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Archive for August, 2013

“I have found the Family Fodder record to be of great comfort and delight. I was going through a bad patch and then I listened to the Family Fodder record and the bad patch ended almost immediately.” (Mr D. Shrigley, Variety sleevenotes.

Even Porky, as an experienced music scribbler, finds it a minor challenge to describe Family Fodder to passing aliens in bite-sized chunks. Post-punk? Yes, but in their early 80s heyday. Space-age Fodderweirdos? Getting there, there’s definitely a strangeness and aloofness to this English act. A pop group? Stretching it perhaps, but it’s easy to singalong to some tracks on the new album Variety (The state51 Conspiracy).

Porky was taken by the multi-instrumental nature of 2010’s Classical Music (see review here, https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2010/11/26/lowdown-on-the-new-23/) and a reference to an Angolan activist killed by the brutal military regime in 1978 which showed an interest in global politics, a penchant largely mocked in today’s celeb-and-trivial-obsessed society.

Variety continues where Classical Music left off, with the pounding rhythms of Deja Deja Vu reminiscent of the Fodder from 1979, and an instrumental, Blue Puppies, sounding like the soundtrack to a scary version of the The Teddy Bear’s Picnic. Vampyre On My Mind is very, well, different, the first time FF have really used electronica to such effect, with inanely splendid lyrics.

Overall, I found this Family Fodder record to be of interest and intrigue. I was going through a bad patch and then I listened to the Family Fodder record and the bad patch continued.

As opposed to Family Fodder’s longevity, Liverpudlians Outfit have their debut album, Performance (Double Denim records) out now. The first platter is always a crucial statement of intent and Outfit have made a decent fist of that.

OUtfitThey seem to have picked up a fair bit of hype in their brief existence, with the likes of the Guardian and the NME acting like mutts around a dog on heat. Portishead and 70s prog (God bless) have been referenced but the spectre of ethereal-electro Norwegians Royksopp looms large. Plaintive vocals, haunting melodies, matter-of-fact lyrics and a reverential beauty are the hallmarks of Performance. Nothing Big and I Want What’s Best are two ball grabbers, and the remainder is a mixture of melodrama and banality with The Great Outdoors and its evocation of a personal independence that borders on loneliness finding a way into the heart.

There’s a certain gravitas about people whose surnames matches English counties; think broadcaster Victoria Derbyshire, ex-Ipswich Town bench warmer Lee Norfolk and David Essex. So in terms of names Jack Cheshire is up there with such luminaries. Cheshire’s self-released debut Long Mind Hotel is actually his third.

He is a dapper-dressed man, and the most notable aspect of the record is Cheshire’s hushed but endearing voice. Unlike Outfit, where the vocals almost seem incidental, Long Mind Hotel revolves around the main man, with his band largely playing catch-up. There is a curious beauty here, the feeling that I’ve unearthed an item at a garage sale which appears to be just another trinket, but contains individualistic elements that give it life.

Downloadable preview track Gyroscope does, however, feature a band fully in tune with Cheshire, with their jazz inflections, although it doesn’t actually sound like a jazz track. If that makes sense. In fact, there are surf guitars and latin rhythms aplenty, the excellent Into The Void in particular harks back to late 50s San Francisco and is eminently hummable.

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I have to thank Dreadzone for a hugely inspiring album that transcendced genres and even saw them appear on Britain’s decades-old pop chart show, Top of the The Pops.

Second Light was a groundbreaking fusion of electronic and dub that dabbled in the dance scene that Dreadzonehad crossed over into rock and indie. An offshoot of Big Audio Dynamite (Greg Roberts, Leo Williams and Dan Donovan with non-BADdie Tim Bran) they recorded four more albums thereafter, and now comes the seventh, Escapades on Dubwiser records.

I guess we should start with two fish hooks that will inevitably surface commonly in reviews, and both are contained within the same song. Too Late features a guest appearance by Mick Jones, ex of BAD, although he isn’t on lead vocals and the song borrows the hook from the brilliant post-punk hit single Is Vic There? by Department S. They’re not a band I would have imagined being linked to Dreadzone, but the melding works, with the song rockier than most of the other material.

Places is a delightful inclusion, with a summer feel and inspiring lyrics; portions of dub-heavy Next Generation hark back to Second Light; I Love You Goodbye adapts samples and a ringing telephone quite cleverly; Rise Up pounds away mercilessly, and Fire In The Dark features a female Arabic voice sequenced by dance rhythms and has an insanely driving chant/chorus. This is the closest Dreadzone will get to Bristol.

It is not an album without its faults. Some tracks are laboured, and the two featuring Lena Cullen are insipid, reflecting her flat vocals.

I’ve given this a handful of listens, and more layers are unravelled with each play, although Music of the Spheres, one of those tracks featuring Cullen, is unlikely to escape the stop button. 

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Porky’s good friends at Fishrider Records have been especially good to the fat pig this month, by supplying the debut album by The Prophet Hens: Popular People Do Popular People.

PopularAs with much of the material by new bands, Porky gave a dismissive look at the cover of dozens of drawings of our feathered friend, but these parcels often bring forth some unfeasible pleasures and this is one of those.

The Hens are a four-piece who wear their Dunedin badges firmly on their lapels and shout out their love of all things Flying Nun and the requisite label/ city bands, namely The Chills, the Magick Heads et al. You may remember my review of the Salad Boys, a band with a similar love of the supposed sound of Otago. In reality the ‘Dunedin Sound’ of the 80s was fairly generic and the label never did properly attribute the role of Christchurch and other South Island settlements in its developments.

The Hens – named after a cunning stunt in early 19th century England that shows the age of opportunistic deviousness began some time before tabloids were invented – are made up primarily of the handsome Karl Bray and the even handsomer Penelope Esplin with other Monopoly players such as John White, Sefton Holmes, Robin Cederman and Darren Stedman joining in.

There are Über-jangly guitars, playful drums and earnest basslines aplenty, with the delectable vocals of Esplin and Bray ensuring there’s no instrumentals about. At nine tracks and 29 minutes long it isn’t one of those over-long efforts that the compact disk has encouraged. While there’s a distinct and discernible Mainland sound, Left It Out To Shine drips with English eccentricity and the 60s harmonies endlessly repeated that is the bootprint of Stereolab.

That this was the fifth track was a slight surprise as, to then, all the pointers were ringing true – the Godlike popiness of The Chills, and touches of the lo-fi rock’n’roll of The Clean.

High Times is an outstanding opening track, Bray and Esplin’s boy-girl Hensunanimity mingling with effervescent guitars, and a chorus that demands endless repetition. Romp is it’s elder brother and Green Blades of Grass a track that would have been released as a single in the days when such things existed. This is an album for those bred on Sarah Records, the Primitives, and joyous singalongs from bands formed by kids whose fathers were white collar workers who watched Stoke City on Sunday mornings on delayed free-to-air TV and mums who read the back pages of The Listener.

Of course, it isn’t all jaunty humathons; A Filled Page falters, and the last track Red Blonde screams ‘filler’ but I’m in no mood to ruminate and act like a purist, this is a fine, if slightly nostalgic album that Grandmother could listen to.

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