Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Going Dutch


I've moved to a small town in the Netherlands called Leiden. More details to come. For now, here's 'Cheap Beer':

Monday, 3 August 2009

Mariachi El Bronx

I was an avid reader of Kerrang! back in 2003. I still think it was a good magazine back then and not so sycophantic and aimed at teenagers as it is now. I used to buy a lot of albums off the back of reading Kerrang! reviews, and a good deal of them I still enjoy listening to. 2003 was a good year for music and I can still remember a lot of the albums I bought from bands like Million Dead, Oceansize, Blood Brothers, Lomax and The Mars Volta. All rad bands. One of the biggest albums for me at that time was The Bronx's eponymous debut album.

I'd never heard before such a unhinged sound as I did when I first played 'The Bronx'. What an album. I read the stories of the drugs overdoses, murders and general dark things that surrounded the album's creation and believed them. It all sounded too cool. The Bronx also looked pretty tough characters too, it all added to the experience. The album is incredibly messy, recorded live in one of the dudes from Guns 'n Roses garage and most of the songs are first takes. It leaps out of your speakers. It's punk rock the way it should be; dark, aggressive and way too fast.

Six years on and I'm pleased to say that The Bronx are still alive and doing their thing. They've done a couple of cool albums since 2003 and I've seen them play twice. Recently they've taken to dressing up in Mariachi costumes and playing trad Mexican music. No big deal.

I've been researching Mariachi music for the benefit of you, the reader. It originated in the late 19th century in western Mexico where it served to provide romantic vibes to wedding ceremonies ('Mariachi is French for marriage). Mariachi's distinctive sound (and look) is a result of the use of a 'guitarron' (basically a massive guitar) and latin rhythms. Since those early days it had spread across the border into the U.S and is often heard bars in California and Texas, the latter from which The Bronx call home.

'Mariachi is every bit as much of a soundtrack to southern California as punk' notes singer Matt Caughthran on why the band turned their energies so easily to mariachi music. It turns out the band originally came up with the idea when asked to perform acoustically on a radio show. Knowing their music would never work in this form they decided to do something different and a couple of years later we have an album! I'm not going to go into much about the songs. What I will say is that they are very faithful to the Mariachi sound and recreate it perfectly. The production and musicianship is superb. They've clearly done their Mariachi homework (is that a good bandname?!) and sound like they're having a lot of fun.

'Mariachi El Bronx' is out on September 1st.

Here's 'Sleepwalker', one of my favourites:

And czech this out!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Guided By Voices - 'Do Be'

To follow on from the previous post, here's another gem I've discovered from Robert Pollard. There's something about this song that has really captivated me this month. Something in the charming intimacy of the recording and Pollard's exuberant delivery of 'daaaarling!' which slightly distorts the sound. It's taken over my month.

This song is off Guided By Voices' 'Suitcase 2', a huge collection of demos and outtakes taken from Pollard's chosen storage receptacle for his recordings - a suitcase. So you're not confused, Guided By Voices is often just Pollard on his own. He would often record only himself playing songs when his friends and bandmates were at work, and 'Do Be' is one of those songs. I can picture Pollard, perched on the edge of his couch and hunched over his guitar one night, singing this song to no one in particular.

I think Pollard has tapped into something big with this song. There's something hugely powerful in this minute of music the man has come up with. No matter how straightforward the song is, as an expression of whatever Pollard was feeling at the time it's untouchable. Musical expression doesn't come any more spontaneous, soulful and imperfect than this. I think more music should left in this state, spending too much time on music by ironing out the creases reduces it's relevance as a mode of self expression and ultimately the impact it can have on the listener. I love the way the guitar and voice is used in such a way by Pollard, what a guy. We can't all be Picasso or Orwell y'know and Pollard keeps it real for us!

Here it is, enjoy!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Cosmos - Jar Of Jam Ton Of Bricks

Hi I'm back.

'got legitimate beef, full of goodness and grief'

I'm feeling pretty laid back at the moment. It is Summer after all. Maybe Cosmos' 'Jar Of Jam Ton Of Bricks' has something to do with this, I can't think of many albums released this year that is such a good companion to these lazy Summer days. It's the non-agenda that this album pushes that I like; there's a real peace to this collection of songs, not in a hippy sense but in a content sense, as if all there is to prove is that there is nothing to prove.

Cosmos is a collaboration between two songwriters, which I happened to come across because one of the said songwriters is Robert Pollard. To give a brief history, Pollard sang in one of my favourite rock bands Guided By Voices, who achieved fame after many years playing in their garages when Pollard was at the ripe old age of 36. Pollard is somewhat ridiculously prolific (there are jokes that he writes albums before lunchtime, I'd say they're written by the time he wakes up) and often releases countless albums in a year.

I've always been very grateful that Pollard has chosen to release so many of the 5,000 or so songs he claims to have written. People often complain that Pollard needs an editor because he releases too many of his songs. Maybe, but isn't it fun and rewarding to sift through his songs until you find one you particularly like? It could be seen as a waste of time, but what else am I going to do all day but listen to one of my favourite songwriters? I feel as I though I almost know this guy I've spent so much time him. Pollard often collaborates with his friends and other musicians on projects (presumably because writing hundreds of songs a year isn't satisfactory for someone like Pollard), 'Jar Of Jam Ton Of Bricks' being the latest one released this year. On this album, Pollard sings songs written by baroque-pop songwriter Richard Davies. The advantage of such collaborations for Pollard enthusiasts is that we get to hear his fine voice (which seems to only get better with age) in different musical contexts.

Unusually for Pollard, he shares some of the singing with Davies which gives the album a more collaborative feel. Davies had opted for a sparse recording style which gives the album a very intimate feel. It's as if the listener is sitting in on an early afternoon jam session with Pollard and Davies. I love the lazy shakes of maracas every so often, and the loose song structures give it an unrefined air. It reminds me of Simon Finn's 'Pass The Distance' because of the loose lead acoustic guitar lines Davies likes to play over his songs. There are a few rockier moments too which are fun.

'Jar Of Jam...' was released t'other day. Here's 'Zeppelin Commander'. Great song.

'You Had To Be There' is sung by Richard Davies. Both him and Pollard sound like wannabe Englishman. Cool.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Dinosaur Jr. - Farm

Let's talk Neil Young for a moment. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm a big Neil fan. I've been listening to him for years; he's one of the great songwriters still doing the rounds today. My favourite Neil albums are 'On The Beach', 'Tonight's The Night' and probably 'Ragged Glory' - I'm that sort of Neil Young fan. On these albums I think he nailed the country-rock-played-in-a-barn sound brilliantly and he attacks his songs in a way you wouldn't if you were someone who wanted to be liked by the folk-rock crowd. He doesn't give a damn what the listener thinks of his music and will happily let you know via a lengthy, unnecessary guitar jam or a string of dire, unlistenable albums.

The reason I bring Neil Young into this post is that I think Dinosaur Jr.'s new record is the album Neil and his band Crazy Horse should be releasing this year. The sad fact is I don't think he could or is interested in playing such music these days. 'Farm', the second record Dinosaur Jr. have released since their reformation a couple of years ago is far too loud, ballsy and tuneful for 63 year old Neil to have written (I'm really sorry man).

Dinosaur Jr. sound quite a bit like Crazy Horse playing garage rock; 'Farm' is played incredibly loud and distorted, each instrument struggling to be heard amongst the din and often resembles the clunky style of Neil's band. They sound unhinged and singer and guitarist J Mascis' typically slacker songs get dragged along by the driving rhythm section. Mascis differs from Neil Young in that he's a flashier guitarist and a lazier singer yet their approach to songwriting and influences are similar. Mascis makes singing sound like a struggle, mumbling most of his words and rarely straying from his comfortable singing range. I'm making it sound like it's a bad thing but within the context of his songs, Mascis' style really works well.

Check out 'Over It', the first single from the album. I've never seen the famously lazy Mascis move so much! 'Pieces' is the opening track, pretty rad. And if you don't know this one, quickly listen to it and get smart.

'Farm' was released last Monday on June 22nd. Go get it!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Big Business - Mind The Drift

I love to dig. It's a great pastime (and if you're lucky, a form of employment). Handily, I've found someone willing to pay me good money for the privilege of digging their garden. It's going fine, I've got about 7 hours left of the job I'm doing and the weather's good, so the next few days should go fairly smoothly. Apart from being a way of exercising without actually trying and a way to spend all day outdoors, digging allows me to spend a lot of time listening to music. I've been constructing a couple of blog posts whilst on the job so with any luck this week might be fairly busy for Radstock.

Most of my friends don't listen to heavy music. I don't blame them, it's easy to be put off by bad experiences hearing awful metal bands that all sound the same. The dress sense and smell of those who affiliate themselves with such music also leaves a little to be desired. I don't think all heavy music should be tarred with this unforgiving brush however. I think there's a time and place for such music and I believe I've found that place - in the garden, digging.

Listening to 'Mind The Drift', Big Business' third record really enhances the digging experience. If I was reviewing this album for a digging magazine I'd probably write 'the primal noise the band makes spurs the digger on to attain previously unreachable depths with his spade'. Since I'm not doing that, I should probably talk about the album in broader, more everyman terms. Big Business are a duo from somewhere cool in America and also happen to make up the rhythm section of The Melvins, one of the all time great noise bands around. On this new album, released in May, the band are joined by a guitarist, presumably to fill out the sound a bit more after two albums of bass and drums noise.

The reason I'd recomend someone 'Mind The Drift' is the fact that Big Business' brand of heavy music is so coherent. Instead of coming up against a wall of impenetrable noise, the listener can hear each individual instrument amongst the chaos. I guess you'd say they're allowed to 'breath'. The vocals which sit nicely above the music actually sound like someone singing rather than someone coughing up blood or having darts chucked at them. As for the drumming, this guy does play in The Melvins, so it's safe to say that his performance on this album represents some of the most brutal yet clever examples of drumming since...the last Melvins album. Cool.

I REALLY think everyone should listen to 'The Drift' which can be found here. The lyrics are funny and there's a degree of irony throughout 'Mind The Drift' which tells me that the band have taken into consideration the first rule of good heavy music - don't take yourselves too seriously. 'Cats, Mice' is another great one off the album. You can hear that they used to just be a bass and drums duo in the way they write the songs. Check out that heavy bass! Here's a good Youtube video of Big Business in action recently. Enjoy listening.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

The Dead Weather

The Dead Weather performed on music producer Nigel Godrich's 'From The Basement' on show on Monday. Apart from it being the debut British performance of Jack White's new band, it was quite a big deal as the gig was broadcast live online and represented the first performance of Godrich's show in this format rather than on his slot on the Sky Arts channel. Now that 'Later with Jools Holland' is little more than an industry showcase evening for whatever rubbish major label act is deciding to inflict the world with another dose of lifeless music, 'From The Basement' is the only great music programme out there.

So as I mentioned The Dead Weather are Jack White's most recent band in which he drums alongside Alison Mosshart from The Kills who sings, some guy from Queens of the Stone Age on guitar and the bass player from White's other band The Raconteurs. I don't know whether to think White is wasting his talents behind the drumkit or whether it's cool that he's not hogging the limelight once again. Judging by the 'Basement' performance I think the band set-up works just fine. White's a good drummer, it's a bit like he wants 'in' on a piece of the action in this group rather than wanting to push his own agenda.

As would be expected given the people involved, The Dead Weather's sound is quite Led Zeppelin-esque, a bit bluesy and a bit groovy. My brother pointed out that some moments sounded a lot like Clutch, whereas other moments sounded like Zeppelin's 'When The Levee Breaks'. I wouldn't say they're contrived as the songs they played the other day were quite exciting and varied in styles. Alison Mosshart's voice might take a bit of getting used to, but she's a great frontwoman.

I think it's in the arrangement of the songs where The Dead Weather are interesting. You don't quite know where the song will go next or whether you understand the idea behind the songwriting. Have a listen to 'Hang You From The Heavens' and see what I mean. If you ask me it's weird, quite daring songwriting for a rock band. It takes risks and at least that makes you think about it.

As is standard with anything Jack White is involved in, the presentation was brilliant. Wearing black always looks cool and juxtaposing that black with white guitars and white flexicord guitar leads is great. At least they're gonna look good.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Bill Fay

Now for something old.

Bill Fay was an English singer-songwriter who released two albums in the early 1970s. Both records pan out like an (albeit short) story of Fay's fairly traumatic experience of life around that time.

The story begins with 1970s 'Bill Fay', an album recorded in just one day with an orchestra. This album documents Fay's retreat from the world around him, Fay opens the album with the intention of 'planting myself in the garden', a metaphor for Fay's intention to step back from the world he is dissatisfied with. 'Believe me' instructs Fay, upon making this claim. Fay's simple piano playing often gives his songs a hymn-like quality whilst Fay's voice is rather detached from the rich orchestral backing, which highlights Fay's own feeling of detachment with what surrounds him. It makes him sound like an observer of the world around him, recreated so well by the orchestra. On 'Gentle Willie', Fay sings of a man intent on getting away from it all amidst suffering from an identity crisis. 'Willie' ends up buying a watch tower, only for him to discover that the tower looked over a battlefield, whereupon Willie laughs, then cries. 'Be Not So Fearful' featuring only piano, drums and voice seem an odd inclusion amongst the orchestration, maybe Fay felt that that version captured the mood he intended for the song, without the need to coat it in an elaborate arrangement.

Album number two, 'Time of the Last Persecution' documents Fay's experience now that he has set out to do what he wanted to do and retreat from society. Fay sounds distressed, almost apocalyptic (the album's title and front cover both suggest something dark is going on). He sings that 'all my time is lying on the factory floor' and that he will be coming 'when the air is black'. Fay's music on this album is sparse, often backed only by a jazz guitarist like on 'Don't Let My Marigolds Die'. Apparently he was influenced by the biblical writings of ministers from the 1800s he found in a book in a jumble sale around this time explains the sometimes prophet-esque subject matter of the lyrics.

'From The Bottom Of An Old Grandfather Clock' is collection of Fay's demos made around the time of his albums but released in 2004 (the cover is great, who is that guy on the left?!). I guess Fay couldn't find a place for these songs and so ditched them. 'Camille' and 'Maxine's Parlour' are both brilliant songs off 'From The Bottom...' and rank among Fay's best work. Fay's songwriting is distinctly English, whether it be the orchestral backing conjuring up images of English countryside or lyrical references to marigolds, rivers and English phrases such as 'Tally ho let's go'. Fay's songs are also short and consise, as if he doesn't want to linger on one subject too long.

This is getting to sound a bit like an essay, never mind. Fay disappeared from public view after the release of 'Time of the Last Persecution', evidently choosing not to play out any more of his life on record. Apparently he became a swimming pool cleaner at a school, maybe he still is? Pretty cool.

Here's one last great song, 'Sing Us One Of Your Songs May'.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Future Of The Left at The Harley, Sheffield

As expected, they were brilliant last night. Andy Falkous's voice might even be better live than on record. Here's a photo from Drowned In Sound:

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Deerhunter - Rainwater Cassette Exchange

Deerhunter are a pretty rad band from Atlanta, Georgia in the USA and after watching them twice in one day a few weeks ago at the Deaf Institute in Manchester, I feel compelled to talk about them. Handily, they've just released a new E.P too so what better time than now to show them some love?

People like to label Deerhunter a 'shoegaze' band. Calling a band's music 'shoegaze' usually implies that said band employ a lot of fairly unnecessary noise as a substitute for good songs (My Bloody Valentine - you're rubbish). I guess I can see why Deerhunter might be subjected to such lazy categorisation, there are some noisy elements to their sound and the whispered vocals and weird sound effects on 'Rainwater Cassette Exchange' are reminiscent of 'shoegaze' bands. The main difference is that Deerhunter's music is rooted in 1960s pop music and krautrock and thus the noise elements, rather than act as the basis of the song, make the music sound modern and thrilling.

When I saw them in Manchester they were much rockier than I expected. It made me think about how cool it is to build upon what has been committed to record and not just recreate its sound perfectly when performing live. There's a real pace to Deerhunter's songs when performed live and the more rocky elements of their songs emerge. Their bass player is great. It's the contrast between the two different settings for their music that makes them such an interesting band.

'We are a Romanian sound collage' is a great lyric, sung by one of the guys from the Black Lips on Deerhunter's last album. Other than that, I don't really know what they sing about. I think the singer is into introspection and stuff, it doesn't really matter to be honest.

Deerhunter's myspace is here. Currently there are no 'Rainwater...' songs there but 'Never Stops' is a great song to start with. 'Rainwater Cassette Exchange' can be downloaded here.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Future Of The Left - Travels With Myself And Another

It is probably a good thing to start this blog with something contemporary and this album isn't even out for a couple of weeks, is that new enough for you?

Future Of The Left are a very funny, noisy Welsh band. They're funny in the sense that they don't take themselves or the world around them very seriously - I've heard people complain that they're something of a joke band because of this, but who cares? Who wants to take music that seriously anyway? Song titles such as 'Stand By Your Manatee' and lyrics such as 'what kind of orgy leaves a sense of deeper love?' and 'Morgan Freeman would roll in his grave if he were dead' suggests a worldview far removed from such 'serious' lyrics you can find on an album by Coldplay. Indeed, as most things have been written or sung about the world we live in, such lyrics almost celebrate this fact by singing about the ridiculous. A great deal of music lacks a sense of humour - why should this be the case?

I feel that my description of the style of music this blog will cover in my last post was a little too vague. A person's appreciation of music will change over time, and I want this blog to reflect my own current outlook, one that is influenced by my situation and surroundings. As a recent graduate and one that that is currently about to (hopefully) enter the world of work I like my music to reflect how I feel about this. Future Of The Left are a great example of this.

Back to the music, I was told that the bass was so loud during the recording of this new album 'Travels With Myself And Another' that crockery rattled on the other side of the building. The bass is indeed one of the many great elements holding this album together. The music is vicious but clever and clocking in at just over 33 minutes long it is a very concise piece of work. Everything seems considered and well thought out, there is very little filler on this album. It makes you realise that most albums should end at around the half hour mark.

Judging by this blog post, singer Andy Falkous would personally come and give me a good hiding if I posted a download link to 'Travels With Myself...' on here - it's not really fair to either. The album's out on June 22nd, go buy.

If you need any further persuasion, check out the band's myspace page here.

'Arming Eritrea' and 'you need satan more than he needs you' are personal favourites.

Sunday, 7 June 2009


Testing...testing...is this thing on?

Hello, this marks the beginning of my first ever blog, a small place on the Internet that I can call my own. I've finally resigned myself to the idea that blogs are a good thing, and that I should embrace this medium and the Internet in general and do something worthwhile with it. I've also got a great deal of time on my hands at the moment (i've just graduated) and I've managed to convince myself that doing a blog constitutes being creative and is in some way wholesome. I've come across a few blogs in my time as an Internet surfer, they seem fine. This blog will be about music, mostly music which falls under the description 'rock'. But rock music covers a lot of ground, right? I don't really care for the huge number of descriptions for music out there, the lines are so blurred between 'indie', 'rock', 'blues' etc that it really doesn't matter and it's pretty irrelevant. I also don't think a lot of people care for labelling in music, ask most people what music they listen to and they'll more than not say they dislike such a question and explain that they listen to a wide range of music. Most people don't really identify themselves as a fan of just one style of music and don't want to, but I think 'rock music' covers enough styles of music to describe what sort of music this blog will be about. I think more people should use the term 'rock', I think they're worried they will come across as a fan of Nickelback, Eric Clapton or The Enemy.

What matters is if something is good or not (that's pretty obvious).

I'm not quite sure where I stand on posting 'rapidshare', 'megaupload' or whatever other filesharing web links up on this blog. In some ways I think it's fine to pinch music off the Internet, the music industry has been ripping people off for decades now and it's pretty funny to onserve the state of panic those in charge of such a changing industry seem to be in at the moment. Downloading music from the Internet for free gives people a chance to find out whether or not the music is right for them which is great. Music blogs are great places for people to read and discover new music. Without the ability to obtain music for free, people would listen to a lot less music and wouldn't be willing to take a chance by parting with money for music they might dislike. In short, I think the Internet allows individuals to gain a broader taste in music, which must be good.

I also think however that it would be quite nice for my favourite bands and artists to be able to eat and support themselves off the great music they make. I think people should act at their discretion regarding this, buying a record by a small band probably means a lot more to them than it would do to Green Day or dead people such as Hendrix, Buckley etc, etc...

So yeah, I don't know my stance on this and I'm beginning to care less and less about the subject. It isn't up to me to figure out how to solve this problem so for the mean time I'm going to do what I feel is fine. I thought it would be best to explain how I feel about such a matter before I inevitably start posting links to downloading websites.

You might or might not be wondering about the name of this blog. It'll probably make more sense when there are a few more posts on this blog but basically, 'rad' is a great word to describe good music and 'Radstock' is a place in Somerset that me and my friend drove through once. 'Radstockistrad' is a reference to the band Pavement's 'Pavement ist rad' slogan. I'll try not to use 'rad' too often.

My name is Tom by the way. As I said, i've just graduated from Sheffield University and I'm currently watching the world go by in the great void one finds oneself in post-university. I plan to go and live in Leiden, Holland in August with my band Hyperbowl. More on them later...

As for now, I'd better go and listen to a record...