The last single from the great SupaJamma with the great Martin “Sugar” Merchant on vocals? Say it ain’t so! Last year Merchant left SupaJamma on friendly terms, leaving the band to carry on with special guest singers. The last recordings with Merchant are being released, with We Run Tings being touted as the last single (surely there is an anthology forthcoming – one can hope and pray). Curiously the band is releasing their strongest song as their final single, which speaks of what a tight unit the lads in SupaJamma are / were. As a recap, the band features Sugar on vox, Simon Collier on bass, Lord Bevs on guitar, Steve Wilson on keys, and Dan Adams on drums. We Run Tings is driven by a killer bass line and Portishead type orchestration. The band is on fire, absolutely everything gels here. The vocals alternate between dancehall toasting and sweetly crooned vocals. Again, during those sweetly sung sections it reminds me just a bit of Portishead in the best possible way. The key line from the song that I keep returning to is “let’s get together / let’s all unite”. An uplifting message and a wonderful song to close out this chapter in the SupaJamma story. A reminder of the power of music and the euphoria it can bring. The single is available at most of the major digital retailers and again is being released by Stereokill Recordings, who are releasing music from some of the finest indie bands out there today. Nice one.
Verdict: Classic Single
For Fans of: Audioweb, The Chameleons, Ian Brown, Bob Marley, Portishead, Gang of Four, PIL
The Cornelius Crane – Manchester, England’s answer to American alt-country – have released over an album’s worth of quality material over the last 2 years or so. Instead of delivering 12 songs on the traditional long player, the band have delivered 3 songs here, 4 songs there. I think this approach has worked out well for the band – quality song after quality song, with a 6 to 9 month wait for a new batch instead of the traditional 18 months to 2 years wait between full length albums. Steve, Dan, Mark, & friends have never even delivered a mediocre song, so it is no surprise that the new EP Soul in the Lightning is a bona fide masterpiece.
From Stereokill Recordings comes the 3rd track to be released from the “lost” Paris Angels album, Eclipse. The Paris Angels, of course, reunited after the untimely passing of beloved drummer, Simon Worrall (“Big Si” to his friends & family). The Distant Drums compilation was a masterful compilation put together in Worrall’s memory and featured Sleeping With the Radio On – a slab of Madchester that reintroduced the world to the band’s brilliance. Last summer’s release of Door to Summer was, well, an anthem for summer. In other words, a hazy reflection of summertime fun. The full album hasn’t materialized yet, but the new track to be lifted from Eclipse is a funky tune that feels modern, though it dates from the early 90’s. A killer bass riff, uplifting vocals – it all culminates in a chorus that you’ll be singing along to after hearing the song just once. The track is a layered masterpiece, building in intensity as it progresses. What could end up as a cacophony of musical ambition instead becomes a nuanced exercise in beauty, imbued with nostalgia. What I’m saying is that this is a perfect song, and I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the full length. You can pick up the song at all major digital outlets for the less than the price of a cup of coffee or tea. Welcome back, boys.
Verdict: Feels Like Summer
For Fans of: The Stone Roses, Primal Scream, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, The Mock Turtles
SupaJamma follows up their critically acclaimed EP That Was Then, This is Now (not a cover of The Monkees) with a single that defies characterization. You may know leader singer Martin “Sugar” Merchant from Britpop era favorites, Audioweb. Name checked by Ian Brown of The Stone Roses, opening for U2 – they were a special band that captured the zeitgeist of the late 90’s. SupaJamma picks up where Audioweb left off, with a a slightly more menacing edge. The band is a force to be reckoned with and features Sugar on vocals, Simon Collier on bass (also head of StereoKill Recordings), Lord Bevs on guitar, Steve Wilson on keys / backing vox, and Dan Adams on drums and back vox. Hope and Pray is anchored by a killer bass line that adds a dark vibe to the tune. Sugar’s vocals waver between soulful crooning and reggae style toasting. A sense of urgency builds as the track progresses, the band locking into a groove that is positively infectious. For those fans of The Chameleons (and I’d imagine there is some overlap), think of how Kwasi and Mark Burgess exchanged verses on their 2001 reunion album, Why Call It Anything. The vocal interplay is somewhat similar here, but with Sugar handling all vocal duties. The darkness threatens to overwhelm but always returns to the sweetly sung chorus “Each night I hope and pray / that i will live to see another day”. Perfect. Can’t wait to see what comes next from this great Manchester band. The track is available from all digital outlets and comes highly recommended. I’ve posted preview links as well as a video from their last EP to give you an idea of what this band can do. Check it out.
Verdict: Toasting to SupaJamma
For Fans of: Audioweb, Bob Marley, Gang of Four, PIL, Blur
Where to preview / buy: USA link / UK link
The Paris Angels were / are one of the great “what if” stories of the early 90’s. Contemporaries with The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, and Primal Scream they released a handful of singles along with a full length album and then all but disappeared. A casualty of record company shenanigans it seemed that the band’s place in history may have been relegated to a footnote in musical history – but tragic circumstances brought the lads back together. The unexpected passing of drummer Simon Worrall (Big Si) in 2011 found the band reuniting in his memory and contributing an unreleased track “Sleeping With the Radio On” to the Distant Drums charity compilation. That track, as well as new single “Door to Summer” are from the forthcoming record Eclipse. Recorded 21 years ago but sounding relevant, Door to Summer brings to mind the phrase “what was once old will be new again”. The track would have been fresh in 1992, reveling in its chill after party atmosphere – it sounds just as exciting in 2013. I’m pretty sure the word I’m looking for is ‘timeless’. I’ll be posting a review of the full length album when it comes out early in the Fall. In the meantime, make sure to pick up this track to whet your appetite. Available from Itunes for about $1, its money well spent. You can read more about the band and get up to date information on Paris Angels releases via Stereokill Recordings.
Verdict: Un Bel Ange
For Fans of: The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Black Grape, Primal Scream, Inspiral Carpets
The Empire Strikes Back is usually considered the strongest film of the original Star Wars series. As it turns out, it was also the 2nd film (but now I think it is considered the 5th because of the newer trilogy). The Wrath of Khan is also considered the best of the original Star Trek series and you guessed it – it’s the 2nd film. There have been epic failures in the sequel class of course – The Matrix sequels come to mind (sorry to anyone who enjoyed them. Drop me a line and explain them to me please) – but when a sequel is done right it can reinforce the positive attributes of what came before while building and adding to that foundation. The Cornelius Crane’s new EP follows their critically acclaimed record, E.P. Too. It hits all the right notes, falling into the Empire / Khan category that I talked about earlier.
Compilation albums have always been a tough sell with me. Typically I hone in on a few acts that grab me – buy everything by those bands, and forget all about the compilation. There have been a few exceptions over the years – the Factory records box set, the Left of the Dial series, and anything associated with the Messthetics DIY series (to name just a few). When I got word that a tribute compilation album in memory of the Paris Angels Simon Worrall was in the works, I had a feeling it’d be a compilation that would sit comfortably on the (digital) shelf with my other favorites – and I was right. The compilation features musicians from Manchester, England from various levels of notoriety. To understand how or why these friends of Big Si (as he was affectionately known) came together to celebrate his life that was cut short far too soon in November of 2011, one must revisit the story of the Paris Angels.