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Archive for November, 2015

ONE OF THE TRULY great bands of the late 80s, early 90s were That Petrol Emotion, who hailed from Ireland but had an American singer.

They were hard-hitting and uncompromising, with a indie-rock/ dance sound that mimicked the times. I retro-reviewed their high mark, Babble, here.

Four of that final line-up, Ciaran McLaughlin, Raymond Gorman, Brendan Kelly, and Damian O’Neill are now The Everlasting Yeah and their debut album, Anima Rising, is out now. Boy, do they like guitars.

Their signature sound is out-and-proud on the first chapter, A Little Bit of Uh-Huh and a Whole Lot of Oh Yeah, which is pretty much the lyrics and attitude rolled into one.

I can only imagine the scene at the venue: noise, noise, noise but not annoys, unless you’re a Jessie J fan who’s gotten lost. They let go, for eight glorious minutes, on Taking That Damn Train Again with the title repeated ad nauseum, deliberately so. It’s a repetitive act, taking the train to work, and back home every day, so the song deserves the same dichotomy.

Yeah begins, well, like it could belong to one of Julian Cope’s first two albums with its hypnotic, post-punk rhythms, but moves into more familiar territory and ends with some robust playing.

The band have admitted that That Petrol Emotion were hurt, presumably in commercial terms, by their outspoken political views, mainly their observations of what was happening in Northern Ireland in the 1980s. I’d say it was part of their make-up and inseparable from their modus operandi. But, of course, such subject matter isn’t going to endear them to Darren and Tracy of Hemel Hempstead.

So there’s little of that on Anima Rising, where they’re clearly feeling good about being in a band again and playing to their strengths.

The exception is the closer, The Grind, that sounds as close to TPE as it is possible, while straddling the boundary into Sonic Youth territory. It reflects on Britain in 2015 under the Posh Boys junta: “Because all around us is a nightmare nation/ a demonocracy is what we’re facing”, where “scumbag politicians lie,” with everyone shouting at the microphones, a la The Clash.

This is an album uncluttered with experimentalism or jolly tunes, it is what it is. There’s only seven tracks, but one is eight minutes long, The Grind stretches to 12 minutes, so you get your money’s worth.

 

 

 

 

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THE HURRIERS are the kind of band that Porky often dreams of: passionate, independently-driven – both in terms of control of their output, posters, promo, gigs et and their raison d’etre – and, almost as a bonus, a kick-ass in-your-face rock’n’roll act.

The five-piece hail from Barnsley in South Yorkshire, a working-class town with a long history of mining. So, they’ve got a wealth of knowledge and history to draw on.

Their debut From Acorns, Mighty Oaks released in May, and is a cracker which could well feature in our annual Best Albums of the Year list.

The line-up is Sam Horton and Jim Proud on guitars, Jamie Walman on bass, Zak Wright drums and Tony Wright vocals. Tony is Zak’s dad, a bit of a rarity in rock’n’roll – the only other instance of such family ties I can think of is with The Mystery Jets.

Tony Wright took some time out to answer our questions. I have to say that of all the interviews I’ve conducted over 20 years, this is undoubtedly one of my most pleasing. I came with some subconsciously negative questions, but felt inspired by the end of it.

Tony Wright

Porky: You describe yourselves as a Socialist band, but the term seems to mean different things to different people. How do you define it, and is it still relevant – and achievable – in this capitalist system we live under?

Tony: I’ve been a Socialist since 1979 and I reckon Socialism has never been more relevant and never been more achievable. Socialism is about social justice, equality and opportunity for all, no matter what their background. It’s about nationalising key industries and the public sector and investing in the infrastructure rather than making cuts, dropping standards and stealing profits which should be going on increased wages and developing services.

On You’re Not Gagging Me you pay respect to The Clash. It seems a long time since bands had something to say and refused to conform. Are there any other bands around now that matter?

By the end of 2015 The Hurriers will have been responsible for bringing together three political compilations featuring tracks from over 70 acts, all proud to be considered as Socialist and connected to three causes: the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign http://otjc.org.uk/otjc-cd-out-now/

Hope Not Hate http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/shop/goodnight/ and the Morning Star compilation due out in a few weeks. Whilst the number of overtly left-wing mainstream acts may be few and far between, at grass roots level there is a musical movement of activism like never before.

For every mainstream act such as Billy Bragg, the Manics, Frank Turner, there are scores of jobbing acts like The Hurriers, Thee Faction, Joe Solo, Quiet Loner, Interrobang! , Louise Distras, Grace Petrie and many, many more. It’s also superb to see Sleaford Mods breaking through to a wider audience, they well and truly tell it like it is!

Is there still a place for campaigning, anti-establishment bands?

There is and there always will be! The recent We Shall Overcome Weekend http://weshallovercomeweekend.com/ proved that musicians have a vital role to play in campaigning against injustice, poverty and an establishment that thinks nothing to the rise in foodbanks and homelessness. For decades music has had a conscience and I firmly believe that as the injustice increases the level of activity and compassion from musicians will also increase.

Britain now has the most-right government since the Thatcher regime, if ever, and a party, UKIP, doing well with a programme that is nothing more than racist and bigoted. In this environment can a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Party really provide an alternative?

If you look at it in real terms this government is even more right wing than Thatcher. Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory proved to everyone that people have had enough of austerity and had enough of an uncaring capitalist system. Even though the press are out to smear Corbyn at every chance they get, if you talk to the man and woman in the street he really is starting to win people over as an electable leader of a British Socialist government.

When the public have got the mass media telling them at every turn that the country is safe in Tory hands, it was always going to be a massive job convincing them that there is another way, but it’s happening, it really is.

Has his election given hope to those who need it most?

That isn’t going to happen overnight for the reasons I gave in the last answer. There are over four years to the next election so Labour have a job to do convincing voters that theirs is the best way forward. If another four years of Tory rule and austerity is the price we gave to pay to get a truly Socialist government then I’d settle for that.

One of the most refreshing things about the Corbyn victory is the way it has shown for the first time in decades that the Labour Party is NOT all about a group of MP’s gathering in London a few days a week. I was lucky enough to hear Jeremy speak three times in the lead up to the leadership election and it was invigorating to see thousands of party members and supporters turning up to hear him and, more to the point, being inspired and energised by every word he was saying.

He got almost 60% of the vote across all voting groups, that’s some mandate and if right-wing MP’s don’t like it that’s up to them. With the groundswell of feeling from grassroots members and supporters, I think they’re going to find that they’re no longer going to be able to politically position themselves wherever they fancy, instead CLP’s will become more active and more organised and MP’s will be find that if they don’t reflect the views of their constituency members they will be facing challenges – and so they should be.

Hurriers 2

Tell us about your connection to miners, and in particular the search for Truth and Justice?

Being a political band coming from the proud mining town of Barnsley as we do, we were always going to have a strong connection to the miners. I’ve always been proud of the fact that in one of my earlier bands Stronger Than Dirt we did gigs to raise money for striking miners and their families in the 84/85 strike. It wasn’t planned that The Hurriers came about at the same time as the 30th anniversary of the strike, but we were proud to play a big part in the 30th anniversary commemorations. As well as sorting out the acts for the Orgreave Picnic http://otjc.org.uk/orgreave-picnic-festival/ and the With Banners Held High events http://www.unityworks.co.uk/event/banners-held-high/ our song Truth and Justice does a great job of reminding people that whilst the strike may have been over 30 years ago, the fight for justice still goes on.

How important is it for you to play benefit gigs?

Since we formed in January 2013, The Hurriers have done well over 50 gigs and all but a handful have been benefit gigs for political causes we believe in. We were formed as a political band and our number one priority is spreading a political message via the kind of music people want to listen to.

Whilst it should always be remembered that musicians must be reimbursed for expenses incurred wherever possible, benefit gigs will always be the main course of the Hurriers’ gigging menu.

The band contains yourself and your son which isn’t very rock’n’roll?! Do you argue about the band van and stuff like that?

I suppose it is a bit out of the ordinary to have a Dad on lead vocals and his son on drums but I think that’s brilliant. Why should there be restrictions or norms about what the make-up of a band should be in regards to ages and family relationships? Just like every other member of The Hurriers, Zak is highly politicised and like Sam, our rhythm guitarist, he has a great knowledge of music for a teenager.

Zak certainly isn’t in the band just because he’s my son, he’s a cracking drummer and he comes up with just as many if not more new ideas than anyone. In regards to arguments, it might sound hard to believe but I honestly can’t remember there ever being any between any of us as a band. Maybe that’s because we’re a Socialist band!

How important is the cover art? The album cover has a very Smiths look about it.

Jamie, our bassist, is a self-employed graphic designer and Sam is studying photography at Leeds College of Art so artwork is definitely something that has a lot of thought going into it. It’s funny you should say the album cover reminds you of The Smiths because, in actual fact, the inspiration comes from their Rough Trade stable mates, Socialist Manchester band Easterhouse.

A photographer friend of ours Mark Tighe came across the image online and we were very, very pleased when world famous photographer Jez Coulson http://www.insight-visual.com/jez-bio.html agreed to let us use that shot on our album cover. For us it perfectly captures the message we wanted to convey, hope in the face of desperation. Though I say so myself it is a brilliant album cover and it looks especially good on the vinyl edition. (Buy it here: http://thehurriers.co.uk/ )

And what of your plans for the future?

We’ve already got some festivals booked in for summer 2016. As far as music goes, work on the second album has begun and we’ve already got two  songs almost complete with two or three more in the pipeline.

The next few years are going to be highly significant in terms of politics and political music has a key role to play in that. As we have done from the start The Hurriers will be proudly singing Socialist songs and helping spread the message that if we really want to change things, we can!

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THERE’S A NEW KID on the block – and judging by his pic, kid is the operative word. Joel Sarakula is his name, Sydney is his birth mother and London his adopted family.The Imposter

I recently rescued his debut album The Imposter from a charity shop-bound bag for a further listen, which makes me wonder how many other albums I’ve hastily dispatched to eternal obscurity.

Sarakula sparks up the band with the immensely hummable, radio-friendly They Can’t Catch Me, a 60s-tinged romp that would be acceptable to sing on the tube with dozens of bored commuters around you. Some middling, attention-grabbing tracks follow before we he hit upon Northern Soul. A desire, a wish, a statement of intent? Whatever, it’s a great single, the type that would once sneak in via the backdoor onto the radio stations perpetuated by Smashie and Nicie types.

Then there’s Chelsea Gun, a beautiful, languid effort that sounds like Beck doing Tom Verlaine. It’s typical of the route the Australian is taking … adopting the avant-garde-ish style of the likes of Beck and Erland Oye, but delving in soul and r’n’b and owing odds to mainstream popstars. He’s recorded this in Sydney, London and Berlin and the travel triangle seems to rub off.

In some ways The Imposter is a wrapped-up five Francs bargain bin pick’n’mix, there’s something for everyone, but in dipping for the cheap goodies you’re bound to get something that might be best ditching at Save The Children. You’ll hear this in Happy Alone. Surely we don’t need anymore impressions of the Style Council?!

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WELLINGTON SEVEN-PIECE Fat Freddys Drop make it easy to like them. Their languid, atmospheric sound reeks of warm days on the beach, lovers rock reggae, mid-70s funk and nights around the billiards table adorning smoking jackets.Fat Freddys

Perhaps, however, they are a touch too laidback; after all, the recently-arrived Bays is the band’s fourth studio effort in a decade and a half.

They’ve done and dusted the national tour so many times there’s nary a town hall or opera theatre that won’t have a browning poster for one of their performances, and they’ve clocked up the air miles and the frequent flyer points to convert the masses in all the countries that will have them.

Hence, a large and devoted following, here, there and everywhere.

Bays – named after their recording studio on the south Wellington coast – commences its adventure with Wairunga Blues, a track that has the traditional Freddys’ hallmarks, and indeed is so gloriously adept and full of horns, soul and upbeatness that I am immediately reminded of their finest moment, Wandering Eye from 2005’s Based On A True Story album.

And then there’s Razor, an, ahem, sharp number bouncing with electro mash-ups and Dallas Tamaira’s magnificently eerie vocals. Listen to this from the link below.

Meanwhile, Wheels contains some pulsating keyboards and a lyrical snatch, “living in a fantasy” repeated ad nauseum, a la The Orb.

There are some reservations though. Slings and Arrows opens with a 1980s Corgi-style mini keyboard synth that could have been made for an Atari console game. Despite this nascent adventurism, the track sounds like it could’ve come direct from a UB40 album from 2005. You could, perhaps, level the same accusation at 10 Feet Tall, a hypnotic, easy-on-the-ear track. And therein lies the issue: it’s too simplistic, too much of a retrawl of past glories.

I like the album, but it’s not in any way a challenging listen, which you might expect from a band at this stage of their careers.

Perhaps, we could have had guest vocals on some tracks, particularly from a female singer. Now, what a team-up it would have been if Lorde had lent a hand. Perhaps, also the diversity that’s hinted at in some songs, notably Razor and Slings And Arrows could’ve been developed.

But, maybe, FFD are afraid of losing their core fanbase. Regardless, this will be a massive hit, and Porky will enjoy seeing the band on their travels.

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