22 February 2015

Quiet Marauder: A Band You May Never Have Known Existed

 Cardiff based Quiet Marauder are a loose collective of eccentric oddball musicians who have been on the go since 2011 playing their madcap, deranged, dizzy headed anti-folk songs to a perplexed but intrigued public. Their debut album 'MEN' was one hundred and eleven tracks long, split into four volumes and featured numerous collaborators making endless bursts of noise from unidentifiable sources. A mountain of oddities and mischievous mentalism. They are as darkly comical as they are creatively clever.

20 February 2015

The Smiths: Meat Is Murder: The 30th Anniversary

Meat Is Murder
(Rough Trade)
Feb 1985

The Smiths ruled the world from 1982 -1987. A world in which the plight of the thin skinned and vulnerable was bestowed with solace and facilitated with an empathy never before considered in rock and roll music. For 5 years they fostered the unguarded souls of dear old Britain, giving a voice to the laconic efforts of shyness. They were a government for the crestfallen. Sentinels of the brittle hearted. A rousing call to arms for anyone struggling to find their place in this world. But it wasn’t just the dramatic and poetic who welcomed this sudden liberation of their inner angst. Half the world, and likely more, pronounced The Smiths the most vital development rock music has ever been blessed with. They saved music during the 80’s. Before them the UK music scene was dangerously monotonous and close to duplicating itself with the safety valve of punk rock. The Smiths captivated and stirred a nation with vivid, down to earth lyrics set against a backdrop of shimmering guitar driven anthems and unpretentious balladry. 

Morrissey ever the persona of a fading music hall idol dragged from the 50’s, remains one of the most worshipped frontmen to ever occur in modern day rock music. His passion for the gossiping backyard communities which were once the fundamental representation of the north but were destroyed alongside declines in industry, brought a working class inflection to his lyrics. His sentimental interpretation of conventional misfortunes was a perfect canvas for the astonishing imagery created by his words. His lyrical announcements were conflicting and extrinsic against the generic meatiness regarded standard rock and roll in 1982. Everything Morrissey  wrote had to be consolidated through music sympathetic enough to not lose any of the essence. Johnny Marr was gifted enough to ensure the balance worked. His musical input enhanced the narration of the lyrics through melodic sentiment. Marr rarely, if ever, misjudged the transport required to transmit a Morrissey lyric sincerely enough. This uncanny perception, alongside the impeccable drumming of Mike Joyce and bass playing of Andy Rourke gave The Smiths their dexterity and magnificence.

Released 30 years ago this month Meat Is Murder, their second studio album, was the harder, darker edge of The Smiths. From vegan rage to mindless violence, everything feels confrontational and emotionally direct right down to the strident pro-vegetarian album title which is immediately discordant, uncomfortable and provoking. A Guerrilla Marketing concept?....possibly. Dogmatic social obstruction?...undoubtedly. This was a tougher sound with tougher subject matter (violence and death being the principal themes) Morrissey, one of the most uncompromising lyricists to ever exist, was never better than when rattling with resent. 

It only takes the acidic tirade in the first lines of album opener The Headmaster Ritual for his seething hatred to become immediately apparent..'belligerent ghouls/run Manchester schools/spineless swines/cemented minds/  he sings with blatant deliberation before his utter contempt for the educational system and it's bullying teaching staff  spills over into vengeful satire..'sir leads the troops/jealous of youth/ same old joke since 1902/, with everything held together by a stunning Andy Rourke bassline and the gifted complexities of Johnny Marr's lair after lair after lair of incredible guitar playing.The pre-adolescent tale of broken hearts and fairground violence, Rusholme Ruffians, takes it's funky 60's rockabilly bass line from Elvis Presley's 'Marie's The Name' as Morrissey weaves his way through Johnny Marr's acoustic riffs, unfurling his obsession for second hand violence 'a boy is stabbed/and his money is grabbed/ and the air hangs heavy like a dulling wine' as the music, far from being as dark as the subject, skips and bounds with cheerful contradiction...Morrissey's gossiping judgmental swipe 'her skirt ascends for a watching eye/ it's a hideous trait on her mother's side' turning over the bare bones of human fragility with effortless poetic nonchalance. It's the melodrama of youth in all it's broken down desperation and macho uber-violence, sound-tracked by catchy jangle rockabilly. Shuddering with yearning and sexual abiguity I Want The One I Can't Have is quite possibly one of the best songs ever written. It's a stand-out track - a catchy, quick paced indie pop tale of frustration and a doomed one sided infatuation....It veers from the impressionable criminal tirade 'he killed a policeman when he was thirteen/and somehow that really impressed me/its written all over my face' to the pleading, clutching at straws outburst 'if you ever need some self elevation/ just meet me in the alley by the railway station'... and it's all forlorn and musically infectious, tramping it's way to a  sudden end. 

The disruptive What She Said is frenzied 3 minute rock and roll that ditches the standard opening in favour of gradually fading itself in until you're hit with the full power of Johnny Marr and his guitar cranked up to punk rock levels alongside a pounding Mike Joyce drumbeat. It's the emphatic account of a downhearted female whose misfortunes are chronicled in Morrissey's finely tuned satirical narratives and biting jabs of cruelty  'what she said was sad/but then all the rejection she's had/to pretend to be happy could only be idiocy'  ending with a terribly spiteful 'la la la la la la'  He saves his most dramatic, over the top line for last...with the casually uttered testimony 'i smoke because i'm hoping for an early death/ and i need to cling to something'  before it all storms off into raging guitar/drums crescendo. The only track from the album to be released as a single That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore, the unrelentingly dark lament with lush arrangement and haunting lead guitar is emotionally unsettling as it soars and sinks in its almost muted respect for Morrissey's melancholic vocal delivery of some brilliantly written, concise lines...'when you laugh about people who feel so very lonely/ their only desire is to die' .... awash with tender realism, a cynical awareness and striking curiosity - all brought together as he croons the line 'i've seen this happen/ in other people's lives/and now it's happening in mine' with a brooding solemnity as if each lyrical recollection is the re-living of an agony. As natural as rain it shifts from melancholic despair to jaunty tomfoolery with the tempo shifting Nowhere Fast, a quick paced, guitar driven fun song featuring Morrissey's articulations of schoolboy wit...'i'd like to drop my trousers to the queen'  he gleefully sings, before shifting down the political gears to proclaim 'the poor and the needy/ are selfish and greedy/on her terms' but in the very same mischevious tones and tongue-in-cheek bluster.

The gentle delicate simplicity of Well I Wonder is what makes it such a brilliant song. Everything jigsaws into perfect position from the temperate guitar strands, the plunging honesty of the lyrics and the atmospheric rainfall captured so alluringly on the last 63 seconds of the song. The lyrics spin a cluster of contradicting emotional innervation....from the desperately hopeful ' please keep me in mind'  to harrowing sorrow 'gasping/dying/but somehow still alive/ this is the final stand of all I am'  the sinewy despair of a shattered heart. Essentially a simple song about parent/child discipline Barbarism Begins At Home has just one repeated verse and chorus where every line is the voice of the no-nonsense parental disciplinarian....'unruly boys who will not grow up must be taken in hand/ unruly girls who will not settle down must be taken in hand and the menacing chorus 'a crack on the head is what you get for asking/and a crack on the head is what you get for not asking. But what gives the song something slightly magical is Andy Rourke's funky four-bar disco bassline, Johnny Marr's catchy guitar work...and Morrissey's vocal yelping. At nearly 7 minutes this has the potential to die somewhere long before it's scheduled end.....but the sheer delivery creates an emotional impact that grips you long after.

Bringing the album to a close is the mesmerising title track itself Meat Is Murder, the opening slaughterhouse noise samples and intricate piano, when combined in such a way, is an apocalyptic howl of angst ridden sorrow that shuffles on the jittery atmosphere of anticipation. This harmony-led adventure into darkness is undoubtedly Morrissey's moment to speechify - never has the subject matter been as reflective of an artist than here. Though he preaches rather than opening it for debate (this beautiful creature must die/ a death for no reason/ and death for no reason is MURDER!) it still manages to punctuate the gaps between singer and listener, regardless of opinion (No! No! No! it is murder/ do you know how animals die?) Damaged enough to break your heart it may not be, but it's potent enough to give cautious impartiality something to ponder upon.

As an album it never quite earned the accolades it surely deserves. Dismissed by many as The Smiths self-absorbed worst album and accepted by some as a half decent effort that got lost in its own translation. Personally I think it is a record of uncontested masterpieces - an array of brilliant moments that, when considered in their individual segments, are possibly some of the best things The Smiths ever achieved. Let's be honest, if this is the efforts of a band falling short of what they'd already shown they could do courtesy of the previous years debut album release then would they really have managed to follow this up with what is considered their greatest ever album The Queen Is Dead just over a year later?

Play entire album at SPOTIFY  HERE

9 February 2015

Album Review: Muzikal Yooth

The Green Door Kids
Muzikal Yooth

The Green Door Music studio opened in Glasgow in 2007 and began running a series of musical workshops sponsored by The Scottish Arts Council and aimed at the young and the unsigned musicians of the community. The recordings on this album are the results of two particular courses - the Youth Music Summer School (10-16yr olds) and their older counterparts from the Song-Crafters Production course. Muzikal Yooth is a collection of discordant cover versions of songs by garage/punk luminaries such as The Stooges, The Cramps and The Monks - unfamiliar territory maybe, for the majority of artists taking part in this record, but that’s surely what such workshops are designed to encourage - the unleashing of creativity in whatever shape, form or sound it might take - and it’s a good thing to hear. ‘Louie Louie’ and ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ are included, as are ‘Funtime’ and ‘The Way I Walk’, all in glorious lo-fi production. There’s even a acoustic cover of the Elvis Presley song ’The Girl Of My Best Friend’.  The only original composition on the whole album is the piano instrumental ‘Metaphysical Circus’ which is rather brilliantly executed and proof of just how important projects like this are if talent is to be nurtured and given the means to blossom. For sure it isn’t the greatest compilation of covers you’ll ever hear but that was never going to be the point of this release anyway. It’s the enthusiasm in which they approach this along with the knowledge they’re clearly gaining in every other aspect of making and producing music that matters, and if it was down to just good old commitment and dedication then this album would shine out forever.

8 February 2015

From The Archives: Glen Campbell Album Review

Glen Campbell
Greatest Hits
Capitol Records
He may have his critics but you can’t argue with a career that spans almost 50 years straight. And every music lover on the planet is guaranteed to know at least one of his songs. He crossed country music with a pop vibe and established a whole new sound. C&W can thank him for saving its jaded little ass, big time! Even Q magazine doffed their caps to his contribution handing him their Legend Award in 2008. True, his best material is behind him, and today’s musical climate would only embrace ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ if covered by Glasvegas - but his legacy can’t be denied.

This latest Greatest Hits package contains all the usual suspects - ‘Wichita Lineman’, Gentle On My Mind’, ‘Galveston’ etc etc. We’ve heard them all before - except maybe his rendition of Jackson Browne’s ‘These Days’, which is also his new single.  It’s impossible to have a Glen Campbell compilation without the songs he’s known for. Therefore it will always seem a bit repetitive and cynical. This batch has gone through the cosmetics of ‘remastering’ just to sound that wee bit prettier for you fickle folk. But regardless of modern manipulation his existence remains an important part of a musical heritage. Of course, as you know, he was more interpreter than author, and has much to thank others for. But he brought his own style to it - and that’s pretty special!

1 February 2015

The Lyrics Of Half Man Half Biscuit

In honour of their gig at Edinburgh Liquid Rooms
A selection of the greatest Half Man Half Biscuit lyrics

A woman who described herself as “A little bit Bridget, a little bit Ally, a little bit Sex And The City” and chose to call her baby boy Fred as a childishly rebellious attempt at a clever reaction to those who might have expected her to call him Julian or Rupert. Bit of advice: call him Rupert, it fits, and besides it’s a good name. Don’t be calling him Fred or Archie, with all its cheeky but lovable working class scamp connotations, unless you really do have plans for him to spend his life in William Hill’s waiting for them to weigh in at Newton Abbot.
(Breaking News)

Curse those in charge of plots, curse these forget-me-nots
I’ve been sharing my innermost thoughts with an Edward Macrae
I’m inconsolable, and at times uncontrollable
Ah, but she wouldn’t know, ‘cos she’s two hundred metres away…
(Tending The Wrong Grave For 23 Years)

And all those people who you romantically,
Like to still believe are alive,
Are dead!
(Dickie Davis Eyes)

If you're going to quote from the Book of Revelation
Don't keep calling it the Book of Revelations
There's no "s", it's the Book of Revelation
As revealed to St John the Divine
See also Mary Hopkin
She must despair
You've got a shit arm, and that's a bad tattoo
You've got a shit arm, and that's a bad tattoo
(Shit Arm, Bad Tattoo)

Is your child hyperactive, or is he perhaps a twat?
Sometimes I like to watch Wave Rage down on Fistral Beach
Last Ash Wednesday I had tantric sex and it was shit
Next Ash Wednesday I might strive to lick my elbow
(Surging Out Of Convalescence)

Demon fiend, leave your tomb
Seek out the Virgin womb
Hey Chris from Future Doom
You left your lyrics in the practice room
(Left Lyrics In The Practice Room)

Faked my way through Glastonbury
By acting all asexually
And then in the acoustic tent
She stood there as if heaven sent
Well if that’s not Enya
That’s not Enya
That’s not Enya
That’s not Enya
(Sensitive Outsider)

Here she lies in her fleecy gown
By my side in the eiderdown
But she can’t get a ticket to Morningtown
‘Cos I’ve got restless legs
Boring though this film may be
Slumber still won’t visit thee
So long as you stay next to me
For I have restless legs
(Restless Legs)

Car crime’s low, the gun crime’s lower
The town hall band CD, it’s a grower
You never hear of folk getting knocked on the bonce
Although there was a drive-by shouting once
(For What Is Chatteris)

On a sinking ship a sailor yearns
For his Joy Division oven gloves
Nero fiddles while Gordon Burns
In his Joy Division oven gloves
Talk to the hands, talk to the hands
In his Joy Division oven gloves
Dance dance dance dance
In your Joy Division oven gloves
(Joy Division Oven Gloves)

12 drummers singing
11 chairmen dancing
10 mascots whinging
9 stewards flapping
8 christening invites
7 cows a-barking
6 vicars strumming
4 boring words
Carphone Warehouse and Matalan
And a pulled-up at Bangor-On-Dee 
(Upon Westminster Bridge)

 I should have just got a job on the bins
The pay's better and I know some hard blokes
And I wouldn't have to pretend
That I know what rhetorical means
(Lark Descending)

Who the fucking hell are Slipknot?
(Vatican Broadside)

Hey, hey, hey, the sun has got his hat on
Sing hosanna, the jazz snobs are all going home

And the young girl may come to her senses
And the wretch may get tetchy and leave
And the chap wracked with anguish incarnate
May gladly accept his reprieve
But the fates around these parts are ruthless
And sometimes just want people dead
So he'll probably throw himself under
The ten twenty-seven instead
(The Coroners Footnote)

Street parties in Redcar
Oh Mr Woo
What shall I do?
Surrogate Grundy
Sold on a Monday
To Richard and Judy
(Mars Ultras You'll Never Make The Station)