Tiny Changes to Earth – Remembering Scott Hutchison

Words from Fran Slater (Photo Credit: Ross Gilmore/Redferns)

When Bowie died, I was upset for a variety of reasons. The world had lost one of its most interesting and changeable influencers, a star had been dulled too soon, and a man whose music made millions of people dance and cry had gone. Ziggy Stardust was no more. But there was always something unreachable about Bowie, something so otherworldly that we could never touch it.

When Scott Hutchison’s body was discovered late last week, I felt like I’d lost a friend. That will sound ridiculous to some – I had met Scott twice, but both times it was nothing more than a handshake and quick chat after a gig. I’m fine with sounding ridiculous, though. Because Scott was someone who had invited me into his life in a way that many of the people I’m closest to have never done. He was a man who had shared his deepest thoughts and feelings with me. A man who’d laid himself bare. A man who took his most difficult moments and made them into music that was thought-provoking, funny, macabre, and occasionally difficult to listen to. But almost always brilliant.

Scott was also a man who had been there through some of the most difficult moments of my life, even if he didn’t know he was there at the time. What has struck me most since his death is how many people feel that way. Twitter has been awash with conversations about how Scott’s music, particularly the album ‘The Midnight Organ Fight’, helped them through a heartbreak or made them see that they weren’t alone in their struggles.

For me, one of the main things it did was show that no matter how shit you feel at a particular time, things will get better. And that however close you get to the bottom you can climb back up. Which makes it even more upsetting to think of how Scott’s life ended. But I think the best thing anyone can do to remember Scott is to remember the good things that he did or was a part of. There is a line in the song ‘Head Rolls Off’ where Scott says ‘While I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth’. From reading all the comments on Twitter in the last week or so, it is clear to me that he did that and so much more.

Of course, the main thing we should remember about Scott is the music. A recent collaboration with his brother and two members of Editors resulted in ‘Dance Music’ by Mastersystem; a superb album that adds a bit of a post-punk edge to Scott’s usual writing. In 2014, we were lucky enough to be gifted a solo album from Scott, going under the moniker of Owl John. Again, it is evidence of a superior songwriter who should have been more widely acknowledged. But it is, quite rightly, his work with Frightened Rabbit that he will mostly be remembered for.

I haven’t listened to anything but Frightened Rabbit in the days since Scott was first reported missing. It’s a difficult listen at times right now, and I can’t help but look out for clues of what was coming or hints that Scott might not make it through the darkness which he often discussed openly. There are a lot of them. Every man and his dog has been pointing to the song ‘Floating in the Forth’, which details a fantasy of dying in a way that now seems all too real. But songs throughout Frightened Rabbit’s albums are replete with references to death, depression, suicide, graves, and bones. It’s everywhere.

But the message I still get from their music is hope. ‘The Modern Leper’ (performed in the video above; a video that sums Scott up for me, witty and charming but clearly struggling and sad) was the first song I heard that talked about depression so openly and with so much honesty, but also kept coming back to the chink of light that was acceptance and familiarity.

My Backwards Walk’ talks of messing things up completely, but finding a path to putting them back together again. ‘Still Want To Be Here’ tells its listeners (and probably its author) to try and accept that things will never be exactly as you want them to be because there is a lot to love in life anyway, that things are always and will always be okay. ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’ lets us know that someone will be there to drag us from the mire. And a million other songs, from ‘Swim Until You Can’t See Land’ to ‘The Woodpile’, instil a similar sense of triumphing over adversity. This is fucking uplifting music. And okay, there isn’t much hope or uplift in ‘Poke’, but it’s a piece of complete and utter magic nonetheless.

So that’s about all I have to say. Like Scott, I’ll try and be concise and clear in my misery and leave you with a bit of hope at the end. As sad as Scott’s death will always be, it has been refreshing to see such an open and accepting discussion of mental health and suicide on social media in the last few days. Maybe Scott’s final ‘tiny change’ will be to make anyone who listens to his music and hears a bit of themselves feel more willing to share their struggles and talk to somebody. I hope so.

In ‘Yes, I Would’ Scott sings ‘I wonder if they’d notice that I’m not around/The loss of a lonely man never makes much of a sound’. Well we’ve definitely noticed, Scott, and if you are the lonely man you’re referring to then I think you’d be surprised to see the sound your loss has made. Thanks for the music, mate. You’ll be missed.

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Live Review: We Are Scientists at O2 Ritz in Manchester 9 May 2018

How’s it going, you unsavoury bastards?

Mid-week in Manchester and at the infamous Ritz (now not quite so romantically prefixed by O2), perennial piss-takers We Are Scientists are greeting the congregation before them the only way they know how. They’d arrived on stage seconds earlier to the deafening (but familiar) doo-wop of ‘Blue Moon’, a nod to the City fans in the room – or potentially twisting the knife in for those who favour United.

It’s a welcome return to these shores from We Are Scientists, a unit who have flourished in the UK ever since the release of debut LP ‘With Love And Squalor over a decade ago. There’s just something about those heartthrobs… add current drummer Keith Carne into the mix and baby, you’ve got a stew going!

‘Your Light Has Changed’ opened up proceedings, mega-hit single taken from the recently released ‘Megaplex’. It’s 100% pure We Are Scientists at its core, so it makes sense that it bleeds expertly into ‘The Great Escape’, knocking the audience sideways and bringing out frantic footwork amongst them.

Thanks for coming out on a Christmas Wednesday” called out bassist Chris Cain, kicking off a 60+ minute double act with guitarist Keith Murray, ultimately suggesting that our gift for the evening was the gift of We Are Scientists. “It ain’t exactly a magazine subscription…

Later on, Cain would highlight the pressures they’ve encountered being the favoured band of Theresa May. When she’s not fucking things up left, right and centre here at home, we’re told she’s on the blower to Chris and Keith requesting new records on her say so. Their latest ‘Megaplex’ is said to be “The album that she wants to be buried on”!

Outside of humorous asides, it was riff central, one after the other, as We Are Scientists went back through their history books. From 2016’s ‘Helter Seltzer’ came the undeniable hit ‘Buckle’, off 2008’s ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’ there was the pure funk bounce of ‘Chick Lit’ and 2010’s ‘Barbara’ offered up the stomping ‘I Don’t Bite’.

Make It Easy’, ‘Notes In A Bottle’ and ‘Too Late’ bring out the softer, more glittering side of the band, the latter being a personal favourite from their collection of pop bangers. It captures them in all their high school prom pomp, ultimately culminating in a stadium rock crescendo as it crashes head first into ‘This Scene Is Dead’. The set-up is expertly crafted, and it brings out untold appreciation from the room.

One In, One Out’ comes alive in its dance-a-thon throwback sound, greeted with tons of dancing from the pit and fingers being pointed skyward, joined by its album counterpart ‘No Wait At Five Leaves’ with one of the biggest receptions of the night.

Having had Chris raise an issue he’s encountered in Manchester – being rejected “flat out” for a house here (the property being an operational Nike store in the centre of town – “Not a very inviting town for foreigners”), the night nears its end with a frenzied reception for ‘Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt’ and the unstoppable ‘Rules Don’t Stop’, the latter still as fresh now as it was eight years ago on its release! The cherry on top comes courtesy of an encore of guitar hero splendour on ‘Dumb Luck’ and poppy anthem ‘Nice Guys’.

Earlier in the evening, ‘It’s A Hit’ had Keith bouncing around the stage like a pinball, but on closer of the evening ‘Textbook’, off comes the denim and the guitar, and Keith takes a knee to get personal with the front row. Becoming so impassioned following the belt-it-out chorus, he’s soon enough over the barrier and out into the far reaches of the crowd. It’s a lovely image and one that brings a tear to the eye – never stop being you, We Are Scientists!

Read our review of newest record ‘Megaplex’ here!

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Exclusive: Little Cavalier Festival complete line-up – Demob Happy to headline Sunday!

Back in late March, we were delighted to announce the first names for Little Cavalier Festival this May at The Flapper in Birmingham. We’re even more delighted to book-end the festival’s announcements by giving away the Sunday evening headliners – fuzz-heavy Brighton based trio Demob Happy!

Fresh off the release of their new record Holy Doom‘, Demob Happy join the likes of Yr Poetry, UpCDownC, Coffee Breath, Arbor Lights, Too Piste, WMN (Women) and Piles Of Clothes!

Saturday headliners are the previously announced GALLOPS (with full visuals), who’re joined throughout the day by Poly-Math, Trojan Horse, False Hope For The Savage, Mayors Of Toronto, FES UK, Shywood and A Werewolf!

Tickets are ten squid for each day… But you’re coming to both, right? That’s £15 for both days, with all ticket profits for the weekend going towards helping our main man Dan Wild-Beesley – You can read his full story here and grab tickets here! 

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Dick Straightener Of The Week: Parquet Courts – Almost Had To Start A Fight / In And Out Of Patience

We’re taking a step back from Castle Face Records this week (having gushed over Thee Oh Sees and Uranium Club the past two) and looking at something more modern. More up to date.

Parquet Courts teased listeners with this first track from their forthcoming record back in late February. Getting comfortable with big-boy producer Brian Burton (a.k.a. Danger Mouse), it’s from their fifth album ‘Wide Awake!’

The suitably titled ‘Almost Had To Start A Fight / In And Out Of Patience’ came with a sigh of relief given their choice of upmarket producer, nailing proceedings as they so often do (and creating a dick straightener in the process, I’d say!) When it shifts gear into (what one assumes is) ‘In And Out Of Patience’, it’s full-pelt, catchy-as-you-like Parquet Courts at their finest.

I’ve got it in mind that the new record is going to do even more wonders for this insatiable crew (they did recently appear on Ellen, after all…) You’ll be able to hear all 13 tracks of ‘Wide Awake!’ when it’s released through Rough Trade on May 18th!

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Live Review: Baxter Dury at The Lantern in Halifax 5 May 2018

Review from Mark Bowers

There is a lovely buzz about Halifax tonight, which spreads for miles around this thriving town. The much lauded regeneration of local arts, culture (mainly around The Piece Hall), and being part-home to much respected bands Hookworms and The Orielles has led to Halifax’s amusing new moniker ‘Shoreditch of the North’.

The local Wetherspoons and other town bars may be spilling over with gammon-tanned lads, but I’m sat in a bar that’s just a stone’s throw from fantastic new music venue The Lantern. Located just across from the old time music hall (the Victoria Theatre), it just happens to have Florence and the Machine on the bill tonight. Also performing just a few miles away are Goat Girl at the legendary Hebden Trades Club.

As a local and regular gig goer, it’s really quite heart-warming to see the progress locally and the booking of Baxter Dury to play in such a small venue (120 capacity) is an amazing achievement. I’m really curious to see if this will be full band or possibly a cut down and partially sampled performance. As I enter the venue, it becomes very clear that it will indeed be a full performance, with six places all set up and with barely any room left on stage (given the amount of synths and keyboards). Considering this fact, it’s no surprise to hear that the gig has no support act, probably dictated by logistics.

The place fills up considerably nearing the 21:30 start, it becoming apparent that the crowd are a mix of local gig goers with a few, seriously delighted to get tickets, faithful Baxter fans. The band fire straight into the set within seconds of appearing; ‘Isobel’, ‘Trellic’ and ‘Picnic on the Edge’ are older favourites in the first half and help build things up nicely, not sounding overly distant from the newer material on ‘Prince of Tears’.

(Photo Credit: Darren Fearnley)

The swaying and dancing increases, as does the banter from “The Sausage Man”. He alludes to the fact he really is quite enjoying this intimate gig, and references opening for Noel Gallagher (at Manchester Arena yesterday) as “very facccking scaaary”. I must admit, I’ve not seen Baxter live before, but I’m very impressed. Madelaine Hart and Leslie Bourdin add a Stereolab type smoky vocal, a fitting contrast against Baxter’s Sleaford Mods style tirade.

As the thunderous bass kicks in on ‘Porcelain’ (which was definitely my favourite of the night), I observe Baxter and his extremely tight band moving up into a 6th gear, seemingly amused by a smaller and maybe more engaging crowd than previous nights. Taking a back seat completely on this tune, Madelaine Hart dishes out some very dark and sinister Baxter Dury lyrics – in that lovely French pop style:- “You’re just a lonely motherfucker … I don’t give a shit about you”. Baxter either engages with the audience or stares right through them, often wrapping his tie around the microphone stand, appearing like a bored child. He weaves and glides about, but despite his aloof cool, I can tell he’s really enjoying this!

As the set moved to its conclusion, we were treated to some further amusing banter with the crowd as ‘Oi’ culminated with Baxter’s attempt at a Calderdale accent. “Halifaxxx, is that ow you say it?”, and some good humoured “shhhh – stop it” as hecklers (predictably) shouted out “Mr Maserati” and “Urban goose”.

(Photo Credit – Darren Fearnley)

Cocaine Man’ had everyone singing along, with the set then ending on the incredible ‘Miami’, an extraordinary replication which again made me realise what an extremely good band he has – recreating multiple layers, often very orchestral and making good use of three keyboard/synth players.

A quick shuffle stage left then back on for a quick encore had them ending on a beautiful recreation of the previous, popular single – ‘Prince of Tears‘. A brilliant night that I was genuinely honoured to witness, as Heavenly Records would say: “Believe in Magic”.

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What’s On Michael Portillo’s iPod: Jo Passed

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 the gnarly Jo Passed in the hot seat, collectively talking us through five releases that have had them inspired around their latest release.

Number 1: Leonard Cohen’s album New Skin For The Old Ceremony (1974)

My go-to Leonard Cohen Record. The use of strings was a direct influence particularly on ‘Who By Fire’. This album is weird and besides the Spector produced ‘Death Of A Ladies Man’, stands out as a unique record that fails to fall into the classification of early or later Cohen… I like all the times Leonard screams in this period, so weird.

Number 2: Frank Ocean’s album Blond (2016)

How is this soo sparse and intimate yet so expansive and dense. The start of ‘Pretty Sweet’ is probably the craziest thing i’ve ever heard, like it beats out Stockhausen, and this is pop music 2016, like how hopeful is that?

Number 3: Cindy Lee’s album Malenkost (2015)

Ex member of Calgary’s Women and probably the most dynamic musical project i’ve ever heard. I can’t think of anything that’s as harsh and noisey in one moment then as beautiful and serene in the next and it all makes sense.

Number 4: Brian Eno’s album Here Come the Warm Jets (1974)

Somehow there’s just something about this record that gives me a sense that everything is going to be ok in regards to creativity and output. I mean, it’s an amazing record and would be a feat to produce something as impactful and beautiful, but just the feel of these early Eno records in terms of their production and the obvious creative approach to that, really cuts through all the limiting “Should do this” “shouldn’t do this” kind of thoughts that can come up while in studio. Anytime I’d get stuck, I’d put on this record and pretty soon after I’d be able to find a path forward.

Number 5: My Bloody Valentine’s album Loveless (1991)

This in combination with the Kevin Shields tape op article. I got this “good music student syndrome” thing in me that’s started to create crippling anxiety and huge amounts of apprehension, so many shoulds and should nots. I loved hearing about how the guitars and vocals were recorded and how they used drum machine on this record, so much of the article and the production seems to go right against what a “good” engineer should do when producing a record. Layering vocals and using eq to create this super weird feel. Avoiding SM57s on guitar amps…

Their Prime‘ is out May 25th through Sub Pop Records! Bag a copy (or two) here.

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Live Review: Mexrrissey at The Albert Hall in Manchester 27 April 2018

There Is A Light That Never Goes Off…

Immortal words indeed, uttered Friday evening in Manchester by a pissed-up punter at the Albert Hall for Mexrrissey – A Mexican supergroup of sorts, performing the hits of Morrissey and The Smiths. This past week saw the supremely talented Mexican outfit kick off their ‘La Reina is Dead’ tour in Manchester, a complete “mexterpretation” of historic Smiths LP ‘The Queen is Dead.

With it being the first night of tour and given the cultural significance of it being in Manchester – a stone’s throw from Salford Lads Club, up the road from Strangeways etc. – Mexrrissey pretty much had it made in the shade. It might also help that this is likely the only interpretation of Morrissey people could likely stomach these days…

A ‘mexterpretation’ it certainly was, with the more jovial numbers throughout the classic album such as ‘Frankly, Mr. Shankly’ and ‘Vicar In A Tutu’ becoming even more joyous, the latter being unsurprisingly gleeful, whilst the former came in with a dreamlike, hypnotic opening akin to fellow country-women Hinds, before turning into a romp-a-pomp up-tempo Mariachi delight.

The heart-string-tugging cut of ‘I Know It’s Over’ was given a new lease of life, with an almost doo-wop sway, whilst ‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others’ came out as ludicrously energetic, with its trumpet blasts and megaphone calls on the chorus.

The fanfare was reinforced throughout the evening by colourful backdrops appearing on the giant screen above the band. On ‘The Boy With The Thorn In His Side’, an animated stag appeared from the wild, its head transformed to that of Steven Patrick Morrissey, pelted with arrows during the chorus. For ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’, Joan Of Arc herself appeared on the screen, engulfed in flames – Walkman, of course, melting. Legendary Mexican wrestler Cassandro even made an appearance at one point, particularly notable as he was chucking about other grapplers and hitting hurricanrana’s aplenty when he performed at a Lucha Libre event at the Albert Hall just last year!

The crowd really came alive for the giant ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’, arms thrown around shoulders, camera phones at the ready, as pissed-up revellers belted back the chorus. In all the excitement, a Sombrero made its way onto the stage – potentially thrown by Morrissey, given his track record… ‘Last Of The Famous International Playboys’, a Morrissey/Mexrrissey staple, was equally greeted with much appreciation, with vocalist Ceci Bastida clearly given all the best songs of the evening! As the trumpet blasts flourished, she swayed her hips and held the microphone out to the crowd for the callback of the chorus.

Let’s kick it!” called out head-honcho Camilo Lara before a rousing performance of ‘Ask’, taking me and the missus back to when we first met, dancing to Ask and more at the infamous Smiths Disco, up the road at the Star and Garter (Unfortunate that the gig wasn’t a week later, so we could have jumped across after the show finished!)

Panic’ bleeding into ‘Hang The DJ’ was a real treat, with multi-instrumentalist Jay de la Cueva letting rip on his guitar during the transition, even indulging in a bit of ‘Holiday Road’ esque guitar! A taste of The Isley Brothers was given out as the crowd got “a little bit softer now/a little bit louder now”, knees hitting the floor and subsequently shooting up for the big build. The giant one-two punch of ‘Suedehead’ and ‘How Soon Is Now?’ acted as the cherry on top of the evening, the famous twang of the latter being expertly created on trumpet. Given the reception throughout the evening, for Mexrrissey it’s more – How soon till you come back?

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