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Monday 30 September 2019

Alan Price - Between Today And Yesterday

I Don't Hear A Single largely covers the new, so when I write about reissues, they are normally for appearances elsewhere. However, there are exceptions which can easily go in the under appreciated artists column and Alan Price is certainly one.

There was a ten year period when the the man was untouchable. Originally he was part of The Animals, encompassing the House Of The Rising Sun riff, a BBC TV Series that brought the likes of Jimi Hendrix into the houses of the great British Public.

He was popular enough to have a regular slot on The Two Ronnies Show and break even more ground with his appearance in and soundtrack writing for Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man. That golden spell culminated in one of the great 70's albums and here it is.

Following the success of the O Lucky Man Soundtrack, Price recorded Saveloy Dip, which was going to be the album that broke America, but it was mysteriously pulled just before pressing. Only a handful of 8 Track Tapes escaped into the stores and it is to Omnivore's great credit that the album eventually got a release in 2016.

Price, at the time, was working on a Musical covering his beloved North East and the tales of depression and austerity in the area through the thirties to the mid sixties. He adapted songs from that to a quickly recorded Between Today And Yesterday album and what an album it is.

The album was split into two halves, Yesterday was Side 1 and it's those six songs that stand out so much. This was Social Commentary that stands comparison with any writer in the field, Ray Davies springs to mind.

These six songs ache whilst describing the harshness of those times. Yet this isn't a depressing affair, the arrangements nod towards the period, there's lots of Brass accompaniment. Left Of People has a chirpy Jitterbug feel that masks the lyrical pain. The Trad Jazz arrangement on Away Away is simply wonderful and In Times Like These is the best song that Randy Newman didn't write.

Under The Sun almost makes you cry, it's so heartfelt, it's McCartney-esque and most of our vintage will be familiar with Jarrow Song, the 5 minute multi part story of 1936's Jarrow March, if ever a song defined an event, it's this. Both the album and Jarrow Song made the UK Top 10.

Between Today And Yesterday is present in two versions. The old Side 1 version is fittingly moody, one man and the piano. An alternate version on the old Side 2 is fully orchestrated and the latter's approach works beautifully, it's like a different song.

Side 2 is a more modern affair and concentrates more on Love Songs. Angel Eyes is almost Cabaret, but You're Telling Me has some of Price's noted Organ playing. bursting out of the laid back Blues. Two extra tracks are added to this release, namely the single versions of Jarrow Song and In Times Like These.

Cherry Red's Esoteric label has given new life to some fantastic albums this year, this is certainly one of the best. I defy anyone to write as good a set of songs as those. The lbum is released on 25 October, you can pre-order it direct from Cherry Red here.


Sunday 29 September 2019

Lower Dens - The Competition

Jana Hunter's Lower Dens return with a fourth album that looks to build on the critical acclaim of  Escape From Evil. This album certainly does that, it's still as dark lyrically as what has gone before, but the sound is much bigger.

This expanded sound has created a far more melodic, less basic, affair. The synths are built on memorable riffs, rather than relying on atmospherics. This means that there's less reliance on the central themes that run through Lower Dens albums.

Unusually for an IDHAS review, there are no Guitars present here. The band is now slimmed down to a duo and that rings familiar with a lot of the Synth Duo acts of the 80's. Make no mistake, this feels like a very 80's album.

I'm reminded a lot of In Outer Space era Sparks and even at times with their adventures with Giorgio Moroder. There's definitely a Russell Mael lite feel to Hunter's Vocals. The theme across the album is about political and gender identities. That theme is lyrically, not as po faced as Concept Albums can be.

The Competition stands alone as a melodic wonder of an album. There's an incredible vibe that makes the whole thing highly listenable as well as a Music That You Can Dance To feel. There is an Erasure or Pet Shop Boys feel at times, particularly on the likes of stand out single, Hand Of God.

However, the album is at it's best when it veers away from straight synth songs, notably with the nod to Bowie on Young Republicans. The real gem here though is the closer, In Your House, which is a far more straight ahead Torch Song. It's wonderfully moody and beautifully sung. All in all The Competition is a cracking listen. There doesn't have to be Guitars when an album is this good.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Western Settings - Another Year

San Diego's Western Settings offer up their second album and it's suitably great. There is a real problem with the Punk Pop audience at times, in that any band who doesn't follow the template get castigated as Sell Outs or Lightweight. It's rubbish, why would bands not want to expand their audience?

Anyway, I've never really thought of the band as Punk Pop. They are far too melodic to be Punk and not vocally robotic enough to be Punk Pop. This isn't to say that they can't do shouty Punk, Back To 52 shows that they can do it well.

Western Settings have a lot of Replacements similarities, but at times, sound more like the more structured side of 70's UK Punk that made New Wave so enjoyable. I hear a lot of The Skids' first album here, not lyrically, but certainly sound wise, very Stuart Adamson, Scared To Dance Era.

Better again there are Skids comparisons on Better, this that sounds more like the free album with The Absolute Game. Duckets Is Tight is Power Pop in it's structure, but far too heavy to be adopted there, there's a killer Guitar Wall Of Sound.

That's Pretty Good is like The Killers doing Generation X and the stand out is the approaching five minutes of Charmian, it's an awesome slab of Indie Rock, outstanding. There's even a Ballad, Angus, to end proceedings, something that was unexpected with all the noice and pace that's preceded it.

New listeners may be drawn to the likes of potential Radio Hits like Big, but it's the overall quality of the album that shines through. Another Year knocks spots off most of the Indie Guitar albums around at the moment, so please don't label them as Punk Pop and stick them in a corner. Highly Recommended!

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Ex Norwegian - Something Unreal : The Best Of Ex Norwegian (2CD)

It seems only right that after a decade of threatening to be the breakthrough band that got the reward that they deserve, should be a pause point to look at that decade. Indeed, it's been one hell of a ride for the Miami Beach trio.

The two most relevant points in that decade are noted. This Best Of bears the title of the first song they had which went on to be the Radio smash, Something Unreal. The promotion for this album is led by Making Deals, the stand out song from their last album, a song that was probably 2018's finest and said everything about how poptastic they are.

That album, No Sleep, was IDHAS's Album Of The Year last year and it's sensational. Anyone buying this starter point, should also buy No Sleep, I still don't see a better Guitar Pop album around. But it's not just about those two singles.

Ex Norwegian have this wonderful knack of appealing to all genres. Nine albums in, they are as beloved on the Power Pop scene as they are amongst the Psych Pop of the Fruits de Mer mass following. They achieve this by being themselves, not by pandering to the latest craze or throwing masses of stuff at the wall, hoping something will stick.

The band are also aided by being able to switch between lead vocals from Roger Houdaille and Michelle Grand. The first half dozen songs here reveal a lot of what is ace about the trio. Both of the previously mentioned songs are there, plus the Psych of Life and the magnificent Sudeki Lover.

But there is far more here to thrill than just those six songs. The UK New Wave of Iniative Rock. the Blondie Pop of Fresh Pit, the Doo Wop of All Hips No Waists and the 70's Jigsaw Pop Rock of Aventura are all splendid. Love Is is wonderful Folk Pop courtesy of Michelle's Vocal, a song that ends the collection, but shouldn't get lost in all the greatness that precedes it.

All 25 songs here are top notch and a testament to what a great decade it has been for the band. It
doesn't end there though. The CD Version has a bonus disc that is also available with the download. Amongst these 23 songs, you hear Ex Norwegian stretch out even more.There's also a cracking new version of Something Unreal.

This bonus disc also shows why the band have such an outstanding Live Reputation. I've spoken quite a bit about how the Power Pop and Pop Rock brigade ignore the 00's and particularly the last decade. Well, not so in these quarters. Ex Norwegian, to my ears, are the best band of the last 10 years and can hold their own against anything that's gone before.

The album is available in various options, including a 15 Track Vinyl Version. All are more than reasonably priced. You can listen to the album and buy your favourite format here.


Saturday 28 September 2019

The Needs - You Need The Needs

More and more, I've come to the opinion on Power Pop that, when you move away from the dozen or so regular certs, the best albums are the surprises. It was The Speedways last year, an intended one off album that has launched the band into the best new things.

This year's Speedways are Norway's The Needs and I would say Caddy's Tom Dahl has some real competition from his fellow countrymen. It's all the more surprising because the five piece are led by Bendik Braenne, Norway's King Of Country and Americana and Maciek Ofstad, guitarist in Kvelertak, a band big on the European Metal scene.

So the last thing you'd expect from a potential Country Metal Hybrid is riff driven melodic Power Pop. But, that is what you have here, in abundance and very much in Caddy Territory. Not only that, but there's real wit in the short interludes which provide a bit of lounge music and even a snippet of a club mix.

The Guitar Pop is spot on. Big Riffs, Big Choruses, Great Middle Eights, all done in quick time. Not a moment is wasted, say what you wanna say and get off. Summerbore has already been on the IDHAS Audio Extravaganza. I Regret It may be an even better song with a killer Bass line. Do You Think even ventures into Psych Pop.

You Need The Needs is one of the best things that you'll hear this year. Power Pop isn't dead, it's just been resting in hidden areas. Hopefully we will hear far more from the band because this album signals a really bright future.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Friday 27 September 2019

Mick Dillingham Interviews - Clive Gregson

(Photo : Roger Liptrot)

That very fine songwriter and musician Clive Gregson is about to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of his long and prolific career. A career that started with Any Trouble a band he founded back in the mid seventies with college friends in Crewe. 

From there, he teamed up with singer Christine Collister and release five excellent and highly rated albums and the duo also joined Richard Thompson’s band for a time. He also played and recorded with another Fairport legend Iain Matthews in a reformed Plainsong and between all this activity recorded a whole slew of critically acclaimed solo albums. 

It’s a consummate body of work and one he should be justly proud of.

What are your earliest memories of first getting into music?

"I have a brother who is seven years older than me. In '62/'63 I was only eight years old, but Glynn was already into The Beatles big time and started bringing their records home. I was soon hooked and a few years later my parents traded in a drum kit that Glynn never played and bought me the guitar that I was continually pestering them for.

By the time I was thirteen, I was getting pretty proficient on the instrument and pretty much everything else went out of the window. I knew then that I was somehow going to make music my life.

At fifteen I had a school band (mangling anything by The Who a speciality) and by the age of sixteen had discovered the local folk clubs, which were a pretty broad church back then. The guitar was king and they were polite enough to give a spotty Herbert, who was mostly into rock and roll, a hearing"

Which music artists first made you sit up and take notice?

"The Beatles... then The Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Hollies, Dylan, The Band, Motown, Stax, Dusty Springfield, Randy Newman, urban and country blues."

Talk about your time with Any Trouble.

"Mostly very happy memories. I often think that we were rather doomed from the outset. We naively assumed that if we just concentrated on playing good music as best we could, then the great unwashed would recognise that endeavour and love us to death. How wrong we were, it needs a lot more than that to achieve pop success.

I never looked or acted like a pop star and although Stiff worked very hard on our behalf, we were never a typical Stiff act. We had no visual image or sense of humour! On the whole, we came into our own on stage, but because of the lack of chart success, we never built a big enough audience to sustain the act financially.

At the point where we broke up at the end of 1984, I think the line up was the most stable and happiest it had ever been. But we had no work, no money and no prospects. We released two reunion records in 2007 and 2015 and played some live shows in support of them. They were good fun and well received by our small and dedicated fanbase.

I think we're probably retired now. Martin (the drummer) had a heart attack a couple of years ago and has decided not to play any more. I'm always amazed and very flattered when people tell me how much they love the band and pleased that our music plays a part in their lives. Pretty fantastic."

And then you teamed up with Christine Collister.

"Again mostly happy memories. It ended badly for many reasons, most of them my fault, but it was a pretty amazing journey while it lasted. It started as a very low key, ad hoc thing and became much bigger very quickly.

Yet again, the live shows were always the real deal, but I'm fond of the albums. I listened to "Home & Away" and a bunch of live stuff a little while ago when putting together the Cherry Red "deluxe" reissue. I couldn't begin to imagine any act these days even attempting what we were trying to do!

Chris is a brilliant singer and I feel privileged to have worked with her. Great to see that she's still at it and I'm amazed that she never managed to cross over into the mainstream. But  it takes more than talent, right?"

You became part of Richard Thompson’s band.

"Richard was my ultimate guitar hero from the moment that I saw him play at Cambridge Folk Festival in 1975. "Pour Down Like Silver" is still one of my all time favourite albums. He's also arguably the quintessential English songwriter. "Dimming Of The Day" is always my answer when I get asked which song I wish I'd written.

We hired John Wood to produce the first Any Trouble album in 1980, primarily because of his work with Richard and Linda, Fairport, John Martyn, Nick Drake etc. I still work with John often...... wonderful man.

Shortly after we finished that first Any Trouble album, John got married and I met Richard and Linda at the wedding. I stayed in touch and imagine my surprise when I got a call from Richard asking me to join his touring band in 1985. Any Trouble had just folded so it was easy for me to say yes.

Talk about a great gig! I learned so much and have nothing but happy memories of that time... great folks playing great music. It ended rather strangely. I moved to the States and shot my mouth off, rather negatively in print about the album Richard released following my departure.

It came across as sour grapes, which it genuinely wasn't. I was just expressing an opinion that really didn't need to be expressed. I've bumped into Richard a few times since, but it's been a while. Must try and catch up with him... long overdue. He's a world class talent and an absolute gentleman."

Then you became part of the reformed Plainsong.

"Short lived, but great fun and I gained a vast amount from it. In essence I replaced Julian Dawson for a couple of years. I'd met Iain Matthews a few times down the years. He'd guested on the 1984 Any Trouble album "Wrong End Of The Race"... terrific singer and a fine chap.

I played on several UK and European tours with Plainsong. We had a fine old time on the road and the shows were really good. We made one album while I was in the band, which was somewhat problematic. Iain was going through a particularly difficult time in his personal life. It's greatly to his credit that we got through the sessions and made what I think is a really good record.

Another positive outcome for me was bonding with the other guys in the band and to this day I still play with Andy Roberts and Mark Griffiths. We have a guitar trio called 3 Boxes which tours sporadically, but to great appreciation.

Griff played bass for us in the latter days of Any Trouble and played guitar on the Clive and Liz album in 2017. I'm planning a rockabilly record with Andy (or should I say Brad Breath, his alter ego in the Hank Wangford Experience?) as part of my 2020 retirement extravaganza."

You moved to Nashville in '93, quite a bold move.

"Not really... it's the last place on earth where there's a full time recording industry and people still make records with a live band on the studio floor. Right up my street, I learned so much. I'd been a professional musician for thirteen years when I moved to Nashville, but it was still almost like starting from scratch. Great place... I thoroughly enjoyed my time there."

Now you’re based in Texas?

"Just moved to Pennsylvania, actually. My wife took a gig at the liberal arts college she used to attend in the '70s. Small college town in the middle of Trump's steel wasteland… very interesting. Long winters... big change from Texas."

You have been the producer for most of your output….is the creative control this affords you important to you enabling you to see your vision through to conclusion.  How much do you enjoy producing?

"I "produce' my own stuff, largely out of economic necessity. In an ideal world I'd almost always prefer to go in a studio with a crack live band and let somebody else direct traffic. But there's almost never a budget for that. So I do what most acts do these days, record at home as best I can!

I think it largely works out OK. I'm lucky in that I've taken the time to learn how to engineer a bit, point the mics roughly in the right direction and play various instruments well enough to sound like a reasonable band. I approach producing other acts in a different way.

I pretty much always try to get artistes into a studio with real players, a good engineer and very well prepped. I'm always looking for great performances. I much prefer acts to be proud of what they actually achieved, rather than what some Pro Tools jockey has cobbled together via cut and paste and autotune."

How does the song writing process work with you? Are you slow or prolific? Do you have times when the songs just pour out and other times when its like getting blood from a stone?

"I write all the time, can't remember ever suffering from writer's block. If I take a break from writing, it's usually because I'm bogged down doing something else, touring, recording, producing. There really isn't much of a process for me.

Sometimes I start with a title, a concept, a few lines of a lyric, a chord sequence, a melody. I get ideas if I'm noodling on the guitar while watching TV, out walking, driving, talking to people or earwiging conversations. You never know when something is going to show up.

The trick is to be receptive, keep the antenna up and try to find time to work things through to completion if they merit it. I don't finish everything and sometimes the golden ones finish themselves by arriving pretty much fully formed. Writing songs is still my favourite part of my musical life and I still think it's largely magic. I don't really understand the journey from empty page to a finished song and I suspect I don't really want to."

What would you say were your biggest influences?

"As a writer? John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Townshend, Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, Randy Newman, Holland-Dozier-Holland, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Richard Thompson, Nick Drake, John Martyn. I'm prepared to bet that most people would find those influences sadly lacking in my writing!"

Which of all your songs are the ones that always stand out for you?

"I tend not to look back. I'm always more interested in what's next. I've recently been playing shows composed almost entirely of new material and audiences seem to be enjoying it. Guess I'll know if they don't show up next time round!

Funny story... my most commercially successful song in terms of numbers sold is "Honolulu", a song I disliked so much that I had it removed from the American release of the first Any Trouble album. Many years later I started to see royalty statements for sales of large numbers of the song. It turned out there is a ukulele version on a budget Hawaii themed CD available in garages, supermarkets etc all over the world. Huge sales! Moral? What the hell do I know?"

When it came to putting together that best of in 2009 how easy or hard was that?

"Pretty easy, really. I had some help and I didn't want to duplicate any song that was either on the Gregson & Collister "Best Of" or the Any Trouble "Best Of". So it came together pretty easily, really. Although, shortly after the eighteen song collection came out, I had an email from a fan who reckoned I'd picked the wrong eighteen songs. Not just one or two, all of them. Moral? What the hell do I know?"

So the plan for next year is to release an album every month for the whole year?

"Yep... bonkers, eh?! Actually, the big plan is that I intend to retire from touring at the end of 2020. I turn sixty five in January and will have been a pro musician for forty years next February. That feels like enough.

I really don't want to spend Friday afternoons on the M6/M1/M40/M25/M5 anymore. I'll carry on writing, recording, producing etc and I'll probably do the odd gig every now and again. I just think the full on touring days are over.

So I'll play as much as I can through 2020. then drift off into the sunset. I thought it might be fun to make a big statement throughout the year so I'm currently amassing finished tracks in order to release a new CD every month throughout 2020.

It's going well... many of the releases will have something of a theme. The first one will essentially be an almanac, one song about each month of the year. Another will be a group of songs about the North West of England. I'm also looking at a rockabilly album, an album featuring cameos by my personal guitar heroes, an album of instrumentals, lots of variety. So... plenty to do!"

You can find out more about Clive on his website here. He's in the UK for five live shows in October, you can find those dates here. There is also a stand alone site for Any Trouble which can be found here.


I Don't Hear A Single Audio Extravaganza Volume 80

Volume 80 is now live on Mixcloud and it's an absolute cracker. Please let us know your thoughts on it. A reminder that these episodes are compiled with great care. The aim is to produce a sort of mix tape. Hopefully this will be the soundtrack to your day.

The playlist is below and will also be in the comments section of the Mixcloud page. Thanks as always to Jim Moody for his technical excellence

You can listen to the previous IDHAS Audio Extravaganzas on Mixcloud here.

01 The Futureheads - Good Night Out
02 Ex Norwegian - Making Deals
03 Diesel Park West - Pictures In The Hall
04 Liz + The Baguettes - Like
05 Robyn Hitchcock & Andy Partridge - Got My...
06 The Brothers Steve - I Don't Hear A Single ID
07 The Brothers Steve - Beat Generation Poet Turned Assassin
08 Bristol To Memory - Wrapped Up
09 Martin Noakes - Cry
10 Bronco Bullfrog - Time Waits For Norman
11 Boo Hewerdine - I Wish I Had Wings
12 Stefano And The Slightly Irregulars - Wayfarer
13 Dave Cope And The Sass - My Way Out
14 Lower Dens - Hand Of God
15 Gender Roles - Always
16 The Aim - Don’t Look Down
17 Dan Israel - Be My Girl
18 The Fizzgates - Hops
19 Blake Jones & The Trike Shop -My Soft Rock Girlfriend
20 Elizabeth The Second - No One Cares
21 Stone Irr - All We Want Anymore
22 Summer Flake - In The Dark
23 Richard And The Young Lions - Make Me Lonely
24 The Berries - Lowest Form Of Life

IDHAS Volume 80 Mixcloud Link 


The Futureheads - Powers

There's something reassuring about the return of The Futureheads. You know the album is going to be suitably noisy UK New Wave that will translate to the live stage best, Powers doesn't disappoint, because it is just that, real shake your fist stuff, but always containing more than interesting diversions and riffs.

It's been a while since an Electric album from the Sunderland quartet, nine years in fact and seven years since the a capella of Rant, so it is definitely time to be chirped up amidst the misery is 2019. Plus, you always feel that the band are on your side.

That splendid debut album which felt so early XTC has expanded to take on that whole 78 - 80 period. Only Listen, Little Man and Headcase so XTC now, but it is refreshing to note that Guitar Pop is not dead and it does need the likes of The Futureheads to remind us that there is still hope.

That's not to say Powers is formulaic or one trick, targets are still aimed at and hit at will, but it's the breakneck speed that doesn't let up. There is no respite through all 12 songs, don't expect any ballads, this is beat driven angular pop at it's very best.

Electric Shock is a riff driven, staccato song with sounds coming from everywhere. with a wonderfully frantic guitar solo included. Mortals is built on such few repetitive lyrics, but is hypnotic and Across The Border is a fantastic rant, really inventive with a Mod Pop undertone.

The stand out here is Good Night Out, which is The Jam in all but name. The Futureheads can come across as a noisy Franz Ferdinand, but there is far more to them than that. Oh how we've missed you boys, it's great to see you back.

Powers is available everywhere.


Liz + the Baguettes - Everything I Think I Know Is Wrong (Remastered And Expanded)

I'm not quite sure why Chicago's Liz + the Baguettes haven't been covered on IDHAS before, particularly with the strength of this year's Highway Gothic album, another offering that you should get your lugholes around. It's time to remedy that with Every Thing I Think I Know Is Wrong.

Originally released in 2015, thus was before IDHAS's time, but the remaster allows a revisit and yet again the quality of Liz Bagby's songwriting stands out most. Whether the song is straight ahead or more stream of consciousness lyrically, every one hits the spot.

Firstly the remastered version here has been really worthwhile, there was nothing wrong with the original, but this revisit has brought out the quality of the songs more so. The addition of four songs from the same Recording Sessions is welcome, but this was already an exemplary album.

There is a real Chrissie Hynde feel that washes over a lot of the album. Bagby's streetwise sassy vocal is at its best when it's all attitude, but there are also a lot of different directions taken. The band are as comfortable with the Garage Rock of Get Out as they are with the Country of Whiskeyboots.

It's this variation that makes the album so listenable and the band so hard to label. EITIKIW has always seemed an album of two halves. The back half is far more acoustic, more ballad led with the likes of the Jazzy, Whatever, I Know and the weeping Sleepwalker. This complements the much noisier front half.

Candy is about the best of the four additional tracks, a real clap along. However, it's the sass that gets me most. Like is a wonderful thing, all attitude and the title track is more of the same. Hookup Song is another in a similar vein, but a bit more Alisha's Attic.

Everything I Think I Know Is Wrong was already a splendid album. This remastered version makes it even better. It should be added to your collection forthwith. You can listen to and buy it here.


Thursday 12 September 2019

I Don't Hear A Single Audio Extravaganza Volume 79

Another Volume of the Audio Extravaganza and listening to this over again. it's top notch. A little more calm than normal first halves, but fear not, it does explode at times. Get om tp it quickly, because Volume 80 isn't too far away.

22 of the latest releases to tickle your aural senses.. The playlist is below and will also be in the comments section of the Mixcloud page. Thanks as always to Jim Moody for his technical excellence

You can listen to the previous IDHAS Audio Extravaganzas on Mixcloud here.

01  Lost Ships - Drugstore
02  Blackbirds FC - Bye Bye Pride (Popboomerang)
03  Scott Gagner - Baby Gets What Baby Wants
04  Pernice Brothers - The Devil And The Jinn
05  Broke Royals - Saint Luxury
06  Barns Courtney - London Girls
07  Thee Moot - Executive Temptress
08  The Sums - Here To Stay
09  My Little Hum - Don't Build It Alone
10  Static In Verona - Ruin The Riot
11  Magic Pie - Table For Two
12  Party Members - Restaurant Owner
13  Those Pretty Wrongs - Hurricane Of Love
14  Big Wreck - In My Head
15  Mark Moldre - How Long
16  The Needs - I Regret It
17  Bryan Scary - The Word
18  Foggy Tapes - Here Comes The Fog
19  Rheostatics - Rearview
20  The Black Watch - Crying All The Time (Psych Mix)
21  Bill March - Nobody Knows
22  The Amber List - Hiding In Plain Sight

IDHAS Volume 79 Mixcloud Link 

Wednesday 11 September 2019

Mick Dillingham Interviews : Fruits de Mer

Started by Keith Jones and Andy Bracken back in 2008 the Walton on Thames based psych/prog/folk label Fruits de Mer records soon grew into the coolest and most collectable imprint of the moment. It has perfectly caught the current vinyl zeitgeist with beautifully packaged, strictly limited edition single and album releases. They are in the enviable position of each new release being snapped up by music lovers and serious vinyl collector across the globe whilst garnering endless amounts of high profile and glowing press along the way.

With the likes of The Luck Of Eden Hall, Soft Hearted Scientists, The Bevis Frond, Nick Nicely, Anton Barbeau, The Pretty Things and The Chemistry Set all appearing on various releases there’s a lot to interest the average IDHAS reader.  We thought it was time to sit down with Mr. Jones, who now runs the label and have a relaxed chat about what’s happened so far.

So what music were you into before you started the label?

"My first big obsession was progressive rock, especially krautrock, at the start of the 70s.  I worked back from there to 60s psychedelia, which i missed out on by a couple of years first time around. In the eighties I then kind of got sidetracked by the real world of marriage, kids, work and mortgages.

Then The Orb and Pete Namlook rekindled my obsessive side at the start of the nineties. By the time we started Fruits de Mer in 2008, I was musically all over the place - electronica, IDM, drum and bass, post-rock etc. I gradually worked my way back to the 60s and early 70s and falling in love with vinyl all over again."

How did the label first get going?

"An old mate, Andy Bracken, had moved to the States and started up a label on his own, coincidentally called Bracken Records.  We got chatting on one of his visits back to London and somehow the idea for a singles label developed.

Andy's experience of the pitfalls of running a label and too much beer had a lot to do with it and we somehow stumbled into Fruits de Mer. The label would never have got off the ground without Andy driving it. Although I'd worked on a few music magazines over they ears, I wouldn't have had a clue where to start."

Did you have any inkling that the label would get such legs on it and how do you feel when you see your stuff up on ebay at such high prices?

"God no, we always thought in terms of, "if Fruits de Mer was someone's else's label, what would get us hooked on it". It never really occurred to me that we might actually become 'collectible'.I find ebay quite funny, sometimes releases from the label sell for crazy money, but I suspect most stay unsold for a long time.

The only thing that does irritate me is to see promo CDs that I've sent out to radio stations and magazines getting listed for sale and marked 'unplayed' that really is taking the piss."

Run us through an average day in the life of FdM

"Catch up on overnight emails, catch up on Facebook, pack and post a few orders, correct a couple of cock-ups that someone has spotted on the website, say hello to Liz (my wife), that's most days sorted. Then it's working up the next releases, checking out new bands, talking to artists I've worked with in the past and planning for our very occasional gigs and our annual summer festival.

Fruits de Mer is somewhere between a hobby and an obsession. It takes up far more of my time than it should, or I ever thought it would, but it beats watching 'Homes Under The Hammer' and taking up golf.

We came to terms early on with FdM never becoming a commercial proposition and that was hugely liberating as it meant we could do whatever we wanted to do. Andy handed his half of the label over to me seven or eight years ago to concentrate on writing. So now I have no-one to answer to other than myself when I come up with another stupid idea for a release, except perhaps the odd dirty look from Liz."

What have been your personal favourites on the label so far and what is your criteria for which artists you choose?

"They say you never forget the first time and Schizo Fun Addict's 'Theme One' our first single, still means a lot.  Having The Pretty Things record for the label was quite unbelievable because they happen to be my all-time favourite band. Their manager, Mark St John, even allowed me to use the original design to 'SF Sorrow' for a live EP by the band, I mean, bloody hell!

The 'Head Music' double LP of krautrock covers in 2012 was very close to my heart and it was the first big project I took on when Andy stepped down. More recently, having The Orb appear on Fruits de Mer is another dream come true.  Alex Paterson is in large part responsible for me regaining my enthusiasm for music the best part of thirty years ago.

Choosing artists is really down to the music. If I love a track I hear, I'll try to find an excuse to release it. If the first release has worked well then, I'll chat to the artists about what they're planning next. With a few people, such as Crystal Jacqueline and The Honey Pot and Anton Barbeau, it's reached the point where I can throw song suggestions at them and they'll either throw them back or take them on."

What memories do you cherish of the various FdM concerts down the years?

"The Pretty Things headlining the first Fruits de Mer gig at the Borderline in 2013.  A queue forming outside the venue for the first Dr. Sardonicus festival in 2014. Meeting up with people who are rapidly becoming old mates at each year's summer bash in Wales. Seeing the 'Fruits de Mer' name in lights at the Half Moon in Putney.  Nick Saloman referring to all record labels as 'bastards' at this year's festival."

What are the upsides of running the label and what are the downsides?

"I wake up thinking "I'm running a fucking record label!", I still get a real buzz out of the whole thing. The downsides are that I commit to doing far more than I should, without thinking it through and then have to deliver on it.  It results in the (more than) occasional cock-up that i have to admit to, find excuses for, cover up or rectify."

Are there any projects you had to give up on?

"Well, we nearly gave up before we started when we initially approached established labels to license the use of specific tracks and they, for some reason, didn't want to work with a label that only existed in our minds.

A few years back, I fancied the idea of playable postcards, but they turned out to be horribly expensive and the manufacturer wouldn't be pinned down on schedules.  I went for flexi discs instead, which turned out to be just as expensive.  That wouldn't have been so bad, if I hadn't decided to do a box of ten of them."

Is it still as exciting for you as it always was?

"Even more so, it all started as a lot of fun, but it's turned into something that I also feel really proud of.  Reissuing Nick Nicely's 'Hilly Fields', releasing a single by 'lost' 60s US band Touch and putting together a all-singing, all-dancing reissue of Fuchsia's classic album were all a bit special.

As was seeing a new album (by SEN3) launched at Ronnie Scott's.  Plus, if I ever get too smug about it all, I go and screw something up and that brings me back to size (and I wasn't very big to start with).

 I do like the fact that although the whole thing has grown into something more than I ever imagined, I can still do off-the-wall stuff.  A stick-on moustache free with a Zappa covers single, a Rubik's cube with an Astralasia's double album, my granddaughter Molly designing a Bevis Frond sleeve..... and get away with it."

What bands would you like to work with if you had a fantasy wish list?

"I didn't start out with a bucket-list, but if I had, The Orb and The Pretty Things would have been on there. Todd Rundgren and Roy Wood would still be there, but it's just as much fun finding and working with remarkable new artists like Elfin Bow and Moon Goose."

What future plans have you got in store?

"I think it's time that I worked with more artists that are new to the label, so a lot of next year's releases will be compilations including bands I've not worked with before. There'll be a taster for what's to come with a 7" EP towards the end of this year, featuring one or two new names, including...Chad & Jeremy!"

You can find out more about Fruits De Mer label here. The FdM You Tube channel has a wealth of delights here.


Tuesday 10 September 2019

Various - Big Stir Singles : The Third Wave

Here are my cover notes included with the Big Stir Singles : The Third Wave release. You can buy it here.

The Big Stir story continues apace and it’s delightful to see. It’s hard to believe that it has only been around for a few years, because it has created such a buzz and is fast becoming dominant in what it does. Big Stir has grabbed a Pop Rock scene that was fractured and divided, and certainly far too localised, and made it a community-led project that is rapidly becoming worldwide.

Christina Bulbenko and Rex Broome have built Big Stir from its roots as a monthly live showcase in Los Angeles to a record label with the highest of reputations. As the album releases have grown, so have those live showcases to far beyond L.A. One of the most enjoyable inventions has been the weekly Digital Singles Series, an inspired idea. You never know what to expect each Friday, but you know it’s going to be quality. What’s more there are guest appearances that add to the delight. This weekly event is not limited to the Big Stir artists, because the community encourages everyone.

The Single Series features an A and a B Side from each artist. You get both tracks for a dollar – yes, a dollar! The label has always been a big supporter of the physical format and that’s why you have me blabbing on. This is the third collection of the singles and you can hear the quality. Eleven Singles form the third collection of Big Stir Singles.

There’s plenty here for everyone. In Deed’s Guitar driven excellence, David Brookings' jangle, and pop sensation Kai Danzberg. Psych pop is well represented too with the Toybox sounds of Sundial Symphony and the Laurel Canyon twang of Librarians With Hickeys. It’s great to hear the Tsar boys back as The Brothers Steve and Jim Basnight remains one of the most underrated singer-songwriters around. That’s not to forget fantastic contributions from Butch Young, Paula Carino, Steve Rosenbaum and Blow Up.

The most interesting thing is that these 22 songs stand up as a great Pop Rock album. The collection is diverse, the variety is exceptional, but you wouldn’t necessarily think of The Third Wave as a bunch of singles. That point, probably, explains Big Stir more than any other. It’s a collective based on Melody. I won’t be the first to tell you this, but I’m still gonna say it. Big Stir are taking over the world.

Lost Ships - All Of The Pieces EP

I've admired Darrin Lee's excellent Jangle Pop Hub Blog since it's inception. It was one of the reasons that I started to cover less Jangle Pop, he does it so well. He's not just about Jangle, there's some great Indie Pop present. So when I saw that he'd formed the Subjangle label, I knew it was going to be one to watch and this release of the UK's Lost Ships EP is proving that theory.

Since I started to write more about the new with IDHAS, I see sounds like comparisons in volume daily. Those who know the type of music I cover generally aim for Badfinger, Big Star, XTC, Jellyfish and Teenage Fanclub. The Nada Surf comparisons seem to have calmed down.

Over the years, I've become more adult about these comparisons and realised that I'd rather hear something that's great than worry about who it sounds like. The comparisons that I personally make are just to help the undecided to give a great song a listen.

All Of The Pieces is a cracking listen. The front half of the four songs could very well be the best songs that Teenage Fanclub haven't written. There's an attention grabbing Jangle that just hooks you. A lot of attention will be paid to the opener, All Of The Pieces, but it's the following Drugstore that is the absolute gem.

The other two songs have a Brit Pop ring to them. How Can I Face The World has a real Oasis feel in it's vibe, that's an Oasis without the unnecessary song length and withour cat sat on the mat lyrics. It rolls along at a fine pace with a splendid middle eight.

Sheila Believe Me is very different to what has gone before. It's a melancholic piano ballad that contrasts beautifully with what has gone before. It's moody and magnificent. I can't praise this EP highly enough, it's top drawer stuff. I can't wait for a subsequent album.

You can listen to and buy the EP here. It is available as a download and CD. You can read and learn more about great new music at the Jangle Pop Hub here.


Friday 6 September 2019

Crash Valentine : The Power Pop Dog

I'll be back in action over the weekend, we are getting over the loss of Crash. He was well into his 15th year and had a led a great life, much longer than expected for a Lurcher, but his death was a complete surprise.

What started as a joke led to a mini phenomenon with artists asking for their album to be in a photo with him. It led to Magazine Features and articles on him and even review requests addressed to him. So many messages to me included a "How's Crash?" I wouldn't normally post this tribute so publicly, but there's been such a mass of comments on Facebook since his passing.

This was his last photo taken in his Promo role. Rest In Peace you lovely boy!

Sunday 1 September 2019

Cloud Eleven - Footnote

Power Pop seems to be in two camps, the 90's led largely by releases after the Jellyfish debut and the 60's - 70's, the 80's get little mention, but that's another story. New bands and albums are then generally compared to one of those two periods leading to endless arguments over if it is Power Pop and if so who does it sound like.

This may say seem inconsequential in a review of Cloud Eleven. However, I believe all fans should enjoy Melodic Pop whether it's New, Old or Older and Cloud Eleven fit into all three. They arrived in the Not Lame Years, sound like the 60's - 70's yet release relevant albums now.

I've been meaning to review Footnote for a while and so I finally do. Released in May this year, it is everything that you would expect from Rick Gallego, melodic. laid back and harmony driven. You really wouldn't want it any other way. Bedroom Headphone listening for the Wondermints fans.

I certainly don't put the album down, quite the reverse, Footnote is wonderful, beautifully put together with big sweeping sound and complicated harmonies. There's also a really intimate feel when a song is stripped down, particularly on the splendid Skywriting.

Your Mind's Eye shows how to orchestrate such a song, Same Sky is top notch Mellotron led Psych Pop. The Title Track, Footnote, has a fine arrangement to accompany the brooding feel. Aural Illusion sounds like something off an Alan Parsons Project with a fantastic Psych Out touch.

Cloud Eleven's self titled 1999 debut was a revelation and Gallego has never disappointed since. He makes ace sounding albums, expertly arranged and harmonic joy. His albums are song cycles. Long may this continue. Footnote is a splendid listen.

You can buy the album here. You can listen to the album here.


Static In Verona - The Loud Nothing (Name Your Price)

Static In Verona return for album number five and The Loud Nothing is a great big Pop Bag Of Tricks. Chicago's Rob Merz is known in Power Pop Circles, but he shies away from straight ahead Bass, Guitar and Drums. There is a real soundscape to his songs.

The hooks are Power Pop, but the sound is expanded by a wall of keyboards and Big Beats. A song like Daggers is very much in Mid 80's Territory, think Howard Jones and Nik Kershaw. Howeber' he's equally at home on the Kaiser Chiefs like Fade To Gray.

Even with the Synth Surround of Stuck With Silver has a Mod Pop Anthem trying to get out. (The Quiet) Nothing could be Teen Pop and Silent Sky borders on Psych Pop, emphasis on the Pop. Isolation is a wonderful, semi instrumental giant sounding closer.

Amongst all this killer melody, it's ironic that the stand out song is a simpler affair. Ruin The Riot edges on Pop Punk, but it's a winning three minutes. The whole album is Great Pop, stretching out of the simplicity that can mar such. The Loud Nothing is Top Notch.

You can listen to and buy the album here. It's available at Name Tour Price, so what have you got to lose?