Holy Moly and the Crackers
Pink Lane Records
Frighteningly Exciting Gothic Folk Rock!
It was on a sunny Saturday afternoon at SummerTyne Festival in 2011, when I first fell in love with Holy Moly and the Crackers as they stole the show with a performance akin to bands like the Pogues or The Men They Couldn’t Hang that I grew up with.
Over the next couple of years they released a cool EP (Lilly) and a blazing album and I lost count of the number of times I saw the perky quartet play; occasionally augmented by mates on a variety of instruments to beef up the songs and; just because they felt like it some nights. One thing is for sure; they never stood still and always pushed their boundaries….in a good way.
But……absolutely nothing before has prepared me for THIS.
Amazingly, the title track Salem, which opens the record features (stars?) Ruth Patterson singing a very dark tale based on the Salem Witch Trials set to what can only be described as a punchy chamber orchestra and ……wow….and….. DOUBLE WOW!
This is followed by Cold Comfort Lane, a really punchy ’60s influenced hard edged piece of demonic psychedelia; again with Ruth Lyon at the forefront.
Who knew Ruth had such a powerful voice? I did. Honestly, I always thought she was cruelly underused on that front, as her voice was almost velvety smooth and a great counterpoint for Conrad Bird, the band’s traditional #1 singer. But even I didn’t think she was ‘this good’.
Conrad only makes his first appearance on the vocal front on track #3 Hallelujah, Amen and his rich baritone takes us into Alex Harvey and Wily Bo territory on this and the rocktastic Hippitty-Hop of Mary which follows. Play both as loud as possible for the best effect btw.
I’m not going to describe each individual song for you; as that will spoil the joyous surprise that faces you when you buy SALEM; and you will…..you must.
By no stretch of the imagination is this album just about the singers Ruth and Conrad; as to make music of this outstanding quality it takes a collective and an honourable mention must go to the shyest woman in Rock and Roll, Rosie Bristow for her judicial use of accordion throughout and drummer Tommy Evans whose ‘Ringo Starr on steroids’ style provides a spine for everyone else to play off and around.
There are a couple of other songs I must point you in the direction of too; Conrad exuding the delights and dangers of Sugar on the song of the same title; the sexy gypsy jazz-folk of Easy as the Sunrise and the atmospherically sweeping ballad Yours to Keep which closes the album, spring to mind; but by far and away my ‘favourite’ track is Woman From Spain which sounded great the first time I heard it; then on the second play I had to do a double take and go back to the beginning as I couldn’t believe my ears. But yes sirree Bob, Ruth Lyon, the saucy minx really is singing about a torrid sapphic holiday love affair and the band let rip in suitable style behind her too.
In theory none of this should work, but the band threw caution to the wind by raising funds to record SALEM in London Town under the guidance of producer Matt Terry, engineer Gethin Pearson and then getting everything mastered by Nigel Watson who combined have a track record as long as your arm; and collectively have managed to get the sounds that have been bouncing around the bands heads actually down on disc in a way these crazy kids could never have imagined in their wildest dreams.
In this day and age I’m staggered that a band can still be prepared to take risks with their music; as that is what Holy Moly and the Crackers have done here, and they just may have tapped into a whole new magical formula that will win them legions of fans across Europe in a way that their previous ‘good time’ show couldn’t.
Released 14th July 2017
Yep Roc Records
Set the Controls For The Heart of a Space Oddity!!!
I’ve not heard much of Robyn Hitchcock’s’ back catalogue and once walked out one of his gigs……seriously!
So, I was a bit nonplussed when I received his latest and 21st recorded work. It sat on the desk for a couple of weeks until intrigue got the better of me……WAHAY!
I couldn’t believe my ears when the 60’s meets 70’s Glam of opening song I Want To Tell You About What I Want crashed out of the speakers!!!!!!
A heady mix of early Pink Floyd, late Small Faces and a smattering of Bowie’s flat Mockney enunciation make for an amazing start to an amazing album.
This is followed by a PsYch-Glam ode to the original ‘feminist’ Lady Writers….. Virginia Wolf. Whip smart guitars, funky bass and Hitchcock’s insightful lyrics make for a very intriguing three minutes.
In keeping with the heady mix of 60’s Psychedelia and 70’s Glam Rock, there’s an almost poetic feel to many of the songs……Sayonara Judge and Autumn Sunglasses being perfect examples of a songwriter having fun with words and music; and defying you to decipher any (if any) hidden messages.
Who cares if songs like the Country crossover of 1970 in Aspic and Mad Shelley’s Letterbox don’t exactly ‘make sense’……but when did Pop Music have to make sense? Just stick the headphones on and crank the level to eleven!!!! Enjoy the moment…. just enjoy the moment.
For me, on an album of 10 delights there are two real highlights; I Pray When I’m Drunk which is a real British Pub Rocker of a toe-tapping hoe-down of a tune and the one song that probably is a ‘true story’ of sorts; Raymond and The Wires.
Here Robyn takes us back to simpler times in 1964 when a young lad takes a trip into the big city with his Dad and takes an exciting ride on an electric trolley-bus. The detail and the sentiment throughout is razor sharp and heart-warming; plus it reminded me of my first ever trip into Newcastle with my Mother in December 1963…..which stays with me today.
Robyn is a touch older than me, but we both come from the same generation when buying an LP or even a single was a ‘considered decision’; meaning I discovered only Pink Floyd in 1973 or 4 via a 99p compilation called Relics about the same time I was hidden away in my bedroom listening to Tyrannosaurus Rex, Hunky Dory, Ziggy and the White Album…….all of which I suspect Robyn Hitchcock did when putting together these glorious songs.
INTRODUCING has been a complete surprise for me and I guess you too; but should and indeed will appeal to us music fans of ‘a special vintage’ but could also find its way into the collection of those cool kids with beards and tattoos that have recently discovered the delights of Robyn Hitchcock’s influences too.
RELEASED April 21st 2017
Mind Expanding Poplicious Psychedelic-Folk.
I thought my musical tastes were eclectic, but they are nothing like those of my friends at Hemifran in Sweden, who keep sending me large parcels of eclectic CD’s that cover the musical spectrum in ways not seen since the heady days of Volume and Oz Records in the backstreets of Newcastle during my formative teenage years. .
The absolute gem this month is the double album, Second Thoughts from Sweden’s Klas Qvist aka Citizen K.
Teased by the enigmatic album cover I delved in without looking at the press release.
Wow….and indeed WOW!
Disc #1 opens with the twee sounds of birds twittering just before a mournful cello slowly leads us towards a heady late 60’s influenced intense song called Mindexpander 1 & 2 and memories of long, lonely nights in my bedroom wearing huge stereo-headphones ‘trying to discover the meaning of life via music’ came flooding back.
Track #2 Song of Adjustment begins sweetly enough but quickly builds and builds until it reaches a wailing crescendo; which is quite an achievement in under 3 minutes.
Qvist claims to have immersed himself in the Beatles White Album prior to recording this, and to some extent I can hear that in the diversity of songs on offer; but so many other bands from that era like The Moody Blues, King Crimson and more recently Electric Light Orchestra are here too.
Citizen K give us huge sweeping melodies like Train of No Forgiveness and King of Second Thoughts; but temper these with dark introspective Folk ditties like Floor 13.
Disc #2 starts as if it may turn into a concept album; but doesn’t mercifully. Track #1 In Holland is a delicious song featuring Qvist not only singing but somehow managing to play the Grand Piano, Hammond Organ, Keyboards, acoustic guitar AND electric guitar simultaneously…..quite some feat! This leads into Wasps & Cars then Dutch Coffee, which are something of a minor trilogy; but are immediately followed by the Ben Folds inspired So This is Life.
I stand by my lifelong mantra that there is no such thing as a ‘great double album’ and Second Thoughts is no exception; with at least 8 or 9 of the 23 tracks being ‘filler’ or ‘fluff’; but then again these (nameless) songs could have been a separate album aimed at a different market.
For me, the stand out tracks here are Something Truly Magic, This Is Our Town and especially King of Second Thoughts; all of which showcase Qvist and friends myriad of talents and bode well for future releases.
Now I think about it, there is an almost Musical Theatre ‘feel’ to Second Thoughts, with all of the pieces telling their own story but when added together you get a much bigger story by the end….or perhaps I’m over thinking it.
Now I’ve played Second Thoughts twice I’m still struggling to get my head around it as this isn’t what I normally listen to…..but will certainly keep it close at hand for when I need to disappear inside the music for a couple of hours.
Released January 27th 2017