Archive for December, 2015

PIL: What The World Needs Now

John Lydon is always good value, whether as a snotty punk, a reluctant PiLcelebrity on a reality show, or as Mr PiL, you can ensure entertainment and stroppiness dressed as art will be guaranteed.

Musically, I thought his time was up, but then he resurrected a hitherto unheralded line-up of PiL’s for the brilliant 2012 comeback album, This Is PiL. Three years on and the outfit have an equally cerebral and diffuse effort that both challenges and confronts.

The band doesn’t overcomplicate things, relying on the guitar/bass/drums approach of early PIL releases. This is experimentation based more on raw creativity and energy than on a deliberate desire to experiment, which isn’t such a bad thing.

The Hurriers: From Acorns, Mighty Oaks

The political soundtrack is back. Our interview with Tony Wright of this Hurriersself-proclaimed Socialist band in November (click here) was both inspiring and thoughtful. The Hurriers’ positivity and thirst for justice and equality is both admirable, and sadly bereft, in an environment of ‘security’ and ideological cutbacks.

The five-piece’s debut is loud and angry, dealing with justice for beaten-up miners, and all working class people who continue to be trodden on.

They do this with a writing style that is neither Wildean poetical, nor in a tabloid style, but is appealing in a down-to-earth manner.

Blur: The Magic Whip

Blur had been promising something with their two Record Store Day-onlyBlur.png vinyl single releases in 2010 and again two years later, but who’d have thought they’d uncork an album that seems so far removed from the so-called Britpop scene, Top of the Pops appearances and tabloid press front-pages. Instead, The Magic Whip is, kinda in a curious way, their Kid A, the album that transcends new territory. Pyongyang was eerie but magnetic, as was much of this comeback joy.

The Everlasting Yeah: Anima Rising

Four of the final line-up of That Petrol Emotion are back again, as The Everlasting YeahEverlasting Yeah and 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.

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.

Luke Haines: Adventures in Dementia: A Micro Opera

This six-song set is 15 minutes long so it’s hard to classify it as an album, Luke Haines.pngor maybe even a mini album. Nevertheless, there’s no space here for semantics on what maketh what variation of a record.

These half dozen tracks includes a one-line song about British children’s television character Parsley the Lion, and a kazoo-led instrumental rendition of the radical hymn Jerusalem. But the remaining four songs tell the story of a Mark E.Smith impersonator towing a large caravan (with the other members of The Fall inside) through the British countryside who collides with another car driven by the frontman of a (real) Nazi punk band.

Somewhat bizarre, as you can imagine, and strangely enjoyable, not least for what amounts to a children’s song, and others bordering on the childlike.

The Waterboys: Modern Blues

When a Scotsman and an Irishman try to make a big impression they go to America; Nashville to be precise.Waterboys

Modern Blues contains, ahem, blues influences, with Mike Scott et al getting especially rootsy on I Can See Elvis as he envisages Presley “Talking philosophy and law with Joan of Arc and Plato/ Quizzing Shakespeare on his plays/ Showing Crazy Horse and Marvin Gaye how to dance the mashed potato.”

The Girl Who Slept For Scotland is a return to the rock-ist, uplifting Waterboys sound of years ago, with a rousing, razor-sharp chorus, and on Rosalind (You Married The Wrong Guy) the narrator’s become deranged as he implores the woman of his affections to “lift up your skirt and flee”.

Public Service Broadcasting: The Race For SpacePSB

Samples made sexy. And samples about space too. The duo were a smash hit at WOMAD in New Plymouth in March, astounding the crowd with the way they mixed guitars, drums and clips of Yuri Gagarin taking off for space.

The first album was all about Britain in the 1930s and 40s so what will be their choice of subject for the third album? I expect it will be cricket.

Worst Album of the Year

U2: Songs of Innocence

They are legends and their legacy will never be doubted. There are, obviously, worse albums out there, pick a Justin, a Katy or an Adele for starters. But this drab affair just breaks my heart. There was always a corporate element about U2, it’s partly how they became so friggin’ famous after all, but Songs of Innocence sees them become a Coldplay tribute act. Did I just write that?! Hell yeah. Perhaps Bono is now more interested in Facebook share prices than making music that matters.

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The annual tradition, Porky’s favouritest albums of the past 12 months, this time in two parts, with part 2 tomorrow.

In no particular order:

The Phoenix Foundation: Give Up On Your Dreams

I can’t help but feel that if the Phoenix Foundation were based anywhere GUYDbut New Zealand’s capital they’d be playing to stadia in the United States and Japan. And it grates that a far inferior outfit such as The National can scoop up such acclaim and sales, not that there’s a great deal of similarities between them.

Bob Lennon John Dylan is a pop classic; Mountain’s whooping and hollering suggests they’re having an absolute blast making music together. And Playing Dead is repetitive, blatantly straightforward and captivating.

Paul Weller: Saturns Pattern

Saturns Pattern was always going to be compared to the startling guitar-Saturns Patternfuelled Wake Up The Nation (2010) and the Teutonic-tinged Sonic Kicks (2012).

But it’s a different beast from those two: more ambitious, too far-reaching perhaps. It’s a soulful, crunchy, electronic and folky collection of songs. I can’t say I found it to my liking at first, it seemed lacking in an edge or was incohesive. But after a fair number of listens I’m now more attuned to it; I can see where he’s coming from. Not in the same league As Wake Up The Nation, but there’s merits contained within.

Sara Lowes: The Joy of Waiting

Lowes’ second album is achingly poptastic with gems such as I Find You Sara Lowesthat gush forth with melodies and heart-achingly simple lyrics.

Little Fishy goes full-tilt into the chorus: “on the end of my line, little fishy of mine, heading straight to my plate” which could be reference to the test of survival in some communities, or, well you could look beyond the basic lines and wonder what Lowes is actually fishing for.

And then there’s Chapman of Rhymes, which is strangely reminiscent of 70s rock revivalists but is actually a harmless and mundane track that is easily passable. I’m taken by the strange turns this album can take, from the effervescent and the beautiful to the dark and sublime.

The Fireworks: Switch Me On

The Fireworks know how to hit the guitar strings hard, and do so with Fireworkssome oomph on the opening two tracks, With My Heart and Runaround but just as I’m concerned about the pace, there’s a sparkler in Let You Know, which is fantastically melodic, a short track that is full of heartfelt, plaintive vocals and tidy drumming. It’s full of summer; a summer spent on the beach getting a tan and watching the love of your life waltz by.

Switch Me On is my end-of-winter upper, a fantastically unpretentious, superfast with slower bits, dreamy pop supersized album. Play loud.

The Fall: Sub-Lingual Tablet

Every year more brilliantly incoherent ramblings from Mark E.Smith and Sub-Lingual Tabletband. How could December pass without an outpouring of crisp guitars and demented lyrics from the ageing Mancunian. Sub-Lingual Tablet is the same, but different. Quit iPhone is a plea to ditch a technological fad with Smith making it clear that “I don’t want to look in people’s homes”. Meanwhile, Auto Chip 2014-2016 is ten minutes of engrossing and fanciful art rock. Barmy.

Richard Thompson: Still

Thompson has admitted that Still isn’t a move forward, though he Stillquantifies it by saying that it isn’t “playing the same old stuff”.

He is spot on. There’s the typical swing of moving to moveless on Still; uplifting to mundane. It’s a cycle that is tantalising; while you know the routine, you’re never quite sure of which order it will come in, or how it will be delivered.

Patty Don’t You Put Me Down is the kind of edgy ditty that could open a gig to warm up the crowd, while No Peace No End is a relentless charge through Main Road, lots of guitars and quickly-rattled off verses.

Elsewhere, there’s ballads and blues stompers; Still has the distinctive stamp of Thompson.

The School: Wasting Away and Wondering.

The School

Titles such as Put Your Hand In Mine and My Heart’s Beating Overtime suggest an early 60s simplicity and an intricate beauty that reminds one of the 80s twee fad.

It’s heartening to indulge in lyrics such as “First time I saw you with that smile upon your face/ I knew I would have to make you mine,”. Easy-on-the-ear soundscapes that ease you into the day or make the pre-bedtime routine so much more happier.

Melodies are everywhere but Wasting Away and Wondering has some swoonsome influences, notably from Motown on Do I Love You? but you can detect the effervescent candy-pop glory of the Altered Images on the title track.

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WE ARE BLESSED here at Porky Prime Cuts Towers with a postman who has given us two parcels in recent weeks that contain wholesome pop goodies.

The first batch contained Strawberry Whiplash and the Hermit Crabs which we reviewed in the previous post. Postal Blue

Now, our Everyday Santa has dropped off an album by Postal Blue which is as catchy and hum-tastic as those two efforts. Porky must have been a good boy this year.

The surprising thing is that Postal Blue sound so English, despite coming from Brazil. I would’ve expected hints of Tropicalia and Latino dance beats but this is as joyous, and indiepop, as it gets. There’s not even a word of Portuguese; Of Love and Other Affections is sung entirely in English.

It’s the latest release by the wonderful Jigsaw Records label and mail order company, purveyors of fine records, cassettes, fanzines, etc etc. Postal Blue have been around since the late 1990s, and while there’s been numerous EP’s released under the name, only one full collection of songs, and that was in 2004. It seems the band is now essentially one person, Adriano Ribeiro, who has a love of Sarah Records.

I’m transported back to north-east Scotland in 1986, listening to the Orchids, the Flatmates, 14 Iced Bears et al on the John Peel Show, staying up to 11pm, taping some of it on a mixtape that would have also contain sounds from Zimbabwe and Haiti.

All ten songs are gloriously harmonic, replete with groovy guitars and easy-on-the-ear hooks; I can’t readily pick out any particular songs, they’re all good.

Buy from here: jigsawrecords.bandcamp.com



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Strawberry Whiplash: Stuck In The Never Ending Now

The Hermit Crabs: In My Flat

Scotland forever. The nation that’s given the world Altered Images, Postcard Records, The Associates, Edwyn Collins, the Cosmic Rough Riders, et al just keeps on giving, with two new releases from Matinee Recordings. Strawberry Whiplash

Strawberry Whiplash are Laz McCluskey and Sandra Nosurname, from Glasgow, just like The Orange Juice were, and have been around for rather a long time, producing an album and several EPs.

Stuck In The Never Ending Now is unabashed tweedom, sweltering in the umbrella of The Primitives and Talulah Gosh, Sandra’s delectable vocals shimmering all over wanna-be MTV hits like If Surface Were Depth and the outstanding ‘title track’ Never Ending Now with its fuzzy guitars and impatient drumming. Ride The Waves To The Shore is a much slower effort which has an intricate beauty that transponds this writer from his small, city flat on a dreich day to the local surf beach with sunburnt arms all around.

The Hermit Crabs, also from Scotland’s soul capital, have an American link, having spent a lot of time in Boise, Idaho. It was there that In My Flat was recorded, however, that was three years ago, and it wasn’t till the Scottish summer this year that it was mixed and mastered. Hopefully the band can explain the delay.

In My Flat is a sombre album, also with gloriously deft vocals by Melanie Whittle (there was a Scottish runner called Brian Whittle, who ran like fuck in the relay in a major champs with one shoe to get Britain a medal, wonder if he’s a relation). There’s stories of unrequited love, such as that on I’m A Fool while High Maintenance is a tale of the difficulties imposed by a long-distance love affair.Hermit Crabs

There’s a touch of country music on Should I Drop You Off, which won’t be to everyone’s taste. And there’s namechecks for Tracey Emin, who I can’t be bothered explaining, and Stuart Murray, a Glaswegian artist, one of whose books In Pubs takes up a fair bit of the second tier of a bookshelf in the Porky abode.

The critics will inevitably dub these albums as treading an old path, going down the same road that twee, shambling, the Monkees etc etc have all done in the past. And yes, this is quite true.

But when Porky first heard The Pastels, The Shop Assistants, The Mary Chain, Aztec Camera and The Darling Buds (all from north of Carlisle other than the last one), it was ALL NEW. I’d never heard of the Velvet Underground, Vic Goddard, Love, and a multitude of other West Coast bands that were the forefathers of such melodic delights.

The new/old argument is as old as the hills and won’t ever go away. Let’s celebrate these two albums for what they are … joyous and uplifting, and very much OF THIS DECADE.


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