Friday 30 December 2022

Song Of The Year: Legends Of Tomorrow - All We Need Is Love

 Is it possible to condense the contents of all the new music released in a year down to just one song?

Probably not, but I've condensed my album choices to a Top 17 which equates to about 200 or so songs.
So let's push that a bit further and select just one, with the additional rule that the chosen song is NOT on one of the selected Toppoermost of my Poppermost
(I'm not making this easy for me am I?)

And the winner is ...

The Legends Of Tomorrow - "All We Need Is Love"
(presented here in it's full 8 and a half minute version, with a prog-tastic breakdown and coda).
The riff is immediately comfortable, and the lyrics are a glorious "spot the reference exercise" of music history.  But the underlying message is an admirable one that. I'm sure, we all hope is observed in these uncertain times 

So who are The Legends Of Tomorrow?

They are a 'studio band' project that features numerous musicians and artists from Northern Ireland ... and a couple from Dublin. The parent album - 'Days Full Of Rain' was recorded almost entirely between September 2021 and May 2022, and is available from bandcamp in download form, and also as a limited edition physical CD.

bandcamp link

Tuesday 20 December 2022

Joe Strummer

 John Graham Mellor was born in August 1952 in Ankara, Turkey.  He was the son of a Diplomat (something he tried to live down for large chunks of his life).
He was sent to Boarding School at the age of 9 and rarely saw his parents growing up.
After leaving school he went to London College Of Art, where inspired by a busker he first picked up a guitar (well, a ukelele) and learnt to play with fellow students in support.  He also adopted the name Woody Mellor (in reference to Woody Guthrie).
He then moved to Newport, Wales in 1973 - effectively "dropping out", working as a grave-digger, and fronting a band formed at the Newport College of Art (which he never attended, but spent plenty of time there).
Within a year, he was back in London, living in a squat, and joining up with bands formed by whatever squat-mates he fell in with.  One of these bands - The 101ers - gained a following and reputation, and gave the now re-christened Joe Strummer (so named because of his guitar playing style) his first visit to a recording studio and first single release ("Keys To Your Heart").
In a case of everything aligning at the right moment, in April 1976 The 101ers were supported by the Sex Pistols.  Joe saw "something" that night and was considering how much further the 101ers could actually go.  That same night, Joe was approached by Bernie Rhodes and Mick Jones, and invited to their Camden Town rehearsal rooms to try out as lead singer.
Two and a half months later, with Joe at the front The Clash stepped on stage at The Black Swan pub in Sheffield supporting the Sex Pistols, and then 6 months later the band were signed by CBS Records.
Their debut album came out inside a year of their formation, followed by incessant touring and a second album before the end of 1978 ('Give Em Enough Rope' which also sparked the departure of Manager Bernie Rhodes.  Bernie's absence merely exacerbated The Clash's profile and output, culminating in 1979's near perfect double album 'London Calling'.
Ambition knew no bounds in The Clash camp, and the next album 'Sandinista' was a triple (although, it could easily have been another double of one removes the chaff and filler).
Wanting to keep the price of the album down, The Clash agreed a reduced royalty on 'Sandinista' leading to certain cash-flow and business issues, and Bernie Rhodes was invited back to steer the ship once again.  What Bernie did seem to do though was start sow the seed of division in the band, and the ever trusting Joe went along with it.
The sessions for 1982s 'Combat Rock' were fractious (not helped by drummer Topper Headon's deepening heroin habit), and the tour equally divisive.  So much so, that by autumn 1983 (many reports suggest at Bernie's behest) Mick Jones was sacked.
A new Clash line-up was configured and a back-to-basics, low key, busking tour completed before they decamped to the studio for their next album.
Bernie Rhodes was now in full "divide and conquer" mode, and became Joe's co-songwriter (regardless of musical ability) and producer of the album sessions.
Mick Jones sacking was part personal issues, and part down ti his interest in expanding the sound with drum machines and synthesisers - something Bernie Rhodes (and by association, Joe Strummer) felt was not where The Clash should be going.
So it was all a bit odd when Bernie Rhodes effectively built 'Cut The Crap' in the studio without a real drummer, scant use of the new guitarists Vince White and Nick Sheppard, and layered on the synths and sampling.
'Cut The Crap' has few moments of worth ("This Is England" being the prime cut, and the last truly great Clash song), and Joe Strummer effectively disowned it upon release, and within 6 months The Clash disbanded.

Without his songwriting foil, band, or guiding hand (or should that be partially controlling co-conspirator?), Joe Strummer moved on from the demise of The Clash and started working with Alex Cox for the music of the film Sid and Nancy.
In a fit of realisation he also sought out Mick Jones, firstly with the intent of re-forming The Clash, but then (once he'd found Mick on a Caribbean island recording Big Audio Dynamite's second album) as s slight rejuvenation of their partnership.  Joe was credited as co-producer and co-wrote half of the album.  One of the telling things he said to Mick when they met up was "you were right about Bernie".

Through the late 80s and early 90s, Joe tried his hand at acting and film soundtracks.  His work in Alex Cox's Straight To Hell led to an association with The Pogues, where he filled in as guitarist in tour, then produced 1991s 'Hell's Ditch', and briefly replaced frontman Shane MacGowan on a US Tour.

Joe's self-confessed "Wilderness Years" were curtailed when he formed The Mescaleros in 1999, and they entered into the write, record, tour cycle.  1999 also marked The Mescaleros appearance at the Glastonbury Festival.  This may have been the only time that Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros appeared on stage at Glastonbury, but the Strummerville gathering of friends and artists was to become a fixture of the Festival.  This extended to the curation of a stage at the Festival - The Strummerville Bandstand.
In November 2002, Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros played at a Fireman's Benefit Show in London.  Mick Jones was in the audience that night and joined the band on stage for the encore.
After the show Joe and Mick had a brief conversation about working together on future projects - Joe had a cache of lyrics that he felt could be used for a new album together (maybe even a new Clash album).

On the morning of 21st December 2002, Joe Strummer took his dog for a walk and then returned home for a Saturday snooze.  A heart attack, as a result of an un-diagnosed congenital heart defect, took Joe Strummer at the age of 50.

Widely respected, cited as an influence by many, but also a very private man, Joe Strummers humanity is celebrated in the Julien Temple film The Future Is Unwritten which serves as a fine legacy, and also in the ongoing efforts of the Joe Strummer Foundation - a registered charity that supports aspiring musicians and funds projects which promote new music. They also operate workshops and rehearsal space (under the name Strummerville Studio) at The Roundhouse in London and The Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast.

"You lit a flame in my heart

And it is burning still

And every time I hear you shout

It still gives me a thrill

I can see you up there

With your right leg pumping"

from Stiff Little Fingers - "Strummerville" 

Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros - Redemption Song

Wednesday 7 December 2022

The Exciting Sounds Of 2022

Yup, it's time for the Rigidly Digital Round Up of the 31,557,600 seconds that make up the year
(well, nearly because there are still in excess of 2,000,00 to go as I write this)

In the interests of proper research, I have spent the last month listening to all the contenders, and have arrived at the definitive listing
(what, you think this stuff is just arbitrarily thrown together?)

Also worthy of note, I think this is the first year ever where Mojo have finally got their selection of Number 1 correct.

So here we go Pop Pickers - Not Arf

cue "At The Sign Of The Swinging Cymbal"

the Top 17 (+2) of 2022 is as follows:

1. Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band - 'Dear Scott'
Commercial success has largely eluded Michael Head from The Pale Fountains, through Shack, and The Strands, and now with The Red Elastic Band.
2022's 'Dear Scott' may not rectify the mainstream commercial success, but critical acclaim continues unabated.  Songsmithery of the highest order, mixing psychedelia, folk, jangly guitars.
"Kismet" and "Broken Beauty" are not just among the best songs of the year, but can stake a claim to the best song of this decade so far.
(OK, I know that's only 2 or 3 years so far, but their greatness will surely cement their place in future considerations)
And there are 10 more tracks not far behind on this album.
This album really is 40 minutes of anyone's time superbly spent

Broken Beauty

2. Spiritualized - 'Everything Was Beautiful'
2018s 'And Nothing Hurt' was originally intended as a double album.  The bulk of the tracks (or at least the embryo of the tracks) comes form the same recording sessions.
But this ain't a bunch of leftovers re-purposed to compile a new album - the songs here are laboured over, honed until the imperfections are smoothed, and then issued to the world.
If 'Ladies And Gentlemen' is Spirtulalized Masterwork, then the (three years separated) double album surely ranks a close second place.

Always Together With You

3. Suede - 'Autofiction'
Since reforming, Suede have continued to grown as a band in sound and scope.  And now they take that maturity and wisdom to go almost full-circle mixing the sound of their early days peppered with all they have learned along the way.  The angstiness of their beginnings is held in check, and their soundtrack sweeps between urgent and epic, and the songs delivered rank among the very best of their 33(!) year existence.

She Still Leads Me On

4. Wet Leg - 'Wet Leg'
Debut album after 6 single releases for - "Chaise Longue",  Wet Dream", "Too Late Now", "Oh No", "Angelica", and "Ur Mum" - you can't help but wonder if the album has been plundered for it's best bits, and what remains is not at the same level.  Wrong, the album is brimming with whimsy, knowing looks, and sheer fun.  Initial concerns about the album being overly twee are unfounded - it's all part of the charm.

Being In Love

5. Mattiel - 'Georgia Gothic'
This is the third album from Mattiel Brown and Jonah Swiller, but the first they have collaborated on face-to-face.  The garage rock base from which euphoric pop was built remains, but now with added Country and Ennio Morricone.  One can't pin the songs down to a particular style or genre (despite my attempts in the last sentence), and what comes out is a diverse yet cohesive whole.


6. Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott - 'N.K-Pop'

Paul and Jacqui's perfectly blending voices return for another round of documenting the human condition with wry, sometimes weather-worn lyrics, bolted to tunes pulling from many corners of pop history.  It's predecessor - the double "Manchester Calling" - was perhaps overlong.  This time they've gone for the brevity and delivered in spades.
60 years old, 40 years in the game, their fifth album together, and still producing albums that make years end lists.

When The World Would Actually Listen

7. Yard Act - 'The Overload'

Leeds band Yard Act have released their debut album - and very good it is too.  Mixing indie, hip-hop and socialism - a bit like a cross between Sleaford Mods and Half Man Half Biscuit with some dark humour thrown in, and the ability to weave a story through the song.  It's an amazingly assured statement for a 3 year old band with 4 singles behind them.

The Overload

8. Block 33 - 'The Day The World Stood Still'

Their first album was released just before "that 2020 thing" denying Block 33 the opportunity to promote their wares in a live setting.  But as things started to open up again, slots at the foot of festival bills began to appear, small live shows became possible again, and Block 33 pushed their energies into this, their second album.  As powerful as the first, and again entirely crowd-funded.
It's weird opening a CD booklet and seeing your own name printed in the "Special Tanks To: " section

Better Tell The Devil

9. Foxton & Hastings - 'The Butterfly Effect'

If Block 33 are looking start a Mod Revival Revival, then here's a bloke who was in at the start of the first Revival, and is still doing it (in From The Jam) with a singer who has more than a passing resemblance to Mr Weller.
The third joint effort, and the quality remains high (if not higher than previous releases).  It's like a browse through a fantastic record collection with references to of The Who, Small Faces, The Beatles, Motown, a bit of soul, and all melded together as one masterly whole.

She Said

10. Liam Gallagher - 'C'mon You Know'

Liam seems to have realised that there's more to his music than Beatle-ing.  So now he pulls in some influence from 'Let It Bleed'-era Stones.  Along the way he also collaborates with Dave Grohl (possibly trying to asure a footing in the US?).
OK, there may not be many surprises here, but he keeps going and showcasing the unmistakable pair of lungs he's been gifted with.

Everything's Electric

11. Massive Wagons - 'Triggered'

When you find template, why veer away if it works.  And the Massive Wagons template does just such a job.  Big riffs, exuberance, straight to the point lyrics (no arty-farty wordplay with these boys), a dollop of humour - what more do you need to do.
Need some cobwebs blowing away?  I prescribe some Massive Wagons.

F**k The Haters

12. Humdrum Express - 'Forward Defensive'

Thirteen examinations of the absurdity, and sometimes annoyances, of modern life.  There's no deep political message or new age life advice to be found in the ska-indie backbeat, just plenty of nods and smiles to be had.

Denim In The Dugout

13. Frank Turner - 'FTHC'

Track 1 started, I honestly though I'd bought an Anthrax album by mistake.  But get through that (no that there's anything wrong with Anthrax!) and the album opens up into the most Frank-ness of Frank Turner for a few albums since 'England Keep My Bones'.  Vintage FT (with added experience)

The Gathering

14. Fontaines DC - 'Skinty Fia'

Three albums in, and whilst the Post-Punk/Joy Division-y tropes remain, there is a noticeable growth on the songwriting and construction.  If they keep on this path, they could be fighting for the crown of the best Band from Ireland (unless that other lot decide to mass-download their next album to everyone's Media Player and embark on another monumental tour)

Jackie Down The Line

15. First Aid Kit - 'Palomino'

Consistency is the key to longevity, and Fist Aid Kit are nothing if not consistent.  They've added a stronger Country twang than previously - surprising when you know this album was recorded in Sweden and not the US.  Maybe a slightly more shiny pop tone in some places, but the rich, relaxing, melodious and blending harmonies remain.


16. Ruts DC - 'Counter Culture?'

In the shape of Segs Jennings and Dave Ruffy, Ruts DC boast one of the great un-sung rhythm section.  Add in the guitar work of Leigh Heggarty, and Ruts DC are some unit - both live and on record.
Where before with the Ruts there was confrontation, the same questioning is given but now with an air of exasperation.  It's almost (but not quite) posing the questions and asking "Do you think that's wise sir?"


17. Sports Team - 'Gulp!'

From Ramones-like thrash of 'The Game' to the Kinks-ian closer 'The Light Industry', Sports Team deliver an album of indie-anthems in waiting with a tweak off the nose to the "difficult second album" syndrome.  Granted, not everything hit's the spot, but the bullseyes are greater than the misses

The Game


These 2 are officially 2021 albums, but were released 2 late for last years compendium.
They deserve a mention in this hallowed listing.

Len Price 3 - 'Ip Dip Do'

After a debut album on an Australian label, a couple more on Steve Van Zandt's Wicked Cool label, and 2 more on a small US label, the Lennies now bring everything in-house and self release this - their 6th album.  And despite the label shenanigans, and mybe the realisation that a commercial breakthrough may not happen, 'Ip Dip Do' delivers Garage Rock (with a touch of psychadelia along the way) in spades.

She Came From Out Of The Sun

Chris Pope & The Chords UK - 'Big City Dreams'

Chris Pope enjoyed minor success with The Chords in the 1980s.  He struck out solo, and then some 5 or so years ago, resurrected The Chords name (appending'UK') and delivers another set of honed songs which may only get a small audience, but deserve a bigger profile.

The Last Great Rock Star

The year was also bookended by 2 very fine compilations

'Charmed Life – The Best of the Divine Comedy' - a compilation with enough highlights to get you scurrying to Amazon or Music Magpie to pick up the complete catalogue.

'The Essential Jim Bob' - until last year I thought Jim Bob's recorded work ceased with the demise of Carter USM.  Oh how wrong I was - 21 tracks to be devoured and thoroughly enjoyed.

And on the subject of compilations, Cherry Red continue to empty my wallet.  It's almost to the point I need to set up a quarterly Direct Debit as their compiling of catalogues past brings the well known, forgotten gems, "how the hell have I not heard this before" moments, all nicely (and thematically) presented in a clamshell box:

1979 - Revolt Into Style

Riding The Rock Machine - British Seventies Classic Rock

Kids On The Street - UK Power Pop and New Wave 1977-1981

1980 - Brand New Rage

and (coming in January, and already pre-ordered):

1981 – All Out Attack

Mention of Amazon and Music Magpie above introduces a slight rant:

It's difficult to beat the convenience of Amazon, particularly when attached to Prime, and MusicMagpie is a great place to go for catalogue gap filling at reasonable prices.
But ... I have found more and more this year I am going direct to the Artists website (or the record label) and ordering there.  The price is comparable, the delivery as guaranteed on release date, and you also get access to signed copies and other goodies on offer.
I also have a number of signed postcards from the artist in question which offer genuine thanks for your purchase.