20 Years of Golden Greats

It was 1999. Ian Brown, already an Icon, stood poised for the biggest release of his career. The protracted demise of the Stone Roses behind him, Brown had already made good on the rarest of opportunities with his debut solo album, ‘Unfinished Monkey Business’.

A bitter fallout with boyhood friend John Squire allowed him a chance of reckoning; the ability to deliver something so angst ridden, vengeful and honest, in the way that only a debut album could.

Locked and loaded, Brown fired shot after shot at Squire’s emotional retreat from their friendship, (‘Ice Cold Cube’, ‘Nah Nah’) and his perceived obsession with money (‘Deep Pile Dreams’).

In January that year, Squire’s “The Seahorses” called time on their short-lived stint in the limelight. Inevitably, Roses reunion talk began. Amongst fans, there was a feeling that Brown had aired his problems, and Squire? He had tried his hand elsewhere, but surely now, a reconciliation beckoned.

Brown however, after a tough time at her majesty’s pleasure, had other ideas. Speaking on BBC2’s “The Ozone” in the same year, he bristled: “This country owes me 60 days. I will take it by all means necessary…”

That fire was clear for all to see on the bombastic opener, ‘Getting High’. Again, lyrical shots flew at Squire (“I could have found you if I wanted/ I wouldn't even have to try / Saved you if I longed to / You didn't wanna see me by”). Aziz Abraham’s guitar work combined the lo-fi outer space elements of the debut with an expansion of the Roses second album.

Brown’s prison sentence was farcical. A four-month stint, having offended an air hostess - the same sentence Gary Glitter received for a hard drive indecent images of children, following an ill-advised trip to PC World just a few months earlier. As a category D prisoner at Strangeways, Brown served the entirety of his 4 months there, in one of the country’s largest high security, Category A prisons.

However, the frustration and darkness of prison, became Brown’s muse. For it was here he would write ‘Free My Way’, ‘Set My Baby Free’ and ‘So Many Soldiers’. ‘Free My Way’ opens with the haunting line of ‘jingle jangle here’s the jailor, heaven’s here right now on earth’, viscerally describing the anguish of hearing the prison guard coming to lock him up each night.

Speaking to artist (and former forger) John Myatt, Brown talks with great affection about the people he met in prison; the spirit of those with far less, being perhaps the key to Brown maintaining his positive pop instincts on the record. When you consider the adverse effect prison had on Rob Collins (The Charlatans), we should be grateful to all of those people who helped our hero through his darkest days.

The chemical electronics of ‘Set My Baby Free’. The intoxicating distortion of the ‘Golden Gaze’. The vocal melody of ‘Free My Way’. All of this seriously tested periphery of what pop music could be 20 years ago. As the British alternative bands moved away from pop into their masterpiece era (Spiritualised - Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space; Pulp – This Is Hardcore; Primal Scream – XTRMNTR), Brown busily funnelled the vast imagination of the aforementioned acts via the medium of pop music to stand alone in the crowd once more.

When King Monkey Head was in high spirits, the alt-pop really shone. ‘If Dolphins Were Monkeys’ had the rhythmic funkadelic charm of the Roses. Meanwhile, ‘Love Like A Fountain’ is a trippy soul record from outer space.

The bravery, the creativity and crucially, the impact of ‘Golden Greats’, went on a long way to quelling the Roses reunion talk and would put pay to that eventuality for another 13 years.

Like the sexuality of Bowie and the satellite town visions of early Suede, Brown captured the world he, and he alone lived in, and enticed you in, if not invited. This blueprint became template for Brown’s solo career to come but it was here, despite being the difficult second album, that it launched in earnest.

The Blinders: Live at the Ritz

This week marks the release of The Blinders' limited edition live album. Recorded in their adopted city of Manchester, at the iconic Ritz venue, it will be out via Blood Records.

On hearing this news, we were immediately taken back to May 2nd 2017, the first night we saw the band. We went out for the emerging Sisteray, we left emotionally shattered from The Blinders.

This was more than a gig! It was art, it was drama and exciting as fuck.

Frontman Thomas Haywood strode on stage in a John Motson over coat and face paint. Meanwhile, bass player Charlie McGough looked like Nick Drake and strutted like Wilko Johnson.

All images courtesy of  Blood Records  &  Sam Crowston

All images courtesy of Blood Records & Sam Crowston

They had the style. Did they have the substance?

You bet your life they did!

Haywood was the embodiment of Cobain, Morrison, and Blake. The guitars were stinging pieces of psyche via punk. For the first time since The Libertines, a band were in the present, reflecting life as we knew and hated. It was to be adored.

Two years on, they are inevitably a better live band. Tighter, harder, and wiser, this live album is a no brainer of a purchase. If you have never seen or heard them, we cordially invite you to the hoodwink society.

Visit Blood Records to get your copy:

https://www.blood-records.co.uk/current-release/

Our 8th Birthday!

Last Friday night, in South East London, a rare thing happened. A night of rock n roll was brought to the forgotten corner of London. A week after the Kick Out The Jams all dayer and, a few months after CroCroLand, it feels like a shift is well under way. With Soho becoming overrun by greed, venues like New Cross Inn, Amersham Arms and The White Hart must become pivotal touring stops and breed life into a hotbed creativity so often overlooked.

To break the 4th wall briefly, it was our 8th birthday and, we have to say thank you to the bands and everyone who came. Furthermore, thank you to This Feeling, Kick Out The Jams, Zine UK, and especially Art Beat Promo for their support and inspiration in keeping grass roots music alive.

Opening with the lush and intimate sounds of Mark Radcliffe favourite Daniel Land, the New Cross Inn was served up a piece of introspective shimmering guitar work. Land's voice, under appreciated in his band format with their soaring landscapes displayed an array romanticism and melancholy to lose your self in.

Image courtesy of  Caffy St Luce

Image courtesy of Caffy St Luce

The temperature was raised considerably when the sexed up riffs of North London's Come At The King. Former single 'Shudder', filled the room with danger and intense anticipation. Everyone knew an explosion was coming, that didn't make anyone prepared for it. All those years watching Noel trying to write this song, blown to pieces in 4mins of dirty rock n roll blues.

A quick blast of 'Hotel Yorba' had everyone dancing but, it was their own 'Minesweep' that laid down the gauntlet. Humble in lyrics, chest out bravado in sound, they have their blueprint to glory.

Image courtesy of  Caffy St Luce

Image courtesy of Caffy St Luce

Then came Brighton's Lacuna Bloome. A band no longer of potential, they are bursting at the seems of bass hooks and John Squire guitar parts. They demonstrated their ability to switch up from the pop majesty of 'I Am' and 'Alright' to the frenzied set closer. It's one thing to have Stone Roses as an influence, its another to deliver on it.

With an EP coming this Autumn, Lacuna Bloome are sure thing to be on main stages at next years festivals.

Average Sex

Headlining were Tim Burgess proteges Average Sex. From start to finish, a riot of 60s girl groups, punk and charisma. Their first national tour starts this Friday in Liverpool (Phase One) and, on this showing, radio stations are going to be foaming at the mouth to give them airplay.

Image courtesy if  Caffy St Luce

Image courtesy if Caffy St Luce

Instant classics 'Ice Cream' and 'Melody' had New Cross this hooked and, by the time singer Laetitia has woven her magic, everyone was under their spell.

Not only do they move from destructive New York punk to Johnny Marr pop effortlessly, they do it with an unfettered spirit. 'We’re Done', the greatest chorus in recent times (bar none), is either sung along by fans or having people in stitches with its chorus:

“You act like im the crazy one since I slashed your tyres / Now you wont return my calls since I set your dog on fire”

They icons in the making, they have the singles, they have the album tracks, now its your job, the public to go and fall in love with them.


Theatre Royal: Top 5 Singles

Kent’s Theatre Royal have released all 22 singles dating from 2010 to 2018 via bandcamp. It’s proof just how this decade has been under documented for new bands. Much like Sheffield’s The Crookes and The Heartbreaks, they have the ability to write alternative 3min pop songs as naturally as the sun rises.

As a result, we undertook the unenviable task of producing our top 5 singles from this faultless collection:

 

French Riviera 1988

Escapism for the industrial estuary towns has never sounded so exuberant. The human condition on display for all to fall in love with. Yearning to belong somewhere out of reach should be a downbeat and crushed affair right? Nope!

Our Medway friends are made that much more heroic by saddling up and charging towards their dream land.

 

Locked Together on the Lines

This is the true story of front man Oliver’s Nan discovering a sailor and a prostitute laying together, dead, at Chatham’s war memorial. Rightly lauded by Steve Lamacq, it recalls Mike Leigh or Alan Clarke dramas at their best. Heartfelt and gritty, it oozes charm and great characterisation.

As the guitars shimmer to a climax, The Pale Fountains and Jasmine Minks come roaring to the surface on this pop triumph.


Standing in the Land

Despite unknown to the masses Theatre Royal are blessed as a band. They can write great and meaningful pop songs, as this singles collection will attest to.

On ‘Standing In The Land’, they change tact and deliver one of the bravest lyrics of the decade. Tackling the migrant crisis from a loving and reasoned view point is to be lauded. Especially back in 2017 with David “hides in his shed” Cameron describing them as “swarm of migrants”.

It goes further than just providing an emotive response. It offers an intellectual viewpoint, asking the difficult questions about Britain’s part in the crisis that emerged. The beautiful harmonies chime away as this kitchen sink drama conversation unfurls like an inspired piece of Morrissey song writing.

 

If You Could Stand Up

“Kent's 21st Century Robert Forster & Grant McLennan. Purveyors of timeless guitar pop classics.”

John Kennedy, X-Posure, Radio X

It combines the relentlessness of the The Jam and mod hooks of The Prisoners with their love of the C86 movement. It’s arguably the sweetest spot they have struck upon sonically. The earthy horns of latter day The Jam and the opulent harmonies are so effortless it’s impossible not to get washed out to sea on this pop riot.


Caught Me At The Wrong Line

A cross between their idols The Go-Betweens and their hometown heroes The Claim, Theatre Royal demonstrate alternative pop can still melt hearts.

The spritely and pop hook laden The Go-Betweens guitars saunter along carefree whilst Oliver delivers his finest vocal to date. Infectious as Edwyn Collins and defiant as Mick Head, it’s the perfect counter to the sun kissed guitars.

Friday 2nd August marks our 8th birthday. Come down to the New Cross Inn for a night of great live music. Tickets available here:

Album Revisit: Dot Dash - Proto Retro

Washington DC three-piece Dot Dash released sixth LP ‘Proto Retro’ last July. Although we missed it, when the good people at Canadian record label ‘The Beautiful People’ tipped us off, we had to revisit.

Wearing their influences as an emotional badge of honour, Dot Dash have delivered remarkably consistent piece of alternative pop/rock. 'Unfair Weather' has the punkiness of the criminally forgotten The Mice and the sublime licks of The Jam funnelled through the c86 movement. 'Dead Letter Rays', opens with a nod to The Courteeners’ ‘Bide Your Time’ before sliding into the infectiousness of Felt but with a Lemonheads riot beating at its core. Meanwhile, 'TV/Radio' adopts the mod-cum-punk jangle of Jasmine Minks in this assault on the senses.  

Despite the album’s consistency, there is a slight drop on the Boo Radley’s inspired 'Parachute Powerline' or the Britpop tinged 'Triple Rainbow'. However, when you countenance them with the firesome Sun + Moon = Disguise' or the hazy building 'Run & Duck For Cover', there is little cause for complaint.

The albums centrepiece, has to be 'Gray Blue Green'. A moment of pure genius. Squire’s, ‘Mersey Paradise’, jangle links up with the effortlessness of Teenage Fanclub before a Mott The Hoople 'Dudes' solo chimes in to melt all woes away.

It's albums like this, when discovered a year after release which make you question music industry. Just what is it doing? This is alt pop at its best. It should be on the radio alongside whatever major label factory line drivel is out there. Give pop equality a chance!

Friday 2nd August marks our 8th birthday. Come down to the New Cross Inn for a night of great live music. Tickets available here:

The Pink Toothbrush, Keith Flint and I

brush.jpg

This past Saturday night, a casual night in the pub was called on with the immortal question of “Brush?” The Pink Toothbrush is an alternative club in Rayleigh, Essex. Open for over 35 years now, It’s become a rite pf passage for the young, a reset pilgrimage for the aged, and this past Saturday, it was the Church of Keith Flint.

To some, it’s a just night out, to others, hearing tracks by IDLES, Courteeners, and classic anthems is life affirming. Five days on from the tragic death of Keith Flint, Brush (as its really known), was a chance to grieve, Prodigy style.

Full of love and punk spirit, Brush became more than just an indie club. It was brothers and sisters in arms. Brush, is depicted by people like me. Not confident enough to hit that dancefloor immediately. A level of drunkenness is needed and then, then you play the waiting game. Sitting on edge whilst the piss taking among friends is in full swing, really, I’m waiting for that ONE to kick the night off. Dj’s Darren and Russell duly obliged with ‘Omen’.

The iconic single from, arguably the greatest comeback album of all time ‘Invaders Must Die’ sent the room into a frenzy. The hint of dubstep funnelled through their archetypal rave sound was this crowds hymn. When Keith snarled “the writings on the wall / it won’t go away”, I was drawn to the Ian Curtis painting by the exit. Curtis’ demise was also too soon but, on this occasion, his image was a reassuring sight. Flint will live forever!

The night unravels as per usual from here on in, Snakebites (or a Rodney, a Rayleigh speciality) are spilt and split opinions over the 1975 ensue. However, when Darren and Russell drop ‘Firestarter’, ‘Voodoo People’, ‘Out of Space’ and ‘Smack My Bitch Up’, a togetherness was tangible.

Strangers are hugged and hoisted from the floor and hugged again. This mayhem was about the love of a fellow Essex boy who took a swing and hit it out the park for over 30 years.

Thank you Darren. Thank you Russell. Thank you Pink Toothbrush and before we get sued by Alanis Morissette, thank You Keith, you total fucking legend.

Top 20 Albums of 2018

Another year, another great haul of albums. However, this wasn’t an ordinary year for the underground and alternative scene. Something is afoot. A unified and destructive punk rock and rock n roll is bubbling up. A searing intensity is brooding alongside a mass outpouring of love. They havent quite balanced each other out yet but, the hope that’s amassing on the underground circuit is emerging and will not be contained.

Remember 2018 as the year where the new working class fought back with intelligence and love (AGAIN).

20. Richard Thompson – 13 Rivers


The old folk mongrel cannot stop delivering thought provoking guitar solos. Put your beret on and prepare to be dazzled.


19. Sean McGowan – Son of Smith


McGowan has toured with Billy Bragg, Frank Turner and Get Cape Wear Cape Fly in the past and clearly taken notes. From brass to funk to punk to pop, McGowan has taken a swing at them all. For the most part, made solid connections. Sometimes, bands/artists debut is all they have, a lifetimes dreams desperately oozing from their souls. What’s on display here is, clearly a man with aspirations and dreams way beyond teenage discourse.

18. Boy Azooga – 1, 2, Kung Fu


Welcome to the world of positivity starring Johnny Marr's protege. Cardiff's Davey Newington is a classic single away from national treasure status.

17. The Bonnevilles – Dirty Photographs


Amid all the fuzz and devilment, an old school R'n'B soul permeates The Bonnevilles. No matter how abrasive or decadent, an enriching warmth continually permeates.

16. Bennett Wilson Poole - Bennett Wilson Poole


The sweet sounds of The Byrds and CSNY are given a credible revisit.

15. Alfa 9 - My Sweet Movida


There is an expansive guitar side always threatening to break out on this record. The album isn’t lacking solos but, on 'Rise' and the trippy closer 'Fly', the highlight reel grows significantly. Think Stills at his sprawling best with Manassas.

14. Manic Street Preachers – Resistance is Futile


When will they make a bad album? Lyrically Wire has lit the touch paper and Bradfield's guitar playing strays from Motown to Rush, the drummer is good too.


13. Blossoms – Cool Like You


The stand-out pop music record of the year.

12. 485c – 485c


There is so much to admire about this debut album but mainly, it’s the high level of consistency of it that’s striking. The Charlatans and Maximo Park need to make some space, there is a new member to the forever 8 out of 10 club.


11. The Lovely Eggs – This Is England


Wiggy giggy giggy giggy giggy giggy giggy.


10. Cabbage – Nihilist Glamour Shots


The line has been drawn for battle, if you're not on the Cabbage's side, history will come for you!


9. Asylums – Alien Human Emotions


Pop punk has a new standard bearer. Thoughtful and observant of the times, the Southend outfit have channelled their inner Martin Amis.

8. She Drew The Gun – Revolution of the Mind

Lyrics with the power of Irvine Welsh meet their synths and psyche music head on for their best work yet.


7. Johnny Marr – Call The Comet

Johnny. Johnny. Johnny fucking Marr!


6. DMA's – For Now

The Sydney outfit have honed their La's meets the spirit of The Enemy to pop perfection.

5. Get Cape Wear Cape Fly – Young Adults

Priced out of the city and forced to return home, Duckworth's song writing has hit a career high. Strummer-esque polemic is given a poetical turn to great effect.


4. Shame – Songs of Praise

Such evanescent guitar playing combining with a venomous but heartfelt vocal delivery. They maybe 4th here but, our suspicions are that, Shame will go further than most.

3. Suede – The Blue Hour

It may be their third album post-comeback but, now it feels like they are back in the hearts of the nation once more. Outsiders young and old have a voice once more.


2. IDLES – Joy As An Act of Resistance

Desolation and gut wrenching despair has never been delivered with so much love.


1. The Blinders – Columbia

With the next generation about to be royally fucked, thank god for the punkadelic revolution being led by the Doncaster trio. Dark, warped and scathingly brilliant.

Outsiders

“And the more they see the more they say
Thrown like two winter roses into a broken vase”

Suede - Outsiders – 2016

 On Saturday 24th November, the premier of Suede’s documentary ‘The Insatiable Ones’ aired on Sky Arts. It’s a glorious piece of cinema that depicts the London icons in their role as outsiders on their rise to the top.

Fast forward 7 days to Brixton Academy, The Courteeners, supported by Gerry Cinnamon and Zuzu, it was snapshot of what 2018’s outsider looks like. Accessible and great alternative pop songs from all three are treated like leprosy from the same outlets that once gave Suede a chance.

The rejection of British lives being reflected in song writing, especially in bands in recent years, has served nights like this well though. The reaction to having what they love being ignored has been an intense outpouring of togetherness at the live shows. Cinnamon’s name is sung to the rafters, it couldn’t be clearer that he is the breakout act of the year.

Yes, crowds go wild to anthems and they fall silent to the ballads but, there was something else lurking in Brixton. A genuine feeling of “I have to die proving I love this band”, it was almost tangible!

Our lives may not be reflected in the songwriting played on mainstream outlets now, but, it’s only made fans kick that much harder against the pricks.

Music Venue Trust

London's iconic 100 Club played host to four emerging talents recently. Headlined by London's Sisteray and supported by Gaffa Tape Sandy, Strange Cages and Beach Riot, this was more than your average gig, sadly. It was part of the Music Venue Trust's charity fightback to stop small venues going under.

The fact a charity was set up in 2014 to protect venues should be sending warning sirens to anyone with half an interest in live music. Too many small venues have fallen by the wayside in recent years because of extortionate business rates, gentrification, and a government desperate to increase stats on house building. Thankfully, they are establishing themselves across the country and looking to obtain freeholds when they become available on avid gig goers venues.

For TT, this gig was firm evidence MVT is needed to secure these venues futures. March 2017, Sisteray opened up for The Blinders and The Shimmer Band at the Camden Assembly (formerly the Barfly). Just over a year on, they sold out a venue with a bigger capacity. Without the a venue to progress onto, where is the carrot dangling for a new band like them? Write a soulless corporate Magic FM single? No thank you.

Having been at both gigs, the progress of Sisteray was striking. They were tighter and their confidence was up. Frontman Niall Rowan delivered his social commentary significantly more venom and, on set closer 'White Knuckle Joyride', the band have developed a freedom the Oasis-esque track deserves.

Now, anyone who thinks success is overnight or handed to you by a shit haircut in a roll-neck jumper on ITV, think again. Sisteray have grafted their nuts off and earned this slot. We're not saying it should be easy, the struggle and the journey are key to any art a band puts out. However, without the space to play, fail and learn, Sisteray could not have reached this new level.

The other three acts were indicative of so many support bands. They all showcased glimpses of the sound their honing. In many ways, they are Sisteray in March 2017. Here's hoping that this time next year, one of them emerges as the 100 Club headliner.

Thousand Yard Stare - Keep It Alive

Confession time, Thousand Yard Stare was a blind spot until their Shiiine On Weekender 2016. It was one of those nights where the words “wow, who the fuck is this” just kept forming in a cider induced brain.

So, when they announced a special EP only set at the Lexington, It felt somewhat fraudulent to be there despite the obsessive record collecting In the intervening years. Especially during ‘Twicetimes’ when a total stranger turns and excitedly stutters “20 years, never, 20, never heard in 20 years”.

So often, people with less obsessive tendencies around music ask “why are you going to see an old”, now, depending on mood, they are met with cynical derision or, an inevitable Spotify playlist. On this occasion, a far bigger response is needed.

They are the musical embodiment of Matt Le Tissier. This brilliant entity, capable of so many things but mainly, dragging the underdog to a realm of glory. The classic ‘0-0 AET’ encapsulates the spirit of The Wonder Stuff into their world of psychedelic rock n roll and ‘Buttermouth’, like Le Tissier, leaves you with the sense that, if new today, would be a national treasure.

Tenuous football links aside, the abiding feeling of tonight is love. From Stephen Barnes’ video message to unwell drummer Dom (get well soon mate), to Sean McDonough’s uncontrollable hugging of other band members to their crew holding on to amps and singing along simultaneously, love oozed from them. What “became unmentionable” tangibly rose in North London on Friday, “it belongs to everyone of us”.

What began as tentative baby steps to the front became leaps of joy and togetherness for one lonely music lover. Lost in the abandon of loyal “weatherwatchers” and seeking solace in a criminally underrated band, Friday was a heartfelt expression of hope.

Keep it alive!