It’s been a bizarre year. While Parliament, social media and the country-at-large have been tussling with Brexit and elections, the musical landscape has somewhat reflected that turmoil via a fragmented po-pourri of emotions, feelings and heightened surreality.
Formed in 2014, the London all female four-piece hit the big time when their stunning debut album Love in the 4th Dimension was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, a recognition that here was a good old fashioned indie rock and pop band who had the tunes to back up their enticing female gang imagery. Since then they have indulged in their various solo projects, played backing band to Marika Hackman on her I’m Not Your Man album, toured with The Pixies, and are about to release their second album, Walking Like We Do, followed by a tour with Bombay Bicycle Club and their own UK headline jaunt.
One of the few bands to outlast the indie guitar band explosion of the mid-2000s, Field Music’s un-selfconscious, anti-fashion stance has seen them compared to the likes of Steely Dan, Todd Rundgren, Scritti Politti, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel and XTC. They may not have achieved much in the way of commercial success, but for the last 15 years they have been pouring their hearts and souls into Field Music, as well as a number of side projects including Peter’s You Tell Me band – also featuring Admiral Fallow’s Sarah Hayes – and David’s School of Language project, whose third album, 45, was released last summer, a satirical take on the 45th Presidency, Donald Trump.
Cacophonous feedback informed the beginning, the guitarist and singer Theo Polyzoides bent over forwards next to his amp, before the band struck out on a stridently noisy punk rock beat, Theo hopping on to his amp, back facing the cameras, before jumping off and reaching the mic in time to yelp the words to ‘Speakerface’. This was my introduction to King Nun, filmed in lo-fi, recorded live, but released as an accompanying video. It was electrifying. I loved it from the first seconds.
For two decades the Brighton based record label Tru Thoughts has been a prolific force amidst electronic music, jazz and hip hop, with artists such as Bonobo, Rodney P, Ty, Quantic, and Alice Russell gracing their books. Still headed by founder Rob-Luis, they continue to find, and nurture new talent. Tiawa Blackhorse has just signed to the label, and is one of many acts performing at Tru Thoughts 20th birthday celebrations, along with Hidden Orchestra, Anchorsong, Wrongtom, J-Felix, and many more. Tiawa took some time out from touring to have a chat with Jeff Hemmings, about Brighton, music and her musical partner Jack-Chi (Jack Kingslake).
This legendary member of Genesis during their classic 70s heyday, and guitarist extraordinaire, is still making and playing music, even as he approaches 70. He joined Genesis in1971, and played on six of their studio albums, including Selling England by The Pound and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Hackett released his first solo album, Voyage of the Acolyte, while still a member of Genesis in 1975. After a series of further solo albums beginning in 1978, Hackett co-founded the supergroup GTR with Yes’ Steve Howe in 1986, releasing one album. Hackett then resumed his solo career. He has released albums and toured worldwide on a regular basis since, his body of work encompassing many styles: progressive rock, pop, blues, world music and classical music. According to Guitar World: “Hackett’s early explorations of two-handed tapping and sweep picking were far ahead of their time and influenced Eddie Van Halen and Brian May.”
Who said guitar music is dying? Haven’t we heard this before? Yes, a million times and counting. When synth pop and the new romanticism hit the airwaves back in the early 80s, when dance music took the UK by storm at the turn of the 90s, when Britpop fizzled out in the late 90s and when the mid-noughties four-string revival hit the veritable brick wall. We’ve heard it time and time again. There are no new pastures, no exciting bands, the well is almost dry, and we’re all going to have to deal with the purgatory of computer driven music, soulless auto-tuned r’n’b and probably much worse. And yet, like the Phoenix from the flames, it refuses to die, instead re-inventing itself into new and exciting forms.
The Isle of Wight, it’s in a bit of a time warp, is it not? I ask Douglas Richards, who along with his older brother Jamie, and Chris Newnham, founded Plastic Mermaids earlier on this decade, with bassist Tom Farren, and drummer Chris Jones eventually completing the line up. “Yeah, definitely a little bit. There’s definitely some warped sides to it. There’s a lot of chavs, and then there’s a lot old people, and a lot of Brexit voters. And generally, anyone I went to school with who had half a brain, left the Isle of Wight,” he laughs. “Some people decide to come back, when they have kids and stuff. But, there’s also quite a creative community. I think there’s quite a few hippies from the 70s festival who ended up just staying in Ventnor (on the South Coast of the island) and breeding. There is a lot of really good music here, but not masses of people to go to gigs. It’s a slightly strange dynamic.”
The times they are a-changing, sang the Duluth bard, more than half a century ago. But even that visionary would have struggled to foresee a rock’n’roll world being turned upside down by passionate young men, singing about male vulnerability with a seething intensity that can be both exciting and unsettling to watch and hear. The Murder Capital are one such bunch, the band visually coming across like nattily dressed gangsters whilst they theatrically weave around each other, singing about suicide, romance, fear, impotence, mental health, and weakness, but set against a sometimes violent musical maelstrom. As singer James McGovern says about the brooding and propulsive ‘Feeling Fades’, the first song they released as a fully formed studio recording, “I like brutalism because it’s not trying to be beautiful.” Indeed, their beautifully brutal music brilliantly encapsulates their pent-up emotions, before being released in a torrent of controlled chaos and turmoil, with McGovern repeating the refrain “the now elapsed ‘round you and me, and it kept us all together.” Joy Division, The Pixies, The Birthday Party, The Sound, Savages, Idles, and Shame all come to mind, post-punk old and new, adding new and interesting layers and angles to this most dexterous of genres. A certain genre has proven itself to be a saviour of music, one that allows the political, to mingle with notions of art and the avante garde. The profound social changes we are currently going through are being encapsulated by this Dublin five-piece’s heart-on-sleeve music, along with fellow Dubliners Fontaines D.C., with whom they shared a practice space, and Girl Band.
Started in 2013, and billed as the first outdoor jazz festival for over 20 years, Love Supreme has always been about combining contemporary and old school jazz flavours, with crowd pleasing pop, along with a little bit of soul, funk, hip hop, electronica, and r’n’b. And while it took a few years to really find its feet, the festival has since become relatively stable and established, albeit within a toxic atmosphere of austerity and Brexit, the main socio-economic-political signposts of our times, pulling negatively at both the economy, and spending power. But, in the main, people know roughly what to expect, and that is a high quality, ‘mature’ music programme, in a safe, none-too-cluttered child/teen friendly space. Although camping is part and parcel of the experience for many, Love Supreme is definitely more Latitude, than Glastonbury, the hedonism toned down.