Wild Mercury Sound

Led Zeppelin imminently, plus the great Kelley Stoltz

John Mulvey

Mildly deranged vibes here today, as I prepare my body and soul for the Led Zeppelin gig tonight. I'll be posting a review of the show on this blog when I manage to get home from Greenwich, but you can follow the action throughout the evening as Farah Ishaq will be reporting non-stop from Greenwich on our Live Reviews blog.

I spent a long time on the M4 this past weekend playing old Led Zep albums and trying to guess which songs they'll actually still be capable of playing. A slightly cautious hunch is that there'll be a fair few slowish blues and not much in the vein of say, "The Song Remains The Same". But we'll see.

Today, after a bracing blast of "Physical Graffiti", it occurred to me that I really should get around to writing about the fine fourth album by Kelley Stoltz. It's called "Circular Sounds" and, I have to admit, it's the first one of his records that has really grabbed me - though I suspect if I'd spent enough time with its predecessors (though possibly not his cover of Echo And The Bunnymen's "Crocodiles")I'd be pretty sold on those ones too.

Stoltz is from San Francisco, and essentially, his speciality is a faintly crotchety, faintly psychedelic, exceptionally melodic Americanised update of The Beatles and The Kinks. Listening to "Circular Sounds" the other day, it struck me that there are two main ways in which musicians are influenced by this sort of canonical Britbeat. Most British disciples - Oasis and Jam-era Weller are obvious examples, I guess - fixate on the anthemics, the attitudes, the Englishness, the mod affiliations.

This lot have never interested me a great deal, to be honest; as the amount of hairy nouveau-hippy stuff I write about here probably makes clear, the aesthetics of mod have always been fairly charmless to me.

Stoltz, I think, belongs to a tradition which you could plausibly trace from the Nuggets bands, through people like Big Star and maybe Cheap Trick, earlyish Elvis Costello & The Attractions, up to the likes of Elliott Smith and Brendan Benson, where artists - usually American - grapple with the melodic possibilities of that tradition, without getting hung up on the baggage.

If Stoltz had been in Detroit around the turn of the decade, you can imagine Jack White recruiting him into The Raconteurs at the expense of Benson. "Circular Sounds" is one of those records where every play brings another favourite song. It has a curiously cranky baroque air, a jaunty lushness which feels like it was nailed together in a garden shed rather than a plush studio, as pumping pianos, wobbly brass lines and a manifest crackling energy give these memorable little songs real thrust.

Today I like "To Speak To The Girl" (a swinging 1965 groove, there), the gorgeous, 1970 Kinksy "When You Forget" and "Your Reverie", which I believe may be the first single, and which sounds a bit like Costello's "Pump It Up" if it was dreamed up in, oh, Cleveland in 1968. I'm going to be playing this one a lot next year; hopefully you will too.

But in the meantime I have a date with destiny. Anyone else who makes it to the Led Zep show, please let me know what you thought.


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The 46th (And Last) Playlist Of 2014


Sorry I didn't manage to post a playlist last week; a combination of germs, deadlines and various other professional/seasonal distractions meant that I ran out of time.

Here, though, is our last office list of 2014, with lots of strong new entries. A few highlights...