ian hunter



September 2012



Well, it's a matter of quality ....

We've been asked why we don't review more of the monthly new releases. Well, it's a matter of quality. The NME may review around forty albums a month, while the monthly music mags probably average nearer eighty, but if you are reading this website the chances are you are a supporter of independent music and you would probably cross the street to avoid coming in to contact with eighty per cent of those. Then there are the records that disappoint. We don't want to waste our time running people down or slating what they have done; we want to talk about the music that matters, the records you should have in your life, the artists who still manage to entrance and enthrall. Of course we will miss things, but if there is any new release or brilliant new band you think we should have noticed, please let us know. We want to discover great new music, it's what we are all about. And we'll help spread the word. Happily.

listen to the band

The Glitter Band - Listen To The Band


Released: 13th August 2012


Like most media-fashioned genres, Glam Rock was never a coherent movement but a general term inspired by the reintroduction of glamour into music after the miserablism of late sixties rock. Giving credence back to the seven-inch single with a remarkable series of snappy, vigorously commercial pop tunes, Glam resurrected excitement and verve and gave a whole new generation of kids something of their very own to treasure. Of course there were rising stars of boundless talent who were happy enough to dance in its light momentarily before moving on to greater things, such as Bowie and Roxy; there were astoundingly talented rock bands whose appeal went way beyond the teenage fringes, such as Mott and Slade; and there were those who saw possibly a last chance for glory in milking the glam sparkle for all it was worth and appealing to the lowest common denominator, enter Alvin Stardust and Gary Glitter. Glitter's rise to prominence in 1972 raised some problems for the singer, whose music had been created in alliance with producer Mike Leander. 'Rock 'n' Roll' looked like becoming a big hit and television appearances were beckoning. However, it was the instrumental 'Part Two' that was really taking off which meant visually there had to be a band to back Glitter whose contribution to that track would be little more than some vocal filling. The answer was to recruit members of the Boston International Showband who had worked with Glitter when he was known as Paul Raven and they appeared together for the first time on Top of the Pops on 22nd June 1972 (with Mike Leander on guitar), originally being named the Glittermen. This band was to back Glitter until his 'retirement' in 1976, soon being re-named The Glitter Band, but their impressive stage performances, underlined by the mesmerising attraction of two drummers playing in synchronicity, saw rising interest in the band as a separate unit, and after Leander gave them some studio time in December 1973 to put together some of their own songs, they soon found themselves at the top end of the charts with a series of huge hit singles.

Their debut album Hey! (of course) captures all that was wrong about the bottom end of the glam market: the over use of godawful covers of old rock and roll standards to make up for a lack of decent originals. If you can listen to ‘Sea Cruise’, ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’, ‘Sealed With A Kiss’ and ‘Twisting The Night Away’ without retching you have inner strength, but surrounding the dross were songs of an entirely different nature. Written by members of the band, ‘Angel Face’ more than any other song captures the best of the ‘Glitter’ sound – a heavy rhythm, bursts of distorted guitars and plenty of ‘Heys!’ – and it’s great. ‘Just For You’ follows in the same vein and ‘Shout It Out’ clearly demonstrates the band have songwriting talent in abundance.

Moving on to 1975, Listen To The Band was the group’s third album and, having previously been available only on a fanclub release, has now seen light of day on Cherry Red’s 7Ts label with the bonus of twelve extra tracks. Recorded only five months after Rock ‘n’ Roll Dudes, all eleven songs were self-composed, and demonstrated not only how prolific and hard-working the band were, but how much they had evolved over the past two years. Listen to Hey! and then Listen To The Band and you would swear it was two different groups at work. The latter encompasses a marvellous mixture of styles, ranging from harmonic rock to melodic pop, from funk to disco, all beautifully crafted and sounding terrific on the new remaster. In fact ‘Makes You Blind’ was a huge disco hit in the USA, as far removed from Glitter roots as you could get! The down side for the band was that though they could still hit the top ten with singles such as the fantastic ‘People Like You And People Like Me’, the album-buying public did not seem prepared to give the maturing band a chance and, though they were producing the best music of their careers, Listen To The Band failed to chart. Like Mud, who wrote some seriously good songs as their popularity declined, it appeared the tide had turned and the arrival of Punk the following year meant nothing would ever be the same again. The Glitter Band have remained a draw on the live circuit and put on a mighty fine show, but Listen To The Band remains the peak of their career and a vivid snapshot of the state of the nation in the last days before the coming revolution.


come of age

The Vaccines – Come Of Age


Released: 3rd September 2012


We never really understood the rather intense media hype that built up around The Vaccines on the release of their debut album, last year’s What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? It was a painfully retro record which left you spending more time picking out influences than actually enjoying the music. Possibly that rather limited sixties tune-transfusion was a shade brighter than most of the competition, but in 2011, one of the worst years in living memory for new music, the competition was certainly limited. Some sixteen months down the line and things have livened up considerably and The Vaccines needed to respond with something a little more challenging if they were still to be taken seriously as first rate contenders. Happily, The Vaccines Come Of Age is a different beast to its predecessor. OK, it is still caught with more than one foot in the past, but it does show more intricacy, imagination and, best of all, intelligence than its predecessor. Don’t expect anything from a different planet to the debut, but there is a nice spirit about this record which is recorded live and makes no pretence to be more than it is: a melodic and enjoyable forty minutes that will occasionally gnaw into your brain and more than occasionally make you want to get up and dance around the room. There is some good guitar work: splendidly dirty on ‘Aftershave Ocean’, pleasingly plaintive on ‘All In Vain’, and bouncingly punky on ‘Bad Mood’, quite possibly the album’s highlight. Justin Young’s vocals are better across the board, less inclined to hide in the background, and he confidentally plunges through such delightfully wordy songs as the opener ‘No Hope’ and the bassy ‘Ghost Town’, while he often enunciates nicely and shows there is more than one side to his vocal style on ‘I Wish I Was A Girl’ and ‘Lonely World’. Yes, of course there are moments when The Vaccines still sound like a poor man’s Libertines or Strokes, but they are few and far between and in this collection of songs you cannot deny they have taken a mighty step forward. This won’t change your life, but it’s pretty decent. And credit for that.
when im president

Ian Hunter - When I'm President


Released: 3rd September 2012


We make no secret of our admiration for Ian Hunter. As the front man of one of the most influential, most intelligent and certainly the most intense rock bands in musical history, his songwriting was simply astounding. Able to lay bare the most sensitive and fragile of emotions, Hunter could also send your spirits soaring to the heavens or rouse you to tear a building apart in a fit of mindless rage: truly a writer with an inate understanding of the power of music and the efficacy of the right word in the right place. Since leaving Mott The Hoople, his solo career has seen plenty of ups and downs. Beginning with a series of astounding recordings up to 1980, his star plummeted through the eighties before he once again teamed up with old friend and undoubted genius Mick Ronson for 1990’s YUI Orta. Ronson’s death from cancer in 1993 came a a hammer blow for Hunter who shied away from recording for some years until gradually resurfacing in the late 1990s. It was the release of Rant in 2001 that truly got his career back on track, with the band assembled to record that album now pretty much a fixture, and the release of Shrunken Heads (2007) and Man Overboard (2009) found the old warrior in imperious form. Any man who can get the word ‘unexpurgated’ into a rock song is worthy of admiration, but one who can write such an addictive number as 2009’s ‘The Girl From The Office’ some forty years down the line is somebody with a very special talent indeed. Three years on from his last release, with the astonishingly successful Mott reunion concerts intervening, Hunter now returns with When I’m President, his fourteenth solo album and he shows little sign of slowing down. Heavier than his past few outings, Hunter is in his element when rocking out, and though he can write a devastating ballad, here he emerges with some of his most convincing rockers since ‘The Loner’ back in the Ronson days. ‘What For’ is a stormer, ‘I Don’t Know What You Want’ is gloriously heavy blues, and the whole album is infused with a welcome toughness. ‘Fatally Flawed’ opens in familiar balladeering territory, but erupts into furious life with some terrific guitar work, and its light and heavy approach is an undoubted highlight; musically Hunter is not as innovative as once he was, the singer leaning towards a more generic approach which is perhaps an inevitable consequence of his long-term American residency, and it is good to see him attempting to stretch boundaries once again. Lyrically, this is less politically direct than some of his recent releases, though Hunter has a keen eye and little escapes him, not least the power a woman can hold over a man. And he is still capable of delivering lines no other singer in rock would dream of uttering, “Black tears, vulnerable veneers, just another weapon in your arsenal of fear” – terrific stuff. Hunter has astonishing energy and continues to play both the UK and USA every year with his current tour hitting these shores next month (including Brighton Concorde 2). “I can’t believe after all of these years, you’re still here and I’m still here,” he intones on ‘Life’. We’re just glad that he is ... and long may he continue to be so.


Toy - Toy


Released: 10th September 2012


Having fled the numbing exuberance of the Jing Jang Jong, recruited some keyboards and regrouped as a five-piece, Toy have spent the past couple of years immersing themselves in a diverse array of musical genres and carving out a new path through the musical underground. And underground is a fitting description for their debut album, as this is very much music for tunnellers, an experience akin to spending the night on the Circle line: always on the move but never breaking free, knowing the world is flashing by, but remaining hemmed in, unable to reach the light. This is a record without peaks or troughs, frighteningly one-eyed, but despite its inherent claustrophobia Toy still manage to make the journey intriguing, attractive and even uplifting. And this is a remarkable thing. Dip an indie pop band in Neu!, throw in some West Coast harmonies and add a lightly psychedelic edge and you come close to understanding this record. For buried beneath the heavy coating of droning keyboards, metronomic drumming and numbing repetition, there is life to be found: dancing basslines, warped and shackled guitars, and vocals that barely stray from the monotone, yet carry enough subtle force to play havoc with your emotions. And there’s hooks ... and melodies. The instrumental ‘Drifting Deeper’ glows in space age gothic splendour, feeling like the missing link between Station To Station and Low, while ‘The Reason Why’ swerves momentarily off track to swoon like My Bloody Valentine with some beautifully restrained guitar work, and is worth every second of its near eight minutes. The heavily confined guitars try their best to break away on ‘Motoring’ which borders on driving pop, while the brilliantly-titled closer ‘Kopter’, tipping a hat to obvious Germanic influences, fails to start as it means to go on, with smothering guitars crashing in waves over its autobahn beat and the whole building up into a scarf-waving finale. The beauty of the post punk world was that it left all doors open for exploration and it seems some new bands are at last realising the key to artistic success is in taking their own paths and seeing where they lead. Like most great records, this one is a grower and every play reveals something else to enjoy. Take your time with it, Toy are going nowhere. Fast. Released on double vinyl as well as CD, the place to buy it is Rough Trade where they are giving away a frighteningly limited album of BBC Sessions with initial purchases.

Race Horses - Furniture


Released: 10th September 2012


Goodbye Falkenburg was one of the more pleasant surprises of 2010 and revealed Race Horses to be true inheritors of the legacy handed down by Gorky’s and Super Furry Animals. Not just because Race Horses are Welsh and occasionally sing in their native tongue, but because, like their peers, they are able to produce melodic pop music of a truly outstanding quality, often with no little pyschedelic edge and more than a little quirkiness. Furniture is a very different beast from its eclectic predecessor in that it is considerably more focused, seldom swaying from classic pop structures, though thankfully the band still manages to embellish their songs with a freshness and a sparkle that leaves the whole sounding bright and ceaselessly entertaining. It was always amusing when SFA made claims their new record would be ‘mainstream pop’ when it turned out to be as bonkers as all the others had been. Race Horses also claim plenty of mainstream influences, including Michael Jackson and Queen, on shaping the sound of their new opus, but Furniture comes across as something startlingly original and teasingly hard to tie down. Singer Meilyr Jones has a light, pleasantly accented voice and intones like Russell Mael of Sparks, ‘Bad Blood’ being the most obvious example, and there are often hints of that startlingly original seventies’ band, especially in the crispness and assertiveness of the songs. For there’s definitely an air of confidence in this record, from the synth pop of opener ‘Furniture’ with its terrific drum collision in the middle, through the bouncy and slightly deranged ‘Mates’, to the welcome guitar attack that carries away the second half of the gentle “What Am I To Do’. This is all good stuff, but Races Horses reach even greater heights with the gloriously melodic ‘Sisters’ which opens like an old Motown tune, is built up with some lovely warped guitar bursts, and ends in a harmonic indie-pop dream. Lyrically, Furniture touches on themes of detachment, anxiety and entrapment, of society often restricting freedom rather than setting you free, and this only serves to underline the intelligence running throughout this release. Furniture is cleverly done, nicely made and bright as a button. Well worth investigation.

Ringo Deathstarr - Mauve

Club AC30

Released: 24th September 2012


Brilliantly-named Texas trio Ringo Deathstarr have been carrying a torch for UK indie music of the late eighties and early nineties for a few years now and with their second album proper, the equally brilliantly-named Mauve, show they have no desire to move on at all. This album is so set in the past it could be a museum piece, but the band confidently demonstrate a mastery of their subject and if you ever loved the shoegazing sound, you could well find this worth the effort. Name a band of that era and mindset and you’ll find it here. When Alex Gehring sings alone, she captures the spirit of Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson wonderfully well, in her harmonies, phrasing and tone. When she sings with Elliott Frazier they distil the essence of Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher. Add some Slowdive dreamscapes and some Ride verve and you’re pretty much there. And it’s an enjoyable thing. In this world of tribute bands (thriving because the current music scene offers so little), why not a shoegaze reinactment society? No, it’s not original, but ’Rip’ sparkles like distorted Lush with the backing gently melting away before ending in the tinkling of bells, ‘Burn’ erupts like an MBV assault with its gentle male-female vocal defying the turmoil, ‘Girls We Know’ is Mary Chainesque in all its twisted sixties’ glory, and ‘Fifteen’ with its warping, melifluous harmonies is quite a lovely thing in its own right. Thirteen tracks, over half with monosyllabic titles and only a sprinkling of them over three minutes long, reveal a punk approach which is underlined on ‘Slack’ with its attitude and driven guitars, ‘Drain’ which crashes along like Ride on speed, and ‘Waste’ with its classic punk opening, melting guitars and machine gun drumming. Ringo Deathstarr: a melding of two cultures; Texicans who lost their souls to the Home Counties and wear their hearts unashamedly on their sleeves. You have to admire their nerve. But if you are going to be stalked, you want to be stalked by the best and Mauve is a splendid thing: stylish and likeable even if it is fixated and just a little bit worrying. But, hey, on ‘Do You Wanna?’ they almost sound American.
never mind the bollocks

The Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks


Released: 24th September 2012


Quite simply the band who changed the world. It’s difficult for people to comprehend that statement this day and age, but in truth there are few aspects of life in the twenty-first century that haven’t been touched by the legacy punk rock bequeathed to an intolerant, rigid and violent society. Music, art, graphics, fashion, television, film, politics and even general attitudes to life all owe a debt to the sheer contagious energy, style and outlook of punk, and none of this would have happened without the Sex Pistols.

It’s thirty-five years now since the band released their one proper album and for all the worthiness of the Clash, the Damned and countless others, this stands head and shoulders above everything else the movement could throw together. To recognise this anniversary Universal have got together a special anniversary edition (or rip-off depending on your outlook) which includes three CDs, a DVD, a hardback diary of the band’s life in 1977, a replica of the ultra rare A&M release of ‘God Save The Queen’ and various other snippets including a full size recreation of the Bollocks poster originally given away with the album.

It’s pointless commenting on the main album here. The remaster is good, the sound is as clean as you want it, and it remains one of the greatest works of recorded music ever conceived. Rotten’s asides are peerless, his lyrics cutting and affecting even today, “We're the flowers in the dustbin ... we’re the future, your future” – was there ever a greater eulogy to a wasted generation? The second CD contains the non-album b-sides, which sound great remastered and are nicely mixed with barely a second between the tracks. Of special interest is the alternative version of ‘No Feelings’ taken from the aborted A&M ‘God Save The Queen’ single, with Rotten’s vocals right to the front and Jones’s guitar held firmly in the background. There are six demos produced by the band’s live sound engineer Dave Goodman taken from the Gooseberry Sessions which were the last songs recorded with Glen Matlock (and sound all the better for his basslines) between the band’s departure from EMI and their signing to A&M. Also included are eleven demos recorded by the band’s singles producer Chris Thomas. Unusually, the Pistols had different producers for album tracks and single tracks and often ended up with two versions of the same songs so it is great to have these versions readily available.

Disc three features live recordings of the band in Trondheim and Stockholm in 1977 and are more interesting than crucial, while the DVD captures some poor footage of the infamous riverboat party of June 1977, promo videos of ‘God Save The Queen’, ‘Pretty Vacant’ and ‘Holidays In The Sun’, live footage from Penzance (truly a rarity) and Stockholm (which has been out on bootleg many times), and a series of interviews including an unedited and hilarious interview with Rotten and Vicious for Radio One’s ‘Rock On’. The book offers a fascinating glimpse into history with great photos, newspaper cuttings and commentary, all of which stir the ghosts of half-forgotten days.

The whole package is nicely done, well made and thoughtful in that it is twelve inch album size and so can fit neatly into exisitng space unlike most other recent collections. Is it worth the ninety odd quid now being charged for what are probably a dwindling amount of copies? It’s a toughie, but if you do take the plunge you won’t feel cheated.

12 bar bruise

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - 12 Bar Bruise


Released: 24th September 2012


Anyone remember the exuberence of a King Kurt concert? It was more than a night out, it was explosion of life: a thousand limbs in motion, a primal beat in your ears and bucketloads of offal flying past your nose. You seldom got out unsullied, but the only real damage we ever suffered was a bash on the head by a cauliflower at a ‘vegetarian’ night. Listening to 12 Bar Bruise brings back these memories. It was ‘Dead Beat’ that first caught our attention, lifted from last year’s ‘Willoughby's Beach’ EP and sounding mightily impressive in a nasty alternative psychobilly gothic surf kind of way. Everything is thrown in the mixer, but what emerges is a sheer zest for life, with the glorious swelling noise carrying you away in a massive amphetamine breaker. The debut album simply carries on where that left off. The stuttering opening of ‘Elbow’ soon swells into a storm of screaming and feedbacking guitars, broken solos, classic rock asides and psychobilly chants, and we’re off on an exhilarating journey that encompasses bastardised surf rock, twisted blues bashes, spaghetti western theme tunes, Cramps howls, whirling rock and roll and surreal moments that sound strangely like Peter and the Test Tube Babies. And, hell, surely that sounds like the sadly missed Tracy Pew and Rowland S Howard playing on the stomping title track. It’s a highlight, as is ‘Cut Throat Boogie’ which one hell of a glorious racket with spitting vocals and a ‘Blundertown’ undercoat. But there’s not a lot wrong with any of this and when the gentlest track on an album is titled ‘Bloody Ripper’ you know you are on to a good thing. Seemingly released by the band themselves, you may struggle to get the album over here, but it is available on their website in a limited edition red speckled vinyl edition (500), an even more limited cassette (100) and a CD which doesn’t appear to be limited at all. All come with free downloads, so every need is catered for. King Gizzard are currently touring their native Australia, and we wait with bated breath to see if they ever make it to these shores.
a history of crime

Crime & The City Solution - An Introduction To


Released: 24th September 2012


With Simon Bonney resurrecting Crime at the end of last year from his new base in Detroit and a new tour and album in the offing, Mute have moved quickly to release a compilation featuring the band’s work from their Berlin incarnation of 1987-1991. Having already had Sydney and Melbourne versions of the band, Crime & The City Solution were reborn in London in 1985 when Bonney (the only constant) teamed up with guitarist Rowland S. Howard and multi-instrumentalist Mick Harvey, fresh from the break-up of The Birthday Party, to release a series of impressively dark recordings. Internal divisions saw the band eventually split, with three members departing to form These Immortal Souls under the leadership of Howard, and Crime was re-born yet again in Berlin, Bonney and Harvey being joined by new musicians amongst whom was Alexander Hacke, formerly of Einstürzende Neubaten. The Berlin Crime released three albums on Mute in Shine (1988), The Bride Ship (1989) and Paradise Discotheque (1990) before Bonney decided they had run their course and headed off to the USA where he worked as a solo artist. This new compilation samples tracks from those three Berlin albums which have always remained closest to Bonney’s heart as the band at that time was undoubtedly his creation, the singer having the major hand in composing both the music and the lyrics. In many ways it is a shame the London recordings have been omitted as they number among the very best the band produced, though there is still plenty here to enjoy. Shine is an absolutely glorious record and the four tracks selected from that album are impressive, the music both deep and resonating, guitars pushed to the background as atmopsheric keyboards, drums and bass dominate. How ‘Angel’ was overlooked is beyond comprehension, though the single ‘On Every Train’ runs it close, a shadowy emotional journey of flickering hopes dwelling on futile dreams of redemption. Four tracks from The Bride Ship follow, an album that failed to live up to the glory of its predecessor largely through too much being thrown in and little time being left for breath. ‘Keepsake’ is a little busy, before we are presented with 'The Bride Ship' trilogy, a three-song concept that fails to grasp you emotionally, but intrigues on an intellectual level. The interest of multi-part, themed songs continued on Paradise Discotheque with the four-part ‘The Last Dictator’ included here in its entirety, though thankfully the three other tracks from the album are more accessible, immediately sounding rawer and more emotionally open than their predecessors, the single 'The Dolphins and The Sharks' in particular touching in its broken, lovestruck honesty. Finally, we have ‘The Adversary’, a track originally included in the soundtrack to the Wim Wenders film Until the End of the World. It is inconceivable this compilation was put together without Bonney’s input and it begs the question about the direction the new Crime will take. At their best, emotionally raw and open, Crime & The City Solution can peel your soul; at their most intellectual they become little more than an interesting sideshow.


July and August 2012 Reviews

October 2012 Reviews

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