Skates and Wagons: Path of Condie

If I’d one criticism of Britpop, during its heyday, least that which the pop charts threw at us, was, in an era of progressing technological electronica, embedded deep in my psyche, Britpop, to me felt regressive. I argued at the time, if The Beatles were still together, in their prime, they’d be producing techno or drum n bass, for they were trailblazing, innovative and progressive. Whereas, picking on Oasis, particularly, being they seemed to strive to be a Beatles tribute as far as I could see, were relapsing to a previous generation.

Then the crossover crossed back over. If waning was a heady dawn of the nineties where rock fused electronica on the Madchester scene, towards the end of the decade The Prodigy were advancing with an almost punk slant, and Noel Gallagher was lending his vocals to the Chemical Brothers. To pick the era apart now is futile, no one remembers what the fuck was going on most of the time!

Let’s agree to disagree, put it in the past and note today, retrospection is big business, and there’s nothing wrong with songs which hark back to the sixties, for it was pioneering but more importantly, divine and inspiring. Particularly when, rather than regenerating cover songs, but acting as a base of inspiration. We see a lot of this; from the sixty’s British blues scene to bubble-gum pop, but perhaps not produced with as much passion as Skates & Wagons.

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They sent me a link to their album, Path of Condie on Boxing Day, so apologies it was put on the backburner but I had Scrabble tiles to lay and Quality Street to puke. The EP I reviewed previously appears to be taken down, and I’m unsure why. The album, is akin to all I mentioned about the EP, only more so. If regenerating Britpop is tiresome and monotonous to you, you need to check this Oxford duo, because they manage it with the precision, innovation and splendour of classic pop-rock and blues of that sixties period, with bells on.

I mean sure, it opens with an interesting approach, Chevron Waltz proves this is going to be no everyday indie-Britpop ride, it is indeed as the name suggests, a waltz. If we’re going to revel in compassions, I’ll cite The Kinks or Small Faces, The Spencer Davis Group, The Troggs, but predominantly the Beatles, more than Oasis. Plus, we’d need to break it down with the fab-four’s individual preferences. Opening then is experimental, merging traditional styles of music is certainly McCartney, yet the majority, like Indian Summer rolls smooth, like the later Beatles, Sane Again is anthemically mellowed; very George Harrison.

But this is an album which builds progressively, just like the sixties did. The earlier tunes, initiate sixties pop, and sit at radio-friendly three-to-four-minute timings. Mr Wake Up, for example, explains how it’s going to roll for the time being, beat-based shards of classic pop-rock. But things liven up at Conversation with God, the walt reprise towards the end nuances the album is progressing the entire decade and we’re midway. Waste of the Sky is subtly psychedelia, like the opening to the beatnik period.

It’s this equidistant section where Skates and Wagons really shine, it’s as if we didn’t need the 1980s, we were fine where we were. Catchy tracks like The Man Who Never Sleeps and All the Love mirror the advancing changes of the middle of the decade, and bring us in line with classic seventies rock bands like Genesis and ELO.

It leaves you dripping for the concentrated, lengthier compositions the trend which followed via Floyd and Hendrix et all, and Skates and Wagons deliver. As Path of Condie develops it builds to more ending with a beautiful eight-minute composition, Yesterday’s Love. It’s beguiling and timeless splendour, catchy as pop, definitive as classic rock.

If we’ve seen a relived trend with scooterists and mod culture recently, these guys are a hot contender to front such a movement, as opposed to a Britpop throwback band going through archaic motions. Though there’s often a dispelling, or more, overlooked aspect with the current trend, in the interesting and natural progress to the late-sixties beatnik and flower-power movements; scooterists don’t go for that, and while there’s nothing so “way-out” as Zappa on offer through Skates & Wagons, it does reflect those initial, optimistic changes of the mid-sixties. And in this notion, is what divides the duo from the bulk standard; yeah, fab, love it!


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Paul Lappin Wants to Fly

Tad snowed under with the plethora of great new music at the moment, but delighted to hear Swindon’s breezy Britpop fashioned artist, Paul Lappin has progressed from the few singles we’ve reviewed fondly in the past, to release an album of all new material, this week. So, yeah, apologies for lack of advance notice, The Boy Who Wants To Fly is out now, and very worthy of our attention.

It binds all the goodness of the singles into something you can nourish extensively, there’s a real concentration of composition here as each track drifts adroitly. It’s astutely written pensiveness, nicely implemented, with the expertise likened to our own Jamie R Hawkins; I’ve made this comparison before. This moulds what could be great acoustic into a full band experience, handsomely; As Billy Green 3 are accomplishing this side of the M4, but let’s not get all road map. Best way, imagine George Harrison present on the Britpop scene, and you’re somewhere lost in Lappin’s world.

Not a lot standout in theme, Paul mostly takes on the classic subject matters, sometimes optimistic romance, often uplifting reflections on past observation, such as the title track which Paul clarifies, “it was originally written for my young nieces and nephews, but listening to it now I can also hear a lot of my younger self in there.” But there’s a nod to current affairs, such as the citation towards the refugee crisis in the wonderfully executed Song for Someone.

I’m getting shards of Tom Petty’s Freefalling, particularly with the title track. Story behind the album reaches back six years, when Paul was looking after an isolated farmhouse in the Occitanie region of the south of France, coinciding with a particularly motivated period developing song ideas. “Most of the songs on the album were written within the first few months of arriving at the house,” he explains, “the melodies came during long walks in the surrounding hills and vineyards, the lyrics were penned in local cafés.”

Haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Paul yet, but through the openness of his songs you feel like you know him already, and that constitutes an exceptional song-writer.

Ten tunes strong, optimism drops by the eighth, The Eye of the Storm, and darker, heavier elements ensue, if only for a track. “Eye of the Storm was a reaction to how helpless and frustrated I felt to all the crap that was going on at the time,” Paul elucidates. Life was Good is critically observant too, but retains the feel-good factor, and that sums the general ambiance of the entire album. Common with creative geniuses, they shy, and this self-indulgence uneasiness I see in Paul. “Entering the For The Song competition in 2019 changed all that,” he expressed when he won with the song Life Was Good, boosting his confidence, which has ultimately led to this worthy and proud album; as he rightfully should be. I urge you to take a listen.


Bill Green’s Still Lost Demos

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.


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Indie Networking and Long Coats

If social media is the rearguard in music’s battle against the Coronavirus lockdown, there’s plenty of battalions networking at this last stand, and physical location is no issue. A virtual realm is borderless, and for this reason, while Devizine is concentrated on content local to Wiltshire, there are many avenues worthy to waiver the rule for. So, expect us to cover some bands and artists without borders, ones I’ll connect with through social media, such as the Facebook group I’m here to mention, as is the group’s tenet.

That said, Ollie Sharp is a young performer from within our geographical catchment, Bath, who recently set up said Facebook group for indie music, called, aptly, The Indie Network. Its welcoming and dynamic attitude is gaining attention. I joined, they cast a thread of introductions; made me feel old! Funny cos it’s true, pipsqueaks by comparison. Young enough to have to Google my antiquated phraseology, like cassette tapes and Danny Kendal. Some poor guy confessed he was older, at 43, at which he faced compassionate reassurances such as, “it’s only a number.” I knew then to keep my gob shtum, so I stated I was “old enough to know better, too old to care.” Least it’d do no good for our Kieran from Sheer Music, who also joined, to grass me up as an old skool raver, historical to those barely an itch!

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Though we’ve jested before about the era of yore where never the twain would indie kids and ravers mingle, Mr Moore and I, and come to the conclusion I’m exempt on account of my eclectic taste. Let it be known now, I like the sound of Ollie’s recently formed band The Longcoats, and it’s just the sort of thing which allows Kieran to win the genre argument! It’s breezy, placid indie, acceptable on a larger scale than predecessors, much least my aging preconceptions, bit like what our Daydream Runaways and Talk in Code are putting out; and I like them. I even refer to them as “our,” see, like a northern working-class family. Shoot, pass my Smiths tee Mr Moore, I’m an indie kid! (kid used here in its most unlikely definition.)

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Anyway, I digress. We’ve reached the part of the show where the artist mumbles “is this codger going to actually review my single?” Apologies for my Uncle Albert moment, ha, there was me thinking Boris had made arbitrary tangents trendy. There’s no telling some, he’s a bastard. However, we’ll never get going if I branch into politics.

“Used to Being Used” is the single I was sent, the earlier one of two on their Bandcamp page. It follows a blueprint of indie-pop, there’s a trudging guitar riff, a theme of dejected ardour, yet it’s done with skill, catchiness and promising aptitude. The latter single, Drag, which came out in March takes a similar tempo, and cool attitude; there is no need to be angry in an era which accepts the genre, so ever with edge but only enough, The Longcoats create a beguiling and entertaining sound to appeal wide.

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Last year guitarist Arthur Foulstone and drummer Kane Pollastrone added to frontman Sharp’s lone act, which bridged the gap between band and solo artist. The final piece of the puzzle came upon recruiting permanent bassist Norton Robey. With the assistance of producer Jack Daffin, The Longcoats have created a defining sound which is appealing and instantly recognisable.

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There is nothing about this Bath four-piece indie-pop-rock band here, I’ll be honest, which will act as their magnum opus, but an auspicious start dripping with potential. Here’s one to watch, with their debut EP ‘October’ in the pipeline, here’s hoping it’ll reach us before the month of its namesake.

But it’s not so much about the individual band here which maketh this article, rather the conscious efforts to unite and network, thus creating a scene. Even through this era of wishing for a live gig, the networks thrive, perhaps even more so. Ollie also created Wise Monkey Music, a multi-media music and events promotion company based in the Southwest, of which we look forward to hearing more of; attention, the like Facebook group The Indie Network is likely to bring. They even let this aging raver in, dammit; though my white gloves and whistle must be in a box in the loft somewhere, it’s a deceased stereotype, of which I’m glad.

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I do find though, as someone who glued and photocopied zine after zine, aside the mass media driven pop tripe, the underground thrives as it ever did, the internet only creates an easy route in. Just like the bands of the now, such as The Longcoats and others rapidly joining the group, what’s not to like about it?

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Billy Green 3; Should not be Moved

On my holibobs last week, local Geordie Britpop/mod musician Bill Green of trio Billy Green 3, (not to be confused with the British-Upper Canadian scout who saw victory at the Battle of Stoney Creek, naturally) messaged a YouTube link to his debut single, “I Should be Moved.” Promised to get on it this week, finally made it; procrastination rules, but glad I did.

Impartial towards Britpop, it’s not Marmite, I take it or leave it. In my defence, during the era rave was the thing, Madchester just a slice and not a principally progressive slice when compared with breakbeat. To shock horror of Oasis fans, I sauntered past them on the NME Stage at Glasto 94; never heard of them, never cared to; I was hunting hi-tech party vibes, not a Beatles tribute.

I try to decipher if my appreciation of the genre has matured, or if it’s the forceful sixties-mod element which, while present in Britpop generally, seems particularly prominent in Billy Green 3’s style. The words and riff echo a Britpop classic for catchiness, studio noise and tambourine intro and, especially, the chorus though, rings the simplicity of sixties mod. With the modern component of a perfectly placed sample, the circle is complete, Samuel L Jackson’s one-liner as Pulp Fiction’s Jules Winnfield completes it. “Sounds great, Bill,” I replied after a tinny listen on my phone’s speaker, because it does. Grown on me more, now I’ve got it on loud.

If anything, the magnitude of this slick three-minute ride spurs me bookmark Billy Green’s next local gig, though none listed yet; watch this space. Meanwhile I wanted to gage Billy about what the recording side equates to. “I assume it’s an original song,” I asked, “written by you?” and fired several other minor questions all at once, at least England was one-nil up…. at that point.

“First recording with the new project, me and a young lad called Harvey Schorah on drums, backing Vox and all-round vibes,” Bill replied. “I wrote the words and music, played guitar, bass and sang lead and backing vocals. Martin Spencer [The Badger Set, Potterne] produced. He’s a magician, essentially, he took the song in my head and made it come out of the speakers; just love this creative process in addition to the recent live shows.”

On what this will spur, Billy explained, “second song in mixing as we speak, and then hopefully will work out how to put them out as a mini EP.” Posted on their Facebook page today, we may get a listen to it, Lose Our Way, at 7pm.

Drafting my next question, for the review lead us onto football, I mouthed my thoughts that England are sitting back on a 1-0 and then, oh dear (or words to that effect!)

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“Brilliant,” Billy added, “the review, not the football, they were poor on the first half apart from the penalty, still time though; being a Newcastle fan sometimes optimism is all you have!”

This fell appropriately onto my last question; does Bill think Newcastle had a scene during the Britpop era to rival Manchester?

“Prior to Britpop I think,” He suggested, “later 80s, there was a label called Woosh, my mate’s band, the Nivens were on there and ran on Flexi discs. There’s a retrospective out called C87 which was named after the NMEs C86, but a couple of decades later, they’re on there, so jangly guitar pop; the Nivens actually opened for the Smiths. Club nights at the Broken Doll and the Riverside, basically was my musical apprenticeship, introduced me to so many great bands. Moving into the 90s, there was more of a grunge scene with Cranes etc, now there is a resurgent drone scene with a hotel in Byker putting on Japanese noise artists, it’s a bit bonkers.”

“Bonkers could describe any current pop scene in the UK though,” I scoffed.

“Fair point,” Bill nodded, “Alan McGee doing his bit for guitar bands with the Creation23 label, and This Feeling are putting on some good nights. I work in London a bit, so have been to a few of their club nights. Met up with the now defunct the Shimmer Band from Bristol, who I thought were destined for great things. DMAs came out of that scene, from Australia, and are now heading festivals, think Shame came up through there, my mate’s band Free Money are booked in, they even did the last Lexus ad, which is a bit mad. I guess I’ll always be a fan of the get a group of mates together and play in a garage until someone notices you route.”

Well, that’s been the ethos for many a decade and never did the garage scene of the sixties any harm. Stuff the Simon Cowell karaoke TV show fiasco, Billy Green 3 is archaic in fashion, just enough to know the score, yet fledgling to fit into the burgeoning music scene here; I think “I Should be Moved,” puts a stamp on that; take a listen and decide for yourself.

 

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No Clowning with Six O’clock Circus at The Southgate

So, yeah, broke my 2019 hibernation and ventured out last night. I know right, but Calne-based, Six O’clock Circus blasted an otherwise mild night at the Southgate with some passionately executed mod, punk and indie covers; right up my street and kicking down my door.

 
Loud and proud, regardless of the five-piece squashed into Devizes’ answer to the O2 arena, singing toward the wall, plus having gigged the afternoon in Boughton Gifford, and Friday evening with Devizes-based, Burbank, for a Big Yellow Bus fundraiser at the Bug & Spider, they never waned, pulling a fine ensemble of indie covers out of their bag, for the first half, but not before an introduction of the Kinks and Who.

 
Six O’clock Circus, started at nine o’clock, but despite poor punctuality of their namesake, and lack of clowns, I loved the starter, then it went a bit Britpop; Travis, Stereophonics, James and Shed Seven representations. Yet I nodded through with appreciation, their precision awarded even my non-favs with worthy magnitude. Though I personally like my indie served, as they did towards latter section of the first half, with Primal Scream and the Coral, and overall would favour more mod, of the Jam, which ended the first half, Six O’clock Circus delivered them all feverously, and favourably, with ardent appreciation of their influences.

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A quieter night at this haven for live music allowed me to notice the cloudy cider tariff on the wooden beam, where at least one hairy hippy usually leans, obscuring the menu. So a double-whammy for me, securing a love for the Southgate I’d joyfully shout to the hills and back.

 
Undoubtedly, said cider played it’s part but I supposed the band tightened with every tune. A swap of instruments, promising a “seventies love-song,” they completed by knocking out a genuine “Pretty Vacant” before the break. It was clear Six 0’Clock Circus had no intentions of delivering us a ballad at all, neither attempt something experimental, as the second section banged in with The Buzzcocks’ classic, Ever Fallen in Love, and slipping nicely into London’s Burning by the Clash.

 
So, the evening’s entertainment leaves me now stamping a thoroughly deserved recommendation on Six O’clock Circus, perfect for the thirty-forty-fifty somethings function or pub circuit, and with that said, I’m off to make a bacon butty.

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Six O’clock Circus on Facebook, give em a like!

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