Thursday, 31 May 2012

It's the taking part that counts

I shan’t pretend this owl gives two hoots (ahem) about the Olympics, infact I would goes as far to say I bloody hate the Olympics.

wiaiwya - it's the taking part that counts

But bitter PE athletics memories aside, this blog/compilation album by Wiaiwya (click image above) uses the classic ‘it's the taking part that counts’ insult to make even the most apathetic spectator consider the Games... Well not really, but it does unite 26 artists, with 26 songs loosely based around 26 Olympic sports which is far more interesting than the real Olympics.
Especially when they include works from Saint Etienne (athletics), Darren Hayman (wrestling) and this cracker from Hong Kong in the 60s and this plinky-pop ode to table tennis. 

Sammy @sickbookies

Velvet Owl Single of the Week


Do opening lines get any better than this? The answer you're looking for is, NO. Described by Pitchfork as the 'Kings of dejection' The Walkmen are back with their seventh studio album in ten years. Lead singer, Hamilton Leithauser's voice still sends shivers down my spine as it did when I first heard him spit out those words of charmless indignation. 

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Tim Burgess, Telling Stories - Book Review

When I recently tried to buy this book from Waterstones, firstly the shop assistants had no idea where the one copy was in the store and when one of them enquired “Is he the one who died from New Order” (as if that would somehow help in the search for the elusive book) I decided to leave and complete my purchase online. Being the information age I stayed online and tweeted this anecdote to Mr Burgess who duly LOL’ed and re-tweeted it to his thousands of followers. Who would have thought that when I first heard and adored Tellin' Stories I’d be able to have a casual ‘chat‘ with Tim Burgees years later about his book? Big wow, you may think, but it seems somewhat appropriate to mention Twitter as not only is Tim big on the social networks in promoting his music and his imaginary online Tim Peaks cafĂ© (he talks about Twin Peaks a LOT) he also comes across as someone who likes a natter. Especially anything to do with music. And David Lynch. And New Order.

Anyhow back to the book (remember them?) and from the off I must deposit a big bag of piss over the review before I begin and confess that rock biographies don’t usually interest me that much.  Sorry. Too many predictable tales of rock’n’roll excess that either leave me insanely jealous or bored, coupled with feeling uncomfortably distant from the writer is usually enough to make me steer clear. Early on Burgess' admits that it won’t follow the usual chronological order of a biography but more a  stream of semi-conscious thoughts, which at first seems a bit odd, but is in fact a huge strength of the writing style.  Sure there is a lot of rock ‘n’ roll excess but there is a lot of love in these pages too.

As the title suggests its full of stories: some are dark (cocaine up the arse?), some are inspiring (Tim’s early Hacienda jaunts), some are enviable (hanging out with Mark E Smith/being mates with practically every decent band since the late 70s/Liam Gallagher playing him an early C90 of ‘Some Might Say’?) some are moving (lots of these), others a bit creepy (wetdreams up a tree Tim?) but ultimately very funny. The narrative jumps around across the Charlatans lengthy career and provides a genuinely absorbing read.  Although undoubtedly mad as a box of Bez’s toenails, Tim comes across as an alright guy and the type of frontman the world of music often misses these days.

As I myself got into the Charlatans at their second stage of success, the Britpop stage, I hadn’t truly realised the size and success of ‘first wave’ Charlatans; the baggy one, the number-one-debut-album-headline-everywhere one. Tim isn’t bitter about their dips in fortune over the years and seems as overwhelmed and excited about being the frontman of the Charlatans as he was twenty years ago. When I first saw them live on the Us & us Only tour they had already peaked for the second and (probably) final time, but over the years I have remained a fan of every phase of the band (the last two albums were great) and have an almost complete Charlatans collection. On many occassions Tim proudly expresses the bands achievements and rightly so- having gone back to much of it whilst reading the book its an impressive portfolio.

But what makes this book worth a read is Tim’s excitable and infectious enthusiasm for ‘getting into’ new music.  He references so many interesting bands and albums and films that I am sure I will return to the book as a reference point for new stuff. It has left me wanting to go and rifle through some stacks of sweet smelling second hand vinyl and to always remain as youthful and optimistic about music as Mr Tim Burgess.  
From a great band with such an intriguing yet seemingly luckless history (imprisonment, death, losing all their cash to their accountant. etc) this book is an honest, captivating and satisfying ‘frontmans tale’. Not bad hair either.


Saturday, 26 May 2012

Inspiral Carpets, Norwich Waterfront

Perusing the brief footage online of the Stone Roses at their Warrington comeback gig this week, two thoughts emerged: is it that exciting seeing Ian Brown murder Made Of Stone again? And, would I really want to shell out 65 quid (65 quid!) to hear huge swathes of Second Coming and Mersey bloody Paradise?  The news that I Am The Resurrection (the finest 8 minutes ever committed to disc) did not make this week's playlist would have had me sweating profusely had I been one of the hordes of believers who snapped up tickets for this summer's shows and, having been at Spike Island in 1990, a gig deemed legendary more by those not in attendance than we unlucky sods who had to suffer Gary Clail for seventeen hours, my abiding feeling is one of contentment at having opted out.  If they have 3 or 4 new songs loaded up and ready to go, why did they not play any of them this week?  Do we think they may be a little sub-Led Zep?
Far greater value was to be had at the recent arena tour featuring the original Happy Mondays line-up and tonight's headliners.  The Mondays have been a little overlooked recently, partly as a result of the comedy reality TV moments enjoyed by Shaun Ryder and Bez, but in truth they are the real giants of the Madchester era.  It took them four attempts to make a duff record (and even then, the making of Yes Please proved more entertaining than the majority of bands' fourth outings) and 1988's Bummed is a genuine classic record, distilling funk, punk and indie into a proper slice of northern soul.  It's been said before, but Ryder is lyrically magnificent, and live the band made an epic noise.  The Carpets were always the kid brothers of the scene, but what quickly becomes apparent this evening is just how many great tunes they have, and any gig that commences with Commercial Reign, Joe and She Comes In The Fall is never going to disappoint.  The sound remains as rooted in 60s garage as it ever did, with Clint Boon's trademark Farfisa providing them with a bona fide USP that always manages to stay on the right side of the cheese divide. And as men of a certain vintage throw their arms around a stranger and bellow the chorus to a suitably barnstorming Saturn 5 that closes tonight's proceedings, it is clear that, sometimes, a little bit of nostalgia can be a wonderful thing.  And we didn't have to sit through the opening twelve hours of Breaking Into Heaven to enjoy it.


Thursday, 24 May 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Metric - Youth Without Youth! 

Metric announce their return with this lively taster from the new album Synthetica which is due to be released in June. This band have more or less been overlooked by the British music press, which is a real shame as their 2009 album Fantasies was full of perfect pop music and deserved more attention than it got. Hopefully 2012 will see the band receive the recognition their music deserves.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Just read that fifteen years ago yesterday OK Computer was released. Oh no, not more internet space filled with Radiohead love you cry! Strangely enough before reading about that milestone, this week I have had three separate conversations about how good OK Computer is/was. We just can't stop measuring music as pre and post OKC andf I doubt I have discussed many musical matters as much as these 55 minutes (Some of the conspiracies about the album are great). I don’t even think its the best Radiohead album (That would be Kid A and In Rainbows) which says quite a lot because it is magnificent. 
Anyhow I haven't got it in me this morning to revaluate OKC and its impact on the past fifteen years of music, merely to present this lovely 8 Bit version of the album someone showed me this week (there is a KID A version too) which I’m currently playing full blast whilst eating my Shreddies. Seems even Mario is  a fan.

Sammy @sickbookies

Friday, 18 May 2012

Alabama Shakes, Central Methodist Church, Manchester

The hype surrounding Alabama Shakes appears to have hit a tipping point. Earlier in the day, a pair of tickets for tonight's gig were going for £80 on ebay; while touts on Oldham Street were snapping at the heels of anyone who had a spare ticket to offload, knowing there was a tidy profit to be made this evening. A serious amount of column inches, a gutsy performance on Later with Jools Holland and being declared the 'Best band on the Planet' by the NME means this is the hottest ticket in town tonight. As with any form of hype, the band have a lot to live up to, especially as the debut album - which promised so much, but only half delivered - has taken a bit of sheen off our own giddy anticipation (see the Velvet Owl Single of the Week at the beginning of January).  Their appearance on Later, however, showcased another side to the band, one which reminded us of those great southern-fried country rock bands of the late sixties/early seventies (The Flying Burritto Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Little Feat) and who were always known for their live performances rather than their recorded output.  Live, the heart and soul of the band is the singer, Brittany Howard. Her incredible voice is a joy to behold, and makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand to attention every time she unleashes the big notes.  Following a shaky start -issues with the PA system means the band are late taking to the stage - it doesn't take long before the band hit their stride. Current single Hold On and standout tracks from the album Hang Loose, I Found You, Rise to the Sun and Be Mine help to turn up the energy levels, and despite a mid-set lull (the ballads got in the way of a rollicking rock and roll set) the band lock into an infectious groove that would have had Lowell George shaking his lilly-white ass. In time, Alabama Shakes may be added to the over-hyped but underachieved list that contains such also-rans as The Vines and The Bravery, but for tonight at least, they made me think that this is how all music should sound. 


Velvet Owl Single of the Week

The Beastie Boys - Sabotage

We're dedicating our single of the week this week to Beastie Boy, Adam 'MCA' Yauch who sadly passed away earlier this month. This re-make of the classic Spike Jonze directed Sabotage video is a fitting tribute to Yauch, who will be sorely missed.

Friday, 11 May 2012

My (bloody) Friday in music

Heard some good stuff today. Firstly Luke Abbott- a friend of mine from Art School- is going from strength to strength with his lush electro beats. Check this little beaut out.

If I ever meet the boys of I Like Trains I would suggest they re-record their new album with a sample of a gobshite shouting ‘PUT IT ONTO KISS FM SIR’ at random intervals throughout, as when I played their excellent new album to no less than 3 classes of youths today at school this was the unanimous response/accompaniment. On a driftless loop, non-stop throughout. Annoying at first, but after the thousandth request of ‘PLAY SOMETHING FROM THIS CENTURY YOU DICKHEAD!’ screamed at me, I found it all rather amusing and a wholesome addition to the recording. 

So despite an unconventional first few listens I’d give it a thumbs up; the whole Wild Beasts production link is (pleasantly) apparent in the sound and the album sounds like what I believe it had intended to do; to highlight unease within this ‘age of information’. And I’m into that sort of thing. And some of the synths sound lovely and bleak, to boot. One mark for making an album with some meaning and another for achievement. Not bad. Top of the class, for a bit… But whats that waiting on the doormat when I arrive home?

NOT EVEN HALFWAY THROUGH TRACK THREE is not usually the point I go with the ‘this is the best thing I’ve heard all year’ tag. (Actually I'm lying- I do that all the time).
But RE-ISSUE OF EPs FROM 1988-1991 is less likely to support the statement. But to throw MY BLOODY VALENTINE CD RELEASED IN 2012 into the mix is insane. But MBV are indeed everywhere again and although not with new music (although maybe soon) this IS new music to these ears as I’ve heard next to nothing of these two discs before. Being over twenty years ago now I obviously got into MBV in the intervening years since their last album, (Loveless probably my favourite album ever) so its nice to read some interviews and reviews of them as if it were 1991 again. This interview on the Quietus is particularly worthy of a read, if only for this bit:

Q: Do you ever look back and think 'I wish I'd done a bit more'?

KS: Yes.

Ha. There are snails that suffer with chronic fatigue syndrome who move faster than Kevin Shields. Dead ones. OVER TWENTY YEARS! And the creative excuses he comes out with! As a friend of mine pointed out this week ‘’It wouldn't be a Kevin Shields interview without the words 'the mastering people/ the studio/ the record company lost the DAT/ all their money/ all the files on all their hard drives' within the first five seconds...’’
But it’s so good. They are so good. I’ve never really read any decent descriptions of the MBV sound, and don’t worry as I wont try it here. Only really through reading the 'techy' details and passionate words of dedication and precision from KS is there any need for descriptions to shadow this music. Its kind of making me angry that I’m going out to meet my mate at the pub in a bit and will have to stop listening before I get to disc 2. That hasn’t happened in years. Maybe I could feed the headphone cables up my sleeve and rest the side of my head on my hand, which is elbowed onto the side of the bar like school kids do to disguise listening to KISS FM. 
Anyhow, forget all this 'best thing I've heard all year' nonsense. Change my mind next week no doubt. Hope I do actually. All I know is this album is going to get lapped up this weekend and next week and the weekend after until... well there might be a wait before I hear some ‘new’ MBV stuff so best enjoy that NEW feeling while it lasts.

Sammy @sickbookies

The Welcome Fest, Huddersfield

The festival season is almost upon us, so no doubt the Sunday supplements will soon be running their usual 'Festival Fashion' articles featuring Kate Moss in a pair of denim hotpants and Pete Doherty looking wide-eyed and legless while sporting a waistcoat and a battered trilby. Festivals can be a costly affair once you've splashed out on a ticket, a pair of designer wellies and a flagon of scrumpy, so that's why we like the look of Welcome Fest. At only £20 a ticket (which includes food) the festival - actually being held in the organiser's back garden in Birkby - plays host to number of local blues and rock bands on Saturday 30th June. With all the proceeds from the event going to local charity, The Welcome Centre, this sounds like a no-brainer, and means you can also end the evening in your own bed rather than wrestling with a sleeping bag while lying on a slowly deflating air-bed. 

The Welcome Fest flyer

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Korallreven - As Young as Yesterday

Described as 'dream pop' the music made by Swedish electro duo Korallreven reminds us of early New Order, with its simple synth lines and washed out vocals. Had the late great Tony Wilson still been alive, he would have been all over this like a well tailored suit. 

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week (2)

Waves and Tides - Dave Pilla

We're loving the debut e.p. by Leeds based singer songwriter, Dave Pilla. The comparisons to Damian Rice and Nick Drake are obvious, but any fan of the late, great Elliot Smith will also find some familiarity in Pilla's songs. 

Head to Heart On Sleeve Records to hear all 4 songs from the e.p. 

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Field Music - Heart

We love a good cover version here at VO towers, and Field Music's respectful take on the Pet Shop Boys' finest moment is a reminder of how good Tennant and Lowe were during their pomp.