Joe Brown Puts You On It Again (2018)

Joe Brown is the O.G., the Original Guest contributor to our end-of-year blogs. It’s not just because the bassist of Bam Bam & the Calling & of the Gatefolds is my good friend he is also a man with impeccable musical taste. Joe & his lovely family have had a tough end to the year & it’s very kind of him to take the time

 

I will not forget 2018 for a long time, in fact I never will. I lost my father at the end of August & you just cant understand the impact that has until it comes your way. I didn’t understand…I do now. All I have to say here is that folk are fantastic. As a very big hitter, Joe Strummer, once said “Without people you are nothing”.

 

 

Image result for bodega bandMy first selection from the year’s best is from Brooklyn’s favourites, mine too, Bodega & their fantastic debut “Endless Scroll”. The record takes inspiration, without copying from Wire’s “Pink Flag”, a Post-Punk classic & a shoo-in for inclusion in my Best Albums Ever if we ever get round to doing that thing. The 5 members of Bodega have been around in other bands & this time they drew up 12 commandments to keep them on the right path. These include “no fluff”, “no vocal effects” & “no pizza-core”  (an ethos of playing rock music that’s like, ‘We’re drinking light beer, eating pizza, and we’re going to rock’ ”). With all that you know it’s going to be serious & it’s going to be original.

 

Sticking to this “route of honesty” the record is a collection of personal songs reflecting their life in Bushwick, Brooklyn. “Name Escape” nails the local bars & music scene where trying hard to be different and unique, everyone ends up looking the same. Produced by Austin Brown, off of the great Parquet Courts, Bodega’s short, sharp songs of gentrification, technology & city life is as good as 2018 got.

 

 

Courtney Barnett needs no introduction from me. Back in 2015, when I included her debut “Sometimes I Sit & Think Sometimes I Just Sit” in my “best of” selections, she probably did. That record gained the Australian a world-wide audience, even a Grammy nomination. Last year’s collaboration with Kurt Vile, “Lotta Sea Lice” was a fine pairing, a couple of friends jamming & finding some good songs. This year’s “Tell Me How You Really Feel” includes the song “Crippling Self-Doubt and a General Lack of Confidence”. There was a lot of expectation around this record & Courtney, always self-aware, knew it.

 

Image result for courtney barnett 2018Pop on its own and Grunge on its own doesn’t cut it much for me. Put em together and what have you got…bibbidi bobbidi boo! Courtney and her band tip their hats to bands like Nirvana & Pavement & still have enough spiky riffs of their own to keep it fresh. Her conversational lyrics are concerned with her new standing but she ain’t complaining, just concerned about doing it right & she does. On “Nameless Faceless” she recalls an internet troll’s taunt “I could eat a bowl of alphabet soup and spit out better words than you”. “But you didn’t” is the reply & she’s right. The album includes guest appearances by the Deal twins, Kim & Kelley, from the Breeders. They joined her onstage when I saw Courtney play live this year…a fantastic gig.

 

 

Image result for viagra boysLastly but not at all leastly  Viagra Boys exploded into my ears a few months ago, Their album “Street Worm” is probably my favorite of the year along with Idles “Joy as an Act of Resistance ( I’ve stepped aside on that one to a fellow Viagra Boy, there’s two of us you know). The six-piece, from Stockholm, Sweden, are up there with The Fall, Sleaford Mods, Moon Duo, y’know all the top acts. Vocally I hear a John Spencer/Bill Callahan crossover then there’s the sax appeal, I became instantly addicted. In a year we lost game changers Aretha, Pete and Mark E some come along and provide inspiration. Innovation is the key, Viagra Boys ooze it, we’re off to see them in the capital, Dublin, in 2019. I’m already counting the sleeps. In the meantime how about the brilliant & hilarious putdown of misdirected masculinity that is “Sports”. Until next year…Peace.

 

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Random Notes (September 2017)

OK, despite the efforts of two world leaders, men who both seem to be inadequately qualified for their jobs, Earth has made it to the end of September 2017. It’s been a month when my football team have remained undefeated, winning their last 3 games in fine style. At a time when, after 5 miserable seasons, we finally have a coach who has some idea of what he is doing & a team who at least appear to care what happens when Saturday comes. It would be just Aston Villa’s luck to have our mini-revival  abruptly ended by a bloody nuclear holocaust. Here’s some other good stuff from the past 4 weeks.

 

 

Image result for neil young 1976In July 1976 Neil Young sent a telegram to his co-star in the Stills-Young Band notifying Stephen that he would not be completing their tour in support of the “Long May You Run” LP. A 1974 stadium tour by their group, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, an avalanche of hype, drugs & ego had strained relationships to breaking point & now he was walking away from a musical partnership that had lasted a decade. Neil had shown the same cussed restlessness when solo LPs “After the Goldrush” & “Harvest” had been very successful in the singer-songwriter/Soft Rock troubadour boom of the early 1970s. His subsequent recordings, some of the most imaginative & challenging of his long & varied career, failed to reach that audience which hoped for more songs like “Heart of Gold” (you know that one). Always prolific, Neil could still do that stuff as well as anyone. On one night in August 1976 he took his acoustic guitar into a Malibu studio & recorded 10 new songs. It is only now that we finally get to hear the results of that night.

 

Listening to “Hitchhiker” is a delight. 8 of the 10 songs made it on to his records but this doesn’t sound like a bunch of demos & it’s not the nostalgia of hearing old songs. The lack of other instrumentation matched to Neil’s individual shaky delivery, high & human, sounds like an LP that was ready to go. I’m by no means a Neil Young obsessive & I know what I like. Albums like “Hawks & Doves” & “Greendale” still get a regular airing round here while others remain at the back of the stack. The high quality of some of his archival releases, the monumental Crazy Horse set at the Fillmore East in 1970 & this stoned snapshot of his mid-Seventies creativity are essential documents of one of US Rock’s great artists.

 

 

Image result for courtney barnett kurt vileWell, this will not wait. There’s a new Kurt & Courtney in town when on October 13th Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile release their LP “Lotta Sea Lice”. The 2 pre-release tracks, the shimmering “Over Everything” & the sweet “Continental Breakfast” confirm that the album will be one to listen out for. Aussie Courtney stormed it with her debut LP “Sometimes I Sit & Think & Sometimes I Just Sit”refreshingly honest & sharply amusing lyrics backed by punchy Indie Guitar Rock. “Sometimes…” deservedly found an audience & Courtney ended up with a nomination for Best New Artist at the 2016 Grammys. As much a shock to us that the best music should be acknowledged as I’m sure it was to her.

 

I don’t know much about Kurt Vile’s solo work or with his band The War On Drugs. If he’s good enough for Courtney, these 2 tracks display a natural compatibility, then he’s good enough for further investigation. So much music so little time. September can’t be done & dusted without marking the loss of  Walter Becker & Grant Hart, both so essential to the outstanding music made by their respective groups Steely Dan & Husker Du.

 

Image result for wolf mother movieObviously the movie of the month was “Wolf Mother”, writer/director Erik Peter Carlson’s first film since his ambitious 2014 indie epic “The Toy Soldiers” & another confident piece of film-making. The film is not at all helped by its trailer, Carlson has got it going on & capably pushes the limits of taste further than say Linklater or P T Anderson who have covered similar ground with bigger budgets. Look, I have recommended violent, twisted, amoral tales of low-life losers before & some people have not been too impressed with my choice. So “Wolf Mother”, you didn’t hear about it from me right !

 

 

Related imagePlaying over the opening credits of David Simon’s new TV series “The Deuce” is Curtis Mayfield’s incendiary “If There’s A Hell Below We’re All Going To Go”. Set on the mean streets around New York’s Times Square in the early 1970s these wise guys, superfly sporting men & their ladies will need more than a great Funk soundtrack to rival all those classic movies with a similar urban setting. Simon has hit the spot before, “The Wire” & “Generation Kill” remain particular favourites. His collaborator George Pelecanos is responsible for some of the best recent US crime fiction. I’ve only seen the pilot, James Franco (not a big favourite, too many Judd Apatow films) plays 2 brothers & the very lovely Maggie Gyllenhaal is er…very lovely. I saw enough of interest to ensure that I will be hanging around for the rest of the series (series 2 is already confirmed) & trusting that the 2 creators will introduce a wider social context for the excellent cast to hang their rather fetching street threads & “everything is everything” patter on.

Joe Brown Puts You Right (His Best of 2015)

Joe Brown, bass player of the Gatefolds, is the OG (Original Guest) contributor to loosehandlebars. We were friends from way back when, reconnected by the wonders of the electronic age.  This year I was able to take up an invitation for a Friday night round the Browns’ place & the time passed since we had last met meant nothing. When Joe talks about music & many other things it’s good to listen.
“Sometimes I Sit & Think, Sometimes I Just Sit” is a great title for a record & “Elevator Operator” a top notch opening track. Melbourne singer/songwriter/guitarist  Courtney Barnett took her time before releasing her fine debut LP. She’s spent time in a grunge band & made some psych-country (sounds good). Her own songs are sung with sweet vocals & contain sharp, smart lyrics . Musically  there’s a drive & focus that brings a fresh energy to punchy guitar rock. Check “Dead Fox” with its take on the Velvet’s “Rock & Roll” riff. Courtney Barnett, one to listen to & to watch out for.
(If the editor may interrupt, it has been a good year for the Melbourne music scene. Dick Diver’s LP “Melbourne Florida” has a post-punk feel that checks for some good bands & brings to mind the early Go-Betweens. “Waste the Alphabet” is a top track of 2015.)
Next up has to be Moon Duo & the ” Shadow of the Sun” LP. “Slow Down Low” was the feelgood hit of the summer, an anthem for some of us in Derry. What started as a Ripley Johnson side project is 5 albums along, has a real drummer & has got it going on. We got to see them earlier in the year at a psychedelic arts/music festival about 20 miles outta town, a great night where we teamed up with some friends from the past, Bernard Griffin and Mickey Rooney who was our driver for the night. He kindly volunteered & will remember more of the journey home than I will though hopefully not everything ! Now we have to see Wooden Shjips, the psych-drone mothershjip that Moon Duo call home.
  No apologies for selecting the Nottingham duo Sleaford Mods..the Marmitemen (seems you either love ’em or hate ’em). The voice of some of the people. There’s a place for Manic Expression. It’s not always on the High St, outside the charity shops, the betting shops & that place that used to be Woolworth’s. Like Mark E Smith & John Cooper Clarke before him Jason Williamson’s rants hit the nail on the head about some stuff that needs to be said. “Key Markets” is their 8th LP, the beats go on. Who knows what shelf life is in these lads. That bloke shouting as security escorts him from the Jobcentre makes some sense but if he’s there every time…A couple of years ago my friend Kevin  Magee promoted a Mods’ gig which was missed by Derry’s entire population minus eight. If there is to be a next time then I’ll be one of the Jolly Fuckers down the front.
Thanks Joe. There will be more to follow about the man & his music in my own highlights of the year. Personally I can’t wait.