It’s been six years since I last ventured into a Butlin’s holiday camp for one of their boutique music events, and vowing never to return after the last one, it was always going to take something very special indeed to get me hugging Billy Bear once again. So, the first thing that grabbed me about this 2020 Alternative Music weekend event in Minehead was the fact that we could now seemingly get a room for six cheaper than we could back in 2014, okay it’s an entry level chalet (kind of like what you expect when booking a Travelodge) but when that equates to £75 per person sharing (and when you have the likes of The Wildhearts, The Undertones and The Boomtown Rats all playing) you don’t have to be a maths genius to work out this is great VFM. So, just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in for another weekend of great music, chips and Flash anti-bacterial wipes.

FRIDAY

Arriving on site early and then being allowed to check into our room at 2pm means that our bedrooms are allocated out and the cans and vodka are soon flowing warming things up rather nicely for Duncan Reid & The Big Heads who are opening the festival’s Introducing Stage in Jaks bar. The irony of this for such an already established musician is certainly not lost on the great man himself when he declares that in another 35 years he hopes he can make it to Centre Stage, however hearing the likes of ‘Terminal Love’, ‘Brickfield Nights’ and ‘First Time’ being sung en masse by the packed out audience simply reinforces the fact that Duncan Reid & The Big Heads are already way ahead of where the promotor must think they are in the punk rock nation’s hearts, something that must be a very rewarding feeling for the band themselves too.

Wandering around the Skyline trying the find something edible before the evening gets into full swing it’s interesting to observe that there a far less stag/hen weekenders here than during my previous visit. It really does feel much more like a mini Rebellion and of course just like Rebellion I quickly realise (thanks to the event’s very useful mobile app) that I have the obligatory stage clashes to contend with, and this is my only real criticism of how these weekends are run. I realise why it is done, but seriously with a few little tweaks (maybe have venues sub-themed by genre?) I think this could possibly be made a lot easier on the punters many of whom are having to make some tough choices. So tonight, we have to choose between Goldblade who clash with Plague UK and then we have The Wildhearts who clash with Angelic Upstarts. Thankfully having not seen Goldblade live in quite some time my first choice is an easy one and I’m in Centre Stage long before their 8pm start to witness the recently reunited “classic” line up with Johny Vincent returning on guitar. Kicking off with a riotous ‘Fighting In The Dancehall’ and along the way slotting in classics like ‘Black Elvis’ and ‘Strictly Hardcore’ Goldblade simply don’t put a brothel creepered foot wrong during their eleven song set and closing things out with ‘Hometurf’ the guys really look like all conquering homecoming heroes as they leave the stage.

With The Wildhearts up next the crowd in Centre Stage thins out slightly as people appear to opt for the Angelic Upstarts option down in Reds (something Ginger himself later professes to being gutted not to be able to watch), but having sacrificed going to the band’s recent co-headline shows with Backyard Babies safe in the knowledge that I would soon be seeing the band play in front of a largely neutral audience there is only one place I want to be, and that’s pressed up again the barrier ready to immerse myself in the aural delights of the self-styled ‘Renaissance Men’ of British rock.  ‘Everlone’ leads us into a hour long masterclass in how to do this festival malarkey just right with the band mixing old classics (like the opener) with newer tunes (like the amazing ‘Diagnosis’) and in the process winning over a crowd who largely openly admit to having not heard anything by the lads before. It’s heart-warming to see the 7-legged hit machine smiling and enjoying themselves quite so much and when the final chords of ‘I Wanna Go Where The People Go’ ring out I along with many “new” fans simply wish this could go on all night. Please excuse this opportunity to use a cliché but right now The Wildhearts really are on ‘Top Of The World’, and it was worth every penny of my admission money just to witness this performance. In fact, I could almost go home, albeit I quickly remember we have two more days to go yet and Big Country are hardly going to be able to follow what preceded them. So, after a couple of songs from a very polished sounding version of a band I once saw giving the headliner a run for his money when I saw them supporting Elton John in Wembley Stadium, tonight its all about reliving their 80s former glory, something I’ll leave to their legions of dad dancing fans as I head off for a quick night cap ahead of day two.

SATURDAY

Given that a few of our gang had hit the vodka a little bit hard in the wee small hours it’s somewhat remarkable that two of us actually make it to Centre Stage in time for Knock Off to open up proceedings at half-past one. It’s also remarkable just how many others also achieve this feat as the place is packed out for such an ungodly hour on a Saturday afternoon. Knock Off guitarist and singer Andy Town might be unable to down his pint in one but he and the lads are soon ducking and diving their way through a truly memorable set littered with streetpunk/oi! anthems like the always amazing ‘This Ain’t No Love Song’ all spurred on by this early afternoon show of punk rock camaraderie.

As kick-off time comes and goes Centre Stage’s clientele changes from mohicans to mohair as Nine Below Zero play out a set of R&B standards with everyone seemingly waiting (myself included) just to hear ‘Eleven Plus Eleven’ just to see who can do the Rik from the Young Ones dance the best. In many ways watching Nine Below Zero here today was a lot like watching ZZ Top playing a mid-afternoon slot at some metal festival, they both exude coolness and charm that has everyone dancing, and that my friends is the secret to both band’s longevity in the music business.

In the search for something a little bit more frantic I head over to Jaks just in time to catch Nottingham’s Headstone Horrors who are barking out a mixture of hardcore and horror that in many ways has a lot in common with the likes Horrorpops and Dragster, and they go down an absolute storm with those sensible enough not to be watching a Clash tribute band over on Centre Stage. One of the guys in our gang picks up a CD and T Shirt for £15 so at least here in Jaks it’s great to see the bands keeping it real on the merch front. Please don’t get me started on the main stage prices.

After a few more cheeky ones watching the football results come in and then a quick bite to eat we are back in Centre Stage ready to greet Glen Matlock and band featuring the one and only Earl Slick on guitar. Playing a set of tunes mostly taken from his excellent 2019 album ‘Good To Go’ I have to admit I’m more than just a little star struck simply watching Slick do what he does best. The set highlight for me (just like on the album) is Matlock’s take on Scott Walker’s ‘Montague Terrace (In Blue)’ a song that just exudes class whilst finishing with a crowd pleasing ‘Pretty Vacant’ means this band are always going to be one of the most talked about following this weekend.

The clash of the stages is up again next with our gang splitting in half as some choose to stay in Centre Stage for all the fun of The Adicts whilst the rest of us cram ourselves into Reds early doors to catch The Undertones. At the top of this review I specifically mentioned The Undertones because they are a band who I initially didn’t get as a teenager. Now four decades on I absolutely love their back catalogue yet I’ve yet to see them live, until tonight that is. Granted Fergal Sharkey has long since retired from the microphone but I’d heard nothing but good things about his replacement Paul McLoone (he’s been fronting them for just over two decades now) and as the band hit the stage with ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ smack bang  on their nine thirty stage time I can see exactly why people rave about him (and them). Gambolling around the stage like a cross between Brett Anderson and Father Damo, McLoone is the perfect anthesis to Sharkey’s jumper and parka image, and with him singing their canon of hits with just enough of a hint of his predecessor the band achieve what so many other fail to do, replace the almost irreplaceable.

As for those songs its fantastic to finally hear the likes of ‘The Love Parade’ and ‘Here Comes The Summer’ live and when they can play a song as influential as ‘Teenage Kicks’ half way into their set and still not lose a single audience member after that you know you are witnessing something very special indeed. Just like The Wildhearts had done the night before The Undertones deliver an absolute blinder of a set, wrapping it all up with the essential pop punk anthem ‘My Perfect Cousin’, and everything in our troubled world feels right again.

Now shall I go and watch some more live music in the shape of Hung Like Hanratty or The Members or shall I head off into the night and have a few late-night snifters with the lads instead? Wait for me guys…I’ll have a large brandy.

SUNDAY

Waking early to sound of the local seagulls going ballistic over the first proper sunshine of the weekend, there’s only one thing to do to prepare us for our third and final day of live music, and a line up largely dominated by ‘80s UK Mod bands, and that’s to watch Jonas Åkerlund’s ‘Lords Of Chaos’, in fact I’m half toying with the idea of doing the final day corpse painted up I’m not entirely sure how well that would go down with the Ace Faces on camp as we head over to Centre Stage to catch From The Jam.

Breezing into our Sunday afternoon with ‘David Watts’ the sound levels are initially noticeably lower than for other bands and as a result Bruce Foxton and Co don’t so much hammer you to the wall with their energy as politely introduce themselves with a gentile handshake. How very British. It’s certainly great to hear the likes of ‘Going Underground’ and ‘Start!’ live but devoid of the adrenalin kick of the Weller years its all a bit too much like Big Country on Friday night for me and instead I head off to Jaks just in time to catch Pete Bentham & The Dinner Ladies.

Pete Bentham has been a regular feature at Rebellion for a good few years now but somehow I’ve never actually witnessed him live before today and whilst his band’s brand of artpunk might not be exactly my type of thing musically, what these guys have is set of songs (largely drawn from their ‘England’s Up For Sale’ and ‘This Is Kitchencore!’ albums) that you’d have to be a braindead moron not to enjoy. Easily the surprise band of the weekend for me, and I’ll be interested to see them live once again.

A band I’d been wanting to see live for quite some time now is The Blue Carpet Band so today is my chance to rectify that matter. Mixing pulsating rock ‘n’ roll beats with a garage punk attitude, in many ways The Blue Carpet Band are very much the band The Sick Livers always threatened to be.  ‘Back In The Trash’ sounds absolutely irresistible and ‘I Love The City’ almost wins the award for the best song of the weekend. I’ll hold off on dubbing them the best thing since sliced bread just for now though as I get the feeling the five-piece has even more to offer us via their second album due later in 2020, and I for one can’t wait to hear it.

Returning to our chalet for the last couple of tins we have left ahead of the final night’s stack of bands, and we have the March of the Mods to look forward to split across Centre Stage where The Chords are set to play whilst in Reds I can hopefully finally get to see Secret Affair live. To be honest it’s no contest though as after arriving early doors for Secret Affair they seem content just to be noodling away caught up in some acid jazz odyssey, so I quickly make a b-line for Centre Stage to watch the rest of The Chords who appear to be having the times of their lives and even though I don’t know a single song by them, they are still hugely enjoyable.

With The Boomtown Rats celebrating the imminent release of their first new studio album in thirty six years you can perhaps forgive Geldof and Co for opening with a couple of songs from said album (‘Citizens Of Boomtown’), and whilst drawing perhaps the second biggest Centre Stage crowd of the weekend it takes until the oldies for the floor to really start bouncing. ‘Rat Trap’ still sounds like the best Springsteen song he never actually wrote (or played) and if ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ wasn’t already on everyone’s Spotify playlist before tonight then it most certainly would be come the morning.

It would be oh so easy to take a caustic swipe at Sir Bob especially after his toys out the pram “black t-shirt” episode with the crowd at Rebellion a few years ago, but really (the godawful 30 years too late ‘The Boomtown Rats’ rave tune aside) tonight is a great mix of old and new and the near perfect way to end the weekend. Yup I know The Stiffs and The Rezillos are still to play, but I’m absolutely knackered and need my pit, even if my roommate is already crashed out and is in the process of single handily gazumping all comers in the Butlin’s loudest snorer competition.

Thinking back to the last time I attended The Great British Alternative Music Festival I posed myself the simple question of “would I attend again?” and at that time I suggested that I might if some new bands be added so we could all take a break from the almost relentless emotional tourism of the nostalgia acts. Well, the Introducing stage proved to be the perfect answer to this call, so answering that same question six years on my answer would be a resounding “YES”. Now if only someone could sort out those stage clashes eh!

Author: Johnny Hayward

There were a couple of recent(ish) episodes of the superb YouTube series ‘Produce Like A Pro’ that featured Roger Joseph Manning Jnr talking with the host Warren Huart about how Jellyfish recorded their wonderful ‘Bellybutton’ and ‘Spilt Milk’ albums. Within each of the enthralling episodes (a must-watch for music nerds everywhere, trust me) Roger revealed how the band would always go back to one other band’s music to sense check if what they were doing was right – and if it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for us kind of thing -and (spoiler alert) that band was the greatest band to ever come out of Swindon, XTC.

 

So, what the hell has this got to do with the third studio album from Willie Dowling and Jon Poole I hear you ask? Well, Jellyfish and their influences are exactly the right place from which to start this review, not least because ‘See You See Me’ opens with a title track that welcomes the listener in like some long lost friend of the masters of 90s bubblegum pop, a band who introduced a whole new generation of us to the delights of Supertramp, The Beach Boys and the Raspberries amongst many others.

 

Where The Dowling Poole perhaps now have the slight edge on Jellyfish is that they have almost three decades of new influences that they can channel into their songwriting and that’s why whilst ‘The Product’ might sound at times like an in his prime Elvis Costello its comes complete with a haunting Rialto (remember them?) like harmony vocal refrain and sounds just like the guys had Missy Elliott helping out behind the desk. It really shouldn’t work, but by God it does.

 

Likewise, ‘Keeping The Stupid Stupid’ has that Marilyn Manson patented march as a backbeat but over it, Dowling and Poole sounds more like the modern-day Squeeze, and without a doubt things are certainly very cool for these cats.

 

Then there’s the white soul of recent video/single ‘Hope’ a song so fantastic you could just imagine Robert Palmer or Prince having it on one of their mega Platinum selling records. In fact, it’s a song I’d love to hear Jarle Bernhoft get to grips with one day. Now that really would be one hell of a collaboration.

 

Elsewhere ‘Made In Heaven’ suddenly has me looking for the Andy Partridge co-write credit on the press sheet, and ‘Human Soup’ has me thinking that The Dowling Poole might just be the ideal support act for Crowded House’s UK return this summer, and at the same time ‘Alison’s Going Home’ suddenly makes me want to go dig out those classic Head Automatica albums all over again.

 

Lyrically on point throughout the album, there are those who will argue that politics (however subliminal they might be) should be kept out of music, but when the songs are as joyous as those contained here on ‘See You See Me’ you’d have to be a total moron not to appreciate the social context in which these tracks are being written. Oh, and for those of you thinking “all he’s done here is reference other bands in his review”, just look at those bands, XTC, Jellyfish, Elvis Costello and Squeeze. I’m sure that’s a quartet of artists Willie Dowling and Jon Poole won’t mind sharing some review space with.

 

So, with their former Wildhearts bandmates justifiably receiving plaudits galore for their ‘Renaissance Men’ album, ‘See You See Me’ whilst an altogether different beast, is every bit as great as that record. The million-dollar question I suppose though is will you be brave enough to make the purchase leap when it’s released at the end of February? Go on I dare you – and who knows – perhaps in just a few years’ time we may be watching Willie and Jon doing their very own ‘Produce Like A Pro’ webisode, because to my ears ‘See You See Me’ is absolute powerpop genius.

Buy ‘See You See Me’: Here

Author: Johnny Hayward

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A lot can change over the course of three years. The debut full length by the Glam Skanks rocked my musical world with its mix of 70’s glam and glitter influences mixed with classic rock, hard rock, and a healthy dose of attitude. After living with the album for quite some time, it became the first review I ever wrote so it carries that special memory with me as well. Since that time, charismatic vocalist Ali Cat left the band during the end of the touring cycle for the album with her replacement Vanessa McNiel joining, and the band continuing to tour. I was shocked at the change because I feel Ali just has “it,” that star quality that so few possess. Vanessa had huge shoes to fill for my musical taste, and I had totally unfounded concerns in my head soon after the change that this would be the end of that special musical connection I felt with the band. My hunch is the members spent the time touring and discovering that they have a great chemistry with Vanessa as well, whose excellence I will champion throughout this piece. Another key change in the world involved the presidency here in the United States and several things that have come to be due to current policies. Lyrically, there have been some changes where the band have some songs spell out exactly how they feel. With ‘Glitter City,’ some of the lyrics dealt more with interpersonal relationships and the bad things that can happen to people when they treat others poorly (‘Karma’ and ‘Bad Bitch’ for example); the band has successfully addressed much larger social issues on this album. The Glam Skanks have come forward to remind us that not only are they one of the best up and coming bands, but they are also one of the best bands period.

A gradual fade in introduces ‘No Way to Live’ which carries with it some AC/DC edge in the verses combined with some 70’s glam accents on the end of the chorus that really give the song more character and a Glam Skanks stamp on it. Veronica stands tall as one of my favorite guitarists as she lays down the riff and resists the urge to overplay on songs. This lead song immediately told me that things would be a little different than their debut. While I have heard their lead single from the album many times, I did my best to black it out while listening to the album.  Vanessa gets some open verses to highlight and make her voice known. Her voice fits the band perfectly, and you will be singing along with her by the last chorus. ‘How Do You Sleep at Night?’ features a great riff by Veronica with a nice groove being laid down by Millie (bass) and Jessica (drums). Sound-wise, the band has perhaps channeled more 70’s rock than glam on the album, but this is quite simply timeless in its execution. The chorus on this one is not complicated, but it has enough to become addictive without feeling repetitive. Vanessa uses a combination of power and a lighter touch in her vocal as she encourages the listener to pay attention and take action in the world. Another awesome riff and groove feature in ‘Push and Pull Me (like you do)’ features one of my favorite hooks on the album and provides a great showcase for Veronica to lay down a great guitar solo.

‘Anything in Between’ follows and is another hard rock gem with the band expertly explaining why gender norms are not necessary and up to each person. This is another great chorus that immediately demands to be sung while the guitar riff is part Aerosmith, part NWOBHM (think Def Leppard and not Diamond Head), and pure excellence. ‘Jurassic Snark’ comes from the same musical well as ‘Karma’ from their debut with the slow hard burning blues putting the emphasis on the power. It provides a great close to the first half of the album as each musician gets to shine on this one.

First single/ video ‘Time Warp Woman’ opens the second half of the album, and, while it took a couple listens for me, this is another great hard rock song with another anthem for a chorus. I love that beat that Millie and Jessica lay down with the piano in the mix really highlighting that this song comes from the ’70s by way of today. It is a brilliant melding of musical worlds. The vocals in the bridge are a highlight from the album, even if I wish it stretched out a bit more, as well with the band showing yet another side to their sound. The band then change gears with a slower early Alice Cooper vibe giving way to a sizzling performance by Vanessa on the vocals where her tone and feel recall a big ballad approach. This combination with some tasteful backing vocals give the song a unique approach. It also continues to show that the Glam Skanks are not going to be boxed into any categories. They showed incredible diversity on ‘Glitter City’ and have continued to show they do not want to make songs that all sound alike, but they also all have this common DNA which let’s us know that we are listening to the Glam Skanks. Their albums become a journey where you do not want to just listen to a song or two, you want to hear them all because they all bring something different to the experience. The band bring together decades of rock n roll with the ‘Spirit of Rock n Roll’ recalling many trailblazers from the past, similar to ’29 x the Pain’ by the Wildhearts. The guitar solo comes from the spirit of Chuck Berry with the band also musically recalling everyone from the likes of David Bowie, T.Rex, and Suzie Quatro.

The last two songs go deeper lyrically with today’s social media dominated world being address in ‘Who’s Watching Who?’ where the band questions our goldfish bowl type approach to life. The bluesy groove fits the song perfectly with the pre-chorus setting up a great hook. Veronica lays down another great solo which is short on the album but could be a great opportunity for an extended one live. Final track ‘Land of the Free’ features spoken word style vocals as the current story of the southern border of the United States is told. The band brings many elements to the table here with the initial samples at the beginning and the chorus of voices near the end of the song being joined by some punk spirit that reminds us of how varied and deep the Skanks are in their approach. The closing sample again reminding us of our civic responsibilities to do what needs to be done.

‘Glitter City’ was a landmark debut for me, and I was honestly afraid this album was doomed to fail when the change in singers happened. I have seen drummers come and go in the band more frequently than Spinal Tap, so those changes have not rattled me. The musical combination of Veronica and Millie is quite simply magical. Ali brought with her strengths and contributions which will always be amazing; Vanessa has demonstrated that she fits the band equally well with her own unique abilities. The old adage that a sophomore slump is to be expected because of the length of time artists have to create their debut versus the follow up can be thrown out the door here. The Glam Skanks have continued to grow and develop as artists while creating 10 new songs that do not copy what they did before but instead also provide them with 10 more songs that can be used in the live setting to highlight their diversity. In a year with so many great albums being released this summer, it takes a lot to take up musical residency on my system, but this one has joined the rotation with the likes of the Wildhearts, Poison Boys, Dogs D’amour, Darts, Geoff Palmer, and the Sweet Things. Rock n roll is truly alive and well.

‘Anything in Between’ is available now.

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Author: Gerald Stansbury

 

 

Ginger Wildheart – solo artist and frontman of rockers The Wildhearts – has re-launched his own record label – the label he formed back in 1994.

And to celebrate, Ginger is releasing ‘G*A*S*S* MK II’ on double gatefold sleeve vinyl, Compact Disc and Direct Download.

The album features 13 songs recorded as part of Ginger’s 2014 year-long ‘G*A*S*S* project, which saw the prolific songwriter record and release three songs every month direct to fans who subscribed to the project (subscribers also received additional demos, artwork and stories written by Ginger).

After the year was up, Ginger released ‘Year Of The Fanclub’ a CD and vinyl which featured a collection of songs from the project.

‘G*A*S*S* Mk 2’ is the second coming.

Ginger Wildheart – GASS MK II

Says Ginger:

“‘Year Of The Fanclub’ represented some of the popular highlights but omitted some of my very favourite compositions. ‘G*A*S*S* Mk 2’ represents what I consider to be the best of ‘G*A*S*S*, those little gems where planets aligned, musicians excelled and words seem to hit targets.”

The 13-track album is only available direct from Ginger’s website and will be released on CD and double gatefold vinyl.  All the tracks have been remastered especially for the compilation by Dave Draper (Ginger Wildheart, Terrorvision, Ryan Hamilton) and the artwork has been realised by Rich Jones (Michael Monroe, The Black Halos, The Loyalties).

The album features hand written liner notes by Ginger too.

In addition to ‘G*A*S*S* Mk 2’, Round Records will also be shortly reissuing The Wildhearts’ 2007 self-titled album, as well as a brand new solo album from Ginger.

Pre-order for the ‘G*A*S*S* Mk 2’, album are here:

Round Records Here