Friday, 16 February 2018

Pocket Knife at BLOC

Last night I exchanged a few text messages with a friend to determine whether or not I was venturing out on a wet Thursday night to see Pocket Knife at Bar BLOC in Glasgow. I decided I would try and find out what time they were on.

If they were on too late then I was just going to sit in and enjoy Peaky Blinders with my wife. Hey, I'm 42 and had an early start today!

At 8.34pm precisely I received a text that said 'They're on at 9.15pm, I'm going to head in'. I swiftly replied that I would make it in. Peaky Blinders could wait.

I'd only heard one song by Pocket Knife previously, the stunning Half the Presents on the Olive Grove Records Christmas album which saw the band discuss Jesus being such a Capricorn over a funk cool Belle and Sebastian-esque style groove. The groove, humour, cheek and melodies captivated me and I played it over and over.

So when I found out that they were playing BLOC I kept it in mind. I'm glad I ditched Peaky Blinders.

Nursing a non-alcoholic beer (the 18-year old me would not be impressed - what is the point?!) after driving in to make the start, I caught up with my friend as the band soundchecked.



They eventually came on at 9.45pm. A two-piece; Louise on vocals, synth and drum machine and Michael on bass and very occasional backing vocals.

The opening rumble of activity sent people scurrying from the bar and all of a sudden, from having a perfect view at the sounddesk we had to push through to see what was going on.

Smoke billowed from the BLOC smoke machine and the lights changed. I suddenly remembered what a cool little venue BLOC is. It had been a while.

Basic synth chords underpinned a beat while Michael grooved on the top and Louise sang sweet melodies, riffing off herself. We were immediately transported into the world of Pocket Knife. Bedroom/living room recordings suddenly springing to life in the BLOC.

We had a song that had been written just 2 days previously, a song in French, a beautiful laid back cover of Rip It Up by Orange Juice (bonus), a super cool song called Custard Cream and a cracking tune which had Louise talking to herself and saying

Just be cool, be cool
You're trying to hard

The duo looked like they were having fun. There were smiles and giggles as they introduced and played songs. Louise asked if the drum machine could be turned up and found the space to dance.

In a short 25/30-minute set Pocket Knife won me over with their fun, sparse, laid back grooves and I look forward to catching them again throughout the year. The band are planning a release via the excellent Olive Grove Records and through OGR they have contributed to an Indie Sampler released on Gold Mold Records bringing a number of bands on different DIY labels together.


Thursday, 15 February 2018

Thirteen - 25 years on



A couple of recent online postings and discussions drove me to revisit Thirteen, the 4th (3rd proper) studio album by Teenage Fanclub.

I have very clear memories relating to Thirteen. It was released in 1993, 25-years ago! One very clear memory relates to their hometown show at the Barrowland Ballroom to promote the album. Support was from The Posies and The Juliana Hatfield 3. It was my first time gracing the hallowed ballroom, I bought a super cool TFC long sleeve retro Scotland football style top with 13 on the back and a couple of posters.


And the second vivid memory relates to the song Norman 3. For those of your unfamiliar with the song, it ends with the mantra; 

Yeah, I'm in love with you
I'm in love with you
And I know that it's you

I played this over and over....even more times than the chorus is repeated! And I played it with one girl in particular in mind. I am from Carluke and as a 17-year old I started working in Glasgow for a financial company. On the train home I had this album on regularly and there was a girl who always caught my eye. She lived in Lanark and attended Jordanhill. She was just a year younger than me and we eventually started talking but it never came to anything. But this song always reminds me those train journeys between Carluke and Glasgow and a girl who I tried to make eye contact with through our reflections in the windows.


Yeah Thirteen was quite an album for me, soundtracking train journeys, fantasies and my first trip to the hallowed Glasgow Barrowland Ballroom. I was only 15 when Bandwagonesque came out, so Thirteen was perfect timing.

Back then I was oblivious to facts I am aware of now - the troubles the band had with recording and production and the fact that to this day they still say they are not happy with it.

That didn't matter to me in 1993 and it really doesn't concern me too much now in 2018. I guess I still view the album as a 17-year old. A song like Radio will always make me want to play air guitar and sing a-long, or rush to the front to jump and pogo at a live show, McGinley's Tears Are Cool will still make me swoon (god knows what reaction it caused for the girl he wrote it for) and like many of the Teenage Fanclub Fanclub I think Gene Clark is pretty special.

Hang On is an excellent opening song, building gloriously before Gerry Love comes in with his stunning opening lines that conclude with;

Of all the stars I've ever seen
You're the sun

The band hit a groove and jam on an extended outro. Norman's first offering is The Cabbage, a reflection on the end of a relationship;

We were together, but now we're not
Asked you for nothing, that's what I got

The chorus has Blake reflecting on the advice his friends are offering. He doesn't sound convinced. The song is relatively simple, yet Blake's voice says it all, he does sound hurt from the experience. I'm not sure where the song title came from!


And then we arrive at the aforementioned Radio, a song that just leaps into life and doesn't let up. Choosing a top 10 of my favourite Teenage Fanclub songs would be pretty hard for me but I think this would be in there. It is just a pure rush of guitar pop perfection.


And then we arrive at Norman 3. I think he might have been struggling with song titles! If The Cabbage is the sound of someone hurt and blue, then Norman 3 is the sound of someone alive to the possibilities of love and basking in its glow.

If you're the future, then I'm with you
Looking forward, to everything that we do

The song builds until Norman sings are you read for what I'm going to say? before launching head over heels into the chorus/mantra/declaration;

Yeah I'm in love with you, I'm in love with you
And I know that it's you

I fell for this song as hard as Norman did for the girl he wrote it for. As I have written above, this just brings back so many sunny memories. The chorus is just so uplifting and pure. It a is heart on the sleeve, cards on the table declaration of love. Norman is all in.


After the double blast of Radio and Norman 3 we go into a run of songs that are the sound of Teenage Fanclub maturing as songwriters and as a band. The melodies are still there (always were, always will be) but the band play with song structures - who needs a chorus at times? How long can an intro be?

Song to the Cynic is Gerry Love displaying defiance, talking of how his honesty will protect him and how cynics/ex-lovers can't leave a mark on him. It sounds very different to anything TFC had released previously.

Raymond McGinley's is introduced to Thirteen as a songwriter for the first time. 120-minutes has Raymond listing a number of thing he doesn't want before declaring;

I just wanna see your face again, be my friend

It sounds like all of the band might have loved and lost in the lead up to Thirteen. McGinley and the band rated the song so highly that they included it on their Teenage Fanclub Have Lost It in acoustic form a few years later.



McGinley follows this up with Escher and the band combine with glorious harmonies to push the chorus, Raymond lets Norman take lead vocals and for me that was the right decision with Norman's voice more suited to the song. Raymond lets rip on the guitar, sounding glorious.

Blake is back on writing and singing duties with Commercial Alternative, an out and out love song with the band zipping through it and McGinley is on top form (when is he not?!) on lead guitar.

Gerry Love displays real progression in his songwriting across Thirteen and Fear of Flying is a real favourite of mine. It has that beautiful laid back, stoned, flow and melody that Love can seemingly create with ease. Stretching to almost 5 and a half minutes, Love eases in gently and allows the band plenty of time to jam and groove.

Add a new vibration
To the situation

Then we have Tears Are Cool, a Raymond McGinley masterpiece. McGinley's voice is soulful and fragile as he bares his heart over his electric guitar, before the drums come in  for the final chorus. It is a stunner.

I don't say my prayers but I pray for you
I might say who cares but I know you do
You're the one who knows that my lies aren't true
When I see you cry I think tears are cool


Ret Live Dead sounds like Norman is giving advice to someone (himself?) in a little over 2-minutes. Strings are introduced to beautifully back Norman coo-ing the chorus.

Don't know what to do
Say you need her
But she don't need you

Get Funky is the band letting rip and jamming, the spoken word intro by Blake at the start OK we're rolling, howdy disco citizens leads to funky bass combining with fast and loud guitars.

The epic Gene Clark closes the album in style, over 6 and a half minutes of the Fanclub at their very best, easing their way gently into a rhythm, before piercing and euphoric lead guitar kicks in. It is easy to get lost in the music as the band stretch out and jam for over 3 and a half minutes before Gerry Love comes in with his soulful laid back vocals.

All the seeds you sow
Are just looking for a place to grow

The no matter what you say/do closing refrain is quite hypnotic with gorgeous backing vocals. It is a glorious song and the fact that it fades out makes me wonder if there is a longer version sitting in the vaults somewhere.

It is a song revered by Fanclub fans and I think I have heard the same people shouting for it at every Fanclub show I have been to. I was fortunate to catch the band play it live in Oran Mor when they had a weekend of rarities. Check the video below.

So there you go, Thirteen, 25-years old and packed full of gems with stand-outs/faves for me being; Hang On, Radio, Norman 3, Fear of Flying, Tears Are Cool and Gene Clark.

Listening back, I was struck by the change from Bandwagonesque - Thirteen and subsequently on to Grand Prix. Thirteen is the sound of a band developing, maturing and yet still having fun. Jamming in a very different way to A Catholic Education or on The King, singing and playing in a very different way. There is more subtlety, more control

If you are listening for the first time - enjoy. If you are revisiting, then I hope you get as much out of the experience as I did. You can stream on Spotify HERE



Friday, 9 February 2018

Never Ending Mixtape Part 20


Welcome to the 20th section of the Never Ending Mixtape, my Spotify playlist that I add to on a regular basis and blog on monthly (sometimes twice).

20 songs are added and it's quite a mix ranging from a blissed out Primal Scream to a some funk soul masterpieces by Sly and the Family Stone.

In between we have beautiful disco electro from Joe Goddard (Hot Chip), indie cool from Galaxie 500, the pure rush of Dylan's seminal Like A Rolling Stone, 2 from The Beatles including Two Of Us - a song that always reminds me of buying the Let It Be album on cassette from Impulse Records in Hamilton and playing it on the way home as my Mum drove to Carluke through the Clyde Valley

The Roses are in with their sublime Where Angels Play and then we have 3 from Love including one of my top 3 favourite songs of all time - You Set The Scene. I was fortunate to catch Arthur Lee and Love half a dozen times in the 00's and his voice blew me away. The first time I caught him at Tuts shortly after he had been released from prison and I don't think I have ever felt my spine tingle quite as much as it did when he played this.

Jimmy Cliff plays the Kelvingrove Bandstand in the summer and he has 3 classics. His performance at Wickerman a few years ago was exceptional and I Can See Clearly Now was mind blowingly beautiful, euphoric and mesmerising.

We have a funk classic in the shape of Sport before a couple of tunes discovered through Spotify - the very gorgeous Stop Your Tears, a new wave pop tune from XTC and something from Super 8.

The latest additions close with a tender flowing instrumental from Curtis Mayfield before 2 bonafide classics from Sly and the Family Stone.

Search for Everything Flows Never Ending Mixtape on Spotify. Or click HERE.

The latest additions are listed below. You'll need to scroll down to play them, or just click shuffle and see where you start!

ENJOY!

Come Together - Primal Scream
Ordinary Madness - Joe Goddard
Strange - Galaxie 500
Like A Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan
Dear Prudence - The Beatles
Two Of Us - The Beatles
Where Angels Play - The Stone Roses
You Set The Scene - Love
Wonder People (I Do) - Love
Hummingbirds - Love
I Can See Clearly Now - Jimmy Cliff
The Harder They Come - Jimmy Cliff
Many Rivers To Cross - Jimmy Cliff
Sport - Lightnin' Rod
Stop Your Tears - Aldous Harding
Senses Working Overtime - XTC
T T T Technicolour Melodies - Super 8
Think - Curtis Mayfield
Everyday People - Sly and the Family Stone
Time For Livin' - Sly and the Family Stone

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Stop Your Sobbing

Cover version of the month #33


The Pretenders cover The Kinks

Last month Gerry Love from Teenage Fanclub posted a link to The Kinks song Stop Your Sobbing. I checked it out immediately as I always thought it was an original song by The Pretenders.

So this is yet another cover version of the month blog about a song I have learned something about - not only that it was indeed originally written and recorded by The Kinks, but that Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders ended up dating Ray Davies and having a kid with him. Has any other cover version led to that?!



In actual fact the song originally appeared away back on The Kinks debut album Kinks in 1964. Quite why this gem never appeared on any of The Kinks compilations I bought when I was younger is a mystery - then again, they are not short of songs to choose from!

And it really is a gem. In a little over 2-minutes The Kinks tell a story, pack in hooks, sing in beautiful harmony and sound sublimely cool. 

It is time for you to laugh instead of crying
Yes it's time for you to laugh so keep on trying

Ray Davies voice has a sense of empathy and concern, removed from the rocking singles that basted them to the top of the charts, yet just as soulful.

Fifteen years after the original The Pretenders burst on to the post punk scene in 1979 with their cover. They inject an extra sense of urgency and as with some of the other covers I have blogged about, the switch from male to female lead vocal (or vice versa) brings a new dimension.

The Pretenders extend the song by introducing an instrumental section. Hynde's vocals are exquisite, the production is pure, the chiming guitars sound like heaven. I do prefer The Pretenders version, they do find something extra in the song.







Previous covers of the month