The Psychedelic Furs, Leicester 2018

Tuesday, June 12, 2018. An epic day.

In simple facts, I drove 2 hours to Leicester, went to a gig, caught a few hours sleep in a B&B then drove back home the next day. The truth, however, is so much more…

First of all, when I arrived I had to locate another place to stay, as the first one stank as if someone had died there. Literally. A quick search on booking.com found a cheap, but clean alternative. after checking in, a short walk through the park bought me to the O2 Academy on the Leicester University campus.

It was there that the day turned awesome. I met up with my good friend Paul Garisto, who had invited me up for the day. For those who may not know, Paul is not only an excellent chap, but he’s one of the most solid, creative and brilliant drummers around, plying his trade with The Psychedelic Furs. More about them later.

Paul and I sat in the park for like an hour, just chatting. Music, family, drums, politics, drums again, (quite literally ‘All Of This And Nothing’) which is the way I like to be – doesn’t matter if you share earth-shattering philosophies or complete nonsense, it’s about spending time. Thanks, Paul – it meant a lot to me that you’d take time out for me.furs 3

 

Back inside at 4pm for sound-check, and I met others from the band and beyond. The lovely Amanda Kramer, the awesome saxophonist Mars Williams, and Rich Good, a really great, really cool guy who was also so nice in taking time to talk with me.

I also met a couple of other guys who were such great company and whom I enjoyed spending time with – Jude Rawlins ( former Angelhead and Subterraneans frontman and current guitarist with The Lene Lovich Band – see HERE) and Kevin Hewick, a great singer-songwriter in his own right who works with artists on labels such as Sorted, Pink Box, and Botheration.

Sound check over (it was a little strange stood in the middle of the venue listening to the band at full volume) we had a little time to hang around, swap stories, me to grab a burger, and then it was time for the gig and the arrival of my great mate Pete Galer, who drove up to meet me.

First up –  The Phenomenal Rise of Richard Strange.

Richard Strange

Richard’s stage show was more than a show, more than a collection of tunes. It was pure theatre at its best. His roots go back a long way to his first band, Doctors of Madness. To give you a hint, they were supported by The Sex Pistols, The Jam, and Joy Division. Yes – supported. The album he performed with his band was originally written in 1981, but has eerie connections to modern day US Politics.

Then…… it was time for the main act.

I’ve said this before, but there’s something about this band, this group of brilliant musicians, that I really… get. There’s great songs, with lyrics that appear at once simple and then phenomenally deep. There are driving rhythms and haunting melodies, unbounded energy and vibe, and the whole thing is sewn together by the two Butler brothers, Tim on bass and Richard with his unique vocals. These are guys who know their art – and it is art – and you never get less than everything.

Starting off with the seminal Dumb Waiters from the great Talk Talk Talk album, through songs such as President Gas, Heartbreak Beat, India, Heaven, Mr Jones, Into You Like A Train, and finishing with the iconic Pretty In Pink, they held the audience in the palm of their hand all night long.

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After the gig, I had the pleasure of catching up with Richard and Tim, along with their guest for the night, Roger Morris – an original member of the band way back in 1977. It’s true – hanging with your heroes is an awesome thing, and they are all just well-grounded, normal people. Although I had heard Richard’s joke about the hairdresser before – it just seemed polite to laugh…

They even signed my vinyl copy of Talk Talk Talk for me…

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Thanks guys – an excellent day, a brilliant gig, and a memory made for life. Until the next time, safe travels, my friends!

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Joel Gardner – The Idea

I was very pleased when Joel’s new EP, The Idea, dropped into my inbox this week. I’ve felt a little starved of new music lately, and was keen to listen to someone fresh.

The Idea is a very accomplished, very polished set of tracks, which were written by Joel whilst out sunning himself in the Canary Islands. There’s certainly a warmth and a distinct palette to the EP, as jaunty pop butts up happily against melancholy anthem.

My favourite track was Made Me Believe, which has a real emotional depth that is well supported by the melody building slowly, almost to a cliff-edge, before finding a path back down to quieter water.

There’s not really a weak track in the collection, with I Will Find and If I Could Love You particularly good, and it’s clear that he’s hit the mark with this one.

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If I was to look for a constructive comment, I think I’d like to hear something a little edgier, a little more… unrefined, I guess. Joel has a great voice, and an undeniable ear for melody and how songs can be constructed. I have no doubt that he’d also succeed at deconstructing songs, and I’d love to hear some of his energy on tracks that expose more of the rawness that emotion can – and often does – deliver.

Overall? A Sound Impression likes this a lot, and will certainly be revisiting Joel’s material. Nice one, mate.

Mr Happy Chainsaw – It’s Not My Ball EP

One of the many emails to drop into the Sound Impression mailbox recently was a note from Essex-based punky popsters Mr Happy Chainsaw. Their latest EP, It’s Not My Ball, is being released soon, after strong airplay for their single release, Standing There.

Now for me, there’s a few things that stand out in the band’s favour. There’s a level of production that helps show this hasn’t been thrown together in a mate’s garage. The lyrics cut through the instruments, and the whole thing is balanced, tight, and technically accomplished. All of which is important, but let’s face it – it’s a bit dull for a music review. Which is why I got it out of the way early. You don’t want to know whether the tracks are professionally produced, you want to know what’s gonna slap your ears and make you smile.

Let’s start by sharing how Mr Happy Chainsaw describe themselves. Imagine if you will, a cocktail bar. If you asked for a Mr Happy Chainsaw (they tell me) you’d get “a pinch of Blink 182, Green Day and Alkaline Trio, to which we add a splash of Foo Fighters, a hint of Barry Manilow and Elton John and it all gets topped off with a generous serving of tongue in cheek fun and a dollop of Essex”.

There’s a big expectation after that kind of statement. You’ll either be looking for the flavours of all those great acts, or you’ll be hoping for something uniquely distinctive. The truth? It’s actually somewhere in between, somewhere that mixes all of these to make something a bit different. Although I probably wouldn’t recognise ‘a dollop of Essex’ if it was served on a spoon with a cherry…

Tracks like Standing There and Your Best Friend have a Foo Fighters / Blink 182 vibe, with a solid, driving freshness that propels you along. There are catchy riffs and vocal hooks, all of which make their music something you can listen to over again.

There’s also clearly a more considered, thoughtful side to the guys. When listening to their tracks (especially Leaving Town) there’s a definite story running through the songs. I hope it’s not all from personal experience, because if it is, well… hard luck, dudes. There’s … an intelligence behind the music – trust me, I don’t always get that impression – and that appeals to me in a way that much of today’s one-dimensional blandness simply can’t.

Overall?  A Sound Impression approves, and suggests you go to http://www.mrhappychainsaw.com and see for yourself.

Track listing:

  • Standing There
  • Out of Time
  • Charlie
  • Leaving Town
  • Your Best Friend

Blondie : Parallel Lines

The first of an ongoing classic album series, we’re taking you back to the heady days of 1978….

It hardly seems possible that Parallel Lines was released nigh on 40 years ago.  Just one look at the album cover, and a skim through the track listing, makes the tunes spring into your mind, as fresh as yesterday.

Fronted by the beautiful Debbie Harry and delivering a wholly eclectic mix of styles (pop, punk, disco, reggae, rap), Blondie’s music became instantly recognisable, and Parallel Lines, their third studio album, helped them break into the elusive but lucrative US market.

Rather than wax lyrically that much, let’s skip to the track listing (* denotes a singles release) :

  1. Hanging On The Telephone *
  2. One Way or Another *
  3. Picture This *
  4. Fade Away and Radiate
  5. Pretty Baby
  6. I Know But I Don’t Know
  7. 11:59
  8. Will Anything Happen?
  9. Sunday Girl *
  10. Heart of Glass *
  11. I’m Gonna Love You Too *
  12. Just Go Away

Of the singles, only I’m Gonna Love You Too failed to make an impression, but then a Blondie cover of a Buddy Holly original is maybe pushing eclectic just too far.

The others? You may well be singing them now.

The US markets lapped them up, making Heart Of Glass the band’s first US number 1, an achievement that they repeated a further three times over the next three years. Add to that six UK number 1 hits and success across Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Blondie had made it. The album, produced by Mike Chapman, harnessed the raw emotion of their first two albums (Blondie and Plastic Letters) and helped them bridge the gap between new-wave edginess and financially viable pop stardom.

The rest (as they say) is history…

The Magic Es – Melody Jane (single)

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Melody Jane is the latest single from The Magic Es, a four piece guitar rock band from Norwich.

The Magic Es have built up a strong following, and their music is starting to gain traction on radio stations worldwide. The guys tell me that reviews and feedback has been favourable.

So what does A Sound Impression think?

I listened to the track before reading any of the marketing guff that always accompanies singles releases. I tend to do that to see if my thoughts match what the bands claim as public opinion.

In this case…. yes, it does. There’s a definite sense of energy and thought behind the track, and one of the band’s main influences – The Undertones – comes through very strongly. I love early Undertones tracks, and as such, this was sending me all the right notes.

On the downside, I thought the chorus was a little weak, having no real singalong hook line. The melody drops into a minor key for the hook, which rarely works in an uptempo pop/rock song.

That having been said, there’s more than enough here to make me want to hear some more of their tracks, and the benefit of doubt clearly deserves to fall in their favour. Go take a listen and see what you think!

Line Up:

Pete Thompson (vocals/guitars)
Jasper Stainthorpe (bass)
Stuart Catchpole (drums/vocals)
Phil Woods (guitar)

http://www.facebook.com/wearemagicuk

Dancing With Ruby – In The Interests Of Beasts

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I listen to a lot of music, and whilst this is clearly fun, inspirational, and a great way to waste a lot of time, there’s usually a challenge for me in that. Not to decide if I like the music or not, that’s always pretty binary, and (like you, I suspect) you know what you like and what you don’t.

No, the challenge is often how to categorise the music. Is it Metal? Is it metalcore? Is it Death Metal, or Thrash Metal, or some other obscure variant of any number of similar styles? It ain’t just metal either – you get the same variants in soul, dance, hip-hop, rock, pop, and jazz. It’s a conumndrum.

Not so with Dancing With Ruby.

It’s pure electronica. Clearly. There’s really no ambiguity when it comes to Dancing With Ruby.

The duo of Matt Culpin on keyboards, allied to the ethereal voice of Charlie Sanderson, deliver an almost unique experience. Charlie’s vocals have a breathy, child-like quality that draw you into what always feels like an emotional voyage through each song.

The tracks themselves have well-crafted, rhythmic melodies that showcase Matt’s excellent musicianship.

Favourite tracks? I love the way the opening track, Spiders, establishes a focus on Charlie’s voice with a metronomic intro that slowly builds layer on layer. Creature is a more eclectic, but no less rhythmic track, and brings in an 80s Yazoo / early Depeche Mode feel that continues with the final song, Dance Move Feel, which is very much the poppiest of the ten tracks.

Verdict: Dancing With Ruby are well worth a listen. Thing is, you find yourself then taking a second trip. Then a third. Sure, it won’t appeal to most metal-heads, but to everyone else, it’s a journey you really sought to make.

Find out more about the duo at https://www.facebook.com/dancingwithruby

Wake Up Leo

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Citing influences such as Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, The Cure and New Order, Wake Up Leo is an up and coming project fronted by Leo Ulph, backed by a very tight indie/pop band from the South East of England.

Leo and the boys put out a very polished, professional sound, with hints of the New Romantics of the eighties mixing in with a definite pinch of nineties chart Britpop.

I was sent five tracks, including their latest release, Friends. Of these, my favourite was The Race We’re Running, a poppy number with an instantly memorable riff and a feel that reminded me of Ladyhawke’s self-titled first album.

Of the others, Higher is more anthemic, with a Verve / Coldplay style. Cellophane brings the Housemartins into the frame, whilst Friends brings a feel-good message and feel that wouldn’t have been out of place in the eponymous US sitcom that bears the same name. The final track, Nowhere To Go, is probably the most individual track I heard, more difficult to pin to any genre, and I suspect closer to their own style than the other songs.

So what do I think?

The guys in the band (Leo, Erim, Paul, Tom, and Russ) know their stuff. The tracks are well formed, polished, and laid down well. There’s a commercial edge to the material that comes over clearly and, given the right exposure, I can see Wake Up Leo going places.

One thing bothers me though.

There’s a sense in which the band, and the songs, are…. well, a little too commercial, a little too nice. Were I to throw a word of advice to them, I’d like to see a little more energy and edge in their music, because it’s a cut-throat business and unless you stand out, you run the risk of being categorised and then forgotten.

Overall – I like Wake Up Leo quite a lot. I can’t help thinking that I’d like them even more if they tried to upset me a little…

Check out Wake Up Leo at https://www.facebook.com/wakeupleo1