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Jason and the Scorchers – Oran Mor, Glasgow

On the first night of the Glasgow Americana Festival, the organisers Fallen Angels Club, have pulled off something of a coup. Jason And The Scorchers are celebrating their 30th year with a tour and tonight’s packed audience are in for a treat.  Continue reading

Whippet Out – Alejandro Escovedo

21st Century Jesus Howlin’ Whippet sets out in store of redemption – and finds it in the form of a genuine cult hero.

Alejandro Escovedo should be hugely famous, simple as that.

As a member of The Nuns, he opened for the Sex Pistols at their last ever show at The Winterland in San Francisco. He lived in The Chelsea Hotel with Sid and Nancy and witnessed their demise. He’s toured with Springsteen who, along with long-time friend, Joe Strummer, counts himself as a huge fan.

Tonight’s show, with full band, is a departure from Escovedo’s more recent solo acoustic endeavours.

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From the vault – Whiskeytown

Ryan Adams has been on the road this week and is playing Whiskeytown songs for the first time in his solo career. Still, you can’t beat the real thing, so here’s a very rare performance from 1997 of the classic ’16 Days’.

Jesse Malin – Brel, Glasgow

There is a snobbery amongst music fans that can best be described as ‘the thing that I know about and you don’t know about is better than the thing we both know about’.  It posits that the obscure is often better than the obvious. It’s elitist, it’s divisive and it’s often fun. It’s also often particularly vicious amongst people who would consider themselves to be serious music fans. After all, there’s not much point slagging a Pussycat Dolls fan and showing them the cover of Unknown Pleasures. They’ll just think you are mad.

Sometimes it is correct, such as when people who are fans of The Fall slagged people who are fans of Pavement. And sometimes it is nonsense, such as when people claim I Am Kloot are better than Elbow. Being better is not simply about having sold fewer records.

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The Friday 5 – Check shirts and pointy boots:5 Great alt.country bands

The mighty Uncle Tupelo

Well, my friends, if it hasn’t gone and happened again; yes, Friday has rolled around once more. It’s a time for the working man to put down his tools, to wipe the sweat from his brow and to relax. Well, traditionally anyway, what it generally means in these modern times is productivity drops to the floor, you decide that you’ll do it on Monday and you surf until 5 o’clock. Be honest. That’s why you are reading this. No wonder this country is in a mess. You make me sick.

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Renaissance Men – Ryan Adams and Musicians with Literary Pretensions

Ryan Adams has in the past appeared to be a young man with a very short attention span, given his prolific release schedule over the last decade or so. But it seems that he has finally grown bored of an endless release cycle, even incorporating the many different genres he has recorded in. In fact, music may well not have been his first love, and it won’t be his last (no, not the music of the future. Or even the music of the past.) “I always, always dreamed of being an author,” he said. “I never dreamed of being in a rock band, but the possibility of publishing a book – man, that was a serious dream of mine.” In January, Adams announced via his blog that he was taking a “step back” from the “music situation”. One of the reasons cited was an inner-ear problem that was causing him increasing amounts of distress; the other was to spend time furthering his literary ambitions (Or, as he blogged: “I LOVE writing – yay!”).

At 34, and after an abundance of solo records, next month Adams publishes Infinity Blues, a collection of free verse he describes as “reality coated by dreams”, with a novel and another volume of poetry, Hello Sunshine, in the pipeline. Bet you can’t wait for that, eh?

He enters a field populated by a fairly select band of musicians, most notably Nick Cave, Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, Leonard Cohen and Billy Bragg, who have written and published works of serious literary intent, aspiring beyond music criticism, memoir or autobiography. Similarly, Richmond Fontaine’s Willy Vlautin is probably better known for his novels than he is for his work with the Americana. And for some of the above, it seemed a natural progression. Bragg’s polemic on English history, Earle’s tales of low-lives and junkies, Cave’s deranged Western…..makes sense. But Ryan Adams?

The suspicion grows around the former Whiskeytown man that he’s merely a dilettante, never really settling down into one natural progression. Musically, he’s wandered between styles, always trying to get away from what he excels in (alt.country) and trying to be what he clearly isn’t (Springsteenesque Rock God.) It’s all very laudable, but this strikes ELM as just another variation on that theme. Just because he LOVES writing doesn’t necessarily mean he’s going to be much cop at it.

One to wait and see then.

Extreme Listening Mode’s Extremely Brief Guide to 2008 – Albums

Well, that was the year that almost certainly was. If anything, it proved that we do indeed live in historic times, and one suspects that when historians look back on this year they’ll conclude that it was the year when, pretty much, everything got fucked. It wasn’t all bad, of course. Barack Obama’s incredible rise to end the year as President Elect gladdened the heart. Oh, and Euro 2008 was good. That’s about it, really.

But at ELM, we’ve never allowed ourselves to be cloaked in the darkness enveloping the world, preferring to maintain a healthy glow of optimism. Except about Razorlight, obviously. And musically, 2008 has seen some absolutely beguiling sounds in amongst the murkiness. Here a selection of a few of our favourite things;

Barroom bohemia was very much back in vogue this year. The Hold Steady played pretty much solidly through 2008 in support of their superb ‘Stay Positive’ album. When the dust has settled, it was a consolidation album, but still widescreen enough to elevate it above most other releases this year. The Gaslight Anthem were like their younger brothers, no less enthralled by the Great American (Rock) Songbook but still with that splash of idealism that manifests itself in anger and accusations. We were much taken with their ‘The ’59 Sound’ album.

For those who like their Americana more dustbowl-baked, Lambchop’s ‘OH (Ohio)’ was a stunningly beautiful piece of work. Ryan Adams returned with ‘Cardinology’ which had its moments, but fell short of his turn-of-the-century high water mark. We also liked ‘Rustbelt Sun’ by The God Fearing Atheists, a gritty slice of UK Americana, if that’s not too great an oxymoron.

Elbow’s ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ seems to have come out a thousand weeks ago, but still remains one of the years best work. Nice to see the perennial underachievers get some mainstream success, although, of course, we’ll all pretend not to like them come March. Sigur Ros were at their unsurpassable best on ‘með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust’ which, while difficult to pronounce, was pretty easy to love.

Santogold provided us with possibly the year’s finest debut. From the savvy pop silverdust of LES Artistes’ to the new wave sheen of ‘Lights Out’ to the unbridled mentalness of ‘Unstoppable’ it really followed the three-ring circus theory of music; something for everyone. The Ting Tings proved that a couple of classic singles don’t always mean they are the advance guard of a classic album.

Ida Maria was an early live favourite of ELM, but her debut album lacked the earthiness of her early demos, instead settling for a Radio 1 friendly production sheen that actually pushed her towards MOR territory. Still, as she had hacked about every support slot going for 18 months, you can’t blame her for wanting to see a few records, but what could have been a deranged pop-punk classic instead disappointed.

Jenny Lewis returned with ‘Acid Tongue’ which, sadly, wasn’t as good as her debut ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’. Less time hanging about with the celebrity mates and more on writing decent songs might be the order of the day next year.

Growers were the first albums from Vampire Weekend and MGMT. The VW album in particular revealed itself slowly as an excellent piece of work. The MGMT album was at times guilty of over-ambition and an inability to just let things breathe, but when they got it right – such as on the classic trio of singles ‘Time To Pretend’, ‘Kids’ and ‘Electric Feel’ – there was a feeling that they’d made the kind of electro-pop shudder Alex Chilton may have done had he had access to samplers.

In terms of success, you had to hand it to Glasvegas, who sold many an album but never convinced us at ELM Towers. The next album will be the one that determines if they are one-trick ponies, as we suspect, or truly Spokesmen for their Generation, like the NME does. No matter what, he still came across as a dick on Never Mind The Buzzcocks.

For slightly left of centre treats, can we push you in the direction of Marching Band’s ‘Spark Large’, a lovely collection of harmonious, almost childlike acoustic joyousness. Army Navy’s album was also very worth checking out.

A late mention to the lovely Laura Marling for ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’ – folky, sweet and very addictive. Bon Iver deserves similar praise, though despite many attempts at it, I just could not get into Fleet Foxes. Different music but similar result was the new Portishead effort. Best of the old stagers was Spiritualized with their ‘Songs from A&E’, the same album they always made but done with polish.

And finally, to this years musical nadir; we hate to say it, but The Feeling’s ‘Join With Us’ made us want to hunker down in the basement to create a new strain of a dreadful disease which rendered society in a permanent state of mental paralysis. It really is that bad. However, it seemed like too much work, so we just ended up down the pub. But we still hope their tourbus breaks down in a remote country and they are left there forever.

Here’s hoping we get a good crop of albums next year!