“Pigs Have Eggs” – Pond – Rough Trade – Nottingham -18th Feb 2015

“You’re late” someone shouted from the audience as Pond took to the stage an hour after the advertised 7pm. “We were told 8pm, what were you told?” shouted back drummer Jay “Gumby” Watson, a wry smile on his face. It didn’t matter. It was worth the wait. The upstairs cafe bar in Nottingham’s Rough Trade was jammed with a mixed crowd of young and old, some Tame Impala t-shirts floating about.

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Looking like the DNA from some 70s surfer bums and 80s computer nerds has been spliced together Pond play crazy, psychedelic pop rock but unlike many psych rock bands who seem more fixated on self pleasure, Pond care about the listener and layer their psychedelia with tonnes of catchy tunes and gorgeous riffs. And they have character in spades, evident from the banter between the various members between songs. We learned for example that pigs have eggs!

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“Hello Mother F*ckers” says baby faced and incredibly charismatic lead singer Nick Allbrook (wash your mouth out!) as they launched into “Waiting Around For Grace” off their excellent new album “Man It Feels Like Space Again”. Next is “Elvis Flaming Star” with a romping beat. Pond create some great (and loud) sound and some crazy noises. They then run through some “oldies but baddies”(according to Nick) before finishing their 40 minute set with the ravishing psych pop opera of title song “Man It Feels Like Space Again”, an 8 minute plus marvel with some bloody gorgeous crunching riffs and enough changes in gear to satisfy even the most demanding of listener.

Pond are currently touring the UK and you can find out where they’re going to be at their Facebook page.

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You can get get ‘Man It Feels Like Space Again’ in all good record shops and online retailers.

The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Rough Trade

Just watched a great documentary about Rough Trade Records which chronicles its history from the DIY punk aesthetic through the dawning realisation that capitalism drives the music business to finally reconciliation of its idealistic approach to finding, managing and distributing artists and their music.

It’s the classic tale – like minded folks get together to change the world, the world duly changes and they find they don’t like the changed world after all. There is a lot of regret and what ifs and cloudy memories where things went bad but knife sharp memories where things went well.

But really its the story of how a love of great music and an adherence to a set of ideals and principles can change the world for the better. Rough Trade more or less invented the “indie” record label or, at least, created the conditions for them to flourish and with “The Strokes” they helped kickstart the early 2000s guitar band revival and boom and with the rehabilitation of Pulp helped fuel the Britpop scene in the 1990s.

Geoff Travis, founder and ‘spiritual leader’ of Rough Trade has created a great legacy and one to be proud of and I am pleased the Rough Trade brand (and shops) and approach to pushing alternative and challenging music carries on.

MG – 01.02.15

“What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” – The Decemberists (Album Review)

We know you threw your arms around us in the hopes we wouldn’t change but we had to change some.

Released: 20.01.15
My Train Tracks Rating: 9/10
It’s been almost 4 years to the day since The Decemberists‘ last outing with “The King is Dead” (2011). That album marked the point at which Colin Meloy‘s band set a new course away from the progressive indie folk stylings of their previous offerings towards a new land where rock and pop stylings and more obvious hooks and melodies and arrangements are painted throughout the band’s songs. That’s not to say, that this doesn’t sound like a Decemberists album because it does and long time fans will still hear and feel much to love. There is, however, a larger step towards the indie pop and rock territory on this than any previous Decemberists album. That’s not a bad thing and whilst “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” may not have the same thematic consistency of albums like “The Hazards of Love” (2009) or “The Crane’s Wife” (2006) it is a fine album with some brilliant touches. The opening track “The Singer Addresses His Audience” welcomes the listener in “We know, we know we belong to ya” but goes on to apologise that “we know you built your lives around us. But we had to change some”. It’s
a nice opener as it feels like the band is talking directly to the listener which makes you prick up your ears and think, OK, go on then. “Cavalry Captain” is more like the old Decemberists although with a much smoother cafe latte production. “Philomela” is where the pop sensibility really kicks in. Sounding like it could have come out of Phil Spector’s studio, full of Wall of Sound girl group oo’s and ah’s, it works really well. As usual, Meloy’s writing is poetic and thoughtful. He fits a lot of narrative into so few words such as on “Lake Song” – “Down by the lake we were overturning pebbles and upending all the animals alight and I took a drag from your cigarette and pinched it ‘tween my finger and thumbs till it had died” – his words working with the music to create a vivid world. “The Wrong Year” sounds like it could have featured on an REM album, lovely jangly guitars from Chris Funk throughout, a bit Johnny Marr in parts. “Carolina Low” is just Meloy and a guitar (with some sweet background vocals) leaning towards Southern Soul and managing to create an epic sound. “Anti-Summersong” is tongue in cheek and includes some call and response parts which don’t quite fit with the song but it is still fun. “Mistral” is another standout track. Great tune, lovely melodies, nice choral background vocals and interesting instrumentation including a honky tonk piano with very few lyrics describing a holiday abroad and reflection on life – “Won’t the mistral blow it all away?”. The album ends ironically with “Beginning Song” is a call to action although it’s not entirely clear what action is being called for. Maybe Meloy is asking the listener to do something, anything, just get out of your seat and grab the world – “Document the world inside your skin, the tenor of your shins, the timbre of your limbs”. It’s a hopeful song and sounds the start a confident statement about the next phase of the Decemberists musical journey. “What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World” is not a concept album but is an album packed full of great songs and tight lyrics and is my first contender for a year end ‘best of 2015 slot’. The band are touring the UK in February and March 2015 and are definitely ones to see.

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