Monday, 26 May 2014

Blair Dunlop - House Of Jacks

It's the end of the Bank Holiday, sob sob sob! Three days of gloating that we didn't have to go to work for three days is over with. Naturally, we're probably all a bit fed up and in need of some musical sustenance to keep us going through the next working week.

Would it surprise you to learn that I have it for you? Of course not. My readership of literally one person knows me by now and realises this.

I'm really massively pleased to be writing about "House of Jacks" which is the second album by Blair Dunlop. First things first, here's the link, so you can go and buy it:

thegeneral is a massive folk music fan. I was weaned on 60s and 70s bands like Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention. My childhood was spent listening to and learning to sing along with many of the albums that came out around that time, and two parents who were total spod-boxes for anything that had the electric folk sound. One of the stalwarts of the era was Ashley Hutchings, who not only played in Steeleye and Fairport but also was part of The Albion Band and the often forgotten Morris On...albums (these are a total joy).

OK, the reason I'm telling you this is because Blair Dunlop is the son of Ashley and so I guess it was only natural that he too, might find himself on the musical primrose path.

I first heard Blair way back in 2009, singing a cover of "Canadee-I-O" and I was really blown away by his raw talent and energy. His first album proper, "Blight and Blossom" came out in 2012 and really showcased his brilliant musicianship further ("Secret Theatre" is probably one of the best songs of the last couple of years). But today sees the release of "House of Jacks" and it's very very worth a listen, even if you're not strictly speaking a folk fan in the same way that thegeneral is.

It could really have been all too easy for Blair to simply start making "painting by numbers" folk music, there genuinely wouldn't have been anything wrong with that, he'd still be carrying on the great tradition of his father and the people he worked with - but this is a wonderful collection of songs that aren't afraid to experiment slightly and step out of the neat folk bracket - sometimes into more alt-country territory too. Opening track "Somethings Gonna Give Way" is an absolute masterpiece - it totally kicks arse, it sort of sets the precedent for the rest of the album.

There's a great mixture of tracks on here and they rattle along beautifully, the pace slows with "Chain By Design" which is a slow heartbreaker of a number, soulfully sung and wistful in memory - and all of them, apart from the final song are penned by Blair himself (the last track "Song of Two Bridges" - again, another slow heart-breaker was written by Ashley Hutchings and Ken Nicol - another former Steeleye member).

There's a real feeling of fusing the old and new throughout the album, but also a sense that folk has a way forward with Blair's music. Self respecting electric folk fans should love it, newcomers to the genre will relish the opportunity to lower themselves into a beautifully constructed set of songs. If you're as passionate about this sort of music as I am, please give it a go and give Blair your support.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Repeat Offenders - Lose Control


Good Tuesday evening to you. Almost at the mid point of the week and not killed anyone yet, so all in all I'd say that's pretty good going (there's time yet, so don't piss me off, or if you do piss me off you can placate me with tea and send an androgynous house boy round to serve it ).

So, what, dear readers can I offer you?

Something really special. But then don't I always? I'm so good to you - you really don't deserve me.

The Repeat Offenders are a band that have been on my radar for some time now and they're a band of real merit, therefore I'm massively pleased to be able to review their new single, which they were kind enough to send to me today.

Have a look at the band's website, where you'll find a link to the video for the song - called "Lose Control" and also details of where you can download/buy a CD copy from:

I have to say, I'm massively baffled as to why these guys are not much bigger than they are - they've got a really solid, edgy sound and a fantastic look and this new single is a prime example of all of these things coming together beautifully. They're a great mixture of cool mod sixties vibes laced with late 80s Madchester bands like The Stone Roses - but yet they still retain plenty originality to set them apart from everyone else.

"Lose Control" is an epic song from start to finish, it's a rollercoaster of rock, with a brilliantly catchy hook, a vocal which is alive with power and filthily delightful guitars. One of those songs that I instantly felt I'd be able to sing along with  after one listen - and after two it was jammed in my head, in the nicest possible way. In fact I've actually been singing it all afternoon. So if you're one of my neighbours and you're reading this, I'm sorry (I'm not sorry).

The B Side, available if you buy the CD single is an acoustic number called "In My Way". Acoustic to some might mean a delicate little wisp of a track that is instantly forgettable - not with The Repeat Offenders, this is just as powerful as "Lose Control" and every bit as stirring and beautiful to listen to. It's got a raw emotional power to it.

These guys have got proper attitude, they've got an acute sense of style and a sound that really should be filling stadiums. Make their new single one of your early Summer musical must haves - and that's an order from me.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Cross Wires - Assembly

ASSEMBLY EP cover art

Happy Saturday to you all. Have you been out enjoying the glorious sunshine, or have you been stuck indoors, rocking silently back and forth and weeping softly? I haven't been doing the latter. Well, I haven't been doing the latter since lunchtime anyway. But enough of my strange proclivities - I could write a book and still have enough left over to paper a tart's boudoir. What can I offer you in terms of great music today?

Please be upstanding for Cross Wires, please to be.

I do love it when bands e-mail me with their music (and if you're reading this and you're in a band and you'd like a feature, then that is an invitation - This week was no exception and Cross Wires really kindly sent me their new EP "Assembly"

So, first things first - get thyself to a nunnery (or bandcamp) and avail yourself of the free download of said EP:

I felt it was a really good kick in the trouser creases this record. I loved it from start to finish and wanted to  feature it straight away. This is proof that punk is still alive and kicking. It's four tracks of energised, sparky brilliance. It actually isn't that often you come across a genuinely brilliant modern punk band (and I know I sound like Nanna - I was only just born when punk was grabbing it's ventolin inhaler and breathing it's last). But this is genuinely brilliant - it's got a fantastic exuberance about it and each track seems to offer something different.

The stand out song for me, is track number two "Acid Bath". It's got a real Gang of Four feel to it - the opening, slightly reminiscent of "At Home He's A Tourist". It opens into a rolling, revving highly charged run of a number - it's driven and it speeds along so nicely, ending with a brilliant repetition, which hammers home the urgency of the song. It's followed by the equally brilliant "I Want To Be Your Man (Again)", which has a fab popping, grinding bass line to it and a great, part shouty, part discordant vocal which makes the song seem so much more plaintive in a way.

In truth, though I've singled out those two numbers, each track is fantastic - it's an EP which  doesn't rest on it's laurels, nor does it run out of steam - as sometimes anything punky can do, it can sometimes feel a bit exhausting. This doesn't, this keeps your interest and keeps your focus. It feels fresh, it feels inventive and it was just what I needed to revive my very jaded, tired out soul this week.

Give it a download and give their other releases a test run too. Cross Wires are a genuine gem of a band and a must listen.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Menswe@r - Crash

Menswe@r’s avatar

I haven't been this excited since they bumped my pocket money up to £3.50 in 1994. (£4 if I did the pots on Tuesday nights). Happy Saturday, by the way, and welcome to a new blog...a blog which in all honesty is going to be filled with much squeeing and giggles of helpless delight. "Why?" I hear about one and a half of you cry. Well, I'll tell thee...

Menswe@r are back. YES, you read it right. Menswe@r - and this pleases me greatly. 

It's actually just nearly floored me to find out that it's almost 20 years since "Daydreamer" came out - probably the song that everyone associates them with. I vividly remember hearing it all the time on the radio and singing it at school (for I was in the middle of my GCSEs when it came out) at the back of my Economics class (I was more interested in Johnny Dean than Supply and Demand of GDP or whatever it was we were doing or something or nothing). 

But times change, and although the band split and moved in different directions - Johnny's been very honest and forthright about his experiences during that time - that song always did stay with me - as did their album "Nuisance" which I still think is a bit of an under-rated Britpop classic - and if you don't agree, tough, it's my blog so shut up and go away. 

So colour me fucked when I found out a new single was in the pipeline - and I've been lucky enough receive it to review for you all. Yes. 

"Crash" is, all being well, released on June 2nd and my GOD it's a corker. You can pre-order it from Post Pop Records here:

And, if you're a self respecting Menswe@r fan, I suggest you do. The line up may be different, but the sound is still just stunning and Johnny - well, be still my beating heart, you've still got it...

It's sparky, it's full of energy, it's punky and it feels exciting. It feels actually like being a teenager again - it literally did fill me with delight hearing it for the first time. Of course, everyone's older now - we all are, but there is something so enticing about hearing a song like this you can't help but want to shake your hips and sing along. This is indie pop as it should be. The guitars and vocals work well together and seem to "sing" with each other in a lovely way, it's almost like a question and answer between the two. Johnny, for me, did always have one of the more distinctive voices of the 1990s and yeah, it's so great to hear him again and know he's at his best. It's a, pardon the pun, very driven record - it feels alive, alert and I can only hope there's a lot more to come...

"Crash" is getting some good airplay at the moment and justifiably so - thegeneral has added it to her list of songs that are going to be with her throughout the Summer. If you've got any sense, you will too.