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Saturday 30 November 2019

Three Great Compilations From The Cherry Red Stable

I'm currently finishing some stuff for the new Big Stir Magazine, a wonderful addition to the News Stands. So I thought I'd end the month by republishing my article in the last (current) issue. It'll make a change you reading about the old, rather than the new.

This is just the review excerpt of three of the excellent Cherry Red article. As you can see from the image above, it was a longer piece in the magazine.

Various - Big Gold Dreams - A Story of Scottish Independent Music 1977-1989 (5CD)

It’s incredibly hip these days to babble on whilst misty eyed about the Glasgow 80’s scene. It was a beacon of light in a UK Music scene that was more about what you wore than what you played. Think Wham shorts, Simon Le Bon on a yacht and then the Atari nonsense of the Dance Culture. However, like the Sex Pistols at the Free Trade Hall, everyone was always in to it. Everyone bought the Postcard Singles, 50 times the amount that were produced. Everyone was listening to Orange Juice, except they weren’t. If anyone outside of Scotland was listening to a Scottish band, it was Big Country, Simple Minds or Aztec Camera.

Cherry Red have done a great job with this Box Set. The 70 plus page Booklet and 5 discs are a hell of a lot to get through, but worth every minute. In typical fashion, the choices for the set are not the obvious. You are more likely to get an obscure B Side than a hit single. The obvious are present, but it’s the obscure one release bands that are always more intriguing. So you expect to see the likes of Skids, Simple Minds, Altered Images, Josef K, The Associates, The Bluebells, The Waterboys, Aztec Camera, Del Amitri, BMX Bandits, Primal Scream and Edwyn Collins. Incidentally I’ve seen these scene lovers moan about Teenage Fanclub not being present. Errr it’s 1977 – 1989 chaps, you probably just forgot.

I love the high pop quotient here from what many would consider one hit wonders or second division. It’s great to see TV21, Baby Lemonade and The Headboys present. 115 songs are a lot to get through of course and everything won’t appeal. BBC’s recent Rip It Up TV Series revealed the depth of Scottish talent and showed it wasn’t all lo-fi bedroom Pop. There will be things that you don’t like, but that’s the point of compilations and it’s a fairly decent round up of what was going on. It wasn’t all “Let’s Do The Show Right here.”

Various - Lullabies For Catatonics (3CD)

Lullabies For Catatonics is released on Cherry Red’s Grapefruit label. Its aim is largely to reveal the weird and wonderful world of Psych and Art Rock.  This is a world that I’m engaged in, far too often, friends may say, but my orbit is more who is doing it now than who did it then. So this is as much an interesting listen to me as those first discovering it. The late 60’s and early 70’s were awash with this stuff and it encompassed areal mixture of the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

The problem with Psych as a genre is that it’s almost as bad as Power Pop for the argument it creates. The what is and what isn’t Psych, combined with the doodling rubbish arguments. It is true that the likes of Psych Pop, Psychedelic Rock merge too easily at times with Prog and Jazz, but who really cares? Well I can tell you the Forum groups do, the members take lumps out of each other.

What’s more this compilation will probably create more arguments than solve them with its choices. I’m someone who doesn’t get worked up by the labels, if it’s good, it’s good. Even I found a few choices baffling. I love The Strawbs, but they are Folk Rock and I’ve always thought The Battle a bit mediocre Chis De Burgh Crusader like. Also surely the likes of Yes, Genesis and Renaissance are Prog?

The compilation, though, is top notch. If you’ve ever felt like dipping into this world, this is your chance. It’s a very strange trip, but really fascinating. Any compilation that has Mick Ronson and Be Bop Deluxe on it is going to grab my attention. But it’s the more obscure stuff that I’d forgotten that delighted me most. Wales’s own Eyes Of Blue’s Merry Go Round is always a wonderful nine minutes and The Coxhill-Bedford Duo’s Don Alfonso is splendidly bizarre and even better than Mike Oldfield’s later version, it’s Bonzo Dog like.

Various - Come Join My Orchestra The British Baroque Pop Sound 1967-73 (3CD)

Come Join My Orchestra doesn’t suffer from any genre arguing, simply because anyone could have a go at it. All in all, it’s just Pop with Strings or Orchestral Pop and done well it is a joyful listen. The Zombies were masters of it, The Beatles’ Yesterday almost provided a template and the likes of The Honeybus mastered it. Clifford T Ward built a short lived career out of it and ELO’s On The Third Day is the classic album example.

This compilation is a cracking listen across all three discs, it’s varied enough not to bore and has many individual reasons to make it an essential purchase. It has Mike Batt remembering that he’s not a Womble, the vastly underrated Bridget St. John and Mike Sheridan and Rick Price revealing that Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood were not the only Brummies who could orchestrate Pop. The Move’s Mist On A Monday Morning is magnificent, but I would have still used The Girl Outside as the example. Andy Ellison’s splendid It’s A Been A Long Time from the “Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush” Soundtrack deserves more listening.

The obvious inclusions are also here. No Baroque Pop would be covered without Alan Bown and The Zombies and Cherry Red oblige. Compilations may come and go, but this has stayed with me for the best part of six months, it’s an essential listen. Another winner on the Grapefruit Label and £18 for the three discs and an all-encompassing accompanying booklet is money well spent.


Friday 29 November 2019

The Fast Camels - Full Of Strange

The past decade or so has been a fine one for Scottish bands. Where as in the past when you heard Glasgow, you thought this'll be TFC or C86, the 10's have been about variety and what has developed most is Psych Pop. Not all of it fits in with the genre, but most feels very second half of the 60s.

Bands like The Wellgreen with the Kidd and Marco Rea offshoots, The Vapour Trails and The Fast Camels. The Glasgow five piece specialise in a Psych led Freakbeat, that is more in common with the Medway scene than North Of The Border.

The Psych isn't far out man, more in keeping with Jefferson Airplane and Love, but when it expands out, it can shred, particularly on a song like Misty. Whereas Misty hints at the five piece's Live Circuit excitement, this is counterbalanced by the Toyshop quality of The Wedding, which again adds some stunning Guitar that breaks out.

Contrast the Bily Fury vibe of Sordid Dreams with Don't Know Where To Begin which could be late 60's The Who. Family Tree is Keith West fronting Bike era Pink Floyd. The band even have a dablle at being Simon And Garfunkel on The Curious Tale Of Peeping John Foley.

Blissful Serenity and Full Of Strange are more in keeping with that Medway feel and on similar territory as say Groovy Uncle. However, my pop sensibilities direct me to the splendid Honeymoon and I'd add that Statue On The Hill is a fine brooding album closer. On the latter, I can't help thinking The Who and Tommy.

The Fast Camels know their strengths, but that doesn't prevent them from going off on tangents and when they do, the talent oozes out even more. Full Of Strange is a fine album and would be a welcome addition to any music fan's stocking.

You can buy the album and find out more about the band here.


Thursday 28 November 2019

My Little Hum - Pioneer

My Little Hum return with the follow up to their 2017 debut, Remembering Houses. You can read my review of the debut here. The comparisons with Susanna Hoffs are Sarah Cracknell are still relevant, as is the wonderful gentle Psych Pop.

However, I do have a problem with Pioneer being called sophomore. It's a really lazy term that denigrates the album and it's used too often. I know writers use it as a compliment to denote more of the same, but the album stands up in it's own right and there is more than enough here to show progression without losing what My Little Hum are good at.

I'm a long time Orange Peels fan, but what Allen Clapp brings to Production is impressive, a MLM project is truly a mark of quality. Clapp is again present here, as is Bob Vickers on Drums. There's even added violin from Jonathan Segal. It's like the album was gathering all my faves in the same room.

Yuri Jewett's vocals are as spot on as ever, melodic, sweetness personified, she could sing the Phone Book. However, it's when that Psych Pop kicks in that the album is at its best. The stand out is the magnificent November In New York, a song that seems like a Paisley Pop jangle until Dan Jewett lets loose in the second half with an incredible Guitar performance.

Contrast this with Runway Lights which is virtually Americana Psych with a superb Violin Break from Segal. Subway Song is splendid Jangle Pop, those St Etienne comparisons again ring true. One Of A Guy is like The Bangles doing an early version of The Move, the Bass Line is just ace.

Don't Build It Alone has had a lot of attention, rightly so. It is slightly Nick Cave, but the cover of Christopher Cross's Sailing is inspired, it has a torch song quality. Pioneer 10 ends the album beautifully, a moody, largely instrumental, that underlines the versatility of the duo.

Pioneer is an essential listen. Please don't throw it on the sophomore pile. It demands far more respect than that. You can listen to and buy the album here.


Wednesday 27 November 2019

Don Powell's Occasional Flames - Taping The Hiss

Les Glover is a top feller, one of the nicest musicians that you could meet and someone who shares the same sense of humour. We live close to each other, but don't meet up nearly enough. He didn't even charge me rent for storing my coat for two years. As well having played with a list of famous names, for the past six years Les has been one half of a duo with Henry Priestman of Yachts and The Christians fame. Their Live reputation is stupendous, a mixture of great songs and lots of laughing. Their shows sell out.

Don Powell is no stranger to us all, Slade are part of mine and most I know's youth. He was also part of the excellent  QSP, with Suzi Quatro and Andy Scott. The trio is completed by Everton Poet, Paul Cookson who is also responsible for Retford's Pies, Peas And Performances, a series of music events that come up with some all star headliners.

Taping The Hiss is a 37 minute mix of songs and poetry, all performed with a large helping of wit. I Won't Be Playing Wonderwall Tonight stands up as a fine song in it's own right, as well as the lyrical digs bite. The Care Home Weekly Wednesday Glam Rock Singalong is another wonderful mix of humour, nostalgia and tunesmithery. Godfathers Of Glam is a Northern Parklife with sparkling lines such as The Clampetts of The Chorus.

Coz We Luv You is a wonderful pastiche of Coz I Luv You, a Glam joy in it's own right that even contains a Jimmy Lea like Violin break. Rose Tinted Gigs is a splendid nostalgia driven 70's sing along. There's also a bonus Christmas Song, It Isn't Really Christmas, Until Noddy Starts To Sing. Now, I know many of you know my feelings about Christmas songs, but this is quite dandy and released as a limited 7 inch single this week.

Let's make this clear, although the album is essentially a celebration of Slade and all things Glam Rock, it is no comedy album. The songs are fine listens, the lyrics have depth behind the barbs and humour. It doesn't take itself seriously, no bad thing in these days. You can find out more about the trio here.

You can buy the album and other merchandise here. Following either of those links takes you to the band's website which has demos from the album for you to listen to. You can also buy the single or download the EP at Amazon here or listen at the likes of Apple Music.


The Paint Splats - The Paint Splats

Brandon Berry's The Paint Splats offers up a fine 10 song collection of unobvious Indie Guitar Pop. All the way from Dayton Ohio, what is so striking about the album are the wonderfully quirky arrangements. I've seen the album described as Power Pop, I don't quite agree with that.

There are hints of the genre, but the unexpected arrangements, riffs drifting in and out that catch you surprise, mark this more in They Might Be Giants territory, It is certainly Clever Pop with the addition of variety, that it seems insulting to include it with I Love You, Yes I Do companions and as for choruses, there are few.

What is on show is great wit. I Gutted My VCR is a hoot and expands far deeper than expected. It also includes an almost Hey Mickey keyboard run. Look At The Sad Man is in Pop Rock Ballad territory, yet The Terrific Torsion Of Terry is UK Psych Beat, very Austin Powers.

Beech Needles is splendid mid 80's New York Pop Rock, One Left Shoe could be a Mitch Easter production. Sycophant On A Rant fairly bounces along with a killer hook and yet Watchin' The Paint Dry is good ole boy Country.

This is another example of why people can do End Of Year Best Ofs too early. This week has been a revelation with the quality on show. The Paint Splats self titled album is wonderfully inventive Pop Rock, a rarity in its equal concentration on the song arrangements.

You have real depth and quality that continually catches you out. Pop doesn't have to be as complex, but when it turns out like this, I will take it every single time. Well done Mr Berry! Highly Recommended!

You can listen to and buy the album here.  You can also find out more about The Paint Splats and buy physical formats of the album here.


Tuesday 26 November 2019

Empty City Squares - 337

There's something of a Pop Rock Fightback in the UK in 2019 and even more pleasing is that it is female led. With the writing of Julie Fowler and the Radio Shows from Kathy Barham and Beth Dobson, it longer feels like I'm shouting in a vacuum. I feel a bit like the Charlie to these Angels, perhaps more Bosley. Look out world, the guitar isn't dead.

Beth started her new NWR show on Sunday, you can find details here. I listened to the show, applauding and Beth played three songs by Empty City Squares, an act that I'd heard of, but not gone much further. Silly old Don!

Empty City Squares is New Jersey's John Fotiadis and his latest album, 337, was recorded over a 7 year period. It's a very anglophile affair, at times reminiscent of the much better and less observed Pop end of Brit Pop. It is a melodic masterpiece, smack bang in the territory that we reside.

Brit Pop's better bands nodded heavily to the great Pop Rock artists of the 70's, 337 does the same. The excellent Slip Into A Daydream sounds a bit like John Miles fronting a Psych Pop band, A Conversation With The Sun is pure Andrew Gold. My Name Is Nobody could be Liverpool Express.

Nothing Got In The Way starts with a Cult like riff and morphs into a hint of jangle psych. It's Your Day is 60's Mod UK Beat and the big closer, Talk About The Weather is a six minute anthem that breaks into a riffaholic close. Campaign Song is another stand out song, anti politics, it is spot on McCartney in jaunty mode.

I'm reminded of the likes of Octopus, Straw and Superstar. All three are bands that should have been much bigger. Here's hoping that Empty City Squares break out in a way that these bands didn't. 337 is an album that demands your attention. Pop Rock of the very highest order.

You can listen to and buy the album here.  You really should!


Thursday 21 November 2019

I Don't Hear A Single Audio Extravaganza Volume 85

Volume 85 of the Audio Extravaganza is ready for your attention.  22 of IDHAS's favourite songs this week. Two of this week's songs feature the father on one and the son on the other. See if you can guess the connection and what the two songs are.

The Audio Extravaganza continues along side the upcoming new 2 hour show. This will hopefully continue it's progress in continually appearing on the Mixcloud Global Indie Rock Chart. Look out for Volume 86 which is a Special.

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. I've also learned that if you use the mixcloud player at the bottom of this page, each song title is shown as it plays.

Thanks as always to Jim Moody for his technical excellence. You can listen to the previous IDHAS Audio Extravaganzas on Mixcloud here. Here's Volume 85's playlist :

01 Ausley - Make This Relevant
02 Colin Wylie - Back On Your Feet Again
03 No Buses - In Stomach
04 Greg Pope - She's Already There
05 Dave Cope And The Sass - Seeing Things
06 Bottlecap Mountain - Dismayland
07 Asher And The Spinners - The Thought That Lingers
08 The Dowling Poole - Keeping The Stupid Stupid
09 The Junior League - Falling In Love
10 Silver Sound Explosion - Your World
11 The Growlers - Long Hot Night (Halfway to Certain)
12 Theatre Royal - Locked Together On The Lines
13 Jupiter Styles - Supermodel
14 Swedish Death Candy - Modern Child
15 The Inside Passenger - Truth Be Told
16 Drop Dead Brilliant - Festival High
17 The Drew Thomson Foundation - A Little More Time
18 TREMENDOUS - Copycat Killer
19 Candy - Give It Up
20 Macseal - Lucky for Some
21 Dunkie - (W.A.L.L.S.) Within A Little Love Song
22 The Zags - Wanna Wanna

IDHAS Audio Extravaganza Volume 85 Mixcloud Link 

Or Click Below


Wednesday 20 November 2019

Norman - Buzz And Fade

I've been telling everyone who would listen about how great this album is for the past month or so. I figured that I'd better tell you lot now. Norman have been around for quite some time, this is their fourth album and hopefully the one to hit pay dirt. The frustration kicks in here.

There are a few reviews of Buzz And Fade on the net and virtually every one says the same, obviously cut and pastes from some PR piece or Blurb. It's hard enough for bands to get their art to an apathetic or permanently busy audience. So if you are going to write something about it, show some interest in telling people why you like it, instead of the "Will This Do?" laziness.

An album as good as this deserves your thought and time, you need to listen to it properly. In their own small way, Norman have changed direction slightly. The songs here are even more focused, more complete and even more varied and it works beautifully. There's less focus on trying to write an anthem and this seems to have allowed the band to stretch out.

It's been six years since the Portland Oregon five piece released Into The Eventyr and Buzz And Fade has been well worth the wait. Hell You Are is an absolutely fantastic song. If Andy Partridge had wrote it, we'd be falling over ourselves to knight him. The fact that it is the ninth of the ten songs on show reveals how splendid the album as a whole is. Make No Bones about it, everyone should give it a listen.

The focus here is Indie, but not We Rock or We Think Indie. The feel is definitely more Brit than American. The nods to UK New Wave and Scottish Angular Pop are present too, but these fellas can play. Crystal Memory is so damn catchy and that catchiness runs through the old album. Already Gone has a great synth run, the song reminds me of the Pop element that was hidden away during Brit Pop.

A rhythmic song such as Nothing I Could Do is very Sugarplastic and contrasts well with the Noise Rock of Bindmender., which has a real Prog like keyboard run that duels with the lead Guitar. Easy To Love is pure Mitch Easter and My Old Ears is great Power Pop. The closer instrumental, Second Day Of Spring has a real Glam Rock stomp,

I really urge you to listen the whole album. Norman may have been around for 15 years or so, but this album sounds as fresh and exciting as a debut and that's its beauty. Buzz and Fade is up there for my Album Of The Year, it's certainly Top 10. It is an incredibly fine listen.

You can listen to and buy the album here. You should do both.


He's On His Soap Box Again : Reviews

I've just finished a review that will appear later. It is a new album that stands up with anything that I've ever heard. I've been listening to it for a month or so and so I thought I'd look around the internet to see what other people felt. I got more and more frustrated. The majority of the half dozen that I read, all miraculously said the same thing, described the album in the same way and said nothing about any of the songs.

All were obviously cut and pasted from a PR Release or Blurb. What is the point of this? Do people want to look cool, but don't particularly listen to any of the stuff? Are they just trying to get numbers up? It can't be Clickbait, because these bands aren't important enough to people. Clickbait is for the comfort listening of reviewers who want to get Facebook likes, it's always older stuff, led by nostalgia.

I really do not see the point of reviewing an album if you don't tell people why you like it and if you have listened to it, tell us what you think. If you haven't listened to it, why review? I read a lot of other people's writing and there are some fantastic writers out there. Writers who show they love music and you can feel the passion. Writers who make you listen to an album by a band that you don't like, because the writing is so great.

I do not yearn for olden days. The internet has brought as much good as bad, but one of the most irritating things is that everyone is an expert now. Everyone is in Showbiz, Everyone is a Star. Just because you have a Blog, doesn't mean that you can write. The judges are out there worldwide. If your reviews aren't acknowledged or liked, it may not be because of the crowded review market place, the fault of the internet or the state of the music industry. It may just be that people spot a PR piece and once they do they'll never bother with you again.

I'm still amazed at the success of I Don't Hear A Single. It grows and grows not because I'm such a wonderful writer, but because I try to tell you why I like an album and only review albums that I like. There is no quid pro quo or payment. People may not like the album I recommend, but at least they will listen to it, something many reviewers don't seem capable of.

Phew I'm glad that's off my chest!

Monday 18 November 2019

Silver Sound Explosion - Pop Dithyramb (Free Download)

It was Brian Bordello who turned me on to Silver Sound Explosion. Brian and I have a lot in common and know what each other will like. We also both come from the Industrial Wasteland  Pound Town that is St. Helens. The older brigade still can't get over the town changing counties from Lancashire to Merseyside, where as I like to look at it as the county of Nowhereshire.

There will be more news about Brian's solo musical adventures early next year, but first to Silver Sound Explosion, a Manchester band that recently reformed. Pop Dithyramb gathers ten of their earlier recordings and they are well worth a listen.

Ben Fuzz is something of a lost pop genius. He can certainly craft a catchy affair, there are some splendid choruses here. This is very much a Lo-Fi DIY affair, wonderfully so, there is a 60's feel to the songs, but more so a real Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers vibe.

There's also more modern comparisons, certainly a rocked up R. Stevie Moore, even Ian Broudie's solo album. There's also plenty of nods to the early 80's Postcard days in Glasgow. There is real with in the lyrics and some inspired rhyming couplets. However, it's the choruses that grab you most.

I wouldn't want the lo-fi description to put you off, because Pop Dithyramb is fine Bedroom pop, inspired at times. Recorded in Fuzz's Manchester Back Room, it really is a cracking listen. There's an array of percussion and some fine guitar riffs amongs the sing alongs.

The twang of Your World could be a single, Telephone Wired is Chinn and Chapman locked in a cupboard and Sidekick is almost a Bubblegum Shuffle. Kicks is noisy messy Garage Rock and the closer, Space Kid is a melancholic beauty. The band will be gigging around Manchester and the North West Soon. You can record Coronation Street and go and watch them.

You can listen to and download the album FREE here.  It will cost you nothing and take up a few minutes of your time. You can tell all your friends that you support new music. How good will that feel?


Sunday 17 November 2019

Dan Luke And The Raid - Out Of The Blue

When you are in your 20's, life should be messy, you haven't been trained for this, so you mix being popular with being an obnoxious tosser. It is about friends learning together. Alternatively, you could be in the UK, grow a beard, wear a woolen hat, talk about how great it is to be vegan and playing the latest War On Drugs album on your Crossley Record Player.

Thankfully, Dan Luke And The Raid choose the former and here we are told all about it. Out Of The Blue is a slightly messy affair, gloriously so, but it is also wonderfully melodic in it's absolutely charming lo-fi way. It's full of unexpected hooks and big choruses.

The stand out song is Disco Is As Disco Does, a killer chorus accompanying a UK New Wave verse. It's the constant tempo changes that makes the album so damn interesting. The despair in the verse of Golden Age breaks into a sort of Lounge Lizard chorus.

Rita Repulsa is very Lou Reed, yet Maybe It's The Drugs is a splendid Bop Shoo Wop song, very Wreckless Eric. Black Cat Heavy Metal is a cracking slice of UK Beat Psych Pop, bordering on Garage Rock. Exoskeleton is again very UK New Wave Post Punk.

The opening and closing songs on the album reveal the inventiveness. Farrah Mantra is C86 Psych, Last Goodbyes is moody twee indie par excellence. This Kentucky four piece have come up with an outstanding album. It's captivating. Out Of The Blue may be all over the place, but delightfully so. What a great listen it is.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


No Buses - Boys Loved Her

Whenever Japanese Guitar bands are mentioned, people immediately think of twee and Manga. Maybe even copy Beatles bands. I've even heard people ridiculously say, but they sing in Japanese, as if that has any relevance. I mean they are Japanese after all. Well No Buses are a quartet from Tokyo and they are nothing like any stereotype that you care to mention.

This album is so left field Indie as to bear little resemblance to Japan and yes the lyrics are in English for the philistines amongst us. Boys Loved Her resides in an area frequented by the US Indie 90's, the UK New Wave and Post Punk and C86 Glasgow. It is wonderfully inventive and absolute revelation.

Angular riffs slash out from everywhere, think Talking Heads and Franz Ferdinand. It sounds like an Indianapolis band recorded in a Glasgow Basement. Dandruff sounds like early XTC without the keyboards, In Stomach could appear on any album from The Sugarplastic that you'd care to name.

The Franz Ferdinand similarity is never so more apparent than on Ill Humor and Little Boy has a real Smiths feel. Rat and Medicine are both in The Strokes ball park. Sleepswimming has an hypnotic riff, a bit Dandy Warhols when they were interesting.

Untouchable You is another cracking song which opens with a Heroes like riff, but overall it's the complete album that enthuses me so much. Boys Loved Her is one of those albums that gets more and more interesting as you listen further.

There's a lot of debate about what Indie is and the catch all category that it has become. This to me is Indie. Inventiveness and breaking boundaries are much needed in these sophomore days. No Buses have fashioned up an outstanding 11 song affair that ranks with anything that you will hear this year. Exceptional!

The album is available everywhere and all the streaming sites. No Buses are destined to solely Big In Japan no longer.


Saturday 16 November 2019

Dave Cope And The Sass - Dave Cope And The Sass

I often joke about living in 1974, I mean I even walked to the shop this week, but this is more an ambition than a policy. Philadelphia's Dave Cope And The Sass are convincing me even more that this idea should be developed further. Afghan Coats and Shang-A-Lang's all round everyone!

Cope has been around for a while. He was first mentioned to me about a decade ago and A Proper Record. his 2014 album as Davey Cope And The English Breakfast is recommended. His previous recordings can be found here and I urge you to visit there.

Dave Cope And The Sass is essentially recorded as a three piece with Fred Berman and Ethan Rider, although it sounds much bigger than a Guitar, Bass and Drums Trio. This is Cope's most focused work yet and yes it is essential 70's.

I refuse to get involved in the Is It Power Pop nonsense, but if Badfinger and Raspberries are, then this is, although to me it's all splendid Pop Rock. I played My Way Out on a recent Audio Explosion and there was lots of applause, although there's more The Sugarplastic, maybe XTC, about the song, it is an absolute 4 minute gem.

The closing Ballad, From The Moment has hints of Andy Partridge, think This World Over. but overall the album is a magnificent celebration of the 70's. Bring My Whole Day Down is essentially ELO without the strings and Show Your Love, a trippy Argent. Living In The Middle is pure Christie.

High is a real harmonic Pop Rock show band "yeah man" sing along. But it is the Five And A Half Minute Opener, Seeing Things that grabs me most. Not a second is wasted, from the Beach Boys choral opening to the happy clappy verses to the foot stompin' chorus. It's a sort of Folk Rock gem. Not the most obvious opener, but it is inspired, all the way to it's uplifting end.

 This self titled album is wonderful, absolutely essential, it'll knock your socks off. Now I wonder if those Flares still fit me. You can listen to and buy the album here.


Friday 15 November 2019

Bottlecap Mountain - Dismayland

Dismayland is the fourth album from Austin Texas quartet, Bottlecap Mountain and it rocks along or I should say Pop Rocks along. Both Indie Rock (an irritating tag that captures the man, the dog and the bus they came in on) and Austin are crowded market places. Hopefully, something great will rise above the mediocre and Bottlecap Mountain seem to have it.

The hooks and choruses work beautifully in these beautifully arranged songs, but what is particularly great is the looseness of the material. This is partially exaggerated by Stewart Gersmann's top notch drawl that really matches itself to the material.

There's a looseness that's not quite as all over the place as the Black Crowes matched with an almost Van Morrison feel, not in the actual vocal, just the feel.  They could certainly do Country Rock, but rightly don't, so we'll settle on The Jayhawks at times.

Having said all this, the album opens up with a stomper in Dismayland, a real in your face blast. The pace slows a tad after this, but it's still all at pace. This allows the band to show what they can do. For instance, King Of Almost is wall to wall Power Pop with a splendid Cars like Keyboard break.

The stand out here is the magnificently moody The Big Sleep, it is a crackerjack of a song. Golden Heart even veers into a Deacon Blue vibe, particularly in the chorus. Compliments And Such is a fine Jangling Pop song.

Dismayland is a fine fine listen. A step away from those never ending love songs. Wonderfully unconstricted, these are ten songs to sing along and toe tap to. It's a really accomplished set of songs. You will be delighted to have this album in your collection.

You can buy the album via the band's website here and everywhere else. You can listen to the album here


Thursday 14 November 2019

Nick Frater - Full Fathom Freight-Train

OK! I've hung on to this for a long time. I've been bursting to tell you about it for months and held back waiting for the release date. Then that day arrived and I thought again. I decided to hold back. Not because it isn't wonderful, because it is, of course it is. But I wanted to allow other reviews to get out and about, before I expressed my thoughts.

This is simply because I consider Nick to be a great friend and quite a few know that. So I didn't want my review to be tainted with a "you would say that wouldn't you" tint. I've said in the past that if I Don't Hear A Single was an album, it would be a Nick Frater album and Mr Croydon doesn't let up here.

The man is a walking Jukebox. He's already probably two albums ahead of this. You just can't stop the pop. 2018's Goodbye Kayfabe was in IDHAS's Top 10 Of The Year as well as on many other lists. You can read that review here. Now Frater ups the ante with these 10 pop nuggets.

I consider Nick Frater to be one of the great singer songwriters of our age. If this was the 70's, he'd be selling millions, living in a castle with a pile of coke. Too many write about how awful their life and times are. I'm told it's much easier to write a sad song than a happy one. Well some work must have gone into this one.

My favourite song on first listen was What Does Good Look Like? It still is. It is Gilbert O'Sullivan in feel with full on harmonies, it is classic mid 70's stardust. But it is surrounded by top quality. Sunshine After Rain is west coast sea side Wilson-esque, Mermaid Street is pure Streets Of San Francisco and Your Latest Break Up Song is in Bay City Rollers territory.

There's a killer Pilot like riff that opens up the show stopper that is Holding On To You. There's even Disco Pop on The Getaway with a couple of superb Guitar Solos to boot. What is most noticeable most is that Frater stretches his vocals even further here. This adds a new dimension to the continued excellence in his arrangements. Full Fathom Freight-Train is a fun packed journey, an essential listen, a must have.

You can listen to and buy the album here. You can also buy the Vinyl Edition there. The CD is available on the always excellent Kool Kat label here.


Colin Wylie - Colin Wylie

Ontario's Colin Wylie was the drummer for Blinker The Star in those early glory days. More recently, he can be heard in Hinterlandband, an excellent gentle Folk Pop affair, far removed from the noise of those 90's days.

Now out of the blue, or pink, comes Wylie's debut solo album. Looking every inch, a Flaming Lip, on the front cover, not only is the album a surprise, it's also ridiculously versatile. It sounds like he wants to get out every different idea out to the great unwashed.

He succeeds in this, not because of all these directions, but because these songs are deeply original. The album has a foundation of great left field pop. When it does veer off, and it does, it is brought back to earth with another top Pop offering.

There are ten songs in these 34 minutes, three are instrumentals. one of which, Georgia May, is a reminder of Hinterlandband. Don't be put off by the lack of words, Surf Wawa is like a Miami Vice chase seek and capture soundtrack. These other seven songs have words aplenty.

The album is held together by two magnificent wit laden Pop Songs. Pop, Chips And A Bardown is a masterpiece in catchy with killer lines (Weekend Weekend, We Stay Up Till Ten) and ends with a wonderful tempo change. Back On Your Feet Again is top notch 70's Singer Songwriter Pop Rock.

Something Else has a hint of Orgone Box, Can't Stop The Havelots is in Prince P Funk territory. Then there's The Closer an aching Ballad that morphs into a McCartney-esque harmonic close. Have no doubt that there's a lot to take in here, but it is so worth it. Mr Wylie, you appear to have a solo career! Don't leave it so long next time.

You can buy the album as a download or Vinyl and CD here. You really should! You can listen to it on all the streaming sites including Apple Music here.


Daystar - The Complete Recordings

Daystar's debut album is wonderfully and unashamedly 70's. It feels like a lost album from that period beginning at Glam Rock and Punk, bringing back memories of UK Music shows on Kids TV. The 3 2 1 of Supersonic, the glitter of Top Of The Pops.

The Complete Recordings doesn't register as a pastiche, it feels actually of its time and the album title reinforces this opinion. It's in cahoots with those great 70's Pop Rocks. Think Badfinger, Pilot, Jigsaw and Liverpool Express. There is a definite UK feel to the album, although that may be because the country was so dominate in the melodic pop of the era.

The quartet from Portland, Oregon are not just about this Brit sound though. There are hints of West Coast and Southern Rock, but everything they play is beautifully played and arranged. This also sounds like a proper album, something to listen to from start to finish. It is ideal for a Vinyl, or I should say LP, release. Thankfully it has one.

As stated, The Complete Recordings is pure 70s, but it isn't stuck in one gear or style. Right At Home is Glitter Band Glam stomp. A Lot To Love is Doolin' Dalton Soft Rock, Angeline is Badfinger to a tee. Ballad Of Sister Sadie May is Country Rock of the highest order.

Warped Reality is splendidly laid back with a haunting riff, Get Yourself Away is another example of sadness wrapped in great melody. It's West Coast Rock at it's finest. Angelina is the big piece, the Guitar sounds very Dark Side Of The Moon. This album really is a comfort blanket in these harsher times.

Daystar have provided an outstanding opening album. It knows what it wants to do and goes off and does it to perfection. Many dabble and have a go at this sort of Pop Rock. Few master it. These four have and this will be high up in my Best Of 2019 list. It's Exceptional.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Wednesday 13 November 2019

Project: Ghost Outfit - Project: Ghost Outfit

Imagine that you discover an album that includes Bill Lloyd, an artist that you admire greatly and cover regularly. Then, as a Cheap Trick Fanboy, you see that Tom Petersson is in the group. Well, add to that go-to studio guitarist and songwriter Adam Shoenfeld and Straight Outta Nashville comes Project: Ghost Outfit.

With Keith Brogdon on Drums, the quartet have quietly released one of the surprise albums of 2019. There are, as expected, hints of Cheap Trick and Bill Lloyd's Power Pop excellence, but more than that, these seven songs combine to provide one of the best melodic Pop Rock albums of the year.

I was intrigued to find out more about the band and how this came to be and so I talked to Adam and asked him for more details. Interestingly, it was Bill Lloyd that came up with the band name. Shoenfeld tells us more :

"Here’s some unnecessary Nashville incestuous factoids. I met Keith Brogdon (Drummer and Thinking Out Loud Design owner) through his wife and then we had a band named Stroller together

It was through Keith, if I recall, that I met Tom Petersson and his wife Alison. Ironically, before marrying Tom, Alison lived straight across the parking lot in an apartment complex from me, but we didn’t know each other..

Anyway, we all started having babies at the same time. So we all became really good friends and hung all of the time. I met Bill Lloyd at one of Tom and Alison’s holiday parties. I knew who he was, as I had played with his ex-duo partner from Foster & Lloyd, Radney Foster. (Keith played for Radney at one point too)."

So what made you get together and record?

"It wasn’t uncommon at a Petersson party, that the musician folk would end up in Tom’s music room talking music, oogling at his very eclectic collection of guitars, and sometimes accidentally jamming.
I’m sure it was one of those parties where one of us said, “Hey, we should get together and write sometime.”

So Tom, Bill and I got in the room and did just that. We felt a cool magic between us as a writing team, so we did it 6 more times. When it was time to record, Keith was the obvious choice. He was our friend and we all had played with him in other bands. (He even sat in with Cheap Trick to cover a show (maybe more) for Bun E!). I believe Bill played with Trick for their Beatles thing in Vegas too.

It took several years with our schedules to get them all wrapped up, but I know we’re all super proud of these songs."

The album will catch many by surprise. Could you tell us who does what on it?

"Somebody's Heart has me on main vocal, then Bill comes in with the harmony. When it hits the chorus, Bill switches to the double vocal approach. I love how all of the sudden, on the hook, Tom’s vocal pops in on the low harmony and Bill jumps back up high. Left Side Guitar is Bill, Right side is me and I play the main lick and solos."

"Hang On starts with Bill’s brilliant guitar sound on the Right Side. I do the Left Side Guitar and solo. I am lead vocalist and with Bill on the Harmonies."

"Mess My Mind has the unmistakeable Bill Lloyd on  main vocal and Mr. Petersson’s killer Bass part. I play left side Guitar and Piano. Bill plays Right Side Guitar."

"What Are You Looking For  has a bit more stuff going on. The bulk of the Keyboards and Strings are Dave Cohen, with the exception of high intro and turnaround piano part. I played that and the Wah Wah keyboard sound as well.

Acoustic Guitar and the amazing Guitar solo are Bill, who is also Right Side Guitar. I'm Left Side Guitar and Lead Vocals. Bill is also on Background Vocals."

"Ups and Downs is me on Vocals Right Side Guitar and the Guitar Solo and Bill on Left Side Guitar. I love Dave Cohen's haunting B3 on this and Bill’s chorusey sounding Guitar. Bill is on Background Vocals and I love how how we’re both kinda singing lead in the bridge."

"Never Remember has who else, but Tom Petersson on lead vocal? Tom plays Bass on the album. Bill plays Electric Guitar, I play Acoustic Guitar. Both Bill and I are on Background Vocals."

"Buying Time is really a reflection on getting older and going back to the old stomping grounds….I remember personally reflecting on the club, 12th & Porter…..The difference 10 years makes, who’s hangin' where….and kinda wishing you could go back to when you walked through the door of club and you knew all of the faces.

There's almost a double lead vocal, as it starts with me, but Bill kinda takes over in the pre-chorus and then we join. Bill plays Left Guitar and I Play Right. Personally, I think Bill’s guitar solo on this is one of the best I’ve EVER HEARD! He blows my mind! The Outro Guitar line is Bill as well…of course. Great B3 again by Dave Cohen.

You can buy the album at Amazon here and i-Tunes here. It's also available on Google Play and to listen to on Spotify and Apple Music. You can also listen to the songs in full here. You can find out more information on Project: Ghost Outfit's Facebook Page here.


Nagillum - 52 Weeks

I've been listening to a lot of Prog and Psych lately, so it's been refreshing to be back in Pop Rock territory with Nagillum's 52 Weeks album. I've had the album for a while now and should have told you about it much earlier. The album just grows and grows on you.

Australia's Mark Mulligan offers up nothing that is mind boggingly complex. 52 Weeks is chirpy Pop of the highest order. Kick off your shoes and get ready to sing along. The songs are arranged expertly, the hooks aplenty and the general joy count is high.

Bands Around His Heart has a hint of Andrew Gold doing Country Pop. Underlinked is great 70's US Pop Rock and Honey's Gone goes one step further, it's a little bit Elton, a little bit Joel. Gazelle is all acoustic moody, wonderfully so, with a killer big chorus.

Next Time We See Each Other bombs along and continues that Feel Good move. Everyone Will Be Your Friend In Heaven is a real happy clappy sing along. One More Year is a slowed down Torch Song, that works equally well.

The overall feel to 52 Weeks is American Pop Rock and I keep thinking of Andrew Gold without the piano. There's also more than a hint of Robbie Williams. I Know I Know!!!! But if you put aside the irritating red coat buffoon facase of Williams, when he's good, he's good.

Nagillum has fashioned up a real good ole listen Retro Affair. Just the thing for these upcoming long winter nights.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Macseal - Super Enthusiast

I've often said that bands from the EMO and Pop Punk field are the most impressive, interesting and innovative when they stretch out from the genre. If they can stand the Sell Out accusations, the material takes on a whole new life.

Such an example is New York quartet, Macseal. Three great EPs have led to this debut album. Those EPs were primarily EMO, but the time spent has developed into Super Enthusiast and what a varied left field Indie album this is. Tip Top is the word to describe it.

Comparisons come naturally, but the band seem equally at ease with IRS College Rock as Glasgow C86 and UK New Wave. All this and there is more than a hint of light Grunge and complex prog like time chord changes at times. There is also a hint of Dream Pop.

Confused? Don't Be. Just listen! There's a real slacker feel to Nothing's A Sure Thing, Shelley. but that song enjoys a Postcard label like riff. Compare the moody Picture Perfect with it's a Killer solo to the Safe Spot, a hybrid, say The Raincoats doing Math Rock.

It's the Pop and hooks that shine through most though. Lucky For Some has a jangly catch all feel, Always Hazy is inspired Flower Pop. Irving feels all Friday I'm In Love sound wise. These hooks combined with the complexity, almost Modern Prog, of Mystery Inc.

So much is packed into these 11 songs. Super Enthusiast is an outstanding debut. Whatever Indie is, it should be this. I look forward to hearing much more from macseal. I can't recommend this album highly enough.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


The Speedways - Just Another Regular Summer (2019 Extended Edition)

I want to return to an album that I reviewed in July 2018 and was on my Best Of 2018 list. I seem to cover less Power Pop these days. I Don't Hear A Single just seems to be evolving this year and it is leading me, rather than vice versa. 

But I'm delighted to see what was originally a one off for Matt Julian developing in to something much bigger. The excellent Rum Bar Label has gotten hold of the album for the CD Release and five bonus tracks are added. If you aren't already on board, you should be. 

Below is my original review. The link to listen and buy are still relevant and you can pick up the new extended Rum Bar CD at the same link.

I get incredibly frustrated with the UK. I've stopped fighting on forums about Guitar Music being dead, Power Pop being irrelevant and that people won't attend gigs. If I see another Classic Band Poll, I will scream. What's wrong with now, build it and they will come.

So I'm delighted to be in familiar Power Pop Territory here and keeping up with a recent theme, The Speedways do not sound like something that comes from Nottingham or Leicester, home of The Junipers and Diesel Park West. We'll forget about Kasabian, because we like to.

Just Another Regular Summer is pure US New Wave Power Pop. Think 1979 - 1983, everything from The Beat and The Romantics to The Plimsouls. The Speedways are the brain child of The Breakdowns' former Guitarist, Matt Julian and I don't think I've enjoyed a Power Pop album as much since The Stanleys outing last year and to emphasise, this is from the UK, home supposedly of Grime and The X Factor.

This is no nonsense, Summer Pop, chiming riffs, big choruses, say what you've got to say and move on to the next, no extended mediocrity here. This is an album of a dozen 45's, each brimming with joy about the Power Pop staples of looking for or losing love.

Julian's Tom Petty like vocal suits the material beautifully and the arrangements are spot on, even to that wait for the solo moment. It's hard to pick a favourite song, but I am smitten by the Duane Eddy twang of One Kiss Can Lead To Another.

Lonely Girl is pure New Wave Synth twee, A Double Shot is Merseybeat, All I Want is Bubblegum Ramones. However, it's the straight ahead Power Pop of the title track and In Common With You that appeals most, simply because it's so long since I heard a UK band do it so well.

I've seen mentions that Just Another Regular Summer is a one off. I do hope not. This will be in the end of the year list. Highly Recommended. You can listen to and buy the album here. It's currently available for a bargain £6.


Sunday 10 November 2019

I Don't Hear A Single Audio Extravaganza Volume 84

Volume 84 of the Audio Extravaganza is ready for your attention.  23 of IDHAS's favourite songs this week. Two exclusives for you here! Courtesy of Futureman Records, an advance listen to Randy Sly's version of Books Are Burning from the upcoming XTC Tribute album. Secondly, an exclusive listen to the new single from Danny McDonald, which is released in a week's time, courtesy of Popboomerang.

 After all the exciting announcements of the last week, I confirm that the Audio Extravaganza continues along side the upcoming new 2 hour show. This will hopefully continue it's progress in continually appearing on the Mixcloud Global Indie Rock Chart.

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.I've also learned that if you use the mixcloud player at the bottom of this page, each song title is shown as it plays.

Thanks as always to Jim Moody for his technical excellence and also to Kevin Beech for the image above. You can listen to the previous IDHAS Audio Extravaganzas on Mixcloud here. Here's Volume 84's playlist :

01 Project  Ghost Outfit - Hang On
02 Ben Vogel - Cassidy
03 Shadow Brother - The Choir Invisible
04 Colin Wylie - Pop, Chips And A Bardown
05 Randy Sly - Books Are Burning
06 Wayward Sons - Joke's On You
07 Danny McDonald - Cordyline
08 Daystar - Right At Home
09 The Vegan Leather - French Exit
10 Gyllene Tider - Chrissie Hur Mår Du (Live Malmö 6 July 2019)
11 The Speedways - In Common With You
12 Norman - The World And You
13 Nagillum - Everyone Will Be Your Friend In Heaven
14 Joe Kane - Your Own Sweet Sheila
15 Roger Heathers - The Pack
16 Emerald Sunday - Nothing Lasts Forever
17 The Tor Guides - My Hippie Mess
18 Grace Potter - On My Way
19 Young Guv - Can I Luv U In My Own Way
20 Alan Price -  Jarrow Song (Single Version)
21 The Discarded - Expectations
22 White Denim - Zin
23 The Fade - Achilles Heel

IDHAS Audio Extravaganza Volume 84 Mixcloud Link 

Or Click Below


Friday 8 November 2019

Sparks - Gratuitous Sax And Senseless Violins 25th Anniversary Edition (3CD)

The first three albums that I bought under my own steam, as an eleven year old with a Birthday EMI Record Token, included Sparks' Propaganda. I knew every single word of every single song, even though I didn't understand what many of those words meant. I thought those lyrics were great then, looking back, I think they are a masterclass now.

I've been a real fanboy since. However, I am a music fan not suited to Internet Fan Forums and I have the scars to show it. I may adore a band. I will buy every album out of loyalty. But, I won't say an album is great when it isn't and the lead up to this 1994 gem hadn't been that pleasant to these Sparks infested ears.

The 80's hadn't been that great for Sparks. It started with the boring Terminal Jive and after two terrific band albums, it seemed to go down hill. In Outer Space seemed to be phoned in, Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat is dreadful and Interior Design was mediocre, if you could find it to buy it. This was all partially saved by the magnificent Danceathon that is Music That You Can Dance To, but by 1989, it looked like Sparks had seen their better days.

How wrong I was! The four year supposed hiatus wasn't that. They had spent most of their time working on a soundtrack for a Manga Film, Mai The Psychic Girl. Successive Big Name Directors were involved, but for one reason or another, opportunity after opportunity fell through and the soundtrack remains unreleased. I had no idea why I was watching The Richard And Judy show in 1993, but imagine my surprise when the musical guest were Sparks doing National Crime Awareness Week. Those boys were back.

I used to say that Sparks were at their best when they were at their weirdest. They took chances that were mind blowing and Gratuitous Sax And Senseless Violins was the third such example for me, following on from Indiscreet and Angst In My Pants. You cannot say that now, because from 2002 onward, every Sparks album is wonderfully inventive. But it's hard to describe how great it was to hear this album from first listen on.

It was also a little out of kilter with the times. Of course you had the likes of The Prodigy and The Orb, but the Guitar was back with a vengeance and Brit Pop strutted around like it invented music, but a killer single was ready to take on all comers, backed by a video that is a wonderful black and white homage. The tale of sibling rivalry that is When Do I Get To Sing My Way is magnificent. Hooks aplenty, the lyrical genius of Ron Mael and you can dance to it. It remains a fan favourite and rightly so.

The whole album is incredibly inventive, full of wit, charm and regular surprises. Big Choruses, inventive techno hooks and oh those song words! The fast talking verses to the big chorus on (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing.  The whimsical Now That I Own The BBC. The splendid Frankly Scarlett I Don't Give A Damn which could easily fit on Angst In My Pants. The angry I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car. Sparks remained as different as ever, yet still more than slightly Anglophile.

There is a nod to that unreleased soundtrack on Tsui Hark, as well as a mod to those 80's albums with Let's Go Surfing, yet the stand out here is Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil. It's a sprawling hypnotic joy of a song, certainly in my Top 10 Sparks Songs. Even better news was to come. After a celebratory lauded return to the live stage at London's Shepherds Bush Empire. The all round reaction to that led to a UK Tour in 1995.

I'd saw the band on the 1975 Indiscreet Tour when it was all screaming girls and a minor Beatlemania. 1995 was very different. Grown Adults were crying with the emotion of it all, even Ron was in tears at the reaction at the end of the Manchester gig. Sparks were definitely back and in 2019, they seem even more relevant and loved, still picking up a new breed of younger fans.

Their current album, Hippopotamus is a magnificent offering. Songs that are a development of the past 20 years, but also songs like Missionary Position that could easily fit on Kimono My House. I can't think of a band as groundbreaking and modern who have been releasing albums for approaching 50 years.

So what of the three discs here? The first is a top notch remaster of the original album. Disc 2 is largely B Sides from the original CD Singles. Ideal if you missed these first time round and including a BBC Session, things like She's An Anchorman and mixes from the National Crime Awareness EP. It is the third disc that will light up the eyes of the fan.

Disc 3 contains unreleased songs. 17 of them including the unreleased EP from Live Drummer, Christi Haydon. These demos are more than interesting and a collector's delight. There's even a version of Mid-Atlantic with Ron's demo vocal.

Sparks remain in a field of their own. No other band are like them. No other band offer such a career wide variety of music. No other band have such a wide range of fans of all ages. Gratuitous Sax And Senseless Violins wasn't just a return to what they do best, it remains one of the finest albums of the last 25 years. If you don't have it, remedy that now. If you do, marvel at the additions on this third disc.

You can pre-order the album here. It is released on Friday 15 November. Full track details can also be found via the same link. For those new to Sparks, you will also note today's release of Past Tense, a new career covering Best Of that is available in 2 and 3 disc versions. Details are again in the link.