Well the days fly by. You gotta get involved. When you are caught enjoying a moment of silence & solitude you’re regarded as an oddity for even considering such a waste of time. You know the Earth is rotating at over 1000 m.p.h. Life is quite fast enough for me thank you. It’s inevitable that I miss some of the good stuff. I’m a lucky guy because I have all round top Derry feller, bass player off of the Gatefolds, Joe Brown to gently nudge me towards great music that could otherwise have passed by unnoticed. Here at the loosehandlebars nerve centre we extend a corybantic (oh yes !) welcome to our guest selector & his choice of some of 2013’s finest. Tune in, turn on & drop everything. Take some time out to feed your ears & your head.
First up it is Chris Forsyth & the Solar Motel Band with one of the 4 tracks from the “Solar Motel” suite. Back of the net ! A brilliantly fluid psychedelic guitar adventure which takes it time & gives itself permission to stop & smell the flowers along the way. Forsyth has spent time with Richard Lloyd who’s guitar fraternity with Tom Verlaine made “Marquee Moon” one of the great LPs of our music. Television’s name will be dropped into anything you hear about “Solar Motel” but hold on there muskrat, it is, of course, not as straightforward as that.
Back in 1977 I thought that Television had been listening to the Grateful Dead but, y’know, the Punk Wars were still being fought. The idea that this new classic owed something to a band of hippies was never going to be popular. I kept quiet about the sinuous, sometimes telepathic confederation of Bob Weir & Jerry Garcia. Maybe the Dead are due a resurrection…Hey kids, here’s a tune called “Dark Star”. When you have picked the bones out of that there are 3 or 4 triple live LPs over there. Chris Forsyth has finished with them now.
The Villagers made a big impression on their recent visit to Derry. “(Awayland)” is the difficult 2nd LP. After the brooding one-man band of a debut the Villagers are now a group, with a fuller sound, drum machines, a sampler, 21st century stuff. “Classic Rock” just ain’t as classic as it used to be. The bloodless mediocrity of the likes of Coldplay or the Killers, that ersatz Mumfordian folk nonsense, gives the mainstream a very bad rep. We need confident, original, radio receptive music which looks forward & avoids the obvious. This could be that thing. It helps that Conor J O’Brien writes a more than decent song. It’s the Villagers, “The Bell”.
Now I’m going to butt in here & say that one of the delights of the year has been hearing & (thanks to Jim Cunningham) seeing Joe’s new band. Of course you do what you can to help spread the word about the music your friends make. It is nothing but a pleasure to shout loud about the Gatefolds because I know that I have the good stuff here. If you are near Derry & still solvent on the 4th of January then 2014 is off to a rocking start. This is one of my singles of the year
2013 has been a good year for good music. Brown’s Best includes Bill Callahan’s “Dream River”, the sound of an artist becoming consummate. I’m saving that one for myself. From his hometown there is the Wood Burning Savages & back in January he took a more than passing fancy to Yo La Tengo’s LP “Fade”. The Gatefolds are partial to the abracadabra of well honed psych drone so the final place on the podium is taken by San Francisco’s Wooden Shjips. Their video has nothing to do with the band but at just 5 minutes is creepier than the last 3 movies of M Night Shamalama put together.
Last year Joe put us on to Moon Duo, a side project for the Shjips’ guitarist Ripley Johnson. We get to hear him at his day job here on the title track from the new LP “Back To Land”. This stripped back music tips its hat at some pretty solid influences. There are plenty of bands aiming to get the feel of German rock but this lot know what is what. This time round there is an added injection of the groove which, I find, can never be a bad thing. There’s a bit of this driving motorik guitar music about. The Shjips only get the nod this year because of a disputed offside decision against Parquet Courts. Next year Joe & myself have our money on The Everlasting Yeah doing that thing they do & reclaiming the title belt for Derry city.
Well, that year went at over 1000 m.p.h. Give these tunes a shake & when your friends are impressed tell them that Joe Brown, the bass player off of the Gatefolds, put you on it. He does it for the love of the music not the glory but an acknowledgement would only be polite. OK, a week of 2013 left & a new year of listening starts. Anything could happen & probably will. Let’s hope so.