Dan Israel SOCIAL MEDIA ANXIETY DISORDER Self-Release
An Album of ‘Grown Up Pop Music’ For the Alt. Generation.
Dan Israel has been a ‘follower’ of RMHQ for a while now, but only recently plucked up the courage to ask if I would ‘listen’ to his latest (and 15th!) album. It’s been a bit complicated finding a compatible download system; but finally last weekend I got to ‘stream’ SOCIAL MEDIA ANXIETY DISORDER for the first time via his Bandcamp page; and it most certainly will NOT be the last time! First and foremost, should I to be idling away an hour or two in an Independent Record Store the Cover Art would most certainly would have caught my attention; as it pays homage to those amazing VA albums of the 1980’s that were in the record collections of all my friends. But, it would be the music that would make me shell out my hard earned pocket-money; and the opening Power-Pop blast of opening song Be My Girl would certainly have me fumbling in my back pocket, and if the shop-keeper allowed me to hear a second track, and that was the swoonsome Might As Well Been Me, I wouldn’t be able to hand over my cash quick enough! In a ‘good way’ Dan and Band bounce between musical styles throughout; `with the constant golden thread being quality songwriting; and pretty damn cool melodies and rhythms too. There’s a little bit of all that is good in American Music here; with nods in various directions, but no single song here is ever a pastiche of anything or anyone I can think of. I rather like his take on Soft-Rock with Another Day and the punchier Alright, which swings ‘like a pendulum do,’ with both tracks sounding great when played LOUD with the car widows rolled down. Still I’m Lost and Just Can’t Take It are both biting Indie pot-boilers; but when he ‘Revisits’ the latter song it becomes a bit leftfield; and while the Hip-Hop lite track is quite fun at first; Israel’s intro and talk-over quickly becomes irritating. Other more ‘original’ and inventive tracks though; work very well …… most memorably Out of My Hands and especially the piano led Never Go Away, which sounds not unlike someone who can actually ‘sing’ covering Randy Newman. It’s no real surprise that ‘love’ in all it’s guises thematically appears many times; and as a sucker for a good Love Song, the rocktastic Be My Girl; with its echoes of The Rubinoos, The Knack and even The Kinks has been a contender for RMHQ Favourite Track; but that accolade goes to the groovy and psychedelic 125, which has just caught my attention and now I can’t get the bloody melody out of my head! (Which is a good thing, of course). After all the hullabaloo, SOCIAL MEDIA ANXIETY DISORDER has been a blast, and in his own merry way; Dan Israel has constructed an album of ‘Grown Up Pop Music’ for the Alt. Generation.
Alt. CountryPower-Pop meets Punk on the corner of Sad and Lonely.
Well this is a turn up for the books! The publicist who sent this album is more noted for supporting the more Folkier and Rootsier end of the Americana spectrum; so the crunchy electric guitar and slightly angsty and sorrowful vocals on the opening title track 4:30 took me by surprise ……. in a good way. Although Ms. Perley’s exquisite songwriting and storytelling can be a bit dark at times; songs like the punchy Back in Town and Dangerous Love have hooks that will still be in your head hours after last listening to them. I don’t know who she is, but love the ‘effected snarl’ in Angela’s voice as she describes someone in her circle on the mean ‘n moody Snake Charmer. That ‘snarl’, or is it a ‘snear’ also appears on the tightly wound rockers Let Go and Friends (with the latter being the best song the Runaways never recorded!). I’ve been really, really impressed with Angela Perley’s storytelling throughout 4:30; and especially so with the edgy but gentle and reflective Local Heroes which bleeds into Lost & Found; which is clever programming on someone’s behalf. To some degree listening to this album has been a case of ‘right place/right time” as it’s been perfect company in the car on a couple of hot and sultry car journeys; which kind of sums up my two Favourite Songs; the maudlin Don’t Look Back Mary and He Rides High, which precedes it. Even with the Air Con on; you can taste the unrequited love and sense of longing in both songs; which both certainly put the Alt. back in the Country that I love. Think an Americana drenched Bangles or and this even better; Angela Perley being some long lost relation of either Lucinda or Debbie Harry and too you will fall under her spell right from that razor-sharp opener through to the perky and bittersweet love song Walk With Me, which delightfully mixes Pop-Punk with Alt. Country melodrama ……… seriously; what’s not to like?
Nick Lowe & Los Straightjackets Sage Gateshead Thursday 13th June 2019
It’s mostly ‘work related’ but my Gig Going days are few and far between these days; so getting me out of the house on a ‘school night’ has to be for a very special gig; and tonight ticked every box I have. I’ve been a Nick Lowe fan since the heady days of Pub Rock when he was a member of Brinsley Schwarz, then later in Post Punk and beyond as both a Producer and singer I’ve bought far too many of his records to count. Then two years ago the legendary Los Straightjackets recorded an instrumental album of Lowe’s ‘hits’, which we loved at RMHQ ….. as did the Maestro himself, and an EP and now a joint tour has followed! Oh ……. not only, but also …… the evening started with a solo set from Dawn Landes! Dawn’s set got off to a slightly shaky start with her voice wavering a touch on (That’s Why They Name) Whisky After Men; but thankfully her vocal chords noticeably warmed up by the start of Keep on Moving; and the mood was set, with Dawn’s lovely and witty story leading into Straight Lines which I adored,as I did the beautiful Bluebird too. With so much music crossing our path I’d forgot what a gorgeous voice and range Dawn Landes has, and uses exquisitely on a Francoise Hardy song (sung in in perfect French btw) and the a’Capella My Tiny Twilight written for and dedicated to her young daughter; and the finger-clicks and body poppin’ went down a treat with a very reverential audience, most of whom were new to the cause.
It was fascinating during the intermission to see who many of the great and the good in the local music scene were in attendance; not just to see Sir Nick Lowe, but more importantly…….. Los Straightjackets. Our new favourite Men in Black came out wearing their trademark Mexican wrestling masks and slinked straight into a cool surf infused So It Goes which sent shivers down my spine, and as it grew to a climax the Great Man finally made his appearance and closed the song with style and panache! Both of those words perfectly describe the man himself too; grey slacks and a crisp white shirt which perfectly matched his crisp white quiff. As he himself said in an introduction; the night was chock full of two minute songs from his back catalogue plus a couple of new songs and a cover or too…… and the world was a better place for it. Oh man! What a night ……. all of these songs were majestic in one way or another; but hearing Nick and The Band turn You Inspire Me into a gorgeously dreamy ballad, Half a Boy simply sizzled and the new song Blue on Blue dragged the mood down somewhat, but was a lot more delicate and poetic than I’ve ever heard from Mr Lowe in 40 years. The pairing of Nick with Los Straightjackets is/was both bonkers and inspired …… they simply made each other sparkle all night, with the two guitarists each getting tumultuous applause following really dazzling short and sweet solos that were mind blowing. Being the man he is, Lowe even left the stage for ten minutes to leave the Masked Men to regale us with not just their own cool tracks, but some uber-cool and well choreographed moves too. These guys are seriously professional but fun, fun, fun too! No Nick Lowe gig would be complete without I Knew The Bride and tonight’s rendition was both raucous and rip-roaring, with everyone on stage adding something special, which is why it closed the show ……. or did it? Who’d have guessed that there would be an encore? Well, there was….. and guess what, it was only What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding, a timeless and not just underrated song but one that may be under valued too by the populace; but what with everything that’s going on in the world of politics these days ….. it just may be our unofficial National Anthem.
I started Thursday with a 4.30 am alarm call and Friday would be 5.30 am …….. but my subsequent lack of sleep was well worth it.
Every now and again I likes a bit of music from left of centre; be that Tom Waits, Nouvelle Vague or more recently Mishka Shubaly and my new Favourite Offbeat Pop Combo is SadGirl, a trio from LA who sound like they’ve spent their whole lives only ever listening to the Phil Spector Box-Set and the Best Of Jan & Dean. Just like those legendary Phil Spector recordings; or if you are as ‘cool’ as me ….. the Joe Meek ones in the UK, opening track The Ocean sounds like it’s recorded live in a tiny studio with a mad man at the controls; with singer Misha Landes voice echoing across the airwaves while something like Farfisa Organ and a miniature drum kit create a spooky backing sound. This is immediatly followed by a love song of sorts; and if I’m not mistaken it’s more of a Lust Song, as Misha Landes cups the microphone as of every single breath he takes is as important as the words he sings ….. and they possibly are, too. If I ever see photos of SadGirl I’m going to be devastated if they don’t have ‘pudding-bowl’ haircuts, Clubmasters and are sporting polo neck sweaters under their collarless jackets (thing Paul Revere and/or Sir Douglas Quintet) such are the images Little Queenie, Avalon and the hip surf instrumental Hazelnut Coffee conjure up in my addled brain. It’ll be all too easy for many reviewers to dismiss this album as some kind of Retro-Hipster take on Americana; but if you/they take the time and trouble to digest Mulholland and perhaps Miss Me you will unearth some clever songwriting and very creative song construction too. Selecting a Favourite Song is an either/or between the acoustic Water which closes the album and the gloriously bittersweet Breakfast For 2; with the latter taking the accolade as it perfectly sums up why I’ve fallen in love with the whole album. Perhaps time will show SadGirl are too clever for their own good; but until then I can’t recommend this fabulous pastiche highly enough.
Charlotte Grayson Drunk Girls (Single) Shy Bairn Records
I loved this shiny new single from Charlotte Grayson when it was first sent to me a month or so ago; and Coming from Hartlepool, which is just down the road from me in NE England, it’s fair to say that the normally shy and retiring Ms Grayson knows of what she sings 😉 …… everything about it makes it very nearly the perfect 3 minute Pop Song. Plus…… there’s an album in the offing too.
I love it when every now and then I come across an album that’s unexpectedly fun, rocking, and even daring. Dirty Power, by the band Girls on Grass, is this season’s winner in that category. Guitar-fueled songs with driving bass and pounding drums aren’t exactly a new thing in the world of “Americana,” but Barbara Endes writes and sings with such self-assurance and bravado that you have to sit up and pay attention. “I’m in like with a chick who likes good music” she declares in “Friday Night'” and the interplay between the guitars is so seamless and thrilling you have no choice but to like it, too. The first track, “Down at the Bottom” is part power pop, part Bakersfield, with smooth harmonies, and quite a bit of intended cheekiness amongst the twin guitar attack. “Into the Sun” reminds me of L.A. band That Dog in a myriad of good ways, while “Street Fight” is easily the equal of the toughest of Jen Trynin’s nineties tunes. With songs such as “Commander in Thief” and “Because Capitalism” it’s not hard to tell which side of the political fence they’re on and Endes happily pulls no punches while never forgetting that it’s easy to bitch and moan in a song, more difficult to make it rock out effortlessly while doing so, and then to seriously rock out. One thing I rarely get enough of, if done right, are instrumentals. Maybe it was all those years listening to surf rock in my Kentucky bedroom, the nearest beach hundreds of miles away, but it’s always been my opinion that a good instrumental tells a story just as much as a traditional song with lyrics does. And did I mention that there’s not just one rocking instrumental on this album, but TWO? Two solid rock instrumental gems that convey the fun this band must be having on stage. Their website tags them as “cosmic country surf garage” and that’s about as apt as it gets.
Holy Moly & The Crackers Take a Bite Pink Lane Records
The New Wave of Folk-Punk, Straight Outta Heaton!
I can remember as if it was yesterday the first time I ever clapped eyes on Holy Moly & The Crackers. It was a very sunny Saturday afternoon at SummerTyne Festival and they blew everyone else out of the water with their eclectic mix of Folk Rock, Gypsy rhythms and Country Blues styled songs……. and I threw myself at their feet, virtually begging to interview them for the publication I was then writing for. A lot of water has flowed under the Tyne Bridge since that fateful day; with Holy Moly subsequently releasing two ‘critically acclaimed’ albums and selling out shows all across Europe and now playing ‘the big stages’ at Festivals. So with all of that history between us, absolutely nothing prepared me for their ‘new direction’……NOTHING! Previously the charismatic Conrad Bird was Singer #1; but here the rather beautiful Ruth Patterson throws down her velvet gauntlet on opening song, All I Got Is You, a heady mix of Indie, New Wave, Punk and a full on Spectortastic Wall of Sound! You aren’t even allowed to catch your breath before Ruth fires up the reactors again on Upside Down; a song that sounds like Blondie on Brown Ale and Uppers, with a side order of Grappelli influenced violin from Ruth herself! It’s not until track #4 Kiss Me Before You Go (with it’s classy Glitter Band drumbeat) before Mr. Bird is allowed in front of the microphone; and then he only plays the love lorn foil to the temptress that is Ms Patterson alongside him. I may have to come back to this song when I’m dishing out the Favourite Song accolade. It’s easy to hear that the constant touring has been the Holy Molies learning their apprenticeship the hard way; but with spiky and intelligently crafted songs like Take a Bite, which incorporates their collective love of World Music btw; Who Do You Think You Are and the ‘call to arms’, Sister you know they haven’t been wasting their time in the back of a transit van. They have been learning their craft, and learning how to pool their individual strengths into a collective talent that will blow many a headliner off the Festival Stage this coming Summer. You are eventually allowed to catch your breath; on the cinematic I’d Give It All which finds Ruth channelling her inner Shirley Bassey as the band show their intimate quality musicianship in the background. I realise that I’ve sounded all “goo-goo eyes” talking about Ruth Patterson’s singing and performing here; and that’s not out of place at all, because it’s been a helluva shock; but no surprise at all to finally hear her coming out of her shell and leading the band from up front and centre; but this is no solo album by any stretch of the imagination……no, no, NO! I’m pretty sure that this is the album Conrad Bird has dreamt of creating from Day #1; and his songwriting and trumpet playing are both exemplary from the outset, as is his understated rhythm guitar; plus the effervescent Rosie Bristow once renowned for hiding in the shadows on stage; but listen carefully and you will not hear a track here that isn’t all the better for inclusion….. Rosie sure rocks this much maligned instrument! Yet, drummer Tommy Evans and Bass player Jamie Shields manage to create a big ole noise while somehow never ever threatening to overshadow the singers; which is a talent many ‘big names’ could learn from. There’s yet another surprise for me in the inclusion of an actual lead guitarist, Nick Tyler who seems to take on the George Harrison role by supplying brilliantly understated solos that catch your attention; but allow the songs to flow ever so naturally. Phew….. that’s all a bit long-winded, even by my standards; but needs must, and all that. AHA! Favourite Song time; on any other album it would have to be the menacing Naked in Budapest, but that has Conrad Bird on lead vocals; and as Ruth has usurped my mate as Singerist #1 it would be rude not to choose one of hers; so the Official RMHQ Favourite Song is…… Through With Talking; a New Wave infused Punk Rocker, but with a Folk heart. What the Folk is going on here? Fans will no doubt ask. Wind yer necks in; these kids know exactly what they are doing and if you indulge them; as I have done, your life will be undoubtedly enriched by letting this album and this fantastic band into your life.
California Goes Country With Added Popliciousness.
It doesn’t happen often enough here at RMHQ but occasionally we like to open a cold beer, kick back and have……FUN, FUN, FUN and The Popravinas tick that box with a big bright felt tip pen! I first played a couple of tracks a few weeks ago and knew immediatly that to get the best from this album it should be a sunny day and I was preferably in my car, which is exactly what happened this afternoon, so with my cheap sunglasses in place I pushed the pedal to the metal for the drive home. Talkin’ Out Loud is chock full of crunchy guitars, a pneumatic bass and harmonies so thick you can’t see through them. Somewhere between Jonathan Richman, the Beach Boys and half a dozen bands from the 2nd Wave of Mod, this song needs to played exceptionally loud and with the windows down as far as they will go. Tim’s basement follows and my car stereo could hardly handle the popliciousness of it, but thankfully I could and found myself shouting along with the catchy chorus. Coincidentally I had to slow the car down for roadworks just as track #3 Did Ya came on; as it’s a lot mellower with not just an acoustic guitar but a cut glass pedal-steel for good measure too. These guys are now onto their third album in just over 10 years; but really know not just how to write and deliver a super slice of modern Americana influenced Pop Music; but how to mess with our emotions via the way the album is put together. They can out ‘Rock’ many Alt.Country bands with Dun Me In and Almost Sick; but also tug on the old heartstrings with Up The Coast to San Francisco too. Oddly enough it’s just as much fun listening again tonight as it was driving along with the wind in my hair and this album as my soundtrack; and not just today but two weeks ago I decided that the song Hard Way to Make an Easy Living, wasn’t just my new theme tune but one that will resonate with most musicians in my spectrum; therefore it is easily the RMHQ Favourite Song by an Alt. Country Mile! Four songs have been co-opted onto my ‘Soundtrack to Summer 2019’ playlist, and the CD itself will be transferred to the glove box of the car in the morning; as this is the perfect accompaniment for any car journey (or BBQ btw); regardless of the weather and any band who mirror Lynard Skynard by giving you a pronunciation guide (pr The Pope-rah-veen-ahs) have to be good guys in my book.
Although originally released in May 2018 this album, from Northern Irish singer-songwriter Adam Grant arrived at RMHQ in November just as I was overrun with pre-Christmas music and my ‘day job’ was leaving me the wrong side of exhausted, meaning it has kinda got a bit lost. But, because of the magic of modern technology and the fact that Adam Grant, from Co. Down in Northern Ireland, doesn’t expect to Top the Pop charts, his debut album is as relevant today as it was 6 months ago. Grant cites Indie-Punk as the music he grew up listening to, and I’m sure he did, but opening track the Rifftastic My Crowd crosses many musical thresholds for me – not least of all The Undertones and possibly even the lighter side of another gang of Northern Iris legends, Stiff Little Fingers in the way Grant makes the minutiae of every day into a glorious sing-along anthem that will have the kids pogoing as if their lives depended on it! He slows things down just as neatly on the bittersweet love song Closed Doors which follows; which shows what a clever and diverse songwriter he is. Grant takes to the piano, in an Elton John manner on the emotion drenched Avalanche; but it’s with an assortment of guitars that he really shines. The punchy title track My World is a take on ‘what could have been’ scenario as he thinks back to a teenage disco when he should have ‘asked the girl to dance’; but didn’t. Now I think about it, there’s a lot of Byrdsian type guitar playing here; most notably on This Feeling which also has more than a bit Teenage Fanclub pathos in the chorus too. But, what I most like about this album; which is very well put together for a debut; is Grant’s storytelling and the imagery that he conjures up; none more so than in two songs that sit side by side, The Fighter and the glorious four minutes of teenage unrequited love of Punk Girl, which will ring bells for many men in their upper-middle age today. Perhaps because it’s an expression I use myself; but mostly because it’s very well constructed Power Pop song with an infectious chorus and another song that is heavily influenced by The Undertones; but What Ifs and Buts is by far and away my Favourite Track here and deserves heavy rotation on Radio 6; or whatever it is students listen to when they aren’t doing exams! In theory I’m too old to appreciate MY WORLD; but a) I’ve never grown up and b) apparantly I’m regressing back to my teenage years anyways….so I’ve enjoyed every minute this has been on the stereo in the car.
Charlie Faye and the Fayettes The Whole Shebang Bigger Better More Records.
Spectacular Modern Retro Pop With Added Punch and Pow!
I’m a softie when it comes to girl groups, especially any band who emulates them and successfully updates the genre for modern times. The Prissteens wowed me with their punk rock back-beat, the Watson Twins’ backing Jenny Lewis gave me wonderful chills, and this time around it’s the soulful Charlie Faye and the Fayettes. The Whole Shebang is twelve songs featuring a roster of Los Angeles-based musicians including drummer Pete Thomas of the Attractions, Telecaster master Bill Kirchen, and bassist Eric Holden. The Fayettes half of this band are the wonderfully talented and always charming BettySoo and Akina Adderley who do an admirable job with the sassy background singing. You can practically hear the choreography that goes on while they’re oohing and aahing. (Although I wish these fantastic vocals were a mite bit more present in the mix, just sayin’.) But mostly these songs are Charlie Faye’s vision of a world where a woman can make her own choices, free from the pressures of patriarchy, and where a smart, confident person can dance their troubles away. And confidence is the main thing here. There are no wishy-washy love songs or questioning your wants and motives on these tunes, Faye knows what she wants and how to go about getting it. The tunes may be retro-inspired, but the subject matter is clearly full 21st century, forward thinking, and post #MeToo movement. The 1970s type production suites a few of the songs a bit better, especially when it transcends its purposeful paint by numbers sounds and goes for those chilly Farfisa lines and the lead violin in “Night People,” and they wisely take inspiration from the B-52’s on “You Gotta Give it Up (Party Song)” with its surf rock guitar and vocal playfulness. The Whole Shebang gives us songs ranging from the joys of simple love to the joy of truthful independence, they have loads of soul, and you can tell these gals and guys are having fun while they rock out. The whole shebang, for sure.