mike davies july 2013

superfood


Another emergent name on the local scene, SUPERFOOD (above) only played their first gig back in October, but have already built an impressive reputation, earning much praise from NME and a support slot on the Peace tour. At present there’s only two songs available on line, the eponymous Blur meets early Primal Scream summer-lazing baggy groove and similarly inclined fan favourite TV, a track that owes a little to George Harrison’s Taxman, but they’re  more than enough to suggest they have a high calorie future ahead.

victories at sea


Having been slowly building a reputation over the past couple of years, VICTORIES AT SEA (above)

 have become leading names in the Birmingham music scene revival that’s been dubbed B-Town  (it never went away, but now the media have noticed) alongside the likes of Peace, Jaws and Swim Deep.

Following a couple of download only singles, the trio (John-Paul, Steve, Rob) have  now signed to Static Caravan and  their official debut, In Memory Of, is a four track EP  headed up by a remixed version of  their last release, Stay Positive, an 80s dark disco synth pop sound that throws up echoes of Ultravox, Flock of Seagulls and New Order, but also tips the hat to the euphoric grandeur of Editors.

It’s joined by three new tracks: the equally dance-floor friendly ‘disco noir pop’ Dive  with its suitably submerged echoey vocals; live favourite No Escape’s nods to early New Order and vintage Echo & The Bunnymen featuring a cascading keyboard melody; and the six minute Low, a lyrically dark apocalyptic number with Mogwai-like swirlingly muggy atmospherics and synths drone born from rehearsing on a grey industrial estate.

Cinematic and intense, with a live show to match, they’re clearly destined for breakout success, though the fact they say they only manage to write about four songs a year means there may be a considerable wait for that album!  

wild flowers

 

Formed back in 1983, Wolverhampton guitar band WILD FLOWERS  (above) comprised Neal Cook (guitar/vocal), Dave Newton (guitar), Mark Alexander (bass), and Dave Fisher (drums). Releasing their debut album, The Joy of It All, on Reflex in 1984 the accompanying singles, Melt Like Ice and Things Have Changed swiftly brought them to a national audience. Newton left shortly afterwards to form The Mighty Lemon Drops and was replaced by Dave Atherton (who’d previously played with Cook in Another Dream and would go on to join The Adventure Babies) and the band recorded a second album, Dust, for Chapter 22 before becoming the first British signing to Slash Records for whom they released two albums, Sometime Soon and Tales Like These, before finally calling it a day after their final album, Backwoods, on Surf Records, in 1997.

To mark their 30th anniversary, joined by members of  Cook’s current outfit, Saltflat, he and Atherton are reviving the band for one celebratory gig at the Slade Room on August 24, playing classic material from their extensive and often underrated back catalogue.

sabbath


Scoring a Guinness World Record as the longest gap between No 1 albums, 43 years after Paranoid BLACK SABBATH  (above) again topped the charts with 13, back on the label to which they originally signed, Vertigo. Deliberately recalling their early sound (just as their debut opened with a  tolling bell, so this one closes), despite the absence of Geezer Butler it sounds as vintage as it was intended and, while Ozzy’s voice may not be the force it once was and the lyrics ha’en't exactly matured with age, Iommi’s guitar work is sensational (especially on Damaged Soul) and numbers like the Beatlesesque Zeitgeist, Live Forever, and the nine minute God Is Dead and prove they can still show young upstarts how the job’s done.

miss j

 

My way of total contrast, MISS J (above) daughter of singer-songwriter-producer Michelle Lawrence, makes her strongest bid for success with This Is How It’s Done, a catchy dance-pop single with the sort of chorus you could imagine hearing on regular Capital/Heart FM rotation.

With RED SHOES shortly to be out of action while Carolyn has her hip replaced, fans can find consolation by listening to the strummed acoustic demo of  new number Dust In The Hallway on http://soundcloud.com/red-shoes.   With its wistful ‘I’m drinking again’ regrets-stained lyric, its  marriage of Americana and English folk provides the first stirrings of potential material for a third album that could prove even stronger than its predecessors.

UB40 Getting Over The Storm

Always a part of classic reggae music (Bob Marley’s second single was a cover of  Claude Gray’s 1961 country hit I'll Just Have Another Cup of Coffee, while John Holt had a UK Top 10 hit with Help Me Make It through The Night), UB40 have been getting in touch with their country roots too with upcoming album Getting Over The Storm. Due for release in September, along with five band originals it includes covers of George Jones’ Getting Over The Storm (George Jones), If You Ever Have Forever In Mind (Vince Gill), Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain (Willie Nelson), Crying Time (Buck Owens) and, a potential huge hit, the Jim Reeves classic He’ll Have To Go.

Additionally there’s a contemporary lyric update of Blind Alfred Reed’s How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live and a cover of Randy Travis’ On The Other Hand, originally recorded by the band in 1990 with the late Robert Palmer on vocals, but here, because of  problems reaching agreement with his estate, featuring Duncan Campbell.

damon minchella

For those wondering what former Ocean Colour Scene bassist DAMON MINCHELLA  (above) has been up to since the under publicised release of The Players’ sophomore album, From The Six Corners, eight years ago, he’s apparently been working on Richard Ashcroft’s forthcoming album but, more immediately, can also be found as part of Tess Of The Circle, a new outfit focussed around singer-songwriter Tess (it’s a bloke) Jones whose Thorns (Vintage Voice) album is released this month.  A marriage of 70s electric rock and acoustic folk, there’s a strong touch of Bowie about proceedings (and not just Jones’ vocals), notably so on things like Cracks and Burns, Vagabonds and Rogues and the title track while Lifesong introduces a Spanish note to the mix while listening to No Place Like Home it’s no surprise to find the album produced by Chris Potter who also handled The Verve’s Urban Hymns.

Tess of the Circle

Orchestrated with piano and strings, there’s an often dramatic swell to proceedings with Minchella and drummer Geoff Dugmore ensuring everything’s built upon a very solid rhythm foundation.

Editors

EDITORS  (above) return in towering form for fourth album, The Weight Of Your Love, their first since the departure of founder member Chris Urbanowicz and their signing to Play It Again Sam. As I said in reviewing the A Ton Of Love single, it marks a return to the swirling dark guitar and portentous  rhythms sound of their early work with slightly less emphasis on electronics, opening in persuasive form with the relentless marching beat and melodics of The Weight, a track that, like the single and the massive Formaldehyde, conjures early Echo and the Bunnymen. They’re not the only comparison to come to mind as numbers such as the leviathanesque Sugar, falsetto-voiced orchestral ballad What is This Thing Called Love, strings-coated waltzer Nothing, the brooding Two Hearted Spider, and a majestic Bird Of Prey prompt thoughts of  Joy Division, The Tindersticks, and Nick Cave. Stunning stuff.

Last month’s announcement by  guitarist MC Lord Magrăo that he was quitting THE GUILLEMOTS doubtless caused a flutter of concern among the fanbase given that plans to release four albums in 2012 never progressed further than the first, Hello Land! However, there’s good news from Fyfe Dangerfield who says that, while acknowledging the original intent nmay have been over-ambitious, they’re still working on a four album series, albeit with a more open-ended timescale and are busy recording the second album which should hopefully be ready later this summer.

humdrum

A Birmingham ex-pat now based in Kidderminster, amusingly tagged as  an ‘insensitive singer/songwriter proffering up-tempo exasperation, poetic put-downs and bitter-sweet tales of delusion, Ian Passey  (above) fronts (indeed, is) THE HUMDRUM EXPRESS.   Working with multi-instrumentalist/producer Mick Lown, he’s just self-released his third album, (Failed Escapes From The) Clone Town Blues, described in the press release as ‘a mix of wit, social commentary, bandy legs and glasses’ with subjects that include depressing urban homogeneity (Clone Town Blues), unsigned band rivalry (Roll Out The Red Carpet), the seemingly irreversible trend of media-interactivity, a musical essay on modern football (Fans Lost Forever), depressing 80s band reunions (Back In The Day) and, on Give It A Whirl,  the tragic death of Michael Lush who, some may recall, died in 1986 while rehearsing a bungee jump for the Late Late Breakfast Show.

That his label’s named Cynical Thrills give you an idea of where he’s coming from lyrically, reinforced by the track Cynical Thrill Seeker itself which includes observations on  ‘the baffling popularity of operatic stadium fillers Muse’, how ‘fifty odd school kids performing a dance routine to “Mickey” by Toni Basil should play no part in any sporting fixture’ and whether  you can really make excuses for ‘pub quiz cheats, nasal newsreaders and do-gooders who give up alcohol for the whole of January? Copy and paste philosophers, ground floor gaffers and small groups of men who tinker with engines on their rare days off work.’

Musically, it tends to rely on basic strummed guitar and matching chords, but Lown adds extra flourishes like the bluegrass banjo of  Botox Lunch Break, the motorik keyboard and beats of Get Involved and what may well be a uke on Throwaway Pop.

Less earnest and more playful in his social critiques than Bragg, it’ll be no surprise to lean he’s shared bills with kindred spirits such as Half Man Half Biscuit, John Cooper Clarke and Miles Hunt while the chugging Morons On My Mind suggests he has a fair few early Jam records in the collection too even if the chorus melody does sound a little like Bryan Adams’ Summer of 69. 

© roots-and-branches.com 2016