JLR Album Review – Pussycat by Juliana Hatfield




2017 is turning out to be an interesting year for new music.  I feature the latest releases to arrive at Jazz London Radio on a weekly basis and some quality stuff has been coming through so far.

An album I received with great anticipation was the new release by singer songwriter & guitarist Juliana Hatfield called Pussycat on the wonderfully named American Laundromat record label.  This is Juliana’s second release on American Laundromat after “Whatever, My Love” by the Juliana Hatfield Three was released in 2015.

My first impression when the CD hits the deck is how live it is. From the first track “I Wanna Be Your Disease”, the record has a first take feel to it, which is a good thing because it means these tunes can easily be interpreted in a live performance.  This is the classic Juliana sound, her voice is in great shape, I would say slightly an octave lower from the early 1990s when I discovered her music; but with that lively bounce we’ve come to expect and love.

pussycat

The early 1990s was a great time for music.  There were two strands to the indie scene, over in England (Britain) we had groups like Blur, Oasis, Lightning Seeds, Cranberries coming through, and lesser known but interesting bands like Blueboy, Stereolab, Elastica and Inspiral Carpets.  Whilst in America they were ahead of the curve, Jane’s Addiction was already making waves by the late 1980s, followed quickly by Nirvana and R.E.M.

However, the indie scene was a varied one, which included bands like Don Caballero and Tortoise who made instrumental music which progressive jazz people could get into.  What made the indie scene was that whatever the style of music, it was raw and could be easily reproduced on stage; and melody was often paramount. That might sound contradictory to the term “raw” but go back and listen again and it becomes clear how much melodies were going on.

Juliana was instrumental in that scene; being part of The Lemonheads and Blake Babies; releasing her debut “Hey Babe” in 1992 then forming the Juliana Hatfield Three in 1993 releasing “Become What You Are” on Atlantic Records. Since then Juliana has released an incredible array of music both electric and acoustic but always with melody and great riffs at the heart of it. “Pussycat” definitely follows the trend of not only well produced tuneful rock, but with hard hitting subjects which Juliana is so good at writing; Juliana is not afraid to tackle issues or put the boot in if she feels it’s necessary! I have read that Pussycat is an angry album, even her “angriest ever”. I see it as a mix of social commentary on the state of the American political scene and some angst, something that has been disappearing from music in recent times in the mad scramble to sound conformist and make as much money as possible.

In the 1980s bands like Big Audio Dynamite turned social commentary into an art form, tackling complex issues with wit and humour, in the manner of the old great calypsonians from Trinidad. On the track Impossible Song Juliana asks “Why Can’t We Get Along?” That doesn’t sound angry to me, more of a plea for getting together and showing some unity in the world, acknowledging differences and overcoming them, being more tolerant of each other.

But for sure, it is a hard hitting record; “Short Fingered Man” a damming verdict on “vulgarians” who have come to prominence and power in recent times. “Everything is Forgiven” is perhaps the most hard hitting track, whilst Good Enough For Me and Kellyanne is classic Juliana, punchy lyrics and great guitar riffs.

One thing that always amazes me is Juliana’s gift for writing pretty dark lyrics with a verve and melody which is almost ironic in itself, Patti Smith and Suzanne Vega are two other prominent female icons who manage to pull off the same trick, Nina Simone was a great artist who brought intensity during the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

There might not be as big an alternative or indie scene as there once was but there is still some great music and artists out there making something creative and of value for people who want to check that out.  “Pussycat” is definitely an album of calibre; independent of mind and thought, outside the mainstream but radio friendly.

Check out my chat with Juliana about her latest release.

By Laurie Burnette

JLR Interview – Juliana Hatfield




Jazz London Radio had the privilege to interview Juliana Hatfield, one of the greats of the alternative music scene in the last 25 years to discuss her new album Pussycat.  You can hear our chat with Juliana at these times:

Monday 19th June: 1pm

photo by David Dubinin
photo by David Doobinin

Tuesday 20th June: 1am

Thursday 22nd June: 1pm

Friday 23rd June: 1am

 

 

 

JLR Review – Sam Rapley at Omnibus Theartre in Clapham May 2017

The Omnibus Theatre in Clapham is acquiring some pedigree when it comes to introducing upcoming talent to the British public.

I saw an example of that two weeks ago when I went to interview saxophonist Sam Rapley at the Omnibus, just before Sam was due to perform with his band called Fabled upstairs in the Music Room. The “Music Room” is very bright with natural light and large sash windows; gigs I have seen previously were held in The Common Room which has more seating and a bar as well.

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Before the gig I spoke to Music Director Sue Dorey who mentioned that by introducing young talented musicians, Omnibus can build long term relationships with artists who want to return on a regular basis and enjoy the good reception they receive from the audience; plus the opportunity to play in a nice venue. Sam performed compositions from his 2015 EP also called Fabled plus compositions from his upcoming release entitled Short Stories, which is due for release later in in 2017. It is always interesting to have a chat beforehand and then see the musicians perform; I would say Sam has a slightly different vision to his contemporaries on the jazz scene. Sam has some interesting influences ranging from Sarah Vaughan to Antonio Carlos Jobim to Debussy.

Sam is interested in composing in a different way from the more conventional jazz and straight ahead style, his compositions are more geared up to tell stories as the titles of his releases suggest. In fact, Sam has already written music for short films and I suspect will be writing more film scores over the next ten to twenty years. The conventional formula to straight ahead jazz is to have an introduction, whereupon each musician takes a solo, then the end of the piece which is usually similar to the introduction. In Sam’s case, even though the band comprised of a conventional quintet of saxophone, piano, guitar, bass and drums, the music bore more of a feel of orchestration with elements of classical and folk to go with the jazz. The phrase that would come to mind is chamber jazz, which reminds of some of the great records produced on the ECM label over the last 40 years, following in the footsteps of artists like John Surman, Miroslav Vitous and Rainer Bruninghaus.

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In some ways this is refreshing because in recent times many younger artists have followed the Esbjörn Svensson trio (EST) route. The tunes performed at the gig involved many changes, like a mini movie with not much soloing going on in the traditional sense; this was more about the collective. Of course, with instrumental music, finding titles can always be a challenge; one track performed was called Yellowcard, composed on the spot whilst watching the football world cup final! The audience had a great time absorbing what was going on in front of them, and pretty much justifies Sue Dorey’s policy of giving the future stars a platform. Long may that continue.

You can listen to our chat before the gig here:

Fabled are:
Sam Rapley: saxophones
Matt Robinson: piano
Alex Munk: guitar
Connor Chaplin: bass
Will Glaser: drums

JLR Interview – Fabian Almazan




Laurie Burnette interviewed pianist Fabian Almazan, who was on a whistle stop tour in Poland with trumpeter Terence Blanchard. You can hear the interview about that and his new CD at these times:

Thursday 1st June: 1pm                                 fabian-almazan

Friday 2nd June: 1am

Saturday 3rd June: 1pm