Every step I take, I think my feet are getting older

Some feller calling himself Devotional Hooligan has left a comment on an old post of mine about Green Man. Apparently the Robin Hitchcock recordings I made have gone down, and Mr Hooligan has asked for a re-up (I’ve got to stop watching quite so much of the Wire).Couldn’t be happier to oblige, mate, and what’s more I found another recording, taken at the same event, of Mr Hitchcock singing Robin Williamson’s Chinese White.


I Can Hear the Grass Grow


River Man

Chinese White

The words “breath” and “bated” spring to mind as I continue to post my best of lists. As I said the other day, my record buying habits are such that whether an album is new or not rarely enters into my thinking. In fact I’m very often unaware of a release date until I get round to preparing these sort of lists. Some of the records I’ve been most excited about in 2009 are already a few years old. I’m a little slow.

So this first list runs down some of the nearly new records I’ve really enjoyed this year:

Seven Nearly New Classics of 2009

Coles Corner – Richard Hawley
Love, Ire & Song – Frank Turner
For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver
This Nation’s Saving Grace – The Fall
Snow Tyres – Unbunny
Lost Wisdom – Mount Eerie , Julie Doiron , Fred Squire
The Wailing Souls at Channel One – Wailing Souls

Some of these I’m embarrassed to have only just cottoned onto, some I feel that I’m arriving at fashionably late after all the fuss has died down. They’re all great records that have enriched my life this year.

Seven Records You Should Probably Buy
(Even though I haven’t…)

The Hazards of Love – The Decemberists

(actually, I have just bought this, not much liking it so far…)
Real Estate – Real Estate (ditto)
Merriweather Post Pavilion – Animal Collective
(I just know this is going to be too difficult for me, and it’ll end up being flung across the room)
Tarot Sport – Fuck Buttons
Psychic Spasms – Neon Indian
Fever Ray – Fever Ray (highly recommended by Mr Cole)
Bitte Orca – The Dirty Projectors (even more highly recommended by the aforementioned Blogger)
And finally…

The Seven Best Records of 2009

But, anyway, what can you do? You can’t get them all can you?

Actually, once I got round to checking out which records were new and which weren’t, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much quality music has been released this year. Honourable mentions go to the Volcano Choir, the Antlers, Califone, Vic Chesnutt, You Can Be a Wesley, Euros Childs, the Leisure Society, the Phantom Band, Art Brut, the Lemonheads and Sin Fang Bous, who all produced good records that I’ve enjoyed listening to, but sorry fellers, no cigar…

So here we go, no particular order, I love them all

Veckatimest – Grizzly Bear
Two lovely performances – at Green Man and in Bristol – certainly enhanced this record for me, but even without that, how can you fail to be entranced by those harmonies and complex arrangements?

The Liberty of Norton Folgate – Madness
I’ve always been keen on Madness and their ability to write a decent pop song, and it’s particularly gratifying to see older gentlemen writing mature songs.
Idiot Child

Album– Girls
“Weedy”, “adenoidal” and “morbid” are all phrases that flash through the mind when you hear this. Their performance at the Cooler confirmed everything, (rather reassuringly so in fact) and added “Hunky Dory” to the list…
Lust for Life

The xx – The xx
The xx are another band who crept under my creaking radar system this year and another band who produced an eponymous classic for me. Right now I can’t get it off the iPhone…
Heart Skipped a Beat

The Crying Light – Antony and the Johnsons
Another record that benefited dramatically from my seeing it performed. It’s that voice again, obviously, but also his ability to write aching, moving songs that makes him continue to stand out.
Her Eyes Are Underneath the Ground

Hometowns – the Rural Alberta Advantage
Great songs and a punchy restless approach made this record a cut above all the other Americana-style releases of the year. Basically, a jumpy, beaty record pushed on by the busiest drummer of the year.
Don’t Haunt This Place

Survival – Forest Fires
Another American record, sounding a lot like the Let It Bleed era Stones and embellished by yukes and other old tyme instruments. Some ugly awkward lyrics as well. Fascinating stuff.
Echoes Coming

In the Court of the Wrestling Let’s – Let’s Wrestle
And speaking of ugly awkward stuff, my last record makes a virtue of a Seeds-ish lack of virtuosity. An eager, wholehearted record that owes something to Art Brut and which actually pushes Eddie Argos off my list. It’s a funny old world, eh?
I Won’t Lie to You

Eight you say? Ah c’mon, who’s counting?

Happy New Year.

Like I said, I’m getting a bit of a taste for this list-writing mullarkey. So this next one is concerned with what was a characteristic of the year for me – live music. Basically, it’s been a stonking year for live music in the West Country, the best I can remember for a good while.

Six Cracking Gigs of 2009

(in chronological order)

David Byrne, Colston Hall, March
A wonderful, winning return from a man who had passed from my consciousness many years ago. Memorable for the choreography as much as the music

Anthony & the Johnsons, Colston Hall, May
Reminded me why I was so impressed by their previous album and made me go and listen to the new album a bit more closely. A remarkable performance.

Bon Iver, Green Man, August
Not having really listened to the album properly, wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy his set. I needn’t have worried, an atmospheric and moving performance, all pulled off with genuine humility. With hindsight, my highlight of a great festival. I actually have a recording of the set, and I can’t understand why I never posted it. I’ll remedy this ASAP.

Frank Turner, the Anson Rooms, October
One of those events that grew and grew in my mind as the days followed on from the gig. From being a complete Turner novice at the start of the month, I felt like a veteran by the end of it. Probably the warmest gig I have ever been to but it didn’t stop Frank putting a helluva a session.

The Fall, Jesters, November
A belated rite of passage for me really, and by all accounts up there with some of their better performances. “A glorious racket”.

Lou Rhodes, Thekla, November
What started out as a bit of an away day in the big (well, medium) smoke, turned into a breath-taking gathering in the company of the ex Lamb singer. A very special feel to the evening altogether.

Primal Scream, The Guildhall, December
Overcoming the Guildhall’s dodgy electrics and any tendency towards a spreading waistline, as skinny and as white as ever, Bobby Gillespie remains textbook rock’n’roll. Another rattling evening.

And one other…

Roky Erickson, Green Man, August
Alright, he wasn’t very good – pretty turgid blues rock, if truth be told. But… there he was a mythological figure from another time (another planet really) on stage before us. And he did You’re Gonna Miss Me – if only I’d brought my electric jug with me…

A Proposition…

Everyone does lists at this time of the year don’t they? Best album of the year / decade etc. I don’t really like making lists like that partly because it takes a certain amount of prior planning and organization and partly because, as you’ll have noticed, I dot around, not really noticing what’s new and what’s not. After all, if you’ve not heard it before, it’s new right?

But anyway, not to be churlish, let’s get into the spirit of things…

Five Events that Made my Year

My iPhone – getting myself an iPhone in October proved to be every bit as distracting and fascinating as I’d hoped it would be. I love the touch screen and being able to push icons around on the screen, I love the combination of wireless connectivity and playing music, and I love the Apps. I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface so far, but I am loving it.

Podcasts – one of the upshots of getting the iPhone was that I have discovered the world of Podcasting. Somehow, I’ve never quite got into listening to podcasts previously, mainly because I’ve now gone back to using iTunes, which makes it very easy to keep up with a particular podcast. Current favourites are The Word podcast, The Classic Albums Podcast, Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone, The Football Ramble and Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews.

My First Fall Gig – They’ve always been there, but I’d never seen them before, a little like the Queen (in so many ways…)

Green Man – What a difference a bit of sunshine makes. Previous years had been characterised by expansive rain falls and too long spent huddled in tents feeling wretched, but this year the sun came out and it was a wonderful experience. Highlights were listening to Jah Wobble and Joe Boyd reminiscing , being berated by David Thomas, meeting a few new friends, the new Chah Wallai tent, great sets by Bon Iver and Grizzly Bear and seeing Roky Erickson in the flesh.

Rediscovering the Fall – You’re probably all bored of my going about this, suffice to say that 2009 has been the year Mark E Smith came back into focus for me (albeit a somewhat fuzzy sort of a focus…)

The Wire – actually strike that, 2009 has been chiefly characterised by the obsessive and increasingly impatient wait for the next disk of The Wire to come through my letter box from LoveFilm. It’s been a fantastic journey, one that I would heartily recommend to anyone – easily the best thing I have ever seen on TV.

And now that it’s all over, Michael and I wander, bereft, from room to room unable to communicate our sense of loss to others. Broken tragic figures…

(Fortunately, Santa was tipped off and a gleaming Box Set sits on my desk top, a slightly golden hue emanating from its shrink-wrapped facade…)

Here, watch this, the opening scene from the first series…

I’m having fun here actually – now I’m in the mood I can see myself doing a few more of these lists in the next few days…

Gotta keep on, keepin’ strong

It’s not a competition, of course it isn’t, (although I’ll admit to being secretly pleased that I do on occasion manage to beat my esteemed blogger-colleague and fellow shedhead to the punch…)

Anyway, probably just as well…

Primal Scream

Coming on for two weeks ago, my beloved Guildhall staged a bit of a coup, bagging indie-veterans and still by most standards fairly cool guitar slingers, Primal Scream on one of their warm-up gigs, preparing for an ATP affair (also, by now, in the past tense…). Haven’t been to the old place for a good while now, not having a taste for the procession of money-spinning (but god-awful) tribute bands that the bookers seem to be falling over themselves to engage. But you’ve got to say every now again, they do manage to pull something out of the bag…

No support band, which I was a bit put out about at the time, but it did allow for a good hour and half set from the Primals (the Screamers?). It was a good set too, full of noisy stompers and classic rockers – ticking all the boxes that Primal Scream do well. Gillespie is as white and as skinny as any rock’n’roller would aspire to be, Mani and the rest of the band as tight (and at the same time loose) as you want.

They weren’t helped by the fact that not once but twice the power went mid song, the second time during a rousing Movin’ On Up. Surely entitled to have a full-on hissy fit, to their eternal credit they ploughed on stoically, with Gillespie leading the audience singing until power was restored. Nice moment, really, captured here:

(Credit to ensutton, cheers!)

Another good evening, bringing my Autumn of music to a decent finale. I managed to record the gig, and offer it here minus one of the songs that fell foul to the power gremlins…

Can’t Go Back
Miss Lucifer
Country Girl
Burning Wheel
Necro Hex Blues
Kill All Hippies
Deep Hit of the Sun
Suicide Bomb
Swastika Eyes
Movin’ On Up
Rocks Off

And the whole gig in two .rar files…
Part One
Part Two

A wise man said to me, don’t underrate simplicity

It’s pouring down. I mean … throwing it down, biblical proportions.

We’re on the coach back from Bristol. I’m thinking of what I have to do tonight and what I have to get done for tomorrow…

The woman sat in the seat next to me is large and seems to want half my seat. She is reading a copy of A Bit on the Side and smells of beans.

Ah, Saturday night…

Lou Rhodes

Newsflash: Thekla is still as cool as it was last week. And although I’ve seen a noisy gig there, I’m now convinced that it is even better suited to quieter acoustic evenings. Again the sound was excellent and having gone up to the balcony this time (in reality only a vantage point of about ten feet) the set up and general vibe (there’s a good muso word for you) was even better.

Didn’t know a whole lot about Lou Rhodes before last night (ex singer with Lamb, apparently, not that I’m much clearer after finding that out, either) but we’d carved out a weekend away and were keen to see some music. Got hold of her first record and, consummate professional that I am, did my homework – turns out Beloved One is an album I can easily endorse with a clear conscience.

She’s a frail looking thing but has a clear and striking voice well suited to an evening of delicate songs accompanied carefully by a classic Nick Drake-style format of cello and double bass. Occasionally the pace of her songs got a bit same-y, but the short attention span of this punter was well catered for by the way the arrangements changed from song to song, with the cellist moving to glockenspiel and the double bass player switching to an acoustic bass.

At one point, she introduced one of her songs by saying that if you were one of those people who were too cool to arrive in time for the support act, you’d have missed a real treat. Well (astonishingly) we were one those too cool people and did miss the support, who turned out to have been John Smith.

I’ve seen and written about John before (here) – he was the best part of our ill-fated Davy Graham evening a couple of years ago – and so I was disappointed to have missed him, but fortunately he was called on to play with Lou Rhodes for one of her songs. He’s an astonishing player.

The evening was over rather too soon, but I did manage to make these recordings of the set. (Don’t know the actual name of the fifth track, I’m afraid…)


There for the Taking


Each Moment New


As well as this, there is currently a free download (available here) which I would recommend you getting hold of too.

A beautiful and engaging singer.