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Sunday, 16 May 2021

Ruby Bones - Laser Tooth Tiger


One of the most irritating side issues of the Lockdown has been music that wants to tell you how bad things are. It is all a bit like searching Google for advice about your aches and pains. It doesn't relieve your concerns, it just convinces you that you have Beri Beri.

Things haven't been great, but constantly hearing people moaning about being imprisoned, when they never went out anyway, grates and it is worsened when they decide to write a song about it. You yearn for something positive to listen to and such albums have been in short shrift.

Thank goodness for New Jersey's Ruby Bones. The band's second album is exactly what Pop Rock should be. Optimistic, Chirpy, Joyful Guitar led songs that say look we good do this or soon we will be able to do that. Laser Tooth Tiger is a wonderfully optimistic album that just bounces along. 

The album reminds you a lot of the Indie scene of the late 90s / early noughties. The feel is very UK riff led, splendidly so, with all the big choruses. But there are plenty of US references. At times it sounds like a happy version of The Strokes, albeit with a lot more lyrics. 

There is a real bounce and pace to the album that just grabs you. You hear bits of Glam Rock, Slacker Pop and much more. The only the time that Ruby Bones slow down is on Talk About, a song that should be coming to a TV Advert near you.

Press Rewind is a Brit Pop anthem of the highest quality, but it is those joyful choruses that hit you most. The likes of Rooftop, Not Enough and Tired Eyes will have your feet tapping furiously and Don't Lose Your Head is everything you could ever want in a Pop Song. Laser Tooth Tiger is Outstanding!

You can listen to and buy the album (for the Bargain Price of $3.50) here.

Saturday, 15 May 2021

Mick Dillingham Interviews : Derrero.

I will freely admit that for much of the nineties, besides the obvious greats of XTC, Robyn Hitchcock and Captain Sensible, the fast majority of bands and artists I was well into were American. It seemed to these ears that there was an unending flow of quality, interesting melodic guitar music from over the pond that easily trumped the fashion conscious Brit Pop The latter seemed like an Anthematic rip off of my older siblings record collection 

Its an interesting phenomena in music that even though bands often create music totally independent of other contemporary music, there can be something in the water of the time that means there are other bands also creating music of a similar ilk. From the outside it can seem like a movement, though when delved into more closely it turns out to be a coincidence. As the decade approached its end one such movement sprang into life in Britain. 

Melodic gravitas progressive popsike of stunning beauty and grace made by bands like Super Furry Animals, Orange, Orgone Box, Octopus, Supernaturals, Silverheel, Lilac Time and The Chrysanthemums was all a joy to behold. The two I loved the most had to be Straw and the fabulous Derrero. Championed by both John Peel and Mark and Lard, it seemed for a while, especially around the time of their radio hit Radar Intruder, that Ash Cooke, Andy Fung, Dave Hirst and Mary Wycherley who made up the mighty Derrero came so damn close to breaking on through to a more widespread popularity. 

Over three albums and three EPs, Derrero grew to be glorious with their gorgeous melodies, wonderful production and seductive harmonies, culminating in the superb swansong Comb The Breaks, before drifting apart and moving onto new musical projects. They always remained friends, even did the occasional ad hoc live show down the years.  But now they have returned with a brilliant, fill your heart with joy, new album Time Lapse on Recordiau Cae Gwynn Records which is everything you would want from them and more. Time to sit down with Ash and Andy and talk about it all.  

Ash: “Neither of my parents make music or play instruments, but there was always interesting music in the house. I remember being drawn to records that they had by Buddy Holly, The Beatles, Geno Washington & Peddlers and the harmonies of songwriters like The Everly Brothers & John Denver.

They also had comedy records by Peter Sellers and those weird covers albums with some bloke playing the Hammond Organ to demonstrate stereo. I was drawn to odd bits of music like that. I loved record sleeves as a kid (still do) and liked looking at the pictures on gatefold albums. Boney M’s "Oceans Of Fantasy" was my favourite. It opens out twice so there are four sides to the picture. Classic times!

My Dad bought a little tape player for loading games on to a home computer that we had, but I was more fascinated by the idea of recording myself and my guitar. It was really weird to hear my own voice for the first time. Eventually I learnt to use a second tape machine as a way of multi tracking recordings. The final step in my conversion to a lifetime love of home recording came when I acquired my first 4 track. It changed my world forever.

I was taught to play the guitar in Primary school by a local musician. It got me out of Maths for one hour a week, but I just loved it and played all the time. I wrote bags of songs that were all crap, but I cherished them and pretended to release my own albums and play gigs in the house. I played my first gig at Primary school and got paid a Mars bar! 

Later on I used to do proper gigs in Secondary school. I remember that we put a scratch band together to support Dr Phibes & The House Of Wax Equations in our sixth form. We were rubbish but I got my first taste of what a band can sound like through a full PA. I didn't really have a regular band before going off to Art College in Falmouth. As well as playing in school though, friends used to come over on the weekend and we would record hour after hour of Brian May inspired rock Jams. Those were the days! I remember building drums from ice cream tubs. Still have those tapes – very weird.”

Andy: “I grew up in Trinidad and my earliest musical memories are driving to the beach listening to my parent's tapes in the car, from Reggae to James Last to The Beatles. Later after moving to England in the mid 80s, I formed my first band at the church that my dad was the Pastor of. As well as playing drums. I started writing songs on guitar, my chord knowledge was basic, but enough to write and actually my song writing is still quite simple chord wise. I then went on to join a band called Jive Ass Blast and started getting into Psychedelics like weed, mushrooms and LSD. That was the beginning of a lifelong love of Psychedelics which influenced my music and visual art. 

I was also drummer in a Christian Funk band called City Gate and played guitar and sung in a band with friends called Shanti. This was the beginning of me melding drumming with singing which went on to be a key part of Derrero. I was playing in a band in Falmouth called Big Chief which was completely folky and doing trad folk covers. When the fiddle player and her boyfriend left, we were in need of new musicians and a new direction. I knew Ash and Dave played guitar and bass so asked them. 

Our leader Rob was a funny, cool and eccentric guy and he had really good contacts with lots of pub landlords throughout Cornwall. We rehearsed up a set of covers from the snooker theme to the Grateful Dead and played all over Cornwall and occasionally Devon. It was really good gigging experience and developed us as musicians. It was also a great source of extra income. 

After college we relocated to Brighton and started Derrero with a different bass player Stacey. We played as much as we could and saw lots of cool experimental bands in Brighton along with Gorkys. We chatted to them after, little knowing that we would go on to support them and become friends in years to come.   

My girlfriend at the time, Mary Wycherley, got a place studying film at Caerleon near Newport, so we relocated to Newport and Dave joined us. Brighton and Newport were important places for us getting experience in playing live and honing our sound, which at first was very high energy and punky three piece sound with melodic two part harmonies.”

Ash: “Dave, Andy, Mary and I met in Falmouth, but we didn't form Derrero until after we graduated and left. This is the part of the band history that is most misinterpreted. Andy was in a band called Big Chief that had just lost their guitarist and bassist. I remember that Dave was driving me along Wood Lane in this great gold Capri that he owned. Andy stopped us and mentioned about the band situation. Dave and I jumped at the chance to join. There was another member of the band called Rob who was a lot older than us and was kind of the band leader. 

We spent two years travelling all over Cornwall in a knackered camper van playing in pubs and clubs. Textbook apprenticeship, I guess. Mary was Andy's girlfriend at the time and she sometimes sang in other Falmouth bands. After we graduated from Falmouth Andy, Mary and I moved to Brighton for a year and started Derrero.  The first week there, we sat in the front room of our flat and put our tunes on the table. The plan was to start getting gigs like crazy and get signed - like you do. 

The first ever Derrero gig was at the Free Butt pub in 1995. Dave had gone back to Kent to work for his parents and another college friend of ours, Stacey Harvey, played Bass. Brighton was interesting at the time, because it was full of ex Falmouth artists like Pete Fowler and Rob Ramsden. Jo Nery the actress was there. She has since gone on to be in Ideal with Johnny Vegas. The Brighton year was a lot of fun and we worked hard to get gigs. 

We played loads of shitty London pubs with noise limiters that cut the power off when ever you struck a snare drum. One gig was in this pub in Basingstoke. The Landlord was ex military and a bit if an odd ball. We had only played about three songs when he told us to pack up and go home because we didn't sound like our demo tape 'where is the girl singer' he complained. We were pissed off because we had hired a van and travelled a long way. So we asked the audience if they wanted us to continue and they were with us so we carried on. At the end of the night the landlord gave us the money and wondered if we wanted to book another gig!!! 

When Mary got a place on a Film & Animation degree course in Newport Gwent Andy wanted to go with her and I didn't want to break the band, so I went along too. Stacey opted to stay in Brighton and our old pal Dave decided to rejoin our merry gang and that was how we ended up in Wales. After a disastrous Christmas playing some money making gigs in Cornwall, we headed back to our new home in Newport. Our van died on the way and it took us eleven hours to make the four hour journey. 

To begin with the plan was to be playing regular gigs in South Wales within six months and be part of the scene which we did. We ran Derrero as a business for a while to get funding to buy another van. Building on the funding idea, we also bagged another £200 from The Princes Trust and recorded a demo at Cardiff's Big Noise studio in early 1996.   Later in the year, Big Noise owner Greg Haver was at one of our Newport gigs to see Flyscreen who he was producing at the time. He was interested in starting a label and agreed to record more Derrero tunes. 

We were so well rehearsed in those days that we laid down the backings for seventeen songs in one day. It was rough and ready, but that was the way we sounded at the time – all gung ho energy. We had never really recorded with this band either, so it was all new territory. The vocals were put down after Xmas in early 1997 and all of a sudden we had an album.”

Andy: “One thing that defined us is our enthusiasm and commitment to rehearsing and vocals. We were all signing on and could commit to the band full time. Ash and I were constantly writing too. We both had a wealth of songs to choose from with our two styles complimenting each other, but also quite different. This was definitely a strength of the band. Once with Big Noise and the first album was out, which was recorded and released quickly, we were free to work on the new songs coming through. 

Greg Haver produced us and he was developing as well, so we were experimenting and learning on the job. Our approach to recording was very free and we weren't afraid to try anything out. Fuelled by coffee and weed, the sessions often sounded pretty layered and psychedelic. Bands that we were into were varied and many. but certainly Ween, Grandaddy, Super Furry Animals, Gorkys, Sparklehorse, Teenage Fanclub and further back The Beach Boys and Neil Young. 

Harmonies were definitely the staple on which everything was built from there launching off into any direction. Radar Intruder was key for us as John peel picked up on it and it led to our first session. John championing the band was a real boost as he was so revered in the world of alternative music and so important for the exposure of new acts trying to do something different.

 I would say that our Art background was very important in informing us as a band. It was one of the things that set us apart. We were of course lumped in with the Welsh movement. Like, Super Furry Animals, we prided ourselves on a very creative approach to production and song writing. There was a feeling of kinship with some American bands that we'd arrived at through shared influences, but at times randomly.”

Ash: “It must be noted for the record too that Le Pub owner Kieran put out the Dipstick/Tiny Shoes single for us at the same time. We used the Big Noise versions of these songs, although producer Rich Jackson was supposed to do the session but was unavailable. Le Pub was our main haunt and was the last place that I played with the group in 2002. 

A lot of the songs on the first album dated back to the Brighton days and were quite old, this is the case with many bands first albums I guess. Dipstick was originally written in a country style version at half the speed! We played it as a 'Breeders version' in rehearsal one day for a laugh and Greg came bursting in wondering what the tune was!!

We had a lot of fun with the vocals on that album. Riddle & Bend had stuff sung down traffic cones and there was a lot of screaming. The album seemed to do quite well. I don't really recall much, but our gigs certainly picked up once it came out. Greg’s business partner, Ceri worked for the Super Furry’s stage crew and his girlfriend worked for Ankst who managed them and Gorkys Zygotic Mynci etc. So we were able to get support slots with them all. 

We Played in Coppers Field Cardiff with The Fall and a million dates in London. A stand out moment I guess had to be getting the first Peel session. Small Pocket was recorded quickly after the first album came out and was fresh with new songs. We took more time to record each song and produce things a bit more. It is still my favourite set of tunes. 

Super Furry Animals stored their gear at the studio and we were able to borrow bits and bobs for our sessions. I think that we were all taken a back by how much the band had grown musically in a year. It gained us a new level of respect too. With this in mind we cracked on and began recording the second album. 

Radar Intruder was one of those songs that didn't feel like it would be much good until it was recorded and then we all knew it was good. We were moving forward doing what we dreamed off. Doing more Peel stuff on the back of that record was amazing. People started to respect what we were doing more.

Recording at Maida Vale was funny too as the Beeb was still quite old fashioned then. We got there early expecting to do a full days recording, but once the tape op had loaded the machine at about 10 am, we saw no one until the engineer arrived after lunch. With a fag in mouth, he recorded us till about 5 then announced it was time for the pub before mixing. The whole thing wrapped up at about midnight. 

In 1998 we did our longest string of gigs supporting Catatonia. The shows were all sold out. In fact 1998 & 1999 were busy years. We toured with Granddaddy, Sebadoh and Gorkys again. I also did a string of teaching workshops with valleys poet Patrick Jones. 

We had all moved over to Cardiff as well by this time, so we spent a good of time in the studio practising and playing at being a ‘proper band’! There can be a general sound that surrounds bands that live and work in the same city or area. I think that because a lot of the bands rehearsed in the same place in Cardiff, then ideas possibly got passed through the walls.

Granddaddy's first album opened up the door for raw room sounding drums on records, but we were into Teenage Fanclub, Beck, Ween, Bonzo's, Big Star, Elliot Smith. Good harmonies and interesting production. Our Welsh contemporaries were also a strong influence on how to operate as a band. You learn a lot by working with bands that are more successful that you!

Andy and I wrote songs separately and then brought them to the band. Occasionally either one of us might suggest a tweak here and there, but we respected what the other person brought in and kept them mostly intact. Harmony was important because we loved The Beach Boys and because we both wanted to be singing. It happened naturally but it was a bit of a trademark too. 

When it came to recording however everyone had an input into sounds and overdubs. Many a time Dave would shout his approval of a particular part from the sofa where he was on the Playstation.  The second album, Fixation With Long Journeys, was quite frustrating for us because it took a long time for it to be released. 

The Big Noise studio building had been compulsory purchased and demolished by the WDA as part of Cardiff City centre's development programme and until they coughed up the compensation, there was no budget to release the album. A lot of the songs on the album had been written around the time of Small Pocket Machine, but were recorded at different times in different locations. So I can appreciate where folk’s reading of the disjointed feel to the album comes from. 

By the time it did come out we already had another albums worth of new material ready that we were more interested in playing. Those tunes were only ever recorded on my 4 track and I have since lost the tapes! There were some great songs there. 

I like to think that that material could have made an amazing third Big Noise album, that had the label survived, would have built on the achievements of Fixation and pushed the band into new territory, but it was never meant to be. As fate would have it the whole WDA thing effectively killed off Big Noise and regrettably for everyone we parted company with Greg & Ceri.”

Andy: “Due to the various problems with the development of the city centre and delays in the release of Fixation, it was an album that encompassed songs from a wide period. The Radar Intruder and Unstraightforwardtune EPs were released to keep stuff coming out. But looking back we had so much great material recorded then that ideally we should have released two full albums from the material recorded over this period. That's why there is a disjointedness with Fixation. 

We were developing so fast as songwriters and players that we had a wealth of material written and recorded. Had the label not had these financial restrictions we could have released two great albums using the material. We were forced to condense it and it perhaps suffers a bit as a result. A more perfect album could have been made with the extra ep tracks and some of what was on Fixation, but we actually had a load of great tracks that fitted in sonically with a lot of the tracks on the album that didn't make it on that would have been great spread out over two albums.”

Ash: “After the end of Big Noise, we wondered how we could get another album out with all the new material that we had been stockpiling. We had just recorded our third Peel session and felt excited about what we could do next on record, but at the same time we also felt a little washed up. I guess we had realised that no one was gonna hand us success on a plate. We found ourselves in Maida Vale doing Peel again, but yet we were unsigned!

It was suggested that we approach the band Melys to help us make an album. Melys had their own label and studio in North Wales. They were keen on the project and gave us twelve days to record it in. The experience was brilliant. We had this big master schedule of how to record the songs that would allow us to do a song a day. It was like a military exercise. Nothing was gonna get missed out. 

Gez Jones engineered it and provided production where it was needed. He was a massive support to us and helped to bring out the best in the music. Comb The Breaks is the truest representation of how we wanted to sound on record. We were also exploring new ideas with rhythm loops and keyboard sounds. We returned to studio Sylem one more time to add Brass to the final track and remix a few things.”

Andy:  “I started playing around with some music software like fruity loops before the recording of Comb The Breaks and built up these programmed drum tracks that formed the basis of some of the songs I was writing. This led to a more metronomic, slightly electronic, feel on some of the tracks on Comb The Breaks. 

As Ash says Big Noise had folded and Melys helped us out. It was fun recording it in a focused way in North Wales. One of the reasons it sounds more complete and cohesive is that it was all done in one week with us, well rehearsed as always and the sound of one studio. Gez, Melys' engineer, who recorded it had one really good valve mic and we put everything we could through that which is a big part of why that album sounds so warm and lush.

Another different aspect was it was the first time we had produced an album entirely ourselves with a bit of help from Gez. We had done everything else with Greg Haver, which was a long, happy and fruitful relationship over the years, but it was fun and rewarding producing ourselves and showed how much we'd learnt and how capable we'd become at it.”

Ash:  “Comb The Breaks was recorded in the summer of 2001, but before it was released the following year my son was born and I wasn’t able to commit my time to the band in the way that I wanted to. Sion, my brother in law played a few dates with the band, but I effectively put the brakes on the group. I still feel really bad about that 'cause we should have been out promoting Comb instead of putting things on hold. 

I started to work on solo projects from then on and worked on music as and when I had time. Dave lived on in Cardiff for a few years working for Ankst Management, before returning to Kent where he now has a studio. Mary became a full time photographer and still lives in Cardiff.

When Derrero took a break, I carried on recording and releasing music under the name Pulco. I continued to compose music that centred around conventional arrangements, but also drew on the pallet of home-fi sounds that I had first developed in my teens. Using old 4-track recorders that returned to me and interested me the most. 

Cheap instruments found sound and noise mixed with ambient spill creating a sonic like autobiography.  I had a clear idea that I wanted to develop a new music for myself with a simple minimal approach and to look beyond the traditional use of the guitar for something new to say. To be able to develop this new musical language I had to deconstruct a lot of what I had learnt in my 20's in order to try and understand the guitar in a different way. 

The process involved pulling apart the conventional idea of a verse/chorus structure in song writing and finally abandoning general structure altogether. I began to favour using the recording process to collage sections of sound together, which then developed into the desire to freely improvise those sections, then finally into just pure improvisation. For a while I also worked under the name Chow Mwng but basically now I’m happy to work under my own name.”

Andy:  “Around this time I started doing some more lo-fi experimental instrumental stuff on a 4 track. Limiting myself to the 4 tracks I would put down say drums, bass, guitar and a keyboard or different combinations of these. Some of the parts were written beforehand, but a lot just made up responding to an initial beat. 

This project I called Cymbient and I recorded an album called "Waah Slop Clip". This actually became the basis for my first two Cymbient albums proper, when I added vocals and fleshed out the tracks and went on to form the five piece band after the hiatus of Derrero.

I was also doing my masters in Fine Art at Howard Gardens in Cardiff . I combined instrumental performances of Waah Slop Clip playing over a backing track with shows of my visual art around this time. It was actually a bit of a hyperactive time for me where I would paint for say eight hours then record and write for three hours most days. I continued to paint and went on to release five albums as Cymbient and that project continues to this day.

Over the years I've done various session drumming projects with Richard James (Gorkys), Cate Lebon, Martin Carr and others. My painting is psychedelic in nature and has been and still is a constant and I've shown all over Britain and a bit internationally. Alongside Cymbient I've made seven albums with Paul Battenbough in a collaborative project called No Thee No Ess.

I also have a little label called Surk and more recently as well as new No Thee No Ess and Cymbient, I have put out a collaborative hip hop/spoken word project with my little brother called Botch Sconnet. There will be more odd things coming out on the label too, like a double concept album about bedding and sleep called 'Quilty Pleasures', basically as long as its good anything goes. An eclecticism partly inherited from one of my favourite bands, Ween.”

Ash:  “I wrote a song called ‘Feed the Flashback’ which I felt sounded like something Derrero would play. I’d not written like that for ages, so it seemed appropriate to pass it on to Dave and Andy. I think Andy got inspired as he started writing new songs himself and pretty soon Dave had persuaded us to come down to his studio in Kent to record the songs. 

We met up in May 2019 and put the whole album together in three days (some overdubs were done remotely later on though). Once we started it felt like we had never stopped making music together and  the whole project quickly gathered momentum. It’s such a shame that the Covid pandemic forced us to postpone the album tour that would have happened in April 2020. But we are currently working on new material and as soon as we can the Time Lapse tour will be re planned. It will happen!”

Andy:  “After years of doing our own stuff, Ash got in touch saying he'd written a song that could be good for new Derrero material. For some reason I didn't do anything towards it for a while, not sure why. But after some time passed, I had an urge to do some writing for Derrero and the new songs I wrote for the new album 'Time Lapse' came quickly and were a joy to write, I'd just record them quietly on my phone and send to Ash and Dave. 

Ash had a few others that he'd written as well as the initial song "Feed The Flashback" which is a great rally call to reforming.  These new songs alongside some ones that we'd demoed way back in 2001 formed the new album. We recorded it at Dave's studio in Kent and then finished at our various homes. Dave did a fantastic job engineering and mastering it.

 So here we are with a new release after twenty years and the music still sounds fresh and exciting and maybe most importantly, is fun to make.  I think we'll continue to release regular albums as Derrero from now on alongside our own various projects. We haven't yet been able to enjoy doing live shows again due to restrictions, but when it happens it'll be like we never left.”

You can listen to and buy the new album, Time Lapse, here. The download is only £3, the price of a Takeout Coffee. It is also available on CD and Vinyl. It was Number 2 in I Don't Hear A Single's Best 100 Albums of 2020.

Derrero back catalogue can be listened to and bought here. This Back Catalogue is all available as Name Your Price.

You can read the IDHAS Review of Time Lapse here.


Wednesday, 12 May 2021

The Brit Awards


I didn't watch The Brit Awards, because it doesn't appeal to or aim at me. In the same way that I don't watch Hollyoaks because I don't pretend to relate to da kidz or Eastenders because there's enough shouting in the world without using down time to be entertained or as that soap would say get "sorted".

It is assumed that I will have watched it because of the music connection, but I'm not going to learn anything or be entertained, so why would I want to waste that time. Duglas T. Stewart made a great point that as you get older, the decades seem to move through so quickly, so why would I spend precious time watching and / or listening to something that I'm not gonna like.

It it like the people who moan and moan about how crap the Top Of The Pops 1990 repeats are on BBC 4. It wasn't a great time musically, but better was to come and why blame Top Of The Pops which only reflects the charts and what people are buying. Just realise that people were buying stuff that you didn't like, but they did.

The Brits only reflects how the Big Record Labels see the music industry and they are increasingly irrelevant in these small label, self release Indie days. For god sake they are still describing the world of music as the "music biz" as though Absolutely Fabulous never ended.

If some of our generation want to watch it to take the piss, all well and good. At least reading their thoughts is enjoyable. However, I think too many watch it wanting to be appalled in the way Mary Whitehouse used to watch Dennis Potter plays. In fact they would be incredibly disappointed if they weren't.

I see Coldplay were on it, My thoughts on Coldplay are that they are a musical nothingness. With all that money they should cheer up. Many musicians will tell you it is much easier to write a miserable song than a chirpy one. When I've read the odd Chris Martin interview, he comes across as a space cadet, a man as in touch with the world as David Essex was in Stardust.

So I am not going to learn anything by listening to them, but other people do like them and they will watch and defend them. If you want to be  angry about something get riled at the way this Tory Government is going down the voting prevention route, long practiced by the Republicans.

With Social Media, we can surround ourselves in an echo chamber and continue to shout at the moon or just enjoy what we might have a chance of liking. Follow the better new Music Sites that cover the sort of music that you might like, but will also allow you to discover new artists to follow and  / or collect. 

The Beatles are ace. but what are you gonna learn by constantly listening to something you've listened to forever. There's a whole musical world out there. TV wise, BBC 2, BBC 4 and Sky Arts are offering some in depth musical documentaries that are more than Toyah talking about how she invented every form of music after 1979.

The Brits is not our sort of village, so spend your time more wisely. Alternatively you can shout at the moon and everyone will agree with you, but you will never ever get that time back. Music is to be enjoyed not as something to get mad at.


Monday, 10 May 2021

Kool Kat Musik Weekly New Release Update

Welcome to the Kool Kat Weekly New Release Update. Kool Kat are distributed in the UK and Europe by I Don't Hear A Single as part of our aim to keep CDs available and affordable. The Kool Kat Links with each album take you to further details on each release..

Please place all UK and European orders by following the details here. Links to Kool Kat's Entire Stock can be found here. Without further ado, here are seven new additions to Kool Kat Musik this Week.

John Howard - Collected – The Best Of John Howard (2CD) Kool Kat Musik 2021      $18

A long overdue, specially-priced 2CD career retrospective (including a cache of previously unreleased tracks) by one of the UK’s best artists you probably never heard!  This 2CD set was curated by Edward Rogers (host of The Atlantic Tunnel and quite an artist himself) who also wrote the copious liner notes.  John is one of the great lost Singer Songwriters with a career that approaches five decades.

Kool Kat Link

Apple Music Link

The Legal Matters - Chapter Three (Futureman Records 2021)      $13

I can think of no better album to accompany me than one by The Legal Matters. The trio seem to be joined at the hip - their music always comes across as brotherly, tight and united. There is a real bond between the three and this album more than any confirms that.  The Legal Matters have far more in common with Crowded House and the harmonies are more Simon And Garfunkel or The Everly Brothers.  The Legal Matters usually do mellow best and there is plenty here to keep those fans happy. But there seems to be more chances taken on this album and boy do they work. The harmonies are as tight as ever, but the songs seem to have even more oomph.  

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

Jim Trainor - Staring Down The Sun  (Self Released 2021)      $11

Pure popper Jim Trainor’s full-length debut not only showcases top shelf songwriting and execution, but is also a sonic masterpiece produced by Jim and mastered by Nick Bertling. His 2020 “Glass Half Full” was (unfortunately) a digital-only release that provided a peek at his pop prowess garnering some rave reviews.

 Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link


Fleur De Lys - Circles – The Ultimate Fleur De Lys (Acid Jazz Records UK 2021)      $22 

Atlantic Records, Andrew Loog Oldham, Shel Talmy, Cream, Isaac Hayes and Tony Blackburn, all these and so many more turn up in the story of Southampton band the Fleur De Lys and so many more. You may not have heard of them, but the singles they released in the second half of the 60’s are one of the greatest collections of singles by any band, ranging from R&B through freakbeat and psych and back into club soul.  

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

Sunrise Highway - Windows (Kool Kat Musik 2014)       $13

The second effort (and Kool Kat debut) for Sunrise Highway (Marc Silvert and mates) garnered rave reviews!  "A light and airy sunshine pop record that's not afraid to rock. Guitars that are alternately hard-edged and Byrds-like mingle with bubblegummy lead vocals and winning melodies, providing a platter full of ear candy!" - John Borack 

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

The Yellow Melodies - Life  (The Beautiful Music  2017)      $12

Released in 2017, “Life" is The Yellow Melodies eighth album and contained nine brand new original songs, of fine Pop!   "A set of songs that affirm the joys of living from start to finish.  This is music to accompany a drive with a loved one, time with the children, a family picnic, or perhaps just a hug.  We can all think of a number of reasons to listen to music, but one of the best is that it makes us feel good.  If you want to feel good, choose Life.” – When You Motor Away

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link


Tamar Berk - The Restless Dreams of Youth


I've long realised that one of I Don't Hear A Single's weaknesses is the coverage that female vocalists get. It isn't misogyny or some boys club thing. I believe and hope it is largely due to the circles I move in. I listen to a lot of music that I uncover or get sent and sadly most of the female lead stuff falls into two categories that don't appeal.

There are shouty noisy guitar led albums or the twee breathless nonsense that seems to have taken over TV Adverts. So when I hear something that really grips me, I have to shout it out and Tamar Berk is a fantastic singer songwriter in the classic mould that we used to hear a lot of, but now hear little.

There is a real lyrical depth to her songwriting. She's lived a life and tells you about it clearly and wonderfully. There is a real story telling feel to her writing, matched with an instrumental variety and a vocal that just makes you listen. 

She's equally at home with a performance that is so Brit Pop such as Better Off Meditating or as moody as Cleveland. Shadow Clues is a wonderful example of what Berk is ace at, a song that is very Beth Orton like. The frustration in the lyrics just grips you, you just think talk to her will you?

Red Ball is a splendid affair, an Indie College Rock affair that includes a Country Guitar Riff and In The Wild has a similar Country vibe, but is much more Aimee Mann. If you want moody, there's Suitcase & Gun, if you want something more jaunty try Skipping The Cracks.

The real gem here is Heavy & Abusive, a personal cry out of a song that is just outstanding. Tamar Berk has created an absolute masterpiece. A lesson for all singer songwriters. I feel like I've read a book, whilst being enchanted by a wonderful album.

You can listen to and buy the album here.


Dutch Tulips - Double Visions


There's no doubt that the Boston Quartet Dutch Tulips are American, but at times they come across so UK. For example, Pez Mansion has a verse that is all Lou Reed in London Transformer period, but then it explodes into the catchiest chorus imaginable.

It is really hard to label what the band do, there is a slight hint of The Killers without the pomposity. They certainly hit on a riff that completely hooks you and the choruses are massive, so all the essentials are present for the Pop Rockers. But there is something more.

EMTR has an almost 60's Garage Rock feel crossed with the Indie College Rock of the 90's. Mike Holland's Vocals help to spread the variety. The odd time he can sound like a grown up Feargal Sharkey, there is a gentleness and warmth to his voice. Take for instance, Frozen Orange which has a 60's Beat fighting to get out.

Sick Middle just explodes with melodic noise, it doesn't come up for air. Disconnected is a Brit Pop riff accompanying a generally 80's Synth Rock affair. Too Late is very spacey with a Bass line that just takes over your body and the guitar solo is a real plank spanker.

The one common factor here is that there is a real storytelling chatty feel to the verses, mainly with a lot of words, that builds up to an unexpected killer chorus. The album is very Indie Guitar, but brilliantly produced which updates the sound. Lockdown has meant way too much Lo Fi, so it is refreshing to hear something sound so clear.

My personal preference are the songs that take chances, but most will be grabbed by the little anthems like Tell Me Your Codes and Stages And Phases. Double Visions is a cracking album, songs that get your foot tapping, played splendidly. A proper band album. Highly Recommended!

You can listen to and buy the album here


Sunday, 9 May 2021

Johnathan Pushkar - Compositions


Jem Records is a label with a great roster, maybe second only to Big Stir in depth and quality. It also has one of my favourite PRs in Maureen Pietoso whose sheer enthusiasm motivates you personally. But having said all that, I have no idea what Johnathan Pushkar brings to the label.

Lockdown excluded, this is something that I could hear every night in Liverpool. It is Karaoke Merseybeat. A defence could be made about self written songs, but these are all "I Love You, Yes I Do, I know It's True" The whole thing is a musical cliche. 

Get yourself a Beatles Suit, a mop top, a Rickenbacker that you hold on your chest. Master that cheeky grin and you have yourself a Lego Power Pop figure. I'm not as close to Power Pop as I was, but this is the worst type, it pigeonholes it in that twee throwaway corner that those who don't know it, think it is.

If this is the future of Power Pop then the genre is done for. Thankfully it isn't. I've heard three Power Pop albums in the past month that are fantastic. If any of those three were awarded the support that Jem gives an album, they could be stars. Instead it can be trebles all round as it gets to Number 1 in invented Internet Radio Charts devised by those with an interest in the release.

I thought Junior's Farm was a song that no one could ruin, I was wrong, but even that is miles better than what else is on show. Jingle Jangle "Janet And John" level lyrics that are supposed to have us believe that this is the future of Power Pop. 

Does What She Does holds out hope that there is something there, but everything else is just a completely out of date Power Pop By Numbers affair. There is no malice here, just honesty. I know  many of my fellow reviewers feel the same but maybe don't want to say it out loud. One reviewer friend described it as below.

"Beatles influenced Beatles Pop with the spirit of the Fab Four. McCartneyesque melodies recall the heyday of The Beatles with moptop flavoured tunes that put one in mind of The Beatles."

The album is out on 4 June. You can find out more about Jem Records, which I reiterate is largely a splendid label here.


Caper Clowns - Abdicate The Throne


The only question about Denmark's Best Export is can their third album live up to the quality of the first two, The Buca Bus was an absolute gem of a debut album and the follow up, A Salty Taste To The Lake, was third in the IDHAS Best 100 Albums of 2018. You can read the reviews here and here.

Abdicate The Throne not only hits the heights of previous offerings, but it reveals a lot of hidden depths. Known for their Live Performances, the lockdown could have really slowed the band up, but that time has been used to play around with that they do.

This is a very different Caper Clowns album. True, there are still the Crowded House like elements that enhanced their popularity. Songs such as I'd Be Me, Space & Time and Four Letter Season fit that bill and match what has gone before.

But having five vocalists in the band was never fully utilised until now and the varied song writing of all has taken Caper Clowns to another level. Different genres are successfully tackled and the results are fascinating. 

Being a band that previously rocked you gently, a song with the pace of April Fool makes you sit up, real 70's glammed up Power Pop. Be There (The Ever- Changing Tone) is pure Andrew Gold Piano Pop. The Club Of Humanity goes all 80's synth.

It doesn't end there. What She Became borders on Country Rock and the band really let go on On Your Kaleidoscope, edging towards Psych Pop, which could be the best song on the album. Under Your Command is a song that dallies with Psych Pop even more. It is almost Toy Town. 

Alec In A Line is Bluegrass and the closer, Valley Of The Queens is largely instrumental with just 7 lines song. It is a gentle meandering finish, something you could imagine on a Nick Frater album. A perfect end to a perfect album.

There is more than enough here for existing fans, but more importantly, there is lots more for newcomers. I can't wait to hear these songs live. A different side to Caper Clowns is revealed here and I like it. I like it a lot!

You can listen to and buy the album by following the links here.


The Mono LPs - Shuffle / Play


It was during the first few months of I Don't Hear A Single that I reviewed The Mono LPs State Of Decay. You can read that review here. I knew that the follow up would be something special, I just didn't expect it to be five years later.

Since then I've discovered another rock and roll band with a cello, although The Happy Fits inhabit very different territory to The Mono LPs. On listening to Shuffle / Play, they've also moved from being the best band In Liverpool to the best in the UK and now seem ready to take on the world.

The album seems much deeper and varied than State Of Decay. Ste Reid sounds less like Dave McCabe, although you can still find some comparison and the whole album is less in your face and more fully formed. For those who think the album is dead, this offering shows you can provide something complete that also allows the Spotify brigade to go to any track and find something different.

There could be a tendency to build everything around the cello at the expense of any other instrument. There's not a bit of that here. It obviously takes centre stage on the slower numbers, being particularly wonderful on Chancy Gardener, that being a wonderful orchestral piece of McCartney Pop. But the album consists of perkiness at pace and here the instrument just slots in as part of the piece. It also rocks incredibly well.

Think About It is the nearest you get to what listeners of State Of Decay would expect. Hell Save My Soul is a slab of 70's Classic Rock, wonderfully celebratory, yet Make Your Mind Up is so atmospheric and moody. Getting Away With It is jauntiness personified.

Love Me edges towards the dance floor, but the real gem is the closer, You Say which is approaching 7 minutes of moody magnificence. It is a meandering atmospheric joy.  Shuffle / Play is so much better than even I expected. Please please don't take so long with the next one. Highly Recommended!

You can listen to and buy the album here,


Friday, 7 May 2021

Finn's Motel - Fireworks Or Lightning


One of the main benefits of covering the new and under appreciated is that you often get a Wow Moment! It may be a new band that just grips you or someone you know who produces a completely unexpectedly great album. Finn's Motel fall into the former category. These moments don't come as often as you might think. So when they do, you just have to tell everyone.

Finn's Motel are a quartet from St Louis, Missouri led by Joe Thebeau and if on first listen you would describe this album as Modern Prog or Classic Rock you would be wrong as there is far more going on. Just as Rush fans berate anyone who call them Prog because of the early part of their career, well Fireworks Or Lightning has big choruses and riffs that hook you that has far more in common with Pop Rock.

Talking Of Rush, as I am wont to do, there is some similarity in some off the riffs and the odd solo, but Finn's Motel don't want to blind you with complexity, it is all about the song, If ever an album would explain what I Don't Hear A Single is about, it is far nearer this than September Gurls.

The catchiness of it all hits you fairly early. Repeated listens reveal far more. The variation is commendable. For instance, the outstanding More Heat Than Light has 1974 UK Glam Rock desperate to get out. Even something slower like Sparkler Bombs is never mawkish and just has to burst out part way through before reverting to the sedate.

The title track is something you could easily imagine being on a Barclay James Harvest, or indeed any other 70's Melodic Rock, album. One Gone rattles along, it really is a cracker of a song and to be honest my preference is probably when the band gather pace and let go. But I could say that about most that I listen to. 

If you want Prog you've got it with the 10 minutes of Police Lights Suite. Constantly changing tempo and style, it is wonderful. My problem with Prog is that there is too much sub mediocre stuff around. Listen to this you bands, this is how it can be done tastefully without all the demonstrating your instrument adeptness. Open your ears and forget your prejudices and you'll be surprised at how much you enjoy this album. Highly Recommended.

You can listen to and buy Fireworks Or Lightning here. You can find out more about the band here.


Wednesday, 5 May 2021

John Howard - Collected : The Best Of John Howard (2CD) (Pre-Order Details)


Long overdue, specially-priced 2CD career retrospective on the Kool Kat Musik Label (including a cache of previously unreleased tracks) by one of the UK’s best artists you probably never heard! 

This collection will be released on 14 May 2021. The Kool Kat pre-order link is here

UK Orders will be supplied by I Don't Hear A Single, but paid for through the Kool Kat link above. Special Arrangements have been made to reduce the postage and packing charge to 8 dollars for UK Customers. You will pay the Kool Kat rate of 16 dollars will have 8 dollars immediately refunded. Therefore the price will you will be paying is 26 dollars ($18 + $8), This is effectively £19 at current exchange rates and you also do not risk any potential UK Customs charges.

European Customers can pre-order directly from John here.  This will avoid any slight Brexit related delay, but John only has limited stock after which further European CDs will be supplied by I Don't Hear A Single. Further details will then be supplied.

This 2CD set was curated by Edward Rogers (host of The Atlantic Tunnel and quite an artist himself) who also wrote the copious liner notes.  

“What happens when you meet THE SPECIAL artist who can put a thrill in your heart from a twinkle in their eye? Well in 1974, that artist was John Howard. He was discovered playing in the Troubadour Folk Club. The music world was at his feet -wined and dined at the most fabulous London restaurants, photos by THE photographer (Dezo Hoffman), clothed by the finest haberdashery in town. 

He was groomed to the be the next Elton John meets David Bowie! He had the songs, looks, charisma and style, Pop music had a new contender.  As we all know, not every artist who is a star achieves commercial success and London streets are not paved in gold. That doesn’t stop a true artist from creating the precious art they were born to make.  

For most artists that would break their spirit but John found a respectable way to pursue his musical career by playing London’s fashionable restaurants and piano bars. He continued to release singles, like 1978’s ‘I Can Breathe Again’ produced by Trevor Horn of ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ fame! By the mid-80’s he had a successful career in A&R working at MCA, EMI and Universal, while still pursuing his song writing career. 

Listen to these songs and feel the emotions revealed in his lyrics as the writer opens himself up and invites you into his private world. He reveals little segments of his life through each lyric. Feelings we can all relate to!  Maybe by wearing his heart on his sleeve and revealing his true feelings he has alienated some, but I believe this should be the mission of every true artist.  

Unlike Scott Walker before him, John never stopped performing and entertaining in all the London cabaret and night clubs. He may not be a household name, but it doesn’t stop him from writing an amazing collection of songs.  The songs contained here are the ultimate collection of this artist’s finest work to date. 

Taken from over fifty years’ work, it’s the first time John’s finest songs are available on CD in the United States!  I am honoured to have worked with John, selecting some of my faves so you can discover the magic music of his music John Howard. I hope you enjoy the musical journey.” 

Edward Rogers (taken from the liner notes) 

Further details on John and his career can be found on his website here.


Monday, 3 May 2021

Kool Kat Musik Weekly New Release Update

Welcome to the Kool Kat Weekly New Release Update. Kool Kat are distributed in the UK and Europe by I Don't Hear A Single as part of our aim to keep CDs available and affordable. The Kool Kat Links with each album take you to further details on each release..

Please place all UK and European orders by following the details here. Links to Kool Kat's Entire Stock can be found here. Without further ado, here are seven new additions to Kool Kat Musik this Week.

The August Teens - I’m Selfish And So Is My Cat (Kool Kat Musik 2021) $14

NEW RELEASE ON THE KOOL KAT MUSIK LABEL AVAILABLE MAY 7 – ACCEPTING ORDERS NOW!!  The band's long-awaited (more than 10 years) third album (and Kool Kat label debut), “I’m Selfish and So is My Cat” emerged as a download-only release on Bandcamp in May of 2020.  Catchy music, concise song construction and clever lyrics make their music pretty unforgettable, so it’s a very happy day to finally have these songs available in recorded form.  

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

Rick Coraccio - Anthology (Arcadian Sun Recorders  2021)      $15

Rick Coraccio was an essential influence in the 70’s/80’s Boston garage rock scene. Rick played in DMZ, Lyres and an early version of The Real Kids when they were simply The Kids. He formed several of his own bands - The Shambles and The Last Ones - which produced some amazing songs, some of which are present on his 24 song career-spanning collection.  

Kool Kat Link


The Direct Hits - The Broadway Recording Sessions (Optic Nerve Records 2021)      $16

Way back in 1982, Battersea based mod heroes Direct Hits had released one single “Modesty Blaise” on Dan Treacy’s Whamm! record label.  Whamm! were struggling to provide the funds to record an album, so Direct Hits pooled their limited resources and self financed a very cheap one day recording session in a tiny studio in Tooting, South London called Broadway Sound.  Almost two years later they re-recorded some of these songs, and along with a handful of new songs from the pen of Buckmaster and Swan, recorded their “Blow Up” debut album at Rendezvous Studios in Sydenham, South East London, and released on Whaam! Records in August 1984.  So what you have here are the roots of some of these great songs. A few didn’t make it to the first album those that did, as you will hear, remained reasonably faithful to the original arrangements.  

 Kool Kat Link

Apple Music Link


John Larson and The Silver Fields - The Great Pause (Shiny Fly Records 2021)      $11   

When the pandemic hit last March, John Larson (formerly of The Marlowes) and The Silver Fields took advantage of the extra time they were afforded. They’d already planned to record a follow-up to 2019’s “Glimpses” but the forced shutdown provided an opportunity for John to concentrate on writing new songs. Low-maintenance, yet strong and energetic, John Larson and the Silver Fields don’t waste time or space.” – 

Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

The SPiRES - Era Was (Artifical Light Records 2021)      $14

The SPiRES are from Ventura, CA and have been around for about 15 years, but thanks to Jeff Shelton’s “Power Pop Show”, they’re new to us.  They play timeless, jangly, indie guitar pop.  According to the band, “Era Was” “started off as a full band live record then ended up a bedroom headphone jammer.”  The record is highly recommended if you like your indie rock understated, subtle, and well executed.  


Kool Kat Link

Bandcamp Link

Stepford Knives - Blue In The Face b/w I Don’t Want Her (Anymore) (Loaded Goat Records 2021)    7 Inch Vinyl      $8.50

Jamie Hoover recently teamed up with Otis Hughes, who played bass for the now-defunct alternative-metal band Animal Bag. Calling themselves Stepford Knives, the fellows just released “Blue In the Face”/”I Don’t Want Her (Anymore),” their debut single.  “The disc announces the arrival of an adventurous collaboration. Jamie and Otis may come from different musical backgrounds, but the blending of their influences in Stepford Knives produces agreeable results.  

Kool Kat Link

Apple Music Link

Teenage Fanclub - Endless Arcade (Merge Records 2021)      $15

“Endless Arcade” is Teenage Fanclub’s first record since 2016’s “Here”.  The new record is quintessential TFC: melodies are equal parts heart warming and heart aching, guitars chime and distort, keyboard lines mesh and spiral, harmony-coated choruses burst out like sun on a stormy day.  The band may not be as loose as they once were, but that is more than compensated for in the harmonies and fine arrangements.

Kool Kat Link

Apple Music Link