Tuesday, October 25, 2022


Many years ago when I was trying to figure out how to transition this blog into a career as a music journalist I went to a Q+A with some big industry names. When i asked the online media specialist of the group about my blog and how to take it to the next level he bluntly told me that the age of the blog was dead. Ouch. nethertheless i kept it going for a few more years. This blog gave me an excuse to go out and meet people, to make friends and hopefully a romantic partner. So despite some of the cringe I may have typed here I am still very attached to this blog as a little time capsule of me and my early 20's. I am now an enaged home owner and proud Bi-sexual. Three things I never dreamed I'd be when I first started this blog. In 2020 I was put on furlough and eventually lost my job. This gave me much more free time and the need for an outlet but with fewer albums being released and no gigs to go to I left this blog to die a natural death. 
Fast forward two years later and I have moved onto podcasting, much like everybody else in the world.  I guess that man all those years ago was right. I mean he was an expert after all. My new venture is a mental health themed music podcast called Pure Mood. Started by my friend Jason (whose old band is featured much throughout these entries), and aided by Jade. We have so far put out an episode with Heriot. We have an interview with Kid Kapici coming out this Friday and much more in the pipeline. 
You can keep track of it all at 
If you are by chance interested in collaborating with us then you can contact me at james@puremood.co.uk

Friday, June 12, 2020

How I got through uncertain times, with a little help from The Beach Boys.

During this goddamned hellscape that is the year 2020 I was lucky enough to be working for a few weeks during lock-down before being furloughed. During this time I came across Todd In the Shadows retrospective video on The Beach Boys' 1991 flop 'Summer in Paradise. One of the best videos  in his brilliant 'Trainwreckords' video series. Summer in Paradise was The Beach Boys lowest point, with Brian Wilson AWOL and Dennis long gone Mike Love took the reins for a horribly produced stain on the
iconic ba
nds reputation. This was the only time time i felt angry because of any of these videos and I spontaneously decided to hear some of the good stuff. I gave their 1971 album 'Surfs up' and found the famously chipper surf bros had made a downbeat album of progressive baroque pop. The deliciously dreary 'Don't go near the water' is a lament of environmental destruction, that subtly reworks The Beach Boys whole persona. Elsewhere is Brian Wilson's bizarre 'take a load of your feet', Mike Love's odd Blues rock Anti-protest song 'Student Demonstration Time'. Carl Wilson's 'Feel Flows', and 'Long Promised road' steal the show, which may be the most beautiful song The Beach Boys ever made, if not for Brian's gorgeously haunted piano ballad 'Surfs Up'. Which gives a glimpse of what his fabled lost masterpiece 'Smile' might have been. 
I was hooked. Next up I tried their 1973 effort 'Holland' which is another oddly downbeat record, which i mostly remember for Mike Love and Al Jardine's epic California saga. Obviously being in Amsterdam made them homesick but what they came up with was an epic love letter to their home-state and painting a vivid picture of its natural beauty.  I tried to get into Dennis Wilson's classic 'Pacific Ocean Blue' but instead fell in love with the boy's 1970 masterpiece Sunflower. Which may have flopped on release but now sounds like peak hippy material. 'Sunflower is literally the sound of the 60's morphing into the 70's as Brian's' 'This Whole World' and 'Deirdre' seem incredibly sappy next to the raw beauty of Dennis Wilson's 'Got to know the woman' and 'Forever'. The student was becoming the master as with 'Forever', Dennis had written a love song for the ages, a heartfelt and achingly beautiful ballad (later to be ruined by John Stamos). That's not to say Brian was totally out of step, 'All I Wanna Do' is a blueprint for dream-pop and 'Cool glass of Water' another recovered 'Smile' highlight. Overall Sunflower is far from the perfection of Pet Sounds, its an oddly uneven yet relentlessly positive lost gem from the hippy era. I love it for it's flaws rather than because of them, if you hear any other Beach Boys album than Pet Sounds, make it this one. 
I discovered that you can tell how good a Beach Boys album is by how miserable Mike Love is on the cover. which made 20/20 my next stop. A mix of off cuts and Beatles rip offs clumsily mixed together while Brian was in rehab, that features an un-credited tune by none other than Charles Manson. The fact that it's still a good album says a lot about how great The Beach Boys were in the late 60's. 1968's 'Friends' is another lost gem, a mix of mostly unfinished bittersweet country-ish tunes that still echo the slacker aesthetic that Mac Demarco perfected decades later, much like Wild Honey and Smiley Smile it's almost punk in how little The Beach Boys seemed to give a shit. The latter being an attempt to recreate Brian Wilson's 'Teenage symphony to god' in his basement in 2 weeks on home recording equipment. Yup, They really tried to make the greatest album never made while stoned in Brian's Basement. It's strange to say the least, but it does feature 'Good Vibrations'. By this point I'd given Pet Sounds another listen. It's pretty much the perfect record and very dear to my heart, yet there's nothing much I can say here that hasn't been said before. The few pre Pet Sounds albums I gave a spin are fine, but only if you're really curious or after the hits. The Christmas Album is to be avoided at all costs. 
By this point I finally got why Pacific Ocean Blue is a masterpiece. By 1977 Dennis Wilson was burnt out. He'd left the group that had made him famous and put together the ultimate break up album. Pacific Ocean Blue stands alongside any of the classic singer-songwriter records of the 70's. It opens with the epic gospel infused 'River Song' and features a mix of blues rock, minimalist piano ballads and shades of progressive rock. The sudden jarring key change in the middle of 'time' is unforgettable. Pacific Ocean Blue is the work of a broken man trying to piece himself back together, a mature, complex and sophisticated record that was sadly the last we'd see from him. Meanwhile his brother Brian was dicking around on synthesizers for his Love You record. Many claim that it's the last great Beach Boys record, I'd say it was the last weird Beach Boys record. Either way it's all downhill from there. And with Brian Wilson farting around on a Moog my Beach Boys phase ended. It had been 3 weeks of listening to nothing else and it was time for me too move on and binge Stranger Things like a normal person. At some point I'll give the mammoth Smile Sessions a try, and maybe some more of the 60's records too. Brian's recent solo effort No Pier Pressure is a fairly solid late career effort too. 
I'm still in a difficult position right now, but i can at least say thank you to the Wilson's and company for helping me through the first leg lockdown.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Crywank - 'Fist me till your hand comes out of your mouth'- album review

Looking back over the past decade it seems that few bands have been as consistently underrated and underappreciated as Crywank. A band mostly known for their 2015 album ‘Tomorrow is nearly yesterday and every day is stupid’. Which is probably the definitive Crywank album in that it’s a loose collection of lo-fi acoustic recordings in James Claytons’ distinctively snarky, funny, self hating style. Yet why their vastly superior follow up ‘Don’t piss on me i’m already dead’ hasn’t eclipsed its success remains a mystery. Over the past few years Crywank have gained a cult following across the world yet mainstream success has always eluded them. Which brings us to 2020 where Crywank’s final album dropped on bandcamp’s no fee day alongside countless other releases. ‘Fist me..’ Is the last album Crywank will ever release coinciding with their first and last world tour. It’s not hard to see why Crywank would want to call it a day as the two have lived a hermit-like lifestyle over the past few years and until recently having a strict DIY ethic. It's a shame that Crywank never got to outgrow their cult status, but if they wanted to be huge they probably wouldn’t have called themselves Crywank. 
Since ‘Don’t piss on me Crywank’s albums have become more and more eccentric and ‘Fist’ is the culmination of that. A double album of sorts split into songs by drummer Dan and guitarist James. ‘Fist...’ is the kind of album a band can only make once they completly stop giving a fuck about what anyone may think of them. While the first batch of songs are mostly in the typical Crywank mould the second half is made up of experimental electronic pieces and basically whatever the fuck they felt like doing that day. Putting a finger up to anyone who thought they had Crywank figured out. Yet crack open the egg and there is more to this record than it might seem. In Dan’s words “boiled down it talks about how a symbiotic relationship can go stinky and smelly in the middle, but you carry on with it regardless”.  ‘Fist me follows in the grand tradition of bands airing their dirty laundry in their lyrics. It also follows the tradition of bands using the double album format to experiment as much as possible. Much like the Beatles White album or maybe even Plastic Ono band*. The opening Saga ‘I love you but I’ve chosen me’ is recognisably Crywank, even if it is some of the most ambitious material they’ve ever written. But once you hear ‘The Best’ you're jolted into a different universe. The following tracks get stranger and more surreral, each one a stark contrast from the track before it. It’s this mix of heart, eccentricity and puerile humour that ensures Crywank will be sorely missed. They’ve left behind them a diverse catalogue of lo-fi madness that will enthrall fans for years to come. If this is the end for Crywank, they’ve done it in the most Crywank way possible. I wish the best for whatever James and Dan decide to do next 

*Tbh I’ve never listened to either of these records. Fuck John Lennon.

Friday, December 20, 2019

The Best Albums of 2019

1. William Doyle - Your Wilderness revisited
A wonderfully hypnotic, dreamy album of progressive rock tinged electronica, that takes it's inspiration from UK suburban town planning. From the artist formerly known as East India youth

2. Billie Eilish - When we all fall sleep where do we go?
The debut album that broke the most vital and interesting new pop star of the decade. Far from the edgy 'industry plant' many originally saw it as, Billie and her brother created an eclectic and poignant batch of lo-fi tracks, and it sounds like they had fun doing it. 

3. Slowthai - Nothing great about Britain 
As Grime finally took over the mainstream, Slowthai became the ever smirking joker of the genre amd created an instant classic album that revelled in it's dark humour, political fury while not overlooking the tragic past that shaped him. 

4. Tyler, The Creator - Igor
A kaleidoscopic, soulful, and at times beautfully warped take on hip hop, that draws from several inspirations and guest stars, yet could only have been made by Tyler himself. 

5. Fontaines D.C. - Dogrel 
One of the most vital, and downright fun albums of punk rock tunes to come out of Ireland since Teenage Kicks. An absolute blast of a record. 

6. James Blake - Assume Form 
James Blake recalls how embracing love changed his life, over gorgeously dreamy backdrops. the best album of his career by far.

7. Dave - Psychodrama
A mix of bangers and poignant story telling, over minimalist backdrops and sparse piano. Dave explores his own mental health through the real life experiences of others and himself. The result is not always comfortable listening, but always engaging. 

8. Sum 41 - Order in Decline
It's heavy as fuck, and it kicks a lot of ass. The metal tinged pop punk middle finger to Donald Trump/break up album I didn't know I needed

9. Sam Fender - Hypersonic Missiles
Tynesides' answer to Springsteen delivered on the hype with his debut. Sam is fiercely outspoken on tracks such as 'White Privilege', 'Dead Boys' and the title track. Yet he also shines, when he's less topical such as on the joyous one night stand retelling 'Will we Talk'   

10. Little Simz - GREY Area
After a decade in the underground Simz finally broke through with a short, sharp, concise and varied mix of styles. Over which she made her case as one of the best and brightest MC's the UK has to offer, 

12. Anna Calvi - Hunter 
13. Ezra Furman - Twelve Nudes
14. The Murder Capital - When I have fears
15. Lizzo - Cuz I love you
16. Harry Styles - Fine Line
17. Slipknot - We are not your kind
18. Better Oblivion Community Centre - S/T
19. Injury Reserve - S/T
20. Black Midi - Schlagenheim 
21. Bring Me The Horizon - AMO
22. King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard - Infest The Rats nest 
23. Loyle Carner - Not waving, but drowning 
24. Cate Le Bon - Reward
25. Big Thief - U.F.O.F
26. Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell
27. King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard - Fishing For Fishies
28. Chemical Brothers - No Geography
29. Foals - Everything not saved will be lost Part 1
30. Danny Brown - uknowhatimsayin?
31. Ezra Collective - You can't steal my joy 
32. JOHN - Out Here on the Fringes
33. Nao - Saturn 
34. DIIV - Deciever
35. Elbow - Giants of all sizes
36. The Japanese House - Good at falling
37. Mercury Rev - Bobbie Gentry's The Delta Sweete revisited
38. Sundara Karma - Ulfilas' Alphabet
39. Seed Ensemble - Driftglass
40. Jpegmafia - All my heroes are Cornballs
41. Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride
42. Weyes Blood - Titanic Rising
43. Amyl & The Sniffers -S/T
44. Denzel Curry - ZUU
45. Richard Dawson - 2020
46. PUP - Morbid Stuff
47. Crushed Beaks - The Other Room. 
48. Pup - Morbid Stuff
49. Orville Peck - Pony
50. Lewis Capaldi - Divinely uninspired to a hellish extent

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Fontaines D.C. + Warm Drag Live at The Birmingham Institute review (25/11/19)

Last time Fontaines D.C. played The Birmingham Institute they were supporting Shame, even though they were first on and, had a limited sound or stage to work with it was obvious that this was a band who like Shame were going to go on to big things. Just as I predicted Fontaines D.C. had an amazing whirlwind of a year, delivering one of 2019's best debuts, touring extensively, appearing on American TV and winning huge acclaim. Before they took their victory lap to Birmingham, it was up to Warm Drag to kick things off, a challenging and polarising prospect for an audience expecting a night of raucous punk rock. What the crowd actually got was a sexed up take on the repetitive loops and synths of early electronica, such as Silver Apples, all delivered by a woman in a black leather cat suit, her voice distorted by a mountain of pedals. Warm Drag are one of the few acts of recent years who eschew laptops for wires and pedals, experimenting with making electronic music the old school way. The industrial noise was a bit much for some, (particularly my girlfriend, who i had dragged along for this evening), but I feel that Warm Drag are a tip for anyone after new sounds for a new decade. (8/10)
Fontaines D.C. came on stage to bright white spotlights and the sounds of what can only be described as cowboy music. Thankfully this doesn't seem to indicate a change in direction, as heavy hitting early singles 'Hurricane Laughter' and Checkless Reckless kicked things off with a storm,  (giving my girlfriend a birds eye view of a mosh pit for the first time, seeing pints and shoes fly into the air). Despite their hectic schedule Fontaines D.C. have somehow managed find time to pen new tunes, 'Televised mind' and 'Lucid Dream'. Both repetitive, pounding post punk tunes, in the same wall of sound style as the fan faves they opened with. Both tunes bode well for any new material around the corner. It may have been the same day that BBC 6 Music declared their album Dogrel their album of the year, but if the band or singer Grian Chatten were even aware of this they weren't showing it. Grian has developed an air of nonchalantness, taking breaks to lie down during intros (a sign that they probably deserve a break), keeping talk to a minimum and banging his mic stand on the ground to grab attention. It's been a very long time since any rock band has had a singer quite as cool as Grian, with his thick Irish accent and roguish attitude that recalls a young Liam Gallagher. Of course none of this would matter without great tunes which Fontaines D.C. have in spades. the live versions are all much louder and noisier live than on record, with the band experimenting with their pedals to create walls of noise. The only disappointment in the hour long set (for me at least) was the lack of the acoustic, 'Dublin City Sky' as the show had to be cut short and ended with a triumphant, 'Big', (this and the fantastic 'Boys In the better land were the undoubted highlights of the show). Despite all the acclaim and time on the road, Fontaines D.C. remain endearingly rough around the edges, the little band from Dublin done good. They ended with no encores* after already delivering more than enough, and even my girlfriend (whose not really into punk) had to admit they were great. (8.8)

*IDLES and Kate Tempest also refuse to do encores, seems as if they're going out of style?  

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Injury Reserve + Jockstrap Live at Mama Roux's in Birmingham Review. (7/11/19)

Any music fans living in Birmingham on Thursday the 7th of November were spoiled with choice for live shows to check out.  From Spector at the Castle and Falcon, Deerhunter with Cate Le Bon at The Crossing and big names at the Academy and Institute. While any of those shows would have been great nights out it was only Injury Reserve which I felt was the must see that night. The Arizona trio first made a name for themselves with their independently released 'Live At The Dentists office' album. an oddly subdued experimental Hip Hop project that was quickly followed by the incendiary 'FLOSS'. an LP that was packed full of high energy bangers and followed by their similarly inventive self titled record this year. Injury Reserve are currently in the middle of a gruelling world tour. The kind of long haul that can make or break most groups. If the strains are starting to show then it's very hard to tell. Hotly tipped support act Slauson Malone was not present for this show of the tour so Injury Reserve and their support Jockstrap both had to extend their sets. Jockstraps set was an intriguing mix of sexually charged pop songs with an experimental Hip-Hop style edge. Jockstrap have a uniquely relaxed vibe, which can sometimes steer off into self indulgent territory when they start mixing in samples and remixes into their set. Yet Jockstrap have an alluring sound and style, that makes them worth checking out regardless.
Injury Reserve
While I love Injury Reserve for their vibrant production and dryly funny lyrics (as well as their more emotional, and politically inspired work) the live experience is far from what I expected. Injury Reserve's live show at Mama Roux's was an assault of white noise and white light. A stage flooded with dry ice and strobe lighting made it difficult to see who or what was on stage. Injury Reserve hit the ground running with a live version of their deconstructed 'rap song tutorial', that instructed the audience on how to put on a fantastic rap show. Which Injury Reserve did, hitting the ground running with a barrage of high energy bangers, such as 'Koruna and Lime' 'What's Goodie', 'GTFU'. The more jovial cuts such as 'gravy and biscuits' and Three Man Weave' helped lighten the mood a bit, but the lighting and industrial noise still gave the show a sinister mood. Ritchie with a T seemed like the main star of the show, delivering aggro bars and working the crowd while the equally talented Groggs seemed content (literally) lurking in the shadows. Although it's hard to say anything about what anyone was actually doing. Gaps where features were missing, such as Amine's brilliant turn on Jailbreak The Tesla were were filled with more experimental noise and samples as producer Parker Corey eagerly mashed up sounds on his laptop. This and other hits such as 'Oh shit!' and All this money galvanised the Birmingham crowd into mosh pits and crowd surges
There's something refreshingly old school about Injury Reserve's approach to a live show. Anonymously focusing on the beats and songs rather than their own egos, and delivering solid bars throughout. Injury Reserve reminded Digbeth why hip hop was great in the first place, while giving a glimpse into it's future.


Monday, July 29, 2019

Solihull Summer Fest Sunday (28/7/19) Review

Organising a music festival in the UK is a risky business. whether you make your money back or make a loss depends almost entirely on how the weather turns out on the day. So spare a thought for the organisers of The Solihull summer fest who booked their acts to play on the week of the hottest day on record and yet still had rain pouring down on both days. In true English fashion this didn't stop the crowds from sitting down on their deckchairs, putting on their wellies and drinking their prosecco. For the first hour or so entertainment was provided by some local bands and tribute acts. A guy named Garry Pease looks and sounds almost exactly like a younger Rod Stewart. Garry gave the crowd the hour of cheesy Rod-ness they needed to keep their spirits up but without a live band it had the feel of karaoke. Mercury might not look that much like Queen (put that down to their singer being older than Freddie ever got to be) but their costumes and tunes were on point, hitting most of the high notes and delivering all the loved tunes. Mercury might not be queen but their a damn good copy. 

The first actual band to grace the stage was 80's ska Bad Manners, led by the incomparable Buster Bloodvessel. Buster is still as charismatic as ever and his band are a reminder of what made ska so great in the first place. Dancing around the stage with their instruments and playing some hilariously joyous covers of Frankie Vallie's  'I love you baby  and 'The Can Can'. Buster also had a go at (badly) playing the trombone and still making fat jokes which in 2019 could be seen more as an embrace of body positivity than a crass joke. Bad Manners were a blast. (7.6/10) The same can not be said for 80's yuppie has-been's Go West. Who put on the worst set I've seen a band play all year. While Go West are musically competent it's the confusing mix of covers that made their set annoying. Especially considering as this festival had already booked two cover bands. Covering younger artists such as Sam Sparro (as if they don't have their own 80's tunes to play), older artists such as Smokey Robinson (Sacrilege!) and bad 90's RnB covers. All with the sophistication of a shitty pub band. I left after they played a cover of 'Rio' by the far superior Duran Duran. Fuck this band (3.2)
Luckily by this point things were kicking off on the Hedkandi stage as DJ Storm alongside backing dancers and percussionist Chris Budd and saxophonist Ellie Sax delivered a masterclass in seamlessly mixing house and disco classics. 
The Proclaimers have had a long and fruitful career since having a fluke hit with that one song many years ago. Still recording albums and touring following last years 'Angry Cyclist' album. The Proclaimers live set is short on thrills or chatter but is packed full of great songs. Such as the brilliantly authentic country style 'Sunshine on Leith', and the lovably blunt love song 'Lets Get Married. The Proclaimers have survived because their unapologetic sentimentality is what makes them so special. Of course 500 Miles inspired a mass singalong but the 50 minutes before that proved there is much more to love them for. (7.6)
The Human League know how to make an entrance. Dressing the stage with white keyboards and electronic drums and being introduced by their two keyboardists playing an instrumental 'Sound of the Crowd'. Singer Phil Oakey joined Susan and Jo on stage in full Matrix mode, in a full length black trench coat and tiny sunglasses. Surprisingly Phil Oakey revealed that he was originally from Solihull, having moved when he was 14. The Human league reeled off the hits, 'Mirror man', love action and a brilliantly dark 'Seconds' The only low point was when Susanne took over the lead vocals for the dull 'One man in my heart' (while Phil did one of many off stage costume changes). While The Human League may have struggled to follow up Dare 'Fascination', 'The Lebanon' and the brilliantly poignant Human' proved they they never stopped writing great songs and the response to 1995's 'Tell Me When' shows that it's unfair to simply see them as an 80's band. As the keyboardists played an instrumental version of 'Don't you want me baby' The mass crowd managed to sing everyone of the words flawlessly and unprompted. Some may have left after Phil and the girls came back to sing it themselves, but they missed an encore of the bleakly industrial 'Being Boiled' and brilliantly cheesy Giorgio Moroder collaboration 'Together in electric dreams', which despite it's naffness seems to have predicted the rise of VR and technology being used to maintain long distance relationships. The Human League may have been going through the motions slightly but their hour set flew by, the set design and backdrops looked fantastic as did the band themselves. The Human League delivered an effortlessly  engaging and enjoyable set. A very British synthesizer group closing a very British festival (8.4)