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Tag: frank flight

Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats – The Ultimate 2015 Halloween Soundtrack?

The opening track of Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats’ latest album The Night Creeper- streaming at Spotify – is Waiting for Blood. What makes this band so macabre? The slow, creeping tempos? The burning, distorted minor-key guitar progressions? What might set this group apart from all the post-Sleep, third-generation Sabbath-influenced stoner metal acts is the vocal harmonies. And when lead guitarist Kevin Starrs finally sends his hammer-ons spinning through the channels, right to left and back in a second, that’s just the icing on the cake. Track two, Murder Nights, opens with a noxious swirl of distorted roto organ and three-part vocal harmonies that evoke the Move circa 1970 as much as they put Sabbath to shame: “People creep like poison in the mind.”

Downtown takes a lurid ba-bump stripper riff and makes stalker metal out of it: the Wytches come to mind. Pusher Man springboards off of Iron Maiden off their most scorching, wide-angle minor-key mid-80s intensity and strips it down for a searing, unrelenting sway that’s impossible to turn away from, Starrs adding one of the many tantalizingly brief acid-metal guitar solos that permeate this album. He’s the rare lead guitarist you want to hear more of.

Yellow Moon makes for an unexpected respite from the horror with its slowly unwinding early King Crimson-style psychedelia…until the reverb guitars of Starrs and Yotam Rubinger build to a terrified starscape and then fade out. Starrs gets the twisted Melody Lane going with his macabre organ over the stomp of bassist Vaughn Stokes and drummer Itamar Rubinger, a twisted tale of desire whose object “pulls a knife when she loves in the dark” and leaves a “bloody remark.”

The album’s swaying, menacingly crescendoing title track is the most retro – if you can imagine a collaboration between the late Carl Wayne and Tony Iommi. But then it picks up with an even more enveloping Iron Maiden sweep peaking with a searing rise to the rafters.

Stokes’ growling, pouncing, propulsive bass propels Inside, a mashup of Arthur Lee, the Kinks and maybe ELO at their most disturbing. The album’s most original track is Slow Death, which opens as a Move-like anthem but slowly builds to a volcanic, lingering peak that cruelly fades out. The album winds out with the unexpetedly subdued Black Motorcade, a Doors-influenced dirge that wouldn’t be out of place in the Frank Flight Band catatog. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats’ current European tour continues with a gig at the University of Stuttgart on October 24.

Intense, Haunting Frank Flight Band Recordings Rescued from the Archives

For their consistently dark post-Doors vision, brilliant guitar work, epic songcraft and wry humor, it’s tempting to call the Frank Flight Band the British Blue Oyster Cult. Except that the Frank Flight Band’s output has been much more consistent and genuinely brilliant. That’s not meant as a dis to BOC, although that band’s studio output since Fire of Unknown Origin – which was a long, long, long time ago – has basically been a wash. Over the past two decades, the Frank Flight Band’s output has been much less prolific – just four albums – but with the persistent hint that vastly more material is hidden away in a vault somewhere. That myth gets some validation on the band’s latest release, The Usual Curse, streaming in full at cdbaby.

There’s been some turnover in the band across the years. Although former frontman Andy Wrigley’s distinctive rasp is missed, Maurice Watson’s croon is one of the album’s strengths; he’s sort of the missing link between Bryan Ferry and Mark Sinnis. Flight is the rare bandleader who typically limits himself to rhythm guitar and songwriting, while lead player Dave Thornley gets to flex his chops. There isn’t a lot of lead playing here, but it’s choice. Flight draws on influences as diverse as David Gilmour, Robbie Krieger and classic C&W, and Thornley’s terse, spacious, jangly, chiming style is a good fit. For whatever reason, this is the first Flight album where he doesn’t contribute lyrically.

The opening cut, Empty has a doomed sway, Flight’s elegant multitracks and Thornley’s hauntingly bluesy solo over studio drummer Terry Shaughnessy’s shuffle groove. “It won’t be only bricks that fall on the grass that lovers bear…death is in the opening sighs of every interaction,” Watson intones.

The title track begins as a real departure for this band, Watson’s angry, death-obsessed lyrics over Thornley’s web of Beatlesque folk-pop guitar; then it goes electric with an unexpected Booker T-inflected soul groove. Thornley and Flight share writing credits on The Last Train West, a dusky, jangly kiss-off anthem akin to the Doors doing highway rock.

Thornley sings his sardonic, jazz-inflected mid-period Pink Floyd-influenced ballad, Ballet Dancer. Watson returns to the mic for the album’s riveting, anguished, Middle Eastern-tinged, closing clave groove, Unrequited, one of Flight’s half-dozen best compositions. While most of the tracks here date from almost ten years ago, there are also two new tunes. As Flight explains in the album’s liner notes, “In typical FFB cyclical fashion this is the first time all four original members have recorded together since the proto basement tape ‘Leyland Road’ sessions of the mid 1990’s.” The first of the new tunes, the epic Home from the Sea mashes up southern boogie, north Atlantic folk and pensive late 60s Laurel Canyon psychedelia. The second, the surf/spacerock instrumental As Far As The Eye Can See is a dead ringer for the Church circa the early 90s. While the Frank Flight Band’s definitive recording is their 2013 masterpiece Remains, this collection further cements their reputation as psychedelic cult heroes. And raises the intrigue: what else do they have in the can that we haven’t heard?

Revisiting the Frank Flight Band’s Darkly Brilliant Psychedelia

This is not a place to look for old music: the focus here is typically on the here and now. Even so, the rock n roll highway is littered with the skeleton frames of burnt-out bands that deserve to be remembered far better than they are. The Frank Flight Band, from Southport in the UK, are still going strong – and they’re one of the world’s most underrated psychedelic bands, sort of a British counterpart to Blue Oyster Cult. That they’ve released the grand total of three albums in over fifteen years might have something to do with their cult status. However, they’re far from unknown: they’ve spent time on the road, including a tour with Wishbone Ash. Their 2013 album Remains (streaming at Soundcloud) was one of the most darkly exhilarating releases in any style of music last year and is so far the high point of their career. But their previous two albums – Outrunning the Sun and The Sun Will Shine on You – are also worth owning. Fans in Southport can catch the band on February 21 at 9 PM at Victoria Pub, 42-43 Stanley Terrace Promenade.

Flight, with his relentlessly bleak, surreal vision and immersion in decades of psychedelic rock, is the main songwriter and rhythm guitarist but not the frontman. That role is held by Andy Wrigley, whose ageless, weatherbeaten voice is an apt vehicle for Flight’s brooding, often doomed tunesemithing, which like Blue Oyster Cult owes a significant debt to the Doors. Bassist Danny Taylor and drummer Dave Veres have been in and out of the band but are currently in, and are on all the recordings, testament to the pair’s lysergic chemistry and skintight groove. That each of the three albums has a different lead guitarist, yet the sound remains the same, testifies to Flight’s persisently uneasy vision. Although current lead player Alex Kenny is the strongest and bluesiest of the bunch, Dave Thornley and Colins Rens also distinguish themselves as purist, tasteful, incisive, blues-infused players. Likewise, while current keyboardist Michael Woodward stands out for his ornate, Richard Wright-class orchestration, Mark Wainwright, who’s on the first two albums, is also a strong, purposeful organist and pianist.

Thornley’s lone contribution, songwise, to The Sun Will Shine on You (released in 2011) is the catchy, distantly flamenco-tinged Hard Liquor and Grass, which Wrigley delivers more earnestly and seriousmindedly than possibly any other song ever written about getting stoned. The rest of the album is even more serious, existentially and musically speaking. Unsurprisingly, it opens with an antiwar anthem, Went the Day Well, a martial shuffle that juxtaposes battlefield horror with smarmy generals sipping wine out of range of the slaughter while “the leaders of each nation just shrug and walk away.” The band follows that with The Drover’s Wife and the Drifter, a dusky, swaying, folk-tinged anthem, sort of Pink Floyd doing Sympathy for the Devil. Thornley’s echoey, multitracked guitar solos are straight out of 1975, an era this band evokes over and over.

Bird of Prey takes a similarly Doorsy groove and adds ornate gothic tinges in the same vein as Ninth House, with a Light My Fire organ quote exactly where it ought to be and a counterintuitive emotional shift as the song goes on (most of this band’s songs are long, often clocking in at over ten minutes). The blue-sky instrumental Make Believe Highway sounds like Bill Frisell with a rock rhythm section – it’s one of the strongest tunes on the album.

Not in Vain mixes blues, country, soul and a little Tex-Mex behind Flight’s bitter returning soldier’s narrative: “The only hero that doesn’t cause offense is the one that comes back dead,” Wrigley intones. The title track, an eleven-minute epic, foreshadows the direction Flight would take on the next album with its Santana-esque sway, surreal spoken-word vocals and wailing Molly Hatchet/Outlaws guitar outro. Samples of birdsong open and close the album, a device the band turns to for an unexpectedly creepy effect.

Outrunning the Sun finds Flight exploring the latin side of rock, Colin Rens handling the lead guitar. This album is considerably longer, twelve tracks interrupted by the occasional, fleeting instrumental. Recorded in 1999, Flight shelved it and then finally released it ten years later – and the world of psychedelia is better for it. The sixteen-minute title epic slowly coalesces into an uneasy Shine on You Crazy Diamond vamp and then slowly picks up like Santana doing the Doors’ LA Woman, with a long acid blues solo from Rens and some genuinely poetic, metaphorically-charged spoken-word vocals by Wrigley and Taylor.

Tourniquet, a bitter kiss-off anthem, vamps along with a richly jangly ominousness up to another long, pensive Rens guitar solo. Beach House begins as a balmy seaside tableau until the rhythm section kicks in and the darkness makes its way in, hitting a long peak with an unselfconsciously gorgeous guitar solo over Veres’ tumbling drums. Season of Promise is sort of an artsier take on Black Magic Woman, growing more and more intoxicatingly lush as the band adds layer after layer of guitar to the mix: Flight’s chords and voicings are vastly more interesting and varied than merely simple strumming, and once again Rens throws in a nonchalantly biting solo, this time on acoustic.

The band follows Flight’s baroque-tinged miniature Preparations for the May Day Ball with the haunting anthem Better Not Shout , the first of two songs influenced by iconic blues guitarist Otis Rush, Rens’ solo on the way out using the same kind of ominously offcenter passing tones that Rush would typically employ when he played it live. Bad Time for the Future is not an apocalyptic anthem, but another angry breakup song, again setting sunbaked guitar leads to a slinky, clanging clave beat.

Crumbling at my Feet is more or less a funky, latin-flavored take on Otis Rush’s All Your Love. Taylor contributes an enigmatic instrumental that evokes U2 at their darkest and most focused, followed by the practically eighteen-minute Evening Star, a towering global warming-era parable that shifts from echoes of surf rock, to latin art-rock and hypnotically enveloping spacerock fueled by Rens’ pulsing dying-quasar leads. The band speeds it up and then pulls back again, Wrigley calmly narrating a sinister scenario:

The hands of darkness lead the hands of fate
To come push your heavy stone across your gate
Here comes a day of solar breeze
This storm will bake the earth and reap the seas
Our world is saying, “It’s final call,
So thanks for nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing at all

Ultimately, we’re all outrunning the sun, and this band knows that. That’s one of the reasons they’re important.

Menacing Psychedelic Epics from the Frank Flight Band

If the Frank Flight Band‘s latest album, Remains, had come out in 1975 instead of earlier this year, it would be regarded as a psychedelic cult classic today. Much of it sounds as if could have been recorded then; they absolutely nail the moment right before metal and art-rock diverged. Ten-minute epics, and one that clocks in at more than twenty! Three-minute acid blues guitar solos with no wasted notes! OMFG! The whole thing is streaming at the band’s Soundcloud page.

This is a concept album with a persistent death fixation, sort of the long-lost, doomed sequel to Procol Harum’s A Salty Dog. Bandleader/guitarist Frank Flight’s tunes shift uneasily from major to minor through spaciously stark interludes that rise to epic proportions. It wouldn’t be farfetched to describe them as a British Blue Oyster Cult. Both bands favor straight-up rhythms, anthemic choruses and a surreal lyrical side that offers a leering embrace to the darkness. Frontman/lyricist Andy Wrigley’s gravelly vocals rise over a rich, lush backdrop of Michael Woodward’s multi-keys, the dual guitars of Flight and lead player Alex Kenny anchored by Danny Taylor’s melodic bass, drummer Dave Veres propelling the beast through the waves with unexpectedly subtle dynamics.

Although the first three songs are credited to Wrigley and Flight, pretty much the whole band contributes to the songwriting,  maintaining the uneasy mood so consistently it’s as if there’s a single voice behind all this. Every track here segues into the next one. The Ballad of Alice Grey opens and sets the stage for everyrthing afterward: first it’s a swaying minor blues, then it’s a surreal, chromatically-fueled Lewis Carroll art-rock epic. Woodward’s massive orchestration swirls symphonically – at one point recalling a swooping woodwind section – finally followed by the first of Kenny’s many snarling, searing yet terse guitar solos, this one with a grisly, vintage Robin Trower-style vibrato.

Dark Waters, an ominously propulsive seafaring narrative, offers a nod to Don’t Fear the  Reaper, then twists your ears as the guitar solos switch channels from left to right, followed by a menacing, Doorsy organ-bass-drums interlude leading up to an absolutely incendiary guitar maelstrom over the band’s titanic sway. The roughly nine-minute title track builds gingerly up and around a lingering guitar vamp straight out of the Nektar playbook, stormy synthesized strings pulsing over a hypnotic groove. There’s anger, and maybe murder here; Wrigley narrates a litany of disquieting imagery at the end as the band reaches back to the shoreline in a whirl of cymbals. By contrast, The Island offers a triumphant view of alienation – the guy in Veres’ lyrics seems perfectly content to watch the birds leave the shore for the sky (symbolism, anybody?).

Razor Glass, by Kenny, begins jangly and swooping before it builds to an ominous, rich Pink Floydian atmosphere. Allusions to Orbison noir, resonant Nektar-ish guitar, rippling piano, cascading synth and organ – not to mention Kenny’s mean, purist soloing – fuel this bitterly elegaic, phantasmagorical barroom scenario. Sinaloa, by Kenny and Veres, tells a gothic flamenco rock tale of death and destruction in a Mexican civil war that ultimately proves futile: it’s their Conquistador.

The final track, by Flight, is Cat, weighing in at mammoth Pink Floyd Echoes proportions. There’s so much going on here that chronicling it all would take an album-length review. In brief: jangly guitar and organ echoing Rhode Island psychedelic legends Plan 9’s Dealing with the Dead; a long, waterfalling organ solo straight out of the Dave Greenfield or Ray Manzarek playbook; more allusions to Nektar and the Doors; ominous, minimalist bass/drum grooves, evil churchbell samples, and finally, finally, a series of increasingly incendiary Kenny solos that go on for the better part of ten minutes but ultimately leave you wishing for more. As far as sheer herculean energy, epic sweep and intensity are concerned, no other band has done anything this year that can match this. There will be a “best albums of 2013” page up at the end of the year here and this one will be on it.