Category: Reviews

Album review: Shorty

SHORTYTHE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER NENE[ShoeTown Records] Third album from the best connected man in Northampton, Chris White. Following on from the excellent The Northampton Underground is another 14 tracks…

SHORTY
THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER NENE
[ShoeTown Records]

Third album from the best connected man in Northampton, Chris White. Following on from the excellent The Northampton Underground is another 14 tracks of collaborative tunes, mostly recorded and mixed in an Abington garage.

If you don’t know, White trades in a sort of Jeff Lynne, Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney classicism laced with some ’90s tropes – there’s plenty of accoutrements of brass and bongos and the like to beef up the sound. Opening track ‘Beautiful Enough’ has a breezy Britpop feel, a lovely warm number that you could imagine sitting comfortably on a Boo Radleys album. ‘Cooking For One’, which follows, is a wah-wahed/phased delight, Stevie G adding some lovely guitar feels to elevate the mood. Jim Doherty and Lindsay Spence add their unique voices to the power-pop of ‘Friday Night’, whilst the trio of Danie Hollobach, Simmone McClean, and Shereen Ingram all help make ‘Hard To Hold On’ a soulful melancholic-pop winner.

The album continues to fire different rounds at you: White goes it alone on the psychy ‘Is It Real’, rootsy Celtic vibes flow from the Pat Fish-assisted ‘Keep It Simple’. On ‘Living In The Same House’ those Sgt Pepper touches are both pure self-indulgence and pure joy. Sophie Joiner elevates everything with some wonderful cello. The song is dapple of sunlight during these strange times.

This is the sort of album that radiates its love of music; the process of making music bringing people together. When ‘Love Me Or Hate Me’ reminds you of Pulp it feels fine – we’re all just singing from the same hymn sheet. Epic country-rock closer ‘You Fill The Air’ doesn’t even feature White – instead it is sung wonderfully by Steve Ward and Simonne McClean. And still White’s great songwriting skills come through loud and clear.

The Bridge Over The River Nene is a minor triumph. Fans of power-pop and Britpop will lap this up, as will fans of classic 60s-style songwriting. Heck, there’s enough going on here to please everyone at some point. It’s another clean sweep for the Northampton underground!

Phil Moore

The Bridge Over The River Nene is out now via the usual digital platforms

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Album review: The Venus Fly Trap/Alex Novak ‘Mercurial’

THE VENUS FLY TRAP/ALEX NOVAKMercurial[Glass Modern] As we take a breather under quarantine rule, reflection comes to the fore. And with impeccable timing here is a compilation of the work…

Alex NovakTHE VENUS FLY TRAP/ALEX NOVAK
Mercurial
[Glass Modern]

As we take a breather under quarantine rule, reflection comes to the fore. And with impeccable timing here is a compilation of the work of uber-Northampton creative Alex Novak. A man of many musical projects over four decades, but most closely associated with The Venus Fly Trap, which makes up the first half of this “best of”. The remaining content is appropriated from a vast array of Novak’s early bands and side projects. Right, let’s delve in.

The journey of VFT covers their formation in 1986 right through to the present day. Having settled on a line-up they saw French label support result in the twin 1988 singles of ‘Morphine’ and ‘Desolation Railway’, from parent album Mars. They are both to my mind “alternative 80s” classics – the former a dirty street-talking garage band snarl akin to The Jesus and Mary Chain [all primitive drum machine and gothic overtones], whilst the latter a meticulously constructed post-punk/krautrock/electronic wonder that slowly unfurls it’s exotic beauty over five uber-taught minutes.

1989’s dramatic reworking of Suicide’s ‘Rocket USA’ is more than just a cover. With The Jazz Butcher skronking away on saxophone to provide extra propulsion, the original’s thin palette is filled with a much larger sound; that demented drum-beat and a commanding vocal from Novak himself giving the thing a whole new lease of life. 1990s ‘Europa’ is the sort of classic alt-rock sound of the late ’80s that wasn’t really their thing, but a strong song means they pull it off regardless.

Into the 1990s and the electronic elements are pushed more to the fore, and ‘Achilles Heel’ is probably the best of these forays. High-energy, a memorable synth-line, and intonations from the main man – you’ve got yourself a New Order who kept the Joy Division aesthetic. Flirtations with industrial riffage [‘Moscow Menagerie’, ‘Pulp Sister’ ] fitted well, before the pared down duo of Novak and Andy Denton took the 21st Century version of the band into full-on proggy electronica territory [‘Metropolis’, ‘Vitesse’]

There is a lot to pour over in the second half, and there’s no real overlying theme. It’s more Novak either finding his feet, or straying from the VFT blueprint. There’s gems here though, without doubt. Religious Overdose are the hidden gem in the catalogue, and the three post-punk inclusions here are beamed in from another galaxy. Despite some weedy production the spirit and songs shine through; ‘In This Century’, a haunting 1982 B-side, very much a potential Closer offcut. The press raved about them but nothing much came of it, much like the follow-up The Tempest project. The 5 Against The House album was actually a reasonably commercial piece, it’s two singles both extraordinary statements on intent. ‘Lady Left This’ the sort of jittery punk-funk that became all the rage circa 2005, and ‘Montezuma’ the sort of cool-as-ice wiry goth-rock that has repetitive Morse code beeps that will either intice or infuriate.

The sole Attrition track ‘Feel The Backlash’ could be a knowing reference to the music papers power of the time, it’s Human League/Heaven 17 electronic starkness – easy to admire/harder to love – form revealing a gentler side to the famous Novak bark. Mercurical finishes with three side projects – tracks that ended up on various tapes, etc. rather than fully-fledged 12″ singles. ‘Definitive Item’ is close the the VFT template, but it’s the filthy-minded cinematic quoting ‘Vox Kunst’ from 1994 that is most intriguing, the sort of off-piste no-holds-barred experimental pop that is actually a great romp.

Perhaps it is time for a rethink as to where the band and the singer fits into the cosmic scheme of things. Alex Novak shows over Mercurial’s eighty minutes the ability to shape-shift through numerous styles of music, whilst simultaneously remaining true to his unique “dystopian sci-fi” vision that was forged during those early art-school days. The VFT may never have achieved [hometown contemporaries] Bauhaus-style levels of fame, but the music is frequently on a par, and certainly covers more ground. Simple twists of fate, etc. For anyone interested in post-punk and ’80s-style electronica this compilation rewards in spades, and is a great testament to what a little inspiration and a lot of hard graft and perseverance achieves.

Phil Moore

Mercurial is released on CD and DL on Friday May 8th, see the Bandcamp link below.


Q&A with Alex Novak

How easy was it to narrow your 40-year career into 20 tracks? What did a track have to do to make the grade? 
We pushed how much you could fit onto a CD to the limit; 80 minutes of music all in. I stuck pretty much to the singles/main tracks from the various bands. It’s a taster for people to then go on and delve further into the catalogue, and we’re in the process of re-issuing The Venus Fly Trap albums. Mars [the first album] was re-issued last year by Glass Modern. A bit of going full circle, as they had released Religious Overdose and Tempest material in the early to mid eighties. In the last few years most of my previous bands have had material compiled. Hopefully later this year we will be re-issuing VFT’s second and third albums Totem and Pandora’s Box via Glass too.

What period do you look back on most fondly? Your mid-’80s pomp of being in demand in Europe/playing Hammersmith Palais/appearing on all these LPs must have been a hoot.
There has been many VFT periods/eras as the line-up has changed many times, each bringing a new angle and experiences. This gives the band a different dynamic. Mars-era gigs in France, playing Paris, we played with The Mission in Deptford’s ‘Crypt’ [actually under a church!], and at Alice In Wonderland [clubnight of Dave Vanian of The Damned]. Early 90s Totem/Pandora’s Box-era saw first gigs in Germany and Belgium. On one tour we played in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Hungary, Austria and then made our first trips to Czechslovakia, where we recorded a live album in Prague. By Luna Tide we recorded the album in Bonn, Germany. Many tours of Belgium and Germany, and our first visit to Poland.
We were working more in an electronic direction with Martin Bowes of Attrition as producer for 1997s Dark Amour, and played festivals in Warsaw and a castle in Bolkow with New Model Army. We played the Lumous Festival in Finland at midnight – with the sun still shining.
There was no “pomp” – the 1980s were a bit of a rollercoaster, having gone through Religious Overdose, Tempest, and Attrition, before settling with The Venus Fly Trap. It was a bit frustrating building something and then it falls apart. A lot more could have been achieved if we had capitalised on the interest. But I have managed to get VFT to keep going long enough so there is enough interest in releasing older material. Maybe all this will be re-assessed, listened to with fresh ears, put into context as a whole body of work.

In musical culture today there’s much nostalgia for the 1990s. Whats your memory of those times? Where they halycon days?
It is strange that VFT is considered an “80s band” – we produced two albums in the late-’80s and then four in the ’90s, and also toured more later. It is interesting, peoples perception. Certainly the early ’90s was a diverse period musically, there was loads of good alternative and indie music around. Plenty of gigs, venues, and magazines, and a definite return to decent live music, before it melded into more dance influences later in the decade. I certainly was trying  more electronic-orientated material in the mid-90s, via the projects Nova State Conspiracy [with Simon Coleby, the Marvel Comics illustrator], The Den [with Tim Perkins, who was Alan Moore’s musical collaborator], and Spore [with Micky Muddiman, the dance producer]. Maybe it was a portent as to what was going to happen with VFT…

Is it fair to say the current VFT line-up with Andy Denton has given you the best expression of your sound?
Myself and Andy have produced four albums – Dark Amour, Zenith, Nemesis, and Icon. It is probably VFT’s most consistent and productive period. As we have worked together I think our writing and production has improved, and this has made us into a compelling act. It’s a tight sound, but we’re more relaxed, giving the performances a bit more edge. To get where you are you have to try different things, it’s a process. I learnt to carry on regardless, rather than waste the work/time that has been done. Make do, mend and move on.

What is there left to do for VFT?
Plugging Mercurial! We had gigs in May to coincide with the release, but I have re-learnt that old phrase “always expect the unexpected”, or even a quote from War Of The Worlds – “the chances are a million to one, yet they come…”. So long as it doesn’t get all biblical, raining frogs etc. We shall be back doing gigs in September. We shall see everyone on the other side, be seeing you…

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Step On: the week’s best new music tracks [Apr 17]

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you through ten of the best new music tracks this week. Izzie Gibbs ‘Snakey’If UK grime has one rapper a hairs’ breath away from…

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you through ten of the best new music tracks this week.

Izzie Gibbs ‘Snakey’
If UK grime has one rapper a hairs’ breath away from blowing up right now, it’s probably ShoeTown’s Izzie, who stands loud and proud on new single ‘Snakey’. He had a 2019 full of bangers, but not the press/live presence to truly capitalise on the tunes [understandable, considering his near-death experience of late 2018]. This feisty tirade against the conspirators surrounding him [“Why you so snakey?”] is wildly good, his assassins delivery perfectly matched to K1’s heavy beats. “I’m still in the hood/Everything’s good/I’m a survivor” is as good as a mantra as one can have right now in this crazy world. 2020 has to be the year the rest of the world sits up and takes notice.

Leadley ‘Nightmare’
If you don’t know: the 24 year-old London/Northampton alt-pop singer built her following as a teenager vlogger, and these days is a mature-sounding songwriter. Given the crisp beats, strong melodic talent, and visual attention to detail it’s no surprise to see a loyal fanbase lap up all her rolling content. This is probably her best song to date, a highly confessional ode to liberating oneself from past troubles that really hits the spot. If you want escapist pleasures right now…this is perfect playlist material!

The Lovely Eggs ‘Still Second Rate’
Holy backflips, new album I Am Moron has hit #1 on both the UK vinyl charts and the independent album charts! The Lancashire duo run a nice line in self-deprecating psych-punk, having snowballed in popularity album-by-album since their 2006 inception. This kickdrum-led kraut-dirge is them to a tee, a lyric mulling over insecurities whilst staring out the bus window. “I speak to my people” is their saving grace; indeed, rock’n’roll is safe in these hands. Turn it up to maximum volume for maximum effect.

Dutty Moonshine Big Band ‘Fianca’
Oxford’s 14-piece big band fuse 1930s jazz/samba sounds with modern bass culture. Their unique formula has made them firm festival favourites in the UK and beyond. New single ‘Fianca’, which precedes sophomore album City Of Sin [May 29th], is a heady mix of primal drums, Middle-Eastern snake charmer flutes, blasting horns, and a singer who mixes up her potent delivery in Spanish and English. It’s a beautiful pile-up to put your “no parties” lockdown life in serious jeopardy. If you fancy a rave in the NN vicinity the band are scheduled to play Northampton’s Roadmender on October 16th.

Katie Malco ‘Brooklyn’
A song about that time Malco went to see a friend that moved to start a new life in NYC, and realised how utterly she missed her. An [almost] proggy five minute slow-burner that bursts into life in the final third, ‘Brooklyn’ pulls at the heartstrings in that special way that she always, time after time, manages. A ‘taking basic rock elements and making a rocket ship’ sort of thing, it’s another preview song from the long-awaited debut album Failures [out June 5th].

Mio Flux ft. Nailbreaker ‘Adam Sandler’
Jacob and George, now here’s a dreamteam that came out of nowhere. The London/Northampton/Rushden Venn diagram in full effect here. Mio [aka one half of Krankhead] keeps it simple with some doomy beats, the bed on to which Nailbreaker can slay his demons. “I feel like Adam Sandler circa 2003” is a very specific, very funny expression of self loathing. You’d still run a mile for him. Beers all round for these two when covid’s over.

Weirdoe ‘Daydream’
Hot on the heels of ‘Try Again’, another Harlz collaboration, Aaron Weir is the 26 year-old man behind those furious lines about rising up and taking on a world that doesn’t give a damn about you. “Been blocked out by these grey clouds/But somehow I see sunshine” he spits over some sweet piano chimes and skitting beats. He doesn’t release a bad track, ever. Northampton’s best kept secret? You might be right. 

Tragic ‘Pig’
“Kingsley front on a Saturday night/A light bump turned into a fight”. We’ve waxed lyrical quite a lot about this trio of ShoeTown teenagers, and for good reason. This is hardcore with nods to Slaves/Idles but also the early ’90s pop variety. They are “the real deal”, as someone who saw the live show recently whispered in my ear. If you’re gonna lose your shit this is the soundtrack you’d choose. Manic energy expended about the shittyness of humanity? Load up here.

Rolling Thunder ‘Scenic Route’
The third track on their debut EP ‘The Nightshop’, from the band who have been no slouches since exploding onto the scene a little over a year ago. This number is more of an Editors/Interpol moody bludgeoner, a nice foil to their usual fast-paced indie jangle. There’s not a bad number amongst the six on the EP; ‘Paul Hollywood’ the sort of anthemic singalong that bands like The Sherlocks and Blossoms make their stock-in-trade. It closes with ‘Break In…’, the killer 2019 single which made everyone fall in love in the first place. Essential stuff.

Flowertoy ‘Forgotten Path’
Milton Keynes sludge duo [Harry Quinn, Alfie Glass] team up with guest vocalist Ben Reed to produce a near seven-minute sonic ordeal. If you’re into doom/stoner/post-rock sounds then this will give you the movement in your underwear you’re looking for. With it’s indecipherable lyrics and depths-of-hell fuzzed riff it’s too experimental to convert you to the dark side if you’re not already there. The playing and production is spot on, and this one certainly makes a change from your usual indie and metal fare!

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Step On: the week’s best new music tracks [Apr 24]

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you weekly through ten of the best new music tracks. Alfie Templeman ‘Happiness In Liquid Form’From rural Bedfordshire comes the 17 year-old bedroom-pop sensation….

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you weekly through ten of the best new music tracks.

Alfie Templeman ‘Happiness In Liquid Form’
From rural Bedfordshire comes the 17 year-old bedroom-pop sensation. He clearly lives in a technicolour bubble; at least that’s the impression this song gives you. And right now that sounds like the best place to be. This puts those “lo-fi indie” tags to bed, as this widescreen, play-on-daytime radio wonky guitar-funk workout is going to produce some serious body-popping across the nation. Your at-home festival has itself a breakout star.

Happyness ‘Ouch [yup]’
The London duo are on the comeback trail, previewing tracks off their upcoming third LP. The 1990s alt-rock vibing guys are a joyous riot of brightly distorted guitar and artful lyrics about just about everything your furloughed brain could daydream about. That jittery guitar solo could be off of Generation Terrorists too, which is the icing on the cake.

Dream Wife ‘Hasta La Vista’
The London trio’s new single might be their best work yet. Hypnotic-pop that’s driven by singer Rakel Mjöll’s exquisite vocal, given plentiful space to soar and draw you in. Props to them also for making forthcoming sophomore album So When You Gonna… produced, engineered, and mixed by an all-female team. Action > Sentiment.

Superlove ‘Circles’
This Bristol fuzz-rock trio have touches of pop-punk and metal in them, and they also embrace all the trapping of modern electronica to add a new sheen to their well-crafted, expertly produced songs. This one’s a bit different – a Post Malone cover that takes the original and adds layers of dirty guitar filth on top to make it their own. The chorus is a weighty beast too. Work those neck muscles!

Empyre ‘Drive’
MTV Unplugged vibes from the [usually] hard rockers, with a nicely turned-in video filmed in Vintage Retreat‘s Retro Room. Their acoustic side allows them reinterpret, reimagine, rearrange their grungey tendencies into something more earthy, and it certainly highlights their vocal prowess. Alice In Chains fans will lap this up, as should everyone.

The Big Dirty ‘Dirty Rider’
“You’re just a love machine/I wanna ride you”. They’re back!! A couple of years on from when we last heard the sex rock doyens, and they sound louder, harder, and sexier than ever. Riffs by AC-DC, clothes designed by Joe Exotic – you’ll either love this care-free lot, or be dead inside. Your choice! There’s a nice UK-based resurgence at the moment for ‘real rock’, and these undesirables are rightly at the forefront. Become a dirty rider before society crumbles!

Andy Crofts and Le SuperHomard ‘Forevermore’
Le SuperHomard is Montepellier-based Christophe Vaillant, who specialises in lush ’60s-style orchestral-pop. Hopping into bed with The Moons/Weller man for this unique collaboration was a superb choice. Andy’s rich, melancholic tone perfectly suits the song’s romantic leanings. It will have you proposing marriage to your nearest and dearest before it’s even finished. If this is to resemble the sound of Andy’s solo career then I for one cannot wait for more.

Crawlspaces ‘Primrose’
Northants emo types have finally released their debut single, and it’s a strong beginning. ‘Pop-punk’ doesn’t feel enough of a definition to cover what’s going on here. It rises and falls like the best of them, with Sam Morrison’s voice giving it plenty of depth, whilst the lads bring the fireworks around him. The chorus is an absolute monster; untamable. An exciting future awaits.

Jay Orosz ‘Do It Better’
Another week, another Harlz production! Lot of vocoder used by this amorous Northampton rapper. As previously heard guesting on Weirdoe’s ‘Diana’ a few months back, its his time for the spotlight. A confident debut single, hopefully there’s more to come.

Props ‘Easy’
Wellingborough/London bedroom pop to finish off this week. The quiet bedroom beats of 2019 releases have been given the boot in favour of scratchy guitar verse and a dancefloor chorus. It as excellent as those previous numbers, endorphin-rush feel and all. It’s deserving of a much wider audience, so do check out all his wonky pop manoeuvres.

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Step On: the week’s best new tracks [Apr 10]

New regular feature! Editor Phil Moore takes you through ten new releases worthy of your time. There’s a Spotify playlist below too; enjoy it and don’t forget to ‘follow’ it!…

New regular feature! Editor Phil Moore takes you through ten new releases worthy of your time. There’s a Spotify playlist below too; enjoy it and don’t forget to ‘follow’ it!

Jarvis Cocker ‘House Music All Night Long’
The return of Jarvis [or should that be ‘Jarv Is…’, his new moniker], this is the second single to be taken from his new, long-awaited album, Beyond the Pale [Sept 4]. It’s actually great; it still has all the breathy and nocturnal vibes of vintage Jarvis, but injected with a new nervous energy which his hot-shot band bring to the table. Led by a trill synth line [probably knocked up on an old Casio] and a primitive chorus, it succeeds where others similarly fail – probably down to the bucket-load of charm Cocker brings to proceedings.

Do Nothing ‘New Life’
From their new ‘Zero Dollar Bill’ EP, the Nottingham quartet has a singer that croons a verse like Kevin Rowland and then yells like Mark E Smith in the choruses. The inventive post-punk backing all ‘Fits’ in, creating a world of pulsating, merry weirdness. The EP has 2019 banger ‘Lebron James’ on it too. These lot might be the most exciting band of 2020; yes, really.

Garden ‘Sad Smile’
The Garden story is good ‘un. They emerged from Northampton in 2017 and quietly went about their ace business. Yet with horses definitively not scared, they disappeared for all of 2019, and with a slight line-up change emerged into the blinking light of 2020 promising a new single EVERY MONTH. The first one, ‘Love Me To Death’, was then played on Radio 1 by both Phil Taggart and Annie Mac, propelling them forward quicker than anticipated. This third release continues with their slow-building jam plan; a sleepy verse erupting into the goosebump-inducing chorus. Garden do a lot with very little wizardry, the hearts-worn-on-sleeves outlook and stellar melodies should mean this story will roll on and on. Bring the popcorn.

Anna Mae Kelly ‘I Want You To Be Here’
Hit the new artist klaxon! 17 year-old Kettering singer-songwriter has been building to this debut single moment after five years of bedroom practice. This Made-In-Sheffield song is unashamedly pop music for a wide audience, the endorphin rush piano-house backing keeps everything glued together and keeps the focus on that captivating voice. Don’t forget that name, we will be championing it regularly from now on.

Amaroun ‘Talk’
Hit the reinvention klaxon! Life developments has led Jay Brown – Northampton-born, former resident of London and Paris, and now back in the Shire – to create a new project that prioritises the search for personal truths accompanied by some nifty beats. The cascading, moody electronic motifs and wonderfully-layered vocals makes this alt-pop number an absolute winner. As both Bob Dylan and Reggie Perrin can attest, sometimes starting over is the best thing you can do. Get excited for more from this member of the famous Brown family.

King Purple ‘Twisted World’
Winners of our ‘Best Single 2019’ award for ‘Warning Signs’, this needed to be a strong follow-up. Thankfully it is. Recorded in Wolverhampton, ‘Twisted World’ is another slow-burning stoner-rock winner from the Corby quartet, with that clean, reverberating guitar sound that makes you openly weep with joy. “The elegance and beauty we see”, sings Callum Connachie. Amen to that.

Cousin Avi ‘No Plan’
Another infectious party-starter from the Northampton/London five-piece, and an ode to being a bit of a loser with no money [we can relate]. It’s a huge production number, a stone-solid funk-pop mover with a snappy chorus. Really they are the top boys at this sort of bludgeoning dancefloor thing. When the covid-19 shit-show is over make haste to one of their live shows.

Jimmy & The Moonlights ‘Modus Operandi [Forever 21]’
The “side-project” of Jordan Noon, this is the fantasy band that is giving life to his home recording projects. This fifth track of the last few months is the most noodly/Radioheady thing so far, and makes a warm and refreshing change from the usual harder fuzz-psych we’re become accustomed to. Now that his “old” band Parliaments are on the comeback trail [rejoice!!], we might not get much more of these studio beauties, so hold them close whilst you can.

Spring Park ‘In My Head’
Northampton’s premier punks never fail to disappoint with their live show, and their recorded output is under-rated. This pop-punker is perkier than a shaken can of jumping beans, and if you aren’t singing along to the chorus by the second time around I do worry for you. “Lifeless”? Nah, life-affirming.

Joel Harries ‘Bore’
The multi-directional Harries is always working on something, and his solo thing has come back with a bang this past year. This second of his recent EPs is another beautiful example of his conjuring abilities; his softly-hypnotic voice and an array of studio gadgetry helping to create immersive sonic landscapes that constantly reveal new sounds on each listen. You like Bon Iver and Thom Yorke? Load up on this then.

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Album review: Jordan Mackampa

JORDAN MACKAMPA Foreigner [AWAL] The debut album from University Of Northampton graduate/former ShoeTown resident Jordan Mackampa is finally here. Having begun playing shows around teyn circa 2014 it is heartwarming…

JORDAN MACKAMPA
Foreigner
[AWAL]

The debut album from University Of Northampton graduate/former ShoeTown resident Jordan Mackampa is finally here. Having begun playing shows around teyn circa 2014 it is heartwarming to see him reach this current level of success. The album title is a nod to his geographical journey creating a certain Otherness in him: born in the Democratic Republic Of Congo, his family moved to London, and then onto Coventry. As an adult he then enrolled for music at the Northampton uni, before finally relocating to the music biz central hub of London. 

His soulful-pop songwriting, enlivened by that wide gospel vocal that is his trademark, has been evident throughout his musical career, from the early acoustic bedroom pop recordings right through to most recent single, the R&B stomp of ‘Magic’. That song begins the album in fine fettle. His mother’s love of the great soul singers like Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield is transparent here, and he effortlessly joins the historical soul throng with a crystal clear number that does not need to reinvent the wheel. His pure pleasure in the love thing carries his message front and centre.

‘Love at First Sight’ immediately drops the mood down a notch, his joy at having “found myself an angel” an evocation of the memory of the energy of those first forays in a relationship. It’s a nice song that has drawn admirable comparisons to Michael Kiwanuka, and that is no bad thing. ‘Tight’ has him an awestruck balladeer, a woven jazz-folk song that shows off his yearning lilt beautifully. Indeed this projection of yearning is perhaps his greatest gift: his emotional honesty is such that one can often feel like he’s actually singing in the room with you, rather than via some ones and zeros travelling through a cable.

Foreigner is full of catchy melodies and heartfelt lyrics; none more so than on his questioning single ‘What Am I’. A state-of-the-world ’70s Motown-y number that expresses a certain helplessness. “I watched the news this morning/Another town has fallen/The people still are fightin’/Their stories told in pictures”. It’s an anti-war song, but with a message that truly resonates in this Isolation Nation times. Another single is ‘Parachutes’, where Mackampa gently sounds like a seeker of spiritual truth within human relationships. This one, atypcially, has him regretting getting involved, his usual ‘love is all’ message taking a bit of a knock.

After a interlude conversation with his mother about his childhood development, the second half of the album begins with the title track. It’s bare bones beginning is almost Nick Drake-esque, with some delicate finger-picked guitar and solemn string quartet parts. The “I learnt the language/But I felt disconnected” musings reflecting his former unease with his place in the world. ‘Care for Your Mother’ has a Bill Withers/Al Green laidback feel; ‘Eventide’ a more contemporary minor-chord malaise. ‘Under’ is a snappy dancefloor banger that may not seen his natural territory, but let’s not forget he has a oak-strong voice that pretty much works in any context! The album closes with ‘Warning Signs’ [not the King Purple track!], and it’s an dusty, noir-indie lament that recalls Richard Hawley. In other words, stunning.

This album is such a triumph, all held together through its peaks and troughs by that indefatigable voice of Jordan’s that draws you into his [mostly] insular world. Obviously lots of people will put it on to get laid, and you can’t give much of a higher compliment than that. 

Phil Moore

Foreigner is out now via the usual digital platforms, or score a nice vinyl version from here or elsewhere

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Album review: Kev Minney ‘Modern Stories’

KEV MINNEY Modern Stories [self-released] Northampton born-and-raised Brighton resident Minney is back with his second long-player, following the rather excellent 2017 work Stories Of The Sky. New Boots is pleased…

KEV MINNEY
Modern Stories
[self-released]

Northampton born-and-raised Brighton resident Minney is back with his second long-player, following the rather excellent 2017 work Stories Of The Sky. New Boots is pleased to report this album is even better than that ruminating debut. Ten numbers that come straight from the heart, every track here is full of affection, with no affectations to distract him from his purpose.

Minney’s guitar finger-picking style is rhythmic enough to become hypnotic over the timespan of each song. The string flourishes that pop up regularly on Modern Stories are often sudden and striking, bringing to mind the work of Nick Drake arranger Robert Kirby. Minney’s whispered vocal style is perhaps a reflection of his quiet and shy persona, but they are custom-built for the songs he writes.

His often powerful lyrics can throw you out of your daily step; e.g. “wouldn’t it be wonderful if angels helped us cry?” as heard on opener ‘Magic’. There’s a few themes that come across here [besides love!] – technology, addiction and climate change being obvious examples. It’s hard to pick out specific songs and go into depth about their showy musical range, for this is a folk album that is about the “feel”. The only number on here that shouts “radio play” is ‘God Is An Algorithm’, with its easy to remember, elevated chorus. But whilst some may worry that’s a weakness, it more than likely just shows you the confidence level we’re working with here. These songs speak for themselves; and the musicians allow them room to breathe. His musical and life partner Steph Brown adds touches of piano and backing vocal here and there, adding more layers to build the sound – especially effective on the dynamic loud and quiet passages of ‘A Way Out’. Their duet on ‘Natural Disaster’ is a highlight; their vocal interplay the result of many an hour spent harmonising.

Modern Stories is that classic ‘slow-burner’ album which reveals itself more each time. I can’t imagine someone in a rush giving it time to impart its many qualities, and with its minimalist design maybe it will sit quietly untouched in some reviewers drawers. Which is criminal. Minney should be whispered about in the same influential circles as your John Grants and Bon Ivers and Fleet Foxes are. He’s Northampton’s best-kept secret, but we can help change that. Listen in below, and tell your friends. Gifts like this are there to be shared.

Phil Moore

Modern Stories is out now via the usual digital platforms, and on CD from his shows.

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Live review: THUMPER | Tragic | Deaf Trap

THUMPER + TRAGIC + DEAF TRAP The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes March 2nd 2020 This is a dreamy line-up for alt-rock fans. The new hurricane on the block from Dublin,…

THUMPER + TRAGIC + DEAF TRAP
The Craufurd Arms, Milton Keynes
March 2nd 2020

This is a dreamy line-up for alt-rock fans. The new hurricane on the block from Dublin, plus two of Northampton’s finest noisy pups. Your reporter did not let it being a Monday night stop the rock, though a sparse crowd reflects other didn’t feel the same way. Your loss, mothers.

Deaf Trap have swiftly become something of a staple amongst the NN scene; admittedly not gigging that often, but always putting in the whole nine yards in their pursuit of sweaty good times. It’s great to see them cross county lines for a change, and they open things magnificently here. With tunes as good as ‘From The Floor’ and ‘Real Nice Night’ it’s always a pleasure to experience their set.

Tragic are very easy to wax superlatively about. The teenagers from Northampton have brought a vigour to the East Midlands music world that could put the energy companies out of business. They positively burst at the sinews to wring every inch of meaning from their instruments, and their manic energy is ever-present tonight. Previewing upcoming single ‘PIG’ alongside last year’s modern-day grunge-punk classics ‘Sloppy Kiss’, ‘Sammy Set His Bed On Fire’ and ‘Walking’. Their melodic skill is perhaps their secret weapon, creeping up on you through the swampy fuzz. And “England is full of scared little boys” feels a very apt lyric for the current state of the nation. Move over slowthai, someone’s coming for your crown.

THUMPER are Dublin’s widescreen screechers of the faith. Never less than fully committed, the six-piece [two drummers and three guitarists, obviously] are treading the noise-pop line of contemporaries IDLES, Fontaines DC, Girl Band, King Gizzard etc but bringing enough of their own personality to proceedings to make them no mere imitators. New single ‘Ad Nauseam’ is a deep rumination on empty ships making the loudest noise. Singer Oisin Furlong is a proper frontman, looking into our very souls for an answer to something, and dealing with mundane broken strings with aplomb. The band never let up for a second, locking into their well-worked groove with motorik precision. Furlong’s foray into the crowd late into the set says “we are you” more than any clever soundbite could. And with ‘In My Room’ and ‘Down’ they’ve started their career with songs others still can’t match after many years of trying. In an increasingly dystopian world we should perhaps let these Irish men lead us to eternal salvation. When music is as joyous as this you can’t help but catch it now and spread it around.

Words: Phil Moore. Photos: David Jackson

 

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Live review: The Rezillos

THE REZILLOS + THE MEMBERS The Roadmender, Northampton February 21st Tonight The Members are performing as a power trio and, stripped back with the absence of a second guitar, proves…

THE REZILLOS + THE MEMBERS
The Roadmender, Northampton
February 21st

Tonight The Members are performing as a power trio and, stripped back with the absence of a second guitar, proves the band to be a multifaceted animal. Lively opener ‘Soho-A-Go-Go’ pulls the slackers in from the bar as the bass heavy ‘Offshore Banking Business’ follows. Not only is that song vitally relevant 40 years later but it’s a perfect example of how punk and reggae cross-pollinated and created a little harmony in a time of racial strife. The high energy rhythm and blues of ‘Working Girl’ swings like Dr Feelgood, and precedes the groove-laden and punchy ‘Muzak Machine’. Next they take the cool Germanic brittleness of Kraftwerk’s ‘The Model’ and infuse it with the warmth of reggae, which sounds like a strange combination, but The Members make it work by creating a whole new beast. ‘The Sound of the Suburbs’ is a song they must’ve performed thousands of times, yet they play it with an energy and respect that a song which defined a generation deserves.

Eschewing the nihilism of their peers, The Rezillos always stood apart from the prevailing punk scene into which they were birthed. Preferring to call themselves a ‘new wave beat group’ they meshed ’50s rock n’ roll and ’60s garage to ’70s glam rock, and added a touch of retro sci-fi imagery. While the Clash sang ‘No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones’ The Rezillos were busy exploring their roots, which is why they sound timeless and much of their generation seems of its time. Aided by a clear, crisp sound ‘Destination Venus’ finds them on top form with the original twin vocal attack of Fay Fife and Eugene Reynolds firing off each other. By second track ‘Flying Saucer Attack’ they’re firmly in the groove, and are propelled forward by hard-hitting drummer Angel Patterson. In a set that’s always shifting gears the high octane rockabilly of ‘It Gets Me’ sits effortlessly along side the reverb soaked ‘(Take Me To The) Groovy Room’. It’s all killer and no filler as The Rezillos play with an energy and effervescence that’d put many younger bands to shame.

A crowd pleasing set touches all bases from their debut album [1977’s Can’t Stand the Rezillos] to their critically acclaimed 2015 opus Zero with two following from that record in the shape of ‘Spike Heeled Assassin’ and the title track. Attesting to their deep roots an amphetamine-charged cover of The Beatles ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’ is played with so much velocity it veers into psychobilly territory. The distinctly garage-rock feel of ‘20,000 Rezillos Under the Sea’ is paired with another cover, a song they helped to revive: Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonite’. Like The Members ‘The Sound of the Suburbs’ The Rezillos ‘Top of the Pops’ is a song that has a life of its own, appearing on almost every punk and new wave compilation that it’s overshadowed much of their other work, and with a discography as good as they’ve displayed tonight that seems a trifle unfair. Nevertheless they treat it with the respect it deserves, and there couldn’t be a better way to end the set.

However the band return for a well-earned encore. When they were forced to change their name to The Revillos [for contractual reasons] there was no drop in quality, and it’s one of those gems that closes the show in the shape of ‘Do The Mutilation’. Like The Cramps mating with the 13th Floor Elevators it provides a suitably largess conclusion that sends all home happy.

Peter Dennis

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Live review: Half Man Half Biscuit

HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT + WEST WICKHAMS The Roadmender, Northampton February 15th Originally hailing from Tresco, Isle of Scilly [but now residing in sunny Richmond, Surrey]. the West Wickhams are…

HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT + WEST WICKHAMS
The Roadmender, Northampton
February 15th

Originally hailing from Tresco, Isle of Scilly [but now residing in sunny Richmond, Surrey]. the West Wickhams are a rather tasty garage rock/psychedelic noir duo. Attired all in black and white (as if a negative photograph) opener ‘Every Moving Picture’ is the perfect introduction, with vocalist John Othello wrapping his chords in glorious fuzz and Elle Flores pulling a fine retro sound from the keyboard. Like the love children of Patti Smith and The Jesus and Mary Chain, ‘Kick the Habit’ is delivered with foot heavy on the distortion pedal, before ‘Where the Creatures Rule’ captures the sinisterness of early Cure. Each song is a succinct ball of warped sound; but dig to its core and you’ll find a strong melody. Case in point being their debut single, ‘He’s Acquired a New Face’, which is simultaneously discordant and catchy and which will, undoubtedly, ensure we’ll be hearing more from the Wickhams very soon.

Alongside the Clash, Half Man Half Biscuit are surely England’s finest folk group. Exploring the minutiae of modern life and deconstructing current popular culture, they’ve given voice to the sidelined, the maligned and the just plain weird. They tell the tales of the bus station drunk or the Big Issue seller who nevertheless have great insight into the absurdism of the world. But it’s also life’s cruel ironies: it is tending the wrong grave for years [‘Excavating Rita’] or the sudden realisation of tonight’s opener: ‘The Light at the End of the Tunnel [is the Light of an Oncoming Train]’. Evolving from their early post-punk roots to incorporate blues and folk tonight’s set includes all stages of their 35 year career, with ‘Venus in Flares’ and ‘Bad Losers on Yahoo Chess’ following in quick succession. The festival nightmare that is ‘Running Order Squabble Fest’ raises a few smiles as does ‘Ode to Joyce’.

Once the rallying cry of students everywhere ‘Fuckin ‘ell it’s Fred Titmus’ is sung by a raucous, near capacity crowd as is a lively ‘The Bastard Son of Dean Friedman’. Slackers anthem ‘Floreat Inertia’ provides a nice change of pace before we arrive at the foil to The Doors’ ‘The End’, ‘Footprints’. Slightly surreal in meshing a biblical tale with Junior Kickstart vocalist [and guitarist] Nigel Blackwell sings with just the right amount of bemused cynicism. It is Nigel’s ability to get under the skin of the character’s that inhabit songs like ‘All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit’ that prevent Half Man Half Biscuit becoming pastiche or a parody. It’s that plus Nigel’s attention to detail, a conscientious proofreader, that give the lyrics backstory and depth. And don’t forget the biting satire and deadpan delivery of songs like ‘We Built This Village on a Trad. Arr. Tune’ and set closer ‘National Shite Day’ [“Overhead a rainbow appears, in black and white”].

The band return for four [count ‘em!] well deserved encores, the highlight of which is a brutally heavy reading of Killing Joke’s futurist nightmare ‘Wardance’, on which they capture the monolithic enormity of the original. That stands in marked contrast to closer ‘Everything’s AOR’ which, with its references to leather swivel chairs, Kendo Nagasaki and tennis racquets, sends all home happy.

Peter Dennis

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