Tuesday, 29 March 2016


How considerate of Wire and White Hills to come and play a short walk north up Bridgewater Canal from my cool abode. All the other bands, the babble of beautiful women, the henna tattoos and Finnish skull T-shirts were just a great big bonus.
I made it inside around the time Rev Rev Rev were starting their set. Howard Jones (no not that one, he drums for Last Harbour) and Penfold 666 had no idea where the Aether stage was, nor did a beautiful blonde woman at Water stage. Big man at bar knew it was upstairs. Up the stairs mister there were three guitarists of Desmadrados Soldados de Ventura, later to play on Fire. Dylan Hughes had a clue and set me off in the right direction. Just around the corner someone was calling my name. It was another Desmadrados guitarist Nick Mitchell. I said hello and waved goodbye quickly and barrelled off straight to the front of the small and rather under-populated Aether stage having missed just half a song from Rev Rev Rev. Leaning on the metal barrier and trying not to burst the three balloons tied to it, I got a good look at them for the first time as I dug the My Bloody Valentine vibes of their loved up mind float ditties. The singer is a woman but I could tell that from their album. However I now learned that she is quite short, not a midget, just petite. The guitarists either side of her were quite tall and none of them moved about much, letting their exquisitely crafted dream rock do the talking. Towards the end they played my favourite song of theirs, "Ripples." It has a very Wire feel to the riff but doesn't really sound like Wire, more like Loop. Wire however always sound like Wire, whether heavy, soft or in a rhumba. Most of those who gathered to hear them had to be content with not seeing them as the Earth stage was inadequately low and the area before it was packed out ten minutes before they set up. Lucky for me DJ Marc Riley played "Jesus Built My Hot Rod" by Ministry, giving me the momentum to shove all the fucking hippies out of the way and get down the front in time to witness two hats, two guitars, some drums, one bass, a plethora of pedals and thirteen songs, all executed by four male humans, as far as I could tell. Some executions were glorious, for example "Sonic Lens" and "Diamonds" the two songs so new they aren't even on the new "Nocturnal Koreans" eight song album. One execution was gory; the excess volume onslaught of "Harpooned" which inevitably closed the set. It was Manchester so they has to play "In Manchester," a much lighter execution. Most of the set was culled from the eponymous album released last year (2015) and the only song from "Nocturnal Koreans" was the title track now streamlined and sped up from its early incarnation two tours back. The performance was better than the three gigs I saw on their 2015 tour. The first major annoyance of the day was having to miss Desmadrados Soldados de Ventura as they played on Fire at the same time Wire drilled Earth. The second major annoyance was having to miss all but the first song The Jesus and Mary Chain played in the midnight hour because White Hills were playing at the same time. Until then, the only band I knew I liked was the Lucid Dream so I was tempted to walk on home and listen to the Stranglers in an environment where the cider is actually drinkable and not horrendously overpriced. It must have been the mediocrity of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats who got me thinking that way. Why the hell this toytown NME crap was on the big bad Air stage when Wire were infinitely more deserving of being there I cannot fathom. The Air stage was also referred to as the main stage by a well ear-plugged security woman who was having none of this hippy bollocks. Up on the balcony overlooking Air, I struck up conversation with a London lady called Diane who suggested I stick around to watch the Raveonettes with her. They turned out to be a quite enjoyable mix of Mary Chainish Suicidisms. Whilst I quite enjoyed the Danish trio rollin' 'n' rockin' I don't think I'd be tempted to shell out for any of their records. Brian Jonestown Massacre seemed bland so I set off to experience a Lucid Dream on Fire. I can't recall much about their marvellous psychedelia except that it sounded better than I've ever heard them before. Yet again the stage was too low to see the band from the back of the room where I spent most of their set chatting to an Iraqi glass collector called Dasha. She said she'd enjoyed Saint Agnes on the same stage earlier in the day. Are Sleaford Mods the most over-rated load of fuckin' bollocks since the shitty Stone Roses? Just a tenth rate Fisher Price Suicide rip off with some fucker fucking swearing about the antics of miserable fucking twats like some rejected Eastenders script. They were the one band who played that day who made me fucking glad I'm not them. They were however a great excuse to run around the back of the room like a feckless chicken fuckin' swearing at every fucker. I soon got bored of that and fucked off up the fuckin' stairs, where a fuckin' friendly Finnish skull T-shirt lady told me I would be wise to check out K-X-P. I did just that and found them pleasingly like Neu! Very good for a dance around the back of the room without swearing.
At last a band I could truly rock out to and go wild with down the front: WHITE HILLS. They earned capital letters for being the most insanely enjoyable band of the day, with the caveat that if Wire had played later on a stage of the size their popularity deserved I would have enjoyed them as much. Not a hell of a lot has changed since their last gig at Islington Mill, so go read my review of that. According to the set list I purloined from guitarist Dave W the played Dead, Radiate, No Will, Lead the Way, Paradise, DBA, In Your Room, No Game, £SD or USB, Walks and Oceans. I was so drunk on rip off pink wine I forgot to buy their new album.
The Cosmic Dead seemed as drunk as me when they blasted us out of our brains but WHITE HILLS proved an impossibly tough act to follow. Nevermind, they were good for drunken stagger about towards the end of a grand noisy day, with a hug from Jenny and a kiss from Katie.

In order of excellence, the bands I experienced:

1. WHITE HILLS (entire set)
2. Wire (entre set)
3. Rev Rev Rev (all but half the first song of their set)
4. The Lucid Dream (most of set)
5. K-X-P ( about half the set)
6. The Cosmic Dead (entire set)
7. Raveonettes (entire set)
8. The Jesus and Mary Chain (just April Skies far way from the Air stage)
9. Brian Jonestown Massacre (about 10-15 minutes)
10. Sleaford Mods (about 10-15 minutes)
11. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats (shite)

This review was written for Optical Sounds zine.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Prelude to COSMOSIS

I do believe I might have been the very last punter off the Cosmosis site. A review has been spewed up for Optical Sounds and I have set lists for Wire, White Hills and Rev Rev Rev. I could scan them later maybe. I had such a great time I even enjoyed the Sleaford Mods. With apologies to Polly Harvey for going all Wm Burroughs on her lyric, and love to all those lovely ladies who I completely failed to get to come back to mine very late on Saturday. Sing this to the tune of "...The Hope Six Demolition Project"

This was Cosmosis heavy listen project
Tripping out on Trafford Wharf Road
A mind blown pathway of love
At least that's what I heard
And here's the one Stretford WIRE gig
A short walk north from my house
OK now the drinks were expensive
Cider's shite but wine's alright
In the community of dope
Hear the original PJ Harvey song here
See more
PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project New Album Released 15 April 2016 Directed by Seamus Murphy Produced by James Wilson Edited by…

Pere Ubu @ Ruby Lounge 22.3.16

David Thomas might need a stick to help him get around but he can ably support himself. In conversation with John Robb he was a one man whirlwind of comedic rock'n'roll philosophy. Tangents to questions eventually led us across America from east to west with a soundtrack of Television, Harry Partch, Terry Riley, the Velvet Underground, Pixies, Electric Eels, Raspberries and Miles Davies, studying "Trout Mask Replica" in the back seat whilst Jack Kerouac and Raymond Chandler wrote the western urge up front until it met the immovable Pacific object. "You hope there's not Enough Time to recall every Satisfied City you passed," said the curious Mr Thomas, always pushing on to find out what's around the next corner, what fragment of space / time can be fractured off the next junction.

"We were allowed to drink and drive back then." When John asked about Pere Ubu hometown Cleveland we learnt that the title of the compilation of early Pere Ubu singles "Terminal Tower" was a tribute to the tallest building in the city, an industrial urban sprawl Thomas viewed not as a wasteland but as a modern art museum. "We all live in ghost towns. Modernity leaves in its wake ghost towns. The tumbleweeds blow through the streets of my mind all the time. When we realised nothing was as it appeared to be, it was not a great leap to realise modernity leaves destruction."

The 1978 Pere Ubu EP that compiled their first two singles with a bonus track was "Datapanik on the Year Zero." "People become junkies of data flow. Too much information! Facts are an impediment to information flow." Before you click back to facebook, I've got to tell you about some fine, fine music. That fine fine music is rock'n'roll, not punk rock.
Anyone can pick up a guitar and kick up a racket. David Thomas was adamant that that was the original rock'n'roll attitude, merely reprised by punk rock: "I warned you people about this punk rock thing!" The first song they played, their magnificent classic debut single "Heart of Darkness" has more a feeling of devolved sixties psychedelic garage rock, like everybody going triple bad acid. David Thomas' tone deaf vocal explorations of complexes of perspectives and geometries are just one wild card Pere Ubu play. Another is the wildly skewed synth burbles and theremin swoops played with jocularity by Robert Wheeler, wearing a baseball cap with a headlight that made him resemble a cyclopean Cylon centurion. Punk was just comic book crap, a dog returning to its vomit. The MC5 had already kicked out the jams, and taught David Thomas everything he needed to know about rock'n'roll. They hadn't taught us everything we needed to know, otherwise why would we gather in Ruby Lounge to hear Pere Ubu? On this opening date of the co-ed jail tour Pere Ubu were playing exclusively oldies from 1975-82. Having talked for over an hour before the gig, David Thomas was less loquacious between songs than he often is, however he did find time to make a call on his vintage pink telephone during "Real World." I couldn't hear much difference between the funny phone mic and his regular mic, but presumably it's running through different effects. Like drummer Steve Mehlman he sat down for the whole performance. Before him was a music stand full of lyrics. Guitarist Tom Herman, bassist Michele Temple and Robert Wheeler all stood so hopefully the folk at the back could see something. I was right down the front as soon as we travelled into the "Heart of Darkness." Pere Ubu: two hats, two guitars and five people who hear the world as it really is and show us how to do "The Modern Dance." David Thomas might not be able to sing like Roy Orbison and if he could the only Pere Ubu song I could imagine that way is "Heaven," played near the end of a satisfyingly long set. For three songs the synth was out of action due to a faulty DI box, but the other four Ubu folk carried on like true troupers. It bounced back in time for "Misery Goats" and Robert Wheeler wasted no time waving his hands at the metal loops like a showroom dummy who just broke the glass. A guy next to me tried to steal a setlist before they finished but Tom Herman politely asked him to return it. It was a good job he didn't try to make off with David Thomas' comical parping clarinet type horn thing or things could have turned ugly! Peering out through hooded eyes, looking like a crazy hybrid of Orson Wells and Mr Magoo, David Thomas promised us a four hour set, just like Hawkwind in the seventies. sadly that wasn't to be, but we did get a "Final Solution" for "Dub Housing" and got to spend the day underwater with him not getting around much, not falling in love much. Those were "My Dark Ages." Yours too Magoo.

This review should appear in the issue after next of Optical Sounds. The next issue was full up unfortunately.        

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

The Stranglers in Sheffield 17.3.16‏

Once upon a time there lived a nine year old boy in a village nine miles from Stonehenge. He like to watch the telly, especially Dr Who and Blake's Seven. One day he saw a program called 'Jukebox Jury' presented by Noel Edmonds. He showed videos to a panel of pop celebrities who then cast judgement upon them. One song's video could not be shown because it had been deemed blasphemous by the BBC censors. The reason was the video had been shot in a church. Presumably the BBC spoke with god and so knew that it would be alright to show a still photo of the band dressed as overgrown choir boys in the same church. Only if The Stranglers moved would the wrath of the patriarchal lord of public broadcasting be invoked. The song was "Duchess" and five years later it would change that fourteen year old's life. Back in 1979 "Duchess" sounded a hell of a lot better than his previous favourite composers Gustav Holst (The Planets), John Williams (Star Wars music), The Beatles, Abba and Mike Batt (The Wombles). Only five years later would he have enough money to buy a tape of "The Raven" and soon collect all ten Strangled aural sculptures that existed in 1985. The Stranglers blew the door open on punk rock and much to his poor mother's chagrin he'd soon be blasting Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, Buzzcocks, Wire, Killing Joke, Subhumans, Conflict, Crass, Magazine, Banshees and The Fall as loud as the stereo could go.

Burning up time, somehow years rolled on by, The Stranglers changed singers twice and he became me. At 45 revelations per minute I found myself in Sheffield in front of The Alarm. They were a bit too Bryan Adams, a bit too middle of the road for my liking but singer Mike Peters had enough charisma to entertain whilst I waited for the Meninblack. When he got everyone near the front singing along to a "Na-na na-na" refrain I'm pretty sure I was the only one singing "Melt Banana." They're an amazing fast band from Tokyo, Japan. Check 'em out! I laughed my head off to one side when he sang about having one guitar because he quite clearly had two: one electric and one acoustic. I didn't give a damn as by that point I was as close to the bass amp as I've ever been at a Stranglers gig and they were about to play my favourite album "Black and White" all the way through. In 1978, The Stranglers took an apocalyptic turn into the shadows, Westminster was razed down to the ground, the robots took control of dystopia and they foresaw the end of time. Five minutes and they were almost there... how I cackled to a short "Waltzinblack" intro before they rolled on in their very own metaphorical "Tank." Behind his array of keyboards Dave Greenfield looked the part of the commander, barking a chorus of orders into his headset mic. To the left behind JJ Burnel drummer Jim Macaulay was the tank driver. JJ Burnel and Baz Warne were the ground troops expertly dispatching explosive attacks with their SLR guitars. They gave their old mothers and fathers something to be proud of as they did the prowl for "Nice'n'Sleazy" and Dave did the backwards lazer beam synth madness that really lifts the song. I suspect the reason this is the first tour I've seen them play without their almost number one hit "Golden Brown" in the set could be that "Outside Tokyo" is of a similar tempo. The end of time is arguably a more interesting lyrical topic than the pleasures of heroin or hashish anyway and it must be a more fun bass line for JJ to play. 
There are actually two more common versions of "Black and White," three including the old tape that wedged "Mean to Me" in towards the end of side one. This tour the Stranglers were using the slightly reshuffled CD reissue version rather than the original vinyl track sequence, so the robots rose before they got to tell us about "Sweden." Dismissed by original singer/guitarist Hugh Cornwell as a throwaway song, "Hey! (the Rise of the Robots)" is actually one of my favourite Stranglers songs and one of their most frenetic; arguably the last song they wrote that was full on punk rock. I like to sing my own version of "The Rise of the Cylons." Instead of "Versatran, Series F" I sing "Leoben, Caprica Six." This will only make sense if you've seen the remake of "Battlestar Galactica." Now Jet Black is too old and tired to drum, his former drum tech Jim Macaulay can rev the Robots up as fast as they can rise. There was no saxophone, but maestro Dave Greenfield was capable of compensating with keyboards. He also had some slight embellishments on the arpeggiating run that raises "Sweden" from its hypochondriac tombstone blues. If ever there was a Stranglers song that should've been a single it was "Sweden." If it had been released everywhere and not just in Sweden I think it would have been a much bigger hit than "Nice'n'Sleazy" and could've gone all the way to number one. The Swedish single "Sverige" was sung in Swedish by Hugh Cornwell as he lived there in the early seventies before he got Strangling with Jet, JJ and Dave. Every song from "Hey!" through to "Threatened" is a number one for me. "Toiler on the Sea" is probably a bit too long for a single, even if the Shadows style twangy guitar riff is a fine hook for an epic Norse saga that prefigures their next album "The Raven." They took her back up north and lost her in the fog...
Not much time to think before "Curfew" fell. Based on chords that are supposedly the devil's music and recounting visions of nuclear war and martial law in Britain, the title track with a different title is probably my favourite Stranglers song. JJ Burnel almost spoke the lyric, without the venom he furiously spat out like an exterminating Dalek back in '78. Every night this March tour JJ Burnel has sung, "Westminster is razed down to the ground, the government has fled into thin air." Meanwhile the current Tory scum administration is fleeing not from invading men from the Steppes but from each other. Maybe their mean spirited cuts program has been "Threatened." I always thought the keyboard intro to "Threatened" was purloined as the basis for the Associates' "Party Fears II" but no one I've ever mentioned that to can seem to hear the similarity. Liverpool had been a great big singalong with everyone near me singing all the songs in tune which sounded fantastic. Sheffield seemed a bit less vocal, but most people joined in on the "Bring me a piece of my mummy" drop away. The threatening prowling bass heaviness of "In the Shadows" soundtracked my trip to the bar to refuel on rum. Sheffield 2016 was the first Stranglers gig I've been to where they didn't play "Peaches". They did play it in Liverpool, but as "In the Shadows" is a song of similar tempo and style it seemed a suitable substitute. Dave asked us "Do you wanna blow your mind?" looking like a priest preaching from his pulpit and of course that segued into the night's best shout along "Death and Night and Blood." Surely the most challenging song to play is "Enough Time" as the disruptive guitar is so at odds with the bass line, and the slowed down grinding halt ending was executed admirably. "What if there's no way of moving back?" I guess you just get pulverised by that jolly old JJ Burnel bass rumble apocalypse.

One album down but just over half a gig to go. The Stranglers always give their fans a nice long set, maybe playing longer than any other band I go out to hear. Barely a pause for breath before they reminded us that the only crime they ever did was playing rock'n'roll with their first classic single "Grip." Fan favourite "Walk On By" preceded a small surprise. They hadn't played "Norfolk Coast," "I Lost Control" or "Freedom is Insane" in Liverpool and the last of these was especially welcome as its my favourite Stranglers song since Hugh Cornwell left the band. I could gladly swap "Princes of the Streets" and her piece of meat for "Sometimes" or "Down in the Sewer" but I guess a few slow numbers are necessary in a two hour set when half the band are in OAP land. Whilst "Always the Sun" has been a a set staple for years, we never tire of singing along. After all we're all made from sun, and in that context ancient sun worship makes a hell of a lot more sense than organised religions whose primary purpose is social control. The song's more of a Bob Dylan kind of protest ditty than anything to do with sun worship or a shitty newspaper, and really should have been number one. Two heavy apocalyptic singles "Nuclear Device" and "Five Minutes" fit right in with the "Black and White" album. The last four songs all tripped back in time to 1977 when feeling like a wog meant "Something Better Change." The encore was "Go Buddy Go" but it wasn't quite time for an exit because there were still "No More Heroes." Then we spilled out into the night, down the car park ramp and into a pub where the friendly DJ was playing the Stranglers every other song.

PS. The Stranglers also played "A Soldier's Diary" and "Relentless" that night. "Hanging Around" and "Peaches" were on the set list for the encore but unlike Liverpool and Manchester they didn't play them.

This review was written for

Friday, 4 March 2016

Gang of Four @ Islington Mill (Fat Out Burrow) on 28.2.16

Black Lung drove me back to the Burrow entrance, not so much because their music was too loud or horrible or bland, but because they used a drum machine. I can't stand synthetic beats at high volume. With two guitarists and a bassist swamped in dry ice it seemed like they were taking a trip back to eighties gothness via the Sisters of Mercy and the Bolshoi. A friend thought they sounded a bit like the Verve and she had a point with the phased guitar sound at least. Paddy from Gnod was more succinct in his reaction as he fled the room: " A load of shite!" Whatever, they were too bland for my liking.
Last time I saw Gang of Four at Leeds Brudenell it hadn't been widely broadcast that original singer Jon King had left the band, leaving guitarist Andy Gill as the only remaining original member, so the new singer John Sterry was a bit of an unpleasant surprise for most people. People were quite down on him that night maybe as much because of that rather than the difficulty of walking in another man's boots. Now he's had time to wear those boots in, cut his hair and dyed it blonde, he seems much more suited to get some credit. Using two mics, one either side of the stage, he'd parade himself from left to right so everyone could catch a glimpse of his blonde crop from the packed Burrow floor. Andy Gill looked and sounded sharp, sparking shards of jagged guitar skree far from his smart suit. It's not surprising that they still play more songs from their debut "Entertainment" than any other albums as it's an unsurpassable classic. History's not made by great men but "Entertainment" is a great bit of history that still reflects our capital failing times with critical questioning. "Please send me evenings and weekends," should be a manifesto for a life well lived and even if it isn't "Return the Gift" is still great fun to dance around to with a trio of tattooed girls down the front.
About five songs in Andy Gill got "Paralysed" on the mic and got me down the front where there was actually much more room than further back in the Burrow. More people really should have been dancing as tunes that remind us "What We All Want" and scream "To Hell with Poverty" can't be beat for inspiring movement. After "Paralysed" I paraphrased the lyric back to Mr Gill: "You were good at what you did." He politely replied, "Thank you." So I asked him to do it again and he obliged with his eternally "Damaged Goods." Maybe the highlight was "Love Like Anthrax" with Andy hurling his guitar to the floor so it could feedback like a malevolent Hendrix ghost as it played itself to death. The girls loved to see him shoot, but some of us preferred synchronised swimming to football. After that fine onslaught, John Sterry introduced "Do As I Say" with the ironic comment, "This is another three minute pop gem." Maybe he had the post-Anthrax blues, but his come down wasn't hard to bear with spiky grooves like "At Home He's a Tourist" and "I Found That Essence Rare" for us to dance madly to. "He'd Send in the Army" to smash a microwave oven with a metal bar. Andy reckoned the final kiss goodbye "Essence Rare" was the best they'd ever played it. Now please send me more evenings and weekends.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

The Birth of The Birth Marks

A Very Bon Friday night in a vegetarian cafĂ© south of Manchester's sexy student scene was the place where some fortunate fuckers bore witness to the birth of the Birth Marks. The straight life had taken its toll on the rhythm section of garage rock quartet Sex Hands so the ever prolific guitarists Dylan Hughes and Edwin Stevens, who also play in Desmadrados Soldados de Ventura, Irma Vep and Yerba Mansa, hunted down the bass skills of Oliver Costello and drum-diddling of Alex Hewett, more often recognisable as the frontman of slick soul-funk outfit Aldous RH. The Birth Marks are no great departure from Sex Hands, and most of their set was actually songs that would have been Sex Hands songs had half of them not had too much work on their hands. If anything this was an upgrade, simply because their new songs are the better than the old ones. Dylan and Edwin still trade Lou Reed licks like an explosion of plastic inevitability and holler away incomprehensibly. Tonight I thought Edwin was singing about the womble Orinoco, but he probably wasn't. Dylan had a whole lotta pedals but Edwin had just one distortion overdrive gizmo clicking on and off fast and furious. Dylan was the style rebel, forgetting to wear a peaked cap like the other three. Alex's hat bore the logo of the artist generally known as Prince even if he didn't want to be. He screwed up one drum intro, but that didn't matter. Edwin reckoned they'd played the first live fade out ever, but that's probably been done before. Maybe the most fun number was a herky jerky instrumental, a bit like the Velvet Underground's "Guess I'm Falling in Love" but actually a dance for a "CGI Dad."

...more to come...
I need to buy a laptop, OK?

They played "Too Tired" and you can hear it here: