We get a reasonable sized crowd, better than the last collaboration in Leeds in 2016 in any event. The one person responsible for my introduction to the world of Moff is also in attendance, the smiling Julia Adamson. Ian does a new piece about dogs, Moff performs his new album, and then collaborates with Ian on a new piece called “Predator Fascinates Imbecile”,  Loop does his usual excellent set, and then Loop and Ian perform a couple of pieces including a new version of the excellent “The Wilsons”. It is both challenging and funny, fascinating and thought provoking, and above all entertaining. There will be another in June sometime. Takings on the door allow a small stipend to paid to each of the three performers a rarity for our little cottage industry.

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The Best of 2016 # 2 – Gigs

Having spent quite a lot of the year in and out of medical facilities for one reason or another the number of gigs attended has been somewhat constrained but having said that much improved on 2015 when I spent a good deal of the time in a plaster cast. In the most part the gigs I did attend were all great. There were a couple of bad evenings caused in the first case by an idiotic club owner and in the second case by a less than perfect sound engineering job, it is not my habit to name names, so I won’t, all I would say is that bands deserve more.

Ones I sadly missed due to ill health and diary clashes

  • Robert Forster
  • The Triffids
  • Kim Salmon

Here are the highlights in no particular order, apart from the top four gigs.

  • Manchester Jazz Festival – just a general message to say it was much improved this year with some fascinating bands seen especially in the performance space in Manchester Central Library – the price of the beer in the Festival Village is obscene though!
  • Soft Machine at The Band on the Wall – OK so we sat in the bar for most of the second set drinking and chewing the fat about music but the first set was pretty memorable and I realised a long held ambition to see this band.
  • The Junta at Night and Day – kabuki, mime and beats with El Generallisimo cooking up a techno storm.
  • Aidan Cross & Johann Kloos, Poppycock, Taser Puppets and West Coast Sick Line at Dulcimer, Chorlton. A fun packed night with a storming set from the Westies and a slight hiatus while Mr Maxwell found his guitar.
  • Moff Skellington, Mr Mouse, Loop-aznavour at The Fenton Leeds – a remarkable evening with a sparse audience but excellent performances from all three protagonists only somewhat ruined by the inability to get out of Leeds via the motorway necessitating a circuitous journey home via Harrogate
  • The Eagle, again, for the debut of the much anticipated new band lead by Ian Moss Four Candles , Cambridge rockers, stripped down to acoustic duo  for the night, Bouquet of Dead Crows, all the way from Modena Italy Saint Lawrence Verge, and to close the night the ever excellent Poppycock. A rather special evening.
  • Sam SmithGenevieve L Walsh and The Madding Crowd at The Moston Miners Club – a great set from Sam, memorable poetry from Genevieve,  and an epic set from The Madding Crowd.
  • The Junta, Bouquet of Dead Crows, The Scissors and Kit B at the Eagle as part of Salford Music Festival. Barnstorming sets from all four bands – we need to do this again.
  • Taser Puppets, Poppycock, JD Meatyard and West Coast Sick Line as part of Salford Musical Festival also at The Eagle – one of our most successful nights with a good crowd, fine performances, and a stellar set from Mr Meatyard.
  • Blaney album launch at Pacifica Cantonese. A great album and a memorable album launch with the added bonus of it being five minutes from where I live. It’s been a good year for Ed and he deserves the support he is getting at the moment

and the top four, who all happen to be Australian for some strange reason……

4.

The Necks live at the Band on the Wall – a special performance from an amazing trio of musicians. Unique and breath-taking music bereft of ego and full of invention.

3.

Harry Howard and the NDE with Poppycock at The Eagle – exploding keyboards and horrendous traffic conspired against us but Poppycock were the best I have seen them all year and Harry and co were exceptional given they had a stand in rhythm section with only a couple of days rehearsal.

2.

Dave Graney and Poppycock & Franco Bandini at the Eagle – a long held desire to catch Dave and Clare live was at long last realised. Most of the band were full of germs but still managed to deliver a set packed with classic tunes from across the Graney songbook. The added bonus of seeing Malcolm Ross play the guitar as well.

and my gig of the year….

1.

Dave Graney at the Betsey Trotwood, London – a memorable journey to the capital despite a dodgy knee. A pleasant afternoon drinking with Bob and Jeff in some fine ale houses. A fantastic set from Dave, Clare, Stu and Malcolm covering even more of the Graney songbook topped off by a great tribute to Prince.

DG 2 BT

Fascinating Things : Issue 37

The last few days has been dominated by bringing together, for German Shepherd records,  the much needed and anticipated release of the collected works of Southend’s Stripey Zebras. A  band that just about survived 1980/1, they were heavily influenced by The Fall,  and the album “We Are Mighty, We Are Stripey” combines the bulk of their historical recordings (and I use that word loosely as they are mostly mastered from a cassette). It will be released in January. It’s the sort of lo-fi post-punk DIY music that was around in those days and has a timeless charm. Musos will no doubt moan about lack of fidelity or “chops”, but I think it is wonderful. You should expect a more fulsome review in due course. It’s a 24 track release combining home and live recordings, with a hidden bonus for those who purchase.

stripey1

The announcement from Relapse records about the new three track 25 minute release from Agoraphobic Nosebleed, complete with teaser video, is very tempting. Hopefully i’ll get a review copy. There work to date has been well above average and the snippets sound very exciting indeed. It’s called “Arc”.

Gordy Duncan Jr who happens also to be a member of the excellent Girobabies has a new solo album out – from the sampler track it sounds excellent.

The new Sugarmen single is good in a bouncy, indie, jagged guitar sort of way. It came out on Rooftop Records on December 4th.

Blackpool based instrumental rock band Goonies Never Say Die have finally released a mini album of material. Recorded from October 2012 to February 2013 the project was abandoned by the band who felt they were retreading old ground too much. The recording was recently listened back to and was deemed not to be as bad as they thought. The recording was made by one of the numerous previous line-ups of the band, the current line up are half way through writing a new album that will probably also be held back for 10 years and released on cassette tape delivered by pigeon one random rainy day!

Diminished Men – featuring Steve Schmitt on guitars, drummer Dave Abramson (Master Musicians of Bukkake, Eyvind Kang, Secret Chiefs 3, Climax Golden Twins, Grails, etc.), and Simon Henneman on bass, release a new album on February 26th. Titled Vision In Crime, the latest record from the three piece is a full length album that moves through jazz, ethnic  and soundtrack territories. Here is a taster:

The first German Shepherd release for 2016 will be a single from Loop-aznavour. Bury’s finest purveyor of theremin soaked punk will be delighting your ears with “The Dance of the Chicken Lady” and “Charles’ Neurotic Fear of Giraffes”.

Recommended newish releases received during  the last week are:

  • The Holy Soul – Fortean Times  – Sydney band with a stunning new album……really like this a lot, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a specific style by the first track it gets seriously different and interesting as it goes along. As heard on Dave Graney’s excellent Banana Lounge Broadcasting Radio Show this one immediately goes into the “Best of 2015” list
  • The Cavemen – The Cavemen  – WIld Cramps style garage rock with a punk edge, good for head-banging after six pints of industrial strength cider.
  • Kharlos – Don’t think about dying – more wild garage stuff…..pretty intense stuff!
  • Peacers – Peacers – Mike Donovan out of Sic Alps doing his usual slacker lo-fi pop thing, there’s a nod towards Don Van Vliet somewhere in the DNA of this type of music.
  • Holy – Stabs – Swedish band – lo-fi aesthetics, garage sensibilites, and soaring psychedelia it says in one review i’ve read. It’s  OK but it won’t change the world.
  • Heather Leigh – I Abused Animal – you’ll either love this or hate it. One woman with a pedal steel guitar and a voice doing amazing things. Heather is well known on the avant garde jazz improv circuit and to some extent this seeps into a remarkable album which combines acapella folk, mesmerising songs  and loud distorted guitar noodlings. A challenging listen but well worth it.

The last German Shepherd release of the year will be a single from the ever excellent Staggs  called “Funk Me Jesus” which includes a remix from Space Museum.  The band were recently described (by me) somewhat like this:

“Small fractures in the space-time continuum create sonic leakages leading to the release of snippets from the cultural whirlpool of late 20th/early 21st century music, art, film, politics, and television. Ridley and Scott curate a melting pot of these snippets of sound, add a tablespoon full of irony, an ounce of righteous anger, a liberal dose of self-deprecation, and a splash of good humour. They create an aural feast of unique and yet familiar sound. No one is safe from Scott’s viperish wit as the peccadillos of the great and good, and those who should know better are exposed, eviscerated and served with a delicious brandy butter sauce. The music of Staggs is socially relevant, robust, makes you laugh and what’s more you can dance the Watusi to it. Be safe and warm and listen to Staggs!”

Whereas The Shend came up with the more pithy  “Guaranteed floor-fillers at the Hieronymus Bosch Disco Fun Night”. Whatever they are best described as  their new single is great and I commend it to you.

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100 not out

Various Artists

100

German Shepherd Records

30th October 2015

100

So let’s be clear from the outset, this is shameful nepotism of the highest order, but I can’t find anyone else willing to review it so I may as well take up the cudgels and have a go. Given I have a rather thorough inside perspective on this compilation, as I actually compiled it, I am in a position to be both honest and accurate, and perhaps somewhat effusive. If I am breaking some sort of record industry kayfabe by doing this so be it, but German Shepherd was set up to be doggedy (pun intended) independent, and to operate outside of the norms of the music biz, so in that spirit here goes.

Set up in February 2014 the label was originally intended as a vehicle for the work of co-owner Ian Moss, who had vast library of unreleased material he wanted to share with the world. Once word had got around about the endeavour other like minded souls expressed interest or were dragged into the inner circle of the label.

The manifesto is very simple, if the music that is offered to the label is sufficiently different and does not ape current trends and fads then it will probably find a home in the German Shepherd kennel.

21 months in and the chance to mark the milestone with some of the current and future artist on the label. Requests were sent out and a delightful pot-pourri of styles and genres emerged.

For German Shepherd virgins and, for those DJs who need accurate information(you know who you are), here’s a run down of all the tracks and the artists.

Loop-aznavour – theremin toting Loop, also a member of the remarkable Adventures of Salvador. offers a single from earlier in 2015, a remarkable distiller of styles and influences Loop is a captivating live performer and a consummate songwriter. From – Bury, Greater Manchester.

Pearl Divers ; the first band I ever “discovered” in radio land they have been through many line-up changes since 2009 but always centre around leader Carl Lingard. The tune on the album is a radical -reworking/second cousin to the bands “I Love The Music” – mixing Barryesque chords with a cold war soundscape one could, and should, argue that this would be a far better Bond theme than the odious one being used for the latest movie. The band are currently working on an album. From – Eccles/Irlam, Greater Manchester.

The Get – we love this band. They are great live, they write memorable songs, and they have a unique, sometimes unashamedly ramshackle sound. From – Bournemouth, Leigh on Sea etc, down south somewhere

Bouquet of Dead Crows – some folk will have been surprised about this band being on German Shepherd, one of aims is not to be complacent around what we are about,  dealing with any preconceptions of our mode of operation by throwing a curve ball in every now and then.  On first hearing, Bouquet of Dead Crows are conventional rockers, on deeper exploration the nuances emerge, from Toni Cooper’s excellent vocals, through the great rhythm section, to the multi-guitar talents of Neil Bruce. This is a band with a lot of depth. A single and cut from the new album “Of The Night” due out soon. From – Cambridge, east of Northampton.

Loop-azznavour
Loop-aznavour

Poppycock – working with Una Baines and her collective of musicians is always a pleasure and she offered up a live recording of the band from The Crescent in Salford. Recorded by Jim “Jedi” Watts, thus perpetuating the “every other musician you meet in Manc-land used to be in The Fall” myth this lovely tune first appeared on Una’s The Fates “Furia”  album. From: Manchester.

Franco Bandini – the buzz about Franco’s recent release of the label “2014 was a bad year” is increasing daily. Perhaps slightly less dark than the tracks on the EP this offering is from the same sessions and indicates his ability to create an epic sound. We predict great things. From –  Atherton/Manchester.

IKMRAO – the two label owners don’ t consider themselves to be musicians as such, they play with words and sounds and sometimes it comes out as music. Always making a point whenever they can this one has a much needed dig at the scenesters that hang around in clumps reeking of their own self-importance. From – Ashton Under Lyne/Eccles, Greater Manchester.

The Junta
The Junta

Captain Black – once a member of the aforementioned Pearl Divers and the main writer behind the much missed Positronik, Captain “Jeff” Black is adept at creating perfect pop tunes, and this is a sublime example. From : Swindon/Manchester

The Junta – it’s obligatory to say “aah yeah” or “shabba” at this point. Also once in Pearl Divers but now in Kit B, John “Monty” Montague brings an encyclopaedic knowledge of electronica  into play for  his tunes. Also a DJ on Salford City Radio Monty is a very busy chap. From : Salford, Greater Manchester.

Staggs – probably the most fascinating duo on the label in that they continually create tunes that both amaze and confound. Main vocal man Michael T Scott has a wonderfully acerbic outlook on the world at large. Music man Ridley is able re-invent well known sounds and turn them into something new. Staggs Disco is from one of their releases before they joined German Shepherd. Deserving of international acclaim I reckon. From –  Newcastle Upon Tyne,

Passage of Time – sounds influenced by 1969 Miles Davis together with more contemporary electronic textures. The closest thing to jazz on the label. From – Eccles, Salford. Greater Manchester.

Rose Niland and Mark Corrin
Rose Niland and Mark Corrin

Ion-Morph with three albums of the man’s spoken word releases on the label it would have been remiss to exclude a performance. The featured tune is a reworking of an old song and a hearful paean to Manc-land. From – Ashton-Under-Lyne

Moff Skellington – a genius, an iconoclast and a dealer in optical creosote. Moff creates music which defies description other than to say it hangs precariously between The Residents, Tom Waits, Pere Ubu, The Fall and Hank Marvin. His wordplay is completely unique, the aural equivalent of Salvador Dali.  As I may have said before, on many occasions, my crusade is to get him much more exposure and recognition. From – Abstercot

Rose Niland – we love Rose. She has a magical voice, she writes breathtaking tunes, and her words are memorable. Soulful, psychedelic and bluesy. From – Manchester

Monkeys In Love
Monkeys In Love

The Electric Cheese – captivating alternative rock with a unique sound. This trio is gaining a growing reputation as a must see live act. From their first EP with the label.  From – Chorley, Lancashire

West Coast Sick Line – Dusty Moonan, another genius, a man who can write memorable songs. The band has recently undergone a line-up change and the track on the compilation is an indication of things to come perhaps, a more powerful more rock oriented sound. New album “Europee” is imminent i.e. when they get out of the pub. From – Deganwy, North Wales

Monkeys In Love – a special band, they have been with the label from the start, helping and supporting. The track on the album is, dare I say it, one of their best yet. A remarkable live act and a lovely bunch of people. From – Manchester.

The track-listing

  1. Loop-aznavour – Ed’s Place
  2. Pearl Divers – Smoking Gun
  3. The Get – Say You Love Me
  4. Bouquet of Dead Crows – Just A Little More
  5. Poppycock – Ceaseless Effort
  6. Franco Bandini – Side B
  7. IKMRAO – Art
  8. Captain Black – Lost All Sense
  9. The Junta – Carnival 80
  10. Staggs – Staggs Disco
  11. Passage of Time – Round About Now
  12. Ion-Morph – Manchester (Slight Return)
  13. Moff Skellington – Potato Pickers
  14. Rose Niland – 5 Times
  15. The Electric Cheese – Gold Divers Under The Ice
  16. West Coast Sick Line – Best Lost In Translation
  17. Monkeys In Love – Installation Song #1

The album is a digital only release, is priced at £5, and all proceeds will go towards the Emmaus Homelessness Facility in Salford.

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Bouquet of Dead Crows

I Just Want Room To Live

You know we just might well be at the beginning of something rather special here.

By here I mean Salford, or more specifically The Crescent Pub, on The Crescent (naturally). For those of you who don’t know the place it perches on the edge of the A6 going into (or out of) Manchester overlooking the loop in the River Irwell. It’s where Marx and Engels sat and chatted about life, politics and other important things many years ago, and it is where a long awaited venue for cutting edge music is emerging.

Tony Thornborough and Steve Nicholson
Tony Thornborough and Steve Nicholson

Tony Thornborough, Steve Nicholson, Jim Watts and Gerry the landlord are a formidable partnership. They have taken the empty shell of the previous concert room, have completely turned it round, literally speaking, the stage is at the other end! But more importantly there is a decent sound system and mixer, a sound engineer in Jim Watts who knows what he wants and knows how to get it, and a promoter in Tony Thornborough, who together with his side-kick Steve Nicholson, with the vision to actually create a venue that works for the musicians and audience. Add to that ambitious plans to create a bar area in the concert room, open up the rear to the beer garden and make the whole thing more accessible and user friendly and you have all of the ingredients for a very bright future.

Jim Watts and SD
Jim Watts and SD

The concept is relatively simple and the ingredients that make it work are so easily realised. Drum Kit, bass and guitar amps, and microphones are provided on site, the bands will not have to pay to play, and the pub has an excellent range of quality beverages, and food, at reasonable prices. It’s a five minute bus ride out of central Manchester, walking distance from Salford Central and Salford Crescent rail stations, and a fifteen minute walk from Deansgate if you are feeling healthy. If you are in the car there is ample parking around the back of the venue.

Patriq Gannon - The Prick Jaggers
Patriq Gannon – The Prick Jaggers

The two nights that German Shepherd records put on there recently are testament to the current developing success of the venue and it’s huge potential to become the premier small gig venue in Salford and more importantly the conurbation core/city centre. Bands who haven’t quite reached the audience capacity to fill the nearby Islington Mill, or some of the medium sized venues in the city centre now have a place where they can play, and in most cases, get paid.

The Junta
The Junta

Last Friday (5th December) saw the first of two nights of German Shepherd artists and some special guests playing at The Crescent.  John “The Junta” Montague kicked things off with a superb set of dance orientated electronica featuring music from his album Art of Glass. John’s ability to fuse 70s/80s electronica with current dance trends creates a maelstrom of laminal synthesis and funky beats. Standouts were the rich textures of “Orca” and the spooky “Devil”. The revelation was the closing tune where “Monty” demonstrated he has a fine singing voice.

Johann Kloos
Johann Kloos

Johann Kloos  was up next with a selection of his psychedelic pop and rock nuggets. For someone who had not played a gig for a year he was in fine fettle rattling through a mixture of melodic songs, psych-punk, and eerie electronica. Variety is the key word in Johann’s music and he amply demonstrated his talent across a range of styles and sounds,

Susan from Factory Acts
Susan from Factory Acts

The ever stunning Factory Acts improve each time I see them. With sure fire favourites like “Thirst” from the new EP, the enviable majesty of Susan’s voice and keyboards, and Matt’s pungent bass and beats, makes for one the most exciting live experiences in the Greater Manchester area at the moment.  The ever excellent “American’s With Guns” needs to be recorded soon and a stunning cover of Grinderman’s “No Pussy Blues” had Susan exorcising her inner Nick Cave. If you haven’t caught them live yet then I suggest you do at the next available opportunity.

The Hamsters
The Hamsters

Unfortunately it was getting late by now which meant I missed the last act of the evening, Una Baines excellent Poppycock, but I am advised they delivered a wonderful set. However I was able to hang around long enough to witness the return of the legendary Hamsters. With his recent departure from Kill Pretty Moet has decided to bring back the band where he feels “the most comfortable”. Nigel Blacklock, Jon Rowlinson and Damien Hughes provided a brutal and unforgiving sound to back up a bellicose Mr Morse. The band kicked off with a brand new tune, a homage to Vince Taylor, and powered through a series of classic Hamster tunes from across the years concluding with a slightly ramshackle but delightful reading of “Drowning” with guest appearances from Lucy Power and Una Baines.

A Teenage Propshaft
A Teenage Propshaft

Before The Hamsters were let loose on the world once more we had the debut performance of The Teenage Propshafts with Monty guesting on bass and Moet on Zen keyboards. Mr Doyle’s energetic performance of “Salford Streets” proved very popular with the crowd and no doubt is a prelude of more output from this artist.

DL2_05
Rob – The Prick Jaggers

Saturday was a more relaxed affair with the more eclectic and esoteric artists on the German Shepherd roster getting an outing. The evening kicked off with a short set from the excellent The Prick Jaggers  who were charming, self-effacing, funny and down right entertaining.  Patriq and Rob were in fine form and I look forward to hearing them live again.

Rose Niland and Mark Corrin
Rose Niland and Mark Corrin

Rose Nilandably supported by Mark Corrin, was spectacular, her unique and compelling vocal style and her, sometimes, otherworldly music transports the listener to dusty Moroccan streets via chill Scandanavian  landscapes to the heart of the blues. Her attention to detail and stage make-up demonstrates that this is artist who demands to be heard and wants to create a lasting impression. One of my missions in the next twelve months is to try and get this exceptional artist a much wider audience.

Modal Roberts
Modal Roberts

And then the force of nature that is Modal RobertsAgain an artist that puts considerable effort into his stage presentation,  this evening Modal appeared to channelling a heady combination of Jack Sparrow and Q from Star Trek The Next Generation, and towards the end of the set, either Marilyn Monroe or Olive from On The Buses,  at least in visual terms. Musically we got the delightfully rude “Full Sore”, a unique rendition of Eno’s “Baby’s on Fire”, a great version of “Derbyshire” and a chilling reading of “Brown” plus a selection of other tunes from his vast repertoire. Marvellous and slightly unhinged.

Aidan Cross
Aidan Cross

Due to illness the ever excellent West Coast Sick Line were unable to appear and the reliable Aidan Cross stood in. Playing a selection of Bacillus songs plus some new material Aidan’s rich voice complimented the stripped down sound of his acoustic guitar,  the highlight being the wonderful “When Strangers Step in the Bar”. He is working on new material at the moment and the newer songs in the set sounded very good indeed.

Loop-azznavour
Loop-aznavour

And finally, and my personal favourite of the weekend, the brilliant Loop-aznavour.  I was expecting him to be good having heard a lot of his material, he far exceeded my expectations. His mastery of the theremin is wonderful, his songs are memorable and his stage delivery is stunning, channelling anger, frustration and anarchy into a ferocious bundle of energy. With Moet guesting on the marvellous “Justin Beiber Must Die” this was a wonderful way to conclude two nights of genuinely unique music.

Material from most of these artists can be found at the German Shepherd Bandcamp site.

Chatting with Tony Thornborough over the two nights he was keen to describe his vision and expectations for The Crescent as a venue. The ambition and passion to create a performance space for artists is strong and the facilities that are being put in place will eventually create an unenviable live music location. German Shepherd plan to repeat the recent experience again in the new year in partnership with Tony, Steve and Jim. Something I am particularly looking forward to.

Shelf Life and Water Level

KP2 Meets Loop Aznavour

Justin Bieber (Must Die)/When The River Rises

German Shepherd Records

It has to be said that when I first saw the title of one of these songs I had pause for thought. I mean, calling something “Justin Beiber (Must Die)” is pretty much an open challenge for all those “beliebers” out there to descend en masse on the German Shepherd website/Facebook page in paroxysms of incandescent rage. Fear not dear lovers of JB all is not what it seems.

Cyrus Beiber Final

As usual with the lyrical wit and wisdom of the multi-nomenclatured spirit of Moet,  the title holds a far deeper and more significant meaning. Of course neither KP2, or indeed Loop Aznavour, are seeking the demise of the pop starlet. They are instead, and in a quite poignant fashion at times, actually trying the give the young man some worldly wise advice about the pitfalls and hurdles of the Music Industry. Todd Rempling’s artwork for the piece indeed shows the metamorphosis from JB to MC (Justin to Miley for those of you not hip to these things) and the song demonstrates that once any young pop star fails to meet his or her sales figures they will be cast aside and the “management” will focus its’ wherewithal on the “next big thing”. So indeed young Justin will not die but the brand image and concept he embraced for much of his teenage years will wither and pass away into the dusty 50p bin of history, as Miley or whoever is next, fills the slot in the arena tour calender.

It was the good offices of Salford City Radio DJs – Tony Thornborough and Steve Nicholson – that brought together KP2 and Loop. The marriage was indeed made in some punk/post-punk heaven somewhere or another. Probably half-way between Ashton Under Lyne and Bury. It was quite obvious really that a theremin toting ranter with an eye and ear for the absurd in daily life would work well with Moet’s particularly sideways view of the world.

Both songs are crafted to propel KP2s mutant rant to the front – but the music and arrangement is solid. strong and supportive.

Track 2 is timely – with Gideon delivering his own particularly odd view of the future on Wednesday – but which on close examination of the detail was a pre-election stunt to attract votes – a song about the abject failure of the current administration to cope with the recent extreme weather until the stock-broker belt was at risk hits the con-dems where they need to be hit -both metaphorically and factually. The deliberate inclusion of the break-down in the recording adds to the fun going on behind the serious message and Loop’s “J Rotten” quote in the chorus is both playful and a nod back to the heady days of the mid-70s.

A couple of excellent tunes say I.

The single is available  for £1 -or more if you want – from German Shepherd  from 21st March……