The Lickerish Quartet – Threesome, Vol. 1

Lickerish Quartet is a collision of former members of Jellyfish and/or offshoots of Jellyfish, two categories you’ll often find in the same record collection. Jellyfish lasted long enough for two albums; a posthumous box set of live cuts, demos, and collaborations rounded out the band’s legacy, but still left a lot of potential on the table. Many a Jellyfish fan (like the scruffy fellow I occasionally spy in mirrors and other reflective surfaces) obsessively follows the individual former members of the group through their solo careers and later work with other artists – and sometimes minor family reunions like this one. With Jellyfish founding member Roger Manning and Spilt Milk-members (and former Umajets) Tim Smith and Eric Dover aboard, Lickerish Quartet is indeed something of a family reunion. The plan is for the band to gradually write, record, and release a series of EPs, each supported by fan pre-orders, so that the end result will be about an album’s worth of music.

Threesome Vol. 1 is the first of those, with the “threesome” in the title describing the band; “quartet” is actually a better description of the number of songs on this first volume, somewhat confusingly. But that’s the kind of perversely anarchic humor that we’re expecting from Jellyfish alumni, right?

That sense of humor also extends into the first song, “Fadoodle”, whose lyrics can best be summed up as “I cleaned house and did some chores, can I get laid now?” (Pro tip: guys…you should be doing your share of the housework because it’s part of the unspoken social contract of sharing space with other human beings, not because you’re expecting sex at the end of said chore.) Maybe I’m just showing my age here, but these lyrics and their dancing-between-sung-and-spoken-word delivery didn’t land with me, even though the music itself is fine; there’s a great bass line that makes it all incredibly catchy, and the instrumental bridge may be the best thing about the song.

“Bluebird’s Blues” is a definite improvement, and perhaps should’ve been first song (though I do get it, if you’re banking on the Jellyfish connection, “Fadoodle” sounds more whimsical and Jellyfish-esque than anything else here). Together with “There Is A Number”, “Bluebird’s Blues” really digs into that ’70s power-pop sound, which is really what I hope to hear out of a reunion of any configuration of Jellyfish, a lot more than I hope to hear whimsy. They’re both excellent songs, though I get a chuckle out of the first lyric in “There Is A Number”: “I never meant to cause you too much pain.” Is there really some acceptable amount of pain one can cause others before a line is crossed? (As with the playful lyrics of “Fadoodle”, I’m probably overthinking it here.)

“Lighthouse Spaceship” was the song most heavily promoted prior to the EP’s release, and with good reason: where “Bluebird’s Blues” and “There Is A Number” are classic bittersweet ballads, “Lighthouse Spaceship” is a straight-up, unapologetic rocker that reaches for – and just about achieves – a late ’60s/early ’70s psychedelic rock flavor with both its lyrics and its 3 out of 4instrumentation. At over six minutes, I get why this wasn’t the lead track, but it seems obvious that the band realized this was the strongest thing in this particular track listing.

It’s all worth a listen, and perhaps best of all is the promise that more from this lineup – and perhaps even better material – is yet to come.

Order this CD

  1. Fadoodle (3:46)
  2. Bluebird’s Blues (4:31)
  3. There Is A Magic Number (4:14)
  4. Lighthouse Spaceship (6:26)

Released by: InGrooves / Label Logic
Release date: May 15, 2020
Total running time: 18:57

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Doctor Who: The Sun Makers – music by Dudley Simpson

This is a Doctor Who soundtrack release I never expected to be holding in my hands or hearing. Composer Dudley Simpson was as close as classic Doctor Who had to the kind of singular composer-in-residence that seems to be the norm for the modern series; other composers were occasionally employed at the whim of individual directors, but from 1964 through 1979, Dudley Simpson was Doctor Who’s default musical “setting”, composing for and conducting a small ensemble occasionally augmented with synthesizers by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. But despite his music gracing most of the series across that fifteen-year span, most of the original session tapes of Simpson’s Doctor Who music have been lost. The only remaining specimens, in fact, can be traced to the Radiophonic Workshop – if they added their wobbly analog synths to Simpson’s music, a copy of that was retained in their archives. And that’s where the score from The Sun Makers, a 1977 Tom Baker four-part story, comes in – it’s one of only two Simpson scores that still exist in their entirety, both of them thanks to the Workshop’s involvement. (The other, still unreleased, is 1971’s The Mind Of Evil, a Jon Pertwee adventure that was the second-ever appearance of Roger Delgado as the Master, and as such heavily feature’s Simpson’s sinister theme for that character.) To have a complete Simpson score is a gift; for that score to hail from a fondly-remembered story featuring the fourth Doctor, Leela, and K-9 toppling a regime embracing capitalism-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness is just gravy.

Tracks like “Mahogany”, which starts out with a somewhat plaintive bassoon before bringing the rest of the ensemble in to create a rich, warm harmony, exemplify what Simpson was best at. The same goes for “One Thousand Metres” and its interesting keyboard arpeggios floating over the acoustic instruments. Let’s be clear – a lot of people probably wouldn’t have chosen The Sun Makers to be one of the only complete surviving examples of Simpson’s work; they probably would’ve chosen City Of Death or Genesis Of The Daleks or a more “obvious” entry in Simpson’s canon, but The Sun Makers didn’t exactly burn itself into everyone’s memory the way those stories did. That’s actually what makes it a canny choice for a release: it’s a bit of a surprise because you probably don’t remember the score that well.

“Six Suns”, “The Others”, and “K-9, Bite!” remind me a lot of Blake’s 7, of which nearly every episode was also scored by Simpson. (The Sun Makers has a Blake’s 7 connection too – it’s where director Pennant Roberts met actor Michael Keating, giving Keating a hearty recommendation for the role of Vila.) “Subway 13” is a bit more menacing, and, at less than a minute in length, it’s a reminder some Doctor Who stories lent themselves to lengthier musical travelogues, and The Sun Makers wasn’t one of those stories. It’s comprised of shorter, punchier vignettes without the opportunity for the kind of extended musical interludes that, say, City Of Death afforded the composer. In that regard, The Sun Makers is absolutely a straight-down-the-line typical bit of Doctor Who scoring from the ’70s.

A word about the sound quality: The Sun Makers was remastered extensively by Mark Ayres, himself a Doctor Who composer of a later era (but also a die-hard Dudley Simpson fan, as he himself admitted to when he was interviewed for this site quite a few years back). Ayres is also behind the audio remastering of Doctor Who’s DVD and Blu-Ray releases, so it goes without saying 4 out of 4that this entire disc is as crisply, lovingly listenable as if the tape had just been recorded last week.

As a whole listening experience, The Sun Makers is a time capsule that may find an audience only among completist collectors, and the older generation of Doctor Who fans who were there for this story the first time around (he said, addressing the mirror). It may not appeal to everyone. But it’s a lovely little slice of the past where, rather than striving to be epic or futuristic, the sound of Doctor Who was quietly, politely going for baroque.

Order this CD

  1. Doctor Who Opening Title Theme (0:46)
  2. Death And Taxes (0:28)
  3. Mahogany (0:51)
  4. One Thousand Metres (2:12)
  5. Six Suns (1:53)
  6. The Others (1:29)
  7. Subway 13 (0:36)
  8. Subway 13 (continued) (1:07)
  9. A Heart As Big As Your Mouth (0:30)
  10. A Little Hop (0:23)
  11. Jelly Babies (0:31)
  12. Something In The Air (0:24)
  13. K-9, Bite! (0:54)
  14. Humbug (1:25)
  15. The P45 Return Route (1:08)
  16. The P45 Return Route (reprise) (0:55)
  17. Morton’s Fork (1:09)
  18. I’ve Heard That One, Too (1:05)
  19. The Rebellion Begins (0:46)
  20. Static Loop (3:20)
  21. The Steaming (1:18)
  22. The Steaming (continued) (1:10)
  23. Gentlemen, Good Luck (0:40)
  24. Nobody Works Today (2:11)
  25. The Gatherer Excised (0:43)
  26. Doctor Who Closing Title Theme (0:55)

Released by: Silva Screen Records
Release date: May 8, 2020
Total running time: 28:49

Paul Melançon and the New Insecurities – The Get Gos Action Hour!

There’s certainly no shortage of practitioners of power pop, but I’m always happy when one of my favorites resurfaces, as Paul Melançon has done after a lengthy spell punctuated by side projects, live shows, and an EP or two. Melançon’s 2002 opus Camera Obscura is still one of my favorite specimens of the power pop genre, and while he’s an excellent guitarist, his voice may be his most potent instrument, capable of straight up belting out a song in the best rock traditions as well as handling all the nuances of his homemade singer-songwriter fare. I couldn’t even point you to anyone I can honestly claim he sounds like – maybe a little hint of Robin Zander at the height of Cheap Trick’s popularity? – because he just sounds like himself, and I’m a big fan of that sound.

Armed with a three-piece backing band that perfectly complements his sound, and a clutch of new songs exploring some experiences he’s had confronting chronic anxiety in recent years, Melançon delivers a surprisingly sunny musical meditation on mental health that you’d expect to have been the result of 2020’s non-stop roller-coaster of mental-health-challenging events, but instead it arrived, pleasantly enough, right at the beginning of it, and it’s been one of my go-to albums for my self-quarantining playlist. Some of the songs are obvious with the subject matter – “Hyperventilate” conjures up images of a drowning man – while others make the listener work a little harder to get to the song’s center. Which is an absolute delight, since each song is coated in layers of ’70s-inspired pop-rock confection. There are hints of something new in Melançon’s musical vocabulary here too – I definitely picked up on a newfound love of a good freeform jam, which crops up such songs as the jaw-droppingly hummable “The New Decay”, among others. (And when Paul and the New Insecurities bust out a jam like this, they’re not kidding around either. It’s heady stuff.)

Highlights include the aforementioned “New Decay” and “Hyperventilate”, as well as “St. Cecilia”, a fantastic ballad with – yet again – that terrific ’70s vibe, and “Here And Now I Was” and “When Do We Get Smaller?”, the two songs most reminiscent of Camera Obscura. “Fitzcarraldo” is a mesmerizing mid-tempo rocker that challenges you to figure out which is the verse and which is the chorus, but when the whole song sounds great, does it matter? “Mareación” is an eleven-minute journey in the form of a self-contained, 4 out of 4interconnected song cycle that also features that jamming element mentioned earlier. It may be the album’s most challenging listen, but it’s a mini-epic that earns the “power-pop-era” label on the front cover.

All of this is wrapped up in a package suggesting some lost, band-centric 1970s Saturday morning cartoon, an element that also carries over to the videos produced for some of the songs here. In short, this album has just about everything that power pop fans love – new music wrapped up in a dash of nostalgia, and it’s really good new music to boot. Highest recommendations.

Order this CD

  1. Theme from The Get Gos Action Hour! (0:40)
  2. Permanent Makeup (2:34)
  3. Robot World (3:14)
  4. This Shaky Lullaby (2:40)
  5. Hyperventilate (3:56)
  6. The New Decay (5:00)
  7. St. Cecilia (4:36)
  8. When Do We Get Smaller? (3:54)
  9. Fitzcarraldo (3:45)
  10. Mareación (11:09)
  11. Here And Now I Was (4:29)
  12. The Answer Is Yes (3:40)

Released by: Paul Melançon and the New Insecurities
Release date: April 10, 2020
Total running time: 49:37

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