On May 17, 2012, author Neil Gaiman gave the commencement speech at a The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The transcript of the speech went on to become a book, the video has been watched over a million times, and Gaiman's "Make Good Art" advice became an inspiration for a generation of creative hopefuls.
Why do we mention this? Because last week's winner of our Tracks of the Week contest, Chris Catalyst's Make Good Art (Gin Annie's Devil In Me and Skinny Knowledge's Keep Me Out Of It were second and third), used Gaiman's speech as its inspiration, and Gaiman's voice as its backbone. And we imagine the trophy will look grand alongside all of Gaiman's Hugo and Nebula awards.
This week there are no speeches. Just eight new tunes, fresh off the rock'n'roll production line, guaranteed to provide entertainment for an entire seven days. As usual, you can vote for your favourite at the foot of the page, but first, here's Chris Catalyst again. And Neil Gaiman, of course.
The L.A. Maybe - Mr Danger
Forged in the southern heat of the Carolinas, these guys channel the one-two punch of Australia’s most rocking (Airbourne, Rose Tattoo, AC/DC…) plus a few tricks from the GN’R and Black Crowes vaults. The result? A riotously fun romp through the (pre-Covid) Tinseltown sunshine. Fun fact: singer Alvi Robinson lost his day job in 2016 to audition for AccaDacca. Axl Rose ultimately got the job, but still – there are worse ways to get the sack.
DeWolff - Half Your Love
The DeWolff boys love a bit of 70s disco. They love a lot of music that sprung from that decade, actually, but it’s the shimmying glimmer of the discoball that gleams through this sweet, soul-baked cut from upcoming album Wolffpack (yours to own in full from 5 February), with singer Pablo van de Poel flirting with his inner Al Green on those higher notes. Don’t worry about how ‘cool’ it is/isn’t (they sure as hell don’t), just feel the groove and enjoy.
Adrian Smith & Richie Kotzen - Taking My Chances
Face-melters in their own right (Adrian Smith with Iron Maiden, Richie Kotzen with Poison, Winery Dogs and as a solo artist, among others) this dynamite duo show off their chops without sacrificing song quality or funk factor – the heavy, fusion-y swagger of that core guitar groove is a delicious thing. Beef, virtuosity and proper melody? Yep, that works for us.
Nice Biscuit - Candle
Brisbane’s psych-mongers Nice Biscuit (no connection with the actual NICE biscuits, as far as we know) unleash a woozy whirlwind of witchy fun with Candle. It kinda made us think of Gaz Coombes’ early solo hit Hot Fruit, imbued with the 60s weed smoke vibes of The Brian Jonestown Massacre. And the video is just as daft and far-out, taking in kaleidoscopic effects, gravestones, creepy masks, a snail and a large egg, among other things.
L.A. Witch - Motorcycle Boy
Motorcycles and rock’n’roll have enjoyed a long, happy relationship, which this Californian trio are continuing in style on this moreish, heady new spiral of grunge, indie and psychedelia. Their name and healthy wooze quota might scream 'Black Sabbath fangirls' (and there is a streak of Sabbath in here), but there's just as much in the way of the cool, post-punk purr of The Gun Club at work – plus a dash of Crippled Black Phoenix-y darkness.
Atari Ferrari - For You
Washington's renegade son Matthew Joseph Hughes returns with a tune that started life as an acoustic (Hughes's other guise) Automatic Shoes track, until he decided to "rock it up a bit". The result? This juicy, dreamy little hybrid of toe-tapping bass and beats, debonair Pretenders vibes and touches of Marc Bolan-esque glam in Hughes's vocals. Tune in and feel yourself being carried away, to hazier, simpler times.
LEVARA - Automatic
Conceived in the green room of a Foreigner gig they were opening for, Automatic is LEVARA's first real statement of intent – and it's a big one. A smart, soaring marriage of contemporary production, driving guitars and a chorus the size of Brazil, it stirs their collective roots (guitarist Trev Lukather's dad is Toto legend Steve Lukather, drummer Josh Devine was One Direction's live sticksman...) into one hooky anthem, with sensibilities to reach young and older generations alike.
Ricky Warwick - When Life Was Hard And Fast
Ricky Warwick's done a brilliant job of running with the poet/vagabond baton during his day job with Black Star Riders, but here he strikes out on his own with the title track of his upcoming album When Life Was Hard & Fast. It doesn't stray from the BSR template – a tale of "big-time small town heroes" with an earwormable chorus – but the video's also worth paying attention to: much of the footage is from pre-War County Down, and includes clips of Ricky’s family farm shot when his father was a child.