Wednesday, 29 September 2010

New Music - Patch William

After my last post I did think that sharing a track that isnt that representative of an lp isn't really going to encourage anyone to take a punt on that lp. So here is some scratchy rhythmic guitar and slightly mannered vocals
Sit alone with our empty hearts

Monday, 27 September 2010

Monday Moments - Last Bus

This weeks monday moment bucks the trend in that it comes from a debut release from this year.

I heard one of the early singles from this london 4 piece and thought it was a better than average sound of scratchy rhythmic guitars guitars and slightly mannered vocals - kind of a southern Franz Ferdinand. The lp didn't disappoint full of catchy tunes and clever lyrics.

Then slap bang in the middle came Last Bus , the pace slowed right down and the vocal dripped with longing and regret. However the monday moment is the cello that weaves its way in and out of the melody

and you missed your last train the last plane your last bus

and now you're telling me you're missing us

It wasn't just me as the song ended up winning them an Ivor Novello award

Last Bus - Patch William

You can visit their website here and you can buy the lp here

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Lazy Sunday - Edwyn Collins

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a country tinged track from Edwyn Collin's Gorgeous George lp, best known as the one that featured "Girl Like You" but should be known for being chock full of top tunes. What do I like about this one well the line "Some mother's talking about Guns and Roses as if I give a fuck" I think that hits the nail right on the head

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Bigger than the Beatles - Microdisney

Today's bigger than the Beatles post is inspired okay lifted from a piece written by the vinyl villian here. Microdisney made wonderful pop music with a bite and an edge that doomed them from the start as far as top of the pops and hit singles were concerned (their debut lp was called we hate you south african bastards - hardly likely to get name checked on the Gary Davies show)

This was a real shame as they made the kind of easy listening polished pop music that the Beautiful South would build a career on a few years later.

I couldn't possibly summarise their short life span as well as jim does in the link above. He also posts Town to Town which was the single that got me into them. The lp it came from "A Crooked Mile" featured in most papers end of year best lps chart, however this didn't translate into sales or popularity (I saw them play leeds warehouse with about 20 other people in the same year)

The two main songwriters splintered into Fatima Mansions and the High Llamas, with both bands taking an element of Microdisney and taking it to a bigger extreme. Cathal Coughlan had no-one to balance the darkness and the bile while without the intense singer, Sean O,Hagan's High Llamas disappeared up an easy listening cul du sac.

They left some great songs with the trio of lps , The Clock Came Down the Stairs, The Crooked Mile and 39 Minutes of some of the best smart pop songs going.

I've posted 2 tracks (the 2 singles) from their final lp 39 Minutes.

Gale Force Wind - Microdisney

Singer's Hampstead Home - Microdisney

The second track is a dig at Boy George who shared a label with the band

Got a heart shaped swimming pool,
A broken heart in a swimming pool.

Big house and a running joke,
Big joke everybody can come and see.

Harp songs and happy ends,
You know they're dead but you still pretend.

Complain it hurts on the telephone,
Say goodbye, say you wont be home, not ever.

And the rein,
Of the vain,
Is a pain.

Singer's Hampstead home.
Waiting for the blows to fall.
They don't hurt at all.
Singer's Hampstead home.
Snoopers underneath the bed,
Born in Singers head.

He's coming home to his golden bath,
Drags his face all around the path.

He only had blank lines to say,
Although he said them in a witty and stylish way.

And the rein,
Of the vain,
Is a pain.

Singer's Hampstead home.
Waiting for the blows to fall.
They don't hurt at all.
Singer's Hampstead home.
Snoopers underneath the bed,
Born in Singers head.

Singer's Hampstead home,
Going down the gospel road,
With all the old frauds and bores,
Singer's Hampstead home,
They will never have their fill,
Of sliding down their sacred hill.

And the strain,
On the rein,
Such a shame.

It is difficult to get the 3 lps but you can buy a couple of compilations here

The first is more comprehensive with the second (Big Sleeping House) focusing more on the final 2 lps

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Life of Live - Deacon Blue

My next concert was to see a band that split my friends down the middle The ones who liked their music of the C86 kind saw Deacon Blue as sad Bruce Spingsteen wannabees with a wailing banshee as a backing vocalist. The ones who liked their coffee smoother, embraced "Raintown" as one of the lps of the year. I still think Raintown is great with big themes of "home, work and faith" matched by big music and big tunes. It felt like a concept lp complete with its fantastic Oscar Marzaroli photo as a cover

I saw them tour "Raintown" at Leeds poly and they played an absolutely storming show. All the songs seemed to have their own"live" extended versions with changed lyrics, new verses and snippets of covers thrown in for good measure. The crowd sang along from start to finish and after various encores the noise wasn't abating. Ricky Ross apologised that they had run out of songs they knew how to play and the band redid part of the set not that anyone minded. You got a real sense that the band themselves were shocked by the fervour in the crowd and responded.

I've posted 3 "b" sides from the time, less bombastic but good enough to grace the main lp

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Former Lead Singer of ..... Billy Mackenzie

The Associates made some of the best and most distinct singles of the early 80s. Billy Mackenzie never managed to fully capture the energy and excitement of the 3 early lps especially Sulk where they got the mix of pop and experimentation just right. When Alan Rankine left, Mackenzie used the Associates moniker for a couple more lps. They set a pattern where you felt he was struggling to find a collaborator who could turn the sounds in his head into something exciting and dynamic in the studio. This feeling is only reinforced with the various one off collaborations that appeared. These 2 post Rankine lps suffered from some good songs married to a production that was often a bit bland.

In terms of his solo lps all but one were released after his suicide in 1997. The best one (although I've not heard the one he recorded with Paul Haig - "Memory Palace") is "Beyond the Sun". It does have a bit of a not quite finished feel although this brings a roughness and spontaneity that the later Associates lps could have done with. Overall the songs have a much more a classical, almost torch singer quality to them (although there is a weird electro detour with the mad 3 Gypsies in a Restaurant)

The lp was mixed/produced by Simon Raymonde of the Cocteau Twins who by and large gets the musical accompaniment just right, letting Mackenzie's voice take the lead and providing a subtle support

You can buy Beyond the Sun here

Whether Beyond the Sun would have kicked started his career again we will never know but it certainly deserved to

Tom Doyle has written a fantastic biography of Billy Mackenzie - "The Glamour Chase" which gives a great insight into someone who you can't help feeling had a streak of genius that given the right partner and support could have delivered so much more. It is hard to track down - Amazon have it at a steep £22, but worth keeping a look out for.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Monday Moments - All of My Heart

I've written before on how much I love ABC's Lexicon of Love here.

For this week's monday moment I turn to what is on most days of the week still my favourite single of all time. The 4th one from the lp it is the one that doesn't get played that much (poison arrow and look of love are the two that tend to get trundled out) however it is the track that I think is the ultimate abc song and the focal point of Trevor Horn and Martin Fry's vision.

The mixture of a poppy ballad, sweeping strings , everything including the kitchen sink production, a glossy sheen , high drama , clever clever word play - they are all present and correct.

The monday moment though comes at the very end, the song is all but done and dusted and yet it is as if the band and Trevor Horn knowing they have done something special can't seem to bring it to a close. For the last 90 secs the strings go on a wonderful meander, the bass and piano weave in and out of each other until and some mournful sax fades the song to a close

the kindest cut's the cruelest part

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Lazy Sunday - Blancmange

Another Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a bit of early 80s electropop. Blancmange basically seemed to have 2 gears, the ranting David Byrne of Living on the Ceiling . Blind Vision etc and the slow melancholy of Waves. This is one of the 2nd gear songs. That isn't a criticism as I like both types of song and it seems a shame they have turned out to be a bit of a footnote of those early synth duos, although for some reason they really irked Julian Cope who has a great rant about them in his autobiography "Head On"

What I like about it is as ever Neil Arthur's voice which hide the fact that the words ironically in this case don't add up to much

I've Seen the Word - Blancmange

Saturday, 18 September 2010

New Music - Larsen B

Again a new lp bought on the back of a sample on the monthly Word Cd. They are a trio from the home counties named after an ice shelf. They remind me a bit of the early lps by Aztec Camera and Prefab Sprout, an obsession with melody a hint of the rustic, tunes to hum along to , avoiding slavery to the verse chorus verse chorus middle eight chorus structure. The music matches the stunning cover, it is rich and layered, ambitious but still a little rough round the edges

You can hear more tunes at their website here and you can buy the lp Musketeer here

If you have fallen in love with Stornoway this year then maybe you could have a fling with Larsen B

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Lost LPs - It's Immaterial

I realise it was a bit of a tease yesterday to refer to a lost lp track by It's immaterial and then not to post it (well I guess only a tease if you like It's immaterial and I think we are an endangered species). Anyway the 3rd lp was to be called "House for Sale" and this is the track I stumbled across. It continues the Blue Nile like low key style of the 2nd lp Song.

Apparently the 3rd lp was rejected for being too dark, which makes me want to hear it even more, especially if this track is any indication of what else was recorded.

New Moon - It's Immaterial (repost with new link)

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Lost LPs - The Beloved

One of the things I used to do when I used to spend an unhealthy amount of times in second hand record shops was to look for lps that didn't exist. A great example of this was after they split up I'd always keep an eye out for a third lp by The Bible. With the wonders of the internet I later found out that there was indeed a third lp that was recorded , rejected by the record label and therefore probably hidden away in some record company basement (apparently a lot of the tracks emerged on the later compilation "Random Acts of Kindness".

The internet became the place to find rumours of lost lps , I remember hearing a track from the record company rejected 3rd lp (with bands I like it always seems to be the 3rd lp) of It's Immaterial. With labels like Cherry Red I live in hope it gets a release

However to top it all on one random trawl through blog world I came across a lost lp by the Beloved "Flimflam". I think it was recorded at the cusp of when they stopped being a New Order sound alike and embraced the poppy dance sound that gave them their breakthrough.

I'm not sure why it wasn't released, or if it featured the original line up or the stripped down duo of Marsh and Waddington.

If you like either "version" of the Beloved it is an interesting listen and although the sound is still predominately guitar there are the seeds of the dance direction. I've posted what I think is the best track which has a more Ian Broudie feel to it

If you go to their website here , there is the full Flimflam lp to download plus a treasure trove of Peel sessions and demos

Monday, 13 September 2010

Monday Moments - Comedy

How Michael Head isn't held up as a national songwriting treasure I don't know , although it may have to do with the rumoured on off relationship with heroin. Born from the ashes of one of my favourite bands "The Pale Fountains", Head and his brother's band Shack have been churning out lps of quality and distinction long before the Gallaghers got round to making a record. They have suffered from legendary bad luck , lost master tapes, record company collapse, however with the release of HMS Fable it looked like their time had come. For once with Britpop at its height their brand of melodic guitar music with a hint of 60s throwback was in fashion. Add to this fact that the lead off single Comedy not only was the best thing they had done since The Pale Fountains but the press and the radio seemed to agree and it was getting daytime radio play. As usual with bands I like the breakthrough didn't come and although a futher lp has followed you sense that their moment has passed and what remains is a core of fans who will continue to buy what ever is released.

When Comedy came out I was pretty sure it was going to be my single of the year. The melody and arrangement is one that Burt Bacharach would have been proud of. The lyrics are world weary, the chorus soars and the two brothers voices weave in and out of each other.

My monday moment comes in at about 3mins 30 when th emusic almost stops and Michael Head starts the first verse again, as his voice cracks on comedy the backing track and his brother's voice start to build again until the big final chorus. It is one of those osngs that the biggest compliment is that it sounds so like a classic that at forst you think it must be a cover version. A simply gorgeous record

The awful title belies the quality

of this unusual comedy

Comedy - Shack

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Lazy Sunday - House of Love

Another lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track form the House of Love's debut lp. There was a time when the band's star shone brightly in that weird time between the Smiths and Britpop. The made better songs then this but like the rest of the debut lp , I just love the guitar sound, that Terry Bickers couldn't half play

Saturday, 11 September 2010

New Music - Stars

I've written about Stars before here and after last year's break through lp In Our Bedroom After the War distinctly failed to breakthrough they retreated to lick their wounds and turn up the pop quota. In the past they have been described as a cross between Prefab Sprout, New Order and St Etienne with a dash of the Smiths thrown in for good measure.

The lp "5 Ghosts" hits all these touch points during the 11 songs but the emphasis this time is on smoothing off the rough edges and creating songs full of catchy melodies and hooks. The boy/girl vocals are still there and the occaisional fuzzy guitar although keyboards are more to the fore and you feel if some of these songs don't bring them a wider audience then nothing will.

I've posted the opening and for me the stand out track although in fairness there are only a couple of misses on the lp. Like some 80s pop they may be too sickly sweet for some people but if the combination I mentioned intrigues then give it a listen

Dead Hearts - Stars

You can buy 5 Ghosts here

Thursday, 9 September 2010

A Year in books 2010 - If the Dead Rise Not

There was a time when Philip Ker was being touted as an English Michael Crichton. He wrote high concept thrillers that just screamed out to be made into films. However whereas every year seem to bring a new Crichton adaptation, options for Philip Kerr's books got lost in development hell.

Before all that though he wrote 3 novels featuring ex policeman and now downbeat private eye Bernie Gunther. So far so Chandler, the difference is though that the 3 books were set in pre war Berlin as the Nazi's took power. The strange mix of characters, complex plotting and sparky dialogue straight out of a Humphrey Bogart film with the historical detail of a European pre war setting and crossing paths with the major people of the age got me hooked. I read all 3 books one after the other when they were published in one volume under the title Berlin Noir (it does what it says on the tin) which you can still get here

After dallying with hollywood out of the blue Kerr resurrected Bernie Gunther in 2 books The One From the Other and The Quiet Flame. If anything the plots got more hardboiled and complex as timelines shifted pre and post war and the setting between Germany and South America. However the pattern of a hard boiled private eye solving crime as history unfurled around him stayed in place.

One of the books I read on hols is the 3rd book in this new lease of life, If The Dead Rise Not. The trouble with writing about a book that is basically the sixth in a series is that so much is tied into what has gone before and the main character has become as familiar as a pair of old slippers. This time the action splits between Berlin at the time of the bid for the Olympics and post war Cuba on the cusp of revolution and Kerr captures the tensions of a time when both countries are on the cusp of momentous change perfectly The plot centres around 2 key relationships , the first is one of love as Bernie starts to work for a visiting American Journalist hoping to expose Germany's attitudes to Jews, thus getting the Americans to boycott the games and the other is one of hurt with an American gangster who hopes to make a fortune through the corrupt tendering of contracts for the building of main olympic stadium. However being a Bernie Gunther novel the motivations, morals are not that straight forward and over time shift in shades of grey.

As ever the dialogue is fantastic with one line spat out every other sentence, the minor characters are all well drawn so as not merely to be vehicles to move the plot along. The only slight criticism is there is a sort of twist at the end which you see coming a mile off

They are crime novels for people who don't like crime novels and war period fiction for people who don't like books on the war.

You can buy If The Dead Rise Not here but I would really start with Berlin Noir

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Strange Covers - Danny Wilson

Posting about Kit Clark last week got me thinking about Danny Wilson and playing all their old stuff again . I'd forgotten this cover version of David Bowie's "Kooks". As covers go it is quite faithfull to the playful nature of the original although the backing vocals on the first verse sound like a "tribute" to the Laughing Gnome

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Return of Miracle Mile Monday ...well almost

Last year Trevor Jones lead singer of Miracle Mile took the plunge and released a solo lp "Hopeland" under his own name. This was prompted by a change in approach to writing and the more reflective nature of the songs , some of which were spoken word, poems set to music. I raved about it here. Well it seems the long school holiday for Miracle Mile is lasting a bit longer as he has recorded a follow up lp "Keepers"

It really does feel like a sister lp of "Hopeland" with again spoken word pieces along side reflective songs. Although this time the prompting is a sense of loss rather than a sense of hope.

For me there are a three key differences with the 2 lps, firstly this time the power of the spoken pieces comes less from a sense of simplicity and more from being immersed in a short story. The backing to these tracks again perfectly walks the tightrope of supporting and enhancing the mood without distracting from the words.

Secondly there is more a sense of flexing the recording muscles as far as the backing tracks go , and as a result the lp is full of small stand out moments , the hand claps on folding sheets the backing vocals on In Your Eye and the beautiful almost classical guitar solo of I deny. The use of acoustic guitar , piano and slide guitar mean these moments really shine. It is one of those lps that gives pleasure in the smallest things

Thirdly part of the this muscle flexing sees a number of the songs augmented by some fantastic orchestration from Miracle Mile partner Marcus Cliffe. I suspect the cost of getting an orchestra in means that these sounds are from a machine, if this is the case never has a machine sounding so warm and immersed in the mood of each song. For me these are the real highlights of Keepers and why much as I loved Hopeland ,this is the better lp.

There is also a comforting sense of familiarity in some of the themes and images linking Keepers with Hopeland and the more personal Miracle Mile songs, the search for blue skies, the memories of a white dog to the extent that there is a stripped down cover of the Miracle Mile song Papillon

Finally somehow Marcus Cliffe's production has created an intimate personal sound that is pin sharp. Even on my crappy car stereo I almost found myself looking at the passenger seat expecting to see Trevor with guitar doing an in car performance

I've not posted any tracks because I simply think if you have liked anything you heard on Miracle Mile Monday , you should buy the lp which you can preorder here

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Lazy Sunday - Tears For Fears

Another lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a perfect bit of 80s angst. It always surpirsed me on how the early singles made it so high up John Peel's festive 50. I like it for its sense of doom and the "huurrttt" backing vocals. the whole lp was a precurser for me to the first Smiths lp.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

brotherly love - Kit Clark

When I lived in Scotland I did a job that meant I travelled about most of the country, which had the benefit that I could rummage in second hand record shops in the cities and most major towns. One of my favourites was in Dundee where I discovered 3 early eps by the Pearlfishers and stumbled across this.

I was a massive fan of Dundee band Danny Wilson and since they broke up I had bought Gary Clark's solo lp and the debut cd from his brother's and other Danny member Ged Grimes's new band Swiss Family Orbison. I couldn't believe my luck when I stumbled across this ep by his brother Kit. It must be every music fans dream when purely by chance you come across something by someone whose music you like but knew nothing about.

It is a great ep overcoming slightly fuzzy production with a love of melody that typified Danny Wilson. The scary thing is how like his brother's singing voice Kit's is. Listen to Loren especially and you'd swear you were listening to a lost Danny Wilson track.

I never really warmed to the fuzzy guitar sound of the Swiss Family and feel it is a shame that the ep wasn't a prelude to a solo lp.

One of the downsides of the internet is that knowing about releases is just a google click away and that sense of excitement and discovery as you flick through the plastic sleeved record covers is gone forever.

So before I get too Nick Hornby on you, if you liked Danny Wilson then give these a go

Loren - Kit Clark

Baby No - Kit Clark

Come Back - Kit Clark

Men Without Women - Kit Clark

Friday, 3 September 2010

A Year in Books 2010 - Bounce

Looking at the age old debate of what makes a champion, talent or hard work, Matthew Syed has taken the Malcolm Gladwell approach of popularising science and ideas through story telling . There are 2 main differences though, firstly what Gladwell uses a chapter to discuss , Syed analyses over the course of close to 300 pages and secondly Syed has been there , he is an ex table tennis champion. Those 2 differences are the real strengths of the book, that and the fact that unlike books like the outliers and freakonomics each chapter stays true to the books central theme.

There is some overlap with Gladwell's outliers and in the early chapters it suffers from using some of the same examples eg the impact that the month of birth can have on the likelihood of a canadian boy making it as an ice hockey player. However the skill in which Syed dismantles the talent myth makes it a great read in itself especially as the examples build and build.

Along the way we learn why one street in Reading has produced more uk table tennis champions than the rest of the country put together, how Desmond Douglas (remember him from superstars?) could be the best returner in the british team but have the slowest reaction times, and why a region in Kenya has produced so many world class distance runners.

He mixes the well known case studies such as the Williams sisters with the more obscure. He tackles the "what about Mozart" argument with a confidence and a clarity that you feel a bit foolish posing the challenge.

Perhaps the most extraordinary story concerns an Hungarian educationalist that advertised for a wife to take part in a unique social experiment, to work right from birth to create a world chess champion. Not only did he do this with his first child , to prove this wasn't some talent fluke he repeated it with his second child

Only once does Syed go down a bit of a blind alley, although it is an interesting one on the role of drugs within sport

If you have any interest in sport or wondered if it is too late to become the open champion then "Bounce" will give you loads to think about and some great stories for pub arguments.

You can buy Bounce by Matthew Syed here

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

My indie past - Blueboy

On one hand I like my indie music to have loud fast guitars but on the other hand I am partial to a bit of twee. Typical of the Sarah records roster is Blueboy, guitars jangle, a girls vocal duets with a boys (always slightly out of tune) on songs of angst and love (usually of the unrequited kind)

I only own the one lp the above "If wishes were horses" as well as a few singles. The track I'm posting is featured on the lp "Unisex", although the version posted comes from a Sarah records compilation "There and Back Again".

Formed in Reading by Keith Girdler and Paul Stewart they were soon joined by Harvey Williams (who went on to form Sarah stalwarts The Field Mice and Another Sunny Day) as well as Gemma Townlet. It is the cello on this track that lifts it above the usual Sarah fare. There is something quintessentially English about Blueboy, and this is an English summer of a song.

Sadly Keith Girdler died of cancer in 1997.

You can find a full discography for the band on their unofficial website here

"Of course it is not love

But I'm not choosy"