Sunday, 22 April 2018

BEAT GIRLS ESPAÑOL (2018)


The sun’s out so the ideal time to enjoy a succession of sultry señoritas with single names, as they belt out Spanish 60s yé- yé sounds packed with perky punch and fiery flamenco rhythms.

Without requisite linguistic skills the ear automatically tunes to other elements, such as the arrangements, which are frequently masterful with no expense spared concocting these teenage symphonies, and vocal styles mostly delivered with full-blooded gusto.

There are translations of familiar numbers – Pet Clark’s ‘Colour My World’ converts to Gelu’s modish ‘Pinta Mi Mundo’ and ‘Get Off Of My Cloud’ loosely becomes ‘Aquí En Mi Nube’ by Sonia – but it’s Adriángela’s ‘Nunca Hay Bastante’, Lorella’s ‘Tendrás Que Llorar’, Massiel’s ‘Las Rocas y El Mar’ and Soledad Miranda’s ‘La Verdad’ that stand out for sheer drama while Pic-Nic offer soothing respite with the dreamy ‘El Es Distinto A Ti’. Just as the collection threatens to run out of steam, Conchita Velasco turns up the heat with a crazily camp ‘Calor’.

I hazard very few tracks would’ve been considered ‘cool’ at the time, parts invariably stray into Benidorm straw donkey territory and it can feel like you’re stuck in the heats of the Eurovision Song Contest but, curiously, those aren’t negatives, they simply add to the fun of this collection. Don’t fight it, Viva España!

A version of this review first appeared in Shindig magazine and is based on the 24-track CD; a 14-track vinyl edition is also available now on Ace Records.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

KING COBRA by THE SENIOR SERVICE (2018)


Graham D and the Medway Group return for another soundtrack inspired instrumental album following their 2016 debut, The Girl In The Glass Case. The Senior Service know their onions and King Cobra is an exceptional case of the sequel overshadowing the original as they serve up an even deadlier concoction.

Graham Day’s DNA is the most instantly recognisable but he’s only the mastermind behind half the escapades, this is the work of a ruthlessly effective quartet. Jonathan Barker, Darryl Hartley and Wolf Howard the other guilty parties.

It’s a dusty road littered with bodies. Sophia Loren rises from her bed, mysterious strangers appear, a barroom brawl, Clint Eastwood chews a match, a funeral procession passes through town. John Barry and Ennio Morricone, heads together in a Kentish lock-up with twang and trumpets, Hammond and harmonies, paint the landscape.

The foundation of choppy riffs, spiralling organ and hammering rhythms the Service are known for remain, but as moods shuffle and wriggle between scenes intricate details of their meticulous planning reveal themselves: horns and shakers, vibes and accordion, rich textures in their armoury.

King Cobra is non-stop action, a soundtrack album with all the boring bits eliminated. You’ll be charmed.

King Cobra by The Senior Service is released by Damaged Goods on Friday 27 April 2018. Available to order here.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

THE HACIENDA MUST BE (RE)BUILT: THE LUCID DREAM live at THE VICTORIA, DALSTON


Psych traitors, that’s the Lucid Dream, who this week they released a new one-sided 12-inch single ‘SX1000’.

When posted online it wasn’t greeted with universal acclaim from their fanbase. Devoid of guitars and lyrics, ‘SX1000’ is an unabashed tribute to the acid house era that elicited cries of “Utter pap, sozz but shite”, “Dunno if this is a gimmick type tune or what..”, “Come on boys, WTF is this pish, get back to what your good at” and, my favourite, “How do you go from Bad Texan to this?” Apparently, there were worse, but those comments have been removed. Hence the band’s cheekily knocking up a load of ‘Psych Traitor’ badges to give away.

Those criticisms were, of course, in the minority and on Thursday in East London, through a thick fog of dry ice, they showed, once again, what a remarkable live band they are, showcasing new tracks among a selection of established favourites.

The distance between ‘Bad Texan’, one of the jewels in the band’s recorded crown to date, and ‘SX1000’ isn’t that far at all, as the 2016 track already owed far more to the hypnotic rhymical second Summer of Love than the original flower power one and served as a pointer to where the band were heading next. Let’s not forgot, The Lucid Dream’s take on whatever ‘psych’ is, has incorporated garage rock, dark psychedelia, heavy dub and a Germanic motorik beat.

The other new songs weren’t as extreme as the single and meshed easily into the set which included a broken melodica-free ‘I’m A Star In My Own Right’ and the otherworldly Joy Divisionesque epic finale ‘Epitaph’. Standout moment though came in the shape of penultimate song, ‘Ardency’, which, even on first hearing, would’ve raised the roof of the Hacienda, an instant Madchester classic. Watch out for this when the next album arrives (date tbc).

‘SX1000’ might’ve been a radical move for sluggish bands happy to regurgitate the same style but that’s not The Lucid Dream’s technique. ‘SX1000’ hits a trance inducing, squelchy acid house groove with an unforgettable hook and adds yet another angle to a band already blessed a multitude of dimensions. Try to keep up everyone.

SX1000 is out now on Holy Are You Records. 

Friday, 30 March 2018

MARCH PLAYLIST


1.  Don Patterson with Booker Ervin – ‘Donald Duck’ (1964)
Organists like Don Patterson weren’t universally welcomed in jazz when they started cropping up, in fact there was open hostility, even from reviewers like Walter Catt who, when tasked with writing the sleevenotes for Hip Cake Walk, “put the record on my phonograph to brave what I thought would be an unpleasant experience.” Crazy fool.

2.  The 3 Sounds – ‘Yeh Yeh’ (1966)
From the Blue Note LP, Vibrations, comes this swinging piano/bass/drums version of the ol’ chestnut.

3.  Charlotte Leslie – ‘Les Filles C’est Fait Pour Faire L’Amour’ (1966)
Charlotte takes the Capitols ‘We Got A Thing That’s In The Groove’/‘Cool Jerk’ and dresses it in modish fuzz and French flair.

4.  The Producers – ‘Love Is Amazing’ (1968)
A Gamble-Huff production out of the Philly and typically sleek. Wonderful mix of male and female leads, harmonies by a group of angels, and horns and strings sent from heaven.

5.  Earth, Wind and Fire – ‘Help Somebody’ (1971)
“Reach out your hand and help somebody”. Oh yeah baby, let’s groove tonight. The eponymous debut LP by Earth, Wind and Fire is packed with strutting street funk.

6.  Major Lance – ‘Ain’t No Sweat’ (1972)
Released on Volt, and written by Major’s old buddy Curtis Mayfield, ‘Ain’t No Sweat’ is a mini-under-the-radar masterpiece that’s been overshadowed by ‘Since I Lost My Baby’s Love’ on the flip. Dig that violin!

7.  Katie Love – ‘How Can You Mistreat The One You Love’ (1972)
Even to this day not much is known about Katie Love other than she cut this Hayes-Porter song for Stax down in Muscle Shoals. Curiously has the feel for Stax’s old rivals Holland-Dozier-Holland and the stuff coming out of their Invictus stable.

8.  Neil Young – ‘Hitchhiker’ (1976)
There are many Neil Youngs but the best is Neil Young with an acoustic guitar, bag of Californian grass, bit of coke, sat under a full moon, playing songs. That’s what he did to record The Hitchhiker on 11 August 1976. The collection yielded future classics ‘Pocahontas’, ‘Powderfinger’, ‘Ride My Llama’ and more but the record company weren’t impressed with what they saw as an album of demos so it sat unreleased until 2017. It is, of course, brilliant.

9.  Go-Kart Mozart – ‘We’re Selfish and Lazy and Greedy’ (1999)
The Lexington in London was treated to the rare sight of Go-Kart Mozart last Saturday and what a fabulous gig it was. A brisk 40-minute set mostly featured tracks from new Mozart’s Mini-Mart where songs about depression, poverty, executions on the telly, Brummie prophets, knickers on the line and Crokadile Rokstarz, played in a plinky-plonky manner, took centre stage: modern life seen through Lawrence’s eyes and Lawrence’s eyes don’t miss much. If a group of young uns from wherever-is-hip-this-month were making these records they’d be courted across the land. ‘We’re Selfish…’ was one of the few old tracks Lawrence delved back into his trolley for.

10.  The Traffic – ‘Smack My Pitch Up’ (2016)
On the Australian label, Choi Records, comes two blasting funky reworkings of classics given a fresh makeover. Grandmaster Flash’s ‘White Lines’ on one side, and the Prodigy torn a new one on the other.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

SERPENTINE WALTZ by TARA MILTON (2018)



The debut solo album by former Five Thirty man, Tara Milton, has been a long time coming. In the early 90s his cocksure modish three-piece released the classic Brit Pop forerunner, Bed, and appeared on the cusp of making it big but internal fighting split the band in ’92.


Milton now shoulders much of the responsibility. “I just needed a good talking,” he reflects. “There was no one there to do that and I became more and more like crazy Roman Caligula.” Twenty years after disbanding second band the Nubiles, Milton returns to the fray. What took so long?

“I’ve tried to do it before but had a lot of personal problems to deal with after the Nubiles. I’d lost all my confidence, completely, and had to make some decisions about the way I was going to live. One thing I knew was that I love music and I love writing songs. If I was any kind of musician at all I would end up back in the studio doing the things I wanted to do.”

After returning to London from long spells in Japan, “teaching kids music and indoctrinating them with Five Thirty”, and with money scarce, completing the album took time. “The original intention was to do a very quick kind of record with Sean Read from Dexys, who arranges the brass and so forth. It just didn’t pan out like that at all.”

Far from a hastily knocked together record, Serpentine Waltz is lavish, thoughtful production. Some of Milton’s previous problems are meditated upon through its cinematic sweep: dreams and nightmares, twists and turns, characters and scenes blink in and out of view like ghosts. It’s a late-night journey to the dark end of the street, the other side of the tracks.

The extraordinary ‘Double Yellow (Lines 1 & 2)’ begins parodying Bob Dylan’s ‘A Simple Twist of Fate’ with “the intimacy of couple going through a separation. One of the most powerful songs Dylan did and I wanted to do a London take on it.” The sprightly tune then tumbles into a dramatic breakdown, featuring a sample of American writer Henry Miller’s passionate diatribe against the city, set to a freeform Miles Davis style accompaniment.

"Think of an album that blew you away. I felt like that the first time I read Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn. I didn’t know a writer could do that, I thought only musicians could. He lifted a twelve-month depression with two paragraphs of writing. He always wrote from the perspective of the downtrodden individual who simultaneously was on-fire, smoking.”

Serpentine Waltz’s mood is brightened by a folky fingerpicking style and richly embellished with trumpets, strings, piano, mandolins and oude. The sumptuous Beach Boy inspired chorus to ‘Getting It On With The Man In The Moon’ bursts light through the clouds.

"Song writing is still the thing, the big thing, isn’t it? But it’s got to come out of life.”

Tara Milton has seen life from all sides and lived to tell the tale. It’s great to have him back.

This article first appeared in Shindig magazine. Serpentine Waltz by Tara Milton with the Boy and Moon is out now on Boy and Moon Recordings. www.taramilton.co.uk/  Photo by Phil Miller. 
Coming soon: Tara reflects on his time in Five Thirty...


Sunday, 11 March 2018

COAL BLACK MORNINGS by BRETT ANDERSON (2018) at the WALTHAMSTOW ROCK ‘N’ ROLL BOOK CLUB, E17


Brett Anderson doesn’t so much walk into the room but glide. Back straight, no upper body movement and little steps. He could carry a book or his washing on his head, easy. With rakish grace he wafts from the back of an East London pub function room to the stage, where he decants into a large red velvet armchair, slouches back with a decadent air and waves a long bony hand. “Turn this terrible music off” he says, by way of an introduction. That terrible music is Suede’s brilliant, crunching, pirouetting, ‘Killing of a Flash Boy’, a 1994 B-side, that was, as were huge swathes of Suede B-sides up until that point, better than almost everyone else’s A-sides.

This is Brett’s first ever trip on the escalator at the end of the Victoria Line, as guest of Walthamstow’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Book Club, to talk about Coal Black Mornings, published this month by Little Brown. His demeanour is of a man at ease, debonair, sat in an exclusive Mayfair gentleman’s club, regaling tales of his life; only we’re in the shabby-chic E17, and the assembled ears do not belong to crusty old men smoking pipes. “I love women,” he says, fully aware of the response that will provoke, and an audience comprising of least 20 women to every man struggle to disguise reciprocal feelings. No doubt about it, Brett Anderson's a smooth, charming bastard. 

A man behind a tripod filming on a video camera asks why women love him and men hate him. There's no real answer to that, of course, but personal hygiene goes a long way apparently fellas.

Now he’s 50 (but, trust me ladies, looks much, much older...) we won’t find Brett in the gutter, reading Jack Kerouac and drinking bottles of absinthe – “boring, I know” – but instead he goes to dinner parties with his wife where he always finds himself stuck with “The Man” who wants to talk about cars and tyre pressure. I feel his pain, slightly, before finding some comfort in this news. 

But this is all side talk, the main discussion with interviewer Matt Thorne is about Coal Black Mornings, a book written with his young son in mind, he claims, on train journeys as a series of long emails to himself as he couldn’t be bothered to download Word to his computer. However unpromising that sounds the result is wonderful. I seldom read a book in a day but made an exception here (helped by 209 pages with lots of white space). It’s not The Story of Suede but a compelling account of Brett’s life up to the point of Suede signing a record deal, at which point the tale abruptly ends.

With autobiographies and biographies, I’m not usually overly interested in the subject’s early life, what their mum and dad and grandparents did, what their house was like; just cut to the chase, tell me about recording that classic single, tell me how everyone in the band fell out, their descent into My Drug Hell, then the redemption part at the end. But Brett, quite correctly as it turns out, reckons everyone has had their fill of those coke and gold disc stories, didn’t want to rake over that stuff now anyway, and chose to make his book about failure, love and loss, and achieves it magnificently.

It’s eloquently written, full of poetic phrases and evocative scenes of growing up in the 70s and 80s. Our lives are hardly comparable, but it’s strange how many memories it blew the dusty off in my head. Mostly innocuous stuff about being dragged around old churches on holidays and “sitting in soggy National Trust car parks as the rain poured angrily on the car roof” but nice nevertheless. Luckily for the reader if not him, Brett has far more monumental moments than that to share but the detailed descriptions of people and places impress.

Suede were often looked upon with suspicion singing about council estates and lives in the so-called margins, the assumption being they were middle class boys slumming it, adopting “social tourism” but Brett grew up in small council house in Hayward’s Heath with his mum, dad and elder sister. They were, undoubtedly, poor. In one example, Brett makes clear the indignity of having to queue up each day for his school dinner voucher; something that still stings. They were also the local oddball outsiders. Literature loving Mum, with artistic leanings and fond of sunbathing naked in the garden, was of the mend and make do school, making the only clothes that weren’t from jumble sales. Franz Listz obsessed Dad, who worked as an ice cream man, window cleaner, a swimming pool attendant who couldn’t swim, and finally a taxi driver, was, what may politely be called a bit of an eccentric, an Englishman whose home was most certainly his castle. I won’t spoil his foibles here.

Brett is unfailingly polite about those mentioned in the book (including former partners); even when revealing some unpleasantries about his father it’s respectfully done. There’s no sensationalism involved. The only person criticised is Brett himself and the only digs are a couple of handily placed references to the origins Modern Life Is Rubbish and ‘Popscene’ by (an unnamed) Blur plus a poke at 90s “groups of patronising middle-class boys making money by aping the accents and culture of the working classes”. Who can he mean?

Although not predominantly about Suede (and the Suede parts are curiously the least interesting, and I say that as a massive fan who followed every arse-slapping move during their first explosive year in the spotlight and love them still), Coal Black Mornings divulges events that provided inspiration for early songs. I’ve gone back and listened to things like ‘She’s Not Dead’, dealing with the mysterious and shocking death of his aunt, with far greater appreciation.

Coal Black Mornings is a class apart from most music books or memoirs. It’s full of emotion, honesty and revelations; it’s not a string of personal achievements but, as he writes, “about poverty and family and friendship and the scruffy wonders of youth”. There's a lot of death in there too, lump in the throat moments, but also laugh out loud occasions, due as much to Brett’s skilful writing than the incidents themselves. 

Back in the room, Brett is asked by a geek if he's a sci-fi fan (not really); the best Suede song ('The Wild Ones', correct); who he'd invite as a guest to interview at the Rock 'n' Roll Book Club (Lawrence from Felt, again correct); and having previously expressed a fondness for crisps, a group of fans plonk about 75 packets at his feet.

After the talk Brett signs books, natters to fans and poses for photographs, at which point I can confirm he does indeed smell mighty fine. 

Many thanks to Mark Hart of Walthamstow Rock 'n' Roll Book Club @e17RnR_books in rising to the challenge of bringing Brett to Mirth, Marvel & Maud, E17 and, naturally, to Brett Anderson himself. Coal Black Mornings is available now, £16.99.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

THE LUCID DREAM - 'SX1000' (2018)


Holy bananas, check this out. The Lucid Dream return in April with new single, ‘SX1000’, a year after their equipment was stolen at a gig in Paris and fans, eager for the band to continue making music, dug deep to donate £10,000 to get them back working again.

The first recorded return for that faith is a guitar-free, seven-minute banger, driven by the band’s prolonged submersion in Chicago and UK acid house sounds from the late 80s-early 90s. Anyone who has followed The Lucid Dream in their ten-year existence will have seen them grow and develop, continually looking to move on, from drone to dub, psych to rave. They’ve always pursued an independent path, a route that's now put them ahead of any pack. Watch others try to follow.

‘SX1000’ is released on 6 April 2018 as a limited edition single-sided 12 inch on Holy Are You Records. The Lucid Dream play the London Dalston Victoria (Thursday 5 April) and Manchester Band On The Wall (Friday 6 April). Band photo: Danny Payne.