RIPPING BADGERS CDs (Part 7): LATE OF THE PIER

Ripping Badger CDs – #7 – ‘Fantasy Black Channel’ by Late of The Pier (Parlophone Records, 2008)

As a special treat, here is KT. Don’t get use to it, this is very much a one off. Probably.

KT writes………

My daughter is currently obsessed with trains, one of her favourite trips is to be pushed in her buggy to the local park, where she will demand to be let out and then she will run to the wooden train thing in the park. There she will sit and pretend to drive the train to places such as “Catland” and “Dog Park”. I will then pretend to be a passenger on the train and revel in the delights of the journey. I will “ooh” with pleasure as I pretend that I am not looking at some badly worded graffiti by the next Oscar Wilde about a girl named Tia Spinks and her ‘tiny titties’, but some marvellous scenery that she is pointing out to me.

Then after that we will wander over to the nearby train station and if we are lucky, we will see the 12.25 from Axminster trundle into the station where one of two things generally happens. If the train is driven by Driver A, my daughter will get a toot of the train horn and a huge cheery wave from a huge walrus moustached fella, she will wave back enthusiastically and happily climb into her buggy, and fall asleep deliriously happy, no doubt dreaming about trains for the duration of the journey home.

If it is Driver B my daughter will not get a toot of the horn nor a cheery wave. Instead, she and I will get a frown because Driver B appears to be miserable child hating bastard who has a heart made of rock. I have realised that Driver B is destined to be single for the rest of his days, and as I gently cuddle my crying daughter, devastated by the lack of a ‘toot toot’, I like to picture Driver B sadly sitting in a knackered armchair with his microwaved lasagne for one as the wallpaper slowly peels itself off the walls because even inanimate objects like wallpaper can’t stand to be in the same room as him.

Luckily for you guys it is Driver A today because this means that my daughter is exhausted with delirious happiness at the length of the toot and the cheeriness of the wave. It also means I can sit down and write this little article about a band I have, until about twenty minutes ago, never heard of and certainly never heard. A band called Late of the Pier.

Late of the Pier, Wikipedia tells me, before I have listened to the six or seven tracks sent to me by SWC, are a dance punk foursome from Castle Donington.

I have no idea what dance punk is but I do know where Castle Donington is, having refused to go to ‘Monsters of Rock’ with my ex-husband and his mate ‘Nuggz’ about fifteen years ago. Wikipedia also tells me that ‘the nicest man in rock, Dave Grohl’ rates Late of the Pier as ‘amazing’. None of this fills me with huge swathes of anticipation. I message Dom and ask him if he has heard of them – he sends me back a GIF of Alan Partridge shrugging and holding a cheese on a fork. Helpful chap my husband.

So I press play – or rather I double-click on the first track a song called ‘Space and the Woods’. I’m not sure what to expect, because I have no idea what dance punk is supposed to sound like, but I’m fairly sure this isn’t it. This sounds more like the sort of noise your dad and uncle would come up with if they had six pints before lunch and decided to busk in the high street in order to get the cab fare home. Strangely compelling but really not that great.

mp3: Late of The Pier – Space and The Woods

Let’s try another track….

The second track is ‘The Bears are Coming’ which is a complete mishmash of noises. It bleeps, it bounces, it squelches, it screeches the singer yelps and yowls. I think it works but really folks I am probably way too uncool to understand what is going on here. It sounds like a one-man band has thrown himself down the stairs and landed inside a video game. Which, might actually be what they intended, in which case, bravo.

mp3: Late of The Pier – The Bears Are Coming

It does get better. These two tracks for instance:-

mp3: Late of The Pier – Focker
mp3: Late of The Pier – Bathroom Gurgle

‘Focker’ is better not because it has a brilliant title but because it is an actual pop song. A pop song that could have been written about forty years ago and could have featured in any film involving American High School shenanigans. It’s great.

‘Bathroom Gurgle’ is even better than ‘Focker’ because it is a glam rock disco stomp belter of a tune. Kind of like what you would get if Muse recorded ‘The Timewarp’ only without the obvious Queen rip-offs halfway through – actually Muse doing ‘The Timewarp’ would be better than this. I can’t think of another band that it sounds like though – when I email this SWC, I’ll let him think of one….

(SWC writes – Ok – ‘Bathroom Gurgle’ sounds like The Rapture torturing the life out of Disco Stu from the Simpsons. This is a good thing, its easiest the finest moment by Late of the Pier.)

So what have we learnt today.

Well firstly, we should all try and be more like Driver A.

Secondly, I still have no idea what dance punk is, and thirdly you can’t really trust anything that Dave Grohl says.

Thanks for reading.

KT

 

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Fourteen : LET’S MAKE SOME PLANS

I was recently on a Zoom call with Jonny The Friendly Lawyer – it’s my hope that, if the COVID situation improves and travel restrictions begin to get lifted, then a trip to visit him in LA, postponed from last year, will go ahead in a few months time.

The call, as it inevitably does, got onto the subject of music and I made mention of Close Lobsters and how they were one of the most underrated of all the Scottish bands to emerge in the 80s. Jonny expressed a bit of surprise that the band were from around these parts – he knew they were British but hadn’t quite paid attention to exactly where from.  In turn, he surprised me by mentioning that Close Lobsters had enjoyed a fair amount of college radio exposure in the US back in the day – I had always assumed they hadn’t done much, initially, beyond these shores.

The band formed in 1985 in Paisley, a sizable town in Scottish terms, located immediately to the south-west of Glasgow, first coming to prominence the following year via a song being included on the C86 compilation put together by the NME.  They lasted around four years, releasing two albums and a handful of singles on Fire Records, the London-based indie label.  As Jonny informed me, they got a fair bit of attention in the States, helped by a review of the debut album in Rolling Stone Magazine which described it as:-

“first-rate guitar pop from a top-shelf band. Close Lobsters could have been just another jangle group, but they have a lot more going for them than just chiming Rickenbackers.

The band reformed in 2012, and I was lucky enough to get to see one of the comeback gigs at a small and very sticky basement venue in Glasgow where they put on an outstanding show.  A few singles and EPs were then released sporadically and finally, in 2020, there was a new album, released by the excellent team behind the Last Night in Glasgow label.  All being well, there’s a live show or two planned for later in the year, including at a small Glasgow venue quite close to Villain Towers, for which tickets have been bought.

The band have released a lot of great songs over the years, but if you want my opinion, they never bettered their third single, which got to #17 in the UK indie charts in 1987:-

mp3: Close Lobsters – Let’s Make Some Plans

I picked up a second hand copy on 12″ vinyl a good while back, and have just again, using the new(ish) turntable, made a fresh rip at 320kpbs, well above the normal quality on offer at the blog.  And here’s your b-sides:-

mp3: Close Lobsters – In Spite Of These Times
mp3: Close Lobsters – Get What They Deserve

Two tracks that many of their contemporaries would love to have written and released as singles….there really was a plethora of riches from Close Lobsters back in the day.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Part 46)

As has been duly noted over the past month or so, R.E.M.’s career was experiencing something it hadn’t done in the first 20 years of their existence. Following the abominable Reveal and Around The Sun albums, long-term, devoted fans like myself were beginning to walk away. It seemed R.E.M. had, against all the odds, become a middle-aged, middle of the road band who were just going through the motions. The energy, the drive and the emotion that once upon a time made them the greatest and most exciting band in the world was seemingly gone, something the band themselves would later acknowledge.

“[Around The Sun] just wasn’t really listenable, because it sounds like what it is, a bunch of people that are so bored with the material that they can’t stand it anymore.” (Peter Buck, 2008)

By 2008, four years after Around The Sun was inflicted upon us, I was at a musical crossroads. The White Stripes had broken up and there didn’t seem to be much that was terribly exciting going on in the pop universe. At least, nothing I could hang my hat on. I saw that R.E.M. were about to release a new album, so when the lead single Supernatural Superserious was released, I downloaded it mainly out of curiosity. What I heard was unexpected.

Some history first. In 2007, R.E.M. took up residency at the Olympia in Dublin. The plan was to rehearse new material in readiness for a new album. They decided to sell tickets so the fans could give their reactions, although as Michael Stipe insisted during each performance: “This is not a show!” (They preferred the term ‘working rehearsals’.)

Among the new songs was one entitled Disguised. It wasn’t finished, but it had promise. Before going into the studio, a new chorus was written, the old chorus became the bridge and the title was changed (on the advice of a certain Chris Martin). On 11th February, 2008, it became the first single released from R.E.M.’s 14th album Accelerate.

mp3: R.E.M. – Supernatural Superserious

Could it be? R.E.M. sounding like they still had something left to give? I mean, it wasn’t their best song by a long chalk, but it was way better than anything their previous two albums had yielded, and (Animal aside) was their best song of the decade so far. Supernatural Serious had that energy, that drive, that verve. It also had an infectious tune that hung around in my head for hours after hearing it. This was the sound of a band who actually sounded like they were enjoying themselves again.

But was it to be a false dawn? I approached Accelerate with caution, downloading it (for *ahem* free) rather than rushing out to buy it. But as it turned out, this really was a return to form. For starters, all the electronic mush that plagued their previous two albums was gone – it was a stripped-down, back-to-basics rock & roll record with few embellishments. It was also recorded faster than any album the band had worked on since Green. Most of the songs retained the single’s energy, all aggressive guitars and swagger – the antithesis of Around The Sun. At a mere 34 minutes, it was R.E.M.’s shortest album since Lifes Rich Pageant, their loudest and rockiest since New Adventures in Hi Fi, and their best post-Bill Berry album by a country mile.

As for the single, well the charts in the UK were becoming increasingly irrelevant to proper bands. Albums were now the more important format for serious artists and physical singles were no longer regarded as anything of real importance. Supernatural Superserious charted at #54 in the UK singles charts in its first week on downloads alone. CD singles were released the following week but that didn’t improve the chart position. It was their last significant chart entry in the UK.

Both CDs included a surfy-instrumental track (yes, even 27 years after White Tornado appeared on the band’s first demo tape, they were still churning these silly little pieces out). Airliner is most notable for its writing credits, being the first of only two R.E.M. songs to credit Scott McCaughey as co-writer alongside Buck, Mills and Stipe. The other one? We’ll get to that in a couple weeks…

mp3: R.E.M – Airliner

CD 2 added a cover version of Beat Happening’s Red Head Walking, the closing track from their 1991 album Dreamy. I’m not a fan of the original, so it’s great to hear R.E.M. transform it into a swampy, bluesy, psyche-fused beast of a song. Kind of like how The Cramps would have done it. I love Michael’s scream at the end and his subsequent regret…

mp3: R.E.M. – Red Head Walking

It had been a long time since anyone had put the words ‘R.E.M.’ and ‘fun’ together in a sentence, but this was a sign that maybe, just maybe, they could still pull it off and regain some of the credibility they’d lost in recent years.

By the way, those ‘working rehearsals’ in Dublin were recorded and the highlights released as a 39-track album in 2009 as Live At The Olympia. Nine of the songs that ended up on Accelerate were included along with another two new songs that were never released in any other form. As a bonus for you, here’s the version of Supernatural Superserious that was played, still in its unfinished form with its original title.

mp3: R.E.M. – Disguised [live at the Olympia, Dublin, 2007]

The Robster

JC adds…..I agree 100% with all that The Robster has written for today.  I still give Accelerate a listen every now and again, especially when I was out doing the lockdown walks.  At just 34 minutes in length, and with not really a duff track on it, it very much helped to pass the time in fine fashion.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #258: THE PRIMARY 5

I’ve one song by The Primary 5 on the hard drive, courtesy of its inclusion on the CD compilation Ave Marina – 10 Years of Marina Records, released in 2004 by the Hamburg-based label which has always had a very strong and varied Scottish presence.

I didn’t know that first thing about the band and this was pleasantly surprised to discover that the mainstay is Paul Quinn….no, not the one I’m always banging on about on this blog…..but the musician of the same name best known for his spells as drummer with Soup Dragons and Teenage Fanclub.

The Primary 5 formed in 2003, with the name referring to it being the fifth band that Paul Quinn had played in. Debut album North Pole was released in 2004 with one of its tracks also finding its way onto the aforementioned Marina compilation:-

mp3: The Primary 5 – Mailman

The group would stay together for the remainder of the decade, releasing two more studio albums, Go! (2006) and High Five (2008)

JC

WHO CARES WHAT SHE’S SINGING?

This might well be the most extraordinary piece of music to have ever come out of Scotland and become a hit single:-

mp3: Cocteau Twins – Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops

It reached #29 in May 1984, spending four weeks in the Top 40. Sadly, the producers at Top of The Pops didn’t see fit to invite the band to the studios for a performance.  It truly would have been incredible television to see Liz, Robin and Simon miming away as the balloons were bounced around among the surely bewildered pop fans who were there to catch sight of Duran Duran, Nik Kershaw or The Thompson Twins, all of whom were riding high in the charts that week.

To be fair, the first week of June 1984 had a decent looking Top 30 –  OMD, Blancmange, New Order, Human League, Depeche Mode, The Special AKA, Scritti Politti, The Cure, Sandie Shaw/The Smiths, and Echo & The Bunnymen could be found alongside Cocteau Twins.

There was always something ethereal or even abstract about the music the trio made, but the fact they enjoyed some degree of commercial success would indicate there was much more love for them out there in the mid 80s than perhaps they ever anticipated or indeed were prepared for.

Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops is not a lyric that would ever qualify for the great short stories series – indeed, it is nigh on impossible to know what precisely is being sung with different sites offering up different interpretations.  But it really doesn’t matter when the voice is as wonderfully expressive as this – at times it sounds as if Liz is undergoing some sort of exorcism – with a musical accompaniment which is singularly unique but somehow offers reminders of a number of the other above-named bands who were also in the Top 30 that week, as well as the guitar work of John McGeogh.

The b-side wasn’t too shabby either:-

mp3: Cocteau Twins – Pepper-Tree

One of the strangest things about the release of this single was that the 12″ version not only featured an extended version, but that it was stuck on the b-side, with a completely different lead track as the a-side:-

mp3: Cocteau Twins – The Spangle Maker

Here’s the thing……The Spangle Maker has even more of a ‘wow’ factor. For the full sonic experience, turn it up loud and put on a decent set of headphones.

JC

DANGER IN THE PAST

It was sometime last year that I picked up the vinyl re-issues of the first two solo albums recorded and released by Robert Forster.  They are each things of beauty, coming finely packaged, complete with a bonus 7″ single and Robert’s newly supplied liner notes to help put things into context.

The debut album was Danger In The Past, recorded over just 14 days in June/July 1990, some six months after the Go-Betweens had broken up.  By this time, Robert was living with his new wife, Karin Baumler, in a Bavarian farmhouse which is where most of its nine songs were written.  A combination of good luck and knowing the right people enabled the album to be recorded in the famous Hansa Studios in Berlin.  His old friend, Mick Harvey, had taken on the task of producing the record, and in doing so had persuded Thomas Wydler and Hugo Race to join him in the studio.  In effect, it was Robert Forster and the Bad Seeds who convened for those two weeks with the end result being very much to everyone’s satisfaction.  Robert has since said it was one of his most treasured recording experiences, finally getting into the type of  studio hadn’t ever really had the resources to book, armed with songs which saw him move in different directions from before.  He has described the title songs as being….‘ like a folk song, and none of my songs on any Go-Betweens record were like that or had six verses. It had a classic folk chord sequence that Neil Young could’ve written, that Gordon Lightfoot could’ve written’

mp3: Robert Forster – Danger in The Past

I should also mention that Karin Baumler supplied vocals to the title track, he first of what would be many contributions to Robert’s wongs and live shows ever since.

I don’t want to go overboard with the music from the album, given the fact it contains just the nine tracks.  The album came out on Beggars Banquet, the label which the Go-Betweens had been signed to for the final few years, and while there wasn’t a single officially lifted from it, a promotional 45 featuring the jaunty, magnificent and poppy album opener, Baby Stones, (with its piano lines eerily similar to Don’t Go Back To Rockville) had been pressed up and sent to radio stations. A promo video was also shot:-

It’s b-side wasn’t on the album and when Needle Mythology issued the 2020 re-pressing they made it available on the bonus 7″:-

mp3: Robert Forster – The Land That Time Forgot

I’ll get round soon enough to posting something from Calling From a Country Phone, the follow-up album originally released in 1993.

JC

IN WHICH THROWING THE KITCHEN SINK AT THE SONG WORKED A TREAT

The Divine Comedy had been on the go for about seven years before the first whiff of success.  It came via a fabulous single and the opening track from their fourth album, Casanova, which was released in 1996

mp3: The Divine Comedy – Something For The Weekend

It’s got the sort of plot that would make for a great short story.  The reason I’ve not included it within that particular series is that too many of the lyrics get repeated throughout the song, but this is actually one of its strengths as it really is quite a simple premise.

Man tries to woo an attractive woman but isn’t quite sure how to really go about it.  Woman convinces man that she is very interested in him but before it goes any further she needs him to go to an outbuilding in the garden as she’s convinced there’s something strange afoot.  Man goes into the outbuilding whereupon he gets beaten up and robbed, discovering when he comes back into a state of consciousness that his wallet and car keys are gone….as is the teasing and alluring woman.

There’s a superb arrangement on the track, with violins, violas, cellos, flutes, a clarinet, an oboe, a bassoon, a saxophone, a trumpet, a flugelhorn and a trombone all in the mix, alongside the guitars, bass, drums, piano and Hammond organ.

You can actually thank, indirectly, Edwyn Collins for it all.  The unexpected world-wide success of A Girl Like You had brought immense riches to Setanta Records, which meant that all other singers and bands on the label could enjoy bigger budgets for recording their next singles and albums.  The sounds that had been going around inside Neil Hannon‘s head over the previous years could now be fully realised.

Something For The Weekend reached #14 in the UK singles chart, the first of what would prove to be twelve Top 40 singles for The Divine Comedy over the next eight years.

Here’s the three tracks which accompanied the CD single:-

mp3: The Divine Comedy – Birds of Paradise Farm
mp3: The Divine Comedy – Love Is Lighter Than Air
mp3: The Divine Comedy – Songs Of Love (Theme from ‘Father Ted’)

The second of the above songs is a cover of a Magnetic Fields song, from the previous year’s album Get Lost. The third of the above songs will, I’m sure, put a smile on many faces, recalling one of the funniest and most original TV sitcoms with 25 peerless episodes all told. Any overseas readers not familiar with Father Ted should click here.

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (55)

March 1998.

The third release on Italy Records, a relatively new indie-label based in Detroit is by a relatively new indie/garage punk calling themselves The White Stripes.  The duo, consisting of Jack White (vocals/guitar) and Meg White (drums/vocals), are siblings – well that’s their story at this point in time, and they’re sticking to it.

The single has come about as Dave Buick, the founder/owner of Italy Records, sees a great deal of potential in The White Stripes based on watching them perform in various bars in Detroit.  Jack White had been reluctant to do so on the basis of not being able to meet the costs involved, but relented when it became clear that the label would pick up the tab.

The decision is taken to go with an energetic number, a little over two minutes in length:-

mp3 : The White Stripes – Let’s Shake Hands

A cover version was chosen for the b-side:-

mp3: The White Stripes – Look Me Over Closely

This song had originally been recorded by Marlene Dietrich in 1953.  The composer was Terry Gilkyson, who would later end up at Disney Studios where a number of his subsequent songs would become hugely famous from their use in cartoon films, including the Oscar-nominated Bare Necessities from The Jungle Book in 1968.

Only 1,000 copies of Let’s Shake Hands/Look Over Me Closely were pressed, on 7″ red vinyl.  As you can imagine, it’s incredibly difficult to get a hold of, with copies fetching several hundred pounds on the second-hand market.  There was a second pressing in 2002, just after The White Stripes had become internationally famous, which is more readily available and affordable, despite again having a limited run of just 1,000 copies, followed by a third pressing in 2008, again with a limited number. (And no, I don’t have a copy of any of the pressings….the mp3s were villaniously acquired…..)

The White Stripes would record a second single, Lafayette Blues, for Italy Records thatwhich was released in October 1998 before they moved to the long-established Sympathy for the Record Industry label, based in California. Over a three-year period, there would be three albums and a number of singles, and enjoying the commercial breakthrough in White Blood Cells in 2001.

I think it’s fair to say that The White Stripes debut single demonstrates clearly the sort of sounds that would propel them to superstardom and widespread acclaim.

JC

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Thirteen : COME HOME

Those of you who remember the previous long-running looking at the singles by James will hopefully recall the story of this single, released in November 1989.  ‘Madchester’ was in full swing and James had just recorded an album for intended release on Rough Trade, with the hope that after some six years of near-misses that this would be the one to provide the commercial breakthrough, especially as the latest single had made the all-important BBC Radio 1 daytime playlist.

mp3: James – Come Home (Rough Trade version)

James, however, was a band for whom everything had seemingly gone wrong ever since their formation.  In this instance, Rough Trade messed up spectacularly, failing to get enough copies of Come Home into the shops.  The 45, on which so many hopes were pinned, crawled into the charts at a shockingly low #85.  The band were, understandably, angry with the label and the subsequent row led to them demanding to be released from their contract and to be allowed to buy the rights to the recorded album which they would then take to other labels.

There were a number of options on the table, and the choice became Fontana Records where, as the cliché goes, the rest is history.  How Was It For You?, their first release for the new label, cracked the singles charts.  The band played a blistering set at Glastonbury in June 1990 following which Fontana decided to re-release a remixed version of Come Home as the follow-up.

It was the era of multi-formatting, and in this instance there was a 7″, two 12″, a CD and cassette version.  There were four versions of Come Home spread over the releases – the single remix, the extended single mix, a live radio session from April 1990 and a fairly radical re-working by Andrew Weatherall, which extends out beyond eight minutes:-

mp3: James – Come Home (Weatherall Remix)

This was placed on the b-side of the 12″ with the Green sleeve.  The a-side had the radio version of Come Home along with a terrific remix of the title track from the new album:-

mp3: James – Goldmother (Warp Remix)

Despite all this, the single stalled at #32.  It would be another year, and the remix and new version of Sit Down, an earlier Rough Trade single, before James went truly mega.

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Parts 44 & 45)

Very long post alert………………………..

It wasn’t supposed to be me this week…..in fact, the original plan had been for The Robster to take you through to the end of the journey, mainly as I don’t have any of the very late-period R.E.M. singles in the collection, and so would be unable to offer up any thoughts or view on the b-sides.  I was still buying the studio albums, if not the compilations, but this was more out of a sense of duty than anything else as I was getting bored with things and feeling let down constantly by one or more hacks excitedly writing that the new record was a return to form when it was anything but.

So, why the change of mind?  It was all down to me feeling that my partner-in-rhyme had already suffered enough for our art with his review last week of the first two singles from Around The Sun, and it was only right that I should share the pain.  The Robster was able to fire over some mps3 in a file and allow me to make myself familiar with the material.

Let’s cut to the chase.  Around The Sun is an appalling album.  A collection of songs that would have been laughed out of the house a decade or so earlier.  As for the 80s, I don’t think any of the band would have risked the ridicule of taking any of the demos near a studio.

Despite this, it didn’t stop me buying tickets to go see the band in a huge tent in a park in the centre of Glasgow in June 2005, some nine months after the release of a record I had listened to once.  I remember, after an energetic opening, albeit one in which the sound was never quite spot on thanks to the acoustics involved in playing under a canvas, that I got quite bored by the show, thinking that Buck, Mills and Stipe, were going through the motions and fulfilling the contractual obligations.

Looking back at the set-list, it’s now obvious the mid-show sag was a combination of them playing the songs from Around The Sun, interspersed with some of the big hits which, in the setting, simply became crowd sing-alongs drowing out the sounds from the speakers. Even my beloved Electrolite got the lighters-in-the air treatment and the out-of tune singing with closed eyes from a group of pissed friends of both sexes right behind us.

Oh, and that’s the other memory.  Loads of drunk folk, out for an occasion rather than a gig, many of whom were constantly heading off, barging their way through the crowd for a comfort break, and returning with handfuls of more booze, the contents of which were quickly consumed leading to the vicious circle…….

OK. This isn’t meant to be a gig review, but 14 June 2005 at Glasgow Green was when I knew I wouldn’t ever see the band play live again.  It had become unbearable.

Single #3 from Around The Sun got played that night.  Single #4 did not. I suppose I should be grateful for small mercies (as I’ll come to in due course).

Electron Blue is the song which Michael Stipe has said is his favourite track from the album, and indeed was the inspiration for his stage appearance during the promotional tours of 2004 and 2005 with a blue band pained across his eyes.

It starts off with some bent-notes played on a synth for about ten seconds before becoming, to my ears, something akin to an out-take by the Electric Light Orchestra….maybe I’m getting confused by the common one word in the song titles, but the music just before Stipe comes into start singing reminds me of the dreadful Mr Blue Sky.  It turns out that Electron Blue then slows right down but only to turn itself into a keyboard-driven dirge. It’s just dull and dreary beyond words (and for the Glasgow Green gig, it was slipped into the set after Everybody Hurts and right before Electrolite – let’s just say it’s been one of very very very few occasions when I’ve been grateful that the audience were speaking over the top of the performance.

mp3: R.E.M. – Electron Blue

It was released in March 2005.  There was a 7″ single on blue vinyl, and two CDs.  And, as had been the case with the previous two singles from the album, they were packed with live tracks as b-sides.  This one was common to the vinyl and CD1:-

mp3: R.E.M. – What’s The Frequency Kenneth (live)

A track that had previously been released as a live version on the Tongue single back in 1996.  Almost a decade on and R.E.M. prove they are capable of sucking the life totally out of some of their most exciting rock songs.  This is from the October 2004 show in Atlanta, on the first leg of the Around The Sun Tour. The sound is muddied with the vocals way out in front of everything else.  It’s just plain ugly.

The live track on CD2 was recorded in Cincinnati a few days after the Atlanta show.

mp3: R.E.M. – Sweetness Follows (live)

While it was good that one of the lesser known tracks from Automatic For The People was being played live, it proved to be an infrequent happening.  Being the sad statto, I looked things up and found that across the 114 shows on the various legs of the tour between October 2004 and July 2005, Sweetness Follows was aired just 17 times.  But, given how much of a struggle it is for Michael Stipe to deliver the notes in the way he should, maybe that’s a blessing.

CD2 also had a video clip, of Leaving New York as recorded at the gig in Helsinki on 29 January 2005. This would have been in the depths of a hard Finnish winter, and so you’ll be relieved to learn the gig was an indoor one, at the 12,000 capacity Hartwall Arena.  Sadly, we haven’t been able to track down an audio clip of the performance.

Electron Blue came in at #26.  The following week it fell all the way down to #61 before disappearing from view.  Proof that the average shelf-life of an R.E.M. single wasn’t much more than a carton of fresh-milk.

The Around The Sun tour ended with a massive show at Hyde Park, London on 16 July 2005.  It was actually a week later than scheduled as London has been shut down the previous weekend after 56 people had lost their lives during a series of bombs that had targetted the public transport network.  84,000 people made their way to the park and by most accounts, the band played a crowd-pleasing barn-stormer of a set, one which helped the capital heal itself.

A fourth single was lifted from the album and released two days after Hyde Park.  It came in at #27 in the first chart afterwards before dropping to #55 and then out of sight.  Quite clearly, it was only the most loyal of fans who were spending their cash on the singles.

mp3: R.E.M. – Wanderlust

I’m not sure what The Robster’s take on Wanderlust is*, but I’m quite prepared to go on the public record and state that Wanderlust is, easily, the worst 45 of REM’s career…..with the irony being that it was their 45th single in the UK.

*Actually, I shared the proposed contents of this post in advance with The Robster, and he kindly offered me his take on the single:-

Now, picture the scene. Around The Sun is finished, the band and associates are in the studio to hear the final mix. At some point, someone from the label pipes up: “God, this record is boring. Don’t you have anything more upbeat?” After some awkward shuffling and mumbling, one of the band sheepishly mutters: “Well, there’s a song called ‘Wanderlust’…”

“Oh dear god no, that’s embarrassing,” someone else retorts.

“Well, let’s hear it,” says label guy.

The mixing desk guy plays it. Everyone cringes at how awful it is. Everyone that is, except record label guy.

“Guys, that’s this record’s ‘Sidewinder’, it’s got goofy single written all over it,”he exclaims. “Put this on and we’ll get the album out.”

“It’s only a rough take though, it’s not finished…” explains band member #2.

“And we don’t have time to finish it,” says band member #3.

“It’s good enough as it is guys,” insists the label imbecile. “I mean it’s crap, but it hasn’t sent me to sleep…”

A resigned sigh emanates around the studio…

 And that, my friends, is the story of how Wanderlust came to be on Around The Sun. Well, that’s the story in my head, anyhow. I may have made some (all) of it up, but I don’t have any other logical explanation as to how an album of such awfulness is made even worse by this horrific, unwelcome specimen barging its way into it halfway through.

I know that Jonny has said he’s enjoyed hearing some of these later singles as he’s not been familiar with them at all, and if nothing else, has offered the opinion that the distinct vocal delivery of Michael Stipe is capable of lifting things to a bearable level.  I wonder, however, if my learned legal friend can mount a defendable case for this piece of crap?

Again, there was a 7″ single, this time on red vinyl, and two CDs.   The 7″ had a track lifted from the album as its b-side:-

mp3: R.E.M. – The Outsiders

Unbelievably, it’s a song which makes Wanderlust almost passable.  And then, just as it fades out to what sounds like its natural end at the 2:48 mark, a snare drum kicks in and a spoken/semi-sung contribution from the rapper Q-Tip, from A Tribe Called Quest, takes us through  the next minute or so before the tune meanders to its close just after four minutes.  It bored me then, and it bores me still…..a total waste of what, on paper, should have been an interesting and fruitful collaboration.

A different version of The Outsiders was included on CD2. It’s one of those that didn’t sound all that different on the initial listen, but maybe that’s just me as I wasn’t ever giving the original take all that much attention.  But then….just as I was expecting to hear Q-Tip, it is instead Michael Stipe who takes the song through to its conclusion:-

mp3: R.E.M. – The Outsiders (alternate version)

Sadly, it doesn’t do anything to change my mind that this is the sort of tune and lyrics that Phil Collins would have churned out in his late 80s pomp.

As for CD1.

mp3: R.E.M. – Low (alternate version)

I’m guessing this was dug out of the vaults as Scott Litt, who hadn’t worked with the band since New Adventures in Hi-Fi, is given production, engineering and mixing credits.  It does sound as if it was a rejected, possibly earlier take, from the Out of Time sessions back in 1991.  It may have been rejected back then, but as you’ll hear, it is way superior to anything that the band were coming out with in 2004/2005.  It’s a powerful, haunting reminder of why the band had grabbed the attention of so many music afficianados at the outset.

The Robster also helpfully pointed out that Wanderlust received a digital release, with a live version made available.  We are nothing, if not completists:-

mp3: R.E.M. – Wanderlust (live)

R.E.M would disappear for the best part of three years after Around The Sun.  The tour had been gruelling and being in their mid-to late 40s meant it took a huge amount out of them physically and emotionally. I think many of us expected an announcement that they had broken up, but they mounted a comeback, of sorts, and The Robster will be here next week to take you thorough the singles of the late 00’s.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #257: PRIMAL SCREAM

This week, I’ll let you, dear readers, fill in the gaps.

“Glasgow. Early 80s. Bobby Gillespie. Jim Beattie. Robert ‘Throb’ Young. Creation Records. C86. Andrew Innes. Elevation Records, Sonic Power Groove. Flop. Creation Records. Flop.  Martin Duffy. Late 80s. Acid House. Andrew Weatherall. Remixing, Sampling. Denise Johnson. Loaded. Screamadelica. Mercury Music Prize. Blues Rock. Give Out But Don’t Give Up. Mani from the Roses. Vanishing Point.  XTRMNTR. Collaborations. Festival Favourites. Turn of the Century.  Etc. Etc. Etc.  Bobby’s got a book coming out soon……”

mp3: Primal Scream – Velocity Girl

A tune that has to be fitted into the above narrative just before or after ‘C86’

Nobody has yet penned an ICA for Primal Scream.  Just sayin’…..

JC

NEW MUSIC RECOMMENDATION…..

Once upon a time, around three years ago, four musicians from the south coast of England came together and decided to make music under the name Foundlings.

They soon came to the attention of the good people behind Last Night From Glasgow, the not-for-profit record label founded in my home city back in 2016 (and yes, the name of the label was taken from the line in Super Trouper by Abba).

An excellent 5-track EP was released in March 2019 and the rest of the year was spent gigging and preparing new material for an album.

mp3: Foundlings – Caught Up

But then a few things happened.

The bass player decided to quit.   The band were threatened with legal action by an American outfit known as The Foundlings.  COVID put a spoke in the timetable for recording the debut album.

First things first…..the band changed their name to Hadda Be, lifted from the Allan Ginsberg poem, Hadda Be Playing On The Radio.  Then, as an opportunity emerged after the end of the first lockdown period in the UK last summer, the band raced into a studio to record a debut album in just five days.

The album, Another Life, comes out tomorrow, Friday 30 April.

One of the joys of being a patron of Last Night From Glasgow is the opportunity to receive advance copies of the music before it goes on general sale.  Another Life landed in Villain Towers just over two weeks ago, and it has been on very heavy rotation ever since.  It’s a fabulous and very tasty slice of indie-pop at its finest.  You’ll find shimmering guitars, punchy choruses, wonderful melodies and a bunch of songs that, for the most part, come and go around the three-minute mark, all of which, aside from the obligatory ballad, have the ability to get even the most reticent folk out of their chairs so that shapes can be thrown on the dance floor.

The new record has been preceded by a couple of digital singles, including the track that has given its name to the album. As it’s a new release, I don’t want to offer an mp3 for easy download, so here’s the two promos which use footage put together by the four band members in their homes – Amber, Ben, Matthew and Oliver – during the second lockdown period using green screens.

The album can be ordered from Last Night From Glasgow by clicking here.   As the label says, Another Life has that classic indie guitar sound that has been lacking for some time – part Pixies, part Primitives, part Banshees, but all Hadda Be.

Highly recommended.

JC

ANITA LANE R.I.P.

I’ve just read the sad news of the passing of Anita Lane at the age of 61.  My tribute comes in the form of a re-post from March 2015:-

“Here’s something rather splendid, unusual and rare dragged from the back of the cupboard and given a listen to for the first time in ages.

Sixteen folk are or have been part of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds over the past 33 years (!!) since their inception.  Anita Lane remains the only fully fledged female member although many other women have performed on the various records and as part of the live performances.

She was part of the original Melbourne scene from which Nick et al would emerge – indeed she was the first of his many muses who would and have continually inspired him in many different ways – and in due course she would join and become an important part of The Birthday Party, including songwriting contributions to some of their most popular numbers such as Dead Joe

The title track of the first Bad Seeds album, From Her To Eternity, was attributed to the six members of the group, one of whom was Anita Lane; she left the band almost immediately after the album was recorded, but despite no longer being is a relationship with the singer she remained on good terms with him and the others, contributing lyrics to songs on later albums.

Her own, albeit ultimately low-key and rarely commercially successful solo career, began in 1988 with the release of these four songs on an EP entitled Dirty Sings on Mute Records:-

mp3 : Anita Lane – If I Should Die
mp3 : Anita Lane – I’m A Believer
mp3 : Anita Lane – Lost In Music
mp3 : Anita Lane – Sugar In A Hurricane

Her friends of old helped write the three original songs as well as joining her in the studio. The lead track has Barry Adamson as a co-writer (with whom she would collaborate further in years to come) and is very akin to sort of sound that would propel Julee Cruise to brief fame a couple of years later ; I’m A Believer isn’t the Neil Diamond number but an Anita Lane/Nick Cave composition while the strange and haunting (and Kate Bush inspired?) Sugar Hurricane sees a co-credit for Mick Harvey. All three of them, together with another bad seed – Thomas Wydler – were the backing musicians with Harvey doubling up as producer under the name of Dicky Russcombe.

And yes…..Lost In Music is a cover of the Sister Sledge disco classic. And to my ears, it’s an inspired cover.”

I’ve another 12″ single in the cupboard full of vinyl on which Anita Lane was involved. It dates from 1991 and was part of the soundtrack composed and put together by Barry Adamson for the crime thriller film, Delusion:-

mp3: Barry Adamson & Anita Lane and The Thought System of Love – These Boots Are Made For Walking

R.I.P. Anita.  You were no age at all.

JC

SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 46)

A GUEST POSTING by JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

Things are slowly – slowly – looking brighter in America. We have a president who’s not an international disgrace. He speaks in complete sentences and acts like an adult and everything! We recently proved that it’s possible to convict a white cop for murdering an unarmed black man — turns out all you needed was 10 minutes of the crime on video.

But I don’t know if we’re ever going to get past the divide promoted by our last…Commander in Chief. One of the most depressing issues is the incredible number of batshit crazy folks that are joyously out of the woodwork and onto the streets. And into the Capitol. With guns. Nutty people are everywhere. My buddy’s older brother, a dentist in Florida, has gone full QAnon/post-apocalypse. Everyone’s got a friend or relative or acquaintance who’s publicly off the deep end, doomsday prepping and stockpiling ammo.

Which brings me to the Dead Milkmen. The Milkmen were goofballs; all their songs were funny, silly, satirical or just plain stupid for the hell of it. They didn’t take themselves seriously and didn’t expect you to, either. Their song ‘Stuart’ was released back in 1988, and it always gave me a laugh. But if it was released tomorrow there’d probably be armed StuAnon protestors marching on Washington in a week.

You know what, Stuart, I LIKE YOU. You’re not like the other people, here, in the trailer park.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. They’re fine people, they’re good Americans. But they’re content to sit back, maybe watch a little Mork and Mindy on channel 57, maybe kick back a cool, Coors 16-ouncer. They’re good, fine people, Stuart. But they don’t know … what the queers are doing to the soil!

You know that Johnny Wurster kid, the kid that delivers papers in the neighborhood? He’s a foreign kid. Some of the neighbors say he smokes crack, but I don’t believe it.

Anyway, for his tenth birthday, all he wanted was a Burrow Owl. Kept bugging his old man. “Dad, get me a burrow owl. I’ll never ask for anything else as long as I live!” So the guy breaks down and buys him a burrow owl.

Anyway, 10:30, the other night, I go out in my yard, and there’s the Wurster kid, looking up in the tree. I say, “What are you looking for?” He says “I’m looking for my burrow owl.” I say, “Jumping Jesus on a Pogo Stick! Everybody knows that the burrow owl lives. In a hole. In the ground. Why the hell do you think they call it a burrow owl, anyway?” Now, Stuart, do you think a kid like that is going to know what the queers are doing to the soil?

I first became aware of all this about ten years ago, the summer my oldest boy, Bill Jr. died. You know that carnival comes into town every year? Well this year they came through with a ride called The Mixer. The man said, “Keep your head, and arms, inside the Mixer at all times.” But Bill Jr, he was a DAAAREDEVIL, just like his old man. He was leaning out saying, “Hey everybody, look at me! Look at me!” Pow! He was decapitated! They found his head over by the snow cone concession.

A few days after that, I open up the mail. And there’s a pamphlet in there from Pueblo, Colorado. And it’s addressed to Bill, Jr. And it’s entitled, “Do you know what the queers are doing to our Soil?”

Now, Stuart, if you look at the soil around any large US city where there’s a big underground homosexual population. Des Moines, Iowa, perfect example. Look at the soil around Des Moines, Stuart. You can’t build on it; you can’t grow anything in it. The government says it’s due to poor farming. But I know what’s really going on, Stuart. I know it’s the queers. They’re in it with the aliens. They’re building landing strips for gay Martians, I swear to God!

You know what, Stuart, I like you. You’re not like the other people, here in this trailer park.

mp3: Dead Milkmen – Stuart

JTFL

 

 

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #284 : DAVID BOWIE (LATER PERIOD)

A GUEST POSTING by MARK FRENCH

Well it wasn’t going to be a single disc across his full career was it.

To me and I’m sure/hope many of you, Bowie is GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), I am not smart enough to even begin to describe how brilliant, awesome, (and every other superlative you can think of) he is/was.

I wanted to focus on his later albums , which continued to show an artist never repeating himself and always exploring new. I’m not going to claim that any of them are individually as strong as the masterpieces of the 70s and early 80s, but I do believe they hide some individual tracks that are as strong as those of his earlier brilliance……

I was surprised by two things whilst putting this ICA together, firstly how ‘hard’ almost harsh most of these songs are and secondly what an amazing vocalist Bowie was, you always know it’s him but the range and scope is amazing

Hallo Spaceboy  (Outside, 1995)

I’m not a true Bowie fan, in that I haven’t bought every album as soon as it was released, there have been ebbs and flows, but it feels as though a ‘Space’ track has always brought me back onside, from Starman, Ashes to Ashes and this track. After the pop albums and Tin Machine – Hello Spaceboy, was fast and futuristic, at his best Bowie was always futuristic and was there ever a more Bowie line than ‘Do you like boys or girls? Its confusing these days’

I’m Afraid of Americans (Earthling, 1997)

‘Earthling’ was described as his ‘Drum & Bass’ album, I was obviously already middle-aged by this point as I had and have no idea what ‘Drum & bass’ sounds like. What I do know is this is a pulsating keyboards driven song.

Cactus (Heathen, 2002)

A cover of a Pixies song and according to Wikipedia all instruments are played by Bowie except bass and features his only recorded drum performance and of course the drums are to the forefront and do not sound out of time/place at all. Starting with just vocal and acoustic guitar before bursting into a full band sound, I had to look the lyrics up online to find out that the word ‘cement’ is used frequently, Bowie’s pronunciation is unusual.

Reality (Reality, 2003)

Probably my least favourite of the later albums, I was fortunate enough to see the subsequent tour at Birmingham NEC ( sadly his final tour), although I managed to put one of my daughter’s off Bowie for life, by going as it was on her birthday which she explained to me was not acceptable parental behaviour, over 15 years later it remains a topic of conversation. The song itself always reminds me of the Ziggy album – high praise.

Battle For Britain (The Letter) (Earthling, 1997)

More ‘Drum and Bass’, with a great piano solo from Mike Garson and some classic cockney vocals from Bowie.

Looking For Water (Reality, 2003)

Guitar(ist)s have always been crucial to Bowie’s music and this is a great example with the guitar leading the way from the start.

The Stars (Are Out Tonight) (The Next Day, 2013)

Following his health issues on The Reality tour, Bowie disappeared for 10 years, the assumption was that he had retired and was living in married bliss in New York. And then without any advance PR a single was realised – such was the shock it was a main item on the BBC news. The album was joyously received. It is very much a pop album and this track (released as a single with a wonderful video) was the pinnacle,

Girl Loves Me (Blackstar, 2016)

Blackstar as an album is very difficult, given that it was released the day before Bowie’s death and was recorded during his cancer treatment, to assess objectively or to listen to purely as a piece of music, in a similar manner to Joy Division’s Closer. It is certainly completely different from any other Bowie album, with nothing that resembles pop or rock music. It’s a ‘jazz’ album, and to be honest is the only ‘jazz’ album I own or am likely to. I have regularly returned to the album over the past few years but with the exception of this track and one other I struggle to enjoy it, there is just too much jazz for my personal taste. ‘Girl Loves Me’ unusually for Bowie seems to have no guitar and is propelled by almost only drums and bass but not in a ‘drum and bass’ manner.

Outside (Outside, 1995)

The Outside album was to me a true return to form if you ignore the short spoken word interludes, which is easily done today. Bowie’s vocal is beautiful, managing to be calming, soothing and yearning at the same time.

Lazarus (No Plan EP, 2017)

With it’s opening line of ‘Look Up Here I’m In Heaven’ there could be no other album closer and listening again to the lyrics with the soulful saxophone backing – wow it really is an incredible way to end.

MARK

THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Twelve : NO LONGER YOUNG ENOUGH

A GUEST POSTING by flimflamfan

Quite some time ago a good friend uttered a phrase that when used proved, more often than not, to be true … “I think you’ll like this?”

It turned out to be true in this case, eventually …

If memory serves, often these days it doesn’t, he played bits from the band’s first 2 EPs (CDr 3”) on WeePOP! I really liked the music but … I found the broad Scottish accents grated; like a poorly crafted vegan cheese from the time – i.e., badly. Nah, it was nice enough but not for me. My friend and I put the world to rights, as we often did when we met, until it was time for me to leave and walk home.

Devious bastards.

Utter. Devious. Bastards!

On my walk home I began to hum Virgin Lips. The unprincipled bastards had created a bulletproof earworm and I couldn’t stop humming it – I had to hum, I hadn’t heard it enough to know any lyrics apart from “virgin lips, virgin lips.” The earworm achieved it’s aim. I was intrigued enough to listen to more from the band and I’m thankful that I did. The accents soon became part of what I enjoyed about the band and those lyrics – the art of storytelling.

Fast forward almost ten years and the same friend emailed me (I was no longer living in Scotland and had become quite distanced from the local music scene and music more generally) … “I think you’ll like this?” he opined. His description of the song made me keen, very keen to hear it. I added the song to my personal music player and headed for my wee place of calm. Once I had made myself suitably comfortable, I hit play; The Just Joans, No Longer Young Enough.

It was incredible. Bliss? Joy? There are so many wonderful ways in which I can describe the song and none, I think, would do it justice. I just recall sitting on my wee rock, staring out to sea, smiling, as I hit replay again and again and again.

The band had clearly moved on in terms of production, elevating itself from a sometimes sparse arrangement to a full-on 1960s Girl Group production sound. It worked!

For a song tinged with the sad realisation of ageing it’s fantastically warm and uplifting. The song, the video, the art work – it’s a gem. It’s also an earworm.

mp3: The Just Joans – No Longer Young Enough

Utter. Devious. Bastards!

flimflanfan

JC adds……

It happens to be a 7″ single in my own collection. It’s on Fika Recordings (catalogue # FIKA061), and was released in 2017.

No longer young enough
To dance the night away
To make the same mistakes
That we made yesterday
How did it come to this?
Who played this trick on me?
Started at seventeen
Ended in tragedy

That first time
Was perfect
Alcopops
Too much lipstick
An ocean
Of bodies sprawling
A new world
Of lust and longing

Hang up my dancing shoes
They clash with my pyjamas
It’s time to face the truth…

No longer young enough
To dance the night away
To make the same mistakes
That we made yesterday
How did it come to this?
Who played this trick on me?
Started at seventeen
Ended in tragedy

Old photos
Of night outs
Bad haircuts
Bee stung pouts
What is this
The DJ’s playing?
Can’t hear a
Word you’re saying

I think I might go home
I feel like someone’s auntie
It’s time to face the truth…

No longer young enough
To dance the night away
To make the same mistakes
That we made yesterday
How did it come to this?
Who played this trick on me?
Started at seventeen
Ended in tragedy

Once it felt like we were in heaven
Once it felt like we were in heaven
Once it felt like we were in heaven…

One dance left, let’s make it special
One dance left, let’s make it special
One dance left, let’s make it special..

FFF, as usual, is right. It’s a gem and an earworm. Here’s its b-side, while the video for the a-side is located below:-

mp3: The Just Joans – Breakfast For Our Tea

 

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF R.E.M. (Parts 42 & 43)


So this is the point in the series where we shift things everso slightly. I think you all know what’s coming. There’s no avoiding it, we’re examining the stage in R.E.M.’s career where its mere mention makes most fans cringe uncontrollably. And for that reason, we’re not going to draw things out – two posts, each covering two singles from the sheer calamity that is Around The Sun.

After the promise shown by the two new (or newish) songs on In Time, I hoped R.E.M. were back on track and would deliver a record far more worthy of their acclaim than the abysmal Reveal. So I went out and bought the lead single Leaving New York on the day of its release and kept my fingers crossed. When I played it, any enthusiasm I had just ebbed away.

mp3: R.E.M. –  Leaving New York

Leaving New York isn’t the worst R.E.M. single ever, but it’s so devoid of pretty much everything that ever made the band great in the first place. This was an R.E.M. song to be played on commercial MOR radio stations for 40-somethings who don’t listen to music anymore. It’s what a middle-aged covers band who play at weddings and bar mitzvahs would include in their set. It’s just… banal. Not their worst single, but maybe the second-worst lead-single to an R.E.M. album ever (after Imitation Of Life).

Maybe I’m being a little harsh and missing the context. Leaving New York is R.E.M.’s post-9/11 song in which the protagonist seems disillusioned with the city, the darkness and grief having taken over from the coolness, the glamour and the awe that used to be associated with the letters NYC. The melancholy now felt is realised in the song and I think that’s what I don’t like about it. It just doesn’t make me feel anything. The song itself isn’t terrible – the chorus is more than pleasant – but the fact it’s the album’s lead single and opening track tells a story. It is, actually, Around The Sun’s best song by some considerable margin.

Leaving New York was the last R.E.M. single I bought before I began plugging gaps in my collection a few years ago. This was the point I bailed.

Three formats were released in the UK on 27th September 2004 which may be the reason it got as high as #5 in the charts after its first week. Having said that, it dropped like a lead balloon after that. It was also the last time they’d get anywhere near the top 10 in the UK. The b-sides were live tracks, which again probably says all you need to know about the quality of material the band was churning out at this time. To be fair, most of Around The Sun was little more than b-side fodder.

There was a 7” picture disc (something I don’t think they’d done before), and a CD single containing a rather rough-sounding version of Rockville recorded in Oslo the previous autumn. Brace yourself Jonny – Mike Mills takes the lead…

mp3: R.E.M. – (Don’t Go Back To) Rockville [live]

A second CD included versions of more songs harking back to better days, captured around the same period. You Are The Everything comes from a soundcheck in Raleigh, NC and really doesn’t do this gorgeous song justice. These Days, recorded in Toronto, is the pick of the bunch, but even so, they’ve played it so much better.

mp3: R.E.M. – You Are The Everything [live]
mp3: R.E.M. – These Days [live]

For the album’s second single, a song that actually could have been something really rather wonderful.

mp3: R.E.M. – Aftermath

Again, not the worst R.E.M. single, but it’s lacking so much – a strong chorus for one – and is bogged down by the weight of an MOR production that made it sound dated even at the time. During my research for this piece, I read a comment from someone who reckoned if Bill Berry was still in the band, he could well have made the difference between Aftermath being merely an adequate album track and it becoming one of the band’s best-loved songs. Whether you agree with this or not, there’s no doubting what Bill brought to the band other than the drums, and I wonder if Around The Sun would have seen the light of day at all if he had anything to do with it.

A shame really, because I really don’t dislike Aftermath, I’m just completely underwhelmed by it. And to be fair, it probably is the second-best song on the album. But that’s not meant to be a compliment.

The single hit the shops on 29th November 2004 in two CD formats backed by more live tracks recorded during rehearsals in the band’s hometown in 2004. The first CD included a version of another Around The Sun song. High Speed Train is a bit of an odd one, I never could make up my mind whether it’s sort-of likeable, or just really boring. I think this take just edges the album version, probably owing to it not being so over-produced.

mp3: R.E.M. – High Speed Train [live]

As for CD 2? So Fast, So Numb is one of New Adventure in Hi-Fi’s real highlights, a bloody excellent song. It’s let down somewhat here by the rather perfunctory drumming and very bored-sounding backing vocals. All The Right Friends is one of R.E.M.’s earliest songs. They recorded it several times over the years but it never made it onto an album. It was revived for a movie soundtrack and was included on In Time, and as such made it back into the band’s live set. Of all the tracks we’ve posted today, this is the one you want.

mp3: R.E.M. – So Fast, So Numb [live]
mp3: R.E.M. – All The Right Friends [live]

While doing this series, I’ve made a point of listening again to each album when we reach that era. Reveal was very tough and I didn’t listen to Beachball because it’s so diabolical, but I did get through the other 11 tracks.

Just.

I had to turn Around The Sun off after 8½ songs as it is sooo boring, drab and uninspiring. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to it all the way through in a single sitting and this was the first time I’ve tried to get through it in years. It was the first R.E.M. album I never bought. I still don’t own a copy of it, other than in MP3s that I *ahem* acquired at the time. I wasn’t going to pay for it, no way.

And to think, there are still two more singles from the damn thing to come next week……..

The Robster

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #256: THE PRESIDENT’S MEN


For the third successive Saturday, it’s a return to some words from The Big Gold Dream box set;-

Jeremy Thoms was the driving force behind this Aberdeen quartet who recorded two singles for the city’s Oily Records. Alongside guitarist Roy Ingrams, bassist Donald Macdonald and drummer John Watson, Thoms recorded Out in the Open in Edinburgh at Tony Pilley’s famed Barclay Towers studio.

Following the Presidents Men’s second single, Reasons for Leaving, Thoms decamped to the capital, toured with The Revillos and went on to play in the likes of Strawberry Tarts, The Naturals, New Leaf and The Fabulous Artisans. These days he fronts The Cathode Ray and also runs Stereogram Recordings, which has put out all Cathode Ray material to date, as well as albums by the likes of James King and The Lone Wolves, Roy Moller and The Band of Holy Joy.

The track which was included in the box set was the debut single:-

mp3: The President’s Men – Out In The Open

If you like what you’re hearing, and there’s no reason not to, then I’m pleased to say that while the 7″ vinyl from 1980 isn’t all that readily available on the second-hand market, all three of its tracks were given a first-ever digital release just last month, to mark the 40th anniversary of its release. Bandcamp is the place to go, and all you have to do is click here.

JC

ORIGINAL v COVER : I BET YOU LOOK GOOD ON THE DANCEFLOOR

OK…..it’s far from an original idea, and it’s been done to great effect on a few other fabulous blogs (yes, I am looking directly at you Charity Chic), but it’ll be an occasional feature to help out when I’m struggling for something meaningful to say or don’t have much spare time on my hands.

What I am going to try and do, however, is to make each offering something of a contrast between the two versions.

From wiki:-

I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” is a song by English rock band Arctic Monkeys. The song was released through Domino Recording Company as the band’s first single from their debut studio album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not (2006). It debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart on 23 October 2005, and remains one of the band’s best-known songs.

Arctic Monkeys performed the track at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics. The song was ranked at number 7 on NME’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

mp3: I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor

From all music:-

Multi-ethnic U.K. trio Sugababes jumped aboard the teen pop bandwagon prior to the new millennium and exuded their own sassy demeanor without the frivolity of most mainstream acts. Siobhan Donaghy, Keisha Buchanan, and Mutya Buena were barely in their teens when they formed in 1998, sharing a liking of garage, hip-hop, and dance music.

By 2006, Sugababes were already on their third line-up, with only Keisha Buchanan around from the original days. All through their career, the group’s members have written, or at least partly-written, much of their own material, as was the case with Red Dress, a #4 hit in the UK singles chart that year. The b-side was their nod to the newest sensations to hit the indie-world:-

mp3: I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor (Arctic Babes Mix)

The result from the Villain Towers adjudicating panel?

A win for the cover, on the basis that it was delivered with equal lashings of panache and humour.

This verdict can, should you choose, be overturned on appeal via the comments section……

JC