Music Blog

All the music-related posts gathered together in one place.

Touchstone announce stage times for farewell show.

Touchstone at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Touchstone have announced the stage times for their farewell gig in Leamington Spa on the 21st of November, which is going to be filmed.

16.30: Doors
16.50: Lonely Robot
17.35: Changeover
18.10: Magenta
20.00: Changeover
20.50: Touchstone
22.30: Curfew, followed by after-show event (til Midnight)

Information on tickets for the aftershow will be announced shortly.

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The water on is actually the ‘tears of a lonely robot’, NASA confirms. Is this John Mitchell‘s doing?

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Chantel McGregor – Take the Power

Chantel McGregor’s dark and spooky video for the lead track from her new album “Lose Control”.

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Sankara – Raise Your Voices

Sankara have released a free download single to celebrate the Rugby World Cup.

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Dave Gilmour – Rattle That Lock

Rattle That Lock Nine years after his last solo album “On An Island”, former Pink Floyd guitarist Dave Gilmour returns with a new record, featuring an impressive cast of guests including Phil Manzanera, David Crosby & Graham Nash, and even Jools Holland on one song.

Dave Gilmour is such an iconic guitarist that the very first note he plays on the opening instrumental “5 a.m.” is enough to give you goosebumps. It’s the following title track that sets the tone for the rest of the record. What he have is a highly polished singer-songwriter album. It does tend towards the middle of the road in places, through Gilmour’s immediately recognisable lead guitar that lights up every song sets this record apart. While it doesn’t reach the epic grandeur of Pink Floyd’s heyday. it’s as much about the gorgeous orchestrated arrangements as it is about the songs. There are occasional excursions into jazz on “Dancing in Front of Me” and “The Girl in the Yellow Dress”, while both album highlight “In Any Tongue” and the instrumental “Beauty” wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a late-period Floyd album. The album ends as it begins, with a guitar instrumental “And Then..”, another reminder of just why he remains one of the greatest guitarists of his generation.

In some ways, it’s a better album than last year’s Pink Floyd coda, “Endless River”, which despite some glorious moments featuring the late Richard Wright, never quite managed to transcend its origins as a collection of outtakes.

Dave Gilmour could be accused to playing safe on this record. But he’s a musician who’s more than earned the right to make whatever music he wants to make; he’s under absolutely no obligations to satisfy expectations of either audiences or critics. So if he chooses to make a record firmly within his comfort zone, that’s his right. And comfort zone or not, he’s still very good at what he does. Anyone expecting something as edgy and abrasive as “Ummagumma” should really be looking elsewhere.

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Thundermother – Road Fever

Thundermother Road FeverThundermother are an all-female blues-based hard rock band from Stockholm. From the opening blast of guitars at the beginning of the album, it’s clear they mean business. They specialise in short, punchy songs that recall early AC/DC with an occasional nod to ZZ Top, powered with a combination of gutsy vocals, big dirty guitars and an awesomely tight rhythm section.

On “Roadkill” they come close to punk with the shouty chorus, but it’s the likes of “Give Me Some Lights” that show them at their best; a driving riff, a relentless rhythm that’s like an unstoppable force of nature, and a riotous chorus.

The only weakness is perhaps a lack of variety; even with a running time of just thirty minutes it does start to get a little samey by the end. But there is no doubting this band are very good at what they do, and the energy levels on display here suggests they’re very likely to be killer live act.

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Chantel McGregor – Lose Control

Chantel McGregor - Lose ControlIt’s been four years since Chantel McGregor released her début album “Like No Other”. She’s been working on the follow-up for over a year, and many of the new songs have been lighting up the live set for quite a while.

She describes the concept behind the album as Southern Gothic; while it’s not a full-blown concept album with a narrative, the theme of loss of control in the album’s title recurs across many of the songs. To quote Chantel, she immersed herself in the “sinister, dark world of depravation, magic and voodoo, writing most of the songs from the perspective of the disturbed flawed characters“. It’s all rather different from the first album.

The album starts off with a bang with “Take the Power”, rocking out in a similar vein as the live favourite “Caught Out” from “Like No Other”. The grunge-influenced “Your Fever” has an interesting structure; it starts out dense and claustrophobic with a single battering chord in the verse, then opening out with a spiralling second part. The dynamics and use of strings for colour stand out. The strings even sound like Mellotron at one point; like Nirvana jamming with King Crimson. After that, “Burn Your Anger” is a more conventional driving hard rocker with a brief but very explosive solo.

Then the mood changes with “Anaesthetize”. There’s always been an acoustic side to Chantel’s music, originally expressed through stripped-down covers. This one is an original, a beautiful vocal accompanied with delicate and understated guitar work with subtle use of strings.

Then it’s back to rocking out. “Southern Belle” with it’s bluesy riff and the opening line “I’ve been dancing with The Devil since the day that I was born” is the most out-and-out blues song on this record. There’s also a blues element in the Zeppelinesque serpentine riff of the title track.

After the album’s second delicately beautiful acoustic track, “Home”, “Killing Time” is the hardest rocking track on the album. The spiralling riff has a modern feel, with something of the vibe of contemporary bands such as Muse. Then in complete contrast again, the dark brooding “Eternal Dream” on unaccompanied electric guitar is Chantel’s tribute to the late Jeff Buckley.

The album ends with “Walk On Land”, the most ambitious song on the album, inspired by Steven Wilson’s modern take on progressive rock. It builds from from an acoustic intro, a chorus with complex layered vocal harmonies, an atmospheric instrumental section featuring piano and strings, ending with a superb extended solo, the sole lengthy guitar workout on the record.

The whole album shows Chantel’s growing talents as a songwriter, guitarist and singer. On this record her guitar playing puts the emphasis on riffs, and takes a less-is-more approach when it comes to soloing; the darker, denser sound is more Jimmy Page than Jimi Hendrix. It shows her great versatility as a vocalist; able to belt out hard rockers as well as delicate ballads. The vocals on “Eternal Dream” and “Walk on Land” at the end of the album are especially stunning.

It’s a very different beast from Chantel’s début. That was partly a singer-songwriter record and partly a blues-rock guitar record, and was really more a collection of songs. This one in contrast flows as a coherent album, far more hard rock than blues, though the acoustic numbers add variety and complement the heavier songs. It combines elements of 60s and 70s classic rock with far more modern sounds. And at just over forty minutes in length it doesn’t overstay its welcome; there’s absolutely no filler.

It’s been a long wait for this album, but it’s well worth the wait.

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Big Big Train – Victorian Brickwork

Big Big Train performing the song Victorian Brickwork from one of the sold out shows at Kings Place, London in August.

Nobody else captures the spirit of 1970s progressive rock quite as well as Big Big Train, with music steeped in English landscapes and history. As the above recording shows, what had once been a purely studio-based project has become a stunning live band.

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After reading Michael Hann’s wnderfuly snarky review of Morrissey’s List of the Lost, I’m now wondering if the world of books needs its revenge. What bitter misanthropic has-been author with an oversized ego ought to make a record? How about a hair-metal album by John C. Wright?

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Just One Song

This one came up on Twitter a few days ago: Which song do you love by an artist you otherwise can’t stand?

If you stop and think about it, it’s easier said than done. I’ll bet that for most bands where there’s just a single song you love, you don’t know their back catalogue well enough to know if there are other things lurking amongst the deep cuts and B-sides that you might also love just as much as that one song. For example, nothing else I’ve heard by System of a Down has sounded remotely as good as “Chop Suey“. But I really don’t know their body of work that well.

But I can still think of a couple of bands where there’s a single great song, but I could quite happily live without the rest of their catalogue.

First, “Back on the Road Again” by REO Speedwagon. The reason for this one is quite simple, it’s because Kevin Cronin doesn’t sing lead, bassist Bruce Hall taking over the microphone. For a band known for overproduced power-ballads, it’s also one of the relatively few times they rocked out. Combine those two factors and nothing else they’ve ever done comes close.

Then of course there’s The Clash’s “London Calling”. Yes, it’s their biggest hit, so overexposed that at least one Clash fan I’ve spoken to cannot stand it any more. But it’s still a great rock anthem, and the album of the same title is mostly filler (the one other good track is a cover) The preceding “Give ‘Em Enough Rope”, despite a fantastic guitar sound and one or two purloined Blue Öyster Cult riffs suffers from a complete lack of memorable songs, so it’s pretty clear that, one song aside, The Clash’s music is not for me.

So what songs do you love, from artists where the rest of the work does little for you?

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