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The New Mendicants – Mono, Glasgow

Norman Blake (left) and Joe Pernice

Norman Blake (left) and Joe Pernice

Two of the finest songwriters of the last 20 years collaborating on a new project was something our sonic Preacher Howlin’ Whippet had to check out. And as a man who’s seen his fair share of angels while running from the Devil, he was uniquely placed to tell us whether it was a match made in Heaven or should go straight from Hell.

Finding themselves as neighbours in Canada, Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake and Joe Pernice of Pernice Brothers/Scud Mountain Boys fame have embarked on an acoustic tour of these shores, with stories, anecdotes and songs from weighty back catalogues.

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New to you – Poor Things

483396_633233053357665_838308126_nNostalgia is a bastard. Things were never what they used to be and it’s silly to keep harping back to some imagined era when everything was as you want it. There’s a reason for that and it’s because it only exists in your mind.

But 90s guitar bands were better than today’s that’s just a fact. No, it is. Shush.

Let me explain; it wasn’t that every band was great, or that every modern one is rubbish. Indeed, thanks to the wonders of Spotify you can find some wonderful music you probably wouldn’t have access to. But in the 90s, weird stuff was mainstream. Teenage Fanclub, Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. had hits. Actual, chart hits. They were on Top of the Pops. There was a Top of the Pops. Radio One was actually, genuinely, really good. Sigh….

So things have changed, and Perth 3-piece Poor Things may never get to hang out in the Met Bar, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are really, really good. Charmingly angular pop which will resonate with anyone who has ever drank a pint of cider – with no fucking ice – in a grotty mosh pit wearing a Nirvana t-shirt. They have a new EP out on June 10 called Hurricane Poor ThingsGive it a whirl.

The 5 best albums of 2011 – Telekinesis

When it come to glorious, sun-soaked FM radio rock, America leads the way. From The Cars via Fountains of Wayne to Weezer, there’s a spectacular legacy in witty, cars-and-girls metaphorical sugar pop from the other side of the Atlantic. Joining that pantheon are Telekinesis, who with Desperate Straight Lines made the sort of ebullient, joyous record you’d given up hope of Rivers Cuomo making.

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Strange and beautiful – five words that only appear in one song

There are some words which popular music simply couldn’t do without. ‘Love’, obviously, would be much missed by any aspiring Hal David out there. A blanket ban on the word ‘baby’ would cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth for wordsmiths from any genre. These are the building blocks of the lyric, the sturdy foundations of so many lyrical conceits. And, for the most part, they work just fine, thank you very much. If your all time top 10 doesn’t have song featuring wither of those words, for example, you have no soul.

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Friday From the Vault – Teenage Fanclub

We love Teenage Fanclub. How couldn’t you? They are shiny, wonderful and make consistently wonderful music. We’ll have an exclusive chat with Norman over the next couple of weeks, so keep your eyes peeled for that. In the meantime, here’s the band performing the astounding ‘Sparky’s Dream’ at T in the Park 1996.

Looking at….the Wickerman Festival

Dance like everyone is watching

It’s almost heresy to say it, but there can come a point in any gig-goers life when the concept of the festival just stops sounding fun. Around about the time you start to buy less but better booze and stop living in band t-shirts, the idea of standing in a muddy field with blisteringly drunk teenagers for three days seems about as attractive as asking Pete Doherty to decorate your guest bedroom. It just becomes too much of a rigmarole. The never-say-die spirit of youth gives way to the I-quite-enjoy-washing comfort of maturity. Of course, some people never lose the love of a festival, happily turning up in ill-fitting bermuda shorts and sporting ponytails despite being bald on top. They dance like no-ones watching. These people are to be admired. Honestly. But do it quickly, for they will be shot come the revolution.

Criminal Genius?

However, for many of us, emotional growth sees you unable to fit in to the festival scene any more. T in the Park and Reading are just too blatantly commercial. Glastonbury comes with an instruction book on how to appreciate it properly. It just seems too much hassle. Which is maybe why the Wickerman festival in Dumfries and Galloway is so refreshing. It is small but perfectly formed. A beautiful, rural setting in which a 60 foot Wickerman takes pride of place, this festival is laid-back and genuinely relaxed. The family vibe is obvious, if not overstated; there is still plenty of rowdiness and booze flying around, especially in the tents. The line-up may not be the most attractive of the summer – the Saw Doctors are nothing to boast about in 2010 – but there are plenty of wonderful acts, there is a wonderful community spirit and it is, gasp, fun.

Alex Kapranos
Franz Ferdinand. Much better when there’s just one of them?

We’ll have full coverage of what went down at Wickerman this week.

Big Star in the Sky – Alex Chilton Dies

Legendary songwriter Alex Chilton has died in New Orleans. He was 59.

The Big Star founder had suffered from heart problems recently and complained of feeling ill earlier this week. Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated and he passed away in hospital on the 17th March.

Big Star’s commercial success was inexplicably minimal, but their influence was enormous. Chilton started his music career as a clean-cut member of pop act Box Tops before founding Big Star and releasing the critically-acclaimed albums #1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers. That trio have a strong claim as being the finest debut run from any band, ever.
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