Don’t Panic :: Jimmy’s Stag

Aqua-Jim

“There was a bottle of scotch (a wedding present for Jim) and if I was any less of a man I would have got into it…”

I was inches (or possibly seconds, depending on how you measure it) from a full blown anxiety attack. The kind that makes you feel like you’re going to go over the edge into a state of erratic insanity. Right now I’m on a train to Leeds for Jimmy Islip’s stag gig.

It had started to rain heavily, after a morning of sunshine, I was a cautious (paranoid) little bastard so I’d brought my waterproof coat anyway. Huge explosions of precipitation into the tarmacadam at the side of the tracks. This must be Cambodia for the ants, I thought.

I’d been drinking heavily the past two days this had not granted me the glory of a deep comatose sleep. Insomnia and inebriation were a deadly combination; one that made me sincerely doubt I’d make it through the night. My jaw was as tight as a clamp, my stomach twisted in knots, my heart had elevated to my throat, along with a plethora of other bad vibes that can only be described with the tritest of cliche’s. But I was on my way, so I guess that was something.

I closed my eyes for twenty minutes in an attempt to refuel, even just a little, and find some form of zen to relax this racing mind. When I came back around the sun was back, in full force, it was as if the rain had never existed and this did wonders for my mood.

The whole damn city had become a construction site. This became hard to navigate (especially in the heat of the panic) but, with some perseverance, I managed it. Now I’m sat here (again) with the chess players and emo kids, wondering what the hell I was going to do for the next three and a half hours. There was a bottle of scotch (a wedding present for Jim) and if I was any less of a man I would have got into it (and the thought crossed my mind a lot,) just to pass the mind-numbing tedium of Leeds. I didn’t have enough money to drink as much as I’d need to make it the whole day, so I had to bide my time, what else was there to do in this stink-hole?

I decided to get clear of the immediate center, this turned out to be as shit an idea as arriving four hours early. Five minutes out of Leeds’ main hub and the place becomes a wasteland. The apocalypse had reached Yorkshire before the rest of the U.K., it seemed. Perhaps here was where the fall of society would begin?

It was too much, I debated on entering one of the few derelict looking pubs but in the end vouched for four cans of warm lager, priced at £2.99 (a great deal.)
I sat on the large park near the Brudenell (tonight’s venue) and checked my inventory:

1 x UNDRINKABLE scotch

4 x Starberg (warm) lager

2 x Co-Op premium lager (for the train home)

1 x tin of beans

1 x tin opener

Along with some books, and an abundance of pills, vitamins and relaxants. I had a good enough stock to survive the night and if I could finagle my way into the show on some sort of press trip, I’d have enough for a couple of whiskeys in there.

So here we are, and this is what it has come to.

(I’d like to clarify that this is being written as it happens, without any form of retrospect or hindsight. Like right now, for example, I am taking a shit in a pub called the Eldon (I think) and scrawling in this notebook.) There’s about an hour to kill, sleep deprivation is getting to me. The temperature has dropped significantly but there is still beers to be drunk so I’ll have to keep mobile.

I found salvation on a skate park, it gave me a place to sit while I drank a beer, scrawl some notes, and watch these kids try to break their goddamn necks. Out of what would have been a total sausage fest, a real high school helmet party, one young blonde girl was pushing her mobile piece of wood. She wasn’t too great, and seemed to be using it more as a lazy way to travel the park than an actual hobby, but she was the best damn one to look at so I drank my beer and watched her roll in between the greasy-haired zit freaks.
Keeping at the beer until it was time for the show, I walked around with sun glasses on, I looked an arsehole but the light had become too harsh for me in this state of mind, even though it had begun to set.

MarlJim Brando

I met Jim in the gig and he gave me a pint and I gave him the scotch. There was still an hour until the first band, but at least I was inside now. The soundcheck for Milloy sounded great, the vocalist was no where to be seen but musically, they were spot on and the guy behind the desk was working magic.

Waiting for the gig got tedious, so I went out of the venue, bought a bottle of scotch and snuck back in. I sat there nipping at my drink and was sure that, as long as I didn’t leave again, they wouldn’t charge me.

The music started soon after and even though I was on deaths door I stood at the front and danced with the rest of them, behind the stage a projector had been set up and was beaming pictures of Jim whilst the bands played. This depressed me, I didn’t ever want to be in a situation where my life was being summed up by a selection of images, it began to feel more like a wake than a celebration.

The music was good though, and the negativity soon dissipated allowing me to really let loose and enjoy myself. The clock was counting down though, if I didn’t leave soon I’d miss the train home and be stuck in this godforsaken hell hole for another three hours with no money and no way of getting home when I arrived back in Manchester, and Milloy hadn’t even started their set yet.

I caught a few of their songs, and as hard as the other bands played, they were instantly put to shame after thirty seconds of the headliners opening song. I caught what I think was around five songs (the whiskey was almost gone by this point and so was my memory,) which wasn’t too bad, and the songs played were all favourites of mine. I held out to the last second then grabbed up all my supplies and apparel. Running out of the venue and keeping a steady pace all the way to the station.

I arrived at 23:37 the exact time the train was meant to be departing, but I still had the platforms to navigate so it looked like all hope was lost. I continued regardless and soon saw a large crowd at the final platform, perhaps all hope hadn’t been lost. The train had been delayed five minutes and arrived at the platform soon after I did. A feeling of relief engulfed me and for the first time in this entire day I felt some normality, the anxiety was retreating in the final moments. As I entered the carriage a woman pulled at me. “Your bag is dripping.” She was right, I had felt a moistness around my lower back and I quickly found the source of the leak, expelling the now drained can to the platform.

I was a beer down but it didn’t matter, I was on my way home and making good time. I opened the beer and the tin of beans, ate them straight from the can and relaxed for the remainder of the journey.

Album Review :: The Magnificent – Bad Lucky

“…there’s thousands of punk bands out there proclaiming their town is the shittest, but no one does it quite as well as The Mags”

Let me pose a question: If you were to take the poetic, typically English, story telling of The Clash and combine that with the angst-ridden, raw, pop-punk of  (old) Green Day, what would you get? The answer to that is The Magnificent and, In a nutshell, their latest offering sounds like the bastard child of the aforementioned.

Whilst Bad Lucky does nothing especially groundbreaking, it is a really solid punk record. Opener, ‘1981’ sets the tone right from the off. It shows that the band aren’t afraid of delving into territories unknown. I mean, how often have you heard a song about a royal wedding with such awesome guitar work? The semi-dystopian world view carries on throughout the entire album, setting it apart from anything else. I mean, there’s thousands of punk bands out there proclaiming their town is the shittest, but no one does it quite as well as The Mags.

Of course, not all of these songs are about decaying towns. ‘Working Mens Club (Part 2)’ – a song that might well be my favourite on the record – focuses on the monotony of the ‘nine to five’ and, presumably, the overall hatred of having to work in a job you hate. This track also offers a change of pace not heard elsewhere on the record, introducing a hard, fast, Descendents-esque sound that would’ve been welcome more than just this once.

There’s also some real good sing-along songs on here too. ‘King Of The Denim Jackets’ springs to mind with it’s catchy opening verse and plethora of ‘woah-ing’ and ‘oh-ing’. Though a resounding cheer of “1990” emanating from the crowd at the next Mags show is a safe bet too.

Honestly, there’s very little wrong with Bad Lucky. Alright, there’s a few sketchy lyrics here and there but, more than any record I’ve heard recently, Bad Lucky has a real old school punk swagger about it. A real nostalgia, not all of which is derived from those songs with dates for titles.

Album Of The Year 2011 :: Emma Hallows’ Top 5

The idea that there’s a one true ‘album of the year’ is a pretty misguided one. With that in mind, we’ve tried to offer up a series of recommendations from both the Moon & Back Music staff, and from a few notable names from the world of music.

Today it’s the turn of Emma Hallows: Friend of the site and singer/songwriter from Manchester (stranded in Huddersfield for the foreseeable future).


Barlow asked me to do my top 5 records of 2011, so here they are:

5. The Lonely Isand – Turtleneck And Chain
Throwing a spanner in the works. I laughed so hard.

4. Chuck Ragan – Covering Ground
I think my all time favourie Chuck song might be on this record.

3. Dave Hause – Resoloutions
Beacuse Dave is an all around top bloke.

2. The Horrible Crowes – Elsie
Me and my thoughts about Brian Fallon are like an aging marriage: He doesn’t half piss me off, but i don’t like the idea of dying alone.

1. Great Cynics – Don’t Need Much
I love Giles, Iona and Bob.

I would also like to give an honorable mention to Helen Chambers, Sam Russo, Jimmy Islip and Chuck Ragan, who did the best Split/EP of the year, it totally rocks.

Moon & Back Session :: Jimmy Islip

“People usually lie down when I play” – Jimmy Islip

Jimmy Islip is a stalwart of the UK punk/emo scene. Having previously played in Eighty Six, Jimmy now divides his time between That Fucking Tank, Milloy and The Magnificent, whilst also playing solo acoustic shows every once in a while. Before playing one of the aforementioned acoustic shows, we roped him into playing a few songs for a Moon & Back Session.

As well as playing a brand new song, that we’ve dubbed ‘Untitled’, Jimmy also graced us with an acoustic version of, The Magnificent single, ‘1981’ and a cover of ‘Rumbleseat’s ‘California Burritos’. Jimmy will be embarking on a UK tour alongside Digger Barnes and Moon & Back Music/The Under The Bridge podcast will be bringing that tour to Manchester on January 28th.

For now, enjoy! And, as always, feel free to tell us who you’d like to see in session with us in the comments below.

‘Untitled’

‘1981’

‘California Burritos’ (Rumbleseat Cover)

Moon & Back Session :: Sam Russo

Ladies and gentlemen… Sam Russo!

I have it on good authority that Sam Russo is actually the fucking man! Not only is he a fantastic singer/songwriter, but he’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Sam was in town to play an impromptu show in Manchester, so we decided to get him in front of our cameras to play a few songs. Not only did we get, the excellent, ‘Tinned Peaches & Diamond Rings’ (taken from his split with Helen Chambers, Jimmy Islip and Chuck Ragan), but we were also treated to a bit of an exclusive – a brand new song by the name of ‘Black Coffee & Bingo’.

Remember, we’ll be back next Friday with another Moon & Back Session. Who do we have in store? We’ll be announcing that in the coming days over on our Facebook and Twitter pages, and if there’s anyone you’d like to see in session leave us a comment below. Enjoy!

‘Black Coffee & Bingo’


‘Tinned Peaches & Diamond Rings’

Moon & Back Session :: Helen Chambers

Ladies and gentlemen…Helen Chambers!

If you’ve ever listened to Under The Bridge, you’ll know that we love Helen Chambers. The singer/songwriter from York recently released a split 12″ with Sam Russo, Jimmy Islip and, the one and only, Chuck Ragan. Not only that, but she became a surprise inclusion on more than one Revival Tour date this summer – singing alongside Chuck and, Alkaline Trio singer/bassist, Dan Andriano.

We’ve been trying to get this session done for a while now with little success, but we’re glad to finally have it up on the site for your listening/viewing pleasure. Helen performs ‘Little Demons’ a track from her debut EP and, brand new song, ‘Not Breaking Down’. We hope you enjoy them. We’ll be back next week with another Moon & Back Session!

‘Not Breaking Down’

‘Little Demons’

Podcast :: Under The Bridge #27: “Wheatus & Chips”

“If Brian Fallon tried to mug me, I’d just chin him” – Ian Critchley

There was another ‘Under The Bridge Presents…’ show the other week, so we couldn’t miss such a great opportunity to podcast. All of us p iled back to a house in Manchester and recorded the show. Our guests this week are: Martin Moran, Clare Arnstein, Graeme Brown and Giles Bidder (of Great Cynics). The show is completely off the rails and barely audible. It was fun to do though. Don’t judge us.

Our music this week is inspired by that show, so we have Crywank, Louise Distras, Jimmy Islip and Great Cynics breaking up the show. If there’s any music you’d like us to play or things you think we should discuss on the show, email utbcast [at] gmail [dot] com.

Go on, have a listen!

Under The Bridge #27: “Wheatus & Chips” (stream/download or subscribe on iTunes)

Podcast :: Under The Bridge #26: “What The Fuck Is A Drinky-Poo?”

“Life begins at 7” – Ian Critchley

After a slight leave of absence due to Barlow being in Germany and our inability to record a podcast whilst Crazy Arm do a soundcheck, the Under The Bridge podcast is back. This week we’re joined by Lewis Bolland – someone you may remember from such episodes as: Episode #24 – and we’ve decided to change up the format a bit. After realising that doing a ‘news’ segment can really get boring, and that the show goes off the rails anyway, we’ve cut it in favor of one ‘main topic’ which, again, goes off the rails. Either way, it’s still your bi-weekly dose of obscenity and hilarity.

This week we’re talking about Leeds Festival…for about five minutes, until the topics of transexuals, Lewis’ listening habits and Barlow’s constant namedropping take over the entire podcast. The music this week comes from the, newly available, Chuck Ragan/Sam Russo/Jimmy Islip/Helen Chambers Split LP. You should totally head over to Specialist Subject Records and get one of those. In fact, buy two. That way you’ve got both variants. Also: Lewis and Ian perform a song at the end of the show, as is the case when Lewis is about. Enjoy!

Go on, have a listen: Under The Bridge #26: “What The Fuck Is A Drinky-Poo?” (stream/download or subscribe on iTunes)

Album Review :: Chuck Ragan/Sam Russo/Jimmy Islip/Helen Chambers – Split LP

“…when Chuck Ragan recommends you something to listen to, you listen to it.”

Not only is Chuck Ragan a member of one of the best punk rock bands of the last twenty years, but he’s also established himself in the,ever popular, acoustic scene too. Having toured around the UK as a solo artist many times, he’s crossed paths with a number of fantastic singer/songwriters. In Sam Russo, Jimmy Islip and Helen Chambers, he’s found some of the UK’s finest, and they don’t disappoint.

Chuck kicks off the record and, rather than use original songs or tracks from his forthcoming solo release, he’s decided to cover some of his favorite artists. Lending his voice to the words of Helen Chambers, Darren Gibson and Leatherface, he pulls each track off expertly and makes each song his own. Did you expect anything less?. The addition of backing vocals from, fellow Hot Water Music member, Chris Wollard are a nice touch and work well in contrast with Chuck’s main vocal. The strongest of the three is definitely ‘Not Superstitious’ (Leatherface), but I have a soft spot for ‘Stephen Patrick’ because I love the original and I can’t resist a Morrissey reference.

Taking on the arduous task of following Chuck is Sam Russo. Russo’s released a few records before this, but it’s nice to hear him on a more polished recording. Not only are they more polished than previous recordings, but there’s definitely more to them. Electric guitars and subtle percussion accompany his acoustic, making his tracks the most full sounding of the bunch. I’d go as far as saying, Russo is my favorite songwriter around right now, mainly because it’s hard not to relate to what he’s saying. His words are as simple and poignant as ever, and I don’t think there’s anyone out there who can’t relate to a song like ‘Tinned Peaches And Diamond Rings’ – “I pawned everything that I own/It wasn’t much but I should’ve known/that she’d say no” gets me every time.

Whilst Chuck and Sam went for the softer more heartfelt route with their tracks, Jimmy Islip’s additions bring in a nice change of pace. They’re the least folky, most upbeat and the most stripped down tracks on the record (aside from a few vocal effects). They feel more like punk songs played on an acoustic guitar. That’s no bad thing, and isn’t a surprise given that he plays in so many punk bands. With that said, the tracks aren’t overly aggressive, but they’re definitely tracks to throw your fists in the air and sing along to. ‘1990’,  in particular, is one bound to leave throats sore by the nights end.

After Jimmy’s selection of punk tunes, Helen Chambers’ trio of softer, heartfelt country songs provide the closer to this fantastic split record. Her distinctive vocal style sets her apart from any other singer I’ve heard in recent years, and she knows how to use her voice to her advantage. Her vocal range is incredible. ‘Speak Your Name’, a purely A Capella song, demonstrates this perfectly. Some might see it as brave for an artist to do something like this but, when you’ve a voice like Helen’s, why not? Not only that, but she brings two fantastic country/folk songs to the table too, the subtle extra instrumentation on those songs working really well with Helen’s acoustic guitar. Is there anything she can’t do?!

What I hope I’ve made clear here is that when Chuck Ragan recommends you something to listen to, you listen to it. Those coming to this for three new Chuck Ragan songs will be happy, as they’ll also have three new artists to listen to as well. These twelve songs are poignant, rabble-rousing and beautiful and, I like to think, prove that the art of good songwriting isn’t confined to a select few. In short, go and buy this. You’ll love it.


To buy this, extremely limited, split 12″ record, head over to Specialist Subject Records. Whilst you’re there, check out some of their other releases. You won’t be disappointed.

Interview :: Sam Russo

© 2011 Kieran Kelly

“You must travel twenty legues and farthing” – Sam Russo

Sam Russo is one of the finest singer/songwriters in the UK today. Having had trouble with touring in the past, the man now known as The White Wizard, embarked on a tour of the UK with, Plymouth punks, Crazy Arm. The Blind Faith Tour stopped in Manchester last Sunday, so we caught up with Russo to talk about his latest release, touring the UK and got him to shed some light on the Cory Branan situation.