Thursday, 31 May 2012

FMtastic part 3/4 - Ghosts

Not to be confused with the excellent The Ghosts that I blogged about recently , Ghosts were also a band that looked like they were headed for big things making the top 10 of the BBC's Sound of Series in 2007.

Wikipedia is a bit short on facts but does have a rather pointless story ...

On 22 February 2007, the members of Ghosts, three of their roadies and Claire Fowler were arrested on suspicion of stealing beers from behind the hotel bar, and broken lamp in the hotel reception. One of the hotel rooms was flooded during the night by a broken toilet (the hotel was going through refurbishment). Both incidents looked very suspicious, causing the hotel manager to call the police.[3] They were all subsequently released without charge. As it turns out, the hotel night porter had given the band permission to help themselves to the beers in the fridge and keep a tally, he later explained on a myspace page. - Rock n Roll or what!

Like Royworld yesterday , one single sneaked into the top 30 , an lp was released and then ....

However the myspace page does have some new tracks form 2011 and the message from the lead singer that he now goes under the moniker of Ghostwriter. If you like the track I've posted it is worth heading over here to listen to the Ghostwriter tracks, which sounds like they could well have been a Ghosts follow up lp

Here is the opening track of their only lp which you can get here and again a great pop song

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

FMtastic part 2/4 - Royworld

Part 2 in this week's series on a group of bands who seemed to look back to to the mainstream pop of the late 70s. Royworld released one lp Man in the Machine. Full of bright shiny pop songs. The slightly overwrought vocals did at times sound like they came from another band. Their debut single Dust got into the charts and so hopes must have been high. Support slots with the Guillemots and We are Scientists followed but the momentum stalled a tad and the band faded away (there is a bit of confusion as to if they have split up or not)

The following track is a great pop song and pretty representative as to the rest of the lp which you can get here

Here's a great live version of their one hit Dust

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

FMtastic part 1 The Feeling

Yesterday's post on Supertramp has prompted a week's mini theme. A few years ago there was a weird mini movement of bands who looked back to the FM radio songs of the late 70's early 80s for their inspiration. All catchy tunes . big harmonies , striking piano chords an guitar chords polished by Mr Sheen.

It all really started with The Feeling's 12 Stops And Home lp. Now I know plenty of people who mentioning the Feeling to for some reason gets them frothing at the mouth.

I kind of liked the sugary sound and catchy tunes that made the Lightening Seeds seem like a prog rock band, and cliche as it is the whole lp could have been released as singles

At first it seemed like a bit of an overnight success with the first single going top 10 but the band had been together in various guises and had all spent time as session musicians  and in a covers band before The Feeling's breakthrough. Two more lps have followed and a greatest hits (after 3 lps???) but I've only got the lp as I suspect there is only so much sugar that is good for you.

I've posted my favourite track from the lp. I think the line put the kettle on probably sums up why i like them but also why their sound annoys some people

Kettle's on - The Feeling

This is followed by 2 of the singles both of which will either have you marvelling at their pop sensibilities or quickly moving on

Monday, 28 May 2012

Middle of the Road Monday part 2 Supertramp

I was definitely on my own among my friends as far as this was concerned. In fact Supertramp would often top the bands we most hate polls in late night drunken student arguments. The Supertramp of the over the top , over long noodling songs I'd agree with . However the problem was some of their harmony layered singles were so dam catchy.

The Greatest hits soon became a bit of a guilty pleasure with dreamer , long way home and even the pop by number of It's Raining Again often sneaking onto playlists. However even then the greatest hits has some songs on I cant love even a little bit

It is part of the romanticising of 77 - 79 that in the midst of punk and new wave these 2 songs were giving Supertramp their biggest hits (so much for sweeping away the dinosaurs)

Logical Song - Supertramp

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Lasy Sunday - Editors

Top of the shuffle pile this week is a track from the Editors. I like the fact is sounds like it could have been released in 1982

The Big Exit - Editors

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Life of Live - Hothouse Flowers

I'm not sure why it took me so long to see Hothouse Flowers live. I had their first two lps which I really liked although didnt play that much. I ended up seeing them more out of chance in that the friends who I saw James with decided we should all go and see someone else as well as the annual Brixton Academy pilgrimage to Sit Down. I think Hothouse Flowers were the only band touring at the time we could all agree to give a go. I thought well at least I'll know a few of the songs.

They were astoundingly good that only a bunch of people who had grown up playing together could be. The intensity and energy never let up and Liam O Moanlai's vocals were stunning , reaching a high with what starts as an acapella song but soon morphs into a full on party jig as an encore.

The other highlight was a calypso version of their break through single Don't Go that went on forever. This is one of those songs that although bouncy always brings a light shiver , due to the fact that it was written for a friend in a coma , listen to it in that light and the lyrics do become bitter sweet 

I immediately rushed out and bought everything else by them that I hadn't got. Admittedly some of the later lps could be a bit patchy and didn't really capture the shear joy of their live performance but they were still well worth getting. 

They still are current holders of the ... so much better than I expected award

I've posted one of my favourite tracks that comes from the 2nd lp. One of the best whistling songs going with a walk on the wild side bass and a sing along gospely chorus added into the mix  

Here is a shortened version of the Dont Go party version

Thursday, 24 May 2012

New Music - Valentine Black

Thanks to 2U I Bestow for featuring this singer/band in their rundown of top 50 artists in Ireland. I rushed out bought the Cd which came through with a rather nice signed beer mat!

Valentine Black is the recording name for Peco McLoughlin, from Kildare. His debut lp is Desire Lines

It has got that slightly rootsy feel I like and reminds me a bit of Scottish singer Kevin McDermott with a hint of Brucie. Some of his vocals also call to mind Duke Special although with a less music hall and a more traditional rock backing, which all makes him stand out against the more reflective singer songwriters.

You can buy the lp either as a digital download or a physical cd from his website here

In the meantime here is one of my favourites followed by one of his early singles which is also on the lp

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

A Year in Books 2012 - The Family Fang

Imagine a Wes Anderson film in book form and you wont be far away form the Family Fang debut novel by Kevin Wilson.
The novel focuses on brother and sister Annie and Buster Fang. Annie is a B list actress trapped in a super hero film franchise with an self centred scriptwriting boyfriend and a female co star who is turning in to a bit of a stalker. Buster has had one cult and one failed novel , now writes culture pieces for magazines. They are also child A and child B the children of notorious conceptual artists Caleb and Camille Fang
The Fangs' specialism was creating art in real time via a series of events where they would arrive , cause chaos , film it and then leave. After a childhood of being bought up as living works of art and props / accomplices in a play where they haven't seen the script both children have escaped. However , when life reaches it lowest, with Annie dumping her boyfriend at the airport ,  getting her breasts all over the internet and sleeping with both her female co star as well as a journalist sent to intervew her and Buster nearly dies with a hospital bill he cant pay after a William Tell re-enactment using a potato gun , the only haven is home.
When they do come home they are reminded of the damage that life in the Fang Family has caused, as they are sucked back in with Caleb and Camille planning one last great event.
At the heart this is a story of the impact that parents have on their children and how children struggle to cope with the consequences, struggling to find their own way free of the generation before. What Kevin Wilson does is to take this theme to extremes by putting it in a world of quirkiness. As the story progresses we get to learn about a number of the Fang's events which gives the book its main sense of humour, managing to both horrify but also create a bit of a secret wish to be involved, which is the legacy that Annie and Buster are left with.
In making the scenario deliberately extreme there is a risk that the characters descend into caricature and although there are times when he sails close to the wind it all works out in a kind of Royal Tenenbaum way
My only criticism comes at the very end, which feels a bit tagged on with a film within the book scenario that I just didn't get and felt a bit like an unnecessary "where are they now" ending to a film. Ending it about 20 pages earlier for me would have been perfect.
It is an obvious link but if you like your comedy quirky , you have a sense of the absurd and you are a fan of Wes Anderson's films then this is for you 
You can buy The Family Fang here

Monday, 21 May 2012

800th post

After one week of middle of the road I'm not giving up but having a one week break

When I started this blog in my mind I had a 1000 posts and then quit mindset (thinking I'd get to maybe 20 before I realised I was in a time consuming version of talking to myself) Thankfully I started to get hits and then people began to leave comments which I'm always eternally grateful for (I'm sure all bloggers agree they are the main reason to keep going)

Anyway I'm now 4/5s of the way to the magic 1000 as this is number 800. So thanks to everyone who has stopped by and for all the comments and emails (including the one who said they were a hit man and who told me there was a contract out on my life - read about that here!)

Anyway this one is purely because it is a link to post 1 and is still one of my favourite songs

Damage is Done - Paul Quinn and the Independant Group

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Lazy Sunday - The House of Love

Lazy Sunday and top of the shuffle pile this week is from Britpop's John the Baptist. I like at the 2 min mark when the guitars take off.

Sulphur - The House of Love

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Life of Live - James

By now an annual visits to see James had become a firm tradition for me and 3 other friends from poly. Each concert was usually preceded by quite a bit to drink and was usually ended with an annual kebab.

Please to Meet You came out after the disappointment of Millionaires. I loved it from the off and when it again undersold and the band called it a day part of me was glad that they had ended on such a high (me and my friends were a bit thrown by the removal of our annual night out!)

The cover features a photo composit of all the band members of that time (not the greatest gimmick in the world I'll grant you)

Among the great tracks (I think there is only one that doesn't hit the heights) was one of their strongest singles and an ongoing live favourite

It had the kind of video that in hindsight was never going to get them on heavy rotation

Most of James's lps end with a ballad and Pleased to Meet You has one of their best

Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Return of Pop - part 2 The Ghosts

Thanks to Ed at the wonderful 17 seconds who first featured this band. Not to be confused with Ghosts who were tipped to the next big thing a few years ago, The Ghosts are a 5 piece London band formed out of the ashes of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool , unfortunately maybe best known by the suicide of the lead singer who jumped from a mast in the backstage area of a music festival.

The lp is called the End and at this point you may expect to be taken on a journey of darkness and sorrow especially as band leader Alex Starling is quoted as saying Ghosts was an opportunity for Palmer to fill the "absolute emptiness I felt at my lowest point … a way of hopefully turning a negative into a positive.

What we get is a joyous lp of pop music that switches between a more electronic backing and mow guitar driven stuff. Like a cross between the Lightening Seeds at their best, sprinkled with Hot Chip and the poppier elements of New Order.

The first 2 singles Ghosts and Enough Time give you an idea of what to expect (including the second one which lifts the intro to OMD's Enola Gay)

The End is a great hook laden debut and you can buy it here

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The return of Pop - part 1 Hal

On a post last year I asked "Whatever happened to Hal?"  , an Irish band whose first lp had quirky pop songs and multi layered Beach Boy harmonies. Well 7 years after that first release the band are back with a new lp "The Time the Hour"

I'm not quite sure why the big delay but band members have come and gone (interestingly the 10 tracks here feature 5 different drummers!).

Some of the over the top sugarness has been turned down but there is still that harmony filled west coast feel and pure pop singing along nature of the songs.

On first hearing you do feel a bit "well that is quite nice" but over time the layers reveal themselves and like all lps that stick around you start to explore the hidden depths.

you can listen to a couple of tracks here (down in the valley is the closest in feel to the 1st lp).

The lp also contains this gorgeous harmony drenched ballad

Pure pop and one of the lps of the year so far you can buy Hals new lp here

Monday, 14 May 2012

Middle of the Road Monday part1 - Billy Joel

Well it is time for a new monday theme. After much mental wrestling I've gone for something tried and tested (ie I haven't given it much thought and so had to go with something cliched and unoriginal)

Mondays for the next 6 months will be given over to my guilty pleasures. Now I developed a very keen sense of music snobbery very early, however  my first love of ELO meant an appreciation of an over the top middle of the road FM tune remains still.

I'm going to pick songs in my record collection that my friends really didn't like at all, stuff that I certainly wouldn't rush to be playing if I was trying to impress anyone. They are often singular tracks , by people whose rest of their catalogue would leave me cold

Having said that having been long of the opinion that in terms of music there are two views mine and the wrong one some of these tracks I will have defended to the hilt in many a drunken argument , slip onto the playlists at house parties and sang along defiantly to if they came on the radio.

I've avoided stuff whose fashion comes and goes , eg I've seen the songs of god like geniuses Bacharach and David move in and out of fashion and acceptability. These monday ones have always been a bit a naff

This series will probably have a number of you scratching your head , see my viewing stats crash and burn , but hopefully there will be one or two of you ready to come out of the closet as well

First up is Billy Joel. I've never really listened to his early stuff, but the whole Uptown Girl, Tell hr about it . Still Rock and Roll , etc I found cringeworthingly awful and put me off if I'm honest exploring anything further, and I certainly didn't know anyone who could have put me right

However, ever a sucker for list songs , clever lyrics etc I love this ...

We Didn't Start the Fire - Billy Joel

ps as a side note the fact I'm going to post stuff that are by people I don't normally like means these posts if I'm feeling a bit grumpy may have the odd scathing remark - if its about someone you like please don't take it the wrong way but let me know some songs to try that will point out the error of my ways!!)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Lazy Sunday - The Pernice Brothers

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile comes from the Pernice Brothers lp Discover a Lovelier You. I love the perfect mix of an American band with a love of British indie music.

My So Called Celibate Life - The Pernice Brothers

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Life of Live - The Waterboys

One of my big music regrets was not seeing the Waterboys live at poly when the were at the height of their Big Music period, I'd even managed to miss them for the for the Fisherman's Blues and Room to Roam tours. I eventually caught a short set at the Fleadh but at that point Mike Scott was touring under his own name.

A couple of years after the Fleadh gig a new Waterboys lp A Rock in a Weary land appeared out of the blue. If I'm being honest it is a very patchy affair which a much heavier more traditional rock and roll sound. I we nt to se them on the tour to promote the lp and they carried that sound over to the live arena. It was and still is by far the loudest gig I've ever been to. My whole body seemed to ache at some of the lengthy guitar parts.

Live didn't do much to alter my opinion of the lp , the tracks I liked were great, the ones I didn't weren't improved by stretching them out and upping the volume

One of the best ones both on the lp and live is this song about the life and death of Diana. Candle in the Wind it isn't!

Is she conscious of the the chauffeur as he drives
Is she conscious as the ambulance arrives

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Cult of the b side Pet Shop Boys

The Pet Shop Boys are one of those bands where the b sides are just as good and often better than many other bands a sides. They have pulled them together into 2 compilations Alternative and the recently released Format.

Neil Tennant write on Format's sleeve notes - When we write an album we write more songs than we need , so we choose them and the other tracks that we finish off as well

Chris Lowe - we're constantly writing and making demos and sometimes a track will sound like a b side more than an aside , and it might just be the demo version that goes out... we do stockpile songs.

The one I've chosen,shows them as their tongue in cheek , ironic best. A cover versions called We are the Pet Shop Boys. Originally by My Robot Friend . also covered by Robbie Williams

CL  - he managed to write it in exactly our style

NT -  It's an explanation of us that we would have never done

We Are the Pet shop Boys - The Pet Shop Boys

It is worth listening to for the lyrics alone

You can buy Format here

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A Year in Books 2012 - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Forever cemented in my mind as the kind of BBC drama that had my parents hooked and I wasn't allowed to stay up to watch, I'd never read a John Le Carre until a couple of years ago with the Constant Gardener.

With the film on my lovefilm list and a  recent set of re publications in moodily stylish covers I thought maybe it was time to give the Smiley novels a go.

For anyone who hasn't been on the planet last year, the plot sees George Smiley called back out of retirement to try and figure out who is a double agent in the upper echelons of the secret service, being controlled by his nemesis, his Russian equivalent Karla

This is not the brightly coloured glamorous spy world of James Bond. This is a grubby,grey, rain washed world where a false boys club atmosphere hides a life of loneliness and obsession.

The contrast is never more stark than in the fact that rather than spending his time bedding beautiful women, Smiley has to cope not only with his wife's serial unfaithfulness, but also the fact that everyone knows he has been cuckolded by a colleague.

In Smiley, Carre has created a character of quiet dignity and strength and as he gradually moves closer to exposing the mole his core of steel comes to the forefront. The plot is tightly woven although the final exposure is no great shock. However that was never the point. The fact that it could have been any one of the prime suspects says more about the world of misplaced loyalties  and skewed moral compasses than a hundred power hungry super villains.

The novel moves at a leisurely pace which gives each character time to develop, the complex plot time to weave its twists and plenty of time for you to get sucked in.

 I enjoyed it enough to go out and get the other 2 books in the Smiley / Karla trilogy. It is so of a time and a place that in its own way it is as much a historical novel as say recent Booker winner Wolf Hall.

You can buy Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy here

Off to watch the film now 

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Return of the Duke

after rather mortifyingly posting an photo of Tim Minchin , here is the Duke in all his glory

Short post to say it is worth wandering over to Duke Special's website at the moment. He is working on a new lp and is currently offering a free download as a taster. Punch of a Friend is beautiful bit of melody and bodes well for the rest of the lp titled Oh Pioneer

Monday, 7 May 2012

misery monday part 26/26 - sweet and sour

Sometimes the saddest songs are the simplest. To end this series I've posted 5 tracks which in their brevity carry a canyon of regret

First up is Irish band Fat Lady Sings and But - with the killer "

I am Sincerely yours no more I quit . I know life is long but life's to short for this"

But - The Fat Lady Sings

Next up is September with David Sylvian sounding at his world weary best . The line "sipping coke playing games"  always makes me smile ... the idea of a can of Coke featuring in a David Sylvian song is as out of place as if he sang "curry sauce on my chips"

September - David Sylvian

Depeche Mode not known for their sad songs , but they have a few and they are usually the ones Martin Gore chooses to sing himself

Sometimes - Depeche Mode

Elbow just seem to get better and better and this one comes from the break up lp Leaders of the Free World , a thing of fragile beauty

Puncture Repair - Elbow

Finally Born in a Storm. Not sad in itself but as the start of an lp that just makes me think of home and all that means "those hurricane days" always brings a shiver

Born in a Storm - Deacon Blue

5 songs , less than 10 mins of melancholy wonderment

So that ends the latest monday theme - new one starts next week ... just got to think of one now!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Lazy Sunday - Longpigs

Lazy sunday and top of the shuffle pile is a track by one of Britpop's almost made its The Longpigs.

I like the fact that the vocals are just the right side of totally deranged

She Said - the Longpigs

Friday, 4 May 2012

Life of Live - The Gobetweens

Having seen them play as a duo and have so much fun I guess it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise when a new Gobetweens lp appeared. Their own Fleetwood Mac moments meant that they needed to recruit a new backing band settling on members from Sleater Kinney.

The lp was  better than most other things around at the time although not their strongest set. It was as if they were feeling their way back in as phase 2 of the Gobetweens got better and better with each of the 3 lps they made.

Live it was a joy with the set basically a greatest hits (or maybe best of is a better description as they remained criminally hit less) run through with tracks from the new lp dotted through out. Some of these seemed to echo the sound of their early days.

What added to the occasion was the fact that I loved both of the support acts , Hobotalk and Cousteau

I've posted the final track from the lp. Usually I like the sweetness of Grant's songs but this time Robert had the best song on the lp , a hymn to Patti Smith.

I love the line that shows a band feeling a bit out of time

When she sang about a boy Kurt Cobain
I thought what a shame
It wasn't about Tom Verlaine

When She Sang About Angels - The Gobetweens

Thursday, 3 May 2012

A Year in Books 2012 - Elliot Allagash by Simon Rich

It is a story that has been told a few times before but no one has told it quite as well as Simon Rich.
Seymour is your typical high school loser , whose weekly hope is that he doesn't end up in detention due to being bullied by Lance the all american jock, or if he does that he shares it with Jessica, the uniform flouting cheerleader. His social life revolves around a weekly game of monopoly with his parents. In short he is the minor character in 100s of American teen movies

Then one day new boy Elliot Allagash , heir to the Allagash fortune , decides to push him down the stairs to test the school disciplinary processes. Elliot then takes Seymour on as a pet project and soon has him on the basketball team , becoming class president, getting into Harvard and becoming the most popular boy in school.

However as the schemes get more and more outlandish , the plans more and more complex, Seymour begins to wonder if this is really everything he wants and we begin to realise that Elliot needs Seymour much more than Seymour needs Elliot.

In Elliot , Simon Rich has created one classic character, utterly manipulative, ruthless, spoilt and totally lacking any kind of empathy. As Seymour spends time with Elliot's father and we hear tale after tale of the Allagash family history , we start to get an idea of what has made Elliot the way he is.

At its heart it is a classic morality tale, however it is told with such smart dialogue, dark humour and quirky plotting that the whole thing zips along at a joyous rate. At 200 pages the book doesn't outstay its welcome. I can't wait to see what Simon Rich does next as this is one of the most enjoyable debuts I've read in a long time 

Apparently a film version is already in the pipeline by the director of Juno and Up in the Air

You can buy Elliot Allagash here

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Places to visit

Time for another periodic jaunt around the wonderful world of the internet.

Here are some of the places I've been visiting recently on top of the wonderful blogs that are on the side bar

First up is The Golden Age of Music video which does what it says on the tin, focusing rather randomly between 1976 ( I can get this as a start point due to Bohemian Rhapsody) to 1993 (slightly non plussed in the site picking Guns and Roses November Rain as an end point)

It features a wealth of detail and information as well as some great interviews

A recent one features Thomas Dolby here which  has some great funny moments  like the response of Michael Jackson to hearing the song Thomas had written for him (Hyperactive) the  frustration of Magnus Pyke after appearing in the Blinded Me with Science video as well as stuff on the new lp

Next up is Slicing Up the Eyeballs which I assume is a US site as it refers to 80s college rock. It is great on news of upcoming re releases and box sets (I first found out about World Party's Arkeology here) as well as interviews , general music news and interesting links

Another US site is DirectCurrentMusic which has its feet firmly in BBC 6 Music land. Lots of new bands / singers to discover.

O Babylon revisits lost classic lps that are towards the edges of pop music. It is full of surprises.

Come Together is one man's massive collection of cd singles and lapsing into cliches there really is something for everyone whilst somehow managing to never post a duff track!

Finally how to describe Retronaut. One of the joys of where I work is I can play music in my office  or listen to the radio. I was half listening to someone go on about their website on 6 music the other day ,and was intrigued enough to scribble down the address. Apologies if I'm the only one not to know about this , but it is a treasure trove of a maze where you can lose yourself for hours

The good web guide describes it as thus

Retronaut gives us a "passport" to the past. You'll find all sorts here: images from Wales in the 1950s; a Warner Brothers' blooper reel from the 1930s; a recording of a man playing his trombone in 1897; a film of North London in the 1940s. The joy of using the blog is in wondering what marvel you'll find on the next page.

Creator Chris Wild describes a "retronaut" as someone who "goes back in time using just perception;" we travel in time he says in "that tiny, tiny moment, just before we grasp the fact that our beliefs are wrong.

Retronaut is the very best of the internet. It's collaborative and avoids narcissism, pulling off the sublime trick of being entertaining, provocative and wistful all at the same time. It's a mash-up of modes and styles, fusing a playful treatment of form with a sense of awe at the revitalising power of documentary footage.

This is a necessary reminder of our place in history and a tribute to our obsession with cataloguing our reality. As innovative bazaar of the unexpected and humble celebration of the imagination

It is a treasure trove of images with recent collections including

Me and My ZX Spectrum 1980
Kansas City Arcades 1968
Gretsch Guitars Catalogue 1961

Go and have a look here and I'll bet you'll be sucked in