Karma to Burn- Appalachian Incantation

the goatman comin

(Napalm Records, 2010)

By Noel Oxford

Gonna get this out of the way: I absolutely ruddy love Karma to Burn. I’ve probably already written about them way more than I should have here, but I just don’t want to stop. Ever since they got back together last year and made noises about recording, I’ve been giddily awaiting a new album. 2001’s Almost Heathen has come to resemble the state of the art for me, as far as stoner rock is concerned, and if nothing else, it would be nice to have something to compare it to. Nine years is a long time to wait, and while there’s been a lot of decent stuff to get down to over that span, if you ask me, there has never been another band anywhere in rock quite like Karma to Burn.

On that silly metal documentary the BBC showed a few weeks back, someone said that the riff is essentially the basic component of every rock song. I am not really a fan of re-stating the obvious, but the quote springs to mind because if Karma to Burn do any one thing in particular, it’s erecting a giant phallic shrine to the very notion of the riff and worshipping it around the clock, besmeared in virgins’ entrails and the lot. Drunk, too, I shouldn’t wonder, the scamps.

By far, they are not the only band to shove vocals under the bus as soon as contractual obligations allow. Nor are they the only band to make it their sole business to deliver thick southern hooks with a twist of jelly jar hooch; there are literally dozens of bands trying to do exactly that. But few ever manage it with consistent aplomb, and that’s what sets these young fellows apart.

Appalachian Incantation is a logical progression from previous outings, a solid log cabin of interlocking riffs, hooks that just stick and stay stuck, and grooves wider than Francis Rossi’s gusset. Opener Forty-Four and follow-up Forty-Two are a cross-country muscle car race between two distinct down-tuned atmospheres, one forceful and up-tempo, the other sludgy and thick. And the latter contains a cowbell hook that is destined to be hammered into steering wheels worldwide.

Later, Forty-Three dishes up the bounciest of all licks, such that it would probably sound silly in the hands of anyone else. It’s married to an unpredictable stop-start, on-off dynamic, and the spaces in between are mortared with ringing chords, scads of reverb and agile drum fills. Meanwhile, album closer Twenty-Four is pretty much a stoner cover of the Dragnet theme, at least at first. In the end, though, it turns out Joe Friday is a secret Benzedrine-addicted drag queen and likes to cruise for casual pick-ups at illegal street races.

In fact, the only tune that seems to seriously misfire here is, coincidentally or otherwise, the only one that deviates from the template. Waiting on the Western World features sacrilegious vocals by Daniel Davies of Year Long Disaster. It’s alright, I suppose, nothing innately terrible about it. But it’s a distraction from the rest of the album, and it really doesn’t fit. It’s not just about the presence of vocals, either. Davies’ earnest, trembling, up-register rock god delivery is also a problem, not to mention the actual tunelessness of the chorus melody. This sort of thing works better with a John Garcia snarl, or the Valium-addled preacher’s grumble of their last vocalist but one, Jay Jarosz.

Let’s hope the rumours of Davies joining the band full-time on vocals turn out to be balls, eh? On the strength of this record, this is a band in absolutely no need of any extra assistance.

8/10

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Video Frenzy

One important thing to remember when you are running a blog.  If you run out of things to post, you can always rely on the age old ‘stick up a couple of videos’ post, which should get you out of jail for a couple of days.  So without further ado:

New Hatebreed video!

I love the way Hatebreed’s song titles are always four syllables long, so that Jamey Jasta can do that thing where he shouts the song title somewhere in the song over the always 4/4 beat. Honestly, his band have managed to turn into a parody of themselves without changing a single thing about their music. It’s extraordinary.  If anyone genuinely listens to Hatebreed without giggling like an infant then I fear for them. Wooaargh, beatdown!

Norma Jean album trailer!

Yes everyone’s favourite uber Christian Dillinger wannabes are back, and by the sounds of it they’ve been listening to a lot of Mastodon in between praying to their benevolent zombie. I don’t think they’ve done anything truly great since their first album, but that album is so good that I still check out every new album they do, just to see if they’ve gotten good again. On the evidence here, the jury is out.

New Slayer video!

Slayer have a new video up for ‘Beauty Through Order’ but for some reason they’ve disabled embedding, so you will actually have to leave this page if you want to see it.  For that reason alone I nearly left it off this list, but fuck it, it’s Slayer. Go here to see it, it has a woman in tar in it for some reason, and it makes her look like the Alien Queen in Aliens. The video doesn’t have any views of Tom Araya headbanging, so the chances are that we’ll never see that again. Oh, and there’s some fire at the end, coz you know, it’s Slayer.

New Sick Of It All Video!
SICK OF IT ALL – Death Or Jail (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

SICK OF IT ALL [NEW VIDEO ONLINE] | MySpace Music Videos
This video is excellent, mainly because it starts off with the band standing around after a gig, seemingly without having aged at all over the last decade when oh noes! It’s the cops! And then, simply because they’re sooo fucking hardcore, the cops have them against the wall, and one cop tells them that ‘This isn’t fucking New York, we fucking hit people here.‘  And then it goes into a song that is exactly like every other SOIA song you’ve ever heard, and every other hardcore video you’ve ever seen.  But complaining about that is like complaining about Megan Fox’s gammy toe.  She’s still really hot, what are you looking at her toes for? But anyway the song is called ‘Death or Jail’, because obviously being in a successful hardcore band means you are often only left with those two options.

Interview – Stephen Jones of Babybird

By Daniel Cairns

Though we’ve dealt primarily with noisy rubbish on the site, we never at any point said we were exclusively a metal site. You all just assumed it. Wankers. So to mark our first real step into talking about other music, we landed a doozy of an interview with Stephen Jones of Babybird. Stephen you see, is probably my favourite songwriter ever. And Andi’s I think. Anyhoo, apart from having a huuuuge hit in the mid nineties, he’s operated on the fringe of the mainstream since then, and it’s a fucking disgrace. He’s easily the most misunderstood artist in operation today. The man should be mentioned with the same reverence as Nick Cave or Leonard Cohen as far as we’re concerned.

I sent Stephen some questions, and by God he answered. Rather than go on a campaign trail up his anus like most musicians do during interviews, Stephen was brutally honest, self deprecating and funny as fuck. It’s a cast iron fact, that if you’re not at least a little bit interested in the man and his music after reading this, you don’t fucking deserve ears.

First things first, thanks for your time! You’re easily the most successful musician we’ve interviewed on our site, and you write actual tunes instead of gurgling about Satan and that. How is Mr Jones this day?

Very fine. Day in the park with the kids. It’s my daughter’s birthday and she faked a sore throat to get off school. I have written some songs about Satan, but only when you play the record backwards.

Your new CD ‘Ex Maniac’ is the catchiest, most anthemic album you’ve done for a while. What brought that on? Did part of you just think ’sod it, let’s go for it?’

I never really think ‘SOD IT’, but I’m more likely to not really think at all. The great thing about music is that it’s hedonistic. Your brain empties out when you make it. Pure pleasure. Lyrics are trickier though like with all writing. It involves the dreaded evil of thought.

Is the record doing well?

It’s not doing great, but it is early days. I’m not sure the record buying public likes music with BRAINS.

Like Them is a pretty damning indictment of Modern Britain. Are any of the lyrics based on truth?

Yes it’s all based on personal things. My daughter was taking swimming lessons and I was taking a photo, when some jerk lifeguard blew his shitty little whistle and asked me to stop. I think a lot of our lives are indirectly answerable to the criminal minority. In this case, like paedophiles.

Is the world today a noticably crappier place to live in than when you were a kid?

No, I know all the evils of the world went on when I was a kid, but now the media is more powerful and they love to peddle hate, and over-sensationalise information., so it’s hard to believe anything these days. It has all gone a bit shit, but hey, when you discover good music, it takes the pain away, just as it always has.

The video for Unloveable is excellent, and not just because some guy called Johnny Depp directed it and played on the track. Whose idea was it to base the video on ‘An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge?’

Johnny’s idea, but I originally sent him a synopsis for a funny hanging video, where the hungee comes back to life and breakdances. Johnny was shown the Owl Creek film by Bruce Robinson, who made Withnail and I/ Rum Diaries etc. Bruce’s daughter is in the video too. I thought the Twilight Zone original of Owl Creek was over-long, so it was ripe for a video. There’s a longer version we did with an elongated instrumental of the song playing over it.

I’d imagine the video won’t get a lot of play on mainstream TV. Is it frustrating that popular culture has become so ball-less, especially considering a lot of your work is extremely gutsy?

Yes, except on youtube. Channel 4 and MTV made pathetic excuses, and like Xfm etc, they think the song/video is ‘very strong’, but don’t know where to put it. It’s bollocks. Nazi-esque performers like Lady Gaga can hang themselves in videos and say MOTHERFUCKER on their records, but only because they have enormous aid from overspending rollercoaster fascist conservative record companies. Sadly, I’m only a minnow.

Will you be working with Johnny on anything in the future? Also, some guy I know who has met him says he smokes more rolly ups than any other man he has met. Is this true?

Yes, he wants to make another video, and yeah he likes fags and booze, but who doesn’t?

Speaking of stories, you’ve written two novels (neither I have read yet, because I’m a goon with a reduced attention span, thanks to Nintendo and telly), and my sources tell me there’s a third one on the way. Can you divulge any details about it? Also on that note, any favourite authors?

Can’t you read books on Nintendo yet, you SHIRKER? Also yeah, I’m starting a third. It’s all mapped out, and is quite epic on the one hand, and very minutiae on the other. It’s about the tidal wave of drinking, not being able to stop, a fat dolphin, a city called ‘Skyscraper’, and a man called Norton Canes, named after a service station. Favourite authors are Charles Bukowski and Cormac McCarthy.

The whole record is stuffed to the guts with songs that should be hits. What will the next single be?

Bastard will be next. Renamed Maniac, as radio won’t entertain the word Bastard. Had to change the word in the song too. Showbiz eh? Our luggers think it stands a good chance. I prefer Not Good Enough but that might be a 3rd.

Do you think the process of writing numerous records within the restrictions of using lo-fi equipment made you a better songwriter? Is the ease of access to higher-quality equipment nowadays killing that process?

Yes, definitely. When you have 4 tracks to work with, and you are such an idiot that you don’t know how to bounce down, you become totally resourceful, and really pin down the exact sound you want. I then went onto an 8-track minidisc, but now for a few years, it’s been garageband. It’s an absolute dream to use. So fucking easy. I still write like a lunatic, almost everyday, still as a hobby, as I did when I was on the dole. Nothing’s really changed. A laptop’s smaller than my old 4-track anyway, so in a way I’ve downsized. Cassettes were shit anyway.

Taking my demos into the studio is still weird, as I have little interest in the technology. I like to work fast without entering geekworld and having to read manuals, but it’s a necessary evil, and Ex Maniac proves that good production is worth being patient for, because it sounds big.

After You’re Gorgeous became a hit, you came back with There’s Something Going On, which was extremely bleak at times. Would you say that represented some sort of adverse reaction to your quick rise to fame, a la Pulp’s This is Hardcore?

Yes definitely, but people mistook the songs for self-loathing. I’ve always used characters in songs, so it wasn’t all about me directly. It was all well balanced though. If You’ll Be Mine was on there as a genuine love song. Take Me Back/ Bad Old Man/ Back Together etc, just showed the world as I saw it. That album got Depp and Marilyn Manson interested.

I like bleak though, like The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Somewhere within, there’s hope. I hope.

You also produce records under your own name (like Almost Cured of Sadness), that tend to be a lot more off kilter and minimalist than your Babybird work. Is there anything similar coming in the near future?

Yes, there will be another Death Of The Neighbourhood record, with fresher, newer songs. The last was more of a compilation of old music.

I’d like to get rid of the Babybird name. It’s always associated with THAT song. I’m convinced that that’s why we’ve got nowhere with festivals this year. The name just doesn’t look good in their trendy yoof-ful lineup lists.

We’ve pretty much exclusively dealt with noisy metal and punk bands on this site before now, because we’re all embarrassingly white and middle class. What’s the loudest, most horrible music you ever got into?

There’s some pretty monstrous and wonderful stuff on Mogwai’s records. Throbbing Gristle I guess, and Genesis P-orridge, Angelic Upstarts, Discharge etc. I used to like all that stuff. I’ve witnessed fans at a Korn festival gig from backstage. It was like a headbanging ocean of denim, leather and really loud shit music.

Stupid last question. You have a button. When you push it, someone somewhere on the planet will blow up. Who would you like that person to be?

My neighbour, who lives below me in the downstairs flat. He’s a tall lanky german banker, who jogs in tight lycra, and lectures me on everything about the house, like litter disposal. What a Nazi CUNT. I want to ask what his parents did in the war.

Any last words for the dregs that read the site?

PLEASE EDIT MY GRAMMAR, SO I DON’T SOUND TOO MUCH LIKE A MORON.

http://www.myspace.com/officialbabybird

Noel’s Roadballs: Part 3

By Noel Oxford

Perhaps there was a bad moon over this festival. Perhaps weed really is the devil’s secret ingredient, and God was punishing us all for our shitty taste in music. Or perhaps the volcano belched in sympathy at the brutality which was to be visited upon Tilburg. What could be more metal than a volcanic eruption – in Iceland?! Awesome!

Cretins.

The volcano put paid to a lot of Saturday’s bands. Candlemass got snuffed, Shrinebuilder went on strike, etc. It was all a bit up in the air, much unlike the planes that were not yeah good one.

I headed first for Fatso Jetson (Green Room, 013), who looked a bit like a random collection of dads playing the world’s sweatiest wedding reception. They made a heck of a saucy racket, though. Frontman Mario Lalli gurned his way through a set of heavy desert riffs, backed by honking saxophone and harmonica.

Woodwind was something of a novelty at Roadburn, admittedly, but I smiled when Lalli proudly announced that they were the only band at the festival with a sax; a claim that was countermanded by the crowd in short order, because apparently Shining (No) had one too. Poor Mario. They were still great though.

Nachtmystium were next (Main Hall, 013). They were quite good; loud, dark and proggy – and they seemed to have filled the venue up nicely, but they weren’t what I was looking for right about then. I took off, instead, in search of Brant Bjork, only to be confronted by a ridiculous queue at the Midi Theatre. So I settled back in the Main Hall with a pita bread full of some sort of vegan balls and tomatoes, until Witchcraft (replacing Shrinebuilder) got up to play.

Witchcraft tick every box I’ve got, with all their 1970s fetishising, their silly bouncing riffs and their vintage amps, yet for some reason, they’ve just never grabbed me on record, and the same was true in concert. It was nice enough, and the crowd were along for the ride, but I just didn’t get caught up in it, a disappointment after anticipating Shrinebuilder so long. Perhaps the extruded tofu fungus soya paste was diluting the presence of other intoxicants in my system, making me disrespect the legitimate tastes of others because I happen to disagree with them, and sneering at everything I didn’t like, just like a real vegan.

I wandered back through to the Green Room, catching a band called Mother Unit (filling in for The Gates of Slumber), who appeared to be comprised of at least one member from 35007 and were billed as being similar to Motorpsycho. They came on and made some psychy, waily guitar noise for a bit, but it didn’t really seem like it was going anywhere. I made tracks for the Main Hall again, resolving to come back and see if they got any more interesting. Sadly, Garcia Plays Kyuss proved far more riveting, and I never quite made it.

The main hall was packed for John Garcia, and you got the sense that for many people, this was what Roadburn 2010 was all about. Despite his tubbiness, Garcia commanded the stage with understated authority, and in a venue packed full of stinking hippies, was undoubtedly the smoothest man in the room. From the shimmering opening strains of Thumb to the bouncing groove of Demon Cleaner, the trademark desert ambience of Kyuss seemed to be back where it belonged, the way it was written, and not before time.

It was only when Garcia left the stage for the instrumental break of Asteroid that the wheels got a little bit wobbly, and the flaw at the heart of this conceit became glaringly, abruptly apparent. Essentially, we were now watching a Kyuss tribute band, and while they were very good, it was hard to overcome the fact that three nameless chancers were playing some stuff we knew. I was waiting for the next tune with vocals, just so it would be Kyuss again. The same thing happened during all the long instrumental breaks. Perhaps, on this evidence, it’s come time for Josh Homme to stop pricking around with his various dadrock projects and hark back to a time when he still had some credibility.

Irrespective, Supa Scoopa and the Mighty Scoop and One Inch Man were a bloody triumph, and made every bit of stress and effort expended in getting here worthwhile.

I finished up Roadburn with a second portion of Karma to Burn, taking the Green Room stage in place of Yakuza. By that point, I was shattered, and really in no condition for anything but sleep. When the pounding tom runs of Nineteen rumbled up, however, there was nothing for it but to grab a last dance. Garcia might have been excellent, but these guys were unquestionably my favourite of the weekend.

So, there you have it, folks. A complete account of the most stressful and awful birthday of my life, punctuated by some of the most astonishing gigs I’ve ever seen, and a ton of memories I’ll treasure. Roadburn was every bit as good as I had anticipated, and it would be hard to imagine a better weekend (volcanoes aside) or a better place to hold it. Tilburg is a wonderfully beautiful town, in a brilliant country, and I can’t wait for the opportunity to come back next year.

This review should have gone up on Saturday, but googlemail lied to me again. Sorry -N

Noel’s Roadballs: Part 2

By Noel Oxford

Lads. Lads, shut up a minute. It’s time we had a talk.

Thing is, right, if you pay a lot of money to come to a rock festival, then it seems to me that you owe it to yourself to have a good time. Why not liven up a bit? Cut loose and move your ass to the beats, don’t just stand there shuffling your feet and nodding your head. And for Christ’s sake, no air guitar.

If you absolutely must headbang, then here’s a tip: The motion begins in your pelvis. The music, she is the nubile young altar boy, and you… You are the catholic priest, my friend. The catholic priest with balls full to the ends of their gnarled, silvered pubes. Listen to your soul and do whatever you feel.

That applies, of course, unless the band you’re watching is Darkspace (The Green Room, 013). Interesting act; I’m not really surprised that the limits of crowd interaction seemed to be feebly nodding along, a smatteruss of applause, and the odd cheer. They do a sort of heavy, droney, spacey, black ambient kind of noise with some noodly widdles and electrical beats. The trio look like Kiss-themed Cenobytes, shrieking and moaning unintelligbly from out of a flickery dickery light show. It sounds a bit like what you might get if Jason Vorhees got loose at an Earth gig, and started slashing stoner throats with impunity. And it was weirdly quiet, too. Almost like they were ashamed of it.

Church of Misery meanwhile, proudly make a noise so massive, I had to be rescued from beneath it. They’re a band I like, but have never really been gripped by – that is, until now. They were the first band I saw today, and I was partly convinced that they’d be the best. Perhaps only Karma to Burn could topple them, but I remained sceptical; I’ve seen them before, after all.

Arrived at the Midi Theatre, just in time to queue for half an hour to get in. The set, and the sweat, were already in full flow by the time I rudely elbowed my way to the front. It was about half over, and most of what I heard was new material. I’m giddily awaiting their new album, because the thing with Karma to Burn is that they get better the more you revisit them. And I already love the new stuff after only one or two listens. Also, one of the songs they done with John Garcia has turned up on the new record’s bonus disc, and it would be terribly stupid to turn that prospect down.

Drummer Rob Oswald now sports a ludicrous, man-sized mountain beard, which always endears a band to us here at the Pigeon Coup. What he does to his kit is positively, filthily abusive. Meanwhile, the rest of the band glower out from under redneck trucker hats and treat us all to wedges of West Virginia Mudriff Cheesecake. Half a set by Karma to Burn completely overwhelmed a full set by Church of Misery, which was, in itself, brill. This festival is bestival.

Finally, I caught one song by a band I’ve never heard of called Long Distance Calling. I think what I heard was an improv jam, but it was excellent, proggy, sludgy stuff. One of the men had an Apple laptop out, presumably so he could work on his postmodern urban fantasy novel in between songs. Anyway, they’re good, I’ll be looking into them when I get back.

Hard to believe it could get much better, but I’ve still got John bloomin Garcia, Brant BjorkFatso Jetson, Witchcraft, and Ahkmed tomorrow, plus another Sons of Otis set, and Enslaved at the end of it all, assuming I’m still alive by then. I’ve already got tinnitus and backache, and the rest of my bones feel like they’ve been struck by lightning. Tomorrow may just do for me.

Apologies for the foul-up, this should have been posted Friday, but apparently an email got lost in the ash cloud -N

Interview – Napalm Death

As I turn up to Fibbers in York the first thing I hear is ‘Barney’s not here.’ Apparently he’s decided to drive up to the gig by himself, and he’s not quite made it yet. And so for a short while I get the joys of listening to a sound guy checking the microphones by screaming periodically into them, and someone hitting a snare repeatedly. But when Barney Greenway, full throated god of the underground metal scene for over 20 years does eventually show up, you’d be hard pressed to spot him as the legend of extreme metal that he undoubtedly is. In fact he looks like a geography teacher, albeit on stage the angriest geography teacher you’ve ever seen. Given that our interview starts only a scant minute or two after he gets out of his car, it is initially a slightly prickly start, but it’s not long before this most outspoken of frontmen is waxing lyrical about everything from Chris Evans to internet downloading.*

Interview by Paul Stephenson

Demon Pigeon: We’re coming up to the time of year when festival fever starts to set in, and it seems you’ve got a fair few lined up for the summer?

Barney Greenway: People always ask you what festivals you’re doing but you know I don’t read the bloody thing, I do glance at it, I know I’m going somewhere but I don’t know the full ins and outs.

DP: The new album has been out for a while now, and you’ve had the chance to see how it goes over live, how are you finding it so far?

BG: In many ways we’re actually coming to the end of what we might do with this particular album. Not right now, but towards the end of this year, we’re going to start looking at the next album, but so far everything’s been pretty much 100% positive.

DP: The last three albums or so always seem to have nothing but good reviews.

BG: It’s actually a bit unsettling actually, you know? You’re always wondering what’s coming around the corner. But you can’t suck in the plaudits, you’ve just got to get on with what you feel is right for the band. It’s about trying to make as good an album as possible, of course, so as long as we feel we’re doing that, then obviously we feel happy.

DP: As for the next album, have you had any thoughts about how that’s gonna go?

BG: Nothing as yet, I’ve got some titles written down, but they’re only titles that are pending, you know. Something will spring out at some point.

DP: How do you guys set about making an album?

BG: We actually really set ourselves against the clock. It’s like hitting a stopwatch. We’ll set a time for the studio about two months ahead, and that’s how long we have to write it. And I spend most of those two months sweating, through the inevitable mental blocks, but I always get there in the end. But it’s what creates that spontaneity.

DP: One thing about a new Napalm album is that it always sounds instantly like yourselves, but at the same time no two albums sound the same.

BG: That I like. As long as we have the undercurrent of fast and loose sounding, you can still progress in all sorts of areas within that.

DP: It’s not often that you find a band who have been going as long as you guys have who still seem to have that fire in the belly to constantly make it better every time.

BG: I’ve never understood why bands let that happen to themselves. More the fool them to be fair. There’s always this thing in music where bands seem to get a bit of attention, and then they feel that they’ve got to somehow step off the gas a little bit in terms of the impact of the band, in terms of the heaviness or the vitality, and I’ve never really understood why you would want to do that. It doesn’t make any sense to me. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do something different, but as long as it’s not lacking in soul.

DP: It’s now coming up to the 30th anniversary of Napalm Death now, any plans to mark the occasion?

BG: It’s been noted, but I don’t really pay much attention to that sort of thing. I’m not really one for these big regal celebrations. It’s just fucking tacky sometimes. I’ve no doubt that someone around the band might try and trump it up or something, but it’s a bit of a nothing to me. It’s good in the sense that you look back and think shit, we’ve been around that long, where does the time go? But in real terms I didn’t join the band until ’89, so in real terms it’s only been 21 years for me. But then I’ve been with the band since ’85 in terms of being friends with them, so it is close to me. But there’s a lot of things that are done within the industry that amuse me, and sometimes make me cringe.

DP: That brings me nicely along to talking about Earache. It seems like you’re really a lot more settled now at Century Media.

BG: We are, and we have been, and I’d like to continue working with them, but I don’t know what’s going to happen with that, because we’re actually at the end of the contract, so who knows? The situation has definitely been 100% better than what it was in the Earache years. But I’m reluctant to keep slagging Earache off, because I feel now like everybody has said what they wanted to say, there are still a lot of things that are done these days that really fucking puzzle me, with Napalm’s catalogue, but it serves no purpose to keep on at it.

DP: My first experience of you, as a band, was back when I saw you on TFI Friday. Watching that back though, it’s hard to tell how much Chris Evans was taking the piss.

BG: As far as I could tell he was really into it. Before we were on he was definitely into the band. I don’t know if he really gets the ethos behind it, or even if knows there is an ethos there, but he was definitely into it. But after that we kind of took a conscious decision to not do so much of that stuff. One show after that asked us to do this kind of parody thing about Westlife, and we thought that was getting a bit much, we don’t really want to do that. It could have gotten us a lot of publicity. But it’s not the be all and end all for us to be on TV. It is a shame generally that it’s only the sanitised end of music that gets any exposure, but at the same time I don’t lose any sleep over it either. I’ve survived long enough without that kind of exposure.

DP: You’ve never been shy about talking about things that are important to you, both as a band as an individual.

BG: Nobody should be shy about that, not just me. But it’s not just about campaigning about issues, it’s about freedom of humanity. But sometimes it gets clouded because it looks like you’re being a bit trite, like ‘this person’s got nothing better to do so he just picks up on a load of ‘issues,’’ And that’s when things start to get a bit political, and politics is bollocks. The mainstream politics is a load of old fucking tosh, and more so than ever. What I try to push is that I don’t want to tell people how to live, but people should be aware that as a human being you can do what the fuck you want, you can say whatever you want, it’s only the rules and regulations, the if you like Orwellian forces that will stop you from doing what is your right as a human being, as an entity on this Earth on the top of the food chain. So all the things I raise are humanitarian, they’re human rights based, because that comes above anything.

DP: You’ve always had a lot of issues with the way that the music industry conducts itself. Do you look at what’s happening now with the decline in the industry and what’s happening on the internet with regard to piracy with relish?

BW: Well they dug their own grave with the way they treated people in the first place, like a big old gravy train, much like the politicians. And like the politicians, it’s coming home to roost. To be fair not everyone in the industry is like that, and there were a lot of people trying to do good things that were maybe hamstrung by the way the industry works. I haven’t got this great seething hatred that makes me want to see everyone who ever worked in the music industry stoned in the streets. I mean we have a certain interest in this because obviously there are people out the downloading our albums, but I don’t mind it really. But what I would say is that when you download it before it comes out, that can be a problem. Because the money that comes in doesn’t go to the band, it goes to the record label in terms of recouping back what they spend on the album and in promoting it. And that’s quite important. It’s not some industry sham, and if you’re a small to medium sized band that’s important. So all I ask is that people refrain from doing that, but if later on, once it’s out if people download it, then that’s the only way people can get it sometimes.

DP: Do you see it affecting how you do things in the future?

BW: We’ve thought as a band about completely going DIY, but I must admit I couldn’t handle it right now. I have enough duties with the band, doing the gig stuff and all the behind the scenes stuff I already do. I just aint got the hours to be able to oversee a Napalm release. So I need the label, no question. But a lot of bands can go their own way, and that’s a good thing for them. And you’ve got to remember with the internet, with Myspace in particular, that Rupert Murdoch owns it, and that really puts me off it. Talk about Orwellian figures.

DP: Obviously we’re in the middle of election fever at the minute; it would be remiss of me not to ask you your opinion on that.

BG: Well I’m an ex Labour party member, but it’s a difficult one because as much as I can’t stand the whole thing about politics right now, there’s still just a big part of me that wants to keep the Tories out. And for all their problems I think the only way to stop them and keep things in a reasonably fair way is to vote Labour. I usually vote Green. But it’s fucking tedious, a load of tedious people banging on, but we’re in a system, and it ain’t gonna shift any time soon, so all I can do is what I feel to be the best.

*I had promised Dan that I’d ask Barney about whether he misses being a much loved children’s entertainer, but to my eternal shame I completely forgot while I was sat with the man, and only remembered ten minutes afterwards.  Sorry Dan.

Babybird- Ex Maniac

(Unison Records)

By Daniel Cairns

If you ever look up the word underrated in the dictionary, chances are you’ll get a massive picture of Stephen Jones, the man who basically is Babybird.

You see, there are two types of people who know of him. There are the myriad mid nineties refugees who know him because of You’re Gorgeous, a song that makes perfect sense in the context of its parent album Ugly Beautiful, but has been employed in a non ironic capacity by dunderheads for years, as they try and latch onto the days where they still had hair, and Chris Evans was EVERYWHERE. Then there’s the other type. The type that know he’s been around for years, and also know that he’s basically one of the most consistently excellent songwriters in Britain… nay, the universe.

And now we have a new album, called Ex Maniac. And naturally, it’s great.

It opens with a sprightly song about the state of the nation called Like Them. Oh, and the best opening lyric ever. ‘I will kill you, said the 5 year old,’ Jones softly croons over a melody so sweet that you’d think Gary Barlow had authored it.

I’m not kidding. What we have here is an album with some of the catchiest melodies this side of a Take That record (believe me when I say I think that is a good thing). Perverse bugger that he is though, Jones marries the jaunty melodies with pitch black tales of moral decline, doomed romance, drug abuse and surviving suicide. In a way, he’s comparable to Mark E Everett of the Eels who also employs sadness and chirpiness in equal measure, although Jones could fart into a four track and make it sound better than Eels.

Ex Maniac is stuffed to its ritalin-fuelled guts with songs that should be in the top 10. It’s largely bereft of the experimentation that Jones occasionally dabbles in, and instead overloads the listener’s head with great big shimmering pop epics. Initial highlights include Drug Time, Failed Suicide Club and Black Flowers. I’ve not even mentioned Unloveable yet have I? Basically, it’s probably the best song ever. I’m being serious. Look, the video for it is on this page. Go watch it. It’s ok, I can wait a few minutes… done? See, it’s amazing isn’t it? It builds and builds and builds to the most spine tingling crescendo ever. It’s the kind of thing all those rubbish post rock bands have been trying to do, only Jones has been smart enough to stick it in a gorgeous four minute pop song. Actually sod it, I’m going to watch it now. Give us a sec…

Maybe it’s his blackly humourous cynicism that’s kept Jones at the fringe of the mainstream, but that’s also what makes him so special. Something as considered and delicate as Unloveable (which features guest guitars from some chap called Jonny Depp who’s quite famous apparently) would be spoiled if some mouth breather like Chris Moyles played it daily to Mondeo owners around the country.

Having said that though, the man’s clearly overdue major success, which puts his diehard devotees (plonkers like myself) in a difficult position. His music clearly goes over the heads of the average eejit. Snobby as that sounds, it’s true. Witness the goons that completely misinterpreted You’re Gorgeous, employing it as an awful soundtrack to their doubtless miserable, loveless trysts. Actually it’s appropriate when you think about it like that. However, if he achieved mega-success again, he’d lose the exclusivity which endears him to music snobs (again, plonkers like myself). It’s a hell of a dichotomy.

When all is said and done, Ex Maniac is easily as strong as Jones’s other records (in time, it may come to depose 1998’s There’s Something Going On, which loyal followers of our splenetic twitter account will know I recently proclaimed my favourite album ever) and should sell an assload. It won’t though. Whatever. Ex Maniac will probably find itself perched atop my end of year list.

I’ll leave you with something Andi said to me, which basically sums up everything about Babybird.

I’ve said this before to you, but it is amazing how few people like him, and I cannot fathom why.

10/10

http://www.myspace.com/officialbabybird