Stuart Turner & the Flat Earth Society – Scowl album review

Scowl by Stuart Turner & the Flat Earth Society (STFES).Scowl is a book for small children by Steve Smallman about an owl called Scowl. Scowl was only happy when he was grumpy, perched upon his grumpy branch, screaming ‘Flap off!’ at the other woodland creatures, who tried in vain to cheer him up.

Scowl is also the fifth album by Medway‘s very own Stuart Turner & the Flat Earth Society (STFES).

The album cover adorns stern Victorian wetplate images of each band member, courtesy of the talented and esteemed photographer Rikard Osterlund, that make Peaky Blinders look like The Nolans.

Scowl introduces a much harder, more alt rock than folk edge to the effervescent, ever-changing sound of STFES.  The harder gritted sound may have been sparked by Stuart Turner dropping the acoustic guitar for a Gretsch or the departure of multi folk instrumentalist Rob Shepherd, who left the band part-way through recording the album.

But STFES has always been a vehicle for other members to bring songs to the table, and this policy gives the band the ability to change direction or sound as a matter of course, rather than a progression or out of any fad or passing style.  A good example of this is the uptempo indie pop overtones of Stoic.  A wonderful pop song driven by the unmistakable guitar sound of Bob Collins.

The other stand out track for me is Nothing.  The song grew out of an original idea by Shepherd, and is a slow burner that builds into something very special.  A song about lost control, lost innocence and lost life. This should remain in the STFES live set for many years to come.

Turner’s distinctive growling blues vocal style is perfectly matched with Rachel Lowrie on tracks When, Crash and Solitary.  While David Read of The Claim provides guest vocals on Helen – a song that is surprisingly not a cover version as it couldn’t sound more like The Claim if it tried!

The evolution of the STFES “sound” is completely natural.  Water, with its banjo-picking, alt folk acoustic-driven sound reminds me more of previous albums, but sits perfectly well among the 9 great songs that together, make Scowl a great album.  For me, the best STFES album so far.

Scowl by Stuart Turner & the Flat Earth Society (STFES) will be released on 10th November on Vacilando 68 records.

Richard Thompson new album,  Acoustic Classics Vol. II & UK Tour

Richard ThompsonFairport Convention co-founding member and celebrated folk guitarist / songwriter Richard Thompson will release Acoustic Classics Vol. II on his own Beeswing record label, distributed via Proper, on 11th August.

Richard Thompson was recently named by Rolling Stone as one of the Top 20 Guitarists of All Time and is one of the world’s most critically acclaimed and prolific songwriters. He has received multiple awards, including Lifetime Achievement Awards at the BBC Folk Awards and the US and UK Americana Music Association Awards, as well as Mojo’s Les Paul Award and an Ivor Novello Award for song writing. Thompson was appointed OBE in the 2011 New Year Honours List. Robert Plant, REM, Elvis Costello, Bonnie Raitt and many others have recorded his songs.

Following the success of Acoustic Classics in 2014, Acoustic Classics Vol. II will feature acoustic renderings of classic songs from the Richard Thompson catalogue, some previously recorded by other singers, some previously available only in a band format. A second album Acoustic Rarities will be released later in the year featuring new recordings of some of the more obscure songs in the Thompson catalogue, some previously existing only as cover versions.

Special three-disc vinyl LP and double CD versions of both albums together will be released exclusively via Pledge Music: http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/richardthompson

Richard Thompson Acoustic Classics II Tracklisting:

  1. She Twists The Knife Again – 2:49
  2. The Ghost Of You Walks – 4:41
  3. Genesis Hall – 3:30
  4. Jet Plane In A Rocking Chair – 2:29
  5. A Heart Needs A Home – 3:27
  6. Pharaoh – 4:26
  7. Gethsemane – 5:13 8. Devonside – 3:06
  8. Meet On The Ledge – 3:06
  9. Keep Your Distance – 3:35
  10. Bathsheba Smiles – 3:33
  11. Crazy Man Michael – 4:24
  12. Guns Are The Tongues – 6:06
  13. Why Must I Plead? – 4:09

A hugely popular live performer, Richard Thompson will tour the UK in October, including the very first concert at the newly-established London Bridge Theatre, which is now sold out and a second London show at Cadogan Hall. Thompson will play Fairport Convention’s annual Cropredy Festival, which takes place August 10-12, and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the group.

Richard Thompson UK Tour Dates
(supported by Josienne Clarke + Ben Walker)

Wed 11 October               Brighton Dome
Thu 12 October                 Guildford G-Live
Fri 13 October                    Poole Lighthouse
Sat 14 October                  Bristol Colston Hall
Sun 15 October                 Cardiff Wales Millennium Centre
Tue 17 October                 Edinburgh Usher Hall
Wed 18 October               Gateshead Sage
Thu 19 October                 Salford Lowry
Sat 21 October                  Saffron Walden Saffron Hall
Sun 22 October                 Coventry Warwick Arts Centre
Mon 23 October               London Cadogan Hall  *EXTRA DATE
Wed 25 October               Sheffield City Hall
Thu 26 October                 Leicester de Montfort Hall
Fri 27 October                    Basingstoke Anvil
Sat 28 October                  Norwich Theatre Royal
Mon 30 October               London Bridge Theatre  SOLD OUT

Bookings www.serious.org.uk/Thompson

Richard Thompson new album, Acoustic Classics Vol. II is scheduled for release on  11th August on Beeswing distributed via Proper.

The Blue Aeroplanes – Norwich Arts Centre, Live Review

The Blue AeroplanesThe Blue Aeroplanes @ Norwich Arts Centre, 27th January, 2017

The fact that veteran art-rockers The Blue Aeroplanes can still pack out a mid-sized venue, such as the Norwich Arts Centre, is a testament to their enduring cult appeal. Cutting their teeth on the Bristol “art” circuit of the early 1980s, before coming of age with critically acclaimed albums, Swagger and Beatsongs, the band has undergone almost constant line up changes, always led by mercurial frontman, Gerard Langley.

Aligning themselves with the art scene from the outset suggests that their music is something to be appreciated rather than enjoyed and what may have seemed endearingly precocious when the band were in their twenties is now in danger of lapsing into pretension. What prevents this is the self awareness and good humour with which they conduct themselves: this may be art, but it isn’t high art.

The bands latest effort “Welcome, Stranger!” doesn’t stray far from the tried and tested formula of jangly guitars and deadpan, wordplay-loaded lyrics but, as their first album of new material in six years, represents something of a resurgence for the group and a welcome return to form.

The new material heavily peppers the set list on the night and is as warmly received as the older hits by the fans in the room, much to the visible delight of Langley, who seems to be relishing the chance to showcase his still deft lyricism. Of these new tracks Elvis Festival is a particular highlight; a study of the unflappable confidence of Elvis impersonators, whom Langley seems to channeling during the number.

In an age of anniversary tours celebrating bygone successes it’s refreshing to see a veteran band so focused on what comes next, rather than what came before. I suspect that to slow down and reflect on their past as so many of their contemporaries have done would bore them; this is a band moving forward, even now.

Having a high energy, low inhibition dancer as part of the band and onstage at live shows seems decidedly cliché in a post-Bez world, but Wojtek Dmochowski‘s possessed, talismanic grooving actually predates that of his Mancunian counterpart by a number of years. Tonight he is on fine form, still hurtling and flailing with as reckless an abandon as ever. It’s less visual art and more dad dancing, and that’s ok; it lends a much needed lightness to proceedings, softening Langley’s art-rock edge.

Biggest hit Jacket Hangs stands up as well as ever and elicits the most enthusiastic audience response of the evening. They’ve showed off so much brand new material that it’s difficult to begrudge them luxuriating in some nostalgia – they’ve earned it.

The Blue Aeroplanes have always only held cult appeal and their latest album will do nothing to change that. But for the audience in the little venue in Norwich and up and down the country their singular brand of lyrical, literary rock remains a genuine joy.

Torgeir Waldemar, new album – No Offending Borders

No Offending Borders by Torgeir WaldemarTorgeir Waldemar took the Norwegian people and music press by surprise with his eponymous debut album in 2014. Who had thought that the black-clad, longhaired and bearded man would deliver an album that captivated and moved us as much as it did. An acoustic masterpiece that sounded like it came straight from the rehearsal room of a young troubadour from Laurel Canyon in the seventies.

While his previous album cultivated a pure, acoustic sound, we get more rock music this time, and for Torgeir Waldemar nothing is more natural. With his background as a guitar hero in various rock bands, it was only a question of time before distorted tones would assert themselves in his solo career. No Offending Borders is a gloriously composite work with both dead honest acoustic laments and grandiose rock songs.

But the record is so much more than that, and for Torgeir this is a document that shows the seriousness we meet in our everyday lives. Both on the personal level, with relationships that falls apart and the loss of loved ones, but also on a national and global level, with refugee crises, suicide statistics and the weakest members of our society. You may have guessed it already, but this is a solemn record.

If you’re afraid that Torgeir Waldemar has turned away from what he presented on his debut album, you can relax. Here we get acoustic folk songs like “Falling Rain (Link Wray)”, “Island Bliss” and “Souls on a String”, but the album also contains more intense rock songs like “Summer In Toulouse”, “Sylvia (Southern People)” and “Among the Low”.

Aesthetically, it’s also consistent from beginning to end – nothing at all is done by chance here. The historical lines that are drawn in the cover design, are also meant to point back to ourselves and to make us conscious of our past, so that we won’t make the same mistakes again. The cover of the single “Souls on a String” featured a photo of the decorated carrier pigeon from World War I, Cher Ami. It saved a whole British company during the war, when the British were caught in a battle, without any food or ammunition. Cher Ami was sent away, and taken under fire by the enemy, but finally delivered the message that saved the British troops.

The chair on the cover of No Offending Borders is from Kviknes Hotel in Balestrand. This is the chair that Wilhelm II, the King of Prussia and Emperor of Germany, was sitting in when he was told that World War I had started. Wilhelm II was a friend of Norway and spent much time on the west coast in the early 1900s. What would you have done if you were sitting in that chair and received that message? Sit down, think thoroughly about it, while you’re listening to No Offending Borders.

No Offending Borders by Torgeir Waldemar is scheduled for release on Jansen Plateproduksjon on 17th March.

The Blue Aeroplanes release new album Welcome, Stranger!

The Blue Aeroplanes release new album, Welcome, Stranger!
The Blue Aeroplanes new album – Welcome, Stranger!

The Blue Aeroplanes release a new studio album – Welcome, Stranger! this month and follow their twelfth studio album with a UK tour.

After a recent performance at the BBC Radio 6 Festival, playing at Stewart Lee’s request at the last ATP and a standout live session for Marc Riley debuting this new material, The Blue Aeroplanes are set to return with a first album in nearly seven years

Here Is The Heart Of All Wild Things‘ from the album Welcome, Stranger!

The Blue Aeroplanes’ unique amalgam of rock, folk, poetry, punk, dance and art has been an acknowledged influence on a wide range of bands including REM and Radiohead. Combining pop smarts with serious weirdness, they have released almost thirty albums on various labels, several of which have charted in the UK Top 40 and the US Alternative Top 10.

Their 1990 album ‘Swagger’ was ‘Rock Album Of The Year’ in many publications including The Sunday Times. Ex-members have gone on to play with Massive Attack, Suede, Placebo, Goldfrapp and Primal Scream, while for many years they shared multi-instrumentalist Ian Kearey with folk legends the Oyster Band. They remain the only group to have been banned from The Rainbow Lounge, Lemmy’s favourite hangout, and been invited to play at the Hay-On-Wye Literary Festival.

Elvis Festival‘ from from the album Welcome, Stranger!

Never having split up, The Blue Aeroplanes are not actually a part of the ‘trip down memory lane’ nostalgia euphoria that appears to have every band from the 1980s reforming; and ‘Welcome, Stranger!’ is a contemporary-sounding statement from a genuinely independent and creative band.

For Welcome Stranger! original members Gerard Langley (vocals), John Langley (drums) and sometimes ‘dancer’ Wojtek Dmochowski are joined by Gerard Starkie, Chris Sharp, Bec Jevons and Mike Youe.

The Blue AeroplanesThe Blue Aeroplanes UK Tour 2017

LIVERPOOL
O2 Academy 2 Liverpool
Wed, 11/01/17

MANCHESTER
Manchester Ruby Lounge
Thu, 12/01/17

NEWCASTLE
O2 Academy 2 Newcastle
Fri, 13/01/17

EDINBURGH
Voodoo Rooms
Sat, 14/01/17

GLASGOW
Stereo, Glasgow
Sun, 15/01/17

NOTTINGHAM
Nottingham Rescue Rooms
Wed, 18/01/17

LONDON
O2 Academy Islington
Sat, 21/01/17

OXFORD
The Cellar
Wed, 25/01/17

SHEFFIELD
Sheffield Leadmill
Thu, 26/01/17

NORWICH
Norwich Arts Centre
Fri, 27/01/17

BRIGHTON
Patterns
Sat, 28/01/17

EXETER
The Cavern, Exeter
Sun, 29/01/17

The Blue Aeroplanes release studio album Welcome, Stranger!