It didn’t require a telescope to spot Craig Finn’s first solo record glinting on the horizon. The most recent Hold Steady album, last year’s Heaven Is Whenever, hinted at creative restlessness within the ranks. The band carved out a little more space and Finn scaled down his narratives to something less obviously cinematic, yet it seemed clear there was ample room for further exploration.


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“David Byrne, all neurasthenic nettles pointing inward. He looked like someone who’d just OD’d on Dramadine – all cold sweat clammy and nerve net exoskeleton… just looked like some nut just holidayed from the ward with a fresh pocket of Thorazine, that’s all. There was something gentle, shy, reflective and giving about his hideous old psychosocial gangrene.”
That’s Lester Bangs, in full flow, recalling the first time he saw Talking Heads live, around 1976, in a rambling, sometimes flashing essay written in 1979 as a review of the Fear Of Music album, but only published for the first time now, as accompaniment to this superbly conceived DVD.


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MC Taylor, a songwriter and a student of folklore, is not a declamatory man. His songs are compressed and poetic, with nary a syllable out of place. You will hear echoes of familiar things – a bit of Van Morrison’s mystical warmth, or John Martyn’s angst, and the language will be unfussy, and derived from the folk tradition.


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It is a sad fact of life that a man from any walk of life – even the often preposterous world of music – will struggle to be taken seriously if he wanders about wearing a beard the size of Gibraltar, decorating his face with white stars and red war paint, growing his hair down to his waist, then dying it yellow on one side of the parting and blue on the other. So it is with Roy Wood, still best remembered for his terrifying dayglo clan chief appearance than the succession of superb pop songs he wrote for The Move, ELO, Wizzard and – perhaps most impressively - as a solo performer.


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Ahead of a UK dates to support the new Waterboys album, An Appointment With Mr Yates, Mike Scott will answer your questions in Uncut as part of our regular Audience With... feature.


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Paris, 1968. On the set of a nondescript film called Slogan, 22 year old English actress Jane Birkin finds herself playing the love interest of a washed-up advertising executive undergoing a midlife crisis. In real life, Birkin’s three year marriage to Bond-theme composer John Barry is falling apart. She embarks on an affair with her leading man, a French pop star called Serge Gainsbourg, ushering in a year he would later call “un année erotique”, during which the duo would record a hit single, “Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus”, banned by the BBC for its suggestive sexuality.


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This comes in a cute Dansette-style box stuffed with ten albums of antique Kinkorama and Meet the Kinks!, a fab 1960s style booklet with rare fab pix. For complete retro-authenticity, everything is in mono, this being how the original records were released back in those sacred days (so sacred that “Days” itself is now the theme tune for a car advert).


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Before the rampant egomania, before the bloated double albums, before the mass band purgings and the hagiographic documentary in which Billy Corgan, saintly in white bathrobe, sits in a hotel room writing songs about Nazi Germany and receiving a pair of fans who present him with a huge plaster model of his own head… yeah, it’s easy to forget that before all that stuff, the Smashing Pumpkins used to be a pretty great rock band.


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Thinking about it now, it seems as if many of our favourite film makers decided to take 2011 off. Aside from the Coens' True Grit at the start of the year and Martin Scorsese's foray into children's movies at its close, you could be forgiven for wondering where had all the directors we'd so assiduously championed since Uncut began, in 1997, disappeared off to.


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Elvis Costello wasn’t himself 25 years ago, the musician credits on the two albums he released in 1986 listing him as Little Hands Of Concrete (King Of America) and Napoleon Dynamite (Blood & Chocolate). While the former was a self-mocking reference to his habit of breaking guitar strings, the latter was a more boastful persona who made his stage bow as the mad-eyed master of ceremonies at fairground-like live shows.


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Editor's Letter

"Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye": Cosimo Matassa 1926-2014


Among my post last week, I received a nice care package from Ace Records that included one quite weird Duke Ellington album ("My People"); Volume 3 of their "Where Country Meets Soul" series (I cannot recommend Ralph ''Soul'' Jackson's version of ''Jambalaya'' highly enough); and, maybe best of...