They Might Be Giants: SWX Bristol

23.09.18: There have been many attempts over the years to categorise They Might Be Giants, a task akin to balancing on a set of shakey decorating ladders while attempting to nail jelly to a ceiling, so I’m not going to even attempt it here. All I can say is that if you take St. Peppers era Beatles, a bit of Beach Boys, some Liza Minnelli, Deep Purple riffs, Motown backbeats and the brass section from Earth Wind and Fire, place them in a tumble drier several times over a bright summers weekend. You might (just might) be lucky enough on one occasion to get the ingredients right and that is without the arduous challenge of blending in some of the wittiest lyrics being set to music today. Getting this right, of course, is a challenge for the musician. One slip, either way, can project the material into a smug self-righteous mess.

TMBG have found an odd relationship with my music collection. I adore their 1990 album Flood with its quirky set of songs, including the perfect pop tune Birdhouse in your Soul, sitting along the track Your Racist Friend, which coming from an American band seems quite an aptly timed anthem for their 45th President. Their music has popped up on TV shows like Malcolm In the Middle. They’ve written music for the Spongebob Square Pants, as well as winning two Grammy Award and nominated for a Tony Award for Best Original Score.

With 4 million records sales to their name, I’ve dipped into their catalogue along the way and I now find myself at the SWX venue Bristol to finally see Brooklyn’s very own and self-titled ambassadors of love perform live for the first time. TMBG are providing two sets tonight covering material from their back catalogue and forthcoming album. The evening is a storming success, full of humour, amazing musicians who are simply on top of their game and at ease with one another. The dubbing of Aerosmith/Run DMC’s video to Walk This Way is a particular fun treat! Check out dates for their remaining tour dates here as well as accessing band information, free downloads, etc. I heartly recommend you go see them live. If you don’t come out with a rye smile on your face and a spring in your step the next morning then you are in need of professional help.

 

Today I Stumbled Upon: Lensmen

The sound of Lensmen occupies a personal space in my musical adventures. A space between my adolescence youth and early 20s, which is bookended at one end by the demise of Jim Morrison (1971) and at the other end the tragic death of Ian Curtis (1980). The shadows of these creative geniuses are cast large over the Lensmen’s output, so far. This is not by any means a criticism given I have admiration for any band or artist who wears their influences on their sleeves. The challenge of course always remains if they can utilise these influences and navigate the rocks of not simply becoming a pale intimidation or at worse a tribute band. While its early days and some of the tracks on offer are naturally raw you can get a sense of fresh musical ideas fermenting away, often bleak, but similarly fragile. Dark, yes, but with the craft of lyricist Alan Hughes, they have an emerging talent who like the aforementioned bookends were able to inject humour into their dark landscape. If Lensmen are able to navigate the rocks I see an interesting journey lies ahead. Enjoy.

1.2.3…..

Three 2017 releases, which have brought a smile to my face.

One: The No Action debut album finally arrived.  Originating from Australia, No Action have delivered an Intense, lo-fi album reminiscent of a vintage 4 track deck cassette recording of a rehearsal held in a vacated industrial estate. A thing of beauty, which collects material from over a five year period and is limited to 250 pressing, or download.

Two: While we take stock of the dangerous clown occupying the Whitehouse helping to restore a bit of confidence in the land of the free this December we had a further mini-release from Mouth Reader. Eyes Sink adds to their conveyor belt of catchy punk releases. A glorious racket delivered in just under 3 minutes. Perfectly formed.

Three: Martha properly the best pop/punk band to emerge from my native North East for many a long cold night continue to set a high bar. 2014s Courting Strong and 2016s Blisters in the Pit of my Heart album releases are still subject to heavy rotation. Mini-release The Winter Fuel Allowance arrived in November. The 7″ limited release may be sold out, but you can still snatch a download.

Enjoy the noise.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Today I Stumbled Upon: Caudal

Caudal is a trio featuring Aidan Baker on guitar, Gareth Sweeney on bass, and Felipe Salazar on drums. Baker’s multi-layered, heavily affected guitar overlays Sweeney and Salazar’s driving, propulsive rhythm section creating music equally influenced by krautrock, post-punk, and spacerock. Their debut album “Forever In Another World” was released in April 2013 by Oaken Palace Records. Their second album “Ascension” was released on Consouling Sounds in 2014.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Punk Albums 40 Years On

My top 10 so called “punk” albums, which I was listening too in the 1970s that have remained influential to this date.

1. Pink Flag – Wire

2. Entertainment! – Gang of Four 

3. Rattus Norvegicus – The Stranglers 

4. Fun House – The Stooges

5. The Clash

6. Never Mind the Bollocks – Sex Pistols

7. The Ramones 

8. The Undertones 

9. Germfree Adolescents – X-Ray Spex

10. Singles Going Steady – The Buzzcocks

Thackray’s Oddity

In a decade peppered with cultural and economic change, the 1970s certainly churned out a vast array of musical genres. While TV sitcoms reflected the mundane of life there was also documentaries that sought out injustice and the mysteries of the world, (John Pillinger, The World in Action, Whicker’s World).  In this national psyche emerged the oddity of Jake Thackray’s Yorkshire baritones penetrating the fray of well tuned southern accents, which still dominated broadcasting. My first memory of Thackray was as a young child during a magazine TV programme called That’s Life, a machine gun etiquette of consumer protection, light entertainment, performing dogs, funny shaped vegetables sitting alongside hard-hitting investigations into wrong doing. Thackray was brought up in a working-class family and enjoyed the pleasures of pale ale, rugby and pipe-smoking. After moving to Lille in France, where he taught English, Thackray became an unlikely disciple of French artists like Georges Brassen and Jacques Brel.

A poet songwriter and solitary singer Thackray’s songs were pitted with humour, satire, and social observations of everyday life. A person who shied away from the limelight, referring to himself in the 1970s, “I turned into a performing dick” after his popularity propelled him to regular TV appearances Thackery withdrew to smaller venues and pubs where he felt a connection with his audience. Aspects of this work have dated, but his importance is often overlooked, and while some lyrics may not find favour, it can be sluggish to cast off artistically given his observations are so humorously ludicrous, and light years away from them misogynism we witness in today’s music scene. It would be like trying to sensor Tom and Jerry cartoons for modern video game violence.

In his later years, Thackray was beset by health and financial problems: he had become an alcoholic and was declared bankrupt in 2000. He died of heart failure 24th December 2002. To a young child, he was an oddity. He stood out because there was no reference point to place him but he remains to this day one of those artists who is captured in glimpsed childhood memories of my parents chuckling along to the double meaning of this lyrics.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

%d bloggers like this: