The Wildhearts, Rock City, 27th January 2017 @TheWildhearts

Words: Richard Mackman

Photos: Fi Stimpson

The Main Grains bill themselves as timeless rock and roll, and they are just that. With similarities to Danny McCormack’s former project The Yo-Yos, the Grains smash out half an hour of brash and rambunctious four chord Ramones-esque sub-punk. Considering the man has only one leg these days, Danny is not only clearly very glad to be on stage, but also grateful for the love and support he gets from tonight’s crowd. He did, after all, used to be bass player for The Wildhearts. He is also in the possession of what looks to be his old yellow Fender Precision, the sound of which could eviscerate a stegosaurus at 30 yards. Jobs a good’un, and thank you very much.

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Massive Wagons are a long haired, flying V type quality rock band, in some ways an atavism in this day and age, but they pull it off with panache. Lead singer Baz looks fresh from the cast of Vikings, whacking his mike stand around like a bloodied broad sword. For a fella of small stature, he has a big gob and an even bigger personality. I would like to hear these guys on record so that next time I have more of an opportunity to sing along. Clearly a hard working and tenacious band, and one would think another of Ginger Wildheart’s wise choices as support. We will be seeing you again, boys!

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And so onto The Wildhearts… I think this is my 38th time seeing them since November 1992, and Rock City belongs to The Wildhearts. Despite the ridiculous early curfew time, they pile into tonight’s set with confident gusto.

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We are hearing some songs hear tonight I don’t think I’ve ever heard live before. “Fishing for Luckies” was the decadent, peacock-like companion to “Phuq” and we get the lot, pretty much. Inglorious” IS glorious. “In Like Flynn” kicks enormous quantities of arse.

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My favourite for this evening is “Do the Channel Bop”, coming across like Bird’s dream topping. “Sky Babies” was also splendid – and unless I am much mistaken, we got all 11m24s of it.

Jon Poole was on bass again tonight – an incredible player, also a former member of The Cardiacs. Respect.

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The encore tonight commenced with Danny’s chair being dragged out and McCormack treating us to some extra bass contributions alongside Poole. Ginger and CJ are locked in and synchronised – effortlessly as usual. I guess that’s what happens when you play shoulder to shoulder for 25 years.

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The only thing missing tonight was Ginger’s old sticker-infested Les Paul custom – I’ve always loved the sound of that guitar.

Yep – another great Wildhearts show.

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Album Review: Scott Dean – “Neon” @scottdean3

Reviewed by Zoe

Scott Dean – “Neon” is available now on iTunes

Track Listing:

1.Intro

2.Radio

3.Break Me

4.The City Falls

5.The Puzzle

6.Lucky Seven

7.Neon

8.Better Keep Today

9.Convince Me

10.Cold Sea

11.Neon (Remix)

“Neon” from London based Rock/Indie solo acoustic artist Scott Dean is a little gem of an album that definitely warrants a second and third listen.

Short and sweet, with two of the songs being short instrumental offering, at first visit, “Neon” is easy on the ear (although please don’t worry, I am not implying this is “Easy Listening”).

Nothing too edgy or niche, the overall sound and tone of the album will appeal to a broad range of listeners and is instantly likeable – as a musician Dean is clearly very accomplished – beautiful, delicate acoustic guitar, smooth and polished like some lovely musical pebble, and Dean’s vocals are the right blend of melodic with just a touch of huskiness. I was put in mind of Grant Nicholas or, dare I say it, a less grating Daniel Powter.

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However, if you dig a little deeper you’ll discover that lyrically there is a thoughtfulness but also some grit, and darker elements.

The songs, for the most part, have definite narratives and they are more pained, more pensive than the largely major chord progressions would imply – somehow managing to be both dark and simultaneously elevating, and at times cinematic.

“The City Falls”, an homage to the Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises”, is a great example of how Dean successfully manages to set a scene with his winning combination of moody, atmospheric sounds teamed with a strong storytelling vocal line.

Across the album, Dean deals with some rather hefty themes like betrayal and addiction (some touched a personal note with me – which I believe is always the mark of a good lyricist) as well as the perennial songwriter’s favourites of love and pain.

It’s clear to hear that mixing and producing this album has been a labour of love, it’s well thought out and measured; yet you sense fun was had in the making (I had a little giggle at the fleeting “guest appearance” from Craig David at the start of “Radio” – I do hope that was the intention!). Particular highlights for me are the delicate touch of the backing vocals on “The City Falls” and the driving guitar parts on “Radio” which has a real forward momentum.

The album has a couple of musical interludes – firstly the appropriately named “Intro” which had a deliciously growling bass line that personally I was little disappointed was not developed further in the album (maybe a request for the next release Scott?). It reminded me a lot of the start of “This Garden” by The Levellers, with a hint of jungle (geographical jungle – not “Massive”). The second is a bluesy little offering, “The Puzzle”. Definitely showing my age now, but it felt like the natural division between side A and side B where you would turn your cassette over (ask your Mum kids), a musical intermission that sounds almost experimental but also a chance for Dean to showcase his not inconsiderable skills.

There are a couple of stand-out tracks on Neon for me personally, the opening guitar of “Better Keep Today” honestly gave me goose bumps, haunting and atmospheric and well, just lovely. “Neon” itself is also a bit of an ear worm, the lyrics are deliciously dark (“lock me up now, give me the blue pill”) and the way the song builds works so well. Just incredibly well thought out.

Style wise, I heard smatterings of Dave Grohl’s more acoustic offerings, a heavy dose of Feeder melody wise (in particular “Lucky Seven”), the gentleness and subtlety vocally of Radiohead and some of the quirky sound injections of Kula Shaker – certainly a late 90s influence permeates.

Delicately striated, there is layer upon layer to each song; real depth, but despite that you can just tell that they would all work just as well completely stripped back in a one man and his guitar setting, which to me is always the real test of a good song, that it still works without the bells and whistles – the vocal and guitar are the real stars of this show. Listen to the way the less is more of “Better Keep Today” stands shoulder to shoulder with the more involved production on say, “Neon” or “Convince Me”.

In short this is a cracking collection, lovers of real quality song-writing and the clarity and depth of acoustic guitar (with all the trimmings of course) should definitely be adding “Neon” to their music libraries. And myself, I will be looking out for the next live gig to test my “just as good naked” theory….

Great albums & their covers.

Just before Christmas 2016, I reached out to people on twitter and asked them to play a musical game. The idea was to tweet the cover of an album they considered to be great, tag 3 other people in and include me. It proved to be a very popular game! Thank you to everyone for your suggestions. Here are the results…

Album Review: The Virginmarys – Divides (reviewed by Steve Rodriguez) @thevirginmarys

The Virginmarys – Divides – review written by Steve Rodriguez

1. Push the Pedal

2. For you my Love

3. Halo in her Silhouette

4. Free to do Whatever they Say

5. I Wanna Take You Home

6. Walk in my Shoes

7. Kill the Messenger

8. Into Dust

9. Moths to a Flame

10. Falling Down

11. Motherless Land

12. Living in my Peace

The Macclesfield trio’s second studio album to follow up 2013’s King Of Conflict. Divides was released 6th May 2016 on Cooking Vinyl.

The Virginmarys are: Ally Dickaty (lead vocals / guitar), Danny Dolan (drums / backing vocals), and newly recruited Ross (bass / backing vocals).

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It’s all too easy to pigeonhole bands into a particular genre and if you can’t find one then you make one up. Nu Metal, Punk Pop, Hardcore, Industrial . . . . etc. etc. For The Virginmarys, you could try and stick them in a category, or make one up, or just accept that they really do have a bit of everything going on and are very very good at doing it.

Push the Pedal kicks off this album and on the sound of the dirty bass intro you start to think it’s 1992 and Layne Staley is still alive, then, the drums and a vocal echo enters the fray and you’re in 1996 and listening to a new Oasis track. Precisely why this band can’t, and shouldn’t be, categorised. It’s a powerful guitar drum and bass driven track, but what would you expect from a 3 piece, and Ally gives it the rasping, powerful vocal treatment it deserves. In a very unsubtle way, it says play this album on 11 . . .

For you my Love follows where Push the Pedal left off but is more of an instant hit with an almost Flea/Frusciante intro and a Stipe vocal over the top. This quickly gives way to the more familiar vocal sound and again it’s a powerful riff driven track that keeps the album driving forward purposefully.

Halo in Her Silhouette is the most sing-a-long track so far and you just knew that chorus line was going to repeat in that tried and tested late 70’s punk style. Don’t be lead down a path of thinking this band are a 3 piece punk outfit pulling a 3 chord trick from their sleeve at every opportunity though, there’s a lot more going on here and it’s another affirmation that this band cover pretty much all musical bases.

More punk style sounds ensue on the next track, Free To Do Whatever They Say, with a snarling, spitting vocal and guitar fuelled intro that builds into a bridge and chorus with some perfectly placed repeated backing vocals. It’s a chant, a probable crowd pleaser and again has all the energy that the first 3 tracks set the bar for.

The energy doesn’t subside on I Wanna Take You Home, but things do slow down a little here and enables Walk In My Shoes to follow with it’s more sombre and deep feel. The piano comes to the fore much more prominently this time and compliments the almost haunting backing vocals perfectly.

Kill The Messenger keeps the keyboard but layers of distorted guitar and bass ride over the top and makes for a Pink Floyd-esque sound with it’s low chord changes ebbing and flowing through the chorus line of the song.

Although there’s a hell of a lot of energy in this album the band resist the obvious temptation to be more crude with their language and instead express their lyrics in a much more subtle and well crafted fashion. It’s a surprise then when Into Dust starts with the F word in the second line. This is not the recurring theme of the song however and it quickly develops into familiar expressive and well crafted lyrics.

Moths To A Flame is arguably the album’s standout track and sometimes it’s easy to forget this is a three piece band when you hear such a vast, complex sound all rolled into one song. It has emotion and expression in abundance and this carries throughout the whole track from the Kings Of Leon sounding intro to the Biffy Clyro-esque ending.

Sandwiched between Into Dust and Falling Down, Moths To A Flame would possibly sound completely out of place on any other album, but, as The Virginmarys have so many influences to draw from it’s no surprise that Falling Down starts with a vocal that’s everything Mick Jones in both its sound and delivery. More proof that not only the band have a range of sounds but Ally is equally adept at displaying his own vocal range to suit the songs, lines, syllables . . .

Motherless Land is a nostalgic trip back to the early 80’s and if John Cougar or Springsteen had written this one then we wouldn’t bat an eyelid, although neither do we here and instead get caught up in the story of the song, listening intently as it builds and builds to a crescendo, a well placed clean sounding guitar solo and a very fitting sudden ending.

If Moths To A Flame was arguably the album’s standout track then it would be fighting with Living In My Peace for the title, and it would be a closely run thing. The album’s closing track, draws on everything that’s gone before, energy, haunting backing vocals, a big vocal range, guitar driven melodies with pounding drum fills and beats and an emotive, expansive and atmospheric crescendo. It typically rises and rises then drops in that well fitting sudden ending to leave you thinking about what may have happened next.

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If you’re a fan of music, listen to this album because I really think there’s something here for everyone and you won’t be disappointed. The north west seems to give us a lot of very respectable bands and The Virginmarys although not the typical shoe-gazing, jangly-sounding 60’s influenced mods that we’ve become accustomed to seeing from this neck of the woods, they can undoubtedly claim to be part of the club if they wanted to, but then again they’re likely to be perfectly at home being slightly different, and not in any way pigeonholed . . .

* Photos are from Ally’s recent gig in Peterborough as part of The Virginmarys’ People Help the People tour in aid of local food banks. Photos taken by and copyright to Fi Stimpson.

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