One More Time – James King and the Lonewolves live

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James King and the Lonewolves / Lola In Slacks / Roy Moller – The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh – Sunday 23rd November 2015

Mad November weekend concluded with the Edinburgh album launch at the Voodoo Rooms for the new James King and the Lonewolves album ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’.

Despite the hectic MPT schedule, the band’s first Edinburgh show in nearly 30 years certainly fell into the unmissable category particularly since I’m not able to get to the Oran Mor show tomorrow night (Thursday). Unfortunately fewer people than I’d have liked shared my view and turnout was well below what the band deserved.

Lack of numbers apart, Sunday’s show didn’t disappoint. It may have been the cleanest sounding show that I’ve heard them play since they reformed, but needless to say it wasn’t lacking in heft.

The clarity of the sound however highlighted the interplay between the three guitars as well as the importance of Nick Clark’s bass to the live sound.

For all that, it wasn’t perhaps quite as engrossing a show as last year’s brilliant Stereo set. They started impressively with ‘While I Can’, a new song and ‘Chance I Can’t Deny’. But somewhere along the line the intensity dropped a notch or two.

Looking again at the set list I’m not even sure when it happened but perhaps the lack of feedback from a stereotypically quiet Edinburgh audience had something to do with it. Certainly ‘Texas Lullaby’ lifted the show back to the heights of the early tunes and the peerless run of songs that followed took us home in style.

If a reverb heavy ‘Fun Patrol’ was the tune to get some of the audience dancing, it was the closing ‘A Step Away from Home’ which was the evening’s high point.

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The Lonewolves played:

1. While I Can  2. Without The Fools  3. Chance I Can’t Deny  4. So Alone  5. Over The Side  6. Live or Die  7. Pretty Blue Eyes  8. Fly Away  9. Bridgeton Summer  10. Texas Lullaby  11. Even Beatles Die   12. Fun Patrol  13. (Un)Happy Home  14. A Step Away From Home

After reviewing two of his LPs this year, MPT was pleased to catch Roy Moller’s opening set but a little gutted to miss the start due to running late.

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Clean is again the word that springs to mind for Roy’s acoustic guitar sound, but I did enjoy his mixture of originals and covers.

I enjoyed too the other support act, the six piece Lola In Slacks.

Singer Lou Reid (no, really) has a voice reminiscent of Marianne Faithful which suits perfectly the blues tinged backing.

Their six song set was something of a slow burner, serene but at the same time not lacking purpose. They really only ratcheted up the urgency towards the end of the set yet, slightly against my expectations, they managed to keep me interested throughout.

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Given that their demos on Soundcloud, particularly ‘False Lines’, sound great, I’ll be keeping an eye open for them in future.

Lost of photos from the show here.

The same line-up plays Oran Mor in Glasgow tomorrow evening (November 27th).

Friday Night Dance Band – Book Group live

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Book Group / Esperi – Duke’s Corner, Dundee – Friday 21st November 2014

Friday night’s Book Group show was probably the weirdest I’m likely to see them play.

Duke’s is a venue that I’ve hardly ever visited. In fact I’ve hardly ever been tempted to visit before because it’s not really a music venue as such but rather a social venue where the music is secondary.

Accordingly, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that Duke’s have booked bands that I’ve been interested in.

However, given that the room was the original Doghouse, it’s not a bad place to see live music – if you discount the clutter provided by tables either side of the main room, which bizarrely seem to be reservable. But when there’s enough folk there principally to see the band, such as at the Mirror Trap LP launch in April, it’s OK.

But when there’s only a small proportion of the audience there specifically to see the bands it becomes less attractive, not least because of the noise generated in the bar area.

Given the nature of the venue, it meant both acts soundchecked with plenty of folk in the bar. I suspect that your regular Duke’s audience is auto-programmed to applaud when there’s a gap in the music. But even assuming that is true when finishing his soundcheck Chris Marr of Esperi was actually given a rather hearty round of  applause by those in the bar who seconds earlier hadn’t appeared to be paying a jot of interest.

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Despite that encouragement, faced with a somewhat noisy audience, Chris’s decision to rely primarily on his loops rather than his gentler acoustic side looked a smart one.

It’s been some time since I saw him play but in that time he seems to have expanded his range of  unorthodox  instruments even further and now includes a small drum kit.

As a consequence the performance is something akin to watching a technician at work but the musical results were rather wonderful.

His gentle, intricate symphonies were built with painstaking care and precision. If his soothing melodies remain core to these tunes they are unquestionably enhanced by the sonic textures of the various loops (at one point almost literally bells and whistles!).

If the response Chris received at the end of the set didn’t quite match that of his soundcheck, it was still generous and deservedly so.

Book Group set about their business with a sense of purpose. But, despite their best efforts, no-one seemed engaged enough to actually stand in front of the band as those on the dance floor standing round their pals at the tables were gradually whittled down. Even a couple of guys who appeared to have taken their pews with the aim of seeing the bands had deserted their posts midway through the set.

That all changed dramatically during the penultimate song, a storming take on ‘Here Is Too Near’. A couple of lads came from the bar dancing and encouraging others to join them and so for ‘Victory Lap’ the Bookies were transformed from floor clearers to a Friday night dance band. I’ve got video evidence as proof!

If overall the audience response was mixed, musically it was a strong performance and there were a couple of new tunes thrown in for good measure.

‘Mayonnaise’ was the more immediate of the two and delivering the sort of catchy guitar pop the band excel at. In terms of impact, it reminded me of the first time I heard ‘Lowdown of a Loud Sound’. A good thing.

In the end, it wasn’t the greatest Book Group show ever, but it was good to see them play a headline show again.

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Friday’s experience left me in no doubt that I’d rather see a show where people have specifically come to see the bands.

But I can see that, from a band’s viewpoint, it’s not so clear cut. The promise of a decent pay day and the chance to play to new folk must hold appeal even if you know that a significant proportion of the “audience” will barely give you a second glance (unless of course you go marauding through the punters with a megaphone!).

And undoubtedly it must have been nice for the Bookies to see so many folk dancing spontaneously to one of their tunes. But whether the dance band factor can be translated into longer term interest must be debatable.

Book Group played:

1. Lowdown of a Loud Sound  2. The Late Show  3. Wake Up and Go Go Go  4. The Art of Underachieving  5. A Rough Wooing  6. Year of the Cat  7. Mayonnaise  8. Here Is Too Near  9. Victory Lap

More photos from the show here.

Scatter! -Tuff Love, Wozniak and Luna Webster live

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Tuff Love / Wozniak /Luna Webster – The Cool Cat Club, Beat Generator Live, Dundee – 20th November

The day after another MPT/Cool Cat Club co-promotion, truth be told, I’m a little scunnered.

Not because of the show which was every bit as good as we’d hoped. (In fact I can never remember any of our shows disappointing musically in the slightest). But because of the turn out. It was a bit soul destroying to see so few paying punters – even on a Thursday.

Particularly since the three acts were amazing.

Tuff Love get better every time I see them and last night had the bonus of also being the best sounding show I’ve heard them play. Dialled down a couple of notches from the blitzkrieg attack at the Electric Circus, the songs shone through. And Tuff Love have got songs to spare.

Half the numbers came from the debut E.P. whilst most of the others are probably going to be on its successor, due in the New Year. There’s something joyous about their live set just now and in ‘That’s Right’ they’ve got their heaviest tune to date. They’ve come a long way in one short year.

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Wozniak too were wonderful even if their set was more familiar. Instead of jumping from one mood to another with each different song, last night’s set seemed programmed to keep the moods going a little longer. Starting accessibly with ‘Paper Hat’ and ‘Five Star’ they went all brooding for a while before finishing with what seemed to me like an unusually jaunty version of ‘MFMB’. I repeat, a wonderful band.

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Luna Webster had opened the show. She too has come a long way in the last year or so and she is starting to look so much more confident playing live. Her guitar backing remains muted but the new(er) songs seem to be stretching her range and anyone who can go from one song which says ‘I’m marvellous, I’m delightful” to the next which includes “I’m a fuck-up” gets my vote.

However there’s no escaping the fact that the turn-out put a dampener on my evening’s enjoyment simply because the acts deserved better and I’ll have to give it serious consideration before getting involved in putting something on in Dundee again.

Photos from the show here.

I’m Gonna See You On The Other Side – James King and The Lonewolves LP

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Lost albums are tricky bastards, aren’t they?

Principally because, more often than not, these records, if they ever emerge, don’t live up to their legends.

James King and the Lonewolves can rightly be regarded as legends and are probably responsible for one of the great lost albums of the Scottish music scene. In the mid 80s the band recorded tracks for an album with no less an individual than John Cale at the helm. But nothing from those sessions was ever released.

Even if they didn’t turn out the way the band had wanted, anyone who saw the band live at the time cannot have helped but lament that the majority of these songs never saw the light of day.

Until now that is as Stereogram has just released the long awaited Lonewolves debut album ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’.

But let’s get things straight – whilst ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’ is certainly the debut album from James King and the Lonewolves it’s not the debut album that would have been made in the 80s – even if the majority of songs on here would have been on that record.

Yet equally neither is it really a 21st century sounding recording. Rather ‘Lost Songs’ possesses a timeless quality and genuinely could have been recorded at any point over the last 30 years.

Last year’s E.P. suggested that the album may have reflected the rock’n’roll snarl of the band’s harder edged live sound, but in fact instead it owes a lot to the sound of the band’s previous recordings, particularly the ‘Texas Lullaby’ E.P..

The best example of this is probably closing track ‘Step Away From Home’ which is slower than all live takes I’ve heard before. But this take with its chiming guitars just emphasises the strengths of the song and demonstrates that the best songs really don’t need any form of pyrotechnics to make their mark.

As is often the case with songs that you only know from live versions it was initially difficult to listen to the L.P. as a whole particularly since all four of the tracks from the E.P. are included (albeit in slightly tweaked form). But when, after sufficient plays, the record did come into focus as a complete album, it did so gloriously.

Despite the fact that some of these songs were written decades apart, ‘Lost Songs’ is a record that never sounds anything less than incredibly coherent and the newer stuff, such as ‘Pretty Blue Eyes’, fits in alongside the likes of long lost classics such as ‘Fly Away’ and ‘(Un)happy Home’.

There’s a lot been made of the history surrounding ‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’ – understandably so given the time its taken the Lonewolves to get to this point. But ultimately that history is irrelevant.

‘Lost Songs’ would have been a classic at any point in its 30 years of gestation – so it’s unquestionably a classic today.

‘Lost Songs of the Confederacy’ is available now from all good record shops and from label Stereogram Recordings whilst the band play two gigs in the next week – on Sunday (23rd) at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh and at the Oran Mor in Glasgow next Thursday (27th). Support comes from Lola in Slacks and Roy Moller.

A Bit of An Adventure – Luna Webster interview

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Luna Webster has been quietly prolific this year despite only playing a handful of shows (writes Andy Wood). There have been two E.P.’s and a single this year under her own name and a collaborative release as part of Old Barber, a more electronic project.

The latest E.P. Songs For Public Transport has just sneaked out and contains four gorgeous, understated gems on it. The instrumentation is sparser than on the debut E.P., the wonderful Hollywood May Be Dead But Let’s Dance On The Gravestones but the voice is brought to the forefront with lovely, multi-tracked vocals and harmonies that bring forward the melodies and words in each song. There is a melancholy feel to Luna’s songs but also wit and wisdom as well. ‘Dumb’ is perhaps my favourite song with its starkly beautiful chorus with the vocals soaring but each song is pretty special. ‘Nothing On Earth’ is also rather fine, with it’s gentle keyboards picking out the melody. It has a gently euphoric feel before drifting off with some echoing, spacey harmonica. There is a real earthiness to these songs, where the debut E.P. was all faded glamour Songs For Public Transport is somehow eerier and autumnal.

Old Barber, a duo in which Luna works with Taylor Stewart is, on the surface, a different kind of proposition with a bigger sound and focus on electronics but, having listened to their debut E.P. UFO Phil quite a few times it begins to feel as much a part of Luna’s work as her solo records.

The five tracks are still stark and spartan and spookily beautiful, albeit it more percussive. There’s a sense of exploration, and of the unsaid spaces and things unspoken in the music which is there on the solo material as well. The five songs work well as a collaboration rather than just a guest vocalist on a producer’s record which is so often the case in such projects.

As Old Barber, Luna and Taylor have produced something very special which works wonderfully. ‘Liquor and Lipstick’ has a pretty dark, pop feel with a really lovely melody tempered by dub like spaces and a hint of something dark and despairing. I look forward to hearing more from both Old Barber and Luna Webster in the coming months.

Luna took time to answer a bunch of questions for Manic Pop Thrills. A bit like the recordings which have came out quicker than I can occasionally keep up with sometimes Luna was answering questions before I’d got to them. Anyway here we go.

Hello, how are things and what have you been up to recently?

“Hi! Things are pretty good, thanks! The last few months of my life have been a bit of an adventure really. I left school and had a four month summer basically, in which time I did a Luna Webster EP and my band’s debut EP too, and a music video too. I’m at college now, studying journalism, and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve been pretty busy!”

You’ve just released a new E.P. Songs For Public Transport. Can you tell us a little bit about it please?

“Well, I wrote this EP in September/October time. Since starting college I’ve been travelling via bus for an hour each way, three times a week, and all I do is sit and listen to music.

“I started to have “ideal” bus songs, which is really weird, but it got me thinking about music being written for very specific times and places. I wanted to write something that I would enjoy listening to on a dull commute. It’s really pretentious when you think about it. Writing songs for someone to sit and stare out of a bus window to.

“But I travel a lot and I think when you’re travelling and listening to music, your mind wanders more than at any other time, so I decided to write four very different, lyric-focused songs that are perfect for staring at scenery and letting your mind wander.”

On the new E.P. your voice is very much to the forefront, with harmonies and multi-tracking while the backing is very minimal. Was this deliberate?

“Yeah! As important as my instruments are to my music, I wanted this EP to be focused on lyrics and on voice. I’ve been listening to a lot of Jenny Hval, and I like how everything works around her voice, rather than her just accompanying instruments. I set out to make this kind of hazy, day dreamy EP, and I associate voices with that idea of drifting off and just hearing your own thoughts and nothing else.”

What is your favourite mode of transport? Do you prefer to look out of the window and dream or to read on long journeys?

“Trains, undoubtedly! However, I’m not made of money so I rarely get to use them. Maybe that’s what’s so appealing about them, the fact I can’t really afford to take them, the grass is always greener on the other side, of course. I’m definitely a dreamer. And not just because I feel like I might spew when I read on public transport. Glamorous image, I know.”

You’ve been pretty prolific on the recording front, releasing another E.P. and single as opposed to performing live. Any particular reason for this?

“I get stupidly nervous when I play live. I don’t know what it is. I’m quite a confident person, I can talk to anyone, it’s just when it comes to gigging my stomach does somersaults.

“I always end up enjoying performing too, I just don’t see myself as a performer, I just play guitar and sing. I feel like if I had to sit through one of my own gigs I’d be like, wow, nice tunes, but can’t she dance or something. I sway sometimes.

“My band Old Barber are going to do live gigs and I WILL dance then. Promise. I just remembered when my music video got screened at the GFT and they wrote in the programme, “good tune, awkward dancing though”. I feel that aptly describes my live performances.”

You’ve been collaborating as part of a duo, Old Barber. The music is more electronic than your solo stuff although there are continuities. How did Old Barber come about?

“Old Barber is me and a really good friend of mine, Taylor Stewart, who also produces under the name Jinzo. He’s in a band called Herbert Powell too (who are fantastic and I’ve seen them live more times than I have any other band, not biased I swear) and I actually did guest vocals on one of their experimental album demos. We met through that, then he asked me to feature on one of his Jinzo albums, Acid Bank (which is one of my favourites of the year, again, not biased), and it worked really well. So from there we formed Old Barber!”

Are there plans afoot for either a solo album or an Old Barber album?

“There are indeed! We are in the process of writing our full length Old Barber album and I am very excited about that. Writing experimental electronic pop is the most fun in the world. We’re channeling the most ridiculous things, like Kylie, Death Grips, Abba, Talking Heads, just absolutely insanely dumb things that shouldn’t work together but somehow do. I can’t wait.

“As for me, I don’t really know. I don’t really plan very much for me, I’m happy doing my wee EPs for now. I would like to do an album at some point. But I think I work best in small doses.”

You made a video for the Old Barber song, ‘Liquor and Lipstick’. How did you approach the process and how did you feel about the medium?

“Our friend Matthew who is incredibly cool and has directed stuff before, including this brilliant music video for a band called A Kestrel’s Manoeuvres In The Park, and he approached us and said, do you want to come to Cumbernauld and make a music video in a day. And we thought why not?

“It was quite mental, it was the first time I’d actually met Taylor in person the day we filmed it, up to then we’d just been exchanging songs via facebook messenger. We didn’t have any plan at all, it was a case of me putting some glitter on my face and trusting Matthew’s judgement when he said my dancing looked ok. It’s probably easy to tell I am NOT a dancer.

“I loved doing it though, and releasing that totally boosted Old Barber’s popularity, we had people like Rab Florence and Bailey Jay complimenting us and retweeting it, it was mental.”

Given that you only began performing in 2011 you have been quietly prolific and released some really great songs. How do you feel the experience has been, writing, performing and recording so much in such a short period?

“I love music, I love writing and recording and playing, whatever. I usually don’t think about it on a time scale as such, it’s such an everyday part of life now, just picking up a guitar or sitting at the keyboard, seeing what happens. I’ve enjoyed it mostly.

“There have been times when I felt very hopeless and I think every musician gets that, but I have such a brilliant support group online, it’s like every time I release an EP or single there’s people there saying lovely things and making it worth it. I started writing music for myself, I basically still do.”

Do you have a game plan or are you content to see what happens next?

“I’m happy just to float around and see what happens. That’s what I’ve done so far, and frankly doing that has introduced me to some of the most wonderful important people in my life, my best friends, my boyfriend, I wouldn’t know them if I hadn’t done music. So I’ll go where the wind takes me.”

Any artists or performers who you would like to play with or collaborate with in the future?

“I will be collaborating with Passion Pusher at some point in the future. James is a really good friend of mine and we’ve been meaning to do something together for a while. He sings really deep and I’m the opposite, it’ll be fun to see how it turns out.

“I’d love to collab with Jenny Hval, if only so she could teach me how to make such gorgeous music. I’ve always dreamt of working with Warpaint too. And if we delve even further into ridiculousness, Nick Cave would be my absolute dream collaborative partner. Or Prince!”

What do the coming months hold for you?

“I’m doing my first gig since April at Beat Generator, supporting Tuff Love who are incredibly cool. We’ll be releasing the Old Barber album. I’ll be doing some guest vocals for Passion Pusher. Probably other things too, but things I am entirely unaware of at this moment in time.”

What question would you most like to be asked? And what would your answer be?

“Probably “do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?” and I would answer “yes”.”

Luna supports Tuff Love and Wozniak at the Cool Cat Club at Beat Generator Live in Dundee on Thursday (20th November). [more info] – Tickets in person from Groucho’s or online.

You can check out Luna’s solo material here .  And for more information go here.

 The Old Barber E.P. is available here.

Andy’s favourite track from the new E.P.:

and here’s a look at the Liquor and Lipstick video: