Wednesday, 29 February 2012


Apologies but I obviously like Oh Yeah by roxy music so much I've posted it twice rather than James Grant
I'll correct this pm and put on the right track

Life of Live - James Grant

Update - I've now put the correct link up (although apols as in wma format which means you wont be able to preview it). Strangely this was originally going to be a Love and Money song until it eventually surfaced on Sawdust in My Veins, and I think a version will appear on the new love and money lp Devil's Debt

James Grant , formally of Friends Again and Love and Money, is still the best singer and guitarist that most people have never heard of. I saw him lay a small venue in London in the midst of the set of solo lps he put out that seemed to get mellower with each release.

I just remember the the set being quite reflective with even the more upbeat songs draped in a world weariness. The crowd was sparse which was a real shame as the quality of the playing matched his flawless vocals.

I've posted one of his more mellow songs which gives a flavour of the intimacy his was able to generate

A voice to melt to - or at least have a malt with

This is the Last Time - James Grant

I wait with bated breath for the new Love and Money lp due out later this year

Monday, 27 February 2012

Misery Monday - Indoor Fireworks

I've never really been a massive fan of Elvis Costello and just had the greatest hits for ages. However, I did end up buying 2 lps that he released very close together although polar opposites in style, King of America and Blood and Chocolate.

Today's misery monday comes from King of America and describes a relationship in one long firework metaphor. The clever word play can remove some of the power of the emotion as it is so dam clever that it feels like almost an exercise in song writing.

We play these parlour games
We play at make believe
When we get to the part
Where I say that I'm going to leave
Everybody loves a happy ending

But we don't even try
We go straight past pretending
To the part where everybody loves to cry

Indoor fireworks
Can still burn your fingers
Indoor fireworks
We swore we were safe as houses
They're not so spectacular

They don't burn up in the sky
But they can dazzle or delight
Or bring a tear when the smoke gets in your eyes

You were the spice of life
The gin in my vermouth
And though the sparks would fly
I thought our love was fireproof
Sometimes we'd fight in public, darling

With very little cause
But different kinds of sparks would fly
When we got on our own behind closed doors

It's time to tell the truth
These things have to be faced
My fuse is burning out
And all that powder's gone to waste
Don't think for a moment, dear

That we'll ever be through
I'll build a bonfire of my dreams
And burn a broken effigy of me and you

Indoor fireworks
Can still burn your fingers
Indoor fireworks
We swore we were safe as houses
They're not so spectacular

They don't burn up in the sky
But they can dazzle or delight
Or bring a tear when the smoke gets in your eyes

What takes it beyond the clever clever , is the simple backing and crack in Costello's voice

Indoor Fireworks - Elvis Costello

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Lazy Sunday - Oh Yeah

One of those very scary moments. After writing about Destroyer and hearing a bit of Avalon in there somewhere , this week's shuffle goes to Flesh and Blood. What I like is it starts with a cool title and ends with an even even cooler ohohoh. As smooth as they come

Oh Yeah - Roxy Music

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Late Again - Destroyer

A big thanks to Tim who does an occasional series of posts over at Hissy Fit for writing about this in a way that made me go straight on to Spotify to give it a listen and then straight down to hmv to buy a copy.

Destroyer are not a death metal band but the recording name of Canadian Daniel Bejar , contributor the New Pornographers , who has released numerous solo lps and eps since 1995.

Starting off citing Pavement as an influence, this latest lp Kaputt has seen a bit of a major shift in style.

If you didn't know any better you would think this was recorded by someone in the UK in about 1984 , someone who had taken early Prefab Sprout , Avalon period Roxy Music, a smidgen of Tin Drum and a bit of Power Corruption and Lies and  mixed them all together.

Add in Steely Dan , well not Steely Dan direct but all those mid 80s bands that were inspired by Steely Dan and you have Kaputt

There is a great sense of humour running through the lyrics and enough quirky chord changes that would keep Paddy McAloon happy.

It is one of those albums that you hear something new every time you listen to it. Out last year , it would have been close to the top of my best of if I'd bought it when it came out

you can buy Kaputt by Destroyer here - go on take a punt

I've posted the opening track, it is pretty representative or as much as it can be when the the lp also has a 20 min track that doesnt begin to outstay its welcome

Chinatown  - Destroyer

Thursday, 23 February 2012

A Year in Books 2012 - The Marraige Plot

Jeffrey Eugenides first 2 novels , the Virgin Suicides and Middlesex have been on my must get round to reading list for ages, but for some reason they always got discarded in the 3 for 2 hunt at Waterstones.

The Marriage Plot, his third book, has been a tad over hyped but unlike Jonathan Franzen's Freedom , this one is well worth it.

The plot centres around the classic love triangle. Boy 1 (Mitchell) loves Girl (Madeleine) who wants to be best friends because she hasn't really ever had a real male friend and anyway she loves boy 2 (Leonard) who ...suffers from manic depression. Okay so maybe it isn't the classic love triangle structure and that is what makes the book so good. The plot continually veers off into unexpected places.

We meet the 3 characters on the day that they are due to graduate and first journey back though each of their histories that brings them to this point and the major decisions they make, the actions they take and the consequences that ripple forward into their futures. We then follow the 3 of them, Mitchell to Europe and then India helping in Mother Teresa's hospital and struggling with theology, Leonard to a place as a lab technician in highly regarded scientific community and struggling with his illness, Madeleine to caring for Leonard and struggling with her love for him.

On one level the book is a straight forward relationship study with situations that are instantly recognisable  on the other level it is very smart , to the extent that some of the early chapters with Madeleine studying Semiotics had me feeling distinctly thick and regretting I didn't do English at Poly.

All 3 of the characters are rich and complex and if not exactly likable, they do create a sense of empathy, aided by Eugenides tendency to jump back and forth in time.

The title comes from the theory that marriage was the dominant theme of 19th century fiction , that it was the only successful route to closure for women, either to live happily ever after or to a life of endurance. With that in mind the ending is just so spot on that leaves a great sense of satisfaction, like being pleasnatly full after a good meal

A book that engages , entertains and enlightens , what more could you ask for.

You can buy the Marriage Plot here  

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Life of Live - 80s rewind

Nowadays rewind / reformation tours are pretty regular. There is the Scottish festival that is about to enter its second year as well as high profile kiss and make ups like the recent Ultravox and Spandau Ballet tours, as well as a number of early 80s band getting back into the studio as have Human League and OMD among others.

However , when a one off concert at Wembley Arena was announced with 3 bands who were at their height in the early to mid 80s I was genuinely excited as it felt like they really had come in from the cold.

Wembley Arena really is an awful shed but at this event the atmosphere was full on before a note had been played. The venue was packed with 30 somethings who  all seemed in the grip of a  big sense of excitement and anticipation

I'd mainly come to see the first 2 bands. ABC opened things up. In the last few years the band has toured on and off but at this time they hadn't been heard of for ages and to hear songs from what is still my favourite lp was a real thrill. By the time the gold jacket made an appearance to fact that it was really Martin Fry and a backing band didn't matter at all.

Next up were the Human League who came on to an endless supply of dry ice , all dressed in black. They ploughed through a greatest hits set that made the shed of the arena feel like an intimate sweaty club

Last up were Culture Club who I never really listened to first time around but Boy George is a born show man and as the singles were trotted out you couldn't help bu be swept along.

The whole thing was almost cabaret , entertainment over art , the drug of nostalgia but all the more fun for it

As I mentioned I was never really into Culture Club ... except this gloriously over the top tune that brings out the inner diva
Victims - Culture Club

Monday, 20 February 2012

Misery Monday - The Smiths

At some point Misery Monday had to feature a track by the Smiths. If you liked the Smiths when they were around it is a fair bet that you had to put up with the "but they are just so depressing" comments from less enlightened friends.

I gave up early on trying to point out that the humour in Morrissey's lyrics and the lightness of Marr's melodies meant they could never be just misery merchants.

That's not to say they didn't do some of the saddest songs going. I could have gone for Please Please... or Suffer Little Children, but my favourite is a song that just has a weight of loneliness and defeat on its shoulders

Starting with what sounds like the howling wind a simple piano underpins a lullaby of despair, matched with Morrissey's understated vocal

Asleep - The Smiths

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Lazy Sunday - Music Without Words

Lazy sunday this week brings the mini theme of instrumentals to a close. Shuffling all the instrumental tracks I have threw up this one, from the KLF's Chill Out lp. I like the fact that it is completely bonkers and that when I first heard it, it was one of the few occasions I genuinely felt like I hadn't heard anything quite like this before

Madrugada Eterna - KLF

Friday, 17 February 2012

Music Without Words part 5/5

I first heard Penguin Cafe Orchestra when a piece of their music was used in a phone advert. There was something hypnotic about the piece which meant I couldnt get it out of my mind

Formed by Simon Jeffes, I'll leave it to Wikipedia to go through their history

After becoming disillusioned with the rigid structures of classical music and the limitations of rock music, in which he also dabbled, Jeffes became interested in the relative freedom in ethnic music and decided to imbue his work with the same sense of immediacy and spirit.
Describing how the idea of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra came to him, Jeffes said:
In 1972 I was in the south of France. I had eaten some bad fish and was in consequence rather ill. As I lay in bed I had a strange recurring vision, there, before me, was a concrete building like a hotel or council block. I could see into the rooms, each of which was continually scanned by an electronic eye. In the rooms were people, everyone of them preoccupied. In one room a person was looking into a mirror and in another a couple were making love but lovelessly, in a third a composer was listening to music through earphones. Around him there were banks of electronic equipment. But all was silence. Like everyone in his place he had been neutralized, made grey and anonymous. The scene was for me one of ordered desolation. It was as if I were looking into a place which had no heart. Next day when I felt better, I was on the beach sunbathing and suddenly a poem popped into my head. It started out 'I am the proprietor of the Penguin Cafe, I will tell you things at random' and it went on about how the quality of randomness, spontaneity, surprise, unexpectedness and irrationality in our lives is a very precious thing. And if you suppress that to have a nice orderly life, you kill off what's most important. Whereas in the Penguin Cafe your unconscious can just be. It's acceptable there, and that's how everybody is. There is an acceptance there that has to do with living the present with no fear in ourselves.[

The first album, Music From The Penguin Cafe, was released in 1976 on Brian Eno's experimental Obscure Records label, an offshoot of the EG label; a collection of pieces recorded in the years 1974-1976, it was followed in 1981 by Penguin Cafe Orchestra, after which the band settled into a more regular release schedule.
The band played its first major concert on 10 October 1976, supporting Kraftwerk at The Roundhouse. The PCO went on to tour the world and play at a variety of music festivals as well as residencies on the South Bank in London. Between 1976 and 1996 they played in the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and throughout Europe and the UK. In March 1987 the group was the subject of an episode of the ITV arts series The South Bank Show, on which they performed "Air", "Bean Fields", "Dirt" and "Giles Farnaby's Dream".

Founder member Jeffes died in 1997 and some of the musicians who were at times part of the orchestra continued to play together in various guises.

The lp I bought by them when I eventually found out it who had recorded the piece that I had become transfixed with was a compilation Preludes Airs and Yodels which you can buy here ,  although there are also various other compilations out there.

I'll leave you with another track that has that powerful hypnotic feel

Music for a Found Harmonium - Penguin Cafe Orchestra

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Music Without Words part 4

My only other soundtrack is Vangelis's score for Bladerunner. A great case where sounds and vision is a perfect fit. Even without reference to the film if you heard the music I'm sure some future landscape would form in your mind.

What I didn't realise that due to some depute Vangelis blocked the release of the soundtrack at the time of the film's release so the studio hired some session musicians to "recreate" the score and it was 12 years after the release of the film for the original soundtrack to be released.

I've cheated a bit with this one as the track I've chosen feautres Rutger Hauer's  classic dying speech which I think the actor came up with himself.

Tears in the Rain - Vangelis

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

music without words part 3

I first came across Craig Armstrong as sometime member of Big Dish. He seemed to appear doing string arrangements on a lot of lps I bought in the late 80s/ early 90s and from then it was a natural progression to film soundtracks including Baz Luhrmann's modern update of Romeo and Juliet.

He initially released a couple of solo lps of largely instrumental work with a few guest vocal tracks thrown in, which were followed by one of piano pieces (piano works) a compilation of his film work and lastly a violin concerto called Memory Takes My Hand

This track is the opening one from his first lp The Space Between us and is pretty representative of his instrumental work from this period

Weather Storm - Craig Armstrong

You can buy the Space Between us here which is worth getting for one track on its own , This Love featuring Elizabeth Fraser on vocals

If you want to hear more then I suggest you go to his website here which features pretty much everything he has worked on film score wise although it skims over his pop background

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Music Without Words part 2

Today's post is part 2 of the instrumental mini theme and the first of 2 soundtracks. Ubiquitous on male students walls in the late 80s, Betty Blue was one of the rush of achingly stylish and achingly French films that began to appear at the time, (it also had a lot of shagging in it) It  had one of the best opening lines in "I had known Betty a week" - although admittedly this doesn't really work on the page)

The soundtrack , a couple of accordion driven jaunts aside, is a a collection of coolly mellow pieces to lose yourself in. Composed by Gabriel Yared who went on to compose the soundtracks to a number of American films, a number I've seen and none of which as uniquely compelling as the one he did for Betty Blue.

Betty and Zorg - Betty Blue soundtrack

Monday, 13 February 2012

Misery Monday - Music Without Words part 1

Misery monday this week kicks off a bit of a mini theme on instrumentals. Being obsessed with lyrics I don't buy a lot of instrumental lps and dont play any ad hoc tracks that often (Low and Heroes being an exception) I fully accept that this is one of my many failings and that I'm missing out on a load of excellent music.

This week then I'm going to break this pattern and play tracks from 5 instrumental lps (even then one is a bit of a cheat as it features film dialogue) which give or take a couple are the only ones I own.

First up is Eric Satie ( the only lp I own that can be loosely described as classical - again my  loss I know), a french composer who sounds as if he was the Brian Eno of his day , referring to himself as among other things phonometrician (meaning someone who measures sounds) and flirting with the dada movement

For misery monday, I've chosen perhaps his most famous work and wonderful bit of piano based melancholy.

His influence can be felt in a lot of modern music and David Sylvian must have been listening very closely when he wrote Nightporter

You can buy  a selection of his work here

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Lazy Sunday - Storys

Top of the shuffle pile this week is The Storys are one of those British bands that evoke 70's American music with country/ radio /  rock feel with soaring harmonies. The band features a number of seasoned pros in football terminology and an ex Messiah as the singer (he was Jesus in the west end production of Jesus Christ Superstar)

The King of Broken Dreams - The Storys

You can buy the lp here

Saturday, 11 February 2012

A Year in Books 2012 The Sisters Brothers - Patrick Dewitt

One of the short listed list titles that was thrown about when the Booker prize was accused dumbing down and becoming too popularist.The whole thing felt a bit like a desperate attempt at publicity for the annual literary prize giving and certainly does a big injustice to Patrick Dewitt's second novel The Sisters Brothers. Having said that it is an  unusual Booker fare in that it is a slim novel of just over 300 pages with lost of white space and a western to boot. The highly stylised cover though hints that what will be found within the covers isn't a standard cowboys and indians adventure or even a gritty Cormac McCarthy type modern update.

What we get is a stylised off beat tail of 2 brothers ,both seasoned hired killers , being paid to track down and murder an elusive gold prospector ,who has stolen from the brothers' employer the commodore

Set in gold rush California, we follow the brothers as they journey towards their prey, diverted along the way by a number of odd ball characters that cross their path, all desperately striving but ultimately seeming confused and lost in the maelstrom and chaos of a nations birth. We see all of this through the eyes of Eli the younger of the brothers, shy around women, empathetic to strangers , an old fashioned sense of politeness but with a red mist temper and dead eyed acceptance of violence and death. His older brother, Charlie is more calculated , colder and ruthless who killed their father as a boy. Eli gradually comes to question the life they lead and their own motives. He starts to yearn for the life of a storekeeper, his dreams and thoughts played out as his brother hands out violence and death with an efficient ruthlessness only matched by his indifference. 
The enjoyment in the novel comes from so many places, the bickering of the brothers , the creeping feeling that as they chase their prey it is fact the brothers who are on the run they just don't know it , the violence and desperation of the age combined with a victorian sense of manners  that leads to such off kilter values and from the comedy as each situation and character they come across seems crazier than the last. 
The comedy cant hide the over riding sense of sadness that make the book so powerful. The only criticism I'd have is that it starts to lose its way at the end and I think the very ending will split readers. But as something truly original , a Coen film in print, I'm pretty sure this will be somewhere near the top of my best of list at the end of the year.
You can buy the Sisters Brother here
I've also read Field Grey by Philip Kerr the latest in his Bernie Gunther series (private eye in pre , and post war Berlin) Although not his best, hopefully a hiccough, it is still a superior and clever thriller with dialogue that Chandler would have been proud of.   

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Life of Live - James .....again

There was a bit of a trend at the end of the last century where underachieving pop bands (and as you'll know by now I'm a big fan of underachieving pop bands) started to sell massive quantities of their greatest hits lp. It was as if despite a lack of sales , their singles had wormed their way into a collective sub consciousness prompting repeated ...."I didn't know that was by them".. etc.  The phenomena started with the Beautiful South and continued with James. Alas in every case the wave had gone with the next release which took these bands back to largely disappointing sales of any follow up.

As with the Beautiful South, there was no indication that James's 1998 release would sell so many copies. The last lp Whiplash had given them a decent hit in She's a Star but not set the world on fire.

It did help a bit that one of the 2 new songs on the lp was one of the best , classic radio material , taking  a sly dig at the emerging manufactured pop trend with a killer hook and a shout along chorus

Released today it could be an X factor tribute song

Some fat cats playing roulette with lives
This game is fixed its all a lie

The video was pretty good as well

I saw them live at this time twice. The first was an acoustic gig at an hmv store which was before the lp was released and attracted about 30 people. Later I saw them on the main tour when they knew the lp was massive. Is there anything better than one of your favourite bands playing the ideal set list at the top of their game. They've only bettered it once but that is for another post

Initial copies of the lp came with an extra disc in the most annoying packaging ever. Both discs were stuck on a bit of circular foam that either failed to hold the cd in place or fell off themselves so that every time you opened the gate fold sleeve you ended up trying to catch both cds as they made a break for freedom

The second lp is a short live acoustic set ( the same one i saw at hmv) and it is from this that I've posted the other new track on the lp

You can buy their greatest hits here and remind yourself on how good their singles are   

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Late again - The Miserable Rich

January is normally a pretty poor one for new music , usually one or two bands can take advantage of the quiet time to release stuff to a music press with little to write about and record shops wanting to get rid of the best of 2011 shelves (this year it hs been the Maccabees whose 3rd lp is excellent). All this means is I usually end up buying a few cds by bands I've missed.

This year I've just bought the second lp by Brighton band The Miserable Rich. The 5 piece might orchestrated pop music ... or chamber pop as it has sometimes been called.

I'll leave it to wikipedia to summarise the history to date

In 2006, Will Calderbank (cello) joined James de Malplaquet (vocals) to form the band Grape Authority, a live band playing the songs de Malplaquet had written under the pseudonym James Grape. The pair were playing in Brighton folk band Shoreline, and the more traditional instrumentation used in this band was taken on board. Together with Mike Siddell (formerly Hope of the States) on violin, Jim Briffett (of Clearlake) on guitar and Rhys Lovell playing double bass they created The Miserable Rich.
They recorded their debut album, Twelve Ways To Count, at de Malplaquet's house in Hove during the summer of 2007. The debut single from the album received positive reviews, including Leftfield Single of the Month in DJ Magazine and widespread airplay, with the band championed in particular by BBC 6 Music's Marc Riley, for whom they have recorded two live sessions. The album itself has received widespread critical acclaim, both in Germany and the UK.
They have toured extensively in Europe, both as headliners, and as support for Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan
In November 2009 they released an EP of cover versions, featuring four reworked 1980s songs: "Golden Brown" by The Stranglers, "Gigantic" by Pixies, "Shades" by Iggy Pop and "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by Eurythmics.
The Miserable Rich self-recorded and produced their second album, Of Flight & Fury, which was then mixed by Al Scott (The Levellers, Eliza Carthy, Asian Dub Foundation), and released in June 2010.

I am not sure why I started with this 2nd lp as last year the released a 3rd lp with each song inspired by a ghost story, which shows the type of ambition I usually go for!

Anyway here is a track from the second lp which I can heartily recommend if you like that mixture of strings , acoustic guitar , piano and a slight english folkiness and quirky songwriting

Let Me Fade - The Miserable Rich

Their website can be found here which has a shop where you can buy all their cd as I've only got their second one I'm not sure how it compares to the other 2 in terms of a good place to start. They also do some mighty fine videos

Monday, 6 February 2012

Misery Monday 13/26 - Don't Change Your Plans Ben Folds Five

Bit of an extension from Last week's misery monday, this time rather than a sorrowful pleading , this time it is a goodbye letter and a sense of letting go.. "I love you goodbye". All hidden in a tune that bounces along with a breezy brass middle eight that could have come straight from a Bacharach and David tune.

It is the little details that paint the perfect picture the suitcase , the empty apartment , the sun going down and the pull of the east through the image of the falling leaves

Sometimes I get the feeling
That I won't be on this planet
For very long
I really like it here
I'm quite attached to it
I hope I'm wrong

All I really wanna say
Is you're the reason I wanna stay
I loved you before I met you
And I met you just in time
'Cause there was nothing left

I sat here on my suitcase
In our empty new apartment
Until the sun went down
Then I walked back down the stairs
With all my bags and drove away
You must be freaking out

All I know is I've gotta be
Where my heart says I oughta be
It often makes no sense In fact,
I never understand these things I feel

Don't change your plans for me
I won't move to LA
The leaves are falling back east
That's where I'm gonna stay

You have made me smile again
In fact, I might be sore from it
It's been a while
I know we've been together many times before
I'll see you on the other side

Don't change your plans for me
I won't move to LA
The leaves are falling back east
That's where I'm going to stay

All I really wanna say
Is you're the reason I wanna stay
But destiny is calling and won't hold
And when my time is up I'm outta here

All I know is I gotta be
Where my heart says I oughta be
It often makes no sense, in fact
I never understand these things,
I feel

I love you, good bye
I love you, good bye...

Don't Change Your Plans - Ben Folds Five

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Lazy Sunday - Simple Minds

Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a track from Simple Minds. Before the film soundtracks , berets , doves, white smocks , famous wives, the U2 aspirations. I love the mumbling lyrics and the shimmering sounds. I'd forgotten how good this and the lp it comes from are

New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84) - Simple Minds

You can buy the lp which was the subject of one of the most pretentious reviews I've ever read (by Paul Morley - although at the time I loved it!), here 

I couldnt resist including the original review

THIS RECORD is something of a glow. Whatever your preference you will find it memorable and instructive. Find its qualities and fix your place. Be swept, be drained...This is really all I have to say, but I shall not stop on that account. Indeed, I shall begin again.

MY LOYALTY towards Simple Minds is known to be considerable, yet even I am jarred by the constant beauty of this music. Truly, all I need to say is that New Golden Dream robs me of my breath – but let's continue. Be swept, be drained, believe me.

After their last (double) LP it could be said that despite their undoubted ability the group threatened to settle down into an overwhelming, agitating monotony devoid of nobility: a heat-switch has been turned on, the looming Simple Minds solid has melted, is melting into a bewitching, fresh sound. Suddenly the group sound acutely aware of space and emptiness, and their impact is a lot harder because of that. (When I say harder, I am just as likely to mean "softer" – it depends whether you're stood on your head or not.)

Simple Minds took a certain way with rhythm and motion to its limits; they've now shook away what was becoming a kind of concussion, to be left with a very clear head. And, clearly, a heat. 'Melting' is a useful word to use in connection with this record. Not only are the known Minds cliches melting into new forms and shapes, but also more general cliches melt into new meanings. The familiar deliciously falls in on itself. This 'melting' results in an exotic re-orientation.

Indeed, and this is perhaps because the Minds' aspirations sometimes seemed too great for the pop context to hold, the music contained here is as searching a representation of the meltings between what is 'memory' and what is 'imagination' as that which troubles me in the workings of Beckett and Baudelaire. New Golden Dream is the perfect attack upon those who think pop too small to think big.

The group, confounding banal limitations and their duff reputation as kids muddling in areas roughly outside their scope, have outgrown what was previously their defiant restlessness, a celebrated stoicism, and turned their song into an adventure: an adventure embedded in memory/imagination, patient and dark, as intoxicating as the adventure of Buckley, as personally aggressive as the adventure of Joy Division. It is responsible to no one and nothing, it is sensation for sensation's sake, but it takes the working listener to wherever, it suggests to the working listener that...everything is possible.

Let's face it, it's a glorious achievement to produce something that works generously in the usual sweet way – tucked inside the trivialised pop context, yet that stretches far beyond those coloured walls to stand strong as an exhilarated, canny comment on the "state of the world's flow", on the position of hope and anxiety. There's plenty of light and melody through the Dream to please you; but enough heat to chill you.

There's a number of outstanding instrumental performances to turn to – Forbes' arrogantly commanding bass, Burchill's shrewd and eager guitar, MacNeil's expressive and seemingly infallible keyboarding – but 'Dreams' music is something that succeeds smoothly yet provocatively as 'a whole'. A rippling, humming, beating, rustling, driving, melting 'whole', with Kerr's voice, his glancing, broken words, as if tiny holes allowing glimpses into the worldview that enabled such noble music to appear. The 'whole' is an ardent, tender sound that sweeps and sways between the sly and the open with pleasured mastery; as for Kerr's 'holes', there's nothing wrong with his spelling, his spelling is binding, his images and touches spellbinding. If previously he could be irritating, now he and his words insist on response. And measure the words' intrigue by the depth of that response. The working listener will be quietly, carefully, profoundly re-placed.

The absolutely gripping opening song 'Someone Somewhere In Summertime' immediately announces that Simple Minds have shed old skin. What accounts for this shedding, the 'melting', the shaking away of concussion, is the group swallowing the pill of simplicity: rather than try to make a point or point towards mystery through a rush and rush of overcompensation – this is where many other groups, ie. Bauhaus, flip and flop into the muddle of futility – the group have moved out into the opening of understatement, tweaking will and snatching heart through implication.

It's the kind of simplicity Joy Division smashed into accidentally and to devastating effect: a proof of articulacy and sensitivity through keen selectivity. The two '82 singles 'Promised You A Miracle' and 'Glittering Prize' fit into this record not as blatant shows of concession for the charts but as bright, confident celebrations of this simplicity: the group scatter their assault rather than channel it.

And then when Herbie Hancock glides in to embellish the lovely 'Hunter And The Hunted', one doesn't sense a clumsy, irrelevant intrusion by a name pianist with a huge erratic musical background, just an apt, almost hidden contribution by one musician to the effort of other musicians. It's a fine moment, sealing the group's (radiant) simplicity, and claiming that the group can exist on any terms – no longer must they be locked into a strained-art-pop closet.

So certainly this is Simple Minds' most distinguished collection. It also continues, powerfully, a period of music that melts and scatters around 'For Your Pleasure', 'Correct Use Of Soap', 'Closer', 'Sulk', 'Tin Drum', a music that went to follow through how Iggy somersaulted through good and bad possibilities, how Reed reached below the functional surfaces of city life, how Bowie travelled, how Hamill hoped, how Eno twisted and treated the pop song to the edge of 'the marvellous'. A music swerving and unnerving through recollection and recognition and habit and faded sensations...searching for connections and new vantage points, using pop to mind more about memory than the order of guitar notes.

Simple Minds have produced something as inventive, as cleansing, as suggestive as anything by the musicians, The Heroes, who first inspired them to form around the days and nights in Glasgow. This will thrill them, for it is still in them to be thrilled. And what will thrill you is that it is possible to pluck something as special and triumphant as this out from amidst all the painful failures. Its uses are abstract, but its signifance is universal. And the feeling grows, as I listen, that they're just beginning.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

New Music - Norabelle

Norabelle are a band I've picked up on from the wonderful 2 U I Bestow blog, in that they featured in the end of year review of the site's favourite lps.

The band are a 3 piece from Ireland who describe themselves as a minimalist folk band. The songs are built around hushed vocals and harmonies, with piano , acoustic guitar and brushed drums. The whole thing is beautifully put together and is captivatingly haunting. It is quietly hypnotic and well worth a listen.

If you don't believe me here is a track from their lp Wren

Ghost - Norabelle

You can get a free download of the lp here and there are some downloads form an ep you can buy here

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Strange Covers - Kiss Me

This strange cover post is strange because it is a cover of the artist's own song. In his Tin Tin days, Stephen Duffy's big breakthrough came with Kiss me

The version that appears on the compilation Memory and Desire is a radical reworking with the song fed through the pastoral lilac time filter

Kiss Me With Your Mouth - Stephen Duffy

You can buy Memory and Desire a double cd anthology of Duffy's career from Tin Tin to the Lilac Time here

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A Catchers Follow up

On a recent misery monday I wrote about a track by Irish band The Catchers and mentioned that the lead singer had gone on to form the Sleeping Years. Anyway I managed to track down the lp and good it is too. It bit more acoustic and folky than the Catchers' stuff.

The band's website here has videos , a podcast as well as info on the current band and the Catchers

The biog is short and sweet

The Sleeping Years began with a trilogy of EPs which received critical acclaim, featuring on BBC Radio 1, The Guardian’s writers’ play list and on the cover mount of French Rolling Stone and The Word. Songs have been heavily played by Gideon Coe, Stuart Bailie, and on French radio, having been championed by France’s answer to John Peel, Bernard Lenoir.
The release of ‘We’re becoming Islands One by One’ took The Sleeping Years across Europe supporting The Notwist, Bowerbirds, Damien Jurado, Edwyn Collins and Okkervil River.

The lyrics seem deeply personal and all touch on a sense of alienation and isolation that will touch a chord with anyone who grew up in a small town

Macosquin, Coleraine
You take that turning.
You’ve got to wake for the Lord in the morning,
with the shadow of the church spire falling
on the shoulders and heels of the fearing.

The wind banks low,
draws a furrow through the fields by the wish stone
and while the constellations pin us down,
one death makes all the dogs howl.

And they say they know you,
that they grew with you,
but you don’t know them at all.

This wreath of brambles
banked by catechisms and kerbstones,
we’ve got herons stalking the burns
but the devil’s cast out of our homes.

I carve my name,
my name singing of new lands and shelter,
my name set upon for colour,
my name dreamt by others.

And they say they know you,
that they grew with you,
but you don’t know them at all.
White clouds rolling, black earth open.
You’ve got to wait for the call

Macosquin Coleraine - The Sleeping Years

You can buy the lp here. If you like the music of James Yorkstone or the recent King Creosote lp then I'd recommend giving it a go