Tuesday, 22 December 2015

I wrote for luck - they sent me you

All documentary programmes about Manchester will discuss the pivotal moment The Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses played Top of the Pops. They will argue how it redefined the centre of pop – how it re-presented the working class as saviours of music – how it broke boundaries and fuelled dreams.

In Scunthorpe on that Thursday 23rd November, 1989 we had a power cut.

The North East were not witness to this seismic shift.

We did not yet have that Madchester feeling

There was a time when the Happy Mondays were seen as the bottom of the heap, the underbelly of the working class – drug dealing rough youth with fried eyes and crazy dancing.  Compare that to the real misspent working class of today  – the uneducated and illiterate- this cultureless mob that is shat on a daily basis.

The Mondays look like fucking professors – do you get me?

It’s been a week or so since I saw them – the show – at Brixton Academy a revisit of Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches – plus a couple of other classics thrown in. It was excellent. Just so you know – if you weren’t there. I’ve written about Ryder somewhere back in the past – all explaining his impact on pop culture and how his lyric flair and rhythm are worthy of study and this and that. I mean it maaaaan.  Sometimes pop transcends its boundaries – sometimes we can transcend our boundaries.

I’m writing this in south London – after an hour of idiocy and inarticulate mutterings. I worry about the working class – perhaps it’s because they don’t have Top of the Pops anymore – we are fractured and disparate – no commonality or shared experience.

Back then – when the spirit of 86 had manifested into 89 and beyond  - all tribes and outlooks had come together – learnt from one another – listened and lifted the spirits – community and action were up for grabs – discussion alongside hedonism and dirty mags. The Happy Mondays emerged with a rawness and authenticity - so sadly lacking in the independent scene of today - that took the breath away. This was not a typical NME band - but they had to cover them - they had to write about their fried funk - Parliament meets the Velvets by a route taking in John Denver - TB303s - disco and freaky dancin'.

It’s an odd venue the Academy – considering what’s its seen in rock n roll excess it feels a little faded these days.  It looked like it could do with a lick of paint and some 'shake n vac' on the carpet.  It looked like it could do with a new lease of life.

And here were the Mondays – looking like they'd had a new lease of life – alive and with it – on it and surviving.  Clean living in dirty times. This was no haggard run through of past glories – it was putting it right back out there and making people remember why Ryder and Bez are actually celebrities. This wasn’t about ‘effs and jeffs’ on TV shows or political musings in Manchester. It was the music that made the paaarrrttty – and these are no jesters – working class freak shows – they are the talent – the raw fucking ingredients of a funked up childhood and living life excessively and expressively.

It’s straight into the Thrills, Pills and Bellyaches anthems – beginning with Kinky Afro - Rowetta literally whipping up the crowd and Bez commanding the mad proceedings - so pivotal to all that is the Mondays. Without him they'd still be a wonderful band of brothers - with him they are future funk muthas - a juggernaut of pop party arriving in your town.

At one point Ryder reminds us that this would be point when you turned the record over. That slight pause - getting your breath back and then on with the party. They really are tight - no updates of the tunes- played as there were written - tight and discordant house funk freak sounds - wonderful. Inevitably the place errupts when the band launch into Step On - all fake maraca shakes and moves as Bez conducts up front. He looks great - it's great when you're straight - oh yeah. We are twisting our melons - we are talking so hip - we are with the Mondays - on their ship and they are guiding us ever higher and to happy climes.We are existing in Harmony - right here in the confines of a faded concert venue - but this is no faded band.

And then they are gone. But not for long. Emerging to the shouted Higher - Hallujah chants - we are happy for Shaun William Ryder to lie down beside us and fill us full of junk. He may not have been sent to save us - but itsurely feels like it. The Mondays articulate the possibilities that were there for the taking back then - combining fun with fulfilment. They were never really gone work for the man - but the sure helped those stuck in factories escape from him.  Finally - they end with Wrote for Luck - I can't describe how much that tune was a revelation then and still stands strong now - like this band - still standing strong.

A long may that continue.

What with The Mondays, Black Grape and a Shaun William Ryder album on the horizon it seems that all that premature talk of rocks and lost form was merely that - all talk - SWR and Bez and band are made of much sterner stuff. He breezed through the jungle and Bez made that stint in the house look like a stay at a holiday camp. These men were built to last and deserve the recognition and appreciation that some of the other 'baggy' groups still get.

I wrote for luck and they sent me you.

Here are the Mondays doing what they do best - enjoy 

Friday, 30 October 2015

Do you remember when Gedge was cutting edge?

Do you remember when David Gedge was well known? The pinnacle of independent hipness in your home town? He was all front cover this and all of that - guesting here and there - I got the NME today - it was from a guy in  a hi-vis jacket outside Covent Garden station - it's still in Emma's bag -I haven't even read it.

My band were once reviewed in a Scunthorpe rag - compared us to the Weddoes and we were incensed - too easy - too appealing - to downright chug a lug a lug.  We were only young - we weren't having that - we we're going to be bigger, better, harder, stronger. We weren't.

I've recently revisited the Festive Fifty - the Wedding Present appear in it - frequently - to be honest - it was downloaded by my brother - he sent it my way - I mean there's too much to play these days - I looked at the listing - it went on and on - you know fifty tracks- like a Now that's what I call an INDIE compilation - I'm not quite certain how I fitted it all in back then - listening to it all - what with television, film, girls and late night walks and talks and possibly a kiss and all of the other - but there was a world filled with music - with sounds from the underground. It hadn't crossed over - you had to find it - on cheap cassettes from names on letters who lived in Leeds or Middlesboro' - talk over weeks not instant blips and bleeps and youtube finds - on the radio late at night - - do you remember when Gedge was cutting edge?

I saw The Wedding Present possibly twice - I can't quite remember all the details - Once was definitely in Kilburn - the national - around Bizzaro time - i think -  all hands held with new loves and smiles and anticipation - pale saints supported - blew them away to be honest - but I will write a pale saints post - sometime. They deserve it. Not that The Wedding Present don't - I just need to properly revisit it all and digest what it was that made me both revile and kind of like them somewhere down the line.

So the festive fifty (which is where I started - but didn't discuss)  - is now getting cut up and placed randomly on CDs - for car journeys and moments of nostalgia ( Freak Scene - No.5/ Shame on You . No33 or something ) I said I wouldn't do that here - talk of nostalgia - but here I am - guitar in hand - milking moments from lost times.

The dream is over.

So to let you know -

I don't believe in Elvis

I don't believe in Jesus

I don't believe in Blast First

I don't believe in Kanye

I don't believe in Cameron

I don't believe in Zimmerman

I don't believe in Wilson

I don't believe in Spector

I don't believe in Smith (M.E)

I don't believe in Sarah

I don't believe in 4AD

I don't believe in Heavenly

I don't believe in Gillespie

I don't believe in Creation

I don't believe in Morrissey

I don't believe in sub-culture

I don't believe in Sub pop

I don't believe in Annakin

I don't believe in capitalism

I don't believe in rock 'n' roll

I don't believe in Peel

I just believe in me

Emma and me. 

And the other three.

The dream is over.

Not as passionate - but still listening - still trying to write.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Girl on a train: Sleaford Mods whilst the city never sleeps

I hadn't planned on being at this concert, gig, shindig - I was bought a ticket from the other half - a birthday treat as her birthday fell the very next day after it - late night outings and present opening mornings. She knows how much I love a rant - a rave - she know how much I love her - she lets me out - because this I guess this is what i'm about.

So it was with coughs and shakes that I made my way to the forum - to see 'em - to be with the mods again. To be honest - i was late to the key markets push - I hadn't listened as intently to this long player as much I should have. So with minimal plays in Zafira journeys I wasn't fully accustomed to the blast and rhetoric- the fucked off 'avin it - and downright funk of it. It was sitting there on the old itunes - not yet settling in the brain - but tonight I was going to see them live tonight.

Through phonecalls and garbled texts I let myself in to the venue without companions - zipped up parka and stares - grey hairs and semblance of attitude - with 4.80 a pint and a scant smile for the trainee bar staff.

I didn't want to waste the moments of big city life.

I hadn't been in the Town and Country club since god knows when - probably Ultra Vivid Scene or Buffalo Tom in the early 90s. Things still remained the same - but i wasn't bothered. 

Being there as the hall filled meant I got to witness York's finest (Iggy) pop - in the shape of Mark Wynn - all grapes and blouses and skinny black trousers. Not a Fall rip off ( even though he played Psychomafia )- a Formby punk warrior with tales of Claire ( if only she wore a name badge) from charity shops and doctored Bowie struts and grapes - 300 quid and we paid for the privilege - he felt so fucking modern - but reminded me of my youth - an absolute fucking trooper - wit and words and shapes and moves. 

Performance punk poetry. 

I wasn't expecting it - you know he basically danced - randomly recited poetry - ate grapes. It was good - but you know - I couldn't hear the words properly - it was hard to make out. (This is meant ironically - just go and see him - it's worth it) 

Steve Ignorant - heartfelt (like a moonlight shadow) all warrior folk and gesture and musical number - it wasn't getting me - but the guy's got pedigree - so you know - we'll see. Arch ranting over tinkling  - hand gestures and industrial language - because we matter - we are fucking human after all.

Before the wonder of Wynn - I had managed to have a brief chat with Andrew Fearn - all gentle and humble - not that I expected him to have gone all diva and not cared - after all we (the audience) were there for this bunch of cunts (Jason's observation). We talked of Nottingham - I asked why Beeston never gets a mention - mainly because I'd been a resident of Nottz (with a Z you...) and a part of that Beeston shuffle - apparently it's too posh - although I have witnessed the Sleaford Mods lyrics being played out on Beeston streets in real time - do you get me?  Anyway I left Andrew alone - he was with a couple who were telling him that the Mods music was right - for these times - right for right now.  I bet he gets that a lot these days.

And then at 9.30 - on came the Mods - straight up and no fuss - in your face and filling the space with fans and sweat - bile and gutteral soul searching about this nation's saving grace - it was ace. Jason and Andrew - prophetic proto punk poetry and rhythm delivered in bombast and bass - it was ace.  

It didn't seem as frenetic as last time - I think that might have been down to the fact I was ready for it - the first time was a fucking blast - this time I kind of knew what was coming. New songs peppered the set Bronx in a Six, Face to Faces, Giddy on the Ciggies, Arabia- Jason contorting and sweating - if he hadn't brought on his No.1 fan (an actually fan) then I think he may have lost all the fluid in his body. You get a workout from this band. A proper session - of self expression. As I said previously my friend - who was there (live) tonight -thinks they'll become all acceptable - used in adverts at some point. He may be right - this certainly felt like that step up - a big hall and playing to the balcony. I guess the bigger the venue the more likely you make sure it's a show. 

And it's always a good show. Let's be honest no else is doing this.

The bass is set to low - the crowd just wobble, wobble, wobble - united in the words of Williamson - crack headed garbage talk - inarticulate rage ranting - the mundane made magical in repetition and riotous commands. Whenever Williamson screams 'sack the manager' it sends the hairs on my neck soaring. There's something incredible in his ranting.

A modern day ranter - perhaps?

Now, if you look up the definition of a ranter from medieval times - you can see the straight up link to the Mods movement (if two people can be called a movement) Here it is: The Ranters were one of a number of nonconformist dissenting groups that emerged around the time of the English Commonwealth (1649–1660). They were largely common people, and there is plenty of evidence that the movement was widespread throughout England, though they were not organised and had no leader.

Do see what I mean?

What the Mods have done is wrap that discordant sound of modern living - that background fug - bass and (rowche) rumble - frustration and fuckery - into a set of songs that document both the past, present and the future. These repetitive bass thumpers - expertly handled from Fearn's fingers - allow laptops to connect with the oldest sound in the world - the voice.

This is modernism.

I'm getting older - and so are the mods - but the crowd is growing - young minds being opened by words from older guys. I can completely understand how Sleaford Mods came to exist - but every time I hear them - and in this case see them -I can't help marvel at the ingenuity of it all.  It's like they just came out of nowhere but perfectly capture - well - rupture the fabric of modern times. There's a wonderful line in 'Rupert Trousers' about Blur. They don't play it tonight. They don't need to get into those sort of fights - but they point a finger at the pomposity of pop life - they prick it and reveal it as the banal it actually is.

I hope this rise to super stardom doesn't diminish the wit and insight of Williamson or alter the relentless drive of Fearn's beats and bass and flickered melody.  I hope it doesn't come to an odd end.

I don't get in the mosh pit tonight - although I stand on the periphery.  I always did - and that's where the Mods are tonight - still on the outside looking in - or perhaps pissing in and causing a fuss.

And with that the show ends - tight - thumbs up and thank yous and I'm off to be a zombie and tweet ,tweet, tweet about it. It's what us London teds do.

So making my way home I arrive at Charing Cross. Sly fag outside the station. Suddenly approached. Blond hair and eyelashes. Off guard. A girl (well a woman) trying to find her way home - all lost and confused - taxi ready but just pissed up and unsure - she was working for Goldman Sachs- wedding in April - man in Munich - pissed up beer festivals and lost connections  - it gets like that - she drinks at Somerset house whilst we listened to rants and the diatribe of Williamson and Fearn - in the same city - different dreams and all that - all on the same train  - same place but thinking differently.

I didn't tell I'd just been in a room with the invective and froth from two top fellas. I didn't tell her that our worlds were probably quite different.  I didn't tell her that the man is a wanker - and that it don't get much better. She can find all that out for herself. 

She can find that all out when she stumbles across Sleaford Mods on the radio. 

It's going to happen soon.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

A little bit of roogie boogie on a Sunday

This concert kind of rushed up on me - a sudden posted video and tour dates - Euros Childs was coming to town again. It had been a busy weekend - up to the Forum on Friday - birthday walks and meals (I was cooking not celebrating - I mean I was celebrating but it wasn't my birthday) on Saturday and then here - back in the heart of the city on a Sunday evening. Summer sun fading and a grin on my face - I was heading to The Lexington for another dose of that roogie boogie magic (and it is magic he weaves - with his merry men and woman - real magic)

I hadn't had a chance to listen to Sweetheart - released on the Friday - you can get it from The National Elf himself if you want - so some of this set was going to be like the first time I saw him (you) - unknown set lists and tunes - which added an edge of anticipation for me - not necessarily for Euros Childs and the band - they knew what was coming. 

But I didn't and it was a blast.

There's a certain sweeping charm to the whole affair - 8pm Oh Peas! plays - all chords and words - gentle and humourous - a girl and a guitar - cutting and tender - whilst various members of the Euros gang - mingle and pace - drink tea and get the errands out the way.  

I think I've seen Euros now about eight times - now that's a fair amount of times in my book - I once followed The Cure over most of England with my brother - I didn't backcomb my hair - I was getting into Spaceman 3 to be honest - but that was different - we were young. My brother has now taken to following PINS around - I'm sticking to Euros - he just has that pull about him - a merry prankster - a simple guy with simple songs - but oh my there's so much more than that.

So here he is - new recording in the bag - recorded in a week in his parent's place - and now Euros is on the road - with a full band again to play to people who appreciate that sort of thing - and there are a lot of us. We fill The Lexington up - we are a throng - a mixed bag - eclectic - like these roogie boogie warriors. Stage set up - conversations had with two fifths of the group (Stu Kidd and Marco Rea of The Wellgreen, Dr Cosmos's Tape Lab, Poundstore Riot, and BMX Bandits fame - you should be buying all their records too)

Euros arrives on stage all nervous legs and tics - green t-shirt and jeans (there used to be a feature in J17 - a teenage girl's mag - I used to read it in my cousin's house up in Scotland - it had piece about how much your fashion cost that you were wearing  - they took pictures in the street - I can't help costing out my outfit every time I go out - I had planned on asking Euros what his outfit would have cost - in my head I thought that would be a good opening interview question - you come up with these type of ideas when crossing the river - South to North)

Anyway he launches into Horse Riding - this band are on fire. He's not really easy to classify - to me it's straight forward rock n roll - yes we have that psychedelic thing, that folk thing, that krautrock repetition thing - but he keeps it wrapped up in rock n roll - not all leather jackets and spitting - but performance - integrity and show - like Elvis did - like Jerry Lee Lewis keeps doing - with a slight nod to Little Richard (it's all in the show)

The set continues with a healthy selection from Sweetheart - Fruit and Veg - Julia Sky - Sweetheart and Lady Caroline - and you can see the pleasure it brings - an album recorded in a week - with a band - and what a new long player it is. I don't know where he finds the melodies - perhaps it's being in his parent's place - where the album was recorded - but he just keeps churning out these pop beauties for us all - ones that keep us smiling through winter.

At one point Euros tells us that touring from city to city has resulted in the invention of a  game called 'who's on the plane?' A sort of reversal of the Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Big Bopper disaster (you know when the music died) whereby you can chose the artists who are on it (the plane) in the likelihood it's going down (there should be an app for that - I'd download it) 

Euros tells us that Dave Stewart has firmly booked his place on that plane.

Harmonies and riffs - Euros states the simple feeling of feeling love - of feeling overwhelmed or underwhelmed - both rejected and welcomed - hugged and shunned in tales of happiness and woe (sometimes with a ghost check out Lady Caroline) And the set continues to build with ( despite contractual show business stops for Laura J Martin whose adding flute and mandolin sparingly but as always effectively tonight) further musical explorations of love and feelings.

We get Billy and the sugar loaf Mountain - and the layering of voices is sublime - and an audience sing a long of Daddy's Girl ( we may have out sung Wales) before a stormer of  song called Bycycle of Bees - which may be an old one - it may be a new one - it's most definitely a good one. Building and building as Marco's guitar screeches and wails in walls of sound. It's that psychedelic thing again. A band connecting and taking you somewhere else.

Followed by Heywood Lane - which I'd been singing all week. And then a rip-roaring Roogie Boogie to round the night off. But we (the audience that is) we're not ready to go home - we clap - we chant - we want more. (We might not see him for a year). A cheeky call out for the whole of Miracle Inn - but instead we get Tete a Tete and a wonderful full band Spin that Girl Around. And then they are gone.  Well not gone - Euros is up and off to sell the sounds - from his stand at the back of the room.

He captures human emotions for me

He captures feeling alive

It is evident that he has not taken a Dave Stewart angle to any of this pop making process.

Thank fuck.  We can buy Dave Stewart - or DS as we call him round here (infact it's a little known fact the Nintendo DS actually refers to Dave Stewart - but that's another story) a ticket for the first seat on the 747 - that's a big plane - we can all think of other passengers. 

Euros Childs will not be on that plane.

You can be certain of that. 

Sweetheart is available at The National Elf website

And here is Machine (off the new album - and live at The Lexington) 

Thanks to seajohnster for posting this to YouTube