The Best of 2016 #3 – Singles and EPs

This one is going to be a little different due to the nature of releases this year. All will become apparent as I meander through things. The nature of what I do on an almost daily basis i.e. putting together radio shows/podcasts and running a record label means that a serious amount of individual tracks come in for potential airplay or indeed for release on the label. So trying to do a definitive list of the “best” is nigh on impossible – if they made it onto the podcast or got released by the record label they are, because they got through that gateway, “better than the rest” so i’ll generalise…..and this is in no sort of order of importance as I love them all with equal fervour……with the stuff at the bottom of the page being the “top of the pops” as it were

The Moss Brothers – various releases by Ian and Neil under various aliases – the work rate of Ian Moss is legendary, add his sibling into the mix and you have a an even faster production line of fascinating music – whether it be Ian & Neil, Sebastien the Tortoise, A Magpie and a Goldfish, or 2 Big Brothers it’s all great.

Taser Puppets : Fossil – their latest EP and first with German Shepherd proved to be their best yet. A health scare for front man Shaun put things on hold for a while but a barn storming set at the Salford Music Festival but them back on the North West musical map.

Alana Bondi : Alana Bondi EP – another artist who battled through health problems in 2015/6 to deliver a remarkable debut EP and stunning video to the opener “Four Walls” plus a run of shows including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The Sideshow : How It Goes – a remarkable single, pure pop for now people as Nick Lowe once said. Should have broken through this one and still a mystery as to why it didn’t.

The Screaming Love Collective : Three Singles – proof that repetition in music is still potent as a way of delivering ideas that are fresh.

The Mind Sweepers : The Mating Game – Vicky Middles asked if we could help out with this one and we were pleased to get involved. They call themselves genre defying and they certainly deliver on that score.

Bouquet of Dead Crows : Epicentre – a great collection of alternative versions, live cuts and a remix crowned a great year for the “Crows”  – a new album is in the pipeline and an album of radio sessions is promised for the new year.

The Madding Crowd – a good year, a great EP, an epic EP launch and a sense of renewed promise and hope for this north Manchester band.

Stalagmites : Between City and Cellar Door – back with a bang with a great EP, Brad Lynch is one of the best songwriters Salford has delivered with fantastic lyrics and epic tunes.

The Parish Church Fire : Locamente – another one where I sit here with a puzzled expression wondering why it wasn’t huge.

Staggs : Adult Loonies and A Rum Do – when I am fed up I turn to Staggs to cheer myself up – the diversity across these two releases is a testament to the skill and inventiveness of Ridley and Scott – punk, electronica and krautrock,  there’s something for everyone.

The Get : The Private Men EP – The Get are remarkable, their lo-fi approach to what they do, their relentless charm and enthusiasm is infectious. A great collection of songs.

Moff and Moss – aside from a remarkable debut album an epic single which dwelt on Mr Crowley and other strangeness. Expect new stuff in the New Year which is development at the moment – it will all become clear at the gig at the Castle in March!

Rose and the Diamond Hand : Universe Is Woman – should be huge, a remarkable voice, an amazing band, and a great live show, add a fantastic debut EP and you have a great year for Rose and co.

and the top three

3. KIT B – Weird Water – impressive song-writing from a great live band who broke into the festival circuit this year and garnered some impressive live reviews

2. m.t. scott – The Broken EP and 13 Queer Street – Michael left the wonderful world of Staggs for a while  to create two collections of aural wonderment. Cinematic in their scope and impressive in their musical depth he is clearly a creative force that requires/demands/deserves  a wider audience. I’ve been lucky enough to listen to these collections develop from ideas into fully formed pieces of aural magic.

1. The Graney and Moore Singles Releases – throughout the year Dave and Clare have released a digital single a month (more or less there will be one in January) in an effort, I believe, to escape the usual routines in the music industry. I can’t decide which is the best amongst any of them, so I’m bringing all ten into a collective number one, but if you were to push me the latest one “I Ain’t Hi Vis” is probably my favourite. The variety across this set of releases is impressive, the trademark Graney wit is in full effect, and musically, as is always the case, they are top notch. Notably there is more than a bit of a jazz tinge than is usual which of course ticks a lot of boxes for me. You can grab them all at the DG bandcamp page.  For the record the releases were:

I’m a Good Hater
This Is the Deadest Place I’ve Ever Died In
I Been Trendy
Drifting Donna Reed
Are You Out Of Your Mind? (Get Back In)
You Need a Kleek, Klook
Rupert’s Pet’s Grave
Matey, From On High
Let’s Kick this Mob Out
I Ain’t Hi Vis

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A Young Persons Guide to Staggs

With the release of a new double A side single this Friday it seems timely to focus on the work to date of the mighty Staggs.

Staggs are Scott and Ridley a pair of north eastern England musicians, artists and raconteurs. The Staggs project was born out of a one-off experimental remix of their own anarcho-punk track (the band was Reality Control and they formed 50% of it*) from the early 80s. The production is wholly contemporary but the anger of that era lives on in their energy, lyrical content and vocal expression. With a healthy cynicism towards British culture contained in the wealth of nostalgic samples and a bizarre smattering of French language thrown in for good measure, STAGGS give a sly “clin d’oeil” to 1970/80s Britain.

The latest release from the band, on German Shepherd Records,  “A Rum Do” finds the duo dabbling into techo/electronica and krautrock via two stand out tracks – “Robotomy” and “Don’t Call Me Satan”

But lets go back to the beginning and work our way through all their back catalogue.

June 2013 saw the first release from the duo with the fascinating “Weird Kids” EP with a clear statement of intent.

Later that year the sophomore effort was the challenging “Mother Natures Bastard Sons” ….

This was quickly followed by a vivid aural dissection of Sir Cliff in the memorable “Staggs Xmas”….

In April of the following year an ep of reinterpretations of the work of Staggs was released under the intriguing title of “Smart Husband” Resonator Set (reviewed by myself here)

In the same month the cheeky “Risqué But Not Blue” saw the light of day with its’ baleful commentaries on middle class existence (reviewed here)

In October Staggs took the brave step of aligning themselves with German Shepherd Records kicking off with the memorable single “When Eartha Kitt Met Pete Tong”…

The now traditional Staggs Xmas single was revealed, partnership with Cryptic Cut, with a remake of two songs…

There was a long wait for the next release, but the wait was worthwhile for the stunning “Shy Bairns Get Nowt” , again reviewed at the time, including a revealing interview with the pair.

The Xmas single for 2015 was the suitably challenging “Funk Me Jesus” which included a remix from Space Museum.

Pending the release of the newest offering of the band which is out on May 6th, February 2016 saw the release of a solo effort from Scott described at the time as follows “Moving sideways from the warm embrace of Staggs, m.t.scott revisits his back catalogue giving us an insight into other parts of his musical endeavours. The usual Scott themes are in play, biting and caustic wit set amongst cinematic aural adventures providing a challenging and fulfilling listening experience“.

So there you have it, everything you wanted to know about Staggs but were afraid to ask.  True iconclasts, challengers of the mundane and damn good at what they do…..

* Reality Control were the Sound of the Newcastle suburbs! Heaton Manor’s very own Anarcho Punk band! – a 21 track retrospective of their work was released in 2013 on Anti-Society via Flat Earth records on vinyl and CD . The bands “Nice” track subsequently re-emerged in Staggs form on “Shy Bairns Get Nowt”. They are not to be confused with a  contemporary band with the same name from Aylmer, Ontario. You can grab the album here.

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

The Vicar’s House Is Nice

Artist : Staggs

Title : Shy Bairns Get Nowt

Format : EP

Label : German Shepherd

Release Date : August 8th 2015

front cover

Music pioneers Staggs are back with a new release on German Shepherd Records, and it is their best work to date in my opinion. I have previously reported on their activities with reviews of their Risqué But Not Blue release, the remix EP Smart Husband Resonator Set,  and ample airplay on the Aural Delights Podcast.

Their self released work to date is still readily available on Bandcamp and their previous German Shepherd outing is required listening for the discerning audiophile.

For those of you who are not aware of their work, Staggs are Michael T. Scott and Paul Ridley.  They describe themselves as follows:

Staggs were born out of a one-off experimental remix of their own anarcho-punk track from the early 80s. The production is wholly contemporary but the anger of that era lives on in their energy, lyrical content and vocal expression. With a healthy cynicism towards British culture contained in the wealth of nostalgic samples and a bizarre smattering of French language thrown in for good measure.

grim up north

The EP comprises four tracks. It starts with a clearly recognisable trumpet sample and moves into typical Staggs riffery, left field noises and vocal samples, and Scott’s trademark scabrous vocalising. Staggs have a clever knack of capturing the bleakness of Tory Britain in 2015,  but setting it in a humorous context. With all the current empty promises of the so called “northern power house” the track is very relevant.

The tempo is upped to glam rock levels with a tumbling footballing homage to the Charlton Brothers. The mix of glam-surf guitars, arpeggios, and rich synth sounds, together with Scott’s middle 8 commentary on Lord Bobby of Charlton, with a rather acerbic aside about his hairstyle, all makes for a rather heady brew.

big jackPost industrial decline is the subject of the Orwellian “Sunset Over Aldi” a thought provoking commentary, via a kitchen sink drama , where Scott proves to be a raconteur of the highest quality. Musically rich, and bursting with ideas, this is Staggs are their very best.

Matters conclude with seaside sounds, a glimpse of a forgotten England, and then a heady rush of punk electronica of the highest quality, as Scott disembowels middle class aspiration in an utterly marvellous tirade.  Glorious, and like all good closing numbers it leaves you wanting more.

With most bands these days trying to re-invent early Syd Barrett tunes, with Jefferson Airplane as a backing band, how utterly refreshing to listen to a band that is doing things on their own terms, with a fascinating mix of righteous anger,  cynicism and strong doses of humour.

A short promo sampler from the EP gives you a taste of the contents:

I took the opportunity to ask the duo a few questions with regard to the release and current activities

The seventh release from the mighty Staggs – what were the key inspirations/drivers for this one?

Scott: Conceptually, this EP was initially inspired by my relocation to Newcastle after 25 years down “That South” in tandem with a dysfunctional relationship, leading to a period of homelessness, poverty and depression. Typical Northern situation for a lot of people. I’m not influenced to do this by music, rather by experience and circumstance. The initial idea for Staggs was to put the listener in a position where they don’t know whether to laugh or cry by juxtaposing tragic and comedic elements. I see my lyrical work as observational commentary, so I’m more inspired by surviving cancer than say, Sparks….which all sounds a bit grim, I do however retain a very healthy sense of tumour. Case in point: “Ron Was Cool” – a “humorous” song about a paedophile……..

Ridley: Musically, whatever tickled my fancy the day I turned the computer on. Michael tends to come up with the themes and I like fitting my muse around that and this will often be informed by his lyrics. We work remotely from different cities, so one of us will offer an initial “sketch” and it builds from there. A lot of the songs “write themselves” which is possibly a reflection of our growing up together and sharing past experiences.

The subject matter appears more political/social commentary this time around – not so much a Staggs Party, but a Staggs Party Political Broadcast – a reflection of the second Cameron/Osborne zeitgeist perhaps?

Ridley: It wasn’t intentional but a good deal of our music involves social comment whether we like it or not…There’s a lot Up North to comment on, in fact anywhere, it’s just that we happened to grow up there … It is pretty Grim though, I must admit…….

Scott: Yes – having shied away from politics after the anarcho-punk period (too much to young) I find I simply cannot ignore it any more. I’m actually pretty fucking pissed off now. I do some voluntary work teaching IT to “jobseekers” on a North Shields estate which is a real eye-opener. Cameron has fucked it – it will take us years to recover.

sunset over aldi

Bobby Charlton – a football genius or hairstyle pioneer?

Scott: He’s from Ashington – no more needs to be said.

Ennio Morricone – influential or am I hearing things that aren’t there?

Scott: Im a fan but it’s not a concious influence – I sampled the trumpet part for Grim Up North from the legendary album “Larn Yersel Geordie” by 70’s North Eastern TV stalwarts Mike Neville and George House. I believe Neville was the inspiration for Viz Comics Roger Mellie (the man on the telly) – The Viz boys attended the same school as Staggs………..

Ridley: Again not intentional, but the only place I can hear it is the guitar riff on “Big Jack”, which Michael played, so I can’t take the credit there !

Can you replicate this live – if so any chance of some live appearances?

Scott: We keep discussing this, but it’s a technological and logistical nightmare for many reasons, and there is always the danger of becoming a “Punk Pet Shop Boys”, and I fear the dreaded Sleaford Mods have beaten us to that…….However, it is possible and I would like to do it at some point.

The “anger” of your “punk/anarcho” days seems to there still – is that a fair comment?

Scott: Yes indeed – The new EP references our anarcho past – Reality Control  samples and a lyric on “Sunset Over Aldi”, which is in fact an homage to our 1982 Reality Control release: “Sunrise Over The Falklands”. “Vive Les Staggs” is based on the work of Crass, of whom I now have mixed feelings. Yes – they changed my life but I was very young and impressionable – I wonder what would have happened without them……..I wrote the song “Nice” in the back of a school exercise book at the age of 15. As I approach my 50th year it still rings true. Let’s get angry.

(Scott and Ridley were the guitarist and drummer respectively in Reality Control – there’s a bit of band  history here)

Ridley: The anger is there yes. This is why I encourage Michael to find a garden shed or equivalent to do his vocals so that no neighbours are harmed in the process…

nice
Is humour important in music?

Ridley: Absolutely, it’s there in most of our work – some are private jokes from school – “Hey Miss – are you a communist” ? (Staggs Say No) Some are universal – Risqué but not blue..

Scott: A horse walks into a bar and the barman says “why the long face” ?

(I thought there might be Frank Zappa reference here but the pair of them missed the feed line by a mile!)

Any further releases planned?

Ridley: Definitely – a best of vinyl album so we don’t lose the back catalogue to internet ether. There’ll always be new stuff in the pipeline.

Scott: It would be churlish not to continue…….

A lot more North Eastern references in this one – are you flexing your regional muscles?

Scott: Not particularly – again its just social commentary informed by experience. Having said that, the “North – South Divide” is alarmingly still alive and kicking – I lived in London and was just as angry………….

What are you listening to music wise at the moment?

Scott: I tend to listen to 6music all the time, which is very lazy and I find myself singing along to songs I have never heard before. I like listening to old vinyl found in charity shops, skips etc. I enjoy Surf, Country & Western and British Folk.

Ridley: New Chemical Crothers album, a drum and bass mix by my brother and the best of the Boomtown Rats – my own edited ! Bit of Nitin Sawhney…….

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Cathedral Juice, Slug Dempsey and other matters of note

Ten years since Mr Peel left us and at the same time a raft of albums have been released that I have no doubt he would be featuring were he still broadcasting.

And what better place to start…….

It should be of no surprise to anyone who is an avid collector of the work of The Fall that the latest release, gnomically titled “Live Uurop VIII-XII places in sun & winter, son”, is a mixed bag of live recordings of varying quality. It is not the first example of a release, from the most prolific of groups, which tests the fans patience with their massive output. Pieced together from various dates the material stretches way back, in terms of genesis, to 1982/3 with a reading of “Wings” complete with, for reasons which are inexplicable, some church bells ringing at the beginning, through to more recent stuff including the, as yet unreleased, “Auto (2014) Chip Replace”. There have of course, along with the addition of extra percussionist, Daren Garrett (ex Nightingales etc), been a host of new songs aired publicly since this lot was recorded so one can expect a new Fall album at some point. Having caught them recently at the Lower Kersal Social Club I get a sense that some of the new material is an improvement on recent releases, which is consistent with the sine curve of quality that goes alongside studio albums. Having recently re-read Brian Edge’s Paintwork book, and Steve Hanley’s book “The Big Midweek” it becomes increasingly clear that the group are an obsession which both gives joy and confounds in equal measure. Is it any good? Probably not, but it gets filed on the shelves with the other 100 or so CDs and will be a reference point for  work on a comprehensive Fall gigography which is currently underway and will hopefully be completed by next Spring, i’m up to 1981 and it is proving exceedingly slow progress.

THE FALL Live

Thurston Moore’s new album “The Best Day” is good in that it refers back in terms of overall sound and to some degree structure to the excellent “Murray Street” by Sonic Youth.  He has gathered a newish band around him, Steve Shelley returns on drums, and Moore seems somewhat revitalised by his new band members. On balance I think I prefer last years “Chelsea Light Moving” wherein Moore adopted a more louche Lou Reed-ish demeanour and a slighly more raw sound. However when you get down to it there is not a great deal he can do in terms of surprises, it’s all very much mapped out from probably “Sister” onwards, with the exception of his more “free jazz” experiments with the likes of Nels Cline and Walter Prati. Better I think to try and grab a copy of his work with John Moloney in Europe in 2012  (Fundamental Sunshine) which starts to explore some other avenues is a little less rock specific. On a similar line of thought I’ve been listening back to some early Glenn Branca recently, to which Moore and Lee Ranaldo were key collaborators and that sounds far more interesting, at least people were taking risks back then, aah, the folly of youth.

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I wonder what Mr Peel would have made of Staggs? I hope he would appreciated their quirky charm and obtuse approach. Their latest single “When Eartha Kitt Met Pete Tong” is their best yet mixing a left field approach to electronica with Michael T.Scott’s scabrous vocalese. The A side is the marvellous Earth Kitt which mashes up references to Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and Jagger & Richard whilst, subliminally at least, referencing the long lost Fall track “Tempo House”, The other A-side “It All Went Pete Tong” is a delightful chill wave piece with a John Barry elements which seems to cover a wide range of subjects including a failed love affair between a vegetarian and a butcher. Ridley and Scott are able to create something new and vital  with their work and I recommend them strongly to you. Their work to date can be accessed via Bandcamp and the new single will be available from German Shepherd Records as a digital download from 31st October.

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The new Half Man Half Biscuit album “Urge for Offal” is great in a familiar way. We have got used, by now, to certain Blackwell formulas in albums and there are one or two of the characteristic performances therein, “The Unfortunate Gwatkin” being a classic “Nigel narrative” that then bursts into a song, this time with the memorable and utterly catchy line “Cresta, what the fuck were we drinking?”. There’s a punkier pop feel than of late with faster tempos and slightly harsher guitar sound on a number of songs, but there are the usual forays into mutant folk/country with a dollop of Wirralese, No stone is left unturned as Nigel mercilessly lampoons any number of current trends and tropes – Midge Ure gets a bit of a battering .  His ability to distill the state of the nation in a few pithy lines is legendary and he has lost none of his biting wit and utter daftness at times – I mean who else could rhyme beige with Standard Liege and mention Gerry Gow in the same song?  And here’s a thing, there’s a point in “Baguette Dilemma for the Booker Prize Guy” where Mr Blackwell sounds uncannily like Peter Hammill, a person he has, in the past, extracted from the micturant from with some venom. I often feel that the words are generally more important than the music with HMHB albums – when they get it spot on they can marry a great tunes with great words (i’m thinking “Gubba Lookalikes” for example) and there are a couple of gems on here but mostly it’s about standard “Merseybeat” chord sequences being used to deliver Blackwell’s words. There are a couple of interesting bits including the jaunty instrumental “Theme For Something Or Other”.  Having said all that it is by far the best release for October and the album I am likely to play more than once over the coming weeks.  Always the sign of a good album I feel is not particularly warming to it on the first listening but repeated plays leads to more appreciation of the detail.

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Kiss This Noise

What a glorious Monday with brand new vids from some of my fave rockin’ teen combos…..

First AAAK with a single release of the very memorable “Sweet Sweet Kiss”……

and then the return of Flies On You with the astringent post punkery of “Can You Smell That Burning Noise” (from the highly anticipated new album “etcetera”)

and to conclude a little bit of Staggs mischief……