Laura Mardon : Black Rainbow, EP released January 2018

Laura Mardon describes herself as a ‘softly spoken Australian folk-punk songwriter’, so the titles of London boroughs on this EP may at first be disorientating; but she was born and raised in Kentish Town before she eventually embraced a new life on the Gold Coast. Her earlier experiences form the lyrical backbone of these very personal confessional songs, underpinned by sensitive acoustic guitar work.

‘Borough’ features minimalist accompaniment and a lyrical reminiscence that stops and starts the musical backing. Never has ‘…took a bus towards Deptford…’ sounded like such an inviting proposition as on the next track but the bleak words ultimately reveal an empty experience. She then slows down to the waltz of ‘Camberwell’, with a bitter and ambiguous lyric giving an extra emotional weight.

Worthy of a novel opening line ‘Brighton’ begins with ‘… I stole a bible from my hotel room when I ran away from London…’ then the disillusioned narrator escapes the traumas of New Cross to seek a possible destiny at the ocean side. Laura says “Living on the Gold Coast is like living in a permanent holiday vortex”, and the final track Gold Coast is much more optimistic, with positively upbeat guitar picking and a sparkling inflection in the voice.

An EP of spiritual and physical odyssey; it gains in depth with every repeated listen.


The Weebles : In Your Corner (Charity single), released February 2018

The sport of boxing is featured in many songs, from the reflective ‘Boxers’ by Morrissey, the cryptic Simon and Garfunkel ‘The Boxer’ and the injustices of ‘Hurricane’, one of my very favourite Bob Dylan tracks. The aspirational metaphors and phrases around the sport provide the lyrical substance of ‘In Your Corner’; a new charity single by The Weebles, a collective of Cambridge musicians co-ordinated by singer/songwriter Gavin Chappell-Bates.

Gavin has written this fund-raising single with and for Iain MacIntosh who was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2008 and is overcoming constant adversity to live an independent life. Although Gavin has used his own vocal talents on similar upbeat songs in his own work, the lead is taken here by Freddie Hall, a respected interpreter of soul and blues classics and a frequent performer around the Cambridge area. He certainly rises to the occasion and adds some heft to this uplifting Motown-style stomp.
It is all here; a drum beat opening, funky guitar (especially the solo from Neil Bruce), sparkling bass from Charlie Howell, punctuated with plenty of saxophone and brass punching throughout the song. All of the sporting/fighting back/determination references are included in this concise lyric and there is a neat middle-eight too.

Characters from the ‘Rocky’ movies are listed at the end but the key message of ‘…you’re always in my corner…you always pick me up again…’ emphasises the supportive nature of this musical enterprise and worthy cause.
For interview / image / MP3 requests please contact / 07792 647760

Psychic Lemon : Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay, CD released January 2018

Psychic Lemon continue to challenge the senses with this new long-player; their sound has moved on substantially from their first album which now seems almost light and song-based in comparison.
It is an accurate recording of their live sound; as when I saw them perform this album at the Portland in Cambridge last year, comfortably holding their own against headliners Scandanavian psych behemoths Flowers Must Die. In December they were enthralling a freezing crowd once again at Cambridge’s Mill Road Winter Fair, and now here at last is the new album release.

‘Exit To The Death Lane’ begins with moody ritual drums then the layers of guitar and bass creep stealthily in, including some incomprehensible vocal chants. A jarring guitar solo ensures the vibe does not become complacent and at eight and a half minutes there is time for the groove to be fully explored.
The establishment of the rhythmic shape of ‘Hey Droog!’ (the slang term for friend in cult novel ‘A Clockwork Orange’) is pile-driving drum and riff, a distant choir fills in the texture and the effect-laden guitar does the rest before ending the piece in a solo riot of feedback.

‘You’re No Good’ is definitely not the early sixties hit for the Swinging Blue Jeans, but it does have a more sprightly pop touch than what has come before, also with the bonus of a manic saxophone and a bit of singing at the end; this is the nearest they get to their debut album sound. The last two tracks are nine minutes plus; the band have been opening their live sets recently with the paradoxically named ‘Interstellar Fuzz Star’, the fuzz of this celestial object being the guitar effect inextricably pulling the listener towards its gravitational centre. Some impressive bass playing on this track too.
The final track is ‘Satori Disko’, a reference to a state of spiritual awakening, in this case waking to the sound of a hypnotic undulating drum pattern, rock solid bass and a guitarist ripping up the effects pedals and reassembling them randomly.

Overall, listening to this is a unique sensory experience, a combination of you feeling like you are weaving amongst the buildings in a flying car as part of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis or being plugged into the endless pulse of primal signals emitted by distant galactic objects…

Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay Space Rock Power!


Wooden Arms, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 13 December 2017

On a damp December evening, the welcome prospect of three acts making waves in their own not easy to classify genres.

The show started with the ethereal dreampop soundscapes of upcoming Cambridge trio Carolyn’s Fingers. Named after a song by the Cocteau Twins they weave their music from a simple combination of bass, keyboard and an echoing guitar that sounds like it is appearing over a distant horizon. Add hypnotic vocal cadences, unpredictable taped percussion clicks and bursts and you have their signature track ‘Glemora’. Their lyrics address some difficult issues such as the mental state of residents in a detention centre in the minimalist ‘Vapour’. A new single was being filmed during the set for video release and I think we will be hearing much more of their haunting sound.

I last saw Xavier Watkins fronting psychedelic revivalists Violet Woods a couple of years back, here he was back at the Portland with his new project Twenty-Three Hanging Trees; one man and his analogue modular synthesiser. He builds up electronic textures in extended pieces, requiring concentration from the audience to absorb the ever-changing sonic layers. With blurred back projections of images in reds and greens and the visual necessity of plugging in and removing wire connections it was all strangely involving.

Norwich band Wooden Arms describe themselves as a ‘genre-fluid contemporary quintet’ and with the addition of a new bassist they are creating a thoughtful acoustic-based ensemble sound, playing tracks from their new album ‘Trick Of The Light’. Seated at his electric piano singer Alex Carson is the creative drive behind the band, drawing on difficult personal experiences for many of the lyrics. Co-writer and lead vocals (and trumpet) on some songs Jeff Smith has a similar but subtly different voice. All of the band contribute backing vocals, adding an extra dimension to the infinite variations of instrumental light and shade.
The tempo of songs is sedate but there are so many intriguing touches; the sprightly birdsong violin on ‘Brevity’, the John Barry string motif on the smooth roll of ‘Cole Porter’ and the way the plaintive piano figures seem to underpin the direction of the songs. From the novel by Patrick Hamilton, ‘Twenty Thousand Streets Under The Sky’ is a great title and the song seems to lose itself in an evocative journey too. The final two tracks, the older ‘December’ and newer ‘Burial’ (released as a single) are fine summations of the band’s work, ending the show on an emotional crescendo.


12 Highlights from 2017 : A Sampler of The Year

A distillation of tracks taken from some of the memorable albums and shows of 2017…

1. False Hearts: Cynical Love
Belting rock song, takes your breath (and ears) away

2. Luna Falls: Falling To Pieces
Three part harmonies, acoustic guitars and a gorgeous descending chord sequence chorus. Sounds great live too.

3. Tom Robinson Band: Man You Never Saw
Age does not weary the societal condemnation of the ‘Power In The Darkness’ LP, Tom is still loud and proud live.

4. Elma: Butterfingers
Heart-stretching ballad, just perfect.

5. Goldblume: Wisconsin
Live or recorded, Jethro and the boys put on a great rockshow.

6. Hannah Peel: All That Matters
Hypnotic, ethereal gig and plenty of experiment on a multi-layered album.

7. Seán McGowan: No Show
Sterling live support and heir to Billy Bragg, the minutiae and poetry of a zero hours contract in this ode to the minimum wage.

8. Dos Floris: On The Road
Stunning voice and electronic complexity working very well in a live forum.

9. Baby Arms: Eviscerator
The semi-underground DIY scene is home to this gem of a single.

10. Peaness: Oh George
Chester trio turn the mention of an ex-politician into poptastic gold.

11. Dream Nails: Tourist
Scarily good live band, getting their message across in short punk bursts.

12. Public Service Broadcasting: Progress
Surprising choice of theme for the new album, look forward to seeing it all in concert next year.

All tracks featured on…..


Gavin Chappell-Bates : Bad Faith/Good Faith, single released 8 December 2017

As a prelude to his much-anticipated second long-player ‘The Last One’ Gavin Chappell-Bates releases this philosophical concoction inspired by French savant Jean-Paul Sartre and his reflections on how a person should aspire to authenticity and make free choices. Despite JP’s intellect I’m sure that while smoking his pipe in the salons of Paris that even he could not have predicted this satisfying combination of challenging lyric and punchy indie-rock.

Although Gavin could probably multi-track and loop the other instruments himself he has chosen to feature two of Cambridge’s top performers and session players, Neil Bruce of Bouquet Of Dead Crows on guitar and Fred’s House drummer Paul Richards (who has just launched a new drumming film project, see link below). The spiky words and edgy music encourage the listener to reflect on the profound issues carefully, or just dance along anyway.

The accompanying video consists of graphic interpretations of the lyric, no personal appearance this time, before bombarding us with the big question: ‘…bad faith, good faith, decide, this is your life…’. Deep stuff indeed, but ridiculously catchy too.

With this song and the previous single Gavin is enigmatically trailing the forthcoming album, hopefully due early 2018?


Motor Tapes : Shine EP, released November 2017

An EP of four top-quality new songs from Cambridge band Motor Tapes, moving into a more synthesiser based sound but as always paying meticulous attention to all aspects of the final production. The distorted tower block imagery on the CD sleeve reflects the simmering tension behind the façade as in the novel and movie ‘High-Rise’.

1. Shine The lead track is a deep synth stomp with dominant vocal and despite the doomy portents has quite an optimistic lyric about shining lights from mirror balls (I saw one of those at a show recently, it is such a timeless, simple special effect..)

2. Get On The drum machine and solid bassline drives this one along as the husky vocal urges and cajoles. Lots going on in the instrumentation and then brilliant guitar fireworks in the closing bars.

3. Storm Bouncy 80s electronic keyboard pulses give way to some smooth melodic lines and a great earworm chorus. Keep listening, one of the great strengths of the band is there are always some subtle musical twists as the songs progress.

4. Burn The band are currently playing a storming version of ‘Personal Jesus’ in their live show and this track lets the Depeche Mode mode of their current direction run free. Dense, deep and dark, with sampled panicking voices(?) at the end this is a dystopian nightmare, but is probably my favourite on the EP.