I was reminded of a day-job meeting that I had at the back-end of 2019. Whilst drinking copious amounts of coffee, three of us, face to face, began to put the world to rights. We looked forward to the new decade that was around the corner with optimistic zeal. The roaring twenties were going to be the years that we got our houses in order; environmental change was coming and we’d all be getting fitter as we found new social and spiritual priorities. Oh, the benefit of hindsight. The decade has not started as any of us would have imagined.
In his debut single, 2020 Vision, Simon Glancy, also known as Polythene, appears to be in the same place. We find Polythene in the opening gambits of the song broadly optimistic as he welcomes in the new decade. But as the song progresses so does the year; the initial positivity begins to crumble as the reality sets in.
“Sitting in a car, eating Haribo“, sings Polythene deliberately mimicking The 1975 and their much harder “Fucking in a car, shooting heroin” line from ‘Love It If We Made It’. For many of us, the height of excitement in 2020 was to sit in our vehicles eating sweets. Wild!
Musically, the stall of Polythene is clearly set out. This is a song that’s inspired and informed by the very best indie-pop music from the late 1990’s. These were the days when Mark and Lard would pluck a new guitar-wielding band and song out from obscurity and champion them on their mainstream radio breakfast show. 2020 Vision is the type of tune they’d likely be all over if the world of radio hadn’t moved on to grimier pursuits.
An album by Polythene has been recorded. I look forward to hearing that in future months. But for now, let’s all party with a song for the year that wasn’t.
Dani credits me with saving his life. I didn’t but the 24 hours we spent in each other’s company at the Benicassim music festival a few years ago is a story that should be made into a film. From our initial random meeting in the lift of the hotel to the mad morning rush in a taxi to take an ill Dani to the local casualty department, it’s a tale that (with a bit of embellishment for the big screen) has it all. There’s too much involved in it to tell the story now. Dani is from Brazil and, as far as I know, is living there now. He was, at least, when we exchanged messages about the madness of Bolsinaro last year. Lots has gone on in Brazil since then.
The soundtrack to the film would have to feature some Bossa Nova. The offshoot of Samba that emerged as a ‘new wave’ of music in the 1950’s and 1960’s still bears influence in Brazil today – and who better than the Bossa Bandits to bring us some of those tunes? They specialise in Bossa Nova with a British twist; the tropical rhythms merge with bittersweet lyrics for a perfect blending of styles and influence.
Clive B Bossa, the main force behind the Bossa Bandits, takes up the tale from here:-
“I was on a surf trip to the northern beaches of Brazil in 2012 when I fell in love with the sound of Bossa Nova. As a guitarist and percussionist, I was completely hooked and found myself returning to the beaches of Jericoacoara in Ceara state as often as possible so that I could play with the incredible musicians that are attracted to this spot. By 2015, I was regularly getting asked to play in some of the clubs and bars during my trips. Back in London, I started to write and perform some of my own original Brazilian inspired material and the Bossa Bandits were born.”
The Bossa Bandits have been as productive as possible during the last year. With live shows off the table, they’ve set about recording some of their gems. ‘One by One’ is the most recent release and I’m told that more are on the way as momentum builds for the forthcoming album, ‘All True Stories’. One by One neatly captures the ‘clash’ of styles; a song all about having the strength to trust your instincts, the dark(ish) lyric merges with the happy beat for an intoxicating whole.
I’ll send Dani a message later to check that he’s doing ok. He’s a strong street fighter and I have no doubt that he’ll be surviving. As Covid-19 continues to rage in Brazil, it feels like the right time to send some brotherly love.
Despite its very obvious natural beauty, I’m not much of a fan of living in England. I’ve posted before that the small-minded ‘islander’ mentality of at least 52% of the population disgusts me and I’d rather be elsewhere. In many ways, Covid-19 has been a dream for the politicians and policy makers who survive on a diet of anti-immigration rhetoric. Because now ‘we’ can close our borders to refugees, asylum seekers and people who can help to strengthen ‘our’ cultural identity by bringing new creative ideas. This is England and I’d rather be back in Spain.
The fabulous Ali Bla Bla tells me that he has found temporary respite in Kyiv, Ukraine with his wife and new born baby. He left England last summer and will be coming back in the next few months. “Life has been different here than in the UK, a lot more free.“, says Ali. “Being away has allowed me to have a fresh perspective on whats important in life, as well as time to create. We are coming back in the summer and i’m excited to start rock n rolling a bit more again, even if its with a mask on!”
I could ramble on and on about the glorious week that I spent in Kyiv back in 2017. It really is an impressive city and I’d love to get back to see more. But I won’t. It’s not really the point of this post.
The travel and perspective gained from being abroad seems to have invigorated and freshly inspired Ali. Not that he needs much new inspiration based upon the evidence from recent release, ‘Island’. Here, we find Ali rapping over a punkish backing. He tells all about his experience growing up as an immigrant in England. It’s a vital and vibrant listen; urgent, informative and politically astute.
At the song’s core, Ali is still crying about the state of affairs. This is a man who has recognised that “home aint were the heart is, so I’m trying to find the part where i care“. I get that. I’m sure all of us who struggle with the ‘island’ mentality do. It’s a point that Ali touches upon when we exchange E-mails.
“I believe we are all victims of mental oppression in many different ways, and all of us have to find ourselves through the confusion.”, he wisely says.
I hope you all had great bank holiday weekends and the week ahead holds unforeseen pleasure.
There’s something happening in the mean streets of Bury St. Edmunds. Well, that mightn’t be true but there’s definitely something in the Suffolk water. The very cool Mosiah Levi is advancing towards the summer release of his 6 track EP, ‘Headspace’, by teasing us with some fine, laid-back, nu-soul releases. Opening single, Angel, came out at the beginning of March but feels like an ideal fit for Sonic Breakfast to feature on a languid, Bank Holiday Monday.
Yep, we can all partake in the chill pill that Mosiah has produced. The video, simple and yet effective, features Mosiah and a mate at the side of a country road watching the sunset whilst drinking rooibos tea. Their chat is punctuated by the occasional passing of traffic. Drivers of the vehicles must have had a bit of a ‘WTF’ moment if they’d looked to the grass verge where the impromptu picnic was set in stall. Mosiah and his mate seem oblivious though, deep in conversation.
Maybe they’re taking about good and bad, angels and devils, right and wrong. That’s certainly the overarching theme of ‘Angel’. Mosiah’s deep, soulful voice is apparently racked with guilt in this ballad for getting a relationship all wrong, the error illuminated and amplified by the pure clarity of a gospel choir repeating selected segments of his words. The emotional turmoil boils just under the surface until the concluding guitar solo (from Mosiah’s Dad no less) lets it all out.
As well as building up to the release of ‘Headspace’, Mosiah’s been putting out some covers onto his YouTube channel. The most recent one, a cover of Abba’s ‘Take A Chance On Me’, removes the pop bounce from the original. This is not a copycat version of the original and helps to give us all a different take on a fine song. It’s exactly what cover versions should be about.
“If you have any cover suggestions I’ll see if I can get him to do it (he’s on a country streak atm lol),”, says Mosiah’s PR person by E-mail. I’ll kick of those suggestions with ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ by Hank Williams. That’d be a dark and dirty winner waiting to happen.
Compelled as I am to write about the up and coming and new, I’m conscious that sometimes those who’ve been around the block a few times might get less of a look-in. And this is a shame when there are bands such as Osibisa who’ve been in existence, on and off, for more than fifty years. Yes, their membership has morphed and their success has gone through peaks and troughs but, with a new album, New Dawn, out and creating waves in the last week, it feels like an opportune time to publish a piece about the iconic Ghanaian Afro/rock band.
You might think you don’t know of Osibisa but I’d hazard a guess that you’ll be aware of their hits. Sunshine Day, a top twenty hit in the UK from the 1970’s, still glistens with sparkling warmth. I defy anybody not to break out in a broad smile whilst wiggling their toes if they hear a blast of this summer soundtrack coming through their stereo. It’s music that gives you a cuddle and we all need that right now, right?
The new material is crafted from the same block. The founding father of Osibisa, Teddy Osei, now steers the ship as a hands-on director but his health doesn’t allow him to perform live with the band. Younger guns, still with many years of Osibisa experience under their belts, have pulled the new album together. Written predominantly by Robert Bailey (an original member of Osibisa) and Gregg Kofi Brown (who has 4 decades of involvement), this isn’t a set of upstarts upsetting the apple cart. The vintage shines through on ‘New Dawn’ and the criss-cross rhythms still explode with happiness.
The lead single from ‘New Dawn’, ‘Douala’, is a celebration of life, a jab of joy in these tough times. It’s a tribute to Manu Dibango, the legendary musician from Cameroon, who passed away after a battle with Covid last year. (I feel another blog post coming on). But it’s also inspired by ex Osibisa bassist, Jean Dikoto Mandengue. Douala was Jean’s home town. “His vibrant humour and personality resonated strongly“, say the band.
I’m told that live shows and big news is on the way. “Lawyers have given me a gagging order for now“, say the PR company when I enquire. I’ll go out of my way to see Osibisa in a festival field this summer. My dancing will be off-the-scale and my smile broad and beaming. You don’t realise how much something is missed until it’s gone (temporarily).