What’s in a name…

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What indeed?

In the case of prog-pop supergroup, Flying Colors, one might argue the case for a moniker that promises more than it can reasonably hope to deliver. Factor in the title of sophomore release, Second Nature and the musical nostrils detect an air of, what? Complacency? Pretencious indulgence? If the latter is the former, less so.

In point of fact, the (album) title has been hanging around on the substitute bench for quite some time. Aficianados of the neo-prog revival will doubtless be aware that two members of FC have previous together: Mike Portnoy and Neal Morse have collaborated extensively over the last decade and a half; as the American half of Transatlantic; on most of Morse’s solo records and also in tribute acts such as Yellow Matter Custard, paying homage to their shared love of The Beatles. Second Nature was a working title for what eventually emerged as Transatlantic in 2001 (S.M.P.T.e) and was also mooted as a name for that band’s second (and best) album, Bridge Across Forever. It’s perhaps not coincidental that that two-words cliché has finally come to rest on the sleeve of a record that, at times, bears more than a passing resemblance to the project on which Mssrs Morse and Portnoy first joined forces.

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda.

Open Up Your Eyes also opens the album, and there’s no denying a more than passing similarity to TA and solo- Morse material. It’s a 12-minute ‘epic’ that wouldn’t have been out of place on a TA album and more than justifies its running time: full of melody, harmony and hard-rockin’ hookiness…

The album also finishes with a long-form piece, albeit one quite unlike any previous. Cosmic Symphony is an, er, symphony in three parts; the first of which comes closest thusfar in living up to Portnoy‘s boast that FC dip their toes into the nu-prog/indie-art-rock waters occupied by Muse/Radiohead. Casey McPherson‘s vocal and the timbre of the song bear an uncanny resemblance to Muse circa The Resistance. As a piece, the languid mood reminds me particularly of Montréal, the narrative-based centrepiece of Marillion‘s Sounds That Can’t Be Made.

In-between, the album ploughs, for the most part, the same hooky, hard-rock groove as FC‘s eponymous debut. McPherson is a stronger, rockier singer than (Neal) Morse; Dave LaRue a less melodic, less conspicuous low-end presence than Pete Trewavas and (Steve) Morse : in short, FC adhere closer to rock convention than TA, which is no bad thing following the – relative – disappointment of Kaleidoscope, which generally found (Neal) Morse‘s superior melodic gifts sidelined in favour of fancy, less-memorable arrangements.

Bombs Away irritates me, featuring a melody that feels familiar yet I can’t place.

Points are lost – lyrically – for The Fury Of My Love: it’s the kind of misogynistic, ‘Cruel To Be Kind’ crap that one hoped rock might have deserted decades ago. On the plus side – melodically – it echoes vintage Tears For Fears. But in the main, Second Nature rescues victory from the jaws of a defeat that seems pre-ordained in the title of both album and band. It’s an album that manages to balance – like the aforementioned TFF – virtuosity and accessibility very well indeed. Lead single Mask Machine perfectly exemplifies this, whoaoahwhoahwohoah: singer McPherson achieving the kind of leg-up Ray Wilson ought to have been granted when he briefly fronted Genesis in the late ’90s.

Not without problematic aspects, FC have managed to deliver one of the most interesting. listenbable rock albums of 2014.

 

Reverb Nation (Bzzzzzzzzzz)

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Further to my last post – God, they’re pretty few and far between these days; but that’s a good relationship for ya – I’ve had Terra Familiar in my grubby little mitts for three weeks now, and in the very best way possible, I’m unsure of what to make of it. It’s long been something of a cliché to talk of hearing something new in each listen.

I like it. Very much. I hear new things every time…

It doesn’t much feel like a continuation of Mikrokosmos i and ii. It stands very much apart. Those albums consisted of 15 tracks – and that word is undeniably apposite, more so than songs – apiece; some of them very short, little more than sketches, interludes. iii features just 9, several of which hover around the 6-7 minute mark. Unsurprisingly, the ideas herein feel more developed, luxuriated-in, albeit stopping short of sheer indulgence for the most part. Still not ‘songs’ to the same degree as much of Hayes‘ work with Levitation or Dark Star, mind.

Where those were albums of fragments collected, this one ebbs and flows. One almost feels the nine tracks ought to bleed more completely into each other; in the manner of Edison’s Children‘s The Final Breath Before November or Faithless‘ No Roots.

If Psychedelia can be simplistically divided between that which is anchored by beats and a more free-floating variety then this album ticks both boxes. Unsurprisingly the legacy of The Beatles looms large; also Can: not so much in and of themselves but Echoes (no pun ;) ) of the bands that followed them down the rabbit hole: Floyd, Early Verve; Primal Scream (circa XTRMTR/Evil Heat); Tool without the aggression, the pathos; Underworld; Secret Machines…

And if you feel that by piling on the references I’m on a hiding to nothing; that it’s journalism as lazy as it is ultimately useless; then you’re maybe on the same page as me. You’ll maybe recognise the ghosts of these lofty antecedents and quite possibly like the record, whilst concurring that Terra Familiar is uncannily well-named: the sum of its parts and yet so much more besides. It’s a journey well worth taking.

Stream or buy this (and previous) albums here

 

 

A Familiar stirring in The Wosp’s Nest

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(That’s not a typo, by the way ;) )

http://www.ignatiarecordings.com/terrafamiliar.html

If you’re a music fan like I am, if music means as much (or nearly so) to me at forty-one as it did when you were a spotty sixth-former; then, like me you likely have a small, select mental roster of artists whose work exerts an almost black hole-like gravitational pull on you and your purse-strings. Your heart leaps at every scrap of information pertaining to their latest upcoming project and on release day – or these days, pre-order opening more likely – you’re first in the queue to click on that PayPal or KickStarter button; never mind that you’ve yet to hear a note of the promised new songs or that an electricity bill is imminent…

Along with – for me - Pet Shop Boys, Marillion, Steven Wilson, Neneh Cherry, Johnny Marr, Transatlantic, Scott Walker; Christian ‘Bic’ Hayes has become one such artist. You may know his work via his involvement with Cardiacs, Levitation, Dark Star, Panixsphere, Ring or his own previous solo releases as Mikrokosmos, and if those names ring a bell, you’ll quickly realise he’s a man with a nose for an interesting musical detour. As it happens, and incongruously, he also played live with PSBs when they toured their Release album, which demonstrates a certain chutzpah: one does not step lightly into Johnny Marr‘s shoes.

If previous Mikrokosmos releases are anything to go by, he’s no less interesting as a solo artist than as his contribution to the aforementioned projects might suggest. Both Mikrokosmos: In The Heart Of The Home (2006) and Mikrokosmos ii: The Seven Stars (2007) are exploratory albums, recalling (musically) The Beatles‘ psychedelic phase, the prog/punk collision of his days as a Cardiac and post OKC Radiohead‘s twisted, glitchy electronic rock. His Jonathan Donahue-laconic (albeit relocated to Westminster) tones effortlessly inhabit a sometimes-shifting, occasionally-jarring, precisely-fuzzy landscape of feedback, jangle, FX and washes that bear comparison to latterday Talk Talk, if only for their sheer audacity, single-mindedness and unlikely gravitational appeal. If the hard rock/post-punk elements take something of a backseat by comparison to Levitation/Darkstar period then this serves as an incentive to listen harder. In a sane world, this guy would be a national treasure; at least in my geeky world. This is progressive music, indulgent in its way, albeit in service to a good musical cause. Both ItHotH and TSS were pressed – onto CD – in very limited numbers (500 copies apiece) and the fact that they are still available to buy as such almost seems a crime, though I doubt it concerns Hayes unduly: he is nothing, one suspects, if not a musician’s musician: a lover, a geek.

You can listen to the new album, Terra Familiar in full here (I haven’t – I’m waiting for the CD ;) )

and the two previous instalments

In The Heart Of The Home

The Seven Stars

via Bandcamp. If you enjoy imaginative, original music that respects the past as much as its own muse, then Hayes is your man. The download button is your friend, geek ;)

p.s. some highlights from Hayes past:

 

Misplaced male; a seasonal liability

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Misplaced male; a seasonal liability

Guls:

This reblog from Girls Globe makes many pertinent points. Its original title ‘Take Action against Gender-Based Violence this Season’ along with the language and tone of its content also illustrates perfectly why the ‘inclusive’ language favoured by Western-model Liberalism actually excludes and annuls meaningful debate and any remote possibility of change. So-called ‘Gender-based violence’ describes violence commited mostly by males against, well, everybody and everything. Male Violence, or better yet, male-pattern violence is a more descriptive term, since it acknowleges that said violence is the responsibility of males and mostly perpetrated by same, whilst admitting the possibility and the reality that our system of hierarchy (patriarchy) is so pervasive, that often females can be brainwashed into adopting it, in microcosm at least. Witness that FGM is performed by women in the interests of male culture; that child-abuse by mothers and women in loco parentis is, if not endemic then certainly widespread; that corporations seemingly bend over backwards to promote their courting of female talent and that much of the focus of third-wave feminism rests on a nominal ‘equality’ in place of the previous generation’s vision of ‘liberation’.

If naming their agent(s) of oppression is the first step on the road to liberation, then today’s females, by constrast to their ‘gay’, ‘…of colour’ and ‘transgender’ (would be) compadres in activism seem reluctant. If that’s surprising to some, it shouldn’t be: the fight here is not to aquire the privileges accrued by deception and/or outright force by class male over millennia: rather, it is to disabuse said class of the notion that its privileges are righteous. ‘Gay’ men are men; Men ‘of colour’ are men; and whether ‘Transwomen’ are men is in most respects a moot point, since they anticipate retaining the same male-defined ‘human rights’ upon transition and any loss of same is incomprehensible to one raised with male biology in a male-governed (ruled) society.

If the point of liberation was to free all; then the object of equality is to subject all; from or to the same oppressive, impossible standard. Male nature provides a convenient spirit level: we may not all wish to fight; but we sure as hell all want to fuck (or as near all as makes no odds) which to those who don’t is as good a weapon as can be.

A remarkable thing happened to men during the AIDS years: sex (by which I mean PIV or, on the same pattern, PIA) became, for the first time since the advent of antibiotics, actually dangerous: a matter of life and death for men. We changed our sexual habits (on the whole) not a jot. We could read this as evidence of the inflexibility of male nature; or as proof of our own privilege; or as somewhere in between. Either way, men are the agent of gay oppression as much as they are the agent of female oppression. Transgender is a cunning wheeze to avoid either; one which only works half the time.

Somewhere along the way, the precision of second wave feminist writing  – which, to exemplify Germaine Greer confronted male hatred of the female and correctly identified transgender women as ‘pantomime dames’ – has been lost. There is a rush to accomodate any deviation from the male norm as if it is transgressive when in fact we are anything but. Would ‘Gay’ even be a thing were it not for the centuries-old (and long-in-the-tooth) male idea of heteronormativity: proponents in that bygone age could scarcely be expected to have forseen today’s overpopulation and consequent climate change…

Talking about violence being ‘gender-based’ glosses over these and much else, particularly for today’s reader whose notion of what ‘gender’ is is as wooly as the language itself.

Just remembered I’m only writing a comment, not my own post so I’ll now stop waffling ;)

 

Originally posted on Girls' Globe:

Signs read: "Don't Bury Me." Photo Credit: Meliné Bilbulyan Signs read: “Don’t Bury Me.”
Photo Credit: Meliné Bilbulyan

Many of us look forward to the holydays – to lighting candles, traditional food and spending time with friends and family. But the higher economic burden following the mandatory spending on food, gifts and decorations and the pressure of living up to the perfect-holyday-expectations put strains on the household. The risk of domestic violence is higher during the holyday season and for women already experiencing violence at home, the holydays bring with them a promise of increased plague.

Numbers presented by UN women reveal that one out of three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner. In some countries the numbers are as high as 70 percent. Violence against women is an urgent global problem.

Whether or not domestic violence occurs in your home or in any other home you know about, gender based violence…

View original 476 more words

…from the mouths of babes?…

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WTF?! Yeah, that was my initial reaction. Not in a bad way, though…

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/109573972″>Potty-Mouthed Princesses Drop F-Bombs for Feminism by FCKH8.com</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/fckh8″>FCKH8.com</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Easier to berate kids for using cuss-words than face up to the crushing realities of sexual violence, gender stereotyping and pay inequality. Is this clip effective? Jury’s out on that one; but it’s certainly on-message…

I could pick, but I’m not going to. This is one of those odd occasions – District 9 springs to mind – when po-mo irony kinda works for me.

FCKH8‘s clip landed in my inbox via Upworthy.com

Return of The Mex

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2014 has thusfar resounded to the sound of long hiatuses coming to noisy, and much talked-about ends: forget The Stone Roses, or even Guns’n’Roses; Pixies released their first LP since 1991, the acclaimed Indie Cindy; whilst Kate Bush announced her second string of live dates since her groundbreaking 1979 European tour. The pre-order for the ‘new’ Pink Floyd album, The Endless River is open… And whilst this might signal the rude heath of art rock per se, Mex may be less the household name, outside of studio personnel circles. Nonetheless, his 2014 album, Dr Jekyll & Mrs Hyde ends an in-studio silence, at least under his own name as singer-songwriter, but one year short of Bush‘s onstage one. Aided and abetted by a talented cast of collaborators including bassist Colin Edwin (Porcupine Tree/Ex Wise Heads), guitarist, Gordon Russell (Dr Feelgood), visual artist, Nick Egan (Clash, Ramones, Alanis Morissette) and avant-garde poet, Bernadette Cremin, he presents an engaging album of intermittently angry and lovelorn – though ultimately uplifting and cathartic – emotionally-charged pop/rock.

A concept album of sorts, …Jekyll… is nonetheless miles from the overwrought prog indulgence of The Wall or …Topographic Oceans, rather more akin to the wilful eclecticism and compelling grooves of David Holmes Bow Down To The Exit Sign or Typewriter‘s Skeleton Key. Albeit as otherworldly as neither, and refusing to venture as far from conventional song structures, there’s the same sense of a single guiding creative light, similar wild mood swings between fuzzed-out dirty pub-blues ditties and cool, effects-laden atmospheres.

Mex‘s often heavily-FX’d vocals – pitched somewhere between Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks) and Nick Barrett (Pendragon) – tell the story of a love affair gone awry, with attendant reflections on age, alienation, regret and possibilities. The pace of the album is perfectly-judged, making it an easy, even fun listen. Occasional lapses into lyrical cliché, far from being a detraction, reflect the album’s confessional style (the lyrics were drawn from the performer’s diary during a period in therapy). In an age where singles reign supreme, it’s a joy to land on a body of work that deserves beginning-to-end listener attention. There’s a good reason why the album is a dying art-form; and I see no mileage in being a fuddy-duddy about that; it’s a trend that opens as many doors as it closes: equally, it’s satisfying to hear said form being handled so deftly and respectfully.

Some cuts stand out, though: From Nought To Sixty mixes snappy punk riffing with mature reflection; Think About It sets poet Cremin‘s ‘angel on the shoulder’ conversational tones to Edwin‘s bass groove to great effect, and Catching A Train has a pleasing whiff of Psychedelic Fur. Mex is an exponent of the punk days, but this is an album that could only have been come to fruition in 2014, incorporating well-judged references from intervening years: from shades of artful and more emotionally-literate post-punk à la Furs and Bunnymen to the neo-diy facilitated by affordable digital home-recording technology: the quality of the songwriting now shines thru, rather than musters out; even cheeky stabs of squawking sax (Everybody Has A Book Inside) enhance rather than come off as ’90s cheesy.

You can purchase the full album here.

http://www.mexonerecordings.co.uk/dhe.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SR3AugdIA84&feature=youtu.be

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zq4dfOFYH-c&feature=youtu.be

Bushman telegraph

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The brothers Kellner have had a while to perfect this…

Part Stereophonics, part Pink Floyd and part The Grateful Dead was how guitarist/singer, Brian summed up the Bushman Brothers during inter-song banter at last Saturday’s gig; and it’s hard to image a better description: hooky, blues-based rock – check; proggy, instrumental flights of fancy – check; extended jams -check.

My girlfriend and I don’t always coincide with our musical tastes, but The Brothers gig at Brighton’s Ranelagh pub grabbed us both by the earballs and, shaking off our creeping exhaustion, we ended up staying and hour and a couple drinks later than intended. The Ranelagh is well-known locally as a live blues venue, but almost inevitably, the style and quality of the entertainment varies considerably: open-mic hopefuls armed only with acoustic guitar or piano and professional, full-band outfits; folksy to rockin’.

The BBs fall firmly into the second camp. Their set encompassed familiar staples of any self-respecting blues-rockers repertoire – J.J. Cale‘s Cocaine; Hendrix‘s Fire and Gary Moore‘s Parisian Walkways – as well as original BB compositions. Of those, Urban Madness, Whale Song and Travelling Man made a particular impression on the night. All of those appear on the 2012, all instrumental release, Tone Tonic. Persuaded to purchase both that album and their latest, the Condensation Fear EP, it’s the latter which has impressed me more on repeat listening. Whilst TT has more of a Joe Satriani/Steve Vai kinda virtuoso vibe, CF leans in the Stereophonics’ direction: ‘proper’ songs, aided and abetted by guest singer Paul Fulker. At £15 for both discs, value for money isn’t an issue and showcases two sides to the band. Brian Kellner possesses both David Gilmour‘s fluidity and Satriani‘s mastery of lightning-fast picking; along with a more than passing resemblance to Clapton on the vocal side, albeit grittier, which my girlfriend, a huge fan, appreciated. His chemistry with brother Steve on drums was clear to see: they were seriously tight; and I even managed to enjoy the latter’s drum solo, which is rare for me; generally finding percussion breaks something of a bore. They performed as a duo, with bass and keyboard backing tapes, though a full-band performance is scheduled for September 4 at Brighton’s Albert,with further dates to follow

Brighton residents but half-year-round (they spend the remainder surfing and jamming in Hawaii) catch ‘em while you can…

Download/order HERE

 

 

 

http://bushmanbrothers.com/