More belated beauts from the backlog, better late than never.
Tommy Stinson’s Cowboys In The Campfire: Wronger (Done To Death Records, 7th July 2023)
Tommy Stinson is quite the guy, famous, infamous maybe, through his band, The Replacements. Possibly better known were his brother Bob, and the frontman, Paul Westerburg, each of whom had prodigious issues with alcohol, that association as much a trademark the band as their ramshackle punk Americana. Brother Bobby succumbed to his demons in 1995, partly as documented within Lucinda William’s Hums Liquor, to which, poignantly, Tommy added backing vocals to. Be that as it may, Tommy, 11 years the younger, has continued to ply his groove, with this, largely a collaboration with Chip Roberts, proving to be as much a clarion call to meeting the muse head on, unstymied by budget or fashion. It’s great!
Chip Roberts is a rock and roll lifer, who, by dint of being the uncle of one of Stinson’s exes, fell into his orbit, finding themselves kindred spirits. “Let’s go play some shows and fuck around“, said Stinson, in a hiatus between Guns’n’Roses work, his later band, and that is more or less the M.O. that has remained, through into Stinson’s subsequent post G’n’R and Soul Asylum solo career.
I love a 1,2.3,4 intro, and, let’s face it, ukelele and brass is an unusual combination. But it’s a good one, and Here We Go Again is a tremendously louche opener, as laid back as a box of eels, Stinson’s vocals a dozy drawl that can’t but make a smile form. It’s John Doe from X adding bass and Roberts on guitar, as endearing a muddle as you might. That’s It is then a R’n’B thrash from when that meant the Stones and the Pretty Things, rather than anodyne vocal melasmata, More garage than a dodgy lock up, who needs production values? Mr Wrong is is a similar vein, if invoking where Mr Zimmerman first came to meet the blues. A glorious, if slightly confusing, paean to an ex, around hoping Mr. Next wil be Mr. Right, as opposed to the song title. Schemes is a dreamy shimmy, if Roy Orbison were in the Mysterians, and I like that, as a concept, with cheesy organ from Rob Clores.
Fall Apart Together is some prime rockabilly, with steel from Roberts, and this album is hanging together more than it ever ought. Hey Man isn’t a million miles from the “Hey Man” of Suffragette City, in an acoustic and raggedy Andy sense, of no small appeal. If you still allow the the conceit of starting a conversation with that phrase, “hey. man,“you’ll love it. A string section add some kudos and karma that make it work a treat. We Ain’t is back to rockabilly central, channeling Johnny Cash a treat. Roberts continues to add some primal guitar licks, this album cementing sequentially. A few studio comments add to the vibe.
Karma’s Bitch is an orthodox cautionary tale that fits well into the Cosmic American Music so beloved of Gram Parsons, with lyrics as offhandedly bleak as only witnesses can recall. Souls offers a little more introspection, a lighters in the air song for the dispossessed, with twang max plenty. Which leaves perhaps the standout track, I Had A Dream, which infuses the lyric into the the brain, convincing the dream was yours. With lopsided drums and a rolling guitar, it is an altogether feelgood finale to a feelgood set of songs, possibly not big or clever, definitely fun. As defined by the morning after.
See what I mean? You can catch this disc on CD, vinyl or just plain digital.
Nick Moss Band feat. Dennis Gruenling/Get Your Back Into It! (Alligator Records, 14th July 2023)
Sometimes you don’t even need to listen to a record, let alone read a review, to catch the drift of where the music may be going, with the cover here giving such a firm pointer! Moss is the guitarist, singing also, with Gruenling blowing the harp, and this is dirty downhome dancefloor blues, with a hefty side portion of jump jive to boot. Joined by the well-honed team of Taylor Streiff’s piano and keyboards, Rodrigo Mantovani on upright and electric Bass, and Pierce Downer on drums, the names are almost worth it alone.
Bait In The Snare leaps out the traps, some wild sax wailing in the background, courtesy Gordon Beadle. Nuthin’ fancy, Moss is an old school hollerer, Gruenling filling all and every gap with his eviscerating harp. The bass walks, the drums thump, the keys tinkle and, when he lets loose, Moss plays a harsh and trebly tone on his largely hand and self made guitars. Aurelie is a slow primal groove, with organ replacing the piano, bringing some swampland into the otherwise staple Chicago sound. Gruenling blows greasy, he and Moss trading licks to the fade. (Of course there’s a fade!) The title track is a 12 bar rattle and roll, the emphasis on roll, before a change of vocalist for Man On The Move. Gruenling puts aside his harp, showing himself no mean singer neither, hoarser and more urgent. And, for the record, Moss himself can play a tidy harp, too, he possibly providing it here. It’s a classic floorwalker of a tune, road life in song, the drums a slap in the face.
There has to be a slow one sometime, and Living In Heartache is a doozy, both soloists spiralling around each other and Moss’s droll vocal delivery. Slide guitar is slid, harp is honked, all held together by the slow sascading tinkle of ivories and the never more meat and potatoes bass and drums. It’s slow, but it’s not that slow, your sweat having no time to settle. It Shocks Me Out is one of those old talking blues type number in the style of It Should Have Been Me, corny as hell, cranking up grins right, left and centre. The sound of Louis Jourdain is reprised for an instrumental, Out Of The Woods, with smooth sax over a jumping rhythm section and some icerink organ.
By now you’re guessing no new ground is being broken here, all the songs retreads of tropes well worn. To be fair, Choose Wisely and Your Bark Is Worse Than Your Bite both have broad retro appeal, the former one of the strongest cuts here. The latter has a miked up foot tapping, which is a conceit I enjoy. Losing Ground has a feel of Canned Heat in its lope, never a bad thing, Gruenling honking for his life, before Moss comes in with an economically rolling solo. Bones Cantina is then as odd as its title, with Sandy Nelson drums underpinning the sort of instrumental used in black and white US comedies. Canned applause, or laughter, is all that is missing.
It’s back to basics for a 12 bar stomp, Lonely Fool, which actually acts as a bit of a pick me up, with all the ingredients in the right place, as authentic as a Chicago jibarito sandwich, possibly served, as I write, at Bones Cantina. The Solution follows on in a continuing Windy City way, piano, harp, guitar and descending chords, brass parping quietly in the distance, all very thrill is gone. But listen to just how busy Mantovani is, in the basement room. Final track, Scratch And Sniff actually starts with scratchy guitar, and is a final rinky dink instrumental, reminiscent of the Champs and Tequila, making for an entirely entertaining way to end an entertaining album. Good unsophisticated fun, for when anything cleverer wants you to get your coat.
Get ensnared, on CD, vinyl and digital, :
Nightdubbing/Favouritism (self-released 7th August 2023)
Well this is a bit different, mindful the ATB badge of eclecticism seldom strays into what might get labelled dance/electronica. But, then again, does this either, being more a bleary-eyed stagger into the chill out room? Commonly labelled as Balearica, this sort of music gets increasingly a bad name, not least through the cack-handed opportunism of record companies bandwagon jumping, with hastily cobbled together compilations and concoctions, often little more than some beats over some languid background music. (Harsh? You must know what I mean.) But when done well, thinking of early Café del Mar and Claud Challe’s Buddha Bar releases, it can be something to relish, along with any necessary sundowner of need or choice. (Dawn-upper??)
First things first, however, as, despite even the duo responsible, Tim Robinson and Carl Emery, describing this fourth release as “Balearic Disco Dub with Shoegaze Sonics,” at least one of them has never set foot on the island of Ibiza. Robinson, the technical wizard of the band, actually first met Emery in a record shop, he the regular returning customer to the other long serving him his exotic staples, forging a mutual bond in, well, all and every musical genre going. (So far, so ATB!)
Giving it a spin, it opens with Disconnection, a has it started yet to and fro of vocal snatches, before a bass starts bubbling, the then relentless beat picking it up and pulling it forward. Boosters bleep and channels swap and swoosh, the bass and drums a constant, a sequencer singing overhead. One for headphones, it surges all over and into your head, some Human League style analog bass lines giving further traction. The only disconnect I see is if you don’t feel connected. Stone Love isn’t dissimilar as it starts, if more disjointed in the even briefer snippets that snap and get snipped. A rhythm is established, with beep-beeps to beckon in some female vocal repetitions. Some folk enjoy spotting from where all these borrowed sounds arise, but it is no more relevant than comparing Beethoven with Lieutenant Pidgeon, given each employed piano. Tape is an instrument, right? As is the sound of a squelchy electronic bass.
Little Weekend starts with the muted feel of a piledriver, or an MRI, perhaps to denote the working week, as in the end of. Some hypnagogic shimmers gradually take the centre ground, sounds that wouldn’t shame Dik Mik or Del Dettmar in the early excursions of Hawkwind. Having just watched Christian Slater’s The Mechanic, there is a similar dysfunctional feel to it all, of doom rather than sybaritic pleasure, the track unchanging other than around the edges, which are fully fraying and friable. Night train to oblivion, maybe? Probably best listened out with medication, although the melodic patterm in the third quarter is a thing of no little joy. The title track follows with some slap bass samples, over some funky percussion, and swooping vocal ululations, the mood now completely transformed into a sweaty House club in Chicago. (No, of course, I’ve never been…) Actually less interesting than the track before, I can see that, for some, it would be a highlight.
A name like Oxford Roadshow inevitably conjures up midweek TV, “live music for young adults”, featuring, usually, the Thompson Twins or Spandau Ballet. I guess it counts for a little more in Manchester’s Oxford Road, but I am sure the title is deliberate. The core structure is an electronic shudder of increasingly percussive judder, with snippets of extraneous sound; laughter and applause, slipping in and out. An elastic sprinkle of notes begin to compete with a braying sax, and the listener is caught up on a merry-go-round. (So, much like any other 30 minutes with Peter Powell?) Glass House is calmer, with handclappy beats and an insistent bass, before a suggestion of some Robert Miles-y piano,, which never quite fully forms, if undeniably in there somewhere, deeper in the mix and less smoothly flowing than the Children hitmaker. Closer, Whatever It Is, It’s Yours, is the shortest track, arguably the most experimental, largely percussion and fluctuant, almost Floydian ,soundscapes. Is that a harmonica in there somewere? There is certainly guitar. Oddly, this is my highlight, possibly a taste of future direction.
No cd’s available, it is vinyl or digital only, the former for early birds. Bandcamp is your friend, but here is a taster: