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Posts Tagged ‘The Waterboys’

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 Waterboys: Modern Blues (Harlequin and Clown)

WHEN A SCOTSMAN and an Irishman try to make a big impression they go to America.

Nashville may have become somewhat of a cliché, but it was the natural calling for Mike Scott (whose nationality needs no elaboration) and his long-time accomplice Steve Wickham who have just released the 11th studio album under the name of The Waterboys.  Waterboys

It’s been quite a ride for Scott, the act’s founder and backbone, from the big music of its early days, through to the folk-fest of The Fisherman’s Blues and the ghost of the Irish poet who inspired An Appointment With Mr Yeats in 2011.

So it isn’t a surprise, given The Waterboys’ changing musical palate, that last year recorded in Nashville with some American artists. An album titled Modern Blues recorded in the heart of country and western sounds intriguing; or very disconcerting.

Scott has corralled Paul Brown and David Hood for this album, respectively a Memphis keyboardist and a bassist who played on Aretha’s Respect. That’s a fine backing band. On paper anyway.

And yet it sounds as if the musicians aren’t quite sure what Scott wants out of them on the opening track, Destinies Entwined. And on November Tale they stop playing, all of a sudden, a few times, and pointedly right at the end. A small, moot, point maybe, and not one that is going to detract from the fresh appeal of the track, but a beguiling, slightly irritating trait nevertheless.

Still A Freak contains heavy blues influences as it erupts out of Memphis with all the energy and enthusiasm of a John Lee Hooker track. Meanwhile, Scott moves down a gear for I Can See Elvis, on which the backing singers provide subtle doo-wops. Scott’s febrile imagination is on overdrive 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.” A little fanciful, perhaps, but the images are immeasurably illuminating.

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 Rosalind (You Married The Wrong Guy) is a blues-infused rock standard in which the narrator sounds deranged as he implores a woman of his affections to “lift up your skirt and flee”.

Modern Blues concludes with the semi-autobiographical Long Strange Golden Road, which encapsulates Kerouc, and a curious stream of consciousness. It is both incredibly enthralling and tedious at the same time, with its repetitive riffs and ongoing verses. It’s a statement for the whole album: Modern Blues is the sound of The Waterboys taking an adventure without being terribly adventurous.

Read our review of An Appointment With Mr Yeats here.

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PJ Harvey: Let England Shake (Island) 
Harvey looks at her home country and its role abroad, with an emphasis on war, both current and historical. The end of the Empire and Britain’s diminished role in the 21st Century brings Harvey to note that “England’s dancing days are done,” and on a track simply titled England her homeland “leaves sadness, it leaves a taste, a bitter one,”.

The bugle’s used to majestic effect on The Glorious Land, one of a few tracks that reference the horrors of World War I and in particular the gory Gallipoli campaign that is etched so strongly in the psyche of the people of New Zealand and Australia. The militaristic and national soul-searching elements aside, this is a generally uplifting album that shows a musical diversity and even includes a sample of Niney the Observer’s reggae classic Blood and Fire.

 

Wire: Red Barked Tree (Pink Flag)

Wire sound, like how Wire have always done, in 1977, 1987 and 2011. There’s some sort of random wordplay going on in Two Minutes, Colin Newman shouting statements like ‘A dirty cartoon duck covers the village in shit, possibly signalling the end of western civilisation, and ‘Coffee is not a replacement for food or happiness’.
That may be the best track of the album but Adapt is the most potent: a slow moving beast it may be but that is an ideal pace to delve deep into the state of the modern world – extreme climate change and disaster, the failure of financial markets and hollow politics. There’s a strain of melancholy and it’s difficult to ascertain much hope in the song, just a denouncement of how things are, but it remains aesthetically beautiful.
And in those two tracks you have the essence of Red Barked Tree: quiet or loud; random or thoughtful; brutal or delicate.

 

 

Little Bushman: Te Oranga (Little Bushman) 
As someone who comes from the thought process that angry is better, born of a youthful love of punk and reggae, I often have to remind myself that some of the best records and songs are those about love, peace and the human condition. So, there’s no axe to grind, no point to make. Just some sprawling, ambitious tracks like Gone, that are long, but the length is justified as Warren Maxwell, and co delve into different layers of sound and weave them together. That track and the space-rock Dream of the Astronaut Girl come in two parts, saddled together rather than as a reprise. This means the four-piece allow themselves the luxury of developing the tracks as much as they can, but it doesn’t sound like prog-rock-esque indulgence and in the true nature of a concept album, which I guess this is, Gone Part II segues nicely into the eight-minute Big Man.

 

Arctic Monkeys: Suck It And See (Domino)
On the first couple of listens Suck It And See sounds like their adventure in Indie-Rock, as if a sober Pete Doherty ghosted into the studio and left some ideas behind. Could it be … no, I dare not so their name ….damn I’ll have to now, but have they been listening to post-Madchester James?  Later listens suggest a broader palate, but you get the picture.

Regardless, Alex Turner’s words remain as potent as ever, if you’ll forgive the monotonous Brick By Brick. Turner’s come up with some gems like “Topless models doing semaphore” (Reckless Serenade), or “You’re rarer than a can of dandelion,” (title track).

Oh yes, and there’s those gloriously long-winded titles, like Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair.

 

The Horrors: Skying (XL recordings)  

From looking like a bunch of black-clad goths reading Joseph Conrad all day, the four-piece now remind me of Pink Floyd, circa 1969, both in look and sound. What enters the ears is the most pleasant and surprising thing, as Skying is choc-full of lush, ethereal tracks such as You Said, which builds into an enormous monster of a tune with its captivating verses and pounding beats. Endless Blue begins like Velvet Underground, but at 1:44 out come the grinding guitars while Faris Badwan gives it his best rocking frontman impression. Their development from garage rock to post-punk psychedelia is reminiscent of the same path tread two decades ago by The Telescopes, who’s self-titled second album remains one of my personal favourites, with its ability to blend in the emerging indie-dance sound with killer rock noise. Time was not favourable to the Telescopes, so I hope there’s a better outlook for the Southend-on-Sea’s finest talents.

 

Iggy Pop: Roadkill Rising … The Bootleg Collection 1977-2009 (Shout Factory!)

Recorded at various venues around the world with much of the latter two disks being recorded at festivals, it offers a broad overview of Pop’s career, peppered with covers such as the Batman Theme and Les Feuilles Mortes, a French favourite sung by Yves Montand and Edith Piaf. These are welcome additions to the familiar (I Wanna Be Your Dog, TV Eye, Lust for Life, Nightclubbing etc) and the not so familiar: the album tracks and the singles from the largely barren early 80s period.

The tracks are laid out in an awkward manner, so you want to stay with one concert and skip another but, really, that’s my only real quibble. The quality is generally good, Pop has great interaction with the audience and he puts his heart and soul into Search and Destroy, Raw Power and the rest.

 

Nick Lowe: The Old Magic (Proper Records)  

Age has invigorated this quintessential Englishman, with 2007’s At My Age delving into the nuances of his approach toward the big six-oh. In fact, he confronts it with typical wit and adroitness: “I’m 61 years old now, and Lord I never thought I’d see 30/ Though I know this road has still some way to go, I can’t help but thinking on.” (Checkout Time).

He ponders lost love; selling a house where love once resided (House for Sale) and finds solace in the printed page: “not just magazines, but more serious things” to get over a deserted lover (I Read a Lot). Meanwhile, Lowe also finds he has the “wander dust” in his feet, on Restless Feeling, though he doesn’t know where it’s leading him to. With a strong backing band, Lowe has found a niche, and there seems little let up, a la Lee Scratch Perry.

 

S.C.U.M: Again Into Eyes (Mute)

S.C.U.M have a longing for psychedelia, space-rock, avant-garde and ambience. There’s a spiritual element to the five-piece as they ponder the essence of life, as on Sentinal Bloom: “What I hold as time/ Nothing without you/Buried ‘neath the water.”

There are deep and meaningful thoughts, set to a soundscape of epic, swaying guitars and moody bass, reminiscent of shoegazing, My Bloody Valentine and Radiohead in reflective mood. The single, Amber Hands, is a triumphant, multi-layered cascade into pop’s bitterest tendencies. It takes some practice to master the art of S.C.U.M, but, equally, there is a limit to their often one-dimensional material, with some tracks drifting into a black hole of emptiness. Some tracks lack substance and diversity but the beauty of Days Untrue, Amber Hands, and Cast Into Seasons render them obsolete. I find the more I listen the more goodness I uncover.

 

The Waterboys: An Appointment with Mr. Yeats (Puck records)  

Like Primal Scream who change stripes with every album, Mike Scott is no stranger to a challenge, keenly adapting WB Yeats’ symbolist words, written between 1893 and the late 1930s.
Most of the songs, such as The Hosting of the Shee offer themselves to music, with Scott’s ever-beautiful voice ensuring the words are given the grace they so deserve. Sweet Dancer is a clever welding of two poems published 22 years apart. On A Full Moon in March, Scott emphasises the darkness of the theme, with the band matching his mood.
With a band that includes a variety of talents include long-time Scott collaborator Steve Wickham, Irish singer Katie Kim, keyboardist James Hallawell and multi-instrumentalist Kate St John, Scott and friends provide an engaging background to 14 poems, and while it could be argued that no band could ever provide the vigour and realism of a poem regaling his own words to a crowd, there is sufficient enthusiasm and understanding of the works to make this a worthwhile effort.

 

Half Man Half Biscuit: 90 Bisodol (Crimond) (Probe Plus)

All the elements of a Half Man Half Biscuit album are here: the play on words and the witty titles and songs about the things we actually talk most about: korfball, Betterware products, and “Ross Kemp on Watership Down.

The Biscuits are a breed apart, leaders of a small clique of obscurantist artists delving into the minutae, the strangeness, the uniqueness of our 21st century lives. Porky adores Joy of Leeuwarden (We Are Ready) which is bizarrely derived from a song written about the 2010 European Korfball Championships in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, Nigel Blackwell uses the narrative style he’s used to good effect on previous albums, on Descent of the Stiperstones, to describe a meeting a dullard has with a former Coronation Street star.

 

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Who: The Waterboys 

Title: An Appointment with Mr. Yeats

Label: Puck records

Tell me more: Mike Scott returns to the mystical, wonderful words of one of Ireland’s greatest literary sons, W.B. Yeats, having adopted The Stolen Child for 1988’s classic Fisherman Blues album, and Love and Death for 1993’s Dream Harder. Now, he’s done an entire album of Yeats’ work.
The Lowdown: It requires literary understanding as well a musical ability to put poetry to music. It doesn’t always work, as any fan of Rabbie Burns will testify – the work of the bard has never been truly matched in a recording studio.
Scott, who is, in effect The Waterboys, has taken the band on a musical whirly-jig, going from what was called The Big Music – after one of his own songs – to folk, and even encompassed rock elements into his work. Like Primal Scream who change stripes with every album, Scott is no stranger to a challenge, keenly adapting Yeats’ symbolist words, written between 1893 and the late 1930s.
Most of the songs, such as The Hosting of the Shee offer themselves to music, with Scott’s ever-beautiful voice ensuring the words are given the grace they so deserve. Sweet Dancer is a clever welding of two poems published 22 years apart. On A Full Moon in March, Scott emphasises the darkness of the theme, with the band matching his mood.
With a band that includes a variety of talents include long-time Scott collaborator Steve Wickham, Irish singer Katie Kim, keyboardist James Hallawell and multi-instrumentalist Kate St John, Scott and friends provide an engaging background to 14 poems, and while it could be argued that no band could ever provide the vigour and realism of a poem regaling his own words to a crowd, there is sufficient enthusiasm and understanding of the works to make this a worthwhile effort.

 

 
Who: Edward Rogers 

Title: Porcelain

Label: Zip records

Tell me more: Porky Prime Cuts’ inbox is chocka with record label people and their publicists telling us what records we should like. Bypassing those emails with subject lines containing the names of the over-hyped newcomers, or past-it icons, Porky peers into those promoting those with a profile as high as the Cornish independence movement. Hence the arrival of Porcelain, all the way from New York.

The Lowdown: Rogers was born in Birmingham, England, but has lived most of his life in  New York, which explains the slightly trans-Atlantic feel of the record, although the ‘British’ element strays more to Celtic rock. That said there’s a number of lackadaisical moments such as the lumbering Nothing Too Clever, which may have been best relegated to a b-side. Contrast this with the beautiful, uplifting Love With The World, which could be an insight into how rock stars of the 1970s would have sounded like if they’d discovered, and fallen in love with, new wave. If he eschewed the desire to be a rocker, Rogers would have had this album down to a tee: it’s songs like Link To The Chain that define the singer, his ability to change pace when necessary  and individualise it, creating tracks that have vigour.

Anything else: Rogers lost his right arm and right leg below the knee in an underground train accident in 1985.

 

 

 

Who: Tori Amos 

Title: Night of Hunters

Label: Deutsche Grammaphon

Tell me more: She’s sold 12 million records over the past 20 years, gone disco and slowed-down Nirvana. Tori Amos has had many hats and hairstyles and the one in 2011 is fiery red.

The Lowdown: If Amos was a road, Night of Hunters would be a sudden hair-pin bend with a radius drop of 35%. There’s virtually no guitars, no dalliances with technological explorations into dance rhythms; instead this is 14-track song cycle drawing on themes from classical composers such as Chopin, Satie and others. The only concession to anything approaching radio-friendly cock-sucking is that it is a love story with a link to Ireland’s mythic past. You cannot but admire Amos’ ambition, bringing classical music into the 21st century in a concept album that lasts well over an hour. There is drama and beauty and Amos’ voice is always enthralling. But the lyrics are sometimes too cringeworthy to bear and it’s impossible to consume this in one setting, which is apparently the objective.

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