Friday, May 12, 2006

Hyping Tigerfest . . . again

Graham Weir, a lecturer in popular music at Napier University in Edinburgh, offers a simple explanation as to why black music has been quite slow in catching on in Scotland.

"We we don't have the same black community like in England which pushes so much music forwards," Weir said in this article. "R&B and drum 'n' bass are underground here, but it's never been mainstream and that's just down to the ethnographic makeup."

However, it's only a matter of time before Scottish hip-hop emerges from the shadows of obscurity and is finally embraced by the listening masses. And it's acts like Edinburgh's Fountainbridge Collective that will be leading the charge. (In the aforementioned article, they are mistakenly referred to as Fan Bridge Collective. Yes lads, you most certainly haven't achieved mainstream status just yet.)

Fronted by a total of four MCs -- who go by the pseudonyms Buckwheat, Buddie Scrape, Fotofit Gringo, and Solenoid -- and backed by a thumping rhythm section, FBC are charismatic, cocksure, clever, and catchy as hell. They'll be playing their brand of head-nodding hip-hop May 13 at The Swamp Bar as part of Tigerfest.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Feast" by Fountainbridge Collective.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Fannies go hip-hop on us

Run-D.M.C.'s partnership with Aerosmith got the ball rolling. The Beastie Boys' Licensed to Ill kept things moving forward. Anthrax's "I'm The Man" single (I still remember the first time I heard this beauty: played on Steve Jackson's boombox during a Cub Scout camping trip) and its remake of "Bring The Noise" -- which featured the song’s creators, Public Enemy -- were giant leaps forward. Yeah, that's basically rap-metal's lineage in a nutshell.

The genre finally went mainstream in 1993, with the release of the soundtrack to Judgment Night, an LP that was the brainchild of Immortal Records CEO Happy Walters. The premise of the album was simple: Pair up a rock act with a rap act. Have them record a track. Rinse, repeat.

The movie bombed, while the soundtrack went gold. For someone like myself, caught in a musical tug-of-war of sorts (I still had the stereo bumpin' to N.W.A and PE, while being slowly grasped by grunge's ugly, plaid claws), the Judgment Night soundtrack was a godsend.

But as much as I dug the tracks from those artists familiar to me (Ice-T/Slayer, for example), I always found myself coming back to "Fallin,'" the collaboration between De La Soul and a Scottish group I, back then, knew next to nothing about: Teenage Fanclub.

Utilizing a sample from Tom Petty's "Free Fallin,'" the song features memorable lyrics ("Lingo's busting while the guitar swings/B-side copies for the radio plays") and plenty of shiny guitar hooks. It's been over a dozen years since I've gone anywhere near the Judgment Night soundtrack, but I can't imagine any of the tracks hold up as well as this one.

Hear it for yourself. "Fallin'" by De La Soul and Teenage Fanclub.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The story of Creation (part 1)

Yes, I know: It's a terrible post title. But please, bear with me.

I've settled into a nice rhythm with this here joint: Updating Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then Friday. And it's always with decent writing (I think), and even better music. But here's the rub: I'd like to update more often, provide more content. Unfortunately, that's proven to be a tad arduous, on account of the job, the rugrats, and the (hiccup!) spirits.

So here's the plan: On days I typically don't update this place, I will throw up a quick-hit, get-in/get-out, brief post (or at least try; I can be a tad long-winded at times). And I plan on making up for the brevity by uploading more than one .mp3. If anything, maybe the lack of information will spur some of you to perform a bit of research on these bands on your own. (My chest swells with pride when I'm this pretentious.)

For the moment, the theme of these "off-days" will be Creation Records singles. Obviously, many of these bands are not from Scotland, but you know what? Feck it. We'll ignore that for the moment, with our reason being the label's founder was indeed a Jock.

Without further ado, here's two of my all-time favorite Creation singles. Hear them for yourself. Download:

CRE 015: The Loft - "Up The Hill & Down The Slope," (7"+12"), June of 1985

CRE 029: The Weather Prophets - "Almost Prayed," (7"+D7"+12"), June of 1986

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hyping Tigerfest

More than a few folks called Neil Colquhoun a mad rocket when he launched Edinburgh's Tigerfest in August of 2004.

That particular month, of course, is known for the hodgepodge of festivals that take place in and around the Scottish capital -- from the long-running Edinburgh International Festival, to the Edinburgh Fringe (one of the most popular performing arts festivals in the world), to other events dedicated to books, films, television, and military bands. Foisting yet another on the public seemed . . . well, a tad foolish.

Two years later, Colquhoun's idea no longer seems so daft. Thanks to its goal of showcasing Scotland's best indie music -- both of the up-and-coming and veteran variety -- the festival has grown in popularity. So much so, Colquhoun and the group that runs the event, the Edinburgh-based promoters Baby Tiger, decided to run the festival in the spring this year.

"Tigerfest can stand on its own now," Colquhoun said in this article. "There are so many good bands coming out of Scotland that we know people will come to see them."

The event officially commenced April 28 at what is known as the spiritual home of Tigerfest: The Swamp Bar in Edinburgh's West End. It runs until May 27 and when all is said and done, over 70 bands will have performed during the festival's four weeks. Many of these acts are relative newcomers (see St. Jude's Infirmary); others are long in the tooth (see Fire Engines and TV21).

Over the next few weeks, we'll showcase a number of the performing bands. Today, we'll kick things off with Data Panik, who will be taking the stage May 10 at Dunfermline's Carnegie Hall. Data Panik rose from the ashes of the puerile, electro-pop band Bis. The Giffnock trio became popular during the summer of 1996, thanks largely to a performance on "Top Of The Pops."

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Cubis (I Love You)" by Data Panik. This song was self-released by the group on 7-inch, with the flip side being "Sense Not Sense."

Monday, May 08, 2006

Kings of the spin-offs

BMX Bandits, purveyors of fine guitar pop, are known for their status as a launching pad for other Scottish acts. And the irony is, many of these bands garnered more attention and renown than the Bandits themselves.

Founding bassist Sean Dickson went on to form The Soup Dragons; original guitarist Jim McCulloch later joined him. Norman Blake hopped on board in time for the BMX Bandits' debut album, C-86 (cheekingly titled so, because the group’s single was rejected by NME for that compilation), but then bid adieu –- and took drummer Frances McDonald with him –- to start up Teenage Fanclub. Bassist Joe McAlinden also departed to form Superstar.

And we haven’t even mentioned Eugene Kelly, who joined BMX Bandits following the dissolution of his previous outfit, The Vaselines; he gave it a whirl for an LP and an EP, before running off to start up Captain American, later re-dubbed Eugenius.

There was just as much instability when it came to who the group was recording for (this, coupled with the constant lineup rejiggerings, may have explained BMX Bandits' continuing struggle to escape cult band status). The Bellshill act initially signed with Stephen Pastel's 53rd and 3rd Coutts label. Sojourns at Vinyl Japan and Click followed.

The track featured here is the band's most well known and was their first single for Creation Records, which they inked a deal with in 1993. Funny thing is, landing with a spaz such as Alan McGee actually brought BMX Bandits some stability, as they released three LPs with the label in three years.

Hear it for yourself. Download: "Serious Drugs" by BMX Bandits.