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Something New Review – The Train Set “Never California”

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Remember when Esther (@myrtleleaf) reviewed Dot Dash? So adept was she at the job that we had no hesitation in calling on her services when the next opportunity for a review arose.

Although not strictly “new” we let Esther loose on The Train Set’s recently re-issued collection of EPs and unreleased tracks.

By way of background The Train Set are from Crewe  (no need to elaborate on the etymology clearly) and were signed to Hacienda DJ Dave Haslam & Happy Mondays manager Nathan McGough’s Play Hard Records in the late 1980s releasing 2 EPs. They are Clive (Camel) Jones, Andy (Booty), Mark (Shiggy) Shaw, Adam Halford & Dave Hassell.

Here is what Esther had to say about the The Train Set’s “Never California” album

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For a band that released a couple of EPs and singles in the late 80s, the Train Set’s songs are as fresh-sounding as any good music released today. So it could have been a fairly new band whose music I was hearing for the first time.

I say this because it was only last summer that I discovered this band through a song (Sink Or Swim) posted on Twitter which immediately caught my ear (thank you Richard Weir @Rich_W27). I found very little info on them except for some videos on You Tube and an interview on the Cloudberry Records blog site. So I was thrilled to discover that the excellent Firestation Records was releasing a compilation of their music this summer!

Every song is uniquely written, straying from the typical song structure. It is upbeat guitar pop, fine keyboards balanced by great bass lines and steady but varying drum stylings within their songs, but with an underlying melancholy in the lyrics.

One of the darkest lyrics about an abusive relationship is in the haunting Hold On. Their big single, She’s Gone – the song that back in 1988 made NME’s single of the week – is a jaunty song with a train drum beat (there is such a thing) that contains the memorable lyric ‘the music goes on and on and ON and on’ and an outro that fades in a wild tangle of guitar. Stop Stalling (Sob Stories), one of the strongest songs, should have been a single. Clive sings in a crooning voice loosely carrying the melody up and down beautifully, and has a great driving beat in the chorus.

Throughout these songs there are brief interludes of finely crafted music that carry you away from the song before Clive’s voice reels you back in, as in the majestic Untouchable, about a stormy relationship. There are lots of strings, with an ending containing a hint of piano and acoustic guitar. On All Blown Over (The Recall), the opening bars make me think of the Bunnymen’s album Ocean Rain. The song ends with another beautiful stretch of piano.

This song is contrasted with the cleverly re-titled The Recall (All Blown Over), the same song perfectly re-imagined in a stark post-punk style. That’s All introduces congos and horns, and again I hear some Echo and the Bunnymen in Clive’s cries and even some Doors in the ensuing guitar solo following the quieter moments during the middle of the song.

Sink Or Swim is infectious and upbeat with gorgeous guitar and should have been at the top of the charts in 1988, it could easily be today. Harped On sounds like the Smiths’ Rusholme Ruffians, with added fiddle and a great refrain at the end. Yet another possible single.

The band’s influence of the emerging Madchester scene is reflected in the upbeat songs Gets Me Down, Beautiful Monster, Tell Us All, and they showed no signs of stopping in crafting their songs.

‘Never California’ is a collection of their EPs and unreleased songs, but with all strong tracks, this may as well be a greatest hits release. The generous stretches of music must have come off great at their gigs, something I hope new fans will get a chance to experience.

Let’s hope that the Train Set have more steam left in them for new music. I couldn’t resist the pun!

Esther (@myrtleleaf)


 Where to find The Train Set:

http://www.thetrainset.co.uk/
Twitter: @theTrainSet
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheTrainSet
Never California from Rough Trade: http://www.roughtrade.com/albums/94938
Never California from Firestation Records: http://www.firestation-records.de/CAT/fst121-thetrainset-nevercalifornia.html

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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 Indie CV – Jez and Andy Williams

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It is unusual for someone to spend their whole working life at the same organisation and that can pretty much be said for band members and artists. In this regular feature Rob Morgan (@durutti74) maps out the career chronologically of a selected band member.

In this edition Rob compiles the CV for Jez and Andy Williams

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Jez and Andy Williams

Born: 18th February 1970, Manchester

Jeremy and Andrew, as their birth certificate names them,  are twin brothers and grew up very close and very interested in music, Jez learning the guitar and Andy the drums. During their education at Wilmslow High School they met Jimi Goodwin, a bass player, and the trio played in many local bands during the mid eighties, at that time a particularly fertile musical scene in Manchester.

1987 – Metro Trinity

Jez became guitarist with Metro Trinity, a little known Manchester band who issued one single on their own Cafeteria label. A four song twelve inch EP titled “Die Young”, it was a typically post C86 indie record, lots of jangle and strum. Easily the best song was “Michael Furey”, a mid tempo strum of nicely layered guitars easily comparable to the Railway Children or a less frantic Bodines. Andy joined his brother in Metro Trinity after the EP was released, and the band recorded one more song, “Stupid Friends”, which was issued on a flexi with Debris fanzine later in 1987 alongside “Garage Full Of Flowers”, the debut recording by the Inspiral Carpets which was already referencing the Stone Roses’ “Garage Flower”. But Metro Trinity folded around 1988, just as the Williams twins met up with Goodwin again at the Hacienda.


1991 – 1996 Sub Sub

Influenced by their nights at the home of acid house, Goodwin and the Williams twins ditched their conventional instruments and started to create dance music. They were soon signed to Rob’s Records, run by Rob Gretton, who also became their manager. After a little underground success with their debut “Space Face”, their third single “Ain’t No Love (Ain’t No Use)”, credited to Sub Sub ft Melanie Williams, was a huge success, Melanie’s soulful vocal over the funky seventies disco groove was highly infectious and the single reached number 3 in the UK charts, and garnered a performance on Top Of The Pops.


Sub Sub would not reach such heights again, but continued to issue singles during the mid 90s, and an album “Full Fathom Five” (it’s a Shakespeare reference, Roses fans). They were well regarded by their peers too, recording singles with Tricky and Bernard Sumner as guest vocalists. However their studio was destroyed by a fire on the Williams twins’ birthday and they took the chance to rethink their direction and motivation.

1998 to 2010 – Doves

Goodwin and the Williams twins decided to return to their electric instruments, Goodwin on bass, Jez on guitar and Andy on drums, naming themselves Doves. Still managed by Gretton, Doves started attracting attention with their debut single “The Cedar Room”, released in 1998. Mark Radcliffe played it often on his afternoon Radio One show and it’s mesmerising slow trudge of glacial guitars and a soaring chorus made Doves a band to watch.


A few more singles led to a deal with Heavenly Records and their debut album “Lost Souls” was issued in 2000. Admittedly Goodwin was their lead singer but both Williams brothers were given lead vocals on each album as a measure of democracy. Indeed the album’s lead single “Here It Comes” contrasts verses sung by Andy with Goodwin’s chorus.


The heart of the album was the song which kicked off side two (in old money). “Melody Calls” was again sung by Andy and describes how music can express thoughts which are hard to speak, the second verse is perfect:

“The words don’t come so easy
She can’t say what’s inside
The sounds they do speak for me
The sounds remain forever
Stays with her till morning time”


“Lost Souls” is an album full of heart, rising like a phoenix from the tragedy of the Sub Sub studio fire, defiant and ready to battle again. The LP was dedicated to the memory of Rob Gretton who had passed away during the recording of the album. It was well received and nominated for a Mercury prize for album of the year and “Catch the sun” became a surprise hit single too.

2002 saw the return of Doves, first issuing the single “There Goes The Fear”, an eight minute monster of a song culminating in a Brazillian percussion carnival, and “The Last Broadcast” LP. While “There Goes The Fear”, “Pounding” and the gorgeous “Caught By The River” all charted well, the album allowed the Williams twins to shine too. “M62 Song”, sung by Andy, sounds like it was recorded on a Walkman beside the titular motorways (and Andy sounds oddly like James Roberts of the Sea Urchins and Delta here). On the other hand, Jez gets the opening song “Words”, a powerful statement of intent over driving drums and circling guitar arpeggios, while Jez sings of resilience and self belief, an absolutely cracking album opener.


Doves’ third album “Some Cities” was released in 2005 and again was highly anticipated, the thumping lead single “Black and White Town” was another success but if anything the album suffered from sounding slightly too similar to their previous work in places. Again each Williams twin sang a song, Andy’s “Shadows of Salford” sounded like ‘M62 Song” on piano, but Jez’s “The Storm” was an orchestrated beauty, slow and gorgeous, which in places sounds like a Bond theme. The best song on the album was the closer “Ambition”, recorded live in a church – they were making a video there and were taken by the acoustics. There’s something of the feel of Bark Psychosis in that song.


Maybe Doves knew they were repeating themselves because when they returned in 2009 with their fourth album “Kingdom Of Rust” their music felt familiar yet refreshed, and the electronic elements on songs such as opener “Jetstream” made a difference. That song, sung by Andy, pulsed like Kraftwerk taking “Trans Europe Express” to an airport and was an early album highlight alongside the title track.


Later in the album Andy had another lead vocal on “Compulsion”, where the strangely funky rhythm pattern sounds like A Certain Ratio throwing Chic down the stairs (in a nice way). “Kingdom Of Rust” was a great return to form but after a tour and a greatest hits album, Doves went on hiatus in 2010.

2014 onwards – Black Rivers

Jez and Andy began working on new material outside of Doves from 2012 onwards and started releasing songs and performing live from 2014 under the band name Black Rivers. Their debut album was issued in 2015 and takes in some wider influences than Doves, there’s hints of 60s psychedelia on opener “Diamond Days” while “The Ship” is a second cousin to Portishead’s “The Rip”.


 

Andy and Jez share vocal duties equally and it sounds enough like Doves for most fans to find something familiar in it, especially those characteristic guitar arpeggios of Jez’s on “Voyager 1”. Black Rivers are touring this summer (blimey, they’re playing the Trades Hall in Hebden Bridge, clearly a hotbed of indie in Yorkshire) and should be worth seeing if you have the time.

It seems like the Williams twins still have plenty of great music in them to add to their considerable legacy.

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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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Whose CV will Rob be writing next?

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