22 December 2012

New Model Army: Album Review

New Model Army
30th Anniversary Anthology
Attack Attack Records

For the last 30 years without irony or pretence they’ve been the true definition of ‘genuine’ and here’s the proof

If there exists a straightforward means of conveying just how much New Model Army matter then it’s way beyond the reach my capabilities could ever stretch to - which, in itself, probably sums this band up perfectly - they remain largely unexplored by the dogmatic music fan and are too wonderfully unorthodox for easy labelling. The greatest band mainstream has never heard, unintentional pioneers of modern day politico/post-punk/folk-rock without ever becoming habitual frequenters or typical examples of any particular genre NMA are considered a bona-fide cult band with a staunchly loyal, unswerving fan base. The songs - always atmospheric, politically primed and brimming with energy and passion thanks to the ability of songwriter Justin Sullivan and his knack of summarizing the nation’s emotional depths with powerful, catchy tunes and judicious lyrics. This year the band celebrate their 30th birthday and are to mark the historical occasion they are to release ‘Anthology‘, a double CD album of 30 songs handpicked by members past and present.

With 3 decades of music to choose from -  finding what might best represent the ethos of NMA couldn’t have been the easiest selection process in the world - but they’ve nailed it accurately and with the backbone unmistakeably visible. From the raw post-punk of 1984’s debut ‘Vengeance’  to last year’s ‘Today Is A Good Day’ ( equalling 200 songs recorded) lies the massively influential body of work New Model Army are the proud authors of. The passion and hunger still there and still sharper than broken glass in the corner of your eye, turning on sixpences down through the years, conviction succinct, as always.  The anthems slam hard into the ears and Sullivan’s intellectual interpretations are delivered screechingly time after time. Fiery and beautiful entwined is the beating heart of New Model Army - pulsing the life into the giant of their presence good for another 3 decades yet.

Disc 1
1. Vengeance 
2. Modern Times 
3. Flying Through The Smoke 
4. Master Race 
5. Today Is A Good Day 
6. Here Comes The War 
7. A Liberal Education 
8. Lurstaap 
9. Drag It Down 
10. Christian Militia 
11. Carlisle Road 
12. Purity 
13. Someone Like Jesus 
14. Living In The Rose 
15. Rainy Night 65

Disc 2
1. Whitecoats 
2. Dawn 
3. Afternoon Song 
4. Vagabonds 
5. Bluebeat 
6. South West 
7. Wonderful Way To Go 
8. Lights Go Out 
9. Bloodsports 
10. Red Earth 
11. Green And Grey 
12. Water 
13. Mambo Queen Of The Sandstone City 
14. Better Than Them 
15. Marry The Sea

Michele Ari: Interview

When you struggle past the barbie doll lyrics, candy floss tunes and patronising dance moves you very quickly find people like Britney Spears have fuck all else to offer. Such vapid, money making mediocrity must, surely, be the kiss of death to any other solo American female artists who haven't firmly established themselves within their own rock n roll zenith. But as unsigned champion of DIY's singer/songwriter discord, Michele Ari has continually proved - you can be as great as your peers but remain glaringly overlooked even when proving damned hard to write off.
Descriptive lyrical observations sketch out another nameless protagonist documented on the dramatics of a song. Delving into the beating heart of the human condition with such an indulgent romanticism for the narration of what swings from crippling confessional outporings to brutal insecurities worsened under the glare of being showcased so publicly. Writing songs that you know will be heard by others, is surely such a solitary pursuit, and no business for the introvert. And the music - a series of reference points from where it derived from. The jarring post-punk edginess which brings an urban rock fanzine kinda shimmer to the very aesthetics of all she stands for. Blurred together with feral garage moments and skipping indie jauntness. Even sweet stringed, heart wrenching backdrops can be pulled from such ‘tough as nails’ euphonies for the purposes of poignant, forlorn ballads. This is everything - from recognisable radio transmissions of the distant past to bang up to date rock & roll. Catchy, riff laden songs possibly too quixotic for mainstreams ignorant claims of incandescent grandeur - a short lived, dictated shelf life anyway that no serious musician would be comfortable wallowing in. With Michele Ari it’s her seamless changes of direction, the genuine desire for making music she was born to.That’s the moments that remind me just how accomplished she really is. 

You’ve received favourable mentions in the UK music press on many occasions which is a great achievement for an unsigned artist from America who hasn’t yet set foot on British soil. How difficult is it to try and keep that momentum going when you’re so far away?

Thank you. If you consider how difficult it can be to get out your art just around the block you will have your answer. I'll never forget the day I got my hard copy of my first glossy interview in the mail. It was in an internationally distributed music magazine from the UK. I showed it to some guys who worked at a record shop in Nashville where I was living at the time. My CDs were in the "local" section which is generally where dust likes to hang out and one of the guys said he doesn't push our stuff because "local music doesn't sell." I suggested moving it to the "Just happens to live here" section. I could get played on Radio One by someone who interviewed Pete Townsend but not get into a Nashville music festival that I could walk to. So, the difficulty has been more of how to make my mark in both places, or all places, when I am just one person and I'm funding everything alone. I've recently moved to NYC to remedy my southern blues but it's come with a price tag. Raising your cost of living is about the dumbest thing you can do as an artist but the southjust wasn't cutting it for me as much as I miss the fresh air. I needed to be somewhere more progressive and accepting of new ideas and although Starbucks has taken over every corner of the city there is still some bite to the place if you know where to look and I think that I do.

You’ve released two mini albums/EP’s to date so far and, with a new single, a third is on the way. Was the writing process different on each record?

Yes and no. The place from which I write is always the same. It all comes from the soul and even a collaboration is all under my direction. My ability to cut to the chase has improved and the "muscle" I use to write with has become more developed. As time passes I live more life to write about and learn things that open up new viewpoints to write from and about. To prove to myself I could do it alone
my second EP 'mal a' propos' was all me. I collaborated on the new material for "Uncharted Territory" but by then I had the confidence to prove or not prove anything at will. Who knows what I will do next? I would love to write with all kinds of people then return on my own, rinse, repeat sort of thing. It’s all exploratory and always experimental. I never want to make the same song or record twice. I don't want to bore people though of any accusation leveled at me "boring" has not been one of them.
It’s always an uphill fight for unsigned musicians trying to get themselves and their music noticed by the right people and for the right reasons. How tough is it to crack America for people like you? Is there a tried and tested circuit that A&R men frequent when searching for something new ignoring anything or anyone not gigging at those particular places? 

It is an uphill battle, and I don't think there is a tried and tested circuit, but I don't determine any of my actions by the norms of the day.You can check back with me on my death bed to find out if I was right or wrong about this. I try not to be swayed by press and bar talk because today's "next big thing" could be tomorrow's horror story. I wish people well but I have been bar stools next to people who just got let go from their label or who went on some hot tour and fell apart or got fired. It's not pretty. The whole thing is very arbitrary. What works for one person may not work for another. It would be nice if there was just one answer but in my experience it is not the case. For all I know it takes a thousand little answers to answer the big question and I may have already gotten a few right. I think a bigger problem is that too many are willing to accept mediocrity—because there is money behind advertising it—than one should. That's the kind of thing I just need to ignore or it will upset me. If people want to listen to Black Eyed Peas they can. I don't know that many words that rhyme with "party" so they can have that share of the market if they like.

I know that your plans to come to the UK a few years ago fell through quite dramatically at the last minute. Do you still intend to make it here eventually or is that no longer a priority for you?

It is a priority that sits in the pit of my heart repeatedly stabbing me till I bleed—should you want insight into the drama. I accepted bad advice to fly on a one-way ticket and buy the return later. In our post 9/11 world that sets red flags flying and, as I am not a terrorist, Isimply didn't think to cover my bases in that way. Trying to convince immigration that I was a nice girl was futile. The interview process was unwinnable as their minds were made up. They held me behind guarded doors and then shipped me back. It was really ugly and depressing. I had no choice but to persevere and so I moved to Nashville, toured, released another EP and am now in NYC doing it again. I'll get to the UK. I'm certain of it. Until then I got everyone back with the song "Little Wars" which will be on "Uncharted Territory'

You’re a big fan of the music scene in the UK. Who is the UK equivalent of you, musically? 

I hope nobody though I've come to realize I move onstage much more like Richard Butler than I do any female in music that I know of. I had not been cognizant of it before I saw them live recently and there it was—in the body of a man. Perhaps mine is not a direct steal but a similarity rooted in similar wavelengths. I'd say I come from a Furs/Smiths/Costello/Bush lineage more than Spice Girls or Coldplay. Really though, I don't want to be "just like" anyone or "the next so and so." People can be "just like" Michele Ari if they want but not the other way around.

You are your own manager, booking agent, press officer, tour manager, pr and promoter. Such versatility must wear you out completely sometimes. Does it all get in the way of the other parts of your life, which also rely on your input? 

More than the versatility the big factor is the one people don't see which is the human one. The amount of volatility, emotion and, let's face it, total insanity you can have surrounding you is often the largest distraction besides financial ones. My story as an artist is no different from any other artist's story in this way and I am lucky to be surviving it at all. I hear a lot of stories from artists who have quit, some overtly and some covertly. I know why people feel that way. I have days that are just dreadful. This is a tricky bit and I think the more you stick your neck out the more likely you are to have your head chopped off. Some carelessley call these things "bad luck" but I call it the chance you take and the price you have to pay to. In the end it's only a head. When did you first begin to seriously realise that being a musician was actually all you wanted to do? Day one. I had a lot of ambition and smarts and, sadly, that's just not that cool when you are a kid. If not for my intense interest in music I never would have made any friends. Like every other outcast I sought out the "freaks" and thank god for that because I was utterly out of place anywhere else. I always knew I was different but it took me a while to figure out why and be OK with it. While I loved my family I saw suburbia as a prison. It worked on me ceaselessly and my frustrations with it ran perpendicular to my goals as an artist. I did many other things in the arts to pacify myself until one day the elephant that had been in the room all along trampled me. That was when I was forced to face facts and boy was I in for a thrill ride! It took living some life to really understand for myself that the only way to live life fully and to be happy is to be who you are even if who you are challenges others, something I've come to realize is not my problem. I'm not a lot of fun at Tupperware parties as you might imagine.
If you could have anyone you wanted in your band who would they be – pick a drummer, a guitarist and a bass player? 

I don't know how I could settle on just a handful. More than anyone famous what I like are people who are pleasant to be around. I'd even take a lesser player if the better one was a bigger jerk. Skills can be acquired and talents honed if someone basically has the goods. Teaching someone how to be a decent person, if it does not come naturally to them, generally gives one the equivalent of that horrible constant barb-making family on "Everybody Loves Raymond." Rock and roll is not necessarily about having the best player. It's about having the most passionate. Those are the ones I want to be around because the more passionate they are the better they will want to be without anyone asking that of them. That said, is Paul Weller free by chance? 

What influences you both musically and in general?

What really inspires me is the writing process itself. By the time I sit down I have already had, observed or imagined an experience and it has its own value to me. But when putting it to paper and music you can fully control the situation, twist and bend it if you like, find tones to match the mood, give it a happy ending, give someone better qualities than they really had or turn them into a monster or be able to say something you weren't quick enough to say right in that moment. That is a gas. In general what inspires me is the human 
condition. It is the most fascinating stuff and provides an unending source of commentary, supposition and wonder. 

If your career were to end tomorrow would you regret a single part of it? 

All things considered, I'm pleased with what I have accomplished thus far even though it isn't anywhere near enough. This started as a "Field of Dreams" proposition. I have been building it. Some people have come. I would like to see more because I feel very passionately that I've got something of real value to offer if only more people knew about it. I know this because people who listen to my music come back with very thoughtful things to say about it and because the allies I have are deeply loyal and supportive. Regret is one of the worst emotions because it says "I was wrong" when in that moment you were certain you were right and that you did your best. You can't build a life by coddling or promoting what is "wrong" about you or what others find disagreeable about you. I think you can only build a life by strengthening what is right about yourself because we may be more right than we think.  

What 10 words best describe the person you are? 

I am Miss 'Tries Very Hard' and not Miss 'Perfect'. 
Do you have anything you’d like to say before this interview ends? 

God Save the Queen?

For further press quotes, detailed info, discography, contact details and more...please visit the Michele Ari homepage HERE

Nephu Huzzband: Album Review

Nephu Huzzband
Deep Recording Co

brilliantly inventive

Quite clearly not a band who would ever be happy just to go with what works - Nephu Huzzband are forward-thinking songwriters with a naturally high brow perception for creating the music that inspires them rather than cloning the generic indie floor fillers of student union Thursday night discos. The result of their artistic conscience is this genre splicing hybrid of sound they’ve formulated as their own.  An intermixing of post punk and new wave stripped back to its most primitive ambience and re- fashioned with an amped up distortion becomes the bare bones of nostalgia framed in the muscular physique of  a DIY aesthetic.  It’s what makes this album stand out from possibly anything else you’re likely to have heard this year.  If standout tracks had to be chosen I’d consider the rugged pace of punk’s influence on “It’s Only Ordinary”, the serrated new wave sound of “Nurse! Nurse!” and thrash driven instrumental “Neptune & Luiton” as examples of how great a debut this is. It’s clever, intuitive, edgy and awash with originality and depth. As good as anything else you’ll get right now.

4 December 2012

Playlist: John Peel Sessions

The John Peel Playlist

John Peel is widely acknowledged for promoting artists from various genres including pop, reggae, indie-pop, punk, alternative rock, hardcore, grindcore, death metal and many more. His radio shows were notable for the regular 'Peel Sessions' which usually consisted of about 4 songs played by artists live in the BBC studios, often providing the first national coverage to bands who would later go on to great fame. He joined Radio 1 in 1967 and remained there until his death 37 years later.

Peel's reputation as an important DJ breaking unsigned acts into the mainstream was such that young hopefuls sent him an enormous number of records, CDs, and tapes. When he returned home from a three week holiday at the end of 1986 there were 173 LPs, 91 12"s and 179 7"s waiting for him. In 1983 unsigned artist Billy Bragg drove to the Radio 1 studios with a mushroom biryani and a copy of his record after hearing Peel mention that he was hungry; the subsequent airplay launched his career. 

Here then is a 36 track playlist of songs recorded live from various John Peel Sessions.


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3 December 2012

Whole Sky Monitor: Album Review

Whole Sky Monitor
'Twisted Little Piggies'
Cargo Records

You really wont find better this year

Bury me deep without my brain, where all is fake and all is fame. Twitter your tears and blog your blame, where grief and love and shit’s the same’ sings John Parkes on ‘Freakshow’ the blistering opening track of this gloriously spasmodic and raucous second album from Whole Sky Monitor. They will be the victims of this decade’s biggest ever injustice should they not now earn the nationwide recognition that’s so glaringly deserved. Forget the ‘Leeds best kept secret’ label they currently posses, they’ve multiplied in creative size since those days and are easily in danger of becoming constrained by a territory that might never accommodate such glorious stretching of wings. This post-punk/indie/classic rock hybrid with dissonant stabs of dirty gothic and new wave is a focused noise brilliantly executed at every turn. The music they make is so stirring and individualistic it would make John Peel’s play list had the great man still been around to appreciate it. Listen to the barbed combination of sound and wordsmithery on songs such as ‘Sold’, a torrid guitar/drums vitriolic swipe laying the blame of our current political climate at the feet of Thatcher’s detrimental reign… ’cheap lager, glue culture, principals of a smacked down vulture’ . The raw punk aesthetics of ‘Abusive’ with it’s crashing percussion, stop/start guitars and simple but effective ‘I’m abusive’ chant chorus and ‘My Regeneration’ a new wave anthem that wouldn’t look out of place on any Jam album pre-1978. From cynical observations to intelligent points of view encased in some of the greatest music you’ll hear in a very long time Whole Sky Monitor have gave us a brilliant work of art and laughingly exposed the ‘difficult second album syndrome’ as nothing to be scared of - if you’re as good as this band that is. You may not know it now but you will, one day soon, go to extraordinary lengths to have their music in your lives. Trust me. They’re the find of the year.

Reviews Quoted Elsewhere (Part 1)

17 November 2012

The Dull Fudds: Album Review

The Dull Fudds
Brigside Music

Ian Dury & The Blockheads meets The Sugarcubes and Jethro Tull for B-movie soundtrack games gate- crashed by young Parisian street poets and Brian Eno playing scratchy funk punk and skewed chamber music by the banks of the River Tweed

To have a band prove you wrong is the greatest education. To base opinion on nothing but assumption and the talk of others is always going to be revealed for the unsubstantial defect it is. But if you’ve enough moral fibre to admit your own idiocy then it may be endearing enough to evoke leniency and save your reputation. Sadly it won’t save you from looking like a dick. Only global dementia can erase the truths of that! The Dull Fudds are the reason behind the proverbial munching of my own words. I anticipated a mountain of scrambled noise and pretentious India shite of little direction - but instead I discover the exact opposite to be the truth. Debut effort GIBBERISH is a drawer of randomness being emptied into a cupboard stacked with radical invention which, theoretically, should never have the capacity to untangle from such jig sawed carnage and flex itself into anything remotely linked to musical resonance. But where many “established” dudes tried, failed horribly and instead decided to swagger around some low maintenance genre, shedding their credibility like the moulting dogs they now are, The Dull Fudds remained true to the idiosyncrasies they were born with and have unfurled an album of work more than capable of holding its own out there, and should fear the presence of nothing when taking their place among the great and the good.

Their music is an intercontinental theatre, a wander through sub-genres and ones of their own invention ( if ever there existed a tea dance for the unorthodox then this would be the album they‘d stick on for the kaleidoscopic shimmy waltz every Thursday, if you please) and conjures up a variety of ambient imagery as if hauling different coloured rabbits from the same hat, and it’s all done without any visible seam or stumbled effort. . I’ve had the title track repeating itself in my head at a rate that would trouble schizophrenics. This band are currently doing things differently and if that’s not reason enough to celebrate them then I don’t know what is. The song writing perception, and distinctively amazing vocal deliveries of Katie Forbes, are as skilful as they are wittingly off-hand. What seems whimsical is actually forward thinking acts of catchy musical nous. A multi layered hybrid of cleverness with expansive reach and high-brow depths. Credit also to their drummer - listen how tightly and disciplined he provides the beat, trust me it wont be as easy as he makes it appear. And when did a flute ever fit into a guitar/bass/drums vehicle without being asked to leave - and actually contribute an atmosphere that wouldn’t exist without it? Right here, the cheek of it! Damn them for proving me gloriously wrong, but when they become hugely popular I’ll just pretend I never liked them in the first place.

5 November 2012

Critikill: Album Review

'Brick Wall'
Self Financed

The DIY aesthetics may remain but any other resemblance to the rabid, mainstream-raping weaponry of Malcolm McLarens cultural ‘hype-into-art’ revolution of the 70’s has been lost in punk’s generational adjustments. His gifted nous for marketable notoriety will always be the exact point from where punk’s wide-eyed liberators were kick-started but it’s continuing growth as a powerful musical force is down to bands just like this. Their recent album ‘ Brick Wall’ is a flawless preservation of that culture. Gritty street punk anthems with back-biting lyrical venom and steel-edged vitriol stretched across the dissident battlefields and glorious shitholes of genuine brawlers Opening track ‘Brick Wall’ begins with probing guitar and stop/start build up before opening up into a frenzied guitar/drums noise symphony complete with muscular lead vocal delivery and catchy chant-along ‘wooahhhhh’ harmonies. The more immediate energy of songs like the speed-ball paced ‘Death By Innocence’ and hard-nosed ‘Clenched Fist’ with it’s brilliant change of direction midway for the volleying ‘fuck you, fuck you’ before re-adjusting the pace for its guttural ending are ferociously sharp examples of punk’s modern day sounds. The desolation in heartache brings the stand-out brilliance of stirring lament ‘A Call To The Gathering’, the patriotically drenched tribute begins with the atmospheric sound of solitary bagpipes before bleeding into a commanding guitar/lead vocal of blistering emotion before grinding to a halt with the same solitary bagpipe it began with. Made by punk rock’s natural craftsmen rather than forced into guessed shapes at the hands of inexperienced hammers, Critikill have made an aggressively brilliant record that’s as composed as it is lawless. An innocently timeless piece of work…that carries a big stick.

Green Day: Album Review

Green Day
'21st Century Breakdown

The continuation of development

When their major label debut album “Dookie” was released in 1994 it went on to sell over 10 million, won a Grammy Award, and it seemed the whole world had fallen in love with the audacious, 3 chord pop/punk songs of America’s new brats on the block. Billie Joe Armstrong’s discontent with the life around him revealed itself in lyrics of swiping satire and vitriol which fuelled the inner exasperation of likeminded youths keen to elect a standard bearer as the voice of their generation. But further releases - Insomniac, Nimrod and Warning failed to build on the anticipation of greatness “Dookie” conjured up. In fact, had it not been for the acoustic ballad “Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)” Nimrod may never have achieved the double platinum success it did. But just when it seemed Green Day were running on empty they returned with the 2004 masterpiece “American Idiot” and saved their musical lives. A concept album which contained within the hopes and the dreams of America and revealed a much matured level of song writing from Armstrong. Once again the world danced to their tunes, sat up and listened to what they had to say and seemed to gift the band with a new spirit. Such runaway success though can become its very own achilles heel and living up to the brilliance of a predecessor (as Dookie proved) can be an almost impossible thing to do. 

But, with stunning new album, “21st Century Breakdown” Green Day have not only lived up to the reputation “American Idiot” brought, they’ve surpassed it effortlessly and proved it was no fluke. It’s an epic excursion brimming with the confidence of a band who have finally found their feet and are existing at a level they’ve naturally evolved to. Divided into three parts “Heroes and Cons”, “Charlatans and Saints” and “Horseshoes and Hand Grenades” it narrates the story of two runaways, Christian and Gloria, in an eradicated, post Bush America. Conceptually, it’s an album more fully realised than any of its predecessors and boasts a musical range of quite encyclopedic depth in comparison. The raised fist snarls ( Know Your Enemy, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades.) The significant ballads (Last Night On Earth, 21 Guns) and the anthemic contrivance (Viva La Gloria, Murder City) is where you’ll find some of the best examples of Green Day pushing their musical boundaries further than they’ve possibly ever done before and ending up with something to be truly proud of. To imagine bleak romanticism the omnipotence of positive thinking is maybe one way of summing up the parts of this whole record. Whatever anyone considers it to be though it will always remain a truly great and important release of these times.

30 October 2012

Legion Of Parasites: Album Review

Legion Of Parasites
'Another Disaster'

Slightly whimsical anarcho punk rantings

Legion Of Parasites began in 1983 when their members were aged between 14 and 17. They discovered the music of Crass, a band who promoted anarchy as a political ideology and advocated animal rights, direct action and challenging the system and its individuals, through their lyrics and artwork. Many bands seized upon this as an objective to make punk rock. Sadly many fell short, possessing neither the ethics nor ability to hang onto the coat tails of this movement. Instead they ended up an ambiguous noise which lacked direction.

Legion Of Parasites fall into this category – slightly. Their ethics may have been meritorious (donations to hunt saboteurs and anti vivisection organisations) but you can’t churn out any old guitar/drum hullabaloo and expect it to be overlooked in the name of your political leanings! This 26-track album seems to expect exactly that!

There are certainly 2 or 3 worthwhile tracks here but the majority are nothing but badly played protest songs. Bands like Crass, Conflict and even The Subhumans were good at what they did because their music was as acceptable as their conscience. Let’s leave it at that.

29 October 2012

The Damned: Tiki Nightmare: DVD Review

If time is transcendent then The Damned are equally as infinite

Despite being completely overshadowed by the efficient delivery of sneering nihilism and egotistical insolence which ensured maximum publicity via outpourings of public revulsion, hatred, objection and outrage for Malcolm McLaren’s cynical marketing tool – The Sex Pistols – who, quite brilliantly and effectively, ushered punk to the notorious levels reached and secured it‘s good health for ever – it was The Damned who are credited with a number of significant firsts from this early period. Their 1976 debut single ’New Rose’ was the first ever single released by a British punk band. Their debut album ’Damned Damned Damned’ was the first British punk album (beating Never Mind The Bollocks to the line by almost 8 months) and they were the first UK punk band to tour America. That said, they also became the first to split up after disastrous second album ‘Music For Pleasure’ ( mutually hated by the band) caused internal disillusion and failed to capitalise on the success of it’s celebrated predecessor. They’ve re-formed, broke up and re-formed many times since then and have fluctuated with dazzling versatility between 3 minute garage/punk, melodic synth rock, graveyard/film noir and commercially acceptable power pop songs. Whichever genre they happened to be mining from at any particular time The Damned have delivered some of the most memorable, iconic anthems in the history of punk.

Filmed at Shepherds Bush Empire on 12th July 2002 ‘Tiki Nightmare’( first released in 2003) is the full recording of their final gig of a 14 date UK tour. The personnel includes original members Dave Vanian and Capt Sensible alongside one time bassist Patricia Morrison (Sisters Of Mercy) and current members Pinch (drums) and keyboard player Monty Oxymoron. With a set list that borrows heavily from their 2001 album ‘Grave Disorder’ (Democracy, Amen, Would You Be So Hot, She and Song.Com) they possess enough respect for nostalgia to honour it with a number of salutes – opening with ‘Street Of Dreams’ from 1985’s ‘Phantasmagoria’ before finding room for an excellent rendition of ‘Plan 9 Channel 7’ and ‘Wait For The Blackout’. As Vanian croons the line ‘they don’t understand we make our own rules ‘ on next song’ I Just Cant Be Happy Today’ there is a depicted poignancy as you get your first reminder of just how much The Damned have grew up alongside you . With a further nod to their recent material they delve back into the past with a live favourite, ‘Disco Man’ and the atmospheric ‘Under The Floor Again’. Another gem is effortlessly unleashed with the fidgety ‘Neat Neat Neat’ before Capt Sensible publicly indulges himself with his solo Number 1 malarkey ‘Happy Talk’ (and does he REALLY replace the line ‘golly baby I’m a lucky cuss’ with the less commercially acceptable ‘lucky cunt’ as various reports across the years have proclaimed?’ The Capt finishes his ego fiddling and it’s straight into the song that began it all – ‘New Rose’ – blissfully chaotic and without any chastising – this is, again, why The Damned exist. Onwards through Vanian’s Goth take on ‘Eloise’ and the song a generation grew wings under – ‘Smash It Up’ before ending with double greatness on ‘Feel Alright’ and, the one that sent them to TOTP for the first time, a declaration of gritty teen emotion that still echoes down through the years like the galloping horse it still is, ‘Love Song’ – ‘and it makes me glad to say, it’s been a lovely day, and it’s ok…it’s ok…..it’s ok….IT’S OK!!!’ And there they leave it…for the next generation because they, just like us, will find it too.


Small Faces Deluxe Edition: Album Review

There is no other culture so deeply fixated with it’s own past than that of music. Wallowing in nostalgia and a shared appreciation for the ‘classic’ album is, thanks to advancing technology, a godsend for the narcissistic worshipping of our own rock archives. Modernity is slowly being edged out to make way for digitally re-mastered back catalogues – a cultural divide chiselled by re-released classics – which doesn’t fill you with confidence for the longevity of this decades musical contributions. But sometimes, when our digital technology conjures up albums of the quality we have here….then it’s fucking worth the journey backwards.

Up against superior competition like The Who, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones it was always going to be a challenging time with no room for anything but the very best of abilities if domination was to be wrestled from the others. The Small Faces managed to do just that – and went on to become one of the most distinctive bands of the 60’s. Their varied musical tastes and intuitive grasp of differing styles ensured originality and a freshness when changing direction from their early R&B mod sound to poppy psychedelia. Unfortunately America never quite gave them the recognition they deserved – but they were the darlings of British youth culture and London’s favourite wide boys – cocky, energetic, sometimes whimsical with a tongue in cheek swagger who, in their short lived 4year lifespan, laid down a legacy of music which remains an influential part of history and inspired people like Paul Weller, Blur and Oasis among others. The song-writing partnership of frontman Steve Marriott and bassist Ronnie Laine proved a formidable collaboration and between them wrote some of the greatest songs of Britain’s music fuelled 60’s era. Marriot’s unique, white soul voice alongside the gifted musicianship of Laine, Kenney Jones and Ian McLagan was collective brilliance. Their career spawned 4 albums and Universal Music Catalogue are to release deluxe editions of each one.

Debut album ‘Small Faces’ released on the Decca label in 1966 followed the singles ‘What’cha Gonna Do About It’ ‘I’ve Got Mine’ ‘Sha La La La Lee’ and ‘Hey Girl’. Without a doubt it’s the weakest of their 4 albums, at times a little directionless as they traipse through a jungle of pop song structures before becoming slightly disorientated on average sounding ballad ‘ One Night Stand’ or the cluttered up sounding ‘Come On Children’. It’s the sound of a band clearly still trying to find their niche and, compared to future releases, isn’t really a true representation of the Small Faces. There are good parts to it – it’s not all bland, colourless and one dimensional. Certainly the single ‘What’cha Gonna Do About It’ stands out from the crowd as does ‘Sorry She’s Mine’. It’s an average sounding album which at times seems a bit misguided and incomplete. But the signs of individual expression they displayed at later dates can be witnessed here in their embryonic state.

Second album ‘From The Beginning’ was released by Decca (unofficially, according to the band) when they ditched the label and their manager Don Arden for up and coming Immediate Records. Though it was predominantly a greatest hits compilation of their Decca days it also contained some true gems like Marriot’s dazzling cover of the Del Shannon song ‘Runaway’, and a forceful version of Smokey Robinson’s ‘You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me’. The psychedelia drenched ‘Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow’ distinguishes a particular character of excellency. It’s on this album the Marriot/Laine song writing team really begin to flourish.

The next album was, confusingly, titled ‘Small Faces’, the same name they’d christened their debut with just over a year ago. The reasons for this, I wouldn’t know, but maybe it was some sort of esoteric disconnection (psychologically reversed of course) from their miserable Decca days. Their reasoning is likely documented somewhere I’m sure. What becomes very quickly obvious is the glaring musical differences between this record and it’s disowned namesake. The core nexus of metaphorical power was, thanks in part to Immediate Records engineer Glyn Johns and the fast maturing skills of the Small Faces both musically and lyrically, hugely psychedelic. This arty, liberating matrix of their former selves set them on the road to critical acclaim – and they did it brilliantly with new single ‘Here Comes The Nice’, their cheeky ode to drug dealers. The new concept and experimental edginess continued triumphantly onwards to next single ‘Itchycoo Park’, considered by many to be their most defining moment as a band. The summer hazed psychedelic pop song unearthed further richness in the voice of Steve Marriot, flawless and precise in its narration, showed the world just how magical his voice was. The song reached the American charts ( the only real success they ever achieved there) and won them a further army of fans. The album went on to become a huge UK best seller.

Small Faces fourth and final album, the one brimming with unambiguous confidence, humorous anecdotes and whistling whimsical joy, the album that would go on to ensure they’d always be remembered…the Cockney draped, hard rock, soft soul and drug dipped ‘Ogdens Nut Gone Flake’. The album was a resounding commercial success. The record spawned two singles, catchy cockney sing-along ‘Lazy Sunday’ and ‘Afterglow Of Your Love’.

In 1968 Steve Marriot quit the band and formed Humble Pie with Peter Frampton enjoying considerable success before splitting and going solo. He died in 1991 when a fire caused by a cigarette swept through his home as he slept. Ronnie Laine died of MS in 1997.

All four re-released albums will be 2 disc editions in both mono and stereo formats. Rare photographs and memorabilia, unreleased material, alternative USA mixes and early session versions are also included. Everything any Small Faces fan will ever want to own is right here.

Songs That Caused Outrage (Part 1)

Body Count
'Cop Killer'

The outraged protest against police brutality written by Body Count vocalist Ice-T was immediately flagged up by various law enforcers and provoked authoritarians of society demanding its immediate withdrawal from sale and, most likely, from the spotlight of public curiosity forever. Concerns were raised about the lyrical content and many felt the song glaringly promoted calculated anti-police philosophies. As the furore raged longer, the publicity grew bigger, but as the publicity grew bigger the objectors became mightier -President Bush publicly denounced any record company lacking the moral fibre to release such a product on the good folks of…etc etc. Freedom of speech, it would seem, is only a democratic right when suiting the requirements of those powerful enough to take it away again when it doesn’t. Further incidents and public distaste for the song resulted in death threats to the record company executives and some of the labels major stockholders made it clear they were considering pulling out of the company. Although the censorship body had decided the song (and album) to be displaying ‘honest purpose’ and found Body Count to be ‘not indecent’ Ice-T removed it from the original album. Warner Brothers re-released the album with Cop Killer offered as a free single.

This next record is dedicated to some personal friends of mine, the LAPD.
For every cop that has ever taken advantage of somebody, beat em down or hurt em
cause they have long hair, listen to the wrong kind of music, wrong colour, whatever they thought was the reason to do it. For everyone of those fucking police I'd like to take a pig out here in this parking lot and shoot em in their motherfucking face.

Cop Killer! 

I got my black shirt on, 

I got my black gloves on, 
I got my ski mask on. 
This shit's been too long. 
I got my twelve guage sawed off, 
I got my headlights turned off, 
I'm 'bout to bust some shots off, 
I'm 'bout to dust some COPS off. 
I'M A ......
Cop Killer, it's better you than me!
Cop Killer, fuck police brutality!
Cop Killer, I know your family' s grievin' ....... FUCK' EM!
Cop Killer, but tonight we get even!

I got my brain on hype, 
tonight'll be your night, 
I got this long- assed knife 
and your neck looks just right. 
My adrenaline' s pumpin' , 
I got my stereo bumpin' ,
I'm 'bout to kill me somethin' , 
a pig stopped me for nothin' !
Cop Killer, it's better you than me!
Cop Killer, fuck police brutality!
Cop Killer, I know your family' s grievin' ....... FUCK' EM!
Cop Killer, but tonight we get even!









Cop Killer, it's better you than me!

Cop Killer, fuck police brutality!
Cop Killer, I know your family' s grievin' ....... FUCK' EM!
Cop Killer, but tonight we get even!
FUCK THE POLICE, for Daryl Gates!
FUCK THE POLICE, for Rodney King!
FUCK THE POLICE, for my dead homies!
FUCK THE POLICE, for your freedom!
FUCK THE POLICE, don't be a pussy!
FUCK THE POLICE, sing along!

Cop Killer, it's better you than me!
Cop Killer, fuck police brutality!
Cop Killer, I know your family' s grievin' ....... FUCK' EM!
Cop Killer, but tonight we get even!

28 October 2012

Levellers: Interview

Published in Subba Cultcha. March 2009

Brighton’s steel edged political sentients the Levellers have never been constrained by a reluctance to employ their statutory prerogative should something stir their conscience. For twenty one years they’ve progressed, within a genre so distinctively them it’s almost exclusive. Their sound, crossing punk with a dominant underpinning of folky narratives, and procreated by that Celtic infrastructure they employ so well to further reinforce their manifesto, has enticed a formidable host of appreciative enthusiasts in their general direction. Considered by many to be the ultimate festival band ( a 1994 Glastonbury slot attracted the festival’s biggest ever stage front crowd) their live shows have a reputation of being frenzied and celebratory. In August last year they released the acclaimed “Letters From The Underground” album on their own label. Viewed as a return to form, with the written word once again employed as the weapon in their battles with injustice, the Levellers appear intent on continuing their crusade for a long time yet. They’ve gathered new strength and are using it with a revitalised spring in the step! Frontman Mark Chadwick put his busy schedule to one side for a few hours to sit down and be questioned by me.

Mark, how are you? I was told by your manager that you’re all on a pretty tight schedule right now so thanks for sparing me a bit of that time.

No problem. Today we’re all deep in new music and fighting the forces of the lazy and the indolent within ourselves! We’ve been holed up at The Metway for a couple of weeks with Sean Lakeman who produced our last album. Hopefully you’ll be hearing some new tracks this year.

Excellent. And does this current studio activity also signify the beginnings of a follow up to last years“Letters From The Underground”?

We’re just trying to not let the grass grow under our feet. This is the fastest turnaround to getting back into the studio in our history. If the music and lyrics are flowing then we have to act fast! If we leave it we'll lose it and god knows if we'd ever find it again.

You've recently returned from a nine gig European tour and, in April, begin a series of UK dates. How important, as a band, is it to get out there and play to your fans? I mean, I don’t think the Levellers could ever be content releasing album after album and only playing live for the purpose of having a new record to promote. You do seem to schedule tours when you have nothing to sell us’? I could name so many bands who don’t work in that way..and should be ashamed of themselves for managing to sleep at night.

It’s never been about the money, honey. It’s all about the people, steeple! Sorry that's the only rhyme I could think of..ha-ha! We all enjoy the buzz of playing live and that’s what’s kept us going. Obviously when you have a record coming out there’s all the PR and stuff that goes along with it but we carry on playing live regardless of our recordings. 

Staying with the live thing. It’s been said that you’ve never truly heard the Levellers until you’ve saw them play live. You’re also considered, by many, to be the ultimate festival band. Does that sort of opinion, as stunning an accolade as it may be, bring its fair share of pressure if you’re playing in a situation you know contains a crowd unfamiliar with the band yet have this huge expectation of how they assume you’ll be? It’s a wee bit of a ‘reputation going before you’ thing, aye?

Tell THAT to the cautious festival promoters who are scared to book us! We know we never fail! Well, nine out of ten times we get it right haha. Anyway we usually play our more familiar songs in festival sets so there’s going to be something the broader festival crowd will recognise. 

The one thing about you as a band is your honesty and your unpretentious approach to the songs. You’ve always worn the political heart firmly upon the sleeve and have never hid how you feel. I recently read an article that described you as ‘Celtic politicians of rock & roll’. Personally I think that’s a bit of a lazy description from someone who can't even be arsed to think of something more constructive ”‘ making it all seem a bit tedious and generic. But there is a greater depth and a more important point to be found in the lyrics you write. Do you still stand up for the same causes that inspired the band to form? 

We mean it, man, but we are busy meaning it. So, not to be confused with politicians which we definitely are not!!! It’s your planet you save it. The lyrics in the songs say how we feel. If you read the words to songs from ‘Letters From The Underground’ you get a clear picture of where our heads are at..and what defines us.

The album ‘Hello Pig’ took a bit of a slating from many angles. Did you find the criticism frustrating, especially as you were showing just how versatile you can be? Does it make you feel a bit ‘genre trapped’ and forever expected to deliver what people expect from you? 

Yes to a point we do feel a bit pigeon-holed but we accept that as a consequence of our popularity and are happy to accomodate that...we just keep doing what we do with honesty and a hope to never disappoint.

Metway Studios, and in particular the Metway Sessions is a great concept. Tell me more about that? 

Send us a demo and if you’re any good and you're local then you can come into the studio and get on local radio. We have recorded several albums here and it feels like one big happy home to us. There are all sorts of professional people working in the offices at the metway ”‘silversmiths, video editors, PR companies, promoters. You can check out the studios and get all the info you need at the website..www.metwaystudios.co.uk 

You’ve said on many occasions that “most music festivals are shit”which I do have to agree with, especially now that Glastonbury seems to have misplaced its ethos and gone a bit ‘Glastonbury Ltd’ on us (sorry Michael) To be blunt, it’s a direction more and more seem to be heading in. Nothing better than rock & roll for the purposes of cynical money chasing marketing strategies. Of all the UK festivals you’ve played at which ones do you feel still maintain that originality and true festival spirit?

Beautiful Days..obviously and without any doubt. And the rest you never get to really hear about like the Green Gathering ”‘ there are good ones under the radar which are largely ignored by the music press...though by that I dont include yourself, Alan, you legend hahaha! Seriously though..its a tragic overlooking of the future. 

The Beautiful Days festival..which is very much a festival organised by yourselves has always had brilliant line-ups. Is it just a case of getting your famous mates to play? 

Hands on fun man .. 24 hours, 7 days... and wot famous mates? This year is the seventh year and we all still love it as much as the first. It’s a massive buzz. A big party. You can check out the line up at www.beautifuldays.org

Does it sometimes surprise you that after more than 20 years of albums, singles, festivals and touring that you’re still considered as being outside the mainstream? You have had your share of mainstream success though. Which album and single would you consider had the biggest appeal?

'Just the One', which is a novelty, must be! “Zeitgeist” got to Number 1 in 1995 so I ‘spose that must have had a wide appeal. 

Here’s possibly the most common question you’re ever asked…why Levellers and not The Levellers? My god, how often must you see your name written with ‘The’ at the beginning? That would irritate my pedantic side relentlessly. Does it not bother you? Surely you knew that would happen?
Yes but we are pedants to a man. but.. based on the logo Levellers not ‘the’. You dig? Haa!

If Norman ‘Fatboy Slim’ Cook invited you to his place for a party would you agree to go on the condition he stayed away from the decks all night and allowed you to play the music of your choice, or would you be quite happy to let him ‘mess about’ with his software even if it probably meant he’d play the same one all night, but in many d.d.d.d different fffformats...with the ill behaviour with the ill behaviour with the..slash dot dash dot slash dot com dot com dot com, the funk soul brother kind of thing?

Ahhahahaha! I have no problem with the record thing but we’ve asked him to do something with one of ours..and he wont! 

Apart from the UK dates, and the studio work, what’s on the agenda for the Levellers after that?

World domination! Hahaha! Sorry..I know.

Excellent ambition you display. Thanks, man, for taking the time out. Hopefully catch up with you at your Edinburgh gig in April. Take it easy!

We love the Scottish crowds. They seem up for it there so it should be a good gig! Yeah, thanks – see you there for sure, Alan. Contact our press officer and they'll put your name on the guest list. Until then...

Thanks to Mark Chadwick, Jack Thunder at Excess Press.... and Amanda M (just because)

Morrissey Greatest Hits: Album Review

Published In Subba Cultcha Feb 2008

Greatest Hits
(Polydor Records)

Last of the famous unconventional playboys

Fascination and intrigue have surrounded Morrissey so intensely that he has now spent almost half his life being showered with fervent admiration and global monomania. His transcendent lyrics that languished in gritty realism struck the hearts of the more conventional inhabitants who found no connection with the more pretentious offerings from bands circling the periphery of what they assumed to be cool. It was glaringly conclusive that Morrissey was much more than some perceptive transient displaying random instances of Ardency in the UK but would suddenly vanish like steam, cast off by the vagaries and fashions of popular music. 

Considered by many to be the greatest living Mancunian the significance of The Smiths, and him, remains unparagoned. He’s been a solo artist 15 years longer than his time as a front man, which makes this year his twentieth of cutting it alone. Such an occasion has inspired a delve into his meaty back catalogue. But with typical Morrissey heretics it’s a bit of a mixed bag and notable omissions are conspicuous.

What you notice immediately isn’t the 15 tracks it contains but ones that it doesn’t. No room at the inn for the dynamic November Spawned A Monster’ and neither is stunningly gorgeous ‘Now My Heart Is Full’ anywhere to be seen. To relinquish the chance of illuminating a Greatest Hits package with what was undoubtedly his two strongest singles to date is incredulous. More puzzling is the cover of Patti Smiths ‘Redondo Beach’ surviving the final cut.  Moving on you need only go back as far as ‘Ringleader Of The Tormentors’ his exceptional album from 2006 to find four of the tracks included here. Another short step backwards into ‘You Are The Quarry’, the record that signalled his return from 7 year exile in 2004, and you’ll find another four tracks. So far, of the 15 tracks , more than half are pulled from the last two albums.

The 16 year gap between debut ‘Viva Hate’ and ‘Quarry’ is represented by his first three singles. The jangly canter of ‘Suedehead’ with the dramatic coastal bleakness of ‘Every Day Is Like Sunday’ and ‘Last Of The Famous International Playboys’. The dominating ‘The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get’ from the 1994 album ‘Vauxhall And I’ is in residence and quite possibly the most powerful on the album. New single ‘That’s How People Grow Up’ has the furnishings of his sharpness and holds respectable charm Another new song ‘All You Need Is Me’ with energetic drums , essential Morrissey utterances designated in what may promise to be a future of some quality compositions.

As a compilation, and keeping in mind the quite extensive body of work he has produced , I think he just may have got it wrong a couple of times. I’m not saying he could have done better , I’m saying he could have included better. The two I mentioned  earlier certainly, and an excessive sprinkling of the last two albums could have been slightly more moderate which would have freed up the territory for something that hails from way back like maybe ‘We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful’?
I’m being a bit pedantic. It’s a very valuable reference that , in the main, will not affect his frenzied fan base and definitely encourage passing inquisitiveness to come in and linger awhile.

27 October 2012

Madness: Album Review

One Step Beyond (Re-issue)
(Union Square Music)

Their classic 1979 debut album re-issued with a host of bonus tracks chucked in is the greatest step back in time you’ll ever have

If there’s anything to say about Madness which hasn’t already been said then it’ll probably not even be relevant! To date they’ve released 9 studio albums, 12 compilation albums, 3 live albums, 35 singles and 4 compilation videos. What else is left for them to do? Absolutely nothing! Madness have become a cultural representation of themselves and of good old ska/pop nostalgia’s whimsical embrace pre 1984 - for that is when they were good at what they did - and when everybody loved their nutty ways and cloaked themselves in it, if only to forget how horrible reality was for a while. When the band split after 1984’s “Keep Moving” they left a stunning legacy which remains solid to this day. Sadly the “commercially unsuccessful” performance of comeback album “Wonderful” and everything after it failed to match the vibe they whipped up 15 years previously and there, it seems, is where a line has been drawn by old skool Madness devotees and history does indeed record the band’s glory years being 1979-1984 with no recent evidence to suggest otherwise.

It’s a no-brainer then to reissue their 1979 debut “One Step Beyond” because that is where it all began and where the genius of them can be truly heard, in all it’s fresh originality. The brilliance of “Night Boat To Cairo”, “Madness” and “Bed & Breakfast Man” are still as utterly catchy and exciting as they were 30 years ago and makes you ever so grateful to have been a musically aware youth at that point in time. Everything about it which you thought was brilliant in 1979 remains brilliant in 2010. Bonus tracks include a John Peel Session, original versions of singles, b-sides of key tracks and live tracks from the “Dance Craze” film. It’s the greatest step back in time you’ll ever have.

SXPP Punk All Dayer: Live Review


Edinburgh promoters SXPP, responsible for bringing many notable punk bands to the capital at weekends, further enhanced that service today with a formidable line-up that brimmed with unquestionable strengths and individuality. For over 12 hours the crowd at Studio 24 basked in the searing climate of visceral kindredship and celebration.

I was fashionably late, as always, which, regrettably, resulted in me missing CRITIKILL and HAPPY SPASTICS, the two bands I really did want to see! I did however manage to catch the last 3 songs from the enthusiastically energetic THE MURDERBURGERS and I couldn’t have probably found a better band to start my day with. Their furious pop/punk proficiency was delivered with a tight composure and distinctive style.

Supervened by ACID TONGUE, the hardcore Fife outfit who never fail to disappoint in any situation - and today was no exception. Their hard-hitting, sometimes political brand of punk is much favoured on the live scene. They have a unique identity and concentrated belief in what they sing about. LOWLIFE UK were glorious and, in my opinion, the band of the day! They were charismatic and posses that working class intellect which defines punk rock. Their songs are frantic and the energy levels they conjure are delirious. They also showed an ability to not take themselves too seriously. This band are capable of creating a good night out. 

DOGSFLESH were a heaving vehicle of hardcore mayhem. What you got is what you saw and they deliver it the way they create it - without instruction or compliance. Tonight they exploded on stage and never reduced their vehement onslaught once! Following them 3CR,  the Manchester rebel rousing proscribers who posses some of the hookiest offensive songs in existence. But it’s jagged and raw and intelligently entwined with 3 chord mastery and they made everyone here tonight very fuckin happy. It’s conclusive that INSTANT AGONY are very good. Again they delivered a wealth of songs that can lift the corners from roofs until the sky bleeds and showers those below in the congealed sonance inflicted plasma. I somehow ended up next to their speakers for the whole set - and could hear nobody but them until Tuesday lunchtime!! French band ANTI CLOCKWISE were a manifestation of prodigious instinct and  presence tonight. It’s almost like they cherry-picked their greatest moments and threw the whole lot at us. Faultless and lavish to the extent of rakish libertines. They are an undoubtedly ferocious live band.  THE FIEND and KEYSIDE STRIKE were both as incendiary and thrilling as is expected from any band at this stage of an alldayer. Tragically, or stupidly, I missed DEMOB by about 15 minutes, and I’ve no idea how or why! I have no good reason to offer and nobody else to blame - I don’t think!

Entrusted with bringing proceedings to a majestic end were today’s headliners UK SUBS. Though today wasn’t the original line up that began over 30 years ago - Charlie Harper still leads from the front. Should you ever need examples of a value for money punk band then UK SUBS will always tick the boxes! I’ve saw them many times and again tonight they were indefectible and outstanding! They done it so powerfully they surely moved Studio 24 in its foundations enough to create it a new map reference. If Carlsberg made fitting ends………

Although today’s crowd was disappointingly low - which was hopefully less to do with apathy and more to do with it being Sunday - there was no lack of spirit and delectation among those who were here. Should this event become an annual affair it’s probably an odds on certainty that there won’t be as much room at the inn next time!

Photographs: Larry at SXPP

Isa & The Filthy Tongues: Interview

Almost phoenix-like, Isa & The Filthy Tongues rose from the ashes of Goodbye Mr McKenzie and Angelfish (their former singer Shirley Manson is now best known as the vocalist with Garbage) With their gritty, trashed up rock and punk sound they immediately secured a strong following on the live circuit and, as a result, their singles and debut album have been popular releases. Last single “New Town Killers” seemed to catapult them further into the awareness of the nation. Along the way they picked up “admirers” such as Janice Long, Steve Lamacq and NME magazine. New single “Big Star” is set to enhance their existence further. I recently spent 3 hours talking to the band at their secret Edinburgh rehearsal room.

You’re constantly described as a “dark, moody, underground indie band” Is that a tag you’re happy to wear or is there a bit more depth and innovation to your songwriting that maybe a lot of people seem to miss the true architecture of?

Fin - Well the first LP was pretty dark and moody, which we personally like. More than that though it had anger and a kind of warped sex about it. People may change their feelings about what we do on the next LP as it is more thoughtful, more melodic and has a bit more of a feeling of the tragic to it. Stacey’s mum died just as the last LP was released so it was a hard time. And maybe it’s a bit more of a hopeful collection of songs, through necessity. The song-writing is definitely stronger.

On last single “New Town Killers” Richard Jobson was assigned vocal duties. Is that because he sang with The Skids and you knew the man had a voice on him? Or, was it because, as director of the movie the song appears in, the decision was purely his because he was le’ boss?

Martin - All of those reasons I think. Richard wanted us to come up with a tune and he said he wanted to write the lyrics so he was the boss there! Then we though he should sing it. Me  & Derek were big Skids fans as kids so we nagged him to sing on it, which he refused (I think he was having a modest day then). So then we persuaded him to do a bit of yelling and shouting in it which he was happy about. It’s during the guitar solo he yells a bit then at the end of the LP version he does a bit more ranting. It’s brilliant for us to have him on there. His rants are classic. One great thing that came out of this was that Richard composed a few more ‘rants’ for us, one of which has it’s own space on our new LP. A track called ‘Bus Shelter’, a ditty about waiting for a bus in the rain surrounded by social misfits. It’s a scream.

  Do you think it’s netted itself a more pronounced location in the public’s awareness than any of your previous releases may have? Certainly it seems to have introduced Isa and the Filthy Tongues to a wider network?

Fin - I think it's hard to say. Obviously exposure by the likes of BBC 6 music and Radio 2 plays 
and NME will have introduced us to a wider audience than previously which can only be good as far as we're concerned. As for public awareness, that to me suggests mainstream success of a sustained nature which is not something we've ever really experienced, or in fact particularly sought. And of course we're in a very fickle business - you're only as good as your current or next release. On that front though we're pretty happy with what we've got lined up and are in rude health, filthy health in fact.

Would it be true to say your success now has led to a renewed interest in Goodbye Mr McKenzie from people possibly unaware the band existed at the time? 

Martin - I would say not very much. More that it’s awakened some of the Mackenzies fans to Isa
We don’t get many new Isa fans demanding that we play old Mackenzies material. This is good for us, we want to move forward. 

In this current musical climate would Goodbye MrMcKenzie find things suited them better now than back then?

Derek - Its very difficult to say. I think as a band all you can do is work hard, write your songs and play live, everything else that happens around that is very hard to control. I think bands have more options now and can get their stuff out easier than when we started but then you have the problem that there's so much great stuff out there - getting attention isn't easy. We're much happier with how things are at the moment as to how things were then. Getting a record deal of some kind then was practically the only way you could progress as a band...now that's not the case and that sits much easier with us.

The new Isa and the Filthy Tongues single “Big Star”is released June 29th.  Can you tell us a wee bit about that?

Stacey - I wrote it on a long bus journey in my head. I came to rehearsal and sang the melody to Martin. He put chords to it and there it was!! It’s for all the girls out there who are having a hard time. You’ve got to think big and hold on to your dreams!

Martin - It’s going to be released as a download single on 6th July. We’re giving away some free tracks with it. Anyone who buys it can send us the receipt and we’ll send them 2 or 3 free songs (we haven’t decided which ones yet) Then it’s going to be included on a re-issued first LP ‘Addiction’. Some unreleased material is going on that along with the whole first LP.

 I’ve heard there are plans to release another album this year at some point?

Derek - We've got a few things on the go at the moment but there will be a new album DARK PASSENGER out in September this year. 

You possibly have one of the best band names on the planet. What inspired its creation?

Martin - When Stacey finally joined the band didn’t want the band to be named Stacey Chavis & the Filthy Tongues. Though we did think about calling the group that for a whileStacey was so new to singing that she didn’t want to have her real name on there in case things didn't work out. So we started searching for a name in books and movies and on the net. She’d been in a Wiccan spiritual group in the US (trying to 'sort her head out' ) and I’d been reading up on the history of Scottish witches so I thought I’d look up some of their names on the net. The only records up there were of witches who’d been tried and or executed. I made a text file of those and sent it round the rest of the band. Derek Kelly noticed something strange. A very large amount of the witches had the name Isobel or Isabel. He said ‘I wouldn’t like to have been called Isabel in those days!!’  The Filthy Tongues part of the name came from a lyric in a Mackenzies song called 'Good deeds are like filthy rags' which is a quote from the bible..It's in the book of Isaiah (commonly shortened to ISA weirdly enough).
Also in the Koran Jesus is called 'Isa' pronounced eesah. Jesus is highly regarded in the Koran. So our name could be taken as Jesus and the Filthy Tongues....It's all coming together!!!!

Of all the brilliant bands coming out of Scotland right now are there any that invigorate you personally?

Martin - I enjoy Glasvegas somewhat. I haven’t bought there LP though. I love the way he sings ’Geraldine’. If anyone round the planet wants to know how to say ‘Geraldine’ in Weedgie language then  that’s it exactly.
The Fratellis are Fun. The View are fun too but none of those bands totally fit my needs. I prefer the last generation Scots bands, Mogwai or Arab Strap for instance. I like a band called Saint Deluxe who are kind of along that line.

You’re playing The Wickerman Festival this year – in my opinion Scotland’s greatest festival. Looking forward to that?

StaceyWe’ll take your word for it. We’ve never been so we’re hopeful it’ll be a good experience. We’re in the Scoter tent around 5pm on July 24th.. See you there?

Definitely! Looking forward to seeing you play live and hopefully we can catch up after your slot and chat a bit more. Thank you for allowing me to waste your valuable time this afternoon I appreciate it very much. Good luck with the new album and everything you do in the future. Thank you again.

Thanks to Tony at Manila PR

Photographer for the day: Emma