Monday, 30 April 2012

Misery Monday 25/26 - Balloon

I've written about Balloon before here and I haven't found out much more since then, except the fact that I now know I wasn't the only person to buy the lp Gravity.

I did manage to track down 3 more tracks that I think were on a post lp single, they aren't a radical departure but if I'm being honest they aren't as magical as the 10 tracks on the lp.

The whole lp is one long misery monday but the track I've chosen is a beautifully haunting song. For some strange reason I love the line "may you rot in hell Alexander Bell"

Frighten to Death - Balloon

You can get a copy of the cd here and I'd heartily recommend it if you like fragile music with a sense of melancholic melody

Next week is the last one of misery monday which means a new monday theme is on its way....... the anticipation must be unbearable ... then again...

NB I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and since then I've stumbled on their myspace site here has some fantastic new ... ish or new ly discovered songs on . Sorry to be vague but the whole page couldn't be vaguer . New lp is mentioned , a new lp seems to have been scrapped and this was 4 years ago. If anyone has anymore luck and can share nay light drop me a line

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Lazy Sunday - Midlake

Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile are the gorgeous harmonies of Midlake. I like the fuzzy guitar that appears out of nowhere

Head Home - Midlake

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Gobetweens - what could have been

Big thankyou to Tim who sent me an email telling me about The Gobetween's Botany Sessions , asking if they were the holy grail , the jangly guitar version of the Smile sessions. I was ashamed to say that I'd not heard of them but it sent me sprinting the internet.

This was the sessions that would have lead to the follow up to 16 Lovers Lane (which some websites think was going to be called Freak Child -  no ls!). Why they never got finished and why the band decided to call it a day I'm not sure. Although a majority of the songs are slower and downbeat to maybe give a hint of where their minds were at

Apparently Grant always came laden down with songs whereas Robert would bring just enough to fill his part of the lp and that is the case here..

The first (and longer) part of the sessions is a solo acoustic set, with only either Forster and McLennan performing their new songs. A second set features the full band on either new songs or repeats from the first session.

A lot of the tracks ended up on solo lps and as the sessions are in the earliest of demo form don't leave much of a clue as to how any finished Gobetween's version would have differed 

I've posted 3 tracks all of which appear on later solo lps. When ever they released solo lps I'd play the what if this was a Gobetweens lp game ie taking the best 5/6 tracks from each solo and making an imaginary Gobetweens lp (I needed to get out more I know) and the solo versions of these 3 always made the cut

Friday, 27 April 2012

Return to yesterday

Following up from yesterday's post I stumbled across an interview with Karl Wallinger here talking about the release of the 5 cd World Party box set Arkeology which now has a uk release date and you can buy here 

There is also a World Party track you can download.

In the meantime here they are in the early days

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Life of Live - World Party

I'd seen a mini set by World Party at the Fleadh and despite the fact that it was beset by technical difficulties it gave a glimpse of how good they could be live. Stripped of all the studio trickery the songs just shone through.

Since then they had released the Dumbing Up lp which was as good as their high water mark Goodbye Jumbo and prompted a full scale tour , their first in years.

The show was built around the theme of a made up tv channel with  a giant screen showing made up adverts and trailers for imaginary programmes. It didn't really work feeling a bit like a big in joke that you weren't part of and I felt there was a collective sigh of relief when the band came on.

The band played a storming set covering tracks from all their lps, with the new ones fitting right in. Karl Wallinger was a lot funnier and charismatic than his sometime prickly reputation suggested (which also made the pre concert videos a bigger misfire)

I've posted the lead off track which you can imagine as a Prince song in an alternative universe

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A Year in Books 2012 - Pure by Andrew Miller

Winner of the 2011 Costa best novel award Andrew Miller's historical novel manages to be full of he richest period detail whilst also having a distinctly modern feel. Set in days just before the French Revolution Jean Baptiste is a young engineer with one small bridge to his name when he is summoned to the Palace of Versailles to  be given the strangest of commissions.

For generations the dead of the Las Halles area of Paris have been buried in the cemetery of the church of Les Innocents. The stench of death and decay has come the inhabit the food , the drink and the breath of all who live nearby.

The church has been closed to a congregation for some years and the Minister has decided it is time to act. Jean's job is to remove all traces of Les Innocents and its pits of the dead.

Firstly he is given lodgings in the house of the family Monnard , mother , father, a daughter they hope to marry off and a sullen maid. He soon meets the locals, including the republican organist Armand, who plays at Les Innocents with only the mad clergyman as his audience, the father and daughter who live in the cemetery and know its secrets as well as a local prostitute , for who Jean finds himself repeatedly drawn. He initially keeps the true purpose of his venture secret. When he does come clean the reaction of those around him range from active support and companionship, hostility, confusion and ultimately violence.

He enlists the help of his friend from the mines who recruits a team of Flemish miners to carry out the work. It is the description of this work that really bring the novel alive as layer upon layer of bones are unearthed  

As the work progresses more characters emerge each with their own agenda who react in different ways to the unending sorting of the dead. The cold , the heat and the over powering aroma of decay creates a changing in the order as Jean finds his task taking him over.

The painted slogans on the walls that disturb Jean show that what is happening in the cemetery is mirrored in Paris as a whole, only in the end does the symbolism get a tad heavy handed. 
Its a strange quirky tale that captures a time and place so well that I was soon hooked and compelled to keep going

You can buy Pure here

On a sep note I promised I'd take my son to see the Hunger Games after he had read and loved the book so I thought I'd give it a go. I won't tell you much about the plot (but anyone who has seen the film Battle Royale will wonder why it hasn't had a name check from the author ) but it is a rollicking good page turner of a read and for once the film does it justice

you can buy the Hunger Games here 

Monday, 23 April 2012

Misery Monday 24/26 - Something Happens

I've written about Something Happens before , they had appalling taste in both clothes and lp covers but superb taste in tunes.

This week's misery monday is a simple short kiss off

Though I know I promised you a million different things
There is no point in holding me to those promised things, those promised things
We shall divide

Three years since I left you now will the next three bring
A measure of our distances in every passing thing, every passing thing
We shall divide

Pleases that I did meet you but I hope you understand
I'm at the end of patience now with everything at hand, everything at hand
We shall divide

Through country's wide and distant and foreign strange affairs
I will lament our passing with the greying of my hair, the greying of my hair
We shall divide

Divide - Something Happens

And in case you don't believe me about the clothes

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Lazy Sunday - Listen to What The Man Said

Lazy sunday and this week top of the shuffle pile is a bit of a guilty pleasure. No matter what your thoughts on MR thumbs aloft he has an ear for a catchy melody

Listen to What the Man Said - Wings

Friday, 20 April 2012

Life of Live - The Fleadh

For the second year running I went to the Finsbury Park Fleadh. A small Irish centred festival with one main stage and a tented second one. It had a laid back feel and an almost family feel with a line up that had moved more and more away form it's Irish roots (although the Corrs were headlining this year).

I had no great desire to see the beautiful people but when they were on the main stage Billy Bragg was in the tent. I remember it being a scorcher of a day and the heat hadn't really died down with the sun. The tent was packed. Add in the fact that he played a blistering set and it was the best weight loss programme you could go on. Replacing sweat with beer meant the following day was a complete write off.

Earlier in the day we had seen the Fergal less Undertones who I was determined not to like but they were great. Prefab Sprout played a shortened version of the set I seen a few weeks ago with both beard and voice in fine flow.

You may have seen this before on hissyfit but I'm still in shock there is such good footage


Also on an afternoon slot was Kirsty MacColl who had just released her south american flavoured lp and was touring for the first time in ages. This is from Later and gives you a flavour 

The Fleadh was exactly my type of festival and I was really excited when it returned last year. My heart sank when I saw the line up with Bob Dylan as the headline so I gave it a miss. Hopefully 2012 will see a return

Thursday, 19 April 2012

strange covers - Counting Crows

Counting Crows new lp Underwater Sunshine is a covers lp. There is a mixture of the obvious ( yet another bob yawn dylan cover), the unknown ( a number of bands who came up from the same Californian scene as Counting Crows ) and the pleasantly surprising (the version of Teenage Fanclub's Start Again is a real highlight).

What does come across ids their complete love of music. Adam Duritz the lead singer enthusiasm shines through as he talks through the reasons behind the various song choices, coming across as just a genuine music fan).

You can hear the lp here where you can also read the sleeve notes (as already mentioned check out Start Again or their version of Travis's Coming Around)

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Beautifully Difficult - David Sylvian

In case you missed it (blink and it was gone from their front page. The Quietus had an interview with David Sylvian on his latest compilation Victim of Stars which you can find here

In the interview he revisits his lps and his comments of Secrets of the Beehive are interesting in that he feels it is incomplete and something of a failure. I think it is bar the best thing he has ever done , so i do wonder what the lp would have been like if it had ended up as he wanted to.

The feature on The Quietus also contains a number of tracks to listen to as well as 2/3 videos (when he still made singles)

Victim of Stars takes in all of  David Sylvian's career and you can buy it here.  However for me the better buy is Everything and Nothing (make sure you get the double cd though) which also has a load of unreleased tracks on which you can get here for a cheap as chips £4:99.

Here is one of my favourite track from Secrets of the Beehive performed live on Italian tv

Monday, 16 April 2012

Misery Monday - This Year's Love

After putting his heart and soul into 3 lps to general indifference , David Gray finally got the sales he deserved through Babylon. However it was the title track from the resulting lp that really stuck for me.

On one level it is a song of hope as he stands on the precipice of a new relationship  "swept me off my feet" "When you hold me like you do feels so right"

However there is a weariness in the voice that makes you kind of think the odds aren't that short.

This Year's Love - David Gray

This is no doubt helped in my mind by the film it originally came from. One of those bittersweet, ensemble casts comedy dramas that the UK does so well / plays so safe with depending on your view. It was the classic 3 star film however for some reason I really liked it

David Gray's music features in the film (at some points sung by Kathy Burke) and the track always echoes with the ups and downs that happen to the 3 couples over the 3 year period that the film is set

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Lazy Sunday - The Waltons

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a track by canadian band the Waltons. I bought the lp because it was compared to the Housemartins (which they sound nothing like at all) I was rther taken with the nice harmonies though

Sunshine - The Waltons

Saturday, 14 April 2012

A Year in Books 2012 - We Had It So Good by Linda Grant

If you have read the year in books posts you've probably guessed by now that I'm bit of a sucker for those state of the nations novels, you know the kind big events and themes told though everyday lives, the kind of book that American authors seem to just do so much better than those in the UK.

Linda Grant's novel has a go at south of England version. Stephen Newman comes over to Oxford on the same boat as Bill Clinton and starts life as a Rhodes scholar mainly to avoid the draft. He soon meets quiet Andrea and loud opinionated Grace. He takes first Andrea's virginity and then her hand in marriage as his visa runs out. He and his friends have big ideas , they feel like the golden generation ready to right wrongs , re build society ,living by their high minded principles.

We Had It So Good follows Stephen and Andrea's 40 years of marriage, as slowly their ideals and dreams turn to a life of middle class privilege in Islington as their friends make money in property ,advertising and in Stephen's case the BBC. The novel intertwines their lives  and those of their two children (a photographer and a magician) with the  direct and indirect impact  of 9/11, 7/7 and the Balkan wars.

None of the characters are particularly likable especially Stephen , but then that adds power to his realisation as middle age comes that the life he has built stands on shaky foundations . The only person who stays true to themselves is Grace whose opinionated selfishness remains even as her fading looks means that it becomes more and more difficult to get away with her behaviour. Ironically , when traged does strike it is Grace who comes through.

From the idealism of the student 60s through to the false comfort of the affluent 90s Grant keeps you hooked in. The diversions she takes ,with Grace and Stephen and Andrea's children as well as revisiting their relationships with their own parents adds a richness and depth. The only thing that is missing is that the whole thing is so serious it is only at the very end , the last paragraph that she leaves us with a sense of the absurdness of it all. Much as I loved the novel and it is a very good read, the ending made me realise that some light and shade would have made it even better and rung a little truer

you can buy We Had it So Good here 

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Bigger Than The Beatles - The Chills

A comment left on the blog a while back reminded me of another band whose sales never came close to the level they should have. Built around singer and songwriter Martin Phillipps the band had a bit of a never ending revolving door as far as other members were concerned. Their first two lps passed me by although I do remember a friend of mine playing Kaleidoscope World and one track really standing out - Pink Frost about I think the death of a former band member

Apart from that track nothing really stood out for me from the lp. However when Record Mirror made the lead off single for the next lp Submarine Bells single of the week and suddenly started championing the band I thought I'd give them another go. This lp mixed spiky pop songs that galloped along with lush ballads all with a slightly quirky edge. A gorgeous lp sleeve all added to the mystery.

I've posted the track that the Record Mirror loved so much and it does exactly what it says on the tin , unfortunately apart for the hit part
Heavenly Pop Hit - The Chills

Its a heavenly pop hit if anyone wants it

The next lp Soft Bomb smoothed off some of the rough edges further but the quirky lyrics remained, the faster songs had if anything even more hooks in them and the slower ones a rich almost orchestral feel, an example of which can be heard below
Halo Fading - The Chills

Four year passed and Sunburnt came out , the formula remained the same and the quality of songs were as high as ever and in the title track one of the best things he has ever written
Sunburnt - The Chills

8 years passed an a mini lp Stand By came out with the message that it was the beginning of a new direction and a stop gap before more new releases. I bought the ep and was disappointed, I cant remember much about it except I played it a couple of times and then gave it away. Well that was 8 years ago and I don't think anything has come out since.

However the band's website has a fairly recent blog posting and a gig listing that goes up to 2010 showing pretty regular live events in Martin's native New Zealand

You can buy all their lps here , although some are going for silly money , any of the 3 here are worth exploring

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Life of Live - Prefab Sprout

This Life of Live was kind of beaten to the punch by Hissy Fit a few weeks ago. At the time Prefab Sprout had entered a Blue Nilesque period of hibernation. With a comforting degree of stubbornness Paddy Macloon chose a period in between records and a time when Wendy Smith was about to have a baby to announce out of the blue a new tour.

I can still remember the moment when he wondered on stage sporting the big shades and zz top beard you could hear the gasp of all us earnest no longer so young men taking a collective breath and thinking  "Christ he's turned into Neil Young"

We neednt have worried because as soon as he opened his mouth the familiar angelic smoothest of voices kick started Looking For Atlantis (okay so maybe I'm over romanticising just a tad!)

It was a great concert with every song a highlight - Golden Calf freed of its clunkiness , Lions in My Own Garden freed of its tweeness and Faron Young free of its studio trickery. The slower songs had us swooning the faster ones dancing and all of them had us singing (okay I'm definitely over romanticising now)

Hissy Fit has already found a treasure trove of live clips you can find here but below is way back when and one of those weird videos that the Tube would make for new bands

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

God Bless Paddy

It is out of date but couldn't resist sharing this interview with Paddy McAloon that he did around the time of the release of Let's Change the World with Music.

It is a great read and can be found on the wonderful Slicing up the Eyeballs blog here

From the latest to the first

Monday, 9 April 2012

Misery Monday 22/26 Gene

Misery Monday featured the Smiths a few weeks ago and now it is the turn of a band whose harshest critics labelled Smiths lite. There was so much more to the band Gene than that. As I wrote here they should have been a lot bigger but maybe lacked that defining personality to take them to the next level.

This track comes form the second lp Drawn to the Deep End and it is one of the tracks where you can see the Smiths comparisons. It features some achingly beautiful guitar and a sorrowful almost pleading vocal that tells you all you need to know about a love that you just no is doomed not to fail.

Save Me I'm Yours - Gene

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Lazy Sunday - Hue and Cry

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is one from that marmite band Hue and Cry. I like the fact it is so dam catchy

Long Term Lovers of Pain - Hue and Cry

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Let down of the week

I've written before about the god like genius of Terry Hall and EMI have also celebrated it with the release of a double cd of 42 tracks, covering singles (but not all of them) and lp tracks (but not the best of them)

I bought on spec and as I didn't recognise all the titles thought there would be some long lost tracks I'd not heard before.

It really is an odd compilation , virtually ignoring his output from the excellent 2 solo lps Laugh and Home. Instead we get 22 tracks from The Fun Boy Three.

There are a couple of non lp tracks but nothing that hasn't featured on the recently re released and expanded Colourfield lps.

Now at the time I never really got the Fun Boy Three and the 22 tracks here hasn't really changed my mind. However they did produce 2 cracking singles

Tunnel of Love  - Fun Boy Three  one of the best anti love songs going

Our Lips are Sealed - Fun Boy Three originally written for the Go Gos

There are some other good tracks mainly taken from the 2nd lp Waiting but overall it feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity, with the cynic in me thinking released to coincide with the Specials featuring in the summer Olympic concerts

If you really want to you can get it here , but I'd stick with the solo lps and The Colourfield

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Life of Live - LLoyd Cole

I'd last seen Lloyd Cole during the dying days of the Commotions, but had somehow missed all his solo tours. He was now at the stage where touring meant just him and an acoustic guitar with a notebook of song lyrics and chord changes so he could remember the older songs.

The concert was in Camden and on the way in walking by one of the canals out of the shadows came a voice asking Judi and I if we needed any stuff. I ploughed on avoiding eye contact  but turned back to found Judi had stopped as she thought he was asking for directions (we had lived in Teddington too long)

When we got there Lloyd ambled on a thick white jumper and a tad chunkier than I remembered. He sat down and for the next 2 hours played songs from his complete career , sprinkled with the odd cover version and peppered with anecdotes, stores , jokes and banter with the audience. He seemed to be genuinely loving every moment as much as his audience,  ie a million miles away from the last time when felt like he'd rather be anywhere but on stage.

No More Love Songs - Lloyd Cole

If you get a chance to see him live, it is well worth the effort and below is a clip that gives you an idea of what to expect.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

New Music

One of the joys of the blog is that I get sent lots of new music to listen to , although a lot of it seems to come from people relating to gigs they are about to play in new york not quite grasping where teddington is.

Having said that I also get some crackers and here are 4 of the best

First up is Chris Ford who I think is Irish and has a great voice. He follows the footsteps of other Irish singer songwriters by getting recognition first in the states through playing live.  It is classic singer songwriter fare, but the mellow nature, melting melodies combined with an ear for a killer chorus means it sounds familiar but unique at the same time, he reminds me a bit of Matthew Jay. It doesn't set the earth on fire but if the rest of his songs are as good as these 2 then I hope his lp All Caught Up gets released soon

Love Falls - Chris Ford

Moving out of View - Chris Ford

This will be his 3rd lp and you can get copies of his debut This Atlantic Low here

You can here some more tracks here and having heard these I'm off to order This Atlantic Low before they run out

Next up is a gorgeous bit of Americana. Pete RG is the former lead singer of Last December (I'm afraid I'd not heard of them either , but that might mean something to someone), the lp which you can stream here is a bit pop and a bit country. I really like his voice and again it doesn't stride out in any radical new direction , just good quality songwriting. Follow the link to hear the lp , which includes a killer version of Brucies I'm on Fire

Next up is a bit jangle from Cornish band Fire Island Pines who tap into the spirit of felt , a bit of lloyd cole and who would've fitted nicely on Sarah records

Their Rikki Lee Jones ep has 4 great songs on that you can listen to and then buy here 

Finally, one of the emails I got requesting The Blue Nile tracks posted a few weeks ago had a link at the end to the person's band. Captain Walker are a Norwegian band and that is all I can tell you. Except they make west coast pop with heavenly harmonies. I've no idea if they have an lp out or not but you can listen to 3 tracks here. They remind me a bit of a more chilled out Thrills

So there you go , something for everyone (well maybe not death metal fans)

Monday, 2 April 2012

Misery Monday part 21/26 It's Immaterial

Misery Monday this weeks comes from It's immaterial's debut lp Life's Hard and Then You Die. This track is as cheery as the title

Starting with the wind blowing, the mood is set with the words "its a little beak around here" , an electronic rhythm and simple piano refrain. Half spoken and half sung/spoken words tell a tale of a dying community.

This song is all about mood with each component playing it part to create a sense of mournful acceptance of fate

push the boat out and dance

The Better Idea - It's Immaterial

You can buy the lp here which is one of those forgotten classics.

I'm still hoping someone somewhere will release the rejected 3rd lp House for Sale

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Lazy Sunday - Kate Bush

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is a great bit of pop madness from Kate Bush. I think I'm in the vast minority that liked the red shoes a lot more than sensual world. What I like is that it is barking and sensual all in the same breath and this one is one of the few that went backwards with the re record of the directors cut

Rubberband Girl - Kate Bush