Introducing the new Uncut

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To Reeves Gabrels, the superstar years of his friend and collaborator David Bowie were a period of unlikely but essentially enlightening transformation. “He wasn’t a pop star,” he tells Rob Hughes in this month’s cover story. “He just happened to be able to make some pop records every now and then. That’s how he kept the machine running. But he was an artist. The function of entertainment is to make you feel good, the function of art is to make you feel.”

Gabrels is one of Bowie’s many confidants and co-conspirators that Rob’s spoken to as part of his fascinating deep trawl of Bowie’s most contentious decade. There is further wisdom and insight from Carlos Alomar, Peter Frampton, Nile Rodgers and many more who argue that this period was fundamentally necessary in shaping the work that followed: as vital a part of Bowie’s legacy, in its way, as his storied ‘70s. You’ll find the full story in our new issue, which is in shops from Thursday – but you can also order a copy here and have it sent direct to you at home.

And our Bowie celebrations continue! To compliment Rob’s story, the issue comes bagged with a pair of free Bowie art prints – including one exclusive, previously-unseen image.

Forgive me, please, if this Editor’s Letter feels a little like Christmas has come early, but I have some other exciting news to share with you. This month’s free CD has been specially curated for us by Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman. As his label celebrates their 30th anniversary he’s assembled a sampler featuring 15 of the label’s excellent current artists – including Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Luluc, Low, Sleater-Kinney, J Mascis, the Afghan Whigs and Iron & Wine.

Elsewhere, Stephen Deusner pays tribute to the legendary Aretha Franklin, take you behind the scenes of John Lennon’s landmark Imagine album and reveal Led Zeppelin at work and at play while, on the first anniversary of his death, Tom Petty’s most trusted lieutenants recall good times with their beloved bandleader. There are more new interviews with Connan Mockasin, John Grant, David Crosby, Cat Power, Stereolab, Blondie, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Family.

As you’ll have gathered by now, it’s been a busy month for us. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.

Follow me on Twitter @MichaelBonner

The November 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with David Bowie on the cover. The issue also comes with two exclusive Bowie art prints, including one previously unseen image. We also pay tribute to Aretha Franklin and elsewhere in the issue you’ll find exclusive features on John Lennon, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, Cat Power, John Grant, Blondie, Connan Mockasin, Billy Gibbons, Family, Stereolab and many more. Our free 15-track CD has been exclusively curated by Sub Pop Records and includes tracks by J Mascis, the Afghan Whigs, Mudhoney, Luluc, Low, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.

Paul Weller – True Meanings

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The past decade of Paul Weller’s career has been defined by his drive for change. From the varied beats of 2008’s 22 Dreams, through the electronica of Sonik Kicks and on to last year’s easily overlooked experimental soundtrack to Jawbone, there’s been a restless desire for new sounds. While that’s been exciting to witness, it’s also sometimes overshadowed the fact Weller is still an exceptional songwriter. There are times, perhaps, when less might have been more – so a song like the gospel-tinged “The Cranes Are Back” on 2017’s A Kind Revolution lacked some of the immediate beauty of the original demo, which featured little more than vocal and piano.

For True Meanings, Weller hasn’t quite stripped things back that far, but he has produced his most sonically consistent album in years. Each song began as vocal and acoustic guitar, but a sense of dynamic was added by the use of strings or horn arrangements, giving the album a backwash of luscious and uncomplicated beauty. At times, these can be relatively subtle, as on opener “The Soul Searchers”, where the strings are just an added layer of texture and not as important as the Hammond solo played by Rod Argent – one of many guests on the album. Elsewhere, the strings are more prominent. The gorgeous “Gravity” swings by like a 1920s waltz, while “May Love Travel With You” has the orchestral feel of a classic Tin Pan Alley weeper explicitly designed to get a post-war housewife sobbing into her onions.

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Although most songs take the shape of soul or occasionally country, there are other flavours. The most significant is the use of sitar and tampoura on “Books”, a splendid drone attacking religion that also has Noel Gallagher on harmonium. The other big innovation is that on four songs Weller writes tunes for other lyricists. Conor O’Brien from Villagers wrote the words to “The Soul Searchers”, while “Bowie”, “Wishing Well” and “White Horses” are by Erland Cooper, who recently released an acclaimed solo album. Weller’s own solo albums have always been a medium for collaboration, and True Meanings has appearances from Martin Carthy, Danny Thompson, Rod Argent, Barrie Cadogan, Lucy Rose and, inevitably, Noel Gallagher.

The use of strings isn’t simply a decorative conceit. They catch the album’s mood of wistfulness, a nostalgia that the strings sometimes shade as melancholic, sometimes joyful and sometimes joyfully melancholic. Weller turned 60 in May, and that milestone as given him reason to look back just as turning 50 inspired his creative renewal with 22 Dreams. On the delicate, Disney-like “Glide”, he sings about gliding “through a portal to be youth” and how he will “see the memories unfold”, while “May Love Travel With You” opens with him “combing through the years”. “Take me back there again/Let me feel the same way,” he pleads on “Mayfly”, a slice of gorgeous soul that harks back to Stanley Road.

The theme of ageing finds a rich extended metaphor in the jazzy “Old Castles”, on which Weller pictures a Lear-like king in a crumbling castle, wracked with self-doubt. On the simple “Bowie”, Erland Cooper contemplates the mortality of the immortal, while Weller affects a mildly 
off-putting imitation of the titular singer.

Not that Weller is past it, yet. The pastoral “Come Along”, which features Martin Carthy on guitar and Danny Thompson on bass and was cut live, has Weller as an assertive lothario: “Come along and be my baby/Though we’ve only met/I just wanna take you home and/Let nature do the rest.” That song hints at slightly illicit sex, and it’s not the only song to cover that territory. Best of these is “What Would He Say?”, which has a country tone and a beautiful mournful flugel horn solo. On True Meanings, Weller has a lot of love to give, but it’s not always clear who is getting it.

The final songs see him reassert his place in the world, seeking comfort in 
the familiar. On the organ-rich, gospel-tinged “Movin’ On”, he’s adamant that “I’ve got love all around, I don’t need nothing else,” while the elegant “White Horses” sees him take solace in the sanctuary of home. “Time flies/And it’s lonely alone,” he sings, content about where the journey of life has taken him. “White horses are taking me home.”

The November 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with David Bowie on the cover. The issue also comes with two exclusive Bowie art prints, including one previously unseen image. We also pay tribute to Aretha Franklin and elsewhere in the issue you’ll find exclusive features on John Lennon, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, Cat Power, John Grant, Blondie, Connan Mockasin, Billy Gibbons, Family, Stereolab and many more. Our free 15-track CD has been exclusively curated by Sub Pop Records and includes tracks by J Mascis, the Afghan Whigs, Mudhoney, Luluc, Low, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.

Craig Smith aka Satya Sai Maitreya Kali – Love Is Our Existence

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For anyone captivated by ‘60s idealism and its downward spiral after Altamont and the Manson ordeal, Craig Smith’s career arc is sad and riveting. As a teenager, Smith was pop star Andy Williams’ right-hand man in the Good Time Singers. He later wrote songs for the Monkees and Glen Campbell and led Penny Arkade, a fine folk-rock group that never experienced liftoff. From 1968-73, though, Smith fled deep into the mystic and fell deep into the horrific—physically, emotionally, spiritually, geographically—never to truly return.

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Living off royalties, Smith traipsed through Europe in summer 1968, downing blotters of LSD and seeking spiritual enlightenment. The goals were a connection with the Maharishi in India and Transcendental Meditation. Unfortunately, disaster awaited in Kandahar, where he was beaten, raped, and robbed. Friends and family said he was never the same, and for those few who heard his homemade early-‘70s albums Inca and Apache (which actually included Penny Arkade material as well), that was just as true. With fragile, floating songs delving deep into the existential, the philosophical, and karma, one could say his music glided onto the astral plane. Smith’s ghostly voice hovers over sweet guitar strums and droning melodies in spooky songs like Apache’s “Ice and Snow” and “Black Swan”, while Inca’s “Sam Pan Boat”, an utterly hypnotic ballad, is gentle and gorgeous, delivered as a mantra guiding willful listeners into consciousness and peaceful rebirth. As Smith mirrors his deep introspection and gallant search for life’s meaning with music, the songs seem as if they slipped into this world from another world.

Love Is Our Existence’s recently discovered, mostly acoustic gems (recorded 1966-71) contrast somewhat with the dystopian freefall of the trippy Inca/Apache material. More structured and graceful, revealing traces of optimism and bits of Smith’s poppy songwriting splendor, they add new depth to his already uncanny narrative. Smith’s sweet, pliable voice, sometimes lofting into falsetto, swings from happiness to doubt, fear to devotion, sometimes within the same verse. The Tim Buckley–styled “Race the Wind,” for instance, merges contentment with tears amid his vulnerable, trembling voice. While “Sky” and “Season” are emblematic—serene views of life, nature, and freedom, Smith’s forlorn wail in “When I Find God” questions everything. It’s a startling, even intuitive view of a life about to shatter into decades of homelessness and mental illness. Flipping the mood, though, the majestic “It’s All Love” could and should have been a Beach Boys’ comeback chart-topper, while the title cut is a drifting, timeless masterpiece. Carrying in its heart a mystical awakening, empathy, and faith against all odds, “Love Is Our Existence” is a model vision of the planet’s peacemakers overtaking its predators.

The November 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with David Bowie on the cover. The issue also comes with two exclusive Bowie art prints, including one previously unseen image. We also pay tribute to Aretha Franklin and elsewhere in the issue you’ll find exclusive features on John Lennon, Tom Petty, Led Zeppelin, Cat Power, John Grant, Blondie, Connan Mockasin, Billy Gibbons, Family, Stereolab and many more. Our free 15-track CD has been exclusively curated by Sub Pop Records and includes tracks by J Mascis, the Afghan Whigs, Mudhoney, Luluc, Low, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.

November 2018

David Bowie, John Lennon, Cat Power and Aretha Franklin all feature in the new issue of Uncut, dated November 2018 and out on September 20.

Order the latest issue of Uncut online and have it sent to your home!

Bowie is on the cover, and inside we present the untold story of his superstar 1980s. Friends, confidants and collaborators recall “survivor’s guilt”, island hopping with Iggy Pop and disappearing stage props.

“Looking back at that period, you might even think Bowie was ahead of his time,” says Carlos Alomar. “It’s just that people weren’t ready to receive the message…”

Our Bowie celebrations continue as issue also comes with two free exclusive, frame-ready art prints – including one previously unseen image!

Uncut also present an exclusive extract from the upcoming book commemorating John Lennon‘s Imagine album – included here are unseen photographs and eyewitness accounts from the sessions.

Cat Power takes us through her recorded work to date, from 1995’s Dear Sir to 2018’s Wanderer, recalling collaborations with Jim White, Teenie Hodges and more along the way. “It was very tense at first,” she explains, remembering her early recording sessions. “These were my secrets…”

We also pay tribute to Aretha Franklin, and discuss how she empowered America, while some of her close collaborators remember their time working with the Queen Of Soul.

Uncut heads to the wilds of Cornwall, where John Grant is preparing to release a spendid new album, Love Is Magic. There are synths, rollercoasters and, as the notoriously self-critical singer-songwriter tells us, a renewed sense of purpose. “Maybe I do risk alienating the audience,” he muses.

A year on from Tom Petty‘s death, Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell recalls the life and times of his beloved friend and bandmate. Meanwhile, Family discuss the making of “The Weaver’s Answer”, while ZZ Top‘s Billy Gibbons answers your questions in our An Audience With feature and David Crosby reveals the songs and albums that have shaped his life.

In our reviews section, we take a close look at new records from Connan Mockasin, Elvis Costello, Julia Holter, Phosphorescent, Kurt Vile, Anna St Louis and more, and archival releases from Stereolab, The Groundhogs, John Lennon, Cocteau Twins, Felt, The House Of Love and a host of others.

Led Zeppelin, Blondie, Boygenius and Lonnie Holley all feature in our Instant Karma section, while our DVD & Films section includes New Order, Lodge 49, First Man and Climax. Live, we catch Kamasi Washington and review End Of The Road festival.

Our free CD this month celebrates 30 years of Sub Pop Records with a look at the cream of their current roster – from Low, Sleater-Kinney, The Afghan Whigs and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever to Jo Passed, Loma and Luluc and more.

The new issue of Uncut, dated November 2018, is out on September 20.

Neil Young announces new US dates

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Following his US festival appearances at Farm Aid and the Outlaw Music Festival later this month, Neil Young has added four more dates to his September schedule.

He’ll play two nights at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York, on September 26 and 27 with his regular backing band Promise Of The Real, tickets available here.

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They’ll be followed by two solo shows at the Tower Theater in Philadelphia on September 30 and October 1, tickets available here.

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachmann.

Wire discuss their best albums: “Talking only gets you so far… it’s the intuition that’s important”

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CHANGE BECOMES US
PINKFLAG, 2013
With Matthew Simms replacing original guitarist Bruce Gilbert, the group hit Rockfield to record this set of songs inspired by demos for the band’s shelved fourth album.

NEWMAN: It was a disaster when Bruce left. The band was already at a low ebb, and it became very difficult. But because we all decided that we needed to unite to see off a challenge from our ex-manager, there was a reason for the three of us to get together, and that was the beginning of the arc that ends up with Silver/Lead.
LEWIS: Matt came in to be the second guitar player live, and everything worked extremely well. We finished a tour in San Francisco and I had become really convinced that Matthew was in the band; he wasn’t just an add-on. But our problem was we’d just released [2011’s] Red Barked Tree, so we didn’t really have any material. The one thing that we’d always had on the shelf was the material we’d released as [1981 live album] Document And Eyewitness, which represented the underdeveloped material that would have been the Wire album after 154. We wanted to take the essence of that material, bring it into the studio and for Matt to be in right from the beginning.
MATTHEW SIMMS (GUITAR): I was glad they didn’t want me to imitate Bruce’s parts on the demos, because those were big shoes to fill. Everything’s pretty quick with Wire – each of the last few records have been recorded in the same studio, Rockfield in Wales. After a week there, Colin takes it to his place to do overdubs and mixing.
NEWMAN: In the end it wasn’t the fourth Wire album, it was Change Becomes Us – we took things and made something different. Among the recent canon, I think people regard this as being the first really strong one.

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WIRE
PINKFLAG, 2015
Their first self-titled record was one of their strongest, topped off by the sludgy majesty of “Harpooned”.

SIMMS: We worked on so much material – we also recorded [2016 mini-album] Nocturnal Koreans while we recorded Wire. There’s a lot of on-the-spotness, to capture that initial inspiration, to encourage the use of intuition rather than overthinking everything. Some bands have preconceived ideas of what it should or shouldn’t be, but there’s none of that in Wire – if it sounds good, it is good.
NEWMAN: I have a very specific way of working, and it has been the same since Send. I don’t use any loops. I hate ‘production’ where it’s really obvious. I write super-fast and I produce super-slow – how useless is that? All the keyboard parts and vocals I do in my studio. I don’t want to take up valuable studio time at Rockfield fiddling about with synthesisers, because I’m a rubbish keyboard player.
SIMMS: We worked out “Harpooned” live, before we went to Rockfield. Rob was a big part of that track – he’s very minimal, but he doesn’t like to play the same thing all the time, so he started playing it at half the speed. It all kicked off from there.
GREY: Maybe I was being persistent about making something new, but I just started playing this slow rhythm that seemed to fit. Each of us had the sense that it was new territory. We’d never done dead slow before – Wire tends to be frantic rather than slow, so that was a bit disconcerting. Playing it live increased its value and it became the last song of the set, which is prime position. You can’t finish on a dead slow song, conventionally, but it’s good for Wire.
NEWMAN: From my point of view, “Harpooned” is starting to become a bit of a millstone. I think we’re doing the classic Wire thing of moving on to the next thing.

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SILVER/LEAD
PINKFLAG, 2017
Celebrating the band’s 40th anniversary, their 15th album continues the strong template set by the self-titled album.

LEWIS: Making Silver/Lead, we were prodigiously productive – maybe 20 songs in four or five days.
GREY: Everything had a click track on Silver/Lead, which was a new thing to do, because it gave Colin more options when he was doing the overdubbing and mixing.
NEWMAN: One of the things that’s come in is the single-note bassline, the classic root note on the one. It makes it super-moody and opens up acres of space. I worry about there being too many medium-paced tracks on this, but others don’t seem to have that concern. We’ve just released three albums in three years, and we haven’t done that since the ’70s.
SIMMS: “Sleep On The Wing” was written entirely in the studio. After being a band for 40 years, it’s cool that they can do something unexpected like that.
LEWIS: It was one of those times where we said, “Have we got another song?” And I said, “Well, I’ll have a look,” and it was literally put together on the spot.
NEWMAN: I was fiddling about on my keyboard and came up with a chord sequence that fitted with Graham’s words, so we just did it. It’s the first Wire song I’ve written on keyboards, which gives it a cleanness. Rob plays a kind of jazz rhythm on it, too, which is a departure. I think it sounds too much like Keane, but I’ve been assured it doesn’t sound anything like Keane!

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.

Mick Jagger and Jerry Lee Lewis pictured together at Sun Studios

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Mick Jagger and Jerry Lee Lewis were photographed together at Sun Studios in Memphis yesterday (September 13).

Jagger tweeted a second picture of himself stood beneath Sun’s famous neon sign, but didn’t mention if he was there to record or simply as a visitor.

Order the latest issue of Uncut online and have it sent to your home – with no delivery charge!

One Jagger collaboration to definitely happen is his guest spot with Buddy Guy on the latter’s cover of “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)”. It appears on an album called Chicago Plays The Stones – released today – which features Chicago blues musicians covering Rolling Stones songs. Keith Richards also features, guesting with Jimmy Burns on a version of “Beast Of Burden”. Read more about the album here.

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.

McCartney on Lennon: “He was a very warm guy actually”

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Paul McCartney is the subject of NME’s latest Big Read, giving a wide-ranging interview in which he discusses Trump, social media and the “schoolboy stuff” of his new single “Fuh You”.

He also takes the opportunity to address a couple of myths surrounding The Beatles that have built up over the years. Talking about writing with John Lennon, he insists that their working relationship rarely became caustic or bitter.

“Working with John was great,” he says. “John definitely did have those withering putdowns, you know, but it was two percent of who he was and it’s the two percent people remember. Most of the time he was very generous, very loving, very easy to work with. But both of us had this sardonic streak that we could bring to each other’s things. I’m writing, ‘It’s getting better all the time’ and he chips in with, ‘Couldn’t get much worse’. And the song keeps moving ahead because of that. But he was a very warm guy actually, John. His reputation, cos of things like that, has gone a bit the other way.”

Rationalising The Beatles’ split, he says: “Brothers argue. Kids argue with their parents. And that’s sort of what we were doing – it was brothers arguing. At the time it was very sad. But I can look back on it and go, do you know what, even though it was really sad, and really crazy times, we made bloody good albums.”

Order the latest issue of Uncut online and have it sent to your home – with no delivery charge!

At his recent homecoming show at Liverpool’s Cavern Club – which you can watch footage of below – McCartney closed his set with “Helter Skelter”. He says its appropriation by Charles Manson “put me off doing it forever… it would have seemed like I was, either I didn’t care about all the carnage that had gone on or whatever, so I kept away from it for a long time. But then in the end I thought, you know, that’d be good on stage, that’d be a nice one to do, so we brought it out of the bag and tried it and it works. It’s a good one to rock with, you know.”

Does he go along with the idea that “Helter Skelter” is the first heavy metal song? “No! I’ve never claimed it, you know. People said it, but, if you think about it, it was near the start of heavy metal, and it was us trying to be heavy. I’d heard Pete Townshend saying they’d done the dirtiest, filthiest record ever, so we were trying to out-filth The Who. So if that communicated itself, there might have been some little guy living up in Rotherham thinking, Aye, we’ll have a group, we’ll just do that.”

Read the full NME interview with Paul McCartney here. You can also read a review of his Cavern show in the current issue of Uncut, on sale now.

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.

Jim James announces new acoustic album, Uniform Clarity

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My Morning Jacket’s Jim James has announced the release of Uniform Clarity – a companion piece to his recently released solo album Uniform Distortion, featuring acoustic renditions of the same songs.

Hear two songs from it, “You Get To Rome” and “Over And Over” below:

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“The idea for Uniform Clarity came from Uniform Distortion,” explains James, “an album of intentional chaos/dirt: literal and figurative distortion of lyrics and sound meant to echo and hopefully shed some light on the twisted times and distortion of the truth in which we now live. Uniform Clarity is meant to illuminate the other side – raw and real, but very clear, much like in the early days of recording where all you could hear was the truth because there were no ways to manipulate recordings in the studio. Working with Shawn Everett, we created a document-style recording of these songs – just vocals, guitar and the space itself – no special FX. A crystal clear illustration of the flawed beauty of what a song starts off as or sometimes remains – a thought, a seed, a light from the womb of the universe brought to life down here on earth.”

Uniform Clarity is out October 5 via ATO. Pre-order it here.

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.

Hear Smashing Pumpkins’ new single, “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)”

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Smashing Pumpkins have revealed full details of their comeback album featuring three-quarters of the original line-up.

Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun
will be released by Billy Corgan’s own Martha’s Music label on November 16.

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Hear the new single “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)” below:

The eight-song album was produced by Rick Rubin at his Shangri La Studios in Malibu. Check out the tracklisting below:

1. “Knights of Malta”
2. “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)”
3. “Travels”
4. “Solara”
5. “Alienation”
6. “Marchin’ On”
7. “With Sympathy”
8. “Seek and You Shall Destroy”

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.

Massive Attack announce Mezzanine: Special Edition

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Massive Attack will release a new Special Edition of their 1998 album Mezzanine in November.

The 3xLP coloured vinyl version includes a remastered version of the album, along with a number of previously unheard Mad Professor dub mixes.

Order the latest issue of Uncut online and have it sent to your home – with no delivery charge!

It comes in a heat-sensitive box, including a book featuring exclusive images by Robert Del Naja and Nick Knight. Mezzanine: Special Edition will also be released in 2xCD form in November, with the vinyl box set to follow in December.

Pre-order it here and check out the tracklisting below:

A1 Angel (2018 Remaster)
A2 Risingson (2018 Remaster)
A3 Teardrop (2018 Remaster)
B1 Inertia Creeps (2018 Remaster)
B2 Exchange (2018 Remaster)
B3 Dissolved Girl (2018 Remaster)
C1 Man Next Door (2018 Remaster)
C2 Black Milk (2018 Remaster)
C3 Mezzanine (2018 Remaster)
D1 Group Four (2018 Remaster)
D2 (Exchange) (2018 Remaster)
E1 Metal Banshee (Mad Professor Mix One)
E2 Angel (Angel Dust)
E3 Teardrop (Mazaruni Dub One)
E4 Inertia Creeps (Floating On Dubwise)
F1 Risingson (Setting Sun Dub Two)
F2 Exchange (Mountain Steppers Dub)
F3 Wire (Leaping Dub)
F4 Group Four (Security Forces Dub)

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.

Tomberlin – At Weddings

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The idea of music as salvation or at least a balm for distressed souls is a popular one, usually applied to the listener, rather then the maker. As is that of music as a refuge – but few mean it quite as literally as Louisville-based singer-songwriter Sarah Beth Tomberlin, who’s described her debut LP as “a kind of shelter”, built through a survivalist instinct as protection from the extreme isolation she feared at one point might “very much” kill her.

As autobiographical narratives of 23-year-old newcomers go, Tomberlin’s is a compelling one, a gift for experiential rubbernecks and emotional voyeurs that makes for slightly uncomfortable retelling, not due to the details themselves, but because poring over the life experiences of (especially) young women as if that’s the most they could have to offer creatively has become a widespread bad habit. Bottom-line decency is an issue here, but more crucial is the question of whether or not the author’s experiences constitute their work’s core in any direct, relational sense. And that’s an obvious affirmative in this case – so much so, that these 10 songs aren’t so much “about” the questioning of faith, identity and life purpose that pitched Tomberlin into despair, as leakages of her self through the walls of that defensive structure.

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At Weddings is hermetic in the manner of Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago and equally measured, sincere and vulnerable, although that’s where the similarities end: it was recorded and produced by Owen Pallett, who also plays guitar and analogue synth and sings backing vocals, and its foundation isn’t folk but the hymns Tomberlin sang in church growing up. Hardly surprising, since listening to secular music was forbidden to the Jacksonville-born daughter of a Baptist pastor, who was home-schooled and then attended a private Christian college she’s described as a “cult”. Sneaked, non-religious listening was to Bright Eyes and Dashboard Confessional via her cousin’s iTunes library, while later on, Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible made a big impact. Seven of the tracks were written when Tomberlin went back to live with her family in rural Illinois after dropping out of college at 17. Able to play guitar and piano by ear from a young age, she’d always written songs, but it was the sweet “Tornado”, with the buzz of an overhead chopper as its intro, pellucid keys and a striking image of its creator as “a tornado with big green eyes” that she chose to share first, edging her out of that debilitating loneliness.

Selected by Mirah (Yom Tov Zeitlyn) as part of Joyful Noise’s White Label series and first released in a limited edition last October, the LP has had three new songs added for its Saddle Creek issue. Two of them are among the set’s strongest: on the country-toned “I’m Not Scared”, Tomberlin’s ringing, soft-grey tone and mouth-against-the-mic intimacy convey blunt personal truths – “I look for redemption in everybody else, but funny thing is that I always hated church… and to be a woman is to be in pain…” – while “Seventeen”, which features braided vocal harmonies, guitar twangling and the faintest echo of Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” is her poppiest expression, although it’s kept in check by a challenging “only love the people who don’t love you back/What is up with that?”. Of the earlier songs, “Self-Help” and “Untitled 2” shine particularly bright: on the former, the play of rhythmic and melodic guitar lines is pitched into a gently shrieking storm of Wurlitzer keys that swells over her vocal, which includes the odd line, “but you know I’m not your napkin” (a misheard lyric from an Alex G song). And the phone-recorded “Untitled 2”, with its aquatic ambience, subtle static crackling and ghostly murmuring, implies Grouper as kindred spirits.

The intimate, home-recorded sound and open nature of Tomberlin’s lyrics might suggest the structure she built with At Weddings is a fragile one, but that’s not the case. Whatever its emotional well-spring, her expression is clear, purposeful and strong in its directness and blessed with enough sly wit and wry self-awareness to deliver a line like “I used the self-help book to kill a fly/I think it worked Mom/I think I’m fine” (from “Self-Help”). That in many ways Tomberlin has already lost control of these songs, she readily acknowledges. “I’m happy to share my experience,” she says. “I am a pretty transparent person. The only strange aspect is that people can now share their hot takes on my personal experience.”

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.

Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland gets 50th anniversary reissue

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To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Jimi Hendrix’s landmark Electric Ladyland album is being reissued as a deluxe box set.

The set – which you can pre-order by clicking here – includes a new 5.1 surround sound mix by Eddie Kramer, 24 bit/96 kz high resolution stereo audio, an expanded ‘making of’ documentary, previously unreleased demos and alternate takes, an unreleased live album, plus a book containing handwritten lyrics and unseen photos.

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Available on November 9 as either a 3xCD/1 Blu-ray set or a 6xLP/1 Blu-ray set, both packages include the original double album, now newly remastered by Bernie Grundman from the original analogue tapes; Electric Ladyland: The Early Takes, which presents demos and studio outtakes from this period in Hendrix’s career; and The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At the Hollywood Bowl 9/14/68, part of Experience Hendrix’s Dagger Records official bootleg series. The Blu-ray also includes the feature-length documentary At Last… The Beginning: The Making of Electric Ladyland.

This 50th anniversary edition features new cover art – a Linda (McCartney) Eastman photograph of the band and children at the statue of Alice In Wonderland in New York’s Central Park, which was Hendrix’s own choice of imagery for the album’s cover.

You can read much more about the making of Electric Ladyland in the current issue of Uncut, on sale now.

Peruse the Electric Ladyland Deluxe Edition tracklisting below:

Electric Ladyland – original album remixed by Eddie Kramer and remastered by Bernie Grundman

Side A
1) … And the Gods Made Love
2) Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)
3) Crosstown Traffic
4) Voodoo Chile

Side B
1) Little Miss Strange
2) Long Hot Summer Night
3) Come On (Part I)
4) Gypsy Eyes
5) Burning of the Midnight Lamp

Side C
1) Rainy Day, Dream Away
2) 1983….(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)
3) Moon, Turn the Tides….Gently Gently Away

Side D
1) Still Raining, Still Dreaming
2) House Burning Down
3) All Along the Watchtower
4) Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

At Last…The Beginning: The Making of Electric Ladyland: The Early Takes

Side A
1) 1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)
2) Voodoo Chile
3) Cherokee Mist
4) Hear My Train A Comin’

Side B
1) Angel
2) Gypsy Eyes
3) Somewhere
4) Long Hot Summer Night [Demo 1]
5) Long Hot Summer Night [Demo 3]
6) Long Hot Summer Night [Demo 4]
7) Snowballs At My Window
8) My Friend

Side C
1) At Last…The Beginning
2) Angel Caterina (1983)
3) Little Miss Strange
4) Long Hot Summer Night [Take 1]
5) Long Hot Summer Night [Take 14]

Side D
1) Rainy Day, Dream Away
2) Rainy Day Shuffle
3) 1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)

Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live At The Hollywood Bowl Sept. 14, 1968 (Dagger Records)

Side A
1) Introduction
2) Are You Experienced
3) Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

Side B
1) Red House
2) Foxey Lady
3) Fire

Side C
1) Hey Joe
2) Sunshine of Your Love
3) I Won’t Live Today

Side D
1) Little Wing
2) Star Spangled Banner
3) Purple Haze

At Last… The Beginning: The Making of Electric Ladyland documentary (Blu-ray)

Uncompressed LPCM Stereo 24b/96k
Uncompressed LPCM 5.1 Surround 24b/96k
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround 24b/96k

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.

Watch a trailer for a new Jack White documentary

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A new Jack White documentary, Kneeling At The Anthem DC, will be released via Amazon Music and Amazon Prime Video on Friday September 21.

Directed by Emmett Malloy, who previously helmed The White Stripes’ 2009 documentary Under Great White Northern Lights, it centres around a live performance at The Anthem in Washington DC on May 30 this year. Kneeling At The Anthem DC also features footage of White and his band exploring the city and giving a surprise performance for students at Woodrow Wilson High School.

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Watch a trailer for the Kneeling At The Anthem DC below.

In addition, a six-song live EP culled from the same show will also be released on September 21 on Amazon Music, featuring the following tracks:

Corporation (Live)
Over and Over and Over (Live)
Blunderbuss (Live)
Ice Station Zebra (Live)
Connected By Love (Live)
Icky Thump (Live)

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.

Introducing Deep Purple: The Ultimate Music Guide

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As Deep Purple geared up for their Long Goodbye Tour in early 2017, Ian Paice had a few thoughts on the band’s long and storied history. “The records will remain, or they won’t,” he told Uncut. “But it’s about how you affect people around you. The people we’ve inspired to pick up a guitar, get a drum kit or a microphone. That’s the best legacy.” Meanwhile, his bandmate Ian Gillan had this to say about the bands most enduring qualities: “The primary driving force of it all was the sheer abandoned joy of making music together. And that has stayed with us.”

As you might have gathered by now, Deep Purple are the subject of our latest Ultimate Music Guide – a celebration of 50 years in rock, no less, with new writing on each of their albums and a series of classic archive features, many unseen since original publication. There are digressions into Rainbow, an invaluable miscellany and… the Deep Purple family Venn diagram!

The issue goes on sale Thursday, September 13 – and you can order a copy now from our online store.

And here’s an excerpt from Ian Paice’s exclusive introduction to our Guide to further whet your appetites…

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“Nobody expected Deep Purple to be here fifty years on, still having fun doing something that people want to see and listen to. That’s an amazing thing. I don’t think any one of us gave the anniversary a conscious thought. It’s been there so long – it’s what you are and what you do.

“The moments of inception have been the fondest memories. Once I’d got the job in ’68, that was amazing, balanced by the feeling of absolute desolation when the band destroyed itself. Any band that’s been around for any duration has had a rocky road. You’re asking four or five totally different characters to deal with each other in a very high-pressure situation, over a long period of time. Like a marriage, it doesn’t always run smooth. When you’re going around the world, you’re all you’ve got. The fact that you are under this compressed social circle means that occasionally it does get volatile.”

Order the latest issue of Uncut online and have it sent to your home – with no delivery charge!

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.

Watch Moses Sumney’s new live video for “Rank & File”

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Moses Sumney has created a new video for his song “Rank & File”, from the recently released Black In Deep Red, 2014 EP.

It features Sumney performing the song solo, in one take, complete with looped vocals and body percussion. Watch it below:

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Sumney tours the UK next week – see his full itinerary below. A limited run of flexidiscs for “Rank & File” will be available for attendees of his show at London’s Royal Festival Hall on September 21.

9/19 – Manchester, UK @ The Dancehouse Theatre
9/20 – Leeds, UK @ Howard Assembly Room
9/21 – London, UK @ Royal Festival Hall

9/23 – Berlin, Germany @ Funkhaus
9/25 – Goningen, Netherlands @ Nieuwe Kerk
9/26 – Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Paradiso
9/28 – Brussels, Belgium @ Botanique Orangerie
10/9 – Tokyo, JP @ WWW X
10/13 – Oakland, CA @ Treasure Island Music Festival
10/14 – Austin, TX @ ACL Music Festival

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.

The Fiery Furnaces – Blueberry Boat

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Matthew Friedberger still recalls Rough Trade sending out The Fiery Furnaces’ second LP to DJs for feedback. “I remember getting the reports,” he says. “The nicest thing anyone said was ‘We can’t use this…’” No wonder, perhaps: Blueberry Boat can’t be understood with a cursory listen. Without some immersion its labyrinthine story-songs can sound annoying, pretentious and throwaway all at the same time. Even its two creators, Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger, seem to disagree on how much of it was written before entering the studio. Take some time, though, and this LP reveals itself to be a singular work – in 2018, too, it makes even more sense.

Much of the negative reaction in 2004 was likely down to expectations: the Furnaces’ debut album, 2003’s Gallowbird’s Bark, was a snappy set of bluesy, quirky garage-rock made by two siblings from the northern US: not a hard sell with The White Stripes’ Elephant setting the zeitgeist that spring. But a 76-minute follow-up of ever-changing, multi-part rock operas, dosed with barroom piano, nautical themes and synth burbles, wasn’t the done thing in the ‘New Rock Revolution’ scene – bands generally changed slowly, or not at all.

The seeds of Blueberry Boat are there in Gallowsbird’s Bark, though: Matthew’s woozy slide, the acidic synths on “Leaky Tunnel” and the references to travel in the lyrics of “Inca Rag” and elsewhere. Following recording of Gallowsbird’s, but before its release, Matthew took over the songwriting completely. Returning to Brooklyn’s Rare Book Room for a month, the pair mixed ProTools and tape, now common, but a brave experiment in 2003.

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The songs they put down there were unusual, to say the least: wordy and playful, with cut-up, seemingly unrelated sections stitched together and linked by recurring musical themes played on all manner of buzzing synths (including an Italian Gem and a Roland Juno), pianos and distorted guitar. “Chris Michaels” begins triumphantly like The Who – the band’s primary influence – but soon spirals off into quieter, weirder reveries, with the siblings swapping cryptic lines: “Then Tony of the Franklin Park hockey club/Went to Gunzo’s and bought a goalie glove/Jessica was posed to meet him back in Mannheim/Kitchen back door by all the grease and grime…” In all, there are enough ideas in these eight minutes for seven or eight separate songs.

Mutated piano ballad “Mason City”, based on a book, Shake Out, by the pair’s father, agricultural historian Mark Friedberger, tells the story of Iowa farm families forced from their properties in the ’80s, while “Chief Inspector Blancheflower” is part Bildungsroman, part melodrama, involving a cop who originally aspired to be a typewriter mender – naturally, this is recounted over warped disco, ending with a comedic, jagged guitar solo.

Perhaps the most ambitious cut is the title track: a story-song involving a ship’s captain from Grand Rapids transporting blueberries to the Far East, only to encounter brutal pirates. If there’s any thread that ties these 13 songs together, it’s this nautical bent, which links the title track, “Quay Cur”, “Spaniolated” (in which the narrator is kidnapped on a Seville-bound boat) and “Turning Round”, with Eleanor’s lines on dreaming “of the waves and your sails turning round”.

Despite her step back from songwriting, Eleanor is crucial to Blueberry Boat. The codebook for her brother’s ciphers, her declamatory voice adds gravitas to “Straight Street”, a joyful nonsense travelogue that would seem ridiculous sung by most. “So I went to Georgia looking at spas and convents,” Eleanor sings over discordant piano and guitar that recalls The VU’s “White Light/White Heat” left out in the sun. “Tried to make myself the broker for selling off the contents…”

Doggerel or not, genre-jumping and conceptual, collaged narratives feel more accepted in 2018 – see Janelle Monáe, Animal Collective, Fleet Foxes and even Arcade Fire – which suggests Blueberry Boat would have sparked less confusion if released today. Even so, the album’s primary creator probably wouldn’t have had it any other way. “I played ‘1917’ to Emily Scholnick, who painted the cover,” says Matthew. “She said, ‘You ruined that song… I like music. What is that supposed to be?!’ She was joking, but she was also meaning it. And I remember being so… happy, to get a reaction out of her, even though it wasn’t particularly positive.”

The Fiery Furnaces went on to make more accomplished albums – 2006’s psychedelic Bitter Tea, say, or 2007’s heavier Widow City – and have since developed two very different solo careers, but they’ve never matched the innocence and wild inspiration of this playful monster. Absurd, in the best possible sense.

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.

Hear Sonic Boom remix Beach House’s “Black Car”

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Today, Beach House shared a Pete Kember AKA Sonic Boom remix of “Black Car” from their recent album 7, which was co-produced by Kember. Hear it below:

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Kember has also made a video for the track “Drunk In LA”. Watch that below:

In a press release, Beach House explained how the video came about: “While mixing the record with Alan Moulder in London, we were out having dinner and Pete mentioned an idea for a video where the viewer is always looking up from the ground. When he sent it to us, we complimented and commented on the trippy, dreamlike nature of the video and he wrote that it was essentially just a day in his life.

“We have never had a remix, but we thought it would be cool if Pete did one. We really like the one he did for ‘Black Car’ because it feels like a different song, focused largely on voice and arpeggio. It feels like a poem this way, and the minimal treatment highlights the lonesome quality of the song. Hope you enjoy! Much Love.”

Beach House tour the UK next month (dates below). Two of the shows are already sold out but you can still buy tickets for the first London Troxy show here:

Wednesday 17th October – LONDON – Troxy tickets
Thursday 18th October – LONDON – Troxy (SOLD–OUT)
Friday 19th October – MANCHESTER – Albert Hall (SOLD–OUT)

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.

Pretty Things – S.F. Sorrow: 50th Anniversary Vinyl Box Set Edition

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By the time the Pretty Things psychedelic rock opera S.F. Sorrow limped its way into the new release racks in December 1968, the Small Faces Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake – also featuring a lengthy parable about a boy obsessed with the moon – had been gently blowing the minds of flipped-out mods for six months.
 By the time S.F. Sorrow was picked up by Motown’s rock subsidiary Rare Earth and released in the United States, complete with ludicrous tombstone-shaped sleeve, the Pretty Things were being mocked for having ripped off The Who’s 1969 magnum opus Tommy, which also features a wronged man’s quest for spiritual enlightenment.
 Rolling Stone’s Lester Bangs shredded the Pretty Things’ labour of love memorably. “One looked forward to this one because they are a thrillingly ragged blues band with none of the usual snobbery,” he wrote in early 1970. “What a surprise, then, to find an ultra-pretentious concept album, complete with strained ‘story’ (a man’s life from rural birth to prodigal’s Oliver Twist freakout), like some grossly puerile cross between the Bee Gees, Tommy, and the Moody Blues.”


Too much too late, S.F. Sorrow might have been more than a quintessential period piece had circumstances been more favourable. The Pretty Things started recording their fourth album in late 1967, and had they not been compelled to hack it together in fits and starts, snatching time in EMI’s Abbey Road studio in-between club dates and money-spinning library music work, it could have been a contender. As it is, this eight-disc, 50th-anniversary vinyl collection – featuring mono and stereo mixes, a 1998 live set and copies of the Pretty Things four contemporary singles – is the final word on the most thrilling near miss of a career strewn with wrong turns. 
The first of those was arguably guitarist Dick Taylor’s decision to leave one Sidcup Art College band, the Rolling Stones, to join Phil May in another.

The singer’s shoulder-length hair and the snarling delivery of 1964 hits “Rosalyn” and “Honey I Need” earned the Pretty Things a certain Neanderthal kudos in British R&B circles, but underwhelming LPs and eccentric management calls (they were sent to break Australia and New Zealand rather than America in 1965) kept them firmly underground.
Having composed proto-rave epic “Midnight To Six Man” and provocatively titled 1966 B-side “£. S. D.”, the art-school boppers looked well placed to flourish in more far-out times, but started the thousand-trip summer of 1967 acceding to Fontana’s demand to swamp their third album, Emotions, with queasy orchestral arrangements in order to run out their contract.

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Released that April, it sounds like an out-of-whack melding of Ray Davies from the Kinks and Ray Davies and the Button-Down Brass. 
More ambitious plans were brewing, though. Disappointed to discover that the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper wasn’t actually a story in song, bassist Wally Waller urged his bandmates to make an album that genuinely was. May provided the narrative based on the story of a disaffected World War I soldier, and with Parlophone offering studio time and the services of Piper At The Gates Of Dawn producer Norman Smith, S.F. Sorrow was (slowly) born.
HG Wells steam punk with a heavy slab of Mervyn Peake gothic thrown in, the album follows moonstruck Sebastian F Sorrow from cradle to decrepitude. Morphing from factory fodder into cannon fodder, Sorrow survives the Great War only to experience more grief as his childhood sweetheart dies in an airship disaster. Offered redemption by the charismatic Baron Saturday, Sorrow goes on a metaphysical voyage of discovery only to find that his misery is infinite and that there is no hope of salvation. Later critics would ask – not without good reason – whether S.F. Sorrow’s poor sales were down to it being something of a bummer.


However, if the heaviness was a buzz-kill in 1968, it is integral to S.F. Sorrow’s abiding appeal. While other British psychedelic records tend towards the fey and the foppish, there is no Alice-In-Wonderland wibbling here. S.F. Sorrow takes itself ludicrously seriously, but it’s melange of slate-grey proto-metal and vogueish flashes of backward guitar, sitar, mellotron and studio whizz-bangery make it sound – at its best – like the Nuggets compilation album remixed by Jackson Pollock.
There are shades of the Pretty Things’ R&B past on the album’s leathery love theme “She Says Good Morning”, Taylor’s jagged twin-guitar line slicing through what sounds like a hastily butchered take on the Beatles’ “Taxman”, while “Baron Saturday” has a similar mod-friendly crunch, stabs of mellotron updating its silhouette for less sartorially rigid times.
However, both sound tame compared to the melodramatic “Balloon Burning”, Taylor accompanying S.F. Sorrow’s own Hindenburg Disaster with a fuzzed-out guitar solo cribbed from the Are You Experienced? songbook. “Old Man Going” is an even more metallic KO, stand-in drummer Twink hammering out a rhythm amid a cacophony of air-raid siren noise, the Pretty Things discordantly shrill backing vocals prefiguring the angsty wailing of Deep Purple’s “Child In Time”.


For all that, S.F. Sorrow does not utterly lack a gentle touch. “Private Sorrow” – a martial trudge with ominous recorder accompaniment – mirrors some of the jazz-folk meanderings of Traffic and Family’s Music In A Doll’s House. May’s lyrics border on the hysterical throughout, but his lysergic Wilfred Owen schtick bites hard: “Heaven’s rain falls upon faces of the children who look skyward, twisting metal through the air, scars and screams, so you might know His fury.”


“Death” has a similar elfin gloominess (as well as a stately solo on a sitar allegedly furtively borrowed from George Harrison) while the Pretty Things essay something like West Coast mellow on “The Journey”, though their taste for shrill, Greek chorus style harmony vocals and blitzkrieg percussion ensure it has a brutal heft too. 
The jingle-jangle mourning of “Trust”, meanwhile, features subtly-deployed pub piano, and carefully buried doo-wop chorus, its despair at a world where “minds are grey” marking a staging post between the impotent little-Englander fury of the Kinks and the more animated first-shaking of the mid-70s Pink Floyd.


Had everything gone well, that’s a little corner of pop history that the Pretty Things might have made their own. As it was, they were fated to a career of what-ifs. The first signings to Led Zeppelin’s Swansong label, David Bowie covered two of their songs on his Pin-Ups collection, but the Pretty Things never made a major commercial breakthrough, or another record as dense or extreme as S.F. Sorrow. All the effort that went into it may have ruined its commercial prospects, but makes it a riveting curio. Still very much in a time and space of its own.

EXTRAS: No previously unreleased material, but plenty of fun oddities, including notes from May, Taylor, Waller and keyboard player Jon Povey. A 1998 live version of the album – featuring Dave Gilmour and god of hellfire Arthur Brown – makes its vinyl debut, while the two non-album singles as compelling as S.F. Sorrow itself. November 1967’s creepy pop operetta “Defecting Grey” – about a ‘straight’ man mooning over a potential gay lover on a park bench, according to May – is Keith West’s “Excerpt From A Teenage Opera” gone rogue, while the woozy “Talking About The Good Times”, which followed three months later, is the Dave Clark Five melted like a Salvador Dali clock.

Q&A
PHIL MAY



What were you doing at the start of 1967?
We were trying to finish Emotions and Fontana were really fucking about with it. We could have dug our heels in but we would have had to stay and finish it. They stuck brass all over it. We just cut and run because the idea for S.F. Sorrow was germinating and we had no illusion that we would be able to make it for Fontana.

Pink Floyd producer Norman Smith was very important in creating S.F. Sorrow, yes?
When our manager Bryan Morrison heard some of the demos – things like “Defecting Grey” – he said: “I told you if you kept smoking that fucking stuff you’d go divvy.” Norman got it straight away. We didn’t sign to EMI: we signed to Abbey Road and Norman. We felt Abbey Road was the only place we’d have a chance to stretch and experiment. With Norman, every time you gave him a challenge he was up for it.

S.F. Sorrow took a long time to make: why was that?
EMI gave us a paltry £2,500 signing on fee and we owed £3,000 in debt, so we were £500 down when we started the record. That meant we had to work all the way through it – we’d do five or six days in the studio and then we’d have to go to Germany to do a festival, or Switzerland or Sweden. But that was a good thing because things had time to evolve. It was like having a plant that got bigger and bigger and went different ways to what you expected.

What was the basis for the S.F. Sorrow story?
I’d written this story called Sergeant Sorrow and it was the maquette for the whole thing. It’s sort of semi-autobiographical: a lot of it was my experience even if I’m projecting myself into a situation and wondering how I would react. We started out with the cradle-to-almost grave scenario because most classical records are like that, and Shakespeare and Dickens. It was storyline driven, lyrically driven and musically driven, so it had three powers dragging the engine down the track. Some things would just come of a riff Dick had, some things would come off a lyric line that somebody came and put some music to, so it was very exciting times.



Is S.F. Sorrow a ‘drug’ record?
I don’t think I could have written it without taking acid. I was very lucky: I had quite a few trips – 12, 15, 20 – and I never had a bad one. Drugs were very much part of my life. I started out on Purple Hearts and once you took to many of them to work you moved on to something else.
I’ve always said that there’s a lot of R&B in Sorrow too. We hadn’t kicked our roots completely. It was in our palette. The purists said we did thrash R&B. Our mates wanted to dance they didn’t want to smooch. It was to do with the speed as well – everything got a bit more frantic.

The release of the record was a bit of an anti-climax. True?
We had this reading where Norman read the story and we played it to a whole bunch of suits in the boardroom and it was very obvious what the thing was about. The very next morning we got this phone call from the accountant saying: ‘To actually print the story on this album, is it important? Because it’s going to cost another £780 [to print a gatefold sleeve].’ And I said: ‘We played it to you. Of course, it’s important.’ So he said: ‘Well you’ll have to pay for that out of your royalties.’ So almost before it came out we knew we were fucked.
For some reason Tamla Motown insisted that EMI gave them the Pretty Things in the US. They were doing this crossover label, Rare Earth, and they had so many fuck-ups with the launch that SF Sorrow came out in the States a year later, after Tommy, and got slaughtered. If we hadn’t been half way into Parachute, I might have cut my throat and given up! 


You never broke America in the 1960s: why not?
Bryan Morrison turned down Dick Clark; the guy who brought the Beatles over really wanted us but Bryan said: ‘Fuck off, not enough money – we’re going to New Zealand.’ If we had gone to America and had enormous success I don’t know whether [sybaritic drummer] Viv Prince and I would have been able to survive it. Too much fun.

You couldn’t play SF Sorrow live at the time? 
Oh god no. There were so many things on it: flutes, horns, a penny whistle I think. Each person played about four instruments on every song. We did a mime of it at the Roundhouse! Gala [Mitchell – Ossie Clark model and Taylor’s girlfriend] played S.F. Sorrow’s mum, Twink played S.F. Sorrow. Everybody had parts. I read the story from a dais. We were all flying. People remember it. I don’t. It was talked about. Very bizarre.

Is S.F. Sorrow your Jackson Pollock masterpiece?

I’ve always been a figurative painter so it would be more like a Francis Bacon – he was my favourite. I can enjoy it but I can also see where it could have been better. Nothing’s perfect, but because of the recording situation in those days, there are limits. I think this is possibly when we were pushing the envelope the most, when we were right out there, and possibly it was a year too early for everyone but us.

INTERVIEW: JIM WIRTH

The October 2018 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – with Jimi Hendrix on the cover. Elsewhere in the issue, you’ll find exclusive features on Spiritualized, Aretha Franklin, Richard Thompson, Soft Cell, Pink Floyd, Candi Staton, Garcia Peoples, Beach Boys, Mudhoney, Big Red Machine and many more. Our free CD showcases 15 tracks of this month’s best new music, including Beak>, Low, Christine And The Queens, Marissa Nadler and Eric Bachman.