Monday, 31 May 2010

Monday moments - Don't talk to Me About Love

This really shouldn't work. Scottish jangly guitar pop group try t0 get sophisticated. An extended dance version all chic choppy guitar and blondie disco backing mixed with helium vocals. However every now and then I fall in love with a track that if I was being totally objective is a bit of a mess. This is such a thing and it is more than the usual 40 something male's stange obsession with Claire Grogan

My Monday monent is the breathless refrain of "Yesterday's shattered tomorrow don't matter".

This comes from the cd version of "Bite" that also has the fantastic "Bring Me Closer" on, which you can buy here

Don't Talk to Me About Love (extended) - Altered Images

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Lazy Sunday - Emmett Tinley

Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is the opening track from Emmett Tinley's lp Attic Faith. Emmett is singer with Irish band Prayerboat that deserve their own bigger than the beatles post.

What do I like about it , well he has a stunning voice and the track kind of takes off and soars

Saturday, 29 May 2010

A Bit of Ambition - Duke Special

You can't beat a bit of ambition in pop music. After 2 lps of critical acclaim but patchy sales. Duke Special has pulled all the rabbits from his hat for his latest release, "The Stage, a Book and the Silver Screen".

Spread across 3 cds the songwriting and instrumentation harks back to the time of tin pan alley and vaudeville. Although each cd is a unique project, they fit together so well

The Huckleberry Finn ep contains 5 songs that are from an unfinished musical written by Kurt Weill and they do have a very theatrical feel about them. On the whole this is the most straightforward of the discs with the songs a mixture of the breezy and slower ballads that have echoes of the deep American south in them.

"Mother Courage and Her Children" collects together 12 songs that Duke Special wrote for a recent performance of Brecht's play at the National Theatre. The lp is strong enough to stand alone from the stage production. The songs and the instrumentation gives the whole thing a timeless feel .

The third disc and my favourite is called "The Silent World of Hector Mann". Hector Mann is a character from Paul Auster's great book "Book of Illusions". In the book he is a director of silent movies who made 12 silent era films. having been so taken with the book , Duke Special recorded a song inspired by one of the film titles and the idea of a project took hold. He sent Auster's book and a film title to 11 other songwriters (among them Neil Hannon and Ed Hardcourt), the only criteria being that the song had to be based on the given film title and "written in a pre-rock and roll style"

Perhaps the strangest thing of all is that the lp is recorded by Steve Albini.

I've posted one track from the Hector Mann disc

Scandal - Duke Special

If you like ambition in your pop music then you can buy "The Stage, a Book and the Silver Screen" here

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Singular Sounds - T - Tony Christie

Singular Sounds has reached T and instead of That Petrol Emotion I've gone for a big song and a big voice. Back in the age there was a live action Gerry Anderson tv series starring Robert Vaughan called the Protectors. Not half as good as a similarly ridiculous Persuaders (Roger Moore and Tony Curtis could it be?).

However, by far the best thing about it was the theme tune, with one of the best shout out choruses ever.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

A Year in Books 2010 - Provided you Don't Kiss Me

I read this partly out of family interest. My mum's uncle owned a chain of pubs in Nottingham and for a while was chairman at Nottingham Forest. I have 2 memories of him, one was at my great gran's birthday where all anyone wanted was stories about Brian Clough ( he told plenty and always ended them with a "......but that's just Brian") and one of him squirming on Panorama over the issue of Clough receiving money for cup final tickets.

I almost didn't get this , I'd read Dammed United and seen the film and was a bit Cloughed out, but I'm so glad I did.

Duncan Hamilton was a young reporter on the local paper when he got to cover Forest and first interview Clough. For the next 20 years he was the man that Clough and Taylor went to when they wanted their story / views out. He had complete access to the team and shared many of the highs and lows, triumphs and tears. It was a relationship closer tho that of a family member than press and manager. "Provided You Don't Kiss Me" tells the story of these years. The bit that hooks you in is that rather than simply tell a chronological story, Hamilton pulls events and conversations from across those 20 years into themes as he tries to understand what made the man tick.

There are plenty of stories , the famous ones and the private ones. He doesn't shy away from the darkness, the temper , the drinking , the destructive grudges held. He recognises rightly the role of Peter Taylor. However, above all it is a celebration of a unique character and his achievements.

The saddest thing is the realisation that in this age of Sky's shiny product , another Clough will never happen again and another Forest will never happen going from mid table div 2 to 2 x European Cup Winners again. Just as sad is how Hamilton calmly points out that in today's game Clough would have failed and that says more on what's wrong with modern football than Andy Gray will ever admit to

For anyone who thinks that Mourinho is the biggest "character" football management has seen

You can buy "Provided you Don't kiss me " here

Monday, 24 May 2010

Monday Moments - Easter Theatre

I was a fan on xtc I had a lot of their lps (all of them since "English Settlement") and a couple of songs would definitely pop in my all time favourite chart. However, there isnt one lp apart from maybe "skylarking" that I didn't think deep down was a bit ... well patchy. For every great tune, there would be one that would just pass me by and every lp seemed to have a song that would have me reaching for the skip button. They seemed to have vanished since the "Nonsuch" lp (apparently tied up in all kind of legal disputed with their record label)

Out of nowhere a new lp appeared in 1999, "Apple Venus". It is a work of genius. By far the most cohesive thing they have done. I can only describe it as chamber pop full of musical quirks with the lushest of instrumentation and harmonies. For once with a band after a long break this was an lp that sounded like it took 7 years to make.

My monday moment comes from one track , Easter Theatre. It starts with a gorgeous bit of strings and soon tumbles into a great chorus.

My moment is towards the end as like a summer walk the song meanders to it's end and at about 3 and a half minutes on you get some dreamlike harmonies that gradually fade away until you reach for repeat

Apple Venus disappeared as quickly as it came and with the next lp they returned to the spikier guitar pop of old. It's a lost classic

Easter Theatre - XTC

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Lazy Sunday - Divine Comedy

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track Neil Hannon. Now I have a bit of a love hate relationship with the Divine Comedy, a too arched eyebrow can easily turn from knowing intellect to smart arsed caricature. I'm also a bit suspicious of songs where the chorus relies a tad too much on "babababas" (Try Teardrop Explodes "Wilder" if you want the ultimate babababdababadada lp)..... but this is great, the lyrics are nonsense, but a nonsense that seems full of the deepest meaning.
And what is not to love about a song that ends
"I'm the Catcher in the Rye
I'm the twinkle in her eye
I'm Jeff Godlum in the Fly
Well who am I"

Saturday, 22 May 2010

A year in books 2010 - Cherry

Every now and then I spend a very expensive hour or so walking the A - Z of one of the bigger Waterstone's, gradually filling up a basket with things that grab my interest, just based on the jacket, cover blurb or a "bit like..." quote. The down side of this is I'm often suffering from literary stress ie the feeling of more books on my to read shelf than I can possibly get through. However, it does have the upside of discovering stuff that I missed when it was first released. Although this then leads to another visit to buy the rest of that author's back list!

"Cherry" by Matt Thorne is one of those such books. Matt Thorne has been writing novels since 1998 and Cherry was originally published in 2005.

The story focuses on Steve Ellis a single teacher who lives an insular life. He is not overly attractive as a character with an self centred cynical view of the world. After befriending an old man in a bar , Steve soon gets a visit from a representative of the "Your Perfect Woman" dating agency. No sooner has he gone through the profiling exercise than his perfect woman appears and starts to fulfil his every desire and need. You don't need to be a genius to figure out all of this is just too good to be true , or if it is true, consequences are sure to follow. Especially with the author's skill in building a sense of unease and a feeling that even the mundane is all slightly off kilter.

The sparse prose reads like a cross between a modern morality tale and noir thriller. The odd array of characters reminded me a bit of Twin Peaks but a Twin Peaks written by Paul Auster or Rupert Thomson.

Like Paul Auster (in Music of Chance rather than Brooklyn Follies mode) what happens isn't really the point and moving the plot forward often relies on outrageous coincidence or brief suspensions of logic. What is important is the way people react and why as well as how their reactions often set things running like a complex domino run.

Also in common with Auster the journey is much more satisfying than the ending

A book that really sucks you in and creates a genuine "what an earth is going to happen next" feeling

You can buy Cherry here

Friday, 21 May 2010

Life of Live - Lloyd Cole and the Commotions

The next live concert after the Railway Children felt like I'd been looking forward to it all year. The commotions were probably my favourite band at the time and their 3rd lp Mainstream was fantastic. I didn't realise that at the time they were in the death throws and that it would be their last lp.

Although when we left we all told each other what a great concert it had been , in truth it was bitterly disappointing. The sound was poor and the band just felt like they were going through the motions with Lloyd looking like he wanted to be anywhere but on stage performing these songs.

I was lucky enough to see them again at their one off reunion tour and that was everything I'd hoped this concert would be , full of energy and a band who looked like they were having fun.

Typical of the fact was that they did this song, a great track on the lp Easy Pieces, but live in the cavernous Bradford Hall just got lost in the background noise. Only goes to prove that you can't teach a shark to play piano

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

A year in Books 2010 - The Rehearsal

The Rehearsal is the debut novel from 25 year old New Zealand Eleanor Catton. It has won numerous awards in her latest land as was published here with a lot of publicity by Granta. It had a quote from another hot young author on the cover although "a glimpse into the future of the novel itself" is usually enough for me to avoid it like the plague. Someone however knew I loved Donna Tartt's the Secret History and kept nagging me to give it a go.

Well for a start apart from being set in a school that suggests an element of privilege it has absolutely nothing in common with that novel.

The story flits between a girl's school which is coping with the scandal of one of the teachers having an affair with one of the girls and the new intake into a prestigious drama school.

At the core is the younger sister of the girl who had the affair, her music teacher and a 1st year drama student who takes the leading role in the end of year production. So far so straight forward awakening of sexual power and confusion. However when the drama school decide that their end of year production should be about the scandal then what is real and what is drama merges into one until ,as the reader, you get lost in terms of what is being acted and what is simple narrative, who are playing characters and who are being themselves.

The writing is very stylised, with the early chapters feeling like dialogue from play and descriptive passages more stage directions from a script.

At first I found this extremely annoying with everything feeling forced and layered with heavy handed symbolism (the music teacher is teaching various girls saxophone)

I was very close to to dropping the book off at Oxfam. I stuck with it as gradually, as the lines blurred, the structure and language started to fit and pull you in. However the ending just left me frustrated, it seemed to pull off the unlikely combination of being vague and heavy handed at the same time

it is original and it is an interesting use of narrative, but it did leave me craving a book of good old story telling

you can buy the Rehearsal here

I've just noticed that a customer on the Waterstone's website has given it 1 star - a tad harsh but I kind of know where they are coming from

Monday, 17 May 2010

Monday Moments - Big Audio Dynamite

I was never a massive fan of the Clash, loved "London Calling", liked the singles and had "Combat Rock" but that was about it. However this is pure brilliance. It seems weird that at the time the sample heavy sound Mick Jone's first post Clash band came up with was pretty unique outside of rap/dance music.

The song takes us on a whistle stop tour of the films of Nic Roeg from Walkabout, Performance and The Man Who fell to Earth


People ask what's the deal

Man dies first reel

This ain't how it's supposed to be

Don't like no aborigine"

Through to Don't Look Now and Insignificance

"Met a dwarf that was no good

Dressed like little red riding hood

Bad habit taking life c

Calling card a six inch knife,

Ran off really fast

Mumbling something about the past

Best sex I've ever seen

As if each moment was the last"

I'm my student pretentiousness I liked the fact I could get all the references

All this is interspersed with sampled dialogue from the film with James Fox and Mick Jagger , "Performance". My Monday moment comes throughout the song, each time the immensely quotable dialogue pops up. Perhaps my favourite being "I like a bit of a cavorts"

I may be listening through rose tinted headphones but I think this sounds as fresh as ever

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Lazy Sunday - The Departure Lounge

Top of the shuffle pile this lazy sunday is a track by to give them their full title Tim Keegan and the Departure Lounge . This has that lazy hazy summer feel that the Lilac Time do so well.

If you like this track then you can download some more at the band's website here or you can buy the lp "Out of Here" here it is full of similar sounds

Friday, 14 May 2010

Singular Sounds S - Saint Etienne

Another of those bands that I'm not sure how I've come to only have one track by. In pre pc days I do remember having the greatest hits but that went missing years ago. It could have been Swansway, Sweetest Ache or Sleeper. Instead I've gone for dance music's own Bohemian Rhapsody

Close to 9 mins of sugar coated pop

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Pop over to Boo's place

Boo Hewerdine was the lead singer of one of my favoutire bands , The Bible. He has continued to produce fantastic stuff as a solo artist as well as writing for and with others and if that wan't enough he has also porduced one of favourite lps of recent times "The Last Temptation of Chris2 by Chris Difford.

Therefore every now and then I'll pop over to his website in the hope that a new release is on the way (despite it only being about 6 months since the last one) or he has put up a rare track to share.

On my last visit there was a bit of a nice surprise in the Boo has started a daily blog. No music , just random thoughts and very entertaining at that.

So go on give Boo a vists and lave him a comment. Boo's blog thing can be found here

I've posted an extra track form his solo lp "Thanksgiving" - this is available as a download on his website

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Strange Covers - Steven Lindsay

I'm pretty sure fans of the Pixies and Francis Black aren't going to like this at all. Steven Lindsay was the lead singer of the Big Dish one of those bands that produced much better music than their sales suggested. When the band broke up he disappeared for what seemed like ages until 2 lp releases in quick succession, firstly "Exit Music" and then "Kite". Both were full of melodic downbeat songs with more than a little of the Blue Nile in them. Steven Lindsay's voice was as soulful as ever and his songs brought the best out of it. "Kite" however did contain one cover, The Pixies "Monkey Gone to Heaven"

The warm vocal is a million miles away from Black's vitriolic "if the devil is 6".

Strange but good

Monkey's Gone to Heaven - Steven Lindsay

You can buy "Kite" here and it is worth getting

Monday, 10 May 2010

Monday Moments - Gobetweens

I could have gone for dozens of moments, but I've chosen a lesser known early track written by Grant McLennan. As with Cattle and Cane this is about the death of his father and captures a mood of regret and sadness perfectly. The sparse arrangement gives the words even more power and impact.

My monday moments comes as the singer (as a child?) let's frustration take over only to calm down again with a sad confused "you let it go"

and you won't write

and you won't write

that's all I ask that you just write

and you say no

that you can't speak

you lost your voice

you let it go

you let it go

It also has one of my favourite lines in any song

The finger traces the lines of love

Dusty in Here - The Gobetweens

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Lazy Sunday - The message

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile is the first rap record I bought. What do I like about it, well i love the fact that different people take on each of the verses and the fact that it described a world that was as alien to the flatlands of the fens as you could get

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Smiths Light? - Northern Portrait

There was a time when the music press were desperate for the next smiths and there seemed to be an endless parade of bands with jangly guitars and songs about death that were hailed as the next wave. A lot of really good bands seemed to never fully emerge from this early tag and struggled under the weight of expectation, Gene especially springs to mind. although they continued to make excellent lps long after the NME had lost interest.

Morrissey continues to churn out patchy lps, Johnny Marr continues to be guitar for hire, madchester, britpop have come and gone and the Smiths are confined to pop history despite the endless compilations that seem to appear every xmas.

Now a Danish band have come along and started all those Smiths comparisons again. Northern Portrait have already released 2 eps and now their debut lp "Criminal Art Lovers" has been released. The first track "The Munchhausen in Me" starts with a guitar and drums and a lovelorn , bored, despairing vocal that does have you thinking the unthinkable has happened and the famous four have reformed. The sound is much more manchester than copenhagen

As the lp progresses the style persists , even the song titles could be a smiths b side "The Operation Worked but the Patient Died". Thankfully as the lp builds the band's own personality begins to shine through. However, the songs do tend to merge into a similar sound (as good a sound as that is) and for me there is not enough of the light and shade that made Johnny Marr such a gifted guitarist. This is summed up by the fact that I really like the lp and have been playing it a lot but struggle to think of a really stand out track.

So if you like a bit of literate indie guitar pop (is such a thing exists) then this is worth giving a go.

You buy the lp here and you can visit their myspace site here to listen to some tracks
I know it is the height of laziness to continually compare to other bands but go to their myspace site and I'm sure you'll see what I mean

I also want to point out in this age of takedown notices that this is an example how internet blogging should work. I'd never heard of them until I visited the excellent Sweet Unrest blog , heard the track posted and then promptly bought the cd.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Life of Live - The Railway Children

I was really looking forward to this next concert. The band had released a fantastic debut lp on factory records, they had released 2 of my favourite singles of the year in gorgeous covers. Having bought their second lp (now on a major) it was a bit blander but was growing on me. All I can remember is that the Railway Children were really disappointing. The songs seemed to merge into one and all the subtleties seemed lost. Maybe it was the sound, maybe the venue , maybe an off day, I don't know

Brighter is still a stonking track though and the cover is still gorgeous

You can buy their debut lp "Reunion Wilderness" here

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

my indie past - Jazz Butcher

In my student days I used to spend an awful lot of my overdraft (the heady days before student loans) on lps based purely on a review. One such review likened the Jazz Butcher's lp Fishcoteque to Lloyd Cole. I rushed out an bought it and although not much like Lloyd Cole, guitars jangled and there were some great clever lyrics. I played it to death and soon started trying to track down everything they had done. At the time I guess they were best known for one of their early singles "Southern Mark Smith". Over the next 10 years lps came and went and then i lost a bit of interest mainly because......

There a lot of bands I love and a lot I don't care for, however Jazz Butcher are the only band where both applies and also over the course of every lp they've made (and I've got most of them). Apart for Fishcotheque they are a real Jekyll and Hyde band. Each lp has it's fair share of wonderful guitar pop (not at all like Lloyd Cole), but then along comes some songs that for me are teeth gratingly bad. A lot of these are when the lyrics move from wry humour to comedy songs or the style moves from pastiche to some weird art project. I do know there are Jazz Butcher fans who love this stuff but it just leaves me scratching my head and reaching for the fast forward button. So I guess for me if ever a band was made for my mp3 player it is Jazz Butcher.

I've posted 4 tracks - 3 of my favourites and one that shows the other side ( but believe me this is one of the best of these type)

Next Move Sideways - from 1988s Fishcotheque and okay this is quite Lloyd Coley

"what do you do when potential is your favourite word"

Harlan - from 1991's Condition Blue 7 mins of groove based heaven

"well I've been bouncing off the walls because that's all I had to work with at the time"

When Eno Sings - from 1995's Illuminate complete with enoesque backing vocals

"I feel everything when eno sings"

"hummma hummma hummma"

I'll leave you to judge which is the comedy song!

Built around the talents of Pat Fish I won't try and go through their releases (complicated by endless compilations) however their website has all the details and you can find that here.

If you buy one lp then make it Fishcotheque but this does seem difficult to get hold of. Amazon seem to have a lot of the lps

Anyone else have a similar love hate relationship with other bands??

Monday, 3 May 2010

Monday Moments - Echo and the Bunnymen

Pop music is a bit like boxing, in that comebacks often feel like a hopeless search for former glories and mostly end in tears.

However for this week's monday moment I'm turning to a comeback that was simply glorious. Who would have thought after the misfires of a stuttering solo career , electrofixtion and a Macless bunnymen, they would reconvene and produce something as good as this.

This was a comeback not full of the confidence, swagger and arrogance of old, instead a world weariness of a fighter getting into the ring one more time. Whilst around them britpop groups were striving for longevity, this felt like a been there, seen that , done that and it's not that good.

My monday moment comes at the end with the repeated

"All the shadows and the pain are coming to you" in a tired, wise voice that knows it to be true

Nothing Lasts Forever - Echo and the Bunnymen

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Lazy Sunday - Hatcham Social

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile proves that I do listen to some modern popular beat combos and not just stuff stuck in the 80s and 90s. From their 2009 debut lp the wonderfully titled "You Dig the Tunnel , Ill Hide the Soil" (which you can buy here)

What I like about is , well you can't beat a bit of angular choppy , scratchy guitar can you?

And whilst I'm at it happy birthday to me for yesterday!