Hey, have you heard about…Working Men’s Club

Here’s a funny one, like – chances are you have already heard about this lot. Or maybe not, either way – Let’s get started on the trio with the great name, Working Men’s Club!

Running in the same circles as The Orielles and having a name very much on brand – that being dead British (see Black Country, New Road and Tebay Services) – they’re based out of one of our favourite spots Up Norf, Todmorden (“by-way of-Europe“).

In a similar vein to Gang Of Four and Television, with a dash of New Order here and a sprinkle of Orange Juice there, their debut single ‘Bad Blood‘ is really quite something, with excitement at every turn and an insatiable groove. Sounds like an instant classic.

The vinyl for this one sold like hot cakes and they’ve neatly slotted themselves into BBC Radio 6 Music’s playlist. Get in on the ground floor whilst you still can!

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Hey, have you heard about…Public Practice

Sunday mornings, eh? Can’t be beat sometimes. A moment of quiet in the house, a bit of incense on the go, a pot of coffee at the ready and memories of the night prior coming into focus (some good, some bad). Often a time of discovery, this very morning it’s been the nostalgic pangs of NYC quartet Public Practice.

The initial rumblings of ‘Fate/Glory‘ had my attention instantly, its off-beat post-punk guitar howls cat-scratching at the rhythm section before hypnotising vocals took over. By the time ‘Bad Girl(s)‘ gets into its infectious call-back chorus, I was hooked. Proper good this, kid.

They’re from NYC (see the photo for evidence) and their debut EP calls to mind the likes of fellow New Yorkers Talking Heads and Blondie (the funky, disco vibes of ‘Foundation), the vocals very much The Pretenders and that self-titled debut of theirs. It’s proper dancy post-punk and it’s very much the soundtrack to this Sunday morning.

Fresh off from their EP release in October, they’ve just put out a new one too – The hectic ‘Slow Down‘, taken from a flexi-disc being put out on Wharf Cat Records, also featuring our favourites Flasher!

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Live Review: PILL at The Peer Hat in Manchester 28 January 2019

Monday evening in Manchester and frost is on its way. The forecast is snow and the streets are bare. Downstairs at The Peer Hat, tucked away in the Northern Quarter just off Stevenson Square, the Brooklyn based post-punk four-piece known as PILL are due on stage imminently. On arrival, guitarist Jon Campolo looks out and captures the energy of the room.

Monday night…

Within seconds, thoughts of being out on a freezing cold evening are forgotten as they kick into the blistering ‘A.I.Y.M?’, opener from their latest album ‘Soft Hell’, released a few months back on Brooklyn indie label Mexican Summer. Drummer Andrew Spaulding hammers away and catches the rumbling bass of Veronica Torres, as she shouts and coos in an almost Valley Girl style. Saxophonist Benjamin Jaffe gets down on one knee and covers the whole microphone with his mouth, the resultant feedback howling through the speaker. Later on he adjusts the levels on his amp with one foot and stands Ian Anderson stylee, the sax squealing as Torres shout ‘Am I Your Man?

On ‘Empathizer (Rat in the Box)’, Torres hands her bass over to Campolo and he in turn bursts into a hypnotising, pulverising bassline as she contorts her vocals and screeches. It’s captivating on the verge of confrontational, at odds with the smiley faces that adorn the strap of the bass.

The majority of the set is “All new” we’re told, as they’ve not played Manchester in at least two years. Whilst tuning up, Campolo says “You guys are dead quiet, man”. Quick as a flash, someone up front retorts “So are you”. Campolo looks up and laughs at this, taking it on the chin. It’s not a big crowd but it’s an appreciative one. A few members of local experimental post-punk outfit DUDS are in the house and there’s a lad up the front who seemingly doesn’t stop dancing during their 40-odd minutes on stage.

From acerbic and in-your-face one minute to ludicrously groovy the next, on ‘Plastic’, Torres again hands over the bass to Campolo who backs her up on vocals and throws in the occasional whistle. Torres meanwhile dances about to the insatiable groove whenever she’s not singing. It’s when they come together like this that the dynamic shifts, Torres moving about the stage whilst the rest of the band lock into some mesmerising grooves, like on the dreamy ‘Piña Queen’.

Within a heartbeat it’s over, the band just as thankful as the crowd, smiles all round. This isn’t one of those Lesser Free Trade Hall Sex Pistols moments, but it’s very much in a similar vein. In this case, a dimly lit basement off the main strip with a band effortlessly putting on an incredible show to a small group of people who will likely talk about it for days, weeks, months to come. Right now it’s particularly what’s needed over these cold months – an escape from what’s going on outside.

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What’s On Michael Portillo’s iPod: International Teachers Of Pop

Here at Birthday Cake For Breakfast, we like to get to the heart of what an artist is all about. We feel the music they listen to is just as important as the music they make. With that in mind, we’re delighted to have Leonore Wheatley of the wunderbar International Teachers of Pop in the hot seat, talking us through five releases that have had her inspired around their forthcoming debut album.

Yellow Magic Orchestra – ‘Firecracker’ (Yellow Magic Orchestra, 1978)

I travel a lot between the cities of Manchester and Sheffield and so when on the train I feel a good synth is crucial to keep one company.

The Yellow Magic Orchestra are easily as pioneering as Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream. One of the founding members is Ryuichi Sakamoto, who’s amazingly prolific, writing music for the film The Revenant, as well as releasing an album pretty much every year since 1978. But for me it’s YMO who created such timeless tracks and ‘Firecracker’ in particular is the missing link between Kraftwerk and Boney M.

Kim Jung Mi – ‘Your Dream‘ (Now, 1973)

A South Korean contribution, I came across this beauty of a songwriter on one of those discover weekly lists on Spotify the summer I started working with Adrian and Dean, and I’ve been annoyingly and drunkenly telling people to listen to her album ‘Now’ most weekends. Released in 1973 with no follow up album, this wouldn’t feel out of place next to Joan Baez or Townes Van Zandt.

Her vocals are so so beguiling. I love the sounds she makes in between the guitar instrumental at the end of this track, contrasting to the lyrics which are visions of pink blossom, horse riding through the mountains and returning to a lost love, (apparently, I don’t speak South Korean so I’ve relied on Google translate) Soppy stuff, but she makes it sexy.

Cocteau Twins – ‘Persephone’ (Treasure, 1984)

“When thinking of vocal ideas, there are a couple of female singers I always think of who have inspired me the most, and Elizabeth Fraser is up there (Bjork being another). ‘Persephone’ is a relentless and brutal track. The ‘gun shot’ of the drum machine underneath the simple and driven bass line paves the way for industrial sanctuary. And then her vocals, unlike Kim Jung Mi’s lyrics, hers as per are unrecognisable, but who gives a shit?

Improvising over instrumentals, I’ve always tried to write vocal lines with a shape, adding in lyrics later which may fit. Elizabeth Fraser doesn’t just write a shape with her melody, but creates a whole scene scape, enabling us to build our own story line.

Kylie/Towa Tei/Haruomi Hosono – ‘GBI (German Bold Italic)’ (Sound Museum, 1997)

“Just watch the video.

Sugababes – ‘Overload’ (One Touch, 2000)

‘Overload’ came out in 2000 when I was 14 and it was a mixture of girl bands which I had convinced myself I was ‘growing out of’ and a darker groove similar to that of a pop sounding ‘White Rabbit’ by Jefferson Airplane (really similar bass line).

The original Sugababes line up (there were about 37 weren’t there?) were so cool with fashion style out of a Gap advert and a video that didn’t need all the millions Britney was pumping into hers. But most importantly their vocals in ‘Overload’ reflect pure 90’s RnB but completely unforced. The melody and harmonies are written over the two chromatic chords which make up the whole entire song, again just such Pop simplicity. I remember having that album and single on the top of my CD list at a time when instead I was starting to branch out into grunge and metal. Tracks like that have kept me tied to Pop and RnB throughout every musical outlet I’ve explored I suppose.

International Teachers of Pop‘ is out February 8th! Bag a copy (or two) here.

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Hey, have you heard about…Roxy Girls

What a week it’s been, eh? Sunderland’s The Futureheads announced their return and in the blink of an eye, plans for a new record and a run of UK dates!

When the news broke, I was instantly transported back to 2004-2005, days I remember fondly. I was working in a fast-food establishment at the time (not that part) and earning the required funds to purchase the newest albums, to be played on a giant CD Walkman (where you could listen to just the one CD at a time – one which might be stuck on there depending how much space you had in your bag…) From Bloc Party’sSilent Alarm’ to ‘Lullabies To Paralyze‘, with the S/T Futureheads debut being a constant.

Whilst they were away, there’s been another bunch of young Mackems who’ve caught my attention, bringing to mind those heady days in the early noughties and discovering that other quartet of noisy young Mackems. With a vocal very reminiscent of Barry Hyde and with a nod to that frantic, jangly off-beat post-punk approach, let’s introduce you to Roxy Girls – well worth your time.

Their first EP came out early last year and they’re currently putting together their next release. David Brewis – he of Field Music fame – is putting the new record together as we speak! Keeping it all in the (Sunderland) family!

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Live Review: Field Music at Imperial War Museum North 24 January 2019

2019 – the year of live performances in unfamiliar settings. Having warmed up for the year with a live screening of England valiantly crashing out of last year’s World Cup right before Californian speed-freaks OH SEES played on the very same stage, I’ve already pencilled in NYC post-punk darlings BODEGA in a Northern library this March. This past week kicked it off proper though, with the turn of Sunderland’s own Field Music and a specially commissioned live performance at the Imperial War Museum North.

As part of the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Making a New World’ season (exploring how the First World War has shaped society), the performance drew inspiration from a rare document in IWM’s extensive collection – an image taken from a 1919 publication on munitions by the United States War Department. Created using a technique called ‘sound ranging’, utilising an array of transducers to capture vibrations of gunfire, the image highlights the minute leading up to 11am on 11 November 1918 and the minute immediately after, when the guns fell silent.

With this as a starting point, the Brewis brothers (Peter and David) then created a show through imagining the six parallel strands of the image continuing throughout the next hundred years, resonating and vibrating across the globe in the shadow of the First World War. From the programme on the night:

In writing these songs, we felt we were pulling the war towards us – out of remembrance and into the everyday – into the now.

(Photo Credit: Imperial War Museum)

As far as venues go, leading up the evening it sounded like we were in for a real treat. IWM North is quite the spectacle, with tanks at every turn and old clobber lining the walls. But what could be expected of the evening and its musical performance? David Brewis to arrive on one of their many tanks? Peter Brewis via fighter plane?

As a hush fell amongst the gathered crowd, the Brewis brothers arrived on foot with a number of familiar faces from Field Music live shows – keys player Liz Corney, bassist Andrew Lowther and Kevin Dosdale. Guitarist Dosdale it would turn out had gone above and beyond for the evening’s performance, not only learning an entirely new set of Field Music songs within a short space of time, but seamlessly weaving together the audio with accompanying visuals that were projected behind the band, linking up pivotal points across the six strands as above.

As the band kicked into gear, led by David behind the kit with his swell vocal, the six strands bounced into life, individually twanging like the strings of a guitar on each beat, moving continuously throughout the performance to reflect the document of 1919. Chosen blips in the timeline came thick and fast with the arrival of each new song, with stories of Supreme Allied Commander Marshal Foch, the first Housing and Town Planning Act, ‘Best Kept Garden’ competitions and rebuilding following WWI.

(Photo Credit: Imperial War Museum)

In terms of the music, outside of tonight’s setting these are confined for the time being to a few BBC 6 Music sessions and their forthcoming IWM London performance. But what I can tell you is that each track is groovy as you like, typical of the exquisite Field Music brand and very much in the style of 2016’s ‘Commontime‘ LP. There are lots of little tinkerings and extra percussive sounds throughout, small elements that really add to the overall sound and give a sense for the setting.

A daunting, heavy bassline permeates ‘I Thought You Were Something Else’, a song on the deadly influenza pandemic, whilst ‘If The Wind Blows Towards The Hospital’, inspired by the advent of mustard gas, features a particularly strong passage that I find myself completely lost in. ‘Only In A Man’s World’ is an incredibly funky Prince-esque sprint about the development of the first modern sanitary towel from Kimberley-Clark.

This is one of the great aspects of the evening – each song being ridiculously good in its own right, backed by intriguing stories from the past century. From developments in ultrasound technology (‘From A Dream, Into My Arms’) to pioneering reassignment surgery (‘A Change Of Heir’), the development of the Ondes Martenot, one of the first electronic musical instruments (‘A Common Language’) to the staggering reparation bill dealt to Germany by the Treaty of Versailles in 1921 (‘Money Is A Memory’) – not paid in full until 2010!

Not long after Donald Trump’s name appears on the timeline (‘An Independent State’, based on the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – considered a major blow to the Peace Process), the six strands disappear one by one until there’s just one remaining, its pulsing becoming ever fainter until it just stops. Silence.

There’s no encore – we’re told that it wouldn’t really make sense given the circumstances. But it ends on a high, the band offered much applause given not only was the evening a learning experience, but it came with an entirely new Field Music set! It’s suggested that on the journey home we may think of that lonely person downstairs in the German Treasury department, still organising the payment of reparation debts almost a century on from the First World War – its impact still casting a shadow today.

Read our review of ‘Open Here’ from Field Music!

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