Monday, 28 February 2011

Monday Moments - Torch

Monday Moments this week is from my favourite Soft Cell song and is simply the trumpet sound that somehow manages to feel both seedy and sensual at the same time. I've always been a sucker for those synth songs that weave in a colder electronic sound with the warmth of more traditional instruments.

I've posted the 12" version that has cheesy spoken bit in the middle but somehow it just adds to whole thing

Torch 12" version - Soft Cell

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Lazy Sunday - The Year of the Cat

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a bit of a guilty pleasure. Al Stewarts's tale of a tourist's one night stand

I like the way the long instrumental passage moves from instrument to instrument and just the way the chorus is simply repeating the title

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Life of Live - Kitchens of Distinction

Kitchens of Distinction (either one of the worst band names ever or one of the best I can never make up my mind) were a 3 piece who produced records dominated by both swirling effects laden guitar work (a bit of a pre cursor to the shoegaze bands) and the immensely personal lyrics of the lead singer.

They were one of the few indie bands at this time with (in fact i can't think of another) an openly gay lead singer. There wasn't the kind of campness that came with a lot of pop bands, just the bruising reality of love gone wrong which feels the same whatever your sexuality.

I'd only heard their first single Prize when I went to see them live. I thought the lead singers voice was great and unlike a lot of bands that followed them they didn't forget that all the guitar effects and over dubs in the world didn't mean much without a strong melody.

In fairness i wasn't blown away by them live mainly because I think I didn't know the songs well enough and as a result it kind of became a sea of noise with a lot of the subtlety lost.

One of those strange bands that each lp for me got better but ended up selling less than the one before until the one I liked best was the one that got them dropped.

The lead singer now records more straight forward songs under the banner of Stephen Hero but the lyrics have lost none of their bite

"Your glass is empty just like your head"

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Bigger than the Beatles - Cousteau

Cousteau were one of those bands that were heavily tipped and garnered loads of critical praise but never quite reached their full potential in terms of sales. Their sound is timeless but also somewhat out of time, being closer to the heritage of classic 60s songwriters such as Burt Bacharach than the Blur /Oasis axis of britpop.

The original lp came out in 1999 and was basically a home recording made up of trakcs ther band produced to try and get a deal, not that you could tell sound was big and full, driven by rich vocals that stayed the right side of crooning. The first single made you think it must be a cover as it had the kind of melody, feel that seemed so familiar

The intial run of the lp sold out quickly and was rereleased on a bigger label with most of the songd re-recorded. The only thing they also changed the cover to a boring band shot that somehow didn't fit with what was within the case.

The second track I've posted has a beautifyul hypnotic feel

A second lp, Sirena, appeared and if anything the quality of the songwriting went up, here is the lead off single from that second lp

The main songwriter left at this point and the lead singer wrote the songs for the 3rd lp, Nova Scotia, which I havent heard (only knew of its existence in searching the band's name for this post) so I'm not sure if the pursevered with their rich sound

You can buy the first 2 lps here

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Cult of the B side - Del Amitri

After teh last monday moments post I thought I'd share some of Del Amitri's b sides. They were often simpler quieter affairs than the a sides and often better for it. The best were collected together in the compilation "lousy with love"

The first isn't on this lp as it is from the jangle days of their first lp

The other two are from the sideburn days, both of which the kind of downbeat songs Del Amitri part 2 did best. The first a fairly stripped down song with the second sees them going to the sweeping strings approach, both of which better than a few of the tracks that appeared on the relevant lps

Monday, 21 February 2011

Monday Moments - Hammering Heart

Monday moments comes from Del Amitri's debut lp released before they grew their hair, developed prodigious sideburns and went all Neil Young...... I miss those days.

At the time in the words of lead singer Justin Currie the bands manifesto was "No chords, No choruses, no distortion, no synthesizers and no long hair, melody was god"

I've posted before about the lp here as it remains lodged permanently in my top 10 ever

This track was one of the singles and is great jangly head rush of a tune. My monday moment comes at the end of the song where the repeated "you know you need her everyday" sees Justin Currie attempt what can be best described as a cross between a yelp and a yodel, which I've often tried to copy at the top of my voice in the relative safety of my car... not pretty and scary for the children

Hammering Heart - Del Amitri

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Lazy Sunday - Call me Mellow

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track from Tears for Fears come back lp. Back together after the bitterest of divorces that in part was played out in each other's song lyrics, the lp on the whole consisted of straight forward pop songs with a Beatlesy tinge. This track has a good singalong chorus
You can buy the lp Everybody Loves a Happy Ending here

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Catching Up - Care

Care were another of those bands that completely passed me by although is in the same mould of most of what I was listening to and liking in the mid 80s. They released 3 singles and recorded an unreleased lp over 2 year period before splitting up.

I finally searched there stuff out by following the family tree of buying, where you like a band and start to search out what the members did before they joined.

In this case a lot of bands I liked had their lps produced by Ian Broudie and he'd already released a couple of great lps as the Lightning Seeds and was about to go massive with Jollification. I knew he had been in a band called Care but I also new he was in Big in Japan with Holly Johnson and didn't really have much thought about trying to listen to stuff by either band.

However I as lo loved a single called Bible Dreams by a band called the Wild Swans and found out that this was the second coming of the group and that in between the lead vocalist Paul Simpson had also been in Care

I managed to track Flaming Sword and My Boyish Days down in a second hand record shop and thought that was that.

In 1997 a compilation was released Diamonds and Emeralds (with an awful cheap and nasty cover which is a shame as all 3 singles had great covers) which had the singles , b sides and some tracks that would have been on the debut lp. If I'm being honest the whole thing is a bit shoddy and has the feel of one of those compilations that you can pick up in petrol stations (I'm not sure why they didn't just release the lp with the b sides and extended mixes of the singles as extra tracks). Anyway despite this there are some great songs on there and you can here both an echo of the Wild Swans as well as Broudie's solo work. Flaming Sword remains one fo the great "lost singles"

I've posted the 1st and the 3rd singles

You can buy the compilation lp here (although it only is available 2nd hand) and the Ian Broudie site has a Care microsite that can be found here

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Catching Up - The Sound

Once I'd woken up to the fact that ELO may not be the best band of all time, I started to get into the usual guitar bands of the early 80s , Teardrop Explodes, Echo and the Bunnymen etc. I read record mirror and searched the single and album reviews for new bands. However for some reason The Sound completely passed me by. I vaguely remember seeing the cover of the above lp around but that is about it.

It is again only in last few years when having read a lot of music books about that time I saw their name mentioned again and again, and thought it was about time i tried to track some stuff down

The London band were headed up by singer Adrian Borland who sadly committed suicide in 1999 they made the kind of guitar music that carried forward 30 years is giving bands like The Editors and Doves the kind of success that The Sound could only dream of.

They released 5 lps over a 7 year period and only really came got radio and TV exposure with the single "Sense of Purpose"

I'm not sure why it never happened , the maybe lacked the intensity of Joy Division, the quirkiness of Teardrop Explodes, or just that killer single that wold have given them the break through.

I eventually managed to get a copy of From the Lion's Mouth and it should be held up there with Crocodiles and Kilimanjaro. The website Brittle Heaven dedicated to the singer describes them as the missing link between the Bunnymen and Joy Division and I think that is spot on. The website can be found here and is full of info on the band as well as various tv appearances

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Catching Up - John Cale

Part of the joy of music is discovering stuff that you haven't heard before usually new stuff but every now and then something comes along that for some reason you completely missed the first time around. The older you get the less and less this happens so that when it does I feel a mix of the excitement of someone's back catalogue that has opened up for exploring with the scratching of my head as to how on earth I've missed it up to now.

This bit of catching up has an explanation of the fact that it was originally released when I was 5 still you would have thought in the next 35 years it would have registered somewhere.

I'd not heard any of John Cale's solo stuff except for the track he did on I'm Your Fan, the Cohen covers lp. I loved his voice on Hallelujah and on the Andy Warhol tribute he recorded with Lou Reed, Songs for Drella.

However last year due to a re release of the lp and a live concert this title track got a bit of radio play. I was hooked

Paris 1919 - John Cale

It has a real timeless quality that means it sounds totally fresh, partly down to a chamber pop sound and structure (sorry slipped into pretentious music journalist mode for a moment) and a great sing along la la la chorus. I've just got to get round listening to some lps although not really sure where to start so any pointers really welcome

Monday, 14 February 2011

Monday Moments 45/52 - Thrive

This week's monday moment comes from one of the bands that formed from the splintered Friends Again. The Bathers were the recording name for Chris Thomson and by the time this lp came out he had already produced lps that combined lyrics of high romanticism , a voice that was kind of a scottish Tom Waites and highly orchestral backing tracks.

The Kelvingrove Baby lp tones some of these elements down and had slightly more straightforward accessible songs. As a whole I think it is the best thing they have done.

My monday moment comes from the opening track a simple acoustic guitar ballad of regret. Every time I listen to it one lyric takes me back to the 18 months spent living in Glasgow

Just remind her I'm still here

Up on the west coast waiting

I wear the rain like tears

Thrive - The Bathers

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Lazy Sunday - The Frames

Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track by Irish band the Frames who like a lot of great bands are massive in their homeland but treated with indifference here.

What I like about it is that the pleasant backing track is coupled with a hint of menace as if the whole thing is liable to explode in any second

Sideways Down - The Frames

Saturday, 12 February 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - The Northern Clemency

I tend to like a lot of big fat American novels that deal with extended family sagas. I think partly because it is something that we don't do that well in this country. At 700+ pages with the promise of covering ordinary people set in the context of social changes, Philip Hensher's The Northern Clemency was all set up to be a great state of the nation book.

The novel starts with the Sellers family moving to a suburb of Sheffield and the same day that one of their neighbours walks out on his wife convinced she is having an affair. Over the next 20 years we follow the lives of these 2 families as well as well as various other inhabitants of the street. One son becomes politicised, one an entrepreneur, and one a social exile. One daughter escapes to Australia the other to London.

Normally I love episodic novels with a big cast of characters, however for some reason this one never quite works. Individual events engage but as a whole it just didn't seem to flow. I struggled to remember who was who in each family and too many other characters seemed to drift in and out for no apparent reason. My biggest issues are two fold. The first is the fact that I grew up in a similar middle class environment during the period the novel is set and I didn't recognise anything about any of the characters, they just felt unreal and mannered, a bit contrived. Secondly and my biggest beef is the ending , if there was a clever point to it then it passed me by (I can't really explain why without a great big fat spoiler). Loose ends are left hanging although I guess that is one of his points about ordinary life, loose ends don't all neatly tie up.

I've probably been more negative than I meant to , after all I did stick with it but the last 2 pages annoyed me so much it has coloured my view

You can buy The Northern Clemency here

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Bigger Than the Beatles - Picture House

Picture House were one of those melodic Irish bands that do so well in their own country but are greeted with complete apathy in the UK . They released 3 lps (Shine Box , Karmarama , Madness Sadness and Gladness) but beyond that I know very little.

Wikipedia has the releases and that is pretty much it , the band's website is no longer up and the lead singer's , Dave Browne, myspace page has some solo tracks but no info.

However, their lps are full songs with a sense of melody and melancholy that would grace any Crowded House lp.

I've posted two tracks from the debut lp and if you like Crowed House then give them a listen

Don't Believe Me - Picture House

Fear of Flying - Picture House

You can buy all their cds here - if anyone has anymore infor then let me know

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

A bit on the side Booth and the Bad Angel

In a break from James, Tim Booth took part in one of those collaborations that at the time seemed the oddest of partnerships but when you heard the result seemed the most natural pairing going.
I'll quote from the James fansite "One of the Three" to explain how Booth and the Bad Angel came about...

Andy Badale, the Brooklyn-born son of an Italian father and an American mother, grew up in a household filled with the sounds of opera, classical and jazz. In 1986, he wrote a movie score that still plays eerily in the heads of all who saw the film: David Lynch's Blue Velvet. Badale, spotting all the Italian surnames in the film's credits (Rossellini, Caruso, De Laurentis) decided the time was now right to be known under his real name, Angelo Badalamenti. Three years later, in 1989, Badalementi wrote the music and Lynch contributed the lyrics to one of the strangest and most beguiling albums ever heard, Floating Into The Night by Julee Cruise. It became a favourite record of Tim Booth, the singer of James, living thousands of miles away in Manchester, England. Badalamenti subsequently scored Lynch's TV series Twin Peaks, Lynch's film Wild At Heart and many more. But Tim Booth never forgot what it was like to listen to Floating In The Night.

Shortly afterwards, Tim was told by a clairvoyant that his career would leap creatively skyward if he collaborated with 'a man with the name of an angel'. Hmm. Who could she mean? Peter Gabriel? Well, James did later record the "Laid" album at Gabriel's Real World studios, but that's cheating a bit. Realistically, it had to be Angelo Badalementi. Problem was, they had never met and didn't look likely to.

Fate steps in. In the early 1990's a late-night British music show called Friday Night At The Dome had a running theme of bringing together musicians from disparate genres and cultures (i.e. Richard Thompson and David Byrne) and letting them play together. The producers asked Tim Booth if there was anybody in the world with whom he would love to collaborate, to which he replied "Angelo Badalamenti."

"My (musical) world is a little bit dark" says Badalamenti. "A little bit off-center. I think of it as tragically beautiful. That's how I would describe what I love best: tragically beautiful."

Tim Booth's world, by contrast, had known the restrictions of an English boarding school, the trials of university drama courses, the exhilaration of mediation groups and the life-changing truths inherent in the music and art of Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and Nick Cave. These were the icons whose flame he constantly aspired to as a member of James: bone and blood and skin-of-the- teeth creative explosions.

In New Jersey, the fifty-something Badalamenti had never heard of Tim Booth or James. Contacted by phone, he agreed in theory to a collaboration, provided somebody sent him all the James albums and Tim was free to travel to New York. Tim said yes. The producers of Friday Night At The Dome would film the project, whatever it might be. Everyone was excited, not least Tim. Then Tim got the flu and was advised not to fly. The producers went to see a David Byrne concert without him, and had a serious car crash resulting in hospitalizations. Tim would have been in that car. Fate limps in.

Fate disappears for awhile. Not wishing to let the collaboration flicker out before it had even started, Angelo told Tim to fax some poems and he'd see if they sparked off

any musical ideas. "I sent him some poems and heard nothing back from him," Tim recalls. Over in New Jersey, Angelo read the poems and wondered what the hell they were all about. "He'd leave these strange, lyric messages on my answering machine," Angelo says. "It was like having a stalker." Then in 1993, as a Booth and Badalamenti collaboration was looking somewhat optimistic, Paul McCartney telephoned Angelo and asked him to come to London to orchestrate a song, which he did.

Meanwhile James's ground-breaking acoustic tour had just reached London. This put Tim and Angelo in the same city at last. Angelo saw James play at the Town and Country (now the Forum), found Tim's performance to be 'appealing' and went backstage, where they met up for the first time. "He said, 'Anything you want to do,'" Tim remembers.

Angelo returned to America while Tim went off to do the Eno sessions that would comprise the two James albums Laid and Wah Wah. In the spring of 1994, Tim took a holiday in New York where he and Angelo met for the second time. In the interim, Angelo had put Tim's poem to music. They immediately recorded it (although it didn't make it on to the album in the end) in a New York studio and Tim took the tape back to Mercury Records, who gave the project the green light.

When Tim returned to New York later that summer, they began work for real, recording most of the songs for Booth And The Bad Angel in a six day improvisational period with Tim singing, Angelo playing keyboards, and American session men playing bass and drums (backing vocalists include Brian Eno; Angelo on "Life Gets Better" and, on "Dance Of The Bad Angels" Tim's vocal coach in England, Chloe Goodchild).

The material they wrote surprised both of the collaborators. Songs like "I Believe", "Dance Of The Bad Angels" and "Fall In Love With Me" (their mutual favorite) display the floating, ethereal quality of Badalamenti's music for Julee Cruise and Twin Peaks. However, "Hit Parade" and "Old Ways" are hook-packed pop songs that would be the envy of any young band.

Back in England with the tapes, Tim played the album's trump card. A fan of Bernard Butler, whose own collaboration with David McAlmont was at the time still under wraps, Tim gave the songs to the guitarist to play on (he plays on five). "Bernard was an amazing chance," says Tim. "We needed a guitar player and I'd heard he'd left Suede. I ended up putting a picture of him on the Booth And The Bad Angel album sleeve because I felt he'd added a huge amount to the record."

As well as playing guitar, bass and some piano on the album, Butler also mixed six of the songs (Tim Simenon mixed a further two). As Angelo says: "I met Bernard in New York and he's quite an unassuming man on the outside. But he sure gets into it when he's in the studio - you know, watch out!!"

Delighted by what they have achieved, Tim and Angelo are keen to work together in the future, including a possible tour if this album does well - although Tim stresses that he will definitely continue to be the singer in James, who are currently recording their new album.

"Tim has got such a great future," says Angelo with admiration. "He's so deep, he's so expressive, he can go anywhere. You can introduce him to chord patterns that he is not used to knowing, and he's able to go there. I think Tim's going to be in movies, man, I think he's going to be a great actor, because he's got it."

"He's a lovely man," Tim says fondly of The Bad Angel. "We didn't have one disagreement. It was such an enjoyable time I didn't want it to end."

The lead off single "I Believe2 is probably closest to Tim Booth's day job and it had been released as a James single I don't think anyone would have batted and eyelid.

As mentioned the rest f the tracks tend to either fall into one of two categories , great pop songs such as the first two tracks I'll post

Old Ways - Booth and the Bad Angel

Hit Parade - Booth and the Bad Angel

The second category of songs are of the mellower, other worldly kind, this included "Fall in Love with Me" which Tim Booth re-recorded for his solo lp Bone and the gorgeous "Dance of the Bad Angel"

Dance of the Bad Angel - Booth and the Bad Angel

Not only that but the tracks that didn't make the final cut and ended up as b sides were pretty good as well

Melting Away - Booth and the Bad Angel (b side of I Believe)

You can buy Booth and the Bad Angel here

Monday, 7 February 2011

Monday Moments - Falling and Laughing

For ages my favourite Orange Juice song was Felicity however over time this weeks monday moment comes from a track that has gradually worn me down and is now the one I keep coming back to. Falling and Laughing has one of my favourite bits of guitar playing as well as a lyric that seemed to speak for for any boy in their early teens thinking about how to meet girls!

My Monday moment comes at 3 mins when some good old power chords come into play (as far as any Orange Juice song can be described as having power chords)

There are lots of versions going but the one I like best is probably the most polished, (as far as you can call Orange Juice polished) ie the one that appeared on the first released lp "You Can't Hide Your Love Forever"

I've taken this from the wonderful box set of cds "Coals to Newcastle" which has to be my favourite xmas present much to the confusion of my family (although my son does like Rip it Up - I've got some more work to do there). It has all the studio lps (most of which have been impossible to find on cd) along with loads of b sides , 12" mixes and live tracks. A final disc is a dvd of various tv appearances . The sleeve notes are as they say comprehensive and there are some great photos - all lovingly put together in a hard cover book format.

You can buy Coals to Newcastle here. It is expensive at £50 but it is £50 of great value

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Lazy Sunday - Swim

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track from Irish band Swim. They have a bit of a Deacon Blue feel (which I know will have some of you already moving to the next link).

Like a lot of bands I liked at the time they looked west for their inspriation.

What do I like about it? well you can't beat a bit of piano balladry!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Life of Live - Indian Givers

Well okay it is not quite the end of the Danny Wilson themed posts. The support act when I saw them live were the Indian Givers who I've written before about here.
Their polished pop came across well live , although the one thing that sticks in the mind apart from how even better looking in real life the girl was, was the fact that the lead singer Nigel wore a dress for the concert which which no one in the band mentioned.
This is one of the two singles from their only lp

Friday, 4 February 2011

Strange Covers - Saturday Night

Last Danny Wilson themed post for a while. This is a live cover version of the Blue Nile's Saturday Night. Simple version of just vocal and guitar. Luckily Gary Clark's voice is good enough for you to almost forget Paul Buchanan's vocal

Saturday Night (live) - Gary Clark

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Life of Live - Danny Wilson

Danny Wilson's first lp became one of my all time favourites as soon as it came out , with songs that seemed to marry the best of what I liked in music , a focus on melody , sharp lyrics and imaginative instrumentation and production. The second lp was almost as good. I did read that they weren't that happy with the way the first lp came out and that the second lp was more of the sound that they wanted. It's not the same for me ... I think the one thing that let the lp down was the production which seemed slightly muffled sometimes sounding as if it was recorded wrapped in a duvet.

However live was a different matter and the songs really shone through. What I remember is what good stage presence all 3 had (honed on the years of busking in Dundee no doubt). The show was one big energy rush from start to finish. They also did a storming version of Abba's Knowing Me Knowing You (not with knowing smiles but simply because it is a top tune).

Unfortunately I haven't got that version (although I think it was released as a b side or something) so I'm going to have to just go with my favourite song on the lp

Never Going to Be the Same - Danny Wilson

I've often wondered who the "once there was an angel , an angel and some friends, flew around from song to song, making up the ends, people now adays don't need them" were?