All Around Records

Friday, December 3, 2021

 B. Hamilton

Keep A Little Light On video

Sofaburn Records

This song is from their album Nothing and Nowhere, which is very good. The video shows a guy looking out at the Oakland Inner Harbor from Jack London Square. It’s a lovely scene, too -- nice, sunny, warm, birds flying, and so on.

It’s also a lyric video, with a good message: Keep your chin up and cheer up, good things are on their way. That’s basically what the song is about, tricking yourself out of major depression.

So if you want a pick me up, and some mellow, but hard, rock, try B. Hamilton, starting with this video. You’ll feel great after seeing it.

Andrea Weiss

Thursday, December 2, 2021

 Protomartyr/R. Ring

A Half Of Seven split single

Hardly Art

This single, first released in 2015, is getting new life, as R. Ring’s Kelley Deal toured with Protomartyr this past November. I saw the Philly show. It was great, rocking, and a lot of fun. And Protomartyr's “Blues Festival,” as great as it is on this single, sounded even better live.

The song is basically advice to bands starting out, and good advice too. “Don’t hold the mic like a crying child,” “don’t let the band open up their mouths,” and “don’t fall prey to your own ego” are some examples. Kelley also sings on it, and her advice is “don’t get ahead of yourself.” All of this is set to bristling, bracing rock, angry for all the right reasons and having a good time being so.

R. Ring’s “Loud Underneath,” sung by Kelley, is about the moment of truth, in any situation, and having  it go okay. The music is just as rocking as “Blues Festival,” but it isn’t angry, more like “there you go, good.”

If so if you’re looking for some great, smart rock, get this single. and then pick up Protomartyr’s albums and R. Ring’s debut, Ignite The Rest. You’ll be glad you did.

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

 The Weeklings

Christmas Day single

JEM Records

This song apes Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” but with quirky lyrics about a Christmas gathering. It’s a lot of fun to listen to, especially if you know the Dylan song in question, and will put smiles on your face.

Andrea Weiss

Sunday, November 28, 2021

 A Very Merry Christmas

Lisa Mychols & Super 8 single

JEM Records

She’s from Long Beach, CA. Super 8 is from Scotland. They got together to record this Phil Spector Christmas type song, which also sounds like “Da Do Ron Ron.” The lyrics bring holiday cheer, merry everything to everyone.

So if you want a fun Christmas song to bounce all over the room to, this is it. It will put you in a great mood for the holidays.

Andrea Weiss

Saturday, November 27, 2021

 I first heard of Spygenius on their album from last year, Man On The Sea. That was a great one, and equal to it is their followup, Blow Their Covers. Guitarist and lead vocalist Peter Watts delves into it more in my interview with him, and his answers are very interesting. Thank you, Peter.

Andrea Weiss: While most people know who you are now, for anyone who doesn't, could you give a short history of the band?

Peter Watts: Of course. We are a four-piece group based in the South East of England and we got together about fifteen years ago (wow, how did it get to be so long!?). We’d all been in other bands which had fizzled out one by one, so we created Spygenius because we didn’t want to stop. Our ‘mission statement’ was to write, record, and perform original music for as long as we could get away with it without really worrying about what anyone else thought of it – which is what we’ve been doing ever since! Apart from just recently, of course, when we recorded a collection of cover versions to keep ourselves busy during lock down.

AW: Would you say these covers are songs that have influenced you?

PW: Yeah – it varies a bit from song to song, but between the four members of the band our tastes are pretty eclectic, and we draw on a lot of influences. But all the songs have some sort of direct connection to what we do as a band, and how we approach things musically.

AW: Would you say that these bands you cover are favorites of yours, even if they're not an influence?

How did you choose which songs to cover?

PW: Ooh, this is quite hard to answer because, like I said, our tastes are pretty broad and we don’t all like the same things! And different songs are there for different reasons. But some of the song selections definitely reflect musical touch-points for Spygenius, bands which we had in mind to emulate a little when we set out. Traffic are a definite point of connection between me and Matt (keyboards). I fell in love with Buffalo Springfield’s harmonies as a teenager and always wanted to do something like that. Squeeze do the whole clever, complex lyrics thing and hail from South London, which is where three of us are from originally. Gene Clark made me want to write songs. Most of the band really like Madness, and Alan, our drummer, just has the perfect voice for the lead on Michael Caine! So yeah, a lot of the selections are from groups who inspired or influenced us from the get go, but then a couple of the tracks are covers of songs by other musicians we’ve met along the way through David Bash’s International Pop Overthrow Festivals, or through Big Stir Records, and just feel an affinity for. And then there a couple of oddball selections – a song that was playing at the party where Ruth (bass) and I got together as a couple ("Griselda"), or the song that my old 80s band was named after ("Murrumbidgee Whalers") – so there’s a story behind each selection. So, for instance, "For Pete’s Sake" and "Come On Home" were songs that I just happened to hear when I was very young and that set me on the road to becoming a musician. So there’s a variety of reasons, but every song has some sort of a connection to what we do as a band and how we got here.

AW: The song “Therapy” by Plasticsoul takes a positive view of it, which is great, as does your cover. Did you want to emphasis that positivism?

PW: Yeah, it’s a great song, and Steven is a label-mate and a good friend of ours. We love him and miss him. At the last Liverpool IPO before Covid he came over to England to play and Ruth and I were drafted in as temporary honorary Plasticsoulsters, which was great fun. Somehow we all ended up spending the night in a converted double-decker bus in field in Wales…rock and roll! But as for our cover, I think we thought that the mood of Therapy was more ambivalent – it’s positive, yes, but not just positive – and that while Steven’s original version is kind of defiant, there’s also a vulnerability in there, and we wanted to try and bring that out, to just draw out a whole other side to the song. And it’s a testament to just how good that song is that it worked so well with such a complete rearrangement.

AW: I love your cover of Squeeze's “Is That Love” and a lot of these covers from the 80s. How important was that decade to you?

PW: Well, it’s probably something to do with our ages! The 80s was when I had my youth, but I always felt slightly at odds with what was going on. I suppose I woke up musically at the tail end of the 70s when the New Wave thing was happening, and then the 80s went all New Romantic and synthy, which didn’t quite do it for a guitar nut like me, but there was still loads of great stuff going on if you dug around a bit, so I took to digging around. I was kind of obsessed with Robyn Hitchcock for a while, and used to go to every Jazz Butcher gig that I could muster the cash for. Of course, we lost Pat just the other day, which is a bloody tragedy… but Squeeze hail from a part of London just a little bit round the South Circular road from where I grew up, so there’s an affinity there, and when I was first trying to learn how to sing I used to flatter myself that maybe I could make my voice sound a bit like Glenn Tilbrook’s – and we picked Is That Love because Matt and I both get a bit excited about how clever the structure is, and because I always wanted to play that guitar solo!

AW: Ditto for “Queen Of Eyes,” which is also a tribute to the late Matthew Seligman. What do you want to say about him and the song?

PW: We met Matthew through Rex Broome of Big Stir. Matthew had offered to record a bass line for the Armoires, and Rex arranged for him to do it at Casa Spygenius down here in Canterbury – and we just hit it off with him. I mean there was the obvious musical connection, what with me being a wee bit of Soft Boys fan, but more than anything we just made each other laugh. So the actual recording session was over pretty quickly and we hastily adjourned to the pub to the watch the football and talk nonsense at each other, and after that Matthew would visit us and we’d all be very silly together, and he became a big supporter of the band, offering feedback on recordings we were working on, occasionally writing nonsense reviews, planning future musical projects, and coming to our gigs, and at one gig he joined us on stage at the end for a really, really shambolic version of "Queen of Eyes," which I think only Matthew had actually played before… and I’m not sure any one of us was sober. In the wake of that, we conspired to record a cover of the song. Ruth and Matthew had teased one another one night about each other’s bass lines being either too busy or too simple, so when we decided to record the song, Ruth wanted to record a really busy bassline, just to give Matthew a laugh… but of course that’s not how things worked out. He never got to hear our version, and in the end, Ruth decided to copy Matthew’s original bass line, in honour of him. I can’t really say how much we miss him. He was a joy to know and I wish he were still here. There were so many delightful conversations that we never got to finish.

AW: You’ve had success with your music. What would you tell someone who's just gotten that kind of musical success?

PW: Success is such an elusive idea…Dylan probably had it right: the only measure of success worth worrying about is the one you create for yourself, and if you do that right you can’t really fail! We set up Spygenius so we could keep doing our own thing musically, finding out how far we could take it, and if anyone else ‘got’ what we were doing then that was great, but if they didn’t, no matter, we’d just keep on doing it anyway… and through taking that approach we’ve made a lot of music which we’re proud of, made a lot of friends who we love, become part of a global musical community which get so much from, and had a lot of great times, with many more to come! And that seems like success to me. So I guess I’d say don’t get hung up on any single idea of what success is; embrace whatever is wonderful in wherever you happen to find yourself, say yes to whatever opportunities open up, and enjoy the ride!


Blows Their Covers

Big Stir Records

Why this album is more than another covers album is that it’s also a tribute to college rock, its roots, and how they inform today's music. It lives on, wonderfully so, on this album.

Every cover on here is great, but there are a few that stand out. Plasticsoul's “Therapy” could be about therapy or drugs. On Madness’s “Michael Caine” the band puts their own spin on the line “I am Michael Caine,” as the actor himself voiced in the original version, by making it the coda. Squeeze’s “Is That Love” is as good as the original. "Griselda,” originally by Michael Hurley and the Unholy Model Rounders, is a lot of fun to hear. Gene Clark’s “So You Say You Lost Your Baby” is better than the original.

But the best is the Soft Boys' “Queen Of Eyes.” The late Matthew Seligman had input before he passed away of Covid last year; now it’s a tribute, and what a tribute it is! With the tempo slightly faster, it packs even more of a punch by kicking the song into overdrive.

If you like college rock and want an update on it, to relive how it was and is, or it’s new to you and you want a starting point, this album is for you.

Andrea Weiss

Saturday, November 20, 2021

 Nick Frater first came to my attention with his first Big Stir release Fast And Loose. That album was a good example of what could be done with Brian Wilson’s work, not so much with the Beach Boys, but his solo masterpiece Smile.Frater's new album Earworms does much the same with bands like ELO, and is a lot of fun to listen.

My thanks to Nick for being kind enough to answer a few questions for me.

Andrea Weiss: Most people know you now, but for those who don't, can you give a short musical history?

Nick Frater: Thanks for asking! I’m Nick Frater, a songwriter/multi-instrumentalist/producer based in Croydon in the south of London, England. I’ve been in countless bands and projects nobody will have heard of, but over the last few years have had a few critically acclaimed albums out. The latest one, Earworms, is my seventh, and features collaborations with several of my musical heroes including Roger Joseph Manning Jr. (Jellyfish) and Darian Sahanaja (Brian Wilson/Wondermints)!

AW: I hear ELO the most in the music on your new album, which is great. Would you say they're an influence?

NF: Jeff Lynne is one of the all time great producers! ELO are obviously excellent, and managed to pay homage to their Beatle influence, but still create something that is recognisably their sound.

However, it’s Lynne’s production work on Traveling Wilburys and the reformed Beatles that shows his skill, both recording-wise (I love "Free As A Bird" and "Real Love!") but also managing to get those projects over the line with the amount of egos and record company people who must have been involved!

AW: I also hear the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Todd Rundgren, which is also good. Would you say they're influences too?

NF: Never heard of them!

Although eagle-eyed/eared listeners will spot a Todd Rundgren reference on pretty much every one of my albums. Sometimes visual, sometimes in the title, sometimes musical.

AW: Your lyrics can be so happy and positive, which I like. Is it hard to write those kinds of songs, since one of the hardest types of songs to write are happy, positive ones that don't sound silly?

NF: Many people have picked up on the positive lyrical themes, which is surprising, as I hadn’t noticed that writing them. A lot of the lyrics tend to have a darker or bittersweet subtext, although there’s no denying I have deliberately tried to fill this album with hooks and melodies. A lot of those are hopefully catchy, which I guess convinces the brain that it’s a happy song! There’s a psychology thesis there somewhere! Earworms opens with "It’s All Rumours," which I think might be the first time I’ve ever written a ‘story song’. Songs just tend to appear in my head often from hearing a turn of phrase used in my day-to-day life, so it’s hard to predict what the next one will be about. However I’d like to try and explore this lyrical approach again.

AW: Or is it easier to write songs about troubled relationships?

NF: I absolutely love listening to and writing songs that break your heart. There is something hugely powerful and almost addictive of an emotional rush from a sad film or song. I guess like listening to the blues, it has a restorative power! Are they easier to write? I’m not sure. For me the process of writing is the most enjoyable, whatever the mood;  that moment when a nugget of hook arrives from the ether and turns into a song is hugely exciting! I tend to just follow wherever that idea is leading…hence the many styles and ideas on last year's bonus lockdown album, 59 vignettes - the world’s first (and probably last) Instagram concept album! (@59vignettes)

AW: What do you think has changed, musically, between your debut and your new album?

NF: Becoming a dad! Which is wonderful, but radically changed the time I have to sit messing about at the piano. So that means my songwriting technique has moved from the piano to my voice/imagination. This has resulted in stronger melodies, or at least ones in a key I have a fighting chance of singing! My earlier albums were all written at the piano; and some songs incredibly complicated harmonically, sometime deliberately seeing how many chords I could possibly squeeze into a song! My newer songs are deceptively simple/more complicated than they sound. Catchy, but nothing ever quite repeats exactly.

AW: Do you hope to tour the US, now that the pandemic is easing?

NF: If I could make it work I would love to tour, or at least do a few shows on the West Coast, the spiritual home of power-pop. Gigging as a solo artist is a fairly new thing for me. Having done thousands of gigs as a sideman, being out front is a whole different game! The music scene, even before Covid, here in London is a tough place for power-pop. It’s only really David Bash’s IPO at The Cavern flying that flag. Pulling a band together for 15 people at The Windmill isn’t really sustainable…although that is always a hugely enjoyable place to play!

AW: Since you had success with your first album, what advice would you give to someone who has had a taste of success musically?

NF: Always follow your heart. Make the music that you love and that you would make whether people are listening or not. If you’re looking for cash, take up plastering!  Music is, or should be, its own reward, but there is no denying that knowing other ears genuinely enjoy your music is a wonderful feeling. Are there ways to make money from it? Maybe, but I’ve not found them yet! 


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