SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SINGLE (Part 128)

index

This is a cheat week….I’ve never owned a physical copy of this EP from 2008. It’s one of the regrets in my life that while I got to see Y’All Is Fantasy Island a fair number of times back in the late-noughties that I never splashed out on any physical product at the time.

The generosity of their front man Adam Stafford however, in that he put up all of the band’s back catalogue on-line for free a while back, means I can bring you the four tremendous bits of music that made up With Handclaps.

A bit of background from wiki:-

Y’All Is Fantsy Island were formed in 2001 by singer/songwriter Adam Stafford. After a couple of low-key releases, including 2002’s cassette only Wisconsin Death Trip mini album and 2005’s Skeletal Demos EP, Stafford recruited guitarist/sound engineer Tommy Blair and drummer/clarinettist Jon McCall. The band recruited bassist/keyboardist Robert Lesiuk in 2006 to help fill out their live sound. McCall and Lesiuk left the band in the summer of 2007 with McCall being replaced by Steven Tosh on drums and Jamie Macleod taking over bass duties.

2008 saw the band release their second album, Rescue Weekend, again to critical acclaim. The album was originally written and conceived as a separate project from the band, but when multi-instrumentalist Tosh joined in 2007, the band decided to issue it under the Y’all is banner on their own DIY Label, Wise Blood Industries.

The band subsequently released “With Handclaps EP” on Glasgow punk label Winning Sperm Party in August 2008, “No Ceremony” in November 2008 and “Infanticidal Genuflector: Selected Film Soundtrack Work 06/07” in December, respectively (again on Winning Sperm Party). This notched the amount of releases in 2008 to four: one EP and three LPs. The band continued to play live extensively through the year before the unexpected departure of Blair in October 2009 after which they played just a a handful of shows in 2010 including supporting Warpaint before announcing they were to split.

Their final show was played at Sneaky Pete’s on 11 March 2011 with original member Robbie Lesiuk returning in place of Tommy Blair on guitar.

Adam Stafford continues to work as a solo artist and film maker.

And IMHO, Adam Stafford’s solo output has demonstrated that he is one of the greatest contemporary musical talents here in Scotland. I’m at a loss as to why he is not better-known nor that he’s not enjoyed the wider critical acclaim beyond his homeland that his releases, and in particular his live shows, deserve. But that’s for another time.

In the meantime please enjoy Y’All Is Fantasy Island. As you might be able to work out, this A-Z series is drawing to a close….

mp3 : Y’All Is Fantasy Island – Consider Yourself Swallowed
mp3 : Y’All Is Fantasy Island – Punk Rock Disco
mp3 : Y’All Is Fantasy Island – With Handclaps
mp3 : Y’All Is Fantasy Island – A General Gust

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM #6 – PIXIES

pixies

An enlightening e-mail popped into the inbox recently from an reader who has been known to leave behind some nice comments:-

Hey JC

Somewhat surprisingly (to me!), you’ve never featured Pixies on your blog and to me they are the greatest band there’s ever been, one I’ve seen more than most others and have listened to for over a quarter of a century. So if you don’t mind, here’s an “Imaginary Compilation Album” for your series thats if you actually like them! I’m sure you and your readers are familiar with them or at least their more famous songs, so this is just a collection of my favourites that’s representative of their whole career but misses out the ones that everyone might know. I’ve also tried to include alternate versions ‘rarities’ where possible. Apologies if I ramble in places – it makes me appreciate what you do all the more, it’s not easy writing coherently about your favourite music! And I own everything on vinyl – no cheating!

xxxjim
(JIMDOES)

It was also somewhat surprising to me that, after more than 500 postings on this particular blog that I hadn’t once featured any songs by Pixies when they had been a bit of a staple over at the old place. It’s also great that someone goes to the trouble of putting the imaginary compilation LP together as they are time-consuming pieces, not just in terms of the words for the piece but listening to the back catalogue in some depth to get down to the final selection. Anyway, here’s Jimdoes’ very fine take on the finest band to ever emerge from Boston U.S.A.:-

1. BONE MACHINE

Let’s start at the beginning. The beginning for me, anyway – the first Pixies song I ever heard – the opening track on Surfer Rosa recorded onto a C90 tape with AR Kane’s 69 on the other side. Believe it or not, back in 1988 this really did sound like nothing else – to me anyway – nothing like the indie music that I’d grown to love and nothing that you could hear on the radio. And what a great introduction to a band – each instrument comes in at different times to create a glorious noise with Black Francis barking and howling over the top of it – to this day I’m not really sure what he says or what it all means, but to me that’s part of the joy of this band. And I think it was the song to which I bust my nose stage diving to at The Town and Country Club – but that’s another story.

2. BLUE EYED HEXE

And just to show they’ve still got it – from their recent, underrated LP. It rocks in a way that only the Pixies can. I know it’s ‘Pixies’, not ‘The Pixies’ but sometimes it just sounds funny without the ‘The’. Anyway this is one of my most listened to songs from 2014 – I wasn’t expecting much from the album (and with an embarrassing title like ‘Indie Cindy’, who can blame me) but it goes to show that Deal or No Deal, they can still produce a quite wonderful noise.

3. DOWN TO THE WELL

I got hold of this song as a track on a free EP with Sounds, released just after Surfer Rosa, although this version is from a session they did at Maida Vale. Originally recorded as a demo before Surfer Rosa, I fully expected this to appear on the follow-up, Doolittle but I’m guessing that they had so many great songs recorded that they just held it back till Bossanova. My favourite line is “What matter does it make if there are favourite songs playing in my head” which could well be a mantra for my life! Anyway, it’s about sex and alien abduction – what could be more Pixies than that?

4.  HEY

Pixies were always a great band to jump around, scream and go nuts to – but I love their slow songs as much as their fast noisy ones – loudQUIETloud and all that. This is a live version from the tour they did where they played Doolittle in order plus assorted B-sides. Just listening to the audience in this version really brings home what a loved band they are. I was lucky enough to see them a fair few times before they originally split up and was young then so spent most of the gigs going bananas, as you do. I always looked back fondly on those days and as Pixies influence grew was happy I’d seen them. So when they reformed it was incredible going back and seeing songs live that I’d cherished over the years – there was a feeling of trepidation that they might just ruin things but they were as good as they ever were – and I found there was still a bit of the mosh pit left me.

5.  INTO THE WHITE

Recorded at the time when Pixies really could do no wrong – every song was so amazing that they’d put tracks like this as B-sides. And one of only a couple of songs that features Kim Deal on lead vocals. I can remember buying the 12” of Here Comes Your Man just to get this song which they’d been playing live for a while. Best sleeve for a Pixies record too – I used to have a massive poster of it on my student bedroom wall.

6. VAMOS

Always my favourite song live – for Joey Santiago’s amazing guitar work – the way it just goes nuts in the middle loads of feedback and echo – he plays that bit with a drumstick or whatever else is at hand. But also for the way that Black Francis’ rhythm guitar holds everything together and stops the song descending into chaos. I’ve included an epic version which was their closing song when they played at Brixton Academy on their original comeback tour on June 5 2004 – a gig I was lucky enough to attend. And for some strange reason it features on both Come on Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa although I’ve never been able to notice much difference between the two of them. Vamos a jugar por la playa, indeed.

7. MOTORWAY TO ROSWELL

People often say that the last two Pixies albums aren’t as good as the first two. I think they are just different but equally good. They couldn’t really have made another Doolittle without sounding a little tired. And it’s great when bands evolve – it’s not a complete reinvention. Anyway I think of this album as the shiny album – everything seems to have a sheen to it if that doesn’t sound too weird. Especially the sounds at the beginning of this song – probably the most ‘space’ and ‘sci-fi’ song they recorded.

8. NIMROD’S SON

I can’t think about most Pixies songs without thinking about them being performed live – and that means thousands of people shouting “You are the son of a mother fucker”. An absolute joy.

9. CACTUS

My favourite song off my favourite album – it just about beats Gigantic. Impossible to articulate what it means to me, I’ve loved it for so long.

10. HEAD ON

Pixies made some great cover versions – and this rendition of The Jesus and Mary Chain classic is my favourite. I’m biased but much as I like the original, I think this version is better!

So there’s ten songs – it’s been incredibly hard to choose just ten. I could easily have picked another ten. And I’ve resisted the urge to put them in alphabetical order like they did with their set lists back in the day!

Side A

mp3 : Pixies – Bone Machine
mp3 : Pixies – Blue Eyed Hexe
mp3 : Pixies – Down To The Well (session)
mp3 : Pixies – Hey (live)
mp3 : Pixies – Into The White

Side B

mp3 : Pixies – Vamos (live)
mp3 : Pixies – Motorway To Rosewell
mp3 : Pixies – Nimrod’s Son
mp3 : Pixies – Cactus
mp3 : Pixies – Head On

Hidden Bonus Track

mp3 : Pixies – There Goes My Gun (live)

I’ve put the live version of there goes my gun on this mail as that is the track before HEY and the first ‘hey’ is actually at the end of this track annoyingly… and you can also hear me shouting ‘hey’ just before the song starts…!
anyway, i could talk all day about the pixies…!!!
cheers!
xxxjim

DON’T LOOK BACK IN ANGER

R-2968672-1309645704

Back on Sunday September 30th 2002, the old blog celebrated its 6th anniversary with, by almost complete coincidence, the 2000th posting.

Little did I know that TVV wouldn’t see its 7th anniversary and it still hurts that Google removed all the writing on the blog when they unceremoniously ripped it down – not so much for the pish that I wrote but because there were a lot of great things put together by various guest contributors.

The 2000th posting was one which featured a bit of rare(ish) music, that was made available on vinyl, and which managed to link three of my favourite singers/bands/performers. It was a great for the TVV template….

When the single came out, the PR blurb informed the world:-

British rocker Billy Bragg has renamed himself Johnny Clash for the release of a new charity single inspired by late country icon Johnny Cash and legendary punk band The Clash.

All proceeds from Old Clash Fight Song, released on 20 August 2007, will benefit Bragg’s Jail Doors organisation, which takes its name from a 1978 The Clash B-side. The charity aims to reduce re-offending among British prisoners by offering an outlet through taking up music lessons. Bragg has promised to donate £1 from each copy of the seven-inch single, which will be available on his official website.

Speaking about his admiration for The Clash’s late frontman, and renowned activist, Joe Strummer, Bragg says, “Time and time again you find that it’s old Clash fans who are leading the charge. “Although we may have hung up our leather jackets, those of us who were touched by the fire of punk have held onto our anti-fascist ideals. “The death of Joe Strummer in 2002 brought a lot of us together again to celebrate Joe’s life and we were amazed to find that many of us were involved in activism in one way of another – union organisers, environmental campaigners, documentary filmmakers.

Let’s be totally honest here……it’s not the greatest bit of music ever made. But it’s one that takes me back to the early 80s when the Bard of Barking started enteratining us,  and given that I first began a blog mainly to trigger off memories of times past, it seemed appropriate to put these songs up with the landmark post:-

mp3 : Johnny Clash – Old Clash Fan Fight Song
mp3 : Johnny Clash – The Big Lie

Enjoy.

BILLY MACKENZIE RARITIES…COURTESY OF SID LAW (1)

billy-mackenzie-wild-EPR-335104-1167991020

It was back at the turn of the year when Sid initially got in touch.  The e-mail was entitled ‘Cheers, Happy New Year’ and it said:-

Still enjoying your blog Mr Villain! Thought I’d be a little presumptuous and send you some Billy in the form of a little-heard version of It’s Over just featuring the orchestra. BEF dragged it out of their vaults a few years back.

Hard to believe that it will be 18 years ago this month since Billy died.

Happy to dredge my vault for anything you might want on the Billy front if you are thinking of a wee post later in the month. I do have an awfie lot.

Orrabest

Sid Law

From there we hatched a plan with the intention of having a whole week’s worth of posts in the run-up to the anniversary but stormy weather and power-cuts in Sid’s neighbourhood led to delays and this change of tack.

After I’d thanked him for sending me the orchestral mix of It’s Over, Sid quickly sent over another e-mail with an example of the sort of rarities he has.

Another from Billy. His take on Randy Newman’s “Baltimore”.

A version of the track (there are a couple) appeared on the ridiculously limited edition posthumous “Wild Is The Wind EP” on Paul Haig’s ROL label (Paul Haig had nothing to do with the actual recording – it ain’t a MacKenzie/Haig number).

The song never re-appeared on any of the posthumous CD album issues of unreleased material and hasn’t been seen or heard since.

Enjoy.

Sid Law

mp3 : Billy Mackenzie – Baltimore

As our benefactor says, enjoy.

I should mention that Sid very generously supplied high-quality rips of all the songs.  It’s my decision to pare these back to mere CD quality for the blog.  At the end of it all, I’m intending to put the hi-quality versions up for a short period of time.

AM I ALONE IN BEING OUT OF STEP?

homepage_large.c406d674

I like my 80s synth-pop and I like bands who pay tribute to it in exciting and innovative ways. I was therefore keen to give Singles by Future Islands a try given most reviews upon its release as well as reviews of music in 2014 raved about it.

The first time I ever heard of Future Islands, despite this release being their fourth studio album, was when they featured in a guest posting from S-WC back in April 2014. He was looking at bands whose name began with the letter F and he wrote this:-

Talking of great records, a few weeks ago Future Islands released Seasons (Waiting on You), which is right now holding firm as the best record I have heard this year. Yup better than Happy by Pharrell Williams.

Just after the release of their fourth album Singles the band were invited on to the Letterman Show and there they played ‘Seasons’ and delivered a performance so staggering, so jaw droppingly fucking magnificent that all of a sudden a big secret had been let out of the bag. Put ‘Future Islands Letterman’ into a search engine and you will understand.

I took SW-Cs advice. There is no argument from me that it is one of the most spellbinding things, from a musical context, that I’ve ever seen as part of a TV programme.

Later on in the year, Aldo caught Future Islands playing live in Glasgow and included Seasons (Waiting On You) as one of the tracks to go with his review-of-the-year piece. And so, I was very happy when in a mainstream record store last week (tracking down a DVD boxset on sale) to spot that Singles could be bought for just £5.

The record open with Seasons. It is a beguiling and interesting opening. As the live clip demonstrates, Samuel T Herring croons, swoops and growls his way above a tune that is very atypical of some of the very best synth-pop bands of the 80s. I really do like Seasons…..it’s a cracking bit of music while the vocal has you dredging your memory banks to come up with a comparator but in the end you conclude that he is unique, although the one name I couldn’t shift out of my head was Cee Lo Green.

The next song to come out of the speakers is Spirit which musically struck me as a cross between Vince Clarke era Depeche Mode and OMD but which vocally annoyed the hell out of me without me really being able to explain why. Come track 4 on the CD and I’d got it…Herring reminded far too often of the vocal gymnastics performed by Mick Hucknall’s MOR pap when the record buying public went crazy for them.

In short…other than the opening track, this record is a real letdown bar one or two snippets of music that were interesting – Light House (track 7) has some nifty guitar work reminiscent of New Order on their early 80s albums. I accept that it would be near impossible to maintain the high expectations from the opener but the sad thing is none of the other nine songs really come remotely close. I just found it really boring and unmemorable. I thought back to A Flock of Seagulls who had one great single and very little to back it up – but we found ourselves more than three decades ago noticing them and talking cos the frontman had a great and strange haircut while today we have noticed and are talking about Future Islands cos the frontman does crazy wee dances and is passionate about his vocal delivery in a live setting.

Maybe my expectations going in were too high but I found the record to be no more exciting than any new record by Coldplay and I am at a loss to understand why so many folk are creaming their underwear over something so lifeless, dull and dreary. When the record ended I just felt it had consisted of one of two constant and repetitive drum and synth beats – either uptempo groove or even worse lumpen slow stuff which would be a great cute for insomnia.

Singles has had folk raving about in throughout 2014 but I reckon come 2016 most folk will look back on their fawning reviews and be embarrassed.

I very rarely use this blog to pen negative stuff – if I’m not a fan I prefer to say nothing at all. There’s plenty of vinyl and CD in the collection that I haven’t ever mentioned this past eight and a bit years for that very reason. But given this is a time when I seem to be so out of sync – you’ll struggle to find anywhere a bad word said about this record – I’m going to make an exception.

As I said at the outset, I really do like my 80s synth-pop and I like bands who pay tribute to it in exciting and innovative ways. Future Islands, on this showing, do no such thing.

Try these instead:-

mp3 : White Lies – To Lose My Life
mp3 : Ladyhawke – Magic
mp3 : Delphic – Doubt

READ IT IN BOOKS : ELVIS COSTELLO

R-1105244-1347303684-3527.jpeg

My love for music extends to the written word. I haven’t counted them up but I do have a substantial number of biographies about musicians and bands….its certainly into the many hundreds and it grows by the year as I have a rule of thumb never to toss away any book, even if I don’t like it.

I got a pleasant surprise from Santa this year, courtesy of Cullen Skink, a friend who was an occasional contributor to the old blog. He gave me a copy of Complicated Shadows : The Life and Times of Elvis Costello, originally published in 2004. The book is the work of Graeme Thomson, one of the most prolific contributors about music and culture to newspapers and magazines here in the UK as well as the author of a number of bios with Johnny Cash, Kate Bush and George Harrison among those he has covered in addition to the man originally named Declan McManus.

It is a cracking read – for once the promo blurb on the cover got it spot on with its description being ‘meticulously researched and fluently told’. It is the work of someone who clearly very much admires and respects the singer but at the same time who pulls no punches in terms of offering a critique of some of the music that EC has released, nor does it shy away from behaviours or incidents showing the singer in a less than flattering light. One review at the time of its issues said “As believable and fair a picture of the man himself as I suspect is actually possible. He’ll not like it though.”

It again brought home just how diverse a career Elvis Costello has enjoyed over such an extended period of time. The reader is left with a clear impression of a man who is determined not to be pigeon-holed in any shape or form and who has such incredible self-confidence that he feels no form of music is beyond him. And for the most part, he’s been proven to be right and time and time again he’s defied those who have written him off with some sort of masterpiece coming on the back of some lesser well-received recordings.

If you’re a fan of Elvis Costello but haven’t got round to reading it then I recommend it highly. Equally, if you’re someone who likes biographies of famous folk, musicians or otherwise, then I can also recommend this as an entertaining and enlightening read.

Four songs today, lifted from a 1989 EP centred around a song lifted from his then new LP Spike and co-written with his then partner Cait O’Riordan, former bassist with The Pogues, but containing three other ballads from various points in his back catalogue:

mp3 : Elvis Costello – Baby Plays Around
mp3 : Elvis Costello – Poisoned Rose
mp3 : Elvis Costello – Almost Blue
mp3 : Elvis Costello – My Funny Valentine

Enjoy

 

NEXT YEAR’S NOSTALGIA FEST (Part 1 of 48)

CD86_(album)

1986 was an important year in the history of the genre that has become known as indie-pop, characterised by the release of C86, a 22-song cassette compilation from the NME consisting of what were largely up and coming UK bands who were making guitar-based pop music that was a throwback to the Postcard and early Rough Trade era at the start of the decade.

It was a time when music was being made on the cheap and in a rough and ready fashion which harked back to the punk/new wave era, and it was no real surprise that the biggest music paper in the country focussed on what it hoped would the next new wave of music on the tenth anniversary of the birth of punk.

C86 did not generate any huge amount of commercial success with the vast majority of the bands involved never really getting beyond cult status. But there was something of a timeless quality tabout a number of the songs, and indeed of other contemporary songs which weren’t included on the cassette.

In 2006, CD86 was released to mark the 20th anniversary of C86. It consisted of 48 tracks, compiled by Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne, complete with a short essay in which he extolled the virtues of the movement with the statement:-

“It was the beginning of indie music. It’s hard to remember how underground guitar music and fanzines were in the mid-’80s. DIY ethics and any residual punk attitudes were in isolated pockets around the country, and the C86 comp and gigs brought them together”.

While I beg to differ about it being the birth of indie music (what had I spent my late teen and early 20s dancing to if it wasn’t indie?), I won’t disagree that the songs of the era have a certain charm and so, for the new Sunday series now that the Moz singles feature has again come to an end, I’m going to look at all 48 songs on the CD 86 compilation and where possible also feature the b-side if the song had been a 45.

Interestingly enough, the CD86 compilation only featured 3 of the original 22 songs which had been on C86, while seven of the 22 acts were omitted altogether – Stump, Bogshed, A Witness, Miaow. The McKenzies, Fuzzbox and The Shrubs – in his essay Bob Stanley offers the opinion that some groups on the NME compilation were genuinely dire and he specifically mentions The McKenzies, A Witness and Stump.

It is the case that each of C86 and CD86 opened with the same song by the one band that emerged from the movement to really experience worldwide fame and fortune over an extended period….just a pity for the genre that they made their fame and fortune from a totally different style of music!!

R-1346772-1232916875.jpeg

mp3 : Primal Scream – Velocity Girl

Clocking in at some 80 seconds in length, this just about perfectly encapsulates what the C86 movement was all about.  The production was a long way removed from the slick and glossy material that was then dominating the charts, the band sounded as if they had only just got together for a bet or a laugh (or both) and the singer wasn’t blessed with the most natural of voices – but somehow it all came together in a way that was enchanting and entrancing.

Strangely enough, Velocity Girl was the b-side of the second ever Primal Scream single released on Creation Records back in 1986, but thanks to its inclusion on various compilation LPs over the year has become far better known than its a-side:-

mp3 : Primal Scream – Crystal Crescent

Tune in on the next 47 Sundays for the rest of the series…..