Frankie Goes To … erm … Bath

Frankie And The Heartstrings, Moles Club, Bath

Thursday 18th October 2012

The best gigs are the squeezed-in gigs that you only find out about on the day they happen.

Frankie And The Heartstrings playing twenty minutes away? Yes please!

Never mind that this is Bath city centre we’re talking about, where everybody is so rich they have three cars each, and they all make a point of parking them all by the side of the roads of an evening, on the double yellow lines, in the disabled spaces, up trees, the lot.

I decide that I don’t want to give Bath City Council sixty quid so find a proper car park and ascend the mountain to where Moles Club is situated.

Haven’t been here in a very long while – the last time was a comedy gig circa ’96. My Gran had just died and my mate persuaded me to go out to cheer me up. One of the acts (Mike Gunn) dressed as an undertaker and did a whole routine about shagging his dead grandmother.

To be fair, it did make me laugh. Don’t judge me.

Didn’t really feel like I could go up to him afterwards to say thank you though, for fear of traumatising him into retirement. He’s still going strong on the circuit now, so I feel vindicated and not a little proud that he was able to continue his career thanks to my sensitivity.

Sorry that was a bit of a downer. Its OK, my Gran had a good long life, she was in her late eighties and didn’t suffer.
Frankie And The Heartstrings’ first elpee was one of my faves of 2011, came out of nowhere, 34 minutes of short, superbly crafted pop songs that reminded me at least of how Dexys Midnight Runners would have sounded as a pop band with no horns.

Singer Frankie Francis’ yelping delivery is pure Kevin Rowland and the band are exactly right – no huge solos, everything perfectly tailored for the needs of the song.

Check this Blue Peter style video for “Hunger” too.

And the new album’s only produced by Bernard smegging Butler, that’s all!
And they’ve just dropped a new free taster track from their new album (out in the noo year) –

They do four new numbers this evening, all instant classics – it says quite a lot when people sing along to a song they’ve never heard before.

The club is more than half-full, a great time is had by all.

People dance. And not just girls.

Setlist (courtesy of – thanks Miss Mosher. Great blog btw, you should all check her out)

This band is a bit special, and indeed about the time I write this they will be going onstage in Cardiff supporting The Cribs on their nationwide tour, which should give them the exposure they deserve.

All together now – “I’ll be yours – you’ll be mine – I’ll feed you milk – I’ll bring you wine”


Perfect Pop & Denmark’s Delia Derbyshire

Alphabeat have got a new single out!

If you don’t know them, they were all over the place around 2007-2008. They hit the radar of the hipsters as the token pop band it was OK to like – “Fascination” was their big hit:

I was actually at this gig at the Borderline in London. They sound incredibly tight live, which isn’t as easy as you think to achieve for full-on pop music.

There were signs even on the first album that they could have life beyond mere novelty, notably “What Is Happening”, a perfect Chairmen Of The Board / Dexys-sounding mature pop song, hinting at what they could conceivably achieve in years to come.

They even did A Public Image Limited cover version, which is frankly not their finest hour but worth hearing for novelty value. Daughter #1 was astonished to hear this was not an original (and she hates the original too, but then nobody’s perfect).

Alphabeat have a new album out soon and the lead single is called “Vacation” which is an homage to Madonna’s “Holiday” . God bless ‘em for staying the course.

Etferklang are an indie band from Copenhagen who release albums every few years which are always worth hearing. This track is lovely, it just gets into your head and won’t leave.

Now, to counter all this fresh-faced pop and dreamy indie loveliness, to Elsie Marie Pade, one of the first Danish practitioners of electronic music.

This track is from 1970. The repeated phrase is Danish for “Hitler is not dead”. Before it was censored, the track ended with the line “He lives on in Nixon”.

If you think THAT’S weird for its time, how about this one from 1958?

And this one from 1962 sounds absolutely contemporary. Still.

Else Marie Prade was born in 1924 and is still making music.

For more on Else and others, I recommend this excellent blog on women in electronic music

Finally, I couldn’t really write anything on Danish music without mentioning The Raveonettes.

For ten years, The Raveonettes have been one of my favourite bands. Yeah, they sound like Duane Eddy and The Jesus And Mary Chain and Blondie. Yeah, they’re dead retro, stuck in the late 50s / early 60s surfy gutar sound, with maybe a punky buzzsaw update.

But like all my favourite bands down the years, I have a total blind spot for them and I can’t really put my finger on what is so great about them.

With The Ravs, the basic test as to whether you will like them is to listen to this song

If you like this, you will like everything they’ve done. If not, then move along. Nothing to see here. And I don’t want to be your friend anyway. It would never have worked out.

Next in our journey around those bits of Europe that are slightly better at football than some of the other bits  – the Former Soviet Republic Of Russia.

The Sound Of Portugal

Portugal open their Euro 2012 campaign this evening against Germany. Six, eight, ten years ago this would have been a fine contest but its fair to say the team of Cristiano Ronaldo and ten lesser players is not expected to trouble the German machine too much this evening.

Portugal is famous for fado music, which, unusually for folk music, has its roots in cities, notably the port city of Lisbon where many cultures met and merged over the centuries. Fado combines elements of traditional Portugese folk with Moorish and African influences.

Now, the Portugese have a word “saudade”, which has no exact translation in English. Roughly, it means “nostalgia” or “homesickness” but it also implies a bittersweet longing. Strange that English doesn’t include a word for this, as its something the English feel very deeply, especially at times of great national feeling such as – oh, I dunno, the Diamond Jubilee. Or a big football tournament.

“Saudade” pretty much nails the lyrical content of fado music. Songs are often about lost or unrequited love, death and general sadness. The sad, bittersweet lyrics are sung over beautiful plaintive melodies, sung in a wistful, yearning manner.

Despite that description, it doesn’t sound anything like The Smiths. This is Aldina Duarte, quite up-tempo.

Ana Moura, one of Portugal’s best-loved fadistas, with a more wistful song, more typical of the genre:

You can download Ana’s music here:

Other sites are available but iDon’t like them much so iDon’t see why iShould mention them. (you see what iDid there?)

Ana is also on twitter here:!/ana_moura

For every person who follows @AnaMoura on twitter, there are 3 who follow @AnnaCalvi (below)

Moving away from Fado, here are a few random links to Portugese bands you may find interesting.

Classic prog rock band Petrus Castrus :

And another one – Tantra. Bit like early (aka “good”) Genesis. The guy on the far-right makes Peter Gabriel look like Peter Noone.

The Skalibans! This starts off quite promising with a huge brassy punk intro, slips into a respectable ska beat (not too sure about the vocals though). Somebody’s dad had a Dexys album by the sound of it.

Finally, coming full circle in a way, a song called “Saudade” (see above) by Portugal’s biggest rock act of the seventies and eighties, Herois do Mar (Heroes Of The Sea)! Synth pop! With mandolins! – almost a prototype British Sea Power, at least to these ears.

So, a random selection but some excellent sounds there. I’d be interested if you know of any other Portugese music I should be aware of?

That’s all until tomorrow, when I will be “doing” Italy.