Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Gruff Hello!

With the Super Furry Animals in a state of hiatus, lead singer Gruff Rhys sets out on his own once more with the release of his second solo album at the start of 2011.  This beautiful song is the first release from the record, a follow up to his 2007 debut Candylion.

Gruff Rhys - Shark Ridden Waters

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Caitlin Rose - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Would it be fair to say, that Country and Western polarises music lovers more than any other genre? For many, C&W epitomises the good old boy, right wing leanings of white America.  The patriotic pro-war ramblings of country artists such as Toby Keith, appeal to the boot-scooting, stars and stripes waving republican right, and leads to the idea that country music has always been politically conservative.  However, the pro-weed leanings of Willie Nelson to the George Bush baiting antics of the Dixie Chicks, suggests the genre has more to offer.  

Continuing the broken-hearted, whiskey soaked country blues of Loretta Lynn, Emmy-Lou Harris, Iris Dement and Gillian Welch, Nashville native, Caitlin Rose, captivated her small but perfectly formed audience with songs from her beautiful current album, Own Side Now. Sipping on a 'medicinal' whiskey throughout the set, Rose - despite being only 23 - gave a performance of assured maturity that often reminded me of Sissy Spacek playing the aforementioned Lynn in the 1980 biopic The Coal Miner's Daughter

Kicking off with new single Learning to Ride, Rose showed how comfortable she is as a performer, by cracking jokes to the audience and flirting with her mainly English backing band throughout the hour long set.  If I had one gripe, it would be the fact that there was no room on tonight's setlist  for her cover of The Stones' Dead Flowers, but a small price to pay for spending an hour with Nashville's new queen of country.

Members of the Velvet Owl Gig Collective outside the Brudenell Social Club.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Where’s the anger kids?

As the 80’s revival gathers pace with a right wing government , savage cuts in all areas of public spending high unemployment and the now a royal wedding to try and distract everyone away from whatever television show is sedating them at the moment I’m left wondering where are the righteous young men with guitars?

As the likes of Cameron insist that everyone is in it together (though with his millions in the bank I reckon he’s not quite in it like many others) and then some Lord Toff actually says “you’ve never had it so good” all I seem to see kids being bothered about is who gets voted off the pantomime that is X Factor and I fear the worst.

Now I’m aware as much as anyone that nostalgia’s not what it used to be but while I seethed at Thatcher and her cronies dismantling all around me at least I had my music to help me see I was not alone. “You’ve never had it so good – the favourite phrase of those who’ve always had it better “raged the Redskins on the classic 45 ‘bring it down’ and that single scarped into the top 40 when you had to sell more than 16 copies to do so.
We had Weller and The Jam/Style Council all tutoring us in the ways of righteousness with many politically charged tunes such as ‘little boy soldiers’, going underground’, walls come tumbling down’ and many more.
We had Billy Bragg whose whole purpose was seemingly political and we had many more bands all railing against the system. The Housemartins were Smash Hits regulars but their songs were all about sexism, racism and general socialist principles. Right through the 80’s there was a feeling that everything was political and even at the height of the whole Madchester shenanigans bands like The Stone Roses and The Farm were still singing about issues that affected us all.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that at that time it seemed like there was still some genuine anger about what was happening and I just don’t see that these days. Maybe The Housemartins were right in ‘think for a minute’ when they sang that apathy always wins without a fight?

So come on kids turn your tellies and your x stations off and get off your arses and make some noise!

Here’s Tom with the weather…..

Friday, 19 November 2010

Aussie Ardiles

Just like Obama's presidency, the meeting that started it all off could be summed up in the word "hope". Only this Hope ruled a Virgin Megastore stockroom and would eventually acquire a taste for spunky onions, apparently.

Yes, like most uber-fans of music, I did a tour of duty in a(n admittedly soulless) record store, but it was a period made memorable and inspiring by the presence of fellow fans such as messrs Tomlinson and Hope - friends with whose taste, to this day, mine sometimes overlap but probably more often than not don't.

Of course, having long left retail for journalism, I wound up getting to force my opinions down a city's throat, but that doesn't make my opinions any more valid. Indeed, if anything, the fact that the three of us (whose combined tastes cover a hell of a lot of ground) wound up contributing to this blog is enough of a reason for any music fan to read it - and, for that matter, also contribute to and further enrich it.

Because The Sydney Morning Herald pretty much owns me, I'll be mainly posting current links to stories and reviews I've written for them - here are a couple from this week:


I will also dig out old such items as and when relevant. For a start, Girl Talk giving away their (his) latest mental collection online this week has reminded me of a fascinating interview I did with him a couple of years ago. Highlights of that coming soon. 

And, having reviewed and interviewed several hundred shows and bands over the past decade, I'm happy to take requests if anyone wants to read anything from my archives ...

Over and out for now,

Your man at work

Thursday, 18 November 2010


It's that time of year again, where the 'best of' lists start to appear. First out of the traps are Rough Trade Shops, with their best 100 albums of 2010. It's great to see last night's Velvet Owl gig headliner, Caitlin Rose in at no.4.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Hooting and 'Owling

Here's the Velvet Owl Gig Collective's new logo, which is now available on an array of merchandise such as tea towels, mugs, badges and a limited edition beer mat. 

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Music Television

This week's popular music offerings:

I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of Here (ITV1, 9pm Sunday) -Not one I would usually tune into, but with Shaun Ryder dropping into the jungle, I can't help but feel strangely drawn to it. 

Later - with Jools Holland (BBC2, 10pm Tuesday) - Following the appearance from Jools Holland's Boogie Woogie Players (or whatever he calls his band of merrymakers), Later's series finale returns to the good stuff this week, with sets from Robert Plant, Arcade Fire and Mavis Staples, whose new album was co-written by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy. 

Bird on a Wire (BBC4, 9pm Friday) -  Premiered at this year's Green Man Festival, this documentary documents Leonard Cohen on his 1972 European tour. 

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Madchester.....so much to answer for.

It's official. Madchester is finally over.  Put away your flared jeans and your Joe Bloggs sweatshirts. Relegate your long sleeved 'Cool as F*%K' t-shirt to nightwear and throw your Kickers into the charity shop bin bag. That Reni hat you've been sporting all su.........what? What are you talking about?  Twenty years ago?  Are you sure?  But it seems like only yesterday when I was down at the GMEX, shaking my invisible maraca to 'WFL' and 'Mad Cyril'. Oh my God! Where has the time gone?

If you're looking for a reminder of the cruel and unforgiving of the swiftness of the passage of time, then look no further than the line-up for the new series of 'I'm a Celebrity....'  There amongst the soapstars, reality TV show goons and glamour models, is one Shaun Ryder. Staring down at his haunted face in the pages of this morning's Metro, I was struck by how quickly the years had flown by, and how it had felt like only five minutes ago when I was getting down with all the other freaky dancers to the iconic sounds of the Mondays, Roses et al.

With Tony Wilson dead, Bez on the lam, John Squire using his hands to paint rather than play guitar, Clint Boon writing theme tunes for children's TV and Shaun William Ryder now lost to the jungle, I think it is fair to say, that this particular chapter is now well and truly shut.

For anyone still yearning the glory days of baggy - Happy Mondays - 'Performance'

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Spunky Onions...

...great tune but you wouldn't want 'em on yer hot dogs hey?

Firstly I'd better introduce myself I'm Phil living in Ireland and passionate about music.Know Mark through working together years ago so he's asked me to put a few bits up so this is my first.

So spunky onions then.A rollicking rocking instrumental that guarantees either a full dance-floor in an R&B friendly room at a mod do or a room full of people looking at you wondering just why you were in fact asked to DJ in a small pub in rural Ireland.

This falls into the category of a Mad Mike sound and if that's new to you let me give you a bit of background.'Mad' Mike Metrovich was a DJ in Pittsburgh his heyday was 64-67 and he specialised in playing tunes that were on the wild and obscure side shall we say.His final broadcast was on Halloween 2000 which is as fitting as it suggests as he went home and passed away that night.Norton records have issued 3 volumes of the Mad Mike's monsters series and all are essential (the vinyls are things of true beauty).

So to spunky onions itself possibly my favourite 45 of the lot if this doesn't move you we need to check for vital signs :


Check it out.....

Monday, 8 November 2010

A Perfect Match

HMV's 2 for £10 deal is starting to piss me right off. Every week I go in there looking to take advantage of their tempting offer, but always walk out empty handed having not found two suitable CDs to make up the deal. Take the last few weeks, for example. One week I had Laura Marling's second album I Speak Because I Can in my mitt, and the following week I walked around the store clutching the third Arctic Monkeys album for nearly twenty minutes, and on both occasions, I was unable to find a suitable second CD to give me my 2 for £10. Now if these two albums had been part of the offer at the same time, I wouldn't be typing out this post, but in a bid to keep the now permanent instore deal looking fresh, HMV add and withdraw titles on a weekly basis. This week I found myself in a similar conundrum. Having chanced upon Little Richard's Greatest Hits in the offer, I was determined this time not to leave the store empty handed. Desperately I scoured the racks, looking to find a suitable partner for Little Richard's two-disc best of collection. Then, just I was about to give up hope, I chanced upon the debut album from New York's Sleigh Bells. The duo had recently been picked as The Guardian's New Band of the Day, who referred to them as the 'Kylie and Jason of extreme noise terror' and recent single Tell 'Em was playlisted by 6 Music during the summer. To be honest, the album is a little too chaotic for my middle-aged ears, but the aforementioned Tell 'Em and new single Infinity Guitars still make me dance around the kitchen and allow myself to believe - for a few minutes at least - that The Ting Tings were just part of a bad dream following a heavy night on the Wensleydale.

Entente Cordiale

Over the years, bands such as Pavement, The Stooges, The Screaming Trees, The Leisure Society, Tindersticks along with countless others have been recommended to me by my friends.  I first heard Pavement's Slanted and Enchanted on the way down to the Reading Festival in 92. The cassette containing the album had been pushed into our hire van's stereo by my good friend Peter Trigg, and was played on repeat all the way down the M1.  Thanks to Peter, I also heard bands such as Nirvana and Mudhoney long before they made the big time on the back of the 'Grunge' movement.

Music genres such as Northern Soul, 60's garage and New Orleans funk may have well passed me by, if it hadn't been for a friend's introduction through a self-made compilation or  an invite to a club.

At this year's Green Man Festival, my friend Cedric, suggested I catch the band, Girls, whose 2009 debut album had been one of his favourites of that year. They didn't disappoint. A mixture of early New Order, The Smiths and The Beach Boys, the band were a fitting finale to a great weekend.

Cedric has come up trumps once again, when this video from Canadian folk rock artist, Timber Timbre pinged into my inbox from across the Channel this weekend.  The song is an ideal antidote for those of us eagerly awaiting new Bon Iver material.


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Music Television

Music highlights from this week's TV.

Later Live - With Jools Holland (BBC2, 10pm Tuesday) - The wheat amongst this week's chaff include Midlake and Bryan Ferry performing tracks from his surprisingly good album, Olyimpia.

Roll Over Beethoven: The Chess Records Saga (BBC4, 9pm Friday) - Documentary charting the history of Chess Records, the label that boasted John Lee Hooker, Etta James and Fontella Bass on its roster.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Late Arrivals

Three late contenders for the Best Songs of 2010 category:

First up, Miles Kane, who, following his success alongside Alex Turner as The Last Shadow Puppets, has decided to branch out on his own. The first single 'Inhaler' from his debut album is one catchy motherf@*ker!

Over the past five years, Jenny Lewis has released some great records either solo or with her band Rilo Kiley. This time she returns as part of the duo, Jenny and Johnny with her current beau, Jonathan Rice.

Finally, Los Angeles based, Warpaint, have released one of the greatest singles of 2010 with 'Undertow' taken from their debut album, The Fool.