Monday, 25 April 2011

The Ghost of Electricity howls in the back room of the Blazer

It being a nice sunny day here in Edinburgh yesterday, I decided to fix the busted spoke on my road bike, and go for a spin to Peebles and back.  On the way home through the Moorfoot hills, my mind wandered on to the topic of bicycles in music.  I started considering how many references to cars there are in popular music, but how few to the bicycle.  I can't think of too many at all. 

 There's Queen's Bicycle Race I guess, which I'm not even sure I like.  There's The Smith's haunting Back To The Old House, ("When you cycled by/Here began all my dreams"), and there's Mungo Jerry's Pushbike Song.  And . . . er . . . er, I can't think of any more.  And none of them actually celebrate or venerate the bicycle like a lot of car-based songs do.  Maybe that is a songwriting challenge, to write a song that does just that.

I saw the Electric Ghosts last night at the jolly old Blazer, and enjoyed them as much as ever.  Disarmingly simple-sounding country-tinged songs, but with a good sense of melody and effective, hook-laden lyrics.  I shall have to try and catch the full-on band at some point, on the basis of the acoustic shows I've seen, it should be enjoyable.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

But does it work with just a guitar?

I was rather looking forward to hearing the astronomically-and-quantum-physically-themed Sam Barber And The Outcasts play at the Wee Red Bar tonight.  Sadly though, I got a text last night from their guitarist, the estimable Ms Fi, to say that it had been canned, for somewhat obscure reasons.

A shame, as Sam's arrangements are good, and for me, the songs tend to suit the whole band setting, even though some of them can also work as solo acoustic numbers.

For some purists, that is a definition of a good song;  can it work as a song with just one acoustic guitar?  For me, that theory is a stinking, heaving mass of sweaty pig's knackers.



For a start, it totally ignores any tonal qualities of a song.  Would "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones sound good played on a beat up old acoustic?  i.e. without that rasping, echoing guitar?  The "one acoustic" theory also ignores any arrangement ideas. Wouldn't Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" be a tad tame without that horn section?  To attempt to replicate Bowie's "Space Oddity" on an acoustic would be somewhat empty, without the band, not to mention the iconic stylophone noises.

Anyway, I think Sam's got a good handle on all of that, so it was a shame not to experience it.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

An album launch

So, I was playing with the band at Lindsay and the Storm's album launch on Sunday there, at the Voodoo Rooms.  It was rather crowded and busy, at one point it got so hot and sweaty that it made me feel all funny, and I had to leave the room to get some air.  Strangely though, once I was on stage, I felt fine, even though sweat was dropping off the end of my nose.  Mercifully, they turned on the air con about halfway through the set, so we didn't melt.

Anyhoo, it was a great night, rather stonking sets from James Whyte who was in full cry, and sounding brilliant, and also a sublime set from Caro Bridges and the River, who were also fearsomely good.  I'd never heard jazz banjo, or a piece of paper used as a percussion instrument previously either.  I wonder if that's why I was sweating so much, as I knew we had to follow them.  Hmm.  Anyway, everyone seemed to have a good time, and all the cake got eaten, so it was fun.

Edinburgh-based French film-maker Julien Pearly was filming it too, so at some point there may be footage of the night.

So, the CD has been "launched", and the vessel is, as we speak, bobbing around on the uncertain seas of the independent music ocean, subjected to passing currents and drifts.  Who knows where it will end up?

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The trouble with reviews (part 1 of 56)

I had a good night down at the jolly ol' Blazer of Blueness on Sunday, seeing Obi-Norm-Kenobi playing a splendid rare solo acoustic set.  Good to hear some new material there too.  I re-worked a superb Jill Hepburn song called "Moon On My Mind", to a more bluesy bent, which seemed to go down quite well.  The more I listen to Jill's album "Snowflake", the better the songs seem to me, a subtlety in the lyrics suddenly reveals itself, or a melody gets lodged in the brain.

Which brings to me to an idea.  When reviews of albums/singles are done, I'd imagine that in the main, they are done after one or two listens, due to time constraints on the poor overworked journo doing it.  Perhaps for a major release, a selected few favoured acolytes may receive copies early, and they may listen to it a bit more.

But, usually I don't listen to music like that.  I quite often listen to something two, maybe three times, then for some reason don't play it again for a while.  Then, I'll listen again, and if I don't really like it, that'll likely be the end of it.  If I do like it though, I'll probably carry on listening to it for months.  Recent examples (as well as the Jill Hepburn platter mentioned above) might be the I Am Kloot opus "Sky At Night", The National's "High Violet", and Edinburgh-based troubadour Calum Carlyle's "Another Side of Calum Carlyle".  Perhaps my subconscious is processing the musical information.

It's probably not practicable, but what would be interesting is if somehow the reviewer could do another review say, six months down the line.  Does the record still hold any interest for them, what songs started to grate, what has emerged as a classic, etc.  The only problem with that is that it would take up time/space from new music, which wouldn't be good.

Usually, it's music than I'm not terribly sure I even like on first listen, that I end up loving.