Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Yeah Yeah Noh Hare & Hounds 7th July 2012

Yeah Yeah Noh split in 86 but have reformed. They’re not the first band to reform.  While the usual reasons included Live Aid, Global Debt Pink Floyd Thingy, anniversary tours or the release of a sumptuous box set hand tooled by mermaids;  YYN actually reformed for guitarist John Grayland’s birthday. He’d organised JohnFest to celebrate it and when the child friendly festival in Barmouth, (confirmed by Government stats to be an actual "Town full of Brummies") was washed out by wet weather it moved indoors to the Hare and Hounds. (Confirmed by Camra to be a pub full of beer).

It was my youngest’s first gig and he naively asked which stadium it would be at.  It’s a stadium where I used to go to a Pub Quiz.

I was always a big fan of YYN's twangy guitar, skinny rib psychedelia and excellent lyrics.  I liked the clattery odd pop of Bias Binding, the swirly suburban psychedelia of The Other Side of Mrs Quill ("Paid a visit to the other side of her living room") to the full on pop of Sunday To Saturday. At the time they were frequently shambolic, sometimes more tuneful than their Garage Band/Fall influences would suggest and not afraid to chuck in a surf instrumental.  The time off has down them some good. They’ve grown too.  There are six of them now.

Prick Up Your Ears starts with just new drummer Ant getting down to rhythmic business and the rest of the band gradually filing on stage and building up the sound. Crucially bassist Dermot theatrically taking his shades out of the case and putting them on before he can play a note.  He's either blinded by the lights or Derek Hammonds Technicolor dream blazer.

Bias Binding is introduced as going from the "Sublime to the ridiculous or vice versa".  It's a John Peel endorsed tune and home to some of the conversational snippets and bus stop phrases that livened up the early YYN singles "University straight from nursery look at his fingernails".  The band amuse themselves with the "Bias Binding" backing vocals.  I’m amused too!

I always liked the line in Temple Of Convenience "Eddie knows a bit about alienation"; it sits comfortably alongside other bits of odd pop earnestness that Sir might also like to consider.  "Libraries gave us power" or "I am an architect" from the Manic Street Preachers.  It's got more bah bah bah bah backing vocals.

Another Side Of Mrs Quill is described as "One of John’s favourites....so please be favourable" and it's exactly what made YYN such an intriguing prospect in the first place.   This time round though (and it's a lot to do with the drummer) they positively swing,  There are 2 guitarists now, Johns harsh guitar is at the ball and cheesewire end of the sonic spectrum and Derek is singing better than ever.

The wonderful See through Nature is thoughtfully explained for the benefit and education of the younger members of the audience who may have detected drug references.  As Derek explained the reason that the line "My life is nil, I just take pills" is not true “Because you know that the next line is "my name is Eugene"...and you KNOW that's not true"

Up On The Downs is "first new track of the 21st century" It's a really good piece of Beatles/Bryds stop start pop.  (The band have form on this of course as they have previously covered She Said She Said) and it’s a good enough reason for the band to reform

Stealing In The Name of The Lord takes it's title (and nothing else) from the Paul Kelly soul song but new keyboard player Eva adds Stonesy Sympathy for the Devil flourishes as the song  spirals up towards cod gospel glory.

Big decisions for the audience as singer Derek struggles with the heat.  Does the splendid Technicolor blazer stay on or come off?  Let the audience decide.  "Disrobe" or "Keep it on."  It's a chant that's sweeping the nation, or at least the part of the nation in a strip club or on a stag night.

Final song Blood Soup is a churning queasy affair.  Dermot takes his shades off (as if to say “That's enough Rockin' for tonight").  There's no encore because it's time to bring on Johns birthday cake, sing happy Birthday and then…speech time.  You don't get that at New Order or Wedding Present gigs......You just don't get an encore

YYN are doing a Marc Riley session in September and a John Peel all day festival in Manchester on 27th Oct.  These are good things. 

Prick Up Your Ears
Bias Binding
Temple Of Convenience
Superimposed Man
Another Side To Mrs Quill
See Through Nature
Up On The Downs
Starling Pillowcase
Stealing In The Name Of The Lord
Blood Soup

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Happy Mondays & Inspiral Carpets Birmingham Academy 12 May

There are a few options for reforming bands with misplaced band members. You can go the Dr Feelgood route (with no original members), recruit from your own tribute act (Judas Priest once, Yes twice) rope in family members (Yes again and Van Halen) or do what the Inspiral Carpets did.  Move the old one back in.  Original singer Stephen Holt looks pleased to be back and the band look rejuvenated. He must have remembered where they kept the kettle.

Holt sang on the first single Plane Crash ep and the first Peel session when the band were an odd, dusty garage band before the later hits like This Is How It Feels and Saturn 5

The band rattle through Joe, She Comes In The Fall and Directing Traffic There’s still a lot of goodwill towards the band and for many of the audience an Inspirals/Mondays show looks like a perfect double bill.
The band are happy to oblige and bang out a set of crowd pleasers, played with the enthusiasm of band pleasers.

New/old boy Holt throws himself into the material and has bags of stage presence.  His best move is when he holds his mic hand in the air like the Statue of Liberty in a polo shirt. Bassist Martin throws his bass around like he’s baling hay with it and looks surprised to still see it there.  Actually it’s a surprise that there is anyone within a bass length of him.  It’s a health and safety issue and there should be appropriate barriers and signage.

The key to the bands sound is the wheezing, whistling Farfisa, Graham’s cement mixer guitar chug and the interplay between the Stephen and Clint’s vocals.  Unfortunately tonight you can’t hear Graham’s guitar.

You’re So Good For Me was the recent single and is a terrific song.  Not simply a return to form but one of the best things they've done.  Clint likes to have a chat between songs and introduces This Is How It Feels as a bit of a football anthem for both Manchester teams.  Cue camera phone activity. People do like that one.

Move is described as another classic Manchester anthem.  Languid keyboard loveliness and a huge chorus. They’ve got 2 kinds of songs (and I like them both) There’s the all on one note hammer on chug. (The Julian Cope garage band approach).  Punky and brief like Generations or Directing Traffic. Then there are the big tunes. The anthems that give an audience something to aim for that they can’t quite hit at a karaoke.  Think of the chorus to This Is How It Feels, Saturn 5 and Move.  Just tantalizingly out of the range of most of the audience....but still loved

It’s billed as the first time that the definitive Happy Mondays lineup has played together since 1992, although Shaun Ryder has shuffled out various permutations over the years.  There was even an album Uncle Dysfunctional in 2005.  I missed that....most of the band did too probably.
Early shows on this tour were apparently under-rehearsed with a stunt double keyboard player visible behind Paul Davies and an autocue for Ryder.  By the time it gets to Birmingham it’s probably as slick as it’s ever going to be.  The set is based around Pills 'n' Thrills And Bellyaches and Bummed.  It’s the hits and resolutely no new material.   Phew!

Initial rumours were that Bez wasn’t going to be dancing on the tour, citing dodgy knees.  It transpired though that he has been onstage for a couple of songs through the tour.....given his hobbies though it is probably the safest place for him.  He introduced the band and then promptly disappeared.
The band opened with Loose Fit, a song that sounds as baggy as it’s title, and was the soundtrack and instruction manual for a generation of lollopy dancers. And they’re all here in the audience tonight.  The sounds not great though.   Both Ryder and drummer Gary Whelan are in shades, Ryder still favours a leather blouson and Rowetta is twirling tassels off the wrist like castanets.

While the early Mondays were a horrible clattery racket as chaotic as their gigs, the genius of the 3rd album was the spaces it opened up in the music.  And that’s the era that the crowd is here for.   They want to shuffle like they did 20 odd years ago.

Bez is back for the second song Kinky Afro.  After the pre tour "Will he, won’t he dance" tease I like to think that powerful, possibly unearthly (but probably chemical) forces are at work.  Did inaudible maracas come flying straight to Bez’s outstretched hands like Thor’s hammer?  Either way he’s up and gurning and doing his twisty dance like it was 1989 and he was singlehandedly creating a drug shortage.

Ryder likes a chat after each song, wandering up to brother Paul  “All right our kid”, as if to prove the Ryder brothers are back on speaking terms.  Songs are introduced with a context, Rave On is “Back in 89 when we were all raving on”.  When he takes his sunglasses he announces “I’m having a look”.  He has got form on this.  Look at the Step On video.  Iconic video it may be, but it’s key moment is Ryder swaying towards the camera and taking his sunglasses off....and making it look profound.   There’s commentary as much maligned (by Ryder)  guitarist Mark Day changes guitar from a “pink one to a yellow one”

Shaun Ryder’s pervy vocals on Bobs Yer Uncle sounded a bit odd on the night, but I’d forgotten that they sound fairly odd on the original.  Ever the gentleman, he gallantly calls Rowetta a Milf.

Holiday grinds to a halt and the glorious gospel wail backing vocals comes from a sample, as Rowetta who has been in fine voice all evening is not on stage for that song.

Final song is Step On, it’s the big song of the evening and really what the audience is here for.  Bez and Rowetta are back on and it turns into a thoroughly entertaining circus.  Bez does some more arm waving and chewing gum shoe dancing and then picks up Rowetta like a roll of carpet.. deftly lifting up her dress.  She retreats to the back of the stage and then while he’s distracted by more gurning, she creeps up behind him to flick him with the tassels she’s been spinning all night.  They spend the rest of the song in a slow motion chase as they dance around and with each other, she’s pulling faces at him and he’s still having sly goes at her skirt.  As the song ends Ryder bellows “Hey you two, fucking stop that.  You’re a dropout and you’re a Milf.“  Like the worlds least likely teacher.

There is a Youtube clip with the requisite awful sound quality


After encore Jellybean, Ryder is back on Mark Day’s case.  “Listen to that he’s playing lead and rhythm…if you want to learn guitar give him a ring.  But he’s very busy”

WFL is actually the best sounding song of the evening, the sequencing and mechanical feel of the song just seems better able to cut through the loud but muddy mix.

Nostalgia and reunion gigs are always odd.  Sometimes you can see bands play and perform better than they were capable of at the time, sometimes you’re just glad they’re still there and the ticket price counts as a Thanks Tax for youthful good times.   Given the chaos around them it was a miracle they even played any gigs in their heyday, let alone now.   It was an unashamed nostalgia fest for the audience and the promise of a hefty tour payout may have smoothed over internal tensions within the band.  But maybe not for Bez and Rowetta.

 Inspiral Carpets setlist

She Comes In The Fall
Directing Traffic
You’re So Good For Me
This Is How It Feels
I Want You
Dragging Me Down
Saturn 5

Happy Mondays Setlist

Loose Fit
Dennis and Lois
Gods Cop
Judge Fudge
24 Hour Party people
Rave On
Cowboy Dave
Bobs Yer Uncle
Mad Cyril
Step On


Jelly Bean

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pete Williams Hare and Hounds 13/04/12

Pete Williams Hare and Hounds 13/04/12

Pete Williams was the original bass player in Dexys (keen scholars of the inner sleeve will remember him as ”a young bass driver ...carrying his tool under one arm and the complete Stax collection under the other”). He was in post Dexys mutiny band The Bureau and These Tender Virtues, played on Dexys 2003 shows and is on the forthcoming Dexys album. His own excellent album Seen is out and he’s assembled a terrific band of Richard Hawley henchmen, all collapsing quiffs and manfully concealed bald patches.

Williams himself is a really engaging frontman, who can squeeze a tune out of most instruments, and carry off Pub Vegas style snappy pointing and on the beat gestures. And you could fight World War 2 in his spiv trousers and braces set up ….not just wear them to fight in, but you could actually fit all the major campaigns into them….The Pacific… The Russian Front…The Y front..

Opening song Reconsider This is a Bowie quoting domestic violence song
(“bruises won’t show if she wears long sleeves”. The chorus is a soaring thing of beauty that’s really lifted by the keyboards and as a chorus it goes above and beyond the call of duty. It’s far better than any song actually needs….he could cut a bit of it off and give it to someone who needs it more.

He gets the uke out for Too Many Questions. It has a bit of a Van Morrison feel and Williams does have a bit of a Kevin Rowland turn of phrase, but the songs are strong and well arranged. So they don’t just feel like it’s a rigid verse chorus structure but they progress through sections.

The line up is keyboards (Fred Skidmore, his long term musical partner),
bass/double bass (Al Gare and a Paddington Bear hard stare from The Imelda May band), guitar and drums from Richard Hawley band and Paul Taylor on Trombone. They’re all excellent players, relaxed, unfussy but shit hot at the hot shit

As clouds of over enthusiastic dry ice billows rounds the stage, Williams
asks the trombonist (scientifically proven to be the parpiest of all musical instruments, although The Whoopee Cushion Orchestra of Great Britain may disagree) “is that you Paul?”

There’s a bit of a Latin feel to one of the songs that I couldn’t place and
Black is as dramatic and murderous as a Spanish soap opera. He says it was
inspired by living and working in Santa Monica.

For the swing start of Soon I’ll Be There, Williams brandishes his clarinet
with the ominous warning “The fun stops now….Here’s the misery stick”. No
need to worry though it’s a great song with heroic twangy guitar and trombone.

My favourite song though has the lines “I found myself alone in a brothel in Cologne on my 19th birthday …. I behaved quite badly as anybody might”
Part Jacques Brel, part Fast Show. It’s not on the album though, so it looks like I’m going to have to see him again to hear it again.

The encore is the theme from The Cincinnati Kid. It’s a bit of a pointer to what the band are doing. Ambitious, cinematic, classily put together,
reflective and comfortable looking backwards. And exactly what I want to be watching.

Reconsider This
Heart Beats
Said I’d Be The One
Little One
Soon I’ll Be There
Trust me
Are You Listening?
? (“I behaved badly as anybody might”)
Until We Empty This Bottle
Suddenly Shattered
Cincinnati Kid