Grace and No Favour

For those who don’t know, and far few do, Grace Petrie is solo artist with agift, not seen since Billy Bragg’s formative years to write anti –Tory protest songs and love songs with wit, charm and often, heart-breaking emotion.

Petrie, hailing from Leicester, is four albums in to her career now, and whilst she has a small band of loyal fans, we are certain this should be more. So, in 2017, could Grace Petrie ever be played on daytime Radio 1? It would appear not, so, why not?

Can it be that her blend of punk, folk and pop music is not what they are looking for? Well, loathed as we are to mention Ed Sheeran, he ticks two of those boxes. As for punk, their daytime playlist currently hosts Foo Fighters, Enter Shakiri, 30STM, and Royal Blood so it’s not that.

Maybe it’s her song ‘Ivy’, a loving tale of friendship and kindness as she sets off to meet the new born protagonist. The sense of hope and the swelling of love as Petrie and her friend drive all night from Glastonbury is so unifying, so ready made to tug on heart strings for the millions of us who have been in similar situations. Does it matter, should it matter that she came from left wing Left Field stage? The press love a media spat so, when she decrees “who gives a fuck about Kasabian”, isn’t this just another tick in the box for airplay?

If that wasn’t enough, there are name drops for Billy Bragg and Phil Jupitus and an ode to Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ in the closing moments.

Our main suspicion lies with her left leaning politics. Perhaps R1 are concerned with balance? Something I’m sure they agonised over when play listing Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ or every time Eminem’s peroxide French crop comes to town. If it is acceptable for Thicke to sing “I tried to domesticate you” and “Me fall from plastic / Talk about getting blasted” then surely it’s fine for Petrie to objectively sing about Edward Woollard throwing a fire extinguisher of the roof of Tory HQ in 2011:

“Well how quickly thrown, Was all your judges stone / Oh how quickly the obliteration of your reputation / So detested so deplored so unyieldingly appalled /  By elected officials who, had recently committed fraud”

Maybe the beeb enjoy being systematically dismantled by the privateering party but, if they don’t, may we suggest playing some tunes that might provide the ballast against a predominantly right wing press.

Hell, Coldplay are first name on the team sheet for R1. Where do they think they stand on immigration, gay rights, the EU and austerity? They’re not exactly skipping through fields of wheat despite how boring they are.

Yes music is subjective, so maybe they just don’t like her. However, it stinks of something more than that. It took Frank Turner, a straight white middle class male, selling out Wembley Arena in 2012 for R1 to pay attention his blend of folk and punk. Is this answer for Petrie, and anyone else who has an image and sound beyond grasp of Simon Cowell?

The Crookes Top 10

“if we’re gonna try / lets go all the way”

The Sheffield outfit, frustratingly, have been one of the UK’s best kept secrets since their debut ‘Chasing Ghosts’ in 2011.

The Sheffield outfit, frustratingly, have been one of the UK’s best kept secrets since their debut ‘Chasing Ghosts’ in 2011. Despite support from Steve Lamacq early on, they just didnt catch that big break.

A month out from their final 3 tour dates (http://thecrookes.co.uk/tour-dates/), we take a look at our top 10 favourite moments:

To prove out point, here is our top 10:

1.       Outsiders

2.       Before The Night Falls

3.       Just Like Dreamers

4.       Backstreet Lovers

5.       Echolalia

6.       Bloodshot Days

7.       Maybe In The Dark

8.       Sofie

9.       The World Is Waiting

10.    Afterglow

Absolute Radio’s Final 5: Shiiine On Weekender

Shiiine On Weekender was one of TT’s biggest highlights in 2016. So, to whet our appetite before we venture west, we take a look at the 5 contenders in Absolute Radio’s competition. The winner will open the main stage at this years shindig and win a £1000:

Shakedown Stockholm – Silence

No longer are female twins scaring the shit out of audiences riding tricycles or bullying human scarecrows in the League of Gentleman. Joanna and Davina front Shakedown Stockholm, a seven piece band from the northwest.

‘Silence’, is a classic piece of brooding rock music. Their intense entwined vocals are the stuff of hedonistic sweat ridden nights.

Deja Vega – Eyes of Steel

The Cheshire three piece won many a fan at last year’s Shiiine On Festival, opening for Eddy Temple Morris’ closing party. It would be only fitting for them to step up to the main stage in 2017.

Especially based on ‘Eyes of Steel’. Guitar playing this dangerous demands big stages. Not a big leap from motorik, but, with far more on the line. You’d be forgiven for imagining yourself as Jon Snow charging into the battle of the bastards.

Gypsy Fingers – Hey Maria

Gypsy Fingers are comprised of Luke and Victoria Oldfield, Luke being the son of legendary composer Mike Oldfield.

‘Hey Maria’ sees Victoria take on the vocal duties and delivers a sultry cross between The Bangles paisley era and early Lily Allen.

The Keepers – Here Comes Spring

The Keepers are British psyche-pop band from Northampton. ‘Here Comes Spring’ follows in the footsteps of fellow Northampton band The Moons and Temples.

This slice of haze, melody and big key changes pay homage to Syd Barrett era Floyd and the pop sensibilities of Noel and Ashcroft. While they are steeped in English heritage, lyrically there is more than enough to carry this in the present day.

Iridesce – Rise

Camden was once the epicentre of all things Britpop so, it’s only fitting that a Camden band form part of this competition.  

The Camden four piece are clearly onto something with this epic effort. The simmering vocals saunter through a cascade of guitar riffs seamlessly. They are but one killer hook from delivering something truly remarkable.

Head over to Absolute Radio here to listen and vote now:

http://absoluteradio.co.uk/competitions/shiiine-on-voting/index.html

5 Days of Richard Ashcroft: These People

Day 5 - These People

Has a song been more needed in recent years more than ‘These People’? Rather than attack the Tory divide and conquer tactics with an angst ridden punk polemic, Ashcroft delivers s slide guitar lead ballad.

The message of survival and rising above stacked odds is that bit more inspiring when, one look around Brixton displays thousands of people arm in arm, together and few things are more powerful than that.

His new material, is largely a reawakening of deep seated desire Ashcroft carried to dizzy heights in the 90s. There is a clear ‘fuck you’ attitude to anyone with preconceptions of who he is. While sonically on ‘These People’, this not overt, the power and intensity he garners on the line ‘I know we can survive’ is remarkable.

As he wraps his glorious vocals around this line, it ceases to be about romantic survival and operates on a new plane. He elevates the people to another level where belief is everything. It’s not enough to just sit back and watch bands we love anymore, the standard has been reset again by Ashcroft and its default setting is real, humble and critically, it’s brilliant.

5 Days of Richard Ashcroft: Space and Time

Day 4 – Space and Time

An underrated classic from The Verve’s arsenal is met with a rapturous response at Brixton Academy. The beauty of the release 3 minutes in never diminishes. Neither does the life affirming end ‘keep on pushing cos I know it’s there’.

However, on any Verve track ensconced with trippy guitars, it’s tough to watch live without Nick McCabe and Simon Tong in tow. Yes, Urban Hymns was all but written by Ashcroft alone but, when the 3 combine, fewer things have been that special.

It’s highly unlikely to ever see The Verve together again, but, with hope on the rise politically, and psyche and rock n roll emerging from the shadows of the UK once more, we can dream.

5 Days of Richard Ashcroft: Fighting On Your Own

Day 3 - Hold On

If anyone at Brixton needed the new album sold to them still, 'Hold On' was going to do it. Despite everyone the wrong side of 30, Brixton is transformed from gig watchers to a rave in seconds of the killer strings and piano loop starting.

It’s such a big and hopeful sounding record and consequently, the only track that eclipses The Verve tracks played. It has the unique togetherness of Oasis’ ‘Live Forever’ (‘I feel like we are the only ones alive’) and the defiance of Nicky Wire with the line 'And the truth is on the march again / Wipe those tears away'.

Crucially though, Ashcroft is not so much performing ‘Hold On’ as he is battling it with the audience. He isn’t here to be cherished and will not settle for anyone, let alone adoring fans telling him what they expect of him. Ashcroft clearly see’s performing, especially new material, as a fight where he will be the only one left standing.

Despite the bullishness, his ability to romanticise, to be lost and longing for another to help remains at its best:

“Learning on your own / Can turn your heart to stone”

Oddly, us mortals attach ourselves to this more than his unique ability to lead but, without the two together, you’d be left with something far inferior.

5 Days of Richard Ashcroft: Into The Half Life

Day 2 - Velvet Morning

The Verve’s tale of being munted in the twilight hours and coming up with great ideas only to discover at 6am they are horseshit, is one we all familiar with. So, the moment the gorgeous slide guitar starts, its impossible not to reminisce about said douched nights.

Even after 20 years, the goosebumps still flourish when the big key change and Ashcroft’s incredible vocal hook chime. A feeling of triumph swirls around Brixton Academy as personal memories of the half-life come to the surface far outweigh the songs message of coming down in the second verse.

Despite all the fame and accolades, Ashcroft is still able to paint a picture of loneliness during ‘Velvet Morning’. Like a young William Blake, Ashcroft cuts a figure of the poet wandering the streets of Soho alone. Where Blake was intrigued and excited by it all, Ashcroft was chasing something that was never there.

Perhaps it’s the realisation that this was futile is where the real beauty of ‘Velvet Morning’ lies. Yet again, he shines a light on how to move forwards despite being inherently flawed.  

5 Days of Richard Ashcroft

Mad Rich is, as we all know, a bona fide legend. So, rather than just review he’s epic performance at Brixton Academy this past Saturday, we’re going to focus the next 5 days on 5 songs from his set.

We start with the 2016 comeback single ‘They Don’t Own Me’.

Having already played classics such as ‘Sonnet’ and ‘Space and Time’, there was a danger that anything new would be seen as a piss break for the audience. However, this is Richard Ashcroft we're talking about.

On record, it’s a good Verve circa Urban Hymns track, but live, it’s alternate beast. Many singers feed of the adoration of a crowd, for Ashcroft, he demands that you go with him. As the adrenaline runs through him, he drags people from awestruck onlookers to brothers in arms.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about ‘They Don’t Own Me’ is, it feels like Ashcroft was reluctant to write it. With all the love and defiance to power he has put out already, it must be odd to do it again.

Nevertheless, a lesson to all aspiring bands is on show here, if you’re going to do it, mean it! The anguish in his voice in the opening line is a testament to how much believes in the soul:

“Is it true what they say? / Nothing in life is free / Are you looking this way / Surely this can't be”

It's in the closing moments that Ashcroft unleashes all his frustration and emotion. With every repetition of 'they don’t own me' he becomes that feral behemoth of ‘Rolling People’ and ‘Come On’.

Despite all the success, Ashcroft, with songs like this, remains that unique blend of outsider and flag bearer of togetherness.

Travellers Tunes Presents: Flying Pyjamas 2

The second Travellers Tunes saw some stiff competition from Field Day, Camden Rocks, Depeche Mode and Elton John but, I think we got away with it.

We had four great acts, raised money for Reverse Rett and caused some pretty spectacular hangovers! Let’s check out the live reviews:

The Bracknall

As the Essex outfit, The Bracknall, take the stage, one thing is more than evident. They look the real deal. They look like a rock n roll band destined to break hearts and leave a trail of destruction in their wake.

So, what about the substance then? In short, bags of it. At times, the spirit of Zeppelin comes roaring to the surface. On ‘The End’, there is a huge hit in the making as the spine-chilling verses combine with the dark euphoria of the chorus.

If they hadn’t proven their rock n roll credentials with this set, they jetted straight off to the Camden Rocks festival in their other great band Electric Child House.

Ruby Delby

“With a little charm and a lot of style”

The Bluetones, 1996

Sandwiched between our guitar behemoths was the sparkling Ruby Delby. Her blend of blues and folk as the sun beamed through the windows was just what the doctor ordered. Her unique ability to lead you somewhere and then twist her vocals to open up unexplored areas of folk music is a sight to behold.

Her interaction with the crowd on ‘guess the song’ and her cover of Prince’s ‘Purple Rain’ endears her to the audience, but, moreover, it was a display of someone who can have any crowd eating out of the palm of her hand.

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The White Tips

This was the Aylesbury trio’s debut London gig and they did not disappoint. Their love of Nirvana and Pixies was worn as a badge of honour, especially on set highlight ‘Camping Trip’.

There are many bands with decent riffs right now, The White Tips will circumnavigate navigate this because, their riffs are crisp and concise like their aforementioned heroes. Even when they are thrashing it out, the pop sensibilities lurk beautifully in the corner.

Queensburys

Hailing from Grays, Essex, the young four piece stole the show. So often with new bands, audiences find themselves trying to depict the genres and influences they can hear. For Queensburys, what is abundantly clear, they’ve found their own groove and it’s a joyous one.

Do not be fooled by the diminutive figure of frontman Thomas Champion, he is a rock music colossus in the making. There’s a hint of the recently departed Chris Cornell as he growls and howls those key moments. Champion also possesses an innocence and purity in his vocals which, gives their storytelling a guts and glory vibe.

It would be remiss to solely mention Champion though. Dan Lamb (bass) George Brown (drums) and Archie Brown (lead guitar) are not just tight, their showing an expansive side to their playing as well.

Having had time to reflect on the horrific attacks from Saturday night, Queensburys have left me with nothing but optimism. Four mates grafting to create something better for themselves and for others to enjoy is peptic symbol of individuality and belonging, aka the human condition.

Keep your eyes peels for the Queensburys, they are set our glorious Albion.

Stake Your Claim On The Morning Sun (part 2)

As you may or may not know, Greg Gilbert from The Delays has been diagnosed with bowel cancer. Due to a genetic incompatibility, Greg no longer qualifies for free treatment on the NHS. His wife has set up a Go Fund Me page (link below), which, as a huge fan of the Delays, has been moving to watch the total grow from other fans.

Tomorrow, The Delays, along with Sam Duckworth, Mystery Jets, Eddy Temple Morris, Band of Skulls and many more will take to Greg’s hometown venue 1865 to raise more money for his treatment.  

Please donate and buy tickets and continue to spread the word:

https://www.gofundme.com/give4greg

http://www.seetickets.com/event/cavalry-a-benefit-concert-for-greg-gilbert/the-1865/1060398

In the run up to this great fundraiser, we have revisited all of their singles (part one here):

Valentine

They may have emerged in the 2002/3 boom, but, by their return in 2006 there was a second wave in full swing. Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party were conquering the charts, so where did they fit? The answer, perfectly in the middle of the aforementioned.

They continued their venture towards dance music with this dancefloor banger and its killer bassline but never losing sight of their pop sensibilities.  

Hideaway

‘Hideaway’ made a return to the roots of ‘Faded Seaside Glamour’ with its jingle-jangle guitar pop style. Their new found spirit of Ibiza was not lost though. Its feel-good factor has the ability to soundtrack a hedonistic trip to the Balearics.  

Hooray

As so often is the case, once bands begin to dominate the charts, the vultures swoon and the industry plies it with shit merchants like Hoosiers and Scouting For Girls to masquerade as authentic alternative pop bands.

So, when Delays the returned with this spikey and spritely pop song, it was annoyingly overlooked. It has the feel of a Bluetones classic and is a must for anyone who missed it first time round.  

Keep It Simple

To go all Jerry McGuire for a moment, “you had me at hello”, and by hello, we mean, Keith from The Office is in the video!!!

 This is the first single which lacks that killer hook in this catalogue. Sonically though, it is not to be sniffed at. It’s by far and away their most mature single and thoughts of the Mercury Prize began to materialise rather than the top 10.

Unsung

Frankie Boyle questioned Radio 2 programmers that Jessica Hoop is not mainstream when she can sell out the Royal Albert Hall in an interview in 2015. The industry’s obsession with a soft and dull sound just never seems to go away.

By the release of ‘Unsung’, the same scenarios were emerging for the band. With this unfortunately apt song title, they were about to drift away. That said, they did so by encapsulating their sound in one song. There are jingle jangle guitars, euphoric synths and Greg’s distinct vocals carrying everything to another level.