Just tell me how you feel…

Lest anTAPAyone should be deceived by the last piece into thinking that this Blog, such as it is, has become anything other than a series of irrelevant postings about whatever takes my fancy, I feel that I should tell you that as well as the new Nap Eyes record, I’ve just spunked away (only word, I’m afraid) most of this month’s EMusic budget on this piece of glorious Peruvian nonsense.

It’s another offering from what is definitely my favourite label around (no, really), Madrid’s fine Vampisoul pressing, home of recent PP picks Elia y Elizabeth, Vainica Doble and various tantalising  ye-ye and boogalu compilations. It’s enormous fun, containing as it does fabulous tracks by such household names as Los Saicos, Traffic Sound and Los Yorks. It also has this fabulous racket:

 

 

I don’t actually know anything about “El Troglodita”, except that miraculously there’s a whole album of his on EMusic.

Now if only I had some credits left…

Nobody faster than Kerry inside…

youth-lagoonPeriods of intense inactivity have been succeeded by similar periods of similarly intense activity and have meant that I’ve once again sorely neglected these already sub-catatonic pages. What to do, eh?

Put a record on, maybe…

Youth Lagoon

Can’t remember who, I’m afraid, but over the Christmas / New Year period with its hysterical parade of Best Of lists, someone was good enough to mention Youth Lagoon’s third record, Savage Hills Ballroom. What with all the other records I was recommended over the period, plus a host of confusion with the similarly named but diametrically opposed Sauna Youth, it’s taken me almost a month to get round to giving it decent listen.

Which is a real shame. What a terrific record it is…

I think I’ve probably fashioned a “ticking-all-the-wrong-boxes” conceit on these pages before, but Savage Hills Ballroom really does all that – whiny vocals; orchestral-style synths; all the trappings of tinny electronica; no guitars, for God’s sake (let along wah-wah or fuzztone). But a day’s driving around the mean(ish) streets of Cheltenham and Gloucester arm in arm with the powerful, anguished tunes of Trevor Powers has sorted this out, good and proper. All done with the power of song – haunting, affecting, clever song writing.

Here’s a Blogotheque (God bless ‘em) Take Away show, filmed in St Ouen, just outside Paris:

 

If you’re sensing in these lines a greater than usual sense of regret and frustration with my Blogging ineptitude, it’s firstly because I’ve only just realised that YL are playing at Thekla tomorrow night (too late) You can then add to this the news last week that Powers announced the end of Youth Lagoon – “I’ve reached the top of a mountain, only to then be able to see a much larger one I want to ascend.” – (too early, far too early…)

As a great man once said,

Bugger…

Who’s gonna throw that minstrel boy a coin?

91d+7ElDX0L._SL1500_This is supposed to be a new-music-cum-gig-journey sort of a Blog (although you could be forgiven for missing that) and so one of the reasons things have been a little quiet here of recent is this rather splendid Christmas present I received three weeks ago.

The Basement Tapes

I spent a large slice of the summer listening to a Best Of collection called The Basement Tapes Raw and reading alongside it Sid Griffin’s blow-by-blow account of this particularly fertile period of Dylan’s career. It’s a collection I became a little obsessed with as August progressed, and the prospect of listening to the whole damn thing began to grow on me.

141103_r25702-1200And now I’ve got my hands on it, I’ve not been at all disappointed, not least because it’s so beautifully presented. There’s a hardback book of photos and notes plus a gorgeous book-like presentation case of the six CDs, all packaged in a reassuringly sturdy boxset case. Gold standard…

Now, I’m not going to go off all completist on you – I’ve always thought, “Who needs multiple versions of one song?” – but, I’ve gotta say, I’m all turned around about it now on this evidence. The two different versions of “Ain’t No More Cane”, for example, are genuinely fascinating, and I’m by no means certain they picked the right one for the Best Of. Furthermore some of the alternate takes are tantalising glimpses of very different versions of certain songs – the second take of “Open the Door Homer”, for example, sounds even more soulful and homespun than either of the other two. It sounds great, truly wondrous, but, tragically, is cut off after just a minute (cue, cries of anguish at this punter’s first listen).

The thing of it is, I’ve never owned a copy of the original (belated) release of The Basement Tapes and what’s more, I’m not even much of a Dylan fan – he’s tended to leave me a little cold – but you hear an entirely (en-tire-ly) different version of the man from what I imagined. There’s a lot of laughing and general larking around, and such a comfortable, relaxed feel to the recordings that you just want to wriggle your shoes off and enjoy the whole private experience.

the-band-basementThe context of the recordings is, of course, that they were made by The Bob and members of the Band, in the mythical Big Pink, over the period of weeks as Dylan convalesced after his motorbike accident (and generally re-evaluated his career and ambitions). From that side, you can understand the generous, almost indulgent feel of the sessions; but at the same time, the Band were in something of a state of flux, unsure of their futures and whether they would have work to go on to. Levon Helm wasn’t even present for most of the sessions, having quit the band, bruised and battered by the events of Dylan’s electric tour. You really wouldn’t know this from the playing (I had no clue, until the Griffin book), the Band sound as loose and cool as ever they did.

The Band are, of course, responsible for my very favourite record of all time – the Brown album and Music from the Big Pink are as good a pair of debut records as will ever be released – and it’s probably this side of the recordings which are what I’m loving, first up. There’s so much more, though, so much heart, …

Anyway, having mentioned The Greatest Record Ever Made, it’s occurred to me there are a bunch of songs here that wouldn’t look out of place on that record (or Big Pink). And so, with that in mind, here’s a new Lucky Seven (Big Pink version):

Lucky Seven (Big Pink version)

(One Too Many Mornings; Ain’t No More Cane; Santa Fe; Open the Door, Homer; Goin’ to Acapulco; I’m Not There; All You Have to do is Dream; Minstrel Boy)

Yeah, I know, eight…

 

Lucky Seven – Some Gigs of 2015

empty-stageI think I mentioned last time that with the end of Euros Childs at Thekla last week, 2015 is now complete as far as live music is concerned. 2014 was a pretty thin year for me, due to a combination of factors, but this year has definitely upped the ante for coming seasons. I’m slightly self-conscious about talking numbers because I know so many serious liggers who might smile indulgently into their Eindhoven Psychlab lanyards, but I think twenty (plus a music festival) is a decent haul for a middle-aged part-timer.

So having scratched about a bit last year, coming up with seven notable live sets of 2015 is a different sort of challenge to wrestle with. Here, then, in roughly chronological order, with an extra recording or two from each set:

The PP Lucky Seven – Live

 

“Worlds that crash each other…”

  1.   White Fence @ The Fleece, January

An electrifying start to the year, which I’d been looking forward to all over Christmas. Augmented by a slightly self-conscious Cate le Bon (not at that time fully bedded in, I felt) I remember being thrilled by Presley’s light, slashing guitar work (a rapier, if you will) and by his habit of wearing his guitar high, like the Beatles or the Hollies. Class. Also saw them in the summer and to be honest they were pretty average, which is ok, leaving as it does a glittering January evening to loiter a while in the mind’s eye.

All of this, and Ultimate Painting doing support.

Anger! Who keeps you under?

 

“Put me on a pedestal I’ll only disappoint you”

2.   Courtney Barnett @ The Fleece, March

This evening seems a very long time ago indeed, but once I listen back to the recordings, it all comes skittering back. Looking back at the lines I wrote at the time, I overuse words like languid and effortless, but the point was definitely worth making, (and repeating even) – Courtney Barnett has wit and intelligence in spades. And this was ably demonstrated over the course of a relaxed, easy-going March evening at the Fleece. Skilfully supported by a sympathetic band of work colleagues, her clever songs stood proudly in front of an enthusiastic clutch of Brizzle punters (with the addition of cool a couple of hipsterish Gloucester gents…)

Pedestrian at Best

 

“Spent some times in stormy weather…”

3.   Super Furry Animals @ The Guildhall, April

Unfortunately, this clip’s not from our show – I used the best one on YouTube in the original post – but it’s how many of this year’s comeback shows started, including SFA’s first gig for six years, in my very own Gloucester. Playing for just over two hours, and showing few signs of rust or arthritis, Super Furry Animals were excellent – powerful, imaginative and above all self-assured. Having seen Gruff play many times, but never with SFA, personally there was something of a sense of relief that I’d been able to do this. That, of course, and the fact that they were so damn good…

The Man Don’t Give a Fuck

“Can’t say I never warn you, can’t say I never tell you…”

4.   Misty in Roots @ The Tunnels, May

Perhaps predictably, I’m afraid there’s no video footage of this intimate little evening at the Tunnels club, underneath Bristol Temple Meads station. And not anything similar, so you’ll have to take my word for it, when I tell you that this too was a magical evening, although in an entirely different way.

Warm, earnest and loose, MiR made light of skanking their way through an hour and a half’s set, to an enthusiastic middle-aged, group of similarly warm, loose, if not quite so earnest souls. I remember being struck at the time that sore fingers and aching limbs permitting, these fellers could have gone on all night, doing what comes naturally. I might have had to sit down, but apart from that, you’d not have heard a murmur of discontent from me or anyone else there. Bewitching stuff…

True Rasta

“It’s not a game of monopoly”

5.   Jah Wobble, The Fleece, July

Again, not much in the way of video evidence, only some very ropey footage (in which I regret to say my bald patch features heavily), but this clip from Manchester shows Wobble in his pomp – wild fingers, toneless, reedy vocals and marvellously iffy dress sense. Another great evening at the Fleece (and the third in this list) which included more than a few PiL numbers, some jazzy tendencies, loads of booming, spaghetti-western-style reggae and dub, and a 15-minute version of the Liquidator. Engaging and captivating throughout, an enormously entertaining evening.

New Mexico Dub

 

“Light as a feather, bright as the Oregon breeze…”

6.   Sufjan Stevens, Colston Hall, September

Carrie and Lowell is a beautiful, sad, profound record and if I’m honest, having got hold of a precious ticket for this gig, I was a little concerned that any live performance would be unable to match the intensity of the record, maybe even spoil it a little (I can think of quite a few records that I’ve never listened to again after seeing the artist live). I needn’t have worried, of course.

A spellbound Colston Hall audience sat back, slack-jawed, as Sufjan put on an incredible show, each song performed with a depth and thoughtfulness that enhanced them further. Don’t think I’ve ever seen an audience as mesmerised by a concert…

Should Have Known Better

(And in the very starkest of contrasts…)

 

“Lauren Lavern keeps playing Tumbling Dice”

7.   Sleaford Mods, Bierkeller, October

Actually, I’ve said the Bierkeller but the May gig was just as good, and although the footage here is actually from that date at the Exchange, I could’ve done either. Both were just brilliant, loud, bleak, profane and above all witty. Still not got much clue what he’s singing about most of the time, but, really, it’s your gut Williamson speaks to mostly…

White hot…

Bronx in a Six (Exchange)

Bronx in a Six (Bierkeller)

Auntie Clancy and Uncle Dillard…

maxresdefaultWent to the recently-spruced up Thekla for the first time in ages, last week, to see the evergreen, ever-whimsical Euros Childs, and a quality evening it was too.

Euros

Having scrambled to get in on time, (and therefore missed the support band – something of a feature of this year), we were treated to a lovely show, full of off-kilter charm and light melancholy, with Euros backed by his own keyboard but also by a full band, including the thrilling mandolin-flute of Laura J Martin.

Mostly, he ran through the group of bewitching songs that make up his new record, Sweetheart and very good they were; but thrillingly, he did manage to find time to fit in a jaunty version of one of my favourites, “Heywood Lane”, and by a stroke of very good fortune, there’s this footage of it from another leg of the tour:

 

And while on YouTube, I came across this little gem, which features a charmingly inept Mel Fung inviting Euros and a couple of other musicians I didn’t know, to play outside her house in Cardiff. There’s chatting, drinking, table tennis and a bit of singing. Look out particularly for the part where the power fails but… trooper that he is, Euros ploughs on, plonking away on a dead keyboard until he’s plugged back in.

 

Inexplicably, I forgot to take my little recording device with which I like to capture these events, so I’m afraid there’s nowt to show for my last gig of ‘15.

It did get me thinking about the gigs I’ve managed this year, though…

As lovers we did not fail…

769106It’s the time of the season when I’m anxiously scanning through the end-of-year lists that are starting to appear in magazines, for all those indispensable releases I’ve contrived to miss. It’s a bit of a job, I can tell you, and not one that I ever manage to complete satisfactorily, the pile of “should’ve bought / should’ve listened to better” records seems to grow more and more substantial every year. The situation is not helped by my own attention-span-of-goldfish tendencies, nor by well-meaning friends who send me dazzling records from years gone by …

Axxess and Ace

This time, the record in question is Jason Molina’s wonderful, spare, incredibly weary Axxess and Ace, which came out six years ago, but which I, of course, missed even though it was no doubt part of 2009’s pile.

It’s a helluva a record, full of understated recriminations and bitter bewilderment, all conveyed in the simplest, harshest terms with the minimum of fuss, played out by Molina’s workmanlike guitar style, some sympathetic drumming and the occasional contribution from bass, or backing vocals. He’s a man singing from literal and metaphorical depths.

I was going back and looking at some of the reviews written at the time and in a rare moment of lucidity, Pitchfork’s review seems prescient (if a little hammy):

“This is that rare kind of album that won’t grab you until you’ve reached a certain mood, at which point it will unexpectedly brandish the switchblade it was hiding in its back pocket and carve its initials into your heart.”

Not sure, I’ve “reached a certain mood” but I’m encouraged by this nonetheless.

There’s not a lot of really good video of A & A Molina or Songs: Ohia available, it seems, but there is one remarkable collection of material by a feller called Matthew Siegfried who has posted such a lot of Molina videos and recordings that I can’t help think there’s a connection. A lot of the videos are soundboard recordings of gigs and they’re really good quality.

Here’s one of “Captain Badass” from Axxess and Ace, in Cork:

 

For laughs, if you go back to here, you’ll see the records I actually nominated as my best of 2009; they’re OK, but no mention of Jason Molina anywhere…

Now…

I need to get onto that Ryley Walker record…

I’d do it all again for another crack at the hit parade. Oh what do you think?

wreckless-eric-650x400Lawks-a-mussy! A new record by this old rascal…

Such is the lack of interest in Wreckless Eric these days that I quite literally know not a single person who is likely to care in the slightest about a new Eric Goulden long player. But since I became aware in the nineties of his irregular trickle of eccentric and rather uneven albums, he’s become a bit of a furtive pleasure of mine.

Wreckless Eric

I think I wrote a while back about the Hitsville Houseband, but another favourite of mine was the 2008 joint release with wife Amy Rigby, all the old battered and kicked-about charm of old still very much to the fore. A post-punk version of the Johnny & June / Gram & Emmylou thing, if you will, all seen through the eyes of Tom Waits.

I was going to look for a YouTube clip from that record but came across something much better:

 

Wreckless Eric. The Flamin’ Groovies. What’s not to like?

Amy Rigby plays on the new record too, but AmERICa is more of a Wreckless Eric release than their previous joint release. I’ve only just bought it and given it a couple of listens today, but it’s going to be a lovely record. I’m already enjoying it.

And you can too! Yes, the whole thing is available for live streaming on his Bandcamp page. And if I can get it right…

 

He’s even touring now… Maybe it’s finally Eric’s time!

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