mike davies february 2014


Poppy & The Jezebels having passed away peacefully in their sleep, sadly without ever realizing the potential of a debut album, Poppy Twist can now be found as 50s% of TABLE SCRAPS, playing stand up drums  and singing alongside guitar abuser and co-vocalist Scott Vincent Abbott. They’ve released a cassette (and download) only EP for those who’ve been attending the gigs, three rough and ready punky rock n roll numbers with abrasive fuzzy guitar, primitive rhythms, thumping drums and distorted and echoey raw throated vocals from Abbott with Twist providing the harmonies and yelps. There’ll inevitably be comparisons to early White Stripes, especially given the voodoobilly stomp of In The Ground and the rowdy garage blues urgency of  What You Don’t Allow, but I doubt they’ll be too bothered about that. They need to show some different strokes so that it doesn’t all merge into one squall, but the word is already starting to build and an official release should be along a few months down the line. Meanwhile check out the EP at http://soundcloud.com/table-scraps-1


Solo career quite possibly on hold, ALI CAMPBELL has reunited with former fellow UB40 members Mickey Virtue and Astro (who quit in protest at the band’s ‘country’ album moving away from their core genre, seemingly oblivious to the fact that many a vintage reggae and ska act recorded covers of country hits) for a new project that will, apparently, provide the ‘true’ sound of UB40.  Inevitably, this has seen another flurry of legal proceedings with the current remaining UB40 members contesting the new outfit’s right to use the name Ali Campbell’s UB40.

dave wakeling

And on a similar note, Dave Wakeling is returning to the UK to play his first shows here, including an appearance at the O2 Academy in Birmingham in April, with THE ENGLISH BEAT, the American-based version of the outfit he co-fronted with Ranking Roger who, of course, is currently operating as The Beat. There’s not the same friction between them as there is between Campbell and his ex-colleagues, so fans will be hoping that an onstage reunion of the pair may be in the offing.


Released next month, Neontwang (Jump The Cut), their original name,  suggests that THE TWANG spent a considerable part of last year snorting the complete Stone Roses collection while being hooked  up to an intravenous drip of early Pink Floyd. That’s certainly the impression given by the gloriously infectious New Love where the Roses’ fluttering, cascading guitars and narcotic vocals merge with the psychedelia of Arnold Layne and See Emily Play while a lysergic Sucker For The Sun,  Step Away, The Wobble and the chugging, brass burnished sunshine pop of Almost Anything all conjure thoughts of mid 60s San Francisco, the Nuggets compilations and outfits like the Strawberry Alarm Clock and The Chocolate Watch Band.

Elsewhere, their past Oasis colours resurface on Happy Families (though that also gets a hint of 60s baroque pop), with its echoey, distorted vocals City Lights is a slow marching, slurring, drugged up groove slightly reminiscent of I Am The Walrus that feels like you have insects crawling under the skin and Larry Lizard adopts a scampering motorik urgency with a repetitive stabbing synth line and a tumbling poppy chorus. Closing with Bywyd Da, (Welsh for The Good Life, and a reference to the Inner City club hit), a track that starts out as (relative) ballad before developing into a drum clattering  tropical flavoured sparkle with orchestral arrangement, it finds them confidently embarking on a new path that even their snide critics might find themselves wanting to walk.

dan and anja


Having guested with him at his Crescent Theatre concert last year, German-American accordionist and singer Anja McCloskey teams with DAN WHITEHOUSE for Still (Sotones), a four track collaborative EP recorded in his flat adjacent to New Street station.  Her Germanic roots find expression on the opening Stille Totenstille which roughly  translates as still, deathly silence and, opening with just her ethereal voice before adding accordion and ambient guitar effects,  has a suitably sombre choral plainsong air  to go with its theme of disconnection, Dan’s voice joining hers before he launches into a spoken poetry passage as it comes to a close.

Backseat is equally sparse and minimalist, he taking lead vocals while Anja provides harmony in similar manner to the interplay between Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová before reversing roles on the serene, romantic  Railway Stop with her accordion providing churchy organ tones. Petals, the final, summery folk number, is more frisky, the pair interweaving voices over acoustic guitar backing and even a spot of whistling. It took eleven years for them to actually start working together, hopefully now the wheels are motion they’ll find time to do it again sooner rather than later.


Fronted by Sutton Coldfield born Bradley Simpson and featuring Birmingham’s Connor Ball on bass, THE VAMPS serve up another manifesto for their role as the new Busted with the bouncy guitar led pop Wild Heart, though it’s a pity neither EMI nor their PR seem bothered about pushing them to their hometown media.


With an album due on Cooking Vinyl sometime later this year, THE NIGHTINGALES warm up anticipation with  a cover of Joanna Newsom’s The Book Of Right-On, a darkling, spooked folk take with throbbing bass and clattery drums and Rob Lloyd on appropriately conspiratorial vocal form. It’s available as a free download from http://thenightingales.bandcamp.com where you’ll also find their spare and shimmering shadowfolk cover of Christy and Emily’s Ghost. 


Released on Nocturne,  their new label put together  by Josie from the wonderful Ort Café and band members Lydia Glanville and recent arrival Hannah Fathers, who also runs Urban Fox promotions, backed by Heavy Was The Night,  Tightrope is the new single (vinyl and download) from local folk-rock outfit BOAT TO ROW.  Available from Feb 10 and officially launched with a gig at the Old Joint Stock on Feb 28, written and sung as ever by Michael King it’s a yearning slow march sway of weary regret and resignation, its melody and fiddle imbuing it with a wintry feel. The band go from strength to strength, making the long wait for a full album all the harder to bear.

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