Marvin Bridge & The Haddocks (Uruguayan Independent Artist)

marvin bridge

More sights and sounds from Montevideo, the Ibero-American Capital of Culture 2013!
This new band is called Marvin Bridge & The Haddocks. It’s made up of Nikolas Araujo on drums, Martin Lyon on guitar, Max Ruano on guitars and vocals and Rafa Martinelli on bass.

Before going any further, I must tell you something: this band was new when they originally got in touch with me. That was about the time our national soccer squad was casting an almighty shadow over the whole of South America, so go figure…

Well, the fact I took my time to review Marvin Bridge & The Haddocks was actually a good thing. Because they have released their best work ever in the interim, an EP called “Abadejo” [Haddock]. Every cloud has a silver lining…
A leopard cannot change its spots…
And nothing lasts forever.
Except Pi.

Dude. That shit goes on and on and on…

Anyway, this band was started in early 2011, and they lean a lot on 60s rock & roll and psychedelia. But their music also takes some detours along the way, and genres such as reggae and psychedelic-folk are visited more than recurrently.

Their influences include The Rolling Stones, The Doors, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Marc Bolan, The Pixies. I mean, they’re evident. They surface at every turn, in a magnificent outpouring. Any discerning person would name these bands the first time around he listens to their music.
I just didn’t copy and paste that bit from their Facebook fanpage. And I didn’t forget to delete the comma between “Marc Bolan, The Pixies” and make the sentence read “Marc Bolan and The Pixies” to hide such an egregious maneuver, either. Continue reading

Chips From The Chocolate Fireball (The Dukes Of Stratosphear) (Part 1)

The Dukes Of Stratosphear: Chips From The Chocolate Fireball

The Dukes Of Stratosphear: Chips From The Chocolate Fireball

This CD-only anthology captures the original bouts of musical forgery that XTC undertook as The Dukes of Stratosphear. Both the EP “25 O’Clock” and the album “Psonic Psunspot” are included here in their entirety. And the anthology warrants all the laurels it is usually the recipient of.

The band (with Dave Gregory’s younger brother Ian on drums) showcases its coruscating pedigree, and the merits of its music become easier to apprehend in such a context. These recordings as their psychedelic alter egos were to lead to a phenomenal creative run and even a hit single at a time in which XTC had the rockiest relationship with the buying public. The song “The Mole From The Ministry” (a transparent nod to “I Am The Walrus”) outsold the singles from “The Big Express” so effortlessly that it was embarrassing.

It was also the most palpitating reminder for the Swindon rockers that having good fun on the studio fully translates into a finished piece of vinyl. Both “Mummer” and “The Big Express” suffered from a stiffness that was to vanish for “Skylarking” and “Oranges & Lemons”. “The Big Express” in particular had been labored at for a long time, leaving everybody but Andy jaded.

“25 O’Clock”, conversely, was assembled in little more than two weeks with Andy and John Leckie at the helm. Out of the six songs, only “The Mole From The Ministry” was new (Andy wrote it at the piano one morning). The remaining songs had been around for a long time, and the strongest the plagiarism the most effective the EP turned out to be. “Bike Ride To Te Moon” recalled the days of Pink Floyd under Barrett’ aegis so close to the mark that it was staggering. The title track was also intoxicatingly fun, a true testament to an age in which daftness was a virtue and a torch to bear. The same can be said about “Your Gold Dress”, with an unmatchable druggy guitar. And Colin’ songs on both Dukes’ albums were the truest revelation of all. He had never kept such an even keel of excellence to my ears. For the first and only time he and Andy were absolutely equalized. Continue reading

Oranges & Lemons (XTC) – Album Review (Part 2)

This is Part 2 of the review. Head here for Part 1.

Colin’s contributions to XTC’s 1989 album come in the shape of “King For A Day”, “One Of The Millions” and “Cynical Days”. I must say that – in my opinion – he had never made such a sparkling contribution to an XTC album. “Skylarking” comes pretty close, but if I were hard pressed I would go for “Oranges & Lemons”. It seems to me that the pressure they all underwent during the “Skylarking” sessions enabled Colin to come up with songs he would have kept to himself otherwise. It is as if some barriers had been taken down, and this is specially true of the song “One Of The Millions” – “I never seem to do anything”, “I won’t rock the boat ’cause I’m scared what might happen”… If he is not speaking to his band mates, he is clearly speaking to himself.

A song which was virtually rewritten for the album was “Merely A Man”. Producer Paul Fox did really like the demo, but it turned out that Andy had written the tune as a wind-up for some music biz executives. Not to let their new (and young) producer down, he rewrote the lyrics and the song ended up being a standout, if only because of  Dave’s thundering performance. Continue reading

Oranges & Lemons (XTC) – Album Review (Part 1)

"Oranges & Lemons" Was Released in 1989

"Oranges & Lemons" Was Released in 1989

This was the first XTC album I set my hands on. I bought it used but in mint condition for a completely ridiculous amount of money, something like the equivalent to USD 2. Talk about bargains. Looking back, I can honestly say that this was the perfect introduction I could have had to these impassioned artistic rockers. The album has my favorite XTC song overall (“The Mayor Of Simpleton”), and that song in particular and the album on the whole made me pick up the craft of writing lyrics. I don’t think there is a better indicator of the transcendence a piece of art can have than that.

The record has 15 songs, and in more than a couple of instances it resembles the Dukes more than fleetingly. That is true not only when it comes to compositions like “Garden Of Earthly Delights” but also to the cover art, a happy 60s pastiche that once again showcase Andy’s visual skills.

Three singles were culled from the album: “The Mayor Of Simpleton”, “King For A Day” and “The Loving”. More importantly (and maybe even more uplifting for us fans), the band hit the road again to promote the album. But it is not that they “toured” in a conventional sense. Rather, they did several live radio shows to promote the album. They even played one with an audience of about 250 people, and everybody remarked how much Andy enjoyed it. Good for him. Those of us who are fond of the band admire him as an artist but dearly care for him as a person, and it must have been a touching moment for everybody who was there that day.
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The Dukes Of Stratosphear – General Introduction

The Dukes Of Stratosphear: The Red Curtain (Colin Moulding), Lord Cornelius Plum (Dave Gregor), EIEI Owen (Ian Gregory) and Sir John Johns (Andy Partridge)

The Dukes Of Stratosphear: The Red Curtain (Colin Moulding), Lord Cornelius Plum (Dave Gregory), EIEI Owen (Ian Gregory) and Sir John Johns (Andy Partridge)

The Dukes Of Stratosphear were a side project of XTC that was started as a joke, and which ended up bringing a fair share of recognition to them. Basically, Andy and producer John Leckie had been hired to helm a record by Christian artist Mary Margaret O’ Hara. For circumstances too hilarious and too long to reproduce here, the pair were sacked hours before their work was to begin. Having had their agendas disrupted, they decided to employ the time on their hands to do some psychedelic recordings under a different moniker. The name “The Dukes Of Stratosphear” had been around for a long time, actually, as it was one of the names which were weighed up before the “I’m in ecs-ta-sy ba-bee!” incident that settled everything down for good.

The drummer for the project was Ian Gregory, Dave’s younger sibling. They all had alternative egos for the sessions – Andy was “Sir John Johns”, Colin was “The Red Curtain”, Dave was “Lord Cornelius Plum” and Ian picked the moniker “E.I.E.I Owen”. For years, the band denied that they were the Dukes, and if you have a look at the credits of “Skylarking” you will see an acknowledgement to “The Dukes of Stratosphear for letting us use their guitars”. Continue reading