I watched the entire last series of Jools Holland. I had to, as they are no other even half-decent music programmes on telly.
   I even watched both Tuesday and Friday shows just in case. It paid off a couple of times, especially when the best act in the series , Armenian jazz-folk pianist Tigran Hamasyan played different songs on the two nights, both of them very moving.
   I waited in vain for Welsh groups or singers to appear. Two of last year's best albums were 'Tan' by Lleuwen Steffan and 'The Big Roar' from The Joy Formidable. But.......no way!
   Unless of course there was a stray Welsh drummer or bassist , or I'd simply missed Tom Jones by falling asleep (does he count as Welsh anyway, as he's a tax exile?).
    In the years following the musical explosion known as Cwl Cymru, there was a dearth of talent, with the likes of the Lost Prophets and Funeral For A Friend leading the way with their very predictable rock, and one song from The Automatic which was better off when turned into a Bluebirds' chant for Michael Chopra.
   But now, things have changed radically. After The Joy Formidable's roaring album last year, the best album of 2012 is by Cardiff band Future of the Left and called appropriately 'The Plot Against Common Sense'. Indeed, everything about its strange words confounds any notion of common sense .
   A few years ago, the Observer ran a series of pamphlets with the best lyricists in and Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys was alongside Dylan and Cohen.
   I assume that Andy Falkous writes this group's lyrics and should be ranked up there with them. In fact, though there are many emerging stars of the Welsh poetry scene, I find this band's provocative and very funny offerings more intriguing by far.
   It's not just lyrically they are imaginative and challenging however. I found a fascinating coming together of some of my favourites such as John Cale (the screams and repeated phrases), the Manics ( certainly the earlier days) and Beefheart ( guitar-playing going off at odd angles).
   Despite their name they aren't overtly political, though there is a constant biting satire and surreal critique of our society.
   I recently had a strange text exchange  with a friend, when I mistakenly asked him what he thought about the 'future of the left'.
   His reply was - ' I'm not the expert on politics to be honest.......Unless you mean left midfield, where I think Peter Whittingham can do the job just fine!'
   However, they are scathing about the hypocrisies of world where the divide between rich and poor seems a growing chasm and the emptiness of popular culture as well, especially on 'robocop 4 - fuck off robocop'.
   They are the most hilarious band around today by far, using hyperbole and weird juxtapositions expertly.
   Their song about a couple of would-be footballers refers to 'the favelas of Nottingham' and 'failed olympic bid' mocks the overblown hype of it all -
    ' i've got a hole for sebastian coe
     saddam hussein won't be needing it now'
   If they are musically closer to the Manics, then they're lyrically more akin to the Super Furries, combining subtlety and swearing. Yet they have, without doubt, created their own sound.
   One of the best tracks is 'beneath the waves an ocean' which is a typically surreal cafe scene where the chicken appears to 'make eyes across the table'. The fast and frantic chant of the chorus is a catchiness they often use.
    Welsh music has been searching a long time for bands to emerge and herald a real renaissance.
    With The Joy Formidable and Future of the Left we have the most talented and thrilling since those heady days of Cool Cymru, when many rose to prominence even if they did have little in common musically.
   This week I'll be going to the launch of jazz-folk band Burum's new cd in Cardiff's Cafe Jazz. Burum means 'yeast' and I'm hopeful they will rise to the occasion.
  I certainly like what I've seen of them on You-Tube. They remind me a bit of Moving Hearts, though without the Christy Moore type front-man. I really like the way they take a traditional Welsh tune and improvise around it, taking it to another level.
   To return to Jools and that fine composer and pianist Tigran. I believe he was only there by accident as Sinead O' Connor had dropped out.
   To listen to his latest album 'A Fable' is to realise how integral his country's folk tradition is to his jazz playing, which draws on American and European sources, but often looks East for its phrasing.
   With the demise of Bandit on S4C, it is absolutely essential we have a new vibrant rock/pop/folk/jazz programme here in Cymru, with bands using Welsh and English, or both in the same song even.
   There's a plethora of talent out there and the Red Poets will be performing alongside some of it when Chris Hastings & Huw Pudner sing at our launch on September 20th and Jamie Bevan a'r Gweddill play at The Castle in Tredegar on October 10th.

   As the band rightly say - 'girls aloud were the new nirvana / then any old shit was the new nirvana'.

                     WALES HAPPENED IN THE 90s

Nobody's talking Cwl Cymru any more,
because Wales has had its day.

Wales happened in the 90s,
when everyone woke up and wanted to be...

when Newport was Seattle by the murky Usk,
when the Holy Bible was a worshipped cd ;

when Cerys Matthews' voice rolled in the hay
and the Super Furries drove tanks of peace ;

when the Manics climbed back up the bridge
and Kelly still recalled his market stall;

when the 60 ft Dolls were not forgotten
and Gorkys flew like Tenby's seagulls.

'There's a Revival!' someone proclaimed
in a blog or a Facebook wall ;

but nobody noticed if the future was left,
or the joy too formidable to take.

Lleuwen and Huw M sang in the wrong tongue,
as roses turned stone again on stage.

08/13/2012 08:29

Really enjoyed your blogs Mike, looking forward to September

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01/08/2013 01:31

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