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  • Nirvana Nevermind hits Twenty Years Old! 24th September 2011

    28 oct. 2011, 12h42m

    So ok… What is this doing here… well I’m in Glasgow, Cobain loved a lot of bands from here…and the sounds and melodies of these bands, such as Teenage Fanclub, seem to resonate in the music Nirvana created. So with Nevermind turning 20 years old, this piece was written for the northernline blog.

    It is a tale hard to put into words. The memories are there and the songs remain the same. The music speaks louder than the words of others. Arrangements of primal guitar riffs, verse, chorus and crescendo, melody, rhyme and feedback is what it is all about. It just happens that the wider circumstances and global phenomenon surrounding this band continually generates intrigue, mystery and intense adulation.

    So much has been written and spoken about Nirvana. Driven to create and express himself through his songs, it remains so ironic, for a band that in their early days seemed so set on bucking the trends, were ultimately to become this huge bandwagon for so many to relate and aspire to.

    “Oh well whatever Nevermind”
    As I listen to the closing verse of Smells Like Teen Spirit, it is hard to imagine the position Nirvana found themselves in on the release of Nevermind, catapulted into an arena of mainstream fame, fashion and identity somewhat opposed to their coded and somewhat alternate reality, yet firmly rooted in their small town meets Seattle, grass roots and emerging music scene mentality.

    Nevermind is an album close to my heart, listened to perhaps more than any other. Like so many, my teenage pitfalls and tribulations were played out to a soundtrack of Nirvana and associated bands usually played on cassette or vinyl and bought from an array of independent record stores that today are no longer, or struggle to survive. Aware of, and rejecting the more superficial impact and attitudes of a host of classic rock artists, and the dominant and stale US marketing machine, Nirvana cried out into the spotlight, offering an intensely different and way more personal and comfortable relationship with their music.

    At times it appeared that this was impeccably planned and orchestrated to reflect Cobain and his band mates opinions and sarcasm; alternatively a plethora of sociological coincidences paved the way for Nirvana to become the flagship of their generation following in the footsteps of Sonic Youth and Mudhoney, and a surge of independent bands from the UK. There’s always been angst ridden, disillusioned teenagers, but Nirvana filled a vacuum for kids looking for some excitement and something to believe in.

    Having earned the recognition of the big labels, Geffen had paid the band out of Sub Pop and agreed an initial pressing of around 40,000 records, knowing little that it would go on to sell over a million records within weeks, and of its ensuing impact on the future musical landscape. The bigger production sound that Butch Vig and Andy Wallace achieved was a perfect match for the predominantly pop driven songs that were at the heart of the record, emphasized in surround sound quality by the punch of Krist Novoselic’s bass, Dave Grohl’s drumming, and the ethereal, almost psychedelic and at times blazing contribution from Kurt Cobain.

    Imagine being a fly on the wall as the playbacks to tracks from the recording were listened to, and the realisation of just how good it sounds was becoming clear. Cranking up the volume and listening to Lounge Act as the vocals burst into the final verse and chorus, must have maybe indicated how pivotal and liberating this album would become. There were many great records from this era but few that consistently and seamlessly packed in so much energy and emotions. From the opening chords of the album to the frantic climax of hidden track Endless Nameless; the louder the better!

    Nevermind is clearly the most accessible and acclaimed of Nirvana’s albums. This outburst of creativity defined the band in the midst of their most confident and self-assured period of their short spanning career. As a big fan I have repeatedly been struck by the expression of their music. Somehow you could always fit the words around whatever situation you were in at any given moment, such was the ambiguous nature and at times playful stringing together of lyrics. Because the music was so powerful everyone has their own experiences of that record. A very good friend of mine just told me that Nirvana took him to the microscopically thin line between pure divine beauty and absolute chaotic annihilation, a fitting tribute to the album.

    The music with its quiet / loud structure and unique waves of overdrive and rhythm arrangements is epitomised as being beautifully simple; yet from the fragility of Lithium to the blistering guitar and bass drive of Breed – the album is full of complexities, twists, and moments of serenity. The stripped back sound of Polly and Something In The Way with their basic, yet tribal rhythms have both a haunting and enchanting quality that was later to be found at the heart of harder edged tracks when MTV Unplugged was aired.

    Nevermind filled a vacuum; it needed little marketing and offered a fresh perspective and escapism from the superficial paradigm of corporate rock production. Fuelled by a somewhat naive sense of rebellion, truthfulness, and a lack of pretentiousness, Nirvana continued touring as the impact of the record grew, – a mixture of elation and bewilderment brewing within, as its success spiralled into a phenomenon. Relentless touring of Europe and the US had perfected their sound and the many bootleg recordings are testament to the synergy the band was achieving. Any haphazardness and carefree abandonment was translated in the studio into an un-faltering and accurate delivery.

    “What the Hell am I trying to say”
    The self confessional, and almost surreal lyrics are at times hard to comprehend, yet the sheer power of Nirvana’s music had an incredible ability to get a reaction or encourage teenagers to pick up a guitar, inspired by the DIY ethic and the prominence of indie bands. The band were well placed to shine in the UK, and for Nirvana the Seattle scene seemed to fuse with the more mellow sounds of Scottish bands like Teenage Fanclub, The Pastels, The Vaselines, and Eugenius. The band have always been incredibly over analyzed as I am probably guilty of as I write this, but having once described his music as ‘your crossword puzzle’ Kurt Cobain managed to avoid revealing everything, and his cryptic charm only endeared him to his fans.

    “Our little tribe has aways been and always will until the end” Emerging so quickly, prior to mobiles and the internet, Nevermind propelled itself into schools, colleges and radio stations, the songs stirring up a reaction which seemed entirely altered to anything that had gone before, or at least more relevant to the moment for a new breed of music fans. Ok I was easily sold, but hey… that band made some serious music, and I stayed with them all the way from the staggeringly good release of Bleach to the more alarming, but still at times beautifully delicate record, In Utero, and beyond as the music turned to a legacy which remains ever potent today.

    Review also appears on my blog at Tom Manley Photography
    Other reviews on thenorthernlineNirvanaNevermind
  • Glasvegas - Bring Back The Glory Days - Velocity, Dunfermline 15th Jan 2011

    10 fév. 2011, 21h33m

    There is something very endearing about a band that not only acknowledge their roots but clearly reflect them in their songs. With Glasvegas, the Glasgow they are from centres them in the bittersweet Scottish mindset; their songs of edgy and gritty emotions fuse heartbreak with triumphant and anthemic moments, and have enabled Glasvegas to escape the trappings of Dalmarnock, and head for success, following the release of their self titled debut in 2008.

    The combination of big and blistering guitar parts with James Allan’s honest and self confessional lyrics delivered in an almost undeciferable, yet self assured manner came together to produce a magnificent debut album. The big sounding ‘wall of sound’ production became a signature for the band drawing on elements as diverse as doo-wop and the kind of vague shoe gazing brigade, making them instantly stand out and appeal to listeners.

    Anthemic songs overcoming and piercing raw, edgy, yet passionate pleas that confess the truth of a divided and at times bleak society are what help make this band great. The fact these songs touch on reality, sectarianism and the likes of violence, and isolation, has only helped define a place for themselves, and in so doing a stupendous list of accolades and predictions of grandeur and success has been swung in their direction.

    Anyway enough … you know the songs if not go listen, and look out for the new album which is hoped will be a fitting follow up….

    On returning from hanging out in LA and recording their new album, Glasvegas bring music back to their fanbase. Yes they managed to take on America, supporting the likes of the mighty U2 and The Kings of Leon… But, with a noticeable absence from home over the last 2 years, the question I ask is has the mainstream truly taken hold then? Has a shift occurred in the bands DNA which will be hard to recapture? To what extent does their music rely on Scotland?… Let the people decide… and it seems right that the band mark their return by playing a handful of more intimate gigs in their homeland country, stopping off in destinations such as Orkney, through to the Borders.

    On a miserable Saturday night, in darkest Dunfermline, the rain came down and I made my way across the Central Belt from Glasgow, through the usual myriad of road works, wondering with anticipation as to whether the new material from the forthcoming album HEARTBREAK // EUPHORIA would mark a new direction for the band.

    Breaking into the first number from the new album, ‘The World is Yours’ offers a more sophisticated level of songwriting, hinting at an almost soundtrack like quality with vocal reverb and pulsating synth layers – adding an ephemeral, and higher octane sound between urgent guitar work. Laced with slightly repressed vocals the band break from these into more expansive territories.

    The electrifying ‘Geraldine’ and ‘It’s my own cheating heart that makes me cry’ not surprisingly seem to make the biggest impact here tonight and the rapturous response from the crowd to the haunting and touching ‘Daddys Gone’ appear to leave a crowd chanting in blissful oblivion and finding comfort somewhere in the midst of all this.

    There are only a few tasters of new material here…. ‘Euphoria Hold my Hand’ would make a great single and that guitar intro definitely rocks The Northernline’s sensibilities… a quality which seems to suggest a cross between The Stone Roses and Muse perhaps … to which guitarist Rab Allan should be very proud!

    So exciting times for Glasvegas, with a new production crew in tow and a replacement stand up drummer who seems to hit those drums harder than before… they are clearly back to business as usual…. Perhaps the band are at a tipping point though – it will be hard to compete with their debut album … The people of Scotland and further a field expect a lot… will they go on to follow the footsteps of U2, and fill stadiums, only to revisit the then unrecognizable Dalmarnock as part of the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Games in 2014, or will they stick to their roots and continue to find their voice in their old stomping ground….They may find the world has has moved on from 2008, but there is always room for a band with rock n roll in their soul, ( excuse the cliché ) and knowing where it has come from.

    This review can also be seen at The Northernline.com
  • Wickerman Festival 2010 Review by Tom Manley

    2 oct. 2010, 16h01m

    Fri 23- Sat 24th Jul – The Wickerman Festival

    ‘Help me, Help me, Help me sail away’ - the lyrics from this pleasant little Kinks number seem to recall the fun had by all attending this years Wickerman Festival. Although the pleasant ‘English Green’ sounds of the Kinks and the life of luxury may be but a distant land from life up here in the North, but ther is nout but goodness, frivolous fun and summer magic emanating from East Kircarswall Farm, Scotland on the 23rd and 24th July.

    With the summer festival season in full and glorious swing, Wickerman 2010 is firmly positioned as one of the hot spots on the Scottish festival calendar. With a laid back and family friendly ethos, yet still somewhat alternative and eclectic the Wickerman appeals to the Northern Line’s discerning taste, managing to retain that little something that separates it from more mainstream events.

    Now in its ninth year and attracting crowds of approximately 15000, this independent and non corporate 2 day festival is run by farmer James Gilroy, who has only recently begun to see the festival make a profit. Swapping herding cows for the rock n roll dream, and with Sid Ambrose providing artistic direction, he was initially determined to utilize the land for more interesting uses following outbreaks of BSE and foot and mouth disease swiping areas of the UK.

    This years event was particularly well hosted and managed with the party atmosphere enjoyed by all, helped by particularly good weather on the first day. An eclectic mix of artists performed to a sea of sun bathed festival-goers. Topping the Friday night was a comeback set from the nineties melodic grunge pop gurus ‘Teenage Fanclub’, armed with material form their recent album release, 'Shadows'. As the band set up they were accompanied by ‘Guitar George’ – ‘he knows all the chords man’ - his love of all things melodic; a suitably fitting companion on the road again. In a similar vein, ‘The Charlatans’ headlined with highlights from their back catalogue proving most welcome to the audience. Besides other well known crowd pleasing acts such as Welsh Rappers – ‘Goldie Looking Chain’ and the ever suave Tony Christie, (I was unaware quite how legendary an entertainer the man is – clearly on a par with the likes of Petula Clark, Neil Diamond and Sir Cliff perhaps!) the event also hosted a plethora of emerging acts nestled beside more legendary acts from a few years back such as the pop punk sounds of ‘The Buzzcocks’ and the mighty ‘Undertones’.

    It is almost a travesty not to mention other credible performances on the main stages by acts such as Newcastle’s ‘Little Comets’ whose jangily pop and vocal harmonies provided great entertainment, as did ‘I am Arrows’ fronted by ex ‘Razorlight’ drummer, Andy Burrows who greeted the audience with a collection of songs entwined with a chilled summer vibe, oceans apart from the ever energetic choruses of Brighton’s ‘Go Team’ on the following day.

    Set in stunning surrounds and overlooked by the giant wickerman, that is ceremoniously torched at the end of the festivities, Wickerman 2010 was a text book summer festival, with compliments due to the management for enabling no queues to the bar and clean toilets with other little things that make the festival experience that bit more refreshing.

    The Solus tent was a melting point of emerging talent with ‘Django Django’, and the uplifting and electro sounds of ‘Unicorn Kid’ following support sets from ‘Make sparks’ and the raucous & conquering sounds of ‘United Fruit’ amongst many others.

    I could go on…. this event should be credited for the diverse and eclectic mix of music on show bringing acts like Glasgow's ‘Sons & Daughters’ to the main stage, who managed to woo the crowd with their stomping, sinister and melodic indie riffs, and not forgetting the funny bunch of reprobates such as ‘The Sex Pistols Experience’ – endorsed by members of the original band they look and sound uncannily like the real thing and generally swore alot between numbers. I haven’t even mentioned the acoustic tent, the Axis Soundsystem Reggae tent and the Bass Camp Dance area which grooved away till 5am each night, whilst families and worn out revellers were tucked up in their tents. I’m going back next year and guess what, I Can’t wait!
  • Yuck are good , Nice N Sleazy Glasgow

    21 mars 2010, 23h21m

    Thu 18 Mar – Times New Viking

    Yuck supporting Times New Viking

    Every so often rock n roll throws up a new act. Its ability to surprise, captivate and make you realize once again, how it feels to first discover some of your favourite bands is one of the best buzzes of going to gigs.

    I had dropped into the the dimly lit cavern of Nice N Sleazy to watch Times New Viking a band who as experts in low fi fuzz and noise hailing from Ohio had intrigued me on the likes of spotify and last.fm. but instead of sitting down to write about them, I am devoting my attention to Yuck who quite simply, in a very understated and fashionably shy way stole the show for me tonight!

    Trying to liken this band to genres past, and bands which they aspire to sound like, seems a little unfair, at such an early point in their game. This is one of their first gigs outside London and noone has a clue who they are watching. The simplicity of their blend of new wave guitar pop and the combination of driving guitars and urgent vocal melodies captures me straight away. The catchy opener ‘the wall’ rattles along at a good pace and recalls a whole scene of bands in resembling the ethos of The Lemonheads, Pavement, The Candyskins and the mighty Sonic Youth. The hazy lyrics ‘try and make it through the wall’ and ‘its just the way that I feel’ seem to define a band setting out on a journey with a bright future. Their own take on all things non manufactured, alternative and immediate may not easily fit into the mainstream music industry today, but the world is definitely better off with bands like this around.

    Formed from 2 members of the no longer together ‘Cajun Dance Party’ who on guitar and bass pen the current songs with the addition of a bassist from Hiroshima and a big drummer from New Jersey, with a highly respectable afro haircut, Yuck are currently touring the UK and coming to a town near you.

    With no official release available yet, myspace gives you an idea of what to expect but their music live has a rawness and warmth which sit well together, and will get you looking out for more from this act and might even get some hairs to stand on end if you’re lucky.

    some pictures of gig on my flickr
    www.flickr.com/photos/tom_manley/4451503680/
    Yuck