Tuesday, 29 November 2011

strange covers - Leisure Society

Into the Murky Water the 2nd lp by the Leisure Society is fast becoming one of my favourites of the year. I came to it a bit late to the point where they had released a "special" version with an extra disc of tracks that didnt make the final cut of the lp.

Included is this cover - its not in the Lee Marvin gargling gravel style and if anything feels like it comes from earlier time and place

Wandering Star - The Leisure Society

You can buy Into the Murky Water here

Monday, 28 November 2011

Misery Monday part 5 - The Catchers

Misery Monday and another tale of love gone wrong. This time from Irish band Catchers' second and final lp Stooping to Fit.

Built around some gorgeous sweeping strings recorded with Nike Drake collaborator Robert Kirby. The almost whispered vocal gives the whole thing a slightly darker sinister edge

When I get over you
remind me what to do
watch my step with the next one

When I Get Over You - The Catchers

The band split in 1998 after 2 well received but poorly selling lps of melodic pop music. The lead singer re emerged as The Sleeping Years whose myspace site is here . There are a few tracks to listen to including a cover of the Gobetweens Cattle and Cane which is enough in itself to get me trying to track down the lp

Sunday, 27 November 2011

lazy sunday - Visage

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a bit of new romanticism with Steve Strange's ode to the cigarette. What do I like about it? well it combines a roxy sax , ultravox keyboards and that great ability to take itself really seriously but with its tongue in its cheek (I think?)

Tar - Visage 

Saturday, 26 November 2011

strange covers - Romeo and Juliet

This could have been its own misery monday post. The sad tale of an ex girlfriend moving on to bigger and better things. I think I've read based on a relationship that Mark Knopfler had with an aspiring actress.

Dire Straits were one of those band that I could take or leave until Brothers in Arms which seemed to be everywhere at which point they became a bit of a symbol for everything I didn't like in music and don't get me started on Twisting by the Pool.

 However I always loved this song and the lines

You promised me everything
You promised me thick and thin
Now you just say oh yeah Romeo I used to have a scene with him

get me every time

As you get older you don't quite have the taste blindness of youth and I now think Mark Knopfler wrote some great songs. This is still the best and I still can't stand Twisting by the Pool or Stings demand for mtv

This is a live version by the Killers which sticks closely to the original although the difference in the world weariness of the two vocals is why I think the song must have been at least partly autobiographical

Romeo and Juliet - The Killers

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - The Alternative Hero

Tim Thornton used to be the drummer with indie/folk artist Fink but has branched out to write what is described by the Guardian as "The indiest book of all time" and they are about right.

We follow under achiever Clive as one Saturday he bumps into the person he spent most of his teenage years idolising. Lance Webster was the lead singer of the Thieving Magpies who were on an upward trajectory until the singer had a meltdown at a festival , Brooke up the band , self destructed a solo career and then disappeared into anonymity.

Clive decides to take this chance to follow Lance, try and befriend him and find out what really happened. So starts an elaborate deception that makes Clive question whether at the age of 30 he should

1) grow up
2) quit idolising rock stars
3) move on a bit form the music he was obsessed with at the age of 17.

The story zips between the present day and Clive's schooldays as he discovers music and all that comes with it. So far so Nick Hornby. However what makes this work is that this is set in a time before Brit pop made indie music mainstream. It focuses on why some bands from that time with big sales, large fan bases and hit singles have disappeared from the cultural radar - The Wonder Stuff , Carter , Jesus Jones, EMF, Pop Will Eat Itself. Then there are others who didn't sell anymore records or play bigger gigs but have somehow earned a place in our cultural history the Charlatans , The Las , The Happy Mondays, Primal Scream.

This is the crux of Clive's frustration , the Thieving Magpies sit in the former and not the latter camp and he wants to understand why and somehow give them the legacy they deserve.

It picks a chord that we all can feel, we all have had bands that we feel passionate about and just cant understand how an earth they aren't massive and worshipped as the geniuses that they quite clearly are (that at the heart is what Bigger than the Beatles is all about) the difference is Clive gets the opportunity to do something about it..... or so he thinks

The detail of the tours and the gigs are spot on and could only be written by someone who was "there" as is the completely made up Thieving Magpies band complete with convincing discography at the back. You end up desperate to hear Look Who's Laughing , War on the Floor and Everyone Behaves Like a Cunt so Why Can't I even though you know they don't exist.

Nothing deep or difficult just a great way of connecting back to a time when you really got excited about new bands .. I mean really excited and a time "before Britpop came along and fucked it all up"

You can by the Alternative Hero by Tim Thornton here

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Strange Covers - God Only Knows

I first heard teh Beach Boys song on David Bowie's less than stellar Tonight lp. For that version he went big voice and big production.

Terry Hall has underplayed it a bit and as a result I like this version alot more , its got that easy listening vibe which reminds me of being forced to listen to radio 2 on long car journeys.

God only Knows - Terry Hall

Monday, 21 November 2011

Monday Misery Part 4/26 - And I Fell Back Alone

This week's misery moment witnesses the slow breakdown of a relationship from the inside, no bitterness just a weary resignation

If we walk through each other
As we leave the room,
You don't have to tell me that it's over.
Whoever you were then,
I never really knew.
And you got no need to know me now.

You can't see the bottom from the top.
You don't see the edge before you drop.
And I fell back alone.
And I fell back alone.
And I fell.

Is love trying all the right moves
To stop the walls from coming up.
But I can't look over this at all.
I'm in some different place,
Strangers pictures on my wall.
I drew them yesterday
I never thought I'd find the time at all.

You can't see the bottom from the top.
You don't see the edge before you drop.
And I fell back alone.
And I fell.

Forever doesn't mean for ever.
It just means maybe some other time or place.
But how can two souls still eat together
When life has lost its taste.

How can we live together
In bed and face to face
And not see anyone at all.
It's time to make a wish
And let it float on down the stream
And we can cry a little
For a time that could have been

Live it all my love.
Live it well my love.
Live it long my love.
Live it all my love.

You don't see the bottom from the top.
You don't see the edge before you drop.
And I fell back alone.
And I fell back alone.
And I fell.

And I Fell Back Alone - World Party

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Lazy Sunday - General and Majors

Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a liitle bit of social politics from xtc. What do I like about it , well you can't beat a bit of whistling in pop!

General and Majors - xtc

Saturday, 19 November 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim

Jonathan Coe has written some great books, The Rotters Club got the bbc adaptation treatment, Oh What a Carve up combined social commentary with Carry on and the House of Sleep is one of those hidden gems.

After the last novel was launched by the author announcing it was "joke free" (The Rain Before it Falls is still a great piece of story telling) , The Terrible Privacy returns to the territory of character based humour.

Maxwell Sim is not having a good time of it at all. His wife has left him taking his daughter with her, he is off work with stress,he's been mugged and he is struggling to come to terms with the distant and cold relationship he has with his father.

There is light on the horizon, a chance encounter with a younger woman, and the offer of another well paid job.

The job in question is working on a promotional campaign for a radical new tooth brush that involves driving to northernest part of the UK, filming a diary on route. Maxwell takes the opportunity to call in on his ex wife , his father's old flat, the parents of his best friend and finally his best friend's sister, who has always carried a torch for him.

On route Maxwell gets to understand his past and key relationships through 3 "stories within stories"  something his wife has written for her creative writing class, something his best friend's sister has written as part of her psychology degree and finally something his father wrote as a break from the past just before emigrating to Australia. Although at times a bit contrived, this is one of the best things about the novel, the way Coe uses different voices to give Maxwell ,and through him us, gradual insights and understanding, until a sense of self awareness and desire to change emerges.

Without these elements the book strays a tad too close to the territory of The Rise and fall of Reggie Perrin as Maxwell's hopes and dreams, as well as his sanity, start to slowly unravel. Although in Maxwell's case there is no dream secretary just a growing relationship with the car sat nav.

The empathy we cant help but feel for Maxwell more than the humour stops the whole thing spiralling into a sense of despair, both for Maxwell and what it says about living in modern Britain.

It is difficult to sum up what I feel about the book as for 300+pages it was a great piece of writing and then I got to the last 6 pages which you could say are a brave experimentation with character or form , or you could see it as one of the worst endings ever. Two weeks later and I'm still pissed off about it , partly because what had gone before was so good

If you want to take the risk then you can buy The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim here. If you have read it , let me know what you thought of the ending. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

life of live - Julian Cope

I'd been a massive fan of Julian Cope's early solo work and had stuck with him through his series of sprawling double lps in which great single lps were hiding. However by the late 90s he seemed to have forgotten what he was really good at ... writing great pop songs and a bewildering set of release after release seemed to up the experimentation but lose out on the tunes.

The tour was billed as an audience with Julian Cope and promised the man on his own telling stories and singing songs from his complete back catalogue. Having read his autobiography Head On which is still one of the best musician autobiographies I've read, it was too good an opportunity to miss.

He was on fine form , playing the english eccentric to the hilt, the songs worked well and his voice filled the concert hall. He was as ever funny , charming and a little bit mad and bounced off the audience like the seasoned pro he was.

The only slight downer was that it hit home that to me the later stuff didn't really stand up to the golden teardrops and first 3 solo lps period.

Subconsciously this must have had some form of impact as I've not bought anything or really even tried to seek anything out that he has released since (about 20 lps in various guises). Helped by the fact that when I heard about his side group Brain Donor and the heavy rock sound, I knew we had parted for good!

If I've missed out on anything then please let me know - 20 Mothers was the last thing I got to listen to
I've posted one of the songs he played that night from the 2nd of his doubles , Jehovahkill. It showed he could still write a killer chorus

Fear Loves This Place - Julian Cope

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - Forgetting Zoe

Ray Robinsons is one of the literary equivalent of the Bigger than the Beatles series. He is one hell of a talented writer who with is 3rd novel deserved the major break through, only for the similarly themed The Room to get there first and steal a chunk of his thunder.

Zoe is a normal 10 year old girl , when she is snatched on her way to school in Northern Canada by Thurman Hayes and for the next 8 years abused and imprisoned on a remote ranch in Arizona, 4000 miles away from her mother and her island home.

What is great about the book is that Robinson resists the temptation to go down the route of painting Zoe's years of capture and abuse. Instead the relatively short novel and his sparse style means that the horror comes more from what isn't said rather than what is. For example Zoe's scars are casually refered to as old dog bites, and having met Thurman's dogs previously imagination takes over as to what this exactly means.

The novels structure broadens to show the wider horror of the situation , the impact on Zoe's mother, Zoe's conflicting feelings for Thurman as her period of captivity comes to its conclusion as well as the horror of repeated abuse as we see  the history of Thurman's relationship with his father and his mother played out within his relationship with Zoe.

It is difficult to write about the novel without giving away big spoilers. I'll just leave it by saying that the combination of brutality and compassion, the fact that all the characters are so well drawn and distinctive, the at times claustrophobic sense of tension means if you give it a go, you'll think deep and hard about the a novel that has stayed with me long after I finished reading    

Monday, 14 November 2011

Monday Misery Part 3 - Amsterdam Weeps

A Follow up to last week's post on Emmett Tinley's new lp, this week's sad song comes from hs debut Attic Faith

A slow build of a  meloncholy song that even when he starts to give his lungs a full work out, speaks of loneliness and regret

we meet like strangers and drink to happiness

Amsterdam Weeps - Emmett Tinley

Sunday, 13 November 2011

sunday extra

If you have not already wonder over to hissy fit where there are some fantastic you tube clips of the Blue Nile

In response to Trev's question here is the b side to Happiness. O Lolita has a bit of that tonal, tolling bell style that featured a bit more prominently in High. Really like the skittery drum beat that appears form nowhere and then disappears just a quickly

Too good to be a lost b side

O Lolita - The Blue Nile

Lazy Sunday - Elvis Costello

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile is still one of the finest things Mr Costello has written. What I like about it is that ,as ever ,the saddest songs are the best

Alison - Elvis Costello

Saturday, 12 November 2011

New Music - Emmett Tinley

The first part of the year was a little sparse in terms of new music, to a point where I thought my year's top 10 would be pretty much made up of re issues, but there has been a bit of a rush as the nights draw in.

One of the best is the 2nd solo lp from Emmett Tinley former lead singer of Irish band Prayerboat. Six years after his debut solo, it has been worth the wait.

It is one of those subtle lps with mainly acoustic backing and a sprinkle of strings.

What makes the lp stand out though is that Emmett Tinley has one of those soaring spiritual voices that are just perfect for autumn evenings,

I've posted the lead off track which I think works best with an accompanying single malt

Takes a Long Time to Heal - Emmett Tinley

If you like this then give the whole lp a go as it is pretty representative of the other 9 tracks

You can buy the lp here direct from the record label

Friday, 11 November 2011

Life of Live - James

Life of Live jumps out of sync for this post. Last friday I went to see James play at the Royal Albert Hall complete with full choir and orchestra. It could have been awful self indulgent tosh but it was in fact truly magical.

An all seated affair with the band on promptly at 8 , no support , an interval and only the encore suggesting it was a rock gig (that and the fact that I'd been drinking since 4 and had a kebab before going in)

It started with a slow build as songs were pulled from their complete back catalogue. They tended to be the slow/mid tempo ones and so the start of the set featured songs I'd never thought I'd get to hear live. The band, choir and orchestra fitted together so well and created a real swell of sound that filled a place where many a band I've seen have struggled not to get lost.

After the interval more familiar singles started to appear often given a completely new lease of life by the backing arrangements.

What was a surprise is even songs from the stripped down Stutter worked just as well as the lusher later tracks.

I've posted 4 tracks taken at the concert and hats off to whoever took them as the quality is great and he or she must have spent the whole gig with their phone in the air (normally a pet hate of mine)

Looking at them a few things strike me , not sure why the harpist is wearing a hard hat and keep your eye on the french horn player who looks totally bemused by the whole thing.

First 2 are from early james - Hymn from a Village and Fairground, the 3rd from late james- Bubbles and ending with a version of Sometimes which shows a band totally in control of what they can do - if you only look at one make it that one and tell me you don't wish you were there!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Home grown Americana part 2 - Broken Family Band

The second part of homegrown Americana features The Broken Family band from Cambridgeshire. Their debut lp Cold Water Songs sounded as if the band had the deepest american roots. At times pure country at others more country rock or american folk. All fornted with a vocal that was a lifetime fo pain

The lp got rave reviews and lead to sessions for John Peel.

Four more lps came and the sound progressed to have a more indie feel although shadows of the earlier sound remained

I've posted my favourite song by them which comes from the lp Hello Love which features some swoonsome backing vocals, a guitar line that you don't want to end, all put together to feel like a long lost Velvet Underground love song (if such a thing wasnt a contradiction in terms)

You Get Me - The Broken Family Band

The band finally broke up in 2009 fittingly with a final concert in Cambridge

You can listen to a selection of their songs as well as get a full discography at their website here

You can buy their cds here and depending on your preferences I'd go for either the rootsier Cold Water Songs or the Rockier Please and Thankyou

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Home grown Americana pary 1 - Witness

This week I thought I'd feature a couple of bands that sound like they come from deep in the heart of America rather than in  Suffolk and Lancs.

First up is Wigan band Witness who were still un named when they were signed. Initially helped then hindered by a friendship to Nick McCabe of the Verve. The constant comparisons with that band are odd in the extreme as the 2 sounded nothing like each other. If anything the band Witness most remind me off is REM, with maybe a dash of Tom Petty

Over 2 lps Witness went about producing songs of the quality that REM could have done with over their later lps. Both lps , Before the Calm and Under the Sun garnered rave reviews (with the debut especially having the music press all a froth) which didn't translate to any kind of sales

The big record label shenanigans (this time Universal) meant as usual one rejected lp and some strange promotional placing of songs , in this case 2 on the soundtrack of American Pie 2!!

The band eventually split after they were dropped by the label, ending with a hometown gig in Wigan.

I've posted my favourite track , which comes from the second lp , despite the world weary vocals has the kind of  down beat but up beat feel that Elbow have since made their own

Closing up - Witness

There is a comprehensive band site here with reviews , interviews and discography

You can buy both lps here where Amazon has the second lp for a ridiculously cheap 33p!!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Misery Monday part 2 - Raining in Baltimore

This came out at a time when I really wasnt that interested in American Music , could never get my head around grunge and all that loud bit queit bit loud bit stuff

Also this was the kind of "mature" and "adult" music that should have had me running for the hills. However somethign in this lp struck a chord. Im not sure what , if you break it down the vocals are whiney, the music plods along and doesnt do anything special or memorable. However, together it all fits perfectly. Never better on this track of despair for missing love, which has me doin gmy best load american wail as I sing along in the car

This circus is falling down on its knees
The big top is crumbling down
It's raining in Baltimore fifty miles east
Where you should be, no one's around

I need a phone call
I need a raincoat
I need a big love
I need a phone call

These train conversations are passing me by
And I don't have nothing to say
You get what you pay for
But I just had no intention of living this way

I need a phone call
I need a plane ride
I need a sunburn
I need a raincoat

And I get no answers
And I don't get no change

It's raining in Baltimore, baby
But everything else is the same

There's things I remember and things I forget
I miss you
I guess that I should
Three thousand five hundred miles away
But what would you change if you could?

I need a phone call
Maybe I should buy a new car
I can always hear a freight train
If I listen real hard
And I wish it was a small world
Because I'm lonely for the big towns
I'd like to hear a little guitar
I think it's time to put the top down

I need a phone call
I need a raincoat

Raining in Baltimore - Counting Crows

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Lazy Sunday - Mcintoshross

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a track from Deacon Blue's husband and wife team. The lp Great Lakes dabbles in Americana. What I like about this track is that it skips along and any song that has daddyo in the lyrics has to be worth a listen

Gloria - McIntoshRoss

You can buy the Great Lakes here

Saturday, 5 November 2011

New Music - Countryside Beggars on Horseback

I picked up this band from a post on the wonderful Sunset over Slawit blog. The post was about a new singer who records under the name The Countryside. What got my initial interest is that the singer, Graeme Slattery is a former guitarist with the Devlins , another bigger than the beatles contender, but that is for another post.

The second thing was that he mentions is that Graeme counts as his influences , Blue Nile , Aztec Camera and Prefab Sprout, anyone of which would have had me following the link pronto.

After listening to a couple of tracks I downloaded the lp Beggars on Horseback. It is full of of mellow melody reflective of the fact the lp is influenced by the singers move from a life in the city to living in a converted stable in the heart of the country

You can listen to the lp on soundcloud here. Give it a full listen because this is one of those lps where the overall mood is stronger than any individual song. Just right for a come down after the giddy thrills of bonfire night!

You can buy the lp or individual tracks via Amazon here

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Life of Live - Blue Nile

I've been to some concerts where the sense of anticipation and build up takes the whole experience to another level.

I've written before about my love of all things Blue Nile and being a fan involves as much hope and patience as enjoyment.

When I found out that they where touring with their 3rd lp Peace at Last and playing the Royal Albert Hall I immediately got a ticket and started counting down the days.

With only 3 lps to choose from they seemed to cover most of their back catalogue. The reputation for perfection (although reading the book Nileism is seems more like the ultimate procrastination) came through in the sound which was rich, deep, and clear and managed to fill the hall's cavernous space (I've seen a few bands where the sound seemed to have got lost in the Hall's dome)

On the LP there is a slight move to guitar backing and live Paul Buchanan's crisp acoustic guitar was to the fore. I can't remember much about individual tracks just being on a continuous emotional high as well as doing a bit of "there is something in my eye" during Family Life. That and the fact that with some of the newer songs they sounded positively upbeat!

The band were clearly taken aback by the waves of adoration and appreciation a couple of times standing on stage not seemingly knowing what to do as applause and cheering just kept going

Afterwards I was on an almost religious high only to be brought right back down again when my wife said "It as okay , sounded a bit 80s though didn't they" The clearest justifiable grounds for divorce .. or at least a big sulk you'll ever find.

There a  couple of sound only versions from that concert and I've posted a visual for one 10 years later

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A Year in Books 2011 - The Fry Chronicles

I'm a bit behind on a year in books as for some reason I'm racing through them at them moment so here is ayet another one and appologies if you are only really interested in the music posts

Stephen Frys 2nd part of his autobiography follows after the strangely titled Moab is My washpot. That first part dealt with his school days and whilst there was a strange fascination reading about his insecurities and self destructive streak that eventually lead to a criminal record for stealing a family friends credit card, it did feel a bit like a prologue .

The Fry Chronicles picks up with Fry starting life in Cambridge and ends with him sitting down to write the first series of a Bit of Fry and Laurie. In between we get the footlights ,  time as a book reviewer, a failed comedy series , Saturday Night Live , Blackadder and a west end/broadway hit musical,. In fact so much happens in such a short few years that while things zip along there are times when you want a more leisurely stroll and think no hang on a sec I want to hear a bit more about that

He handles the Cambridge years really well and manages to capture the sense of history, tradition and priviledge without alienating the reader into resenting the open doors , the silver spoon and the exclusivity.

He balances the fact that he fell in with an amazingly talented bunch of people  by giving just as much space to key people in his life who aren’t in the public eye. For every Emma Thompson there would be someone else that had me rushing to google. The anecdotes are funny and enlightening and the clever structure means they always have a point  instead of the book becoming just a list of stories that some autobiographies end up being.

The insecurities remain and sometimes he does protest too much in a I’m really not confident , I really do care too much on what people think , type way (after 2 books we get the message)

He admits that one of his biggest fears is that people will see him as a wasted talent , someone who flits from one thing to another, a jack of all trades etc. Could he have become  the best at something rather than that clever funny man who is heading for national institution?

To some extent you can see his point but you also feel through the book that it would also have been a bit of a loss and certainly a less interesting read if he had.

If you don’t like him then this book won’t change your mind, but if you are interested in a cultural world that seems like a different lifetime then Stephen Fry’s journey is a good one to follow.

I’ve also read Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan 2nd part of their end of world , vampire trilogy The Fall (part one was the Strain). Like the first book it is good harmless action packed page turning fun and crying out to get a Walking Dead type tv treatment .