I do rather like Tom Waits, ever since I heard my friend Richard Grocock singing a Waits’ song at a National Youth Choir of Great Britain course cabaret.
Video for Storm Corrosion’s song Drag Ropes.
An album that I’ve been anticipating for quite some time is Storm Corrosion: a collaborative project between Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth and Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree. It was released in the UK on Monday 7 May.
I loved the last Porcupine Tree album, The Incident; the last Opeth album, Heritage, has been a grower; I enjoyed Steven Wilson’s second solo album Grace for Drowning. I knew that this album wouldn’t sound like any of these.
In an interview with Steven Wilson about the record he said
“If anything, it’s even more orchestral, more stripped down, even more dark, twisted and melancholy… but it certainly feels like it comes from the same place as Heritage and Grace For Drowning, which indeed it does because it was written during the same period. We were, in a way, egging each other on to do those particular records but also at the same time coming up with the music that’s now going to be on Storm Corrosion. So it’s a very orchestral record, as you’d expect, the songs are quite long and develop in unusual ways. I’m realistic about it, that half the people are going to hate it and half the people are going to fall in love with it. I’d be happy with that anyway.”
I fell in love with it.
The album is dark and atmospheric and beautiful and odd and unexpected and it has the feel of a 1960s soundtrack (which is perhaps why I like the video to Drag Ropes so much). In many ways it reminds me of Richard Thompson‘s 1997 collaboration Industry with bassist Danny Thompson (no relation).
It is very much worth checking out.
I give it a rating of 5/5
On Wednesday evening I drove down to South Queensferry, teamed up with my brother Eddie, and the pair of us took the train in to Edinburgh Wavelery to see—what Wikipedia calls—’English power pop trio’ Dodgy in concert at The Electric Circus on Market Street (which is right next to the station).
The summer of 96
In 1996 I was working with homeless young people in London, and living in a very nice basement flat in Eccleston Square with my good friend (and former National Youth Choir of Great Britain member) Jonny Coore. We had a summer of beautiful weather. It was the summer of Euro 96, which was hosted by England, and the city was alive; the atmosphere was electric. It was the year that I got engaged for the first time. And the soundtrack to that summer of 1996 was Free Peace Sweet by Dodgy.
In many ways it was a strange choice of album for me. I was heavily into metal (still am), I was trying my hardest to avoid anything with the ‘Britpop‘ label, like Oasis and Blur, and yet here I was listening to Dodgy again and again and again.
But the song writing was fabulous, and I loved the use of acoustic guitars throughout the songs.
I was always under the misconception that Dodgy were from Birmingham. Apparently they started out as a band called Purple, a trio from Bromsgrove and Redditch in Worcestershire, who moved to London had a few line-up changes and re-badged themselves as Dodgy.
So, they were in London in 1996. I was in London in 1996. How on earth did we never bump into each other?! I would have loved to have seen them in concert back then.
So I made up for it this time around. They were coming to Edinburgh on their UK tour. I live about 50 miles from Edinburgh. I bought a ticket. My brother bought a ticket. And on Wednesday evening, I stood about 10 feet from the tiny stage at The Electric Circus and grinned from ear to ear for about 90 minutes.
It was an intimate gig. Dodgy were fun, and professional, and played a fabulous set. Despite my dodgy back (no pun intended), which was really beginning to hurt by the end of the set, I could have stood and listened to them for another 90 minutes.
Guitarist Andy Miller stood stage left behind a lap steel guitar on a stand. His playing was intricate and delicate but never too much. At times his guitar sounded more like a keyboard and I loved it for that. Every now and then he would look out to the crowd and smile. He obviously seemed to be enjoying himself.
Vocalist, guitarist and bassist Nigel Clark stood centre of stage, armed for most of the evening with an acoustic guitar, occasionally taking bass for a few of their earlier hits. The rest of the evening bass duties were handled very comfortably by a friend of the band. There was a warmness and confidence about his stage presence that suited the venue.
Drummer Mathew Priest has a fabulously simple drum set-up but he plays it so melodically and with such space. If I was a drummer he’s the kind of drummer I would want to be. I enjoyed his between songs chats, and we all marvelled at his knitted drumstick warmers in what I presumed were Aston Villa colours.
Thank you Dodgy.
Dodgy released a new album Stand Upright In A Cool Place earlier this year, from which this is a track
I don’t get out much these days. That’s my choice. I have three small children and a wife to support. So when I do get out to see a live band it’s a real treat. I’m glad I made the effort this time. Dodgy live were more than I expected. The venue was much smaller than I had expected but as a result there was an intimacy and a relaxed feeling to the gig that I relished.
The gig also reminded me how much I miss playing in a band live. Maybe one day I’ll get back to it. I sure hope so.
As my brother and I stood on the platform at Edinburgh Waverley to catch our return to Dalmeny, Eddie asked me “So, have you got any other bands you’d like to see live on your… bucket list?”
If you don’t already know, a ‘bucket list’ is a list of things you’d like to do before you kick the bucket (die).
“Why?” I asked, “If I don’t are you just going to shove me in front of the next train?”
Dodgy were definitely on my list. I’ve scored them off now… but do you know what? I think I might just write “Dodgy” on that list again.
A few weeks ago I got a phone call from my Mum.
“What’s this I hear about you going to a dodgy gig?”
“The band are called Dodgy.”
“Ah… right,” she said, obviously sounding quite relieved.
I’m just back from seeing Swedish progressive metal band Opeth at the HMV Picture House on Lothian Road, Edinburgh. What a fabulous gig… but equally it was a very odd gig.
Except this evening they were more Swedish progressive band Opeth than Swedish progressive metal band. Which given the direction that their latest album Heritage took shouldn’t have come as any surprise, but it rather did, unfortunately.
It didn’t go unnoticed either. About an hour into the gig, a group of fans stood at the back and brayed “Play some f***ing METAL!” after every song.
After the gig I heard some folks referring to it as a ‘controversial’ Opeth gig. And in many ways it was. There to support Heritage, the band seemed to almost completely ignore their musical heritage in death metal. Not one song with death metal-style, gruff, vocals. Not one. Not even during the encore.
There were moments, if I’m honest, when I felt like I was in the Spinal Tap crowd witnessing the birth of Jazz Odyssey. I guess I wanted more energy from the stage, I wanted to feel immersed in the sound, to feel the power of the drums and overdriven guitars shaking my body.
But it was quieter, and more thoughtful; more Radio 4 than Planet Rock. Quite unexpected.
I often say that artists should be free to do what they like, to follow whichever musical path rocks their boat. Who am I to demand what they do, or play? So I can’t really complain: they played 90 minutes of their own material, drawn from quite a few albums from their back catalogue (each of which I have, and love). The set had integrity, it was played beautifully. I loved the music. I loved the performance. But I still left feeling disappointed.
I enjoyed it, but it felt… incomplete. It wasn’t the ‘dirge for November’ that I was anticipating.
All in all, though, that was the second best Opeth gig I’ve ever been to; I’ve been to two.
One of my favourite live bands, Amplifier, are touring in December and are making it as far north as Glasgow—it would be great to see them again.
You can check out Amplifier on Spotify, or for the next couple of months or so you can stream their latest album The Octopus and Fractal EP on Progstreaming, a website from The Netherlands that offers free streaming of the latest progressive rock records for “a maximum of two months”. They currently have 97 albums to choose from.
This evening I’ve listened to Transitions by Mandrake Project and Communication Lost by Wolverine. Both really enjoyable albums. On the back of that I’m definitely going to check out more of Mandrake Project.
I love listening to new music.
I’ve just spotted that there is a two-part documentary about British rock band Queen starting tonight.
No thanks to the BBC TV homepage (see the screenshot above), however, to tell me what time it starts and on what channel:
- The ident says BBC Two, the text says BBC One.
- The time says 10pm… but that’s in England and Northern Ireland only. It’s on at 10:15pm in Wales and 10:30pm in Scotland. On BBC Two.
There’s also an interview with Brian May and Roger Meadows-Taylor on Chris Evans’ show.
30 day song challenge day 26: A song that you can play on an instrument
I can play that song.
On a guitar.
I’ve played it live and everything. In front of a human audience, no less.