Fabulously Flamboyant Fridays: Ivory Cutlery’s Day Off

Greetings pop pickers and please be welcome to tonight’s Fabulously Flamboyant Friday and another of our fortnightly mastications upon the marshmallowy pillows of musical magnificence.

Tonight, as we mark this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia, Ivory Cutlery (currently numb of buttock, sore of foot and tired of limb) will be taking the night off.

I’m afraid the onerous real-world pressure of being consistently and reliably incompetent has, for the moment, somewhat limited my spare time and therefore my opportunities for the seemingly endless hours of rigorous, detailed, peer-reviewed and fact-checked research that goes into a typical Fabulously Flamboyant Friday missive*.

It is a little known fact that a standard #FFF article will often go through over a dozen major revisions* before the fearsome Friday Night Editorial Team (headed by a terrifyingly meticulous and editorially ruthless geezer called Phil) will even consider passing a draft for general publication*.

Because of this, tonight’s missive will be a shoddy and shambolic affair, a puerile stream of consciousness, entirely un-themed and hastily constructed; rapidly written between jobs whilst pootling along on one of GWR’s finest conveyances. Tonight’s missive is simply a random collection of artists wot I like. Artists who make up my typical daily playlist; artists I would not be without.

And so, without further ado, laydees and gentlebodies, Fabulously Flamboyant Fridays proudly presents… um… stuff wot I like.** Not arf!

*a transparent tissue of lies

**guaranteed to contain no Phil Collins

Ah, Skindred… A splendiferous combination of metal and reggae – what’s not to like. Easily one of the best live bands in the UK, the track above demonstrates they are no slouches in the studio, either. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen these boys play live and they have never, ever disappointed.

A Welsh band, formed in Newport in 1998, they grew out of the ashes of Dub War – another truly great band – and are built around the drive and talent of their vocalist, Clive Webbe – generally known as Benji.

Both Dub War and Skindred were part of the mid-90’s “Newport rock explosion” which led Spin magazine to dub Newport (ludicrously, IMHO) as ‘the new Seattle’. Nevertheless, if you ever get the opportunity to see these boys strut their funky stuff on stage, I urge you to do so – they do not deliver any half measures and tinnitus is absolutely guaranteed.

In complete contrast to Skindred, classical music also plays a big part in my routine listening. I’m not overly keen on the term, to be honest. Describing the many styles and genres this term encompasses as “classical music” is rather like describing the entirety of French cuisine as food – it simply doesn’t do it justice.

As a nipper, my childhood was filled with large scale orchestral music – my dear old dad’s favourite. I seem to remember a Garrard 301 turntable (probably be worth a fortune now), Leak amplification and Tannoy Westminster ‘speakers – and a mighty noise they did make.

But, for a long time, it was a closed world to me. I simply couldn’t find my way in. I knew what I didn’t like: Strauss (J), Offenbach, Messager, Lehar, Gilbert & Sullivan, all had the power to make me despair, but I couldn’t work out what I did like.

Happily, someone eventually introduced me to the work of the English composer William Havergal Brian and I was hooked; instantly and utterly beguiled. Brian’s work was the key that unlocked the world of classical music for me, and it’s a world I have cheerfully, endlessly and gratefully explored ever since. One of my favourite composers is the American contemporary classical composer, John Adams (particularly his operas). However, as it’s a Friday, I think we’ll have one of his lighter and less challenging pieces.

We now need to turn our attention to Slobberbone – quite possibly my favourite bar band of all time. A magnificent blend of punk, alt-country and rock, Slobberbone are/were (they’re always breaking up and reforming) an American band from Denton, Texas, led by an immensely talented singer-songwriter by the name of Brent Best. Their third album, Everything You Thought Was Right Was Wrong Today (2000) is easily in my top ten albums of all time and, to be brutally honest, if you put a gun to my head and told me to pick just five, it might very be in there as well. Not convinced? Ask Stephen King…

And so on to math rock, aka nerd rock. A difficult genre to categorise, but probably one of my favourites. The name was initially used as a pejorative term, but was quickly adopted and embraced by fans of the genre. It’s an unwieldy area of music, with a lots of competing styles that can be difficult to formalize and describe. It often feels more like a convenient dumping ground than an actual sub-genre of traditional rock: a handy musical category to file those awkward bands that don’t fit neatly into a standard and convenient genre.

If you were to draw a Venn diagram, it would encompass areas of prog, experimental, alternative and indie rock. The genre certainly has its roots in bands such as Henry Cow, Soft Machine and King Crimson, and is often characterized by complex rhythmic structures, odd time signatures and intricate arrangements.

One of my favourite exponents of this genre is the British band, Three Trapped Tigers, a rather splendid instrumental (most of the time) trio from London. They are not an overly prolific band: formed in 2007 by the classically trained pianist,Tom Rogerson, drummer Adam Betts, and guitarist Matt Calvert, they have, to date, released just two studio albums and a handful of EPs.

However, as wonderful as I think these chaps are, not too many seem to agree. The band have never really managed to achieve the profile and success their talent deserves and, sadly, they recently announced that they are calling it a day and splitting up. I hope to see at least a couple of dates on their upcoming farewell tour.

Guitarists. I’m a big fan of guitarists: Robert Fripp, Fred Frith, Alan Holdsworth, Jeff Beck, Frank Zappa, Steve Howe – the list of my favourite plank-spankers is long indeed. One of my favourites is the American composer and jazz musician, Pat Metheny. To call Metheny a seriously talented chap is something of an understatement. He has, over the course of his career, trousered 20 Grammy Awards in 10 separate musical categories – a feat unmatched by any other musician.

As a teenager, he was approached by a dean at the University of Miami and offered a scholarship at the faculty of music. He accepted, but after just a few weeks at the university he was offered a professorship. He eventually moved to Boston to teach at the very prestigious Berklee College of Music. This kid was a genuine prodigy.

I first became aware of Metheny when he was a member of Joni Mitchell’s band in the mid to late ’70s and I became a hopeless devotee when I heard him play an early Roland guitar synthesizer. Back then I was a gigging musician and fancied myself as something of a mean plank-spanker (I was of course delusional – blame the magic mushrooms). To my delight, I was given the opportunity to play one of Roland’s new-fangled guitar synths. Unfortunately, after just a few hours of experimentation, I honestly wanted to smash the damn thing to pieces in utter frustration. It was incredibly difficult to play and I could barely make it fart, let alone drag any form of recognisable music from it. It was a staggeringly truculent beast and seemed to me to be completely unusable. When I later heard Metheny produce effortlessly fluid, beautifully coherent and, above all, wonderfully musical performances on the very same instrument, I knew I was in the presence of greatness.

If anyone wants an introduction to the work of this wonderful musician, I would recommend starting with his tremendous 1983 live album, Travels.

Cardiacs… Where to begin? Cardiacs are an English rock band from Kingston upon Thames, formed in ’77 by the late, great, Tim Smith and his brother Jim – and they are utterly unique.

Originally called Cardiac Arrest, they became one of Britain’s finest and most intriguing underground, cult rock bands. Their unique blend of punk, prog, jazz, psychedelia, heavy metal (with nursery rhymes and sea shanties thrown in for good measure) and bizarre theatrical performances (frequently involving on-stage confrontations and physical assault) made them deeply unpopular with the music press, but not with the public, amongst whom they quickly amassed a devoted following.

I first saw them live in the mid-80s, completely by accident. They had been invited by Marillion to fill the support slot on their UK tour, largely because Marillion’s vocalist, Fish, was a huge fan. I had absolutely no idea who they were, but was immediately delighted with their performance. Sadly, the majority of the Marillion crowd did not agree: Cardiacs were booed, heckled and more than a few objects were thrown at the stage. It was most unedifying. They soldiered on, but I suspect they shortened their set. Nevertheless, I thought they were magnificent, the best thing I’d seen in years, and I quickly became a huge fan.

Their 1996 album, Sing to God, is probably their finest hour, but All That Glitters Is A Mare’s Nest is probably the best way into their bizarre universe.

Sadly, the career of Cardiacs was halted in 2008 when their primary songwriter, Tim Smith, was hospitalized (with cruel irony) by a serious cardiac arrest. He survived, but was left with severe neurological problems. This caused the band to go on hiatus and his subsequent death in 2020 pretty much called an end to the band’s activities. Nevertheless, they leave behind a magnificent body of (largely under-appreciated) work, and the track below is probably the closest they ever came to mainstream success.

And that’s quite enough of my self indulgence. It seems quite clear that I have short changed you all this evening. There is frankly little to no flamboyance contained within the musical material above – and this will not do. Therefore, to balance our chakras and ease our passage (into the weekend), we shall wrap thing up for this evening with a band who – whilst most certainly not one of my favourites – are ideal Friday evening fodder and would, I strongly suspect, be absolutely perfect for the much maligned Eurovision festival of camp and flamboyance we all enjoyed so much just last week. They also surprised me when they performed at a shindig at which I was working by being a damn fine live outfit. The band in question are The Scissor Sisters and the latter part of this video is um… very Friday. Enjoy.

Anyway, that’s yer lot for this week’s Fabulously Flamboyant Friday. May your pillows be tasty, your gardens inclined and your puddles well jumped.

Goodnight, and may your frog go with you – Not ‘arf!

Featured Image: http://www.cgpgrey.com, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

© Ivory Cutlery 2024