TC&I – Naked Flames: Live At Swindon Arts Centre

Life is capable of dealing out a surprise or two. One of the biggest musical surprises came in 2017 when ex-XTC drummer Terry Chambers returned from Australia and it subsequently announced he’d been writing and recording new material with his old bandmate Colin Moulding. The likelihood of any XTC members recording together had seemed about as likely as Roger Manning, Jr reforming Jellyfish, but it had quickly become a reality. Fans were, understandably, ecstatic. The resultant EP was good rather than great, but the fact that Moulding had seemingly returned to something resembling full time recording was good news enough.

TC&I then unleashed bigger news when they told the world they’d be playing a handful of live shows to support the release at Swindon Arts Centre. There was more at stake here than just a few new songs, of course; XTC had abruptly stopped touring in 1982 and Colin had a legacy of great material that had never been played in front of an audience. It was time to right that wrong.

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PLAGUE OF CARCOSA – Ocean Is More Ancient Than The Mountains EP

Having previously released material mastered by Dennis Pleckham of Bongripper and taken musical cues from Sunn O))), Chicago’s Plague of Carcosa are no strangers to a heavy riff. Their 2018 release ‘Rats In The Walls’ required no more than just one track to make its point, but since that number was often delivered at a crawling speed and dragged out to almost fifteen minutes, the effect was like experiencing a full four song EP from most doom/sludge bands.

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BILLY SHERWOOD – Citizen: In The Next Life

Billy Sherwood’s 2015 album ‘Citizen’ looked at the world through the eyes of various historical characters, both real and fictional. He drafted in a few friends to make his vision a reality: Yes men Jon Davison and Geoff Downes lent their vocal and keyboard skills; other keyboards were added by sometime Yes members Rick Wakeman and Patrick Moraz, John Wesley, Steves Hackett and Morse each brought their distinctly different guitar chops to the recording sessions but, perhaps best of all, Colin Moulding (one time of XTC) came out of retirement for a guest vocal appearance. In many ways, ‘Citizen’ felt like an all star epic.

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GRAHAM BONNET BAND – Live In Tokyo 2017

In 2016, The Graham Bonnet Band released ‘The Book’, a brilliant release that managed to look forwards and backwards simultaneously. Its first disc presented a selection of brand new hard rock numbers – many of which represented Bonnet’s best work for a long time – and the second celebrated his past by offering re-recordings of songs originally released by Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group, Alcatrazz and more. The record didn’t especially care for being fashionable, but it was a timely reminder – at least for some – that Bonnet could still deliver the goods when backed by the right musicians.

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GIANT DWARF – Giant Dwarf

Every once in a while, a band comes along that sounds almost exactly like their logo and album artwork. This is one of those times. With a sound that falls somewhere between heavy psych and stoner rock, Perth’s Giant Dwarf deliver a world of fantastic riffs on this debut album. These guys have so obviously realised that it can be more effective to take influence from others and do that well, as opposed to presenting an odd mish-mash of more original sounds but end up with a record that’s going to be perhaps quite marginal. It’s resulted in a release that’s full of belters that fall somewhere between classic ‘Dopes’ era Monster Magnet and the more focused Queens of The Stone Age – pretty much guaranteed to please most listeners who loved stoner and space rock in the late 90s…and still find themselves craving some deep fuzz.

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