FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: ULLO JOHN! GOTTA NEW MOTOR?
This week I ‘are been mostly contemplating the creeping commerciality of music festivals. Actually, that’s not strictly true, any of it, but after three hours of staring at a white blank page, I needed something to get this column into gear. While taking a week or so’s break, I did spot that online used car merchants, cinch – trendy lower case for you – was now presenting both this weekend’s Isle of Wight Festival and next month’s Latitude among a clutch (ouch) of other UK music festivals.
Start-ups, eh. You've never heard of them and then they suddenly seem to be omnipresent whenever you're catching up on All4. Next thing they are underwriting music festivals via a bottomless marketing budget irrespective of whether they are yet to turn in a profit. What happened to the spirit of ‘69? At least Glastonbury hasn't succumbed to the likes of Contrast the Monkey and you’re only ever likely to run into someone dressed as a turd to promote Water Aid. The link between motoring and music festivals may be a wee bit tenuous but at least it gives me the opportunity to sneak in this 1984 classic from actor and comedian, Alexei Sayle.
Now on to a more current vehicle. I first came across epic Guildford four-piece, The Lunar Keys, in early 2020 when it was one of three acts I chose to progress to the second stage of the annual Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition. Since then, the band has nurtured a growing repertoire through carefully placed single releases and showcase gigs. Theirs is increasingly a stadium-ready sound, brimful of energy and dynamics, that works equally well in a more intimate space. The band’s ability to balance melody with a harder edge is seen to great effect with its latest release, “Oxygen Type”.
Driving rock guitar, bass, keyboard and drums working with the unity of seasoned pros propel “Oxygen Type” from the opening bars while confident, punchy harmonies add a subtler note without losing any of the intrinsic energy of the song. It’s a sugar rush of living life to the full tempered by the need to catch your breath to experience the highs. A slightly mad guitar solo is thrown in towards the end yet fits the brief perfectly. Let’s hope for plenty more oxygen around this release; The Lunar Keys are kindly supporting an appropriately named youth charity, Oxygen, local to me in Kingston, via a donation of £1 for each of the first 250 reviews and radio plays.
From sugar rush to ‘pagan euphoria - cinematic melodrama’ as it enigmatically states at the top of the Twitter page of our next artiste. Lake District-based musician and songstress Celestial North beguiled us with her intoxicating blend of folk and electronica in May with her single, “When The Gods Dance”. Her debut album is to follow in September but in the interim Celestial has shared another delicious morsel of her uncanny art in the shape of an intuitive and gently spun piece, “The Nature Of Light”.
The song takes its inspiration from her studies as a Herbalist and by the concept of light of nature, a kind of innate knowledge you can access through a close relationship with the natural world. The song builds in a circular fashion through a blend of hypnotic vocal toplines, crisp beats and pulsing dream pop keys. Lyric lines are repeated to create soft mantras and underline the notion of a kind of guide within: ‘The torch you bear will be your greatest guide / And if it takes you far from here your beauty survives.’ “The Nature Of Light” features Celestial’s young daughter, Iris Bluebell, and was written “to inspire her children to walk into an unknown future with courage and love in their hearts.”
We close today with a poignant note. While I was away, I was particularly saddened to learn of the death of Julee Cruise, the US singer-songwriter and actress who was particularly known through her work with film director David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. I remember buying her 1989 debut album, Floating into the Night, on the strength of her very first appearance on the Twin Peaks set at The Roadhouse, as it was then known.
Hers was an untimely death at just 65. She suffered from the debilitating disease lupus and her husband later revealed that she took her own life after battling “lupus, depression and alcohol and drug addiction”. She leaves us with a touching legacy of purity in song and some special cinematic moments. Here are two songs I count as personal favourites among her work. The first, "Rockin' Back Inside My Heart", is an excerpt from Industrial Symphony #1 by David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti, staged & performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1989.
Arguably her best-known song was her vocal version of the theme song to Twin Peaks, “Falling,” with lyrics by David Lynch. Here she is performing the song on the Swedish TV show Dabrowski in December 1990. Rest in peace, dear Julee.