It’s those times of getting together and playing music and all that comes with it that are the best for me.
Today we’re talking collaboration, not just the Aerosmith and Run-DMC, Nick Cave and Kylie, New Order and John Barnes, one track wonder collaborations, but the full on we’re totally committed to this, we’re going to do a whole bloomin’ album types!
Few have got close to Scott Walker & Sunn O))) in the completely bloody odd, how did you even meet one another stakes. Scott Walker, the baritone voiced pop-visionary turned avant-garde noise maker, teaming up with the Seattle drone-metallers is the sort of thing that people on internet message boards surely dreamt up, but on Soused it became reality, a sort of not quite as wonderful as you’d hoped it would be reality, but reality nonetheless, and it was certainly a lot more palatable than when Lou Reed and Metallica teamed up for quite possibly the worst album ever, Lulu.
Not all collaborations have to be bizarre to be brilliant though, when the late-great Mark Linkous, aka Sparklehorse, teamed up with Danger Mouse and created Dark Night Of The Soul, they created a truly wonderful album, with a stunning cast of guest vocalists. An album that only gained more emotional clout following the suicides of both Linkous and vocalist Vic Chesnutt.
Iron & Wine and Calexico were a perfect match: the formers acoustic balladry merging with the latters vast and grandiose musical pallet. The two voices merged effortlessly into gorgeous harmonies, and the music of both bands was lifted to places it has never previously gone. Put aside the fact that it may have led further down the line to Sam Beam taking Iron & Wine into slightly questionable jazz territory, because for the nearly half hour of the In The Reins EP, neither band has ever sounded better.
Musical comings together have the potential to be both a complete write off and a joyous surprise; they can elevate people to push themselves into new exciting directions or to slip off the slope into complete sonic meltdown. The fact you never know what you’re going to end up with in the end is just one of the wonderful joys that make them a vital part of musical history.
THE WAVE PICTURES – GREAT BIG FLAMINGO BURNING MOON
The album opens with its title track, and as a summary of what’s to come it couldn’t be much more perfect. Four stabs of heavily distorted chords ring out, it’s The Rolling Stones, The Troggs, Cream, The Beatles: it’s rock ‘n roll the way it’s been for as long as it’s existed. It’s simplistic and it’s thrilling, a timely reminder as to why everyone fell in love with guitars in the first place! As the bass bubbles out of the ringing feedback, they instantly hit an unmistakable groove, the tight persistent pounding of drums, the steady lone chords of distorted guitars are almost relegated to a background thought. It’s probably the simplest minute and a half of guitar they’ve ever recorded. Then comes a classic Tattersall solo, equal parts Paul Simon afro-beat and Reverend Gary Davis country-blues; it’s undeniably catchy, arguably quite danceable but it doesn’t stay long, soon disappearing into the ether from whence it came, and back to a bouncing rolls of toms, stabs of guitar and then suddenly a blast of distorted rock ‘n roll that’s more Dave Davies than David Tattersall. It’s as stunning as it is surprising. It’s a song that says this is the new album by The Wave Pictures and we sound this good now!
Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon is an album The Wave Pictures thought they would never make. A chance conversation with Marc Riley and an email to Wild Billy Childish later they would find themselves in the studio with a collaborator beyond their wildest dreams. If you’re wondering why more bands haven’t worked with Wild Billy before, whether it’s just modesty or the truth speaking, he claims nobody has ever asked!
The Wave Pictures are of course, frequent collaborators, working with the likes of Stanley Brinks, Darren Hayman and Daniel Johnston has given them an outlet for their near constant song-writing. However, teaming up with Wild Billy they might just have found the perfect foil. As Ivor Cutler once said of Billy “you are perhaps too subtle and sophisticated for the mass-market”, a statement that could easily apply to the trio who make up The Wave Pictures. Not that it’s just a lack of mass-market crossover potential that they share; their sounds are also a delightful match. With The Wave Pictures rules of no guitars pedals and no keyboards, the subtle re-imagination of their sound requires constant renewed enthusiasm and new ways of pushing themselves, and unquestionably Wild Billy Childish seems to have found a way of igniting a garage rock spark into their work.
Perhaps it was the recording studio, complete with original 60’s amps and drum kits, or perhaps it was the rocket shaped guitars, but this is unquestionably the closest to a classic rock album that The Wave Pictures have ever been, and the influence of a man who’s been making music for over 30 years seems to have had a great affect on the band. Wild Billy not only produced the record but also co-wrote it, even laying some guitar down on a number of tracks, not that David Tattersall, a man memorably described by Marc Riley as “the greatest guitarist of his generation”, needs much help an with impressive guitar riff!
We must admit that hearing how involved in the process Wild Billy was in the album we were slightly worried that it might result in a watering down of The Wave Pictures own sound. A band who have always trod their own path over their 17 years as a band and make records that sound fairly unmistakably like Wave Pictures records. Their last effort, City Forgiveness was their most ambitious, varied and best album to date, so to take such a radical detour was unquestionably a risk. Luckily they found a collaborator who seems to understand exactly what they needed to not just produce another record but to move forward: for all his Wild Billy’s influence and effect, this still sounds like a Wave Pictures record. It’s still littered with David Tattersall’s lyrics that cast a unique look at the everyday world, it’s still reliant on blends of brilliant guitar solos, and the stunningly tight work of the rhythm section comprising bassist Franic Rozycki and drummer Jonny “Hurricane” Helm.
The first track to emerge from the album is, perhaps oddly, the last track on the album. The single Pea Green Coat is a thrilling blast of distorted guitars, an impassioned yelp of vocals and a superb slab of harmonica playing. It’s an obvious choice of single, an accessible rock ‘n roll song, but it’s also probably the biggest deviation from their previous work. The guitar playing is ferocious, short sharp stabs of chords add a primitive urgency and intensity, it allows the bass to carry its share of the melody and gives the gorgeous blasts of mouth organ room to breath. The urgency of the guitar is mirrored in the vocal delivery; David spitting out his lyrics with a touch of anger, he aims the line “you cost me three thousand pounds and that ain’t nice” at the songs Pea Green Coat wearing female lead, who frankly sounds like she might be more trouble than she’s worth!
Frogs Sing Loudly In The Ditches made Wild Billy declare the band sound like “a weird cream” and he proceeded to cover the track in a wall of heavy-bassy feedback; it warbles around in the background of the song giving in an almost unsettling air, it surely deliberately matches the lyrics about air that’s “thick and fizzy” and a world where it’s “raining champagne” as “I’m struggling to breathe.” It also contains another line for the scrapbook of brilliantly odd Wave Pictures lyrics “you can hold them in your hand that’s why they call them palm trees” a view inside his mind would be anything but dull.
Green River starts off like Muddy Waters, then settles into an easy groove that could be Jefferson Airplane or even T-Rex, the gently probing bass and meandering guitar line giving it a hazy homage to the 1960’s and it’s a song that would have fit perfectly alongside Canned Heat on the Woodstock Bill if only it had been written 50 years earlier.
The lyrics throughout are a joyous collection of odd lines that seem to somehow form together into something resembling a cohesive whole; there’s just something wonderfully different about David’s approach to lyric writing, you can almost pick and choose from any number of brilliant lines. Like his distinctive vocal his lyrics will perhaps divide opinions, certainly they’re too surrealist for some, but lyrics, like poetry are subjective and there is no right or wrong way to express the voices in your head.
At Dusk is reminiscent of those delightfully gentle moments on a White Stripes record that acted as respite between all the ferocious blues riffing around them, it’s a melancholic beast, a slowly meandering guitar line, a gentle vocal, the warm buzz of a bass line and the lightest of touches of a drum kit. The lyrics too have a similarly wistful feel “dead flowers and a little ship inside a little bottle, and we curl up like hedgehogs and whisper to one another” it carries an intrinsic sadness, almost hidden behind the mundane nature of the descriptions, as if by focusing on the details it allows him to skip around the point.
The Blue Tent is a storming cousin to Before This Day from their City Forgiveness album. A sort of everyday-at-home growing up track where “kids are drinking cider in the shadows” while David is contemplating “paracetamol, pineapple juice and that first cigarette” or swaying “between barrels of beer in the cellar in the summer” as he remembers how “my picture looked good next to your mirror” and how “I saw your handwriting written on everything…and I liked it.” The music has a teenage swagger in keeping with the content, it’s almost retro-feel perfectly in keeping with his reminiscing of “being turned inside out like a rubix cube” on “a humid evening” when “your neighbours weren’t screaming at each other for once.” It’s an absolute delight, arguably the best here, even if it wouldn’t sound out of place on The Grease soundtrack!
The band have described the albums second single, I Could Hear The Telephone (3 Floors Above Me) as “The Wave Pictures in a Nutshell: The Modern Lovers with Rory Gallagher on lead guitar”. It’s not a bad description but it doesn’t do them justice, because they’ve become far more than a simple amalgamation of their influences: they’re a fantastic band on their own terms, which gives them the perfect platform to experiment, to push themselves, and here they do that. Sure they sound like The Troggs, The Kinks, Cream, all of them, but most of all they just sound like The Wave Pictures, and there’s no greater compliment than that.
Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon is out on Moshi Moshi Records on the 16th of February. The Wave Pictures are on tour in the UK throughout February before heading to mainland Europe in March & April.