Thursday, 30 May 2019
It's back to Australia for the debut Traffik Island album. I've long been an admirer of Flightless Records, a superb Melbourne Psych label, home of King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard, The Murlocs and ORB. The latter is relevant.
ORB come across as a modern day Hawkwind, a sort of Psychedelic Space Rock that is bewitching. Zak Olsen has taken a break from leading that band and been touring as Traffik Island. Live, the band are a fourpiece, but Nature Strip is largely his solo recordings.
This is great Psych Pop, splendidly twee and lo-fi, there's an endearing quality to the whole shebang. That's not to say this is throwaway or bedroom doodling. Queens Park is Syd Barrett Pink Floyd in Bike mode, Mind You has a 60's film soundtrack charm with unexpected twists.
Ode To Everything is wonderfully Toy Town, as if played on Party Bag Instruments and has Olsen crooning away. Bluish pale is piano led and again very 60's groovy. Something Sweet barrels along like a Madness Song.
The closer, Lazy Cat, is all Sunday Afternoon Kinks, but overall, I'm very much reminded of Orgone Box, particularly on the jangling 17. There's also a great gentle Psych instrumental present with One Tenth Of A Second.
Nature Strip is one of the best Psych Pop albums that I've heard in ages. It's the sort of album that you just don't hear so much these days. I'd recommend it to all. Wel Done Zak Olsen and yet again, well done Flightless!
You can listen to and buy the album here.
Tuesday, 28 May 2019
Everyone loves Whole Wide World. With Nick Lowe and The Rumour's Steve Goulding, Eric Goulden possibly offered up the definitive Stiff Single, more so than many of the more lauded label mates. I can think of none of my associates who think this anything but a great DIY anthem.
There's the spirit of WWW present on Transcience. The Cover of Kevin Coyne's Strange Locomotion is very much a Part Two and what's more, Steve Goulding plays drums on the album. However, those expecting a return of those Stiff days haven't kept in touch with his solo career, because there is far more to Wreckless Eric than that.
Eric isn't wreckless any more, his trio of recent albums including this have shown a depth that many would not expect. When you have Cheap Trick's Tom Petersson and the splendid Alexander Turnquist on Guitar, you know this is serious stuff
His previous two albums AmERICa and Construction Time Again join Transcience with a theme resembling an Englishman abroad. All three albums and his work with Amy Rigby, who plays piano on the album, reveal an artist pushing himself to the limits. Lyrically excellent, Goulden's real strength is making something so deep sound so haphazard.
The opener, Father To The Man, a memorial to his dad could make you weep. Dead End could be a Ray Davies Song and Creepy People has a country vibe with a Jagger - Richards song bursting to get out. Tiny House desperately wants to Jangle. Indelible Stain is all Maharishi with few words.
What does really stand out though are the two seven minute songs which inhabit a surprisingly Psych Pop world. The Half Of It is pure Psych Folk, California / Handyman is all stream of consciousness with it's meandering arrangement, it's really trippy.
Transience is an exceptional listen. One of the best things that I've heard this year. Forget those Stiff days, this is an artist at the top of his game. You can listen to and buy the album here.
Sunday, 26 May 2019
The Bungalows offer up their third album and the four piece from Gerringong in Australia don't disappoint. There's an awful lot going on across these 15 songs, none of it sounds that Oz, it's a big big sound that changes as many directions as is possible in it's 55 minutes.
The production is very Brit Pop, but the influences sound so varied that pigeon holing is worthless. You can here Classic Rock but there also seems a ska undertone and then everything changes by an addition of a sort of Together In Electric Dreams synth.
For all the chord changes and big choruses, it's that drums and bass back beat that glues everything together, mix in unexpected Guitar solos and the keyboard interruptions enhance something that feels so singalong, as though there's a group in the studio joining in with those choruses.
A song like Davola's Funhouse is very The Strokes with more words with a Surf metal soundtrack. Crazy Ain't Clever is pure early 80's Blue Oyster Cult. We Get Along is again very Strokes like, although Marc Bolan could be the front man.
Ireland Knights could be from some late 60's Kitchen Sink Drama and yet First Bit Of Light could be one of those big Brit Pop closing Anthems. Wasteland is Goth, Roll could be INXS, perhaps the only time this album sounds Australian, with a killer riff.
There is so much here to like and the variety of songs is admirable. There's a lot of different styles and that may confuse some, but it's an album that will allow you to keep finding different favourites. In these days of people blabbing on about the end of the album and the death of the guitar, we should make them listen to Something's Going On. They'll realise they were wrong.
This album is highly recommended and can be listened to and ordered here. You can also get the band's back catalogue at Name Your Price whilst you are there.
Sacramento's The Decibels cap off their return with a splendid new album. Their heyday was in the second half of the 90's and after their 2001 split, you wouldn't be forgiven for thinking that was largely that, bar a few hometown gigs.
However, a highly successful tour of Spain in 2013 revealed that there was a real appetite for the band and led to a proper reunion in 2017 with the eventual intention of recording a new album. The result is Scene, Not Herd.
It's really pleasing to report that the new album is as good if not better than they ever were. Although that Spanish Tour encouraged many to hail them as a great Mod Pop quartet, Scene, Not Herd is primarily straight ahead good old fashioned Power Pop.
After my recent adventures in compiling a couple of 80's things and being awash with the syndrum and that awful dated keyboard sound, it's refreshing to be back on more welcome territory. It's refreshing to hear three minute pop songs in the say what you've gotta say and get off style.
Although the album feels very mid to late 60's UK Beat, those Mod references are few, although All Of Your Lies and It's Not Me are definitely from that mould. There's a great jangle on She Thinks Of Everything and The Truth is very much in The Beat and The Plimsouls territory.
The band feel and sound far more UK New Wave than Californian Pop and they pull it off really well. Riffs are plentiful, harmonies spot on and all this leads to doing what it says on the tin. This is a perfect brand of toe tapping Power Pop.
You can buy the download, vinyl or CD here. The CD is another on the Kool Kat label and continues KK's wonderfully varied 12 months of releases.
Saturday, 25 May 2019
Something very different to what you normally hear on the IDHAS Audio Extravaganzas on this special! Unlike the usual mixture of Power Pop, Pop Rock and Psych Pop, you have a 49 minute mix of six White Label 12 Inch Mixes. I hope you enjoy listening to this one off as much as I have.
During the IDHAS down time this month, I was sorting through my vinyl collection, something that the Queen Of Burtonwood tells me I should do more often as the attic resembles a teenager's bedroom (her words).
I dug out some of the 80's White Label Extended Mixes that I hadn't played for a long long time and really enjoyed listening to something very different to what I listen to nowadays. Indeed, I listen to the past less and less.
So I thought that you'd like to hear a mix of half a dozen of these, Fear not, normal service hasn't been affected, Volumes 68 - 71 have already been compiled for those who are missing the Guitar. A massive thanks to Jim Moody for his superb technical skills, without whom this would not be possible.
The playlist details are on here and by clicking the Mixcloud tab. You can listen to the previous IDHAS Aural adventures on Mixcloud here.
There are more specials planned, although most will be archive songs from the usual form of sounds that we enjoy. I'll write a little on each selection after the playlist. That playlist is as follows :
01 The Power Station - Some Like It Hot (And The Heat Is On)
02 Sparks - Tryouts For The Human Race (Alternative Extended Version)
03 Dead Or Alive - Brand New Lover (The Dust Monkey's Love Bubble Club Mix)
04 Paul Young - Everything Must Change (Extended Version)
05 Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Rage Hard (The Young Person's Guide To The 12 Inch)
06 Tears For Fears - Shout (U.S. Remix)
The Power Station song is probably the only Power Station song that you need.
Tryouts For The Human Race has an extra verse that isn't available elsewhere.
Stock Aitken And Waterman get a lot of stick, but I love what they did with this lesser known Dead Or Alive single.
Paul Young's No Parlez is a superb album, the follow up, The Secret Of Association is half a great album. However, Everything Must Change is great pop and this extended mix adds some wonderful harmonies towards the end.
ZTT messed around a lot with the Frankie Stuff, most of it inessential, but this extended mix of Rage Hard is beautifully done, very different and a real anecdote to the largely dross filled second album.
Shout has always been an underrated TFF single, this Mix ups the drums.
I Do Hear An Extended 12 Inch Mix
God I was so young when I first got into Greenslade. Sifting back through the memories these reissues have evoked it seems like another time, another place and almost another me. Back then my adored record collection was little more than maybe forty or fifty album strong but boy did I love the albums I had.
After a childhood spent basically ignoring music in 1972 or thereabouts, my elder brother Todd started bribing me to listen to music from his, even then vast collection. Which I did reluctantly at first, we were more enemies than friends at the time and the sibling rivalry ran deep. Soon enough I started to love some of the sounds I heard blasting out from the speakers.
Music went from meaning nothing to meaning everything. Now I was above all else a music freak. The bands that swept into my heart were the progressive ones back in the days when progressive music was a wider term than it was later pigeon holed into.
It simply meant for a band to be on a mission to progress with each new album, to strive to push the boundaries of what they could achieve with each new release. Todd introduced me to Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, Steely Dan, Family, VDDG, Egg, Little Feat, Caravan, ELP, The Floyd, Focus, Camel, Rundgren and Barefoot Jerry, all of whom were, I considered Progressive.
Once I left school and started working, I had more money to spend on building up my collection, the hunt was on to find bands that had maybe passed us by. In the record section of the lighting and electrical shop in Mill Hill, which had a listening booth, I discovered Three Friends by Gentle Giant and Capability Brown’s Voices.
I remember standing in Serendipity Records in Hampstead in my lunch break and eyeing up the first
Greenslade album. It was housed in a beautiful Roger Dean cover and that was somewhat alluring but was in itself no guarantee that the music within was necessarily going to be to my taste as the likes of Uriah Heep and Osibisa from Todd’s collection had shown.
In those far off pre-internet days it wasn’t that easy to find out about stuff and with little in the way of money to spend I had to be careful when venturing into the unknown. But for some reason I decided to be bold that day and take a chance on Greenslade, even though they had no guitarist but instead were fronted by two keyboard players, Dave Greenslade and Dave Lawson.
A couple of plays in and I knew that my nervous chance had paid off in spades. The interplay
between the two keyboards was both delightful and interesting, full of colour and texture. Leaning more towards the caressing mastery of Wakeman than the exquisite maniac torturing the mighty Emerson inflicted on his ivories.
In the space left by the lack of a guitarist, bassist Tony Reeves was both driving and brimming with complex melodic invention. Playing his bass like a lead instrument rather than a subservient part of the band in the grand tradition of Squire, Lake and Wetton and every bit as great.
Turned out Andrew McCulloch was also the drummer on my favourite King Crimson album, Lizard and the stunningly precise, clean and masterful drumming that he displayed throughout that fine album was there at the heart of Greenslade’s unique sound.
Throughout their short existence their albums mixed instrumentals, that generally came across like wordless songs rather than just tunes and actual songs and it is the latter that gave the band it’s individuality above all else.
Dave Lawson’s striking enunciated vocal style that like Roger Chapman’s and Peter Hammill’s, ranged effortlessly between the strident and the wistful was utterly unique and unmistakable. Nobody sung like Dave Lawson and I loved it.
Just as unique was the unexpected subject matter of the songs themselves. Often pitched from the perspective of an innocent trying to get by in a guilty world the lyrics delved into reluctant relationships with dysfunctional partners, foreshadows of ecological disaster and social
While the first album was excellent and contains the bands signature song Feathered Friends,
the follow up, Beside Manners Are Extra found the band at their creative peak. I loved it and must have been hunkering to see them live, desperate enough to take a chain of long bus journeys all the way out to the exotic wilds of Hounslow to see them at the Technical College.
An adventure into the unknown that paid off handsomely since the venue was beautifully civilised, (unlike the black walled smelly dumps that constituted most small London venues at that time). The sound system was warm and crystal clear and the performance magnificent. It remains a perfect gig in my memories even now.
A third album Spyglass Guest continued the high quality that proceeded it effortlessly and even grazed the album charts for a brief moment. I saw them live again, this time at the shabby shit hole that was the Chalk Farm Roundhouse. which always boasted a pretty harsh sound system full of unpleasantly sharp sibilance and muffled murkiness.
The band was in blazing form, despite the less than ideal sonic shambles of the venue. By 1975
the record labels were growing less tolerant of progressive music and the smaller bands like Camel,
Caravan and Gentle Giant were the first to cop it, told to be more commercial, more Prog Pop than Prog Rock.
It’s hard to say if Greenslade were affected by this as their final album Time and Tide, with new bass player Martin Briley, is a slight and brief affair. The songs as ever are great, though played more straight forward than before, the instrumentals are nice enough but lack passion and half an hour in its all over.
I saw them live one last time and they were as ever excellent, but their days were numbered and soon they were no more. Cherry Red’s newly remastered and expanded reissues of all four albums are superbly packaged beautifully realised and reasonably priced.
The first album has a lavish ten bonus tracks from the BBC archives, Bedside Manners has only three but comes with a bonus DVD of three previously unseen promo films and the two tracks performed on the OGWT. Spyglass Guest has another eight wonderful BBC tracks while Time and Tide has a sparkling nine track 1975 Swedish radio in concert as the bonus disc.
For the long term fan there’s plenty here to justify opening the wallet. For the uninitiated…well welcome to the world of the truly excellent Greenslade, a forgotten band that are well worth remembering.
You can buy these Cherry Red Reissues here.
Josh Berwanger's adventures have marked a move from Indie Guitar "Dude" Rock towards a more Pop related direction. The Exorcism Rock album hinted at how melodic he could be, although the Pop seemed to be fighting it out with the Indie sentiments. You can read the IDHAS Review here and the title track is an absolute monster of a song.
The third album again showcased Berwanger's gentler side, particularly on the likes of the wonderful New Guitar. There's also been a reunion tour from the reformed The Anniversary, who were on as great form as ever. There's also been last year's Radar State album, Strays.
Stray was a real rock out and the tie up with The Get Up Kids' Matt Pryor and Jim Suptic provided a great heads down Guitar album that seemed to indicate that Josh was heading back to the riffs. So although I knew Album Number Four would be ace, there's a sense of pedigree now, I was completely taken aback by it's direction.
Watching A Garden Die is released on 28 June and it's Pop Rocktastic. It's a wonderfully laid back affair, you are more likely to hear a steel, rather than a lead, guitar. The album feels incredibly personal and those pop hints are now shouting out to be heard. The album is gentle, less electric, relying more on Piano than six strings.
From the soft psych pop mellowness of Turn Off Your Mind to the hand clapping toe tapping of Bad Vibrations, the album is a revelation. The Acoustic, Even The Darkness Doesn't Know is all Simon And Garfunkel, Long Way Down has a killer chorus and the steel guitar and harmonica of The Business Of Living is a real West Coast is a weeping joy.
Watching A Garden Die is a very grown up affair, I'm not sure all of the kidz will be as mad keen on it as I am. The lack of electric guitar is more than compensated by the pensive heartfelt songwriting. This is an absolute stormer of an album. You can and should pre order it here now.
Sunday, 19 May 2019
Wednesday, 8 May 2019
IDHAS returns properly tomorrow, the last fortnight has largely been spent arranging the upcoming Label stuff. We've not been idle though. There's plenty of new albums to tell you about, a new Volume of the Audio Extravaganza has been prepared, plus an unusual special. There's also a fine article on Greenslade coming from Mick.
I wrote an outside piece about my dismay at what was happening in the Music Scene a while ago and followed it up on here with a post on how the only people who don't make money from music are the musicians. It's sad to inform you that nothing much has changed in the intervening period, in fact it's probably worse.
I talked with an excellent Restaurant owner this morning, a long time friend of mine who is pretty successful. The same thing happens to them, but nowhere nearly as badly as the music industry. There surely is no other industry that expects workers to offer their services for nothing. Social media "likes" do not pay bills.
Don't get me wrong there are good people out there, most of these people do what they do for no payment, because they want to help bands and because they love music, however there are many who are not doing the right thing and it's not the usual Record Label or Streaming Platform suspects.
There are Indie labels that release 200 limited release albums and get contacted by 50 potential reviewers who "only review physical product". Artists that struggle to sell tickets for gigs and venues that are closing down, yet both get hundreds of requests for the guest list from Internet Review Sites.
It doesn't end there with gigs. Some Promoters insist on the artist buying a percentage of their own tickets. Even worse there are Promoters who pay the artists nothing, saying it's for the kudos and then spend nothing on promotion. All their marketing is solely on Facebook and then they blame these hard times for no one turning up.
There are others who don't pay artists, yet produce Programmes with Paid for advertising and have gig sponsorship and Venue sweeteners of which the artist receives nothing. It's not exactly Pay for Play, but it's certainly get no money to Play. All the money employs the Promoter.
Then there's a real favourite of mine, Internet Radio Plugging. These charlatans charge you 750 dollars and then tell you they've got you airplay and it's all via Internet Radio Stations that they own. part own or are affiliated with. You can spot them a mile off they appear on supposed Top 10 Charts where no one has heard of the stations and most knowledgeable reviewers haven't even heard of the bands.
It used to be just Rich Parents that fell for these things, but more recently I've seen established bands on then, probably because they are naive internet wise. There's also the Social Media followings, they supposedly have a 250k following and yet get only one or two likes for their posts.
Artists should judge these things on one thing, how many albums did I sell from using these people? I paid 300 dollars to appear on this Compilation CD, how many albums have I sold because of it? Most musicians have up to three non music jobs to pay for their audio endeavours.
Can this be changed? Yes it can, but Musicians have to spot the valid from the con. IDHAS is trying to help, when it could just get on with it's own happy like. I make no money from music, have never tried, my existence, like those musicians, is provided for by non music work.
It's hoped that the IDHAS label can help, all money will be reinvested into new releases. Bands get paid. I do suspect that it will be just pissing in the wind in these Social Media Vanity days. Likes, Plays and Exposure do not pays.