FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT…WHAT’S IN YOUR BOX (14)

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Ah Bis. Or so the advert so nearly said. For about five and a half minutes back in 1996, Bis were everywhere, the cover of the NME, first unsigned band on TOTP, Blue Peter, your local branch of Tesco (ok perhaps not that one).

This was largely down to the song ‘Kandy Pop’ from their first proper single ‘the Secret Vampire Soundtrack’. This was a catchy shouty pop song that the Nation, took to its hearts. It remains staple indie disco fodder to this day, although I haven’t been to an indie disco in roughly four years so that might be bollocks (and then I stayed for 27 minutes and left in huff when they played Pearl Jam).

It was official, Bis were ‘The Next Big Thing’. Four months later, they were no longer that fashionable, I think Embrace had turned up by then or the Bluetones or someone. Bis however became superstars in Japan, largely thanks I think to the presence of Manda Rin, the singer who had, people thought, a passing resemblance, perhaps, unfairly, to a Powderpuff Girl, at the time the most popular cartoon in Japan. Bis, also later recorded the exit music to the Powderpuff Girls Cartoon, which I don’t think helped.

Their popularity in the UK had waned a little, not helped by ‘The New Transistor Heroes’ what was described as being a distinctly average debut album, but that may have been helped by the burden of hype and expectation surrounding them.

This is Fake DIY was the follow up single to ‘Kandy Pop’ and is largely following the same progam. A catchy shouty pop song with a fuzzy garage disco feel to it. I rather like it. I always thought Bis should have been the Next Big Thing, and in Manda Rin, there was a likeable person, who seemed comfortable with perhaps being a spokesperson for a geeky generation.

mp3 : Bis – This Is Fake DIY

The last time I read anything Bis and in particular Manda, she was making a comfortable living selling and manufacturing badges. So today for the first time in I don’t how long I googled Bis (I think, ever) and they are unrecognisable from the cartoon 18 year olds that turned up in 1995. They still play live, regularly seen in Glasgow, London and some of the festival circuits. They are releasing new material – which is probably a good thing.

S-WC

Note from JC

Bis were due to play a gig in Glasgow on 4  August 2013 ..and to quote from their own website, it was to feature a VERY pregnant Manda Rin.

That gig never went ahead as Manda went into labour that very same day, and in the early hours of 5 August she gave birth to a two-month premature boy.   But I’m delighted to pass on the news that  her son, who has been named Denny, is doing very well…….

REMEMBERING CURVE

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It took me a long while to write about Curve over at the old blog, and when I did it was as part of an occasional series on cover versions.  It was a post which attracted a fair number of comments and it is fair to say that there’s a few folk out there who remember the band with much fondness and who have never got over their lust for lead singer Toni Halliday.

For the uninitiated,  Curve, comprising said Ms Halliday and multi-instrumentalist Dean Garcia, came together in Manchester in 1991. At a time when the Madchester sound (Happy Mondays/Stone Roses/James etc) was very much in full flow, Curve were something a bit different. The first few releases were EPs. The music press loved them, and they were championed by John Peel.

And yet….they didn’t ever quite turn the critical praise into popular acclaim and really meaningful sales, albeit the debut LP in 1992, Doppelganger, reached Number 11, while the follow-up, Cuckoo, went Top 30.

I love an awful lot about Curve, but especially the sound of Toni Halliday’s voice. In many places it reminds me of Elizabeth Fraser, and there’s no doubt that Shirley Manson of Garbage owes a lot to Toni.

Many fans consider that they never surpassed Blindfold, which was their debut EP:-

mp3 : Curve (feat.  JC001) – Ten Little Girls
mp3 : Curve – I Speak Your Every Word
mp3 : Curve – Blindfold
mp3 : Curve – No Escape From Heaven

It was an astonishing debut in so many ways and while I can understand some folk thinking they never quite hit those heights again I’m willing to stand by a number of their later releases and say that they were equally as good – especially this track:-

mp3 : Curve – Fait Accompli

Going back to the March 2007 posting, here’s the two covers that were featured:-

mp3 : Curve – I Feel Love
mp3 : Curve feat. Ian Dury – What A Waste

The first song originally appeared on the NME album Ruby Trax (which got a mention as part of a recent piece on Inspiral Carpets), and is a quite fantastic cover of the disco classic written by Giorgio Moroder and sung by Donna Summer. Evidence, if any were needed that dance music need not be mindless pap.

The second song was recorded with Ian Dury himself, as part of a project called Peace Together that raised money for young people in Northern Ireland.

Enjoy!!

CULT CLASSICS – BIG TEARS by CONCRETE BULLETPROOF INVISIBLE

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(Submitted by Phil, from the non-musical blog ‘The Corn Poppy’)

Is there an implication that a bunch of people actually liked a bona fide cult classic? I’m not sure anyone else ever heard this. But here’s a disc that in that parallel universe would have been a smash – Big Tears by Concrete Bulletproof Invisible. CBI were actually Doll by Doll with Glen Matlock on bass. Wikipedia says:

Doll by Doll were a London based rock band formed by Jackie Leven in 1975. They came to prominence during the New Wave period but were largely ignored by the music press of the time – their emotional, psychedelic-tinged music was judged out of step with other bands of the time.

The original line up was Jackie Leven – vocals and guitar, Jo Shaw – vocals and guitar, Robin Spreafico – vocals and bass, and David Macintosh – vocals and percussion.  This line up only recorded one studio album Remember before Spreafico was replaced by Tony Waite (1958–2003). In this configuration they released the albums Gypsy Blood (produced by John Sinclair) and the eponymous third album, Doll By Doll, before the band split up.

At the time of final LP Grand Passion, only Leven was left of the original line-up, joined by Helen Turner (vocals and keyboards) and Tom Norden (vocals, guitar and bass) with a number of guest musicians, including David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. Mark Fletcher (bass) and Chris Clarke (drums) played with the group live. Doll By Doll finally fell apart in 1983, though Leven, Shaw and Macintosh plus ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, released a single Big Tears under the name “Concrete Bulletproof Invisible” in 1988. Leven became a prolific solo artist, releasing a series of albums featuring more folk orientated material.

In 1983 Jackie (from the Kingdom of Fife) had been mugged and half strangled leading to him losing his voice for a time and giving up singing all together. There were no more Doll by Doll albums and nothing else from Jackie until the mid 1990s when he started to release a string of albums which gave him a genuine cult following. But this one single did sneak out.

Big Tears was a Matlock song, on the b-side was Braid on my Shoulder, written by Leven. These are a cracking pair of songs with all the punch of Matlock’s best powerpunk swagger and Jackie’s still powerful voice. There was a UK 12″ version which added Good Thing and a US 12″ with Love Kills. this was Concrete Bulletproof Invisible’s only record but the name was used as the title of a John Foxx instrumental (the song is credited to Foxx/Leven).

Jackie Leven had a chequered career often on the verge of greater success, never quite grasping it. Sometimes it seemed like deliberate sabotage on his part. In 2000 or thereabouts he settled in the Hampshire village of Botley, just opposite the pub, often popping out for a pint (usually with a vodka in it) or to tour Germany or Norway. A friendship with crime author Ian Rankin led to Rankin naming his last two novels after Leven lyrics. He died in November 2011 six weeks after releasing one of his best albums (Wayside Shrines). One day a song of his will be used in a car advert and suddenly everyone will love him.

mp3 : Concrete Bulletpoof Invisible – Big Tears
mp3 : Concrete Bulletpoof Invisible – Braid On My Soulder
mp3 : Concrete Bulletpoof Invisible – Good Thing
mp3 : Concrete Bulletpoof Invisible – Love Kills

Note from JC

Jackie Leven was very much a cult artist with many fans from around these parts. I can’t confess to knowing all that much about him, but many other bloggers whose work I have admired have written about him in glowing terms, and I thought it might be worth drawing your attention to the piece from April 2010, on the now defunct Helpless Dancer blog:-

http://thehelplessdancer.wordpress.com/2010/04/22/new-music-jackie-leven/

Enjoy.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 73)

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As the series is alphabetical, it should come as no surprise following his appearance last week that Mr Cole is back, this time with the backing band that first brought him to the attention of the public.

From wiki:-

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions were a British pop band that formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1982. Between 1984 and 1989, the band scored four Top 20 albums and five Top 40 singles in the UK. After breaking up in 1989, Cole embarked on a solo career but the band reformed briefly in 2004 to perform a 20th anniversary mini-tour of the UK and Ireland.

The band were formed whilst Cole (who was born in Derbyshire, England) was studying at the University of Glasgow. They signed to Polydor Records; their debut single “Perfect Skin” reaching number 26 in the UK charts in Spring 1984, while the second single “Forest Fire” reached 41. The first album, Rattlesnakes, was released in October 1984. Produced by Paul Hardiman and featuring string arrangements by Anne Dudley, the album peaked at No. 13 in the UK and was certified Gold for sales over 100,000 copies. NME included in its Top 100 Albums of All-Time list, and the title track was later covered by the American singer Tori Amos. The Welsh band Manic Street Preachers included the album amongst their top ten list.

Due to the insistence of their label[citation needed], the follow-up album, Easy Pieces, was produced by Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley (who had previously produced Madness, The Teardrop Explodes and Elvis Costello and the Attractions). Released in November 1985, the album was a much quicker commercial success than its predecessor (entering the UK album chart at No. 5 and certified gold within a month). The singles “Brand New Friend” and “Lost Weekend” were the band’s first and only UK Top 20 hits (reaching No. 19 and No. 17 respectively).

Two years later, the band released their third and final album, Mainstream. Produced by Ian Stanley (former writer and keyboard-player of Tears for Fears), the album peaked at No. 9 in the UK and was also certified gold, but contained only one UK Top 40 single, “Jennifer She Said” (No. 31).
In 1989, the band decided to split up and released a “best of” compilation, 1984-1989, which was their fourth Top 20 album (UK No. 14) and fourth Gold certification. Following this, Cole embarked on a solo career with the release of his self-titled album in 1990.

On the first two Commotions albums, Cole was the band’s main songwriter (though he co-wrote several songs with various bandmembers). The third album is credited to the band as a whole, though Cole remained the sole lyricist. Particularly notable were Cole’s knowingly pretentious lyrics (he was studying philosophy at the University of Glasgow when the band started) and namedropping the likes of Norman Mailer, Leonard Cohen, Arthur Lee, Grace Kelly, Truman Capote, Simone de Beauvoir, Nancy Sinatra, and Eva Marie Saint as well as referring to Sean Penn (somewhat sympathetically) as “Mr. Madonna”.

Post-breakup careers

Cole moved to New York City and later to New England to pursue a solo career with Polydor/Capitol Records and later appeared on Rykodisc, before establishing self-published entities in the United States. His solo career has found him collaborating with the late Robert Quine, Fred Maher, Dave Derby and Jill Sobule.

Clark continued working with Cole on almost all of his solo releases and full band tours. He was also a member of the short-lived group Bloomsday, with Irvine (of the Commotions) and Chris Thomson of The Bathers.

Cowan collaborated with Cole and his new backing band in New York on Cole’s first two solo albums. He played with Del Amitri, Paul Quinn and the Independent Group, the Kevin McDermott Orchestra and Texas but is today an IT-specialist at British Telecom.

Donegan is a journalist and an author – he is a golf journalist and Scotland correspondent for The Guardian and published several non-fiction titles, including No News at Throat Lake and Four Iron in the Soul.

Irvine joined former bandmate Clark in Bloomsday and, as a session musician, worked with Del Amitri, Etienne Daho and Sarah Cracknell. He is also managing artists and bands.

Don’t know about the rest of you, but the fact that Lost Weekend was their biggest hit was a surprise to me. It was one of the few songs that bassist Lawrence Donegan gained a writing credit, and in one of his excellent books he acknowledges that the the tune has more than a passing resemblance to The Passenger by Iggy Pop.

I’ve a few Lloyd Cole & The Commotions singles in the collection and have decided to go with the biggest hit….mainly becuase it has one of the strangest intros of any record (it sounds as if it is playing at the wrong speed!) and also for proof that more doesn’t necessarily mean best as the compact 7″ version is by far superior:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Lost Weekend (Extended Version)
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Big World
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Nevers End
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Lost Weekend (7″ version)

Enjoy!!

SCENES OF A SEXUAL NATURE – EVEN MORE OF A TURN-ON THAN I’D EVER IMAGINED

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With apologies to those of you who don’t like Arab Strap and those of you who can recall the TVV piece from back in May 2010 which forms the basis of today’s posting.

Up until a the spring of 2010 I had never spent £70 on a single bit of music. Indeed, it had never crossed my mind that I’d even ever consider spending such an amount of money on a single bit of music until the day that I read Chemikal Underground were putting together a box-set of Arab Strap material.

My original plan has been to place an order directly through the excellent website of the record label but then came news that the release date had been brought forward to support Record Store Day 2010 (which was Saturday 17 April) and so I changed tack and decided to buy it over the counter.

The thing is, I’ve never been a fan of Record Store Day and prefer to go back to the shops a few days after to pick up things if they happen to be left over rather than try to deal with the mania of dealers who swamp the stores buying things they believe they can make a killing on in later times, thus in one fell swoop defeating what should be the main purpose of the day.

Come Monday morning, I dropped into my favourite wee indie shop in Glasgow to be met with the news that it had sold out of its copies of  Scenes of A Sexual Nature but with Chemikal Underground being located just a short distance away, more stuck was due to be delivered. I returned 48 hours later and so ensured that Wednesday 21st April 2010 would go down in history as the day I handed over more money than I ever dreamed I would for a single bit of music.

Actually, I didn’t hand over money. I paid with a bit of plastic. And actually, it wasn’t for one piece of music when you look through the contents of the boxset.

OK, I already owned copies of the LPs The Week Never Starts Around Here and Philophobia. And I had a copy of the various singles etc released between 1997 and 1998 which were available on a specially compiled CD. But what I didn’t have previously were:-

– a copy of the first ever Arab Strap gig at King Tut’s in Glasgow in October 1996;
– a copy of the gig at T In The Park (aka Nedstock) in July 1998:
– ten demo songs, some of which never saw the light of day in the recording career; and
– seventeen other bits of music, made up of rare recordings, John Peel Sessions and an old unreleased track specially recorded in late 2009 for inclusion in the box set.

And on top of that, there were sleeve notes from Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton that were royally informative, enlightening, entertaining and very fucking funny (c’mon, its Arab Strap I’m writing about here….I can use an expletive).

Was it value for money?

Well, I reckon so.  I’ve often scoffed at people who bought all sorts of box sets and limited edition material released by well established musicians on major labels on the basis of them being fools for further lining the pockets of moguls. This purchase felt different…and still does all these years later.

Chemikal Underground is a label that has put a lot more back into the music scene in Glasgow than they have ever taken out.  Nobody has got obscenely rich via Chemikal Underground and indeed throughout its existence the label has tried prices as low as possible with one way being to keep profit margins very tight.  I was more than happy to pay £70 in this instance for what, when I counted them up were 43 new, live or different versions of songs that I hadn’t previously been in the collection.

As it turns out, the limited nature of the boxset (there were just 1,000 made available) and the demand for it worldwide has led to all sorts of silly money being demanded for copies – just looking on ebay as I type this reveals that two are on sale with bidding starting at either £250 or £360.

I’d hope that one day, Chemikal Underground might counteract such behaviour by making the limited edition material available to buy on digital form on an individual basis.   OK, as Brian from Linear Track Lives said in a comment the other day, even when he/she has copies of certain tracks in their collection, most music fans will still obsess over owning a physical copy and so there will always be somebody likely to pay well over the odds for things like the Arab Strap boxset.

When I first put up a posting about Scenes of A Sexual Nature, I did make two of the ‘new’ tracks available and make no apologies for doing so again.

The first is a different version of the band’s famous debut single that was re-recorded for a John Peel Session. To quote from Aidan’s sleevenotes:-

…..a new version of our debut single in which the lyrics were rewritten to document the most recent weekend and the trip down to London to do the session. Unfortunately, these new lyrics are shit. Also, for some reason – probably legal – they omit the highlight of the trip, an incident at our horrible hotel involving the cheapest cider we could find mixed with even cheaper cherryade, Malcolm’s head, a charity shop oil painting and some gaffer tape.

mp3 : Arab Strap – The First Big Peel Thing

And from a different Peel Session, an incredible version of one of the most amazing songs to open any album.

mp3 : Arab Strap – Packs Of Three

Yes, it is a slightly sanitized version so that it could go out on the radio, but again to quote Aidan’s notes:-

…we were a much more focused and sophisticated group – the difference between this Peel Session and the last is quite dramatic. I can’t imagine a better document of the 1998 four-piece Arab Strap sound than the tracks from this session and, if you may permit me a modicum of gentle hubris, I think they sound quite brilliant.

There was just one thing that disappointed  me about the box-set and that was Aidan’s closing words after describing how well he and Malcolm had got on when they had turned an old instrumental into a new song in the Autumn of 2009 – he simply says ‘There are no plans to reform properly, in case you’re wondering.’

I said at the time that I harboured hopes they would get together for at least one more gig.  Well, didn’t they just do that in November 2011 to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the opening of Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, one of Glasgow’s most celebrated concert venues…..and the tragedy was that I didn’t get myself along.   Sigh.

I really can’t recommend this boxset highly enough. I know it was an awful lot of money to splash out, but at £70 it was still an awful lot cheaper than most of the hundreds of pairs of shoes and handbags that Mrs Villain stows away in various cupboards.  And while I’m here, I may as well add a third track:-

mp3 : Arab Strap – Daughters of Darkness

This was the instrumental turned into a full song for the box set and to the best of my knowledge, remains the only place it was ever released.

Happy Listening.

THESE SURE BEAT BAND-AID, MARIAH, SHAKEY & SLADE (and the rest of them)

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Back in 2009, an Edinburgh-based record shop persuaded many of Scotland’s finest underground/indie acts to record and donate songs for a charity CD with the proceeds going to good causes at home (Sick Kids Hospital, Edinburgh) and overseas (Street Invest – Helping Street Children in Africa).

It really is an excellent compilation, and I really can’t argue with this review from The Skinny back in the day:-

Compilations like Avalanche Records Alternative Christmas are vitally important. Their necessity will be emphasised repeatedly over the next few days: they will provide solstice-solace when even mordant irony can’t get you through looped Wizard and their dreams of eternal festivities; they’ll help salve the post-colonial guilt bruises caused by constant celeb-slapping; and they’ll sooth those caught idly humming Another Rock n’ Roll Christmas then anxiously fretting about the Glitterism.

Alternatives are essential. Nothing from this collection will supplant Noddy and co from next year’s Christmas adverts, of course; fewer still will wind up sound-tracking office parties (though X-Lion Tamer’s Little Drum Machine Boy might sneak in at the end of a more liberal shindig). But they’re sure to find a place in many a heart, even post-yule when the tree stands naked and detinseled and the Quality Streets are reduced to wrappers.

In fact, the only real disappointment is that so many have ignored Half Man Half Biscuit’s sage advice (It’s Clichéd to Be Cynical At Christmas), choosing gloom over joy. But they sure do blue well: Frightened Rabbit donate 2007’s (and 2008’s) It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop, a majestic plea for goodwill that ends defeated with the cry “next day life goes back to its past self”; The Savings & Loan’s Christmastime In the Mountains’ maudlin moroseness is presumably not a tale of skiing in Aspen; Withered Hand’s It’s A Wonderful Lie (as in, “this used to be a holy day but now…”) turns its glum pun into a typically witty but self-deprecating waltz; while Meursault’s playful retitling of Phil Ochs’ No Christmas in Kentucky (rechristened Christmas in Kirkcaldy) is no less serious for its east coast relocation. Ballboy, Eagleowl and Broken Records, meanwhile, recycle existing material (some with a fairly tenuous tie to the holidays, truth be told), but when the tracks are as good as Shallow Footprints In The Snow, Sleep The Winter and All So Tired, frugal redistribution is nothing to fret over.

And it’s not all coal-in-stocking/turkey-dinner-for-one depression either: There Will Be Fireworks open with a characteristically panoramic swell which just manages to stay dry skating over the thin ice of Snow Patrol, while Zoey Van Goey’s spoken word In Scotland It Never Snowed, In Canada It Did engrosses with its simple tale of childhood rebellion. And at £5 with proceeds going to charity, it sure beats block-buying Rage Against the Machine.

All I want to add (simply because the reviewer didn’t mention it) that the track by Money Can’t Buy Music is another which is well worth three minutes of your time.

Alternative Christmas is a seasonal release like no other.   And nowadays it is damn near impossible to get a hold of.  So I thought I’d make it available in its full form….with a request that if you download some or all of the songs that you make some sort of donation to the charity or good cause of your choice.

mp3 : There Will Be Fireworks – In Excelsis Deo
mp3 : The Savings & Loan – Christmastime in the Mountains
mp3 : Rob St John – December & Whisky
mp3 : Frightened Rabbit – It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop
mp3 : Pictish Trail – But Once a Year
mp3 : Eagleowl – Sleep the Winter
mp3 : Withered Hand – It’s a Wonderful Lie
mp3 : Meursault – Christmas in Kirkcaldy
mp3 : Emily Scott – Holy
mp3 : Money Can’t Buy Music – Atoms
mp3 : Saint Jude’s Infirmary – Xmas in New York
mp3 : Broken Records – All So Tired
mp3 : Ballboy -Shallow Footprints in the Snow
mp3 : X-Lion Tamer – Little Drum Machine Boy
mp3 : Zoey Van Goey -In Scotland it Never Snowed, In Canada it Did

Thank You.

MERRY CHRISTMAS DEAR READERS

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This was the traditional posting on the old blog on 25 December.  I don’t see any reason to change things:-

mp3 : Sultans of Ping – Xmas Bubblegum Machine

It was one of the b-sides on the 12″ picture disc of this most enjoyable single:-

mp3 : Sultans of Ping – Michiko

Keep tuning in over the festive period for some more tidings of comfort and joy.

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT….WHAT’S IN YOUR BOX (13)

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If my maths is correct, today is Christmas Eve. So I’ve swapped my choices around. This was supposed to be a missive about Bis.  Instead it’s a little homage to the remix with a choice of track that I think will make JC happy (hopefully). See it as my Christmas present to you, JC.  Actually, thanks for giving me the chance to do this series, I’ve really enjoyed it. Rediscovering songs that you had forgotten ever existed is strangely, therapeutic. Remembering that the reason I gave up writing for a living was because my punctuation is at best shocking, is not so therapeutic.

Anyway – I was listening to my iPod last week and ‘Carmella’ by Beth Orton came on. Now I don’t like Beth Orton her voice grates me and I’ve never really got why a lot of people love her music (see also Muse, Blur and countless others). However, this version of Carmella was the remix version by Four Tet, who I love and will hunt down and buy anything that they /he do/does and argue to the death that Kieron Hebden is an unsung genius. The remix is so good it made me consider listening to Beth Orton a bit more – consider – I stress.

That is the power of a remix, some remixes are so good that they change a song completely (the dubstep remix of ‘In for the Kill’ by La Roux for instance). Some take the catchiest bit and loop it until its just a song featuring that catchy but (‘Come Home’ Andy Weatherall Mix perhaps) and some change it or cover it and call it a remix. Recently The XX did that with ‘You’ve Got The Love’ by Florence Griffith Joyner and the Machine. So it became a cover of a cover and the best of the bunch.

In 1997 David Holmes release ‘Don’t Die Just Yet’ a single which came from his ‘Let’s Get Killed’ album. This song in itself was a ‘reworking’ (read cover)of a Serge Gainsbourg record, the title of which I forget right now. What Holmes then did was remixed the buggery out of the song and invited others into the studio to do the same with it.

The best version of it was I think this weeks track remixed and called ‘the Holiday Girl’ by Arab Strap (although I also recommend the Mogwai version). This was my first ever experience of Arab Strap, another one of these bands that I don’t really get, yet somehow I was and still am enchanted by this record. I don’t know why, but just works. It I think it sounds effortlessly cool. It made me check out other works by Arab Strap and like I said I didn’t get it. I recently revisited ‘Philophobia’ just to see if it was an age thing – nope I still don’t get it. So I’m leaving Arab Strap for now. This however, I will play again and again.

mp3 : David Holmes – Don’t Die Just Yet (The Holiday Girl) (Arab Strap remix)

Merry Christmas.

S-WC

Note from JC

Judging by the number of visitors and the comments left behind, S-WC’s weekly musings have proved to be hugely popular with everyone.  I’m personally quite touched that he switched things so that his Christmas Eve offering was related to one of my favourite acts, but believe me that I understand not everyone will ‘get’ Arab Strap.  It took me a while but I’m now more than ever convinced that messrs Moffat and Middleton are bona fide genii whose contributions to music will still be getting discussed, debated and disected many years from now.

Incidentally, S-WC also added a second mp3 to this week’s posting and said “There is a second track as well but if you haven’t heard it then enjoy, if you have it already, then you probably should have posted it already as its ruddy marvellous. :-)”

By jove, he’s right:-

mp3 : La Roux – In For The Kill (Scream’s Lets Get Ravey Remix)

Just to say that T(n)VV will NOT be closing down over the festive period.  Feel free to drop in tomorrow and right through the festive period.

REMEMBERING : GORKY’S ZYGOTIC MYNCI

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With apologies to those who remember a post from back in 2008 on the old blog which this is based:-

Between 1996 and 1999, the wonderful Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci released eight great singles on the bounce, all of which sold enough to reach the Top 75, but none of which sold enough to get a crucial placing in the Top 40.

Patio Song – #41
Diamond Dew – #42
Young Girls & Happy Endings/Dark Nights – #49
Sweet Johnny – #60
Let’s Get Together (In Our Minds) – #43
Spanish Dance Troupe – #47
Poodle Rockin – #52
Stood On Gold – #65

No other band has managed to hit the crossbar on so many occasions. And when you think of how many substandard bits of music have cracked the charts over the years, you have to conclude that there really is no justice in this fickle world.

Gorky’s (or maybe I should call them The Mynci – as in Hey, Hey We’re The Mynci) were victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  In an era when music was consumed almost entirely via radio, it was very rare that a band could get chart success without the patronage of daytime DJs and this was a band who only got played on shows where Mark Radcliffe or John Peel were guardians of the wheels of steel.  The fact too that the cost of CD singles was outrageous, certainly is respect of the price paid in comparison to manufacturing costs, meant that even someone whose interest might have been piqued by hearing a song on Radio 1 late at night would probably instead stick to the album.

If digital downloads had been available in the late 90s, then it is very likely that Gorky’s would have, on at least one occasion, got into the Top 40 which would have been followed by an appearance on Top of The Pops and exposure to a wider audience some of whom would certainly have fallen under the magic spell of a band whose work is so reminiscent of the really early recordings by James.  Fame and fortune would have beckoned instead of remaining tantalizingly over the horizon.

It is hard to see anyone else ever having such a run of near-misses ever again – for one thing singles can achieve chart success with fewer sales than 20 years ago and although this is purely a guess based on no scientific evidence or statistical analysis, I reckon all all eight of the singles would have been at least 20-25 places higher in the chart rundown.

There’s also the fact that record companies no longer show such patience and tolerance towards any act that doesn’t deliver instant success in terms of sales, and there’s no way single after single would be released in the same way as Gorky’s enjoyed at their creative peak.

I thought I had all of these singles sitting on the CD shelves just to the left hand side of where I sit and type these words, but there seems to one missing (Poodle Rockin), so it will need to be a quick hunt on e-bay to rectify that. In the meantime, here’s my three personal favourites:-

mp3 : Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – Young Girls And Happy Ending
mp3 : Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – Diamond Dew
mp3 : Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – Spanish Dance Troupe

Happy Listening.

CULT CLASSIC : LOS NINOS DEL PARQUE by LIAISONS DANGEREUSES

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Hello friends,

Liaisons Dangereuses just made one record, but, good Lord, what a record it was, to be sure! To me, it pretty neatly sums up the definition of ‘cult’.

Also the band (and the record) match the other requirements: “(…) released on an indie-label, from a band or singer who never enjoyed mainstream success and is a piece of music that in a parallel universe would have been a smash hit and made a fortune for the composer and/or performer(s).”

Liaisons Dangereuses were founded in 1981 by Berlin’s Beate Bartel and Chrislo Haas, who, before Liaisons Dangereuses, already worked together under the moniker of CHBB. CHBB released four cassettes, untitled, limited to 50 copies, each 10 minutes long. I have never heard one of those and you haven’t either, I guess. But not to worry, the record in question is by Liaisons Dangereuses, not by CHBB.

Liaisons Dangereuses released a self-titled album in 1981, which – again – I never heard (you probably might have done so though, congratulations) on TIS Records in Germany and Roadrunner Records in the Netherlands. One song from said album was released as a 7” and a 12”, but this time only on Roadrunner Records. Never heard of TIS Records? Roadrunner Records? Perfect: in compliance with the first requirement!

Beate Bartel formerly played with Einstürzende Neubauten and also Mania D (“My Queens of Noise”, as John Peel styled them back then) whereas Chrislo Haas was a founding member of Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft (or DAF, if you’d rather) and Der Plan, but also played together with Minus Delta t and Crime & The City Solution. Back in those days he was known as t.h.e. German synthesizer guru. German readers of a certain age will most probably be aware of his genius, the rest of you might still know the synthesizer line in DAF’s ‘Der Mussolini’ … that’s this bloke, y’know ….

I don’t know exactly what Beate Bartel is earning currently, she’s doing some experimental art performance projects. I’m sure you agree with me that these things tend not to make you rich rich rich or enable a shopping-topless-in-Biarritz sort of lifestyle and thus don’t really lead to mainstream success … and Chrislo Haas drank himself to death with 47 years in 2004 anyway, so: second requirement fulfilled as well!

The record in question, at least as far as I can tell, never hit the “big” charts back in the days. But in Germany it was a dancefloor filler (@ any underground club with at least a bit of taste in music anyway) throughout all of the Eighties. Also, so I read quite a while ago, the techno scene as well in Detroit as in Chicago seem to have fancied it when they started up. For me it isn’t techno though, then again I am way too old to differentiate between all these dance things anyway. It is a very fine mixture between EBM, Postpunk and New Wave perhaps … then again who gives a fuck for those definitions in the first place, right?

One thing’s for sure: any inhabitant of a parallel universe who doesn’t normally listen to U2 would dance to it like mad (or whatever you do instead of dancing in parallel universes) … and enjoy the tune mightily whilst doing so. So there you go: third requirement also met!

So here’s to you an iconic classic from 1981, friends, a cult record in the truest sense of the word, at least for me: eins-zwei-drei-vier and ….. enjoy!

Take good care,

Dirk from Sexyloser

mp3 : Liasons Dangereuses – Los Ninos Del Parque

(JC adds…………this one was totally new to me.  And it is highly highly highly recommended!!!)

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 72)

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I wasn’t sure whether or not to include Lloyd Cole in this series.  He was born and raised for much of his life south of the border, but his most formative years, musically at least, were spent in and around Glasgow and certainly you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who wouldn’t describe Lloyd Cole & The Commotions as a Scottish band.

When that band surprisingly broke up at the end of the 80s, it was no real shock that Polydor  decided to keep on the frontman as a solo artist.  I’m not sure however, if they would have been all that happy with the change in direction that he undertook with his debut solo material – there was a very clear move away from indie/pop leanings into stuff that alienated many of his fans. This in turn led to poorer sales, albeit many critics welcomed him as a great addition  to the canon of serious (or po-faced if you want to be cruel) singer/songwriters. I think Lloyd himself was hoping to be embraced by America….but it just never really happened

He’s still going strong and remains a tremendous live act, more often than not just him, his guitar and his tales of life as a musician.  A number of his more recent LPs have had a lot to offer in quality now that he’s moved away from that raaaaawwwwk phase of the early solo stuff. Being honest, if it wasn’t that I was such a fan of his voice, I wouldn’t have all that much to offer positively about the debut solo single from 1990:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – No Blue Skies

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Shelly I Do

What I do highly recommend from the early era is this 12″ creepy and atmospheric remix of a single lifted from his 1992 LP Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe…it’s one that I have a second-hand promo copy of picked up very cheaply:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Butterfly (The Planet Ann Charlotte Mix)

Enjoy.

IT GOT THERE IN THE END…

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Joe was one of the earliest singles released by Inspiral Carpets back in 1989.  It’s a cracking bit of music but it didn’t have much of an impact as the band at the time were on a small indie label and like so many other hard-working touring outfits of the era were making more money from the sales of t-shirts than they were from music sales.

Signed by Mute Records in 1990, they were quickly lumped in with the baggy/Madchester movement which did them absolutely no harm at all.  Over the next five years they were prolific in output with four LPs and something like fifteen singles/EPs and although they never gained the popularity of the likes of the Mondays, Roses or indeed The Charlatans, there’s no arguing that they gave us some very fine tunes many of them featuring very catchy and distinctive retro-keyboards.

In 1995, the band released an album that brought together all of their singles and in support they re-released Joe some six years.  It came in a number of different formats and with live and acoustic versions also available, was of enough interest to fans that they would part with their money and create enough sales to have Joe hit #37.

My own copy was courtesy of a bargain bin a few months later – the sticker tells me I paid 99p for the CD single, which isn’t bad value given that it also included a version of another of their chart hits (the song that as far as I know got Mark E Smith his one and only appearance on Top of The Pops) together with their cover of a cover-song.

mp3 : Inspiral Carpets – Joe

mp3 : Inspiral Carpets  – I Want You

mp3 : Inspiral Carpets – I’ll Keep It In Mind

mp3 : Inspiral Carpets – Tainted Love

The third of these tracks is another that was originally thrown away as an EP track in 1992 (and which unless you have been told in advance I’m sure you would argue is something that has been recorded by Julian Cope/The Teardrop Explodes) while Tainted Love was originally on Ruby Trax, a compilation released by the NME in 1992 to commemorate 40 years of publication, consisting of 40 cover versions of # 1 songs that had gone to #1 (hence my earlier cover of a cover comment).

Enjoy!!

A GREAT, OFTEN NEGLECTED, SYNTH-POP CLASSIC

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This would have been one of the first synth-pop singles I’d have ever bought.  I heard it on the radio and the keyboards reminded me of Magazine and Simple Minds.  I also loved the sleeve which remains one or my favourite designs of Peter Saville and one of the few of his that wasn’t on Factory Records although Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark had previously been associated with that label.

The band would enjoy a golden period from 1981-84 with nine Top 20 hits in the UK, the best-known of which was Enola Gay, a song which arguably did as much as any boring history books to raise awareness of what had happened when the Americans dropped atomic bombs on two cities in Japan four decades previously – particularly in an era when many feared that the foreign and defence policies of US President Reagan and UK. Prime Minister Thatcher were taking us to the bring of the most catastrophic world war imaginable.

Messages was the single which preceded Enola Gay and on its release in May 1980 enjoyed a lengthy stay in the charts, climbing eventually to #13.  The version I have in the cupboard is on 10″ vinyl:-

mp3 : OMD – Messages

mp3 : OMD – Taking Sides Again

mp3 : OMD – Waiting For The Man

The first of the b-sides is a rather decent and occasionally experimental sounding re-working version of the a-side while the other track is a tremendous cover of one of the best known tracks written and recorded by The Velvet Underground.

Messages was one of the first wave of synthpop/electronic hit records and that was because OMD became one of the first to take the music that was being written and recorded for these new instruments and machines and adapt it in  a way that made it conducive for daytime radio.  For proof, have a listen to how the song was recorded for a John Peel Session some six months before the single version was released:-

mp3 : OMD – Messages (Peel Session)

The session version is much slower in tempo….dare I suggest it has the feel of a Joy Division song?….and there’s just no way it being issued sounding akin to that would have brought a hit single.  Full credit to all concerned.

BLUE JEANS AND CHINOS; COKE, PEPSI AND OREOS (Part 4)

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A few years ago, any blogger who was featuring The National would probably have needed to provide all sorts of background information on a band that was seemingly destined for nothing more than critical acclaim.  Three albums released between 2001 and 2005 sold in modest numbers.

Things changed a lot in 2007 with the release of  Boxer.  It topped all sorts of end of year polls and the band began to get a lot of mainstream exposure in the USA with regular appearances on the late night chat shows that pull in tens of millions of viewers.  The LP didn’t crack the charts but instead sold enough copies over an extended period of time to provide The National with a much wider fan-base and so create a platform for a concerted crack at fame and fortune which duly came in 2010 with High Violet, a record that went Top 10 in the album charts the world over.

The career trajectory is similar to that experienced two decades ago by R.E.M.

Just as similarly, there is a bit of a backlash against the band with fans of old accusing them of selling-out and releasing material that is far inferior to that of the poorly-selling early years.  This fan disagrees although will admit to being a wee bit let down by Trouble Will Find Me that  was released at the beginning of 2013….and by the fact that the recent UK and Ireland tour completely omitted gigs in Scotland.  I’m almost certain they will end up on the bill of T in the Park 2014 but that’s no consolation at all for those of us who hate festivals/outdoor gigs.

In the meantime, here’s my favourite single of theirs backed with an absolute belter of a song that was wasted as a mere b-side:-

mp3 : The National – Mistaken For Strangers

mp3 : The National – Blank Slate

Enjoy!

FROM THE SOUTH-WEST CORRESPONDENT….WHAT’S IN YOUR BOX (12)

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I’m not really one for the greatest this and the greatest that. I’ve never been able to list my favourite albums of all time because it changes, I might be able to whittle it down to Ten Records that I will never part with – My favourite record of all time as I write is ‘Screamdelica’ by Primal Scream but only two weeks ago when I tried to rank them ‘Maxinquaye’ by Tricky was sitting on top the pile. Then again that pile included at 36, ‘Sebastopol Road’ by Mega City Four so I wouldn’t read anything into that. Although I can easily say that the best record three records I have heard this year are in order ‘Like Clockwork’ by Queens of the Stone Age, ‘Light Up Gold’ by Parquet Courts and ‘Random Access Memories’ by Daft Punk.

Singles or tracks are even harder. Although I have a general rule of thumb that I go by as to whether or not a song is great or not. The rule is this – That I can remember where I was when I first heard it. For instance, I was walking through Waterloo train station the first time I ever heard ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’ by The Verve, I can remember what I was wearing (pretty much what I am wearing now – although not the same if you get my drift), what I was eating (avocado and tomato sandwich) and where I was going (Devon as it happens). It’s a song I love because it made my stop in my tracks, survey my surroundings and remember where I was. It happens every now and again. The first time I heard ‘Summer Babe’ by Pavement I was in Our Price in Chatham and I bought ‘Slanted and Enchanted’ right there and then and I got the phone number of the cute girl on the checkout (I was 16 it wouldn’t happen now).

Which brings us to Sparklehorse. The first time I heard this I was in Guildford in a shared house, and it came through the post for reviewing (student rag, not much cop). I looked forward to the bundle of CDs and vinyl that came through the post because you never what you might get.

Now, shortly before I begun to review, my flat mate starting having noisy, energetic and what sounded like very sweaty sex. It was off putting to say the least – I mean he wasn’t in the same room as me, but walls have ears and all that.

So I grabbed the first CD out of the parcel – rather like I have done in this series – and pulled out ‘Someday I will Treat you Good’. I didn’t even look at the CD, I just popped it in (rather like my flatmate I guess) and hit play and turned it up. I played it four times in a row (unlike my flatmate I guess, Boom Tish!). It is an incredible record and one that always brings a smile to my face. In my opinion Sparklehorse never topped it, others differ in that opinion but I can’t remember where I was the first time I heard any of their other records. I genuinely thought I had lost this CD and I can’t tell you how happy I am to have it back.

Sparklehorse revolved around the late great Mark Linkous – one of music great lost causes- and I remember that whilst on tour with Radiohead promoting the album on  ‘Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot’ (on which today’s track features) that Linkous nearly died after a cocktail of drink and drugs he survived but lost the use of his legs (temporarily).

I saw them at the Reading Festival a few months later and he performed in a wheelchair. I think Sparklehorse released four actual albums and then collaborated with Dangermouse a bit. Sadly Mark Linkous committed suicide in 2010 and I remember feeling really sad about the loss. He was a brilliant musician and songwriter and Sparklehorse are a band that if you are not aware of I urge you to check them out.

A quick epitaph if you like, a friend of mine wrote an article on Mark Linkous for The Guardian (I think) and he ended it with the line – “Mark Linkous, he sparkled”. Which I thought was perfect.

mp3 : Sparklehorse –  Someday I Will Treat You Good