Wednesday, January 4, 2023


JuJu was one of the first albums I ever bought, from a  long departed department store in Glasgow called Lewis's. Not that I knew it at the time but it was an album that shaped the future of post punk and laid the groundwork for the emerging goth scene. For me this is the most complete and consistent Banshees album. Juju sees Siouxsie and the Banshees operating in a squalid wall of sound dominated by tribal drum and swirling guitars, all topped off with Siouxsie's unique fractured vocals. Siouxsie and company took things to an entirely new level of darkness on Juju, the upfront intensity of Juju probably isn't matched anywhere else in the catalogue of Siouxsie and the Banshees. Thanks to its killer singles, unrelenting force, and invigorating dynamics, Juju is a post-punk classic. 

Original Banshees guitarist John McKay and drummer Kenny Morris had left following the release of the group’s second album, Join Hands, in 1979, but Sioux, and bassist Steve Severin found pedigree replacements in ex-Slits/Big In Japan drummer Budgie and former Magazine guitarist John McGeoch. The new-look Banshees rapidly developed almost supernatural chemistry. On their own, Juju’s hits showed that The Banshees were now leagues ahead of most of their contemporaries. The heady Arabian Nights featured an impassioned Sioux lyric commenting on the oppression of women in the Middle East while the mesmeric Spellbound was simply an unstoppable whirling dervish propelled by Budgie’s relentless drums and McGeoch’s frenzied acoustic guitar. However, the rest of Juju was equally satisfying and richly deserves its exalted reputation in the post-punk pantheon. 

Monday, December 26, 2022

Fear Of Music

Even though most people see Remain In Light as their masterpiece, Fear Of Music was the album that really got me into the group. You can already see them moving into the dense, atmospheric style of Remain in Light, with producer Brian Eno's influence becoming more prominent, but their pop sensibilities are as strong as ever. Fear Of Music represents a sudden maturation of the Talking Heads sound, supplementing the frenetic, punkish vibe of their first two albums with the more eclectic style for which they would become best known. On Eno's second collaboration with the Talking Heads, he encouraged them to expand their musical horizons further, and, although a fairly traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure is still in place, this album is the beginning of the band's musical experimentation. For me this is their masterpiece; every song works seamlessly with the others and shows a band that's not afraid of taking risks. 

The way the drums, guitar, and bass all interlock to create the rhythms rather than any one instrument taking over is brilliant. It moves further into strange soundscapes than it's predecessor, while maintaining polished pop credentials. The lyrics are that of a man who is at odds with his environment, somewhat estranged from normality. The music is sharp post-punk guitar driven, yet also has many ethereal moments where you'll drift away on shimmering chords of bliss. 

The opening track I Zimbra demonstrated right away the band's departure from their previously spare, angular style into something more world-music inspired. With nonsensical lyrics and African-themed rhythms this song set the tone for the musically diverse tracks that follow. The playfulness and irreverence of the opener is swiftly replaced with frustration on Mind which serves as a reflection on how impossible it was to get through to people sometimes. The album also contains of their most seminal songs, the insanely catchy Life During Wartime and one of my personal favourite Heads tracks, the beautiful Heaven with its gorgeously understated arrangement. 

I love every aspect of the album, from the minimal cover art, David Byrne's manic vocals, the rhythms, the guitars and the predominantly one word song titles. So filled of musical genius and tension this is one album I never tire of listening to. Creative and energetic, a bit mindless. Lots of fun and my favourite by The Heads. 

Monday, December 12, 2022

The Pretenders

Chrissie Hynde may well be my favourite female vocalist. The way she glides and soars round a vocal line is simply sublime, never more evident than on their eponymous debut. An original hybrid of rock, punk and new wave, with a little bit of funk and reggae thrown in for good measure this 1979 classic introduced the world to the unique vocals of Chrissie. Combining blunt honesty with an inner vulnerability she smashed all the old stereotypes and marked a new era in female singers, making it cool for independent women to make music that was sexy because it wasn't sexual.

It's a deep, rewarding record, whose primary virtue is its sheer energy, it moves faster and harder than most rock records, delivering an endless series of melodies, hooks, and infectious rhythms in its 12 songs. Having James Honeyman Scott throwing inventive riffs behind almost every song certainly helped, as did the undeniable power of Martin Chambers and Pete Farndon as a rhythm team. All the chemistry was in perfect coordination here. 

Infectious, groundbreaking, spirited, conventional and new, The Pretenders self titled debut stands as a landmark rock n roll album that helped drag the underground of 1970's punk kicking and screaming into the overground. 

The Pretenders introduced us to Chrissie Hynde and it immediately catapulted her to the upper echelon of lead singers. Her style was forceful, feminine, distinct and warned everybody that she could kick your ass if she had to, the sense of a great rock star apparent simply in her breath and moan and exhalation. 

Over 40 years later the album still sounds awesome, and has aged unbelievably well. Few albums, let alone debuts, are ever this astonishingly addictive.

Sunday, November 6, 2022


If you are only going to make two albums make them as good as the two released in the early 80's from The Teardrop Explodes. Last night I listened to Kilimanjaro for the first time in a while and it sounded every bit as vibrant and original as I remember it. Hard now to believe that both U2 and Duran Duran apparently considered The Teardrop Explodes as their own real competition. Cope wasn't even then your typical pop star but pop star he was briefly although if you delve into his lyrics they certainly weren't about Girls On Film or Karma Chameleons. 

Kilimanjaro was wildly ambitious, shiny and polished, choc full of unforgettable tunes including a certain track that catapulted them into the Top 10 and into our living rooms through TOTP. Reward sounded awesome then and still does so today, a stampede of Northern Soul energy that needs to be played at full volume.

The Teardrops had an innate gift for for a poppy hook and captivating melody that set them apart from some of their contemporaries. The genesis of Kilimanjaro was troubled with large amounts of LSD being consumed, making it all the more amazing that something as perfectly formed emerged from those recording sessions. It is an album that finds the band at the top of their game, a band that could have had it all which appears to be the last thing Cope wanted. 

You can hear the influence of The Teardrops on so many bands in recent years, from The Killers to Blur and The Libertines. Kilimanjaro remains timeless and listening to it again it's apparent why it spent 35 weeks on the charts. 

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Raw Power

On January 16th 1991 Glasgow Barrowland played host to the one and only Iggy Pop. I had been going to gigs at The Barrowland for around 5 years up to this but few gigs had me so excited pre-gig as Iggy. I had been a fan for years and was worried I had built this one up to much in advance.

Within a few minutes of Iggy hitting that world famous stage it was blindingly apparent that I had not built it up enough. He opened the set with Raw Power and that is literally what it was, with Iggy a whirlwind of primal energy. It was a blistering start and it never let up the whole night. I first heard The Stooges when I was 15 and had waited years to see Iggy and hear those songs live. I had watched video footage from the likes of So It Goes and The Tube but nothing quite prepares you for the real thing. He was like a man possessed and was clearly having the time of his life on that stage. Those first Stooges albums were game changers for me, along with the likes of The Velvet Underground. 

We were treated to China Girl, Lust For Life, Real Wild Child and many other classic Iggy tracks but is was that opener, 1969 and the closing trio of I Wanna Be Your Dog, No Fun and Search and Destroy that elevated that cold, winter night in Glasgow to one of the best gigs I have seen. It was an epic finale with the crowd going ballistic and that ferocious riff almost lifting the roof off The Barrowland.

Iggy was 45 at the time of the gig but had more energy and stage presence than almost any performer I have seen live. The influence he has had on so many bands over the years cannot be underestimated and Jan 16th showed why he is a legend, why his music is so important and why we should always treasure Iggy. 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Into My Arms

I'm always drawn to lyrics that speak to me on some level, whether they are about love. life, politics or whatever else. As long as I connect to them in some way they have done their job.

I've always been fascinated by the lyrics of Nick Cave who, for me, is on of the great modern day lyricists. The imagery in much of his songwriting is incredible and I've always found a resonance in many of his love songs, in particular Into My Arms. A beautiful, melancholic love song that goes straight to the heart. Cloaked in religious imagery this is one of those tracks that just gets me every time I listen to it. 

At its heart a song about loss and the sorrow that ensues, there is an emotional quality that few other songwriters can match. Reminding us that even in the darkest of times we are not alone, there is a good reason why Cave himself treasures this song so much. 

A beautiful piano led melody that speaks to people in a way that is universal and is rightly revered as one of his most beautiful songs with an opening line that draws you in from the off, this is songwriting of the highest order that Cave performed privately at the funeral of Michael Hutchence. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

A Little Bit Of Melodic Sunshine

Late 2000 I was nearing the end of my time working in record stores, and was not really enjoying listening to music as much as usual. There wasn't much that piqued my interest at the time and I was opening those new release boxes on a Friday afternoon hoping to find that elusive something to get my musical mojo up and running again. 

Step forward Enjoy The Melodic Sunshine, courtesy of Glasgow's very own Cosmic Rough Riders. I knew the name, but not too much else at that time. Something about the cover intrigued me enough to put it on and have a listen, and I was not disappointed. Well crafted, melodic tunes played with honesty and sincerity, this was just the tonic I needed to appreciate quality music again. I could hear so much of my favourite music in there - The Byrds, Neil Young etc - but this was uniquely Cosmic Rough Riders. I've always thought the title of the album perfectly sums up the tracks within, music that is uplifting and just makes you feel good. 

Essentially a compilation of tracks from their first two albums, it's an album I never tire of listening to. Similar to Teenage Fanclub with Big Star, the album was responsible for me appreciating more the sounds of the likes of CSNY, Buffalo Springfield and Fairport Convention. A couple of Top 40 hits ensued (and an appearance on TOTP) but like The Go Betweens and Trashcan Sinatras it remains a mystery as to why every household doesn't know their wonderful music. 

The album is being reissued on vinyl later this year from those lovely folks at Last Night From Glasgow, on four different vinyl colours. Well recommended for fans of timeless, melodic tunesmithery.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Read My Lips

Tipped by the NME in late '89 as one of their tips for stardom in the 90's, alongside the likes of Ride, The Mock Turtles and The Charlatans, it was not to be for The Katydids. Their career may have been short lived, but did produce two terrific albums. Their debut found Nick Lowe at the production helm and it's clear why Reprise enlisted him for the task. The album's 60's pop sensibilities are to the fore throughout and Lowe perfectly captures their obvious love of the music of that era and their ability to write great pop songs. There is a joy in the voice of lead singer Susie Hug that comes across throughout the album that is hugely infectious that stood them out from the crowd. 

Lights Out (Read My Lips) was the second single from the album and is a track I never tire of hearing. Everything that was great about the band can be found in this one track. Unpretentious, hook laden pop that is an absolute delight to listen to. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Falling And Laughing

Comprising a couple of re-recordings of early singles, cleaned-up versions of demo tracks and a few new tracks the debut album from Orange Juice was released on this very day in 1982. 

You Can't Hide Your Love Forever is chock full of timeless pop tunes, with some great songwriting from both Edwyn Collins and James Kirk. The debut album from Glasgow's finest purveyors of The Sound Of Young Scotland is one of the best, and most underrated albums of the 80's. At the time some thought it did not live up to expectations, possibly due to a bit of musical snobbery due to signing to a major after releasing their first singles on Postcard. In reality, what's so great about the album is that it sounded so different to anything else at the time and how much it would influence what would follow. Infusing their obvious love of punk with their love of soul it stands as one of the truly great British debut albums. 

With lyrics that are cutting, witty and romantic, excellent guitar interplay between Collins and Kirk and a great rhythm section from David McClymont and Steven Daly this is an album like no other.

Also you can't really go wrong with an album sleeve featuring a couple of lovely dolphins swimming together in the sea. 

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Early Gigs Part 1

Between '86 and '89 there was barely a week went by where I would not be found at one gig or another. Apart from The Barrowland, most of these would have been at Glasgow Uni, Strathclyde Uni or Glasgow Tech with a few others at the likes of Fury Murry's, The Mayfair or 46 West George Street. Over the first few years of gig going I had the pleasure of seeing the likes of The Shop Assistants, Go Betweens, 10,000 Maniacs, Pixies, Sonic Youth, James, Age Of Chance, The Sugarcubes, The Bodines, The Pastels, The Mighty Lemon Drops and The Wedding Present amongst many others. 

Both the Universities and The Tech played host to many great bands and were essential to the gig scene in Glasgow before the likes of King Tut's and the much missed ABC. If it hadn't been for these venues it's unlikely I would have had the chance to see most of those bands in their prime. 

Two that really stand out for me from that time are The Pastels, supported by The Vaselines in Fury Murry's and Pixies at Glasgow University. The Pastels had not long released Up For A Bit and that evening started a lifelong love of both them and The Vaselines. Both these bands are much loved and that evening in Fury's clearly showed why. I do recall being a bit worse for wear at the Pixies gig and missing the support band completely. I managed to rally just as Pixies hit the stage. Doolittle had just been released and we were amongst the first people to hear these songs live. Glasgow took Pixies to their collective hearts and made sure they knew how loved they were in this part of the world. I've seen Pixies a few times over the years, but none will match that very special evening in The QMU.