Archive for June, 2014


THAT PETROL EMOTION’S beginnings are tainted/ painted with their Undertones history, with both Sean O’Neill and his brother Damian being founder members of the Derry hit makers. Babble

Debut album Manic Pop Thrill, despite its apparently genteel title, was a massive switch away from the harmonies and sharp new wave tunes of the ‘Tones, and eschewed the religiously apolitical outlook of that act.

Manic Pop Thrill alerted those who didn’t listen to the inanity of daytime radio that here was something good on the make. It took Babble, their second and most successful album, to seal that opinion beyond the John Peel loving coterie.

About three years ago, among largely expensive vinyl at a record fair, I grabbed a copy of Babble for five bucks. It’s in pretty decent condition, thankfully. Those who bought the vinyl version in 1987 (I only ever had it on blank cassette taped by a mate, or after borrowing it from the Montrose library) would have found enclosed an insert featuring on one side the band looking mean and moody wearing sunglasses adorned with hand-written statements such as ‘sensory assault’ and ‘psycho babble’. The other side contained an excerpt from Nothing But the Same Old Story – the Roots of Anti-Irish Racism on the hugely controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act used in Northern Ireland. It was as brazen and political a statement as you could imagine in a musical product.

Babble has stood the test of time; while many albums of that era sound like a timepiece, Babble defies age, it’s a faultless collection of jerky, driven and passionate songs.

The opening chords of Swamp has me gripped: it contains a fantastic pop hook and the whining, intertwining guitar playing is immense. Spin Cycle features perpetual greasy riffs and a haunting refrain of “loneliness makes my head a mess.” Third track For What it’s Worth is extraordinarily eerie, beginning with slow bass tones, and Steve Mack adopting a low-key near monotone voice, before the tracks bursts with life. It’s a remarkable passive-aggressive track.

Babble 2All this before the single that should have been No.1 in every country in the world, Big Decision. It’s catchy, delirious and annoying all at the same time, and boy does it work. Intense guitar work mingle with agit-pop chants and even a brief rap, the inspiring “educate, agitate, organise.” It was the first real attempt to make a dance record by an indie band. It also has political overtones, echoing the insert… “Plastic bullets shoot headlines in store” …. “Bells won’t ring when scum boot down the door.”

Static is mind-blowing in its minimalism and cold, sinister lyrics, and Split! is a brazen, frantic number reminiscent of the bastard pop of Bogshed and Big Flame of the same decade.

Belly Bugs kick starts the flip side with wild abandon, with the hum of the drum firing in both ears; Inside is the slowest track of the album, but beautifully coherent with Mack sounding like a prisoner losing his marbles; Chester Burnette is musically detached from the album, and the repetitive, brief lyrics fail to tell the story fully. And finally, Creeping To The Cross begins with Mack harmonising ‘ah ah’, ad nauseum and you wonder if there’s actually a song in here. There is: Damian O’Neill’s relentless bass line collides with Ciaran McLaughlin’s drumming to fantastic effect.

It’s been re-released on CD, of course, with a couple of B-sides and remixes, but really, the 11-track original is more than enough to keep me happy.

Here’s a blogger whose review of Babble provides far more information on the PTA …..





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SOME TIME ago (August 2009 to be precise) I wrote an article about the rich connection between football and music for this blog.P1060939

It wasn’t about the World Cup and FA Cup finals theme tunes featuring caterwauling players and guest appearances by the likes of Chas’n’Dave and New Order. It did highlight, however, how dance and indie acts have embraced the sport, and shown that such team-ups need not always result in clichés and bad singing. (see here, https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2009/08/04/the-sound-of-the-beautiful-game/).

Still, I couldn’t resist buying The Official New Zealand Team Record for the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain when I spotted it in Slow Boat records. It isn’t something you see every day after all, in Wellington or Valencia. The guest appearance was supplied by Ray Woolf, a tuxedo-wearing showman with a beaming smile. And there he is on the cover with a beard that may now only be considered overgrown stubble, and a smile wider than the goalposts in Saudi Arabia.

Side one (as opposed to the A-side?) features Heading For The Top, written by Carl Doy, better known for his work with Kiri Te Kanawa. Shockerooonie, but this is an actual song, with Woolf doing his typical showman routine, and the warbling voices of the squad diluted/ mutated. Gosh, but it sounds like it could be from a musical.

While this track focuses on the team “playing the game the best we can to reach our final goal”, its companion, Marching On To Spain, shows a little more ambition. It was written by Vince Harris, and Google isn’t being quite so helpful regarding this chap. Marching On … doesn’t include Woolf, and features the immortal lines “we score goals, goals, goals and we’ll score some more again.”

They were certainly right about the first part as they stuck 13 past Fiji and five against Saudi Arabia, but on the second, well, they only netted twice in Spain, both against a Scottish side 3-0 up and already thinking about their post-match cans of Tennants Super Brew.

P1060940Lyrics are kept to the minimum here and I was left with the mind-numbing near-religious chant of ‘Kiwis, All Whites/ Kiwis, All Whites’ rattling around in my head for the rest of the week.

The 1982 All Whites World Cup qualifying campaign was one of the most memorable in history, and briefly relegated the All Backs to the inside back pages, as the Kiwis (population then three million, give or take a couple of thousand either way) battled through 15 qualifying matches, from the South Pacific to the Middle East, seeing off China (population one billion, give or take a hundred million or so) in a dramatic play-off in neutral Singapore.

That they did so with journeyman Brits and Irishmen and local lads playing in a part-time national league, and turfed out the Aussies on the way, made it all the more remarkable. Alas, Spain was a step too far as they got cuffed by the Brazilians and the USSR and after losing 5-2 to the tournament favourites Scotland. It would take 28 years for Ricki Herbert to lead the All Whites to another World Cup finals. And no, I don’t think they recorded a World Cup single.



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Towns: Get By

IT ISN’T OFTEN that Porky becomes excited about a new band (you’ve noticed?!?!) but here’s an exception, in the form of a sprightly English Towns band called Towns from a faded seaside town called Weston-super-Mare. It seems Paul Weller would concurr too. And the NME, which went overboard, in its own inimitable way, by declaring Towns as the best new band of 2011 on the back of a demo tape. A dodgy booking agent and record label shenanigans nearly killed them off, but here they are, in 2014, releasing their debut album, Get By (Howling Owl records).

Get By doesn’t fit in with the terribly pompous and, quite frankly, staid British music scene of the moment. For one thing, there’s a bit of a swagger about them; not for them the mean and moody look, with songs about lost love and how their beard is growing because they’re too miserable to trim it. There’s a lot of guitars, and effects, and yes that old chestnut, shoegazing is being trotted out by lazy, hazy journalists. Is it 1990 all over again? Well yes, to an extent but it could also be 1967.

Heads Off reminds me of early-era The Charlatans without the Hammond organs; but the band they sound most alike are a little-known outfit called The Telescopes, who went from a scuzzy leather-trousered mob to mangled indie dance-pop act, and were one of its finest protagonists, though they largely went unnoticed at the time. Hell, there’s even a hint of My Bloody Valentine in the opening riffs of Get Me There, but James MacLucas sounds nothing like Kevin Shields, in fact, I would imagine him doing a good impression of a hyperactive child when they perform in Leamington Spa or Harlow. And then you have Gone Are The Days, full of the kind of effervescent psych-pop that bands like The Horrors and Toy are trying to perfect, but Towns have an energy about them that befits such a manic, frenzied track.

There’s plenty of influences here, and reviewers have been caught up listing all the shoegazing/ baggy bands that were around a quarter of a century ago. And yeah, I have been a bit guilty of this myself, but it is quite hard to bypass the sounds that I last heard in 1992 on Blur’s Popscene. But regardless of this, Towns are something else, they marry it all in one glorious soup of an album. Production wise it may be slightly hindered and once they get some money behind them, and realise where they want to to, I can see Towns progressing to the cities.

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HORSE PARTY possess a fine pedigree with guitarist Seymour Quigley (aka Seymour Patrick) once being part of pivotal Suffolk bands Miss Black America and Ten City Nation. Horse Party

Like those, Horse Party are based out of Bury St Edmunds, an eastern English town famous of its association with the magna carta, its ruined abbey, brewing and for voting in a hapless Tory MP in every election, even in the Labour landslide years. Musically, it has a surprisingly fine history for a market town so close to Cambridge with excellent largely indie acts appearing at various wee pubs and clubs over the past decade or so.

Quigley has joined up with Ellie Langley and Shannon Hope, of which less is known about, to record music that is epic, ear-achingly challenging, and yet dotted with dramatic feminine touches.

There was a sparseness about both MBA and TCN that was both hugely appealing, and a turn off with their occasionally cold atmospherics. Now, in Horse Party the trio continue those traits, but with more vigour while shedding some of the more gloomier aspects.

Quigley generally keeps to playing guitar on debut album Cover Your Eyes (Integrity records), though he does take lead vocals on Let The Man Die. Otherwise, those duties belong to Langley.
It is the song you would wish Quigley to sing: “In the land of the free, see the brave sit homeless again/ Send your son to the factory, sell your daughter to shame.”

There’s rat-a-tat guitar hooks bouncing all over the shop on the first tune, Back To Mono, that is incessant and as hearty as most of PJ Harvey’s Stories From The City, Stories From The City album. This virtually segues into Clarion Call, a beefy guitar fest that continues the in-yer-face frantic aural assault of the opener; Inbetween, meanwhile, marries melody and the impatience of punk aesthetics for what is one of the more pleasing tracks on the album.

From left, Quigley, Hope and Langley

From left, Quigley, Hope and Langley

Other than Let The Man Die, which questions the reality of the American Dream, the lyrics – shared between Langley and Quigley – focus on the personal and that of the observer … “I laugh so easily lately.”

While Back To Mono, Clarion Call, Let The Man Die and Inbetween are worth hailing, there’s much to feel disappointed about; there’s a repetition that becomes galling. Scarlet And Blue is turgid and messy; and the closer, To Know You Less is a ballad which lacks intrigue, though at least it is a change pace.

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VORN ARE SOMETHING of a hidden gem, a pearl only Wellingtonians are aware of and even within the city they’re a pastime you need to seek out.Vorn

Here’s the band’s seventh studio album, More Songs About Girls and the Apocalypse (if that sounds partly familiar, think Talking Heads) and from the teasers heard at the Newtown Festival in March and their gig at Meow! recently, I’m anticipating this could be another unheralded delight from Powertool records.

The opening burst of beautiful quirkiness is Flint and Tinder, which is also their opener at live shows. Built around a call-and-response between Vorn Colgan, singer, songwriter and possessor of groovy red jeans, and the rest of the band, it poses the question of what love actually is.
The War Cry of J. Alfred Prufrock is an attempt to sound like mid-80s hip-hop; Drowning Kittens is, well, the title says it all, as former keyboardist Anna Edgington relates the grim tale of having to dispose of unwanted animals and then there’s the gay disco/ country and western of The Story of My Fucking Life: title of the year, song of the album. And full of wonderful one-liners, such as “I planned to hitch a ride to Hamilton and drink myself to death.” . It stretches to more than seven minutes, finishing on haunting Latin operatics.
As you’re already wondering Colgan’s accomplices are Simon Bayliss on bass, Nick Brown on drums, Ka’isa Beech on keys (and kaossilator!) and violinist Thomas ‘Thomas’ Liggett. They’re a tight unit though on first appearances you wonder how they even got together.
Flint and Tinder is reprised (sort of) in This Is What with a nudge to the Balkans. Meanwhile, The Rules slow things down, as the outfit retreat into a darker corner of the house, where Colgan bemoans that he isn’t quite adjusting to the regulations: “And they call this shit a game/ But what they mean is that it’s something you don’t get paid to do, and you almost always lose.”
There’s pop songs, hip-hop, keyboard-fuelled songs, swearing, rants, and great one-liners. More Songs … is exactly the kind of album I would have expected from Vorn in 2014.

Vorn at the Newtown Festival in March 2014. (Craig Stephen)

Vorn at the Newtown Festival in March 2014. (Craig Stephen)



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