Friday, January 30, 2015

Play Some Awesome Cuts From Teen Brains Here!

Yesterday I was hyping another band on Beech Coma, a new(ish) London label. Today I'm here to hype the excellent Teen Brains. This Norwich crew craft melodic noise pop that bears comparison with the best early Ride stuff. "Flume" and "Annabel" layer on the echo and feedback to craft something that sounds like the odd offspring of The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Drums. The tunes here are big and instantly catchy.

After you play or or download these via Bandcamp, please head over to the band's Facebook page for more details on the band.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

I Need More Of The Tasty Riffs Of Bruising Now Please!

Look, did someone go back in time to 1989 and force the kids in Black Tambourine to record a Pixies cover or something? Yeah, "Can't You Feel" sounds that good!

Bruising are a two-piece from Leeds and they have produced one of my very favorite tracks of 2015 already, I think.

I'm sure they're going to get more press after being mentioned in the NME a few times already, and deservedly so. The 2 cuts that I've heard are well-crafted, noise-y bits of business that instantly buried themselves into my brain.

I can't wait to hear more from Bruising!

Follow them on their Facebook page.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Best Thing You Can Buy This Week Is This Seeds Cover From Government Issue

As you can tell from that pic from the 2012 Salad Days gigs at D.C.'s Black Cat, Government Issue are still getting it done. The tune I'm going to share with you today features both of those guys in that picture -- singer John Stabb and guitarist Tom Lyle (though I think he's playing bass in my pic up there) -- along with Mitch Parker on bass and Marc Alberstadt on drums.

In 1983, Government Issue recorded this cover of a classic b-side from The Seeds. The flip-side to this single is the band's sorta tribute to the legendary Pentagram. The Seeds song was written by Kim Fowley so now is a good time for G.I. to release this one from the vaults since the renowned wild man just went into the Great Beyond.

This single was produced and mixed by Tom Lyle of Government Issue.

John Stabb is still busy making music and you can follow his band History Repeated here.

For more information on the Government Issue bootleg series, check out the Facebook page or the Bandcamp page.

But first, go buy this rockin' single from Government Issue!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Play Rockin' Cut From New Zealand's Surf City Here!

Writing about a New Zealand band is a hard task 'cause invariably one reaches for bands on the Flying Nun label for comparison even if the new band in question is not on the Flying Nun label. Well, the reality is that New Zealand's Surf City sound a lot like late-period The Clean. And that's a helluva compliment as far as I'm concerned.

Shambling in all the right ways, with near-psychedelic guitar licks throughout, "Hollow Veins" is a nice little taster for the upcoming Surf City album, Jekyll Island. That record drops on March 23, 2015 via Fire Records.

After spinning this one, prepare yourself for the release of their new album by following Surf City on their official Facebook page.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Play Thoroughly Lovely Ditty (On Video) From The Granite Shore Here

The Granite Shore is a band lead by Nick Halliwell of Occultation Records and he's joined in the band by Phi Wilson of The June Brides, Steve Perrin of The Distractions, and Mike Kellie of The Only Ones, among others. The new album is being finished up as you can see by the musicians in that shot up above but there's new music to share with you via video today.

"Nine Days' Wonder" is a sprightly tune that recalls the best bits of The Lilac Time and The Pale Fountains. Expertly arranged and full of little pleasures in the instrumentation and vocal performance, "Nine Days' Wonder" is a lovely song that's hard not to love. To my ears, at least, there's also a trace of The Wild Swans here and that's about the highest praise I could possibly give.

I am now a fan of The Granite Shore. You should be too. Follow along here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

My Interview With Elizabeth Marcus, Director Of No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers, Along With An Exclusive James Dean Bradfield Interview Clip (All This On Same Day Manics Announce U.S. Tour Dates!)

A week ago I offered up my review of the superb new Manic Street Preachers documetnary No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers, and today I'm here to share with you my interview with the film's director, Elizabeth Marcus, and an exclusive interview clip with James Dean Bradfield in which he talks about the Manics playing America during the band's U.S. jaunt here on these shores in 2009.

This clip is not in the film but it may end up on the eventual DVD release. Apparently the DVD will have some extra footage (read below for more details on that).

It seems fitting that I'm posting this today as it's now been confirmed that the Manic Street Preachers will be playing the U.S. this April with a date in Washington, D.C. at the (new) 9:30 Club on April 2nd wedding anniversary! It's a good thing that my wife likes the Manics, isn't it? Details on the tour dates are here.

Here's a pic of director Elizabeth Marcus and producer/editor Kurt Engfehr and my exclusive interview with Elizabeth Marcus, director of No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers.

Kenixfan: What was the first Manic Street Preachers song that you heard and when and where?

Elizabeth Marcus, director of No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers: I first heard the Manics in 2001 when I asked a British friend with whom I was chatting with online for some music recommendations. He suggested that I get the album This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours. So the first Manics song I heard was "The Everlasting". It wasn't necessarily my sort of music, but the beautiful sound of James Dean Bradfield's voice soaring up on the first line of the first verse made me want to listen more. And so I did!

Kenixfan: How did the project begin? How long between starting the project and actually starting to film and interview the band members?

Elizabeth Marcus: The project began with a conversation that I had with my partner, Kurt Engfehr, about how the books that had been written and the TV programmes that had been made about the Manics tended to treat them as if the only thing that was interesting or exceptional about the band was the story of Richey Edwards. While obviously Richey was a very colourful character and his disappearance a perpetually intriguing mystery, I felt that there was much more to the Manics than just that. Kurt suggested that we make a film about them ourselves, and thus No Manifesto was born.

We actually started to film pretty much right away, though it took some time to secure the band's participation. The initial filming was conducted on the Forever Delayed tour in 2002. I already had plans to travel overseas and see some shows on that tour with friends I had made in the Manics fan community, so I brought a camera with me on that trip and interviewed fans who had contacted me in response to a request for volunteers that I'd made on Manics forums. The following spring, we used these interviews plus archival materials to make a pitch tape to show the band. They expressed interest, but at the time were preparing to make a new album (2004's Lifeblood). We persisted patiently in contacting the band's management company for their response until finally, in November of 2004, they said Yes.

Kenixfan: The Manic Street Preachers seem to be a band constantly aware of their own rich and complicated history as a band. They seem to be in a perpetual process of contextualizing, for lack of a better word, the events in their own history. Your film captures that process in action. Do you think that Nicky, James, and Sean see the film as important for them in that sense?

Elizabeth Marcus: I don't think that is something they particularly thought about in reference to the film. From the beginning, they said they wanted it to be our project, not theirs, and took a very hands-off approach to the project. They cooperated graciously with the filming process, and then left it to us to make the film that we wanted to make. What hopes or expectations they had for the film and what it might accomplish for them is not something we discussed.

Kenixfan: Did you meet any resistance from the band, the band's management, or fans due to the fact that you are an American?

Elizabeth Marcus: No. I think the fact that anyone in America cared enough about the Manic Street Preachers to make a film about them was regarded as an amusing curiosity.

Kenixfan: The film touches on the fact that the band hasn't broken big in America. Do you think that the band regrets not cracking the U.S. market and, more importantly, are they going to tour the U.S. any time in the near future?

Elizabeth Marcus: I think they probably have mixed feelings about not having become popular in America. In some ways, it has been simpler for them to not have to deal with America's brand of fame, but of course with their big ambition, I expect it was disappointing to them that they never got much of an American audience. As for whether they will tour the U.S. again, that remains to be seen! They enjoyed it last time around, and have expressed a desire to return, and hopefully they will. Please see the attached video clip for some interesting comments that James made in 2009 about the experience of being in America.

Kenixfan: Was the meeting with Rush arranged for the film or were you simply recording something that was already planned? Did Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson know who the Manics were before the meeting?

Elizabeth Marcus: The meeting with Rush came about completely independently of the film, and we were very fortunate to be able to get a camera in. I don't know whether Rush knew who the Manics were before that meeting, but my guess is that they did not. The full Rush interview will appear on the home video release as a special feature.

Kenixfan: How much footage didn't make the final cut and will we see more deleted scenes on the DVD?

Elizabeth Marcus: A documentary is a vast project, requiring reams more footage to be shot than will ever be useful. We included as much of the good stuff as we possibly could! The home video release will include 95 minutes of special features using footage that did not fit into the film, and we will be posting many other bits on our Facebook page as time goes on.

A big, big "Thank you!" to Elizabeth Marcus for taking the time to be interviewed by me, and another big "Thank you!" to Sue Scott for arranging it.

Find out more about No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers via the links below:
November Films:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

It's Time To Dig The Rockin' Sounds Of Argentina's Panda Elliot

I wish I had taken Spanish again after 3rd grade 'cause I'd love to know what Panda Elliot is singing about on the highly rockin' tracks on her new album Forastera. One listen to supremely catchy "Avanzo" made me a fan of this relatively new artist. For all the spark and fire of that track and the following "Velociraptor", there are other moods at work here on the record. "Marmol" is acoustic and built around a near-ska riff. I dug that one a lot too. And "Puentes" charms like late-period Cardigans.

If you want to hear these tunes for yourself, got to the Bandcamp link below and check them out and download them while you can.

For more on Panda Elliot take a look at her official Facebook page.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

In Which No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers Gets Reviewed By This Yank Manics Fan

I'm an American and a Manic Street Preachers fan which, as someone in this fine film says, makes one lonely. But now, at least, I can say that there's a film that finally presents a full, rich picture of this great band and highlights what makes them, and their followers, such a unique proposition in an age of disposable pop.

No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers is the product of an American film-maker. Elizabeth Marcus had been working on this project for years and the results of her extraordinary access to the band are now hitting screens in the UK. She and her crew have done an amazing job at shining a light on the Manics and providing insights into why the band is so loved. The film covers a lot of territory and it manages to pack a wealth of Manics history into a neat package. There's enough here to tell the Manics story concisely to a new or casual fan, and certainly enough peeks behind the curtain at James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire, Sean Moore, and Richey Edwards to please any long-term fan of this Welsh group.

I persisted and was able to see No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers early, legally, and I am here to share my thoughts. I don't often write about the Manic Street Preachers precisely because they are so special to me. I always fear that I'm going to gush too much as I attempt to put my love for the band's music into words. I should warn a reader that this is one of those times when I'm probably going to gush a bit. And deservedly so 'cause this film is great.

Early on in No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers there's a clip of bassist/lyricist Nicky Wire trying to explain the appeal of the band. And, like Pete Townshend in the past when he'd talk about his own band, Nicky hits the nail on the head in a flash of brainy insight into the process of making rock-and-roll:

"...the illusion of rock-and-roll: On stage, we kind of suspend our disbelief and become rock-and-roll in its purest form. Besides that, we were always about debunking a certain mythology, really, even though we were in love with that mythology."

And that's it in a nutshell. Being smarter than any other Rock Stars out there means that these guys know the ultimate foolishness of pursuing that Rock Star mythology. Manic Street Preachers are a band of guys who are actively working at being a Great Rock Band and who are smart enough to know the limitations of such a thing. And knowing the limitations of the thing keeps them grounded and a bit less pretentious than they'd otherwise become.

It comes down to the fact that these 3 guys make Art with a capital "A" and remain, as this film so perfectly shows, modest human beings. That is no mean feat in this era and the clips here remove some of the "romantic" -- a word James Dean Bradfield uses in the film -- notions about creating, writing, and performing music. And if this film does a great job at connecting the creation of Art with everyday life and how that process works, it also does something else: it humanizes the late Richey Edwards -- the one Manic who didn't maintain his grounding -- without diminishing his Art.

No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers succeeds in humanizing these guys to such an extent that their monumental artistic achievements -- The Holy Bible (1994), Everything Must Go (1996), etc. -- seem even more substantial.

"These guys are just regular fellas. How did they create something as beautiful as 'A Design for Life'?" is something that ran through my head while I was watching this doc.

What I guess I'm trying to say is that this film is as much about the Manic Street Preachers as it is about how to create a piece of art without losing your connection to reality. Remarkably modest, serious when they need to be, James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire, and Sean Moore remain grounded and No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers shows precisely how that is possible.

Part of that process of humanizing the guys in Manic Street Preachers involves a look at the band's fans. Marcus and producer Kurt Engfehr wisely eschew the typical Rock Doc device of having a bunch of critics explain the group. If anything, the Manic Street Preachers can best be explained by the band members themselves and their very passionate fans.

When I first got into this band in a big way, there was still that "old fans vs. new fans" divide out there. It seemed as if there were fans of The Holy Bible (1994) and the earlier stuff and fans of the newer post-Richey material and the two camps sometimes didn't seem to overlap a lot. There really was a divide for a spell. Now, that divide doesn't seem as big a deal and the film hints at that a tiny bit and the reason why there isn't a gap anymore between old fans and new ones (the band have revisited their past by acknowledging and making sense of it as they further calibrate their own legacy and mythology -- and No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers shows that process at work among the band members, I'd offer).

The most remarkable thing I can say as a Manics fan about this portion of the film is that it seems as if James, Nicky, and Sean have found a way to finally handle the legacy of Richey. For a fan like myself who got into the band heavily around 1997-1998, it always seemed that the earlier version of the band was defined in terms around Richey Edwards. He was a large figure and his legacy is deservedly honored but No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers allows the surviving members of the band to wrap their heads around the enigma and myth of Mr. Edwards and place Richey's legacy in the context of the larger, longer career of the band itself.

And that sounds a bit pretentious but necessarily so. What this film illustrates is that the Manic Street Preachers were a band forced to change the very way they made Art as a result of the very real tragedy of losing their friend and band-mate in 1995. That they survived, as a 3-piece, and created one of the greatest singles of all time in the process makes their story as a band all the more special and -- dare I say it? -- touching.

As Nicky Wire so eloquently summarizes that series of events:

"I guess out of all that came some kind of joyous melancholia..."

And then the process began of communicating their big ideas to the masses, to paraphrase a frequent explanation of the band's purpose post-Richey. And "A Design for Life" became the ultimate anthem even if one gets a sense that in the heyday of Britpop a lot of listeners didn't quite understand the sentiment at times. But now, in retrospect, and as No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers shows, that song and the story of its making have become a sort of lovely summation of the band's instinct to persevere, survive, and thrive.

I won't try to relay all the great bits in this film 'cause that would rob a viewer of some special pleasures when they watch No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers but I will say that the scene where the band meets Rush is a blast. I have been a hardcore devoted fan of a few trios in my life -- Husker Du, The Jam, Manic Street Preachers (post-Richey), and Rush -- and it was a real joy to see Nicky and James meet up with Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee. I will say that the way I obsessed over Rush lyrics at 14 is sorta the way I obsess over Manics lyrics now a handful of decades later. This scene in the film hits at the nature of rock fandom as we see Nicky and James become the sort of fans we've previously seen in the movie.

And there's some larger truth about the Manics themselves in this section of the film. They understand their rabid fans 'cause they themselves were precisely the same sort of rabid fans of bands back in "1985", to reference one of my faves from the criminally underrated Lifeblood (2004). Unashamed to admit what they cribbed from early on -- interviews around the time of Generation Terrorists (1992) shine a light on what they were inspired by -- the lads in Manic Street Preachers are great at explaining their own music in context of what spoke to them as young fans. Is it any wonder that in the film they seem such naturals at the fan meet-and-greet rigmarole?

On many, many levels No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers is a remarkable film. There's enough here to make me very happy as a fan of the Manic Street Preachers and just enough to get even casual fans -- those who own only one or two Manics albums -- more involved in the Manics and their story.

And the very nature of the film adds to the success with which Elizabeth Marcus tells the band's story. As she explains in a bit of advance press for No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers:

"I didn't want to make a typical rock doc -- a chronological story," says Elizabeth, who directed and co-produced No Manifesto with partner Kurt Engfehr (Bowling For Columbine).

The Manics' aesthetic is to be a collage -- to put together things that interest them and that may not fit together in an obvious way at first glance but have an underlying connection. I wanted to make a film like that -- one that looks and feels more like a scrapbook than a narrative."

Really, it's hard -- no, impossible -- for me to be the least bit objective about No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers. If I have any criticisms they are 1) very minor ones and 2) ones of such a nature that they would have meaning only for the hardest of hardcore Manics fans.

As for what possible further praise I can give this film? No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers makes me like the band more than I already did and that's an amazing thing to say. If anything, I feel as if I've seen the real people behind the songs that have meant so much to me for so long. And when I go to hit "play" on tracks from Send Away the Tigers (2007) the next time, I'll probably be replaying scenes from this film in my head. I'll feel, thanks to this film, that I've been given some unique insight into the inner workings of Manic Street Preachers as a functioning band and that's an awesome feeling for a fan to have.

No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers is what a fan would film had he or she been given access to the Manics. Elizabeth Marcus is clearly a fan of the band, she was given that access, and she ending up crafting a loving portrait of these Welsh legends.

I cannot imagine any Manic Street Preachers fan being unhappy with No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers. Manics fans should seek this out as should anyone interested in the process of creating rock music in the 21st century.

Please visit the official website or official Facebook page, or the November FIlms website, for further details on No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I've Come To Depend On You: A Loving Look At These Two Amazing Jellyfish Reissues From Omnivore Recordings

It seems odd to say that Jellyfish changed my life. They don't seem like the sort of band to generate that kind of statement. They weren't The Smiths, you know?

But, in all honesty, what other American band so influenced and shaped my listening habits in the 1990s? Without listening to Bellybutton (1990) and Spilt Milk (1993), I'd never have become a fan of Jason Falkner, never sought out anything and everything Andy Sturmer touched -- like Puffy AmiYumi -- nor scoured CD bins for stuff like Imperial Drag just 'cause Roger Manning Jr. was on it, and I never would have started noticing Jon Brion's name on albums just because he had a small part in the second Jellyfish record. So, in a sense, Jellyfish did change my life as a music fan, especially since searching for anything Jellyfish-related gave me and my buddy Mike a new hobby for a few years.

(How many times did one of us buy some CD single, or promo. comp., just to get another Jellyfish rarity in our collections?)

And in an era of grunge, and an era in which I had just quit working in music retail after 3 straight years, they reminded me of how joyous and fun pop music could be.

Is it so silly of me to be so nostalgic for that moment when I first saw the video for "The King is Half-Undressed" on MTV one morning before college classes and felt so happy about new music again? That song really was a burst of sunshine for me at a moment when I was a bit down in the dumps about not working in a record store anymore.

I've been listening to these 2 records for so long now that it's hard to believe that they've never been released in this sort of splendid fashion until now. But they have now finally been remastered and reissued, spectacularly, by Omnivore Recordings. Not only have Bellybutton (1990) and Spilt Milk (1992) never sounded this good before -- that remastering is aces! -- but there's now a grand total of 51 (!) bonus cuts spread across these 2 releases.

Bellybutton (1990) sounds amazing. Even better than it did in 1990? Yeah, definitely. I'd venture to say that "The King is Half-Undressed" has never sounded this crisp. "Bedspring Kiss", always a highlight of the record for me, still seems like the lost Nineties pop gem that more people desperately need to hear, and "That is Why" shines with a McCartney-and-Wings-like clarity.

And what about those bonus cuts? Oh, where to begin, man!?!

Disc 1 has the original album plus 10 live cuts. Some of these -- the scorching version of "Jet", for example -- I'd heard before but they all sound great and provide a nice counterpoint to the band on the album. If the remastered Bellybutton (1990) reveals a set of studio wizards, these live cuts give hints of an act that should have been filling stadiums on both sides of the Atlantic. Poised somewhere between Cheap Trick and Queen, with a hint of Supertramp thrown in for good measure, Jellyfish live were a great American band perennially under-appreciated in America.

Then there's essentially the demo version of the album. As the excellent liner notes explain, the band had a set of demos that served as a sort of blueprint for the album Bellybutton (1990). As Jason Falkner elaborates in the liner notes:

"I joined the band because I loved the songs. When we started making the record, we were almost territorial about the demos, because we had spent quite a bit of time on them. Those were all done on an 8-track reel-to-reel, and we had really worked out the arrangements ourselves. I remember thinking we should not veer too far from the arrangements we came up with on the demos, because I thought they were really good."

And it's fascinating to hear these demos through that prism. "Now She Knows She's Wrong" is somehow more Beatles-like here in its demo form; I actually now like this version more than the cut that made the record! And personal favorite "Bedspring Kiss" here reveals more of a jazz underpining in this demo version than the more precise masterpiece that made its way onto Bellybutton (1990).

But it's not just the album cuts that get the demo treatment as there are a few unused songs here too. Of these, the most notable are "Deliver" which quotes Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue in the melody, "Queen of the U.S.A." which provides a hint of something that could have been a great song with some production and expanded instrumentation, and the exquisite "Let This Dream Never End" which is the odd-but-beautiful love-child of OMD and The Beach Boys. That sounds like a weird comparison to make but fans of this band -- and those -- will get what I mean. A really splendid and transcendent piece of song-craft, "Let This Dream Never End" is a real treasure.

And this reissue ends as it should with the demo of "Bye Bye Bye" which would eventually rear its head on 1993's Spilt Milk...

By the time Spilt Milk (1993) was being planned, Jellyfish was essentially a 2-man show since Jason Falkner had started to work on his own projects like The Grays. The band had a clearer focus this time out with fewer people at the helm. Of course, Spilt Milk (1993) also sounds fantastic. Really, there's not much I need to say about the album itself ''s still a freakin' masterpiece! If anything, tracks like "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late" sound crisper on this remastered version than they did 21 years ago. And what could I possibly say about "New Mistake" now? It sounded monumental on old car speakers blasting from a TDK tape on a shitty deck in my ride 20 years ago and it sounds just as boss now in its remastered glory via headphones.

Even with or without the remastering of the cuts on the album, the selling point of this new reissue of Spilt Milk (1993) has to be the inclusion of the 8 demos and bonus cuts on the end of Disc 1 of this set. Some of these tracks -- "Ignorance is Bliss" and "Family Tree" -- are ones that I heard back in the 1990s after I fished around bargain bins for any compilation or CD single that contained a Jellyfish rarity. But there are a few others that I really must write about. Let's start with "Long Time Ago" which sounds so much like a Harry Nilsson song that I almost didn't believe it wasn't when I looked at the liner notes booklet to see who penned this one. Quite simply one of the most poignant things that Sturmer and Manning ever committed to tape, I would go so far as to say that you should purchase this set just to get your hands on this tune. Almost as good is the rockier "Runnin' for Our Lives" which charms on the back of a killer hook. Admittedly neither cut would have sounded quite at home on Spilt Milk but either one would have worked on Bellybutton (1990). That doesn't make a lot of sense but I think the 2 tunes are stronger versions of the sort of thing the guys were crafting for their debut.

Of the other non-album cuts and demos, "I Need Love" sounds A LOT like what that band The Feeling would end up doing so well years later...which is a way of saying that those guys were influenced by Jellyfish without knowing it, I guess?

And "Watchin' The Rain" with its sublime bridge is the distant cousin in sonic terms to "Glutton of Sympathy", all minor chord moodiness and big melodic hooks.

Of the demo versions of the cuts that would wind up on Spilt Milk (1993) it's worth noting stuff like "All is Forgiven" which, in its demo form, serves as the barest outline of what the band would attempt on the record. As Roger Manning explains in the liner notes:

"I think that was definitely a response to listening to My Bloody Valentine. It was an opportunity to not only do heavy instrumentation but to experiment with some extra, extra heavy harmony vocals."

Similarly, the demo version of "Sebrina, Paste and Plato" reveals a strong tune that benefited greatly from the studio wizardry that beefed up the cut on the album. Most of the demos offer something similar. They are a glimpse into how Manning and Sturmer wrote tunes and while they sound fantastic on their own, it's probably best to think of them as early versions of what the album cuts would be once the tracks were arranged, performed, produced, and mixed.

If the demo versions are mainly the work of Roger Manning and Andy Sturmer, the live tracks hint at the band that Jellyfish had become with the addition of Tim Smith and Eric Dover, though it's worth noting that Tim Smith is on Spilt Milk too. The band was able to deliver even more of what was on the record with these 2 guys in on things.

The live cuts on this reissue of Spilt Milk (1993), though, are acoustic and the tunes seem strong if not necessarily as rockin' as they do on the album. The exception is a cover of the Pink Lady cut "S.O.S." which roars out to an appreciative audience in Japan. One wonders now if this was the start of Andy Sturmer's adventures in Japan. Considering how much he brought to Puffy AmiYumi, and how many new fans -- myself included! -- his presence earned the band, it's a fair question. If anything, this rollicking version of the Pink Lady standard is a nice little gem that reveals what naturals these cats were on stage even while they were geniuses in the studio.

You know the best thing I could possibly say about these 2 albums as they are presented here by Omnivore Recordings is that they sound even better now then they did in 1990 and 1993. I don't just mean that in terms of sound quality; Jellyfish and their recorded output actually seem more significant now. Forget the cartoon-y shit in some of the early videos and focus on the tunes and musicianship instead and you'll come to agree with me that Andy Sturmer and Roger Manning Jr. were two of the most gifted artists to rise up in an era unfortunately blighted by too much grunge. I do have a richer appreciation of the band now mainly 'cause of these demo versions of each album. It feels like you can now hear how Sturmer and Manning worked and that's pretty awesome. The unused songs spread out among the demo tracks on each disc present even more of a strong case for such a high assessment of these guys. Jellyfish's cast-off cuts were remarkably great in spots. "Long Time Ago" is as good as anything Neil Finn penned in the 1990s, for example, and that's saying a helluva lot.

So what's the final equation? We've got 2 great albums, a demo version of each, a bunch of great rare, unused songs, some scorching live cuts, and authoritative liner notes booklets with band commentary on each album track.

What the heck are you waiting for? Head over to Omnivore Recordings and get these 2 Jellyfish reissues of Bellybutton (1990) and Spilt Milk (1993) now!

Heads Up About New Ty Segall EP Out Today

This guy is becoming like the Robert Pollard of our generation. The ever prolific Ty Segall has dropped a new EP today. Called Mr. Face the 4-song release even comes with a 3D cover in its vinyl edition.

The cuts here are more catchy goodness. The title track is a bit stripped down while "Circles" and "Drug Mugger" bring the fuzzy hooks we've come to expect from this guy. Final track "The Picture" is a Stones-inspired near-ballad. Think Brian Jones-era stuff.

Get more info about the Mr. Face EP from Ty Segall here.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Play Live Performance Clip From Manic Street Preachers Doc No Manifesto Here

This is a great clip of one of the greatest songs ever written. There, I've gone and said it.

From the upcoming documentary, No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers, this version of one of the band's best songs is sure to make you want to see the film. The doc, on release in the UK this month, provides exclusive background and behind-the-scenes insights into the Welsh legends. The product of a 12-year effort, the film is sure to become the definitive look at the band.

This clip of "A Design for Life" was shot at 4 venues. The NME already featured this but it's worth sharing all over again.

More details on No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers on the film's website or Facebook page.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Quick Review Of The Fine New Album From Noveller

With instrumental music like this, sometimes less is more. Without a lead singer to bellow a point home, the artist behind the music needs to be more deliberate and thoughtful about each note. Unlike jazz where the riffing is the point, here it's what's not said as much as what's said. Or should I say what's played and what's not played? The impact hinges on that.

Noveller is film-maker Sarah Lipstate. Noveller's Fantastic Planet, out soon on Fire Records, is like the soundtrack to an unmade film. From the hint of something heavy on opener "Into the Dunes", to the near-otherworldly chiming of "No Holy Mountain", the album is sure to very nearly instantly grab an attentive listener.

As much as this sort of music requires precision, writing about this sort of music requires restraint. So I'm going to try to not get all flowery as I attempt to write about these expansive and open pieces of music.

"Rubicon" undulates around a sort of bell-like figure, the feedback (?) behind that note unwinding further. "Pulse Point" reminded me a bit of the instrumental stretches on The Moon and the Melodies record from the Cocteau Twins and Harold Budd. The track provides a glimpse of a vast, unfolding sonic landscape and there's so much here without anything wasted. Sparse but full of drama, the tune is one of my favorites on Fantastic Planet.

From the Durutti Column-like notes of "In February" to the Fripp-isms of album closer "The Ascent", Noveller captivates over the course of this record.

Fantastic Planet by Noveller is an expansive and involving record. The tracks here occupy big spaces even as they avoid big gestures. This is music that is compelling and nearly hypnotic in spots but also music that allows a listener to bring so much to the listening. While a flash of fiery guitar from Sarah Lipstate might anchor one track, another might hold that fire back a bit to build tension. I enjoyed that.

It takes enormous confidence to pull off music this serious without being pretentious about it and Noveller has done such a feat. I highly recommend Fantastic Planet for any fans of Durutti Column, Harold Budd, or Robert Fripp. Let these beautiful cuts become the soundtrack to your own personal adventure as they were probably intended to be.

Noveller's Fantastic Planet, will be out in late January via Fire Records.

In the meantime, follow Noveller via Sarah Liptstate's official website.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Few Stills From No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers

I've been a hardcore fan of the Manic Street Preachers for nearly 20 years now and it seems like I hardly ever blog about them. Maybe I'm not equipped to write about them effectively? Maybe their music is too important to me to put that feeling down in words? I love The Beatles too; how many posts have I done on them in 8 years as a blogger? Some things are so ingrained they're beyond blog posts...

Well it's time I fired up my hype machine 'cause here is something worth hyping.

No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers is finally being released. In the UK there will be screenings this month and the film will then hit DVD and VOD (Video-on-Demand).

In case you haven't read anything about this yet, or maybe you've just seen the clips on YouTube and not known the back-story on this documentary, here are a few details from the press release:

No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers, released in cinemas in January, is the American movie maker’s personal homage to a band whose restless reinvention, political awareness and uncompromising desire to be different has propelled them through the charts for almost three decades.

Told using interviews with nearly 100 fellow fans across the world, archive footage, intimate conversations at home with the band during the making of their 2007 album Send Away The Tigers, and live performances from three tours filmed especially for this project, it is a story of rock and roll endurance, respect and truth....

Twelve years in the making, No Manifesto captures The Manics, lifelong pals James Dean Bradfield (singer/lead guitar), Nicky Wire (bass/lyricist) and Sean Moore (drums), approaching their 40s and coming to terms with what it means to be a middle-aged rock band – possibly the hardest realignment since the dramatic disappearance of their friend and fourth band member Richey Edwards in February 1995....

For more details on the film, please check out the website:

And you can also check out the Facebook page for the film:

And here are some semi-exclusive pics and stills from No Manifesto: A Film About Manic Street Preachers...

And, for what it's worth, here is my favorite clip from the film so far and the trailer...

Friday, January 2, 2015

Catching Up With Comet Gain: A Quick Look At Paperback Ghosts And A Word About The New Upcoming EP

If I had heard Paperback Ghosts by Comet Gain earlier I probably would have put the album on my Top 10 Albums of 2014 list.

The follow-up to 2011's excellent Howl of the Lonely Crowd, this new Comet Gain record is a consistent joy. From the understated opening of "Long After Tonite's Candles Are Blown" to the sprightly Mekons-meets-Heavenly vibe of "Behind The House She Lived In", Paperback Ghosts is a record of great tunes. If I accused that earlier release of leaning heavily on Robert Forster's half of The Go-Betweens for inspiration, Paperback Ghosts is, at its best, an album in the style of Grant McLennan's solo albums and his songs with the reunited Go-Betweens before his untimely death. The late genius' knack for writing something that sounds happy and sad and beautiful at the same time is here. When David Feck croons "If the world ends and it's okay, it's just their world..." in "Wait 'Til December" it is sung with the same sort of warm awareness that McLennan brought to his best songs. I can think of no higher compliment than that.

"The leaves fall on a wonderful, wonderful world..." is a sublime coda to this already achingly beautiful singalong tune.

On "The Last Love Letter" the addition of Clientele bassist James Hornsey to the cast of Comet Gain is shown to be a wise one. Robust and still aching, the cut errs briefly into mid-period Aztec Camera with a hint of Hefner. Wonderfully melodic, the Byrds-like guitar solo carries things forward. "(All The) Avenue Girls" uses vocals from Rachel Evans to great effect -- think "Lazy Line Painter Jane" with more kick.

From the lilt of "Your Haunted Heart" to the poetic and wonderfully titled "An Orchid Stuck Inside Her Throat", Paperback Ghosts wraps up nicely even with the somewhat harsher and trippier vibes of final track "Confessions of a Daydream" taken into account.

This could very well be the most consistent Comet Gain record so far and that means it's probably also the best. Focused, wildly melodic, and introspective (but with big hooks), the tunes here are some of the very best David Feck has ever written. I say that knowing that as with most Comet Gain albums, the next one is likely to be even better. But given the strengths of Paperback Ghosts, it's gonna be hard to top this one.

In about two weeks' time, Comet Gain will be back with a new EP called Fingerprint Ritual. It opens with a song that's more than 11 minutes long. Have Comet Gain taken a massive turn into unknown territory? The epic "Breaking Open The Head Part 2" -- (my promo copy truncated the subtitle) -- builds on a thematic idea from a song on 2014's Paperback Ghosts and runs with it. If you'd ever wanted to hear what Feck would sound like with Iron Butterfly behind him, this may be your chance. I am am exaggerating a bit but the tune is altogether different and risky compared to other recent Comet Gain cuts. It succeeds on ambition more than anything else.

"That Lucifer Summer" imagines a world where Stereolab went back in time and became contemporary rivals to The Standells. A supremely rockin' bit of business -- those how did they do that?-backing vocals! -- the song is strange, sinister, and sublime. "To The City's Core" cranks it up further, like the song a rival gang in a musical would have sung in the Swingin' Sixties. The closer to this EP is the fantastically titled "The Obsolete Significant Dignified". The song is in more familiar territory, even if the guitars are harder than on other recent Comet Gain albums.

Paperback Ghosts is out now and Fingerprint Ritual will be out on January 19. For more details on Comet Gain, check out the Fortuna POP! website.