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“You’ve got to look forward”

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the StoneS 2016 review THE fuTurE AccorDiNg To Mick, kEiTH, roN AND cHArliE

75 best albums 30 best reissues books & films fEATuriNg

STurgill SiMPSoN rylEy WAlkEr PJ HArVEy DriVE-By TruckErS THEE oH SEES PluS!

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welch 75 DollAr Bill cHuck BErry DAVE MASoN JAMES cHANcE


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t the end of a momentous and confounding year for music and the world, it is reassuring to cling to a few certainties. As their peers departed, and their songs are used as anthems by a victorious Donald trump, the Rolling Stones appear, as ever, at a lofty remove from the mortal scrum. this month, rock’s most indestructible band release their 23rd studio album, and first in 11 years. And to mark the occasion, Uncut were blessed with a level of access to the band that’s unprecedented in recent times. Come with Michael Bonner to Boston, then, as he spends a very special night with the Stones, and finds them looking resolutely ahead, even as they revisit the blues influences of their youth. “You can’t celebrate the future,” as the sage Keith Richards puts it; his timing, as ever, impeccable. “You’ve got to look forward and hope there is one!” As it’s nearly 2017, though, we hope you’ll also allow us a little retrospective contemplation, as we round up the finest albums, reissues, films and books of the year. Our top 75 new albums list

On the cover: The Rolling Stones by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

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reveals that, in spite of everything, 2016 turned out to be an uncommonly rich year for music, as Laura Snapes elucidates in an essay that accompanies the chart (p72). there’s a strong piece from David Cavanagh, too (p76), in which he tries to make clear-eyed sense of the year’s appalling losses. “the shock of losing Bowie knocked 2016 entirely off its axis,” he writes. “From that day forward, nobody’s death – not in music, not in sport, not in comedy, not in daily life – would be judged as an individual tragedy. “Instead it would be viewed as more incontestable proof that 2016 was a year like no other, a year with a hex on it, a year gone rogue.” Hopefully, Uncut can be a guide and consolation through all this. Our heartfelt thanks, as ever, for all your continued support – see you in 2017.

John Mulvey, Editor. Follow me on twitter @JohnRMulvey

contents

4 Instant Karma!

Chuck Berry, Dave Mason, James Chance, St Thomas, 75 Dollar Bill

12 Ryley Walker

An audience with the singer-songwriter

16 New Albums

Including: Kate Bush, Neil Young, The Rolling Stones, Howe Gelb, Kaia Kater

34 The Archive

REVIEW OF 2016 64 Albums Of The Year The 75 best records of 2015

80 Reissues Of The Year 83 Books Of The Year 84 Films Of The Year 86 Phil Collins

Including: The Band, The Human League, Lee Hazlewood, Erykah Badu

As the singing drummer prepares for a dramatic return to action in 2017, he talks us through his extraordinary career

50 The Rolling Stones

92 Drive-By Truckers

With their fine new album of blues covers set for release, the quartet treat Uncut to an access-all-areas night in Boston, as we find out how the past informs the future of the indestructible rock’n’roll legends

special offer

100 Live

Sturgill Simpson, PJ Harvey

112 Books

Robbie Robertson, Johnny Marr, Woody Woodmansey

114 DVD & Blu-ray

Peter Green, Brian De Palma

116 Films

Frank Zappa, Spike Lee

118 Not Fade Away This month’s obituaries

120 Letters…

The making of “Let There Be Rock”: “It was the day everything changed…”

Plus the Uncut crossword

96 Gillian Welch

122 My Life In Music

The Americana queen on her best LPs

FOR THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS GIFT,

SubSCRIbE FROM juST £17.49* Subscribe online today at www.uncutsubs.co.uk/BYE6 Or call 0330 333 1113, quoting code BYE6. For more information, visit page 99

Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer


This monTh’s revelaTions from The world of UncUT

feaTUring... dave mason | James chance | st Thomas | 75 dollar Bill

chuck does the duck, live in 1980

“My heart’s still beatin’ rhythm…” RichaRd E. aaRon/REdfERns

and chuck Berry’s soul keeps on singin’ the blues. The comeback, aged 90

A

t the end of a musical year overshadowed by significant deaths, some icons still, implausibly, endure. On the occasion of his 90th birthday, October 18, Chuck Berry announced that he’d be releasing his first new album in 38 years. Chuck will be out on Dualtone Records next year, featuring songs that Berry wrote, recorded and produced himself. “I’ve worked on this record for a long time. Now I can hang up my shoes,” he said in the press release. the songs “cover the spectrum from hard-driving rockers to soulful,

4 • UncUT • JanUarY 2017

thought-provoking time capsules of a life’s work”, added his son, Charles Berry Jr, who plays guitar on the record. Also featured: bassist Jimmy Marsala, a 40-year vet of Berry’s band; and daughter Ingrid Berry, on harmonica. Further emphasising the family spirit at play, Chuck is dedicated to themetta “toddy” Berry, his wife of, yep, 68 years. the prospect of some new Berry songs was welcomed by some of his most assiduous longterm students. “Keith was playing Chuck Berry, as usual, in the dressing room a week or so ago,” Charlie Watts told Uncut. “If Bob Dylan

wasn’t there as a poet, it would be Chuck.” Richards himself agreed. “I can’t think of another writer who’s not only so prolific – ‘School Days’, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ – and so far ahead of the game, yet at the same time he connects with people,” he said. “he’s one of the most brilliant songwriters of all time. My only sadness about Chuck is that his biggest record was ‘My Ding A Ling’, but that’s his own sadness too. It’s not ‘Johnny B Goode’, it ain’t ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’, ‘No Money Down’, ‘too Much Monkey Business’. A brilliant connection of words to music. that’s what it’s about.”


JanUarY 2017 • UncUT • 5


INSTANT KARMA A quIcK oNe

Redirecting Traffic: Dave Mason

Some required Uncut-related reading for those long winter nights: a new Ultimate Music Guide to PJ Harvey; and The History Of Rock: 1981, with young Bruce Springsteen on the cover. Both in shops now, though you can also buy them from our online store – follow the links at uncut.co.uk. Bowie fans with an iPhone may be delighted to know he’s been immortalised in a clutch of emojis rolled out with iOS 10.2. It’s the Aladdin Sane look with lightning bolt, by the way – hopefully Jareth The Goblin King emojis will be part of the next update…

Chris Jensen

Steve Shelley subbed for Klaus Dinger in Michael Rother’s band a few years back, and now he – along with Thurston Moore – have been recruited by Irmin Schmidt for his Can Project. The show at London Barbican on April 8 will also feature Schmidt’s old Can bandmates, Jaki Liebezeit and Malcolm Mooney, and the LSO playing a new Schmidt piece that quotes from some Can classics. Tour news! Lots more Radiohead activity next summer, including a Glastonbury headline slot on June 23. Shirley Collins’ heroic return to singing will see a bunch of UK dates, beginning in Glasgow on February 4. And Abba, of all people, are prepping some mysterious “virtual and live experience”, with the help of Spice Girls impresario Simon Fuller. “We are exploring a new technological world that will allow us to create new forms of entertainment and content we couldn’t have previously imagined,” says Fuller, perhaps ominously. 6 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

You can all join in!

Traffic’s Dave Mason plays Britain for the first time in 44 years. Calling Steve Winwood…

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alf a century after Traffic’s debut, Dave Mason is set to return to Britain with a show that pays tribute to the band he founded with Steve Winwood, and for whom he wrote such classic songs as “feelin’ alright”, “You Can all Join In” and “Hole In My Shoe”. The show, titled Traffic Jam, arrives for a nine-date tour in late february/ March, and will be the first time Mason has performed in the country of his birth since 1972. His return has inevitably sparked speculation that Winwood – the only other surviving member of the original quartet – might be persuaded to put aside years of prickliness between them and make a guest appearance. When Uncut caught up by phone with Mason at his Nevada home near lake Tahoe, he made it clear he’d be thrilled by such a reunion: “It’d be wonderful if it happened and you never know. I understand people would love to see it. But you’re asking the wrong guy.” Traffic briefly reformed in 1994 without Mason, and his time in the band in the late 1960s was riven by personality clashes. Winwood is on record as claiming that Mason “never quite fit in with Traffic”, and that his habit of bringing his songs to the

studio fully formed undermined the more fluid and freewheeling approach favoured by his bandmates. Mason doesn’t dissent, but believes “The differences were what made Traffic great,” as well as forcing them apart. “I was 19 and trying to find out what I could do,” he recalls. “They didn’t like what I was doing, but most of the things I wrote were picked as singles. So I guess it created a rub.” Mason left in 1968 after Traffic’s first

“I’ve been fortunate enough to be in interesting places at the right time” DAve MASON two studio albums, and moved to america to launch a solo career. He briefly rejoined in 1971 and appeared on the live album Welcome To The Canteen, but apart from an all-star rendition of “feelin’ alright” when Traffic were inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of fame in 2004, he never played with the band again. There were plenty of others who were keen to use his services, and

Mason’s name crops up with remarkable regularity at many of rock’s most significant crossroads. He played acoustic guitar on Hendrix’s “all along The Watchtower” and percussion on the Stones’ “Street fighting Man”. He helped out on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, toured with Delaney & Bonnie, who had a big hit with his “Only You Know and I Know”, and Eric Clapton was one of a host of stellar names who contributed to Mason’s 1970 solo debut, Alone Together. In later years he played on Paul McCartney’s “listen To What The Man Said”, corralled Michael Jackson to sing on one of his solo lPs and had a spell in the 1990s edition of fleetwood Mac. “I’ve been fortunate enough to be in some pretty interesting places at the right time,” he says modestly. He first rolled out the “Traffic Jam” shows in america three years ago to widespread acclaim and some generous reviews. “I’m a little nervous about playing in Britain for the first time in more than 40 years,” he confesses. “But I can’t wait to do it.” NIGEL WILLIAMSON

Dave Mason’s Traffic Jam tour of the UK opens February 23. Info at www.davemasonmusic.com


Contort yourself!

INSTANT KARMA

The rampant return of No Wave superstar James chance, with “danceable bottom”

“W

E didn’t think of it as being some kind of conscious movement,” says James Chance, recalling the No Wave scene that erupted in downtown New York during the late 1970s. “It was just a bunch of people who had similar aesthetic ideas. People who wanted to use rock’n’roll instrumentation and take it a lot further, into noise and atonality. The big difference with me was that I always wanted it to have a danceable bottom.” Backed by the Contortions, Chance made his fearsome reputation by blowing free jazz over agit-funk grooves with all the chaotic abandon of punk. It was a sound first documented by Brian Eno on 1978 comp No New York, featuring the Contortions, Mars, DNa and Teenage Jesus and The Jerks. and one that found its ultimate expression on 1979’s double whammy of Buy and Off White, the latter credited to James Chance and The Blacks. He’s continued to play with various lineups down the decades, though The Flesh Is Weak is his first studio album with the Contortions in well over 30 years. “It came completely out of the blue,” says Chance. “My co-producer and guitarist, Tomás Doncker, was actually in my band back in 1980. I hadn’t seen him for a very long time, then just happened to run into him three or four years ago. He told me he had this label, True Groove, and a studio. He just said: ‘let’s do it!’” The Flesh Is Weak finds the 63-yearold’s talents undimmed by time. It carries all his classic hallmarks: discordant sax, fractured rhythms, fat horns and pungent lyrics. aside from a number of originals, the album includes vigorous covers of frank Sinatra’s “That’s life”, the evergreen “I Who Have Nothing” and Gil Scott-Heron’s “Home Is Where The Hatred Is”. “I’ve been doing that song since the late ’80s,” Chance adds. “I totally related to the lyrics. I felt like it could’ve been written especially for me.” for Chance, home originally meant Milwaukee, where he studied at the Wisconsin Conservatory Of Music. He began in local avant-jazz groups, playing wild sets peppered with covers of his hero, albert ayler – “The pure emotion in his playing really grabbed me. He was so extreme” – before dropping out of college and moving to New York in late 1975. “New York seemed like the capital of everything interesting. It was a very gritty place back then; it could be really sordid and funky.

My first apartment had blood-red walls, a black ceiling and windows all boarded up. a lot of people couldn’t handle living in a place like that, but it was incredibly cheap. I felt right at home.” Chance passed through a number of bands, among them Teenage Jesus and The Jerks (co-founded with lydia lunch), though the Contortions proved his ideal vehicle. Early gigs often involved physical confrontation with the audience. “Those shows were full of would-be artists, people who thought they were really cool,” he explains. “They were so pretentious. I hated the way they just stood around. at one show they were sitting on the floor, so I wandered offstage and started pulling people onto their feet. Then I started to go further, because I wanted them to fight back. It got to the point where people were

just coming along to get into a fight with me. That’s when I started to reconsider the whole concept.” He’s less antagonistic these days. The sleeve of The Flesh Is Weak finds him wearing a gold jacket that once belonged to liberace. “I consider myself more of an entertainer now,” he asserts. “That’s what I’m most proud of, being an all-rounder: singing, dancing, playing sax and piano, always moving. for me, it’s all about putting on an amazing show.”

“People were coming to our shows just to get into a fight with me” JAMeS CHANCe

ROB HUGHES

James Chance & The Contortions’ The Flesh Is Weak is out now on True Groove JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 7


INSTANT KARMA

Doubting Thomas

The tragic story of St Thomas – a gifted singer-songwriter “slowly tumbling down an increasingly steep hill”

“I

t’s tempting to see excessive drinking or drug use as a part of the magic that makes up a talented artist,” says Ilse Lazaroms, who’s better placed than most to comment, “but the reality is often bleaker than people realise.” For five years, Lazaroms dated thomas Hansen, a former postman who released seven acclaimed albums as st thomas before being found dead in 2007, aged 31, in his Oslo flat. the Norwegian – the subject of a new doc, Burn The Place You Hide – died from what the coroner called “an unfortunate combination of prescribed drugs”. For those who were looking, however, the writing was always on the wall, and even, in hindsight, in his lyrics. “Yes, I’m special/ But it hurts,” he sang on 2001 LP I’m Coming Home’s “Into the Forest”. “In this forest/ I am not sane.” “In the beginning I saw him as a typically nervous and insecure young guy,” recalls Claes Olsen, who first signed Hansen to his Norwegian label, Racing Junior, in 1999. Christof

“He blended the sensitivity of Neil Young with Daniel Johnston’s lack of self-censorship”

Tragic realist: Ellinghaus, who “St” Thomas licensed I’m Hansen Coming Home to City slang – “charmed” by an album he describes as “as unfiltered as it could possibly be” – echoes this thought. “there was no warning whatsoever,” he says, adding, “the first time I met him and his troupe was quite eye-opening. the way they drank and then behaved: that was a pretty dramatic turn.” Hansen had not only a drink problem but also a fondness for self-medication, and his erratic behaviour was worsened by a temper that had led to him fleeing the stage at London’s 12 Bar a few months earlier. Burn The Place You Hide exploits archive footage and speaks to family and friends to tell the story of a prolific songwriter whose music blended the melodic sensitivity of Neil Young’s early ’70s work with Daniel Johnston’s lack of self-censorship.

But it also paints a tragic picture of how the industry fails to recognise mental illness. A key episode finds Hansen at the Albert Hall opening for Lambchop, berating the venue, promoters and his label during his show following a backstage breakdown. “When the apologies started to come in,” Ellinghaus says, “something about ‘not being on his meds’ was part of it. It only dawned on me then that he had a bigger problem than drink.” Hansen, however, insisted on pursuing success, only to discover after a Norwegian chart hit that its taste was less sweet than he’d

anticipated. By the time he died, he’d retreated to releasing his records himself, his solution for his sickness manifested in what Lazaroms calls “an obsession with pills, side effects, and dosages”. As documentary director Richard Knights argues, “thomas’s story is, in many ways, the antithesis of the rock’n’roll cliché. He wasn’t someone throwing himself from the cliff edge in wild abandon, but a man slowly tumbling down the increasingly steep hill he was born onto, clutching at grass and branches in an effort to slow his descent. If people take anything away after watching the film, I hope it’s a greater sense of empathy.” WYNDHAM WALLACE

More information about Burn The Place You Hide can be found at burntheplaceyouhide.com. St Thomas’ ‘unfinished’ album, A Mouse In A Crowded House, is out now on Racing Junior

The clASSIfIedS

This month: Swinging London: Zep at the Roundhouse, the Mac at the Poly, the Floyd in Wood Green. Melody Maker, 9/11/1968

8 • UNCUT • jaNUaRy 2017


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INSTANT KARMA 75 Dollar Bill: (l-r) Che Chen and Rick Brown

UNCUT PLAYLIST On the stereo this month...

MICHAEL CHAPMAN 50 PARADISE OF BACHELORS The redoubtable folk legend makes his first American LP, in the auspicious company of Steve Gunn’s crew.

TY SEGALL Ty Segall DRAG CITY Best in a while from the hardworking garage maven, as his Lennon sneer reaches new levels of verisimilitude.

MARK EITZEL Hey Mr Ferryman DÉCOR

wE’RE NEw HERE

75 Dollar Bill Recommended this month: transcendental purveyors of Brooklyn desert blues… Have tea chest, will travel!

“Our first record, Wooden Bag, was a sort of second step for us,” says Brown, “simplifying the rhythmic ideas to more straightahead pulse and boogie. The newer disc is more complicated rhythmically and fuller in its orchestration.” The driving force of 75 Dollar Bill is Chen’s interest in music of the Western Sahara – from he chemistry of a great band might well derive from the meeting of like minds. In the where sounds something like these have over the past 15 years or so made their journey to a wider case of 75 Dollar Bill, a Brooklyn-based duo western rock/world-music audience. Not one to comprising percussionist Rick Brown and confine his interests to audio-only research, in 2013, guitarist Che Chen, it wasn’t only that meeting of Chen went to Nouakchott, Mauritania, to study minds – it was also a meeting of 12-string electric with guitarist Jeich Ould Chigaly, husband of singer guitar and a large, weatherbeaten plywood crate. Noura Mint Seymali. “It was a crash course in the Born from informal acoustic jam sessions in Moorish modal system,” says Chen. “I only have a Brown’s home, 75 Dollar Bill came into being superficial understanding of the modes, but it had when Chen realised that the tonality of Brown’s a huge impact on how I play guitar. I had guitar muted tappings on what British people call a “tea lessons with Jeich every day and at night we’d go chest” was just the right kind of accompaniment to his ‘gigs’ – which in Mauritania means for the music he had recently been working on. weddings. It was also great for me to see this very “I’d been playing these modal, rhythmic different way of musicians existing in society. things,” says Chen, “and knew they needed Traditional music is a family affair and musicians drums to complete them somehow. I was really are integral to weddings, which are the main interested in folk dance musics from various parts context where music’s heard.” of the world, which often use strings or I’M YOUR FAN Fittingly for players of a mobile, horns and simple drums. When I worldwide music, this interview is heard Rick’s box, it made sense.” conducted while Brown and Chen are On their current LP, Wood/Metal/ on tour in europe. A guitar case seems Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock [No 32 in simple enough – but how exactly does our Albums Of The Year], you can hear one transport through an airport a the wisdom of the pairing. A mesmeric plywood packing crate that’s also an work that will make sense to fans of integral part of a band’s equipment? Spiritualized as well as to those of “I’d be lying if I were to say it hasn’t Tinariwen; delight listeners of Cream “Their appeal is been a bit of a hassle to drag around,” as much as those of Fela Kuti or Sun the combination says Brown, but I’ve had no big City Girls, the record specialises in of back-porch compelling long-form grooves. A track blues, microtonal problems at airports other than a three-day hand-wringing period when like the great “Beni Said”, for example, guitar music and it was lost in Copenhagen airport. begins with a stately juke blues riff à la minimalism When I returned home from California Junior Kimbrough, before beginning a without any a few years ago, it was assumed my more agile, modal canter – exploring pretension or new spaces with a fruity burst of sax posturing. it’s just crate contained cases of wine from the Napa Valley,” Rick continues. “But and strings. It’s a moment when east good music.” it was mainly a few weeks’ worth of meets west on the record, mapping out Doug McCombs, dirty laundry…” JOHN ROBINSON a vibrant new direction. Tortoise

DAMiAN CALVO & LiNDA PUGLieSe

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10 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

The AMC sage falls under the production influence of Bernard Butler for his first solo album in five years.

TINARIWEN Elwan ANTIThe godfathers of desert blues continue their graceful evolution. Kurt Vile and Mark Lanegan guest, discreetly.

ROLLING BLACKOUTS COASTAL FEVER Julie’s Place SUB POP A notable new discovery, from Melbourne, of likely interest to fans of The Feelies, The GoBetweens, and sundry febrile ramalams.

VARIOUS ARTISTS New Orleans Funk Volume 4: Voodoo Fire In New Orleans 1951-’77 SOUL JAZZ No drop in quality for this fourth chapter in a landmark series. Current favourite: “Party Down”, by Clifton Chenier And His Red Hot Louisiana Band.

JOANNA NEWSOM Make Hay DRAG CITY One further gem from the Divers sessions, slipped out to mark the first anniversary of that album’s release.

WASHINGTON PHILLIPS Washington Phillips And His Manzarene Dreams DUST-TO-DIGITAL

Uncanny gospel broadcasts from the Old Weird America, featuring the 20th century’s most mysterious zither.

BING & RUTH No Home Of The Mind 4AD The new-classical glut continues, with a fresh Winged Victory For The Sullen album and this lovely, spooked set of ambient piano études.

MERL SAUNDERS & JERRY GARCIA Keystone Companions: The Complete 1973 Fantasy Recordings FANTASY Dead Freaks unite once again, as the riches of Garcia’s funky jams with keyboardist Saunders are compiled, exhaustively.


THE BRAND NEW ALBUM

18.11.16 METALLICA.COM


ryley Walker at the three kings pub in Clerkenwell, london, March 2016 12 • unCut • january 2017


INSTANT KARMA

I was terrible at all my jobs. I was always too high an audienCe With ryley Walker

What are your favourite places to hang in South Side Chicago? Eli Winter Dr J’s bar, el Burrito Feliz, Hyde Park Records, that’s a good one. And basically any rib joint off MlK, it’s always been a favourite of mine. Or lem’s Bar-B-Q. The South Side is a part of Chicago most people never go to, because there’s not a lot to do down there if you’re a tourist. But it’s beautiful, real nice people. yeah, the fucking food is good down there, man.

“I have quite a few tattoos, but nothing that would set off an alarm in a Midwestern Christian housewife. Would I have others? If I’ve had enough beers then the future’s wide open” interview by michael bonner

Where do you think you’d be if you weren’t pursuing a career in music? Mason Wheatley, via email

Below: “Please put Moth Cock in your magazine. it would be the biggest thing ever”

I don’t know. Probably a petty criminal or something. I have nothing else that I’ve ever been good at or wanted to do apart from music. I was interested in writing when I was a kid – I went to college for television writing for a second. I wanted to be involved in comedy in some way, something to make people laugh. How would I have fared in writers’ rooms? yeah, that’s the real shit business. Music is awful, but that’s a really shit business, so God help me if I ever end up going down that path.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever taken to support yourself? Gabby Holter, Wisconsin Man, I’ve been fired from literally every job I’ve ever had. I remember I was a dishwasher in probably, like, 20 different restaurants. That was terrible. One time somebody had shit all over

the walls and I had to clean it off. Oh God, I’ve had so many jobs. It gives me anxiety just thinking about it. Mostly in restaurants, man. I was terrible at it. Nobody ever liked me – I was always too high. I don’t have a resumé at all. I definitely don’t have references.

after your collaborative records with Charles rumback and Bill Mackay, who else would you like to record with? Bill Mason, Prague Who else? Man, there’s so many people. I would like to make a record with somebody like Mark eitzel. He’s one of my favourite songwriters of all time. Obviously he could do laps around what I do, but just to sit around with him and shoot the shit would be really fun. Jeff Parker’s a really great guitarist I’d love to play with some day. Just pretty much anybody in Chicago who’s a great freejazz person. I love those people so much. Why? It’s informed so much of what I do. I’ve been listening to the records for years. It’s so fluid and it transcends any genre. They’re just wonderful people, too. A friendship has a big basis for the music, and if you can click with somebody, it’s a wonderful thing.

aside from Moth Cock, would you have any other band or artist name tattooed on yourself? Jimmy Fuller, Brighton Please put Moth Cock in your magazine. They would fuckin’ lose their minds. They’re a band from Kent, Ohio, and they’re old friends of mine. They’re a farout noise band. I drunkenly got their name tattooed on my leg years ago. Please, for the love of God, put their name in your magazine; it would be the biggest thing ever. I don’t have any other band names, but if a band strikes me as january 2017 • unCut • 13

tom sheehan

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yley Walker is driving on the Massachusetts turnpike headed towards New Haven, Connecticut, where he has a gig to play in the evening. “Oh, it’s beautiful here,” he says. “It’s a nice fall day with the leaves changing, the skies are partly cloudy.” Walker is in the throes of a late autumn/winter tour that will see him visit europe before breaking for Christmas. looking back over the last 12 months, it has been a strong year for the singer-songwriter, with the release of his third record, Golden Sings That Have Been Sung. The album consolidated Walker’s reputation as a pre-eminent folk-psych troubadour, though as 2016 comes to a close, he is already at work on its followup. “A lot of it’s written, we haven’t really recorded anything,” he admits. “It’s a lot slower, but we’re not doing a dub record or anything. There’s lots of weird instruments I want to put on there. I’ve been fucking around with synthesisers a lot. Not like a Kraftwerk record, but using those as another layer of the tune, to get some far-out sounds.” And with that, he prepares to answer your questions. “Are there any crude ones?” he asks, hopefully.


INSTANT KARMA were like, “No, kid. Go away, you’re freaking us the fuck out.” But eventually they came to be friends of mine, and I went on tours with them and got to see them work so hard. The Chicago noise underground, that’s my home base.

Was there a eureka moment when you decided to turn acoustic? Ivor Pitter, Norwood I never decided to “turn” exactly. I was doing it all concurrently. I was super into folk music, but I got to Chicago and I wanted to be in noise bands. In my own time, I fucked around with solo acoustic guitars. I was super into Loren Connors, too, and Papa M – really bleak electric guitar, kind of noisy. I remember with my band Heat Death, I brought an acoustic guitar to one of the shows and played this drony, improvised stuff and I thought, ‘Ah, man. That was cool, I should do that for my next solo show.’ Then the next show, ‘Ah, I want to start singing songs.’ The snowball kept rolling down the hill.

What’s your favourite song from Golden Sings…? Paul Robson, via email Ryley Walker with Danny Thompson: “He’s got a story about everything”

somebody I really like and I’ve had enough beers then the future’s wide open. I have quite a few other tattoos, but nothing that would set off an alarm in a nice Midwestern Christian housewife.

With this new record I really think you shake off the tag of John Martyn, Bert Jansch and Tim Buckley. Did that get annoying after Primrose Green? Eamon Keane, via email In some ways, I think. Obviously, their music means a lot to me. It’s not really annoying, I just kind of grew out of it. It’s important to change things.

tim bugbee

How big of an influence is Jack Rose on your music? Michael Schoner, Michigan Really big! I listened to him a lot when I was 16, 17, 18. He was a big early influence for fingerpicking on the guitar. Because he was active during my musical lifetime, somebody that I could potentially see, it

Fingerpickin’ good: Jack Rose, 2006 14 • UNCUT • JaNUaRY 2017

“Age Old Tale” was a big step. I could have just done a lot of riffs and stuff, but I think this is kind of like the anti-riff song; it’s a really slow, guitar-meltingin-your-face jam. My friend Leroy helped me out a lot; it was a joy to make. What was the inspiration? I’ve spent so much of my time walking back home from bars at 2am. You have this 20 minutes or however long, and I think up these monologues in my head. A lot of it is character-based. It’s all about Tuesday-night drinkers – you know, that sort of character, people who cut loose on a weekday night.

was great. He was a real human being right there in front of me, making really modern music, but leaning heavy on recordings of the past. That definitely resonated with me. He was part of a big musical section that was going on 10, 12 years ago with Wooden Wand, Six Organs Of Admittance, Espers. It was just really cool to see all that in real time. Not only Jack Rose, but that whole kind of freak-folk stuff was huge for me and my friends in high school.

What’s the best piece of advice Danny Thompson ever gave you? Sharon Baxter, Glasgow

You played in noise bands when you moved to Chicago. What were they like? Ivy Rodgers, Brighton Oh, man. They were just fun. Had a band called Wyoming, had a band called Heat Death. I can’t say I was a part of them, but I played guitar a lot with Tiger Hatchery, too. I would just show up at their house on acid with a guitar, like, “Please let me come in, I’m on acid.” They

Ryley’s albums Primrose Green and Golden Sings That Have Been Sung

“I’ve spent so much time walking back home from bars at 2am, so I think up monologues in my head”

“Have fun, just don’t fall off the stage.” That’s a good one! I think he’s done that a lot. Meg Baird was with me on that tour as well, and every day it was like, “What about this guy?” I don’t have stories like that guy. My stories are like, “Uh, one time I threw up at a shitty festival.” No one cares. Whereas his are, “I saw Cannonball Adderley...” The guy’s got a sponge for a brain, he knows everything about music. He’s got a story about everything and he’s the nicest guy. It felt like we’d known each other for a long time after a day. He works his ass off, too. He’s professional, respects everybody. The guy’s been doing it so long. He’s a great friend. I’m so proud and so honoured. Golden Sings That Have Been Sung is out now on Dead Oceans


“I’ll give every cloud a silver lining…”

NEW ALBUMS JANUARY 2017 TAke 236

1 Neil YoUNg (p20) 2 howe gelb (p25) 3 The RolliNg sToNes (p26) 4 the pop group (p28) 5 kAiA kATeR (p30)

the uncut guIde to thIS month’S key releaSeS

kATe BUsh Before The Dawn Fish PeoPle/RhiNo

Sprawling document of her triumphant 2014 return to live performance. By Graeme Thomson

Ken McKay

I

16 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

and Moorish walled cities. Before The n the immediate aftermath of Kate album Dawn demanded complete immersion – no Bush’s return to live performance in OF THE smartphones allowed, on pain of death, or at August 2014, following an absence mONTH least expulsion – but our dutiful dedication of 35 years, it was almost impossible was rewarded. At the end, we were decanted to take an objective reading. 8/10 back into the west London night as though Bushmania had taken hold in the returning from some distant dream of a country. lead-up to her run of 22 dates at London’s Some of the shows were filmed, but so far there Eventim Apollo. Every newspaper and magazine has been no word of a DVD or cinematic release. seemed awash with profiles, puff and feverish Perhaps the rigours of transferring stage magic to speculation; the BBC aired a new documentary; screen gold proved too exacting. Instead, after a two photographic exhibitions opened in London; her cooling-off period of two years, Before The Dawn songs were all over the radio, and most of her albums is presented as a purely musical experience. Released were heading back into the charts. as download, triple-CD and quadruple vinyl, Expectations were not so much high as stratospheric. this live album documents the entire show, in Oddness abounded. On the night I attended, a man sequence. For those invested in the historic drama along the row shook everybody’s hand before the show surrounding Bush’s return to live performance, it’s began. Strangers hugged. Couples wept. This was most a godsend. For those less committed souls, it may assuredly not Shed Seven reconvening at the Astoria. present some challenges. Thankfully, the Before The Dawn show was built to You could certainly spend time grumbling about withstand such madness. Pivoting on two conceptual what this album isn’t. It’s pieces, released 20 years apart, definitively not Kate Bush it was an intoxicating mix exploring all corners of her of music, theatre, film, art, criminally underperformed puppetry and bad comedy. catalogue. nothing here Revisiting The Ninth Wave, predates 1985, and the vast from her 1985 masterwork majority of the 27 songs are Hounds Of Love, and A Sky Of taken from just two albums: Honey, the second disc of her Hounds Of Love and Aerial, 2005 double Aerial, Bush took alongside one each from The the audience to the depths of Sensual World and 50 Words the ocean, through the arc of a For Snow, and two from The summer’s day, and finally into Red Shoes. A new song, “Tawny the air. There were shipwrecks, Moon”, is slotted into A Sky skeletal sea creatures, witch Of Honey, and it’s good, a trials, helicopters, bird masks


“All the birds are laughing”: Bush releases the live album of her first shows in 35 years

JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 17


new albums churning, mechanical piece of modern blues, sung gamely by Bush’s teenage son Bertie McIntosh. Rather than present one full show in its entirety, Bush has chosen to stitch together performances from throughout the run. This allows for the inclusion of a wonderful rehearsal version of “Never Be Mine”, a piece of pastoral ECM restored to the running order after being dropped at the eleventh hour. It appears during Act One, the part of Before The Dawn that most resembles a conventional concert. This is the opening seven-song sequence where Bush ticks off some hits and performs them straight. The rolling rhythm and quicksilver synthetic pulse of “Running Up That Hill” is beautifully realised, while a rapturous “Hounds Of Love” locates the taut, wolverine snap of the original. She toys with the chorus melody, throwing in a Turner-esque entreaty to “tie me to the mast”, a measured tinkering in keeping with the prevailing musical sensibility. Bush, the ultimate studio artist, opts for faithful reproductions of her oeuvre with just a few twists. Nothing has been re-recorded or overdubbed; presumably there was no need. The band of stellar sessionmen are supple, empathetic and meticulous, as is the chorus of supporting actors and singers recruited mainly from musical theatre. Among their ranks young Bertie, only 16 at the time, does a remarkably proficient job. Bush’s voice remains a wonder. These days it’s deeper and huskier, cross-hatched with bluesy ululations and soulful stylings. On the opening “Lily”, she sings like a lioness, drawing sparks from the words “fire” and “darkness” over a thick, plush groove. During a terrifically showbizzy “Top Of The City”, she rises from a serene whisper to a banshee howl. Riding the chimeric reggae of “King Of The Mountain” she transitions from sensuous earth mother to lowering Prospero, summoning the tempest during the tumultuous, drum-heavy, propulsive climax. This is a key moment in Before The Dawn, a hinge between the straight gig and the theatrics that follow. From now

SLEEVE NOTES 1. Lily 2. Hounds Of Love 3. Joanni 4. Top Of The City 5. Never Be Mine 6. Running Up That Hill 7. King Of The Mountain 8. Astronomer’s Call 9. And Dream Of Sheep 10. Under Ice 11. Waking The Witch 12. Watching Them Without Her 13. Watching You Without Me 14. Little Light 15. Jig Of Life 16. Hello Earth 17. The Morning Fog 18. Prelude 19. Prologue 20. An Architect’s Dream 21. The Painter’s Link 22. Sunset 23. Aerial Tal 24. Somewhere In Between 25. Tawny Moon 26. Nocturn 27. Aerial 28. Among Angels 29. Cloudbusting

on, listening to the album is sometimes akin to hearing the soundtrack to a film being screened in another room. Act Two, The Ninth Wave, is particularly tricky in this regard. The conceptual suite about a woman lost at sea after a ship sinks lends itself to a sustained visual experience, but has to work harder on record. At Hammersmith, “Hello Earth” was staggeringly operatic, as dramatic and contemporary as any modern staging of The Ring or Parsifal. Here, it is merely – merely – a magnificent piece of music. Similarly, onstage, “Astronomer’s Call”, co-written with novelist David Mitchell and voiced by Kevin Doyle, aka Molesley in Downton Abbey, was a technical necessity, a chance to lay out some slightly clumsy exposition while the stage was being reset. Arguably, there is no virtue in its being included here aside from historical accuracy. The same is true of a sub-Outnumbered, hammy am-dram domestic skit – “shitty shitty bang bang”, “jellyvision” and all – featuring Bertie McIntosh and Bob Harms. It has been shortened, but should probably have been removed entirely. At times like these, Before The Dawn

is unsure whether it’s a cast recording of a West End musical or a live album. The music, however, is uniformly wonderful. On “Under Ice”, the band lock into the song’s oppressive, jagged rhythm, perfectly articulating its chilly claustrophobia. “Waking The Witch” becomes a frantic six-minute soul-funk work-out, stabs of organ and distorted guitar merging over the screams of the Witchmaster, played with terrifying plausibility by Jo Servi. “Jig Of Life” is all flinty Celtic rhythm, with Kevin McAlea – the sole remaining member from Bush’s Tour Of Life band – excelling on the uilleann pipes. After the dark drama of “Hello Earth”, “Morning Fog” arrives like light flooding the room. It’s easeful and organic, burnished with acoustic guitar and accordion. Saved from the sea, Bush has slipped out of character and is restored to herself, murmuring like a newly woken lover. When she softly sings “You know what, I love you better,” the crowd embrace it as an affirmation of their enduring loyalty and cheer wildly. A lovely moment. The meditative feel holds for the opening part of Act Three, A Sky Of Honey. It’s a more unified piece than The Ninth Wave,

Waves of emotion: Before The Dawn was awash with aquatic imagery

Produced by: Kate Bush Recorded at: Eventim Apollo, London, 2014 Personnel includes: Kate Bush (vocals, piano, keys), David Rhodes (guitar), Friðrik Karlsson (guitar), John Giblin (bass), Jon Carin (keys), Kevin McAlea (uilleann pipes), Omar Hakim (drums), Mino Cinélu (perc), Albert McIntosh, Jo Servi, Bob Harms, Sandra Marvin, Jacqui DuBois (chorus)

how to buy...

THE BEFORE THE DAWN SONGBOOK The four albums plundered for Bush’s live return

Hounds Of Love

The Red Shoes

Aerial

EMI, 1985

EMI, 1993

EMI, 2005

Rhythmic popzeitgeist meets weighty concept album, Side One is frontloaded with hits while the flip features The Ninth Wave, a connected suite about a woman adrift at sea, lost in the depths of her imagination. The mixture of futuristic samples, pop nous, pagan symbolism and druidic rhythm makes for an enduring classic. All but two tracks appear on Before The Dawn. 18 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

Recorded during an emotional low ebb, much of Bush’s seventh studio album feels slightly flat, lacking the magic spark, but there’s still lots to enjoy, including the mighty “Lily” – which kicks off Before The Dawn – the heartbreaking “Moments Of Pleasure” – rehearsed for the stage show but ultimately dropped – and cameos from Prince, Clapton and, er, Lenny Henry.

After 12 years of silence, Bush returned with this epic, elliptical and unhurried meditation on home, motherhood, death, magic, birdsong and the glory of a long summer’s day. Split into two parts – the more song-based A Sea Of Honey followed by the interconnected A Sky Of Honey – she performs the latter in the third act of Before The Dawn.

50 Words For Snow FISH PEOPLE, 2011

Winter-themed and open-ended, Bush’s most recent record encompasses the life of a snowflake; a lost dog; a ghost; sex with a snowman; the plight of the Yeti; reincarnation and Stephen Fry. “Snowflake” features the choirboy tones of her son, Bertie, a prominent presence on Before The Dawn, while piano ballad “Among Angels” was played each night as an encore.


Q&a

THE TOUR OF LIFE… AND BEYOND The story of Kate Bush’s first live production ATE Bush’s sole tour – retrospectively titled the Tour Of Life – began in Poole on April 2, 1979, and encompassed 28 further shows in Britain and northern Europe. Like Before The Dawn, it consisted of three distinct acts and was, for its time, a cutting edge, ambitiously theatrical enterprise. Utilising rear-screen film projections, the pioneering use of the head-mic, dance, magic, mime, drama and poetry, perhaps its only serious precedent was David Bowie’s 1974 Diamond Dogs tour of the States. The BBC’s Nationwide programme was sufficiently fascinated to make a 30-minute film documenting rehearsals and opening night, which is worth checking out on YouTube. Performing alongside a dozen musicians, singers, dancers and illusionists, each night the 20-year-old Bush played 24 songs, the majority taken from her first two albums, The Kick Inside and Lionheart. There were 17 costume changes. Her characterisations included a trench-coated gangster, a dying WWII pilot, a magician’s apprentice and an Old West gunslinger.

K

Top: Kate Bush live in Amsterdam, 1979. Above: a Tour Of Life concert programme

It was cutting-edge for the time... Dance, magic, mime, drama, poetry…

Refusing to breach the fourth wall, she never once addressed the audience. At the time Bush was in the first full flush of fame, and the tour was a huge commercial and critical hit. At the end, on May 12, 13 and 14, three additional London concerts were arranged at Hammersmith Odeon. Since renamed the Eventim Apollo, the same venue hosted her Before The Dawn residency 35 years later. The second night was filmed for the Live At Hammersmith Odeon video, released in 1981. Most of those involved agree that the film, featuring an abridged 12-song set, failed to capture the remarkable potency of the Tour Of Life; Bush has thus far chosen not to make it available on DVD. In August 1979, the “On Stage” EP gathered together four songs from the same show: “Them Heavy People” was the lead track, backed with “Don’t Push Your Foot On The Heartbrake”, “L’Amour Looks Something Like You” and “James And The Cold Gun”. The EP peaked at No 10 in the UK. Though her 22-date run in 2014 marked Bush’s first full concerts since 1979, there were a handful of live cameos in the interim. In 1982, as a late replacement for David Bowie, she performed “The Wedding List” at a Prince’s Trust concert at the Dominion Theatre, with a band that included Pete Townshend, Phil Collins and Midge Ure. In April 1986, she played “Breathing” solo at the piano on three consecutive nights for a Comic Relief fundraiser at the Shaftesbury Theatre. The following year she hooked up with two old friends. In March 1987, she sang “Let It Be” and “Running Up That Hill” with David Gilmour at The Secret Policeman’s Third Ball, and three months later made an unannounced appearance during Peter Gabriel’s concert at Earls Court, giving her only stage performance of “Don’t Give Up”. She hooked up again with Gilmour in 2002 at the Royal Festival Hall, duetting on “Comfortably Numb”. Afterwards, the stage curtain fell until her extraordinary return two years ago. GRAEME THOMSON JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 19

ROB VERHORST/REDFERNS

the songs eliding seamlessly, allowing for full immersion. The mood is slow, stoned, dream-like. “Prologue”, a 10-minute tour de force dominated by Bush’s rippling piano and John Giblin’s lyrical bass, is lifted by a new, jubilant coda. “Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong/Bring it on, break it down… summer!” Bush sings, harmonising with the peal of distant bells. “An Architect’s Dream” and “Somewhere In Between” are spotlit as slinky, sensuous explorations of the creative connections that occur in the liminal spaces. The sultry “Sunset” climbs towards a rattling flamenco climax, Mino Cinélu’s percussive power pushing the song “all the way up to the top of the night”. As Bush sings in her most headily perfumed purr, the thought occurs that her voice has never sounded better. Her maverick instincts, too, remain on point. On “Aerial Tal” she mimics the song of the blackbird over a new-age wash of synths. It all leads to the rising, rhythmic 20-minute climax of “Nocturn” and “Aerial”. Amid bells and birdsong, a new tension informs the music. Over an angry squall of guitar and a heavy artillery of bass and drums, Bush wails about her “beautiful wings” – shades of PJ Harvey here – as the music pushes up and up. It ends with frenzied chanting and what sounds like an explosion. Listeners may imagine Bush disappearing in a puff of smoke; in fact, she was hoisted into the air, black wings and all, airborne at last. The encores wheel back to the show’s no-concept beginnings. She sings “Among Angels” alone at the piano. Almost unspeakably intimate, it’s a timely reminder that, for all the theatrics, if Bush were ‘just’ a singer she would still be utterly remarkable. This is followed by a celebratory “Cloudbusting” – another of her classics that you suddenly realise you’ve never heard performed live, whether by Bush or anybody else – which sounds like the best kind of circus music. Long and loose, it’s a musical smile, “like the sun coming out”. And then it’s over. At the start of Before The Dawn, after the rousing crowd response to “Lily”, Bush chirps, “Oh, thank you, what a lovely welcome!” She says little else until the end of “Cloudbusting” when, clearly moved, she exclaims, “Oh my God! What a beautiful sight! Look at you all, I will always remember this.” Above all else, the album seems to seek to honour that sentiment, a physical testament to an extraordinary shared moment between artist and audience. There may be an argument for excising the dramatic interludes, and perhaps even a handful of songs, in favour of something leaner and more sculpted. But that would be to bind Bush to the conventions she has spent an entire career challenging, and to misunderstand the ambition and intention behind the Before The Dawn show. What we have instead is an exhaustive audio souvenir of a momentous event, simply to remind us – and perhaps Bush, too – that it really did happen after all.


new albums

NEIL YOuNG Peace Trail REPRISE

8/10

eMILY dYAN IBARRA/edIPHOTOeYe

Strange, stubborn, stripped down: Neil Young continues on his own path. By Damien Love

I

f he wasn’t confounding us and contradicting himself, well, he wouldn’t be Neil Young. On the face of it, Peace Trail – his 37th, maybe 38th studio album, if you’re counting, and his second album of 2016 following the excellent mutant live set, Earth – seems simple enough: stripped down, recorded fast, and sounding like it. Even before you start listening to these songs, though – even before the Auto-Tune comes out – it’s a record that has already defied expectations. Over 20 • uNCuT • JANuARY 2017

the past year, audiences have been thrilling to the deepening relationship between Young and his current live band, Promise Of The Real, the unit led by Willie Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah. They first provided backing for 2015’s underrated The Monsanto Years, but it was when they took it on the road that transmogrification occurred. With Young digging deep and the locked stone jams spreading beyond the horizon, they’ve found an

expansive chemistry that has had fans whispering comparisons to Crazy Horse, while Young seems visibly energised by the partnership. So, just when we’re primed to hear what a new album with that group might sound like, Young heads into the studio without them. for Peace Trail, he’s brought in only two other musicians: Paul Bushnell, a session player he heard playing bass on Micah Nelson’s upcoming solo album, and the great veteran drummer Jim Keltner. With just a couple of exceptions, Young confines himself to acoustic guitar, but Peace Trail is a far more jagged and rusty affair than this setup might suggest. Across the album, which was recorded over four days, Bushnell provides that perfect kind of bass you barely notice. Keltner’s percussion is a different story. Captured mostly in first or second takes, he doesn’t so much keep the beat as respond to what Young is doing, an improvised interplay of odd, shaggy patterns. The record often becomes a duet between Young and Keltner. On


new albums

He lays aside an acoustic to plug in Old Black, ripping off shards that threaten to catch fire

“Indian Givers”, the first track released, Keltner’s percussion is essentially the lead instrument. That song, a shuffling broadside declaring solidarity with the Native American demonstrators struggling to stop the expansion of the Dakota Access oil pipeline across their territorial ground, sets Peace Trail up as another of Young’s protest albums (it also features one of the record’s signature sounds: Young’s blasting, distorted harmonica, overdriven to the point of disintegration). But while his abiding environmental concerns are to the fore – “John Oaks” is the ballad of an eco-activist shot down by trigger-happy police – this isn’t a singleissue collection in the mould of Monsanto. The net is cast wider. On “Terrorist Suicide Hangliders”, a sad, menacing satire built around a memory of the melody of “Oh Yoko”, Young adopts the paranoid perspective of a Trumpfuelled xenophobe: “I think I know who to blame, it’s all those people with funny names, moving into our neighbourhood.” Elsewhere, “Texas Rangers” observes

SLEEVE NOTES Tracklist: 1. Peace Trail 2. Can’t Stop Working 3. Indian Givers 4. Show Me 5. Texas Rangers 6. Terrorist Suicide Hangliders 7. John Oaks 8. My Pledge 9. Glass Accident 10. My New Robot Produced by: Neil Young & John Hanlon Recorded at: Shangri-La studio, Malibu Personnel: Neil Young (vocals, guitar, harmonica, keys), Jim Keltner (percussion), Paul Bushnell (bass)

Rangers in silver pick-ups mopping up runaways along the borderline, American violence recorded on mobile phones. A fractured, ominous piece of near-jazz, it’s the strangest tune he’s recorded since the days he was hanging out with Devo. At least it is until you get to the album’s bonkers little closer, “My New Robot”, featuring an unexpected choir of Neils, and the old Trans vocoder. Alongside the state-of-the-nation observations, however, are more personal statements – more than once, Young references his colour blindness, and the wear and tear that comes with age. However, arriving on a riff reminiscent of “Down By The River” and the raddled voice of On The Beach, “Can’t Stop Working” is a simple declaration that Young is, if anything, speeding up as he enters his seventies. “Can’t stop working…it’s bad for the body but it’s good for the soul.” A similar affirmation of faith in his future underlies “Peace Trail” itself: “Don’t think I’ll cash it in yet… something new is growing.” The opener, this title track is the album’s most purely gorgeous tune, as Young lays aside the acoustic to plug in Old Black, ripping off shards that threaten to catch fire. It’s also the first appearance of the Auto-Tune that comes into play again later, on the record’s greatest song, “My Pledge”. Young pointedly employed Auto-Tune on Earth as a metaphor for genetic modification. Here he uses it to different ends, not satirical, more experimental. Repeating Young’s lines, his ethereal Auto-Tuned voice becomes a melancholy echo of himself, a future ghost; the most unaccountably moving moment is a glitch when the inhuman voice sings a line – “I knew I’d seen her somewhere” – before “real” Neil gets to it. Hazing strangely from the Mayflower to today, the song is a fragile, stubborn, heartfelt declaration of Young’s intention to stand his ground while feeling “lost in this new generation, left behind” surrounded by smartphone addicts “alone with their heads looking in their hands”. It’s a great piece of Neil Young, the one you keep coming back to. It’s also a paradox. Mainstream media long ignored the struggle of the protestors documented in “Indian Givers”: “I wish somebody would spread the news,” Young sings. But word of their fight has been spread, by online activists using social media, people with their heads looking in their hands. If he didn’t contradict himself, though, he wouldn’t be Neil Young.

AtoZ This month… P22 P23 P25 P26 P27 P28 P30 P31 P32

JAMES CHANCE DuNGEN HOWE GELB THE ROLLING STONES METALLICA THE POP GROuP kAIA kATER THEE OH SEES VIRGINIA WING

OREN AMBARCHI Hubris

EDITIONS MEGO

8/10 Australian experimentalist heads for inner space Like Terry Riley’s A Rainbow In Curved Air, the 22-minute opening piece on Hubris rides a single, minimalist rhythmic pattern, which – once your ear has attuned to its nuances – is gradually revealed to be rich with endless variations. After a short intermission of lushly layered synth guitar from Jim O’Rourke, the Riley paradigm returns for a further 17-minute exploration on “Hubris 3”, this time constructed around a Giorgio Moroder-derived motif that morphs, via some spatial percussive tricks, into a compelling exercise in preternatural skronk. Utterly addictive and reality-shifting, and probably best avoided while driving or operating heavy machinery. NIGEL WILLIAMSON

AMERICAN WRESTLERS Goodbye Terrible Youth FAT POSSuM

8/10 Indie loner grapples with success Gary McClure’s years spent in the Manchester shoegazing mines with Working for A Nuclear free City are paying off in his new Stateside incarnation as American Wrestlers: his home-recorded eponymous debut proved one of last year’s surprise critical successes, enabling him to expand to full-band lineup for this follow-up, on which rakish garagepop organ, nibbly indie guitar lines and fuzz-drone guitar washes collude behind McClure’s wan vocals. At their best, on “Someone far Away” and “Give Up”, the group blends pop sparkle and melancholy indie charm in the manner of The Chills. McClure’s still temperamentally a loner – “I get alone, sing alone,” he confides on the closing “Real People” – but the plaintive piano figure and threads of electric guitar wrapping around him suggest interaction should pay further dividends for his songs. ANdy GILL JANuARY 2017 • uNCuT • 21


new albums AmIINA

FANtÔmAS meNGI

7/10 haunting instrumentals from icelandic quartet Originally composed for a 2013 Halloween event curated by Yann Tiersen, Amiina’s centenary soundtrack for a silent French serial killer film is less creepy than one may expect. Nonetheless, though their lineup has expanded since their days as Sigur Rós’ string section, their fondness for archaic instruments – zithers, musical saws, kalimbas – makes this as unsettling as it is naïvely beautiful. Subtle electronic embellishments and the distant tick of percussion enhance their dynamic range on the ominously sparse title track, while the innocence of “Paris” is undercut by tremolo bowing. “Crocodile”, on the other hand, evokes images of sophisticated, sepia-tinted ballroom waltzes. Wyndham Wallace

ANGeLINA

Vagabond Saint WoNDerFuLSouND

8/10 ryde singer’s paean to american roots music There’s a raw, unspoiled quality to this debut from Angelina Grimshaw, a singer-songwriter from the Isle Of Wight whose heart resides miles away in the land of old-time blues and country singers, specifically Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Karen Dalton. A trip to the US several years ago, during which she stayed with the late slide guitarist Bob Brozman, solidified her ambition to make an album in thrall to her musical heroes. The result is a work that blends crackling blues (“Dark Heart”), jaunty country (“Mandolin Man”) and mesmerising folk balladry that sends shards through the heart. Fiona sTUrGes

ArBorISt

Home BurIAL KIrKINroLA

JOSEPH JAGOS

8/10 ravishing debut from northern irish songwriter It says much for Mark McCambridge that it only took an invitation to persuade Kim Deal to join him on debut single, “Twisted Arrow”, but even more that its sweet Americana is far from the only gem on this deliciously self-assured collection. The strings and morbid atmosphere of “A Crow” recall early Black Heart Procession, while “Rules Of The Burial”’s Uncle Tupelo-esque barroom folk finds sweet redemption – heightened by a gorgeous closing trumpet solo – in 22 • uNCut • JANuArY 2017

discovering that “revenge tastes bitter”. Best is “A Man Of My Age”, which articulates the claustrophobia of family life with sensitive frankness amid a mesmerising, Smog-like languor.

I’m new here

revelations

Wyndham Wallace

AutomAt ostWest BureAu B

7/10 a sonic hymn to Germany’s refugees, recorded in Berlin’s old Tempelhof airport This German electronica outfit are unusual in that their techno soundscapes are played virtually live, with a guitarist, bassist and drummer who all double up on synths and programming. It’s not clear how instrumental music can convey the album’s avowed theme – linking the failures of neoliberalism with the current refugee crisis – but some tracks seem to suggest it. “Yuko” and “West” seductively mix squelchy synth riffs with woozy, indistinct vocals, while themes of displacement are explored by the eerie, oriental drum stomp of “Transit”, the low-slung dub of “Tempelhof”, and the pulsating, motorik groove of “Fabrik Der Welt”. John leWis

BLACK mArBLe It’s Immaterial GHoStLY

7/10 Us producer’s smudged new wave Black Marble first surfaced four years ago as a serious Brooklyn duo signed to Sub Pop, whose debut A Different Arrangement fumbled endearingly around New Order’s Movement. Having parted ways with the excellently named Ty Kube, these days BM is the solo vehicle of Chris Stewart, who is now based in LA. In spite of this new album’s title, he still makes grainy overtures to a certain Manchester band, not least in the way “Iron Lung” and “Frisk” unpack stern emotions around driving basslines and chintzy melody. Infatuated by the noirish romance of European coldwave, the likes of “Portland U” and “Collene” cast Stewart as something of a bedroom modernist. Piers marTin

Keeping order: Black marble

ArBorISt marc mcCambridge on drink, drugs, the devil… and Liam Neeson

I

t’S taken a while for Mark McCambridge to release his debut. the 34-year-old Belfast resident spent time in Ireland, France and Britain working as “a musician and factotum for many years, always with ambition but never with great conviction,” but admits that, “I had a staunch refusal to release anything I wasn’t completely happy with, which is possibly why this debut has taken so long. I’m a better man for it.” He was raised in Ballymena, County Antrim, a place famous, he says, for its cloud cover, which may

explain Home Burial’s melancholic air, though that also arises from his confessional lyrics, which, amongst other themes, address what he describes as “details of the little tussles of wedlock and parenthood”. Fun was also sometimes hard to come by as he grew up. “Ballymena is often seen as the Bible-belt of Ireland, or even Europe,” he explains. “An ELO gig was cancelled once to avoid what a local politician called, ‘the four Ds: drink, drugs, the devil and debauchery’.” Success, however, is not entirely out of reach: the town was actor Liam Neeson’s birthplace. “Liam and I share an aunt and uncle, in fact,” McCambridge laughs, “though we’re not related...” Wyndham Wallace

JAmeS CHANCe & tHe CoNtortIoNS

CHAtHAm CouNtY LINe

true GrooVe

Yep roC

7/10

7/10

cultish no-wave veteran, still contorting himself “I’ve got esoteric tastes; they’re wasted on the masses,” growls JC in the title track, although it’s doubtful the singer and saxophonist gives a damn. Linchpins of NYC’s no-wave scene, The Contortions trademarked a skronky, amped-up stew of James Brown, The Stooges and Miles Davis. The Flesh Is Weak is a mix of long overdue new songs and covers, plus a revisiting of “Melt Yourself Down” by a band that features guitarist Tomás Doncker. The ferociously punchy “Snap It Back Strip It Down”, a lounge-dub take on “That’s Life” and a truly anguished “I (Who Have Nothing)” stand out: the flesh may be weak, but mind and spirit remain strong. sharon o’connell

engaging seventh from north carolina foursome There’s nothing fussy about the way Chatham County Line continue to go about their business, their acoustic music occupying the sweet spot between Del McCoury and The Jayhawks. Indeed, “Siren Song”, one of several highlights here, carries more than a trace of Gary Louris. The bluegrass songs tend to feel more like interludes, as chief songwriter Dave Wilson excels on the spare, folksy “Moving Pictures Of My Mind” and the very fine “Jackie Boy”, its halo harmonies reminiscent of Fleet Foxes or The Low Anthem. Similarly, his bandmates mesh mandolin, fiddle and pedal steel to glowing effect.

the Flesh Is Weak

Autumn

roB hUGhes


new albums GABrIeLLA CoHeN

Full Closure And No Details CAptureD trACKS

8/10 a(nother) young, dynamic solo debut from down Under Recently, there’s been a slew of excellent solo firsts from young Antipodean women, the latest being Melbourne singer/songwriter and guitarist Cohen. Her striking debut – recorded in 10 days and originally self-released on her own label – brims with as much honest emotion as it does uncalculated cool. Heavy on lo-fi fuzz, reverb and clattering drums, its touchstones are the Velvets, Cat Power and In Utero-era Nirvana, but Cohen’s no style slave; she has an impressive structural and expressive reach, as polar opposites “Piano Song” (Édith Piaf as a millennial) and “This Could Be Love” (a stoner-waltz epic, with farmyard noises) attest. sharon o’connell

LorI CuLLeN

Sexsmith Swinghammer Songs true NortH

8/10 delirious canadian combo centred on jazz chanteuse and national treasure Justly lauded as one of her generation’s purest voices, Cullen’s scale-swooning smoothness and jazzy agility here prove the perfect foil for two celebrated fellow countrymen fans. The landscape of Jobim/Bacharach pop is reimagined with Ron Sexsmith’s ever curious and naturally psychedelic lyrics on “Strange Is This Life”, along with the off-kilter soulfulness of inspired arrangements by Cullen’s husband, the excellently named Kurt Swinghammer. The cherry on the cake could be Ron and Lori’s “Off Somewhere”, but everywhere here these sensual, swinging and sashaying songs provide pleasurecentre-assailing treats for any season. GaVin marTin

JAY DANIeL

Broken Knowz teCHNICoLour

keys. Daniel takes care to keep things minimal – if you were to take anything away from Broken Knowz, there wouldn’t be much left – but “Paradise Valley” and the tribal-tinged “Niiko” have a compelling, twitchy energy. loUis PaTTison

DIANA

Familiar touch CuLVert/ILS/CAroLINe

8/10 1980s digital soul put through a moody synthpop prism This Canadian outfit’s 2013 debut was a fine piece of woozy electro pop, but the follow-up is a considerable upgrade. It takes the tropes of 1980s R&B – Nile Rodgers-style funk guitar, slap-andpop basslines, glutinous DX7 pianos and the spray-can hi-hats and clicky cowbells of the Roland 808 drum machine – and puts them through a one-fingered synthpop filter. Carmen Elle’s non-histrionic, indie-girl voice is the USP: stripped of soul emoting, she is an ice maiden on the Scrittiish “Moment Of Silence”, enters Portishead territory on “Miharu”, and sobs blankly over a deluge of Jam & Lewis-style synth voicings on “Cry”. John leWis

peter DoHertY

Hamburg Demonstrations CLouDS HILL/Bme

6/10 libertine decamps to Germany for solo second Separating the music from the mythology has always been difficult with Doherty, but it’s getting easier as time passes. The follow-up to his 2009 debut is a measured set, recorded to tape on an eight-track, that mercifully shifts the focus from his writer’s garret/London/ Albion – literally, in the case of a song inspired by the 2015 Paris attacks. That said, there’s a reworking of his tribute to Amy Winehouse, and “Kolly Kibber” is end-of-the-pier business as usual, but “Oily Boker” startles – a Weill-meets-Malkmus ballad with harmonica, strings and organ that’s underpinned by the genuine drama of what sounds like the start of a nasty fight.

7/10

sharon o’connell

organic electronica grooves from detroit hepcat Pictured on the cover of Broken Knowz, Jay Daniel resembles some old jazz cat, sucking on a tab on a fire escape before ducking back in for the second half. It’s a telling first impression, as while Daniel came up through Detroit’s house scene, his debut album takes an idiosyncratic route to the dancefloor. Rhythms are played live with drumsticks, captured by a multi-track mixer, then slathered in bright, jazzy

DuNGeN Häxan

mexICAN Summer

8/10 swedish psych stalwarts reach new peaks on score for silent film Enlisting bands to provide scores for silent-era classics is a great idea in theory, but the results seldom impress when removed from the images they serve. Thankfully, Dungen’s music for The Adventures Of Prince Achmed – a

Gabriella Cohen: no style slave

1926 German film believed to be the oldest surviving animated feature – presents the Stockholm quartet at the top of its game. The band having wisely eschewed the score’s original sequence to create a better flow, Häxan shifts seamlessly from discomfiting ambient passages to Soft Machine-like collisions of acid rock and exploratory jazz. All of it reaches a thunderous climax with “Andarnas Krig”, which would’ve been perfect for the finale of Zabriskie Point if Pink Floyd hadn’t scored that already. Jason anderson

eNemIeS Valuables top SHeLF

8/10 Third album from irish post-rock outfit ends career on a dreamy high Stopping just short of a decade together, broken by touring and personal challenges, Enemies called time on their career midway through recording this parting shot. The decision was evidently liberating. From the spectral visions and undercurrents of longing in “Play Fire”, through the trancey enchantment of “Itsallwaves” and harmony-drenched ambient groove of “Glow”, the delicate touches and melodic strengths shine. On “Leaves” looped Hi-life riffs fade into a shifting landmass. This disappearing act grounded in thoughtful intrigue and dynamic intent makes for a choice finale. GaVin marTin

eYeLeSS IN GAZA Sun Blues

AmBIVALeNt SCALe

8/10 Breathtaking psych-folk mantras from Warwickshire duo

One of the centrepieces of Sun Blues, the 16th album from Eyeless In Gaza, is an instrumental titled “Wind, Sand, Sea & Stars”. There’s always been something elemental about their songs, hymning everyday phenomena in broad melodic brushstrokes, wedded to arrangements that fold together post-punk, folk and electronica. Sun Blues’ power lies in its quiet ecstasies: from the sunblind swoon of “Solar Logic”, through the oceanic reverie of “Here I Am, Here I Am”, and into the stately cadences of “You Turn From Me”, Martyn Bates’ keening lament of a voice bobs in a sea of sound. Jon dale

GeorGIA

All Kind music pALto FLAtS

8/10 Polyrhythmic post-pop from new york design duo As Georgia, Brian Close and Justin Tripp are best known as “audio-visual storytellers” who make brands look cool. This helps fund their artistic side, allowing them to produce records as enjoyably perverse as All Kind Music, Georgia’s third album, which processes free jazz, gamelan and calypso through some sort of mid-’90s digi-funk filter. Tracks that initially sound like three YouTube tabs playing at the same time coalesce into lurid cyber-folk jams called “Petwo, Reality Souf Broker” and “Canal Din (Open Voice)”, while the wounded disco of “Slow Dance”, underpinned by Matt Werth’s sloping bass, is the bait to reel in unwitting listeners. Piers marTin JANuArY 2017 • uNCut • 23


new albums Immersion last year with a classy five-track eP, which they have now expanded into a full album. Newman adds guitar textures to the previously all-electronic mix, but otherwise these throbbing analogue symphonies remain firmly rooted in the sonic grammar of vintage Krautrock and eno-esque abstraction, from the organic dronescape of “Mechanical Creatures” to the luminous, radiant, shimmering “Spinner”. At times, mellifluous minimalism shades into mundane monotony, but these electromechanical reveries mostly achieve a kind of hypnotic power through accretion and repetition. STEPHEN DALTON

JEAN-MICHEL JARRE Oxygene 3 SONY

7/10

A Bad Seed and a Gallon Drunk: James Johnston goes solo

JOHN HASSALL AND THE ApRIL RAINERS Wheels To Idyll VAM/WARNERS

6/10 Libertines bassist explores a Laurel Canyon dreamscape Up against his illustrious bandmates Pete Doherty and Carl Barât, bassist John Hassall was always doomed to be the John Deacon of The Libertines. However, his latest solo project, recorded in Denmark with an Anglo-Scandinavian quartet, sounds nothing like the Libs and is instead a sprightly, Laurel Canyon-style bucolic rock voyage, with Hassall’s hushed tenor voice cooing over CSN harmonies, wistful majorsevenths and Robby Krieger-ish guitar explorations. One is so impressed by the LP’s basic competence and general pleasantness that it’s easy to forget that there still isn’t a single song here that registers, even after repeated listens. JOHN LEWIS

THOM HELL

Happy Rabbit

STEVE GULLICK; NAOMI YANG

LOST BOY

(“Famous”, like John Grant on his best behaviour) to the nine-minute, multipart finale, “The Voyage Home”, which ends “you should get over yourself” while throwing in musical nods to Harry Nilsson, eLO, elton John and CSN. GRAEME THOMSON

HONEYBLOOD Babes Never Die FATCAT

6/10 Scots duo’s second starts well… Stina Tweeddale’s aptitude for crafting seamless melodies and penetrating hooks is immediate from the off on Honeyblood’s second album, as the sugar rush of “Babes Never Die” crashes into the fiery “Ready For The Magic”. The record feels rooted in ’90s US alt.rock, a boom era for pop music disguised behind a wall of fuzzy tone and thrashing pace. While “Justine, Misery Queen” is a secondhalf highlight – all thudding guitars and unshakeable melodies – the LP struggles a little in variation of pace and tone, and the auspicious spark fizzles out somewhat by the end.

7/10

DANIEL DYLAN WRAY

Triple Norwegian Grammy-winner goes time travelling Norse singer, songwriter and producer Thomas Helland excels in the kind of grandiose, Brit-centric, slightly rococo pop-rock classicism that will appeal to fans of ’70s solo McCartney. The retro musical mood on Happy Rabbit fits the lyrical tone, with Hell revisiting key events from his twoscore years, from formative childhood experience in “1985” and a wry take on rampant adolescent ambition

IMMERSION

24 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

Analogue Creatures Living On An Island SWIM

7/10 Oceanic oscillations from recently rebooted ambient duo Long-term partners in both music and marriage, Wire co-founder Colin Newman and Malka Spigel of Minimal Compact resurrected their longdormant ambient electronica project

Eco-electronica project enters terrifying rave territory Forty years after the groundbreaking original, the third instalment of Jarre’s eco-themed trilogy follows the same pattern as its predecessors – a series of numbered, largely drumless electronic instrumentals, which slowly build, gently climax and gradually dismantle over the course of six or seven minutes. Here the environmental mood is bleakly dystopian: “Oxygene 14” and “Oxygene 19” are the sound of a beleaguered planet being blitzed by spiky, percussive synths, 808 drum breaks and wooshy ambient sounds; while the doomy church organs and crackling fires of “Oxygene 20” sound like the dying Mother earth preparing to pop her clogs. JOHN LEWIS

JÓHANN JÓHANNSSON Arrival OST

DECCA GRAMMOpHON

7/10 Prolific Icelandic composer’s sombre sci-fi score Hot on the heels of his recent solo album Orphée comes Jóhann Jóhannsson’s soundtrack for sci-fi saga Arrival, his latest collaboration with director Denis Major Stars: raising the bar

Villeneuve after the slick and moody Sicario. Certainly, Arrival, in which linguist Amy Adams negotiates with an alien menace, bodes well for the pair’s much-hyped Blade Runner revamp, though Jóhannsson is no Vangelis and has a tendency to lapse into Hollywood sturm und drang. Working with Denmark’s Theatre Of Voices choir, Jóhannsson’s use of vocal manipulation on “Kanguru” and “Ultimatum” adds splashes of colour to his full-bodied minimalism, each lingering note loaded with ominous intent. PIERS MARTIN

JAMES JOHNSTON The Starless Room CLOUDS HILL

7/10 Long-time-coming solo debut from Gallon Drunk mainstay James Johnston’s Gallon Drunk rarely strained to avoid comparisons with Nick Cave. Indeed, so relaxed was Johnston about such insinuations that he even joined the Bad Seeds for a period. It will hopefully therefore not be taken amiss that the obvious touchstones for Johnston’s fine solo debut are also Cave albums – especially The Good Son and The Boatman’s Call, each explorations of the classic ballad. Johnston suits the form, finding a hitherto largely latent frailty and vulnerability in his voice – songs such as “Cold Morning Light” and the sumptuous title track also recall the consumptive melodrama of Scott Walker. ANDREW MuELLER

LAST pEDESTRIANS Battle Of A Simple Man YETI BOY

6/10 Pub rock lives on… Led by Harry Stephenson, former co-pilot of 1970s Stiff Records’ pubrockers Plummet Airlines, the Last Pedestrians have been gigging in Nottingham bars since 2004, content at this stage of their careers to keep it


new albums

americana

local and forget about white-line fever. Their virtues are proudly homespun – twisted country-folk with an amiable backbeat on a set of songs about “broken Britain” with titles such as “Breakfast At Wetherspoons” and “Age Of Waste”. Mostly written and sung by Stephenson in an appealing Waitsian croak, it’s protest music for ageing baby-boomers struggling with the death of liberal democracy – a vital service that really ought to be available on the NHS.

Album Of The Month

NIGEL WILLIAMSON

RODRIGO LEÃO & SCOTT MATTHEW Life Is Long GLITTERHOUSE

Suave chamber-pop ballads from transatlantic duo Portuguese composer Rodrigo Leão and New York-based Australian crooner Scott Matthew have been sporadic collaborators since 2011, but this is their first full album together, a classy collection of old-school ballads with well-tailored chamberpop arrangements. Matthew’s melancholy lyrics sometimes strain too hard for gloomy effect (“We all cry in the dark… there’s a path and it’s stained with tears”), but his voice has a deliciously croaky, breathy, grainy quality reminiscent of Bowie or Scott Walker at their most achingly romantic. Leão’s tasteful backdrops are sometimes more polish than passion, but both redeem themselves on the elegiac heart-tugger “Nothing’s Wrong” and the languid weepie, “Terrible Dawn”. STEPHEN DALTON

MAJOR STARS Motion Set DRAG CITY

8/10 Another killer set by Boston’s psych-rock lifers It’s been 33 years since Wayne Rogers, guitarist and nominal head of Major Stars, released his first record – Crystalized Movements’ lofi psychedelic head-scratcher, Mind Disaster. There’s a strong throughline from that record to Motion Set, though now the group action is fiercer, the songs pack greater punch, the road to psychedelic excess more deftly plotted. It all comes together on the album’s epic title cut, where Rogers’ raga-rock guitar quivers over his group’s processional rhythm. Like all great rock musicians, Major Stars risk the ridiculous to try and access the sublime, somehow reaching the latter every time. JON DALE

Gelb at the grand: taking a detour

HOWE GELB Future Standards FIRE

8/10 Giant Sand alumnus goes jazz INTeNTIONAL or not, Howe Gelb has found himself confronted with his own musical legacy in recent times. A strange situation, perhaps, for someone who’s spent so much of his life busying himself with the present, be it as captain of Giant Sand, The Band Of Blacky Ranchette, various spin-off projects or as a solo artist. 2015’s Heartbreak Pass coincided with the 30th anniversary of Giant Sand’s debut, Valley Of Rain, which itself followed a mammoth boxset and reissue campaign. In his own inimitable way, Gelb untied the bunting from the party celebrations by declaring that “between the exponential cubed expansion of the band to the sheer audacity of its three-decade lifespan, Giant Sand are now dead.” As if to emphasise the point, he’s swiftly returned to his solo career and made Future Standards, a jazz-blues album that serves as an attempt to write more songs that might last through the ages. It’s a mostly minimal affair,

Gelb either alone at the piano or joined by guest vocalist Lonna Kelley, with a thin smatter of double bass and brushed drums. And while the subject matter (romantic love) may be familiar territory for a bunch of tunes designed for warm brandy and candlelight, Gelb’s take on things is reassuringly leftfield. It’s doubtful, for example, whether Hoagy Carmichael may have ever considered framing a ballad with the lines, “Clarity, considered a rarity/Hitherto these parts around here,” as Gelb does on “Clear”. Or, as with the more cynical “May You Never Fall In Love”, urged us to “Let the others spend all their whiling/Contemplating the apropos.” Gelb’s long-held fascination with words, particularly the way certain ones rub up against one another or encourage an allusive phrase, usually stretched over an odd meter, is a joy throughout. As is his deceptive way with a graceful melody, his drowsy voice slips through these songs like smoke. Future Standards is both an intimate, low-key experience and a highly welcome new detour. ROB HuGHES

americana round-up New releases are already stacking up for the early part of 2017. Roots veterans The sadies unveil Northern Passages, their 10th studio effort, on Yep Roc in February. The album finds the ace Canadian quartet, led by singer/guitarists Dallas and Travis Good, joined by a remarkable group of guests, among them Neil Young, Neko Case, Jon Spencer, Robyn Hitchcock, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Kurt Vile, The Mekons’ Jon Langford and R’n’B great, Andre Williams. Meanwhile, the same label hosts Stitch Of The World, the first in five years from US singer-songwriter Tift merritt. Having spent much of the interim playing with Andrew Bird’s Hands Of Glory and Hiss Golden Messenger (she also appears

on the recent Heart Like A Levee), Merritt began writing the album with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam after bumping into him at an airport. The hired help on the new record includes guitarist Marc Ribot and pedal-steel player, Eric Heywood. mark eitzel has been busy of late, too. Due on Décor at the end of January, Hey Mr Ferryman is the American Music Club founder’s first full studio album to be cut in London, with Bernard Butler occupying the producer’s chair. The ex-Suede man also plays electric guitar, bass and keyboards. A limited-edition version of Hey Mr Ferryman is on the way as well, with a 12-track bonus disc of demos, unreleased tracks and alternative takes. ROB HuGHES JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 25

DANIEL DIAZ

7/10


new albums

THe RolliNG sToNes Blue & lonesome

PolYdoR

8/10

CLAuDe GASSIAN

Mick and co reconnect with their blues roots… magic happens. By Michael Bonner In 2009, there was a rumour doing the rounds that The Rolling Stones were considering working on a new album with Jack White. Although it was subsequently debunked, at the time the idea of the Stones collaborating on new music with White seemed a genuinely exciting prospect. In many ways, Blue & Lonesome resembles just the kind of album they might have made together: a collection of 12 covers of mostly lesserknown Chicago blues songs that casts the Stones back to the very beginnings of their career on the British R’n’B scene. Although the Stones came in with the blues, look what happened a little later. They rejected the conservative orthodoxy represented by Chris Barber, Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies, instead moving on to Aftermath, “… Satisfaction”, country rock, nellcôte and beyond. Since then, they have occasionally returned to the blues – but then strictly on their own terms: “Love In Vain”, “Ventilator Blues”. “Midnight Rambler”. You could be forgiven for thinking that Blue & Lonesome is a little like trying to put the genie back in the bottle. But such intellectual considerations are not entirely the point here. Blue & Lonesome took three days to record – the Stones working instinctively, seizing a brief window of opportunity without 26 • UNCUT • JaNUaRY 2017

SLEEVE NOTES Tracklist: 1. Just Your Fool 2. Commit A Crime 3. Blue And Lonesome 4. All Of Your Love 5. I Gotta Go 6. everybody Knows About My Good Thing 7. Ride ’em On Down 8. Hate To See You Go 9. Hoo Doo Blues 10. Little Rain 11. Just Like I Treat You 12. I Can’t Quit You Baby Produced by: Don Was and The Glimmer Twins Recorded at: British Grove Personnel: Mick Jagger (vocals, harmonica), Keith Richards, Ron Wood (gtrs), Charlie Watts (drums), Darryl Jones (bass), Chuck Leavell, Matt Clifford (keys), eric Clapton (gtr), Jim Keltner (perc)

questioning it. For a group operating at their level, accustomed to spending several months working on an album, it seems emboldened with drama and risk. Among their peers, only neil Young moves at such a clip – and even then, his new album, Peace Trail, was recorded in a comparatively leisurely four days. At its best, Blue & Lonesome finds the Stones fired up. The album opens with “Just Your Fool” – one of four songs on the album written by Little Walter. A Muddy Waters cohort, Walter was a fiery, preternaturally gifted harmonica player. Consequently, Mick Jagger’s harp playing is one of the album’s defining features: diving and swooping through Keith and Ron’s guitar lines, alternating between the raucous (“Just Like I Treat You”) and more sultry, soulful tones (“Blue And Lonesome”). Jagger’s vocal delivery, too, is forceful and direct, a reminder of how astute an interpreter of blues songs he can be. On Howlin’ Wolf’s “Commit A Crime”, he is the aggrieved lover, disdainfully spitting out lines like, “You put poison in my coffee instead of milk and cream.” On Magic Sam’s “All Of Your Love”, he is lovestruck and remorseful, pleading, “I hate to be the one/The one you left behind.” If Blue & Lonesome is a return to the kind of music the Stones started out playing, then it seems apt that the material explicitly connects to the band’s earliest days. One of the songs here, Eddie Taylor’s

“Ride ’Em On Down”, appeared in the setlist for their very first gig, on July 12, 1962 at the Marquee. Meanwhile, sprightly takes on Little Walter’s “I Gotta Go” and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Just Like I Treat You” wouldn’t sound out of place on their debut album. Keith Richards remembered recording that on a “two-track Revox in a room insulated with egg cartons”. On this occasion, holed up in Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studios, they worked on a valve-driven desk as old as the band itself – one of EMI’s vintage REDD consoles, the same model used by, of all people, The Beatles. The Stones are joined by Eric Clapton – another player who travelled far beyond his blues roots – for two tracks: Little Johnny Taylor’s “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” and Otis Rush’s “I Can’t Quit You Baby”. Clapton’s slide on both tracks is clear and pristine, dutifully serving the songs and complementing Richards and Wood’s gritty rhythm lines. The work done by the two guitarists on Blue & Lonesome is essentially to bring swing and colour to the songs. Aside from Clapton’s contributions, there are very few guitar solos on the album – the heavy lifting, so to speak, is done in the sympathetic interweaving between Richards and Wood’s playing. “Hate To See You Go”, for instance, finds them locked in a playful calland-response between a cyclical riff and a four-chord rhythm sequence. “Hoo Doo Blues”, meanwhile, strikes a harmonious balance between pedal steel, Jagger’s harp and spiraling riffs. Throughout, Charlie Watts provides – as ever – unshowy yet powerful backing. His nimble percussion on “All Of Your Love” or the cymbal crash that animates the second half of “Commit A Crime” are every bit as characterful as the work done upfront by the guitars. The high point is their version of Jimmy Reed’s “Little Rain”. Seeped in reverb, it is full of swampy menace. The guitars circle and loop predatorily around Jagger’s wailing harp, generating an air of inchoate, sinister dread as a subdued Jagger sings of loving his girl “underneath the shinin’ moon”. For some bands, the idea of making an album of formative influences might be considered a mere stop-gap – a minor addition to the canon to keep the wolf from the door. Intriguingly, Blue & Lonesome feels like a major reassessment from a band, returning to the source and in doing so reminding us why they mattered in the first place. Where do the Stones go from here?


new albums snake Pit

TomPkiNs sQUaRe

6/10 “The Snake” returns. New solo joint from Nas-sampled axeman A primo Canned Heat guitarist, locum for the Stones on “Memory Motel” and “Hot Stuff”, maker of a couple of cratediggerfavoured solo albums, Mandel has no need of punching up his CV. Here, though, after years battling cancer, he returns with an unexpected new album, in which he ditches his regular bluesy back-up guys for jams new and old (like “Baby Batter”) in the company of jazzier musicians from Ryley Walker’s band. Harvey is maybe a bit too in love with a crunchy delay/ distortion footswitch combo, but on the likes of “Space Monkeys”, he and his younger guys make a creditable, spacey blues, tending on “nightinGail” to a mellow fusion. JOHN ROBINSON

THe memoRY BaNd landscape music Vol 5 (a Fair Field Full of Folk) sTaTiC CaRaVaN

7/10 Another eclectic excursion into folklore ancient and modern The Memory Band have always been aptly named: not only do they trade in the time-misted and halfforgotten, their music has the hallucinatory quality of those recollections that haunt the gloaming between wakefulness and sleep. A Fair Field is another peculiar chrestomathy of ancient folk melodies and found poetry – several tracks include spoken verse, provided by Basil Bunting and Robin Kirkpatrick among others. Musically, A Fair Field is predominantly piano-led nearinstrumentals. These are beguiling enough, especially “Against Our Laws Contrary” and “By The Truth of My Right Hand” – but they could have stood the accompaniment of the lyric ballads they originally carried. ANDREW MUELLER

THe meN

devil music We aRe meN

7/10 Brooklyn rockers rediscover their forte with dose of Motor City mayhem After making a breakthrough with 2012’s burly Leave Home, The Men showed off a less abrasive side to their personality with the nods to Springsteen and CCR on 2014’s Tomorrow’s Hits. But the band’s first for its own label proves The Men’s best self is its baddest one, or at least the one that sounds most like a particularly unbridled Stooges/MC5 bill circa

1969. Devil Music’s relentless velocity and heaps of fuzz and reverb are easy to savour even if it could use more songs as strong as “Lion’s Den” and “Patterns”, two would-be Fun House outtakes that come complete with plug-ugly sax squalls.

I’m new here

JASON ANDERSON

meTalliCa

Hardwired... To self destruct BlaCkeNed

7/10 Metal giants return for another 80 minutes of riffs and rage Eight years after Death Magntic, Metallica’s sense of cathartic outrage is, if anything, even more pronounced. From the cantering drums and abrasive guitars that introduce “Hardwired” to the frenetic conclusion of “Spit Out The Bone” 80 minutes later, Hardwired… is propelled by an intensely angry momentum that’s impressive to behold from a bunch of 50-something millionaires. Spread over two discs, it can get a little samey, but “Here Comes Revenge” and “Moth Into Flame” have plenty of bounce, while the most unsettling moment may come with the brilliant “Halo On Fire”, a montage of six songs in one, half by nirvana, and unlike anything they’ve done before. Otherwise, the experience is rather like being smacked round the head with a sack full of rocks. PETER WATTS

sTeVe mooRe

The mind’s eye osT RelaPse

8/10 Dark synth soundtracking par excellence As one half of Pittsburgh duo Zombi, Steve Moore both predated and presaged the modern vogue for sinister horror flick atmospherics. Indeed, since the late ’00s he’s had an occasional sideline in scoring genre movies, Joe Begos’ telekinesis thriller The Mind’s Eye being just the latest. The success of netflix hit Stranger Things, scored by Moore’s Relapse labelmates Survive, means this music is right on trend. But this feels like a particularly sumptuous take on the form: “Titles” and “Good Girl” layer twinkly synth arpeggios and gurgling drones, while “The Shot” and “Get Ready” add michael Nau

Hilma NikolaiseN “it was important to make time for my own ideas”

“I

’ve been longing to make this music for years and years. Serena-Maneesh was my main focus for a long time and having a small child meant other projects were put on hold.” So says Hilma Nikolaisen of the timing of her solo debut, made with a cast of collaborators. The vocalist, bass player and (latterly) songwriter served with Norwegian shoegazers S-M between 2005-2010 in a live capacity, singing on just one track of their debut LP, as the band was very much her brother emil’s work. “Before

booming drums to create a mood of authentic panic. LOUIS PATTISON

miCHael NaU mowing

I joined I was just a sister – or a fan, actually” she jokes. “And I am still a fan.” In 2013, three years after S-M folded, Nikolaisen was ready to do some exploring on her own as prep for Puzzler. “It was a great time: making demos at home, no restrictions, no obligations or pressure on what it was supposed to become. Since I wasn’t really a creative part of S-M’s records, it became important for me to finally make time for my own ideas. There is an obvious difference between emil’s work and mine,” she agrees, “but it’s become less and less important for me to stress the difference. I am clearly influenced by S-M and emil is my brother. We share the same influences; the same restless blood runs through our veins.” SHARON O’CONNELL

Hilma NikolaiseN Puzzler

FYsisk FoRmaT

6/10

Arresting solo debut from American country-soulster Fans of defunct Maryland combo Page France will already be familiar with Michael nau, though this first solo effort owes more to the countrified ruminations of his most recent project, Cotton Jones. Indeed, the latter’s vocalist Whitney McGraw (who also happens to be nau’s wife) acts as a delicate foil to nau’s warm, unhurried baritone on Mowing. The songs themselves trip by with a deceptively casual air, from the drowsy jazz cadence of “Mow” to the very lovely, Lee Hazlewood-ish “The Glass”. “Love Survive”, meanwhile, proves that nau knows his way around a classic pop melody.

Norwegian bassist’s solo psych-pop first As the bass player in Serena-Maneesh, nikolaisen is no stranger to walls of dreamy distortion and layered drone, but her (self-produced) solo debut follows a more easy-swinging melodic path, strewn with hooks. Despite titles like “On And On And On” and “Cloud nine Rewind”, it moves away from MBV/ Spiritualized towards power pop, with forays into ’60s folk pop (“Brighter Soon”) and country soul (“Swings And Roundabouts”). “Two Three Four Five” is a whisker away from Oasis on a blisspop bender, but nikolaisen’s alluringly thick, FX-treated vocals are a constant source of intrigue and it’s hard not to smile at the cheery “Home Straight Sorries”.

ROB HUgHES

SHARON O’CONNELL

FUll Time HoBBY

8/10

JaNUaRY 2017 • UNCUT • 27

WHITNeY MCGRAW

HaRVeY maNdel


new albums NOUvELLE vaGUE I Could Be Happy kWaIDaN

8/10 Brian Eno, The cure and the cocteaus get the Gallic muzak treatment On their fifth album, Marc Collin’s French collective remain a one-trick pony, but it’s still a great trick – transforming spiky English and American post-punk songs into featherweight French bossa nova confections. Cocteau Twins’ “Athol Brose” becomes an acoustic jazz waltz; thuggish tracks by Richard Hell and the Ramones are given a haircut and put in a smart suit; while the title track turns Altered Images’ whimsical original into a breathy, drumless Astrud Gilberto miniature. The four original tracks, tucked away almost apologetically at the end of the CD, are even better, in particular “Loneliness”, a dementedly beautiful waltz. JOHN LEwiS

THE OLyMPIaNs The Olympians DaPTONE

7/10 Soul-label sessioneers’ late-night exotica. Lava lamps not necessary The Daptone label is built on the authenticity of its musicianship: here, its own latter-day funk brothers unite for the kind of lush, swooning instrumental soul that underpinned turn-of-the-’70s releases from Isaac Hayes, The Undisputed Truth, and Booker T & The MG’s. Toby Pazner has recruited label linchpins including Thomas (Budos Band) Brenneck, Lee Michaels, Neal Sugarman and more to deliver immaculate exotica and ever-tasteful grooves, with reference points all the way from Herbie Mann’s flutey soul-jazz to the harp flights of Alice Coltrane. The high concept here is a paean to the ancient Greeks, inspired by the derring-do of gods and heroes: “Diana By My Side” and the breakbeaty “Mars” are suitably elysian. mARK BENTLEy

aGNEs OBEL

Citizen Of Glass MENGI

Chiara Meattelli & DoMiniC lee

8/10 Danish singer and pianist indulges her darker side Those who find Berlin resident Agnes Obel overly polite would do well to reconsider. Her third album finds her developing her instrumental palette, often allowing moody strings rather than piano to dominate arrangements. The brittle beauty of earlier work remains evident on “It’s Happening Again”, but recent single “Familiar” boasts a twist: her 28 • UNCUT • JaNUaRy 2017

Three degrees of agnes Obel

genteel vocals are paired with what sounds like Anohni, but is in fact her own, slowed-down voice. There’s also a menacing air to the wintry “Trojan Horses” and “Red Virgin Soil”, whose lyrics grimly confess “This love is gonna be the death of me.” wyNDHAm wALLAcE

OskaR’s DRUM

a Cathedral Of Hands RaGOORa

6/10 Kitchens Of Distinction mainman cooks up keening alt.rock Oskar’s Drum is a new project for Kitchens Of Distinction hero Patrick Fitzgerald, alongside producer-multi instrumentalist Yves Altana (The Chrysalids, Wonky Alice). For their first full release, the duo indulge in sweeping soundscapes of melodic, distinctly ’90s alt.rock, fired by angry, earthy lyrics of disgust and despair (“cunt” makes more than one fruity appearance). Fitzgerald’s voice still has that Michael Stipe-ish stripe, but A Cathedral Of Hands is less shoegazey and more muscular than KoD’s classic early ’90s releases. The Smashing Pumpkins brood over “Porcelain (The Last Queen Of Vietnam)”, but on “Blackouts” and “Infernal”, the keynote is David Bowie, specifically 1995’s Outside album. Derivative maybe, but dark, and delicately crafted, too. mARK BENTLEy

NXWORRIEs yes Lawd! sTONEs THROW

8/10 Kendrick and Dre collaborators share a strong musical chemistry The LA-based duo NxWorries bring gold-plated hip-hop pedigree to their joint debut. Producer Glen Earl Boothe, aka Knxwledge, collaborated on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly, while rapper Brandon Paak Anderson, who performs as Anderson .Paak,

featured prominently on Dr Dre’s Compton album. Yes Lawd! showcases Knxwledge’s virtuoso flair for layering vintage gospel, soul and jazz samples into loopy, fuzzy, avant-retro beatscapes worthy of J Dilla. Paak’s half-rapping, half-crooning skills are impressive, although boastful tirades like “Livvin” and “Suede” rely too much on name-calling women as sex objects and “bitches”. But in fairness, there are also self-mocking lyrics and strong female voices on this sonically rich, mostly great album. STEPHEN DALTON

THE POP GROUP

Honeymoon On Mars FREaks R Us

8/10 Discordant dubscapes on postpunkers’ belated fourth “Help me please, I’m going on a desperate journey,” squawks Mark Stewart as “Instant Halo” sparks Honeymoon On Mars into life. And he’s not wrong: the angry bricolage of noises, voices, stabbing guitar and jittery programmed drums sounds like the world splitting apart, the first of a series of scarified dubscapes created by The Pop Group and their perfect collaborators, dubmaster Dennis Bovelle and Public Enemy sound-collager Hank Shocklee. In tracks such as “City Of Eyes”, “Pure Ones” and “Zipperface”, splintering montages of whirrs, whines, wails, hotwired guitar and discordant keyboards are harnessed to monstrous funk grooves, while Stewart rails tirelessly against the tyranny of beauty, the kingdom of lies and the enslavement of minds. Big fun! ANDy GiLL

The Pop Group: new life on Mars

POWELL sport XL

6/10 Sputtering debut from clown prince of ‘no wave techno’ When Oscar Powell tried to clear a sample with Steve Albini last year, the curmudgeonly producer responded with a diatribe against “mechanised dance music”. Had Albini listened properly, he might have realised the two of them are actually on the same side. Sport is a comment on the tediously functional nature of contemporary techno, an album of playfully belligerent stop-start electro littered with shards of post-punk guitar and the unmistakable vocal tics of Mark E Smith and Lydia Lunch. The juddering industrial pop twofer of “Frankie (feat Frankie)” and “Jonny (feat Jonny)” suggest Powell is on to something, but patience is required to navigate his smirking in-jokes. SAm RicHARDS

saM ROBERTs BaND TerraForm PaPER BaG

6/10 ‘canada’s Springsteen’ goes electronic on mixed sixth Since 2002, when his fine debut EP, “Inhuman Condition”, made him a star in his native land, Sam Roberts has shown a determination to bring currency to classic rock’n’roll and the inventiveness to make good on that impulse. After working with producer Youth on 2014’s Lo-Fantasy, which hits like early Kinks in modern dress, Roberts has enlisted Holy Fuck’s Graham Walsh, who brings a spaceage sheen and quantised grooves. The gambit works on the trippy title track and the confrontational “If You Want It”, but elsewhere it robs the band’s hyper-rhythmic attack of its viscerally human feel. BUD ScOPPA JaNUaRy 2017 • UNCUT • 28


THE NEW ALBUM ‘ALONE’ “Chrissie Hynde still answers to no one and it’s a glorious sound“

HHHH Q MAGAZINE

HHHHH HHHH HHHH HHHH HHHH THE TELEGRAPH THE INDEPENDENT THE GUARDIAN MOJO EVENING STANDARD

LONDON ROYAL ALBERT HALL, 10 APRIL 2017 THEPRETENDERS.COM


new albums

discovered Introducing this month… Kaia Kater

SLEEVE NOTES

KAIA KATER

Tracklist: 1. saint elizabeth 2. little Pink 3. Paradise fell 4. rising Down 5. Harlem’s little Blackbird 6. Past 7. nine Pin 8. fine Times at Our House 9. Passing 10. Viper’s nest 11. White 12. Harvest and The Plough 13. Ti Chagrin 14. To Come 15. Hangman’s reel

and fearless approach also align her to Nina Simone, a key influence creatively and thematically. This is most evident on the majestic “Rising Down”, a strident commentary on Black Lives Matter and the ongoing struggle for racial equality. “I am meat for the taking, in this town/But in my home, in my home/There are kings and queens and blessings,” Kater sings over a bony banjo line. The discreet swell of a trumpet, courtesy of Caleb Hamilton (a salient presence throughout), serves to underline the message of solidarity: “Your gun, your gun/Is a symbol of my lynching/ But I won’t run, I won’t run/I will stand with my people, as one.” In its own quiet way, the song is a powerful corollary to Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam”. Kater is a diarist of the lost and forsaken. “Paradise Fell”, her voice and banjo softly shaded with brass, backing harmonies and the electric guitar of co-producer Chris Bartos, addresses what it means to be a lonely soul in a new city, conceived as a belated companion to John Hartford’s mid-’70s gem, “In Tall Buildings”. The same theme informs “Harlem’s Little Blackbird”, a song made all the more hypnotic by being entirely centred around Kater’s voice and the foot percussion of Katharine Manor. It is also, surely, a tribute of sorts to 1920s Broadway sensation Florence Mills, the black starlet and passionate campaigner for equality, whose signature tune was “I’m A Little Blackbird Looking For A Bluebird”. The caressive timbre of Kater’s vocals are offset by sparse arrangements. It’s a disquieting trade-off that feeds into the subject matter of the songs. She isn’t averse to a romantic ballad, for instance, but they often detail the kind of love that strays into dark and dangerous obsession. The beguiling “Saint Elizabeth”, a gothic tale about a sinful rogue infatuated with an angelic woman, never suggests a happy ending. “Can’t you hear me calling from beneath?” she sings, stalked by the muffled harmony of Joey Landreth. “With blackened frozen feet/White roses all around.” Like most everything on Nine Pin, it’s a strangely seductive proposal.

understated whole. Its promise has now been fulfilled by Nine Pin, an extraordinary piece of work that posits Kater as PROPER a major new voice in folkroots. It’s a record that’s Produced by: Kaia near-perfectly weighted Kater and Chris exemplary second from socio–cultural between her rich, sorrowful Bartos tenor, clawhammer banjocanadian. By Rob Hughes Recorded at: playing and a judicious Canterbury use of brass and harmonies. And one made IN CULTURAL terms, studios, Toronto all the more remarkable considering it was Appalachia is often Personnel recorded in a single day during a winter used to signify music includes: Kaia break from college. On one level, Kater from a specific area of Kater (vocals, banjo, piano), belongs to the same lineage as people like the American South, Chris Bartos Elizabeth Cotten, Alice Gerrard and Jean namely the slanted (guitar, Moog, Ritchie, artists who expanded the province trail through the fiddle), Caleb of women in the male-dominated environs Virginias, Kentucky and North Carolina. Hamilton of blues, folk and country. But she’s a Less well acknowledged is the fact that (trumpet, modernist in the style of Gillian Welch or the Appalachian Mountains extend north flugelhorn), Brian Rhiannon Giddens too, using traditional into the eastern lip of Canada, an area that Kobayakawa forms as infinitely malleable source includes Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and (upright bass), Quebec. This geological belt has doubled as material from which to shape something rakesh Tewari a musical one down the years, an exchange vivid and original. Her low gospel tones (percussion) route that’s allowed folk songs to pass back and forth across territorial lines. The most striking new addition to this rich heritage is 23-year-old Kaia Kater. Kaia Kater: “Racism is a four years, and was fascinated by old Born in Quebec to a Canadian mother and base system through which baptist songs, or songs about labour Caribbean father, Kater grew up listening America operates” and death, or murder ballads. There’s to a broad range of styles – US rap, hip-hop, a depth to the music that seems to be folk, soul – before devoting herself to the why does appalachian music so easily and quickly overlooked. study of Appalachian music at college in appeal to you so much? i’ve “Rising Down” is a key song been fascinated by narrative stories West Virginia. Roots music runs deep in the here… it was specifically written for a long time, especially ones that family, her fascination with old-time songs to reflect what i felt as a person of deal with violence or apocalyptic partly fostered by her mother’s directorship colour in america. i wanted to make notions. The dichotomy of describing of Folk Music Canada, a job which has seen a statement about Black lives Matter ugly or terrifying events with poetic her captain the Ottawa and Winnipeg folk and the horrors and injustices that language is amazing to me. There’s festivals. Kater’s love of idiomatic rural black people face every day. racism a stark, gothic element to a lot of music was neatly displayed on last year’s is not only a state of mind, but a base appalachian ballads that’s truly Sorrow Bound, a debut that blended new system through which america incredible. i studied appalachian and traditional elements into an artfully operates. it’s the prison-industry music and dance in West Virginia for

Nine Pin 9/10

POlina MOurzOVa

Q&A

30 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

complex, forced ghettoisation, the repealing of the Voting rights act, the segregated school systems, the unchecked police brutality.

what were the advantages of recording the album in a single day? My producer, Chris Bartos, came up with the idea to get a really tight band together, rehearse and do live takes. it was challenging, but it forced us to make some very good decisions about the sound we wanted and the aesthetic. We were in and out of that studio in eight hours. INTERVIEW: ROB HUGHES


new albums Winter Wheat EPITAPH/ANTI-

8/10 Weakerthan’s second solo outing With his band The Weakerthans now officially cryogenically frozen, Winnipeg singer-songwriter Samson has expanded his 2015 project, For The Turnstiles, a music/dance/ visual response to Neil Young’s On The Beach. Weakerthans’ drummer, Jason Tait, produces, along with Samson’s partner, Christine Fellows. The mood is pained, the production suitably spare, pushing the singer’s understated lyricism to the fore. “Capital” is a hymn to austerity, through the eyes of the “payday lonely” in a “one bar wi-fi kinda town”, while “Vampire Alberta Blues” is very Neil: strung out and painful, sparking with malevolent electricity. ALASTAIR McKAY

ferocious than she did on 2014’s widely praised Animism. Whether applying her extraordinarily agile voice to bruising hip-hop, industrial-rock dirges, quieter passages or full-bore aboriginal prog-folk freakouts, she produces a cumulative effect that’s both shattering and exhilarating. JASON ANDERSON

TASSEOMANCY Do Easy BELLA UNION

8/10 Canadian twins with Kate fetish create exquisite dreampop Though Tasseomancy are hardly the only ethereally minded modern act to bow a collective knee to Kate Bush, the Canadian

band have the good taste to display an equal affection for Never For Ever’s flouncy excess and Aerial’s plushness. The fact that the title of Do Easy’s opening song namechecks Dead Can Dance and Neil Young indicates a wider range of reference points for Sari and Romy Lightman, twin sisters whose vocal harmonies had previously been a highlight of Austra’s icier electro-pop. On their band’s sumptuous third album and first for Bella Union, they situate their voices on a pillowy bed of experimental pop, freak folk and, best of all, the saxenhanced exotica of the title track. JASON ANDERSON

THEE OH SEES

An Odd Entrances CASTLE FACE

7/10

revelations

GEIR SUNDSTØL HUBRO

8/10

TANYA TAGAQ Retribution SIx SHOOTER

8/10 Inuk throat singer ups her intensity with ferocious fifth The eerie cover of Nirvana’s “Rape Me” that closes Retribution is marginally less assaultive than what’s come before on the latest by this Canadian throat singer. Yet it still points to Retribution’s core themes: the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada, and the economic exploitation and environmental devastation of the Arctic ecosystem and the world at large. Proving once again that anger is an energy, the sometime Björk collaborator sounds even more

JONAH TOLCHIN

Thousand Mile Night YEP ROC

7/10 Young man got the blues on fine third album Recorded at FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals, Thousand Mile Night is the third album by Jonah Tolchin, a country soulman who also mines Southern gospel, folk and blues, imbuing his songs with lovelorn weariness that belies his relative youth. Tolchin’s best work comes when he unburdens his soul, as on the contemplative “Completely”, the rumbling title track, the homesick “Song About Home” and the desolate “Where The Hell Are All Of My Friends?”, which recalls mid-’70s Neil Young in its combination of despair and determination. Even his gorgeous take on Skip James’ “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” drips with a mature sense of saudade. pETER WATTS

Langen Ro

Divine, desert-blues instrumentals – from Norway Over decades, Norse guitarist Sundstøl has contributed to albums by acts from A-ha to Nils Petter Molvaer, but last year he released his solo debut. He returns with a band of strong jazz pedigree for this set of luminous and liquescent instrumentals, which reflect a decidedly Cooder-ish classicism but also recall modernists like William Tyler. Recorded in an Oslo church, Langen Ro sees Sundstøl adding synthesisers to a strings arsenal that includes Shankar, vintage National and pedal-steel guitars and banjo, cutting desert/ country-blues abstraction and subtle electronic ambience, as on his version of traditional Norwegian folk tune “Gråtarslaget”. Reworking Moroder’s “Tony’s Theme”, minus synths, is a nicely twisted touch. SHARON O’CONNELL

Rapid follow-up to last summer’s A Weird Exits Following the critical success of August’s excellent A Weird Exits, John Dwyer’s garage skronk behemoth Thee Oh Sees have rush-released this companion piece containing six songs, essentially session outtakes, that they feel complement the earlier album. A couple of tracks – the spacey “Jammed Exit” and feral “Unwrap The Fiend Pt 1” – are interesting alternative versions of songs from A Weird Exits, while on the all-new pieces, the general mood is mellower than usual, from the folk-Zep “You Will Find It Here” and exceptional, dreamy “The Poem” to the funk vibes of “At The End, On The Stairs”. pETER WATTS

EMILIANA TORRINI & THE COLORIST ORCHESTRA

TANYA TAGAQ The Inuit throat singer on choosing anger as her energy feel like the only way to create light is to shine your flashlight into the dark corners,” says Tanya Tagaq of the fury that fuels Retribution. “The more anger expressed, the more peace can happen in my life.” indeed, the inuk singer – who originally hails from nunavut, Canada’s northernmost territory, and first garnered international attention thanks to her stunning appearances on Björk’s 2001 tour – sees her music as cathartic and mystic. “it’s warding off evil,” she says, “telling it that it doesn’t belong in my space. it’s an incantation to ward off negativity.” and there’s a lot to feel negative about, what with the

“I

themes at Retribution’s core: the devastation of the arctic and the post-colonial legacy of trauma suffered by indigenous people. Of course, whether that violence is inflicted on the earth or oppressed people, Tagaq believes it all “runs in the same vein of energy”. Yet she admits the process of creating Retribution’s fierce fusion of rock, hip-hop, and electronic sounds with inuk traditions – like the growls and wails of Tagaq’s technique – was more exhilarating than exhausting. “i see sound as unlimited,” she says. “To cross genres is like crossing a border into another country – i don’t just want to be comfortable.” JASON ANDERSON

The Colorist & Emiliana Torrini ROUGH TRADE

8/10 One-time GusGus singer meets her orchestral match After the part-Italian, part-Icelandic singer Emiliana Torrini parted ways with her band two years ago, she decided that she would accept all musical invitations, however eccentric. Her pledge led to her playing with gypsies in Córdoba, an Icelandic symphony orchestra and an experimental jazz band in Berlin. But her collaboration with the Belgian ensemble Colorist Orchestra was the most fruitful, yielding a series of live performances and, now, a live album. The Colorist & Emiliana Torrini draws on the singer’s back catalogue, infusing it with added warmth, texture and elegance. Among the highlights is a pristine version of “Caterpillar” and the swirling, hypnotic “Nightfall”. FIONA STURGES JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 31

Vanessa Heins

JOHN K SAMSON


new albums the Cab Calloway-like “I Had Some Money” to the boogaloo of “The Old Place”. Accompanied by horns, flute and moody lashings of Hammond, the production by Michael McHugh (Ty Segall, Allah-Las) lends an amped-up Cali garage aesthetic that’s nigh-on irresistible. nIGel WIllIaMSon

THE WHARVES Electa GRINGO

7/10

Virginia Wing’s Sam Pillay and Alice Merida Richards

THE TROUBLE WITH TEMPLETON Someday, Buddy BELLA UNION

5/10 Underwhelming second from thomas Calder’s Brisbane-based indie outfit While this outfit, named for an old Twilight Zone episode, boasted indie rock literacy, wryly mannered lyrics and vocal elasticity on 2014 debut, Rookie, this sequel favours decorous minimalism and designer angst. The brow-furrowed “Double Life” and droopy-eyed introspection exercised in the predictably slackerish structure of “Complex Lips” are sweet-voiced Tom Calder’s major calling cards. “1832” is a departure, with emotional unease preserved in glowing folky amber, but it’s an inspired curveball on a largely routine course. GaVIn MaRtIn

ULTRASOUND Real Britannia

CLASSIC ALBUM CLUB RECORDS

Maisie Cousins & Penny Mills

7/10 State-of-the-nation study by reanimated indie quartet Is this the first post-Brexit album? Indie four-piece Ultrasound – a band that includes two doctors among their number – recorded Real Britannia before the EU referendum, but were already considering those themes of isolation and nostalgia that have seemed increasingly pertinent since June. “Everybody’s got an axe to grind in my town,” goes the Pulp-y intro to “Asylum”, an ode to the sanctuary music can provide in uncomfortable times, while “No Man’s Land” is an exploration of impending 32 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

Armageddon updated from the 1980s. The showpiece is “Blue Remembered Hills”, a 20-minute closing epic about 1970s Britain that is part musical theatre, part bittersweet lament. peteR WattS

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Africa Express Presents… The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians & Guests TRANSGRESSIVE

7/10 Damon albarn’s musical Middleeastern peace initiative… Solidarity and sentiment were probably as important as content on the brief summer 2016 tour by an orchestra of Syrians cruelly scattered by civil war and joined by the ever-active Albarn and cronies. Fortunately, the live album culled from the shows contains plenty of uplifting moments that transcend the need to have been there. Albarn contributes a stunning version of “Out Of Time” from Blur’s Think Tank transformed by swirling Arabic strings, and his duet with Paul Weller on “Blackbird” is given emotional heft by a massed Syrian choir. The famous guests broaden the appeal – but ultimately it’s the Syrians who are the true stars. Just as it should be. nIGel WIllIaMSon

VIRGINIA WING

Forward Constant Motion FIRE

8/10 london duo expand their kosmische electro-pop into new soundscapes Slimmed to a duo since their 2014 debut, South London synthpop experimentalists Virginia Wing take bolder sonic steps on this sumptuous sophomore album.

Alice Merida Richards and Sam Pillay begin on familiar ground with the lightly mechanised Krautronic throbbers “Lily Of Youth” and “ESP Offline”, buzzing and droning like drowsy distant cousins of Stereolab or Broadcast. But about midway through, the album crosses some invisible event horizon into a vivid sci-fi audioscape of sublime abstraction, from the lysergic time-stretching of “Local Loop” to the desiccated polychromatic Aphex-isms of “Permaboss” and the nervy but oddly soothing electro-stutters of “Baton”. Unconventional beauty galore. Stephen Dalton

NICK WATERHOUSE Never Twice INNOVATIVE LEISURE

7/10 third from ’Frisco-based revivalist Waterhouse’s 2012 debut Time’s All Gone announced the arrival of an impressive new R’n’B maven, steeped in the traditions of Mose Allison and Jimmy Witherspoon and exuding the insouciance of Van Morrison without the surliness. Like Leon Bridges (who duets on one track), his shtick is unashamedly retro, but fizzes with an energy that retools classic R’n’B as a vibrantly post-modern American folk-art, from Richard Youngs: leftfield folk

psychedelic folk and grrrl grit from london trio At first glimpse, The Wharves are a familiar enough proposition, their grungily tuneful guitar-rock bringing to mind late-period Sleater-Kinney. But their second LP, Electa, draws on a deeper well of influence. The trio’s three-part harmonies turn “Well Well Well” and “Venus Of Hornchurch” into eerie madrigals, while drummer Marion Andrau’s “L’Autre” is a haunted lullaby swaddled in misty guitar dissonance. There is a charm to their rocking moments – see “Old Friend”, a sweet chugger that comes on like an English Kim Deal. But Electa is at its best when the folk rears its head: especially the climactic “My Will”, a medievally tinged closer assisted by the 20-strong Rebel Choir. loUIS pattISon

RICHARD YOUNGS The Rest Is Scenery GLASS REDUX

8/10 Glasgow’s experimental folk king on fine form Richard Youngs’ albums often build from a concept, and The Rest Is Scenery is no different. With the songs methodically ascending through each minor chord in the musical scale, its structure allows DIY imperatives: with a guitar, two fingers and a capo, you should be able to play this album yourself. You may not quite capture the wild kindness of Youngs’ performances, though, where his voice dovetails through a landscape of wild electronics, piston-pulse bass, handclaps and guest appearances from figures such as Frances McKee (The Vaselines) and Pete Aves (The High Llamas). The result: gorgeous, unpretentious post-folk melancholy. Jon Dale


“I just need some place where I can lay my head”

JANUARY 2017 TAke 236

1 The hUmAN leAgUe (p38) 2 lee hAzlewood (p40) 3 TeRRY dolAN (p42) 4 eRYkAh bAdU (p44) 5 STeve eARle (p48)

reissues | comps | Boxsets | lost recorDings

The bANd

The last waltz: 40th Anniversary edition RhiNo

Deluxe document of a momentous night in rock history.

By Stephen Deusner

STEVE GLADSTONE

B

playing together for 16 years. Starting in y the mid-1970s, The Band reissue 1960, the teenagers cut their teeth backing were falling apart. The OF THe rockabilly wild man Ronnie Hawkins on quality of their albums MONTH the rowdy roadhouse circuit. Later in the had declined precipitously decade they helped Bob Dylan go electric, since they left the East Coast 8/10 but turning folk into rock and enduring the for the beaches of California, cries of “Judas!” proved a punishing gig that and the more they toured, got under drummer Levon Helm’s thick skin. He the more they consumed – and were consumed temporarily retreated to a more relaxing job on an by – drugs, alcohol, recklessness and ego. Robbie oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Robertson, guitarist and chief lyricist, was burned Gradually they grew into their own self-contained out. “I had started to contemplate the idea that we unit, adopting the modest moniker The Band. might need to get off the road before something Initially there was no frontman, no assigned roles. really bad happened,” he writes in his new memoir, Everybody except keyboardist Garth Hudson Testimony. “Somewhere along the way we had lost sang, everybody except Robertson switched our unity and our passion to reach higher. Selfinstruments. Their first two albums, including the destruction had become the power that ruled us.” recordings they made with Dylan in Woodstock, Robertson hatched the idea for a final concert, formed the bedrock of what we now call Americana: a celebration of The Band’s music that would The Band not only mined old showcase them as both veins of traditional American an independent unit and music but set their songs a support group for a in some wildly imagined range of their heroes and past, at a distance from the contemporaries. Not everyone political and social realities was on board with the decision of the 1960s and ’70s. (in his own memoir, This For a group devoted to Wheel’s On Fire, drummer democracy and anonymity Levon Helm in particular – to the suppression of objects to it), but for Robertson self in pursuit of new it was a means of closing American music – the idea one chapter of their careers of celebrating their legacy together and hopefully just seven years after their opening another. The members public debut as The Band of The Band had, after all, been 34 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017


last hurrah: Robbie Robertson and levon helm at San Francisco’s winterland ballroom, November 25, 1976

JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 35


STEVE GLADSTONE

ARCHIVE might seem like an insurmountable contradiction, and The Last Waltz could have been a folly, both logistically and conceptually. A modest farewell concert quickly ballooned into an elaborate send-off that included an actual Thanksgiving dinner for thousands of fans, an impressive roster of guest vocalists, a concert film directed by Martin Scorsese and a triple live album that cemented The Band’s legacy. It’s one of rock’s true miracles that The Last Waltz didn’t end in disaster. Somehow both the album and the film have become landmarks, to the extent that the death of The Band might actually overshadow its life. Every lesson these five musicians learned during those 16 years together comes through on The Last Waltz, which is receiving a deluxe edition on its 40th anniversary: four CDs of live, studio, and rehearsal cuts along with new liners and, in some editions, a hardbound copy of Scorsese’s shooting script.

SLEEVE NOTES FOUR VERSIONS: 4CD/2 Blu-ray set, including a 300-page book 6LP vinyl set 4CD/1 Blu-ray set 2CD set

While the tracklist is based largely on the 2002 boxset, the music has been remastered to underscore the dynamic between The Band members. In fact, Scorsese’s film is shot to emphasise the easy communication between the players, who nod, signal, and count off to one another like seasoned pros – which, even in their early thirties, they already were. Helm and bassist Rick Danko comprise a rhythm section that’s somehow tight and loose at the same time, with Robertson adding flourishes of bluesy guitar, Richard Manuel playing piano, and Hudson tying everything together with almost supernatural ingenuity. Songs like “The Weight” (recorded later in a studio with the Staples) and “The Night They Drove Ol’ Dixie Down” benefit from this democratic approach, which means the singers don’t act as frontmen and there’s almost no soloing. When Robertson does trade licks with Eric

Band aid: (l-r) Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, rick Danko, van Morrison, Bob Dylan and robbie robertson

Clapton, these results are stiff, a bit awkward, out of place. The Band was originally a backing outfit, tailoring their performances to complement whoever happened to be fronting them at any moment. Hawkins, the man who more or less assembled the group, shows up and they let him nearly steal the show with a crazed version of signature hit “Who Do You Love”. With his greying hair barely contained under a weathered cowboy hat, he projects an outsize personality that seems bigger than the stage, bigger than the whole of Winterland, in fact. And towards the end of the show, Dylan joins them for a few numbers, including a version of “Forever Young” whose sentimentality brings the proceedings to a standstill – and not in a good way. Everybody sounds wilier and wilder on “Let Me Follow You Down” and “Hazel”, each instrument contributing to a weirder, more reckless sound. There’s something exciting about the ease and fluidity with which The Band toggle between headliners and backing group. They inject some funk and life into the start-stop riff of Muddy Waters’ “Mannish Boy” and manoeuvre deftly through the tricky chord changes of Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote”. Best of all might be Neil Young, whose “Helpless” not only assays the beauty of the Canadian landscape but ends with a stirring singalong chorus. They closed the night with an impromptu rendition of Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released”, calling all their friends onstage for that hymn-like refrain, then they performed only one encore, their cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland hit “Don’t Do It”, chosen more for its ironic commentary than as a big moment. It’s an almost charmingly unceremonious end to a highly ceremonious evening, yet even now it’s hard to discern whether The Last Waltz as an album is as good as it purports to be, if its reputation might not derive more from the momentousness of the occasion than from the music it contains.

HOw tO bUy...

Four SongS About the bAnd by other bAndS

DrIve-BY truCkers Danko/ Manuel

steve FOrBert Wild as the Wind

the DIrtY sOuth, 2004

Just LIke there’s NOthIN’ tO It , 2004

When Jason Isbell wrote this devastating song for the Truckers’ 2004 album The Dirty South, there were three living Band members and only two gone. Isbell not only toasts his heroes but wonders if he’ll ever be able to survive the pressures that killed Danko and Manuel. “Fifteen years ago we owned that road,” he declares. “Now it’s rolling over us instead.” 36 • uNCut • JaNuarY 2017

Steve Forbert’s eulogy for Rick Danko presents his old friend and mentor as a study in contradictions: a man who was down to earth but wild as the wind, a musician who could do lines of cocaine “without a straw” but was nothing but professional onstage. It may rile fans, but it’s all the more touching for its warts’n’all portrait.

rOBert earL keeN the Man Behind the Drums the rOse hOteL, 2009

In 2008, the Texas troubadour played one of Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles – regular concerts in Woodstock featuring whoever happened to be in town – and was moved to co-write this song with bassist Bill Whitbeck. It ably captures Helm’s appeal behind the drums: “When he locks into that backbeat, it ain’t hard to understand.”

shOveLs & rOPe the Last hawk LIttLe seeDs, 2016

After reading an article about Garth Hudson making one last trip to Woodstock, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent were so moved that they wrote this stirring ode to The Band’s mad genius. This capsule history from Hudson’s perspective examines the vertiginous pull of history and delivers some real rock wisdom: “You’ll never be free if you can’t let go.”


ARCHIVE

Q&A

hat was going on with the Band in 1976? What precipitated the idea for The

W

Last Waltz? We wanted to come to

some kind of a crossroads, some place where we could bring some things to a conclusion and find some freshness, some inspiration, some excitement. What can be exciting and what can be next for us? Then there’s the combination of just being a little burnt out and tired on being on this routine. You make a record, you go out and you do a tour; you make a record, you go out and you do a tour. It’s a bit of a merry-go-round. During that period in the ’70s, a lot of our friends had died, so you think, Jesus, we have to find some way to pull over to the side of the road before we get run over. A couple of guys in The Band were having some health issues and addiction issues. So I came up with the idea to just get off the road. There was a lot going on out there and it wasn’t healthy. It seemed like every place that we played there were packs of people that would show up and they were a bit demonic, to be honest about it. They were coming around with drugs and all kinds of stuff. It was a temptation. And we weren’t like, “Be gone, you devils!” It was more like, “Come on in!” I thought, you know what, let’s bring this episode in our lives to a conclusion in a real musical and graceful way. Let’s pay thanks. Let’s honour what an incredible journey we’ve had.

how did it start out? In Testimony, I go into specific detail on what was going on

robertson with Joni Mitchell during the Last Waltz show

behind the curtain. It was a long ordeal, but it was a magical ordeal as well. It started from a very simple place, a very basic place, and you plant those seeds and then you see how they grow. I thought we could get a few nice flowers out of this, and it turned out to be a beanstalk. We were just going to invite Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan and do a concert. Those two guys had meant the world to us in our musical journey. But then somebody would say, “We can’t do this and not invite Eric Clapton. He’s been so supportive.” Then somebody else would say, “We’re not going to do this and not invite Van Morrison.” It went on and on, and each stage of it grew in a very natural way. Nobody was thinking about how to make it big. We were just trying to do something beautiful. I thought, if we’re going to do this thing, we’d better document it just for the archives. Everything just kept growing, but it never felt like it was losing its way or its meaning. It all seemed to be getting closer to its meaning. I felt like I had to follow this path to its conclusion.

Can you tell me a little bit about devising the setlist for the show? You just choose what feels the most natural at the time. There were a lot more songs than were in the movie. We shot what we could, but you couldn’t shoot

“I thought, let’s pay thanks. Let’s honour what an incredible journey we’ve had”

everything or those cameras would just overheat and stop working. So we had to figure out a system. There had to be some sacrifices made with the songs we chose to play. All of it just came out of being in the moment – what we felt like we could really dig our hooks into at the time.

What was it like to revisit this era in the Band’s history for Testimony? I found at a really young age that I had a certain kind of memory. If I use it, I can go back in time and go to a particular scene and I can remember what people were wearing. I can remember what people were saying. It’s almost like I just have to aim my sights at it. If I do have it stored in the attic of my memory, I can go there. Writing this book has been the most joyous use of that gift of memory. Some of it was very painful, but I felt like if I could relive it and write it in an honest way, I could unload some of that heaviness I’ve been carrying around with me all my life. I felt like it would be good for me to just set these stories free. I’m going to get a little more pep in my step. Writing this book was psychologically uplifting. It wasn’t all peaches and cream, but I had to be honest about it.

One part of Testimony that stood out to me was near the end. It’s after the final show, but you’ve still got some sessions to rehearse. You’re at the studio, but nobody else shows up. That was the writing on the wall. You have to read the signs, and that said something to me. I didn’t know at that time that it was final, but it was a sign. It was a sign of what was to come. Eventually everybody had these cool projects, which is good. We thought we might come back after everybody feels good about it, and do these things they wanted to do, but nobody came back. JaNuarY 2017 • uNCut • 37

STEVE GLADSTONE

Robbie Robertson on the motivation for The Last Waltz and writing his memoir


THE HUMAN LEAGUE A Very British Synthesizer Group UMC

8/10 Deluxe boxset from Sheffield futurists who can never escape their past. By Stephen Dalton

D

ESPITE a career spanning almost 40 years, The Human League will always be defined by their radiant first decade, a journey from Bowieendorsed synth-punk outsiders to multimillion-selling electro-pop superstars. This sumptuously repackaged and remastered anthology, spreading 47 tracks across triple CDs or vinyl discs, is inevitably stronger on the early years. But each chapter contains hidden gems and bizarre plot twists that defy the kind of 38 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

cosy, reductive narrative seen in BBC Four retro-pop documentaries. Taken in totality, A Very British Synthesizer Group chronicles the remarkable saga of a band who have endured despite their self-confessed limitations as musicians, despite multiple lineup changes, despite breakups and breakdowns and career slumps. They scored worldwide hits, including UK and US No 1s, but remain firmly rooted in Sheffield. Even today, after selling 20 million albums, there is something of the blunt-talking, emphatically northern, working-class autodidact about Philip Oakey, Joanne Catherall and Susan Ann Sulley. This attractive quality has propelled them to sublime peaks of bloody-minded pop genius and extreme nadirs of naffness. Sometimes within the same song. When computer operators Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh formed Britain’s first allelectronic band in 1977, initially under the achingly apt name The Future,

they recruited Oakey as singer more for his striking looks than his vocal abilities. The nascent League forged a vivid postindustrial sound that distilled Kraftwerk and Kubrick, Bowie and Ballard into brilliantly weird dystopian electro-glam singles like “Being Boiled” and “Empire State Human”. They also paid skewed homage to their cult rock heroes with starkly rebooted synth versions of Mick Ronson’s post-glam classic “Only After Dark” and Iggy Pop’s zombie-punk prowler “Nightclubbing”. All are included here. When internal tensions split the band in 1980, Oakey was left without main songwriters Ware and Marsh. In the face of critical hostility and mounting debts, the singer hastily recruited teenage schoolfriends Sulley and Catherall from the dancefloor of Sheffield’s Crazy Daisy nightclub and a new multi-vocalist incarnation of The Human League was born. Working with techno-savvy producer Martin Rushent, the band finally realised Oakey’s populist electric dreams with their 1981 album Dare, a hit-packed triple-platinum smash and still a beloved high-water mark of British synthpop. From the scowling, totalitarian hedonism of “The Sound Of The Crowd” to the cat-meowing synths of “Love Action”, the hits of Dare still sound both instantly


ARCHIVE

accessible and gloriously eccentric. Initially opposed as a single release by Oakey, the blockbuster “Don’t You Want Me” is now enshrined as one of Britain’s unofficial national anthems, and one of the most rousingly bitter songs ever to top the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. The League followed Dare with a run of mainstream hits, reaching No 2 with both the silky synthetic Motown of “Mirror Man” and the stern but catchy “(Keep Feeling) Fascination”. Next came an audacious detour to Minneapolis to work with platinum-plated R&B producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. Famous for their

Top of the League: (l-r) Phil Oakey, Adrian Wright, Joanne Catherall, Susan Ann Sulley, Ian Burden, Jo Callis

collaborations with Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson and Prince, the duo’s hands-on perfectionist methods created studio tension and uneven music. But while the boxy mid-Atlantic synth-funk of “I Need Your Love” now sounds bloodless and dated, the sumptuous love ballad “Human” remains a leftfield League classic, earning the band their second US No 1. The League scored their last Top 10 single to date, the lightweight but agreeably effusive “Tell Me When”, in 1995. Sidelined by Britpop and major-label politics in the late 1990s, the band have spent most of the past 20 years as an indie act, chiefly surviving as live performers. Even so, their most recent album, Credo, released in 2011, was a partial return to their futurist roots. Produced by Sheffield retrosynth fetishists I, Monster, disco-tronic tracks such as “Night People” and “Sky” marry vintage analogue noises with contemporary electro signifiers. Brash but fun. The deluxe boxset of A Very British Synthesizer Group comes with a hard-cover book, photos, memorabilia and an extra DVD featuring all the band’s videos and BBC appearances. Oakey’s ever-changing, asymmetrical hairstyles provide much amusement here. But, of course, the serious fan-bait in this package lies with the 25 previously unreleased tracks, mostly demos and remixes. Inevitably, the early electronic material holds the most interest – unadorned analogue sketches that often have more warmth and texture than their official versions. A case in point is a dry run for “The Path Of Least Resistance”, where Oakey’s soulful crooning sounds more grainy and emotive than the deadpan foghorn bellow that later became his signature. “No Time”, a prototype for the 1979 track “The World Before Last”, is a spine-tingling experiment in spoken-word sci-fi storytelling, while an embryonic version of the 1984 single “Louise”, conceived as a “sequel” story for the doomed lovers in “Don’t You Want Me”, also has a relaxed, rueful tenderness lacking in its anodyne studio sister. Sprawled across 40 years of highs and lows, A Very British Synthesizer Group is inevitably bumpy in quality, but still rich in pleasant surprises, and shot through with the bloody-minded punk genius that defines so much music from the People’s Republic Of South Yorkshire. Buried treasures from a national treasure.

Q&A Phil Oakey: “We were a prog band. But we liked pop” At the start, were The Human League an experimental band or a pop group? We were at least half an experimental band. We were a bit split because, really, we were a prog band. We loved Genesis and Van Der Graaf Generator, but we always liked pop music, too. When Martyn Ware told me at school that he liked Slade, it was like slapping me in the face! You didn’t admit you liked chart bands if you liked prog. But we did like pop.

You rarely repeated yourselves musically. Was that deliberate? Right from the start, we used The Beatles as a model, and The Beatles never came out with a single where you went: “Oh yeah, they’ve done ‘Hey Jude’ again.” We wanted every single not to look like we were trying to emulate the last big hit.

You still live in Sheffield. Did you never consider moving to London? No. We weren’t really tempted by London. We weren’t particularly impressed with what

a lot of people think is enjoyment there. They think you can only be happy in a place where Kate Moss turns up or something. We almost thought it was a bit shallow to want to be in that gang.

Do you still consider yourself a punk? A futurist? A pop star? More than anything, I considered myself a democrat until recently. But I’ve been a bit shaken by the Brexit stuff. We seem to be in some strange Pol Pot era where people want to do punk voting. INTERVIEW: STEPHEN DALTON

AtoZ 14 ICED BEARS

14 Iced Bears/Wonder (reissues, 1988, 1991) OPTIC NERVE

8/10 Brighton ’80s indie poppers’ excellent two albums reissued Formed in Brighton in 1985 and playing a jaggedly melodic, JAMC-inspired take on pop, Robert Sekula’s 14 Iced Bears brought out two albums and a handful of EPs and singles before splitting in 1992. That scattered back catalogue has been plucked over several times recently – there was a career-spanning comp, a singles round-up and an album of outtakes and live tracks, as well as appearances on three of Cherry Red’s recent scene-studying boxsets. These coloured vinyl reissues of the two studio albums add to the confusion, with each containing a second record of miscellanea – outtakes, Peel Sessions (the brilliant “Miles Away”), singles (including the riotously catchy “Come Get Me”) and EP tracks such as the swamp-metal take on Grease’s “Summer Nights”. The extras have a slight pick-and-mix feel to them, but undoubtedly add depth to the LPs, both of which are sparkling examples of late-’80s indie. 14 Iced Bears has the abrasive charm of many debuts, while Wonder has more of a shimmering jangle, with the band seeming to absorb the influence of the Madchester bands. Yet both have a powerful, yearning quality, tied to Sekula’s exquisite sense of melody. EXTRAS: 6/10. Peel Sessions, outtakes, singles and B-sides. PETER WATTS

THE AFGHAN WHIGS Black Love (reissue, 1996) MUTE

9/10 Drama and soul in spades, 20 years on There were other bands cutting alt.rock and grunge with ’70s soul and R&B in the ’90s, but none exposed as winningly melodic a heart as Cincinnati’s Afghan Whigs. Led by vocal powerhouse Greg Dulli, their USP was a portrait of troubled masculinity, full of dramatic light/dark contrasts. Their fifth album packs as hefty a punch as 1993’s Gentlemen, but draws on film noir and James Ellroy for its panoramic tableaux, its touchstones Stax, Blaxploitation scores and the Stones’ Sticky Fingers. These songs heave with a visceral, push/pull energy that’s echoed in Dulli’s balancing of confidence and vulnerability, vengeance and forgiveness. Most dazzling are opener “Crime Scene Part One”, which pivots on the line “A lie, the truth, which one shall I use?”, and “Bulletproof”, where Dulli sounds racked with deep anguish and desire, howling “lu-u-u-uv” while an electric piano thumps out a jackhammer riff behind him. Moody and magnificent, still. EXTRAS: 8/10. Terrific disc of nine previously unreleased tracks, demos and studio jams. Includes an acoustic “Go To Town” (sic), and a solo piano cover of New Order’s “Regret”. SHARON O’CONNELL JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 39


ARChIVE

LEE HAzLEWOOD Cowboy in Sweden LiGHT iN THE ATTiC

8/10 Fleeing his failing label and the Vietnam war, the country-pop cult hero makes an unlikely masterwork in Scandinavia. By Jason Anderson IN several scenes in Cowboy In Sweden – a TV special that undoubtedly confounded many Scandinavians when it first aired in 1970 – Lee Hazlewood drops the horse-riding, mystic-cowpoke-Casanova schtick that he uses for most of his screentime in favour of a different guise. Instead, he’s the wry US newcomer who marvels at the traits and traditions that define Sweden. And though he’s most enthused about the beautiful women he’s forever ogling, he’s just as keen on the midsommar celebrations and “genius Ingmar Bergman”. While standing on a Stockholm street, Hazlewood praises another hallmark of Swedishness. “Y’know,” drawls the denimclad Oklahoman to the viewers at home, “if you make a good movie, chances are at the end of the year you’ll win an Oscar. And if you discover something that’s kind of important, well, chances are again they’ll give you an Alfred… an Alfred Nobel, sometimes known as the Nobel Prize. Now, I’ve been doing a little research….” He pauses to blow dust off the book he’s holding. “…And I found out one thing: there’s no category for song. And that’s 40 • uNCuT • JANuARY 2017

SLEEVE NOTES Tracklist: 1. Pray Them Bars Away 2. Leather And Lace 3. Forget Marie 4. Cold Hard Times 5. The Night Before 6. Hey Cowboy 7. No Train To Stockholm 8. For A Day Like Today 9. Easy And Me 10. What’s More I Don’t Need Her 11. Vem Kan Segla (I Can Sail Without The Wind) 12. Me And The Wine And The City Lights 13. Easy And Me (alt version) 14. Pray Them Bars Away (alt version)

really too bad, cuz I think this next song ought to get me an Alfred.” Suffice to say, the song in question – “No Train To Stockholm”, an exquisitely winsome country-pop ballad specially crafted to further Hazlewood’s popularity in his newly adopted home – did not win a Nobel Prize. And if he was still around today when the committee members finally gave one to a songwriter nearly 50 years after he made his bid, he’d have been none too happy to see his Alfred go to another American. At least the old salt could take pleasure in knowing Cowboy In Sweden has so many admirers far from Uppsala. Light In The Attic’s Lee Hazlewood Archival Series first made the TV special and its soundtrack available as part of 2013’s Grammy-nominated There’s A Dream I’ve Been Saving: Lee Hazlewood Industries, its huge history of the largely hit-less record company that he launched at the height of his success in 1966, but was hitting the ditch by the time he emigrated to Sweden. The move was precipitated for many reasons, including Hazlewood’s anxieties about the escalating war in Vietnam and his teenage son nearing draft age. Yet the land of the midnight sun clearly represented a fresh start to

Hazlewood in professional and personal terms, the collapse of LHI and his European travels coinciding with his breakup with longtime muse and business partner Suzi Jane Hokom. Such was the extent of their estrangement, Hokom’s one scene in Cowboy In Sweden – performing “For A Day Like Today”, LHI’s final 45 – was filmed in the fjord-less San Bernardino, California. Presented here in a single CD/LP edition with alternate versions of two tracks, Cowboy In Sweden was primarily intended for the Swedish market, a strategy flagged by the inclusion of songs like “Vem Kan Segla (I Can Sail Without The Wind)”, a half-English, a half-Swedish duet with Nina Lizell, his comely blonde co-star. Adding to the air of hastily assembledcash-in was the presence of several songs that had already appeared on recent Hazlewood albums, including “Forget Marie”, a forlorn number he’d recorded in Paris for 1968’s Love & Other Crimes. Suspicions may be raised by the disc’s provenance and many ridiculous moments in the special, which also included guest performers such as the George Baker Selection, whose frontman gamely mouths the lyrics to the Dutch band’s hit “Little Green Bag” in a restaurant while waiting for lunch (you can savour it all on the DVD in the deluxe edition). Yet Cowboy In Sweden is frequently astonishing as a testament to Hazlewood’s continued prowess as a performer, writer and producer, despite the atmosphere of disarray during LHI’s death throes. An idiosyncratic take on a prison blues, “Pray Them Bars Away” vividly demonstrates the wonders Hazlewood could achieve by combining his bullfrog baritone with his baroque, psych-folk spin on the orchestral-country sound that had been pioneered by Owen Bradley in the 1950s. A romantic melodrama repackaged as pocket symphony, “The Night Before” sees Hazlewood take on the guise of regret-filled lover, surrounded by “empty wine bottles” that “stand accusing on the floor”. “What’s More I Don’t Need Her” was cut during sessions with Shel Talmy and a team of English sessioneers that included Nicky Hopkins. A bewitching piece of silver-plated spite augmented with harpsichord, horns and a backing chorus of cooing females, it anticipates Hazlewood’s Hokom-inspired lamentations on Requiem For An Almost Lady, the 1971 fan favourite that was also released only in Sweden. Even the most cravenly Scandinavian songs are richer than they have any right to be. One of the three songs with Lizell, “Hey Cowboy” has much goofy charm thanks to Hazlewood’s laconic hipster-on-a-horse routine, which works much better without the cringe-worthy visuals. Sung from the perspective of a draftee who has little chance of escaping the fate that Lee feared for his son, “No Train For Stockholm” boasts a poignancy that may be surprising given Cowboy In Sweden’s kitschier trappings. Whether the song merited an Alfred is another matter, but like the rest of the music here, it should’ve earned him a lifetime’s supply of gravlax.


ARChIVE JOHN CALE

Fragments Of A Rainy Season (reissue, 1993) DOubLE Six/DOmiNO

9/10 Welsh firebrand uncovers his tender side with these solo reimaginings Most notable for Cale’s cover of “Hallelujah”, Fragments… documents a sparse 1992 solo tour. Stentorian at the piano, Cale draws heavily on his more accessible mid’70s work such as Paris 1919 and Fear. “Buffalo Ballet”, “(I Keep A) Close Watch” and “Darling I Need You” (“This next song is about religious awakening in the Southern part of the United States…”) are exquisite, as are three Dylan Thomas poems put to music. The extras are also well worth it, however, especially a pounding version of “I’m Waiting For The Man”, complete with the audience’s clapping unwittingly mimicking Mo Tucker’s relentless beat. Cale is joined by strings for four more outtakes, including a gorgeous “Antarctica Starts Here” and a churning, gothic “Heartbreak Hotel”. Ultimately, despite even Cohen suggesting the song has been overplayed, Cale’s hymnal version of “Hallelujah”, followed by the sound of a rainstorm, is the ace here. Extras: 6/10. Multiple outtakes and previously unreleased tracks, with the LP available in limited-edition triplegatefold vinyl. TOM PINNOCK

GEORGiE FAmE

Survival: A Career Anthology 1963-2015 uNiVERSAL

9/10 Cool personified on celebratory 110-track, six-disc boxset Despite an enviable pedigree as a beat boom pioneer and a trio of pop No 1s, Georgie Fame seems to be the forgotten

man of 1960s British music – perhaps because at heart he has remained a jazzer rather than a rocker, more at home in nightclubs than arenas. But this anthology reveals an astonishingly rich and underrated legacy, from the Hammond grooves of his early sides with the Blue Flames and the jazzy syncopation of chart-topping hits “Yeh, Yeh” and “Getaway”, to the Mose Allison-inspired jazz-blues stylings and big-band outings of more recent years. Along the way he was the first British artist to play ska (1963’s instrumental “Rik’s Tune”), smartly cashed in on Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway’s iconic Bonnie & Clyde movie, recorded landmark versions of songs such as “High Heel Sneakers” and “Barefootin’”, and should have had a fourth chart-topper with 1970’s monumental “Somebody Stole My Thunder”. At his best, Fame rivals Van Morrison in an R’n’B vein, and the decade they spent playing together is represented by “How Long Has This Been Going On?”, the brilliant title track taken from an unfairly neglected 1996 collaborative album. ExTRAS: 8/10. Eighteen previously unreleased tracks plus a 48-page hardback book featuring some expansive track notes and previously unseen photographs. NIGEL WILLIAMSON

RiCHARD H KiRK

#7489 (Collected Works 1974-1989)/Sandoz #9294 (Collected Works 1992-1994) muTE

8/10 Cabaret Voltaire co-founder’s rough, ready electronics There’s something incredibly tough in the constitution of these solo recordings by Cabaret Voltaire’s Richard H Kirk. Spanning two decades, they document an ongoing personal negotiation with the possibilities of DIY electronic experimentation. Kirk was always alive to the culture

Thee milkshakes

that surrounded him, from industrial and post-punk through to house and techno, and on into the beginnings of electronica in the early ’90s, but those connections were forged in the crucible of Western Works, a studio that proposed electronic music as hermetic environment. The eight-disc Kirk set collects Disposable Half-Truths (1980), Time High Fiction (1983), Black Jesus Voice and Ugly Spirit (both 1986), plus the Earlier/Later compilation of projects from ’74 to ’89. It’s instructive to hear Kirk’s productions develop from the nuclear radiance of the early sets, all brutish noise and ectoplasmic spillages of guitar and clarinet, to the tightly honed dancefloor mantras he would end up making. The Sandoz boxset includes an expanded Digital Lifeforms (1993), Intensely Radioactive (1994) and Dark Continent (recorded in 1994, released in 1996); these dub-reverent sets are seductive, holistic rapprochements of electronica, dancehall pressure and pre-millennial paranoia. Extras: 8/10. Each set features an extra disc of previously unreleased material, plus an art booklet. JON DALE

7/10, 8/10

(reissues, 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987)

A pair of twofers for Billy Childish’s crucial beat group The only misstep on Archive From 1959, the excellent Billy Childish anthology, is that it features just three songs from The Milkshakes. After all, the Chatham quartet, formed in 1980 after the dissolution of punks The Pop Rivets, formulated the blueprint for much of Childish’s subsequent work with Thee Mighty Caesers, Thee Headcoats, Thee Buff Medways, et al. That template, bottling the energy and overdriven feel of the Hamburg Beatles and the Kinks of “I Need You”, is one consistently adhered to on these four raucous reissues. Thee Knights Of Trashe, featuring the swinging, fuzztoned “I’ll Use Evil” and the predatory, heavy “Cassandra”, is perhaps the finest album here; After School Session, however, is the most enjoyable, with Childish and Micky Hampshire’s taut originals joined by full-throated covers of golden oldies such as “Shimmy Shimmy” and “I Can Tell”. As strong as Childish’s later work is, The Milkshakes are where it all started. Extras: None, but all four albums are also available individually on vinyl.

DAmAGED GOODS

TOM PINNOCK

THE miLKSHAKES

Talkin’ bout & After School Session/Thee Knights Of Trashe & Revenge!

how to buy...

RICHARD H KIRK

Three decades of electronic innovation, forged in Sheffield

CAbARET VOLTAiRE Red mecca

RiCHARD H KiRK The Number Of magic

ROuGH TRADE, 1981

WARP, 1995

The first, threepiece lineup of Cabaret Voltaire worked creeping dread and malevolence through jerry-built electronics and effectsdrenched guitar. Red Mecca is the claustrophobic peak of their early music: everything feels alternately locked down, or stuffed full to burst. Few albums capture the hostilities of early ‘80s Britain so potently. 9/10

With Cabaret Voltaire winding down operations, Kirk was ready to go: with multiple projects and record labels, there were few limits to what he could do. Liberated by electronica’s lateral thinking, cryptic albums of virulent ambience like The Number Of Magic perfectly reflected their times. 8/10

SWEET ExORCiST RetroActivity WARP, 2011

A compilation of his work with Richard Barratt, RetroActivity is one of the best entry points for exploring bleep, the peculiar brand of minimal, morse-code techno that came straight outta Sheffield. “Testone” is the classic – rigorous bass pressure meets scissor-snipping hi-hats and pocket-calculator blips – but everything here is surprisingly funky. 9/10 JON DALE

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rediscovered

uncovering the underrated and overlooked

terrY Dolan terry Dolan high Moon reCorDs

9/10 Puzzlingly unreleased debut from neglected folk-rock champion

alison MoYet alF (reissue, 1984) BMg

7/10 Expanded version of proud Essex girl’s impressive debut Quite why Alison Moyet has, despite consistent chart placings, never earned the kudos given to her former Yazoo partner, Erasure’s Vince Clarke, is hard to fathom. That her debut remains her most successful album, however, may be connected. Its songs are arguably her most enduring, and yet they’ll be forever associated with an almost suffocating, none-more’80s production thanks to producers Steve Jolley and Tony Swain, who’d helped take Spandau Ballet’s True to No 1 the previous year. Dig beneath the gloss, however – or at least tolerate it – and Alf reveals a number of distinguished tracks in which Moyet’s powerful voice proves itself the star attraction. Admittedly, its upbeat numbers – “Honey For The Bees”, “Money Mile” and “Twisting The Knife” – have dated especially poorly, but they’re easily eclipsed by “Love Resurrection” (especially its uplifting chorus), the assuredly soulful “Invisible” (written by Motown’s Lamont Dozier) and the comparatively expansive “All Cried Out”, supposedly composed in just 10 minutes (it doesn’t show). Best is the sultry, measured closer, “Where Hides Sleep”, which exploits Moyet’s lower range, though a bonus disc boasts her wonderful “That Ole Devil Called Love”. Deluxe editions of Raindancing, Hoodoo and Essex are also available. extras: 6/10. Second disc of extended versions, remixes and B-sides WYNDHAM WALLACE

WHEN Terry Dolan died in 2012, he was still awaiting the release of his debut album, recorded 40 years earlier. A folk singer who’d gravitated west from his Connecticut birthplace to arrive, aged 21, in San Francisco, he’d spent six years performing in the Bay Area when Warner Bros signed him in 1971 on the back of a demo, “Inlaws And Outlaws”. Already a local radio favourite, this shuffling, slow-paced but impassioned – and commercially unavailable – number recalled David Crosby’s “Cowboy Movie” from the same year’s If I Could Only Remember My Name. It merged Dolan’s hippy roots with a more muscular sound he’d developed while substituting his 12-string acoustic with an electric guitar for opening slots with local live heroes Country Weather. Warners’ catalyst was producer Nicky Hopkins, an ex-pat Brit whose dazzling keyboard skills had earned him work in The Rolling Stones’ touring band. His departure, one month into recording, to focus on Exile On Main Street, was most likely the reason Warners shelved the project. The label’s callous, unjustified choice was crueller still given that Dolan overcame this catastrophic development, bringing in another English producer, Pete Sears, Rod Stewart’s bassist and keyboard player. Together, they cut a further four tracks, perfectly matching – albeit with greater emphasis on piano – the sound of Hopkins’ work. Dolan, Hopkins and friend Greg Douglass, Country Weather’s guitarist, had originally amassed some of the region’s finest players,

including John Cipollina (Quicksilver Messenger Service) on lead guitar, Lonnie Turner (The Steve Miller Band) on bass, and The Tubes’ Prairie Prince on drums. “Inlaws…” was now brim-full of bottleneck guitar solos and Hopkins’ wild piano lines, while its rousing chorus – “Living my life, free!” – was additionally vitalised by the then-unknown Pointer Sisters, who added a devotional, gospel dimension. They also elevated the riotous Aquarian anthem, “Rainbow”, and enhanced the sweet sentiment behind “Angie”, written for Dolan’s wife and delivered with a laidback serenity Tim Buckley would mine on 1974’s Look At The Fool. Six months later, Dolan and Douglass reconvened with Sears and a second stellar lineup to complete the ill-fated collection. Neal Schon, later to co-found Journey, contributes vital, bluesy guitar on “Purple And Blonde” – though Dolan’s robust vocals nonetheless dominate – while Tower Of Power’s Mic Gillette provides sublimely muted French horn on a heartfelt cover of JJ Cale’s “Magnolia”. “Burgundy Blues” may feel desultory in comparison, but even closer “To Be For You”’s 75 seconds ache with a transcendent, wistful longing redolent of Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush. Tragically, Dolan was crushed by Warner’s actions, and rarely made it beyond America with his subsequent band, Terry & The Pirates. Four decades on, however, his neglected folkrock classic serves as a long overdue, stirring eulogy. As Dolan himself sings, “See what your love can do?” extras: 7/10. Detailed 28-page booklet, including exhaustive interviews; six outtakes. WYNDHAM WALLACE

oriental sunshine

Dedicated to the Bird We love (reissue, 1970) rounD2

7/10 Norway option for hippy-dippy fetishists Bell-voiced Nina Johansen met fellow longhair Rune Walle at school, the latter having come by what may have been the only sitar in Norway in 1967; the duo enlisted tabla-tapping Indian émigré Satnam Singh at art school to become Oriental Sunshine, the unexpected winners of Norway’s 1969 equivalent of New Faces. YouTube footage of their triumphant rendition of the titanically fey “Mother Nature” sums up their only full-length release; barefoot, drippy, and gauchely compelling. The trio were augmented by a skein of Norwegian jazzers for Dedicated To The Bird We Love (title inspired by The Beatles’ “Blackbird”) with the languid “Across Your Life”, the excitable “Visions” and the woozy “Can Anybody Tell?” essential listening for aficionados of Vashti Bunyan, The Incredible String Band and their twee-hugging ilk. Their commercial chances hampered by a shortage of indigenous Norwegian hippies, Oriental Sunshine gave up following the death of Johansen’s father, Walle later joining country-rock good ’ol boys the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. Original copies of Dedicated To The Bird We Love sell for £500+; a rarity, but not without value. eXtras: 6/10. Buyers of this vinyl-only package also get sleevenotes and poster. JIM WIRTH

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ARCHIVE

Alpha (fe)males: saint etienne

Washington PhilliPs & his Manzarene DreaMs Washington Phillips & his Manzarene Dreams Dust-to-Digital

9/10 Mysterious preacher conjures the heavens with his home-made instrument… In December 1927, a middle-aged preacher arrived at a makeshift studio in Dallas and recorded a handful of sides, which Columbia Records released to reasonable sales. He returned several times over the next few years and recorded 18 songs altogether, and for nearly a century that was almost everything we knew about Washington Phillips. Even the most ardent collectors could not agree on the facts of his life, the cause of his death, or even what kind of instrument he played, which makes Dust-to-Digital’s new compilation a landmark release for fans of gospel and old-time music. Two factors have kept Phillips from simply receding into the shadows of history: the first is that instrument, which he invented and called a Manzarene. It’s a curious contraption akin to an autoharp or a zither; on these songs it sounds like heaven itself. The second is Phillips’ buoyant and beneficent voice, which

infuses his music with a peculiar grace. The combination of these two elements anchors these songs in earthly worries while promising celestial rewards, presenting Phillips as an eccentric American original. eXtras: 8/10. All 18 known tracks gently remastered from the original 78s, plus a 76-page hardbound book by historian Michael Corcoran. STEPHEN DEUSNER

Paul reVere & the raiDers

the spirit of ’67 (reissue, 1966) noW sounDs

7/10 Garage-rock greats show their staying power The avid Anglophile born Paul Revere Dick in Boise, Idaho, risked tarring his band with the brush of novelty when he chose not to adopt a stage name. The Raiders devoured and redressed the beat group sounds of (particularly) the Stones, The Animals and the Dave Clark Five, so it was arguably a little too neat that their leader should share a moniker with the American Revolution patriot remembered for his cries of “The British are coming!” They endured, however, and half a dozen albums later were still going strong and climbing the Billboard

Top 10 with The Spirit Of ’67, actually released the previous November. The sleazy voodoo of “Hungry”, penned by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, was the standout hit single, but there’s an equal fuzz-pedal psychedelic charm to band originals “Good Thing” and “The Great Airplane Strike”, both of which earn producer Terry Melcher a co-writing credit. Baroque melodrama takes over on “Undecided Man”, its violin and cello riff shamelessly pilfered from “Eleanor Rigby”, while the rambling, staccato political fable “Our Candidate” takes its cue from the Dylan of Highway 61 Revisited. eXtras: 6/10. Rarely heard mono mix of the full album, plus three bonus tracks. TERRY STAUNTON

saint etienne

Foxbase alpha (reissue, 1991) heaVenlY

7/10 Trio’s off-centre modern classic Released in the same month as Screamadelica and nominated alongside it at the inaugural Mercury Music Prize in 1992, Foxbase Alpha was both vitally of its time and intriguingly out of step, as befitted Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs’ DIY approach to recording and their musical obsessions. This is its second reissue (it was given the deluxe treatment in 2009), but it’s hard to begrudge it another dusting off for a 25th anniversary. It sounds very much like what it is – the first, ideas-stuffed album by pop enthusiasts who thought they’d never get to make another, and who were intent on “making the biggest noise possible” on a tight budget. The spirit of Joe Meek looms large and the songs feature vintage synths and keyboards, but they aren’t hobbled by nostalgia. Instead, there’s the contemporary swing of baggy beats, notably on the cover of “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” (featuring Moira Lambert’s bittersweet vocal), housed-up bossa nova (“Can’t Sleep”), dark, dubby drone (“Stoned

How to buy...

To Say The Least”) and hushed, slightly Gallic pop (“London Belongs To Me”), plus playful samples and vocal loops. eXtras: 7/10. Includes bonus disc of B-sides, forgotten tracks and covers, notably an indie-dance take on Gil Scott-Heron’s “Winter In America”. SHARON O’CONNELL

st thoMas

a Mouse in a Crowded house: Forever unfinished raCing Junior

8/10 Troubled Norwegian’s affecting final album “31 years old now/ Getting grey in the hair,” sings Thomas Hansen with typical candour on “Singing For The Monkey”, in which he also serenades a zoo animal and discusses his breakfast routine. The song might represent another example of the former mailman’s playfully banal, streamof-consciousness songs, except in hindsight it assumes a far more tragic significance: Hansen would never get older or greyer, because soon afterwards he’d die of a prescription drug overdose. It’s one of many moments on this album of unfinished songs intended for his next LP that make it uncomfortable listening. But, for fans, one of Hansen’s most appealing quirks was his lack of selfcensorship and, against a backdrop of wilfully ramshackle acoustic performances, A Mouse… demonstrates this repeatedly. One track’s even called “Song On Pills”, and on “Adorable Golden Teeth”, he confesses, “I wish I were a postman still”, while “Bring My Best Friends” recalls his disastrous attempt to tour the US: “I have thrown glasses towards men/And had the cops crawl on me in the middle of America.” These incomplete recordings may be raw, but they reflect Hansen’s personality, whose sensitivity, humour and melodic skills deserve to endure longer than he did. eXtras: None. WYNDHAM WALLACE

Folque

Nordic acid-folk all manner of progressive, Valkyrian freakiness

FolQue Folque

KeBneKaise Kebnekaise ii

FureKÅBen Furekåben

PhiliPs, 1974

silenCe, 1973

rØDe roser, 1971

The sound of Steeleye Span whistling through a frozen pine forest, the debut from Oslo’s top prog-folkers is sprightly yet sombre. Trond Villa’s command of the local Hardanger fiddle and Maddy Prioress Lisa Helljesen’s vocals help find a “Matty Groves” groove on “Skjøn Jomfru” (Loveliest Virgin), with “Harpa” exploring more lovelorn Valkyrie territory. 8/10

The second LP from these instrumental freakers is the folky sweet spot on their journey from stoner jammers to Afro-influenced jazz-rock noodlers. Born of a desire to electrify Swedish folk song, highlights include the propulsive, violin-laced “Horgalåten” – the missing link, perhaps, between Fairport Convention and Amon Düül II. 8/10

Denmark’s answer to the ISB, these nudie hippies made two profoundly freaky three-track albums. This, the second, finds singer-songwriter Hans Vinding doing his best to stay Dylan-ish while beset by Comus demons. Atonal female backing vocals and freeform flute intensify the ‘poorly heated commune’ vibe. 8/10 JIM WIRTH

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SLEEVE NOTES BADUIZM Side A 1. Rimshot (Intro) 2. On & On 3. Appletree 4. Otherside Of The Game Side B 1. Sometimes (Mix #9) 2. Next Lifetime 3. Afro (Freestyle Skit) 4. Certainly Side C 1. 4 Leaf Clover 2. No Love 3. Drama Side D 1. Sometimes... 2. Certainly (Flipped It) 3. Rimshot (Outro) MAMA’S GUN Side A 1. Penitentiary Philosophy 2. Didn’t Cha Know 3. My Life 4. ...& On Side B 1. Cleva 2. Hey Sugah 3. Booty 4. Kiss Me On My Neck (Hesi) 5. A.D. 2000 Side C 1. Orange Moon 2. In Love With You 3. Bag Lady Side D 1. Time’s A Wastin’ 2. Green Eyes 44 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

ERYkAh BADU Baduizm/Mama’s Gun MoTowN/UME

9/10. 8/10 Soul queen’s debut and sophomore gems on vinyl for the first time. By Neil Spencer Midway through the 1990s, black america rediscovered its soul. it had never been entirely misplaced of course, but after years of gangsta rap wars and formulaic R&B singers, it felt that way. where was the legacy of ‘conscious’ soul pioneers like Marvin, Curtis and aretha? Not in Mary J Blige’s tiresome melismas. Enter ‘neo-soul’, a term minted by Motown mogul Kedar Massenburg to promote d’angelo’s Brown Sugar album in 1995. The record lived up to the hype, authenticity seeping from its meld of mellow vocals, hip-hop attitude and fat grooves. yet the real game-changer for neo-soul was Erykah Badu’s Baduizm, again overseen by Massenburg. Led by a mesmeric single, “On & On”, Baduizm made an instant star of its creator, a previously obscure 26-year-old from dallas. From the start, Badu was different. She was as much jazz singer as soul crooner, singing against the beat, and emulating her idol Nina Simone on socially conscious tunes like “The Other Side

Of The Game”, a portrait of an abusive relationship. with her gowns, elaborate headwraps and catwalk beauty, Badu was a revelation, her persona hovering enticingly somewhere between Billie Holiday and Nefertiti. Badu was both soul queen and shamanic shape-shifter, her ability to swap personae useful on her videos. That for “On & On” featured her as old-time hayseed and nightclub sophisticate. Still her signature tune two decades later, “On & On” also presented Badu as a soothsayer singing in riddles, one moment crooning about “belief in God”, the next assuring us she was “born underwater with three dollars and six dimes”. what could she mean? “Yeah, you may laugh, ’cos you did not do your math,” comes the taunt. Badu’s birthday – February 26, 1971 – holds the key. as a Piscean, she was indeed born underwater, while her six dollars and six dimes add up to the zodiac’s 360-degree circle of the zodiac. “i really dig astrology,” Erykah confirmed later. Returning to Baduizm on vinyl is to be reminded what an extraordinary, self-directed affair it is. its stripped-down grooves rely on little more than a rhythm section plus Badu’s keyboards, and when she sings, she has a backing chorus of multi-tracked mini-Erykahs for company.

its 14 tracks, now presented over four sides of vinyl for the first time, include some longueurs – “4 Leaf Clover” and “No Love” are routine love calls – but its best songs are strikingly original, while its sprinkle of interludes punch above their two-minute weight. “afro Freestyle Skit”, for example, sets a doodle on hairstyle to a New Orleans horn. “Next Lifetime” is sung by a woman in a committed relationship confronted with an attractive alternative. She can’t two-time her partner, so it’s “See ya next lifetime”. The trickiest number here is “Certainly”, its deceptively simple lyrics apparently describing a woman uninterested in the love affair being pressed upon her: “I was not looking for no love affair, papa.” Then Erykah spilt the beans that the song is about african-american history, the unwanted love affair the slave trade, with date-rape (“You slipped me a mickey”) as the brutality of slavery. Badu brought dignity and intelligence back into soul, R&B and hip-hop – the boundaries were increasingly blurred – and her ‘conscious’ stance, which extended to her promoting vegetarian whole foods, found many echoes. Lauryn Hill’s 1998 killer, The Miseducation Of…, was a case in point. By the time of Mama’s Gun, released in 2000, d’angelo, Badu and hip-hopper Common were calling themselves ‘Soulquarians’. The quest for authenticity led all three to record albums at New york’s Electric Ladyland studios, Hendrix’s old place still being furnished with analogue equipment. a spirit of collaboration runs through d’angelo’s Voodoo, Common’s Like Water For Chocolate, and Mama’s Gun, whose tracks are more often the work of Badu alone but come littered with guests; hiphopper Jay dee on “didn’t Cha Know”, Stephen Marley evoking his father on the duet of “i’m in Love with you”. Mama’s Gun doesn’t wander too far from the grooves of Baduizm, though its stalking bass and abrupt horn flurries sometimes recall Fresh-era Sly Stone. while its songs were praised for being more intelligible, the mystery of Baduizm was missing. and it lacked a demon single, the nearest thing being “Bag Lady”, which begins as a cameo of a hapless street dweller before blooming into a sly critique of sisters – “Gucci bag lady, Nickel bag lady” – who can’t let go of emotional baggage. “Cleva” and “Booty” turn R&B’s penchant for sexual conquest on its head, the former advising, “This is how I look with no make-up and no bra.” By contrast, “Orange Moon” and “i’m in Love with you” play it sweet. it’s a romantic album, made after the birth of Badu’s first child. its mixed critical reception and ‘disappointing sales’ – one and a half million in the US alone – left Badu nonplussed. So what? it was a piece of her art, her life. There would be others. as there have been, a trail of albums and children and, recently, a course in midwifery. what a woman.


ARChIVE Singles: The Definitive Collection 1952-1991 STRUT/ART YARD

LeNI SINCLAIR/GeTTY ImAGeS

9/10 Space oddities from the future past This stylistically sprawling 3CD set expands upon Evidence’s two-disc compilation, by extending its scope beyond the official releases of Sun Ra’s Saturn label, to accommodate planned but unreleased oddities and nonSaturn releases like “Nuclear War”, an ’80s blend of jazz-funk and deadpan declamation that was about as close as Ra came to a hit, notwithstanding its airplay-killing claim that “nucular” war would be a “motherfucker”. It’s a mindboggling assemblage of swinging ’50s “space-bop” like “Soft Talk” and “Super Blonde”, processional chants such as “Rocket #9” and “Journey To Saturn”, and electronic keyboard voyages like “The Perfect Man” and “Disco 2021”, an edited taster of the monumental “Disco 3000”. Some, like the oceanic melancholy of “Space Loneliness”, and the cryptic cod-Latin big-band voicings of “Call For All Demons”, work well in the seven-inch format; others are quite baffling: furious, squabbling washes of noise make “Cosmo-Extensions” possibly the least single-worthy single ever released. Included alongside

the Arkestra works are Ra proteges such as mutant doowop group The Cosmic Rays and “space age vocalist” Yochanan, a bonkers R’n’B belter in the Screaming Jay Hawkins vein. But the most welcome additions here are the early-’50s pieces which open the collection, “I Am An Instrument” and “I Am Strange”, featuring Ra’s solo poetry recitations accompanied by his space-harp and piano ruminations: extraordinary musical manifestos from the future past. EXTRAS: None. Andy Gill

DAVE SWARBRICK

It Suits Me Well: The Transatlantic Recordings 1976-1983 CHERRY TREE

7/10 Brit-folk’s premiere fiddle player, compiled It’s hard to overstate the late Dave Swarbrick’s importance to British folk-rock. Starting out in the Ian Campbell Folk Group, subsequently joining Martin Carthy in their plain-speaking folk-song duo, it was also Swarbrick who brought the house down on Fairport Convention’s “A Sailor’s Life”, the pivotal moment from 1969’s Unhalfbricking. Swarbrick would join the group soon after, contributing to

golden moment: Sun Ra in Detroit, 1978

cornerstone folk-rock set, Liege & Lief, and staying with the group until 1979. But his six solo albums cut across the late ’70s and early ’80s always felt like Swarbrick at his mercurial best. It Suits Me Well compiles Swarbrick (1976), Swarbrick 2 (1977), Smiddyburn (1981) and Flittin’ (1983), and makes yet more of a case, as if it were needed, for Swarbrick as the finest interpreter of his time of folk melody for the fiddle. The albums are made up of traditional music – the jigs and reels are all played with an almost insouciant, devil-may-care freedom, often backed by his Fairport colleagues – but the real gems are the brittle songs of sparkling melancholy: see his duet with harpist Savourna Stevenson, whose appearance on Swarbrick’s “My Singing Bird” gifts the album, and perhaps the set, its highlight. EXTRAS: None. JOn dAlE

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Action Time Vision: A Story Of UK Independent Punk 1976-1979 CHERRY RED

9/10 Four Cds resurrecting forgotten stories of punk Cherry Red’s latest excavation of the UK underground is this 111-track look at independent punk, featuring a bunch of singles from bands so short-lived they sometimes split before the 45 was even released. It starts with “New Rose” and thereafter takes in a bunch of familiar names – Joy Division, The Only Ones, Adam And The Ants, The Fall, Sham 69, Skids, Stiff Little Fingers – among countless others less fondly remembered: Acme Sewage Co, Fruit Eating Bears, Psykik Volts and more. It’s fascinating to hear the early recordings of famous musicians such as Billy Bragg (Riff Raff), Jim Kerr (Johnny & The Self Abusers) and Kevin Rowland (The Killjoys), but the real joy is in the sense of untold stories and lost dreams among the also-rans. If you tire of three-

how to buy...

DAVE SWARBRICK Collaborative folk and folk-rock highlights

MARTIN CARTHY WITH DAVE SWARBRICK Second Album FONTANA, 1966

An early classic for folk singer/guitarist Carthy, not long out of The Three City Four and finding his feet grappling with traditional music as a solo player. Swarbrick’s accompaniment on songs like “Newlyn Town” are powerfully sympathetic: he either shadows the melody or chugs away on huffing drones. 9/10

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FAIRPORT CONVENTION liege & lief

PETER BEllAMY The Transports: A Ballad Opera By Peter Bellamy

ISlAND, 1969

It’s long been considered the classic folk-rock album of its era, to the point where the legend of Liege & Lief, and the story of loss and grief that marks its genesis, risk overshadowing the feverish creativity of the album’s arrangements, which Swarbrick took no small part in. Really, folk-rock starts here. 10/10

FREE REED, 1977

A member of The Young Tradition – Swarbrick guested on their 1968 LP Galleries – Bellamy’s The Transports, based on the story of the First Fleet sent to Australia, featured stunning playing from Swarbrick, alongside other folk legends: Carthy, June Tabor, Dolly Collins… 7/10 JOn dAlE

chord thrashing, there are numerous gems like Some Chicken’s early take on post-punk, the arty leanings of Spizzoil 6,000, proto-indie from English Subtitles and Bears’ endearingly yobby psych. The excellent sleevenotes also offer fascinating back stories such as Pure Hell, the black Americans whose superb only single came out in the UK, and Raped, the horribly named, openly gay four-piece who played great glam punk before changing their name, at John Peel’s suggestion, to the less controversial Cuddly Toys. EXTRAS: 7/10. Sleevenotes. PETER WATTS

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Cooking Vinyl 1986-2016 COOKINg VINYl

7/10 30th-anniversary salute from pioneering indie mainstay You have to commend Cooking Vinyl. What began as a folk label run from Martin Goldschmidt’s spare room in South London has since become a template for modern independent record companies, its longevity partly down to its anticipation of the digital age and artists rights deals. And, of course, the quality of the music itself. This 4CD set, which also coincides with three anniversary shows in London in early December, attempts to cover the key moments in their history. While there’s no sign of Ryan Adams or Michelle Shocked, the first two discs bring their fair share of diverse spoils: Jackie Leven, The Mekons, Madder Rose, American Music Club, Cowboy Junkies’ cover of “Sweet Jane”. But things sag a little by the final two discs (2006 onwards), the homogenous mulch of The View, The Rifles and others robbing the label of some of its hardwon eclecticism. That said, absolution arrives in the form of The Orb’s dubtronic “Soulman”, with a great turn from Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Madness’ expertly weighted “Never Knew Your Name” and relative newcomers like sulky LA guitar duo, Deap Vally. EXTRAS: None. ROB HuGHES

GAB ARChIve/ReDFeRNS

SUN RA


CARGO COLLECTIVE

PUBLIC SERVICE BROADCASTING LIVE AT BRIXTON

HOWE GELB FUTURE STANDARDS

CZARFACE A FISTFUL OF PERIL

MF DOOM OPERATION: DOOMSDAY

Double LP/CD live album + DVD of PSB’s sold-out performance at Brixton Academy from ‘The Race For Space’ tour, featuring a 13-piece choir, 5-piece string section, expanded brass section, dancers, pyrotechnics and more as the London-based band wow a hometown crowd with a very special performance.

For those celebrated guys who hit on the standards – Monk, Cohen, Bacharach, even Merle Haggard, Howe’s creating new tunes, cathartic one-liners & malleable melodies taking his offbeat worldview & making it his own.

CZARFACE (Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck & 7L & Esoteric) is back! Fresh off the heels of their collaboration with Marvel Comics the trio continues to combine music and art with their latest release.

Ridiculously dope, in a bizarro Ol’ Dirty Bastard kind of way. In today’s bland commercial Rap universe, Operation: Doomsday’s left-of-center beats and rhymes are the perfect remedy.

THE CAVEMEN BORN TO HATE

GZA/GENIUS DARK MATTER

PETE ROCK & SMOKE DZA DON’T SMOKE ROCK

ARBORIST HOME BURIAL

Kiwi garage punks taking Europe by storm release second album: Cramps meet Mummies via Eddie Cochran on speed.

Highly-anticipated album from renowned Wu-Tang Clan lyricist GZA. GZA’s seminal album Liquid Swords is widely regarded as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all-time. GZA is unveiling his most dynamic album to date, Dark Matter.

Don’t Smoke Rock is the new album by Smoke DZA & Pete Rock featuring Mac Miller, Rick Ross, Dave East, Jadakiss, Big K.R.I.T. & more.

Ranging from bleak Americana to melodic indie rock, the debut album from Belfast’s ARBORIST deals intimately with death, ageing & family. Includes the single Twisted Arrow featuring harmonies from KIM DEAL.

PAUL & THE TALL TREES OUR LOVE IN THE LIGHT

JACK LEE BIGGER THAN LIFE

MIKAEL TARIVERDIEV THE IRONY OF FATE (ORIGINAL SCORE)

VARIOUS ARTISTS THE REVERB CONSPIRACY VOLUME 4

Features 23 memorable songs, by the legendary Jack Lee (The Nerves) that showcase the incredible songwriting craft of this reclusive pop genius who has been covered by a multitude of artists (Blondie, Suzy Quatro, Cat Power, Paul Young) .

Following the award-nominated “Film Music” collection of last year, comes this 1975 album of hauntingly evocative orchestrations from the man the Guardian called the ‘surf rock Shostakovich’.

The Reverb Conspiracy series brings together some of the best names from the psychedelic spectrum and captures the essence of the European psych scene.

TEST CARD 2LP+DVD / 2CD+DVD

DIRTY WATER RECORDS LP / CD

BIG CROWN LP / CD

Paul Schalda is one part of a talented musical family, his music seems to embody the unexpected overlap of The Band’s Americana, Ian MacKaye’s unhinged emotion, Otis Redding’s raw, warm soul, & the doo-wop melodies his father’s band The Montereys.

CARGO

COLLECTIVE:

AN

FIRE RECORDS LP / CD

SILVER AGE LP / CD

IHIP HOP CD

AMALGAMATION

ALIVE RECORDS 2LP / CD

OF

RECORD

SHOPS

KIRKINROLA RECORDS LP / CD

IHIP HOP CD

EARTH RECORDS LP / CD

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LABELS

DEDICATED

METAL FACE RECORDS CD

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FUZZ CLUB RECORDS 2LP / 2CD

BRINGING

YOU

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ARchiVe

the specialist

VARIOUS ARTISTS

Let It Be: Black America Sings Lennon, McCartney And Harrison ACE

Earle: the redneck Springsteen?

8/10

STEVE EARLE Guitar Town 30th Anniversary Edition (reissue, 1986) UMC

9/10

ALAN MeSSeR

“Good rockin’ daddy down from tennessee” revisited AT VARIOUS points while promoting his breakthrough album three decades ago, Steve Earle opened for fellow “new country” stalwart Dwight Yoakam, Nashville legend George Jones and college rock/barroom big hitters The Replacements, which gives an impressive snapshot of the man’s crossover appeal, or at least potential. Crossovers and often contradictory pigeonholing were rife for artists trying to cut loose from country’s perceived ghetto in the ’80s. A few years previously, Earle’s first label was marketing him as “neo-rockabilly”; by the time of Guitar Town he was regularly reading reviews anointing him the “Redneck Springsteen”, and although he vehemently disliked the sobriquet, it holds a fair amount of water here. The blue-collar rage with a back porch twang of “Someday” and “Gettin’ Tough” (“I was born in the land of plenty, now there ain’t enough”) owes a Jersey-shaped debt to Bruce’s anthemic tendencies. But Earle works hard – and succeeds – at being his own man, albeit exhibiting tasteful shared DNA with his heroes Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, or outlaws like Waylon and Willie. Yoakam had to tolerate the media cornering him towards “cowboy chic”, his hat and hip pals on the LA rock scene deflecting attention away from the records. That left Earle all but

48 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

unchallenged as the eloquent Everyman among the cool young country-based up-and-comers of the day (Lyle Lovett, KD Lang, Nanci Griffith). It’s especially evident in the sentiment and simplicity of “My Old Friend The Blues”, the song’s universality spawning covers as diverse as by The Proclaimers and Percy Sledge. It’s there again in the rousing optimism of the closing “Down The Road”. The title track is that rare beast, a song about being a touring, jobbing musician rooted in celebration rather than self-pity (“Got a two-pack habit and a motel tan/ When my boots hit the boards I’m a brand new man/With my back to the riser I make my stand”). Having said that, he blots his copybook on the borderline-mawkish “Little Rock’n’Roller”, where presumably the same hardened road warrior phones home to talk to his kid. Earle’s eye for detail and easy turn-of-phrase gives his music a filmic, nigh-on-heroic quality, key factors in understanding the relentless Boss parallels to come. The ensuing years would also bring highs and lows, two or three (maybe four) divorces, jail time, and a couple of remarkable creative rebirths. He kicked it all off in ’86 by putting down a near perfect marker. EXTRAS: 7/10. Second disc comprises a full, 19song live show from ’86. Earle and his band The Dukes road-test embryonic versions of material that would feature on subsequent albums (“The Devil’s Right Hand”, “The Week Of Living Dangerously”) and there’s a superb cover of Springsteen’s “State Trooper”. TERRY STAuNTON

John, Paul and George with a little help from soulful friends After the ‘British Invasion’, US acts from Bobby Vee to Bing Crosby jumped on the Beatles bandwagon. If their insipid white-bread imitations deserved peremptory dismissal, when Black America joined the party, a richer and more symbiotic cross-fertilisation ensued. Having begun their own career covering songs by the Marvellettes, the Miracles and The Isley Brothers, The Beatles must have been highly flattered when Motown began raiding the Lennon-McCartney songbook, represented here by covers from The Supremes, Mary Wells, The Four Tops and The Temptations. Even if such tracks were essentially LP filler, the Funk Brothers ensure they unerringly hit the mark. Some of the best tributes involved a gender change – Aretha Franklin’s “Eleanor Rigby”, Nina Simone’s “Here Comes The Sun”, Dionne Warwick’s “We Can Work It Out” and Ella Fitzgerald’s “Savoy Truffle” are all magnificent reinventions which bring fresh female insight to familiar songs. Other standouts include Isaac Hayes transforming the simple verities of “Something” into an extraordinary 12-minute soul symphony, and Earth, Wind & Fire launching “Got To Get You Into My Life” into boogie heaven. But the biggest revelation may be Junior Parker’s little-known transfiguration of “Tomorrow Never Knows” into an improbably sparse and spooked minor masterpiece. EXTRAS: None. NIGEL WILLIAMSON

SYLVIE VARTAN

En Anglais… Et En Américain

ACE

7/10 Collecting the French yé-yé icon’s Anglophone output Sylvie Vartan is the only one of that generation of “yé-yé” girls to emerge from 1960s France – alongside the likes of Joyce, Dalinda, France Gall and Jacqueline TaÏeb – to have maintained a career as a classy pop performer that lasts to this day. She never had any UK or US hits (Françoise Hardy was the only one from that crowd who did), but this 25-track comp shows that Vartan made a strong effort to crack the Anglophone market, developing a more and more fluent English swagger as the ’60s unfolded. Like Serge Gainsbourg, Jacques Dutronc and her husband Johnny Hallyday, Vartan recorded some of her best work in London with assorted familiar ’60s British session men, but she also crossed the Atlantic. Highlights here include great tracks cut in New York with Jimmy Wisner, including ebullient versions of The Hollywood Argyles’ “Alley Oop” and the Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back”. There are also tidy Nashville sessions cut with Chet Atkins, but best of all is the baroque orchestral beatpop of “Run For The Sun”, recorded in London with avant-garde soundtrack specialist Jean-Claude Vannier and written by Vartan’s UK songwriting duo, Tommy Brown, and Mick Jones (later of Foreigner). EXTRAS: 7/10.Seven previously unissued recordings. JOHN LEWIS


ARchiVe how to buy...

the best Gallic pop albums The cream of France’s late ’60s/early ’70s crop

MICHEL POLNAREFF Michel Polnareff 1966

on “La poupée Qui Fait Non”, gritty guitar from Jimmy page. 8/10

BRIGITTE FONTAINE Brigitte Fontaine Est… Folle! 1968

Before he became a national star in trademark shades, Michel polnareff played beat-rock infused with the romance and melancholy of chanson. Mostly co-written with Franck Gérald and keith Reid, these 10 tracks here, showed off the singer’s tremulous voice and,

THE WEDDING PRESENT

Marc Riley Sessions Volume 1 HATCH

7/10 BBC-stamped postcards by Gedge David Gedge’s none-more-indie troupers were one of those bands virtually synonymous with the patronage of John Peel, and Marc Riley has continued the tradition with his ongoing support on BBC 6Music. The Wedding Present are tailor-made for the no-frills demands of the venerable radio session; the urgency of live performance brings out the best in their scratchy angst. These 11 tracks, recorded at three sessions in 2007, 2008 and 2010, are an evenhanded mix of old glories and more recent highlights. “Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft” and “Something And Nothing” from George Best, and a mighty fine “Brassneck” from Bizarro, shore up the old guard. Recent albums El Rey and Valentina are also well covered, the stand-out being a buoyant “Don’t Take Me Home Until I’m Drunk”. The joker in the pack is a guitar-heavy version of the Cheers theme tune, which sounds like a bunch of 15-year-olds knocking about in a suburban garage. “Heather”, on the other hand, has an added poignancy that only maturity could have wrought. The whole thing adds up to an alternative best-of, delivered with an appealing and characteristic lack of airs and graces. EXTRAS: None. GRAEME THOMSON

LIpNITzkI/RoGeR VIoLLeT/GeTTy IMAGeS

GILLIAN WELCH

Boots No 1: The Official Revival Bootleg ACONY

8/10 Dave and Gillian’s old testament made new By calling their first record Revival, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings may have contributed to the misconception that

produced by Jean-Claude Vannier, this beguiling disc followed a more trad 1966 Lp, now dismissed by Fontaine. Vannier’s arrangements conjure up a surreal parisian café on “Le Beau

they were a nostalgia act, rather than innovators in an evolving tradition. Twenty years on, Revival stands as a starkly beautiful record, powerful and timeless, but this double-CD set offers clues as to how Welch and Rawlings got there, and glimpses down roads not taken. There are alternate versions of most of that first record, with slightly different outcomes, plus fascinating rarities. The riff of “Pass You By” is a bluesy grind, there’s a spry pass at “Red Clay Halo”, and the influence of Robert Earl Keen is evidenced by a haunting rendition of his mournful lament “Go On Downtown”. “Georgia Road” is a true rarity – only performed live once – and it finds Welch inhabiting bluesier territory; “Dry Town” is a couple of paces short of Johnny Cash rockabilly. There’s trad gospel on the rough take of “Old Time Religion”, and even on the publishers’ demo of “Acony Bell” it’s clear that Welsh had everything in place – the spartan picking, the lonely voice, the Old Testament worldview made new. EXTRAS: None. ALASTAIR MCKAY

THE WHO

My Generation Super Deluxe Edition UNIVERSAL

8/10 Debut album every which way, plus demos The Who’s 1965 debut has been given the deluxe treatment in various ways. This 5CD set is the deluxe of deluxes, featuring the original album in both mono and enhanced (and excellent) stereo mixes, and additional discs of bonus tracks in both formats. Such treatment dilutes the primal energy of the original record, while throwing light on the group’s influences. The treasure here is the fifth disc, Primal Scoop, which comprises 11 demos (more will follow on future releases). Townshend has buffed the audio, but they are still fragile, tender recordings. An early, feedback-free “My Generation” – the first demo of

Cancer” or a jungle out of a Rousseau painting on “Blanche Neige”, and are as versatile as Fontaine’s voice. 8/10

FRANçOISE HARDY La Question 1971 As the ’70s dawned, hardy teamed up with Brazilian singer/guitarist Valeniza zagni da Silva, aka Tuca, to make her most intimate record. Bossa nova guitar and strings shade the 11 floating songs, book-ended by the sultry “Viens” and weightless “Rêve”. 9/10 TOM PINNOCK

the song remains elusive – reveals the skeleton of his attempt to marry a Jimmy Reed shuffle and a Dylan vocal. The demos were filtered by Who manager Kit Lambert, so it’s unlikely the band ever heard the R’n’B flavoured “The Girls I Could’ve Had” (deemed lyrically unsuitable for the sexually confident Daltrey). Pete sounds lost on the pretty “My Own Love”, while the whimsical, folky “As Children We Grew” stands as a more realistic reflection of the guitarist’s emotional state than the bolshy persona he adopted. EXTRAS: 7/10. Excellent 80-page book, revealing sleevenotes by Townshend, flyers and posters. ALASTAIR McKAY

WILLARD GRANT CONSPIRACY

Regard The End (reissue, 2003) LOOSE

9/10 Boston-based outfit’s Americana masterpiece, on vinyl for first time Perfecting a dark fatalism hitched to a gorgeously textured take on Southern Gothic, singer-songwriter Robert Fisher’s ensemble twists life’s bleakest moments into a creative

coming next month... he first month of 2017 features promising returns: Michael Chapman will release 50, produced by Steve Gunn and featuring Nathan Bowles and Bridget St John, and The Flaming Lips return with Oczy Mlody. The latest from Mark Eitzel, Hey Mr Ferryman, is also due out. In the dusty world of archives, the overlooked fruits of Bert Jansch’s ’90s are anthologised in Living In The Shadows, The Doors are caught live in the newly found tapes that make up London Fog 1966, and there are whispers of a deluxe reissue of Prince’s Purple Rain. Until next year… TOM.PINNOCK@TIMEINC.COM

t

crest with this 2003 outing. Fisher’s rugged, melancholy voice exudes a stoic existentialism, with death peering around every corner. The music, a deep mélange of folk, country, blues and Celtic influences, is layered with a trove of instrumentation – from trumpet to melodica, musical saw to field organ. Thematically, whether originals or covers, it strikes a dalliance with the macabre realism of Clarence Ashley and other Harry Smith favourites. “The Ghost Of The Girl In The Well”, building to a haunted crescendo, could have been written 100 years ago, while the driving, pop-minded “Soft Hand” is the LP’s anomaly, easing up on the gloom a bit. By the time of eight-minute closer “The Suffering Song”, Fisher’s moribund sing-speak vocals conjure the album’s coldest truth – “Suffering’s going to come to everyone someday.” EXTRAS: None. LuKE TORN

speciAl offeR

SubScribe And SAve up to 44% Subscribe online today at www.uncutsubs.co.uk/BYE6 Or call 0330 333 1113, quoting code BYE6 For more information, visit page 99 JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 49


THE ROLLING STONES

Back’n’ 50 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017


blue

Keith has had compliments from Dylan about his new trainers. Mick has loads of new songs. Ron loves being used as “the conduit”. And Charlie is thinking about Brian Jones, and how he would have loved the new Rolling Stones album of blues covers. Michael Bonner joins the quartet for an access-allareas night in Boston, and discovers how the past informs the future of an indestructible rock’n’roll band. “Blues purists?” says Keith. “I’ve always had a problem with those cats…” JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 51


PoLYdoR

T IS close to midnight by the time Mick Jagger finally walks into the bar at the Four Seasons hotel in Boston. A few hours earlier, The Rolling Stones played a secret gig on the floor of a football stadium several miles outside the city. It was an unusual show, at least by the standards of their massive and improbable tours. The band played a 10-song set inside a purpose-built marquee for an audience consisting of the city’s great and the good – and a few more fans besides. An immaculately suited Tommy Hilfiger stood at the front of the stage close to a bearded, raggedy Evan Dando; US Secretary of State John Kerry was spotted somewhere in the crowd, too. As he sips a beer in the Four Seasons bar Jagger acknowledges that there is something ironic about the group performing “Street Fighting Man” and “Gimme Shelter” – songs about civil insurrection, death and revolution – to an audience of Bostonian hipsters. Yet, even in this unlikely setting in front of a few hundred people, the Stones were a compelling force. Stripped of pyrotechnics, video screens and gargantuan lighting rigs, the band offered up a formidable reminder of their core strengths. A version of “When The Whip Comes Down”, for instance, found Jagger strapping on a guitar to join Keith Richards and Ron Wood for an 52 • UNcUt • JaNUarY 2017

attack formation that, later, he delightedly describes as “a racket”. Perhaps, though, there is something about this event itself – playing for a potentially impartial audience in intimate surroundings with minimal technological support – that throws back the Stones’ earliest club gigs. Then, similarly, benches lined the walls, the bar was at the back and the crowd may not have been naturally inclined towards the group’s particularly magnetic pulse. This is the Gillette Stadium in October 2016, but squint a little and it could almost be the Kettering Granada or the Sunderland Rank in 1964. Jagger muses on all this back in the Four Seasons bar. The show was the band’s final date of the year, and gathered at tables around the room are the Stones’ crew and staff. Jagger speaks to nearly all of them during the course of a few hours, discussing their forthcoming plans or asking for their thoughts on the band’s recent run of shows, including the Desert Trip festival and a show in Las Vegas. It transpires that Jagger is an inquisitive and inclusive host. A firm handshake, a confident smile, direct eye contact. “What did you think of the show?” He asks, leaning closer. Then, “What do you think of the new record?” This is Blue & Lonesome – the Stones’ first new studio album since A Bigger Bang, 10 years ago. It comes after an extended retrospective period for the group, where they have celebrated their past with deluxe reissues of old favourites, a 50th anniversary tour, a careerspanning documentary and a successful exhibition. At the same time, this process of reflection has allowed them to recalibrate what Blues brothers: Jagger and richards in British Grove studios, december 2015


THE ROLLING STONES rolling commentary

Mick on…

…choosing the tracks for Blue & Lonesome

“M

ost of the songs were done in the mid-’50s – some a bit earlier and some a bit later. they’re a few years before we started. so they’re the songs that you were listening to when you were 16 or something. “I tried to pick slightly unusual numbers. As we’d done a Little Walter one, ‘Blue And Lonesome’, I thought we’d do some more. they seem to come off, the Little Walter tracks. ‘I Gotta Go’ is really fast. I remember playing it to Charlie in rehearsal a year or so ago. You can’t hear very clearly what’s on the record, so I asked him, ‘What exactly is the drummer playing on this?’ It’s got such amazing groove and acceleration. “I did a blues night in London with Pops staples, and one of the numbers I played with Gary Moore was Little Johnny taylor’s ‘Everybody Knows About My Good thing’. I’ve always liked Lightnin’ slim’s ‘Hoodoo Blues’. Although the song’s been around in many different versions, it’s not particularly well known in this style. “I’d played Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Commit A Crime’ with Jeff Beck

at the White House, in front of President obama. I’d also rehearsed it with the band, for fun. I was messing with Ronnie saying, ‘I’m sure you can play this.’ As we’d done it before, I thought we should cut it. so there were tunes that had been around that I put on the list. “I always loved the atmosphere on Jimmy Reed’s ‘Little Rain’. I went through all of his songs I had and picked that one out as a strange one. the emotion and the directness of approach is what you need when playing the blues. It’s something I always go back to. I listen to a lot of other music, but the blues are always there.”

inspirations: Little Walter and (inset) howlin’ Wolf

I

t’s the previous afternoon and Keith Richards walks into a suite at the Four Seasons with a theatrical flourish: “Ta-da-da!” Cigarette in one hand, glass in the other, he heads towards a plush leather armchair, smiling broadly. He seems surprisingly soberly dressed – black jeans, white T-shirt beneath an open shirt – although the accessories tell a different story. A multi-coloured scarf is wrapped round his head and a crimson shawl draped across his shoulders; on his feet, meanwhile, are a pair of eye-wateringly bright red high-top trainers. “I had an interesting chat with Bob down in Coachella,” he says, referring to a backstage natter with Dylan at Desert Trip. “It ended up by him saying, ‘Where did you get them kicks?’ I said, ‘Bob, I thought you’d never notice!’” A meeting with Keith Richards does not disappoint. He is warm,

“There was no intention of making a blues record. It was as if we were being ordered from above” keith richards

charming company and a perceptive scholar of the blues. Yet, in the middle of our conversation, he’ll suddenly remember his obligations to his character and start quoting chunks of dialogue from The Man Who Would Be King, complete with buccaneering sound effects. At one point, he nods to the contents of the fruit bowl parked on the table between us. “Have a banana. Potassium’s good for you,” he nods sagely. Along with his other bandmates, Richards is fiercely proud of Blue & Lonesome – an album he evidently views as a deeply personal tribute to the group’s musical forebears. But this is not the record the Stones originally intended to make when they decamped to Mark Knopfler’s British Grove Studios in Chiswick, west London – a few miles from the band’s notorious former HQ at Edith Grove, Chelsea. JaNUarY 2017 • UNcUt • 53

CA/REdfERns; MICHAEL oCHs ARCHIvEs/GEttY IMAGEs; ; dAvE J HoGAn/GEttY IMAGEs

it means to be The Rolling Stones as they move deeper into their sixth decade. Serendipitously, Blue & Lonesome addresses both strands of the Stones’ current narrative. Recorded intuitively and at speed in just three days when exploratory sessions on new material faltered, Blue & Lonesome is a collection of covers that finds the Stones circling back to their earliest inspiration: the Chicago blues. During individual interviews, each of the four Stones discusses not only the reinvigorating energies released by reconnecting with their roots but – critically – where it will take them next. “I guess right now this blues record has thrown the Stones into a bit of a spin,” Keith Richards confesses. “It was not intended, it was not expected, but at the same time it is much loved in the band. There’s a feeling like there’s a new beginning, that we could clean the slate somewhere.” Ron Wood agrees, describing Blue & Lonesome as “like a big piece of a jigsaw puzzle that has fallen into place. It’s a very natural expression of what the band does – and what they did before I was in them.” Charlie Watts – fluent in matters of style and presentation – admits, “I’m pleased with it because it sounds so good.” Don Was, the band’s producer of 25 years, calls it “a glimpse into the essence of The Rolling Stones”. Richards is not alone in his desire to push on, adamant the band will return to the studio. “I don’t think we’re going to get it together before the New Year, January or February,” he confesses. So are the Stones done with celebrating the past? “You can’t celebrate the future,” he says with a wheezy laugh. “You’ve got to look forward and hope there is one!”


rolling commentary

Keith on…

…the blues and the great post-war vinyl renaissance

CHris ware/keystone features/Getty iMaGes; ; dave J HoGan/Getty iMaGes

“W

Hen wwii started, they cut the vinyl rate. the only records that were made were for propaganda or the big stars – sinatra, Bing Crosby. the lacquer and all the vinyl was otherwise being used to fill the bombs. Black cats had no chance to record from 1941 until 1945. those guys had been playing throughout those years all over the place and nothing had gone onto the record. so when vinyl became available again, there was all of this pent-up knowledge and playing. i think that’s probably got a lot to do with what you ended up with: rock’n’roll. “rock music is another thing. i always want to make a distinction there. the rock’s easy. the rock is a very european thing. it’s similar to marching bands. But the roll is the thing; it’s the swing on it. it’s jazz, it goes back. then when you get down to it, blues was the father of jazz and jazz became the popular music – just as mass recording became available. you feel yourself on the end of a string with a long history.”

According to Don Was, the band had booked time to work on “a batch of new songs. We went in in December just to try and practise three or four of them, just to give a leg up on the task.” “There was no intention whatsoever of making a blues record,” explains Richards. “I knew we were going to be working in a room that we hadn’t worked before. The first day or two, this room’s fighting us! I had happened to call Ronnie up a month before, and said, ‘Just in case, get down that Little Walter track, “Blue And Lonesome”.’ It would be a safety net while we were getting the sound together. Sure enough, we play ‘Blue And Lonesome’ and suddenly the sound came together in the room. Mick turns round and says, ‘I’d like to do this Howlin’ Wolf song.’ ‘OK, keep rolling…’ From thereon, 54 • UNcUT • jaNUarY 2017

we almost felt we were being ordered from above. It wasn’t planned. That’s one of the reasons I love it. It happened. And when things happen, I can take a hint.” As Ron Wood explains, he had a number of duties on Blue & Lonesome. Guitarist, principally; but also as a sort of genial co-conspirator with Richards, a role he is presumably well acquainted with by now. The two men worked discreetly, good-naturedly stoking Jagger’s enthusiasm for the harmonica. “I hadn’t heard ‘Blue And Lonesome’ for years,” he says. “The wonderful lead licks, the harmonica… Mick thought exactly “Brian was the the same. It rekindled the flame. first guy i knew that had a robert After that, Mick would say, ‘Oh, johnson record”: let’s try this one by Howlin’ Wolf. jones and richards, 1963 Let’s try this one by Jimmy Reed.’ That’s what we wanted, that’s what Keith was doing, ‘Let’s get him excited and believing again in his harmonica playing.’” So it was Keith driving Mick to drive the album? “Yeah,” says Wood. “Using me as the conduit, which I love to be. I love to be bounced off of, and I will make it go.” After Little Walter’s “Blue And Lonesome”, the Stones recorded a further four songs on Friday, December 11. They reconvened the following Monday, December 14, and recorded another six songs, then one further track the next day. There are songs by Lightnin’ Slim, Jimmy Reed, Magic Sam, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Johnny Taylor, Otis Rush and Eddie Taylor. They are rawsounding and urgent – some are among the Stones’ best recordings for 30 years. Their version of Jimmy Reed’s “Little Rain” simmers with menace; Howlin’ Wolf’s “Commit A Crime” seethes with tension, its spiralling guitar riff as taut as wire. Little Walter’s “I Gotta Go” sounds, charmingly, like an undiscovered Stones recording from 1964, with Jagger coming across particularly youthful and carefree. “Mick really shines on it,” acknowledges Richards. “Beautiful harp playing and a great blues singer. It was something where he didn’t for a moment have to think about what persona he was going to have to take on to do a new song. This stuff is in our bones.”

O

ver a late-afternoon coffee, Charlie Watts picks over the bones of The Rolling Stones. Today, he and the rest of the group are of a retrospective mind, addressing the felicitous similarities of the Stones at the beginning and again further along in their career. The past has, quite literally, come back into focus, with Blue & Lonesome acting as a very physical reminder of their formative years. 1962. Brian Jones. Ian Stewart. The Ealing Club, Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies. The Rolling Stones as young men. “When I joined Alexis in Blues Incorporated, I’d never heard of Muddy Waters,” says Watts. “Charlie Parker playing slow was the blues to me, until Cyril Davies would play something. Then from Cyril and Alexis – a baptism of fire – it was a natural thing to sit and listen to Jimmy Reed with Keith and Brian for hours on end. When I joined the band, this is what we did. We used to start with Jimmy


Reed and end with Bo Diddley. There’s Brian doing rhythm and Keith playing the lead on the Bo Diddley stuff usually. This album’s coming home, really.” “I was not as savvy and globally connected as Mick,” says Richards. “He used to mail order to Chess Records. That was the importance, I guess, of that meeting on the train at Dartford. To sit across from somebody you’ve known for several years – since babyhood almost. ‘What’s that under your arm?’ Best Of Muddy Waters, Rockin’ At The Hops by Chuck Berry. That immediate recognition. ‘Where did you get that?’ I was about to take them and kick him out the door. “Brian was the first guy I knew that had a Robert Johnson record,” he continues. “Very rare. That’s when I captured him. ‘I’ll take you, and the record!’” In early 1963, for the princely sum of 4/-, you could hear “R&B with the Inimitable, Incomparable, Exhilarating Rollin’ Stones” during their Sunday night residency at the Crawdaddy Club. That same year, Ron Wood first saw the Stones down the road at the Richmond Jazz And Blues festival. “I caught them a few other times in the early ’60s,” he remembers. “There was always an air of Slim Harpo and Jimmy Reed and Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy. Little Walter. Early blues influences that I loved.” “It grabbed our ears at the very beginning,” says Richards. “Chess Records. Chuck Berry. Then I found out that Muddy

“Some of the songs sound like they could have been recorded in the ’60s. Even my voice sounds young” mick jagger The band in great Newport Street, London, april 14, 1963

Waters recorded in the same room. Chicago, the South Side. Then you start listening to Eddie Taylor, Jimmy Reed. I think it’s the most prolific and unpretentious period of recording the blues. You think these guys know what they’re doing. But they’re also experimenting. Nobody had done it before. When they got it right and that sound came, you wanted to be a part of it. Five or six guys, doing everything. It’s an orchestra. It’s much larger than the parts. Within Chicago, Willie Dixon was the king – still is. He could brilliantly turn a simple blues into a pop song. Little Walter was great at that. ‘My Babe’ was a No 1 hit record in America and that was South Side Chicago blues. But to me particularly, it was the interplay of the two guitar players. ‘But there’s four parts going on there. How do two guys play four parts?’ That intrigues you. That has been a steady carry through in the Stones. Not this split between lead and rhythm. It doesn’t matter. In a good guitar band, one switches and you don’t quite know who and it doesn’t matter.” At what point did The Rolling Stones stop being a band for blues aficionados and the audience changed? “I don’t think that our audience was really blues purists,” disputes Jagger. “The blues purists were the guys who ran the clubs. The audience was quite happy to listen to rock tunes. Their favourites were Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley, tunes that were on the edge of rock. There was a lot of genrespecific jealousy and snobbishness between what types of music you liked. What kind of jazz did you like, what kind of folk did you like? Which was majorly exemplified when Dylan went electric. That was what music appreciation was like. A lot of little cliques liking one thing on one instrument and not on another. Fortunately, we weren’t in that kind of audience, I don’t think.” “Blues purists? I’ve always had a problem with those cats,” adds Keith Richards. “Because the guys they’re listening to never thought of themselves as pure at all. They’re just trying to make a gig. I saw that attitude at its worst at Manchester Free Trade Hall. 1962 or ’63. Muddy Waters. First he comes on with the denim overalls, just like English white intellectuals like to think of their blues singers. Then he comes on for this second set with an electric guitar, and they booed him off. White people’s idea of how a black man should play the blues from the comfort of their seats. It sounds ludicrous.” “When Chris Barber brought Muddy to England, they put the blues in a corner with folk music,” continues Jagger. “They wanted them to play acoustic guitars and call that ‘the folk blues’. You have these famous albums like John Lee Hooker’s The Real Folk Blues. In other words, it’s all-acoustic. The blues definitely wasn’t Chuck Berry and it definitely wasn’t Bo Diddley, and it would be better if it were played on acoustic guitars. That was that era. You had traditional jazz night and modern jazz night and different people came. It was all in little boxes and you couldn’t go from one box to jaNUarY 2017 • UNcUT • 55

Mark and Colleen Hayward/redferns

THE ROLLING STONES


Dezo Hoffmann/ReX/sHutteRstock

THE ROLLING STONES the other. So the Stones had to break out of that. We left it behind and started playing in cinemas and ballrooms where people played amped-up British rock music of the time. Places like the California Ballroom in Dunstable, where they didn’t really know about the niceties of traditional jazz and blues. They were just out for a good night out, to get drunk and have a fight. There wasn’t the worry any more, whether we played Chuck Berry or not.” Jagger is clear that the Stones, by their disruptive nature, had to change – and in so doing changed the times. For them to succeed, it was no longer possible for them to continue just playing the blues. They had to start writing their own material. “Andrew Oldham, he’s the one who got Mick and Keith to buckle down,” insists Charlie Watts, his espresso now long finished. “If you’re writing a letter, you might as well write some lyrics, that sort of attitude. You can’t carry on just playing the blues. You can, if that’s where you want to be – but I think we all set our eyes on something else. I’m not decrying this, but we also got lumped into the beat groups. It got us to America, to be honest. But with The Beatles in front, they were writing their own songs. You have to get your own identity as well; you can’t just go out and play the blues otherwise you land up in my band. You have to create an image and everything for yourself.” “Andrew said, ‘There’s only so many songs you can cover,’” continues Richards. “He’d been working with The Beatles before.

Jagger, Watts and Richards, with Ian Stewart in the background, during a press reception at London’s Greenford Studios, 1963

Mick and I were looking at each other, ‘Write songs?’ Hats off to Andrew. We hadn’t arrived. We probably would have, sometime later on. But with Andrew, we were force-fed. We got locked in. That encourages you. We came out with ‘As Tears Go By’ and within six weeks Marianne Faithfull is in the Top 10. We just wanted to get out of the kitchen!” “It was a gradual process,” admits Jagger, reflecting on the Stones’ transition from interpreters of blues songs to songwriters in their own field. “We wrote songs, but we didn’t have any faith in them and they weren’t really rock songs. Then we started putting some of our own songs on albums. By the time it came to Aftermath, we had chucked out doing covers completely, more or less.” It’s the story, in essence, of a young band making a dramatic entrance onto the early-’60s rock scene. Leap forward 50-plus years and here are the Stones, back where they started, playing the blues.

P

ick any of the tracks of Blue & Lonesome, and you’ll hear Mick Jagger racked with anguish, imploring his baby to come back home to him or cursing his rivals who won’t leave her alone. Often, during these troubled times, he is consoled by his trusty friend, a Hohner harmonica. Jagger’s harp-playing is a vital component of Blue & Lonesome – variously, raucous and expressive or tight and contained. “It was a bit on the fly,” he says, outlining the process of selecting songs for the album. “After we did a couple of tracks the first day, I went back and looked on the computer in my blues songs collections and I started picking them. One criterion was that they hadn’t been covered too much. It wasn’t ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ and so on. Not that those songs aren’t wonderful, but they’ve been done by everybody.” Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart have all recorded albums in tribute to their early inspirations. But they were all Great American Songbook standards. It seems that only the Stones, among their peers, have really maintained a dialogue with the blues. “I think Paul McCartney and Rod Stewart are great artists, but Bob Dylan is kind of a blues singer, among other things,” says Jagger. “A bit like The Rolling Stones, he doesn’t only do blues. If we had gone another day, my next list would have included some Bob Dylan blues songs. Think of those ones like ‘Pledging My Time’ or one of the faster ones, like ‘Tombstone Blues’. “This album is the basis of what you came from,” he continues. “Can you still hack it in this direction? I play blues music at home, but we don’t play as a band that much. The odd one in rehearsal. On stage, we don’t play a lot of blues, if at all. ‘Midnight Rambler’. Obviously, there are lots of bluesy things, but blues per se – as on this album – we don’t do. So this is an extended, ‘Are you able to do this stuff?’ I’m pleased that it sounds like we can.” Some of the songs – particularly their take on “I Gotta Go” – sound like they could have been recorded for the Stones’ debut album. “It does sound like that,” agrees Jagger. “Some of them do sound like they could have been recorded in the ’60s. There is a kind of youthful enthusiasm about them all. The atmosphere of the tracks and the way they are performed. Even my voice on them sounds quite young. We could have done this album in 1963 or ’64 but, of course, it would not have sounded like this; we had not lived enough to make this record. Equally if we had made this a week later than we did, it would have been different again. It’s the interesting thing about a record that is made


studio and suddenly Brian is looming in front of me…” Jagger bursts out laughing. “Exactly! You can feel them around you. Keith probably thought, ‘I better get this right.’ I just wanted to get the harmonica solo right. I must have learned that from Brian.” “Brian would have loved the blues album,” adds Charlie Watts. “Stu [Ian Stewart], too. If you wavered off a 12-bar or regular chord sequence, he’d stop playing because he never liked it. He wasn’t a very good band member in that way. Then when it came back to the bit he liked, he’d start playing. But that was Stu.” Talking of former bandmates, what about Mick Taylor? A terrific blues guitarist: after his appearances on the anniversary tours, many fans hoped he’d rejoin the Stones for Blue & Lonesome. “He would have analysed it too much, I think,” says Wood. “He would have dithered around too much. What he does best is play. Talk about it? No.” There is, though, one significant guest on the album: Eric Clapton, who coincidentally happened to be recording with Glyn Johns in the studio next door. Clapton played on two Blue & Lonesome tracks – Little Johnny Taylor’s “Everybody Knows About My Good Thing” and Otis Rush’s “I Can’t Quit You Baby”. “We maintain that Eric never plays quite as good as when he plays with us,” laughs Wood. “Something comes out of him. He likes to be part of a band, I think it is. It reminded me of the Rainbow concert I did, me and Townshend and Steve Winwood, when we got him out of the doldrums. We had a wonderful time then, too.”

I

really quickly: it reflects a moment in time – a time and a place.” Jimmy Reed’s “Little Rain” is another highlight: swathed in echo and a richly foreboding atmosphere. “We used to play lots of Jimmy Reed, but not that one. We’d get in a club, start with ‘Down In Virginia’ or a similar, slow-medium tempo song. On a Tuesday night in Ealing. ‘This’ll wake you up!’” Keith confessed that he’d almost had a supernatural experience recording “Little Rain” for the album: “The last time I ever played ‘Little Rain’ was with Brian Jones. Now, I’m playing ‘Little Rain’ in the

Thar he blows: Jagger on Thank Your Lucky Stars, March 1963

n his suite overlooking Boston’s city park, Keith Richards has run out of places to put his cigarette ash. His eyes settle on a saucer and leaning forward he gently skims the tip of his Marlboro round the edge. “What have I learned from blues musicians?” He muses. “Still learning. I think, it’s honesty – even if it’s blatant lying, there’s an honesty about their lying. And expression. There’s no set pattern. ‘You can play this way, you can play that way.’ Reverend Gary Davis, Fred McDowell, you can listen to loads of guys on the periphery, they play ragtime. Robert Johnson had a couple of ragtime numbers. ‘Hot Tamales’. A lot of blues, especially the best ones, are usually 13-bars, 13½-bars. They’re not regular 12-bar, because the guy wants to leave a gap here. If you’re with the singer, and you understand

ROLLING cOmmeNtaRy

Don Was on… keyboard stage right. mick would be facing everybody. But this time, it was a bit more like a semi-circle. “eric clapton was working next door. it was very sweet, man. When i produce, i sit in the room with these guys, rather than in the control room. even though i’ve been working with them for 25 years, my jaw drops when they actually start playing and some of the parts turn into the whole. it’s a magnificent sight – especially close up like that. so clapton walks through the door and he says, ‘can you believe this? i used to go and see these guys play in Richmond and i’m right back there in the audience.’ you could see he wanted to play, and they wanted

him to play, so we gave him one of keith’s guitars and he played on two songs. He was smoking, man. “those new songs we worked on? to be honest with you, we don’t really have a handle on it yet. the

clay is on the table, but it doesn’t look like President Lincoln yet! i will say that for this new album, mick has played me probably 40 songs that he has been working on, and they really run the gamut.”

JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 57

DaviD ReDfeRn/ReDfeRns; GeoRGe Rose/Getty imaGes

“T

…producing the Stones

He first discussion of recording came when i went to see the stones play in Detroit on 8 July, 2015. then seeing mick and keith individually, they both expressed a desire to get back in the studio after that leg of the tour. By December, we were in London with a batch of new songs. “keith was first through the door usually. We started in the late afternoon – gentleman’s hours – and were probably done by 10 or 11 every night. “the way they’ve always set up – i think even when Glyn Johns recorded them – it’s like a stage, with charlie between Ronnie and keith, and the bass on stage left,


DAvID REDfERN/REDfERNS; KINg COLLECtION/PhOtOShOt/gEttY ImAgES; ; DAvE J hOgAN/gEttY ImAgES

THE ROLLING STONES where he’s at, you hang back. So it’s a constantly changing picture, which is great, because it never gets boring that way. “As a performer, I learned restraint here and there. You realise silence is your canvas. It’s a bit corny, but if you’re looking at things visually, some guys cover the canvas while others use the canvas and leave spots open. Silence and dimensions of playing. I learned that just by listening. Sometimes these are clichés – but it’s what he didn’t play that was really the most poignant part of that song. Big Bill Broonzy, ‘When Did You Leave Heaven’.” How many people on the Blue & Lonesome album did you know personally? “Oh, Chester Burnett, Howlin’ Wolf – a great friend of mine. He looked like a fucking elephant. When you’re that big and that forceful. Such a gentle giant. Muddy was the same. They were both great friends.” The Stones played with Muddy at the Checkerboard Lounge in Chicago in 1981. A good time? “Ronnie and I were like two kids. Let’s just dress for business. White shirt and a vest and a waistcoat and sit at the back. Such fun. Muddy is such a gent. Thing is, most of the greats I’ve ever met – guitar players, not necessarily blues but usually because that’s where I hang – most of the greats have got no side arm. They don’t need it. They’re not, ‘I am so and so and you’ve got to know your pecking order.’ I once went to a party at Muddy Waters’ house – this has got to be the ’70s – and when I woke up I was in Howlin’ Wolf’s house. They gently bore me, carried me.” The Stones recorded at Chess in 1964. What do you remember about that? “2120 South Michigan Avenue. The sessions were a revelation in learning about recording, especially in the room where all of these records that you’ve been listening to have come out of. Ron Malo was the engineer and it was his room, he produced it. When you walk into a recording room like that, they know where the drums should be set up, they know exactly where to get the right sound. To watch that go down was like, ‘Wow. Now I’ve died and gone to heaven. Now I know everything.’ An education.”

“I once went to a party at Muddy Waters’ house – and when I woke up I was in Howlin’ Wolf’s house” KeITh RIChARdS

B

lue & lonesome caps a remarkably strong year for the Stones. Beginning in February, they toured through Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Colombia and Mexico, culminating in a free concert in Havana,

Cuba, for an audience of 700,000 – the subject of two documentaries, Havana Moon and ¡Olé, Olé, Olé!: A Trip Across Latin America. April marked the opening of Exhibitionism at London’s Saatchi Gallery while, five months later, they headlined the opening night of the Desert Trip festival in Indio, California. “We’ve been non-stop working, really,” says Ron Wood. “It’s a different emphasis now. The input that we have in live gigs is more of a drive. We want to keep it going all the time. There’s hardly any time. We used to have years off between tours, didn’t we?” But the tours lasted years! “Yeah. That, too. I think some of our promoters in the past were slave drivers. Playing in five foot of snow in Chicago in winter, in the open air. We thought, ‘Hang on a minute, we’re not getting any younger!’ But there is a limit to how much you can do comfortably.” Certainly, since the band’s A Bigger Bang tour ended in 2007, the Stones have revised their touring practices. Gone are the gargantuan, continentstraddling treks of old in favour of sharp, localised bursts of activity. “That’s age,” admits Charlie Watts. “Also it gets boring after a while. When you look at a sheet with 150 dates on it, which is that last long one we did, it’s like, ‘Bloody hell!’ Now I wouldn’t get on the train to get to London to start the thing.” What do you do when you’re not working? “I’m usually at home. I don’t know if you know many musicians, but they’re incredibly lazy.” In addition to their more familiar roles, Watts and Jagger also oversee the Stones’ art and design work – principally, posters and T-shirts. “Mick and I have always been very aware of what you look like,” says Watts. “So I usually get asked. It’s what I used to do before I joined them, in advertising. I enjoy it. It’s interesting. At the time you do it, you think, ‘Oh blimey, is it any good?’ But looking back, you’ve got a whole wodge of stuff and you think, ‘Yeah, we designed that.’” Talking of looking back, does Blue & Lonesome feels like the continuation of a retrospective process begun with the 50th anniversary shows, the Crossfire Hurricane documentary and Exhibitionism? “I’m 75, maybe that’s what you do,” he says with a slight shrug. “You look back. We’ve been very lucky to drag an audience along with us. You can’t tour America playing the blues on its own and live in these places,” he gestures around the suite of the Four

ROLLING cOmmeNtaRy

Charlie on…

…Alexis Korner, Ian Stewart and the British R’n’B boom

“I Birth of the blues: Charlie Watts with Cyril davies (left) and Alexis Korner at the ealing Club, early ’60s 58 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

t’s because of Alexis that I became the go-to rhythm and blues player. After Alexis, the popularity of R’n’B sprang up and I played with about three or four different bands. In those days, if the trumpet player had a booking, it would be his band. You’d be in the same band, but with different name on it. It was a small world. “If it wasn’t for Ian Stewart, I don’t

think I’d be in the Stones. I found out years and years later it was Stu that kept pushing to get me in the band. I was playing with Ronnie’s brother Art or someone, so at the time I was not aware of all this. “We’ve always loved the blues. It’s like saying, ‘What is it about Duke Ellington in 1940 that you like or Louis Armstrong in New Orleans?’ It’s just what we’ve always loved.”


Light me up: (l-r) Jones, Richards, Watts, Jagger, Wyman, mid-1960s JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 59


THE ROLLING STONES Seasons. “You can if you go in lesser places. It’s expensive, so you need that to keep going.” Back in his suite, Richards mulls over his ambitions for Blue & Lonesome. “We’ll push it, but I’d rather it seep into the collective consciousness, or whatever it’s called. ‘Now The Rolling Stones’ great blues record!’ I don’t expect that. I expect it to have an insidious effect for several years. Also, it’s a great thing for Mick to be recognised for more than just the flimflam. He’s so good at the flimflam that people forget. This record shows there’s more depth. This record is probably more important than I think.” Don Was told me that Mick’s got 40 new songs. “Being prolific don’t mean shit,” replies Richards. “I’ve got three songs and they’re dynamite. I don’t want to make any decisions about this until this record comes out, because I think it might radically change Mick’s attitude; it might change mine. I want to see the fallout from this record before I decide whether I want to record 40 of Mick’s songs or whether he wants to sit down with me and record some songs together. That’s my thing. That’s my ball there. I’ve always got a few songs on the back burner and so does Mick – he writes a lot. I don’t. I tend to concentrate on two or three really interesting riffs or ideas, rather than being prolific.”

The stones during their desert Trip set, October 14, 2016

“I expect this record to have an insidious effect for several years. It shows more depth” Kevin Winter/Getty imaGes; Dave J HoGan/Getty imaGes

keiTh RiChARds

I

ask Jagger whether he’s surprised it’s been 10 years since the Stones last released an album. “I know it’s a long time. I don’t really know why. I guess we’re touring a lot and nobody was that keen – I’m including myself in all this – in going in the studio. We just didn’t do it.” “Doom And Gloom” – one of two new tracks the Stones recorded for their 2012 GRRR! comp – was terrific. Are there any more like that in the back pocket? “That was a nice session,” agrees Jagger. “It was really quick, just a week. But we didn’t follow it up. When I did ‘Doom And Gloom’, I did demos for lots of others. I just carried on doing that, but we’ve never gone in the studio all together.” He sounds almost wistful. And now they’ve recorded a new album, where does he think it fits in with the general retrospective tone of the Stones’ career lately? “We talked about doing a blues album, different ways of doing

it, then suddenly we came to it in the middle of doing new songs. You could say it is part of that process of that 50th anniversary. Of looking back. I suppose it’s tying it up in a ribbon in the end.” While it would be a graceful way for the Stones to exit – they came in with the blues and they go out with the blues – they are already mulling over plans for 2017. “I was writing last night at the end of the baseball match,” says Jagger. “I sat watching the World Series, playing my guitar. But I think it would be nice to do new songs and go in a new direction with them.” Any idea where that might take you? “Maybe not quite as much harmonica!” Meanwhile, Keith Richards lights one last Marlboro. “I’m always reminded,” he says, “every time I get onstage and see people, from nippers to people even older than I am – some of them, very few – but to see the generations, the Stones are part of their lives. It’s certainly part of mine. That sharing thing, I ain’t never got offstage feeling bad – even at Altamont, and that was brutal. We’re still constantly amazed by the love and enjoyment. No-one gets hurt, everyone has a good time. It’s the people. That’s all it’s about. You can’t play in a vacuum. It’s getting out there onstage in front of them; you fuck up occasionally, but it’s the give and take between human beings that is the overwhelming impression I get. The band is still getting better.” Blue & Lonesome is released by Polydor on December 2; Havana Moon is available now from Eagle Rock

ROLLING cOmmeNtaRy

Ron on…

“A

…growing up with the blues

lot of credit has to go to my family for encouraging me when i was a little kid to listen to all different styles of music, through the blues and the early pop charts, the crooners and traditional jazz, which my brother ted followed – Bix Beiderbecke and Louis armstrong. my other brother, art, took me through Little Walter. He backed him up when he came to england. He

What a Guy: Wood and Richards jam with a blues legend in Shine A Light 60 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

backed up a lot of musicians when they came to London, like Howlin’ Wolf. since i’ve grown up, i’ve hung out with people like Hubert sumlin and muddy. We still have Buddy Guy; he was a kid among all those grownups. He took us boys under his wing, us white boys who emulated his music, and felt what his brothers and forefathers were playing. He appreciated what we saw in it.”


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0 216 the

Review of

THE ESSENTIAL ALBUMS FILMS, DVDS & BOOKS OF THE YEAR

The definitive word on 2016 – all of this year’s key releases as chosen by the Uncut team. As ever, please send us your 64 THE TOp 75 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR own 2016 charts: 80 THE BEST REISSUES & COMpS uncut_feedback@timeinc.com 83 THE YEAR’S BEST BOOKS

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In AssocIATIon WITh

JAnUARY 2017 • UncUT • 63


review of 2016

new releAses

75-51

Going Away: Okkervil River

75 psyChiC teMple III ASTHMATIC KITTY

74 Melt yourselF down Last Evenings On Earth LEAF

73 heron oblivion Heron Oblivion SUB POP

72 oren AMbArChi Hubris EDITIONS MEGO

71 the CoMet is CoMing Channel The Spirits LEAF

70 KirAn leonArd

Grapefruit MOSHI MOSHI

69 Allen toussAint

American Tunes NONESUCH

68 the CorAl Distance Inbetween IGNITION

Morby Singing Saw 50Kevin

67 steve gunn Eyes On The Lines MATADOR

DEAD OCEANS

66 ChArles brAdley Changes DAPTONE

65 eMMA polloCK In Search Of Harperfield

CHEMIKAL UNDERGROUND

64 gruFF rhys Set Fire To The Stars FINDERS KEEPERS 63 riChMond FontAine

You Can’t Go Back If There’s Nothing To Go Back To DECOR

62 iAn williAM CrAig Centres FATCAT

61 John CAle M:Fans DOMINO 60 ty segAll Emotional Mugger DRAG CITY 59 billy brAgg And Joe henry Shine A Light COOKING VINYL

58 KAitlyn AureliA sMith Ears WESTERN VINYL 57 MAxwell

Blacksummers’ Night LEGACY

56 dAnny brown

Atrocity Exhibition WARP

55 soundwAlK ColleCtive w/Jesse pAris sMith & pAtti sMith Killer Road BELLA UNION 54 robbie FulKs Upland

Stories BLOODSHOT

53 hinds Leave Me Alone LUCKY NUMBER

52 vArious Day Of The Dead 4AD

51 underworld Barbara Barbara We Face A Shining Future CAROLINE

Compared with the former Woods bassist’s first two embryonic releases, this year’s Singing Saw was his most complete work yet. Anchored by Morby’s strong vocals and enigmatic way with words, these nine songs were as modern and expansively arranged as they were classicist in form. Now that this songwriter has discovered his own musical and lyrical voice, his next efforts could be even better.

49

Christine And the Queens Chaleur Humaine BECAUSE Gallic stars rarely cross over to the UK mainstream, but pop auteur Héloïse Letissier did just that with the revamped Englishlanguage version of her debut. Satisfyingly, Chaleur Humaine was deeper and more inclusive than most global successes, whether it welded danceable synth-pop to existential, downbeat lyrics on “Tilted”, or matched explorations of gender roles and sexual fluidity with a distorted slow jam on the stately opener “iT”.

Konnichiwa 48sKeptA BOY BETTER KNOW

Five years in the making, Skepta’s landmark fourth was arguably the point at which grime

matured, catching the attention of Drake and Pharrell Williams. That would all have meant nothing, of course, if Konnichiwa hadn’t been such a strong record, but Joseph Adenuga, also writing and producing, managed to bust out 12 prime tracks, including “Shutdown” and the caustic “Man”, without compromising his street smarts.

FAMily Unseen 47hAndsoMe LOOSE MUSIC

Thanks to True Detective, The Handsome Family are almost household names now, but recognition didn’t dilute their parched, creaking Americana on this, their 10th album. Lyricist and bassist Rennie Sparks was on particularly strong form, whether conjuring up darkened fairytales on “The Red Door” or pondering the timelessness of New Mexico’s deserts on “King Of Dust”.

The Glowing Man 46swAns MUTE

The grand finale for Swans’ current incarnation, The Glowing Man continued in the punishing pattern forged by The Seer and To Be Kind: epic songs, powered by swirls of transcendent noise, jackhammer rhythms and Michael Gira’s incantatory lyrics. This time, however, the mood was more redemptive, the sound of a mighty ensemble reaching their planned destination.

We Are King 45King KING CREATIVE

That Prince and Kendrick Lamar were fans of this Los Angeles trio should have been an indication of the solid-gold quality of their debut album. Across these 12 songs, Anita Bias and twins Paris and Amber Strother evoked the dreamy, sensual feel of ’80s R&B, with precious little ego and milliondollar melodies that made We Are King far more than pastiche.

river Away 44oKKervil ATO

While Will Sheff has often sung about death on his band’s concept albums, in 2016 the deceased party he wrote about was his own band. Away, however, was a fitting end for this incarnation of Okkervil River, with Sheff tenderly singing of transformation and nostalgia over intricate, subdued arrangements a world away from the bombast of 2013’s The Silver Gymnasium.

róisín Murphy Take Her Up 43 To Monto PIAS

Containing nine songs from the same sessions as 2015’s Hairless Toys, Murphy’s fourth solo album was, if anything, stranger than its eccentric predecessors. “Mastermind” found the former Moloko singer spitting out unwieldy lines like a disco Scott Walker, while

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new releAses the paranoid “Nervous Sleep” was almost a Throbbing Gristle lullaby. No wonder Murphy no longer troubles the singles charts: Monto is far too sophisticated for that.

brigid MAe power 42 Brigid Mae Power

let’s eAt grAndMA 40 I, Gemini

TRANSGRESSIVE

Perhaps it’s the similarity between Ireland’s scales and that of Indian ragas, but the Emerald Isle’s music has a habit of tapping into the ethereal. The spectral debut from Galway-raised newcomer Power does that in excelsis, channelling folk, Lynchian post-rock and the goth-pop of This Mortal Coil into a reverb-swathed delight. For music that’s so fluid and ghostly, the eight songs here are not easy to forget.

Meredith Varmints 41AnnA

MOSHI MOSHI

Scottish composer Meredith has form as the creator of experimental, novelty works such as Concerto For Beatboxer And Orchestra. Her debut album, Varmints, then, skilfully matched programmed synths and distorted guitars with horns and strings to create pieces that ranged from Dark stuff: jenny Hval

A View from the river: Eleanor Friedberger

While many of this year’s most acclaimed records came from more mature artists, duo Let’s Eat Grandma demonstrated that fearless invention is often the trump card of the young. I, Gemini, the wild debut from precocious Norwich teenagers Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth, was a punning, eclectic delight, from the crazed electronic hip-hop of “Eat Shiitake Mushrooms” to the dark folk dirges of “Sleep Song” and “Chocolate Sludge Cake”.

& rope Little Seeds 39shovels NEW WEST

Americana in 2016 continued to look to more visceral, modern subjects for inspiration. On their third LP proper, Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst confronted the 2015 Charleston church shooting

(“BWYR”), capital punishment (“Botched Execution”) and electroshock therapy (“Johnny Come Outside”) on crunchy, immediate songs that recalled The White Stripes, Neil Young and The Civil Wars.

38

Chris Forsyth & the solAr Motel bAnd The Rarity Of Experience

NO QUARTER

Philadelphia guitarist Forsyth sings for the first time on The Rarity Of Experience, but that wasn’t the only change on the second album with his Solar Motel Band; while he was still flicking through Television’s highlights, Forsyth gravitated even closer to British electric folk, closing with a faithful cover of Richard Thompson’s “Calvary Cross”, while synth textures highlight these exquisite guitar workouts.

heCKer Love Streams 37tiM

4AD

Designed in part as a reaction to AutoTune, Canadian avant-noise musician Tim Hecker’s eighth album took an Icelandic choir scored by Jóhann Jóhannsson, along with organ and woodwinds, and processed them into all manner of synthetic, fluttering shapes. What on paper sounded academic, however,

was in practice transcendent and entirely otherwordly, a strange conduit between the organic and the digital.

hvAl Blood Bitch 36Jenny SACRED BONES

Forget Ikea and hygge; Oslo’s Jenny Hval is a perfect example of the darker, more interesting side of Scandinavia. The questing, transgressive songwriter’s sixth album, Blood Bitch, lyrically linked vampirism, menstruation and Virginia Woolf, while musically Hval utilised dark synth-pop and Adam Curtis samples to mesmerising effect.

eleAnor Friedberger 35 New View FRENCH KISS

From The Fiery Furnaces’ wordy and hallucinatory Bitter Tea to the clearer, cleaner New View, Eleanor Friedberger has been through quite a change in the last decade. On her third solo album, Friedberger retains the off-kilter, wonky charm of her old band and her unique voice but, on highlights like “Two Versions Of Tomorrow”, channels her experiences into graceful, perfectly weighted songs inspired by the AM singer-songwriters of the ’70s. ON YOUR FREE CD TRACK 3

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© Jenny Berger Myhre, Lasse Marhaug

TOMPKINS SQUARE

apocalyptic (the grinding “Nautilus”) to winningly pretty (“Something Helpful”). The result was dizzying, but the sheer quantity of ideas here made up for what Varmints lacked in coherence.

review of 2016


the fopp 100

best of 2016 album of the year

david bowie

blackstar

nick cave & the bad seeds

skeleton tree

and christine s n e e u q the ine

ma chaleur hu

pj harvey

the hope six demolition project agnes obel

citizen of glass

bat for lashes

the bride

lambchop

flotus

case/lang/veirs

case/lang/veirs

wilco

schmilco

margo price

midwest farmer’s daughter

sturgill simps on

a sailor’s guide to earth


ley charles brad

changes

teenage fanclub

here

sote king creo eets

m astronaut appleman

dexys

show: let the record d an sh iri dexys do country soul

suede

night thoughts

red hot chili peppers

the getaway

pixies

head carrier

biffy clyro

ellipsis

drive-by truckers

american b and

james

girl at the end of the world the coral

distance inbetween

beth orton

kidsticks

the divine comedy

foreverland

the fopp list

see our complete top 100 albums of the year in this month’s edition of the fopp list or online at fopp.com while stocks last

fopp stores bristol college green cambridge sidney st edinburgh rose st glasgow union st & byres rd london covent garden manchester brown st nottingham broadmarsh

shopping centre oxford gloucester green


neW reLeases

review of 2016

Lucinda WiLLiams 34 The Ghosts Of Highway 20 HIGHWAY 20

Growing up in various towns along Interstate 20, it was inevitable that Lucinda Williams would one day chronicle the inhabitants of those settlements in song. Across 14 atmospheric, dour tracks, Williams sings of the disappointments and miseries of those characters – including, most powerfully, of the very different troubles that plagued her late mother and father on “Louisiana Story” and “If My Love Could Kill”.

33

Still angry after all these years: Iggy Pop (Josh Homme, far right)

After several attempts at concept albums, Melbourne’s seven-headed King Gizzard finally succeeded with their eighth LP, a Moebius strip of a garage record that joined up both its songs and the entire album. A hyperactive, addictive journey incorporating fuzzed-up acid-rock, Hawkwind noise, hardcore punk and electric sax solos, Nonagon… was a standout in these halcyon days of garage rock.

itinerant songwriter’s eighth album was a smartened-up surprise. Co-produced by Rob Schnapf, Mangy Love finds McCombs singing of political oppression, women’s liberation and the inhabitants of the gutter over elegant, soul-influenced rock, Afrobeat and Americana. Despite the surface gloss, however, the result as oblique and enigmatic as ever.

king gizzard and the Lizard Wizard Nonagon Infinity HEAVENLY

75 dOLLar BiLL Wood/Metal/ 32 Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/ Rock THIN WRIST

Having met on MySpace in the last decade, this NY duo set about concocting a lo-fi stew of North African rhythms and exotic Asian textures. Wood/Metal…, their first proper studio document, finds Rick Brown and Che Chen’s percussion, horns and overdriven guitar interlocking haphazardly over four extended pieces: “I’m Not Trying To Wake Up”, especially, is sparse, crystalline and utterly hypnotic. ON YOUR FREE CD TRACK 15

mccOmBs Mangy Love 31cass ANTI-

For a man seemingly allergic to streamlining his art for a mass audience, the

Ocean Blonde 30Frank

BOYS DON’T CRY

As the follow-up to 2012’s Channel Orange, Frank Ocean’s second was an ambitious, downbeat and complex record. “RIP Trayvon,” sings a processed Ocean on opener “Nikes”, but from then on the restless, unfathomable and often beatless Blonde investigates more internal struggles. Meanwhile, samples of The Beatles, Gang Of Four and Todd Rundgren float in and out like the waves of a dream.

kendrick Lamar 29 Untitled Unmastered POLYDOR

Talk about a purple patch: so masterly was To Pimp A Butterfly (Uncut’s No 2 album of 2015), Kendrick Lamar’s offcuts still warrant a place on this year’s run-down. By design, untitled unmastered is half-formed, but the considerable skills of Lamar and

collaborators such as Adrian Younge and Bilal are enough to make the post-rock bossa of “Untitled 06” or the jazz-funk of “Untitled 03” essential listens.

case/Lang/ Veirs 28 Case/Lang/Veirs

ANTI-

A one-off record from this folk/Americana supergroup, Neko Case, KD Lang and Laura Veirs’ selftitled album pitched their diverse vocals against an organic, elegant backdrop of strings, slide guitars and sumptuous reverb. Lang’s “Blue Fires” was pristine, yet Veirs’ “Song For Judee”, a cantering tribute to their spiritual forebear Judee Sill, perhaps hit the hardest.

27

shirLey cOLLins Lodestar

DOMINO

One of folk’s best-loved voices returned in 2016 after 38 years. Her dysphonia cured, Shirley Collins recorded a sparsely accompanied set of traditional songs in her Sussex cottage, complete with birdsong leaking in from her garden. Alternately violent and brutal (the murderous “Cruel Lincoln”) and joyous (the surreal “Old Johnny Buckle”), Lodestar was a strong, earthy reintroduction to one of the UK’s greatest talents. ON YOUR FREE CD TRACK 12

Le BOn Crab Day 26cate TURNSTILE

Inspired by her difficult Drinks project with Tim Presley, Cate Le Bon’s primal fourth album paired the warped guitars and saxophones of Faust or the Magic Band with the Welsh songwriter’s customarily idiosyncratic lyrics. 2013’s Mug Museum may have edged Le Bon towards the mainstream, but Crab Day instead found her thriving on her own overgrown trail. ON YOUR FREE CD TRACK 14

iggy POP Post Pop 25 Depression CAROLINE

After spending the last decade alternately playing French jazz and old Stooges songs, Iggy Pop rediscovered his dark and dangerous art-rock side with help from Josh Homme. Buzzing with grimy guitars and synths, Post Pop Depression thrillingly channelled the claustrophobic, industrial feel of 1977’s The Idiot, yet updated it with 21st-century angst: “You take your motherfucking laptop, and just shove it into your goddamn foul mouth…”

PauL simOn Stranger To 24 Stranger VIRGIN

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neW reLeases Age is no limit to experimentation, as the 75-year-old Simon, and his 81-year-old producer Roy Halee, demonstrated on the songwriter’s 13th solo album. Incorporating complex rhythms, archaic synths and collaborations with Italian electro producer Clap! Clap!, Stranger To Stranger was energised, unexpected and, on the likes of the funky, profane “Cool Papa Bell” (“You, you motherfucker, are a filthy rat”), wryly amusing.

latest explored downbeat R&B and Auto-Tuned vocals, at times reminiscent of James Blake or Bon Iver. Yet, crucially, FLOTUS still felt like it flowed from the same mind as Nixon or Is A Woman, even on “The Hustle”, its propulsive, 18-minute closer.

A Seat At The Table 18sOLange RCA

Solange Knowles’ third album was almost a decade in the making, but seemed to tap perfectly into the zeitgeist in the era of Black Lives Matter. Working alongside producers such as Raphael Saadiq, Dave Sitek and Dirty Projectors’ David Longstreth, Solange condensed the modern black experience into songs that seemed to evoke the sophisticated musical peaks of multiple eras, from Prince and Minnie Riperton to TLC.

THIRD MAN

ON YOUR FREE CD TRACK 7

MC Taylor aka Hiss Golden Messenger

undergrowth of the bucolic “Sunken Garden”, to the open roads, on the magnificent motorik of opener “Highway Anxiety”.

aVaLanches angeL OLsen Wildflower Woman 22the 20My XL

The Avalanches’ Since I Left You has only grown in legend and stature in the 16 years since its release, but the long-awaited Wildflower managed to live up to their debut’s high standard. This time around, the Melbourne crew enlisted a star system of guest artists, from Danny Brown and MF DOOM to Warren Ellis and Kevin Parker. Best of all are the songs featuring Jonathan Donahue, with The Avalanches perfecting a sunbleached, modern psychedelia.

JAGJAGUWAR

After two strong solo albums, My Woman was the point where Angel Olsen fully blossomed. Now confident enough to play with her musical and lyrical voice, Olsen seemed to bare her soul on My

Woman, even as she coyly played with personas. Musically, meanwhile, it all hung together while adeptly exploring ’90s indie (“Give It Up”), ’70s country (“Sister”) and ’80s synth-pop (“Intern”). ON YOUR FREE CD TRACK 10

FLOTUS 19LamBchOP

CITY SLANG

Combining the soulful, sombre feel of 2012’s Mr M with the electronic textures of his HeCTA side project, Kurt Wagner’s

Solange Knowles

tyLer Modern Country 21WiLLiam MERGE

This Nashville guitarist has long attempted to explore the geography of America in his instrumental music, but on his third album William Tyler finally managed to capture the mercurial essence of the highways and byways of the US. Assisted by members of Wilco and Megafaun, Tyler mapped a journey from the

caVern OF anti-matter 17 Void Beats/Invocation Trex DUOPHONIC

The first full-length from this Berlin trio, formed of Stereolab members Tim Gane and Joe Dilworth, and German synthesist Holger Zapf, featured cameos from Sonic Boom and Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox. And yet, any guests were overshadowed by the pulsing synths, patched-up drum machines and processed guitars that drove stunning highlights such as the 13-minute “Tardis Cymbals” or the insectoid rush of “Hi-Hats Bring The Hiss”.

hiss gOLden messenger 16 Heart Like A Levee

MERGE

“I feel like 20 dollars,” sings MC Taylor on “Ace Of Cups Hung Low Band”, one of the standouts of his seventh album as Hiss Golden Messenger. It’s a telling line from Taylor, who throughout this record is thankful for the salvation of family life, even as he mourns his own absence from it due to his touring schedule. Musically, Heart… similarly tugs on the heartstrings, a perfect balance between countryfolk, Southern funk and Van Morrison’s mystical quests. ON YOUR FREE CD TRACK 2

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andy tennille; elias tahan

margO Price Midwest Farmer’s 23 Daughter Jack White really struck gold with the first country artist on his Third Man label: on the evidence of her debut, warmly recorded in just three days, Price has the voice, the songs and the story – indeed, the opening track of Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, “Hands Of Time”, tells her whole gritty tale, from drunkenness and the loss of a child to time in jail. A modern country classic.

review of 2016


rEVIEW of 2016

neW releases

Schmilco 15Wilco

infectious “Nope”. Small sound, but a big impact.

DBPM

On YOUR FREE CD TRACK 11

Although it was almost totally acoustic, the hushed Schmilco manages to pack as much of a punch as its electrified cousin, last year’s Star Wars. Indeed, the 12 beautifully recorded vignettes behind its excellent cover found Jeff Tweedy on top form, whether singing of “distances no-one will go” on the Beatles-esque waltz of “Shrug And Destroy”, or bashing out a sour blues on the tumbling,

iver 22, A Million 14Bon

PREVIOUS WINNERS 1997 BoB Dylan

On YOUR FREE CD TRACK 8

1998 mercury rev

Drive-By Truckers 13 American Band

1999 The Flaming lips

ATO

The Soft Bulletin WARnER BROS

“If you say it wasn’t racial/When they shot him in his tracks,” sang Patterson Hood on “What It Means”, “well, I guess that means that you ain’t black.” It wasn’t rare to hear such indignation in 2016, but it was gratifying to see it so fiercely delivered by a white rock band from the American South. Indeed, the whole of the Truckers’ impressive 11th passionately railed against racism, oppression and violence in all its forms.

2000 lamBchop nixon CITY SLAnG

2001 ryan aDams Gold LOST HIGHWAY

2002 The Flaming lips Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots WARnER BROS

2003 Warren Zevon The Wind ARTEMIS/RYKO

2004 Brian Wilson Smile nOnESUCH

2005 arcaDe Fire Funeral ROUGH TRADE

2006 BoB Dylan

On YOUR FREE CD TRACK 4

2007 lcD sounDsysTem

eno The Ship 12Brian

Modern Times COLUMBIA Sound Of Silver DFA/EMI

WARP

2008 porTisheaD Third ISLAnD

Post Pavilion DOMInO

Have One On Me DRAG CITY

2011 pJ harvey

Let England Shake ISLAnD

2012 leonarD cohen

Old Ideas COLUMBIA

2013 my BlooDy valenTine m b v MY BLOODY VALEnTInE

2014 The War on Drugs

Lost In The Dream SECRETLY CAnADIAn

2015 Julia holTer DOMInO

oh sees A Weird Exits 11Thee

CASTLE FACE

“Dead Man’s Gun”, the rushing, raucous opening track on this prolific LA group’s 17th LP, signalled business as usual for John Dwyer and co. Delve deeper into A Weird Exits, though, and the four-piece, now recording with their live two-

drummer lineup, had expanded into Radiophonic funk (“Jammed Entrance”), lysergic, string-assisted waltzes (the eight-minute “A Crawl Out From The Fall Out”) and glowering, organ-driven prog (“The Axis”). Their most diverse, and best, yet. On YOUR FREE CD TRACK 13

Lemonade 10Beyoncé

SOnY

Like her sister Solange’s A Seat At The Table, Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade investigated what it was to be an African-American woman in 2016. In this spirit of liberation, Bey freed herself from genre, too, enlisting Jack White, Father John Misty, Diplo, The Weeknd, Ezra Koenig and James Blake to help create a 45-minute journey stretching from R&B, rap and electronica to gospel, country and funk.

PEMA

2010 Joanna neWsom

Have You In My Wilderness

This Sussex postman’s son has tried many things in his long career, but until 2016 he had rarely added vocals to his more beatific ambient work. The majority of The Ship, then, is shifting and shapeless, but gloriously beautiful, Eno singing obliquely of the losses of the Titanic and the Great War, before paying tribute to the late Lou Reed with a sombre, glistening cover of the Velvets’ “I’m Set Free”.

FancluB Here 9Teenage

2009 animal collecTive Merriweather

shamil tanna; donald milne

SECRETLY

After the glossy expansion of Bon Iver’s self-titled record, Justin Vernon’s third album experimented even further with sampling, synths and Auto-Tuned vocals; the sound of the future, in this case made to creak and wheeze like it’s steam-powered. While “33 ‘GOD’’’ and “00000 Million” are stitched together from pitch-shifted samples of Paolo Nutini, Jim Ed Brown and Fionn Regan, Vernon makes them feel organic and supremely affecting.

Time Out Of Mind COLUMBIA Deserter’s Songs V2

Brian Eno: Ship ahoy

“Teenage” Fanclub

Arriving after a six-year wait, the Fannies’ 10th found the Glasgow veterans valiantly shying away from the left-turns of many of the albums on Uncut’s 2016 rundown; instead, Here deals in the same stunningly sophisticated guitar pop the group have mastered for decades. It was one of their strongest, warmest efforts, however, all the way from the celebratory “I’m In Love” to the swooning, autumnal “Connected To Life”. On YOUR FREE CD TRACK 9

The uncuT 2016 enD oF year revieW in association with 70 • UnCUT • jAnUARY 2017


neW releases ROUGH TRADE

Leaving behind the beauty of her work with Antony & The Johnsons, Anohni embraced electronics and protest music on her mighty reinvention. Created with producers Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never, Hopelessness fearlessly stared into the void of today, examining Barack Obama’s failings, surveillance culture and climate change, all delivered in Anohni’s peerless tremble.

sTurgill simpson A Sailor’s Guide To 7 Earth ATLAnTIC

Though the Kentucky-born Simpson is now signed to Atlantic, A Sailor’s Guide… is no play for mainstream or country success. Rather, the songwriter’s third crystallises his love for his wife and son into a dazzlingly varied concept album, ranging from the tender, luxurious take on Nirvana’s “In Bloom” and Simpson’s own “Keep It Between The Lines”, a compressed slice of Southern funk, to the nautical sound effects that anchor this supremely confident, singular album. On YOUR FREE CD TRACK 6

pJ harvey The Hope Six 6 Demolition Project

ISLAnD

On her ninth album, the restless Polly Jean Harvey took the WWI elegies of Let England Shake and applied them to the more ambiguous present. Documenting her visits to Afghanistan, Washington DC and Kosovo in the impassive, stark style of the hardiest documentarian, PJ sang of lives devastated by war and poverty, backed by her swampiest, most violent rock in years.

ryley Walker Golden Sings That 5 Have Been Sung

DEAD OCEAnS

As heady and impressive as this young Illinois singer and guitarist’s first two albums were, they leaned heavily on the templates created by John Martyn, Bert Jansch

and the like. For his third record, however, Walker discovered how to channel his own sardonic personality into folky, jazzy songs that drew as much from the ’90s post-rock of Tortoise and Jim O’Rourke as they did from the masters of the British folk revival.

Going out on a high: David Bowie

On YOUR FREE CD TRACK 5

leonarD cohen Want It Darker 4You COLUMBIA

Cohen’s eighthdecade rejuvenation continues to delight, with You Want It Darker, the songwriter’s third album since 2012, one of his finest. With his voice as deep as his poetry, Cohen confronted the pleasures and pain of mortality and relationships over sterling orchestral arrangements, still finding room for some very Cohen-esque quips: “I’m running late, they’ll close the bar/I used to play one mean guitar…”

ALBUM OF THE YEAr

1

3

nick cave & The BaD seeDs Skeleton Tree BAD SEED LTD Cave has dealt with most forms of darkness and death in his songs, but the loss of his son, Arthur, prodded the songwriter into exploring loss, the afterlife and grief in a new gripping depth on the Bad Seeds’ 16th, and its accompanying Andrew Dominik film, One More Time With Feeling. Musically, the band steer clear of mawkishness, their droning, industrial synths and ominous strings mirroring the absence at the centre of these eight songs. On YOUR FREE CD TRACK 1

A Moon Shaped Pool 2raDioheaD

XL

Stepping back from The King Of Limbs’ polyrhythms and electronic textures, Radiohead utilised the soundtrack composer in their midst and made their most orchestral, expansive album. The finest songs, such as “The Numbers” and the John Barry-ish “Tinker Tailor…”, found this stellar group juggling guitars, Jonny Greenwood’s string and choral ensembles and electronic programming into a seamless, breathtakingly beautiful whole.

H

DaviD BoWie

COLUMBIA

D

AVID Bowie’s final album was released on January 8, but it wasn’t truly understood until three days later, when the shock news broke that its creator had passed away. As the title track put it, “Something happened on the day he died,” snapping the seven songs on ★ into focus; suddenly their cryptic lyrics became uncomfortably, uncharacteristically clear. “Look up here, I’m in heaven,” Bowie sang on “Lazarus”, and the line took on a very different hue. Similarly with “I’m dying to” on “Dollar Days”, which after 10 January was clearly “I’m dying too”. The dead astronaut in the video for “Blackstar” now seemed too obvious a piece of symbolism to have missed. Bowie had always stage-managed his career, but this was to a new level; a grand finale that perhaps only he could have pulled off. Forgetting this sweep of the stage curtains, however, ★ was equally wonderful in isolation. One of the most challenging and ambitious records of Bowie’s career, it foregrounded the songwriter’s beloved saxophone, this time handed over to American modern jazz luminary Donny McCaslin. Electronic textures and fidgety, processed drums were perfectly matched to this apocalyptic industrial-jazz, far more successfully than his ’90s attempts on Earthling and Outside. Although ★ saw Bowie bravely moving his sound on, far from the safer, more pastiche feel of the classicist The Next Day, there were still echoes of the past within the futuristic maelstrom: the narcotic soul at the heart of the title track, say, and the Diamond Dogs feel of dilapidated dystopian grandeur on “Sue”, or the guitar solos in the final two songs that so obviously referenced Mick Ronson and Robert Fripp. Certainly, this was the big goodbye that Bowie – who, don’t forget, always longed to write for the theatre – had intended, perhaps the most dramatic planned farewell in all of popular music. Still, it would be a shame if this showmanship came to overshadow the sheer quality of this landmark album; unique in character but for once truly the equal of his hallowed ’70s work. It’s only sad that we won’t find out what he would have done next. TOM PINNOCK

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jimmy king

Hopelessness 8anohni

rEVIEW of 2016


review of 2016

new music

“The age of the iconoclast…” Laura snapes on the year’s best new music

The uncuT 2016 end of Year review in association with 72 • UnCUt • month 2016

anohni photo by alice o’Malley at the bronx Zoo orphanage with thanks to kathleen laMattina, orphanage director and handler

Singular voices: Anohni, Angel olsen


W

e are living through the age of the iconoclast. For the past few years, Uncut’s albums Of The Year list has been dominated by solo artists rather than bands: The War On Drugs may have helmed 2014’s chart, but adam Granduciel and co still exemplified that year’s tension between trailblazers and traditionalists, with the likes of aphex Twin and St Vincent proving that the two traits weren’t mutually exclusive. Last year was all about diffuse stylists, with few of our top billed acts sharing common DNa. Julia Holter pipped Kendrick Lamar to the No 1 spot, while Natalie Prass and Sleaford Mods made incongruous bedfellows at the bottom end of the Top 10. In 2016, the most pronounced split in our list is between young and old in a startlingly good year for stalwarts. exempting ryley Walker at No 5, the artists responsible for Uncut writers’ top six albums have released 57 studio records between them, with their respective latest works ranking among their very best. These albums certainly reflect the tenor of this dismally momentous year: Bowie’s ★, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree, and Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker all faced death head-on.

Identity issues: Bon Iver, Frank ocean

radiohead used orchestral backing to make anxiety blindingly vivid on A Moon Shaped Pool, and PJ Harvey surveyed the communities displaced by america’s domestic and foreign policy on The Hope Six Demolition Project. art is constantly challenged to match the impact of current events, and music frequently proved itself to be up to the task this year. But as well as these big-hitters, a generation of younger acts came of age during 12 months that demanded robust artistry. Picking through Uncut’s Top 50 albums, we see few debuts, but a number of distinct schools taking shape, populated by solo acts at surface level, but powered by heavily foregrounded artistic communities. These artists enrich each other’s work and buck against the pernicious individualism creeping into all spheres of society. It’s also a satisfying realisation of Uncut’s mission to champion new records and place them in

A generation of acts came of age during 12 months that demanded robust artistry

the context of the musical traditions that we love. Primarily, that’s the americana musicians reaching creative maturity and achieving a degree of commercial crossover this year. “I would hope it comes down to things like discipline, intention, putting good music out into the world for the right reasons,” says guitarist William Tyler. “Incredible technique, and a yearning to push themselves and their audiences, albeit in a very inclusive, righteous way.” Leading the pack is ryley Walker, the youngest among them, whose Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (No 5) finds him developing his own selfdeprecating, digressive voice following a debut that wore its influences proudly. He assesses his peers’ emergence in 2016: “With so much bullshit being spewed from the television and devices everyday, the truth is a wonderful commodity.” Walker has previously referred to himself as the generation after acts such as William Tyler and Hiss Golden Messenger, closeknit comrades who explored adult anxieties and deepened their craft on their respective 2016 releases. Tyler’s instrumental Modern Country (No 19) plotted radiant, moody journeys down america’s forgotten highways, and offered salves for the panic attacks that can strike out there on the road. Uniting sun-dappled country, gospel, and dub, Hiss’ Heart

The uncuT 2016 end of Year review in association with month 2016 • UnCUt • 73

caMeron wittig & crystal Quinn

review of 2016


simon Genillier roelsGaard

review of 2016

new music

Like A Levee (No 14) fretted over the pull between family and work, and in turn featured a (barely audible) guest spot from Justin Vernon. His third album as Bon Iver, 22, A Million (No 15), swaps his trademark sensitive folk-rock for manic digital epics, transforming the year’s most profound artistic identity crisis into a striking existentialist statement. More confident were Kevin Morby’s Singing Saw (No 49) and Cass McCombs’ Mangy Love, wherein both songwriters made daring political statements while refining their distinct wryness. With The Rarity Of Experience (No 37), Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band ventured further out into the cosmos to marry classic rock swagger to more lyrical forms inspired by Sir Richard Bishop and the new weird Americana. On Angel Olsen’s selfpossessed My Woman (No 23), the Missouri-born songwriter asked, “Was it me you were thinking of/All the time when you thought of me?” and with her soaring, celestial rockabilly, made crystal clear that there’d be no mistaking her for anyone else in the future. She led a pack of self-assured songwriters coming into their powers: Eleanor Friedberger’s New View (No 35) paired her stubborn love songs with comfortably shaggy Americana, and Cate Le Bon’s Crab Day used nonsensical lyrics and scruffy post-punk to make sense of an increasingly absurd world. “Even when you look at horrendously serious matters, they don’t make any fucking sense,” says Le Bon. “It can be as comforting as it is terrifying, the realisation that everything is this weird fabrication.” Although the UK has been traditionally resistant to the genre, a bold new wave of country musicians have gained a foothold over here. Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter (No 21) is one of the list’s few debuts, although its strident, classic songs sum up years of personal heartache and professional rejection in Nashville. “Maybe it’s the first time in a while that country music was being made with more substance?” she muses of the sound’s UK breakthrough. “I’m happy there’s been a sea change.” Sturgill Simpson played in an early incarnation of her band, The Pricetags, and this year broke through with his third album and Atlantic debut, A Sailor’s Guide To Earth (No 7). Although neither act has received much attention from the country music establishment, Price suggests that their critical acclaim outside the genre has set off a sea change back home. “Everyone’s jumping on the authenticity bandwagon and making an attempt to be more honest and rooted in their sound and writing,” she says. “Of course, not everyone can do it, but I think it’s a step in the right direction. I think writers and musicians should care less about writing

Several superstars opted out of pop’s arms race to deliver subtle treatises on injustice Poetic? moi?: Christine & The Queens

a hit full of generic clichés and more about making something truthful and poetic.” It’s also the driving impetus behind this year’s biggest R&B, hip-hop and pop records. France’s Christine & The Queens used liminal synth-pop as a base to explore queer identity on Chaleur Humaine (No 48), and on Skepta’s Konnichiwa (No 47), the Mercury-winning grime artist confessed to feeling pulled between two worlds. Anohni addressed political corruption and environmental apocalypse on the Hudson Mohawke-assisted Hopelessness (No 8). “I guess people are getting more and more uneasy with the way things are going,” she surmises of the boom in politically motivated records. Several bona fide superstars opted out of pop’s nuclear arms race to deliver confidently subtle treatises on the injustices faced by people of colour. Buoyed by a huge raft of collaborators including Jack White and James Blake, Beyoncé’s Lemonade (No 16) was a thrilling confrontation of spousal infidelity and the wider cultural and societal betrayal of black women. Later in the year, her younger sister Solange released A Seat At The Table (No 17), which preached self-care in the face of relentless police brutality. Frank Ocean’s Blonde/ Endless (No 33) only contained one explicitly political moment (“RIP Trayvon, that n*gga look just like me,” he sang of the

slain 17-year-old on “Nikes”), but its carefree intimacy and nostalgia are a radical act in a country that often denies black boys their humanity. That kind of low-key power could also be found in Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled Unmastered (No 26), which compiled demos from 2015’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Not all the songs were finished, and they often lent insight into Lamar’s studio process, letting you hear his unprocessed voice and the musical conversations between Butterfly’s jazz ensemble. It was the sign of an artist with nothing to prove – which might be the defining trait of the best music released by younger artists in 2016. With the amorphous, unsettling Blood Bitch (No 36), Norway’s Jenny Hval rejected the explicit sloganeering of its predecessor, 2015’s Apocalypse, Girl, to explore her menstrual and vampiric “blood powers” and the notion of failure as resistance from commercialisation. Norwich teen duo Let’s Eat Grandma displayed a similar unwillingness to please on their eerie, CocoRosie-indebted debut, Deep Six Textbook (No 39). In spirit if not always in sound, these are all demanding records that make you come to them on their own terms, standing outside of the establishment and preconceived expectations of the genres in which they operate. Often, a profound loss – whether Bon Iver’s identity crisis or the theft of black life that inspired Solange – has inspired a renewed sense of selfpossession, and attempts to reclaim what has been stolen from them: humanity, identity, dignity. In the face of 2016’s extreme volatility, it’s no surprise that we’ve felt drawn to music of survival and self-assurance, of opting out of society to take the road less travelled. For the first time in a while, it feels like a communal project, rather than an individual one.

The uncuT 2016 end of Year review in association with 74 • UNCUT • moNTh 2016


the fopp 100

best of 2016

skepta

konnichiwa

gold panda

good luck and do your best

ula laura mv g

in the dream room

m83

junk

metronomy

summer 08 david holmes

late night tales

dj shadow

the mountain will fall

brian eno

the ship

de la soul

frightened rabbit

painting of a panic attack

and the anonymous nobody

moderat

iii

field music

the fopp list

commontime

see our complete top 100 albums of the year in this month’s edition of the fopp list or online at fopp.com while stocks last

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review of 2016

The deparTed

JUstin taLLis/aFP/Getty imaGes

January 15, 2016: Floral tributes pile up in front of the Bowie mural near his birthplace in Brixton. Mural painted by James Cochran

“A year with a hex on it…” david cavanagh on the departed of 2016

The uncuT 2016 end of Year review in association with 76 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017


W

hen UK hip-hop duo Mark B & Blade performed their song “Ya Don’t See The Signs” on Top Of The Pops in May 2001, it was supposed to be a breakthrough moment. Back then, in that pre-grime era, Mark B & Blade were many people’s tip to take British rap overground, into the charts. Arguments with their record label, however, soon halted the duo’s momentum and a disillusioned Mark B (short for Barnes) moved to Germany. Friends remember him as an unassuming guy, a talented beatmaker, a “real crate-digger”. Why the tributes? Because on January 1, 2016, Mark B died in his sleep of a suspected brain haemorrhage at the age of 45. hours into the new year, the first musician had fallen. Musicians, along with retired golfers, elderly novelists, disgraced politicians and septuagenarian heiresses, die every week of the year. They’re mortal and they die. Last year, in 2015, more than 60 wellknown musicians departed the world, including BB King, Ben e King, Percy Sledge, Allen Toussaint, Andy Fraser, Chris Squire, Dallas Taylor, Daevid Allen, Scott Weiland, Ornette Coleman, Cilla Black and two members of Motörhead, Lemmy and Phil Taylor. They died in that

May 6, 2016: fans attend a free Prince tribute show at Los Angeles City Hall

strange order that people do: indiscriminately, asymmetrically, lumped into bizarre sequences of twos and threes, their names pulled from different genres in an irregular manifestation of musical egalitarianism. They died from January to December. And so when they started dying in January 2016, it was really no surprise. There was, however, to be a crucial distinction between 2015 and 2016, one that defined them as historically different years a mere 11 days into January. his name was David Bowie. Whereas the musicians who’d died in January 2015 were of the calibre of Tangerine Dream’s edgar Froese – names to sadden their fanbase but mean little to everyone else – few of us will ever forget January 11, 2016, that bitter Monday morning when we awoke to the news that Bowie had died of cancer in new York. Only days earlier, on

Bowie’s death would be seen as proof that 2016 was a year with a hex on it, a year gone rogue

his 69th birthday, he’d released a dark and impressive new LP, ★. now the streets of the world’s major cities were turned into spontaneous shrines. So international was the grief that his death was reported as the most dramatic news story since the november 2015 terror attacks in Paris. Tributes were paid by prime ministers, by nASA, by the Vatican. The shock of losing Bowie knocked 2016 entirely off its axis. From that day forward, nobody’s death – not in music, not in sport, not in comedy, not in daily life – would be judged as an individual tragedy. Instead it would be viewed as more incontestable proof that 2016 was a year like no other, a year with a hex on it, a year gone rogue. A dozen more deaths followed Bowie’s in January, quickly creating cumulative sensations of overlapping sadness and mounting unease. Giorgio Gomelsky, impresario and onetime manager of The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds, died on January 13. Dale Griffin of Mott The hoople (January 17) and Glenn Frey of The eagles (January 18) died within 24 hours of each other. The heavy metal bassist Jimmy Bain (ex-Rainbow) was next on January 23. Three days later, the singersongwriter Black, real name Colin Vearncombe, died of head injuries sustained in a car crash in Ireland. Then, in a peculiar coincidence, two founder

The uncuT 2016 end of Year review in association with JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 77

KevorK DJansezian/Getty imaGes

review of 2016


Douglas Mason/getty iMages

review of 2016

The deparTed

members of Jefferson Airplane, Paul Kantner and Signe Toly Anderson, died on the same day. As cultural commentators noted, the ’60s and ’70s were taking heavy blows. For some, it was the beginning of a relentless footslog of bereavement. A generation of baby-boomers on social media, mortified by the deaths of Bowie, Frey and Kantner, were already painting 2016 as a season of darkness (to quote A Tale Of Two Cities) even before its first month had fully elapsed. It was the worst of times, it was the even worse of times. The breaking news strapline along the bottom of the screen became something to dread. Christ, who was it now? Not another one. Not Maurice White of soul legends Earth, Wind & Fire (February 3). Not the anarcho-punk matriarch Vi Subversa of Poison Girls (February 19). Not the wild showman of prog, Keith Emerson (March 10). Some days would throw up two names at once, grotesquely mismatched, forever coupled in death. Dennis Davis, the ex-Bowie and Stevie Wonder drummer, died on April 6 – as did Merle Haggard, the Bakersfield outlaw. The shocking end of the once-invincible Prince, dead of a fentanyl overdose at 57, fell on the same April day as the death of Lonnie Mack, a pioneer of blues-rock guitar. The androgynous Pete Burns of Dead Or Alive shared the obituary pages in October with his clean-cut polar opposite, the ’60s teen idol Bobby Vee. From every field of expertise they came: songwriters (Chips Moman, Rod Temperton), producers (George Martin, Lewis Merenstein of Astral Weeks), managers (The Bee Gees’ Robert Stigwood, Blue Öyster Cult’s Sandy Pearlman, ZZ Top’s Bill Ham), PR men (Tony Barrow) and disc jockeys (Terry Wogan, Ed Stewart, Jimmy Young). The deaths of Wogan and Stewart in the dire month of January intensified a sense of dismay felt by many people born in the ’60s and ’70s, for whom the familiar voices and faces of their childhoods were disappearing at an alarming rate. It was impossible, at least from a British perspective, to perceive 2016 as purely a grievous year for music; a childhood is made up of so much more stuff than that. In March, which was to prove another cruel month, the footballer Johan Cruyff died. The great Muhammad Ali died in June (on the same day as Fairport’s Dave Swarbrick, in a surreal quirk of fate). A pair of well-liked cricket commentators, Jack Bannister and Tony Cozier, passed in January and May. The comedians Ronnie Corbett and Victoria Wood died in March and April. The aggregate of all this sadness, internal and external, was tallied up and carried forward from week to week, waiting for the next piece of sad news. The death of Sylvia Anderson, the voice of Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds, was more

For many, the familiar faces of their childhood were disappearing April 23, 2016: a Prince symbol written in the sky during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

poignant than tragic, but it could spark a profound reaction of sorrow in someone still reeling from Keith Emerson’s suicide a week earlier. March was a month when former TV mainstays – Garry Shandling, Paul Daniels, Cliff Michelmore – were dying by the day. Where the hell was everybody going? Would anyone famous be left by Christmas? The summer was milder, though not much. In June, a 22-year-old singer and YouTube star named Christina Grimmie was shot dead by a male fan while signing autographs outside a theatre in Florida. The killer, who’d never met or spoken to his victim before, travelled 100 miles in a taxi to get to her, armed with two handguns and a hunting knife. No-one was exactly sure what Grimmie’s murder told us about the world we live in, but it did seem from one angle to resemble a horribly accelerated life of John Lennon, from popularity to assassination in the blink of an eye. With her covers of songs by Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana, Grimmie hardly fit the profile of an Uncut artist, but nobody’s fate this year was more disturbing. Sir George Martin, whose wise and sorrowful response in 1980 to Lennon’s murder was recounted in some obituaries, died at the age of 90 in March. It was a curious phenomenon of 2016 that even the peaceful deaths of kindly old men could be greeted with anguish and incredulity. Hot on the heels of the multiple losses of

January and February, the passing of Sir George felt like a gratuitous wound, an unnecessary addition to the growing death toll. And there would be others. While the reality was that many of those who died in 2016 had survived previous health scares, no tributes or eulogies were likely to get bogged down in pragmatic issues when there was so much pain and disbelief around. “I am in shock”, a poster on a US music forum wrote in June, on learning of the death of guitarist Scotty Moore. Another added: “Absolutely gutted at this sad news.” Moore was 84. Should we be shocked when an 84-yearold dies? Should life come to a standstill while we vent our distress on the internet? If the emotional trajectory of 2016 has been any indication, the answer is yes. Whether it’s Moore or Frey or Grimmie, it’s clear that the grief needs to be written, spoken and shared. Because it’s not just about what happens to them. It’s about what happens to us. Grief is unique to the living; the dead don’t have to worry about it. It’s the reason why Bowie, rock’s ultimate chameleon, had every right to dictate how people perceived him in life, but no right to determine how people mourned him in death. Chuck Berry is 90. Little Richard will be 84 in December. Jerry Lee Lewis is 81. Besides them, there are the likes of David Crosby and Keith Richards, neither of them renowned for heeding government health warnings or living their lives according to nutritionists’ five-a-day guidelines. It’s sobering to think that the continents of Europe and America contain so many rock musicians in their seventies and eighties. The internet could be jolted into a state of emergency at any moment. We need to get used to it. If 2016 has been a bad year, what about 2017, when everyone is a year older?

The uncuT 2016 end of Year review in association with 78 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017


the fopp 100

best of 2016

thee oh sees

king gizzard and the lizard wizard

a weird exits

nonagon infinity

hadow the last s ts e pupp e

you’v everything ect xp e to e m o c

teleman

brilliant sanity

white denim

stiff steve mason

meet the humans

mogwai

atomic

poliça

the kills

ash & ice

united crushers

school of seven bells

sviib

courteener s

mapping the rendezvous

the fopp list

richard ashcroft

these people

see our complete top 100 albums of the year in this month’s edition of the fopp list or online at fopp.com while stocks last

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ARCHIVE RELEASES

review of 2016

YOUNG Time Fades Away 30NEIL RepRise

After the petitions, the acclaim (from fans) and the criticism (from its creator), Neil Young’s most elusive album received a belated reissue in 2016. There were no extras on this vinyl-only release, but the quality of its songs, especially “Don’t Be Denied” and the epic “Last Dance”, more than made up for that. The promised Time Fades Away II remains unreleased, though.

FRANçOISE HARDY 29 Mon Amie La Rose LighT in The ATTic

Reissued along with four other early records, this 1964 album, Hardy’s third, was one of the chanteuse’s strongest efforts, studded with self-penned, widescreen gems such as “Tu N’as Qu’un Mot à Dire”, featuring sweeping arrangements from the Charles Blackwell Orchestra. No bonus tracks, but the original album was warmly remastered and accompanied by a new Hardy interview.

SUPER FURRY ANIMALS 28 Fuzzy Logic BMg

Recorded at Rockfield, because they liked the jacuzzis and the catering, SFA’s debut was an ambitious monument to maximalism, even featuring the kitchen sink on “For Now And Ever”. But unlike, say, Be Here Now, the glammy Fuzzy Logic was restless and jam-packed with enough ideas to start a dozen careers. Excellent remastering and B-sides, demos and a thrillingly ramshackle live set made this an essential document.

and London and trying out a darker, psych-blues direction. This 4CD or 2LP set told their whole story, and includes thrilling live performances.

26

PINK FLOYD The early Years

pink FLoYd RecoRds

Almost as extravagant as a Wall stage show and weighing as much as one of those bricks, The Early Years took an in-depth look at the Floyd’s pre-Dark Side era. Much-bootlegged Barrett favourites “Vegetable Man” and “Scream Thy Last Scream” were stunningly remastered, alongside hours of worthwhile, undiscovered audio and video material from the group’s most experimental era.

GRACE JONES Warm Leatherette 25 deluxe isLAnd/univeRsAL

Before Warm Leatherette, Jones was a disco queen; after it, she was a superstar. On her fourth album, though, co-produced by Chris Blackwell, the singer pioneeringly crossbred rock with the heavy Jamaican rhythms of Sly and Robbie. The original album’s seminal covers of The Normal, the

Stones, Pretenders and Roxy Music were here paired with multiple extended and dub versions.

24

MARC ALMOND Trials of eyeliner

uMc

Laid out across a lavish 10 discs, Trials Of Eyeliner attempted to tell the story of Almond’s entire career, from his work with Soft Cell and Marc And The Mambas to his collaborations with Siouxsie Sioux, Sarah Cracknell, members of Throbbing Gristle and even Jools Holland. Partitioned into three sections – History, Singles, Gems – this was a definitive treasure trove.

23

VARIOUS ARTISTS Music of Morocco: Recorded By paul Bowles, 1959 dusT-To-digiTAL

Like an exotic analogue of Alan Lomax, novelist and composer Paul Bowles travelled throughout Morocco in 1959, making field recordings of the artists he met. The result was an evocative four hours – now remastered, boxed and accompanied by a 120-page book – ranging from the sparse swing of Si Mohammed Bel Hassan Soudani to the dense epics of Maalem El Hocein.

JUDY HENSKE & JERRY YESTER 22 Farewell Aldebaran oMnivoRe

Officially reissued for the first time on CD and vinyl in 2016, this unique album sank without much trace on release in 1969. Taking in interstellar orchestral folk (“Three Ravens”), questing fuzz-rock (“Snowblind”) and psychedelic shanties (“Raider”), the duo’s only record sounded like little else back then; almost 50 years later, remastered with five instrumental demos, the effect was the same.

HEAT deceit 21 THIS LighT in The ATTic/ ModeRn cLAssics

A pioneering collision of postpunk, Canterbury experimentation and avant-garde methodology, the second album by Brixton’s This Heat, remastered alongside their self-titled debut and landmark single “Health And Efficiency”, confronted the existential terrors of the Cold War, dying empires and political madness. Perfect for revisiting in 2016, then.

our Furry friends

SCIENTISTS A place called Bad 27THE nuMeRo gRoup

Australia is today a fertile breeding ground for warped garage-rock, but this fantastic anthology proved that’s always been the case. Formed in late ’70s Perth, Kim Salmon’s Scientists played jagged post-punk, before moving to Sydney

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| UNCUT | JANUARY 80 • uncuT • JAnuARY 2017 2016


ARCHIVE RELEASES BOWIE Bowie At The Beeb 20DAVID

Fearless freaks: The groundhogs

sonY

Released for the first time on vinyl this year, with a couple of previously unreleased tracks, At The Beeb was a homely reminder of Bowie’s mercurial nature. One of the sessions featured the first performance by the Spiders From Mars (“Michael’s just come down from Hull,” says Bowie), while the June 3, 1971 set included the sublime “Kooks”, written just four days previously. Once Ziggy arrived, the raw versions easily matched any of the better-known live recordings.

CDs now expanded with a nine-song bonus disc of ’69 sessions (featuring the unreleased “Sunshine Woman”), this remastered, ‘complete’ set was even harder to quit.

19

16

VARIOUS ARTISTS i’m A Freak Baby: A Journey Through The British heavy psych And hard Rock underground scene 1968-1972

cheRRY Red

Way before punk, young British groups were embracing distortion, extreme volume and poor personal hygiene; I’m A Freak Baby chronicled the good, the bad and the ugly of the UK’s heavy psych scene, with peaks including Third World War’s grubby “Ascension Day”, The Groundhogs’ incendiary “Cherry Red” and the freakbeat of The Velvet Frogs’ 1968 epic, “Jehovah”.

18

RYAN ADAMS heartbreaker

pAx AMeRicAnA

Sixteen years after its original release, Adams’ debut solo LP has lost none of its charm. Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch turned up to add harmonies, but none of Heartbreaker’s guests could overshadow songs such as “Amy” or “To Be The One”. This deluxe edition shovelled on the extras, from demos and outtakes to a DVD of an acoustic show at NY’s Mercury Lounge.

LED ZEPPELIN The complete 17 BBc sessions

ATLAnTic

Before the 2003 Led Zeppelin DVD and How The West Was Won live LP, 1997’s BBC Sessions was the prime Zep goldmine outside of their studio albums. With the two original

LOU REED The RcA And Arista 11 Album collection

RAY CHARLES The Atlantic studio Albums – in Mono Rhino Comprising Ray Charles’ pioneering first seven LPs pressed on 180gm vinyl, The Atlantic Studio Albums – In Mono catalogued the Georgian pianist’s early experiments with R’n’B, gospel, jazz, blues, ballads and multi-tracking. Neatly packaged and presented, this box was a welcome reminder of the restless Charles’ many talents.

15

GILLIAN WELCH Boots no 1: The official Revival Bootleg AconY

Rather than just reissuing debut album Revival on its 20th anniversary, Welch and David Rawlings pieced together this double-CD set of outtakes and demos from the period. From the toetapping country of “Dry Town” to the four-track demo of “Orphan Girl”, Boots No 1 was an essential listen, as strong as any of Welch’s reliably infrequent albums proper. Ray charles in mono

LEE HAZLEWOOD The very special 14 World of… LighT in The ATTic

Hazlewood’s 1966 debut for MGM might have featured the Oklahoman’s bestknown song, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’”, but it was the sumptuously sad ballads that impressed most on this remastered edition. Beautifully arranged with yearning strings, brushed percussion and acoustic guitars, “Not The Lovin’ Kind”, “My Baby Cried All Night Long” and, best of all, “My Autumn’s Done Come” showed off Hazlewood’s masterful way with a bittersweet melody.

13

BOB DYLAN The 1966 Live Recordings sonY

For the most part unreleased, The 1966 Live Recordings assembled every known recording of Dylan onstage in that pivotal year. Totalling 36 CDs, this was a fascinating document, with enough versions of “Like A Rolling Stone”, “Ballad Of A Thin Man” and “Visions Of Johanna” for even the most dedicated fan. All together now – “Play it fucking loud!”

12

CLUSTER 1971-1981 BuReAu B

Beginning with freeform industrial noise, ending with wonky synth-pop and taking in dalliances with Eno and Michael Rother on the way, this stunning box compiled the most influential, inspirational albums by the German duo of Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius. Cluster II, Zuckerzeit and Sowiesoso are the classics, but the newly unearthed live epics on Konzerte 1972/’77 are revelatory, too.

With uncustomary nostalgia, Lou Reed spent his last summer painstakingly remastering his first 16 solo albums for this deluxe CD boxset. There are no bonus tracks here, but Reed’s excellent sonic processing led the listener to re-evaluate the darker corners of his canon, in particular the ‘Binaural’ trilogy of Street Hassle, Take No Prisoners and The Bells.

TERRY REID The other side 10 of The River FuTuRe dAYs

For many bewitched by 1973’s cult classic River, it was exciting to discover that Superlungs had a wealth of outtakes and alternate versions in the vaults. The feel of the music on this companion album is aptly captured by the title of “Country Brazilian Funk”, with “Let’s Go Down” tackling Southern blues and “Funny” almost post-rock in its starry grace.

ASSOCIATES sulk 9THE BMg

So groundbreaking, excessive and crazed was Sulk, it’s little wonder it became the final album by from Billy Mackenzie and Alan Rankine. “Party Fears Two” and “Club Country” are well-known, of course, and addictive in their otherworldliness, but this remastered double-disc set highlighted other gems, too: the sinister “Me, Myself And The Tragic Story”, say, or the subterranean “No”.

TERRY ALLEN Lubbock (on 8 everything) pARAdise oF BAcheLoRs

A slice of alt.country made while Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy were still in their early teens, Allen’s second effort, released in 1979, received a well-deserved reissue this year from the reliable Paradise Of Bachelors. A noted visual artist, Allen chronicled the strange tales of his Texan hometown with the surreal eye of a painter as well as the hard gaze of an outlaw songwriter.

THE UNCUT 2016 END OF YEAR REVIEW in association with 81

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atlantic RecoRds

pARLophone/BBc

review of 2016


ARCHIVE RElEASES

STAR Complete Third 7 BIG

JANSCH Avocet 4BERT eArTh

OmnivOre

Abandoned by its creators with no tracklisting or even a title, Third/Sister Lovers has been subjected to a fair few reworkings over the years. Complete Third is the most definitive yet, its three discs containing everything known to exist from the sessions. Alex Chilton’s solo demos are the pick, especially the chilling “Holocaust”, yet all the rough mixes, outtakes and final versions are worthy of attention.

RAMONES ramones – 40th 6 Anniversary edition

Although it was ignored on release in 1978, this spruced-up reissue revealed the instrumental Avocet to be one of Jansch’s most beautiful albums, the six pieces here hovering as gracefully as the birds they were named for. The highlight was the timeless, 18-minute title track, the guitarist moving through various moods, with Martin Jenkins’ fiddle and pipes accompanying his crystalline picking.

VARIOUS Close To The noise 3 Floor: Formative uK

electronica 1975-1984 Cherry red

rhinO/Sire/rAmOneS PrOduCTiOnS

With brevity being a central tenet of the Ramones’ songs, one could pack a lot onto three CDs – and so this deluxe set featured the bruddas’ seminal debut in stereo, newly discovered mono, raw demo form and live at two ’76 gigs. Released on 3CD/1LP in a (sort of) limited edition of 19,760, Ramones sounded just as visionary 40 years on.

Forget Dusseldorf or Detroit, this comp shone light on the electronic pioneers of the UK, mostly forgotten. Often home-recorded and thrillingly raw, obscure cuts by the likes of Five Times Of Dust and Kevin Harrison proved to be as exciting and transgressive as those by the better-known Throbbing Gristle and The Human League.

JACK WHITE 2 Acoustic recordings 5 1998-2016 Third mAn

VAN MORRISON …it’s Too Late To Stop now… vols ii/iii/iv

LegACy, exiLe, SOny

This 26-track trail through the quieter corners of White’s career still contained some surprises for anyone au fait with the man’s stellar work – the pretty, droning “City Lights”, dating from 2005, got its first release, while other songs were remixed, such as The Raconteurs’ “Carolina Drama”, which lost its drums, and White’s bizarre Coke ad song, “Love Is The Truth”, shorn of brass and woodwind. Jack White unplugged

Bowie: in his fave shades of milk, cocaine and red peppers

This expanded document of Van and the Caledonia Soul Orchestra’s 1973 tour was a radical reimagining, quadrupling the setlist of the ’74 original. The drilled band are on top form, especially on multiple, heady versions of “Sweet Thing” and “Cyprus Avenue”, or the unreleased blues of “I Paid The Price”; meanwhile, the DVD shows Morrison either deep in thought or showboating with high kicks.

ReiSSUe OF THe YeAr

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dAVId BOWIE

Who Can i Be now? PArLOPhOne

T

AKe A LOOK at the best new albums of 2016, and you might notice that genre boundaries appear more fluid than ever before. Perhaps this year, then, is the time when we finally caught up with the pioneering albums collected in Bowie’s first posthumous boxset. Following up 2015’s Five Years (19691973), Who Can I Be Now? spanned 1974-1976, a period when the singer and songwriter was adrift in the US, cut loose from england, Mick Ronson, his wife, Ziggy Stardust and even rock’n’roll. As a result, many of these albums make more sense experienced now than they did on release, especially Diamond Dogs, now revealed to be a muddy, decadent delight rather than a confused compromise. At the box’s centre, however, is the soulful Young Americans, resplendently remastered, and its thrilling companion album, The Gouster, which for the first time recreates the ‘lost’ album Bowie was planning to release before he hooked up with John Lennon and came up with “Fame” – “It’s Gonna Be Me (Without Strings)” is heartbreaking, “Who Can I Be Now?” a stately torchsong. The following year, Bowie left east Coast soul behind for the chilly, robotic prog-funk of Station To Station, recorded while the singer battled drug-induced paranoia and occult curses in his Hollywood mansion. That it’s still a contender for his greatest album is quite the feat. If these questing remasters weren’t enough, though, then Who Can I Be Now? also included a host of extras. Alongside The Gouster, there was Re:Call 2, which compiled single edits, promo cuts and live tracks, and full alternate mixes of Station To Station and David Live. The box also included the excellent Nassau live album from 1976, which found Bowie transitioning into his next incarnation, the Berlin period due to be covered in a 2017 box. While the Ziggy and Berlin eras have long been acclaimed, Bowie’s mid-’70s work has sometimes been undervalued and misunderstood. Just take a listen to this lavish boxset, though, and discover some of Bowie’s deepest work, much of it decades ahead of its time. A considerable achievement for anyone, let alone a man subsisting on milk, red peppers and cocaine. TOM PINNOCK

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© stEVE schaPiRo

review of 2016


BooKS Simon & SCHuSTer

Peter Hook’s Substance revisited his banishment from New Order in anguished detail against a backdrop of orgiastic tours, awash with drink, drugs and a debauched retinue of dealers, hookers and mad roadies. Across 700 pages, all the cokesnorting, groupie-shagging and backstage bickering was a bit much. But the best of Substance was a droll manual of how not to run a band.

Ex Spaceman 3 and Spiritualized bassist Will Carruthers’ Playing The Bass With Three Left Hands was an often hilarious tale of frustrated ambition, bad management, shitty gigs and worse drugs. What made the book invaluable, though, was its unsparing description of growing up in Thatcher’s Britain, an inhospitable place if you were young, poor or in any way an outsider.

6

Wilko johnson

SMaLL Town TaLK: BoB dYLan, The Band, van MorriSon, JaniS JoPLin, JiMi hendrix & friendS in woodSTocK Barney Hoskyns

LiTTLe, BroWn

FaBer & FaBer

A book no-one expected to be reading, including its author. In 2012, Wilko was diagnosed with terminal cancer. When Uncut interviewed him a year later, he was getting ready to die. Experimental surgery saved the life he looked back on here. If many of the stories were already familiar, you were still glad Wilko remained around to tell them.

Barney Hoskyns’ Small Town Talk was a history of the East Coast musical commune of Woodstock and the thriving late ’60s scene that grew there around Bob Dylan and manager Albert Goldman. Dylan and The Band loom familiarly large in its pages, but Hoskyns also had great stories galore to tell about Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

don’T You Leave Me here: 9 MY Life

The record STore of The Mind 8 TrouBLe BoYS: josh rosenthal The True STorY of 5 The rePLaceMenTS

David Hepworth’s 1971 was an entertainingly clever appraisal of what, in the author’s brash opinion, was “rock’s golden year” – 12 months that saw the release of more landmark albums than any year before or since. Funny, sharpwitted, deeply knowledgeable, a rare example of a serious book about rock music that didn’t take itself too seriously to be taken seriously.

To run Bruce Springsteen 3 Born Simon & SCHuSTer

For Springsteen agnostics, Born To Run was equivalent to one of his epic live shows – an endless bellow, overlong and stuffed with sentimental pieties. Bruce fans, on the other hand, loved its calloused

Bob mehr

PLaYing The BaSS wiTh Three 7 LefT handS

1971 – never a duLL MoMenT: rocK’S 4 goLden Year

FaBer & FaBer

BanTam PreSS

Will Carruthers

David Hepworth

Simon reynolds FaBer & FaBer

Shock & Awe… was a brilliant, panoramic and suitably dazzling history of glam rock and an era when “pop music was titanic, idolatrous, insane”. All the main players were present – Bolan, Alice, Roxy, the Dolls, Lou – but welcome digressions also took in less celebrated names. The four long chapters on David Bowie were, however, the highlights of an exceptional book.

1

headS: a BiograPhY of PSYchedeLic aMerica

Da CaPo

Did a band ever do more to wreck their own career than The Replacements? On the evidence of Bob Mehr’s terrific biography, it seems unlikely. Trouble Boys was an often painful read, but just as full of hilarious anecdotes and dozens of new interviews, including invaluable testimony from the band’s Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson.

ShocK & awe: gLaM rocK and 2 iTS LegacY…

BOOK OF THe YeAr

TomPkinS Square

Josh Rosenthal is a music-industry veteran who spent 15 years working with most of Sony’s big hitters before launching the largely archival Tompkins Square label, whose personally curated catalogue is testament to Rosenthal’s evangelical passion for the kind of forgotten records and artists he celebrates wonderfully in this mix of autobiography, musician profiles and record reviews.

integrity, sweat-drenched honesty and noble candour, and revelled in its many well-told anecdotes. Whatever your opinion of The Boss, however, an impressively accomplished piece of storytelling.

jesse jarnow Da CaPo

J

ARNOW’S Heads was less a familiar history of American psychedelic music than a brilliant study of the transformative impact of LSD on a half-century of US art, music, movies, spirituality and technology. Music was part of its gripping narrative, but almost exclusively the music of the Grateful Dead, for fans a portal to an unregulated psych otherworld. This was best accessed by the LSD supplied by one of the ‘acid families’ attached to the Dead, mysterious cabals who controlled elaborate manufacturing and distribution networks. A mesmerising cast included pioneering communards, utopians, pranksters, outlaw chemists, hipster entrepreneurs, acid shamans, religious cults and far-out people with ties to the CIA, Mafia, Red Brigades and the PLO. What a trip! ALLAN JONES

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MalcolM lubliner/Michael ochs archives/Getty iMaGes

SuBSTance: inSide new order 10 Peter Hook

review of 2016


REviEw of 2016

films

20Youth

DIR: PAOLO SORRENTINO

Witty, wintry meditations on ageing from Sorrentino, who cast Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel as old friends seeking respite in an Alpine sanitarium – accompanied by Paul Dano and Mark Kozelek and a levitating Buddhist monk. After the velocity of his last film, The Great Beauty (The Great Gatsby reimagined as a disco fantasia), Sorrentino slowed to a more reflective place for Youth, ably abetted by Caine – terrifically dry and inscrutable.

19 suburra

DIR: STEFANO SOLLIMA

From the team behind Romanzo Criminale and Gomorrah, Suburra was yet more gripping Italian crime drama, involving government corruption, drug addicts and a pope. Sollima satisfyingly teases out his various story strands, from Vatican to backstreet, in the manner of a quality HBO drama. Props, particularly, to Greta Scarano’s Viola, initially a supporting player who became a critical part of the film as it developed.

Wants somE!! 18EvErYbodY DIR: RICHARD LINKLATER

A spiritual sequel to his breakthrough film Dazed & Confused, Linklater’s campus comedy was set just before the first day of term in a Texas university in 1980. In many respects, the plot was a familiar concoction of frat parties, beery hi-jinks and romantic pursuits – cut to a New Wave-y soundtrack – but the jocks here were mostly clever, curious and likeable, their camaraderie given a tender spin.

17high risE

DIR: BEN WHEATLEY

An adaptation of JG Ballard’s breakthrough novel, Ben Wheatley’s latest extended his unblemished track record to date. When the services in a tower block stop functioning properly, the residents gradually descend into madness, cueing up a series of marvelously baroque horrors. A splendid cast – led by Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Irons – threw themselves gamely into Wheatley’s freewheeling chaos.

11 anomalisa

Kurt Russell and Samuel L Jackson in The Hateful Eight

DIR: CHARLIE KAUFMAN AND DUKE JOHNSON

The principal characters in Kaufman’s previous films have been alienated outsiders. His latest was an eerily detailed puppet animation about Michael Stone (David Thewlis), a motivational speaker who spends one unhappy night in a Cincinnati hotel. Like Kaufman’s screenplays for Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, Anomalisa was about consciousness and identity, this idiosyncratic creator once again finding new ways to explore complex human conditions.

16thE hatEful Eight 14lovE & friEndship 10mustang DIR: QUENTIN TARANTINO

After having recently announced his retirement – though, thankfully, it is not due to begin for some years yet – Quentin Tarantino may look back on The Hateful Eight as a late-period highpoint. Pitched between Agatha Christie and Sam Peckinpah, this yarn found a bunch of ne’er-do-wells – including Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern and Samuel L Jackson – snowbound in a remote Wyoming stagecoach stopover. Needless to say, it ended badly for most of them.

15

victoria DIR: SEBASTIAN SCHIPPER

Shot over two hours in a single, continuous take across the rooftops, nightclubs, streets and bars of Berlin, Sebastian Schipper’s immersive German crime drama found Laia Costa as the title character – a spirited waitress who is recruited to act as the getaway driver in a daring bank raid. The conceit of Schipper’s film was soon forgotten in the tense, tightly wound second half.

mUSiC DvDs Of THE YEAR 1 thE bEatlEs: Eight Days

A Week – The Touring Years

2 baYou maharaJah 3 What happEnEd, miss simonE? 4 sid & nancY 5 rahsaan roland kirk – The Case Of The Three Sided Dream

DIR: WHIT STILLMAN

Unsurprisingly, Whit Stillman and Jane Austen, proved an easy fit. The director reunited with Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny, stars of his 1998 almost-hit, The Last Days Of Disco. Beckinsale played Lady Susan Vernon, a widow out to secure her position in society via marriage. Stillman directed with screwball zing while his screenplay reshaped Austen’s formal prose into sharp, accessible dialogue.

or high WatEr 13hEll DIR: DAVID MACKENZIE

Though pitched as a heist movie, MacKenzie’s latest resembled a modern western featuring recession-hit criminals. Chris Pine and Ben Foster played two criminal brothers up against Jeff Bridges’ crusty Texas Ranger. A predictably brooding score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis underscored the film’s reflective qualities: where the little guy is forever screwed by big business.

12hail, caEsar!

DIR: JOEL AND ETHAN COHEN

The Coens’ broad strokes tribute to the golden age of Hollywood cast Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix, a studio’s “head of physical production” who endures a litany of woes including a kidnapping, a pregnant leading lady, catty columnists and capricious decisions by an unseen superior. Superbly zany business, in other words, further enlivened by tap dancing and water ballet sequences.

DIR: DENIZ GAMZE ERGÜVEN

Deserving of its Oscar nod for Best Foreign Language Film, director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut was set in a village in rural Anatolia where five orphaned sisters live under strict rule while members of their family prepare arranged marriages. At times recalling The Virgin Suicides – another film about teen tensions – Mustang deftly brokered its poignant, often bleak subject matter with warmth and humour.

9JuliEta

DIR: PEDRO ALMODÓVAR

A return to Almodóvar’s Hitchockian mid-period after the fripperies of I’m So Excited, Julieta was a richly layered melodrama centred around notions of yearning and loss. A chance encounter in the present day forced Julieta (Emma Suárez) to relive a series of pivotal events involving her younger self (Adriana Ugarte). A strong piece, then, that evoked the director’s amazing run that stretched through All About My Mother to Volver.

8i, daniEl blakE DIR: KEN LOACH

If this is, as he has claimed, Loach’s final film, then it’s a pretty strong exit. Here, he presents the case of Geordie joiner Daniel Bake (Dave Johns), who becomes a victim of the bureaucratic welfare state. Naturally, his experiences are heart-wrenching and while Loach’s anger was often palpable it never overwhelmed this very human story.

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films

7patErson

4thE big short

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3son of saul

DIR: JIM JARMUSCH

A strong year for Jarmusch, with his Stooges’ film, Gimme Danger, among the year’s best music documentaries and Paterson one of his best recent films. Reminiscent of Ghost Dog in its study of a Zen-like protagonist, Jarmusch cast Adam Driver as Paterson, a bus driver and aspiring poet, who goes about his daily business in his hometown – also called Paterson. A lovely film, warm and uncynical, with Driver truffling for enlightenment in the everyday.

a biggEr splash DIR: LUCA GUADAGNINO

After The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ralph Fiennes’ comedy streak continues. He brings abandon to the role of Harry, avuncular manager of Tilda Swinton’s rock star, Marianne Lane, who is recuperating after an operation with her partner on a remote Italian island. Guadagnino’s remake of a steamy ’60s Euro thriller unfolded in Mediterranean splendour; a suitably parched setting for this sticky, unsettling yarn.

5

spotlight DIR: TOM McCARTHY

A procedural following a real-life investigation into systematic sexual abuse by Catholic priests in Massachusetts, this film was strong on old-school process. A series of unfussy performances from an on-point cast – Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Stanley Tucci – as the investigating journalists made Spotlight a little like an anti-superhero movie, where spreadsheets saved the day rather than laser vision. Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant

DIR: ADAM McKAY

Presenting the 2008 financial crisis as a screwball comedy proved a risky but exhilarating strategy for Adam McKay. Assembling a strong cast – Christian Bale, Steve Carrell, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt – McKay focused on the unfolding chicanery of the financial institutions, deploying cut-aways, to-camera asides and Scorsesean flourishes that helped amplify the despicable skulduggery at work behind the subprime loan crisis.

REviEw of 2016

Amy Adams in Nocturnal Animals

DIR: LÁSZLÓ NEMES

A forceful and unsettling investigation into the intimate mechanics of mass murder, it takes place in the AuschwitzBirkenau death camp in 1944, where Saul Auslander (Geza Röhrig), a Hungarian Jew, works as a member of the Sonderkommando. Previously, Nemes worked as an assistant for Béla Tarr, the formidable Hungarian filmmaker whose own ascetic sensibilities are reflected in his protégé’s debut.

2thE rEvEnant

DIR: ALEJANDRO IÑÁRRITU

Essentially, IMAX adventure porn with beards and muskets, Iñárritu’s big Oscar winner dumped Leonardo DiCaprio’s 19th century trapper and frontiersman in the wilderness and left him to survive. Beset by Indians, French soldiers and ghosts, the eerie, hallucinatory tone recalled Jarmusch’s Dead Man or Herzog’s forays into the outer limits of endurance – as well as other survival tales Touching The Void and 127 Hours.

film Of THE YEAR

1

nocturnal animals

DIR: TOM FORD

W

ITHOUT the presence of major new films from, say, Wes Anderson, Martin Scorsese or Spike Jonze, our Films Of The year poll has been satisfyingly wide open. It has allowed, in other words, smaller films to rise to the top – among them, László Nemes’ Son Of Saul, Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash and Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang. That said, we’ve been delighted to welcome back strong new work from filmmakers such as Alejandro Iñárritu, Paolo Sorrentino and Richard Linklater, as well as equally established favourites like Almodóvar, Jarmsuch, Whit Stillman and the Coens. Tom Ford also returns to our Films Of The year with Nocturnal Animals. As with his first film, 2009’s A Single Man, Nocturnal Animals is a literary adaptation – this time the filmmaker swapped the literary setting of Christopher Isherwood for an altogether murkier series of environments depicted in Austin Wright’s source novel, Tony And Susan. The story is framed in the present day in upper echelons of LA’s arts community, where Amy Adams’ visual artist drifts through a loveless second marriage. One day, she receives a manuscript through the post of the debut novel written by her ex-husband Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal. This novel, Nocturnal Creatures, plays out as a film-within-the-film, in which Tony (also played by Gyllenhaal) and his wife and teenage daughter encounter unspeakable horrors on the West Texas Interstate. Adams – who continues an unbroken run of commanding screen performances – was well complimented here by Gyllenhaal, who was required to bring credibility to two very different roles. It was complex and mature film – a significant leap from A Single Man. As befitting Ford’s former job at Gucci, it was beautifully composed; but in Adams, Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon (as a laconic Texas lawman) the acting proved hefty and intense. It fitted somewhere between Mulholland Drive and In Cold Blood, but was entirely its own thing. MICHAEL BONNER

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PHIL COLLINS

Turn it on again

“I thought I’d retire quietly,” admits Phil Collins, as he prepares for a dramatic return to action in 2017. First, though, there is an extraordinary career to consider – one that takes in Genesis and the solo years, plus shifts with Eno, Clapton, Cale and Led Zeppelin. Stick around for an excellent drummer joke, too… says Michael Bonner Photo by Waring abbott/getty images

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Drumming frontman Collins in new york, March 25, 1976

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Looking for inspiration: recording at home in 1984

© Pictorial Press ltd/alamy stock Photo; ron howard/redferns

“Y

OU can train memories, you know,” says Phil Collins. “When I was first on tour on my own, I’d have to remember all the Genesis lyrics, my lyrics and the arrangements. I knew everybody’s parts. I had to. Now I’ve found I can remember everything.” All things considered, it is just as well Collins has such good recall. How else might he keep track of the many, diverse strands of his career: through his work on exploratory albums by Brian Eno, John Cale and Robert Fripp, and the subsequent worldwide success of his solo output. “To me, it’s a natural progression,” he admits. But his career has always been prone to improbable swerves, ranging from his formative days as a mod, through the extraordinary time signatures he deployed during Genesis’ early peak to the “disaster” of Led Zeppelin at Live Aid, his jazz-fusion side project Brand X and his hushed, intimate collaborations with John Martyn. Some – if not all – of these experiences are covered in Collins’ autobiography, Not Dead Yet, which has arrived after a reissue programme of his key solo albums successfully brought him back into the public eye following a period beset by health problems, including nerve damage to his elbow. Subsequent surgery has left him with a numb right foot. “What I have is ‘drop foot’,” he explains. “I have no motor. I can’t lift or lower my foot. It’s kinda dead. The nerves need to regenerate. From the back to the foot is a millimetre a week. It takes a long time. I’ve been drumming since I was five. I joined Genesis when I was 19. It’s frustrating, as I want to get back on a kit. “I thought I would retire quietly,” he continues. “It’s time to do it again and I’m excited.” Collins has just announced his first tour dates since 2007, including shows at the Albert Hall and Hyde Park. In fact, Collins is not the only drummer in his family. His son, Nick, has a band called What You Know in Miami, where Collins is now based. Florida is the latest destination – musical or otherwise – in Collins’ meandering journey that Collins (front) in Flaming has found stop-offs in Hounslow, deepest Surrey, youth, with Geneva and New York. “I don’t even like Miami, ronnie Caryl, far right frankly,” he confesses. “My kids moved here with

88 • UNCUT • jaNUary 2017

“I didn’t want to be the person who had to wiggle his bum and do whatever singers do” their mum and that’s why I’m here. I can get on with it. I’ve got a nice house, nice view. This is life, it’s OK. I’m done being fussy.” Your first band was called The Real Thing. What were they like? That was when I was at Barbara Speake Stage School, aged 13 or 14. We did Motown, Sam & Dave, Stax, Atlantic covers. Me and the singer, Peter Newton, went to see The Action at the Marquee and basically copied their setlist. I was a regular at the Marquee. I lent Roger [Powell], the drummer with The Action, my scrapbooks and inside was my Marquee membership card from 1966. I saw all these bands, but The Action were amazing. They were a mod band and I was a mod. They had amazing energy and did all these Motown songs that opened up my love for the label and the acts. For me, there was The Beatles and there was The Action. The Marquee must have been a terrific place to go in 1966. The first proper gig I ever saw was The Yardbirds at the Marquee. Eric left in the afternoon, Jeff Beck joined, and then I saw them that night. Then I saw them again within weeks and Jimmy Page was on bass – he had his Confederate Civil War hat on – and Jeff was on lead guitar. A month later, Jimmy had taken over and I saw The New Yardbirds’ first Marquee show, with about 40 people, when they played what became the first Led Zeppelin album. You toured with John Walker, didn’t you? We had a band, Hickory. I don’t know how, but we came into John Walker’s orbit and he asked if we’d back him. We played with him for a few months.


PHIL COLLINS

Things picked up, though. Your next band, Flaming Youth, played at the London Planetarium. It was in the days when you could still do something like that, it wasn’t considered too naff. Howard & Blaikley had huge success with Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Titch and The Herb, and we were their boys. They had the premiere of our album, Ark II, at the Planetarium, when they played the music and projected a light show on the ceiling. Ark II was inspired by the moon landing, wasn’t it? Yeah, it was all in the air. We’d already recorded the LP and we spent an evening – the evening – when the Americans apparently went to the moon… “Apparently”...? It’s a can of worms and I don’t know if I should open it. But I have lots of questions about that. Anyway, we were on the rooftop of their very glamorous Hampstead period townhouse, looking up at the moon and watching it on TV. It was a very heady time. It was basically the beginning of serious discussions about space travel and that’s what Ark II was based on. What do you remember about your audition for Genesis? Me and Ronnie Caryl, who is still my best oldest friend, he played guitar and I played the drums in Flaming Youth. He and I drove down to Chobham, Surrey. We met Mrs Gabriel and she invited us in. My first impressions of them? They were a different kind of people. I’d been to grammar school and drama school, but I’d never really met people like that, who were far more sophisticated and otherworldly. Peter was as eccentric then as he is now, and Mike was kind of cosy. Tony was a little bit aloof and precious. But that all changed over the years. What about Mrs Gabriel? That sounds quite sporting of her to let auditions take place in her back garden. I remember us having lunch there. We were sitting around the table, talking about music, and someone mentioned the word “funky”. Mrs Gabriel said, “Tell me. What exactly is funky?” She was a lovely lady. I got close to Mike Rutherford’s parents. His mum and dad were wonderful people. Tony Banks’ parents I barely met. It was a different social generation. You’d been at stage school. Was the theatricality of Genesis appealing? Not at all. I wanted to be away from all that. I can see how people might think that when Peter left, those would have been great shoes to fill. But, no. I really just wanted it to be simple music that stood on its own without the bells and whistles.

Buyer’s guide Genesis, Collins collaborations and that solo album

GENESIS

Foxtrot (1973) Phil collins aces it on connoisseurs’ Genesis choice. never more so than on the 23-minute “supper’s ready”, especially “apocalypse in 9/8”. take that, impossible time signature!

BrIaN ENO

another Green World (1975) Pc plays on three songs: “sky saw”, “over fire island” and “Zawinul/ lava”. further collabs with Be include Taking Tiger Mountain, Before And After Science and Music For Films. well ambient.

jOHN CaLE Helen Of Troy (1975)

Pc met Jc during the Another Green World sessions for eno. eno and Pc provide auxiliary assistance to cale’s gothic masterpiece.

rOBErT FrIPP

Exposure (1979) another connection made during Brian eno’s sessions. the sublime “north star” – featuring Pc alongside eno, fripp and daryl hall – is a standout.

PETEr GaBrIEL

Peter Gabriel (1980)

no cymbals! PG and Pc’s first collaboration since The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. a bold new studio effect on “intruder” – the “gated drum” – becomes a signature ’80s sound.

jOHN MarTyN

Grace and Danger (1980) the highpoint of this moody album is the poignant “sweet little mystery”. first – and best – of several collaborations between Jm and Pc.

GENESIS Duke (1980)

a commercial breakthrough from the mothership. the slimmed-down band don white jackets and deliver progressive pop. the surprisingly catchy “turn it on again” is a big hit.

PHIL COLLINS Face Value (1981)

Prog-rock instrumentals, heartfelt ballads, horn-driven r&B, a Beatles cover… Pc’s versatile debut is dominated by the impressively atmospheric “in the air tonight”.

michael ochs archives/Getty imaGes

Supper clubs, two shows a night. But as soon as it came, it went. He decided to stop and we went from staying at the Midland Hotel in Manchester with money pouring out of our pockets, to nothing.

recording Foxtrot with Genesis in 1972

What were the challenges of moving from drummer to frontman? Self-confidence. I was in the engine room and there was the captain of the ship who was prepared to wiggle his bum and do whatever singers do, and I didn’t ever want to be that person. My main worry was what I was going to say to the crowd as the band are tuning their 12-string guitars between songs. You can’t let the dead air settle, you have to fill it, and that’s what Peter became good at. How did you fill it, then? I used to tell little stories. Sometimes it was terribly embarrassing. I concocted this story for “The Cinema Show”. We were in Spain in a bullring and for some reason I can’t quite fathom, the story involved an inflatable doll. There was this guy, trying to blow the doll up, and he’s smoking and of course he bursts the doll. It was quite funny on paper. But I’m standing there in this bull ring, telling my story, which is written on a bit of paper in my hand, in pidgin Spanish, trying to blow up an inflatable doll… It became quite clear that this story was going to take a good half hour.

XXXXXXX

What effect did punk have on Genesis? Our feet weren’t on the ground in England when it was happening. We were aware of it, of course. I still bought all the music papers. But we weren’t overly affected by it. Some of it was contrived… people would sing badly or detune their guitars to make it punky. But I remember seeing the Pistols play “Anarchy In The UK” on So It Goes, and I thought, “What the fuck is this?” It was fantastic. I felt the bands that they were trying to get rid of deserved it. I didn’t see us as being among them. DECEMBEr 2016 • UNCUT • 89


Genesis in February, 1975: (l-r) Phil Collins, Steve Hackett, Mike rutherford, Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel

It’s those other proggy guys! Yeah! I don’t know if you ever saw Monty Python’s accountant sketch? John Cleese once said that the day after it aired, he had a meeting with his accountant. He was terrified. He went in and said, “I’m terribly sorry if the sketch last night offended you.” The accountant said, “No, it didn’t bother me. I’m a chartered accountant.” It’s that kind of thing. We weren’t part of that brigade.

wouldn’t be precious. He’d throw abstract ideas at you: “On beat 26 you do something, on beat 28 you do something.” He was after what happened in the moment, whether it felt good and fresh. When it came to doing Face Value, I decided to use my demos, as it wasn’t whether you could hear a hiss, it was whether you liked what you heard. I learned that from Brian. What did you make of John Cale? I did Helen Of Troy. Chris Spedding was on guitar. Couple of days’ work, and that was that. Cale was fired up. He did live vocals, which were pretty scary. Like “Pablo Picasso”, he might as well have been wearing the straight jacket he was in on the cover – he went for it. It was all very exciting.

What bands were you happy to see go? Emerson, Lake & Palmer – much as I liked Keith Emerson when he was with The Nice. Jethro Tull and very early Yes.

Chris Walter/Wireimage

Did you ever meet any of the punk crowd back in the day? Topper Headon. I was getting on a plane at Heathrow and Topper came up to me, looked around to make sure no-one was watching, and said, “I think you’re really fantastic, man.” I met Rat Scabies and he was very nice. And John Lydon. You first worked with Brian Eno on Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. What was the connection between the two of you? He came down to add ‘Enossification’ and I guess money wasn’t discussed so I was sent upstairs as payment. “I’ll do this if you lend me your drummer.” I did “Mother Whale Eyeless” and we hit it off. Then Brian got hold of me one day and asked if I’d do some sessions. It wasn’t as solid as, “Would you play on my album?” There was Paul Rudolph, Percy Jones, Fripp and a handful of others, a little muso group. Brian would come in with the stuff he’d messed around with on his Revox the night before and throw things out there to the musicians and see where it went. That’s how we did Another Green World. Then I did Before And After Science. I think some of that stuff ended up on Music For Films. At the same time, I did Robert Fripp’s album, Exposure. We did a beautiful song called “North Star” with Daryl Hall. Did collaborating with Eno have much impact on your own working practices? It gave me a lot of encouragement. Brian 90 • unCuT • january 2017

You became very friendly with John Martyn – how did you meet him? I got a call to do some work. I think he heard I was a good drummer and they needed one, so I ended up going to a studio in Holborn to do Grace And Danger. We became great pals and drinking buddies. At one point, we went to a pub in Guildford to meet Eric Clapton. John had worked with Eric, and I think he wanted to score something. That was the first time I met Eric, who, for a long time afterwards, thought I was John’s drug buddy. But we did Grace And Danger and hit it off. I was going through a divorce, as was he, with Beverley, and he’d come to my house and we’d have a drink and a play. There was a time when he became a bit of a liability, John.

Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and Eno’s Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) and Before And After Science

How so? I’d moved to Switzerland. I was sat waiting in a dentist’s car park one day and he called and said, “Phil, can you get me a record deal?” I said, “I don’t know if I can do that kind of thing.” He said, “If you produce the record, they’ll give me a deal.” I said, “That’s not the right way round.” He said, “I’ll come over.” I said, “No! Don’t!” I had this lovely quiet life in Switzerland and I knew if he came over, he’d never leave. I said, “Just send me the tapes and I’ll add to it in my little studio and put drums on in another.” Anyway, we stayed in touch for the rest of his life. It was always a pleasure to see him, I loved him very much. You never knew what you were going to get, but he was lovely.


PHIL COLLINS Was there any sense of satisfaction in making a successful album out of that experience? No, I never thought of it like that. It was a sad time and then it became angry. All the emotions you have going through something like that. I was writing those songs as kind of messages. The album crept up behind me. I had a studio in the house. Just operating that for a drummer – I mean that as a joke as well as being serious – we’re not very good with manuals. I was enjoying the recording process and suddenly I had all these demos. Genesis had just finished Duke and I took it up to London to play to Ahmet Ertegun. Then he said, “What else have you been doing?” I played him my demos and he went berserk. He said, “This has got to be an album!” I used my demos because I couldn’t face doing them all again. That set the pattern for everything I did in the future: do it at home, make it sound like you want it to sound and then add to it.

“Topper Headon made sure no-one was watching, then said, ‘I think you’re fantastic’” carry on.” But we finished way ahead of course, anyway, as that’s how I work. I don’t think Eric had been pushed like that for a long time. Concorde, Montserrat… There’s a perception of the 1980s as an extravagant time. Do you think that view is accurate? The idea of staying somewhere like Montserrat, which sounds glamorous, is that it builds up camaraderie, people living together. It all started with Traffic and their cottage in Gloucestershire – everyone started to get it together in the country. It became exaggerated: “Well, why don’t we go to this place in the Bahamas,” or wherever. I guess it can backfire. The ’80s has a lot to answer for.

Did you know the BBC banned “In The Air Tonight” during the Gulf War? It was on a list of 70 songs deemed unsuitable for airplay. Really? I ran into Kate Adie at one of the Prince’s Trust events and she told me that they played “In The Air Tonight” in the tanks before they went in. I heard that the Syrian president did an interview and he mentioned me as being one of his favourite artists… What do you recall about Led Zep at Live Aid? Robert put the idea to me. He said, “Are you doing this show?” and I said, “I think I am.” He said, “Could you get me on it?” So I said, “Robert, you’re Robert Plant. Just call Bill Graham.” But he said he couldn’t, due to an incident with Zeppelin in the ’70s in San Francisco. He said, “You, me and Jimmy could do something.” We left it at that. Between then and the show, unbeknown to me, John Paul Jones came on board and it became Zep. They got Tony Thompson on drums, too, who probably didn’t want this English fucker to come in as well. What happened when you arrived in Philadelphia? I went to the Zeppelin caravan and there was a dark cloud over it. I was made to feel very unwelcome, by Jimmy particularly. Individually they’re very nice guys. Robert is a diamond, I love him. But they weren’t stage fit. I’d spent time with Tony in the caravan, saying, “I’ve played with two drummers for the last 10 years. From experience, don’t do this, do this, try and keep out of each other’s way, let’s not do anything too complicated.” He didn’t want to listen to advice from this upstart who had swanned in on Concorde. But I got the blame as I was the one who had just arrived and hadn’t rehearsed. Before I left for Philadelphia, I’d said to Robert and Jimmy, “I’m going to know it, don’t worry.” I grew up with those guys. I was at their first gigs at the Marquee. I knew it. But Jimmy was dribbling. It just was an unpleasant thing and if I could have disappeared into the wings, I would have done so after a tune or two, as I knew this was a disaster. You played with Clapton at Live Aid, too. You’d just produced Behind The Sun for him at Montserrat, hadn’t you? Yes. It was a lovely studio, a lovely island. Eric came to me and said, “We’re going to do it at Montserrat. No girlfriends, no wives.” I said, “OK.” We went there. He quickly had an affair. It was great fun to do, but I think I frightened the musicians. How so? What was wrong with Eric’s albums before Behind The Sun – like Money And Cigarettes – they had a kind of work-from-two-’til-six ethic. So I came in as a workaholic and there was a mutiny. They were supposed to be there for three weeks. We did all the tracks in a week. We’d start about 11, do a track and I’d say, “OK, what we doing next?” In the end, the musicians went to Eric and said, “Listen, man. We thought we had three weeks off with you here. Can we work slower and enjoy being here?” Eric came to me and said, “You’ve gotta slow down.” I said, “Well, fuck. Let them have the three weeks holiday and we’ll

So why did you decide to write your autobiography? I’m 65. I want to do it while I can still hold a pen! There are a lot of rock memoirs. What were the do’s and dont’s for you? I try to be honest. You’ve got to. I’ve been hard on Onstage sonic myself. I’ve been married three times and there’s blame on both sides disaster: with Led Zeppelin at each time. I have to remember that my children are going to read this Live aid, 1985 and my children have friends and they have parents and they’re going to read it. So I’ve tried to write something that’s honest, but still has a bit of dignity. What’s your favourite drummer’s joke? What is the difference between a drummer and a drum machine? You can pour beer on a drum machine and it won’t work. How many drummers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Five. One to do it and four to say how much better Steve Gadd would have done it. A 3CD set The Singles and Collins’ book Not Dead Yet are on sale; visit www.philcollins.com for tour info

a bigger bang

“It’s just weird” Phil Collins on that drum sound for “In The air Tonight”

“I

Was trying to move away from the complicated genesis stuff, go in a simpler direction. i didn’t have any lyrics prepared, but i started singing, and what came out is what you hear on ‘in the air...’ [Peter gabriel’s] ‘intruder’ and [genesis’] ‘mama’ launched a kind of drum sound. We used to go in there for different tracks with genesis and try to go for that kind of sound, but it never sounded the same. Whereas i think the drum sound for ‘in the air’ defines the period, it is not of that period particularly. We all know it’s of that period, but it sounds completely new as well. it’s just weird. everything goes in alignment and you just get it. i didn’t think about the drum fill, i just

did it that particular take and that’s the one we used. We didn’t sit there thinking, ‘oh boy, their mouths are going to be dropping when they hear this!’ it was nothing like that.”

january 2017 • unCuT • 91

ebet roberts/redferns

Grace And Danger and Face Value are thematically quite similar records. That’s right. Divorce albums.


The Making Of...

Let There Be Rock by Drive–By Truckers

danny clinch; chris McKay/Getty iMaGes

How this era’s greatest Southern rock band channelled their spiritual fathers

“E

veryone told us that it was a terrible idea,” recalls Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers’ third album, 2001’s Southern Rock Opera. “But I loved the concept of a terrible idea done really well. And as a band, generally, I think we’ve built our career on that. That’s the biggest, baddest idea of all.” Six years in the planning, a doubleconcept album, loosely based on the exploits of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the wider mythology of the American South, seemed to be a reckless move. especially from a band with no money

and zero commercial clout. yet despite the odds, Southern Rock Opera was the breakthrough success that Hood and songwriting foil Mike Cooley had been craving since they’d formed the first of several bands together 16 years earlier. As the son of session player David Hood, bassist with Muscle Shoals legends The Swampers, Patterson was steeped in the music of the South, as well as the region’s storied culture and complex history. This was something he was keen to address on record, viewed through the prism of a fictitious ’70s rock group. “The thing about Southern Rock Opera is it’s so real,” offers co-producer David Barbe, formerly

key players

Patterson Hood Vocals, guitar

Mike Cooley

bassist with Sugar. “Patterson and Cooley were basically writing about their own experience growing up in the South – the things they witnessed and the kinds of people they were around.” one such experience fed directly into Hood’s “Let There Be rock”, a guitarcharged account of a teenhood spent drinking, drugging, getting arrested and other “crazy, stupid shit”. And, crucially, going to see rock’n’roll bands. Skynyrd were the ones who slipped away, but there’s mention of Blue Öyster Cult, ozzy osbourne, .38 Special and, in keeping with the song’s title, AC/DC. “The day that I wrote ‘Let There Be rock’ was the day everything changed,” says Hood. “It was like solving a giant riddle.” rob hughes

Guitar

Brad Morgan drums

David Barbe co-producer, mixer

Operatic for the people: DBTs play live in 2001 92 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

PATTERSON HOOD: The original outline for Southern Rock Opera started as a screenplay that I was going to write with earl Hicks, who later became our producer and bass player. It was an idea that got tossed around on the road and I didn’t even know if it would be a Drive-By Truckers record or not. But we knew that it was going to tell the story of this fictional band, Betamax Guillotine, and follow the arc of the Lynyrd Skynyrd mythology. DAVID BARBE: Patterson kept telling me about this rock opera that he was working on, this whole thing about Betamax Guillotine. He had a clear vision of what he wanted to do. He’s a big movie fan and sometimes he’s more like John Huston than a guy in a band, in terms of the scope of his vision. HOOD: The folklore around the Skynyrd plane crash was that ronnie van Zant was killed by a Betamax machine that had flown forward on impact and hit him in the back of the head. I was in eighth grade when the crash happened and the


story in the schoolyard was that he was decapitated by the machine. So Betamax Guillotine was a play on that. BRAD MORGAN: The idea for Southern Rock Opera kept going back and forth in the van. Patterson was always talking about it. We were in the van from anywhere between four and 10 hours a day, listening to a lot of different music and constantly riffing on this idea. My hometown in South Carolina is where Skynyrd flew out of, right before they died. And I worked at that auditorium where they played their final show [the Greenville Memorial Auditorium]. In fact, my family had worked there for 25 years by the time of that Skynyrd gig. MIKE COOLEY: It might be the craziest idea I’ve ever been a part of. I don’t know when or how we started talking about it in the context of a rock opera, but somehow it evolved into that. It became something we had to do and seemed absurd enough to work. Then we started talking about individual songs. Bringing some of the more political elements into it seemed kinda necessary. We realised that we needed to include people like George Wallace and the Dixiecrats into this, because it was part of the story of the South. For so long we’d see movies and Tv shows where Southerners were usually depicted as either hateful, violent racists or loveable dimwits. We wanted to address some of that and maybe

“All that stuff in the song actually happened, even if it wasn’t all totally me” PATTERSON HOOD get a better understanding of our own culture ourselves. HOOD: Writing “Let There Be rock” was the day it all shifted. I’d already written “Days of Graduation”, “Dead, Drunk And naked” and a few others, and we knew the story was going to end with a plane crash. But we didn’t have a middle part. Then, on September 13 1998, George Wallace died. I was living out in the country in Athens, Georgia, in this huge white haunted house. every time you’d look at a Tv set they were showing footage of Wallace standing on the schoolhouse steps, or fire hoses and police dogs and [segregationist] Bull Connor and all that fucking bullshit. I was so pissed off from seeing all that again, I decided to write a song about him, told from the devil’s point of view, as he seemed to be a big part of this story we were telling. I wrote “Wallace” in about 10 minutes and visualised it as the song that would close Act one of the album. Immediately after that, I started writing “Let There Be rock”, which happened just as fast.

COOLEY: I think “Let There Be rock” is a mostly fictional story, but it captures a certain time in your life. And that was something that was really important to us. everything about it – feeling freedom for the first time and how rock’n’roll concerts played into that, hearing the crowd swell, flirting with disaster, being the biggest threat to yourself that you’ll ever be in your life. And maybe living through it, or maybe not. HOOD: I had seen AC/DC with Bon Scott when I was 13, with UFo opening for them. It was fucking spectacular. And I did see ozzy osbourne right before the plane crash that killed [guitarist] randy rhoads. no, I didn’t get arrested with LSD after a Blue Öyster Cult concert, but my friend did. So all that stuff in the song actually happened, even if it wasn’t all totally me. BARBE: As songwriters, both Patterson and Cooley have this ability to take their personal experience and relate it in a universal way. And “Let There Be rock” really encapsulates that. The irony is that Lynyrd Skynyrd was actually my first rock concert. I was in the front row, right in front of ronnie van Zant, when they made their live album in Atlanta [1976’s One More From The Road, at the Fabulous Fox Theatre]. They’d definitely been getting loose beforehand. As soon as they slinked out onto the stage it was rebel flags, bottles in the air and a unified kind of roar. And the air was thick with the smell of pot. JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 93


Necking it: Drive By truckers at Farm Aid, 2002

BET RoBERTS/REDFERnS

“We’d been on the road for two and a half years, and our relationships were at breaking point” pAttERsON HOOD For a 12-year-old kid it was exhilarating and, frankly, a little terrifying. HOOD: “Let There Be Rock” let me set up the next part of the story. It was just a matter of following the trail. Next came “Angels And Fuselage”, so I’d written three new songs on the same day – September 14, 1998, which also happened to be Cooley’s 32nd birthday. I decided that “Let There Be Rock” needed to be the breakthrough ’70s hit from this fake band, Betamax Guillotine, so it had to sound like one. I’d always loved the applause on [Elton John’s] “Bennie And The Jets” and wanted something like that on the song. So when we were mixing the record, I brought in my vinyl copy of Cheap Trick At Budokan and lifted two different crowd swells. The really big one kicks in when the guitars get going. MORGAN: We recorded Southern Rock Opera in a uniform shop on the top floor of this old three-story building in Birmingham, Alabama. I’d heard that it had once been the first mortuary in town. The courthouse used to be just across the

fact file Written by: Patterson Hood Recorded at: Birmingham, Alabama Produced by: David Barbe, Dick Cooper, Drive-By Truckers Personnel: Patterson Hood (lead vocals, guitar), Mike Cooley (guitar), Rob Malone (gutar), Earl Hicks (bass), Brad Morgan (drums) Released: September 12, 2001 Highest chart position: UK -; US –

street, so they would hang people, then bring the bodies right into that building. That place was spooky as shit. We were there from 6pm to 6am, so we were recording in this huge warehouse in the middle of the night. It was hot as fuck and everybody was just miserable. It was a weird time in our lives. HOOD: We’d been on the road for two and a half years, weren’t making any money and our personal relationships were at breaking point. I was in the process of getting divorced and so was Rob [Malone, guitarist]. Cooley and his wife are still together today, but they weren’t doing good then, either. And Brad’s girlfriend threw all his shit out in the yard, then it got rained on. So all that was happening while we were there for two weeks, making that record. We were all pissed off

about our situations and were starting to fight each other, too. And we were boozing a whole lot. COOLEY: It was early fall, which is still brutally hot here. We’d be drinking heavily while recording these tracks all night, downing Pabst Blue Ribbon by the cases, probably some Jack Daniel’s and God knows what else. Then we’d stagger out just as the sun was coming up, go to sleep until three or four in the afternoon, then do it all over again. Of course, tempers were running high in the heat and the booze. There were a couple of nights when we were just yelling at each other. I don’t know how it didn’t kill us. MORGAN: We were drunk, playing in this steaming heat. We got two or three songs done each night, in two or three takes. We were kinda just recording live, then adding a few overdubs later at Mike’s house in Atlanta. BARBE: They showed up with a huge box of multi-track tapes and we just started mixing. I actually advised them in a way that was sensible, but was clearly wrong. I told Patterson that this whole thing was amazing, but it was too big and sprawling. My advice was that they should release the album in two separate volumes, but Patterson said: “I appreciate that, but that’s not what it is.” I’m glad they ignored me. HOOD: Barbe gives the best advice in the world, but I knew it had to be a double LP. The audacity of the whole thing was such a big part of it. I knew it was going to work. BARBE: Southern Rock Opera was a real springboard for the Truckers. Those songs have stood the test of time. Everybody still sings every word of “Let There Be Rock” at live shows. They’re still identified so closely as a Southern Rock band, but Southern Rock Opera actually freed them of obligation to that. Their songs have gone in lots of different directions since, both creatively and thematically. COOLEY: Southern Rock Opera really put us on the radar. It brought so many people back to why they loved rock’n’roll in the first place. From then on, the reviews started coming in and the clubs suddenly got fuller. And we never looked back.   Drive-By Truckers tour the UK in March

time line may 1995: Patterson Hood and Earl Hicks start making plans for an ambitious screenplay about the South and the Lynyrd Skynyrd myth. 94 • UNCUt • JANUARY 2017

September 1998: Hood writes three key songs in one day, including “Let There Be Rock”, about “how partying and going to arena rock shows kept

me from going off the deep end in High School”. September 2000: DBT cut Southern Rock Opera in a two-week spurt in an old warehouse.

September 2001: Financed by investors and online fan groups, the album is released in a limited run on the Truckers’ own Soul

Dump record label. July 2002: Encouraged by the critical reception of Southern Rock Opera, Lost Highway reissue the album worldwide.


Album by album

Gillian Welch

The queen of Americana and her right – hand man on death, duets and Nashville

“O

uR band is called Gillian Welch,” says Gillian Welch, addressing any identity confusion around the long and fruitful collaboration with her partner David Rawlings (who lends his own name to their increasingly potent parallel project, Dave Rawlings Machine). Initially, the pair seemed unlikely champions of old-time mountain music: Welch is the adopted daughter of an LA showbusiness family, and met Rawlings, an erudite Rhode Islander, at Boston’s Berklee School Of Music. Their beautifully framed absorption of uS rural music, however, feels as faithful as any Tennessean sharecropper’s. The couple are celebrating 20 years of record-making with outtakes album Boots, while also preparing their back catalogue for vinyl release. It hasn’t always been an easy ride – our conversation is peppered with phrases like “another false start” and “going out of our minds” – but their painstaking attention to detail has reaped rewards. “We’ve rarely made the decision to hide behind other people,” says Rawlings. “For all the time spent soul searching, it’s good looking back and feeling that the bar has stayed high.”

GRAEME THOMSON

GILLIAN WELCH REVIVAL

© PaXToN & acoNy RecoRds

ALMO, 1996

Their Grammy-nominated debut album, produced at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles by T Bone Burnett, finds the pair’s evolving old-time aesthetic skilfully interpreted by session greats James Burton and Jim Keltner GILLIAN WELCH: It was kind of overwhelming. Dave and I had hardly been in a studio prior to that. In a way, it was the purest record-making situation I was ever in, because I was just responsible for performing and putting the songs across. DAVE RAWLINGS: We’re working with T Bone, in a professional studio, and trying to take all this stuff you’ve designed for a specific place in your live set and make it into a record. There was a lot of trial and error with the band. They were world-class musicians, but some of these songs needed that spare, hard edge. WELCH: I was surprised at all the people around us who wanted us to do something different, because they couldn’t imagine an acoustic duet, unadorned, was going to have the possibility of a career. We weren’t trying to be stubborn, but 96 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

we had this sound in our heads. It’s at its purest on tracks like “Annabelle”, “Acony Bell” and “By The Mark”, but I totally understand that T Bone wanted us to have a career and make a second record, so it was important to have some larger band tracks that might possibly get played on the radio! But we haven’t revisited that band sound much on subsequent records. Dave and I were quickly becoming aware that we really knew what we wanted our music to sound like.

GILLIAN WELCH

HELL AMONG THE YEARLINGS ALMO, 1998

A harder, sparser follow-up, with darker traditional themes, written and performed entirely by Welch and Rawlings. T Bone Burnett again produces WELCH: The original plan was for a trio record of Dave, myself, and Roy Huskey on upright [bass]. We’d even started rehearsals, and then Roy just got too sick, and died. I loved him beyond any telling. He was a great man and a fantastic musician. RAWLINGS: We didn’t really know what else to do after Roy got sick,

Backstage at the Fillmore Theater, 2005

so we just went into the studio together. We really wanted to see what we could do with just the two of us. Also, the banjo had given us a new colour we wanted to explore. WELCH: I had taken up the banjo; I’d bought an old Vega from the 1910s which I still have. “Caleb Meyer” was the first song I wrote on it. It eventually got moved over to guitar, but that droning, minor, mountain modal sound runs right through the record. RAWLINGS: T Bone sort of abandoned the project at a certain point, and we were left to finish it on our own. We really struggled until the eleventh hour. We both felt we’d missed the mark with Hell to some degree. It feels like it’s too set back in time. The songs felt a little too parsed to us, and we knew we’d been called upon to make it before we were ready.

VARIOUS ARTISTS

O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? OST LOST HIGHWAY, 2000

Welch sings and associate produces the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers’ Homeric Appalachian odyssey, starring George Clooney and John Turturro. Eventually shifting eight million copies worldwide, the album played a major role in bringing Americana roaring into the mainstream

WELCH: The Coen Brothers hired T Bone, and T Bone hired me. I was more in touch with the oldtime bluegrass communities. I’m really proud that I was basically responsible for bringing in people like John Hartford, Norman Blake and Ralph Stanley. It was like my record collection coming to life, living and breathing and walking around! I was younger than these musicians, and less well-known, and I was working really hard not to step on any toes. I can remember coming home from the studio and being exhausted from that feeling of being on high alert, with all your sensors out. Then, at a moment’s notice, T Bone would point to me and say, “Why don’t you go in and sing with Alison [Krauss]?” So I’d be thrown from this archivisthistorian-bluegrass hostess to being the tenor singer on “Down By The River” with Alison! The only bummer was the “Nobody But The Baby” song, which I basically wrote, but because of lawyers and publishing, blah blah, I barely got my name on it. I took a scrap of a [traditional] verse which appears in numerous folk songs and wrote everything else – and got an arranging credit! I was a little too young and green to assert myself.


With Dave Rawlings at Woodland Studios, 2011

GILLIAN WELCH

TIME (THE REVELATOR) ACONY, 2001

“After O Brother, I felt estranged from my own art. Dave and I became completely nocturnal”

Recorded in RCA’s legendary Studio B in Nashville, this expansive, GILLIAN WELCH protean take on traditional forms is bookended by two metaphysical continue to make music. The first epics: the title track and “I Dream tremors of how the industry was A Highway”. Released on their changing were happening. Our own Acony label, with Rawlings label, Almo, was in the process of producing, it’s a statement of artistic liberation and a masterclass being sold into universal. Every choice we made was to be in soft power independent. We formed our own WELCH: O Brother took about two label, Dave produced for the first years. Afterwards, I felt estranged from my own art. Dave and I became time, and we parted with our manager, who I’d had from the very completely nocturnal. We would beginning of my time in walk around the empty Nashville. Dave and I were streets of Nashville after uNCuT totally alone. All the risks midnight and talk about CLASSIC we took and liabilities we how we were going to shouldered were to maintain freedom, and that’s running all the way through Revelator. Musically, we were thinking of the craft of writers like Neil Young and Dylan – we were moving away from literal narrative. We talked a lot about landscapes and panoramas. We were trying to stretch out and fill the horizon, even though the sounds we made were very minimalist and quiet. RAWLINGS: The first thing I saw about the material was that it was esoteric, even intellectual, on

some level. I remember playing a bunch of those songs at a Nashville club and it didn’t go over terribly well. “I Dream A Highway” was a flying leap. We didn’t know if people were going to want to go on a 14-minute “slollercoaster” [sic] ride! It casts a spell, it’s magical, one of my favourite things we’ve ever done. When we first went in to record it, Gillian had never even sung it. We didn’t know whether it would fit onto a reel of tape, which is 16 minutes and 40 seconds. I spent an entire day on the fade-out, just to get that feeling we wanted. WELCH: RCA Studio B was forgotten. Boarded up. Mothballed. Water on the floor. One day Dave drives by and sees the door open, and he just walks in. The Country Music Hall Of Fame, who were the custodians, rented it to us for a year out of the goodness of their hearts. We made Revelator and the first Old Crow Medicine Show record there. RAWLINGS: Revelator lives in its own little void, which it shares with records I love. When is Dark Side Of

The Moon happening? When is Blood On The Tracks or Tonight’s The Night? It exists in its own world.

GILLIAN WELCH SOUL JOURNEY ACONY, 2003

The GW party album! A (relatively) loose collection of trad songs, solo numbers, guest musicians and full band recordings with electric guitar, organ and drums WELCH: With Revelator, we felt like we’d come to the tip of the pyramid somehow. We couldn’t figure out what to do next as a duet, and so the one thing Soul Journey is not is a duet record. I think the only acoustic duet track is “Lovers’ Prayer”. Dave didn’t play guitar, he played drums on a bunch of stuff. There are solo performances from me, which was new, and then more fleshed out, shambolic things – although it’s funny to say “fleshed out”, because it’s still pretty skeletal! RAWLINGS: It happened because there were a couple of these songs – “Miss Ohio”, “Back In Time” – that felt like they wanted a backbeat. It was as simple as that. It was also our idea of a Gillian Welch solo record. “One Little Song” and “Pallet On Your Floor” are just her and her guitar. We’d pushed the duet JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 97

jo mccaughey

Truth be told, it was high stress, but worthwhile.


Album by album thing hard, and there was some conscious thought to back off from that a bit. WELCH: This was us having a party with a ton of people, like Jim Boquist from Son Volt, a great rock’n’roll bass player. It was made in contrast to Revelator. Where that album was fine, this was supposed to be coarse. It served its purpose. The last time I listened to it, I thought, ‘Good for us!’ It’s certainly not a fearful record.

DAVE RAWLINGS MACHINE

A FRIEND OF A FRIEND ACONY, 2009

Stuck in a rut, the pair corral a bunch of friends – including members of the Heartbreakers, Old Crow Medicine Show and Bright Eyes – for a terrific, rolling country-rock ride, with Rawlings taking the reins RAWLINGS: We had become rusty at making records. We tried to start recording the fifth Gillian Welch record at least three times during this period, and each time abandoned it. It just felt we had to do something different. That coincided with the thought that if I’m ever going to make a record I should get on with it. So we had the Crows, and Benmont [Tench], and we just dove in. I knew it wasn’t going to be the smoothest thing we ever did. It was a bit of a dry run to get us back in the swing of things. WELCH: It was hard for us to know what we wanted out of the next Gillian Welch record. We kept writing, writing, writing, but it was never what we wanted. We began to question everything, just completely spun out, whereas making a record for Dave came with no expectations. That was part of it, but also Dave had things like “To Be Young” that he wrote with Ryan [Adams], songs that I was no part of. We took those as the beginning and wrote around them, knowing always that Dave is a much more rambunctious singer than I am. “Ruby” was the first song I ever wrote thinking, “OK, this is for Dave,” and thinking more about the music and chord changes than the words. There are currents of melancholy running through it, but it was meant to be fun. And it worked.

henry diltz

GILLIAN WELCH THE HARROW & THE HARVEST ACONY, 2011

After a “nightmarish” eight-year hiatus comes a stunning return to 98 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

intimate, honed, hard-won simplicity, recorded at their new Woodland Sound Studio HQ in Nashville. WELCH: The day we got Woodland finished is the day we started making Harrow. After touring Friend, I remember we played a duet show. We came off stage and we were mortified. We both had the same reaction: “I can’t play these songs anymore.” We’d hit some kind of wall, we couldn’t go on if we didn’t write another record. We came home and got a huge desk calendar and decided when we had to have an album ready to record. We decided if we could finish a song a week, that it would work out. And that’s about what we did. RAWLINGS: We did another concerted batch of writing with a slightly different agenda, and that’s where Harrow comes from. In the end, it got composed in a very short period. The only old song is “The Way It Will Be”. Everything else was composed in 2010 and 2011. The watershed moment was when Gillian got “The Way It Goes” started. That’s when I felt we might have a record. WELCH: The writing was superintegrated, the most fluid we’d ever done. We knew from the beginning it was a hardcore duet record. As opposed to Revelator, which is alienated and lonesome, Harrow has a unique intimacy. I’m really happy with how that record sounds, I think it’s a lovely mood.

DAVE RAWLINGS MACHINE

NASHVILLE OBSOLETE ACONY, 2015

A leisurely, open-ended, sevensong sprawl featuring Paul Kowert from Punch Brothers, Willie Watson, and some wonderfully cinematic string arrangements WELCH: Because of the duress we were under making Dave’s first record, we felt we’d started it from a compromised position! I feel

Lunch companions: Rawlings and Welch in Nashville, 2015

Nashville Obsolete was giving Dave much more of a fair shot. It’s almost like his first record. RAWLINGS: It was the first time we thought to do a Machine record where we really turned our writing machine towards songs that I would be singing. It was an interesting process. It feels to us like the Machine has been an accelerant, allowing us to be a little freer with the writing. WELCH: We both agreed it was creatively fruitful to pursue the Machine. It’s fun to play with other musicians. Our world is so hermetically sealed that any time we can bring more into it, it’s good. At the moment, we’re writing simultaneously for both bands, which is interesting. One thing we haven’t done is to see what happens if we spend more than five weeks recording, which is pretty much the length of time all our albums have taken. We’re curious to know. I think we’re trying to get enough songs together that the next time in the studio will be more experimental. Dave’s natural aptitude for string arranging came out on Nashville Obsolete, and we’re both quite excited about that being an interesting texture for us. We’ll see!

GILLIAN WELCH

BOOTS NO 1: THE OFFICIAL REVIVAL BOOTLEG ACONY, 2016

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Revival, an illuminating collection of

“It’s a snapshot of a moment when we homed in on what we liked about what we were doing” DAVE RAWLINGS ON BOOTS NO 1

21 outtakes, alternate versions and home demos documenting where it all began WELCH: About 10 years ago we started to go through all our boxes to see what existed. That was right around the time we bought Woodland, which has a proper tape vault. That was the beginning of us organising this stuff. With Boots, the period we were looking at was from the day I got to Nashville, in summer 1992, which is where my real songwriter journey begins. RAWLINGS: The material gradually accumulated as we were building our first live set. The project is a snapshot of a moment where we were finally homing in on what we liked about what we were doing. It’s interesting to hear things like “455 Rocket” or “Dry Town” being given a trial by fire. WELCH: Each song was a new experiment in testing the waters, wrapped up in meeting all these writers and musicians that I respected and who influenced me. I got to Nashville and there they all were, in the flesh! In the clubs, bars, and at our gigs. So “Barroom Girls” was: I wonder if I can write a waltz that Townes [Van Zandt] would like? Or, I have to write a song that’s going to impress Ralph Stanley, because he’s going to be there tonight! With “Orphan Girl”, I was just trying to write a song you could play next to “In The Pines” without being embarrassed. I still work that way. What I do is a combination of expressing stuff that I’m feeling and wanting to not look foolish to my peers.   Gillian Welch’s Boots No 1: The Official Revival Bootleg is out now on Acony Records


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L i VE

STURGILL SIMPSON Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, October 28, 2016

Brigitte engl/redferns

Country music’s ornery rebel closes out a big year on a historic stage

S

TURGIll Simpson is onstage at the Ryman Auditorium, but the Ryman Auditorium is empty. The spotlights are on and his band’s gear is set up, but the show doesn’t start for a few more hours. Simpson, one of the biggest not-exactly country stars of 2016, a bright spot in an otherwise dismal year, is full of nervous energy. He paces. He examines

100 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

the curtain. He clatters two drumsticks together. Only occasionally does he look out on the rows and rows of empty pews or at the coloured windows in the back of what is one of the most famous music venues in the world. This room was the home of the Grand Ole Opry during the heyday of country, starting in the 1940s until the show moved out to bigger, more modern facilities just outside of town. The building sat

neglected for decades, under the looming shadow of the wrecking ball (even Roy Acuff advocated its destruction), but it was saved in the early 1990s thanks to efforts by Emmylou Harris and other country stars. Today the venue hosts an eclectic roster of shows – more roots than strictly country. If the Ryman is the Mother Church Of Country Music, then Sturgill is the sceptic commandeering the pulpit. A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, his third full-length album and major-label debut, is a song cycle about the fears of a new father in a world that gets scarier every day, and Simpson uses country as the foundation for a squirrelly, ornery sound that incorporates every style imaginable: R’n’B and soul, rock and folk, the muscular horns of Stax and the rambling song architecture of jam bands. He melds everything expertly.


L i VE Star sailor: Sturgill Simpson rips it up in Nashville

robustly soulful voice. Backed by a remarkably tight and inventive 1 life Of sin band, he explodes songs like 2 living the “long White line” and “A little dream light”, stretching them out 3 Water in A until they snap. There’s barely Well any break in the music, hardly 4 long White a chance for anyone onstage or line 5 Call Me the off to catch their breath. Breeze/When Simpson interacts with his the levee band like he can’t quite believe Breaks his luck, and he steps to the side 6 i never go Around Mirrors of the stage frequently to get out 7 some days of their way, to let them take a 8 turtles All the turn in the spotlight. It’s a sharp, Way down at times perilous performance 9 the Promise by a band that has been evolving 10 it Ain’t All throughout the year, shedding flowers 11 railroad Of sin players and taking on new ones. 12 You don’t Miss The three horn players hail from Your Water New Orleans, the keyboard 13 A little light player and bassist represent 14 Welcome Detroit. Guitarist laur Joamets to earth is from Estonia but plays like (Pollywog) 15 Breakers roar he’s been gigging around Texas for decades. And Miles Miller, 16 Keep it Between the like Simpson a Kentucky native, HEN the Ryman lines nearly steals the show on the finally fills up 17 sea stories drums, bashing out these songs with people, when 18 in Bloom with a jazzy elasticity, making Simpson and his band finally 19 Brace for take the stage, when the show impact (live A clear that the music holds little) together by his whim. finally starts, this churchly 20 All Around You When he finally starts the room buzzes with a rapturous 21 Oh sarah first verse of “Welcome To Earth energy and excitement, 22 Call to Arms/ (Pollywog)”, the first song on amplified a thousand times until the Motivator Sailor’s Guide, it’s clear he’s going it becomes something not quite to settle in. Sure enough, he plays benign. Ryman audiences tend the entire thing in order, tracing to be fairly well behaved, but the album’s crests and troughs, this crowd is on its feet at the first its rockers and lullabies, as though it’s chord, their communal roar threatening to all one long song. And in a sense it is. The overwhelm the band. Clad in jeans and a album is brilliant and frustrating, full of denim shirt that gives him the appearance hooks that never repeat and songs that of a recently sprung inmate, Simpson either end abruptly (“Sea Stories”) or wind prowls the stage, exhibiting a gruffness down gradually (“Brace For Impact”). that veers toward pugilistic, as well as Ostensibly it’s a father passing along a steely charisma that riles the throngs wisdom to a newborn son, but it’s also an even more. At one point he simply walks artist explaining himself to the world. to the lip of the stage, stares down half the These aren’t the guys who played on Ryman, and receives a defining ovation that record, but they still manage to that threatens to bring the balcony and the expand these songs effectively. For a few rest of the house down. moments, the crowd becomes part of Almost teasing the audience, Simpson the performance, too, shouting back to ignores Sailor’s Guide to concentrate Simpson the climactic line of “Oh Sarah”: “But goddamn, sometimes crazy’s how I feel!” Halfway through the runawaytrain finale “Call To Arms”, he breaks into T. Rex’s “The Motivator”, whose pop-surrealist come-ons sound a world removed from the song’s super-topical state-of-the-world outrage. But that’s how Sturgill likes it. He appreciates the jarring juxtapositions, the unexpected gesture, the revealing moment of happenstance— such as when Miles Miller’s cymbal jumps off the drumkit and clatters to the floor. They keep playing, as though on songs from his first two albums, trying to demolish the kit, the stage, 2013’s High Top Mountain and 2014’s the auditorium, the entire damn town. breakthrough Metamodern Sounds in They’re ripping it up to start over again. Country Music. He peppers the setlist On the Ryman stage, the divide between with a few covers, turning the blues/ Nashville’s past and its future is at its most classic-rock standard “When the levee pronounced, and Simpson represents Breaks” into a Bakersfield barnburner, a little of both. and William Bell’s “You Don’t Miss Your Water” into an epic showcase for his STEPHEN DEUSNER before Orlando and Nice, before Brexit and Trump. “And it’s getting scarier than it has been in a long time. I don’t know if we’re all so distracted that it doesn’t sink in. But I’m scared for him.” That fear pervades the album, which might explain its popularity this year. For Simpson, playing music is both a release and a responsibility: a means of pushing back the darkness. “It is providing for” his family, he said of his heavy touring schedule. “It’s also making a lot of people happy that I’ve never met before. So yeah, I might be out there in the middle of a tour thinking, ‘God, I don’t know how I’m going to keep doing this.’ But music allows me to connect with people. I know what it’s done in my life in terms of offering some type of healing or comfort.”

SETLIST

W

Very quickly he graduated from the roots circuit to the mainstream, mostly through word of mouth and with no radio play whatsoever. “Things escalated in a very strange and sudden way last year,” Simpson told me earlier this year. “I’ve always been in bars and clubs and honky tonks my whole life, and it was the thankless side of live music.” Just a few months later he is selling out the Ryman, maybe not the largest stage in Nashville, but certainly the one most freighted with symbolic weight. “This is a little intense.” Drawing from Simpson’s experiences in the US Navy, Sailor’s Guide is a bittersweet song cycle balancing the joys of new fatherhood with the worries of… well, fatherhood, with Simpson worried about the world that awaits his newborn son. “This shit is scary,” he told me, back

He plays Sailor’s Guide in order, as though it’s all one long song. And in a sense, it is

JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 101


L i VE

Sax symbol: Polly at Brixton

PJ HARVEY

O2 Academy Brixton, London, October 31, 2016 Polly Harvey’s raggle-taggle army bring their protest songs back to this glorious land

Joseph okpako/Wireimage

I

t’s Halloween, and in her gothic drapes and crow feather fascinator, PJ Harvey might be mistaken for any other reveller if she stepped onto the streets of Brixton. On the second of two nights at the Academy, the Dorset-born songwriter is, of course, concerned with more enduring horrors. Harvey’s latest album, The Hope Six Demolition Project, surveys the victims of America’s foreign and domestic policies, yet her intentions remain obscure thanks to an assiduously silent press campaign that’s led to her oblique observations being labelled conflict tourism. Live, the project comes into focus, thanks to Harvey’s astonishing voice. she’s never lacked power or the ability to channel different characters, but tonight she sounds extraordinary. she enters walking amidst her nine-piece all-male band, who drum and whistle “Chain Of Keys” before providing a robust vocal backing to Harvey’s piercing words. the communal arrangement places Hope Six in a vernacular tradition, even if Harvey’s performance finds her embracing rock star moves unseen since 2009’s A Woman A Man Walked By. Directed by renowned British theatre director Ian Rickson, tonight’s every

102 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

SETLIST 1 Chain of keys 2 ministry of Defence 3 Community of hope 4 orange monkey 5 Line in The sand 6 Let england shake 7 Words That maketh murder 8 The glorious Land 9 medicinals 10 When Under ether 11 Dollar Dollar 12 The Devil 13 The Wheel 14 ministry of social affairs 15 50ft Queenie 16 Down By The Water 17 To Bring You my Love 18 river anacostia ENCORE 19 memorials 20 The river

move has been scripted, though the precision rarely stiffens the impact. On “Ministry Of Defence”, Harvey leers atop the aggressive industrial pounding, and ends the song unleashing a vibrant saxophone squall. Her eerie high pitch on “A Line In the sand” conveys her desperate hopelessness at history’s tendency to repeat itself, although “Dollar Dollar”, in which she feels overwhelmed by Kosovan child beggars, is made triter still by a hammy gesture. “All my words get swallowed,” she sings, grasping her throat. the immediacy of the voice Harvey uses on Hope Six sharply contrasts with the crone-like character of Let England

Harvey leers atop the aggressive industrial pounding

Shake, where she’s a wise conduit from the past. such subtlety is evident throughout tonight’s sharp set. Brixton shows usually sound awful, but despite there being 10 musicians on stage, the effect is never cluttered or indistinct. they emphasise the songs’ rhythmic qualities, each made up of invigorating short phrases. Most exhilarating is when saxophonist terry Edwards steps forward to blow a gale through the end of “the Ministry Of social Affairs”, though the group offer earthier shades on the affecting “the Glorious Land”. Other than thanks and band introductions, Harvey says nothing. Even when she flubs the opening high note of “River Anacostia”, she just laughs and continues. since 2007’s White Chalk, it’s often felt as though Harvey is sublimating her personality in favour of detached, omniscient narrators. this can be frustrating, but tonight she comes through powerfully: strident, wild-eyed and funny, as theatrical as her mid-’90s incarnation. she offers concessions to that period: “50Ft Queenie” sounds like an apocalyptic dustup as Harvey inhabits the egomaniacal cock-rocker, jittering around the stage and miming a crotch extension “twenty inches long”. “to Bring You My Love” is a swarthier seduction, with John Parish making that staggering riff slow and sinuous, Harvey building to a funereal roar. For closer “the River”, she returns to water, a lifelong motif. Drawn from 1998’s melancholy Is This Desire?, it’s a low-key end to a thunderous gig: absolution for the figurative guises that have littered the stage tonight, restoring Harvey to her tantalising, unknowable self. LAURA SNAPES


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“The definitive portrait of one of America’s greatest bands by one of America’s greatest filmmakers” Michael Bonner, Uncut

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here’s a lot of self-serving talk in robbie robertson’s Testimony about friendship and loyalty and how The Band were a family, as close as brothers, true to each other in every circumstance, the bond between them forged originally as the mostly teenaged backing band of wild southern rocker ronnie hawkins, hardening over long years of touring after they split from hawkins to do their own thing as The hawks. robertson would like us to believe it was like this until the end. But by 1976, The Band was “a wounded beast”, about to be put out of its misery at The Last Waltz. Drugs played a part in their downfall. Three of the group were deep into heroin. One of them was also a full-blown alcoholic. everyone took cocaine. There wasn’t much left of their original camaraderie. In truth, robertson’s ambition had always set him slightly apart from the group’s trio of hardcore degenerates, whoop-it up hellraisers, less interested in careers than getting drunk, doing drugs and wrecking cars. he alone was hip to the benefits of The hawks signing up as Bob Dylan’s backing band, even in the hostile aftermath of Newport ’65. Never happy with the idea of The hawks giving up their own thing for Dylan, Levon helm soon quit. But robertson skilfully ingratiated himself into Dylan’s inner circle, replacing Bobby Neuwirth as Dylan’s henchman of choice. robertson was also the member of The Band who most enjoyed the celebrity that followed 112 • unCut • JanuaRy 2017

revieWed This monTh

TesTimony Robbie Robertson William Heinemann

7/10

seT The Boy Free: The AuToBiogrAphy Johnny marr CentuRy

6/10

spider From mArs: my LiFe WiTh BoWie Woody Woodmansey SidgWiCk & JaCkSon

7/10

Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before: Johnny marrs gives his side of the Smiths story

It’s as if everything Marr describes happened to someone else the success of Music From Big Pink, the simpering attentions of a starry demimonde far removed from the honkytonks and roadhouses where the group had originally thrived and helm still felt most at home. The deepest rift between robertson and helm occurred, however, when robertson paid a pittance to the hard-up rick Danko, richard Manuel and Garth hudson for their publishing rights, knowing how much more The Band’s catalogue was actually worth. robertson, typically disingenuously, argues that he was doing his bandmates a favour, barely acknowledges helm’s enduring fury, filling the book instead with much sententious rumination and overcooked anecdotes. You can only guess how Johnny Marr delivered the original version of set The Boy Free to his publishers – a self-written first draft, scattered notes left for someone else to assemble, transcriptions of taped interviews, who knows? There’s no

credited ghost-writer to either praise or blame, but clearly the book at some stage has been put through an editorial rinse that’s pretty much cleansed it of anything resembling a personality. Its tone is flat, neutral, removed. For much of it, Marr seems to be writing less about himself than another bright, ambitious workingclass kid from Manchester, obsessed with music, clothes and hairspray, who was still a teenager when he formed The smiths, the band of a generation and all that. It’s as if everything he describes happened to someone else and Marr is reporting things he’s only heard about, which is very weird. The book’s vaporous style gives it a kind of narrative weightlessness, where no event is given greater significance than any other, whether it’s buying a new pair of trousers, his momentous first meeting with Morrissey, or The smiths signing to rough Trade. Marr breezes through The smiths’ career like someone sitting impatiently through a film he’s seen before, waiting for it to be over, so he can get on with other things. he doesn’t spend as much time here as Morrissey famously did in his autobiography revisiting the court case smiths drummer Mike Joyce brought against him and Morrissey, but he’s equally bitter about the verdict, Joyce in his opinion never more than a hired lackey who contributed nothing more to The smiths than an occasional backbeat, Marr’s sourness all the more striking for the bland affability elsewhere on display. Woody Woodmansey’s spider From mars is mainly an account of the three years Woodmansey spent playing with David Bowie between 1970 and 1973, the drummer a witness therefore to Bowie’s commercial breakthrough and the madness that followed. The first half of the book tells a familiar story, the young Woody along with just about every other post-war teenager discovering rock’n’roll, music offered a way out of the humdrum of a steady factory job, a family, a life with limited horizons. he was 20 when he left the small Yorkshire town of Driffield to join former bandmate Mick ronson and Bowie in London to record The Man Who Sold The World and then Hunky Dory and, of course, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust, the success of which blew him into a lurid new universe. he’s good on the early days in haddon hall, the excitement that attached itself to Bowie’s career ascension in the UK and the giddy delirium that followed when the circus moved to America, where things eventually unravelled on the Aladdin sane tour. The spiders complained about their low wages and asked for a raise. “You’re just a fucking backing band,” Bowie coldly told them. “I could have made it with anyone.” It was the beginning of the end and Woodmansey was sacked after the hammersmith Odeon show in July 1973, when Bowie announced his ‘retirement’, Bowie callously firing him on the day he got married. Ouch. ALLAN JONES


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DVD&BLURAY dE palma Black magic strummin’: green in 1969

STUDIOCANAL

8/10 De Palma on De Palma in hugely satisfying documentary New Hollywood’s most feverish stylist – making entire movies seemingly just to replay obsessions with moments from Hitchcock – Brian de Palma isn’t exactly a forgotten figure, but his name isn’t bandied about as much as contemporaries such as Spielberg, Scorsese and Coppola. This affectionate, intimate documentary by directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow might not change that, but if, like them, you’re a fan, it’s pure joy. essentially, de Palma himself simply, astutely – and frankly – talks through his astonishingly varied output, from obscurities (Home Movies) to cults (Fury, Blow Out) to mega-hits (Scarface, The Untouchables). A born storyteller, his knack for anecdote is acute. Extras: Unconfirmed. DAMIEN LOVE

rUsh

time stand still ZOE VISION/CONCORD

man of thE world: thE pEtEr grEEn story HENRY HADAWAY ORGANIZATION

7/10

GeorGe Wilkes/Hulton ArcHive/Getty imAGes

Solid portrait of one of rock’s most profoundly gifted lost boys. By Graeme Thomson ReveRed by BB King, drafted in as eric Clapton’s replacement in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – “This guy’s much better,” said Mayall – Peter Green was more than just a gifted guitar stylist. during Steve Graham’s two-hour documentary, made in 2007 and now being released on dvd and Blu-ray, Noel Gallagher bigs up the songwriting skills of the fellow who wrote “Man Of The World”, “Oh Well”, “Albatross” and “Black Magic Woman”, while Mick Fleetwood makes the case for his under-rated voice. Yet for all his talents, or perhaps because of them, Green’s has been a somewhat tortured existence. This is a solid, no-frills telling of his story, pieced together mainly via talking heads, among them Fleetwood, Mayall, John Mcvie, Jeremy Spencer, Carlos Santana and Green’s two brothers. There’s also face time with a benign but foggy Green, as he revisits his family home in Bethnal Green, goes river fishing, and pores poignantly over old photos. “I’m not as good looking as that…” As ever, the early years seem to have been the happiest. Forming Fleetwood Mac in 1967, Green led them from grassroots blues act to Top Of The Pops. Unwilling to become part of the “material 114 • UnCUt • JanUary 2017

orthodoxy he was rebelling against”, according to manager Clifford davis, the spiritually inquisitive Green grew fractious and disillusioned. The beautiful but terribly anxious “Man Of The World” was “his first cry for help”, according to journalist Keith Altham, but it wasn’t one the band picked up on. “I have regrets,” admits Fleetwood, sadly. Turned on by Grateful dead’s lysergic guru Owsley Stanley, in 1969, while in Munich, Green was drawn into the dark web of a moneyed, cultish, “acid-fuelled elitist commune”, which, believe Mcvie and Fleetwood, had catastrophic effects on his psyche. “They stripped him of his personality, and he never really came back,” says Fleetwood. Green left Mac shortly afterwards and embarked on a solo career, increasingly ambushed by mental illness. He started eating with his hands; his fingernails grew to four inches. diagnosed as schizophrenic – “I was having a lot of strange experiences inside my head” – he ended up in a psychiatric hospital, undergoing eCT treatment, and spent much of the ’70s and ’80s out of circulation. It’s a sad tale, but there are moments of levity. We learn that “Black Magic Woman” was inspired by Green’s former girlfriend Sandra elsdon, who helpfully points out that the “magic stick” in the song “was his cock”. Green has a mescalineinspired vision to send cheese and tomato sandwiches direct to victims of the Biafran famine, and later threatened to shoot his accountant for not giving away enough of his money. In the mid-’90s, somewhat restored, he began performing again, and has recorded several albums. Now 70, he’s been less active of late. Thorough as it is, the film never solves the riddle of a unique talent dammed in midstream. “He could have been so much more,” says Mcvie. “He never quite understood the power of what he’d been handed.” Gnomic though he is, Green perhaps comes closest to providing illumination. “Whatever I’m expecting,” he says at one point, “it never arrives.” Extras: 5/10. Half an hour of interview footage. GRAEME THOMSON

7/10 High-sheen behind-the-scenes of an emotional long goodbye 2015 was Rush’s 40th anniversary, celebrated with a suitably epic 35-city tour, and quite possibly the last for this juggernaut Canadian band. “ending is harder than beginning,” intones Alex Lifeson, rather mournfully, and this feature-length doc explores in pristine high definition the rationale – in Geddy Lee’s words – for “going out at the top”. Cue great in-concert footage of a singularly powerful live act, plus celeb spots (Obama! Michael Moore!), and astonishing analysis of the intense, dead-like devotion of the group’s hardcore artillery of fans. (They even have their own convention, RushCon.) Here’s their bittersweet souvenir – its polish typified by the National Geographic levels of respect Paul Rudd brings to the narration. Extras: 5/10. Unreleased concert footage. MARK BENTLEY

thE yoUng popE SPIRIT ENTERTAINMENT

6/10 Jude Law is The Godfather Paolo Sorrentino is one of cinema’s most vital yet most mercurial figures: for every Consequences Of Love or The Great Beauty, there’s This Must Be The Place, or a Paloma Faith cameo. His much-anticipated Tv series, a surreal fable about the first American Pope, his neo-con project and plots against him sounds tantalising. Befrocked backstabbing in baroque marble halls, cigarettes, diane Keaton in a wimple – it should play like Fellini remaking House Of Cards as ecclesiastical satire. But while it’s peppered with striking moments, the lush auteurist soufflé often falls flat. If you want an American, why cast Jude Law, anyway? Extras: Unconfirmed. DAMIEN LOVE


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f i lms This month: Frank Zappa talks back; Spike Lee apes Aristophanes; Oliver Stone leaks his Edward Snowden biopic; Miles Teller pulls no punches…

E

AT THAT QUESTION Frank Zappa – “musician, filmmaker, independent thinker” – meant many things to many people. Foulmouthed moustachioed freak; serious composer of classical symphonies; vehement opponent of censorship; Czechoslovakia’s Special Ambassador to the West on Trade, Culture and Tourism. It has taken an outsider – German filmmaker Thorsten Schütte – to reconcile all these disparate strands of Zappa’s career, though there is inevitably a longer film struggling to escape its slender, 90-minute running time. Eat That Question consists of pre-existing interview footage and live performances, cut together in largely chronological order. It helps that Zappa is an articulate, witty interviewee – indeed, some might find it a more rewarding experience to watch him being interviewed on late-night US TV shows than listen to his music. Of that, there is plenty. The best is black and white footage from October, 1968, of the original Mothers Of Invention on French TV, looking like a California death cult and playing jazz-tinged but psychedelically playful sounds. Elsewhere, Schütte loops through an incident in Berlin that same year where the Mothers are caught up in student riots, the cancellation three years later of an Albert Hall show on the grounds of obscenity. “It is a matter of survival, rather than success,” Zappa notes wryly. Yet he is visibly moved on touching down at Prague airport to find scenes of almost Beatlesesque devotion – he was a figurehead among the dissident population under Communism. The meatiest section of the film comes towards the end, as Zappa takes on the Parents Music Resource Center, citing their attempts to label obscene lyrics as the first step towards an Orwellian theocracy. It is here, perhaps, that Zappa does his best work. The problems inherent in this kind of film mean that there is no room for an alternate

viewpoint. Super-8 footage of Zappa and Beefheart larking about on the Bongo Fury tour screams out for some kind of obliging comment about their relationship. The conspicuously high turnover of Zappa’s band members and the progressive multi-racial composition of later lineups are not discussed. Asked to reflect on his achievements during one of his final TV interviews, shortly before he died from prostate cancer in 1993, he says, “Give a guy a big nose and some weird hair and he’s capable of anything.” CHI-RAQ Between 2001 and 2015, gun deaths in Chicago outnumbered those in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2016 alone, the city looked likely to outpace the total murders in New York and LA combined. Surely, then, Chicago’s gang culture is ripe for a powerful exposé from a filmmaker like Spike Lee. In truth, Lee’s feature films over the past decade have been strangely uneven affairs – lacking either the exuberance of his early films or the clear-eyed maturity of his millennial movies, Summer Of Sam, 25th Hour and Inside Man. His remakes, Oldboy and Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus , based on 1973 film Ganja And Hess, were unsatisfying genre exercises, although 2012’s Red Hook Summer – his last original project – was anchored by a fine central performance from Clarke Peters as a fiery preacher in a poor Brooklyn community. Chi-raq is an effective commentary on Chicago’s appalling situation – though, perhaps, not in the way you might imagine. It is an adaptation of Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata, features addresses to camera delivered in rhyme, and the sight of The Warriors’ David Patrick Kelly stripped to his Confederate underpants and riding a Civil War-era cannon. It is unorthodox, yes; but that gives it a freshness and edge. Hip-hop and shoot-outs prevail, but they are metred by Lee’s keen wit. From Aristophanes, he borrows the broad plot: to stop men from fighting, the women of the city go on a sex strike: “No peace, no pussy.” The gangs are the Spartans and the Trojans – another nod back to the source. But what Lee does with this is entirely his own. Samuel L Jackson is on hand as a loquacious Greek chorus of one, John Cusack brings pathos as an Irish priest, and there are small but memorable roles for Jennifer Hudson and Wesley Snipes. At the centre, though, is a smart, assured performance from Teyonah Parris as Lysistrata herself. Lee’s best for a decade.

“Give a guy a big hat…” Zappa in LA, March 1979

THE UNKNOWN GIRL It has long been possible to draw parallels between the Belgian filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne and our own Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. They have all explored similar social landscapes. As with Loach’s I, Daniel Blake – which took place largely within a monolithic state institution – so The Unknown Girl follows a young doctor working in a practice in the Dardennes’ usual haunt, the Belgian industrial town of Seraing. Many of the film’s early sequences are procedural, taken up with the business of medical consultations – an opportunity for the Dardennes to introduce Dr Jenny Davin (Adèle Haenel), a sullen but hard-working and talented healthcare professional operating in a largely impersonal environment. There is a death, however: a young African woman who had previously come to Jenny for help. Believing herself somehow responsible, Jenny embarks on a quest to find out what she can about the dead woman – “She had no ID, no mobile phone” – and notify the next of kin. As she moves among the community looking for answers, the Dardennes find the opportunity to explore notions of collective responsibility.

MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES

REVIEWED THIS MONTH EAT THAT QUESTION Directed by Thorsten Schütte Starring Frank Zappa Opens Dec 2 Cert 15

7/10

116 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

CHI-RAQ Directed by Spike Lee Starring Teyonah Parris Opens Dec 2 Cert 15

8/10

THE UNKNOWN GIRL Directed by Jean-Pierre, Luc Dardenne Starring Adèle Haenel Opens Dec 2 Cert TBC

7/10

SNOWDEN Directed by Oliver Stone Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt Opens Dec 9 Cert 12A

6/10

BLEED FOR THIS Directed by Ben Younger Starring Miles Teller Opens Dec 2 Cert 15

6/10


f i lms ALSO OUT... BLUE VELVET OPENS DEC 2 To whet your appetite for the return of Twin Peaks. Kyle MacLachlan finds horror in smalltown America in David Lynch’s early classic.

MOANA

OPENS DEC 2 Disney’s Polynesian princess teams up with a demigod for adventures in the South Pacific. Flight Of The Conchords’ Jemaine Clement plays a crab monster.

SULLY OPENS DEC 2 Clint Eastwood’s latest – a true story with Tom Hanks as the titular pilot forced to land a plane in the Hudson.

THE ARDENNES OPENS DEC 2 Two brothers – one fresh out of jail – try to make a fresh start. There is a girl. Things get complicated. Stuff happens in the woods. Tom Hanks in Sully

The Unknown Girl may not be among the Dardennes’ best films – it’s hard to follow their splendid collaboration with Marion Cotillard, 2014’s Two Days, One Night – but it addresses complex issues in a quiet, unfancy way that underscores their instinctive understanding of human behaviour. SNOWDEN In September, Chris Inglis – the former deputy director of the National Security Agency – took issue with Oliver Stone’s biopic of former NSA employee Edward Snowden. Describing the film as “preposterous”, he accused the filmmaker of “gross mischaracterisation of what NSA’s purposes are”. While it is possible to sympathise with Inglis’ position, cinema audiences are not perhaps in the market for documentary-levels of veracity here. Certainly, Snowden’s tale is a potent hottopic issue – perfect, then, for Stone, who has a strong record with similarly divisive material. But, apart from his political docs like Comandante, Stone’s dramatic work has struggled of late. World Trade Center, W and his Wall Street sequel lacked bite. Similarly, Snowden isn’t quite the film one would hope for. Moving at a slow pace, it follows Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s whistleblower as he meets with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) and journos Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and Ewan MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson), then flashes back to chart his entrance into the military and then the NSA. What works? A committed and unfussy performance from Levitt. But Rhys Ifans is wildly implausible as Snowden’s CIA mentor – “Bombs won’t stop terrorists. Brains will, and we don’t have nearly enough of these.” There is also Nic Cage as a jaded NSA professor who bonds with Snowden over vintage Enigma machines.

The original Mothers Of Invention looked like a California death cult… BLEED FOR THIS Miles Teller has developed a reputation for taking on hard assignments. He was the beleaguered drum student in Whiplash, the elasticated Mr Fantastic in Fantastic Four and the deeply boring protagonist trapped in the middle of the awful War Dogs. Here he is in his latest tough gig, playing real-life boxer Vinny Paz, a three-times world-title holder who defied doctors’ advice to make a sensational comeback following a spinal injury. Ben Younger’s film is the stuff of inspiration and, presumably, awards bait. As Paz, Teller has done a De Niro and bulked out – his commitment to the role is unquestionable, but by unfortunate coincidence he now looks a lot like a stockier Sid Owen, the actor best known for playing Ricky Butcher in EastEnders. “Vinniieeeeee!” Around Teller, Younger has assembled a strong supporting cast – Ciarán Hinds as his father and Aaron Eckhart as his trainer – who, for the most part, are disappointingly miscast. Hinds is a careful, nuanced actor who here is required to chew his vowels in a thick Italian-American accent, while Eckhart struggles to flesh out a clichéd role as the boozy trainer with just enough gas left in the tank to help his charge get back in the ring. A score by Julia Holter drifts by in the background.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS 3D OPENS DEC 5 Tim Burton’s animation is given a lovely festive reissue in 3D. Jack Skellington, Oogie Boogie, all those guys.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION OPENS DEC 9 Drama set in the antebellum South, with Nate Parker – also writing and directing – as the slave and preacher orchestrating an uprising.

ARMY OF ONE OPENS DEC 16 Borat and Brüno director Larry Charles sends Nicolas Cage after Osama Bin Laden. Russell Brand plays God. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY OPENS DEC 16 The first of the spin-off movies, with Felicity Jones leading a band of rebels to steal the plans for the Death Star. Features Darth Vader.

UNCLE HOWARD OPENS DEC 16 Doc about cult ’70s NYC filmmaker Howard Brookner, whose body of work is rediscovered 30 years after his death. With Jim Jarmusch, Tom DiCillo and others.

DONNIE DARKO OPENS DEC 23 The near disappearance of writer/ director Richard Kelly is almost as big a mystery as the plot of his breakthrough film: time travel, a giant rabbit and INXS. JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 117


Obituaries

Not Fade Away Fondly remembered this month…

osCAr BrAND Folk singer-songwriter (1920-2016) Alongside fellow board members Pete Seeger, Albert Grossman and theodore Bikel, Oscar Brand helped George Wein set up the first Newport Folk Festival in 1959. Brand recorded nearly 100 albums, covering everything from nonsense songs and drinking ballads to sea shanties and political satire. He hosted tV show Let’s Sing Out in his native Canada during the ’60s, introducing unknowns such as Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot. Meanwhile, Oscar Brand’s Folksong Festival ran for 70 years on radio, beginning in 1945.

JoAN mArIe JohNsoN Dixie Cups vocalist (1944-2016) Sisters Barbara Ann and Rosa Lee Hawkins began singing with cousin Joan Marie Johnson at high school in New Orleans. By 1964, they’d moved to New York, signed to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s Red Bird label and become the Dixie Cups. the trio hit big immediately with “Chapel Of Love”, knocking the Beatles from the top of the Billboard charts and selling more than a million copies. Other hits ensued, notably “People Say” and “Iko Iko”, before Johnson quit sometime after 1966.

Dead Or Alive singer and reality star (1959-2016)

rOb rOssati/reX/shutterstOck

P

ete Burns was an indomitable presence on Liverpool’s post-punk scene, long before he became a mainstream pop sensation with Dead Or Alive. As shop assistant at Probe Records on Matthew Street, the androgynous and outspoken Burns was notorious for his attitude, summarily berating customers for their lack of musical taste and often throwing their records back at them in pure disgust. His performing career began down the street at eric’s in November 1977, forming a trio with Pete Wylie and Julian Cope – Mystery Girls – that lasted for one gig. Just over a year later, Burns returned with goth-disco outfit Nightmares In Wax, issuing 1980’s eP “Birth Of A Nation”. the band swiftly morphed into Dead Or Alive (Burns deciding on the name change 10 minutes before a John Peel session) and began issuing a series of independent 45s. By the time they’d signed to epic, Dead Or Alive had adopted a more Hi-NRG sound, as evinced by their club-friendly cover of KC And the Sunshine Band’s “that’s the Way (I Like It)”, a top 30 success in 1984. But Burns’ 118 • UNCUT • JANUARY 2017

Disco diva Pete Burns in 1991

transformation into fully-fledged pop star coincided with the arrival of Stock, Aitken and Waterman as producers for “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)”. His label masters were less than enthused with the song at first, according to Burns, who claimed that he was forced to take out a £2,500 loan to record it. the single reached No 1 in March 1985, its success compounded by three more hits – “Lover Come Back”, “In too Deep” and “My Heart Goes Bang (Get Me to the Doctor)” – from parent album, Youthquake. “It’ll always be disco/ electro-pop for me,” stated Burns, who died this October of a heart attack. “that’s what I first wanted to do when I started out as a musician.” there were further chart successes, most prominently “Something In My House”, though Dead Or Alive effectively petered out as the ’90s dawned. Burns collaborated with Italian house duo Glam for 1994’s “Sex Drive”, which he revived the following year for Dead Or Alive’s final all-new studio effort, Nukleopatra. More recently, he became known for his appearances on reality tV, starting in 2006 with Celebrity Big Brother, and an ongoing series of cosmetic surgeries that he estimated to number around 300. Burns remained a caustic, articulate and voluble figure to the last. “My very existence seems to offend and upset imbeciles,” he said. “Which thrills me.”

The Dixie Cups in 1965: Johnson far right

Curly PutNAm Country hitmaker (1930-2016) Despite initial concerns about the gloomy subject matter, George Jones credited 1980’s “He Stopped Loving Her today” with restoring his fortunes, stating that “a four-decade career had been salvaged by a three-minute song”. twelve years earlier, the same songwriting team of Curly Putnam and Bobby Braddock had authored “D-I-VO-R-C-e”, a huge success for Jones’ ex-wife, tammy Wynette. But Putnam’s biggest hit was the nostalgic hymn, “Green, Green

Gilles Petard/redferns

Pete Burns


Obituaries BoBBy Vee ’60s teen idol (1943-2016) Bobby Vee was just 16 when he scored his first hit, 1959’s “Suzie Baby”. He swiftly became one of America’s most bankable teen idols with “Devil Or Angel”, before going on to enjoy international success with “Rubber Ball”, “take Good Care Of My Baby”, “Run to Him” and “the Night Has A thousand eyes”, among others. In Chronicles, Bob Dylan, briefly a member of Vee’s band in ’59, hailed the “metallic, edgy tone to his voice…as musical as a silver bell”.

ANgus grANt ‘Acid-croft’ fiddle player (1967-2016) Angus Grant, son of fêted fiddle player Aonghas Grant, followed his father’s lead by taking up the instrument as a child. A spell in punkgrass band Swamptrash preceded Grant’s true calling as focal point of Shooglenifty, the edinburgh sextet whose freewheeling mix of Celtic folk, electronica and improvised jazz came to be known as ‘acid-croft’. the ensemble debuted with 1994’s Venus In Tweeds, featuring Grant’s crowd-pleasing “two Fifty to Vigo” and, through the course of seven albums, went on to become festival favourites.

roBert BAtemAN R&B singer/songwriter (1936-2016) As bass singer in the Satintones, Robert Bateman carried the distinction of recording the first single, 1959’s “Going to the Hop”, on Berry Gordy’s tamla label. He soon became in-house engineer and backing vocalist, before forming a professional alliance with Brian Holland. ‘Brianbert’, as they were known, co-wrote and produced the Marvelettes’ “Please Mr Postman” (1961), Motown’s first No 1 hit. In 1963, having joined Capitol Records, he and Wilson Pickett co-wrote “If You Need Me”, a major success for Solomon Burke.

DAVe CAsh Radio DJ and writer (1942-2016) In tandem with Kenny everett, Dave Cash co-hosted one of Radio London’s most successful programmes in the form of 1965’s Kenny & Cash Show. He briefly joined Radio Luxembourg before becoming an inaugural DJ on BBC Radio One in 1967.

Phil Chess

Unlikely blues legend: Phil Chess circa 1970

Chess Records co-founder (1921-2016)

I

t’S more than a little ironic that two white Polish immigrants, neither of whom were blessed with any musical talent, came to be synonymous with the popularisation of black American blues and R&B. Phil and Leonard Chess had emigrated from europe in 1928, settling in Chicago with their parents. Younger brother Phil served in WWII, after which he joined his sibling as co-owner of a handful of clubs, including the Macomba Lounge, on the predominantly black South Side of town. In 1947, Leonard became involved with the Aristocrat label – whose roster boasted Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter, among others – and, three years later, brought Phil into the business. Renaming it Chess Records, the brothers set about creating the country’s premier blues catalogue from a modest two-storey building at 2120 S. Michigan Ave, an address that Keith Richards would later deem “hallowed ground”. their second release was Waters’ seminal “Rollin’ Stone”, quickly followed by sides from Jimmy Rogers, Little Walter and John Lee Hooker. Phil Chess personally supervised many of the label’s recordings during the 1950s, including those of Howlin’ Wolf, to whom the brothers had been alerted by Sun Records founder, Sam Phillips. Chess began to assimilate rock’n’roll by 1955, leading to deals with Bo Diddley and, crucially, Chuck Berry. the success of Berry’s “Maybellene” signalled the onset of the label’s boom years. “the big beat, cars and young love,” commented Leonard.

Groovy baby: Dave Cash was an acolyte of Kenny Everett

“It was a trend and we jumped on it.” etta James, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush and Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry were brought into the fold soon after, the Chess brothers continuing to diversify their output, including the creation of jazz subsidiary, Argo. Leonard died from a heart attack in October 1969, just months after the siblings sold Chess to the tape giant GRt. Phil retired to live in Arizona three years later. In 1995, he and Leonard were inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame as non-performers. “Phil and Leonard Chess were cuttin’ the type of music nobody else was paying attention to,” offered Buddy Guy in tribute. “Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy, Jimmy Rogers, I could go on and on. Now you can take a walk down State Street today and see a portrait of Muddy that’s 10 storeys tall. the Chess Brothers had a lot to do with that. they made Chicago what it is today, the blues capital of the world.”

two years later, Cash instigated a novelty hit, Microbe’s “Groovy Baby”, for the station newsreader’s toddler son. Having moved to Capital Radio in 1973 as production manager and presenter, he finally quit in 1994 to devote himself to a writing career.

KAy stArr Blues and jazz chanteuse (1922-2016) No less an authority than Billie Holiday cited Kay Starr – whose repertoire expanded into jazz, pop, country and rock’n’roll – as “the only white woman who could sing the blues”. Having begun in the pre-war swing-band era, making her recorded debut with the Glenn Miller Orchestra, her first million-seller arrived with 1950’s “Bonaparte’s Retreat”. the hits quickly flowed in its wake, chief

among them “Wheel Of Fortune” (a US No 1 for 10 weeks) and, in 1956, “Rock And Roll Waltz”.

BoB CrANshAw Prolific jazz bassist (1932-2016) electric bassist Bob Cranshaw appeared on recordings by such jazz luminaries as Nat Adderley, Mose Allison, Wayne Shorter, George Benson, Dexter Gordon, Donald Byrd and Horace Silver, but his most enduring association was with tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins. Beginning with 1962’s The Bridge, Cranshaw was Rollins’ sideman for nearly two dozen albums, the last being Sonny, Please in 2006. He was Saturday Night Live’s resident bass player from 1975-1980 and his funky licks also grace the title theme of popular children’s tV show Sesame Street. ROB HUGHES JANUARY 2017 • UNCUT • 119

Michael Ochs archives/Getty iMaGes

Grass Of Home”, firstly for Porter Wagoner and then, in 1966, tom Jones.


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DANNY CLINCH

I’VE GOTTA GET A mESSAGE TO yOU

Fleeced by Floyd? Their box is pricey

Barry Gibb’s In The Now – the worst album of the month [Uncut, December 2016]? Really? While I’ll admit that In The Now is not as good as Odessa or Trafalgar or Spirits Having Flown, I don’t really think anyone would expect it to be. Barry Gibb has proven that he is a genius time after time, but having been in the business for 50 years it must be tough to keep reinventing the wheel. However, In The Now is a thoroughly decent LP with good melodies, poignant lyrics and interesting and varied productions. It is certainly worth more than a 3 out of 10! I noticed that Pink Floyd’s The Early Years scored 10/10. Now this is a collection of songs that we know backwards, plus some live tracks and some songs that were not deemed worthy of release at the time. It also looks like a pretty big package which will require its own shelf for storage, and the cost is a whopping £375. Of course, as a typical Floyd obsessive I am sadly “Revolution 9”, and in 1976 I bought thinking of buying this mausoleum Two Virgins on the strength of this to Floyd’s past. My girlfriend thinks sound collage. However, no matter I’m mad! The other day I was how hard I tried, I could not get into listening to Ummagumma. I can’t it. Why? Because it’s awful! I recall which track was playing: It was either “Several Species Of Small realised that my love of “Revolution Furry Animals Gathered Together In 9” was because, in the pre-digital A Cave And Grooving With A Pict” or age, you listened a whole side of vinyl at a time. If I didn’t listen to “The Grand Vizier’s Garden Party – “Revolution 9” I would also have Part 2 – Entertainment”. Anyway, missed out on “Revolution 1”, “Cry during one of these tracks my Baby Cry” and “Good Night”. girlfriend came into my studio and 6 out of 10? Way too high, even for said “What on earth is this?” When a historical document. I explained, she replied, “They Which brings us back to Barry actually released this and you’re Gibb: 3 out of 10? Hell, even Sting thinking of buying the boxed set, was given a 5! Jez East, Brighton which will be full of songs which aren’t as good as this? You’re crazy!” I fear she may be right. I’m CAREFUl WITH THAT struggling with my conscience: I CASH, EUGENE! know I shouldn’t buy it, but… I’m As a huge Pink Floyd fan who weak! But 10 out of 10? Come on! considers Ummagumma and Elsewhere in your magazine Atom Heart Mother to be the best I noticed a review for John and things they ever did, the stuff on Yoko’s Two Virgins. You gave this the Early Years Box Set is manna 6/10. Back in 1975, with the birthday from heaven. But £375 for 14 CDs money from my 12th birthday, I and some DVD extras? Compare bought ‘The White Album’. It cost a that with the £100 charged for whopping £5 and at the time I was disappointed: It look here: is barry Gibb’s wasn’t quite as cheerful as album really “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”, that bad? and “Revolution 9” was horrible! However, having spent £5 on this, I listened and listened to it and it became, and still is, one of my favourite albums. I even learned to like 120 • UNCUT • JANUARy 2017

Dylan’s incredible Cutting Edge set, and the disparity in value is obvious. Other bands such as Led Zep release their BBC sessions at reasonable prices, whereas the Floyd embed them inside this set. I wondered at the time of the 2011 remasters why the bonus tracks were so disappointing – the good stuff was obviously being held back for yet one more payday. Such is the way that the Floyd choose to treat their fans. Eric Tansley, Bramley …Tom Pinnock’s piece on Pink Floyd [Uncut, December 2016] made me think. I saw them at the Palace Theatre Manchester, on the Hendrix package, on November 26, 1967. I had always thought, therefore, that I’d seen Syd Barrett. However, I’d heard that, as he became more unreliable, on some of the shows he was replaced by David O’List of The Nice. Have you any idea who I would have seen? Steve Berning, Shepperton – O’List has recalled that he deputised for Syd once or twice on that tour, the first time being in Liverpool on November 18, then perhaps later in the tour. A fan who was at the Nottingham show on December 3 has also claimed that O’List took Syd’s place that night, too. So chances are that you did see Syd in Manchester.

mORE ClASS ACTS To those who got curious after reading the feature on modern “classical” composers [Uncut, December 2016], I can suggest two more. I recommend the 4th and 5th symphonies by Valentin Silvestrov, a Ukrainian born in 1937, on a release from the BIS label. The other is the Finn Einojuhani Rautavaara (19282016). The Ondine label has recorded most of his music. To start with, I suggest the Cantus Arcticus, a concerto for birds and orchestra, and the 7th Symphony, called “Angel Of Light”. Jan Arell, Molnlycke, Sweden

THE mIRAClE OF UNCUT Thank you Uncut for covering Miracle Legion, of all bands, in the November issue. Only in a quality publication like yours would I find such coverage of a semi-obscure ’90s college rock band. I’m 65 years of age and have been buying your magazine for as long as I have been able to find it on American bookstore racks. You have helped me discover and rediscover great music, old and new. Each month in my house is not complete until I’ve devoured the newest issue from cover to cover. Keep it up please! Arthur Prosser, Palm Springs, California


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One of three copies of Steve Earle’s reissued Guitar Town on CD…

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Editor John Mulvey Associate Editor Michael Bonner Associate Editor John Robinson Art Editor Marc Jones Senior Designer Michael Chapman production Editor Mick Meikleham Acting Album Reviews Editor Tom Pinnock picture Researcher Phil King Editor At large Allan Jones Contributors Jason Anderson, Mark Bentley, David Cavanagh, Tom Charity, Leonie Cooper, Jon Dale, Stephen Dalton, Stephen Deusner, Andy Gill, Nick Hasted, Mick Houghton, Rob Hughes, Trevor Hungerford, John Lewis, Damien Love, Alastair McKay, Geoffrey Macnab, Gavin Martin, Piers Martin, Rob Mitchum, Andrew Mueller, Sharon O’Connell, Louis Pattison, Sam Richards, Jonathan Romney, Bud Scoppa, Peter Shapiro, Laura Snapes, Neil Spencer, Terry Staunton, Fiona Sturges, Graeme Thomson, Luke Torn, Stephen Troussé, Jaan Uhelszki, Wyndham Wallace, Peter Watts, Richard Williams, Nigel Williamson, Jim Wirth, Damon Wise, Rob Young Cover photograph: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images photographers: Richard E Aaron, Tom Sheehan, Steve Gladstone, Waring Abbott, David Edwards, Claude Gassian, Ken McKay, Rob Verhorst, Emily Dyan Ibarra, Chris Jensen Thanks this Issue: Kevin Grant and Johnny Sharp (sub-editing), Charys Newton

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CREATIVE mEDIA

HOW TO ENTER The letters in the shaded squares form an anagram of a song by The Rolling Stones. When you’ve worked out what it is, send your answer to: Uncut January 2017 Xword Comp, Level 2 Basement, Blue Fin Building, 110 Southwark Steet, London SE1 0SU. The first correct entry picked at random will win a prize. Closing date: Monday, December 19, 2016. This competition is only open to European residents.

ClUES ACROSS

ClUES DOWN

1 New album, but Nick Cave won’t be making appearances in the flesh as he’s put down roots (8-4) 9 “They ain’t too smart,” observed The Strokes (3-4-4-4) 11 Connection between an album by Yes and single by Coldplay (4) 12 (See 22 down) 13 (See 4 down) 15 “In the year of the scavenger, the season of the _____,” from David Bowie’s “Diamond Dogs” (5) 17 (See 36 across) 18 Intending to get high on music by Earth, Wind & Fire (5) 20+23A I’m needing a reason for a song to be included on A Hard Day’s Night (4-2-3) 21 Steve ___, guitar virtuoso who played with Frank Zappa (3) 23 (See 20 across) 24 Catfish And The Bottlemen number coming up at the double (5) 27 “How can you choose between _____ and glory,” from Babyshambles’ “Fuck Forever” (5) 29 “The ____” saw it coming as an album by Big Country (4) 30 American punk band make an appearance in a Frank Sinatra film (3) 31 (See 3 down) 33 Big name celebrity on album by Belly (4) 34 (See 15 down) 35 (See 8 down) 36+17A Could somehow he be cruel about old US psychedelic rockers? (4-5)

2 Character in 1971’s Vanishing Point, being the title of a song by Primal Scream (8) 3+31A Keep your eyes off of this Big Country 45 (4-4) 4+13A “You can spend all your time making money, you can spend all your love making time,” 1976 (4-2-2-3-5) 5 I’ve an unusual version of a Kooks number (5) 6 Carol May’s arrangement of a Steely Dan album (5-4) 7 He was born Brian Peter St John le Baptiste de la Salle ___ in 1948 (3) 8+35A “Slipping into stockings, stepping into shoes,” 1971 (7-3) 10 “We’ll go to peepshows and freak shows/We’ll go to discos, casinos,” Suede (8-5) 14 Joe ____, who lived and worked at 304 Holloway Road, London (4) 15+34A Nicknamed The Empress Of The Blues, she died in 1937 (6-5) 16 Green Day got a big break with this single (7) 19 The Special ___ pleaded “Free Nelson Mandela” (3) 21 Shocking Blue were in heaven usually with this number (5) 22+12A At last the hour has come for Elvis Costello (3-4) 23 A question of doubt from The Lightning Seeds (4-2) 25 Incorrectly wired for single by Reef (5) 26 “I’m _____ for trying and _____ for crying and I’m _____ for loving you,” 1961 (5) 28 Anagram of 18 across, but it still goes the same way for Sepultura (5) 32 Average White Band to shortly name an album (3)

ANSWERS: TAKE 234

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1 Killer Queen, 2 Eat A Peach, 3 Magic, 4 Sgt Rock, 5 Not For You, 6 Ian Paice, 7 Grace, 8+25D Going Going, 13 Sweet, 18 Get Rhythm, 19 Opel, 21 DAF, 22 Beat, 26+23A First Step, 27 Roots, 30 Job, 31+33D Bad Day, 34 VU.

1 Keep Me Singing, 9 Rio, 10 Let’s Get It On, 11 Can, 12 ELP, 13 Chocolate, 14 Quads, 16 Kay, 17 Cage, 20 Echoes, 21 Dub, 24 Night Of Fear, 28 Hal, 29 Tory, 30 Jailbird, 32 Tad, 35 Bug, 36 Detours, 37 May.

HIDDEN ANSWER

“Too Much Too Young” by The Specials

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XWORD COmpIlED by:

Trevor Hungerford JANUARy 2017 • UNCUT • 121


My life in Music

Thee Oh Sees Garage-rock supremo John Dwyer picks his favourite records… “True blue weirdo art types” galore! Can

MiChael Yonkers

Flow Motion 1976

Goodby sunball 1974

This record is special to me… I loved Can as a kid. I got turned on to them by a camp counsellor. I had no money, so I stole this CD from a local shop – dumb, I know – and I got caught and chased for like a quarter of a mile. I got away, breathlessly got home and tore it open, only to be totally disappointed as it sounded nothing like the earlier work. Now, though, I love this LP – it just took 25 years to sink in. I love later Can, but nothing will compare to the first time I heard Malcolm Mooney’s effortless and free singing.

I really wish everyone could hear Michael Yonkers’ story, but I’d have to leave that up to him to tell. He’s had a really odd life and been put up against some truly major problems, but he’s overcome them and continued to make art. He’s one of a kind. I heard Microminiature Love [released in 2002] years ago and was lucky enough to play one of his rare shows with him, but Goodby Sunball is my favourite, because it’s from the year I was born, and it’s hauntingly sad, beautiful and really strange.

Grand Funk railroad

uriah heep

live album 1970

Are Grand Funk Railroad a group I grew up liking? Actually, no. My buddy Gian just turned me on to them this year. I’m not sure how I never got into them, but I think the name was a turn-off and I wasn’t hugely into the hits, which were the songs that were inescapable, but now I love them. I got into this live LP about three months ago. It’s burning and raw, and the songs all are extend-o versions.

look at Yourself 1971 This [the group’s third studio album] is like their early jams. A few years back I heard “July Morning” and I had to ask the DJ who was playing it what it was. I love it. Since then I’ve been slowly buying all of their earlier work whenever I see it. I got a great bootleg album in Japan! How have Uriah Heep influenced me? Organ in rock… of course.

robert Fripp

God save the Queen/under heavy Manners 1980 I’ve been a fan of Fripp since I was young. I heard In The Court Of The Crimson King and was attracted to the orchestral qualities. Obviously Fripp had created his entire sound, no-one was able to duplicate him – or make the pinched faces he made while playing. From his face he never seemed to be satisfied with his live sound. He always had this look of, “What the fuck is that?” How has this influenced my work? Mellotron… all day, all night. I love it. The man is a shredder.

eriC dolphY iron Man 1963

I can dig on all jazz, any period – I’ve seen contemporary jazz that blew my head off. Freedom in music is key, and jazz usually leans heavily on in-the-moment, more so than pop. When you hear people play so well together, how could you not be inspired? This record is one that we listen to a lot while working at home. Like most sax players, Dolphy had his own voice and like a voice, you just know it clicks with you. He’s obviously one of the great masters.

hiiraGi Fukuda

henrY FlYnt & the insurreCtions

interview: tom pinnock

seacide 2014

Bill [Roe, from the band CoCoComa and co-founder of Trouble In Mind] sent me this album along with a big pile of others from Trouble In Mind Records. It was all great stuff, but this one really resonated with me. I would say this record in particular has a sort of timeless sound to it, which adds to it – it sounds like an old Willie Nelson record, ha! Again this was another one I just got last year, but it’s been on heavy rotation.

i don’t Wanna 2005 (recorded in 1966) Is Flynt a hero for me? Surely. He was a deconstructionist, and seemed to learn an instrument in an incredibly individualistic way. No-one sounds like him. He was another true-blue weirdo art type. I get the impression that his whole life was art – didn’t he picket Stockhausen? Music was just a by-product of his mind. Can I tell his story? Listen to this album, listen to Ascent To The Sun, listen to Hillbilly Porch Music, they speak volumes for themselves.

Thee Oh Sees’ An Odd Entrances is out now on Castle Face

in next Month’s unCut: 122 • unCut • januarY 2017

“I was on the verge of hypothermia with gnaw marks from a grizzly bear…



January 2017