May 16, 2007

From the lips of the ‘niX… with PhoeniX PhiL

Filed under: music, film, reviews, editorial, PhoeniX Phil — pxpl @ 6:06 pm

From the lips of the ‘nix… with PhoeniX PhiL

I can’t believe that there hasn’t been more made of the fact that there was a kids film called “The Last Mimzy” playing in the cinemas recently… I always thought “Mimzy” was posh slang for um, well a virgina. And to think they used to blame alchopops for the supposed huge amount of under aged sex that occurs in the UK. It used to make me laugh, I drank loads of alchopops as a young man but couldn’t get laid for love nor money. Do they even still do the classic alchopops… like Hooch or Two Dogs? I’m typing this up during my lunch break at my boring job and oh I suddenly crave an alcoholic  lemonade.
Memories are flooding back to me of New Years Eve 1995 / New Years Day 1996. I was stuck in a lock-in happening in a pub located on the Isle of Sheppy. The night had been typically awful, I had gone there with my friend and his girlfriend who was desperately trying to get her friends to fancy me (and oh! how I had to bare distant witness to disgusted refusals). I wasn’t too bothered as none of the girls liked Kiss (this was a year before I resigned myself to the sad truth that my first girlfriend probably wouldn’t like Kiss). So with any threat of sexual tension out of the way I found comfort in constant “one bottle of Two Dogs” demands at the bar to a soundtrack of current hits such as “Sorted For E’s & Whizz”, “Girl From Mars”, Mike Flower’s version of “Wonderwall” and um, “I Believe” by Robson & Jerome….
The night ended with me drunkenly p!ssing up against a wall in East Street, Sittingbourne while two chav girls clapped… which I kidded myself could be seen in some cultures as getting laid…
…ah the height of “The Brit-Pop Wars”.
Now then, I hear you screaming “Why oh why is he banging on about some forgotten night back in the 90’s?” Well, being an “indieboy of a certain age” I can’t help but feel a little bit of a tingle in my stomach about return of the Manic Street Preachers and Ash. Two bands admittedly well past their prime but seemingly two bands ready to make amends for previous crimes.

Of the two bands, the Manics perhaps fell the furthest. Back in 1992, they were possibly my favourite band in the world. I wasn’t a typical “Old school Manics fan” (things like that don’t reach Sittingbourne. For example “New rave” hasn’t exploded in Sittingbourne… possibly because “Old Rave” still hasn’t left Sittingbourne… but that’s another story for another time) but I was in love with them. I had a strange taped copy of “Generation Terrorists” I got from a friend of friend’s cousin in exchange for taping “Use Your Illusion 2″. My version of “Generation Terrorists” had a completely different tracklisting (it kicked off with the B-side “A Vision Of Dead Desire”… Yay!) and ended with a lengthy interview with Nicky Wire on the Steve Wright Radio Show.

For a long time that tape was my sonic bible… and Nicky’s claim in the interview that he “couldn’t see past” only releasing one album filled me with a strange kind of electricity. I liked Nirvana for their energy and mischief but I couldn’t relate to their songs (”a mosquito, an albino”… um, ok?) so the Manics were the ones that soundtracked my teenage essence.

I was a bit disappointed with “Gold Against The Soul” (despite it’s truly awesome singles) and “The Holy Bible” was great but it didn’t bond with me the same way that “Generation Terrorists” did. I’m not going to talk about the tragedy that followed as enough (possibly too much) has been said in the past, however I will add that “Everything Must Go” was a great hit fuelled album and would’ve been an ideal place to stop BUT NO the surviving three decided to carry on.

What followed was an album called “This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours” which in my opinion is the worst album ever released… sorry I’ll say that again THE WORST ALBUM EVER RELEASED. How it sold aswell as it did, I’ll never know… it’s 63 minutes and 10 seconds of boring dirge ( “S.Y.M.M.” is possibly the most terrible closing track ever). The only song I can stand on it is “Black Dog on My Shoulder” which is the one most people hate.

I couldn’t forgive them for that album so while the MSP limped on to produce two further albums I decided to look away. But now they’re back… dressed in their army clothes again singing a quite pleasant little ditty called “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough ” it’s not a classic, it’s not a return to form but is the sound of band seemingly getting something out of being a band again. It also features Cardigans vocalist Nina Persson who also seems to be feeling the “hooray lets be exciting pop stars again” vibe. So for the record The Manics: I forgive you… heck, I may even buy your new album.

Ash on the other hand are a strange property, they were responsible for some of the greatest indie-punk singles ever but there seems very little else for them do. I want the new Ash album to be amazing but I’m fearing it will be “Meltdown” part two. Time will tell I guess.

My long predicted “Jellyfish / McFly crossover” finally happens, as McFly’s new single is a cover of “Baby’s Coming Back”. Quite brilliantly though, McFly have developed a charming harpsichord / percussive little riff for the intro …which makes sense seeing as how McFly have already used the original intro of the song for their second hit “Obviously”. Bloody kids and their thieving… they’re just making life difficult for themselves.

I’m not a big fan of nepotism so I have to tread carefully with my praise of Lucky Soul’s debut album “The Great Unwanted”. My love of Lucky Soul is well documented and I’ve bragged like a fanboy about doing handclaps on the album so all I say is if you like shimmery, heart break indie-pop i recommend you check out the album. “Lips Are Unhappy” and “One Kiss Don’t Make A Summer” are glorious should-be-massive-pop-hits and I’m loving the final trilogy of teary eyed songs on the album (”Towering Inferno”, “It’s Yours” and “Last Song”). I prefer LS when they sound a bit bruised by life… not that I’m wishing them to be actually unhappy in life… I saw that Carpenters documentary t’other day it was very upsetting. DON’T SUFFER FOR YOUR ART LUCKY SOUL… PLEASE DON’T SUFFER! I think “Towering Inferno” may be my favourite.. that horn sound is “the sex”. oh yes. Yes I would like to see LS wade further into darker waters. They’ve stuck their toe in… now I’d like to see them get their knees wet.

Also me and Tamla Tim made the sleevenotes… which officially makes us the Shampoo to LS’ Manic Street Preachers. Bring on the Yen.
Am I the only one more than a little nervous about the news that Kylie Minogue is going to guest star in the next X-Mas Dr.Who? I mean I love Kylie and I love Dr. Who but surely this is going to be “the sh!ts”. Don’t believe me? Well… apparently the story is that she’s a sexy Cyber-woman sent to seduce “The Doctor”!!! Jesus Christ… how awful does that sound?


And I’m getting sick and tired of all this Dr.Who quasi-love interest stuff… HE’S DR.WHO… NOT AUSTIN POWERS FOR CHRIST’S SAKE! With rumours of John Barrowman returning shortly I’m expecting the innuendo level to reach “Carry On” level by the end of the series.

I’m putting money on the end of the Christmas episode being that The Doctor reprograms Cyber-Minogue and sends her wrapped in a bow to Captain Jack Harkness as a Christmas present. Captain Jack looks her up and down and with a frown sighs “Oh well… what’s good for the goose..”(he then undoes his flies)”…is good for the gander… now “spin around” and touch your toes”. Captain Jack lets out a satisfied “Oooh”, he then looks straight into the camera and with a wink wishes us all a very happy Christmas. Is this what Terry Nation died for?
Anyhow, I’m very excited… it’s less than a week until Spider-man 3. I am a bit concerned about what Venom will look like. In this picture…

Venom Spiderman 3 
He looks like a demented alien toddler… hopefully they cgi it up. Or something… it’s almost as bizarrely scarily rubbish as that robot-woman thing at the end of Superman 3. Maybe that’s why they haven’t been showing much Venom in the trailers.

Oh well see you same time next week True Believers…

..and you can trust this
…it’s from the lips
…of the ‘niX

May 4, 2007

Tales Of Middle Earth… By Blue Peter (who wrote this having drunk four cups of tea yet not having visited the toilet)

Filed under: editorial, authors, Blue Peter — bluepeter @ 2:41 pm

There’s probably been loads going on in the Midlands lately. Absolutely loads… There was a Battle of the Bands in my hometown of Worcester. I know that for sure. I don’t, however, know who won it. In fact, for all I know the final was postponed due to the ghost of Sir Edward Elgar himself appearing on The Marr’s Bar stage and puking ectoplasmic bile over the punters whilst gently tugging himself off and murmuring, “No shame.” This could have happened. The point is that I just don’t know and the reason for my not knowing is that, apart from the odd game of chess with the landlord of my local (current tally one-all, everything to play for), I’ve been bunkered down in my bedroom working on AWWBLOT’s debut album.

At the end of last year the organisation that is AWWBLOT found itself in a tricky situation. Redundancy and personal problems had led to the band having no money and, due to getting stung by the industry earlier in the year, no direction. We did have a load of pretty good songs though. We were sure of that. So we went to the pub and pretty quickly decided to fuck it all off and record an album anyway, with or without industry support. In order to cut costs we’d do it ourselves (Chris Them is, after all a named producer on Steve Harley The Cockney Rebel’s last album!) and spend money on getting it mastered at the end. Oh how joyous the idea was! Oh how lovely!

Finally we’d bitten the bullet; the plan was good. We were going to take on the DIY ethos whole-heartedly! Good, good and very good! This plan was going to work and, sitting in Monroe’s Cellar Bar supping on our light ales, heavenly warmth filled our bodies. Fast forward four months and it’s a f*cking living nightmare. I have no idea how many cigarettes we’ve smoked but my lungs feel like lead. Chris is having a daily aneurism as things that worked the night before aren’t working the day after and James Perry (our lovely pal who stepped in for engineering duties) has taken to telling us that he hates us every single time we speak. Half the album doesn’t have bass or keys. There is only one song with vocals (boy vocals that is, Red, our girl singer, hasn’t even heard a note yet…)

The drums were finished in three nights yet it has taken over two and a half months to finish the guitars. I have been living in Groundhog Day. Every morning I awake hung-over. I go to work. I finish work. I pick up Chris. We go to mine. James arrives. We record another f*cking guitar line. Chris tells me it’s out of time. Repeat scenario by 15. I begin to cry. Chris plays guitar line himself to show me how to do it. It is spot on. We record Chris doing guitar line that I was incapable of. Chris and James leave. I drink.

However, the guitars are now done and tonight is the second night of working on vocals. Soon Joe will finish his bass lines. Matt will finish his keyboards. Red will sing. It appears there is light at the end of the tunnel but I can only go on trust.

PS. If anyone wants to appear on the album. Go “woop woop!” into a recording device, e-mail me the sound on pete_of_them@hotmail.com and we will try and plaster it in somewhere. Or, don’t. Perhaps just eat a cake and send us the sounds of that. I’m sure we’ll use it.

Blue Peter is in And What Will Be Left Of Them? and Girls On Film.

Tamla Tim’s Soul Survivor

Filed under: music, editorial, Tamla Tim — tamlatim @ 12:21 pm
Stevie Wonder, “Superstition”, Motown, 1972

We take a detour into the 70s this month for a Stevie Wonder classic. Of course he’d stacked up a shed full of classics before this; the 12 year old Steveland Morris having been signed to Motown and dubbed ‘Little Stevie Wonder’ in 1962. But it’s songs like ‘Superstition’ that represent a change in attitude and direction for Wonder.

Motown was known as ‘Hitsville’ for a reason and reportedly worked on the same ‘production line’ basis as the Detroit car factories that surrounded it. Artists, songwriters and producers were usually considered separate, specialist parts of the process and crossing over into other areas was generally frowned upon. This meant that creative control lay with the label rather than the artists themselves. Being outrageously talented in several areas Wonder, along with other artists such as Marvin Gaye, reputedly argued with Berry Gordy about the restrictions of this set up and control of his songs. As a compromise Motown allowed him to release an instrumental album that strayed from his established soul-pop sound, but only under the pseudonym Eivets Rednow (although “How do you spell Steve Wonder backwards” is subtly printed on the top corner of the album sleeve).

However the arguments continued and Wonder allowed his Motown contract to expire, leaving the label on May 13th 1971, his 21st birthday. Having seen him independently record two albums after leaving them, Motown were finally convinced that the trade off on creative control and the rights to his own songs were worth the talent (and marketability) he brought and he retuned to the label under a year later.

His first release in this new era was “Music Of My Mind” which was an immediate departure from the usual Motown album format – often a collection of singles, b-sides and covers, and Wonder instead delivered a considered, unified LP and included his early experiments with synthesizers and influences from other genres of music. But, for my money, it was the album “Talking Book” and particularly the single “Superstition” itself, that saw these ideas come to fruition later the same year.

The song was originally written for guitar virtuoso Jeff Beck (who played guitar on the album) and that central, spine tingling riff gave Wonder a new rock audience. In fact it was played on a clavinet rather than a guitar – a keyboard instrument that uses rubber keys to ‘hammer on’ the stings and uses pick ups to amplify the sound, achieving a similar raw sound to the electric guitar whilst having a quality all of its own. The sound achieved here would see Wonder support the Rolling Stones on that years American tour.

However you don’t even have to wait for that riff to kick in to know you’re listening to genius. The opening drum loop (performed by Wonder himself) is instantly recognizable, as are the blistering horn parts and the innovate use of Arp and Moog synths. Any one feature could have carried most songs perfectly well on its own, but “Superstition” threw them all in together and whipped up a frenzy.

He had been a fantastically talented artist ever since his days as ‘Little Stevie Wonder’ but on this song he’s all man and really started to break down perceived barriers between genres and change people’s ideas about what could be achieved in pop music. And he also happens to have given us a timeless dance floor shaker in the process, still played everywhere from provincial ‘carpet and chrome’ discos to somewhere as effortlessly cool as, well, PopArt.

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