Anyone’s guess how I got here!

CFpYpUyWMAAvmzt (1)Wow!

Gr-ea-t, rough night at the Exchange on Friday, courtesy of the indomitable Sleaford Mods.

Just, wow!

I’ve been to the Exchange a few times and always had a good time, but it always strikes me how small the place is. I remember Suuns and Speedy Ortiz being pretty packed, even though they’re pretty much niche bands still, so I was imagining it might get a bit tight with the Sleaford Mods in town. Simple… play two nights.

Old school, not sure too many bands would do that, these days.

Sleaford Mods at the Exchange, Bristol

Missed most of Kogumaza’s dense, swirling set, but they might be worth having a look at another time. Their standard indie, grungy look made the shambling figures who presently made their way to the stage stand out even more.

Andrew Fearn wandered on first and stood patiently on stage, obligatory beer bottle in hand, waiting for Jason Williamson to come skittering on later. Fearn’s role is apparently to sort out the rhythms and samples (they’re great, by the way – razor sharp, cheap and nasty beats and brain-numbing basslines), so by the time they’re on stage his only remaining function is to press a button and stand around looking pleased with himself.

Williamson, on the other hand, is a right old bundle of nervy anger and jerky awkwardness. Launching into a set which didn’t last much longer than an hour but which seemed to work in double time; it was as if he was drawing two breaths to every one of the rest of us. Shifting erratically about the stage, using a series of eccentric tics and semi-autistic gestures, he tore through a (Mc) flurry of sweary, semi-coherent tongue twisters with jaw-dropping energy and no-little dexterity. At the time, we thought he looked a bit like severely-constrained Mick Jagger in some of his stylings, but when Josie saw the YouTube videos afterwards, she said straight away that he had something of Ian Dury about him. (And she’s right…)

It was a cracking set, taking in Jobseeker, Jolly Fucker and Tied Up in Notts amongst a bunch of other profane classics. I would’ve liked to hear him deliver the “You walk around like you just wrote Jimmy Mac, fuck off, twat!” line from The Committee, but there was more than enough wit and smart-arsery to satisfy even the archest of punters.

He blew raspberries, swore royally and joked about like he was having a rare old time. Introducing the last song, he apologised for the shorter set and quipped that the previous night they’d played for two hours, brought sandwiches along and gave everyone a tenner. And with that he steamed into a version of Jobseeker which was actually a fair bit more boisterous than this version from the Thursday night

(Presumably the feller with the sandwiches was round the other side…)

The recordings are a bit raucous but pretty representative of a hugely exciting evening. Get it down!

A Little Ditty

Jobseeker

Tied Up In Notts

Tarantula Deadly Cargo

I say you please return me, will you ever return me?

IMG_1250I’ve come to realise in the course of the barrel-full of wayward posts I’ve put together over the years that I’m definitely one for over-hyping bands, records, gigs. Using “great” when “quite good” might be more accurate would be one thing I probably should work on when composing a gig review. But then, where’s the fun in that?

Having said this, there are obviously loads of “great” bands out there, I just don’t think I’ve manage to catch too many of them, live and in their pomp. This being the West Country and all. But… occasionally… as I think I’ve said before, every now and then our dear old, jaded, faded Guildhall manages to pull a truly great band. And this Tuesday, the magnificent Super Furry Animals took to the stage for the first time in six years, and they were here in Gloucester.

Wha?!?

Super Furry Animals at the Guildhall

I actually had tickets to see Dan Mangan and Blacksmith at Thekla for the evening (a very good evening by all accounts) but when the news emerged of SFA playing a warm up for their big dates to come, I did what I had to do…

The old place was full (thankfully – I do worry about these things…) and the queue for a beer was reassuringly long. Essentials duly taken care of, SFA shambled onstage at eight thirty and it all kicked off.

Dressed in lugubrious white contamination suits, they launched straight into a full-throated sequence of songs that included Rings Around the World, Do or Die, Show Me Magic and Demons It was an impressive, dynamic start: it looked like they were determined to pick up where they had left off. I’ll put it down to nerves that there wasn’t much of a connection with what was an enthusiastic audience, made up mostly of middle aged hipsters who had presumably grown up buying Guerrilla, Phantom Power and Radiator.

In fact, they barely spoke to each other either and it was hard not to draw conclusions from the stage places – Gruff Rhys on the far left of the podium, everyone else on the far right, the middle ground only taken up by drums and the occasional appearances from the two trumpet players.

It’s such a songbook they have though, that you couldn’t be worrying about that for very long. All of the first six albums were pretty heavily drawn on, there being distinct Radiator, Guerrilla and Mwng phases. (Mwng, by the way, is being re-released tomorrow). There were a good few songs I didn’t know, although on looking them up later, I don’t think any of them were actually new.

By the end of a pretty generous two hour set, everything and everyone had warmed up considerably (including one tired and emotional punter bellowing from the front “I’ve already pissed myself twice!” in a hoarse valleys accent). The band were beginning to enjoy themselves and had loosened up considerably. Yeti costumes were pulled on, Gruff donned his Power Rangers helmet and the encore stretched out to almost half an hour – you felt that without a curfew, they might have gone on longer.

There’s already a YouTube clip online – and doubtless there’ll be more:

 

The recordings are good, and include some pretty decent highlights (I could’ve chosen almost any of the 25 songs they played):

Hometown Unicorn

Do or Die

Ymaelodi ar Ymylon

God! Show Me Magic

Bad Behaviour

A great evening that I shall remember for a long time. The rest of the tour promises to be something special…

Psychologically speaking we’re in a state of mental diarrhoea – talkin’ shit, a barrel a minute

gclinton-1429537034A remarkable, boisterous, overwhelming evening at Bristol Academy last Friday in the company of a rather strange old gentleman from another planet…

P-Funk at Bristol Academy

In truth, I’m not sure where or when Funakadelic begat Parliament, or when either of them begat P-Funk. I wouldn’t be surprised if the great George Clinton was a little fuzzy about it too (in fact I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t). And I had absolutely no idea what to expect of the latest tour from such a notoriously eccentric character, but lawks! What an evening!

I’m quite enjoying the ride down to Bristol these days, now the weather’s kinder and work finishes in daylight hours, and as a result I had the chance to drive down in the sunshine, enjoying re-familiarising myself with the only Parliament record I own – 1970’s Osmium, a pretty eclectic affair it has to be said. On arrival (or “landing” as I should probably refer to it from here on), I spent a rather serene couple of hours chilling out in the Park Street area, gracing a couple of record stores and loafing about in St George’s park. All of which turned out to be a deceptively chilled start to what turned into some sort of inferno of an evening.

In a 2014 interview, Clinton was asked what he expected from a concert audience

“I expect them to shake their ass.” he said, “I’m expecting that there’s a whole lot of booties gonna be jumping around and having a good time. My job is to make sure that booties shake. Im gonna have everyone bring two booties and we will double the shaking.”

As the skinniest and whitest of skinny, white guys, I’m a little uncomfortable around talk like this and the prospect of one of those evenings where you may be required to shake your skinny, white ass, even just a little, makes me feel queasy. And, within seconds of George Clinton arriving with an entourage that at times swelled to as many as 18 people on stage at the same time, it was pretty obvious that, yeah, I’d walked into one such time. But c’mon, what was I thinking?

It was an honour and a privilege.

At this point, a word about audience participation: I’m not a fan, I’ve railed about it before. All I can say is that, with apologies to Colin Melloy, when the actual Dr Funkenstein tells you to put your hands in the air, well… Again, An honour… A privilege…

Looking rather dapper, and comparatively sober in jacket and tie (no dreads, no wings, no spandex), he still looked ridiculously sprightly. Flanked by a rhythm section (sans Bootsy, I’m afraid), two lead guitarists, three backing singers, at least four other singers/comperes, a brass section and assorted keyboard players, it could’ve looked like Clinton was going to spend at least some of the time on the sidelines, enjoying the fruits of his labours, letting the next generation take the strain a little. That wasn’t really how it panned out, though. With only the briefest of sitting breaks, Clinton led his curious ensemble through a two and a half hour set which made nonsense of his barely credible 74 years.

As a spectacle, it was at times breath-taking, dancers and musicians mingling onstage like some sort of jiggy circus. At one point, and at various times during the evening, a particularly outlandish character dressed in a full-length sheepskin coat and wide-brimmed sheepskin hat strolled on and draped himself about the stage exotically, across musicians, atop speaker stacks and in and out of the audience, leading a troupe of Bristol Laydeez onto the stage.

Clearly it was never going to be a refined evening and a degree of self-indulgence was a given – a twelve minute version of Maggot Brain, gave way to an eight minute scat singing opus at one point – but there were some moments of real poise alongside the delirious movement of bodies throughout.

A great, great evening, which restored my faith in old guys. Highlights were a gigantic version of One Nation, a pretty demented Atomic Dog and, well, all of the grooving.

There are already a few clips on YouTube, this one being my favourite:

 

Crikey! In truth I’ve not yet got through the full 160 minutes of the recording, but they’re ok, reflecting a raucous evening pretty accurately. Here are a couple of disorderly highpoints

Mothership Connection

One Nation Under a Groove

Furia en la Corazón!

los_aos_ye-ye-cuando_espaa_hizo_popMay I interest you folk in a little Sixties Ye-Yé, straight outta Franco’s Spain?

Just came back from a bit of a city-break type thing in Liverpool and a jolly good time was had by all. Sights were seen, tapas was eaten and alcohol was drunk. Oh yeah, and one or two CDs were purchased…

Paid my second ever visit to the near-legendary Probe Records, too, now in School Lane, but still going strong (my first visit was in 1982, when I almost literally bumped into Pete Burns, thumbing through the singles racks. Spent rest of the day expecting to find myself sat next to Julian Cope on the bus…). I spent a happy hour or so going through their shelves, and left with a substantially lighter wallet but a bag full of esoteric goodies. I’ll no doubt start banging on about most of the stuff at a later date (there was a Robert Wyatt record amongst them and you know I’m not going to be able to resist writing about that…) but in the meantime…

¡Chicas!

The record I was most deliriously excited about and I’ve played almost continually since getting home is this, though, the second volume of Vampisoul’s sparkling “¡Chicas!” compilation. The first volume was good enough, with many, many memorable moments such as Vainila Doble’s weirdly psychedelic “La Maquina Infernal”, Sonya’s ballsy “Aqui en mi nube” and this by the delightfully bonkers Pili y Mili – “Un Chico Moderno”:

 

Played the record to death when we came back from Madrid the year before last, but to be honest, if anything, this second volume is even better than the first. It’s full to bursting with daft but unwaveringly groovy numbers from beginning to end, all of which seem to have eluded Franco’s eagle-eared sensors. Watch this, for instance, by French singer Claudine Coppin “40 grados a la sombre”. The sound’s not great – there’s a better sounding version on YouTube but it doesn’t have this top footage from the film of the same name:

 

So anyway, I was thinking it must be about time I put together a Ye-Yé Lucky Seven post and, well, here it is, you lucky, lucky people…

Lucky Seven – ¡Chicas!

Pochoclo – Las Trillizas de Oro (disturbingly bonkers version of “Popcorn” complete with the frothiest of lyrics. What’s not to like?)

Come, C’mon – The Satin Bells (a group of Liverpool lasses – so that’s appropriate – who moved to Spain and released a clutch of ill-fated singles. I’m slightly disappointed that it’s in English but nonetheless it’s a rather steamy little number…)

Tabú Tabú – Sola (another burner, with soulful Mexican vocals and a feckless, wandering bassline that won’t be told…)

No Te Acuerdas de mí – Marisa Medina (really ballsy song, belted out by the redoubtable Sra Medina, complete with full band, flutes and a jaunty little touch of Eddy-esque twang)

Soy una Nube – Elia y Elizabeth (my favourite track from another superb Vampisoul collection of this pair of sisters’ greatest hits. Lovely driving bass and guitar combination, superbly led by hippy child vocals. Really great stuff)

Hey, Hey Bunny – Los Gatos Negros (Not actually a “chica” as such, but a groovy mid-sixties number, driven on by a brass section and electric organ combination that is pretty damn irresistible. Could surely have been a Northern Soul classic…)

Furia – Furia (Finally, something a little later, early seventies I’m guessing. A heavyish, somewhat proggy hummer, driven but always danceable.)

I’d give anything to have skin like you…

Courtney-BarnettBought the new Courtney Barnett record a couple of weeks ago and it’ll come as no surprise to you that it’s a real zinger, packed full of languid observations, entertaining remarks and more than a few poignant moments. Imagine, if you will, therefore, the added sheen that began to appear around the ticket pinned to our board for the young Aussie’s Bristol date. Live music! Whooo-ee!

Courtney Barnett at The Fleece

As is becoming a bit of a habit, we missed the first act, hanging around in the pub next door for too long; which is a shame as, according to friends who showed up at a decent time, Fraser Gorman was pretty good and was supported from the floor by his host herself – a gesture of solidarity that I’ve always thought says a lot. Spring King, the second support, band were certainly a game bunch thrashing through an edgy, enthusiastic set which made me think I should investigate them at a later date.

Courtney Barnett came on early (about nine, I think), looking in disappointingly robust good health (the cartoon picture I’d been nurturing in my head was of a slightly neurotic, ashen-faced, over-sensitive soul). Overcoming a few sound problems at first, she worked through a cheerful, business-like set which I really enjoyed, and which went down well with a packed Fleece audience.

She played a lot of material from the new record, running from the Witty (Elevator Operator) through the Menacing (Pedestrian at Best) to the Moving (Illustration of Loneliness) – all of it laced with an easy, almost offhand charisma. Ably supported by a bass and drums unit that showed no inclination to upstage her – I say this because as is my ridiculously fussy wont these days, I felt one or two of the songs on the record suffered a little from over-assertive “musicians”. In fact the bass-player nominated onstage to look after the merch stall afterwards (and give away kisses with any and all purchases – I resisted, in case you’re wondering…)

The whole set came and went alarmingly quickly, and with the briefest of encores (an unexpected Easybeats cover to be fair) she was gone. Terrific, in-and-out, stuff – job’s a good ‘un…

As ever, the sound at the Fleece was tip-top and the recordings have come out quite well; I warmly urge you to avail yourselves.

Elevator Operator

Pedestrian at Best

Avant Gardener

I’ll Make You Happy

 

Tell you straight – you’re never gonna get enough time

Sharon_Tandy_small(Went to see the charming Courtney Barnett last week and I mean to write about it… very soon… but in the meantime. I don’t want to let this go by unmarked…)

Sharon Tandy, freakbeat / yeh-yeh queen of the mod sixties, passed away last week, after a long illness. Really, really sad news – another voice that somehow got away. I wrote some stuff about her about a year ago when I was first arrested by her and the string of blistering records she made with the Fleur de Lys between ’67 and ’69. But there’s some rather nice lines put together by Alec Palao on the Ace Records site which you should certainly read.

A quick skim through YouTube will get you familiar with the basic stuff, but if you can’t be bothered, here’s the searing “Gotta Get Enough Time” from that period

 

and just to balance things out a little, here’s one from the other drawer, “One Way Street”

 

Beautiful, ballsy and damn sexy…

All instant gratification…

ultimate-paintingAnd so it goes.

Another month has tip-toed past, its collar turned up to its eyebrows, and again I never noticed. Gah!

For a while now, I’ve been saying I’ll post some songs from the “recent” Ultimate Painting set at The Fleece, (yeah, I know January doesn’t seem very “recent” to me, either…) and now I notice they’re up for Green Man this year. Seems as good a time as any…

Ultimate Painting

If you felt sufficiently moved, you could describe Ultimate Painting as some sort of fey-indie-pop supergroup, in that the heart of the band is Jack Cooper from Mazes, and James Hoare from Veronica Falls, genuine next generation indie royalty, if you will, although still not registering high on my interest scale previously. I think I did buy the first Mazes record but it didn’t really stick and Veronica Falls are another band that have evaded me completely. I need to go back and do some revisiting there, because Ultimate Painting are just my sort of thing.

An Ultimate Painting album appeared towards the end of last year on the flawless Trouble in Mind and a swift trip through the reviews of it will bring you words like “autumnal”, “breezy”, “jangle” and more often than not “Velvet Underground”, which pretty much tells you what you need to know. I should say, though, that we’re not talking howling, screeching Factory period VU, more like 1969 VU – all light, uptight rhythm guitar and melody. I can’t be arsed to read all the reviews, but the other name that’ll definitely come up will be that of Teenage Fanclub and, hey, surely that’ll do it for you – the Gold Standard, after all.

To be fair (lazy pigeon-holing aside), Ultimate Painting have their own spindly, slightly melancholic sound, propelled by an energetic pair of interwoven, elastic-y rhythm and lead guitars, backed by their own austere rhythm section of spongy bass and cardboard box drummer. Both Cooper and Hoare take vocals, presumably backing each other’s songs, and giving anxious, slightly scruffy versions of each of the pair’s delicate tunes. It’s instantly likeable, and the lyrics bear a second (third) listen.

I’ve been reading a chapter in David Byrne’s book about how the ability to record music had a profound effect on live music itself. The gist of it is that live performances of songs were forced to change fundamentally as the recorded medium grew, and that the need to integrate with recording technologies has changed music irrevocably. I think he’s arguing against the tendency to assume that live performances should be reflections of recorded output (I say, “I think” – he’s a clever guy…). I’m not sure where this leaves Hoare and Cooper because on the night their performance sounded pretty much identical to their record – not a lot of improv or stagecraft. (Compare this with White Fence’s set later that night, which had versions of songs from his record that were almost unrecognisable…)

I’m quite happy with it, though, they sounded great on the night and I greatly enjoyed their set; and I suppose you could argue that with their record coming out pretty quickly, their songs had not grown from live performance, but I think from impromptu sessions backstage, when Cooper’s band supported Hoare’s in the US. However it was, I’ve a respect for songs that stand up on their own.

Favourite tunes are the self-titled opening track (which of course gives you a UP full house) and the beautiful, reassuringly fogey-ish, “Rolling in the Deep End”

Ultimate Painting

Rolling in the Deep End

Central Park Blues

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