CD reviews: Franz Ferdinand, Half Man Half Biscuit, Duncan Marquiss, Solidarity with Ukraine Bedford News

Half-man, half-cookie – The Voltarol years

Things have been a little dark over the past two years, but a new album from The Wirral’s boring quartet is surely the tonic we need, isn’t it?

Well, yes and no. Truth be told, while Nigel Blackwell and his notoriously publicity-shy cohorts are best known for poking fun at D-list celebrities, there’s always been a dash of gallows humor in their songwriting and their 15th album is no no less dark in places.

Its songwriters (bassist Neil Crossley also heavily involved) may have spent lockdown daydreaming about the march of time, with the album’s title a nod to the magic gel that eases aches and pains. suffered by those of a certain age.

In fact, there’s a divide between the upbeat lyrics and their more usual jangly pop – “Tess of the Dormobiles” is essentially a love song: “I was Betamax, you were VHS”; while “Rogation Sunday” is a slightly more obtuse, 100mph breaking track.

Of course, the ‘irritants’ get their reward in true HMHB style – Kelvin MacKenzie and Nicholas Witchell happily sent ‘In a Suffolk Ditch’, but ‘Big Man Up Front’, it seems, pulls it off free from a hit-and-run.

Indeed, death is omnipresent on the 14 titles – the first track “I’m Getting Buried in the Morning”, a typically skipping ode to an execution to come: “Get me to the flesh on time”.

But ‘Slipping the Escort’ may be a follow-up to ‘Terminus’ from their previous album, a beautiful but dark story about a loved one suffering from dementia.

Overall, though, the Biscuits offer a smile, a song, and an escape from the years ahead – as long as you don’t overthink it.

Duncan Marquiss – Threads Turned Sideways in Time

There is perhaps no better example of the fragility of life as a touring musician – when The Phantom Band had all their equipment stolen outside a French venue in 2015, it was the end of Glasgow’s next act.

Guitarist Duncan Marquiss has since spent several years in art and film, but has now returned to music with his first solo album.

Its seven far-reaching instrumentals include “Drivenhalle,” a mix of sitar and synths more oriental than its title suggests, while “C Sweeps” could be the soundtrack to a range of documentary film genres.

“Minor History” takes us into the American dust bowl, while the title track is a hypnotic mantra of wind chime-like loops.

The widely traveled sound of the album may have been generated primarily in Marquiss’s head, but now is the time to welcome him back.

Franz Ferdinand – Blows to the Head

This Glasgow-formed indie rock combo celebrates 20 years in showbiz with this aptly titled compilation, which looks back and forth chronologically.

Founding members bassist Bob Hardy and frontman Alex Kapranos oversee a 20-track set that does what its title promises – in fact, kicking off with the first not quite a hit ‘Darts of Pleasure’ but a track that paved the way for a series of singles sporting simple yet infectious hooks and beats to drive, in keeping with their mission statement, “records girls can dance to.”

A feat accomplished on ‘The Dark of the Matinée’, ‘This Fire’ and their hit ‘Take Me Out’, to more recent additions to Franz’s canon like ‘Always Ascending’.

There’s no room for their work as FFS with the Mael Brothers, Sparks, but that’s perhaps understandable given the simple fact that the band has more than enough material to fill this “best of” multiple times.

There’s even a sneaky addition of two new tracks – future hits if you will – with new drummer Audrey Tait: “Billy Goodbye,” all fat glam rock beats, is far from typical Franz, but “Curious” recalls the present – the quintet’s roots in the snaking guitar lines and fat choruses.

Which perhaps proves the old adage this smart bunch of musicians will know – why change a winning formula just because you can?

Miscellaneous Mope / Anti-Manifesto Artists – Solidarity with Ukraine

It is now fifty years since George Harrison released “Bangla Desh”, a single to benefit this country torn by war and famine. And now that Ukraine is in dire need of help, 20 musical groups have come together to raise much-needed funds for its people.

With a few contributions from the Anti-Manifesto label, there’s a penchant for emo and alternative sounds – Burnt Tapes offers a slice of anthemic pop-punk to open for, but Flinch’s “Thanks Ophelia” is a jangly shoegaze track while that Chris Sneklgrove’s ‘Same Old War’ is a modern version of Bruce Springsteen.

Chloe Hawes’ straightforward acoustic “Northern Skies” contrasts Nelson Savage’s “Choke,” while Kimberly Steaks delivers an unexpected acoustic melody with a decided Green Day feel.

The standout track may be Paper Rifles’ punk take on Pulp’s “Do You Remember The First Time,” but we’re sure Jarvis would approve, both the delivery and the good cause to boot. (Available from Mope Productions at Bandcamp)

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This notice was published: 2022-04-01 17:32:29

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