Rain after a heatwave can be “refreshing” rather than its normal, “annoying.” Save drizzle, though forecast, we’re still waiting for the storm. If it’s refreshing you want in the meantime, local Britpop trio, Billy Green 3 paid a visit to Potterne’s Badger Set studio, and the result is Madchester in Ibiza….
Melancholically drifting over a subtle Latino riff, Broken is the surprising new single, out tomorrow (Friday 22nd July,) and it’s gorgeously chilled, like lounging on a porch-swing with a touch of bourbon, while mizzle rejuvenates the charred grass. It’s the morning-after pill from a heady beach party, yet don’t rush off with the idea Bill has done gone turned into a bossa nova star or anything rash like that!
Thankfully more air-conditioned Santana than gold bikini-clad Shakira, we’re some way even off what Oakenfold might spin at some Balearic archipelago chillout zone, because Broken retains the model Verve-Embrace come new wave mod indie sound of Billy Green’s past tracks, just with a subtle nod to something retrospectively Latino, akin to Morcheeba’s Big Calm, or Screamadelica; something like that. “Think Cafe Del Mar…in Newcastle,” our Geordie frontman Bill pitches it to me, rightfully.
Phone speaker listening never does a song justice, I must break the habit, but it took me seconds to fall in love with this tune, despite lack of amplification. Fond of this, because it works, key is the simplicity against overthinking, at least with such a style, I put to Bill.
“I think so,” he replied, “I had an idea that I wanted to have a two-chord structure, and the emotion would come through the story in the lyrics, I’m not really had any songs with a complete narrative arc, so that was the very loose plan, once I had that we just build the instrumentals around the lyrics and that ebbed and flowed…” And it has itinerant romantic narrative, as tranquil as the sound, working as a cruising solo song, or maxing-relaxing with a loved one… just don’t try the aforementioned gold bikini-clad Shakira look in an accompanying video, Bill, it’s only going to lower the poignant nuance of a superb tune; well done, guys, very summery!
To deal with my forgetfulness I have a to-do-list. The only issue with my to-do-list is I forget I started it; Billy Green released a new single last month, it’s a poetic stonker of indie-rap, with his usual nod to Britpop, and still it fell through the floodgate. Apologies to Bill, but it’s a convenient time to bring it up, as he gigs at Trowbridge’s Pump next Friday, May 27th, for Sheer Music.…..
What makes it even more exasperating for me, is that I was gossiping about the man himself, with Pip Phillips of People Like Us at Long Street Blues Club, what was it, just last week?! All good things, reminiscent of when they were in the nineties indie band, Still, together. Because Billy Green has a history, and it’s savoured in a nimble and accomplished style of the time; zip your tracksuit jacket up to the chin and hide your swirly pupils under a Kangol bucket cap!
The impression of Still remains a forefront for Bill, who named his 2020 album after the band, and followed it with a preceding collection of lost demos, made with the band mid-nineties. Tales of musical happenings in times of yore, before I landed on planet Devizes, always fascinate me, and I never tire of hearing about the blues bands of an era long past, with good folk like Exchange-owner Ian James. Yet Billy echoes out his antiquity, The Pump gig will incorporate his songs from the Still album, which relish in this bygone fashion, adroitly.
Surprised I was to note the quasi-rap poetry of this new tune, Garden, but twas a pleasant one. Teetering with his Geordie mockery it holds an ironic slate against the charade of social media embodiment, “people posting inspirational memes in one post, and ruining people in the next,” Bill describes it to me; I know that sentiment, probably a smidgen guilty myself, Bill, you bloody stickler!
Though hints of the everyday rap style of The Streets, it’s wrapped rather in the upbeat jaunty attitude of Blur, awash with Britpop influences of acts like James, for example. But don’t take my word for it, ere, have a listen yourself mate, and you’ll be mad-for-it too; sorted.
Bag yourself some of our recommended long players for your friends, family or even yourself this Christmas and help a local musical talent.
Look at him, Grumpus Maximus, slouching on his sofa-throne investigating the inside of his y-fronts with one hand and clasping a tinnie with the other. He’ll need Google maps to find his local watering hole when things return to normal, and if he has to endure Kirstie Allsopp for one more half-hour episode he’ll threaten to relocate to his shed for the yule. What do you get for someone like pops this Christmas, or anyone who’s lost the will of independent thought due to the modest inability to enjoy the odd fellow and guitar down their pub of choice, for that matter?
How about this suggestion; buy a CD from a local hero? Because not only will you cheer the old bugger up enough for him to consider shaving once a week, but you’ll be putting your hard-earned shekels into the hands of a local independent creative sort, who, without revenue from standing in a draughty pub alcove singing the blues, really needs some pocket money right now.
It’s not my idea, I say let them scavenge for dead flies on their filthy windowsills while insanely mumbling a ditty about minute pixies invading grassroot venues. Thanks to our reader, George for this suggestion. Of course, this is the 21st century, or so I’ve been informed, and nowadays next to nothing is physical. Much as we find the online format or download accessible, you can’t wrap an online stream up with a pretty bow and put it under your tree. So, our list is restricted to the ones putting out a CD copy; that’s a compact disc to youngsters, or even, dare I say it, vinyl, you know, some archaic listening format.
But how, ye cry. I’m going to provide links where I can, but another shot is your local indie record store; for if they care one iota for music, they’ll stock a range of locally sourced sounds. If they don’t tell them to, without swearing.
Here’s an ideal template to use: “the brilliant, one and only Vinyl Realm Music Store in old Devizes town stocks many local artist discs, so I suggest if you want to be half as good as them, you’d consider it.” And that, is one good place to start; open the yellow door on Northgate Street, turn to your right and by the window there’s a stand with some local outpourings on. If you get lost ask one of the owners, they bite but not hard. I know, shopping is beneath you, be aware they have an online service and will deliver, cos they’re nice like that.
Am I waffling now? I tend to tangent, like to, did you come here for that, or are you looking for some music options? Very well, sit quietly, or stand noisily if you like, and I shall begin…. hopefully before Boxing Day. But oi, bear in mind this isn’t a top twenty countdown, I just used that as the title for clickbait. I’ve not put these in any kind of hierarchy or rank, just listed alphabetical by artist name, to prove I know my A, B, C!
Billy Green 3: Still
Released at the beginning of this year, Devizes post-Britpop trio produce a beguiling sound that could’ve come straight from indie’s finest hour. It’s scooterist, with a taste of mod and soul, but it’s passionately scribed and delivered proudly. Review. Buy@ Vinyl Realm.
Chris Tweedie: Reflections
Affectionately reviewed at the beginning of the month, Melksham-based monarch of chill, Chris Tweedie has produced a mind-blowing album. If you like Mike Oldfield, Crosby, Stills and Nash, or George Harrison, you need to check this one out. Review. Buy.
Cracked Machine: Gates of Keras
Hometown space-rock has never been so good. This is the outfit’s second album, and its journey of spacey rock like no other. Fans of Pink Floyd or the Ozrics will relive every minute of their misspent youth and clamber to the loft to find their fractural posters and chillum! Review. Buy.
Erin Bardwell: Interval
This year, without his Collective, Swindon’s rock steady keyboard virtuoso blessed us with this unique lockdown inspired bundle of distant memories over sparse two-tone and reggae beats. If you think this genre can be samey, you’ve not heard Erin Bardwell. This album is one of a kind. Review. Buy.
George Wilding: Being Ragdollian
Let the arguments begin, this 2013 EP is the definitive George Wilding. One not to collate tracks to an album, the EP may only contain three songs, but their brilliance makes up for at least ten mediocre ones. You can grab this at Vinyl Realm.
Joe Edwards: Keep on Running
Whilst it’s had glowing international reviews, locally I feel this is severely unacquainted. Though I did say at the time of review I’ll be hard pressed to find another ‘album of the year,’ back in May, this still stands. This is melancholic Americana played out with utter perfection, and I will never tire of its authentic and sublime stories. Review. Buy.
Jon Amor: Colour in the Sky
Though we fondly reviewed Jon’s latest album just yesterday, like I said, that’s one which is only on download at the moment. Take his 2018 masterpiece of quirky electric blues as red, red as his telephone; this is the must-have album for every fan of local music. You can buy this in Devizes Books as well as Vinyl Realm, or you can buy online. Here’s a review from all those heavenly years ago, when Devizine was funny.
The King Dukes: Numb Tongues
Out in 2018, if you like your music with a taste of old-timey soul and blues, The King Dukes of Bristol do this with bells on. Numb Tongues is lively and memorable. Review. Buy.
Little Geneva: Eel Pie
Freshly produced and lively sixties mod-blues-rock done supremely, Little Geneva are Bristol-based but the Docherty brothers have the Devizes connection, enough to debut this down the Bear’s Cellar Bar a few years ago, and boy, was it a sweaty and memorable night! Buy.
Mr Love & Justice: Watchword
Mr Love himself, Swindon’s Steve Cox’s 2009 album is a must, a classic, even though I haven’t reviewed it, because it’s dated, its gorgeous acoustic goodness extends beyond atypical country-rock sounds and branches into many genres, even bhangra at one point. You can find this in Vinyl Realm for a mere fiver.
Mr Tea & The Minions: Mutiny!
Oh my, this chunk of energetic Balkan-ska influenced Bristol folk is breathtakingly good. I reviewed it last year, haven’t gotten over it yet! Review. Buy.
Paul Lappin: The Boy Who Wants to Fly
Breezy Britpop acoustics shine throughout this ingeniously written debut from Swindon’s Paul Lappin. Highly recommended and all-round good vibes. Review. Buy.
Phil Cooper: These Revelation Games
Trow-Vegas legend, Phil Cooper really gives it some with his latest offering, rocking out the lockdown. Review. Buy.
Ruzz Guitar’s Blues Revue: Live at the Louisiana
No list would be complete without a bit of Ruzz Guitar and the gang; guitar by name and nature. This album captures his skill where he does it best, live. Rock n roll the night away as if you were there; this is a must have album for blues and rock n roll fans. Review. Buy.
Sound Effects: Everyday Escapism
Self-penned Irish-fashioned folk at it’s most divine, Swindon duo Cath and Gouldy classic here. This is sweet and thought-provoking. Review. Buy.
Strange Tales: Unknown to Science
I’m unsure how old this is, but I do recall Pewsey singer Sally Dobson running back to her car to get me a copy at the long-lost Saddleback Festival. With Paul Sloots, Strange Tales are a wonderful if occasional electronica gothic-rock duo, and Unknown to Science is a spookily glorious album. Review. Buy or at Vinyl Realm.
Talk in Code: Resolve
True, Swindon’s darlings of indie-pop have come along way since this 2018 album, fashioned closer each time to retrospective eighties electronica, Resolve stands as a testament to their dedication, but more importantly highlights their roots in indie-rock. Review. Buy.
Tamsin Quin: Gypsy Blood
Man-about-Devizes, surely, you’ve a copy of this already? Tamsin Quin’s debut 2018 debut album is something kinda wonderful, eight self-penned nuggets of goodness introduces you to the now one third of the Lost Trades and personifies anything that was awesome about our local music circuit. A local classic. Review. Available in Vinyl Realm, or online.
The Lost Trades: EP
When three of our most loved local musicians officially bonded, debuting at the Pump just prior to lockdown, it was clear all their talents combined into this one project and could only ever be a winner. We highly anticipate the debut album, but for now, this five track EP will whisk you to a better era of folk harmonies. All original songs, there’s a taste of Phil, Jamie and Tamsin’s song writing talents, though each track wouldn’t look out of place on the Oh Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Review. Buy.
Ya Freshness & the Big Boss Band: Knockout
Boots and braces time, get skanking to the loud and proud ska sound of Ya Freshness and the Big Boss Band. This is joyful, fun and chockful of ska and rock steady riddims from 2018. We eagerly await a new double-album promised from these Bristol misfits of ska, but for now, this is great. Review. Buy.
No way is this list exhaustive; I’ve basically run this off adlib and will no doubt suddenly think, “oh bugger, I forget this or that.” But I’ve nailed it down to twenty, which was tricky. Do feel free to add a comment on something I might have overlooked, and apologises if I did. Remember, it should be available as physical copy. This is an interactive article!
Message my advice line if you’re still in the dark for a pressie for Dad. Helpful hint, look through his old records. If you see one of a pig floating above Battersea power station, or a plain black album with a spectrum shining through a triangle, try Cracked Machine. If you see lots of black and white chequered patterns or a naked girl’s torso with Tighten Up written across her abdomen, try Erin Bardwell or Ya Freshness. And if you see a rather splendidly busty woman carrying a hosepipe and various decorating equipment, try The Lost Trades; best of luck!
Spent a recent evening flicking through old zines I contributed cartoons to, relishing in my own nostalgia. Not egotistically admiring the artwork, or even laughing, rather cringe at most of it. More so because every publication has a backstory; where I was, what the hell I was up to, and thinking, if at all, at the time. It’s like Gran’s photo album, to me. But I guess reminiscing is symbolic of this pandemic year, nought else happening.
With that in mind, Bill Green of local self-titled Britpop trio Billy Green 3 has a great story to tell, ending with a retrospective release on the streaming platforms. He met Simon Hunt at a party, they liked each other’s jumpers, shared a love of music from the Beatles to the Stone Roses, and hung out on the guest list with Chester’s indie rock band, Mansun on their ’96 tour.
Billy’s mate John ‘Jimmy’ Burns “simply wanted to be in a band and dressed well.” Never having played their instruments before, let alone in a band, one night they decided to form one with another of Billy’s friends, Mark Molloy. “We” Bill explained, “jumped about to ‘The Jam’ and had often spent nights drumming along on bars and tables.”
With Mark on drums, Simon on Vox, Jimmy on bass and Billy on guitar, Still was forming. Yet I guess Bill was reminiscing this foundation when deciding upon a name for his debut album as the trio, back in January, which we cordially reviewed, here.
“I’d written a few songs,” Bill continued, “so we set up second-hand instruments in Marston Village Hall, and banged out a few tunes, no covers mind.” He had been DJing the ‘Vroom!’ Club, at the Corn Exchange. “Ian James was kind enough to put us on that Christmas and New Year’s, and people actually came to watch, a band was born.”
Still played the local circuit and even had a dalliance with Virgin Records, having spent a day travelling around London knocking on doors and dodging receptionists and PAs. They booked studio time with Pete Lamb’s studio in Potterne, followed by more studio time at Holt Studios, where a personnel change saw Andy Phillips join on drums and later, James Ennis on guitar.
As a five-piece they played into early 1999, before calling it a day and believing the recordings were lost. Simon Hunt recently unearthed the cassette, much to Bill’s delight, and the demos have been remastered “and tidied up a bit,” with the help of Danny Wise. Returned to Bill, who has enthusiastically released it as an album called Destruction at the beginning of the month. “And here they are,” he excitedly called, “as a permanent record of the biggest indie band ever from Devizes…. called Still!”
“I’m just shocked that Marston has, or had a village hall,” I expressed.
“Rubble when we finished playing!” Billy kidded, possibly.
These are raw demos, but brilliantly echo a time of yore when Britpop was in the making and a newfound generation of garage bands were spawning like a wart on the bottom of commercialised pop. What is great about this album, aside the backstory, is it represents all those early influences of the scene and mergers in a way we might today take for granted, but were, in essence, different scenes and youth cultures divided by decades, at the time. Yes, these may have been bought together by his more defined recent album, Still, but this is essential history for fans of that album, as it opens the casing and shows the very workings of it. Similarly, it works more generally than that, as an insight for fans of the genre.
For if influences of Britpop’s ‘big four’ are represented here, in the jaunty attitude of Blur, the maladroit studiousness of Pulp, the euphoric ballads of Oasis, and the brashness of Suede, there’s also arty punk rock and psychedelic reprises, like Elastica’s affection for Wire, even the Beatles.
There are echoes of Britpop inspirations, ‘Respect Now’ feels like it’s drawn from the genre’s eighties influences; the Jam, up to the Stone Roses. Yet tracks like ‘Happier Now’ ring drum-based upbeat riffs, but slating postpunk vocals, and the sobering drone of The Smiths. Whereas, ‘Pale Impression, Man’ is closer indie enthused from post-punk gothic, rather the end of the era anthems, like the track ‘Catch,’ which rings Suede or The Verve.
‘Lady Leisure’ just rocks, simple; this was produced at Pete Lamb’s, along with the other first bout of garage-style rock, ‘Happier Now’, and ‘Superstars,’ the latter savouring the sound of the Kinks. Perhaps the most poignant are two the love ballads, which along with ‘Catch’ were recorded at Holt. Bill informed me, “‘Gav4Saf’ was a fledging love song written for a friend’s wedding.” But the beautifully crafted ‘LoveSong’ is a missing piece of Oasis, and as a stand-out ballad is the only track rightfully to be reworked for Billy Green 3’s modern album Still. The finale is the title track, with a sublime rolling bass guitar, Who-like.
“We hope there are some people who will listen and remember those heady days as fondly as we do,” Bill expressed, “it’s basically demos but such good memories!” It may help, but is not, I reckon, essential. I reason, quite regularly, that finding the early recordings of any artist is often more worthy than the celebrated later releases, when eagerness overrides rawness and economical recording sessions. They brought out the original enthusiasm, the roots to greatness. I favour ‘The Wild, Innocent and E-Street Shuffle’ rather than Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA,’ for example. Even delve into bootlegs of Steel Mill, where despite the boss not being frontman, you can hear a distant echo of genius harking from the background. ‘Destruction’ is out now, as well as the single, ‘Catch,’ across the streaming sites, (Spotify) a notable antiquity of the local music scene.