BBC Introducing Guernsey: March 2017 – Gregory Harrison in Session and Vinyl Vaughan’s

Gregory Harrison and Nathan Arnaud in the BBC Introducing Guernsey studio

Greg and Nathan in the studio

Click here to listen to the show

BBC Introducing Guernsey returned to the airwaves on Saturday 26th March 2017 with another two hours of music from around the Bailiwick of Guernsey.

This month I was joined in the studio by Gregory Harrison, one of the people behind a pair of recent shows organised under the Guernsey Gigs banner.

As well as telling me about the shows he spoke about joining The Recks last year, being part of The Rectory Hill Skillet Lickers and of course his own music, and he played an acoustic session for us with Nathan Arnaud accompanying him on the bass.

I also took a look at Guernsey’s new independent record store that has grown out of the charity record fairs that take place around the island, Vinyl Vaughan’s.

You can listen to the show for 30 days after the broadcast date by clicking here.

Tracklist

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The Crowman – Ladies And Gentlemen… The Crowband

The Crowman - Ladies and Gentlemen The Crowband CD coverThe last few years has seen Mark Le Gallez, the man who fronted The Risk in the 1980s, The Sacred Hearts in the 1990s and Thee Jenerators since the 2000s (amongst other bands), find a new angle on his music in the form of steampunk-folk alter-ego The Crowman.

This has led to two previous albums, Songs From The Three Eyed Crow and The Resurrection Of Blind Jack Lazarus, as well as highlights around Guernsey, at several Sark Folk Festivals and steampunk events in the UK.

Now his third album, as the title suggests introduces us to ‘The Crowband’ filling out his lo-fi sound with a range of extra instrumentation.

My review of the album was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 25th March and you can read it below:

Crowman album review 25/03/17

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Ginger Wildheart – Ghost In The Tanglewood

Ginger Wildheart

Ginger Wildheart

Having heard his brief journeys into the world of folk and country music in the past with the likes of Georgie In Wonderland and Sky Chaser High (and, somewhat differently, the alter-ego album World of Filth) I was intrigued what a complete album in this genre from Ginger Wildheart might sound like. Ghost In The Tanglewood then (released via Pledgemusic) had me interested from the off and, for the most part, it is one of the most consistent and enjoyable of Ginger’s albums in sometime.

Daylight Hotel picks things up in many ways where recent single Fuck You Brain left off but obviously in a rather different style and the opening pair of tracks feel very much like acoustic versions of standard Ginger tracks, but with added folk and country-style instrumentation.

From there though it really delves into the kind of folk of the north of England that make it feel something like a cousin of the music being made by O’Hooley & Tidow, with Golden Tears being a particular folky highlight.

Throughout the sounds on the album are impressive combining, to various degrees, folk, country and Ginger’s usual pop-rock sensibilities with big hooks and a kind of vocal style that almost gives it a family band feel with some great harmony work and a real honesty only helped by Ginger’s natural accent coming to the fore even more than on past releases (taking what he started on Valor Del Corazon to a natural conclusion).

Ghost In The Tanglewood - Ginger Wildheart coverPhantom Memories takes things in a sonically darker direction and gives us the album’s title, before Remains continues the themes of living with depression that run through the album in one of the most honest and real ways I’ve heard. In general Ginger’s writing here does this very well not overdramatising or underplaying anything but making it feel real with highs, lows and the ‘mundane’ in-betweens all getting included like few others manage.

My Old Friend The Blues (a cover of a Steve Earle song) gives the record its most totally country moment before it closes on possibly the most tender song in Ginger’s back catalogue, Don’t Say Goodbye, with the songwriter addressing his young son about having to be away on the road (or elsewhere), but without a lot of the cliché that it probably sounds like that might have.

While the song writing and arrangements on Ghost In The Tanglewood don’t have the breadth and expanse of most of Ginger’s other solo material in many ways this is what makes it. These are more simple songs (though still excellently produced and arranged) and with that are more easily digestible and allow the honesty and warmth of Ginger to shine through which, in the worlds of folk and country, are an important aspect.

While the question of genre is one that has been raised, not least by the artist himself, after a couple of listens this drifts away as, while it undeniably mixes things up as Ginger is renowned for, what it leaves is the fact that this is a great album. It might be something of an aside to the likes of 555% and Albion, rather like the Mutation and Hey!Hello! records, but if this is the direction Ginger chose to take for his music going forward, based on this, I certainly wouldn’t be complaining.

I always like to include a video with my album reviews but there isn’t one yet for Ghost In The Tanglewood so here is one from Ginger’s Year Of The Fanclub that gives an idea of him in a more country/folk kind of mode:

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Nessi Gomes, Blue Mountains and Buff Hudd – The Fermain Tavern – 14/01/17

Nessi Gomes and her band

Nessi Gomes and her band

Back in January Nessi Gomes made her long-awaited return to a Guernsey stage to play a set of all her own material and launch her debut album, Diamond & Demons, with a very special event at The Fermain Tavern.

Along with Nessi were stand out performances from both folk duo Blue Mountains and the Buffalo Huddleston‘s Mike Meinke in his solo incarnation, Buff Hudd.

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page and my review was published in Guernsey Now magazine in March 2017 and you can read it below.

Nessi Gomes album launch - Guernsey Now - March 2017

This video wasn’t recorded at the show but around the same time and gives you a great idea of Nessi’s music…

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The Subterraneans by Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac - The Subterraneans coverIn recent years I’ve read a number of works of the Beat Generation, and of Jack Kerouac in particular; Big Sur, The Dharma Bums and of course the centrepiece of Kerouac’s career, On The Road. Partly this exploration was out of an interest in outsider movements, partly the history of San Francisco and partly for its sheer post-war Americana.

While it shares many similarities with much of Kerouac’s, work The Subterraneans has something of a different feel.

Published following On The Road in 1958 (but written in the autumn of 1953) there is much directly similar as we meet an avatar of the author (here named Leo Percepied) in North Beach, San Francisco surrounded by the same characters (just with different pseudonyms).

However, while On The Road told many smaller stories but as a whole dealt with a broad sweep, The Subterraneans goes in-depth into a period of a few months of the author’s life, centred on a love affair with Mardou Fox (in the real world Alene Lee), one of the titular group (themselves it seems an alter-ego of the Beats), and the ups and downs of it.

Jack Kerouac in New York

Kerouac in New York

While the original events occurred in New York City the way Kerouac paints his image of North Beach and Market Street and their surroundings is utterly real and the story casually races around this town within the city at a frantic pace, charged by a mixture of new love (and/or lust) and, as it goes on, the lead character’s increasing paranoia and ever-present need to be part of a party of one kind or other.

In this even the lover herself, Mardou, is at times relegated to a broadly drawn background player in Percepied’s paranoiac whirlwind, leaving a few issues in the depiction of her race. In a way this makes the story a hard one to digest but gives it all the more sense of honesty on Kerouac’s part – something that seems to be his intent.

Stylistically Kerouac ups his spontaneous prose of On The Road even further. Written as this was in one big glut, with asides and diversions liberally sprinkled throughout, The Subterraneans paints Percepied/Kerouac in exactly the way he describes himself, as a narcissistic man (and, as with much of Kerouac’s work, the ‘man’ is crucial) with many issues.

This makes it at points rather hard to read and sometimes near impenetrable, but, while not entirely successful, it feels like a natural peak of the free-jazz style of writing that Kerouac strived for and, if not created, developed to a kind of conclusion.

William S Burroughs and Alene Lee

Alene Lee (the real Mardou Fox) with William S Burroughs

Ultimately, while not on the same level as some of his other work, The Subterraneans stands as a very real feeling document of an event many of us may have experienced, albeit one hopes not in quite such a frantic and heightened way, and is a demonstration of how the Beat style can be at once hugely evocative but incredibly challenging with it.

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Sound Guernsey: Sons of the Desert, Honest Crooks, Equilibrium, Cosmic Fish – The Fermain Tavern – 17/03/17

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert and friends

You can see a full gallery of my photos from the show on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page

Sound Guernsey‘s March 2017 show had a very punk-ska flavour to things with their old formula of two young bands playing alongside two more experienced groups.

Cosmic Fish kicked off the show with a set of old-school pop-punk starting with Green Day’s Welcome To Paradise and continuing in similar fashion.

Compared to when I’d seen them throughout last year the trio have come on in leaps in bounds and, while they still have some way to go in terms of audience interaction and performing confidence, their renditions of songs by Blink-182, Good Charlotte and their ilk have a lot going for them.

Cosmic Fish

Cosmic Fish

Throughout the set there were a few moments where the energy found a good level that, in a perfect world, would have seen the audience get more energetic (they remained attentive but restrained) and it was the closing pair of Jimmy Eat World’s The Middle and Blink’s All The Small Things that closed the set in a high.

Another band who made a good impression last year and have built on that are Equilibrium.

Having been one of the young highlights of the early Sound events the band went on the play Liberation Day and the Vale Earth Fair amongst other things but like the openers they seemed to have stepped up their game once more.

Sticking with a similar pop-rock selection, including a couple of extra Red Hot Chilli Peppers tunes, the band had a much more relaxed energy from the off and this was clearly infectious.

Equilibrium

Equilibrium

The aforementioned Chilli Peppers track Otherside was a highlight of the set as was their take at Blink-182’s Stay Together For The Kids where several members of the band swapped instruments.

Their takes on Basket Case and All The Small Things (also done earlier by Cosmic Fish) didn’t quite match the previous band’s but in all it was a good set and, with a little bit more power, Equilibrium will be a band worth keeping an eye on.

After a few months off following a very busy 2016, Honest Crooks were starting to gear up for an already busy summer season as they took to the Tav’s stage. While they were a little lose compared to past gigs it was all relaxed and fun as they mixed their own songs with some more ska oriented covers and they had the crowd going from the start.

Honest Crooks

Honest Crooks

With a genuinely funny ‘play some Slayer moment’ (a rarity these days where that joke wore thin a decade ago) and great covers of Reel Big Fish’s Beer and Sublime’s Santeria it was really their own songs that provided the highlights and they certainly set the mood well for the night’s headliners.

Following the more modern ska warm up, Sons Of The Desert set out to provide a perfect primer for all thing two-tone and of the late 70s/early 80s UK ska scene. Spanning tracks from The Beat and The Selecter to Bad Manners and Madness it was prime upbeat skanking material all the way.

With the audience a sea of bouncing red fezzes thanks to the always manic and energetic Chris Pearson, it wasn’t long before everyone was on the dance floor and both the band and audience were having a whale of a time.

Sons of the Desert

Sons of the Desert

The band themselves are something of an eccentric mix of performers that come together brilliantly and create a huge sound with a three-piece brass section and Andy Coleman on the organ bolstering the usual rock band line up for a real authentic two-tone sound.

There were many highlights in the set but for me Lit Up Fatty, Too Much Too Young and set closer Night Boat To Cairo were the standouts before it all went a bit chaotic in the encore with the entire audience joining the band on stage for a skank to bring one of the most energetic Sound nights yet to a close on a major high.

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The Sacred Hearts and SugarSlam – The Fermain Tavern – 11/03/17

The Sacred Hearts at The Fermain Tavern

The Sacred Hearts

After four years away early 1990s Guernsey music legends The Sacred Hearts made a rare appearance at The Fermain Tavern on Saturday 11th March 2017.

Alongside fellow 90s rockers SugarSlam the band were not only celebrating a major birthday for one of their number but also helped raise money for the Helping Jonah – Helping Others charity as something of a follow-up to last year’s Jonah Beats event.

My review of the show was published in The Guernsey Press on Saturday 18th March 2017 and you can read it below. You can also see a full gallery of my photos from the event on the BBC Introducing Guernsey Facebook page.

Sacred Hearts and SugarSlam review 18-03-17

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Akira (Book One) by Katsuhiro Otomo

Akira book oneSince the western release of the anime film version of Katsuhiro Otomo’s early 1980s manga Akira it has entered the western pop culture lexicon like few other things from the Far East, arguably kick starting the ongoing fascination with Japanese culture in the western world that spans from the films of Studio Ghibli to the likes of Pokemon.

Despite having seen the film long ago and the many references to it in cinema since, I had yet to go back to the original manga until now. So, while I had some expectations, I didn’t have a total grasp of what it might be like.

This first book of the series kicks off by introducing us to a teenage bike gang (bōsōzoku) in Post-World War Three Neo-Tokyo, and we are dropped into a slightly familiar, exaggerated gang culture of Japanese youth (if this exists in real life or just in manga and anime I’m not able to say, but it certainly has a ring of truth) in a vaguely totalitarian society where we soon discover something is amiss with superpowered mutant humans being hidden, somewhat unsuccessfully, by mysterious government agencies.

Akira - Kaneda and Tetsuo

Kaneda and Tetsuo

The story itself is one that has become somewhat cliché, but this feels like where it started, so we follow gang member Kaneda as he becomes embroiled in this mystery following the apparent death and resurrection of fellow young biker Tetsuo.

While the story is undeniably engrossing what sets Akira apart, and at the time of its original publication must have been fairly astonishing, is the pace of the storytelling and action. While American comics traditionally were fairly verbose works, with long passages of expository dialogue, in Akira much of this is removed and Otomo allows the images to do the heavy lifting.

So we race through the society and city which is never explained explicitly but we explore it much as we might in a film, through the detailed visuals. Similarly the characters are revealed to us as much through action as anything else and, while they are mostly fairly typical, it isn’t long before we get behind Kaneda and get a genuine sense of mystery over the fate of Tetsuo that builds to this part’s climax.

Katsuhiro Otomo

Katsuhiro Otomo

While American comics have since caught up with this style it’s hard not to recognise the pioneering nature of Akira as it races along like its characters. While this first volume is clearly just getting the story up and running, it is as engaging and engrossing as any comics I’ve read and, as well as being a notable historical artefact of the medium, remains a compelling read with some excellent artwork.

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Hannibal Rising

Hannibal Rising posterBack in the mid to late 1980s Thomas Harris, Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Demme created an icon of horror/thriller cinema, Dr Hannibal Lecter, in the film version of Harris’ book Silence of the Lambs. While the part had been played arguably with more truth by Brian Cox in Michael Mann’s Manhunter and would swiftly become something of a pantomime villain/anti-hero in Hannibal and Red Dragon, Hopkins first take on the character remains mesmerising.

Why then, nearly 20 years later, Harris decided it would be a good idea to explore the background of Lecter is probably not much of a mystery as it was clear there was ‘gold in that there cannibal’, however as a character there was never a need.

Starting in Lithuania in the final days of the Second World War and then shifting to early 1950s France, Hannibal Rising fills us in on the troubled youth that created the ‘monstrous’ Lecter (we know he’s monstrous because they take the time to explain and state this in some detail).

Orphaned with his sister following a Soviet/Nazi micro-battle in a Lithuanian forest, the pair (children of a wealthy, castle owning, family) are taken hostage by mercenaries in the depths of the winter of 1944/45 and it’s not long before the mercenaries resort to cannibalism, eating the aforementioned young girl, before Hannibal is rescued and eventually (and surprisingly easily given post-war travel restrictions) ends up in France in his late teens, meeting his wealthy and exotic Japanese aunt, discovering an intense need for politeness, a love of sharp objects and enrolling in medical school.

Hannibal Rising - Gaspard Ulliel

Ulliel as Lecter

From there this becomes a pretty standard revenge story, Lecter has a special set of skills and he will find those who ate his sister and he will kill them.

I apologise if this feels like spoilers but, as is often a problem with prequels, there is little tension and mystery here as we come in knowing two things; one, that Hannibal is a murderer on a grand scale and two, that he survives at least as far as his 60s or 70s as seen in Lambs and Hannibal.

The fact of this being an effective thriller then is rendered impotent from the start.

So what of it as a horror, as it is also billed? Well, despite a few expectedly brutal but often somewhat over cooked (pun intended) murders, it’s not really very horrific. Any element of psychological horror that was Lecter’s initial raison d’être is absent and the violence really isn’t as graphic as one might expect. The camera, for the most part, cuts away from the actual truly horrific moments, though if shown they would have been simply revelling in blood and guts for the sake of it so it was a bit of a lose-lose.

Hannibal Rising - Gaspard Ulliel and Dominic West

Ulliel and West as Inspector Popil

Despite featuring a couple of actors who we know are or seem capable, none of the characters have the ring of truth and there really is no one to root for here. Hannibal, played by Gaspard Ulliel, is stuck between villain and anti-hero and lumbered with the same pantomimic ticks of Hopkins later performances making it very hard to accept him as the ‘good guy’.

Dominic West’s detective meanwhile, apparently investigating war crimes both general and specific, has nothing like enough depth to really even feel like a presence let alone a threat to Hannibal in the form of Will Graham or Jodie Foster’s Clarice Starling.

Then there’s the question of an antagonist. Who can stand up as worse than, or make us rally behind, a sociopathic, cannibalistic, mass murderer? Well the answer isn’t Rhys Ifans’ Lithuanian mercenary come French human trafficker with a range of dubious accents – unfortunately that’s all we get.

Hannibal Rising - Rhys Ifans and Gaspard Ulliel

Ifans as Vladis Grutas and Ulliel

As the film reaches its unbalanced and uninspired climax, with a few additional psychological quirks to try to complete the pointless picture of the creation of ‘Hannibal The Cannibal’ (as he doesn’t like to be called), Hannibal Rising almost entirely fails to be anything worth watching.

As Netflix offers the options of this or the Mads Mikkelsen staring TV series Hannibal I’d go with that choice as, despite being cancelled after only three seasons due to low ratings, it is far superior and the nearest thing to being anything as good as Silence of the Lambs or Manhunter you’re likely to find.

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Blink-182 – California

Blink-182 - California album coverIn summer 2016 two of the biggest bands in the world of pop punk released records that had something of a comeback feel to them. I’ve already taken a look at Green Day’s effort, Revolution Radio, so now I’ve had a listen to Blink-182’s California.

Originally forming in the wake of the pop-punk explosion caused by the likes of Green Day back in 1995, Blink-182 became arguably the biggest band of the following wave of American pop-punk with their 1999 album Enema of the State and 2001’s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket.

Since then something of a direction on their self-titled 2003 album was followed by a lengthy hiatus and then a change of personnel before California with Alkaline Trio leader Matt Skiba joining in place of founding guitarist and vocalist Tom DeLonge.

So to California. As the name suggests this is a partial concept record about the band’s home state, particularly the southern part of it – Blink originally formed in and around San Diego – and it is the three tracks that most obviously provide this theme that are three of the highlights. Los Angeles, San Diego and the title track all present different aspects of the band at their most mature and inventive sounding.

Blink-182 circa 2016

Blink-182 – Hoppus, Barker and Skiba

This is balanced with the kind of songs that made the bands reputation with pop hooks, singalongs and catchy choruses aplenty, that had me singing along after only a couple of listens. Particularly in this group are She’s Out Of Her Mind and Kings of the Weekend.

On top of this Built This Pool and Brohemian Rhapsody show the band still have their juvenile streak with these two 30 second skit-songs very reminiscent of several from their back catalogue.

What sets California apart from Blink’s past efforts is, I think, something that Skiba brings to the table. Alkaline Trio are known for adding gothic elements to their pop-punk and dealing with darker themes and that sneaks through here. Sober is a song that while upbeat and still has the Blink thing going on suggests something deeper as do the Californian tryptic.

Admittedly Blink have headed in these directions in the past as well with the likes of Stay Together For The Kids and Adam’s Song but Skiba’s presence adds an extra level to it as well as making for a more digestible sound than DeLonge ever managed.

Blink-182 playing live

The band playing live

With a lot of variety for a pop-punk record California still falls together like a complete package of an album including some moments of the more modern style of pop-punk with heavier guitar tones along with the upbeat feel.

It’s not just Skiba who’s on top form either, but founder member Mark Hoppus (bass and vocals) and long time drummer Travis Barker are both clearly at the top of their game as well, and as ever the drums are a big part of what elevates Blink-182 above the rest of the pop-punk pack and California certainly shows this longstanding band can still be a cut above the rest.

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