Posts Tagged Britpop

music review: James

james girl

In 1994, James catapulted into the U.S. spotlight with the cheeky, yet layered single “Laid” from the album of the same name. The band formed in the 80s in Manchester, England. Part of the 90s Britpop wave along with The Stone Roses, Charlatans UK, Blur, Oasis, Happy Monday, Pulp and The Wonder Stuff. I adored Britpop back in the 90s. It was my heart. In 1997 the band released its seventh album Whiplash with the wonderful songs “She’s a Star” and “Tomorrow.” I giddily interviewed bassist James Glennie in 1997 as contributing editor/writer for the Boston zine Instant Magazine.

In the 90s James was one of my favorite bands. When one of my favorite bands returns with new music, I become nostalgic and also apprehensive. I analyzed the words to every song. Cerebral lyrics ranged from self-improvement to politics [google “Sit Down”] . Heartbreaking, comforting, making me feel less a one-off weirdo. If you could wear out a CD I did. Several times over. Seven remains my favorite James album. Favorite songs [many of them!] include: “Sometimes”/ “Say Something”/ “Born of Frustration”/ “Sit Down”/ “You Can’t Tell How Much Suffering (On A Face That’s Always Smiling)” / “How Was It For You?”/ ”Out to Get You”/ She’s a Star.”

Many bands will remain synonymous with the 90s alternative/ indiepop/indierock/Britpop days, many popular 90s-era bands and artists are touring [Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, Belly, Jesus Jones, Radiohead] and some never stopped. Some put out new material sporadically. Is it a comeback or a continuation after a brief hiatus? That’s difficult to say. Musicians generally keep writing, keep recording, keep performing. I thought that James hadn’t released anything since 1997. But that’s not true. The band took a break in 2001 and reformed in 2007. Somehow I missed some of those other James albums such as Millionaires [1999] and The Night Before [2010]. My relationships with music publicists vacillate. Also we know how fickle music consumers can be. Marketing and music sales have dramatically. I still like [or appreciate] many bands I liked in the 90s but it was a different time, a different decade and will always remind me of my 20s when I was insecure and figuring out a path. I’m still questioning myself and my choices.

So now, over 32 years after signing to Factory Records in 1982, James released its fourteenth album Girl at the End of The World on March 18, 2016. This electronica/ indie-rock album soars on the opener “Bitch” with its wah-wah guitar and the slow-burning “Attention” — a call to arms with its bold urgency—as well as the optimistic “Nothing But Love.” Then “To My Surprise” rouses and burns. Gentleness and Tim Booth’s subtler vocals blend with a funkadelic keyboard-based beat on “Dear John.” The best song “Catapult” features an upbeat attitude, deep riffs and a vaudeville arrangement. The current single “Girl at the End of the World” is a good one with its distinctive James-y wave. Another stand-out is “Move Down South” with its haunting beats and thoughtful lyrics about our relationship to the environment—“too late we’re all responsible/ too late to hold a wake/ we’re all drilled out..” Ah James. Be still my heart. Shatter my soul.

–review by Amy Steele

Girl at the End of the World
release date: March 18, 2016

purchase at Amazon: Girl At The End Of The World

James Discography:

• Stutter (1986)
• Strip-mine (1988)
• Gold Mother (1990) (re-released in 1991 as James)
• Seven (1992)
• Laid (1993)
• Wah Wah (1994)
• Whiplash (1997)
• Millionaires (1999)
• Pleased to Meet You (2001)
• Hey Ma (2008)
• The Night Before (2010)
• The Morning After (2010)
• La Petite Mort (2014)
• Girl at the End of the World (2016)

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music news: Suede album due out in January 2016

london suede


One of my favorite Britpop bands The London Suede will release its seventh studio album Night Thoughts [Rhino Records/Warner Brothers] on January 29, 2016. The album will also be accompanied by a feature film directed by acclaimed photographer Roger Sargent – to be released on DVD – as part of a special album package. Night Thoughts was produced by long-time The London Suede collaborator Ed Buller and was recorded at SARM Studios in London and ICP in Brussels and features a full string orchestra.



Night Thoughts track listing:
1. When You Are Young
2. Outsiders
3. No Tomorrow
4. Pale Snow 5. I Don’t Know How To Reach You
6. What I’m Trying To Tell You
7. Tightrope
8. Learning To Be
9. Like Kids
10. I Can’t Give Her What She Wants
11. When You Were Young
12. The Fur & The Feathers

pre-order at Amazon: Night Thoughts (CD/DVD)

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Fall Tour: 90s shoegazers Ride

Ride now

Ride now

Ride then

Ride then

As a GenXer, music fan, Anglophile and music critic I listened to Ride quite a bit in the 90s along with Jesus Jones, The Charlatans UK, Swervedriver, Curve and Lush. shoegaze. Swirling and churning guitar. psychedelic-laced indie rock. Indelibly hypnotic. Thrilled that the band has reunited nearly twenty years after breaking up and will be touring this fall beginning on September 17 at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. and closing out November 19 in Hawaii on with a date in Boston on October 3 at The Paradise Rock Club.

The band formed when the members were teenagers in Oxford, England in 1988. The band released several influential albums including 1990’s Nowhere and 1992’s Going Blank Again. They broke up in 1996, following the release of Tarantula.

Ride is:

guitarist Andy Bell
singer Mark Gardener
drummer Laurence “Loz” Colbert
bassist Steve Queralt

Tour Dates:

9/17 – 9:30 Club, Washington DC
9/18 – College Street Music Hall, New Haven
9/19- Theatre of Living Arts, Philadelphia
9/21 – Irving Plaza, New York
9/22 – Irving Plaza, New York
9/23 – The Stone Pony, Asbury Park
9/25 – The Riviera Theater, Chicago
9/26 – MidPoint Festival, Cincinnati
9/27 – Pygmalion Festival, Champaign
9/29 – Mill City, Minneapolis
10/01 – St Andrews Hall, Detroit
10/02- House of Blues, Cleveland
10/03- Paradise Rock Club, Boston
11/06 – Saturn – Birmingham, AL
11/07 – Fun Fun Fun Festival – Austin, TX
11/09 – Crescent Ballroom – Phoenix, AZ
11/10 – House of Blues – Las Vegas, NV
11/12 – The Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA
11/14 – The Catalyst – Santa Cruz, CA
11/15 – Crystal Ballroom – Portland, OR
11/16 – Neptune – Seattle, WA
11/17 – Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, BC
11/19 – The Republik – Honolulu, HI

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STEELE INTERVIEWS: Various Cruelties

Liam O’Donnell grew up in Leeds, the son of a Scottish father and an Irish mother. They moved to London where Liam played around as a singer/songwriter for some time. In 2010, he formed pop group Various Cruelties which blends Britpop, mod and funk. The song “It Wasn’t for You” is featured in a holiday ad for Zales jewelry. The band supported Mumford and Sons and The Vaccines.

Debut album available for download now and on CD on February 26 in the U.S.

liam o'donnell

Amy Steele: Where did the name Various Cruelties come from?

Liam O’Donnell: The name Various Cruelties comes from a painting by the artist Ed Ruscha. I saw the picture on a wall and thought it looked like great and I really loved the name. It was a beautiful deep red colour and almost looked like dried blood. It was reminiscent of something like The White Stripes would have put up. It had a classic yet, darker, distressed feel to it.

Amy Steele: You look so young. When did you first become interested in music? Have you professional training?

Liam O’Donnell: My family was musical. So I can’t really remember not being interested in music. I don’t have any professional training except I used to play in bars when I was a kid. I could do an excellent rendition of “The Fairytale of New York” on violin at 12.30 a.m. or down the phone to someone.

Amy Steele: You started out a solo artist. What made you decide to get a band together?

Liam O’Donnell: It felt natural. It was a bit lonely being a solo artist sometimes. In the studio I could bring different colours and personalities to the songs I was creating. But playing them live on an acoustic guitar just didn’t hit the spot in the same way. When I met the other guys, we hit it off very quickly and were able to bring the songs to life in a live environment.

Amy Steele: What do you like about being in a band?

Liam O’Donnell: I like being able to hang out with my mates. I love people coming to and enjoying the shows. We get to meet our fans, make friends, all alongside the funny things that happen along the way. Such as our drummer being told he looks like “George Washington”. The amusing thing being that the guy who said he looks like “George Washington” meant “Denzel Washington”. Most people would think there’s quite a difference between the two individuals, but obviously not this guy.

Amy Steele: You are a big The Strokes fan. What do you like about the band?

Liam O’Donnell: I guess there’s always one band or musician that growing up you connect with. They are such a great pop/guitar band with timeless songs. I saw them when I was 15 and Julian sat on a chair, with his ankle in a cast but was still cool. Discovering your first band is a bit like falling in love for the first time. As you get older, you like other bands, but you never fall in love as much as you did the first time.

Amy Steele: I hear Britpop, folk, funk fused in your music. What other bands and musicians influence you musically?

Liam O’Donnell: I’m from Leeds. So we have a heritage of Northern British music. It’s not that we ‘totally invented pop music’ but so much has come out of this region. I couldn’t avoid not hearing The Beatles, The Smiths, Arctic Monkeys, growing up. I also developed quite an eclectic taste quite early. I became fascinated with musical scenes from Britain such as mod, goth and to a certain extent hip hop. I liked listening to old soul records and embracing culture of northern soul, ska and jazz nights that are quite prevalent in Yorkshire.


Amy Steele: I adore the song “Magnetic Fields.” What can you tell me about it?

Liam O’Donnell: “Magnetic Fields” is about a girl I used to hang out with. We weren’t very good for each other at certain points. Yet we had this strange connection.

Amy Steele: Tell me about the impetus for “Beautiful Delirium.”

Liam O’Donnell: “Beautiful Delirium” is about when you’re young and life is perhaps a bit changeable. Sometimes you feel thrilled but daunted at the same time. It’s about that. Sometimes I find those feelings to be quite intense.

Amy Steele: How about the song “Capsize?” There’s a cool Calypso-esque beat to it.

Liam O’Donnell: In all honesty. I had recorded the song in another style for the demo. Then shortly before recording the album I listened to aht ah mi hed by Shuggie Otis. Thought the “Calypso” vibe from that was pretty cool, so decided to try nick the vibe of that song for “Capsize.”

Amy Steele: What comes first the music or the lyrics?

Liam O’Donnell: I need to feel the music first to inspire the lyrics. I get to the point where I feel like I want to sing along. Then the lyrics just happen. Normally regarding the subconscious focus of whatever is on my mind.

Amy Steele: What inspires you?

Liam O’Donnell: Mainly things in day to day life. I’d be lying if I said all my ideas came from 19th Century Irish literature.

Amy Steele: If you weren’t a musician what would you be doing?

Liam O’Donnell: I did study for a law degree for a while. But I can’t see myself going back to that. I used to have a job where I maintained industrial dishwashers capable of washing an incredible 2000 plates an hour. I liked being able to fix them. So maybe something where I could take that to the next level. A dishwasher to support an army or something.

Amy Steele: What football team do you root for?

Liam O’Donnell: I have two to be brutally honest. I am from Leeds so Leeds United. But my Dad is a proud Scotsman and he supports Glasgow Celtic. But our manager’s first name is “Neil”. So let’s hope Leeds achieves promotion this year and Celtic beats Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League. The final is at Wembley which isn’t that far from my house. I can but dream. Closer than going all the way up to Scotland anyway!

In terms of US sports I need someone to tell me about the history of all the big sports teams. Then I can pick one?

purchase on Amazon: Various Cruelties

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