Julian Cope: St Julian

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    Musically many great things have spawn from the city of Liverpool with some obviously making major impacts on the direction and life of music. One giant moment is often overlooked or under- appreciated though and that is the formation and subsequent demise of Crucial Three. The punk rock band was a swift breath in the history of UK music which left without posing any footprint in the dirt of rock or a live note explored in its six weeks of existence. What it did do was make the first step for three important figures to ignite their creative imagination. From its brief life came forth singer Ian McCulloch obviously to be famed with Echo & the Bunnymen, guitarist Pete Wylie who went on to make equally impressive sounds and flavours through the varied guises of Wah and his solo work, and the ‘genius’ Julian Cope. The future Teardrop Explodes frontman maybe a flawed genius but lyrically and musically deserves to be placed within those realms. Equally there will be as many who will offer the other extreme of opinion on the ‘eccentric’ artist but for those he ignites the passions of he is one of the true greats.

The re-release of his St Julian album in a deluxe edition triggers all the rapture and pleasure which was rife around the man at the time and through those heady Teardrop Explodes days of the late seventies. Bringing forth arguably his finest moment as a solo artist certainly commercially, complete with a second disc of B-sides and re-mixes which graced the singles from the album, the release is a potent reminder of the often puzzling but always dramatic imagination and intriguing talent of a man who turned pop rock into an art form, even if often it was not seemingly appreciated sadly.

From those fleeting moments at the very start Cope formed UH? and A Shallow Madness with McCulloch which led to a permanent rift and antagonistic relationship between the two when Cope sacked the latter from the group, and also Nova Mob with Wylie, all again short lived bands. 1978 saw the formation of The Teardrop Explodes with drummer Gary Dwyer, organist Paul Simpson and guitarist Mick Finkler. Cope was the principal songwriter and bassist with a vocal delivery which was as magnetic as it was striking. Two impressive albums and a clutch of acclaimed singles, including Reward which achieved their highest chart entry of 6, followed as did instability in line-up as well as an indulgence in drugs. Cope himself verged on teen idol from the enterprising and successful debut album Kilimanjaro but the band failed to replicate the same triumph with the darker and more expansive Wilder and after a failure to make a third album and a disastrous tour, they split in 1982. The following year Cope began working on his first solo album World Shut Your Mouth, a release which left fans satisfied but failed to spark great positivity from elsewhere though it contained songs which generally held the pop spark of the Teardrops releases whilst being something which seemed to expose personal depths and the struggles of Cope whilst attempting to clean himself up. The 1984 record failed to sell with any strong purpose as did its successor Fried which arrived six months later. It offered a rawer side of his creativity and something new but repeated the lack lustre performance of his first in drawing appreciation and sales outside of his core fan base. Its failure led to Cope being dropped by Mercury Records who had released both albums.

With a new manager Cally Callomon encouraging his final clean-up and a new image and attitude, Cope signed with Island Records UMG_CD_BOOK_SADDLE_JUL00.qxtand released in 1986 St Julian. With a line-up of guitarist Donald Ross Skinner, drummer Chris Whitten ( ex-The Waterboys), and bassist James Eller (ex- Teardrop Explodes) beside him, Cope emerged with a ‘rock god’ persona though even at the time there seemed a delicious tongue in cheek mischief to it all. The songs within the album were big hearted encounters with bulging rhythms, insatiable hooks, and a drama which was compelling. It is one of the classic pop records of the era and anyone who begs to differ should indulge in the rampaging energy and swagger of World Shut Your Mouth, the sultry and compelling elegance of Planet Ride, and the belligerent rock track Pulsar with its Stranglers like snarl all over again. Singles like the fiery Spacehopper, a track which was borne out of writing sessions with Ian McCulloch years earlier, and the pulsating Trampoline, as the album as a whole, stood tall and above the majority of the other now termed classic eighties pop tracks of the time without puzzlingly retaining the retrospective and deserved grand acclaim the rivals bask in.

In hindsight surveying the mass of work from the man since and his apparent and exploratory ‘drive’ to go against the grain and stretch the underground pleasures of sound and creativity, as well as the B-side tracks which supported the singles from St Julian, one wonders if Cope was truly comfortable in this period though with songs rich in his always dramatic and evocative lyrics and sounds which invigorate and thrill with intelligence and instinctive contagiousness, you could never tell. The second disc at times supports the thought with songs like the Celt folk rock voiced Disaster, the mesmeric Almost Beautiful with its ambient majesty , and the dirge toned post punk challenge Warwick The Kingmaker delving into other provocative areas of Cope’s songwriting and invention. A mention for the brilliant cover of the Pere Ubu track Non-Alignment Pact has to be made, the song a classic already given an equally towering breath from Cope to have the passions sparking.

The years and releases since has seen Cope rightfully not compromising in his artistic vision and invention whilst keeping to the shadows to produce music which has ebbed and flowed in stature but is always riveting. Real success has eluded him musically though one senses he is not bothered and is more at ease with his creative powers than in those earlier times. He has also carved out a big and probably more recognition soaked career as a writer of underground music critique/ exploration and on the wide investigative scope of Archaeology and antiquarianism. St Julian is his finest moment for a great many and as the tracks swoop like gods to rile up and split open the heart into rapture it is hard to disagree.

http://www.headheritage.co.uk/

10/10

RingMaster 04/02/2013

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

The Varese’s: Self Titled EP

The debut EP from British indie rock band The Varese’s is one of those sneaky little blighters which upon hearing for the first time sparks keen interest and impressed responses. All the time though it is working away with its tight melodies and vibrant energy, not to mention catchy presence, to return in unexpected moments when one least expects it, to share its heart once again. Listening over the initial times only pleasure and growing respect flies its way but one is not expecting hours later for certainly two of the trio of songs which make up the release, to return in the shadows of night to party in the mind. It is a limited club to belong to when artists are sowing their sounds in these ears day in day out, but The Varese’s are a full and determined member indeed and use their membership to return when they please, not that there is any complaint.

From Liverpool, the quintet is a band still young in its life, their music merging melodic and heart borne sounds with sharp and edgy lyrics carrying the rawness of the streets and lives the band comes from. Their music is a thoughtful and poetic mix of potent soulful lyrics and vocals from Jonny Andrew, heated and irresistible guitar craft from Danny Hayden and Paul Tallant, alongside the emotive rhythms from bassist Adam Murray with the firm attentive beats of Bob Gaul. It is music to evoke images and personal thoughts whilst lighting up the shadows of the day with melodic charm.

Weary Dream is the song which neglected to make extra appearances beyond its aural company but easily marks the band as accomplished and deep in promise. With a slight groan to the bass as it brings the song into view, the track begins to explore its emotion with well lit guitar caresses and sizzling thrusting chords, the two guitarists igniting an emotive air through different approaches linked with craft and thought. The vocals of Andrew weave in and out of the music, finding and adding extra depth to the passion of the song. It is not a song which personally lit major fires but alone easily ensures the band has close attention upon them.

The other two songs on the EP though are eager companions and welcome returnees, both Strangers and Spotlight songs which would be irritating in their persistence if they were not so masterfully created and superbly sounding. The first of the two has a confident swagger brought through crisp jangling guitars and pulsating basslines. Again Andrew is an impressive voice for the lyrics, his delivery impossible not to be captivated by. The track is devilishly infectious, the chorus alone a familiar buddy after only one listen which you cannot resist joining in with. Shadows is indie pop at its best with an air of Oasis to its spark, but do not hold that against them, and a subtle essence of The Loud and Wah in its breath.

Spotlight is a more laidback song with a twang to the guitars with again more than a slight jangle to their flight. It is a reflective piece of passion which tugs on the emotions as much as it fires up the ear. Driven by keen drums and the strolling bass sound, the guitars leave smoking trails in their sonic melodic wake whilst Andrew spreads his range out for all to see and approve, the man a vocalist already of impressive stature and sure to grow into a major voice, as the band itself.

Listening to the EP, one still gets the feeling there is so much more distinct and powerful things to come, their depth still in evolution and discovery by the talented musicians. We for one will be there to reap the rewards as The Varese’s grows into their sound and lights up new realms, our suggestion is you should be there too.

www.facebook.com/thevareses

Ringmaster 18/09/2012

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Goodbye, Labrador – A Thousand Times Before

If you are looking for a stirring and heated soundtrack for your summer days than A Thousand Times Before from Goodbye, Labrador is easily one of the best candidates. The six track EP is a stunning voice for hazy days and heated emotions with its dreamy and infectious immersive sounds the perfect backdrop to emotive and passionate endeavours.

     Goodbye, Labrador formed in 2008 and finds its members based in Barcelona, Brooklyn, and Prague. 2010 saw their self titled debut EP pull in enthused attention as the members came together for shows in Portugal supporting Ölga and its recording. Now the quartet of Martin Pípal (guitar, vocals), Phil Gold (guitar, percussion, vocals), Gonçalo Hipolito Martins (bass, vocals), and J. M. Silverman (drums, percussion), return with their second release through Dead Fisherman Records to once more place their masterful touch upon the senses. As with their first EP the band upon A Thousand Times Before create dream state borne sounds steeped in eighties post punk invention and nineties art rock imagination. Recorded with Eduardo Ricciardi at Golden Pony Studio in Lisbon, the release is a delicious palette of melodic imagination and emotional caresses brought with stirring energies and sleepy calm.

     Goodbye, Labrador open up the EP with the golden toned Intrepid. The first notable thing is the striking bass sounds of Martins and their captivating presence as they explore and expand the shadowed corners of the light bursting from each and every song. Alongside the beguiling guitar play they create a balance which steers the majestic flow of the songs deeper and with stronger contagion aided by the wonderful duality of the vocal attack. The male and females voices sweep the lyrics through the ear on whispers and rays of warmth for the fullest pleasure and it is hard to think of another band recently able to find the consistent heights in this vocal craft as Goodbye, Labrador do. As mentioned the band find influences in the heights of the eighties and as the EP plays the likes of House Of Love and Felt easily slip in to view as comparisons.

Sirens takes over next and easily emerges as the best song on the release. It immediately lures full attention as the bass paves the way with its heart exciting tones whilst the song is soon lighting up the atmosphere with imagination and spiralling melodic enterprise. There is a great discordant feel to the track too especially through the explosive guitar manipulations and energy which reminds again of Felt but also others like The Passage and Birdland with its rawer surface. With a fiery climax to crumble before, the song is simply outstanding and alone ensures the band is one to always keep an eager eye on.

The likes of Falling Away and Embrace The Stranger continue the growing affection inside with their well crafted sounds and shapes. The first of the pair is an easy to consume continuation with dwells on the plateau built from the starter whilst the second with a slight Pixies air to its bewitching presence ventures into further cascades of sonic beauty and incendiary discord lined aural explosions. All of this drama and stirring wonder comes within that dreamy magnetism, the expertise of the band to merge both so fluidly and contagiously deeply impressive.

The excellent Silence Of Me and the emotive Memoir complete the line-up of excellence just as enjoyably as what came before. As the former of the two weaves its startling melodic prowess one realises the band is finding the levels of melodic infection in their emotive hooks as those which made the likes of Echo & The Bunnymen and Wah! so essential.

If there is one slight criticism for the release it is the similarity across the surface of songs which makes it easy without retaining an element of focus to find the songs merging. Of course given firmer attention the songs without fail unveil a wealth of diversity and invention which is undeniable. A Thousand Times Before is a gem of a release which makes one hope Goodbye, Labrador get together often and bring much more of their outstanding creativity and sounds to our ears.

RingMaster 05/08/2012

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

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Two Wounded Birds: To Be Young

Completely mesmerised and thrilled by their Midnight Wave single of last year which included the outstanding song All We Wanna Do, a permanent soft spot for UK rock band Two Wounded Birds was created. Now with the release of their self titled debut album the Margate quartet bring the perfect invitation to it with the free download release of new single from the album To Be Young.

     Two Wounded Birds is one of those bands which once heard are indelibly etched into the heart from thereafter. Even if the band does not ignite an enflamed passion within for their sounds there is a knowing understanding and mutual respect for their pop flavoured rock n roll. Comprising of Johnny Danger, Ally Blackgrove, Joe Stevens, and James Shand, Two Wounded Birds have a hypnotic elegance and infectious grace to their music which recalls the simplistic pop of the past with a rock passion and eagerness of today. As the new single To Be Young cradles itself within the ear with its shadowed melodic charm there is the thought that if those renowned teen angst rock n roll compilations like Lemon Popsicle were born today this quartet would be the perfect lead.

From the moment the deep resonating twang of the guitar opens the track with its stirring siren melody submission is instant before the lure of the song. The track breathes with an emotive sigh and deep passion elevated by the fine expressive vocals of Danger and quite delicious pulsating dark bass lines. As it caresses the ear with its sonic and firm touch To Be Young simply leaves one in full captivation which the more the vocals and guitars croon the senses whilst the rhythms inspire a growing haunting air, the more one is pulled under its rich and lush surface.

Like a merger of The Beach Boys, Wah, The Smiths and tones of Chris Isaak on an excursion through the mind of Tarantino, the single is outstanding and an irresistible invitation to enter their album, the next point of call on our itinerary here. Two Wounded Birds are a band which will win and hold your hearts with care and imagination; they just need you to make the first move.

https://www.facebook.com/twowoundedbirds

RingMaster 27/06/2012

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