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Archive for April, 2016

MOUSE EAT MOUSE have been awa’ in their hidey hole in the corner of the hoose, nurturing a path away from the trap and into the cheese factory.

But they’re a coming out noo: CD Shade has his wordsmithery hat on again, so let’s listen in to the latest episode of lucid anger in Toxic Tails, which follows the fair lauded Mair Licht (2006) and the more subdued Woof from three years ago. See review of Mair Licht hereToxic Tails

This self-released album comes in the midst of a British Conservative government intent on pursuing class war, and follows the defeat for the separatists in the Scottish independence referendum (at least in the short-term, the notion of a separate Scotland is more pertinent than ever).

Mouse Eat Mouse have been trimmed to a duo, of Matt Lehane, described on the cover as “multi-instrumentalist and music” and CD Shade, the Rabbie Burns-inflected writer and vocalist, a bald eagle of a colossus, whispering or bellowing the lyrics with an innate passion lacking in so many X-Factor lite-ish acts. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, MEM are from Scotland, the west coast to be slightly more precise.

Toxic Tails is a monologue of writing, a journalistic inspection of the modern British state, and, in consequence, places and people way beyond the seas and coasts of the Isles.

Extraordinary Rendition, for example, tackles the dubious method of abducting a suspect, putting a hood over their head, and whisking them off to another country to have sharp things intruded where they shouldn’t be. No trial is required, no explanation given.

In hushed, piercing tones over lolling guitars and piano, Shade notes the British government’s excuses at defending its involvement in such inhumane tactics as nonsensical. “The UK government claimed that as the interrogators didn’t enjoy their work it couldn’t be torture”.

Arsepirational, meanwhile, hammers nails into the neoliberal apologists who allow their tongues to spoon out endless verbal diarrhoea to justify transferring billions from the vulnerable to the unemployed, undeserving rich. The “fiscal jihadists” are, Shade laments, creating a “modern day Dickensian hoplessness” where foodbanks are the ultimate in social control.

It seems quite pertinent listening to this as junior doctors in Britain go on strike to defend the NHS and patients from a government of multi-millionaires trying to divest an essential service of funds to the extent that people will have to flock to costly, dubious private providers, some of whom they and their cronies have vested interests in.

Arseperational belongs to a tetralogy that includes Patchy News, an acerbic critique on the barrage of negativity from the BBC and most of the printed media for their “pro-Unionist cant,” and slanted editorials.

Blaming the media is as old as prostitution so it was no surprise that Scottish independence campaigners took such umbrage at the slanted coverage of the referendum. However, that in itself does not explain why 55 per cent of those who voted nae in September 2014 did so. Not all of them reads the Daily Express.

CD ShadeShade returns to the issue of “self-determination” in Birth Of A Notion, the closing chapter of an intense and cathartic effort. From his mouth come plenty of whispered, feel good words like revitalisation and renaissance and various other words beginning with the two-lettered suffix.

None of this is in any way delivered down the throat a la William Bragg; while the band itself describe it as “extreme folk” (it’s hard to think of even such a concept) these are thoughtful diatribes delivered with care. It is folk though, but with an extra dollop of melody, and no tank tops.

Fat cats beware: these mice are fucking angry.

Get Toxic Tails from bandcamp:

https://mouseeatmouse.bandcamp.com/album/toxic-tails

 

 

 

 

 

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THOSE FAMILIAR with this blog will be aware of Porky’s affinity with the musical outpourings of Bury St Edmunds in the heart of largely rural West Suffolk.

This is a town of contrasts, but the kids have never been as deep-hearted conservative as their peers with a 20-minute drive to Cambridge offering a route to the student and underground music and culture landscape of that esteemed regional capital.

Horse Party 2

From left, Quigley, Hope and Langley

A product of Bury is Horse Party which was formed at one of Seymour Quigley’s club nights after his ear-bashing Ten City Nation trio broke up. Horse Party’s debut album, Cover Your Eyes, came out to a smattering of applause in 2014 including on this here site (https://craighaggis.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/vote-horse-party/).

Now comes Horizons, a 13-track mop-up job on R*E*P*E*A*T Records, that collects two 7”singles, various download-only releases and one unreleased track from the past 12 months.

While Cover Your Eyes was a fine debut it did also reek of filler-ism, with some tracks falling below the required standard. Maybe it’s the short-term thrill of focusing on just a couple or three tracks at time where HP are at their best as the singles and some of the B-sides sound crunchily glorious.

Most compilations are annoyingly in random order, but Horizons is chronologically logical: from the beginning of 2015 to January just past. That permits the listener to grasp the ever-changing nature of the trio as the months went by. As the album progresses the mood gets darker (“we could drown if you like”) and there’s a feeling the frenetic, buzzsaw format is gradually being dispatched.

So, Out of Sight, the A-side from a year ago, bristles with pugnaciousness, its corruscating lyrics aimed at someone with faults aplenty. Ellie Langley’s vocals are perfect for this type of brusk, radio-unfriendly sound, but its partner, Receiver ,sees Quigley take the lead role, which seems more appropriate for such a stroppy track.

HorizonsPaydirt and its complementary B-sides Animal and October continue this abrasive outlook, grinding guitars assaulting the senses, drums pounding the inner tissue; Animal in particular is magnificent in delivering a cohesive force in anger-harmony.

Nevertheless, the Money Talks EP sees a sudden, unwelcome dip in form of Jordan Speith proportions. There’s no beating about the bush here; it’s fundamentally lame, the title track telling us something we all know. But it does contain the exceptionally beautiful anthem for lost souls everywhere, Looking For Life, with Langley sounding like she’s easing into her role as frontwoman.

I appreciate relatively new acts releasing compilations so early in their careers; much of this is hard to get, spread over five separate issues in various guises plus an unreleased track I would have to assume wouldn’t see the light of day otherwise. I can only assume this is a stop-gap to newer material later in the year, rather than an admittance that the act is stuck in a rut.

 

 

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THERE ARE GOOD reasons for this apparently tardy review.

Porky bought Blackstar on the day it was released, listened to it immediately and scribbled a few words for the blog. But, after Bowie’s death two days later, it was felt best to hang tight as it would be swamped by the millions of obituaries. The following review is generally how I would have posted it on January 8, 2016, without any attempt to read it into the meanings following his death.

Blackstar once again, reveals the marvellously attentive nature of the musical giant, and Bowiehis frighteningly surreal ability to move one step forward each time. It’s reminiscent of many of his post-Tin Machine albums: beguiling and intriguing, caustically prescient; it pushes the envelope once more.

The ten-minute title track is nothing short of magnificent, not a second overlong, but mightily weighty in its telling of a barbaric action.

On the day of execution, on the day of execution/ Only women kneel and smile, ah-ah, ah-ah/ At the centre of it all, at the centre of it all/ Your eyes, your eyes.”

Blackstar the track is a two-for-the-price of one bargain; splitting midway, just like Bowie did with Station To Station, also the title track and the opening song of the 1976 album.

Containing just seven tracks, the album requires intense focus, no slippping out of one song onto another. Four tracks clock in at between 4.40 and 4.52, the other three lasting under six minutes, 6.22 and the long title track.

So any duff will tracks has the potential to weigh down the entire project. But that’s not the case. I do have reservations about Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) which was previewed on the mop-up job Nothing Has Changed from late 2014. While it’s been tarted up, it felt back then that it lacked quality to be on a studio album. Girl Loves Me isn’t a stinker but it’s overlong and repetitive.

Much has been made of the free jazz nature of the album and the regular use of saxophone (courtesy of Danny McCaslin) but I feel that’s been overstated. The two tracks that follow Blackstar itself are punishingly taut rock epics. ‘Tis A Pity She Was a Whore (a reference to a John Ford play from the 1630s about an incestuous relationship) is an immensely satisfying divulgence of wrought soul with typical Bowie wordplay.

Black struck the kiss, she kept my cock/ Smote the mistress, drifting on
‘Tis a pity she was a whore/ She stole my purse, with rattling speed.”

Bowie 2.pngLazarus, meanwhile, is intense and uplifting; it’s not like anything Bowie has done before, though I would opine that there are similarities in this song, and much of the album for that matter, in the little-heard Buddha of Suburbia soundtrack of 1993 and other works around the period.

As with The Next Day, the eternally-dubbed comeback album, Blackstar offers numerous snapshots of Bowie the groundbreaker, the man who changed direction at regular turns. It would be stretching reality to suggest it is a masterpiece, but it has a satisfying feel to it and with every listen offers more intrigue and clarity.

The Man Who Woke Up The World

WITH MILLIONS of words being spilled following Bowie’s death, there seems little need for Porky to add anymore. Nevertheless, I feel it appropriate to add my tuppence worth. I would consider myself a fan without being a disciple, for example I pretty much can’t abide anything after Ashes To Ashes till 1993. He was far better when he patently didn’t give a shit. But not everyone, it seems, thought that. I read one obitchary that rehashed stories such as Bowie’s brief flirtation with fascism, without adding that Bowie helped anti-racist campaigns in the 90s. Among the nonsensical claims were that Bowie was mainstream. Clearly the writer had not heard anything after 1989, nor much before 1981.

By the mid-90s it is safe to say that the Bromley boy had no ambitions whatsoever of keeping radio DJs and marketing managers happy as his videos became art-house mini-features and his albums obtuse. Accusing Bowie of being mainstream can’t explain why he, as well as Roxy Music, were the two most-referenced names by punks and post-punks of their early and mid-70s listening habits. He rejected any of the arcane honours bestowed upon attention-seeking celebrities and worthies by governments. He was hardly a man of the establishment. Outside of music Bowie appeared in some, well, strange films and his artwork veered on the eccentric. Earthling (1997) somehow mangles drum’n’bass and jungle with his trademark wordsmithery – quite an achievement, and it’s one of my favourite albums outwith the lazily-monikered Berlin trilogy. Reality (2003) is a massively understated work that features guitars in all their might; Heathen from the year before is just …. out there. He pushed the boundaries with his androgynous early 1970s incarnations, produced albums in which the second side was all meandering instrumentals, teamed up with ambient superstar Brian Eno, and generally did things that now seem par for the course but at the time were pioneering. I do hope he at least left some outtakes from Blackstar that could be released by his family and management.

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