Category Archives: Music

Pink Lemonade : Sugar N Spice, single released January 2019

A belting new single from Cambridge trio Pink Lemonade. On their previous outing the stratospheric ‘Space Girl’, they were out in the cosmos for two and a half minutes of power pop ‘….surfing the waves of the Milky Way…not your usual Friday, hey!…’, a burst of energy featuring a na na na na chorus, fuzzy guitar and as much outer space terminology as they could cram into the grooves. Follow that!

They have – although back to Earth lyrically the energy level has been maintained and probably increased. An insistent guitar line drives the song from the start, introducing a lyric of fitting in and alienation, a story being told over driving drums liberally adorned with cymbals, busy bass and a punchy lead vocal. The rest of the band join in on the vocals for a killer chorus which will lodge permanently in your brain.

The song structure is suddenly disrupted with a surreal spoken and shouted call and response middle eight before we return again to the security of ‘…sugar and spice and all things nice….’. The trio seem to have a gift for writing excellent choruses and as the track goes into overdrive it finally ends with the line ‘…love, love, love makes the world go round…’. Indeed it does, listen and enjoy!

https://www.facebook.com/PinkLemonadeMusicUK/

Advertisements

Wave Pictures, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 24 January 2019

A triumphant return to a sold out Portland Arms for the Wave Pictures.
The opening act Pony Collaboration first played with the headliners in 2007 so a reunion was long overdue. The six-piece perform heartfelt, emotionally self-deprecating songs, many from their new album ‘Everything Was Ages Ago’. Occupying similar musical territory to The Smittens from the USA and Cambridge’s own Model Village this ensemble make a great sound, driven by acoustic guitar, organ and virtuoso percussion.

The Wave Pictures
have such a massive back catalogue, every show is different in setlist and subtle variation of overall tone. Tonight opening with the loose polyrhythms of ‘Roosevelt Sykes’ there was a rockier sound in ‘House By The Beach’, ‘The Running Man’ and chart hit ‘Pea Green Coat’.
New songs ‘Hazey Moon’ and ‘Close Your Eyes Mike’ with its inviting imagery of ‘…alligators stirring in the soft white street…’ fit neatly into the set and Jonny Helm steps up from the drum kit to deliver an impassioned vocal on the slow ‘Sleepy Eye’ and ‘Now You Are Pregnant’, accompanied by the most delicate guitar and bass.

The triumvirate of ‘Pool Hall’, ‘Spaghetti’ and ‘Stay Here And Take Care Of The Chickens’, each with gradually increasing bass solo prominence from Franic Rozycki provides a peak near the end of the set. Through it all shines the majestic guitar intricacies of Dave Tattersall, effortlessly integrating solos, chords, riffs and impossible tricks into his playing. He is a versatile singer too and with some absurdist links between songs and a beguiling vocal performance on the mellow groove of ‘The Red Suitcase’, he bonds easily with the audience of believers and recent converts to this brilliant and much-loved band.

Rare rocker ‘Canvey Island Baby’ made a surprise appearance at the end, then the unrelenting drive of ‘The Woods’ was an excellent encore leaving us all wanting more but knowing we could wait until the next time they visit…

http://thewavepictures.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ThePonyCollaboration

Astralingua : Space Blues, single released January 2019

A new single from acoustic dreamy duo Astralingua, a forerunner of their new album to be released in March (see excellent cover artwork below). They use a broad canvas of strings, woodwind and gentle effects as a platform for the distant but compelling vocals.

Composer Joseph Thompson and vocalist Anne Thompson sing all the lines as two-part harmonies and make the whole piece into many strata of gorgeously textured ethereal musings. Beginning with awe and wonder at the cosmos ‘… staring through a polished glass…all the shining stars…wonder could I truly grasp….’ the narrator soon becomes overwhelmed at the prospect of the scale of things ‘…endlessly vast…aeons roll past…’ and as happened in the most famous celestial song of all (Bowie’s Space Oddity) it ends badly ‘…the silence roars…I want no more…of life behind these doors…’

We don’t know if there is a way back from oblivion for the astronaut but this beautiful song ends wistfully as the instruments beam out into the distant galaxies. With a calm psychedelic insistency that recalls Pink Floyd’s ‘Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun’ this is as good an evocation of the mysteries of the cosmos as you could hope to hear.

http://www.astralingua.com/

Lizard Brain : Stray, LP released 18th January 2019

The third album from Cambridge band Lizard Brain is a refreshing cornucopia of a dozen tracks where each one is completely different in style and substance; lovingly crafted in their studio by the perfectionist quartet.

Opening with an electronic sequencer pattern ‘Lost In Sound’ is a poppy song drenched in effects and frequently returning to the hookline of the title, referencing Bowie’s Space Oddity along the way. ‘Gannets’ is a guitar driven rocker with a neat descending chord sequence. Then to surprise the listener we have the loping reggae of ‘Am I Just A Name Now?’, with a lyric of resignation regarding the digital world ‘…I’ve got more friends now…than I’m ever gonna need…’.

‘My Thing And Your Thing’ is a cryptic folk-rock prog piece, needing extra listens to untangle it. ‘Red Dress’ is a standout. As deep industrial electronic slabs of sound drift in and out the surreal words are darkly comic. It is an excellent song; a hybrid of Robyn Hitchcock meeting mid-period Depeche Mode.

‘Nothing To Say’ rocks along solidly then a tight 80s jazz-funk feeling pervades the next two tracks; ‘Should I Tell You?’ is a catchy pop single then ‘Never Felt So Good’ is nearly seven minutes of laid back goodness featuring flute, saxophone, bar chimes, synthesiser, languid vocals and some of the instrumental unpredictability of later Steely Dan.

My current favourite is the unexpected blast of Northern Soul of ‘Back To You’, a perfectly formed confection of upbeat lyric, blaring horn and Hammond organ sounds, pounding drums and bass and the biggest hookline chorus on the album. Brilliant!

‘Are Your Hands Any Warmer Yet My Dear?’ is a medieval psychedelic waltz with beautifully played classical guitar, recorders, crickets and a gothically sinister lyric about a strange relationship featuring imagery such as ‘….I buy a guitar cut out from cardboard…see I drew on some strings…’. This is a track to treasure; unusual and satisfying.

Finally we hear the insistent pulsing patterns of ‘Freedom (Summertime)’, a gradually building anthem of escape and optimism. As the album reaches the end you realise that you have never heard anything quite like this celebratory and stylistic collection of excellent songs.

https://www.facebook.com/LizardBrainBand/

Hydra Lerna, EP released December 2018

A new self-produced EP from Norwich based singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Hydra Lerna, building musical textures around her harp-playing and electronic treatments.

1. Reckless A distant tone introduces a recurring loop figure on the harp, other sounds drift in and out but the gorgeous vocal really lifts the song; understated but intense ‘…it’s clear that I know what I want and it’s becoming an addiction, you’re becoming my addiction….‘ The soaring chorus melody carries all before it and electronic percussion patterns and bass pedals help to build up the drama. This a stunning start to the EP.

2. Angel v. Psycho This is a bit more sparse and spiky with a processed voice, creating a darker atmosphere and never quite revealing where it is going.

3. Distraction This short analogue-toned electronic interlude floats dreamily in some alternative space, gradually adding the layers and the repeated title to enhance the mystery.

4. Hydra – Remix Back to a more conventional song structure here for this description of a relationship intertwined with a lyrical identification with the ‘Hydra of Lerna’ of Greek and Roman mythology. The staccato musical core of the track flows into a busy percussive chorus ‘…you’ve got power but I’ve got poison, I can take you down…’.

5. Birdcage – Remastered A waterfall of lovely harp triplets roll through the start and are never far away in this anthemic piece. A lyric of escape gives way to an instrumental coda; this is another track that shows the creativity, imagination and potential of this talented performer.

https://hydralerna.com/

12 Highlights From 2018 : A Sampler Of The Year

A distillation of tracks taken from some of the memorable albums and Cambridge shows of 2018…

1. Wave Pictures: Sugar
Two albums this year and this uptempo loveable confection has already established itself into the trio’s live set.

2. Public Service Broadcasting: ROYGBIV
Stunning visuals made the live version of this lesser known track unforgettable.

3. Fightmilk: Your Girlfriend
Excellent new album but this stealthy masterpiece is in a class of its own.

4. Colour Me Wednesday: Sunriser
Album and live set opener, a summary of all the features that make this band something special.

5. Suggested Friends: Please Don’t Look At Me On The Bus
Short burst of DIY angst, delivers its message as the hookline haunts your brain.

6. Gaffa Tape Sandy: Water Bottle
High-energy set opener from explosive power trio.

7. Teleman: Cactus
One of many highlights of the new ‘Family Of Aliens’ LP, a stupendous and unrelenting electronic riff marches into the consciousness, with even more energy in the concert version.

8. Ember Rev: Bring It Right Down
Thoughtful and message filled accordion-based rock, works well on stage too.

9. The Sunbathers: Girl You Left Behind
Gentle seaside themed concept album includes this indie-folk waltzing gem.

10. Elma: September
A reminder of a celebratory album launch at the Portland for a fine collection of retro 60s delights. Special mention too for heart breaking ballad ‘Late To The Party’.

11. The Smittens: Upper West Side
Many vocalists and moods in a brilliant show at the Blue Moon from USA Indie collective.

12. Robyn Hitchcock: I Used To Love You
Cambridge references in this song from probably the best gig of my year, a church venue the perfect setting for the intimate performance of songs from a glorious back catalogue of timeless psychedelic imagery.

Diving Station : Feather Mouth, EP released December 2018

A new EP from Manchester four-piece Diving Station, an engrossing collection of acoustic and electric soundscapes.

1. You’re Not Listening As a guitar sound arrives from a distance singer Anna McLuckie immediately pins down the sense of the track with her jazzy vocal stylings. The distinctive harp appears after a minute or so, adding an unearthly texture to the constantly changing instrumentation. The other band members drift in and out with vocal and musical contributions to a song that never follows a predictable path.

2. Taking Tongues A beautiful combination of harp and acoustic guitar sets this gorgeous track on its way. Deceptively sailing along on a smooth tide of restrained acoustic folk the rest of the band suddenly crash in with an electric guitar and percussion outburst; even the harp gets aggressive. The calm after the storm is a glorious vocal coda.

3. When I Arrived It Was Raining With a title like the opening line of an inviting novel, this is another track to lose yourself in its many sections and moods. A lyrical evocation of homecoming and longing is at times accompanied by a sparse but always carefully judged instrumentation; impressively towards the end the harp and guitar harmonics create the sound of raindrops…

4. Tour Guide A dream-like and anthemic end to the EP, driven by a sustained and emotional vocal as the band create layers of sound patterns underneath, gradually leading to a gentle play-out as the finale to this fine collection of songs.

https://www.facebook.com/divingstationmusic/