Good times are coming, I hear it everywhere I go…

Criminey! Was that two weeks ago? Where does the time go?

Wooden Shjips

Well… two weeks ago (apparently), I went to see San Francisco guitar fiends, Wooden Shjips in the appropriately grimy, down-to-earth surroundings of the Fleece in Bristol.  I think I’ve said before how much I like the Fleece, it really is yer bona fide “rock” venue, stone floors, old gig posters, real ale, ridiculously in-the-way pillars, and it really suited the dark, dark sound of Ripley Johnson and the boys.

We had a couple of support bands, one slightly ridiculous (Scarlet Rascal and the Trainwreck, ho hum) and one, Weston band Towns, rather fine (more of them soon I hope…)

The Shjips came on fairly late and did their thing for an hour or so, lumbering through a raucous, heavy set that drew largely on “West”. It was bassy, uncomplicated stuff, high on meandering solos and fabulously repetitive – pretty much what the punters ordered, in fact.  To be honest, I’d’ve liked the organ to have been a bit higher up in the mix (and I always find the vocals hard to hear) but that’s being churlish, really.

You get the impression that Johnson plays the music that’s in his head and won’t be deviating from that path any time soon – it’s up to us to keep up really, and I’m ok with that. They played for a long (or very short) hour, did an encore of Vampire Blues and were gone all too soon, a slight whiff of sulphur hanging in the air… All wonderfully shadowy and psychedelic…

The recording is patchy, (mainly because the sound was a bit erratic again), full of audience “participation” but on the whole good, highlights being an endless version of “For So Long” and a particularly brutal “Home”.

Black Smoke Rise

Home

For So Long

Vampire Blues

Lucky Seven – Live and Unreleased!

Got to thinking about a couple of the self-deprecating comments I made in the last post, and thought “I’ll put a couple of them right at least…”

So here’s the first Lucky Seven for a good while, and it’s made up of some of the recordings I made during 2011, which are currently languishing unattended on my hard-drive.

Summer Holiday – Wild Nothing

Chinatown– Destroyer

Undegpedwar – Y Niwl

BatteryKinzie – Fleet Foxes

Queen of Eyes – Robyn Hitchcock

Don’t Want Love – Antlers

Since We’ve Fallen Out – Burns Unit

Now I come to look at it, these were all part of the mess of Green Man recordings that I still have, so I’ve added a bonus recording to the package, made at End of the Road, by my good friend Marcus – I’ll leave you to find out what it is…

Lucky Seven – Live and Unreleased

Have a good ‘un!

Generals have fought for spies like you

Dashed off to Thekla the other night, in the distinguished company of habitual gig-buddy Coleser, ostensibly to see Canadian rock icons theBesnardLakes, but in reality much more excited by the prospect of seeing fellow Canucs, the magnificent Suuns.

In the end, it really was a dash from the car park to stage side as we heard promising sounds eddying from the famous old boat, and just about made it on time.

I love Suuns; and I may as well say now that Zeroes QC may well be my favourite record of the year. They were great (and phenomenally loud) at Green Man and the prospect of seeing them bring their blend of edgy, sneery, post-punk tunes to a small dark space was truly mouth-watering. Numbers were disappointingly thin, though, and the atmosphere never quite got going which was a terrific shame, really. It was all over rather too soon, as well, the briefest of half hours disappearing in a flash (an edgy, sneery, post-punk flash, mind).

Having said that, the songs were good, and they played “Bambi” which was a new one to me, although I think it’s out as a single or something. I just couldn’t believe it was all over before it really began…

In due course, the place filled up, theBesnardLakescame on and did their thing, which was pretty good in places, but a bit dull at times. They’ve certainly got some strong songs and there’s a lot to be said for being immersed in high-volume noise for an hour or so, but none of their new material (what there was of it) really impressed.

Apart from that, not a lot to be said, apart from the obvious fact that Jace Lasek looks like Ian Hunter, and the less obvious fact that beneath his shades he appeared to be wearing eye make-up. Ho-hum…

I recorded some of the set, and I’ll leave you with a couple of mementoes of the evening (one new track and a couple of great favourites)

Bambi – Suuns

Arena – Suuns

Disaster – Besnard Lakes

We dream and we die alone, it seems…

My stubbornly autonomous imagination has just refused to leave last week’s tired Welsh-music-scene-as-episode-from-Pobol-y-Cwm metaphor well alone.

I can’t help filling in the scenery further. I’ve been imagining other Welsh luminaries living round the corner and former tenants made good moving out to greener pastures but coming back to visit regularly. This is all very well but unavoidably leads to concerns over parking and then questions about whether the parish council can afford to run the library service as well as keeping the Post Office open in the current climate. Honestly, if I still had the kids’ Lego kits and accompanying model figures, well, I’d not be writing this post…

Any-hoo.

The latest artist to “move in” to the community (I had to go back and put those quotes marks in…) is this feller.

H Hawkline

Wrote about H Hawkline last year, although I wasn’t really operating from a position of strength; couldn’t find a lot online about him and had (of course) missed him at Green Man. Recently though, a couple of Hawkline records have appeared on Emusic, both really good but very different to each other.

The first, Cup of Salt, is more the style I wrote about before, delicate but more-ish guitar pieces with few vocals on it. I quite like it but the second record, The Strange Uses of Ox Gall is more my sort of thing. It starts quite slowly with a bit of noodling and gawky playfulness, but there are some much more substantial (and quirky) pieces just around the corner. Goofy, creepy fairground keyboards and homemade samples litter the place, but beneath the garish wrapping are some genuine, rather melancholic pop moments. Particular favourites are Surf Pound, Mind How You Go and Funny Bones (with Cate le Bon on backing vocals – not doing much to dispel the Pobol y Cwm fantasies, there). The single You Say You Love Me is rather sweet as well.

I’ve also had these recordings of H Hawkline at this year’s Green Man, languishing on my hard disk for a couple of months now. I enjoyed the set a lot and thought that having armed myself with the albums I’d be a little more in the know when I went back to listen to the recordings, but actually, turns out that there’s very little from either record there – it’s pretty much all new material (Ox Gall was only a summer release, I think).

But it’s good stuff and quite a useful little counterpoint to the whimsy that dominates the records, sounding rather choppy and garage-y as it does. As I say, a lot of the songs he played were new to me and I’ve had to try and make sensible guesses about titles – if anyone can put me right, I’d appreciate it.

Forget What You’ve Learnt and Live Life like a Child

My Dreams

Don’t See Me Getting Old

Broken Fingers

Kiss Me on My Lips

Hell’s Bells

Full Focus

Leather Belly

(btw, just so as you know that I do put in all due research and effort to these posts, marbling, engraving and lithography are just some of the strange uses of ox gall…)

Lean my head against an angry moon…

OK. This has taken an absolute age to get sorted, but I think it’s worth it…

White Denim @ End of the Road

So, I was too tight to buy a ticket for End of the Road this year, and have spent a good month regretting it now. Terrific line up, loads of bands I wanted to see and loads of friends going without me.

Next best thing, was obviously to persuade one of said friends to take my Zoom recorder along (take a bow, Marcus) and then prevail upon another of said friends to take photos, shoot video and write words (step forward, Liz, the very first guest writer to appear on Partly Porpoise…).

I’m probably not the best person to be writing this. Gig reviews are supposed to be objective, right? Whatever. To say that White Denim were the only reason I bought a ticket for End of the Road this year would be an exaggeration. Who am I kidding! White Denim were the only reason I bought a ticket for End of the Road this year. D is my favourite record of 2011 by some distance. It shows a softer, ‘poppier’ side to the band, the obvious influences somehow melding together into a distinctive, effortless brand of psychedelic-garage-prog-pop with some scraps of trad country and folk thrown in for good measure. Still present are the quirky stop/start, messed-up time signatures, proggy guitars and killer bass riffs which made Workout Holiday such an exciting record, but an equal emphasis now appears to have been placed on melody, and to good effect. Add to that a phenomenal standard of musicianship and you’ve got yourself a thrilling live show.

The last time I saw this band play live, at Kings College in London, in what is basically the student union bar, I came away half deaf and covered in bruises but it was completely exhilarating.
So I was pretty excited to see White Denim at End of the Road. Headlining the Big Top stage (aka the Tent of Dreams) on the Friday evening of the festival was a good thing because I’m not sure I could have maintained a whole weekend at that level of anticipation. Clearly, getting a place at the front was a matter of prime importance. Normally this isn’t a problem: get there early, claim a spot and stick to it. Not so fast. The Fall were playing on the Garden Stage immediately beforehand, requiring a strategic early exit (thanks MES for ambling offstage, right on cue, fifteen minutes early) and a quick sprint to the Big Top to beat the crowds. Front position secured.

From taking to the stage and launching straight into It’s Him, the opening track of D, there was hardly time for audience or band to draw breath.  The powerhouse triumvirate of Burnished, At The Farm and Say What You Want was somewhat like clinging on for dear life in a wind tunnel. I feel weak just thinking about it. The set included hefty chunks of Workout Holiday and Fits – Shake Shake Shake, I Start To Run, Don’t Look That Way At It, All Consolation, Mirrored and Reverse – but was otherwise D in its entirely, with only Keys left out. The recent addition of an extra guitarist appears to have transformed White Denim from a rough and ready garage rock three piece into an intensely powerful psych-prog quartet, delivering an intricately structured wall of sound. It’s difficult to see how things could get any more complex as one song seamlessly segues into the next, all four band members equally contributing their own multi-pronged piece of the sonic jigsaw. New guitarist Austin Jenkins looks like he’s having the time of his life, and who can blame him. Steve Terebecki studies his bass riffs so intently he’s almost like a school kid, biting his tongue while concentrating on getting his spellings right. And Josh Block is such a clever drummer, his syncopated rhythms the bedrock for all this messing about. If one had to level a criticism, it might be that old songs like Shake Shake Shake have lost some of the rough edges which made them so thrilling, but if that is at the expense of having developed into a multi-layered bundle of euphoria, then maybe that’s a worthwhile compromise.

The band’s influences have been often and variously quoted (Zappa, Beefheart, Zeppelin, Cream, Canned Heat, Jethro Tull, King Crimson blah blah blah) but to dwell on any of that is to do them an injustice because what they do, superbly well, is to create something completely unique out of this familiar palate. They exude a genuine muso-geek aura and are clearly disinterested in being ‘fashionable’. Why bother with fashion when you’ve got something far more profound to say? They are, in fact, men of few actual words. At one point singer and virtuoso guitarist James Petralli says they’ve been told to turn the amps down, much to the disapproval of the audience. He politely apologises. That’s about as much conversation as we get.

A quick word after the show ascertains that they will be returning to theUK in March and I’m already counting the days. Utterly thrilling.

Have a watch of Liz’ video of “At the Farm” and “Say What You Want”. It does look great.

Marcus’ recordings have turned out pretty well, too, and it really does sound like a pretty special set…

It’s Him

Burnished

At the Farm / Say What You Want

Street Joy

Anvil Everything

Bess St.

Shake Shake Shake

All Consolation / I Start to Run

Is and Is and Is

Don’t Look That Way At It

Paint Silver Gold

Mirrored and Reverse / Drug

It’s like I was there…

In a House With No Mirrors

Well I don’t know how this has happened, I appear to have been catatonic for a period of weeks.

No posts, no recordings, a whole raft of EotR recordings untouched…

And somehow this post never got written…

Gruff Rhys @ Green Man

I scarcely know what to say, this all seems some time ago now. In fact I’m sure I did actually write a clever and bang on the money review of the last set of the weekend that I think we can all agree would have made this Blog the go-to place for many a discerning reader, but alas, it appears to have never made it to the airwaves. What can I say?

All I’ll say is, great set, national treasure, decent recordings, and we’ll leave it at that, eh?

Gwn Mi Wn

Candylion

Court of King Arthur

House with No Mirrors

Lonesome Words

Sensations in the Night

If We Were Words (we would rhyme)

Honey All Over

Ni Yw Y Byd

Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru

Shark Ridden Waters

Skylon

Actually, listening to the recordings again, it all comes rushing back – the euphoria and fatigue of the weekend, the long delay for “technical problems beyond my comprehension”, the good humour of the man, and the knowledge that I’d finally managed to catch a set on disk that I’d conspired to miss on each of the previous three occasions I’d seen him.

Now I must get on with all the other recordings…

Some More Green Man Sets – Holy F***; Bleeding Heart Narrative

I’m not getting on with this as quickly as I’d hoped but here are a couple of new Green Man sets for you…

[Sorry about the asterisks – I’m a bit concerned about the search engine issue]

Holy F***

I’m not what you’d call a die-hard fan of this lot, although there are times when their second album “LP” really hits the spot. So I wasn’t really sure how I was going to find what promised to be a really raucous Saturday night headlining set from Holy F***.

They took a while to warm up, and one point my head was being turned by the Green Man Pub stage, but I’m glad I stayed because it turned into a really good set, absolutely blistering by the end of the hour, the second half of which shot by.

As an old feller, I find myself increasingly bemused by how bands are made up these days. There was a drummer, I’m sure, a good one too, belting the hell out of his kit and providing some grounding to the wild electronic sounds that spun around him. There was a bass player too, but after that I couldn’t tell you quite what the other two blokes were doing, tapping on keyboards, banging different pads and twiddling knobs all over. It was loud all the time and pretty much rabid at times…

I’ve tried but failed to identify a number of the tracks they played, and so I’m having to resort to numbers for some of them (I hate this…), but if anyone recognises tracks, do please give me a yell. Here goes:

Super Inuit

Two

Three

Four

Stay Lit

Six

Red Lights

Royal Gregory

Lovely Allen

The Pulse

Eleven

Safari

I’ve also go another set for you, by an earnest troupe of acoustic dabblers, that I’ve written about before…

Bleeding Heart Narrative

In my fevered mind, I can make a link between Holy F*** and Bleeding Heart Narrative, the latter being a kind acoustic version of the former. If you can imagine a kind of folky krautrock…. Well, try….

They set themselves up with guitars, keyboards, rhythm, cello and violin and ran through a really interesting, occasionally droney set, full of wailing vocals, and sprightly songs. I really enjoyed it (and they were kind enough to send me a set list after the weekend…

Perun

HAL Passes the Turing Test

Mysterious Cults / Shoals

The Cartographer

The Jetty

Ambergris

Henry Box Brown

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