Pugwash – Outer Space, Hamden, USA

The Irish lads conquer America
Outer Space, Hamden, USA, 11/09/2015


 

Pugwash has been barnstorming the USA this past year bringing their brand of pop perfection to their audience. This is a band at their peak carrying on the influences of their heroes, like XTC, Jeff Lynne/ELO, Beatles and bringing it into a modern context. Performing songs from their first album right up to the new LP Play This Intimately (As If Among Friends) guitarist and lead vocalist Thomas Walsh is truly gifted with a wonderful set of pipes. You could hear a pin drop during his flawless performance of ‘Here’ from 2008’s Eleven Modern Antiquities. They sport one of the tightest rhythm sections going today with bassist/background vocalist Shaun McGee whose melodic bass lines add so much to the signature Pugwash sound. Drummer Joe Fitzgerald is just a powerhouse! A maestro pushing the band to their musical nirvana. Let’s not forget secret weapon lead guitarist/back vocals Tosh Flood who brings forth the definitive Pugwash sound with great guitar and guitar synthesizer work that is pure genius. There’s no smoke and mirrors with Pugwash! What you see is an amazing band, no guitar god attitude, posing or distracting stage effects. Everything done in the inimitable Pugwash way, playing for the love of music. At the end of the show they got off stage and mingled with the audience. Total gentlemen Pugwash deserve to be a household name so catch them NOW!! You won’t be disappointed.

Joe Sciortino

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Dave McCabe & The Ramifications – Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, London

Ex Zuton’s new flavour
Hoxton Bar & Grill, London, 11/o9/2015


 

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Since his former band The Zutons disbanded, Dave McCabe has been beavering away in deepest, darkest Liverpool working towards a new direction. From tonight’s showing, it’s clear he’s not only changed gears but switched car entirely. He’s taken a swerve towards a melange of vintage synth, bold basslines and twitchy melodies which still have that unmistakeable catchy nous that made his former band a success, but with an old-school electronica feel à la Captain Beefheart via Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express.

As the band emerge to ominous whooshing sounds over the speakers, all dressed in foreboding priest-like cowls and Tron-esque fright masks, one woman is heard to remark “I’m scared to get any closer to the stage!” McCabe follows, resplendent in a white hooded cloak with matching sunglasses, like a cult leader in waiting. Things are already getting weirder than anything he’s previously done and, starting off with initial single ‘Time And Place’, the overall “sturm und drang” comes across, wrapped in a tight head-nodding rhythm that keeps things ticking along nicely. ‘Too Damn Good’ follows – all sleek “ticka-ticka-ticka” noises reminiscent of the theme tune for ’80s TV staple Knight Rider but with a sinister edge; like the tune in your head heard when waking from a fever dream at 4am.

More tunes are played from his debut solo Church Of Miami, keeping up the long lost John Carpenter soundtrack feel. ‘Fake Emotion’ has a great jumpy and jittery feel whilst the title track is also particular highlight – all groove and talk of starting fires and burning them down – which gets the crowd moving involuntarily closer to the stage as the song’s hook locks in. Despite all this, there’s still room for a few of the former band’s tunes; ‘Why Won’t You Give Me Your Love’ fits perfectly with the new found paranoiac staccato sound and ‘You Will You Won’t’ retains a foot stomping quality that is difficult to shake off; its glam roots ring true all the more in this interpretation.

So Dave McCabe is back; no less hairy but certainly more freaky and it’s a welcome return for all those attending.

M Le Breton

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Jessica Pratt – London, Bush Hall

Tim Presley discovery shines.
London Bush Hall, 08/09/2015


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In the illustrious settings of this prestigious venue – “So this used to be a bingo hall? That’s cool” – Jessica Pratt draws the crowd into the palm of her hand, tapping into the intimate surroundings and grandeur with her world of dimly lit, chanson-like charm. After an initial technical difficulty, the performance starts with ‘Wrong Hand’, the opening statement on her latest album On Your Own Love Again. Her voice tonight is sparkling yet lugubrious – like the sigh at the end of a twilight night when considering a day’s passing. This is despite Pratt later admitting that “…I’m a little bit ill right now”. ‘Greycedes’ also has a similar quality; the aural equivalent of staring into the middle distance whilst in love and trying to ignore the inevitable parting to follow.

What’s clear tonight is that Pratt’s songs have a tranquil and entrancing presence that is significantly enhanced here beyond their recorded counterparts. The lack of harmony vocals in the live setting only serves to reinforce her main vocal line, giving greater significance to the lyrics, whilst the interplay between Pratt and accompanying guitarist Cyrus Gengras revels in the fragility of the songs themselves. ‘Games That I Play’ gleams and bewitches the audience whilst ‘Jacquelyn in the Background’ retains the slight uplift in pitch at the tail end that, on the album, gives the impression that someone’s accidentally nudged the varispeed controls on the recording console. ‘Back, Baby’ has the crowd indulge in an impromptu singing of the opening line with Pratt (‘Sometimes I Pray For The Rain’).

An exquisite reading of the song that started it all ‘Night Faces’ (from her initial demo-drawn debut) still feels like a long lost response to David Crosby and the Laurel Canyon community. ‘Strange Melody’ is another highlight; a rumination on truth and loss only heightened by the sparse instrumentation and spectral quality of its rendition here.

An encore of ‘Titles Under Pressure’ and ‘Fortuna’ brings the performance to a close and it’s hard to argue with Pratt’s own assessment of her visit; “I’ve played here (London) three times and it’s always been special.”

Marc Le Breton

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Sufjan Stevens – Colston Hall , Bristol

A dazzling show from the man of many styles
Bristol Colston Hall, 06/09/2015


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What a show!

Baroque , psychedelia, folk , electronica , indie , it had everything.

Commencing with a complete performance of his latest highly regards album Carrie And Lowell  Sufjan was supported by a band of multi instrumentalists, including female vocalist Dawn Landes. The album – a personal reflection of memories , experiences and relationships – deserved and obtained undivided attention, holding the audience spellbound. The beautifully crafted fragile songs, tackling sorrow and grief, were executed and delivered against a backdrop of home movies making the songs even more poignant if they could possibly be so.

The audience listened in silence to a masterclass of what you would term a “suite” of music rather than a set of songs. Sufjan is undoubtedly the Brian Wilson of a modern age.

It was only after the completion of Carrie And Lowell that he then took the opportunity to converse with the audience, seeming genuinely humbled by the deserved standing ovations and rapturous applause from all corners of the hall.

Accompanied by a fantastic group of musicians and the haunting vocals of Dawn Landes he then preceded to cover a variety of gorgeous songs from various albums including ‘The Age Of Adz’, ‘All Delighted People’ and in his words “My Murder Ballad, ‘John Wayne Gacy , JR’ from Illinois.”

After another standing ovation and encore a wonderful show came to an end, leaving you feeling you had been a part of something very special.

Mark Roberts

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Psychedelia & Other Colours Book Launch

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Rob Chapman author of Psychedelia And Other Colours in conversation at Rough Trade East. ASHLEY NORRIS attends.


So much has been written about the great British psychedelic trip of the late ’60s, yet in a way so little too. For most of it focuses on the main protagonists – The Beatles, Stones and Floyd – and doesn’t really attempt to answer other questions, such as why a thousand local beat bands jettisoned their club soul dance sounds and suddenly started singing strange songs about gnomes.

The accepted wisdom has always been that widespread use of LSD heralded an era of intense musical experimentation. Yet could it be that those bands were simply aping their heroes and hadn’t ingested anything much stronger than a barrel or two of Watneys Ale? Read more Psychedelia & Other Colours Book Launch

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