One of the beautiful things about being involved in Irregular Patterns is watching bands/artists grow both in confidence and creatively. If you like a bit of REM you should enjoy this one. Paper Fishes wearing their influences on their sleeve with pride. The 2nd single from their forthcoming LP Instant Happiness, All Your Lives Are Dreams Played Inside My Head.
When helping to set up the label Irregular Patterns, along with exploring the more challenging aspects of music genres, I (for my part) wanted to find a home for the classic rock song. Those carefully crafted songs from bands such as early R.E.M, dare I say early Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, as well as Tom Waits, etc.
Songs, which are not over not produced, still rough around the edges and don’t layer guitars over guitars for no good reason. An artist prepared to explore the fragility of human life, along with its beauty and absurdity. The journey led me to Andre Levy and his band Paper Fishes.
Borrowed Time is taken from the forthcoming album, Instant Happiness, which is neither instant nor happy. The album, which I have been lucky to hear prior to release welds together tales of humanity and family tensions, set in a Damien Jurado-like love of Americana, lo-fi rock, folk and barroom ballads.
The death of Levy’s father and their strained relationship casts a long shadow over the album. The tracks ebb and flow across musical genres with little attempt to hide the scars and resentments between father and son, or the regrets and disillusionment of Levy and his brothers. This is all brutally exposed on their ironically titled debut LP. The album pulls no punches from the opening track Vanishing Point to the finale Borrowed Time.
The musical shifts towards the end of the 1960s have always been intriguing to me. Psychedelia, music experimentation and the emergence of garage rock against a social-political backdrop has made for many a film and book. But here is a little story I only heard of lately.
It concerns a four-piece called Public Nuisance who had become a successful support band to the like of Buffalo Springfield, The Doors and Grateful Dead. Formed, 1964 and like so many pop bands of the time, Public Nuisance changed and adapted throughout the decade to a more Psychedelia/heavy rock format.
Towards the end of 1968 and early 1969, they recorded an album’s worth of material with producer Terry Melcher.
During 1969 Melcher had sub-let his house to director Roman Polanski and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys and went on to suffer a breakdown after Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate, along with another four people were murdered by Charles Manson and his cult. Dennis Wilson had been socialising with members of the Manson Family cult.
Melcher closed down his label and basically retreated from sight. Public Nuisance played several gigs but went on to disband in 1970. The band and their recordings for many years went virtually unknown, but for a few people who survived the end of the drug-fuelled decade. Their music was not to see the light of day until 35 years with the release of a complete anthology double-CD entitled Gotta Survive.
24.10.18: Nostalgia is a bitch. It’s something I’ve tried to avoid through the years ever since witnessing the Sex Pistols reunion, Finsbury Park, 1996 and quickly realising that hard-fought reputations and credibility can be deconstructed at an alarming rate. So it has come to pass for much of the bands churned out towards the end of the 1970s under the threadbare banner of punk.
Its the winter of 1977, at 16-years old, I met a mate Ste Birmingham (sadly no longer with us), and we took a bus from our hometown of Stockton on tees to the neighbouring town of Middlesbrough Rock Garden to catch the Tom Robinson Band (TRB) live.
It was another gig without parental permission, involving a stop off at a pub (The North Eastern) where I managed to drink 2 pints of Double Dimond Beer, witness grown men being men with their racist and sexist banter, masculinity overdrive, play my first game of pub pool (lose…badly), select a record on a pub Juke Box for the first time (New Rose by the Damned) and then subsequently make a fake excuse go outside gasp fresh air and throw up in the adjacent alleyway.
Within an hour or two I’m standing in an exuberant crowd of young men, full of testosterone, mostly dressed in homemade punk regalia singing, “Glad to be Gay.”
Today, such are the changes in attitudes that this would hardly raise an eyebrow, even in some of the UK’s most conservative towns and villages. Back in 1977, it carried the risk of a life-threatening physical assault from a mainly hostile public and police where queer bashing and racist abuse seemed a norm and a routine way of life. Nowhere more did these attitudes manage to incubate than in the pubs and socials clubs of 1970s north-east working-class England. This may feel like a lazy indictment, but nonetheless a cultural acceptance I was brought up in, which had many a complicated reason.
I recall a nervous confidence in Tom Robinson’s voice that night as he introduced ‘Glad to be Gay.’ A nervousness which is equally shared by an audience, initially not sure what to do with the singalong anthem. Sweat-drenched men who have been bouncing relentlessly to the guitar-powered set are now looking at each other, fuck it by the second chorus, a unified audience is wholeheartedly singing. Its one of those small moments in time when things start to change for the better.
Tonight (41 years on) I find myself at the Fleece, Bristol to capture Tom Robinson performing his classic ‘Power in the Darkness’ album in full and in celebration of its 40th year since release. First and foremost it remains a great (I mean a really great) rock album. Lyrically it is not only a reflection on how far we have come. It is also a recognition as to how far we have allowed ourselves to regress back into the darkness.
This evening I raise a glass to my old mate Ste and Tom Robinson’s bravery, his art, the man and a band of young men who recorded an album that had a very significant contribution in shaping my politics.
PS: I’ve still got my vinyl copy and its accompanying spray can stencil remains in perfect condition, unused….until tonight.
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.
Whilst all-female rock bands during the 1960s were generally being ignored Goldie & The Gingerbreads were signed to Decca Records in 1963. The band consisted of Genya Ravan (vocals, percussion and sax), Ginger Bianco, (drums, percussion), Margo Lewis, (organ, keyboards) and Carol MacDonald, (guitar, background vocals). In the UK the band went on to tour with The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Beatles, Manfred Mann, The Yardbirds, The Hollies and The Kinks. The band became resident in the UK for a 2 year period and through their hard work and determination managed to secure a minor hit in 1965 “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” that reached No. 25 on the singles charts. Although extensively touring North America the band failed to achieve similar success in the U.S. where they were generally viewed as a novelty. When “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” was released in the U.S. a recording of the same song by Herman’s Hermits was also released with great fanfare the impact of which fatally undermined the chances of them achieving a hit single in their native U.S. A lesser known fact is that Goldie of Goldie & The Gingerbreads (Genya Ravan) was the first person to record the song “Going Back” which was written in 1966 by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. Over the years “Going Back” has been recorded by many artists, although it’s the Dusty Springfield version most people take as the authentic benchmark.
The Goldie version, which was produced by Andrew Loog Oldham (manager and producer of the Rolling Stones 1963-1967) was withdrawn a week after its release following disagreements between Gerry Goffin and Carole King over lyrical content. To give the lyrics of the song more potency lead singer Genya Ravan, born Genyusha Zelkovicz April 19th, 1940 in Poland, arrived in the U.S. during 1947, accompanied by her parents and one sister. They were the only family members to survive the onslaught of Hitler’s Holocaust.
Experimental rock, punk energy and spoken-word melodies blended, shaken not stirred by mewithoutYou a Philadelphia-based band formed in 2001. The band issued their full-length debut, [A — > B] Life, during the summer of 2002 and the sophomore effort, Catch for Us the Foxes followed in 2004, Moving forward after several lineup changes the band began working on material that replaced their traditional post-hardcore flourishes with an emphasis on acoustic instrumentation. In 2005, mewithoutYou won mtvU’s “Left Field” award for most original artist. Their latest offering is the glorious Pale Horses, which is infused with introspective lyrics, prominent bass riffs and atmospheric guitars.
I find myself walking alongside the River Thames. It’s a walk I take most Thursday evenings whilst making my way to Waterloo Station for the long train journey home. It is a pleasant evening as I occasionally glance over to the House of Commons, Big Ben, wearing my headphones and navigating the tourists, whilst flipping through the Bandcamp app on my iPhone. I’ve just pressed play. The Soft Shield album by Ghost to Falco kicks in with openner Enemies Calling and I instinctively stop, take a public seat and listen to the whole album whilst viewing the river and the features on the opposite riverbank. Finally finding my way home I purchased the album and email the brain child behind Ghost to Falco, Eric Crespo who lives in Portland, Oregon, USA. This blog mainly consists of email exchanges between Eric and myself, as well as the virtual digging I have managed to undertake. Portland of course has one of the most vibrant music scenes in the USA. My earliest recollection of a band from Portland was The Kingsmen, who had the hit Louie, Louie in the early 1960s. It’s a little know fact that In February 1964, an outraged parent wrote to Robert Kennedy, then the Attorney General of the United States, alleging that the lyrics of Louie Louie were obscene. The FBI investigated the complaint and, after four months of investigation, concluded that the recording could not be interpreted because it was “unintelligible at any speed”.
Eric Crespo was born in Los Angeles, California where he lived until eight years. at this ripe age his parents moved the family to Burlington a small town in North Carolina. Burlington is situated 40 minute drive from Chapel Hill, which would prove to be a critical influence to Eric given its underground rock music scene. Eric recalls Chapel Hill has a college town. “In the time (mid 90’s) there was a quite a scene there. The most noteworthy bands from Chapel Hill that were active when I started going to shows were Superchunk, Polvo, and Archers of Loaf. Polvo was my favorite out of those three but I’d go see all of them, and they’d usually have some other interesting bands on the bill with them. And all the touring bands would come through. While I was a teenager I saw bands like Dirty Three, Mogwai, Guv’ner, Modest Mouse, Shudder to Think, Fugazi, June of 44, Pavement, Storm and Stress, Sebadoh, Blonde Redhead, US Maple, Elliot Smith, Unwound, and many more all playing at various small clubs–sometimes to about 10 people. I saw Sonic Youth play secret shows in Chapel Hill on two different occasions at a smallish club (probably 650 capacity?) called The Cat’s Cradle. I even saw Radiohead once at the Cat’s Cradle right after the Bends came out. I wasn’t really a fan (and I’m still not) but I’d just go to shows..” Eric then moved to Asheville, NC to go to college. In his sophomore year he found himself living with friends and rightfully having fun. “I knew I had to leave though. I felt like I was just waiting for something important to begin. I played in two bands that toured around the region a bit. We’d go play in Atlanta or DC, but my bandmates in those bands weren’t really up for touring like I was. Touring was all I really wanted to do at the time, so I was trying to come up with ways to play out alone just so I could tour as much as I wanted. I may have never started Ghost to Falco if the people in my bands really wanted to tour like I did.”
So how did the solo work start to evolve? “When I first started thinking of playing out solo my first idea was to go the acoustic guitar/singer-songwriter route. I had a nylon string classical acoustic guitar, but I felt like I needed a steel string acoustic for some reason, and oddly enough I actually ended up finding one on the street one day. In the middle of a crosswalk in downtown Asheville. It seemed like it had fallen out of a car or something. So I started trying to write songs on that but it wasn’t happening. I had no frame of reference really for being a singer-songwriter. I had no interest or knowledge of folk singers or anything like that. I kind of put the acoustic away after a few months (or weeks—I can’t remember). A little later I started messing around on my electric guitar with a looping pedal and I put my newly acquired monophonic 70’s analog synthesizer into the mix and I started making up these loose song structures that sounded pretty full even though I was the only one making the sounds, and that excited me. I thought maybe I could play shows like that but wasn’t sure. Around this time I was also getting interested in a lot more stuff that was outside of what I had grown up listening to. Minimalist composers (Steve Reich, etc.), late 70’s industrial music, Glenn Branca, and “freer” bands of the era. Another thing about starting Ghost to Falco is that I had played in bands since I was fourteen years old. I didn’t know how not to be in a band. It was, and still is the way I find friends, my motivation to travel, my motivation to do anything really. So, starting a band that could never break up unless I wanted it to was pretty appealing. I left North Carolina in October of 2001. My bands played our final shows, I got my wisdom teeth taken out, and then hit the road to Portland.”
The Ghost Falco moniker began in 2001 as a solo project consisting of electric guitar loops, synthesiser sounds and field recordings. The band has gone on to became something of an underground institution with a rotating door of musicians have joined for tours and recordings bringing with them a whole range of instruments. “The first Ghost to Falco show I ever played was in Athens, GA (a place I have never lived) on the way to Portland, followed by shows in Shreveport, Louisiana, Lubbock, Texas, and a kid’s garage in a suburb of Los Angeles. These shows were painstakingly booked by sending out a cassette of a song I sneakily recorded in the studio of my college on an exam day of my last semester. I didn’t really know how I would feel about doing Ghost to Falco live, but it turned out that I generally felt pretty good about it so I decided to keep doing it. I always thought I might add some band members to the mix at some point down the line and I did that in 2005 and live shows have gone back and forth between being me solo and having bandmates. Nowadays I prefer to have bandmates in the band.”
Soft Shield is Ghost to Falco’s fourth full length album. The albums initial sessions began at the Portland-based Type Foundry Studio (known for producing recorded output by the likes of Dirty Projectors and R.E.M. among many others) in June of 2009. A few days after the first sessions Eric left town for six months of touring and traveling. When he came back with his limited funds, Eric realised that going into debt on an album at a top-of-the-line recording studio maybe wasn’t the smartest thing to do. But it was too late. He earned money from odd jobs and spent it on studio time, and/or relied on generous favours from recording engineers. It took three-and-a-half years to finish Soft Shield. Eight different studios were used in all. The album is properly the most cohesive of any record in Ghost to Falco’s discography.
Soft Shield still casts a wide net that marks most of Ghost to Falco’s output, one could find evidence of just about every rock- affiliated musical movement of the past fifty years, but Soft Shield corrals those disparate elements into a vision that feels firmly planted in the American-West. Trippy desert guitar lines and arid pedal steel are intertwined with a lush and intimate, Northwest-specific, Twin Peaks style of mystery— a duality that points to both Eric’s love of the American desert canyon country and his longtime Portland address. As Eric says, “There’s contentment, anger, humor, regret, fear—and hell, some of it you can even dance to” and I could not put it better myself.
During my virtual journey of discovering Eric and the Ghost to Falco’s back catalogue I came across another of Eric’s projects Centers, which was formed by Jay Demko and Eric Crespo in mid 2010. Whilst I absolutely adore the Ghost to Falco catalogue and have no hesitation in recommending them the Centers album is also a piece of magnificent beauty and worthy of any serious music collection.
Eric Crespo is a musical chameleon who weaves genres together and pushes creative boundaries, avant-garde sound structures, alt-country, world fusion with carefully crafted lyrics all blended together. He is the is type of artists we should increasingly celebrate given the quality of his work and the creative space he occupies often results in very few finding full commercial success. His craftsmanship finds itself at odds with the conveyer-belt of mass consumed music that is often found seeping through many a MP3 player. Neil Young is credited with saying, “When people start asking you to do the same thing over and over again, that’s when you know you’re way too close to something that you don’t want to be near.” It’s an interesting observation from an artists who is respected and who has influenced many. Neil Young of course had the means to take a left-field turn from middle of the road comfort before he cranked up his amplifier. In reality the true creative forces on this highway are artists like Eric Crespo, who did not take the middle of the road in the first place.