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.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Hajen and Tvärvägen

Hajen is a singer songwriter from Gothenburg, Sweden, who has a talent for penning languid mournful tunes. She possesses a voice of rare depth and soulful resonance, it gives you goose bumps, just from hearing a fleeting glimpse of her vocals.

Her real name is Amanda and her nom de plume 'Hajen' seems to translate as 'shark' in Swedish. Beyond these sketchy details, I have little more to add, except that she tinkles those ivories with a restrained air of beauty and I look forward to hearing more of her work in the very near future.

Some Upcoming dates...

25.Okt.2008 Rookiefestivalen ’08 Hultsfred
20.Nov.2008 Kontiki Gothenburg
23.Nov.2008 Ladyfest GBG - Gothenburg
27.Nov.2008 Kvinna Kontiki Gothenburg
20.Dec.2008 Woody West X-mas, Gothenburg

Check out her label mate Tvärvägen, he makes a sound akin to 'An Old Curiosity Shop' being run by Noggin the Nog in a fading seaside town. Bonus points are awarded for featuring a record player prominently within this video.. His new record, Sånger från Tvärvägen, is out in on 19th of November on Knoppar Records.

Tvärvägen - September from Henrik Ohberg on Vimeo.

Thanks to these top blogs for bringing these artists to my attention...

Promotional photo material was shot by the talented Hanna...

Cultural references for younger folk, unfamiliar with the Saga of the Northlands here..

Friday, 17 October 2008

Peter Broderick

It’s always a good sign when an album's content, defies pigeonholing and Peter Broderick’s style could be described as anything from classical, folk, Americana, minimalism, lo-fi, slowcore or a soundtrack to a pastoral scene.

The music he creates elicits responses like haunting, reflective, hypnotising, spine tingling, soothing, peaceful, beautiful and heart wrenching. The tender moments of Brian Eno, Michael Nyman and Harold Budd, or the more introspective sequences of Sigur Ros, spring to mind when referencing his musical bedfellows. Peter Broderick, is a classically trained multi-instrumentalist, born and raised in Portland, Oregon, who at the tender age of twenty one, is perched on the ledge of a creative mountain. He is set to take flight and soar towards the clouds of critical acclaim and hopefully ascending favourable thermals of popularity.

The melancholy charms of Peter was first heard on vinyl through an early single 'Retreat/Release' out in 2007 on Type Records, a mini album/maxi E.P titled 'Docile' soon followed on Kning Disk

‘Float’ was his first fully fledged album, it drifted into the public realm, back in May 2008 on Type Records. Short, sparse piano compositions, complemented by lush strings, dominate this mostly instrumental collection of ten songs. The resulting sombre yet atmospheric vibe yields a touching yet tentative debut.

Broderick, despite his tender years, has managed to chalk up an impressive list of collaborations and contributed to such luminaries as M. Ward, Zooey Deschanel’s She and Him project, Horse Feathers, Norfolk & Western, Loch Lomond ,White Hinterland, Library Tapes, Machinefabriek, Laura Gibson and Our Broken Garden.

In 2007, he moved to Copenhagen, joined Danish folk band Efterklang and spent the majority of the year, touring around Europe, performing as part of their live band.

The second album Home is out now on Bella Union, in Europe and Hush Records in America. Broderick has progressed into a more expansive sound with increasing use of delicate layered vocals and guitars. The use of percussion, banjo, mandolin, a saw, pump organ, field recordings and clay whistle show the variety of souces Peter uses to convey his own musical vision. Listening to the results, takes you to a warm safe place, like recalling a favourite hidey hole from childhood, a reassuring hug from a loved one, a secure retreat.

Home and Float have been pressed on a limited edition vinyl, this begs the question why limit these splendorous objects? it should be obligatory for every connoisseur of gorgeous, emotive music to own and cherish these records.

18 Oct 2008 Beurskaffe w/ Horse Feathers Brussels
20 Oct 2008 The Social w/ Our Broken GardenLondon
22 Oct 2008 INSTORE PERFORMANCE at Resident Records Brighton
23 Oct 2008 Moles Club Bath
24 Oct 2008 Taylor Johns House w/ Olafur Arnalds Coventry
02 Nov 2008 Union Chapel w/ Sylvain Chauveau and Greg Haines London
13 Nov 2008 Schokoladen Mitte w/ Berlin
29 Nov 2008 Uppsala Konsert & Kongress w/ Efterklang Uppsala
05 Dec 2008 Loppen w/ Mugison Gothenburg
06 Dec 2008 An Club w/ Efterklang Athens
08 Dec 2008 Hafenklang w/ Mugison Hamburg
09 Dec 2008 Loppen w/ Mugison Copenhagen
10 Dec 2008 Voxhall w/ Mugison Århus
11 Dec 2008 Posten w/ Mugison Odense
12 Dec 2008 Studenterhuset w/ Mugison Alborg
13 Dec 2008 State X Festival / Paard Den Haag
14 Dec 2008 Admiralspalast w/ Mugison Berlin
15 Dec 2008 Orangehouse w/ Mugison München

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Matt & Kim - Daylight

Brooklyn's finest dance duo, Matt & Kim have come out of a two year hibernation to release a real doozey of a feel good track 'Daylight' that has a killer piano/drum lick, which will burrow it's way under your skin and head straight for your cerebral cortex, pretty much from the first play.

Now I'm usually pretty slow on picking up on zeitgeist tunes in the media, as my friend can bear witness when I came home from a hard day's vinyl digging last year and commented that I kept hearing a toe tapping tune song about a brolly, blasting out of every car/shop in the town centre, to be informed that this was Rhianna's current number one smash hit that had topped the charts for weeks. However, I reckon this tune could bubble up, at least amongst the more discerning crowd, if there's any justice left in the music meedja.. it's also a free, legal download, what more can you ask for! Enjoy...

It also reminds me of Justice vs Simian's 'We Are Your Friends' which became the soundtrack of indie hipsters back in 2006, becoming omnipresent, as essential backing music to all 4music type of t.v programming, you know the kind of show, where impossibly cool and attractive presenters deliver witty 'off the cuff' post ironic comments, linking frothy filler American teen lifestyle shows. Despite this, the 'Friends' track still puts a smile on my face and 'Daylight' brings out the same sunny disposition in me, this is quite an achievement, as friends and acquaintances can testify to.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Department of Eagles - In Ear Park

I hope Scratchy will forgive me this, as it verges deep into the territory of music blogs that have become opinion-forming behemoths of the web. Places such as Pitchfork, Stereogum, Drowned In Sound, etc. But I can't resist posting something on the occasion of an event almost as unlikely as the collapse of western capitalism ... oh.

Well, perhaps 2008 will be remembered for two surprising and unlikely circumstances; the collapse of western capitalism and the release of the Department of Eagles second album, In Ear Park.

The Department of Eagles (or The Eagles, as I like to call them) will always have a special place in my knarled and twisted heart. When I discovered their first album, Whitey on the Moon UK, the '90s were still providing music's creative underpinnings, despite 9/11 and the fact that Dubya was enjoying the aroma of a freshly opened jar of Iraqi flavoured wuppass. It was 2003 and their bedsit-guitars and cheekily-sampled cleverness was a tonic, at a point when all hope seemed distant and everyone had turned inwards. For the first time in years I seriously didn't know what was coming next and it became my constant companion on the daily snail-trail from SW16 to W1; for many more weeks than was strictly sensible.

And then one half of the band, Daniel, became involved with indie darlings Grizzly Bear, immediately giving them a creative leg-up, all the way to the heights of coffee-table land. (Aach, I hate that, but it's true isn't it?) Fair do's, the Grizzlies have yet to bank it like your Coldplays and whatever, but among the more mature so called cogniscenti they became a name to drop. Yellow House just grew and grew, R.E.M. even gave them a support slot. This, I thought, was the last I would ever see of the quixotic charms of the Daniel and Fred show.

But I was wrong! Daniel, it appears, has talent to burn and wanted once again to lift the guttering torch of the Department of Eagles. Time for Fred to put down those cartons of Oreos and pick up his guitar! And meanwhile, everything has changed since 2003. The new arrangements are even more densely packed than the re-made tracks to be found on Grizzly Bear's 2007 Friend EP. One fine morning I walked into Soho's Sister Ray and inquired after Grizzly Bear, I was informed that they were "a bit jazzy". Close study of In Ear Park will confirm this critique. The key changes are utterly twisted. IMHO (as I believe current usage dictates) the Eagles have created an album of great musical and emotional refinement.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Scratchy's Collecting Tips Number 03

Huw Lloyd Langton wows 'em at Open Mic night...

... at the Woodman Pub near the Bournemouth/Poole border. A regular now at the impromptu muso-fest - "I only comes down when the missus has finished with me for the night" - says a man looking much older than his 57 years would presume. Ever cheerful and chatty, Huw cuts a frail figure with stick-thin drianpipe jean-enclosed legs peering below a dusky-green ex-army coat. Was it the aftermath of his Legionnaire's Disease or the aftermath of Hawkwind's legendary drug consumption that has left him a more lucid but similarly delicate version of Ozzy?

Whatever his constitution, the old skills are ever present. He has to have his guitar carried down to the pub for him but when wielding it on the cramped, slight raise that is the Woodman's stage it is a show of effortless mastery that greets us. Some old blues, some old Hawkwind (Hurry On Sundown! What else do you need!) and long, extended jam sessions with the disgustingly talented Marcus Gee on bass (in the photo above). Credit, too, to the mystery bongo player who lifted the whole evening with his masterful skin-thumping.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Scorpions - Lonesome Crow - Fly To The Rainbow

The veteran Teutonic rockers are rolling out for a short tour of the U.K this month and have enlisted former members Uli Jon Roth and Michael Schenker to join them. This gives me an opportunity to highlight two classics of their early back catalogue, which might have fallen off the critical radar for those of you, who only associate the band with the Berlin Wall toppling, lighter waving, corny whistling, cod rock Winds Of Change song.

The Scorpions go way back to 1965 when Rudolf Schenker started up the band in Hanover, Germany, influenced by Elvis Presley, The Beatles and the many British beat groups like The Yardbirds, Pretty Things and Spooky Tooth that followed in their wake; they served their apprenticeship delivering standard beat sounds.

By 1970, the group's line up had settled down with the addition, from the band Copernicus, of vocalist Klaus Meine and Rudolf's younger brother Michael, who had already estabilished his reputation, as a child prodigy on the guitar, with Cry (1968-1970) . The five piece were completed by Wolfgang Dziony (Drums) and Lothar Heimberg (Bass) together they made a debut album, which was issued only in Germany in 1972.

Lonesome Crow is regarded as a footnote in the Scorpions discography, as it's sound is far removed from the straight forward hard rock tunes, like Rock Me Like A Hurricane and Lovedrive, that gave the band such commercial and critical success in the later Seventies and Eighties. However, aficionado's of early Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and progressive psychedelic Krautrock bands, like Can and Neu, should be making a beeline for this fine example of the genre. The experimental fluidity of the tracks culminating in the thirteen minute epic title track gives room for Klaus Meine's operatic vocals to be stretched and complemented by the remarkable guitar workout from junior Schenker, who was sixteen when he recorded this, and bar some obvious Hendrix influences, delivers an incredible performance.

The album cover featured is the U.K Heavy Metal Worldwide re-release from 1982, which is preferable to the original cover, as it features Rodney Matthew's glorious artwork.

Lead Track Promo for I'm Going Mad 1972

In 1973 Michael left to join UFO, whom Scorpions had supported and led to the temporary break up of band, this must have created an interesting Sunday lunch atmosphere round at the Schenker family table for a while. Rudolph, however, didn’t let the grass grow beneath his feet and soon enlisted Uli Jon Roth, who had previously completed lead guitar duties on the UFO tour, so the Scorpions were back with a refreshed line up and went into the studio to record the second album.

Fly to the Rainbow, released in 1974, had a harder edge, with fewer excursions into the Krautrock experimentalism and wistful psychedelia of it’s predecessor. Uli’s soaring guitar antics were overtly following in the footsteps of Hendrix, yet his mastery of the lead guitar proved to be an exciting addition to the formula. Some tracks still retained a dreamy quality to them, notably on This Is My Song and the title track. In some ways, this is a more fully realised album than 'Lonesome Crow' with tighter, more disciplined song structures delivering more oomph to the mix.

If 'Fly to the Rainbow' straddled between the stoner and rocker Scorpions, the next album In Trance, defiantly set it’s stall out as a hard rock album and signalled the end of the musically more far out Scorpions and the beginning of the commercially successful outfit that went onto sell twenty million plus albums.

This Is My Song 1974

European Tour
October, 12th Newcastle Carling Academy U.K
October, 13th Glasgow Carling Academy U.K
October, 15th Manchester U.K Apollo
October, 16th Southampton Guildhall U.K
October, 18th London Hammersmith Apollo U.K
October, 19th Wolverhampton Civic Hall U.K
October, 25th Strasbourg Zenith France
November, 2ndTallinn Estonia
November, 4th Riga Latvia
November, 6th Vilnius Lithuania
November, 10th Yaroslavl Russia
November, 19th Estoril Portugal

Wednesday, 1 October 2008


I'm sure these don't apply to this Blog but I thought I'd share them with you all...

Masters of demotivational posters, , have hit the nail on the head.

This one ....







... is from the utterly sick & depraved (now one of my favourite sites). It does clearly show the inaccuracy of scratchy's self-portraits (except perhaps for the chin sans stubble).

Don't worry Scratchy, I'm sure they're out there really....