Who Killed Nancy Johnson? – Flat Earth Theory

Having recently checked out their latest single, Dark Horse, and been definitely taken by it, it was a really welcomed treat to be sent over by the band itself the release the song came from. Its creators are UK outfit Who Killed Nancy Johnson?, a​ ​​​Reading-based quartet creating an eventful fusion of punk and rock with post punk imagination. It is a tenacious sound fuelling a new EP in the shape of Flat Earth Theory, four tracks of raw and devilish rock ‘n’ roll which just got under our skin.

Formed in 2015, Who Killed Nancy Johnson? has grown into one increasingly praised and devoured live presence across the south of England. Their debut EP, Cops and Robbers, released early last year only added to their rising reputation, one sure to be energised again by Flat Earth Theory. Musically the band embraces inspirations from the likes of The Stooges, The Ruts, Wire, Magazine, Black Flag, Buzzcocks, The Rezillos, Fugazi, Ash, Killing Joke, Lit, Rival Schools, The Drills, and 3 Colours Red; an array of flavours which if not openly echoed in the band’s individual enterprise certainly adds to its substance.

Flat Earth Theory is an eventful encounter, an affair coincidently echoed in its making with former bassist Paul Anthony leaving the band just before the EP’s mixing stage and preventing the basslines already laid down being used. A mystery bassist saved the day though, Who Killed Nancy Johnson? leaving the studio with four slices of ear grabbing rock ‘n’ roll.

The EP opens with Strip, a song which opens the band’s live show and to rousing success one imagines such its potent impact on Flat Earth Theory. From a dulled clang of guitar, spirit sparking beats launch their bait, Mark Wren whipping up song and appetite alike as Pete Moulton’s guitar continues to linger casting raw strokes. Quickly though the song surges through ears, its rapacious energy and disruptive intent manna to the imagination and capped by the distinctive tones of vocalist Stefan Ball. Old school punk meets post punk devilry, kind of like The Adicts in league with a Fugazi fuelled Gang Of Four, the track is irresistible and for us a must single. It is easy to see why their shows get off to a flyer with the song, its two minutes instinctive punk ‘n’ roll incitement.

The following Alien has a broader rock landscape, alternative and punk merging for a tenacious stroll which teases and lures the listener to one irresistible call of a chorus demanding eager participation. As in the first song, the band casts wicked hooks and anthemic persuasions which manipulate by the second, a great throbbing bassline accentuating their dexterity as the track matches its predecessor in hitting the spot dead centre.

Mouth and Trousers is next up, a more controlled song which almost prowls ears initially even as a rush of riffs crowd them. It calms down further as vocals join the shuffle, rhythms keeping their restraint in place too. There is a whiff of pub rock to the song, a Dr Feelgood breath to its punk ‘n’ roll which brings another potent shade to the EP’s sound and though the track did not ignite the passions as richly as its companions, it had the body bouncing and vocal chords indulging especially through another potent chorus.

The EP is completed by that latest single, Dark Horse. The song is a muscular affair of alternative rock which straight away springs a lure of firm beats and juicy hooks, building on their prowess with appetising grooves and a brooding bassline aligned to almost predacious beats. Recalling bands such as The Motors and Mind Museum, the track dances in the imagination whilst arousing the spirit.

With new recruit Julien Bruinaud completing their line-up on bass, Who Killed Nancy Johnson? are ready to build on their previous success with a real nudge on national attention, the thoroughly enjoyable Flat Earth Theory irrepressibly leading the persuasion so watch this space.

Flat Earth Theory is out now @ https://wknancyj.bandcamp.com/releases

 

https://www.wknancyj.com/     https://www.facebook.com/WhoKilledNancyJohnson/     https://twitter.com/WKNancyJ

Pete RingMaster 20/02/2018

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Gazing into the fresh glow of The Cathode Ray with Jeremy Thoms

The Cathode Ray_RingMaster Review

Photo and copyright Peter Tainsh

2015 has provided many treats this year and definitely amongst them was the latest and second album Infinite Variety from Scottish indie band The Cathode Ray. It was an encounter embracing the nostalgia of the eighties through fresh and inventive escapades bred of the now. One of the band’s founders is Jeremy Thoms, he also the man behind the great indie label Stereogram Recordings, and someone who to describe as busy is a big understatement. Nevertheless, Jeremy kindly gave us a chunk of his time to talk about the album, The Cathode Ray itself from top to bottom and more, including an insight to his own musical loves…

Hi Jeremy and many thanks for giving us your time to talk with us.

Ever late to the party, we discovered The Cathode Ray through your new album Infinite Variety which came out a couple of months or so ago to, it is fair to say, swift acclaim. In a music world where it seems increasingly harder to actually get people to part with money or indeed offer full attention to things, did you have any particular expectations or hopes for its unveiling or is it more anything is a bonus for bands right now?

We didn’t have any expectations other than hoping that those who had liked the first album would stay with us for the second. We knew we’d made a good follow up album but, as you say, in an environment when it’s very hard to engage with people, nothing is guaranteed.

Photo by Hugh Womersley

Photo by Hugh Womersley

Originally the band was just you and Paul Haig, famed for Josef-K and his own solo career. The press release for the album suggests this was not originally intended to be a serious band project but a writing collaboration. Was that the case and what brought Paul’s involvement to an end?

Paul definitely just saw it as a writing collaboration – “a bit of fun” was one his quotes – with group recordings just being made to illustrate them. However, the reaction to them was so positive, one thing lead to another and I pushed for it to become a band and take it more seriously, which Paul wasn’t happy with so eventually he left. What confused matters in the press and public eye was that Neil, David and I were his backing band when he did a solo tour in 2008. However the emphasis then was completely on his solo work, and he had no intention of being a member of a band again after Josef K, which in the end we had to respect.

The double ‘A’ sided single What’s It All About? /Mind was released in 2006; I believe this was meant as a one off release?

Not initially but it ended up like that. Certainly with Paul participating. When we made the agreement with Pronoia Records in 2006, the album had been recorded with Paul’s full participation, but by the time we got around to discussing getting it released he had changed his mind. So he asked us to remove his lead vocals, which we did, although some of his guitar and backing vocals do remain on the first album.

At what point did that spark the appetite to push things further; as a full band and with more releases?

The point that changed everything was bumping into Steve Fraser at a TV21 album launch in 2009. I told him what had happened and he was keen to get involved. The minute we started talking music I knew he was the man. We didn’t even bother with an audition. I knew the songs were strong enough to survive without Paul’s involvement. That opened so many doors, being able to play live (which Paul would never have done as The Cathode Ray) and generally move things on after quite a difficult start.

Were some of you all already old friends and maybe previously worked together before uniting for The Cathode Ray we know today?

Neil Baldwin and I have known each other for 34 years (!) and have played in bands together intermittently since 1986. David Mack and I had been working together since 2000 so, yes, there was a certain chemistry. Steve was the “new boy” although we’d all known him on the Edinburgh scene previously.

I have to admit for once, and not intentionally, I read about the band and its background before hearing a note for a review, and to be honest once seeing a list of previous projects for members of The Cathode Ray2_RingMaster Reviewthe band which had been indelible pleasures in my personal soundtrack, subsequently luring a revisit to old favourites records after finishing the review too, there was an increased anticipation and eagerness to explore the band and album. Do you think having your musical histories has helped draw awareness to the band or not?

Well obviously there’s going to be a certain amount of that, but I do believe, hopefully without sounding conceited, that The Cathode Ray is more than the sum of its parts. But initially I guess it did help getting people interested through our various previous involvements.

There were whiffs of all some of your previous bands at times across the songs and often nostalgia blessed air of Infinite Variety, The Bluebells and Scars maybe most notably in our ears. You are a band unafraid to draw on previous adventures and spices to hone new and fresh exploits, as potently shown on the album?

The songs that I write aren’t consciously drawing on any of our past exploits, but I guess where you’ve come from does influence where you’re going. In any case, it’s probably coincidental, as Steve only toured with The Scars as a depping bassist so wasn’t involved in their creative process, while Neil only contributed to arrangements with The Bluebells. But inevitably, as we all come from that post-punk background, some of the sounds and styles of these bands are going to rub off.

How would you say The Cathode Ray has evolved over time and specifically between Infinite Variety and its predecessor, your self-titled debut album?

I would say the vague initial brief of merging post-punk Manchester with New York has simply broadened to the point where I regard ourselves now as a band that isn’t easy to pin down musically. Our original press release mentioned 60’s Garage, Soundtracks and Northern soul, to which one critic added Psychedelia, Glam-Rock, Euro-Disco, Krautrock and 90’s Alternative Pop when reviewing Infinite Variety. So it is definitely evolving. I’m currently demoing material for the next album and there’s even more interesting musical areas I’d like to explore. It’s good to surprise people.

TCR cover_RingMaster ReviewGive us some insight into the thoughts and intentions going into the writing and recording of Infinite Variety? Do you build a release on particular aims or ideas or predominantly let things organically evolve?

Things do tend to evolve organically. If you put too much pre-conceived thought into it, the music loses its spontaneity. Although I suppose one particular aim is not to repeat ourselves. Each album needs to be a significant progression from the previous one, so a certain degree of thought does go into that. Also, apart from melodies and lyrics, I’m always interested in rhythms and try to be as adventurous and varied as possible in that area too.

We described the album as a “kaleidoscope of fun, sound, and adventure”, a fair hint we think at the array of flavours and inventive spices fuelling and shaping the songs within Infinite Variety. In the hands of many bands it might be an incoherent mix, but you manage to seamlessly blend all spices and individual characters of songs perfectly. Where do you and the band start when composing songs?

Well I compose the songs and demo them first with the key riffs, chord progressions, lyrics etc. all in place. At that stage they often do sound fairly disparate. I then present them to the band in the rehearsal room and that’s when it starts to sound like The Cathode Ray. Steve, Neil and Dave all contribute parts and arrangements until we arrive at the finished article. Some songs like The Eyes Are The Window took a long time to come together and changed quite considerably from my original demo. Others end up fairly similar to the original template, but all manage to sound cohesive owing to the fact it’s the four of us playing them, I guess.

The album’s tracks manage to be rich and at times expansive in texture and flavour yet also ‘slim’, i.e. no excess baggage or indulgence. They manage to be an open evolution from your first album but also reveal a bolder leap in aural colour and character; how do you hear their relevance to older propositions as one of their creators?

Well obviously it’s difficult to be completely objective about something you’ve created yourself, but I see their place in relation to the first album as a natural progression. The leap in colour and texture which you describe is simply a way of moving the band forward, without cluttering things up unnecessarily. You use the word ‘slim’ and I suppose that comes in at the production stage – cutting off any excess fat!

How long in the making from first note to paper or thought through to last note laid down was the album?

The boundaries are always blurred as we always tend to have songs left over which were either written too late to make the cut or simply didn’t fit at the time. For example, This Force Of Nature had its origins as a completely different song dating way back to 2006. It had never sounded right so was left on the shelf. I went back to it in 2014 writing new lyrics and melodies and it quickly came together then. Eureka Moment and Buck the Trend were written in 2009 when Steve first joined. But the bulk of I.V. was written and recorded between 2012 and 2014 – around two and half years.

Our review stated spices of bands from around the eighties as rewarding aspects but over time sixties/seventies tones have emerged. I sense your own inspirations and musical loves go far back?

Oh yes – my musical tastes stretch way back! How long have you got? Songwriters have always been key to me. From Lennon & McCartney, Brian Wilson, Smokey Robinson, Jimmy Webb and Bacharach & David, through Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Scott Walker, Al Green, Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Robert Wyatt and Neil Young to Costello, Paddy MacAloon and Rufus Wainwright, the song is always key. Then there’s the bands I love – The Stones, The Velvets, The Doors, Faces, Roxy, Yes, Kraftwerk, Television, Talking Heads, Buzzcocks, Chic, Wire, Magazine, Pretenders, Joy Division, Dexys, Scritti Politti; Cocteaus, Talk Talk, Teenage Fanclub, High Llamas, Flaming Lips… the list goes on.

There is no mistaking that Scottish bands and rock ‘n’ roll of all styles and design bred there, has something unique to it, and we could go on a long list of examples. Can you define what it is in ‘the

Photo by Jez Curnow

Photo by Jez Curnow

water’ which helps breed such distinctive and so often inspirational bands from that part of the UK, as ones yourselves?

I think there’s an open-mindedness up here. Maybe Scottish bands tend to draw from a wider pool of influences than other parts of the UK. Or maybe it’s to do with being distanced from what’s happening down south – even in the age of the internet. It’s certainly true that scenes of their own do seem to crop up here around labels like Postcard, Fast, 53rd & 3rd, Creeping Bent and, possibly, our label Stereogram too, which has attracted similar kindred literate spirits. Either that or we all seem to be obsessed with the Velvet Underground!

What comes next for The Cathode Ray?

Firstly, we’ve got two more live shows coming up this year as part of The Stereogram Revue in Edinburgh and Glasgow, plus a new track called It Takes One To Know One on a compilation album. Then there’s a new video shot earlier this year at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh by Jez Curnow to go with Saving Grace, our other featured track on the comp. After that we’ll be knuckling down to working on the follow up to Infinite Variety. I’ve got five or six new songs written and demoed, plus a couple of leftovers, so we’ll be getting on with them. Expect some new directions.

Your releases come out on Stereogram Recordings, your own label which seems to have out grown and blossomed far more than its original intent I believe. Can you tell us a little about it and what is ahead for the label too?

It has indeed outgrown its original intent which was simply to facilitate a release for the first Cathode Ray album, plus any other projects (The Fabulous Artisans) or archive material I had kicking about. But over the last couple of years it has been growing steadily with first Roy Moller signing up, followed by James King & The Lonewolves, Milton Star, St. Christopher Medal, Lola in Slacks and, Band Of Holy Joy. The critical and public response has been great which is hugely encouraging. As previously mentioned, we’re rounding off the year with two Revue shows which will feature the entire roster in some form or other (minus Milton Star who don’t have a live set up at present). These gigs will be accompanied by The Sound of Stereogram, a budget compilation in the spirit of New Wave in ‘77 or Pillows and Prayers in ’82, featuring both new and old tracks from all eight acts on the label. Next year promises some new signings plus new material from the existing acts.

My big thanks to you again for chatting with us; have you anything you would like to add?

Nothing to add except thanks very much for your support over the last year.

Lastly and looking at band’s influences on your Facebook profile, a list of bands littering my own record collection I have to say, can you indulge me and give us a few of the bands/records which inspired you to get into music and then as a musician push yourself further?

Well I’ve already mentioned a whole bunch of artists who’ve inspired me, so here’s some records that have been key: “With The Beatles”; “Motown Chartbusters Vol.3”; “Pet Sounds”; “Piper at The Gates of Dawn”; “Forever Changes”; “Loaded”; “Scott 4”; “What’s Going On”; “Exile On Main Street”; “Never A Dull Moment”; “Close To The Edge”; “Aladdin Sane”; ”Houses Of The Holy”; “Quadrophenia”; “Rock Bottom”; “Country Life”; “Zuma”; “Songs In The Key Of Life”; “Trans Europe Express”; “Marquee Moon”; “My Aim Is True”; “Never Mind The Bollocks”; “Risque”; “All Mod Cons”; “Love Bites”; “Fear Of Music”; “Closer”; “The Correct Use Of Soap”; “You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever”; “Rattlesnakes”; “Steve McQueen”; “Don’t Stand Me Down”. Again the list goes on…

Read our review of Infinite Variety @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/the-cathode-ray-infinite-variety/

https://www.facebook.com/thecathoderay   http://www.stereogramrecordings.co.uk

Pete Ringmaster

The RingMaster Review 23/11/2015

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Bête Noire – Shut Your Mouth

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Of course everyone has spent a moment to wonder what a merger between Joy Division, The Pixies, and Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster would sound like right? But ponder no longer as UK band Bête Noire brings you the answer with their debut release Shut Your Mouth. Unveiling much more than that trio of essences suggests, the two track single is a thrilling and potent introduction to a band which is almost as new itself as the release is to the world.

Hailing from London and consisting of vocalist David M Hargreaves, guitarists Danny Defalco and Billy Bloom, bassist Andrew G, and drummer James Whitfield, Bête Noire has been existence for around six months though listening to the songs you hear a maturity which leads one to believe their musical exploits could stretch back further. Taking influences from the likes of Chameleons, Magazine, Pixies, Stereo Lab, and Serge Gainsbourg, the quintet create a post punk stemmed sound soaked in dark shadows and chilled ambience but equally littered with hooks and deceptive melodies which only captivate in their worst moments and seduce at their heights. The single is a stirring marker for the band which though you could suggest right now their sound lacks a little originality you feel time and evolution will solve that minor ‘issue’.

Shut Your Mouth is the lead track and needs only the brief moment that it takes for the opening beats to be joined by the wonderful coversnarl bitten bass to secure full attention and draw a lick across the lips of the passions. As the steely jangle of the guitars coax in the excellent expressive vocals of Hargreaves the Joy Division vibe is instantaneous but only a strong flavour in a vibrant mix. Whilst the song wraps its cold engaging charms around the senses with flushes of warmth contradicting and elevating the core of the song through the hooks and sonic caresses, there is a feel of early Devoto led Buzzcocks peeping through and a noise rock shimmer bringing remote comparisons to bands like The Gaa Gaas and Engerica. It is an outstanding brew that issues distrust and persuasion with open hands whilst rising the temperature of the psyche and hunger into a greedy recipient.

Its companion Out and Proud is a similarly bred song but with more restraint in its deliberate prowl of the ear, the guitars crafting a sonic narrative to spark upon ear and thoughts whilst the bass kindly stalks their colour within a firm rhythmic frame. Once more the vocals tantalise with the great expressive delivery of Hargreaves coated in a hollow effect and pointing to Ian Curtis in likeness. With the bass offering throatier bait as the song progresses and the chorus providing the road to addictiveness, the song is like its predecessor a potently appealing and compelling encounter.

The single simply impresses from start to finish. It flows with such promise and enterprise that expectations of major things ahead from Bête Noire are already flourishing. Possibly it is too early to make such assumptions but as Shut Your Mouth holds the ear in its creative palms again, there is no betting against it.

http://betenoiremusic.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/betenoiremusic

9/10

RingMaster 22/08/2013

 

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Sebastopol: The Hateful Mob

     SebastopolGroupPhoneFINAL

    Taken from their critically acclaimed debut album Hello All Stations, This is Zero, the new single from UK band Sebastopol is an infectious little treat of a song which requires little effort to immerse within its melodic cinematic charms. The Hateful Mob slowly and seductively coaxes the passions into a vibrant stroll of warm temptation and visual evocation to leave a certain energy and lust to further investigate band, and if not an already had meeting, the album.

The 2011 formed London band consists of vocalist and bassist Nick Powell, guitarist Phil Richards, and drummer Tom Standage, a trio who grabbed strong eager attention with the previously mentioned album and first single from it, Send The Boats last year. Released via Warm Fuzz, the independent label run by award winning producer Ian Shaw, The Hateful Mob was recorded like the album at Drop Out Studios in Camberwell and mixed by legendary post punk producer Mick Glossop (Van Morrison, Magazine, Public Image, The Wonder Stuff). The band has been described as a modern, darker reboot of The Police and the new single is evidence to why though just as rightfully you could suggest the likes of XTC, Teardrop Explodes, and The Divine Comedy, certainly in regards to the new single, its enticing strong whispers throughout suggesting these further comparisons.

The single engages the ear immediately with beckoning melodic caresses of guitar soon accompanied by firm inviting basslines, crisp rhythms, and gentle vocal expression. It takes no time in captivating thoughts and senses with a delicious melodic hook linking the temptation of each declaration of passion driven verse and the subsequent chorus of simmering shadows behind shiny sonics and a golden contagion of melodic infection. Between the riveting summer of the chorus the verses smoulder emotively and musically, the bass of Powell especially inciting to the visuals instigated within thoughts by the song. It is an upbeat song which ignites a measured sense of loneliness, regret, and lost joy skilfully despite its continually catchy and bright gait, the songwriting a sculpted treat to inspire the sounds it bears.

If Sebastopol has yet to glow upon your ear than The Hateful Mob is an irresistible gateway to their accomplished and instinctively crafted addictive sound and equally impressive album.

http://sebastopolband.com/

8/10

RingMaster 02/03/2013

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