Frank Gutch Jr: Indie Love From the UK— Lisbee Stainton, Duggy Degs, Toxic Melons, The Toniks— Plus The Minnows and The Riptide Movement (If You Count Ireland)— Oh Yeah, and Notes…..

FrankJr2An Open Letter to Clive Stainton:

Your little girl’s growing up, Clive.  It wasn’t that long ago that I heard Lisbee’s Firefly album (2006), her voice just beyond a child’s, her music much beyond her years, her insight astonishing.  Revisiting that album, I can hear the beginnings of something amazing, but she was so young and we both know that some artists have only one album in them before the world takes them away to become teachers or scientists or whatever else their futures hold.

How can you tell in one album what lies beyond?  But there was something there.  Something special.  I heard it on Red, a beautiful song already but destined to be the anchor on Lisbee’s second album, Girl On an Unmade Bed (2010).

lisbeeWhat happened during that short period between Firefly and Unmade Bed?  Something happened.  Lisbee was so young and innocent on Firefly—, a babe in the woods, so to speak.  By Unmade Bed, she was blossoming.  What a difference!  Her music began to take shape, her confidence growing, the introspect giving way to, what?  She retained some of that innocence in her songs, but the little girl was gone, the world no longer an intimidation but a challenge.  It had to tug at your heartstrings to watch her grow up.  But musically?  What an album!  Was it here that you knew she was really going places or did you know all along?  And which songs tipped you off?  The whimsical Harriet?  The folk-poppy Girl On an Unmade Bed?  Was it the songwriting or the vocals?  There is so much to hear.

When Go was released (2011), I knew what to expect.  I thought.  I mean, Go (the song) followed Unmade Bed‘s formula.  Or did it?  True, there was a slight Hall & Oates edge to the song, but…..  And Wrench….. yes, I had heard the base of both.  But what was that lean toward modern traditional folk on The Archives?  Had she been listening to Fotheringay or Steeleye Span or maybe Fairport Convention?  The vocal arrangements are amazing, voices stacked to the ceiling, and where did the band arrangements come from?  I still swim in a pool of questions and I have been listening a long while.  She surpassed any hopes I had had for her and thought it the peak.

And then you sent me Word Games.  I am stunned.  I have been listening for a few days now and the words won’t come.  Except to say that Pulse is among the most heartwrenching and beautiful songs I have ever heard.  Right up there with Amy Speace’s Water Landing and Jess Pillmore’s Don’t Show Me.  Songs to rip your heart out.

The package equals the music.  Lisbee is a beautiful girl, inside and out.  I am sure you are quite the proud father.

You can count on me to help spread the music.

Signed, Quite the Proud Fan

Duggy Degs:  One Beachy Head Dude…..

degsprofoundI want to beat Duggy Degs over the head with a rubber hose.  I searched and searched and could find little information regarding the man.  A couple of websites, a connection to a band known as The Beachy Head Music Club ansd a warrant for his arrest.  Okay, I lied about the last one, but I feel like getting a judge to swear one out.  Musicians have enough trouble gaining attention in today’s world of rock music and when little attention is paid to the things which can channel music fans to your site(s), the battle is mostly lost.

Which, in the case of Mr. Degs, would be a great loss, indeed.  And I don’t mean to disparage his attempts at all.  His attempts at music are, to my ears, not attempts at all but fully realized songs of the Pop Rock variety, emphasis on rock.  He writes songs which have that Brit Rock edge we all loved back in the late 60s and early 70s— lots of major chords and choruses made to accentuate the verses.  You can hear faint hints of a variety of bands and artists from those days but he wraps them in sheep’s clothing and does it so well that you don’t even notice.  His Profound album has a way of sneaking up on you and clubbing you over the head whether you like it or not.  My third time through, I was getting off my couch to check the computer screen every or every other song, just to check titles.  And, like all of my favorite albums, it grows on you.  In fact, Could I Change Your Mind ranks second to only Lisbee Stainton‘s Pulse in the amount of play recently.

So how does a guy like this stay under the radar?  Hello if I know.  With his background, you would think more people would know about him.  Maybe they do,  maybe I’m just hanging out with the wrong people.  But check this out.

duggydegsHe started singing in bands around 1977, hanging out with the likes of Billy Idol, whi was in a band with him called The Killermeters.  He played with a list of musicians as long as your arm, including Herbie Flowers, Malcolm MortimerBig Jim Sullivan, the late Ron Aspery, Dave Mattacks, Bad Manners, Brian Tuit and just recently worked with Madness and Daniel Woodgate.  Bloody hell, mate (I’ve always wanted to say that), that’s a freakin’ resume!

So Duggy has ended up in Brighton and is a substance misuse counselor (that would be substance abuse in The States) and tosses around terms like ASBO’d, which evidently happens to people and doesn’t sound all that good, and writes tunes in his spare time.

Profound, he tells me, took about a year to make and was recorded at Ridge Farm Studios in Rusper.  I should have sent him a note saying that I didn’t care where it was recorded, that it was very impressive, but I didn’t.  Consider this an email, Duggy.

That Beachy Head Music Club thing I mentioned earlier?  It is a groupn which was put together by Big Issue workers in Brighton.  Duggy and a fellow named Simon are the main songwriters (see what I mean?  He didn’t even give me Simon’s last name).  Here’s what he wrote about them:  “Simon who is the other principle songwriter works with kids who have been ASBO’d and we’re both pretty burnt out— the lyrics and culture hopefully reflects this along with a good bit of dark humour.”

I tell you what.  It does.  At least, from what I can make out by this video, put together in 2008.

And I’m pretty sure that’s Duggy.  The more I talk with him, the more I like him.  And a special thanks to Deborah Millstein who beat me about the head and shoulders until I checked Duggy out (I wish she had beaten a bit harder because he is even better than she said).  Follow the links.

Toxic Melons— ‘Nuff Said…..

pablomelonsThere’s this guy who has been bouncing around Facebook lately called Pablo Melons and I tell you, the guy is freakin’ nuts!  He fronts this band known as Toxic Melons (obviously a fan of Monsanto) and is a huge Queen fan.  I just happened to run into him one day (I don’t remember exactly how, but like I said, the guy is a maniac— he probably hacked his way onto my page) and started following his posts.  He has this Bandcamp page and had an album he wanted people to hear titled International Accident, so I headed over and took a listen and guess what?  It’s pretty good!  I like it, anyway.  Here is what he wrote on the page:

“Like a unicorn standing on a cloud vomiting rainbows, Toxic Melons maintains the philosophy of writing hooky, accessible Power Pop which unashamedly incorporates a range of influences from different decades.  Influences range from artists such as – Jellyfish, Gilbert O Sullivan, Harry Nilsson, The Zombies, The Move, ELO, The Divine Comedy, Queen and David Bowie.”

And this guy ain’t lyin’!  He mixes influences like a good bartender mixes drinks and the songs go down pretty smooth.  He is working on a new album and has been gathering a flock of guest artists to help him out.  Check out his FB page here (he can be funny as hell on a good day) and, what the hell, you should really hear what he has done musically too— here is a link to his Bandcamp page.

Waiter, I’ll Have Vodka— and The Toniks…..

Bobby Gottesman has this blog thing going he calls I Can’t Believe My Earz.  I thought I was digging deep, but Gottesman is a crazy man when cantbelievemyearzit comes to the Indies.  He’s like that cartoon guy you see every once in awhile looking for something and tossing things aside in a blur of activity— all assholes and elbows, as my father would have said.  And when he finds something, if you’re within shouting distance, he nails you with it.

Well, he nailed me with this band from England called The Toniks.  He tracked them down and found that they were coming to Toronto or thereabouts and had a gig set up at The Horseshoe Tavern. He set about arranging his schedule so he could attend, even inviting a friend from Radio That Doesn’t Suck to come along.  The night was evidently a rousing success, judging from Bobby’s raves and the fact that RTDS added three songs from  the band’s album to their playlist.

toniksBobby passed the album along to me, hoping I could find something worth writing about.  I found eleven things, all songs.  While I would not call The Toniks power pop, they do have a leaning toward that style of music, major chords and punchy hooks making up most of what they do.  Strengths?  Musicianship.  They know how to play.  Songwriting.  Most of these songs could have been recorded by bands from The Hollies to Matthew Sweet to some of the more punchy power pop bands playing today.  Harmonies.  When they lay their heads back, the harmonies are exhilarating.  Arrangements.  Song to song, these guys show a propensity for a depth most bands never reach.  Take a listen to Figure It Out and tell me it isn’t every bit as good as the pop from the sixties and seventies.  Tell you what.  Listen to Figure It Out, period.  Swear to God, it’s a hit!

Bobby, you got me on this one.  The Toniks are every bit as good as you said.  You can quote me.

Tiberius Ain’t Got Nothing On The Minnows…..

They started out as Tiberius’ Minnows and evolved into just the Minnows, which is probably both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing in that in the UK, their name conjures up good feeling.  A curse in that in this day and age of net searches, you get fifty thousand fish and biology sites before you even get close to finding the band.

It is worth the trouble though.  There is something about these guys which has had me following them closely over the past few years, even though their music output has been minimal.  I think it’s the sound.  It has become part of my DNA.

This song established them:

New album imminent.  Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, in Dublin, The Riptide Movement…..

I found these guys in the Steve Hoffman Forums.  I used to spend hours digging through the threads, hoping for some little crumb of bread which would lead me to something like this.  Hell of a band.  Tony Colton of Heads Hands & Feet worked with them.

Music Notes smallKnow what?  I’m burning out, so here are the….

Notes…..  Because I absolutely love The Violet Archers.  Bet few of you have ever heard or seen this:

I do this to keep myself sane.  Song produced by Tim Vesely, the man behind The Violet Archers:

Tom Mank and Sera Jane Smolen are finishing up their new album titled Swimming In the Dark.  I’ve been following Tom and Sera (and Kirsti and Julie) since reviewing Where the Sun Meets the Blue for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange website some years ago.  I liked that album so much that I interviewed them and posted their story (click here).  Check out their site to get more info about the new album and another other news fit to print.  Here*****   Albums on their way (besides those already mentioned:  Erin Lunsford, the big voice from Charlottesville, who has announced that there will be an album release party during C-ville’s YAR 2013 celebration on October 26th The Jimmy Hanna Big Band, a reissue of Hanna’s post-Dynamics work (which contains tracks from Hanna’s Leaving Here album, a compilation mostly of tracks culled from singles from the mid-60s, plus a few unreleased tracks) (click here);  Nick HolmesSonar, which is awaiting bar code repair (click here);  Rebecca Pidgeon‘s Blue Dress On, which unveils itself on October 8th  (click here);  The Winterpills have to be close to completing their album of cover songs.  They announced last Spring that they would include cover songs of  Sharon Van Etten, Lisa GermanoThe Go-Betweens, Jules Shear, Matthew Sweet and others.  Wait.  I see that the proposed album, titled Echolalia, is scheduled for November release.


Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

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DBAWIS ButtonFrank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.”

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