Gig City – Kiran Leonard, The Nest, Bath

KIRAN LEONARD / IRMA VEP / THE EVIL USSES – The Nest, Bath – Saturday 2nd April 2016

Kiran Leonard is a force to be reckoned with. At the age of 20 and while still a student he has already put out two albums, in addition to numerous other tracks that can be found on his Soundcloud account here

He’s gained kudos from BBC 6 Music (Marc Riley in particular is deeply smitten) and XFM, and the new album “Grapefruit” ( the follow-up to 2014’s “Bowler Hat Soup”) is receiving rave reviews from what seems like the entire blogosphere for its poise, originality and – let’s be clear – for rocking like a bastard.

“Grapefruit” has been a long time in the making, many of the tracks having been road-tested, tinkered with and developed live (like the Pink Floyd used to do all those years ago until they got fed up with being bootlegged). There are certainly a few of the tracks played tonight that have changed noticeably – for the better in all cases – since I last heard them played live a year or so ago.

(BTW a couple of tracks from the album are featured on plus a few more tunes you may like)

Kiran takes the stage so quietly you’d hardly notice, straps on his guitar,removes his shoes and without a word the band dive straight into the astonishing 16-minute “Pink Fruit”, an excerpt of which is included below, one of two extended multi-movement pieces on the records and comfortably the most complex of the manby complicated tunes in the set – no poncey warming up with the easy options here.

You may have heard “Pink Fruit” on the radio. It goes through at least five movements that I can identify. This music seems to have come out of nowhere, although if pressed I’d say there are hints of Frank Zappa and maybe the likes of Gentle Giant and King Crimson, next to Jane’s Addiction and maybe the art-rock with a hint of grunge of dEUS.

Kiran stands stage left and side on to the audience, like a conductor facing his band which consists of a violinist / keyboard player, bass and drums. There are some seriously challenging arrangements for the players in this music, and the band are more than up to the task. I’ve never seen such a well-drilled band playing such complex music.

And this IS complex music, make no mistake, but crucially, its not complicated. There are arrangements in 5/8 and 13/8 time here, but you never find yourself thinking “ooh thats clever” – its always the song that’s important, and its always the song that wins through.

And you NEED these odd time signatures to create the effects Kiran Leonard is after. I honestly don’t think anyone has done anything like this before although I stand to be corrected on this.

And then there’s the guitar playing. No mile long guitar solos here, and equally no five minute wig outs on the one chord,but short, violent outbursts as and when required – Richard Thompson is the closest reference point I can hear. Like Dave Tattersall’s work with the Wave Pictures, it enhances the song, it isn’t the point of the song. Course, if you’re a songwriter of the quality of Tattersall or Leonard then that always helps.

Kiran’s songwriting indicates a refusal to be pinned down to any one musical idea for any length of time. Musical motifs swirl in and out of the songs at will. The light and shade is masterful; yes, there is a comparison to be made with grunge but where Nirvana and their ilk were working in black and white, ranging from very quiet to very loud, Leonard and his band visit all points inbetween as well.

Both support acts are pretty good – Irma Vep, who Kiran and members of his band provide the backing for, and opening the show, Bristol-based instrumental band The Evil Usses, who I thought were tremendous, bringing to mind Zappa and Beefheart as well as the Pink Floyd and Pigbag, none of which is ever a bad thing)

My personal fave tune of Kiran’s is “Don’t Make Friends With Good People”, a nine minute plus tune which starts with layers of kids’ TV folk guitar, breaks into a brutal section at which the Gang Of Four would nod approvingly before moving into an extended Tim Buckley strumscream, then finally ending with a prog explosion King Crimson may have achieved circa 1972.

The final track is his signature, “Geraldo’s Farm” , a song which builds and then drops away again them builds again to the most shattering of sonic climaxes you could wish to hear.

There’s a surprise encore – a cover version, no less – as Kiran plays a solo guitar-backed version of sixties girl-group The Tammys “His Actions Speak Louder Than Words”. Got to admit I wasn’t expecting that at all, it all adds to the puzzle and the enigma that is Kiran Leonard and his music. I did capture it on my phone but the sound quality was dire and there were EVIL PEOPLE TALKING, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE so you’ll have to make do with the classic original for now, shut your eyes and imagine.

If you’re quick and near Ramsgate, Cambridge or Nottingham you can catch Kiran and his band on tour this week. He’s also playing the excellent Dim Swn one-day multi venue fest in Cardiff on Saturday (April 9th).

And check out the “Grapefruit” album, it really is a leap forward in the gene pool of underground music. I haven’t quite got my head round its intricacies and references yet and I think it’ll be a while before I do, but I’m looking forward to getting to know it. Come back in six months for the review.

Top Twenty Olympics Songs #5 – #1

I’m really going to miss the Olympics. On Monday we all go back to our normal lives. Nothing will ever be quite the same again.

Time, then, for the final instalment of the Olympics Top Twenty chart.

But first, a rundown of the Story So Far. If you like you can play this while you read the countdown

20. Bring On The Dancing Horses – Echo And The Bunnymen

19. Til The End – JaminRols

18. Swords Of A Thousand Men – Ten Pole Tudor

17. Poison Arrow – ABC

16. Lets Wrestle – Lets Wrestle

15. The Rowing Song – Patti Griffin

14. Sail On Sailor – The Beach Boys

13. Nightswimming – REM

12. Table Tennis Table – Gilberto Gil

11. Weightlifting Lulu – The Residents

10. Ambling Alp – Yeasayer

9. Dal Ni Lawr – Genod Droog

8. All I Want For Xmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit – Half Man Half Biscuit

7. Trampoline – Julian Cope

6. The Umpire Strikes Back – The Brat

5. The Canoe Song – Karl Denver Trio

The Canoe Song by the Karl Denver Trio. Best known for their fantastic version of “Wimoweh (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)” this take on the old Paul Robeson classic is in the same vein.

4. Bike – The Pink Floyd

Closing track on “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” and one of Syd Barrett’s finest lyrics :

“I’ve got a mouse and he doesn’t have a house – I don’t know why, I call him Gerald.

He’s getting rather old, but he’s a good mouse”

3. Shot By Both Sides – Magazine

Plenty to choose from here, but I got a bit fed up with Bob Marley’s courtroom statement a while back. Joan Armatrading’s “Shoot The Pilot” nearly got in but nothing beats Magazine, for me.

2. You Can Do Athletics BTW – We Are The Physics

This song should be so much better known, as should the band. One of the best live bands I’ve ever seen.

And the Number One is …… (roll on the drums) …

1. The Gymnast High Above The Ground – The Decembrists

I’d forgotten how much I love this band – this is from the 2003 elpee “Her Majesty” and is just beautiful.

Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here Far Too Dear

“And did we tell you the name of the game, boy?  We call it ‘riding the gravy train’”

That line is from “Have A Cigar”, the track that opens Side Two of Pink Floyd’s 1975 masterpiece “Wish You Were Here”.

Welcome to the machine. The nostalgia machine. In time for the Christmas market, Pink Floyd are releasing re-mastered versions of all their albums, including five-disc “Immersion Editions” of the two best, and best-loved, “Dark Side Of The Moon” and “Wish You Were Here”

There’s some great music here, but I’d hazard a guess that ninety percent of the people who are going to buy these overpriced reissues already have the albums.

You do not, emphatically  not need the new remixed, remastered editions. You especially do not need the new Immersion edition of Wish You Were Here.

You’ve already GOT Wish You Were Here.

The new immersion edition of Wish You Were Here costs £84.99. Let’s just put that out there. Thats fifteen notes short of a hundred pounds. For this you get three versions of the album – the original stereo mix, the Quadraphonic Mix, and the 5.1 Surround Mix.

No extra tracks, jams or outtakes from the sessions…

Plus you get two versions of a 1975 concert performance of the album, plus a selection of tacky collectibles that bear listing in full.

Two photo books. A scarf. Some marbles. Postcards. A replica gig ticket and backstage pass. And some cardboard drinks coasters.

Look, I know you love Pink Floyd.

You’re fifty, male and middle class. You were at school in the mid-seventies, when it was compulsory for middle-class boys to be into Pink Floyd.  And Yes. And King Crimson. And Genesis. Soul and reggae music was for the rough boys. Glam rock was for girls.

You love Pink Floyd, of course you do.

So do I. Wish You Were Here in particular. Its a lovely, warm, wistful album.

But you already have this music.

You  bought Wish You Were Here on the day it came out in 1975, in that black shrink-wrapped bag.

You had of course heard the album on Alan Freeman’s Radio One show the week before, and recorded it onto a C-60 cassette, which you played a lot

Later, when you got your first CD player, the first four CDs you bought (at sixteen pounds each) purchased in 1985 were – Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish you Were Here, Dare by the Human League (the wife likes them) and Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits.


If you have eighty-five quid to spare and you love Pink Floyd, there is a lot of music out there, in the same genre as Pink Floyd, that you may learn to love just as much:

Download Trojan Horse’s excellent album:

Trojan Horse are an up-and-coming band who describe their sound as “Prog Nouveau”. You can download their debut album here for £6.00:

Take your pick from the many records by The Pineapple Thief.

Basically the brainchild and project of Bruce Soord, these guys have been making prog-indie albums since 1999, building up a devoted following. Their latest album is “Someone Here Is Missing” and you can listen to bits of it  here.  In particular, check out the Storm Thorgerson album artwork. Admit it, Floydians, you’re interested!

Buy A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding In Your Mind

Amorphous Androgynous – formerly called the Future Sound Of London – these guys do killer mixes and compilations of old psychedelic gems mixed with some current stuff. This is the latest volume

“X And Y” – Coldplay

Yeah, I know you know all about Coldplay. But plenty of tracks on this album sound more like Pink Floyd than Pink Floyd did, at least after Roger Waters left. Its currently yours for less than four quid on Amazon.

Pink Floyd’s Soundtracks

The rest of Pink Floyd’s back catalogue. If you don’t already have all of this then why not fill in the gaps – for instance, the soundtrack albums. More? Obscured By Clouds? Roger Waters’ “Music From The Body”? Tonite Lets All Make Love In London? All worth your time. Except the last one, mind.

British Sea Power

British Sea Power’s “Man Of Aran” – British Sea Power are primarily an indie band. You may not like everything they do, but they wrote this new soundtrack to a 1934 film about islanders on Aran ekeing out a pre-modern lifestyle from the unforgiving land. Some of the long pieces in particular are very Floydian.

Go see a Pink Floyd Tribute Band

With half the original band no longer with us, and two of the three survivors no longer on speaking terms, a Floyd live reunion ain’t gonna happen – and if it does, it isn’t going to be any good. I mean, I watched the Live 8 performance on the telly and it was a bit ropey.

Think Floyd were one of the earliest and best Floyd tribute bands. Fourteen quid will get you in to see them playing at St Pauls Church in West London next week:

There are others, notably The Australian Pink Floyd. My personal favourite is a band called Interstellar Overdrive who I saw in Germany many years ago. They limit their selection to the Barrett / Waters led period – nothing after “Animals” except “Comfortably Numb”, which is just fine by me! You have to respect a semi-pro band who include a massive gong in their stage rig solely for “Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun”.

Just say “Yes” !

And finally, Floyd’s seventies prog contemporaries Yes are playing at Hammersmith Apollo next week, The difference is that Yes have been a working, breathing band ever since they began, barring the odd hiatus and many personnel changes, and they continue to produce new music to this day.

Tickets are £37.50 plus booking fee. Don’t even get me started on booking fees…

Now you may say that’s an outrageous price for a gig by a bunch of ageing prog-rockers. And you’d be right.

But it compares well with paying £84.99 for five versions of an album you already own several times over.

And… breathe. Breathe in the air.