Thursday, 22 December 2011

Saving the best 'til last.

When I was a kid I always liked to save the best until last. Eating a roast dinner I'd plough through the other stuff and save the meat until last. Actually I still do that. I do the same with my kids at birthdays & Christmas: their best present is always the last one they'll open. I was more than a bit chuffed, therefore, that 2011 saved the best 'til last for me. I'd never admit in writing just how many albums I buy in a year in case my wife happened to read this, let's just say it's probably more than is prudent. I've picked up some absolutely brilliant music this year but the album of the year for me wasn't released until 10th December. The other music I've enjoyed this year will be the subject of a future post but this post is about The Cundeez and the album Lend Wiz Yir Lugz. To put it bluntly, it's fucking brilliant. (Too blunt? OK, it's really rather jolly good.)

I've mentioned the Cundeez before in my post God Save The Queen. Their page describes their music as "unashamedly performed in the raw Dundee dialect and combine punching guitars, pounding drums and occasional bagpipes to produce a sound free from the shackles of genre." That description is way more articulate than anything I could come up with so I'll stick to my thoughts on the album itself. 

The first of 11 tracks, Caleil,  is an absolute beauty. Atmospheric and moody with a hint of menace; pipes, drums and guitars combining almost hypnotically. It sucks you into the album, laying the band's Scottishness bare and almost daring you to form preconceptions as to what will follow.

What follows is another 10 tracks of that make consistently powerful, compulsive listening yet display an unexpected variety. Track 2 is Summer of 78, the first of 2 Clash-inspired tunes. I was a little apprehensive on reading this on the sleeve before listening but needn't have been. These aren't the insipid covers that some bands use to pad out an album. They have taken inspiration from the Clash and woven it into tunes that are very much their own. 
Third up is Mr E Go, an absolute belter of a tune. For me, Gary Robertson's vocals are probably at their most powerful on this angry track. His thick Dundonian accent can seem impenetrable but rewards careful listening throughout the album, as demonstrated by track 4 Oary Tull Eh Deh, a defiant pledge of allegiance to their home city. 
Track 5 is the brilliant Yir Talkin Shite, probably the record that more than any other has summed up this last year for me. Lying politicians, religious hypocrites, despots, journalists and even the hateful Cowell get the musical kicking they so rightly deserve. I've posted the video before but in case you missed it here it is again:

Next up are the melancholic Fortune Street and driving Sehturday Night; two tracks with a different feel but both with lyrics that are cleverer and more thought-provoking than you might at first expect. These two are followed by the second Clash-inspired track This Is Britain, another storming indictment of modern British society. Once again, although the Clash inspiration is evident this is a Cundeez tune through and through.

Track 9 is Fightback, a defiant expression of the band's working-class-and-fucking-proud-of-it attitude. I bemoaned the lack of political expression in today's music in a previous blog post. Well this album has it in spades and is so much the stronger for it. This is music that speaks of the society we've allowed ourselves to become and is a much needed articulation of the anger many feel at the seemingly endless tide of effluent we're expected to swim against today.

Second last track on Lend Wiz Yir Lugz is Keyboard Gangsters, a solid kick in the balls for those tossers who sit at their pc's contributing nothing but bile and insults to the online world. We've all come across them: the racists, the pricks, the haters - 'hiding in their house' and 'got no life, got no mates'. I'd hate to have to choose a favourite track from an album that really doesn't have a duff tune on it but this would be a strong contender! 

The album opens with the pipes and closes the same way: Haggis Man is Black Sabbath's Iron Man - improved with bagpipes! From first to last this album takes you by the throat and doesn't let go. I defy anyone to listen to Lend Wiz Yir Lugz just once.

So there you go - my first ever album review and my album of 2011. Do yourself a favour, get on Amazon or iTunes and buy this album. If the Spirit of Christmas hasn't been ground out of you yet buy it for a mate too! They'll love you for it.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

A bomb skare in the dread zone.

It's my son's 10th birthday next week but he's getting one present early. Danny Buster will attend his first ever gig tonight, the awesome Dreadzone are playing Exeter again. If you haven't seen Dreadzone live you're missing out, they are without doubt one of the greatest live acts I've ever seen. Despite them never achieving a whole lot of chart success I'd put them up alongside The Blockheads & Madness in the top 3 of my 'seen live' list. Here's a taster of what Dan can expect tonight:

I couldn't find many decent YouTube vids of them live, probably because anyone at a Dreadzone gig is too busy bouncing to be bothered filming it! Alongside Little Britain, this is Dan's fave Dreadzone tune:

When I asked Dan what he wanted to wear to the gig he seemed a bit concerned. He asked if it was ok to wear the t-shirt of another band to a gig, thinking it was like footie; he said you wouldn't wear a Man U shirt to a Chelsea game. I wouldn't wear a Man U shirt to clean out a cesspit but that's besides the point, I assured Dan he could wear any shirt he wanted to.

So Dan will be proudly sporting one of his most treasured possessions tonight - his Bombskare t-shirt. Dan sat in with me on my SFR show a few weeks back and absolutely loved it, he'd been nagging me for ages about joining in on the (internet) radio. I play a fair bit of Bombskare, quite simply because I think they're the best ska band around today. 

Dan mentioned in the chat-box that he loved their stuff and the band sent him 2 t-shirts, some stickers and a signed cd (which I've put in my cd cupboard, for safe-keeping obviously!) When Dan did his own show a couple of weeks later he played Bombskare again and also played Dreadzone. Like all proud Dads I love that my son shares my interests and think it's absolutely brilliant that a band would take an interest in a kid as young as Dan. Getting that package from Scotland made his month let alone his day! Like they said when I thanked them, anything that helps foster a lifelong interest in music has got to be worth doing. Thanks chaps.

I don't do New Year resolutions as a rule but this year I resolve to see some live music every month. If Dreadzone are touring again we'll be there. I'm definitely going to catch The Simmertones again coz they were bloody brilliant a few weeks ago but top of my list is to get me & the lad to a Bombskare gig - I think a summer holiday in Scotland may be in order (do they have a summer in Scotland?)

Update: the gig was as awesome as I'd hoped. The band put on a blinding show, the venue was great - good to see Dreadzone at the Phoenix instead of the Lemon Grove, the crowd were good natured and enthusiastic and the amount of attention Dan got made him feel really special (his words).

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Music Therapy

I lost a very dear friend this week after a long, brave and hard fight against cancer. As well as being someone I counted as one of my closest and best friends he was also my wife's beloved Dad and grandfather to my kids who absolutely adored him. As well as my own pain and grief at losing someone so close it has been devastating to watch my nearest and dearest going through the agony of loss. Seeing a man we loved so much be cut down by such a cruel disease at an age when he should have been enjoying life to the full and reaping the rewards of years of hard work has been almost unbearable at times.

After saying my goodbyes I left my wife with her Mum & sister and came home to give the kids news that I knew would devastate them. After lots of tears and hugs I settled the kids to bed and sat alone with my thoughts. Knowing sleep wasn't going to happen despite being exhausted I tried to occupy myself. I don't drink so drowning my sorrows was out. I tried putting the TV on but couldn't concentrate and found myself getting angry at the glib shite that passes for entertainment on the TV. So I opened the cupboard and took out a box of records.

As well as sharing a close friendship and the love of a family I was lucky enough to share an interest in music with Stew. I got my love of ska & reggae from the 2Tone era which coincided with the time in life when I started buying records in any number. My LP boxes are full of albums from the early 80's onwards; Stew being a few years my senior had a record collection that made me weak at the knees when I first saw it. While I was in nappies he was buying the albums that inspired the very movement that would come to have such an influence on me years later. Such was the generosity of the man that over the following years every birthday or Christmas he gave me an extra present of an LP that he just knew I would love. 

None of the records Stew gave me are what a collector would class as mint, or even good in most cases. These were records that did the rounds at parties, records that were bought to be played and enjoyed with friends and not just stored in polythene slip cases and handled with kid-gloves. To me this makes them even more special. Their value to me isn't something that can be measured in pounds and pence. As well as the music in those grooves, every hiss & click, every scratch and jump on that imperfect vinyl is a little link to the life of a wonderful man who I am going to miss so much.

I sat up until 4am the other night, just playing the records Stew has given me over the years. I've often heard the term 'music therapy' but know little about it. What I do know however is that when I eventually went to bed I still had a  great sadness weighing on me but I also had tears of joy in my eyes having been transported by those vinyl gifts back into the company of a very special bloke. Ta Stew.


As a postscript, a few months ago I was asked if, when the time came, I'd write something to be read at Stew's funeral. I haven't put pen to paper on that yet so don't know where that will take me, but I do know that Stew chose this piece of music to be played. It says it all a lot better than my ramblings ever could I think.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

How it should be.

Last night I took a drive down the A38 to Plymouth to go and see The Simmertones at The Junction in Mutley. As my nephew is at uni in Plymouth we packed the car with his Mum, Dad & sister and made a family outing of it.
I haven't been to a gig for a while for various reasons which I won't bore you with, so for the last couple of weeks since I decided to go I've felt like a kiddie in the week running up to Christmas. There's always that sense of trepidation though when going to see a band for the first time, will they deliver or might you come away feeling a bit let down? I've been listening to The Simmertones for a while and have played their brand of upbeat ska on SFR a number of times. Anyone not familiar with them bloody well should be! Go to their YouTube page and have a lookie for yourself.
So, how was the gig? The Junction is a fair sized pub on 2 levels with the band set up on the higher level. When we got there it was a bit dead, a couple of locals and a smattering of people who I assumed to be there for the gig (the odd Harrington & Pork Pie Hat gave it away - perceptive bugger I am!) The staff behind the bar were spot-on, friendly & chatty. This makes such a difference; so many gig venues have bar staff that are surly or disinterested, landlords should take note that the right attitude from the bar staff transmits to the punters - if you want a good atmosphere get the staff to smile! The beer (and my cokes) were cheap enough and it cost the massive sum of £2 to get in. No tickets at inflated prices or booking fees, just turn up, pay your 2 quid and you're in! I'm taking my lad to his first gig in a couple of weeks for his 10th birthday, tickets are £15.50 each plus booking fee - no concessions for kids. So 9 times the price of last night. I suspect the subject of booking fees, concessions and stupid ticket prices may well be the subject of a future rant so I'll leave it to you to work out which you think is the better value!
The pub started to fill up and it was quite amusing to watch my niece and her mate's reaction to the clientèle coming through the door. Plenty of bald heads in evidence - not all shaved, one of the benefits of age is that sooner or later you can leave the clippers in the drawer and still achieve the skinhead look.
The band kicked off about half 9, straight into a blinding set mixing ska & reggae classics with their own tunes. People were dancing from the off, none of that foot-tapping reserve that you see at the start of some gigs. The tunes were irresistible, even stone-cold sober & being a totally shit dancer I was skanking away like a good-un. This is a band who clearly love what they're doing. The energy & sheer joyousness of the music they play, plus the intimacy of a small venue made for a special show. The band cover a lot of classic ska, stand-out tracks for me were Simmer Down & 54-46 Was My Number. These aren't just slavish copies of the originals however, the tunes are treated with the respect they deserve but the arrangements make them very much re-workings rather than simple covers & give them so much more value as a result. For me the real joy was seeing a ska band doing their own material, kicking out ska which is fresh and new. Absolute top tune of the night for me was their single Bring Your Love To Me with their masterful rendition of the Dr Who theme a close second. Despite being musically tight and accomplished they aren't what you'd call polished, retaining the energy of the music and a rawness which makes it all the more infectious; a good comparison I think would be to compare the power & energy of The Skatalites with the polished, slick arrangements of Byron Lee. Lee may have been the guy they liked in the posh hotels but I know which one I'd have rather seen play! This is a big band with a big sound, their arrangements make the most of every instrument, particularly the kicking brass section. So if you like your ska bouncy, bright & brassy check them out at their website, follow them on Twitter, 'like' them on Facebook, buy their stuff on Amazon but above all get along to see them live if you ever get the chance.
A very civilised interval was had, allowing the smoking of a couple of ciggies and those of us who may be older and perhaps not as fit as we once were to cool off & get our breath back. All in all I came away from the evening with a huge smile on my face; drenched in sweat and covered in coke thanks to the exuberant gyrations of the lady dancing next to me but still grinning like that kiddie on Christmas morning when they find their presents are every bit as great as they hoped they'd be! The venue was good, the staff were great, the drinks & door charge were cheap and the band were bloody brilliant. As we left my niece commented that not only were the band bloody good but it was also lovely watching how much the 'scary old geezers' were enjoying themselves without a hint of bother. Which, if you ask my opinion, is how it should be!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Just a quickie

If I had any musical talent whatsoever and started a band I'd call it The Badgers.
Done a logo:
It's been a long day. Good night.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


Before anyone jumps to any conclusions about Sepp Blatter I think there are a few items on his long and varied CV that may help inform opinion:
  1. Blatter was elected President of the World Society of Friends of Suspenders in the 1970's - an organisation that campaigned against ladies wearing tights. Obviously this was a humanitarian endeavour aimed at alleviating gusset-hotness in the fairer sex and absolutely NOT pervy in any way. 
  2. First involvement in football was with a Swiss club called Zurich Brown Shirts in 1973. The team name clearly shows Blatter was sensitive to environmental issues many years ahead of the rest of the world; the Brown Shirts referring to them choosing a colour that would require less laundering and therefore less use of energy. Despite holding large rallies the club failed to gain full professional status. Any similarity to any other group of Brown Shirts fond of large rallies is purely coincidental. 
  3. Blatter has long been a philanthropist, giving large sums of money to worthy causes in less developed parts of the world. However his innate modesty forbids him from drawing attention to this generosity and he diligently avoids publicity. It is believed that shortly prior to him being voted to the FIFA Presidency he donated large sums of his own money to deserving causes in Afirca & particularly Somalia. Despite his best efforts in keeping this a secret, news must have leaked out, causing a number of African Football Associations to cast their vote in his favour. A coincidence. Obviously. 
  4. Blatter is a great supporter of diversity in football. He takes an especial interest in promoting Womens' Football and extends his humanitarian interests into alleviating the lot of the lady footballer. In 2004, mindful of his previous work in preventing gusset-hotness, Blatter extended his interest into eradicating cleavage-heat-discomfort by suggesting that lady footballers may benefit from lower-cut shirts than their male counterparts. He also suggested tighter shorts, presumably as a result of many years of research into the workings of a lady's lower-parts (in a scientific & medical sense, obviously. Sepp Blatter is NOT a dirty old man). 
  5. Just this last month Mr Blatter felt so strongly about the misery caused by heroin addiction across the world that he sought to strike a blow against the source of this drug by removing the symbol of this vile trade from world football - the poppy. However, when it was pointed out to him that in the UK poppies are used to commemorate war dead he relented and looked for some other noble cause to which he could devote his unbounded philanthropic energies. 
  6. He is currently examining whether world hunger and global warming can be solved by a firm handshake, like racism. 
So clearly Mr Blatter is a man of rock-solid morals and self-effacing modesty, a man who feels the pain of his fellow creature and seeks wherever possible to alleviate their suffering. 

As this is ostensibly a music blog I feel I ought to include a music video. I couldn't find any records written in praise of the great man, musicians seem to plump for self-serving bigheads like that Mandela chap rather than saints like Mr Blatter, which is a shame. So I just chose some poetry instead. I searched YouTube for poetry and chose this at random. It has got nothing to do with Mr Blatter but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Judge Dread

Just a quick blog post about Judge Dread.
No, not Alexander Minto Hughes, the 70's King of Rudeness and apparently the holder of the record for the most banned records of all time, but the Judge Dread immortalised by Prince Buster in a series of songs around the Rude Boy violence of 60's Jamaica.
Many ska, rocksteady and reggae acts made songs about the Rude Boys, some praising their ways, others condemning them. This resulted in some classics tunes, not least of which is Buster's Judge Dread, with the Prince playing the stern Judge Hundred Years and handing down severe sentences to convicted Rude Boys in his court.
Not everyone agreed with Buster. Lee Perry for instance felt that Judge Hundred Years was too harsh and  should try to understand the Rude Boys, saying 'Give them a chance your honour' in the person of Lord Defender:
Perhaps Dread had a change of heart, although initially he seemed to find appeals on behalf of the Rude Boys particularly offensive. Barrister Dreadlock ended up charged with racial injustice & slave trading and got life inside for speaking out on behalf of his clients!
Public opinion seems to have swayed him eventually though, he received 700 letters asking for leniency for the Rude Boys and he pardoned them 'under certain conditions', even providing a musician so they could celebrate with a dance:
So, what's my point? Simply this, the Rude Boy situation was one of the major social and political issues of the day and here we see two giants of the Jamaican music scene sparring publicly with records setting one point of view against the other. They did it with humour and cracking tunes too, but this is still social commentary and political discourse being played out by two of the biggest stars of the day.
So where is this today? Throughout the history of popular music there have been acts at the very top of their game prepared to go on record and wear their political opinions on their sleeves. I rarely listen to chart music today, largely because most of it is derivative shite, but also because it doesn't speak to me. Where are the top artists making songs about the current Occupy movement - for or against? I can't recall pro or anti-Iraq War songs on Top of the Pops or Radio 1. Did the recent riots result in another Ghost Town? Will we hear another Shipbuilding? Bloody hope so, but sadly I fear not.

Monday, 7 November 2011

God Save The Queen...

...but the rest of this list don't deserve saving:

  • Al Megrahi
  • Kim Jong Il
  • Mad Gadaffi
  • Simon Cowell
  • Sepp Blatter
  • David Cameron
  • Maggie Thatcher
Quite an eclectic list and not perhaps one you'd expect to find on a music blog. There is a link between them all, however, courtesy of Dundee's finest The Cundeez. 
I was sent a link on Twitter a while ago to the You Tube video of The Cundeez covering One Step Beyond, complete with bagpipes & more energy than you'd find in 12 months of the sodding X-factor. Which brings us nicely to the list above. All of the above are name-checked in Yir Talkin Shite off The Cundeez' soon-to-be-released album Lend Wiz Yir Lugs (which I am reliably informed means Lend Us Your Ears).
Leaving Her Majesty aside (I am English after all), this is a list of tyrants, liars, cheats, murderers & thieves. Only one of them is all of these things though.
Whether or not Al Megrahi blew up that flight, he was a member of Gadaffi's Secret Service so undoubtedly not the type of bloke you'd invite to a barbecue. Kim Jong is clearly demented and dangerous. Gadaffi took being a mad dictator to new levels during his happily-now-finished lifetime. Sepp Blatter took the beautiful game & corrupted it to serve the interests & bank balances of him & his cronies. Cameron's government has frozen my wages & is having a pop at my pension - so he's clearly a complete cock. Thatcher destroyed British industry in her all-out war on the working man, reserving particular venom for those north of Watford.
Which brings us to Cowell. Is it fair to describe him in the same company as the above? Yes.
That odious man has come to dominate the TV & music industry in this country. He has fed a gullible, tabloid-obsessed population a diet of 'celebrities' who he creates and equally rapidly discards. He has stolen the dreams of desperate wannabes & taken their dignity. And he is destroying real music in a manner every bit as calculated and aggressive as Thatcher's assault on the working classes. The man is beneath contempt but cannot be dismissed. He wields real power and unless people see him for the slime he is the future of our music and entertainment industries is very bleak indeed.
Rant over (for now), here's some REAL music:

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Ooh I think we're going.

So, here goes. Rich joins the blogosphere. What a bloody awful word. Like 'trending'. That's bloody awful too.
Sorry, off at a tangent there.
So, why a blog? Answers on a postcard coz I'm f***ed if I know!
I discovered Twitter a few months ago, somewhat later than the rest of the world but I got there. Through Twitter I found a guy in Holland doing a Skinhead radio show. Internet radio of course but that goes without saying; let's face it, it's been many a long year since mainstream radio had anything as specialised and unfashionable as that.
Another tangent Rich, get to the point. Mainstream radio could well be a future blog post/rant.
Anyway, through this awesome Dutch guy and his radio show I got to listening to more and more internet radio, chatting in the chat-boxes, posting tweets about music, blipping tunes on, etc. Suddenly the world was full of people with similar musical taste to me, nice people, funny people, clever people, people who didn't fit any particular stereotype but who clicked with me in one way or another. So I got to know some of these folks (not personally, the interweb doesn't work like that) and before I knew it I rather foolishly offered to sit in one Sunday night & present a radio show.
Cutting a long story short (I'm getting bored & am pretty sure you are too if you've read this far), I now present a weekly show & spend hours that I used to waste in front of the TV or on Facebook looking for music, listening to music, talking about music, sharing music, tweeting about music.
Hence the blog: I'm opinionated & love my music. So much so that I can't fit what I want to say into 140 characters, so this will be where I place the thoughts, opinions, etc that are too long (and, yes, possibly too boring) to fit on Twitter.
Watch this space as they say. Whoever 'they' are.
So here's a link to my efforts on the radio: the SFR Facebook page: and some radio-related vid's.