Franz Ferdinand - 'Always Ascending', an independent review.

Having released their first four albums within 9 years, Franz Ferdinand return with their 5th album after an absence of 5 years (not counting 2015’s collaborative FFS/Franz Ferdinand Sparks) and also their first without founding member and guitarist Nick McCarthy. Not a band that has ever gone off the boil in their 16-year history, their last album was their lowest charting yet. McCarthy was also along with singer Alex Kapranos one of the bands mainstays in the song writing dept, so how will the band fare now as it ventures forward post McCarthy?

The pre-album ‘singles’ and TV appearances have been promising, the sound edging more towards New York new wave and post punk, more Talking Heads than XTC (imagine David Byrne singing pre-album single ‘Feel the Love Go’…). Less of a dancey sound than the previous album, vocals are clear in the mix, guitars perhaps slightly less prevalent than before though very much still essential, keyboards and percussion fleshing out the tunes to a much greater level. The production and mix (by Frenchman Philippe Zdar of production and Cassius fame) is very sympathetic towards the songs. The songs mix the simplistic to the interpretational in their lyrical approach, ‘Lazy Boy’ is virtually a nursery rhyme for lay-ins whilst ‘Always Ascending’ is possibly and ode to the departed McCarthy?

Like many bands though some of FF’s early identity seems lost, the essence of what attracted their fans in the first place, the sound is more mainstream than ever before. That’s not really a criticism, it’s a rare band or musician that can maintain their individuality, especially when the pressure’s on to deliver a hit. And ultimately the band do deliver here, the album might be a little singular in pace, but the sound is strong, the songs generally strong and hook laden. The quirkier moments for me stand out the most, ‘Finally’ with it’s shift in pace and odd hooks and ‘Huck and Jim’ has a guitar driven intro that turns out to be a soundtrack for the chorus, there’s shifts in gear, creepy lyrics and invention.

Elsewhere ‘The Academy Award’ is an odd little song about the clamour for approval that the world of social media creates amongst its users, the imagery is clever, but the track is an example of musically the band losing some of it’s individuality. Maybe that’s the point? ‘Slow Don’t Kill Me Slow’ is a creeping ballad of sorts, for me it invokes some of the last David Bowie photographs and has a Bowie-esque sheen in its guitar and keyboard arrangements. There is some filler (‘Lois Lane’); ‘Glimpse of Love’ is awash with keyboards but ends up being the most typically FF track.


Still, you have to say the album is better than you’d expect from a band who’ve taken 5 years to get there. It’s solid, occasionally inventive, though perhaps not as hit laden as previous FF albums. But I’m glad they’re back and I hope another one comes along in decidedly less than 5 years.

(A solid) 7/10.

David Bowie - Let's Dance (Demo) - Parlophone's 71st birthday Bowie treat

Today would have been David Bowie's 71st Birthday. Parlophone have made available a previously unreleased demo to celebrate this fact. A pointer toward a future Record Store Day release or even the next box set?

The demo was recorded in Switzerland with Nile Rodgers - “I woke up on my first morning in Montreux with David peering over me,” he said. “He had an acoustic guitar in his hands and exclaimed, ‘Nile, darling, I think this is a HIT! The time we spent mixing it just before Christmas was full of tears as it felt like David was in the room with us. Happy Birthday David, I love you and we all miss you!”

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Produced David Bowie and Nile Rodgers
Engineered by David Richards
Recorded at Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland 19th December, 1982
Mixed by Nile Rodgers & Russell Graham at Le Crib Studios November, 2017
Arranged by David Bowie and Nile Rodgers 
Vocals: David Bowie
Guitar: Nile Rodgers
Bass: Erdal Kızılçay

Peter Perrett – How The West Was Won – A Review

Believe the Hype? Peter Perrett has in the last 40 years released four albums, the last one in 1996. This album has been garnered with pretty much universal praise, and you’d expect it to do well in the music monthlies end of year polls on the back of these glowing write ups. More importantly the two tracks released pre-album are both, at worst, superb. It’s these two tracks that open the album.

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The title track is a drawling look at America rolling in on a George Harrison/Bob Dylan country style groove, Peters voice, half sung, half spoken springs from the speakers, up front in the mix and sounds magnificent. The lyrics cover everything from making suicide vests via internet instructions to a fascination with Kim Kardashians bum. It’s a great opening but for me it’s a warm up for the second single/track two. ‘An Epic Story’ is brilliant, it’s a romantic overture to Peters wife of nearly 50 years, Zena, who we hear has had to put up with a hell a lot over the years. ‘I’ll always be your man, No-one could love me the way you can, If I could live my whole life again, I’d choose you, every time’ are lines any man would be proud to write for their life’s muse. Honestly, track of the year, hands down. It’s a family affair too as Peters sons are in his wonderful band.

And then we’re on to the rest of the album, kept under wraps until the day of release. ‘Hard to Say No’ is a confessional rock track, well played, sung and lyrically guarded enough to get the listener engaged.  ‘Troika’ is tale of a complicated love affair involving three people, but at its heart Perrett is still devoted to his one true love, all backed by a wracked and faithful doowop backing. And Peter sounds great throughout, reviews have made much of the damage done to his voice through substance and general life abuse and how Peter has had to relearn to sing, and seriously, his vocal performance is top notch, recognisable, coherent and confident. Lyrically we’re not a million miles away from previous work, but there’s great focus and belief. The songs are about survival, re-emergence, defiance; but most of all devotion and true faith for Zena. This is an acerbic rock album that manages to be grateful, touching and sweet too. It’s no mean feat.

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There’s no let-up in quality either, no filler and no one song overstays it’s welcome, in fact the longer tracks seem shorter than they are, such are their hooks and the attention they demand. This is an old school album, 10 tracks, an A and a B side, and it’s relentless in a good way. And it’s an album that builds to a very strong finish too. ‘C Voyeurger’ is a creeping, tense ballad that a really displays a great craftmanship from a songwriter that (in terms of releases) does not have prolificacy to thank for helping hone his craft. ‘Something In My Brain’ tries to explain where Perrett is as far as state of mind is concerned in his current stage of life, ‘…I didn’t die, At least not yet, I’m still just about capable, Of one last defiant breath’. His life is pictured as an experiment on a rat, though at the end unlike the rat Peter has chosen life, defeating the obstacles placed in front of him and coming out in better shape with a new-found dedication to his life, love and art. And final track, ‘Take me Home’ brings together all the strings of Peters life and ties them together, ‘I couldn’t be what I wanted, You made me a better man’. And so ends a great, concise album, a triumph against the odds. A career best? Believe the hype, yes. And it leaves you wanting more, this could well be the last we see from Peter Perrett in terms of new music, but let’s hope not, it’s intriguing and natural to want to see where the man presented on this album is able to take himself in the future. But for now, Peter Perrett is home, a rock troubadour, revelling in the bosom of his family and looking forward in life.

10/10. Believe the Hype.

The 13th.5 – TDWS #21

The 13th.5 – TDWS #21 Podcast - This time round featuring, The The's new song (again), Beck sounding all oldie, a triple from the Trusted, a Lana Del Rey album preview, Radiohead's new old song, Norah Jones' tribute to Chris Cornell, BuckinghamMcVie, Martin Stephenson segued to Miley Cyrus, Arcade Fire, Muse, Liam Gallagher, Rufus Wainwright sings Stevie Wonder at the piano, a great new sweary one from Wolf Alice, a brand new Peter Perrett classic, Glen Campbell and the Cribs. 

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The 13th.4 – TDWS #20

The 13th.4 – TDWS #20 Podcast. 20 tracks and some natter. Public Service Broadcasting, Kendrick Lamar and U2, new album previews from Alison Moyet and Buckingham/McVie, The The, Peter Perrett, Beck and Granddaddy and Kevin Morby from Resistance Radio, Skids and Blondie, Miley Cyrus, Paul Weller and Stone Foundation, Marc Almond and Marlena Shaw.

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The 13th.3 - TDWS #19 Podcast

The 13th.3 - TDWS #19 Podcast - 20 tracks and some natter. A couple from The Trusted, Lana Del Rey, a pair from the Volstead Orchestra, Laura Marling, Lambchop sing Prince, Rosalie Cunningham sing The Beatles, At The Drive In, Brett Anderson, Steve Gunn sings The Smiths, JoBoxers, Madeline Peyroux and Rickie Lee Jones sing David Essex, two from Beck, Strand of Oaks sing Phish and The Stone Roses, The Everly Brothers and Radiohead. 

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The 13th.2 - TDWS #18 Podcast

Here be the 13th.2, TDWS #18. Within you will find, Underworld, the full length T2 tracks, The Jesus and Mary Chain album preview, Loads of anti trumpism from Gorillaz, The Arcade Fire, the new protest song from Depeche Mode, a further track from Ryan Adams new LP and Ryan sings Radiohead, Paul Weller's soundtrack song. New stuff from BNQT, Future Islands, Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales, and Goldfrapp. Benjamin Clementine sings Nick Drake, the Thames Delta's Cheap Joint, A couple from Martha Wainwright, U2 from the telly in 1982 and the mystery of Television and Brian Eno. 

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My daughter Amy, Martha Wainwright and me. 

The 13th - TDWS #17 Podcast

This is ‘The 13th’, or you might want to call it Thames Delta World Service #17. A new podcast for a new year. Enclosed within, Muse sing the Cramps, George Michael Sings the Beatles, Mark Kozelik sings Bowie, Bruce Springsteen sings U2 (with U2). There’s classic b-sides by the Stray Cats, Joe Jackson, Embrace and Suede. 2017 album previews from Laura Marling, Ryan Adams and Elbow. There’s also some Martin Stephenson and the Daintees, Paul Simon Unplugged, The early Pink Floyd, PJ Harvey, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Depeche Mode. And of course there’s Bowie.

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