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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The Wiseacres.

Classed as one of those shoulda woulda coulda bands The Wiseacres just fell short of snatching at the next rung on the ladder of success on their first stab at making a go of it in the music biz
The reason was all about public tastes moving on rather than them setting a foot wrong though.
It’s the time old tale of boy meets girl, likes girl, sees another girl and leaves the first girl behind.

The public are of course fickle bastards.

The difference between other acts and The Wiseacres though is that they decided not to end the story there, and with a fresh album released they have managed to not just revisit the past, but use the intervening years to ensure that they didn't stall themselves into a musical rut.
With Sharon Bain at the vocal helm for much of it the references to Debbie Harry and a slew of late eighties indie power pop chanteuse are unavoidable, but the band doesn't sound like any particular one, and certainly not Blondie, and that keeps it all very interesting.
In addition the occasional male vocal lead from John White can take us into Velvets and Jesus and Mary Chain territory to, and it is in this broad range of influences that are being touched on that the band can manage to take a great deal of essentially disparate parts and weave them together to create a cohesive whole.
Pretty damn impressive, but don’t ask me how the actually do it because it’s probably a secret that if I knew and revealed then certain death would be on the cards.

Maybe this time around that elusive rung on that ladder of success is hovering within reach again.
If they manage to get a grip on it then it would be well deserved, but as with the first attempt that is going to be something that is down to public support.

So get listening, get buying, get going to see them in action as I don’t want to be writing a where are they now article down the line.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Has anyone seen John Lydon and Katie Hopkins in the same room at the same time?

It would be very easy to take umbrage at the things that John Lydon says here.
Especially if you are a fan of both The Clash and The Ramones.
However Lydon is the self styled king of outrage and this is his stock in trade.
A mature consideration of what he has spouted can only lead to the conclusion that it is done with the intent to bate, and he clings to the delusion that this carries some worth to it.
Here he is gaining some media traction as his nonsense partially goes viral while simultaneously being unaware that people are laughing at him and not with him.

His comments are ludicrously ill thought out, and to a degree disrespectful, but through repetition of this sort of vapid missive there is literally is no shock value any more.

Who cares what he says.

It's Lydon.

Instead of being offended most now see him as akin to an aged relative with an incontinence problem.

The first time he shits himself everyone screams in horror, and then it is a talking point for some weeks, but a few years down the line when the odour that heralds yet another evacuation of his bowels reaches you there is no shock or horror.
All you do is lift a weary eyebrow and shout to his carer that he's filled his continence pad again before moving on to continue doing what you were doing in the first place.
It's really just become another day in the life of ol' shitty pants and no one is surprised or shocked any more.

And that's really all this is.
Lydon opening his mouth and once again releasing some words that have the value of the contents of an incontinence pad.

It could be funny if he shook it all up a bit, but he is lost in inhabiting the persona of the cartoon stereotype that he designed for himself.

It's actually a rather sad and pointless rut he has managed to create for himself to languish in.

PS - For those who reside any place other than the UK I should explain that Katie Hopkins is a talent void mouthpiece who the media trundle out to boost ratings of daytime televisions shows as she is hardwired to open her mouth and spout similar bollocks to Lydon.

Friday, 25 July 2014

If this is the drug of a nation then it's a mind numbing sedative.

In my place of work there is a television.
That may sound like an excellent feature for the workplace, and as so many people don’t have this luxury I expect that they are feeling a bit envious about my revelation right now.

Go on admit it.

There’s a bit of you thinking that you would love to have a television where you work.
You could keep up with world events, be partially entertained during breaks, and it would provide a background noise that could conceivably cover the sound of your soul being crushed as you work slowly, but steadily, towards the end of your shift, or life depending on which comes first.
There really couldn't be much of a downside to having one hanging on the wall or sitting casually in the corner offering a window to the world could there?

The reality doesn't match the picture that is painted in your head though.

In the main where I work it is about eighty percent 4Music that it is tuned into.
Over the course of a twelve hour shift that translates to maybe three hours of Pharrell singing Happy and the rest is made up of either Rhianna songs, songs that feature Rhianna or people who are trying hard to sound like Rhianna.
In fact it is entirely possible that Rhianna owns 4Music and she is throwing Pharrell a bone because he is a mate and she eases in a few soundalikes just to massage her own ego.

I can look at the clock and it's five past four.
Six songs later of the videos on a loop that are assaulting my senses and I can look at it again and in some very strange and fucked up way it’s only seven minutes past four.
I can’t explain how that happens, but it makes a twelve our shift feel like it is really stretched over a week.

Sometimes to create a moment of respite I will manage to change the channel.
I don’t really care what I change it to as long as some variety is tossed into the mix.

I never do it if anyone is actually watching it though.
I'm not that rude.
Instead I do it when no one else is there.
If there is literally no one in earshot, or anywhere near the room at all, I lunge at the remote and stab randomly at it and then breathe a sigh of relief.
Occasionally I will admit that I even just turn it off and relax in the momentary silence.

Yet without fail as soon as a colleague enters the room and it clicks with them that the television is no longer on 4Music then they automatically reach for the remote and the muzak is back on.

Rhianna has brainwashed them.
From now on the Barbadian songstress should really be called “she who must be obeyed”.
It doesn't really make much sense, but I am toying with a theory that one by one she is assimilating people and they just haven’t managed to get around to me yet.
I wake up screaming sometimes from a nightmare where scantily clad RnB maidens close in on me singing “Gooble Goble Gooble Goble” while bald headed rappers in wife beaters accompany them with rhymes of “We accept him one of us, Huh, Huh, Yeah”.  

One thing that really is a headfuck for me is that once the channel is changed back to 4Music then more often than not the person will then leave the room again. 

I mean seariously. WTF! 

After multiple hours of this mainstream dross blaring in the background I can feel raw.
My life is just hour after hour of being assaulted by waves of inane salty shite that I am simultaneously being drowned in and abrasively scoured by.  

As mentioned it’s not all 4Music though.

Sometimes it’s “the only way is Essex” or “the real housewives of New Jersey, NY City, Orange County, Beverly Hills and Atlanta”.

What theses shows have in common is that they all feature narcissistic bullshitters whose first world problems are elevated to a level of importance that is mind bogglingly arrogant.
Someone failing to turn up at a charity event can be such a personally crushing incident that you could believe that it had been carved into a Mayan calendar as a portent that signals the end of days.  

In the US shows the term real that is loosely tagged onto the location is seriously an issue that should be looked into by trading standards.
There is nothing real about any of it.
From the poorly scripted situations that are played out to the actual people.
There is nothing real at all.

There is so much plastic surgery work done on the ladies who feature that when any of them die then there is no chance at all of their corpses being considered biodegradable.
Forget burying them.
Just bulldoze them into some landfill and in future generation some archaeologist will unearth one and this era will go down in the history books as the one where we finally managed to create sex cyborgs as tests will conclude that what they found is fifty-one percent organic, forty seven percent plastic and the remaining two percent being made up of traces of alcohol and coke.

As for the UKs Essex version it only takes five minutes of listening in and it becomes apparent that they have been getting botox injections straight into their cerebellum.
If you threw a glass of water in the face of one of them then it would take three days for the brain to register it, another four before the facial muscles got the message and yet another three before they reacted.
If any of them are on a celebrity television show and you see them flinch then that’s them reacted to something that happened ten days previously.

The strangest and scariest thing about all of this is that apart from people watching these shows voluntarily there are some who aspire to be like the people who are featured.
They look at the spray tans, the wealth, the days of meeting up for lunch and think “I want a bit of that”, but the pay off for it seems to be that they have to become an empty vessel whose head is where ideas go to die.

I catch five minutes of them and immediately think that each and every person on them has been at the crossroads and sold any sort of compassion, empathy and common sense they had to the Devil in exchange for an easy ride in life.

Now that you know what is on offer with a television in a workplace can you honestly say that you would want one now.


The only thing worse would be sport on all day.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Sonic Templars - HAC - Irvine (18/07/14)

With Sonic Templars easing ever closer to releasing the “weapons of mass distrust” ep this live outing in support of Culann in Irvine was the ideal opportunity to get a taster of the material live to see how hard it was going to kick.

In the past there’s been much said about them wearing their influences on the sleeves, and while comparisons to Radiohead and MUSE have not been unfounded, there’s undoubtedly a beautiful brutality to the music that Sonic Templars creates that allows them to push in directions that their musical heroes haven’t explored.
And it is this harder edged delivery that they have in place that allows them to be considered as something more than the sum of said influences.
With the music often building up to a wall of sound with harmonies layered over the top, it is not unusual to feel that everything is moving towards a point of aural destruction, that the song will peak and then fall apart into a mess of crashing chords and screams, but instead just as they reach the cusp of that they effortlessly maintain control, and then it’s a joy to behold them reigning in the power to redirect it all back onto safer shores.
That they can do it so often highlights that it is no mere fluke, and instead is the result of deliberating plotting the pace, and with that they reveal themselves to be a band that has a nuanced approach to song writing that many other acts should rightly be envious of.

So with that in mind was the show going to deliver on more of the same of which there would be no complaints, would they slip back a bit or could they take it to another level?

For those there it is the latter that they experienced.

With the addition of guitarist Stephan Crawford on board to share vocals the band have moved forward not just one step, but leaped ahead and begun to lay out the framework that should allow them to garner the beginnings of plaudits from further afield, and to draw to them a fanbase that could allow them to venture from the small pool they currently reside in to dipping their toes into a much larger one.

With tracks from there previous two outings making the cut into the set you can hear the progress made with songs such as Sweet Deceit from Minds in Transit and Mephistos Minions from BreakingSilence ripping the guts out of their studio versions and leading me to consider that a full length album recorded by the band now could do with some earlier tracks being revisited to be partially reimagined.

It is however on the newest material that the band really takes it up a gear and there’s a hunger in the delivery that screams that there’s plenty of fuel in the tank, and in many ways this new release is really just the beginning.


With a headlining launch on the horizon in Glasgow it is a show that I am comfortable in recommending.

Photograph provided by Mark Hickey. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

One small step for the NHC

And so it begins...

The first step on a journey that will lead to who knows where.
With a property now being secured and a lease about to be signed it is with much excitement, a bit of trepidation and a whole lot of “is this really happening” being said, that we can proudly announce that the NHCs dreams are about to become a reality because very soon the doors will open on our own little store.
Yes. You heard that right and we shall announce the exact location very soon.
From the store we shall be selling a range of new and used CDs, Vinyl's, Books and DVDs.
This will be at the core of what we do, but it’s all really just there to provide a foundation that will allow us to financially fund having a place from where we can support the artistic community as a whole.
And how will you do that I hear you ask?

Well that answer is that if you are currently unsigned and going down the DIY route, or if you are running an independent label, then we want to sell what you have.
We have looked at multiple options of how to do this and we consider that the best is that you sign up quarterly to us for the princely sum of £3 a month with an introductory offer of three for two which means it’s just £6 you give us and then we sell anything you have at the price you say and you get it all.
Yes. You heard correctly.
If you want to sell a CD at £6 then that’s how much it is.
T-shirts, cassettes, vinyl single and albums?
Whatever you say it is to be then that’s exactly how much it is.
We shall stock it in the shop and online for £3 a month with no hidden costs.
Hell, if you have tickets for a gig to sell then give them to us and it’s in on the deal as well.
No booking fees either.

Of course it is at this point that anyone in a band, who is playing solo or has a label, is asking why they should give us this £3 when other shops will stock their CD for free?
Well the answer is that we all know that when you do that the shop then makes an addition to the cost so that they can get a cut.
For a small act that is trying to carve themselves a niche that additional cost can be the thing that stops a curious music fan from investing in their release though.
We are removing that part of it, and we will also promote your release with online reviews and even by personal recommendations to customers.
For example if someone purchases a Bob Dylan book from us and you are the Celtic Dylan then we will assuredly tell them that they should lend an ear to your release and play them a track off it.
So for £3 you are having two outlets for your release (Store and online), a review, possibly an online interview, and people who will pro-actively try and sell your music to people.

Not bad.

Even if we do say so ourselves.

Also we will be looking to keep the ball rolling with the friends of NHC group with which, for a one-off donation of £10 for a year will receive 20% off any purchases made from our own stock, and get a pre-heads up of one week for any live instore signings, acoustic shows, and special days and nights-meaning you get first chance to snap up limited tickets and spaces! For a mere tenner a year it's a great deal.
Currently we already have a rather large amount that will excite those who like to trawl through the record and book stores to find a bargain and if a canny shopper considers that they will be in often then that £10 donation could be a solid investment with the bonus of it also helping us fund other projects in the pipeline.

Independent record labels can get in on the act too, any record labels, from anywhere on the globe, wanting us to stock music and merchandise from ALL the bands they represent can do so, for the small fee of only £6 per month. For that price (Less than a couple of pints of lagers) we will stock a few of each cd they have, any vinyls/tapes, Tickets (minus any extra handling fees) get some release posters up, flyers on the counter, a mention on the board of  labels we support, airplay on our popular weekly podcast, your items on our online shop and a chance of a review on the blog, and we can even chat about arranging album signings and stuff for them instore. Same deal as before, paid 3 months upfront, and every penny from every sale goes right back to the label. Good deal right? No hassles, no hidden charges, just one wee payment, and you can also be sure that every single penny we make goes right back into the very scene you are part of, making it bigger, and better for everyone involved! Oh and for the record, any bands who donated to our HUB fund campaign at the end of last year, will get this deal for stocking items free for the first six months(for labels) or year (for bands), as well as whatever pledge we have to give you too!

More details for how you can get involved, help us out with what we are doing, or how to sign up to stock your stuff with us, will be live online over this weekend, so stay tuned for that! This is the first big step for us so get in on the ground floor while you can, things are just about to get interesting.

Callum Baird - Better Off Alone (A Love Song to Scottish Independence)

Monday, 14 July 2014

A Socialist Utopia

A socialist utopia.

Let the words hang there for a second.

Let them bubble up one at a time and fill your mouth.
“A.”
There it is. Now push it out there.
“Socialist.”
You got it. Keep going.
“Utopia.”

They are three little words that seem to be gathering pace in the Scottish independence debate.

Yes voters all think a socialist utopia is on the horizon say the no voters.
Yes voters are deluded if they think a socialist utopia will be delivered say the no voters.
Only the deranged think that Scotland could ever be a utopian state with socialist values say the no voters.

There is one problem with this though.

No one is actually using those words apart from no campaigners, or no one I know on the yes side of the debate.

So I can appreciate that if you support independence that when I asked you to shape your mouth to deliver them that they may have felt a bit strange hanging about there on your lip.

It’s really like one of those situations where someone shoves the words so often into your mouth that after a while you think you just might have actually said them, but deep down you know you didn’t

For the record, I am a socialist and I want independence, and yet I have still to hear anyone at all on the yes side of the fence say that this socialist utopian future is on the table.

In my experience the only time the words are used by an independence supporter is when they ask someone in the no camp who it was that actually said this as their main reason for voting for independence.

There is never a solid reply either.

Of course people like me do want to see a rise in socialist values in a post independent Scotland, but no one is bandying about the idea that a utopian paradise will be created.
We live on a planet where capitalism runs rampant and our future will be framed in the context of working within that system.
Everyone I speak to who is looking to vote yes is aware of this.

We speak about improved taxation laws that will close loopholes and have major international companies pay what they are required with their contributions then being a cash injection that can be inwardly invested.
We discuss the introduction of a living wage leading to people being more prosperous and once again investing locally through how they spend.
We consider that more money spent means more opportunities for businesses and more employment and then instead of keying into what seems to be a race to the bottom we start building from a solid foundation.

If businesses consider the long view rather than the short one then they can see that this offers them a degree of longevity that they may not have if they keep looking for maximum returns on a minimum investment.

We want our country to push that message.

Basically we are all intelligent enough to know that independence is not going to be emulating that moment in the Wizard of Oz when everything goes from black and white to Technicolor.

We fundamentally understand that.

We are also not shy in discussing issues surrounding nationalism.
Will there be a future sectarian problem?
Is immigration something that we should be concerned about?
Will the minor instances of racism that we have flourish in an independent Scotland?

These are just the tip of the iceberg discussed, but we do debate them.
What is heartening for me is that whenever an issue is raised people look for solutions.
They aren’t ducked or swept under the carpet.
We talk, and we talk, and we argue and then we talk some more.

Everyone is aware that it is a very large decision that we are being asked to make and it has many angles to be considered, and in general I think that those who I converse with consider their views in the context of the magnitude of what is being asked.

And while I am on the subject of misconceptions being promoted, similar to how the Better Together campaigners use language like “a socialist utopia” to give the impression that many of us are head in the clouds dreamers they also cast out the Braveheart freeeeedom memes that may as well have see you jimmy bunnets stitched to the head of a Mel Gibson who is waiving a shortbread tin at his Sassenach enemies.

I mean really?

The anti English sentiment is a fanciful slur on the people of Scotland.
Are there idiots who hate the English?
Of course there are.
We haven’t cornered the market on idiots though and those who do spout that sort of rubbish are not representative at all.

I know what I am voting for.
I could say that I am open to be swayed, but the quality of the Better Together supporter’s level of debate doesn’t make that look very likely as many still seem at the stage of spreading misinformation and chucking their toys out the pram when anyone disagree with them.

Bring on the rational debate please and raise the game a bit as like others I am now bored with it.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Melisa Kelly - The Sweet P Sessions

Music should carry with it an emotional hit.
If you don’t feel anything then it isn't doing its job.
It’s not often that it overwhelms you though.
It’s a rare beast of a song that can snatch your breath away while raising the hair on your neck and leaving you tongue tied and struggling to articulate just what it is that moved you so much.
The ones that do are of course all considered to be timeless classics.
They are the evergreen songs that garner ever more fans with each generation that they are introduced to.
Artists such as Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Janis Joplin, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Billie Holiday all have songs like this that litter their back catalogues, and because of that they are rightly referred to as legendary performers.
And now with the song “Since you've been away” a young woman called Melisa Kelly could be on the cusp of kicking at the door to be allowed into the club that they are all members of.
It would be easy to consider such high praise as hyperbolic, but it literally is the sort of song that urges others to put their reputations on the line for it.
As it reaches the last bars it elicits some very strong feelings.
One being that you have just heard something that is utterly magnificent.
Imagine the moment when the tape stopped rolling on Percy Sledge singing “When a man loves a woman” and how that must have felt.
Hold onto that feeling, and that is it encapsulated in a moment.
John H Hammond who discovered Bob Dylan, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin and Bruce Springsteen would rise from the dead to sign this young lady on the strength of this one track.
Anyone that doesn't feel that frisson of excitement from hearing it must be missing some sort or empathic component in their make up.
In a sense you don’t listen to the song, but instead feel it.

If this is a case of lightning striking once then so be it, but if Melisa can deliver an albums worth of material of a similar strength then a platinum selling career may well be waiting for her.
With the album available on the 14th of July we don't have long to wait to see what happens.
Links to how you can purchase the album will follow.

Facebook
Link to purchase The Sweet P Sessions

Friday, 11 July 2014

Rob Duncan - Daddy's Curse

Rob Duncan (ex of Eddy and the T-Bolts) has just released an album that sounds as if it was distilled from my own record collection.
In many ways it is a fucked up and ragged homage to the US of A.
A debt paid in full to the rock and rollers, the country balladeers, the girl groups of the sixties and the ground breaking New York punks.
A glass raised in honour to all that our colonial cousins have given us.

At times the shadow of Johnny Thunders looms large as Rob tip toes through the glass carpeted and needle strewn gutters of the bowery tipping his hat to his influences, and then without missing a beat he is chasing after a blue collared Springsteen to bellow his admiration at.
And just as you begin to wrap your head around that change in direction there he goes again charging off full pelt in another to snatch at something else, a hint of Neon Boys here, some Guns and Roses there, the Dogs D’Amour of the UK making a sly appearance, a bit of Dylan, a taste of the Ronettes, and it goes on and on.
Like a kid let loose in a candy store you get the impression he wants it all, and he’s making a credible attempt and grabbing everything in sight.

Those who were fans of the releases by Eddy and the T-Bolts will not be disappointed in this next chapter for Rob.
The humour the band were known for still threads its way through the material, and as an added bonus he is also very obviously relishing being able to spread his wings a bit and deliver more than expected.

Next live show

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Sisters of Mercy - ABC - 07/07/14 (Glasgow)

The dark prince of Goth that is Andrew Eldritch is currently on the road and waiving the banner of The Sisters of Mercy above venues across the UK.
As a rallying call in 2014 you could be mistaken in thinking that the flag wouldn't draw the rabid response from the khol eyed children that it once did, but all around me drenched in petula are those who pledged allegiance for life, and meant it.
They stand proudly peackocking in monochromatic shades and resolutely believe that they can capture the halcyon days of their youth on communally tribalistic nights such as this.
And they can.
Slap on the pancake, crimp what is left of the hair and backcomb it to within an inch of Robert Smith’s life, and squeeze into those leathers and Festers yer uncle.

Fuck everyone else as that moment is yours, and why shouldn't it be?

It’s was a Monday night in Glasgow and the summer sun was out, but the city belonged to those who marched to the beat of an alternative drum.

In a sense the whole evening was a rather glorious celebration of a staunch refusal to fit in, and I can get on board with that.
Of course it was in the main people exercising some middle age rebellion, but the world can always do with a bit of that, and while those on the outside can look in and hide smug smiles behind strategically placed hands I think the Goths know exactly who they are and by remaining true to themselves are streets ahead of those sniggering.

So all hail the Goths.

They are still kicking against the pricks, (Biblical quote used by Nick Cave to reveal Goth credentials) and doing it in style.

As the dry ice engulfed the stage and spread preternaturally out to swallow the first few rows in the ABC the dark lord who will stage manage the evening was revealed for seconds at a time and the band kick off with More from Vision Thing and you could feel the tension from the crowd being released.
All previous outings where critics lamented a poor sound are forgotten as Ben Christo and Chris Catalyst lock it down tight and Eldritch shows himself to be in fine voice.

Once they have started there is no stopping them either.
There’s a point early on where a sonic grind is found, a tempo that machine like keeps rolling forward gathering momentum as it does.
While the trio slip in and out of the banks of fog and indulge in painting solid silhouettes as they take a stance to deliver the music the crowd in attendance feel that spark of magic, the connection, being made.
Mid set and Dominion Mother Russia is revealed in all its glory and the hardcore fans take their adulation to a whole new level as the fair-weather hit single fans swoon in delight with them.
The sound in the ABC is crystal clear and lends itself to the epic nature of the material.
The volume is however kept relatively low, but the loss of ear ringing bombast is balanced with a degree of clarity that is welcomed.

Apart from the Chris Catalyst penned Arms that remains unreleased the set is largely rooted in well road tested material that’s familiarity is worn comfortably by the audience who sing along in unrestrained abandon that those who would shy away from the genres shows would find hard to believe.

With the mammoth hit that was This Corrosion finishing the set* no one would have felt short changed, but with an encore of Kiss the Carpet, Lucretia My Reflection and Vision Thing to follow it nearly finished off the cult like following that the band has.

It would have been partially churlish to insist on Temple of Love, even though it was conspicuous by its absence at that point, as it’s inclusion could have been described as too much of a good thing, but just as some caught their second wind the band were back with a second encore that would push things to the edge with First Last and Always, Misirlou and then finally the fan favourite that is of course Temple of Love.
A song that in itself delivered the coup de grace for those who were begging for the release of a delightful petite mort.


*Number seven in the UK charts in 1987 would sell enough to maintain a number one slot for about a year in the present.