On the back of the album cover there is an old British motorcycle gleaming under a blinding sun in a blue sky. The kind they don’t make anymore, unless it’s in shoddy kit form, but those who know them cherish them and keep them running out of love or maybe a desire to retain something of happier times.
It’s appropriate then as Hawley’s new album sees him as part curator, part creator, dusting down sounds that have been parked up for a while, cleaning them up and restoring them back to shelf condition. It’s a steam train of a record and none the worse for it.
Following on from his self-titled debut and last year’s ‘Late Night Final’ it is, in essence, more of the same only bigger. At the same time it’s not an album that batters listener into submission, it’s effect is that of a good, long soak in the bath when your limbs are weary and your love life sucks.
Lowedges kicks off with ‘Run For Me’ which has the full kitchen sink production of something by Scott Walker and manages to hit the peaks Richard Ashcroft is currently missing by the simple expedient of not hollering when a whispered word will do. While Hawley’s voice is not as manipulable as the guitars on which he made his name it’s a lovely dark baritone which puts us in mind of Lou Reed if he’d had a bile filter and a penchant for the sort of crooning which stayed well away from Vegas. People who know better than us point out Jim Reeves as a source and after nipping down to Forever Changes we can see it although, thankfully, Hawley is never as saccharine. Another forgotten source are Johnny and Santos, a Hawaiian guitar duo, whose sound echos through a couple of tracks, most notably ‘Darlin’.
From what we can gather the album was pretty much written in the studio which gives the whole thing a consistency of pace and sound and the playing is great, tight and loose as it should be. It’s truly a Sheffield album - recorded at Yellow Arch and G2 and with a full cast of local musicians including Colin, Andy and Shez from Dizzy Club, Si Stafford (Joe Strummer’s Mescaleros / Hiem) and Liz Hanks (Justin Lewis / Sally Doherty / Summerisle).
Hawley was the first interview we ever did for Sandman and he said ‘I just write songs about the cheerful things, specifically love and death. It’s romantic music.’ Here he richly fulfils his own specifications with the added themes of escape and loss. The simpler he keeps the lyrics the more touching they become. The train metaphors of the last album are replaced with those of two-wheeled transport. ‘The Motorcycle Song’ with it’s refrain ‘There’s a hole in my motorbike’ is absolutely heartbreaking - capturing perfectly the desolation of distance and the fear of not being able to get home. It’s rare thing at the present time that something can have such a strong emotional core without resorting to the adolescent or the overly literate.
This is a lovely album and one that will inevitably surprise those who only connect Hawley with the bands that featured his guitar. The fact that it’s coming out in 2003 is completely and gloriously irrelevant, it could have been made any time in the last 50 years and is technicolour proof that they still do make ‘em like that.
While sandman is full of strong silent types, Lowedges is the kind of album that you could conceivably weep along to and feel better for it.
Peace Not War
Global Peace Fundraiser
By the time you read this there's a fair chance that America, with the UK dragging along in its wake, will have started war against Iraq, regardless of the findings of the weapons inspectors or the final decision of the UN. Since the anti-war movement has gained momentum and spread from the protesting classes to the general public all across Europe
(when The Mirror comes out against the war you know something's up) then you might well be one of those willing to take a stance against the war. And as a music fan this might appeal as well. By and large fundraising records are a load of cobblers presented with the underlying notion that it doesn't really matter because it's not the point of the exercise. In this instance it ain't so. To all intents and purposes it's a compendium of the modern protest song. With tracks from the likes of Ani DiFranco, Public Enemy, Ms Dynamite, Billy Bragg, Fun<Da<Mental, Roots Manuva, Massive Attack and even Crass there's no shortage of quality spread over two discs. It's a bit draining to listen to in one go but it does at least achieve the rare feat of marrying cause to content. Ultimately if you want to take a stand then you're better off getting yourself out onto the streets but investing in this album means the the organisation that is so vital in effective group protesting has some funds to keep it going. Honestly, by the time the next issue of Sandman comes out the musical affairs of Sheffield might seem that bit more irrelevant.
Likeable, if a bit thin sounding, three-tracker from Donny rockers (don’t they have any waifish acoustic singer-songwriters there?)
They come across like Mybe’s harder and more conventional elder brothers. ‘Boys, Teachers, Girls & Fame’ is the best thing on it managing to mix a punky sound with a bit of a groove, and some cunning scratching.
Also much respect for the pairing up of band and the Doncaster Youth Jazz Orchestra.
Rome, they say, wasn't built in a day. The Nancient metropolitan paradigm of urban cool sat on seven hills, as does the city we like to call home. Hence, 7Hills Records: Sheffield's own funk hip-hop label bustin' out quality 7s for the masses. Here, on the label's third release, the excellent Wax Factor present to us "The Battlecake EP". A four track compilation of immediate, block party-style rockers that serves as a showcase for their talent. First up, the short but stylistical-ly massive scratch-a-thon 'Theme from Battlecake': a surefire crowd pleaser that could blow up like a confectionary H-Bomb. Immediately following is 'Deep Fried Funk': nice, effective and inventive use of simple & well sourced samples. The flip gives us 'Grifter the Shifter' and 'Boat Floater', two tracks a lit-tle deeper and more reflective than the A-side, perhaps showing slightly more finesse in terms of production, and which should no doubt appeal to fans of DJ Shadow's earlier work. In conclusion, I like to see buns with guns in 'em. Like Battlecake. Clever, you see.
Nu Skankers EP
Established Sheffield act Multiverse 3 con-Ltinue the trend of quality releases on Rek, with an extremely extended EP (9 tracks in all) of Steel City Hip Hop. "The Funky Summer" takes sweet bright singing, narrating rapping,a swaying bass and happy keys on a journey to remind you over warmer weather. "Captain's Deck" takes to the ocean courtesy of a seasickness esque nauseating spinning bass, powerful confident rhyming and rough beats. "Eclipse 3" pounds away with forceful breaks, as an Asian influenced rich bass and instructing, opinionated vocals do bat-tle. Finguz's remix of "The Funky Summer" is a wonderful crazy synth addled funkified revision, with a hearty bass, upbeat beam-ing keys and stuck together percussion.
Peace Not War