Yung Jimmy’s Big Ideas

I went along to the Actress & Bishop in Birmingham on Saturday 10 February 2018 to see my son’s band, a late addition to the bill after two bands bailed on the event at short notice.
More of them another time, as their time is surely coming.

What an unexpected bonus though to experience the headline Yung Jimmy’s Big Ideas.
Where to begin? This baby faced kid Jimmy, 19 years old, but with the cajones to get a diverse bunch of musicians together and improvise an unrehearsed show. It’s not accidental or messing about, it’s what this guy does, at different shows, with different musicians, and the result is extraordinary, like nothing I’ve seen before, and can only be experienced live, in the moment.
The other musicians, many much older, the drummer for instance is a bass player who hasn’t played drums in 15 years, are drawn to Yung Jimmy like a moth to a flame, any one of them can start a jam whilst the others pick up the vibe and go with whatever comes out to create a sonic wall of sound.
There’s a lot of reverb and pedals involved, the electricity is palpable, sometimes they swap instruments mid song, and all the while Yung Jimmy sings whatever comes to mind, wails, and grins, and smirks, out, and you can’t take your eyes off him. It’s psychedelia with a punk attitude, but holy shit it takes some nerve, and the audience was tripped and gripped, and what struck me most was the realisation that here was electric music in it’s purest form being created right in front of our eyes and ears, each piece fermented, consumed, and then pissed away to make room for another.

The kid is the cross generational love child of an unholy trytst between Beck , Liz Fraser, Stepen Stills, Frank Zappa, and Shane MacGowan, and he may disappear up his own Big Ideas or he may takes this creative chaos around the world and be celebrated as an avant garde rock ‘n roll genius.

Jimmy, from mid England Lichfield, says he’s just having fun but there’s something all together more interesting and seminal going down, and I think he knows it.

Readers, I give you


A Triple Prod Of Electrification At The Tin

17 November 2017

The Tin At The Coal Vaults, at the Canal Basin in Coventry, is a hidden cavern of a venue, cosy with terrific sound and acoustics.
Friday night of 17 Nove
mber 2017 saw three bands line up to entertain a modest but appreciative audience.

Rai Kah Mercury, a young power trio from South Staffordshire, were first up, and if their youthful appearance led people to certain expectations on taking the stage what followed was a bolt of genre defying, mature electric rock built around the talents of frontman Tomas Crean, who’s guitar prowess takes nothing away from a vocal style as soulful as it is brooding.
With the rhythm section of Reece Schaefer on bass and Josh Lowe on drums, backing up like a latter day Experience, the band comes into its own when hitting extended jams as songs build to a climax, and the effect is mesmeric and goosebump inducing.
There’s a uniqueness to RKM’s songs that makes it difficult to pin down precise influences, the band is tight while the songs lack classic uniformity allowing Crean to free flow his extraordinary guitar solos.
Expect to see Rai Kah Mercury rising up the pecking order quite rapidly.

Local boys The Ellipsis made a return to home town ground and looked to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.
Looking for all the world hewn from the late 80s, some of their music bears a remarkable likeness to Big Country and yet they swear to have never heard of that estimable band that packed out halls for a couple of decades.
They share the same passion for energetic melody, often with twin guitars and in Henry Bristow have the closest thing I’ve heard to the much missed vocal tones of Stuart Adamson.
These are serious compliments fellas.
Lead guitarist John Connearn plays with a crisp, clean tone, and tasty yet economical solos.
Harry Green gives solid support on bass with some added flicks, and Alex Bonser is an Animal of a drummer even opening the set with a short drum solo.
The Ellipsis is a very entertaining and enjoyable melodic pop rock band, with an 80s vibe, and well worth watching out for.

Headliner Rascalton, out of Glasgow, arrived fresh from a successful European tour where their fiery punk displays were enthusiastically greeted, yet on this night a sparse audience stood back from the stage would have seemed very different for them, yet they didn’t hold back and in frontman (and rhythm guitarist) Jack Wyles they have a very charismatic focal point who can on occasion snarl like Rotten whilst having the photogenic looks of a young Jobson.
The music leans heavily on late 70s punk of bands such as The Buzzcocks, UK Subs, Cockney Rejects, rarely veering too far from the chugging formula and in Steven Long on lead guitar, Mark Buchanan on bass, and Greig Taylor on drums, they know their jobs and do it to perfection, yet on the odd slower number also show they can vary things up so there is potential in this band to build an audience that does not rely solely on spitting, beer throwing, moshing kids, but on any given night that might be just what’s needed and Rascalton will deliver the adrenaline.

The combination of these three different young bands, all united by a love of electric guitar rock in different guises, made the entry price of a fiver ridiculous value for those of us privileged to be there, and made this old hack glad to be alive in this time when anyone who still thinks rock ‘n roll is dead is probably just dead inside.

Nights like this, bands like these, are deserving of support, get out and see any of these lads whenever they are down your way, the only way you could be disappointed is if you don’t go.


Radiohead – Manchester 4 July 2017

Over the 20 years or so of their existence I have paid scant attention to Radiohead, for reasons I can’t adequately explain or justify.
I must have seen the odd clip here or there, and made snap judgements about pretentiousness and Thom Yorke, and too easily fell in on the side of those who dislike them.

That all started to change as my 17 year old son entered into a war of attrition, convinced that it really is my kind of music and there was no reason why I shouldn’t like them, playing Radiohead in the house shuffling over and over, and slowly but surely resistance and  prejudice started to crumble.
But Dad, you like Jason Molina, you like Holy Fuck, how can you not like Radiohead?

It was sitting down together to watch their Glastonbury 2017 headline performance from start to finish, on a big screen, played loud through the hi fi, that finally made the breakthrough.
Everything my son was saying was true, it is my kind of music, and the truth is that had I paid attention earlier I would have got the message sooner. Better late than never ….

So, seeing Radiohead had changed its cancelled Manchester arena shows, in the wake of the recent atrocity, to Old Trafford Cricket Ground, meant an opportunity to buy tickets and get to witness this spectacle and possibly to achieve 100% conversion to the cause.

Whilst by now, I know just about every song through recognition, I don’t know their titles so won’t give a review of the songs, and there is plenty of other sources to obtain such blow by blow reviews.

In 44 years of going out to gigs Radiohead is unlike anything else I have ever seen.
They have elements of everything from funk, EDM, heavy riffs, trance, progish melodies, all driven by an extraordinary rhythm section, and the intensity of Thom Yorke’s vocals.
They are at a stage where they have experimented and rung changes throughout their  career and have a diverse back catalogue. Like the most creative bands each change has alienated some yet lead to even more success, and when put together in a 140 minute show, everything fits together like an Incan wall.

The effect on the Manchester crowd (of course that’s the location but people had clearly come from all over the UK and Europe), was like a slowly burning incense stick in a box of 4 July fireworks, a heady aroma gradually permeating all corners before exploding in various and unpredictable directions.

Part of Yorke’s appeal is his punkish presence, a diminutive hobgoblin of a man, who gives off essential attitude, not given to between songs patter, other than the occasional ‘you all right?’, and demonic cackles, it’s all about the music and that is where he holds the audience in the palm of his hands.
His vocal range is extraordinary, unlike others who change up to achieve a falsetto he seamlessly moves around his range, gliding effortlessly to falsetto,  and away from delivering oft withering lyrics his banshee wails are always controlled and add an almost instrumental dimension to the virtuoso playing of the other band members.

This old gigger found himself grooving along (which for me mostly involves a bit of swaying and shifting from foot to foot), from first note to last, and there was occasional pockets of moshing at the riffier tunes which my son gleefully managed to work his way towards. The whole experience was worthy of the word outstanding, but other words also spring to mind, joyful and melancholy, exuberant and mesmeric, vibey and trippy, heavy and orchestral, communal and for some intensely personal, and above all unique.

I don’t know quite how many people were in attendance but it must have been well in excess of 30,000 (not shabby for a band that elicits as much hate as love), and all bar me seemed to know the words to every song, emphatically sung along to until well after the floodlights had come up to signal time to go home, the mass refrain of a line from Karma Police carried us away into the night, and indeed I realised that for 140 minutes there I lost myself.

My Radiohead conversion is 100% complete, and not before time.



Deke’s 20 Favourite Albums of 2016

I heard a discussion on radio a few weeks ago declaring ‘the album’ as being dead. In the debate they were suggesting people not only don’t buy albums any more but also don’t want to listen to them, preferring to make play-lists of single tracks or streaming only songs they like. I couldn’t help but think that those experts in the discussion must move in very different circles to mine, which given my age would suggest I am out of touch. If I take a look at my own family, a couple of my kids (a young adult and a teen) are snapping up vinyl old and new and having a distinct preference for the format, whilst another (a younger teen) is a confirmed child of the digital download age. I would argue that the kind of people who consume music only as downloads are more akin those who would never have bought albums back in the day anyway and may have only bought the odd chart single or Top Of The Pops compilation albums. There has always been a difference between the typical single and the typical album buyer, and then there are vinyl singles collectors which were especially active during the punk era. How gratifying then to subsequently hear that in fact in 2016   vinyl album sales by value (rather than unit sales) outstripped those of digital purchases for the very first time since the introduction of CD nearly did for vinyl all together over 30 years ago.

Here, in no particular order, and with respect to all the great music not heard by me, or not referenced in this selection, are 20 reasons why in 2016 the album (whether vinyl, CD, or download, or even tape) was very much alive and kicking arse.

Raveneye – Nova

Having served an apprenticeship as the next great white Brit blues guitar player hope, Oli Brown let his inner rock animal out and formed the three piece Raveneye with spectacular results.Raveneye was my 2015 support band most likely to step up, and touring extensively with Slash will have honed their stage craft ready to hit ever larger venues and festivals.Think of a blend of Soundgarden, Foo Fighters, and Muse, add in Oli’s classic rock vocal as well as his undoubted guitar prowess, and swaggering stage presence, add thundering bass riffs, and songs that could straddle Planet Rock and Kerrang devotees. The début album Nova delivers heavily, sounding like a record you might expect from a band two or three albums further down the line.

Syd Arthur – Apricity

My 2016 support band seen most likely to step up.
Syd Arthur, not a retro bloke but a band who’s name cleverly plays on the title of the classic novel Siddhartha (and at the same time reputedly in homage to Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee), has itself created in Apricity something of a contemporary classic work. The Canterbury band of three brothers plus one makes a passing nod to the local 70s prog rock scene but with a slicker, more widely accessible sound, clever jazz rock arrangements, a crisp and clean production brings the best out of their superb musicianship and the soulful voice of Liam Magill. Equally at home on stage as in the studio, the name Syd Arthur won’t be confusing people for much longer.

No Sinner – Old Habits Die Hard

With a complete supporting line up change from the début album Boo Hoo Hoo, it’s really all about the stunning and versatile vocals, and sheer sass of Colleen Rennison. She can’t do it all on her own of course and the assembled musicians on Old Habits Die Hard rock hard and tight. Soul, blues, hard rock, classic rock, psyche rock, it’s all here, and it’s all just so down and dirty rock and roll. Colleen handles each role with aplomb, at times vulnerable, at times headstrong, at times downright naughty, always bloody awesome. No Sinner’s début album reminded me a lot of Vintage Trouble, the second has retained the vintage but cranked up the trouble by several notches.
Old Habits Die Hard is my album of the year.

The Cult – Hidden City

The Cult has never shied away from making new music, and each successive album contains a gem or two to compete with their ageing classics for space in the live set. Yet the band has never been immune to a bit of bland filler when the creative juices are not in full flow or the twin Astbury/Duffy axis is not perfectly aligned. In Hidden City they have produced their most holistically complete and edgy work for 25 years, an album which when the eulogy of The Cult is finally written will surely rank alongside their very best work even if the days of hit singles are long gone.

Garbage – Strange Little Birds

Garbage is so much more than Shirley Manson, as iconic as she is the stalwarts around her in Duke Erikson, Steve Marker and Butch Vig make up a band of equals and it is remarkable to note that the band has never had a changed line up. Equally remarkable is that in Strange Little Birds they have come up with their strongest work since their early recordings of two decades ago.

Blues Pills – Lady In Gold

Blues Pills self titled release in 2014 was my favourite début album since Free’s Tons Of Sobs, with singer Elin Larsson giving the rock gods of the 60s and 70s a run for their money and young guitarist Dorian Sorriaux’s blistering solo playing reminiscent of the best of all time Paul Kossoff. The rock world has woken up to Blues Pills on the strength of that début and their live performances, and eagerly awaited the sophomore album. So it takes a brave and confident band to take the script and if not quite tear it up certainly give it a good scrunch, and morph into a funked up, psychedelic, soulfest, throw in some keys and a choir, put the rhythm section centre stage alongside Elin and not a single guitar solo to be heard, though Dorian is not slouching around with his licks. Between their two albums, and favourite EP cuts, Blues Pills already has an enviable portfolio and it must be a nightmare to decide what to leave out of the live set on any given night.   With Lady In Gold, Blues Pills gambled bravely and won.

Rival Sons – Hollow Bones

Too many churlish direct comparisons have been made about Rival Sons to Led Zeppelin, mostly by people who wouldn’t go out to see a band that wasn’t churning out their 70s catalogue in some soulless arena. Such remarks may or may not be welcome attention but mostly very wide of the mark. The Sons would have been a stellar band had they been around at the same time as their influencers Zep, Free, Pie, Doors, and so on and I’m sure would be every bit as much revered today. In Jay Buchanan they have the outstanding male rock and roll vocalist of this generation, a rock God if ever there was one. Hollow Bones continues their impressive bi annual album output but goes further in creating a holistic recording where the songs are less individual hits of varying styles and more a formation of seamless sounds making a whole that was made for vinyl and for reverential listening. Hollow Bones may well in time be looked back on as their finest hour and I look forward to the day when I can hear these songs played live.

Wilco – Schmilco

Following hard on the heels of 2015’s raucous release Star Wars, Wilco take it down, right down, with a consciously lo-fidelity production, the creativity, genius and productivity of Jeff Tweedy and his Wilco cast is probably only bettered in this generation by Neil Young.Schmilco is easy listening with a deceptively hard and sharp edge, such as crooning about hating ‘all those normal American kids’.

Scorpion Child – Acid Roulette

Difficult second album syndrome is recognisable only in its absence on this monster of a hard rock album from Scorpion Child. With a number of line up changes to contend with since the début self titled release you could be forgiven for expecting something a little fragmented yet the opposite is true and The Child turned the changes to firm up a more stable and complimentary line up including keys in place of a second guitar which perfectly balances Chris Cowart’s power chords and classic solos. The new sound is unmistakably Scorpion Child with the distinctive and charismatic Aryn Jonathan Black possibly the most underrated front man in the business. Acid Roulette, together with their dynamic live shows, should be propelling Scorpion Child into the hard rock stratosphere.

The Temperance Movement – White Bear

With their second album TTM progress their classic and derivative blues rock sound with a mature and strident set of diverse songs which is less dependant on ‘southern rock’ and Black Crowes influences and marks The Temperance Movement as a contemporary blues rock creative force to be reckoned with.Suffering the loss of two founder members from its line up since the release of White Bear early in 2016 the impact remains to be seen but the fan momentum is now solid and in Phil Campbell they have the vocal and visually energetic focal point to rally round and continue to tear up halls around the world.

68-75 – Consequences

Don’t expect a band called 68-75 to be breaking new ground but what you can expect from them is high quality powerhouse vocals from Suzy Sledge and guitar playing with riffage and a stonking tone from Andrew Cylar, all with tunes which do justice to the era evoked, and beyond. A much strengthened rhythm section does holistic wonders with brilliant Consequences.

The Last Vegas – Eat Me

New York Dolls meets The Faces meets early Alice Cooper meets Aerosmith, The Last Vegas is a five piece of pure high energy rock ‘n roll which clearly enjoys itself and wants to take the listener along for the party. With Eat Me the production is slicker, the performance swaggers with confidence of a band that’s been around for a while but yet only now hitting their hard working stride.

David Bowie – Blackstar

It’s Bowie, it’s his parting gift to the world, it’s all of the genius of Low, Heroes, and Station to Station, and more, in one final resting place.

Gaby Moreno – Ilusion

This wonderful guitar playing singer songwriter, lately of L.A. but hailing from Guatemala, came to my attention when singing on one of the songs on my 2015 album of the year, Edge Of The Sun by Calexico. I followed up and found that she handles everything from jazz to soul to blues with equal aplomb and straddles Spanish and English lyrics often with a mash up of each language. That her 2016 album should showcase her range and talent was no surprise but being nominated for a Grammy was certainly unexpected and no more than this unassuming Latin songstress deserves and her star should be ever ascending.

Jack Savoretti – Sleep No More

Jack is now getting the recognition and audience that his raw talent and work rate deserve, a little belatedly and in no small part down to Radio 2 presenters who finally knew a good thing when they heard it. If the last album had me a little concerned that Jack might follow a well trodden easy A&R path once a bit of success arrived, Sleep No More is a terrific album which retains enough of a commercial sound to appeal to his later adopters whilst also showing he has lost none of his ability to pen a great tune and then sing as if he means it.

Drive-By Truckers – American Band

It takes some guts for a southern American band to go against the grain and risk alienating a good proportion of its red neck fan base with a liberally tinged politically pointed rock and roll album, yet that is what Drive-By Truckers has done. If the music was crap the plaudits would be meaningless but in fact American Band is full of passion, and the cause of tolerance and resistance has served up an album in which every chord is struck with purpose. They’ve always been a band that knows how to hit the outsider nerve, Feb 14 being a particular favourite whenever that auspicious day comes around but with American Band DBT has stuck its flag firmly in the ground, an important album for these times.

Clare Maguire – Stranger Things Have Happened

After a five year wait for a follow up to her chart success début album, Clare Maguire provides a showcase of her many and varied influences. Distinctly mellow and easy on the ear, the album may lack the bombast of Light After Dark, it may lack an obvious Radio One playlister, but instead concentrates on fidelity and vocal quality with each song worthy of its place unlike some of the filler padding out the début. My track by track review of Stranger Things Have Happened can be found here …

White Denim – Stiff

White Denim hits a peak of maturity with this release, a beautifully evolved sound combining blue eyed soul with Santanaesque virtuosity and Mannassas diversity, throw in much of their earlier indie sparkiness combined with Black Keys riffage, and in Stiff they gave us an old school eight tracks album of sheer musical delight. An excellent band which excels even further in a live setting.

Holy Fuck – Congrats

Electronic trance music does not regularly feature in my play-lists however every now and then a band comes along which takes its genre defined sound into areas accessible to others, and Canadian outfit Holy Fuck, lead by Brian Borshart (alter ego Dusted) is such a band. Mash up Sons and Fascination of early Simple Minds, a little bit of Kraftwerk, and a lot of Hacienda era New Order, and you get the picture. Up front electronic keys underpinned by driving bass licks and real live drums, with blurry oft indistinct and distant vocal chants, make for a trippy rush, turn it up to set the pulse racing, yet Congrats is undeniably easy to listen to.

Wovenhand – Star Treatment

Following from the arguably better known 16 Horsepower, Wovenhand is the current incarnation of the genius David Eugene-Edwards. His overtly Christian lyrics of a distinctly opus dei nature make for an unusual combination with grungy low scale, alt Americana guitar driven music, and he looks for all the world like a true rock star. The dark power of the music of Wovenhand allows a listener of non religious persuasion to wallow and feel the heavy noise. Star Treatment is full of dystopian soundscapes yet is possibly the most accessible Wovenhand long player to date.

Into The Light After The Dark – An Appreciation of Clare Maguire


A young English singer/songwriter is on the fast track, a much vaunted talent with a distinctive, emotive, voice, a coveted Polydor record deal secured leading to a No7 UK charting debut album, BBC’s Zane Low pushing the cause relentlessly on Radio One, high profile music placements in major TV adverts including a memorable one for Renault, lots of breakfast TV exposure, tour support slots with Plan B and The Script already done and dusted, and playing solo concerts in large capacity halls; in 2011 it was hard to avoid the stunning voice of Clare Maguire even if you didn’t know it was hers.
Dream starts don’t come much dreamier than this, and with so many British contemporaries blazing trails into sold out arenas all over the world (think Florence, Adele, Paloma, and later Ellie Goulding), Clare Maguire only had to follow suit, she had the world at her feet, or did she?
For some, the shiny alluring oyster turns out to be a poisoned chalice.

Perhaps the writing was already on the wall, despite its success, not all of the reviews for the debut album, the presciently titled Light After Dark, were complimentary, critiques of unsuitable, one dimensional, overly synthesised production, and song writing limitations suggested Clare was being driven down a wrong road with a confused identity.
The final track on the album, This Is Not The End, a powerful Irish folk influenced ballad, seems an aberration yet is the one outstanding performance, the one outstanding song, which suggests there is so much more to Clare than the next electro pop dance diva her paymasters were seeming to want in return for their investment. After all it was working for others.
That’s not to suggest every track on Light After Dark is a dud, far from it, but for this reviewer the authenticity of Clare’s voice was being drowned out by the heavy orchestral and synthetic musical backing when it required complimentary musicianship to bring the voice alive on record, an unforgivable mistake by Polydor; why invest in a raw talent only to try to change it to follow a trend?
Perhaps it was ever thus. That said I have to acknowledge that there are many fans who love Light After Dark for the very reasons I and others have expressed reservations, it was pretty successful after all, and that may in part explain the confusion, the old style versus substance debate.

And so Clare disappeared into a musical abyss, into loneliness in the big city, alcohol addiction, relationship problems, and ultimately depression, it’s a well worn, sadly familiar, path, which often leads to no return.
I’m not going to rake over the embers of this period of her life, there is plentiful commentary to be found with a quick Google search for anyone more interested.
Thankfully though for Clare Maguire and for us, this is not the end.

Click to watch This Is Not The End

May 2015

Picking up the threads in May 2015, after a period of sporadic Soundcloud releases and sketchy collaborations, experimenting with musical and vocal styles, and importantly a Burberry sponsorship to ensure there’s opportunity to perform live on occasion in exotic locations and which no doubt helped keep the wolf from the door, we find Clare preparing for a three night residency at The Glee Club in Birmingham, not in the main room, but a small studio room of an intimate 150 capacity, all sold out in advance. It’s an encouraging though no doubt tentative and nervy testing of the water in a hospitable environment with local friends and family amongst the stalwart, intrigued, audience.
I’m familiar with the debut album, and with all of the interim online music, but this is the first time I’ve heard Clare live, and I’m excited for that and to see what she comes up with.
There’s a surprise present left on each seat of a new four track EP Don’t Mess Me Around.

She opens with Ain’t Nobody from the Light After Dark album, and as the vocal strains kick in they send shivers down my spine, and I know live is where it’s at for Clare Maguire.
For the next hour the old album is discarded and it’s new music all the way, and I didn’t find a single soul disappointed by that.
The Glee Club is all seated but she had no trouble getting everyone to stand and gyrate to the funked up Don’t Mess Me Around.

Clare delivers a lot of good humoured patter between songs and it was clear this run of shows, and the new music, were part of the recovery process, there being a lot of honest admission of ‘where I’ve been and where I’m going’, and in some of the songs no little anger.
At the end of the show chatting briefly with Clare the expectation was for a second album in October with a full tour.
It transpired though that whatever woods we were in, we would not be out of for some time after that, with no tour materialising and the second album not arriving until the end of May 2016.

Click to see Clare perform live for Burberry

June 2016

Finally, one year further on, with a new album to promote, Stranger Things Have Happened having been released a few days earlier (reviewed below), we were treated to another Glee Club performance in June 2016.
Again in the small but sold out studio room, again a very solid performance.
This time there was to be no songs from Light After Dark in the set at all.
The patter was a little less confessional, and the new songs seemed to be shifting from anger to a positive form of melancholy, reflection, and acceptance, and all very well received by the audience.
Clare promised to be back again for a show in the main room at the venue in the autumn, a promise this time duly kept.

October 2016

The Main Room with a healthy 450 souls capacity was filled with an enthusiastic and wonderfully all age audience, which was treated to a mix up of songs old, new, and in between.
No longer daunted by her Light After Dark material, Clare has simply revived and reworked the best for live performance, with highlights being a powerful rendition of Bullet, and an especially surprising take on Ain’t Nobody now given chunky Les Paul riffs with a blues rock feel which worked brilliantly.
Last Dance, an anthemic song I can take or leave, is a crowd pleaser for the early adopters and duly went down a storm.
A surprise, and very welcome, inclusion in the set was the rousing, angry, Boomerang, from the 2015 EP, which with the Glee Club’s PA operating at maximum volume will certainly have acted as an electric prod to any remaining audience stupor and a shock to anyone expecting a night of gentle ballads.
The songs from Stranger Things Have Happened formed the bulk of the set and are by now familiar to most of the audience, and yet it was the inclusion of the title song from the 2015 Don’t Mess Me Around EP which was an invitation to get up and groove, seeing Clare encourage, well in some cases drag, the entire front row onto the stage as backing dancers, having the desired effect and the audience remained on their feet until the end.
An end which came all too soon after just 45 minutes due to illness of the keyboard player, yet such is the warmth of feeling towards Clare and the band that there is not a single murmur of discontent. In fact Clare sang one last song, Changing Faces, unaccompanied, which initially seemed a little uncomfortable but ended in triumph.
It was noticeable that the banter is now very much interactive and Clare has learned the odd trick to engage the audience even giving out cans of beer from plastic bags as people were ‘not pissed enough’.
It’s all a far cry from the confessional reformed alcoholic we witnessed in early 2015, and as her song says it is to be hoped she has left this all in yesterday and once again the future for Clare Maguire is bright, this time on her own authentic terms befitting of her unique talent and endearing persona.

Stranger Things Have Happened – Album Review

Fully five years after her chart success debut album Light After Dark, Clare Maguire released her starkly different follow up Stranger Things Have Happened.

Gone is the bombastic orchestral and computer synth pop backing to be replaced by an ensemble of acoustic and light electric instrumentalists, a stripped down smoky room vibe more suited to her voice than the wannabe electro dance floor fillers of old.
If anything STHH almost goes too far in the opposite direction as whilst Clare delivers on an eclectic mix of styles, there is little scope for a power ballad such as This Is Not the End, or the growling anger evident in the 2015 EP Don’t Mess Me Around.

The album opens with the bouncy jazz infused Faded, with piano and upright bass, and brushed drums, providing a statement of intent, Clare’s voice rises and falls with subtlety but doesn’t bellow.

Here I Am moves into Motown territory, Clare delivers soulful controlled power without the intensity of her earlier work and it’s very agreeable.

Elizabeth Taylor was introduced during her 2015 shows and is already a crowd favourite as it veers from gentle ballad verses to powerful choruses reminiscent of her earlier work, and as the choruses ebb away into the repeated line ‘another lesson learned’ you can sense the emotion and regret.
I feel it was a little unfortunate that this was released as the first single as being a track of only vocal and piano accompaniment it tempted the press to draw comparisons with the massively successful Adele’s 25; we’ve been there before and whilst she’s an avowed fan the last thing Clare needs right now is to be dubbed an Adele clone and there are songs on the album which would have shown that Clare has rather more to offer, yes even than Adele, such as…

Swimming, has a superb low-fi Americana feel with an understated electric guitar riff, and it doesn’t take too much of a leap to imagine one of her idols Johnny Cash singing this song.

The title track Stranger Things Have Happened takes the pace to an even slower ebb with wispy harp, and a trippy vocal reminiscent of Kate Bush at her most wistful.

Whenever You Want It is one of Clare’s interim Soundcloud releases revisited, a song suggestive of a relationship in crisis where one party just wants whatever is wrong to disappear, to ignore the inevitable, in favour of cosy nights in front of the TV. It’s an interesting song, hinting at submissiveness in order to prolong a dying relationship, a desire simply to be loved and to be enough, perhaps we’ve all been there, and that melancholy comes across in Clare’s performance.

The Valley, the second single release from the album, takes the tempo upbeat , with a Jack Savoretti style acoustic guitar intro and jangly verses in which Clare drops her ‘t’s on words such as ‘shooting’ and ‘counting’ giving a youthful, colloquial feel which is a little at odds with the meaty, vibrant, choruses which take us full throttle into Stevie Nicks mode.
All of which means The Valley should have been a sure fire Radio 2 playlist hit.

Hanging In The Stars, has a lovely ethereal piano opening which leads into an acoustic 60s folksy vibe reminiscent of Joni Mitchell or Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Falling Leaves shows off Clare’s extraordinary range without ever having to strain, delving into smoky bar room slow jazz, and makes more than a passing nod to Nina Simone’s Strange Fruit.

Changing Faces, a thank you song which Clare attributes to ‘home town’ of Birmingham yet with its vague references to drink and drugs can equally apply to a friend who stands by you in your worst times, through thick and thin.

Spaceman, blends influences such as The Beatles, and Jeff Lynne, yet the one which struck me most strongly was Hunky Dory era Bowie. The song has a fuller orchestral production without the bombast of the first album.

Leave You In Yesterday, makes for a poignant yet optimistic ending to the album which marks an end to past problems, or relationships, and although never completely out of mind, history can be put in proper perspective and understanding. This quiet, minimalist song leaves us wanting to know what comes next.

Click to view Stranger Things Have Happened – The Film

It’s poignant that her first album is called Light After Dark as really that’s kind of where she finds herself now.
I am prepared to assert that Clare Maguire is a world class singer, capable of incredible vocal range and spine tingling emotional expression. and it only remains for her to consolidate the impressive blend of songs in her portfolio, and confidently build an appreciative audience, without constraints to style or demographic, which will remain with her for years to come.

If she can accumulate knowledgeable, musically empathetic people in her entourage, appreciating there is more to a sustainable, artistically and financially profitable career than being a corporation owned, EDM hit machine arena diva, the dark will diminish and the light become ever brighter, after all stranger things have happened.

In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche – “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”

Garbage – Rock City, Nottingham – 14 June 2016

It’s always best to let the adrenaline calm down before declaring a gig the best ever so I am now ready to stick my neck on the block and say that the Garbage gig at Rock City last night was one of THE very best I’ve ever seen, and after a shade over 42 years since my first outing I can’t make such an assertion lightly.

For minutes shy of 2 hours the band powered through a set of old and new; this was no greatest hits or 90s nostalgia show, it’s testament to their staying power and creativity that some of the most memorable numbers were from the brand new and most recent albums.

Shirley Manson is a consummate front person, you could almost see twenty years shed from her face as the show boiled up, she circles the stage like a boxer, exuding in equal measure presence, punk poise, confidence, kitsch, humility, and strident rock goddess qualities, and her voice remains a uniquely versatile instrument, she is a genuine icon of the genre and bang on top of her game.

Flanked by the ever present twin guitars of Steve Marker and the eminently watchable Duke Erikson and behind them a bad ass touring rhythm section (drummer Butch Vig missing due to personal problems), they lay down powerful, driving riffs and melodies, and you can’t take your eyes off them for a second.

Sure we had Stupid Girl, I Think I’m Paranoid, Only Happy When It Rains, and surprise encore of Cherry Lips, to jump around to, but together with the melancholic new ballad Even Though Our Love Is Doomed, it was an epic atmospheric performance of a new number Blackout that stole the show for me.

If I had any regrets about not seeing a more youthful Garbage in their pomp those were blown away by the maturity and swagger of the band in version 2016.


Dying Fire

Kossoff, Paul & Free

40 years ago I was in bed listening to John Peel’s show on Radio 1 when news came in that Paul Kossoff had passed away at just 25. I was stunned and wanted to sleep so I could wake up and find I’d only dreamed it. I was 17, he was my music hero, and I had seen him play a few months before, but I simply couldn’t contemplate that it would be the only time; 40 years on I still can’t. His playing on this song, Dying Fire, has at certain moments in my life left me stunned, bereft, in silence at the end, and no matter how many times I’ve heard it, it always makes the hairs on my neck stand up. It’s true of so much of his playing with Free, Back Street Crawler, solo, or on various collaborations, an incredible legacy for one who died so young, a unique gift of expressing emotion through the electric guitar which has informed my listening ever since and provided a benchmark no other has been able to live up to, no matter how hard they try. It’s like any form of art though, not everyone will agree, not everyone will be receptive to it, I am forever grateful that I am with every fibre of my being.
Paul Kossoff (KKTR) plays Dying Fire