Reviews roundup – The Grand Astoria / Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate / Jens Carelius / Terry Robb / Miss June
THE GRAND ASTORIA
Where did this come from then? Granted, these days I’m generally drunk on a day with a Y in it but I don’t remember. I only ask because it’s 4 years old and absolutely splendid. If I were to hazard a guess it was in the same envelope as the split LP they released with Montenegro what I reviewed a few months back.
That was full on psychedelic rock with the sole Grand Astoria track kicking out the jams for a full half hour. This is acoustic, pastoral, cello enhanced psych straight from an English country garden. But Russian. With a Graham Nash cover version. Although they appear to have changed the gender on their version. Fair enough, it’s their album so they can do what they like. Although they’re calling this an EP despite it clocking in at 46 minutes (including the hidden track).
But it’s fabulous. They describe themselves as a psychedelic jam rock having sex with heavy metal. But not here. There is nothing on offer that would scare off the mildest of Canterbury followers as they enhance their tunes with ukulele, melodica, flute, cajon, dobro, banjo, clarinet and cello. It’s the sort of record that has you hitting the repeat button over and over again as each play reveals another treasure. Me like.
HATS OFF GENTLEMEN IT’S ADEQUATE
Last time I met Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate (the undisputed champion of band names) it was for a science/science-fiction themed concept album which followed the story of human evolution. This time they’ve come down to earth for an EP, the title track of which represents the history of the Second World War aircraft carrier The Ark Royal and was inspired by the experiences of Malcolm Galloway’s paternal grandfather, Richard Galloway, who was a telegraphist/air-gunner in 820 Swordfish Squadron.
I had two uncles in the Navy during World War 2. Bill was killed in 1941 when HMS Gloucester was sunk off Crete although he was not declared dead until after the war was over. The other one, Ian, survived the delights of the Pacific fleet and spent the rest of his days being a pure bastard. Which is my way of saying I’m a sucker for this kind of thing. The lead track runs for 12 minutes and encompasses the history of the ship from it’s building through its entry into action and right up to its sinking. Of course this is prog so you should really read the notes before you close your eyes. But it’s a really evocative suite of music.
Over on the B side ‘Chasing Neon’ is a bleeptastic piece of electronica straight out of an eighties sci-film before they throw a curve ball with a cover of the old folk tune ‘She Moved Through The Fair’. Not only is it a delightful, plaintive rendition but bar some drone it’s as far removed from the world of prog as you can be with a heartfelt vocal, acoustic guitar and flute. It’s certainly very different from their progtastic fare but it’s still a splendid listen. Go get this one now. Shift!
Normally indie musings leave me cold but there is something rather affecting about this one. Possibly because of the throwbacks to seventies singer/songwriter style in between the more indie guitar moments. Add in the fact that Jens Carelius has a very listenable voice which channels Cat Stevens in places and I found this surprisingly enjoyable.
In case you’re wondering the album is named after his great-great-grandfather Fritz “Opsi” Doerries, a once renowned entomologist, and was inspired by his travels through Eastern Siberia in the late 1800s. Should I decide to do the same mine will be called “Eck” and will detail the lives of several of my great-great-grandfathers, all of whom worked doon the pit, drank heavily and died young. That should make for cheery listening.
A lot of the tracks seem drenched in 12 string guitar and even though I find the concept of hunting butterflies utterly bizarre, the song of the same name is a highlight of the record. ‘The Weight’ is another gem, with an almost classical guitar structure. Those of you who live in the indie world should know that Carelius is also the founding member of Norwegian award winning group Atlanter so may want to take a chance based on them. But whether you know them or him, this definitely worth the risk of investigation.
Confessin’ My Dues
Time for some finger picking acoustic blues. Although, if the cover is anything to go by, Mr Robb looks like the kind of small town preacher who would heartily disapprove of This Sort Of Thing.
Now how much you enjoy this record will (obvs) depend on how much you enjoy ridiculous displays of finger picking technique and showboatery. Because there is a lot of that going on. Mr Robb does sing but it’s really just an interlude in-between the aforementioned showboatery. With the exception of one song it’s all acoustic with stand up bass and drums along for company.
Musically he ranges through mainstream blues, acoustic blues, some jazz, ragtime and beyond. It is a really good record with tunes like ‘Butch Holler Stomp’ and ‘Heart Made Of Steel’ absolute standouts. I’m told a couple of the songs have appeared on previous releases but have been rearranged so long term fans can rest easy.
Guitar fans will be amazed at the noises Mr Robb can elicit from his acoustic and resonator guitars while those of us who just like to stomp along to some blues are well served as well. An excellent and enjoyable release.
Bad Luck Party
Some shouty, indie post punk from New Zealand anyone? Anyone? No, really.
It’s the debut from Auckland indie rockers Miss June, who comprise Annabel Liddell, Tom Leggett, Jun Park, and Chris Marshall, who seem to be looking back to the CBGB years for their take on music. But with distorted guitars. It’s the distorted guitars I like here rather than the actual songs. Just as well I’m away when they play my hometown.
Actually, they do have a couple of tunes that would have trouble the lower reaches of the Top 40 back in the late eighties with ‘Best Girl’ the absolute standout. The vocals are serviceable and I’m assuming that it was a deliberate choice to make the production sound thoroughly lo-fi. There are also a couple of tunes where they channel more traditional punk noises with ‘Two Hits’ the best of those and a late period Siouxsie moment in the shape of ‘Anomaly’..
If you’ve been missing fuzzy guitars or Throwing Muses give it a go.
St Columba’s Hospice Tribute Fund for Linda Hamilton