From ICA 268 :-

Urusei Yatsura formed in 1993. Founding members Fergus Lawrie and Graham Kemp met whilst attending the University of Glasgow. They recruited Elaine Graham as bassist, and the line-up was completed with the subsequent addition of Elaine’s brother, Ian Graham, on drums.

They took their band name from the manga Urusei Yatsura, written by Rumiko Takahashi, and contributed their first recording, “Guitars Are Boring”, to a compilation album released by the locally based Kazoo Club. This record in turn brought them to the attention of John Peel, who brought them in to do a session in 1994. They would go on to record 4 Peel Sessions in total, as well as appearing on the Evening Session for Steve Lamacq.

Over the years they released three albums: We Are Urusei Yatsura (1996), Slain By Urusei Yatsura (1998) and Everybody Loves Urusei Yatsura (2000). Albums in America and Japan were released under the name of Yatsura for legal reasons. There were also around a dozen commercially available singles, mostly on Che, a London-based indie label. Urusei Yatsura split in June 2001, but three of the members would resurface in 2009 as Project A-Ko with a really good collection of tunes on the album Yoyodyne.

The most obvious, and therefore lazy, comparisons are Pavement, Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth. As someone else has said elsewhere on t’internet, the sonic attacks of their songs were like three-minute bolts of lightning, and likewise, their debut album, snapped and crackled in a time when everything Brit-popped.

mp3:  Urusei Yatsura – Hello Tiger

From Slain By Urusei Yatsura. 

The closest the band ever got to commercial success. It reached #40 in the singles chart in February 1998.I wonder if things would have turned out different had they been invited to perform that week on Top of The Pops?



A guest posting by The Robster


The Beths are from Auckland, New Zealand, though they are at pains to point out it’s actually Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa in the native Maori. They formed in 2014 after meeting at university and named themselves after singer/songwriter Elizabeth Stokes. They came to my attention shortly before the release of their debut album. They struck me as a band who catered for my love of indie guitars, pop melodies, clever lyrics and vocal harmonies. All those things packaged together as one. I fell in love and remain so.

I recently saw them live and very good they were too. Most striking were the flawless vocal harmonies, sometimes involving all four members of the band. It is one of the reasons I like them so much. Funny, isn’t it, how some facets of the music can really grab you as much as, if not more than, the songs themselves. I’ve always been a sucker for a good vocal harmony.

To date, The Beths have released three albums. I’m not sure JC has ever mentioned them on these iconic pages, so I’d like to introduce them here for the uninitiated.


An Imaginary Compilation by THE BETHS


1. Silence Is Golden

Kicking off with a track from the band’s third and most recent album, 2022’s ‘Expert In A Dying Field’. It’s a record that didn’t grab me as immediately as the first two, but it’s a definite grower. This was its lead single and is the song that gives this ICA its title.

2. I’m Not Getting Excited

The opening track from second album ‘Jump Rope Gazers’ is one of the band’s loudest and hard-hitting. That doesn’t detract from its underlying pop sensibilities though.

3. You Wouldn’t Like Me

Elizabeth Stokes is a master at writing great tunes with a dark underbelly in the lyrics. I’m sure she’s not always writing from a personal perspective as I can’t imagine she’s as nasty as she makes herself out to be in this song. I do wonder if she is facing up to some demons in some of her work though. This is a highlight from the debut album ‘Future Me Hates Me’.

4. Jump Rope Gazers

The title track of The Beths’ second album is very possibly my favourite of theirs, which is unusual as it’s a slower-paced love song. But the tune hits me hard, and then when those harmonies start in the chorus – whoah! Credit really should also go to guitarist Jonathan Pearce who also records and produces the band’s music in his home studio. For me, this is where it all comes together perfectly.

5. Knees Deep

From ‘Expert In A Dying Field’. Here, Elizabeth laments her lack of bravery. “The shame!! I wish that I was brave enough to dive in / But I never have been and never will be / I’m coming in hot and freezing completely.” I know that feeling.


1. Idea/Intent

A couple non-album tracks now. This was the band’s furious debut single, first released in 2015, it then appeared on the following year’s ‘Warm Blood’ EP. It might be the only song in their canon to have swearing in it.

2.  A Real Thing

A single released between albums 2 and 3, its erratic chorus giving something of an alternative, almost post-punk feel to it. I can understand how they felt this wasn’t right for the second album so held it over as a standalone single.

3. Uptown Girl

Not a cover of the Billy Joel song! It’s better than that, a rollicking ride through the realisation that a relationship isn’t what our protagonist thought it was so decides to go out and drown her sorrows, painting the town red in the process. My favourite track from the first album.

4. Whatever

The second single, Whatever appeared on the ‘Warm Blood’ EP, but was also felt good enough for the debut album. Some more nice harmonies in this one.

5. Best Left

Rounding off with my favourite track from the latest album. I actually wanted to include the title track somewhere, but just couldn’t find a place for it. Besides, that would make 11 tracks which is cheating. This song sounds like a good place to finish off.

If you want more, check out The Beths’ recent KEXP live session here:

The Robster

60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #13


Standing On A Beach – The Cure (1986)

So….does it mean that Standing On A Beach coming in at #13, one place ahead of Singles Going Steady, is the more favoured record?

Absolutely not!!!

I couldn’t separate them in terms of preference, but a couple of things led to me putting The Cure just above Buzzcocks.

Firstly, the two sides of vinyl consist entirely of A-sides.  Secondly, unlike the Buzzcocks compilation, Standing On A Beach was a commercial success, reaching #4 and selling around 100,000 copies.  Part of this might have been down to a greater willingness of fans to now shell out for compilation albums, but it might also have had something to do with the fact that its contents spanned the period 1978-1985 and a number of the earliest 45s were increasingly hard to find.

There are 13 tracks all told.  Side One goes from Killing An Arab (1978) through to The Hanging Garden (1982).   For the most part, these seven songs represent The Cure at their most gothic  – well, at least to that point in time, as there was more dark material later in the career.  Only two of the tracks had actually made it into the Top 40 when originally released.

Side Two goes from Let’s Go To Bed (1982) through to Close To Me (1985) and generally represents the more commercially successful era of early Cure, with four of the six songs being top 20 hits.

I remember thinking at the time that the career-spanning compilation was perhaps a sign that Robert Smith & co were considering calling it a day.  Just as well that I never went to a bookie and asked for odds, given that there have been a further seven studio albums and two more singles compilations in the ensuing years, not to mention remix and live releases and the countless tours that have been undertaken.  Smith might now be 64 years of age, but he shows no signs of slowing up.

mp3: The Cure – Primary

Now….at this point I had intended to offer up Primary……but Dirk featured it recently as part of his wonderfully curated 111 singles series.

Primary is not one of their better known singles in that it peaked at #43 in 1981.  It’s the one more than any other which highlights how close they were, melodically speaking, to the early-mid 80s Bunnymen.  Or maybe that’s just me…….

Along with A Forest, this was regularly aired at the ‘dining room disco’ on Saturday nights at Strathclyde Students Union – that was the location where the playlist was eclectic and spanned the years whereas the upstairs Level 8, as well as being the hall in which bands played live, was also the disco where the pop hits of the day would be played.  It was where many of us lay down our raincoats and grooved……

Primary, despite not making the Top 40, was responsible for The Cure’s first ever appearance on Top of The Pops.

And, as Dirk also mentioned, the song was made with two bass guitars and drums.  No keyboards or six-string guitars…..just an innovative use of effects pedals.

So….instead of that, here’s one of the big hits.  A song that is up there with the best 45s from the 80s.

mp3: The Cure – In Between Days




As is now the tradition on the first day of each month.  60 minutes of music that should allow you to shake your bodies down to the ground, before it all ends with a different type of anthem.

mp3: Various – Out In Clubland (Having Fun?)

Pet Shop Boys – Shameless
Placebo – Teenage Angst

Interpol – Slow Hands
Lush (feat Jarvis Cocker) – Ciao!
Arab Strap – (If There’s) No Hope For Us
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark – Messages
Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out Of My Head
At The Drive-In – One Armed Scissor
Soft Cell – Bedsitter (12″)
De La Soul – Eye Know
Oui 3 – Break From The Old Routine
The Hardy Boys  – Wonderful Lie
The Specials – Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)
Gorillaz (feat. Mark E Smith) – Glitter Freeze
Wire – Fragile
Aztec Camera– The Red Flag

Finishes just in time to allow you to catch the last bus home.


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #14


Singles Going Steady – Buzzcocks (1981)

There was no way I couldn’t include this ‘greatest hits’ compilation in the rundown.   Buzzcocks were one of the very best singles bands of the post-punk/new wave era.   Their first two albums weren’t too shabby either, but both had their moments when things went a little bit off-kilter or too far on the experimental side to make for a perfect listen.  Singles Going Steady, no matter which side of the vinyl you play, can make a justified claim for 10/10.

A reminder of what we are looking at here.

The album was pulled together by IRS, the band’s American label, to coincide with a tour of the USA and Canada in 1979.  It consisted of all eight singles that had been released in the UK between 1977 and 1979. Side One of the album had them in chronological order, beginning with Orgasm Addict and ending with Harmony In My Head, while Side Two had all the b-sides, opening with Whatever Happened To? and closing with Something’s Gone Wrong Again.

It wasn’t initially readily available in the UK except on import, and it was only given an official release over here, in November 1981, after the band first break-up.

I didn’t know this until doing a bit of background research for today’s post, and I certainly wouldn’t have believed anyone who told me, but Singles Going Steady failed to hit the Top 100 on the album charts back in 1981.   Six of the singles had been Top 40 – the exceptions were Orgasm Addict and I Don’t Mind – while the two studio albums from the same period had both gone Top 20.  But, for whatever reason, there was no appetite at all for the compilation.  It may well have been that diehard fans had picked it up on import, or maybe having copies of all the singles felt there was nothing to be gained from picking them up again in album form, but it’s a bit of a head scratcher.

As I mentioned earlier, it doesn’t really matter if you choose to play Side Two of the album to begin with.  Indeed, there’s something to be said from doing things that way, as it delivers a lengthy but magnificent overture prior to the main act.  Songs such as Noise Annoys and Lipstick would surely have been hit singles if released as A-sides, while Oh Shit! is one of the greatest anthems of its time, ninety-six seconds of adrenalin-fuelled pop-punk that was totally incapable of being aired on any radio station.

mp3:  Buzzcocks – Oh Shit!

Pete Shelley once told an interviewer in the early days that his hope for Buzzcocks songs was that they could stand the test of time.  I’m not sure if he quite managed that with all the later material, but there can be no doubts about the tunes on Side A of Singles Going Steady. And it’s all done and dusted in not much more than 20 minutes.

I had also forgotten that, in keeping with the ethos of the time, very few of the singles were actually included on any contemporary albums – I Don’t Mind was on Another Music In A Different Kitchen, while Ever Fallen In Love was included on Love Bites. Buzzcocks believed in the joy and perfection of 7″ singles, including the artwork and design.

mp3:   Buzzcocks – Everybody’s Happy Nowadays

Except for those of you whose favourite albums have been missed out in this rundown……


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #15


The Wedding Present – Seamonsters (1991)

#15.   Not too bad for an album that nearly didn’t make the cut.   But then again, Take Fountain, the ‘comeback’ album in 2005 from The Wedding Present, would likely have occupied as lofty a position.

I’ve never shied away from the fact that I was late to The Wedding Present. By 1991, I did have a lot of what they had released, all bought in something of a hurry to make up for being so late – it was hearing Kennedy in a record shop that had finally got me hooked.

Seamonsters was to be their third studio album, but it was one that I knew was going to be totally different from what had come before, thanks to hearing songs they had played in session for John Peel in October 1990. It was one of those occasions when I later regretted not taping anything at the time- it just wasn’t something I was in the habit of doing – and furthermore this was a period when I wasn’t an avid listener to the show as I wasn’t long after moving into a flat with Rachel, and we were in those first throes of love where you seemed to be constantly joined at the hip – she must have been out visiting some of her friends that night as there would be no other reason as to why I could have been tuning into Radio 1 late in the evening.

Anyways, the noises which came out of the radio during the latter half of a song called Dalliance seemed to come from a completely different planet.  It very much stayed with me, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it when It was finally put on the next album, which turned out to be May 1991.

I wrote about Dalliance when I pulled together ICA 7, describing it as a stunning and unexpected wall of sound that took the band to a whole new level in terms of fanbase and out of the realms of mere indie-pop.

But the very same words could be written about any of the ten tracks on the two sides of the vinyl.  It is up there with as perfect an album as I have in my collection – which is not something I’ll be readily able to claim with some of the remaining 14 in this rundown.

mp3: The Wedding Present – Heather

Choosing to work with Steve Albini in a remotely located studio in rural Minnesota was a major gamble on everyone’s part, and it has to be admitted that the experience would lead to the fracturing of relationships and later changes in band personnel.  The musicians clearly suffered quite a bit for their art, but from a purely selfish perspective, I’ll say it was a price well worth paying.

I’ll make no apologies for foisting two very intense and dark albums on you over consecutive days.   I promise that tomorrow, the start of a new month and the actual one in which I will celebrate my 60th birthday, will have something a bit easier on the soul.



aka The Vinyl Villain incorporating Sexy Loser

#020– David Bowie – ‚”Heroes” (RCA Victor Records ’77)


Dear friends,

aaah … Berlin, summer of 1977 – an island of fun in a desert of boredom!! No military draft, a vibrant atmosphere, no cold war in sight yet, the Soviets taking real good care of their protégés with a solid wall helping them to keep Western influence at bay! Fun, fun, fun for everyone – and who was there in those golden days, enjoying the big party? Yes, David Bowie and his chum Iggy Pop! On a working holiday, as you would call it these days, with Pop recording ‘Lust For Life’, the album, and Bowie recording, well, ‘”Heroes”’, the album, in the famous Hansa Tonstudios, located a stone’s throw away from the Berlin wall – Köthener Strasse in Kreuzberg actually.

And this location is of some importance for the story the song tells us: ‘”Heroes”’ was a produced by a chap named Tony Visconti. Also recording in a different part of the studio was Antonia Maaß with The Messengers, some jazz-rock-combo. If you listen closely, you can also hear her singing in the background on ‘”Heroes”’, in fact. Now, every once in a while, Bowie would stop whatever he was doing, and stare out of the studio’s window a bit, thinking whatever pop stars have to think about. And quite often he noticed a couple caressing right at the wall, always at the same place, directly below an East German gun turret. What Bowie couldn’t understand was why on earth – with so many nice and certainly more romantic places within the city – this couple would always meet there: underneath the bloody gun turret, probably with the NVA border guards above them jeering foolishly whenever they kissed!

Either way, that’s where they used to meet, for reasons only becoming obvious to Bowie a bit later: first the couple was unknown to him, but being a clever bloke, he quickly realized that whenever he saw them kissing down there at the wall, his producer and background singer were always absent. So the famous protagonists which ‘”Heroes”’ tells us about, were – as you will already have gathered – Tony and Antonia. With Tony – surprise, surprise – being married to Mary Hopkin at the time: that’s Mary Hopkin who did the damn awful ‘Those Were The Days’ back in 1968. I’m tempted to say that the sheer abomination of this song, at least in my book, might even justify a bit of betrayal to Mary!

So, that’s the story behind ‘”Heroes”’, friends. As far as I’m concerned, by and large everything else that could be said about this song has already been said elsewhere. Apart from the fact that all of the inverted commas above, which most surely you have been wondering about all the time, are there for a sense: the idea behind them was to create some ironic distance to the rather romantic and/or pathetic lyrics. So there you are …:




mp3:  David Bowie – “Heroes”

And before you think: “Ah, no need to download this – I know it by heart!” … no, probably you don’t! Why? Because this is the radio-friendly 7” version, which you don’t hear all too often. Perhaps you have never even heard it, who knows, I mean: does radio-friendlyness still exist in the days of internet at all? Either way, this version here is cut down from 6:07 minutes to 3:32 minutes, which gives quite a new feeling to a song so well known. One of my all time favorites, this, in all of its versions!




60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #16


Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Let Love In (1994)

From the days when Nick Cave albums were greeted, in the main, by shrugs of indifference and the accompanying tours were played in regular sized venues with tickets very much at the affordable end of the scale.

I’m not going to use this occasion to say that the old days were the best, or that I begrudge the success that has come his way in more recent times.   I’ve had a few chats with Adam from Bagging Area about Nick Cave, and I really understand why the releases of the past few albums have been so meaningful in terms of dealing with loss and grief in ways very few of us will ever experience, but my own preferences date back to the days before The Guardian and other broadsheet papers discovered there was lots to look into and analyse every time a Bad Seeds album was released.  The tide began to turn with The Boatman’s Call in 1997, but the use of much of his music in the TV series Peaky Blinders (2013-2022) took it to a level none of us who had followed him from way back could ever have imagined.

This whole 60 albums thing has been an exercise in nostalgia and has provoked all sorts of memories of the different occasions when records were bought, videos/performances were watched on TV (and often recorded onto VHS tapes), shapes were thrown on dance floors and sweat was worked up at gigs.   The Bad Seeds have brought immense amounts of pleasure at various halls in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London over an extended period of time, as their collective musicianship, no matter who happens to have been asked to come along for the ride on any particular tour, has been second to none.  But I can’t ever see myself going to the 12,000 capacity or outdoor venues to see them….if it does turn out that the Usher Hall, Edinburgh gig in November 2013 was the last time, then it will have been one of the best, thanks in part to the great Barry Adamson being part of the Bad Seeds on the Push The Sky Away tour.

This was another band in which a number of releases were considered for inclusion in the rundown.  But I’ve always edged towards thinking that Let Love In is his true masterpiece.

In some places, it delivers a very menacing sound, over which Cave delivers some of his best gothic poetry.  At other times, there are love songs, some of which are straight forward, while others are downright creepy.  There’s a lot of dark and self-deprecating humour on the album, the sort that really only becomes apparent after a few listens. It also has this:-

mp3:  Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Red Right Hand

For decades, one of the most loved songs in the entire back catalogue.  It was played on most tours and, without exception, rapturously received.  One of the hidden gems, so to speak. These days, thanks to its association with the antics of the fictional Shelby family, it is now, without any shadow of a doubt, the best known of all his songs.   It is one of many highlights of an outstanding album.

I remember reading a review of Let Love In at the time, and one particular phrase jumped out at me.  I’ve done a bit of digging, and it turns out it was penned/typed by Phil Sutcliffe for Q Magazine in May 1994.

“If Leonard Cohen made Iggy Pop pregnant, he’d give birth to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.”



60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #17


Lloyd Cole and The Commotions – Rattlesnakes (1984)

It’s often said that any singer or band’s debut album, no matter how long the ensuing career proves to be, is their best and most enduring.  It’s a case that can be backed up by the fact that a fair number of the records in this countdown were debuts.

The thing is, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions would later release two more hugely enjoyable albums post-debut.  Lloyd Cole as a solo artist, is just about to release his 13th solo record, while there was also one further album under the name of Lloyd Cole and The Negatives.   While a couple of the solo releases have been a tad on the experimental or lo-fi side, all of them have much to offer, as hopefully highlighted by various posts on this blog over the years.

But, and given the fact that many of the songs have, to popular acclaim, been kept in the live sets over the past almost 40 years, there is no doubt that Lloyd’s devoted fans are near universal in the view that Rattlesnakes is his very best.

It’s an album very much of its time and place.  Glasgow in 1983/4 seemed to be the most amazing place to live, with its musical scene seemingly scaling all sorts of new and exciting heights.   Every gig seemed to be packed with A&R reps coming up from London in the hope of finding ‘the next big thing.’   The big bands came and played the Apollo, but there were also so many other fantastic venues such as Tiffany’s, Night Moves and The Plaza, while the student unions at Glasgow and Strathclyde University, Glasgow Art School and Glasgow School of Art were also very much part of the ‘indie’ touring circuit.  There were also an increasing number of modern city centre pubs that were far removed from the traditional boozers in which anyone could drop in and spot an established or aspiring musician, actor, painter, poet or comedian, with the Rock Garden and Nico’s being near the top of such lists.

Lloyd Cole and his band were a big part of the buzz.  The frontman, although not from the city, was at one of its universities.  Copies of some demos were in circulation and it was apparent that the frontman had somehow found Glasgow’s best guitarist and keyboard players and persuaded them to join his band, while he’s recruited a rhythm section that wasn’t shabby. We were only a couple of years removed from the Postcard era and the enthusiastic amateurism that had been involved in the early recordings, but The Commotions, and many of their peers in the city, were now ensuring .professionalism and skilled playing was very much to the fore.

The strange thing is…..the songs weren’t huge commercial successes.  Debut single Perfect Skin reached #26, but the two follow-ups didn’t hit the Top 40.  The album did spend four months or so in the charts between October 84 and February 85, but mostly at the lower end.

And yet, everyone I knew seemed to own a copy of the vinyl.  Like a few other acts who have already been in this rundown, along with others still to feature, this was a band for the student population, or the 80s bedsit generation as it has been dubbed – and of which I am a proud card-carrying member.

It’s all too easy to get nostalgic about the past, but I wouldn’t swap my era for any other.  And I’m certainly incredibly happy that my student years of 81-85, and in particular the last two when I was living in shared accommodation with friends, coincided with such a high point in the city’s musical history.  Rattlesnakes was the soundtrack to so much of what went on, and as such, it’ll always be one of my favourite albums until the day I take my final breath.

mp3:  Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Charlotte Street




2009 opened up with the Pet Shop Boys being given the Outstanding Achievement Award at the Brit Awards, and invited to perform at the close of the ceremony.  

A month later, on 16 March 2009, a new single is released.


mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Love etc.

A jaunty and upbeat number that was co-written with Xenomania, an English-based songwriting and production team that has been part of countless pop hits since their breakthrough with Girls Aloud back in 2002.

It has a poppy sing-a-long chorus and was just the latest example of PSB going off in a direction that nobody really expected.  I’m not convinced it’s their finest ever moment, but there’s no disputing that it’s one of those that would get an audience clapping along to. But there’s a sense that this is one more akin to the disposable pop market, and maybe that’s as much to do with the co-writers rather than Neil and Chris. 

If the hope had been to deliver a major return to the singles charts, and let’s not forget the Brits Award appearance a few weeks earlier would have offered a higher profile than they had enjoyed for a few years, then it didn’t pay off.  It entered at #14 and disappeared within three weeks….I’m guessing Radio 1 proved to be immune from its charms.

It was issued across a range of formats, including  a CD single, a CD remix single, an iTunes single and an iTunes EP. Oh, and a 7″ picture disk as the an early indication that a vinyl revival was on its way.

CD single

mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Gin and Jag

This is one of those songs which benefits from repeated listens.   It might initially feel like a bit of a downbeat plodder, but the nature of the music really does match the nature of the lyric.   It’s one of those that could, ostensibly, work well in the great short stories series. It’s worth explaining that Gin and Jag is a bit of slang, most often used to have a dig at upper-middle class people from the south of England whose lifestyles centre around ostentatious displays of wealth.

Don’t stare at the setting sun
and say youth is wasted on the young
Don’t stare at the setting sun
and say youth is wasted on the young

Pour another gin, love
and go easy on the tonic
Tonight I’m in a frisky mood
I’m going supersonic

Boredom deplores a vacuum
A sentiment I applaud
There’s a lot of room at the inn tonight
but I trust you won’t be bored

This is quite a view, you must admit
some would pay the earth
Be careful with that decanter, dear
Do you know how much it’s worth?

I made a pile and got out quick
I never got a gong
for services rendered but it’s not a case
of where did it all go wrong?

When we chatted on the internet
I was looking for more than a friend
In my day I was quite a catch
I wish you’d seen me then

Young and single, free and easy
handsome in my prime
“Grab it while you can” is my advice
Don’t waste your bloody time

Never married, no kids that I know of
Didn’t want a litter
Might have been a mistake, I admit
but you don’t want to end up bitter

Yes, I had a few golden years
Times I won’t forget
But don’t write me off as an old has-been
It’s not all over yet

I know my taste isn’t everyone’s
I’m a little too Gin and Jag
If you don’t want to give it a go tonight
you may as well pack your bag

When we chatted on the internet
I was looking for more than a friend
In my day I was quite a catch
I wish you’d seen me then

Don’t stare at the setting sun
and say youth is wasted on the young
Don’t stare at the setting sun
and say youth is wasted on the young

iTunes single

mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – We’re All Criminals Now

Another deceptively good b-side, and IMHO, far superior to the actual single, offering a commentary on the increased used of CCTV surveillance within everyday life.

Just a week later, the tenth studio album, Yes, was released.   Coming it at #4, it delivered their best chart position since Bilingual back in 1996, but as was very much the case these days, didn’t hang around for too long and was outside the Top 100 after five weeks.


The second single to be lifted from Yes was released on 1 June 2009

mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Did You See Me Coming?

Yup…..that’s Johnny Marr on guitar again to offer his assistance as the duo again a chase of summer pop perfection.   Fair play to everyone for keeping things going after all these years, but this is the sort of song that just washes over me.   As I said a couple of weeks back, this is a period of time in which I wasn’t giving much attention to PSB, and while there’s been a couple of b-sides that have made me sit up all these years later, I don’t think I really missed out on things.

Bear with me on how this one was released.

CD 1 with two songs.  CD maxi-single with three songs. 12″ vinyl. Three (yup, count them!!!) digital bundles with different mixes as additional songs, along with the opportunity to enjoy the Pet Shop Boys Brit Awards Medley as had been performed earlier in the year.  All told, there were three new tracks that hadn’t featured on Yes.

mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – After The Event
mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – The Former Enfant Terrible
mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Up and Down

What I like about these three as a collective is that they are all very obviously PSB songs, but they are all quite different in style, tempo and delivery.  The duo clearly still cared about their craft and showed no signs of wanting to reach the stage where any old rubbish would do for b-sides, and while some of the CDs and digital bundles did go very heavily on the remix side of things, there was much to be gained from seeking out the b-sides, and fair play to them for bringing them altogether on a later compilation.

There was one final bit of product before the year was out.


Christmas was released on 14 December.  It was a five-track EP consisting of a new version of a track previously released as a fan club single in 1997, a new version of a song lifted from Very, a cover of a song by Madness, a remix of the cover and a medley involving one of their old hits with a more recent one by Coldplay.

mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – It Doesn’t Often Snow At Christmas (new version)
mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – All Over The Word (new version)
mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – My Girl

The most interesting thing is that if you weren’t aware of the original, you’d very much be thinking My Girl was a PSB original.

The Christmas EP entered the charts at #40.  Not that we knew it at the time, but it proved to be the last PSB single/EP to get into the Top 40.

I suppose I better:-

mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Viva La Vida/Domino Dancing

I’m saying nothing.





From wiki :-

The Unwinding Hours were a Scottish alternative rock band formed in 2008 by former Aereogramme members Craig B. and Iain Cook. The band released their self-titled debut album on 15 February 2010 and Afterlives in 2012, as well as several tour/live EPs.

The duo announced their project in August 2009 with the following statement: “We used to play in a band called Aereogramme. That may or may not matter to you. Just thought I’d mention it”

The band made their live debut at Celtic Connections in January 2010, performing at Chemikal Underground‘s “15th Anniversary” concert. They played their first headlining show to a sold-out crowd in Stereo, Glasgow, on 5 March, opening with the words “We are The Unwinding Hours. And we’re going to start with the end”, before playing the closing track from their debut album. For some of their gigs, the base duo of The Unwinding Hours added musicians Graeme Smillie (guitar), Brendan Smith (keyboards) and Jonny Scott (drums).

The band has not been active since 2013, with Iain Cook focusing on Chvrches and Craig B. releasing solo material as A Mote of Dust.

Here’s the opening track from Afterlives

mp3: The Unwinding Hours – Break


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #18


The Clash – London Calling (1979)

Often cited as one of the best and most important albums of the 80s was, in fact, released on 14 December 1979, just seven days after its title track has been released as a single.

For all that The Clash were a massively popular band in the UK at the end of the 70s, their records never really sold in hugely massive quantities.  Until one of their songs was used to soundtrack a jeans advert in 1991 (and thus find its way to #1 when re-released), London Calling delivered their best ever singles chart position when it reached #11 in the middle of January 1980.

The parent album, as you can see from the sticker that was attached to the front of it, cost £5, which was actually superb value for a double album, but was still a bit more expensive than most other records sitting in the racks. How else to explain that while previous release Give ‘Em Enough Rope had debuted at #2, London Calling did no better than #9.  It is true that the busy Christmas market wouldn’t have helped matter in terms of a chart position, but the album only stuck around for 20 weeks all told, which in those days was almost like the blink of an eye  – for instance, Regatta De Blanc, which was released by The Police in October 1979, would enjoy a 74-week stay in the charts.

The Clash, however, had credibility and kudos well beyond any of their peers.  It’s quite strange looking back at things now, just how far removed their music was in comparison to what had been recorded for the self-titled debut album some two-and-a-half years previously.  The sound of a punk rock band had been replaced by a confident rock band, one that wasn’t afraid to hide away from its many influences.

One of my later flatmates in Edinburgh in the mid-80s had been a punk in a large village on the outskirts of Glasgow.  He told me that London Calling had been a really difficult record to love when it was released. He was 16-years old and all he really wanted was loud and fast guitars, over which should ideally be shouted incomprehensible but angry sounding lyrics.   The new album by The Clash had been too polished in many places for his liking.

Worse than that was the fact that his slightly older sister, whose tastes veered towards the standard rock fare of the mid 70s onwards, thought that the album was a classic and had taken great delight in telling her sibling that the double album was all the proof you needed that punk was dead and that the only way to have longevity and success in the music industry was through being able to play.  I can only imagine the arguments which broke out in that household back then…….

But, it is very much the case that London Calling changed everything for The Clash. It’s an album that enabled the breakthrough in America, something which none of their punk/new wave contemporaries from the UK managed to achieve without turning into some sort of comic book parody…..and yes, I’m thinking of you Billy Idol.

As with Parallel Lines, there’s a few songs that have proven not to quite have the same timelessness as others, which is the reason it appears slightly lower in the rundown than I anticipated when pulling it together.

This, however, is timeless.

mp3:  The Clash – Clampdown


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #19


Blondie- Parallel Lines (1978)

Here’s one that was sitting in the Top 10 when I began pulling this series together, but has slipped a little bit as I re-played a number of albums in their entirety for the first time in years.

There’s a huge amount to love about Parallel Lines. It really is that moment in history when those of us who loved listening to new wave music but would be just as happy and comfortable dancing to disco music found a perfect match. (I can’t say dancing in a discotheque, as I was still of an age where school or church halls would have to suffice). Oh, and being a mid-teen heterosexual also meant that Blondie‘s lead singer was the stuff of dreams, dry, wet or otherwise.

Parallel Lines was played a lot in the house I grew up in.   It wasn’t the biggest of houses, and I shared a room with two young brothers and while I didn’t always have the space to myself to play my records (most of which were 45s), there was a stereo system in the living room that I’d take ownership of on those occasions when neither my mum and dad were at home.

Come 1983 and through to 1985, I lived in a couple of student flats – the first one being owned by the University (three sharing) and the other by a private landlord (six sharing the bills plus at least two/three others at all times).  Music and VHS tapes were the epicentre of life in both homes.  Most of time, it would be newly released singles and albums that would be put on the main turntable in the communal area, but it wasn’t always easy to find something that went down well with everyone living in the flat, especially the second one whereso many minds had different tastes.  On quite a few occasions, Parallel Lines kept everyone content….it really is the sort of record that nobody can complain about.

It’s an album that I didn’t play much for a long time, from say 1990 onwards.   It was always there, and it would get a spin every few years, but it was far from being on regular rotation. Having said that, no matter how long it had been since I last heard it, I still knew every word and piece of instrumentation off by heart.

It’s still an excellent record.   In particular, its four smash singles are of a quality that is hard to beat.  The thing is, there are eight other tracks spread across its 40 minutes, some of which now, from the passing of time, seem a bit one-dimensional and border on the dull, which is why it found itself slipping down the rundown, albeit it has cosied into a place in the Top 20.

mp3:  Blondie – Picture This

The first, and least successful, of the singles has proven itself to be the most enduring as far as I’m now concerned.  It wasn’t always like that, and indeed in a few weeks or months time, I’ll most likely be telling myself that Heart of Glass is the one to top them all.


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #20


Aztec Camera- High Land, Hard Rain (1983)

Unlike Arab Strap, I know this one got a lot of traction when written in July 2019.  Indeed, I’m going to include what a number of you said in the comments section at the time, meaning you don’t, unless you really want to, feel any obligation to come in again this time around!

“Notwithstanding that some of the production has dated somewhat there surely can be no counter-arguments to the motion that ‘The first Aztec Camera LP is one of the greatest albums in Scottish history’.

High Land, Hard Rain is packed with ridiculously catchy and memorable tunes and some wonderfully observant lyrics, many of which were written before Roddy Frame had reached his 18th birthday. He was also astute enough to recognise that the sublime We Could Send Letters deserved a far better fate than to wither as a b-side on an obscure and hard-to-find 45 on Postcard Records, and in doing so he takes what was already a very special song and turns it into something as beautiful as the sun going down of a late June evening off the west coast of Scotland. The album version has a slightly slower tempo than the Postcard version which enables the song to breathe a little bit more, and at almost a minute longer in length, it accommodates a cracking guitar solo:-

“The album yielded two hit and popular singles in Oblivious (still a staple part of indie-discos the world over some 40 years on) and Walk Out To Winter (although the remix version released as a 45 is one of those that hasn’t aged as well as others).

“The track, however, I find myself most returning to is the one from which a portion of lyric was lifted to give the album its title:-

mp3 : Aztec Camera – The Boy Wonders

“A joyous celebration of youth with that fearless take on things that you have in your teenage years….it’s just that Roddy was far more capable of articulating it than any of us. It’s also an absolute floor-filler with a hi-tempo tune that I feel is akin to one of those ceilidh number that leave you breathless at the end of the set dance.

And just when you need a perfect come down number, there’s the acoustic number that closes everything off:-

“Allegedly named after a pub in East Kilbride whose staff weren’t that fussed about serving underage drinkers…………

Nic Ros : Agree 100% with every word. Boy Wonder indeed. Even referred to Strummer.

Jacques : Five stars

Flimflamfan : I agree entirely. An LP that was played and played and played and played. It still is.  I couldn’t count the number of times Down the Dip graced the close of side 2 of my c90 compilation tapes. Ah.

The definition of a ‘classic’ LP

Lorne Thomson : The Eastenders Doof Doof’s on We Could Send Letters is the only bad moment on it.

Gavin O’Neill : I grew up in Napa, California, and this album probably defined my early teen boyhood more than any other. It got me young and in the heart and I love it to this day. Wish we could see the non-Postcard, pre-HLHR stuff.

Alex : How many records can you think of that both musically and lyrically exudes some of the sheer youthful joy of being alive, and in it’s melodic exuberance has a genuine positive influence on raising your spirits ? That can get you wrapped up in teenage dramas of the importance of which badges adorn your jacket, which punk rock stars posters you remove from your wall, relatives commenting on how you’ve grown since they last saw you, first live, first sex, stolen wine, smashing bottles in streets just for the hell of it, and do it in such a natural, unaffected, believable manner that you care about and relate to the protagonist in these vignettes from remembered experiences in your own life?

This is genuinely the only one I can think of. It is a great, great record.

It is not without it’s darker themes as well, the often quoted above We Could Send Letters obviously dealing with the effects of heavy drug addiction. Yes, it is absolutely spooky how a 17 or whatever year old penned these lyrics that are more real, and moving than, say Neil Young’s The Needle and the Damage Done. Maybe coming from East Kilbride had something to do with that of course.

I too would love for the early material to be collected, curated and released. Roddy’s early songs totally deserve that treatment. It breaks my heart that Just Like Gold in particular is not available anywhere.

A wee footnote is that, having made the ultimate jangly indie pop record, Aztec Camera moved on immediately. Roddy was simply too talented to stay in the guise of the fringed jacket wearing hipster teenage seer for long, but I bet 90% of the people who cherish this LP secretly wish he had.

Friend Of Rachel Worth : Totally missed we could send letters was about drug addition ! Going to relisten as I took it very literally always thought it was about a girl going a way to uni whilst the boy stays at home

Echorich: No argument here! And I have to agree with Alex, that while it would have been nice for Frame to explore the jangle a bit more, the fact he was satisfied to move one only enhanced his importance in my mind.

The Swede: You’ll hear no arguments from me either.



aka The Vinyl Villain incorporating Sexy Loser

#019– The Cure – ‚Primary’ (Polydor Records ’81)


Hello friends,

well, back to a band everybody knows and loves: The Cure. Obviously there are easily a dozen singles I could have chosen by The Cure, all of them are perfectly fine in many different ways. But if it comes to numbering them all down to just one, the choice has to be ‘Primary’, I would think.

Yes, at first sight, ‘Primary’ might seem rather an uncharacteristic song to go for – it is unusual in that both Simon Gallup and Robert Smith play bass, with the effects pedals on Smith’s giving the leads a unique sound. There are no guitars (other than bass) or keyboards played in the song. Still, at least to me, it is fascinating how Smith manages to mix this sparse instrumentation and the rapid tempo into something so wonderful. It is often said that his voice is easily his most incredible instrument, and ‘Primary’ shows that there is more than an element of truth in this. Combined with his songwriting ability, his lyrics and his music, his polarizing voice is what makes The Cure so special, so magical in fact.

Taken from The Cure’s third album ‘Faith’, ‘Primary’ seems to be a tale of unrepentant youth and the beauty thereof. The unknowing of just how awful the world and other people can actually be. Apparently Smith felt so strongly about this at the time, that with the lyrics he was, “toying with the idea that it may be better to die very young, innocent and dreaming …. or even to murder as a gift …”. Now, today, to me and you, this may sound complete bollocks of course: but, mind you, we’re approaching 60 very fast and used our old age to learn a little bit about life altogether – but Robert Smith was just 22 when he wrote this tune!

And because this series is also meant to have some educational aspect every once in a while, you’ll be pleased to learn that ‘Primary’ was listed on fan-recorded bootlegs as having the title ‘Cold Colours’, which was the original working title of the song’s demo. This is also known as ‘Primary (Yellow Version)’. The song’s original lyrics, as featured on John Peel’s 1981 Radio session, focus more so on the individual primary colours than in the final version. Basically the only line which survived from the demo version is the ‘Oh oh remember, please don’t change’ – refrain:



mp3:  The Cure – Primary

Of course there is the famous 12-inch single which features a slightly different version of ‘Primary’: it heavily extends the instrumental sections between the verses, which makes the tune even more enjoyable. But today it was the 7” (obviously), which, let’s face facts, wasn’t that bad either, right?




60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #21


Arab Strap – Philophobia (1998)

I know that many of you don’t engage when I write about Arab Strap, and indeed there’s probably a strong likelihood that you’ve quietly ignored a number of previous posts, letting me get on with a bit of self-indulgence.

As such, I have no qualms about doing a bit of cut’n’paste today, and regurgitating a piece from 2019, when I marked Philophobia‘s coming of age.  The piece was accompanied by four songs, and I’m keeping it that way today, except that three of them will involve YouTube videos with just the one mp3, thus keeping with how things have been done throughout the rundown.

Philophobia, the second studio album by Arab Strap is now 21 years old.

“It’s an impressively ambitious and sprawling record, coming in at 66 minutes, It has thirteen songs, all of which could pass as short stories or poems set to music. It’s never a comfortable listen, but it always manages to hold your attention throughout. It’s a brutally candid record, with the protagonist in each song seemingly all too often putting his mouth in motion before properly engaging his brain. It does occasionally seem to sail very close to the wind in terms of misogyny but if the songs are given a concentrated listen, and the lyrics are read closely in the wider context, it won’t take long to come to the realisation that in spitting out such venom, our singer is lashing out as a way to excuse or explain his many physical and social inadequacies.

“The lyrics throughout are incredible. Most reviews over the years have homed in on the opening five lines, and rightly so:-

It was the biggest cock you’d ever seen
But you’ve no idea where that cock has been
You said you were careful – you never were with me
I heard you did it four times
But johnnies come in packs of three

“If there has ever been a more shocking and heart-wrenchingly opening five lines to any album, then please enlighten me. It’s a song that takes your breath away from the offset and has such a powerful lyric that you are understandably distracted from the wonderfully understated guitar work going on in the background before the final emotional punch in the guts over the final minute and as the melancholic cello kicks in.

“My own favourite moments come a short time later. The scenario is a lover’s tiff at the end of a night out, probably after both sides have had too much to drink, and most certainly over something completely trivial but right now of such significance that the relationship seems doomed:-

“I defy anyone to listen and deny that they’ve never been in a similar situation.  It was there and then that I made my mind up that Aidan Moffat was the greatest Scottish lyricist of my generation, a view I have never wavered from these past two decades.

“Philophobia also made my mind up that Malcolm Middleton was the most talented Scottish musician and arranger of my generation. It takes a special sort of skill to come up with music to complement perfectly angst, pain and fear without it being maudlin, downbeat or depressing. The guitar parts are perfectly executed but there is also great use made of keyboards, drum machines, strings and the backing/co-vocals from Adele Bethel, especially on the song which paints a much more realistic post-sex picture than lighting up a cigarette and letting out a contended sigh.

“I’ve read that some critics don’t like the one-dimensional pace of Philophobia, with the opinion that an upbeat number or two, along the lines of First Big Weekend of The Summer  would have livened things up for the better.

“As you may have guessed by now, it’s not a view that I subscribe to. Arab Strap would in later years write and record some truly astonishing and memorable albums, but nothing ever quite came together as majestically as Philophobia.

“The sound of being insecure, nervous, scared, frustrated, flawed, bewildered, confused and far from OK has never been bettered.”

mp3 : Arab Strap – I Would Have Liked Me A Lot Last Night




My recollections of 1983 being as great a year as there has ever been in terms of the singles charts and the 45s truly standing the test of time must have, more or less, wiped out the fifth month of the year, certainly judging by the final chart of the last full week of the month, 22-28 May.

For the most part, the best of the songs were those that had featured in March and/or April and were thus on their way falling down or out of the charts – Heaven 17 (#4), Fun Boy Three (#9), Human League (#15), Tears For Fears (#18), New Order (#32), Kissing The Pink (#36) and David Bowie (#37).

Spandau Ballet‘s four-week run at #1 was ended by American pop/R’n’B act New Edition, whose Candy Girl was enjoying its sole week at the top.  It would be replaced at #1 in the chart of 29 May by this:-

mp3: The Police – Every Breath You Take

The highest new entry on 22 May 1983 at #7.  It’s one that has, to many, became annoying due to over-exposure both at the time and since, but I still reckon it’s a great and subversive piece of pop music, as evidenced by it being a much requested first-dance by new brides and grooms despite it being clearly unsuited for such a purpose.

Another mid-tempo tune with a melancholic subject matter was just one place below at #8:-

mp3 : Yazoo – Nobody’s Diary

The lead single from the duo’s second album would, in later weeks, provide them with their third Top 3 single after the success in 1982 of Only You and Don’t Go.  Nobody realised at the time that Vince Clarke and Alison Moyet had reached the end of their tethers in terms of working together, and Nobody’s Diary would prove to be their final 45, although the album, You and Me Both, would reach #1 on its release in July 1983, despite no second or further 45s to assist with promotion.

The rest of the Top 10 was made up by The Beat (with an appalling cover of an easy listening number originally released by Andy Williams in 1963), Wham!, Galaxy and Hot Chocolate, which makes the chart feel like some sort of visit to a sweet shop.

Just outside the Top 10 were a couple of 45s that I recall buying at the time:-

mp3: Bob Marley & The Wailers – Buffalo Soldier (#11)
mp3: The Style Council – Money Go Round (Part 1) (#12)

Bob Marley had passed away in 1981, and this was the first, but far from the last, posthumous single issued by Island Records. Buffalo Soldier would eventually climb to #4, which was the highest ever position any of the Wailers singles ever reached.

This was a new entry for The Style Council‘s second ever 45 but, unlike debut Speak Like A Child, it didn’t manage to crack the Top 10.

JoBoxers, a band that was largely made up of musicians who had previously been The Subway Sect, and backing band to Vic Godard, were enjoying their second hit 45 of the year:-

mp3:  JoBoxers – Just Got Lucky (#16)

The bottom end of the Top 40 was largely made up of songs/acts that I genuinely can’t recall – F.R. David, Forrest, D Train, Flash and The Pan, and MTune – or those I wish I could forget – Hall & Oates, Modern Romance, George Benson, Men At Work, Rush and Cliff Richard.

But down in the 30-somethings there were a couple of tunes that are well worth recalling:-

mp3: Big Country – In A Big Country (#34)
mp3: Robert Wyatt – Shipbuilding (#35)

Big Country‘s second hit single would eventually reach #17 and an extended version would be included on their debut album ,The Crossing, which went Top 3 and spent a remarkable 68 successive weeks in the Top 100 after its later release in August 1983.

Robert Wyatt‘s poignant and moving take on Elvis Costello‘s anti-war number had originally been released in August 1982 but had failed to trouble the charts, largely as it wasn’t aired on any radio stations. Come the end of the year, and most music papers had it listed high on the various lists of ‘single of the year’, and Rough Trade Records took the decision to reissue it in April 1983 to mark the first anniversary of the outbreak of the Falklands War, the event that had led to Elvis composing the song.  #35 was as high as it got in the charts, and it had taken four weeks to do so.  It was only the second time Robert Wyatt had enjoyed a solo hit single, and it came almost nine years after his cover of I’m A Believer had reached #29.

I’ll end today with a single from the month of May 1983 that didn’t hit the high end of the chart, but is one I really associate with the time as it was aired regularly at the alternative disco held each Friday and Saturday in the student union:-

mp3: The B52s – Song For A Future Generation

It was the third single to be lifted from the album Whammy!.  The two previous 45s, Legal Tender and Whammy Kiss, had been total flops, but Generation wriggled its way to #63 and helped the parent album briefly breach the Top 40.

But then again, this time 40 years ago, I was had a new 45, along with its b-side, on very very very heavy rotation. Not sure if I bought it on the actual day of its release on 13 May 1983, but it would certainly have been there or thereabouts.

mp3: The Smiths – Hand In Glove
mp3: The Smiths – Handsome Devil

The b-side has been recorded live at The Hacienda, Manchester on 4 February which was just a few weeks in advance of the studio session in Stockport at which the self-produced a-side was laid down.

It didn’t breach the Top 100, but it eventually reached the Indie Singles Chart where it hung around for many months, thanks to Rough Trade being happy enough to periodically order up more repressings, eventually peaking at #3.

Once again, R.I.P., Andy Rourke.  Just 19 years old when the band became a success.


60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #22


Pixies – Death To The Pixies (1997)

What the actual?   No Surfa Rosa or  Doolittle??????

In fact, the former would have been ruled out as I didn’t own a copy until a few years after it came out, but the latter was very much up for consideration.  But it is impossible to ignore the merits of this, the first best-of compilation, released to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the debut EP, Come On Pilgrim.

The fact that I picked up a copy that came with a second disc, offering a high-quality live recording, taken from a 1990 show in Utrecht that had been broadcast on a radio station in the Netherlands, only adds to my love for Death To The Pixies.

It would have been very easy for 4AD records to fill the entire disc with music, but there was very much an element of quality control.  Seventeen songs all told, three of which were lifted from Come On Pilgrim, three from Surfer Rosa, six from Doolittle, two from Bossanova, and two from Trompe Le Monde, with a combined running time of under 48 minutes.   It really is the perfect introduction to the band and, should you ever be given the unlikely dilemma of being sent somewhere, say a desert island, where you can only have one Pixies artefact to your name, then this collection really is what you should take.

mp3: Pixies – Monkey Gone To Heaven

This was #16 in the 45 45s @ 45 rundown back in 2008.  It’s featured on the blog on quite a few occasions in the past.

It’s a new wave epic, groundbreaking in the way that the harsh, near industrial sounds of the traditional instruments deployed by this particular four-piece combo are enhanced in unimaginable ways by two cellos and two violins. It remains one of the few songs that have ever stopped me dead in my tracks on my first listen while I’ve been browsing in a record store.




We’ve now reached 2006, a time when I was paying no attention whatsoever to the Pet Shop Boys.  Don’t blame on the sunshine, don’t blame it on the moonlight, don’t blame it on the good times, but blame it on the blogging. 

Yup.  This was the time I got myself a cheap USB turntable and began to very seriously resurrect my lifelong passion for guitar-based indie-pop, and immersing myself in a new hobby that has led to millions of words being typed out.

I had no idea that 2006 was the year that Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe released a political album, one which reflected a falling out of love with the Labour government fronted by Tony Blair.  Much of it was to do with the Iraq war, but other factors were at play.  Here’s a few extracts from a contemporary review penned by the always excellent Alexis Petrides in The Guardian on 19 May 2006.

Earlier this week, BBC2’s Dead Ringers compared Tony Blair to the bunker-bound Hitler. Another symbol of the PM’s decline in popularity may therefore seem otiose, but that is what the Pet Shop Boys’ ninth album turns out to be. Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe spent election night 1997 not only attending the Royal Festival Hall bash, but also an aftershow party at a Park Lane hotel, where, Tennant remembered, champagne flowed and entertainment was provided by MPs “forming the government”. Until recently, Tennant could be relied upon to support the government – initially, he backed the Iraq war – but with Fundamental, things take a disagreeable turn.

“It touches on regime change, immigration, ID cards and the politics of fear. It features, the PM will doubtless be overjoyed to learn, another in what appears to be a series of Pet Shop Boys songs depicting him as a hapless lover in thrall to a hopeless partner.

“In fact, there is every chance Blair will miss the song. For one thing, he has rather more to worry about than the Pet Shop Boys implying he’s having it off with George Bush. In addition – surprisingly for a Pet Shop Boys single – I’m with Stupid seems to have mislaid its chorus amid the electronic pyrotechnics provided by Trevor Horn, still best known as Frankie Goes to Hollywood‘s producer. It’s one of two moments when Fundamental misfires. The other is Numb, the work of songwriter Diane Warren. You can see the conceptual, camp appeal of the perennially poker-faced Pet Shop Boys working with the queen of the blockbusting power ballad, but the result sounds strangely wan.

“Indefinite Leave to Remain is an aching love song conducted in the official language of the asylum seeker. Twentieth Century concerns Iraq, yet it’s really about second thoughts. “I bought a ticket to the revolution and cheered when the statues fell,” concedes Tennant. “Everyone came to destroy what was rotten but they killed off what was good as well.” On Integral, the poker face slips slightly: as he protests against ID cards, you catch the faintest tremor of rage in Neil Tennant’s voice. He sounds angry, a bracing new sensation almost 25 years into the Pet Shop Boys’ career.

“The reunion with Horn – their first since 1988’s glorious Left to My Own Devices – proves similarly inspired. Opener Psychological sounds subdued: quite an achievement, given that it features an orchestra, a harp and “a sample from the recording of the Song of the Most Holy Theotokos for Tatiana Melentieva from the album Svete Tikhiy (O Gladsome Light)“. Its understatement fits the song’s theme of nameless dread, but you have to wait until The Sodom and Gomorrah Show before Horn pulls out what you might call the Full Frankie: timpani, thwacking hi-NRG bass, cascading synth lines, jagged guitar chords and, as was once mandatory on his productions, a booming voiceover that breaks into puny-earthlings-I’ll-destroy-them-all cackling. Employ Paul Morley to write some dada-influenced cobblers for the sleeve and the image would be complete. But it’s a perfect fit, the apocalyptic hedonism of Two Tribes or Welcome to the Pleasuredome updated for a different, but equally paranoid era.

Elsewhere, its gaze shifts away from current events. Minimal sounds pleasingly like Kraftwerk mounting a defence of the Turner prize. Casanova in Hell concerns a man who mysteriously can’t get it up in the presence of a lady (“it’s queer,” Tennant winks, “that here he can’t cast his spell”) but rewrites his life-story to cast him as a perpetually tumescent lothario: “His erection,” the song divertingly claims, “will live in history.” Cue gag about Neil Tennant getting his mouth around an erection, but instead, a more elevated thought comes to mind. Not for the first time during Fundamental, you listen wondering who else in pop music would do something like this. And not for the first time, the answer comes back: nobody.”

Three singles were released from the album, all of which are mentioned in the above review.  Strangely enough, two of the singles were the occasions when Petrides felt the album misfired.


mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – I’m With Stupid

It’s an unusual sounding number that musically comes a bit close to a quiet-loud-quiet type of number (albeit the quite moments can be counted in micro-seconds) and contrary to what was suggested in the review, there is a chorus, albeit it’s very basic.  It was released on 8th May 2006, and in keeping with how all PSB singles had been performing in recent years, it went in high at #8 before falling away with three or four weeks.

It was issued on CD, DVD and, perhaps to reflect that the genre was making something of a comeback, on 7″ vinyl in the shape of a picture disc.

CD single

mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – The Resurrectionist

It’s really unfair to say that this rather excellent upbeat, club effort is PSB by numbers, but it is the sort of things they had been able, over the decades, to do in their sleep.  Another of the numerous quality b-sides that I hope this series has been able to highlight.

7″ picture disc

mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Girls Don’t Cry

It’s really unfair to say that this rather excellent mid-tempo pop effort is PSB by numbers, but it is the sort of things they had been able, over the decades, to do in their sleep.  Another of the numerous quality b-sides that I hope this series has been able to highlight.

The new album appeared in the shops just two weeks after the lead-off single (and two quality b-sides!).  It followed the same pattern as the single in that it entered high at #5 but was outside the Top 75 just over a month later.  It was a long-way removed from the multi-million sales of previous decades, but there’s a sense that neither of the duo really cared, as it was all about the art nowadays.


The second single to be lifted from the album was released on 24 July 2006

mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Minimal

This is the one that Alex Petrides thought sounded pleasingly like Kraftwerk mounting a defence of the Turner prize.  I’m not qualified enough to say if that’s accurate or not, but it is a rollocking and fun song.  This one peaked in its first week at #19.

It was issued on CD, DVD, CD maxi single and 7″ clear vinyl. Given its uptempo nature, there can be no surprise that a number of the b-sides/extra tracks were remixes, but there was still space for two previously unreleased numbers.

CD single/7″ clear vinyl

mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – In Private

It’s a pop song.  It’s a duet.  Elton John is on co-vocal.  It’s a re-recording of a song written originally for Dusty Springfield, and had been a Top 20 hit back in 1989.   Lots of folk will love this song, and I can see why as it has all the hallmarks and attributes of a pop classic, and in particular the hook.  But it’s not one of my favourites.

DVD single

mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Blue On Blue

I’ve no idea why this was thrown away as an extra track on a format which only the diehard fans would seek out*.   It’s not ground-breaking by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s another upbeat and danceable b-side that’s well worth a few minutes of your time.

*In February 2012, the compilation album Format would be released, consisiting of 38 tracks that had featured as b-side/remixes on various singles between 1996 and 2009.  Blue On Blue was among them.

There was one other bit of otherwise unavailable music on the DVD single:-

mp3: Pet Shop Boys – No Time For Tears (7″ mix)

It wasn’t a completely new number. It dated from 2004 when PSB had composed music  accompany a new outdoor screening of the 1925 silent film Battleship Potemkin in Trafalgar Square, London, an event which attracted 25,000 people.,  The following year, the soundtrack album was recorded in Germany, along with additional screeings over four successive nights in September 2005 in Frankfurt, Bonn, Berlin and Hamburg. 

The 7″ mix is about a minute shorter than the version on the soundtrack.


The third and final single lisfted directly from Fundamental was released on 15 October 2006.

mp3 :  Pet Shop Boys – Numb (single edit)

Alex Petrides, in his April 2006 review, had described this as a misfire.  I’m not sure if it was originally intended as a single but millions of TV viewers had, in July 2006, heard the song as it was used by the BBC to accompany the montage footage they had pulled together when the England football team had been knocked out of the 2006 World Cup, once again via a penalty shoot-out, this time at the hands of Portugal.  Neil and Chris chose to base the new edit on the way the BBC had used it in the broadcast.

This one only reached #23 and this became just the second single since the very early days to miss out on the Top 20.

It was issued on CD, CD maxi single and 7″ vinyl.

Two new songs appeared on the CD maxi single, with one of them also being included as the b-side to the 7″.

mp3 : Pet Shop Boys – Party Song

As the cliche goes, it does exactly what it says on the tin.    It’s worth recalling that a lot of angst and anger had gone into the making of Fundamental…..this might well have been their way of letting off a bit of steam.  It’s great fun.

mp3: Pet Shop Boys – Bright Young Things

This is one that actually dates from 2003 in that it had been written and recorded for use in a film of the same name, but was turned down by the producers.  It does have that feel of the sort of number that would play over the closing credits.


One further track that originally appeared on Fundamental would be issued in single form. 

8th October 2007 saw the release of the album Disco 4. It contained 8 songs, six of which were PSB remixes of tracks written and originally released by The Killers, David Bowie, Yoko Onon, Madonna, Atomiser, and Rammstein.  Two PSB originals were given the treatment, one of which was also made available as a download-only single as part of the promotional activites.

mp3:  Pet Shop Boys – Integral (Perfect Immaculate Mix)

The next actual physical single would be released in March 2009.  It’ll be included in the next part of the series.





From wiki:-

Uncle John & Whitelock were a Scottish horror punk band from Glasgow. They were active from 2001 to 2006 and were noted for their live shows which incorporated elements of performance art.

Formed in 2001 by singer and guitarist, Jacob Lovatt, and bass player, Raydale Dower, the three-piece line-up was completed with the addition of Andrew Hobson on drums. The band was expanded to a five-piece line-up in 2002 with the addition of drummer Matthew Black and keyboard player Nic Denholm, Hobson moving to guitar.

Denholm and Hobson left in early 2005.  They were replaced by Jamie Bolland on keyboards and David Philp, on guitar.

The band had a reputation for the originality of their live performances which incorporated elements of theatricality and performance art. These performances might see the band playing on stage inside a specially constructed wooden shack, unseen by the audience, or with scratchy black-and-white, 16 mm film projected over the band as they played, giving the impression of an old silent movie.

Live reviews often focused on Lovatt’s stage presence, describing him for example as a ‘demented frontman’, or a ‘crazed urban preacher’, while the band as a whole were described as ‘the best live band in Glasgow’ and ‘perhaps the best undiscovered band in Scotland’.

The music was described as ‘steel-toed subterranean rock’ and ‘frighteningly visceral blues’, and this blues sensibility, coupled with Lovatt’s distinctive vocals, led to the band being compared with Dr John, Captain Beefheart, Tom Waits and Nick Cave, while their songs were noted for their disturbing and anarchistic content.

The band were supporters of the charity the Scottish Association for Mental Health, appearing on their One in Four CD. In October 2005, they appeared at an awareness-raising music festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia for World Mental Health Day.

The band maintained a heavy gigging and touring schedule from 2004 to 2006, playing with bands as diverse as Franz Ferdinand, Babyshambles and The Fall. Their final show was played on 23 December 2006 at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow.

I caught them live on a couple of occasions, but came to the conclusion they were an acquired taste.  I have one song on the hard drive, courtesy of having a copy of the One In Four CD mentioned above.

mp3:  Uncle John & Whitelock – The Train