Thursday, 31 October 2013

It's Not About War! by Chris Grant

It's Not About War! by Chris Grant is one of the first albums to be released on 359 Music, the new label formed by the legendary Alan McGee.

McGee championed Grant back in the heady days of MySpace when Grant went under the name of The Grants. I was surprised that they were never picked up as an early demo of a song called 'I Am The One' was sensational. I'm even more surprised after listening to this album!

The record industry has changed dramatically over the last 5-years, McGee's new label and his interviews to promote it, 'I can run a label from my bedroom in Wales with a mobile and an iPad', are proof. The good news is that Grant has finally released an album, he has bided his time, his time is now.

'It's Not About War!' is a fucking beautiful album. Chris Grant sings from the very bottom of his heart, the passion and truth in his vocals match the open and honest lyrics. The guitar playing is exquisite, the whole record is incredibly pure, beautifully produced.

According to an interview with the excellent Louder Than War blog, Grant recorded the album on an £80 laptop in his garage. If true then the boy is a genius.

'Our Story' opens the album and sets the tone for what is to come; picked guitar riffs, emotional vocals and stunning melodies.

There's nobody that can stop us, can anybody even try?

'I Am The One' should be a number one song across the globe, it is that good. Ripe for use in a film, this is a widescreen love song to die for.

I am the one, the one that you are gonna die for
Could you be the one to set us free
And i am the one, the one that you are gonna hide from
Could you be the one to never run

The vocals and melody (this album is the most melodic I have heard in a long time) are beautiful, the guitar playing sounds simple yet inventive at the same time, the middle eight is just glorious.

Tonight, tonight, tonight
Tonight I'll be the key one,
To walk with you, to talk with you, to dance with you
Tonight, tonight, tonight
Tonight I'll be the key one, the key one
Aren't I the key one?

Play this to the people who say, 'they don't write 'em like they used to'!

Grant follows it with another corker. 'It's You' is Lennon-esque in it's primal honesty, Grant's delivery and vocal is heartfelt, full of emotion.

It's time like this I'm open to believe
Just give us some more room so we can breathe
Live life under your own little rainbow
Don't follow a soul unless it's your own little way...

I hope the girl this was written for has heard it! The song is over 5-minutes in length but I just want to listen to it again, it flows superbly.

'Pretty Mean' keeps things going, a simple beat underpins more simple yet playful and inventive guitar playing (recalling The Police at their best in some places) that is full of feeling and Grant's vocals remain crystal clear as he tells a story about falling in love. There is another glorious middle eight and outro.

This boy can sing, man can he sing. 'Like A 45' is a piano ballad with brass and strings lifting it and Grant's melodies flowing superbly. Absolutely beautiful!

Yes I'd dance with you, if no-one was around

'How Many Times' asks questions like 'how many times can a man fall in love/save himself…' over a simple beat and slightly psychedelic guitar.

'Maybe Now' bursts into life with strings and piano. Grant just tells it like it is and sings beautifully.

I never thought I'd hurt you, but it's the way it had to be

I've tried everything, nothing seems to work

Grant is at his poetic best...

Bought a ticket for the boat ride, on the river, under moonlight, with the stars, in the darkness….

'Moonlit Wall' and 'Too Cool To Die' prove that Grant isn't just all about the ballads (as beautiful as they are) and he has the songs up his sleeve to get a crowd going.

'Baby Pink' is hushed honesty with Grant and his acoustic guitar. The little burst of harmonica just adds to the hints of Dylan.

I was in a bad place and at the time you were so good

'It's Not About War!' is a brilliant album, with several of the songs being truly exceptional. Live dates appear to be sporadic just now. I can't wait for Grant to come to Glasgow. I hope the crowd are quiet for the ballads!

Monday, 28 October 2013

Suede at Glasgow Barrowland

Suede were utterly sensational last night, led by Brett Anderson, a frontman in the form of his life.

A classical intro played as Suede took a dimly lit stage that was full of dry smoke. The band were all dressed in black and they began playing the ballad 'Still Life'. Brett Anderson strolled on to the stage wearing skinny tight black jeans and a white shirt, buttons half undone and sleeves rolled up. He was ready for business.

Anderson then displayed one of the finest frontman performances I have ever seen, his vocals were also spellbinding. Anderson delivered an incredible opening performance of 'Still Life' causing my mate Dave and I to exchange knowing glances.

Anderson looked fantastic, he has always been slim but he looked healthily toned. He shaked and shimmied, jumped, pogo'd, skipped and bounded his way around the stage. In fact he probably spent more time on standing on the monitors at the front or down with the audience than he spent on stage.

Anderson was electrified, he was on another level last night, giving it his all and then some more. I couldn't take my eyes off him for a second.

'Barriers' and 'Snowblind' followed before 'It Starts And Ends With You' from their latest album 'Bloodsports' is energetic guitar pop at its best, flowing along with ease. It kick-started an epic 4-song run, leading into 'Filmstar', a superb 'Trash' and a euphoric 'Animal Nitrate'.

Anderson was in truly sensational form, a wide smile broke out at several times, he was singing and performing like his life depended on it. Thankfully he slowed things down for a bit as we were wondering how he could keep it up! He was down on his knees, lying across the stage and his vocals were strong and true.

The crowd went wild for 'The Drowners' as Brett made a mockery of his age with his energy and enthusiasm carrying the band and crowd as one.

A sensational fully extended 'The Asphalt World' allowed Anderson to walk side stage. From our vantage point we could see him leaning against the back of the PA, totally exhausted, someone came and put an arm round him and he downed a bottle of water. He came back on after the soaring instrumental and led the song to its conclusion.

'So Young', 'Metal Mickey' and a glorious 'The Beautful Ones' ended the set with the crowd going nuts in response to Anderson's show and just encouraging him to show off even more. He cracked his mic lead like a whip, swung it around his head and over the crowd and eventually let it curl around his body.

They came back on to a huge ovation and played a brilliant 'New Generation'.

I have been attending shows at the Glasgow Barrowland for 20-years and last nights performance by Brett Anderson was one of the best I have seen. I hope they return soon.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Honey by TeenCanteen

So my sisters band TeenCanteen release 'Honey' via Neu! Reekie Records this weekend. Only it's not a record, it is actually a cassette! Not just any old cassette but a delicious honey scented cassette!

Each tape comes wrapped in lino print on seeded paper which you can plant and when you do, a small patch of wildflowers will grow! A download link is thankfully included for those without cassette players.

On to the song...

'Honey' was recorded at the Old Mill Studios in Strathaven and is mixed by Bill Ryder-Jones, formerly of The Coral, now striking out on his own via Domino Records.

'Honey' is a beautiful song, a cross between a polished 60's girl group ballad mixed with the raw edge of punky Throwing Muses style guitar pop.

The melody and lyrics hooked me instantly (not that I'm biased or anything).

He is fun, like the sun, and he never complains
But I'm a mess, I confess, I am more like the rain
He is perfect like a cirlce
And a summer shade of purple

He's the crash of the wave, he makes me misbehave
He's the only one I want, so it pains me to say
That I'm a square trying to fit in a circle
And I am red when I want to be purple

The contrast between the slow and considered verses to the raw and fast flowing chorus that has a real sense of freedom is refreshing. There is even a good old fashioned false ending at one point.

We just talk about the weather
Not the fact that we're together
But he knows I'm so in love with him
That I'll stick around through thick and thin
Like honey

There are some glorious harmonies and the lyrics are heartfelt but with a sense of humour.

I look forward to hearing what TeenCanteen have to offer in the future.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Delaplains at the Buff Club

Yesterday afternoon a tweet by John Robb of Louder Than War caught my eye;

Great new Manchester band The Delaplains release new single with hint of 1988 Stone Roses- Louder Than War

A short time later I got a tweet from my mate Liam asking if i was around tonight to go and see The Delaplains at the Buff Club in Glasgow as he thought they would be right up my street.

I checked them out online and liked what I heard; chiming guitar pop with strong melodies and and a bit of swagger.

As I was in town anyway (see previous blog) I decided to meet up with Liam and go and check The Delaplains out. 

I hadn't been to the Buff Club for about 4 or 5 years. It had changed. The bar downstairs had the weirdest Friday night atmosphere I have experienced in Glasgow - it was absolutely dead; showing an old Real Madrid v Valencia match on a big screen with the sound down and with a pub quiz on with only 3 teams! 

Liam was on his way so I went upstairs where the weirdness continued. The Buff Club has a balcony around the dance floor, another level. For some reason this is where the bands were set up, so you had to watch from down below and crane your neck to see them.

A band came on called something like Shark Attack and said something like 'Most people hate cover bands but I hope you like us'. I went downstairs to watch Real Madrid wondering what on earth The Delaplains would think of the set up. They had originally been scheduled to play Bloc.

Liam arrived and after a beer we headed up.

The Delaplains looked good with sharp shirts and haircuts, the bassist was playing left handed, looking like a young Gary Mountfield. They started with 3 guitarists, ensuring some gorgeous riffs and rhythm's before one of them went on to keyboards.

I found The Delaplains to sound more like The Smiths and The La's than the Roses, with a couple of tunes even sounding a little like the Bunnymen. They certainly like their reverb.

'Sleeping With The Lights On' was a standout, pounding drums, raw guitar and a crooning northern romantic vocal.

All my blue skies, floating away from me, when I'm looking for you

'Eleanor' was full of potential, with Phidel McCabe stretching the vocal melodies. The band had the confidence to play an instrumental and to introduce songs from their second EP that has just been released; 'The Other You' is a cracker, there is a bit of urgency about it.

'Gypsy Bones' closed an excellent show. It was notable that a crowd of Mancs (male and female) had come up to see them and the fact that they were all going on to the Sixties psych night Double Sight tells you a little about their influences and will help them to gain new friends in Glasgow, so I expect we'll see them again soon.

Scotland's Music Hall of Fame

Around 10-days ago I received an email inviting me to come along to King Tut's Wah Wah Hut for some food, beers and the opportunity to meet and chat with a guy called Ewan MacLeod, the curator of Scotland's Music Hall of Fame. They obviously knew how to get me!

The hall aims to open in late 2014 and has come to music fans attention recently thanks to some promo videos from artists like Belle & Sebastian, Franz Ferdinand and Biffy Clyro discussing the three artists they would like to nominate for inclusion.

So last night I was joined by Richy Muirhead from the brilliant Scottish Alternative Music Awards (the SAMA's) and a young girl called Heather who writes for a blog in Edinburgh called Indulge Sound.

The conversation flowed easily form the start, Ewan described his vision for Scotland's Music Hall of Fame with a high level of knowledge and passion. He had the stats, facts and stories about music in Scotland and a clear vision of how the nations love of music and the incredible talent that we have produced should be curated, displayed, honoured and promoted by the Hall.

It made sense in so many ways and as a music fan I quickly became excited about what the Hall could do for music in Scotland. The Hall will open in Glasgow, the UNESCO World Heritage Site for Music. That last sentence alone kind of tells you how silly it is that we don't have something. As someone who has been extremely fortunate to travel extensively, I've been to loads of UNESCO sites and they all seem to have a focal point. We have countless venues ranging from the classic King Tut's and the Barrowland, through to the modern day ABC and the Hydro, with long gone venues like the Apollo in between. But no focal point.

The fact that the SMHoF will have (and indeed already does have) an education wing is also extremely important and after a couple of beers I waxed lyrically about an education officer going into a school and speaking about bands like Orange Juice and Franz Ferdinand and inspiring a young kid to pick up a guitar.

Conversation came round to which 3 people/artists I would nominate for Scotland's Music Hall of Fame, so here they are;

1. Teenage Fanclub
I guess it goes without saying that I would nominate the Fannies. They came into my life when I was 15-years old and they have played a heavy part in the soundtrack of it ever since. They are consistently brilliant and with 3-songwriters in the form of Norman Blake, Gerry Love and Raymond McGinley they have produced some of the best guitar pop music ever. 

The fact that Teenage Fanclub are extremely well respected by journalists, DJ's and other bands all over the world also influences my decision. The band are fantastic ambassadors for Scotland; friendly, passionate and also very knowledgeable about music from all over.

2. Alan McGee
My second choice isn't an artist or a band, although I could certainly argue that Mr Alan McGee is just as creative. Alan is unique, a real one-off, someone who was bitten by the bug of punk music and has never been able to shake it off ever since - despite recently trying, he has come back with a new label 359music, staying true to his punk ethics but having incredible natural entrepreneurial resources.

Alan formed Creation Records and released albums by Scottish artists like Teenage Fanclub, Primal Scream, Jesus & Marychain as well as lesser known artists like The Diggers, Superstar and Momus. Not to mention non Scottish acts like Oasis, Ride and My Bloody Valentine.

Alan gets my nomination as he is a walking talking advert for the DIY punk ethic, someone who had a dream and went for it, someone with balls, someone with true passion and someone who could fill an entire room in the Hall of Fame with his stories.

3. Primal Scream - Bobby Gillespie and Andrew Innes
Primal Scream receive my third vote. The Scream are an incredible example of band who are not afraid to explore new sonic adventures or to work with a variety of different people to enable them to do just that. Andrew Weatherall, George Clinton, Robert Plant, the Chemical Brothers, Kate Moss and Kevin Shields are just a small number of people who have helped inspire the Scream to strive for more.

Like Alan (a dear friend of Bobby and Andrew's) the Scream are pure punk rock, yet they are capable of producing the most gorgeous tender ballads imaginable, blissful electronic music that will send you to a special place, out and out rock'n'roll stompers, psychedelic pop and white noise jazz.

They keep on keepin' on, they keep on keepin' strong. They have lived a life and would thoroughly deserve a place in Scotland's Music Hall of Fame.

Who would you nominate?

Stay tuned for more blogs about the Hall in the future.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Moby with Wayne Coyne - The Perfect Life

Published on Sep 4, 2013
'the idea for 'the perfect life' video is pretty simple...wayne and i in mariachi costumes walking around l.a picking up a very random and disparate bunch of disenfranchised oddballs and leading them via trolley to a giant party on a roof overlooking l.a while the sun sets.'
- moby

The video is as good as Moby's description, the song is even better. Taking in 'Play' style gospel piano and vocals with an added lysergic dash of Flaming Lips leader Wayne Coyne.

One of the best things Coyne has ever done is his single 'The Golden Path' with the Chemical Brothers and I've often wished he had recorded more electronic music. This is nowhere near as dancey or as psychedelic as that particular masterpiece, but it is brilliant.

One of my singles of the year.