Mazzy Star – Fade Into You – Covers and Feeling Bad

So here’s a weird post. It’s kind of about music, it’s kind of about stress and anxiety and trying to find a bit of a marriage between the two through various guises of one song. I think. You might take something else from this, feel free to let me know if you do.

I recently got a beautiful 7″ single of J. Mascis covering Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’. It’s one of my favourite songs ever and I love Mazzy Star. Have a listen, you might well know this one, it’s a pretty famous song. It’s also a very sad sounding song but it doesn’t make me feel sad, quite the opposite. Around the same time Mazzy Star started posting various different cover versions of ‘Fade Into You’ through her Facebook page. Type the song title into Soundcloud and there’s literally dozens of different covers of this. It’s amazing how many different ways people have interpreted this song and been inspired to do their own thing with it.

It’s a year since I stopped working due to struggles with stress and anxiety. As mentioned before on this blog, i used the time off to work pretty hard at getting better and I did a good job of it. I went back to work temporarily for a few months last year and it was great. My temporary employers (Republic of Media) knew my situation and absolutely trusted me to come in and help them out with the complete understanding that if I struggled it wouldn’t be a problem. I never struggled, not once.

In January I had a few potential recruitment things happening. One company interviewed me 3 times (that’s over 3 hours worth of interviews) only to decide I was over qualified. Hmmm. They said if I wanted more feedback I was to call them so I did. Twice. Left voicemails. Sent them and email. I’ve still never heard back. I was disappointed I didn’t get the job but now I think I’ve dodged a bullet.

Another company approached me and asked if i’d like to work for them. Very nice people too, I’ve known them a long time. It’s a job that would pretty much put me right back in amongst the same environment where I had my recent struggles. My rational brain knows that would be fine. I’m popular (i think!) with the people in that environment. I could probably do the job without any huge difficulty (I know I was really good at my old job but confidence in my ability becomes a problem). Then the irrational brain takes over and the anxiety starts to build. I can’t do anything but worry about whether to take this job or not for a week or so. It’s horrible.

I do calm down eventually and go for a few days without really thinking much about it (or so i thought). Then last week I’m at the shops in town and I feel tears coming. For a good hour I can tell I’m going to start crying and I try and try to stop it but it’s impossible. The same thing happens the following day. Again, I’m in town with my family. I guess some people get angry when they’re anxious, others get tired, some get sick, some just close down. I cry. I absolutely HATE it when it happens. It’s mortifying standing in public with tears rolling down your face but it seems physically impossible to do anything to stop it.

I then decided to politely decline the job and immediately felt better. It’s weird. You might think I should just get involved, face it head on etc. etc. It didn’t feel right though and I’m convinced I made the right decision. I’ll keep applying for other jobs, something will come up and I’ll feel good about it in the same way as I felt good about the 3 interview job I was rejected for.

This wee two day episode of tears was the first time this has happened in about a year. That’s fine, it’s ok to feel bad sometimes and generally speaking I’m 99% a happy, laid back person. What I’m getting at is that there’s different versions of everybody. If this kind of thing is going to affect me from time to time I can accept that and I know that nobody in my life looks down on me because of it. Nobody should ever look down on anybody because of any mental issues. I read on twitter this morning that asking someone what they’re depressed about is like asking someone what they’re diabetic about. I’d obviously prefer it never to happen again because it feels horrific but if it does I know I’ll be able to deal with it and quickly get back to ‘normal’.

So back to Mazzy Star. All this completely different music stems from the one place. Everyone will have their own preference, a style they identify with, a lyric that means something to them, a memory the song might trigger, a bit that makes them laugh or cry. It’s the same with people, we all have different versions of ourselves, some we no doubt prefer to others but it’s extremely important not to get down on yourself too often. Trust yourself to do the right thing.When I feel bad I get annoyed with myself too easily and put myself down when it’s not at all necessary. It’s not got anything to do with Mazzy Star really, it could be anything, but it’s a good example for me.

For the record, the Cookie Monster version below probably isn’t my favourite but it’ll make you smile.

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TOPS – It’s a 7″ Single, but not as we know it – Keep in Touch

The worst thing about this record is that I can’t post those lovely little round pictures I normally like to include of records in this post. Sound strange? Well, it is a little I suppose.The best thing about this record is pretty much everything else.

I subscribed to the Keep in Touch (KIT) singles series a couple of months ago. It’s easy to understand why a vinyl villain like me was pretty easily persuaded by their product. A monthly singles club featuring bands like Girlpool, Speedy Ortiz, Big Ups and Cloud Nothings would’ve sealed the deal easy. However, it gets a bit more interesting than that…

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Each monthly single is a postcard rather than a vinyl record. It’s a piece of card with a playable groove. The image is designed by that months band. The subscription series has only 450 spots available so we’re dealing in pretty strictly limited numbers.

My first postcard popped through the door and i’m pretty chuffed with it. For some reason I was expecting it to be made of flimsy plastic like the old flex-discs that would occasionally come free with a music magazine or stuck to a box of cereal in the 80s. It’s simply a piece of card as the word ‘postcard’ would, of course, suggest.

This one features a song from TOPS which is rather wonderful. Slow and dreamy. Smooth as silk. The card ‘record’ plays rather well but I’m not planning to spin it too often. It comes with a download code anyway so I can always listen whenever my digital need arises.

So there’s another 11 of these to come. Actually, maybe 12 more as KIT seem to be promising a birthday treat for each subscriber. If you’re a vinyl lover you’re probably going to love this idea even though it’s not vinyl. It’s certainly going to be a nice wee unique product series to enhance anyone’s collection. Reminisce in the good old days of postcards, you know you want to.

Note – You can read the news article I wrote about this for Overblown here http://overblown.co.uk/keep-touch-singles-series-first-postcard-record-lands/

The below instructions come with the record – for more info do what the picture tells you!
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2014 – A Personal Summary of the Year in Music

It’s been a strange year, definitely a good one but strange nonetheless. The strange part has been the personal side of it. I gave up my job at the end of 2013 to focus on sorting out my health issues after a lot of stress and anxiety troubles and I’ve worked really hard at that with good results. I’m miles better off now than I was this time last year. I think music plays a big part in the process of getting better. Listening to music I’ve loved for years, discovering new bands and, as a vinyl lover, getting my hands on some amazing records. I only started writing this blog a couple of months ago and that too was a deliberate part of the getting better process, it’s important to have something to concentrate on that you can really enjoy and writing about music / records has been great fun. I’m always amazed people actually read this stuff but they do. Admittedly I’ve not written as much here as I’d have liked because I’ve got involved with a great new music website called Overblown so much of my writing time has been dedicated to that recently. Please do go and check the site out, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Rather than any sort of definitive lists I thought I’d just write through a summary of 2014 and talk about my favourite albums, singles and festivals. It’ll probably be quite long so just read the bits you want to hear about and listen to some of the great music 2014 has brought us.

ALBUMS

Without doubt my favourite and most played album of 2014 was Here and Nowhere Else by Cloud Nothings. It’s a powerful record, just 8 songs and half an hour long but it never drops in intensity for a second. It’s loud, seriously loud, with layer over layer of distorted guitar and one of the most impressive screaming vocal performances I’ve heard in years. Just when you think it can’t rock any harder it does. Every second of this album is brilliant.

Somewhat predictably I loved the new bis album Data Panik etc which was released on gorgeous white vinyl for Record Store Day. The songs themselves weren’t new but they were unreleased and they’re so much fun. I’ve never come across another band anywhere that packs so much enthusiasm into their songwriting. Can’t wait to see them play again in early 2015.

I loved the chill and classic songwriting of Atlas by Real Estate along with the beautiful packaging from Domino. A really pleasant surprise was the return of Mary Timony with her new band Ex Hex and their fantastic debut album Rips, it’s so much fun. I surprised myself by loving Too True by Dum Dum Girls, at first listen I had pretty much dismissed this album but it’s pop somehow stuck in my brain and it’s been played many times now. Lost in the Dream by War on Drugs is seriously impressive and provided more great packaging, this time from Secretly Canadian.

I loved the rock of Annabelle Dream Reader, the debut album from The Wytches. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart‘s Abandon Days was a great indie pop record. The screaming punk of Say Yes to Love by Perfect Pussy was a highlight and in Meredith Graves they have the most amazing performer, her blog writings and interviews are always worth paying extra attention to. Other favourites are Glasgow’s own Paws Youth Culture Forever and the debut from HoneybloodParquet Courts Sunbathing Animal, Teeth Dreams by the Hold Steady and Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen. I’ve probably missed a few and there’ll be many others I haven’t got round to buying yet but hey, I can’t cover everything on my own…

SINGLES & EPs

I’ve bought so many great singles this year and heard so many others that it’s hard to know where to start. My opinion could change tomorrow but I’ll start with what feels like my favourite right at this moment.

‘Gustave’ by Post War Glamour Girls was released as part of the Too Pure monthly singles club. Lovely artwork, sweet coloured vinyl and a corking song. Quite different to what I’d usually listen to (I think) but this is a spectacularly good single. It’s the blistering vocal delivery that drew me in, imaginative storytelling lyrics and a great bass sound. Excellent.

Many of my favourite singles have already been written about on this blog so go have a look around for more in-depth thoughts. Joanna Gruesome released a couple of great singles but the biggest thrill from them came in discovering  the excellent Tyrannosaurus Dead and Trust Fund who they shared records with. I’m sure I’ll love the split Joanna Gruesome / Perfect Pussy single but as of writing I’m still waiting for it to drop through the letterbox.

Speedy Ortiz released the Real Hair EP, four great new songs, particularly ‘American Horror’. Mazzy Star did what Mazzy Star does best with the beautiful Record Store Day single ‘I’m Less Here’. The For the Feel 7″ by Bleached was a punk pop blast. Girl Band released a couple of great singles in ‘Lawman’ and ‘De Bom Bom’. They’re just signed to Rough Trade so it’ll be great to hear what they do next. I absolutely love The Death Set, what an incredible racket they make and they delivered the goods with their King Babies EP early this year. The charming indie pop of Deers made a great single with ‘Castigadas En El Garnero’. Menace Beach display endless promise on their Lowtalker EP and ‘Tennis Court’ 7″. Another great Record Store Day (that was clearly a good day) purchase was the Brightside 7″ by the Julie Ruin. Again, I’m only scratching the surface but suffice to say it was a great year for singles.

 

FESTIVALS

It’s May, it’s Barcelona, it must be the annual pilgrimage to Primavera Sound. This years PS was definitely one of the best yet. It’s an amazing festival. Every year without fail they have the best line up. It’s always a great mix of bands I already love, bands I’m already interested in and dozens of other bands to go and discover. It’s an endurance test trying to squeeze as many shows as possible in but it’s so worth it.

This year we saw Arcade Fire, Buzzcocks, Cloud Nothings, Real Estate, Girl Band, Dum Dum Girls, The National, Neutral Milk Hotel, Speedy Ortiz, Courtney Barnett, Twilight Sad, Helen Love, The Pixies, Queens of the Stone Age and  Slowdive among others. There are loads of bands I’m gutted I missed but it’s impossible to catch everything. Just about ever set we watched was excellent but my personal highlight was dancing like mad to Helen Love‘s crazy pogo punk set. Her crowd were so happy and friendly and completely determined to have a brilliant time. Tickets are already bought for PS 15.

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From massive to absolutely tiny. The Iona Village Hall Music Festival was one of those perfect summer weekends. Iona is a tiny island off the west coast of Mull and this festival was put together by Idlewild (Roddy lives on Iona) and featured many Idlewild related artists as well as some guests such as King Creosote and Alexi Murdoch. It’s the most beautiful setting, amazing beaches, wild landscapes and  two ferries just to get there. Add in friends (old and new), sunshine, drinks and great music and you can imagine the rest. The music was great. An acoustic set from Idlewild is always lovely (I’ve seen a lot of them) but my personal highlight was a great set in the village hall from the elusive Alexi Murdoch whose bittersweet personal music is perfect in this setting. If you’re unfamiliar start with his soundtrack to the film Away We Go. The weekend finished off with a ceilidh. The pitch black stagger back to the campsite through all the sheep was pretty unforgettable. We didn’t want to leave Iona. No idea if this festival will be a one off but hopefully not, we’d love to do it all over again.

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Third and last festival of this year was Beacons near Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales. Kimberly and I need very little excuse for a fancy dress party so off we went with tents and penguin costumes in tow (Fancy dress theme was Empires and yes, we thought we were clever). We were attracted to Beacons because of it’s great line up for guitar bands, most of whom we’d already seen this year but we can’t get enough. Beacons has a seriously impressive electronic / dance line up too if that’s more your thing.

The festival was great fun. It’s a lovely setting, a nice size and there’s loads of arty tents, stalls, great food and stuff happening all the time. A hilarious dance-off kick started the fun, some dancers were seriously impressive, some seriously funny but the star of the show was the toddler who wandered into the action and tried to copy everyone’s moves.

Music wise we saw great sets from Post War Glamour Girls, Menace Beach, Girl Band, Speedy Ortiz, Daughter, The Wytches, Metz, Cheatahs, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, DZ Deathrays, Action Bronson and Joanna Gruesome. We danced to Optimo (yeah, all the way from Glasgow to dance in a field to Optimo), hung out in the Belgrave Tent, drank a lot of Kopperberg and generally had a brilliant time. We somehow managed to miss Hookworms and Eagulls. Oh well. Horrendous weather on the final day meant we headed home a bit earlier than planned but it didn’t spoil the weekend.  Hopefully Beacons can come up with another killer line-up in 2015.

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And Moving On…

2015 is already shaping up very nicely. January will get off to a great start as we’re off to see bis in Glasgow and Leeds. Other gigs already lined up include Ex Hex, Idlewild and Sleater-Kinney. I’m particularly excited about seeing Sleater-Kinney again and can’t wait to hear their new album. The two songs they’ve shared so far are as brilliant as you’d expect. There’s a lot of new music to look forward to. Menace Beach release their debut album, Trust Fund sound very exciting and their album is out in February. I’m hoping there’ll be new stuff from Metz, Speedy Ortiz and Deers amongst many many others. Kimberly and I will be in Barcelona for Primavera Sound again (The Strokes and Ride already announced) and hopefully we’ll be able to fit one or two other festivals in as well. We’ll just wait and see where the mood takes us.

What is guaranteed is that I’ll be buying plenty more records and writing about them here and hopefully I’ll keep on writing for Overblown too, it’ll be fun to see that site grow as we get more and more great content on there.

Have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone. Happy listening!!

 

 

Deers – Live at Broadcast, Glasgow 26th Nov 2014

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This review was originally published on new music site Overblown – http://www.overblown.co.uk/deers-broadcast-glasgow-26112014/

Happiness is infectious. After a long wait Deers bounce onto stage in front of a packed Broadcast to play the final show of a short run of UK dates. The size of the audience and their palatable excitement must be somewhat bewildering for a band who have only released two singles. That’s hype for you and Deers are determined to live up to it.

Immediately I am struck by the size of personalities on stage. These four girls from Madrid radiate charisma and charm. They have an almost shy confidence that never borders on arrogance. Before any music starts they’re hugging each other and fist bumping. It’s like watching a close-knit gang wanting to do well for each other. Tellingly, they seem to be just as excited to see the audience as the audience is to see them. So far, so good but charm and charisma will only ever get a band so far and needs to be backed up with songs.

Deers certainly have the songs, perhaps not in quantity, but certainly in quality. ‘Warning With the Curling’ kicks us off, building in tempo while Ana and Carlotta dance and sway. There’s a lot of posturing, even the occasional synchronised move. The music itself is upbeat and completely absorbing. It’s indie pop in the most joyfully ramshackle of ways and not dancing seems impossible while they sing, whisper, shriek, whoop and yell.

Sure, there’s definitely the odd duff note but nobody cares, least of all the band. Deers are the perfect example of songwriting quality over technical ability and the former wins every time. It’s proof that good songs played in the right spirit makes for a thrilling show. They play a song that’s so new it doesn’t have a title and it’s great. Then they play part of a song  that they’ve not even finished writing yet and it’s incredible.

The audience probably only know half the set at best but every song receives a warm reception, they never drop in quality. We get treated to ‘Bamboo’, ‘Trippy Gum’, ‘Between Cans’ and the recent single ‘Castigadas en el Granero’ which sparkles live. The dual vocals work perfectly together. Ade on bass bops around and adds her voice to the mix while drummer Amber switches from smiling to singing along to laughing hysterically whenever she catches they eye of a bandmate. The set finishes with a raucous ‘Davey Crocket’ and the audience is pogoing much to the delight of the band, “that’s never happened before ever on the whole tour!” squeals Carlotta.

A great gig has the capacity to produce endless different reactions (dancing, crying, elation, aggression etc.) but my favourite gigs leave everyone smiling and after tonight they’ll still be smiling tomorrow morning. Deers friendly nature, high spirits and ultimately great songs permeate the whole venue, beguiling everyone present. Catch them live as soon as possible, you’ll want to see them again and again.

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Menace Beach – Stereo, Glasgow 22nd November 2014

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This review was originally published on new music website Overblown – http://www.overblown.co.uk/menace-beach-stereo-glasgow-22112014/

It’s Saturday night and definitely a night for volume in the basement of Stereo. It’s a great venue for a rock gig with its high stage, dim lights and industrial feel. It makes for a packed sweat-box for loud, fast music of which there’ll be plenty tonight. There’s a sign on the wall warning that human pyramids and walls-of-death are dangerous. Well, I’m here to see Menace beach in a support slot to their home town pals Pulled Apart by Horses so I feel quite safe.

For a support slot there’s a really encouraging crowd gathered at the front to watch Menace Beach. I’d imagine the headliners have done a decent job in telling their fans to check the support out, their guitarist is even wandering about with a Menace Beach t-shirt on.

A couple of months ahead of their debut album release and Menace Beach are in good form. They launch into Teenage Jesus and immediately there’s plenty heads nodding approvingly. It’s loud, satisfyingly so, with the guitars particularly dominant. Thankfully Liza’s keyboards aren’t drowned out but her vocals occasionally are. She’s the least animated member of the band throughout the set, casually switching from guitar to keyboards and singing, always looking effortlessly cool.

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Ryan, on the other hand, is a bit more of a whirlwind. There’s lots of arm movements, facial expressions and hopping around. He looks and sounds like the 90’s indie rock kid. In fact, if i didn’t know better I’d be convinced I’m watching Travis, the goofy skate kid from Clueless, fronting his own band. Lookalikes aside, there’s plenty of enthusiasm on stage and it’s infectious. “I feel so much better now, it’s been such a stressful day, it’s great to be playing some songs” Ryan tells us. Well, we’re feeling good too.

They run through previously released songs Honolulu, Tennis Court and the slightly slower Dream Out, then on to Come on Give Up from the new album. There are other new songs in between whose titles I don’t know but the signs for the new record are very positive. They’re lively, loud and absolutely packed with hooks.

Fortune Teller is the song that brought Menace Beach to my attention in the first place. The floating, looping keyboard Liza plays is the highlight of the gig for me. The song itself sounds much heavier in this environment, simply down to the volume of the guitars and the bands happiness to play hard. It’s a fantastic song.

They rip through the punky Lowtalkin’ at breakneck speed. Liza screams the song title over and over again (how do you not lose you’re breath?) while Ryan sings and they sound great together. Female / Male vocals in sync gets me pretty much every time. The set is over after about 20 minutes. It’s short but very sweet, leaving me eager for plenty more of their own shows in 2015. Time to retire to the bar at the back, ears ringing but happy nonetheless. Don’t want to get caught up in one of those walls of death when the headliners take the stage.

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Trust Fund – Cut Me Out

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Oh the Guilt! Writing about a record I don’t have on a vinyl blog. I’m not going to feel guilty for very long though because I will own the record one day. In fact, I’ll have it in February so not too long to wait I suppose.

Today Stereogum are premiering Cut Me Out, a song taken from the forthcoming Trust Fund album No One’s Coming For Us which will be released on Turnstile Records on 9th Feb 2015. Since Trust Fund have been subject to a glowing review on this blog before (https://oldmanw.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/trust-fund-joanna-gruesome-split-12-ep/ ) I thought this new song was well worth sharing.

It’s just a great song. How a band manages to sound optimistic and pessimistic at the same time is beyond me but it makes for a really enjoyable two-and-a-half minutes. Have a listen and join me in looking forward to early next year when we can celebrate a full album worth of happiness from this exciting band. No doubt I’ll be back in Feb with a review as soon as I can get my hands on the vinyl… to be continued.

The PeeChees – Vinyl Played to Death

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Remember life before the internet? For music lovers the web turned the world inside out. Where did you go to check out new music before you bought it? In fact I know I’m part of a huge minority that still does go and buy the physical product. I’m being dramatic, this wasn’t quite pre-internet days and I could get online at university by visiting the computer room in my building. Yes, there was one room with about eight computers in it for a department of about 300 students. Dial-up. Searches took forever. Searching for the PeeChees didn’t result in many hits and if I wanted to actually listen online I’d probably still be waiting. Still though, I wanted information on who these people making this incredible racket were and if I remember correctly the Kill Rockstars website was the only place I could find anything.

Back in the olden days I’d often just take a chance on a record. Do the Math, the first album by the PeeChees (or the PeeChee All-Season Sensations to give them their Sunday name) was one such record. I’d seen it on the shelves of Glasgow’s Missing record store a few times . I liked the band name although I had know idea what a Peechee was. The cover appealed to me, simple,  a real cut and paste look even though it was printed with a nice glossy finish. I particularly liked the monochrome faces. Molly Drums Vocals. Carlos Guitar. Rop Bass. Christopher Vocals. No messing about, it looks like a band that will get straight to the point. I also knew the record label and would’ve been happy to take a chance on anything on Kill Rock Stars.

The PeeChees formed in California in 1994 when Chris Applegren and Molly Neuman, who co-owned Lookout Records, got together with Carlos Canedo and Rop Vasquez. All four had played in various bands previously, the best known of which was highly influential Riot Grrrl band Bratmobile who Molly played with (Incidently, the first Bratmobile album, Pottymouth, is being reissued on pink vinyl right about now on Kill Rock Stars).

 

First spin of the unknown record. What on earth have I bought? The album kicks off with a muffled, distorted, chewed up riff and even messier vocal. I love it now but my first reaction was that it’s almost unlistenable.  However, a few seconds later and the first song kicks in properly. It’s still a chewed up racket but it’s no longer muffled and it comes screaming out of the speakers. The guitar sound is as raw as  I’ve ever heard, like you’re in the studio with your head taped to the amp and you can’t get away. The bass and drums pound unceremoniously while the guitar tries to keep up. Then there’s the vocals, coarse as sandpaper, sneering, spitting and snapping over the music. I’m hooked after a minute and there’s still a whole album to go. This sounds perfect. This is what I always thought punk rock should sound like.

Do the Math is one of my all time favourite records. It’s a relentless blast of energy. Songs like Pepper,  I Could Have Loved You and Slick’s Living It Up are stand outs but there isn’t a weak song on there.  I would imagine the vocals may be an acquired taste for some but hey, it’s a punk record, it’s not meant to be soothing.

These days it’s easy to know everything about a band by clicking a button or two. In 1996 it wasn’t quite that simple. One of the most exciting things about finding a new band was finding out what else they’d been up to. I couldn’t find anything else in Glasgow but got lucky by finding three 7″ singles on a record shopping spree in London. These were the Cup of Glory 7″ on Kill Rock Stars, The Scented Gum EP on Lookout records and Radio Disappears on G.I.Productions.

The Radio Disappears single was particularly special. This was a split 7″ with garage punk band The Drags where each band covers one song of the others. The PeeChees cover of Well Worth Talkin’ About is one of their finest moments. The bass and drums intro is backed by the screaming feedback of a guitar that sounds desperate to explode into action which it soon does. The vocals are frantic and it’s perfectly topped off with Molly’s “Hey Hey” backing. Also well worth a listen is The Drags cover of the PeeChees Slick’s Living it Up, a great rocky cover and a bit more accessible than most of this bands other recordings.

These singles did nothing to diminish my appetite for this band and I wanted more. Shortly after that I got lucky when a friend gave me the Love Moods 7″ on Rugger Bugger Records, a single I must have played thousands of times. I’m amazed it still plays at all. This single featured two songs, New Moscow Woman and Quadruple Heart Bypass. In my humble opinion New Moscow Woman is one of the best punk rock blasts ever recorded. There’s an almost false start with vocals only before the band crashes in and tears through one minute and twenty seconds of high energy racket. The vocals sound desperate and bitter all the way through right to the cruel ending “you don’t impress me, you don’t astound me, you don’t arouse me, you’re just around me”.  The band come to a clattering halt and it’s over almost as soon as it’s begun. Breathless from beginning to end.

 

A second album called Games People Play was released in 1997 and to say I was disappointed was an understatement. I grew to like it more over time but never felt it came close to living up to the debut album. The songs were fine (New Moscow Woman was one of them but re-recorded from the aforementioned version) but the production really lacked the punch of the first album and it left the record feeling short of energy. A real shame.

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Thankfully there was better to come in the form of another couple of singles. Sing Like Me was a 7″ picture disc released on Damaged Goods in 1997 and  Dallas was released the following year as part of the Sub Pop monthly singles club.  A compilation album called Life was released jointly between Damaged Goods and Kill Rock Stars in 1998 which collected all the various material recorded and released as singles across various labels over the short few years the band was active. By this time the Peechees were no more.

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I was lucky enough to see the PeeChees when they played Glasgow’s 13th Note basement in May 1998, not too long before they broke up. I don’t remember the gig in as vivid detail as I’d like. It was deafeningly loud, the music was even faster than you could imagine, you couldn’t make out a word that was being said or sung and I think half of my view was a pillar, the other half being Molly drumming and a bass player I never knew (someone from Comet Gain I think, possibly Rop had had visa problems and couldn’t tour). I loved every second of it. I’d like to tell you more and show you the photos but nobody had a camera phone in those days, nobody even had a phone at all. I also had a PeeChees t-shirt that I wore until there were only threads left. My friends band were touring the states and playing with the PeeChees somewhere in California. I was eternally jealous but made them promise to bring me back a souvenir. They came through, as all good friends do.

 

So it was all fairly short lived for this band. There’s the odd video clip of live performances on YouTube that sound pretty awful but do occasionally capture the energy and spirit of the band in action. The best bit is having the records to treasure and there’s a split single with a band called Long Hind Legs that I’ve yet to track down, I’ll need to get that sorted. All in all it probably only amounts to an hour or so of music. Thirty or so songs but good enough to keep me listening right up into 2014 and undoubtably we’ll beyond that.

  •  Cup of Glory – 7″ single on Kill Rock Stars 1994
  • Spend Some Time With – Split 7″ with Long Hind Legs on Skinnie Girl Records 1995
  • Scented Gum – 7″ single on Lookout! Records
  • Radio Disappears – Split 7″ with The Drags on G.I.Productions 1996
  • Do The Math – Album on Kill Rock Stars 1996
  • Love Moods – 7″ Single on Rugger Bugger Records 1997
  • Antarticists – 7″ single on Roxy 1997
  • Games People Play – Album on Kill Rock Stars 1997
  • Dallas / If You Don’t Know – 7″ on coloured vinyl – Sub Pop Singles Club Nov 1997
  • The PeeChee All Season Sensations – 7″ Picture Disc on Damaged Goods 1998
  • Life – Compilation Album on Damaged Goods (Vinyl) and Kill Rock Stars (CD) 1998

 

 

Menace Beach – Heading towards Ratworld

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Easily excited? Yes, definitely. Easily pleased? Not so much so. Hearing just 30 seconds or so of a song can be enough to get me excited about a band, excited enough to find out who they are, check out other songs, find their records, see where they’re playing. It really doesn’t take much for a song to sound instant or  intriguing and grab you by the scruff of the neck to go and find out more. That’s pretty much exactly what happened when I first heard Fortune Teller by Menace Beach.

Menace Beach are a Leeds based band (yep, yet another one. What is it with that city?) who are made up of members of various other bands (Sky Larkin, Hookworms, Pulled Apart by Horses etc.). Due to this they’ll get the phrase Supergroup banded at them but that’s a weird  term as it kind of insinuates that the other bands they’ve come from aren’t super. Not true.

Thus far Menace Beach have only released four records (well, three and a cassette if you’re being picky) ahead of their debut album Ratworld which is due for release on the excellent Memphis Industries label early next year. I have two of these records, The Lowtalker 12″ EP and the Tennis Court 7″ both on Memphis Industries. Prior to that the band had released the Dream Out EP ( 100 copies only for Cassette Store Day) on Desire Records and the Drop Outs 7″ as part of the Too Pure singles club (500 copies for the subscription based singles series – I’ve not got a copy of this, you can sense the emptiness I feel, I’ll track one down somewhere!).

Lowtalker EP 12" Front Cover
Lowtalker EP 12″ Front Cover

So why did I get hooked? Fortune Teller is the first track on the Lowtalker EP and it kicks of with an incredible looping, swirling, dizzying keyboard over guitars that instantly lodged in my skull. It’s got a disorientating off-kilter feel to it and sounds slightly, well, menacing I suppose. It’s a fabulous song.  The remaining four songs are also excellent. Honolulu is rockier, more guitar and feedback heavy. Where I Come From and Nervous follow this rock pattern and sound very like the best bits from the last couple of Wavves albums. Last song Cheerleader is a little slower and more like Fortune Teller in style. The record is filled with hooks, scuzzy buzzing guitars, feedback, great vocals and backing vocals and melodies that fizz around your brain. This music is very much of the early 90’s US indie rock variety albeit via Yorkshire and with plenty pop charm added in to the mix.

 

Tennis Court / Lowtalkin 7" Front Cover
Tennis Court / Lowtalkin 7″ Front Cover

The more recent Tennis Court 7″ single follows in a similar fashion. Side A is Tennis Court which gets off to a mid-paced start with nice melodies sung over the lead vocal. The fuzz kicks in with the chorus and band friend Alana from Joanna Gruesome lends a hand with backing vocals / shouting. The B-side, Lowtalkin’, is the fastest, noisiest example of Menace Beach I’ve heard yet. It’s sprints through it’s 1 min 50 secs like it’s desperately trying to escape from the turntable and it’s refrain of “Lowtalkin'” constantly yelled over and over in the background is breathless and brilliant.

All this points towards a really exciting debut album Ratworld which will be released on Memphis Industries on 19th January 2015. Four of it’s twelve tracks have already appeared in the two records I’ve discussed. I’m not sure if they’re re-recorded but I suspect they will be. The cover artwork looks great and continues the theme of images over scribbled, wavy lines. It looks like a Ray Bans Never Hide poster. There’s so much promise over the first few records that all point towards Ratworld being full of great ideas and fuzzy tunes. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy.

I caught Menace Beach live earlier this year at the Beacons Festival which cemented my excitement about them. I’m heading along to catch them at Stereo in Glasgow this Saturday 22nd Nov in support to Pulled Apart by Horses. Can’t beat a gig on a Saturday night. Add Menace Beach to your life as soon as you get a chance.

  • Label – Memphis Industries http://www.memphis-industries.com
  • Lowtalker EP – 12″ on black vinyl released January 2014
  • Tennis Court / Lowtalkin’ – 7″ on clear vinyl released September 2014 (Ltd Edition – no idea how many copies were pressed)
  • Ratworld is released 19th January 2015 on Memphis Industries. You can pre-order it here http://www.memphis-industries.com/release/ratworld/
  • Menace Beach are on tour from 21st to 28th November with Pulled Apart by Horses

 

 

Gig Posters

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  • Dum Dum Girls Primavera 2014 (artist unknown – it could be Lance Lester? If anyone knows please help!)

Wall Space. There’s never enough of it, especially when you’ve got a soft spot for gig posters. It’s tempting to cram as many posters as possible up on the walls but you don’t want your rooms looking like the stairwell walls at your local indie / rock bar. Or maybe you do?

My wife and I have been buying gig posters for a few years now. This mainly started out of her love for Idlewild and the happy coincidence that a friend of ours happens to regularly design posters for them. More of that later (much, much more). If we had bought every poster we’ve found and fallen in love with we’d have literally hundreds of them. To maintain some kind of control over this we try our best to stick to two simple rules when choosing what to buy:

  1. Only buy it if it’s a band you really really love (no matter how amazing that poster is)
  2. Buy it if you think it makes a great souvenir of a gig / festival you’ve been at

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  • Speedy Ortiz by Chris Hopewell & Ash Clarke at Jacknife Posters http://www.jacknifeposters.com and on Twitter @jacknifeprints
  • Edition of 105 posters (55.5cm x 57.5cm)

Gig Posters come in many different formats. You can of course pinch  Xeroxed A3/A4 posters off the walls of pubs / clubs / record stores (or just ask nicely if you can take them). The ones we buy are of the screen printed kind, usually printed in two or three colours and usually limited editions. There’s so much to love and admire about this art form. From a personal point of view I love the design and the way it’s been thought through to work with the colours and screen printing process.  I love the impact of a good poster. The best posters really capture the essence of the band and event they’re promoting. I also love that they have been hand-made. This is a seriously laborious process and let’s face it, the artists will not be making much money out of this. You are guaranteed it’s a labour of love for the artists and their affection for design and the bands they’re working for. Posters tend to cost around £15 to £25 each which is seriously good money for a print. Take off the band name and gig date and any artist would be trying to charge significantly more for artwork like this. However, I suppose there’s a need to try and sell them at a price a gig-goer is going to be willing to pay rather than what a collector may be willing to pay in an art gallery. From a buyers point of view the art is the affordable bit, it can be a lot more pricey getting them framed if you choose to do so.

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  • Beach House by Andrew Vastagh at Boss Contruction http://www.bossconstruct.com and on twitter @avastagh
  • 18″ x 24″ Edition of 60 (I think?)

All the posters pictured are framed and hung in my flat. I’ve got some more but there just isn’t the space to hang everything. These get re-arranged quite frequently, especially if a new poster has been acquired and then there’s the gut wrenching decision of which one to take down.

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  • Roddy Woomble by Bobby Evans at Telegramme Paper Co. www.telegramme.co.uk and on twitter @Telegramme
  • 3 colour print 59.4cm x 42cm (A2)

As for the previously mentioned Idlewild, our flat resembles a gallery for Handcooked Posters, part of Baseline Graphics in Stirling, a great wee design company run by Douglas Walker and his colleague Angela Innes. For many years Douglas and his team have been designing and hand printing posters for Idlewild and many other bands (The Breeders, Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, Bright Eyes amongst many others). I’ve had a good insight to the creation of these posters through Douglas’s Facebook page where he’ll often post updates of the posters creation through a series of photos as each colour is added. This is usually through several all night sessions in his freezing garage with only a couple of cans of lager for company and a deadline that passed days ago. The end results are always stunning. If you are keen please don’t hesitate to visit http://www.thisisbaseline.com/index.php/handcookedposters/ for a look around at their great work. It’s testament to their great work that Idlewild continually return to Handcooked Posters whenever they want to commission some new work for a tour.

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Flatstock is a series of exhibitions that features many of the most popular poster artists from around the world. It’s organised by the non-profit organisation American Poster Institute (API) – read more about it here http://www.americanposterinstitute.com/flatstock . For the last few years there has been a Flatstock exhibition at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona. We’re like kids in a candy shop. There’s thousands of posters to look at and you get a chance to chat to the artists and of course take the painful decision of what to buy and what will need to be left behind. Come Monday morning we’re usually found scrambling around the caricature artists on Las Ramblas trying to convince them to sell us a poster tube or two. It’s the only way to guarantee they’re safe return to Glasgow in good condition.

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A great online source of gig posters is http://www.gigposters.com which contains a bewildering amount of artwork for you to browse through. You can search for your favourite bands, venues, artists etc. You can create an account that allows you to favourite posters, leave comments on them and of course buy them. They publish a great range of books, playing cards and even colouring-in books all devoted to gig posters. Go have a play.

Most artists / graphic designers will have their own websites, online galleries, Instagram, Twitter etc. so it’s always worth keeping an eye on any favourites to see what’s new.

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Like any art form  gig posters can provide a lot of joy, especially true when they represent something that is already special to you. You may or may not like the ones I have posted here but go and search for your own favourite bands and I guarantee you’ll find dozens of examples. I can’t stress enough how much better they look in reality than on a screen, especially with my dodgy photo skills.

Disclaimer – sincere apologies to artists for the poor photography of your work! I’ll need to learn to use a camera. Also, If I have any details about these posters wrong or have mis-credited anything please don’t hesitate to get in touch and I’ll happily amend any details. If anyone out there can advise who the Dum Dum Girls poster artist is please get in touch so I can credit the work. Thanks!

Trust Fund / Joanna Gruesome – Split 12″ EP

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Had I not already been very familiar with Joanna Gruesome this record could’ve caused me some fun confusion. On my copy the labels on the vinyl are the wrong way round so the side that says Trust Fund plays JG’s songs and vice-versa. Are the records all like that or just mine? I don’t suppose it matters one little bit. Great songs are great songs regardless of who’s playing them and I’d doubt either of these bands would mind their songs getting confused for the others too much. Anyway, I digress…

Trust Fund are new to me which (as I’ve no doubt previously mentioned) is part of the joy of split records. Their first track on here is called Reading the Wrappers and is pretty much exactly half gentle indie pop and half fuzzy indie pop. Melody wise it’s bright and breezy but there’s definite melancholy in the vocal delivery. It seems to be about (I could be wrong) that feeling of knowing someone you love is upset by something but they’re not saying what and all you want to do is make everything better for them. It sums up that feeling perfectly.

 

Their second track Scared is much more of an upbeat and immediate choice with choppy guitars. It’s catchier than an oversize baseball mitt and would be fun on any indie rock dance floor. There’s still that feeling of edginess here though, a certain anxiety about the song but i think that’s more down to the lyrics than the music.

Third track No Pressure slows the pace down and is beautifully effective. It floats by in such a relaxed, doleful manner with the great double vocals reacting perfectly with the minor chords. Again it all sounds very melancholic but this song leaves me feeling optimistic, I’m not sure why. I think it’s optimism for hearing more from this band, all very exciting.

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The Joanna Gruesome side kicks of with Jerome (Liar) which is a sub-two minute romp of punk pop that JG do so so well. I’ve no idea what Alanna is screaming in this song but i’m glad that she is.

Up next is Satan (Desire Edition) which is a reworked version of the song that closes their debut album. It’s a slow and sweetly sung ballad (can that really be the right word?) but there’s a squealing guitar feeding back in the background the entire way through. It’s a little longer than the original version and the addition of the extra vocal definitely improves on the original. That feed-backing guitar runs continuously into the next song Coffee Implosion which completes JG’s side of this EP and is almost somewhere between the two previous songs. Not as punchy and punky as the first, rockier than the second. On each song there’s a lot of emphasis on having two vocals and it sounds ace. It’s not that they’ve not used this approach before, possibly the male vocal is just a little louder in the mix this time.

Overall across all six songs i think that these are two bands that go really well together. There’s a perfect stand-off between mournful and joyful on this record, sometimes all in the same song!

The product itself is a gem from Reeks of Effort and much appreciated by vinyl geeks like myself. It comes on clear 12″ vinyl and inside a beautifully printed white card sleeve. It looks as impressive as it sounds.