The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace Is There

hotelierIt’s probably worth pointing out that I started writing this one on the 2nd of March.  I needed a break. I probably still do, but there you go.  So I suppose it’s kind of apt that as I appear from my short hiatus bleary-eyed and woolly-headed, the cobwebs are well and truly blown away by a record that is pretty much perfectly qualified to be doing so.  And in any case it’d be rude of me to not finish what I started.

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Mark Lanegan – Meltdown Festival, London Queen Elizabeth Hall, June 14th 2014

 

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“Bit short-changed there”, said the bloke passing us on the way out of the auditorium at half-past nine, after the set that began at half-past eight had finished. Well, away with you sir, that was great. To paraphrase an old BBC comedy play, never mind the width, feel the quality.

For such a short and early set (presumably with one eye on tonight’s footballing doings ) it wasn’t half packed, and came with a couple of surprises. Not only did the lightbulbs illuminating the stage actually change colour from their traditional red, Mark also took centre stage under a de facto spotlight!  Anyway, after a ticket-purchasing farce which saw us perched right at the back (as the following snaps barely illustrate – by the way, I’m not sure if I should feel relieved or wounded that I didn’t feature in the Guardian’s recent “worst gig photos”), we witnessed a rather stunning set as well as a lot of people who couldn’t stay sat down for five minutes at a time without wandering off outside.

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Stratus – Mirrors EP

mirrorsI was supposed to have sat down and written about this EP several times over the past couple of weeks, and I’m rather glad that I waited until now to do so.  Waiting for a moment of calm has been somewhat tricky here of late as they have been few and far between, and attempting to soak in an instrumental EP whilst not being on top of my game proved rather tricky as I was projecting much of my own mood onto it rather than paying attention to the one actually being created.  Initial notes on this largely stated “pensive”, and it was only a week later when I realised that I had been talking about myself rather than this collection of tracks, and so I binned what I wrote, took a deep breath, went for a succession of long walks and started again.  Thankfully, this seemed to have done the trick…

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Stick In The Wheel – Bones

bonesIn amidst all the near-evangelical happy-clapping about physical musical media, there’s always something that never gets mentioned: and that’s the bit about there always being some shiny nugget or two hidden away in the smallprint that comes with the record (or indeed CD, because whenever “physical media” is mentioned, they don’t mean that, snobs that they are) should you be so inclined as to sit down and read it.  In this case, it was reading the various credits and liner notes to Wolf People’s excellent Fain that I first heard about Stick In The Wheel, and their cheery, murderous songs instantly won me over.  There’s something about picking old songs and tales up, or creating new ones in the same old spirit, that appeals to these ears; stories of death and toil that are best belted out late at night when the body tires and the subconscious comes out to play and further colour in the grim poetry.

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Sunday Whatever

005Things are going a bit slow here at the moment, largely because things are far too full-on elsewhere.  There’s a definite disparity in the work-life balance here, and that can never be seen to be right.  So while I try to address that, this week shall be mostly comprised of EPs and quiet things as that’s all my attention span can cope with while all else goes mad around me.  This whatever also reflects the lunacy of the past couple of weeks, but I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about and nothing that a bit of a sleep can’t remedy.

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USA Out Of Vietnam – Crashing Diseases And Incurable Airplanes

usaSpreading from the centre of much of my listening habits of the past 25 years or so (sshh) are but two bands.  From these parts of my musical youth all manner of tendrils have sprung forth; some branches with stronger ties to their roots, some less so.  Looking at this from a wistful, nostalgic view it’s a genuine pleasure to gaze right back to these sources and also to the younger me who was so moved by it all back then as well as feeling a strange tinge of glee that it’s all still going on.  It’s also great to see and hear so many of the people involved in these groups and their various satellites continuing to create and amaze as they find new avenues to explore with new people alongside them.  One of which appears thusly.

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Smoke Fairies

Smoke_FairiesIt always seems a bit strange when a band goes eponymous some way into a career.  The usual way about things is to self-titlingly announce yourselves right at the start and then take it from there, wherever “it” takes you.  When it does happen though, it’s an eyebrow-raiser.  Why now?  Why this?

It does all become rather apparent once attention is paid to what the Smoke Fairies have achieved with this record, that both expands their musical palette and brings an intangible feeling of a closer bond, which is rather nicely illustrated by the image on the cover – it takes two wings for one to fly, after all…

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Sunday Whatever

weblogoHope  you like the new look of the place!  There’s still much tinkering to be done as I had to put in a whole new theme at very short notice when it turned out that the one I’ve been using for the last four years didn’t want to play, and I’m not 100% sure about the one I chose in a moment of “that’ll do for now” late on Friday night, but it’s certainly something to build on over the next few weeks or so.

What I am 100% sure on is the new logo and banner.  Nick Rhodes at Switchopen has produced some beautiful art for the likes of Mark Lanegan, Soulsavers, Ed Harcourt, Queens of the Stone Age and so many others, and now his work adorns the top of this page.  I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am that this happened at all and how happy I am with the result, especially after it puts a happier hat on the end of a rather sad few weeks.

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Sweet Apple – The Golden Age Of Glitter

sweetappleI have no idea if it was a collective act or sheer coincidence, but somewhere along the line a switch was closed and we all became earnest, miserable sods.  Or at the very least I did and presumed that everyone else did too.  Thankfully, we have Sweet Apple here to decide that not only is it perfectly OK to be fun and bright and occasionally silly, but it’s also possible to look over one’s shoulder at the past and mark all the colourful spots without getting all maudlin about it.  And of course it’s even better to do so when you get to include Mike Watt in a canoe.

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The Afghan Whigs – Do To The Beast

Whigs_cover_nobandI suspect that I may well be the only person who does this, but there you go.  After waiting with bated breath from the moment it was announced to the day that it finally arrived on my doorstep, I then went and left the new Afghan Whigs album to one side for a day.  Unplayed.  Then again, it’s been over a decade and a half.  Another 24 hours spent tantalisingly within touching distance just adds to the anticipation.

But now it’s here, and after a quick read – because this vinyl edition sees the return of something among the grooves that I thought this wax renaissance had forgotten about – it’s spinning.  And it was worth every second, day and year of the wait.

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