Band Of Holy Joy
The Cluny, March 2nd
Despite a frustratingly short set in the middle of an oddly mismatched bill, Band Of Holy Joy totally overwhelmed me tonight. I’d waited twenty-five years to see them play and they still managed to exceed my expectations. Their recent Easy Listening album is the best of the year so far and the songs from it were wonderful – the dignified, measured rage at the heart of There Was A Fall, their forensically scathing account of the death of Ian Tomlinson; their gorgeous cover of Darryl Banks’ timeless Open The Door To Your Heart, which saw singer Johny Brown beseeching and imploring like a North Shields James Brown. The band – four musicians managing to sound like so much more – did justice to the richness and ambition of the songs without ever lapsing into bombast, and clearly a had a blast on their cover of Penetration’s Don’t Dictate (which Brown introduced as having changed his life). And as great it was to finally see Tactless live – one of my very favourite songs – it was during the genuinely astonishing closer A Train Ride To Another Place that my arm hairs prickled, my heart soared and I was reminded all over again that Brown is without question the greatest songwriter the north east has ever produced.
(this didn’t make it into the April edition of Narc magazine so I’m posting it here instead)
Filed under: Narc, Reading | Tags: AV Festival, Bill Callahan, Bong, Cath & Phil Tyler, Micah P Hinson, Narc, Test Dept, Year Of Birds
Quite a busy month for me in Narc, including another cover feature (and what a beautiful cover it is)
Filed under: Gigs!, Narc | Tags: Aidan Moffatt, Girl Sweat, Mogwai, Nina Persson, Rob Newman, Sleaford Mods, Sunn O))), The Tiger Lillies, TJ Muller, Ulver
Lots of my stuff in Narc this month. I’m pretty pleased with how the Tiger Lillies and Band of Holy Joy features came out
I never thought this would happen but I just couldn’t pick so we have a two-way tie for first.
Satisfyingly, the two albums sharing first place represent perhaps the two extremes of my taste, so there’s a pleasing symmetry.
Caitlin Rose’s debut album Own Side Now was something of a gem: classic country songwriting with enough ‘indie’ elements for the hipsters, and dominated by Rose’s amazing vocals – powerful without being overwraught, never resorting to warble or melisma. Here, Rose sounds even better, but a bigger budget means things have got fuller (great organ and brass, even some gospel-tinged backing vocals) without being remotely over-egged. There are covers, a collaboration with Gary Louris, even a loveable crack at Dixie jazz that works a treat. But mostly there is Rose with her solid gold songwriting and breathtaking voice and songs like No One To Call and Golden Boy that show up Shania and Taylor and the rest as shiny, empty clichés. – 5/5, Narc Review
01. Hey Colossus – Cuckoo Live Life Like Cuckoo (MIE)
This album is a fucking BEAST! 10 years after they formed, and a few months after they absolutely killed it at Supersonic, Hey Colossus are back with album number 8 and have clearly been re-energised by adding Tim ‘Every Great Noisy London Band Ever’ Cedar on drums. It’s lazy – but fun! – to think of Hey Colossus as simply the bastard spawn of The Butthole Surfers and Killdozer, but as Cuckoo… shows, there’s much more going besides arsequake noise (although there is PLENTY of that). Motorik epic How To Keep Time With Jesus sounds like Neu! down a K hole, Pit & Hope like a mutant Mogwai and Neanderthal opener Hot Grave is the very best kind of filthy riff nonsense. – 5/5, Narc Review
03. Bill Callahan – Dream River (Drag City)
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but sometimes Bill Callahan’s albums slip past me. I barely remember listening to his last one Apocalypse. It’s not even like he’s as prolific as he used to be. But when I make time and really burrow into his albums, I generally get a bit obsessed about them. Dream River is no different. His lushest yet – flutes and strings and keyboards, flirting with a kind of jazzy sophistication that makes me nervous, in case a Steely Dan phase is in the offing, but really sounding warm and woody like early 70s Van Morrison. And Callahan’s voice is richer and deeper than ever. Then there’s the lyrics, some of the very best he’s ever written. Summer Painter reads like a short story. It IS a short story.
I painted names on boats for a summer
For luck, you keep the same first letter
You don’t want, you don’t want, you don’t want bad luck at sea
Rich Man’s Folly and Poor Man’s Dream
I painted these while beavers built dams all around me
And come September, come Fall
Holding a job was not believable behavior at all, so I split
But like a beaver is a dam builder, you never really quit
I made some dough and I socked it away
I always said for a rainy day
I never truly knew who I was working for anyway
The rich or the poor?
Who am I working for?
The rich or the poor?
When the hurricane hit
Some found it suspicious that I’d just since left the frame
Like all that time spent down by the water
Had somehow given me control over the rain
And some people say wrongly that I’ve wash things away
Guess I got my rainy day
Like a sorcerer’s cape!
The rain ripped the lips
Off the mouth of the bay
And rendered the eye
And sleighted the hand
And tricked the land
And blew the air away
Then came a quiet
No one should know
Rich Man’s Folly and Poor Man’s Dream
I’m painting these while beavers build dams all around me
04. The Ex & Brass Unbound – Enormous Door (Ex Records)
30-plus years in, The Ex are still finding fresh ways to be fantastic. This album of brilliantly uplifting punk jazz skronk feels like the ultimate iteration of what the Ex of recent years has been about: celebratory, angry, angular and joyful.
Fuck it, have an entire gig.
05. Low – The Invisible Way (Sub Pop)
The Invisible Way sees Low moving further than ever from their ‘sadcore’ reputation and lot of that seems to be down to working with Tweedy. “We went through to Chicago last spring and stopped by and he was working on some tracks for the new Mavis Staples record, and hearing the tracks – how raw and minimal the arrangements were – that brought it all together. And I asked him right there. It’s kind of a recording trick to keep something truly as it was and not have to mess with it too much. Not a lot of engineers can do it.” I suggested that, to very different effect, previous producer Steve Albini works in a similar way. “Definitely. It’s very much that idea of capturing the sound the way it really is, and as much as Steve comes across as an extremist about that, it really is a beautiful aesthetic. And once you have that as a basis, you really have a lot of freedom and can be really creative.”
- my Narc interview, March
And then later in the year, the kind of validation that must make any songwriter feel on top of the world, this happened: