Honeybood, Zelators & Rituals – Three For Friday

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Honeyblood are back with a new album, Babes Never Die, out today in America and next week on these shores.

Their self-titled debut album resembled in places a scuzzy Sundays or as I seem to recall suggesting on a previous post here, ‘Strawberry Switchblade with a snarl’. It was one of my favourite albums of 2014.

Produced by James Dring, the lead-off single from Babes Never Die, Ready For The Magic, is like a cross between Elastica and Sleater-Kinney, and easily one of the best singles so far this year and now a second single, Sea Hearts, demonstrates the fact that Honeyblood are very possibly the hottest new band in Scotland and by hot I mean hip ‘n’ happening although the statement might also apply in the other sense too.

If the standard of these two tracks is kept up then the album is dead cert to be in the running for next year’s SAY Award and maybe even the Mercury Prize too. Well, if there’s any justice.

The gals are currently on the road in the US of A and they’ll be performing shows in Britain very shortly.

For more on Honeyblood, here’s the link for their official site or here you go for their Facebook page.

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Next up is an act that I came across recently on The Next Big Thing. I know very little about Zelators other than they are one of many exciting modern day garage bands emerging from Madrid at the moment, that they recently supported Detroit cult act Death and, like Honeyblood, they’re currently touring in the States.

This, their second single, One Way Lover:


Wanna find out more. Brush up on your Spanish and head here.

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Rituals evolved from a few different musical projects including The Merrylees, who I had high hopes for and whose single, Forever More, I featured here.

If Madness had decided to become goths they might have sounded not unlike Rituals.

Actually, listening to their debut single, maybe Madness should have become goths.

Just out on the Skeleton Key imprint, this is Black River:


Rituals will be playing their debut show tomorrow night at Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms. Tickets are only £5.

For more on Rituals click here.

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The Independent Group & The Independent Group

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Bryan Ferry: This is Tomorrow (Polydor)

This week I’ve been reading Alastair Sooke’s Pop Art: A Colourful History which includes a long chapter on the rise of British Pop Art.

Sooke is a critic who has been known to take a slagging but I’m especially enjoying reading about Peter Blake, who will always be best remembered as the co-creator of the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band but who has also designed album sleeves for Paul Weller, Pentangle, The Who and the John Peel tribute album Right Time, Wrong Speed, as well as producing paintings, prints, drawings and sculptures that have found their way into the collections of many of the world’s finest galleries.

It’s fascinating to read about the young artist who in the post-war years looked across the Atlantic with envy. Britain was drab and dreary in comparison, a nation of rationing, a single TV channel and beige wallpaper while for many young people America represented glamour – a world of colour, Coca Cola, fast food and Hollywood.

Even in London it proved impossible for him to find a pair of jeans. He bought some work overalls made with a material that resembled denim, cut off the top off and created his own makeshift version.

Of one of his paintings of the time, he says: ‘Self-Portrait with Badges was about the unusualness of wearing jeans and trainers – people only wore trainers then for sport. And the idea of an adult with a lot of badges didn’t exist. People would have thought I was mad.’

People only wearing trainers for sport? Changed days, eh?

Some see Blake as the Godfather of Pop Art with his paintings of film stars, pin-ups, wrestlers, tattooed women – a far from common sight at the time – and, of course, pop artists of another kind like Elvis and Bo Diddley.

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Sooke contrasts Blake’s work with that of the informal artistic gathering of artists, architects and theorists that became known as the Independent Group. They can also be seen as forerunners of Pop. Formed at the ICA in London, like Blake, the IG were also mesmerized by the shiny new world represented by the USA, especially in their case automobiles, movies, comics and science fiction magazines.

Unlike Blake though, the IG took a stringent, intellectual view of these phenomena, they wanted to analyse the relationship between so-called ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, while Blake simply wanted to enjoy.

‘When are you getting to Bryan Ferry?’ I hear some of you asking.

Soon. Honestly.

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Just as Blake will be remembered for an iconic album cover, the Independent Group will likely remain collectively best known for a seminal 1956 exhibition that they staged at London’s Whitechapel Gallery.

The theme of the collaborative show was the ‘modern’ way of living and the most imaginative representation of this was a collage by prominent member Richard Hamilton, Just What Is It that Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing? featured in the catalogue and some promotional posters (that’s it above left, next to a photo of an installation Hamilton helped create for the exhibition). The name of the show was This Is Tomorrow – yes, the inspiration for the first single from Bryan Ferry’s fourth solo album, In Your Mind.

Many decades before he got into the whole hobnobbing with toffs scene and raising his son to be immensely proud of killing foxes, Ferry had been a promising art student and was taught at Newcastle Uni’s art department by Hamilton, who like Blake went on to design an album cover for The Beatles, in his case, The White Album.

Actually Ferry had taken the name of the debut Roxy Music single, Virginia Plain, from one of his own Pop Art influenced watercolours of his student days under Hamilton and the older artist went on to influence Ferry in his music career, which Ferry has been happy to acknowledge: ‘Certainly some of the early songs were very collage like – where I’d actually throw different styles of music into the same song,’ he told Michael Bracewell in the book Re-Make/Re-Model. The title of his next album, 1978’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, was borrowed from a conceptual artwork by Marcel Duchamp, a piece Hamilton recreated for a Duchamp retrospective during the 1960s at the Tate.

Hamilton, incidentally, didn’t like being labelled as a Pop Artist and he didn’t approve of the This is Tomorrow title for the exhibition either, telling Bracewell: ‘Nobody can say what tomorrow’s going to be like – let’s concentrate on today.’

A good point maybe but let’s actually concentrate instead for a few minutes at least on a track from January 1977. With Chris ‘Motorbikin’ Spedding on guitar and Roxy’s Paul Thompson on drums, this is Bryan Ferry with This is Tomorrow:


For more on Bryan Ferry, click here. For more on Richard Hamilton, here’s a segment from a Channel 4 documentary that also features Ferry.

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In Glasgow, The Independent Group was the name given to the collection of musicians that worked with Paul Quinn on his work for the reactivated Postcard label.

Was Quinn, or label boss Alan Horne, inspired by the name of the London based art grouping?

I suspect so but I’m guessing.

Sacrilege I know but I’ve never been that keen on Quinn’s voice, although I did absolutely adore Will I Ever Be Inside of You? where he was aided and abetted by the exquisite, celestial vocals of Jane Marie O’Brien.

From 1994, this is Paul Quinn and the Independent Group with Will I Ever Be Inside of You?:

 
Footnote:

Some years ago I went along to see Hamilton’s show, Protest Pictures, at Inverleith House in Edinburgh, a space where I’ve also seen work by artists of the calibre of Douglas Gordon, Lucy McKenzie, Cy Twombly and Jim Lambie. Inverleith House is a fantastic place to see contemporary art but one which, sadly, will no longer do so after tomorrow. Which is a shame.

Prince of Players, Pawn of None

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T. Rex: Dandy in the Underworld (EMI)

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Like most 50-somethings I truly believe that I was lucky to grow up with some of the most exciting music imaginable.

Even before I’d reached my teen years there was Bowie, Roxy Music, Alice Cooper, Slade, The Sweet (yeah!), Mott the Hoople, Lou Reed, Cockney Rebel, Sparks and more who all seemed to routinely bring out a sparkling new album every year (or maybe even two albums in the same year) and make regular must-see appearances on Top of the Pops to be dissected at length in school the very next morning. Bliss it was in that glittered and feather boa’d dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven. Well, that’s how it felt at times.

Firstly though there was T. Rex fronted by glam rock trailblazer, Mr. Mark Feld, better known as Marc Bolan.

Bolan’s first words to manager Simon Napier Bell back in 1966 were supposedly: ‘Hi, I’m a singer and I’m going to be the biggest ever British star.’ Marc really did patholigically crave fame and although not many would argue that he achieved that particular mid-’60s prediction, for a couple of years at the height of T. Rextasy in the early 1970s, few would have totally dismissed the idea as his band let rip with a string of pure pop classics with crunching guitar hooks that instantaneously lodged in your brain – Ride a White Swan, Hot Love, Get It On, Jeepster, Telegram Sam and Metal Guru – that my fellow children of the revolution lapped up.

They all still sound fantastic today.

The world of pop was fast-changing back then and, by 1972, Bolan was already talking of how his success couldn’t last, that the fans’ tastes would change as they got older, how they would want to find new stars to adore and how pop music was all based on cycles anyway.

This proved to be a more accurate prediction. Soon there were no sell-out shows at enornodomes throughout the country, no ex-Beatles wanting to colloborate on films and diminishing sales returns. Bolan’s Zip Gun, released in February 1975, failed to even chart in Britain, although a single taken from it, Light of Love was a minor hit; the follow up, though, Zip Gun Boogie, stalled just outside the top forty.

Critics at NME and elsewhere loved to sneer, especially about the few extra inches that had been added round his waistline. By 1977, Marc looked to many like yesterday’s man, a little washed up, still capable of making some very good music but far from the sensation of his Electric Warrior days.

Yesterday’s man, though, had a few aces up his sleeves. He recorded an album Dandy in the Underworld, which was likely his best since The Slider and he notably became one of the relatively few elder statesmen of rock and pop to fully embrace punk, persuading The Damned to support him on his British tour and launching Dandy that March at London’s punk central, the Roxy in Covent Garden.

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He also agreed to host the late afternoon ITV pop show Marc where he showcased many of his own tracks as well as inviting on the likes of The Jam (or Jam as he introduced them), The Radio Stars and Generation X. ‘They have a lead singer who’s supposed to be as pretty as me,’ Marc cooed as he introduced that latter group while sniffing a flower. ‘We’ll see now.’ He didn’t look too convinced by the possibility.

In his new book, The Age of Bowie, Paul Morley describes Marc’s presenting style as: ‘a cross between kindly wizard, scatterbrained sweetheart and lapsed hipster, as though his years as pop star had made him possessed by a general sense of mind-altering cosmic jive.’

Marc, as you’ll see, may have looked kindly on the new breed and even went as far as to introduce a ripped T-shirt into his wardrobe but he wasn’t quite ready to completely ditch the satin, mascara and Tolkien.

Taken from Marc, here is Dandy in the Underworld:


The highlight of the entire series promised to be the duet with David Bowie that would close the sixth and final episode of the show. Since the 1960s the two men had been involved in a (usually) friendly rivalry, with Bolan winning the race for superstardom before Bowie came up on the rails, racing ahead in both the artistic and commercial stakes with Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane.

In fact, by 1977, the rivalry looked as lopsided as the footballing one between England and (West) Germany. By this point Bolan maybe wished that he had set himself up in competition against someone who didn’t quite possess the stratospheric capabilities of musical invention and consistent reinvention of Bowie; Ian Hunter, say, of Mott the Hoople or Steve Harley – who incidentally provided some backing vocals on the Dandy album.

The tour and album and even the TV series did though help rehabilitate Bolan but as you’ll know, his comeback was cut sadly short. On the sixteenth of September, Marc was killed instantly when his Mini 1275GT, driven by girlfriend Gloria Jones, crashed into a steel-reinforced fence on Barnes Common only a mile away from their home, before hitting a sycamore tree.

Recorded only days before his untimely death, the final episode of Marc was shown eight days after his funeral (attended by Bowie, Tony Visconti, Steve Harley, Rod Stewart, members of The Damned and hundreds of fans). Their race against the clock jam was an anti-climax and ended embarrassingly for Bolan, who tripped over a wire causing him to fall off the stage, although the incident is mostly hidden by the programme credits.

Better though is Bowie in his solo slot. This is “Heroes”:


Footnote.

Bolan had also taken on the task of penning a regular column for Record Mirror and, a month before his own death, Marc had commented that it was sad that Elvis was gone but that it was probably better that he went before he turned into the Bing Crosby of rock’n’roll. Bizarrely enough, not long afterwards Bowie agreed to bridge the generation gap by appearing on Bing Crosby’s annual Christmas TV special, the pair performing Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy.

Miracle Glass Company & Those Unfortunates

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The release of the self-titled debut album by Edinburgh trio Miracle Glass Company is a big event for fledgling independent label VoxBox Records, which has grown out of their shop VoxBox Music in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge. Judging by the single T.R.O.U.B.L.E, they have got off to a flying start.

Miracle Glass Company consists of William Douglas (vocals & bass), Andy Duncan (vocals & drums) and Austen George (vocals & guitar). Earlier this year the guys were given a spot at the New Year’s Revolution Festival at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow; they’ve also performed at Alan McGee’s first Creation Sessions event in their home town and taken to the stage at a string of outdoor festivals including an acclaimed slot at the T Break stage at T in the Park. They’ve found an influential fan too in Vic Galloway, who has played the band on his BBC Radio Scotland show and booked the boys for a session in November.

The upcoming album has been produced by Owen Morris, who has previously worked on a number albums that you might just have heard of: Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, A Northern Soul by The Verve and Costello Music by The Fratellis and T.R.O.U.B.L.E, an irresistible swampy glam rock stomper, certainly has a touch of Fratellis style rock ‘n’ roll swagger about it.

Available in limited edition blue vinyl, as a CD or download, the album is launched on 14. Oct at Cabaret Voltaire in Edinburgh. Upcoming dates in Glasgow include Nice N Sleazy on Saturday (8. Oct) as part of the Tenement Trail, and then on Nov 12, they’re at The Hug & Pint on Great Western Road.

Here is T.R.O.U.B.L.E live at Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh:


For more on Miracle Glass Company:

Official
Bandcamp
Twitter

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Another week, another very fine release from Stereogram Recordings, the second Edinburgh based independent label featured this week.

The new single The Servant / Saturday by Those Unfortunates came out on Friday, hot on the heels of the London four-piece’s last effort, Letter Writing Man.

The Servant takes its inspiration from the 1963 British film of the same name that starred Dirk Bogarde and James Fox, and the band (Ben Brill, Magnus Alanko, Henry Bird & Seb Brennan) also cite a number of cult London authors such as Alexander Baron, Patrick Hamilton and Colin MacInnes as influences – and  if you only know MacInnes through that dreadfully over-hyped Julien Temple adaptation from thirty years ago, don’t let that put you off his novels. They also, as you can see below, have a thing for Malcolm McDowell, the star of A Clockwork Orange and my probably my favourite ever British film, If.

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Their songs has been aired on a bunch of BBC 6 Music shows, including Steve Lamacq, Gideon Coe and Tom Robinson, the latter describing them as ‘daft and irresistible… [with] the lightness of touch and complete assurance found among all genuine Great British Eccentrics.’

Those Unfortunates aim for the wit and warmth of The Kinks, Television Personalities and Syd Barrett and they say of The Servant: ‘It’s three minutes of feedback, weirdy atmosphere and screaming… We are dead proud of it.’

So they should be.

There’s no video as yet for The Servant but here is a promo for Letter Writing Man, the third of their singles and their first on Stereogram. An album will follow in 2017.


For more on Those Unfortunates, click here for their official site, or here for their Facebook page.