Your name's on the list, you are coming in...seeing Solitude Sometimes Is launch their debut album
Updated: Oct 2
As is well documented on this blog site, I have long-harboured notions of being a music journalist, a band or tour manager, or a record company exec, making career defining decisions for rock stars...I pursued this in the rather untraditional way of working my way up through a bank, a professional body of accountants, three trade associations, one consultancy, a Government Department and The Law Society....
Looking back at my career, you can see where I went wrong. Such was my arrogance, I forgot to actually do anything about pursuing a music industry career. D'oh!
In amongst the various music industry daydreams I forgot to pursue, I imagined turning up at gigs and saying confidently "my name's on the list"...and then slipping past the hipsters, the trendsetters and the beautiful ones....
This daydream finally came true this year. OK, it sort of came true last year, when, after he repaired my sash windows, Guy Chadwick kindly put me and Mrs JO'B on the guestlist for The House Of Love's London gig (see The House Of Love and Pete Astor, The Garage, London, 25th September 2022).
But FINALLY I was emailed by a chap called Owen James, and asked if I'd like to come along and see his band in Woolwich to launch their debut album. This is new because:
I don't know Owen
He's asking me to review a gig - a teenage dream come true
He hasn't done some work to my house and therefore, felt obliged to offer me a ticket after I left various of his albums out around the house (tragic, truly tragic behaviour from me...)
He's got a band and made an album, which includes drummer Alex Reeves from Elbow - that is cool....
Like me and this blog, Owen used lockdown and the frustrations of being trapped at home to do something positive and initiate a creative outlet. He formed a record label (No Distance Records) and a band (Solitude Sometimes Is) and now has released an album. My little blog is paling in comparison!
The band name is inspired by a Manic Street Preachers song - it's a song taken from Lifeblood, not by my favourite Manics album, but it's made me go back and give it another listen....it's better than I remember, will give it another play through soon...
He offers me two free tickets, so I buy a third and a copy of his CD, Float, and head down to Woolwich to The Guard House for the launch gig. There is a great line up, but I catch up with Geordie Jo and her husband Paul first - beers and pizza are had, so we are a little later than we planned. We catch one of the support acts - they are good. The room is unfancy and simple, but there is a small and enthusiastic crowd there.
And then Owen takes the mic, accompanied by a superb violinist, Eliza. It's a stripped down show - the venue would not accommodate a full band. But it's simple, it's relaxed and it's great. Owen is on acoustic guitar and they play a short, lowkey set:
We'll Speak Soon
Come Back And Play The Piano For Me
You Left Early
Town Called Malice (The Jam cover)
The Universal (Blur cover)
The music is chilled, cool and fun. And throughout Owen is relaxed, engaging and self-deprecating, laughing at the decision to release their album as a cassette - who uses them now? Their return may be the shortest lived, over-hyped trend ever...It's also available on CD and from Bandcamp (much more sensible).
Float live sounds like The Waterboys, if they came from south east London (a good thing) - “Please tie me to your waist, my love, maybe you can lift me up” . November confirms it's not the end of the world (a paaen to lockdown?), that your friends will come and knock on your door. Come Back And Play The Piano For Me name checks Debussy, sentimental tunes and even has a little harmonica, which is lovely,
And their cover of The Universal is so much better than I would have ever expected - stripped down the two piece more than do it justice. And a cover of Town Called Malice should be compulsory for any band.
The album is great too. You Left Early is the standout, and reminds me of Animals That Swim (a fabulous band that should have been so much bigger). Its references to the DLR mean it's firmly local territory (is it the first song to namecheck the DLR? I can't think of anyone who has before). It features Owen's dad on trumpet on record and is probably my favourite of the set and the album. One gets the feeling his dad would jump on stage in a flash and fair play to him!
A Farewell To Arms sounds like The Lightning Seeds, melodic and an earworm you don't want to get rid of. We'll Speak Soon is great indie pop, it wouldn't sound out of place on a Wannabes album.
As the press release says, ‘Float’ melts poetic pretensions with punk-folk vibes to tackle that nagging question: is modern life rubbish? I think the Blur nod in the release makes sense - it's the early Blur they remind me of, when they were on their Kinks-style look at London life. It's a strong 90s vibe throughout.
There's a definite Britpop feel, but also new wave, alt-synth pop, anthemic indie — and some fantastic musicians, including Alex Reeves, Elbow's drummer, but who's also backed Bat for Lashes, Bobby Womack and many other amazing acts.
Songwriter Owen: “Working with Alex was insane. For a start, no one that cool should also be that good at music. It’s just not fair on the rest of us. Having him on the album is probably the coolest thing that will happen to me until Noel Gallagher puts a call in and asks me to play on his next tour.”
He added: “I wasn’t even planning on making an album, but one day a good mate of mine pointed out that over the years I’d sent him enough tunes to put one together. So it’s his fault really.”
Check them out and check out the label - they now have three acts and it's great to see someone turn the negatives of lockdown into a positive...and keep it going! That's something I have struggled to do with this blog, but I will try harder!
Stay safe, and if you enjoyed this, please subscribe (see link below), x