Monday, 31 October 2011

Misery Monday part 1/26 - Eels

New Monday and no new moon but a new theme. Driven by the fact that most of my favourite songs aren't really sunnyside feel good ditties , mondays will be taken over by sad songs (not much different to other posts then)

First up is a bit of slacker sadness. Some sad songs are driven by the lyric , by the melody , or by the knowledge of the what the writer was going through. The best kind of put all of that together.

I've written before about how Mark  Everett has had more than his fair share of sadness. As a reminder

Father - a genius who developed the theory of multiple universes, who died of a heart attack , Eels discovered the body.

Sister - committed suicide

Mother - died of cancer

Cousin - was an air stewardess on the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon.

As a result the It's a Motherfucker refrain has a air of weary resignation about it as the song contemplates either life after a loved one leaves or dies I'm never really sure, the sense of permanency suggests the latter
Its a simple tune (the saddest often are) of piano backed with some gorgeous strings and at just over 2 mins it leaves you wanting more which only adds to the sense of loss

It's a motherfucker
Being here without you
Thinking 'bout the good times
Thinking 'bout the bad
And i won't ever be the same

It's a motherfucker
Getting through a sunday
Talking to the walls
Just me again
But i won't ever be the same
I won't ever be the same

It's a motherfucker
How much i understand
The feeling that you need someone
To take you by the hand
And you won't ever be the same
You won't ever be the same

It's a Motherfucker - Eels

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Lazy Sunday - Kevin McDermott Orchestra

Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile comes from Scottish "could have been a contender" Kevin Mcdermott's debut lp Mother Nature's Kitchen..... another lost classic

I like the fact it comes across as kind of celtic Springsteen.

Where we Were Meant to Be - Kevin Mcdermott Orchestra

Saturday, 29 October 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - Last Night on Twisted River

John Irving’s books need to be savoured , read at the right time when you know you will have long periods of un interrupted  reading. I like the fact that they are big books both physically (anything less than 600 pages and I would feel a bit cheated as happened with  Widow for a Year) and in the saga sense of the journeys he takes his characters on.

With that in mind I tend to save his books up for holidays , which can be a test of will power as his books can sit on the to read pile for 6 months or more. It is a measure of how much I like him as an author that I want to link the memory of his books to a place and a time. Son of the Circus means Dubai with 5 friends , Until I Find You Cape town for a wedding, A Prayer For Owen Meany  inter railing around Italy.

Two weeks in Devon gave me the chance to finally start Last Night on Twisted River a reassuring 700+ pages epic.

I can’t help but find comfort in the fact that Last Night on Twisted River could only be a John  Irving novel, there is  a farting dog, bears, death of loved ones and at its core the relationship between a parent and a child.

All this helps me overcome the fact that Irving succumbs to one of my pet hates , a writer making their main character a writer and spending time writing about writing.

The story starts in a Nova Scotia logging community where we meet the town’s cook and his son Danny as well as typical Irving characters such as Six Pack Pam ,Injun Jane and most importantly Ketchum  a throwback frontiersman.  As ever there are family secrets this time around the death of Danny's mother and what really happened on the night she fell through the ice. Small details early on are echoes of major plot drivers to come later, the scar on Ketchums’ head his hatred of his own left hand. Nobody does the tricky skill of foreshadowing better

The book start to really get going when Danny accidently kills the local sheriffs girlfriend, mistaking her for a bear in a scene that shows Irvings skill at making the farcical and ridiculous seem   perfectly acceptable and natural.

Danny and his father have to, with Ketchum’s help, flee twisted river and so begins a 50 year chase ,as they struggle to stay ahead of the sheriff, that takes in a naked sky diver, the art of cooking, a deathly blue Pontiac, sex, births marriages with death  continually casting its shadow.

Even the fact that Danny grows up to be a successful writer fits with the plot although there are a couple of name drop walk on parts that are a bit cringe worthy. It is as if using real people breaks the spell that Irving weaves around his characters

There is always a sense of sadness when I finish an Irving novel as I know it could be another 5 years until the next one. This time the feeling is more acute as at  the back of the  is a list of his other novels and the years that they were released and it suddenly hits me that there might not be that many more. I’ve searched hard for someone who comes near and often been disappointed when a reviewer describes  a book as “like John Irving”. I struggle to think of a book especially by a british writer to come close .. maybe Iain Banks’ Crow Road.

Nobody does the tragic and the comedy, the big themes and the personal journeys or simply tells a story as well and ,whilst not his best, and unlikely to win a new readership, Last Night on Twisted river is head and shoulders a majority of other fiction published.
You can buy Last Night on Twisted River here

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Life of Live - The Gobetweens

By the time I got to see the Gobetweens live they had become my favourite band and along with the Trashcan Sinatras the ultimate should have been bigger than the beatles band

The band were touring to promote their perfect 16 lovers lane (continuing the tradition of two Ls in their lp titles)

The arch art cool songs Robert Forster combined perfectly with the melody based approach of Grant Mclennan.

I didnt know at the time that this tour and lp would mark the end of phase 1 Gobetweens  as the band would split up shortly after.

Is there anything better than seeing your favourite band play live just after they have released their best lp.

The set list was perfect , there was none of that “ I wished they’d played ....” I’ve got no sense of any highlights  just one continuous high. The audience was full of people who revered them as much as I did. It was one of those gigs that you come out of and just think well when can we do that again

The band dynamic was just right it was a lot later when reading a book on the band that I found out that they were having their own Fleetwood Mac moment with 2 interband relationships going on, coming to and end. Although listening to the words on the lp it should have been obvious.

The gig was also special as I went with my future wife and one of my friends from school John who was down from Sheffield and had got me into the gobetweens in the first place when he had taped their first 4 lps for me.

I’ve posted one of their best singles that if there had been any fairness in the world would have given them at least a hit the size of an early smiths single (for some reason it has always reminded me a bit of what difference does it make)
Spring Rain - Gobetweens

From a slightly earlier time but worth it for Robert Forster's jacket!!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - The Trout Opera

When I think of  great Australian novels that I've read and by great I dont mean in terms of quality of writing but more ones that say as much about the country as its characters, I get as far as Peter Carey's Illywhacker and that is about it.

However, Matthew Condon's The Trout Opera pushes it close.  Centurian Wilfred Lampe has been chosen to appear at the Sydney Olympic's opening ceremony as a living representative of the country's history. However, things dont quite go to plan and Wilfred ends up an almost prisoner in a hosptial while the Olympic pr team start to fret about what they've got themselves into. It is here that Wilfred looks back on his 100 years of life during which time he never moves from the river that he loved.

With such a small stage I was worried that I'd be reading a 700 page opus detailing the joys of nature and particularly of fishing (with apologies to all anglers, something that attracts me as much as setting up an ant farm or breeding guinea pigs).

This fear never materialises for a number of reasons, the skill Condon shows in painting small town life and the dramas big and small that fall on Wilfred and his neighbours as well as when the wider world impacts the town of Dalgety such as a the body of a friend brought back from the first world war, or the men of science exploring the local mountain ranges

The biggest reason is that Wilfred's memories of the Bush are contrasted with modern day Australia and an ex junkie Aurora , recovering from the death of her baby and on the run from her abusive drug addict partner.

Both Aurora and Wilfreds worlds bring tradegy however the feeling is that those in modern world are more self inflicted, whilst in the Wilfreds world they are like the ever present snowy river, just part of the natural movement of life

Condon populates both worlds with a series of eccentric characters with situations ranging from the comic of the boy Wilfred's appearance in a school opera to the moving death of his father.

Gradually the lives of Wilfred and Aurora start to converge and as the saga comes to an end their shared history emerges.

If I made it sound  as a simple waring to the dangers of progress then I've over simplified things, overall it is a celebration of Australia.

If I were to have one misgiving it would be the end is just a tad too neat. Overall Trout Opera is a great read but  it lacks what made Illywhacker so good , the lightness is never as strong as the dark and some of the set pieces feel, good as they are, like a missed opportuntiy. There isnt the humour to balance the adversity just love and family (which I guess is more than enough).

 You can buy Trout Opera here

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


Nothing much to say except tonight raise a glass to the memory of John Peel in celebration of Keep it Peel Day

Monday, 24 October 2011

Not Another Singer Songwriter part 26/26 Sufjan Stevens

For the final Not Another Singer Songwriter, I'm featuring a couple of tracks by Sufjan Stevens. His music falls into the realm of chamber pop (made up genre but I like it .... pop songs with interesting structures and almost orchestral backing)

Probably best known for his throwaway announcement that he was going to record for each of the USA states. Always a fan of ambition over execution I was a tad disappointed when he stopped at 2.

Right from the start he wasn't that interested in making straightforward lps , his second release was an electronica lp , a song cycle covering the animals in the Chinese zodiac.

His last lp was released in 2010 and as ever was wildly ambitious with a multitude of instruments backing songs of various genres, however nothing has really captured my imagination as Greetings from Michigan and Come on Feel the Illinoise.

Both lps combine history of the state , local characters and landmarks with  personal themes of faith, love and regret.

The combination of his soft sweet vocals with the lush arrangements can at times feel like eating too much chocolate (so maybe 50 lps would lead to instant aural diabetes) and I tend to follow listening to the lps with somethng loud and guitary but for invention , ambition and some great pop tunes both lps are worth a go. If I was going to plump for one then Illinoise just steals it for the scarily haunting John Wayne Gacy.

Vito's Ordination Song - Sufjan Stevens

 Casimir Pulaski Day - Sufjan Stevens

So 26 Singer songwriters and now its time for a new theme. Most of my favourite songs seem to come from a place of sadness, so next week starts 26 of my favourite sad songs please feel free to play along!- misery monday 

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Lazy Sunday - The Wedding Present

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track from under rated Wedding Present lp Watusi.

What I like about it apart from being for the Wedding Present almost funky is yet anohter top quality complicated love life lyric.

It's a Gas - The Wedding Present

Saturday, 22 October 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - Transition

I am a big fan of Iain Banks and have read everything he has published under this name with the Crow Road still one of my favourite novels. I say this name as he also writes as Iain M Banks science fiction novels. I've not read any of these although I did pick one up once, not being a big science fiction fan I struggled and lasted only 30 pages or so , not really giving it a chance.

In a couple of his earlier novels the genres have blurred a bit with alternative realities forming a key part of both The Bridge and Walking on Glass. I'd enjoyed both of these so wasn't too worried when early reviews of Transition talked about the fact that it could have come under the Iain M Banks moniker. I also wasn't worried by the decidedly mixed reviews after all I remember Complicity suffering the same fate and I loved that one.

After 50 or so pages I was a tad worried. Banks starts with a number of narrators painting a picture of a world of endless alternative realities constantly branching out to form more and more worlds. One world contains the Concern who over see the other realities mainly using a drug controlled ability that allows certain individuals to jump between these realities, temporally inhabiting a host body, before jumping back. I can hear your heart sinking as well from here.

The main narrative is delivered by Temudjin, an assassin carrying out the Concern's orders by killing those with the potential to do evil but beginning to question the moral consequences of his actions. We also hear from Madame d'Ortolan, a powerful member of the Concern's leadership with designs on ultimate control; her Nemesis Mrs Mulverhill; the Philosopher, a state-sponsored torturer; Adrian , a greedy drug dealer with ambitions to become a City trader (these sections are the closest we get to a straight modern day setting); and Patient 8262, faking a mental disorder in a state institution to escape... well initially we arent quite sure what.

It does get confusing and as each person takes centre stage in turn slowly the world of the Concern and the motives of each individual are revealed, but they leave with as many questions as answers.

However my faith in Iain Banks kept me going and I'm glad I did as the character's narratives slowly weave around each other and forms an exciting thriller of good v evil with an edge of your seat climax set in Venice.

Using the idea of parallel worlds Bainks looks at bigger issues such as the responsibility of power and intervention in other cultures which means you cant help but draw comparisons with Iraq , and Afghanistan.

Although his imagination is what drives the plot forward and brings the core concepts to life the real skill is that amid the big concepts and ideas are a set of characters drawn with all the usual human frailties

This isn't usually my cup of a book , but I really enjoyed it and was reluctant to leave the worlds of the Concern which in turn left me with a lingering "what would I do if I could......"

you can buy Transition here  

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Strange Covers - Abraham, Martin and John

Last of the Bible posts for a while. This is a cover of Abraham, Martin and John. This was originally recorded by Dion but has since been covered countless times by artists such as Bob Dylan and Marillion!!.

One of those covers where the words are changed. Originally a tribute to Lincoln, King and Kennedy, the Bible add in a verse about a Stephen... but not sure as to Stephen who?

It features a lovely bit of sax (apologies if that description makes the thing sound like gravy!)

Abraham, Martin and John - The Bible

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Blog Heaven

Quick note to say that I've finally got round to updating blog heaven on the right hand side bar.

I'm sure you know most of these already but feel free to have a look and pop over and visit some great places

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Cult of the b side - The Bible

I recently posted about the wonderful Bible reunion concert. Well they werent that bad with their b sides either.

I'm not sure which of the seemingly endless releases of Graceland that this one comes from but it would have fitted perfectly on the first lp

High Wide and Handsome - The Bible

Monday, 17 October 2011

Not Another Singer Songwriter - Ed Harcourt

Some singer songwriters go for the quiet, reflective sound and others go for a bigger band driven noise, not afraid to try the unexpected. Ed Harcourt is the second type , although this doesn't mean he cant do subtle and acoustic it is just that he seems to be healthily adverse to have any two tracks to sound the same. His songs often veer off at strange tangents

His debut Here Be Monsters seemed to come out of nowhere and grab a Mercury award nomination. Since then 4 more studio lps have followed as well as a couple of compilations.

Commercial success continues to evade him (only one lp an done single have scraped the top 40) although he has had more luck in Europe

The latest lp Lustre was released on his own label and contains some of his strongest songs.

I've posted 3 tracks. The first is the title track from the last lp and shows a rich lush sound which builds and builds

Lustre - Ed Harcourt

  The next one is from the lp Strangers and shows he can write a sing along chorus withe best of them

Born in the 70s - Ed Harcourt

The final one shows how he likes to play around with backing tracks to combine on one hand a simple tune but overlays a element of complexity to keep things interesting

Shadowboxing - Ed Harcourt

Finally here is the video for his one brush with the top 40, which is a shame as he has written far better , catchier , chart friendly songs then this one good as it is

You can buy his lps here - there is a compilation called Until Tomorrow and i would start with this or his latest Lustre which you can also listen to at his website here

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Friends Again Week part 5 - James Grant

James Grant's solo lps have seen him continue the more mellow sound of the final Love and Money lp.

Sawdust in My Veins was the first one, released in 1998 was followed a couple of years later by My Thrawn Glory. Both lps are largely acoustic and showcase a voice that is one of the best to come out of Scotland.

An lp of poetry set to music was released  in 2002 followed by the quiet and introspective Holy Love in 2004. There was then a 5 year wait until 2009's Strange Flowers where the volume and tempo was turned up a tad which resulted in I think the best of his solo releases, although all of them are worth exploring

The Streets You Walk Everyday - James Grant from Holy Love

This is the Last Time - James Grant from Sawdust in My Veins

My Thrawn Glory - James Grant from My Thrawn Glory

A video for My Father's Coat from Strange Flowers can be found here

When not recording for his own lps he has written and played live with Capercaillie's Karen Matheson.

You can find his website here (complete with natty guitar string thing) where you can buy his lps , get the chords and lyrics , stream some songs and read his blog

Finally a live example of a voice to melt into

So that ends Friends Again week  - out of one Scottish band emerged over a dozen of my favourite lps, not band for a group that broke up after their first lp. 

Friday, 14 October 2011

Friends Again week part 4 - Bloomsday

Having a break from recording as the Bathers, Chris Thomson was joined by 2 ex Commotions (Neil Clark and Stephen Irvine) to form Bloomsday. The band lasted for one lp , Fortunay. Another great lost lp, the sound was rockier than the Bathers but the romantic sweep and big gestures of the  lyrics remained.

The lead off single Strange Honey got quite a bit of airplay (at least that is how I remember it) but didnt dent the charts.

My favourite track had Syd Straw on backing vocals and Chris Thomson raises his game and does one of his best vocals

Forever Through Traps and Lies - Bloomsday

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Friends Again Week part 3 - The Bathers

Whilst James Grant looked west to the US of A Chris Thomson went for a much more European feel. Unusual Places to Die, written in Rome, came out in 1987 on the newly formed Go discs (along with the Beautiful South and Trashcan Sinatras). A much more acoustic which would evolve into an almost orchestral sound backed Thomson's vocals that seemed to be the lovechild of Tom Waits and Van Morrison.

For some reason the lp wasn't really promoted by Go Discs and despite some great reviews didn't sell that well. It is one of those lost classics of the 80s

The Bathers were like Aztec Camera more a collection of musicians built around one singer songwriter than a band and among those who worked on the 2nd lp were James Locke from the Chimes (whatever happened to them?). and James Grant guesting on backing vocals. The music lost some of its pure pop and became almost chamber music. The vocals were now pure Scottish Tom Waits and the songs big dramatic European romances.

Sweet Deceit was released by Island records in 1990. The lp featured on track rerecorded from the the first lp this time with James Grant on backing vocals (as a result it is the most straight forward pop song on the lp and not really representative of the other tracks)

Hush a bye

The next 6 years saw the band release 3 lps on the German Marina label.

Lagoon Blues and Sunpowder built on the sound established in Sweet Deceit, mixing instrumentals , orchestral backing with more straight forward catchy songs but with lyrics that felt more akin to the romantic poets than pop songs. I've posted a couple of the more straightforward songs from these 2 lps

Gracefruit - the Bathers (from Lagoon Blues)

She's Gone Forever - The Bathers (from Sunpowder)

However it is with the final Marina lp that I think Thomson produced his classic. The Waitsian vocals were toned down a bit, the arrangements and song structures a bit more straight forward. It is an lp full of highlights including this gorgeous love song again with James Grant guesting on backing vocals

If Love Could Last Forever - the Bathers (from Kelvingrove Baby)

The band moved labels again this time to Wrasse records and with some comings and goings in personnel Thomson was joined by Callum Mcnair (who is credited on co writer on a number of tracks on the resulting lp) and Hazel Morrison. Pandemonia

"Pandemonia is the Bathers latest album. Pandemonia is a frank poetic interpretation of love with its heart felt highs and lows. On "pandemonia" Chris has utilized a number of guest musicians including contribution from Isobel and Richard from Belle and Sebastian Many of the songs have been written from personal experience and many revisit "the" relationship as it unfolds. Track "twenty two" is a sunny remembrance of a first sighting of a future love. "huntly in love" meditates on the perfection of love found and "sundown and longing" and the "fragments" dwell on love lost. The "Belle sisters" is all about three sisters with whom Chris has built up a friendship. "pandemonia" for some may personify a noirish femme fatale. For Chris "pandemonia" is one of his own demons which he failed to deal with and as a consequence caused great suffering and heartache in others whom he adored! "

Quite clearly record company promotional gubbins but it does somehow capture the over the top romanticism and heartbreak that the Bathers music is all about.

Trocadero Girls - The Bathers

An lp of tracks re recorded from earlier lps appeared Desire Regained. I've not heard this lp, and part of me put off by some negative reviews, is not sure what the point was.

In 2010 rumours of new material surfaced but nothing has been heard and there doesn't seem to be anything on the horizon

Amazon has the lps to buy here however most of them are ridiculously over priced, so it may be better to hope one pops up on ebay - good luck it is a body of work that deserves much more credit and exposure

As far as visuals go first up is the usual mid 80s great song awful video and then 3 songs from an appearance on music programme The Beat Room

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Friends Again Week part 2 - Love and Money

When Friends Again called it a day citing the usual musical differences , although listening to the direction Chris Thomson and James Grant went next in this case it was probably genuine, James Grant took the 3 other band members and formed Love and Money. He took the Friends Again sound and moved it west upping the soul and the rock ( move signalled by the fact that an early single Candybar Express was produced by Andy Taylor of Duran Duran)

The debut lp All You Need is Love and Money was released in 1986 and I remember the Record Mirror especially writing glowing review after glowing review.

The lp is a bit disjointed with the rocker numbers clashing a bit with a smoother more soulful sound.

My favourite track from the lp was definitely in the second camp and showed off what a great voice James Grant had hidden away in backing vocals for Friends Again

Dear John - Love and Money

The record company felt they were on to a good thing and spent a small fortune on the follow up Strange Kind of Love whose cover is still one of my favourites.

Produced by Gary Katz who produces Steely Dan the rough edges were smoothed off. Despite constant touring including high profile support slots the 3 singles all failed to break the top 40, which must have been a killer for the band as blued eyed soul of Hue and Cry , Deacon Blue even Wet Wet Wet all went on chart success.

For me the best track is this gorgeous world weary song of doomed love which shows slick and smooth in pop music doesn't have to be soulless

Strange Kind of Love - Love and Money

Having failed to provide a return on investment the record company pressure was now on the band and the next lp Mother Boy was rejected by the label. Some of the songs from this lp have popped up as b sides of singles or rerecorded for some of James Grant's solo lp but along with It's Immaterial's lost 3rd lp I'm still hoping it sees the light of day at some point.

It must of spurred the band on as they came back with their best lp Dogs in Traffic preceded by slightly odd jazzy sounding My Love Lives in a Dead House (not really top 40 material!). By now the harder guitar sound had disappeared completely, but what was left could have you swooning

Winter - Love and Money

The final lp Little Death was released in 1993 on an independent label and has a rootsier sound, closer to what would appear on James Grant's subsequent solo lps.

This track always takes my back to living in Glasgow

I remember are you turned and walked away
I saw the last ship on the river today

The Last Ship on the River - Love and Money

The band broke up after the lps release although they are currently back together touring (playing the whole of Strange Kind of Love and Dogs in Traffic) . I never saw them live first time around so have my ticket for Shepherd Bush Empire and cant wait.

Sadly bass player Bobby Patterson wont be there as he died in 2006

Strange Kind of Love has recently been re released with some added demos and new sleeve notes. You can by it here and wonder at world where Wet Wet Wet can sit at number one for what felt like months but this band never made the top 40 once

Monday, 10 October 2011

Friends Again week

I'm taking a slightly different tact with not another singer songwriter this week, I'm going to focus on 2 singers who combine former lead singer , not another and bigger than the beatles all in one go. This week I'm going to post about James Grant and Chris Thompson.

First off I'll start with the band where it all began - Friends Again.

Formed in Glasgow the band burned brightly for a short while with 5 singles (3 of which sunkissed , honey at the core and state of art released on their own label and are just glorious pop tunes) and one lp - Trapped and Unwrapped

Produced by Bob Sargeant who had more success with Haircut 100, the guitars jangled like Orange Juice and Aztec Camera but put through the mixer with a some country and some funk.

They were hotly tipped by the music press but in band tensions about future direction led them to self combust.

The following from the all music guide sums it up nicely

"While many of their compatriots wrote new wave pop songs propelled by jangling guitars, in Glasgow, Scotland's Friends Again distinguished themselves from their peers by combining '60s-influenced rock with funk, R&B, and country. Featuring Chris Thompson (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), James Grant (lead guitar, vocals), Neil Cunningham (bass), Paul McGeechan (keyboards), and Stuart Kerr (drums), Friends Again formed in 1982. The band produced three singles, Sunkissed, Honey at the Core, and State of Art on Moonbot Records before signing to Mercury Records. The group released a self-titled EP in 1983 and then recorded their debut album, Trapped and Unwrapped, in 1984. The LP explored the band's various musical influences, veering from '70s-style funk (Lullaby No. 2) to soulful balladry (Old Flame) sung with Thompson's David Bowie-esque croon. However, the LP received mixed reviews, namely for Bob Sargeant's slick production, and it was also a commercial failure. Longing for an outlet for his own songs, Grant left the group in 1984, and Friends Again immediately fell apart. Grant formed Love and Money in 1985, delving deeper in the funk, R&B, and country influences that guided Friends Again. McGeechan, Kerr, and Cunningham followed Grant in Love and Money while Thompson created The Bathers in 1987".

I've posted the extended version of one of those glorious first 3 singles

Sunkissed - Friends Again

Below is the video for State of Art - sadly the video hasn't dated half as well as the song!

And finally a live version of the third piece of perfect pop - big hair , sharp cheekbones and big guitars played with short shoulder straps how could it go wrong!!?

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Lazy Sunday - Counting Crows

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a bit of californian angst. What I like about it? well it is the voice of lost dreams

Miller's Angels - Counting Crows

Saturday, 8 October 2011

close to silence follow up

I recently wrote about Talk Talk s later lps and Mark Hollis's solo lp in a post here

For a much more intelligent and fascinating insight into the last lp Laughing Stock visit The Quietus here. You can also listen to tracks from the lp as you read about its conception. It is a great bit of writing.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

A Black Bargain

A while back Not Another Singer Songwriter featured Black , or as he now records Colin Vearncombe.
However he has recently released a cd under the Black name called Any Colour You Are and made it available as a download from his website here

It is a compilation of 16 tracks that have been released on his own label - thus his 2 biggest hits are included in rerecorded form - the version of Sweetest Smile is stunning. There are studio recordings and live tracks spanning about 20years and the various lps and eps he has released

I've not posted a track as Colin is offering an amazing deal. By including the discount code below you get the whole lp for the princely sum on 75p!!

You can listen to the tracks and buy the lp here

Discount code is  mrg4song

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

New Music - Cancel the Astronauts / Mahoney and the Moment

I've had a couple of emails arrive recently with new music on them and top notch the bands are too.

First up is American band Mahoney and the Moment who play a melodic music that is a little bit folky , a little bit country and a little bit pop. They have just had their lp released (cover above) and you can buy it as well as stream it here

Second up is Scottish band Cancel the Astronauts

They have a great new single Seven Vices out that you can get from their website here.
It has guitars that jangle and great lyrics. To give you an idea here is one of the b sides

Playing Hard to get - Cancel the Astronauts

It is always a good sign when the b sides are just as good as the a side!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

A year in books 2011 - The Great Perhaps

The Great Perhaps – Joe Meno

Another American big family saga,The Great Perhaps is a kind of The Corrections light. This time we follow the Caspers. Dad is obsessed with the chase for a living giant squid that by the time he notices his family is falling apart he is lost as to what to do about it. Mother Madeline despairs about her husband whilst feeling bemused by the sexual attention of a work colleague. Amelia the eldest daughter is plotting revolution via the school newspaper and her school project (an anti superbrands film has been replaced by building a home made bomb) whilst younger sister Thisbe is discovering her sexuality but really just wants to be able to sing lead in the school concerts. Finally grandfather is plotting a final escape from his nursing home whilst daily reducing the words he says until he has faded to nothing.

What makes the book different from the other family sagas is that we see the world through the eyes of each character rotated through the chapters. For most of the time this works really well , It falls down a bit with the grandfather’s chapters as these look back over his life as a German immigrant both in the family tailoring business and later in an internment camp and the break down of the relationship with is own father. It is not that these aren't well written it is more that they just seem to come from a completely different book entirely. It is because the voices of the other 4 family members fit so well that the excursions into the past jar so much.

At times there is a sense of a quirkiness that feels a bit contrived , such as the fact the father suffers from a condition that means he falls into a fit and passes out whenever he sees a cloud . This is okay in itself but when Madeline starts seeing a cloud man I started to think wait a minute. There is plenty of deep thought and angst from all of the characters mixed with a gentle humour and an appreciation of the absurd. I did care what happened to each of the characters but finished with a sense of disappointment. I like the American big family novels because the best ones marry the slightly absurd that you’d find in all families with, humour and sadness as well as a way of finding bigger truths in the small scale trials and tribulations. The Great Perhaps does a bit of all of this but doesn't really excel at any of them

Monday, 3 October 2011

Not Another Singer Songwriter - Thomas Dybdahl

A while back I did a post on a Norwegian singer songwriter Dylan Mondegreen which you can find here.
Following another recommends I ordered a cd by Thomas Dybdahl. More Jeff Buckley than Prefab Sprout, the Norwegian has released 5 lps. The one I bought "Songs" is a compilation of tracks and has been released to introduce him to the UK/US.

The songs are mainly introspective and vary from traditional singer songwriter fare such to tracks that have a more experimental arrangement and structure, all mixed in with a bit of a pop sensibility.

I've posted 2 tracks that show the 2 different sides

Cecilia - Thomas Dybdahl

Songs - Thomas Dybdahl

You can find more information and get a free download from his website here

You can buy the songs lp here  If you liked the Tom Baxter or Duncan Sheik posts earlier in the series then I would give this a go

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Lazy Sunday - The Teardrop Explodes

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a bit of 80s pop psychodelia. The wonderfully weird all wrapped up in a catchy tune.

Like Leila Khaled Said - The Teardrop Explodes

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Life of Live The Bible

Some things can be so good that they make you sad? I first saw the Bible in the Duchess of York pub where I failed to spot that the strange overcoated man sat next to us before the gig was Boo Hewerdine until he said excuse me and jumped on the stage and started to sing.

Last night they played their 30th anniversary gig at the Clapham Grand... a one off. As the opening to Skywriting started up I was immediately taken back to my poly days in Leeds . Nostalgia gets you every time.

The the line up was the one form the 2nd lp onwards and they played most of the first 2 lps with a couple of tracks each from Dodo and the compilation Random Acts of Kindness.

As with the audience they all were a little thicker round the middle and thinner on top (I fitted well in)
The sound was bolstered by Kate St John ( ex Dream Academy and who seemed to have played with everyone I liked in the mid 80s at some point).

There was much singing (okay shouting) and dancing (okay shuffling) along. Unlike Boo's solo gigs banter was kept to a minimum but some surprisingly rock and roll poses made up for this.

  For a one off they were extremely polished, not a false start or end in sight. They even played a new song  which has me hoping that this will lead to more live gigs or a new lp, I'm not holding my breath though

I've posted a track they played that was so good they ended up playing it twice. Sadly the middle aged nature of the audience my mean that we were a bitl ess tech savy than most as no footage has appeared on you tube yet. Or maybe we just come from an age where we don't feel the need to spend the night at a concert with our phones held aloft

Mahalia - The Bible

A 25th anniversary version of the debut lp Walking the Ghost Back Home can be bought here