Wednesday, 28 August 2013



This was a World Cup qualifying game, with Japan on the brink of being the first country to qualify for next year's World Cup Finals in Brazil.

At a packed Saitama Stadium, the atmosphere was sizzling with anticipation when Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and co. took the field. After a goalless first half, Japan were dealt a shock when Australia took the lead with a rather fortunate cross-cum-shot that beat goalkeeper Kawashima at the far post.

With the clock ticking down, though, Japan were awarded a penalty which Honda converted coolly, sparking huge celebrations in the stadium and across the country.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Paul Weller EP review on January 2013

Paul Weller


Island Records

Released: Monday 17 December 2012

In the days when vinyl ruled the turntables, the phrase 'limited edition' was associated with coloured plastic and/or picture sleeves - and very popular they were with vinyl junkies and record companies alike. So the 7in vinyl version of Dragonfly, Paul Weller's new EP, which has hit the shops with a limited batch of just 3,000 numbered copies, will certainly have got the pulses racing among record collectors. With a sleeve designed by Sir Peter Blake, the man responsible for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Weller's 1995 album, Stanley Road, it's already a highly sought-after piece of plastic, though a downloadable version is still available for anyone unimaginative enough to merely want to listen to the music!

The title track will be familiar to anyone who has heard Weller's most recent album, Sonik Kicks, and a fine track it is too, with lots of swirling sounds from Blur's Graham Coxon. 'Devotion' also appeared on the deluxe version of said album, while the rest of the tracks were all recorded during the Sonik Kicks sessions.

The four new tracks are well worth hearing, with 'We Got a Lot' this writer's pick of a very impressive crop, though Weller once again manages to get the listener racking their brain over which tune is lurking there under the surface. This is not a criticism but, unlike 'It's Too Bad' off All Mod Cons, released by The Jam (Weller's first band, for the benefit of younger readers) in 1978, where an early Beatles riff is unmistakeable, I can't quite place this influence.

'Lay Down Your Weary Burden' and 'Portal to the Past' are more than mere fillers, while 'The Piper' sees Weller tipping his hat to his Motown-listening roots, yet adding a contemporary vibe to a track which ends this extremely satisfying EP on a strong note.

Thursday, 10 January 2013






Some photographs of London taken during 2010 and set to music by "Emperor Tomato Ketchup" by Stereolab. The title was taken from a 1971 film by Shuji Terayama with the Japanese name トマトケチャップ皇帝, (Tomato Kechappu Kōtei). It was originally a 27-minute short, though a 75-minute director's cut was released in 1996. The story revolves around a young boy who is the emperor of a country where children have overthrown the adults.


Monday, 7 January 2013

Review of Scott Walker's Bish Bosch album for December 2012


Released: 3rd December 2012 

Scott Walker - Bish Bosch      

For many of the post-punk generation, the name Scott Walker is connected with Julian Cope. In 1981, the former lead singer of Teardrop Explodes and, latterly, antiquarian and all-round eccentric compiled Fire Escape in the Sky: The Godlike Genius of Scott Walker, a collection of tracks from Walker's early solo albums released in the late 1960s.

As an interpreter of Jacques Brel songs, such as 'If You Go Away', 'Jackie', and this writer's favourite, Mathilde', Walker truly lived up to Cope's hyperbole and, for many listeners, his rich, baritone voice was, and remains, the gold standard for orchestral balladeers. Yet, in 1984, just as interest in Walker's more melodic tunes had been stimulated, he released Climate of Hunter, a challenging collection which hinted at his crooning past, but most definitely did not exploit any curiosity that may have been generated by Fire Escape in the Sky.

It would be 11 years before Tilt, Walker's next record, hit the shelves, marking the first in a trilogy of experimental, avant garde albums which sees its completion with the release of Bish Bosch. Coming out only six years after The Drift (the middle part of the trilogy), Bish Bosch emerges with seemingly undue haste for an artist who has tended to leave 10-year gaps between albums over the past 40 years or so.

In Walker's case, 'artist' is a very apt description. Bish Bosch, as the second half of its title might suggest, is best approached in the same way you might view a work of art. On first listen, it appears disjointed, jagged and almost unlistenable. Yet, like studying a painting or other work of art, one needs to look at it again and again to fully understand the meaning and, with repeated plays, the listener is drawn into its complex web, revealing layers that demonstrate the songwriting skills of a '60s survivor who can still produce thought-provoking material which is ultimately very rewarding.

At more than an hour, the listener needs to invest a good deal of time before reaping any long-lasting benefit, yet each track appears to have been hand-crafted by Walker with co-producer Peter Walsh, using a myriad of strange sounds, including the noise of swords being sharpened and barking dogs at various times in the recording. At certain points during the centrepiece track, 'SDSS 14+13B (Zercon, a Flagpole Sitter)', the 21-minute epic which forms the centrepiece of the album, it is silence that creates the tension for the listener and draws one into the work.

The album closes with a track subtitled 'An Xmas Song' but, this being Walker, the sleigh bells which end the number are dark and slightly disturbing. One thing's for sure, you won't be hearing BBC Radio 2 playing this festive tune on Christmas Day this year or, indeed, in any future years.
Walker is quoted on the 4AD website as saying: "I've always thought since the late '70s, 'This is my last record'… I guess I just pull the trigger each time." With the 'big 7-0' looming for Walker in January, if these words prove to be prophetic, Bish Bosch will be an enduring legacy but, somehow, I don't think we've seen the last of him just yet.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Tony Hadley Preview Metropolis [Tokyo] 2 Nov 2012

Tony Hadley

Spandau Ballet frontman traipses down memory lane

By: Stephen Taylor | 2 Nov 2012 | Issue: 972

The last time global hitmakers Spandau Ballet toured Japan, the group’s role as fashion leaders did not sit well with lead singer Tony Hadley. Arriving in Japan in 1985, he recalls the shock of encountering Tokyo’s infamous summer heat.

“Do you remember the Live Aid suit?” the 52-year-old asked Metropolis over the phone from his home in Buckinghamshire, England last month. “It was a double-hemmed leather suit,” he says. “I remember the humidity when we were there last time and it was bloody awful.”

Twenty-seven years on, humidity should not be a problem for Hadley when he plays shows in Tokyo and Osaka next week, and he is looking forward to finally returning to Japan.

“We had a great time there, the fans were pretty crazy. There was a real ‘teen scream’ thing going on, and Japan was just completely different from anywhere else,” he recalls.

For his first visit to Japan as a solo artist, Hadley will be showcasing some new numbers but, more to the point for middle-aged fans of Spandau Ballet who saw them back in the ’80s, he will be playing the old favorites.

“We’re going to do a couple of new songs and do all the hits that people know and, hopefully, still love,” he promises, adding that he’s not ready to mellow out too much just yet. “It’s a pretty raunchy set, actually. We’re not tippy-toed musicians—we play loud.”

Raunchy and loud are not words you would associate with the New Romantic movement that Spandau Ballet helped to launch in the early ’80s, until Hadley reels off an unexpected list of songwriting influences.

“I’ve always been a massive Queen fan. I think they’re fantastic writers. Tom Petty—super writer, Bruce Springsteen—great, love him. Darryl Hall and John Oates—brilliant, David Bowie—great, Roxy [Music], Kaiser Chiefs—brilliant, The Killers—brilliant, the late Robert Palmer—brilliant. If you’re into music, you listen to different types,” he says, adding that a cover of a song by New Jersey’s most famous son has made it onto his set list.

“We’ve covered ‘Girls in Their Summer Clothes,’ off the Magic album, by Bruce Springsteen. We’ve done it at a few festivals. I think, ‘I really wish I’d written that,’ but you do what you do and, hopefully, people will like it.”

One look at the Spandau Ballet discography quickly tells you that, with almost every song written by guitarist Gary Kemp, any thoughts Hadley may have had of penning the occasional tune remained on hold. But he is in no doubt about his musical priorities.

“I’ve always considered myself first a singer and, second, a songwriter. I get a big kick out of singing,” he explains. The Londoner is not averse to covering songs by one of his fellow travelers from the decade of shoulder pads and mullets.

“I did a cover of [Duran Duran’s] ‘Save a Prayer’ on an album a few years ago, and Simon Le Bon came and did some backing vocals. Some of the fans thought it was a bit strange, but I quite like it. I haven’t done that one [live] for a long, long time, but we do [Duran Duran’s] ‘Rio,’ which went down a storm at festivals.”

Whatever Hadley may say about his singer-songwriter priorities, his next album will be a landmark for him. “For the first time, we’re doing a completely original album, completely written or co-written by me, which sound like it’s a “me-me” album, but it’s not—I’ve got fantastic musicians around me.

“It’s pop-rock, but pop-rock with heavier guitars and some sequence sections. I’m a big fan of The Killers, who are obviously influenced by quite a lot by ’80s stuff. I quite like that hybrid of rocky sound with heavy synth style,” he says, adding that its release date has become something of a moveable feast.

“It should have been out about two years ago,” he laughs. “Hopefully, sometime next year, late spring I would imagine. The working title is Heroes and Lovers, which is a song that myself and Phil [Taylor], the keyboard player, have written. It’s a very different kind of song, and I thought, ‘That’s a great title for an album—Heroes and Lovers.’

As for Hadley’s other singing gig, Spandau Ballet’s Reformation Tour in 2009-10 was one of the more surprising of the recent spate of ’80s band reunions.

“It’s been well documented that we had a massive falling out and ended up in the High Court, all sorts of stuff,” he says, “so our relationship was, to say the least, pretty fragmented, if there was any relationship at all, and I did say at a certain time that I would never, ever tour with those guys again.”
“It took six months of soul searching before we finally sat down and had a pint together, and it was really [drummer] John Keeble who was instrumental in getting the band back together,” Hadley recalls. He jibes that the experience shored up much more than a few bank accounts.

“I suppose, in a lot of ways, and I think everybody said this, it was a release, to get rid of all that anger that we had between us, and that was a nice thing. Stuff happens and you think, ‘Life is too short,’ so we went from a position of hating each other to going back on an even keel again.”

Billboard Live, Nov 9-10

Wednesday, 20 June 2012


I had a photo pass for this show and got some good shots of the band.

There was a power failure at this gig, though the venue wasn't a bad place to watch live music. I wasn't really in the mood for Jonathan Richman though, so I headed back to Camden to see...

...Spizzenergi at the Purple Turtle near Mornington Crescent. Apart from hits like "Soldier, Soldier" and "Where's Captain Kirk?" I didn't know much of their music, but it was good to finally see Spizz.

I was very impressed by Lady Gaga, though I don't know if I'd have paid full price for this ticket. I got this from Universal Music Japan, which was very generous of them.

Kings Of Leon in Hyde Park didn't really do too much for me, though it was good to see Paul Weller, who played "Art School," the first track on the eponymous first Jam album.

Foals at the Electric Ballroom was a good show, though I still think the gigs I saw them do in Japan in 2008 were better.

I was surprised at how good The Black Eyed Peas were in concert. This was another freebie from Universal, as they were interested in one of their artists, support act Cheryl Cole. The concert felt like a musical in some ways, in that each member of Black Eyed Peas had their own singing spots, while other numbers were collective efforts.


This was the second time I saw the Bhundu Boys, at Newcastle University on 8 October 1987. I had seen them earlier that year in Oswestry, Shropshire and, though this did show didn't quite match that one, it was a good night all the same. 

This Stephane Grapelli show was in April 1989, and my friend and fellow English Studies student, Nick Collard, reviewed it for Monopoly, the student newspaper of Sunderland Polytechnic. As the music editor for the paper, I had asked him to write about the show, and a very good job of it he did.

I think this gig was in May 1990 and, in those days, Daintees shows were always something special.

I have a feeling that Cathal Coughlan supported The Fall at this show, though I may well be off the mark. I don't remember this being one of Mark E. Smith's best performances, but that's the nature of the band.


The Boo Radleys had their moment in the spotlight in 1995 when "Wake Up Boo!" was a hit single for them. The same year, the band played Wolverhampton Civic Hall and, I must admit, they didn't impress me much.

This Wilko Johnson show Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall on 20 December 1994 was up to his usual standard. As it was just before Christmas, it was also a great way to kick off the festive season with fellow gig-goers Trevor Sims and Chris Capper.

I first saw The Undertones at a free festival in Zuider Park, Rotterdam, in September 1980, so I jumped at the chance to see them at Birmingham Odeon the following year when a ticket became available.

Two days after The Undertones gig, I was back at the Odeon for The Teardrop Explodes. I don't know why, but this gig didn't match my expectations, though I remember that "Reward" and "Tiny Children" were very good. Julian Cope was fairly eccentric, though nowhere near like he was a few years later on his solo tours.

Towards the end of 1981, I saw Orchestral Manouvres in the Dark, or O.M.D. as they had now become, at the Odeon. They had a large teenage audience at this time and I remember feeling slightly aged, at the grand old age of 19!

I reviewed this Nanci Griffith show on 9 October 1995 for Rock 'n' Reel and was struck by the rather too civilised audience, some of whom were drinking tea in the interval.

This concert by Kirsty McColl on 19 May 1995 was a great memory, and all the more precious since her tragic death five years later.

Another singer who met an untimely end was Jeff Buckley. This gig in 1995 was fantastic, and I'm not just saying that because he died a couple of years later. The weather was appalling, with heavy snow delaying the train back to Shrewsbury after the show, but it was well worth the effort.

Dr Feelgood at Birmingham Odeon on 1 December 1980 was my first experience of seeing Lee Brilleaux, and I'll never forget his ill fitting suit and manic stare. A great show!