Into Music Reviews: More New Music May 2023
Over here at Into Creative towers, the new music coming in our direction shows no signs of slowing down (good), though we’ve hardly had time to pause for breath as we get our ear lugs round the tunes (very good). So, what have we been listening to? Read on wise listener and check these choice cuts out.
Single: The Narcissist
Label: Parlophone Records Ltd.
Picture the scene, 1 May 1991, I rock up at King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow expecting to pay at the door to see the new indie band of the moment Blur, only two singles to their name (She’s So High and There’s No Other Way) with debut album Leisure still three months from being released. The moment of dread when you see the chalk board with the ominous words “Blur, SOLD OUT” strike me and a moment of panic makes me sway in horror. There’s a group of people milling about also looking for tickets and it’s not looking good. Gradually, that crowd dissipates as it’s clear that there are no tickers to be had, the hottest ticket in town until there are only four of us left standing outside the venue on an unusually hazy, balmy Glasgow night.
Then, a taxi pulls up and 4 mopped headed lads pile out. I recognise the band right away from the videos of those two nascent tunes. Don’t mess about, I’m right in there trying to explain my plight. Alex James at first thinks I am a tout selling him a ticket to his own gig! Damon Albarn comes to the rescue and tells us to hang about and he’ll come back soon. And he does. Fifteen minutes later we are in the venue, signed in on the guest list as Damon’s four Scottish cousins! Suffice to say the gig was amazing and I’ve followed the band ever since, seeing them live on a few occasions too and their song Tender was one of the three dance songs used at my wedding.
Back with an upcoming album, The Ballad Of Darren, (release date 21 July 2023) the four piece have released an early taster in the shape of new single The Narcissist and if the album is as good as this, we are in for a cracker. The album cover has also generated quite a bit of interest, a stunning photo of a lone swimmer at the outdoor swimming pool in Gourock, taken by the acclaimed photographer Martin Parr. Talking about the artwork, the band’s drummer Dave Rowntree said,
“There’s quite a bit about that image which is about overcoming some sort of physical situation. There is something about the safety of this lido which can get worryingly rough, which it does, and there are stories of this place where this guy would go down and exercise and there would be sharks washed in by the sea“.
Graham Coxon’s guitar tinkles before an isolated vocal from Albarn comes in as the bass and drums slide in effortlessly, the track builds and has a relentless feel to it. Indeed, each time I listen to the track, there are more little nuggets to discover, little gems. The band are truly on form here, mixing indie pop and post punk as only they can.
The fact the band are now about to release their ninth studio album shows their longevity and given it is still the original line up is another important point. There are few bands in the U.K. who you might sit up and notice when a new release is coming who have been on the scene for so long and Blur are definitely one of them. Their back catalogue shows strong diversity, from the glam of For Tomorrow, the art school rock of The Universal, the punk of Song 2, all the way to the throwaway pop of Ong Ong and much more besides.
The lyrics are at times bleak (“if you see darkness, look away“) and seem quite introspective, tales of addiction yet providing a beacon of hope as well.
A more than welcome return then for Blur and the band have already been playing some warm up shows live before hitting the festival scene including Primavera and Roskilde, plus two headline shows at Wembley along with special guest Paul Weller. Here’s hoping a Scottish date can be added soon. For more, head over to the Blur website here.
Artist: Nicole Atkins & Jim Sclavunos
Single: Strange Weather
Label: Lowe Amusements Records
The American duo of Nicole Atkins and Jim Sclavunos have come together to record a brand new album of duets which is due to be released on 25 July this year. Beforehand, they’ve released early single Strange Weather, a cover originally by Marianne Faithful and also by Tom Waits.
The track itself is delicious, seeping atmospheric undertones as Sclavunos’s voice comes in deep and rich, offset by Atkins delicate vocal. Dave Sherman’s sparse piano and a gentle guitar riff from George Vjestica in the background provide the platform for the duo to breath passion into the song.
Atkins has released a number of albums since the early 2000s and Sclavunos, of course, has a CV that would beat the majority of musicians in a game of Top Trumps – Teenage Jesus & The Jerks, Tav Falco, Sonic Youth, The Cramps, Grinderman and of course he has been a member of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds since 1994.
The flip side of Strange Weather is A Man Like Me which is more ballsy, featuring a screeching, scrunching saxaphone courtesy of Terry Edwards, a more traditional bar room blues, rock and roll, in your face track.
The duo hit the road for an eleven date U.K. tour kicking off at Edinburgh Voodoo Rooms on 30 May, playing Broadcast in Glasgow the following night, the tour culminating in Chester on 11th June. For more details on the track visit the Bandcamp page here and for details on the tour check the website here.
Artist: Teenage Fanclub
Single: Foreign Land
Label: Merge Records
With no fanfare or pre-warning, Teenage Fanclub have surprised us by dropping in a new single in the shape of Foreign Land and it is an absolute cracker. The track kicks off with a sustained feedback-led guitar before the rest of the band come in to overlay their sound in a four minute belter. The lyrics captured me instantly on this one “it’s time to move along, leave the past behind, my heart was like a stone, but now it’s feeling bright“. Evoking themes of looking back on what was, doing your best, but ultimately, now is the time to focus on moving on.
As the song goes on, there is a wonderful guitar solo courtesy of Raymond McGinley which simply soars to the stars, but coming through underneath it and complementing it superbly is a wispy keyboard from Euros, each listen bringing it up a level, really showcasing the power of the collective in the band, a real joy.
The band have also announced plans to release a new album Nothing Lasts Forever which is out on 22nd September before the band then embark on a U.K. tour in November including dates in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.
Talking about the track, singer Norman Blake said “the song is about moving forward, not dwelling on the past. We shot the video in Hamilton Mausoleum, near Glasgow. Given that the album is called Nothing Lasts Forever we thought it would be appropriate to shoot a video in a tomb“.
A surprise, yes, but one that music fans will embrace wholeheartedly, it’s good to have another Teenage Fanclub release and with it a new album and live dates on the horizon. Head over to the band’s website here for more details.