Archive for Punk

Did I Ever Get the Feeling I’d Been Cheated?

Anthony C Green reviews Pistol, an FX Production, produced and directed by Danny Boyle, and written by Craig Pearce

Currently streaming in the UK on Disney+

I only subscribed toDisney+ in order to watch the Beatles Get Back last November, and only the continued existence of Family Guy and pressure from my ten-year-old son has kept me subscribed. The news that this was also to be the place to stream a new FX-made six-part drama, produced and directed by Danny Boyle, about the Sex Pistols, based on the 2016 book Lonely Boy; Tales of a Sex Pistol by guitarist Steve Jones gave me another reason to keep my £6.99 a month Standing Order current.

I was fourteen when the Pistols recorded Anarchy in the UK, fifteen at the time of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee and the height of the band’s popularity/notoriety a year, give or take, later.

And now we’ve just celebrated The Platinum of the Eternal One and I’ve suddenly hit sixty. The original Punk explosion is now so long ago that if we were to travel back in time by the same distance from now to the time it was happening, we would be in the early stages of microphone-enhanced vocals and Bing Crosby Mania.

In any case, I was never a punk. In 1977 I was in my very early stages of second-generation Beatle fandom, and mourning the loss of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. I remember liking Pistols’ single Pretty Vacant, but only in the way I liked other current hits sing-a-long hits of the time.

Only later, would I discover Punk as a moment, and Never Mind the Bollocks as one of the most important albums ever made.

It’s also one of the best. That’s what many people forget about the Pistols. Yes, they were a cultural phenomenon that changed forever the world of Popular Music (or for a long time at least, before the movement was co-opted and reincorporated back into the big business, capitalist machine, as all sub-cultures ultimately are, no matter how outwardly radical.) But they wouldn’t have become what they were to become if they hadn’t had the songs. Not many songs, it has to be said, but in the end, the short and (not so) sweet nature of their career, and the fact that there is only one proper Pistols album is soooo right.

The book on which the series is based

And the world of popular music, and entertainment in general, is all the better for stories that are perfect in and of themselves, no matter, in fact often because of, the tragic nature of the end of those stories. The Beatles had to end at the end of the sixties. Elvis had to die when and how he did; and the Sex Pistols had to produce that single near-perfect collection of songs (OK, there’s a handful of post-Lydon Pistols’ tracks you should have in your collection, Silly Boy, Something Else, My Way, but that’s still not proper Sex Pistols material.)

I limbered up for the series by watching John Lydon, Rotten as was, on a couple of lengthy podcast appearances.

He was not a happy man.

Or rather, that is to say, that he strikes me as a man who is happy, with his place in history. True, drinking wine from a pint glass, as he did during one appearance, suggests alcoholism. But he’s still working, limbering up for a new Public Image Ltd. tour, and if he is indeed an alcoholic I’d suggest it is of the high functioning variety(And I too was once such a best, so I know what I’m talking about).

But he was/is not happy about the Pistol’s series, claiming that not only was he not involved in its making, but that Danny Boyle gave him no opportunity to be properly involved, his claim, if true, IS rather scandalous.

He also mentioned several times that this Disneyfied re-telling of the Pistols’ story would trash the band’s legacy and ‘everything we had stood for.’

Arguably, the 1996 Filthy Lucre tour, the clue is in the name, did that, as did other, more short-lived reunions, but we’ll set that aside. All I’ll say here is that I like Lydon, and believe him to have many admirable qualities. Not least, the clear and unconditional love in the way he speaks of caring for his beloved Nora, mother of the late Ari Up, once of The Slits, and his wife of forty-three years, though now several years of rapidly worsening [GC1]  dementia.

But he has never been great at giving credit to his former bandmates, indicating to this day that, whatever it says on the record labels, where the whole band is listed as co-composers, he alone is really responsible for the creation of those songs. This of course particularly unfair on Glen Matlock, the most musical of the Pistols’, a fact that legend has it, and as we will soon come to, in large part led to his removal from the band and replacement by one John Simon Ritchie, AKA Sid Vicious.

And, although of course, it would have been better had Lydon been involved in its making, at least morally, we should remember that the series is actually based on Jones’ book, a fact that must be taken into account when assessing its style and quality.

It also should be mentioned that Lydon’s podcast denunciations were based only upon seeing a single, short-trailer to the series, not on the series itself, which he claimed, and as far as I l now still claims, to have never seen.

This said, is he right: Does FX/Disney/Danny Boyle’s telling of the Sex Pistols’ story really trash their legend? Is it any good?

The two things are of course not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Firstly, I have to say that the best acting performance of Pistol comes from Anson Boon as Lydon. He has him down to a tee, the strange mix of cockiness and insecurity, the manic stare that always was an act of self-parody, and has merely become more so over the years. The would-be wordsmith who is at first reluctant to share his words with the world, the jerkiness of his movements both on and off stage, the man of principle who loves being in the Sex Pistols but not at any price, the boy/man who wishes to put two fingers up to the world, whilst actually quite liking people, and caring about them.

That’s the other point: not only is Boon’s portrayal of Lydon spot on, but Lydon, despite all of his expressed misgivings about the making of the series, actually comes across as by far the most likable character in it. The caring nature that he shows today when he talks about Nora’s dementia, and his reaching out to other sufferers and carers in the same position as the two of them, is already there, in the way he cares about and tries to look out for his mate John Ritchie, and his later agonising over how his own role in re-christening of him as ‘Sid Vicious’ and promotion of him to the status of Sex Pistol (essentially in order to even up the score as far as voting power in the band went) contributed to his early self-destruction, though as Jones says in the final episode, “Sid was always going to end up like that, whether he became a Sex Pistol or not.”

Of the others, Toby Wallace puts in a good performance as the roguish Steve Jones, a young man whose compulsive thieving and shagging were really a mask donned in order to hide the chronic lack of self-esteem caused by being raised by a brutish, hateful, domineering stepdad who had made it his mission in life to drill into the young Steve that he would never amount to anything, and a weak, often drunken mother. It’s not a greatly nuanced performance, but I did find myself rooting strongly for him as he set out to learn the rudiments of guitar in four days straight, helped only by handfuls of amphetamine pills and a determination to prove his stepdad was wrong.

His upbringing also contrasts nicely with that of drummer Paul Cook (played by Jacob Slater), the product of almost stereotypically nice working-class parents for whom nothing mattered more than their son’s happiness. They even allowed Paul to keep his drum kit in their bedroom, as this was the only room in the house that allowed him the space to properly practice, despite the obvious inconvenience to themselves.

The best-known actor in the series is probably Thomas Brodie-Sangster (you’ll know him when you see him) who plays the Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren. I’ll admit I’ve never been the world’s biggest fan of McLaren, nor have I ever really brought fully into his role as Situationist-Svengali of genius, feeling that this over-emphasis of his role, which of course is largely a creation of McLaren himself in the truly terrible Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle film, and is I think bought into to a regrettable degree by Julian Temple in his The Filth and the Fury movie, a documentary which should be, but isn’t quite definitive.

But there it is. You can’t ignore Malcolm, and Brodie-Sangster gives a decent performance in his portrayal of him. A little over the top and cartoonish perhaps, but that just about suits the subject matter. Talhula Riley as his King’s Rd Sex boutique sidekick Vivienne Westwood gives a much more measured performance, and it is often her, through a word here and a look there, who exposes Malcolm’s pretensions for what they are – pretensions stolen from others. I’d have liked to have seen more of Westwood, but I’ll return to that shortly.

Of the other roles, Louis Partridge does a good job as the talentless, doomed, sadomasochistic Vicious, as does Emma Appleton as the dark, satanic, equally doomed groupie Nancy Spungen, a woman for whom it seems no one but Sid had a good word, in life or death.

And then thee of course there is Glen Matlock (played by Christian Lees). Poor Glen Matlock, the butt of the band’s jokes for the crime of ‘liking the Beatles’ and being quite good at his instrument. It is of course a cliché that he was sacked because of his love of the Fab Four, and it’s a cliché that is here mentioned early and mentioned often. The truth is, Lydon wanted him out of the band because he saw him as a threat to his dominance through being the only band member who had a justifiable claim to being at least as responsible for their greatest songs as John was. As someone once said, after Glen was replaced by Sid, the band produced their best ever photographs. They looked great. But there were no more songs.’

Yes, the ‘liking the Beatles’ gag is laboured, but Matlock comes out of the series pretty well, which is of course another reason for Lydon to hate it.

And finally, as far as acting performances go, we come to the truly vital role of Chrissie Hynde….

‘What’s that,’ you say, ‘Chrissie Hynde, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders Chrissie Hynde: what’s she got to do with the price of glue?’

I knew Chrissie had been a face on the scene at this time, as the girlfriend of legendary ‘rockist’ to use a word then current, New Musical Express, NME, ‘or ‘Enemee’ as Lydon liked to pronounce it, journalist Nick Kent. I also knew that Chrissie, an American resident in the UK, herself contributed occasional articles herself to the British music press. I also believe I was aware of the fact that she had an affair with Steve Jones, and was, briefly, a musical collaborator with Steve’s near-namesake, Mick Jones, soon to become a key member of the Clash (then trading under the name of the London SS). I also may have just about been aware that she quite fancied the gig herself as the replacement for Matlock once the decision was made to sack him. Maybe. But was I aware that her presence and sheer ubiquitous-ness within the Pistols circle made it likely that she would have at least as much screen time as the members of the Pistols themselves, probably more so in the case of Cook, in five out of the six episodes of a far-off futurist dramatisation of their story?

No, I was not aware of this, any more than anyone else was, including probably Chrissie, because I strongly suspect it isn’t true. What I do strongly suspect is that her role was beefed up in order to fulfil the apparently mandatory need for a Strong Woman character in every television drama series now made.

 If that was indeed the criteria, then actress Sydney Chandler does a good job of meeting it, being most definitely strong, and even more definitely a woman, as revealed in the more than ample sex scenes with (Seve) Jones.

But I believe that this now apparently mandatory role could have been played much better, and more truthfully, Vivienne Westwood.

Another possibility would have been to increase the screen time of punk tend-setter and fashion icon Jordan, a woman who sadly died soon before the series went to air, and at least got an episode dedicated to her.

Or what about a little more of the action for Siouxsie Siox (we do see her reciting The Lord’s Prayer, with Sid Vicious on drums, in what is generally regarded as the debut performance by the Banshees), or the girls who were soon to become The Slits, including Ari Up, daughter of the soon to become Mrs Nora Lydon?

In other words, what about showing that there were women on the scene who had a genuinely important part to play in the Birth of Punk?

Anyway, just a thought, and for those who are wondering, Chrissie also made a brief appearance in episode six too, singing a version of Brass in Pocket, almost certainly long before it was written.

Some of the above leads me to another major criticism of the series. Punk is shown as a movement of philosophical and fashion aesthetics and attitude, essentially led by McLaren, Westwood, Jamie Reed (the man behind the graphics, including the ‘Bollocks’ cover), and to some extent the band themselves, in particular Lydon. But apart from that brief snapshot of the nascent Banshees, we don’t see it as part of a wider musical movement that included The Clash, the Damned, The Slits, the highly underrated X-ray Spex, and bands that were never punks but who got their great break through the opportunities that punk provided, bands like The Jam, The Stranglers, and I suppose The Police and The Pretenders too.

So, the series lacks depth in that regard. If you want depth, I’d suggest reading Jon Savages’ excellent England’s Dreaming book, or investigating the wonderful, regionalised Messethetic collections of great bands that would never otherwise be heard, bands like The Digital Dinosaurs, Crispy Ambulance (best name for a band ever), The Homosexuals, and The Performing Ferrets Hyped to Death’s front door

Somehow, although it undoubtedly lacked depth, Pistol also managed at times to seem stretched. The main case in point here is Episode Four, Bodies. This episode is essentially an attempt to dramatise the rationale behind the macabre lyrics of the song Bodies off ‘Bollocks.’ It is apparently true that the lyrics were based on a real story, that there really was a severely mentally damaged woman called Pauline who was known to the band, and who really did carry around an aborted Foetus in her handbag for a time. But did this relatively minor Pistols track really need a whole episode in order to justify it? I’m also unsure of whether or not Pauline really was a black woman, or was this another attempt to insert another element of unnecessary diversity?

Just on that subject, we do get flashes of the undoubtedly real sense of camaraderie that existed between the punks and Ganga-smoking, reggae-listening Rastafarians. Lydon, in particular, was of course a big fan of Reggae music, a fact that showed through in parts of ‘Bollocks’, and much more so on the first two, arguably first three, excellent Public Image Limited albums.

And there was some nice attention to detail here. Lydon had a Captain Beefheart poster on his wall because that signified his real taste in music. Maybe he did listen to Iggy and the Stooges and the MC5, but he also listened to Beefheart, Peter Hamill/Van Graff Generator, Can, Faust, and the rest of the Krautrock/Musice Cosmiche oeuvre. That’s why those PIL albums sound like they do. It has been said that early PIL is essentially how the Pistols would have sounded had Lydon had his way. McLaren of course preferred a Punk Bay City Rollers, though he didn’t quite get that either.

So, that’s about it really. It’s certainly not a boring series. It has weaknesses, some of which I have highlighted. But it didn’t trash the Pistols’ legacy, and no, it didn’t leave me feeling I’d been cheated….

I have to say that I enjoyed it more the second time around too. First time, for me, there was a bit too much confusion as to who was meant to be who. For instance, I thought Jordan was Siousie Sioux first time around. I also thought initially that Pauline in the Bodies episode was Pauline Black, soon to be of the Selector, and that two random schoolgirl Pistols’ fans determined to follow the band from far away oop North, actually were two members of the soon-to-be Slits. Once these misunderstandings were overcome, it was simply easier to watch.

There was a nice vignette too from Mathew Cottle as the great newsreader Reggie Bosanquet (a man forever known to me as the man who broke the news of Elvis’ death), unapologetically buying ladies’ underwear for himself in the Sex boutique, then slipping the staff a wink at the end of New at Ten in order to let them know he was at that moment wearing his latest purchase under his regulation Newsreader attire.

One last point about the music. The actors performed the music themselves, and aside from James Slater who played Cook, who had previously fronted a band but had never played drums, none of them had any previous musical experience at all. With that in mind, they did a good job and made me forget that I wasn’t listening to the Pistols themselves.

THE highlight of the series was for the recreation, and recreation is the right word here, of the Pistols’ (in)famous Bill Grundy television series appearance. This was very well done indeed, and showed, through sticking almost word for word and frame by frame to what actually transpired, showed conclusively that it was Grundy (played by Steven Pemberton), a drunk, a local television presenter who will only ever be remembered for this moment, who very clearly and very deliberately goaded the young, naïve Pistols and their entourage into using ‘rude’ words. Lydon’s later comment that the accolade for being the first person to use the ’F’ word on British television belonged not to either he or Steve Jones, but to Irish Poet Brendan Beehan, gave Lydon another opportunity to show his literary, knowledgeable side.

I also very much enjoyed the excitement the Pistols showed, like any other young band in any genre, in crowding around a transistor radio in order to experience God Save the Queen’s inexorable rise to become the number one single that never was. The joy the band exhibited in showing the completed single of GDTQ to their families (apart from Jones’ joyless family) made me think perhaps of the Beatles probably handing around a copy of Love Me Do in a similar fashion a decade and a half earlier.

Glen might or might not have been sacked for liking the Beatles but in reality, the two bands were essentially in the same game. Yes, the Pistols may have helped rid the world of fifteen-minute guitar solos (and the Jones character got that particular cliche out the way within five minutes of the opening of episode one), but it was only temporarily, and didn’t we all, in the end, decide that there was room on this Earth for both the Sex Pistols and Rik Wakeman?

As Billy Joel would one day point out, “It’s still Rock ‘n’ Roll to me”

Anthony C Green, July 2nd, 2022.

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Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats

Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000jjr5

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The Boomtown Rats in Ireland

Citizens of Boomtown: The Story of the Boomtown Rats has its faults but is hugely entertaining and informative. Director Billy McGrath records and analyses both the band’s history and its music. He highlights key (sometimes iconic) footage documenting its huge success and subsequent fall from popularity. Guests include Bono, Sinead O’Connor, Dave Stewart, Jools Holland, David Mallet and Sting, as well as music writers, photographers, and historians all give their views on the history and social impact of the Rats.

I should declare my interest. I am a Boomtown Rats fan. I loved ‘A Tonic for the Troops’ when I first heard it. I loved the mix of punk rebellion with people who could actually play instruments and carry a tune. I loved the relative complexity of the lyrics.

The Boomtown Rats originated in Ireland. An Ireland that was economically grim and socially frozen. Ireland was dominated by the allied Church and State and to many young people was depressing and corrupt. All many wanted to do was escape. That was certainly true of the members of the Boomtown Rats. Added to that sense of alienation or estrangement was there disrupted family backgrounds. All in all a mix for anti-authority, questioning and rebellious positions. And that’s exactly what you got.

For me, the relationship between their Irish roots and the state of that nation was one of the most fascinating aspects of the documentary. The lyric of Banana Republic written in response to the band being banned from performing in the Republic is uncompromising. Take the chorus:
“Banana Republic
Septic Isle
Suffer in the Screaming sea
It sounds like dying
Everywhere I go
Everywhere I see
The black and blue uniforms
Police and priests”

The Irish establishment took a dim view of this song and Geldof’s earlier “denunciation of nationalism, medieval-minded clerics and corrupt politicians” in a 1977 interview/performance on Ireland’s The Late Late Show. The Irish Times described the band as “a thorn shoved into the skin of church and state”.(1)

Yet the Rats were also one of Ireland’s most successful exports for a time opening up opportunities that other Irish bands followed. And Geldof never abandoned Ireland itself whilst maintaining his criticism of the system there.

There are many ‘might have been questions’ raised by the documentary. The Rats were ahead of their time in terms of producing music videos but there was no dedicated music video channel at the time. Had there been maybe they would have broken through in the United States. If Geldof had been less abrasive and understood America and Americans better perhaps they would have done better there. As the Irish Times put it: “Geldof, for whom keeping his mouth shut did not come naturally, went out of his way to alienate US audiences by deriding the sainted Bruce Springsteen.” (2)

You can mark the end of the band at different points but I would place it when they failed to breakthrough in the United States. It didn’t help that the anthemic I Don’t Like Mondays was blocked by legal threats from being produced as a single there.

Bob Geldof kept busy. He starred in Pink Floyd the Wall (released in 1982) cast as the mentally deranged Fascist leader Pink. He brought his energy to organise the massive 1985 Live Aid charity concerts and the Xmas hit Do they know it’s Christmas? and many associated efforts for famine relief in Africa.

The Rats reunited as a part-time touring act in 2013 and in 2020, 36 years after their last release. They also produced a seventh album, Citizens of Boomtown (after which the documentary is named). Although keyboardist Johnny Fingers and early-era guitarist Gerry Cott are both absent, the Rats of 2020 — Geldof, guitarist Garry Roberts, bassist Pete Briquette, and drummer Simon Crowe – are all original members. The album received mixed reviews but the live gigs were said to be filled with energy and passion by those who attended.

In both the documentary and in an interview with Rolling Stone Geldof insists that the band’s older songs aren’t nostalgia but are relevant today:

““When I sing ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ I’m not in 1979,” he says. “I’m in last night’s school massacre, which nobody anticipated at the time. When I’m doing ‘Rat Trap,’ it’s not for the hopelessness of the people in that abattoir I wrote it in, but hopelessness now. When I do ‘Banana Republic’ it’s not for the Irish Republic, which eventually grew up and matured. It’s for the American republic as it descends ever further into political infantilism.”

“When I do ‘Lookin’ After No. 1′ it’s not about the conditions of life in 1979,” he continues. “It’s about Google and Facebook and [Mark] Zuckerberg always on, always monitoring, collating every thought you have, every friend, every choice, packaging and selling it to a third party who in turn exploits you and your preferences. It’s utterly now. That rage, that animus propels the Boomtown Rats.” (3)

I can’t hope to cover all the informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining aspects of this documentary. It is so full. Though there are still aspects missed such as Geldof’s support for Father’s Rights and his opposition to Brexit.

I said at the start that it had flaws. There is a very contrived ‘interview’ with Bob Geldof at the beginning which I think is meant to be funny but isn’t. I didn’t make much of the rather ‘art-schooly’ of the band walking through a tunnel behind a figure wearing a gas mask and pulling a board laden with rocks. Each to their own though! It is also a little self-congratulatory but given the band, and particularly ‘Saint Bob’s’ contribution to humanitarian relief and social progress maybe we can forgive them that!

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

(1) https://www.irishtimes.com/…/the-boomtown-rats-citizens-of-…
(2) https://www.irishtimes.com/…/citizens-of-boomtown-bob-geldo…
(3) https://www.rollingstone.com/…/bob-geldof-interview-boomto…/

Picture credit: By Author unknown; Photo courtesy Orange County Archives – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ocarchives/5486877395/, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14267259

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Dr JOHN COOPER CLARKE

CQAF Festival Marquee, Customs House Square, Belfast. May 3rd 2016

As he gets older, the Bard of Salford looks more and more cadaverous. John Cooper Clarke’s wry observation, “As you can see, I’ve been piling on the pounds” won one of the biggest laughs of the evening. Most folk I know have never heard of him, so I wasJohn Cooper Clarke pleasantly surprised to see the venue packed almost to capacity.

The huge audience in the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival Marquee had already been warmed up by another Mancunian poet, Mike Garry, who entertained them with a mixture of shrewd observational comedy and heartbreaking pathos. The most memorable item was Pay as you Go, a poem about a young girl who had been inveigled by a conniving boyfriend into ‘sexting’ him intimate pictures of herself. He then betrayed her trust by posting them on line. It was powerful stuff.

With a non-stop rapid-fire line of patter, John Cooper Clarke launched into a series of old favourites; Beasley Street and its gentrified update, Beasley Boulevard; Twat, ending with the full and unexpurgated version of Evidently Chickentown, made famous in an episode of the Sopranos (albeit in a toned down form).

Due acknowledgment was given to the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams TD, who a couple of days earlier had tweeted his appreciation of the Tarantino movie Django Unchained, by describing himself as a ‘Ballymurphy Nigger’. This storm of universal disapproval and outrage – some of it may even have been genuine – that broke over him was still fresh in everyone’s mind. To the delight of the audience, Cooper Clarke dedicated his upbeat rendition of Some Cunt Used the N-Word in the Sinn Féin president’s honour.

Cooper Clarke is rude, irreverent, iconoclastic and at times profane. He manages to be all this and also very, very funny – even when you can see a mile off where he’s going or what he’s going to say.

The Bard of Salford is touring throughout the UK and Ireland during the month of June. If he comes to your town, go and see this show.

**** Four stars.

David Kerr

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CD Review: Made in Oakland

troublemakerfile004Trouble Maker

“Trouble Maker have been knocking East Bay punks flat with their aggressive hardcore punk sound and real-life lyrics. Think Fear, think Agnostic Front (pre-metal days), think that great local hardcore band you loved in 1986.”  -AlternativeTentacles-

www.makesometrouble.com

http://www.facebook.com/TroubleMakerOak

 

This is formidable hardcore brilliance.  The mix on this is great, the vocals are right up front and in your face, the drums are thundering and drive it down the highway like a GTO with all barrels blazing, the guitars sear right through the rest and into your soul.   Yes this CD is scorching.

The Made in Oakland CD is a collection of the band’s new material and includes songs from the 2009 unreleased Smash Hits with some material thrown in from 2003’s Fist Impression.  Currently, Trouble Maker are writing new material and they will be playing the Gilman in Berkley CA on October 18th with the English Dogs.

Trouble Maker were always one of my absolute favourite bands to tour and do live gigs with.  They always were intense, vociferous and great guys to boot, fun as hell.  Trouble Maker are one of the bands that to me, best represent the diversity that is West Coast hardcore.  Not a band to ever fall into the generic hardcore punk abyss, these guys are a Mack Truck barreling down the highway at full speed playing chicken in your headlights.

zpfile001Saturday Night – Saturday Night is a great fist pumping sing along with a hint of Oi.  Complain is full of crispy-crunchy goodness and surprise hooks as it burns rubber around the curves and lays out on the stretches, while I Don’t Care is tight and powerful.  Liquor Store is a sing-along drinking song perfect to start off your Friday night partay. And the hits keep coming on this one, Alcoholic is a rock powerhouse with great melody and Poser, well the intro into Poser reminds me of old 80s buttrock bands.  The beginning of this one takes me back to a time in Portland back in the early 80s, when we punks were hanging out at a rocker party, and typical little trouble maker that I was then, I walked up to the biggest poser in the place with his flowing golden locks. I grabbed and hacked off a handful of his God-like ‘Do’ thereby eliminating his Rock God spandex powers.  As we wandered out of the party a few minutes later, it broke out into an all-out bar room brawl with 2x4s… and that is what this song breaks into after the pretty intro.  Sheer Trouble Making Punk Rock madness.  Outstanding.

zpfile000Rough House – another heavyweight sing along ditty.  Jekyll & Hyde – Chunky goodness that is melodic as hell with excellent lyrics which is what Trouble Maker do best.  All Fed Up – This one reminds me a bit of early Minor Threat.  Outta Control – Tight and fast, again epic West Coast hard-core sound here.  Bad Attitude – This starts with a most excellent bass line and the vocals are riding a tight and winding curve holding on for dear life..  Then it drives straight into a wall of guitar hell that just takes you higher. Another one that you can’t help but sing along to.  This is one of my top favourites on this CD.  Sex with the Ex – another melodic ditty full of in your face hard-core.  Your Scene – More melodic brilliance from the lads, this one’s danceable for all your little Mohawk spike encrusted leather jacket poseurs..  I love the sentiments on this one and it perfectly describes my own complaints about the sad state that some punk has degenerated into.

Trouble Maker – Not one to finish on a light note, Trouble Maker is an impressive hard edged annihilating finale to this CD.  Get yours and play it. LOUD.

Reviewed by Rosdaughr

Track listing:

  1. No Regrets
    This is Oakland
    3. Saturday Night
    4. Never Quit
    5. Hit & Run
    6. Complain
    7. I Don’t Care
    8. Liquor Store
    9. Alcoholic
    10. Poser
    11. Rough House
    12. Jekyll & Hyde
    13. All Fed Up
    14. Outta Control
    15. Power Trip
    16. Dirty Cop
    17. Bad Attitude
    18. Sex with the Ex
    19. Cause for Alarm
    20. Your Scene
    21. Trouble Maker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Good Vibrations

Good Vibrations PosterAnyone in Belfast who plays in a band, appreciates music or even who buys records regularly will probably have come across Terri Hooley. Terri would admit that he is an unlikely businessman. He certainly can’t claim to be the most successful record shop owner in history, but then again, the Virgin Megastores, Zavvi, Tower Records and Our Price have passed into history and HMV is in deep trouble but Good Vibrations manages to hang on in there, despite it all.

The crazy thing is that Terri Hooley opened his shop in Belfast in the mid-seventies in the city’s most-bombed street above a dusty whole food shop run by the Guru Maharaj Ji’s Divine Light Mission. The city in the 1970s was a bleak place. Belfast city centre emptied at 6 o’clock of all but the brave or the foolhardy. The conflict – which Ulsterfolk euphemistically call ‘The Troubles’ – was at the height of its random tit-for-tat viciousness. People retreated in the evenings to the ghettos where they lived in search of some security. They socialised where they could; in local clubs, pubs, parish halls, Orange halls or illegal sheebeens. They rarely – if ever – met with people from ‘the other side’.

The novelist Glenn Patterson and Colin Carberry have conjured up a film script that really captures the nature of this anarchic mould -breaking larger-than-life character. Their script buzzes with dark Belfast humour and a soundtrack that brings everything to the mix from Hank Williams’ I Saw the Light, Phil Spector’s girl bands, through to Rudi’s Big Time and of course, the Undertones’ Teenage Kicks. The action was intercut with contemporary footage of background events. This gave an immediate reminder of the very real dangers stalking the city then. Many folk of a certain age would have been delighted to see one-time Scene-Around-Six news anchor Barry Cowan, (sadly no longer with us), on-screen again.

Terri’s mum was a devout Methodist and his dad was a revolutionary socialist. He never quite fitted in to Ulster’s divided society. In the Sixties, he protested against the Vietnam war and in favour of nuclear disarmament, but as the Troubles took hold many of his contemporaries forsook protesting for peace in favour of violence.

His first love was music, especially reggae, but he became enthused by the energy of the growing punk movement which drew young folk from both communities to the rundown Pound Club on the edge of the city centre to hear bands like Rudi and the Outcasts. This led him into launching a record label to introduce Rudi to a wider public. Other bands followed. The ‘big one’ was The Undertones from Derry whose single, Teenage Kicks went stratospheric after it was taken up by the influential Radio One presenter, John Peel.

Despite its bleak environment of bombs everywhere, soldiers on the streets, officious cops and random, casual violence, this is a real fun, feel good movie. Dormer’s Hooley often messes things up, not least his life and his relationship with his wife, Ruth. He’s more interested in the music than making money from it.

Some scenes will haunt the viewer for life. I was struck by the scene where Terri hears ‘that’ Undertones song for the first time and fell about laughing at a scene where a bemused British soldiers stops Hooley and the band in the van only to discover that they are both Protestants and Catholics from north, east and west Belfast. Terri had never asked them what they were.

Coming out at a time when old divisions threaten to open up again in Belfast, this movie reminds us that we can do better. In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king. Roll on the DVD release. One Love!

PS.  The DVD is now available,

By David Kerr

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Alabaster Suns – Alabaster Suns CD

Alabaster Suns – Alabaster Suns CD (Iron Pig Records)

alabaster suns coverALABASTER SUNS is the new band of London-based musicians Nathan Perrier and Kevin Williams, the former guitarist and drummer of Capricorns, along with new boy Anthony Dearlove on bass, and this self-titled mini-album on Iron Pig Records is their debut release.  I liked Capricorns well enough, especially their last album, River, Bear Your Bones (reviewed elsewhere on Judas Kiss), though the only time I saw them play live they were rather overshadowed by Lair of the Minotaur, who totally rocked.  The five tracks of this half-hour release, though, demonstrate some significant changes from the sludgy instrumental stoner rock of Capricorns, as well as some points of continuity.

The album’s seven-minute opener, Iron Gang, is a tangled snarl-up of awkward, angsty guitar surge and complex, technically accomplished drumming.  Kevin Williams belts out some raucous, shouted vocals over the top, and the band’s overall sound has a strong feel of late 80s and early 90s hardcore and noise-rock about it, bands such as Prong, Helmet, Helios Creed, Nomeansno, Lard, Tar, or even the more musically adventurous work of late-era Black Flag and Hüsker Dü.  The length, musicianship and progressive flourishes of Alabaster Suns songs prevent this from being considered out-and-out hardcore, but the influence can definitely be felt, and of course Nathan Perrier used to drum for Conflict before joining Capricorns, so this hardcore punk lineage isn’t too hard to trace.

Alabaster Suns leave plenty of space for time changes, breakdowns and melodic hooks amidst all the riff-rage, though, and whilst Iron Gang and Royal 6 In Hand pack the wide-bore ammo, the relatively short title track Alabaster Suns stands out from the pack as a gentle, introspective instrumental piece, dominated by a bright, clean guitar tone, which could easily have been recorded by Capricorns, or indeed the latter-day, Bees Made Honey-era, incarnation of Earth.  The brevity and tightness of the release keep the attention from wandering, as it was sometimes wont to do amongst the instrumental longeurs of Capricorns jams, and all in all, Alabaster Suns is an accomplished and auspicious beginning to life after Capricorns.

www.myspace.com/alabastersuns

 

www.iron-pig.com

 

http://iron-pig.blogspot.com/

 

 

Reviewed by Simon Collins.  Reprinted with acknowledgements to Judas Kiss web-zine.

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Shudder to Think – Pony Express Record

Shudder to Think – Pony Express Record 


Released: September 13, 1994
Genre: Post-Hardcore/Experimental Rock/Indie Rock
Label: Epic

Shudder to Think

Click on image to buy

Number Of Tracks: 13

PONY EXPRESS RECORD is a 1994 album by the Washington, D.C.-based post-hardcore group Shudder to Think.

Sound: Shudder to Think are a post-hardcore band who emerged from the DC hardcore scene in the mid-1980s and were one of the two bands (other being Jawbox) to famously leave Dischord Records for a major label.  Although taking their influence from hardcore punk and alternative rock their music has a pop twist which is quite evident on their major label debut Pony Express Record.

However despite having a clean poppy sound the album is not what could be described as “easy listening”.  The songs on the album jump around abruptly which on your first listen and subsequent listens can take you by total surprise as the song goes in a total different direction than it was going originally.  This is thanks to the number of different time signatures utilised notably in track 5, Earthquakes come Home. 

Another thing to mention is that although being a well produced and a tight sounding record there is a lot of use of dissonance/dissonant chords in the songs and twisted melodies which is what sells the record for me.  It approaches the pop sound from a total different direction which sounds abrasive to the ear but doesn’t put you off. Overall I would give it a 9/10 for sound.

Lyrics and Singing: One of the first things than struck me about this record was the lyrics and the singer’s vocal ability.  Craig Wedren the bands guitarist/vocalist is a phenomenal singer.  I would compare him to the style of Jeff Buckley who in fact did some work with the band for the film First Love, Last Rites.  However the comparison to Buckley is not totally fitting.  In some of the songs Wedren’s singing can become quite intense where he starts almost shouting.  The lyrics are quite intriguing, thought provoking and even clever and funny in places.  From the slightly morbid lyrics in the opening track Hit Liquor“Case of her bones are softer than loose meat” to the funny/weird lyrics in Gang of $ “One honey donut and your lips are stuck to the seat” and his later wailing of “the ghost of my mom is in the telephone”.  The topics and lyrics vary greatly throughout the record my personal favourites being from X-French T-Shirt – “I saw you screaming at the top floor, big window crash, I’m deaf” and Kissi Penny’s“Who’s in distress? Some damsel with a canceled subscription to an ambulance”.  Overall the lyrics and vocals are fantastic. 10/10

Impression: If I was to put it generally, I would say that Shudder to Think sounds like a more abrasive Jeff Buckley.  There aren’t really many bands out there like them.  Maybe Jawbox or Fugazi to an extent, but they lack the poppy/clean sound that Shudder to Think provide.  To me this is a perfect record and I would even go as far to say this is one of the best albums of the 90s.  I would put it up there with Pearl Jam’s Ten, Soundgarden’s Superunknown and many other albums.  I would urge people to go out and buy this exceptional album you will not regret it!
Overall 9.7/10.

 

Reviewed by Joshua Chisim

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Phantom Ratio: We’ve been to Hell …. So you don’t have to!

Phantom Ratio Review

We’ve been to Hell …. So you don’t have to!

From the PR guys, particularly Brad:

“We have travelled space and time with our well known, but very top secret, invention. Becoming, a tactically versatile and highly competent, scientific awareness unit. We know how to operate our equipment just about as well as we need to. I personally am far more satisfied, but ironically far less monetarily rewarded with phantom ratio than anything I’ve ever done musically… A progression from misery, to the evolution of life, all life.. and, ourselves, sacrifices must be made.”

Industrial post punk trio, Phantom Ratio, formed in the not so distant past, and they have been kickin ass and taking names ever since.

Meet the Band: (click on this to see them live on youtube)

Eric Stene is a long-time veteran of the San Diego music scene.  He has played in countless bands from 1984 to the present.  Prior to Phantom Ratio, he is best known for being the guitarist/noisemaker for the seminal San Diego band Night Soil Man, where he played alongside Mark Trombino and Mike Kennedy, who would go on to become the rhythm section of emo lords Drive Like Jehu.

Jimi Flynn is the stick man for PR.  He played with ministry of truth in 1984 and 85, a band with a so-cal punk sound. He then played in Eminence from 1986 to 1989.  Eminence moved more into the speed metal genre. Both bands were based in San Diego. 

Jimi has always been a music enthusiast in all of its forms and genres.  For personal reasons, he put playing on the back burner.  After getting clear and clean, he’s picked up his sticks again. Jimi said recently he feels as though he is playing better than ever and is more comfortable in his own skin(s)…

Brad Davidson, I knew back when I was a teenage punkette running rampant in Portland.  Brad gained much local respect when he was recruited as the bassist for Portland favourites, the Wipers.  Those of us who were on the younger end of the punk scene then, were quite proud that he got that gig, as the Wipers are near and dear to many a heart in the Northwest.  Following much recording and several tours with the Wipers, Brad started a 3-piece Metal punk combo, called “Klaw.” In this band he began writing.  He also was learning to sing and play bass simultaneously.

In 92, he was drafted into the Jesus and Mary Chain, while living in London.  Brad is an old road dawg, who could do 28 shows in 30 days.. with the JAMC he went on to do the 92 Lollapalooza tour, the Rollercoaster II tour, and the Jools Holland show with Paul Weller taping that night. His contract was cut short due to his party like a mutherfucker attitude…a true Rocking Roller..

Brad ended up back in the US of A.  He met Jimi Flynn and Eric Stene after moving down to San Diego.

Brad was lured by Eric’s guitar, where in parts he sounded like Helios Creed/ Chrome, one of his and Eric’s main influences. Brad says he was encouraged by the way they “jelled together and seemed to have an almost telepathic complimentary connection.”

The band soon after made their 1st recording with a friend, Theo Miserlis,  who engineered the mechanical section of that session.  The plan now is to release a second recording which was completed last summer.  It is said not to be for the faint of heart.

The CD, recorded in 2010 at Chaos Recorders in Escondido, features:  ( hear their songs here…)

§  Secret Invention

§  Skrew your face up

§  God Told Me

§  Gravity

§  Path of Least Resistance

§  The Growth

Phantom Ratio on MySpace

You can contact them here for gigs, tours and assorted craziness: phantomratio@gmail.com

Adam Marx of New Rock News 43, describes these guys like this,

“These guys are as classic punk/sludge-rock as you can get, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they’re the brainchild of a former Wiper and friends. It’s almost as if the Wipers and Melvins got together and had a child: a sick, twisted, demented monster of a kid that loved to play loud, fast, and hard.”

Secret Invention,  Blimey, heavy post punk slashing melodic badness!  The vocal and bass combo are guttural and grungy. The guitar’s heavy rock riffs drive this like a Camaro at high speeds over a cliff..  These guys were made for each other, and they are smoking. The birth of the next generational scrungy post punk metal madness.

Screw Your Face Up Pulsing heavy dementia with razin vocals that despoil and lay waste to your last shred of innocence.. Hammering drums drive this one right through your soul.

Gravity this one kicks off like classic Iggy then melts into a Helios inspired post punk collision.  The guitar riffs on this one run up and down your spine, then smash you upside the head before laying back into that lashing garage rock goodness that we all loved from Iggy.. and I loves me some Iggy… I have to say I am seldom impressed with what passes as new and popular rock these days.. but these boys have found grandpa’s secret recipe…

The diamond in the rough, in this pile of gems, is God Told Me To.  This has everything an old jaded punk diva requires!  Full throttle is putting it mildly.. this tune smokes from start to finish leaving you gasping for more. Davidson’s animal magnetism and pure crunchy guitar rock-god brilliance on this one. Thanks for that, guys!

News:

News on the street is there is a Greek label threatening to release their recordings, and there is supposed to be an interview with Dimitris Antonopulos (a major rock Dj in ATHENS) which aired a couple of weeks ago.

Adam Marx of newrocknews43, located in Massachusetts has done a recent review of the boys here:  He was so impressed, he is talking about putting some sort of tours together and is busy recruiting these guys.

In the works: recording a song for the upcoming Helios Creed tribute album, requested by Helios’ Manager,  as these guys have said in passing that they  are Helios fans. Did I mention HUGE Helios fans?  And writing new material which is even more sophisticated for your weird palates.

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Music: Pick Yer Poison

Click on image to buy CD

Pick Yer Poison is a split CD featuring two bands, Rum Rebellion and Hammered Grunts.

 

 

 

 

 

Rum Rebellion

Rum Rebellion

Rum Rebellion emerged from Portland, Oregon as an acoustic group in 2005. Their bio describes them as a, “a salty mix of Irish tunes, sea chanteys, oi!, and street punk. A union of maritime instrumentation with street punk energy, folk punk and Irish rock bands.” They are one of the better new bands coming out of the West coast scene, and I am seldom easily impressed.

Rum Rebellion are an interesting and hard hitting mix in a similar vein as the Pogues, Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys, in my opinion, they do it better…

They soon added bass and drums and began playing live in January of 2006. They released “Cruisin’ For A Boozin’”, the band’s first full-length album in November ’06. This release was well received and they began playing around the US, mainly West coast.

The CD, I am listening to was a recently released split CD with their mates, Hammered Grunts, called “Pick Yer Poison”. Released on Bostons’, Rodent Popsicle label and distributed by Pyrate Punx Records from Oakland. Recorded at Opal Studios, and engineered and mastered by Kevin Hahn.

Current Line up

Dave Noyes - Acoustic Guitar, Lead Vox
Tyler Miles - Tin-Whistle, Backup Vox
Sage Howard - Bass, Backup Vox
Greg Smasher - Electric Guitar, Backup Vox
Jason Robbins - Drums

A Little Bit of History:

These guys are named for the historical Rum Rebellion of 1808. William Bligh, the Governor of New South Wales made an attempt to normalise trade conditions by prohibiting the use of Rum as payment for commodities. This was an attempt to squash the power of the rum merchants and the NSW Corps who both had stakes in the trade. Bligh’s interference led to a military rebellion in January of 1808. Bligh was eventually arrested by the mutineers, namely George Johnston of the NSW Corps, held for over a year then sent packing off to England.

I seriously can’t say enough about these guys, they are one of my favourite newer bands. I have listened to a lot of punk rock over the years and I am not easily impressed with many newer bands, who seem to me to be mainly generic hard-core and tributes to bands from the early 80s. There are few bands who have come along in the late 90s and after 2000 who I felt were original or really had that genuine quality about them. Rum Rebellion is one of them. Pick Yer Poison is well worth the few quid you will put down on it.
It includes:-

1: Burn It Down
2: Stand Up
3: Drink With The Devil
4: Off To Limerick
5: Gotta Go
6: On Call
Burn it to the ground: what can I say? A snappy little sing-along song of destruction.
Drink with the Devil: My favourite song by far on the CD, This is an driving ditty that gets you up on your feet for a bit of a mosh and a bit of a jig… these guys are really tight and the traditional folk element of flutes and fiddle really add to the composition, bringing a warm touch to their rousing drinking tunes.
Gotta Go: Another traditional melody to get you up on your feet and downing those pints before you head out for some live music! Catchy this one, if you are not careful it will sneak up on you and you will find yourself humming it to yourself as you head out about your day.

Off to Limerick: Nothing soft about these guys, they are straight ahead swashbuckling swaggering punk rock. Much more of an Oi! feel to this one with the sing along choruses and the straight punk beat, but there is a surprise halfway through the song with a lush solo of drums and more traditional acoustics, before they kick back into the good ole punky oi! boys sound.
On Call: Another traditional folk feel to this one, until they hit the top of that intro and it gets quite heavy with some amazing drum work. Damn these guys kick ass! I can’t think of too many young bands on the West coast who can really match these guys in many ways. Funny mix on this one of folk and an old school punk melody that just works.

Further info on Rum Rebellion at:

youtube video

Merch

 

Hammered Grunts

Hammered Grunts

Genre: street thrash
Members:
VOX Thaddeus Hammered
Bass Germey Grunt
Drums Bro-dog
Guitar Dooger
Record label: Rodent Popsicle/Underdog Records
Current Location Portland OR
Press contact thompsonthad@yahoo.com

Background:
Hammered Grunts were established 2004 to the dismay of neighbours and music snobs alike. Hammered Grunts have been compared to bands such as Blood Clots and Carrier Soldiers, however I am not familiar with these bands, so I cannot comment on that comparison. The group consists of four friends dedicated to being involved and making music in the local Vancouver and Portland punk rock scene. After releasing their self-titled 15 song street punk album, the band delivered a very successful 5 state 23 shows tour in August of 2008.

Next the Hammered Grunts recorded a split EP with Hometown Hero’s “Rum Rebellion” and will displayed another 6 song onslaught of energy & angst. “Hammered Grunts” also went on a summer 2009 tour to support the record. This is the CD I have been listening to.

What I can say is the recorded material from these guys is fast, tight, melodic hard-core. I do not like much of the more generic young hard-core that have come along since the late 80s, however these guys are tight and have a bit of a metal edge, and are worth checking out. Listen to them at Reverbnation.
I was perusing through the net to find some band pics of these guys and saw someone make this comparison of them, “Hammered Grunts’ Music sounds like a cross between Metallica (Creeping Death) Slayer and Suicidal Tendencies”. Their singer’s a fucking speed-vox maniac while the guitar bass duo are a mosh pit of brilliant madness.
Self-Destruct This is probably the song I like best of theirs on the CD. It’s the type of song I would love to sing as a speedcore/hardcore vocalist.. with some excellent timing and stops in it. Stand up is another brilliant song – pure in your face punk rock, not for the pusillanimous.
Ok the drummer in this band kicks ass too… where the hell were these drummers when we were looking for one?? And lo and behold I hear an Irish tin whistle in there with all this hard-corey goodness! Thrashingly excellent.
And speaking of Thrash, since 2010, the Grunts have taken big steps towards playing and producing more of a thrash feel with their music. Hammered Grunts, I believe, have released their next album “Hostile Takeover” which is meant to include 12 tracks of a much more brutal sound. If they want to send me this new one as well, I would definitely review it. I can say these guys grow on you.. and they appear to be getting better with the new recordings! Check out Hostile Takeover with a video and song links here

You can find them on MySpace and Facebook.

Review by Rosdaughr

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NEW MUSIC: Black Tartan Clan and Anglo-Saxon

Over the past month I have come across two albums by hitherto unknown bands: Anglo-Saxon and the Black Tartan Clan. One of the beauties of the internet is the ease with which unsigned bands are now able to showcase their work on websites like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube for anyone in the world to find.

The Black Tartan Clan take the ‘bagrock’ of the popular Red Hot Chilli Pipers a step further with their ‘Celtic Punk’ sound, a hard-edged foot-stomping fusion of pipes, drums bass guitar and pulsating punk rhythms.
Sounds terrific, you might think, so whereabouts in Scotland do these lads hail from? That’s the odd thing. The band was formed in 2008 in Belgium of all places! Despite this, they sing in English and have managed to gather a popular following in Scotland itself where they have played a few gigs in places as far apart as Kirkwall and Dumfries.
The Black Tartan Clan has followed its last album Boots, Kilts’n’Pipes with a superb 20-track double CD, The Loyal Men. On this album you’ll find the band’s take on such bagpipe standards as Highland Cathedral, The Hills of Argyll and Amazing Grace sitting along their own original songs and covers of some old punk hits from the days of my youth. Their version of Sham 69’s If the Kids are United will have you wanting to get up and dance till you drop.
Check out the band on MySpace where you can listen to a few sample tracks. They even have a couple of videos up on YouTube. Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Band it ain’t but it is a lot of fun!

By contrast, Anglo-Saxon isn’t having quite so much fun. The band’s recent album Endangered Species brings together rock’n’roll, folk and metal styles to decry the state of modern England and make a passionate stand for what is right. Lead singer Gary Marsden had the unnerving experience of having his house raided by police because of a complaint made about one of the songs which, for good measure, is offered in both a live mix version and an unaccompanied acoustic versionon this album. This song criticised the 7/7 bombers and the attitudes that spawned them in the lyrics,
They took the passport and the Pound
but then they bombed the Underground
but they’ll never destroy the land of hope and glory

Two other songs, This is not a Crusade and Lest we Forget 7/7 explore similar themes. You might have thought that such sentiments are self-evidently true, and in the end no charges were bought against the songwriter. However, he has suffered for his art and for telling the truth as he saw it; he has lost his job and has had some difficulty getting another one.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. There’s some nifty guitar work in this album Look out for the original song This Thing Called Rock’n’Roll and a fine version of the traditional folksong, Scarborough Fair. As is the case with the Black Tartan Band, you can also access Anglo-Saxon on MySpace and YouTube. This album and individual tracks can be downloaded on iTunes or you can get a physical CD from the band’s website.

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