Sunday, 31 January 2010

Lazy Sunday - The Sundays

A random shuffle I promise! Top of the pile suitably are the Sundays and a track called "I Kicked a Boy". What I like about it , well the same as I like about every Sundays track, a guitar line that Johnny Marr would have been proud of writing and a vocal that makes you instantly fall in love with the singer.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Singular Sounds L - Lanterns

A lot of the Scottish bands i like have this love affair with the USA and bands like Steely Dan. Nowadays lots of the best bands sing in their natural accent rather than something born in the mid atlantic. It seems ridiculous now the press that the Proclaimers got just for singing as they talk. I don't think there is much wrong with either approach after all people have been singing in false accents as far back as Elvis, but somehow I don't think bands such s Belle and Sebastian or Wake the president or Butcher Boy would be half as good if they sang as if they came from Santa Barbara

The Lanterns I can only describe based purely on this track as it is the only one I have as a Scottish Saint Etienne

I don't know much about the band beyond the fact that they were a trio and released one lp Luminate yer Head which you can find here .

Confusingly on one website they are described as an artistic project rather than a band (which all sounds a tad pompous)

This is one of those great pop singles that got away and apart from the initial "ravey" synth sound has dated really well and is as freash as when I first heard it

"There's gotta be more"

Thursday, 28 January 2010

My indie past - The Hit Parade

The Hit Parade are a proper indie band! Three friends who all have other jobs but have been making music together for 20 years , were at one time on Sarah Records (home of all things twee), play jangly guitars , have lovelorn lyrics, slightly off key vocals and they even have a cult following in Japan.

Having got their first 2 lps I used to trawl the internet for more info but with a name like "the Hit Parade" and lps with titles like "With Love from the Hit Parade" and "More Pop songs" there was never much for Google to go on and you would end up searching through 1000s of unrelated entries.

After a break of over 10 years there was a flurry of action , a new website appeared and a new lp, called as it only could be called "The Return of the Hit Parade". The sounds remained the same although the songs were broader in lyrical range. The first 2 lps seemed to entirely focus on the on off relationship the singer had with the girl of his dreams.

I've posted a song by them before and you can find that here

For this post there are 3 tracks , two from the 1st lp (which should have just been titled "I want my ex Girlfriend Back") the first of these " See you in Havana" with guest vocals by queen of indie Cath Carroll and the third from their most recent.

"The things that I love
The reasons I cry"

Ode to a Footballer's Wife

The lps are difficult to track down, not helped by the fact that a number seemed to be overseas releases only. even the band's website has them listed as sold out The latest lp "The Return of the Hit Parade" can be found here

Their website is pretty basic to say the least but it does have details of all their releases and can be found here

If anyone has links to the lps "The Sound of the Hit Parade" or "Light Music" then please let me know

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A Year in Books 10 - The Half Brother

The first book I've read in 2010 and already a front runner for the best book I'm going to read. A bit like the quote "like Prefab Sprout" in a music review seems to result in me buying a copy. The same can be said with any book review that is described as being in the style of John Irving. I've been bitterly disappointed many a time, but with the period between Irving's fiction getting longer and his later work a bit more patchy I still keep giving it a go.

This Norwegian book could almost have been written from a "how to write an Irvingesque novel" manual. Having said that whilst elements of the plot and the story telling technique do remind me a bit of Hotel New Hampshire the writing has a style all of it's own.

Washed up scriptwriter Barnum looks back on his life in an eccentric extended family in Oslo and in particular his relationship with his half brother Fred. The plot takes in 4 generations and as with Irving the tone mixes comedy and tragedy, the funnier the passage the bigger the tragedy awaiting with all the main characters having fatal flaws and a great capacity to simply mess things up. Over the course of the 700 or so pages we're exposed to rape, suicide, illness, alcoholism and death by discus. However the writing is so skilled that the themes of love friendship and family means that you can't help but be continually uplifted by these flawed characters.

If I were to have one criticism then the novel loses it sway a bit with the modern day Barnum, but only (again as with Irving's Owen Meany) as the young Barnum is so well drawn.

Christensen manages to somehow make the extraordinary seem ordinary ie you never lose your sense of belief in what happens to the family and keeps you gripped to the very end.

So I'll repeat the review I read. "If you like John Irving then give this a go"

You can buy the Half Brother here

Monday, 25 January 2010

Miracle mile monday - part 22

The second track from "Glow" is "What Katie did Next" which again has some great brass (giving it a late 60s radio 2 feel - and I mean that as a compliment strange as it sounds) and one of the band's best choruses. In the diary Trevor writes :

"I like the idea of writing quickly; shortening the time between the thought, the notion and then writing of it. The hope is to make it honest and direct. The danger is that it might come out sloppy or half arsed"
Sloppy and half arsed is not something I think you could ever accuse these songs as being

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Lazy Sunday - The Blue Nile

Another lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track by the Blue Nile from their 3rd lp "Peace at Last". Not the best thing they've done by a long way, and I think the lyric is a bit weak although it sounds a lot better in the context of the lp as a whole, but the there is some nice guitar sounds and not the best thing for the blue nile is still streets ahead of most other bands. On current progress we should be looking forward to a new lp in 2025.

Friday, 22 January 2010

god like genius - Thoms Dolby

When you think of Thomas Dolby most people will probably think of an annoying mad professor persona releasing 2 annoying synth pop songs one featuring Dr Magnus Pyke (one of those voices from your childhood) "She Blinded me with Science" and one that was written for Michael Jackson who turned it down "Hyperactive".

Some people on the other hand will remember that he produced Prefab Sprout's 2 best lps "Steve McQueen" and "Jordon the Comeback"

If genius is a small step from madness then I think Thomas Dolby fits the bill. The madness side is when he thinks he is George Clinton and decides he's "got the funk". The third lp "Aliens Ate My Buick" is the biggest offender.

However, the genius bit is that he can produce the most beautiful atmospheric music going. My first memory of Thomas Dolby is singing "Windpower" whilst twirling a lighted flexible tube above his head. This was on Wogan's chat song and to say Wogan was a tad perplexed is an understatement.

The first track posted is from the same lp as "Windpower" and i first heard it on Annie Nightingale's sunday night request show and it was this that made me think that there must be mor eto explore beyond "Science"

The second track is the title track from the second lp "The Flat Earth" and I think the best thing he has done. The song gradually builds layer upon layer, including what sounds like a sample of rigging from a sailing ship. The backing vocals fit perfectly

The third track is "Fieldwork" and according the the sleeve notes

I had met Ryuchi Sakamoto when his wife sang on Radio Silence a few years earlier. He had recorded the backing track with Steve Jansen, the drummer from the band Japan,. iIcame up with the melody and some lyrics whilst sitting in a car wash in Shepherd's Bush. I sent a rough mix and he loved it. We lived thousands of miles apart but arranged to meet halfway to record the vocal. On the arranged date we each checked into the New York Hilton. But we were under assumed names, and quickly realised we had no way of contacting each other"

This isn't the first time that Thomas Dolby has had problems with Sakamoto. From the sleeve notes to the track "Radio Silence"

"she bought her husband along, whom i mistakenly thought she introduced as "luigi". I referred to him several times by that name until i heard him play piano then put two and two together"

He is in the process of recording his first new material for ages (in his recording studio which is a converted lifeboat! - see below). I really recommend his blog which you can find here it is a fascinating read both in terms of touring/recording but also in terms of his new technology, entertainment and design.

You can buy Thomas Dolby's lps ("The Golden age of Wireless" and "The Flat Earth" are the ones to get and they have just been reissued with extra tacks on and great sleeve notes from Dolby) here

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Life of Live - Icicle Works

The Icicle Works were one of those bands that when I was at poly seemed to be continually touring and would come round to Leeds every couple of terms or so. The second time I saw them they were at their peak. They had released "If you Want to Defeat Your Enemy" lp which along with the first single "Understanding Jane" had seen them with a bit of a revival with good reviews and an almost hit . If you read Ian McNabb's great autobiography "Merseybeast", almost.... could be the story of his musical life.

Live they were at the top of their game, and able to produce a sound that made the recorded tracks on the lp seem a bit light weight by comparison. The track I've posted is the 3rd or 4th single from the lp and live was an anthem that felt like a wall of sound.

Political songs can often when heard out of context seem either full of self importance smugness or can seem trite and simplistic. "Up Here in the North of England" treads the tightrope better than most and is one of Ian Mcnabb's best lyrics full of quotable lines that captures a bit of times

Up Here in the North of England - Icicle Works

Travelling overseas I was accosted by a student
Who asked me where I came from, she was pretty
Children don't put smack in your veins
Lennon cut his teeth here
And the party-pooping left wing
Wouldn't play the Tories game
We're always in the market for an off-beat love affair
With a foreign delegation condescending for a share
Of a pressure cooker spouting steam
That threatens to unload
With a power so formidable
The Russian bear is in the woods somewhere

Television comedians united in approval
The drama that confronts you with real people in real times
I'm only in a band because I failed my own audition
You have to see somebody suffer other than yourself
Right now we're in a jam
We'll call you back when we get straight
'Cos Townsend's coming 'round
He understands, he won't be late
There's lots of food for thought
But not a great deal on our plate
The southerners don't like us
Who can blame 'em seems we're always in the spotlight

We're always in the market for an off-beat love affair
Heseltine came up now trees are sprouting everywhere
McDonalds finally found us and we're folklore in Turin
We used to pull the ships in
Now we're goin' down
Look at the state we're in

Every now and then you catch a band live when they are at the peak of their powers, releasing their best music and when they hit the stage the energy is infectious, and when the 2 hours are up you just know that they will be good again but maybe not quite this good - this for me was one of those times

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Bigger than the Beatles - The Bodines

Formed in 1985 this band released 3 classic singles on Creation in 1986 got signed to a major and released their debut Edwyn Collin's produced debut lp in 1987, split up reform in 1989, split again until a release from nowhere in 1997 and then nothing.

Such a Shame - of all the bands to appear on the NME's C86 tape, this was the one that I thought would go the distance. "Therese" was a classic bit of Orange Juice inspired indie pop, it sparkled.

If anything , like the House of Love who came after them they suffered from the impossibly high expectations that the indie press had of them. "Played" when it came out was slated and tanked.

I loved it, the guitars jangle the lyrics were angsty, the songs zipped along and in "Skankin Queens" they had one of the catchiest songs of the year. They also like the Wedding Present had a song called "William Shatner". They should have been massive, or at least lasted more then one lp and a couple of eps that were 8 years apart.

I've posted 2 tracks

The first is the previously mentioned "William Shatner" which is pretty representative of their sound and the second, "Heard it All" is simply beautiful in a jangle out of tune love lorn vocal way. This was their swansong for Creation and is one of those lost classics

William Shatner - Bodines

Heard it All - Bodines

"And when you think she's lonely you phone just to make sure"

As for getting a copy of "Played" for a half decent price , well all I can say is good luck

Monday, 18 January 2010

Miracle Mile Monday part 21

Part 21 and on the Miracle Mile's 5th lp "Glow" released in 2005.

As with the other lps , memories feature strongly, in the words of Trevor Jones

"Whether half remembered or best forgotten, memories are filtered to bathe the past in a nostalgic half light, or to simply soften the blows......... the haze of childhood that can never be reclaimed. is where we all start and end"

I don't know whether it is getting older, having kids of my own but these words strike a deep chord.

The lp came with the usual booklet but also a "making of" diary from Trevor and Marcus which gives a great insight on the writing and recording process and well as rubbing a cloth over a window into some of the songs.

The first track posted is "Paper Planes and Ponytails" which according to Trevor's diary entry

"The golden haze of childhood haunts us all. i try to focus on mine but can't ...sometimes it seems like i was hardly there at all. Again the reason that I write; as an attempt to mine, define and reclaim those formative years"

The whole song is lifted by a gorgeous bit of flugle horn playing.

Paper Planes and Ponytails - Miracle Mile

You can buy Glow at the band's website here

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Lazy Sunday - Propaganda

Lazy Sunday and top of the pile is one of great 80s singles (or in the this case 12" single) . It is shame that the band who were signed to ZTT got drowned in the noise that was Frankie Goes to Hollywood. I remember Anne Nightingale used to play this a lot on her request show and I may just be nostalgic but despite all the synth bass etc it has dated really well

The first cut won't hurt at all

The second only makes you wonder

The third will have you on your knees

Friday, 15 January 2010

Singular Sounds k - Kraftwork

Singular sounds and there is only one artist in K that I only have one track of and it is Kraftwerk. However what a track , a true classic. Originally a b side until some djs started to play it instead of the a side and suddenly a UK number 1 about 12 years after the band had formed in Germany. This gave the record company a nice problem as the track was from an earlier release not the new lp Computer World that was out at the time. Three and a half minutes of synth perfection. Somehow soulless and warm at the same time.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Little bit on the side - Jack Frost

JC at Vinyl Villian has started a new series of posts on David Gedge's (Wedding Present) "other" band Cinerama. This has got me thinking of other side projects. One of the best is little heard of band Jack Frost. They were Grant Mclennan of the Gobetweens and Steve Kilbey of the Church. They released 2 lps , the first "Jack Frost" in 1990 and the second "Snow Job" in 1996. The sound is closer to haziness of the Church rather than the crisp jangles of the Gobetweens but the fact that the songwriting is so strong most of the tracks are just as good if not better than some of their individual solo output. The first lp is especially strong , things got a little patchier on Snow Job, so it is from that first lp that I've posted 4 tracks

The word pretty is the only thing I can think of to describe this simple folk song that sounds like it could fit on Grant Mclennan's Horsebreaker solo cd

"and all you do is carry on"

Says it all in the title, a song of regret and longing played over a simple guitar loop which gradually builds and builds only the die back down just as you are expecting the big ending crescendo

I know you'll never remember and its better that way

Let this wine take your memory of everything before today

Similar in style to Steve Kilbey's Ramble above. This time it is Grant Mclennan doing one of those songs of regret that suited his voice so well

It was over before we knew it

Gone from both our minds

If you get the inclination

Think of me sometime

All I have

All I need

All you've got

Is providence

A harder song of bitterness and loss, almost the kind of thing you'd expect from Robert Forster

Well I saw you at the opening

Somebody's hand was up your dress

You were showing off everything

Except your finesse

Thought that I , Thought that I was over you

As ever difficult to find although Amazon have some second hand copies here

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

life of live - Edwyn Collins

If you wanted to see a concert in Leeds then it tended to be one of two extremes On one hand there was the poly and the uni who both had big halls and then on the other it was a small stage in the Duchess of York pub. However in the middle was a club called the Warehouse. This was best known for being the place where lots of synth bands played in the early 80s, or the fact that Marc Almond worked there for a time manning the cloakroom. It was still mainly a club with some great indie nights but every now and then it would put on a concert.

The first time i went was to see Edwyn Collins. I was a massive Orange Juice fan but as they never ventured into the fens (few did) I never saw them live. Edwyn was promoting his debut lp "Hope and Despair" . The concert was the usual winning mix of fantastic tunes, really funny between song banter and slightly off tune vocals and slightly shambolic guitar playing ie he was as excellent as ever.

I've posted the lead off single which sounded a bit different to the rest of the lp and was more a pointer to the later Dr Syntax lp. It is still one of my favourite songs of his

"what is your star sign?

you've got to be kidding"

Support came from Irish band A house whose latest lp Edwyn had produced. I've posted a song from their No More Apologies lp and as with a lot of their songs a pretty tune often hid quite a bitter lyric

Coffee Table Song - Edwyn Collins

Clothes Horse - A House

I should add just prior to this concert I let myself be persuaded to go and see the Ramones who I've never really liked. I went with 2 school friends, we ended drinking much to much before we went out , then sat at the back of the venue saying how the support band sounded like a Ramones rip off. I stood up to go to the bar again to see one of the "support" band holding a sign saying "Gabba Gabba Hey" and heard a "Thanks and Good night", the lights then came up and everyone started heading home. John and Zac were much more disappointed than I was!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Miracle Mile Monday part 20

The final track from "Stories We Could Tell" features some lovely subtle guitar playing by Marcus Cliffe to support another killer chorus

Give me one good reason for gladness
I'll give you ten good reason s to cry
As we share this moment of madness
We watch the world go by
World keeps passing us by

You can buy the lp here

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Lazy Sunday - The Leisure Society

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a track from the Leisure Society's The Sleeper lp which has one of the best lp covers of 2009. It is typical of the mellow, folky feel of the lp, perfect for sunday afternoons

You can buy The Sleeper here

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Bigger Than The Beatles - The Indian Givers

They may only released one lp and two singles in 1989 all of which were roundly ignored but the Indian Givers should have been massive. I bought their debut lp after seeing them supporting Danny Wilson (It was a good fit as like danny wilson , the lp was full of beautifully crafted pop songs)
Apart from being a scottish based three piece,I don't know much about them and doing a search on google didn't exactly throw up a lot more. A few bloggers obviously like the lp and have posted tracks and there is the obligatory link to Amazon. All was looking a bit lost until I stumbled upon this site.
It gives a bit more info but not a lot, Nigel Sleaford the singer and main songwriter seems to have recorded a couple of unreleased lps and guested on some local bands' releases but details are sketchy to say the least.

The sound is a bit polished 80s but the tunes are slightly left of centre. The first of the three tracks posted is the one that has dated the least well but is catchy as hell.
The second "Unthinking You" is their best song and the lost love theme fitted perfectly for me when a very short lived girlfriend waved goodbye (can't beat a bit of wallowing in self pity)
The third song I think shows the Danny Wilson comparison as it would have fitted in perfectly well on their debut

Hatchet Girl - Indian Givers

Unthinking You - Indian Givers

"life’s like that / when you think you’ve got it cracked / tables will turn / fingers get burned / no more holidays"

Love is a Lie - Indian Givers

As ever it is the usual stories with bigger than the beatles series , HMV dont have the lp and Amazon only have 2nd hand copies here

Friday, 8 January 2010

Singular Sounds J - JJ72

Singular Sounds has reached J and it was almost Jah Wobble or Jesus Jones. However in the end I've gone for this storming single from Dublin band JJ72. The trio released 2 lps and split after a struggle with their record label to get their 3rd lp released. I don't really know how their sound developed but this single always brings a smile to my face as it is completely over the top

October Swimmer - JJ72

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Strange Covers - Everything but the Girl

A while back I posted something about Everything but the Girl which included a track from an lp they called Acoustic. It was a bit of a mixture with some live tracks some acoustic versions of singles and some covers (mainly from the ep of Love is Strange) . I've posted three of the covers all great songs in their own right but in these stripped down versions, Tracey Thorn's voice sounds like they were written just for her.

The band were no strangers to covers , their first release was a version of "Night and Day", but i still think it is slightly sad that for such great songwriters their most successful singles were a Rod Stewart cover and a dance remix of one of their more ordinary songs "Missing"

Tougher than the rest - originally Bruce Springsteen

Time after Time - originally Cyndi Lauper

Alison - originally Elvis Costello

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

My indie past - The Railway Children

The Railway Children were a Manchester 4 piece band originally signed to Factory records. This is their debut single and a typically great Factory cover. Released in 1986 it topped the indie chart (does such a thing still exist?) it had a smiths/lloyd cole feel. As a bonus the b side "Content" is also great. Both tracks can be found on an extended version of their debut lp "Reunion Wilderness". They were snapped up by Virgin records and it never quite happened for them although "Every Beat of Your Heart" got to 24 in the charts. Like lots of bands they were a victim of the EMI takeover of Virgin records. Gary Newby the main songwriter now lives in Japan and writes mainly for Japanese artists and films. Listening to the 2 tracks i think they've dated better than a lot of similar stuff from the time

You can find their website here

I know a little church
standing lonely on a hillside
it's cross was bent and broken
scratched and pitted by the cruel tide
one learned man with one book
surveys the blue sky
could the sea should banish god from his town
i can hear a sound
a gentle sound
it's all around me
it takes me up and down
all around me
i know a little girl standing lonely by the quayside
her hair was long and brown
it came right down all around all love fights hate
in her looks
and in her sighs
still this girl could banish all
but her heart.
i can hear a sound
a gentle sound
it's all around me
it takes me up and down
all around me

You can buy "Reunion Wilderness" here

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Singular Sounds I - Icehouse

Dismissed a bit at the time as a David Bowie / Roxy Music wannabe, (who wasnt in the early 80s) I still love this single and the croony vocals ,although clearly not enough to get anything else by the band!

hey hey

Monday, 4 January 2010

miracle mile monday part 19

Last week it was example of the band at it's minimal best. This week it is the band at their sing a long best. They can't half write a good chorus driven along by a great bit of banjo
If you like this track you can here more from the lp and buy it here at the band's website
Nothing wrong with a bit of "Burning desire"

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Lazy Sunday - The Church

Another Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is something by the Church.

The church were one of those bands whose lps I used to see in the shops and who I'd read about in the music press but I didn't know anyone who had anything by them. I think I'd heard "Unguarded Moment" , but that was about it.

For some reason I bought the lp above (probably something logical like they are Australian and I liked the Gobetweens) which is basically acoustic versions of some of their songs. It has me converted. I like this one because it skips along in a waltzy kind of way

You can buy the lp "El Momento Descuidado" here

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Why I love Country Music part 8 - Everything But the Girl

In 1986, Everything but the Girl returned with a new single and lp. Gone were the jingle jangle songs of Love not Money and Tracey Thorn with big hair and Ben Watt in a big coat. In their place were a new haircut for Tracey Thorn (preceding Swing Out Sister by a few years) a suit for Ben Watt as well as a stab at a big budget country flavoured sound. I Remember the single "Come Home" got a lot of press at the time, got slated on "Round Table" and hardly troubled the counters at Gallup.

The lp "Baby the Stars Shine Bright" is a bit uneven and in places Mike Hedge's production sounds a bit tinny whereas it feels like they were after a big dramatic sound. However it does contain some great songs and Tracey Thorn's voice really suites that country pop sound.

I've posted 2 of the more obvious country tinged songs "Don't Let the Teardrops Rust your Shining Heart" and "A Country Mile". I've also posted 2 versions of the lead single, the first from the album and the second from a lp they released called "Acoustic"(does what it says on the tin) which shows just what a great song it is and cant help making me wish that Ben Watt hadn't discovered dance music and Tracey Thorn had never met Massive Attack

Come Home - Everything but The Girl

Come home (acoustic) - Everything But the Girl

Don't Let the Teardrops - Everything But the Girl

Country Mile - Everything But the Girl

Everyday's like Christmas day without you

It's cold and theres nothing to do

You can buy Baby the Stars here

Friday, 1 January 2010

Cult of the b side - Kate Bush

What better way to start anew year than with a bit of Kate

Like a lot of middle aged men with glasses and not much hair , I've still got a bit of a teenage obsession with Kate Bush, especially about the time of "The Hounds of Love".

Although I've got all her lps I don't have many of her singles. I do have the one pictured above however and tucked away on the b side is a gorgeous piece of music and one of the best things she has ever done. Two minutes of voice and piano and pure emotion

Under the Ivy - Kate Bush