Archive for September, 2013

It is a source of some consternation that Barry Adamson has largely avoided the masses’ collective interest, and he remains, more than 30 years after first appearing with the post-punk outfit Magazine, a left-of-field character, known only by those with their snouts in the trough of cultural goodness.

A voice to match any crooner, and a fine taste in guitars, jazz and film-noir; it would appear that Adamson would be an ideal guest for American late night talk shows. But, I guess, ironically, those factors, unleashed on small independent labels, just won’t do for a general public that has little appetite for film directors like Derek Jarman and David Lynch, both of whom have worked with the Mancunian. Or maybe it’s just that there is a blanket ban on people called Barry.

AdamsonStill, of all the albums that have been made available to Porky, all have or would merit a mention in the end of the year best album lists.

He is an enigma, and last year I initially missed I Will Set You Free (Central Control), discovering it months after it was released. This review comes either as a very belated one, or worthy of Attic Dweller, a series of overviews of classic past albums that hasn’t been seen on these pages in recent times.

It proves to me that Adamson is improving as the years grind on, although I Will Set You Free isn’t as good as previous works such as Back to the Cat (2008).

Adamson sets his stall up early with the mesmerising Get Your Mind Right which begins with some dirty guitars from Bobby Williams and reaches a crescendo with Bazza hollering, almost against the grain of the previous verses, “I took a bullet in my residence, I took a bullet as a precedence, I took a bullet for my president.”

All solo albums come, of course, with able sailors, and those adjoining Adamson on vocals and bass guitar, are Williams, drummer Iain Ross, and former Roogalator member, Nick Plytas on piano and organs.

It’s Plytas’ craftsmanship that boosts Turnaround, one of a series of hugely uplifting tracks that mark out the album, with an eye on an imaginary movie soundtrack, or the theme track to a New Zealand television drama. His love of movies comes across most obviously on Destination, which opens with 40 seconds of serious riffing, with Adamson rattling off the lyrics like it was a grand prix practice session. See below for a short film set to Stand In. Meanwhile, Bazza starts in a mournful manner on The Trigger City Blues, “I have a gun and I’m going to use it,” just prior to the band hitting into late-period Fun Lovin’ Criminals territory, complete with gunshots against windows, bodies falling to the ground and a motorbike racing off. Later, a phone rings for what seems like forever. Eerie yes, but it works.

Looking to Love Somebody is Adamson in near-ballad mood, pining for a new love, and If You Love Her similarly sees our Man from Moss Side taking the tempo down low. It fits in with the album but may be one that fails to escape the forward button. I Will Set You Free concludes with the very appetising, almost religious, Stand In, the closest Adamson will get to Scott Walker, of which there are some similarities.

Adamson has been doing some production work, notably on The Dames’ self-titled debut, released this month but here’s hoping more solo work is on the horizon. 


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Given the year-zero feel to the so-called Dunedin Sound and its vanguard, the Flying Nun label, I was surprised to hear Matthew Bannister say without The Beatles, Dunedin would, to this day, be better known for a pretty railway station, a chocolate factory and the Scottish influence (ie hard-drinking) than it’s music.

Maybe I was looking too closely at the post-punk influences. But I can see something now when I listen to One-Man Bannister‘s version of The Fab Four’s I’m Only Sleeping where he gets the Bannisterchance, finally, to sing “Keeping an eye on the world going by, my window, taking my time, lying there staring at the ceiling, waiting for a sneaky feeling,” Yes, indeed, Matthew you, formerly of Dribbling Darts of Pleasure, The Weather and Sneaky Feelings.

And while I harbour doubts at Bannister’s statement about the Scousers’ influence on the Otago music scene of the 1980s (The Cure and New Order may have made more sway), I can listen to One-Man Bannister’s Evolver (Powertool records) and understand the basics behind Sneaky Feelings, one of New Zealand’s most popular bands.

Bannister has gone through the Beatles’ 1966 classic Revolver, song by song, riff by riff, and word by word. But it’s far from some sort of karaoke night at the Dog and Cake recorded on SmartPhone. Bannister adds his own vocal interpretation of each song and, fundamentally, fuels it with a new musical direction.

Love You To gets an extra chord or two; For No One has, gasp, a country tinge (forgive him Father) and Yellow Submarine feels like it was written for a day on a Northland beach, which I am sure Lennon, Macca, Dode and The Other One would have wanted it to sound. Meanwhile, album closer, Tomorrow Never Knows is exactly how I would have wanted the Happy Mondays, World of Twist, and other ‘Madchester’ bands to do this track.

That’s his best take on all the songs, and Bannister certainly makes a very good fist of doing The Beatles (where so many have failed before) but I still have a hankering of giving the original a twirl.

One-Man Bannister’s version of And Your Bird Can Sing features on a Powertools records compilation, I Have No Idea, that includes artists from both New Zealand and California, an initiative that involves US-based Greg Franco, a Mr All-rounder in Los Angeles.

DrillOf the tracks here, Porky is particularly taken by Kiwis Nick Raven, Dan West, Ghosts of Electricity, Sugarbug and Transcendental Learning Collective, and from the States, Rough Church, Tommy Santee Klaws and The World Record are the most illuminating …. The CD also comes with a fanzine – or perhaps it’s the other way round – Drill, with features on the bands, as well as an expose on New Zealand’s poor environmental record, and which is worth getting in itself.

Due to copyright reasons, Evolver can’t be obtained digitally, so buy the album, and the compilation/zine from powertoolrecords.co.nz

Check out our review of Drill cover star Nick Raven and Factory Kids …https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/nick-raven-factory-kids-wilberforces-salad-boys-and-salon-kingsadore/

and also Transcendental Learning Collective:  https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/a-good-workman-credits-his-powertools/

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In 1988 The Shamen faced down religion with a loaded statement that implied that Christianity was built on deceit and deception.

The incident is now merely a footnote of history, and a thorough web search found precious little information. However, I recall it quite vividly and, to be honest, rather fondly, as it was a very clever put down of religious fundamentalism.

Early that year an evangelist bookseller from Southend-on-Sea, Paul Slennett, who clearly was not short of a bob or two, paid the British Post Office tens of thousands of pounds for a postmark that Jesus Is A Liewould be franked onto millions of letters in the run-up to Easter. With Thatcherism in full flight the Post Office turned to other methods of raising money, even it meant being in league with fundamentalists. The postmark featured the words “Jesus Is Alive” in bold capital letters, with a cross.

The Associated Press reported that Slennett did it because God told him to.

It provoked a barrage of criticism, including some from the moderate wing of the church – Bishop Ronald Gordon, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie’s chief of staff, described it as inappropriate and insensitive.

In stepped The Shamen who called their national tour the Jesus Is A Lie tour. The slogan was a simple but evocative re-working of the postmark, with an inverted cross as part of the promotional material. It was clearly a call-to-arms for those who found the postmark and the ideology of certain elements of religion offensive.

We’re into psychedelic experiences and certain sexual practices,” said The Shamen’s singer Colin Angus. “And we certainly don’t go along with the hypocrites who peddle this form of organised religion.”

Those people were largely the Jesus Army who they branded as “fascist paramilitary Christians”. In an article in the Northampton Chronicle from June ’88 the paper attempts to portray a “devil of a row” between the two groups although it is clearly the Jesus Army that picked up the first stone. Twenty-four hours after their Birmingham gig, the Army destroyed as many Shamen records as they could find during an evangelical rally. “We are opposed to the anti-Christian stance that this group has adopted,” said Army spokesperson Liz Donovan, adding that The Shamen were “in favour of Satanism” and “they are in the hands of evil.” The claims were rubbished by the band with Angus telling the newspaper “we are into forms of spiritualism and don’t like the pseudo-Judaism that they pump into people.” See also the interview that’s part of the video below.

The Shamen formed in 1984 in Aberdeen and were initially a sixties influenced psychedelic band, a long way from the acid/ dance crossover act they would become. By 1988 their stage show had led to them being booted off the bill of the Glasgow Mayfest for a clip played during Knature of A Girl that was deemed pornographic. Their espousal of drugs also resulted in them losing a beer commercial. And later, of course, came the heat from the Ebeneezer Goode single that was No.1 in the UK. (“Eezer Goode, Eezer Goode, he’s Ebeneezer Goode.”)

The Jesus Is A Lie tour was not the only occasion The Shamen took on organised religion, and in the same year, they released a single called Jesus Loves Amerika, which nailed their hatred of religion quite succinctly. “These are the men who break the right in righteous/ Such hypocrisy, stupidity is out of sight, yes/ Jesus loves Amerika but I don’t love neither.”

The Shamen went on to sell millions of records, Christianity in Britain has been dwindling in influence and numbers for decades.


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