Friday, 25 February 2011

A song played on the radio, It went straight to my heart, I carried it with me...

Each time I post I try to introduce readers to bands and songwriters they may not have seen before but recently I have been educating myself a little bit. I love discovering a new band that are totally amazing, especially if there is a whole back catalogue of songs to then buy and listen to. Each week I'll buy a new album until I eventually have them all by that particular band or artist. Ive recently got into The Bouncing Souls who I think I'm going to really like based on what Ive heard so far. They're punky and similarly to The Gaslight Anthem and The Hold Steady they seem to come under this pseudo genre of Springsteen punk. I don't agree with this genre. Its punk rock and the band happen to be influenced by Springsteen to a degree.  I've also been listening to English folk artist Richard Thompson and Tom Waits who's lyrics are better than his music in my opinion but he is good in his own unique way. The most recent CD other than any of these that I bought is Lightning Dust's "Infinite Light" album. It's good 'night time' music, very quiet and soulful with a lot of emotion in the singing and quiet, twinkling instruments to back it up. Its an album full of good songs but probably best played when your feeling low or in a chilled out frame of mind.

On the other side of the coin its a horrible feeling when you discover a band that just released their first or second album, you love their music and like an addictive drug you just want more but you know you will have to wait about 2 years before the next album. What I tend to do in periods like this is archive a lot of rare material and concert recordings of these bands from various sources on the internet. Maybe this is another geeky side to me but as a result Ive ended up with a lot of rare music, countless concerts and performances from Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, The Gaslight Anthem, The Goo Goo Dolls and many from lots other bands. This tides me over until they eventually release something new and it is a time killing tactic that works. I also secretly like the satisfaction that Ive got material that not too many people will have bothered to find. Tiding me over in between The Gaslight Anthem albums is Brian Fallon's side project The Horrible Crowes. I'm pretty excited about this because Gaslights next album is only due autumn 2012 so this album of Fallon's 'night time' material is going to bridge the gap between now and then perfectly. Really stripped down acoustic songs which will be performed on the Revival Tour later this year.

Also later this year is Bon Jovi at Old Trafford. Before I make my point here I'll just say that Bon Jovi are one of my all time favourite bands and this is unlikely to ever change. They were the first band that I felt the obsession for, where I just had to buy all of their albums, only back then I was ten and still on pocket money, I had to save my few pounds per week up in order to buy just one CD but I got them all eventually and I've loved them ever since although admittedly I haven't enjoyed the past two albums as much as previous ones. That said the concert is in June but I still haven't begun to look forward to it. This never used to be the case. I know it will be awesome when I'm there and nearer the time I will begin to look forward to it but this will be the 6th time I've seen them and in the time since the 'Have a Nice Day tour' five years ago I have begun to get more and more disillusioned with Jon Bon Jovi as a person as well as the band. The band are no longer focused on the fans and their music anymore they have all these other balls up in the air which I feel have taken over Bon Jovi the band and they are now more like a multi-national company. Jon Bon Jovi admits this in the recent 'When we were beautiful' documentary. He's on the phone with some business man about buying an American Football team and almost quoting him he says "don't see me as this singer in a rock n roll band, I'm the CEO of a major corporation" (thats the gist). Thus Bon Jovi are a brand not just a band anymore which is a shame.

Bon Jovi are a money spinning organisation and a few of their latest releases amplify this fact. The recent DVD of their music videos was pathetic. Most of the videos have been released before and each one was accompanied by a live performance of the song. This would have been good had these performances not been taken from other Bon Jovi DVDs. Bar the two new songs the DVD was just a big advert for all their other live DVDs. They also re-released all of their studio albums again in special edition. As a dedicated fan I bought them but you really didn't get that much extra. Ticket prices have shot up during the last two tours, actually meaning I couldn't afford to go last time on the 'Lost Highway Tour'! I used to be able to pay between £45-80 depending on the venue but that was for standing so I could still get close. Now it is £80 for the worst seats in the house at the upcoming run of O2 Arena shows. Do the biggest rock band in the world need to double their ticket prices? How hypocritical of JBJ to write a song called "Work for the working man" (a song about the financial climate and recession) and put it on their latest record. I'm no doubt boring you now and believe me I could go on so I'll cut this short but success has gone to Jon Bon Jovi's head and unfortunately I think this is the last time I will be going to watch them in concert.

My song of the blog this week is the song "Gone" by The Bouncing Souls. This song will get your attention. Its a real anthem this one from their album 'How I spent my summer vacation' I intend to cover it sometime soon. I'll put that on You Tube no doubt too.

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Monday, 14 February 2011

Of loves uneven remainders, Our lives are fractions of a whole

Having mostly played my songs between the four walls of my home so far and to small groups of people I think its about time I got out there and played them in front of strangers.

The White Lion pub near the St. Thomas the Martyr Church in Up Holland will be hosting an unplugged session every Tuesday night. No mics, no amps just a group of people taking it in turns to sing any song they want, accompanied by their acoustic instrument. This may be of interest to people in Wigan, Skelmersdale area. I'm going to start playing there and hopefully with enough people regularly attending the event can really get off the ground and bring some money into a traditional pub that has been struggling under the strain of the recession. Its a shame to see hundreds of pubs nationwide shutting their doors, their buildings being boarded up/ knocked down or fading into dereliction because they can no longer afford to stay open. Pubs help to bring communities together and events like this are an attempt to cure the problem.

Music wise Ive been listening to Bright Eyes this week. If you hadn't heard of them all ready, those who enjoyed the O.C. might have heard Seth talk about them a few times. They're a good band and are quite mellow allthough I'm not sure which genre they fall under, possibly Indie if I was guessing so check them out. Kind of reverting back to music as poetry which I was talking about last time. Their singer/ songwriter Connor Oberst has a real way with words, a unique style I'd say. A lot of his lyrics would stand alone just as poetry. Therefore my song of the blog for this week is called "Bowl of Oranges" by Bright Eyes. This is one for all the single people. I think it puts a optimistic spin on being on your own and has a kind of hopeful feel to it which is created by the uplifting melody behind the words. This is how I interpret the song so please take two minutes to watch this until the music stops (don't bother with the sound effects that follow the song). If you like this, other Bright Eyes songs I would recommend are: First Day of My Life, Road to Joy, At the Bottom of Everything and Easy/ Lucky/ Free. All I can do is recommend bands and songs each time. Don't make the mistake of ignoring this stuff for the sake of listening for 3 minutes. Thats just lazy! Click the link.

Happy February 14th people!

Friday, 4 February 2011

If I Could Paint These Pictures With My Mind...

I follow the blog of drummer Benny Horowitz and on reading his last post I found it soothing. He speaks of how obsessed he was (maybe a little too obsessed) with sports stats when he was growing up and still is now. I relate to that so I'm happy that I'm not alone in this nerdism. Ive always been fascinated by stats, not just in football and other English sports but its probably part of my interest in American leagues such as NBA and MLB. They love their stats over the pond. Goals, assists, shooting percentage etc its interesting watching it accumulate over a season whether its real life or even on a video game. Not that Wayne Rooney's been accumulating too many this season but hopefully his goals against Aston Villa are sign of things to come.

Heres an interesting article that I found this week of an interview with Brian Fallon. He's talking about how he writes songs and puts them together, what he uses for inspiration, the use of imagery etc. He does make it sound so easy, whereas its not something that comes naturally to me. I must have written about thirty songs now (not all of them good) but less than half of these came naturally and were written in one sitting. And he says he heard his guitarist play the intro riff to "Great Expectations" and he went off and wrote it in 5 minutes.  I wish I could churn out great songs like that so quickly. If you're interested in what he had to say about songwriting, have a read.

Having said that I'm working on a couple of songs of my own at the moment. One is a kind of Springsteen inspired, based on my visit to the Jersey shore about 18 months ago and the other is a little closer to home. Its based around the whole Northern Soul era in Wigan from the early 80's and late 70's. I've always heard stories from many sources of how big it was for people of my parents generation. The great dancers, the music, the staying out until 8am and going to Wigan baths to refresh. Its old but it seemed like a pretty cool scene back then and I can't help but think it sounds more fun than the average night on Wigan's King Street. My song is predictably about a guy and a girl. She goes out to Wigan Casino each week partying all night while he stays in playing his guitar and listening to his favourite singer/ songwriters. In the end he knows that to get anywhere with her he needs to go out too. His last chance is on the closing night of Wigan Casino, one last chance to be out with his girl before the era comes to an end. I also want to capture how sad it must have been to know it was the last night ever at Wigan Casino after all the great memories people seem to have of it, how sad must it have been to see it all end. I tend to like my storytelling songs which I guess is inspired by Bruce Springsteen's style. He's my biggest influence but I wish I could use imagery more in my songs, similar to the way Brian Fallon describes in the above interview. If you can paint pictures like that and your stories are able to fit into them I think its an awesome skill to have. Like I said though, it doesn't always come easy. Hopefully when I finish the song I'll put it up on my You Tube page and share it. My most recent video was a cover of Brian Fallon's "Tin Pan Alley". A bit of a rarity taken from his Split 7" with Chuck Ragan but its a great song that I really wanted to cover. Please check it out at the link below.

Another idea Ive got for a song at the moment is a little bit of a different approach. Theres a really great poem by Walter de La Mare called "The Listeners" The poet creates such an eerie image of The Traveller alone in the forest in the dead of night, theres a real atmosphere to the poem and sometimes I think thats all songwriting is, poetry with music put to it. I thought I'd like to turn this poem into a song. Maybe thats cheating a bit but I'm interested to see how it comes out. Its a short poem and its worth a read. Again, check the link below.

So as usual theres lots of musical stuff going on upstairs right now. Lots of music I'm looking forward to as well. The Horrible Crowes first and foremost, hopefully Fallon will produce this new material before the end of the year, Augustana have their new self titled album out in April, R.E.M have their "Collapse into now" album out in March and 3 Doors Down have their new record out soon. My song of the blog this time round is Augustana's new song, the first single off their new album and its called "Steal Your Heart" If you've any sense you will give this band a listen.

Nuff said