Monday, 30 July 2012
This is one of those that as I've got older , I am happier to come out of the closet with. However, there was time at the heart of C86 when mentioning a country a western crooner who was more radio 2 than Tube , more Vegas than Leeds Warehouse would have been met with blank looks.
However 3 tracks will always mean he is up there with the greats , Wichita Lineman and Galveston came later for me but at the start it was this one. I've a theory that you need a few of life's hopes and disappointments before you can really appreciate some songs and hear the truth in them. This is one of them
Rhinestone Cowboy - Glen Campbell
Sunday, 29 July 2012
Friday, 27 July 2012
After a number of years ploughing a more folky , Nick Drake type furrow. Boo Hewerdine returned to a fuller band sound with 2 lps Harmonograph and God Bless the Pretty Things. He also started working again with Neil MacColl on Harmonograph and it is with Neil that I think he makes his best music.
I saw him play twice during this period and during the gigs it was as if strapping on an electric guitar gave him a spurt of renewed energy, playing up to being in a rock and roll band.
Of he two lps Harmonograph is my favourite. It is an odd lp in that it is a covers lp , but the covers are of songs that Boo had written for others. Because of this they often have a poppier feel than his recent solo stuff.
I've posted one track and the sleeve notes simply read "Once there was a pop group called Hepburn that lived in a wooden house." Do you like this" I asked."
You can buy Harmonograph here
Thursday, 26 July 2012
There was a time when the KLF ruled the charts , 4 massive singles What Time is Love , 3 am Eternal , Last Train to Trancentral and finally Justified and Ancient all managed to combine big commercial sounds but with that slight subversive edge , leaving you feeling as if somehow the joke was all on us.
It all ended with extreme noise terror , machine guns and a dead sheep at the Brits.
However before all of that there was this great bit of pop , that despite sounding like a top notch Pet Shop Boys single flopped horribly.
It is one of those great lost singles
Kylie Said to Jason - KLF
Wednesday, 25 July 2012
A lot of the singers I like have settled into a kind of one man cottage industry approach to music. Ian McNabb lead singer of the Icicle Works is one such singer. The trademarks of this approach are lots of gigs , concerts in the home , live lps and every now and then a self promoted lp of new stuff , all built around an active web site. The downside is that unless you are signed up to update letters , new releases can pass you by
Ian has a new lp out that is too good for that to happen. Little Episodes is the best thing he has done ...we ll since the last one, actually I think this is the best set of songs for a while. Sometimes just him nnd a guitar , sometimes just his voice and a piano and sometimes a fuller sound.
You can hear samples of the songs here
You can buy the LP direct from Ian's website here and if you like any of his stuff then I'd heartily recommend you give this latest a go
Update - I've now llived with the lp for a couple of weeks and it just gets better and better and is up their with the best of both his solo work and the Icicle Works .... talking of which
Monday, 23 July 2012
At the time this came out in some ways it was a million miles away to what else I was listening to but in others listening back was maybe closer to some stuff that I'd like to have admitted at the time. Like a lot of people I was hooked by the piano melody. The vocals were just the kind of world weary I liked. Again as with a lot of these tracks I assumed that this would be one off and didn't explore anything else. Everything else , the video , the band name , the cover just all felt a tad too well non descript.
Have I missed out? I'll need some convincing... but this is still one hell of a tune
Sunday, 22 July 2012
Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track from Scottish band Goodbye Mr McKenzie featuring future lead singer of Garbage and former Exploited guitarist. Like the crunchy guitars.
Goodwill City - Goodbye Mr McKenzie
Friday, 20 July 2012
It's been an age since I've done a God Like Genius post and so to return to the theme someone who partly responsible for one of my favourite lps and still my favourite single
That in enough should be enough but there is more and with each subsequent release struggling to match the debut there is a sense of flawed genius at work
Beauty Stab merged to a perplexed public and hostile at worst bemused at best reviews. It was as if critics couldn't forgive them for not releasing Lexicon Part 2. The taster had been That Was Then This is Now , gone was the shiny orchestral dance music and instead there was clashing guitars and early days Roxy sax solos. The trouble with clever word play is that when you get it wrong it is truly cringe worthy and the single became infamous for the relatively harmless Can't complain , Mustn't grumble , Help yourself to another piece of apple crumble The follow up was the more ABCy SOS but by then bridges had been burnt.
Listening back the reviews were harsh and ,apart from a couple of songs, the guitar sound really works. It also has a fantastic political ballad in United Kingdom and there are some echoes from the 1st lp largely in this track
You can buy Beauty Stab here and is well worth another visit
Next up it was all change and a welcome to cartoon world. By now only Martin Fry and co writer Mark White remained. They recruited 2 band members who basically became expensive mannequins for videos (neither contributed to the writing or playing on any of the lp's songs)
How to be a Zillionaire is a highest of concept lps. The videos , the cover , the clothes , the songs all had a disposable cartoon quality. Be Near Me gave them a big hit both sides of the atlantic, but the overall sound of the lp somehow manages to sound ahead of its time , but dated at the same time.
I remember seeing this on the Tube at the time and thinking "Martin what have you done" ! but I think bands like Deelite were listening and watching closely
Listening back the lp has at least 2 tracks as good as they've recorded - Ocean Blue and Be Near Me and the whole thing is great fun never more so than is this mad as a hatter epic
You can buy Zillionaire here
All change again , out went the cartoon characters , in came a night in the city. Back to just a duo this is the lp that could easily be the follow up to Lexicon of Love . The inspiration was Chic (never more so than on second single The Night You Murdered Love) The highlight though was this piece of perfectly cheesy pop
When Smokey Sings - ABC
As well as this bit of polished pop
You can buy Alphabet City here
All change again and for once I felt like the band were band wagon jumping and not ahead of the curve (apols for slipping into David Brent land). The next 2 lps Up and Abracadabra both had a house based sound. Out went high fashion and in came beads and rave haircuts. The production on both lps is a bit wishy washy with that house piano sound that seemed to be on every pop song at the time.
Having said all of that some of the songs shine through . one of the best being this one
North - ABC
You can buy UP here and Abracadabra here. Up is the better of the two but they are both dirt cheap and have enough good tracks to take a punt on
Six years go by in which time ABC basically becomes a vehicle for Martin Fry's solo stuff
Both1997s Skyscraping and the rougher sounding Traffic from 2008 deserved a much bigger audience. Both took early Bowie and Roxy as their template and both got good reviews. However having turned the band into a permanent fixture on the nostalgia tours (although I did see them support Robbie Williams and drunkenly stood to shout genius much to the embarrassment of my wife and bemusement of the teeny boppers) the new stuff reached die hard fans only.
Here is the title track from Skyscraping
Finally overplayed as it has been here is the gold jacket in full glory during the Lexicon of Love live event at the Royal Albert Hall compete with full orchestra. The sound is not great but worth it for what I think is Trevor Horn doing very self conscious backing vocals
Thursday, 19 July 2012
There was a time when I would anything that Alan Bennett had written, devour his diaries, I'd see his plays at Leeds Playhouse, never miss a Talking Heads. I loved the mixture of whimsy , nostalgia , acid tongue , intelligence through humour , the conflict of working class pride with a slight sense of embarrassment and intellectual snobbery, mainly his own brand of englishness.
The two anthologies of his work Writing Home and Untold Stories are great examples of both his singularity of voice and his variety of style.
It pissed me off a bit when he became vocal in his criticism of a former place of my work but hey no one is perfect.
I'd not read anything for a while and so was really looking forward to Smut - two unseemly tales.
Too long to be called short stories but too short to be novellas , they are odd bits of writing. The usual themes are there. Someone hiding in respectability but not really fitting in, pretending to be something they aren't. There is a sense of the ridiculousness of everyday life , a sense of confusion with the modern world , and sentences that sparkle with a mischievous sense of humour.
The titles of the 2 pieces tells you a lot about Bennett's writing.
In the first The Greening of Mrs Donaldson, a middle aged widow has taken in medical students as lodgers , whilst also finding work impersonating illnesses for trainee Drs. When her student's fall behind with their rent they suggest a novel way to clear the debt. What follows is a sense of awakening and acceptance.
The second story The Shielding of Mrs Forbes focuses on a newly married couple and the groom's mother , father and gay lover. All of the characters are pretending to be something they are not as sexual complications build . At times it reads like a west end farce and there lies the problem with both stories.
I'm not sure pure fiction is Bennett's strength and could help feeling these would work better as one act plays our hours long screen plays. There is a part where the death of a character is referred to having "more to do with narrative tidiness than any driving without due care and attention"
Overall there is more than enough to enjoy , but published on their own , there is a sense of wondering what prompted Alan Bennett to write them.
You can buy Smut here
Wednesday, 18 July 2012
After Kirsty Maccoll's life was cruelly ended in 2000 (if you want to know more about the events and the subsequent fight for justice then visit here) her borther Neil Maccoll gathered together a number of her friends , drinking partners and collaboraters to put on a tribute concert at Shepherds Bush Empire.
As you'd expect the night was charged with emotion and celebration. Compare Phil Jupitus kicked things off with a version of one of my favourite songs from Kite, 15 minuites (a track whose lyric could have been an address to the Levinson enquiry). There then was a parade of singers Evan Dando , Billy Bragg, Eddi Reader , David Gray (at the height of his popularity had flow in from the states especially) Alison Moyet and blast from the past and pre gardening Kim Wilde. Johnny Marr played guitar and also sang one song (he was up their with Phil Jupitus on dodgiest vocal of the night.)
I cant remember who sang what apart from the obvious. Youtube has a host of clips although the sound is a bit dodgy. Here is the best one
In case you didnt see it when it was first shown on I think BBC here is a documentary about one of the Uks most under apprevciated songwriters
Finally three of her best the previously mentioned 15 minutes from Kite and the title track from the "divorce" lp and form the early days He's on the Beach (a sparkly pop song!)
You can buy her lps here there are a confusing amount of compilations but you cant go wrong with either Kite or Titanic Days
Monday, 16 July 2012
They say you always have a soft spot for your first love and mine was for a bunch of hairy brummies led by a man with big shades and bigger hair who wished he was in the Beatles.
The first lp I bought was the double album Out of the Blue in glorious blue vinyl and with a free cut out make your own cardboard elo spaceship. I had all their lps from Face the Music through to 1981's Time but in all honesty by that point my eyes and ears were wandering to others mainly Bowie and his new romantic disciples.
Still they made some great songs.
Here are 2 from the time just before they went massive.
Living Thing - ELO
Telephone Line - ELO
Now I'm pretty sure he is not an ELO fan but JC over at Vinyl Villian and the main inspriation for this blog has been away for a while. I understand that today he is back posting so these 2 are for JC to welcome him back - not sure he will appreciate the songs but maybe the gesture
Sunday, 15 July 2012
Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track from Ian Broudie's sugar mountain that is Jollifcation (alas the Internet cant reproduce the strawberry scratch and sniff cover) . I love the multi track on multi track approach and the weird baby like gurgling that appears mid way through
Why Why Why - Lightning Seeds
Thursday, 12 July 2012
I'd seen Lloyd Cole and the Commotions live in the death throws of the band when it felt like Lloyd was wishing he was anywhere but on a stage in Bradford. I'd seen him solo as well with just a chunky sweater , acoustic guitar and book of song lyrics for company.
To celebrate some anniversary or something the band had announced a one off reunion tour, I put my black crew neck on and rushed to get some tickets straight away.
The night got off the an unusual start in that the bar was thronged and ahead of us was a short good looking bloke with pop star hair. At one point he turned round and nice as pie said , its crazy here do you want me to get your round in. It was Mark Owen in the days before the Lazarus return of Take That. I said no as I was getting a big round in (the sales of his solo lp I don't think had done that well). When I eventually got the beers in and got back to my friends I pointed out Mark Owen who was quietly sipping his beer on his own. Any chance of a "didn't know you liked Lloyd" conversation went up in smoke as my wife big on Take That and big on the wine that night started going on in the drunken quiet / loud voice that everyone has about how tiny he was. For this alone I was secretly pleased as punch when Take That took off again
The last time I'd seen Lloyd live he was shall we say a tad fuller in face and body than I remembered . Well he must of put in the gym hours in preparation because dressed in back he came bounding on looking like he hadn't aged a bit. The band rattled through a great set with Lloyd giving it his all. Only at one point after a manic mix of My Bag and Mr Malcontent did he gasp for breath and admit he was probably too old for this.
It was a fantastic gig with all the band looking like they were loving every minute and genuinely moved by the reception they got . As much as I love Lloyd's solo lps the night made me feel sad that they split when they did and hoped it would lead to a hey lets all make a new record moment. However they were true to their word it was a one off and I was so glad to be there
They did a great version of this form the third lp with its traditional jangle and smart lyrics but without Robbie Coltrane mumbling in the background
Here is a more refined version of Mr Malcontent to a much bigger audience
and here is a couple of my favourite songs from the 2nd lp Easy Pieces, both as featured on the Tube (takes me right back to getting ready to go out on a Friday night)
And finally the wonders of youtube here he is being too cool for school
Wednesday, 11 July 2012
s I struggle with my 10 year olds discovery of Kiss FM, this really struck a chord. I picked up the link on the slicing the eyeball blog which took to the Salon website (thus the American spelling)
It is a Father's day letter from Lloyd Cole to his sons and like all great music writing makes you want to go out and play the lp straight away
Boys, it’s reverse Father’s Day. One of you is 13, the other 19. I’m 51. What on earth can I offer the both of you?
Well … I turned 16 in 1977. That was the year of The Clash and The Sex Pistols; Television and Talking Heads ’77. It was the best of times, and my love for these bands and their recordings is tied inevitably to my having been there. I was there. You were not there. You can’t have what I get from “Marquee Moon” or “Complete Control.” I’m sorry. But it’s OK. I’ll never fully get The Strokes or Arcade Fire. But I do enjoy them, and consequently I’m going to suggest that maybe, just maybe … Even if I can’t expect you to react as I did upon its release in early ’77, nevertheless, I present to you now The Rock Album That You Must Give a Chance: “Low” by David Bowie.
Back then, there was no YouTube sidebar to lead you to related works. We read the music press and we listened — to illegal cassette recordings and to John Peel on late-night BBC radio. Music nerds like me had our ears to the ground. When something big was coming, we knew it. “Low” snuck up on us. There was no fanfare, probably because RCA expected so little from it commercially.
I admit I was initially disappointed. But as a Bowie devotee, I necessarily listened to the album, nonstop, for several weeks. This was maybe my first attempt at digesting a really challenging work of art. Great art improves with repeated consideration. Mediocre art reveals itself. Pity the critic on a deadline, then. The reviews were inevitably mixed, which was unusual for Bowie — the darling of the ’70’s music press — but there had never been an album like “Low” before. The New Musical Express best-of-the-year list had Bowie’s next album, “Heroes,” at No. 1 with “Low” down at No. 27. Today, pretty much all of us would flip them.
I care little for back stories, but “Low’s” is colorful, and I’ll admit it has colored my reception of the album over the years. In 1977, West Berlin was maybe the ultimate bohemian destination. The Wall was right there, and there were no signs of it coming down. Besieged by grey totalitarianism, alive with every imaginable hedonistic abandon, this is where Bowie went to try to kick his cocaine habit. Making an album there — basically decamping, as Bowie did, with his pal Iggy Pop — was a statement. Pretty much every Bowie wannabe since then has made a Berlin album hoping to look cool and interesting.
Rock music, almost all of it, is rooted in the blues — sex and/or violence and/or alienation. If you can tick all the boxes, you can really do well: See Kurt Cobain, John Lennon, Eminem. “Low” ticks almost none of them. The lyrics are cool, dry, almost sexless, and six of the eleven tracks are instrumental. OK, there is alienation, but it’s not your typical rock n’ roll alienation; there is no whining, “You don’t understand me.” Bowie adopts a distanced, contemplative attitude. He studies his own depression. Typically, rock music is presented by the frontman — virile, confident, strident, desirable — as Bowie himself was in 1973. In 1977, we find him frail, reticent and seemingly doubting his very self. Not nightclubbing. He is the anti-rockstar, alone in his room, thinking.
Blue, blue, electric blue.How the does this creature make a rock record then? Because he has Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters in his blood. Bowie can’t help it. His genius lies in the interaction between his gut (primal) and his brain (esoteric). Neither one ever completely dominates, and his rock n’ roll instinct is always present, at least when there is a drummer in the room. On this record Bowie gets very close to some kind of Krautrock, but he can’t quite get there. If he is aiming at minimalism, he fails. There is too much melody, too much structure. And maybe he was frustrated, but he has too much of the music he grew up with in him to be able to completely discard it. He straddles borders between genres, and in doing so, makes something arguably more beautiful, more interesting and more rewarding than that which the purist would produce.
That’s the color of my room, where I will live.
Plain blinds drawn all day.
Nothing to do and nothing to say.
(From “Sound and Vision”)
Listen to “Low” from start to finish and you’re in for a musical awakening. From the relentless opening guitar riff of “Speed of Life” through the exquisite “Sound and Vision” and the hypnotic “Always Crashing in the Same Car,” side one may just about prepare you for side two, but probably not. Four instrumental pieces (there is singing, but no words) of rarified beauty that defy categorization. Is this modern classical music? I don’t care. It’s beauty I want, and the meeting here of arguably the three greatest rock music minds of their time — Bowie, Brian Eno and Tony Visconti — delivers a beauty I had never heard before. I’m still in awe of it.
“Low” led me to Eno’s ambient works, to NEU!, to Cluster, to Kraftwerk, to Steve Reich, to Miles Davis, to Erik Satie, and these led me further still, to Ravel, Terry Riley, John Cage — so much music that I love, all thanks to one album from 1977.
Humor your father. Listen
It has got me thinking about my own son. I'm not quite sure of the how yet but as i get close to the 1000 posts mark I'm going to do something on my favourite 125 lps. Why 125 , well 50 is way too few and 100 well seems okay but I think I'll need the safety net of an extra 25. There will be some rules (I just ahvent thought of them yet. When I do it I hope you play along!
Monday, 9 July 2012
In the midst of all the synth bands that were appearing in the early 80s, the thought of buying a single by the lead singer in Yes, well you kind of kept that quiet. Listening back two things strike me , one is how awful the lyrics are all a bit to new agey, but secondly how shiny and sparkly he backing track sounds (Chariots of Fire was out in the same year and there are echoes between the two.
It is still a great single
I'll Find My Way Home - Jon and Vangelis
Sunday, 8 July 2012
I'd heard a couple of tracks from Zulu Winter on 6 music and they had that mix of catchy hooks but songs and sounds that went to interesting places (the art is pretending its art!)
Language is their debut lp and it is difficult to describe.. It somehow manages to recall a number of different bands (James and under rated Geneva spring to mind) but keeps a cohesive sound. A bit like the blurry cd cover the bands sound is hard to pin down (with such insight I can see why the music papers never called!)
Maybe these will help
You can buy Language here
Saturday, 7 July 2012
Bought by mistake after Phil in a comment recommended an lp by the Heartbreakers. This Lancashire band have just released their debut lp Funtimes. Edwyn Collins produced at least one of the tracks and at times the bands do have a more muscular Orange Juice sound. The singer has echoes of an early Elvis Costello. Ten tracks only 2 of which are over 4 minutes , the lp rattles along a good old pace. The lyrics are of lost love and at times their style remind me a tad of some of Morrissey's words.
I know I'm getting old when bands start to look like they are still at school!
Here are a couple of the singles
You buy Funtimes here and if you like the singles well the other 8 tracks are just as good
Friday, 6 July 2012
There was a time when I would don a grey mac and wander around looking at buildings mumbling "This means nothing to me". I could never quite get the sideburns right and never dared the pencil thin tache. I stuck with them right through the ditching of Warren Cann (about the time that I was beginning to think that he only had one drum pattern) through to the awful final lp U Vox
Never fashionable, forever haunted by the critical ghost of John Foxx, they never really got the credit they deserved especially for Rage in Eden.
Like a lot of bands from the period a reunion tour has turned into some new material. I probably bought this for sentimental value more than anything else. I was a tad worried when I first heard it , all seemed very ...well Ultravoxy and I began to think "never look back"
However, the lp actually benefits from not having any stick in your mind immediate favourites. I kept going back to it and slowly songs started to get their hooks in. What really strikes me is how this could have been the bridge between Vienna and Rage in Eden (more New Europeans and Sleepwalk in sound than Dancing With Tears or Love's Great Adventure). They seem to be using the same synths as in 1982. This isn't a criticism (there was always the risk they would go all simply red or trying to be a poor man's Peter Gabriel) as strangely it makes the lp sound fresh. As per usual the press has slated them whereas the john foxx lp also played on analogue synths got rave reviews (that ghost again).
You've got the have some balls calling your lp Brilliant but apparently the title track refers to the need to build singers and bands up, hail them as brilliant and then dump them (one of my favourite rants at the moment is that if David Bowie was starting today he probably wouldn't have got passed his first 2 lps). I was gutted to learn in Midge Ure's autobiogrpaphy that most of his lyrics from the time meant very little, but here that theme of building up to knock down runs throughout the lp
So not quite the classic but as with OMD and Blancmange, in returning to what they did best , a come back lp that can hold its own with the original output
You can buy Brilliant here , if you liked the early post john foxx lps then you'll love this
Here is an interview with the band , by one of the most annoying djs (I guess) going
And here is a 2 part making of for the new lp
and finally one of their best
Thursday, 5 July 2012
I've been really looking forward to this as Admiral Fallow released my lp of the year last year in Boots Met My Face. They are a little bit pop , a little bit folk , a little bit Elbow, a very little bit Deacon Blue.
The folkiness has been tuned down a bit for the 2nd lp Tree Bursts in Snow, but there is a real confidence in the sound and the song writing , no tricky 2nd lp syndrome here. The lp gets off to a flyer with an opening 5 songs as good as anyones. In old money side 2 runs out of steam a bit but I suspect these later songs are the growers that will stand the test of time.
A great follow up to a great debut - you can get Tree Bursts in Snow here
Wednesday, 4 July 2012
One of the downsides of Don't You Want Me becoming ever present in any kind of 80s compilation , TV documentary, Wedding play list , retro Radio show , was it stopped me listening to Dare for literally years.
As I never had it on cd I bought the recent 30th anniversary version . It comes in a nice box, but the iconic sleeve looses a little of its impact and confidence. You get the lp , some 12" mixes and the Fascination ep that was released in the States (missing is the Love and Dancing instrumental lp).
You get 2 discs, some nice postcards of all the single covers and a lyric booklet with a couple of pointless intro articles.
However that is not the point. I'd forgotten what a great pop lp this is , but from a time when pop was interesting and smart. For all the joyful dancing , there is also the slower songs that pack a punch , Seconds about the JFK assassination , The Judge Dredd inspired I am the Law and the loneliness of Darkness add as much as Sound of he Crown , Open Your Heart etc.
The 2 forgotten singles Mirror Man and Keep Feeling Fascination with its wonderful wonky out of tune synth riff show what a follow up could have been . Instead there were endless re writes , an ex Genesis producer and the stodgier Hysteria.
You can buy the special 2 disc edition here
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Having started working in the centre of town again , the forgotten tradition of popping into hmv on a monday to look at the new releases has returned. This is doing nothing for my bank balance. This week's mini theme covers what I've been buying lately.
First up is the debut lp by Australian band Husky. They make that kind of gentle folk / catchy pop hybrid that I've come to love and in some ways remind me a bit of the UK's leisure society.
The lp Forever So is full of Lush songs with quirky arrangements. Here are a couple of videos for the singles
Good as they are they arent the best tracks on the lp which you can get here
Monday, 2 July 2012
Now I really don't like the Eagles .... at all . Not sure if it was due to them having one of those guitars with 2 necks or hearing bad buskers play Hotel California all over europe when I went inter railing.
I think the main reason was when I spent hard earned pocket money on a 2nd hand copy of their greatest hits lp at a school xmas fate. This was when I was realising that maybe I ought to broaden my tastes beyond ELO , that Out of the Blue wasnt the last word in pop music and picked the Eagles lp at random ( a habit I still haven't entirely got rid of) . I remember getting it home and listening to it in dismay, and then being distraught that I'd wasted my money.
However I love this. The guitar , the images , the sense of regret and lost youth , the subtle synths the rhythm that skips along, the at the time mysteries of wayfarers , deadheads etc.
The lp it came from , Building the Perfect Beast , got a lot of good reviews and I guess these older ears would appreciate it a lot more, but the younger me wasn't prepared to take the risk, I was happy to just secretly bask in this pop perfection - still one of my favourite singles
Boys of Summer - Don Henley