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Outsideleft Week in Music Record of the Week: The Hawks

Outsideleft Week in Music

Record of the Week: The Hawks

by Spanish Pantalones, Editor-at-Large
first published: September, 2021

approximate reading time: minutes

The Hawks featured Birmingham luminaries Dave Twist, Dave Kusworth and Stephen Duffy...

We're hearing from... The Hawks, Slow Jane, Slon, Cold War Kids, The Specials, William Shatner, Self Esteem, Angels & Airwaves, Don Letts, Nick Corbo, Macy Gray, Herb Alpert, Aimee Mann, They Might Be Giants, Aquadolls, Richard Dawson and Circle, Levitation Orchestra, Japanese Breakfast, M(h)aol, Lil Nas X, Johnny Cash, Genesis and Guns N' Roses


THE HAWKS - Obviously 5 Believers (Seventeen)
by Jay Lewis

Dave Kusworth was a legendary figure for so many years in the UK, weaving sweeping high gutter romances - and that was just silk scarf and leather pants look, let alone the soaring hooks with his band, the Bounty Hunters, and alongside Nikki Sudden as the Jacobites... Prior to recording those amazing records, he'd been one part of The Hawks with Stephen Duffy and Dave Twist - a sort of West Midlands Crucial Three. Stephen Duffy has pulled together The Hawks material for a new LP from Seventeen Records, read Jay Lewis' review on this essential piece of Birmingham's music history, here.


MACY GRAY - The Disco Song (Moonslice)
by Ancient Champion

Okay so, Macy Gray has taken a stab at the entire history of disco in four truly fantasy fantastic minutes.  Grappling with Sylvester's so Mighty Real and Coming Out with Diana of course. Starts quietly like Macy's making a plan with her gal friends... Then a mid-sentence rush of tempo... Genius of course. Then cranks up all the way to the instrumental bit which to me soundtracks the bathroom break - a bit of peeing, a bit of powdering, a bit of making sure just the right amount of bra strap is showing... A bit of maintenance. The neighbours at this point bashed on the wall and asked me to turn down my dancing... "Do you know how to love Macy?" And then the end could be the most masterful pop minute of the year... Here's what I hear, "All I need is a little bit of bump and grind, Push it 'til I'm satisfied, Fuck around and do a line." It's so beautifully redolent of your most massive nights as Craig Finn might say, like a Steve McQueen Small Axe party script, you've just gotta turn it up.

SLOW JANE - Fly (Streaming)
by Jay Lewis

I imagine that the task of covering any of the songs by Nick Drake is far from easy. Anything too rigid or too reminiscent of the original may be pretty but won't enlarge any listener's perception of Drake. And then, how does the artist make it theirs?

'Fly' is the third Nick Drake song to be covered by Slow Jane - an online collaboration born during lockdown and featuring local musicians Katherine Priddy and Jon Wilks together with Lukas Drinkwater and Jon Nice. It is their finest interpretation to date, elegant acoustic guitars meet a gentle clapping rhythm (I believe that's Knees Thompson there!), piano a sliver of electric noise towards the end. And then Priddy's tender exploration of the lyrics. Together Slow Jane find both old and new meaning in Drake's song. Utterly enchanting.

HERB ALPERT - Catch The Wind (Herb Alpert Presents)
by Toon Traveller

One of my friends, light years away from a Jazz Fan, described jazz as "a lot of notes in search of a tune." She was somewhat embarrassed when another friend pointed out, I was a jazz fan, "No problem it's only music," was my reply and so it is. But upon reflection, I realised there was more than a grain of truth in those words. The beauty of Jazz, IS the journey to find that tune, the stops, starts, hesitations, diversions, manipulations, and inspirations and that Jazz's beauty IS the search for tunes, and some of the best tunes are in the misty, hazy uncertainty that the best Jazz lives and breaths. Herb Alpert is a legend for sure, but for me this is music is  - the same journey a commuter travels weekly, monthly yearly, where nothing changes... It's the same views, the same order of stops and starts, and same faces in the same seats. Everything was beautiful once. As instantly forgettable as yesterdays commute to work and okay for a 70s dinner party soundtrack, but not for me

AQUADOLLS - Disappearing Girl (Enci Records)
by Toon Traveller

Disappearing Girl's got the Bangles new wave pop-rock Bangles sound upfront. California dreaming here for a meet-up on a Saturday afternoon with girls at the Mall for Coke and skinny fries. Inoffensive, indubitably, and forgettable, obviously. I don't even know if that's a bad thing. If they were in the bar, I may look up, or turn away from the ball game in the opposite corner. Never been to California, so these images are probably from past rock videos or films, but they shape my comments.  Give me the grubby, high-rise, close-knit streets of the North East and rust belt all the way, every day. 

SELF ESTEEM - Moody (Universal)
by Jay Lewis

'Moody' has the greatest opening line of a song this year.   And then it gets better.  2021 belongs to Self Esteem. 

NICK CORBO - Come Back Up To The House (Danger Collective)
by Toon Traveller

hmm what to say, the voice seems lost in the mix, almost, but not as demanding as a melodic Tom Waits, the music, sounds half-finished slow and plodding, it sorts, not floats, more like trudges through mud, heavy step after heavy clod hopping humping step. Staggering to an end that never seems to get any closer at all. All-in-all a tragic sad piece of music that, hmm, best that can be said - it mildly irritates.  

LEVITATION ORCHESTRA - Child Part: IV (Gearbox Records)
by Toon Traveller

Taken from the forthcoming 'Illusions and Realities' LP.  I was first drawn in by the artwork, a lost art when most music is taken from a screen, and I am so glad it did. It has a nice 60s psycho Jazz hipster feel. There's a slightly distant voice, from another time another place another world... The sax set themes of worlds beyond us, full of wonder and mystery. There's no sense of clear meaning in the words, so bring your own. The Levitation Orchestra provides music YOU have to invest in. There are echoes of pre-baroque delicate guitar fluttering about in that wonderful 70's jazz feel and some will say "eugh!!! prog rock" well there's progression, but no real heavy rock. And yes, there are times when the notes are in search of a tune, but that's its ethereal beauty. I loved this in these confused and uncertain times, a song for survivors who can still only travel in their heads and hearts and see their imagination as life's hope. It's a trip. 


SPECIALS - Get Up Stand Up (Universal)
by Lee Paul

God knows I love The Specials and I am looking forward to the Protest Songs LP. This 'Get Up Stand Up' wouldn't get anyone getting up or standing up. I'm driving as I do... and I just asked, after 'bout a minute, "This, or the original?" Car passenger perceived this as permission to click on to the next song. Sometimes just because you can do, should you?

by Jay Lewis

With his last album, Richard Dawson created a cast of characters that were either burnt out, washed up, or screwed over. Each song had a horrible and occasionally hilarious first-person narrative. '2020' was a bitterly compelling look into the future, all of it made in the pre-pandemic world. 'Lily' is the first single from his forthcoming collaboration with Finland's fabulous rock band Circle. The song may reflect on the traumas of a former 'junior nurse from the early eighties', but the comparisons contemporary hopelessness in there. The Finnish support is a perfect match, repetitive rock riffs, singalong strangeness, and the right dose of subtlety.

Oh, and the video shows Dawson losing badly at snooker to the prog aficionado Steve Davis. 

M(H)AOL - Gender Studies (TULLE)
by Toon Traveller

Billed as an Irish Band - yeah you can hear the accent. But the one-two chord, a poor pastiche of the Velvet Underground comes to mind. There's a sorta sense of finding their feet, but the song goes nowhere for me. There's a challenge in the words, there's a sense of dismissive contempt, but the whole thing seems without meaning, there's a feeling of disinterest in their words. Overall not a song I'd miss if I never heard it again, it's sad to say but there's little of merit and perhaps worse not too sure I'd stick it out at a free gig, and that kinda says it all for me. Meanwhile, M(h)aol a playing some UK shows - go along, see what you think. 1st November - Rough Trade, Bristol; 2nd November - The Hug And Pint, Glasgow; 3rd November - The Talleyrand, Manchester; 4th November - The Shacklewell Arms, London.

THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS - Super Cool (Idlewild Recordings)
by Spanish Pantalones

After 40 years (holy fuck), TMBG sound exactly like they used to, although there’s more subtlety and nuance in the Giants of 2021. It’s good to hear these guys still making good, weird music with absolutely no compromise.

AIMEE MANN - Burn It Out (Super Ego)
by Lee Paul

Something about Aimee Mann's languid style, her voice, and she's really saying something to me at least. She had me with her Magnolia S/T. Burn It Out is pretty great and fans will love it.  From a new LP Queens of the Summer Hotel out in November. This is going to be getting dads working their Christmas list. 

GUNS N' ROSES - Hard Skool (Geffen)
by Spanish Pantalones

Holy shit, this doesn't sound half bad! Axl sounds like Axl, Slash sounds like Slash -- Guns sound ferocious again. (I'm as shocked as all of you.) There's a bit of that old mid-'80s Hollywood Rose sound if you listen close enough, although I'm not so sure this isn't an outtake from the 'Appetite' sessions. Either way, a fun gritty single.


SLON - Majestic Mind Safari Show (-OUS)
by Toon Traveller

I'm listening to 'Filefragile' from the debut EP by Berlin's Slon. Hmmm... What to say. Dark, certainly, deep sonorous voices. Industrial beats rise and fall, echos of an industrial past long gone, with voices of that past floating on the wet sleet-streaked wind. This could be the post-industrial soundtrack for a failed Rustbelt America, abandoned dead post-communist eastern Europe. The broken yet to be leveled up UK Northern Towns. The sad, but certainly honest thing about this, is the sense of weak hopelessness, in the voices, there's that resignation to fate, lives, and livelihoods sacrificed on the altar of progress. This is a bleak piece that seems, in my mind to capture the mood of resigned despair seemingly washing over the UK and many other nations of the world. Does this tell you the same story? Listen and decide...


LIL NAS X - Montero (Columbia)
by Erin

They banned him from their charts, excluded him from their radio stations, lambasted him at the highest levels, and still, the records keep selling and on the whole keep us entertained. It's sure been a year for Lil Nas X. Now Erin listens to the first full-length, Montero, Erin's conclusion is here.  

DON LETTS - Late Night Tales Presents Version Excursion (LateNightTales)
by Spanish Pantalones

A double-disc compilation of wonderful remixed reggae covers from the Rebel Dread himself -- Don Letts, the ultimate cultural polymath. (Imagine how less interesting the world would be without his 50 years of influence.) Are you really going to question the stamp of quality of an LP curated by the man who introduced dub to The Clash and the Sex Pistols? Respect.

JOHNNY CASH - At the Carousel Ballroom, April 24th, 1968 (SME / Legacy)
by Spanish Pantalones

Fantastic production, strong vocals, no-nonsense mixing. This artifact is from Johnny Cash’s gig at the Carousel Ballroom on April 24th, 1968 (just days before the release of the iconic At Folsom Prison). Recorded at the Carousel in the heart of Haight-Ashbury by renowned knob-twister Owsley Stanley, this 28-track LP captures Cash when he’s really feeling himself and you can hear it in his unwavering voice.

JAPANESE BREAKFAST - Sable (Original Video Game Soundtrack) (Dead Oceans Records)
by Spanish Pantalones

Japanese Breakfast (aka Michelle Zauner) took on the task of creating a soundtrack of originals for Sable, an open-world exploration video game. I think that means it’s a first-person game and your character walks around grassy knolls and forests. If that’s the case, this delicate collection of ambient pop songs hits its mark; you really do sort of sense “journey” throughout the LP, or maybe I’m just really high. Either way, another home run for Japanese Breakfast who have officially become OUTSIDELEFT darlings.

WILLIAM SHATNER - BILL (Republic Records)
by Spanish Pantalones

It’s a deal we all have with Bill Shatner: He releases an album full of tongue-in-cheek covers and corny originals, and we, the listening public, accept it. Sometimes he works with interesting collaborators like Mick Jones, Bootsy Collins, or Iggy Pop and he hits his mark. With 'BILL', Bill works mostly with one of the Jonas brothers (Joe), and while that would usually send me running for the hills, this collection of spoken word grooves isn’t all that bad. That said, this effort borders on a novelty disc.

ANGELS & AIRWAVES - Lifeforms (Rise Records)
by Spanish Pantalones

Tom DeLonge needs to make a decision: aliens or music. Splitting time between the two has produced another formulaic Fall Out Boy-esque album and that’s not fair to the aliens or the listening public.

GENESIS - The Last Domino? (Virgin/EMI)
by Jay Lewis

At just over two and a half hours, this final career-spanning best-of collection is not just long, it's prog-rock long! You could fit a few Barclay Jame Harvest albums in here and still have space for something by Yes.

The reappraisal of Phil Collins gained momentum last year when the YouTube kids, twins Tim and Fred Williams going nuts over 'In The Air Tonight' went viral (over 9 million views and counting). Cue, 'top ten' best of articles in serious broadsheets and the serious music sites. But what of his work with the band he's spent all those proggy years with? What of the oft-reviled Genesis?

'The Last Domino?' opts for a non-linear and only occasionally schizophrenic approach to telling the band's story. The risible MTV-friendly 'I Can't Dance' and 'Jesus, He Knows Me' as well as the airless pastiches of Collins solo balladry are shoved towards the end. And the 'artsy' stuff Patrick Batemen couldn't get his head around? Yup, that's here too.

COLD WAR KIDS - New Age Norms 3 (AWAL Recordings)
by Spanish Pantalones

Outsideleft, Cold War Kids and I have a lot in common. Our formative years were spent in Fullerton before we both relocated to Long Beach. I saw them at some of their first gigs around town; at the time they were rough around the edges and kind of dark. Their debut Robbers & Cowards delivered the goods in regards to rookie efforts. Then they sort of dropped off the radar, and now almost two decades later, the band’s seventh album (New Age Norms 3) lands on my desk. In short, the record emits the sound of a bored, neutered band. There’s nothing wrong with maturing, but when your band loses its charm in the process, the next release has to be in-fucking-credible. This doesn’t get there, not even close.

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Dear Evan Hansen (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Interscope)
by Spanish Pantalones

It's a race to the bottom. What will sell less; tickets to Dear Evan Hanson or copies of Dear Evan Hanson's soundtrack?

Main Image: The Hawks

Spanish Pantalones

As employee #3, Spanish has worked for OUTSIDELEFT in some capacity since day one. As our editor-at-large, Spanish now calls ‘the road’ home, filing articles about the arts, leisure, and culture when the wi-fi works.

about Spanish Pantalones »»



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