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1612961868514Black Country, New Road; For the first time (2021)

“What’s the ideal length for an album?

As artists continue to game Spotify by releasing super-deluxe extended versions, it’s reassuring to discover that the debut album by London based “Black Country, New Road” clocks in at a reassuring 40 minutes.

6 tracks, definitely no filler.

Widely described as avant-garde musically, the post-punk, angular guitar, jazz fusion is for anyone missing the happier times of Kid A period Radiohead or have similarly dreamed about a lounge jazz version of The Fall.

The fewer, but longer tracks, enables the music to build in depth and texture and the slight ramblings quickly develop into compelling narratives of anger and defiance.

Part of the British “sprechgesang” genre (lazy spoken word delivery), Pitchfork likens Isaac Woods’ lyrics to “chronicles of youthful arrogance and sexual dysfunction, like Nick Cave if he read Twitter instead of the Bible”.

So, what is the ideal length for an album?

Other debuts
Jam; In The City (11tk, 32:02)
Beatles; Please, Please Me (14tk, 32:16)
Rolling Stones; Rolling Stones (10tk, 33:24)
New Order; Movement (8tk, 35:20)
Sex Pistols; Never Mind the Bollocks (11tk, 38:44)”

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

1611750178403The Longest Johns ‎; Cures What Ails Ya (2020)

“The world is unpredictable at the best of times and the internet even more so. In a week when the 15-year-old digital platform BooHoo buys 200-year-old high-street retail brand Debenhams, nothing confirms this more than the success of the humble sea-shanty.

With much coverage in the Sunday supplements, Wellerman has been brought to popularity via the social time-sucking app TikTok and Bristol group The Longest Johns.

Its success doesn’t really surprise me.

Last year I was hooked on a different Wellerman. Paul Weller’s folk infused Ploughman; “I am a ploughman and I plough my earth.”

Before that I was bewitched by a Jake Thackray track featured on a Jarvis Cocker album; “Molly Metcalfe”; a simple tale about a shepherdess. “Old Molly Metcalfe counting sheep. Yan tan tether mether pip.”

It you were being cynical, then The Longest Johns are pitched somewhere between the country bumpkin comedy of The Wurzles whilst striving for the cultural kudos of The Pogues.

But it’s the honesty of the voices and the simplicity of the stories combining to create comforting authenticity. Even in a digital world we crave human touch and analogue sound.”

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

1607967021298Chilly Gonzales; A Very Chilly Christmas (2020) 

“Last week Spotify released 2020 Wrapped a review of users most streamed songs, artists and genres of the year.

Most listened to songs? Every track on MJ Cole presents Madrugada. Released at the start of lock-down, vinyl at the end of the summer. I probably listened to it every day in between.

1,496 artists, 403 which were new to me. (New Order predictably topped my list).

380 genres, 113 which were new. The top 5 was as expected; Soul, Adult Standards, New Wave and Rock, but the second most listened to genre that puzzled me.

Chamber psych.

I’d never heard of it, never consciously bought a chamber psych album or been asked for it when DJing.

So, what is it?

It turns out it’s an accurate description for what is my favourite type of music. Slightly melancholic, down beat, alternative rock.

Chilly Gonzales’ ‘A Very Chilly Christmas’ is definitely chamber psych. Piano based versions of favourite Christmas songs delivered in sparse arrangements.

Jarvis Cocker’s rendition of “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” will probably be at the top of my Spotify list next year, for now it’s the perfect song to wrap up 2020.”

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

1607356827914Gomez: Bring It On (1998) 

“I loved this album when it came out (and still do). The Britpop party was well and truly over.

Blur had gone grunge.
Oasis continued ‘unexploring’ with derivative muddy guitars.
Gomez brought the authenticity of Muddy Water to the masses.

1998 was a year for proper albums by proper musicians.

Massive Attack; Mezzanine
The Verve; Urban Hymns
Pulp; This is Hardcore

All nominated for that year’s Mercury Music prize. Gomez took the prize and the headlines with gravelly vocals and songs about going to Beck gigs in Manchester.

Last week Tom Grey (Gomez) was back in the news, along with Guy Garvey (Elbow), Ed O’Brien (Radiohead) appearing in front of the DCMS select committee inquiry into the economics of music streaming.

To cut a long story short; the economics work well for the major labels and the bigger artists but are woeful for everyone else.

“Home taping is killing music”. I believed that. But I made compilation tapes, recorded the charts, burned CDs to share. I subscribe to Spotify. But I buy new and old music every week.

If I listen to it more than 3 times, I generally buy it.
£20 doesn’t seem too much for a lifetime of pleasure.”

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

the-theThe The; Infected (1986)

“Vaccines on the horizon. Power shifting in the US. A new Kylie disco album. All great reasons for having a more positive outlook.

I was introduced to ‘The The’ whilst at art college (previously I’d bought chart based, Radio1 playlist fodder, even The Smiths had been on Top Of The Pops). Released at the height of the Regan/Thatcher era, the album’s themes of division in society is ever prescient.

Religion, Politics, Death, Poverty. Sickness. Sadness. Confusion.

Best-known track Heartland took Matt Johnson 18 months to write; “I wanted to write a classic song which is basically representative of its time, a record that in 1999 people will put on and it will remind them exactly of this period of time.”

Here comes another winter of long shadows and high hopes
Here comes another winter waitin’ for utopia
Waitin’ for hell to freeze over

As relevant in 1986 and the end of the last century, as it is today.

Lyrically; bleak honesty.
Musically; uplifting positivity.

It’s one of my most listened to albums and fills me with confidence and hope every time I listen.
(If in doubt give it a try, if still in doubt try Kylie).”

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

new-orderNew Order; Power Corruption and Lies (1983) 

“When this album was released, it’s really unlikely that I knew anything about it. I was more obsessed with The Jam (Snap) and Frankie Goes To Hollywood (Relax) that year. I have since listened to PCL a lot!

Age of Consent sets the blueprint for every great New Order track in the first 30 seconds.
Hooky’s dominating basslines.
Stephen’s robotic drumming.
Gillian’s softly padded synths.
Bernard’s scratchy guitars and strained vocals.

The album is a sketchbook of ideas for future and past singles, rather than a traditional album of lead singles and album fillers. How very Factory.

Its release was preceded by Blue Monday, the genre-defining record that became the biggest selling 12-inch single of all time with an apocryphal story that they lost money on every copy sold because of the design (only on early pressings).

When the design is as iconic as the cover, the product is as timeless as the music, the influence can be infinite. The popularisation of the 12-inch single (White Lines came out 8 months later) and the impact on EDM shows that taking risks and being creative can make a lasting impact.

Power and influence defies.”

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

working-mens-clubWorking Men’s Club; 2020

“This week I should have seen New Order at the O2 Arena, I’ve seen them many times, and I don’t really like the O2 (it’s just my closest live venue) so I was fine when it was postponed.

Listening to this self-titled debut album does make me miss live music.

Dull throbbing bass.
Squelchy looped synths.
Tinny hi-hats.
Cheesy house piano.
Echoey spoken vocals.

Released last week, I imagine the band would have had a successful summer at festivals, followed by sold-out gigs from fresher’s week onwards, to promote the album.

My fresher’s week followed the ‘second summer of love’. Daisy Age De-La-Soul, grubby Acid House clubs and a damp Reading Festival.

I started college wearing a brown cardigan, a New Order “Festival” tee-shirt and a floppy fringe.
“Do you like The Smiths?”, I was asked.
“Yes, I love them.”
“Then you’re going to f**king love The Stone Roses” came the reply.

Working Men’s Club aren’t The Stone Roses (although the final track is 12 minutes long with a pause before drums and guitar kick back in). They’re just a young band with some great tunes and would be brilliant to see live in a packed, tiny sweaty venue.

Definitely not the O2.”

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

nigel-davis-1Sault; Untitled (Black is), 2020

“An album that I’ve not listened to, by a band I’d never heard of and that no one knows who they are (no photos, videos or live performances). Should you pay attention?

It’s all about validation.

I read a review in The Guardian, not of this album, but their quickly released follow up called Untitled (Rise), not out on vinyl yet. Five stars and a claim that both records were album of the year. Before describing “house disco post punk funk, smooth 80’s boogie with Nile Rodgers-ish guitar and Brazilian batucada percussion”.

My good friend Dom Bailey recommended them too. Describing Sault as “Ace”.

Finally, it was record of the week in my local store with the sticker “Buy it whilst you still can”.

Would you buy an album without listening to it first?
Have you read a book without paying for it (apart from being leant it)?
Would you watch a movie and only pay on the way out?
Should a client request work from an agency without paying?

Validate via evidence, testimonials and recommendations and you won’t go wrong.

Win without pitching.
Buy before listening.

If The Guardian, Dom and Casbah Records are wrong then I can always listen to the new Idles LP.”

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

dance-crazeDance Craze

“I was 10 years old when I went to my first Nite Klub and the experience might be a solution to save both cinema and live music.

In 1980 I went to see the film Dance Craze at the Sheffield Gaumont. It captures Madness, Specials, Selecter, Bodysnatchers, Beat and Bad Manners on a nationwide UK tour.

It’s not a road trip movie, no backstage banter and endless tour van journeys. Dance Craze is simply the best bands of the time performing their best songs to a live audience. It was 8 years before I went to my first gig.

Was it the urgency, energy and power of the uplifting beats, riffs and horns or the popcorn, fizzy drinks and sweets that sent us crazy? More likely it was the sight of Buster Bloodvessel leaping around, tongue out; a bootstrapped Mr Blobby.

We can’t go to big live gigs and many major movies have been delayed so maybe cinemas should show more live performances.

Dance Craze opens with The Specials track Nite Klub;
Is this the in place to be?
What am I doing here?

Just like watching Tenet recently, as a 10-year old I didn’t really understand Dance Craze completely.
But I loved it all and would be just as excited to watch gigs on the big screen too.”

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

clashThe Clash; London Calling

“In international calls, I introduce myself with the phrase “Hello, London Calling.” Not as a tribute to the hapless agents in ‘Allo ‘Allo, but out of respect to The Clash.

From the iconic cover copied from Elvis’ debut to a version of Vince Taylor’s Brand New Cadillac, The Clash were more than confident about the musical legacy they were creating.

A punk’rock’n’roll reggae ska dub journey; this music has had a lasting impression on me. Whilst their evolution of punk was a little too sophisticated for me at the time.

When I DJ, I still do a night themed as Skank (inspired by one of the regular college discos). An infusion of Ska and Punk.

Cartoon punk of The Sex Pistols
Haunting urban reality of The Specials
Tool cool for school of The Jam
Comedy show entertainment of Madness
Pop sheen of Blondie

Why do I carry all those singles, when this ultimate party album is all I need? Keep adding in the best Ska, Reggae and Punk tunes (The Maytals, The Beat, Max Romeo, Elvis Costello, The Damned, The Selecter, Desmond Dekker) and you have it all.

But it’s not cultural appropriation, it’s musical multiculturism at its finest.

“This is London Calling.””

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

kraftwerk-autobahn-1974Kraftwerk; Autobahn, 1974.

“I can remember the exact day of the week, the exact place and the exact car I was in when I first heard Kraftwerk’s Autobahn. It was a Wednesday in Whiston Village and I was sat in a brown Hillman Imp. I was 5 years old.

I know this because Mum always had her hair set on that day at the same place. I waited in the car listening to the radio and one week they played the full 22 minute version of the track.

I was mesmerized by the sounds. Bleeps. Wooshes. Clicks. Beats.
‘Wir fahr’n fahr’n fahr’n auf der Autobahn’

I was a million miles away from the speed and futuristic glamour. The Hillman never went on a motorway.

Music has evolved rapidly; 20’s show music and crooners, 30’s blues and folk, 40’s jazz and big band, 50’s rock’n’roll, 60’s pop’n’soul, 70’s disco and electronica. Then what?

Punk; rock without learning to play guitar
Grunge; rock without tuning the guitar
Hip-hop; cut and paste the past with attitude
EDM; Kraftwerk with newer laptops
Busker stadium rock; even Coldplay had to sample Kraftwerk to gain kudos

Listening to the radio, drinking a bottle of pop, waiting for Mum in 1974 was the day music stopped evolving and I started exploring”.

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

Whiplash; Soundtrack, 2014.

whiplash-album-cover-Justin-Hurwitz“Just like Noel Fielding in The Mighty Boosh I used to ‘Fear Jazz, fear the lack of rules, lack of boundaries’ and preferred the ‘Gloomy racket and electro-nonsense’ of The Human League.

Eventually, I discovered Jazz. Not Starbucks Jazz, but the sort of Jazz that has made it the ‘Most important art form in the 20th Century’.

In Whiplash, an ambitious drummer (Miles Teller) under the guidance of ruthless instructor (JK Simmons) is drilled to become a world-class player. “Full Metal Racket”.

The accompanying score by Justin Hurwitz captures the best tunes from the film; drum solos, swing jazz, big band jazz, jazzy jazz. (The extended version captures all the bad tunes which are just as good).

“No two words are more harmful in the English language than ‘Good Job’”, informs JK as the film depicts the hard work it takes to be “The Greatest”. It’s impressive that the lead actor plays the drums throughout. When told, “Wipe that blood off my drum kit”. It was his own blood.

But you don’t have to shed blood to be the greatest.

Just play your greatest hits; hard, fast and loud enough so people can hear you.

Enjoy your ‘Jazz trance’.”

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

White Stripes; De Stijl, 2000.

white-stripes-de-stijlRecently I was asked if I’d ever bought a record for the cover. The answer was a confident “No”. But if I was going to, then maybe The White Stripes’ second album De Stijl would be the one.

Jack White is a musician with a strong vision and an obsession with the number 3.

3 instruments; Meg’s pounding drums, Jack’s angular guitar, raw vocals.
3 colours; always black, white and red.
Third Man Records; his record label has a clear purpose “Your Turntable’s Not Dead.”

If mega-hit Seven Nation Army is a football terrace anthem then De Stijl is the passion and rawness of a Sunday league match. Crunching guitar tackles. Pulverising drum kicks.

The music still sounds great; lo-fi garage rock with a stripped back simplicity that echoes Jack’s vision. There’s also fragility and softness amongst the harder edges. Jack definitely has the blues and it’s the blues that keeps me coming back.

I recently discovered Muddy Water’s 1968 album Electric Mud aimed at attracting a rock audience. Critics hated it. The re-issue was pressed by Third Man Records and it’s brilliant. Jack clearly heard it a long time before I did.

Listen to them both. Maybe at the same time. Loud.”

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

Paul Weller, On Sunset, 2020.

paul-weller-on-sunset-2020“The Jam makes me wish I had an elder brother. I was 7 when In the City came out but I remember seeing Funeral Pyre on Top Of The Pops. I was transfixed. They split up the next year. Gutted.

Paul Weller’s new album has a seemingly reflective narrative with music that might confuse casual fans.

Jazz funk-fusion wig-outs?
Music-hall period Bowie?
Nursery space folk?
It doesn’t matter. He’s Paul Weller.

There’s a bonus track on the Deluxe version; Ploughman. It sounds like The Wurzles covering Iggy Pop’s Passenger, speeded up. And I love it.

The lyrics confirm everything we need to know about his life.

Ploughman; Paul Weller (2020)
I am a ploughman and I plough my earth
I get my pay from the earth I serve
A little corn and a glass of wine
I want no more ’cause this life is fine

Is it really that different from the youthful rage of Going Underground??

Going Underground; The Jam (1979)
Some people might say my life is in a rut
But I’m quite happy with what I got
People might say that I should strive for more
But I’m so happy I can’t see the point

He’s never stuck in a rut. He’s happy with what he’s got. He’s not being reflective. He’s Paul Weller.”

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

Grimes; Miss Anthropocene, 2020.

grimes-miss-anthropocene-2020“I loved Grimes’s early album Visions (2011) which was full of DIY bedroom electronica.

Two albums later, Grimes is in a relationship with Elon Musk and recently they had their first child, called by the slightly baffling name;

X Æ A-12

Whilst this should be irrelevant, it is difficult to separate her newfound celebrity status and child naming convention from the music.

Pitchfork described the album in three words; “negative, aggressive, and isolating.” Before expanding on the album’s themes; “convoluted narrative about personifying climate change through a fictional cosmology of demons and villainesses giddily celebrating global warming as a force of good.”

But I like it.

There may be a dystopian future where we all salute a ruler of the Universe (one of Musk and Grimes’ offspring) but I’d quite like this as the soundtrack.

There’s the driving electronica that got me first hooked on Ladytron.
A splash of the mysterious warbling from mid-period Bjork.
And a hint of the Hollywood glamour and storytelling more recently found in Lana Del Rey albums.

The translucent fluro pink vinyl is pretty cool too.”

Nigel Davies, PIN Creative

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Image credit:

Ian Schneider, Unsplash
Chilly Gonzales; A Very Chilly Christmas (2020) 
Gomez: Bring It On (1998) 
The The; Infected (1986)
New Order; Power Corruption and Lies (1983)
Working Men’s Club; 2020
Sault; Untitled (Black is), 2020
Dance Craze
Kraftwerk; Autobahn, 1974
Whiplash, original motion picture soundtrack, Justin Hurwitz, 2014
White Stripes; De Stijl, 2000
Paul Weller, On Sunset, 2020
Grimes; Miss Anthropocene, 2020
Chris Montgomery, Unsplash

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