Shriekback Reach Kickstarter Goal – Shows Booked – That Simple!

Three UK dates for now with Europa beckoning

Well, we discussed the notion of Shriekback moving out into the world as a live entity and their Kickstarter campaign. Several days ago, it reached its goal and then three UK dates to kick off the UK/Euro leg of their live activity were served up, though Ticketweb only list two of the three on the poster above. The pledgers were fast and furious up front with things leveling off at about 80% with a fortnight left; when the pledges slowed to a crawl. Mr. Andrews stoked the flames and the fans responded. Of course, there are still exclusive CDs to be pledged for that will probably not get reissued for years on their webstore, if ever.

One new perk to be had, is a pre-release DL version of their  forthcoming release “The Elated World” which had its origins in a project that Mr. Andrews initiated several years ago. Namely, that Shriekback would record a bespoke song for a certain, not inconsequential, yet bargainous sum of £200. Shriekback would record a song specifically for you, one of 30 consumers to receive this offer. The sampler they released a year ago was interesting enough. These tracks were not pre-existing in any way. Well, now for a pledge to their Kickstarter of any amount over £1, the pledgee [you] will receive a DL of this project. No word as to whether it’s all 30 songs, or just a specially curated selection, but this goes far towards mitigating my populist outrage at Shriektunes being the auditory playthings of the more-wealthy-than-I set. At the very least I will be happy to kick in £5 for this DL before it all goes away in just six days. Pledge here if you’re curious. The more scratch, the easier the ride will be for this fascinating band; once again welcome on the stages of the world.

SHRIEKBACK | UK Summer Tour – 2017

  • May, 31 | O² Ritz | Manchester
  • June 1st | O² ABC | Glasgow
  • June 3rd | O² Shepherd’s Bush Empire | London

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Record Review: The Psychedelic Furs [US version – part 2]

The 1980 lineup of the Psychedelic Furs would not last for long

[…continued from last post]

The next song on the album was the one I’d heard the seven inch edit of earlier. The album version of “Sister Europe” had another minute and a quarter to sprawl luxuriantly. The hypnotic sax by Duncan Kilburn spread like a mist over the slowly churning, heavily treated guitars. The slow-mo motorik beat of Vince Ely kept the song lurching inexorably  forward.

The US version had one of two Martin Hannett-produced tracks sequenced next. “Susan’s Strange” would later become the B-side to the early version of “Mr. Jones;” released in advance of their 1981 “Talk Talk Talk” album. Hannett seemed to give the number a Phil Spector aimed rhythmic underpinning with the drums and tambourines awash in reverb. The most distinctive think about the recording, as opposed to the rest of the album as produced by either Steve Lillywhite or Howard Thompson, Ian Taylor and the band, was that vocalist Richard Butler sounded as if he had been miked from across a large room and called upon to project his way into the mike element. The effect served to fill the song with distance that undercut the attractive, circular construction of the verse structure.

While cuts like “Sister Europe” or the intro of “India” were slow and methodically paced, the bulk of the album still had punk energy channeled into its Post-Punk structure. “Fall” was a fast paced, insistent number with rhythmically vamping sax abetted by the unflinching beat of Ely giving vocalist Butler a rock-solid structure upon which to erect his breathlessly recited lyrics. John Ashton’s flanged solo in the middle eight was deliciously nagging and insistent.

“Soap Commercial” appeared here first, as the other Martin Hannett number would not surface in the UK until it was a bonus track on the “Pretty In Pink” UK 12″ single.  It set a mid-tempo pace to begin the second side of the album. The next song, “Imitation Of Christ” was the one song here that seemed like an outlier pointing the way forward to the more sophisticated sound of the band’s second album, “Talk Talk Talk.” Right from the complex intro it sounded apart from the more blunt and direct attack of much of the album.

“Pulse” sported the most insistent motorik beat to be found here, but I wonder if the band were not more influenced by the Go-Gos early recording of “We Got the Beat” more than Neu! Again, Butler’s endlessly cascading lyrics burn into the brain like some sort of hypno-rap. The pace ebbed slightly for “Wedding Song” but the intensity of delivery remained high. The beat on this track was more complex than motorik, but no less intense. Once again, Butler had a methodical recitation that matched the delivery of the syllables that he was reciting to the meter of the music for an almost trance-inducing effect. A gambit he used frequently on the album.

Then the album ended with a bang. The lyrics alone to “Flowers” could cock an eyebrow, and once again, their delivery was matched by a relentless music bed that kept the beat brutally simple without wavering. As usual, Kilburn’s sax added the “jazz” to the mix. This was a dark, occasionally murky album; one that dared those interested to see if they could keep up. It was one that picked up the Post-Punk impetus from PiL and moved it two steps closer to something that approached pop music. And if it was pop, it was an uncompromising vision of pop that didn’t seek refuge in comfortable norms. Not with lyrics like “we cut his eyes with razor blades, and out of him comes foul white light.”

One got got the impression that Butler certainly had books full of poetry from his University days kept in check for exactly the time where he made his move in rock music. While he decried much as “stupid” and “useless,” the clichés here were at least of his own construction. Buter’s arid croak remained one of the most impressively unmusical voices I’d ever heard in rock music; and that’s saying a lot!

The elephant in the room…

The other main partner in crime here along with the frontman and his lyrics/delivery was I daresay the amateurish sax of Duncan Kilburn. No one would mistake his competent playing for anything close to David Sanborn, and thank goodness for that! His playing had gotten nods in press I’d read at the time to far too obvious comparisons like Roxy Music’s Andy MacKay, but to these ears, the biggest sax influence is the elephant in the room: Mr. David Bowie. The enthusiastic adequacy of Kilburn’s playing compares very strongly to all of the honking that Bowie had done over the years. Not forgetting his finest sax work having been just a few years earlier on the “Heroes” album; particularly the more abstract playing on side two. Kilburn wisely didn’t go there, but what he did contribute to these ears sounds like nothing less than the sax fills from the “Tin Machine” album.

This album made me a big fan of The Psychedelic Furs. So much so that the week that their sophomore classic “Talk Talk Talk” came out, it was boom! Right in the Record Cell immediately. That time Steve Lillywhite, who produced half of this album, did the full honors and the band expanded their horizons admirable as they began their sashay towards commercial respectability. That they wouldn’t fall off the cliff until their fifth album, speaks well for them, but by that point, all of their peers were busy making like lemmings themselves.

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Record Review: The Psychedelic Furs [US version – part 1]

Columbia ‎| US | LP | 1980 | NJC 36791

The Psychedelic Furs: The Psychedelic Furs US LP [1980]

  1. India
  2. Sister Europe
  3. Susan’s Strange
  4. Fall
  5. We Love You
  6. Soap Commercial
  7. Imitation Of Christ
  8. Pulse
  9. Wedding Song
  10. Flowers

I had been primed for the debut album by The Psychedelic Furs due to exposure to their single “Sister Europe” b/w “* * * *” on the WORJ-FM Import Hour airwaves of 1980. The dark, and moody single was the sonic opposite of their wildly spitting-in-the-face-of-fashion band name. I bought the album the week it hit the stores and it’s been a perennial favorite ever since. Three years of fervid P. Furs fandom was stoked by this album, which was quite different to the UK edition, which I was unaware of back in the day.

It began in the best possible fashion with subtly chiming guitar harmonics over another droning guitar and incongruous shots of staccato white noise; all kept well below 50 dB. Then, at the 2:08 point a crash cymbal brought on the full onslaught of the number. Darkly booming drums with no shortage of reverb would set the stage for the album while the twin guitars alternately chimed and flanged away. Then singer Richard Butler’s poetic croak made its debut and the song thundered away for another 4:15.

Listening to it now, I can hear the foundations of PIL’s “Public Image” being studied by the lads who had decided that something that good should have been at least twice as long as it had been. And so it was. The guitarist here [I can’t say whether it was John Ashton or Richard Morris] had obviously been listening to Keith Levene and bassist Tim Butler showed evidence of Jah Wobble exposure. My hearing of the song “Public Image” was at least a year and a half in the future from the point of hearing this album, but with the benefit of hindsight, its basis as the point of departure for this song was glaringly obvious.

Next: …European Men

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Record Review: Malcolm McLaren – Carmen

Charisma ‎| UK | 12" | 1984 | MALC 612

Charisma ‎| UK | 12″ | 1984 | MALC 612

Malcolm McLaren: Carmen UK 12′ [1984]

  1. Carmen [L’Oiseau Rebelle]
  2. Death Of Butterfly[Tu Tu Piccolo]
  3. Carmen [L’Oiseau Rebelle] [Instrumental Remix]

I’ll admit to being an admirer of Malcolm McLaren, though it took me quite a while to come to that conclusion. If anyone reading this were to take the opposite position, I’d truly understand. When Malc first crossed over from provocateur to artiste, I eventually bought my copy of “Duck Rock” because it was produced and created by Trevor Horn. When he surfaced the following year with an album based on opera, I could have hardly been a shoo-in to buy it. Surprisingly, when the ubiquitous video for “Madame Butterfly” surfaced, I don’t remember any naysayers. Against all odds, he seemed to have pulled it off. He made a pop dance record based on a opera. Brilliant, from a licensing point of view at the very least.

Back in the day, I bought the US “Madame Butterfly” 12″ and the “Fans” LP, but they got traded off in the Great Vinyl Purge, and a CD of “Fans” has not been forthcoming. I recently saw the UK “Carmen” 12″ and immediately snatched it up. It had been 30+ years since I had last heard “Fans” so I didn’t think twice. Seeing 12″ single worth buying in the 21st century is such a rare event, I tend to be perhaps a tad overzealous. As it turns out, the UK 12″ had only an instrumental remix to mandate its purchase. The other two songs were on the scanty “Fans” album.

The A-side was the basic LP cut of “Carmen” and I was more familiar with the song’s melody than with what had been done with it by all and sundry. The setting of the song was transferred to NYC with plenty of atmospheric sound bites over its synth-funk-cum-hip hop music bed. As usual for his “solo records” Malc himself was a minority presence on the track. The vocals fell to Angela Stone [née Brown] to carry the streetwalker sass the role required with the aria being sung by mezzo-soprano Valerie Walters. McLaren played the hapless Don José role. Perhaps the most significant credit on the recording was that of Robbie Kilgore [keys]. I have a few of Kilgore’s performances in the Record Cell, but none stand out.

The cluttered funk of this cut failed for me. It’s a shame because the melody of “Carmen” is durable. We all know it and have heard it for all of our lives. When I hear this record…in my mind, I hear rhythmic cellos and whipcrack beats, punctuated by smoky, muted trumpet solos. This music should be seductive and irresistible. Carmen drives Don José to kill her if he can’t have her. There is nothing in this music to hint at such passion.

“Death Of Butterfly” was another plodding MIDI funk vamp that went nowhere. Insult to injury, it’s on the “Fans” album too! The one track here not on the 29+ minute album was the even more cluttered and inconsequential “Carmen [L’Oiseau Rebelle] [Instrumental Remix].” This was a clumsy dub mix with added sound bites from films making a counterpoint to the vocals that were still there. It seemed that my reunion with Carmen for the first time in 30+ years was an ill-starred one. This record was simply too pedestrian to follow in the footsteps of the brilliant “Madame Butterfly” single. The biggest difference was that the earlier record was produced by Stephen Hague instead of Robbie Kilgore. That may have meant the difference. I’ve been known to be a bit harsh on Stephen Hague, but he was clearly on the side of the angels on “Madame Butterfly.” The irony was that it was his stellar turn on the McLaren single that made his name the go-to producer for idiosyncratic UK acts seeking to break The States. I can’t say why, exactly, since “Madam Butterfly” was at best a cult record here. Needless to say, OMD picked him because they loved the record and look what we got in return: “Crush.” Not the worst OMD album but the first weak one, certainly.

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Record Review: New Musik – From A To B [part 2]

Was this the quintessential New Wave promo shot… or what?

Was this the quintessential New Wave promo shot… or what?

[…continued from previous post]

The title seemed sort of cribbed from Brian Eno, but “Dead Fish [Don’t Swim Home]” perhaps owed more to the arch pop strategist than its title. The extended intro was all based on backwards synth tapes that played, unresolved for 90 seconds before the rhythm section announced that the song had begun in earnest. It seems that Tony Mansfield was capable of writing a late 70s nuclear anxiety song with the most subtlety I’ve ever heard applied to the task. The line “potential dangers lead to potential calm” was followed by a beat of utter silence midsong. Pretty disturbing.

“Adventures” was one of the songs here that was left off of the US “Sanctuary” album, but it’s a really sharp observation on a guy who’s unable to get a leg up on this whole relationship thing. The closing song was “The Safe Side,” opened with the line “someone said the magic words today” which would be repeated on the next New Musik album on the fadeout of the song “Churches.” Then the bonus tracks were added to the running time. There are nominally three B-sides, but actually four, as we’ll see.

“Missing Persons” was a track on the B-side of “This World of Water” and it’s a track with almost do synthesizer production on it. It was probably a band demo that never got the full polish that all of the other songs had, but that’s not to suggest that its in any way substandard. It’s a very catchy number and even though there are almost no synths in it, the band’s in studio modus operandi relied so heavily on noise gates and compression that even without those keys, it still feels like technopop. The integrity of the production ensures that. The 7″ single had two tracks on the B-side, and “Tell Me Something New” followed on from “Missing Persons,” as it indeed did here. It’s just grouped together as part of track 11 [“Missing Persons”] so that means that when “Missing Persons” had its abrupt, cold ending, there was two seconds of silence before the abstract instrumental “Tell Me Something New” unspooled for another two minutes. It’s the least commercial song here; it sounds like actual Krautrock. It could be a Roedelius track.

The last two bonus tracks were “She’s A Magazine” from the “Sanctuary” single. This was comparatively, a full-bodied New Musik track that for one reason or another, failed to make the cut for the album. Mansfield was deconstructing marketing and sales here. A real opportunity was lost as the 7″ had three B-sides on it! Two brief instrumentals were not included here along with everything else: “Chik Musik,” and “Magazine Musik.”

Finally, the last B-side, from “Living By Numbers” was “Sad Films.” This was an early New Musik composition and from the sound of it, one of their earlier recordings. Like “Missing Persons” it’s almost technopop with synths taking a big back seat to the band. It’s the acoustic guitars that hit you straightforward, with enough compression to give them a power that they usually lack. This could have been an A-side, really. I have fond memories of this one from the US 10″ EP that preceded “Sanctuary” in the US market.

In reflection, the elephant in the room with New Music has always to me been The Buggles. Not only do Tony Mansfield and Trevor Horn look alike, both showed an inordinate talent for making technologically advanced pop music at exactly the same time. “From A To B” makes a fantastic bookend to “Living In The Plastic Age.” And both began production careers at the same time. Mansfield has plenty of hits under his belt, too. Not as high profile as Horn, but that’s to our collective disadvantage. See many of his productions here.

Yet it sounds even warmer than The Buggles classic. There’s a richness to the sonics of this album that may be down to the EQ limitations of its mixing desk. Mansfield was also a more powerful writer than Horn. Horn relied on other writers [Bruce Woolley, Geoff Downes] and applied his work in the arrangement and production areas, whereas Mansfield had expertise in all areas. Had it been a few years later, he might have opted for a one-man production schema, ala Thomas Dolby, with a few selective guest musicians on a track-by-track basis. I’m happy this happened when it did. The fact that this was written and recorded in the late 70s gives it a cachet missing in the early 80s synthpop era. This sounded like a band with great ideas and performances doing their best, and it was appreciated. A great deal.

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Record Review: New Musik – From A To B

GTO | NETHERLANDS | CD | 1994 | GTO 474616-2

GTO | NETHERLANDS | CD | 1994 | GTO 474616-2

New Musik: From A To B NL CD [1994]

  1. Straight Lines
  2. Sanctuary
  3. A Map Of You
  4. Science
  5. On Islands
  6. This World Of Water
  7. Living By Numbers
  8. Dead Fish (Don’t Swim Home)
  9. Adventures
  10. The Safe Side
  11. Missing Persons
  12. She’s A Magazine
  13. Sad Films

I have written earlier about how I first encountered New Musik. This review will illuminate how I encountered the band the third and fifth time. In 1981, the band had a compiltion called “Sanctuary” which was 55 minutes of tracks culled from their 1980/1981 UK albums. For many years, this was the only other New Musik record in tmy Record Cell. I never saw singles from the band, and the original import versions of the discrete albums, “From A To B” and “Anywhere” were so scarce on the ground in America, that I only ever owned them via mail order catalogues and Goldmine ads in the late80s/early 90s. Of course, by then, anything that was vinyl only never got much play in the household. Vinyl was gotten to eventually turn into CD-R once the technology came down the pike [I was waiting]. It wasn’t until our friends in the Netherlands released both albums on CD in 1994, that I really got to hear these magnificent pop records.

new-musik-straightlinesuk7aThe first song on the album is a New Wave classic that I simply can never tire of hearing. “Straight Lines” is a précis of the New Musik methodology in a nutshell. 12 string acoustic guitars, acoustic drums, elka string synths, synth percussion/early drum machine, analog synths and the bright vocals of writer Tony Mansfield all coalesce into, for my ears, pop perfection. Not only did these guys know how to play and arrange, but Tony Mansfield’s songs were catchy as hell, with thoughtful lyrics that were worlds apart from cliché. The motorik beats that underpinned much of this music was perhaps the best of its era; right up there with Warren Cann’s drumming in Ultravox. Both acts used [crack] human timekeeping with the latest percussion technology available for a “best of both worlds” approach.

“Straight Lines” I first knew from its 7″ mix on the 10″ US release, but the album version was a luxuriant 5:12 instead of 3:59 with what would have been a 12″ arrangement with enhancements to the arrangement with synths firing with machine-like precision over a tightly compressed rhythm section that sounded like a tightly coiled spring on a clockworks. Sure, sure. Kraftwerk were doing the same on albums like “Computerworld,” but the difference here was the perfect fusion of machine energy and humane warmth that the songs exuded.

new-musik-sanctuaryuk7aThe sterling title cut was anther winsome single built on an irresistibly chugging rhythm bed of synths and acoustic guitar as Mansfield’s voice carried forward on an insistent one-note piano motif. “You Are Here” was a more abstract number that was still touched with lush arrangement touches that saw highly melodic synth string washes and acoustic guitars juxtaposed against dissonant, atonal synths in the middle eight. Mansfield certainly knew the value of contrast and the band’s penchant for almost McCartney-esque standards of melody [there… it had to be said] were always held in check by a technological underpinning with avant-garde tendencies. It’s like listening to the aforementioned Beatle  collaborating with Conrad Schnitzler! And it works like a charm. Forget dross like “Temporary Secretary!” This is the real thing.
“Science” was one of the three single word songs here that pointed the way forward to the next New Musik album, “Anywhere” with seven such songs that cut away the cruft and got down to brass tacks. The gentle, motorik chug of the acoustic rhythm guitars and throbbing sequenced bass gave way to an eerie middle eight shot through with minor key synths. The hit single, as the sticker on the cover of my copy revealed, was “On Islands,” the 7″ in the Netherlands. Everywhere else it was the B-side to “Straight Lines” but that song was the B-side in this territory. The lush sci-fi ballad sported vibrato synth leads that contrasted nicely with the rhythmic piano.

new-musik-thisworldofwateruk7aSide two began with another single “This World Of Water” and the song had fast tempo and perhaps the one sonic misstep on the whole album with a pitch shift vocal effect on the backing vocals that fall to just that side of gimmickry fortunately, the brief song makes certain no to outlive its welcome. The next track was a much better single, the prophetic “Living By Numbers” with another spoken interval with numerous voices reciting, not singing, the “They don’t want your name” lyric throughout the song’s coda.

Next: …New Musik Night + Day


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Former Ultravox Vocalists Make Moves In 2017

It had to happen, sooner or later…

It had to happen, sooner or later…

So there it is. Up front and as bold as life. I got an email last night from Jordan, who comments here in occasion. My wife has been holding out for a JF+TM tour of some sort, and when “The Machine” was pencilled in for release last year, I had hoped that the album would be tourable, but it’s not really a “rock” album and thus would not support a tour. I get that. It now seems that all that will happen live with the band for the first time since their tour opening for OMD back in 2013, is this one-off pairup with #1 acolyte Gary Numan. It makes total sense. Without Numan talking up Foxx, chances are many might have never heard of the man. Personally, I’m over Numan. I have been for years, but if a kindly reader with several thousand to tithe made the effort, sure, we’d go. Heck, I’d even stay to see how Numan was.

The Liverpool Event Centre is a large venue with a seating capacity of  10,600 and the ticket prices for the concert are what I consider modest, especially for a venue of this size: £33.50/£42 [$41.63/$52.19]. The Maths lineup seems to be a trio this time with Foxx on synths, Benge on synths/SDS pads, and Hannah Peel on synths/violin. Tickets go on sale Friday, March 3rd at 10 a.m. here. Doubtlessly top commenter Echorich will be kicking himself for heading over to the UK over five months too early. Chin up, chum! We’re all in this together.

hannah-peel-hope-lastsukdlSpeaking of John Foxx and Hannah Peel of The Maths, the quiet man has just recorded vocals with Ms. Peel for her new single B-side, available as a DL on her webstore. The A-side is “Hope Lasts” from her new album, but Foxx has sang a duet with Ms. Peel on the B-side, a cover version of the wonderful Paul Buchanan song “Cars In The Garden” from his stellar “Mid Air” album and don’t you just know that this will be quite the lovely thing to hear! Unfortunately, we will have to wait a few months for this to reach our ears since the release date is April 7th, 2017. Those interested in sampling and pre-order should click here.

Not to be outdone, 'Vox Vocalist #2 is getting ready to rock out… In Germany

Not to be outdone, ‘Vox Vocalist #2 is getting ready to rock out… In Germany

Readers may know that I enjoyed the Midge Ure tour of North America last year, and last month. I caught shows on both legs [I almost can’t believe I can say that…] and lapped up his great, stripped down electric rock show, in contrast to the acoustic/folkie show he was staging in the UK and OZ/NZ. Well, it looks like he’s taking it back to his roots for a German tour this Summer. Electronic rock music with a four piece band, this time! Get down with your bad self, sir! Tickets go on sale tomorrow here. Mr. Ure promises on his website that it’s time to get back to his electronic roots with a band that can play songs “that haven’t been aired in a while.” Hmm. That seems like code words for many of the same delights that we got in North America; namely half of the “Vienna” album. With a larger band, expect a longer set list that we go, lucky Europeans. For those in the UK who just had Ure touring with mandolin and violin as backing, he adds that he hopes to bring this big show to the UK for a leg afterward.

Midge Ure Electronic German Tour |  2017

27 September | Frankfurt | Batschkapp
28 September | Munich | Technikum
29 September | Cologne | Kantine
1 October | Bochum | Zeche
3 October | Hamburg | Grünspan
4 October | Berlin | Columbia Theatre

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