29 January 2013

Album Review: HUG


the first release in almost 19 years for Tyneside band HUG

Be it the rapid hairtrigger transcience that breeds among the revenue chasing record company moguls graceless marketing methods, or maybe they were just too plugged in to their collective abilities and felt they had accomplished everything they were capable off achieving and without impulse or momentum things become a jaded, uninspired version of the thing you once were - and you betray your art when you churn out second rate fodder for cash., Or maybe it was something else entirely that influenced their decision to call it a day back in 1994 when they seemed to be on the very brink of widespread success. HUG appeared on the Tyneside scene in 1990 with a flurry of other bands who quickly built up a strong local following. As their popularity grew it attracted the interest of the A&R men who actively track and pursue the scent of new blood with committed enthusiasm and drive. In 1991 HUG released debut ep 'Kaleid' before going on to release another 2 ep's and an album for Kitchenware Records. NME rated them in a top ten predictions list, Melody Maker proclaimed them 'state of the art sounding', Spiral Scratch awarded them a 'single of the month' status, Radio 1 sessions were given and tour slots supporting Fatima Mansions and Echo and the Bunnymen were earned. It all seemed to be slotting into place smoothly - but in 1994 they split up. It's now almost 19 years since HUG walked away....and they're back, like Nomads returning to civilisation after a lengthy ambitious clamber across the desolate surface of the world. With them is new release 'Clay' an 8 song album of which three are brand new reworked recordings and the others are live recordings from last year.

Opening song 'Clay' kicks off brilliantly with a slice of jangling guitar for a few seconds before the drums crash into place reinforcing the entire sound with a steadying blend of clashing cymbals and probing drumbeat that collectively builds into a catchy, lush tinted retro tune pulled straight from the 90's. Vocalist Gemma Wilson unfurls a tremendous voice that almost spits parts of the vitriol at you - and the 'la la la la' she launches herself into after delivering the line 'I've given up missing sex' is sheer poetic majesty. The slow starting 'Kingdom Come', a B-side from their 1994 EP 'Firebrands' expands as it multiplies and picks up a pacier guitar/drums dynamic as Gemma Wilson Pitt's vocal soars above the probing guitars, and cracks into something between grunge and Sinead O Connor, as the sound of each instrument mesh together in fevered resonance, she volleys the vocal 'lead us not into temptation, kingdoms come and kingdoms die' with the fervour of a revolutionist before leading the song flawlessly to it's end. The indie/pop skip of 'This Dark Eden' merely jaunts a distraction around the voracious angst that casually drips from the mouth of Gemma Wilson.....'there are shards to cut me open' she lightly tells us, before moving on to announce ' you twist you shake and when it comes apart you break' as the music rarely shifts from the happy exterior created. HUG are riddled with darkness underneath all that exuberance, it seeps through the songs and lies in thick pools at their feet, perfectly fitting the hollowed out shapes of their internal backbiting torments.

.'Kaleid' from their 1991 EP of the same name, is a fired up, alt-dance tune anthem somewhere between The Charlatans and Primal Scream's expressive guitar driven drug anthems with Gemma Wilson sounding remarkable among the funk-oozed indie mashed hybrid. The searing raw edged 'Meltdown' from the 'Firebrands' single is followed by another perfectly weighted vocal delivery by Gemma Wilson on the funk-laden 'Insatiable' a song which owes everything to fine guitar playing and canny vocal nouse. She forgets the title of next song 'Walk On Fire' dismissing it with a 'oh I can never remember it's name, but it was a hit single actually' ....before the band tear into it.....and finish off with the brilliant 'Clay'.

I missed out on HUG first time around - the early 90's for me dissapeared under a cloud of detached puzzlement and spiralling bouts of god knows with a cast of unnamed bullshit conversationalists. But hearing them now I can fully appreciate the 90's critical worshipping. Hug are/were an inventive, forward thinking group of people who wrote great songs and played them even better. Their short life is tall history and if they ever decide to give HUG another run around the music scene they'd be effortless achievers once more.

*Published In Subba Cultcha*

26 January 2013

Peter & The Test Tube Babies

I went to see Peter And The Test Tube Babies playing at The Citrus Club in Edinburgh last night. I didn't review the gig so don't mistake this posting for being such. Although they wouldn't make it into my Top 10 punk bands they are very good at what they do. Energetic, loud and industriously cramming as much as they can into their set. Their booze fuelled humour quite often skims the line between joking and offensive, firing up the audience before launching into another flurry of tongue in cheek punk anthems - and they have written their fair share of them over the years  - with particular favourites 'Banned From The Pubs' 'Run Like Hell' 'Intensive Care' and 'Maniac' the ones guaranteed to lift the roof off every time. Their career has lasted a phenomenal 33 years which deserves nothing but the greatest respect in this day of ever changing attitudes, fashions and fickle tastes. I remember buying their debut album 'Pissed And Proud' which, in my opinion, remains their greatest work. I still rate that album enough to play it from time to time. They continue touring both in the UK and Europe and are a regular presence on the festival circuit. As I said, not one of my favourite bands, but they do put on a cracking show and deserve to be seen. So make sure you catch them live when you can. They're a good, fun night out.

DVD Review: Beatles Stories


Every second of The Beatles history has been printed, recorded, filmed, photographed, painted and mass produced in so many different mediums and formats it’s impossible to ever imagine there might be a method not yet utilised - unless you want to attempt superimposing every song lyric on a rain-cloud which is then manacled to the Liverpool skyline and programmed by a purpose built hi tech control tower to rain a different song upon the city every day at 4pm which is contained within an orchestra of raindrops that release lyrics, vocals and music upon hitting the ground. Possibly not yet an option so we make do with duplicates of duplicates engulfing other yawn products with no more else to offer than a rephrased helping of the same trivia we gorged on years ago. You’re not so much bored with it just occupied by it Re-issued, re-packaged, reviled. Until, from the starkest of concepts, came a captivatingly radical production of sheer genius. Songwriter/musician Seth Swirsky, himself a lifetime Beatles fan, came up with the simplest of ideas, to track down people who had met either an individual band member or the entire band and get them to relate their experience to him as he filmed it. The more people he spoke to and the more stories he got generated a tapestry of momentous information and personal history that quite possibly had never been documented anywhere until now. Listening to each personal story unfold is a fascinating insight into The Beatles and how down to earth, everyday human beings they were despite the whole world constantly watching their every move. This prosaic, informal side to them is rarely touched upon in any other Beatles documentary, but here it becomes the only side of them on view. The 85 minute production features 53 stories from celebrities and insiders including Art Garfunkel, Brian Wilson, Sir George Martin, Ben Kingsley, Ray Manzarek and Davy Jones ranging from the poignant to the utterly hilarious. It’s a candid and informal atmosphere that reveals such historic moments with such simple diversity. A labour of love for director Seth Swirsky. Made by a fan for the fans.

22 January 2013

Goodbye Mister Mackenzie

Today is the 18th anniversary of the death of talented Scottish singer Billy Mackenzie who committed suicide on 22nd January 1997 following ongoing periods of clinical depression. The unique vocalist, best known as front-man with inventive pop band The Associates enjoyed real moments of glittering success after bursting upon the scene from virtually nowhere with innovative debut album ‘The Affectionate Punch’ a high-energy pop album swathed in rich cinematics, swirling build-ups and even a finely crafted ballad. Their continuing diversity - outrageous vocal depth and inventive instrumentalism earned plaudits such as ‘the most modern band of the decade’ and when the majestic ‘Party Fears Two’ arrived upon the world it brought The Associates wider success and instant recognition. The single reveals just how magnificent Billy Mackenzie’s vocal depths are - swooping glides and dizzying dips of mesmerising vocal seem to manifest with the guitars and oscillating piano tinkling as everything seems to loop together like smoke.

A tour being planned, another album, two hit singles in a row when ‘Club Country’ is eagerly received then, with no clues or warning, the band split up.  Billy Mackenzie began a solo career and became everything at once - cool obsessive, hopeless romantic, hedonist, pin up boy and surely a man in control of the complete fucking world. Various albums and singles arrived as the years crept onwards, nothing ever stood up to the work of The Associates, and a two year battle between Billy Mackenzie and WEA as he struggled defiantly out of a binding contract didn’t help bridge gaps between either legacy. A long time of silences seemed to shout out that Billy Mackenzie would not contribute any more music, he seemed to have crawled off and called it a day, until the club scene picked up on an old cover of Blondie’s ‘Heart Of Glass’ that Billy recorded way back - it kicked up enough interest to allow Billy a HI-NRG released version of it.

When his mother died it slowly began to suck the soul from a distraught and grief stricken Billy Mackenzie. Her death was a devastation he couldn’t get on top of. During Christmas 1996 Billy went to his fathers house near Dundee to rest and relax away from the cloying presence of London. On January 22nd Billy’s father discovered him in the garden shed, wrapped in a duvet and clutching a photo album. His father said at the time ‘when I felt his brow I panicked and started crying’. The arrival of an ambulance crew found an empty Paracetamol bottle next to Billy which had been mixed in with the prescribed anti-depressant Amitriptyline…and a note which simply said ‘sorry’

21 January 2013

Fuck Monday Mixtape

This Monday, next Monday, any fucking Monday Our hatred for it is seated in deep rooted primal instincts. Monday should be ripped from our weekly calendars and burned in a public display of unity. Objectors should be beaten with weapons. Here's a mixtape to help forget its existence.


1: The Rolling Stones…Start Me Up
2: The Libertines…Don’t Look Back Into The Sun
3: Beastie Boys…Sabotage
4: The Supernaturals…. Smile
5: The Beach Boys… Good Vibrations
6: The Jesus And Mary Chain…April Skies
7: Aztec Camera… Good Morning Britain
8: The Futureheads… Decent Days And Nights
9: Violent Femmes… Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?
10: Spin Doctors… Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong
11: REM… The One I Love
12: New Model Army… No Rest
13: The Ramones… I Wanna Be Sedated
14: The Smiths… Sweet And Tender Hooligan
15: XTC… Sgt Rock
16: Big Audio Dynamite…. E=MC2
17: Kate Bush… Hounds Of Love
18: The Jam… Running On The Spot
19: The White Stripes… Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground
20: Hole… Violet

Click link below to play mixtape on Spotify

Album Review: Threats


When lyrics of barbed political cynicism and acerbic opinion are launched with fierce proclamation from a hard edged wall of raw, vicious punk rock guitar, solidly dictated by the strong, confident leadership of capable drumming, it can only be the triumphant war cry of the Threats!

On new album ‘God Is Not With Us Today’ Scottish punk band Threats still sound, quite remarkably, as original and dedicated than ever before. With a debut release over half a century ago, it’s a stunning testament to their musical ability and unwavering  belief in themselves that this new record is probably a stronger, more concise collection than anything they’ve done before. Admittedly, they had many long periods of inactivity down the years, but in the last 8 they’ve rarely, if at all, strayed from their path. A commitment that’s surely never been rewarded as gloriously as right now, because Threats have just made the perfect punk album!

Album opener ‘Live Fast, Die By Mistake’ is inspired! It’s got everything you’d expect from classic old school punk. I don’t think there’s anyone doing it better than this right now!  Second track ‘Rotten’ is all catchy guitar hooks and precise punchy drumming, with a chorus that truly justifies the fact that front man Jim has a powerful singing voice. Yes, the man can sing, and sing well! There’s no fluke to the first 2 songs because everything continues in the same way. It’s accomplished, unpretentious and honest. From ‘Bastards and Bitches’ through ‘Greedy’ to ‘No Time For It’ there’s nothing you can pick fault with. Then, next up, and my personal stand out track, the brilliant ‘Armchair Anarchist’. The guitar intro that leads into this song is unmatched, absolutely unmatched by anything! It’s simple but it’s never been given a more effective role. Again, it’s classic punk, but so very tight and disciplined. This song is the ‘hairs on the neck’ one! Fourteen songs that deserve their position on any album. For sure there are many people who find nothing worth listening to in punk music…but can they argue with perfection? It’s respect where respect is due. 

Listen to the album in it's entirety from the playlist below.

20 January 2013

Album Review: Shriekback


Formed in 1981 by Barry Andrews (XTC) and Dave Allen ( Gang Of Four) Shriekback amassed a reasonably successful string of hits in the indie music charts before splitting in 1988. They re-formed in 92’ with single ‘The Bastard Sons Of Enoch’ and album ‘Sacred City’ before disappearing from the radar completely for the next 8 years before returning again in 2000 with new album ‘Naked Apes & Pond Life’, and they’ve remained, in one form or another, since then and today ‘Life In The Loading Bay’ becomes their fourth release since their return from exile - and their 12th studio album to date. Always a difficult band to categorize, they’ve borrowed heavily from several genres of music including funk, pop, rock, dub and electronica and have employed a multitude of instruments in the process. Such versatility remains the apparatus they skilfully craft songs from today. Gentle and almost ghostlike ‘In The Dreamlife Of Dogs’  the gospel edged ‘Loving Up The Thing’, hardy rock and roll driven ‘Now I Wanna Go Home’ and even the meandering blues gets a turn on ‘Nowherenothingever’. The variety this album throws up is endless, possibly spiralling into that glorious realm of intelligence considered Avant Garde. There’s a mad kinda magic about all of it, a genuine ability to create such high-browed musical dynamics that, when brought together collectively, is astoundingly majestic. Such artistic nous will always create impressive, forward thinking works of art - and Shriekback bolster that opinion quite superbly right here. With the added harmonising of Wendy Partridge and the violin work of Kat Evans (on Pointless Rivers) Life In The Loading bay is a riot of inspired cleverness with nothing to declare but its voguish genius. Probably not something for the simple-hearted music fan but for those with a yearning for the scholarly then this one is right up your alleyway.

Album Review: Rage Against The Machine XX

Rage Against The Machine
20th Anniversary Edition

Marking the 20th anniversary of the self titled Rage Against The Machine debut album comes the re-mastered and reissued version complete with the added bonus material every deluxe collectors edition justifies it’s existence with

With their powerfully enraged hostile rants of perceptual subversion against corporate America, Rage Against The Machine earned huge critical support from a frustrated and resentful generation of renegades. The spliced fragments of punk, hip-hop, metal and thrash which bolted their sound together was a compellingly dynamic accompaniment to the lyrical incendiary being hurled at the targets of their scathing resent. The militant poetic mantras of front-man Zack de la Rocha delivered in his distinctively unflinching rap/rant vocal style were further enhanced by Tom Morello’s ingenious guitar work, the deep throbbing bass lines of Timmy C and, pounding out their frustrations brilliantly, drummer Brad Wilk. Not only mouthy instigators but inventive, solid and tight musicianship to back it up with, had such evidence ever been needed. There have been many pretenders to the throne since RATM first screamed a lyric in anger but you can’t reproduce an emotion that isn’t yours to begin with and so they remained an original masterpiece in a world of forgeries. It was the crunching distortion and shattering feedback of their self titled debut album that continued to glorify them best and created such an unstoppable force. Since it’s furious birth 20 years ago the 10 track album, with cover artwork featuring a Buddhist Monk burning himself to death in protest at the oppression of the Buddhist religion, still sounds as assertively hostile now, on this re-mastered Anniversary edition, as it did back then. Belligerent austerity and tenacious dogmatism are a dominant supremacy anywhere, but here, alongside such single minded devotion to the cause, it’s a towering inferno of political vitriol which bristles with conviction and creativity. Highlights are still phenomenal…. Signature tune ‘Killing In The Name’ ..fuck you I wont do what ya tell me’… ’Wake Up’ (the atmospheric yells of WAKE UP as the song nears it’s end remain a stirring resonance) Hard hitting ‘Bullet In The Head’, the simmering ‘Freedom’ and ferocious ‘Fistful Of Steel’ still veer, swagger and growl like callous, blood-starved predators defiantly unyielding in their anger and philosophies.

As well as the original album (re-mastered and with 3 bonus tracks) this Anniversary Edition also includes the full set of original demos ( their first full official release) that would eventually become the album versions we are familiar with – the only real difference is a rougher sounding quality which lends an unpolished feel to each song. A bonus DVD includes three music videos ( Killing In The Name, Bombtrack and Freedom) plus three previously unreleased live clips (Take The Power Back, Bombtrack and Wake Up) filmed at three separate performances during the early 90’s. As appealing as all the additional bonus material may be it wont make any significant difference to the album itself. A historically championed agenda pushing juggernaut of ground-breaking musical expressiveness that’s never been matched pound for pound by anything else since.


Written by: Alan Baillie

15 January 2013

My TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2012


14 January 2013


This playlist celebrates the greatness of REM who decided to disband in Sept 2011 after 31 years in rock & roll. The 30 song playlist are, in my own opinion,their greatest moments. God bless them!

DVD Review. Circle Jerks - My Career As A Jerk

The Circle Jerks debut album ‘Group Sex’ is considered a reference point of substantial significance in the progression of the punk movement in LA. Ploughing through the 14 tracks of their debut in just over fifteen minutes of tight trashy guitar, pounding drums and distinct vocal appealed to the rowdy belligerence of America’s youth culture who embraced not only the sound of the Circle Jerks but their volleying quick-fire politically drenched bursts of sarcastic lyrical hyperbole - matched to perfection by the hyper-energetic, whirling dervish and chaotic majesty of their live performances. Celebrating the life and times of the influential band who - although made a big enough name for themselves - always seemed to be deserving of a bit more than what they had, filmmaker David Markey’s latest documentary ‘Circle Jerks: My Life As A Jerk’ due to be released on DVD this month, is a fascinating in-depth examination of the band from their early beginnings and groundbreaking debut album, the tours, fights, addictions, successes and break-ups. Markey’s incredible gift for creating these particular music/film documentaries is well known - he was the man behind ‘1991: The Year Punk Broke’, the collected music video and short films showcase ‘Cut Short’ from 2006 and ‘The Slog Movie’ from 1982 as well as his work with bands that include Sonic Youth, Nirvana, The Ramones and Black Flag. It is that same sharp edged, comprehensive style found on his past projects that breath life into this illuminative statement. And though the dramatic unfolding of scandal might be fun to hear it’s usually not all there is to a band and thankfully David Markey is experienced and aware enough to know that facts that fans already know wont be enough to make this interesting so he gets the core band members to recount their version of being a Circle Jerk from start to finish. It’s a flawless historical perspective of the influential seminal punks and possibly one of the most insightful bouts of audio/visual scrutinising I’ve ever seen.

Thanks to Claire at Weinerworld DVD Distributors