Bath based power pop loons Ulysses have been delivering quirky, glam-slam slices of noise for many years now. With more facial hair than a cave full of cavemen and a wardrobe half-inched from Huggy Bear, they have produced 3 albums of vintage noise steeped equally in both 70’s nostalgia and Brit Pop goodness. You see, these fun loving chaps owe as much to the likes of Super Furry Animals and Supergrass as they do to heroes like Bowie and Bolan. And it’s a good mix of influences that shine through to make their fourth long player ‘On Safari’ a fantastic ride from start to finish.

 

Check out the cover art by the wonderful Caitlin Mattisson for starters. Lions, giant snakes and a hot medieval babe with 8 arms and a broadsword….fair play, I’m sold on that alone! Let’s hope the music is up to it too.

And of course it is, Ulysses does not disappoint. Opener ‘Looking For A Guru’ sets the scene with a glitter-coated, platform boot stomp. What sounds like a sitar introduces the song that rides on a catchy refrain over big beats, handclaps and Paul Stanley helium vocals. It’s more 70’s than a packet of Spangles and twice as sweet. A glorious album opener.

The following funky, yet spunky ‘Doctors And Nurses’ out-foxes Foxy Shazam. Sirens wail and sweet vocals harmonise the intro. Tongue-in-cheek lyricism and double-entendres are rife. Its disco groove shouts Scissor Sisters, while its wailing guitar outro shouts Kiss, what’s not to like here? A total contrast to the opener, yet still in tune with their retro sound.

These boys have a handful of singles on offer for you too. “For those about to rock…for those about to roll’ drawls the singer over sloppy, cool riffs and cowbell accompaniment on the fantastic ‘Bad Tattoo’. The following ‘Dragons’ is full of instant, quirky melodies and fuzzy guitars, coming on like the perfect mash-up of Weezer and the Super Furries. Whether it’s actually about dragons is debatable, what’s not debatable is that it was the perfect single choice.

 

They veer into classic sounding 60’s pop territory and make it sound so effortless. ‘This Useless Love’ has  Beach Boys/Everly Brothers vibes and ‘She’ is a glorious slab of 60’s pop with urgent beats, killer vocal harmonies and ripping guitar solos, coming on like Kula Shaker at their finest.

The trippy, prog fest that is ‘Situation Man’ is out there maaan! A full on Hammond organ jam out and elsewhere, ‘Fuzzy Lion’ mixes up a ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ drum beat with Silver Sun vocalisin’ in the most sublime of ways.

‘Let’s Move’ prove that Giuda and Biters aren’t the only cool cats to channel Thin Lizzy and Slade all in one double denim-clad 3-minute pop hit or two. Even the reggae-infused mid-section breakdown can’t detract from their ability to create songs that should be on 7 inch and riding high in the hit parade, pop pickers. Killer tuneage!

It’s no surprise that singer Luke Smyth has seemingly morphed into a young Jeff Lynne. Check out the likes of ‘Married Woman’ and the eccentricity of closer ‘Calendar Street’ with its immense ELO layered harmonies climax. I even had to YouTube and Google ‘Why Aren’t These People My Friends’ just to be sure, as I feel like I should already know it… I don’t and it’s ace!

It may be raining outside, but Ulysses bring the sunshine to your stereo with their new long player ‘On Safari’. I didn’t think they made the sort of drugs that could inspire this sort of music anymore, maybe I’m wrong, or maybe it’s just the Bath water (sic). But Ulysses has created a trippy, hippie-fied, love-fest of an album. A soundtrack to the summer we have yet to experience. And certainly one of the most entertaining albums you will hear this year.

Author: Ben Hughes

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“It is impossible to achieve the aim without suffering” – John G Bennett (Philosopher 1897-1974)

 

Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes describe ‘End Of Suffering’ as their third and most important record, and they are not wrong. Following the success of their first two albums (‘Blossoms’ and ‘Modern Ruin’ were recorded back to back just 8 months apart) the band hit the studio in London during the record-breaking heat wave of 2018, with the intention of taking their time to create the biggest and best album they could.

To help achieve this, they roped in famed producer Cam Blackwood (Jack Savoretti/George Ezra) and the legendary mixing talents of Alan Moulder (NIN/QOTSA) to help turn their blood, sweat, and tears into something truly special.

 

The title ‘End Of Suffering’ comes from the Buddhist mantra for finding enlightenment, and the themes of this album document Frank’s struggles for the last 2 years. First single ‘Crowbar’ may have lulled fans into a false sense of security that this album was going to be choc-a-bloc with primal, fist-pumping anthems of empowerment’, but it’s safe to say Frank and songwriting partner/guitarist Dean Richardson have worked hard to take The Rattlesnakes to the next level. I believe their songwriting has matured beyond any of their previous work.

At the heart of this album is the song ‘Anxiety’, a highlight at the recent intimate shows. With a hard-hitting video and relatable lyrics, it’s a song that has already touched the hearts and souls of many fans. Dean’s lone, haunting guitar riff sets the tone for Frank to open up more than he ever has before. ‘Anxiety’ is an anthem for unity, a song to raise your hands to and stamp your feet along to.

You see, Frank Carter is a man who cares, and understands he is in a unique position where he can make a difference to people’s lives through his music. And if the message he gives out prevents just one person from shutting themselves off from the world, making them realise that they are not alone and that it is ok to not be ok, then his job is done.

 

Heavy talk aside, ‘End Of Suffering’ is introspective and puts out a positive message.  It is not a punk album, nor is it an indie album. ‘End Of Suffering’ is a modern rock record that perfectly bridges the gap between Gallows and Pure Love, much more successfully than either of their two previous albums did.

While the hardcore influence of Gallows that was still present throughout the first two albums is now all but a distant memory, ‘End Of Suffering’ is no less intense for it. Opener ‘A Butterfly Can’t Love A Spider’ sets the intensity levels high from the word go. Riding on a formidable, pulsating beat and brooding vocals that build to a soaring crescendo, as Dean bashes out a dirty riff. “When I’m high, I’m in Heaven, when I’m low I’m in Hell” sings Frank, and we believe every word.

The band then fire into the skulking beast that is ‘Tyrant Lizard King’. Featuring a cool, desert rock riff and a chorus that slithers from the speakers like a snake ready to inject its venom straight into the soul, it captivates and enraptures. A trademark off the wall solo from a certain Tom Morello fits the feel of the song perfectly. This tune is guaranteed to be a mainstay of The Rattlesnakes live set for years to come. 2 songs in, and it’s safe to say the band has taken things up a notch or two.

“I’m a punk rock renegade” drawls Frank on the opening line of the space age, indie punk hybrid ‘Kitty Sucker, before launching into another anthemic, high energy chorus that matches the intensity of Gallows at their finest.

With the likes of ‘Little Devil’ with its QOTSA feel and the regimental beats and high energy, post-punk vibes of ‘Heartbreaker’, The Rattlesnakes offer enough to satisfy all the cravings their fans desire. They even explore Portishead territory on the downbeat electronica soaked ‘Angel Wings’, a song that creates beautiful and cinematic imagery, if you just take the time to close your eyes and take it in.

The emotive closing title track offers yet more with acoustic guitars, a piano refrain and a recording of Frank’s four year old daughter laughing as the song fades out on singular ivory notes. “I’ll be waiting…even if I’m gone” Frank assures the listener in a near broken voice.

 

Between sorrow and beauty, where love and hate collide, the deeply personal ‘End Of Suffering’ could be the album to rocket Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes into stadiums around the world. It has already been stated elsewhere that this is their ‘The Holy Bible’, that this could be their ‘In Utero’. The difference being…this album offers hope where the others only gave despair.

Funnily enough, the opening quote of this review was taken from the introduction of the U.S. mix of ‘She Is Suffering’ by the Manic Street Preachers. How’s that for a tenuous link, pop pickers!

 

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Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, we certainly didn’t stand still in the last seven days as we brought you reviews from a range of artist old and new with The Lemonheads starting things off with the second studio album of cover versions entitled ‘Varshons 2‘.  As Evan Dando and Co, head out on a UK tour this week to promote the record RPM gave it the thumbs up as Dando led the band through some pretty diverse waters.  Westerberg, Cave and the Eagles all made it onto the record which as an aside came out in a scented banana yellow version as well.

 

 

It was also a week that saw two live albums hit the death decks at RPM with Metallica lending a ‘Helping Hand’ Where they released a double album with proceeds going to a most admirable cause and helping the most vulnerable in society a real genuine act of kindness that doesn’t get the exposure it truly deserves as the rock stars are often castigated for their excesses but seldom praised when they do reach out with a simple yet effective act of kindness.  So a huge well done from us at RPM as Johnny H gets stuck into the double slice of vinyl trouble.

 

 

The second of our live reviews came when Martin gave The Godfather a good seeing to with their fantastic ‘This Is War’ the once over. describing it as, “Loud Sharp and Beautiful”, is about as close a summery as you can get.  It’s fair to say that it damn near captures the current line up right at the top of their game.  It’s certainly raw it’s certainly loud and no question it has the Godfathers roaring on all cylinders and has you wondering why all live albums can’t sound this good.  Essential listening no doubt about it.

We also brought you a summary of this years Gathering from North Wales as Mike Peters and the Alarm romped through a huge chunk of their back catalogue over two nights with plenty of special guests that included original Alarm Guitar player Dave Sharp, from Texas Ryan Hamilton and 80’s pop rockers Mark Shaws then Jerico. This year’s festivities weren’t without incident as the PA went down twice but it didn’t deter PEters who climbed into the audience with his acoustic guitar and un mic’d got the audience singing along and making the most out of a potentially bad situation and making it a memorable evening no doubt about it.  Gathering twenty-Seven was again a privilege to attend and I can’t wait for 2020 and number twenty Eight.

We also brought you The Spangles album launch show from way up North otherwise known as Harrogate as Ben Hughes had an equally splendid evening with an immensely talented band playing one hell of a debut album.  I for one hope there is a lot more to come from these three guys because their album was easily one of 2018 best releases.

As far as news goes we joined the rock world in wishing Bernie Torme a speedy recovery from his hospitalization from double Pneumonia and hope he’s back to full health as soon as possible. The same for our Australian friend Hayden McGoogan from The Black Heart Breakers who also found himself in Hospital this past week – Get yourselves fit and health please gents and I’m sure I speak for all the writers at RPM in wishing you both speedy full recoveries.

There was also some superb festival news as The Dead Boys were announced as headliners for this year’s Rebellion Festival in Blackpool along with Walter Lure who will be playing L.A.M.F. at the festival and across the channel in Belgium Sjock Festival announced a raft of superb bands added to this years festival including RPM favourites The Hip Priests and Barstool Preachers who play alongside The Hives, Hellacopters, Electric Frankenstein, the Briefs  and Gluecifer. To be fair news wise last week was a bumper week for great rock n roll news.

 

Anyway, that was last week on RPM and as we are always looking forward here’s what you can expect this coming week on the website. We’ve got a couple of bumper interviews with the likes of Slyder from Last Great Dreamers as they announce a lot of dates for 2019 in what appears to be a hugely busy year for the band.  Also, we have a monster interview with “Demons” Matheus Carlsson which should see your Friday seem a lot more enjoyable as we spoke about the past present and future of the band in what also looks like a great year for the band.

As for album reviews we’re once again scouring the globe for great bands and we’ve certainly got those coming at you with the debut long player from ‘Wet Dreams’ reviewed today by Johnny H and there is also the long-awaited long player from Jim Jones & the Righteous Mind’ coming later this week as ‘CollectiV’ has certainly been entertaining RPM HQ and what will be one of the years top albums no question about that. We also look back on some significant happenings this coming week in punk, rock and pop music history so keep it RPM folks for all your turbocharged Rock n Roll!

Stay Sick,

L-U-V RPM

 

It’s been a long, hard January, right? Traditionally a gig free month, it feels like forever since my last soiree of 2018 with Tyla’s Dogs D’amour at The Fulford Arms back in December. It may be snowy and cold outside, but The Spangles are here to warm the cockles with their hometown album release show.

It’s not all gone to plan though. Caught up in the recent PledgeMusic debacle, The Spangles (as with many other artists) have had to shell out from their own pockets to fulfil pledges and get CDs made. Then the original venue for this gig fell through and just days before, main support Rich Ragany & the Digressions pulled out.

But all’s now good, a new venue was found, support also arranged and fans have the products they pledged for.

Located on the outskirts of Harrogate, The Empress might seem an unlikely venue for a rock ‘n’ roll album release show. But to be honest, it’s perfect. The upstairs function room is homely, there are carpets, pictures on the wall and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a dog sleeping by the fire if there weren’t so many punters in the way. You see, this room is about twice the size of my living room and it’s already packed as Damp take to the stage.

Damp are a local four-piece band residing in the heavier end of the rock ‘n’ roll spectrum. To my ears, a heady mix of Kyuss and Mudhoney. Grungy, stoner rock goodness flows from the speakers as aptly named frontman Wolfgang wrings unworldly noted from his guitar and growls his way through 30 minutes of lo-fi stoner rock goodness. Ably backed by Modern Day Dukes man Rory on bass, George on guitars and Rob on drums, they sure have the tunes ladies and gentlemen. Great gang vocal choruses and face-melting riffage, what’s not to like here? “No one wants a damp t-shirt, but we have dry ones for sale!” announces the singer, prior to introducing the last number. Well said, that man.

 

Another new name is local funky monks PIPS. A late addition to the bill, replacing Rich Ragany & the Digressions. As guitarist Tom tells us after the opening song, PIPS have drunk 7 pints already; things might get interesting from here on in.

With funky, slap bass and metallic riffage, the trio proceeds to bounce through a magnificent high energy set of songs that come on like Infectious Grooves jamming out with Primus. My brother would’ve loved this band, he would’ve wanted to join this band… hell, I want the drummer to join my band and I don’t even have one!

The likes of ‘Soul Katt’ and ’20 Years’ are delivered with the energy and precision of a seasoned live act. They handle the intricate passages with ease and you would never have guessed they were full of lager, they’ve done this before methinks! The combination of Tom’s Vernon Reid style guitar chops, the funky slap bass work of singer Chris and the imaginative and relentless pounding beats of Josh make PIPS a mesmerising band to watch, and certainly a band I will go out of my way to see again. I love it when bands excite and ignite on the night!

No disrespect to the opening bands, but The Spangles are in a different league entirely. As far as I’m concerned they have released the album of the year with ‘#Sweet FA’, and although there are imminent releases from The Wildhearts and Michael Monroe to come soon, The Spangles sure are contenders.

Was there ever any doubt that they could pull it off live? Nah, of course not. If you’ve ever seen The Main Grains or The Idol Dead do their thing, then you know what these guys are capable of, and with an arsenal of great songs under their leather belts, it’s a given that it will be an entertaining set at least.

From the opening chords of ‘Growing Up’, it’s raw, tight and exciting. Ever smiling guitarist Ben Marsden takes lead vocals for the majority of the set and does a mighty fine job. The Idol Dead singer Polly Phluid looks comfortable with a bass strapped on, the pair even has matching black Hagstrom guitars and a shirt & waistcoat combo going on. Behind them, drummer Ginna keeps the beat and delivers great backing vocals as always.

‘Get Over Yourself’ follows, the first of many infectious shout-along choruses that make this Spangles show seem like a greatest hits set. Honestly, there is not one average song tonight, let alone a bad one.

As the energy levels rise, so do the heat levels, as the drunken packed room get rowdy, so do the band. I didn’t pay attention to the song order they played, as I was having too much fun watching and singing along. Suffice to say they pretty much played the whole album, plus a few choice covers including The Sonics ‘Have Love Will Travel’, which was up there with Crazyhead’s version.

Singer Eloise Kerry joins them for a few tracks including awesome bubblegum -infused renditions of ‘One Good Reason’ and ‘Hold My Hand’. All their songs sound ace live, and the crowd already know the words. From the bubblegum pop of ‘The Only One’ to the heavier chanting choruses of ‘Back On The Meds’ and killer Ramones tribute ‘Ramone’, these are songs designed to make you smile and make you sing, job done.

Comedy banter between band and audience flows nicely; all three have always had a good rapport with their fans. The chants of “Rory! Rory!” are swiftly put to bed by a smiling Ben, as he jokes about going home tonight with the Damp bass player, who also happens to be his former bandmate. Ginna and Ben even manage to slag each other off mid-song, during Green Day’s ‘FOD’, in the middle of singing and playing.

As we reach the climax of the show, a visibly emotional Ben can barely sing the chorus of the magnificent single-to-be ‘I Don’t Wanna Go’, a concerned Ginna watches his every move and has his back, covering the chorus when he can.

 

Hot and sweaty, exciting and euphoric, The Spangles delivered maximum rock ‘n’ roll tonight, in a pub in Harrogate, and I’ll wager no music venue has been that packed in Harrogate for a long time. This time last year they weren’t even a band, this time next year, who knows where they will be. Three eclectic local bands for 6 quid, who said rock ‘n’ roll is dead?

 

Author: Ben Hughes

Photographs: Neil Vary 

South Yorkshire band Hands Off Gretel deal in 90’s Grunge swagger, deliver riotous live shows and have enough bubblegum hooks to scale the top of the charts baby! It’s no surprise to find their Pledge Campaign for sophomore long player ‘I Want The World’ currently sits at a staggering 230%. Not bad for a relatively unknown and completely independent band.

We caught up with lead riot grrl Lauren Tate to get the lowdown on all things pink and girly and find out exactly what she’s been up to, locked up in her bedroom all these years.

 

 

Your pledge campaign reached 100% in under 24 hours. Were you expecting such a quick response? Ah, dude! It was crazy, we were all sat hitting refresh every second, it was so exciting! I’ve teased the album for a while; people were ready and willing to pre-order it. I was blown away that we hit it so fast though, it really gives me so much hope for the future of independent music. 

 

Your new album is entitled ‘I Want The World’ …so what’s the message there then? ‘I Want The World’ is about how I’ve felt since I was a little girl. I’ve always felt shushed and muted, with everyone always telling me to shut up or stop being unrealistic, leaving me constantly thinking of ways to give everyone who doubted me or ridiculed me the middle finger.

‘I Want The World’ feels like my rebellion. I’m chewing gum, I’m not smiling because someone told me to, I’m not just being a nice pretty girl, I’m fucking angry sometimes and I deserve more, be it friendships or respect from others without being patronized. ‘I Want The World’ to me, means ‘I deserve more than this world is gonna give me and I’m gonna kick and scream until I get what I want’!

You’ve always been an independent DIY band, handling all the artwork, design and even producing the videos. Why choose now to go down the PledgeMusic route? The Pledge route to me is the best way for independent artists to self-release their music. It shows there is demand for your music, that your fans believe in you without needing a label to put it out for you. With Pledge too, you’re giving fans exclusive content. You can get personal with them, which would never be an option signed under a label. I’m not saying getting signed is a bad thing, I think if you’re wanting to be world famous it’s easier to be signed than it is to get there independently. But until the right deal comes along on my terms, I have no interest in searching for a record label.

 

Recent singles ‘Kiss Me Girl’ and ‘S.A.S.S.’ suggest a more commercial direction and a definite sense of stepping things up a level. Was this the intention when setting out to write the album? The first album I ever wrote was our first album. Before then I’d written a few acoustic songs here and there, but I’d never done an album before. Since that point in 2017 I’ve learnt so much about myself playing live and working with song formulas, that this time around I was just naturally better at composing songs. I knew more about what kind of artist I was too, without worrying about what anyone else wanted me to be. Songs like ‘Kiss Me Girl’ and ‘S.A.S.S’ came to me almost instantly, it was a very natural progression for me mixing more of a melodic pop sound with distorted heavy fuzz guitars, creating the newer sound we have now.

You’ve gone through a few line-up changes in the past, which is not unusual for an upcoming band finding their feet. Going by recent performances, you are certainly at your strongest live right now. With the addition of Becky on bass, does it feel like the band are now a cohesive unit? Yeah, I mean it’s bound to happen within bands. I’ve always been honest, I wear my heart on my sleeve and if anything feels wrong I gotta speak up about it. I think people who judge bands for having lots of line-up changes should try spending tour after tour with the same people without going nuts. You find out very fast if you can spend that much time with another human and with us, whenever anyone has left the band, it’s always made the line-up stronger because you can’t force something that just isn’t meant to be.

You recently toured with The Virginmarys, how did you go down with their fan base and were their fans even aware of Hands Off Gretel before seeing you live? Weirdly, we had a load of cross-over fans I didn’t even know about. I was announcing us each night imagining nobody knew us, but the majority of the crowd knew the songs. We picked up loads of new fans from those shows, it was a blast. The Virginmarys boys and their tour crew were lovely; we were saying we would defo do some shows with them again.

What’s your favourite venue to play? I’d say one of my favourite is my hometown venue The Old School House in Barnsley. The stage is a great size, same with the room and the sound rocks! We’ve played plenty of shows there which always sell out. 

Lauren, you have become a bit of a role model for alternative girls, tackling issues in your lyrics that the mainstream avoids and advocating women being authentic, strong and true to themselves. Still, in this day and age, there is a lack of truly great female fronted rock ‘n’ roll bands out there. Why do you think this is and do Hands Off Gretel have the power to help change this? Sure, yeah. It’s always great to motivate and inspire young women. Growing up, I looked up to my biggest role model P!nk and I held onto her every word. She changed my life and she’ll never know that. It’s small changes that change the world, one individual at a time. I believe yes, 100%, I alone can contribute to a better future for girls and boys.

All my life I’ve been talked down to by ‘authority figures’ and teachers and made to feel like I couldn’t achieve even a quarter of what I have up to now. I’ve played with lots of women in bands, they are everywhere in the underground scene, just ready and waiting to break out to the mainstream rock stations and festival line-ups that still are mostly all-male bands. I think everyone realises now, with social media being a wonderful platform, that there is inequality still to challenge in society, and as long as people continue to speak out about this and create platforms for these passionate, angry women to have a voice, the world will have no choice but to listen. 

You’ve had abuse from girls in the past online, but do you ever get heckled at gigs, and if so what’s the weirdest experience? I’ve had abuse from everyone online! It just hurts like hell when it’s a girl because I believe so passionately that women should bring each other up. People love to believe I’m a bitch, I think they really want me trip up and fall flat on my face because things are going well for me. I’ve had it all my life with teachers and kids at school, I’ve done this independently for so long without any mentoring or help. I know all eyes are on me when it comes to trolls and haters online and I’m determined to prove them wrong. Haha YES!!

One time this man wanted to buy pictures of my feet for $500, but he wanted me to give him a free sample, then he intensely stalked me and created multiple profiles attacking me with insults and threats online because I said I didn’t want to suck my own toes for money,  that was weird haha! Gigs are alright though; I think the biggest stalkers and dick pic charmers prefer to stay behind the keyboard!

What was the best year for music in your lifetime? I pretty much missed all the ones my dad talks about seeing, as I wasn’t born until ‘97. It gives me hope though, I feel sorry for kids growing up having to listen to their parents banging on about the good old days. Sure the music back then was raw and brilliant and most of my favourite bands never made it past 1999, but I’m focused entirely on the current time and this generation of music because this is my generation. I’m so excited when I hear amazing bands that nobody knows about, being in a crowd of 10 watching something spectacular before everyone else knows about it.

At what point after you were born did you discover who you were? Probably around 14 years old, when I chopped off all my hair and started listening to The Distillers. Before that point I was totally lost, trying to be popular, trying to fit in listening to N-DUBZ, I was so chavvy it’s unreal. I cut off my hair and became hated at school, it was the most freeing thing I’ve ever done.

When you hear the word ‘successful’, what comes to mind? I think of being in a position where I don’t have to suck anyone’s wrinkled balls to get what I want. I mean, I’d never do that hahaha but I think of success meaning ‘I am now a boss bitch’, I think of finally being respected by those that have ignored me in the past and continuing to be authentic, making a living off my own self-built empire.

If you could have a drink with anyone alive or dead, who would it be and what would you drink? I’d sit in my music room with Freddie Mercury and ask him what his last thoughts were as he died. Did he feel quenched by his life, did he reach his goal? I obsess over death, it’s my biggest driving force because I’m so afraid of my time being up and not being finished with my creations. We’d drink a little vodka and cry together.

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Author: Ben Hughes

Mansun’s debut album ‘Attack Of The Grey Lantern’ came out 21 years ago, yet it only seems like yesterday that a mate shoved a hand-scrawled C90 in my hands and said: “You’ll love this new album, it sounds like Duran Duran meets The Manics”.

It did sound like that and I did love it! Haunting and melodic, deep and cinematic, how the hell did an Indie band from Chester have the balls to release an ambitious concept album as their debut slap bang in the throws of Britpop? They were the outcasts of the Indie music scene, the music press hated them, they didn’t fit in, but I loved them. The album debuted at number 1, they lasted 3 albums and split never to be seen again. Yet 21 years later, ‘Attack Of The Grey Lantern’ remains one of my favourite albums of all time.

 

Now, seemingly a lifetime later, singer/songwriter Paul Draper returns. Following a rather cool debut solo album named ‘Spooky Action’ and a successful full band tour last year playing ‘AOTGL’ in its entirety; he goes out on the road with guitarist Ben Sink playing acoustic shows. Mansun songs acoustic! Well, with a show announced at The Crescent in York, just a stone’s throw from my house, it would be rude not to turn out and see if the guy who wrote one of my all-time favourite albums has still got it after all these years, wouldn’t it?

 

Following a set of sweet and chilled folk songs, mixing fiddle, ukulele and keyboards courtesy of Flo Perlin, Paul Draper and Ben Sink take to the stage with their guitars, a few bottles of beer and a few hundred fans for company. Draper, dressed in a black t-shirt and denim jacket, a full beard and his hair now grown out, is a stark contrast to the skin up pin-up of 1997, but hey aren’t we all? That was 20 years ago, but the voice, that voice is still intact.

What follows is a choice set of solo songs, Mansun hits and obscure b sides. Enough to whet the appetite of even the most casual of Paul Draper fans. Of course, there is always one, one pissed-up heckler who tries, albeit unintentionally, to ruin the whole night. But Paul just takes the piss out of him in good spirits. He’s pissed, yet obviously, an Uber fan who sings along (badly and out of tune to every single word to every song, fair play). Paul jokes and asks him to shut up many times, as he’s singing so loud, he can’t hear himself to key in.

 

Tonight’s opener ‘Friends Make The Worst Enemies’ is a highlight from last year’s ‘Spooky Action’ and it sounds great. With years in the wilderness, Paul’s voice has been kept in great condition and he hits all the notes no problem.

I was interested to witness how Mansun songs transferred in this intimate acoustic environment, stripped of the layers of production, vocal harmonies and guitars, the songs stand up surprisingly well. ‘Disgusting’ sounds as beautiful as the album version, the following ‘Negative’ from ‘Six’ is an unexpected highlight, it sounds amazing acoustic, Paul’s voice hitting those high notes to perfection, it loses none of its upbeat intensity and grandiose charm.

‘The Chad Who Loved Me (probably the greatest opening song of any album) is as good as I hoped it would be and ‘Legacy’ is epic as I remember it.

 

Paul is on fine form, telling stories and jokes between songs, as he swigs on beer and sucks throat pastels. Either taking the piss out of the heckler (“he’s probably wearing a Shed 7 t-shirt”), Ben (“he’s doing Movember, you know”) or himself. He even tells, us prior to performing a rarity from the unreleased fourth album sessions (‘Keep Telling Myself’), how Mansun came to an end after an unnamed member of the band head butted him.

 

The new material fits perfectly with the older Mansun classics, the likes of ‘Things People Want’ getting just as much audience participation as the classic ‘Wide Open Space’ does.

In this intimate setting, stripped of all the production, these songs are laid bare and Paul’s lyrical genius is pushed to the fore. The combination of Paul singing and strumming chords as Ben watches his leader intently for the changes, recreating Dominic Chad’s intricate lead work is sublime to witness in the flesh. After a short break, the duo return for an encore of the seminal epic ‘AOFTG’ closer ‘Dark Mavis’, which remains a set highlight long after the lights have dimmed and the crowds have wondered from the bar.

 

Paul Draper remains an underrated songwriter who has never got the credit he deserves, but then I’ve always loved an underdog. While it looks like a Mansun reunion will never happen, Paul Draper is here performing songs that stand the test of time and prove Mansun were always more than just another Britpop indie band. A beautiful experience.

Author: Ben Hughes

Buy Paul Draper Here

 

2018 is quickly running out of weeks and before we know it we’ll be crashing into 2019 and another year of new records and great bands to see. Before everything blurs into one we have to reflect on what happened last week never mind last year so the final week of November saw RPM review some amazingly talented artists like the brand new up and coming force of nature that is Nikki Hill and her album ‘Feline Roots’. 

As well as the new talent we also welcomed back the return of US Bombs with their long player ‘Road Case’  

There was also musical collaborations that we found really appealing like The wicked EP by The Dahlmanns that we would highly recommend you check out and seeing as its Christmas why not give yourself a little treat.

Whilst on the live front RPM were present for the umpteenth show from the amazing UK Subs who are forever on tour as are The Quireboys but it was the line up of Helldorado that really caught our imagination as Europe seems to have really hit paydirt as far as the amazing line up goes. With top turn after top turn hit the stages and RPM was there to regale the magic for our readers.

Interviews we had them as well as Leigh spoke To Mike Christie about Guitars, Amps and general Guitar related Tech and we also caught up with Sal from Electric Frankenstein to hear all about his compilations and a general EF chat. On the feature front, Ben continued his adventure across the West coast of America and managed to catch a few live shows whilst he was talking in what Frisco, Vegas and LA had to offer.

Anyway enough looking back how about looking forward and this coming week on RPM we’ve got plenty of live action coming your way from some of our favourite bands still making music as well as some tasty new albums as well as a bunch of reissued classics you might have missed out on first time but now is your chance to pick em up. So we welcome December with a cheeky snap from He Who Cannot Be Named for you and as always Stay Sick and keep it RPM. Til next week that is.

 

Day 10 – Downtown, near death experiences and magic shows

 

With yet another belly full of bacon and eggs, we take a cab to Downtown Vegas for some exploration. Away from the strip, Freemont Street is where it all started and its home to most of the Casinos. Since I’m not into gambling that stuff doesn’t really appeal but it’s good to explore the casinos, the shops and watch the street life.

Street entertainers are still setting up their spots for the day, all sorts of bizarre acts, from an old man in a thong and an obese man, sat on a throne in a bikini, onto a kid doing Michael Jackson moves and magic tricks, there is something for all persuasions.

A visit to the Mob Museum is a bit of a letdown compared to the Alcatraz experience a few days ago.  Housed inside a former federal courtroom, the Mob Museum has some very cool artefacts on display. Various guns and items belonging to the likes of Al Capone and even the actual brick wall from the Valentine’s Day Massacre.

While it offers an invaluable history of the Las Vegas mob movement, there is a lot of information that is just there on boards to read and to be honest I can’t be arsed with all that, I want to look at stuff!

We decide to walk back to The Strip via the business district, heading for Dino’s, a bar that has been recommended to us. I wonder if it’s the Dino’s Bar & Grill that Phill Lynott sang about. To say the areas we walk through look dodgy is an understatement, in hindsight we maybe should have taken a cab, but at the end of the day we didn’t get shot, so it’s a win! We walk past really sleazy strip joints and drive-thru wedding chapels where people are actually getting married by Elvis.

Dino’s is actually a very cool bar. Its quiet here, as it’s not even noon, come night-time I imagine it would be a different story. Refreshed, we get an uber back to The Strip for more exploration.

We find the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co restaurant for lunch, yet more amazing seafood. And explore the hotels on The Strip. Tonight we have booked to go and see the Penn & Teller magic show at the Rio Hotel & Casino, so we still have some time to kill. To be honest, it’s been a hectic trip and Vegas is mental, I feel like a rabbit trapped in the headlights here and feel Vegas is maybe a holiday that should be done separately from everything we have already experienced. I think maybe we are a bit burnt out, but a foot long, frozen margarita with extra tequila shots certainly does the trick.

The Hotel New York New York has a roller coaster on top of it. I hate roller coasters, they scare me to death. Sedd has been on it before, he loves it and says it is a rickety one and feels dangerous. Fuck it, we go on it. This is what this trip is about, doing the unexpected, the things you would not normally do. It’s scary as fuck, a white-knuckle ride. I hold on for dear life and think I’m going to die, it’s exhilarating and scary and I loved it, I will not do it again.

 

Penn & Teller have their own residency in Rio. They even have their own cocktail on sale at the bar. It’s expensive, but well, when in Rome and all that, it’s also very tasty.

There’s a guy playing Jazz on piano as we enter the theatre, which seems quite fitting. The magic show itself was disappointing to be honest.  The tricks were nothing special and seemed pretty run of the mill stuff, even down to pulling a rabbit out of a hat. For $100 a ticket I expected more, I expected to be thrilled but there was nothing that left me feeling “wow!”. It just seemed like they were going through the motions. Worth seeing if you are a fan but not essential.

 

Day 11 – Kiss crazy golf and farewell Vegas

We have a few hours to kill before the flight home. Just enough time to drive over to Rio Hotel (where we were last night) for a round of Kiss crazy golf! Kiss crazy golf you ask? Yes, at Rio there is a Kiss-themed attraction where you can play crazy golf on a neon course, a must for any rock ‘n’ roll fan to visit methinks.

The Kiss crazy golf is an indoor, 18 hole mini-golf course and it’s fully glow-in-the-dark. We have a round, the place is deserted and we have it to ourselves. There’s a gift shop and never before seen Kiss artifacts on display, guitars, basses and drum kits, even the car they gave to Eric Carr as a gift when he joined the band.

I wonder what it would be like to play golf here on mushrooms?  To be honest it’s trippy enough already without them. The gift shop is, of course, overpriced, so I just settle for a Kiss golf ball!

 

Job done, we head for the airport. Las Vegas was a wild end to our trip and I’m glad we didn’t go the other way and do it first. I think we did it the right way. We planned it fully and packed our days with as much as possible to get the most out of our experience. There was stuff we didn’t do, that was always going to be the case, there is only so much you can do in 10 days.

There were things we planned that didn’t happen. I wanted to get a tattoo, I wanted to visit a secret speakeasy and drink exotic drinks. We didn’t gamble in Vegas or ride a tram in San Francisco. I wanted to see big bands that never venture to the UK. I wanted to interview the likes of Sammy Hagar or Nikki Sixx. But the stars didn’t align for everything and that’s ok, as hopefully, we can do some of these things next time because there will be a next time.

When we return, we will skip Vegas and spend more time on the road between San Francisco and LA, but that is a future road trip that is still yet to be planned.

 

Author: Ben Hughes

 

 

Day 9 – Desert….more desert and Viva Las Vegas baby!

The drive across the Nevada desert to Las Vegas is about 4 hours and we have booked tickets to see Billy Idol at The House Of Blues tonight. So we hit the highway as soon as breakfast is done.

The thought of driving a left-hand drive car on the wrong side of the road through the middle of LA did not appeal to me at all and sent my anxiety levels through the roof, luckily Sedd has done it before, so I took the easy option and left him to it. But driving across the desert is one of the things I have been looking forward to the most, so I take my turn for a few hours.

I don’t know what I was worried about, driving US style is easier than I imagined and I wish I had done it sooner.

The scenery is stunning, yeah its miles and miles of desert and straight highways with mountainous terrain either side, but it’s great. If we had the time we would have veered off and explored for sure, but we had a schedule to keep. We stop at Peggy Sue’s Diner in Yermo. A proper 50s diner and it’s just as you would imagine. The place is stuffed full of 50’s memorabilia even down to the period menus and the waitress uniforms.

Statues of Elvis and The Blues Brothers look over as I tuck into a proper American burger and fries with endless coffee top ups. Opposite the diner is a road train that is just full of military tanks. Seems pretty random, just sat there in the middle of nowhere, seemingly waiting for a conflict to break out.

Just up the road is Calico ghost town. We can’t resist, gotta be some good photo opportunities there we reckon.

While it is a genuine old mining town, it’s geared to the tourists and not as cool as we were hoping. But it is interesting and there is some cool photo opportunities to be had.

 

Stop over, we head back on the road to Vegas. You see it in the distance as you approach over the long straight highway, the towering structures far off down in the valley. As you get closer, the lights and then the scale hits you as the buildings tower above you…and we are in it! The craziness that is Las Vegas.

We are staying at The Venetian, it’s the most over the top luxury hotel I have ever stayed in. The scale is just unbelievable, there is a river with gondolas that flows through it, the corridors to our room seems endless, like something out of The Shining, I expect to see twin girls at every turn.

We take to the streets and explore, and the only way I can describe it is like a festival. It’s like one big endless party, you end up with a sore neck as you spend the whole time looking up at stuff. There is so much to see, everyone is either drinking or eating or gambling and everyone is spending money, it’s all about money.

There are no homeless people in Vegas, or if there are they are well hidden. We dodge Mexican ‘flickers’ with their stacks of ‘tittie cards’, the streets are littered with discarded cards, during the night they will all be swept up and probably handed out again the next day. Chinese women collect discarded plastic bottles in massive black bags over their shoulders, they get paid out per bag I believe. Neon signs flash endlessly; horns beep endlessly and money changes hands endlessly. We get chatting to a suited guy outside our hotel, he’s half our age, he gives us his business card and tells us if we need anything to give him a ring. I’m sure he could hook us up with anything we wanted whether that be drugs, guns or women.

 

Did we eat an evening meal? I don’t think we did, all I remember next is getting a taxi to The Mandalay Bay hotel.

The House Of Blues is situated in The Mandalay Bay hotel where just 5 days earlier Stephen Paddock opened fire on concert goers and killed 58 people. As horrifying as that is, life in Vegas goes on as normal it seems. There seems to be no lasting atmosphere, the only constant reminder ‘#VEGASSTRONG’ that is emblazoned everywhere you turn.

Billy Idol is coming to the end of a 2-year residency at the House Of Blues and he has been mixing up the set nightly with his band. Tonight, he pays tribute to those that lost their lives just a few days ago during an emotionally charged set.

A white screen is lowered and a film of vintage interviews and performances plays out as an introduction before the curtains open and the band takes to the stage. Two choice covers bookend a greatest hits set from a finely tuned band.  ‘Viva Las Vegas’ seems the perfect opener and it’s a song that fits the Billy Idol set like a (leather studded) glove and ‘Money Money’ the perfect closer.

Fan favourite ‘Dancing With Myself’ is played early and newer tracks such as ‘Scream’ and ‘Can’t Break Me Down’ sit nicely up against the likes of ‘Blue Highway’ and ‘Eyes Without A Face’.

Billy Idol has aged gracefully, now in his early 60’s he still has the moves and the voice to wow his fans and still has the ability to work a crowd.

Back in the 80’s Steve Stevens was just the guitar player, 30 years later, the sidekick with the explosion of black hair, has his own t-shirts for sale on the merch stand and he very nearly stole the show.

Idol and Stevens have always been a great rock ‘n’ roll partnership. They have that certain chemistry. The frontman watches enthusiastically as the guitarist peels off lick after lick. Stevens has not one but two solo spots in the set, the first a very impressive acoustic solo that is flamenco-based yet aggressive as well. Guitar solos can be yawn-inducing at times, this is not one of those times. Both creative and impressive in equal measures.

‘Worlds Forgotten Boy’ the opening song from ‘Whiplash Smile’ is a highlight, as is the ever cool ‘Rebel Yell’. ‘White Wedding’ is played acoustic with the duo on their own for a verse before the rest of the band join them.

I never dreamed I would see Billy Idol play a gig in America, let alone in Las Vegas, This is a great end to our first night here.

Gig over, we head next door to the House Of Blues restaurant and eat amazing shrimps as a bar band play alternative 90’s covers by the likes of Sugar Ray and Weezer.

 

Author : Ben Hughes

Day 7 October 4th – GTA flashbacks, rock ‘n’ roll haunts and unexpected discoveries

Up early, we head for Santa Monica Pier. That iconic Ferris wheel is clearly visible in the early morning sun as we stroll across the deserted beach. Exploring the pier brings back GTA flashbacks again, they got it so right in San Andreas. The number of times I have walked down this pier in the game shot a bunch of innocent bystanders found a car and drove off into the hills being frantically chased by police cars and helicopters.

Back to reality, we grab a coffee and sit to do some people watching. Homeless people and drunks lay asleep, slumped over tables in the sun as Mexicans sell art and a Chinese guy plays hypnotic music on some exotic looking instrument. An Asian woman, older than her body suggests, dances continuously to the music blaring from the cafe speakers, she wears a tiny black bikini and with a constant smile on her face, seems oblivious to the world around her. This seems to be the general theme in LA. Everyone is in their own little bubble; interaction seems unlikely unless there is a transaction to be made. Take the restaurants, the beautiful people greet you with a smile and call you “sir”. They will do whatever they think you want for that extra dollar tip, the lower classes bring your food and I wonder who takes the tips.

 

We hire bikes and take the cycle path, a long stretch to Venice Beach. It’s still early morning for most LA residents and Jamaicans with t-shirt stalls and hippies with guitars are still setting up whatever it is they do for the day to make money. As we ride onwards, the fragrant smell of marijuana fills the air, now it’s legal over here, you see (or smell) it everywhere. We cycle past all sorts of strange looking characters from all walks of life.

We stop at a skate park and watch teenagers do their thing for a while, we dodge Jamaican street sellers, trying their hardest to sell you a CD of their latest ‘music’.

After lunch, we take the car out for a bit of sightseeing.  Driving in LA takes time and in hindsight, maybe taking a taxi or an Uber is the best way. One of the places on my list was the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, one of many cemeteries in LA where the rich and famous are laid to rest.

In this idyllic, reclusive escape from the craziness of LA, you can find the likes of Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Rooney amongst the graves laid out across the beautiful gardens, but the reason for my visit is Johnny Ramone and Chris Cornell, who are funnily enough laid right next to each other. My brother was a massive Cornell fan, I remember Dan playing ‘Seasons’ to me when he worked it out, that moment always stays with me and it was essential for me to just take a moment with my thoughts here.

 

Back when I originally booked this holiday, I presumed nearer to the time that we would have a whole host of bands to go check out at the various clubs on the strip. Turns out, sod’s law, that its slim pickings for a rock ‘n’ roll junkie the nights we have chosen to be in town. But we do find that Shooter Jennings is playing at The Whiskey A Go Go, so that will do nicely.

In a bizarre twist of fate, we cross paths with my gig-going buddy and ace photographer Marc McGarraghy, who is over here doing a similar road trip with his wife.

The venue is forever iconic in my mind from my teenage years. All my heroes played here, Van Halen, Motley Crue and Guns n’ Roses, it’s the stuff of legends. It is smaller than I imagined but very cool. With a 500 capacity it’s just the size venue I love, and after grabbing a beer, we turn to the stage and imagine what has gone down there over the years.

But that’s all history now and tonight we have four bands to watch. Openers Shelby Texas are a boy/girl duo with just a guitar, who play instantly infectious countrified tunes, Their voices are great together and their Cash/Carter influences even more evident with the inclusion of a cover of Cash’s ‘Jackson’.

I don’t know who Keith Jacob is and I have no desire to find out after tonight’s performance. The guy plays the cheesy sort of country-pop I hate, like Billy Ray Cyrus. Songs that go nowhere and lyrically mean nothing. His voice isn’t great and his stage presence at the same level. The guitar tech is a dwarf, no joke! And things get even more bizarre as the set goes on. He keeps bringing out stunning looking dancing girls who perform perfectly synchronised dance routines that do nothing to improve the fact that his songs suck! Why? Maybe one is his daughter or the guitar player’s girlfriend, or maybe they are just strippers. The mind boggles, but they are by far the best thing about his set.

The climax involves the girls onstage with flying v guitars, doing an ‘Addicted To Love’ style dance routine as two male dwarfs, complete with miniature flying v guitars jump about too! The most tripped out and bizarre performance I have ever seen and probably the worst. I’m still not convinced it actually happened.

 

Hellbound Glory is like a breath of fresh air after that performance. Fronted by the instantly likable Leroy Virgil, who looks like a Bee Gee in a bomber jacket, yet sings like a rock ‘n’ roll star in his prime. His band is tight, the rhythm section especially a well-oiled machine. Turns out they are actually Shooter Jennings’ band and this is the album release show for Virgil’s comeback album ‘Pinball’. An album produced by Jennings himself and featuring his own band, backing the Reno-based singer/songwriter. It seems Jennings has taken Virgil under his wing and got him back into the business of doing music.

The upbeat title track and the likes of ‘Another Bender Might Break Me’ are whiskey and cocaine-fuelled tales that showcase a quality songwriter on the edge of a few benders himself.

As his set ends he takes the front of the stage and pours his drink over his head, in a sort of ‘don’t give a fuck’ act of defiance. Take me as I am, he seems to be saying and we certainly will.

Hellbound Glory impressed and are an unexpected highlight of the evening that will have us talking long after this trip has ended. ‘Pinball’ is a must-have album for us right now.

 

Porn legend Ron Jeremy is in the room tonight, should I go up and tell him I’ve seen all his greatest movies?…probably not!  He takes the stage to introduce Shooter Jennings. What a band! The same players who backed Leroy Virgil, all the same apart from fiddle player Aubrey Richmond, who has changed from all black leather to a hippified, blue one piece for the headline set.

Shooter, dressed in a purple suit, shades ever present, stands behind a keyboard stage front for most of the set. Sometimes on keys, sometimes a guitar, it’s the bassist and fiddle player that the eyes are drawn to watch as the set unfolds.

The sound of Shooter Jennings is more in line with what the two of us have been listening to in recent times. A sort of Alabama 3 meets Nick Cave vibe with a touch of Johnny Cash. The band is tight, the songs flow and the packed room love it. The likes of ‘Electric Rodeo’ are soaked in Black Crowes vibes, catchy standout track ‘Outlaw You’, definite country but with added fiddle giving a folk edge to it.

We came to this show last minute, on a whim. Not familiar with the music of Shooter Jennings, we leave after a great night needing to check out the back catalogue, but it’s the support band Hellbound Glory who really leave a lasting impression long after the trip has ended.

 

Day 8 – Universal Studios, bucket list bars and future stars

 

Day 2 in Los Angeles is spent mostly at Universal Studios. The tour is essential, the themed rides vary in awesomeness, Sedd has been before and recommends we upgrade to fast-track entry to save time queuing good move. We get there as it opens and leave by 3 pm having done pretty much every ride. Most are 3D interactive rides, with 3D glasses, Harry Potter and Transformers offering the most thrills, a larger than life replica of Springfield is very trippy and a detailed replica of Hogwarts is not to be missed.

We then take a trip over to Laurel Canyon to find the house where Jim Morrison lived, check out the hippy country store next door and just take in the atmosphere. Cruise through the likes of Rodeo Drive, the chaotic traffic, the palm trees and the characters that you would only see in LA.

The evening brings a trip down Hollywood Boulevard to check out the bucket list rock ‘n’ roll bars. We find The Viper Room, intending to grab a quick beer and move on. We follow the black-walled corridors to the main room, a small room that is packed, everyone seemingly waiting for a band to take the stage. There’s a cool vibe in here, we soak it in, like The Whiskey last night and imagine the bands that have taken to that stage in the past.

Tonight is the album release show for a band called Disciples Of Babylon. Premiering tracks from the newly released ‘The Rise And Fall Of Babylon’. The guys have an epic, almost proggy sound. Rousing gang vocals on the likes of ‘Liberty’ and ‘Karma’ bring to mind 30 Seconds To Mars at their best. Frontman Eric Knight incites crowd participation time and again and does what’s needed to keep the packed in crowd ignited as guitarist Ramon Blanco pulls off stadium-sized licks to his side. They even throw in a choice Zep cover in the form of ‘Immigrant Song’.

Lyrically, a socially aware band who are in touch with the state their country is in, musically and sonically tight and professional, they seem to have the songs that matter. Worth checking out methinks.

We then head onto the Rainbow Bar & Grill. Again, it’s tiny and very cool. I don’t really know what I was expecting, glitz and glamour, maybe a rock star sighting or two? Truth is, these clubs are exactly the same as the clubs I frequent in the UK, small, great drinking bars that have the same atmosphere as Fibbers, as The Brudenell, as whatever club I go to watch bands in, the only difference is the location and then maybe the less famous clientele.

I would have liked more time in LA, but it’s just so freakin’ big! A lot bigger than I expected.  There is still so much we did not see, so the Hollywood sign, the Walk of Fame and the rest will have to wait until next time, as Vegas is calling.

 

 

Author : Ben Hughes