Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Brand new EP Wise Ol' Man - The Fall in Review

The Fall will release a seven track EP Wise Ol’ Man on the 19th of February, postponed from the original date of the 29th of January it is well worth the wait. 
The group celebrate their 40th anniversary and continue to make exciting, challenging music. In the sea of bland that passes for mainstream music these days it is refreshing to occasionally hear genuine, uncompromising creative artists. Even without the late John Peel, The Fall can be heard on the radio, something rich and strange and immediately arresting.


The Fall have always received a little media attention: partly due to Mark E. Smith’s hard work and innate need to communicate but largely due to the sheer quality of their output. We’ve been hearing from lots of young music fans who were excited by The Fall live at Glastonbury and have started to explore the back catalogue. With several hundred releases to navigate it will likely bring several years of pleasure.

It’s always impossible to absorb The Fall without repeated listenings as the songs and the ideas tend to gradually reveal themselves over time and this new release is no exception.

Clocking in at just less than 36min the EP has a great feel to it and like the Re-mit and Sub-Lingual Tablet LPs there’s lots of melody and vocal clarity, moments of real discordant beauty.

The title track, Wise Ol’ Man, rattles along with multi-layered vocals and a complex interplay between Mark E. Smith and his wife Elena Poulou. Peter Greenway’s chiming swirling guitar lifts the beginning of the track into something almost rock. Across the whole EP the songs are flowing in such a way that the group can work around the vocal deliveries with Elena’s pulsing, squelching, vibrating keyboards, Dave Spurr’s bass and the twin drums of Keiron Melling and Daren Garratt creating experimental musical shapes.

The showcase and centrepiece of the record is All Leave Cancelled. Here the lyrics and indeed the vocals are alternately obscure and lucid, with the voices working as another instrument; a weird sonic landscape is created where the incredible patterns that emerge from the rhythm section sound like the crazy workings of the Live-Evil era Miles Davis band. It isn’t jazz and it isn’t like anything you’ve heard before. Over the full 8min 21s the track is oddly compelling. And the listener is taken on a journey to where everything is going to fall apart before the bass and drum storm lifts and the skies of melody clear. Anyone looking for a precedent or similar track in The Fall discography might try Black Roof or ask the good Captain Beefheart but this track only uses its influences and inspirations as a starting point and takes off in its own way in its own wonderful and frightening directions. It would be wrong to label The Fall as post-rock but a pinch of Chicago underground, a little early Tortoise creeps among the strangeness.

Dedication Not Medication (Remix) is utterly outstanding and its sharper focus sits well in contrast to the preceding soundscape. This is a little bit like the version on the Sub-Lingual Tablet cd but with less bed wet pills and no “Connie and Cookie”, it’s a lot less like the original vinyl version, in that there is no trippy spoken word vocal interruption and anti-music stylings. Indeed the version we have here is a celebration and a lot like the live versions lucky fans will be familiar with. The track builds and builds on a wave of sound and Daren adds a vocal chant as counterpoint.

If you haven’t had the chance to see The Fall live then don’t miss out. As a poor second you can track down some of the live recordings in circulation.

Wise Ol’ Man (Instrumental) is not an instrumental but rather a more stripped down and straightforward version of the song.

Venice With Girls is also a new version of the opening track from last year’s S-LT LP: this time the vocal melodies seem even sweeter, the playing is even tighter and there’s an additional synth line.

Next, listeners are treated to a fourth and possibly the finest version of Face Book Troll.  Everything that was bizarre and hysterical about the previous versions (the storming anger of Fibre Book Troll from the Modoselektion Volume 3 compilation; the warped vocals from the S-LT cd and the looping relentless Sister Ray trolling of the vinyl side) gets condensed and combined here to dramatic effect. The power of the track is enhanced by bolting it on to a recent live take on No Xmas For John Quays. Here the group live sound possessed and on fire. Thanks to the sterling work of fans like Hanley Played a Fender we can pinpoint the recording to the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on 28th November 2014. A pan-seasonal offering and a reminder that drugs are not just for Christmas.

All Leave Cancelled (X) rounds off the EP and reprises the track heightening the main elements of the song.

As with 2013’s The Remainderer there’s also a visceral sense of excitement and the playful experimentation of a group at the height of their powers.



Friday, 29 January 2016

Graphic Lyrics on BBC Radio

Graphic Lyrics, the project we were involved in as Writers in Residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2015, was featured on the Janice Forsyth Show on BBC Radio Scotland.


Hear Janet Smith, Dave Hook and ourselves, as well as the pupils of Shawlands Academy and their teacher Mrs Kirk talk about the project: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06wcj2v (1h47min in).

Friday, 22 January 2016

Graphic Lyrics

Last night saw an extremely enjoyable and well-attended Burns Night celebration, at The Glad Café, for the culmination of the Graphic Lyrics project.

For the past six months we were Writers in Residence for the Edinburgh International Book Festival Booked programme, working with hip-hop artist Dave Hook helping S4 pupils of Shawlands Academy create comics and raps based on fairy tales. Last night's event saw the unveiling of the finished comic compiling all their work.


All the participants received a copy of the Graphic Lyrics comic and then took a seat for an advanced preview of the sound and vision spectacle showcasing their raps and drawings.


The pupils' and teachers' families and friends then arrived for the main event. Introduced by Janet Smyth with MC Catherine Campbell the pupils all got on stage to talk a little about their experience and introduce the fantastic work they produced.



We were also interviewed by Catherine, along with rapper Dave Hook, and each talked a little about the process.


We had the opportunity to thank everyone involved in the project: Catherine Campbell, Janet Smyth, Nick Barley and Roland Gulliver from the Edinburgh International Book Festival; Janice Kirk and Chris Smith, the teacher and support worker from Shawlands Academy, who both worked hard to guide the pupils between our sessions; Dave Hook, for working with us to chose suitable stories with the pupils and then working with them to produce such excellent raps, and, of course, the pupils themselves.


Working with pupils from Shawlands Academy in Glasgow was an absolute pleasure and we are delighted with the finished comics and raps. The pupils all worked incredibly hard and everyone got involved. Some people feel that they can't draw and it was great to see the pupils' confidence and self-esteem grow as they worked together sharing a common language.

The evening was rounded off with two songs from one third of Stanley Odd and everyone paid a visit to Shawlands Academy to see giant projections of the pupils comics on the school building.



Monday, 18 January 2016

Red Shoes Deleted Scenes

"Deleted Scene" from The Red Shoes and Other Tales. At the request of our publisher we changed the violence in the page below to an off-panel cutting of the feet in the final version of the book. Sometimes showing less is just as effective.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Red Shoes launch at Northfield Academy

    Last week for Book Week Scotland, Northfield Academy, where we are Patrons of Reading, organised a special Red Shoes book launch. 


    280 kids from local schools gathered in the assembly hall and we talked about the book, the creative process and fairy tales. 



    Waterstones were also there and sold lots of books. 


    Afterwards we took our turn to participate in Book Fit, Mandy Wilson 's great initiative: read The Red Shoes on the exercise bike! Neil Hendry the head teacher took the lead! Yesterday the pupils pedaled a total of 600km! 



    Huge thanks to Mandy, Neil and Karen Shaw for organising all this and making the day so special!


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Writers in Residence at Edinburgh International Book Festival


Yesterday was our last session with the pupils of Shawlands Academy in our capacity as Writers in Residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015 - as part of the Booked programme. The pupils have created four comic stories based on fairy tales and raps which we are now in the process of assembling into a special publication. We'll see them all again at the end of January for the final Burns Night celebration event at The Glad Café​ where Dave Hook​ will also do a performance and the pupils' work will be showcased.


Can't believe that's the sessions all over already - the weeks have all flown by in a flash! Have thoroughly enjoyed working with the book festival, Dave Hook, and the pupils and teachers of Shawlands Academy. We'll post a link to the finished work in the new year, in the meantime, here are a couple of drawings that the pupils created.



Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Writers in Residence at Edinburgh International Book Festival

It's been three weeks now that we've been working with pupils at Shawlands Academy, in our capacity as Writers in Residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, helping them to create fairy tale comics. We have two more weeks to go and they have already produced lots of great work! We'll soon be able to gather all their stories into a publication and are really looking forward to hearing the raps the pupils have produced with Dave Hook! There will be a Burns Night celebration event in January to wrap up the whole project.






Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Writers in Residence at Edinburgh International Book Festival

Our sessions at Shawlands Academy as Writers in Residence at the Edinburgh International Book Festival got off to a good start this week. The pupils have already created fantastic fairy tale raps with Dave Hook​ and now they're beginning to transform them into comics. Our mission is to get them to complete four stories by the end of November! We especially like the Pinocchio comic which already looks amazing.



Pinocchio comic in progress

Friday, 23 October 2015

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival

    Had a great time at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival launching our new graphic novel The Red Shoes and Other Tales. In fact we were so busy we completely forgot to take pictures! Jeremy Briggs was kind enough to send us photos he took throughout the weekend. 
    'Shiny New Red Shoes' launch talk chaired by Melanie Gibson
    One of our three Family Zone events at the
    Westmorland Shopping Centre
    Thanks to Melanie Gibson for being such a fantastic chairperson, to Page 45 for their support in launching the book and to the incredible festival team for making the weekend such a success and looking after everyone so well. 
    At the Page 45 book stall...
    We only managed to go and see the Steve Bell talk which was packed, but wished we could have gone to more events. It was great meeting and catching with Bryan and Mary TalbotSimon GrennanNicola Streeten, Corinne Pearlman of Myriad, Darryl CunninghamSarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve who stayed with us at the amazing Ash Meadows guest house, Chris Pitzer over from the US, John FreemanBenoit PeetersGary Erskine and Mhairi StewartPaul GravettJohn McShane, Stref, Bill Morrison of The Simpsons, Matthew Gibbs (thanks for the books!), Stephane Beaujean and so many other great people.
    Steve Bell talk
    In other news, we are afraid that the winners of the festival's "Draw a Ballerina" competition have been cursed: brother and sister Alec and Nicky Anderson won a copy of The Red Shoes and Other Tales graphic novel and a pair of red ballet shoes.
    The prize for the 'Draw a Ballerina' competition
    However, their mum Sofi Croft, author of YA books, sent us these pictures. It seems the shoes have come to life and her daughter can't stop dancing.
    The Red Shoes have come to life!
    She can't stop dancing! A curse?
    Nicky Anderson's drawing
    Alec Anderson's drawing







Friday, 9 October 2015

Red Shoes Launch at The Lakes Festival

    So excited! Next week is the official launch of our new graphic novel THE RED SHOES AND OTHER TALES at The Lakes International Comic Art Festival co-launching with Page 45!

    Our main talk SHINY NEW RED SHOES is on Saturday 17th at The Clock Tower and is chaired by Melanie Gibson - we'll be signing copies afterwards. Published by Papercutz the book is a beautiful quarter-bound volume.

    We are also doing 3 children's events at the Westmorland Shopping Centre on Saturday and Sunday.

    We won't have our own table during the festival as we have so many events on, and the book will be available all weekend at the PAGE 45 table in The Clock Tower's Georgian Room.

    To book tickets to see our Saturday talk go the festival's website: http://www.comicartfestival.com/index.php/saturday-metaphrog

    We've been looking forward to the festival for ages! There're lots of other great talks and events, so if you're in the area, do attend. It's family friendly, with lots of workshops, talks and exhibition, as well as publishers and artists with tables selling their books, and if you want to see 3 talks, you get an extra ticket for free! Children's events are free too.


Islay Book Festival

    Had a great time at the Islay Book Festival last weekend, where we did two events for children and families. It was enjoyable to spend time with all the other authors and see some of their talks: Vivian French (pictured here far left, with ourselves, and Violet and Jean, two of the organisers) Simon Puttock, Caroline Clough, Christopher Brookmyre, RJ Mitchell, Shirley MacKay and Andrew Crummy. We also managed to find time to explore some of the island.
    Islay Book Festival was celebrating its 10th anniversary - it's a great festival with a relaxed atmosphere, and the organisers look after the authors really well. It almost felt like a holiday!



Monday, 7 September 2015

Writers in Residence at Edinburgh International Book Festival

The Edinburgh International Book Festival may be finished, but our residency at the festival was just beginning today. Over the next few months, with hip-hop artist Dave Hook of Stanley Odd fame, we'll be working with pupils at Shawlands Academy, to help them create comics and rap songs based on fairy tales and folk stories. After our first, joint session today, Dave will be go on to work with the group focusing on stories and rap. While we concentrate on the graphic storytelling and design aspects. The whole project will culminate at the end of January in a Burns Night celebration at the Glad Café. A massive thank you to the Edinburgh Book Festival team, in particular to Catherine Campbell who is overseeing the project. It's going to be an exciting few months and we look forward to seeing the work the pupils create. In fact they already produced some fantastic drawings today!

Pictured: Mrs Kirk, teacher at Shawlands Academy, John and Sandra (that's us,
Metaphrog), Dave Hook, and Catherine Campbell.




Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015

We had a great time at the Edinburgh International Book Festival 2015. 

Our new graphic novel, The Red Shoes and Other Tales, premiered with gold stamped exclusive advance edition copies. The book isn't officially out until October 13th in the US and November 1st in the UK.

Gala Day, the final day of the festival is open to schools only and saw us deliver a talk to over 80 children. 

The festival may be finished now but for us as Writers in Residence at the festival, it's all just beginning: for the next few months, we'll be working with hip-hop artist Dave Hook at a Glasgow school to help pupils create fairy tale comics.




Friday, 28 August 2015

Talk at Momentum

Yesterday we gave a talk to book festival directors from around the world, about our work and also about graphic novels (including the Scottish scene).

It was part of Momentum, the Edinburgh Festivals International Delegate Programme delivered through a partnership between British Council Scotland, Festivals Edinburgh and Creative Scotland.

Also speaking were Adele Patrick and Sue John of Glasgow Women's Library (were the event took place), Jean Cameron of Glasgow Life, Bob McDevitt, programmer of Aye Write! Glasgow's Book Festival, and Glasgow Poet Laureate Jim Carruth, and it was great to hear about their work.

It was also fantastic to meet such an interesting group of people. Huge thanks to Emma Turnbull at Creative Scotland who invited us to speak.

All pictures courtesy of Glasgow Women's Library Facebook page.