Friday, 30 April 2010

Singular Sounds R - Robert Palmer

Singular sounds and I don't own anything by anyone starting with a Q (especially as media player sorts by christian name first) so it is on to R. I've chosen this over Robert Lloyd as it is another example that proves the rule that everyone has a good single in them. I still don't know how the same person who can make "Addicted to Love" and be part of the awful swagger that was the Power Station can produce something as world weary and as good as this.

The lp this came from, "Looking for Clues" sees Robert Palmer start to dabble with synths , covering a Gary Numan song, etc. The electronic rhythm tracks propels it along but the lyric is more Springsteen than Our Friends Electric.
Although this is still one of my favourite singles, I must have seen something of the road ahead because I didn't buy anything else by him

Scared that he'll be caught without a second thought

Thursday, 29 April 2010

A Year in Books 2010 - A Fraction of the Whole

As I've said before, normally the words "shortlisted for the Booker prize" has me running for the hills. This was recommended to me by someone who knew I liked early Peter Carey, so I thought I'd give it a go and after 700 pages I just didn't want it to end. Written by Steve Toltz, it is a saga of a family of males. Jasper Dean sits in his prison cell thinking back through is life and those of his father Martin and his uncle Terry. Over the course of the novel we hear the voices of all three. We start with Martin as a young boy as his idea for a town suggestion box and observatory backfire spectacularly. We learn about Terry's life of crime and his rise to Australian national hero as he brings fair play back to sport by simply bumping off all the corrupt sportsmen. We follow Jasper as he finds love for the first time only to be betrayed as he struggles with his father's mood swings, wild ideas and get rich schemes all whilst living in a house in the centre of a labyrinth.

Having said all that the plot is almost secondary to the constant flow of one liners, comic asides, philosophical meanderings and off kilter ideas. Steve Toltz has written a genuinely funny, clever book, with absolutely fantastic use of language and a unique set of characters. It is wildly ambitious and at times does stumble , but as it rattles along at such a pace, the misteps hardly seem to matter.

A fantastic debut and being lazy it is a cross between the Carey of Illywhacker and the Chuck Palahnuik of Fight Club. I hope this is the start of a great new talent and not the literary equivalent of a one hit wonder

You can buy A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz here

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Bit on the Side - ALT

An occasional series of side projects, and this post brings together Andy White, Liam the lead singer of Hothouse Flowers, and Tim Finn as ALT

Their lp "Altitude" came out of long post pub jamming sessions and some of the songs are ideas that should have been lost along the way. However there are some great tracks and the whole thing sounds like it was great fun to make. The whole thing feels very democratic with everyone sharing vocals and seemingly dropping in and out with harmonies as the mood takes them.

I've posted two tracks

The Refuge Tree shows how well their voices work so well together but also shows teh slightly shambolic nature of the recording with the whole thing forever on the verge of falling apart but somehow stays on course until the final "Tell me are you lonesome".

My favourite is Decided to Fly in which each singer takes a verse and covers memories of home and growing up coupled with that need to escape, that anyone growing up in a small town can appreciate

I decided to Fly - Alt

As ever the cd looks like is a nightmare to track down with home made copies on ebay and amazon selling one for a ridiculous £33. You may be able to get it form Andy White's website whichcan be found here

I think they also released a live lp. Their paths have kept crossing with sharing songwriting duties on each other's lps but nothing with the 3 of them together. It is a bit of an oddity as an lp but the singing and the songwriting shine through

Monday, 26 April 2010

Monday Moments 7/26 - Into Temptation

Probably my favourite song about infidelity! Neil Finn can't have write a great tune and he is the master of the melancholic key change. His vocal seems to accept the inevitability of it all , he just knows he is going to give in and any resistance / doubt is token at best

"You opened up your door

I couldn't believe my luck"

He is even trying to kid himself that

"The mummer of nervous words could never amount to betrayal"

However, my Monday moment occurs at the end with the last thing he sings a desperate whispered "Don't Tell"

In that moment he makes what has come before even more real.

Into Temptation - Crowded House

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Lazy Sunday - The Bathers

Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track form The Bathers' lp "Lagoon Blues".
Not one of my favourites and I think The Bathers tracks work best not in isolation but a listened to as part of a whole lp. it is funny how some songs work that way.
Anyway I like it because it is Chris Thomson doing his lovechild of Tom Waites and Van Morrison voice. It also has a lovely bit of violin that weaves around the vocal and acoustic guitars

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Long Lost Colourfield

A while back I posted about the God Like Genius that is Terry Hall. Well the wonderful people at Cherry Red have re-released the second Colourfield lp "Deception" It is a very patchy lp with the acoustic poppy feel and great harmonies replaced with a lot of programmed drums and loops. It feels and sounds like a band breaking up (apparently the record was finished using Raquel Welch's backing band!!). However it did feature one of the best things he has written

In a house one a hill by a lake
Lives a great mistake
Looks a lot like me

As an extra, the lp also feature one of the lp's songs re-recorded with Sinead O' Connor replacing Terry Hall on lead vocals. Her voice suites the electronic backing better than Terry Hall's and it is a shame the song was tucked away on a b side

what the eyes don't see the heart won't miss

Interestingly as with Funboy Three, Terry Hall kept to a pattern of 2 lps, 7 singles , split up (only to break it with his next band)

The lp also feature 2 tracks I didn't know existed, a single and b side both produced by Ian Broudie and released inbetween the band's 2 lps (Things could be Beautiful / Frosty Mornings ). Both these tracks are good enough to make me wonder what Deception would have sounded like if he had stayed in on as producer
Needless to say neither this song or the 2 singles from the lp troubled the charts

You can buy Deception here

Friday, 23 April 2010

A Year in books 2010 - The Hour I First Believed

Wally Lamb tends to write big fat novels looking for the voice of America through characters on the edge of society and the impact they have on the people around them. In his first two books, we follow the life of an obese 40 year old (She's Come Undone) and the life of man and his paranoid schizophrenic twin brother (I Know This Much is True). Both books tend to expose you to the full roller coaster of emotions, with the cast of supporting characters helping stop the whole thing drifting into made for tv melodrama. His books tend to feature everyman characters, the kind that serve Richards Russo and Ford so well.

With his this book, "The Hour I First Believed", he has upped the ambition and had a go at the great american novel. We follow flawed Caelum Quirk as he has to deal with the aftermath of his wife surviving the Columbine massacre. To aid recovery they move back to the farm Caelum grew up in. We soon through Caelum's exploration of his family's history and secrets learn how the civil war, Koreaand slavery are themes that are repeated through the big events of today , 9/11, the war in Iraq and hurricane Katrina. I did say it was ambitious and sometimes it does over-reach. The link into Iraq and Katrina feel a bit contrived and the ending's spiritual nature grates a bit. Having said that he does balance beautifully the epic and personal. The mixture of fact and fiction is especially well done in the first half of the book with the events around Columbine. In fact at times it does feel like two books the first around Columbine and the second when Caelum is on the farm, an exploration of family history and the joins aren't always neat. Having said that maybe this lack of neatness only reflects that in reality history itself is never neat and tidy or black and white.

Strangely although I didn't enjoy this as much as his first two books which are both great and having almost stopped reading it numerous times, mentally thinking that I didn't care for the characters, I was immensely moved by the ending and had to do the old there is something in my eye trick as I was on the train when I finished it

You can buy "The Hour I First Believed" here

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Life of Live - The Men they Couldn't Hang

The Men They Couldn't Hang were actually the support band but to me were the best thing about the concert by a mile. The main act were the Pogues and it was one of the nights where Shane MacGowan was either so drunk or so full of flu that he could barely sing, as he could also barely stand it gave a good clue as to which of the two it was.

Now I know to some extent this is part of what made the Pogues so exciting live, but I couldn't escape the feeling that it was all a bit of a mess.

The Men They Couldn't Hang (I do have a friend who used to call them Pogues light) were fantastic. I'd heard a couple of songs but the next day went out and bought all I could. The playing was inspired and the the singing was full of passion despite most of the audience being camped at the bar outside the hall. The songs seemed to alternate between heartfelt ballads and shout along stompers, but both had at their heart catchy pop songs. What was not to like.

I've posted one of the shout along stompers that also comes complete with a 4 min history lesson as well

I've seen them about 4/5 more times since this night and each time I come away convinced they are the best live band going

Ironmasters - The Men They Couldn't Hang

Monday, 19 April 2010

Monday Moments - James

Friday night I saw James play live at the Royal Albert Hall and despite moaning about the price here as ever they were worth every penny with at least 2 songs the best versions I've heard them do. Anyway I should wait until the appropriate life of live before i talk about it (which on current run rate will probably be in a couple of years time!).

However it just reminded me how much I love this song. There are two monday moments for me . The first is the whole massed acoustic guitar strumming which when you play it loud just sounds like you are caught in the middle of a tropical downpour of "endless rain endless rain"

The second is at 3:22 mins when for the first time the backing vocals come in. One of the things that Brian Eno does so well is male backing vocals. They have a certain style and tend to find their way into a lot of what he produces

When they played it live it was one of those moments where the whole hall stood and endlessly sang the refrain "Sometimes when I can look in your eyes I can see your soul" as the band just stood and took it all in ...oh to be pop star!

The bands new ep Night Before can be bought here and if the 5 tracks they played on friday are anything to go by it shows a band at the top of their game oozing confidence

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Lazy Sunday - China Crisis

Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile is an early single by China Crisis. Like most of their songs I'm not sure what it is about, the lyrics are either deeply meaningful or completely meaningless. However it includes a synth line that manages to be catchy but haunting at the same time and I'm not sure there is a mellower synth song from that era

I could lose myself in this honesty

Saturday, 17 April 2010

My indie past - The Chesterfields

In 1986 I was buying lots of singles and lps by bands who all followed the Housemartins template, breezy guitar pops song that skipped along in less than 3 minutes with lyrics which could only be sung with your tongue in your cheek. One of the singles was Brilliant Corners "Brian Rix" which rhymed

"it is just that you remind me a Brian Rix when you pull down your trousers it has me in fits"

Another band was the Chesterfields. I bought their lp "Kettle" on the basis of the single "Ask Johnny Dee". Johnny Dee was I think a music journalist from the Record Mirror, Sounds or somewhere like that

Well if you'd like to know what pop stars have for tea , ask johnny dee
And in which motor car it is safe to be seen ,ask johnny dee
and would you like to know what pop kids wear in the sea, ask johnny dee
and who is the girl who plays the tambourine

This song could have been about a school friend of mine Johnny C who was the ultimate indie pop kid (although I don't think he ever went in the sea) to the extent that he had his own short lived fanzine which in the fens was no mean feat

I've included a second song which showed their more mature side and has some great harmonies. As with a lot of bands like this the rest of the lp tends to blur into one

Ask Johnny Dee - The Chesterfields

Shame about the Rain - The Chesterfields

I did manage to track down a compilation lp "Electric Guitars in Their Hearts"on cd and it was a nice surprise as their sound obviously got a bit fuller and more varied with later releases. You can buy that lp here

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Singular Sounds P - P J Harvey

I know to a lot of people Polly Harvey should be in a God Like Genius posting rather then a singular sounds one. Loads of my friends tried to convince me that Sheela-Na-Gig was the future of rock music when it came out. I just didn't get it. I know that she is one of those artists that I really should like, but it has never quite clicked and i have tried. Having said that I loved this when it came out. It was a single from the "Is This Desire"lp.

I'm not sure if something can be sexy and scary at the same time , but this gets close. I must have thought it was a one off as I didn't get the lp and this still remains the only track I own by her. Every now and then I think I should try and explore a bit more so any pointers where to start welcome!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Bigger Than The Beatles - My Friend the Chocolate Cake

Either one of the best or one of the worst band names ever. This Australian band are more of a muiscal ensemble and have at their core David Bridie and Helen Mountfort. I've no idea how well known they are in the this country all I know is whenever I talk about them I'm met with blank looks and a difficulty in getting the conversation past the name. I'm not sure how I got introduced to them. I bought "Review" which is a 1997 compilation of their first 3 lps and since then I've bought their two most recent lps "Curious" from 2003 and "Home Improvements" from 2006.

They are not a traditional band in the sense of guitar bass and drums, instead using a wide variety of mainly acoustic instruments. Their style shifts from mournful ballads, sing along pop songs to cinematic and atmospheric instrumentals (and a unique sounding cover of Magazine's Song From Under the Floorboards).

The songs range from the personal to the observational, often feeling more like a book of short stories set to music rather than a pop lp. They do defy categorisation but if you like what you've heard in Miracle Mile Monday, the softer moments of early Deacon Blue or the new pop folk bands (eg Noah and the Whale , Mumford and Sons, Stornoway, etc) then give them a go.

I've posted 4 songs "I've got a Plan" and "Home Improvements" are as straight forward pop as they get, whereas the other 2 show the more atmospheric side. "The Gossip" especially uses simple piano chords to suck you into the stifling world of living in a small town (always reminds me of where I grew up)

You can buy "Home Improvements" or a best of called "Parade" here

You can get the rest of the lps or download some b sides here at the band's website

David Bridie has also released a couple of solo lps that have a more electronic, sampled feel although share with his band a peerless sense of atmosphere

Monday, 12 April 2010

All a bit Ridiculous

You'll probably notice that i received my first DMCA notice which I wrote about here. For a couple of tracks by a band based just outside Durham ( I'm not going to mention them as now even writing the name seems to be breaching copywrite) and one of the posts just mentioned the song title as the link had been removed about 5 months ago.
I dutifully removed the remaining link and any images of lp covers, but kept the posts up as there was a good comments thread on one of them. I've now received another notice for the same posts despite there now not being any link to any track on them. I've given in and now deleted them completely.
It would be quite funny if it wasn't so disheartening. I can only think the whole thing is being done by some kind of search engine and no one is actually looking at the posts that notices are being served on
Blogger also give you a website where details of the notice are posted....... well surprise surprise , after searching every possible word combination all I get is a "no match found"
It doesn't bode well for the implications of the digital bill that has been rushed through

Monday Moments - Regret

Monday moments and I could have chosen 3 other tracks by this band and all to do with the singer's voice "Will we ever be so happy go lucky", "Stay , I will understand you" and the dictionary definition of despair and sadness that is "Family Life" - "Jesus I go to sleep and I pray for my kids, for my wife, family life"

Instead I've gone for an early b side, mainly because if you like the Blue Nile this may be one of the tracks you haven't heard.

Sometimes the simplest words in a song say the biggest things and my monday moment it as at about 40secs when for the first time

"It's 3:30 and I'm thinking of you, regret"

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Lazy Sunday - Housemartins

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile today is one of my favourite party singles. When the housemartins appeared with Flag Day, Sheep and this Happy Hour, in their own way they were just as refreshing as the Smiths were. They lasted for 2 glorious lps a handful of singles, had a number 1 and then split at the top of their game.

What do I like about it well at 2 mins 21 secs I can still dance to it without risk of a heart attack... just.

Happy Hour - The Housemartins

Saturday, 10 April 2010

A Year in Books 2010 - All My friends are superheroes

In January I thought I may have already read my book of the year, The Half Brother

Well it now has a rival and a more different book you couldn't get. Whereas the Half Brother is a 700+ page epic, "All My Friends are Superheroes" by Andrew Kaufman (definitely not man in the moon Andy Kaufman) is just over 100 pages with lot's of white space!
The best way I can describe the plot is think "Heroes" but rewritten by the "Flight of the Conchords".

All Tom's friends are superheroes, he is even married to one called the "Perfectionist" (she has the power to make everything just perfect). Unfortunately on her wedding day she is hypnotised by an old lover into thinking that Tom is invisible. Thinking he has abandoned here she embarks on a flight to Vancouver not realising that Tom is sat beside her on the plane. He has until touch down to convince her that he is there before she uses her super-powers to leave her sadness behind.
Even that description makes the plot sound more substantial than it actually is. So why is it so good? Well it is brim full of great ideas mainly through introducing a range of other superheroes. We don't get the usual man of steel though. We get "the Stress Bunny" who everyone likes to invite to parties as they absorb everyone's stress. We get "The frog kisser" who can transform geeks into winners, but is cursed as once this happens the origin of her initial attraction is lost forever or "Mr Opportunity" who is simply introduced as - "He knocks on doors and stands there - you'd be surprised how few get opened."
The other reason this is so good , and trying not to get too soppy about it , it is simple and wonderful rejoicing in love.
Quirky with a capital Q if this doesn't leave you with a warm glow and a smile on your face then frankly you have no soul!

You can buy "All My friends are Superheroes" here

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Acoustic v Electric - The Cure

Part 2 in the electric v acoustic debate. On the last one acoustic won out , but now the case for electric. I've posted 2 versions of the Cure's earlyish single "A Forest". The acoustic version (done for one of the MTV unplugged I think) is fine enough but it doesn't get that claustrophobic feel of the original and it misses the great bass and guitar sound that made the early Cure lps so good

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

My first DMCA

Well i guess it had to happen. I've had my first DMCA notice. It was for a post i did on Bonny by Prefab Sprout. Still at least blogger just moved the post to draft and ask that I delete the offending link (which I have done) rather than simply deleting the whole post complete with comments which i know has happened to others in the past.
I guess as the blog has got more hits it is more likely to be noticed now.
What is odd is that i have also been asked to remove a post that featured King of Rock and Roll by Prefab Sprout. Fair enough if kitchenware or whoever have an issue with posting mp3s of the sprouts. The odd thing is that this post was in early oct and in November i had already removed the link to the mp3 (I was better at housekeeping then) but still got a DMCA notice yesterday. Therefore it seems that just mentioning Prefab Sprout is infringing copyright... oops there I go again
It's a bit ironic that it came through on Paul Haig day - an artist who has given his support to bloggers in an effort to get his great stuff more widely known.
the other confusing thing is although I assume it is for the mp3 link, it might just as easily be for the cover art, you don't get much detail in the notice. anyway better safe than sorry and I've taken down both

Paul Haig Day

Today has officially been designated by JC over at Vinyl Villain as Paul Haig day. Basically a lot of bloggers will be posting tracks by Paul Haig in an effort to raise his profile and get some more people to explore his music. I won't go into a load of biographical details as I'm sure some of the other bloggers will do a much better job.

I've posted a track from the lp Chain, originally released in 1989 and which has had a welcome re-release in the last couple of years on the Cherry Red Label.
The track I've chosen is a lot slower than the other stuff on the lp but I think shows off just how good his voice is.

If you want to listen to more stuff then I suggest you follow the various links on the Vinyl Villain blog here

You can buy Chain here

Paul haig has been very supported of the day and has given us all a remix of a track form his fantastic new lp "Relive"

You can buy Relive here

Monday, 5 April 2010

Monday Moments part 4/26 - Stepping Out

I'm not a massive fan of Joe Jackson, he is one of those artists where I've got the greatest hits and that is about it. This is mainly to do with his voice which can be a bit whiny for me sometimes. However on this one of my favourite singles it is a perfect fit. It is also a song that I can't hear with out seeing the video. The lyrics are about escape although I just get a sense of world weary regret and being left behind. The video had Joe Jackson as a piano player , almost an observer as the couple (the suggestion is that they are having an affair) try to get away ( I read an interview with Joe Jackson where he said that the director took one look at him and decided the best place for him was behind his piano!). His voice and the video always gave me the feeling that the "stepping out" was doomed to the reality that the grass is often not greener just the same kind of green.
As for the Monday moment well it is after 30 sec when the piano hook starts up


We are young
But getting old before our time

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Lazy Sunday - Two People

Lazy Easter sunday and top of the shuffle pile is another bit of mid 80s shiny pop. A great big bit of catchy vinyl that failed to trouble the top 40. I like the slightly overwrought vocals. If the cover does indeed feature "the shirt that she wore when it was good", well you'd have to question their taste

Saturday, 3 April 2010

acoustic v electric part 1 - Rialto

One of those repeated views that don't really mean anything is the thought that you can tell the quality of the song when it is played acoustically. MTV made a lot of this concept with it's ongoing "unplugged"series. I thought I'd put this to the test with 2 posts.

Rialto were one of those bands that rode in on the coat- tails of Britpop. It is a shame that they got lumped in with this label, (To be fair any band in the late 90s with a guitarist tended to get called Britpop.) as in Louis Eliot they had a better songwriter than most.

Their biggest hit was "Monday Morning" which is pleasant enough and full of the swagger of the age and of a band who had been tipped for big things.

6 years later, the big things didn't really happen Louis Eliot releases a solo lp "The Long Way Round" As an extra track there is an acoustic version of Monday Morning. I like this version much better. The swagger has been replaced in the vocal with sense of world weary resignation.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Life of Live - The Woodentops

I got into the Woodentops through the brother of one the girls I shared a house with at poly. They released 2 lps of manic acoustic strums and complex rhythms. I can remember this as one of the hottest concerts I've been to mainly as the strumming and drumming was even more manic live and the only way to keep up was to jump up and down rather than try any kind of dancing (these were the days when I would attempt to dance rather than stand with a beer in my hand nodding).

Both lps are full of the catchiest of songs and I've posted my favourite track from the lp "Giant"

The lead singer and main songwriter was Rollo who when the band disappeared to my shame I was convinced had pitched up in Faithless as producer and brother of Dido, Rolo (the confusion caused by a missing "l"!!)

The news from their website is the band is touring again with rumours of a new lp