Illingworth Celebrate Their 100th Gig!

Salisbury-based acoustic rock duo John Illingworth Smith and Jolyon Dixon play The High Post Golf Club, between Amesbury and Salisbury this Friday 2nd December, and celebrate that it’s their 100 gig.

Although the duo had been collaborating musically for over three decades, gigs dried out proir to 2019, and they stopped, as Jolyon vaguely explained, “for one reason or another!”

He told of how around the Christmas peroid of that year, “John and I were chatting about how we missed doing gigs, wondering if we should maybe get a set together and have go at performing again as a duo.”

We wasn’t certain if anyone would want to listen,” Jolyon continued, “if we could actually get any gigs at all, or even how to get the songs working with just the two of us playing.” Today it’s still a wonder to us how they manage such a gorgeous sound as a duo, but they do! At Bishop’s Cannings’ CrownFest this summer they stole the stage following two heavy rocks bands, and to see Illingworth stamp their mark on a cover as technical as Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, or The Beatles’ Hey Jude, is something really special.

To maintain a pub circuit, Illingworth have mastered the cover scene with a plethora of memorable and sing-along rock classics, but neither are they strangers to creating originals, knocking out two breathtaking albums to date. This is where their relationship with Salisbury’s Tunnel Rat studio producer, Eddie Prestidge, comes in handy.

Our good friend Eddie encouraged us to give it a try,” Jolyon said, “offered to become our manager and handle the bookings. So, we gladly accepted and sure enough we got our first booking in February 2020, with several more following soon after. Of course, early in March the lockdowns started and we couldn’t go out and play. We were gutted, but, undeterred we used the time to make a new album of original songs and we did gigs whenever the restrictions allowed.”

Well, this weekend will be our 100th gig, So we would just like to say thank you so so much to all the excellent venues that have booked us, the weddings, parties, festivals, celebrations and absolutely everyone who has come to see us along the way! It’s been an absolute blast getting to this point. We still love doing what we do, and hope to make it to our 200th gig!”

With the trajectory these guys are flying on, I estimate that’ll be around spring! What more of an apt venue name, then, for their 100th gig than the High Post?! But seriously, these guys could bring joy to punters and provide a cracking night to any pub. I’d wager they could even raise the morale of the Queen Vic in Eastenders given half a chance!

Congratulations to John, Jolyon and Eddie, and hope to catch you again soon, guys.


Talk in Code: The Big Screen

Talk in Code’s second album has been out a while, overdue to mention it……

January 2019, and I find myself making several eighties cultural references in reviewing Resolve, the debut album by Wiltshire’s own Talk in Code. A band which turned my aged preconceptions of the “indie” pigeonhole on its head.

For me, wedged in the nineties, imaginings of that somewhat depressing outlook of the riot-grrrl, the post-gothic period of indie my rave fixation required an abhorrence of by default. Though it was hardly mods and rockers in that era, as in we didn’t fight, “ravers” and “indie kids” simply didn’t recognise each other until the remerging of the crossover, through the likes of the Chemical Brothers and Prodigy, yet, reflecting, it was always there with Madchester and the progressive Primal Scream’s Screamadelica.

So, who’s up to debate it, does any of it matter now? I likely chewed the ears off of guitarist Alastair Sneddon on the most memorable occasion of a road trip with the band last March! We’re in a period where the trend is to cast-off that nineties flavour in favour of citing influences like U2 and Simple Minds, and I’m game for that, even if the band tend to name more modern inspirations.

The point is, Talk in Code build on this ethos, their sound ever strives towards it, ergo, everything after Resolve increasingly adds to this method, of its standout single Oxygen and its gorgeous dreamy emotions akin to a John Hughes soundtrack, and gradually onward. Yet somehow this panache isn’t regressive, forgive the eighties references, it’s retaining freshness in the contemporary, just allowing a serious nod toward early to mid-eighties feelgood pop.

It’s a fashion which Talk in Code hooked me onto bands like Longcoats, Daydream Runaways and Atari Pilot too, and a scene has developed to the point Swindon’s pop darlings are now Talk in Code; they played the Coleview Music Festival this weekend, entertained crowds during the interval of the Wildcats ice-hockey game at the Link, and generally, the excitement is consistently blossoming for them, and deservedly so.

Back on our outing to Portsmouth they stressed the importance of both gigs and recording, and since their connection to Regent Street Records, there was a keenness in the band to grab wider appeal in anticipation of the forthcoming album, The Big Screen. The release of it was pushed back to accommodate this collaboration but has been up-for-grabs since last month. Having already reviewed many of the tracks of singles I’ve been biding my time, apologies to Talk in Code, but here it is….

To begin, The Big Screen has had nearly as many singles coming off it as Jacko’s Bad, yet the comparisons end there. The opening title-track though, is exclusive, and it rings as the perfect intro as all the shaping I’ve described above. Illogical chronologically follows, their last single released, which I defined at the time as summing up “their undeviating style, upbeat and optimistic,” and suggested it was more danceable than the previous singles.

One of my personal favs follows, Talk Like That, came out back in January 2020, of which I suggested would “blow your diddy-boppers off!” Track four is Hindsight, an album track, perhaps, least one I haven’t heard of, but again, listening to it everything just falling so neatly into place. Talk in Code are so stylised, this flows as an album rather than a collection of singles, and nothing here will disappoint.

April 2020’s single Courage (Leave it Behind) is followed by a cooling new song, Someone Else’s Shoes, which takes on the Wham boys at their earlier best. This is a drifter, but yeah, I said Wham, I don’t know about you, but it got me reminiscing the greatness of Everything She Wants, a hidden gem of their discography often obscured by later hits.

But Save It returns to paced euphoric, and one can’t go wrong towards the finale, as the last three tracks are recently celebrated singles. The Molly Ringwald moment of Young Loves Dream, autumn during lockdown’s neon song Secret and ending on the summery Taste the Sun, dripping in fun, and sunshine…. club tropicana’s drinks are free, y’ know? And in that, a certain moreish finesse we’ve come to accept as standard from Talk in Code shines on.

In all, despite reviewing the singles as and when they were released, it’s worth revisiting as together in the compilation of The Big Screen, you can hear what I’ve been waffling on about with each and every single review, about the tightness of the band to create this uniformed joyous chic of universal pop appeal. Honest, in a Tardis, feels like you could pull out a Smash Hits poster of Talk in Code and blu-tac it to your wall, and your dad will approve. Whatever did happen to Terrence Trent D’Arby?!

Get the album here, s’ only seven quid.


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Opera Meets House at Devizes Full Tone Festival

Featured image above by Gail Foster

It has been undeniably a variety music show at the Full Tone Festival this bank holiday weekend on the Green in Devizes, of tremendous proportions and matchless quality.

The stage I’ve previous dubbed “like something out of the Jetsons,” was once again erected, deckchair city assembled around it, with a bustling collection of food and drinks stalls beyond, and the sun with his hat on, shining down on all the shiny happy people.

It is a remarkable achievement and something to be truly proud of, to have here in our humble market town. The Full-Tone Orchestra taking their show to prestigious venues like Bath Abbey and Marlborough College, returned home, looking even more professional than ever. Conductor Anthony Brown waving his hands around like manual control of the world’s air traffic; it was, in a word, magical.

Highlights came thick and fast, Dominic Irving thrilled, heading a Tchaikovsky concerto on piano, for an opening of obligatory classical elements. The stage emptied as Will Foulstone took control of the keys, solo. Full Tone platforms young talent, like TikTok trumpeter Oli Parker, on Sunday, to an audience majority unlikely to know what TikTok is. Similarly, Will performed some videogame themes among Coldplay and contemporary pop, which is better in reality than it sounds to my generation bought up on ZX Spectrums or Mega Drives!

Will’s finale was an astounding cover of Elton John’s I’m Still Standing, and the orchestra realigned for a concentration of movie scores, largely dependent on the western themes of the late Ennio Morricone; liked this.

Then, BBC Introducing DJ skateboarder, James Threlfall took to digital wheels of steel and blasted the zone, and across the road to the chippy, with a set of contemporary and commercial high-energy house; lights came on blazing like the Green was the Ministry of Sound. Here is where I need to revert to my reviewing template, which resides on two major contributories. One is, did the event appease me personally, the second, more importantly is, did it do what it said “on the tin,” i.e., was it everything it posed to be. For the latter, the Full Tone Festival 2022 hit top marks, without a doubt. I watched the joy on hundreds of faces, as they danced the night away to James and the following Full-Tone Orchestra set of “nineties smash hits.”

The grand finale of Saturday night was certainly intrenched with nostalgia, perfected by an orchestra where no penny was left unexpended, no rehearsal was spent playing tiddlywinks, where the professionalism is first rate and the atmosphere was nothing short of sublime. The Full-Tone Festival was superb last year, this time around comes the typical stigma of a sequel, the “how can we ever top that” enquiry, and I’ve a duty to be honest, based upon the imperative Saturday evening, I’m not completely certain they did, on personal reflection, you understand?

Image: Gail Foster

Song choice at this conjunction was the only thing which let it down, for me. Started off okay, the Britpop beginning I can tolerate, but as it progressed to the pop hits of S Club 7, Britney Spears and Cher’s I Believe, et al, these, for me, were the excruciating pop slush of a generation below; I detested them at the time, and retain said detestation.

It was a far cry from the club anthems of last year’s, because that’s the point where creatively, electronic music technology truly challenged the orchestra. But, sigh, it’s all subjective, I told you about the hundreds of faces, didn’t I? They matter, it did what it said on the tin, with high gloss, it just wasn’t my cuppa.

Image: Gail Foster

I’m sorry I couldn’t make it to Sunday’s extension, we don’t all have bank holidays y’ know? But I can rest assured with the years of rock n roll experience of Pete Lamb’s Heartbeats, Kirsty Clinch’s angelic country vocals, and the fact Jonathan Antoine has been done BGT, it’d have been alright on the night.

Image: Gail Foster

Feedback on the orchestra’s big band showcase has been fantastic, with particular praise of vocalist Will Sexton. On opera, spellbinding local soprano who could turn even me to opera, Chloe Jordan, said, “it was my dream to sing ‘Song to the Moon ‘Resulka with an orchestra. Thank you so much to The Full Tone Orchestra for allowing that dream to come true!” And that, in a nutshell, is the kingpin to assessing this spectacular; if dreams come true there, you can’t argue how special an occasion it was.

Image: Gail Foster

Though the headcount was slightly lesser-so than last year’s, trouble to many events this, as a sad reflection on economic issues, here’s hoping this awesome weekend on the Green will be enough to convince Full Tone to make this a permanent fixture on our event calendar. Devizes loves you Full Tone, that much is certain.


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Richie Triangle; Imposter Syndrome

Coming around to Devizine’s fifth birthday has got me reminiscing on how all this started in the first place, who is really to blame?! It wasn’t Richie Triangle’s fault, really, for he cannot help who comes to see him play, but as for our mainstay support of local live music, a hefty portion transpired from a rare occasion the better half and I dropped into the Black Swan and was surprised and blown away to hear some live music in town, this good.

Here’s the thing, there is and always was a lively music scene in Devizes, I know this now, but I went from the raver-clubber into parenthood and neither of them warrant the angle to have gone searching for a band in a pub, not that it was something I disliked, far from it. At the time my local rant column for Index;Wiltshire was becoming tiresome and heavily edited, it was time to spin it around, reflect on what was good about living in Devizes. Richie Triangle’s residency at the Black Swan was the catalyst, and I ventured off to find Tamsin Quin, and the rest erupted from there.

Times move on, landlords of pubs do, and so did Richie, now residing on the Kent coast, yet, I still think we owe it to him to mention his latest album, Imposter Syndrome, released this week. It’s a far cry from the acoustic young man belting out Irish folk songs and pop covers in the same format. Richie is a force to be reckoned with, an intricately weaver of wordplay and original compositions, and if David Gray coined the term folktronica, Richie has epitomised it.

Here’s your for instance; twelve songs blending acoustic goodness into pop, with echo-delays of dub, an acapella intro with oddities of voice synthesisers, followed by The Tide, a modish-come-country angle, much in the flavour Elvis Costello, or what Jon Amor achieved with Red Telephone. From there there’s really no pigeonholing, Trying to Get Home rolls with a slither of old eighties soul-disco, and Richie’s not afraid to add a rap.

It gets a deeper melting pot track by track, Hope in your Eyes, definitely electric blues rock, while Sign of Times, hints of electronica of yore. From there one’s ear settles on this wavering style, but there’s surprises again towards the ends, nothing is off the cards as folky goes rap and a non-compliance theme and jazzy piano bridge. It’s systematic, purposely blending and experimental, the finale characteristic of Adrian Sherwood’s On U Sound, who while I’m unsure if this is produced by them, Richie has worked with them in the past.

All I do know is, even if you recall attending Richie’s regular gigs at the Black Swan as he camped out the back of the Devizes pub, or not, here’s a upcoming marvel, who once graced our town with his presence, and proved himself as a inimitable talent then, this album is a pleasure to listen to; it’s long overdue you checked in on him again.


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Talk In Code Return to Swindon for a Homecoming Show & Album Release

We love ‘em here at Devizine, and Swindon-based indie pop quartet, Talk In Code are set to return to The Victoria in Old Town Swindon on Saturday 23rd September for a massive homecoming celebration show following a packed summer of festival appearances at Lechlade Festival, Minety Festival, Home Farm Festival, Taunton Pride, Box Rocks, Great West Fest and many Foodies Festivals all over the UK…..

The band have spent the summer playing to packed audiences across Wiltshire and all over the UK, supporting esteemed names such as Jesus Jones, Cast, Scouting For Girls, My Life Story, Blue and The Feeling.

Talk In Code, recently signed to London based Regent Street Records, released their instantly danceable, upbeat single “Illogical” in June of this year, playing a headline set at Pimms In The Park at Lydiard Park on release day.

Image: Helen’s PolarPix

The gig at The Victoria on 23rd September will also see the release of the bands new single “The Big Screen” and also their third album of the same name which will be available to purchase on CD on the night.

Chris Stevens, lead vocalist said “Swindon is our home, and it feels so right to be returning to The Victoria, which is one of our favourite venues to play.. Darren and Violet from The Victoria have been incredibly supportive of Talk In Code over the years and we cannot think of a better place to showcase our new album than The Vic! We are proud to be Swindon!”

Join Talk In Code for what promises to be an incredible night of live music, with support from Riveria Arcade and Tom Moore.

Tickets are just £6.00 in advance from https://www.seetickets.com/event/talk-in-code-riviera-arcade-tom-moore/the-vic/2319587 Listen to Talk In Code here.

Ah, my road trip with Talk in Code!

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PREVIEW – White Horse Opera’s Production of Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amour”@ Lavington School, Devizes – Wednesday 26th, Friday 28th, and Saturday 29th October 2022

Opera Is Back! – The Elixir Of Love! – Go See This Show! by Andy Fawthrop We’ve said it before, and we feel no shame … Continue readingPREVIEW – White Horse Opera’s Production of Donizetti’s “L’Elisir d’Amour”@ Lavington School, Devizes – Wednesday 26th, Friday 28th, and Saturday 29th October 2022

Thoughts About George Ezra at Trowbridge’s Civic

Yes, I did, thank you; and what a brilliant show it was last night when George Ezra came to Trowbridge!

Consider the punks, who spat at conformity, consumerism and society’s esteem of pop culture, are now near, if not pension age, when digestating the derisions and jeers from a few when I told them “I’m going to see George Ezra.” Marketed commercialisation, yeah, I get that; if for the pre-gig meal we frequented the golden arches, I was more than disappointed my “Italian Stack” was just a cheeseburger with rocket salad and pesto sauce. I mean, who puts a pasta sauce on a burger, adding insult to injury what with the broken milk shake machine, my only guilty pleasure from Ronald?

For them though, I bid they take heed of my anecdote more than those who attended George Ezra at Trowbridge’s Civic Centre yesterday, which, like many of my yarns, begins with me spending a penny. Upon my return to the hall, in which we were instructed in this record-breaking heatwave to “squeeze in as tight as possible,” a few had gathered behind my teenage girl posse. With my customary irony I nudged in front, “make way, responsible adult coming through!” only to note I’d obscured the view of a young girl behind me.

The expression of anticipation at seeing George Ezra drained from her face, unacknowledging now she’d only see the back of a podgy middle-aged parent in a Batman t-shirt. But before she could completely well-up, I promised to stand aside as soon as he came on stage, but if I moved now someone not so willing might push in. Though she doubted my conviction, I did retreat from my position, her parents expressed their gratitude. The space my belly once occupied ample for her to sing and dance her heart out, which she did, and her expression of sheer joy made my night.

Because, while George and his band may’ve only blasted a job-and-finish half-hour set at us, damn it the guy puts some umph in. Honestly, he’s like the geek of a Saturday supermarket job who really puts his all into shelf-staking. Professionally executing the placid and sincere pop star persona, the guy convinced me he’s the genuine article, finding time to box-in his every known popular tune. Sure, playing through his new album The Gold Rush Kid, was a pointless marketing exercise, being the ticket price included a copy of it, but there was everything there you’d expect from an upcoming musician and none of the bravado of celebrity; passion, drive, and even some narrative of backstory.

But for his best efforts, I owe it to the little girl in front of me, and every other screaming teenager or child, to express what a superb evening it was, her mien said it all. For it was never about anti-corporatism critics, rather the rare opportunity for youths to see a popstar in the flesh, in Trowbridge, which would otherwise cost the parents something quite unaffordable in tickets and travel costs.

Doubtless this was The Civic’s finest half-hour, though structured without encore, for less than a purple one, we got our money’s worth in George and his band’s dynamic performance; worth the hassle of fastest-finger first ticket booking system, which sold out in seconds of going online, queuing in the heat only to be squashed in like sardines, but perhaps not the no drinks policy profiteering attitude, which saw the bar closed and only bottled water they sold allowed. Maybe laws have changed without my knowledge, but I assumed not providing free drinking water was unlawful, and even if not, it’s safety and basic etiquette poorly overlooked by The Civic.

Yet we owe it to Marlborough’s music shop, Sound Knowledge for this most excellent show. Must be best part of quarter-of-a-century Roger has been the best purveyor of records around these backwaters, and stayed afloat through this technology-changing era by hosting these fantastic album marketing gigs. Usually based in the shop itself or in the club opposite, it’s bought many an upcoming act to Marlborough, including Ezra in 2014. The only other time a band has been too big to fit in was when they shifted Rag’N’Bone Man to the College campus, but George was too bigger name, even for this venue, causing the organisers to add a matinee at the Civic.

But usually, there’s a post-gig meet-and-greet opportunity, something though we took our CDs we had to accept would’ve sadly been unviable due to the vast number of attendees. And that, in a nutshell, whitewashes any niggly criticisms, because maybe restrictions have to be set in order to pull off an event of this magnitude, perhaps you do have to shout orders at the crowd and search children’s bags in this day and age. Even though this isn’t what I’m used to, I was happy in the knowledge that for many there, this was not just a golden opportunity, but a first-time concert which will live in their memories forever.

It got me thinking of my first ever gig, about the same age as my daughter and her friends now. To set the bar high, it was Bruce Springsteen, and, George, sorry mate, but through rose-tinted specs, while you weren’t quite that good, you were totally amazing. Proof of this goes along the lines of me mumbling the words to Shotgun all day today, the profound effect is unimaginable for those younger, if it got this grumpy old git inspired!               


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Indecision’s Final Incursion of Devizes Corn Exchange

The grand finale of popular local covers band, Indecision stormed Devizes Corn Exchange last night, Saturday 21st May, for one last hoorah. A hugely successful turnout in the-hard-to-fill Ceres Hall……

From Seend Beer Festival to Potterne Cricket Club’s, Indecision has been a firm favourite for many-a-year now, playing across the south west from Bromham’s long lost Owl community centre to as far away as Portsmouth, the six-piece Potterne-based band have demanded many to the dancefloor, but last night the time was nigh to say farewells.

Keyboardist Martin Spencer, who also owns Potterne’s Badger Set studio, gave me a never-say-never shrug when I asked him if it was really the end, but for now, he assured me it was.

They came out all guns firing, kicking off with Otis Redding’s Hard to Handle, and preceded to knock out every timeless classic you could name, weaving from Johnny be Goode to The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary as if they were recorded in one session! There were nuggets of phone torch waving, particularly adroit was The Stereophonics’ Dakota.

Here is, essentially, a function covers band, but if you had them at your function it’d make it night to remember. Proof of this was evident in the huge crowd, with such a wide demographic, it seemed like everyone who had ever attended a function or event where they had played descended upon Devizes’ Market Place, and in knowing what was coming, flooded the dancefloor in anticipation. That’s one mighty accolade.

Yes, they smashed the predictable, and cliché covers apexes at Wonderwall, a point lovers of original compositions will no doubt sigh at, but for a covers band, it sure was accomplished, and they stood confident and experienced, raising funds for the Fatboys Charity and Wiltshire Rescue.

For me personally, my impressed expression didn’t falter, at times though I felt this collective had the skill and ability to create some tunes of their own, but in this consider they know their audience and give them what they want; they came here to dance the night away to the tunes they love, and who am I to deny them their enjoyment?

But I confess, I slipped out for a short while, for a pint down the Gate, because my focus and first love is the creativity of an original act, and there’s only so much disco swinging classics I can handle, no matter how skilfully handled. This, coupled with the fact I knew no one there, astonished as to how they can ram such a vast venue and not see one recognisable mug of town’s usual live music aficionados.

The audience reaction was upstanding, as if the Beatles were on stage, ergo my dilemma is to rate this highly upon the tenet just because it wasn’t wholly my cuppa, Indecision do what they say on their tin. Disgruntled at what appeared to me to be a village-fashioned clique with some audience members, upon trying to take an empty seat for the temporary moment I wished to sit, as this was so danceable, I was waved off with a warning the seat was reserved, despite the fact no one was obviously sitting on it, as if I was going to take the chair with me; bit weird and uncalled for, an eighties cheesy nightclubber come of age?! No, kind sir, I didn’t look at your girl!

Still I intended to return, but when I did the band had finished and a DJ was spinning Tiffany and other terrible pop mush, but they liked it, and that’s what’s important here, sadly I winced and escaped! Which was a shame, Indecision certainly tore the house down, were professional and beguiling, and I hope raised some serious wonga for the charity. Ah, the fault isn’t there’s, it’s all me! A massive congratulations to Indecision for staging a vibrant evening, of which the delight of their audience reviewed itself.


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The Dark Horizon of Sam Bishop

Oh, for the rolling years since Devizes Sixth Form-Hardenhuish collaborated boy band 98 Reasons, time cannot stand still, we know this, we still see the bassist of which, Finely, on the local circuit with cousin Harvey as the Truzzy Boys, and as frontman of astounding mod-rock covers band The Roughcut Rebels. And occasionally we hear from his partner in the duo spin-off Larkin, Sam Bishop, it’s good to hear from him again with an awesome new EP, Dark Horizons; out now……

While still studying music over in Winchester, his unique brand of pop, while momentously contemporary, didn’t agree with me personally one occasion, a couple of years ago, and he took it on the chin; I have to be honest. If something definably “pop” doesn’t agree with my grumpy aging expectations it doesn’t make it bad, just means I’m too old! He rebuked any past criticism with a sublime last EP homing more auditory on my cabbaged ears, but here’s a young singer and musician who just keeps getting better.

Honestly, cast off any doubts, Dark Horizons is another massive progression, enriched with euphoric soundscapes, some often dark in subject, as the EP title suggests, yet all uplifting. It plods open with digital notes, Same Stars, and I’m nodding approval; love it. There’s contemporary pop on offer here, bleached with William Orbit or Moby style soundscapes.

Yet the second track, Playing in Shadows transcends the previous for retrospective influences, think eighties electronica, especially on the intro, virtually Kraftwerk! Yet again, nothing is passé no matter how far the basslines and synth-pop arch back for recollections, as the vocals roll with repetitive elegance, stirringly upbeat and ultramodern, Years And Years fashion.

Clearly there’s vast experiments washing like waves onto the beachy mind of Sam Bishop, yet by the third tune out of four, Stay Close, we hear the accustomed acoustic croon of Sam, a floating love-song which builds with a subtle aforementioned ambience, but essentially retains the guitar riff over chanting backing vocals. It’s the standout track you might’ve been suspecting when you clicked on the link, if aware of Sam’s past work, but herein lies the point; the EP in general a massive advance forward, looking headlong rather than rearward.

To confirm this progression, here’s Sam a few years ago with a drumstick up his nose, of which he’ll kill me for posting!

The finale, Backroads has a piano riff, building into current pop with elegance, like a lot of Sam’s themes it relies on life’s directional decisions, yet it delves deeper into trialling and investigation both musically and lyrically, which intertwine in such a way I’ve not felt so connected to Sam’s solo work than this wonderful EP previously. And before you suggest, that’s cos you is, like, getting old, brah, I’ll have you know I get my teenage daughter DJ on car journeys, so I may not have the gen Z patois of a roadman but I know my Cardi B from my Ariana Grande, and this is as a blend akin to what The Weeknd and The Kid Laroi are putting out; sick, apparently!

ALBUM LINK HERE


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A Gecko in Trowbridge Town Hall

It’s always a warm greeting as you enter Trowbridge Town Hall, even if, like me on this occasion, you’re running late…..

Prior to my arrival I digested the fact I’d likely forgone the supposed support act, Gavin Osborn, but was dammed if I’d miss Gecko, as since reviewing his sublime second album Climbing Frame back in October 2020, I’ve been aching with the understandable desire to see him pull it off live.

Mellowed piano song oozed from the humble hall ahead, oh no, I figured, Gecko has already begun. Such it is that Gavin recently resigned event coordination at the hall to the capable hands of then sound engineer, Kieran Moore, I assumed he was billed as a kind of farewell to his previous position, unmindful I’d emerge from the Hall a Gavin Osborn fan too. Even by the evening’s culmination I was also dubious of suggestions the two were collaborative, or if it was just banter between them.

But it seems a tag-touring-team is a reality, and given I’d mistaken Gavin for Gecko in the vestibule, who could be more apt to work with for the reptilian-named poet-esque singer? For luckily, Gavin was still on the subtle stage, virtually stripped bare of instrumentation save a banjo, microphone, music stand and randomly placed hardback chair.

Yet a guy looking remarkably like photos I’d used of Gecko accompanied him on a piano, tucked away by a side door. After the song I’d made my stealth entrance to was over, the pianist sat behind me. Uncertain glances behind affirmed, if there was a gecko in the room it was undeniably him, giggling at Gavin’s witty prose. I suppose this, coupled with their styles so similar I mistook the pair, should’ve been damming evidence this was more than a headliner and support act thrown in for sentiment, but what can I defend myself with, naivety caused by surviving on powernaps?!

In this, is the delight of the communal venue too. If there’s a stage green room it’s unused every time I visit; awaiting performers merge into the audience. This is no venue for egotistical celebs, and with barely raised stage and modest lighting, it’s a non-gimmick venue which bases solely on performance rather than dazzling affects. Professionalism and proficiency given, if you can hold an audience spellbound with such minimal affects and props.

Both did with bells on, and while I suspected the case with Gecko, Gavin was the surprise element. Akin to Gecko, Gavin is more storyteller than singer, though splices of prominent points were executed through great folky vocals, and highly amusing prose. Unlike Gecko, Gavin’s baseplate is folk, who through exceptionally crafted verse reminded me of the sentimentality of our own folk hero, Jamie R Hawkins.

Perhaps more akin to Beans on Toast, lacking Ozzie tinge, through observational narratives he weaved through subjects with spellbinding accuracy, hinging on familiarisation; I identified with many, particularly the amusing banjo led ditty of an aged fellow sneaking out to gigs while his wife seemed blissfully unaware in her slumber! But with heart-melting twists, Gavin wraps them up amusingly, either echoing retrospective contemplation or hinting at his political stance.

Time for Gecko’s opening song; could be anything less than the hilarious start of his album, Can’t Know all the Songs, which counteracts those who shout requests. Virtually unplugged he executed highlights of the album acoustically, and gave us unheard of tunes too, passing off his lack of backing as witty repartee. Such as pausing the song to switch from singing to kazoo during an amusing and uplifting tale of the Tamworth Two pigs, Butch and Sundance, who escaped their fate at a Malmsbury abattoir in 1998.

On this note it’s appropriate to highlight the major reason Gecko is so utterly entertaining, for not through particular quality of musician, though he is a natural, rather his choice of content and subject is so original, and his method of metaphorically weaving it into a more general point. Who writes a song from the POV of escaping pigs, or a dog sent into space? But better still, who can bend such narrative into a point you identify with? It’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull, in song.

It’s a classic formula attributed to authors rather than songwriters, and Gecko reigns as either, acting with pseudo-confidence, encouraging audience participation to save him hiring a gospel choir, planning out a cliché encore by hiding behind the piano, even submitting profit margin differences between buying his CD here and streaming his music.

I think I put too much emphasis on hip hop in my album review, as his rap-fashion tendency contradicts his indie-pop overall, making it his unique style, part nerdy, part too cool for skool, but through stripped back live performance it is clear his devotion is with the latter, indie-pop acoustic goodness. A fashion with ageless attraction. But whatever pigeonhole you opt for, it’s undeniably entertaining.

If I’ve an only criticism the show was too short, the comeback is both Gavin and Gecko can suck you into their stories so time passes unnoticed, coupled with my late arrival of which I’ve only myself to blame!

Another wonderful evening at Trowbridge Town Hall, building a reputation for introducing a variety of interesting and upcoming acts, affordably; you need to be putting future dates in your diary.


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Swindon’s New Tribute to the Blockheads; Dury Duty

On the eve of a new tribute act fronted by Swindon’s Mark Colton, he tells me “Dury seems to be a forgotten genius and the blockheads are an amazing band still. We just want to remind people of what a great showman he was, and what great songs there are……”

I find myself pondering on Dury’s virtuosity, influence and why it’s popularly considered underrated. True, the meandering and wishy-washy narrative of Matt Whitecross’ 2010 biopic, Sex & Drugs & Rock n Roll, didn’t do much justice, but his funeral, a decade prior to the film, saw a handful of celebrities, keen on honouring the mysterious persona of Ian Dury. From Mo Mowlam and Robbie Williams to Madness, the latter of whom occupied a similar place in the nation’s heart as Ian Dury and the Blockheads did a few short years prior.

A posthumous national treasure, in death he achieved what his dark and edgy character prevented him from accomplishing, a Times obituary praised the singer’s “Swiftian satirical streak” and acknowledged his “lasting place in the corpus of the English popular song.” If The Blockheads’ pseudo-fusion of jazz into punk didn’t wash with the atypical punk movement, it certainly scored them some hits, and anyway, when did punk itself ever adhere to “fit in?”

Ian Dury

To take onboard recent trends in British unpremeditated, often jokey street rap, the kind The Streets, Lily Allen and Kate Nash rinsed, Dury popularised that poetic verse, to consider post-punk’s more jazzy moments, The Blockheads reigned supreme, but perhaps the synthesis doesn’t pigeonhole them for a majority to realise the strength of their influence on pop.  

Swindon’s newly formed six-piece Dury Duty is dedicated to the songs and performance of legendary band leader and raconteur Ian Dury, rather than recent Blockheads reformation. This combo of experienced musicians strives to recreate the sound and feel of a genuine Ian Dury concert, drawing from material found within his solo output, his work with The Kilburns, The Blockheads as well as other side projects.

“I have decided to follow my heart and do the projects I have always wanted to do,” Mark explained, “including this one. The initial set features the sort of set around the time Do it Yourself would have been released, lots of songs from New Boots.”

Mark Colton

Colton leads in Thin Lizzy tribute, The Lizzy Legacy, temporarily fronted ska covers band The Skandals, continues in the punk cover band Rotten Aces, and has been gigging solo for a while with a repertoire of two-tone and punk covers. He basically has his fingers in so many pies, it’s tricky to keep up! I asked him if the concentration was solely on Dury Duty now, or if the other original and tribute acts are still in motion.  

“The solo stuff will continue,” he informed, “I have a few projects still on the go. My original material band CREDO is recording our 5th album, Rotten Aces are gigging again from April, after getting a new guitarist. I have a Marillion Tribute too, called Marquee Square Heroes, and the Lizzy Legacy are still active, but less so due to others commitments and of course, Dury Duty. Each band is a different challenge, but they all keep me on my toes!”

Along with the expected big hitters, such as ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll’, ‘Reasons To be Cheerful (Pt.3)’, ‘Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick’, and ‘What A Waste’ forming the backbone of any set, Dury Duty promise “lesser known but equally entertaining nuggets to whet the appetite of any long-time Ian Dury aficionado.”

Mark is joined by Jono Judge – Saxophones, Percussion and Vocals, Michael York – Piano, Keyboards, Guitar and Vocals, Brian Barnes – Guitars and Vocals, Rob McGregor – Drums and Vocals and Ken Wynne – Bass Guitar and Vocals. A self-confessed “talented band of brothers” keen on not only entertaining those familiar with the extensive cannon of this great performer and wordsmith, but to bring new fans to the man. “Ian Dury is sorely missed and his sharp, witty and often cutting observations on the mundane and absurd through his lyrics and poetic verse are carried forward by this.”

Opening gig is at Swindon’s premier venue, Old Town’s Victoria on Friday June 3rd, but are the band ready to roll, should a nearer booking come their way, I asked Mark. “I suspect we would do something if it came up for Dury Duty, but that’s what we are working towards at the moment. We will be looking to get out and get this working, the songs are a pleasure to play.” Got to wish them all the best with the project, being it innovative and crucial for a tribute act find a sustainably eminent niche which doesn’t fall into cliché, and for the reasons of Ian Dury’s elapsed stimulus makes this project exciting local music news.


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Three Crowns and Some People, Like Us

Red level weather warning, they said, only make essential journeys they said, but fail to define the terms of what is essential. Is helping an elderly relative essential, getting to work, or a doctor’s appointment? What about People Like Us playing the Three Crowns, Devizes?!

To those hunting original live music, perhaps not, for this local trio covers is their game, fully aware what will rouse a standard pub crowd, and they do precisely this with such uniqueness and deliver it with such passion, for everyone else it is, totally essential!

To catch Nicky, back on two legs after an injury which I might add, failed to prevent her performing, and behind that faithful scarlet keyboard, Dean at the strings, switching lead to bass guitars, and now skinheaded Pip, (shaved his head fundraising for our Carmela, but seems to like it,) who, even not best postured for delivering vocals, slouched over a cajon, still somehow manages to professionaly grace the moment, is, in the words of the great Yogi Bear, smarter than the average pub covers group.

Putting a finger on why opens a Pandora’s Box, aforementioned drive, skill and professionalism evident in many a covers band. Still, People Like Us submits all these qualities as if a sponge cake, then they add icing. Observing the demographic of the crowd at the Three Crowns holds a clue, every landlord desires a cross section of punter and the repertoire of this trio truly caters for them all.

Short notes I make to jog my gradually degrading memory mystify me this morning, as one simply read, “new song” adding my daughter’s name; she knows it! Silly to have thought it useful at the time, but relevant to my point. Expect a few contemporary among their plethora of pop hits, but an also era-spanning setlist to leave you guessing.

Yep, walked in to an Oasis cover, Adele’s Rolling in the Deep, Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars, and The Stereophonics’ Dakota particularly adroitly enacted modern indie tearjerkers followed, with eighties electronica power pop such as Together in Electric Dreams, or even The Police’s Every Little Thing She Does is Magic, blended with this balanced collection. Yet with similar dedication Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters got the breathtaking PLus makeover.

Yet I believe, for People Like Us, no decade within the crowd’s indivdual most cherished era is as off the cards as genres are. They will take you back to the seventies with ELO, Fleetwood Mac, even a possible Abba(?!) covers, and with similar assertion slip in nineties britpop and indie anthems too. Tonight saw plenty of this, wonderful was Take Your Mama, by the Scissor Sisters, but particularly captivating was their rendition of the Cranberries’ Zombie, with perhaps a little too “lite” on riotous version of the Kaiser Chiefs’ classic, but Nicky wowed with authority upon covering Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know.

Bottom line is, it makes zero odds what the tune they’re covering is pigeonholed as, they add their stamp, and with banter between songs often verging on near tiffs, they represent reality, comfortable being what’s written on their tin; people, just like us.

Zero multiplied by anything is zero, and that should be a landlord’s percentage of doubt in considering booking this trio, if they wish their punters to return home satisfied they had a fantastic night, for that’s precisely how I’m certain the crowd at the Three Crowns last night feel this morning, perhaps with a shadowing hangover!


Talk in Code; Young Loves Dreamers

Set to release their new single ‘Young Loves Dream’ on Friday 11th February across all digital platforms, Talk in Code are rinsing their inimitable and uniformed sound with anthemic pop goodness; it’s to be expected……

Coincidently, three years and one day ago Devizine reviewed this Swindon indie-pop four-piece’s album, Resolve, with the retrospective angle of eighties power-pop rock, yet subtle nods to indie shifts through the heady nineties. Though as the band progress through four further singles we’ve seen the latter dwindle and this take on a classic eighties sound coming through more and more.

Though Talk in Code is no tribute, this is progressive, refreshingly contemporary and exclusively perfected, a hi-fidelity ambience where instruments simply meld as flawlessly as those eighties’ gods of pop. An era of one-hit-wonders, accepted, but those who succeeded beyond this point did so by creating a defining sound, so no youth would confuse their Spandau Ballet with their Human League, and this is precisely where Talk in Code now stand; nowadays we compare their singles with their previous singles rather than cite influences, because their uniqueness is peerless.  

The reason why, I consider, the band strive with matchless momentum on the local circuit, having headlined three of Wiltshire’s largest music events last year, the big named bookings of pop-fused Mfor at Lydiard Park, the memorable rock for cancer Concert At The Kings and Swindon’s homegrown talent showcase, the Shuffle. Also, it is why Talk in Code have shared billings with Scouting For Girls, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Craig David, SAS Band, 10cc and Lindisfarne, why devotees are dubbed “talkers” and they’ve accumulated 180,000 Spotify streams, or added to over 700 Spotify playlists.

So, this new single, ‘Young Loves Dream’ is of no exception, it gloriously follows the formula, which is, as suggested, key to their brilliance. It booms straight in, breaks when it needs to and reaches an undefinable bridge, flowing nicely with steady BPMs, and a bright, uplifting vibe. As suggested by the title, it’s romantically themed, exploring the hopefulness of youth; an ode to the potentials of initial infatuation, prior to the twists and turns life throws at you. In that, the mood of the enriching instrumentation reflects the vocals sublimely, and will have you pondering that butterfly moment of early romance, you know the kind of emotion which will make you hug the pillow in their absence, as their scent lingers, or, oh, was that just me?!

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, all the previous singles we’ve fondly reviewed can be found on this here Spotify link, and with this progressive new track, will make up part of ‘The Big Screen,’ Talk in Code’s second album, due on Friday 15th April, playing the launch at Swindon’s Level 3, Swindon, on Saturday April 16th 2022.

Just prior, I’m hopeful we can set up an interview with Chris and the band, one crucial question will be what’s in a name, as Talk in Code’s style is never cryptic, you need not untangle painstaking poetic wordplay, it is good, honest pop kept simple, and they do it so well it’s mainstream in the making. Love’s Young Dream takes this pattern and truly celebrates it, projecting positive evolution for this radical band.


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The Life of Brian, in Rowde

So, it’s finally come to pass, beginning to look a lot like autumn and a Halloween weekend crammed with events I feel I should attend conflict against the general drizzle looming outside. Having a soaking every morning at work I’m dubious to continue past summery wanders up the hill to Devizes, coupled with my newfound knowledge it’s actually easier to get to the Sham from Rowde via public transport and I really felt like a cider or five.

While I appreciate the killons (that’s a zillon zillions) of invitations I get per weekend, I opted for the easy route and headed for The Cross Keys in Rowde, a local I neglect in pursuit of trekking the county gig hunting, yet which holds many fond memories, including my own wedding reception!

A grand open-plan Waddies, The Keys served the village community with historically a mixed bunch of landlords, some, it must be said, far more dedicated to the task than others. Given an interior paint job complete with retro movie and rock n roll stencils the new owners have recreated the friendly and down-to-earth welcoming atmosphere. They boast a new chef and the continuation of an affordable Sunday carvery, the legacy of the previous owner.

But I’m not here on chance, or for a roast potato; the Rowde landmark opens itself back up for a live music event, and I’ve not heard of the billed “Life of Brian Band.” Promising pop-rock from the sixties to the noughties and boasting the frontman, conveniently called Brian to avoid any Monty Python quips, as a former guitarist for Kate Bush. Okay, I’m game.

Usual wobbly photo from yours truly; always the mark of a good night!

Took a while to kick off, as best things to come to those who wait, plus with their usual drummer absent, Jim from Rowde band Eazilyled made an outstanding adlib performance between this couple of, shall we say, matured and proficient gents, on lead and bass guitars. Eventually cracking open with The Temptations’ My Girl, and following with a plethora of well-defined Beatles, Rolling Stones and Kinks classics, including a wonderfully delivered Waterloo Sunset, Brain and his bass player skilfully executed a grand show of anthemic rock n roll and blues pop covers.

Though there was nothing ground-breaking going on here, it was a rousing and professional sporadic pub band clearly and nostalgically loving every minute of the spotlight. That makes it for me, the sheer expression of bliss and fun, particularly from the bassist. It gives the impression they’re in their element, and they were, rocking out. The couple bouncing off each other with slight banter and dexterous guitarwork, with drummer Jim challenged to improv the next moves from this refined double act, blessed the Cross Keys with an exhilarant evening; here’s hoping for more.

Arguably the noughties where underrepresented, but I don’t believe this mattered one iota to the punters, as Beatles and Stones works for every generation. Plus, alongside we had guaranteed crowd-pleasers from Cream, Free, even the Travelling Wilburys, at times soul with Wilson Pickett and Sam & Dave covers, an especially adroit couple of flashes of the Police’s Roxanne and Message in a Bottle, and some memorable moments with the Who’s Squeeze Box and Tom Petty’s Learning to Fly. What they did they do with charm, professionalism and enjoyment, and one can’t ask for more than this.

A blessing to know the Cross Keys is on top form, and I’d welcome more live music nights, encourage Paul, the landlord to get in touch with some recommendations, if he so wishes. Because while one might trek to towns and cities in want of live music, our villages need some love and attention too, saving stranded people some taxi fees or steps on their FitBits!


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The Evolution of Kirsty Clinch

“The only thing disappointing about Kirsty Clinch’s Evolution is, it ends.”

It’s a generation X thing, I’m suggesting, which levels me to downloading an album as the last port of call to actually “owning” something anywhere near physical, against this era of streaming music, sourly missing the fondness of holding a piece of vinyl for all its crackles and jumps. Because owning an album was like a piece of treasure, the cherished keepsake sense you don’t get with streaming, and in review today is exactly the sort of album to be such a cherished keepsake.

Nevertheless, Wiltshire’s adorable country-pop virtuoso, Kirsty Clinch has mastered the art of marketing, and with a drive to succeed, knows precisely through social media, how to gain and keep engaged a modern audience, equally to her exceptional gift as a musician and singer-songwriter. Yes, you could’ve guessed it, her new album Evolution is a masterpiece. The finale of which being aptly a tune called Social Media, which expertly reflects on the image one projects online against the hidden imperfections of reality.

But the ingenuity of marketing is a miniscule element as to why Kirsty manages to reach the fourth position in the iTunes charts in under a few short weeks of releasing her debut album, against the much larger reason that this is the sort of music which doesn’t require pigeonholing, because whatever the angle of your personal taste, you’ll emerge from it thinking; you know what, I like country-pop now.

So, I bite the bullet, stream it on Spotify, like a fledgling, mottled boss, ignoring the invasion of adverts for the sake of hearing an album I’ve held in high anticipation, since she mentioned it to me quite a while ago. If it’s taken time, it’s primarily Kirsty being a perfectionist, and it shows. Nothing here will disappoint or make me doubt the faultlessness of the composition of this album, and in turn, Kirsty’s talent, her picture-perfect balance, in such a way, it’s impossible not to love.

Around and Around’s modest drum makes this song an irresistible introduction, if the astute song writing, complimented by Kirsty’s rich and warming voice, doesn’t, oh but it does. Water’s Running Low continues the quality, confirming you’re in for a beautiful journey, ten tracks strong.

Fit The Shoe, the single we’ve fondly mentioned prior, is hauntingly divine, like William Orbit’s production of Madonna’s Frozen, with a theme of who the cap fits, which is followed by the title track, again, wonderful. Uplifting is the keyword throughout, maintain the balance of sombre yet jubilance. I am Winning, a song of faith in your accomplishments, being a grand example, it drifts over you, as if it’s always been in your life.

Previously there’s always been an obviously and well played out taste of country’s female giants clearly influenced in Kirsty’s songs, of Tammy or Dolly, but here, now, this is wholly Kirsty, it sounds freshly awakened to the junction whereby one day, not far away, reviewers will cite her influence on newer folk artists; that much I’m certain. 

Perhaps the memorable, yet not as quirky as the title suggests, No Cornflakes makes me sigh, are we past the halfway mark already? The only thing disappointing about Kirsty Clinch’s Evolution is, it ends.

But not before I Am Me, a rejected romance theme, breaths the most heart-warming narrative of all, with a trialling drumbeat imposing you to realise her style is contemporary, rather than the genre’s archetypal nostalgia. And three more tunes which never faulters the experience, the catchiest of them being Down, and it ends with the aforementioned Social Media.

In this finale you get the confirmation behind the stunning, echoing voice lies honesty in the song writing, from the heart and soul. And that’s it’s worth, in a nutshell, you feel as if you’re getting a little piece of this performer, who is the whole deal, plus one. Self-managed, produced, save the odd tip and mastering from Pete Lamb, marketed, Kirsty even drew the cover illustration. She puts the young students of her newly opened music school before that of promoting this album, she surely shines, and if you heard her previous songs, seen her perform live, you’ll remain convinced this album, is Kirsty indeed evolving into a shooting star you cannot ignore.


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Scott Lavene’s Milk City Sweethearts

We’ve had a spate of comical albums coming in for review, what with Death of Guitar Pop, Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer and now this, which is by far the darkest, consequently most poignant. Songwriter and raconteur Scott Lavene returns this Friday (17th September) with Milk City Sweethearts, an album of new material…..

There’s intelligent and thought-provoking arch-beat poetry chatted here, an amphetamine-induced self-evaluation of an ordinary Essex boy, delivered passionately with a witty edge you cannot ignore. Something of an oddity at times, random prose seemingly slotted erratically fall into place with a running theme of this hopeless romantic, as the album progresses.

Behind a variation of backbeats, often being post-punk, as is Scott’s roots, yet fluctuating through new romantic electronica and eighties mod revival, are honest and blunt chronicles of love, loss, coming of age, in effect making for a memorable kind of album, border-crossing Ian Dury with Sleaford Mods; a Mike Skinner of The Streets in the Bowie or Jam era, or a psychedelic Gecko.

Humbly wry, the observations of his imprudent past come back to haunt him, as he retells heartfelt autobiography. The Ballad of Lynsey being the particularly touching example, telling of a potential everlasting love, but lasting only year due to differences, with the revealing chorus, “I choose amphetamines over you.”  

If I’ve made this sound despondent and somewhat depressing, while yeah there is that, Scott’s witty charisma teeters atop at even the gloomiest synopsises with clever wordplay and metaphors. And besides, not every track is quite so melancholic. In fact, it begins very much with the aforementioned mod revival style. Upbeat opening tune, Nigel, is especially comical, expressing the strangeness of individual’s choice of “kicks.” Likewise, The First-Time reels off an amusing list of first experiences with the annotation, “one day there’ll be a last.” It’s all very Essex lad Talking Heads, Phil Daniels chatting on Blur’s Parklife, etc.

Art-pop carries over when the mod revival moves over for a new wave electronica feel as the album progresses, by the third tune, The Earth Don’t Spin, it’s very much more Stephan Tintin Duffy than Weller. For all the credentials and comparisons mentioned, there’s no cliché, everything here is uniquely composed and written originally, and Milk City Sweethearts isa listener, not the sort of long-player you can pause and pick up again, you’ll be impelled to digest it one sitting.

A master storyteller astutely aware of when and how to evoke the correct emotions, and find unusual thoughts to everyday scenarios. The farewell to deceased finale, Say Hello to Zeus, is as Bowie, simply inimitable and inducing. Whereas halfway through gives us the laugh-out-loud Walk Away is Essex humour at its very best.

Closest you’ll get to see him to here is Bath’s Komedia on the 12th December, for now this masterful album, out via Nothing Fancy Records, is interesting, to say the least, an essential item for enthusiasts of the quirky and unusual, making the world seem that much smaller, and amusing, for lonely hearts.

I’m quite happy, thank you, but loved it nonetheless, cos it ain’t always been that way. And that’s it, right there, I figure it’s not only my association Scott is from my motherland, but there’s something I think anyone with a heart will identify with here, and that’s something really rather special.


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Everything You Are, Onika Venus

You remember being given some coursework, when back in higher education, with various objectives and your task was to choose one to complete? Not really wanting to do it, you go to the student at the top of the class, and ask them what they’ve done. They reply, “ah, not much,” and this gives you the cue to do absolutely nothing. Then, on the day of handing it in, they’ve unexpectedly produced the single-most awesome project, covering all the objectives in one ingenious combination, and you stand there with zilch, except a jaw hanging and an implausible excuse, which you made up on the bus coming in?!

I’d imagine Onika Venus to be just like that. Now Bristol-based, Jamaican-born Onika plays Trowbridge Town Hall on September 18th, so, given reggae is cited as an influence, I thought I’d check out her debut solo album, Everything You Are, which was released back in March.

The title track was chosen as Songsmith’s Song of the Year 2020, and it’s easy to hear why. I’ve not been this blown away by a female vocalist since discovering Minneapolis’s Mayyadda.

Immediately this pushed my buttons, but if this opening title tune is decidedly acoustic blues, with a distant harmonica resounding in the background, there’s a truckload more going on than the first impressions here.

The premise from the beginning is as simple as, Onika Venus has the prevailing soulful voice to carry whatever genre is thrown into the melting pot, and drizzle it over you like hot sauce. It only leaves you pondering how far she will take it. The second tune I pigeonholed as RnB pop, a contemporary Macy Gray or Erykah Badu, aiming for chart success. When I’m Broken carries this concept to a higher height, and is simply, the model formula of popular music every song should aim for.

Yet, three songs in and here comes the Caribbean influence. Friday Love has a clear mento feel, it’s immediately beguiling, a good-time chugging song in the face the despondent romance theme. This will occur again towards the middle the album with Who’s Been loving You. Again, with Shotgun there’s similar appeal, perhaps the most definable as “roots reggae,” and, for me, they’re the favoured sections.

But it swaps back to the mainstay for track four, steady soul with an orchestrated ambience; Everything has its Season, is the ideal equilibrium to bless that heavenly voice and compose this euphoric moment of bliss. After a surprising modern dancehall intro, we’re back to an acoustic guitar riff for the poignant The Storm, using sax to mitigate jazz. I Need You, though, has kick-ass funk, Ike & Tina Turner in their prime.

With only three tunes to go, just when you think influences have been exhausted, there’s a duet with a male voice, supplied by husband, Mark, Mary, sounds classic Americana, as if Joe Cocker just walked into the studio and said, why don’t you try this?!

To keep you guessing what the last couple of tunes will hold, yeah, folk is strapped onto soul, Reaper Man aches of Aretha Franklin, but by this point you just know Onika Venus can carry this off with bells on. Raising the bar of comparisons is justified, believe me. For when it’s funky I’d give you Randy Crawford, Chaka Khan, and when it levels with acoustic and folk, her voice dishes out notions of reggae heroines, of Phyllis Dillon or Marcia Griffiths, and the gospel finale, yeah, Aretha will be justified, if not Sister Rosetta Tharpe; it is this magnificent.

Yet, unlike all these aforementioned legends, the style here is not monocultured, neither does it jerk from genre to genre without consistency and flow. Onika Venus gives volumes to the eclecticism, and it moulds efficaciously into one melting pot, beautifully. Prior to this solo launch, in a band called Slyde, her voice customised their breakbeat, techno and house style, to great effect, and I can well believe it. The flexibility of her skill is captured here, I’d imagine as comprehensively as she chooses personally, and just as the student who bursts in effortlessly, with the homework complete and to an exceptional standard, Onika Venus makes this look easy!


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Longcoats Get Dancing

Opps, near-on delayed a month due to the amount of work involved with promoting our Julia’s House album, other stuff going on, and generally slacking off in my garden with my belly hanging over my khaki shorts, I’ve a backlist of music to tell you about, hopefully, before you visualise me slacking off in the garden with my belly hanging over my khaki shorts.

To begin, Bath’s indie-pop favs, Longcoats have an official new bassist, Will Vickery. The band claim he was “a stray man we found on the street and august-rush style he could just hear the music and play it.” Proof in the pudding, I’ll double-bet ya you’ll going to love their new belter, “Get Dancing,” which is, incidentally just what we all need right now.

Will Vickery

Probably why it’s blossoming attention and airtime from the likes of BBC Bristol, Target, Soho Radio, Sheppey FM, New York’s New Visions Radio Network, and even Australia’s Valley FM, and seeing them bookings at Moles, Brighton’s Pipeline, and supporting The Rift at Swindon’s Rolleston.

Just as Pretty in Pink did, which incidentally Longcoats kindly donated to our aforementioned and plugged charity fundraising compilation, (which I’m not going to shut up about until you buy it) Get Dancing is symbolic of the band’s ability to compose such a beguiling and catchy riff it feels like it’s always been in your life after just one listen.

It’s lively, carefree, resides bopping over hopeless romantically conversing, as it says on the tin, encouraging to dance in both sound and theme. And with that, I should take heed, stop writing how great it is and just add the Spotify link so you can hear it for yourself and I can revert back to the building mountain of new music I’ve yet to explore. But rest assured, this one is a keeper, and perhaps true to the word; I should get dancing if I’m ever going to work off this belly hanging over my khaki shorts!


OUT NOW! Various Artists 4 Julia’s House

As a nipper I’d spend days, entire school holidays, making mixtapes as if I worked for Now, That’s What I Call Music! In the era before hi-fi, I’d sit holding a microphone to the radio’s speaker, adventurously attempting to anticipate when Tony Blackburn was going to talk over the tune, and just when In the Air Tonight peaked with Phil’s crashing drums, my dad would shout up the stairs that my tea was ready; eternally caught on tape, at least until my Walkman screwed up the cassette.

Crude to look back, even when I advanced to tape-to-tape, I discovered if I pressed the pause button very slowly on the recording cassette deck, it would slide into the next song, and with a second of grinding squeal Howard Jones glided into Yazoo!! Always the DJ, just never with the tech! Rest assured; this doesn’t happen on this, our Various Artists compilation album, 4 Julia’s House. And oh, have I got some news about that?!

Huh? Yes, I have, and here it is….  

We did it! Thanks once again to all our fabulous contributing artists, our third instalment of detailed sleeve notes will follow shortly, but for now, I couldn’t wait another day, therefore, I’ve released it half a day early, this afternoon!

Now all that needs to happen is to get promoting it, and you can help by sharing news of this on your social media pages, thank you. Bloggers and media please get in touch, and help me raise some funds for Julia’s House.

I’ve embedded a player, in which you should be able to get a full try before you buy, I believe you get three listens before it’ll default and tell you to buy it. I hope you enjoy, it has been a mission and half, but one I’d gladly do again.

Please note: there are many artists giving it, “oh no, I was going to send you a track!” Fear not, there is still time, as I’ll causally start collecting tunes for a volume 2, and when the time is ready and we have enough songs, we will do it. It might be for another charity, I’d personally like to do another raising funds for The Devizes & District Opportunity Centre, but that’s unconfirmed as of yet.

You know, sometimes I think I could raise more money with less effort by trekking down through the Market Place in a bath of cold baked beans, but I wanted to bring you a treasured item comprising of so many great artists we’ve featured, or will be featuring in the near future on Devizine. Never before has all these artists been on one huge album like this, and look, even if you don’t care for a particular tune, there’s 46 of them, check my maths as I pride myself on being exceptionally rubbish at it, but I make that 22p a track, and all for such a worthy cause!


Click for info on Julia’s House

“We are so grateful to Devizine and all of the local artists who are taking part in the charity album to raise funds for Julia’s House. We don’t receive any government funding for the care we give to families in Wiltshire, so the support we receive from our local community is so important.”

Claudia Hickin, Community Fundraiser at Julia’s House

Andy J Williams; Buy all his $tuff!

I’m sure it’ll shock you to hear, I made a technical hitch, best described as a cock-up. It seldom happens, blame my masculinity; the wife often reminds me men cannot multi-task. We featured the indie-pop Bristol-based singer-songwriter Andy J Williams last month, as part of our Song of the Day feature, and I promised to review the whole album “Buy all the $tuff,” which was released at the beginning of February.

Musicians you wait for like buses, then two come along at the same time, and accidently I mind-merged them. Even joked in our Song of the Day post not to confuse Andy J Williams with his namesake senior easy listening giant, then mixed him up with someone else, whose name is nothing remotely similar. The only parallel is they’re both from Bristol, though many are, but being as the other artist’s album involved in this cock-up isn’t released until next week, both got put on the backburner. My virtual to-do-list saved the day; acts as my brain.

Extend a short story longer, here’s an apology to Andy, and a belated review of “Buy all the $tuff,” which is very worthy of not being missed out. To begin with his cohesive band firmly behind him, there’s a Britpop feel, I sensed, vocally, a similarity with Trowbridge’s finest, Phil Cooper, if Phil was aiming for pop. But there’s a lot going on here, influences are wide but mould into each other exceptionally well; a tad tongue-in-cheek at times too. It’s indie on the outer crust, but with a dynamite mantle blending of layers which incorporates funk, new wave post-punk, art-pop, and contemporary electric bluesy-folk, all with equal measure and passion.

Reminisces flood my neurons upon initial listening, of how eighties electronica fused funk into pop, a kind of “funk-lite,” avoiding the substantial seventies untainted funk vibe, and through post-punk new wave, rewrote the club-pop formula. Bands like Duran Duran and Roxette spring to mind, I’d even go as far as Michael Jackson meets Huey Lewis, but while I’m aware there’s a bizarre subgenre called “funk metal,” pleased to report Andy doesn’t get that heavy! This is more like musical cubism, with a skilful composition akin to King Tubby’s mixing board, and it comes out the other end as extraordinarily unique beguiling pop.

Don’t take the opening Britpop track as red, the next, Post Nup, opens up this funk riff, but no matter where it takes you, lyrically this well-crafted too, written with thoughtful prose. There’s topical subject matter amidst the archetypical romance, including the referendum and social media, but no theme distracts from the overall musical presentation. Night Terrors, for example, works opposite to Jon Amor, who uses Elvis Costello pop to create a more frivolous blues, Andy maintains pop by adding elements of electric blues. Then, piano solo, layered with subtle percussion. Andy rinses a fine ballad, undoubtedly the most evoking track on the album, Stay.

Buy This $tuff reaches an apex immediately after, Something to Believe in is masterfully danceable, bathed with handclaps and a funky riff, it is to Andy what Superstition is to Stevie Wonder. From here on, the album takes to this upbeat terpsichore concept. It’s highly entertaining.

Ballads follow, Celia and Now She’s Gone are particularly adroit, but you know Andy isn’t going to end this with melancholy. Be Mine returns to rock as it’s mainstay. Radicalised equally comes in hard, with an electronica feel. And Your Truth Hits Everyone is anthemic, concluding there’s a need to ponder what the Beatles would sound like if still around today, with Britpop, new wave electronica, and clubland techno at their disposal. Through this, I might provide a suggestion.


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Eighties Mod Revival Lost Gem: The Direct Hits

If I waffle positively here, and yes, I do waffle, about retrospection and a trend in sounds trying to be authentically from a time of yore, this one doesn’t need to try. The Broadway Recording Sessions thrusts you rearward into the eighty’s mod revival scene, whether you want to go there or not.

Battersea trio, The Direct Hits may only be remembered by the connoisseur of mod, having one-shot at charting in ’82, when TV presenter Dan Treacy released their song, Modesty Blaise on his Whamm! imprint. The music press hailed this as not just another Jam, crash-bang-wallop mod revivalist tune, and their explosive live shows avowed them pioneers of a “Battersea Beat.”

Whamm were financially struggling to fund an album, so the band pooled their limited resources and booked the cheapest studio time they could find, Tooting’s Broadway Sounds. By the afternoon they had knocked out nine songs, the other three on this album were recorded a fortnight later. It would be two years later when they re-recorded some of these songs for their debut album “Blow Up.”

Now remastered, these lost recordings have surfaced finally, and, with warts and all, show the uncooked spirit of a hopeful mod garage band. I’ve had this playing for a few weeks since it’s late February release, and it heralds the hallmarks of a post-punk return to the basics, which sixties groups like The Kinks and The Small Faces mastered. To expect this yardstick is pushing it, but through all its rawness there’s some beguilingly adroit songs to make you wonder why they wasn’t as their namesake suggests, direct hits!

Perhaps it was that bit too retrospective for the progressive eighties. Because, elements capture neo-psychedelia, rather than soulful eighties mod assigned via The Spencer Davis Group and into bands like The Merton Parkas. That era where the beatnik style was teetering on influencing the pop sound, but Merseybeat was still riding the high ground. There’s a delicate balance here, avoiding things getting too cliché Mamas & Papas, these upbeat three-minute-heroes never fails to kick ass.

Consistently high-spirted and energetic garage sound, yet psychedelically enhanced; think if Syd Barrett’s days spent at Pink Floyd would’ve been spent with The Who instead, and you get the idea. There’s even a bike song, just like on Relics. Lyrically there’s unassuming stories with clear narratives and characters to challenge the Beatles.

A polished rerecording of a track from the album.

Overall, though, you’ve got twelve mind-blowing rarities which perfectly capture a raw moment of youthful optimism for an inspiring band, in an era where everyone felt encouraged to pick up an instrument and give it bash; and they’re good, really good. In a funny kind of way, I see similarities to the now; the forgone passing of DJ culture in a rave new world and tasteless manufactured pop, to an imminent inclination of online DIY indie, I see hopefuls taking to a guitar and giving it a go. Perhaps then, there’s no time like the present for this to resurface.

Buy The Broadway Recording Sessions Here


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Song of the Day 27: Emily Capell

We are the mods, we are the mods, we are, we are, okay, you get the gist. Imagine Kate Nash is Doctor Who’s assistant, and they tracked back to Carnaby Street in 1963. If she dressed and performed without raising suspicion that they’re time travellers, you’ve got a general picture of the fantastic Emily Capell.

On one hand, this is fab retrospective meddling, on the other it’s lively and fresh fun, with a beehive hairdo.

There’s nothing here not to like, unless you’re a ret-con rocker and if so, I’ll see you on Brighton beach, pal. All I ask is you aim for the face, so you don’t crease my suit.

And, that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on….. oh yeah, nearly forgot to mention, Emily has a live stream coming up Friday 12th March, here; groovy.


Song of the Day 21: Andy J Williams

Ever just float around your favourite social media site with no objective in mind, to unexpectedly find something which pounces on you as utterly brilliant, and wonder why you’ve not heard about it before?

Took a second of watching this to establish it’s one of those rare occasions, and not just a pointless scrolling exercise for your index finger. You know the kind, where you only see your mate’s unappealing dinner, a wonky, windup political opinion, or video of a young prankster posing as a magician hoaxing eye candy on a Florida beach.

Took a further second to confirm it’s not to be confused with senior easy listening giant, Andy Williams, rather an indie-pop Bristol-based singer-songwriter namesake, but with an added middle J, a penchant for a funky riff and eye for a beguiling tune.

Check this cracking danceable video out, where one could ponder if the middle J stands for “Jacko!”

Not that I’m usually one to allow a cracking video convince me, even with dancing stormtroopers. So, you should note, he’s on his third album “Buy all the $tuff,” of which you can, here. I’m reckoning I need a window to review this fully in the near future. For now it came as big as a nice surprise as spotting an unidentified circular yellow object in the sky this morning, for a near halfhour! Amazing.

And that’s my song for the day. Very good. Carry on…..


Song of the Day 20: Darling Boy

Self-taught multi-instrumentalist, singer and actor, Darling Boy, aka Alexander Gold adds reminisces about his game childhood with this video for his new single “Tea Drinkers of the World.” An unusual move for this brand of indie-pop, but a colourful and entertaining 16-bit retro game fashioned video; enjoy.

And that’s my song for the day. Stream it here. Facebook here. Very good. Carry on….