Late discovery can often lead to a feeling of loss; people hearing those half buried treasures years later can sometimes experience a sense of being strangely unfulfilled, hostages to the fortune of an obscure record from which they’re no longer able to glean context or comparison.
Many listeners to the work of Michael Head, be it in the guise of cult heroes Shack or here as frontman of The Strands, are struck at first with that kind of profound realisation that – without hyperbole – one of the voices of a generation has been orbiting around them, tantalisingly out of reach until some sort of chance encounter.
The Liverpudlian’s story is as tragi-comic as any artist of the twentieth century, one which even severely abridged includes major label head fucks, studio fires, lost master tapes and drug addiction. The good news, however, is that the counterpoint was yard after yard of brilliant, exquisitely crafted songwriting which in retrospect should be as ubiquitous as it is mercurial. Sadly, the singer remains the kind of buried treasure only those lucky enough to find the end of rainbow will know about.
“It’s always around me, all this noise,” is the opening lyrical couplet on Tame Impala’s exceptional third album ‘Currents‘.
Kevin Parker, the band’s mastermind, has always tried to make sense of the chaos that surrounds his life. The project’s previous two albums were covered in hazy guitars, the songs often organically evolved in kaleidoscopic drug friendly jams.
Parker’s introverted lyrics regularly detailed instances of anxiety and being overwhelmed by the world at large. The world around remains a disorienting loud haze but, on ‘Currents’, Parker turns his artistic kaleidoscope, gaining a new perspective musically and personally, while transforming his artistic vision and range.
It’s not a return, it’s not a comeback, it’s quite simply a reaffirmation.
In the decades that have ensued since The Jesus and Mary Chain‘s inception their influence on music has been almost inestimable. They brought together disparate styles of music and, with the purest of rock and roll attitudes, quite simply ripped everything to pieces and rolled around in the detritus.
The result was music in its most primal and sordid state.
The music on ‘Live At Barrowlands‘ is a step by step lesson in what can be achieved with a simple blend of distortion, amplification and a big fuck you to everything that has gone before – that is with the exception of the majesty of Phil Spector’s teen operas from bands like The Ronettes. Every track is emblematic of their sound and style, all pushing a unique agenda without ever becoming repetitive or a rehashed.
Every so often an album is released which leads you saying to yourself, “I wonder how this was made?”.
Not because of the obvious – notes were sung, chords were strummed and drums were hit – but because its scope and intricacy are so imaginative and fascinating.
Fascinating is a word that sounds, in this twenty first century, a lot more affected and prissy than it used to, however it’s an adjective which sits comfortably with ‘Architect‘s timeless, charming aesthetic and in Christopher Duncan we appear to have unearthed a writer/composer of rare talent.
The son of classical musicians, his debut album was built in a Glasgow flat using a painstaking process of recording each instrument at a time to evolve the music naturally like a stalactite, allowing for his singular vision to be maintained across the process.
There’s been a general election in Britain since Sleaford Mods‘ last album ‘Divide & Exit‘ was released to an unsuspecting public in 2014.
The result in itself was shocking enough as the voting public returned a right wing majority government to Parliament for the first time in more than twenty years, but even more insidious was the rise to acceptance of the proto-Nationalist group UKIP who, despite their monotheistic approach to policy and barely disguised racism, won almost four million votes.
Now this instills paranoia amongst the rational, as suddenly the realisation hits that the person sat next to you on the bus, filling up at at the petrol station, or handing you some change at a shop could be one of them, a shy Tory, a shy fascist, or an even shyer nut job, manipulated by a handful of self-serving media barons. The populous have knee-jerked themselves into half a decade of servitude to the ruling classes.
If the Mods’ polemical frontman Jason Williamson could raise much more than a jaded “f*ck off” at the result, it’s not obvious here. ‘Key Markets‘ may be playing to an ever more splintered country, but the duo’s ethos and core messages remain the same; being trust no-one, think for yourself, look after your own and disavow anything that smells like modern culture.
The Statue Thieves are a psychedelic rock band from North London whose sound ingrates elements of country, blues, and even funk – like the best artists synthesizing a multitude of influences, while at the same time creating something totally brand new.
‘Revolutions In Your Mind‘ is the band’s latest EP, and it sees them coming more in tune with their own sound.
With bands like Ex Hex and Savages achieving success, there’s no shortage of fantastic girl led rock n’ roll bands around. But a fierce and heavy hitting four-piece band hailing from Manchester called PINS is one of most promising to come along in a while. For those who aren’t familiar, PINS isn’t your typical retro rock girl-group; their influences range from the jangle fuzz of The Jesus and Mary Chain to poppy thunderous pop/rock of Hole. Two years after releasing their debut album Girls Like Us, and fresh off of a UK tour in which they opened for legendary punk rockers Sleater-Kinney – the band return with their moody sophomore album Wild Nights (Bella Union). With this second effort, Faith Holgate and company build upon their signature dark drone filled sound. The band drips with a daring dark coolness that would make Lou Reed nod in approval.
The twenty first century seems like such a difficult one for the sensitive young lad: pulled from pillar to post psychologically, such are the conflicted messages he’s bombarded with daily he hardly seems to know if it’s best to embrace his femininity or alternatively man up. One last refuge does remain for anyone wandering lonely as cloud though: the darkest recesses of the bedroom are still welcoming even in the 3D printer age, complete with suitably introvert music to darken the mood to taste.
Amid the ever-competitive race for innovation within a saturated music scene, ‘Multi-Love’ by Unknown Mortal Orchestra is special. With the help of old synthesizers –which Ruban Nielson rebuilt himself – the new album borrows from many genres and sounds, but is something unique in its entirety. Funk, disco, soul, r’n’b and psychedelia inter-mesh to form a note-by-note aura of transcendental metamorphosis. Even Nielson’s voice has a different edge on each track. Sometimes his deeply melodic, from-within-a-tin-can vocals sound like they’re subdued by thick fog and sometimes sharpened by a stony rasp.
A trio from Wakefield, The Grand have very little in common with the city’s other recent musical export, The Cribs.
Whereas the brothers Jarman have made their anti-career through dissecting the minutiae of life taking place in a goldfish bowl, Messrs. Andy Jennings, Thomas Peel and Russ Smith write songs which they describe somewhat ambiguously as, “Transatlantic Pop”, in the process mining influences which have their roots well outside of the boundaries of West Yorkshire.
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