Sunday, 31 October 2010
Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track from the debut lp of the Blue Nile. This lp indirectly got me writing this blog. Jc at Vinyl Villain did this series where he asked for guest posts for a month. For some reason I decided to give it a go and wrote about a school trip down from the fens to London to buy the lp after hearing Tinseltown in the Rain on the Annie Nightingale request show. I would share it with you but it has gone the way of a blown up hard drive and so I guess in JC's archives somewhere. Anyway he kindly put the piece on his blog and I caught the bug.
So the person I offended with the OMD post, it was all the Blue Nile's fault
What do I like about ti well living in the fens this was an other worldly sound of mystery and romance
On a related note a new book on the Blue Nile is out soon nad has jumped straight onto my xmas list - you can pre-order Nileism here. My guess is that it is one for the die hard fans only.
The synopsis does give the scary fact that next year is their 30th anniversary during which time they have made 4 lps with 33 songs on! ALthough what is exciting is the fact that the author has had access to unreleased recordings that got lost along the way
Saturday, 30 October 2010
Trevor Horn deserves god like genius status simply by producing Lexicon of Love for which I'd even forgive him Tatu. Add to this the wonderful 80s Video Killed the Radio Star (although thankfully it didn't inspire me to swap my national health glasses for a pair of big red frames) and even making a Yes song that sounded okay (Owner of a Lonely Heart) and you've got a producer who although coming at it from the opposite direction to Brain Eno (you feel that with one less is more and the other more is more) also can sparkle magic dust on otherwise okay material
Even without the perfect 4 mins that are All of my Heart, his god like status comes from 3 of the most excessive over the top tracks you can think of.
Die Tausend Des Mabuse - Propaganda
Although Horn didn't produce the Secret Wish lp ( he handed things over to Stephen Lipson whilst he focused on Frankie Goes to Hollywood) he did produce the lead off single Dr Mabuse as well as various extended versions including this one
Welcome to the Pleasuredome - Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Although the self combusted after complete over exposure, I still don't tire of hearing the title track of their first lp , here in one of the many remixed versions
Left to My Own Devises - Pet Shop Boys
Hysterically over the top without lapsing into cartoon camp
Just to show that he can do the straight forward as well. He somehow ended up producing the Belle and Sebastian lp Dear Catastrophe Waitress. Apparently he agreed as his daughter really liked them and having heard all their stuff it irked him that he felt the vocal was never well produced. It is my favourite B and S lp despite getting mixed reviews (some reviewers missed the point by complaining that he hadn't got them making something like Two Tribes!).
If She Wants Me - Belle and Sebastian
This is one of the slower songs and I don't think Stuart Murdoch's vocal has sounded better.
Thursday, 28 October 2010
Having seen the Dainties a few times on what at times felt like a never ending tour, I was excited when leaflets started appearing in the poly bar advertising a solo Martin Stephenson gig. I think he was supported by Gypsy Dave Smith a slide guitarist who had appeared on a few tracks on Gladsome Humour and Blue. Without the band to play off at times the concert became more like stand up comedy as Martin started gently taking the piss out of people in the audience. A bit risky for a singer but such is the affection the audience held for him I think he could have come on, belched, stolen our wallets and we would have still called for and encore.
I've posted a track from the above mentioned lp. A great example of how he could write a song about something that was far away from what everyone else I listened to was writing about ( this time his relationship with his Grandfather) with lyrics that skated on occasion close to twee (sing little bird sing sing) and yet combined with the simplicity of melody and sweetness of voice ended up as something personal and moving
What's it smell off
Smells of summer
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
Originally recorded by Rex Harrison's son for the film The Thomas Crown Affair., I've loved this ever since I saw the film on the tele one sunday afternoon. The best version is probabaly the one on Dusty in Memphis , but the song is a great fit to what Terry Hall was doing at the time with the Colourfield's lp Virgin and Philistines.
Monday, 25 October 2010
Monday moments and a bit of perfect indie pop. Iwas going to put on Happy Hour by the Housemartins but instead have gone for somethign I love that deserves a wider audience. Aberfeldy are a a scottish bands with 2 lps and another soon to be released to their name. I haven't got their debut which featured a line drawing of some mating lions on the cover (covers aren't their strong point see above!). I picked up on them with the 2nd lp "Do Whatever Turns You on" whcih was produced by Blue Nile producer Calum Malcolm (although their sound is a million miles away form the Blue Nile).
They specialise in 3 min pop songs with catchy hooks with a timeless feel that they could have been recorded anytime in the last 20 years.
My monday moment comes from "If Then", under 3 mins as all great pop songs should be. A joyous love song and my moment comes from the "I love you, I love you I do" refrain as you can't but help believe its true
On a related note Aberfeldy have also released at one single with 17 seconds records. This is also the name of a great blog here. I'm a little in awe of this blog as not only it is a great read but Ed whose blog it is has also put his money and time where his keyboard is and set about releasing stuff he loves on his own lable defying the myth of "those who can't write about it" (although in may case as afar as music is concerend it is a definate can't)
You can buy Aberfeldy's 3 lps here
If Then - Aberfeldy
Sunday, 24 October 2010
Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track from former Bother and Beyonder (the best forgotten) and one half of Eg and Alice (best remembered, treasured and revered) solo lp.
Polished pop music at its best
Saturday, 23 October 2010
My last post is full of bombast and noise. As a comparison I thought I'd post something form the "Secret Life of the Waterboys". Same band, same song , another extreme. Apparently when it was recorded to get the right haunting feel in the mix the piano was recorded on a stage and the vocal up in a balcony
Thursday, 21 October 2010
Apologies , I've just realised that in my post on Gene a couple of days ago I didn't put in the link to Long Sleeves for the Summer, which is a bit of a shame as this is my favourite track of theirs . Anyway I've now added the link on the original post
The opening track of an lp is pretty important to me , it kind of has to set the tone for what is to follow as well as grabbing attention. Back in the days when Mike Scott was making Big Music he managed a hat trick of killer opening songs, all of them born to be played loud
The opening track to the debut lp was the first thing I ever heard from the Waterboys, it didn't really sound like anything else at the time , epic rather than pop , rough rather than polished, it seemed timeless but out of tune with everything else I liked at the time.
December - The Waterboys
Whilst not having the impact of December, when Pagan Place came out everything seemed to be turned up to 11 , the ambition , the production , the themes. This really was big music with Mike Scott's voice doing battle with massed guitar and brass
The Whole of the Moon had already become firmly camped in my list of favourite eve singles by the time This is the Sea came out, so it was one of those times when I got anew lp , locked myself away to listen properly and immerse myself in what would come out of the speakers.
The mournful trumpet starts it all off until the song rushes out at you. The fact that Karl Wallinger has a co writer credit on it was enough for to go and buy his debut World Party lp when he split from the band
So there you go the perfect hat trick of opening tracks. Having said that the first track off the next lp was pretty good too , it just ruins the neatness of the post!
You can buy all 3 lps here
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Another band who had the weight of expectation of being championed by Morrissey in their early days were Gene. They did slightly better than Raymonde and also had a sound much closer to that of the Smiths.
They had a lot in common, great guitar playing, depressing, tongue in cheek, sexually ambiguous lyrics, even the odd Morrissey vocal yodel and growl. The early singles were beautifully designed and recognisable, time spent on great b sides and their own hatful of hollow (To See the Lights). what they lacked maybe was someone with a strong sense of individuality. I really like Gene and have all their lps and early singles but I struggle to picture what the individual band members look like
Formed from the ashes of the band Spin (who had a great single released in scatches in the sand)In the 10 years that they were together they made a dozen or so singles and 4 lps (excluding compilations and a live lp) They hit their commercial peak with Britpop but had little in common with the blur/oasis bandwagon.
They split in 2004 having felt they had come as far as they could , ironically having released the lp Libertiine which had some of the best material they had recorded on.
I've posted the debut single For the Dead which made record of the week in nme when this meant something. I was lucky to get one of the 2000 or so copies printed. I remember hearing it for the first time a being genuinely excited and feeling a real sense of anticipation when the first lp came out.
The second track is my favourite thing they have done and comes from the second lp. It starts with a beautiful bit of guitar playing before entering an almost waltz tempo
The final track is from the last lp and shows they could still do the epic and the dramatic
You can buy Gene lps here and if you were forced to make a choice I'd go with the second lp Drawn to the Deep End
There is also a good fansite here
Monday, 18 October 2010
Monday moments and this week a bit of 80s synth. This is the forgotten single , the lead off from the Luxury Gap and the one released just before Temptation. I remember seeing the video on the Tube and thinking it was a guaranteed hit (as ever it sunk without a trace) and just reinforced how cool long coats looked.
As ever with Heaven 17 the mix of synths with a guitar line works so well and there is a bit of a chanty chorus which you can't go wrong with.
My monday moment though comes at the end with a bit of half spoken/half sung nonsense that at the time felt loaded with meaning. It all just felt so epic.
Found guilty of no crime
They were the best years of our life
I'll turn the last card down
Sunday, 17 October 2010
Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a single from the Blow Monkeys. A good bit of 80s funky pop with Dr Robert again hiding his social lyrics in an chart friendly sheen
Friday, 15 October 2010
There was a time when the smiths were at the height of their success when the music press desperate to discover the next smiths would fall on any Morrissey recommendation and proclaim them the second coming. He didn't have a high hit rate, James never really escaped cult status until they hitched a ride on madchester with sit down and who remembers Bradford?
Another band to get the Morrissey seal of approval were Raymonde built around singer James Maker and guitarist Phil Huish they released one lp and a handful of singles. I remember them getting loads of press with the lp getting a lot of pre release hype , helped by the fact that James Maker gave a good quote, getting a melody maker cover before a single had been released. In hindsight this was too much too soon and as a reaction to the melody maker piece, the nme took a more negative stand point.
The lp Bablelogue followed and a tour supporting the Smiths. This was followed by another slot supporting the long lost Bolshoi. The following is form James Maker's blog and describes this tour which is enough to make me think being a dad of 2 maybe better than being in band
Inexplicably, after supporting The Smiths we were attached to a bill with proto-Goth outfit The Bolshoi, which is akin to pairing Marlene Dietrich with Arthur Mullard. Interesting perhaps, but ludicrous. Transparently, we were playing to the wrong audience. I came on stage to a sea of Robert Smith doppelgangers. Revenge, obviously, at my earlier insult. There was a fashion for beer-throwing at these concerts and Phil began to carry a weapon on stage.
“Can we be optimistic and say that we shan’t be needing that?” “If any cunt throws anything –”“Yes, but you can’t take a small pick-axe on stage with you.”
The front sleeve of Stop Kicking My Heart Around is a photograph of him taken seconds before driving the sharp-end of his Fender Telecaster into a wearisome student’s face. On one occasion, at a concert given in London, a beer artist and heckler was set upon by two of Phil’s brothers who happened to be in the stalls. He was kicked until unconscious and the set had to be stopped whilst the paramedics were called to the scene. In Belfast what appeared to be a small bomb package was tossed onto the stage which I rather expertly kicked back into the dress circle with a black patent slipper. In Dublin I wandered too far downstage and suddenly disappeared from view, falling ten feet into a concrete pit. As no-one thought to rescue me I was obliged to deliver the concert whilst peeking over a barricade.
The accommodations became worse as the whole affair began to visibly disintegrate, reaching its nadir at a guest house in Dundee. You would not even have contemplated walking barefoot on the linoleum. The bedding was so highly flammable and soiled that one was obliged to sleep in an overcoat. Upon check-out, Phil removed the side drawer of a dressing table and went into the communal bathroom. After a few minutes he returned and neatly slid the drawer back into place. As we left I inched it open. He had left the next wretched guest a very personal souvenir, although I’m sure it would hardly have elicited shock given the surroundings. I think this comes under the classification of jape.
My 26th birthday fell at the next stop in Glasgow. Our tour manager who was of no fixed address since he needn’t need one - having been on the road since 1968 with the ubiquitous John Mayall (in every rehearsal studio in England you will see an instrument case with “John Mayall” stencilled on it) - decided to arrange a birthday present for me. While no doubt coming from a kind place, I do wish people would at least make a little investigation into one’s fancies before choreographing a surprise. A surprise when ill-conceived can come off as assault. There was a faint knock on my bedroom door and when I opened it there stood a teenaged girl with a shaven head and, I soon divined when she said “Hi”, a missing front tooth. I didn’t have the heart to close the door on her and so invited her in. We spent the next three hours discussing her alcohol abuse problem. Enough is too much. Unwilling to continue with this charade, I informed everybody that I was taking the next train back to London. Back to Peckham. And back to Mrs Minkin at the Unemployment Bureau.
Listening back to the lp now it is a bit of a mess with an ambition that outweighs the result. It also sounds nothing like the Smiths despite most of the negative reviews calling them copyists.It does contain a couple of great singles and leaves you with a wonder how the band would have developed given more time to get the right producer and less time caught up in the music press wars
Having said that James Makers next band RPLA were more at home in the pages of Kerrang so maybe they did the right thing in quitting when they did
I'll end with a bit more from his blog
Geoff Travis visited the studio to check our progress on a couple of occasions – it being a little beyond reasonable tricycling distance – and, as I later learned, confided his misgivings to Morrissey.
Travis: “There’s a problem. James can’t sing.”Morrissey: “Geoff, you’re missing the point.”
(Two weeks later)
Travis: “There’s a problem. James has designed a not-very-attractive sleeve for the album.”Morrissey: “Geoff, you’re missing the point.”
(One week later)
Travis: “I love the Raymonde album! It’s very 1960s.”Morrissey: “Geoff, you’re missing the point.”
No one Can Hold a Candle to You - Raymonde
Solid State Soul - Raymonde
Thursday, 14 October 2010
I tend to have 2/3 books on the go at one time which means that I tend to start and finish them in chunks. I'm a big fan of David Mitchell who I think writes some of the most beguiling and interesting fiction around. He is the one author whose work I think will still be going strong in 30 years time and one of the most suited to make that next step up to the league of Amis and McEwan.
His last book was a pretty straight forward coming of age novel "Black Swan Dream" and before that was the inspiring Cloud Atlas which weaves 6 distinct stories in 6 ages of time written in 6 distinct genre styles.
For his latest novel he has shifted time and place again. This time we head to a dutch trading post on a tiny Island just off main land Japan at the end of the 18th century. We are introduced to Jacob De Zoet as he is tasked with hunting out corruption in this out post of the Dutch East India Trading Company. Through this task we meet a myriad of characters on both sides of the cultural divide, all drawn with distinct loving care and all with subtle motivations and traits. The book is split in 3 parts, in the first we see Jacob go about his task with serious straight ahead honesty, whilst troubled with his own desires for both promotion and a young scarred Japanese student of the acerbic Dr Marinus. This section ends with Jacob realising the world doesn't run in straight lines as he loses both the girl and his status.
The second part moves into the heart of Japan as the same student,on the death of her father, is sent to serve in temple that hides a terrible secret. The focus shifts to her time in the temple and the attempts of Jacob's interpreter to rescue her. Like Jacob before him, with success in his grasp, the interpreter learns the cost of betrayal.
The final part returns to the island and Jacob who has to deal with the arrival of a British frigate intent of replacing the Dutch as the sole trading partners with the Japanese.
The true beauty of this novel comes not only with the beautiful use of language but the way that each thread of the story weaves around each other with an ending that pulls it all together to leave you with a sense of sad satisfaction. The descriptions of Japan and the 2 cultures of the Dutch traders and the Japanese nobility are expertly drawn. The trick is the realisation that although the world of the 18th century is so different the motivations and confusions of men are timeless.
This really is story telling of the highest class and you can buy The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet here
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
Whilst I was at poly Julian Cope made an annual visit to perform live, he'd even be made honoury president of the student's union. Nation Underground was the follow up lp to Saint Julian which had got him back into the charts and on top of the pops. It was also full of bright shiny pop songs but came out to luke warm reviews and poor sales. The whole thing saw Cope abandon the pop wagon for good and start to make sprawling double lps the first of which Peggy Suicide saw him get the best reviews of his career.
My Nation Underground is not the disaster this all suggests there are some great pop songs on there but it does all feel a tad too polished and slightly soulless.
In all honesty I can't remember much about the concert at all, which in itself says a lot.
I've posted the lead off single and still one of my Julian Cope favourites
Monday, 11 October 2010
This weeks Monday Moment comes from Irish band The 4 of Us. The briefly flirted with UK chart success with the breezy pop song Mary that got heavy play on the awful late 80s Entertainment USA. Lately they've released a couple of lps of quietly reflective largely acoustic songs. This comes from the 1993 lp Heaven and Earth
My Monday moment a bit like last week is built around the lead vocal and when for the first time he moves to a higher pitch for the chorus.
Voices on the Radio - The 4 of us
The lp is full of such songs and is worth getting and listening to with the lights dimmed and a glass of malt in hand
You can buy the lp from the band's website here
Will time roll back again
Sunday, 10 October 2010
Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile is an example of what you get with the two god like geniuses for the price of one. The track comes from John Cale and Brian Eno's lp "Wrong Way Up" which is full of deceptively simple and catchy pop songs. What I like about it is John Cale's voice over what could easily be a backing track from an early 80s synth band
Saturday, 9 October 2010
On an earlier year in books I wrote that the words Booker prize usually sent me running for the hills. However looking back I'm a bit surprised the number of books I've read this year that has those words on the cover .... and here is another one.
White Tiger follows the rise of Balram Halwai from struggling to escape the heart of India's dark lands to embracing the entrepreneurial new India of the call centre capital Bangalore. However this isn't a tale of poor honest boy made good, it is a tale of corruption , bribery and murder, and the relentless divide of the haves and have nots. Told entirely in the first person through a series of e:mails to the visiting Premier of China the book stands or falls on how believable Balram's voice is.
It is a voice of humour, one that quietly mocks both himself and his situation , a naive wisdom reveals truth after truth. The voice is one of contradictions as it swings from an unsentimental acceptance of his lot to one of anger and frustration.
By then end you don't know if you've been listening to a philosopher and a revolutionary or just a murdering opportunist who is quite prepared to see his family butchered if it means he can finally break free.
The picture painted of India is razor sharp with nothing feeling false or contrived. This is achieved through the matter of factness and economy of language as Balram views his world with an unblinking eye and hiding the horror of poverty through the blackest humour
Not the best book of 2008 (what Booker prize winner ever is) but one that whether you have been to India or not will suck you in.
You can buy White Tiger here
Friday, 8 October 2010
I'd always been a fan of OMD even when john Hughes started putting them on his movies' soundtracks and they went all safe and poppy. Things were tested by the release of Pacific Age which although had a couple of good tracks on lacked any sense of experimentation and included the worst thing they had done , a "tribute" to us the fans called "we love you" which is as bad as it sounds. I gave up completely on the version of the band which was basically an Andy McClusky solo project.
However interest in the news of a new lp began to grow as press releases started talking of a return to the days of analogue synths and trying to recapture the mix of pop and experimentation of the early lps.
Everything seemed to be in place with the Peter Saville sleeve and the very OMD title. However music is of a moment and I knew deep down that trying to recreate something from 1982 would tread a thin line between recapturing glory and a tribute band and could easily come across as warmed up left overs.
So have OMD succeeded in marrying the future to the past ? Mostly yes - the lp opener comes out of the blocks fast and reminds me a bit of New Stone Age or Bunker Soldiers. There are lots of synth sounds that echo the early lps and in one track "Sister Mary Says" they come close to replicating the rush of catchiness of some of the early singles (apparently the song was originally written for the second p but was dropped as it was too similar to Enola Gay). Choral samples feature strongly , there is a fan's love letter to Kraftwerk in RFWK and in the title track they have recaptured the art of the song where the synth melody lines provide the chorus.
The lp also features 2 beautiful slow songs in "Bondage of Fate" and "The Right Side", which is 8 mins still doesn't outstay its welcome.
Where they don't quite get it right is with the modern not because the songs aren't good but largely because they feel they belong to another lp. "Sometimes" could be off a Moby lp and "The Future Past and Forever After" is a weird visit to Pet Shop Boys land but with not as good lyrics.
The 2 worst songs both sound like they were written by Andy McClusky for Atomic Kitten, the lead off single is ordinary in every way and the trancey "Pulse" is all moans and groans which assuming they are in their late 40s is a bit embarrassing (although the chanty chorus makes it my 8 year old sons favourite by a mile)
Despite this they have ended up with a really strong lp and if you liked them best at the time of Architecture and Morality then there is a lot here you will like
You can buy the lp here
Wednesday, 6 October 2010
A couple of weeks ago I posted a new lp by a band I really like called Stars. At that point I thought I had the 4 lps they had released. It came as a bit of a shock to find out there was an earlier lp that I didn't know existed.
Night Songs was the bands debut and differs in so much the keyboards dominate mainly I think as it was recorded when the band were a duo. Also there is little of the boy/girl vocal that reminded me of early Prefab Sprout.
As a result and the fact there lots of good but no are no real stand out songs, means it is a good listen but verges on the bland in places and the songs tend to merge into one.
However it does contain one very brave cover. It gets away with it by being so different but by sampling the guitar line recognisable at the same time
Monday, 4 October 2010
Writing about Steven Lindsay last week got me thinking of another Craig Armstrong track this time from his lp "The Space Between Us" .
Craig Armstrong had moved from being a member of Big Dish to popping up on the credits of lots of lps I liked "doing the strings". He had also started doing film soundtracks with his biggest success being Romeo and Juliet (the one with Leo in).
His solo lp was a mix of moody instrumentals and guest vocalists.
The stand out track featured Elizabeth Frazer and I think it is one of the best things she has done. Singing a lot clearer than when in the Cocteau Twins my monday moment is simply the moment her vocal starts and ends with her last note.
This Love - Craig Armstrong featuring Elizabeth Frazer
Sunday, 3 October 2010
Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track from the little heard and bought Propoganda second lp. After the messy divorce from ZTT Claudia Brucken had left and a couple of old Simple Minds had joined. It isnt a bad lp but with an overload of guests it seems like it has been produced to a point of blandness. Having said all that this is a gorgeous track
Saturday, 2 October 2010
The Big Dish arrived in the late 80s following the lloyd Cole and the Commotions template of jangly guitars and lyrics with literary aspirations and images closer to the mid west than the M8. They made 3 great lps, finally had a chart hit with Miss America and then split up.
Steven Lindsay was the songwriter and lead singer and I thought it was only a matter of time before he made a solo lp. However the years came and went and nothing. In fact 11 years came and went when I bought the second lp from music producer and fim sound track composer Craig Armstrong. After Bono's guest appearance and tucked away as track 14 was a song with guest vocalist Steven Lindsay. Even then my hopes weren't that high. I did know that Armstrong had been a member of The Big Dish and so assumed it was done as a bit of a favour, I wasn't even sure when the vocal had been recorded and if it was just an update of an old song.
Luckily this was just a prelude for a full lp "Exit Music" that was released the next year. When asked about the gap, reasons were given about the breakdown of a marraige and the search for perfection. Both are evident in themusic with the jangly guitars replaced by a mournful minimalist approach that echoed the Blue Nile and downbeat songs crafted with vocals of pure meloncholy.
If that wasn't enough 2 years later saw a second lp Kite, the pace picked up a bit although it was still hardly a laugh a minuite.
You can buy his lps here (strangley Exit Music is available for next to nothing whilst Kite which got a lot more publicity even making the Times' top 10 lps of the year is available for silly money)
I've posted 2 of the saddest songs from Exit Music and the track featured on the craig armstrong lp
Friday, 1 October 2010
Back in 2005 an lp was released by Irish band Hal. They had been signed by Rough Trade after one of those supposed record label bidding wars. The lp was full of melodic pop music with naggingly catchy tunes a kind of half way house between the Beach Boys and Lightening Seeds. They released a clutch of singles made a load of best of the year charts and popped up as incidental music across the bbc including match of the day
A new lp was announced for 2007, then 2009 and still nothing. I'm not sure what prompted what is becoming a kate bush / Blue Nile type gap but .......what has happened to Hal?
Play the Hits - Hal (produced by Edwyn Collins)
If you like these 2 then I can heartily recommend the self titled debut which is full of the same summery sounds and you can buy it here