Tuesday, 31 March 2020

NEWS: Sheffield Theatres close their doors for a little longer than originally advertised.


Monday, 30 March 2020

THEATRE REVIEW: Talking Heads - Watford Palace Theatre, London

“Talking Heads” is a series of monologues written by possibly the greatest living British playwright, Alan Bennett, for the BBC. The BBC series starred such fantastic actors as Maggie Smith, Patricia Routledge, Stephanie Cole and Julie Walters. Tonight’s performances were provided by Jan Ravens, known mostly for her voice work on Spitting Image and Dead Ringers, and Julia Watson who is probably best known for her work in the BBC drama Casualty.

The first of the 3 performances was from Ravens who plays a lonely elderly woman who spends her life writing complaint letters to just about every person or company she encounters. She constantly misunderstands behaviours towards her with some very funny consequences. She clearly finds comfort in receiving responses, whether positive or negative towards her. Ultimately she finds herself at odds with the police and spends time behind bars – albeit still with her continual positive negativity towards others, you could easily imagine her writing those same letters to her fellow inmates.

The first of the monologues concludes but there is a small amount of time to reflect on Bennett’s writing which only dates because of the lack of digital references, the story of mental health and loneliness is still as fresh today as it was when it was written back in the late 1980s.

Next to the stage was Watson with her portrayal of a vicar’s wife who doesn’t believe in God – and most definitely doesn’t like her husband. Her only friend seems to be a bottle of vodka which she clearly meets with on an all too frequent basis. She describes her husband, the vicar, in some very derogatory ways and shows him as a middle class misogynist who has very little interest in her or her life. She eventually finds someone who shows an interest in her, Ramesh an Indian shopkeeper who's no doubt the one is serving her with the large quantities of alcohol.

In truth the second of the monologues doesn’t hit anywhere near the same heights as the first. One wonders perhaps if the storyline might have been much more shocking back in the 1980s – a vicar’s wife and an Indian shopkeeper having an affair – but in today’s society this is not the case. Watson played the part very well but had much less to work with in this act.

Ravens returns after the interval for the third and final monologue of the evening, the story of a wealthy widow who was a pillar of the community, a very regular charity volunteer for meals on wheels and a carer for her mentally ill daughter. She falls foul of her son’s business acumen as he systematically loses the family fortune through ineptitude and later dishonesty. She soldiers on through her daughter’s illness despite the shocking secret behind it.

Jan Ravens is without doubt the star of this show and delivers a superb performance in both of her monologues. She plays those parts as close to the originals of Routledge and Smith as you could possibly imagine and it is to her credit that she pulls it off. Watson did an admirable job with the weakest of the monologues but is most definitely overshadowed by her co-performer.

Overall this was an enjoyable evening and shows that much of Bennett’s writing is as relevant today as it was when it was written. Some of the writing is dated but then that is because the world has changed and in particular the digital revolution has not only happened but has been reinvented several times since he penned these words.

Reviewer - John Fish
on - 11/3/20

NEWS: Theatre By The Lake, Keswick decide to cancel their forthcoming Summer Season in light of the COVID -19 pandemic.


In light of the current threat of COVID-19, Theatre by the Lake has taken the difficult decision to cancel its 2020 Summer Season. The theatre has been closed since Tuesday 17 March following government advice, and, due to the uncertainty around when it can reopen again, is unable to commit to the significant costs represented by the rep season.

The Summer Season was due to open on 21 May and continue until 31 October. The productions included Boeing Boeing and Rope, as well as an unprecedented four world premieres: The Climbers by Carmen Nasr, Wilt by Kieran Knowles, These Walls by Laura Lomas and Drown Your Empty Selves by Joseph Wilde.

Liz Stevenson, the theatre’s Artistic Director, said: “This was an upsetting decision to make but the only option available to us in the current circumstances. The considerable work needed to prepare for our celebrated and complex rep season, together with the significant costs involved, presents too great a risk during a time of such huge upheaval and uncertainty.

“Our ultimate aim is to ensure that we continue to be Cumbria's producing theatre.  We’re asking ticket holders to donate the cost of their ticket to support the theatre at this time, and are so grateful to the many people who have already done so – especially as we are aware that this is a difficult time for so many of you. Our audiences and community are what make our theatre special and we want to say a massive thank you for your support and patience. We’re looking forward to welcoming you back just as soon as we can, and we are working out creative ways of working with you, our community, until then.  We wish everyone well in the meantime; look after yourselves and each other.”

As the theatre is currently closed, ticket requests cannot be processed until the Box Office has reopened; however, urgent enquiries are being monitored by theatre staff via enquiries@theatrebythelake.com. Contact with all advance ticket holders will recommence once the theatre reopens.  Online donations are open for anyone who wishes to support the theatre with a donation; see www.theatrebythelake.com/donate.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

NEWS: Brendan Benson announces first solo album in nearly 7 years.



Third Man Records is proud to announce the first new LP in almost seven years from Brendan Benson. DEAR LIFE arrives via Third Man Records on 24th April.
Benson’s seventh solo album and first full-length release via Third Man, DEAR LIFE is heralded by the rhapsodic first single, 'Good To Be Alive', out now.
Benson finds himself in an enviable spot as he enters the third decade of a remarkably creative, consistently idiosyncratic career – an accomplished frontman, musician, songwriter, producer, band member, husband, and dad. DEAR LIFE marks this consummate polymath’s most inventive and upbeat work thus far, an 11-track song cycle about life, love, family, fatherhood, and the pure joy of making music. Produced and almost entirely performed by Benson at his own Readymade Studio in Nashville, the album sees the Michigan-born, Nashville-based artist – and co-founder, with Jack White, of The Raconteurs – revelling in a more modernist approach than ever before, fueled by a heady brew of cannabis, hip-hop, and a newly discovered interest in software drum programming. The result is an untapped playfulness that elevates expertly crafted songs like the future funk-fueled opener, “I Can If You Want Me To,” and the ecstatic “Richest Man Alive” with voluble arrangements, elastic grooves, and incandescent power. Imbued with revitalized ambition and confidence, DEAR LIFE is Brendan Benson at his very best.
“There's something about this record,” Benson says. “A friend of mine called it ‘life-affirming.’ I thought it was a joke at first but then realized, well, it’s about life and death for sure. I don’t know if that’s positive or optimistic or whatever, but that's what's going on with me.”
# # #
Beginning with 1996’s now-classic debut, ONE MISSISSIPPI – recently reissued by Third Man in its first-ever vinyl pressing and available now – and its masterful 2002 follow-up, LAPALCO, the Michigan-born, Nashville-based Benson has always infused classic craftsmanship with contemporary invention.
Along with his own critically acclaimed canon, Benson is of course co-founder – with Jack White, Jack Lawrence, and Patrick Keeler – of The Raconteurs. The band first convened in 2006, winning worldwide acclaim, GRAMMY® Award nominations, and a chart-topping smash single in “Steady As She Goes,” with their now-classic debut album, BROKEN BOY SOLDIERS. The Raconteurs returned two short years later with 2008’s CONSOLERS OF THE LONELY. Like its predecessor, the LP proved a popular and critical phenomenon, earning the GRAMMY® Award for “Best Engineered Non-Classical Album” as well as a nomination as “Best Rock Album.” After more than a decade, The Raconteurs finally returned to action in 2019 with their critically acclaimed, chart-topping third LP, HELP US STRANGER, highlighted in part by songs Benson had initially considered for his own LP, “Only Child” and “Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying).” The Raconteurs’ epic 2019 world tour proved equally successful, playing to ecstatic sold-out houses from Nashville to New Zealand and all points in-between.
As if all that weren’t enough, Benson is an in-demand producer (Robyn Hitchcock, Young The Giant, Trapper Schoepp, The Greenhornes) and collaborative songwriter, with a CV that includes partnerships with Jake Bugg, Iain Archer (Snow Patrol), and The Kooks’ Luke Pritchard, among others.
# # #
(Third Man Records)
Release Date: Friday 24 April 2020
I Can If You Want Me To
Good To Be Alive
Half A Boy (And Half A Man)
Richest Man Alive
Dear Life
Baby’s Eyes
Freak Out
Evil Eyes
I’m In Love
I Quit
Who’s Gonna Love You

NEWS: Natalie Shay releases new single, "Owe It To You"

Natalie Shay is a 21 year old indie pop/rock artist hailing from North London. The multi award-winning musician has established an ever-growing presence, media acclaim and a loyal fanbase through her explosive live performances and viral-worthy anthems, recognising her as one of the UKs hottest emerging talents.

Combining her youthful and charismatic aura with her classical training and time spent at the prestigious BRIT School, Shay has finessed the ability to produce undeniably catchy music, whilst maintaining a musical maturity. Compared to the likes of Haim, Little Comets and Fickle Friends, the Londoner has absorbed a similar energy and dynamic within her new music.

Shay’s upcoming EP NAKED is a five-track release delving into the everyday experiences of a 21 year old, detailing relationships and life as a young musician. Continuing the songwriter’s love of 80’s soaked music, NAKED cleverly blends the best of era with modern flares. Shay expresses, “I love authentic 80s synth and drum sounds, but I also love modern pop vocal lines and effects. And of course lots of guitars. I try to include a flavour of each of those things in my music. It was very important to me that all of the songs had their own unique stamp and vibe but still all fitted and worked together under the same project”.

Leading single “Not The Girl” narrates the relatable situation of modern dating, but through a fun and lighthearted lens. “This song was written on reflection of a relationship, but more from a perception of understanding rather than a big >>>> you", shares the singer. However, years after finishing the song, Shay realised that the lyrics now took on a whole different meaning, depicting the feeling of sometimes not feeling good enough and frustrations towards working relationships. Sonically “Not The Girl” features upbeat buoyant melodies, effortless vocals and vivid storytelling lyrics.

“Owe It To You” shows a more heartfelt side of Shay’s songwriting, emitting a raw and truly personal essence. Thematically the single is about being in a relationship and struggling to resist temptation. Title track “Naked” shares the topic with “Owe It To You”, illustrating the breakdown in a relationship, knowing you have interest elsewhere but struggling to let go for the fear of being alone. The single sees Shay’s first time including brass instruments in her music, bringing the song to life through a vibrant saxophone solo.

Shay sold out two headline shows in 2019, with her music continuing to pique the interest of notable publications such as Billboard, Clash and The Line of Best Fit. To date she has collectively amassed hundreds of thousands of streams, with her single ‘Yesterday’ being placed in Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist in nine countries. Natalie Shay is a force to be reckoned with and we can’t wait to see what 2020 has in store. NAKED is slated for release 17th April.

THEATRE REVIEW: The Wind In The Willows - The Palladium, London

Yes, I know it says that this production was at The London Palladium... well, it was. This was an online streamed film of the show which is available to watch for free whilst the lockdown is in force.. so if you want to check the show out for yourselves, then head to www.willowsmusical.com.

Way back in 2016 I had the privilege and pleasure of attending the World Premiere production of this musical at Salford's Lowry Theatre, and have not seen it since. In 2016 I enjoyed the show immensely with a couple of reservations, and what I saw this afternoon on my computer screen did not completely allay my initial reservations, and also gave me a couple of new ones. But in the main, this is a fun, family-friendly, fresh and highly entertaining musical, and a British one at that.

Jamie Hendry presented this Musical based on the novel by Kenneth Grahame; the perennial children's favourite, Wind In The Willows. Although, I say a children's favourite, it is loved by children much older too; and perhaps even more surprising is my admission that whilst the storyline and characters are nevertheless familiar to me, I have still yet to read the book.

The story in this Musical puts Mr Toad very much in the protagonist position as we see him go from travelling in slower vehicles to discovering fast motor cars. He then steals one such car and subsequently crashes it, meaning he comes before a court and is sentenced to serve 20 years in prison. He escapes, with the help of a washer-woman, and returns to claim back Toad Hall which has been taken over by the rebel forces of The Dark Wood, namely the weasels and the stoats. The sub-plot involves the capture of a young otter by the weasels and her detention in Toad Hall, and so Mrs Otter, Badger, Mole, Rat, and of course Toad march in on the squatters, fight them off and save both the young otter and the day!

It's a lovely story; a fairy story perhaps, and certainly a story that can and should capture the imagination of youngsters. And indeed I am sure the book and certain adaptations of the book still do. I am uncertain however that this particular version is the vehicle for so doing. I enjoyed it immensely, but still think that the target audience for this musical should be a younger generation, not middle-aged grumps like myself, and yet, there is far too little within the show to capture the imaginations and hearts of youngsters. The anthropomorphic characters are just too grown-up and human, both in the way they act / speak, and in their costuming. There is very little musically to attract a young audience. I seem to remember there being a central rap sequence in the Salford show, and yet this had been omitted in this version. The whole musical has a very retro feel to it, a kind of 'homage' to the author and the era in which it was written. This works well enough for the adults, as we can all relate to this in a way that the millennials have no chance of doing... and surely it is precisely this age group we need to enthuse about it and talk about it to their children if the musical is to survive.

The filming of the show was superb. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it worked better by being filmed than it did watching it live in many respects. First, the cameramen knew exactly which actor or group to focus on, and did so; or they zoomed out to give the full stage when required, and even gave us a few lovely shots from the flies looking directly down upon the stage. The nuances of expression were more clear, and the attention to detail in both costume and set was better appreciated. Also, the set, which I didn't particularly like as an audience member looked better close-up. But I still didn't like the costumes!

Rufus Hound still played the protagonist role of Mr Toad, and was a sheer delight. The energy and commitment he gave to this role was quite astounding and it payed off. The other roles though were, by and large completely different from the 2016 Lowry cast. Simon Lipkin played Rat with a certain disarming nonchalance, and this charaterisation suited him and the role very well. [although he really ought to have hidden the obvious arm tattoos!]. Craig Mather was a very believable Mole (although at times he seemed much more like a hobbit than a mole, especially since the set had been designed with The Shire very much in the forefront of their minds!).The chemistry betwewen Lipkin and Mather was lovely, and the change in dynamic when Wilmot joined them made for excellent casting and direction. And this was the biggest surprise in the casting changes with Badger being played by Musical Theatre legend Gary Wilmot. It was delightful to see him on stage again, it has been a very long time since I saw him live, and such a wonderful and natural talent. Here he took very much a smaller cameo role, and played it with understated dignity and aplomb. The other central character cast changes were with Neil McDermott playing the evil Chief Weasel and Denise Welch playing Mrs. Otter. Both were excellent. 

The staging, mise-en-scene and choreography were all lovely and seemed to work much better here than I remembered, but again that could be due to clever filming and judicious editing. Nevertheless, I am still a fan of the show and enjoyed watching this greatly. I hope it does and will appeal to younger folk too, as it deserves to be better known. Check out the website and watch it for yourselves, and see if you agree with me! 

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 29/3/20

Saturday, 28 March 2020

MUSIC REVIEW: The Sex Life Of Bees And The Power Of Fate - The BBC Philharmonic Orchestra - The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester.

Sadly, whilst we are all in lockdown and isolation, with no-one able to go to a live concert, we are all finding alternative sources for our daily intake of culture and The Arts. Happily the BBC have Radio 3 to keep us with regular doses of beautiful music; and it is thanks to the BBC radio 3 recording a live concert performed last January at Manchester's Bridgewater Hall, that I was able to listen to this lovely concert given by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of principal guest conductor Ben Gernon.

The first piece in the concert was the lovely Scherzo Fantastique by Stravinsky. Composed whilst still a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov, and not yet recognised by the wider spheres, this piece is based very much on his teachings, the Late Romantic movement, and of course Mozart. Stravinsky held the opinion all his life that he was in fact the modern reincarnation of Mozart and continued where Mozart left off.  The Scherzo Fantastique is rather restarined, lyrical and melodic, and yet we can clearly hear the beginnings of what would become perhaps 'trademarks' in Stravinksy's music. Interestingly, Stranvinsky said of the piece that he was inspired to write the scherzo after watching bees and was fascinated by "the increasing work in the hive continuing for generations and generations, the nuptial flight of the queen bee, with the destruction of the male, her lover in the giddy heights!", although years later he denied this and said that the work was purely symphonic and had no "programme" or "theme" to it. True or not, we can clearly hear the bees going about their daily business in the piece and is perhaps a 'hat-nod' or 'homage' to Rimsky-Korsakov'e better known piece "The Flight Of The Bumble Bee".  Whatever the case, the BBC Philharmonic did the work full justice in this concert and was delightfully played.

The second piece in the concert was by Stravinsky's muse, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and his piano concerto no:25 (K503). Although perhaps not Mozart's most well-known piano concerto it is certainly one of his more technically and expressively difficult, as well as being one of his longest. Written at a time of both personal and professional strife and unrest, the work is still ebullient and optimistic, resounding in the joys of both life and music. With a very light scoring (usual for the period) of just flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, timpani and reduced strings as well as the piano, the piece is able to remain light and airy, which, in my humble opinion, is exactly how Mozart's music should be played. Playing the solo piano part this evening was Imogen Cooper. Cooper is no stranger to both Mozart and this concerto, and her love and connection to the piece was immediate, evident even listening on radio! The interpretation was personal and connected and her technical dexterity with the many scales and passing notes that appear in the score was irreproachable. I did think though at times, especially in the second movement, she became a little self-indulgent and this slowed the piece down a little. Hard to tell when not watching it live, but the second movenet did 'drag' just a tad for me.

The third piece on offer in this concert was a piece to connect the first two. Another Russian composer who respected and admired Mozart's work and genius, taking much inspiration from him. Of course I am writing about Tchaikovsky, and the music, his wonderful and highly accessible 4th Symphony. Surely one of the most striking, pompous and instantly recogniseable openings of any symphony: a fanfare loud and ironic, diminuendoing into almost nothing before the development of a rather torturous but pseudo-patriotic melody. The Russia of the time encapsulated perfectly in these two phrases. But the bombast doesn't end there, and is continued through to the end of the first movement and picked up again and extemporised further in the final movement. With a quiet almost restful second movement which, despite the lovely flowing melodies is still full of unrest and disquiet, and the third movement which starts with pizzicato strings before we crash headlong into the roudy and unrelenting final movement, this could be Tchaikovsky's most popular symphony. First performed in Moscow in 1878, this symphony, despite the political turmoil within Russia at the time, still remains a firm favourite with orchestras and audiences alike, reaffirming the joy of life that music can bring. It really doesn't matter how many times one listens to music such as this, it always manages to energise and revitalise the soul, and this rendition under the baton of Gernon, was no different; a stirring and authentic watchcry to life which deserved fully the extended applause that the Manchester audience afforded him and the orchestra at the end of the concert.

Reviewer - Matthew Dougall
on - 28/3/20

NEWS: The Milk confirm rescheduled tour dates

THE MILK have confirmed their rescheduled UK tour dates for October, which includes shows in Brighton, London, Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow before culminating at Nottingham’s Bodega.
Having released “Favourite Worry”, their critically acclaimed sophomore album and first for independent label Wah Wah 45s, in 2015, the band are able to trace the seeds of the latest LP back to their recording sessions with producer Paul Butler (Andrew Bird, Michael Kiwanuka, Nick Waterhouse) almost five years ago, blending elements of soul, funk and rock together to create their own unique sound, inspired by some of their favourite artists such as Bill Withers, Traffic and the Isley Brothers.
 "I can't wait to hear you write songs that look outward" - these words from Paul subconsciously had a lasting impression on the band. To atone for more inward-looking sentiments on “Favourite Worry”, there had to be a shift in perspective. 
During the formative stages of the new album The Milk started pursuing a Nichiren Buddhist practice. The values and principles they discovered during this have informed every aspect of the record.  
“We wanted to write an album that looked outside of the walls, to people, society and the environment - embracing real freedom in musical expression by utilising more complex rhythmic structures, extended harmony and dissonance to paint an original and authentic-sounding record”
If their debut, “Tales from the Thames Delta”, was inspired by hedonism and “Favourite Worry” by introspection, “Cages” is an impassioned conversation with the world. Racism and division are all on the rise. British society is being pulled apart by forces that seek to divide us and rip the compassion and empathy from our minds and hearts.  We have become distracted from the more urgent challenges of boundless consumerism, climate change, and the mental health emergency reeking havoc on our streets. 
We are the birds in the cage, tied by cheap thrills and fake news to a limited world vision that is no longer fit for purpose. The good news? We can all choose to challenge this view.
“Cages” is equal parts the dark black shadow of how far we've fallen and the blazing sunlight whose rays of hope can still change the world.  
Four life-long friends, Ricky Nunn (vocals), Mitch Ayling (drums) Luke Ayling (bass) and  Dan Le Gresley (guitar) formed their first band when they were still at school in Essex, playing countless working men’s clubs, and finally became The Milk. 
The band have built up a following of dedicated fans around the UK, which has resulted in them selling out venues such as Scala, Koko and Shepherds Bush Empire. Keen to get back on the road where they feel most at home and where the guys really shine, the band offer up a compelling set of diverse styles, matched with an ability to effortlessly intertwine songs together, gives their music a continuous feel to it.
Since signing to Wah Wah 45s, the band released their second album "Favourite Worry", which became one of BBC 6 Music’s albums of the year, sold out London's Union Chapel, toured with the Fun Lovin' Criminals and completed a sell-out UK tour climaxing at London's KOKO in Camden town.
2020 Rescheduled Live Dates
16th - The Albert, Brighton
24th - Subterrania, London
26th - Crofters Rights, Bristol
27th - Night & Day, Manchester
28th - St Luke’s, Glasgow
30th - The Bodega, Nottingham

NEWS: The Dears premiere new album on 15 May and announce rescheduled tour dates.

Montréal stalwarts The Dears have announced the release of their eighth studio album Lovers Rock on May 15 via Dangerbird Records. They’ve released the album’s first single “The Worst In Us” — share via YouTube. The band will tour Lovers Rock across twelve April shows in Europe and the UK, view rescheduled UK dates below.
The Dears’ 2003 breakthrough album No Cities Left was a crepuscular, romantic soundtrack to uncertain times. 9/11. War. The looming economic crisis. Nearly two decades later, as Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak began work on Lovers Rock, the world’s mood felt eerily similar
There’s a direct line between the sort of doominess of No Cities Left and this album,” says Lightburn. “You could go straight from Lovers Rock to No Cities Left and it’s like they're interlocked. But it's a different kind of doom.  Around 2001, it felt like, ‘We have no control. We don't know what's going to happen next.’ Now it’s a doom that's within our grasp. It’s in the air. It’s between us. But we do nothing about it.”
If The Dears have always made apocalyptic love songs for an existential crisis, there are also other constants, starting, of course, with the band’s two core members for two decades: Lightburn and Yanchak. There are also certain sonic and aesthetic parameters, within which the music can be both unsettlingly experimental and impossibly lush: part Bacharach, part Krautrock. From the anthemic anger and driving resignation of “Heart of An Animal” to the swoony, swerving, epic “The Worst In Us,” Lovers Rock is the sound of The Dears topping themselves yet again, an accomplishment borne of ambition, hard work, and a strong sense of identity.
Rescheduled UK Tour Dates:
THU 19 NOV – Cambridge, UK @ Portland Arms
SAT 21 NOV – Glasgow, UK @ Drygate Theatre
SUN 22 NOV – Manchester, UK @ Deaf Institute
MON 23 NOV – Bristol, UK @ Exchange
TUE 24 NOV – London, UK @ The Garage

NEWS: Thurlowood's new video for 'Shells' released

"If it truly is the end of the world, this song (and upcoming album) is what we all should be listening to." - BTRtoday premieres Thurlowood's new "Shells" video

Discontinue Normal Program is due 4/10
pre-order the LP here: 

WATCH: "Shells" -

Today, Thurlowood premieres the music video for "Shells" via BTRtoday. who stated "If it truly is the end of the world, this song (and upcoming album) is what we all should be listening to." Discontinue Normal Program is due on April 10th, 2020.
Regarding the single, Thurlowood said: ""Shells” is a look back at the 1951 educational film Duck and Cover by the United States Office of Civil Defense, which teaches children how to save themselves in a nightmare nuclear attack scenario. Like the other songs from my upcoming full-length record, Discontinue Normal Program, it’s inspired by true events from history that show us how we are all just teetering on the edge of apocalypse.
It feels like a strange time to release this record, given its doomsday themes. I couldn’t have imagined even a few weeks ago that these new songs would be coming out in the midst of the current crisis. I know many are understandably turning to more comforting culture these days in music, television, etc., but… well, that’s not the record I made. That said, there is a lining of hope in considering the everyday decisions we make and actions we take."
Discontinue Normal Program may be the first synth pop record, or at least the catchiest, about the history of nuclear Armageddon. Weaving influences like ANOHNI, Radiohead, MGMT and Mitski, the album is the first solo effort by Thurlowood — Bridges + Powerlines singer and keyboardist, Andrew Thurlow Wood.
Despite its doomsday subject, the record is not speculative but rooted in historic events. Yet at its core is a warning about leaving the existential threat unchecked, and passing it to our children. From the US’s secret plans for continuity of government to the president as a “madman,” from bunker survivalists to Hiroshima survivors, from the false 1983 missile alert that nearly led to annihilation but for a Russian savior to a more recent alarm in Hawaii—each is explored across the album’s ten songs.
Thurlowood describes the album as “pre-apocalyptic electro indie rock” and “moody with moments of uplift.” It’s certainly a digression from Bridges + Powerlines’ five records of “optimist fuzz pop.”
B+P released its first record in 2006, a self-titled EP that attracted the attention of producer Chris Zane (Passion Pit, The Walkmen). In 2008 the band released its debut full-length produced by Zane. The album, GHOST TYPES, enjoyed a seven-week run in the CMJ top 200 with the single “Uncalibrated” featured on Pitchfork and Paste. Another track from the record, “New Mexico,” served as the soundtrack to a lengthy sex scene on Showtime’s Shameless in 2014, and has gone on to become the band’s most streamed song.
For their next record, EVE (2011), B+P worked with producer Kieran Kelly (known best for his work on Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois), featuring a host of guests including members of Antony and the Johnsons and Bon Iver, indie troubadour Will Stratton, and even their friend Steven Harris of 80s arena-legends The Cult. The band’s fourth record, “Better” (2013), comprised six songs named after Brooklyn neighborhoods, each representing an era from the doomed relationship that the mini-album explores. Consequence of Sound called it a record about “turning negatives into positives,” referring to opening track “Bushwick” as “vigorous” and “a propellent example of the album’s ethos.”
Over the course of its career, the band successfully toured several times throughout the US with multiple appearances at SXSW and CMJ. B+P also played high-profile shows supporting The Antlers, Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, Clues, Plus/Minus, Women, Oxford Collapse, Drink Up Buttercup, Twin Sister, Twin Forks, Chris Carrabba, Adam Duritz and many others.
In 2016 the band released its fifth record, “National Fantasy,” with guest vocals from The Rapture’s Mattie Safer. Soon after, the band went on hiatus, and it was during this break that Thurlowood began to explore the idea of a solo record.
A book by Garrett M. Graff, Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government’s Secret Plan To Save Itself—While the Rest of Us Die, captured his attention and sent him down the rabbit hole that would become the album’s theme. With the doomsday clock this January ticking to 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it’s ever been to the fateful hour, the issues and stories on the album feel more urgent and relevant than ever.
“I can go into my office and pick up the telephone, and in 25 minutes 70 million people will be dead.”
-Richard Nixon

NEWS: Keep in touch with Bolton Octagon Theatre during the lockdown with online activities.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

NEWS: Salford's Lowry Theatre launches 'Futures Fund' to help creatives' organisations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Lowry launches Futures Fund to support organisation through Coronavirus pandemic

The Lowry in Salford has launched a new fund to help the organisation through the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Futures Fund aims to ensure the Salford arts centre’s financial stability and enable it to continue to support the local communities it serves through its charitable activity.

You can donate now at: www.thelowry.com/FuturesFund

It follows the closure of the venue’s doors to audiences, participants and artists for the first time since it opened in April 2000, twenty years ago.

Julia Fawcett OBE, chief executive of The Lowry, said: “We use creative activity to support hundreds of the most vulnerable members of our community – including young carers, looked after children and young people living in temporary accommodation.

“In the immediate term, The Futures Fund will pay for freelance artists to create artistic activities for us to share with the young people we work with and more widely throughout our community.”

The Futures Fund is just one of the ways people can help keep the creative spirit of Salford alive. Others include:
  • Refuse the Refund’ - If you have a ticket for a cancelled performance, consider ‘donating’ the cost of that ticket to The Lowry
  • Buy a Gift Voucher to redeem against a future performance
  • Promote the fund with your friends and family using the hashtag #LowryFuturesFund

The Lowry building is currently closed until at least Sunday 26 April 2020.