Friday, 30 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 89 - Will i Ever Be Inside of You by Paul Quinn and the Independent Group

89 - Will I Ever Be Inside of You by Paul Quinn and the Independent Group 1995 
What is the sound of faded glamour and broken dreams? Well take one should have been a contender 80s singer mix him in a band and songwriters from Glasgow's early 80s jangle brigade (various Bluebells, commotions , Juicers , etc) and get them to write and record a load of torch songs.
I had already got their debut (on the relaunched post card records) which had come and gone in a blink when i saw a review for this lp which again disappeared with barely a splash. 
Will I Ever Be inside of You (not a chat up line I've ever been brave enough to contemplate using!) to me is he sound of a singer's last chance. Age has turned Paul Quinn's voice into the mellowist of croons, but one shot through with pain.  I'm sure it will be pure pub singer to some but to me it is one of the greatest pop voices going
The lp starts with a 9 min title track  in which you can almost smell the smoke an feel the red velvet curtains 9stick around for the operatic backing vocals at about the 5 1/2 min mark)
What follows is 8 further songs of sorrow ( and even then 2 are different versions of the same cover) that all take their time and yet leave too soon
The only film footage I could find was this frustratingly short extract of Stupid Thing the song that featured on my very first post

It is one of the many wish I'd been there moments but the lp got a one off live performance at the Glasgow film school

A Passing Thought by Paul Quinn and the Independent Group

One more tear won't make no difference to the rain

The whole thing has added meaning as since then apart form one more guest vocal ...  rumours of poor health and silence.

The only copies of the lp I could find on Amazon were close to £100 so it fingers crossed on ebay. Although I think anyone who owns it will be like me and keep it as one of their most treasured records

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 90 - Feather and Stone by Tom Baxter

90 Feather and Stone - Tom Baxter 2004

The early years if the century saw a rush of singer songwriters as record labels searched for the next David Gray / Jeff Buckley and threw money at people who at another time may have kept on struggling in obscurity

There are some great lps from that time and one of the best is Tom Baxter's debut Feather and Stone. He could do the big emotional ballads with sweeping strings. However thankfully what separated him from the James Blunts of the period was a much more imaginative use of arrangements and a lack of saccharine in the lyrics.

The whole set of songs seem to tell a coming of age story (or maybe I'm reading too much into it as usual)  

The lp mixes quiet ballads , lighter aloft moments with more straight forward pop songs all backed by some of the best string arrangements I'd heard in an age

Under the Thumb - Tom Baxter

There are a couple of times when ambition gets the best of him and the song doesn't quite pull it off but rather that than a couple of play it safe fillers.

Not unique at all , just better than most and even if you think I've heard this all before it is worth digging deeper

you can buy Feather and Stone here

Monday, 26 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 91 - Great Day for Gravity by King L

91 - Great Day For Gravity by King L 1995

Gary Clark decided to follow up the silky smooth Steely Dan  ish solo lp by forming a band and making some noise.

Some of best tunes he has written and the worst band name pretty much anyone could have chosen , Great Day For Gravity is a one of those lost lps that should have done much better.

I saw them play the lp live and it is one of the loudest concerts I'd been to. Released in the dying embers of grunge (my vote for the worst time in british music) the lp had a lot in common with some of those bands. The difference was that Gary Clark was writing the songs so instead of teenage american angst you got razor sharp pop tunes.

The below track is the most Nirvana in style

Tom Driver - King L

The lyrics have a directness that Danny Wilson lacked but still full of killer lines "I was only lying because thats what liars do"  , often take more of a short story / character study approach to the songs.

Tragedy Girl , Dumbest Story, etc stick quickly and linger long , helped by Neil MacColl's fantastic guitar playing

However there are a couple of quieter moments , a heart breaking track called two cars collide (worth the price of the lp alone) and this tale of a being bruised in hollywood

Don't Believe in Hollywood - King L

Don't believe in anywhere where the sky is always blue ( a bit ironic with the success Gary Clark has had in LA as a songwriter for hire)

I've waited much more in hope than any kind of expectation for a follow up but it seems this is going to remain a glorious one off

You can buy Great Day for Gravity here

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 92 - Black Swan by the Triffids

92 The Black Swan by the Triffids 1989

This is what I've written previously about the Black Swan

This is the last record the band made before they split up. it is a masterpiece just because of the quality of the songwriting and the variety of styles. It is flawed just because of this variety. Originally planned as a double the mission was that each song should be in a completely different style to all the others, as a result it is almost too varied with the album not really holding together (styles jump from vaudeville, to gypsy, to 60s girl group). As could be guessed the record company balked and the band had to edit the original down to a single cd.

Ever a sucker for wildly over ambitious intentions, it is for this fact that it just pips Calenture to the top 125.

That and the fact that despite the variety in styles there isn't really a song that doesn't work. These 2 tracks show just how varied the styles are. First up is a country song , subtitled the country widower it is a widescreen story of loneliness. Compare that to the glacial electronic pop of Falling Over You!

New Years Greeting - The Triffids

Falling over You - The Triffids

Finally a 60s girl group pop song that further proves the rule of good bands awful videos make

You can buy the Black Swan here this is the extended version where you can enjoy the lp as it was meant to be heard in all its 19 track glory, plus a 2nd disc of demos

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 93- Draw by Matthew Jay

93 - Draw by Matthew Jay  2001

From a time when male singer songwriters were all the vogue instead of women and the record comanies search for another Jeff Buckley. Matthew Jay's debut lp on one hand is nothing special in that I'm sure a few of you will play these tracks and think well that sounds like a 100s others.

However I love this lp as the difference with Matthew Jay and the 100s of others is that he also knew how to write a great pop tune. He was just as good at doing the fragile as the sing along

The first lp was the only release when he was alive as he tragically died before the second was released.

Below is my favourite track with a film released on the 7th anniversary of his death by his family

It's been a long time since we hung around together in the street
And I miss those days, when the world would wait for us
With our crowd of friends we'd sit along the pavement near your house
'Till the sun came down and we brought the stars out

The opening verse captures that looking back on a childhood to perfection beforee the song takes a darker turn. When the world would wait for us and we brought the stars out gets me everytime. The duality of the song about the death of a childhood friend but with a sing along backing sums up a lot of what I like about the lp

Finally here he is with just voice and guitar in more traditionally singer songwriter mode , a life and talent cruelly cut short but with one hell of an lp as a legacy

Four minute Rebellion - Matthew Jay

You can buy Draw here

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 94 Fitzcarraldo by the Frames

94 - Fitzcarraldo by the Frames 1996

It is one of those mysteries of life as to why one of Ireland's biggest bands is met with such disinterest here in the UK.

Fronted by the powerful voice (the dictionary definition of angst) of  the Commitments' guitarist Glen Hansard the Frames have 2 types of sound , emotionally draining quiet and emotionally draining loud. The fact that these 2 approaches would often appear in the same song had them in the their early days tagged as an Irish Nirvana

Their UK profile rose a bit in 1986 with the release of Ftzcarraldo as it was part produced by Trevor Horn. I think this lp just nudges a fine body of work due to the fact that the whole thing sits so well together and it features a number of my favourite Frames lps. Later lps have a more experienced feel but this one has a sense of them knowing what they were doing but still with that rawness of a relatively new band (it was their second lp)

The title track is simply immense

It isn't all bluster though , sometimes they are at their best when they are at their most delicate

Your Face - The Frames

You can buy the lp here

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 95 - A Long Way From Somewhere

95 - A Long Way From Somewhere - Katkhuda 2008

Some lps on this list are full of stand out tracks, some however are more about mood and this is one of them.

Carrying on where he left off with Obi , Damien Katkhuda produced this debut lp full of subtle joy. There isn't really a stand out track. The songs never get above a slow pace. The real joy is in how the main acoustic guitar is backed with strings , pedal steel / slide guitar , piano and the quietest of trumpets , all sounding so intimate that it feel like they are in the front with you.

This is one of those lps made for lazing about to on a summers day

You fell into the Stars - Katkhuda

Here are a few more tracks from a performance at the Bestival festival

you can buy a copy of the lp here

Friday, 16 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 96 - Wicked Man's Rest by Passenger

96 - Wicked Man's Rest by Passenger 2007

At my last job a box of random cds appeared one day and we were told to help ourselves. I ended up picking the debut lp by the band Passenger on the strength of it's cover alone. What a result. Ten songs that are a little bit folk that combine interesting use of samples with jangly guitars and slightly off kilter vocals.

Walk You home starts as tale of unrequited love but soon moves on to a much darker theme all to a jaunty backing that skips along

The highlight of the lp is the title track. I've no idea what it is about but the lyrics paint some arresting imagery and the whole things creates a sense of menace and unease.

There really isn't a duff track on the lp , in fact the 3rd single was one of the weaker ones

I guess the vocals may be a little marmite, but for me it fits perfectly these 10 quirky confessional tales

Walk in the Rain - Passenger

You can buy Wicked Man's Rest here but I'm afraid it is for silly money  - not bad for a pure punt on the cover!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 97 - The Swell Season by The Swell Season

97 The Swell Season by The Swell Season 2006

Glen Hansard former Commitment and singer songwriter with the Frames (more of them later) started a side project with Czech singer and pianist Markéta Irglová. The songs were recorded in 7 days with added strings.

He apparently sent a tape of the rough mix to Brian Eno who told him to release it exactly as it was

The duo ended up appearing in the film Once (now strangely a musical) with some of the lps songs featured included one that when on to win the Oscar

The whole lp is a subtle delight of heartbreak and pure emotion.

Lies - The Swell Season

You can buy the lp here and it is classic that kind of got lost in the film's success, and deserves to be heard on its own merits

Monday, 12 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 98 - Tom Here's the Weather by Shack

98 Tom Here's the Weather by Shack 2003

Second appearance by the Head brothers, after the Pale Fountains comes Shack. Although HMS Fable has one of my favourite singles in Comedy on it, the follow up just pips it.

Recorded in only 7 weeks , there is the usual classic 60s songwriting all with a woozy summery feel. A great example is this melt in the ears ballad

The Girl With the Long Brown Hair - Shack

They add in strings and horns to the guitars and plaintive vocals. The whole lp feels quite under stated even with the slightly psychedelic guitars in Chinatown

This strange clip seems to have the recorded version dubbing a live performance from when they supported Oasis. Either way Miles Apart is a lovely tune and one of John rather than Michael's songs

You can get Tom Here's the Weather here

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 99 - Remembrance Days by Dream Academy

99 Remembrance Days by The Dream Academy 1987

Some bands never top their debut lp and some use their debut as a springboard to better things. The Dream Academy is in the second group. Much as I loved the debut , it is the second lp Remembrance Days where I think they hit their peak. It just felt a more confident , cohesive collection. Even the cover of the Korgi's Everybody's Gotta Learn fits seamlessly and although not radically different to the original, somehow doesn't feel like a cover.

Lindsey Buckingham had a hand in the production and the ghost of 80s Fleetwood Mac can be felt in the smoothness of the sound

Opening single Indian Summer sets the tome and tries to repeat the chanting trick of Life in a Northern Town. I love the seagulls and the piano at the start the way the song builds and builds

There are some great pop tunes but it is the more reflective songs that work best.

I've posted 2 tracks the first has some wonderful harmonies over a Beatley tune and the second returns to the subject of Love parade from the first lp , the singers long term affair with a married woman.

Hampstead Girl - The Dream Academy

Ballad in 4/4 - the Dream Academy

You can get the lp here for silly money

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 100 - Funeral by Arcade Fire

100 - Funeral by Arcade Fire 2004

I resisted Arcade Fire for ages under some misguided emperor's new clothes perception. Someone lent me the 3rd cd and I realised that they knew what they were doing and went out and bought all 3 lps.

Funeral the debut just nudges it from the note quite as universally loved Neon Bible

Formed by the death of various family members there is a sense of loss that hangs over the whole lp. Driven along by a relentless rhythm section, with dense instrumentation set down in layers. Add on to that a lead vocal that at times sounds like fire and brimstone preacher  it can be a bit of an exhausting listen and more bible belt than Montreal

Gradually the subtleties reveal themselves and the lyrics start to tell their stories

Rebellion - Arcade Fire

You can buy Funeral here

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 101 - Kaputt by Destroyer

101 - Kaputt by Destroyer 2011

I've got Toronto Tim to thank for this one. I'd have never bought it in a million years (thinking they were probably a Scandinavian death metal band) without his post on Trev's Hissy Fit

From 2011 but just as well could have been the same year as yesterdays post. It has got a Avalon Roxy Music , Prefab Sprout , Scritti Politti , etc. all stretching back to Steely Dan.

Even the lyrics a full of knowing references to Smash Hits , New order etc.

The sounds seem to be lifted form a 100 records you've loved before (Savage Night at the Opera could have come straight from Lo Life complete with Peter Hook bass) but the sound is so shiny and crisps that it moves ahead of retro pastiche into something much more modern.

The video from the title track starts like a Robert Palmer video and then turns it on its head. As a fan imagines life as a pop star "wasting your days , chasing some girls , chasing cocaine" and ends as a love letter to the british music press

Blue Eyes has the same fan in the bedsit land " a permanent figure of jacked up sorrow" writing poetry and obsessing about  a New Order loving girl.

Blue Eyes - Destroyer

The Bay of Bigs (detail) is a 20 min  bit of  gorgeous instrumentation that starts as if it wanted to be on a follow up to Tin Drum

Goodness knows what the 8 min suicide demo for Kara Walker is about but the sense of mood is spot on with some wonderful atmospheric guitar to get things going beofre the .. flute comes in !

I'll finish with a live version of my favourite track and the one the echoes those mid 80s scottish bands who had all listened to Steely Dan

You can by Kaputt here

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 102 - Pacific Street by the Pale Fountains

102 - Pacific Street by the Pale Fountains 1984

If I'm being honest depending on what day of the week it is it could have been this or their second lp the slightly harder From Across the Kitchen Table. Both lp are out of time. Pacific Street especially pulls on Love , Burt Bacharach, Scott Walker etc as inspiration.  They stuck out like a sore thumb in 1984/5 but if they'd been around in the days of Brit pop they would have been massive. Then again with the Head brother's luck it still probably wouldn't have happened (if fact it didn't as they were around with Shack .. more of whom later on in the 125)

Pacific Street wears its heart on its sleeve , strings fight for attention with subtle brass and woodwind and brass (I mean there is a flute in there that thankfully is as far form Jethro Tull as you could get). There are elements of jazz and slight blues , all mixed in with pure Beatles pop.

The whole thing bursts with the romanticism and innocence of youth

Don't Let Your Love Start a War - The Pale Fountains

The cd version I have is a bit of a cheat as it has some extra track son including their own almost breakthrough single the best song Burt Bacharach never wrote , Thankyou

Here they are on the Old Grey Whistle Test which highlights the problem , the sound doesn't translate that well  live ,although stick around for the wonderful 2nd track Palm of My Hand (one of the extra tracks on my version of the lp) also the record company seem to have got them into some sub Haircut 100 image

You can buy Pacific Street here its full of fantastic 3 min pop songwriting

Friday, 2 November 2012

Desert Island Discs 103 - Lowlife by New Order

103 - Lowlife by New Order 1985

New Order almost didn't make the list as by far their best lp is the compilation of their 12" singles Substance. However, I remembered the reverential way me and my friends gathered in someone's bedroom to listen to the new lp. The sleeve was a thing of beauty, the stark photos (featured as the band were badgered to become more accessible) the tracing paper cover sleeve , the complete lack of words. As a result we all stared intently at the record player speaker trying to find clues.

With New order the clues were always impossible or easy to find depending on your view as Barney Sumner's stream of consciousness lyrics could switch from the profound to the ridiculous in the space of a line

We'd had a preview with the single Perfect Kiss and the first shock was that a version was on the lp as at the time New Order lps were single free

Supposedly about the death of Ian Curtis (but as usual with the lyrics who could tell)this was no Atmosphere this was a full on dancefloor celebration " Pretending not to see the Gun I Said Lets go out and have some fun".

This is the lp where they got the mix of indie guitar and dance music spot on , creating a template that 100s would try to copy.

The lp is bookended by 2 of the great singles that never were , Face Up and the ultimate indie ,cowboy dance song!

Love Vigilantes - New Order

Better was to come with the next single

"These crazy words of mine so wrong they could be right"

As ever the vocals are all over the place but I'd take this fragility and vulnerability over technical perfection any day

You can buy Lowlife here