Thursday, 30 September 2010

New Podcast Recorded

Hey there,

We have recorded our new podcast and are currently editting it together. Then it'll just be down to the people of iTunes to give it thumbs up and it will be with you.

Our guest on this edition was our good friend Chris Morse, who is the head man of Louder than Bombs Records, as well as the club night of the same name. He's been putting on gigs in Wakefield for a long time and we spoke to him about why (and how) he does it.

We were also joined, at the eleventh hour by Mr Rob Dee, head of Philophobia Music who updates us on his labels goings on as well as offending everyone from Glasgow. We were all a little hungover and tired and as such the editting process was a testing one (!) but it was great fun and thankfully we got some great tunes in there for you too including tracks from the forthcoming Phantom Band and iLiKETRAiNS albums.

Whilst we will continue with these podcasts we are looking to improve upon them in the new year. We are also going to produce some 'one off specials', the first of which should be with you alongside the new issue in December. I will be joined by Tim from St Gregory Orange and will feature us talking about (and playing) some of our favourite B-Sides.

Dean Freeman

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Top Ten Beatles Mistakes

Yes I know, lists are easy and tired, but it is with good reason that I have decided to list what I see as the ten biggest mistakes The Beatles made. For it is 43 years ago, this very day, that they were recording guitar overdubs for 'Your Mother Should Know', which is well worth celebrating, I’m sure you’ll agree. And just to clarify, by mistake I am meaning a ‘musical’ mistake, so I’m not to include silly things like getting Magic Alex to build a studio or the whole Apple Corp enterprise. It’s also worth noting that almost everything here relates to the second half of their career. This isn’t due to some preference for their earlier material – I am very much a ‘Blue Album’ person; it’s just that having made their mistakes early on, learning on the way, the expectation was so much higher 1965 onwards. I’m not here to criticise mistakes made due to lack of experience or naivety; more those that were pure misjudgement and often led the path towards, or exemplified, their ultimate demise. But criticism cannot be that harsh, for it was often their ‘mistakes’ that brought out their character (s) in the most effective style.

1.‘Her Majesty’

How to conclude the final album by the greatest band in the history of forever? How about a song called ‘The End’ featuring Ringo’s first ever drum solo, and 3 electrifying guitar solos featuring Lennon, McCartney and Harrisons differing styles? And a final lyric that declares ‘And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make’?

And so it should have been, ‘Abbey Road’ closing with an exciting, positive and collaborative final effort. But, with the album pretty much put to bed, Second Technician John Curlander decided to tag on ‘Her Majesty’, a left over segment from the albums ‘Long Medley’ idea, to the end of ‘The End’ and, unbelievably, The Beatles allowed it. As such, the ‘final thought’ we are left with from their unmatched series of albums and singles is a throw away ditty, featuring just Paul McCartney and his acoustic guitar making bland and meaningless sentiments about the Queen. Perhaps more a sign of their complete disregard for The Beatles as a band at that time, its still a disappointing mistake to have made, and always annoys me when I forget to quickly turn the album off after ‘The End’.

2. Eric Clapton

Getting Eric Clapton to join the band in recording ‘While My Guitar gently Weeps’ wasn’t a disastrous decision for The Beatles. But, come on, Eric Clapton? Not very cool is it. One of only two professional musicians to collaborate on a Beatles record (the other being Billy Preston), it unfortunately places his turgid, showy, ‘muso’ guitar playing on a much higher pedestal that it deserves. Harrison was struggling for a long time with the solo passages to this song (including trying to record it all backwards to sound like ‘weeping’) and recruited his good friend to help out. How did Clapton repay him? Nicked his wife, naturally. Poor George. Should never have got Clapton involved.

3. Just Let it Be

The majority of what became the ‘Let It Be’ album was recorded between The White Album and their swansong, ‘Abbey Road’. Yet it didn’t see release until after the latter. The idea behind the album was for the band to get back to its ‘roots’, that is, a more rock and roll, less experimental approach that focussed on the band working, and playing together as a four piece. After the disjointed approach to recording The White Album, this certainly made sense. However, in the end, it only served to stretch the already strained relationships between the group and the resulting recordings where left on the shelf.

The songs were later given to Phil Spector to pick through, and he ended up producing the album ‘Let it be’. With his signature production techniques all over, it flew in the face of the ‘warts and all’, ‘no overdubs’ approach of the original idea. McCartney in particular was upset with the treatment his ‘The Long and Winding Road’ had received. But since the band had just split, no one seemed to care, and history came to see ‘Abbey Road’ as the bands actual swansong, so its place as a failed experiment (that at least produced the legendary rooftop concert) was secured, no one really minding either way.

Except McCartney couldn’t let it go. And as such, 33 years after its initial release, it was made available in its ‘intended’ form as ‘Let It Be…Naked’. Gone are the swirling choirs and over the top orchestration and instead we are left with some simple and direct run thru’s of the same set of songs (plus Lennon’s fantastic ‘Don’t Let me Down’). So what’s the problem?

Well, the initial sessions were a mess. Utter misery, and probably the low point of inter Beatle relations. The hours and hours of tape betrayed the fact they had completely lost their focus and direction, and that at least 50% of the band weren’t interested anymore. The second attempt by Spector to rectify it was a hit and miss affair, and completely disregarded the ‘honest’ approach they had attempted, though he had chosen to leave in various false starts, between song ad-libs and conversations, which at least gave an impression of what it was meant to be.

But now, the third attempt at ‘getting it right’ was just as flawed. The between song banter was removed and placed on a bonus disc (22 minutes of random conversation – why?) and instead we are left with the bare bones of the songs. Admittedly, the remastered tracks sound fresh…but by meddling with history McCartney has taken the soul out of the music, the character. Even the original premise of it being ‘as was’ in the room was betrayed - an out of tune Lennon note was corrected digitally. What was this meant to be? Not to mention the album is now suspiciously McCartney heavy. At least the original album and accompanying film were interesting documents, showing the decline and dissolution of a great band. ‘…Naked’ added nothing to this, only took away from it.

But the big thing McCartney has missed is that, well, the songs just aren’t very good. It’s not a good album in the first place, and no amount of remastering and altering the order of the tracks is going to change that. ‘Get Back’, ‘Let it Be’ and ‘The Long and Winding Road’ withstanding (but I cant really stand the last 2 in that list) there’s nothing here that approaches The Beatles best, by some stretch. After THREE botched attempts to get something worthwhile out of the sessions, you cant help but feel that perhaps the whole thing would have been best left in the vaults, earning a reputation as being the ‘great lost tracks’. If McCartney’s interfering had revealed a real gem, then fine, but it doesn’t. It was all there in the title, all along. Why didn’t you just ‘Let it Be’ Paul?

4. ‘Wild honey pie’

Its well known that a large amount of The White Album was written during their stay in Rishikesh, and, as such, many songs were either acoustic based (at least in origin) and / or throw away in-jokes. And whilst I will discuss this in further detail later, special attention must be drawn to the track ‘Wild Honey Pie’, which is quite possibly the worst song they ever released. Perhaps (though only ‘perhaps’) other songs were more trite, more disposable, more careless, more ill thought-out, more misguided, but was ever a song so bloody annoying? Mercifully not much longer than a minute, its inclusion as track 5 on The White Album is utterly befuddling. From the nauseating group vocal to the horrible wobbly guitar, it simply recreates the feeling of being very, very ill.

On a wider level, it showed The Beatles instincts had been well and truly blunted. The belief, formed with their discovery of LSD, that ‘random’ elements and ideas were as equally valid as those well thought out ones had brought them some amazing success: ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, ‘I am the Walrus’ etc but had also led to more self indulgent, less focussed work such as ‘All Together Now’ and ‘You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)’. Though ‘clean’ during their trip to India, this belief had clearly stuck around, hence the release of utterly inferior work like ‘Wild Honey Pie’.

5. Run For Your Life (little girl!)

A constant theme running through The Beatles work was ‘Love’; from the simplistic teenage infatuations’ of ‘She Loves You’ et al, to the more universal, hippy messaging of ‘All You Need Is Love’ it was the one constant in a diverse career. So fitting the lyric ‘I’d rather see you dead, little girl, then be with another man’ into this theory is a little difficult…

But worse than the nasty bitterness of this Lennon penned number is the pure hypocrisy. By the time it was released on ‘Rubber Soul’ in 1965, Lennon had long tired of his loveless marriage to Cynthia, and was openly engaging in affairs and one night stands with a vast amount of ladies. ‘Norwegian Wood (this bird has flown)’, also from ‘Rubber Soul’ tackled this very subject, but its ambivalent ending was due to some late lyrical changes, to avoid Cynthia finding out. Not that she wasn’t at least partly aware; Lennon would often brag openly in her company of his various conquests. It was his feeble way of rebelling against the gentle bourgeois hole he had found himself in. But how could he sing ‘If I find you with another man, it’s the end – little girl’ with any sincerity what so ever?

‘Rubber Soul’ saw the band developing greatly as songwriters, and the aforementioned ‘Norwegian Wood’ shows a more thoughtful and complex approach to dealing with personal issues. ‘Nowhere Man’ deals with a similar feeling of isolation and ‘In My Life’ is a beautiful and mature expression of love and melancholy. All Lennon numbers, and all fantastic.

Which makes it all the more surprising that ‘Run for Your Life’ sits along side them, as the albums closing number, no less. Later, older and wiser, and under the influence of Yoko Ono, he expressed utter regret at the song and its misogynist views. It’s hard to think of a bigger misstep in The Beatles catalogue, purely in terms of mood and intent and its bizarre that no-one, especially Brian Epstein or George Martin thought to point out the bitter taste it leaves. For The Beatles themselves, it would be the last bit of ‘filler’ they committed to tape until the LSD come down of Magical Mystery tour and the passing of tracks of this inferior calibre would see the onset of their imperial phase: Revolver and Sgt Pepper.

6. Quality Control, and The White Album

Now, let’s be clear; The White Album (some weeks) is my favourite Beatles album. Not because it has the best songs. Far from it. But because it has a unique atmosphere, a seemingly relaxed approach, once described as the ‘lazy afternoon’ of their career. The fact that most of the band were working in different studios on their own songs, mean it is incredibly diverse, and sways wildly from straight on ‘rock’ to twinkly folk, to mesmerising 9 minute soundscapes, each of the composers letting their personalities shine – even Ringo, with his first ever self penned composition. The 30 tracks show a huge range, and though there is a self indulgent element to it, it’s utterly fascinating if given the time.

That said, and as mentioned previously, it does contain some duff tracks. It’s an interesting exercise to try break the two discs down to one album, especially if you throw ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Revolution (single version)’, recorded at the same time, into the pot.

The aforementioned ‘Wild Honey Pie’, whilst atrocious, does at least fit in with the Rishikesh sing-a-long starting point for the album. But the decision to release a 30 track double album resulted in crap like ‘Savoy Truffle’ and ‘Honey Pie’ being forced upon the world. And these weren’t quickly recorded throw away tracks – they were planned, thought out pieces that simply showed their authors to be, in the first instance, out of ideas and inspiration (a song about Eric Clapton eating chocolates – him again!) and in the second, literally going through the paces of recreating some awful dance hall pastiche, which can only leave the question – why? ‘Honey Pie’ in particular was an early sign of McCartney turning into the insufferable smug ‘entertainer’ role he later seemed to relish in.

A slight bit of trimming could have left us with an exceptional 26 track double album, or even, with a bit more work could have seen the inclusion of later solo tracks (Lennon’s ‘Child of Nature’, McCartney’s ‘Junk’ or Harrison’s ‘Not Guilty’) or even the wonderful ‘Hey Bulldog’, still at that time in the vaults, seeing eventual release on the ‘Yellow Submarine’ soundtrack a year later. But the problem was the egos, and the disintegrating relationships, no one writer willing to give up his space on the album. And whilst the track listing itself is a pretty awesome effort in creating a flow throughout its hour plus, the ‘kitchen sink and all’ approach sadly leaves some pretty big cracks. Some of these ‘cracks’ in the façade are fascinating. But some are beyond redemption.

7. Never toured past ‘65

When Beatles Manager Brian Esptein died in 1967, the band effectively lost their ‘rudder’, the man who had guided them through the turbulence of ‘Beatlemania’ and beyond. Since they had ceased touring in 1966, his role had become more perfunctory, yet his death still had a huge effect on the band. After the high of Sgt Pepper, McCartney stepped up to suggest a film project in order to keep them focussed, which became ‘Magical Mystery Tour’. The band then went on their Indian adventure, resulting in another album. But at the dawn of 1969, with Lennon and Harrison pulling in different, non-Beatle directions, McCartney dreamt up another idea, one that, he hoped, would bring them all closer together.

Sadly, and as already discussed, it pretty much tore them apart. The ‘Get Back / Let it Be’ project was, however, a good idea in principle; to re-engage the band by playing live, rehearsing carefully as a four piece after the separation of The White Album sessions.

Its yet another symptom of The Beatles malaise at this time that, after brainstorming ideas for the location of the ‘one-off’ gig to conclude the ‘Get Back’ sessions, which included an Atlantic Sealiner and a Tunisian Ampitheatre, they eventually settled on the roof of the apple building where they ‘worked’. Similarly, their final album was to be called ‘Everest’, until they realised that involved them all flying to said mountain for a photoshoot. They promptly changed it to ‘Abbey Road’ meaning they could step outside the door and be done in 20 minutes.

The result of all this being that we will never be able to hear The Beatles greatest songs performed live by the band themselves. Giving up live performance was undoubtedly one of the finest (and bravest) decisions they made. It allowed them to explore and experiment beyond the limits of sound and pop in the mid sixties. But, with the exception of ‘Revolution 9’ which isn’t ‘pop’ anyway, their last ‘pushing of the boundaries piece’ was probably ‘I am the Walrus’ in 1967. The trick they missed was performing all that 65-68 material in concert. Instead they pushed forth with the performance angle but instead tried to ‘get back’ to their Hamburg roots, a final attempt to reinvent themselves that ultimately failed

Sadly, after the split, Lennon only ever performed 3 of his Beatles songs live (Come Together, Yer Blues and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds) and McCartney’s modern day touring band unfortunately polish the essence out of what were quirky as well as seminal recordings (I can barely listen to Hey Jude or Back in the USSR without seeing his wrinkled face backed by 20 plus session musicians)

Common belief is that it just wasn’t possible to create the sounds of their Pshycedelic peaks, but existing demos and alternate versions of ‘Strawberry Fields’, 'Tomorrow Never Knows', ‘I am The Walrus’ et al would suggest otherwise. Stripped back, with different elements to the fore, certainly, but how exciting would a live album have been, seeing all these classics reinterpreted by the band themselves? Live albums are often the nadir of any bands back catalogue; in this instance The Beatles could have revolutionised that concept too.

8. ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’

Forget ‘Strawberry Fields’ or ‘Eleanor Rigby’, this has to be the most ‘un-Beatles’ single the band ever released. For one, it only features Lennon and McCartney, Paul only really agreeing to the whole enterprise in a doomed attempt to keep Lennon interested in being a Beatle. But Lennon’s mind was elsewhere, and in many ways, this could be argued to be his first ‘solo’ single.

Describing his recent run ins with the law, his bed in for peace and the medias treatment of Yoko, it is an interesting document of what was happening at the time, without being a great song. Its hard to tell whether its chorus refrain of ‘Christ, you know it aint easy, you know how hard it can be / The way things are going, they’re gonna crucify me’, is a tongue in cheek reference to his early (misquoted) suggestion that ‘The Beatles are bigger than Jesus’ or the onset of a messianic complex. Likely, it was a bit of both. Either way, as a song and a proposition, it raised questions about what a Beatles song could, and should be; the problem was it raised it in a way that only really offered one answer…

And so, featuring a lyric that no one in the world could relate to, bar Yoko Ono, ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’ was Lennon at his most self obsessed, and self interested and further signalled the end for the band. Musically it is pleasant enough, in the style of the ‘Get Back’ sessions around which it was recorded, but is certainly no classic, and had any other band recorded it, it would have been long forgotten.

9. Anthology of disinterest

Anthology was a big deal. An opening of the vaults, a chance to hear unreleased Beatles material, all those lost classics that had been the subject of speculation for decades. A chance to tell a different story, reveal the secret history behind the worlds biggest band. But they kind of bottled it.
Whilst relations between the surviving members and Yoko had certainly improved by the mid nineties, in that they could at least talk fairly reasonably about things, the unsteady peace resulted in any member being able to veto any inclusions, for whatever reason. It wasn’t a case of majority vote, if someone wasn’t happy they could just walk away. They were a Beatle, they didn’t need this stress. They certainly didn’t need the money.

And so, what could have been an essential purchase, became a bloated run of backing tracks and uninteresting alternate takes. Yes, some tracks were excellent insights, but at 3 double disc sets,why no legendary 28 minute take of ‘Helter Skelter’? Or more of the White Album demos recorded at George Harrison’s house? Or what about ‘Carnival of Light’, a free form 20 minutes SGT Pepper era experiment that bridges the gap between ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ and ‘Revolution 9’? Nah, an instrumental version of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ is what we get. Cheers Beatles.

10. Come Together / Fall Apart

From 1965 to 1970 The Beatles output of singles and albums was phenomenal. Up until the release of ‘Come Together / Something’ in 1970, the only singles they released from albums were ‘Help!’ and ‘Eleanor Rigby / Yellow Submarine’. They tended to usher in new albums and directions with standalone singles; ‘Paperback Writer / Rain’ for ‘Revolver’, ‘Strawberry Fields / Penny Lane’ for Sgt Pepper, ‘Hey Jude’ for The White Album. It’s an astounding record, both from the perspective that whilst pioneering the idea of what an album could be, they were still producing ‘hit’ singles, that were equally pioneering and that so many of their well known tracks are simply really good album tracks. This consistent high quality is part of what makes them a great band; buying their albums is never a case of getting 4 hit singles and 8 fillers.

Which is why it’s sad, and symptomatic of their falling apart, that they released the split ‘Come Together / Something’ single from ‘Abbey Road’ AFTER the album was released. Not only were they both album tracks (and tracks 1 and 2 at that) but it was the only time they released a single after the album. That might not sound odd now, as that is generally common practice these days, but back in 1970 it was lazy and showed utter disinterest. Lennon’s typically dismissive comment was that they’d released it so people could hear the 2 decent songs off the album, without having to bother with the rest. Whilst clearly not true, to show such contempt for his own work spoke volumes and not long after The Beatles were no more.

One positive upshot was that the release of this single saw Harrison get his first Beatles A-Side and may well have been a goodwill gesture from Lennon / McCartney, both of whom praised ‘Something’ highly. But, regardless, the release of this single ended an unparalleled run of singles and albums that went: ‘I Feel Fine’, ‘Ticket To Ride’, ‘Help!’, ‘Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out’, ‘Rubber Soul’, ‘Paperback Writer’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Revolver’, ‘Strawberry Fields’, ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, ‘All You Need Is Love’, ‘Hello, Goodbye’, ‘Lady Madonna’, ‘Hey Jude’, ‘The Beatles (White Album)’, ‘Get Back’, ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’, ‘Abbey Road’.

Dean Freeman

*The Best Beatles book in the World is 'Revolution in The Head' by Ian Macdonald. If you only own one, make it that one.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Interim Reviews

Roland X reviews the odds and sods that arrived too late for the last issue, but soon for the next.

Freebass ‘The Singles’
Hacienda Records

Freebass; the long discussed collaboration between legendary bassists Peter Hook, Mani and Andy Rourke. This is a promo of, presumably, what were or will be the singles from their debut album ‘It’s a Beautiful Life’.

When I first heard of this project many years ago, I was pretty excited about it. Not especially because I expected an amazing record to appear, but because of the madness of it – three bassists? How would that work? But considering their styles – Hooks high end melodies, Mani’s low end driving hooks and Rourke's bouncy multi octave approach, maybe it could work…

What has finally appeared is something a lot more conventional. After seeing Peter Hook’s spoken word, it comes across much more as his baby, a chance to play in a band once more after the dissolution of New Order. And so we have a ‘full’ band setup, mildly jangly guitars, run of the mill drums and a slight eighties production. Vocals are supplied by Gary Briggs, veteran of some bands I’ve not heard of. It’s all a bit earnest for me, a bit plodding, more an exercise in hitting the notes on some pretty dull melodies with no memorable lyrics of which to speak.

Opener ‘The God Machine’ is probably the best here, ‘Smiths’ guitars and a propulsive beat, plus the flash of excitement when Hooky’s bass appears. But I wouldn’t say it’s anywhere near his best... I don’t know what I expected really, but a lot more than this. ‘Kill Switch’ is pretty ploddy, but moves to something more interesting in its synthy chorus, a stadium Depeche Mode, on the cheap.

Overall, its fine; inoffensive middle of the road late eighties Hacienda backing music. Its surprising that there isn’t really a memorable hook amongst these three songs, be it bass, guitar or vocal. Press for the album suggests some of the tracks have a darker edge, which may certainly help. Perhaps its testament to the weight of expectation. Hearing Hooky talk with passion about Freebass makes the results all the more disappointing, but fans of the less famous Factory bands will probably enjoy the sounds and styles here. As for me, I’d rather listen to New Order…Actually I’d rather listen to Monaco, but there you go.

The Holidays – 'Golden Sky '
The Passport Label

The Holidays hail from Sydney, Australia and, on the evidence provided on this single, produce lovely little percussive summer soundtracks… which is presumably a lot easier when you actually get to see some sunshine. Golden Sky is a percussion heavy piece of Indie funkadelia, kind of like The Rapture trying to record an album in the Caribbean with bongos and rum based cocktails. Its’ all about the rhythm here, the falsetto vocals and stabbing guitars countering each other nicely to build up the complexity. Ultimately it’s a pop record though, the refrain of ‘It’s alright, alright’, whilst perhaps the most clichéd in all of music, works in bringing a sense of structure to it all. It kinda reminds me of the outro to 'Bleed From Within' by The Music, the careful layering up making it almost irresistible to dance around to.

B-side ‘Heavy Feathers’ ratches up the tropical feel with a steel drum melody running through the whole thing. Vocal harmonies pile over one another and it all feels very sunny. The structure is again pretty loose and it’s a little more downbeat but a worthy B-Side all the same. Well worth keeping an eye on for the future.

Scott Wainwright – 'Every Man Has His Critics '
Soshanna Music

Well, with an album title like that, surely Scott Wainwright is setting himself up for a fall, right? Well turns out its all to do with ‘God’. Yes, that big man who lives in the sky. I would’ve liked to have reviewed this album purely on its musical merits, but the press release goes into some details about Scott’s ‘deep Christian faith’, as does the artwork, containing an essay on his musings on God in relation to creativity. It’s not heavy or too preachy, but it’s serious, and really left me wondering what on earth I was going to be hearing.

‘Bonkers’ is the word that springs to mind initially. This album covers a lot of bases. First track ‘Down the Line’ opens with a nice 4/4 jazz influenced beat, then some ‘funky’ bass. Then we get some country style Harmonica… and then the vocals which are…odd. Very odd! It’s a kind of Americanised, hoedown, speak/talk drawl that I’ve got to say I found very strange (Scott is from Yorkshire). The next track contains an out of place Tuba playing the bass line and an unsophisticated guitar line, and then those vocals again. Baring in mind the press release states this is the result of a NINE year song cycle, I think these elements could have been brought back together in a much less messy fashion. But then suddenly it all drops out, leaving a solitary female voice over some delicate picking and its absolutely lovely, and moving too. But then it cuts to the Tuba and crappy sounding guitar again!

The album has some moments that stand out – instrumental ‘whispers from the undergrowth’ is delicate and wistful and ‘blueberry jam and lemonade’ is sweet with some gentle banjo and those lovely backing vocals once more.

Generally though we are in country / folk / blues territory, and some tracks like ‘kiss like they do in France’ work as standards of those genres. But overall, the jarring between the other styles attempted makes for an uncomfortable listen (see the ‘hard rocking’ of ‘here for you’). And I find the vocals just too much to enjoy. It’s bizarre, because I’m not saying Scott is a bad singer; I’m not given a chance to find out, because it’s as if he is singing in character throughout, a Dylan-esqe delivery that is simply not convincing on any level. One of the better tracks here, ‘Out in the Open’ features that same type of rasping verse, but then, bizarrely, has him using his ‘own’ voice for the chorus. It’s not even consistent.

I guess the best thing about ‘Every Man Has His Critics’ is it avoidance of preaching its Christianity too heavily within the songs. Because that would have killed it dead. I was looking forward to a bit of good old Christian bashing, for I do, quite strongly, dislike and despise organised religion. But with this there’s no need really. The idea that God is a creative being, and the key to man’s happiness is to be creative too is fair enough. Of course, if it were up to the church we would still be living in the dark ages believing the world is flat and basically every advance in every field of science / art / literature would never have happened. But that’s beside the point – Christians only ever pick and choose the bits from the Bible that suit the ideas they’ve already got, so new ideas have never been part of the deal. Which is apt, as here, on this album, we see a lot of run throughs of particular genres types with no real originality. There will be people out there who find Scott’s voice engaging, and those people may find a lot here to delve through. As for me, the vocals are impenetrable and the music is too derivative, despite the obvious skill on show. It all comes in a beautiful digi pack, which shows this is a real labour of love, but, whilst I praise the DIY nature of the undertaking, the songs aren’t strong enough, whilst the vein of Christianity running through it is the final nail in the cross.

Runaround Kids – 'No Dreams / Falling into Better Hands '
Philophobia Music

Rhubarb Bomb was part of collaboration between various Wakefield establishments that took some bands down the The Windmill in Brixton last February and Runaround Kids were part of that crew. Bassist Jack was manning the merch stall and in order to pass the time, he defaced our front cover, changing it from ‘Rhubarb Bomb’ to ‘Runaround Bomb’ in honour of the seemingly endless name dropping they had been receiving.

Well, it’s a nice little feeling to see that we were right early on, as this double A-side is released on the back of their glorious Leeds and Reading Festival appearances. Don’t believe any nonsense you’ve read comparing these guys to The Cribs – its lazy journalism that has only one Wakefield reference point – though it might not be long before RKs become the second. ‘No Dreams’ rattles along furiously and is the best indication of their live show; riotous, delicate, youthful and carefree – whilst ‘Falling Into Better Hands’ betters it with the subtly applied Sonic Youth chords and the evener bouncier noisy punk spirit. It’s a great step forward from last years ‘Kiss Chase EP’, ‘No Dreams’ in particular showing a greater pop awareness without sacrificing any of the energy, the youthful spirit, or the FUN. In fact, if I had the time, I reckon I could SCIENTIFICALLY prove that listening to this record makes you feel about 5 years younger… unless you’re already 18, in which case it doesn’t. It just makes you glad to be 18. Fantastic debut single, with so much promise for the future. Don’t let us down Runaround Kids…
The Whatevers – 'Rhapsody in Blue Jeans / You and your Twisted Romance '
Holiday Records

Listening to this record takes me straight back to the Indietracks Festival this summer. Not because The Whatevers were there, but because of the opening chords of ‘Rhapsody…’ just SING to me of the wonderful weekend I had there. The chiming guitars, sweet boy / girl vocals and the gentle chorus melodies. There’s more to it than that though, an ace guitar ‘solo’ popping up half way through, noisy and dirty adding further character to the whole event.

The band are a two piece and the interaction of them both singing is what makes this special. They are both great, characterful voices, Mike with a sad but hopeful Edwyn Collins croon and Kate with a polite Emma Pollock melodic approach. I believe this is their first single, and as such it’s a great effort, the C86 thing is a pretty easy style to do a cheap approximation of, but The Whatevers have put their own stamp on things. The single is available for a free download from Holiday records website, which releases loads of great free single downloads. So go look at this, then see what else you can find.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Summer Festival Roundup Pt 2

Truck FestivalA Weekend in Oxfordshire countryside

Beautiful countryside - cows and all - conspire to make a trip to Truck feel like you’ve left all your worries behind. Maybe it just coz I'm from t’north, but even the sun seemed brighter and warmer too. A lovely place to spend a weekend (8). The Line-up this year, as ever, had a good quality mix of local oxford bands (good place to find potential ‘next big things’ too) and more well known, but relatively obscure bands, like Teenage Fanclub and 65daysofstatic. It was clearly well thought out, and as a weekend, the variation really worked. You had options, basically; depending on your mood you could chill by the main stage listening to some pleasant shoegaze, or risk getting down the front for Pulled Apart By Horses. Though it perhaps lacked, for me, a truly great headliner, the majority of the crowd seemed to love it all the same (8). And that was what made the festival for me – the atmosphere and general feeling of goodwill around the place. The diversity of the crowd, in terms of age and taste gave Truck a real positive feeling all round. It balances being homely and inclusive, alongside the feeling of occasion you find at larger festivals. At 5000 people, it feels just right (9).

Stages are good, professional enough certainly for the calibre of bands they display. There were issues with actually getting into the second stage at times which could really do with looking at. Perhaps more ‘impromptu’ gigs around site would add to the fun, but you can’t really argue with a stage in a cow shed. Cool (8). Organisation was good, easy to park, I gathered from others travelling by train that there were no problems there either. Staff were friendly too (8). As for the food & drink, well it was good once again to see a variety of local ales available. I don’t even really like ale, but it always pleases me to see a festival support its local brewers. Rest of the food was decent enough, though perhaps more variety would have helped; if I’d been eating from there all weekend it would have got a little repetitive. Good Donuts (8). No problems with the camping, perfunctory but to the point (8) as were the facilities (8). Value for money, as ever is difficult to measure. There were enough good bands this year to just about warrant the entry price of £80 (8). At an ‘average’ festival (whatever that is), I may have bemoaned it slightly, but at least 50% of truck is the atmos, the gentile charm of the place. Yes, there were quite a lot of young people around (by that I mean under 18), but for once that didn’t make me feel sad / old / angry, I just got with it, and so did they, and because of that I felt it was well worth the entry fee. A good time all round and I look forward to next year with great eagerness (8).


Leeds FestivalMassive Weekend of Massive bands

Leeds Festival takes place in Bramham Park, not far outside Leeds. It sounds kind of regal. Stately pastures and elegant pathways lined with imposing oaks. Course, its nothing like that at all. Leeds Fest could take place anywhere, really. Just take a large, characterless festival site and dump it wherever there is space. The setting is irrelevant and no attempt is made whatsoever to tie the festival into its surroundings… Still, it’s out of the city, so there’s a mild feeling of being away from the chores of regular life…(6). The Line-up is vast. Unlike many other festivals, there is likely to be a band, hidden somewhere in the line-up you will want to see, no matter how obscure your taste. Course, that means that you’ll probably despise a good 70% of the remainder. I think the variety is a good thing though; some huge bands that you probably wouldn’t give a second listen can sometimes turn out to be the perfect mid afternoon festival band. It all pretty predictable and mainstream, but that stuff has to exist somewhere and piling it all together in such a peculiar fashion kinda works (8). However, the vibes at Leeds Fest seem to have deteriorated over the years. I think it’s a young persons festival, in that you don’t really give a shit about much when you’re young, its just great to be at a festival; any festival. But even so, there’s a high percentage of what are technically known as ‘wankers’ parading around the site – people who don’t even know what bands are on, just hanging around, shouting, falling over and generally acting like the ‘Nuts’ reading masses they most surely are. I go on holiday to GET AWAY from shit like that. Its also incredibly busy and hectic, not especially friendly… it becomes a chore moving from one place to another. It’s like being in a city centre on dinner hour. It’s like being up town on a Saturday night. You just have to get hammered for it to make sense… which is fine, since you’re at a festival. But it nicer to get pissed coz you want to, not coz you have to. And back on campsite, it’s rare you feel especially safe. Unless, again, you get off your face… I heard of a lot of people being robbed and pick pocketed. In short, it’s not a positive vibe at all, and only in the mass crowds for the large bands does anything approaching a ‘festival atmosphere’ emerge (4).

The stages, of course, are very good, with a huge range, including the unsigned stage, meaning there’s always something going on (8). Its pretty well organised in terms of getting your ticket and getting in etc. Course, there are queues everywhere, but to suggest this was poor organisation would be incorrect. It’s designed to be like that, because the only way to alleviate them would be to sell fewer tickets. That would mean less profit, so its not gonna happen (7). Food & Drink stalls are plentiful, though are all tied together by the fact they are pretty shit, and pretty overpriced, with no connection to the local area at all (4). Camping, as ever, was a chore, tightly crammed in. I guess to some this is part of the experience – who are you gonna get camped with? Will you become great friends? But of course, you always get camped next to the nobheads that sit up singing til 6am. If you wanna camp with nice people, go to a smaller festival. Bordering on nightmarish (4). Facilities…Good God. I would consider ‘toilets’ a pretty basic human need. I’ve known people who’ve tried to hold it in all weekend rather than use festival toilets. Sound mad? You’ve never been to Leeds Fest. On Friday – Day 1 – they were overflowing – literally – and the smell was making people physically sick (which only added to the ‘pile’ that was reaching out from the toilet bowl). To get this wrong just shows utter contempt for your customers, I reckon. How many years they been doing this? It’s a FESTIVAL not a POW camp…(2). And value for money… well it’s a hard one to call, it depends on how many of the big bands you like. Once you’ve got your ticket, added up your spending money etc, it works out the same price as an actual holiday (minus the bands naturally), so really I would expect more. For myself, who doesn’t spend much time on the main stage, it is hugely over priced, though to be fair, the expanded stages this year have helped towards it. But still, considering the first year I went, I paid the price of a 2010 day ticket FOR THE WHOLE WEEKEND, I would expect major changes to have taken place. I don’t really see it, and, for the price of a weekend ticket, you could go to almost all the other festivals in this round up… Personal thing I guess (5). And similarly, personal enjoyment means something different to everyone. Leeds Fest is good, and with your mates it can be a real laugh. But it’s a chore too; it feels, at times, like your having a good time in spite of the festival, not because of it. With so many options out there, this would never be my top choice, or anywhere near it, unless some radical changes were made (5).


Fell Foot Sound2 nights in the woods of Cumbria

Set within a woodland, 2 minutes from the shores of Lake Windermere, Fell Foot Sound was the most isolated festival I visited this year. A very peaceful location, you feel a million miles from the worries of the real world (9). This year’s festival was curated by British Wildlife Records – I understand it is curated by someone different each year. As such, the line-up this year had a distinctive ‘Leeds’ vibe to it. Even more than that, a distinct ‘Brudenell Social Club’ vibe, which is a pretty niche idea for a festival. The majority of the bands were instrumental, featuring the usual ‘odd’ time signatures and seemingly random song structures. I don’t mind a bit of whatever that is called, but a weekend of it was too much for me, far too repetitive. The last few bands of the event really turned things round though, That Fucking Tank, Cowtown, Munch Bunch and Bo Ningen all supremely entertaining. Overall though, not enough to keep me enthralled (6). The general vibes were cool though. Very laid back and relaxed. There’s not much to see or do, bar sit around your tent or the stage talking and drinking. Which is fine. The guy who runs the wood occasionally read some of his ‘mystical’ poetry from the stage, which was amusing and brought a bit of character to the whole event. It’s not the best festival for a ‘mad one’, but I really enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere (8).

There is only one stage, but that’s all it needs really. There’s an open hill in front, so you can sit on benches up there, or get closer (7). The organisation mirrored the vibe – laidback. None was really required to be honest; people turned up and pitched their tents of their own accord. I didn’t really know who was in charge though… and we were actually the first people there, the whole site to ourselves, not even the organisers were there! (7) Food and Drink options were limited – a very small bar and a food shop that sold very nice but slightly expensive burgers. There was a range of local beers and you could get a cup of tea all day long, which was good. For the amount of people in attendance (200?) nothing else was required, but if we had not brought our own stove we would have got a bit bored with the selection (7). The camping was great though. The setup was unusual; a gravel path, just wide enough for a car, meandered in a large circle through the woods. Scattered around amongst the trees are small pitches with room for 2 to 5 tents. So, if you are with friends you can get your own section, meaning you don’t have the problem of getting stuck next to some noisy bastards for the weekend. I liked this approach (8). The facilities were great, good quality toilets and large sinks too. No showers, but for a 2 night festival, I don’t think it’s necessary. The only thing lacking for me is a focal point for the whole festival. Whether this would be a larger ‘bar’ tent in which people could stand and meet one another, I’m not sure. As it stands, it all feels a little scattered. Small niggle though (8). For £30 odd quid, you can’t argue really, not much more than the cost of camping at other places (9). Overall, the location is very peaceful and I enjoyed having a bit of quiet time – a slight change of pace to the usual. However the line-up wasn’t quite up to scratch for me, and the majority of people didn’t turn up til teatime Saturday, meaning prior to that it was, at times, eerily sparse. Success of this festival may vary each year, depending on who curates it, and the bands they manage to coax along (7).


Dean Freeman

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Summer Festival Roundup Pt 1

Where once the festival season consisted of 2 or 3 huge, high profile events, it now seems there is an event worth going to every weekend from May to September. Whilst the larger festivals has stretched themselves to bursting point in order to squeeze a few more consumers through the turnstile, these smaller festivals have been left to fill the spaces in between, often catering to more niche tastes. But also, without the pressure of having to pay Guns & Roses to fuck about for 2 hours, they are able to offer a more unique experience, something different, something special. Here, we take a look at the festivals we’ve been lucky enough to experience this summer and mark them on SETTING, LINE-UP, VIBE, STAGES, ORGANISATION, FOOD & DRINK, CAMPING, FACILITIES, VALUE FOR MONEY + PERSONAL ENJOYMENT, giving a final total at the end. Bare in mind that 75% means the festival is ¾ absolutely brilliant. Anything above that is well worth a look we reckon.

LIVE @ LEEDSOne day, multi venue festival in the city of Leeds

As a setting for a festival, Leeds is a pretty good choice of city. It’s big, there’s lots going on and it’s a fun place to be. Though there’s no real sense of being at a festival, and with the general public walking with you between venues, it feels fun, exciting and familiar, despite the occasional long walks involved (7). The line-up this year, as ever, is fantastic, offering real diversity – quality as well as quantity – and it’s often difficult to decide between which bands to see (9). The vibes are pretty good in the venues, certainly a strong buzz, with excited crowds and busy venues. But some of that is lost outside the venues, especially as you wonder around the city centre, sometimes making it feel like just another night out in Leeds (7). The variety and quality of the stages for Live @ Leeds is pretty unbeatable. From large venues at Leeds Uni to the tiny upstairs of The Packhorse, its all good (10).

The event as a whole is very well organised and well staffed. Exchanging your ticket is easy and the programmes provided are very useful (9). You couldn’t really ask for much more choice in terms of food and drink – the choice is near endless and you can spend as much or as little as you like (9). Camping is not something you do at Live @ Leeds and as such it’s a little unfair to judge it as such. Perhaps they could organise something with local hotels, offer cheap rooms to people who do want to stay over in the city. After a long day out, it would certainly beat train / bus home (5). As with Food & Drink, facilities are wide spread, meaning you are never too far form a toilet (9). At £15 a ticket, Live @ Leeds is unbelievable value for money (10). Personally, I always really enjoy Live @ Leeds. This year was great, with a superb range of bands to enjoy. Some people moan about the walking involved, but personally I think that is all part of the fun, kind of like a pub crawl, with one of your favourite bands waiting for you in each bar. I guess the only reason I don’t rate it any higher is that it’s a festival in Leeds, a place I go to anyway, so it lacks that ‘special’ element of it feeling like an adventure / holiday. But otherwise, it’s fantastic (8)


Rough BeatsA weekend in the field of a farm in Beautiful North Yorkshire

Rough Beats is a family run festival on a farm close to Settle. The scenery is fantastic, the tents held in by dry stonewalls, the desolate hilly plains of North Yorkshire stretching out beyond. It’s isolated, meaning you really get into the festival and forget about the outside world (10). The Line-up of the festival is a little different each year, this year seeing what I would describe as a more ‘family friendly’ set of acts. Much of it was acoustic folk and similarly inoffensive stuff, nice to listen to on a sunny day, though naturally it mainly washes straight over you. Hot Club De Paris headlined one night, but the event lacked many, even slightly, big names across the weekend (6). The general vibes, however, more than make up for this. It’s very peaceful, but everyone there is chatty and interested and there are a much greater percentage of people dancing to bands, which is great. Despite the few hundred people walking around, it still retains a family run atmosphere. It’s just seriously chilled out (9). Rough Beats has a couple of stages that are actually really professional, with top quality sound and light setups, all under relatively huge canopies, ensuring you can at least enjoy then bands, whatever the weather (8). The event is pretty well organised, with parking provided and people checking wrist bands as expected. Its not overbearing, which is nice, but they were confident enough to boot someone out for playing a drum all chuffin night, so it’s always nice to know someone is paying attention (8).

Food & Drink is pretty decent; there was a fantastic vegetarian stall which served lovely egg and (vegi) sausage butties all day. Strangely the non meat sausage was a million times nicer than the ‘real’ meat provided at the other van. For the first time Rough Beats had got in a ‘proper’ burger type van and it produced overpriced unrelentingly crap food, as well as staff uncaringly scalding my girlfriends hand with chip grease (and not saying sorry). Rough Beats need to keep it local in future. On top of all that though, there is a great, covered bar and there was even a sweets stall. So all in all, pretty decent (7). Camping is fine, though it was close to bursting point this year and we were stuck on some pretty uneven ground. A little more thought into distributing the camping space or the opening of another field would help, as it ended up a little cramped. But, on the plus side, you are literally a 30 second walk from the stages (8). The facilities are ok, your standard porta-loos which do end up a little messy at the end of the weekend – but are cleaned every day. There’s a sink with running water and that’s about it. Serve their purpose (7). Rough Beats is good value for money at around £50 for the weekend (cheaper if you buy your tickets early), though again, I wouldn’t mind one ‘big’ band for that price (8). Rough Beats to me is all about the atmosphere – a relaxed friendly place to spend a weekend with friends. Making more friends there is easy enough; there is a nice bohemian element to the crowd, mixed in with a family friendly approach. Previous years have had better line-ups, but that is secondary to the on site vibes (8)

Total 79%

IndieTracksA Weekend of Indiepop fun in Derbyshire

Indietracks takes place in the grounds of a Railway Museum, out in the countryside. There’s an old railway platform and station, a signal box, level crossing, old rail sheds and sidings, full of rusting trucks and carriages. It’s completely self-contained and you are free to wonder round as you wish. Its quirky and interesting, giving that slightly other world feel I like at a festival. It’s old, quaint but post industrial too – I really like it; a great, unique place to spend a weekend (10). The Line-up is pretty awesome too, with sets this year from The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Slow Club, The Primitives etc plus loads of other lesser known bands. It’s the best festival I’ve ever been to in terms of thinking ‘oh, I’ll check out this band I’ve never heard of’ and them being excellent. It kept happening over and over again and it made it even more of a pleasure to explore the site. The only criticism would be a slight lack of variety – its all very Indiepop, which for me was fine. Others might be less pleased. But overall I think it treads the line between ‘niche’ and ‘variation’ with great success (8). There is a really positive vibe around site, its very relaxed and if you want you can grab a seat on one of the railway carriages and sit in peace with a couple of friends… or you can wonder the grounds and get talking to a variety of interesting people. The organisers manage to create a very inclusive environment; a free mixtape / cd exchange, loads of merch stalls, workshops and talks from record labels / bands, Indie quizzes all combine to make sure there is always something worth seeing and doing (10).

The variety of stages helps with this too. From the large main stage on a slight, open grass hill, and the large echo chamber-esqe train shed to the smaller and more intimate setting of an iron chapel and a carriage on a moving steam train, the festival offers excellent variety. The latter of those two stages were very crowded at times, meaning you often had to start queuing for a band in the chapel up to an hour beforehand. But, if you were patient, it was worth it. Bands also played impromptu sets in the march tent. All bar the main stage are under cover too, so if there weather turns nasty, you still have options. Excellent (9). Organisation was top draw, lots of friendly stewards around to show you where to go and help out (9) and the food and drink options were surprisingly varied and all excellent. The food vans were of a high quality, and not overly priced. There was also the on site museum café, which looked really old skool but actually knocked out some lovely ‘meat pie’ type meals which were a welcome change. The bars also served a wide range of local ales. (9). The camping was excellent. The festival site does not have its own camping – instead you need to camp at a private campsite, which is about 15 minutes walk down the road (or catch the bus that is put on). As a full time campsite, it contains decent toilets, a shower that’s probably better than yours at home, as well as a proper shop, that serves breakfasts and food. It’s all set in lovely woodland and overcrowding is not a problem. It was so far from the horror of some large scale campsites; it truly felt like a holiday (9).

Due to the camping situation, the facilities available are excellent, toilets within the site itself are also plentiful and pleasant (9). At around £50, Indietracks is fantastic value for money. Note, however, that the private camping does not come as part of the price and needs to be booked separate. Personally, I didn’t mind this, as it was worth it for the quality of the campsite (8). Indietracks this year was one of the most enjoyable festivals I've ever been to. It’s a perfect balance between the cosiness of a low key festival, with the communal excitement you find at larger events. I enjoyed the whole weekend and cant think of any negatives whatsoever! (9)

Total 90%

Dean Freeman

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Artsbomb - 28th July

"Artsbomb" was a collaboration between Rhubarb Bomb and The Art House in Wakefield. We teamed up two musicians with two artists and the aim was to create a unique, one-off gig experiance that combined experimental soundscaping with visual arts. And that was pretty much the entire remit for the participants; if you pardon the pun, they effectively had 'blank canvas' to create something engaging and exciting. The event took place as part of the Wakefield Artwalk, more of which can be found here - and was a great success in that it brought people from Wakefields thriving music and art scenes together.

Carrie Scott Huby and Rob Fisher aka Salvage My Dream paired up to create a series of performance pieces, each around 15 minutes long, using a series of loops Rob built up using a plethora of pedals and effects. Here is a video excerpt that was filmed and editted by Dave Hanvey

- apologies, problems with the video, will be up shortly -

Bruce Rimell and Tim Metcalfe / Harry Rhodes aka St Gregory Orange paired up and performed a live art performance during which Bruce created, over the course of 4 half hour sets, a huge design on the wall of the performance space. Tim and Harry were largely improvising and Bruce was using this as inspiration for his work, pictures of which can be seen below. Fingers crossed for some video soon

Wakefield to London Coach Trip

In our recent interview with Piskie Sits and Runaround Kids, they both mentioned a gig they played together at The Windmill in Brixton, back in February, as one of their favourites. Which reminded us that our good friend Abi Standish put together a video documenting the trip, which we've put below for your viewing pleasure.

The trip itself was organised by Rhubarb Bomb, in association with Philophobia Music, Louder than Bombs Records and Geek Pie Records; the idea was for each to choose a band to take with them, get em all on a big coach along with all our friends and transport the awesome spirit of the gigs we put on in Wakefield down to the capital. It was a great success and we all had a wonderful time - its difficult for bands from somewhere like Wakefield to head down to London and draw a crowd and can be a really anti-climatic experiance. But by all working together, it paid off. Im sure we'll be heading off somewhere next year too.

Big thanks are due to The Windmill for helping us organise the night and for making us feel welcome, and to Elks, an ace band from London who headlined for us. And also to Liam from By by, without whom the whole thing couldn't have happened. Enjoy the videos!

1.3 Artwork

For Issue 1.3 we had some artwork created for us by a couple of excellent artists. They really added an extra element to the design of the issue and I wanted to display them here in their natural form - before we editted them and stuck loads of words over the top. The cover illustration (above) was by John Chamberlain who also contributed some images for our David Tattersall appreciation (below), inspired by the lyrics. You can see more of his work at

Also, Bruce Rimell created some images for our The Pains of Being Pure At Heart interview, again, inspired directly by the music. He created them in a similar style to the work he created at the ARTSBOMB event with St Gregory Orange, which was also excellent (and which will be on the Blog shortly). His website is

We are always looking for new contributors, and that includes illustrators, whether it be complex computer graphics stuff, abstract painting or just simple doodles - anything really. If you want to get involved, get in touch -