What We've Been Listening To This Week...Eyesore & The Jinx, Deh-Yey, Alias, The Moral High Ground, Frankie and the Witch Fingers, Working Men's Club, Vanishing Lines
By Jon Milton
Life is full of surprises isn’t it? You’d think that having released their excellent debut EP in July that Eyesore and the Jinx would be quiet for a little while, but no, there on my list of new releases on Friday was a new single by them, the curiously titled ‘Accidental Weller’. For a moment I thought it might be one of those bands with the same name from some obscure part of the globe that Spotify seems to throw up on occasion in its lists, but then I realised that Eyesore and the Jinx is a pretty unique name and not likely to be appropriated in the same way that Yak or Talk Show are. Anyway, Accidental Weller is pretty much unmistakably by the band, and it puts a huge smile on my face every time I listen to it.
In it, the protagonist has visited a barber and emerged with that haircut that men of a certain age sport, because they firstly don’t want to get old gracefully and secondly have the hair to get away with it. ‘Don’t tell me it looks fine! I only came in for a short back and sides!’ sings front-man Josh in his thick scouse voice over a musical backing that could have come from one of That Petrol Emotion’s first two albums. Its genius on so many levels, and a bit of compensation for that fact that I’m not going to get my vinyl copy of The Exile Parlour until December. FFS.
Another band from the North West that normally offer dry witted and wry observations of life are Deh-Yey, who released their new single on Friday ‘ I Am Result’. This time however the single is focused on the serious matter of children growing up in care and the behavioural changes developed in children through neglect. It’s a timely release of course as September is normally when referrals to Children’s and Young Peoples’ services start to escalate substantially as signs of abuse are identified by schools. This year may be even worse given lockdown and the emergence of heightened levels of alcohol and drug abuse.
‘I Am Result’ centres around a delinquent child who is the ‘cock of the biggest playground’, shaven haired to looker tougher, selling drugs, stealing from other kids and blaming the world ‘when my mother says goodbye’. The song concludes with the child being moved to another home and finishes with the line ‘Keep your back up, Hold your knife up’.
Its powerful stuff and undoubtedly the best thing the band have done so far.
With it being the end of the month, Deh Yey’s record label Restless Bear have stuck out a new playlist and on that list amongst a number of great tracks is the new single by Alias, 'King'. It’s the band’s second single and it’s a rather good psychedelic rocker with a sassy beat and some great fuzzy guitar. Another psychedelic find for the week was ‘Manta Cyclone’ by the Moral High Ground – not a new tune (it came out in February) but new for us and worth talking about. Manta Cyclone flits between early Pink Floyd psychedelia and post punk thrash and it sounds great loud.
Staying with psychedelia or more accurately psych rock, Frankie and the Witch Fingers bought out a new album ‘Monsters Eating People Eating Monsters…’ this week and its superb. It kicks off with the frantic 8-minute Activate, concludes with another 8-minute track MEPEM… and in between is a perfectly put together album that just flows so beautifully. There are little touches of seventies funk in amongst the awesome psych rock and the two segue tracks Michaeldose and Urge You are just magnificent touches. You could say that tracks like Simulator, Where’s Your Reality and Cavehead are standouts but its all excellent, and it’s been designed to listen to in one sitting, so don’t go track hopping or you’ll spoil the experience.
Also out on Friday was the new album by Working Men’s Club. I kind of think that the appeal of this album depends on your feelings toward New Order, Human League and Heaven 17. If you love those bands you’ll love this, but if you’re like me and can only take those bands in small doses you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. It’s a good album on the whole and there are some great tracks – Teeth, obviously, Valleys and the wonderful krautrock Angel stand out, but after a while that deadpan vocal and the incredibly primitive drum programming in places starts to wear a little thin. Interestingly the NME refer to its ‘pulsating rave anthems’ in their five-star review, which made me think that rave’s must be really crap these days.
Finally, this week, fellow NMS writer Ian Smith announced the release date of his debut album as Vanishing Lines. He’s joined in the band by Stephen Lawrie of The Telescopes and Jake Taylor. No Replacement Found comes out on the 30th October on Little Cloud Records and is available on some rather fetching pale green vinyl. You can check out a couple of the tracks on Bandcamp Now. It's noisy drone rock in the mode of Loop and the Jesus and Mary Chain and yes, this is a shameless plug.
Sunstack Jones have an excellent new album 'Golden Repair' out in week or so on Mai 68 Records. Ahead of its release, Jon Milton caught up with Chrisy Jones from the band to talk about the music that has influenced him over the years...
How did you first get into music, and what were your early influences?
I was obsessed with all pop music as a kid but everything turned upside down when a girl in my class brought in A Hard Days Night on VHS like ‘here’s the good shit son’. From there it was all Ride/Buffalo Springfield/Stone Roses/ Byrds/Verve/Nirvana/The La’s/Oasis/Burritos....
How did you get into playing and writing music yourself?
I had that Stone Roses gig at Blackpool and used to watch that thinking ‘oh I just need some foot pedals and the guitar will do that’. I didn’t realise at the time it was just badly edited, so when you saw Squire barely moving and there was a sparkling guitar solo going on in the audio, ha! Now I try to make as cooler sound I can by doing the least amount possible - but it helps that I have the two best guitarists in the UK next to me.
What was the first gig you went to?
Madness at Sheffield arena with my cousin Paul. It was amazing.
What was the first record you bought?
A-Ha ‘take on me’. Bought for me- and I still love it.
How have you discovered and explored different genres of music?
Record shops, Bandcamp, blogs (like your own) and recommendations from other bands I’m into, really. If something has an amazing sleeve I’ll listen cos if someone’s gone to the effort of making that cool I hope that what’s inside is cool. Consequently my collection of Lebanese Astro Funk now requires the rental of a small storage shed on a local farm.
Do you go through phases of listening to different music genres, or just dip in and out?
Phases of just listening to one band or person non-stop for weeks on end. I’ll get in a zone where I read, watch and listen to everything to do with one thing: Doors month, Kendrick month, Phoenix month, A Tribe called Quest month, Sabbath month. I was caning ‘stoner doom’ for about 3 months then had to step back - some super weird shit mixed in with the good there. They do have great artwork though and there seems to be a really good community spirit with that lot. And tattoos. Fuck loads of ‘em.
How have different artists/genres of music influenced the way that you play and write your own music?
I suppose what you truly love comes to the surface naturally via osmosis, but we just let it be what it is. We make a beautiful noise and that’s us. Our main thing is to better the last thing we did, not try and be something else. You can spot the fakers mile off (usually headlining innit).
Have you modelled yourself on any of your heroes, in the way you perform live, or play an instrument, or sing?
Is there one song by another artist that you’d wished you’d written, and if so what is it and why?
I think the go-to answer would be to chose one of the biggest songs that everyone in the world knows - cos we’d be rich, but then if we’d written it no one would know it would they?!? So today I’ll say ‘Can’t be sure’ by The Sunday’s. Because it breaks my heart and fills it at the same time, every time. Kinda like Sex Panther’s success rate!
Golden Repair is released on the 9th October, available on digital and vinyl. Pre-order at:
What We've Been Listening To This Week...IDLES, Felix M-B, TV Priest, Sapphire Blues & Premium Leisure
By Jon Milton
This week saw the release of the much anticipated third album by IDLES, Ultra Mono. It’s fair to say that the critics have been divided in their opinions of the album; the Quietus were one of the first to comment, in a review that veered between acerbic wit and outright personal attack, with others such as The Times equally as disparaging, whereas media like the NME and DIY have been largely positive, although you feel they were always going to be, as is their agenda . The bands fans are also polarised, with comments placed on AF Gang (a fan page dedicated to the band on Facebook) split between those that love the album and those that have taken issue with the somewhat simplistic nature of some of the lyrics.
Personally I love the energy and anger that IDLES create, their music captures the mood of this current era. In many places, Ultra Mono hits the mark with this, with songs like Grounds truly inspired, but at points the endless polemic starts to become exhausting. In some ways you can see why opinions diverge: its easy to consider this as a natural continuation from ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’ and celebrate the sheer level of in-your-face messaging and music, but equally as easy to view Ultra Mono as the point where the band started to cash in, becoming an exaggerated version of themselves. The intense marketing of the album (an £80 vinyl package???) doesn’t exactly help to dispel the latter view.
At this stage I’d suggest keeping an open mind and avoid looking for flaws in Ultra Mono if you want to get the most out of it. Some of the press criticism of the album feels like its come from individuals who’ve never really got the mass appeal of the band, have never liked them and have been waiting for the opportunity to knock them down and its therefore difficult to take them seriously given the lack of balance. For that reason its pace and power should be celebrated not derided, at least for now.
And now for something completely different. There was I casually browsing my social media feed on Friday night, when I came across a story from Do Nothing, recommending the debut album by some dude called Felix M-B.. Being an inquisitive type I thought I’d give it a listen and I have to say I was blown away. If you’re a fan of late sixties/early seventies Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, or from more recent times Fink and Devendra Banhart you should really give this a listen. Chunk is absolutely wonderful, 10 beautiful, wistful songs to warm your heart and bring a smile to your face.
The album begins with Hypochondriac, soft strumming and gentle clarinet accompanied by Felix’s soft, understated vocals rising and falling as the song unfurls. Recent single Chunk is absolutely glorious, with its rippling piano ebbing and flowing and a genius outro reminiscent of early period Tom Waits. As is the case with Waits from those first few albums, you can almost imagine yourself in a bar somewhere listening to Chunk being performed, joining in on the chorus of songs like the Dylan-esque RVW (which was inspired by time spent touring with Lorkin O’Reilly), Spit, and Supermoon, which features backing vocals performed by Felix and his friends on a drunk evening in the studio. Chunk is brilliant from start to finish, an album that will charm you and make you smile one minute then make you well up the next.
Of the singles released this week the highlight was definitely ‘Slideshow’ by TV Priest. Another taster from their ‘Uppers’ album due out in early November, Slideshow is about the internet, algorithms and information by all accounts. As is the case with the band’s previous single This Island, Slideshow is motorik driven with discordant guitar throughout, which on its own sounds fantastic although you do hope that the album carries a bit more variation to prevent it all becoming too one dimensional. We’ll find out of course in a month or so when the album comes out, and there will be another track coming out in the coming weeks too.
Also of note this week were the new singles by Premium Leisure and Sapphire Blues. Premium Leisure is a solo project by Chris Barker, who plays guitar for Willie J Healey and this single Remedies has a bit of a Performance era White Denim vibe about it. You can read more about it here. The Sapphire Blues single ‘Ourselves Forgotten’ is also very good, post punk with a twist, which you can read about here.
By Jon Milton
On the day that Bristol based IDLES grab all the headlines by releasing their much anticipated third album Ultra Mono, spare a thought and three minutes of your time to check out some fresh new blood from the city in the form of Sapphire Blues, who have just released their impressive third single ‘Ourselves Forgotten’.
The band, made up of Sam Lance Jones (vocals, guitar), Harry Beaver (bass) and Chris Thompson (Percussion) released their first single ‘Good Morning Britain’ in 2019 and gigged extensively throughout that year with the likes of Lumer, Talk Show and Deadletter. A second single ‘119’ followed earlier this year before the band signed to Blitzcat Records, with this new single their first for the label.
Ourselves Forgotten is a song about small town boredom, and the desire to get away and lose yourself on the weekend. The song begins and ends at a frenetic pace, with skittering drums, thrashy guitars and angst driven vocals compounding the sense of urgency, but in the middle there’s a clever little twist which adds character to make it stand out from the crowd.
Ourselves Forgotten is comfortably their best song to date and at this rate Sapphire Blue could well be a band to watch out for.
By Jon Milton
OK, I’ll admit it, I’m guilty on occasion of worrying about what I eat, and the amount of exercise I do, isn’t everyone? Remedies, the new single out today by Premium Leisure is a comment on ‘the noise that fogs our perceptions of healthy living’, suggesting that we all take a more considered and laid-back approach ‘ to do what makes you, and people around you, feel good’ which sounds like very sensible advice in these overtly self-conscious times. The song itself has that breezy T-Rex vibe that White Denim explored on their Performance album, which means it’s rather cool, with a low-fi, seventies-glam fuzzy feel about it.
Premium Leisure is the solo project of songwriter/producer and Willie J Healey guitarist, Chris Barker. According to Chris, the song was first conceived as a piano-ballad in his flat, but soon evolved into a more groove-led offering, complete with Drummer Mike Monaghan [Saint Etienne, Gaz Coombes] adding the track’s sharp, clean percussion.
Remedies is out now, and is the first single to be released on new South London Plum Cuts label and the first track to be taken from a 4 track EP that will arrive at the start of 2021. You can check out the video below. Me? I'm off to put me feet up.