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Archive for October, 2013

Porky first encountered Londoner Chris T-T a decade ago, when he played Priors Inn, Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. It was a large, grubby but family-style pub that came alive in the evenings with a welter of emerging and obscure acts. Chris gave me a copy of his album, London Is Sinking, that night, and I incorporated into my live review for the local paper. It’s an album I still hold dear for its gentle but brooding style.The Bear

Now with the Hoodrats, T-T still plays intimate venues and his current UK tour stops in at Ullapool in the western Highlands, Devizes in Godknowshere and Bury St Edmunds (The Apex).

He’s come along way from that night at Priors, and The Bear (Xtra Mile recordings) is his ninth studio album. In a year that has offered more promise than actual quality (Primal Scream, Stooges, Billy Bragg, New Order have all released disappointing records) the first full outing by T-T and Hoodrats pricks up the pig’s ears, a classic of the indie genre with nods to the Kinks and Blur.

In an era of humdrum, if not outright lazy, writing, The Bear offers a refreshing take on the art of writing. The title track adopts the opening lines to PiL’s volatile Rise, “I could be wrong, I could be right” but there are no fears of it being a misguided cover as T-T shoots forth straight after: “Well done John, marvellous insight, you think buying and selling your soul would be better/ well picture me giving a damn .. whatever”.

As well as Mr Lydon the track namechecks Orson Welles, Louis CK and Joan Rivers. But it is essentially a song about the ordinary man and woman and the line “you need some gumption to fight the bear” refers to people’s stoicism in the face of everyday adversity. 

No icon is too big for T-T, and Jesus Christ hails a visionary and laments those who take his name in vain. “When He said let he without sin cast the first stone/ They didn’t understand any of it/ He wasn’t telling using how to behave, he thought he gave his life to set us free,” sings T-T with trumpets and pounding hooks joining in.

Then there’s songs like Paperback Kama Sutra, Bury Me With A Scarab and Idris Lung, music that should be for the masses, but won’t be, as anything educational, challenging or even topical has long since been ditched in the too hard basket for music’s controllers. But the Hoodrats know a good thing or two, and The Bear is a heavyweight album, of intelligence and is the work of act that’s reaching a peak. 

 

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A long time ago, when Porky found the ability to use a computer, we reviewed albums much differently from how we do now (see here https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2009/03/)

This included a wee section on the artwork and packaging, but that was soon canned because, more often than not, there wasn’t much to say, other than state the obvious about the cover. Belle

If I had continued this idea I would have a reasonable amount to write about Belle & Sebastian’s The Third Eye Centre (Rough Trade/ Jeepster) which is encased in a beautiful ‘hardback’ digipak packaging, with an attached booklet with lyrics and notes, as well as excellent photographs from performers at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow (the successor to the Third Eye Centre).

An admirable effort for a compilation, one that comprises B-sides, and ‘outakes’ recorded during the past decade. Of the obscurities, there are two tracks that didn’t feature on 2010’s Belle & Sebastian Write About Love. Both Suicide Girl and the vaguely rockabilly Last Trip are excellent, worthy of any studio album, although it is debatable whether either would have fit in with the temperament of Write About Love. There’s also a track from a War Child benefit compilation, The Eighth Station of the Cross Kebab House, which sounds a little like The Specials before they split. The inclusion of this makes me wonder why tracks such as a cover of the Young Marble Giants’ Final Day and The Monkeys Are Breaking Out The Zoo, both only available on compilations, weren’t also included.

Like The Smiths’ and The House of Love, the Glaswegians take their B-sides seriously and most of them are intriguing in their own way, with a special mention going to the hilarious Meat and Potatoes which relates in much detail the fumbling adventures of a couple who “try to spice it up”, but they encounter issues with one of the party having an allergic reaction to dairy products.

Surprisingly there are few tracks that receive the fast-forward treatment and it shows the depth the band have had since the turn of the century. There’s even a Sudanese element to a remix of I’m A Cuckoo.

I hope Belle & Sebastian continue for a few years, but there are bands that should take note that their time has come and they need to say their farewells to each other.

FratellisMaybe it’s fear of the future, the lure of the lolly and groupies, or just out of habit, that some acts just can’t bear to utter those immortal words ‘time to move on’. Arctic Monkeys, Manic Street Preachers, and, dare I say it, because I am a fan, Primal Scream, all produced their best records some years ago.

The Fratellis have long passed their best-before date. The indie rock band, with the emphasis on rock, rose a wave in 2006 on the back of cheepy-chappy, rousing singles like Chelsea Dagger and Whistle For The Choir. But it was never a project that the word ‘longevity’ could ever apply to, the debut album gained pass marks but a one-trick pony is, to state the rather obvious, a non-starter in the next race.

Needless to say We Need Medicine (BMG Records) is the sound of a band struggling to assert itself in the face of a lack of ideas. The riffs are from 1971, the vocals comparable to a school band in a Battle of the Bands contest, and the lyrics were also written in that same classroom. Needless to say, it’ll sell millions. 

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