Wednesday 28 November 2018

The Boaty Weekender is a terrible idea

Dear Stuart

The premise of this event is wrong:
What if the magic of 1999’s Bowlie Weekender was recreated 20 years on with 2,500 like-minded music fans, dozens of your favourite bands, and us, on an exciting and once in a lifetime cruise holiday through the Mediterranean?

The premise of this event is really: “Let’s do Bowlie again, but on a richer, grander scale. We’ll be a little bit disappointed if your economic circumstances haven’t improved drastically over the last 20 years like ours have.”

I know that you like to put on gigs in unusual venues, but if I had £1,500 spare to see Belle and Sebastian play a special gig, last year I’d have flown to Australia to see them at the Sydney Opera House.

But I don’t see Belle and Sebastian very often. Time was when I used to see them at every opportunity. Their first headline London gig at the Borderline in 1996, packed with just about everyone in town who had bought Tigermilk or had a tape of it. It was fun. Like when the band broke down and one of them played Smoke On The Water on a kazoo.

The night before supporting Tindersticks, you spotted Lawrence in the crowd and changed a lot of lyrics and song titles to Felt ones to impress him.

It started to go wrong in 1998 with the interminable waits until the band had the courage to go on stage. The nadir was in Philadelphia that autumn when you kept the audience waiting for an hour and a half before deciding, actually, you weren’t going to play. Many people left in tears. Not me. I’d seen you before, I could see you again.

But I didn’t, unless you count Bowlie the following year. I don’t remember too much about it. Like many attendees, I was in an advanced state of liquid refreshment. I’d either out drunk all of Mogwai combined, or some other bunch of Glaswegians. It’s all a bit hazy.

The problem with Belle and Sebastian then was the idea that they thought they were a “democracy”. They weren’t, though. They were still, then, Stuart Murdoch’s band. If your cellist was poorly, don’t keep fans waiting for 90 minutes before sending them home. Come on and play pared down or a Stuart Murdoch acoustic show or hard rock covers on the kazoo. Something improvised, something special. Don’t send fans home with nothing but contempt and disappointment.

I know I’m not the target audience for the Boaty Weekender, despite having been to Bowlie. My favourite albums remain Tigermilk and Sinister, what Stevie Jackson said “conveyed a self-made universe”.

I haven’t bought any Belle and Sebastian records since The Life Pursuit 12 years ago. I’m not going to slag off any records you’ve made since then. They’re not for me, that’s all. I wouldn’t dare ask, or even want, you to make the same albums over and over. Felt never did, after all, and like you they’re one of my favourite bands ever.

I did see you a couple of years ago at the Royal Albert Hall when you played Tigermilk. And then once more last year when I got a cheap ticket for your gig at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. These gigs told me two things:

1. Belle and Sebastian are a heritage act.
2. Getting the cute girls on stage at the end of every gig is creepy and it gets creepier as the years pass. I tend to agree with Peter Momtchiloff who said: “I haven't kept close tabs on SM's activities in recent years. I suspect I might like some of the songs, but I find the artwork quite off-putting.”

I haven’t checked, but does the boat stop at any ports during its voyage? I know you’re better drilled these days, but it was only last year that you left drummer Richard Colburn in his pyjamas in Walmart between gigs.

I really hope that one of the other bands on the bill has a drummer you can use if you lose Richard. Or you take a drum machine just in case.

Stuart, you’ll be pleased to hear I can afford to go on the Boaty Weekender, but maybe less so when you understand why I won’t be going. I don’t need to take a hard look at my life choices to think any differently.

Last night I saw Pia Fraus and Spinning Coin. This Friday, Peaness, then the day after Hinds and Girl Ray. I’m more interested in newer bands. I don’t want to revisit a festival from 20 years ago, especially on a boat. Especially at that cost. And especially when the booking agent emails me to tell me there’s “unlimited ice cream”. Mate, I could have as much ice cream and beer and pizza as I wanted with change left over from £1,500 to go record shopping. In New York, say.

But let’s do a deal. If I win the lottery (seriously, I just bought a ticket), I’ll go on the Boaty Weekender. If I don’t, you play a low-key acoustic gig - guitar, kazoo, whatever you like - in London. I’ll put it on. It’ll be affordable. It’ll be fun. It’ll be special.

Let me know.


Sunday 25 November 2018

Fascinations Grand Chorus

So *that’s* what happened to Stephanie Cupo. She, you’ll surely remember, was the teen sensation behind Souvenir Stand who, correctly, believed pop music peaked when Goffin/King and Barry/Greenwich described the thrills, yearning and desperation of young love.

Until I Found You is exactly what you’d hope - group soul sung under the streetlamps outside the Brill Building.

There are more songs from a year ago which point to Quasi’s excellent Featuring “Birds” being the most recent reference point. Not that surprising when Fascinations Grand Chorus are, like Quasi, a two piece on keys and drums.

Whichever way they play it. Fascinations Grand Chorus are definitely a window to watch.

Shogun and the Sheets

Royal Headache were a punk band with a pop songwriter’s instincts who played it fast, hard and giddily like The Undertones. Shogun, late of Royal Headache, is now playing it fast, hard and soulfully like the Subway Sect.

Hold On Kid barrels along like it both opposes and embraces rock and roll with nervy grit like Ambition. You could probably hum Everybody’s Happy Nowadays by Buzzcocks to it if you’d had a few beers.

Pissing Blood on the b-side is about having had too many beers in the past. It strips away the punk fury to reveal in full the soul fervour Hold On Kid suggests.

What Hold On Kid does is announce a reborn band. What Pissing Blood does is announce a new band with real potential that could go somewhere different, somewhere higher, than Royal Headache ever did.

Thursday 1 November 2018

Art Sick - Going Down/No Clue

Starring Burnt Palms and Lunchbox alumni? Sold! *And* Kids On A Crime Spree? Give it to me now.

This blog once confidently predicted (I know, it don’t half chat shit sometimes) that Burnt Palms would be bigger than The Beatles and fatter than Elvis (see what I mean?). So no grand claims this time around, but surely Art Sick's blend of snotty punk and pop sass can fill the hole in discerning music listeners’ hearts since Best Coast went down the dumper?

These songs - just the two of them, so more please, Art Sick, when you have a moment - have the carefree Californian suss of The Go-Go’s and answer the question ‘what would The Shangri-La’s sound like if they recorded in a garage?’

Maybe that question was already answered by The Flips and Stolen Hearts. Who? I know. I truly hope Art Sick get the gold discs. There are only 100 copies of this 7" so it'll have to be the next record that goes gold. Act fast.