FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: AND THEN THERE WERE SIX
Isn’t it ironic, Alanis? The new limit of six people able to meet socially – at least in England; don’t get me started on Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or whether it includes pet ferrets – was announced at the same time the UK government was seeking to table the half-baked and spurious Internal Market Bill. It’s a case of you lot, do this or you’ll get fined while we go off and break international law. Meanwhile, Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun writes “Brussels has gone bonkers, even threatening to cut off our food supplies” as if it was an acknowledged fact. Before I succumb to hopping madness over this non-existent threat being presented in print as truth, let’s rewind to the simplicity of six.
Somewhat appropriately for a nation losing its heads in various degrees as a beleaguered administration introduces a “rule of six” law, the innovative and inspiringly funny stage show Six, in which Henry VIII’s late wives are reimagined as a brilliant girl band, will now be the first musical to reopen in the West End since lockdown. The London show kicks off in socially distanced fashion at the Lyric Theatre for an eleven-week run from 14 November with the Lowry, Salford hosting a different six-week staging from 27 November. If you’ve not caught Six live yet, book now; you can get the flavour from this trailer.
While Six could be your best antidote to all kinds of stuff right now, the ever broad stream of fine new music continues to flow, some taking cues from lockdown scenarios and some from just plain isolation. The Bristol-based artiste, Fenne Lily, releases her second album, BREACH, today, the follow-up to her 2018 self-release titled On Hold. Interestingly, while the new record was wholly conceived pre-lockdown, it is itself born out of self-isolation, written when she was alone in Berlin for a month after a fragmented experience of touring Europe. The album deals largely with the artiste’s inner life, about "feeling lonely and trying to work out the difference between being alone and being lonely"; a subtle yet telling distinction.
Lead single “Alapathy”, with its title blending allopathic remedies with apathy, embraces a mood of overthinking and anxiety; its urgent, unrelenting beat creating a feeling of neurosis and panic. "Western medicine generally treats the symptoms of an illness rather than the cause" Fenne Lily explained. For her, taking medication to adjust mental health didn’t solve her problems because she felt like she was only treating the effects of her discomfort, rather than the reasons behind it. For all that, BREACH can also look outwards. There’s disdain as well as compassion and it includes a song with one of the best titles I’ve heard in a while: “I Used to Hate My Body but now I Just Hate You”. It’s an ultimate put-down with some killer lines to boot.
We featured London act, The Pylons, back in June when its anthemic single “Leaving” first aired. The band is back with a tart little number called “Grumble” - “I grumble therefore I am”, according to frontman, Crosby Stewart. Charting the volatile nature of life and voicing the discontent of the underdog, “Grumble” was written and produced in the band’s home studio. The Pylons declare inspiration for the song from the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club, Tame Impala and Everything, Everything; elevated company that this band has every chance of joining as it continues to impress with its early offerings.
As with its previous single, “Leaving”, “Grumble” benefits from a great little accompanying video, complying with a Rule of 5 plus scary dog, if not socially distanced at all times. Layered drums, driven guitars and burst of trumpets propel the song forward while there’s an insistent chorus to latch onto. I look forward to the live tour once there’s a new rule of a few hundred to adhere to.
After a well-earned summer break, the return of the Listening Post on Fresh On The Net last week was welcome news for new music enthusiasts. It’s an open, democratic platform giving acts the opportunity to upload a song, ready to be aired to the listening public. True devotees can access the resulting weekly playlist on SoundCloud of up to 200 songs while a team of FOTN moderators choose 25 of them to make up this week’s Listening Post. Anyone can then pick their favourite five songs from this shortlist via an online voting form. The most popular choices finally appear in a feature and on a playlist titled Fresh Faves.
This week I was delighted that three of my personal picks made it through to Fresh Faves: “Midnight Bus” by Annie Dressner, who will already be familiar to regular readers (if I have any) plus two new names to me, Georgia & The Vintage Youth’s “Overthinker” and Victoria Jane Kearney’s “Family Tree”. You can read about them and listen to them here. There are two others to whom I’d also like to give a shout out.
Berry Brown is a young singer-songwriter who cut her musical teeth fronting Oxford indie band, The Big Sun, and who now seems to be working solo, aided and abetted though by the good folk of Balloon Twister Records. Billed as Berry & Balloon Twister, she has introduced “Still” ahead of an EP release on 3 October. “Still” is a glorious summer mash-up of strings sounding like a steel band, skittish percussion and honey-sweet vocals carrying a wonderfully pretty melody.
I was equally captivated by Julius Way and the chiming beauty of “One”, the opening song from the album, Husk, released at the end of August. The album is the product of two year’s work from singer-guitarist, Matthew Adams, who is joined by the bell-like tones of Esmeralda Vere on this stunning track. You can buy the full album on Bandcamp now for just £4 or more. I would gladly choose ‘more’.