Thursday, 25 December 2008

First Aid Kit - Twelve Grooves of Christmas - A Baker's Dozen

This year saw the emergence of two teenage sisters from Sweden, called Klara and Johanna Söderberg, who are making some spine tingling sounds, that manages to be sweet, spooky, rustic and graceful, all at the same time. The harmonies are astonishingly accomplished and their voices have a richness and depth that belies their youth.

They delivered a cute and crisp version of 'Tiger Mountain Peasant Song' originally performed by this years all conquering alt folk harmonic rockers Fleet Foxes, who have swept the board in the music media end of year recommended lists.

First Aid Kit have a mini album out on Rabid Records called 'Drunken Trees' which is being re released on Wichita Recordings with a bonus track of the aforementioned ‘Tiger Song’ along with a DVD with three songs performed and recorded live in the Swedish forest, something get excited about in 2009 for sure. So here's looking forward to another fruitful year from the duo, hoping they deliver some more of that sweet music medicine, it's just what the doctor ordered.

Here is their version of the old classic.. Merry Christmas from Scratchy Buckles...

First Aid Kit -'Blue Christmas'

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Eux Autres - Twelve Grooves of Christmas Part 12

Eux Autres have emerged just in time to deliver us a lovely festive ditty, as we've all been good children this year. It ticks all the appropriate boxes with jingle bells, singalong chorus and a strumalong guitar. Imagine the soundtrack to two weeks skiing at an exclusive resort, with a group of fascinating friends, all of whom are witty company, have interesting careers and groovy hobbies and amazingly there's not a single bore invited along, apres ski is just one long chilled out party sitting around the open fire listening to Stereolab. 'Another Christmas at Home' is available digitally on iTunes (as well as other major digital retailers)

They have been busy bees this year, as Eux Autres have done a Bruce Springsteen cover for the upcoming tribute album "Play Some Pool, Skip Some School, Act Real Cool" through Where It's At Is Where You Are Records and have also covered Slade's classic tune 'Merry Christmas Everybody' for that label. The group have signed up to do a split 7 inch single for Slumberland Records' as part of their Searching For The Now project, so lots to look forward to in 2009.

The main driving forces of the band are siblings Heather and Nicholas Larimer. Heather plays drums, Nicholas plays guitar and they both sing. This year, they have enlisted Yoshi Nakamoto (The Aislers Set, Still Flyin') on drums and Nevada on keyboards so the new material will have exciting new flavours thrown into the mix.

I really got into their signature tune 'Ecoutez Bien' this year, with it's tense driving indie twangy surf guitar, jangly piano riffs all topped off with Heather's faux sixties euro pop singing, there's even hand claps and woooahhs! thrown in to the mix to spoil us. Check it out on their website here go on it's free, a gift that keeps giving!

Eux Autres - 'Another Christmas at Home'

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Small Feral Token - Twelve Grooves of Christmas Part 11

Small Feral Token unleashed a corker of an album this year called 'Digipop' which popped out back in October. They were favourably featured in the national press in their native Sweden, but mystifyingly have barely registered in the U.K music press so far, thus I'm determined rectify the error of music blogland's ways and correct this oversight.

The 'Feral' sound could be pigeon holed as 'electronica pop' chirping from the same perch as highly commercial acts, like Kylie Minogue and Robyn. Yet they also have some of the musical magpie tendencies of Gwen Stefani and soar amongst the experimental clouds of Björk or Kraftwerk. All the while, lurking beneath the beats, is a brooding undercurrent of foreboding and implied menace, a la Portishead, so whilst all of these elements combine to produce a sumptuous mainstream peacock, concealed beneath the fine drapery, lies the heartbeat of an avant-garde Hitchcockian crow, slyly feathering the nest.

Small Feral Token is made up of the creative partnership between Lotta Westholm and Natalie Sjölund, who are based in Stockholm. Song writing duties are divided up with Lotta composing the foundations of the songs and Natalie writing the lyrics. Together they self produced their debut album 'Digipop' with some collaborative input from Aron Lamm. It was released via mondonuevorecords and is well worth checking out.

Here is the fantastic but spooky new video for the song 'Passionate Glue' It peeks into a nightmarish world, set within a padded cell, trapped within a German Expressionist painting. Lotta and Natalie play 'Alice in Wonderland' type characters, partaking in a nutty knotty knitting circle. Nurse, more meds please, I've dropped a stitch! It was filmed in collaboration with author & director Sandra Nilsen and the crew from Branbomm Film.

Small Feral Token - 'Passionate Glue'

Monday, 22 December 2008

The Boxing Lesson - Scratchy's Twelve Grooves of Christmas Part 10

Occasionally, here at 'Scratchy Towers' we like to chill out, roll a metaphorical fat one and let our 'freak flag fly' Some of the best backing music to get us in that mood is by post rock pugilists The Boxing Lesson from Austin, Texas.

The latest video accompanying the track 'The Dark Side Of The Moog' taken off their 2008 album release Wild Streaks and Windy Days is a bit of a corker. It's directed by Eric Power of, who has produced an animation with a woodcut style that is vaguely reminiscent of The Beatles 'Yellow Submarine' animated film but realised in a sinister David Lynch style.

The Boxing Lesson roll out a brand of psych-rock fit for the twenty first century that shimmys, and soars in epic dramatic spacey tracks but they can also knock you out with a more direct garage band inspired sound. If you like Secret Machines, Porcupine Tree or the most obvious reference point, Pink Floyd, these guys will be a heavyweight contender in your collection.

The video for The Boxing Lesson - 'Dark Side of the Moog'

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Marina & The Diamonds - Twelve Grooves of Christmas Part 9

If I was to stick my neck out and make a tip top prediction for an act from our Christmas list, who's going to make a significant impact on 'muzbizland' in 2009, I'd say it has to be Marina and the Diamonds. She first cast a spell over me back in May with her intoxicating mix of dramatic piano led compositions, off kilter resonant angst driven singing and general maverick demeanor.

We appear to be in a golden era for producing talented female singer songwriters who have been wholesomely raised on a diet of Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell. Marina's songs are hewn from a similar rock and her ability to sparkle with catchy hooks, might just propel her into the mainstream market, now the general public's tastes are becoming more open minded to songs of unabashed individualism, since they've been softened up by the collective talents of Bat For Lashes, Likke Li, Feist and Kate Nash.

Marina has teamed up with the fledging boutique label Neon Gold Records. They are set to release 'Obsessions'/'Mowgli's Road' as a double A-side 7" single, limited to just five hundred vinyl copies on Valentines Day 2009. If you just can't wait until then, you can get a free download copy at and they promise future remixes from Giantess and Little Boots, hurrah! She is also busy working on her debut album produced by Liam Howe who has worked with Sophie Ellis-Bextor.

Here we have the fab new video which is simple, graceful and beautiful.
Marina and the Diamonds - 'Obsessions'

Marina & The Diamonds, "Obsessions" from Neon Gold Records on Vimeo.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Hotpants Romance - Twelve Grooves of Christmas Part 8

It's time to up the tempo with some pop punk poppets who call themselves Hotpants Romance. Laura, Lowri and Katea are a terrific trio of glamorous grungers from Manchester, England and together they make a hell of a pleasurable racket.

It's a reassuringly lo-fi sound that delves into a pick'n'mix assortment of influences from the various jars of genres. They take an ample wedge of attitude from the riot grrl movement, a liberal measure of The Ramones riffs, then add a quarter of the protopunk sensibility of X-Ray Spex and feast on the the fine tradition of cartoon D.I.Y fun punk pop of Kenickie or Shampoo. The combustible mixture is finally washed down with a glass of refreshing Sixties girl groups, leaving you burping like The Vivian Girls and feeling ever so slightly giddy, in a hypoactive state, due to an over indulgence of musical E numbers.

They released a debut album called 'It's a Heatwave' in 2008 and Cherryade Records have just released 'A Very Cherry Christmas, volume 4' an eighteen track compilation album, featuring some of their favourite bands, including Hotpants Romance, who contributed a cover version of the Mariah Carey song 'All I Want for Christmas is You' If only the DFS furniture chain had this used this version, as the background to their excruciating Christmas T.V advertising campaign, instead of the warbling original, it might have perked up those 'gloomy credit crunch' sales figures. (note to lawyers- I have no idea what the facts are about the state of DFS sales, I'm just hazarding a guess that buying a shiny new leather sofa isn't top of people's priorities at the moment)

Here is the Hotpants Romance video for 'Heatwave' The girls put in a sterling performance on Blackpool Beach despite it being overcast and the temperature looks as though it's barely in single figures, plus they're the only people frolicking on the sand and even the donkeys have given up for the day...

Friday, 19 December 2008

Hajen - Twelve Grooves of Christmas Part 7

Of all all the acts that popped up on my musical radar this year, the blip that shone the brightest for me was a young Scandinavian lady called Hajen. Now I know it's poor form to have favourites when it comes to your children, and so the same should apply to all of the music acts that come to shelter under Scratchy's 'umbrella of praise' but sometimes you can't help being just that bit extra fond of the one that stands out, a bit like a poppy swaying in the summer breeze of sound above the music meadow.

Hajen has one of those unique voices, which make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, every time those husky yet chocolate melting vocal chords open up and belt out raw emotion. So far her public song writing output consists of showing just a handful of songs on her myspace website, as well as performing at some low key live shows in her native Sweden. The styles of the songs are melancholy and stripped bare of any extraneous details, with just a piano for accompaniment; authentically crafted artisan tunes fashioned from everyday experiences.

She was initially brought to my attention by 'Mr Swedesplease' who runs an excellent blog, covering all things musically coming out of that country ( and I was immediately drawn into the wake of this jaw dropping talent. The micro-record label Knoppar are looking after Hajen's interests, they describe themselves "as small label based in a suburb of a suburb of a suburb of a big city in Sweden" incidentally Knoppar also have the wonderful Tvärvägen signed to them, please do check them out as well.

According to the good folk at Knoppar, Hajen has recorded a Christmas song, called Hajens Julsång This song will be only available until the 31st of December at the KNOPPAR download store. All of the benefits of the sales are going to the Stadsmissionen in Gothenburg, which helps a number of worthy causes, like abused families, the homeless, mentally ill and socially vulnerable. More information can be obtained here at So get downloading for a good cause, you know it makes more sense than splurging out an a badly fitting cardigan, in the chaos and carnage of the shopping scrum that passes for the Boxing Day sales.

Extra Information: If someone have no pay pal account or problems with transferring the money, please send a mail to http:/mail?view=cm&tf=0& and we will find a solution for that.

Hajen sings her own composition 'Svensken'

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Mimas - Twelve Grooves of Christmas Part 6

Mimas are a four piece Danish/Icelandic band who conjure up an epic rock sound in an seemingly effortless manner. They have released an exuberant debut album called 'The Worries' through Big Scary Monsters Record Label, back in September 2008.

These chaps like to cut the mustard live and clock up the air miles (Ford Transit miles?) on extensive tours, so myself and Morris Chancer had the opportunity to catch the lads doing a blistering set at one of our local haunts, on an evening where the weather was dank, damp and drizzly and not conducive to the big sky soundscapes approach, which these guys aim for. However they managed to shine brightly on stage with a joyful fervour to delivering each track with glorious gusto.

They are inevitably lumped in with Sigur Ros and Explosions In The Sky for musical comparisons, but there's a simple 'joie de vivre' in their approach and playful posturing woven into the the music, even as the song structures build up to peaks of intensity, then gently set you back down to earth with a caress rather than a bump.

This is the video for 'Cat On Fire' by Mimas

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Peter Broderick - Twelve Grooves Of Christmas Part 5

The festive season; you know it's not just about getting hammered at the office party then throwing up on the last train home, having roaring arguments with the in-laws or spending money in an orgy of consumer consumption, in the forlorn hope of keeping the kids' monstrous appetite for toy stimulation sated for a few hours.

This can also be the season to sit back and reflect on the trials and tribulations of the past twelve months, remembering the highs and lows of personal events that have affected one's friends and family. It's a time to take stock of what we would like to achieve in the coming year, plan the steps one must take in order to fulfill those burning ambitions and avoid any pitfalls that have recently encumbered our daily lives. As Del Boy used to say to Rodney in the television sitcom 'Only Fools and Horses' "This time next year, we'll be millionaires"

A perfect musical accompaniment to these precious moments of sanguine thought, can be captured through the languid beauty of Peter Broderick's music. His sublime second album, simply called 'Home' was released earlier this year to oodles of praise, indeed this record has even troubled some of the 'Best Of' end of year lists in the established media. The blend of neo-classical, alt folk and minimalism of Broderick's music, combines to deliver fragile but beautiful music that is haunting yet comforting as well. This talented young man has a promising future ahead of him and should be making a big impression on the music scene in 2009.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Rosie and the Goldbug - Twelve Grooves of Christmas Part 4

Rosie, Plums and Pixie, these names conjure up an image of characters of a whimsical Sixties children's animation, but they're actually the three members of Cornwall's finest musical export in 2008, Rosie and the Goldbug.

It's been quite a year for the band with the release of their self-titled debut album, which received many favourable reviews. They are getting plenty of deserved positive feedback in the national press at the moment, culminating in a support slot on tour with Cyndi Lauper.

We first caught the bug back in July and quickly followed this up with a live review of their exuberant live show, Rosie is a natural star as a front woman and the trio put in a highly polished performance, despite playing what must have turned out to be the most low key gig of the year for them. Their catchy yet kooky sound is dramatic, dynamic and dazzling. A case of "Wham bam, thank you for the glam dram Ma'm, from a fan " if you please..!

Rosie and the Goldbug - 'You've Changed' was released as a mp3 single at the start of this month and the video has Rosie charging around the Cornish countryside on a white horse, bearing a distinct resemblance to an treasured antique doll doing a Boudicca impression after overdoing the Smirnoff and redbull, marvellous!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Matt Bauer - Twelve Grooves of Christmas Part 3

Matt Bauer is a musician who makes you sit up and take notice. Looking like a grizzly bear but sounding like a majestic eagle, his banjo picking, accordion squeezing tunes sent a shiver down my spine on first listen and have regularly been on repeat play since, especially during those those 'burning the midnight oil' sessions.

‘The Island Moved In The Storm’ was released in September 2008 and is his second full length studio collection. It's beauty lies within the timeless quality of the songs, which break free of passing whims or influence of contemporary trends. These tunes could have staked a place in the repertoire of the great American songbook at any time in the last hundred years.

It feels like authentic sound of the backwoods, crafted from a run down shack, fuelled by maudlin evenings sat in front of the open fire, downing illicit liquor and recounting unnerving tales passed down through the generations.

The facts of the back story of this project are inspired by the tragic tale of an unidentified body found in 1968, near to where Matt grew up. It's the emotions he evokes that are important, lost and bereft in the moment of the tragedy and so the listener is drawn into each vignette, as the mystery of the tale unravels, piece by piece. A ghostly, dignified tribute to the missing girl.

Hamnavoe Scottish Dance Band

What did comedy curmudgeon Victor Meldrew do before he settled into an endearingly grumpy "I don't belieeeve it" routine of light family television sitcom farce in One Foot In The Grave?

Well, the storyline has it that he was prematurely retired from his job as a security guard, replaced by an automated machine. However, the Hamnavoe Scottish Dance Band have provided the answer with their (slightly out of focus) front cover of the vinyl release 'Going To An Orkney Barn Dance' produced by Jim Johnston and issued back in 1973 on Grampian Records, based in Wick, Caithness, Scotland.

He was in a traditional Sottish folk band. There he is, sitting in the front row on the left, looking non too plussed, despite getting to sit next to the bonny lass. He looks like someone who was left with cold porridge leftovers for breakfast and as the others appear to be having a fine old time of it, even though it looks as though they've been standing next to that semi- derelict building for hours in sub zero temperatures.

"A barn dance is any kind of dance held in a barn, but usually involves traditional or folk music with traditional dancing. Folk dancing events are often also referred to as "barn dances", despite being held in locations other than barns"
"A barn dance can be a Ceilidh, with traditional Irish or Scottish dancing, and people unfamiliar with either format often confuse the two terms. However, a barn dance can also feature square dancing, Morris dancing, Contra dancing,English country dancing, dancing to Country and western music, or any other kind of dancing, often with a live band and a caller" sourced from Wikipedia

For those of you who have never had the opportunity to go to a barn dance, it's a rambunctious run through lots of traditional music at a community event, with plenty of dancing, eating and drinking and can be tremendous fun as long as you don't mind making a bit of a fool of yourself as you mess up the dance routines and step on other people's feet. I don't know how different the Orkney versions of barn dances are to others, but I suspect that this band played at most of the one's held in that region during the early Seventies.

The band members credited on the back covers are Jack Yorston on accordion, Elaine Wilson on fiddle, Alan Drever on piano, Jackie Miller on Guitar, Arthur Sinclair on bass guitar and William Marwick on drums. They were based in Stromness in Orkney and had been going for about four years, when they cut this platter. I haven't managed to uncover any other extra information on the interweb, so any further snippets would be appreciated. My hunch, is that the cheerily challenged fellow is accordion playing Jack, who arranged the songs as well.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Headlights - Twelve Grooves Of Christmas Part 2

I stumbled into the path of the feel good indie trio sound of Headlights from Champain, Illinois back in August and was immediately entranced by their jingly jangly jauntiness. It gave me a full beam of a smile and as friends here at Scratchy Towers will testify, that's quite an achievement, when I'm in full 'Oscar The Grouch' mode.

The album Some Racing, Some Stopping was released back in March this year and was chock full of sparkling goodness, they have also just released a compilation of remixed tunes, cleverly entitled Remixes, out on Polyvinyl Records and can be bought here They're building up a good reputation as a live band as well and so will surely dazzle plenty more people in the coming year.

Pucker up with the video for the ripe 'Cherry Lips'

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Thos Henley - Twelve Grooves of Christmas - Part 1

In a shameless cash in on this festive season and because every other Tom, Dick and Sally feels obliged to make an end of year list, I've decided to revisit some of our finest finds of 2008.

Let's be clear about this, right from the start, I'm not suggesting this is a definitive guide to the best music released in the past twelve months, it's more of a nod of appreciation to some of the acts I've come across that I particularly enjoyed listening to. To be honest, I don't buy too many contemporary albums these days, mainly because it's increasingly difficult to buy copies on vinyl. It also seems rather pointless for me to devote time and energy to artists who are already being rightly lauded elsewhere; let's face it, what could I add of value, to the avalanche of plaudits that have been heaped onto the marvellous Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes albums.

One final caveat, the order of the countdown is no reflection of the relative quality of the acts. Think of this exercise as being carried out in the style of a school sports day, run by a loony left council, where competition has been banned and everyone's a winner, even the kid who tripped up on his own shoelaces at the beginning of the egg and spoon race (oops! I mean activity) They all win a prize, the coveted Scratchy Buckles Seal Of Approval, which you'll agree is almost as prodigious as a Grammy.

First up, is young scamp around town called Thos Henley, he brandishes a banjo, a smooth voice and a fine ear for a good tune. The recent revival of interest in artists, who inhabit the folky end of the music spectrum is heartening to behold and Thos was a breath of fresh air in this scene. 'Summer On The Thames' ebbed and flowed like a summer song should and his cover of the Leona Lewis hit 'Bleeding Love' was inspired.

If he continues to develop his songwriting skills and hones his pastoral sound, this coming year should deliver some well deserved national attention. I look forward to a debut album coming out and I'm also determined to finally catch the band perform live in 2009 as he regularly performs in my neck of the woods.

He is the video that accompanies a delicate song simply called 'Her'

Monday, 1 December 2008

Ketch Harbour Wolves

The sea is a cruel mistress, as the ole saying goes and so is the music business. In 2003 vocalist Jonathan Tyrrell and drummer Brian Urbanik discovered this, as they set sail on a sea maiden of a band named The Flying Buttresses, they operated from an out the way fishing town called Ketch Harbour in Nova Scotia, Canada. In due course, this project foundered upon the rocks, but the name of their home port was salvaged from the wreck, when the duo retreated to the safety of landlubber's metropolitan retreat Toronto, Ontario. Here, they enlisted old time buddy Scott Wynter on bass and by 2006, the trio had press-ganged into the pack, singer songwriter Liam Brown and keyboard/saxophonist Kristjan Bergey. The quintet set about foraging for the expansive sound that has become their trademark and have made waves, as a showcase band at the 2007 North by Northeast Festival.

Two albums in and the boys are really finding their sea legs. They released a debut mini album titled December in 2007 to ripples of acclaim and have followed this up with Dead Calm Horizon that has been steadily gathering plaudits and tipped as one of best albums to come out of Canada this year. The seven track album has been made available for free from the official website, in a canny piece of marketing and should deservedly widen their appeal. The stand out track Gold nestles nicely next to The Arcade Fire with an epic lush sound and Letters shows off the more rustic side of the group's musical influences. The mournful expansive mood of their overall sound builds you up into peaks of 'The Perfect Storm' moments before casting you adrift on the lush alt rock melodies. This pack is definitely pedigree with no howlers on board either.

Ketch Harbour Wolves-Gold

Ketch Harbour Wolves-Animals

Ketch Harbour Wolves-Letters

The 'Bullitt' stylised split screens in this inaurgral video to 'Words' are worthy of a mention and Steve McQueen 'the king of cool' would surely approve of the track as well!

Ketch Harbour Wolves will be dropping anchor at...

11 Dec 2008 The Drake Underground [w/ SPIRITS and THE REST] Toronto, Ontario

17 Dec 2008 Mongolian - Acoustic Waterloo, Ontario

3 Jan 2009 The El Mocambo Toronto, Ontario

22 Jan 2009 Holy Joe’s Toronto, Ontario

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Fiction, My Empty Phantom, My Education

Austin, Texas has always been receptive to an alternative music scene and has played host in the past to pioneers of experimental rock, Go Roky, go! There currently appears to be a burgeoning wave of ambient post rockers willing to push the envelope of conjuring sound scapes.

Fiction originated, in 2005, as a collaboration between Jeremy Roye (vocals, laptop, effects) and Michael Zawodniak (keys, synths, bass, vocals) The following year, the duo later expanded the line up, with the addition of multi-instrumentalists Matt Latour (drums, flute, bass, vocals) and Henna Chou (cello, keys, bass, vocals) and starting playing live.

Their sound is experimental, with an evident influence of the Radiohead style of pushing the boundaries ethos, particularly in the vocal styles and wobbly head technique of the lead singer. Thrown into the plot are an assortment of strings, synthesizers, multi-part harmonies, electronic beats, live looping/sampling, and flute, all culminating in a satisfying musical page turner. The tempo of the melodies has a slightly twitchy, claustrophobic feel with repeated listens revealing extra layers of sounds, hidden under the nervy, chanty vocals.

The 'You Will Never' E.P was released back in late October 2008. A debut album provisionally titled, American Hologram, is pencilled in for release in early Spring 2009.

I have to give them an 8.23 out of ten! Usually I would shy away from clumsy 'marks out of' reviews but I will make an exception just this once, in order to shoe-in a superfluous librarian in-joke, indulge me please.

Your next chance to catch Fiction live is on the 13th December 2008 @ The Space Cave, 3109 Walnut St, Austin, Texas with D.J Mos Jeficit, Hello Lovers, Many Birthdays, and Little Stolen Moments in support.

They also play Lamberts on 24th January 2009 with My Empty Phantom and My Education, which sounds like a jolly good night out, if it wasn't a three thousand miles trek, I'd be tempted to pop down and catch this triple trippy toe tapping toasty of a show.

My Empty Phantom is basically a one man show from Jesse Beaman, who creates a very pleasing Eno-esque ambient soundscape, chilled but lively enough not be soporific. Have a break from the twenty four hour rush hour of twenty first century living and check out this live version of the hypnotic Field Of Flowers.

My Education have been creating epic sonic post-rock with a twist of Americana since 1999 and have four albums under their belt. It comes as no surprise that they've been involved with two original film soundtracks for Angels Egg and Sunrise, as their music has a definite cinematic quality about it. I can imagine one of their tracks, as the backdrop to a Wim Wenders movie or an indie flick, set in in a Texas trailer park.

The latest album 'Bad Vibrations' was released in June 2008 and this is the video of the title track, which is laconically lovely but a little bit eerie as well.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Strictly Oompah

There is a bit of a kafuffle at the moment out there the media land, as the staple of Saturday night-light entertainment television ‘The reality talent show’ is being hit by controversy. This is because the hordes of compliant armchair viewers, who are normally spoon-fed identikit ‘rising new talent’ performers, are rebelling against the perceived wisdom of the on screen experts.

Normally I don’t pay too much attention to these kind of shows, grudgingly accepting that they have their place in keeping the viewing masses docile, a pop culture popcorn, if you like. Recently, however, I have noticed a disturbing trend towards this pap crossing over into scheduling, where it has no business being.

The BBC have been chief perpetrators, in this dumbing down mission creep, particularly on the morning news, where I‘m subjected to the tedium of interviews of z-list personalities, who have been ejected on the previous evening’s episode of ‘Get Me Out Of The Strictly Celeb Factor House’ All the while, I’m looking on, slurping down my cornflakes in increasing incredulity, as important news stories of the day are cast aside, in favour of flagship presenters babbling away inanely, on a comfortable sofa, about pirouettes/cheesy ballads or eating raw Kangaroo bollocks. This isn’t what I fork out my license fee for, I increasingly find myself frothing away, in the voice of disgruntled Victor Meldrew type from Tunbridge Wells. Just give me some nourishing information you numb nuts, I feel obliged to mutter.

The usual rules of the Reality TV game are that the audience follow the advice of a panel of preening self-satisfied ‘names’ that make sure that the performing singer/dancer/monkey, who is most likely to make the aforementioned Svengalis, the most amount of money, ends up the winner. To compound this racket, the punters have to pay for the privilege of text voting for their favourite act, thus raking in a bit more dosh for the chancers, who in control of the television/production company, that are churning out this pap.

However, this time around, the masses aren’t playing ball, and are sabotaging the whole scam, by each week voting for the crappiest acts to stay in, purely for the enjoyment of buggering up the whole stale process. So, we are treated to the unedifying spectacle of the expert panel, getting more and more exasperated by the turn of events, pleading with the audience to vote out the weaker acts (i.e. low earning potential) and keep in their top tips (i.e. their potential cash cow)

This is the trouble with a voting democracy in action, you can fool the buggers most of the time, but occasionally they see a chink of light and realise they’re being manipulated and throw a spanner into the works. So ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ fans, carry on voting for John ‘twinkle toes’ Sergeant, X factor followers, hang your heads in shame for not following through with the strength of your convictions, having voted out Daniel Evans, described as looking like "Ricky Gervais doing karaoke" by Louis Walsh.

The only sure way that these reality shows can retain their integrity is by tweaking the format, so that the subject matter is so awful, that there is no possible way that the Svengali vultures will sniff any potential money earning streams of revenue to feast on and will slither off to peck the eyes out of some other entertainment corpse. I propose that we introduce a ground breaking show ‘Strictly Oompah’ where rotund, sweaty, Germans parp their way to a lederhosen chaffing, sound honking, thigh slapping final! Surely there’s no money to be made out of this? Is there? Monkey Tennis anyone?

This is the track listing of ‘Strictly Oompah’ by Will Glahe and his Orchestra. Design aficionados: please note that the cover design retains Phase4Stereo’s trademark high standards of quality, even if the music within doesn’t.

1 Radetzky March 2 Cuckoo Waltz 3 The Fisherman From Bodensee 4 Wiener Praterleben 5 Hoch Und Deutchmaeister Marsch 6 Aud De Schab'sche Eisebahne 7 I Lost My Heart In Heidelberg 8 Wien Bleibt Wien 9 Die Dorfmusik 10 Schutzenliesel Polka 11 You Can't Be True Dear 12 The Faithful Hussar

If any of you out there, are deranged enough to actually want to download the mp3’s of this, it can done so here…

More Phase 4 Stereo Oompah delights can be found here..é

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

The Boxing Lesson

Here at Scratchy Towers, we thoroughly approve of those post rock pugilists from Austin, Texas The Boxing Lesson. We are delighted to go another round with them, by showing their latest video accompanying the track 'The Dark Side Of The Moog' taken off their 2008 album release Wild Streaks and Windy Days.

The video is directed by Eric Power of, who has produced an animation with a woodcut style that is vaguely reminiscent of The Beatles 'Yellow Submarine' animated film but realised in a sinister David Lynch style.

Nov 10 Spaceland ? Los Angeles,CA
Nov 11 Plush ? Tuscon,AZ w/Dead Confederate
Nov 13 Percolator ? El Paso,TX
Dec 12 Emo?s ? Austin,TX
Dec 13 The Mink ? Houston,TX

The homespun naive art of this video, also has echoes of some of the more bizarre five minute cartoons that the BBC used to show, in the hallowed 5.35p.m slotback, back in the Seventies, just before the evening news was broadcast. As well as scheduling much loved greats like The Clangers and Bagpuss, they would intersperse these, with creepy, surreal cartoons that must have given a generation of little ones, the heebie-jeebies.

Ludwig especially resonated with me, shown from 1977, it was a crystal egg that metamorphosed into a creature with mechanical devices, set to the music of Ludwig Van Beethoven. . Ludwig and his strange friends, like the dodgy man in the bushes, watching events through binoculars! were forever etched onto my fragile malleable young mind. The cartoon was created by Mirek and Peter Lang and was narrated by Jon Glover, with arrangements by Paul Reade of The Flumps.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Little Boots

In my humble opinion Little Boots stole the show on last weeks edition of 'Later with Jools Holland' first shown on BBC 07/11/08. Sure, Fleet Foxes were sublime and The Killers were on top of their game, but for pure quirky energy and out of the foil freshness, Blackpool's finest power pop pixie, Victoria Hesketh (Little Boots) shone out, amongst a very strong line up.

Now I realise that I'm a bit slow out of the blocks on picking up on this artist, as she is already getting lauded by those in the know in muzbizland, but better late than never eh! The mix of lo-fi piano pop mixed with electro grunge, is brought alive by her keen ear for a blistering pop hook in the melody and has there ever been a better use of a stylophone in music history? Joe Goddard from 'candonowrongatthemoment' electro nerd band Hot Chip spotted her potential and was moved to polish her demo, producing her debut single Stuck On Repeat. She previously served her apprenticeship with Leeds based Dead Disco, who released a self titled album back in 2007.

If your not convinced yet that Little Boots is the future of pop, let me tell you that she uses a Tenori, this is a hand-held screen that acts as an instrument, with the aid of a grid of LED switches, that can be activated to create an evolving sound scape. "It is intended as a toy, but we've pushed it to its limits" quotefromhere It looks like a space invaders console, crossed with the head from Marvin the Paranoid Android of 'Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy' infamy; if that doesn't get yer feet a toe tappin, nothing will.

Little Boots - Stuck On Repeat (Live On Jools Holland)

Little Boots - Meddle (Live On Jools Holland)

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Rusty Goffe

Rusty Goffe is one of the world’s leading vertically challenged entertainers. At four feet two inches, he's had a stellar career as an actor. Rusty's reached for the stars, with the aid of a footstool and has worked alongside some of the biggest names in the biz, appearing in some of the highest grossing films of all time.

Goffe’s break came in 1971 when he played the leading Oompa Loompa in the film version 'Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory' starring Gene Wilder. Read about his “Loompity me and loompity you”. experiences on this classic family movie here

Tim Burton’s recent remake starring Johnny Depp , sadly decided to cast Deep Roy as all of the Oompa Loompas using technological wizardry, leaving other actors of restricted height, out of a job.

Rusty's fledgling acting career really took off though when appeared, unaccredited, in the original 1977 Star Wars as a Jawa in the desert, a Gonk Droid and as Kabe in the Cantina scene, filling in for an actor who had collapsed with heat exhaustion.

He continued his association with George Lucas, appearing in the fantasy film Willow of which he said “Willow A Movie I try to forget. They used 470 little people from all over Europe. The majority was non-actors/actresses who along with their different languages had a lot of problems. They were quite badly treated on the set. I was one "little person" who was not in the group still with the Director. Quote "This one will have to be enlarged" Ha Ha… Ugh!”

His time on the Flash Gordon film seems to been a more enjoyable experience playing one of the guards in Ming’s Empire. He was in the American football scene, stamping on foot of player, and then sticking a sword up his rear!

Rusty has appeared in some of the Harry Potter movie franchise playing a Ministry of Magic Goblin in 'The Order of The Phoenix' and 'The Prisoner of Azkaban' as part of the Hogsmeade Choir. He has recently been filming for the latest episode 'The Half Blood Prince'

Curiously enough, his appearance in 1985 classic, Jurassic Porn, The Lust World – as an Extra is mysteriously absent from Rusty’s online C.V!

As if regular turns on the silver screen wasn’t enough, he has worked on some of television’s biggest shows like The Kenny Everett Show, The Goodies, The Two Ronnies and ahem Chucklevision as Peat the Leprechaun. He has been on one of my favourite comedy shows The League of Gentlemen playing the part of "Simba" in Papa Lazarou's Circus. However, probably the pinnacle of his career, has to be his time as Britain's Bounciest Weatherman on L!VE T.V.

Rusty plays forty two different musical instruments and he put this to good use on ‘For Your Entertainment'
where he played the organ, guitar, trumpet, post horn, timpani, gong, side drum, cymbals and tubular bells.

The blurb on the back of this record states that "At last, after many thousands of requests, comes an album featuring the many musical talents of Rusty Goffe" which is probably over egging the pudding a bit.

As you can see it was made in Rusty's younger days, at Anvil Film Studios, in Denham, England and released by Le-Marc Records. Drool in envy, as you observe that my copy is signed by the great man himself, though I suspect that every copy ever pressed was signed.

He sings three songs full of meaning: Walk Tall, Happiness, and his own composition Ten Feet Tall, which was featured on the Lord Snowden/Derek Hart television documentary "Born to be Small"

In the rousing finale, a medley, he name checks John Peel, which I like to think is a homage to the late great disc jockey and belts out Blaydon Races, which any self respecting Geordie will tell you is the national anthem for that part of the world. Somebody, speaking of Rusty Goffe, once declared: "Never before in the field of human entertainment has so much been given to so many by so little" It will nestle in my collection to be occasionally admired but never played again.

Rusty was later involved in a number one hit, playing an alien in the video of Geri Halliwell’s ‘Lift me up’ track.

Rusty will make an appearance at Movie Mania Weekend” 15th–16th NOVEMBER 2008 The National Space Centre, Leicester, U.K

He is due to appear in Snow White and The Dwarf! at The Brick Lane Music Hall, London. What happened to the other six dwarfs, is this credit crunch in action?

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Air France

November: it's cold, dark, miserable, the economy imploding and it's raining down in biblical proportions.. time to jet off to sunnier climes, for a feel good three minute escape, courtesy of Gothenburg's chill out pilots Air France.

Surely it can't be an expertly cut montage of clips taken from David Hamilton's 1983 romantic film 'A Summer in St Tropez' set to the song 'Windmill Wedding' Yes it is and don't call me Shirley!

This was originally on their E.P 'No Way Down' which has just been re-released in an expanded form, including tracks from the 2006 'On Trade Winds' E.P The stand out song, spooky dreamlike 'Collapsing At Your Doorstep' with it's hypnotic loop"It's all like a dream, isn't it, no, better" will lift you off in business class, heading towards the Maldives, with it's lush tropical arrangement and sensual ambiance. File these guys next to The Avalanches, Air and Lemon Jelly and let them whisk you off into the clear blue sky.

Air France - Collapsing At Your Doorstep

David Hamilton is renowned taking controversial photos, favouring fragrant young ladies as the subject matter. This style of soft focus has become his calling card and periodically been de rigueur with fashion style magazines like Elle and Vogue throughout his career, influencing many other photographers with his grainy, blurry technique.

Watching the video below, reminded me of when I spotted the soundtrack to Hamilton's 1977 film Bilitis, with music composed by Francis Lai, resting in the vinyl bin at a local chazzer. From the saucy cover, featuring wistful maidens getting sapphic, I deduced this was a come on for what was obviously going to be very average ambient music. I left it, determined not to be a sucker for such an obvious merchandising ploy, yet a few weeks later, curiosity got the better of me and I shelled out the dosh in a moment of weakness, reasoning that it might actually be a lost classic soundtrack. However, on first listen, yup you've guessed it, very mediocre Vangelis lite music seeped out of my speakers, never to be played again: if only Air France had been around at the time to provide a proper soundtrack!

Air France- Windmill Wedding

Scratchy's Collecting Tips Number 05

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Fight Like Apes and The Chalets

I had every intention of going to catch Dublin's finest Fight Like Apes play live, a couple of days ago, but things got in the way like life and stuff. This was a shame because I bet they put on a cracker of a show, full of snap, crackle and punk pop, all bouncing off the walls like a kid who has gone hyper on too many e-numbers in sherbet fizz bombs. However, I thought I could still give them a mention, as they make a very appealing racket and are obviously destined for a bigger stage.

Fight Like Apes have enjoyed a meteoric rise throughout 2008 gaining plaudits from many music biz insiders and gaining that all important Steve Lamacq thumbs up. They were one of the buzz bands at this years SXSW festival and have recently completed successful support slot tours with We Are Scientists, Kasabian and The Ting Tings.They have a prodigious support slot with The Prodigy lined up for December and have now been signed to Sony Music Japan; with that pedigree behind them, a rapid crawl up the the music biz evolutionary chain surely beckons.

The debut album, produced by John Goodmanson in Seattle, is called 'Fight Like Apes And The Mystery Of The Golden Medallion' It just gone top ten in their native Ireland. The rest of us will have to wait a bit longer, early 2009? and will have to make do with the second single 'Jake Summers' which is now available on iTunes. It is also on a limited edition 7" vinyl, a mere 500 copies pressed and the vinyl version of the album promises to include a bonus track 'You Are The Hat' so rush down to your nearest stockist, if any are still open for business, and place an order now.

I have been grooming their songs for a few days now, loving the lead tracks like 'Something Global' and 'Lend Me Your Face' These have an intense fresh energy about them with pulsating synths, frenetic bass and guitars all combining to provide an exhilarating backdrop to Maykay's lush bratty vocals, leaves me joyfully swinging through the jungle. It's like Babes In Toyland doing the theme tune to 'The Banana Splits' The only fleas I have picked out of their shiny coat, are that when Pockets interjects with overly gruff vocals on 'Knucklehead' it reminds me of that horrible/twisted work of genius song Barbie Girl by Aqua YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP! OH, DAMN YOU! GODDAMN YOU ALL TO HELL!

They also remind me of another long lost band of whom I was rather fond of, The Chalets, who co-incidentally were also from Dublin, Ireland, who produced a poppier sound but still had that ability to craft a catchy tune, with a full frontal assault on the earlobes, using grungy girl vocals. Whatever happened to them? I'd like to know. They released a solitary album Check In in 2005 and then vamoose nothing! aborted take off, they broke up, which is a crying shame and have unfortunately permanently checked out.

Oct 30th Thu : Ruskin Academy, Thursday Night Live, Anglia, UK
Oct 31st Fri: The Boiler Room, Guilford, London, UK November
Nov13th Thur : JD Set support Sam Isaac @ The Cluny, Newcastle, UK
Nov 19th Wed : 'Levi ones to watch' tour @ Audio, Brighton, UK
Nov 20th Thur : 'Levi ones to watch' tour @ Barfly, Camden, London, UK
Nov 21st Fri : 'Levi ones to watch' tour @ Barfly Dragon Bar, Birmingham, UK
Nov 22nd Sat : 'Levi ones to watch' tour @ Barfly, Liverpool, UK
Nov 24th Mon : 'Levi ones to watch' tour @ Barfly, Glasgow, UK
Nov 25th Tue : 'Levi ones to watch' tour @ Moshulu, Aberdeen, UK
Nov 27th Thu : Roadhouse, Manchester, UK
Nov 28th Fri : 'Levi ones to watch' tour @ Barfly, Cardiff, UK
Nov 29th Sat : 'Levi ones to watch' tour @ Fibbers, York, UK

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Jack Davis and Sailcat

One of the great losses of modern popular culture is the lack of opportunity for an artist, designer typographer or musician to make their mark and express their creative vision on the 12"x 12" canvas that is a record cover. No amount of creative packaging within CD covers can replace the record sleeve as an ideal forum to create a visual impact, as for mp3's, no matter how convenient they are, the accompanying visuals are a non starter.

As a nipper, I used to seek out Mad magazine paperbacks, featuring many of artists that influenced and informed my early scribblings, Duck Edwing, Don Martin 'Mad's Maddest Artist' and Sergio Aragones were particular favourites of mine. The cartoon work of Jack Davis also caught my eye, with his accomplished pseudo realistic brushwork, usually illustrating wacky parodies of popular t.v and movie culture. He was an intregal part of the Mad team, indeed his work had featured right from the first issue and continued to feature in another 241 issues.

Jack's draughtmanship was also put to good use in other fields of illustration like movie posters, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World being a particularly appropriate example. Jack's instantly recognisable style also adorns dozens of album cover sleeves as well.

Jack's appealing style was particularly suited to the medium of the album sleeve, as he could convey an impression of the music/sounds that lay within, using his wild, surreal imagination to paint an eye catching scene. Let's face it, his artwork not only enhanced the record, but was sometimes the best thing about the product. London Record's legendary Phase 4 label, particularly favoured his style, often using his services on some of their more esoteric pressings.

What is the finest Jack Davis album cover? I hear you ask.. in the faux sincere style of a reality show presenter, I can truly say that it's been hard to narrow down a particular favourite as they're all winners, but if I had to pick a champion, it has to be Ray Martin's 'The Sound Of Sight' album. The sheer chaos and frenzy of the cover art is a delight to behold and captures the very essence of the varied styles of music that are recorded within. The artwork explodes off the page, as do the sounds from the stereo, making this a very successful realisation of what must have been initially, a tricky brief.

I leave it to to sum up exactly why this is the pinnacle of Jack's cover art career. This next bit is sourced from

"The Sound of Sight may very well be the summit of the London Phase 4 concept. Like Battle Stereo, the album sounds as if one is listening to a movie soundtrack without the picture. In fact, with the subtitle Music For an Experiment in Imagination, that's exactly what Phase 4 had in mind. One of the best uses of sound effects I've heard on any album of this type."

Another Davis cover that I hold dear to my heart, is the debut album from Sailcat. They were formed by Johnny Wyker and Court Pickett in 1972, both of whom previously were in The Rubber Band. They brought in many established players from the Southern Rock music scene and legendary Muscle Shoals guitarist Pete Carr produced the album. 'Motorcycle Mama' was released on the Electra label and they had a radio hit with the title track which reached number twelve on the Billboard chart.

This was the soundtrack to a period when every self respecting dude was cruising the freeways of America on a chopper straight out of Easy Rider. As you can deduce, there was enough room for his ole lady and the kids riding pillion, all of whom are sticking it to the man, flicking the system a metaphorical bird, by clearly breaching health and safety guidance/rules, as they're not wearing any helmets on the album's front cover.

This slab of Southern country rock is a pleasant enough listen, but the star of the show and the main reason for owning this, is the fantastic artwork by Jack Davis. It's a concept album of sorts, based on a self destructing drifter, who dreams of settling down and starting a family, he then meets a woman who turns out to be more than a match for him.

An entertaining account of how the album got made, written by Richie Unterberger, can be found here. Johnny Wyker briefly resurrected the Sailcat name in 2002, with an album called 'Wild Water-Ski Weekend' on the Mighty Field of Vision label and is currently involved in this project.