Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Life of Live part 3 - The Big Dish

Life of Live now reaches the college years when going to concerts became a whole lot easier and didn't involve an endless coach journey and did start to involve endless alcohol.
I went to poly at Leeds and for the first year stayed in Beckett's Park halls of residence. Every tuesday night they had a band night where some unfortunate band would play to a load of students who had only come in for cheap beer. I couldn't believe it when for the first week , not only had I heard of the band but I was currently playing their first lp to death. The Big dish were a Scottish band often lumped in with the likes of lloyd Cole and the Commotions. They had a lot of early radio play and seemed to be championed by a few djs. All until the release of the single "Slide" which sounded a bit too similar to "Everybody wants to rule the world" by Tears for Fears. They then seemed to drop off the playlists not to return until a single from their 3rd lp called "Miss America". What I can remember about the concert was they had a percussionist who was obviously a frustrated front man and on the small stage seemed to dominate. They obviously went down well as they had to play their set twice as they had run out of songs.
This proved to be the highlight of becketts park band night as after that I can't name another band and can only recall a general awfulness through a haze of alcohol.
The Big Dish broke up after 3 lps all of which i really like. The first lp "Swimmer" can be bought here
I'm not going to say too much about them as they will be a future Bigger than the beatles post

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Bigger then the Beatles - Fat Lady Sings

The latest in Bigger than the Beatles is Irish band The Fat Lady Sings. Formed in Dublin in 1986, releasing 3 independent singles before signing for East / West and releasing 2 lps plus a compilation of singles and b sides.

I've a friend from school , John who used to like a lot of obscure indie records, he was the kind of person who had early demo cassettes of Prefab Sprout but went off them as soon as they released an lp. It was through John that I got into a lot of the music that I like today. He was the first person to play me the Wedding Present, the June Brides, the Bodines and all that C86 stuff. As we ended up in the same city doing our degrees he was always lending me singles and lps. On one such occasion he gave me "Arclight" by the Fat Lady Sings saying, this is the kind of celtic crap you like".
He was right and i rushed out to get the first lp "Twist". The lp was more thankfully hothouse Flowers than U2, with Arclight the stand out track. It was a bit like "Mary's Prayer" in that it was made for radio and I couldnt understand why it wasnt all over the the palylists. It had already been a big hit in Ireland but although the band was now based in London, it passed the charts and the radio by.
The Second lp "Johnson" came out in 1993 and was produced by Steve Osborne. The result is more polished and contains the single "Drunkard Logic" that just missed out on the top 40.
The band promoted the lp with 6 months of solid touring which in hindsight broke the band. The tour ended at CBGBs in New York with a pre xmas show. In Jan the lead singer and main songwriter Nick Kelly left the band.
Since then Nick Kelly has released 2 solo lps, the first of which won him best solo singer at the Irish Music Critics awards
Between the Trapzes (1997) and Running Dog (2005)
In 2005 The band performed a reunion concert in Dublin and released "The Fat Lady Singles" compilation
From Johnson I've posted 2 tracks
Drunkard Logic - the Fat Lady Sings (along with arclight the best thing they've done)

I am sincerely yours no more
I quit
I know life is long but life is
Too short for this
Cold rain fell on the iron bridge
Of this rusty new town
The friendly place I came to face
Stepping down

I'm sorry but
I'm leaving but

I am sincerely yours no more
I quit
I know life is long

If you like Hothouse Flowers , Big Dish, Microdisney etc then i think you'll like Fat Lady Sings
You can buy their the single compilation here
It is worth going to Nick Kelly's website here, he is doing something interesting re his new cd , a series of concerts to get feedback on different arrangements of new songs before they are recorded.

Monday, 28 September 2009

miracle mile monday - part 6

The third track from the Miracle Mile debut lp and the album closer. A slower song in a tempo that the band do so well complete with a first take sax solo! Its odd that on an lp with so much American imagery, last thing you hear on the lp is a catch phrase from the heart of Britain's light entertainment

"Where are they now that you need them

Gone with the ghosts of Morecambe and Wise

Bring Me Sunshine"

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Lazy Sunday - Badly drawn Boy

Lazy Sunday so it is top of the shuffle pile again.

This time it is "Promises" by Badly Drawn Boy. Released on his last lp "Born in the UK" following a move to a major label it is one of those mid tempo songs that he does so well. I think that this is his best lp as in the past his lps felt like a book that needed a good editor. I know that ramshackle nature of some of the songs and his live performances were part of his attraction to a a number of people, to me occasionally it just sounded like a bit of a mess.

Why do I like it because of the piano and the way it builds

Saturday, 26 September 2009

why i love country music part 3

An lp this time rather than a track. Taking time out from the Bible (will definitely be on a future bigger then the beatles post) Boo Hewerdine's record company matched him up with Texan Darden Smith. I think I read an interview where Boo Hewerdine said that he wanted to go to Nashville as part of learning the songwriting craft. On Darden Smith's website (also looking at recent photos I'm pleased to report he has lost the Michael Bolton hair)he says he was starting to feel constricted by C and W and had started listening to a lot of Elvis Costello and wanted to broaden his musical styles. "Evidence" was the resulting lp and what you get is a great combination of country and pop. I bought it on release because of the bible connection and didn't have a clue who Darden Smith was. I was glad i did as it contains one of the best songs Boo Hewerdine has been involved in. The pair tend to alternate lead vocals with the other one providing great harmonies. I've posted 2 tracks
The first is great pop song with Darden Smith taking lead

The second is the stand out track with Boo Hewerdine on lead vocals

If you are a fan of the Bible or Boo's solo stuff then I'd recommend that you give this a go.
It looks like it is difficult to get hold of - Amazon only seem to have it as 2nd hand here and even Boo's own website shop is out of stock. If these 2 tracks are to people's liking and requests come in I'll post more from the cd

Friday, 25 September 2009

Discover - Unkle bob

Unkle Bob are a 4 piece band from Glasgow and forget your Glasvegas et al in 2006 they released the single of the year "the Hit Parade" and followed it up with the best lp of the year in "Sugar and Spite". The lp was produced by the guitarist in James (Saul Davies) and the band are supporting James in America this year. However the only comparison I'd make is that both bands know a good tune when it comes along

If anything Unkle Bob feel a bit like a throwback to some Scottish Bands of the mid 80s (Danny Wilson / Love and Money etc) not that they sound like these bands but because there is an emphasis on melody, the songs feel crafted and cared for. Like some of these bands there is also a bit of an American feel to them , although more REM's "Automatic for the People" rather than Steely Dan. There is a definite acoustic element but thankfully not another Nick Drake disciple . Add to that heartfelt lyrics which keep coming back to a broken heart /unrequited love and you have "Sugar and Spite"

I've posted the first 3 singles in order of release

Being the singles this shows the lp at its most upbeat. The Ramones this isn't. What all the tracks have in common apart from the gorgeous melodies is a great use of harmonies.
"The Hit Parade" is the best example with its "wish you were mine" refrain and when the harmonies come in with "say that you want me" you'll be lost.

If you like these tracks then head over to here. Unkle Bob are doing a bit of a radiohead and running a scheme of downloading he first lp "Sugar and Spite" and paying what you feel it is worth, or simply by telling 5 friends , download it for free.

Their website is also well worth a visit and that can be found here

The also have a new double a side single out "Satellite / Bad Dream". Both of these new tracks have a slighlty harder/ rougher sound to them.
You can hear them both at their myspace site

Thursday, 24 September 2009

A year in books part 2

Well I've rattled through this one although that isn't necessarily a good thing . The next 100 word review is for....

Revolutionary Road - Richard Yates

Revolutionary Road has come back into focus following the recent film adaptation. It tells the story of a young married couple in 50s America who self destruct. It is well written so I finished with a real understanding of and sympathy for the plight of the characters involved. However, they all come across as so self obsessed and unlikable making it difficult to look beyond how frustrated their actions and words made me feel. I am with one minor character who retreats into his own world by turning his hearing aid off.
No doubt a classic but not for me.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Cult of the b side

Recently I posted 3 tracks by Prefab Sprout, looking at the number of downloads the most popular was for a b side. Therefore every now and then I'm going to post a b side (do such things exist now?), from bands who seemed to take the idea seriously (ie didnt just stick an instrumental version of the a side or another album track on)

I'm going to start with James who throughout their career have made great b sides, some better than tracks on the lps that the a sides came from.

This one is from late period James and is one of the b sides to "I know What I'm Here for" the lead off single for the lp "Millionaires"

As ever with James it features some great backing vocals and some lyrics that probably think they are bit more profound than they are.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Never Better than the first time - part 1

Latest theme that may last a while is simply bands/singers who peaked with their first release. They may have produced other stuff that is good or have had other moments of inspiration that touch dizzy heights , but basically nothing stands up to their debut.

I'm going to start with the Stone Roses. I was at college when the debut was released (scarily this was 20years ago) and the first I heard about it was when the brother of one of the girls who lived in the house put it on side 2 of a tape he did for me. (I remember side 1 was the woodentops who i thought would be massive and promptly disappeared!)

I new nothing of the band and I think outside of Manchester where Ian was from not many other people had either. He just said it was the best debut since the Bunnymen's.

I loved it and I think time has been kind to it mainly because as its basis it had strong melodies coupled with guitar playing that seemed to propel each of the songs along with real energy.

Then Madchester happened and they released Fools Gold which I thought was okay but went on too long , suddenly they were creators along with the Happy Monday's of the baggy sound. Years came and went until Second Coming came out and sounded like a 70s Led Zep throwback. Where as on the debut the guitars sparkled , here they just sounded self indulgent, drowning out melody. The whole thing sounded stale.

John Squire left to form the Seahorses and then pursue his art, leaving Ian Brown to find a successful niche producing his own unique solo releases. Nothing however comes close to the heady freshness of that debut lp and the thrill of the opening bars of the opening track. Am I being harsh?

You can buy this classic here (20th Anniversary edition)

Monday, 21 September 2009

Miracle Mile monday - part 5

I realised that if this is going to work then I need to put a bit of structure behind it. So I'm going to start posting tracks in terms of order of release. The plan is over a 4 week period I'll post 4 weekly tracks from each of Miracle Mile's cds - starting with the first cd - Bicycle Thieves. I've already posted one track here, so 3 more to go.

The second one is "whisky kisses" - another slower song. The backing synth sounds a bit dated and shows the amount they had to spend on recording, but the mournful violin again helps paint a picture of regret and the chorus again pulls the whole thing together and lifts it out of the MOR

"Dont it make you wonder or give you cause to regret
That he promised you a miracle with no safety net"

Whisky Kisses by the Miracle Mile

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Lazy sunday part 4 - the Cure

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile is ...
Some bands I like their albums better then their singles and some bands it is their singles . The cure for me are a singles band
I like this because it is short and it sounds unique - the perfect single

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Life of Live part 2

After Ultravox the next concert stayed on the synth theme. It was another coach trip , this time to Sheffield to see OMD. It was to promote the lp Junk Culture which was a return to pop after the experimentation that was Dazzleships had almost sunk them.

I remember the sound being fantastic and the band having a complete lack of personality except the lead singer whose manic dancing I have only ever seen the like of which once since (Tim Booth in James comes closest). It really was octopus on an electric plate in style

I think OMD often don't get the recognition they deserve (i blame Enola Gay being on every 80s compilation cd going).

They were often experimental as well as having a knack of creating amazingly catchy melodies.

The first 3 albums OMD, Organisation and Architecture and Morality are very strong. Even when they went overly pop and a tad too mid atlantic with Junk Culture, Crush and Pacific Age they still had great moments.

One of my first posts was about Joan of Arc and how it just wouldn't get released as a single now due to the fact it starts with 30 secs of a tone and the vocals don't kick in for another 60 secs and when they do there is no chorus. In fact if you listen to the whole of the Architecture there isn't a chorus on the whole thing. It is as if they purely relied on the melody of the synths to provide the hooks.

Why they were never quite the same after Architecture I blame 2 things

1) The recently departed John Hughes - he used them on the soundtrack of St Elmos Fire or something, got them the big hit in the USA , which put the pressure on to repeat, which meant no more songs about power stations!

2) Dazzleships - this was the release after Architecture and they went sample crazy. It almost feels like it was a kick back against the success they had enjoyed. The cover was even more ludicrous in terms of cost than Blue monday. Some tracks push the definition of song to a limit eg one built around a sample of the speak and spell toy, one around speaking clocks. I think would have done better if they had gone for the more immediate telegraph as the first single rather than Genetic Engineering. Re listening to it now it has some great tracks on. The old cliche "ahead of it time" may apply - alternatively it might just have been too far ups its own backside.

I've posted the extended version of Telegraph which i remember being great live and an instrumental where they got the experimental and the melody mix just right.

They have recently reformed and toured, I hope they follow this up with a release that reflects how they started rather than how they finished

There is a great OMD website here

You can buy their stuff here

Friday, 18 September 2009

God like Genius part 2

A songwriter this time until recently condemned to radio 2 and the label of easy listening. I used to think that until someone bought me the best of Burt Bacharach and i suddenly realised just how many fantastic songs the man had written. In recent years his reputation has risen to the levels it should be with recordings with Elvis Costello, various greatest hits releases and a celebration concert at the Albert Hall.

I should also include Hal David the lyricist that Burt wrote most of his best songs with. They met in 1957 but it was the 60s and the 70s that saw them hit the peak of their powers. A lot of singers recorded their best stuff with his songs - Dione Warwick , Dusty Springfield ,Aretha Franklyn even Cilla Black sounds good singing his songs. In the 80s and 90s I was into a lot of bands such as Danny Wilson which plot a path back via bands like Steely Dan to the songwriting style of Burt Bacharach. He is still cited as an influence eg Last Shadow Puppets have covered one of his tracks.

The 3 tracks I've posted here just cover the great way he has with chords and melody

"Walk on By" by Dione Warwick - first came across this via a cover version by the Stranglers!

"Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head" by B J Thomas- had to include this purely for the fact that it was our first dance at our wedding

"Arthurs Theme" by Christopher Cross - theme tune to unfunny Dudley Moore film Arthur

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Great Singles - Being Boiled

Vinyl Villain recently did a post on the Human League and the great "Empire State Human" a great single before it all took off with Dare. This and yesterday's post of "Darkness" made me dig out the other great pre Dare single they did.
This passed me by on its initial release, so I only got to hear it when it was re-released on the back of the singles from Dare.
There was one pub in Spalding that used a shed at the back to run discos (known locally as Wagon Wheels) and on a sat night this would be an alternative night (alternative in the fens wasnt that radical believe me). They played this and next monday i rushed out to get it. i didnt have a clue what Phil Oakey was on about but it all sounded very deep and pretentious (ie ideal). It popped up quite regularly on sats night for the next few weeks - I shudder to think what we looked like trying to dance to it and shouting "listen to the voice of Buddha"

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

a year in books

The idea is that each time i finish a book I'll post a quick review. To resist the temptation to go through the authors life story they challenge will be to keep it to less then 100 words. I manage to get through quite a few books and often have 2/3 on the go at the same time so should be able to post a review every couple of weeks.

First up is "Man in the Dark" - Paul Auster

Augustus Brill lies awake in a house of grief. He grieves for his dead wife, his daughter for her husband who left her and his grandaughter for her murdered boyfriend. In order to bring on sleep, Augustus makes up stories. Paul Auster has created a short novel of stories within stories , dead ends and diversions as gradually Augustus turns away from the stories in his head to what has happened to his family and a finale that manages to both shock and uplift

Darkness - The Human League

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Bigger than the Beatles part 3

The next should be bigger than the beatles band is "Spearmint" a 5 piece from east london. They often in the early days got lumped in with Brit pop but if that is right the emphasis has definitely been on the pop. They have released 4 cds + 2 collections of bsides and non album tracks as well as an xmas mini album and an acoustic mini album. Their ambitions always seem to go beyond the average bands , the 4 main albums all follow a theme or even a "concept" and the lead singer / lyric writer Shirely Lee's main ambition is to write a full blown musical.

A week away is the first album proper, released in 1999, and is full of catchy hooks with a magpie approach to influences. The idea was to have a perfect pop album that was made up of single after single. They didn't quite manage it and there are some ideas that don't work. The concept here is that you have a limited time on earth and you start out full of enthusiasm and energy and the gradually realise that time is running out.
There are some great sing along songs on the album included the almost break through single "sweeping the nation" which celebrates music and all those obscure bands that never make it.

Two years after the release of sweeping the nation came Spearmint's masterpiece - " A different Lifetime" The concept this time was a song cycle of falling in love - being in love - breaking up. There really feels like a strong narrative that runs through the whole of the lp and as a result it is one of those records that needs to be listened all the way through (having said that I'm still posting a track). Unfortunately the grand concepts did translate into big costs but not big sales.
Shirely Lee has said on the website that he now wished they had gone the whole hog and made it a double lp
The track I've posted is the title track and the key song in the cycle told from the perspective of the narrator to the girl who has left him

Another 2 years and in 2003 "My Missing Days" appeared. The songs on this album were"home recorded" as they were written and it tells , not in the quality of recording but the fact they are on the whole more immediate and simpler than those on "A Different Lifetime". The idea for this one was to take someone whose life is about to change dramatically but tell it backwards so the first track is "A happy Ending" and the last track "The start of it all". It has some great tracks on it but overall doesn't reach the heights of a "Different lifetime"

"I didnt buy you flowers" - Spearmint

The last release "Paris in a bottle" sees the band move closest to the singer's musical ambitions. The first track , a long spoken word piece set to music with a great sung chorus, relates the tale of 2 English buskers in Paris who spend the night with 2 french girls. In the course of the evening they each write their ambitions on a playing card and then swap them. The rest of the cd picks up with each of the characters in the future to see how things have turned out. The album finishes with a reprise of the opening track this time as one of the french girls remembers the night. The songs are all strong , they don't work quite as well as a running narrative. The musical element is picked up as other vocalist sing the parts of the characters , confusingly not always for the relevant song.
For example I'm not sure which of the characters is relating the track I've posted here - still its a great song
The bands website is great and can be found here
Spearmint's cds can be bought here and I'd go for A different Lifetime first
As befits a band whose ambitions are a bit more than release, tour, release - the have recently had a book of comic strips released that interpret their songs!

Monday, 14 September 2009

miracle mile monday - part 4

The next Miracle Mile track comes from their 3rd cd "Slow Fade". During the recording of this lp the other main band member Steve Davis decided to leave. It seems typical that this wasnt down to the singer stealing his girlfirend to wanting to produce songs with 20 min bass solos in, rather just that with a family and a job he couldnt give the time to keep it going. The album was completed by singer / songwriter Trevor Jones working with multi instrumentalist Marcus Cliffe and the 2 of them have remained Miracle Mile for subsequent releases.
The track posted here again has a theme of the past and looking back (Trevor on the band website: "Memories, like scars, are investments; better shown and shared, better out than in"). The track is typical of the band in that on first hearing is maybe a bit too radio 2 however soon the words and music worm into your brain and you cant stop humming it. It is also reflective of the sparser arrangements and instrumentation of the lp

Come as you are - Miracle Mile

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Lazy sunday

Okay i guess it had to happen , i was sorely tempted to reshuffle but hey.
Today's top of the pile is a live version of Nostradamus by Al Stewart
I'm not sure how i got this , i can only assume it was part of a cd that had "Year of the Cat" on which is a real guilty pleasure.
What do i like about it .. well the guitar playing is amazing if a little over the top and the lyrics are clever in how they weave in the prophesies

Saturday, 12 September 2009

new music week part 5

The final cd in my bulk buy is "Strange Flowers" By James Grant.

He is one of those musicians that i pretty much like everything he has done. Starting out as guitarist in Friends Again whose influence far outweighed their sales. Their one lp "Trapped and Unwrapped" set the tone for loads of Scottish bands over the next few years. When they split James Grant formed Love and Money. I remember the music press raving about them with the first lp "All you need is ...." but I found it a bit patchy preferring the more mellow stuff to the rockier tracks. The next album saw them work with Gary Katz (producer of Steely Dan). Strange Kind of Love just looked and felt like the record company had spent a shed load of money on it. It was very polished , had some great tracks but also a few so so ones. Needless to say as with a lot of my favourite bands the lp didn't do that well. The next 2 "Dogs in the Traffic" and "Little Death" are a lot more consistent and Dogs in particular is a great lp (although by all accounts it was a nightmare to record with the record company continually sending the band back to record more songs. If you buy one Love and Money lp (and everyone should have 1) then "Dogs in Traffic" is the one I'd go for.

The band broke up and over the last 10 years James Grant has released a series of excellent low key solo lps. The sound is much more mellow and melancholic. The last release was 5 years ago until this years "Strange Flowers" (named after a track that was apparently recorded for a Swedish vampire film that never saw the light of day)

You can find out all about the solo lps at James Grant website. It is worth visiting if only to read his on line diary which in places is really funny and sheds light on life as a jobbing singer songwriter as well as responses to some of his more dedicated fans views (included one on how he should be working harder to be more successful!)
The new cd is more varied in tone and pace, I still prefer the more mellow ones. The track I've posted is the lps opener
The centre piece is a 9 mins song "My Father's Coat" not sure if autobiographical or not but feels like a very personal lyric (James Grant on his website mentions a few times how he keeps the lyrics of his songs ambiguous)

Someone had drawn a swastika on his stone
I stood in the rain/radiation
I heard a feral moan
I thought must be a fox
But on the way back to the bus
I saw two drunk goths fucking on a sarcophagus
Broken things
Bum notes

Walking home in my fathers coat

The day had started well, I got up at twelve
And I felt like making money
Ah, but and heres the rub;
From the bookies to the pub
In a stall in the marketsquare
I saw his old threadbare mohair
And I choked out the oath in my throat

Stood staring at my fathers coat

Above the specs and the hearing aids
Old porn and razor blades
A ghost hanging over the detritus of a nation
I felt the freight of the past
Rise up and hit me
The woman said, "Try it on."
I said, "Its alright, I'll take it I know that it fits me."
She said, "Son, whatever floats your boat.."

I walked away in my fathers coat

The one thing that he taught me I confess ;

What a day
What a day
But a day like any other
I thought I'd seen the back of him
And I smell like some bad joke
That the rains invoked
Some wall-eyed dream of brilliantine and whisky and nicotine
In the culverts and the crags run both
The disease and the antidote
As I turn the key in my fathers coat

You can buy James Grants solo cds (including Strange Flowers) here

Friday, 11 September 2009

new music week part 4

I bought Noah and the Whale's first album "Peaceful, the World lays me down". It was pleasant enough despite the awful title but I thought that the band would join the ranks of "Bands who i own 1 album by". Interestingly they also seemed to be on the way to becoming one of those bands that people like to dislike

I'm a bit of a sucker for modern concept albums (those built around relationship break up not those covering some totalitarian regime on a distant future star). So when I read that the First Days of Spring covered the break up of the lead singer with his girlfriend I was intrigued and took a punt. The album is such a move on from the first one. The lyrics chart the breaking of a heart with intense honesty that have you nodding and going yep been there. The song Stranger deals with that moment when the singer sleeps with someone else for the first time in a one night stand. The music also stops it being one mans self indulgent misery piece instead it is pitch perfect melancholy.

Finally in the last song, the one I've posted here ,is a sense of redemption and healing

"My Door is always Open" by Noah and the Whale

Not only is the first day of spring an album but as the trashcan sinatras did a few years ago the band have also made a short film (the film is narrative rather than simply playing live or joining a load of pop videos together.)

You can visit the bands official blog which contains a trailer for the film here

You can buy First Days of Spring here

Thursday, 10 September 2009

new music week part 3

As usual I'm a bit late with this cd as it was released in 2008. Neil Halstead was the lead singer of Slowdive (one of the shoegaze bands) and Mojave 3. Mojave 3 play a semi acoustic laid back kind of sound, with almost a west coast of america kind of feel. Neil's solo stuff has a west coast england feel. If possible even more laid back than his previous band with a more folky feel. As with yesterday's post this is a great summer cd.
The lyrics are great -typified in the track I'm posting today
You can find Neil's myspace page here and you can buy Oh Mighty Engine Here.
Again the posted track is typical of the album as a whole

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

new music week part 2

Another band I know very little about! Bought this after hearing the posted track on one of those free cds that come with Word magazine every month.
The band is The Duke and the King and the cd is "Nothing Gold can Stay" (their myspace site is here where you can stream some of the tracks from the cd)
The band are Simon Felice (the Felice brothers ) and Robin Burke (described as sometime George Clinton collaborator???) and together they've made a album that seems to mix folk and soul without being either. What it is, is classic american songwriting with a summery 70s feel. The lyrics are great and seem to be centred around growing up and the good old american dream. It is the kind of cd that you listen to a couple of times and feel that it has been around for years
you can get the cd here
If you ever get famous, show your face now and then
Cause all our days are just so many waves in the wind
You can't get them back again

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

new music week

These days I tend to go awhile without buying any cds and then go a bit mad. Last week i bought 5 cds some old and some new. Therefore I thought I'd make this new music week, and for the next 5 days I'll post a track from each of the cds I bought and talk a bit about them. For a series called new music week the first post is actually about old music and a recent re - release. "Song" was the second long player from classic 1 hit wonders It's Immaterial best known for "Driving Away from Home".

Its Immaterial were a Liverpool band formed from the ashes of the Yachts. In the early days it was John Campbell and Jarvis Whitehead and featured in the band Henry Priestman who went on the be the main songwriter in the Christians. The band quickly ended up a duo and after a couple of early singles and a John Peel session and then the big hit released the first Lp "Life's Hard and then you Die" (the free poster that came with the Lp spent 4 years on my wall whilst at Leeds Poly). This was one of those albums that at the time didn't really sound like anything else around (mainly due to fact that alot of traditional instruments were thrown into a fairlight to see what would come out). The band then disappeared for 4 years until "Song" came out in 1990. The album was a move on from Life's Hard and a lot more sombre and reflective. The album was produced by Callum Malcolm who also produced the Blue Nile and it tells.

Needless to say it was a commercial flop leading to rumours of a 3rd album recorded just before the band was dropped and therefore sitting rotting in the record company vaults without ever getting a release.

I've posted the one single from the album and haunting as it is you can see it was never going to set the top 40 alight!

As far as where are Jim and Jarvis now or have they released anything else under a different guise ... well who knows?

For me it is a real shame that the 2 albums are all they got to release

Heaven Knows - Its Immaterial

The track is pretty representative of the rest of the album so if you like "Heaven Knows" then you'll like "Song". You can buy it here

Monday, 7 September 2009

Miracle Mile Monday - part 3

This latest Miracle Mile track also comes form their second cd Candids released in 1998. The first 2 cds reflect the singer and songwriter's (Trevor Jones) interest in all things American. I think I'm right in saying that he lectures in American studies as well as trying to keep the band going. The track skips along and the lyrics have some great images

"Swimming in the Serpentine , smells like turpentine ,once upon a time ... in the west"

Like alot of the Miracle Mile's songs this one has its roots in relationships , friendships and the passing of time
Candids can be bought from here

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Lazy Sunday Dr. Robert

It is time for top of the shuffle pile again and this time it is .........

Sods Law with about 10000 tracks one comes up from a cd which I've posted from about a week ago
sky is falling - dr robert -(pictured here with his blow monkeys) because of its sense of pace, space and longing

This comes from the cd Flatlands which you can buy here

Saturday, 5 September 2009


Quite often I'll buy a cd based purely on a review (interestingly i would never do this for a book)or a comparison with a band I like. Sometimes this has resulted a prompt posting on e:bay but sometimes I've discovered great bands and records this way. I can honestly say I have only ever bought one cd based on the cover (was at my shallowest that day!). "Wicked Man's Rest" by Passenger was in the bargain bin of a shop and the cover made it stand out so for 2:99 I thought I'd give it a go.
When i eventually listened to it I couldn't believe how good it was, the lead singers voice is distinctive and the style I guess you would say is a bit acoustic , a bit folky , a bit poppy and bit electronic beaty.
The cd is full great catchy songs but for me the best is the title track Wicked Man's Rest. Its got a simple captivating piano refrain, a semi spoken vocal ( no come back it is good) and a haunting sampled dialogue
All i know about them I got from their myspace site in prepping this post. The best of which is that they have a new cd coming out called "Wide Eyes Blind Love" The only thing is that it is described as acoustic, I'm hoping they don't lose the quirkiness such as the sampled voice in the track I've posted

Looking on amazon it does seem that they tried to re-release Wicked Man's Rest with another cover (which is awful) strange to think if this was the original cover I'd never have come across the band

If you like what you hear and want to take the risk then you can buy it here

Friday, 4 September 2009

god like genius - part 1

It is often written that the word genius is too readily used and for this series I'm going to be very liberal in its application. However I'm going to start with one bonafide musical genius - Paddy Mcaloon songwriter and lead singer of Prefab Sprout

He is back in the music news at the moment as prefab sprout are about to release a new cd "Let's change the world with Music" which in fact was originally going to be the follow up to Jordan the Comeback, but got relegated to the infamous box of completed/ half completed albums that have never seen the light of day. These include an LP about the life of Michael Jackson and one called "Earth the story so far". It is as if the motivation is in the ideas of the song rather than the completing it, as if once the song has been written and demoed then interest is lost.
Paddy Mcaloon's songs represent all I love about music
- Clever wordplay - their first single "Lions in My Garden - Exit someone" spelt out the name of the french town where his then girlfriend went to study. Each song has loads of great quotable lyrics - possibly my favourite being "wishing she could call him heartache but its not a boys name"
- Melodies that surprise - more so in the early days but I loved the way you would just get a handle on the song when all of a sudden the melody seemed to take a surprise turning
- Songs of heartache - "when love breaks down" is a heartbreaker
- Songs with unusual subject matter - "Moondog" has an alive Elivis on the moon planning a comeback concert.
He has got patchy with recent releases "Andromeda Heights was a bit too syrupy and the Western album "The Gunman and other stories" felt a bit throwaway but the run of "Swoon" ( standing for Songs Written out of Necessity)through to "Jordan" is a strong a body of work as anyones and contains 2 absolute classics in "Jordan" and "Steve McQueen"
I've chosen 3 tracks to show genius at work
1) cars and girls(From Langley Park to Memphis): a piss take on Bruce Springsteen the lyric is worth repeating in full

Brucie dreams lifes a highway too many roads bypass my way
Or they never begin. innocence coming to grief
At the hands of life - stinkin car thief, thats my concept of sin
Does heaven wait all heavenly over the next horizon ?

But look at us now, quit driving, some things hurt more much more than cars and girls.
Just look at us now, start counting, what adds up the way it did when we were young ?
Look at us now, quit driving, some things hurt much more than cars and girls.

Lifes a drive through a dust bowl, whats it do, do to a young soul
We are deeply concerned, someone stops for directions,
Something responds deep in our engines, we have all been burned
Will heaven wait all heavenly over the next horizon ?

But look at us now, quit driving, some things hurt more much more than cars and girls.
Just look at us now, start counting, what adds up the way it did when we were young ?
Look at us now, quit driving, some things hurt much more than cars and girls.

Little boy got a hot rod, thinks it makes him some kind of new god
Well this is one race he wont win,
cos lifes no cruise with a cool chick
Too many folks feelin car sick, but it never pulls in.
Brucies thoughts - pretty streamers
- guess this world needs its dreamers may they never wake up.

2) cue fanfare(Swoon) - where the emotions of a grandmaster chess player are compared to those of the singer as he hears a phrase or melody from a classic song. i love the ambition of this in a 3 min pop song

3 dragons b side of Electric Guitars) - a "b side" better than a lot of peoples asides and to show he can do the simple as well
you can buy all of prefab sprouts stuff here - go on touch genius

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Life of Live - part 1 Ultravox

The idea for this is that I'm going to work through every band I've seen live in order. Its going to start a bit naff but hopefully should quickly get better once i get to the poly years. Growing up in the fens meant that seeing live bands needed major planning and usually some collective coach trip to and from the venue. I'm not including friends bands Johnny Says Yeah and the wonderful Black Sick!

My first concert was in fact depeche mode - however I'm going to skip them as their record company seem very keen on the infamous take down notices and forced removals. So I'm starting with number 2 - Mr sideburns himself and his band Ultravox. The concert was in Leicester and at the time I was a serious fan. Not yet able to grow interesting facial hair I could still wear an old grey mack and stare at buildings thinking this means nothing to me. I know Ultravox stopped being cool the day John Foxx up sticks and left but I was a sucker for swirling synths and obscure lyrics. I recently read Midge Ure's autobiography from a sense of nostalgia and felt part of my teen years blown apart when he admitted that alot of the lyrics didnt mean that much (a fact most critics pointed out in most reviews). As my music compass swung indie i still had a soft spot for them right up to the awful U-Vox lp after which they thankfully split.

The concert was on the back of I think Rage in Eden the follow up to the Vienna Lp. I cant remember much about it except for the Voice when all the band members played a single drum each at the front of the stage for some big drumming solo (it sounds ridiculous and it was but it was great!)
I did have a copy on vinyl of monument a live mini lp that has a similiar version of The Voice on but I've posted instead a track from Rage in Eden (I loved everything about it even having a poster of the cover on my wall) Of course its naff but is glorious at the same time

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Dancing to Architecture - this is uncool

No music today , instead a book about music
Someone once said that "writing about music was like dancing to architecture" or something like that. Whilst i tend to agree this hasnt stopped me reading most of the music press for periods over the last 20+ years from Smash Hits through to Word. This seems to get even more true when it comes to books about music, especially the "top 100 industrial soul records of the last 5 years" type.

However ........ This is the major exception that proves the rule.
It does what it says on the tin - the author writes about each of his top 500 singles from 1976 up to 1999. Why is it so good .. well it is immensely personal and opinionated for a start and it overlaps when I started to get seriously into singles (ie I was coming out of my ELO phase). Its a great celebration of the single

The author describes a great single as
"It stands alone from and transcends an artists usual work. It must have hooklines, even when those hooklines subvert or ignore the usual singalong chorus norm. It should say something striking about its chosen subject even if its an instrumental. It should want to be a hit even if it fails.It should when heard for the first time induce in the listener to stop what they are doing and exclaim "what the fuck is that " It must speak directly to you!"

However the true test is that the writing is so good that it makes me want to listen again to songs that I know i dont like, because after reading about them .. well I must have been wrong!

You can buy This is Uncool by Garry Mulholland from here ...

Garry followed it up with "Fear of Music" which does the same thing but with albums .. it is good but like the taste explosion of first hearing a single verses the meal of an album, it doesnt reach the same heights as This is Uncool

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Cherry Red part 2

Following on from last weeks post Cherry Red now seem to be focused on rereleasing "lost" lps on cd, with a bias towards the 80s. They have also set up Cherry Pop which is more commercial - I'm not sure the world misses Belouis Some's cd but there must be a demand somewhere.

However , Circle and a Square by Red Box was bought straight away. Although the production sounds a tad dated you cant help but admire the ambition. This is one of those lets play everything including the kitchen sink type albums. I guess they are known for the catchy to the point of annoying singles Lean on Me and For America. I fell in love with them after a ridiculously energetic run through of Lean on Me on Tops of the Pops. i think it involved mass drums and flags ... anyway it looked like they had actually thought about rather than just turning up to mime.
The track I'm posting is another catchy one and should have been the next single - I've always been a sucker for massed voice choruses / harmonies
The follow up LP (Motive) was even better but that is another story. With a release rate that makes Blue Nile look prolific rumours of a 3rd cd in the near future are abound ... i cant wait