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The Proper Ornaments “Foxhole” – Review

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Experience has taught us that when Rob Morgan (@durutti74) is inspired by music to want to write about it then it has to be pretty special. On this occasion it’s the latest album from The Proper Ornaments that had him reaching for the Mont Blanc.

As we’ve come to expect from Rob, it’s a terrific read and a top review of a super album. So please read, listen and enjoy….

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The Proper Ornaments
Foxhole
Tough Love Records

Technical glitches can be a real pain sometimes. I had this review fully written and ready to send to EIO40 HQ this morning when I thought I would make one small amendment – and managed to delete the entire document, except for the opening paragraph. So here I am rewriting it from scratch with the memory of what was originally there in my mind and trying to make sure it matches that standard or improves on it.

In a way this is ironic as this is what happened to the album I’m reviewing, “Foxhole” by The Proper Ornaments. The band had recorded the whole album before realising that there was some technical glitch which made the entire recording unusable except for one song. Necessity thus proved the mother of invention, the whole album was rerecorded simply and quickly and is now available for you to enjoy.

The Proper Ornaments were formed by James Hoare (Veronica Falls, Ultimate Painting) and Max Oscarnold (Toy) and they issued their debut album “Wooden Head” in 2014. Whereas that album was a warm blend of fuzzy guitars with nods to Teenage Fanclub, Stereolab and 60s sunshine pop, the new album – recorded on Hoare’s eight track home recording unit – eschews the overdriven guitars and concentrates on chiming clean guitar arpeggios, lovely harmonies, simple arrangements and an emphasis on simple piano chords for most of the songs.

As such there are a new set of influences – the hushed ambience of the third Velvet Underground album, the gorgeous songs Gene Clark and David Crosby wrote for the early Byrds albums, those gentle songs Rick Wright wrote for early Pink Floyd albums – and more contemporary sounds too, I hear echoes of early Kingsbury Manx, Beachwood Sparks, Radar Bros and other bands who who create their own take on pastoral psychedelia.

The album starts bright and breezy with the opener “Back Pages” (nice nod to Dylan and the Byrds there) and the supposedly cheerful “Cremated (Blown Away)” before moving into a mid tempo melancholy groove which remains for most of the rest of the album.

Mostly the songs are short – only “Memories” expands beyond the five minute mark as it moves through numerous changes and sections. Re-recording the album on a limited number of tracks has forced the band to remove layers of excess and concentrate on what makes the music matter most – there is no room for extraneous overdubbing, allowing the songs room to breath. This could be a disaster but the songs stand up to the scrutiny well, every song has melodic hooks which sink in quickly and small changes to the arrangements can be as powerful as a hundred overdubs. For instance “The Frozen Stare” has such a spare arrangement that the addition of electric guitar arpeggios during the coda expands the sound in a magnificent way – simple yet potent.

This is an album which doesn’t need to shout loudly to make its point, and over time the lyrical motifs will become apparent. Many songs have a melancholy air, looking back on a half remembered past and trying to make sense of the present – songs like “Just A Dream” and “When We Were Young” are wistful remembrances. The key song here is “Jeremy’s Song”, where interlocking cycles of acoustic guitars back a repeated mantra of “Cry but don’t speak, don’t move at all, keep your head down in the foxhole”. Are they hiding from the harsh reality of modern day living? Who knows? Maybe I read too much into these things.

On the other hand there are songs like “1969” which appears to be about the moon landings which again surprises with a delightful descending keyboard part on the chorus, and “I Know You Know” which adds a slight country edge which harks back to the Stones-ish vibe of “Give Out…” era ballads by Primal Scream. The album closer “The devil” sounds like it was recorded in a school assembly (utilising Phil Spector’s School Hall Of Sound?) and ends the album with an upbeat feel, adding a small piano doodle at the end which is quite lovely.

The Proper Ornaments know that brevity is an asset – eleven songs swing by in thirty seven minutes and the melodies and moods linger long in the memory after each listen. This is an album which rewards multiple plays – each listen will reveal new little details and pleasures, with plenty of melodic twists and unexpected chord changes. Simplicity is its strength, a triumph from possible disastrous circumstances.

There isn’t a bad song on this album and the Proper Ornaments have created this year’s first essential listen. It is the perfect soundtrack for winter days and nights – place it on the shelf next to these other winter albums “More Sad Hits” by Damon and Naomi, “Songs For The Sad Eyed Girl” by Biff Bang Pow! and “Ask Me Tomorrow” by Mojave 3.

This album deserves to be heard, let it infiltrate your life and it will reward you with haunting melodies and thoughtful words which will stay with you a long time. Highly recommended.

Rob Morgan

 

You can purchase “Foxholes” at the Proper Ornaments Bandcamp page and you can also discover more about them at these links

Twitter

Facebook

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob writes about music and other less important subjects at his blog A Goldfish Called Regret (agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.com) and also creates podcasts for Goldfish Radio (https://m.mixcloud.com/robmorgan589).

He never achieved his ambition of making a Sarah Record.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Rob’s review. If you would like to review something new, whether it’s new material or a re-issue then please contact us via email indieover40@gmail.com or Twitter @IndieOver40

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The Salient Braves “Guilty Until Proven Innocent EP” – Review

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Another email from Esther dropped in the EIO40 inbox this week. Reading what she has to say about music that has put a smile on her face, puts a smile on our face. The fact that she had turned her attention to a band on our own radar, a band thoroughly deserving of much wider attention and who we hope to hear more from in the future, had us doing a bit of a jig.

The Salient Braves describe themselves as “Purveyors of tuneful lo-fi indie-pop”. Head honcho, Matt Bailey, hails from Barnsley and they have just released their 3rd EP which is on John Hartley’s Broken Down Records. They also have plans for a debut album in 2017.

Those are just facts. What follows is rather more important. And that is what Esther thinks of the latest offering from The Salient Braves…

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The Salient Braves
Guilty Until Proven Innocent EP
Broken Down Records

The Salient Braves’ third and latest EP “Guilty Until Proven Innocent” picks up where their last EP left off. It’ s another great collection of witty lyrics and harmonising melodies. Thankfully they continue to wear their influences from that golden C86 era of indie pop on their sleeves.

The 4-track EP kicks off with the title track, a jaunty number about a run-in with the law and subsequent bad treatment by the authorities. There’ s a great warbling trumpet throughout, as if it’s the protagonist’s voice crying out to be heard about his injustices. It’s used to great effect as a solo after he declares “I’m launching an appeal ‘cos I don’t like the meals”.

Next track “My Alter Ego” is a woozy dream pop number, starting off with a beautiful keyboard and guitar melody. It is cleverly contrasted with cutting lyrics which starts with the line, “Your heart’s not in the right place, must be somewhere beneath your shin” and has a cool boy-girl vocal exchange. It’s easy to lose yourself in this song and it’s not nearly long enough  It’s the gem on this EP.

“Boy’s Night Out” is another infectious track which everyone can relate to about the woes of not meeting someone on a night out. The EP closes with an unexpected somber tune showing Matt Bailey’s versatility in his songwriting. Minor chords, a simple bass line and haunting backing vocals are all that are needed to create its mood. With tongue planted in cheek, or maybe just humbly, he states “I’m a rhyme barrel-scraping cynical bastard”. Well, either case, give us more!

The Salient Braves have floated under the radar far too long. Get on board if you haven’t already and check out their previous releases. You do not want to say one day that this band somehow passed you by. They are currently trying to raise funds through Crowdfunder to release their first album on vinyl “Delusions of Grandeur” in 2017. Help make it happen!

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-salient-braves-delusions-of-grandeur-vinyl

You can purchase the “Guilty Until Proven Innocent EP” from the Broken Down Records Bandcamp page here

You can also find all things The Salient Braves related at the following links.

Bandcamp

Twitter

Facebook

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A native of California, a wife and mother of two, Esther can be found escaping onto Twitter as @myrtleleaf to tweet about music, a life-long passion. She still mostly lives in the past. ________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you to Esther for a another wonderful review.

Watch out for further reviews, whether it’s re-issues or new releases. If you would like to review something yourself, you know where to find us.

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The Haywains “The Girl In The Holly Court Diner EP” – Review

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The Haywains are back and so is regular EIO40 contributor Esther (@myrtleleaf) with her review of their latest offering. This is the first release on new label Whoops! Records

Here is what Esther had to say about the new Haywains EP….

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The Haywains
The Girl In The Holly Court Diner EP
Whoops! Records

I can’t keep up with new gems hidden among the mountain of releases available in the many ways we discover music today. To add to that, I’m constantly discovering music from bands that passed me by in the mid 80’s and 90’s, my favorite eras in music.

So it’s with luck that I was given an opportunity to review this new release and revisit a group whose name and distinct retro cover art I was familiar with, though I had not followed their music closely. The Haywains had released several singles and two albums in the span of 8 years before disbanding in 1995. They reformed in 2013 for a reunion tour (25 years!), picking up right where they left off, where thankfully they continue to make great guitar pop, keeping the spirit of indie pop alive and well.

Their most recent EP, The Girl In The Holly Court Diner, is a batch of lively and catchy songs centered on love. The title track starts off with a great driving beat and an unexpected baritone I hadn’t heard in their earlier releases, but is lightened by a great melody. Another Boy’s Girl picks up the pace and adds a cool chord change as the song ends. LoveTorpedo! continues the theme centred around love with some alternating dual male vocals. The swooning It’s A Long Way Home When You Lose reminisces about better days (including a once winning football season). There’s a glockenspiel and keyboard and by now I’m won over by that baritone. The song fades to just guitar, it’s the perfect closer.

This EP is great place to start if you’re not already familiar with the band’s work.

The bundle of goodies you get with the EP

The Girl In The Holly Court Diner 7″ EP is limited to 300 copies so get in there quick if it’s up your street. All The Haywains releases are also available through their bandcamp page from which you can also link to their website.

https://thehaywains.bandcamp.com/album/girl-in-the-holly-court-diner-e-p
https://thehaywains.bandcamp.com/
http://www.haywains.co.uk/

http://www.whoops-records.co.uk

Esther

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A native of California, a wife and mother of two, Esther can be found escaping onto Twitter as @myrtleleaf to tweet about music, a life-long passion. She still mostly lives in the past. ________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you to Esther for a another wonderful review.

Watch out for further reviews, whether it’s re-issues or new releases. If you would like to review something yourself, you know where to find us.

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Meet The Community – @Betamax857

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Here we divert our attention away from the artists and bands and shine a light on some of those individuals whose contributions in our social media world have been an invaluable source of musical joy. By asking a series of 10 questions we want to get inside the mind of a selected community member and understand their indie DNA.

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In this edition – PedroF @Betamax857 

Pedro image@Betamax857 is probably our closest member and we mean that literally not figuratively. In terms of crows flying we’re talking 2.122 miles between EIO40 HQ and his abode. In fact, at one point we may have even been close enough to borrow his lawn mower, had circumstances panned out differently when securing our new premises.

You’re probably wondering how we discovered where @Betamax857 lives. Rest assured we don’t undertake intrusive background checks on community members or employ shadowy figures to rifle though personal records or rubbish bins. Nothing as sinister as that. We needed his address so we could send him the T Shirt he’d won in a Best Off A Best Off competition we held in the early days of that feature with @howcaniapply. That particular Best Of album was PWEI’s “16 Different Flavours Of Hell” and considering what we know about his musical penchants there was certainly an element of kismet about his triumph.

Our “closesness” to @Betamax857 doesn’t end there. He was also the first person from the community that Steve at EIO40 ever met in the real world. Their paths intertwined on the 24th March 2015 at the Lexington in London at a Back To The Panet gig. Steve’s wife had taken him for a posh meal earlier that evening to celebrate his birthday and in order to help @Betamax857 recognise him among the ageing punks in the venue messaged him “You can’t miss us, we’re the couple who look like they’ve just been out for a posh meal”.

Steve did confess later to being a little anxious at meeting @Betamax857 that night. That Twitter profile pic had haunted his dreams in the early days and he was a little shit scared that he might actually come to face to face with it. So if you are wondering, @Betamax857 doesn’t have that psychedelic facial tattoo and penetrating stare in real life.

We even have on file a photo of @Betamax857 stair carpet as his perfectly symmetrical Stuffies CD art installation making their way upstairs was his offering to their epic Quarter Final battle against The Manics during the The IndieOver40 Cup

Betamax stairs

In all seriousness, @Betamax857 contribution to the EIO40 community has been immense from his first tweet to us about Stereolab back on 23rd June 2014 to the present day. None more so than when he judged the 30 Years Of Indie Albums in January 2015. His dedication and hard work for the task at hand was never more pronounced than the infamous photo of his work station. The judging bar was set very high from that moment on.

Betamax Desk

On that day he handed album of 1993 to Eat’s “Epicure” so on that note let’s “feast” on @Betamax857

1) Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Beckenham, Kent. There was a great nightclub called Langtry’s that had an Indie night. The DJ would take requests and he remains the only one I have ever know to play Eat. He used to put on the record and then come and dance with the rest of us before running back to change over. 

2) What first got you into “indie” music?

In 1988 I was a complete metal head. At the age of 16, I wanted to go to my first gig which was to be Iron Maiden at Wembley Arena. No one would go with me (all of my mates liked Alexander O’Neal and Luther Vandross.) A friend at school said he would come along if I returned the favour by going with him to The Town and Country Club to see Pop Will Eat Itself.

After the Poppies gig which was visceral and chaotic the Iron Maiden gig seemed corporate and middle aged. Over the next year I got into and saw the Poppies several times and also The Wonder Stuff and Jesus Jones.

3) What was the first “indie” record you bought?

Box Frenzy by Pop Will Eat Itself was the first album and Info Freako by Jesus Jones was my first 12”.

4) What was your favourite record shop?

I used to like Our Price on Bromley High Street as they stocked loads of 12”s. When I was a student at Swansea I loved a second hand store called More Music. They had loads of indie promos and I managed to get a copy of Info Psycho by Jesus Jones there.

5) What music magazines did you read?

I liked Melody Maker and Sounds.

6) What was your first “indie” gig?

Pop Will Eat Itself at The Town and Country Club. The support acts were Nasty Rox Inc. and Yeah God. I bought a Yeah God t shirt to cover up my Iron Maiden t shirt.

7) What was your most memorable “indie” gig? And why?

The Wonder Stuff ‘God Bless the Fuckin’ Lot of Us Tour’ in 1990, Preston Town Hall, August 11th. My friend and I, who lived in Kent, couldn’t make the London dates so we drove to Preston and back  to see The Wonder Stuff supported by Spirit of the West and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin.  The gig was great even though we thought we were mad to drive such a long way. Bizarrely enough we met a guy who had hitchhiked to the gig from about 1/2 a mile from where we lived. Needless to say he was thrilled to get a lift back.

8) What 3 “indie” albums would you take to a desert island?

Going Blank Again by Ride for the Leave Them All Behind, Twisterella and Ox4.

When Do We Start Fighting by Seafood because they are the Indie band that me and my wife like the most.

Devil Hopping by The Inspiral Carpets for I want You, Uniform and Saturn 5.

9) What “indie” band/artist would you most like to meet?

It has to be Clint Mansell. I’m a huge PWEI fan and I’m now a big fan of Clint’s film music. The first time I saw Clint in 1988 he was on stage wearing black leather trousers, no top and was completely  drunk. Now on stage he sits quietly at the keyboard, tells a great story and appears completely humble. 

10) What one song defines your indie-ness?

It’s She Sells Sanctuary by The Cult. It’s a little bit gothic, a bit rock and great to dance to.


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A huge thank you to @Betamax857 for taking part. Hope you enjoyed this insight into his indie-ness.

You could be next.

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Gig Night – Teenage Fanclub @ The Fleece, Bristol

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A tale of 2 Robs

An email dropped into the EIO40 mailbox midweek from Rob at Sonic PR asking if we wanted a guest list place at the Teenage Fanclub gig in Bristol on that Saturday (3rd Sep). Bristol is a bit of a trek for us and as we would be at the London gig anyway on the following Monday our initial reaction was to reluctantly swerve. However, it didn’t seem right to pass up such an offer considering we have friends in the manor. So we contacted regular EIO40 contributor Rob Morgan (@durutti74) to see if he was up for it and not only was he cock-a-hoop (he’d missed out on the pre-tour Bristol tickets) but said he would also write a review.

Pleased to say, it all worked out so thanks to Rob at Sonic PR and of course to Rob Morgan. Here is his review of  Teenage Fanclub at The Fleece, Bristol on Saturday 3rd September 2016..

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Maturity is not something to be celebrated in the music scene. Even back in the 50s and 60s pop groups weren’t given long life spans, it was a young person’s game – the pop stars were perceived to have a limited shelf life, gave the audience songs which reflected their teenage lifestyles and everyone was supposed to move on. It was transience personified. The man who wrote the line “Hope I die before I get old” in the mid 60s had trouble finding anything valid to say about himself and his generation in the 70s and 80s. Each generation had its own spokesman, reluctant or otherwise, and they very rarely spoke about the joys of settling down, getting old and facing mortality.

It is ironic that Teenage Fanclub have become the spokesmen for the generation of indie pop kids who grew up in the late 80s and early 90s, the people who are facing their fifties worried about the mortgages, the health of their parents and their children’s school report (or is that just me? I’m not sure). OK, it’s not very rock and roll – the songs about alcoholidays and girls driving them home are in the past – but over their last few albums Teenage Fanclub have written some of the most affecting songs of recent times – “Only With You”, “I Don’t Want Control of You”, “Baby Lee”, “My Uptight Life” and many more.

The promise of a new Teenage Fanclub album is always greeted with a huge level of anticipation by their faithful fans – especially as they usually take half a decade to get around to making an album – and their latest album “Here” is due very shortly, followed by a substantial tour. It was the perfect moment for a small mini tour to reacquaint the band with their audience, and to road test a few new songs too. The mini tour started in Bristol on 3rd September, and I was lucky enough to be there.

Support band Snails were intriguing and a good choice, I felt they won over the crowd who may not have been that interested. Jangling guitar, male / female vocals, blasts of flute, saxophone and trumpet recalling The June Brides as well as Belle and Sebastian, they said they had a few 7 inchers available, certainly worth further investigation.

Teenage Fanclub themselves turned up on time, looking like they had just stepped in off the street. Raymond McGinley looks more like a science teacher with greying hair and glasses but once he straps on his Fender Jaguar he becomes a guitar hero. Norman Blake bears a remarkable resemblance to my doctor only Blake smiles more and between songs gives flashes of his wicked sense of humour. Gerry Love looks exactly the same as he did in 1995 – how does he do it? Francis Macdonald holds the beat steady and adds extra harmonies here and there while keyboard player Dave McGowan pops out front to add a third guitar to the mix half the time. Blake even called McGinley and McGowan ‘Kings of shred’ after their guitar duel after one song they had played on

So much for the facts, but that doesn’t explain the joyous rush of emotions that these five musicians can generate. How can such simple melodies and chord changes be so affecting? The set list was weighted towards the numerous classics in their back catalogue but there was room for four new songs from “Here”. Starting appropriately with “Start Again”, the crowd were singing back every word to the band.

Teenage Fanclub gigs are always like that – a communal feel of love and affection from band to audience and back again. Teenage Fanclub may not have played a gig for over a year, or toured substantially for a lot longer than that, but the musical chemistry was there immediately. During instrumental breaks Blake would frequently turn to Love or McGinley with an enormous grin on his face – he was enjoying it as much as the audience. Love would give a shy little smile after forthcoming single “Thin Air”, an acknowledgement that it had been well received. “It’s nice to see an audience, we’ve been playing to ourselves for two weeks”, Blake said between songs at one point, then adding “Well, more like three days actually…”

It did not show, there wasn’t a note or harmony out of place.

 And the songs… when a band can leave out gems like “Mellow Doubt”, “Neil Jung”, “What You Do To Me”, “Baby Lee” and “Alcoholiday” from their set and they’re not missed then that band has got a rich catalogue of songs to dip into.

TFC Norm Keys

All three songwriters got an equal share of the spotlight, taking turns to present their songs. Blake has the most immediate tunes – “I Don’t Want Control Of You”, “It’s All In My Mind”, “I’m In Love” – and Love has the singalongs – “Ain’t That Enough”, “Sparkys Dream”, “Star Sign” – but McGinley’s songs cut the deepest. New song “Hang On” is an absolute beauty lyrically and musically, even if they admit they don’t know how to end it – “It fades out on the record, we just play the same chord until we stop” added Blake.

It’s a worthy addition to McGinley’s esteemed canon, songs like “Verisimilitude” and “Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From” greeted like old friends, as is the sight of Blake reaching for his xylophone at the start of the latter song. Equally Blake’s “Darkest Part Of The Night” rolls easy like “I Don’t Want Control Of You” does. If this is the quality of the songs on “Here”, it’s likely to be an absolute gem of an album.

In all, Teenage Fanclub returned and it felt like they had never been away. If there were any first night nerves, they weren’t evident. It was a confident performance by the band at the top of their game. I would love the set list to be a little longer, maybe that will happen on their main tour in November. For now, it is a pleasure and a joy to have Teenage Fanclub back in our lives.

TFC Set

Author: Rob Morgan

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob writes about music and other less important subjects at his blog A Goldfish Called Regret (agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.com) and also creates podcasts for Goldfish Radio (https://m.mixcloud.com/robmorgan589).

He never achieved his ambition of making a Sarah Record.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Rob’s gig night. We would love to hear about your own gig experiences whether they are recent or in the past. Please contact us if you would like to contribute, via email indieover40@gmail.com or Twitter @IndieOver40

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Community Recommends – Murals

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WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the EIO40 community is being introduced to new sounds by discovering what music others are listening to, whether fresh off the shelves or something from the past that may have gone under the radar.

“Community Recommends” is an opportunity for members to write about an album or song that is a particular favourite of theirs and would like to share to the wider community. So have a read. You might like what you hear.

In this edition Rob Morgan (@durutti74) introduces us to …..

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MURALS “Violet City Lantern”

It’s probably not a very indie place to start, but back in 1983 Heaven 17 recorded a song called “We Live So Fast” for their album “The Luxury Gap” and while the frantic drum machines and chirping synths have dated the song, the sentiments expressed – the speed of life, the need to press on, to move to the next new thing – seem more current than ever. In this decade there is an overabundance of choices available – from Netflix to Spotify to YouTube almost everything is available within an instant. We are saturated with entertainment shows and music, technology drives us to investigate everything until we are drowned – it is all too much.

These days it is hard to find the time to get to know a record, to listen to it intently and in a number of settings, to get inside the songs and let them inhabit your life. Remember how you felt when you had a new album by your favourite band? The weeks of playing it over and over, how it would infiltrate into your world, become the soundtrack to that week or month, that party, that night out, that kiss, that argument. Life and music in harmony, the soundtrack to your life.

But it rarely happens these days. The overwhelming overload of availability leads to instant decisions – play a few songs from an album, decide it isn’t for you, move to the next one. I know I’ve done that, guilty as charged. But over the last few weeks I’ve played one new album over and over again, allowing it to sink in like the old days. I wasn’t instantly impressed but over time, the music had wormed its way into my heart, become part of my life.

That album is “Violet City Lantern” by Murals.

As I said, the first few listens were frustrating. Yes it sounded lovely – oceans of reverb, splinters of guitar lines, a double tracked vocal style similar to Steve Mason in the Beta Band. But nothing truly jumped out at me, the songs tended to change direction for no reason, there were occasional instrumentals, sometimes the sound of rain. It was pleasant enough but I didn’t feel like persisting with it. But I carried on, listening in different settings – in the car, or on headphones around the house – and slowly it all clicked into place. Maybe it was persistence, or maybe there was one song acting as the key to unlock the other songs.

The key for me was the fourth song “White Wheel”. It fades in gradually, a miasma of twinkling guitars and xylophones over a martial drum beat, then a simple melodic vocal from Jacob Weaver, and the song jogs along happily, like a lamb dancing through a spring field of grass, while ascending brush strokes of autoharp punctuate the song. It’s a beautiful sound, hazy and vague but engaging. And once that song had cracked the code of Murals, the rest of the album fell into place.

I must admit I don’t know that much about the band, they are a four piece from Louisville in the US and this is their second album and I happened to stumble upon it on Bandcamp a few weeks back. I’m sure someone more diligent than myself would be digging in and finding out about the members, but sometimes it’s better to let a band’s music exist in its own world, without getting bogged down by details of who made the coffee and who strummed the guitars. This is that kind of record – one to clutch to your heart and cherish, unknowing the details which could spoil the spell.

I’ve avoided writing about the music because it’s tricky to describe. There are hints of Galaxie 500, The Beta Band, early Purple Ivy Shadows, the “Beach Boys in a school assembly” wonder of the debut Fleet Foxes LP, but all refracted through a gentle lysergic haze. There’s enough reverb to satisfy the keenest shoegazer, but absolutely no distorted guitars. Each song takes twists and turns in unexpected directions, but always makes perfect sense.

Take “Watching In The Dark” for instance – it starts in waltz time with a gorgeous guitar melody for a minute before slowing down into normal 4/4 time and a different melody for the main song, while still throwing in a bridge in double time around the three minute mark, before returning to the main melody, and a brief coda restates the introduction melody in waltz time. All the changes in tempo and melody sound completely natural, nothing is jarring or off kilter.

Each song had a unique feature – “The Swimmer” has delicate washes of piano and strings, “One Thousand Pictures” has a reversed rhythm track (reminiscent of “Amazing Journey” by The Who) – and the brief instrumentals dotted throughout the album act as welcome breathers, a chance to gather thoughts. In that way, it is similar to “Alaska”, the debut album by Northern Picture Library, another unique proposition.

“Violet City Lantern” is an album which exists on its own terms, has its own internal logic and makes no concessions unless the listener is prepared to give as much as the band. But this is also an album with charm and beauty to spare, a gorgeous concoction of melody which will reward multiple listens. It may not appear on any publication’s end of year albums list, but it is a special album which will remain close to this listener’s heart. Allow it a chance and you may feel the same way.

Recommended songs – “Violet City Lantern”,“White Wheel”, “I Live Here”.

Murals – White Wheel

Listen to the album on Spotify or other streaming services, or purchase it from www.themurals.bandcamp.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob writes about music and other less important subjects at his blog A Goldfish Called Regret (agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.com) and also creates podcasts for Goldfish Radio (https://m.mixcloud.com/robmorgan589).

He never achieved his ambition of making a Sarah Record.

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Thank you to Rob Morgan for taking the time to introduce us to Murals. Hope you enjoy the music as much as we have.

If you would like to contribute to this feature by writing about a song or album that you think others would like, then we would love to hear from you.

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Gig Night – Deadcuts / I Plead Irony

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We weren’t there. We wanted to be there. We couldn’t be there. It was a gig with headliners featuring Mark Keds and Cass Browne from Senseless Things and celebrating the life of Wiz, front man of Mega City Four and songwriter and lyricist extraordinaire who soundtracked an defining era for many of us. It was a gig night down the road from us. We were gutted.

Thankfully Dawn Bovingdon (@Miss_D_xx) was there and has shared with us the next best thing. An entertaining full match report of the recent Forward4Wiz gig at Farnborough FC.

So enjoy Dawn’s gig night. It was clearly emotional.

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Anyone who knows me will know that saying Mega City Four is my favourite band is a massive understatement. So when it was hinted that an event would take place in January to celebrate Wiz’s birthday, 9 years after his sudden and tragic death following a blood clot on the brain, I excitedly cleared my diary in anticipation.

As details filtered out it was announced that Blag Promotions (Pete Cole) and Rose Coloured Records (Andy Fulterer) with the Forward 4 Wiz Trust would host a gig at the Farnborough Football Club, a regular former hangout for the band. Headlined by Deadcuts, supported by I Plead Irony and set for 16th January 2016. Both bands have a close connection to Wiz.

Deadcuts are the brainchild of Mark Keds, former Senseless Things frontman, a band which toured relentlessly with MC4 back in the 90s. With guitarist Jerome Alexandre, the band also included Mark McCarthy of The Wonder Stuff. However a couple of last minute changes saw the departure of Mark M to be replaced by bassist Joseph Johns, and the brilliant addition of Cass Browne, the Senseless Things drummer. After some hasty poster changes the line up was finalised.

I Plead Irony have only been a band for a few years but have a history. I first met Rauf Jordan, vocalist and bassist, and Lawrence Arnold, drummer, when they completed Ipanema with Wiz. They are joined by Paul McDonald who previously featured with them in a band called The Fins. We’ve seen them a few times before and they played my 40th birthday party, so very happy to see them included.

I quickly realised we’d have the kids that weekend, so what better than to treat them to an evening in my world – what teenage kid wouldn’t want that ☺. Two rooms were booked at the Farnborough Premier Inn and the tickets purchased before I gave them the great news. The girls hadn’t stayed in a hotel before and were quite excited at the prospect. There was talk of ordering room service – I didn’t want to burst their bubble by telling them Premier Inn is a little more down market than that, so said I’d provide dinner.

The 16th quickly arrived, albeit with threats of snow storms, and we set off for the short journey mid-afternoon so the girls could enjoy the hotel experience. They masked their disappointment well when I produced 4 Pot Noodles and a loaf of bread as their room service dinner – no expense spared!

We booked a cab and met a couple of friends, Becki & Jackie, in the foyer. The football club was only a couple of miles away and was already buzzing by the time we arrived to a sold out crowd. Jonathon Trevisick of Feet First DJ’d between bands and was already belting out some fantastic indie tunes. We happily sang along to Carter’s Sheriff Fatman while the girls rolled their eyes and tried to disown us.

The room was full of friends who had known and loved Wiz, and most had stories of MC4 gigs and times they’d spent with the band. MC4 were represented on the night by the band’s drummer Chris Jones (who doesn’t seem to age), Karina Chillman – Wiz’s then partner and F4Wt trustee, and Dee Terry, Gerry Bryant’s missus, as Gerry had a prior engagement with a football match. The atmosphere was emotional, a mix of joy – celebrating great music and wonderful memories – with sombre overtones. Two screens showed video clips and photos of MC4, Ipanema and Senseless Things as a reminder of the past, while the night and the purpose of the F4Wt was about looking forward with new music.

I Plead Irony took to the small stage at 8.30pm. Rauf was wearing one of his customary Shite Shirts, I believe bought especially for the gig. The band go from strength to strength. Kicking off with Now or Never, the opening track from their first album, they grabbed the audience’s attention. The new material sounds fantastic and What If, my current favourite IPI song, was up next. Those that knew the lyrics sang along, others just moved to the music.

Dawn I Plead Irony post image

The rest of the set continued at a pace with the band obviously enjoying the night, sounding competent, confident and very loud. As their time drew to an end there were calls for more and, to the delight of the crowd, the band launched into a cover of Mega City Four’s Miles Apart. Ending their set with gig favourite Wrecking Ball (no not the Miley version), the band finished on a high and headed for the bar. I Plead Irony’s 2nd album entitled The Solution is the Problem is released in April. I’m singing in a crowd backing vocal bit on one track but don’t let that put you off, you can’t hear me ☺. I’ve heard a demo of the album and it’s a must buy.

All profits from the gig will be donated to the Forward 4 Wiz Trust, set up in his memory to support new and aspiring musicians in the area. Both bands had donated merch towards a raffle prize, along with Stuffies and MC4 items. Pete Cole drew the winning raffle ticket. I didn’t catch the name of the guy who won but he walked away with some fantastic goodies I’d had my eye on.

There was a DJ interval between bands where curry was served from the back of the venue and we tried to chat to friends over the loud music, resorting to a weird form of made up sign language, ending in shrugs, before heading to the bar to stock up on drinks instead. The youngest did her best moody teen impression until her request for a Muse track was played and she started bouncing around grinning.

Dawn post image sofa

Deadcuts were due on stage at 10pm however at 9.50 we started to worry as no one had stepped on stage since the raffle was drawn, and our cab would be arriving at 11. 10pm arrived with Mark and Jerome taking to the stage to set up their equipment and 10 minutes later the band were ready. I’d only heard a couple of songs prior to the gig but liked what I’d heard. With a sound far removed from the poppiness of Senseless Things – Deadcuts have a much darker, heavier quality to their songs. Keds’ lyrics draw on his life experience and listening to them feels almost like reading his personal diary. Jerome is a very strong guitarist and his style perfectly complements Keds. It’s fantastic to see Cass back on drums and he fits naturally into the band. The girls were very happy to see Joseph on stage and he was the highlight of their night (makes a change from them crushing on Matt Bellamy!).

Whilst a fairly new band they are already building a strong following based on quality songs. Their set opened to cheers with Praying for Jail, moving into Less I Want Less I Need. Mark decided to make a few costume changes, not easy on a small stage with no changing area. Starting the set shirtless in a long black coat, switching to a Bowie tribute Blackstar knitted jumper and finally a suit jacket.

Dawn Deadcuts image

I got the impression Mark seemed a little uncomfortable or nervous at the start (possibly due to the fact it was in memory of a friend) but the band quickly settled in and each song sounded better than the previous. Opium Styles and Brittany Murphy were fantastic with, what I feel is their best yet, Summon the Witches – a song with a guitar hook that stays with you for days. This was followed by new track Dope Girls which I’ve since had to order.

As 11pm neared Mark stood quiet while the crowd cheered and waited for the noise to die down, before reading the lyrics to Mega City Four’s Less Than Senseless as poetry. A song written by Wiz for Senseless Things. It was beautiful to hear and the emotion in Mark’s voice was audible. To finish the set Deadcuts launched into the faster paced Kill Desire. They’re a band I’d strongly recommend seeing and who are currently touring with The Libertines (Mark co-wrote Can’t Stand Me Now).

By now it was just after 11 and our cab was waiting with the meter running. Pete Cole and Karina Fraser stepped on stage to close the event. Karina spoke from the heart to thank everyone for coming together, celebrating Wiz’s life and contribution and for supporting the trust. As it was Danny Brown’s birthday (Wiz’s brother and MC4 guitarist) who had moved to Australia last year with his lovely wife Roxy, we didn’t want to leave him out so the gig finished with a group chorus of happy birthday, filmed and uploaded to FB for him to see.

Dawn Drummers corner

As my family and friends dashed out to the cab before he gave up and left us, I just had time to say hello, great gig and goodbye to Mark Keds before joining them and heading back to our hotel. It was a fantastic night and flew by all too quickly. Most importantly £500 was raised for the F4Wt. Let’s make it an annual event.

Enjoying myself too much, my slightly drunken pics were pretty poor, and I can’t stand still at gigs, so I won’t inflict my efforts on you (bar 1 Adrian took). Instead professional photographer, Dave Vokes of LMI Photography, has kindly shared a few pics of the bands. Enjoy!

Dawn Bovingdon

Videos & Links

Deadcuts – Summon the Witches https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-FTGLN6eT4
I Plead Irony – I Can’t Hear You https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G11GDLEQRJo
Forward 4 Wiz Trust – www.f4wt.org

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Dawn’s gig night. We would love to hear about your own gig experiences whether they are recent or in the past. Please contact us if you would like to contribute, via email indieover40@gmail.com or Twitter @IndieOver40

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Community Recommends – @Dalliance68

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WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO?

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the EIO40 community is being introduced to new sounds by discovering what music others are listening to, whether fresh off the shelves or something from the past that may have gone under the radar.

“Community Recommends” is an opportunity for members to write about an album or song that is a particular favourite of theirs and would like to share to the wider community. So have a read. You might like what you hear.

In this edition @Dalliance68 introduces us to …..

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NORTHERN PORTRAIT “Criminal Art Lovers”

‘Criminal Art Lovers’ is the debut LP from Danish four piece Northern Portrait. The group was formed in 2007 and released this LP in 2010 on Matinee Records. It’s remained one of my favourite albums ever since.

It kicks off with ’The Munchhausen in Me’, glorious layers of chiming guitars with a vocal reminscent of Martin Rossiter with a bit of Morrissey thrown in. The guitar style that runs through the album is arpeggioed Rickenbacker which drives each song. Quite beautiful in it’s own right. Throw in some subtle harmonies and you get the Northern Portrait formula. Don’t expect a different guitar sound as the album progresses, they know what works and they stick with it.

Each song has the perfect mix of upbeat joyful guitar with lyrics which are less so, but as a number of groups have proved in past, this makes for some memorable songs.

Track number number two ‘When Goodness Fails’ is jingle jangle guitar heaven, ‘Crazy’ was the first song of theirs I ever heard and I never looked back. As a single it takes some beating. It grows slowly starting with gently strummed guitar giving lots of room for the vocal, as the song progresses more guitar lines are added until it reaches its joyful finale.

The album is full of lyrics that put a wry smile on your face “I may have lost but I haven’t lost the plot”, “As you walk on by please keep walking”.

‘What Happens Next’ rattles along at a great pace with a lyrics that remind me of some of David Gedge’s (which can’t be a bad thing) “There were times that when I couldn’t bear my own company, but those times changed when you were not there and there’s nothing left to see anymore”.

“That’s When My Headaches Begin’ has one of the strongest vocal performances on the album, one that you can feel the emotion in especially at it’s climax “Listen to the sea as it kisses the shore, like so many million times before”.

It finishes with ‘New Favourite Moment’, by this point I’m normally beaming inanely.

There’s not that many albums that I want to recommend to everyone but this is one. I’m hoping that we don’t have to wait too long before another is released.

Northern Portrait “Crazy”

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Thank you to @Dalliance68 for taking the time to introduce us to one his favourite albums.

If you would like to know more about the author then head over to our Meet The Community page, where there is an interview with @Dalliance68. That is definitely worth checking out.

If you would like to contribute to this feature by writing about a song or album that you think others would like, then we would love to hear from you.

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Strawberry Whiplash “Stuck In The Never Ending Now” – Review

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Esther (@myrtleleaf) is back with another review. This time she has turned her attention to the latest offering from Glasgow indie pop duo Strawberry Whiplash, who’s name is a Scottish indie heritage mash up of Strawberry Switchblade and early Creation band Meat Whiplash.

The album is released on Santa Barbara based Matinee Recordings and with Esther just down the road in San Diego, Scotland and California has never seemed so neighbourly.

Anyway, here is what Esther had to say about the new Strawberry Whiplash album.

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Although it’s December and deep into the winter holiday season, this album is not just breezy summer-sounding indie pop songs, as the clever cover that has the feel of a nautilus shell could seem to suggest. It’s an album of different flavors from Scottish pop duo Laz and Sandra McCluskey (if you haven’t already done so, be sure to seek Laz’ other music project Bubblegum Lemonade). So it’s been a great companion since its release last month throughout both sunny and rainy days here (yes, rain in Southern California!)

A country-inflected riff is the first sound I hear on album opener Every Day the Sun Shines Bright and right away I know this album will be a treat full of different sounds. There’s the punchy If Surface Were Depth and Halcyon, both in the same vein of C86 era Talulah Gosh. Time Takes You Away, the first song released is infectious, with its cool bongo sound.

The strongest songs for me, however, have a slightly dark and melancholy feel: Too Close to Call, which has the most beautiful guitar solo in the entire album, and the slower, dreamy Ride the Waves To The Shore, a swooning number with some more wonderful percussion that gives this song a sophisticated pop sound. Perfect album closer This Is All We Have is wistful and anthemic. Sandra sings with conviction, her voice remaining lush, ‘There is no more, there is no afterwards, this is all we have’. Just beautiful.

All twelve songs are varied keeping the album sounding fresh but familiar, and as the inside cover of the album proclaims, guaranteed to be 100% auto tune free.

 

Find Strawberry Whiplash and links to their music and sites on the Matinee Recordings website:

http://matineerecordings.com/item.php?item_id=262

Esther

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Thank you to Esther for a another wonderful review.

Watch out for further reviews, whether it’s re-issues or new releases. If you would like to review something yourself, you know where to find us.

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The Telescopes “Splashdown” Review

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Regular contributor Rob Morgan (@durutti74) recently took delivery of The Telescopes new re-issue courtesy of those wonderful purveyors of quality music Cherry Red and has very kindly produced a top notch review.

As we’ve come to expect from Rob “review” doesn’t really do it justice being more of an “insight” that runs much deeper than a simple appraisal.

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“Splashdown – the complete Creation Recordings 1990 – 1992” (Cherry Red)

Were the Telescopes really shoegazers? Let’s look at the evidence. Influenced by Loop, Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine? Check. Made some of their best music across numerous EPs? Check. Signed to Creation Records? Check. So far so shoegaze. But there was always more to the Telescopes than met the eye. This overdue compilation of their four EPs and one àlbum for Creation (plus lots of extras) gives a fuller picture of their capabilities.

The story of how the Telescopes were signed to Creation is worth noting here. Their initial records were issued on Cheree Records distributed through What Goes On, a German label specialising in garage bands, Australian noise and other oddities. The Telescopes emerged in 1989 with a series of singles – “Kick The Wall”, “7th Disaster”, “The Perfect Needle”, “To Kill A Slow Girl Walking” – and an album “Taste” which were well received by the indie scene but lambasted by the music press for not being Loop or MBV. But they did well enough to establish a fan base for their nihilistic walls of guitar.

By the end of 1989 “The Perfect Needle” was sitting in Peel’s Festive Fifty, “To Kill A Slow Girl Walking” was doing well in the Indie charts and showed leaps forward in their musical development (not least the astonishing oceanic wash of “Pure Sweetest Ocean”) and somehow in the middle of this What Goes On goes bust. The Telescopes are now label-less with a newly recorded EP ready to go. Luckily Alan McGee was impressed enough to sign them to Creation Records and a fruitful two years of releases begins.

It makes sense that this compilation starts with the four EPs issued between 1990 and 1991 as this shows the development of the band. The “Precious Little” EP (saved from their label crash) gives a taste of their original noisy origins – the wall of distorted guitar which crash like waves across the title track – but gives hints of what is to come, the use of dynamics on “Deep Hole Ends”, the quiet tension within “Never Hurt You” and the organ wash during the bridges on “I Sense” show progress amongst the droning guitars.

The next EP “Everso” was issued towards the end of 1990 and is the equivalent of switching from black and white to technicolour. It’s not quite that the Telescopes went “baggy” but they took elements of the indie dance sound and mixed it into their music which itself was showing signs of a psychedelic influence. “Everso” revels in a funky bass line, male female harmonies and an urgent sense of wonder. On the EP the Telescopes take “Never Learn Not To Love” by the Beach Boys (it’s on their “20/20” album from ’68) and extend it into a spooked beauty. But then it was originally written by Charles Manson as “Cease To Exist”. The third song on the EP – “Wish Of You” – is barely 90 seconds long but exhibits their best features, a fragile drift of melody and ascending dynamics.

The third Creation single “Celeste” was my introduction to the band, watching the retina shredding video on “Snub TV” early in 1991 and I was seriously impressed – the song took the psychedelic wash of Spacemen 3 and grafted it onto the groovy undercarriage of the Stone Roses while producing an almost perfect pop song. The b side “All A Dream” is slower and is a beautiful wash of sound, a great combination of songs – there’s also a nine minute remix of “Celeste” which is very much of its time but worth a listen, you can hear the individual elements of the music being highlighted.

The fourth EP “Flying” was issued in the summer of 1991 at the height of shoegazing’s popularity but stands apart from the contemporary releases by Chapterhouse, Slowdive and Lush by fully integrating the psychedelic elements into the sound. Each of the four songs is a three minute gem, full of sitars, droning organs, tremelo guitars and soaring harmonies all bathed in a rich haze of reverb. It’s a unique sound and probably as far as they could take their take on modern psychedelia. After the success of the “Flying” EP, the Telescopes disappeared to work on their second album.

There is some conjecture about what the second Telescopes album is actually called. Is it untitled? Is it eponymous? Is it called “Higher ‘n’ Higher” after the words highlighted on the sleeve (a blown up extract from the insert, a full music book with chords and lyrics to each song)? The sleeve itself is a painting by Paul Cannell who had created the memorable sleeves for “Higher Than The Sun”, “Don’t Fight It Feel It” and “Screamadelica” the previous year.

Whatever it is called, the second Telescopes album takes a step back from the psychedelic bliss out of their 1991 singles and revels in an organic vibe, the sound of a group of five musicians interacting with each other in a room. All of side one of the album (the first six songs on disc two of this compilation) are linked by little snippets of a group jam session, giving the impression of the band performing live for the listener. Highlights include the late night shuffling jazz mood of “You Set My Soul” (gorgeous piano by Ed Ball here), a gentler reworking of “High On Fire” from the “Flying” EP and the oceanic ebb and flow of side closer “And”.

Side two is no slouch either, “Yeah” dares to stop mid song allowing all the instruments to naturally decay for 20 seconds before the band restart as if by magic. “Ocean drive” rocks out and ends with a little wig out before leading into “Please Tell Mother”, one of my favourite Telescopes songs. Every detail within the song is lovely, from the building layers of guitars to the sound of a wind up toy car being rolled across the stereo spectrum – it’s a perfect song.

The album closes with another beautiful song – “To The Shore” – which drifts off in a reverie of reverb. Sadly the album wasn’t well received at the time and apparently sold less than 5,000 copies. But those who bought the album loved it. I bought it on the day of release back in May 1992 and have listened to it hundreds of times, it’s an absorbing and delightful experience and there are few other records I can think of which have the same feeling within the music and lyrics. However tensions within the band lead to them splitting up after this album was released, though they reformed ten years later.

If “Splashdown” contained just the four EPs and the second album, that would be enough but Cherry Red have pulled out the stops in excavating some unreleased gems. Disc One concludes with four songs from a proposed fifth EP, a group of songs which work as remixes of their “Flying” EP – sometimes more instrumental in nature and sometimes with extracts from other songs of theirs (“16T#3” brings back the whale song from “Pure Sweetest Ocean”) and all four songs offer intriguing perspectives on their sound.

On Disc Two there are a handful of cover versions which are interesting curios (but no room for their brooding version of Tim Rose’s “Morning dew”? Shame!) and best of all the songs from their Peel Session from September 1991. I absolutely hammered my tape of this session at the time and it contains four songs which would be included on the second album, but these versions have the urgency and intensity and psychedelic swirl of the “Flying” EP. Indeed the version of “Please Tell Mother” is absolutely stunning, sounding like the band are playing on a cliff edge staring into an abyss. Or maybe it’s just me.

As ever with Cherry Red the packaging is immaculate, excellent informative sleeve notes and the sound quality is superb. The remastering has brought out new depths in the music – I’ve been listening to these songs for over two decades and I’ve picked up new nuances and sounds in this collection. The songs from side one of the untitles album have a new clarity, as if you are sitting in that jam session room with the band. An amazing sound experience.

So were the Telescopes shoegazing? Well yes but they were so much more than that, as this collection demonstrates. The Telescopes continue to this day producing invigorating and innovative music – their latest release “Hidden Fields” is excellent – but “Splashdown” shows them during their most musically fertile (and commercially successful) period. If you owned the original records there’s plenty new to discover. If you’ve only heard of the Telescopes through their reputation, then there is a wealth of great music to enjoy.


 Rob Morgan 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob writes about music and other less important subjects at his blog A Goldfish Called Regret (agoldfishcalledregret.wordpress.com) and also creates podcasts for Goldfish Radio (https://m.mixcloud.com/robmorgan589).

He never achieved his ambition of making a Sarah Record.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed reading Rob’s review. If you would like to review something new, whether it’s new material or a re-issue then please contact us via email indieover40@gmail.com or Twitter @IndieOver40

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