Nazis to the left of me, Nazis to the right…

Despite the best intentions of the likes of Louise Mensch, the wild accusations of anti-Semitism that greeted Jeremy Corbyn’s triumphant election to leader of the Labour Party never really stuck, mainly due to there being no real evidence of the ‘fact’. All that has changed this week with the quite disgraceful behaviour, not of Ken Livingstone or Naz Shah (who is on far shakier ground than Ken), but of John Mann.

The furore began when Naz Shah was pulled up and suspended for a pretty appalling tweet. Her suggestion that Israel be re-located into the US, and especially the use of the word “re-locate” given its connotations with Nazi euphemisms used during the Holocaust, was unpleasant and unnecessary to say the least. However it is important to point out that she was referring to Israel, not Jews. It can therefore be viewed as anti-Israeli and anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic. Most observers would know this if it weren’t for the likes of the aforementioned Mensch, who seems to feel being married to a Jewish man gives her authority to verbally assault anyone who is critical of anything remotely Jewish, despite the fact she once suggested Herzl (the founder of Zionism) of whom she had no knowledge, was an anti-Semite. In fact, I am sure if I bought a dreidel and suggested it wasn’t very good she would be on my case, as she was when I used the term ‘Jewish lobby’ as opposed to ‘Israeli lobby’. I was unaware that the former term is insulting to some but in my defence, not that any is needed, I used it in the same manner I would refer to the Armenian lobby. Nevertheless, Mensch branded me an anti-Semite. The former Miss Bagshawe has deliberately ( well I hope it is deliberate; if not she has shown a stunning lack of intellect) muddied the waters between all of the above mentioned terminology. For her, being anti-Israeli and being anti-Zionist is the same as being an anti-Semite, which it patently isn’t, because if it were then there are millions of self -hating Jews out there.

This blurring of the lines has been a deliberate ploy on behalf of the Tory party and the Labour right in a bid to destabilise a Corbyn led Labour Party that frankly terrifies them. Naz Shah’s comment, made a couple of years ago, suddenly became an issue in the wake of the Prime Minister’s attempts to mislead the public over his off-shore shenanigans. It is right that Naz Shah has been suspended because Labour does not want to be embarrassed further should a real smoking gun appear as opposed to this manufactured version. If Shah is anti-Semitic she rightfully has to go. However, there is a lack of evidence thus far.

On the other hand Ken Livingstone has done nothing wrong. His suggestion that Hitler supported Zionism (and not that Hitler was a Zionist) is a historical fact. Hitler was quite obviously not supporting Zionism in an altruistic venture, but at a point during the 1930s he definitely supported the idea that Jews move out of Germany and into Palestine, which is what Livingstone suggested Hitler supported.  John Mann appeared on television screens the day before the Livingstone comment was blown out of all proportion (by Mann himself) to discuss the Naz Shah story. Mann’s appearance confused me. We can all feel passionate about the blight of racism, but Mann’s particular focus on anti-Semitism seemed a little incongruous especially at a time when anti-Islamic racism is perhaps the major form of racism at the moment. I have not found much written or spoken by Mann on that form of racism, certainly not as strident as his intolerance of anti-Semitism.

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Similarly, Mann in his role  as chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-Semitism, has links with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. This a Trust that has desperately attempted to ignore/play down the Armenian Genocide, a crime that Hitler gained comfort from in 1939 because the perpetrators went unpunished. Indeed, I have struggled to find the passionate Mann make any reference to that event. Does that make him a denier? Well if he knows about it, I guess it does. At the very least it makes him a Young Turk apologist. On the Holocaust Memorial Day site they talk of ‘Atrocities against the Armenians’, but not genocide. Are they denying genocide? Well, yes.

Speaking of knowledge, Mann’s knowing and televised stalking of Livingstone (just watch how many times he looks to check the cameras are still rolling) resembled a naive and ill educated GCSE student haranguing a Professor who stated a fact that Mann misunderstood. Whilst Livingstone tried to reason with him, Mann responded by levelling the most appalling slurs against the former Mayor of London in what appeared to be a personal agenda (Mann having six months earlier referred to Livingstone as a “bigot”). In calling him a “disgusting racist” and a “Nazi apologist”, Mann made himself look utterly foolish, even more so when he accused Livingstone of re-writing history, which he most certainly didn’t. Mann’s reference to Mein Kampf was laughable too. “There’s a book called Mein Kampf…” as if Livingstone would not know what that was. In Mein Kampf (which wasn’t ‘written’ by Hitler but was dictated whilst in prison) there are numerous references to Hitler’s racism towards both Jews and blacks. The book is also dedicated to Hitler’s loyal friend Max Erwin von Scheubner Richter who died in the Munich Putsch having previously served in Erzerum at the time of the Armenian Genocide, an event he documented. Mann seems blind to anything other than Hitler’s views on Jews? Why? Is he well read on other literature relating to the Holocaust? His ignorance of the Haavara Agreement suggests not.

Both Jeremy Corbyn and Ken Livingstone are to the left of the Party and the far left of the Party would include Communists. If Mann was more educated on Hitler’s views he would no doubt be aware that Hitler’s dislike of Communism was partly founded in his view that it was a Jewish construct. There have been a number of leading and outstanding Jewish figures in the history of socialism and yet Mann seems to think that Livingstone (and other colleagues of his) is an anti-Semite simply because he regurgitated a piece of history Mann obviously knew nothing about.

I am heartened that a petition criticising Mann’s behaviour is active. it shows that there are people who understand the nuance of Livingstone’s remarks and rightfully feel that Mann lacked the knowledge or understanding of the point to confront Livingstone about it.

Anti-Semitism exists. Like all racism it is a blight on society and should never be tolerated. However, the likes of Louise Mensch and John Mann are simply making it much more  difficult to root out those who seriously hold such abhorrent views, and it might be argued, are using the term as a silencing mechanism for those they dislike.

We Are Family – Michael Head at the Soup Kitchen 26th January 2016.

Hush, my little one hush.

There’s something perfect going down in Manchester.

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What a night. You know when good things just creep up on you whilst you are doing other more supposedly ‘pressing’ things and then those really good things are upon you and then they pass you by because you were doing those ‘pressing’ things? Well that was the case with the build up to this gig. I am pretty sure the Soup Kitchen show was arranged at shorter notice than usual but I know it sold out in double quick time. Meanwhile, I’d find myself at work thinking, “I must get that Mick ticket when I get home”, only to get home and forget completely. I’d stare out of the window watch the world pass by, and mutter “There was something I was going to do…” and then remember “Ah! Bin day. that must have been it. Put the bins out”.

This is a convoluted way of saying that I didn’t have a ticket.

6pm on Monday night, I saw something on social media about the gig. “Today? For fuck’s sake!” I put the feelers out. In the universal language of footy and music I posted the life saving legend that is “Any spares?” I hadn’t been on Shacknet as often as I should (those ‘pressing’ things) so that was my first port of call. As soon as I saw the familiar names I felt at home again. I did the same on Twitter. I got replies from some lovely people on both, but a mysterious figure called The Chairman was first to respond, conjuring up an image of an Alan Sugar type figure slowly turning around in his leather chair nonchalantly waving the ticket in the air, and so given it started in two hours I had to get my arse into gear.

Thank you Sir Alan.

In the end I got there in good time. Park on the street; amble down, some explaining to do on the door, where’s the bar, “There’s Mike and Sheila”, There’s Graeme”, “Where’s the other Graham?”, “Is Pete here?”, “PJ?”, “Any Lambanana’s present?”, “Bloody hell, he’s on”.

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Mick emerged to be met by polite applause. Then silence. The much warranted “Shut the fuck up”(or something) warning on the ticket evidently worked.  Mick looked at us. We looked at him. There was a moment of uncertainty on both sides before Mick proffered a shy “Thanks for coming”, and lulled us in with Queen Mathilda. The first thing to notice was that Mick looked fantastic. He’s lost a bit of weight and seems to be in rude health. He is still the bundle of nervous energy that is a feature of the beginning of every gig. As the final note of Queen Mathilda rang around the shebeen like environs of the Soup Kitchen, polite applause rang out. Then silence. Mick looked at us as if to say “What? Was that no good?” It was lovely, but rules are rules. Applause. Silence. The dreamy psychedelic meander down Bold St. to Lucinda Byre was met in the same fashion. It was weird, but ace, and as Time Machine began to further open up the Michael Head songbook it was clear that this was going to be special. Mick’s voice was in very good fettle and his playing was fantastic. It was brilliant that you could actually hear it. No chat through the songs, just voice and guitar. He knelt down. Silence. He looked at the set list. Silence. He stood up. Silence. He held the set list close to his eyes. “Guess who needs glasses?” Laughter. That was the icebreaker. All of a sudden, the atmosphere loosened up. A magnificent Newby (I’m dead funny me aren’t I?) What’s The Difference (possibly?) had me turning behind me to see if everyone else found this a world of wonder. Gaping mouths suggested so. The semi ancient/semi new Rumer is beautifully delivered with help from the crowd on trumpets (relatively tuneful too. Respec’ Soup Kitchen dwellers). Things started to get looser still as the alcohol and atmosphere fueled bravery in a number of loving/lovely gobshites. “Go ‘ed Mick!” started it, and he did indeed ‘go ‘ed’ with a magnificent Velvets in the Dark as the set started to fly.  Five songs in and it had been a seamless segue of acoustic dreams, four of the five dating from the last three years or so, illustrating that the songwriting gift is very much alive in Michael Head and here in the Soup Kitchen tonight.

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Once Meant To Be got to the brass section; all bets were off, the place went loopy.
A gentle As Long As I Got You restored a semblance of common sense, whilst a lilting Glynis & Jackie added some decorum and put us back into a reverential mood.

Again Mick thanked us for coming. He then explained how the somewhat rundown (but nothing wrong with it) decor of the venue belied the palatial environs of the dressing room where he had a mountain of charlie waiting for him when he got back there. Something clicked in Mick’s head (I’m dead funny me aren’t I?). “Oh shit. I just heard Alice’s voice telling me off for saying that. Can I just say ‘it’s not true’ to the venue”.

A blistering Streets of Kenny, one of his finest, was accompanied by American Kid and just as you thought the roof might come off, the wounded beauty of Daniella calmed things down a little. Every time Daniella is played it is invested with such emotion it is always moving, and tonight it got dusty.

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Looking like Paleys era Mick!

Mick bigged up a guy called Pete from Norwich for getting some DVDs to to him, and then joked about how he had considered getting a stool out to sit on…”But I had a bad experience once”. This had those in the know in stitches. Requests were forthcoming and one punter got his wish as Working Family was given a dusting down as an introduction to a selection of classics.

The always stunning Something Like You started us off before Zilch‘s Emergency got the biggest singalong of the night.

Someone shouted out something that sounded like “play something in 5-4 time”. Mick looked at him quizzically and it was repeated. At the third attempt we got it, it was some reference to Liverpool’s game v Norwich.

Mick replied that from experience he tries not to mention footy, and is if to prove the point the Soup Kitchen rattled to a chorus of “Liverpool”s and “Everton”s. Mick then told a story about mentioning that game to a taxi driver just after it had finished, to make conversation, only to be told “I don’t do football”. As Mick was thinking of something else to talk about the taxi driver added the dreadful words “But have you heard of David Icke?” He went on to talk about when he asked Ewan McGregor whether he was Celtic or Rangers (as you would ask a Scouser or Manc “Red or Blue?”)

“He said ‘St. Mirren’. Actually he said “St Mirren. Now fuck off”.

And then Mick  paid tribute to King Arthur with a LOVEing She Comes in Colours followed by crowd favourite Undecided which was a mixture of Waterpistol and Strands versions.

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He also took the opportunity to suggest an album is imminent. It might be this year or in ten years he joked “but I’m on it”. Mick also suggested a more all encompassing tour of these Isles might be forthcoming too (“I’m getting fed up of the hate mail”). The sea shanty shimmer of Captain’s Table alongside the triumphant bounce of Newby Street saw Mick getting the signal for just two more. You got the impression, after an hour and thirty minutes that he would have happily played all night. There were two set lists written out. A double sided large print (ahem) version, and one with what looked like about thirty songs on it.
We were lucky enough to get The Prize which slow builds to the magnificent staccato strum that ends it. Effusive and heartfelt thanks, and then he was gone.

And then he was back. The baying of the crowd succeeded in forcing his return and getting a magnificent X Hits The Spot as a reward.

And then he was gone.

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Without a doubt this was the best I have seen him in a while (not that previous forays were not as good, it’s just that this was stunning). Matt’s polite request for quiet during the songs (I was only messing with ‘the shut up or fuck off’ suggestion before) worked wonders and the crowd played their part. Deffo. They were quiet during the songs,other than when joining in (at one point Mick asked mid song who was doing the great harmonies) and the requests and joking was all in the best possible taste (and place) as Kenny (Everett, not Dalglish) might have said. Mani from the Roses/Primal Scream certainly thought so and was bouncing around and chatting enthusiastically about what he had just witnessed.

London and Glasgow you are in for a treat.

A final thought to the Shack family, present and absent. I know I am not the most reliable of people, but my heart is in the right place and I love you all. I am always made to feel welcome and consequently always leave with a warm glow. As Long As I Got You, I’m good.

 

Lost in Music

BY THE SEA (and others) Night and Day Café, Manchester – 9th January 2016.

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So there I was, on a Friday night, minding my own business when I saw a Facebook reference to the fact that sparkling song-smiths By The Sea were playing in my hometown the following evening. Naturally, I couldn’t miss it, so I decided to brave the raging monsoon (not unlike a Manchester summer’s evening) that was causing chaos in the streets and made for the Night and Day Café on Oldham Street. When I arrived, about half an hour before the first band was due on, it was virtually empty. Tremors were up first. I initially thought they were called Tumors and by the end of their set I wondered if having one might be preferable. Their first song was competent enough and my curiosity was sufficiently piqued to put off a ciggy excursion but by the end of third song I could hold it no longer. Like many young bands on the scene today, they seem to be aiming to write mainstream ‘stadium’ songs in the hope that one day they will be playing…er…stadiums. Much of the set was Coldplay/U2 by numbers, not an entirely bad thing, but not my bag maaaan. There was talent on stage but as a Mancunian sage of the past once put it, the songs said nothing to me about my life.  They are young and they may learn, but they didn’t sound much different from thousands of other young bands trying to make it in this vicious industry, as opposed to singing/writing/performing because they simply have to.

Next up were Lungs.  Maybe that’s why I mistook the Tremors name. This was only their second gig having risen from the ashes of The Bicycle Thieves (a Mick Head/classic Italian film reference…which can never be bad). The difference in look and ability from the opening band was immediately apparent. Looking semi-smart and like they meant business they provided a set of post-industrial pictures to music that were appreciated by the burgeoning crowd that was now assembled in the Northern Quarter venue. This was anti-stadium music, with echoes of the North West’s past littered through.  As such, Lungs offered an intriguing and thought provoking set that posts the way to an interesting future. Their sound could not have been more markedly different to the opening Tremors, nor the headliners By The Sea, who were the real reason I was here.

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Opening with the stately and crystalline riff of ‘I See A Crystal Sky’, By The Sea lived up to their growing reputation proffered by those in the know. Their sound is a dreamy, psychedelic amalgam of some of the best bands of the last couple of decades, all mashed up to make a sound uniquely theirs. Lead singer Liam Power’s vocals are mixed so as to blend with the music rather than stand out. There is no one dominant feature of their sound, except for when those sharp guitars trade pretty sparks. Two new songs followed; Wild Swans Chorus and Gatekeeper, neither of which sound out of place in the By The Sea canon, but both of which hint at exciting possibilities for album number three.

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Similarly, the magnificent Heaven Knows Magnolia, (just for its title alone) is a song of building crescendos and guitars that twist your mind, and was a high point in the set thus far. The band is tight and they seamlessly create the luscious noise that is their trademark despite the Night and Day Café sound (not sure if it was the venue or the mix) not being entirely conducive to it. When I saw them supporting Bill Ryder Jones at both Gullivers (Manc) and District (the ‘pool), the sound was perfect and you could tell that the mix was sympathetic to the feel of By The Sea’s chiming and mind expanding music. It wasn’t here but the band won through.

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Having given us a glimpse of their future, the band returned to the past with The Cure/The Smiths-like opening of You’re The Only One, which is quite simply shimmering sunny pop. There is an ‘uplift’ to much of By The Sea’s music, and it is something they share with New Order, along with staccato drums and chiming guitars, but minus Hooky hogging the limelight. Speaking of Barney’s lot, Eveline could be one of New Order’s lost tunes had it been written in the current decade with the intervening influences intact . The incessant riff that punctuates the dreamy atmospherics allied with the falsetto euphoric vocal makes it a song The Killers might…shall I say it?…O.K. …kill for. It really comes into its own live before the trippy ESP takes us on an entirely different…oh fuck…trip…again. Waltz Away is a suitable ending to an hour of fuzzy (and fizzy) pop that sends the listener away with tunes that are impossible to shake from their heads and a spring in their step.

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When By The Sea began their set there was a strange degree of apathy among the watching Mancunian mass; strange because if you have paid to watch a gig then surely the headliners should receive full attention, but by the end the crowd had moved to the front and there were shouts of “More!” as the last notes of Waltz Away faded, which suggests this was one audience totally won over. With Heaven Knows Magnolia, ESP, Wild Swans Chorus and Gatekeeper already fully formed and primed for an assault on our ears via album number three, By The Sea look ready to take their much deserved place among must listen/must see bands in 2016.

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A Double Bill of Ryder Jones

A Tale of Two Cities starring Bill Ryder Jones and By The Sea 

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West Kirby County Primary by Bill Ryder Jones is one of my favourite albums of the year alongside the Zefur Wolves debut. In fact, it is pretty well up there with one of many favourite albums of all time since it touches upon so many themes and styles that I love. I obviously shared the excitement of many for the tour promoting WKCP given the Sold Out signs slapped on the doors of nearly all of the venues BRJ has visited in the last month.

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As is my wont I left my home for Gullivers in Manchester late, optimistically assuming the traffic wouldn’t be too bad, but sinkholes/roadworks and rain (always the rain) meant I was still looking for a parking spot midway through By the Sea’s set and so when I finally arrived it was in time to catch the last couple of songs. The shimmering psychedelia of Eveline reverberated off the walls of the crammed venue with a guitar line that is impossible to shake from your head. Meanwhile the closing ESP is a thing of wonder tonight and is positively transcendental thanks to the luscious sounds emitting from band and soundman. As Liam Power’s lot made their exit I cursed the fact that I had arrived late. I knew Liverpool the following night was a sell-out and that Bill Ryder Jones had been frantically apologising for not being able to ‘sort out’ friends for the show such was its over-subscription, but I also knew that a long-standing friend of mine, who I had seen once in about twenty years at a Gruff Rhys gig, had a Willy Wonka golden ticket going spare, so a texting session ensued and all was sorted for the next day. Relax.

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As the opening bars of A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart opened Ryder Jones set I was even more thankful. When I had last seen Bill play in Manchester he was suffering from a bad cold, but tonight his vocals were strong and spot on. The slide guitar was majestic and the sound was crystal. The audience was reverential, quietly taking in the majesty flowing from the stage.  The first offering from WKCP was the raucous Catharine and Huskisson, Bill’s paean to the scuzzy beauty of the everyday life (and nightlife) of 2015 Liverpool, although he did trip up on the celebrated “fooking fewming” line to the mirth of audience and band who looked to be  enjoying performing one of the highlights of the album. The laid back vibes returned with the winsome guitar intro of There’s A World Between Us, Jack Prince’s tender brushing on the drums and Liam Power and Bill’s subtle trading of peaceful guitar lines complementing each other made this a sonic-ally perfect version of a quite beautiful song from A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart. Given that West Kirby County Primary was out barely a week prior to the gig, it was a surprise that there was a new song for the Gullivers travellers to appreciate. Liam Said It Better is a belter! The guitar refrain that runs through the song is quite gorgeous too as it twists and turns in tempo and tone.  It certainly bodes well for album number four which will have to be something special to better West Kirby County Primary, as a blistering Wild Roses demonstrates.

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With a chilled verse and charming lyrics and a chorus that does everything you want it to, it is performed quite wonderfully tonight and acts as a mild storm before the lull because Bill is about to go solo. The stark and lovely Put it Down Before You Break It is listened to in awed hush before Ryder Jones gives the audience a choice of By Morning I or Seabirds. The first response was for the latter and so that is what we get. The audience is utterly respectful and you can hear every tender strum and every quietly uttered syllable of the atmospheric wonder being created on stage. The crescendo of the set had been interrupted quietly spectacularly by Bill’s touching rendition of the two most sparklingly delicate offerings from WKCP, but then the set roared back into life again with Two to Birkenhead, which is perhaps Bill’s most commercial offering in some ways. As the song reaches its apex Ryder Jones launches himself into hollering “they say that desperate times call for desperate pleasures” and at the same time showing just what fine fettle his voice is in. Tonight, He Took You in His Arms is delivered with whispered longing and consummate playing. The old songs and the new meld perfectly into what, so far, has been a close to perfect set and the heartbreak of Daniel only ramps it up further. A tune of fragile warmth accompanies the saddest of lyrics and is performed with real empathy by all involved.

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The band that Bill has assembled to deliver his songs show a real passion for what they are doing and there is a quest for perfection in the live setting here tonight.  “Let’s make it easy for you Bill” is a delightfully ironic close to a song that questions whether things can ever get easier following the type of tragedy that is Daniel’s focus. Wild Swans lifts the mood with Ryder Jones joking with those audience members who applauded the song following the lull after the first chorus that “it’s not over till I say it’s over”  before launching into the second part of the song sans something of a guitar wig out which ushered us towards the thrashing introduction to Bill’s Satellites.

Their seems to be relief that the band can just let go after the intensity of a wonderfully intricate and brilliantly brittle set and BRJ seems positively joyous just to be able to play LOUD after the gentle verses and delivery of what was a magnificent set. It was an effervescent end to a show that had the audience wrapped up and fully involved in the signals that their ears were sending to their brains.  Tomorrow promised much, but world events had cast a darker pall over the gig’s aftermath as news started to filter through of the horror unfolding in Paris.

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The ‘pool.

Due to the kindness of my friend’s offer of a ticket I was acting as chauffeur for the night which entailed a trip into the heartland of the Wirral. Inclement weather made this difficult as did the fact that the Wirral is not big on signposts, as did the fact that I thought I should be heading for Meols when he actually lived in Upton. Stuck in the dark at a crossroads, having previously received a text from him saying to call him when I got lost (which had made me more determined not to) I conceded defeat. He asked where I was. I told him I didn’t know but that I had passed an interminable stretch of countryside that made me consider the Wirral to be one of the top dogging spots in the North West. After some instructions and further wrong turns I found where I was meant to be and we duly made our way to District, a new Liverpool venue neither of us really knew the location of. We eventually found it and entered to a glorious garage racket proffered by Jo Mary and Friends. Initially I thought I was listening to a cover of Sister Ray and then later on in the set The Doors, so it would seem the band has the right influences, they just need to mould them into a sound of their own but they are young and time is on their side.  They are certainly ones to watch since they seemed confident and comfortable on stage and were producing a vibe that promises much more.

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By The Sea were next up and Liam Power’s band ably demonstrated what I had missed the previous night. Crystal Sky opened the set with its shimmering swagger which saw all the smokers and drinkers out back make their way into the venue.  Liverpool’s love for psychedelia, pop and guitars has a new focus in By The Sea. The fact that their lilting eponymous debut album and the giant leap follow up Endless Days Crystal Sky don’t feature any of the next three songs; Wild Swans Chorus, Gatekeeper and Heaven Knows Magnolia, suggests things are well in hand for album number three. Liam is a great front man with a variety of vocal styles, and the sound that his band emits during this triumvirate of captivating pop is buoyant and light, a cornucopia of the past melted into a gorgeously new sound that thrills. You’re The Only One kicks off like The Cure and then morphs into a lithe but always tuneful, perfect sound. Eveline and ESP finish their set with the same shiny sparkle that had painted the walls of Gullivers the night before. You could sense from the crowd’s reaction that By The Sea are one of Liverpool’s great bright hopes for the future. And Liverpool crowds know their shit.

Bill Ryder-Jones Bido Lito! magazine feature shoot by Keith Ains

That said, Liverpool shows can be all sorts of things, and tonight we see the good, the bad and the ugly. For the artist they can be a challenge as the wags in the crowd always feel the need to make an input. The fact that Bill Ryder Jones is a local favourite meant that this was even more likely.  When he appeared on stage it was difficult to decipher exactly what was being said, such was the chatter from the bar area in District. Danny, the sound engineer, had explained that during the sound checks on the tour he had found a “sweet spot” that was perfect for the delivery of each show and that Liverpool was no different. However, because of the increased chatter he had to abandon it to ensure Bill and band could be heard. As in Manchester A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart opened proceedings but given the song’s soft sadness it seemed many at the bar and outside had not even realised the gig had begun and the noise continued, this was the bad. Catharine and Huskisson made it clear we had begun as the thrashy delivery in Liverpool contrasted with the more concise sound of Manchester, and when Bill uttered that line tonight he was drowned out by those singing it back at him. This was the good. There’s A World Between Us once more struggled over the chatter emanating from, one supposes, those who were just over excited to be there or those who were there to be seen rather than to listen, whilst Liam Says It Better with its juicy jangle fared better. Wild Roses allowed the show to really start kicking in as a vibrant singalong to the chorus suggested both band and audience were hitting their stride.

Then came the ugly. At gigs like this there is a time and a place to be funny, preferably outside in the rain. However, as Ryder Jones started to perform the brittle Put It Down Before You Break It, one gobshite decided it was appropriate to try to have a conversation with the song’s lyrics. Thankfully, he was silenced, not in the way I would have preferred with a kick up the arse, but by those here to listen and enjoy the music making it clear he was being a dick. The sssshhhhs seemed to transmit to those at the back too as the flighty shanty Seabirds was given due attention and from hereon in the show was a real triumph.

Two to Birkenhead was utterly brilliant. The District crowd sang along to every word much to Ryder Jones happy surprise it seemed. He Took You in His Arms and Daniel continued the theme with the band playing out of their skins, the audience reveling in it,  and Bill looking like he was enjoying the loving home reception each song was now rightly receiving. Wild Roses moved the show up another notch still before a thunderous Satellites saw those watching melt into a mass of delirium. The second half of the set tonight was spot on (the first half was too, apart from the noise-niks). Brilliantly performed and lapped up by a crowd for whom Bill Ryder Jones songs make perfect sense given the local name-checks and the everyday lives they detail, and this was a fantastic return for a much loved son.

Jayne Casey had explained that during the preparation for tonight’s gig everyone involved had been thinking about the Bataclan in Paris. The vicious attacks that had taken place in the French capital at venues that normally inspire joy were on everybody’s mind. So it was a lovely touch that the show closed with a love heart centred on the background of a French flag.

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This sold out excursion has seen Bill Ryder Jones music getting the attention it deserves. Already dates are going up for a March 2016 tour and you would be a fool to miss the chance of catching him this time around. The album, the new song, and this band make Ryder Jones shows a must see and March will hopefully find more ears being enchanted by his perfectly crafted songs and appreciating his undeniable talent.

As an addendum, I was watching the Mercury Music Prize the night before I wrote this, and assuming West Kirby County Primary qualifies for next year’s prize, Bill Ryder Jones should be a shoe in.

Paris 13/11/15 – Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it – Noam Chomsky

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The horrific attacks that took place in Paris on Friday 13th November 2015  have once more illustrated that the West’s continued violent response to terror perpetrated against innocent civilians ‘over here’, reigning down their own version of terror on innocent civilians ‘over there’, just doesn’t work.

Whilst David Cameron was triumphantly stood outside 10 Downing Street basking in the undeserved acclaim that greeted the death of Jihadi John (if indeed it is him…we have heard this before), a group of extremists were plotting to destroy the French way of life, and have done so in a quite appalling fashion.

Jihadi John was a built up as a bogeyman, someone the West could point to as evil incarnate. Yet Mohammed Emwazi (which doesn’t sound quite as frightening) was simply a stooge. He was used by ISIS as a propaganda weapon to instill fear into the West, but  he was not a leader nor anywhere near the masterminds of the evil campaign that ISIS is waging against the West. To triumph in his death was vulgar grandstanding because as the attacks in Paris have shown, his death was never going to change anything.

ISIS have now claimed responsibility, although their lack of speed in doing so would suggest that Obama is right to be hesitant in speculating who may have carried this out. Nevertheless they have issued a statement full of the the usual religious fanaticism, vile rhetoric and blind hate that is a staple of their ugly missives.  However, there is a line in the middle of the statement that few will pay attention to, and yet it is the most important.

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It reads:

“Let France and all nations following its path know that they will continue to be at the top of the target list for the Islamic State and that the scent of death will not leave their nostrils as long as they partake in the crusader campaign…”

The word ‘crusade’ has far more resonance in the Middle East than over here, because we were the ones spreading terror back then, and it seems with some justification that ISIS views the continual bombing raids and mounting civilian casualties on Middle Eastern countries today as a continuation of that dark period in history. According to this statement ISIS attacks against the West would cease if attacks from the West ended, which brings us back to the Chomsky solution to terrorism. Stop participating in it.

State terror is somehow seen as legitimate, yet is often far from that, and anyone who has studied the Iraq war in depth will understand that it was an entirely illegal campaign and that the perpetrators, Bush and Blair, are war criminals. However, twelve years on from its start we are still waiting for that judgement to be made.

Whilst Chilcot fiddles, the West burns and as is alway the case it is innocent people who are being murdered.

Imagine what might happen if Chilcot finds Blair guilty of war crimes and he faces trial. Might ISIS then understand that the people of Europe have little thirst for war, it is just their leaders that do? Might it also be the first step to an understanding upon which some sort of peace could be worked out? In the UK, it was only when we started talking to the IRA that we moved towards a peaceful solution.

The likelihood of this happening is slim, because as we know there is money to be made in this endless round of tit-for-tat murder, not for you and me of course, but for those safely ensconced behind 24 hour security.

The response of the British Government this time is easy to predict. They will first trot out the hackneyed lines that “we don’t deal with terrorists”, they will place further impositions on our human rights (only recently Cameron was calling for a ban on Whats App and Snapchat) and then they will get involved in another conflict that places their own people in danger whilst enriching their friends.

More crucially, the Paris attacks will be utilised to pour further scorn on Jeremy Corbyn and his plans for trident and anti-war stance, yet he is perhaps the one politician I believe would be willing to try Chomsky’s approach. For that alone, Cameron and all of the other self serving careerist politicians will see this attack as a gift horse. Those in power over here will have little concern for the lost French lives. Already the wheels will be in motion (like they were following 9/11 when Government aide Jo Moore suggested it was a ‘good day to bury bad news’) as they seek ways to turn these appalling acts to their benefit.

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The letter below was printed in The Independent they day after the 7/7 bombings of 2005 in London. Whilst France and the good people of the world mourn, it is fitting that this piece should end with the letter and the simple statement ‘plus ca change’.

Inevitable retribution for the folly in Iraq

Sir: Assuming the murderous blasts in London were the work of al-Qa’ida or one of its splinter groups, there can be little doubt that they have occurred in response to our government’s alliance with United States foreign policy. The British public, who were led into the war on Iraq under false pretenses are now facing the retribution that seemed inevitable to all but the Prime Minister.

Blair’s statement that the world was a safer place as a result of the removal of Saddam Hussein has now been exposed for the folly it was in the most terrible fashion. Blair and Bush have made the world a far more dangerous place, and it is once more innocent members of the public who are paying the full price.

No doubt the death of innocents today will be utilised to push through ID cards and further impositions on our liberty, especially upon those people of colour in the UK, but the solution to these attacks is retrospective and therefore impossible to enforce. We should never have gone to war in the first place, and Britain has now suffered, and is likely to face more attacks, as a result of the Prime Minister’s mendacious warmongering.

Lee Scratch Perry – Creativity and Livity Forever and Always

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A golden age is coming to an end.

In a world population of 7.107 billion, there are a few on our planet whose contribution to our global community is vast; whose achievements, lives and personalities have gained universal recognition due to their brilliance. In politics, an arena in which it is difficult to be lauded given the very nature and polarity of political beliefs, one man dominates the 20th Century. Nelson Mandela (born 1918) whose dignity during his incarceration, release, and time served as South African President has been globally lauded. Meanwhile in the world of the dissident, none has been so consistent, so concerned with the plight of the underdog, or as committed as Noam Chomsky (born 1928). Similarly, Muhammed Ali (born 1942) is the one man whose ability, wit and political conviction mark him out as a legend of the sporting world. Stephen Hawking (born 1942) is revered for his scientific work that has gone some way to helping us understand the world and his ability to make it readily understood by the lay man.
All of these legendary figures are in their dotage, and when their time comes to a natural end, one has to ask; just who can replace them?

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In the Arts, that venue of restless creativity, the artist who consistently produces great work is a very rare commodity indeed. Most sparkle during an intense burst of creativity and then live on their reputation for the rest of their days. The brilliance of some is not valued until they are long gone. However, there are a few whose life is art, whose dedication to making art subsumes their very being and whose minds are on an entirely different plane to us mere mortals. One man who fits this description was born Rainford Hugh Perry (born 1936). He is more universally recognised as Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, the Jamaican purveyor of mystical and mind bending musical productions that have coloured the genres of reggae, dance, ska, rap and jungle among others. He is perhaps best known for his influence on Bob Marley, rightfully revered as one of the musical greats of the 20th Century. Without Perry’s production skills, one wonders whether Marley’s global reach would have extended quite so far. Yet his connection with Marley has come to obscure a lifetime of work that is at least the equal, and in some cases, stronger than that he produced with the Tuff Gong.

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His early life in Jamaica was fractured by his parents split which resulted in him being separated from the rest of his siblings to go and live with his father. The hardship he endured during his Jamaican youth and the resulting solitary existence he led may well have been the catalyst in creating the dynamic, energetic, individual, unique and almost mythical figure of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.

His humble beginnings within the arts began in his early twenties, when he found himself a job selling records for Coxsone Dodd’s sound system, before gradually picking up the skills and developing his own that would lead him to become the most celebrated record producer in Jamaican history. The Jamaican music industry is a fractious arena, dominated by spectacular falling outs and beefs, one such row resulted in Perry leaving Dodd’s studio for his rival Joe Gibbs’, before establishing his own Upsetter label, which he used to sonically attack both of the producers for whom he had previously worked. Left to his own devices, Perry was now free to wreak havoc upon the music he was mixing, and as a result, he was responsible for establishing reggae music as Jamaica’s musical life force and for spreading those vibes around the planet. It was during this period that the eccentric brilliance of his every waking hour was becoming established. With his band the Upsetters he wrote and produced some of the most ground-breaking music of the late 60s and early 70s. During the same period that he was establishing the Wailers and helping prepare them to conquer the world; he was also producing and promoting the like of The Heptones and Junior Murvin, in his own inimitable style. His beautifully crafted Curly Locks, covered by Junior Byles and Sinead O’Connor to name but two, was written during this period of creative high and some might see this as Scratch’s nirvana regarding his art.

Yet in 1976, Britain’s musical zero when punk broke all the rules, Scratch was already ahead of the game. Whilst producing the heavenly vocals of Max Romeo on I Chase the Devil Perry decided that he and his fellow Upsetters would record another version of the song which they called Croaking Lizard. Perry the ultimate creator, welded the two together, chucked in a plethora of mind warping sounds and thus created the stunning Disco Devil.

Even today, more than thirty years after its release, it is entirely relevant and sounds as though it could have been made yesterday, in out of space and by a talent that seems to be sadly missing in modern music. However, the best was still to come. In the year when the two sevens clashed, Perry produced his most astonishing work yet.

The Heart of the Congos may have been written and performed by Cedric Myton and his fellow Congos, but its beating heart was Scratch.

From the opening drum and cymbal crash, the sound and feel of the whole piece is that of a beatifically, reverential paean to Jah Rastafari. This magnificent opus is crammed with so many other worldly sounds, echo and reverb, that repeated listening is always rewarded by the discovery of something new. Whilst the feel on the incredible Fisherman creates biblical visions of the Sea of Galilee, Congoman with its claustrophobic beat and sensational melding of vocals takes one back to the beginning of life in Ethiopia. Open up the Gates is a work of astonishing beauty, hymn-like in its tenor whilst Children Crying takes a back seat, lazily meandering along to some fantastical background noises whilst praising the Most High always. When Myton sings “Send us another Moses…” the accompanying riot of noise is so bizarre that it jars, but works, whilst at other times Perry just lets the song breathe. La La Bam-Bam takes a mystical journey through both Old and New Testaments as Scratch dips in and out with his musical mischief and Can’t Come In and Sodom and Gommorah continue with the album’s intensity, the latter track’s continuous refrain of “burning” was to prove somewhat portentous in the not too distant future. The Wrong Thing is a work of beauty, a lovely melody interjected with shrill whistles, crashing cymbals the sound of water running, and other entirely unidentifiable sounds bubbling in the background. The centrepiece of the album has to be Ark of the Covenant. Opening with what sounds like a cow in mourning, the arrangement of vocals and the chugging, urgent rhythm, the hissing, the sonorous bass and the backing track (which sounds like an entirely different song undercutting the main one) make for a spectacular sonic assault before it all drops out entirely, allowing Scratch to fiddle while gleefully burning Rome.

Solid Foundation, At the Feast and Nicodemus bring home Heart of the Congos in a triumphant triumvirate with pealing bells, languid rhythms, and delicious distortions.

The personnel on the album are testament to the fact that Lee Perry was at the heart of everything going on in Jamaica and indeed the reggae world at that time. Ernest Ranglin, Boris Gardiner, Gregory Isaacs, Sly Dunbar, and Sticky Thompson are all present at various points on this masterpiece of roots, reggae and Rastafarian religiosity.
However, a by-product of the time taken to create this magnificent piece of art was that Scratch found a lot of unsavoury characters, often demanding money, hanging around the studio. His behaviour, which could be seen as already incredibly erratic and full of energetic creativity or the manifestation of madness, became even more bizarre. Some have seen it as a bid to put distance between him and his unwanted visitors, others as a sign that he had either smoked too much weed, or that the classic creativity/madness fine line had been crossed. Accidentally or consequently, no-one knows for sure; the Black Ark, the studio in which he had created his finest works thus far, burnt to the ground.

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In Rastafarian culture, fire is seen as a cleansing process, and Scratch needed to recharge. Since then Perry has travelled through the States and England before settling in the entirely opposite climate to that of his birth, Switzerland. However, contrary to popular belief, his creativity did not end with the Black Ark. Musically, collaborations with the likes of Adrian Sherwood and the Beastie Boys, a Grammy for his 2004 album Jamaican E.T. (along with further nominations for albums in 2008 and 2010), the fabulously funny Guinness commercials, and recent work with the Orb attest to the fact that he is still an incredibly inventive artist. However, I would argue that Lee Scratch Perry is a walking piece of art.

The excellent movie/documentary, The Upsetter, is a marvellous portrait of a personality some find difficult to fathom, but one that is always entertaining. It is evident that Scratch has always been on the eccentric side and The Upsetter illustrates this through archive and recent footage. In the sixties, seventies and eighties Perry cannot seem to stand physically still (he was known for his dancing back in the day), and mentally he is a walking word play with confusion and frightening clarity being uttered in equal measure. Whilst his physical movements are less excitable now that he is approaching his 80s, his mental faculties remain the same. Despite having given up liquor and weed, the same wonderfully disarming chunks of seemingly crazy talk remain, and yet as always it is frequently cut through with real insight on the state of the world today, especially with regard to the machinations of the Babylonian “shitstem”. In the documentary Perry claims that he is a punk, and you cannot argue with that statement. Punk was always about standing up to the powers that be and asserting your individuality (something that got lost very early on with the tiresome cloning of fashion and musical style that took place following the Pistols explosion) and Scratch has been the epitome of punk since before punk began. The time and effort he takes with his unique dress sense, with his beard and hair colouring, with his art installations (walking around with a bowl of fruit on his head, creating fires in the snow), alongside the torrent of Biblical and insightful verbiage that he emits in his own inimitable style, means that Lee Scratch Perry is a true artist a rare breed. Another documentary is on its way, a year after he was decorated by the Jamaican Government for his services to the country. At the end of The Upsetter, Scratch, dressed in all his regal fine-ness, is seen charmingly asking if a shopkeeper has any plastic money. A belligerent and very large Canadian begins verbally abusing him, obviously oblivious that he is in the presence of a musical genius. Does the diminutive septuagenarian Scratch back off or cower in the presence of a really threatening situation? Far from it; he points to the man’s stomach and suggests that if he is talking bullshit, this man must have been eating his own judging by the size of his belly. Punk! Lee Perry is still unique and rebellious, one of the Twentieth Century’s great artistic characters and one of my all time heroes.

A further documentary Vision of Paradise has been released this year (2015) and is set to further his legend.

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They say there is a thin line between genius and madness. Scratch definitely sides with the former and he is still creating; from his incessant painting of any surface, to his unique and personalised fashion sense and not forgetting the glorious chaos and hilarious lyrics of songs like this;

In a world of X-Factor/American Idol, boy bands, identikit fashion, identikit politicians’, identikit identikits, Lee Perry is one of a dying breed. Listen to his back catalogue, go and watch The Upsetter, read People Funny Boy by David Katz and appreciate a very rare and magnificent talent while he is still here.
Lee Perry = ART.

Bill Ryder Jones – West Kirby County Primary

Skools Out(,) Sadly.

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Bill Ryder Jones‘s third solo album has much to live up to. If and A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart were two entirely contrasting albums that explored emotion with raw and brutal honesty, one classical, one pop. As a result, West Kirby County Primary has much to accomplish to improve upon its predecessors. And it does, in spades.

The early lull of Tell Me You Don’t Love Me Watching soothes us into West Kirby County Primary. The first note, accompanied by Jack Prince‘s gentle brushwork on the drums suggests a tender beauty of an album is about to unfold. At 55 seconds we have the first ‘moment’ via a heart melting chord shift and already it is apparent that this is going to be a well crafted, well  thought out and spectacularly delivered account of where Bill is right now. Echoes of alt-Americana seep through this paean to young love as Bill dreamily watches his girl getting ready and as with his previous work, Ryder Jones‘s attention to detail voices an every-man’s daily life which is one of the essential ingredients that makes his work so charming.

In a similar vein, those of us who have lived or worked on the Wirral will have at some point uttered the immortal phrase Two to Birkenhead (although those of us of a more gentlemanly persuasion might have added ‘please’ at the end; manners William). The opening chords are sledgehammer-like when compared to A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart’s mostly gentle refrains, but then the wistful reverie and desire for escape (there’s a theme here) trades with a squall of guitar heavy noise as Ryder Jones speaks of heartbreak, desperation and err…Conway Park. Two songs in then and musically, the contrast is marked, but lyrically, the album hints at hard and sad times, eloquently expressed.

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Let’s Get Away From Here ( that escape theme again) starts off with one of Bill‘s many sea references. The slow build up is a warm and lazy stroke with beautiful chord shifts and dark humour (Yes sometimes things go wrong and I should know) and it conspiratorially beckons the listener in before an apocalyptic assault on the eardrums drives it to it’s thrashing conclusion. I bumped into Liam from By The Sea (who moonlights as a guitarist on here) at a recent Super Furries gig in Manchester. Neither of us were particularly sober or coherent, but I remember Liam describing the album as ‘our nasty album’. It isn’t but I now know what he meant. The guitars on this are turned up to 11 Spinal Tap fans, which is quite a departure from Ryder Jones’s previous offerings.

Bill Ryder Jones‘s stunning and majestic If was dedicated “For Daniel and Italo”. Italo Calvino is the author of If On A Winter’s Night A Traveler, upon which Ryder Jones‘s classical opus was based. Daniel is Bill’s brother and there is a definite sense of family tragedy that is not something you would want to pry into, but Daniel is the title of the fourth song on West Kirby County Primary and so we must. It could well act as a companion piece to the heartrendingly haunting but as yet unreleased 1991. The latter song epitomises the confusion of a young boy trying to make sense of tragedy, whilst Daniel seems to be examining the same events from a parental perspective. A whispered count in and the story of how ropes were worn and became undone and how Daniel belongs to the ocean might further evidence why much of Bill‘s oeuvre seems to reference the sea. That said, Bill seems like he is making peace with his past here. Some beautifully sad imagery such as ‘like some unopened birthday card I keep you boxed in my unwanted memories’ make this a song of therapy, although Ryder Jones knows he is not alone because this was ‘one in a million tragedies though everyone belongs to one’. He then refers to the medication (It’s just a little pill)  he was prescribed to help (?) him through the tragedy, ‘Let’s make it easy for you Bill’. One senses it hasn’t, but then in my own personal experience the magic pills don’t make life happier, just bearable. And this is the thing with Ryder Jones‘s honest and open songwriting, it is something most listeners will be able to relate to in one way or another. The melancholic thrill of the music and breakable words make this a personal and LOV(E)ing tribute to Bill‘s brother, Daniel. One of the most heartbreaking songs I have ever heard, and it needs to be heard.

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The emotional intensity of Daniel is not eased by Put it Down Before You Break It which seems to trawl a similar trough of melancholia with accompanying vocals provided by Guiro, helping carry the weight on this fragile excursion into the struggles that life can present us with. The old adult admonition of ‘put it down before you break it’ seems to be applied to a relationship here. A clever and pretty ballad that lays the ground for an epic.

Catharine and Huskisson could be about two characters but is actually the name of two famous Liverpool streets in the Liverpool 8 district. It’s Tocky, but not as you know it. These two streets can be seen on many period drama TV shows, belying the image Toxteth has in the national consciousness. Musically it’s a joyous romp around the ‘pool and provides some light relief after the trauma of Daniel, and softness of Put It Down Before You Break It. Lyrically it’s a Penny Lane for the whatever these years are called (the teens?) with it’s psychedelic meanderings around Liverpool in 2015 and could act as a sister song for Streets of Kenny by ShackTalking to the bums, Listen to the weirdosThe dogs from downstairs started barking, Jill from next door is on nights and she’ll be fucking fuming (a laugh out loud line of recognition, although you know in  Merseydrawl it’s fooking fewming). A truly boss song.

The sparkling strum of Wild Roses flips the subject matter of fleeting happiness, because the euphoric chorus reminds us there is some beauty in what, if we are realistic, is a cruel and hard world. Ryder Jones finds it in the eponymous Wild Roses. The song is a corker and having seen it live earlier in the year, I am sure it will become a staple of his live set. It follows on neatly from it’s predecessor in that it breathes space for guitars to fill allowing Bill‘s playing to take flight.

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You Can’t Hide The Light With The Dark begins with an flighty intro not unlike Bowie‘s Sound and Vision/Manic Street Preachers Roses in the Hospital and continues throughout, except when the tempo brilliantly shifts, accompanied by hand-claps (yeah!) The light of the title is in the music, the darkness in the lyrics, but the song has a lovely vibe to it. The crescendos of the bridge are soulful and lots of light touches make this special, and possibly the brightest tune on the album.

Seeing the title Satellites I was reminded of two other songs bearing that title. The Doves produced a song of that name in the singular, that lent itself to the spiritual backing of a gospel choir, whilst Giant Sand delivered a fiery and cacophonous majesty in their song of the same name. Bill has amalgamated both here. Satellites tears open with the motherfucker crash of squalling and squealing tuneage via, yes Liam, “nasty” grungy guitars. As they dissipate into the ether and into the Nirvana loud-quiet-loud blueprint, the lyrics contemplate the fact that sometimes, as Edwyn, suggested, you need to rip it up and start again. It’s just marvellous stuff. I love it when guitars are just so fucking noisy you can stop thinking for a bit. Like the Boo Radleys Ride the Tiger, this song achieves that. Play it Loud!

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After the thrall and thrill of Satellites, a simple voice and guitar rest on the wings of the Seabirds (sea again, escape again) as guitars in the background imitate their swooning dip and flight to the gentle refrain of  you can’t know what I’m hiding from. The end of the song and album seems to beg for more since there is no big build up to it’s denouement, or anything flash to say “That was ace wasn’t it?” It just ends, but thankfully with the promise of more. It is a stark finish to a journey into a writer’s exploration of emotions that is sometimes hard to take, although there is always a sense of determined survival there too. West Kirby County Primary is an exhilarating listen sonic-ally, and for the most part, an exhausting listen lyric-ally.

You get singers, you get guitarists, you get pop stars and you get musicians. Rarely do you get an artiste. Bill Ryder Jones is one. Three albums in and you can feel the painstaking thought that has dripped into every note, word and arrangement.

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West Kirby County Primary has it’s focus on Merseyside, but it’s themes are relevant to all the ears of the world. I found myself laughing, sighing and contemplating things long left forgotten after listening to this wonderful album. Despite the confessional nature of the songs it is neither self indulgent nor self pitying. It is more the case that Ryder Jones is simply saying “I’m Bill Ryder Jones and this is who I am” and then asking “Can you relate?”

I began this review with the sub heading Skools Out(,) Sadly. One senses that Bill Ryder Jones‘s time as a primary school student, before the trials and travails of real life  lend heartbreak to your life, was where he was happiest.

In these parts, Michael Head is seen as the lost genius of modern day music (and his bad luck just keeps on keeping on, the much awaited The Olde World is now slated for a January 2016 release after delay upon delay). Bill Ryder Jones is not lost, and his songwriting just gets better and better. He needs to be appreciated for an already remarkable trilogy of albums, but the boy (it’s sometimes easy to forget that he is just thirty two years old) has so much talent that you wonder where he will turn to next. West Kirby County Primary nestles comfortably alongside his previous two classics and there is little praise higher than that. It is a must-have album, so go get it and be prepared to be thrilled whilst at the same time being put through the emotional mincer. You will feel rewarded, believe me.

http://www.dominorecordco.com/uk/albums/24-08-15/west-kirby-county-primary/

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