Bootlace Johnnie And The Ninety-Nines (Burning Shed)
Back in the early 1970s Terry Stamp fronted Third World War, a politicised and aggressive street punk band - some said the English equivalent of the MC5 - five years before punk properly exploded in the UK. In 1975 he recorded his debut solo album Fatsticks on A&M before disappearing to Los Angeles, where he kept his head down for nearly thirty years. In the intervening period, both Joe Strummer and Steve Albini have cited Third World War as an influence, although apart from the most ardent record collectors (the second TWW vinyl album is listed as £70 in one reference book), theyíve slipped almost completely out of sight and memory. In the summer of this year Stamp released Bootlace Johnnie And The Ninety-Nines (Burning Shed) to almost complete apathy, certainly as far as the established music press were concerned. But Iím slowly coming to the conclusion that Bootlace Johnnie is the best thing Iíve heard for ages. Produced by long-time fan Alistair Murphy, Stampís comeback is a brilliantly written collection of songs which explore historical and mythological themes together with his own experiences within the music industry--a lot of it located in the pre-punk London of the early Ď70s--already well past its swinging Ď60s prime and desperately trying to regain some sort of spark. Think Van Morrisonís Belfast, circa Astral Weeks, purely for the sense of location. His voice is a hybrid of Dylan, Nick Cave and Tom Waits, but peculiarly English and beautifully downbeat throughout, ideally suited to twilight walks in dank winter drizzle. Two Steve Albini recorded bonus tracks, both demos, have tastefully been attached to the end, and the best of them, "Down Pentonville Way" delivers the final high point on an album which is comfortably stuffed with them. In conclusion, you really need this record and you need it now. Donít hesitate.
Hark! (Self Released)
Anyone in the mood for some classic English psychedelia? If so, The Shadow Kabinet may well be a new name to look out for. Hark!(Self Released) is the debut album, and itís a woozy slice of prime Middle-England acid pop, the sort of stuff pioneered by Syd Barrettís Pink Floyd and The Move, and championed, over the years, by top geezers like Andy Partridge and ex-Soft Boy, Robyn Hitchcock. I read somewhere that the XTC man puts in an appearance on Hark, providing a vocal for the final track, "Immortal Invisible". Iíve got to say, if he is in there, I donít hear him. Not that it matters - there are plenty of good reasons to investigate this album, whether there are guest musos on board or not, and reason number one is the presence of "The Girl Who Cried Wolf", a stone cold, Keith-inspired, freaky-beat riff-fest of the first order. The Shadow Kabinet is essentially just one inspired chappie, Steve Somerset, whose biography includes working with Godley and Creme in their video production office, thinking up intriguing images rather than interesting sounds. Thatís apparently all behind him now because Hark oozes with aural tomfoolery, reversed and multi-tracked, and mixed up and tweaked down, and other studio techy things which I canít explain, but I know sound pretty good. Heís also adept at writing classy tunes, so donít expect anything too out there - this is, after all, a psychedelic pop album, a gentle trip to the melodious centre of the universe - spark up, kick back and enjoy the ride.
The Hazey Janes
The Hazey Janes (Measured Records)
From Dundee, Scotland, The Hazey Janes have been around since the late 1990s, touring with the occasional big act - Snow Patrol, Gorkyís - and refining their Celtic West Coast pop sound, rich in vocal harmonies and twangy hooks. Their self-titled debut (Measured Records) is a six track / twenty minute recording which the band describe as a mini-album, and the rest of us call an EP. Their obvious reference points, Teenage Fanclub, Velvet Crush and ultimately, Big Star, early Neil Young and the Beatles, make for a short but sweet listen, with every track delivering generously on tunes and gap-toothed grins. Sadly, it doesnít quite cut the mustard. The songs donít stick in the way great pop songs should, and the overall effect is a little disappointing. Still, a nice try, and if they could sharpen up their songwriting chops, who knows?
The Long Way Round (Independent Records Ltd.)
Louis Eliot used to be in a band called Rialto, who were huge in South Korea and a couple of other parts of SE Asia, without ever doing too much by way of sales back in the UK. They got themselves signed to a couple of major labels and were dropped as soon as said labels realised that the Great British public werenít particularly interested in well written, intelligent pop songs, and decided to concentrate on shovelling the same olí shit that weíre still wading through now. Thanks for that. The Long Way Round (Independent Records Ltd.) is Eliotís debut solo album and it seems he hasnít learnt his lesson. The album is chock-full of tender English pop songs with a grown-up, back-to-the-country, 1960s feel about them. Needless to say, thereís no sense of any new ground being covered here, but fans of Ray Daviesí gentler moments will find plenty to enjoy on The Long Way Round.
Songs From The Corner Of A Room (PopFiction)
South-West of England singer-songwriter Ben Gunstoneís second album Songs From The Corner Of A Room (PopFiction) confirms his reputation as a wordsmith to look out for, with an impressive set of pipes, and a complete set of musical touchstones tucked away for a rainy day. Strip Gunstone back to his bare-bones though, and youíll find a storyteller, unafraid to mince his words. Song titles like "Wish You Were Her", "I Canít Bear The Thought Of You With Anyone Else" and "Youíre Not The Person I Used To Know" indicate a writer keen to tell it like it is. It might all be a little too direct and literal for some, but thereís a refreshing honesty to what he does, and with a little help from some heavyweight friends - musicians associated with Goldfrapp, Page and Plant and The Cure were on hand - heís come up with a sturdy collection.
Jack Adaptor (Schnitzel Records)
Jack Adaptor have been out playing dates around London recently - Iíd heard from some friends that they werenít too shoddy - so I thought it wise to check out their self-titled debut album (Schnitzel Records). Comprising of Paul Frederick and Christopher Cordoba, both of whom used to ply their trade with indie favourites, The Family Cat, not that the two bands have a whole lot in common. Jack Adaptor play wiry guitars, earthquake inducing bass and wraparound tunes, with plenty of dance-friendly electronica on the side. "Everything Is Free" has got it all; Portishead-style scratchy atmospherics and a messed up guitar noodle for a solo. "Pop Music" brings everything into focus and "Summer Of George" applies a level of doomed sobriety to the project which is as unexpected as it is strangely welcome. Itís when the robotics take over, I begin to lose a little interest, but you get the feeling that the Jack Adaptor have come up with the record of choice for this yearís cooler Christmas bashes.