Tuesday, 28 March 2017

The Verve Pipe - Parachute



The Verve Pipe are back with their second Long Player in three years and Parachute is as expected, great. The Verve Pipe are largely Brian Van Der Ark and others now, particularly since Donny Brown hasn't been around since Are We There Yet? Brown has gone on to be a session drummer of choice and seems to have appeared on most of the best Power Pop albums of the last 12 months.

Van Der Ark hasn't been loitering in the interim though. Apart from The Verve Pipe, there's house concerts, his motivational speaking appearances, solo albums, even working with Jeff Daniels. I seem to remember a time when he was a sort of internet marketing guru.




The Verve Pipe are not the only band to have been involved in recording albums for children, but their two, A Family Album and Are We There Yet? are amongst the best in that field and the merchandising opportunities for artists involved in these releases are excellent.

Known to many as one hit wonders for The Freshmen, there has always been far more to them that and rather than the lazy writing from the unconverted about the rise and fall, the album quality has rarely dropped. I can only think of one iffy one, 1999's patchy self titled affair. The band are also responsible for one of the best albums that few have ever bothered to hear, 2001's Underneath.




Parachute consists of eight songs that have been digital only releases from the past year or so with two new songs available across all platforms. It's a really coherent album. Van Der Ark sounds more like Peter Gabriel these days and songs like Nothing Like Your Love and The Favourite Son could be Big Big Train.

Songs like the epic Grieve For The Girl are very different, that is a sort of Prog Americana. Fear not though, there's plenty of classic Verve Pipe present on the likes of I Can't Get You Off My Mind and The Fine Line. All in all, a splendid effort and there is far more to come from the band.




The album can be bought from the band's website here. It's also available everywhere else.



Saturday, 25 March 2017

The Bordellos - Introducing The Bordellos



The Bordellos hail from the same town that I do. A town that once made things and offered hope, but there's little of both these days. To give you a feeling of the town, on the drive in during the lead up to Christmas, the billboards advertise the town centres of other towns.

Whereas, I am known for all things Power Pop, particularly in the UK, The Bordellos are the type of band that I listen to away from the madding crowd. They are never going to be massive, but they are always going to be inventive and that matters far more to me.




It's really hard to pigeon hole the band and I would never try to do that. Suffice to say they are in the mould of Half Man Half Biscuit or any Martin Newell creation. Deliciously lo-fi and as you'd expect they have appeared on the Fruits De Mer label. The Megadodo label is another place that you'd hope to find them.

It's not all Indie doodling though. The three piece can venture into the Prog Rock territory of the likes of Todd Dillingham and The Bevis Frond, yet could easily be The Fall. The best example of what they can do is the wonderful Ronco Revival Sound album which can still be bought here.




The band release a great deal of their archive on their Bandcamp Page. A mix of demos, outtakes and rarities recorded over their nigh on 15 year existence can be downloaded FREE there. My suggestion would be to download everything to realise how varied and ace that they can be.

It is so out there, that not everything will appeal, but there is something for everyone and that's part of the joy of discovering great music. You can then head off and buy their commercial releases now or in the future.

The three songs here show the band's versatility. From my own favourite, a 4 Track Demo of the wonderful, Arthur Lee to the Prog Out of The Left Hand (God Complex).




You can download and listen to their archive here.



Thursday, 23 March 2017

Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers - Real Sharp (2CD)



Pub Rock has suffered a really bad press. The bands never sold that many records and were looked upon with a bit of contempt by the artists who benefited from the aftermath of that scene. Graham Parker couldn't believe what The Rumour had been playing before they hooked up being one example.

There's also the long told story that Punk killed the pompousness of Prog Rock and bands that had lost touch with their audience, but that was never the whole story. Punk did bring a DIY element to the music scene, but the reaction had already begun four years earlier. Gigs before 1972 had largely become sit down affairs where you lost yourself in the technical wonderment of the 10 minute guitar solo.

Pub Rock brought gigs back to the people. You stood up, could drink and dance and felt like you'd had a good night out. These bands may have not sold a lot of physical albums, but they are remembered lovingly by those around the time. It may have amounted to a large dose of Country Rock, but these bands became a large part of the UK New Wave that was to flourish after Punk.

Bands such as Kursaal Flyers, Ace and Kilburn And The High Roads and Brinsley Schwarz supplied New Wave joy with The Blockheads, The Records, The Rumour and Squeeze. We should not forget Flip City with the early Elvis Costello nor bands who had a great influence like Dr Feelgood and Eddie And The Hot Rods. The latter's influence on Punk and Music fans today is as great as it has always been.





Chilli Willi And The Red Hot Peppers were one of  the better examples of the genre. People who once  derided them will fall over themselves to tell you  how great the Americana and Bluegrass is from 25  years later.

 The band was formed by Martin Stone of Mod  Poppers, The Action and Savoy Brown and Philip  Lithman who went on to be a key part of The  Residents. The duo were offered a contract to  record an album following on from the impact of  the Glastonbury Festival scene. Bob Andrews,  Nick Lowe and Billy Rankin were borrowed from  Brinsley Schwarz to record the resulting Kings Of  The Robot Rhythm, released in 1972.

It was soon realised that the band needed to tour and so Paul Bailey, Paul Riley and future Attraction, Pete Thomas were recruited. This line up recorded the second album, Bongos Over Balham, in 1974 and were part of the legendary Naughty Rhythms Tour of 1975, a precursor for those Stiff Tours that were to follow.


Those two albums offer up some really pleasant Country / Bluegrass Rock.music that you can dance to. Bongos Over Balham in particular remains as good an album as it sounded then. Proper Music are doing a fine job currently of releasing long lost stuff, as well as having the likes of Ian Hunter on the label.

They were recorded at a time when the States was very much "over there". Press And Radio didn't reflect what was happening in the States and so it relied on bands to tell us, particularly Country Rock wise.

In this two disc package, you get both albums, the Chalk Farm Demos for Kings Of The Robot Rhythm, Hope And Anchor Demos and additional live recordings. It's certainly time to reassess the impact of Pub Rock and this anthology at it's bargain price is a great place to start.


You can buy the album here and everywhere.



Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Your Gracious Host - Boomerang



Michigan appears to be the centre of the Power Pop Universe world at the moment and Your Gracious Host maintain that reputation. Tom Curless has all the hooks, but this isn't straight ahead verse verse chorus verse chorus.

Boomerang is more reminiscent of those halcyon Not Lame Days and the likes of The Shazam et al. There's certainly a more concerted guitar crunch than on the previously excellent band releases and ventures into Psych Pop.





It's the variation that impresses me most. The Psych of  Some Expectations is in complete contrast to the Country Pop of Spritely. Just Like A Train jingles and jangles whilst Sun Machine could be early Dodgy.

Wake Sleep Travel could be Madchester, yet You See Right Through Me is in Squeeze Territory. Boomerang is particularly good when it lets rip on the likes of Sweetness and Never Been So Blind, both Pop Rock at it's best.





If you like your melodic rock, this is the album for you. I love it. It does take me back to those 90's days when Power Pop was gonna change the world and reminds me of America's answer to Brit Pop. There are very Brit influences, but the thing that shines through are the well written songs and the hooks.

Boomerang is a beautifully produced album and a joy to listen to.




You can listen to and buy the album here.



Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Chris Mullin - Myself Fooling Me EP


I love being surprised by music, particularly as I so rarely am. There is some great Pop around at present, be it Power Pop or Indie, you just have to root for it. You are certainly not going to fall over it or hear it on TV or Radio.

I appreciate it even more when it's close to home and so Chris Mullin's Myself Fooling Me is quite a revelation to these ears. Chris is co-songwriter for The Sums who continued from Noel Gallagher darlings Smaller.





The Sums continue to spread the spirit of Brit Pop, but the band are so electric that these stripped down solo songs caught me off guard. I can see why they wouldn't necessarily fit on a Sums album, but I'm delighted that they've finally seen the light of day.

There's a melodic rawness to all six songs and the man can certainly bring a hook to the proceedings. There's even Jazz tints on the likes of Colour Of Pain and Folk on Who Took The Beat and throughout you get surprised by an unexpected arrangement or instrumental break.




The real gem though is the closer, Myself Fooling Me. Paul McCartney worked on the song with Mullin during a One To One Jamming Session and contributed both the Mid 8 and the title. It's a haunting song with a wonderful Psych Pop accompaniment.

Chris Mullin is a busy boy with his commitments as bass player in Hurricane #1 and The Sums, but more EP's are planned throughout the year. I can't wait, this first one is exceptional. It's great melodic pop.




The EP is available from all the major download retaillers. You can also buy it from the solo Bandcamp page here.




The Pot Beach - A Day Like Yesterday



I return to Scandinavian Pop and the output from those countries at present is stunning. The Pot Beach hail from North West Norway and they've conjured up a platter of pop joy. Comparisons will be made to A-ha and that's no bad thing, but there is far more to the band than that.

Behind the sweet Beatles Pop are some fine arrangements, again very 70's orientated, but beautifully formed. There's a melancholia that lurks under the sugared soundtrack. This is a really pleasant album.





There's something special about a band including a song written when they were 15 year olds being included because the fans demanded it, that's the case with Bloody School. It is out of kilter with the rest of the album's beautifully constructed pop/

Light In The Dark is built around a Steve Winwood like keyboard arrangement, I Love You could be written by Graham Gouldman, whilst Run Away's lazy vocal is very A-ha. No Place For Us In History is a gem, particularly the guitar arrangement.




The Pot Beach are never going to rock out with fuzz, but the up tempo Give My Soul Away comes closest. A Day Like Yesterday reminds me of Bread, Unconditional Love is one of those big 70's Pop Rock Ballads with some great orchestration.


The stand out song though is When You're Gone, it reminds me of Trickster and has a haunting solo in a stunningly good song. A Day Like Yesterday is a really fine album, an album that doesn't seem to get made in the UK any more, which is sad. but reflective of the times.




You can buy the album for download from the likes of Amazon here and the CD from CD Baby here.



The Flywheels - I'm For The Flowers



It's unusual to review a debut album that will also be a final one. However the untimely death of Eric Scott dictates this and so I'm For The Flowers also becomes a tribute. 20 years in the making, Scott's songwriting partner and lead vocalist, Kim Wonderley and the band have offered up a corker of an album.

The Flywheels include the excellent John Moremen of The Orange Peels and his presence partially explains the high Psych Pop quota and that's to be celebrated. There's also a cast of outstanding helpers on this fine affair.





Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck and Roy Loney are present. It's always great to see The Smithereens' Rhythm section of Dennis Diken and Mike Mesaros reunited. The album's produced by Allen Clapp and Chris Von Sneidern, so the quality is further explained.

Wonderley's vocals are varied from the Bangles Pop of Counting To Eleven to the Texas like Pop Rock of Red Tail Lights. Let Me Take You Down is almost Country whilst I'm For The Flowers is pure Garage Psych.





Dream Of Life continues the excellent Psych Pop and you can almost envisage The Muffs on Astronaut Motel. The excellence of the supporting cast shouldn't detract from this being a Flywheels album and in particular, how strong a vocalist, Kim Wonderley is.

As well as being a fine album, this is a fitting tribute to Eric Scott. I'm sure he's rocking daily with Jimmy Silva. I'm For The Flowers demands your attention.




You can listen to and buy the album here.