Sunday 31 January 2016

Tuff Love

One of my blogging pals pointed me in the direction of Glasgow's Tuff Love last year, but for the life of me I can't remember which one. Whoever it was, allow me to offer my thanks. The band have been variously described as fizzy, fuzzy, sun-streaked and (my favourite) aggressively melodic - and any one of those will do the job. Over the past couple of years, Tuff Love have issued three EP's on The Pictish Trail's, Lost Map label (home, let it not be forgotten, of my favourite LP of 2015, 'Friend' by Rozi Plain). Those three EP's, 'Junk', 'Dross' and 'Dregs', have now been compiled into a 15 track album, 'Resort', due for release right about now. More info here.

Friday 29 January 2016

Live and Direct - This Is The Kit

Monitor problems. Mysterious and elusive crackling guitar cables. Another guitar requiring retuning mid-song. The drummer's phone briefly interrupting proceedings. A bass guitar that decided to separate from its strap, again in mid-song. All this before the end of the gig's third number. A lesser band might have crumbled at this point, but This is the Kit are made of sterner stuff, overcoming these trifling hurdles to play a joyful, spellbinding concert in the unique environs of the 18th century Octagon Chapel in Norwich.

Unsurprisingly, the set drew heavily from last year's excellent 'Bashed Out' LP, though for me, the absolute highlight of the evening was one of a brace of fine new songs we were treated to, which, judging by the quick inter-bandmember conflab before its performance, is currently being road-tested in more than one arrangement. I didn't catch the title, but hopefully they'll give it another airing when they play at the 6Music Festival in the middle of February.

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Suitcase Man

In September, it'll be 45 years since I started at 'Big' school. It was 1971, I was 11 years old and up to that point had only ever worn shorts and casual shirts to school - now all that was about to change. I was expected to arrive at 'Big' school kitted out in full uniform (including long trousers!) and carrying a briefcase - very grown up. As ever, Mum was ready with a camera to capture the moment as I left the house on my first morning. In the resulting photo I look apprehensive about the day ahead and slightly ill at ease in such formal clothing. At school, 95% of the other boys carried traditional leather Gladstone-style briefcases, but having already shelled out for a uniform that I would quickly outgrow, my parents were having none of that. Instead, I inherited a solid, square-cornered attache case that Dad had already used at work for a few years, which only served to make me stick out like a sore thumb in the classroom. Because it looked so different from the norm, I soon acquired the nickname of 'Suitcase Man' from the other kids. It could've been worse I suppose. That's the case in question, perched on the ground next to me in the photo. As it transpired, I actually only had it on loan. After I left school and no longer needed it, Dad reclaimed the attache case and carried it to and from work until his retirement in 1995. Even then he continued to use it at home to store his cheque book, bank statements, outstanding bills and various other bits of household paperwork, right up until his death in 2007.

In 1977, I plucked this little gem from the punk box of the record shop in which I would eventually work. Stanley Frank wasn't a punk and 'S'cool Days' wasn't a punk song, though John Peel played it a few times and it possessed a certain spiky edge that wouldn't have felt out of place on an early Stiff single. It wasn't released on Stiff though. Instead it remains one of only two records I've ever owned on Power Exchange Records (a label usually better known for a strictly middle of the road roster of artists), the other being '(I'm) Stranded' by The Saints.

Sunday 24 January 2016

Cavern Of Anti-Matter

You don't need to be the most perceptive person on the planet to notice that I'm on something of a kosmische kick at the moment. I promise I'll move on to something different after sharing some terrific new music from Cavern Of Anti-Matter, the Berlin based three-piece, assembled in 2013 by Stereolab's Tim Gane. The epic 'Tardis Cymbals' is the opening track from their forthcoming LP 'Void Beats / Invocation Trex', out in February on Duophonic.

Thursday 21 January 2016


Continuing the theme of my previous post, how about a little kosmische musik from Russia? 'Ngan!', by Gnoomes, fell just outside my top 20 albums of 2015 and the record's four tracks are a hazy, lysergic delight. The epic opener, 'Roadhouse', clocks in at a shade under 16 minutes and is worth every second, though in case you don't have that much time to spare right at this moment, the band created an official video featuring a massively edited version of the song. Check out the full LP here.

Tuesday 19 January 2016

That Motorik Beat

As a general rule of thumb, if you're looking for a piece of music guaranteed to grab my attention, make it something with a motorik beat. 'Whitest Boy On the Beach', the current single by Fat White Family is an irresistible example.

Once I start, I just can't stop. So while you're here, help yourself to a slab of 'Sea Within a Sea', taken from 'Primary Colours', the second LP by The Horrors, issued in 2009.

Finally 'Knickerbocker', the first track on Fujiya & Miyagi's third album, 'Lightbulbs', released in 2008.

Monday 18 January 2016

Version City # 50 - Bruce Springsteen sings David Bowie

Seven days on from the shock of David Bowie's sudden passing, many of us are still struggling to adjust to life in a post-Bowie world. It isn't easy, though of course it's immeasurably less easy for Iman, Lexi & Duncan and right now all my thoughts are with them. So, apologies for my recent radio silence. Normal service, whatever the heck that is, resumes forthwith. 

Here's Bruce Springsteen & the E-Street Band paying their own tribute to David Bowie, with a performance from the opening night of their US tour in Pittsburgh.

Saturday 9 January 2016

Steve Mason

'Planet Sizes' is the first taster from 'Meet the Humans', the new LP from Steve Mason, which is due for release at the end of February. The striking graphics in the video for the song were created by artist and film maker Anna Ginsburg. The album is available to pre-order over at Domino HQ. There might even be some signed copies left if you hurry.

Since it's the weekend, here's a bonus - 'All Come Down' from 2011's 'Boys Outside'. For my money, one of the finest songs of the 21st Century.

Wednesday 6 January 2016

New Places For Old Stuff

A few days ago, I opened the doors on a couple of new blogs. New blogs for old stuff. Before the Streets Were Aired is where I'll be posting a selection of the anonymous old photos that I seem to accumulate with frightening regularity. Some are formal, some funny, others quaint. The majority though, are simple, mundane moments captured on film. To be honest, it's the latter that I usually find most interesting. A beam of light illuminating a long-forgotten instant from a lost world. Before the Streets Are Aired could run and run to be honest, I have an awful lot of old photos. My other new blog though, has by definition, a limited shelf life.

One Sunday morning last Summer I was at a car-boot sale, rummaging through the remnants of a house clearance. It was all there - furniture, books, bedding, kitchen utensils, clothes and many other personal possessions of, one assumes, a recently deceased elderly lady. The residue of someone's life, scattered across a field for complete strangers to pick through. A heartbreaking thought to dwell on for too long. Buried deep in one of the boxes, I unearthed an old handwritten diary. The year is 1952 and the diary was written by a young woman, eight months married and one month pregnant as the story begins. Except of course that it isn't a story. The events in the diary actually happened. Spoiler alert...nothing much actually does happen. The charm of it is that while it's a delightful document of a year in a young woman's life, it all takes place in a world that is at once recognisable and yet impossibly distant from our own. I found the minutiae absolutely fascinating and thought that a few others might find it similarly interesting, so I'm sharing the diary, day by day, in real time over at Dear Diary 1952.

The new blogs will feature no music and precious little comment from me. They're merely portals through which to take a gander at a couple of my other interests, if you feel so inclined. Over here though, it'll be business as usual, all being well. To prove it, here's a fine tune from an album that fell just outside my top 20 of 2015, 'Constant Bop' by Bop English, the side project of White Denim's James Petralli.

Sunday 3 January 2016

Version City # 49 - Robin Williamson sings Motörhead

He'd already left Hawkwind by the time I first saw them and I never experienced Motörhead in concert, but on my gig going trips to London in the late 70's and early to mid 80's, Lemmy was often on hand, lurking around the scene. I particularly remember one evening seeing him, dressed uncharacteristically in white, a lady on each arm, propping up the bar at Dingwalls. Usually though, he'd be lost, chain smoking, absorbed in playing a slot machine, by all accounts a habit that stuck with him until the end.

Many tributes have been paid to the man over the past few days and many of his records have been played, none more so, I suspect, than the immortal 'Ace of Spades'. Here, to prove that a truly great song should be a great song in whatever style it's delivered, is Robin Williamson from the Incredible String Band, performing Lemmy's most enduring composition.

Friday 1 January 2016

Albums of the Year 2015 - 1 to 5

And so to my favourite five albums of 2015. There'll be no tremendous surprises here for anyone who has cast a beady eye over this blog in the past 12 months. Here we go (in reverse order, natch....).

5) Daniel Knox - Daniel Knox

Daniel's songs can bring a smile to your lips one minute and cause a shiver to run down your spine the next. The power of his voice will rock you back on your heels before melting your heart. It's extraordinary stuff.

4) Trembling Bells - The Sovereign Self

When I listen to Trembling Bells, I find myself concocting make-believe musical genres in an attempt to pin down their general wonderfulness. Last time I posted about them (here) I hit on 'Psych-Folk-Kraut-Rock', though I'm currently favouring 'Medieval-Wyrd-Noir'. Feel free to disregard my waffle, except this next bit...'The Sovereign Self' is an astounding LP.

3) Alasdair Roberts - Alasdair Roberts

I'm sure that everyone has a select clutch of artists about whom they find it incredibly difficult to remain objective. Alasdair Roberts is one such artist for me. This fantastic LP was released on Drag City in January and was followed later in the year by an EP as a member of The Furrow Collective, then in the Autumn with another, self-distributed, solo LP, 'Missed Flights and Fist Fights'. There may very well be more 2015 recordings out there that I still need to track down, such is Alasdair's restlessly creative nature. I have a ticket to see him in concert again in March, expect further gushing superlatives to come your way shortly thereafter.

2) Lonelady - Hinterland

'Hinterland' has been so deeply embedded in my noggin this year, that for a while I completely disregarded it from my 2015 review, being convinced that it must have actually been issued in 2014. It's a terrific album, released a full five years after its predecessor 'Nerve Up'. Let's hope we don't have to wait quite so long for the next one.

1) Rozi Plain - Friend

Rozi Plain contributed substantially to This is the Kit's excellent 'Bashed Out' and also to 'We Resonate' by Rachael Dadd, a fine LP that reached my 2014 long-list. In spite of this, 'Friend', the third album Rozi has released under her own name, inhabits a unique sonic world, sounding quite unlike anything else I've heard, while simultaneously remaining resolutely warm and accessible. An absolute delight and highly recommended.

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