“Equanimity, when confined to the fundamentals of A to B, is a concept attainable.” (A. Rolland, 2021)
I know you’ve heard it too; that passing racket from a particular cyclist, portable radio in-basket, roaming about the pave-ways projecting their track-list of choice to all about, atypical to what you would expect to hear. An example, eh… A fellow there was, well over a year ago, possibly 2, gliding (specifically) through Northern Quarter, blasting out a track by (abrupt interlude)… Rheingold, huh? A Neue Deutsche Welle group of all things, yes (Lionel Hutz nodding)… hardly what you might define as a general listen to help breeze the peddling…
(Q) So, randomly selected or a conscientious choice, hmm?
He didn’t seem the type for it, in comparison to the past-dwelling retrospectives you would normally associate with stated genre; content in mispronouncing the Teutonic-tongue, purchasing sort-after vinyl to use only as informal wallpaper and tending to plants (they own) with an overdose of H2O, the final spite towards the dreaded expense of botanical cultivation.
The light is fading, yet the cries of battle ring out to startle the non-conflicted. And by that I mean circling the Gardens of Piccadilly while listening in on a brawl, unscripted and bloody. Shout, right-hook, kick, eye-gouge… you name it, ‘tis in the manual. But what of the consequences? I couldn’t just stroll up to a policeman and say:
“What’s the happening plankton, there’s a fly-chasin’ geezer with implement! Your prompt intervention would do them benefit…”
To utter such a thing, I’d more than likely see the darkened confines of a cell than an instigation of help for a fellow citizen. After all, what an in-uniform does for them-self amounts to lonesome preservation; a distant hope of a badge shining and the casual acceptance of things being dropped gently into their unbuttoned pocket, all expenses tethered. Conversely, if I cycled into the fray with my bike-lock chain (unlocked) and swung it around as though a mace, what percussive samples could be sourced from the scattering of their teeth? Well, their diction would be lacking, that’s for sure.
If I may elaborate on the final part of the title (see above): soaring volumes and the clash of stubble-d ruffians… at this point, now irrelevant. Instead, I’m drawn into the side-road-rage of shout and retort, (sighs) the perennial tick-tac-toe. You know, the idiot walking into the cycle lane oblivious to that incoming front-wheel, or the accidental crashing into of a deliveryman (the idiot reversal?), scowling as he checks that his pizzas’ sense of shape isn’t something the late Salvador Dali would have had in mind for a sculpture, culinary in focus. RED…AMBER… GREEN… and… Vroom! Cars man, those motorised coffins sure make for a roadside contemporary I’d really… rather not encounter, however encounter… I do. The choice of stations on their ‘built-in’ stereos, in conjunction with vehicular “features” like open windows, is ever an undelight… and honestly, a missed opportunity.
*BBC Radi…* (Static)… “Uh oh…” (notices something’s wrong) *CAPITAL F…* (Static) “Stop, stop… cut TRANSMISSION!” (peddling intensifies)… *Smooooooooooooth Radio*… (look of resignation) “too late…” I sympathise in a way; a non-digital setup’s variety isn’t particularly outstanding, aye. The process of driving, with its entailments of sign-posted iconography and surveillanced ‘courtesies’… a regimented bore, no? Gated reverb, a hypnotic wonder and indeed a temptation, that much is true… but Smooth fucking Radio? Couldn’t you have just rode in silence like a good little sport, perhaps humming to a frequency only bats can hear as you lament your journey toward the 9 to 5? JUST WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!? Aside from the wanton anguish you inflict on the passengers within (that heap of welded tin!), you’re also putting yourself at risk, since… if I had another chain to spare, I’d be sure to give it a swing!
Good lord, I love the Cramps (like any respectable Bad Girl Should). They’re hyper-sexualised, no holds barred, grimy punk perfection. Shit loads of leopard print, shit loads of leather, shit loads of stillettos. Endearingly sleazy. To love the Cramps is to celebrate one’s own filth in all its grungy glory. And what better way to pay tribute to the kings and queen of camp than to traverse through their endless library of excellent album covers? Featuring predominantly the blisteringly beautiful Poison Ivy herself, these covers are some of the most iconic of their genre, and epitomize everything the Cramps are about. Here are ten of their best album or single artworks, from the bootleg to the bikini-clad girls with machine guns in hand…
10 THE CRAMPS / BOOTLEG ALBUM: TALES FROM THE CRAMPS / 1977-79
9. SMELL OF FEMALE
8.LOOK MOM NO HEAD!
7. WHAT’S INSIDE A GIRL?
6. FIENDS OF DOPE ISLAND
5. DATE WITH ELVIS
3. STAY SICK!
2. CAN YOUR PUSSY DO THE DOG?
Ah yes, the magnum opus of Cramps covers. Truly a sight to behold. It has everything one could want from a punk record’s cover really – a badass woman wearing a badass sequin bikini with a badass machine gun in hand. And don’t even get me started on that lush wallpaper. If they sold this in B&Q, that would be well plastered in my living room let me tell you. From the beloved aforementioned Stay Sick, this single cover more than packs a punch and does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s bold, it’s beautiful, it’s bloody cool. I don’t need to say much more on the matter other than that I am simply desperate to be this woman. The Cramps forever and ever, man.
Whether you’re crunching numbers from a cluttered office in a crowded apartment outside London, or burning the midnight oil from a dingy student bedroom, self-motivation has never been more taxing for the stay-at-home generation. If you’ve found yourself struggling to maintain focus or needing a kick into productive action, this list may have what you’ve been seeking. I’ve compiled tracks ranging from contemporary classical, through ambient, to the left-field corners of electronic music that have helped me through this difficult period when a black coffee and an impending deadline just isn’t cutting it!
1. ‘Scene Suspended’ – Jon Hopkins
I first came across Jon Hopkins’ work on realising his role in coproducing much of Coldplay’s early albums (give ‘Light Through the Veins’ a spin if you need convincing!) and his close ties with Brian Eno. A personal favourite artist of mine from my years of discovering new music, Hopkins has, in my view, an unrivalled ability to blend truly beautiful classical melodies with hard-hitting and transcendental techno. His new ‘Polarity’ tour of opera houses across Europe, is a masterful demonstration of this ability to weave the seemingly paradoxical genres together and was the last gig I managed to catch before the pandemic called time on live music. ‘Scene Suspended’ is one of Hopkins more recent productions, firmly on the classical end of the spectrum and a perfect soundtrack when clarity of mind and focus is what you’re after.
For fans of: Brian Eno, Biosphere
2. ‘Everything You Do Is A Balloon’ – Boards of Canada
You could do far worse than sticking any Boards of Canada album on shuffle if you’re in need of a late night grind at the desktop. I’ve opted however for one of the brother’s earliest tracks, from their 1996 EP ‘Hi Scores’ that I feel captures both a love of the vintage analogue synthesizer sound and catchy trip-hop beats. The EP as a whole perfectly represents the stripped back, lo-fi sound the duo have crafted over the years and is the perfect soundtrack for those more reflective moments of concentration.
For fans of: Autechre, The Future Sound of London
3. ‘Recovery’ – Rival Consoles
Leicester-born producer Ryan Lee West (Rival Consoles) has been a staple on the London-based Erased Tapes record label with a repertoire ranging from complex IDM and glitch, to harder club-orientated tracks. I first heard ‘Recovery’ played in a Boiler Room set from Italian electronic duo Mind Against back in 2015 when the track first released and I’ve not tired of it since. Expect an emotional backdrop of eerie synths accompanied by an erratic yet melancholy lead and a powerful yet subtle drum arrangement. This track is brain food at its finest!
For fans of: Kiasmos, Max Cooper
4. ‘Styge’ (Ochre Remix) – Ed Chamberlain
The track that immediately springs to mind under the ‘braindance’ genre (if that’s not too pretentious a category), ‘Styge’ is an electro-infused composition that really encapsulates intelligent dance music. Dug up from the depths of the underground and given a delicate remix from Ochre, this 2008 version features the same warping ambience and complex drum patterns of the original, but the melody is complemented by a harp rhythm which gives the track a tranquil and relaxing tone overall. A fitting demonstration of how electronic music can be shaped for different environments and a must-have on your focus playlist.
For fans of: Four Tet, Skee Mask
5. ‘Negative Returns’ (Four Tet Remix) – Krust
Upping the tempo somewhat, Kieran Hebden’s (Four Tet) recent take on Kirk George Thompson’s ‘Negative Returns’ is exactly what you’d expect from the former artist. This remix is completely new territory for Hebden who has produced extensively but never released a remix in the 170+bpm range. Unsurprisingly however, for those familiar with Four Tet’s discography, the track is rearranged and mastered beautifully. It strips back the aggression and ‘noise’ of the original and leaves a delicate and floating liquid d’n’b track which hits those frequencies that really allow you to tune into what you’re doing. Expect emotional and ethereal synths paired with the sample selections we know and love, as well as something a little bit new when it comes to the drums.
For fans of: Floating Points, Calibre
6. ‘Lone Swordsman’ – Daniel Avery
A favourite selection on Mary Anne Hobbs’ BBC Radio 6 morning slot, ‘Lone Swordsman’ is a track from Daniel Avery’s ‘Dusting for Smoke’ EP released on Phantasy records last year. Avery’s track has a simple and contemplative feel befitting of its purpose as a homage to the late Andrew Weatherall, a true musical pioneer in acid house, rock and beyond. The lead melody is dainty and catchy and the accompaniment from the synth chords and drums is understated and yet exactly what this track demands. A real winner from an artist who continues to impress.
For fans of: Avalon Emerson, Leon Vynehall
7. ‘Love’ – Ben Lukas Boysen
Renown for crafting mesmerising soundscapes that owe much to an early mastering of sampling techniques, Boysen has made his name in sound design working alongside major clients in the advertising, film and gaming industry. This track from his 2020 release ‘Mirage’, available from Erased Tapes records, is a showcase of an exciting genre of avant-garde, experimental electronic music that draws on classical influences. It features a slow and emotional build-up of arpeggiated synths set to the backdrop of a string section reminiscent of a Nils Frahm production. Definitely one of the more dramatic tracks to feature on this list but one that captures an intricate genre that’s worth considering if you’ve always thought classical meant little more than Beethoven’s sixth symphony!
For fans of: Nils Frahm, Rival Consoles, Plaid
8. ‘Fundamental Values’ – Nils Frahm
To wrap up this list we come to an artist who’s love of the black and white keys and modern twist on classical music has earned him global critical acclaim. While working with a true arsenal of equipment and scaling up to full blown orchestras in his live performances, Frahm’s compositions centre on a real appreciation and command of the piano. ‘Fundamental Values’ takes the listener on a mesmerising 14 minute journey. It begins with spritely, delayed synth patterns and slightly eerie chords before the piano comes in. The track is a testimony to Frahm’s ability to marry electronic minimalism and looping techniques with a dynamic and free flowing grand piano lead. The track slowly gathers momentum and drama as Frahm introduces and manipulates backing vocals before it enters its final phase in the last four minutes with high feedback on the synths and rapid percussive elements. A true masterclass in the ‘not quite classical’ bracket!
For fans of: Jon Hopkins, Hans Zimmer
While these tracks may not be a definitive, catch-all solution to getting stuff done, hopefully they serve as a starting point for those unfamiliar with an interesting and burgeoning genre exploring the intersection between electronic music and new classical. Whether they end up being used as a backing playlist to work or study to, or simply tracks to look out the window and ponder the meaning of life at 2am is entirely up to you!
Oi! Did you see the drink token on the ground? Did you? Did… you? Well??? Good, you’ll need it. The quartet we are seeing, or outfit as I will come to overuse throughout, BOAST influences stretching from the disparate corners of both proto and… post, with a sound so indie… it will compel you to go full circle and undergo a frontal lobotomy… for real autonomy is but a shroud.
“Reach for the clogs, but don’t TAKETH THESE POGS!” Kudos, kudos… certainly some witty lyrics from the aforementioned outfit right there, which I will now refer to as lyricism. I mean, tacking on a suffix or two just makes everything better DOESISH IT NOTISM? Like gifting a 10 pound note-superimposed rubber to a homeless person… camera at the ready! Let’s hope the flash doesn’t make his retinas glow… for that would spoil my op, warrant a mop (upon seeing the jaundice prevalent), and thereby render the whole thing a… box-office flop?
Actually, that was boring… recall the token? Well, time to put it to use, after all, only a Stanley Standard would queue up to buy a pint full-price, wasting what little dosh they… and probably you have, unlike I. What is it you’ve chosen? A Newcastle Brown Ale, is it not? A quench repulsive, you’d agree?A Salford Quay swig it is! *Smashes the glass on the ground* You ought to try Thatchers, it replicates the taste of Devon just enough for you to (genuinely) believe you’re a peak-cap certifiable! And accent wise, non-rhotic galore! Wowee, the outfit’s lyricism strikes once more unto, “Fuck this infernal crisp, for now I have… THE ETERNAL LISP!” clearly, the syntactical nuances of Anglo-Saxon are strong with this one; I’d wager 2:1 in Lit, 79% ENTJ and a gold star for P.K.Q (Pub Knowledge Questioning)… defferinos, for I do so believe…
Oh no! It looks like someone split their head open on the rafters while crowd surfing, ouchy. Now then, back to your drink of choice. Why, oh why… the Weiss Sturm, over the sacramental K, good sir? Sheet metals are hazardous to the sole, desecrate the greenery (like our Platt Fields) and makes you look like the non-toothed tramp we earlier encountered. By comparison; K is an offering smooth on the grip, caustic on the cracked-o-lip, elevates your social standing in the smoking area to about the rank of ‘hip’, and… In terms of the red-on-black branding… you can plonk it on top of your wardrobe as though a trophy, making your room, as they say: less a tip. Aho, the sonic-outfit-extraordinaire(s) have yet more food-for-thought to offer, “If I happened to be in possession of an accom FOB, I’d be sure to give it a hefty LOB, at that ersatz journo KNOB, known to most as Prince… JOHN ROBB!” Rivets and bolts man, rivets and bolts! Whether evoking the LYRICISM of the late Tom Weights or simply a cough from the Clever Clarence influenza… it matters not, the deified OUTFIT have cracked the code on this vault and placed the lid (right) on the genie, just as the horoscope prophesied!!!! If only a PR budget, un-prohibitive, were theirs to spend… Hey, let’s go backstage and steal shit from their rider!
If someone were to approach me for advice on what the best setup for a band is, a lot of options would come to mind, most of which would probably be probably safe or easy to work with. Though, if I were to say something like a jazz trio, or a four-piece indie band I would undoubtedly feel disingenuous. That is because, and I can say this with a lot of certainty, the objectively best setup for a band is a two-piece noise-rock band. From Hella and Lighting Bolt to Belk and Modern Technology, there’s no lack of data that shows it’s a formula that not only works, but leaves so much room for individuality, experimentation, and attitude to shine through. With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that when I encountered the music of Manchester noise-rock siblings SLAP RASH there was an immediate compulsion to engage with their music.
Almost as bold and present as their fully capitalised band-name, the duo’s latest single, “Cimmerian,” knows how to utilise atmosphere to its greatest extent. With its eerie synth-laden intro providing a backdrop for singer and drummer Amelia Lloyd’s authoritative vocals, an immediate sense of tension crawls through you that never fades through the tracks three and a half minute runtime. Even when bassist Huw Lloyd barrels through with his fuzzed-up, stabbing performance alongside the power of his sister’s confidence behind the drums, SLAP RASH keep up the atmosphere they built at the onset of the track.
Not letting ego get in the way of their songwriting though, the band are aware that an effective track needs restraint as much as it needs unleashed flurries of sound. As such, while heavy on those moments of raucous noise-rock, the duo wisely know when to stand back and let the sparseness do the talking, as passages of dynamic lows fill the space between furious choruses. The result is an engrossingly exciting addition to the expansive noise-rock canon.
I’m eager to see where the two-piece go from here. I hope like me you’ll be wanting to keep up with the band so you can find them here, here, and here, and listen to them here!
I love Nick Cave. No, I mean it. I love Nick Cave. That should be abundantly clear to anyone who knows me by now, the amount that I go on about the baritone beast of Bad Seeds fame. Some of his songs are the most special songs in the world to me. In my teenage years, I’d spend hours curled up on my box-room bed blasting The Boatman’s Call, lamenting with the Goth God that people just, truly, Ain’t No Good. I love his writing – see The Sickbag Song, in which his words weave webs of sheer narrative bliss. I love his ambitious collaborations, such as that of fellow Australian crooner Kyle Minogue Where The Wild Roses Grow, with its John Everett Millais music video aesthetic and strange synergy between the two most unique of talents. I think I love most of all his personality, or rather what I gather from it from his appearances in interviews and films like the 2007 epic western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and, of course, Oscar-robbed oligarch of animated excellence Shrek 2. Let’s excuse his recent comments in regards to a certain (rightly) shunned Smiths vocalist, and chalk it down to Cave’s age, just this once please. Because Cave oozes a distinct humility that is especially likeable due to the sheer amount of his creative successes. I have to admit, if that were me, I would be absolutely lauding my talent over everybody. No way I would be hiding my light under bushel. That light would be shining like a lighthouse, baby. So that’s why it is particularly disappointing for me to have to impart some honesty in regards to Mr Cave here, when I tell you that his recent February release, Carnage in collaboration with Warren Ellis, let me down somewhat. I did like it. But I didn’t love it, and I so wanted to. While I don’t deny the genius and usual comedic flair that Cave injects into all of his projects that this one is no exception to, I do question whether this is really just an album of Ghosteen rejects. Most of all, I question what direction is best next for Nick Cave.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I definitely still doted on this record. His mesmerising quality has not been totally lost, worry not. Some tracks did remind me of the theatrical twists and turns of 2008’s Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, which I liked greatly. White Elephant for me was, definitely, the standout track from the record. Firstly, for it’s lyrics –“I am a Botticelli Venus with a penis riding an enormous scalloped fan” isn’t really the sort of lyric that you forget in any hurry. The threat of “shooting me in the f*ckin’ face if [I] come around here” is quite the deterrent from Cave and his Elephant-tear ammo-filled gun, let me tell you. Secondly, in terms of its technical composition, which is where Ellis’ collaboration choice truly shines – he’s a jack of all trades. He is a master of all instruments, and many wind instruments that I’m not actually sure of are at play in this record. It’s very typically Grinderman, which from Ellis, we can of course expect. But most strikingly his skills sparkle when you consider how many of the tracks sound akin to film scores, with the use of strings. Ellis is known for his scores to Mustang and War Machine. With softer songs like Lavender Fields and the achingly beautiful Albuquerque, which made me want to wail for all of the things that I haven’t yet shed tears over, the piano and strings truly evoke the tragic ending of a black-and-white film that I’ve just made up in my head during the 3:57 minutes I was lucky to be listening to it. Carnage is chaotic, but gorgeously so. It’s surreal. It’s senseless. It’s…like everything Cave does. Special, like I mentioned earlier. Cave feels like your closest friend in the world when you listen to him sing. Not many artists can do that, really. Not many artists are anywhere near in the same league as Nick Cave, really.
But this does not mean that it remains completely unscathed by criticism. Despite there only being eight tracks present on the EP, some certainly felt a bit…rushed. Hand of God, supposedly the lead from the record, is probably my least favourite of it. I found it a bit dreary, and in truth, almost as though Cave was parodying himself. It was far too familiar to so much of his previous back catalogue. It also lacked originality in some senses in that it all seemed very Eno-esque. I was reminded even of some of Eno’s ambient works as I listened to this record, the reflective tracks heavy in piano and less reliant on vocals driving the songs forward. It just didn’t really have that spark that Ghosteen certainly possessed.
I just worry really, that as the years go on, all Cave seems to offer us is content – and perhaps an oversaturation of it at that. Cave consistently churns out record after record. On the one hand, this is testament to his incredible creativity that he seemingly struggles to rein in at times. It seems to burst from the very seams of his brains and shoot right out of every one of his senses. On the other hand, the argument of quality over content could certainly be applied here, as a few of his records I have listened to have felt like excuses to ram records out rather than to actually carefully craft meaningful music. Across his work with The Bad Seeds, The Birthday Party, his solo stuff and his soundtracks, Cave has released 30+ records. More than half, particularly in more recent years, have been a bit ‘meh’. It pains me to say it, as I idolise the man, but I can’t help but wish that he would perhaps go in a different direction with his next work. It’s all well and good collaborating for a fresh sound, but that can’t be achieved when it’s being done with somebody you have worked with for literal years – a former bandmate like Ellis. I want Cave to flex his creative prowess and think a bit more out of the box. He is the best when he is at his most random. If you hear of a collaboration or project that Cave is planning and think, hmm, that’ll be a bit weird, won’t it? then you can guarantee that that will be his next magnum opus.
So. In short? The record was chaotic. It meant a lot, while all at once not really meaning anything. It was a mish-mash of ideas and genres, some of which paid off, whilst others needed a bit more close careful attention and preening to. Here’s hoping that Cave’s next album gives us something a little bit different. Maybe a musical makeover is required for our favourite Aussie. Regardless, Cave still remains one of my favourite humans, and the undeniable King of Black Suit Jackets. I just wish he’d do another Kylie collab. Can’t Get Red Right Hand Out Of My Head, anyone?
Listen to Nick Cave & Warren Ellis’ new album, Carnage, below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Stockport’s self-proclaimed resident rockstar (or rather, Stockstar…no? I thought that was quite good) is back with a bang! Make You Mine has been on the airwaves for quite some time now – if you don’t know it, get to know it. This seasoned and slightly overloaded reviewer may or may not have had this on the ‘to review’ pile for a while (I sincerely hope Rory doesn’t mind about this gross negligence of mine), but it’s hopefully worth the wait. Why? Well, there isn’t much more for me to say in regards to this record other than positive poring over it – it’s a seductive, synthy sizzler of a single that dreamily oozes from one catchy hook to another. I caught myself humming the chorus as I typed out this review; while I’m sure it’s not a comparison he’s never had before, this indie-pop enigma of a single echoes the likes of Blossoms, which by many a Mancunian’s standards is quite the fabulous feat.
The blanket of lockdown bleakness has been perfectly punctured through with Make You Mine, an irresistible song that tugs at the sides of your mouth until you’re doing one of those things – what do you call them? Oh yes, smiles. Most of us have been strangers to this seldom-experienced sensation for some time given the gloom of recent months. And yet Rory raises spirits effortlessly in just over three minutes. It’s a real talent to have, that, to transform the whole fabric of one’s mornings. That’s just what this song did for me when I played it for the first time. Having been moodily cocooned in duvet domains for a large part of my morning, a decided lazy day, a quick blast of Wynne’s new winner of a track had me up, showered and ready for the day. It seems that Wynne has truly achieved his goal with the song – “The perfect tune to mark a new chapter.” It inspires a real sense of new beginnings. In a year (hopefully) not totally fraught with captivity and miserable masses. But rather, a celebration of Spring, an advent for adventures to come. The track is pure joy, plain and simple.
Is it a love song? Is it a lust song? A mixture of both, I feel. Wynne himself describes it as a “coming-of-age movie lyrically”, and indeed, this would seem an accurate assertion. It’s a bonafide Bildungsroman (look it up, it’s a mint word), a narrative journey of sorts, and I found myself feeling strangely connected to the subject matter despite having little knowledge on the trials and tribulations of love myself. Considering indie lyrics can, sometimes, fall foul to cop-out-cliches and fairly paint-by-numbers production, to have such an intriguing tale behind the words really does amplify its specialness as a track. It’s unique to many records I’ve heard of its genre – and in fairness, I think by now living in South Manchester for the past few years, I’ve heard a lot.
I think what struck me most when listening to it, was how much I longed for live gigs again. I’ve stated this on previous reviews, I’m sure, and I’m equally sure that you are bored of reading this sentiment of mine – but when one hears a song like this, the thought of being crammed in a sweaty swarm of strangers bouncing to the beat is a thought most tempting. Wynne has wowed before with his live performances on his own tour, a triumphant headline show at Liverpool’s brand new Jimmy’s, and a rowdy successful residency of heralded headline shows here in Manchester. The thought of hearing his chocolately, smooth vocals slipping their way into a crowd makes me absolutely itching to return to normality and gigs in the greatest city in the world (no bias, honest..)
I’m hoping, in excuse for my inexcusable tardiness with said review, that this will re-remind people of what a talent Rory truly is. Wynne is one to watch, there’s no doubt about that, and he only grows bigger and bigger in his creative exploits as he experiments with different instruments, genres and vocal styles. I expect furthermore releases in this enjoyable vein – I particularly enjoyed his previous single, Roses (slightly different to the Outkast one, but still properly good, promise). I can’t help but feel Tom Ogden and the gang should probably watch out. Stockport’s new indie titan looks well on his way to rethroning them as Stocky’s finest export…
‘Make You Mine’ is available on all good streaming sites. You can follow Rory on Instagram here, and Twitter here. Listen to this new single below:
“Wings – they’re only the band the Beatles could have been!” Ah, the immortal words of Alan Partridge. And how true these words spoken were, by the most righteous of prophets. All joking aside, there is a clear mission statement for this hastily 3AM penned article, and it is this – dear reader, by the end of it, I want you to be as convinced as I am of Wings’ musical genius. Paul and Linda McCartney’s post-Beatle brainchild has apparently long been considered, well, a bit…uncool to like. I remember a long time ago now – four score and seven years ago, to quote a certain Mr Lincoln (not as a trustworthy source as Partridge, I’m aware) when I was seeing a gentleman in a markedly romantic fashion. We had a fiery, vicious debate that genuinely ended in what I can only describe from my end as unbridled rage. And why, you ask? Because the fella in question had the gall to remark these terrible words: “Paul McCartney is a wet-wipe.” I took personal offence to this statement. To disregard some of the most romantic, catchy hooks and loving lyrics of Mr McCartney and his winged vehicle is to disregard some serious, serious tuneage. I can understand Temporary Secretary hate (and, come to think of it, a fair chunk of McCartney II disdain also). But you cross the line with Wings. There’s a myriad of reasons why I will defend Wings to the death. Here’s a few, splayed out in a lovely parade of paragraphs for you. By the end of this, if you’re not convinced of Wings’ genius, well. I don’t know what to tell you. I’ll have to banish you to the same dungeon of oblivion that said gentleman was banished to.
Wet-wipe. Wet. Wipe. Hmm. Hmm. Let’s analyse that assertion, shall we? I suppose on face value, wet-wipe just sort of means a bit soft and sensitive, but in a cringey sense. But in reality – what is cringey about being open emotionally with your lyrics, and singing about something other than the rock-n-roll cliche norm of smashing drugs and fornicating en-masse with stunning seventies maidens? Surely there’s something markedly sweet and refreshing about hearing a man sing just about how much he loves his wife, really? After all, it’s worked for Robert Smith thus far, hasn’t it. In 1976’s Silly Love Songs, Paul muses,”Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs / and what’s wrong with that / I’d like to know?” And here, Paul demonstrates my point exactly. Paul is mocking what critics and John Lennon himself had long dismissed him as – just a songwriter who wrote solely “sentimental slush”. Check out what Paul said to Billboard of this song back in ’76:
“But over the years people have said, ‘Aw, he sings love songs, he writes love songs, he’s so soppy at times.’ I thought, Well, I know what they mean, but, people have been doing love songs forever. I like ’em, other people like ’em, and there’s a lot of people I love — I’m lucky enough to have that in my life. So the idea was that “you” may call them silly, but what’s wrong with that?
The song was, in a way, to answer people who just accuse me of being soppy. The nice payoff now is that a lot of the people I meet who are at the age where they’ve just got a couple of kids and have grown up a bit, settling down, they’ll say to me, ‘I thought you were really soppy for years, but I get it now! I see what you were doing!'”
And well…he’s right. What is wrong with ‘silly’ love songs? What is wrong with being so full to the seams of love that you can’t help but let it spill out through your vocal chords now and then? If being a romantic qualifies one to be a wet-wipe then I suppose Shakespeare was a wet-wipe? And the Brontes must have been bonafide wetties by that definition. Don’t even get me started on penguins, man. They have the same bird (no pun intended!) forever, and mate together for life. Cringe, right?! I think one really just really needs to reevaluate their cynicism towards the easy-listening group by assessing whether this ties into their opinion of love as a whole. The newly-dumpeds, the scorned and spurneds, the perpetually single of us. We may indeed be tempted to sh*t all over a band that celebrate and unabashedly love love. But even as someone who at this point is certainly disillusioned by the notion of romance, I can recognise the beauty of it flourishing in others. I acknowledge the happiness that it and sentiments of it inspire in others, especially through a variety of art-forms. Why wouldn’t I want other people to be joyful? I think not liking Wings is a you problem, frankly.
Where does this ingrained dislike of Macca come from, particularly from Beatles fans?! Well, I have a hypothesis of sorts. I really do feel that, especially post-Beatlemania, there’s a strange hyper-masculinity that has developed to idolising John Lennon in favour of shunning the more sensitive, softer songs by Paul McCartney. This isn’t a criticism of the song-writing of Lennon by any means. He was, though questionable of character, an exemplary songwriter and cool cat. However, it seems to me that the Dark Fruits-brandishing, football and Oasis-admiring, Abbey Road-worshipping side of Beatles fans seem to build themselves on Lennon in a way. Certainly, he isn’t ‘cringe’ by any means, and is arguably the ‘cooler’ character – whatever cool is. But it worries me how ingrained in misogyny a lot of his songs and his personal behaviour (in regards to both Cynthia Lennon and Yoko Ono) were. It worries me that this subtle degradation of women is something that resonates with younger male fans and has since the sixties. On Beatles records particularly there’s a stark difference in the songs that he vocalises on and McCartney’s songs – even in terms of his love songs. For example, compare a batch of McCartney vocal heavy songs: Blackbird, Hide Your Love Away, Michelle. Compare these to the experimental, brash, semi-obnoxious (but nonetheless tunes) of Lennon: Getting Better, Come Together, Yer Blues. The harshness in his voice is palpable in comparison to the gentle warble of Paul. Lennon’s lyrics – particularly in his solo foray – glorify predominantly the abuse and use of women sexually, heavy drug use and criticism of war and violence (despite having no issue inflicting this onto his own wives domestically, but I digress). As I say, this hero-worshipping of Lennon worries me in relation to its effect on his younger, impressionable listeners. Since when did being loving, sweet and respectful of women become ‘uncool’ and ‘undesirable’? So what if Lennon never would have done deeply cringe eighties ventures like McCartney’s duet with Stevie Wonder (linked below…dear God, need I say more.) I’d argue the lyrics and persona of McCartney and Wings as a whole is far more of moral depth, quality and general goodness than any project of narcissism Lennon ever churned out.
Okay, I realise that’s quite a harsh condemnation of Lennon. I do enjoy his music, honestly. I just do not enjoy the Wings slander, and I’ll argue for their case in any way possible – especially if that means critiquing the bizarre masculine paladin-ism of one John Lennon. I sincerely dislike the notion that music has to be deemed ‘cool’ to be likeable. I know plenty of cool people who like Wings, thank you – my housemates Mae and Josh are fellow ardent fans of the Band on the Run, as is my friend Mof (undeniably one of the grooviest gents I’ve ever known), who likes them a lot. Well, a real lot. Check his tattoo out, by Kurt Mitchell. Tell me that isn’t gnarly, or whatever the kids are saying these days…
On a technical level though, and in wider terms of their musicianship, how can anyone defy their talent? I normally feel music and music taste is completely subjective, but in regards to Wings (who I care for in almost a maternal, protective sense) I don’t think it is even up for discussion. They are excellent, fact. They dabble in so many genres: pop, classic rock, blues, even bordering on the operatic in tracks like Live and Let Die. The complexity and showmanship that go into each of their songs is incredibly admirable. I had the pleasure of bearing witness to McCartney live in 2018, when I went to go and see him at the O2. He did a mixture of Beatles, stuff from Ram, and Wings. I remember being so struck at the time by just how many incredible songs Wings have made that I didn’t even know were by them. I particularly enjoyed when he introduced Let ‘Em In as the ‘Postcode Lottery song’ – but also realised that this is perhaps why people don’t really find Wings very, ahem, cool.
To conclude and summarize my essay-structured argument, I’ve left below a link to one of the best compilations of all time, Wings Greatest. A man in a record shop once gave me this for free because reportedly ‘nobody was going to buy it, anyway’. I can’t understand why. From Hi, Hi, Hi to Jet, every song on this is magical in its own way. I implore you, those still remaining unconvinced, to listen to this and deny their genius in any respect. Just because living on a farm in the Mull of Kintyre, knitting jumpers and raising animals for pleasure rather than sustenance, isn’t very rock ‘n’roll, it doesn’t mean that Wings are. The fact that Paul remains unabashedly his lovely self, and the fact that oozes through these sunshine songs, makes Wings all the more likeable to me. I hope you leave this article a bonafide Wings aficionado; and if not, I want to know why not. Come on, I haven’t got all day.
(I think I’ve put more work into this than I have ever put into a piece of university work. Is that bad? Oh, well. For Paul, anything…)
Ah, The Muppet Show. Beloved by everyone from the freshest of flowers to those in the same age bracket as Statler and Waldorf, The Muppets have a strangely appealing quality that spans across well – everyone, really. It’s no surprise then, that from the 1976-1981 original run of the show to even modern Muppet iterations today, even the most golden of musical glitterati couldn’t resist getting involved with the fuzzy friends. Having been host to the likes of Dave Grohl, Charles Aznavour, Harry Belafonte and Weezer, the puppets have performed alongside a smorgasbord of incredible and random guests over the years. Here’s a few of the best fabulously bizarre moments that two entertainment worlds collided over, erm, frog and pig puppets.
In 1977, the bonafide king of glam rock and all things fabulously flamboyant graced The Muppet Show stage by playing his classic croon Crocodile Rock in- you guessed it – a swamp filled with crocodiles. In Kermit’s best-selling tell-all autobiography (the greatest autobiography since the likes of Nelson Mandela’s, arguably) Before You Leap, Kermit states that his mother booked Elton John into the local theatre. While there, Kermit’s mother of course introduced John to the crocodile that inspired “Crocodile Rock.” I think Bernie Taupin was probably in that swamp too, you know. Why didn’t The Electric Mayhem play on more John records?
Punk princess Joan Jett of The Runaways and The Blackhearts fame produced probably her greatest musical offering yet (and from a legend like her, that’s saying something) when she collaborated with The Muppets in 2016 to sing Bad Reputation. When Miss Piggy suffers a scandalous wardrobe malfunction, the network that The Muppets are represented by is outraged, and Piggy is forced to question everything she stands for. By the end of the episode, Jett helps Piggy remember her worth and empowers her – who cares if the public sees your pig tail, right? And who better to teach Miss Piggy to not give a f*ck than the queen of not giving a f*ck herself. #UnveilTheTail, man.
It’s hard to think of anything cooler and more iconic than Blondie bombshell Deborah Harry. But then I remembered that she dueted with Kermit The Frog in 1980, and the result was glorious. Beyond glorious. Here she is singing a favourite childhood song of mine and millions of others, The Rainbow Connection, but she also sang her own classics like Call Me and One Way Or Another. In the episode, Kermit’s unbearably cute nephew Robin’s Scout Troop visit the show and ask Debbie for her help in earning their “punk merit badges”. I’m still hoping to earn mine one day…
Make no mistake, there is nothing more shock-rock in the world than erm, singing puppets. Alice Cooper proved this point in his 1978 Muppet Show appearance, claiming to be an agent of the Devil and a Faustian character trying to strike a deal with The Muppets for their souls. After all, I think we can all agree that Kermit has much more soul, personality and good morals than most living souls these days. I can understand why Cooper fancied pinching our favourite Amphibian-American’s. Here he is performing School’s Out. I bet headteacher Sam The Eagle feels a right daft sod now.
1979 saw son of Woody, folk star Arlo Guthrie, play some of his greatest hits on a farm-themed Muppet stage (mainly from his 1976 record, Amigo). Normally, Guthrie would lend his voice to songs of human rights struggles and social justice ballads. I’d argue that the plight of The Swedish Chef looking for something to cook for a family meal other than his chicken counterparts is…sort of a social issue. Starvation? Maybe? I don’t know if these puppets even have digestive systems, but I digress.
Paul Simon is arguably the cutest human on Earth. That’s just a fact. So what could be more wholesome than our sunshiney king singing with the cutest puppets on earth?! 1980 blessed us with an episode dedicated to the Simon & Garfunkel folk trailblazer, as he helped Gonzo learn to improve on his songwriting. Though personally, I find Gonzo’s lyricism quite inspiring. “For youuu… I’d wash my hair with stinky glue, I’d fry my legs and eat them too, I’d put a spider in my shoe — for yoouuuu!” I hope one day someone writes a song for me that’s so rich with romantic sentiment.
Probably one of the most famous Muppets guests, in 1980 a country-themed episode played host to the iconic Johnny Cash. Cash dueted with Rowlf the dog in Dirty Old Egg Sucking Dog, a song surprisingly not written just for the purpose of singing one day an anthropomorphic hound, but rather actually performed live at the famous Folsom Prison concert by Cash. Rowlf ended up taking great offence to the lyrics within, though Cash assured him it was in jest. I think Cash’s greatest beef was probably with a puppet dog, you know. He was a fairly agreeable guy by all accounts. Well, unless you’re Waylon Jennings of The Highway Man. If you’re interested…
Muppets Tonight treated us to a 1997 cameo from the dearly missed Prince, and what a cameo that it was. He was known as his symbol at this time, so he’s referred to chiefly as ‘The Artist Formerly Known As Prince’. Behold, as TAFKAP creates a song made from the Commissary menu of the hotel he’s staying in. Not sure why he plumps for this rather than Raspberry Sorbet, but I’m not complaining; this is a bonafide banger.
Good golly, Miss Dolly! Now here is a Muppet icon in her own right. Dolly Parton is the definition of a country legend (and, of course, an inspiration to the equally pink and fabulous blonde bombshell Miss Piggy herself). Muppet Magazine, a respected publication on a par with the one you are currently privy to, crowned Ms Parton an Honorary Muppet in 1986. She has collaborated with the Muppets many times, most recently in 2012 singing Islands In The Stream with Kermit as her Kenny Rogers. I’ve attached a clip from the 1987 Dolly show, so technically this isn’t a Muppets appearance. But it’s far too iconic to not include. I think Dolly and Kermit make quite the fetching couple, don’t you?
Okay, okay, so this isn’t quite a cameo as such. Talking Heads frontman Byrne isn’t present – or is he? Listen, it would be so wrong of me to not finish on this gem. I’m not going to explain this 1980 classic video; some art is better appreciated as is, you know? Besides, you’d only tell me to stop making sense, anyway. If you know, you know.
A friend of mine (A) enquired if I was going to see Bo Ningen, a band (unknown to me) hailing from that four-island archipelago, at the Night & Day Cafe… I was not, but after a brief discussion, I decided to tag along. The preceding part of the day was largely uneventful; I ate something derived from a cow while watching an episode of Firing Line, the one about the looming danger of hippies. It featured a declining, blisteringly crocked Jack Kerouac being repeatedly shushed (that’s right) by William Buckley Jr. Though seemingly inarticulate, there was some sense to be had of Kerouac’s gargled interruptions. 13 –
Before long I reached the Gardens, swiftly assembling an inventory sufficient for illicit consumption. Another friend (B) happened upon a random pin, buried inside a bag; through curiosity, I agreed to their request to pierce my right ear… with it, the venue but a metre away. The pain was feeble, short in duration and un-prodigious in blood. A momentary mishap with the pin’s whereabouts, followed by a slight misdirection, proved insignificant to the relevant lobe’s biological integrity. Of course, what caught my eye in the midst of this ad hoc modification was neither the chitchat of cafe-residuals nor the fleeting movement of vehicles. It was the ground itself, a grey not quite in the vein of George Clooney’s steel thatch, but of a worn concrete. Through the footborne battery descending above, absolutely no mind had been paid to its labour-some efforts of providing platform to all whom value structural buoyancy. Feeling no need to pull a Pope John Paul (II), I went inside. The support acts performed as obligated, but an unforeseen challenge in the form of a bouncer emerged. Pragmatically, he suggested I hide my cans offsite, for the familiar protocol was sacrosanct. Overcome by sheer hubris, I attempted my old trick, but he proved a shrewd foe. – 10 –
Cast out, and left with nothing to spectate, I walked in the general direction of Salford, without an aim to call my own. I contacted yet another friend (C), who happened to be attending a gig-of-length. The headliner, previously unknown to I, was said to be drone in stylistic… tone? A walk of pace toward the Partisan Collective, a peripheral (literal & metaphorical) hub, which to me (at least at the time*), supplanted the likes of the other “peripheral” hubs, much too absorbed in their magnetic pulling of the (perpetual) safety-pin types. There was only one act left by my arrival, and the added risk of a full-priced fee. Fortunately, with the help of C, the guard protecting the passage allowed me through, free of charge, my previously incriminating Taurus(s) also permitted, so long as I dare not consume within… Sly and the Family Drone, as I came to discover them as, began their set in dimmed lighting, unfavourable to conventional eyesight. They were far better than anything I could have envisioned, following that recent debacle. Eschewed were the tropes of standard rock and/or roll, and brought forth were the usage of brass, decibel delinquency and what I can only describe as… percussive participation. Towards the middle, one of them took out a singular cymbal, and placed it out near the audience. Handing myself, C and some other guy each a stick, he ordered us to bang on it as hard as we could. We did, though I feel my sense of rhythm somewhat (unsurprisingly) lacked when compared to my fellow draftees. Time placement not exactly known; I soon broke my earlier promise, but I knew (with confidence) that initial crack… superseded then by the all-familiar sip… would be masked to all sensory elements, courtesy of the external impediments our senses are loathe to match. – 18