Tuesday, 15 October 2013

PALACE - All Of This Is Real

It's Tuesday, right? Don't argue. It is. Anyway, we're nearly at the midway point of the week and that calls for some more new music to wet your whistles with (or whatever you want wetting - your pants, your hair etc...I'm easy).

What can thegeneral offer you? PALACE is what thegeneral can offer you. A great band from Hartlepool who have been on my radar for quite a while and really do deserve great things. Last year, they released the beautifully atmospheric and haunting EP "Apology In Demand" which, as always, you can download and love from their bandcamp page here:


Highly recommend you do as as it's a great introduction to them. ("Collapse", in particular has the most brilliantly wide spacey chords in it...perfect).

However, that's not what we're here to talk about. The band have a new EP out - it was released at the start of September and at the moment you can buy it from iTunes here:


There will hopefully be a Spotify release date soon, though as yet no news on whether it will appear on the band's bandcamp site.

What can it offer? Intricate guitars, beautiful, beautiful dirty bass and nicely understated vocals/lyrics. That's exactly what. The eponymously titled opening track has such a great, other wordly feel to it. It's heartbreaking. It feels, like so much of PALACE's stuff, that it's both wide open and full of space, yet tightly woven and really well constructed. These guys are clever, smart and a joy to listen to and it's nice to find an EP in which every track offers something different - a change in pace, mood or tempo. The last track "The Rope" is an offbeat, slightly discordant finish and it's a lovely way to end it.

Please go and buy this if you can - and support another great emerging act from Hartlepool. PALACE are for sure one to watch.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Salient Braves - Somewhere Sordid

Somewhere Sordid: EP cover art

A very Happy Sunday to you all. Somebody somewhere is mowing a lawn (in the pissing rain, whilst getting the electric cable twisted round their feet and swearing a lot), somewhere, someone else is cleaning a car. In kitchens everywhere, the subtle ping of the microwave alerts families to the fact that a traditional Sunday roast hasn't been cooked. Meanwhile, in a little box room, far, far away, thegeneral is busy and gladly reviewing a new EP which delicately grazed their inbox this very afternoon.

Today, I'd like to introduce you to The Salient Braves. Afore I go any further, you can visit their bandcamp page here:


Hailing from Barnsley they describe themselves as lo-fi indie - and reader, that is a pretty perfect description. What you have here is a lovely collection of four original songs and one classic cover (The Kinks' Waterloo Sunset). The original material is imbued with subtle humour, nicely crafted lyrics which have a gentle "storytelling" feel to them - even though they cover dark subjects like mental health. thegeneral felt a connection with with "I'm Alright Now" (Thank goodness for cults, I'm alright now...) and "Out To Lunch" (beta blockers help to calm the nerves...). There's a gentle simplicity to the way the tracks are constructed and recorded and that makes them very endearing to listen to - and that is by no means a criticism, sometimes you can get locked into a musical battle that demands you seek out more and more complicated things to assault your senses with. This is a reminder that it doesn't always have to be so. The classic indie format, slightly punky and with the odd bit of brass thrown in lets you know that it is sometimes OK to cut loose and go back to your roots. The vocals have a slightly OMD-Andy McCluskey-esque lilt to them which also gives the tracks a great 80s feel too.

The EP is available to download in full from tomorrow (14th October) from the bandcamp link above and it's definitely worth a little listen if you want something pared back and beautifully uncomplicated in your collection. Give The Salient Braves a go.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Alpha Male Tea Party - Real Ale and Model Rail: The Lonely Man's Guide to Not Committing Suicide

Real Ale and Model Rail: The Lonely Man's Guide to Not Committing Suicide cover art

I know, I know. It's Tuesday and you weren't expecting another blog so soon, were you? What can I say? You're just a lucky set of buggers (or gluttons for punishment - I'd love it to be the former, but I think it's the latter).

thegeneral was highly excited when an e-mail arrived from another wonderful record label Superstardestroyer - home to some frankly fuckawesome acts, including Liverpool's Ninetails. This time, however, it was to announce that Alpha Male Tea Party have a brand new release out (well, it came out on 26th August, so strictly speaking not terribly new, but thegeneral can be a wee bit slow on the uptake sometimes).

Have you had the sort of day that requires loud, loud guitars to make it all better? Then let AMTP be your guiding amplifier. This is not, shy, retiring, mimsy indie flop (not that there is a thing wrong with that!) No, this is Kerrang style riff-roaring, ear splitting, brain fugging rock. Well, math-rock, but still rock - tinged with grunge, tinged with metal, tinged with all sorts of rough round the edges noise. If you do not like to feel as though your ear drums might perforate with the volume turned up, don't bother with this.

However, despite its loud, frenetic, blasting style, it is infinitely intricate. There are moments of real beauty within. See for instance, the opening of the wonderfully named "I Don't Even Like Hollyoaks Anyway". It's so lulling, so peaceful, before erupting completely. That, and "Go To The Ant, You Sluggard" are, for thegeneral, the standout tracks on this ramshackle bunch of excellentness.

Listen to and buy from:


Highly recommended for those moments when a pissy bit of piffle won't cut it. You have been warned.

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Pure Conjecture - Gendres

Gendres cover art

Monday. Monday. Monday. Or as it's known at thegeneral's house - "Big Bag Of Relentlessly Tedious Shite". Never mind though, because there is a new album on the horizon which will hopefully make the week feel that little bit better.

Released today (October 7th) on the frankly marvellous Armellodie Records come this unusual little selection of ditties from The Pure Conjecture. Unusual. because it slightly defies pigeonholing, yet at the same time feels strangely familiar. There is a markedly nice contrast between poppy, upbeat instrumentation and nicely tempered, downbeat vocals from Matt Eaton, whilst other tracks are whispy, wistful and float by dreamily.

Standout tracks are Mr Tong, Midnight Dancing and the frankly lovely instrumental Surfin' Sunset. What's Worse? has a great, GREAT opening bassline. thegeneral loves a nice dirty bassline.

You can head on over to the Armellodie Bandcamp page to have a wee sken at the tracks afore ye commit to buying:


thegeneral heartily recommends you do. It's a great album, from a smashing wee band.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Tubular Bells: Forty Years On...

Happy Saturday. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking - didn't thegeneral do a post about Mike Oldfield not long back? I also know you're probably about to log off now without bothering to read this. That's totally fine. You can do. Just realise that I know where you live and I am watching you. Very carefully. You won't get away with it...I've seen what's hidden in that tupperware under your spare bed.

Anyway. There is a very good reason for this second post on Mr Oldfield. You see, Tubular Bells - his very first album and the one that launched Virgin Records is 40 this year. 40?! That's only 6 years older than thegeneral. You just can't Adam and Believe it.

To celebrate this next Friday night on BBC4 (11th October 2013) there are going to be some special programmes to mark the occasion. Read about one of them here:


So make sure you tune in and watch if you're a fan. If you're not, there's probably some shit on the other channels you can sit and gawp at. Or you know, put your cardi and cocktail slacks on, go out and get friggin'.

Back to The Bells.

If you're not familiar with it, have a look at this brief excerpt from it on the YooToobs. The video in this instance was made specially to go with it for The Old Grey Whistle Test:

Do you like that? If so, then click on this link to listen to the whole of the first part of the album performed live by Mike and company in 1973

It truly is remarkable in many ways. Not least for it's beauty and uniqueness. The opening has one of the more unusual time signatures you'll find in popular music - the starting piano bars are played in 15/8. The riff that follows played two bars of 7/8 one of 9/8.
It was recorded at The Manor studios - immediately following a session by John Cale, but before the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band were scheduled to go in. Viv Stanshall in fact provides the vocal part, playing Master of Ceremonies on the famous ending to the first section. Hearing his shout of "MAN-do-LIN" is an actual joy. Nerd fact for those who like them: the electric guitar used on the album was a 1966 Fender Telecaster, played by Mike but previously owned by none other than Marc Bolan!
Mike is a bit of a fan of Bach. Many of his earlier works have nods to JS in them - TB more than others. If you listen closely to some of his other tracks, you'll hear little refrains from TB throughout. Most notable is the opening to Crises and his song Five Miles Out.
Composed and recorded largely alone, it's an astonishing feat. Layering and multi-tracking mean that he could continually go back and record till he was satisfied with what he heard. Nerd fans of the album will point out that there are minor inconsistencies in the tracking, that some of the parts are out of sync - but it doesn't matter. It's all part of the charm.

Why does thegeneral love it so? There's a wee story behind it...tuck yourselves in. Make tea and crumpets etc.

Many years ago in the mid 1980s (before the innernets and even before like, DVDs and shit) youngthegeneral was given a Sony Walkman for their birthday. As a small, inquisitive youngster of 8 who was very bored one night, said child asked their father "for summat to listen to on it, like, Dad". Dad pondered for a while then came into the flock wallpapered, pink carpetted lounge and said "You probably won't like it, kid, but have a try at this..." It was a cassette copy of Tubular Bells. youngthegeneral sat cross legged on the sofa (brown patterned with wooden arms) and did not move a muscle or utter a sound for almost 50 minutes (thegeneral's father will tell you this was nothing short of a miracle). That was it. The love affair started and has endured for 25 years. In that time, the vinyl copy has been warped and worn out, the cassette copy has been chewed up and played to death and two CD copies have been lovingly cherished. Since then, Mike Oldfield has gone on to release Orchestral Tubular Bells, Tubular Bells 2, Tubular Bells 3, The Millenium Bell and Tubular Bells 2003 (milking it much?) All are wonderful in their own ways and show how he has adapted and changed with the times, but none contain quite the magic of the original - that said, the orchestral version is simply beautiful.

After Tubular Bells was released, Mike became something of a recluse, finding the instant stardom and fame hard to cope with. He retreated to a place called Hergest Ridge in Wales to live in seclusion. It was here he came up with his second album, called for the place that had given him such solace. It's a largely forgotten pastoral masterpiece and a worthy successor to The Bells - no one ever really talks about it, but if you've enjoyed reading this and loved hearing the music here, check out Hergest Ridge too. Many fans prefer it to Tubular Bells. Both will always have a special place in thegeneral's heart.

Happy Birthday Tubular Bells. Here is hoping that a new generation of music fans find and love it.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Blast From The Past - Nic Jones

Tuesday evening. Not quite at the midway point of the week, but far enough away from Monday to flick the proverbial V sign and yell "get stuffed" to the post weekend blues.

Today is another Blast From The Past post. thegeneral was quite heartily blown away by a documentary that was on BBC4 on Friday night just gone (27th September). It featured a musician and singer by the name of Nic Jones. Someone who was and is much beloved on the folk scene since the 1960s and a founding member of folk band The Halliard.

He went on to perform with some of folk's greatest acts, people like Richard Thompson, June Tabor and Shirley Collins. In 1980 he released what was to become his most loved and strongest enduring album "Penguin Eggs". From the album, comes this beautiful song "Canadee-I-O"

There isn't a bad track on the whole record. At all. That's really all there is to say. It's a delight for folk fans (and hopefully anyone who just enjoys real, proper music).

Much has been spoken of the car accident that effectively halted his career in 1982, so that doesn't need to be gone over again. Suffice to say, the comeback concert he played in 2012 with his son Joe was probably one of the most moving gigs that's ever been committed to film. Joe is the image of his father in both style and sound. Seeing the two of them together really is a delight. 

Jones' style pitches him neatly in the same bracket as Messrs Martin Carthy and Bert Jansch. His guitar playing is adept, it's chippy and lilting. His voice is true, clear and strong. Like Carthy, he tuned his guitar slightly differently to the norm to give it a much more resonant and richer sound - and consequently make it harder for people who are trying to recreate their style to blatantly copy (you try looking for Martin Carthy guitar chords online. You won't find many...) if thegeneral remembers correctly, think the top and bottom strings should be tuned to D rather than E (though don't take my word as gospel, there's a reason why I only pick up and play intermittently and people like Nic Jones made a career out of it...)

Anyway. thegeneral recommends you all take a step back, find yourself a copy of "Penguin Eggs" - and visit http://www.nicjones.net/home to find out more about this wonderful man and his musical legacy.