You could be forgiven for thinking in listening to Charles Bradley that this was an album from the 70’s rather than from April this year. Filled with the sort of gospel funk styling familiar to James Brown or Marvin Gaye at their best, I found myself constantly feeling like I was listening to a lost soul or album that I should’ve known about years ago. A cover of the Black Sabbbath’s classic Changes to a soul anthem has genuine gravitas, with Bradley’s heartbreaking vocals breathing new life and a real feeling of pathos. Ain’t It A Sin is about trying to be a righteous man but struggling with the vicissitudes of a world that keeps knocking you down, until you get back up fists ready with a snarl on your face and demanding respect and to be heard. This deserves to be heard.
Originally published in Kirkby Extra, June 2016.
I think we’ve all had teenage power fantasies at times, in which we cast ourselves as great heroes saving the world whilst being implausibly cool. M83 sounds like the anime soundtrack of my dreams, their euphoric 80’s throwback euro pop reminiscent of some of the best work of Pet Shop Boys and Army of Lovers with the suggestion of funk and the polished sheen of accomplished synthpop. “Do It, Try It” has the dreamy shoegaze quality of a trance choir in the middle of a motivational speech whilst “For the Kids” sounds like a lost Chicago ballad that could easily stand up with the best of that band’s oeuvre. The album might be called Junk but it’s not junk, it’s a glorious return for a pop sound you thought was gone. So wind down your windows and enjoy.
Originally published in Kirkby Extra, May 2016.
Seeing as I didn’t get the chance of doing a list of what bands to see for Sound City 2016 (see lazy bastard) I thought I’d instead give you a quick run through of the highs and lows of the aftermath of mine and my brother’s adventures.
Where were the headliners? Because I'm genuinely curious as to how most people’s definition of a headliner and Sound City organisers are. Look, I liked and thoroughly enjoyed Catfish and the Bottlemen, but I don't think they had enough material for the headline slot. The Coral are decent and have a decent amount of material but I can't shake the feeling they were picked because they were scouse and merseybeat sounding enough to get away with it. Considering they dropped from 3 days to 2 and said they'd use the extra money for more acts I have to question did they actually look? LCD Soundsystem recently reformed, they could've asked them, or even got hold of the Manic Street Preachers or Editors. The point is there are plenty of bigger hitters that they could have used but ultimately didn’t.
The Dandy Warhols
So, I don't know if I was at a different gig than anyone else but I can only imagine after reading the Echo's review of The Dandy Warhols that they had seen a far superior performance to me on the alternate reality of earth 2, because what I saw was half hearted and badly sung. The lead singer just wasn't there, he didn't seem in the least bit arsed or invested in performing in any way but putting in a perfunctory performance, and his voice was raw and shot to hell. I mean, Christ, Dandys - what the hell happened to you? Outside of a brief sign of life when they kicked off into Bohemian Like You this was a largely lacklustre performance with lack of audience interaction and polish. The rest of the band played stoically on but the Titanic was still sinking.
Highlights of the fest in short
White -Imagine ABC crossed with Duran Duran and Bryan Ferry, and you’d get White.
Band of Skulls – just a rocking good time and a great palette cleanser.
Barbagello – like a cross between the Shins and Ben Folds Five I genuinely enjoyed the disarming summer pop stylings of the French trio.
The Wholls – very like The Dust Junkies, catchy as hell rock/hip hop licks.
Suzie Stapleton - sounded a bit like Peej, decent but unpolished
City Calm Down – a pretty great band in the mold of Joy Division.
Xamvolo – possessed with plenty of fun and soul to spare, Zamvolo was a genuine highlight of the fest.
Monthly music columnist for the Kirkby Extra, sometimes article writer for Get Into This. Freelance writer/artist/maker.