Mary and The Ram –  The Cross (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

771936No matter what anyone tells you about current musical fashions, what the zeitgeist might happen to be blowing in from cooler taste making circles, what the papers say is the next big thing or any of that sort of rhetoric, one thing never changes. The underground, the outside, the left field, the other…call it what you will, is always a far more interesting place.

It eschews common consent, public opinion and the approval of the masses and just makes music for itself. How great is that? And proof that it remains the case to this day is Mary and The Ram’s arty, electro-punk disco dirge, The Cross. It recalls some of the greats of the outside curve, it updates Bauhaus, sits next to Nick Cave on the piano stool, squeezes the high drama and cliche out of The Sisters of Mercy but wanders the same sonic underworld. The Dream takes things even further into the Murphy – Cave axis of  blasted blues meets electronic-gothica, somehow feeling like a spoken word aria from their twisted, co-joined pens.

It is electronic rock dancing a sultry and sensual tango with industrial electro-pop across a shaded and empty dance floor, it is primal urges caressing modern technology, old school experimentation getting frisky with future possibilities. And when the bored kids sat around the edge of the club sarcastically shout, “get a room,” they do and this is the result!

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The Taste of Mark Morriss – Mark Morriss (Acid Jazz Records) reviewed by Dave Franklin

Mark-Morriss-the-bluetonesI must confess that whilst most reviews of this album are going to open with Morriss’s credentials or the announcement of a Bluetones reunion tour, the reason this album excited me was the fact that he covers Sisters of Mercy’s goth standard Lucretia (My Reflection) and I was massively intrigued to hear someone so far outside the genre’s take on such a song.

Normally songs that form a big part of our formative years as The Sisters did with my own become a taboo subject when it comes to cover versions as they rarely eclipse the original in your own eyes, just as only one sequel in the history of film has been better than the original. (*Answer below) So expecting the worst, I actually got something rather fantastic, a gentle, wistful pop version that stood on it’s own legs. Where as Eldritch went for dark testosterone, Morriss goes for late night ambience and fragility and by Jove it works.

As an insight into Morriss’s influences this re-imagining of his own record collection covers some unexpected ground, delivers some wonderful reworking’s and unlike most albums of this type and a far cry from the likes of Rod Stewart crooning half-heartedly through The Great American Songbook, brings something new to the table. Fans of Buffalo Springfield, Madonna, Rain Parade, Jesus and Mary Chain and Scott Walker will, I’m sure, have a similar tale to tell.

*that’s right, Aliens.

Cultural Revolutions – with Dave Franklin

DAA founderDave Franklin, looks at 5 albums that impacted on his younger musical brain and have stayed with him over the years.

first-and-last-and-alwaysFirst and Last and Always – The Sisters of Mercy (1985)

 Standing at that point when an underground movement hit the big time but before later imitators brought the genre down to a lowest common denominator, the Sisters debut album is the perfect gothic album. Forget all of the frilled shirts romantics and the cyber-Goths who came later, this is an album soaked in an amphetamine haze, a bleak dystopian soundtrack but still carrying a certain amount of optimism in its hidden layers.

Stand out tracks: Black Planet, No Time to Cry, First and Last and Always.

 waterboysThis is The Sea – The Waterboys (1985)

Of all the bands that made up the “Big Music” sound (The Bunnymen, The Alarm, Big Country etc.) This was the one album that seemed to encompass its characteristics the best. Pitted against a musical landscape of sometimes inspired but more often-insipid synth fashion bands, their music seemed elemental. It soared to great heights, it crashed like waves on the rocks, it smelt of the earth and it burned with a raging intensity. Mike Scott may have led his musical minions off Pied Piper-like down a stranger and less obvious musical path as what amounted to an Irish pub band but he left us with this epic masterpiece.

Standout Tracks: Don’t Bang The Drum, This is The Sea, The Pan Within.

The-Men-They-Couldnt-Han-Waiting-For-Bonap-498796Waiting For Bonaparte – The Men They Couldn’t Hang (1989)

 TMTCH were the band that made me want to be a musician and by 1989 they had found a sound that was both unique and accessible. Coming out of the squat punk scene they fused rock, folk, history and social politics into songs that were half terrace anthems and half music to get down and dance to. Subjects included the social unrest of the industrial revolution, the homeward voyage of merchant seaman, smugglers, soldiers and mutineers. Lesser bands would have turned the subject matter into twee folk ditties or sing-along sea shanties but what TMTCH did so well live was give you a poetic history lesson whilst you danced and drank yourself into a drunken stupor.

Standout Tracks: The Crest, Bounty Hunter, The Colours

 Thunder-And-Consolation-coverThunder and Consolation – New Model Army (1989)

Whilst the first three albums had featured a punkier, harder hitting sound, Thunder and Consolation was the album that saw a more windswept and emotive sound taking centre stage. Mixing anthemic rallying cries with wistful reflections, political statement with songs about family and belonging it also marked the first and last forays into chart and national radio play with singles such as Vagabonds and Green and Grey. New Model Army are renowned for an ever evolving sound but this album formed the heart of what they stood for and informed everything they produced afterwards.

Standout Tracks: Family, Green and Grey, Vagabonds, Stupid Questions

 

51q31o5x4JL._SL500_AA280_Alnwick and Tyne – Blyth Power (1989)

 That Blyth Power never achieved commercial success is probably due to always seeming to be walking in the shadow of The Levellers and their meteoric rise. But where as Brighton’s finest headed off down an accessible hippy-folk route, this bunch of west-country ex-punks remained a cultish riot of folk, lush harmonies, punk verve, some of the most eloquent lyrics in contemporary music, wit, wisdom and wordplay. Not bad for a bunch of train spotters! Their old boys network contains both Wob and James Hince of the Kills and they remain the most quintessentially English band on the planet. Wat Tyler meets Noel Coward if you can imagine such a thing.

Standout Tracks: Lord of The Isles, McArthur, Better to Bat.

 

First published at Swindon Link Dec ’14

 

 

Songs of Candlelight and Razorblades – Wayne Hussey (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

71XaDXdPBKL._SL1500_Although a big fan of The Sisters of Mercy and the earlier Mission albums, I have to confess that I lost touch with Wayne Hussey’s musical path a long time ago, for no other reason that there is only so much time and money to be dedicated to music these days and there is so much music to be had. Sorry Wayne! It was, therefore, an unexpected delight to find “Songs of Candlelight and Razorblades” in my weekly “to do” pile – a real change from the usual acoustic by numbers and Arctic Monkeys wannabes that seem to make up it’s bulk these days.

 

Hitting play sent a shiver down my spine, that voice, passionate yet world weary, liberally mixing poetic cliché with gothic romanticism, suddenly plugging me back into times and places, gigs and parties long forgotten. That’s the power of music on memory I guess. Those also familiar with The Mission back catalogue will find a lot here that they like, a lot that is reminiscent, but only in as much as the hall marks of any band are also largely the hallmarks of it’s main creator. The 12 string flourishes, heart aching vocal and subject matter may all seem familiar but here the emphasis is largely on a late night, introspective style, quiet reflections and candlelit conversations on the right side of midnight, rather than the hedonistic, all night, rock ‘n’ roll party of those formative years.

 

It’s nice to hear that he still hasn’t lost that wonderful romanticism, one that only exists in Victorian novels, poems of courtly love and….well, Mission songs. Tales of innocence, unrequited love, loss and longing and a spoken word piece describing Burkowskian back street ballets all backed up musically with baroque moods, sweeping strings, plaintive pianos and dark atmospherics that linger at the end of the verse as the sentiment floats away into a lonely night sky. Blimey, he’s got me doing it now!

 

 

It is interesting coming at Hussey’s music after so long away, it’s like recognising an old friend. Even though their clothes and haircut may have changed you still notice the same mannerisms and habits, fall back into easy conversation and feel immediately comfortable around them. Thanks Wayne, it’s been great catching up with you.

 

 

New Music of The Day : V – Cold Life – Terminal Gods

securedownloadhttps://soundcloud.com/terminal-gods/cold-life

Classic Rock magazine described Terminal Gods saying “Imagine a world in which Andrew Eldritch kept his hair and his leather jacket, and instead of doing crossword puzzles for the last decade, he spent his time cracking skulls in biker bars. ”

…and to be honest there isn’t much to add to that. As someone who grew up through the early days of goth, before it became a sub-genre of metal populated by people who watched too much sci-fi or thought that Buffy The Vampire Slayer was actually a reality TV show, it’s always refreshing to hear a modern band who tap into what the original movement was all about. Accessible melodies built on guitar riffs, an almost dance drive…be it a spiralling death dirge waltz or heads down no nonsense mindless boogie, all drenched in dense layers of dark music, clinical beats and the cold attack of a serial killer.  Thankfully  Terminal Gods are aware of this and by taking equal measures of March Violets groove, Sisters bleakness and The Mission’s pop sensibilities and then using modern production and their own unique musical ingredients to create a full bodied sound that was often missing back in the day, they emerge with something that really put’s the record straight for ageing goth’s such as myself. Check out their older tracks, particularly Persona and be impressed with their ability to full explore the genre without compromising it’s dark ethic and core sounds.

Cold Life is released on Heavy Leather Records on 14th July

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