Neil Mason — Tags: , — Neil Mason @ 10:57

Look at me, 1997, eh? Racing headlong towards the 21st century after lingering for a while in the eighties. Idlewild are one of ‘my’ bands. I wrote their first piece of press, a new band piece in Melody Maker – a Maker Breaker as it was snappily called – back in 1997. I’ve some plans afoot for refloating some of those old articles, but that’s a whole other tale.

I first met Idlewild in a hotel near Hyde Park, I think. The name escapes me, but loads of bands stayed there. It’ll come to me. They were fresh off the train from Edinburgh and were in town to ink their contract with Food Records. There was something quite briliant about writing pieces like that. It was always a thrill and, despite all the jet setting and the cover stories, unearthing new bands was what made a great job a brilliant one. I still get a kick from it today (you can find new band writing on our sister site

And what with a new self-funded Idlewild album ‘Post Electric Blues’ (their seventh), about to drop for those who pre-ordered, and Roddy on tour with fellow Scots folkies Kris Drever and John McCusker (their ‘Before The Ruin’ collaborative album from last year is well worth hunting down), it seems a good time to roll out the ‘Wild’s second single, ‘Chandelier’ – which you can only listen to one way… loud, very loud.

It’s as much of a breath of fresh air today as it was back in 1997 and it never fails to give me goosebumps. It came to us, as was usual in the nineties, thanks to the fine ears of NME’s Simon Williams and and his always-on-the-money Fierce Panda label. It was a label that also served up early outings from Ash, Supergrass, Coldplay, Embrace, Kenickie, Keane and Death Cab for Cutie. He was occasionally wrong, but not often.

Roddy remains one of my favourite people from the time. A lovely, softly spoken man, he hated doing interviews. I can’t imagine he’s changed much, but he was always amazed that anyone could possibly be interested in what he had to say. He was, needless to say, good company, thoughtful and always interesting. Over the years I spent more time with Idlewild than with any other band, except perhaps Lo-Fidelity Allstars (more of them soon) and I like to think we had an understanding. Looking back it’s easy to see that I was as passionate as they were about not only about their music, but as people. But not in a gay way, natch.

Unlike many of the bands of the time, Idlewild have not only stayed the distance, but grown over the years from furious noiseniks to a band that reeks of quality – many said they were the UK REM, which I always thought was a slight, but you get the point. Sorry, I appear to be gushing. Great isn’t it?

More hear…
– ‘Scottish Fiction: Best of 1997 – 2007’ is essential, and at a fiver a total bargain, buy
– Then it’s a case of just buying everything else, buy
– The collaborative ‘Before The Ruin’ is worth a listen (CD/download)
– As for vinyl, Idlewild are proving pretty collectable. A glance at the excellent has their debut single, ‘Queen Of The Trouble Teens’ at £125, which makes ‘Chandelier’ a snip at £26.99

My Boy/My Girl… that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout

Neil Mason — Neil Mason @ 19:17

My Boy/My Girl

My Boy/My Girl ‘I Think Of Tron’

Having looked at our visitor stats, you will both already know that I live in Norfolk, UK not Virginia, although I imagine they’re not world apart. I moved back here in 2002 and I have to say it’s quite odd returning to live in a place you grew up. You have perceptions that are quite hard to shift. Not least about the music scene. Nowhere is quite as cool as somewhere you’re not. Norwich? Move along please, nothing to see here.

So I was at the very fine Norwich Arts Centre last week to see a friend‘s new photo exhibition – the fabulously titled ‘Stills From The Unmade Film Of A Half-Written Novel’. If you live nearby I can recommend a quick squint. Anyway, I do like to pick at piles of listings mags on my way out and always enjoy ‘Burrowing’, the properly old school fanzine by promotion legends Wombat Wombat.

I’m getting to the point now. Honestly I am, hang in there. ‘Burrowing’ is where I discovered Hot City Sounds 09, the second annual outing of a musical extravaganza that’s splattered across the City from July 3-11. Now this may be of no interest to anyone else, but I’ve been working my way through the list of over 130 bands playing the eight venues, and blimey, there is some proper talent coming out Norwich. Proper.

Join me if you will for a few posts where I point in the direction of the festival highlights. IMHO, natch. First up, the rather brilliant, self-proclaimed laziest band in Norwich, My Boy/My Girl. One boy, Nelly, and one girl Nai. They sound like legends already don’t they? You wait until you hear them. They are as rough and ready as it comes, so raw a doctor would prescribe cream for it, but the racket they make is an utterly fabulous one, for proof wrap your flapping ears round the carnagerous ‘Superman’ on their MS. The influence is so obvious so I won’t bother spelling it out, the promise they show is equally obvious to anyone with ears.

What’s best is that underneath all the bluster these two just drip in melody, and as you can hear from ‘I Think Of Tron’, they can clearly clock a tune, effortlessly, at 100 paces. Think how Idlewild gentled up from their spiky debut ‘Captain’ and that’s what we’re staring into the face of with My Boy/My Girl.

Quite possibly the most exciting new band you’ve never heard of? Now, if they can cut it live…

More hear…
– The MySpace, then
– Catch them live at the Hot City Sounds launch party at NAC on July 3. Doors at 8pm, tickets are £5 on the door. I will be buying two.

The Associates

Neil Mason — Tags: , — Neil Mason @ 13:59

The Associates ‘Party Fears Two’

1982. There’s a theme developing here. Indulge me, I’ll get over it soon and move on. Still, you can see why ‘Ashes To Ashes’ was set in 1982. ABC, Tears For Fears, Blondie, Madness, Fun Boy Three, Soft Cell, The Jam, Motorhead… would be nice to have seen a few more leftfield choices, like The Associates.

They were a much darker and more abrasive band than the charts were used to, and it was their commercial success, which began with ‘Party Fears Two’ (pictured above), that proved to be their undoing. Of course, no one could have known at the time, but they just don’t make bands like The Associates anymore. In Billy MacKenzie they had a unique talent. Doherty is perhaps the closest we come to the same kind of flawed genius, except Billy had more talent in his little fingernail. Listen to the incomparable ‘Sulk’ album if you’re in any doubt. ‘Largely conceived in an amphetamine induced frenzy’, is how the Wikipedia entry not so delicately puts it. You can understand why the band began to unravel from then on.

Following the death of his mother, MacKenzie tragically committed suicide in 1997, aged just 39. He had been suffering from clinical depression. His magnificent solo album, ‘Beyond The Sun’, album still gets a regular outing at rippingvinyl towers. His distinctive voice remains unique, he should have been a massive, massive star. Long may his music live on.

footnote: ‘Ashes To Ashes’ Season Two finale has just aired in the UK – as the big set piece kicks off we are (finally) treated to The Associates with a bit of ‘Club Country’. Magnificent stuff and light years apart from anything else on the show. I can sleep easy now.

More hear…

– At the time of his death, pretty much the entire Associates back cat had been deleted, not an expression you hear too much these days. Since then, his estate has worked to ensure his music isn’t forgotten and almost everything has been re-released.

We’d recommend…
– ‘Singles’ (2002), buy
– ‘The Glamour Chase’ / ‘Perhaps’ (1988, released in 2002, with ‘Perhaps’ as a bonus) buy
– ‘Sulk’ (1982 – rare as hen’s teeth, hence the price) buy
– ‘Beyond the Sun’ (1997) buy

We Fell To Earth… Gene Genius

Neil Mason — Neil Mason @ 12:58

We Fell To Earth

We Fell To Earth ‘The Double’

Okay, hands up. I really should have mentioned this earlier. I first heard We Fell To Earth last autumn. A good friend has fingers in about as many pies as I do. Mostly, it has to be said, they are real pies with meat and stuff in them, but on occasion he is also known to do some work, which on this occasion lead to getting involved with WFTE.

And so here we are, the following summer, with a very nice head of steam building and, blimey, when you listen you can’t be surprised that record labels are falling over themselves just like they used to in the old days.

Their ‘about’ bit on their website does an extensive job of telling their tale, so I won’t bother rehashing it. Carrying on from my Ambulances post when were were talking about good self-PR, WFTE leave no stone unturned. In among it all there’s mention of musical influnces. Not sure I’d be rushing to listen with influences such as Suicide, Jefferson Airplane and Spaceman 3, but each to their own, and IMHO they’re under-selling themselves.

In very simple terms, and I am as simple as they come, We Fell To Earth are much more straightforward, musicwise. They are astonishingly good. Richard File – who with Wendy Rae Fowler forms the nucleus – stepped into the breach when DJ Shadow left UNKLE. They have also been tangled up with Queens of the Stone Age and Mark Lanegan. All very decent pegs to hang your hat on. It has me all ears in a jif. So then you listen.

Talk Talk and Radiohead? I will have some of that, thank you very much. And yes, it is always, always dangerous to use the ‘R’ word, because everyone wishes they were like them, which no doubt is why WFTE carefully avoid it. But their brooding, swollen, rumbling widescreen sound shares a sensibility, the same sensibility that ver ‘Head hoovered up from the likes of the magnificent Talk Talk. It’s heritage. It is.

We Fell To Earth are staggeringly good. We will be hearing from them again. Mark my words. You know, I should be writing biogs and press releases again. Reasonable rates if anyone’s interested. Imagine.

More hear…
– Their very own, proper, very good site
– The MS, natch
– The ‘Careful What You Wish For’ EP came out at the end of April and there’s an album in the can, which you’d guess will see the light sooner rather than later.

New Order

Neil Mason — Tags: , — Neil Mason @ 16:19

new order

If a band can lay claim to making the 12-inch their own it’s the magnificent New Order. There are few things in musical life that can fill your heart with joy quite like one of their multitude of remixes.

When ‘Round & Round’ – the second single from the ‘Technique’ album – was released in 1989 anything went in a bid to land an artist a big hit. First stop was releasing stuff on as many formats as possible – three 12-inches and two CD singles in this case.

I was working in an independent record shop at the time and as a chart return shop we saw a constant stream of sales reps and their bounty through our doors. Formatting was but just one tool in their arsenal. We’d be swamped with promo caps, t-shirts, sweats, hoodies, cigarette lighters… you name it, we got it. And if their records were hits, it was boxes of wine, watches, spirits, band-branded jackets.

The Detroit Mix, pictured above, comes from, trainspotters, Fac263rA with Motor City grandmaster Kevin Saunderson at the controls. You can’t help but smile at the trademark New Order sound getting all Detroit. It wasn’t a huge leap. It sounds like you’d imagine a car being made sounds. Gives me goosebumps every single time.

Download lowdown
– Go on the hunt for rare NO remixes at this rather fine discog site. If you’re missing anything, just ask and I’ll see what I can do!

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