diskant is an independent music community based in Glasgow, Scotland and we have a whole team of people from all over the UK and beyond writing about independent music and culture, from interviews with new and established bands and labels to record and fanzine reviews and articles on art, festivals and politics. There's over ten years of content here so dig in!

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GIRAFFE RUNNING – Giraffe Running (Learn To Love/Red F)

Posted: October 4th, 2007, by Crayola

Giraffe Running – Great name for a band, great name for an album.
So that’s two out of two so far.

Giraffe Running are a duo of Greg Barrett on bass (formerly of Joan Of Arse) and Hag on drums.
Yes I know, that smacks of Lightning Bolt BUT (and it’s a big BUT), GR are an entirely different monster altogether.
Formed a few years ago in Dublin, GR create superb not-quite-danceable-not-quite-jazz splurges of instrumental tom foolery.
That’s in no way meant to be a put down – this is tom foolery in the same way Flann O’Brien’s writing is tom foolery. There’s some deeply enchanting and often very funny music in here, it’s simply wrapped up incredibly tightly with a mood of playful glee.
The bass slips and slides like an oiled eel around some ferociously syncopated drumming.
There are nods all over the place to the sinewy instrumentation of late period Beefheart, the mathematical workouts of Gastr Del Sol and even the jump-cuts of John Zorn.

Released as a double CD in staggeringly lovely packaging – handmade, embossed, colour printed grey card with a poster, inserts (the packaging in itself is a nod towards the aesthetic that GR are chasing – this artwork could easily be wrapping one of Steve Albini’s releases) – CD one is five ‘basic’ tracks recorded ‘live’ in the studio.
CD two is fifteen tracks long and is essentially a bunch of remixes and reworkings by various different artists – Mike Stevens, Bryn Cloke, Agata, Max Tundra to name but a few – and it gives a whole new dimension to GR’s music: This is what might be if the duo were a band.
It works with just a couple of exceptions. The guest musicians using GR’s original recordings and simply adding whatever they want.

If you want fun, interesting, intelligent music to lose yourself in and delight your friends you really should hunt down a copy of this.

As I said – YUM.

THE DIAGRAM BROTHERS – Some Marvels of Modern Science (CD, LTM)

Posted: March 6th, 2007, by Crayola

I’ve not even finished listening to the marvellous Manicured Noise retrospective that I reviewed a little while ago and what should drop through my door but a retrospective of fellow early 80’s Mancunians, The Diagram Brothers.
I have to admit I know very little about them other than the fact that Andy Diagram is now one of David Thomas’ Two Pale Boys.
I also know their records were released by Richard Boon’s legendary New Hormones label.

Get past some of the humorous titles – “Ron! The Morris Minor’s Gone”, “I Didn’t Get Where I Am Today By Being A Right Git” – and what you have is a really exciting new wave art rock band that owe as much to the No Wave of the Contortions as they do to the UK punk scene and the art rock of Pere Ubu.

The guitars are all stainless steel clean, tones you could cut your finger on.
There’s some beautiful percussion, hints of both Devo and The Slits in the time changing and call and response chants, and bass playing that could be a forerunner to the avant noodling of Stump’s Kev Hopper.

The only downside is the ocassional low of some of the lyric writing. It can sometimes be a little too cleverly naive.
But then what would you expect from a group of young men making music where and when they did?

“Postal Bargains” is my current favourite – It’s all fighting guitars, driving rhythm and get-in-your-head annoying singing.

Don’t worry if you, like me, don’t know a great deal about The Diagram Brothers.
Regardless of whether or not you’re interested in experimental english pop of the late 70’s and early 80’s, if you like your pop music guitar driven, interesting, thought provoking, hummable and catchy then you’ll dig this to pieces.

THE SCARAMANGA SIX – The Dance Of Death (CD, Wrath Records)

Posted: March 6th, 2007, by Crayola

That’s not really enough is it?
I don’t really know how to describe The Scaramanga Six in a way that is both truthful and won’t put you off.
I’ll just go for the truth – S6 are a hard-rocking, indie-tuning, Meatloaf-operetta-singing, tongue-in-cheek-progging, murderous gang of thugs.

I’ve been a fan since I was given a copy of “Strike! Up The Band” album way back in 2003.
That’s 4 years of listening to deftly written pop tunes augmented by huge stadium filling riffage.

This, the new album, sees the band refining their sound even further.
There’s a timeless quality to some of the song writing – “Helvetica” being a case in point, building from a grimy little signature into a full scale indie-prog dream, all soaring vocals, sudden key changes (showing off their Cardiacs fandom) and BIG guitars.

The final, seven minute mini epic, “The Towering Inferno” is worth the price of admission alone, opening as it does with what can only be described as a Bastard Son Of Jim Steinman hook – you know, augmented pianos swooshing under chandeliers in a heavy storm before the songs explodes into the biggest chorus you think you’ve ever heard.

Buy this album NOW.

DESALVO – Brown Flag/Cock Swastika (Rock Action 7")

Posted: January 6th, 2007, by Crayola

I’ve waited two whole years for a slab of DeSalvo vinyl.
It was worth the wait.

DeSalvo include members of Stretchheads, Dawson, Nostril and, um, Idlewild.
DeSalvo are almost certainly THE BEST metal band in the world right now.

Lurching violent riffs that can’t keep to a time signature for more than a couple of bars, Desalvo move from hulking black metal to atonal faster-than-light avant noise and back in the blink of an eye.

Towering over this racket is the unmistakable scream of P6, who just happens to be one of my favourite singers.
(singers? howlers/screamers/yelpers might be more fitting).

The only thing that’s wrong with this record?

To really hear and understand DeSalvo you need to see them live.
I’ve watched them reduce girls and boys to tears of fear.
They always make up in the end, but a DeSalvo live show is something to behold.

Oh, and the vinyl is BROWN.

All hail the new ROCK.

MJ HIBBETT & THE VALIDATORS – We Validate! (CD, Arists Against Success)

Posted: December 11th, 2006, by Crayola

“Tell Me Something You Do Like” sings Mr. Hibbett in the opening song of this prettily packaged album.
Well, OK Mr. Hibbett, I like your new album.

I’ve been listening to it now for a good two months and you seem to have been stalking me for the last 20 years watching me go to gigs, nearly get beaten up, fall for girls, fall out with girls and act like an arse.

You see, MJ Hibbett is a master of the minutiae of life as an indie schmindie record buying, spectacle wearing clever clogs.

You know that moment you visited London for the first time and got trapped in a tube carriage with a bunch of Gay Activist marchers?
Well, Hibbett was there too and he’s telling the world all about it.
Or the time when you finally realised that, after spending weeks and months telling people, “The Smiths are rubbish”, that deep down you adore them even though they’re hip.
Yup, you guessed it.
He’s way ahead of you again.

This album is witty, fun, clever and intruiging.
Musically it’s a bunch of old fashinoned (in THE BEST sense of the term) indie guitar pop.
Guitar pop like guitar pop used to be.
But then surely that’s part of The Validators schtick – picking up threads of life as it was, things that have happened, and singing them so you KNOW THEY WERE THERE.

As many of you already know, i don’t like music very much.
But this is an album I LOVE.

MANICURED NOISE – Northern Stories 1978/80 (CD, Caroline True)

Posted: November 13th, 2006, by Crayola

The other night I was sitting in a pub with Rob Lloyd, catching up on news and gossip and discussing a project that we’re getting involved in.
“I got a copy of the Manicured Noise retrospective in the post this morning”, I slurred.
“You know – when I knew those guys back in the late 70’s I thought they were a theoretical band. You know, a bunch of friends who pretended to be in a group cos it sounded cool”, RL replied.
“It wasn’t until I was given a copy of the CD last week that I knew they’d even recorded anything.”

Last night I got round to listening to the album for the first time and it’s a gem.
New label on the block Caroline True have released it in a beautiful 6 panel digipak with lots of lovely photos and words and stuff – in fact it’s almost worth buying for the wrapper alone.

But I’d best talk about the music.

Manicured Noise were a 4 piece from Manchester – they existed between 1978 and 80 and made, I think, 2 EPs and recorded a BBC session.
They played a bunch of gigs at venues like The Factory in it’s Russell Club heyday and had some recordings produced by David Cunningham at This Heat’s studio, Cold Storage.

Now that’s a pretty neat bunch of info right?
Does it make you think “this might be interesting”?
Well it should.

Manicured Noise really liked Talking Heads.
And they really liked Ornette Coleman.
They were also partial to Chic and Northern Soul.

What the 18 songs on this retrospective do – what they certainly did for me – was make me smile.
A huge grinning, stupid-faced smile.
MN were a fantastic band – full of energy, nerve-y as hell, they do bear a remarkable likeness to early Talking Heads but there’s that Manchester violence seeping through.
The sax playing in skronky sex and the tunes stick in your brain.

So why weren’t Manicured Noise huge and famous and revered?
God only knows they should be.

Manicured Noise
Caroline True Records

KEITH JOHN ADAMS – Pip (Happy Happy Birthday To Me, HHBTM070)

Posted: November 12th, 2005, by Crayola

One day people will look back and say, “I saw KJA play at a bistro in Dulwich”.
Which is a shame because he deserves so much more.

For those of you not acquainted with the joys of how KJA writes songs, and because I’m lazy, imagine a soup blended with all the best cuts of Robyn Hitchcock, The Kinks, Presley, Barrett, Jonathan Richman and Lonnie Donegan.
Yes. He’s that good.

“Pip” is a beautifully warm record. Even moreso than his previous “Sunshine Loft”, the songs here sound as though Keith is sitting next to you telling stories.
The album is all acoustic guitar and fuzz bass, clattering drums and KJA’s delightful asides.
Occassionally KJA has been bemoaned for using humour. I disagree. He doesn’t use humour in a Half Man Half Biscuit this’ll-be-funny-for-a-couple-of-listens kind of way.
The humour on “Pip” is a vehicle for honest emotion.
Take “Dad”, a song about KJA’s father and about the death of his mother. The opening verse made me laugh out loud,

“Comfortable as a pair of old shoes,
rational views on the national news,
drinking our tea in the glistening dew,
that’s me and my dad.”

but it’s tempered by a chorus of,

“when you share a life then you’re really living,
can you really live until you’re really giving,
when you lost a wife and i lost a mother,
but she’s kind of there when we’re with each other.”

which made me cry.
And that doesn’t happen very often.

Further into the album there are moments of touching beauty, like “In Love” with it’s gentle melody and whistled asides (the ghost of Donegan rears it’s head).
“Keep an Eye” is typical KJA tomfoolery. A skewed tune rattles around while Keith asks us to keep an eye on him as he doesn’t want to be “just a little speck floating out to sea”.

So, what else can I say?
A few people will remember him with huge fondness.
Why don’t you become one of them?

THE NIGHTINGALES – In The Good Old Country Way (Caroline True, CTRUE1)

Posted: November 12th, 2005, by Crayola

This year has seen the reissue of all three albums by one of my favourite favourite bands. The Nightingales always seemed a bit overlooked but for the few people that noticed they were a vital noise.
“ITGOCW” was the band’s final album and at the time of it’s original release seemed a rather odd step. The title of the album gives it away. It’s a country & western inflected slab of pop.
With hindsight though, this change of sound makes perfect sense. Main ‘Gale Robert Lloyd was always a country fan and, if you listen closely enough, some of the early records have a C&W flavour even if it’s hidden away under the post-punk guitar scrape.
Lyrically the band were always astonishing. Snapshots of working class toil wound up in wordplay that led to The Independent saying, “Lloyd is the most underestimated songwriter of his generation”.
From “The Headache Collector” onwards, this is an album of stunning and often very funny insight. “How to Age” is a six plus minute journey through unsightly hair and bodily decay over itching violins and glorious bass riffs. The addition of the couple of EPs that came out around the same time make for a complete view of The Nightingales in the mid-eighties.
Anyone with soul should have this record.

RICKY – High Speed Silence (Beatcrazy)

Posted: October 5th, 2005, by Crayola

There’s a quote printed in BOLD on the press release that comes with this album.
The quote is this:

“I genuinely believe Ricky could be the new Oasis” – Pat Gilbert, MOJO Magazine.

A sentence like that fills me with dread.

There’s just nothing here.
It’s all half arsed string arrangements over Oasis-by-Alfie-by-Beatles-by-numbers songwriting.

Perhaps I just don’t understand.

DRAGON OR EMPEROR – 2 Songs (Demo)

Posted: October 5th, 2005, by Crayola

Dragon Or Emperor are a duo consisting of a couple of people out of Volcano The Bear.
There is absolutely NO similarity between the two.
Dragon Or Emperor are the East Midlands’ Lightning Bolt.
Drums, overdriven bass and vocals.
The drums are HUGE.
The bass is DIRTY.
The vocals are SLINKY.
But they’re not a Lightning Bolt covers band by a long stretch.
This is more Howling Wolf fronting the Oblivians.
Down and dirty blues really.
Certainly worth checking out.