= July 2011 =  
Van Wissem & United Bible Studies
The Killer Bs live
Marissa Nadler
Andrew Leigh
Ember Girls comp.
Peter Daltrey
Jenny Hval


(Ltd Edition LP plus free download from Incunabulum, distributed by www.cargorecords.co.uk )

It is always with eager anticipation that we receive a new release from shape-shifting Irish alt-folk collective and Deserted Village mainstays, United Bible Studies. This latest work in a discography that you need to computer programme and a small space satellite to keep track of is a joint effort with Dutch lutenist Jozef Van Wissem – the album’s both a reference to Van Wissem’s homeland and a play on seminal Renaissance composer John Dowland, a lutenist himself and an obvious inspiration on more than one of the acoustically inclined artists reviewed in these virtual pages.

Downland is bookended by two interpretations of the same composition, the title track and “The Seas Have Lifted Up Their Voice”. The eight minute “Downland”’, with its electronic wash, will resonate with experimentalists and ambient space rockers as well as fans of more traditional and organic – if rather dark - compositional structures. “The Seas” adds soaring harmonies and electric guitar to the already potent mix (although perhaps lighter on the effects) to give it the stamp of sensual exaltation. The juxtaposition of styles works extremely well, launching Van Wissem’s stark string compositions into the celestial spheres to sublimely hypnotic effect.

The meat in the “Downland” sandwich is a curious and varied affair. The excellent, atmospheric “Severn Tears” features Alison O’Donnell’s vocals (somewhat reminiscent of the pure, untutored style of Anne Briggs) and Áine O'Dwyer’s harp are pinned against a musical backdrop that is a touch sinister in its psychedelic intent. Steeped in the ancient and noble tradition of pissing about, the woozy deconstruction of “Trade Boys For Prostitutes, Sell Girls For Wine” leads into the wordless harmonies of “Come Holy Ghost”, an ecstatic invocation that builds from a solid instrumental base and which remains resolutely focused despite the mischievous attempts to draw it off course courtesy of electronic bleeps and space drips. What follows is arguably the album’s tour de force, the stark and ominous “Altars of Brick” (The Day Is Coming), with its lyrical references to the “Trade Boys...” theme and the portentous warning of the track’s sub-title. At just two and-a- half-minutes it is almost tempting to think this too brief. However in tone and content it is probably just right for dramatic and aural effect. The Gaelic language “Í Rith na h-Óiche” sounds discordant and spectral, a less playful take on the same knockabout sound of “Trade Boys…” which sets us up nicely for “The Seas Have Lifted Up Their Voice” that gorgeous retake on the opening title track.

It all adds up to an intriguing alchemical blend of the austere, the mysterious and the occasionally irreverent and a more than worthy addition to the burgeoning USB/Deserted Village canon. (Ian Fraser)


KILLER Bs - Live at the Half Moon Putney
28 April 2011

One night 30 years ago this summer, encouraged by a review in the NME by Paul Tickell, I set foot in the murky depths of the Hope & Anchor pub in Islington to witness a band called Motor Boys Motor. They played a storming show pedalling a brain-melting brew of the best elements of Dr Feelgood, Pere Ubu, Captain Beefheart, the Stranglers, the Fall and the Yardbirds. I was mesmerised and ended up going to their lives shows on a regular basis for the next two years, writing about them and shouting their virtues to whomever would give me their ear.

What I didn’t know was that, as fate would have it, the events of that long gone summer night would forge friendships, create professional relationships and broker musical partnerships that have lasted till this very day.

Motor Boys Motor consisted of drummer John Kingham, bassist Chris Thompson, singer/harmonica player Tony Moon and guitarist Bill Carter but one neat 7” and one eponymous, overlooked album later and the band was done. Out of its ashes rose one of the most exciting live British bands of the 80s – the Screaming Blue Messiahs. But not even a fat contract with Warner Bros and mass media coverage could quite catapult this oddball trio to where they needed to go and come the 90s, Carter was good and gone, and Thompson and drummer Kenny Harris were kicking their heels looking for pastures new.

Chris  traded his trusty four-string in for a Fender Telecaster, started writing songs with erstwhile buddy and filmmaker Tony Moon, and along with Kenny rolled some time The Men They Couldn’t Hang bassist, Ricky McGuire and Moon into a new unit – Dynamo Hum later re-christened the Killer Bs. And killer B they were – plenty of Bo Diddley bounce and angular Beefheartian song lines and guitar moves all twisted around some of Tony Moon’s best lyrics to date.

After a close call with Andrew Lauder’s This Way Up label, nobody in the industry seemed interested so I put my money where my mouth was and released a 10” EP Four Cute Creatures on my own Shagrat label, though no sooner had I done so than the band went into hiatus (and a few years later some interloper pinched the name anyway!)

Time passed – I fled London for a while for what Tom Sheehan calls the Rome of the North, Sheffield. On my first night of exile, my temporary landlord and musical guru, Barry Everard took me to see a band which he promised filled the gap between Stackwaddy, the Edgar Broughton Band and the Screaming Blue Messiahs – the act in question, a trio called Chicken Legs Weaver were just the tonic Seizing the baton put down by Howlin’ Wolf, but infusing it with their own inimitable brand of modern urban blues and lyrics that caught perfectly the desolate mood of the Millennium, Chicken Legs wore out various rhythm sections but savvy-ly surfed the wave of the Nu Blues movement to great effect – why they weren’t signed to Fat Possum still baffles me but if you need convincing there are still copies around of a live album Wishbone Hands with a great liner by Mick Farren.

Meanwhile back in south London Thompson and McGuire (and for a while Moon) were still plotting and gigging and finally Track Records picked up some of their recordings for a CD and download only album, Love Is A Cadillac – Death Is A Ford.
OK history lesson over. Fast forward to April 2011 –

Andy Weaver had been kicking his heels – Chicken Legs Weaver were dead and buried after a handful of albums, and collaborations with the likes of Johnny Dowd ,and now even  solo gigs were hard to find. He needed a re-think.

Chris Thompson, Ricky McGuire and drummer Dave Morgan had been knocking some new ideas and tunes  around in the studio interestingly enough taking the music into other areas such as late 60s west coast rock., but didn’t seem to be going anywhere in a hurry.

Enter DJ, writer, scene-maker Joe Cushley who had the bright idea of teaming up Weaver as lead singer with the Killer Bs – a marriage made in heaven or what?

Well a local show at the Half Moon on 28th April would be the test flight. And what a great evening it turned out to be.

Kicking off with the evergreen Moon/Thompson ‘Liar Liar’, the band was firing on all cylinders and the room soon erupted with – of all things – a crowd of dancing punters! Weaver seemed to relish his role as front man leaving Thompson to concentrate on the lead guitar duties – must have been kind of strange for him watching somebody else handle the lead singing!

Off to a flying start so what better to follow than the stand-out performance of the set, a wild version of the old Jamo Thomas late 60s soul number, ‘Must I Holler’ – this was heady, crazy rhythmic stuff – they had their mojos working full out on this! Watch out for this barnstormer at future gigs. Another old tune ‘Walking the Basses’ followed, then ‘Unforgiven’ and a superb new-ish Thompson composition ‘Fascinating Bob’ about a cross-dressing policeman! As they hurled out the familiar chords to the next number, I thought my ears were deceiving me but sure enough it WAS ‘The Last Time’ – a tight, slightly emotionless version of the old Jagger/Richards number but heck was it a winner, despite the misgivings of some of the band about playing it. A rather swampy, muddy take of ‘Long Neck Bottles’ came next. The Captain’s ode to the joys of female masturbation and a nice tip of the hat to mark his passing! ‘Snakeskin Suit’ and the always great ‘Low Watt Bulb’, dedicated to its writer Tony Moon down in the audience maintained the pace.

Weaver effortlessly handled his new role, whether on their gutbucket take of Robert Johnson’s ‘You Got A Good Friend’ and just as easily at home on band originals like the evergreen ‘Head, Hive and the Honey’ and the final number ‘You Bug Me’. Sure there are teething problems – Thompson will always be leader but he has to give more of the slack to Weaver – and they are both adept slide guitarists, an aspect of their collaboration I would like to see a lot more of.

It’s early days yet but I think this could be a very beneficial relationship for both parties – the Killer Bs play the Rhythm Festival on 27th August – I hope to be there and I urge you to do the same.  (Nigel Cross)




The angelic whispers of Ms. Nadler return on her fifth album (excluding several unreleased albums of rarities and outtakes available exclusively from her website), self-released on her own label (named after a track that fans will recognise from her debut album). Her last album (2009’s Little Hells) found Marissa chartering heavier waters, venturing away from her comfort zone of exquisitely arranged and sung twee folk (not a complaint). This self-titled collection opens with the lilting, uplifting sway of ‘In Your Lair, Bear’ with swirling cello accompaniment courtesy occasional collaborator, Espers’ Helena Espvall, and it seems that she has decided to return to the charming, wispy forest folk tunes that endeared her to us in the first place. But then along comes ‘The Sun Always Reminds Me Of You’, which  has the same country waltz groove that she explored on Little Hells, and ‘In A Magazine’, oozing self-confidence and southern-belle charm (Jim Callan’s pedal steel on both are highlights) and once again, Sweet Marissa has delivered an extraordinarily varied set of pop, folk, and country tunes that shows continued growth in her musical palette.

There’s also a continued maturity to Marissa’s voice that will hopefully quell those silly “Betty Boop-on-helium” criticisms – she’s come down a few octaves, so the tunes don’t always seem on the verge of escaping heavenward, like lost soap bubbles caught in the jetstream. We’re still tantalised by those wall-of-sound, multi-tracked vocal stylings that have been a hallmark of Marissa’s albums for a while now – she does most of her own backing and harmony vocals, but producer Brian McTear (founder of Philadelphia’s Miner Street Recordings where the album was recorded) deftly separates the vocal tracks to make it sound like Marissa’s accompanied by a bevy of backing vocalists. Never is this more apparent than on the swaying floater, ‘Wedding’, with Marissa’s “choir vocals” knock-knock-knocking on heaven’s door.

‘Wind Up Doll’ could be autobiographical (the box of cedar makes another appearance in the lyrics) – perhaps an opportunity for Nadler to shout down those blasted critics who’ve hurled the titular epithet in her direction – this “wind up doll” fights back! The set ends with the unplugged soul-searcher, ‘Daisy, Where Did you Go’ with Nadler, accompanied solely by her voices and acoustic guitar, channelling Lesley Duncan’s ‘Love Song’ into a forlorn tale of loss. It left this listener breathless, as did the preceding ten tracks on an album that will surely form the soundtrack of my Summer of ’11. (Jeff Penczak)





Bassist Andrew Leigh cut this solo album on February 6, 1970 between gigs with Spooky Tooth and Matthews Southern Comfort.  Although he plays virtually every instrument, including banjo, guitar (his original instrument), mellotron, recorder, timbalas, maracas, et. al., he fleshed out the material with assistance from a to-die-for list of late 60’s British psych progsters: Gary Wright and Mike Kelly (Spooky Tooth), Kevin Westlake and Brian Godding (Blossom Toes), Reg King (The Attack, Mighty Baby), and Tony Priestland (Titus Groan).

Inspired by The Lord of The Rings (which he first read whilst hanging out in the Canary Islands with Denny Laine), the album begins with the chugging boogaloo of the title track, which, despite some underutilised and ultimately misplaced sitar from Gordon Jackson suggests the recording sessions were loose and, er, well oiled. ‘Get Myself Together,’ the first of two Westlake compositions is a reflective ballad in the Procol Harum mould, while the other, the country-flavoured ‘Goin’ Out To The West’ hints at the direction Leigh headed in MSC.

While Leigh’s tepid vocals are the album’s weakest link, there are small treasures throughout (Godding’s solo on ‘Solitaire’, Priestland’s fluttering flute and oboe on the dreamy ‘Windy Baker Street’, Westlake’s wailing wah-wah solo on ‘Take Me Back’, Wright’s piano solo on the boogie-woogie ‘Leaving Song’, Farr’s harp solos, particularly on the short hoedown singalong, ‘Fresh Brown Eggs’, and Leigh’s Neil Young-inspired soloing on the epic, Crazy Horse-styled album closer, ‘Up The U.S.A.’) that make the set worth a listen. Leigh penned a short autobiography for the liner notes (a typical Sunbeam highlight) and a bonus recording of the stirring, banjo- and organ-driven ‘The Passing’ from the album sessions (which was inexplicably left off the album, but later re-recorded on a subsequent Matthews-less Southern Comfort album, Frog City) rounds out the package.  (Jeff Penczak)



Various Artists – Beautiful Dreams: Ember Sixties Pop Volume 5 – Ember Girls
(Fantastic Voyage)

Named after Twiggy’s debut single [and there I was thinking it referenced Big Star’s ‘September Girls’! – Phil], the final chapter in Ember’s Sixties Pop series compiles selections from three of their female artists. Twiggy was admittedly signed as a publicity stunt – Ember honcho Jeffrey Kruger’s attempts to market the model as a singer failed miserably, but it did bring the label it’s fifteen minutes of fame. And it’s not that Twiggy is a total washout – her two singles were penned by Tommy Scott who hit paydirt with Twinkle’s ‘Terry’. ‘Beautiful Dreams’ and ‘ When I Think Of You’ are harmless pop fluff that would sit comfortably on any of those British Babes comps, and the latter’s B-side ‘Over and Over’ has a charming Marianne Faithfull vibe.

If models-as-singers don’t work, how about propping the star of one of British TV’s beloved cult series behind a mic and see what develops. Thus we get The Avengers’ Tara King (Linda Thorson) belting out Diana Ross-styled ballads courtesy singer/songwriter/producer Kenny Lynch. With horns a-blazing and a female backing chorus a-squealing, Thorson deserves an “A” for effort, and her second career might’ve taken off if Ember had released the planned second single ‘A Bad Time To Stop Loving Me’, which has the more memorable hook coupled with a sexy, chanteusey vocal and nasty fuzz guitar flourishes that should have yielded a hit. Ms. Thorson’s singing career extended to three further recordings (in Beverly Hills in 1970) which remained in the Ember vaults until now. Unfortunately, Thorson may be trying a little too hard and her voice is a little strained on admittedly weaker material that is closer to a bad stage musical than her earlier pop efforts.

The remainder of the release features the CD debut of Julie Rogers’ fourth album, 1970’s Once More With Feeling. Opening with the heavily orchestrated ‘Almost Close To You,’ Rogers seems to be attempting the vocal pyrotechnics of powerful Welsh belter Shirley Bassey, but without the campy, kitschy results. There’s a caberet/show tuney aura to the tracks which might please fans of the likes of Judy, Liza, Barbra, et. al., but pop fans should probably look elsewhere. (Jeff Penczak)




The other day I happened upon an old tape of one of my radio shows and was pleasantly surprised to hear me waxing poetic about “my favourite British psychedelic band,” Kaleidoscope, after playing their epic masterpiece ‘The Sky Children’ and suggesting that it seemed to bear more than a passing resemblance to Donovan’s ‘Legend of The Girl Child Linda’ from the previous year’s Sunshine Superman. Curiosity being both a DJ’s curse and job requirement, I also wondered aloud whatever happened to the band after they morphed into Fairfield Parlour and then seemingly fell off the planet. A quick internet search brought me to their website (Chelsea Records) featuring a fascinating (and lengthy) bandography, along with the shocking discovery that the “other” Mr. Daltry (no relation) had not only remained active in the music business, but that he had released an astonishing eighteen – count ‘em – eighteen solo albums over the past fifteen years, including several with Damien Youth and half a dozen as his pseudonymous alter-ego, Link Bekka! Methinks he needs a better publicity agent!
A dozen years on from his first greatest hits collection, King of Thieves offers selections from eight subsequent releases along with his contribution to a Sky Saxon tribute album. If you close your eyes, you’d never know it’s been four decades since Daltry & Co. were in the spotlight and the music press – his voice is still as emotionally powerful and inviting and the tunes as heart-tuggingly memorable as ever.

‘Angels On A Hill’, ‘Child of Weather’, and ‘The Girl’ (from the Nevergreen concept album collaboration with Youth) are tender acoustic charmers that had me immediately floating on wings of butterflies across the dewy meadow, while the autobiographical title track from Tambourine Days will transport us all back to those heady halcyon days of yore (while answering that question I pondered earlier in this review). ‘Queen of Thieves’ recalls vintage Roy Harper during his most introspective moments and the bluesy picking of the instrumental ‘Essa’ (from Link Bekka’s Saharaville) is somewhat akin to Keith Christmas’ (another survivor of those ‘60s psychedelic daze) current efforts.

‘Lowell’ is an eerie spoken word piece complete with crackling lightning and steady rainfall effects from Bekka’s tribute to Jack Kerouac, Jack’s Town and Daltry’s Sky Saxon tribute (‘Wild Roses’) sounds remarkably like our dear friend Ade Shaw’s solo material and features a visceral sax solo from Derek G Head and lead guitar from his son, Oli.

So what we have is an amazingly varied collection from all phases and guises of Daltry’s second coming, featuring some acoustic folk, flowery pop, a few blues licks, a piano-driven tearjerker (‘Magda Bruer in the Rain’ from Candy, his previous “Best of”), Teutonic textural electronics (Bekka’s ‘Rhinefeld’ starts like it’s heading for Rammstein territory before drifting off into a gorgeous, navel-gazing flute solo) and even the hauntingly cinematic sweep of ‘A Linden Tree in Chelsea’ (also from Candy) – all boasting some of the most evocative lyrics this side of Nick Drake.  There’s even a thrilling, wall-of-sound, 21st century romp through Kaleidoscope’s ‘In The Room of Percussion’ that’s exclusive to this set!
The only complaint I have about album #18 is that it’s forcing me to find the money to buy the previous 17 – all very reasonably priced and (mostly) available directly from Mr. Daltry himself at the Chelsea Records site. Proceed apace! (Jeff Penczak)



(Rune Grammofon)

This is Norwegian artist Hval’s first album under her own name following two releases as Rockettothesky. The 2007 Norwegian Grammy finalist for Best New Act, Hval’s music is at once, sensual and provocative, challenging and melodic. The album’s opening lyric, ”I arrived in town with an electric toothbrush pressed against my clitoris” (‘Engines In The City’) is played out against a minimalist guitar and percussion backdrop that both shocks and intrigues – and the album gets weirder as each successive track grabs hold of our lapels and shakes us to our very core. Bjork-meets-Nina Hagen under the watchful gaze of Laurie Anderson will get you in the church, and you might rub elbows with Anna Nacher or PJ Harvey in the front pew. Other tracks find her adopting an angelic, Joni Mitchell-like flutter (‘Golden Locks’) or a secretive whisper that’ll tickle your eardrums (the stunning vocal pyrotechnics of dreamy, acid folk ‘This Is A Thirst’) or both (the dreamy acid folk of closing medley ‘Black Morning’/’Viscera’).

‘Portrait of A Young Girl As An Artist’ explodes into an anthemic free-for-all that will rattle your chandeliers, but then ‘How Gentile’ follows – a tender lullaby that will settle the kiddies down for the evening on a soft bed of clouds. All of the music was improvised in the studio, so there is an exciting sense of “Where is this taking me?” hovering over each track and Hval and her band (free improv musicians Håvard Volden on guitars and Kyrre Laastad on drums, synth, and organ) allow the tracks to develop dynamically  - an interesting musical note or idea is adopted and extended in curious directions that weren’t apparent when the track began. Each song is also allowed to breathe and carefully develop a life of its own, resulting in seven of the nine tracks exceeding the 6:00 mark.

Hval’s sing-speaks her haunting, erotic poetry-cum-lyrics atop distorted electronics, pounding, tribal percussion, spacious, otherworldly effects, and the occasional heavy rock inferno that never allows the listener to become too complacent – this is definitely not an easy listening experience, but it is a rewarding one. You may be tempted to rip it out and beer coaster it across the room after the first couple of tracks, but patience is a virtue that will pay dividends about halfway through (or by the time you put on the second platter of the 2xLP version). Listening in the dark on headphones may even improve your mileage. (Jeff Penczak)