The Prince Albert (at 48 Trafalgar Street, Brighton, BN1 4ED) will be the place to be on Sunday 12th September 2021 from 1:30pm to 5:00pm, as there will be an enjoyable afternoon of decent music featuring The Catenary Wires, Pete Astor and European Sun.
Purchase your concert tickets HERE.
But who are The Catenary Wires, Pete Astor and European Sun?
Let’s find out by sharing reviews of their latest albums……….
Indie pop comes of age!
The Catenary Wires feature Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey, once of Heavenly and Talulah Gosh. These early bands, once denigrated for being ‘fey’ or ’twee’: the wrong kind of female, have been re-evaluated in recent years. Their songs, apparently sweet and fizzy, were always smarter and darker than they seemed, while the band were radically independent, and an influential part of the movement that became riot grrrl.
In The Catenary Wires, Amelia and Rob are still in love with making pop songs with complex messages. The new album by the band will be released on 18th June 2021 via Skep Wax Records and Shelflife Records and is titled ‘Birling Gap’.
This, their third, album is full of melody, and rich with backing vocal harmonies – but now the tunes are vehicles for startlingly honest adult concerns: the fractured relationships, anxieties, passions and politics of people who live on an island that’s turning in on itself. The Catenary Wires know that pop music is just as good at conveying dark, difficult emotions as it is at celebrating teenage love. This record’s ambitions are comparable to those of the Go-Betweens (if the women had shared the lead vocals). Or perhaps it’s what Nancy and Lee would have sounded like if they were still around, watching California become the home of the digital giants and the scene of terrifying forest fires.
‘Birling Gap’ is a significant place. On the South Coast of England (between Seaford and Eastbourne), it’s where steep chalk cliffs resist the rough seas of the English Channel. It’s where iconic images of England are created and re-created. A landscape beloved of patriots – the sturdy white cliffs standing proud and strong against the waves. It’s also a place where people, despondent and doomed, have thrown themselves off the cliffs. It’s where The Cure shot the ‘Just Like Heaven’ video. It’s where romantic lovers go for passionate storm-tossed assignations.
The album depicts England, not just in its lyrics, but also in its music. The Catenary Wires have listened to the songs and stories England has comforted itself with over the decades, and re-imagined them. Rob and Amelia take on the personae of duetting couples from different moments in pop history: in ‘Canterbury Lanes’, they are a pair of folk-rock musicians, old now and worn down, but still aspiring to put their band back together, hoping to rekindle the idealistic flames of the 1970s. (The arrangement hints at the acoustic guitars and harmonies of those long-lost Canterbury Scene bands.)
‘Mirrorball’, fizzy with syn-drums and Casio, presents another pair – middle-aged and unattached, who find unexpected love at a retro 80s disco. Lost in the maelstrom of commercial synth-pop, they find that, for the first time in their lives, those hackneyed expressions of love and desire actually do make emotional sense. In the 60s-flavoured pop of ‘Always On My Mind’ another couple appear, re-discovering long-lost love almost by surprise, conjured up by an old photo in a pile of memorabilia (and musically enhanced by harmonies reminiscent of The Mamas and The Papas).
‘Cinematic’, filled with murky, fuzzy guitar, is about the hostile environment England creates for unwanted outsiders. ‘Three-Wheeled Car’ is about a nostalgic old couple, gazing across the waves at Birling Gap, feeling smug about their Englishness. It makes oblique reference to the Kinks – probably the greatest pop chroniclers of English life – but also wonders if Ray Davies’s once radical songs are just part of the nostalgia industry now. Maybe that’s it? Maybe England is at the end of the road. (The old couple in the Three-Wheeled Car certainly are.)
The last two songs on the album, ‘Like The Rain’, and ‘The Overview Effect’, are anxious love songs, set in a fragile world. Those white chalk cliffs at Birling Gap are, in reality, eroding very rapidly. They are emblematic of a proud, self-regarding nation, but they also represent impermanence, erosion and environmental change… which takes us back to the opening track. ‘Face On The Rail Line’ is a love song set in the now, but shot through with the anxiety and paranoia that we all feel, living at a time when we are constantly in contact, but rarely communicate the truth.
The Catenary Wires are a five-piece band. The other members have an impressive musical pedigree of their own. Fay Hallam was in Makin’ Time, and now releases records in her own name. She is seen by many as the best Hammond organist of her generation. Andy Lewis played bass in the Weller Band for many years, and has more recently worked with Louis Phillippe and Judy Dyble. Ian Button played in Thrashing Doves and Death in Vegas. These talented musicians elevate the songs, taking the arrangements onto another level.
The proud DIY spirit of indie music is still very much alive in The Catenary Wires. The album is produced by band member Andy Lewis. Rob and Amelia make their own videos on zero budgets. They’ve created a venue in a barn in the middle of nowhere in Kent. And now they have started their own record label, Skep Wax. The label has already released indie hit records by Swansea Sound (which Rob, Amelia and Ian are also involved in).
‘Birling Gap‘ is released on Skep Wax Records in the UK on Friday 18th June 2021, and is distributed internationally by Cargo. In the US, the album is on Shelflife Records and distributed by MVD.
The band have also shared the video to ‘Mirrorball’, the first single to be taken from the album – Watch the video HERE.
The track listing of the album is as follows:
1. ‘Face On The Rail Line’
3. ‘Always On My Mind’
5. ‘Three Wheeled Car’
7. ‘Canterbury Lanes’
9. ‘Like The Rain’
10. ‘The Overview Effect’
Visit The Catenary Wires Bandcamp page HERE.
More information on The Catenary Wires HERE.
Pete Astor – ‘You Made Me’ (Faux-Lux/ Gare du Nord LP/CD)
‘You Made Me’ is a Pete Astor album of other people’s songs. It was recorded with producer Ian Button and features Dave Tattersall (Wave Pictures) playing guitar and Andy Lewis (Spearmint, Blow Up) on bass and synth, with Pam Berry (Black Tambourine, Withered Hand), Sean Read (Edwyn Collins, Pretenders, and a mass of brilliant others) and Nina Walsh (Woodleigh Research Facility, Fireflies) joining on vocals.
From the pure pop ache of Gen X’s ‘Dancing With Myself’ to the stoic heartbreak of Cat Power’s ‘Manhattan’, via the shadowy rider in Elvis Presley’s ‘Black Star’, to the teenage ’50s gangster of Richard Thompson’s ‘Vincent Black Lightning’, ‘You Made Me’ marks some of the way stations of a life in music, songs to make sense of time passing and what that passing time can mean.
Pete Astor shares his thoughts on ‘You Made Me’.
Like everybody, my life has been sound-tracked by the songs I listen to and sing along with. And a bit like a collection of photographs, I’ve lost some while some never even got taken. Nonetheless, some really good ones did get through. Here they are.
1.‘Dancing With Myself’ (1980) Gen X
Written by Billy Idol and Tony James, the song articulated the loneliness of the long-distance musician – and it sounded great.
2.‘Black Star’ (1960) Elvis Presley
This was intended as the title song to a so-named 1960 Presley film that got retitled ‘Flaming Star’. The title track of David Bowie’s swansong album is widely thought to have been inspired by this song.
3.‘Chained To An Idiot’ (1974)
This is the only original on the record – my response to the history that these songs have made; the tale of the permanent teenager chained to his needs, forever defined by the purest, libidinous pop – turning Kingsley Amis’ quote, the provenance of the title, on its head.
4.‘Manhattan’ (2012). Cat Power
This is Chan Marshall’s paean to lost love and lost places, an elegy to the way we locate our lives and love affairs in times and locations – a hazy New York or London, say – that have now disappeared.
5.‘Nitcomb’ (1999’). Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros.
‘Nitcomb’ will ring very true for anyone who remembers all the long evenings spent combing out those stubborn insects. As a musician, Strummer was a lifer, and like those nits, so very tenacious.
6.’Vincent Black Lightning’ (1952) Richard Thompson
This modern-day outlaw ballad tells the story of tragic love around the centrepiece of the mythic and very English titular motorcycle.
7.‘Solid Air’ (1973) John Martyn
John Martyn’s plea to his lost and fading friend, Nick Drake, which becomes a touchstone and document of any lost and fading friends any of us might have had.
8.‘Can’t Hardly Wait’ (1987) The Replacements
Paul Westerberg writing and singing about how it feels to be away from home, on tour, magnificently lost, aching to be.
9.‘Courage Villagers’ (2015)
Conor O’Brien’s document of the heart’s travails re-imagined as lovers rock, making a gentle, steadfast march out of changing love.
10.‘Suffering Jukebox’ (2008) Silver Jews
We recorded this in tribute to the passing of Silver Jews’ songwriter David Berman, a song about the plight of the record machine in the corner, devoid of agency, speaking for everyone who wishes things were different. Neil Scott (Felt, Denim, Everything But the Girl) joined us for this one on guitar.
11.‘One Man Guy’ (1985) Loudon Wainwright III
Loudon lived in London in the mid ’80s. I once saw him eating alone in Parkway, NW1. Now I know how he must have felt…
You can order the album HERE.
More information on Pete Astor HERE.
European Sun Rising!
Having released two digital singles (‘The Future’s Female’ and ’My Station’) European Sun are simply thrilled to announce their self-titled debut long player, an essential release for fans of Jonathan Richman, the Television Personalities, BMX Bandits, Felt, the June Brides, the Velvet Underground, C86, early Creation, Subway, Postcard and Sarah Records.
European Sun features twelve post-punk/indie-pop tunes about growing up in the ‘70’s and being a father in the ‘20’s, about family, friendship, love, anxiety, naivety, politics, flying kites, daydreaming, snow, the seaside, Lou Reed, Robins, robins, bees and cups of tea.
The band’s third single, and first to be taken from the vinyl release, is ‘My Friend Robin’, wherein European Sun befriend a Look & Learn annual worth of heroes: Robin Hood, Prince Hamlet, Vincent Van Gogh, Emmeline Pankhurst and Robert Johnson.
Bristol-born Steve Miles writes, sings and plays the songs of European Sun. Rob Pursey and Amelia Fletcher play, sing and produce.
Rob and Amy have an unrivalled indie heritage with Talulah Gosh, Heavenly, Marine Research and Tender Trap. These days they perform and record as The Catenary Wires. Ian Button plays the drums. Steve also plays in The Short Stories with bassist Chris Wilson (Lloyd Cole, Love Spit Love).
The band’s first release, ‘The Future’s Female’, was a straightforward song for the new decade, a rallying cry for progressive people to have hope in a decade that threatens to be dark. The proceeds from all Bandcamp sales are being donated to Refuge. You can also donate here – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/thefuturesfemale
‘My Station’ was the second digital release, written and recorded in a simpler time, about travel, forgetfulness and childhood. ‘Always check the luggage rack.’
‘A Song For Sisters’
‘My Friend Robin’
‘Never Too Old To Be Young’
‘Now I’m Ready To Be A Princess’
‘She’ll Fly Away’
‘You Belong Somewhere’
Extra tracks (digital only)
‘The Future’s Female’
You can order the album HERE.
More information on European Sun HERE.
Purchase your tickets for The Prince Albert afternoon concert HERE.
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