Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Pre-New The Nest, Dalston / Morston Hall, Norfolk

last week I was bemoaning the fact that I haven’t ever won a competition. Well, in 1998 I did win a pair of tickets to see Ash at Nottingham Rock City but unfortunately the venue wouldn’t let my mate and I go as we weren’t yet fourteen years old. At the time this was hard for a couple of thirteen year old boys to take, but over time, like my interest in Tim Wheelers crew, my disappointment has faded. 

But if truth be told I wasn’t even the true ‘winner’ as it was my mate who took the initiative to be the only actual entrant to the competition ran by local rag the Lincolnshire Echo. Since then, so much time has been wasted (usually at work) on the internet, entering competitions with the dream of records or tickets or locks of hair, but to no avail. Surely there can’t be that many people sad enough to enter a competition to win a My Vitriol promo single? On tape.

So when I won tickets to see the Pre-New last night in London courtesy of the Quietus, I was more than a little chuffed. Especially as they’ve made one of the best albums of the year and having recently reacquainted myself with the marvellous back catalogue of  Earl Brutus, the prospect of seeing the Pre-New live was an exciting one. However my feeling of victory was short lived when I soon realised, like with Ash in 98’, I couldn’t go.  My father-in-law had arranged and paid for my girlfriend and I to spend that evening dining at a Michelin Starred restaurant in North Norfolk. Boo-hoo! Having been there a year earlier he was billing it as a “once in a lifetime eating experience” so turning it down for a night out in Dalston was going to be a hard sell. This could be a one and only opportunity to eat at one of the best restaurants in Britain with someone else footing the bill. But without sounding like a complete spoilt bastard why can’t I ever actually have anything I win!?

Cancelling and rescheduling our dinner date wasn’t an option: the restaurant requires a booking months in advance and with my girlfriend heavily pregnant we probably can’t expect another night out for about ten years. Besides the previous Monday was the last day to cancel without paying a hefty fee.  In my head I imagined some kind of  teleportation scenario where I could ignore the 150 miles between the venues and happily attend both. Like that bit in Mrs Doubtfire where he dines both with his boss and his estranged family in the same night. Only I wouldn’t be slipping in and out of a padded dress all night (its not a Scissor Sisters gig), but from dinner jacket to leather jacket, trousers to skinny jeans, like James Bond at a Jesus & Mary Chain casino. No chance matey, but here goes:

On entering Morston Hall the décor was distinctly old with chandeliers and what you would probably expect from such a venue. Predictably, there was no sight of the infamous spinning garage-forecourt sign synonymous with Earl Brutus gigs, which would read 'PISS' on one side and 'OFF' on the other. No, just a few paintings of scenes from the North Norfolk coast and fuck-loads of really shiny cutlery. Where were the middle aged men in Fall T-shirts? Like a teenager at their first gig, I was out of my depth.

The support act of Caper Berries and some kind of  Eel and Scallop Crumpet with Halibut on a Mushroom Mousse was a more than promising start from the relaxing confines of the conservatory. This was washed down by the only track of  the evening I was previously familiar with; ‘London Pride’.  We took our places in the main room and enjoyed a Chefs Appetiser of Guinea Fowl Risotto.  Baked or buggered or flambeed or however it was prepared, it was a fantastic warm up.

So at four dishes/tunes in, the gig began proper with a Leg of Middle Pork with a quite psychedelic arrangement of various Apple Ju’s and Garlic Sauces. No crackling mind, but one musn’t complain. With the wine list making me feel like I was reading a brail copy of ‘War and Peace’ translated into Arabic, I opted for the ‘wine flight’ which consisted of a medley of pre-selected wines, designed to best flavour each course.

So the Pork was washed down with a 2011 Spanish white from the winery of Adegas Galegas, which sounds like the best Krautrock band that never was. Someone had put a lot of thought into this setlist as things were complementing each other very well indeed. A most impressive opener, but the follow-up of Cured Morston Lobster took us all by surprise. An astonishing dish and the 2009 Yves Cuilleron French white harmonised the flavours of the Burnt Leek Mayonaise and Dill remarkably well.

With the event now in full flow out came the crowd pleasers; Gressingham Duck, Anya Potatoes, Sheeps Sorrel, Poached Shallots and some other items I felt it inappropriate to ask about. A side of Linseed and Caraway Bread stole the first half and as I continuously sipped the 2008 French Beaujolais, pushing the promise of ‘an instant refill for an empty glass’ to its acceptable limit, I began to feel the alcohol takeover.

After a brief palate-refreshing instrumental interlude of Champagne and Grapefruit Mousse, so began the final heart-stopping rendition of  British Cheese with Sultana and Walnut Bread. Wow. Even the grapes tasted different. A 1998 Colheita Port finished the evening, and me, off in style.

Now well pissed, a welcome encore of Coffee and Petit Fours was served in the lounge area whilst my girlfriend raided the merchandise stand for souvenir bounty of local Strawberry and Vanilla Jam.  I had hoped for something a little more preposterous like Spinach Honey or Ewok Pâté, but the jam would serve as a suitable thank you for the payer of this quite incredible evening. A monstrous Prog Rock opera of harmonised flavours previously unheard of by myself and which I doubt I will ever experience again. If you can find someone else to pay, I highly recommend.

Not sure how they got on in Dalston but I bet that flat, warm lager tasted great.


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Something for the Midweek #1

A day of no work has meant catching up on some tunes. I couldn't wait for the weekend so here you go. Apparently Thursday has been the new Friday for a while, so lets keep it ultra-fresh and make a Wednesday mix...

Indie folk rappers and a favourite band of mine from the past ten years, Why? are about to release their forth album of folk, rap and psychedelia called Mumps, etc., The album follows the 'Hey Ya!' shagging Sod in the Seed EP released back in July. The album can be streamed by clicking on the creepy album picture below...

And as if like magic, fresh from my guilty pleasures of the nineties list from a few weeks ago ULTRASOUND RELEASE A NEW ALBUM thirteen years after their debut Everything Picture. If a short article on VO is all it takes to get a defunct 90s band back in the studio together, imagine of the possibilities?

Anyhow... I think its really rather good to boot. A lot more direct and about twice as short as its predecessor. I won't go into details (too lazy), but a review HERE is a nice reminder of the necessary career paths bands that don't become Coldplay must take. Its good to have them back. Again a click on the (better) image below will give you access to that album...
And finally a bit of Gulp! A lush bit of pop from one part Super Furry Animal Guto Pryce & Welsh songstress Lindsey Leven. Seeing as SFA are out of the picture I am looking forward to hearing a bit more of this... And to think it's only two days to the weekend... 

Monday, 24 September 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Beth Orton - Something More Beautiful//Magpie

A singer-songwriter who does not receive the recognition that she deserves for her incredible talent, Beth Orton is back with her first new album in six years. So to celebrate, here's two songs from said album 'Sugaring Season' which is released on October 2nd.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Something For the Weekend #7

Took an impromptu trip to the village of London yesterday and after a trot around Tate Modern went to the adjacent exhibition of Classic NME covers at the NEO Bankside. The show was part of their 60 year celebrations which, for all the magazines faults, is quite a feat and provided you were able to wade through the huge amount of Oasis documentation, the exhibition was a bit of a treat. And it was free. The Ian Curtis death issue and Ian McCulloch beside a white steed in 1982, particularly caught my eye.

I kind of wish that they had included a few oddities alongside the usual 'classics'. The infamous Godspeed You Black Emperor! / Blair Witch Project cover from 1999 which, despite not knowing who the frig GSYPE! were in 1999, I always thought was pretty cool. Or a 'covers of shame' section would have been great like this other entry from the same year...

Oh, 1999, what were you like? (Good to see Noel on the cover announcing the essential details of the new single- 'Go Let It Out'. How times have changed...)

Friday, 21 September 2012

Richard Hawley, Holmfirth Picturedrome

If you're the betting kind and prone to studying form, then Richard Hawley's Standing at the Sky's Edge must be tickling your fancy as a possible winner of this year's Mercury Music Prize.  Here's a singer-songwriter whose body of work over the past 10 years or so has been little short of magnificent and who stands alone amongst British male solo artists when it comes to consistency.  Over six studio albums, Hawley's graceful songs of love and loss - and the odd bit of northern witticism - have helped him step out of the shadows as an indie bit-part player and into the limelight - a role he clearly cherishes when he is out on stage. 

Tonight, Hawley tells the sold-out crowd in Holmfirth, is only the second gig he has played in 2012 standing up (he broke his leg falling on a staircase earlier in the year and performed a number of gigs sat in a wheelchair) and he clearly enjoys the chance to let rip on songs such as 'Down in the Woods' and 'Leave Your Body Behind You'. While reviews of his latest album have concentrated on the new 'rockier' change of direction for Hawley, it is the songs that allow him to show off his velvety croon that stand out this evening. Dedicating the sublime 'Seek It' to the poet Simon Armitage and his wife who are in attendance celebrating their wedding anniversary and 'Soldier On' from Truelove's Gutter to the families and supporters of the Justice for the 96, Hillsborough campaign, Hawley's songwriting shows off a depth of beauty and tenderness that somehow contradicts his tough bequiffed rocker image. 

I often find the bar area at the Picturedrome (positioned at the back of the venue) to be quite noisy, which can sometimes spoil those quieter, more reflective moments at a gig, but tonight you could hear a pin drop when Hawley dropped the tempo - especially on 'Open up Your Door' and breathtaking set closer 'The Ocean'. Should Hawley get the nod at next month's Mercury Music Prize ceremony, then no doubt his star will rise and with it his fanbase; so tonight it was great to watch a performer at the top of his game in such an intimate venue. However, if you are fond of the odd flutter, then there is one thing you can bet your mortgage on, and that is Richard Hawley will still be as compelling whether he's playing football stadiums or a converted cinema in 'Last of the Summer Wine' territory. 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Guilty Pleasures of the Nineties

Since Giant Steps by the Boo Radleys was proclaimed the best album of the nineties by a fellow Owl (probably not far off the mark either as it’s a fantastic album) I have been mulling over making a killer list of my own. And it ain’t easy. In fact its way too hard. So forgetting my 'best albums of the nineties' debacle this is MY list of MY 'ten unlikely albums that I think are mighty fine' of the nineties. Phew.

I suppose some of them could be called ‘guilty pleasures’ due to their total lack of regard for ‘21st century cool’ or longevity or a fanbase beyond me and my mate. But there’s no 'shame' in at least, oh maybe, six of these? Shame is nothing to be ashamed of anyhow. Good biography name that…

The dates show my (lack of) age a little but the not-the-norm albums pre-1995 will have to be filed under a different era for me. I think there’s a rule that guilty pleasures can’t exist pre-secondary school.  Life's guilty enough already then. (What I’m saying, badly, is I would love to include the Auteurs, Stereolab, Teenage Fanclub, Suede, the Boo Radleys but it would to some extent be a lie.) I can’t deny that typing the words ‘the Llama Farmers’ in a best of the nineties list that doesn’t include the likes of Pulp, My Bloody Valentine, Radiohead, Spiritualized, Primal Scream, Blur, Oasis is a bit tricky. But here goes.

It would also take a brave man to suggest that the Manics inclusion below is ‘better’ than the Holy Bible or Everything Must Go but I’m not brave enough to admit that Loveless is the best album of the nineties so it matters not. Or is it This is Hardcore? Screamadelica? Giant Steps? I don’t remember… But I suppose this, if nothing more than a bottle of wines worth of typing, is a good example of why I’m so deep in all this pop music shit anyhow.  Now where is that copy of Be Here Now? . . . JOKE.

Ash - Nu-Clear Sounds 1998
This reminds of not having any girlfriends and really, really wanting some.
Manic Street Preachers - This is my Truth Tell me Yours 1998
Being a teenager can be hard... there are some belters on this though.
Idlewild - Hope is Important 1998
This reminds me of having girlfriends and having a ‘favourite band.’ For a bit.
Ultrasound - Everything Picture 1999
Took me around ten years to appreciate this so I shouldn’t bother taking a quick peek on YouTube. A double disc debut that is the only album that is 'too long' that I wish was even longer. Ideal for lengthy and lonely car journeys, although Floodlit World is the best indie disco song that never was. 
Weezer - Pinkerton 1996
Guitars have NEVER been as fun as this.
Hefner - Fidelity Wars 1999
Only the album the Smiths could have made. But with more sex. The first CD I have broken from over-playing.
Six By Seven - The Things We Make 1998
Why not? It’s great. Especially through headphones on empty foreign buses.
Llama Farmers - Dead Letter Chorus 1999
Everyone has to be into a band that try, and fail, to sound like Nirvana, for a while right? But the first track Get the Keys & Go is still one of my favourite songs ever.
Earl Brutus - Your Majesty...We Are Here 1996
The Britpop Fall? Either way both albums are proper good.
Jesus and Mary Chain - Munki 1997
I know Psychocandy is better, but this didn't leave my Discman until Black Rebel Motorcycle Club existed.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Sleeping with the NME

Instead of wasting your time at work today looking for images of Kate Middleton's norks, why not give this new blog from the creative mind of fellow Owl, Sammy Merry a go. 

We particularly like the piece on indie also-rans Thurman (She's in Fashion).

Monday, 10 September 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Elephant - Tame Impala

After our little 'summer' recess, we're back, and what better way to kick off the new term than with this snorter of a new tune from Tame Impala. Ticking every classic rock box along the way, this song and subsequent new album could be a significant game changer for this band.

If they're not headlining Rio's Olympic closing ceremony in 2016, then we have learnt nothing from this 'summer of sport'.