mike davies column30-5-19


Gearing up for the release of their fifth album THE TWANG deliver a summer vibe taster with Everytime, a steady drum beat, treated vocals and the eventual choppy guitar rhythms riding a groove evocative of the laid back Isleys or the early days of Terrence Trent Darby. The album, If Confronted Just Go Mad, is due this November.

The collapse of the Pledge Music funding platform has left hundreds of artists and their supporters in the financial shithouse, among them BOAT TO ROW whose much anticipated new album Rivers That Flow In Circles is now in limbo as regards a release date. However, the band are making every effort to honour commitments to the best of their ability. Meanwhile, if anyone with a benevolent chequebook and a good taste in music wanted to lend support, they can be contacted via their website.

Indie punk four piece PAPER BOUYS will be releasing their new album later in the year, meanwhile a rather fine taster is available in the shape of the Chasing Ghosts (Fade To Dust) single, a reminiscence of childhood haunted by the spirt of early Smiths and The Wonder Stuff.

Not a new album as such, EDITORS release The Blanck Mass Sessions, a rework of the Violence album by producer Benjamin John Power, who deconstructed the initial recordings and reassembled them as experimental electronica, producer Leo Abrahams then fusing the two recordings to produce what would become the band’s Top 10 release. This now sees the Power versions get their own spotlight, bringing a whole new musical and emotional dimension to numbers such as Darkness At The Door, Cold and, with its ethereal clouds of swirling synths replacing the acoustic guitars, Hallelujah (So Low). It’s not a complete mirror of Violence, there’s no Blanck Mass versions of No Sound But The Wind or Belong, but there is a previously unreleased song in Barricades on which Tom Smith’s yearning vocals are couched in robotic drums and shimmering, Occidental-sounding synths. Awesome stuff.

One of Birmingham’s seminal bands from the 80s, FASHION are back in the news with two linked releases. Having joined the band in their transition from indie to a more electro-funk outfit, Dave (Dee) Harris left following the release of the Fabrique album and teamed with former Pink Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright to form the one–off ZEE who released Identity in 1984. Thirty-five years on, that’s being reissued as Identity 2019, a lavish box set, signed by Harris, featuring a remastered version of the album alongside bonus material in the shape of both the 7" edit and 12" re-mix of Confusion and Eyes of a Gypsy plus a second CD of five rough mixes from the original album alongside lyric book, promo photos and press release.

The other goes back to the band’s first incarnation with the return to music making after 40 years by original singer Luke ‘Skyscraper James who, now living in the States has teamed up with musician turned filmmaker Eric S. Anderson (title designer on Dexter), a Wisconsin Fashion fan from way back to form THE GHOST OF LUKE JAMES and release Cool Electric Blue, a five-track EP with Anderson on drums, bass and synths. The dreamily strummed swirling title track kicks it off with Luke’s deep, whispering sandpapery voice creating a hypnotic effect like a latter-day electronic Lee Hazelwood. It’s followed by the skittering percussion and desert-night guitar of Words, the treated, mixed back vocals casting a forlorn otherworldly sheen of regret over the end of relationship lyrics (“I know there comes a time when one of us must go It’s time to call it quits”), fading away to be followed by the more positive We Take The Time (“We’re in the here and now of this magical time/ This time spent with you, you know it’s the best/ Best of my life, better than the rest”), the churning synths conjuring those early Fashion days, a soul number lurking behind the electronic eddies.


The vocals still breathy but less shrouded in effects, at times calling a mix of Bowie and Richard Butler to mind, the mid-tempo swayalong rhythm of The Length of How Long moves the relationship timeline back a few steps (“Somewhere down the line/There is someone who is mine…I just want to know/How fast this river flows/And if someday you might be my baby”) for what is the EP’s ‘poppiest’ cut.


A call for reunion (“Come find your man, even though I’m far from you/I know I can, give the best I’ve got to you”), it ends with the swelling anthemic, tambourine percussion sway of Miracle as he sings “Sometimes when I look into your eyes I swear it’s like looking at myself/And sometimes when I look at myself It’s like I’m seeing someone else”, a glorious close to an unexpected but thoroughly welcome comeback which, one hopes, promises of more to come, forever in Cool Electric Blue dreams .

roots-and-branches.com 2020