Thursday, 26 November 2009

"The Noise Made By People": Broadcast

(SONGS FROM UNDER MY BED – Lost Classics Rediscovered)
by MMT.

#3“The Noise Made By People” : BROADCAST (2000)

“The Noise Made By People” was Birmingham-based Broadcast's debut, released in 2000 on the excellent indie/electronica label Warp. It didn’t even scratch the charts (there’s still relatively little about them on the internet, even now), but it did well enough critically to cement them a place in the cool fringes of Noughties alternative. I think I heard the beautiful “Papercuts” on John Peel about a year or so later, and it captivated me enough to track down the mother album – and it has stayed with me ever since, a true Lost Classic.

I was trying to think of a way of describing the whole atmosphere of the album – and absolutely truthfully I swear to God had grasped the term “Retro-Futurist” out of the air before moments later seeing the same phrase used on their Wikipedia entry! You kinda know what I (and Wikipedia!) mean by that I'm sure. It’s that envisioning from the viewpoint of the past as to what the future would be / could be / will be like. Stereolab were another excellent band who pulled off a similar sound, though never as catchily – and again the comparison is on the Wikipedia entry, I notice after making it myself! Perhaps I should read the whole Wikipedia entry before writing any more…

(does so)

Well… apparently Broadcast often use “amorphous samples” and um, “analogue dissonance” to create their “retro-futuristic sci-fi edge”. Hmm. I don’t know much about analogue dissonance, but I know what I like.

Let me try and do it in my own words, then. The crystal clarity of the vocals. That melancholic air, gazing out at both yesterday and tomorrow with equally sad and tired eyes. You can tell they listened to a lot of French Pop and movie soundtracks while they were recording it. I’m sure there’s some kind of musicology behind the chord progressions that explains how the album sounds… Though I don’t know for sure, I’ll bet a lot of them are minors.

There’s 12 tracks: opener “Long Was The Year” sets out the stall with a cold vocal from singer Trish Keenan - Broadcast’s secret weapon - laid over chiming piano and a mildly industrial set of clanks and whooshes. “Unchanging Window” is warmer – but still chilly, the Gallic influence is clearly present. “Minus One” is a bleakly regimented instrumental which feels unsettling somehow.

Then, perversely, the poppiest moment of the album arrives, with second single “Come On Let’s Go” which sounds a bit like Saint Etienne swirling down Carnaby Street in The Sixties of an alternative universe where sexy lady robots rule the world from a pod above Swingin’ London. The other single, “Echo’s Answer” lays Keenan’s deadpan vocals over an atmospheric mass of droning whirrs and glitchy strings and would surely never even be considered single-worthy by a less adventurous band. “Tower Of Our Tuning” is another instrumental, but more optimistic – deep-set percussive echoes with relentless slightly discordant music hidden way down somewhere else in the mix.

I often think a lot of great albums have a ‘centre’ though, and “The Noise Made By People”’s is just inside the second half. “Papercuts”, the song that drew me in originally is still superb – a bleeping off-kilter Sixties pop song which swoops and soars. And “You Can Fall”, which turned up on the brilliant ‘Morvern Callar’ soundtrack album (famously better than the intriguingly awkward film!) and re-invigorated my love for these songs a couple of years later on is defiantly defeatist – the vocals chiming with robotic effects, the music played by slowly dying machines. Man, I dig it.

After that, “Look Outside” is almost a change of mood into laidback retro lounge music, Keenan’s vocals approaching cheerful for a change… though further listens reveal a host of clicks and clacks under the powerful drums which hint at something more sinister. “Until Then” moves at a weary pace, backed by queasy whistles and broken electrics. “City In Progress” is akin to early 70s electro-prog like the ace Curved Air, and final track “Dead The Long Year” is a circling trip-hop groove topped with some kind of feedback and scratchy electric guitar which abruptly caves in to form a sinister ambient pulse.

I think ultimately what I love about this album is the pitch-perfect marriage between the glitch-tronica dabbled in by many of Broadcast’s label-mates on Warp (Squarepusher, Aphex Twin etc) and the ice-cool Sixties Pop vibe of much of the vocals and lyrics. There’s very few things I’ve ever heard like this. And at the end of the day, that’s what you want, innit. Groovy.


Official website, intermittently updated

The video to
Come On Let’s Go

The video to the fantastic

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Project Wolverine / Felix ALBUMS

I’m extremely biased, of course, but I think it’s been an absolutely magnificent year for music in Milton Keynes. The always-healthy Rock n’ Metal scene has provided the sturdy bassline as ever, but there’s plenty of other stuff going on right now too – the rise of the Craufurd Arms as a national venue; a Hip-Hop presence that we’re definitely vaguely aware of; certainly the extremely wide variety of ace bands we came across through the MonKeyVision Song Contest – and also the rise of what I’m going to call the New Acoustic Generation, curated by the brilliant open mics in Newport, Wolverton and now in CMK!

So what better way to tip the salute to this superlative year than by reviewing hot new albums by two of our very favourite MK-related acts? – namely rising local singer-songwriter Project Wolverine and rising national stars Felix (one half of whom hails from these parts originally and featured in the classic MK band The Holistic Cleansing Quintet who we saw at The Pitz on more than one occasion back in’t day!). Grand!

First up Project Wolverine, who we were lucky enough to have play a set for us at the most recent Vodka Boy @ The Enigma Tavern gig in September. His new full-length demo album “Life, Love, Loss & Politics” can be picked up for £3 – contact him through his MySpace if you’re interested.

He describes himself on his MySpace as “Bargin Bucket Billy Bragg”, and you can definitely hear that influence, as well as regular touches of a thrashy acoustic Jamie T bounce – his accent is present throughout, though that’s not to say he can’t sing too, cos he can. Bragg’s present too in his subject matter - you certainly don’t hear many young singers penning attacks on the Daily Mail and Rupert Murdoch’s press empire in 2009. But considering his tender years this kind of lyrical and thematic maturity is impressive.

The production is clear and sounds “live” (you can even just about hear some other band playing way down in the mix and a long way in the distance on one or two songs!) – as befits songs which are mostly one voice one guitar, or one voice one piano. There’s an ear-catching guest vocal appearance from Philippa Moyle on “Same Old Game”, her soaring theatrics counter-pointing PW’s gruffer edge to great effect.

For me though, it’s the lyrics that do it. Like a younger Brit-cousin of the fantastic Bright Eyes, you get the sense of a real person behind the songs, that they’re acoustical snapshots of a real life being lived – the rueful “Tame”, the ramshackle busk of “Chance Encounter”, and Official Dudebox Track Of The SummerCold Baked Beans” the best examples of this (“It’s £3.20 to get into town… you get there and realise no-one’s around…”). And how could I not love the mournful piano track “Murder Ballad” which seems to literally be a song based on one of my favourite albums of all time?

There’s even a hint at future directions - a possible wider sound - on “Critical Stage” when an electric guitar gives a fittingly emotional backdrop to the dark urgency of the protest song underneath. And the album closes with stand-out track “The Mis-Informed”, which is genuinely touching – gentle but with a steely resolve.

So – a new voice definitely worth listening to. Plus, eleven tracks for just three quid? Where’s the catch? Get involved. And watch out for him on the local circuit too…

Meanwhile in the wider world the debut album from the wonderful Felix is finally out – and on a record label based in Chicago no less! Local girl done extremely good Lucinda should be incredibly proud of herself: “You Are The One I Pick” is not only the best thing I’ve ever heard from a musician outta MK, it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard this year by anyone. So I’ll try and review it without being too gushing. Hopefully.

To be entirely honest, it is musically right up my alley anyway – laid-back intimately recorded girl vox, dramatic yet minimalist orchestration (w/ plenty of cellos and crystalline pianos), and topped off with a light sprinkling of thump-drummy drone-rock. Yes please! And all the tracks kind of flow into each other cinematically, and it swims in effortless cool. At times it even aches with some sort of calm, sad acceptance. Simply beautiful.

It’s almost tricky to pick out favourite tracks, the whole album has a very evocative sound as a whole. But “What I Learned From TV” feels just a wee bit more intimate, more wistful – and is then followed up with Dudebox Track Of The WinterBack In Style” with its shuffling beats and oblique Twin Peaks references. So that’s definitely a high point in this already lofty plateau.

And the intertwining of Lucinda’s vocal tracks on “Bernard St” is just lovely – the closest Felix come to some kind of mainstream sound maybe, though it’d never sit quite right there. It’s too sinister somehow. Well, not quite sinister p'raps, but something to do with the weirdness of the mundane… what’s really going on behind those nice curtains in that house down your street. And that’s brilliant. It’s not easy to create this effect well, but Felix have absolutely nailed it.

Repeated listens to the album bring the lyrics out from the mix more and more, and with them this uneasy sense of the oddness of normality hangs over proceedings. The bleak side of childhood naivety. So “Ode To The Marlboro Man” becomes a nursery rhyme sung in a round about running away with a cowboy. “I Wish I Was A Pony” becomes far darker than the gently sad little song it at first appeared. And I’m still not sure after five listens, but I think in final track “Song About Zoo” they might even kill their children and escape together from their drab lives. Outstanding.

So. Proof of just what can be achieved from this humble platform, this brilliant city. Let’s see what all you other bands have got. This is the bar, up here. You can do it. Here comes 2010.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


Venue: Brixton Academy
Reviewer: Phil

Sepia-toned images from 1929 burn like stubble on an autumn morning against requiem violins. A man stands among giant, rusting machines; he carefully sharpens his razor. A well groomed wife takes a seat in the next room, her face tranquil and poised. The man stands behind her, taking her face in his hand, he parts the lids around her right eye. He takes the sharpened razor and holds it at her eye level. In one clean move he slices through the eyeball. Un chien andalou - an Andalusian dog.

"Do The Manta Ray!" cries Black Francis from the centre of the stage to rapturous applause. The Pixies open with four b-sides all culled from their 1989 album Doolittle before playing the album in full and in order. Black Francis sounds better than he ever did on lead vocals as he hollers, yells, barks and screams his lyrics, one minute soothing, the next shattering. Kim Deal wears a huge grin throughout, her brief words to the audience forming the only banter from the band to the crowd, her surprisingly intricate base lines providing the melody to Black Francis's sparse chords. Joey Santiago plays a mean lead guitar, occasionally grinning, looking cool and like he hasn't aged a day since the band first split in 1991. David Lovering, drummer and magician, keeps the band together with solid yet unlikely rhythms that change fluidly with Black Francis's eccentric song structures.

The Pixies Live

To be performed on a large stage. Deal plays bass, Francis plays lead vocals and guitar, Santiago plays lead guitar and Lovering drums. Behind the band a large screen projects images that correspond with each song.

Darkness. Following a screening of Un Chien Andalou, the band take to the stage.

Dancing The Manta Ray.

B sides.

Weird At My School, Bailey’s Walk, Manta Ray.

The screen behind the band bursts into life, displaying the word Doolittle in huge flashing letters.

Debaser, Tame.

It’s started.

Wave Of Mutilation, I Bleed.

Is it a surprise to you what’s coming next? I mean, do you guys already know it or do you have it on shuffle? It’s a surprise to me! I know, but it’s a surprise!

Here Come’s Your Man, Dead, Monkey Gone To Heaven.

Okay, so we’re either at the end of side one or the beginning of side two.

Mr. Grieves, Crankity Jones.

The dulcet tones of Mr. David Lovering.

And Joe!!!

La, La, Love You.

Ok, so we’re defiantly on side two now, definitely on side two.

No. 13 Baby, There Goes My Gun, Hey, Silver, Gouge Away.

That’s it, its over! Yeah, its over, records over!

Pixies leave the stage. Rapturous applause. After a suitable pause the band return to the stage.

More b-sides.

Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf), Into The White.

During the song Into The White the band are almost entirely lost in clouds of white dry ice.

The band leaves the stage for a second time. More rapturous applause. The band returns. The house lights are brought up and the band looks out over their adoring audience and grin. The house lights are left up for their final two songs.

New record!

Caribou, Gigantic.

After the last song, performed with the house lights up and nothing on the giant screens behind them, the band put down their instruments and walk back and forth along the edge of the stage, smiling, waving, triumphant but humble. They just look like ordinary people doing extraordinary things, stripped of all rock n roll pretension; they seem almost surprised at the adoring crowd that came to see them play.

So, how many songs did The Pixies play? They played 25 songs. And what did they play? They played the album Doolittle in its entirety, all its b-sides, plus Caribou from Come On Pilgrim and Gigantic from Surfa Rosa, their first single. And why have you found it so hard to write this review? Because frankly The Pixies were everything I could have hoped for, seeing them live was a dream come true. I was there, on the front row, leaning on the bars, and they were just fantastic. They sounded phenomenal! Did they sound like they do on their records? Yes, they did, exactly like they sound on their records only better, only louder. Not because they perform live exactly what is on the record but because they put on record exactly what they perform live. And to see them live was to see their whole vision come together. In short, to see them live was to have a teenage dream of mine come true. Did they plan any new material? No, but that’s just not the point. This was a reunion gig, a chance to see a band you never thought you’d ever get to see, to see them play like its still 1989. And it’s just difficult to some up in words just how good they were or how much the whole experience meant to me. This was a celebration of The Pixies' music and that’s exactly how it felt. Dude, it was awesome!

Friday, 11 September 2009


Venue: Union Chapel, London
Support: Polly Scattergood
Reviewer: Phil


“Ok, so this is really weird!” confessed Miss Palmer, two songs into her solo set. “I don’t really know what I’m doing here! I mean, I’m not on tour. I just decided to do this show tomorrow and then I added this one. And like, I’m in a church which is really amazing, but also really intimidating!”

If you’re going to go Gothic, go Gothic! The Union Chapel in Islington, built in 1874, is a breathtaking example of Victorian Gothic architecture. From the outside the Gothic facade is a mass of compromised red brick but inside the hexagonal interior is stunning, a vast monument of carved wood and stone groping for the sky. That night it was lit in soft reds and deep purples, there is a large font in the centre of a stage, a backdrop of carved lattices finishes the dark illusion. Complete with fairy lights and candles arranged around the balcony ledge, it is easy to imagine we are really in some baroque romance.

“It’s just so quiet!” continued Amanda, centre stage from behind her electronic piano. And it was, the cavernous room barely filled by little Amanda in corset and boots. “I had this whole set planned but I think I’m just going to throw it all away and make it up as I go. Does anyone have any requests?”

Behind Amanda, an artist has started work on a large canvas leaned up against the font. We can’t quite see what he’s painting but he continues to work as if not on a stage at all. After a sea of hands, someone suggests Blake Says and Amanda agrees; “Ok, yeah, I’d forgotten about that song! Yeah, I’ll give that a go!”


A subdued atmosphere hung over the early evening throng of black clad parishioners queued up outside the Union Chapel. It was early September and wind rustled through dry leaves in lazy trees whispering the secrets of the coming autumn in shades of ochre and gold along the broad street. There were hushed whispers between unlikely revellers; subdued excitement for tonight’s dark mass. A girl in black dress with face of painted white held up a sign and looked up with mournful, lonely gaze; “Free Hugs!” A man with a black hat and a serene and playful smirk operated a Miss Palmer hand puppet - he moved along the crowd seeing that everyone got the briefest kiss. A girl dressed as Alice from Wonderland gave out small, hand crafted envelopes of red and purple, full of stars and hearts and each one accompanied by a wooden rose. As the light dimmed, a man on a piano bicycle machine rode along the crowd and played to us while a girl in a heavy dress sang.

Once inside the cavernous church, we moved quickly for spaces near the front along the pews – it was seating room only in this house of worship. The last remaining rays of the day still shone through stained glass, the atmosphere was light and celebratory. We didn’t “get” Polly Scattergood, not during her support act, and not when she accompanied Amanda with a cover of Puff The Magic Dragon. Her support set was downbeat synth-pop which could have been great but just wasn’t really, while her backing band looked bored and vaguely embarrassed. Polly’s delicate heart was broken and she let us know it repeatedly with her clumsy, humourless lyrics. We’re sorry Polly, maybe he’s just not worth it!?

Then a slender man in dark suit and sporting impressive mutton-chops announced from the stage that a talented young organist from Hereford would now be joining us and what then came to pass proved a far better interlude than Polly Scattergood was a support. His pipe organ playing sent spirals of twisting sound crawling high in the domed Gothic interior with angel wings and devilish hooves. Then Miss Palmer appeared briefly on stage before disappearing behind the font to perform her first song, a very dark and sombre number, from inside the organ console.


“That was supposed to be completely seamless!” laughed Miss Palmer from her piano stool. She’d played the opened bars to Missed Me on the pipe organ before leaping from the organ console hidden behind the font, diving across the stage, stumbling, reaching behind the keyboard, and attempting to pick up the song again. She went on to play one of the standout tracks from the Dresden Dolls’ self-titled debut and followed it with Astronaut from her latest album Who Killed Amanda Palmer?. Following her performance of Blake Says, a sea of hands reappeared and she had to say “it’s ok, I have an idea.” Looking about herself with glee, at the surroundings of the church, she broke into a riotous performance of Sex Changes.

“Ok, so this is a song written by my wonderful boyfriend Mr. Neil Gaiman. He’s actually a really great songwriter!” she announced before a beautiful and amusing performance of I Google You. “So I’ve just realised, it’s September 11th and I’m in a church so I have to play this song,” she said and then broke into a heart-wrenching performance of Truce. Halfway through, she suddenly stopped playing. “Oh no…. does anyone know the next line?” She laughs and looks genuinely stumped until someone cries out “we can split Germany!” The performance becomes typical of Amanda’s easy going style tonight, performing unrehearsed songs barely remembered just as she thinks of them. It’s intimate, it’s personal, this is a naked Amanda caught in the eye of a magnifying glass but also an Amanda full of humour and optimism and magnetic personality and oozing talent and stagecraft. “This is something I’ve meant to do for a while,” she explained. “I can’t read music you see, not well, but I’ve challenged myself to play some classical piano - and if I fail, well, at least I’ll come away from this with a genuine Catholic guilt!” What came next was full of mistakes but was also a dizzying array of piano skills.

At the end of the set she was joined on stage by Polly Scattergood’s band. Amanda looks about again at the interior of the church, smiles; “we’re all going to hell!” With wild delight the band breaks into Oasis and Amanda rolls out the line “when I got my abortion!” deliciously with all the wielding pleasure of a sledge hammer to the Berlin Wall.


Miss Palmer straddled the balcony above the stage; cradling a red ukulele she dedicated a cover to Neil Gaiman. “Just to make it clear,” she interrupted half way through, “it’s just because he taught me the song.”

“Ok, so can you see this guy painting behind me?” Amanda indicated to the artist at work behind her on the stage. “It’s a two night painting!” she continued. “I think at the end of the night tomorrow we’re going to auction it off or something.” Back behind her piano, she finished her encore with a spine tingling performance of Point Of It All followed by a final punk burst of Runs In The Family. As she left the stage for a final time, after two hours of music, the audience collectively sighed and wished she didn’t have to go.

Outside the Union Chapel, a huge low moon hung in the night sky. Revelers had their photos taken beside the piano bicycle machine while others moved quickly toward buses and railway stations, disappearing back into the throng of London streets. And so we bid our goodbyes once more, farewell and good evening, until we meet again.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Dudebox "Track Of The Summer"

Reviewers: MMT & Phil.

Well, it’s been a quiet old Summer here on The Dudebox, but we’re back now – and planning on having a busy Autumn! Phil’s got tickets to plenty of national gigs, we’re hoping to get to far more local bands’ stuff, and there’ll be more reviews from under my bed too! So… what better way to kick things off than to have another of our regular looks at the best new(ish) tracks from the MySpaces of the Milton Keynes talent!

Sadly Re-Writing Destiny - who we dished out the coveted Dudebox Runner-Up Track Of The Winter gong to just a few short months ago – have split up, brilliantly citing “musical indifferences” as one of the reasons. Still, they were one of the better bands we’ve heard this year, so we listened to newish track “Coming Home” in tribute.

P: “I think they’re great.”
M: “Although we never saw them live, sadly. There’s a pattern to when bands break up, isn’t there? There’s a peak in the likelihood when I guess they’re 17, 18 and University calls, that’s the biggest peak. Then there’s probably a peak in their early 20s when they’ve all decided they don’t wanna do it any more, there’s probably another peak when people start getting married and having kids. And then if you get past all those hurdles, you’re good for life! And you can just carry on until you’re old.”
P: “My opinion of the song is clouded a bit by the fact I know it’s a bit like their swansong.”

Then we kicked on with some more local bands who haven't split up yet. Some have been on our radar a while thanks to the MonKeyVision Song Contest and/or the Monkey Kettle Stage at the Waterside Festival, some are totally new to us. Hope you might find something you like…

“HMW” by Dusque
M: “They were so great at the Waterside, that was one of the best sets of the weekend.”
P: "They were. It was an early set, so there wasn’t really anyone to watch them. But they were SO good. And I’m enjoying this now, but I preferred it live.”
M: “It’s good outdoors… festival… it’s mellow, and it’s…”
P: “They’re seasoned musicians.”
M: “This bit now is the kind of stuff I like… like ravey keyboard. I’m at a Trance Tent in Ibiza. And the sun’s rising. I’m in the Chill Zone.”

“No Place Like Rome” by Embrace The Tide
M: “Their singer is Chris Weaver who was in one of our Ludamus plays a few years ago (‘Zombies The Musical’). He’s got a few more tattoos in the meantime, of course.”
P: “Maybe if he’d never done ‘Zombies’ he’d never have ended up here.”
M: “Yeah, I did him a ‘Lead Singer Workshop’ as part of the rehearsals for that.”
P: “Some of these MySpaces look so professional…”
M: “And again, they’re really tight musically when you think of how young they still are.”

“Tap Out” by The Kranx
P: “He’s got a really good voice.”
M: “I know a lot of our mates really liked them at MonKeyVision, didn’t they? (reads from their MySpace) ‘it’d be sick to see you at one of our gigs’. I’m guessing sick means good in the young person’s vernacular…”
P: “They went down really well. A really energetic performance.”

“Recluse” (demo version) by Joshua Timmins & The Newborns
M: “What I… like about him is he seems to still embody that ‘I’ll just take my guitar and do a gig anywhere’ kind of spirit. You can imagine him with his guitar just going anywhere.”
P: “I like that, definitely. He’s got a nice easiness in front of the audience that I kind of envy. And there’s something about this song, and his songs… that he’s always REACHING for something.”
M: “There’s a crack in his voice a bit like Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes, but it’s kind of what makes what he’s singing work. And cos he’s young he’s good at all this technical stuff, look… he’s got a Twitter built into his MySpace.”

“Scar On An Empty Crusade” by Stabbed By Paranoia
M: “What really touched me about them was… not only have they got embedded YouTube footage of them practicing at school, but their Blog from July says ‘we’re still working on new material to complete our set. We have 3 songs and a 4th one nearly finished. We plan to make a 5th song after which will complete our set. so we can go book gigs!’”
P: “I like it. I like the complicated solo, they’re very technically proficient.”
M: “Fair play to ‘em. We should re-visit them when they’ve finished their 5th song.”

“Missing Helstone (Economy Groove)” by Harassing Anna
P: “I thought they played really well at MonKeyVision.”
M: “I think I like the spin-off acts (Tombstone Bullets and Bine The Peg) just as much though. But I like this track particularly, where they sound a little bit bluesy.”
P: “There’s something very retro about it. But I’d like it in a pub atmosphere, after a few pints.”

“Wolves” by Acacia Close
(during the first thirty seconds: Phil laughs in immediate response at the intensity of these 2008 Pitz Band Blitz winners, then both are silent. Then they read the advert for a new guitarist / singer. Phil decides not to apply. Then the song changes, gets less screamy, and they start enjoying it)
M: “It’s really well produced actually, innit.”
P: “It’s a real professional demo. I’m liking it now, actually. I think I’d really like them live.”
M: “There’s more levels to it than it seemed from the start. I like how from their Biog they seem keen to expand, not be ‘just’ a ‘Pitz Band’.”
P:I can hear where the new guitarist / singer would fit in there.”

“First Light After” by Altersketch
P: “I thought their song at MonKeyVision was one of the best songs of the night, and it still gets stuck in my head.”
M: “I like this one. It’s more sort of… ‘Dark Indie’.”
P: “It’s Indie but it Rocks.”

“The Disappointment” by Rozism
M: “I’m not sure we can allow this to be track of the season, though it is excellent. But cos she’s from Northampton I don’t think she can ‘count’. Shona recommended her to me, and I think she sounds really impressive.”
P: “I always… when I meet people who are really really good musicians, I just want to hear something that makes me go ‘Wow! Where did that come from?’.”
M: “I love a world where people can make this sort of stuff in their bedrooms. That all across the world, people could be making this sort of stuff in their bedrooms.”
(Phil nods enthusiastically)


“Find And Replace” by Equinox

M: “They really really impressed me at the Waterside. They’re still really young, but I think their songwriting is deceptively mature. I mean, they’re clearly influenced by, like… MuseFranz FerdinandThe Killers…”
P: “They are, but there’s more than that. Seeing them live, I thought there was a lot of different stuff going on.”
M: “Their demo CD which was being handed round at the Waterside is one of the best local demos I’ve heard in the last couple of years, for definite. And they brought the biggest audience too, that was really impressive. Made us look good.”
P: “I like this a lot.”


“Cold Baked Beans” by Project Wolverine

M: “Describes himself here as… ‘the Bargain Bucket Billy Bragg’.”
P: “I really like this an awful lot. I think it’s great. It’s funny… I like the guitar work… the vocals are really good.”
M: “I like the lyrics. I can see the Billy Bragg comparison. I’d love to see him at The Cannon on a Thursday night. I think he’d go down really well. “Pub Politics” is a good song as well.”
P: “I like the fact it’s all a little bit punky too.”
M: "Good skills. He's the winner."

Friday, 15 May 2009

Dudebox "Track Of The Spring"

Oh yes, MMT back again with another brief foray into the super-duper world of the Milton Keynes Music Scene And Their MySpaces. As we mentioned last time there’s literally hundreds of MK-based bands with MySpaces, especially if you factor in bands no longer going, so it can be a bit of a task sifting through. But hey – it’s a fun task!

And then when you stumble across something you didn’t expect to hear – like a rare “Classic Indie” sounding local band such as Final Clearance – it’s an extra-special treat! I can’t believe I haven’t come across them before – clever lyrics, sharp melodies, right up my street. They’ve even got a home-music video on their MySpace, just the ticket! Try “Lost” if you’ve only got time to listen to one track, it’s a folky-tinged stomper. But come on, who’s that busy? Listen to them all!

Plus you get those Classic MySpace DIY things, more “projects” than “bands” – f’rinstance this young lady singer-songwriter (J:TU.) clearly just records her own stuff, hopefully in a bedroom – I’m not sure if she even plays gigs, though she sounds ace! I even contacted her to ask if she wanted a Waterside slot, but she never replied – and it doesn’t look like she’s logged in to her MySpace for almost a year, so maybe she’s over it! Check out the multi-layered vocal-only track “Pick Me Up” though, or the wistful electronica of “Walking all over the world”. Very impressive indeed – though as they’re not that recent I can’t include them for this season’s Tracks. More than I have already.

So instead I moved on to Hiding In Reno who already seem to be one of the most acclaimed of the local bands “doing the circuit” at the moment. Not only are they Craufurd Arms regulars, they’re touring outside MK this summer with their sweet-edged metal-pop. Even going as far as ace seaside town Weston-super-Mare! Standout track for me is “Alone”.

Rise Inside are also doing really well, both locally and further afield – it’s not every MK band that get to headline the Pitz, especially within a year of their first gig! It’s heavy stuff, very much in “The Pitz Genre” (they’re actually managed by the main Pitz guy), but with a definite melodic edge that lifts them above many of their contemporaries. Listen to the bit about a minute in to “Born Defeated” where the thrashing and screaming stops and gives way to a gentle acoustic moment, or the aching harmonies on “Reach Further”. Light and shade. Good stuff! Definitely “ones to watch”, pop-pickers!

Cos if there’s one genre MK does well – especially if you’re a Pitz regular – it’s the deathier end of metal. Fell Silent have been around a few years now, but are doing well enough to be releasing a debut album this summer on a real life record label and playing “Metalfest III” this August in London. It’s a niche scene I suppose, but a loyal one if you’re in it. And you either dig it or you don’t, really. I do dig it, but particularly (as with Rise Inside) when the harmonious bits kick in, for example halfway through “Immerse”.

In this season’s WTF?? corner, I bring you Rebel Scum. They haven’t logged in for over a year, the site looks half-dead due to broken images, and they sound like a robot whose batteries are slowly dying mumbling over a porn bassline. Enjoy, though. If you can!

Of course now the MonKeyVision Song Contest is all done and dusted, I feel we’re allowed to big up some of the acts we had on the bill for that. The winning band, Harassing Anna have several side-projects, including solo singer-songwriter Bine The Peg who I’ve signed up for the Monkey Kettle Stage at the Great Linford Waterside next month. “My Mother’s Wishes” is the stand-out choon for me, loving the flute! They’re clearly a multi-talented bunch – and hope they’re having fun with their big red amp!

Another impressive sounding band from MonKeyVision were six-piece The Machinist, who feature Monkey Kettle acquaintance Tom Harv. They’re still a work in progress – MonKeyVision was their first gig – but judging by “Conformity” on their MySpace (which I think I might be right in saying was recorded by Tom on his own?) there’s plenty to come from them, it’s a breathtaking slab of proggy metal with an ice-cool solo!

And one more to check out – I feel a bit bad cos there were some technical difficulties at the start of his MonKeyVision set – is rock-tinged dance act Techno Sapien, who’s made good use already of the new MySpace song limit of 10 tracks! I think “Fields Of Silence” is my favourite, love the ravey synth sound. And talking of ravey synth sounds…



Okay, maybe there’s not a full version of this on their MySpace (for shame!), but the 80 seconds you do get should give you a good impression of what’s going on. Plus I bought their 4-track demo CD at MonKeyVision anyway, so I’ve got the whole thing. I dig these kids so much I even signed them up to headline the Monkey Kettle Stage on the Saturday of Waterside. I just love what the synth sound does to their particular brand of punky pop. Plus they’ve got laser beams on their guitars and they leap around all over the shop. I wish we were still young enough to leap around – my knees wouldn’t be able to cope with it. Fantastic – they make me excited about the future of music in MK!

Monday, 27 April 2009


Venue: Scala, London.
Reviewer: Phil

“The guitar guy played real good feedback and super sounding riffs, he had his mild mannered look on – man, he was truly hip!” In 1995 a 39 year old Lee Renaldo said exactly where it’s at and it’s almost too incredible to believe that Sonic Youth are still the hippest, coolest, most vital, most inspiring and wildest rock n roll band on the planet. But dude, seriously they are! They never sold out, they always kept it real! They were well on their way to middle age before they even signed to a major label! For 30 years they’ve surfed the cool of the underground: cutting their own little corner, crafting their work like art students, each album advancing them a little further forward, never looking back. They are no comeback band, they never left. They’re still right there, they know where it’s at... chasing the dream fifteen albums in and from the sound of the new material played tonight, the new record sounds to be as creative and groundbreaking as the last.

Thurston Moore casually walks out onstage in jeans and sneakers and a stripy jumper and grins mischievously at the audience. The interval music is still playing in London’s thousand-capacity Scala, the house lights are still blazing, and Thurston walks on, picks up a guitar and starts tuning it like he’s an unknown from a support band. The crowd erupts and I’m right there on the front row, hands on the railings. Thurston wedges a drum stick savagely between his guitar strings and starts playing the opening of She Is Not Alone. Kim walks on stage looking fabulous and calmly picks up her bass. Steve jumps behind the skins. Lee is the last on stage; he raises a coffee cup to the audience and grins the biggest grin imaginable as the band begins to play.

Bull In The Heather thumps a steady groove and demands a call to arms, Hey Joni bowls us all over like an express train pulling you right to the here and now. Tom Violence takes us down low and Schizophrenia pulls us right back up again. There’s time to reflect on The Sprawl and time still to Cross The Breeze. Thurston Moore crashes against the PA stack, leans out over the audience and plays a wild and mean guitar solo, his eyes looking up to the gods, lost in the Sonic maelstrom. The dude’s so close he almost takes my eye out with his guitar headstock and I have to move quick. Kim Gordon is ice cold and ice cool with the longest legs for five States, her face hidden under long blond hair as she slurs out her punk poetry. Steve Shelley pummels away at the drum kit while Lee Renaldo holds together some super riffs and steady vocals. He holds his guitar out over the audience as eager fans reach up to add their own biological textures to the beat. “Speak English dude…” demands Thurston as Lee stumbles to introduce his new song I’ll Be In Your Dream If You Be In Mine, another awesome rocker that continues to push the Youth’s Sonic art forward.

The band finished on Kool Thing and all would agree that’s exactly what it was. A very cool thing. Thirty years on and the band are still right there, making the music they love, they’ve never stopped to take count of the years, like that never really seemed important or part of the plan, to get caught up in some rock n roll cliché. Big grins all around from the band members, liberal use of the word dude, unassuming cool leaping all over the stage playing wild solos and totally grooving to their own unique sound. It was just that kind of gig, just that kind of cool, just totally awesome. The other band members are gone now and we’re left with Thurston Moore walking absently about the stage, wiping the mop of hair from his eyes, pulling on his guitar tremolo, winding switches on stomp boxes, kneeling over his guitar placed face down on the floor against the frantic mess of electrical cabling, reaching like an ironmonger up to the stack, holding his guitar high above his head, grinding the fret board against the edge of his amp…..

Awesome dude!

Thursday, 2 April 2009


Venue: Jazz Café
Supports: Anna Calvi

Reviewer: Phil

Female guitar virtuoso Anna Calvi and her duo of co-conspirators (a drummer and a percussionist) utterly nailed the intimate crowd that had squeezed into Camden’s famous Jazz Café to see fellow female guitar virtuoso Kaki King do her thing. With Telecaster around her neck and in Russian tuning (she may be Russian, she spoke with an accent, I’m not really sure) Anna Calvi opened up the set with a huge reverb guitar solo. Her songs, about love and loss, capture images of sweaty nights in bars and shacks somewhere south of the Mexican border, of open roads across the desert and starry nights on Caribbean beaches, the smell of woodsmoke in the air. Her voice is powerful, her songs structured around blues chords and huge guitar solos drenched in deep south reverb and Latin flourishes. Think the rock and solid vocal delivery of PJ Harvey, the aching intimacy of Chris Isaak circa Wicked Game and yes, the guitar licks of Hendrix. High praise, but this is one unsigned act that really needs to be seen.

Kaki King; if you need to know more then look no further than here for the Dudebox review of her performance at the ULSU last year. The major difference this time round was that for much of the set she was joined on stage by drummer Matt Hankle and long term collaborator Dan Brantigan on synth, both of whom recently collaborated with her on her Mexican Teenagers EP. The entirely instrumental EP sees yet another stylistic shift for her with a much harder edge as she picks up the electric baritone guitar to explore the depths of hard rock and blues.

Kaki opened, kneeling over her pedal steel, gently plucking the delicate opening of ….Until We Felt Red. The synth whispered and the cymbals shimmered while the song built into an emotional frenzy of distorted chords before withdrawing back into itself. The opening three songs from third album Dreaming Of Revenge sounded much fuller with drums and synth, Kaki almost growling her vocals on Life Being What It Is, lost in her emotional break-up song while she plucked the guitar lines on her Ovation - but when she picked up her yellow baritone guitar it became clear the backing musicians were there to add muscle. Material from the Mexican Teenagers EP was played at near metal frenzy with power chords and crashing drums as Kaki moved into full on rock star mode, striking poses and throwing her guitar to the floor when she’d finished with it. “My mother must be so proud” she laughed, “having a rock star for a daughter!”

There were quieter moments of course; for a heartbreaking band performance of You Don’t Have To Be Afraid; and midway through the set when Matt and Dan cleared off stage for Kaki to run through some solo material including Magazine and Happy As A Dead Pig In Sunshine. And Kaki finished with a solo encore of Gay Sons of Lesbian Mothers performed on pedal steel with loops. Throughout Kaki’s guitar playing remained spellbinding, ingenious, creative and utterly defying expectations.

I’d love to review Kaki King objectively, I really would - but fact is she falls into a limited number of musicians I’m just utterly in awe of. I’m a fan, I’m right there. I’d like to say I could be objective but something in her music speaks so personally to me that it’s just impossible for me to do so. And I may not be the only one. After the guitar ferocity of Mexican Teenagers, the audience still fell utterly silent, hanging on her every word. She still didn’t need a microphone to speak to the audience and Kaki frequently looked slightly awed and surprised at her adoring audiences. At one such quiet moment, a man close to the stage cried out to her “marry me!”

Umm, no, it wasn’t me.

Kaki laughed and said “but you don’t even know me!” But Kaki’s is the kind of music that makes you feel like you do. In an interview when asked why more of her songs don’t have lyrics, Kaki replied that many of the songs express emotions she can’t put into words. This is the power of her music; she speaks poetry through her guitar, leaving you hanging on every note. Little surprise that when she stops playing it just doesn’t make sense to start talking, the audience expects to hang on every sound she makes.

After the encore she jumped off the stage and headed straight for the bar. Thinking about it now, that’s pretty logical really even if a thousand other performers would have headed for some backstage location. I patiently waited as half the room decided to say Hi. I wanted to be cool, I did my best. I told her I really dug the show, we hugged. Her music just means a lot to me, I feel like I already know her. You ask a rock star for their autograph - but you hug a friend, and that’s just the way it went down.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Dudebox "Track Of The Winter"

Reviewers: MMT & Phil.

At any one time in a City the size of our fair home, the number of ‘currently gigging bands’ runs well into three figures, going on local press and MySpace sites alone! Still... because of our commitment to covering local scenes and artists (in every genre), at various times over the last couple of months Phil and I have tried to convene with a laptop and a wireless connection in order to try and do a kind of “Milton Keynes Singles Review”. However, cos of MonKeyVision and my PC dying and a myriad of other excuses, it’s taken a wee while to get this off the ground. Therefore, instead of opening this (hopefully regular) series with a ‘Dudebox Track Of The Month’, sit back and enjoy the ‘Dudebox Track Of The Season’! Winter’s almost over, but the music never stops! ;-)

DISCLAIMER: These reviews were all carried out between January and February 2009, and as far as possible are entirely reviews of Milton Keynes-based acts. To the best of our knowledge. Also, we tried to steer clear of bands who’d applied to MonKeyVision. This time. Ta.

It turned out not to be an easy task. As far as I can tell, there’s no way of searching MySpace by “town”. Still, we persevered, blundering around at random looking for MK footage. Quite early on, we stumbled across a band called Nifty Fifty Cowboys who had a song called “If It Were Only Like The Movie” we liked:

P: “I’m liking this already… they sound enthusiastic about their music!”
M: “Something slightly Ska-y about it, in’t there?”
P: “It sounds a little bit like Wheatus.”
M: “I like this conversation he’s having with himself in the middle. Sounds really cool in a way.”
P: “If a mate of mine recorded this and then played it me, I’d be like, dude – that’s AWESOME. It sounds enthusiastic, it sounds fun...”

But then...

M: “So, just as we were liking it, there’s a notice on the MySpace saying it’s just one bloke, and he’s 'broken himself up' and he’s moved to a “serious site”, so we’ll go over there next..."

The new “serious site” where he’s an acoustic artist showed that he’s now based in Coventry – which kind of invalidates the whole thing anyway. Though the Nifty Fifty Cowboys were from MK. In 2007. Ahem. Back to the drawing board.

We turned up a band with the great name of Vomit Whores whose second track “Born With A Twat” makes me nostalgic for my teenage metaller years:

M: “They got a few Mohawks going on.”
P: “They don’t sound really happy, but they sound like they’re having fun playing this kind of music.”

But despite the browsing (and the wilful avoidance of MonKeyVision bands!) there was an easy choice to review: MK-based Silver Brazilians are receiving national coverage, so checking out their MySpace was a no-brainer. Our choice choon was “Kate Winslet”, also named “Coolest Song In The World” by “Little Steven’s Underground Garage”:

M: “Now, I’ve listened to The Beatles quite a lot, and that’s a spot-on Beatles pastiche.”
P: “I think it’s great, I love it.”
M: “A deliberately retro sound, but I like it. Accurate in it’s retroness... it knows what it’s doing. It still sounds cool, doesn’t it... still feels... Deliberate Retro Future Chic.”

We’re also keen to review other genres than guitar-based rock, so big up one time to Soul. His track “Come Down” was a genuine contender for Dudebox Track Of The Season, and “Broke” is good too:

M: “It’s funny that kind of... angry, dark songs are better for rapping somehow. Having said that, I dunno where you purchase a Gat in Milton Keynes? Maybe that shooting and tackle shop in New Bradwell.”

I think we can squeeze in one more before we get to the Winners - Our Man In The Bronze Age, who we’d seen live last summer at the Vicarage Party that me and Martin had also played at. No tracks stand out above the others on their site, but overall they're pretty darn ace anyway:

M: “When they came on at the Vicarage party, they were absolutely astonishing, and me and James, possibly – cos by then we were absolutely hammered – but we did sit there in stunned silence. It was proper dark by then and the lights were on them, and there was like steam rising, and it was pretty eerie. And at the same time great. And I think we decided they were the best band we’d ever seen in Milton Keynes. But that may have been the mood and emotion of the night.”
P: “I’m having trouble putting the set of events that happened that evening into a chronological order.”


RE-WRITING DESTINY: “You’re The One (recorded live)”

We started off the review by arguing the toss between Summery Girl Punkpop vs Teenage Boy Emo bands. Phil waxes lyrical about some band he saw in Australia called The Spazzys.

M: “There’s a vague hint of Sixties girl groups as well, isn’t there?”
P: “Her voice is really good. I like the fact you can hear her accent. She sounds like a suburban punk.”

But then I make the mistake of mentioning Liz Phair and Phil’s away. Just a tip if you're ever in conversation with the man. Keep quiet on the Phair. ;-) Still, kudos to Re-Writing Destiny. We’re planning to check ‘em out live sometime soon.


FELIX: “Back In Style (lala lepus remix)”

Admittedly, Felix aren’t entirely based in MK currently, but key member Lucinda Chua is a native, a member of ace post-rock orchestral combo The Holistic Cleansing Quintet who we frequently dug as Monkey Kettle Pitz Reviewers back in the day. Sadly unable in the end to compete in MonKeyVision, Felix were the sort of band Phil and I were after all along, and “Back In Style” is their finest MySpace track: a lo-fi vocal, wistful piano, subtle cello and even subtler “Twin Peaks” references. And then the beats kick in. You’re not going to hear a finer band round these parts often. So, basically, there’s an album, some kind of record deal, and a band The Dudebox is well into. Watch this space for more details, hopefully. Especially now we're getting the hang of this whole MySpace reviewing thing.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

MK Music Awards 2008

Here at the marvellous Monkey Kettle HQ, we like to regularly reward local arts “things” with our praise – and never more so than via the annual Monkey Kettle Awards. And as our tentacles have stretched further and further into the Milton Keynes Music Scene, we’ve encountered many great bands and musicians. Starting from the latest Awards (2008), Monkey Kettle is therefore proud to announce that the Monkey Kettle Award for Best MK Band or Musical Act will be sponsored by The Dudebox – officially the Music Arm of the Monkey Kettle… erm… multi-limbed organism.

Previous winners of the award for Best Band include the fantastic 75% Lip who won the first award back in 2001, teenage epic-rockers Neara, the legendary Jimi Volcano Quintet and two different bands from fantastic local musician Beanie Bhebhe: The Ideas and Modus Vivendi. So it’s an elite group to be amongst. And in the last twelve months we’ve seen some really really good local bands, many of whom are good enough to have won this coveted title. Honourable mentions must go to: hip-hop crew Raw Pride; precociously-talented young acoustic star Josh Timmins; mysterious concept-rockers The Road To Corm; the incredibly emotive cello-rock of Speeding Mellow; heartaching singer-songwriter Ellie Walsh; and genius ivory-tinkler Grahame Sinclair. However… there can only be one winner (and two runners-up). A difficult choice, but we made it.

Without further ado therefore, The Dudebox Award for Best MK Band or Musical Act 2008 goes to…

"No-one knows exactly where he came from or how long he may stay. All we know is that three years ago Rooh hopped off the back of a freight train heading north and rolled into town, a guitar slung over his shoulder. The first time I saw Rooh play, he had the sunset slot on the main stage of Dudefest 2007. As the warm sun dipped below the horizon on an epic day of rock n roll, the entire field sat enraptured by his perfectly assembled blues tunes. Rooh plays like a seasoned bluesman from another time, people just don’t write music like this anymore. But there is no imitation in Rooh, he’s not copying the skills and ideas of the past, he’s adding to their canon. This is the real thing, music that could only come from watching sunsets across the desert from the back of a rolling train, with nothing in the world but a guitar in your hands and a song in your heart. Approached with honesty and modesty and delivered with cool and style, Rooh isn’t making things easy on himself, but this is the music in his heart and he’s staying true to it."
- excerpt from Dudebox Magazine - June 2008

The runners-up for 2008 are:

Alain Proviste
"French Semi-improvised Retro-Future Jazz Space-fusion. "I think that is my proper style," mused the 7ft French dude from behind a pair of impenetrable wrap-around shades. In one hand he holds a glass of red wine, in the other a hunk of bread and cheese. In the year since Alain Proviste first landed on our planet he's given us the inspired jazz of The French Troubadours alongside his own inimitable side project that melds impossibly groovy jazz to a kind of progressive constantly shifting ambient rock. Seeing him play the Dance Tent at Dudefest 2008 was a mesmerizing experience. This is music best absorbed in a dimly lit club and through a haze of smoke. Its just that kind of cool."
- excerpt from Dudebox Magazine - August 2008

The Stylaphonics
"Outside the club is a huge stretched limousine; its goth-black and there's a jacuzzi in the back. You know, just because they CAN! As we pull away from the red carpet, leaving a trail of paparazzi photographers running behind us - me sitting with my back to the driver with The Style and Ms. Danger coolly sitting on the back seat - I have to shout down the length of the vast vehicle to make myself heard. Anyone who grew up in the eighties and says they weren't influenced by The Stylaphonics is a liar; we all grew up wanting to play the stylaphone like The Style or dance in the school disco like Ms. Danger. Cool and enigmatic, The Style single-handedly made guitar playing uncool and stylaphone playing cool. Even keytar players couldn't compete when it came to getting the girls. In school it was pretty straightforward; if you were playing the stylaphone you were getting laid and it was all down to this band. Controversial from the start - if you only listened to one stylaphone based band last year then it really should have been this one, all the rest are just cheap imitations!"
- excerpt from Dudebox Magazine - September 2008

Friday, 20 February 2009

"Everything Picture" : Ultrasound

(SONGS FROM UNDER MY BED – Lost Classics Rediscovered)
by MMT.

#2“Everything Picture” : ULTRASOUND (1999)

I happen to know - cos I’m one of those types - that the album I listened to more than any other in 1999 was a prog-heavy double LP by a third division Indie band (and I mean that in a good way!) fronted by a ageing behemoth. Introducing… “Everything Picture”.

Ultrasound are one of those late Nineties Indie bands that no-one seems to remember now. I suppose it was a long time ago. The main songwriters and focal points of the group were youthful bearded guitar-and-multi-instrumentalist Richard Green and the imposing figure of Andrew “Tiny” Wood, the twenty-stone, thirty-something lead singer. Initial press coverage often focused overmuch on the “anti-star” image of Tiny and less about the music.

They were signed to Nude in 1997, also home of the slowly fading Britpop front-runners Suede. And there are definite comparisons between the two bands – both contained “colourful” frontmen and both distilled Glam Rock influences through an Indie filter. But where Brett Anderson’s voice was arch and almost (?) over-camp, Tiny’s could be equally affecting, but could go further, cracking with keening emotion. And where Suede’s main weakness – their lyrics – prevented them from being a truly great band, Ultrasound shone. Suede’s lyric sheet read like a cartoon version of itself: “petrol sky beautiful trash slum dwelling sky high across the sci-fi city, you and I” etc. Ultrasound’s words are almost matter-of-fact, mundane but somehow glorious.

The opener, “Cross My Heart” eases you in slowly, but it’s the clarion call of “Same Band”, their debut single, which really grabs your attention. Joyous guitars, an uptempo wide-grinning stomp. This is not the closed-down music of the post-Britpop dad-rock malaise – this is music with wide horizons and big ideas. The cover art consists mainly of paintings daubed by members of the band. I don’t think Embrace ever managed that.

And if that was impressive, “Stay Young” ups the ante even further. Opening with a grooving organ pattern and distorted Gary Glitter samples, Tiny breaks into a truly anthemic paean to the beauty of rock n’ roll youth – “My advice to all you boys and all you girls is never try to be old / I wanna Stay Young” – which touches the heart while nimbly avoiding disturbing the contents of the stomach. This is where the Glam Rock heart of the album lives, but it conveys the fleeting tragedy and self-mockery of the genre rather than the tiresome stodge: “Gary Glitter’s gone to seed / so who will lead us now?”

The first side of the album (on tape anyway – yes, I still have tapes! Of course I do!) closes with the stormy “Suckle” and its “life is cruel / but I am kind” wistful petulance. And once the main body of the song dies down, with that particular storm raged out, there’s a new dawn of calm instrumental to take us to the interval.

My hunch – though it is only a hunch, based on the writing credits – is that the Glam influences came more from Tiny Wood, and the Prog angle more from Richard Green. The second side kicks off with my favourite track: Green’s “Aire And Calder”, a harmonic gallop through the world of canals in Yorkshire (??) which spirals off into a fantastic building solo and climax worthy of any overblown Seventies Proggers. But good. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all. And maybe that’s what the record-buying public didn’t buy into at the time: even as late as 1999, Prog still had the whiff of impropriety about it, though maybe now in 2009 it might have fared better.

The album carries on at this same high level: the sumptuously scrappy “Sentimental Song” swoops between highs and lows quite rightly recognising that “we all sing along”, and climaxing with a suitably catchy refrain of “la la la la la”s. “Floodlit World” is poppier, but with a weary ruefulness which I still find utterly charming. The jagged “My Impossible Dream” continues in the same vein of cynicism which partially (but never totally) kills the belief in romance and beauty. And then plays out with a tender organ awash with weird audio samples and clips from radio programmes and probably other places. One of the last samples, looping on and on is someone mumbling “maybe… just maybe” in a sad tone. It’s great.

The final (and title) track is another abstract mini-epic which descends into an orchestral whirlwind of screaming, groaning, snatches from previous songs on the album, and industrial strength feedback, though before that it’s also almost soul music at times. Astonishing. And a sad pointer at where this fascinating band could have gone next, maybe?

Because “Everything Picture” turned out to be the only album they ever released, but if you’re going to only make one album, you might as well make it a sprawling experimental double full of grandeur, poignancy and heart. Ultrasound split up in October 1999, the same year, and none of their subsequent bands have reached even this negligible level of fame and critical acclaim since. Funny old game. But seek it out, if you can.

* - An Ultrasound fan site which may not have been updated since 1999!

* - an appearance of “Stay Young” on Jools Holland slightly stripped of the magnificence of the album version, but the closest you’re going to get on YouTube. “Floodlit World” is a slightly nicer song from the same show:
but missing the last minute sadly.