Most of our music reviews are a mixed bag when it comes to style and content, but the one you are about to experience definitely has a theme. It features great singers and great songs – deceptively simple yet they are all the more powerful for the manner they are produced and presented. This is music which stays with you longer after the last note sounds. Put simply, all of the people you are about to hear – they mean it, man.
Stay on till the end for a bonus track which is a fitting conclusion to this review. It’s not just thrown together, you know…
Alasdair Roberts has featured on these pages many times before, either for one of his many solo projects or in collaboration with others, such as with Ross Whyte, and The Furrow Collective. The latest of the latter sees him alongside composer Amble Skuse and Concerto Caledonia head-honcho David McGuinness for the album What News which the three played in full at the launch at Glasgow’s Glad Cafe. Roberts is known for staying faithful to the folk traditions, but this latest record, with McGuinness’s wonderful piano and Skuse’s understated electronica, breathes new life into old songs.
To my untutored ear, there is something about the loops of all three which works together beautifully – the structure and format of the ballads enhanced and developed by the new accompaniment, and lending the stories themselves extra strength and vigour. Whatever the reason, the result is a quite remarkable record – one of the best of the year, and one of the best of Roberts’ career to date. I urge you to seek it out, and if you get the chance to see them live then make sure you book your seats in good time. To give you a taste as to what to expect, this is ‘The Fair Flower Of Northumberland’:
Two of the most challenging types of writing are crime and comedy. For the first you have to avoid repeating well-worn clichés while still making it as recognisably belonging to the genre. For the second, well, it’s got to be funny – perhaps the most difficult trick to pull off on the page. A successful crime/comedy, therefore, is something which is to be celebrated.
Christopher Brookmyre and Douglas Skelton are two writers who get the balance right, combining the dark side of life with the blackest of comedy, but they are rare. A worthy addition to that niche section of your bookshelves arrives in the shape of Stuart David’s latest novel Peacock’s Alibi. Set in Glasgow, and with an unerring ear for what the word on the street should sound like, Peacock’s Alibi is like a lost Taggart script as written by John Byrne. Like Byrne, David writes dialogue that isn’t how people speak, but how they wish they spoke – funnier, wittier, and with a better line in the last word. Continue reading
My, but there’s some classy music being made out there. The world may be falling down around our ears, but it’s got a hell of a soundtrack to accompany it. Who would have thought the end of days could sound this good?
The majority of those who feature in this roundup have appeared before, but we make no excuses for that as they all have excellent new music to share, and we have impeccable taste. Too much? Listen below and say we’re not right…
This Saturday (22nd April) is Record Store Day when you’ll be offered all sorts of collectibles and rarities to prise your hard-earned from your back pocket. It’s going to be an overwhelming choice, so let SWH! help by cutting the glorious wheat from the acres of chaff. This is the day Teen Canteen release their latest EP Sirens on Last Night From Glasgow, and having heard it I can guarantee you it will rank among your favourite records of the year, or your money back*. Continue reading
Belle and Sebastian are one of those bands who are surrounded by myth and legend, often of their own creation. Their forming for a college music project, the Machiavellian hand of a former Associate, Stuart Murdoch’s rumored fondness for heavy metal, Christian fundamentalism, Chris Geddes being only 12 years old when he joined; that’s just a few of the truths, half truths and lies which have been put out there over the years.
Add to this the (fictional?) liner notes which accompanied the early releases, and you couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a band who understood the power of music mythology, and who were determined to be in control of theirs.
Stuart David knows what happened, cos he was there; one of the founder members of the band formerly known as Lisa Helps The Blind. His latest book, In The All-Night Café: A Memoir of Belle & Sebastian’s Formative Year is exactly that, and it deals with many of these myths, not with the intention of debunking them particularly, but simply by telling the truth of his part of the story.
He starts at the very beginning, setting out his own musical influences and dreams, and how they brought him from Alexandria to Glasgow to meet others who shared both. What unfolds is a story of persistence, luck, happenstance and talent which serves as a reassuringly recognisable tale to those who have once been in, or around, bands, and as a handbook for those who still dream about it. The former will shake their heads in disbelief as an amazing story of “where it all went right” unfolds, and the latter will be reassured as to what is possible. Talent, self-belief and luck; they run through the book as through a stick of rock.
In the latest Scots Whay Hae! podcast, Ian and Ali are joined by Looper’s Stuart and Karn David. It’s a timely chat as we discuss Stuart’s recent book In The All-Night Cafe about the early days of Belle and Sebastian, as well as Looper’s handsome new 5 CD box-set, These Things, which has just been released.
However, as usual, we stray from the main topics to talk about other interesting things such as the lost art of letter writing, literary and local musical influences, writing fiction, making films, and the problems that face the introverted artist.
Stuart reminisces about his first musical forays and the formation of the band who would become Belle and Sebastian. In doing so he sets out the chain of events which led from he and Stuart Murdoch’s first meeting, their finding a band of musicians who could share their vision, the importance of ‘Richards’, the making of their classic debut Tigermilk, the album’s initially cool reception, to his decision to make very different music away from the band.