Midsummer Madness or How Tony Survived

Tony being warmly greeted by yours truly

Last Sunday I wasn’t too well. Overwork, a summer cold and a lack of sleep had laid me low. But Mothertongue were playing on Sunday in Balham, so I wasn’t staying in bed were I belonged. I was heading to south London.

The other motivation, along with supporting Mothertongue and fellow BEM acts Under a Banner and Verbal Delirium, was to find and punish a man named Tony.

Tony claims he’s a fan of my music. That might be the case, though if you can decipher this sub-Joycean melange of a review you’re more clever than I. He is however guilty of the most egregious, violent punning on the internet. He’s, let’s be frank, a twatbadger and one I was determined to deal with, despite my cold induced fug.

Mothertongue! Mothertongue! Mothertongue! Mothertongue! Mothertongue!

Mothertongue are everything I want in a band. The moment I heard the opening lyrics to Tyrant of the Lizard Kings – “I’ll work the pedals and the devil can steer, things are gonna change, gonna change round here” – I was hooked and the rest of their album Unsongs is an absolute delight.

What do they sound like? Well, at Midsummer Madness, the gig in Balham, they were sans drums, so this gig wasn’t exactly typical. On record, with the full electric set-up they’re all catchy choruses, hooky trumpet lines, catchy choruses, interesting guitar parts, catchy choruses, amazing lyrics, and songs you want to dance, jump and down and singalong with.

I like a singalong chorus and Mothertongue have got ’em by the bucketload.

Acoustic, obviously things were quieter which meant the melody writing was highlighted, both in the vocal harmony parts and the lead guitar and trumpet. Frontman Louis was a delight, thanking David Elephant of Bad Elephant Music was signing them, thereby taking them from obscurity into further obscurity.

As a teenager, as well as my metal, I loved Britrock stuff like Mansun and Gomez and so on. Having got older, I also like clever muso things, and I’ve always liked a singalong bit. Mothertongue do all of that and this gig was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Before them I caught the end of Under a Banner’s set and was surprised by the cover of Metallica’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, which they performed with gusto and skill. Broken down trains had kept me from the venue for the start of their set, but I really enjoyed what I heard.

Verbal Delirium from Greece were clearly the audience’s favourite of the three and I can see why. There’s was a performance of real class and skill, and much closer to a traditional prog act – albeit with goth and metal ingredients as well – which explains the enthusiasm given the prog bent of the rest of the bill.

By this point however, I was flagging and had gone deaf in one ear – a hindrance more related to illness then loud music. Tony by this point had already heckled me from the stage, which I’m sure is not the right way round for heckling, but other than giving him a warm friendly greeting (see the picture above) I decided that it was time to head home and find my bed.

Next time, Tony. Next time.

Jack Arthurs – a songwriter you should listen to.

Jack Arthurs in Darlington, displaying an elephant bag he hopes will mollify our evil record label boss

On Friday 7th July I played a great gig in Darlington, in the North of the UK.

The opening act was Jack Arthurs, a singer-songwriter who I’d not really listened to properly,  despite being on the same label as me.

I was very happy that I caught his set, because he really is a great songwriter. His set-up was dead simple, just himself and an acoustic guitar in an open tuning. The songs themselves were evocative of the Northeast, inspired by trips to the coast and full of hooks and proper choruses, as well as great guitar playing.

Jack is really good. You should listen to him!


Indie reviews – Tom Stedman Little Blue Dot

Over the last 12 months or so I’ve acquired a little stack of CDs by independent musicians. Most of these I acquired from acts I shared a bill withhh at last summer’s gigs.

Being a rubbish music fan (I make music far more often that I listen to other people’s), I have not listened to all of them. To make amends I thought I’d do some proper listening and write some little mini reviews.

First up is Tom Stedman’s Little Blue Dot.

Tom is a solo guitar player and Little Blue Dot showcases his guitar playing across 4 tracks. The recording is very simple – a solo steel string guitar, a good mic, a bit of reverb, no metronome or click track to be found. Lovely.

Tom is a virtuoso so the guitar playing here is full of fingerstyle twiddles, lightening arpeggios, harmonics and all sorts of cleverness. For all the technical skill that’s not the point of the music however. The technique is there to serve the music which sketches and meanders its way through modal chord progressions in an almost improvisatory way.

Little Blue Dot, the title track, is 7 minutes of bliss. B the second track has a great melody. Pootle, the third track has some lovely little excursions. The closing track, Eye of the Observer features percussive guitar paying to accompany its minor key motifs in way that really works well.

If you like soundtracky instrumental guitar stuff, Tom Stedman is for you. For reasons I don’t understand, Tom is literally the only indie musician I know who doesn’t use bandcamp, so you’ll have to head over to cdbaby to grab a copy. Alternatively, get yourself over to Tom’s website where he has a new album available too.

Through These Veins – First Reviews

The first couple of reviews of the new EP are in:

The closing title track, begins as a Rhodes lullaby for the first 28 seconds before going into the style of Camille Saint-Saens heavy inspirations of the Danse Macabre in the sinister waltz time signature and not to mention the string section, keeps the tension going in this jazzy-classical-rock sound. And it is really terrifying and menacing, but the lyrics that Tom wrote are staggering and mind-boggling.

Zachary Nathanson – Music from the Other Side of the Room


Steampunk is a genre of fiction and style that takes many forms, from a joyful celebration of Victoriana to disturbingly bio-dysmorphic body-horror; Tom Slatter’s interests tend towards the murky darkness of the latter, and his music is largely directed at articulating unsettling character-driven narratives in such a setting. Through These Veins continues his efforts in this… vein, with dramatic, cinematic songs telling stories of scientific hubris, unhealthy creative obsession and personal tragedy.

Oliver Arditi

What am I doing at the top of a list that includes King Crimson and Genesis?

Look at the picture above – I’m legitimately at the top of a list that includes King Crimson and Genesis? How surreal. Of course it’s only because I’m a new artist on Progarchives.com, but it still pleases me greatly even though I wouldn’t dream of placing myself above those artists in terms of quality or popularity.

Progarchives is one of my favourite sites, I’ve discovered lots of great music through there, so to be featured is lovely. There are a couple of reviews of my tracks up, including one of Earthbound that says:

‘…It sounds like it belongs in the dream sequence of an indie film. The vocal delivery is akin to John Wetton, but I am reminded of The Ninth Wave from Kate Bush’s The Hounds of Love. It is rare to hear someone do so much with two chords. “Earthbound” generates mixed feelings of being lost but having a sense of calm peacefulness all the same.’

John Wetton is a singer I have a lot of time for, so it’s nice to be compared to him.

Three Rows of Teeth

Anyhoo, what have I been up to? Well the big news is that I’m recording my third solo album. Backing tracks (Drums, bass, rhythm guitar and keys) are pretty much done, which leaves lead guitars, vocals and silly beepy noises to add. After that mixing and mastering, artwork and so on. Probably another two or three months at the very least before it’s finished.

As pleased as I am with Ironbark, my production skills continue to improve and I want to challenge myself to produce a really good indie record with this. It’ll be more electric guitar based than previous albums but still similar to my rockier numbers. The songs from the Mother’s Been Talking to Ghosts Again EP will be reworked to form part of the album, so you’ve already heard some of the pre-production demos as it were.

There will also be a few other numbers – and if you’ve been following the demos on my 52 Things page, (see above) you’ll have heard most of the album in its embryonic form.

I have good feelings about this project – I think it’s going to be my best music yet.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.



Monsters, Whores and More

Fledderjohn is the performing name of a gentleman named Michael Heath. A couple of years ago, back when my songwriting blog was trying to be a podcast, I made use of a wonderful song of his to illustrate some songwriting point or other. I lost the recording of that podcast when moving server a few months ago, so I can’t share that with you.

I can however, share his new album. Monsters, Whores and More is a wonderful set of songs. I don’t know if he had steampunk in mind when he created it, but with that airship on the cover, the gloriously fragile acoustic folk sound, lines like ‘Bumble bees and beagles, Mr Darwin help me please’ and songs about adventure on the high-seas, I’m going to declare it a steampunk(ish) masterpiece.

Particular favourites of mine are the opening track Tiny Boat, Fiddler’s Field and Evolution Song, but the whole album is a sublime slice of nautical songwriting that deserves to be on your music player of choice.

<a href="http://fledderjohn.bandcamp.com/album/monsters-whores-and-more">Tiny boat by Fledderjohn</a>

Ben Steed – Distorted Skies

Via the Brass Goggles forum, I stumbled across Been Steed’s ‘Distorted Skies’.

<a href="http://bensteed.bandcamp.com/album/distorted-skies">Time Will Erode Us (I&#8217;ll Be Waiting) by Ben Steed</a>

I’m listening to it for the first time as I type, and I really like it. It’s very much a ‘mood’ album, all ominous drones, muffled piano and twisting layers. There are some genuinely interesting note choices, for instance at the end of the opening track Time Will Erode Use (I’ll Be Waiting).

Steampunk? In parts. The Conspirator opens with a lovely broken-music hall groove that stays on the same chord for too long (in a very good way), and there’s a sitar intro later on that’s very steampunk in a British Empire, last days of the Raj fashion.

The mix of electronica, piano and distorted vocals on Distorted Skies evokes a wonderfully dark mood and I would heartily recommend it as the perfect accompaniment to the few winter nights we’ve (hopefully) got left this year.

Two more mentions for Spinning the Compass

Spinning the Compass technically isn’t finished. I still have to sort out a final cover and redo a few little details in the recordings. Neverthless, it’s getting the occasional mention online. Here are two of ’em:

Andrew Liptak from Carry You Away:

…Another artist, one of our favorites from a couple years ago, Tom Slatter, of the since metamorphosed We’ll Write (now called Comrad Robot), has released a solo album with a steampunk theme called Spinning the Compass. If you liked We’ll Write, Slatter has kept a lot of the same feel from that group with the same nerdish themes of machines and humanity…

Rob Weber

Tom Slatter’s Spinning the Compass is best described, I think, as acoustic prog-rock. From alternating measures of 5/4 to wildly chromatic key changes to rowdy (acoustic) guitar solos, all of the prog-rock elements are there. As a fan of Yes and ELP, these elements drew me in immediately.