Reviews

From Record Collector Magazine (Issue 464 March 2017)

I feature in a 5-page article on Hull's 'Musical Heritage', & am sandwiched between Coum/Throbbing Gristle/Psychic TV & The House Martins(!). Here's an extract:

'...Civic pride in this triumph was as subdued as it was for Wreckless Eric from East Suyssex, who enjoyed an optimum moment with a 1977 debut disc, Whole Wide World. At Hull's Regional College Of Art, he'd sought the particular company of a certain Graham Beck, a keyboard player - who became a latter-day member of Eric's Addis & The Flip Tops, later Ruby & The Takeaways - & resident at students hangout the Bull Inn for much of 1976. When the group sundered, Eric awaited his destiny with Stiff Records (who were also to sign Lene Lovich, who dwelt in Hull in her early teens) & Graham wavered between music & art - which may be why the packaging of 2013's A Bathful Of Nasturtiums contains a cut-out-&-keep Batman mask (pertinent to the CD's I Am The Batman) & a sachet of grass seeds (All Praise To The Manicured Lawn).The album closes with five instrumental minutes of uneasy listening.'

Also printed in the same article within Record Collector Magazine, is a 'HUMBERSDE HITS: A TOP 10'. I'm in esteemed company too, with the likes of Mick Ronson, The Red Guitars, The House Martins & David Whitfield, & the only listed act still going! As to how I managed to feature in this list, I've no idea...But, I like it. It reads:

'GRAHAM GRAHAM BECK Fig Roll Overkill self-released, 2013

A sense of longing as much as the wretchedness of addiction to a biscuit pervades one of A Bathful Of Nasturtiums' many startling and witty expressions of commendable sentiment, framed in diverting, highly detailed and often quirky arrangements'.

Action Man With A Giraffe's Head

Review of 'Action Man With A Giraffe's Head', by Debt Records' Artistic Director, Louis Barabbas (for BBC6Music - Fresh On The Net, 'Fresh Faves Batch 223') Dec. 2016: 

Graham (Graham) Beck paints a compelling picture here, one decidedly ripe for these confusing times. As narratives go, it is neither linear nor helical, but rather caught up in it's own catoptric mechanisms. Though perhaps a little too long for a subject matter bound so tightly to a single momentary reveal, as mood pieces go it raises some poignant questions concerning both identity & expectation - two universal concerns many of us spend entire lifetimes wrestling with, to no satisfactory edification. I must go deeper, for this track comes from the brain of a man given to performing in various masks & helmets (resembling anything from rabbits to fig rolls), so I can't help but wonder, action men & giraffes aside, where is HIS head at?

 

Interview & review for Ten Foot City Magazine (Dec. 2016)

Graham (Graham) Beck: "Reversing Sideways in an Upward Direction." Article written by Wes Foster.

"I play theatrical alternative pop. A mixture of things like early Roxy Music, John Shuttleworth, Bozo Dog Do-Dah Band, Frank Sidebottom, Brian Eno & the Beach Boys!"

As you enter his relatively recently bought house, you are met with an unchanged seventies decor, a refreshing change from the minimalist modern interiors that have more of a 'coldness' to them. These brownish, orange & cream walls however, have a warmth to them, much like Graham Beck & his music. Unlike these wallpapers though, he isn't outdated & is producing some of the most playfully ground-breaking music in Hull. I suppose that it would be called 'pop' but it seems to span many genres, through mostly keyboards & vocals. Every albumhe produces sees an eclectic mix of sounds & noises. His new album 'Reversing Sideways In An Upward Diection' shows a continuation of his surrealistic approach with "a want to 'entertain' alongside creating." This, most probably coming from being brought up in Great Yarmouth with it's strong tradition of pier shows.

Making & creating, for Graham, spans a variety of different outputs & formats. As someone that also paints & draws, he also works on 'sound-art' projects. When asked what defines the difference between 'sound-art & music', he says that, "It comes down to writing for an audience - the music is something that can be more widely appreciated, whilst the sound-art is more abstract & therefore more niche."

There is no grand plan, & that can be seen in his work. The surrealism that comes from his lyric-writing & compositional style could have come from nothing but a want to express, & this is mirrored in how refreshingly original his work is.

His 'latest' work - (Graham is a musician that seems to be constantly writing as he is already creating more pieces regardless of having only just released an album!) - shows a progressive evolution in his music as this fifty-one minutes' worth of sound progresses through various textures & forms rather effortlessly. This is not something you come across very often, usually people stick to what they know, without really pushing the edges of their creativity. He has both the confidence & the courage to pursue a range of outright pop-tracks ('Cardboard Is King' - currently the only single from the album) through to the more avant-garde, yet ballardic, slow niumbers like 'The Fridge' within the space of only three tracks.

Perhaps, this isn't just a coincidence or a courage, & is actually someone that recognises themselves as a fringe artist within the city, & though this isn't inaccessible like some fring workcan be, it is definitely more experimental & free with the way that he creates this aspect of his work. His usual positive demeanour spans inbto his views on the 'Hull City Of Culture', hoping that it will encourage more experimental music to be made in the city; "Edinburgh has the fringe, & without the fringe it wouldn't be the Edinburgh festival. Therefore through mainstream funding the counter culture will react & create even more, carving itself a recognised place in the city."

He doesn't gig that much, wanting to ensure that the gigs stay special, presumably from an extension of the intimacy & also because his gigs seem to attract such a wide audience, with all ages seeming to enjoy his playful song-writing & compositional work. When asked to describe himself in seven words he said, "Patient, humourous, observant, reads-too-much-into-things, optimist,kind, entertainer" (at the time we both thought there was a word especially for reading too much into things, though I can't seem to find it!). All of these sum him up as a musician too. His work is complicated, though at the same time entertaining, built upon common observations, humourously brought together into enjoyable songs. At first listen, his music can appear simple but with more listens, & studying, it is more than that, as it becomes apparent that is has layer upon layer of creativity.

Reversing Sideways In An Upward Direction

Review from The Beat magazine (Nov. 2016), by Alan Clayson

Most famously, he's collaborated with Wreckless Eric, sometime members of Kilburn-&-the Highroads, & AMM, who were often on the same bill as The Pink Floyd at UFO, London's principal psychedelic dungeon.

On all 13 tracks of a spellbinding third solo album, Graham Graham Beck (sic) accepts sole responsibility for all vocals & instruments - & composition of such diverse pieces as maddeningly catchy 'You Can't Beat The Beatniks' & tranquil waltz-time 'I Wait'.

These were the most instantly familiar, but other items stand just as tall if reduced to the acid test of only voice & piano, notably 'ADSR (Attack Decay Sustain Release)', which, if rearranged in the style of Slade or Guida, could serve as some sort of football terrace anthem, whether those chanting understood the lyrics or not.

Other subjects, not usually tackled in pop songs, include string in, well, 'String'; packaging ('Cardboard Is King'), & illegal dumping of waste ('The Fridge'), plus whatever he's getting at in 'I Think, Therefore I'm Not' & 'Action Man With A Giraffe's Head' on an offering I was into straightaway, & assumed greater depth with each listen.

Lo-Tech Music For Hi-Tech People

Review by Nix Chadwell - from Browse Online Magazine (issue 30):

So good they named him twice, Graham Greaham Beck's album is both visually & orally pleasing.

You can see & hear the many influences which have gone into Graham's music. The electric beat of Kraftwerk, the fun & frivolity of The Beach Boys; lyrics which remind me a certain era of David Bowie tunes. And I couldn't place it, but the cover reminded me of those weirdly wonderful sleeves of vinyl in the 90's, before CDs really took over. Holding this album in my hand, scanning the titles of each track, I wasn't sure at all what to expect whether this was something I would really enjoy or something too bizarre for my ears to comprehend.

The opening track is entitled 'The Last Chocolate In The Box'. Surely that would make more sense at the end of the album? Semantically, this is logical. But logic doesn't come into this. The track introduces itself with the word 'Hello' echoing across the additional sounds looped over the top, inviting you 'to come inside, I've nothing to hide'. It's a slower tune, building up the sound as the simple lyrics pluck at your imagination.

 Imagination is something which you'll need to fully explore this album. Second track, 'There Are Plastic Gnomes At Asda' instantly takes me back to last Summer, when the supermarket was adorned by the plastic monstrosities. Graham's lyrics reflect the mesmerising effect these had on the local public, & I can easily return to that Summer when I watched people at the tills man-handling these large little men. The sounds which flood the lyrics reflect the horrifying confusion which went with this sight, transforming & twisting the memory with increasing magnitude.

More significant cultural details are mentioned in such songs as 'Godzilla (King Of The Monsters)' & 'Life Is Like A Scalextric', which opens with the sound of racing cars & discusses this analogy to a fast beat. The longest track, at 6:32 minutes, is 'The Space Between Us'. In this song, Graham displays his dynamic approach to the production of music. Most of the sound is produced by Graham himself, with instruments listed including keyboards, Stylophone, Moog Theremin & a Dyson. This track, as well as track 7 features support from Richard Duffy-Howard (Lou Duffy-Howard also features on tracks 5 & 7) slicing this galatic track with the power of the instruments but also of Grahm Beck's voice, which blends so well with the music, that all these instruments become one.

I feel my descriptions are both elaborate & lacking in explanation. There's so much to this album - these twelve tracks totalling just under an hour of sound - that I struggle to pin down the words. Just as when I looked upon Sue Butler's artwork & design for the sleeve, having listened to this album more than once, I can't give a precise reason why I enjoyed it so much. All I know is that I did.

browsemagazinehull.net

A Bathful Of Nasturtiums

A review by Alan Clayson - from The Beat magazine (June 2013):

‘A Song For Those Not Listening’, the third track in, ought to be compulsory listening for the critic who either skip-listens or doesn’t bother at all with most of the musical flotsam-and-jetsam that washes up round his word processor every week - because if A Bathful Of Nasturtiums is treated so, he’ll be overlooking perhaps 2013’s most entertaining album thus far.
Its maker, Graham Graham [sic] Beck was at art college in Hull at the same time a Wreckless Eric with whom he formed Ruby and the Takeaways. When the group sundered, Eric achieved qualified pop fame while Graham Graham continued to waver and spring between music and art - which may be why part of the appeal of A Bathful Of Nasturtiums is the tactile sensation of looking at and handling a package that actually contains a cut-out-and-keep Batman mask (germane to the CD’s ‘I Am The Batman’ finale’) and a sachet of grass seeds (‘All Praise To The Manicured Lawn’).
Of the twelve listed tracks, my fave rave at present is ‘Fig Roll Overkill’ in which a sense of longing as much as the wretchedness of addiction to this biscuit pervades. Conversely, following ‘I Am The Batman’, there’s five untitled instrumental minutes of uneasy listening that I found more obscurely captivating. These, however, are but two of many startling and witty expressions of commendable sentiment framed in diverting, highly detailed and often quirky arrangements.  Moreover, if no Scott Walker, Beck’s understated approach to, say, ‘The Fag End From Hell’ or nostalgic ‘Unreliable Memories’ is as loaded as the most Joe Cocker-esque vocal explosion.  He’s no slouch as a keyboard player either. Finally, as Janice Nicholls - the girl who used to pass judgement on the latest releases in the ‘Spin A Disc’ section of Thank Your Lucky Stars - often said, it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.

Alan Clayson

Live performance at The New Adelphi Club, Hull

A review, by Michelle Dee, of a live performance at The New Adelphi Club, Hull, (Friday 4th October, 2013)

Simultaneously playing two synths, mature punk Graham Graham Beck(Fear of Bicycles) offers up a selection of his individual, shiny cellophane-wrapped upbeat pop treats.  Taking the audience to the moon and back in bubble wrap complete with props.  

And now he is handing around fig rolls as a pre-cursor to his ode to fig roll's Fig Roll Overkill, that has it's own confectionary-related video on Youtube. And with fig rolls waving in the air Graham Graham Beck endears himself to the slightly bemused Adelphi audience. 

A speeded-up, grimy sounding soundtrack, accompanies his superhero song, I am the Batman; the strangely infectious beats, rather marvelously provoke dancing from the floor.  The re-working of Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill,  is really rather good fun and rounds off a thoroughly enjoyable set.

Michelle Dee