22 February 2014

Carter USM Announce Last Ever Show

The Final Comedown
This year Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine will play their LAST ever show. It will take place at Brixton Academy on November 22nd 2014

A Statement From Jim Bob
On November 22nd this year at Brixton Academy a very good thing will sadly come to an end when we play our final ever Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine live show. I say 'sadly' but the sad element will come afterwards. On the 22nd we're going to have a big party. We're going to celebrate all the fantastic Carter shows that have taken place since we got back together in 2007. Those first two 'one off' shows in 2007 that completely blew us away and made us desperate to do more. The Drum Machine Years gigs where we played the first four albums from start to finish, even 'Evil', which I completely fucked up. There was the incredible Beautiful Days festival, the Glasgow King Tuts benefit show, all of them, all of the reunion gigs have been amazing. I'm sure other bands say it but we genuinely have got the best audience in the world.

That's you that is. It wouldn't just not be the same without you it would be rubbish. Join us for one last time this November. Come and meet old friends, make new ones, dance yourself lame and sing yourself hoarse. Let's go out on a high that makes Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic project seem subterranean by comparison. Have a bloody good laugh, shed a tear, raise a glass or two and let's see if we can break the venue's bar record one more time before we go.

Jim Bob x

17 February 2014

Album Review: ZTT Anniversary Compilations

To celebrate their recent 30th Anniversary groundbreaking label ZTT Records (Zang Tuum Tumb) unfurled a trio of compilations.

Envy Will Hurt Itself, Let Yourself Be Beautiful

Their reign was brief but incandescent. The greatest expression of self destructive superficiality, a phenomenon that challenged modesty, righteousness and the etiquette of accepted conduct, Frankie Goes To Hollywood were the biggest name in 80’s pop and first class achievers of notoriety. Trevor Horn’s production wizardry was massive, opulent and fearless, a towering inferno of catchy, apocalyptic pop excess with layers of club hedonism, instantly danceable disco funk and throbbing industrial bass lines. The media manipulation tactics of Paul Morley ensured them a place in popular culture forever….accomplished in the space of their first 3 singles and a debut album. First single ‘Relax’, a pounding bass driven disco/rock tune was pronounced obscene by Radio 1 DJ Mike Read leading to a complete ban by the BBC which catapulted the song - which at that time was floundering in a mediocre chart placing - to the top of the charts for 5 weeks before going on to sell a reported 2 million copies, winning best British single at The Brit Awards and seventh best selling single in UK chart history. Second single ‘Two Tribes’ was a gigantic, overblown Hi-NRG masterpiece that shook the walls of a world still consumed by cold war paranoia with it’s nuclear war public information voiceovers, relentless bass line and aggressive orchestral pyrotechnics. It hit the top of the charts and remained there for 9 weeks. Third single ‘The Power Of Love’ was their third (and last) number one. A soul searching power ballad drenched in melodic sweetness and drifting orchestration was Frankie Goes To Hollywood at their least belligerent and displaying a gentler side never before shown. As Holly Johnson crooned ‘When the chips are down I’ll be around with my undying, death defying love for you’ you believed him. Three singles and three very different subjects in sex, war and love. Frankie Said is a hugely unforgettable collection of the singles (7 in all) the remixes, a stunning live version of Springsteen’s ‘Born To Run’ which, I personally think, is so much better. So, for those who would like to see what all the fuss of 1984 was about you’ll find it all in here - from that powerful trio of number one singles to the journey’s end. Let’s honour the hype!

The imagination and the technical proficiency of ZTT Records as well as their love of experimental methods produced a huge back catalogue of contradictory music from straightforward mainstream influenced pop to the less radio-friendly oddities of heavy sampled, multi-layered creations. The glaring diversity of sounds was a significant lesson in creativity that eclipsed the era it lived in and remains a benchmark in making music today. The two disc collection delves into both sides of the ZTT coin from the obvious hit-intended singles to the less apparent cross-breeds with a more subjective destination in mind. Disc 1 is the hit-intenders and includes, within the majesty of it’s presence, the breath-catching Shane MacGowan/Sinead O Connor duet ‘Haunted’, the Shades Of Rhythm house anthem ‘Extacy’. the captivating Kirsty MacColl song ‘Angel, apocalyptic disco monster ‘Two Tribes’ by Frankie Goes To Hollywood (and why wouldn’t they?) stunning Art Of Noise invention ‘Moments In Love’ and the synth- pop classic ‘Dr Mabuse’ by Propaganda.Disc 2 features the ‘other side’ of pop - songs of varying fundamentals that knocked hard at the walls of your uncovered subterranean tastes with a host of perplexities including ‘The Amusement’ by Andrew Poppy, a psychedelic cover of Cream’s ‘I Feel Free; by Sun Electric, Adamski’s Thing’s ‘Picadilly Circus and Mantra’s ‘Intensify’. As sporadic as it is expansive this is a fascinating adventure through time, a showcase of the grandiloquent understatements, a legacy underlined with an importance to be looked at by everyone. It’s a little piece of everything contemporary from unorthodox to familiar and you cant call yourself a fan of music if you don’t at least begin the journey down the fascinating trajectory that awaits you. Volume is just a fragment of it!

Nobody embraced the 12” single with as much significance than ZTT did. They turned it into an art form, a ground-breaking age of the extended mix that dictated DJ sets and changed dance floor politics amid a flurry of sampling  and remixes. The cybernetic makeover pulled new life from it’s source material stretching what was once 3 minutes long into a 15 minute complex variation of itself. ZTT used it as a means of creativity like the 16 minute ‘sex mix’ of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Relax’ or the multiple remix which procreated a different version of ‘Two Tribes’ every four weeks or the elaborate soundscape ‘Moments In Love’ by The Art Of Noise. The torrent of edited rehashed reworks proved nothing could ever be considered definitive, that music was itinerant and transitory and capable of much more than the standard 7” single would suggest. The Art Of The 12 Inch (Volume Three) brings reworked ZTT material plus remixed tracks by artists connected (loosely ) to the label or those within. It’s an interesting collection that includes some rarely glimpsed, perhaps unknown to some, works of intrigue like the instrumental dub version of the Madness song ‘Our House’ entitled ‘Mad House’, an extended 12” of ‘Sign Of The Times’ by The Belle Stars, ABC’s ‘Look Of Love’ parts 1,2,3 and 4, the ‘Rage Hard’ vocal/remix by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Sigue Sigue Sputnik’s ‘Love Missile F1-11 (video mix) and Apollo 440 remix of ‘Heart Of Glass’.  The radical thinking ZTT soundscaped the 80’s with their history-making productions, a cabaret of sound within a theatre of music that didn’t just change the way music was produced but how it was distributed and the various forms of doing that. A liberating intellectual development that developed the  avant-garde aesthetic still neoteric in it’s construction today.

Written by: Alan Baillie
Published at: Subba Cultcha

Live Review: Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls

Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls
Edinburgh Corn Exchange
Sat 8th Feb 2014

The former front-man for post hardcore band Million Dead has been enthralling audiences across the UK since going solo in 2005. His semi-acoustic folk/punk tunes have earned him a fanatical following and a rags to semi- riches level of mainstream success - an incredible achievement to have made without the advantage of a hit single to piggy-back in on - and only the most vindictive and envious of people would  deny him that. With his songs now firmly entrenched in the ‘Englishness’ of his poetic observations he  is a wordsmith of the highest order accentuating this modern culture of ours with astonishing clarity. 

The thundering roar that  snapped Edinburgh Corn Exchange into life as Frank Turner and his band The Sleeping Souls walked on stage is as significant of his popularity these days as the fact this gig has sold out is! He smiles, raises his arms and launches the evening with the stomping catchiness of Photosynthesis an energetic anthem about how society expects us to embrace the confines of adulthood and act our age. He incites the crowd to join in on it’s chant-along chorus…and they sing, with endearing petulance…’I wont sit down, and I wont shut up, and most of all I will not grow up!’  The reflective angst of ‘Plain Sailing Weather is followed by the powerful homage to his late grandmother ’Peggy Sang The Blues’  and, on the melancholic ‘Losing Days’ when he sings ‘and all these small ideas are suddenly commitments as greatness slips on by’ you are reminded once again of the stunning poetics he chronicles his feelings with. 

The incredible high spirited energy of a Frank Turner performance is well documented but you really have to be among it to comprehend it. The adrenalized enthusiasm he delivers every song with has a compelling dynamic and there’s a definite camaraderie between him and the audience. Tonight is no different, he cajoles and he interjects with incredible charisma and continues to serenade them  with the songs they have adopted as their very own including ‘Reasons Not To Be An Idiot‘ ‘Wessex Boy’, ‘If Ever I Stray’ and ‘The Road’  The stirring proclamations of ‘Eulogy’ just beg to be collectively roared and it was never going to be anything other than that -  this most rowdiest of choirs did it justice and volleyed it skywards, three thousand voices as one ,,,’Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut, not everyone was born to be a king, not everyone can be Freddie Mercury, but everyone can raise a glass and sing. Well I haven’t always been a perfect person, and I haven’t done what mum and dad had dreamed, but on the day I die, I’ll say at least I fucking tried, that’s the only eulogy I need’. 

From celebratory to deep reflection as the opening chords of the devastatingly poignant ‘Long Live The Queen’ written about his friend Lexi who died from breast cancer - it’s a fast paced celebration of her life as much as it is a memorial of sadness which is played tonight with added rock song edginess slowing down for reflection just briefly as he sings ‘we live to dance another day, its just now we have to dance for one more of us’, so stop looking so damn depressed, sing with all our hearts. long live the queen’. The mesmerising ‘Broken Piano’ is the last song,  it’s haunting finale a solitary pounding drum beat remains until everything else has been silenced….
They return to the stage for a 3 song encore of ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Friends’, ‘I Still Believe’, and ‘Four Simple Words’ then they’re gone. 

Frank Turner gets his attitude and cynicism from punk rock and his poetic conscience from the soul of folk music. His fans are sincere in their admiration committing every song to memory just to howl each one back at him word for actual word. It’s a genuine regard for someone who gives just as much of himself in return. The energy liberated by his annihilation of complacency is bestowed to them.
He deserves his glories!

Thanks to Lou at Partisan PR

Photography: Emma T

Written by: Alan Baillie

Published at Subba Cultcha.

16 February 2014

Fuck Sunday Night With Half Man Half Biscuit!

Nirvana! Overrated?

Thanks to the increasingly deluded insinuations of the conspiracy theorists Nirvana have become the very thing Kurt Cobain despised…a corporate enterprise churning out reduplicated merchandise for the growing masses of ‘new-grunge’ high street hipsters who have rarely heard their music, or worse still, heard it at all. The ever busy Nirvana hype machine rattles out out re-issued albums in a number of glorious formats including the collectors box set, the anniversary editions, the unheard demos, the lost tracks and various other bloated, expensive repackages. T shirts in their uber - produced millions.  Hoodies, badges, patches, mugs, ashtrays, coasters and mountains of more. It’s a tragic fact that Kurt Cobain’s suicide has become the thing keeping Nirvana alive, lifting them to the height of cutting-edge radicals - a label that is greatly exaggerated - and, as a direct result of such, has led to them becoming one of the most overrated bands of modern times.

Nirvana were, quite simply, in the right place at the right time, nothing more than that and nothing less than that. They weren’t ‘legends’ and they didn’t single-handedly save rock & roll either. They were, at best, a prominent band of a specific period in time - mainly the underground indie/punk scene - who made ‘cool’ music with massively catchy sing-song qualities. They never intended to be utterly original and, as history does tell us,  named and copied the bands who influenced them (Sonic Youth, The Melvins, Sex Pistols etc) Kurt Cobain was always honest enough to promote his influences and made no secret of those he ‘stole’ from, neither did he ever claim Nirvana were anything special. He was a very gifted songwriter  (not lyricist) who wrote mainstream alternative rock songs that were lapped up by the MTV generation. He was lyrically childish - as songs like Rape Me prove - and admitted often that the music was more important than the words - which were often pure gibberish - making a complete mockery of the column inches given over to such interpretations. 

If Kurt Cobain hadn’t killed himself then Nirvana would have disappeared into the footnotes of history - they were pretty much out of ideas and fading fast anyway - their Unplugged session was a desperate and final attempt at rekindling public interest, a marketing strategy -  yet following his tragic suicide he suddenly becomes the greatest front-man in history and his band are the voice of a fucking generation! Where were you all before martyrdom did the honours? As is the nature of our existence we place far too much glorification at the feet of dead celebrities, it’s the martyrdom I mentioned earlier, and we edit and tweak the memories until it is opinions rather than facts that we end up believing to be true.   Kurt was no hero and he is no murder victim. He was a human being with a host of weaknesses, heroin and depression being the main ones, and WAS selfish enough to continue his spiralling drug dependency into suicide rather than fight his demons for his daughters sake and THAT is why the conspiracy theorists continue to deflect from that, because they refuse to believe or accept that he WAS weak enough and selfish enough to leave his wife and daughter behind in such an ungracious and traumatic manner.

Kurt had nothing left to offer musically and, had he lived and Nirvana continued, their output would have been terribly ordinary, not anything worth shouting about - as Dave Grohl has told us on many occasions. So maybe it's time to focus on merit rather than a lost potential? Let them have the place in musical history  they deserve (listen to their debut album Bleach for their true pre-Nevermind edginess) and allow Kurt to rest in peace instead of tarnishing his existence with ignorant bouts of mouthy band wagon jumping conjecture!

4 February 2014

EP Review: Vera Lynch

Vera Lynch
Evil Cowboy Surfer Songs

sublimely melodic in a skewed asymmetric way

A handful of tangled symphonies drifting in almost from nowhere like slow-waltzing ghosts dragging their musical interpretations along on chains of diverse and sonic identities. Genre shuffling iconoclastic trick merchants Vera Lynch build remarkably listenable songs that veer one way just to body-swerve on a sixpence and head off in another direction entirely. There is the tripped out coolness of retro alt-rock and the meandering atmospherics of cowboy Americana peppered with touches of dark surf/garage rock and a washing of cinematic textures which, when combined in this way, enhance the mood effects - from perpetually gloomy to rich, punchier attacks. Opening song Evil Cowboy Surfer Song has a rockabilly/movie soundtrack edge with its shimmering guitar chime and jaunty lead vocal style that dips and soars its way around the music bolstering the entire track with a self assured sturdiness. The second track Fire is huskier in sound, more restrained in pace and it shines with a darker side yet there’s a chirpy compulsion to remain reasonably light and it’s keen sense of melody remains gloriously flawless.

With its slow-paced intro of sparse guitar and gently stirring drums Your Favourite Dragon evokes a heartfelt melancholy with singer Guy Harries delivering a truly brilliant crooning vocal melodrama that sits somewhere between Nick Cave and Scott Walker as the music slowly swells to embrace the raggedy grandiose atmosphere until everything spills over into frantic drums and wailing guitar. Final track Skin has a B52’s bounce and Cramps theatrical rockabilly pace with barked vocals and a slender joyousness that doesn’t really develop into anything more than being the least compromising and most forgettable of the four songs. Vera Lynch are sublimely melodic, in a skewed asymmetric way, and its that abandonment of the more palatable sugary rock tune of today that shall be the very thing to attract you to them. If this is going to be good enough for the hipsters then it it’s going to be good enough for you.