Friday, 14 December 2012

Issue 3.4 Released

We are very pleased to announce our final issue of the year, 3.4, is now complete and ready for you to hunt out and devour. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter to see where they end up, though we always get some to The Hop, Diamond Studios, Trad Music, Jam Gifts (Wakefield) and Crash Records, Jumbo Records, Nation Of Shopkeepers, Brudenell (Leeds) first of all. 

What’s inside?

David Cooper interviews Simon Armitage at Wakefield’s Literature Festival which took place back in September. Simon talks about his recent book Walking Home, his continuing love of writing and where he seeks inspiration. We conduct an interview with Album Of The Year nominess St Gregory Orange over a series of gigs, supporting a wide range of people as they work towards fully realising their exceptional second album in the live arena. Laura Thompson follows up her previous article, shortlisted for best of the year, with ruminations on a quarter life crisis and finding solace in the simple things in life, and bird watching. We speak to Leeds based OK Comics as they celebrate ten years of an award winning Indie shop and the future of the graphic novel / comic medium. Josie Long spoke to us when she recently played in Leeds about being a comedian in the current political climate and why it is ALWAYS a good time to be DIY. Clive Smith questions whether kids these days are simply too lazy and scared to face the kind of mass exposure he deals with on a day to day basis. This issue’s Working Artist is Jamie Roberts, one half of a folk duo with Katriona Gilmore, and he speaks about taking the huge step to purely making a living from his music. Our Best of 2012 feature backs up our blog entry about our mostly highly rated things of the year. There is still time to vote. You may also find a CD copy of our Snowglobe EP. If not, there are details on how to download it for free. Andrew Whittaker spent an informative afternoon with Wakefield Wheeled Cats and discovered the DIY ideal is as strong in all female flat track roller derby teams as it is in music. Why I Zine focuses on Leeds based No-TiTLE magazine and it’s editor Nadine Cuddy. Roland X predicts a future based completely on celebrating and rehashing the past in Follow The Drum vs The Bicentennial Loop and finally, this issue’s Endtroducing band is Wot Gorilla? whose debut record also found itself shortlisted as a potential RB record of 2012.

Thanks are naturally extended to all the contributing writers. Massive thanks are also due to John Jowett for supplying a large proportion of the photography in this issue. This issue’s cover was created by our designer Matt Sidebottom, with illustrations by Laura Thompson. The fantastic OK Comics / Batman strip was by Brent Liam Barker and the Josie Long illustration was by Jack Moss.

Huge thanks to our sponsors this time around; The Hop, Bombed Out Records, Philophobia Music, Rock and Roll Circus, Jam Gifts, Trad Music, Diamond Studios and Warehouse 23.


Dean Freeman

Break From Tradition EP

Three Sheets T’ Wind
Break From Tradition EP

Three Sheets T’Wind is a Punk influenced Folk band hailing from Pontefract and Wakefield. They have performed alongside the likes of Shane MacGowan, The Levellers and Billy Bragg.

The band are made up of:

Johnny Dolescum (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, saxophone, tin whistle, harmonica),
Tinker Bell (accordion)
Pat O'Logical (bass)
Tricky Ricky (mandolin) and 
Loony Liam (drums, bodhrán)

Break From Tradition is a five track EP which follows on from their well regarded  Tales from the West Riding album (2009) and precedes the much anticipated release of their second album due out in 2013.

The EP kicks off with I’m-a doin’ fine a joyful accordion driven romp clocking in at a punchy two and a half minutes.

Cuddy Shaw Reach has a strong Celtic sound and is the track most reminiscent of The Pogues, a band with which Three Sheets... are often compared.

The third track Dole days tells a tale of the drunk and the disenfranchised. It starts with a Reggae(ish) introduction which gives a clear idea of the rich musical palette the band are able to draw on. The subject matter took me back to the bad old days of the early ‘80s when having no work or purpose was the norm for millions. A fashion which our current Government seems eager to revisit.

Johnny’s Army has the sound and feel of a traditional rebel song starting gently with “the last post” before launching into a reel which I suspect is a highlight of any of the bands live performances.

The last, and for me most impressive, track is Old Woolpack’s Yard. A country influenced ballad (right down to the beautifully decorative slide guitar) with Leesa May accompanying on vocals. The song is well written, well conceived and well performed and for me shows the band at its best.

Three Sheets T’ Wind are an accomplished group of folk musicians and Break From Tradition” is an EP which has left me looking forward to their next album promised for some time in 2013. Look out for them live where I suspect they are at their glorious best.

Karl Shore

Monday, 10 December 2012

Mark Wynn Album and Live review

Mark Wynn
James Dean makes me insecure, why does he have to be so shexy
Desert Mine Music

Mark Wynn is a York based troubadour and James Dean...... is his second album for Desert Mine Music. It was recorded by Sam Forrest in August/September 2012.

Wynn has been compared variously to Mark E Smith, John Cooper Clarke, and Half Man Half Biscuit. All of these, for me at least, are pretty wide of the mark (if you will excuse the pun).  If you need a comparison, as a shorthand to place Mark Wynn, think Syd Barrett circa 1970 (Madcap Laughs) or Ivor Cutler (any time).

The recording of the album itself is satisfyingly lo-fi. That is not to say that it is without craft. There are many well judged harmonies and scruffy guitars sitting well back in the mix which give a number of the songs the subtlety and dynamism they deserve.

The album kicks off, not surprisingly, with Introduction. A distorted and grating wall of sound, Wynn says, is “meant to make ‘Baby baby’ (the second track) sound better”. Suffice it to say that the track achieves its aim.

Of the next 15 tracks (only two of which break the epic 3 minute barrier) some are “throw away” some are touching and warm and others are beautifully crafted, unselfconscious pop.  Highlights include The big fib song, Is this where I get off? Woolies please and the sublime Henry Miller filler song. The latter of these contains the line which perhaps goes some way towards summing up Mark Wynn and his music. The line is:

“Oh Henry, sometimes you hit the mark. Sometimes you get too etherial”.

Not that I see this as a criticism of Wynn’s work. He appears to have no interest in reproducing bland formulaic pop for an audience eager to hear the same thing over and over again.

In an indie scene where conformity and conservatism can stifle creativity Mark Wynn is prepared to sound, and be, different. This, perhaps inevitably, results in an album where not every song passes the quality control test. In support of Wynn’s approach to his art, however, I would say that a number of the songs on this album are the most charming, enlightening and joyous I have heard in the last five years.

Given the deliberately ragged approach Wynn takes to creating music it may come as a surprise that the album is just that. An album. Although the details may at times seem “messy” the whole package feels coherent. Wynn knows exactly what he is doing.

At his best Mark Wynn makes catchy and clever, off beat pop without ever reaching for a cliche or an auto-tuner. He writes love letters, laments and takes scatological strolls through the mundane and the everyday.

Mark Wynn @ The Hop

Mark Wynn
The Hop, Wakefield
22nd November

Arriving late enough to (unfortunately) miss Michael Ainsley and catch only half of Sam Forrest’s (highly impressive) set I have to confess to a high level of anticipation when waiting for York’s  finest to take the stage.

Up until recently I had never heard a note of Wynn’s work but having listened to his latest album (produced, incidentally by Sam Forrest) in heavy rotation up and down the M1 for the last three weeks the opportunity to see him live was almost mouth watering. The album is inventive, original, and contains ample evidence that Wynn will be much, much more than a passing fancy on the indie scene.

Having taken the stage at The Hop and engaging in a “getting to know you” tune up and chat with the audience Wynn rattled through a set of finely tuned songs many of which were taken from the James Dean… album. Highlights of the set, for me at least, were Henry Miller Filler Song, Trebles for singles, Woolies please and She is waiting.

His words flow with ease and he is a much better musician than I had previously given him credit for. With an audience more than ready to enjoy his work and the night, Wynn looked to be enjoying it as much as we were. His patter in between songs, like the songs themselves was smart, thoughtful and funny.

I have to say that Wynn’s live work may even be an improvement on his recorded stuff, where he seems more likely to give himself free reign to experiment rather than, as he did tonight, stick to the discipline of playing short, punchy engaging pop from just outside the mainstream.

You probably can’t remember what you were doing at 10.00pm on Thursday 22nd November. Please take note that your fellow citizens were watching a truly memorable show by Mark Wynn upstairs at The Hop. Put down your remote control and take advantage of the original live music on your doorstep.

Karl Shore 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Pulp @ Sheffield Review

Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield
8th December 2012

I cannot remember when I last took in an arena show, though I certainly recall the first time; two decades ago in this very building – then just ‘Sheffield Arena’ – I saw local rockers Def Leppard at the delicate age of 8. Pulp’s last appearance round these parts was just one decade ago, their ‘last ever’ gig at Magna Science Museum which I also attended and that glorious farewell remains a treasured memory.

Continuing the anniversary theme, it is just over two years since the surprise announcement that the band were reforming / ending their hiatus to play some shows. And finally, they have made it home.

The support act slot is taken by projections of home videos, which don’t really work in this space. It does mean that we get a two and a half hour set, especially sweet for those who saw them play restricted set lengths at summer festivals and spent the smiling journey home listing all the great songs they still didn’t play.

Those summer shows had been hit heavy and largely obvious in their song selection. This, their 48th since that reformation, starts just as every other one has with Do You Remember The First Time?  and it appears we’ll have a similar night of pop excellence and gentle nostalgia.

However, second track Monday Morning, perhaps the least played Different Class era track alongside Live Bed Show gives early indication that this will be a more personal affair. Indeed, two songs later we hear the rarely played and little known late era single A Little Soul which at the time was, musically, a rather out of character move and lyrically dealt with Jarvis’ absent father. Not your obvious stadium pleaser.
A duo of big hits and their two well known spoken word / sleazy masterworks (F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E and I Spy) follow and show in breathtaking style that the band has lost nothing of their energy, dynamism and flair. The former in particular is the best I’ve heard it, the stadium enhanced beats adding an epic, colossal and unstoppable force to the track. It’s also the first time I notice that Russell Senior isn’t around. I thought it would bother me, but it doesn’t. Separate guitarists and violinists cover his parts, along with other extra hands and at times the people on stage hits double figures.
Despite this, the focus is naturally on Jarvis. I don’t know what can be said about Jarvis that hasn’t already been said but it is fair to say that he is enjoying every second. He is audibly out of breath after the second song, but maintains the banter throughout, gracious and thankful to the vast 12,000 strong crowd.
The set then heads into unknown territory, places I had hoped that the reunion would have gone since day one. Russell Senior being involved from the start had wrongly led me to believe that all the shows would cover more than their generally acknowledged glory days, but they had rightly gone out and reminded people what made them great first time around, instead of playing the weird stuff and reminding them why they were so damn obscure for fifteen or so years.
Three special moments follow; Jarvis’ sister joins him on stage for a run through My Lighthouse from Pulp’s first record It. In fact, Saskia Cocker is the only other person on this stage tonight who actually played on that recording, back in 1983. It’s followed by Little Girl (With Blue Eyes) from 1985 and Countdown, the latter their last ‘failure’ before perfecting a synth heavy pop sound and breaking through with their Gift Records string of singles and EPs.
Naturally the crowd don’t react in the same way as they do to Disco 2000 and many take it as a chance to grab a pint. But as Jarvis says, most of these songs were written in Sheffield and those that weren’t were written about it. These songs say as much about Sheffield and about the people who wrote them as their hits do and whilst two years of gigging such obscurities would have been a disaster, this is a real treat (for me anyway) and suggests how important it is for the band to come home.
Babies is the only other track from His N Hers we hear tonight. We then get a surprisingly long run of This Is Hardcore era tracks, starting with B-side Like A Friend. Again, I loved to hear it, though I naturally think ‘if you are gonna play a TIH era B-side, and one from A Little Soul it should be Cocaine Socialism, surely?’
This Is Hardcore itself closes this section and is possibly the best I’ve ever heard it. Without doubt one of their greatest songs, it represents everything Pulp were taken to the Nth degree, as dark, as epic and personal as it could get, the flipside, the endpoint of fame and the cravings of success. The sound in the arena, which struggles on some occasions, works a treat here, and every huge bass note feels like a punch to the face of the safe and secure life you have built for yourself. What exactly DO you do for an encore?
The set winds down towards an inevitable Common People. It is just perfect. Considering how many times I have heard it, CP is not a song that really suffers from over familiarity; certainly in the live environment it has an organic life of its own, the band skilfully drawing an increasing crescendo from its six or so minutes, feeding directly from the audience. We are putty in their hands. Not bad for a song that is basically three chords. The stadium is alive; a peerless communal moment.
The encore holds more surprises. The eight plus minutes of Sheffield: Sex City is an absolute joy to my ears; one of those songs you don’t believe you will ever get to hear live. Richard Hawley returns to the stage for a run through of Born To Cry – pretty much the only song I could do without tonight. We wrap up with Something Changed and a brief crowd singalong of White Christmas, before the house lights come up, and a freezing cold Sheffield awaits us all.
So with only a couple of shows left to play, far off in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, what does this mean for Pulp? Apparently at Candida’s insistence, the band grouped together and performed a bow to the appreciative audience before exiting the stage. It would be a fitting conclusion. Generally I am very much against such reunions if new material isn’t forthcoming. Over the years I have developed some sympathy, certainly for the backline of such bands. Jarvis will always be able to make a living off being Jarvis, but I guess it is harder for Nick Banks or Steve Mackay. So maybe a money spinning venture such as this isn’t so bad.
Beyond that, I don’t imagine anyone in the band would relish facing the pressure of recording new material. So maybe this is it. Our trip back in time tonight was our last journey with Jarvis and co. The lasting impression is one of craft. Clever, richly detailed lyrics bursting with ideas and situations that work equally as time capsule records of the life of Jarvis and as timeless pop nuggets, with sophistication and tongue in cheek in fair measures. And the music, still ingrained on our 21st century minds but created in cold rehearsals rooms in a grim northern city, still resonates. Pulp were always aiming, pining for something better, their sounds rich in time and place. It feels like something of a rarity now.
So, aside of being stuck in the seating section of an arena with barely an inch to bust my moves, it was pretty much a perfect night and a fitting ending. Then again, they still didn’t play Lipgloss, Acrylic Afternoons, Pink Glove, Pencil Skirt…
Dean Freeman

Friday, 7 December 2012

The Clive Continuum

(see also: "Demos" "Respect" "Side Projects"  "Lyrics" & "Touring")

This may be the first sentence of this piece of generous advice but I am going to deviate slightly and say that positivity is massively important in our business. Getting up on that stage is akin to sticking your head above the parapet of a castle under siege by hungry Frenchmen. If you can do that with a smile on your face and a song in your heart, and if you can then squeeze said song out through your ventricles, ozmosify it through to your lungs then operate the lungs as they were designed - meaning to breathe - and expel that song out through the aforementioned smile then you are part of a metaphor that perfectly illustrates the point I am making. Which is that positivity is massively important in our business. As I just said.

The evil twin of positivity, the 'opposite' if you will, is cynicism. Strictly speaking, it is negativity, but nod and go with it. A cynical mind questions too much. A cynical mind is not an instinctive one. I believe in the goodness of human beings. Well, I believe in the goodness of most human beings. Some are scum. But we need to ignore these Negative-Nigels and concentrate on ourselves. You will often find that the people with all the money and power in the world are the negative ones. Any positive, non-cynical person will tell you that. It's all back to front.

I bring this up as I almost found myself heading down a road to cynicism a few months back. My last album was very nearly called Super Summer Party Time and it was going to contain a selection of festival friendly anthems. Because that stuff’s easy isn't it? La la la, its super summer party time, dar dar dar, let's all have a lovely time etc.

I do struggle with getting festival bookings in these corporate heavy times. The suits just don't get my sound. Never have. I always presumed it was because as straights, they simply couldn't dig my vibes. But of late it struck me it was a lot simpler. I'd made the mistake of thinking that these types even listen to the music. I'd made the mistake of giving them too much credit. I realised they just go by the titles. And here I was, with a whole sweep of song titles that were also events, ready to release.

I mean, seriously, is it a coincidence that Dancing Deez wrote a song called Constellations? And Alike Trains have one called Beacons and - oh! - there's a festival just down the road with the same name. Even dull three chord non-wonders The Velvet Underground (always a great signpost of a rubbish band, someone wearing their t-shirt or citing them as an influence) wrote one called All Tomorrow's Parties, though as far as I know they are yet to play it.

And it works in reverse. I wouldn't have known but Rhubarb Bomb's own Long Division was clearly named as an attempt to book Fugazi - a typically unambitious goal for the zine. Why not call the festival Rebel Yell or Paperplane or Summer of '69 and really aim for the stars?

I stopped short on the album because I realised it wasn't the Clive Smith way. Doing the obvious, easy thing is not what I am known for. It's not the Clive Smith brand. Also, who'd have thought you could copyright a made up word like 'Primevera'?

Even back in the day, before the money men called the shots, festivals were never my thing. Playing to big crowds is just another way to sell out. I'd much rather play to a half empty room of hardcore fans - or anyone - than a big field at Glastonbury. I really would. I don't need to go to Glastonbury to know I don’t like it. It's obvious from the TV coverage. I sit at home and watch and just shake my head. It's not for me.

Playing in pubs is better because once people have paid their £2, they are there for the duration. Even if they aren't into you, they are gonna be sticking around for the fish supper and the meat raffle. That's how you win people over in this business. Remember that. How can people be forced to listen to you against their will? In this crazy mixed up modern world travelling at highly illegal speeds towards an invisible digital oblivion, how else will you grab their attention?

It was this thought that led me to creating my own festival, one that avoided the unfair scheduling of having other bands on at the same time as you, on different stages. If people can wonder off, it's not a gig for me. So Clivestock took place at Wooley Edge Services, next to the KFC counter. I chose a Saturday afternoon on a Bank Holiday, when people would be hungry and the most staff would be working. The response was amazing. The staff were especially appreciative, constantly giving us buckets of this that and the other. We had to stop playing to eat of course, but who could resist!

It was a great day partially tarnished by my buddy Alan getting fired. He was the manager of the services at the time. I'd always been slightly jealous of him, especially the one time I got to go in his office and discovered it was actually situated in that bridge bit, over the motorway itself. When I'd suggested the idea, he did seem concerned about the legalities of it. In the end, it was complaints about the appaling quality of the actual music that cost him his job. He told me this in a rage. He later admitted that it definitely wasn't the music and he'd made it up as a way to try and upset me. Thankfully, it was obvious it wasn't true and I had laughed in his face whilst he wiped his tears with his P45. I hung that up in the practice room for a bit, as a reminder that art should never lower itself to the petty concerns of the men in the suits.

Clive Smith

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Snowglobe EP

Back in 2008, Rhubarb Bomb released a Christmas EP featuring The Research, Mi Mye, Napoleon IIIrd and The Old House which was sneakily hidden inside copies of the zine.

We thought it was time we did another, so here it is, The Snowglobe EP.

The lead track is from Keith Burton and his Beef Curtain and features the rapping skills of three quarters of Retarded Fish and Mr Rob Dee himself, of Philophobia Records. Vocals recorded at the tailend of an Inns Of Court drinking session, Christmas At Rhubarb Bomb is a daft, mad celebration of Christmas time in Wakefield.

Mi Mye is the sole survivor from the 2008 EP and his track The Last Christmas was proudly recorded at Jamie’s own Greenmount Studios with Lee Smith in approximately 80 minutes. Mi Mye’s album The Time & The Lonelyness was shortlisted as one of our best of 2012.

Fur Blend provide a short, sharp burst of punked up rock and roll. Singer / Bassist Laura Thompson helped create the artwork for the EP and her article Give Me A Beat To Dance To was nominated as one of our best of the year, whilst Fur Blend’s split EP with The Do’s and Clandestines was also shortlisted for our EP of the year.

Spareroom is a collaboration project of Dan Hayes (jamiesaysmile) and his childhood friend Andy Watford. Dan has contributed to Rhubarb Bomb as a writer, his jamiesaysmile EP was shortlisted for best of 2012.

St Gregory Orange have been shortlisted for Rhubarb Bomb’s album of the year for Midnight At The Sycamore Lounge and round off our Christmas EP.

The download also contains an MP3 of an unreleased podcast from April 2012. It was intended to be released during our birthday celebrations and contains tracks from our The City Consumes Us compilation and extracts from interviews for the book, including The Cribs and Mark E Smith.

The EP is available as a Name Your Price download. There will also be a limited number of CD version hidden inside issue 3.4, released December 14th.

Thanks to all the bands for their contributions, and a Merry Christmas to you all

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Review Roundup: Local Underground; Unicorn Power and The Buffalo Skinners

It’s a year today since I completed my first review for the ‘Bomb, so I thought I’d clear the decks with a bumper review of the last few things on my pile. I’ll start at the bottom…

I have here 4 CDs from the Local Underground catalogue, which seems mainly to be an imprint of bands who have ceased to exist; in no particular order, I present Cake, The Drain on the Balcony, The Whatevers and Spectrasonic.

My exploration started off well, I really enjoyed The Whatevers who only split up earlier this year; there are some cracking songs in this 16 track compilation, with just the right mix of humour and punk spirit pushing them along. Mike Relton and Kate Bisson’s vocals mix well together and there are some joyously naïve moments on show. For £5 you can’t argue, have a listen. I especially enjoyed Violence for Northern Independence and the central image of having a ‘right laugh with a local lad in a sleeping bag’. Bit of a shame that they called it a day.

The next lot looked a bit serious on the cover art, although Cake isn’t a very serious name so you know, books and covers and all that… What you get here are 13 songs from the Bristol band’s heyday in the ‘90s which now sound very much as if they were recorded in the ‘90s! Some interesting textures and fairly well observed lyrics, but a bit samey. While you will certainly hear worse bands than these, you will also find better ones- in this very review!  

Now I hate to be negative and it is my first anniversary, so I can maybe manage to find 2 stars out of 5 for The Drain on the Balcony because it is in the DIY spirit, but sometimes doing it yourself  just doesn’t cut it and this is a lacklustre album which made me feel a bit sad. It’s not that they haven’t tried, because they have clearly tried hard but on more than one occasion, namely Solihull Council, Down by the Riverside and the tributes to Amy Winehouse (Black) and Poly Styrene (Elastic Gurl, which is just basically a cover of Germ Free Adolescent with worse words) they really tried my patience I’m afraid to say.

The last of this mixed bunch represents a step up in quality and Spectrasonic come out of it quite well; they’re another ‘90s band so we have the Stone Roses/Primal Scream influence mixed with some more traditionally hooky riffs and some quite nice recording which captures what I imagine was a fairly big live sound.

Anyway, moving on from that slightly confusing start, we arrive at Unicorn Power and their Catface EP. This Brighton based trio have emerged from the spare bedroom with what amounts to a fairly solid statement of intent. Opening track Guarded swirls around and then settles into an insistent stomp of a chorus which draws you in and sets you down gently afterwards. New Home is dragged along by a supple guitar which pierces the backing nicely while the male / female vocals of Scott Pitkethly and Analise Vineer create a nicely melancholy mood. Gold and Green marks the halfway mark of this 5 track EP and it put me in mind of Pop Will Eat Itself with squealing guitars and yelled vocals competing with the high pitched synth assault.

Please Write It Down and a remix of Guarded complete the set, the former is a slower track with a more contemplative mood and some nicely recorded guitars while the remix goes for a cleaner, more Euro disco approach- in a good way, if you know what I mean!

Now to the best of the bunch; The Buffalo Skinners and their lively, engaging 14 track, self-titled album; this collection of Folk n’ Roll makes a refreshing change and injects a little bit of sunshine into your day as the mercury begins to fall.

I can’t fault this debut because it seems that each track deliberately showcases a slightly different aspect of the band’s talent; the vocals are uplifting even when the subject matter isn’t (Wooden Box), instruments are well deployed for the benefit of the song, not the ego of the player, and there is a feeling of restraint that runs through all 14 songs.

This suggests that they have thought carefully about what the record needs, not just what they can do, or what will sound cool in the studio. This strikes me as a mature, well considered approach to a collection of songs which sit together really well. I don’t usually hand out stars, but seeing as I did earlier, and it is my 1st birthday as a reviewer, I’ll indulge myself: 5 stars to the Buffalo Skinners, well done lads.

Now for a celebratory slice of birthday cake…

Matt Rhodie