Saturday, 29 August 2015

Hooton Tennis Club

A couple of months ago a friend posted a link to a song called Kathleen Sat On The Arm of Her Favourite Chair by a band called Hooton Tennis Club, describing it as brilliant guitar pop. I checked it out and was hooked.

The band hail from Liverpool and are signed to Heavenly Records, one of my favourite labels. Their warm slacker guitar sounds are reminiscent of Pavement, Dinosaur Jr and early Teenage Fanclub. The band also cite Parquet Courts, Beck and the Beach Boys as influences on their Facebook page.

Kathleen... is indeed brilliant guitar pop, coming in at 2 minute 29 seconds; the song flows from the start with a lovely guitar riff and the opening line is a killer;

Spent the best days of my life, travelling on trains and drawing cartoons

The song moves at a quick pace, packing a lot into the short time they have. The guitar instrumental at the end of the chorus is superb.

And even if you're lonely, we can go for a walk in the park
Or maybe go swimming 

Hooton Tennis Club have just released their debut album Highest Point In Cliff Town. I was eager to find out if they could capture this kind of warmth, humour and feel across the course of an album - I wasn't disappointed.

The lyrics paint pictures of people, locations and feelings. Many of the songs are stories about friends; Rose, Pierre (current single and much loved by Lauren Laverne), Jennifer, Jasper, Kathleen and Camilla all feature in the song titles. The guitars are beautifully loud, raw and warm, rhythm and lead combining superbly, underpinned by simple and effective bass and drums.

The band have a knack for finding cracking riffs and are not afraid to enjoy them and the opening riff of Jasper is one that you'll find yourself humming along to instantly. It was the bands debut single and it sounds glorious; the song is about singer Ryan Murphy's Grandfather who passed away a few weeks before it was written. I love the way they leave a line hanging and let the guitars flourish.

Always Coming Back 2 You is a bit of a favourite of mine already, at 4 minutes 21 seconds it is something of an epic for Hooton Tennis Club. The guitars are sublime, but they allow plenty of space for the bass and drums. The band clearly enjoy the riff and groove they find and the final 1 minute and 21 seconds of the song is dedicated to the band jamming on it - lovely.

The album closes with more delicious fuzzy and scuzzy guitars and the song Fall In Luv. I expect a fair few to fall in love with this charming debut full of fun, hooks and great guitar sounds.

The band play the Glad Cafe in Glasgow on halloween - 31st October.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Scottish music scene - 4 sign to majors

The Scottish music scene is in a particularly rich vein of form right now with 4 young artists signing deals with major labels since the turn of the year and many more turning heads and gathering attention.

Here is a quick run down on the 4 acts that have been snapped up, it will be interesting to see how they develop and if the labels allow them time to do just that;

Neon Waltz, a young band hailing from Wick, captured the attention of many by seemingly coming out of nowhere with their home made demos, covers and videos, signing with the same management company as Oasis and then subsequently to Atlantic Records. Their young front man has something about him and the band gel superbly. They are still very much in their infancy but 2016 could be a big year for them.

I caught them live at Wickerman recently and they had a few stand out songs as well as many more that sound promising; they look good, the frontman stands out a mile and demands attention, their duelling guitars create a brilliant sound and they really do gel superbly.

Fatherson went about things the complete opposite way from Neon Waltz - working hard, playing loads of shows, self releasing and building a bigger and bigger following. Their young manager Michael Lambert teamed up with Idlewild's manager Bruce Craigie to form A Modern Way - a management company and record label; very handy and indeed - very modern. Fatherson's I Am An Island that they released in 2014 only increased the interest in the band leading to an incredible performance at T in the Park where they packed out the King Tut's tent (see video below). Their hard work has paid off and they recently signed with Easy Life Record, an offshoot of Sony.

Singer Ross Leighton is in this for the long haul and I have heard many people compare them to Biffy Clyro; not just for their Ayrshire roots but for their growing sound, reputation and fanbase - they could be building to something pretty special and now they have the backing to do it.

White burst on to the scene last year and my friend Gordon alerted me to their fantastic song Living Fiction. The song mixed Franz Ferdinand with LCD Soundsystem and all kinds of 70's and 80's pop, funk and disco. It sounded fresh, vital and fun.

Another friend Sam told me that they had labels coming up to see them rehearse - there was a buzz. White have now signed with Sony and released a second single Blush which shows more signs of promise and the band are attracting more and more interest through the media and radio, things are building up nicely. From a personal point of view, the drummer Kirstin is absolutely lovely and I am delighted for her that things are going so well.

Model Aeroplanes are a young band from Dundee that have been attracting interest since they formed in their teens (some of them may well still be in their teens). I first saw them live supporting Vigo Thieves back in late 2013 and really liked the look and sound of them - playing cracking guitars, looking too young to be in the venue and having an ear for a pop tune. I was also very impressed with their musical talent - these boys can play, just check out the variety of their live and acoustic sessions on YouTube for evidence.

The band have been working extremely hard since then under the guidance of their lovely manager Paul who has been working his socks off for them. As someone who managed bands I always root for a good young manager and I am absolutely delighted that Paul's work and the bands talent has landed them a deal with Island Records.

The hard work continues - this good looking young bunch of lads who can really play could take off in a big way if they get a hit single. Best of luck to them.

It is fantastic to see labels venturing north of the border for talent - there is plenty of it and I wouldn't bet against other acts being snapped up in the near future. Here are just a few that might also get a major label deal;

Man of Moon could well be described as the buzz band in Scotland at the moment. A young 2-piece from Edinburgh, they have been working hard under the guidance of a lovely guy called Jamie Webster and recently released their debut single on indie Melodic Records to rave review. Festivals and sold out shows have added to the buzz. Watch them go.

Kloe is a young teenager from the outskirts of Glasgow creating a real buzz. I thoroughly enjoyed her set at Wickerman; the way she strutted around the stage, fell to her knees, posed for the cameras and treated us to a display of modern pop written by a teenager for teenagers. Word on the street is that a new EP will be coming out before the end of the year. if it generates anything like the response of her debut single then she may well get snapped up. Young, ambitious and talented. Definitely one to watch.

Vigo Thieves have been working hard on writing and recording and I have been fortunate enough to hear some exceptional new songs. These boys are going for it big style and I sincerely hope they get the deal they deserve. Stevie Jukes is a star in the making, he has the look, voice, soul and songs to go all the way.

Other acts to keep an eye on that should certainly attract label attention (perhaps not a major) include; Catholic Action, TeenCanteen, The Insomniac Project , Atom Tree and Crash Club. Oh and if Gerry Cinnamon's forthcoming self released debut does well then he may well get snapped up too - that is if a label doesn't come in before he released it himself.

There are bands and acts all over, DIY labels and nights, blogs, podcasts, radio shows, venues, nights - and it is all exceptionally accessible in the modern day and age. Scotland continues to punch above its weight - producing an incredible amount of fantastic bands and artists for a country with such a small population.

Enjoy this brilliant time for music.

Monday, 24 August 2015

The Insomniac Project

In And Out (of My Head) is the debut single by new Scottish band The Insomniac Project and it deserves your attention - remarkably fresh and polished, upbeat and flowing superbly with euphoric male and female vocals.

The band themselves describe it as disco infused electronic pop - and I can't argue with that description and I probably can't top it either!

There is a sense of urgency to the verses that is taken further when the female vocals kick in, but then when you listen to the song a few times in a row it kind of feels like there are 3 or 4 different choruses - it is just constant; flowing superbly, building all the time and keeping things going with cowbell and little twists and turns - bringing in guitar, adding more synths. A brilliant debut.

The Insomniac Project play only their fourth show (and first real official show) at Nice n Sleazys on Friday 4th September, so if you want to get into a band with huge potential from the off then you could do a lot worse than The Insomniac Project.

If In And Out (of My Head) is the shape of things to come then I am in for the ride. It is available on i-Tunes and all the regular places on 31st August. Get a note in your diary.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

The Vaselines and TeenCanteen

I have been fortunate to catch The Vaselines 3 times in as many months; in June supporting Mogwai at the Barrowland Ballroom, headlining the Scooter Tent at the Wickerman Festival in July and last night, headlining the brilliant Summerhall venue in Edinburgh. They are in blistering form.

Summerhall was exceptionally buzzy on a warm summers evening mid-Edinburgh Festival season. Pop up bars had been set up in the courtyard next to the superb The Royal Dick pub.

The Vaselines had asked TeenCanteen to support them and with doors running late it meant that there was a sizeable crowd queuing up to get in by 9pm. TeenCanteen came on at around 9.15pm and told us that this was there first full show since February; they had been busy writing and recording, alongside putting on the fabulous Girl Effect night in aid of Scottish Women's Aid.

They played superbly, confident, having fun, introducing their debut single Honey like a lost friend, second song Friends was absolutely superb and the New Order bass groove towards the end of second single You're Still Mine got a great response. Then it was on to the new songs; Sirens had been debuted on their recent 6music session and it was absolutely superb, Dancing (Hey You) slowed things down, almost Joy Division like at times in terms of sparseness. Closing with Sister to a packed hall and a great response, TeenCanteen definitely won some new fans with their 3-part harmonies, clever lyrics, melodies and passion.

Pic by Duglas T Stewart

The Vaselines came on swiftly and played an exceptional set of power pop punk perfection. 3 guitars gelling together to sound absolutely sensational with Scott Paterson from Sons and Daughters in stunning form - firing out riffs and making it all look incredibly easy.

Eugene and Frances were hilarious between songs, the chemistry between them is pure and true, Frances seemed a little tipsy and they laughed that it only took 6 songs for her to mention vagina's!

Due to the fact things were running late the band absolutely blasted through the second half of their set, firing through 2, 3 and 4-minute guitar pop punk gems. Eugene was in brilliant form, clearly enjoying the sound on stage, the way the band were playing and the response from the crowd.

Frances in action - photo by jock'n'roll

Highlights - well the whole set was superb but here goes;

High Tide Low Tide set the tone as an opener; powerful and melodic, the guitars sounding superb. I Hate The 80's was in the same vein.

The Day I Was A Horse was absolutely brilliant. Under 2-minutes of trippy, fuzzy, punky guitar with the vocals spat out by Eugene and Frances. The original is almost lo-fi, the modern Vaselines with 3 guitars turned up to the max take it to another level.

Lovecraft was just fired down our throats, the clapping style guitar riff was powerful and playful, Eugene and Frances' vocals contrasting but sounding like they were meant to be. Sex Sux Amen has been a real standout from the 3 shows I have seen The Vaselines play recently, a joyful romp.

Eugene asked TeenCanteen to join in the fun on Molly's Lips and Carla and Sita played the horn parts and amazingly Eugene got through the song without laughing.

Pic by Deborah Smith

Son Of A Gun is more akin to the Nirvana cover than the original these days, Frances vocals sound as innocent as they did back on the original but the guitars are ferocious and all the better for it. Dying For It is up with Sex Sux and The Day I Was A Horse as real standout and thankfully The Vaselines responded to chants for an encore to come back on and ram it down our throats.

I was fortunate enough to catch up with Eugene briefly after the show and he agreed that the band were in great form, they were enjoying it and will hopefully be playing some more shows before the end of the year - fingers crossed!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Dr Cosmo's Tape Lab return to save summer

Summer 2015 in Glasgow/ hasn't been great, has it?

Dr Cosmo's Tape Lab agree and decided to do something about it; Coconut Summer Drop-In 432 was recorded in 3-weeks in July 2015 at the bands home studio in a rain drenched Glasgow. It was released on Friday (August 14th), has it been a co-incidence that the sun has been shining ever since?

The bands sense of melody and  humour is all over the album alongside their thirst for sonic adventures.

Ready Steady Beach is tongue in cheek humour with a couple of Beatles samples thrown in for good measure; just to make sure you understand their influences.

Saltcoats Paradise is a dreamy ditty; beautiful and inventive, arriving 4-songs in. The fact that Dr Cosmo's record on to a 4-track is something I have to pinch myself to remember.

High Inside (The Lost Frontier) is a standout, pure Beach Boys Smile/Pet Sounds - inventive and poetic lyrics, lysergic soaked vocals, melodies and harmonies.

Stuart Kidd and Joe Kane have talent pouring out of them, this is their 3rd album, a mere 14-months after the release of their debut and upon emailing Joe he confirmed that their 4th is recorded and will be released early in 2016, but they didn't want to wait until then to get something new out!

The prolific duo have plenty to offer listeners; But I May Be Right is short and sweet at only 1-minute and 6 seconds in length, but Kidd and Kane just pull you in and wish they had kept things going rather than fade out.

Hoping To Heal is just over 30-seconds of dreamy gorgeousness, sounding like someone recorded it on a phone, but just sounding beautiful. I hope they revisit it.

Dr Cosmo's have the talent and ability to brighten any day, with Coconut Summer Drop-In 432 there are moments of madcap craziness (check the closer Giuseppe e Franca), loads of humour, melodies to die for and a few moments of genius. I look forward to album number 4.

You can buy all 3 Dr Cosmo's albums to date by visiting their BANDCAMP page.

These guys are different, their talent stands out a mile, they just want to record and release. Long may that continue.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Introducing - Poor Things

The Scottish music scene is in a particularly rich vein of form just now with a number of new bands coming to the fore, loads of bands and artists developing and pushing boundaries and established bands still coming up with the goods.

I'm aiming to introduce semi-regular interview/highlight/introducing blogs focusing on new bands coming to the fore. Here is the first one....

Poor Things are a band that came to my attention through a recent split single release on the fabulous Gerry Loves Records label. Their warm guitar pop sounds displayed on No Way, Jose caught my ear - very Fanclub-esque. I look forward to seeing them live in the near future.

I caught up with Craig Angus to find out a little more about the band.

1. Tell us how you formed - where are you from, how do you know each other, how and why did you get together?

Richard and I (Craig) got put in registration class together on the first day of secondary school and instantly bonded over music, he was the cool kid that could play the guitar really well and I was the over-active underachiever.  Eventually we met Gavin who at the time was going out with one of our friends from school and we formed out first band, in 2004 - which is crazy.  

Anyway long story short we started a new band once Richard and I came to University in Glasgow and Poor Things have been playing since 2011 -  our sound has changed a lot since then.  I feel like we've only really existed since 2013, like I was a different person before that... 

2. I’m pretty new to the band, you seem to have released your debut album quickly (which I like) - what made you decide to do that? What has the response been like?

I think maybe because we'd been plugging away for two, three years in the sidelines, it felt like a bit of a bucket list thing - something it would be cool to have as a momento to the band.  I guess because you never know when something like that can just stop - all it takes is one person to emigrate, or just say they've had enough.  With this band and us being such old friends, it could't function without the core three members, and no matter how things go from here that's our small contribution to the world of music.

The genesis, Andrew Dyce from Saraseto Records, who is a great friend and supporter of the band, asked us if we wanted to do it, and we had a bunch of songs that we were happy with and we had made a bit of money from various festival gigs and our first EP, so yeah - why not? 

I think writing an album is a great challenge that presents a few structural obstacles - the whole process definitely improved us as songwriters and the record seems to have reached a lot of people, a lot more than we could really have hoped for considering it was such a DIY effort.  It's not the most well known or hyped release of recent times, but we played a few cool shows off the back of it and the people that like it seem to really like it.  I'm still amazed that people choose to listen to music we make.  I think they're taking the piss probably.

3. Tell us about your other releases - what have you put out to date and is there anything in the pipeline?

One EP (Hurricane Poor Things), One Album (Poor Things), two split singles, one cassette on Fuzzkill with the formidable Catholic Action and one on Gerry Loves Records, a 7" with Halfrican, Sharptooth and Pinact and a contribution to Fuzzkill's Now 666 tape which some of our favourite bands were part of;  Secret Motorbikes, Deathcats, Kill Surfff.   

We've been writing songs for a while now, over a year, with the aim to do another album.  We demoed a track last week, and we're pretty excited about how it sounds.  The scattergun approach to the last record was great but we can probably take a bit more time, spend a bit more money and do something really memorable.  I'm really, really excited about it.  Richard has written some absolutely brilliant songs, and I think I'm putting my best stuff forward too.  

Visit the Poor Things band camp page for releases to date 

4. What has been your best gig to date?

The Gerry Loves launch parties were an obvious highpoint.  We also had a crazy show in Paris in May 2014 that ended up being really busy and I think having travelled so far that was pretty special.

5. What gigs do you have coming up?

We are playing The Hug and Pint on Saturday 22nd August and beyond that are doing a mini tour with our pals Min Diesel in October, the focus right now is writing and finishing off new songs. We're going up to Loch Fyne to do 4 days of solid demoing in early September, before emerging to an unsuspecting world. 

6. Tell us about your influences - what music do you like?

As a unit we're big Weezer fans, big Pavement fans, beyond that we're into Teenage Fanclub, Smashing Pumpkins, Big Star, any indie music from that wonderful 1990s period.  

7. How do you write as a band?

Richard lives in Aberdeen and I live in Glasgow, so we write things individually and then share them over emails, and then when we practice with Gav we bring it all together and pick things apart a bit more.  It's quite a good way of filtering the good stuff.

8. What other young Scottish bands do you like?

We're big, big Halfrican fans - they've got excellent legs.  Also Pinact and Sharptooth who were on our 7" release.  We've done a lot of shows with Catholic Action who are about to really take off and they're a really fun band with great songwriting at the front and centre.  I never miss Tuff Love either.

9. What do you think of the music scene in Scotland - what is good, what is challenging, is anything missing?

That's a tough one.  There's a lot of really great stuff going on, and then stuff that does nothing for me and that perplexes me - but hey, opinions right?  It feels futile criticising a band you're clearly just not into.

I think things are pretty good now thought, and the rise of DIY labels is a brilliant thing, it's encouraging people to be creative and be independently minded. Long term there's an obvious glass ceiling, but it shouldn't matter too much.  

10. For those new to the band - why should they check you out?

It's what Elvis would have wanted.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Nirvana play The Vaselines

Cover(s) of the month #3
Nirvana cover The Vaselines

The Vaselines were (originally) an small but influential alternative rock band from Glasgow that had released a couple of EP's and an album in their (initial) short career, before promptly breaking up.

Fanzine culture carried their songs across the ocean to a young fan in Seattle who promptly fell in love with them, leading to him corresponding with The Vaselines Eugene Kelly by mail. There was no instant communication online in those days.

That young fan happened to be Kurt Cobain who always remained true to his roots; Nirvana covered The Vaselines not once, not twice, but three times. Nirvana and Cobain also helped to promote Eugene's later bands; Captain America and Eugenius - through support slots, mentions in interviews, t-shirts and a guest appearance by Eugene at the Reading Festival.

I've been listening to Nirvana quite a bit over the last few months; marvelling at their unique urgency, Cobain's exceptional vocals and ferocious guitar playing, the brilliant rhythm section of Novoselic and Grohl, the sense of togetherness - a real band/gang.

Nirvana and Cobain were always quick to display their influences, churning out a load of covers for sessions, EP's, b-sides and at live shows. To cover 3 songs by The Vaselines alongside songs by the likes of The Velvet Underground, Bowie, Devo and Kiss is real evidence of Kurt's love for the Glasgow bands sense of fun and knack for melody.

Two of the covers are on the Incesticide album of b-sides, session tracks and demos.

The Vaselines Dying For It EP contained 2-tracks covered by Nirvana

Molly's Lips is so simple, Cobain fuzzes and scuzzies the guitar riff and remains true to the melody but just speeds and punks it up.

Son Of A Gun is sensational, the band tear through it and Cobain hammers home the chorus again and again with unbridled pop punk joy.

The sun shines in the bedroom
When we play
And the rain it always starts
When you go away

Cobain and Nirvana played some incredible covers on their MTV Unplugged show, 6 in total; Bowie's The Man Who Sold The World, 3 songs from The Meat Puppets who joined Nirvana on stage, Where Did You Sleep Last Night by Leadbelly and The Vaselines Jesus Don't Want Me For A Sunbeam.

It is a beautiful version, very true to the original, Cobain's voice is beautifully raw and soulful. You wonder what the next Nirvana album would have sounded like; would it have taken a more mellow and acoustic route?

Cobain's take on Bowie, his astonishing transformation of the Meat Puppets songs and his spine tingling version of Leadbelly's old song are truly incredible - an artist on top of his game, happy to display his love of music through covers.

Nirvana covering 3 songs by The Vaselines eventually led to the band reforming and having a worldwide audience. Would this have happened without Cobain and Nirvana? Almost certainly not. That The Vaselines have now recorded 2 albums in the last few years is something to be thankful for, their ear for pop and sense of fun and humour is still evident and it has been great to see them at the Barrowland Ballroom and the Wickerman Festival in the last 2-months; new songs mixing well with the early classics.

Cobain's take on The Vaselines is joyful, he injects real punk pop into Molly's Lips and Son Of A Gun and extra tenderness on Jesus Don't Want Me For A Sunbeam.

Sunday, 2 August 2015

Laugh At Me - Sonny Bono

On Friday night my good friend Gordon pulled a battered looking 7-inch record from his bag, placed it on a turntable, dropped the needle and let it play. There was a hiss and a crackle and then it kicked in. It sounded absolutely sensational; warm, raw, vital and urgent.

Gordon was punching the sky, singing a-long with that sense of sheer abandonment that a good song can make you do.

I had to find out who it was, it sounded pretty Dylan-esque. The song was by Sonny Bono and it is called Laugh At Me.

Listening back now I clearly missed the intro as Sonny introduces the song;

“I never thought I'd cut a record by myself but I got somethin' I wanna say. I want to say it for Cher and I hope I say it for a lot of people”.

In under 3-minutes, Sonny delivers an absolute masterpiece over huge Spector-esque production, building and building until he screams So I don't care, let 'em laugh at me, if that's the fare, I have to pay to be free

The song flows again until Sonny really cuts loose screaming it's gotta start some place, it's gotta start sometime

I love discovering songs I haven't heard before and my friend Gordon's new night at The Admiral Everything Shakes was a great place to do just that. 2 new young bands and DJ's playing vinyl only. The next night will be on Friday 25th September. I hope to discover some more fantastic music.

This is how Gordon discovered the song;

I discovered it watching the film Good Vibrations which is about Terri Hooley and his record shop which he opened during the troubles in Belfast. Despite this he carries on and releases Teenage Kicks by the Undertones as well as some other good tracks that never got the same acclaim such as Big Time by Rudy. Anyway at the end he puts on a massive punk show in Belfast town hall. It's supposed to raise funds to keep the shop and record label running but he has half of Belfast on the guest list and he loses everything so he gets up with all the bands and he sings laugh at me by sonny Bono. It's a fuckin amazing moment! Glad you liked it!

Why can't I be like any guy?

Why do they try to make me run?
Son of a gun, now

What do they care, about the clothes I wear?
Why get their kicks from making fun, yeah?

This world's got a lot of space
And if they don't like my face
It ain't me that's going anywhere, no

So I don't care
Let 'em laugh at me
If that's the fare
I have to pay to be free

Then baby, laugh at me, and I'll cry for you
And I'll pray for you
And I'll do all the things
That the man upstairs says to do

I'll do 'em for you
I'll do 'em
I'll do 'em all for you

It's gotta stop someplace
It's gotta stop sometime

I'll make sure that she's mine
And maybe the next guy
That don't wear a silk tie
He can walk by and say hi

Say, hi
Instead of why
Instead of why
Instead of why babe

Instead of why
What did I do to you?
I don't know what to do

Crash Club at Everything Shakes

Crash Club may well be the best live band in Scotland right now. I was genuinely blown away by their performance on Friday night at The Admiral at the inaugural Everything Shakes night.

Raw, powerful and fluid Primal Scream style basslines underpin (and at times lead) all kinds of electronic goodness, live beats and psychedelic guitar - at times like My Bloody Valentine. It is a powerful combination that is made all the better by the fact that Crash Club just don't let up. They have honed and toned their live set to perfection - just over 30-minutes flowing from one song to another with no let up, like a DJ set or mix album.

Ian MacKinnon strolled on stage to join the band for a couple of songs including the outstanding Recondition. MacKinnon's vocals just lifted the set even higher, producing real moments of euphoria and adding extra menace to the Kilwinning's outfits set.

Neal McHarg on bass is almost like a front man, playing bass with a mission, wearing a 'Glasgow As F**k' t-shirt and firing off riffs that demanded people move. His brother Aran never strayed far from his amp, creating all kinds of beautiful guitar sound, while the leader of the band Sammy bounded behind a bank of synths and screens, live drums keeping it real.

Crash Club play Belladrum this coming weekend. Seek them out and keep an eye on their Facebook page for upcoming gig announcements.