NORTHERN SLUM 

JULY REWIND: KING OF THE SLUMS, SIR WALTER J WALLIS, HOBBSIAN DARK STUFF

It was the FACE. Black and white photo, ‘tash and glare, hatted like a rancher from way out West. Not quite what you expect from a small-town music festival programme, but there he was, projecting attitude, worlds apart from the folk blues smileys on the page. The blurb promised ballads, feedback and distortion.

How can we not check this guy out?

Sir Walter J Wallis: Ukedelia

And so it was that Thame Town Music Festival turned us on to the ukedelic blues scorch of Sir Walter J Wallis, right there in the low-voltage confines of Thame Snooker Club. Who he? Some self-styled Cornish outsider, armed with a uke, one shoe red one shoe green. How good is his crew? Good enough to banish the anti-rock daylight and carpet-ry to a 45-minute afterthought – this bunch of middle-age greybeards grabbed it. No ballads, and no slowhand-trad either ‘coz the licks were quick. Checking the Ukedelia album afterwards, opener Cold White Stone flies with a restless energy, and for all the bluesy labels thrown about in the festival programme and his own website, Sir Walter’s path is more Billy Childish smarts than Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – which is no doubt why they blazed the baize house that Thame aft. Rockarolla exciting. Back to Ukedelia, and its trebley solo/rhythm style – almost New York new wave – breaks through best on tracks like So What?, Railroading and Eye of the Hurricane, while Day I Made My Angel Cry‘s raw axe and horn decor ain’t a million miles from Spiritualized unorchestral.

So, not the most produced album you’ll ever hear, but on the back of a live gig it more than stacks up. Please, Sir … can we have more? And when?

King of the Slums: Manco Diablo

Hypnotic semi-riffs that loop around and around and around, then snag you on the downside: this is new album Manco Diablo, a record that sometimes makes you wanna rock, maybe even dance, but mostly makes you feel like you’re trapped in a mill town canal. Yeah. Reportage through a stained lens. It’s a bit dank, a shadow lurker, but behind the loping motifs, spoken vocals and Manc indietones vibe are guitars – big fuckoff ones, late-80s metal style: no air, no fade, no natural light, just endless sustain. I. LIKE. The whole thing’s slightly out of place, like a non-electro Wrangler, or maybe King of the Slums have always been like that? Dunno. Until Gideon Coe aired Lost in Translation the other week and prompted and an immediate spend, I’d never heard them or of them and knew nowt about their distant history, so this is fresh sonics. If it’s the same for you, check KOTS and do what you gotta do. 

Pijn

Pijn (pronounced pine) played at the Dark Matter festival at the Manchester International Festival, and Dumbstruck & Floodlit was played on a Dark Matter Freakzone special the other week. Post-metal with a Godspeed arc that crashes the eye of a hardcore storm, ’tis another top new track. Album is Floodlit and it’s out now on Holy Roar Records, home to OHHMS.

And seeing as we’ve mentioned Dark Matter, we’ve got to tip our headwear to curator Mary Anne Hobbs, one of THE best broadcasters out there. Check this Baker’s Dozen with the Quietus magazine for a classy selection – Bowie, Colin Stetson, Mogwai, Burial, Deftones, Kendrick Lamar – and some character-defining stories from the Garstang escapee.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

MAY QUEENS: eponymous

ROCKING ONE-OFF FROM GOD CULT

God Machine. Ocean vast, yet lost – to Tumour, the Premature Life-ender. R.I.P.

Seven years after bassist Jimmy Fernandez’s death at 29, God Machine frontman Robin Proper-Sheppard put out this tidy number under the May Queens moniker in 2000, and you’d never make the connection. Short, catchy, carefree – everything the GM weren’t – this 30-minute self-titled wax job sits a lot closer to the just-off-mainstream rock of the day than the God Machine ever did, meaning it’ll never pull on your inner emo or inspire a cult-ish devotion like Sheppard-Fernandez-Austin’s machine trio.

But this sole (isn’t it?) May Queens release is worth nabbing if you get the chance, because it’s a summer breezer – an airy antidote to GM’s turbulent heavy weather – and it’s got an opening track that’s so charged it’s DANGEROUS. You know how some tracks always sound louder than the volume you’re on, like they’re too big to be contained by a mere recording process? Well, there’s a flash of that with Theme for the May Queen No.1 – Alright (Oh Yeah). 128 seconds of garage rattle ‘n’ roll, speeding with a slacker’s lack of lyrics (ooh yeah/alright, repeat), but that’s the way it has to be for a track like this – anything more literate than Sub-Moron would detract and distract from Theme No. 1’s enormo rock thrust.

The May Queens

The May Queens: alright (oh yeah)

And that thrust comes after the verse. Go back to Duel, from Swervedriver’s Mescal Head, and check the volume push on the riff in the chorus – the bit that makes you wanna hurl yourself around at a gig. Got it? So has Theme No.1, ‘cept it’s ramped up with centrifugal fling … and today, 17 years after a first hearing, it STILL slams hard. Try it. But if you’re about to bust your May Queen Theme 1 cherry, do it with speakers or headphones that carry some welly, eh? No point fumbling a premature blowout on a tinny tiny device-hole… give yourself some room.

After such a launch, what of the rest of the album? First, a couple of low-pressure warnings: Like a Record and Falling (Won’t You Fall In Too) are pretty non-descript janglers/punch-free pop, depending on how charitable you are. Other than those two though, the May Queens album is a solid summer spin. Closer hints at White Denim’s freewheeling cool – dusty rock for boot cuts – while Rollin’ nicks a Zep-ish slide-off and hammers it with the kind of clang that Archie Bronson Outfit struck on Derdang Derdang. Tonite coasts with a Pumpkins lilt on a summer’s eve.

The last cut revisits the title of the opening track, but not the music. Theme for the May Queen No. 2 – Car Crash (Pulsating Core) is a deliciously warped Bond theme surfing with Man or Astroman, and it’s waaaaay too short. If the May Queens had jammed on crash for another 5 minutes and knocked Falling off, it would have swung the record nearer to the road’s edge than the middle.

So, more of a lost favourite than a stone chilled classic, this record suits if Swervedriver’s heavy overdrive and pop nous has served you well in years gone by (not surprising, given Adam Franklin and Robin Proper-Sheppard’s shared history and Sophia/Sophia Collective overlap). 

May Queens: sunshine cool with a Theme-time burn.