VIDEO: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Sick Bug

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Here’s another track off Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s consistently excellent French Press EP, out now on Sub Pop. Tumbling, jangly guitars and that incessant drum beat are the backdrop for young lust…

“I want you, I want you, I want you, I want you, I wanna see you smiling on a blue afternoon dreaming of the ceiling and the smell of your room cuz I want you, I want you, I want you.”

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INTERVIEW: Rickie Lee Jones

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RICKIE’S STILL IN LOVE WITH MUSIC

Rickie Lee Jones, she of the long and diverse career that began back in the late 70s with that single Chuck E’s In Love, is still passionate about music and her achievements, as she explains to Chris Familton.

Beginning at the start of her career in Hollywood, odd jobs, a chance encounter with Tom Waits and her demo tape brought her to the attention of Lenny Waronker, producer and executive at Warner Bros. Records, who beat out other labels to sign her and launch her career.

“It was a dream at the time because before that I was just trying to pay the rent. I had a boyfriend at the time who was in school and he encouraged me to go out and play and make money to pay the rent. That helped me get started. It was hard, I was homeless for a lot of the time and and I had nothing to fall back on. When it happened it happened very quickly. At the time I was 23 I wrote Chuck E’s In Love and The Last Chance Texaco and I was on an unemployment benefit. Then one year later I was in a studio and recording an album. Once I decided in my mind to do it, it took about a year to sixteen months,” recalls Jones. “To be able to devote oneself to it is really helpful in gaining early success,” she says, before adding “that success, who doesn’t want that? But it comes with a lot of baggage.”

Jones’ most recent album, The Other Side Of Desire, was her first in a decade and was released independently after a crowdfunding campaign; making it a world apart from her experiences with major labels in the 70s and 80s heyday.

“It feels good not to have any pressure from an outside person to meet their expectations. The thing I had going when I was first signed was they were the best label in the world, they had the best A&R and they just loved music. They dropped you if you didn’t sell records but they didn’t sign you and then drop you straight away, they tried to develop artists and they kept them on the label,” she explains. “I was spoilt by that and know what it’s like to be on a label run by a company that loves its business more than business, that loves music and artists and doesn’t try to make them act like business people. We live in a time where artists act like business people, they talk about the bottom line and their brand. They talk about the brand of Beyonce and the brand of Madonna, this is shameful in the arts. It shows the whole process is corrupted.” says Jones, a tone of disillusionment creeping into her voice.

Jones sounds like she’s in a great place musically and personally as she looks to the future and what it may hold for her. “I am writing and I’m finishing a book which should be out around Christmas. I’m having fun right now performing and I can feel people engaged in ways that I didn’t feel before. I’ve accepted my place in music and I like that I’ve lasted this long and I just want to keep working on it. When I stand in front of an audience I know exactly who I am and that is a great gift.”

ALBUM REVIEW: Feedtime – Gas

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It’s been two decades since their last album but time and musical trends seems inconsequential to Feedtime as they return to grind out another slab of primitive and unrelenting rock.

They’ve still got that leaden lurch and queasy slide guitar that shifts and shudders like a displaced iceberg in a drunken sea. Perennial underdogs, they proved immensely influential on a raft of bands, from Jesus Lizard to Harvey Milk and here they reclaim their place at the unhinged intersection of post-punk, cow-punk and sludge rock.

The bass is still rough and growling, the guitar like exposed nerve endings and the vocals still sound like a bad night out on the booze. Some things, thankfully, never change.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Spoon

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Spoon + Mike Noga @ Metro Theatre

Sydney, Australia, March 23rd, 2017

Mike Noga has stepped things up and fleshed out his live show with a full band that at times featured a triple guitar approach. The transition from solo performer to band leader mean he’s lost a bit of that Dylan-esque raconteur vibe but one can see where he’s taking it – giving the songs from his 2016 album King a wider palette and greater dynamics. It also allowed him to focus more on singing and imbuing his performance with greater physicality. A bass amp problem threatened to derail things but the band adapted and recovered well.

Spoon had the Metro at near capacity as they sauntered onstage and went straight to songs from the new album Hot Thoughts. The title track and Do I Have To Talk You Into It welcomed a stronger focus on keyboards but also showed how well the band have brought them to the fore in their songs without any great change to the Spoon sound. Space is the key to what Britt Daniels and band do so well. The rhythm section of Jim Eno and Rob Pope are its backbone, whether that was a fractured and (dare I say) funky approach or near-Krautrock/post-punk, dark and driving grooves as the guitars chopped and tangled with retro synth sounds.

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Spoon are astute rock deconstructionists, there wasn’t a guitar solo to be found all night, instead it was all about texture and accents, a sort of musical equivalent to pop-art collage if you will. They’re clearly enjoying playing together as a band, jovial and knowing smiles were exchanged regularly, fingers were pointed in recognition of each other’s playing and they found that sweet spot between locking the songs in tight and still sounding free-flowing and completely organic.

Highlights came in the form of a rousing I Saw The Light, the pulsing shimmer and grind of WhisperI’lllistentohearit and I Turn My Camera On, with the crowd fully engaged in a united front of bobbing heads and sung words. Though the second half of the set lost some of the initial rush of energy and conviviality that hung in the air for the first half, they carried it home like returning heroes of the alt-pop variety.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Belles Will Ring

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Belles Will Ring + Le Pie + The Wednesday Night @ Factory Floor, March 17th, 2017

Three shades of psychedelia ruled a wet and windy Sydney night as Belles Will Ring triumphantly returned after a five year absence from the stage.

The Wednesday Night recently released their debut LP and through shifting lineup changes have been refining their live show, becoming more nuanced and hypnotic in their sound. Based around Rob Young and Laura Murdoch, the five-piece know how to dig in and work a garage pop groove as expertly as they can psych-out on girl-group vocals and tranced repetition.

Le Pie took the girl-group aesthetic further with her 50s bubblegum look, bathed in pink from her dress to her Stratocaster guitar. From tentative beginnings their set got better and better and when Le Pie sang without her guitar the songs seemed to gain more focus and a stronger connectivity with the audience. Think gauzy, atmospheric psych-lite pop where Mazzy Star meets Dum Dum Girls.

Belles Will Ring seem like a band built on strong personal and musical connections. From the first song they locked in, exchanged self-knowing and happy smiles, lifting the mood of the Factory Floor into the realm of celebration and inspired uninhibited dancing. Aidan Roberts and Liam Judson sit at the core of the band and over the years they’ve honed a symbiotic musical relationship both as singers and guitarists, whether syncing their Byrdsian harmonies or playing riffs that counter and complement each other, almost as if they’re egging each other on to dig deeper and further afield on their instruments. The band are way more muscular and freewheeling on-stage. The songs revel in what sound like tangents but are cleverly composed and arranged space-rock freak-outs as they urge the songs onwards and upwards. The unabashed enthusiasm and energy of the band has been missed on the Sydney scene and their return shows that pop music can be raw, intelligent and layered while still remaining direct and uplifting. Let’s hope the Belles keep ringing.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Sleaford Mods – English Tapas

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The masters of minimal post-punk and street poetry return with their first album for Rough Trade, In the last four years the duo have gone from something of a curiosity to an established act with a cutting line in socio-political commentary and stark, primitive music.

English Tapas continues the sound and content of its predecessors. On Divide & Exit (2014), Andrew Fearn concocted a sound reminiscent of The Fall, it was muddy and ragged with a sense of disdain and an embrace of lo-fi grittiness. Their last album Key Markets signalled a cleaning up of their music, more rhythmic and groove-based, though still utterly primitive. In 2017 they’ve continued that process of refinement with the addition of subtle and detailed programming elements – a twinkling hi-hat here, bass-lines that feature more than three notes and on ‘Cuddly’, their closest attempt at digital dub.

Jason Williamson is still the focus with his heavily-accented, ranting approach. It’s part poetic attack, rap-leaning in its rhythm and rhyme and a glorious mix of colloquial and slang deployed to deliver commentary on issues of unemployment, social media, greed and the monotony of modern life. If anything, Williamson has become more abstract in his lyrics, cutting up sentences, fragmenting phrases so they are as suggestive as they are direct. When he does take straight aim at a topic there’s definitely no room for mis-interpretation – “Try scrolling down a website, the NME, without laughing, I’ll give you ten quid if you can keep a straight face. Honestly, just fucking try it, mate”.

There’s a lineage from Sleaford Mods back through grime, The Streets, P.I.L, The Fall and Suicide and here they continue to collated the sonic influence of those acts and others into a unique sound that marries ideas and gonzo simplicity that comes off as satirical, witty and critical without an ounce of musical fat or holier-than-thou preaching.

Chris Familton