“New Balls”

If there’s one piece of good news for me in these current times it’s that my eldest daughter, who is studying for her M.A. in Gender and Women’s Studies has had to return home. Upon reading my previous posts and playlists she commented, “All a bit male orientated don’t you think?”. So, to correct this fault, and in attempt to, in some way redress the gender imbalance in the music industry and to placate my daughter, this episode of Your Shrunken Head is going to be very female-centric.

A word of warning, this edition comes with a ‘Parental Advisory’ sticker. There’s a bit of industrial language from the get-go!

What better place to start than with garage-pop punk sound of Dream Wife and their most recent release Sports!. In 2018, Dream Wife were included in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of ‘The 13 Best Things We Saw’. In an industry skewed with a 95%-5% gender divide Dream Wife managed the impressive feat of completing their latest album So When You Gonna (due for release on 3.7.20), with an all female recording and production team.

Singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Liz Lawrence is someone I’ve only recently discovered. She may not be new to you as has previously toured with big hitters, Bombay Bicycle Club. Her latest single single California Screaming seems a bit of a departure from her earlier work, more challenging and evocative. The breathy vocals and lingering chords are reminiscent of some of Anna Calvi’s work.

Hailing from The Wirral, guitarist and singer Louisa Roach is the beating heart of She Drew The Gun. Something For The Pain comes from their 2018 album Revolution of Mind but with it’s understated vocals, distinctive guitars, and swirling organ sounds, it could easily be mistaken for some long lost 60’s classic.

Brit-pop in a lot of people’s memories was all about Oasis and Blur, but it can also be seen as a bit of a high-water mark for female-led indie guitar music. Bands like Elastica, Sleeper, Lush and Echobelly were all at the vanguard of the movement, if you want to call it that. Still fronted by Sonya Madan, Echobelly are one of a number of the Brit-pop bands who have reformed. I could have picked a couple of their more up-beat songs to go in to this playlist, but instead plumped for the song they were recently closing their live sets with, the more dramatic Dark Therapy.

Echobelly Photo: Ian Dunphy

What if Jilted John met up with Altered Images, got in a female lecture to speak the vocals, and then came up with a song about about illness, pets, death, family, and sexual activities in a Travelodge? Well wonder no more, because thanks to Florence Shaw and the other members of London-based Dry Cleaning, we have the answer in Goodnight.

Dry Cleaning Photo: Ian Dunphy

Let’s face it, we’re not going to be going to any festivals this year. If you went to any last summer then you may have been lucky enough to come across Sheffield’s ebullient The Seamonsters. Purveyors of synth-pop with attitude, The Seamonsters sound has been described as ‘Lemonade for the soul’ – Jack Wood, Radio X. Lost and Found starts like early Depeche Mode, quickly changes to anthem mode, and changes again once the vocals from Naomi Mann enter.

The Seamonsters Photo: Ian Dunphy

Like a decent Premier League football team (remember them?) All We Are have been assembled from players brought in from Ireland, Brazil and Scandinavia, but put together on Merseyside. The Scandinavian element comes from bass player and vocalist Guro Gikling, who met fellow band members Richard O’Flynn and Luis Santos at Liverpool’s talent conveyor belt, LIPA. You may have heard their latest song, Bad Advice, quite a lot if you listen to Radio 6 Music as it’s made it on to their current B playlist. Check out the video for this song too, it’s really clever.

Chester residents, Rach Williams, Jess Branney, and Carleia ‘Balla’ Barbenta are collectively known by the catchy title of Peaness. Apparently they came up with name for a laugh, hoping to come up with something better at a later date, but it just stuck. Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning ‘Change for the good’, and the song is a representation of the bands wishes for the future of the planet. What could be a more appropriate sentiment at this moment in time, and what better way to express theses feelings than in a piece of melodic indie-pop?

When you can count Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine as one of your fans, you must be doing something right. Delila Paz and Edgey Pirez, The Last Internationale should be over here from the US at the moment, but hopefully their UK gigs will be rearranged for better times. I could have chosen any song by this band and there would be an outstanding vocal from Paz in it, but I’ve gone for Wanted Man from the 2014 Album We Will Reign. If you can get tickets for the rearranged gigs, do it. This band are awesome live, you don’t so much feel like your watching a band as being an integral part of an event.

The Last Internationale Photo: Ian Dunphy

For obvious reasons our house band Half Man Half Biscuit have been given the week off. Instead we finish off with a slice of pure C60, jangle-joy from Bristol based The Flatmates with I Could Be In Heaven. The band split up in 1989, but Martin Whitehead got the band back together in 2013, with Lisa Bouvier taking over lead vocals, replacing original singer Debbie Haynes who features here on this classic.

Until next time, take care of each other.

Ian.

 

 

‘And I hope that you can see, it’s gonna get better’.

Hello People.

Welcome back to the Your Shrunken Head music blog. I warned you there would be more. In this episode I would like to show a bit of love to all those independent venues that we are missing at the moment. Some of them are doing a sterling job of keeping things ticking over using their Instagram and Twitter accounts to provide some exciting live sessions and lively listening parties. Keep your eyes and ears peeled.

We’ll start with one of the biggest bands of the moment, and one of the littlest venue that’s going to get a mention. On a memorable January night, I saw Wigan’s finest The Lathums, play alongside Dirty Laces at the 100 capacity Barrow Underground Music Society, or BUMS to it’s friends. In what looks like a converted garage, on a back street, in a town that is the last stop on the A590 before you hit the Irish Sea, you’ll find BUMS. If you know the secret knock, they may even let you in. If you get the opportunity, go. You never know, you might get the chance to hear the exceptional guitar work of Scott Concepcion, and the soaring vocals of Alex Moore on songs like This Place O’ Yours. What a treat.

This time of year I’m normally looking forward to heading down to London for the Camden Rocks Festival, housed in many iconic live music venues like Dingwalls, The Electric Ballroom and Koko. There are some equally well known smaller venues like The Good Mixer, The Monarch and The Hawley Arms. It was upstairs in the this last pub that I first came across this next band, Leeds based Apollo Junction. It was late afternoon and they had a decent sized crowd frugging away to their dancy, rock tinged indie songs, a good example being this track, Always Remember.

Jamie Williamson, Apollo Junction Photo: Ian Dunphy

The next artist on our playlist is undoubtedly an influence on the Apollo Junction sound. The roof of a football themed hotel seems like an unlikely setting for a great music venue, but there have been some great bands and singers perform on The Shankly Hotel rooftop in Liverpool. Put together by Keith Mullin from The Farm, under the Signature Live banner, Grandmaster Flash, The Cheap Thrills, China Crisis and Peter Hook and The Light have all illuminated the Liverpool city skyline. Hooky played two memorable back to back sets of Joy Division and New Order classics, including this live track, Ceremony.

The band I have probably seen the most in the last 12 months are Cardiff Glamsters Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard. As part of the Neighbourhood Festival they played at Night People on Manchester’s Princess Street, a venue I keep getting attracted back to. I like the friendly feel of this downstairs venue, but it’s their choice of bands that keeps bringing me back. Hollywood Actors is the latest release from Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard.

Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard Photo: Ian Dunphy

There’s nothing better than ticking off a venue that’s on your ‘To Do’ list. I ticked of the legendary Brudenell Social Club in January when I went to one of the excellent This Feeling events. It’s worth the journey from Leeds city centre for the cheap beer in a building that, once inside, oozes music history. Halfway down the running order was a brilliant, young, Geordie singer-songwriter Andrew Cushin. This guy doesn’t just open his heart to the audience with his song’s, he rips it out of his chest and leaves it beating on the stage for you to inspect. His latest single It’s Gonna Get Better gives us the title for today’s playlist,

Andrew Cushin, Photo: Chris @Tiggerligger

There have been a number of notable transfers between the cities of Manchester and Liverpool. My personal favourite was when Everton signed Andrei Kanchelskis from Man United in 1995. The most recent export down the East Lancs Road is Jimmy’s, fast establishing itself as a top venue in a very crowded market. It’s got a ideal spec at the very top of Bold Street, facing the Bombed Out Church. Downstairs in Jimmy’s is a compact venue with state of the art sound and light and it is an ideal place to watch a live act at close quarters. Favourite gig there so far for me would be The Mysterines home town Christmas gig which got hot, sweaty, and involved some stage diving and crowd surfing from bass player George Favager. Love’s Not Enough is the latest release from The Mysterines.

Vying with BUMS for title of ‘Best Small, Small Venue’ is Thornton Hough Village Club. Thornton Hough is best known for footballers weddings and an annual scarecrow festival. But, if you look carefully between The Seven Stars pub and the children’s playground, you will find the quaint Thornton Hough Village Club. As well as a great line-up of new artists, you may come across the odd legend performing here, an ex member of Squeeze for example, or on one glorious weekend a ’50 songs over two nights’ session with Ian McNabb. The only song I could pick that would come close to representing this monumental experience is the massive Fire Inside My Soul from McNabb’s 1994 Mercury nominated album Head Like a Rock.

Another of the Manchester venues I really enjoy going to is The Bread Shed. There’s a lot of competition for your hard earned cash around Oxford Road, with the various Academies and The Deaf Institute almost opposite, but I like The Bread Shed. It reminds me of Liverpool’s famous Zanzibar in its layout, just a bit bigger. It was here that a first saw the earlier mentioned Chadderton band Dirty Laces. Their latest release is the monumental You. It’s an epic rock song.

Speaking of Zanzibar, no list of venues would be complete without it. There is proper competition for your attention around Bold Street, Seel Street and Slater Street in Liverpool. The Shipping Forecast, The Jacaranda and Phase One are among the great smaller venues of the city, but Zanzibar’s reputation and history precedes it. On my last visit I saw Miles Kane perform a brilliant set in a venue that although iconic is one which Kane has certainly outgrown. He now has a substantial back catalogue of his own material and collaborations and I’ve picked the glam infused Cry On My Guitar.

Miles Kane Set List, Zanzibar Photo: Ian Dunphy

Finally, as I write this our house band, Half Man Half Biscuit, should be playing at Ulverston’s Coronation Hall. It seems fitting to finish with a song from them, that all bands, venues and festival organisers can, I am sure relate to, Running Order Squabble Fest.

Until next time, look after each other.

Ian,

@TheLathums @BarrowBums

@ApolloJunction @TheHawleyArms

@buzzardbuzzard @nightpeoplemcr

@peterhook @ShanklyHotel

@AndrewCushin @Nath_Brundenell

@TheMysterines @JimmysLiverpool

@empiresend @THVClive

@DirtyLacesBand @TheBreadShedMcr

@MilesKaneMusic @thezanzibarliv

‘Through the darkness there’s a mountain, and then a hill, then a fountain’

Anna Calvi Photo: Ian Dunphy

Hello People.

Welcome to Episode One of the ‘Your Shrunken Head’ Music blog. There may be more, but who knows! The premise is simple. I pick the tunes, you play ’em. It’s a musical collaboration.

In these times of social distancing and isolation music can bring us together and provide a bit of comfort. Episode One’s playlist is made up of tracks from the bands I’ve seen live most recently, and the bands I would have seen even more recently had we not found ourselves where we are today. It’s a reminder of the good times gone by, and also a view into the future, where we can all get together again and see the artists we already know, and perhaps discover some new favourites. 

A fitting place to start is with Earlstown’s The K’s. It was never destined to happen with me and them this year. The original gig was scheduled for the same day as the Merseyside derby. The derby got rearranged. I scrounged a ticket for their sold-out gig, but bailed out at the last minute due to this virus malarkey. It was probably one of the last big gigs in Liverpool. Until next time, for now here’s Glass Towns.

I never leave home without this next band, Inhaler. There’s a really big buzz around this Irish band. Some of it is to do with the fact that singer Elijah Hewson’s dad is Bono. But forget about that, this band’s material stands up for itself. This track is ideal to listen to in the garden on a sunny day. Ice Cream Sundae.

Early contender for my ‘Gig of Year’ (and it will be a smaller that usual field this year) is Micheal Head and The Red Elastic Band at The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds. I’ve been a big fan of his for years. On the night, Head played a great set of songs encompassing his entire career with The Pale Fountains, The Strands, Shack and The Red Elastic Band. One of the many highlights was this next song, Newby Street, a line from which provide the title for today’s playlist.

Micheal Head Photo: Ian Dunphy

Among the many great finds for me in the last few months were this next band. Brummie baggy revivalists Ivory Wave. I saw them with friends (you know who you are) playing above a pub at Live at Leeds. It was One O’Clock in the afternoon. The place was rammed and everyone was dancing to this band’s infectious beats. One of the songs they played was this next track Cool Kids.

I’m hoping for big things for this next band. Things may stall a bit for all artists who have started to develop a bit of momentum, but I can still see a bright way forward for Liverpool’s Garage/Psych foursome The Cheap Thrills. Their dancy, trippy, synth laden, guitar driven songs would have been ideal for 2020’s festivals. You’ll just have to be patient. Until then, here’s Codependence.

Cheap Thrills Photo: Ian Dunphy

Richard Hawley‘s support slot for Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott’s Edgeley Park was one of those bonuses you sometimes get when you book tickets for a big act before supports are announced. I was delighted to see him on the line-up. He didn’t disappoint. One of the songs he played during a great set was the classic, Tonight The Streets Are Ours.

Back to today and the here’s the latest release from Winsford’s finest The Luka State, [Insert Girls Name Here]. It’s a typical ‘balls out’ Luka rock and roll song. Some of The Luka’s earlier releases have over a million listens on Spotify, their live performances are blisteringly energetic. Give them a listen and go see them live when you can.

The Luka State photo: Ian Dunphy

There are some brilliant female artists and bands out there, not that you’d know it from this playlist! This shocking gender imbalance will be rectified in future episodes (oh, there will be more), when acts like The Seamonsters, Dream Wife, Dry Cleaning, and The Mysterines will be getting an airing. But for now here’s three times Mercury Prize nominated Anna Calvi‘s stunning Don’t Beat The Girl Out Of The Boy. Her headline slot at the Future Yard Festival was simply breathtaking.

It was easy to come up with an artist for the final song for this episode. They have a song for every occasion. I might finish every episode with a song by them. Four lads from Merseyside who shook the world with their own brand of rock and roll music. Being at home at a lot more, having to watch early evening television, I’m sure we can all agree with the sentiments expressed in this classic. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, from the legends that are Half Man Half BiscuitKnobheads on Quiz Shows.

Until next time, look after one another.

Ian.

 

 

@TheKsUK

@CheapThrillsTCT

@TheLukaState

@potteryband

@annacalvi

@IVORYWAVEUK

@InhalerDublin

@RichardHawley

@Mick_Head