Friday, 29 July 2011

Five for Friday 29/07/11

Real mix today but very pop!

Was this the inspiration for Blur's 'Girls and Boy's'? That thought went through my head as From The Jam blasted this out at Wickerman at the weekend. Pure pop.

Next up we have James with the stunning 'Sometimes'.

We then have Groove Armada featuring Muyta with 'Song for Muyta';

Then it is the pure pop of Kylie with 'Better The Devil You Know';

I do have a thing for redheads and I do have a thing for catchy pop like the 'L O V E' section in this.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

The Death of You and Me - Noel Gallagher

The video for Noel Gallagher's debut single was posted on YouTube last week and it has already received over 1 million plays, testament to Gallagher's enduring appeal to generations of Oasis fans.

It's taken me until today to watch and listen though - the impact of having a one month old, I am well behind on listening to music.

As someone who fell in love with Oasis at the age of 18 in 1994 I always take an interest in what Noel has to say and play. I've not always enjoyed his releases, 'Standing on the Shoulder of Giants' was abysmal and should have been an EP at best, it turned me off Oasis for some time.

So what is the first single like? (check it out for yourself above)

Well, on first listen it's alright; cheesey guitar intro (not a million miles from The Importance of Being Idle), the lyrics (below) are quite lazy at times (city with pretty and pity), however the chorus lifts the song into a flowing melody and the song improves from there on in.
On second listen the melody shines a little brighter and I appreciate the flow of the song a lot more, how the verse tumbles into the chorus. The lyrics are typical Noel; simple and crying out to be sung back at him by the adoring masses; 

let's run away together you and me
forever we'd be free
free to spend our whole lives running
from people who would be
the death of you and me

The lyrics hark back to early Oasis - escapism, dreams and freedom. Think back to the opening track from Definitely Maybe and the first snarling line 'I live my life in the city, there's no easy way out' and then look at the lyrics above; Noel is still dreaming of getting away from it all; the pressures of day-to-day living, working for the man, or working with people you don't want to work with. Unfortunately Liam in this case.

You can'd read too much into Noel's lyrics of course, he wears his heart on his sleeve, he-is-what-he-is and they-are-what-they-are. There is a sign of ageing and maturity in the lines;

high tide, life is getting faster
and no one has the answer
i try to face the day though
in a new way

Noel's voice is sounding great, rising and falling throughout.

In summary, this song his a grower, I find myself humming the melody and wanting to play it again. The outro, like the intro is a little cheesey and could easily have been chopped off. After a few listens I'll give it 3/5. 

The Death of You and Me (Noel Gallagher)
high tide, summer in the city
the kids are looking pretty
but isn't it a pity that the sunshine
is followed by the thunder, with thoughts of going under
and is it any wonder

why the sea is calling out to me
i seem to spend my whole life running
from people who would be
the death of you and me
cause i can feel the storm clouds
sucking up my soul

high tide, life is getting faster
and no one has the answer
i try to face the day though
in a new way
the bottom of a bottle
is every man's apostle
let's run away together

you and me
forever we'd be free
free to spend our whole lives running
from people who would be
the death of you and me
cause i can feel the storm clouds
sucking up my soul

let's run away and see
forever we'd be free
free to spend our whole lives running
from people who would be
the death of you and me
cause i can feel the storm clouds coming

i'm watching my tv, or is it watching me?
i see another new day dawning
it's rising over me, my mortality
and i can feel the storm clouds
sucking up my soul

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Wickerman, Saturday 23rd July 2011

For the third year running I headed down to Dumfries and Galloway for the Wickerman Festival at the weekend.

Due to the birth of baby Zoe less than 4-weeks previously, I was only going down for 1-day and night on the Saturday, so unfortunately I missed Echo and the Bunnymen and James on the Friday night, my friends said they were great.

On Saturday morning I picked up Anneliese from her flat in the West End and then Julian (Miaoux Miaoux) from Glasgow Airport. Julian was fresh (well actually quite tired and stressed) from 2-weeks producing in Switzerland and unfortunately his luggage had gone missing on the way back. He had actually seen someone walking away with a bag that looked like his at Heathrow – nightmare, especially considering that the bag contained some essential equipment! 

If that wasn’t enough Julian’s flight had been delayed and we met him shortly after 10am. Julian was due to play the GoNorth tent with his other band the Maple Leaves at 12.30pm.

We belted out of Glasgow Airport at 10.20am and the new M74 extension came in very handy indeed as we picked up speed. On the way we phoned the very helpful Allan who worked at the Solus Tent and asked if he could try to source some equipment so Julian could play his set as Miaoux Miaoux. Allan was very helpful and as time went on we all felt increasingly confident about things.

Luck was on our side and we arrived on site just after 12.15pm, quickly found the artist registration, informed them that Juian was due on stage in 10 minutes and he sped off in a little golf buggy while Anneliese and I parked the car in the Artists Camping field. With no time to pitch our tents we headed off to the Solus Tent to catch up with Allan and to meet Chay the organiser. It was great to finally meet him after exchanging emails and facebook chat. Allan was still asking around for some of the stuff for Miaoux Miaoux, but with almost 3-hours until the set we were confident it would happen.

As luck would have it (it appeared to be on our side – well at least after Julian’s bags went missing!) the GoNorth tent was right next to the Solus Tent, not before we had cadged much needed beers off the lovely Chay. So we caught most of Maple Leaves set and it was quite surreal watching Julian after everything he/we had been through that morning, especially knowing how close he had been to not making it. Check out a Maple Leaves video below;

I hooked up with Lloyd from the marvellous Peenko blog, who also recently became a father, and we went down to the VIP bar and bought each other a nice cold bottle of Pear cider. It hit the mark and I was glad we had two bottles rather than one. I then bumped into my friends Lorna and Colin who were going to see the Black Hand Gang and Lloyd was heading off to the Scooter Tent, however I fancied heading to the Pimms garden/bar to find out what Glasgow Podcart and Detour were going to come up with the huge ensemble that is Blochestra. Blochestra meet every Monday evening in Bar Bloc in Bath Street in Glasgow and jam on covers with all manner of instruments. Jam is a loose description, they are much better than that!

The powers that be had brought them together with the singer from Scottish band The Bluebells to play their hit song ‘Young At Heart’. The singer certainly looked a lot older than his Top of the Pops days, but he still had a sparkle in his eye and he turned in a magnificent performance, as did Blochestra and i immediately made a note to check their Solus Tent set later. Lorna and Colin came to meet me and we had a couple of Pimms sitting in the lovely picnic garden that they had.

NOTE - video will be added a later date

After that it was time to head back to the Solus Tent for Miaoux Miaoux. Julian turned in a terrific set, thanks to the Scottish Enlightment who helped out hugely by lending him some of their gear. ‘Pixellated’ kicked things off, ‘Hey Sound’ was a perfect summer festival tune, ‘Knitted’ was sublime, ‘Autopilot’ prompted a lot of head nodding and foot tapping, there was a dedication and a ‘f**k you’ to the woman who walked off with his bag and the closer of ‘Snow’ ended with Julian lying flat on his back on stage. The pressure of losing equipment, making the site for Maple Leaves, borrowing equipment and even getting to play had been lifted and it showed, Julian clearly enjoyed himself on stage and everyone in the crowd did too.

Miaoux Miaoux

It didn’t end there as Glasgow Podcart and Detour invited Julian to play the ‘smallest rave in the world’ in a backstage caravan. In preparation, Weaver from Detour double checked the suspension (well some blocks of wood under the caravan) – just as well. Kirsten from Podcart/Pooch brought out some facepaint to help get us in the mood while Julian set up inside. We were then given orders to form an orderly queue and we made our way inside.

NOTE - The video will be added to this blog once it is available.

Julian played a brilliantly loose version of ‘Hey Sound’ with everyone joning in on the call and response vocals, Anneliese was dancing on the table, Ally McCrae had his ‘tap off’, I drunkenly sprayed some cider and everyone had big huge smiles on their faces. It was great fun. So within 4-hours of getting on site Julian had played 3-gigs!

After a beer, several ciders and a couple of Pimms and only a bowl of Special K to eat, I decided it might be an idea to grab a burger before the three of us went back to set up our tents. Our popup tent came in very handy indeed!

I caught a bit of Emma’s Imagination on the Main Stage, but left after a few songs as to be honest I don’t think her songs/sound suited the main stage, they certainly felt like a bit of a comedown after the ‘smallest rave in the world’ and fuelled by more cider I certainly wasn’t in the mood for a comedown. I did manage to catch snippets of the excellent Randolph’s Leap and most of Blochestra in between getting some nice Paad Thai.

After a wander around with Lorna and Colin we headed back to the Solus Tent to catch Discopolis, a young band who have just released their first single on the excellent Eli and Oz label. They started rather shabbily but they hit their stride and turned in a superb set that the three of us really enjoyed, as did the ever growing crowd in the tent. Check the video for their single below.

We caught a little bit of The River 68’s in the GoNorth Tent, a rather cheesey soft rock band with a singer that looks like he could be in The Quireboys. However they sure could play and their energy and enthusiasm were good fun, as were the guitar solos.

Next up was The Coral. I liked their last album, so I thought they would be good. I was wrong, the three of us didn’t enjoy it at all and spent most of the time going in and out of the VIP bar to get cider and then Morgans Spiced.

On to the headliners. Feeder on the main stage or From the Jam in the Scooter tent. We opted for the latter and had a great time. The band was formed by Jam bassist Bruce Foxton, who bounded on to the stage in a very sharp suit and they launched into ‘Eton Rifles’. There were many highlights, but towards the end of the set they blasted through ‘In the City’, ‘Going Underground’, ‘Town Called Malice’ and ‘Beat Surrender’, with ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’ another highlight. Julian and Anneliese said that Feeder were good, although Anneliese’s schoolgirl crush on Grant Nicholls may have had something to do with that!

We wandered outside afterwards to stand by the wall to watch the burning of the Wickerman and the fireworks display to much whooping and shouting. I love the fact that the festival stops for a bit so everyone comes together for that moment.

It was then on to the main stage for Craig Charles funk and soul DJ set. Lorna and i danced away while Colin mumbled about going to the dance tent for some techno. Appearing back some time later with a horses head mask that we all took turns at wearing!

At around 1.20am I decided to head to my tent and lay chilling listening to the end of Craig Charles set before a band I believe to be Paws played a great campsite acoustic set of covers. A lot of songs I didn’t recognise, it was a nice end to a brilliant day. 

I hope to be back at WIckerman next year, either with one of the acts I work with or as a punter. 

Friday, 22 July 2011

Major label/Major let down

News filtered through this week that Dot JR, the latest Scottish artist to sign a major label record deal, had 'parted company' with the manager that had engineered his lucrative record contract.

For the record, online blogs point to a £500,000 one album deal - quite staggering. Judge from the video below if you think he is any good or not. I quite like this song, good pop. I didn't enjoy his Radio 1 session for Ally McCrae earlier this year though, mentioned in an earlier blog. This song is much more poppier.

Fair play to Dot JR for his amazing deal, although shame on him for his manager having to take him to court to get what is owed to him. We all know about the success of the likes of Paulo Nutini and The Fratellis, but what about the rest of the current crop of Scottish bands and artists that have had money thrown at them? 

In recent years a number of Scottish artists have signed contracts with major label companies, only to discover that it isn't always the golden ticket they dream of. The flip side of the coin (perhaps for another blog) is that bands like Frightened Rabbit and Admiral Fallow have developed from grassroots and built up loyal followings (and moved up the label ranks) through the quality of their material and hard work. I would argue that they are doing better than a lot of the bands mentioned below.

So lets have a little look at some of the artists on major labels...and also some that got the 'golden ticket' only to find that Willie Wonka doesn't take to everyone despite throwing money their way.

I guess I should say that a couple of stories I have been told recently about bands/artists being dropped after huge advances just makes me f**king sick and prompted this blog.

Little Comets got a £300,000 advance and were then dropped. An artist who will remain un-named but was involved with Sharleen Spiteri received a £750,000 advance and was dropped with anothet huge golden handshake.

I just think that if that £300,000 was split between 4-6 bands/artists, then we could see more bands breaking through and not as much pressure being placed on them or the label. There would be more scope and time to develop.

Maybe I am just naive. Anyway, here is the blog....interesting reading?

Pearl & the Puppets
Pearl (Katie Sutherland) burst on to the Scottish music scene in 2008 and with the help of the simple, melodic and catchy song 'Because I Do' obtained a deal with Universal and a management deal with Elton John's team. Unfortunately (like Dot JR) above, her manager was ditched, thankfully he got the money he was owed through his lawyer. It shouldn't have gone that far.

I first caught Pearl at King Tuts in January 2009 and really enjoyed her set. She then continued to impress by headlining the Solus Tent at Wickerman that year and also playing an unscheduled main stage set. There was a support slot with Elton John, expensive recording sessions with Stephen Street and tours and promotion around the country.

However things just didn't take off and the latest rumours I have heard are that Pearl and the Puppets (essentially Katie Sutherland and some session musicians) has been dropped.

Don't qoute me on that, however I do imagine it to be true given the lack of activity this year.

I imagine that Katie Sutherland may go on to release an album and do reasonably well given the fact that she is quite well known. However, she may have to rerecord her album unless her old label give it to her. Unlikely I would have thought.

The Boy Who Trapped The Sun
AKA Colin MacLeod who is signed to Geffen Records. I don't know what advance he received but I imagine it was fairly considerable.

Geffen seem to be a little bit more patient with TBWTTS than Universal with Pearl and his debut album 'Fireplace' was released to some very positive reviews. I doubt if the reviews transferred to sales.

For a young guy Colin is producing some pretty staggering music, 'Home' below is a particular favourite of mine. With talent like that I hope that success will come his way.

Sugar Crisis
Were signed to Island Records thanks to a connection with producer John McLaughlin who thought that their annoying yet infectious song 'We're Stuck In Traffic' would be a smash hit around the globe. As he explained to me 'everyone gets stuck in traffic and drive time radio shows around the world will play it.'

This was when he wanted to start managing Futuristic Retro Champions, yet refused to answer any of the ten questions the band and I posed to him by email about why he was interested and what songs he liked. He would only point to a rough demo 'Count To Ten' (available on itunes). I imagine he thought it would be a worldwide hit as everyone needs to learn to count to ten. I do sometimes wonder what would have happened if the band had gone with him. Although I think the band and I are quite happy with the knowledge that they didn't sell out. FRC's were an independent art school band, probably not suited to a major label and certainly not suited to being told that their song about nights out at indie discos would be used to help people count to ten. I doubt that John ever listened fully to the lyrics about 'the dancefloor all covered in sweat and piss'.

Anyway, John has proved to have a great ear for pop and has been extremely successful, so his mates at Island snapped Sugar Crisis up and released a single on one of their offshoot labels and then......nothing.

I was quite a mad keen MySpace follower at the time and cringed at some of the bands status updates like 'no-one at the label will return our calls. and 'our manager isn't answering our emails.'

So of course they were dropped and they now use the money to produce sugary bedroom pop and extremely cheesey DIY videos.

Midnight Lion
I can't confess to know a great deal about Midnight Lion, they are signed to Island Records, although they released their debut single 'All Greatness Stands Still' (click for the JD Twitch remix, the video is below, which I don't like on first listen but I do now, it gets better as it goes on) on their own label.

That can be a major record label 'jedi mind trick'. In that they will sign a band perceived to be 'indie' and stump up the money for a release on a tiny offshoot label, or let the artist release something themselves with financial assistance.

It remains to be seen whether or not Island are pleased enough with the reaction to the single to put out an offical Island release or not. 

My own thoughts are that Midnight Lion are young, promising and full of energy and ideas. So I hope they get their chance to develop. At a major label you form an orderly queue and releases are prioritised, hopefully Midnight Lion come up with the songs to warrant a jump up the queue.

Kid Adrift
Kid Adrift is also signed to the bohemoth that is Island Records. With a string of acclaimed singles and EP's, Island seem to be allowing him (Iain Campbell) to develop, something that few other major record labels seem to allow. 

Campbell's Scottish tones are evident in the vocals, while he has an effective range of beats and sounds that combine to create his electro tunes that can be quite euphoric at times.

This is the song that brought Kid Adrift to the attention of a major label bidding war.Rather good I hope you agree.

I'll end the blog with Kassidy, a band that people either seem to love or hate. I must be one of the few people that sits in between, or maybe there is more truth in that I just don't care, although I can admit they have some decent songs.

One of the reasons people seem to hate them is that there is a perception that they only got their golden ticket thanks to one of the band members Dad knowing quite a lot of people within the industry.

I understand why that can frustrate people, especially other bands or fans of other bands. Unfortunately the old saying 'it's not what you know, it's who you know' applies to all walks of life. 

I'm not a huge fan of Kassidy and I don't own any of their records, although I do like this, catchy chorus. They seem to be doing quite well and good for them.

If you have 5-10 minutes you can find out all about love/hate for the band by reading the comments on this NME album review

Five for Friday

Last summer at Rock Ness I witnessed a truly inspiring performance from Leftfield. The sound was incredible, the music was from another planet, the atmosphere was positive and uplifting, a great festival performance. This was a real highlight, 'Afrika Shox';

It is 30-years since the release of Depeche Mode's debut single. It still sounds fresh and vital. I'm not the biggest fan of the Mode, I prefer their earlier poppier stuff with Vince Clarke before their darker, gothier stuff after he left. This is pure pop.

When two of my favourite acts combined in the early 00's they produced a remarkable single that left me wondering what they could do if they had time to work on an album. This is Wayne Coyne with the Chemical Brothers, enjoy;

Two of my other favourite artists did combine to make a few albums worth of material. Bernard Sumner from New Order teamed up with Johnny Marr after the demise of The Smiths to produce some exquisite pop, with the added benefit of guest vocals from Neil Tennant of Pet Shop Boys. Here they all are on Top of the Pops.

David Bowie has always been ahead of his time, with his appearance, music, vision and art. 'A New Career In A New Town' is an instrumental taken from his legendary 1977 album 'Low';

Friday, 15 July 2011

Five for Friday

This weeks five for Friday is an 80's special.

We kick start with a sublime slice of new wave pop from Fun Boy Three, the group formed by Terry Hall, Neville Staple and Lynva Golding after they left The Specials.

We follow that up with an outstanding song by Bronski Beat; 'Smalltown Boy'. Debut singles don't get much better than this; telling the tale of a homosexual boy whose family turn his back on him. The beats are big, Somervilles vocals are outstanding, the lyrics are straight from the heart and the electronic riff is instantly infectious. The video is also pretty outstanding.

Pet Shop Boys sailed through the 80's on a stream of outstanding and memorable pop songs. This got to number 2 in 1986 when I was 10-years old. I remember loads from that summer with the Mexico World Cup and this definitely left an impression on me. Pure pop and the break/chorus with Dusty Springfield lifts the song to places where others can only dream of.

Soft Cell also released a string of amazing singles throughout the 80's, helped by some truly outstanding 12-inch versions/remixes. 'Say Hello, Wave Goodbye' was their fifth single. The twelve inch version has a beautiful intro that lasts for over 3 minutes and 30 seconds, enjoy every single second before Marc Almond sings his heart out.

Take your hands off me

I don't belong to you, you see
Take a look at my face
For the last time
I never knew you
You never knew me
Say hello goodbye
Say hello wave goodbye

In 1982 Abba released their last ever album, 'The Visitors', with the title track also becoming their last ever single. Those expecting pure pop were startled by a synth masterpiece. This is pretty special. 

5 songs to kick start any weekend!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Noel Gallagher announces debut album

Noel Gallagher held a press conference at high noon today to announce his debut album 'Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' in October, with a tour to follow.

Indulging in his more 'experimental' side, Noel also announced that a second album, which is a continuation of his collaboration with Amorphous Androgynous, will be released in 2012.

The tracklisting for the debut album is;

1. Everybody's On The Run
2. Dream On
3. If I Had A Gun...
4. The Death Of You And Me
5. (I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine
6. AKA... What A Life!
7. Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks
8. AKA... Broken Arrow
9. (Stranded On) The Wrong Beach
10. Stop The Clocks

Several of the tracks have been widely available on YouTube for quite some time, so lets check them out;

Everybody's On The Run may well have been written on the last Oasis tour judging by the recordings from soundchecks. Noel's soothing vocals ache with feeling.

If I Had A Gun - this sounds like it was recorded in the very early stages of the songs creation, gentle lulling chords and vocals with Noel humming some of the melody and allowing it to fall away. I imagine it will sound a lot more epic when recorded.

I Wanna Live In A Dream In My Record Machine was recorded for the last Oasis album Dig Out Your Soul, either failing to make the cut, or mor likely being kept back by Noel who probably realised that the band had no future. This is my personal favourite from the tracks doing the rounds. The middle eight section is classic Noel.

You can't give me a reason I want me want to shine
You can't give me the feelings cos they're already mine
You get one in a million and if the sun won't rise
On my soul, then I'll go

Stop the Clocks - Noel was/is so fond of this song that an Oasis compilation released in 2006 had this as the title. However it was never released under the guise of his former band. Noel's voice sounds wistful and longing;

Lock the box and leave it all behind
On the backseat of my mind
And when the night is over
Where will I rise? 

As someone who first saw Oasis supporting the Boo Radleys at Glasgow Sound City in 1994, I've followed the band on their rollercoaster ride; the highs of 94-96, the considerable let down that was 'Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, I've been to gigs where Liam walked off, the band walked off, I was at their T in the Park gig in the tent in 1994 when they played football on stage, in the front pit at Knebworth.....

I still take an interest in what Liam and Noel do as I know what they are capable of musically and I personally love their sense of humour and interviews. I am fully aware that they are not everyone's cup of tea, indeed I was pretty down on them myself for a while. However they have a charisma that lifts them above so many other acts out there. I for one am really looking forward to hearing what Noel has to offer.

I think that big brother might just remind Liam where the real songwriting talent in the Gallagher lies. The singing isn't bad either!

Read my review of the Beady Eye album HERE

Friday, 1 July 2011

Five for Friday, five for Zoe

The sun is shining and my stunning baby girl Zoe and my beautiful wife Lynn are coming home from hospital today. I'm a Dad!

So here are five songs for Zoe;

We kick off with the rather gorgeous original '3 is the Magic Number' by Bob Dorough.

Next up is The Beatles with the gorgeous 'Here, There & Everywhere';

Followed up by the Stone Roses and 'Waterfall', the tune that came on Radio 2 at around 4am on Sunday morning as we were driving to the hospital. I smiled at the line 'soon to be put to the test.'

Then on Tuesday night I was drivig home listening to Jo Whiley on Radio 2 and she played this, the words just seemed perfect for my mood as I had a sore neck from gazing at Zoe all day!

I'll end with this amazing song by U2 that has been in my head since their storming Glastonbury set last Friday night in the driving rain.