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Kenneth McMurtrie

Kenneth McMurtrie

The Hazey Janes - Language Of Faint Theory

Album number four from The Hazey Janes finds them reunited with the production team behind debut Hotel Radio - Paco Loco and John Agnello. As an antidote to the hectic worldwide touring the band has undertaken since the release of 2011 album The Winter That Was they took themselves off to the south west of Spain to make these recordings. 

Opening track 'Iwan' brought both Marillion and Tony Christie to mind for me, the former for the bulk of the musical element and the latter for the crooneresque vocals. By the time the guitar solo arrives near the three minute mark you might be wondering if they're setting themselves up to be the new Texas. Thankfully track two 'The Fathom Line' has a bit more oomph about it and is far more interesting in terms of chord changes, solos & what have you.

'In Shadows Under Trees' swaps the previous soft rock for competent country playing. Soaring, heart-tugging vocal lines are backed by lap steel plenty of complimentary backing oohs and aahs. Emotionally though, like the musical pace of the work up to this point, things don't get beyond second gear.

When the band veer into Teenage Fanclub-like territory on 'If Ever There Is Gladness' things start to look up as the tune nips along and the mildly melancholic note is pitched just right to get through that chink in your emotional armour. 'The Genesis' takes a more muscular, power pop line but by now the near total lack of hooks throughout the album is beginning to really tell. Sure they can comfortably write songs in a number of styles (add mild psychedelia with '(I'm) Telescoping') but that starts to smack of bandwaggoning a la The Soup Dragons.

Hearing any of the few better tracks on the album in isolation wouldn't adequately prepare you for the overall rather plodding and bland fare that makes up the bulk of it. Safe is I think the word I'm after as polished doesn't necessarily mean something's bad or unadventurous. I've unfortunately no access to my review of The Winter That Was but, whilst I've not listened to it in the intervening years, I'm pretty sure it was an album that promised more in terms of future works than has been delivered. 

Language Of Faint Theory is available from iTunes here, direct from Armellodie Records here and from Amazon

Threadfest 2014, Bradford - Day Three


Day Three arrived in the same wet spirit as Day Two but at least this time I'd no further to go for breakfast than the hotel across the road. Following that though the rain did end up forcing me to seek shelter in another good find of a pub, in the shape of The Corn Dolly. From there it was off to another establishment well appointed for beer, albeit of the distinctly craft variety, for the first of today's performances.

The Topic Folk Club (the oldest continuously-operating weekly folk club of its type in the world) were making use of the basement space of The Sparrow to provide an afternoon of (largely) acoustic performances. The self-effacing Michael Thomas Chater was the first singer I saw perform and his playing, particularly on the steel guitar, was strongly emotive & his lyrics on such songs as 'Second Glance' made for good little slices of life. Informing us that he'd been housesitting for his Mum up till today & a slightly odd anecdote about how he came by his new Gretsch cheaply (via eBay from a bloke in Harrogate who'd "only played it for half an hour") simply broke down that usual performer/audience barrier.

Next up was another highlight performance of the weekend from illustrator & poet Matthew The Horse. Sporting a Frasier t-shirt, and with his artwork also being exhibited on the walls he proceeded to read out some of the funniest (though not without fair doses of pathos & common sense) some of the funniest poetry I've heard in a long time. Not, in fact, that then or now I could remember the last time I'd seen a poet perform. With subject matter ranging from family members to Kath Kidston to wanking off a snake the audience were in stitches throughout and I highly recommend catching him in action if you can.

The final act in a very well managed bill (it was helpful to have club personnel advising what was going on - something practically every other venue lacked) was locally-based alt folk singer Gerrard Bell-Fife. A shy-seeming bloke his show was clearly a must-see for many as he ended up surrounded by near-acolytes at his feet. As he and his Woody Guthrie-referencing guitar got into their downbeat and introspective stride though it was easy to see what draws the fans in. Folk generally aims for the everyman quality and Bell-Fife extolls that to a tee with his writing and performing, which is amongst the most unassuming I've ever seen.

From folk to the Fuse Art Space next where I caught the remainder of Manchester-based Lee Patterson's sound art performance, amidst the reflective Lydia Goldblatt exhibition. All manner of almost recognisable found sounds were coming from the speakers, wrapped up in effects applied and then removed as only Patterson reasoned. Things were set on fire and the resulting combustion amplified and messed with. Fascinating to watch and oddly beguiling to hear.

Today's final port of call, as it turned out, was the city's anarchist-run 1 in 12 Club for a return to more traditional music making in the shape of Castleford quintet Allusondrugs. Sound-wise there was a dose of '90s Seattle throughout their joyfully rampant set of songs such as 'Stick A Finger Up My Bum', 'I'm Your Man' and whatever one they dedicated to the Queen whilst suggesting she go and employ herself more usefully. The need for dinner intervened at this point & by the time I returned to the club to discover that Cleft had been & gone earlier than advertised Alt-Track's punk/hip-hop crossover wasn't enough to convince my legs they could deal with a few more hours of standing about and then walking a few more miles to take in the closing party and then make it to bed so it was goodnight Vienna.

That then was my Threadfest 2014. An event as varied as you'll find anywhere and which I'll happily return to. With luck it can grow and manage to do more for the largely local acts that take part and it deserves to do so. From the point of view of a visitor looking to sample the bits of each day's programme, rather than a local looking to catch their mate's band or favourite local heroes come out of retirement on a single day, a more obvious presence of festival rather than show personnel, who were aware of delays at other venues or could communicate last minute line-up changes, is something to work towards for next year but obviously that relies on willing volunteers and the pool of those may not yet be so big as to make that possible. Otherwise, well done to all concerned.     

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