Friday, September 30, 2005
Thursday, September 29, 2005
RAY DAVIES, YORK GRAND OPERA HOUSE, SUNDAY 25 SEP 2005
Have you had that feeling when there is simply nowhere on earth you would rather be than where you are at that moment? That happened to me on Sunday night. Young Devilfish and I went to York Grand Opera House to see the first night of the UK tour with the one and only RAY DAVIES and his band.
Given the well documented trials and tribulations that Ray has been through over the past year or two, this was such a tremendously triumphant return. I’m not one for exaggeration (and he is a musical idol), but this was one of the finest concerts I have ever witnessed in my life. And, just as important, Ray fuckin’ loved every minute of it too!
Most of the 2 hours 15 minutes was magical old stuff. This was sprinkled with newer work including his first EP for his new label (V2 Records) released on Monday. ‘The Tourist’ has 4 tracks which are a taster from his first proper solo studio album ‘Other People's Lives’ which is scheduled for release early next year.
This long-in-the-works EP comprises: ‘The Tourist’, – which talks about how deprivation, degeneration and despair is never far away from any Tourists - supping G&T's in their nearby 5 star hotels singing ‘La Vida Loca!. There's also the pathos of ‘Yours Truly, Confused N10’, recorded originally with Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra in 2002, a remixed version of ‘London Song’ and the track 'Storyteller' - both from Davies's wonderful ‘Storyteller’ album collection of acoustic tracks and spoken dialogue.
Ray waxed lyrical between his songs - including how (40-something years ago now) The Kinks were turned down by every record Company in Britain. They were considered ‘too bluesy’, told that Ray’s vocals were too ‘nasally’ (much to his hilarity now, as he pinches his nose), and that Dave Davies’s guitar sounded “like a dog barking!” The slashing of the ‘little green amp’ for that famous “3rd single” – ‘You Really Got Me’ – was of course, the big breakthrough. “I think we were the original DIY rock 'n' roll band. With the greatest respect to The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, The Kinks made it by being a ragamuffin outfit.”
It seemed clear that whilst on stage, Ray’s brother Dave was very much in the forefront of Ray’s mind ... (You’ll recall that both Davies brothers suffered much misfortune last year. In January, Ray was shot in the leg while chasing thieves who had snatched the purse of his companion in the French Quarter of New Orleans. In June, Dave suffered a stroke in an elevator at the offices of the BBC where he had been promoting his latest solo album. He was hospitalised and released in late August).
Ironically, Dave's stroke has resulted in a brotherly reconcilliation. He is living with Ray and working closely with his elder brother to regain his guitar skills. It seems that the two brothers are in relatively good relationship - something considered abnormal for 2 decades. "I'm spending lots of time with Dave," said Ray. "I'm coaching him along as best I can to re-learn the guitar. Actually, we're getting along better than ever. As soon as he can play guitar again, then it's back to the old hatred," he added, laughing, "It's the only thing that lasts." Apparently, when Dave's stroke occurred last year, the two siblings were seriously considering a reunion to coincide with the 40th anniversary of their first number 1 hit ("You Really Got Me"). However, they still have a year in front because of Ray's tight touring schedule behind his new album and the on-going recovery of his brother.
----- This from Monday’s 'York Evening Press' .. Dedicated followers of Ray Davies filled the Grand Opera House at York last night and witnessed something quite sensational. It was the first gig of his latest UK tour and this inspired icon of British popular music brought the house down. This was not a case of simply churning out the old hits from the sixties for the locals to gently foot tap along to. Ray was not going to let anyone get away with that.
These were his songs, each one carefully crafted, each one fiercely believed in, and each one delivered with an energy and passion that many present day bands less than half his age cannot come close to. He is possibly the greatest singer songwriter this county has produced, influencing many from the likes of The Who to The Jam, and eclipsing others, including McCartney. In short, his catalogue is quite phenomenal.
Davies's music has attitude, humour, and an edge that cannot be ignored, and this is especially prevalent in his latest work which is eminently worth listening to.
Clearly up for the night and on top form, the engaging Mr Davies confirmed his credentials with an awesome performance. Unique can be applied without hesitation to this timeless talent. ------
Anyway, I can't recall the exact setlist order – he didn’t stick to one anyway - but the night included: .. I'm Not Like Everybody Else, The Hard Way, ‘Til The End Of The Day, Where Have All The Good Times Gone?, Yours Truly Confused N10, The Tourist, London Song, Stand Up Comic, 20th Century Man, Set Me Free, Tired Of Waiting, Autumn Almanac, Dead End Street, Sunny Afternoon, Village Green, Picture Book, Animal Farm, Oklahoma USA, I Go To Sleep, David Watts, Lola, All Day And All Of The Night, Days, Waterloo Sunset and You Really Got Me.
Between songs, Ray mentioned how so many of his old forgotten tunes seem to be appearing on adverts these days – often without his knowledge. “Picture Book has become known as the ‘Hewlett Packard song”! He went on saying how he’d seen an ad for French railways recently, and swore he thought he knew the background music. His publisher wasn’t aware, but Ray persisted and then remembered that it was a song he wrote about love when he was 19. He then played the most haunting delicate version of ‘I Go To Sleep’ with the band. It was just breathtaking. (Perhaps he’d forgotten that ex-wife Chrissie Hynde had had a hit with it with The Pretenders?) He then played hit after hit - with the odd forgotten lyric! (He made a joke about it being a night to tell people “you were there the night Ray Davies forgot the words to ‘Sunny Afternoon.” ("It must be my dementia!" he quipped).
As it was all so top drawer, it’s hard to pick highlights, but here’s a few; … Days (“for Kirsty MacColl’) left me with a quivering bottom lip, David Watts (he just sprung it on the band) was incredible - esp for me, the old Jam fan!, Autumn Almanac (“An interesting ditty full of chord changes, and the only top 5 hit about gardening”), Lola (prefaced by his hilarious tales of his beloved New Orleans (“where the music will play again”)), Waterloo Sunset (After the line, “as long as I gaze at Waterloo Sunset, I am in Paradise”, Ray looked up at the adoring crowd in this old English Victorian Theatre, nodded and said, “And I am in Paradise.” Gulp!). Sunny Afternoon (“sing up loud with the ‘Sha La Laas’ folks”). Village Green (“from an album that bombed - but that’s a true cult thing; everyone loves it but nobody bought it!”).
And so it went on. It was a privilege to witness.
From the CD Storyteller ....
He was absolutely on top form; fit as a flea and bouncing around the place. He was clearly simply glad to be alive and on stage again. It winds me up so much when I watch something like the Brit Awards and see Duran Duran getting a fuckin’ ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’. I mean … I ask you? Give Ray Davies a Knighthood and have done with it! The man is a songwriting genius. And he possesses that other key sign of a great fellow ….. someone who you’d really like to have a beer with!
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Fancy a frug? Well comb your pubes into a quiff and join me! This catchy tune will have you leaping about with your trouser legs rolled up to your knees and running around with your underpants on your head. Top banana!
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Art Brut, Concorde 2, Brighton, Thurs 22nd September
Are you ready Art Brut?
This is Eddie Argos cataloguing the rise and fall of popular culture
Picking at the bones like a Skinner street vulture
Knowingly knowing but never kowtowing
Most definitely, defiantly an indie pedant
This charming chap this
Evening chronicle-ah this
Clumsily charismatic extra-cultural conversationalist
This Lord Peter whimsical renegade confessionalist
Sporting this years’ must have accessory
Which is quite frankly quite unnecessary
Right across his top lip
Un/cool and ultra hip
An open waist shirt
And a smarty pants quip
He wears the biggest heart on the biggest sleeves
Off the cuff anecdotes and reveries
A cabal heavy sweater with a tight knit band
Taking us off to the promised land
With drummer erect; a tumescent feat
With fingers in the air and tongues in their cheek
Dubuffet desperadoes provide the backdrop
Marginal Mekons with their brutish beat bop
And if any question why TOTP died
Tell them it was because the Rezillos lied
Not everyone’s on; at least not Art Brut
What a criminal record, it's a point that’s moot
But now it’s all falling randomly into place
Eddie and his hot rods occupy a space
Twixt a grotesque turn and this nation’s saving grace
They formed a band
Can’t sing or stay in time
They formed a band
Being an outsider is not a crime
And this I can say without a shadow of a doubt
Art Brut make me want to rock out
Art Brut make me want to rock out
Art Brut make me want to rock out!
Bang Bang bangin’ on
Monday, September 26, 2005
A few years ago, not long after moving into our new (old) house, Mrs Le Riff was overturning the neglected flower beds in the garden when she unearthed an old toy that had been lost for a couple of decades or more.
It was a small dumper truck, metal and heavy, the likes of which you just couldn't find in the aisles of a vast hanger sized Toy-R-Us these days.
The paint was corroded, the windows misted up and scratched over the years spent as an obstacle for the meandering earth worms.
As I cleaned it up to present to little Le Riff I felt a wave of melancholy wash over me.
Was it to do with the thoughts of a distant child, now a man, who had once lost something precious? Was it because of my own toys that I had once cherished that I no longer owned or knew of their whereabouts? Or perhaps this object out of time was a reminder to me that as a child you looked at the world in constant amazement with your imagination wide open and keen, something that becomes progressively harder to do in adult life? Something that is all too easily lost...
Whatever, that emotion is one that Boards Of Canada still seem intent on tapping into with the release of their third album The Campfire Headphase from which '84 Pontiac Dream is taken.
The music made by Boards Of Canada often sounds weather beaten and decayed. Distant analogue sounds from a time less compliacted that have been damaged as they were somehow plucked from the past and presented to us anew. "Plucked" being an appropriate word as BOC's Mike Sandison and Marcus Eoin have expanded their sonic pallet to include guitars this time around.
Memories that come drifting back like a familiar smell that you haven't smelt for years.
Memories of watching Me And You with a sticky glass bottle of Lucozade covered in crinkly orange plastic coating at the side of my blankets-on-the-sofa bed (the word duvet still hadn't entered the english language at this point). Educational TV programs floating across the room to me in a flu-ridden altered state as the doctor arrived to place his cold stethoscope (and even colder hands) on my hairless chest, and all the time me imagining my school mates sliding on compacted ice across the snow covered winter playground...
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Yellow Stripe Nine formed in Leeds in January of 2002. They quickly became a riveting live act and were named the best unsigned band of 2002 by Leeds Student Radio. The release of the 'Look Sharp' demo at the beginning of 2003 was awarded a rare 4.5 out of 5 by the notoriously hard-to-please LeedsMusicScene.com and was described as displaying "an emotional intensity and passion far too much ignored in modern pop music". In July 2003, the band finished recording their second demo album 1 White Horse.
Off of the new forth coming album One Look is another explosive mixture of rampant contagious pop drama all intoxicating and affectionately packed in to a three minute opretta, dry cured with the very finest essences drawn from influences such as the Sparks and ABC and shamelessly substantiated by a steely eyed beach party twanging groove that is so vampishly cool.
It's all interesting stuff and its always good to hear the local talent breaking through on the Yorkshire scene, we have some pretty cool bands coming through at the moment with the likes of the 'Artic Monkeys' and 'The Rise' to name but a few. These are exciting times up here in the the North for the music scene at the moment and that's a fact.
I'm not sure the album has been released as of yet, however you can find out more about Yellow Stripe Nine and listen to more of their tracks here or find out more about Leeds Music Scene here.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Fire Engines, ICA, London, Sat 17th Sept
We were one nation under a groove
For this secret Scottish treasure trove
With a cry of “there’s no bass drum pedal!”
They stuttered, then revved, got spazfunkadelical
Oh use me, use me, use me!
We got up, Henderson got down
Crouched on knees playing the most simply, sublime solos
We were discord dancing around our manbags
Henderson veered from laconic, ironic, enigmatic
To squalling, balling, mesmeric, messianic
I’ve always been quite partial to a small scotch in hoops
And by the end of the intro-instrumental I was hooked
Fired up forty somethings and franzy dan fashionistas
Got frenzied to the frantic, fantastic, funk furore
It was a masterclassical recital
Quite utterly vital
Josef was invoked not once but twice
It was special K class it was knice
A dedication to Edwyn Collins unsettled for a moment
But it was for a new beginning; not a denouement
They never did shed their candy skin
Still anti and awkward and resolute
Seminal yet never the easiest of listens
But how this big gold dream still glistens
What brief mischievery brilliantly done
We counted them down
Eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one
And then there were none
And all that remained for some time was a grin
Thank you and good night
We were the Fire Engines...
Addressing his postcard to the nation
Friday, September 16, 2005
Thursday, September 15, 2005
"The werewolf was a gentleman who was a helpful influence. He showed me that there were others,who would never fit in. It seemed that once that snout and facial hair and pointed ears appeared, there wasn't really a realistic chance that the guy would ever be able to have a lovely wife and a good home." read more...
So you like the facts? Here's some...
Michael Hurley (aka Elwood Snock, Doc Snock, Hi Fi Snock, the Horrible Horrible Pearly Snock Man or simply The Snock) drew his first picture aged 4. It was a fox. He couldn't write so he asked someone to write the title on the paper for him... "Fierce The Fox".
Years later he started playing guitar cos he "just liked the looks of it".
In the early days before he used to drive a dark green 70's Chevy van with a 4" by 8" wooden beam for a bumper, he would hitch-hike from place to place, living off stolen apples with his traveling companion Rube the Card (aka Robin Remailly).
In fact Hurley's first recording contract came about after hitching with his guitar in hand. He was picked up by Fred Ramsey Jr. who recorded a 3 song demo and played it to Moses Asch at Folkways.
His debut, First Songs was released on Folkways in 1964.
You can listen to previews here, or you can buy the re-issue on CD which now goes by the name of Blueberry Wine, and is replete with artwork created by Hurley. The reissue now looks how Hurley had initially intended.
It was recorded on the same microphone and tape machine used for Leadbelly's Last Sessions.
His second album, Armchair Boogie  was recorded in Hurley's bedroom.
Rube the Card plays some fiddle on album opener Werewolf.
He recorded many versions of Werewolf, but the one on Armchair Boogie is considered to be one of the best.
One time, Rube shot Michael with a .38.
Luckily the bullet only lodged between his skull and his skin.
That was before Rube got caught in a big heist and they put him away for about 10 years.
One of Hurley's many jobs was as an eight track repair man.
He was one of the best eight-track tape repairmen in Richmond.
Michael's fluttering falsetto yodel will often morph into a wolf-like howl.
He has also been known to caw like an old black crow, or scream like a fire engine's siren. Another of his vocal specialties is his a fine impression of a muted trumpet, as heard on Armchair Boogie's closing track...
Unfortunately I haven't got a link for you to buy Armchair Boogie, as it is one of those gems that is still waiting patiently for a re-release on CD. In these situations I always stick the album in my Soulseek folder, so fire it up and see if you can find me, you won't be sorry...
Want a second opinion?
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Bigger in Rotherham than Rockville, and with a distinctive voice soaring like a kestral over the Quantocks is the eternal Gene Pitney. As popular as he became in his home country, Pitney has always been a more successful artist in the UK. Perhaps this had something to do with his early 60's publicist - Andrew Loog Oldham - who was doing the same for the Rolling Stones.
By the way, it always makes me laugh that 60's Britain loved pop songs about place names such as Tulsa, San Jose, Amarillo, Phoenix and the like. Most record-buying Brits had not left their own town, let alone their own shores. Few had a vague idea where Spain was - let alone America. Perhaps TV had heightened the baby-boomer's sense of escapism, romance, and exotic American adventure. "Indiana wants me" sang the Yorkshire coal miner on his descent to the centre of the earth.
This typically ambitious 1964 outing found Gene Pitney blending rock drama and pop smoothness with great success. 'I'm Gonna Be Strong' is an especially worthwhile entry in the Pitney canon because it's a typically intense Pitney heartbreak ballad that builds from quiet anguish to a dramatic declaration of self-reliance over a lush yet punchy instrumental backing. Oh yes siree! Other memorable tracks on the 'I'm Gonna Be Strong' album include: "Lips Were Redder On You," a lovelorn track penned by our favourite much-missed oddball pop auteur - Joe Meek. Hit single "That Girl Belongs to Yesterday" was an operatic pop ballad full of low brass and descending piano runs that was penned by stable-mates Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Pitney shook the maracas on the Stones' recording of Buddy Holly's 'Not Fade Away', and tinkled piano in the background of other well-known songs. Mr Pitney had 16 top forty songs in the USA from 1961 to 1968, but had 40 such songs in the UK, all the way up to 1974.
The Cincinatti Kid became a 'chicken in a basket' cabaret merchant through much the 70s and 80s. (The purple velvet jacket, frilly-fronted shirt and polyester kipper tie took a pounding amidst the smoke-filled Variety Clubs of Britain). It famously took him no less than 28 years before the elusive UK No1 single came along - the re-working of 'Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart' with a theatrical Marc Almond in '89.
The track featured here has been much covered over the years - perhaps most notably by Cyndi Lauper on her 90s album '12 Deadly Cyns ..' (She had earlier performed it with her band Blue Angel).
All these facts get a bit dull. ... Maybe I should go back to writing about social commentary or 'my first blow- job' and stuff?
Enjoy the song!
Monday, September 12, 2005
The Mystery Jets, The Engine Room, Brighton, Thursday 8th Sept
We’re going underground
One hundred leagues under the sea
We’re back in the vaults
It’s one hundred degrees
This is fug in hell
This is melting walls where chaos is king
No sussex squares tonight
With subterranean sauna sic blues
Talking heads but no chattering classes
We’re beyond the fringe
Pots and pans and the kitchen sink
Crash and bang and ring
Wide eyed and open mouthed
We’re caught in the jet stream
The cylinders are clicking
It’s zoo time in this nocturnal house
The punfortunate purple prose of cairo
Doesn’t help the pigeon-holing pundit
Unconventional, eccentric, epileptic
It’s a symphony for the devil
The silver surfer is hard to discount
A bankroller who never hurt nobody
He knows home is where the hearth is
Where his rifled record collection is rearranged
You can’t fool me blaine.
I’ve read the little red book
Yes, Love, love me do
Turn up with a clue
The electric shock treatment is taking effect
It’s oh! So current
Amp fiddlers on the hoof
It’s a microcosmic rough ride
And here come the jets
Like a bat out of hell
Someone gets in their way
Someone don’t feel so well
A discordant discourse
Down a road to nowhere
You wanna take that ride?
Trying to solve the mystery
Friday, September 09, 2005
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Thomas Truax - Oddball, Visionary, A one man antifolk machine are just a few of the names attributed to the Jazz experimentalist. Call him what you will but one thing you can't deny is his desire to create and explore all the boundaries and beyond, also known as the mad scientist because he even invents his own instruments like The Cadillac Beatspinner Wheel and The Hornicator which he uses to create his own unique musical experience. Another interesting fact is that he claims to be one of the illegitimate sons of Screamin Jay Hawkins which I suppose could be true just due to the fact that Hawkins had so many. Truax is also famous for his animation as I think used to be a graphic designer and worked on programs like celebrity death match, a truly well rounded individual indeed.
With vocals that are a strange menage a trois of Roger Waters, Dr Feelgood and Nick Cave that are all blended together with a new wave, laid back, Jazz undertone. When mixed together in the right quantity this creates quite an intriguing cocktail that at first can taste a bit sour, however by the time you have reached the bottom of the glass you cant stop yourself ordering a second as the initial bitter after taste disappears. You can buy the albums from here.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
That 1st day at school feeling? ...
It was early September 1966. England had just won the World Cup. We all lived in a Yellow Submarine. We'd had more than one Sunny Afternoon with The Kinks that summer. The industrial landscape was grey and the streets cobbled, but for me, the skies had been blue and our cheeks had been rosy since time began. My father resembled an Irish James Dean and my mother was a double for Petula Clark. I was Robin to my brother's Batman. He was a cowboy and I was an Indian (tied to a tree). We sat in a tin bath in front of the fire. I believed him when he told me that Eleanor Rigby had just moved in next door to the sweet-shop.
The schoolyard. Aged 4. Short pants. Tarmac, trepidation and snot. I remember the obligatory boy with the white patch of sticking plaster over one eye. His hideous black-framed NHS spectacles sat upon his lop-sided ears. My new shoes were rubbing already. The older kids in the corner mischievously sang that summer's bizarre novelty hit, "There Coming To Take Me Away Ha-Haa!" Mum had cut my hair around a basin and I had a lop-sided fringe. I smelled of camomile lotion following the recent spotty Chicken Pox affair. 2 lemon bon-bons gathered lint in my pocket.
The teachers looked about 55; looking back, they were probably 27. 'Maybe they'll teach me how to become a real Thunderbird?' (I had imagination - what more would I need in life?) And the girls. Lots of girls. Mostly pig-tailed, missing their front teeth and ugly as sin; but one or 2 were pretty. Handstands against the wall with knickers on display. It was all too much! I'd never considered that girls existed before. I had football, a dog and a tortoise - girls had never been necessary.
The bell clanged. This was it. ''You're a big boy now. These are the best days of your life''. (Had I known about God then, I'd have asked him to help me). I desparately wanted to cry when my mother said goodbye. That wretched stomach through a mangle feeling. She spat on a handkerchief and wiped my grubby face one last time and she was gone. I noticed a pile of freshly steaming sick was being covered by a man with a shovel and a bucket of sawdust. Some boys were still sobbing into their mothers' aprons. My bottom lip wobbled precariously - but I must've somehow realised that future playground pecking order and classroom kudos could not be gained by wailing like a 'puff'. Besides, I'd previously learnt how to be 'mummy's brave soldier' when TV's Andy Pandy show ended, and the heart-wrenching signature tune had played .. ''Time to go home, time to go home .. Andy is waving goodbye''.
On that very first morning I remember learning 2 important things. Lesson 1: 'If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands'. Lesson 2: Don't sit next to the boy who's shit himself.
Monday, September 05, 2005
Soft is the voice that lulls you into a sentimental humour. In that comfortable room, an ache where a song should be. You stare into the mid-distance and find the past. Bleak moments swell with regret. You sit and wonder over a roadmap. The first thing that seems to come to hand.
(click here to buy from Amazon UK)
Friday, September 02, 2005
Thursday, September 01, 2005
The Dead 60s, Concorde 2, Brighton, Tuesday 30th August
Liverpool calling to the faraway towns.
Now that war is declared and battle come down.
Liverpool calling to the underworld.
Come out of the cupboard, all you boys and girls.
Liverpool calling, now don't look at us.
All that phoney Clashmania has bitten the dust.
Liverpool calling to the imitation zone.
Forget it, brother, an' go it alone.
Dub-ska, ker-pop and ker plunk.
Games were better in the 70s, punk.
We're on Slogan's Run.
But don't worry:
Matt McManamon - shoutist - has a self-assurance policy.
Tons of swaggertude.
And self taut ferocity.
He is king of the leer.
But I want to cut the cordelia.
Take me out outtakes from Sandinista.
[Oh but that's just utter slander mister!]
Trojan horse dubplates.
Not so magnificent spinning templates.
Crashing down around our pork pie hats.
You are now entering the state of the bleeding obvious.
So please listen bleeding carefully:
Bleeding hearts on bleeding sleeves.
Bleeding noses on bleeding speed.
Bleeding power chords and bleeding poses.
Do you bleeding well want some?
Oh please! Oh pur-lease!
The Dead 60s; should we be grateful?
Should I stay or should I go?
Well get this:
Bangs calling, yeah, I was there, too.
An' you know what they said?
Well, some of it was true!
Bangs calling at the top of the dial.
After all this, won't you give me a smile?
I never felt so indisposed...
Cutting the crap