ANYONE REMEMBER THIS LOT?

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Sharkboy were a Brighton-based band, much-loved and championed by Brett Anderson.

They initially consisted of Avy (vocals, guitar), Adrian Oxaal (guitar, cello, keyboards), Alan Stirner (guitars, percussion) and Jessica Fischer (bass, cello). They signed to Nude Records with a debut single Crystaline being released in November 1993, after which came Razor in February 1994, Neither single sold well despite some reasonably good press and a series of high-profile support gigs to label mates Suede.

Debut album Matinee flopped after which the band took stock, adding three new members at the expense of one and tried again the following year. Four more non-hit singles and a poorly selling sophomore album, which also included contributions on violin from Dickon Hinchcliffe of Tindersticks, saw them call it a day before 1995 was out.

Adrian Oxall would enjoy success with James whom he joined in 1996, going on to play on three albums – Whiplash, Millionaires and Pleased To Meet You.

The critics likened Sharkboy to Mazzy Star and Drugstore, presumably on the basis of having a breathy female vocalist over tunes that weren’t the most commercial. There’s one single in the collection:-

mp3 : Sharkboy – Razor

Three more oddly compelling tracks on the CD (I’m picking up touches of PJ Harvey and The Auteurs) which, according to the sticker still on the plastic case, cost me 99p:-

mp3 : Sharkboy – Bright Things Lie
mp3 : Sharkboy – Dear Gilda
mp3 : Sharkboy – Show Me Now

Enjoy

THE RETURN OF BUTCHER BOY

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A wee while back I mentioned that while 2016 had for a long time, in musical terms, looked like being the most appalling year imaginable thanks in the main to so many tragic and unexpected deaths, there were some signs of things taking a turn for the better, such as the decision by Arab Strap to temporarily get back together and play some gigs later this year.

There’s also been a lot to get excited about gigs and records wise with the likes of The Just Joans, Ette, Adam Stafford, Emma Pollock, Randolph’s Leap and Teen Canteen all getting me excited at various points in time while a number of old favourites such as Lloyd Cole, Super Furry Animals and Teenage Fanclub have (or are about to) come up trumps in the live setting while I’ve got my hands on tickets to see The Pixies at the Barrowlands later in the year.

And then yesterday afternoon, at 3pm after a marathon session of crucial meetings at work, I sat down for a belated lunch and browsed the little corner of social media that I engage in.  This came up:-

Today is the fifth anniversary of the release of the last Butcher Boy record.  We wanted to mark the occasion, so here is a new song we recorded.

It’s called November 1951, Bad Things Happen When It’s Quiet.

I was stunned.  Only last week I was talking with someone about Butcher Boy bemoaning the fact that we knew the band had been in the studio but there was no indication that anything was going to emerge soon.

But it would seem this has been a bit of a long-term plan with band members kind of sworn to secrecy that the track would appear at this time and in this low-key way.  It certainly grabbed my attention and I reached for the headphones immediately and hit play on the linked video.

My work colleagues in the open plan office must have looked at me with either a degree of curiousity or concern as I’m sure I gasped out loudly within the first few seconds.  And then they must have wondered why it was I got off my chair and went into another meeting room all on my own never taking my eyes away from the small screen.  I certainly was asked if I was OK when I came back into the open plan area some ten minutes later with one person wondering if I’d been given some shock news.

But how do you explain that a band, of whom 99% of my colleagues won’t ever have heard, had just put up a new song online that had not only blown me away with its first few notes but had rendered me speechless on listening to it for the first and then second time back-to-back.

This is a song like nothing else Butcher Boy have before recorded and released. It is haunting, moving, epic and atmospheric.  It is a song on which a number of the band members don’t make an appearance but it is augmented by a number of guest musicians:-

Words and music by Butcher Boy, 2016

Maya Burman-Roy, Alison Eales, Fraser Ford, John Blain Hunt, Findlay Mackinnon, Basil Pieroni, Cat Robertson, Robert Spark

Recorded by Brian McNeill

Second voice – Anna Miles

Additional strings – Jacqui Grant (cello), Kathleen McVey (violin)

Choir – Lindsay McIntyre, Madeleine Schmoll, Maija Sihvola, Hannah Thorley

I’m reliably informed that this is a taster for an EP which is in the pipeline in which there will also be a full band version of the song available.

Can’t wait.

mp3 : Butcher Boy – November 1951, Bad Things Happen When It’s Quiet (strings version)

Enjoy

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #89 : FOIL

A GUEST POSTING FROM JACQUES THE KIPPER

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a kind of sexual manner

I’ll start with an admission. Much as I’ve enjoyed others’ ICAs, and often particularly those that I’d not immediately think that I would, the thought of, however much I like the band in question, spending hours listening to the back catalogue of the likes of It’s Immaterial, Curiosity Killed the Cat or Echo and the Bunnymen, fills me with dread. Look forwards, or possibly sideways is my music philosophy. Sure, I’ll listen to the odd old track here and there but I’m far more interested in what’s new, and I only have so many hours in the day. (At the time of writing for example, I’d recommend the new Pussy Mothers 12”. Brilliant.) I suppose, if honest, I never thought that I’d get round to this.

So why now? Why this one? It came about after a bit of social media banter with my old (though not quite as old as me) friend Hugh on his birthday. I was going to freak him out with some pics of memorabilia from his musical youth, and as part of hunting that out, found my favourite ever music review.

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Our subsequent exchange inspired a bit of nostalgia from friends and musos of then, and some searching out of the songs by friends of now. Generally, the feedback seemed positive and confirmed my thinking that the band of which he had been a member made some damn fine records back in the day.

To exorcise the demons and, let’s be honest, because the back catalogue isn’t of REM proportions and I do dip in and out of it fairly regularly, I’ve set about putting together a set of songs that I think work as an album, albeit clearly a compilation. For those that already know the band, you’ll notice I’ve missed a few of the usual suspects. No worries, they’ll be on the separate limited edition, money spinning Record Store Day khaki coloured vinyl EP, later to be incorporated onto a re-released deluxe version of the album.

I’ve not given you a rundown of the band before, during and after, and barely any detail about chronology or wider societal issues of the time. And for once no sordid tales of sex and drugs, though clearly there is plenty rock ‘n’ roll. The hope is that the music talks (okay, sometimes shouts) for itself. Let’s party like it’s just past 1999.

As the album cover says, I give you Foil and “a kind of sexual manner”…

Side 1

Reviver Gene (original single)

Released more times than an Elvis greatest hits package. This remains for me the definitive version. Drunk and triumphant indeed. Probably the start for most Foil fans. Call me biased – you already have no doubt – but this remains one of my favourite Scottish singles ever. Just saying.

Easy Life And Ignonimy (from Never Got Hip LP)

Moving on to a song that sums up Foil perfectly. Firstly, apparently, they take advice from a broken chair – surely that can be the only reason that the band did not pre-empt Buffy Cluedo in the popular music charts. Secondly, only they would use “ignominy” in a song. With some “celibacy” thrown in for good measure. For that they should be loved forever.

High Wire (from Spread It All Around LP)

Does music get any more joyous than this? They meant it man.

In The Ground (from ‘B-side’ of Reviver Gene CD single)

Where Foil show their tender side. This could meander on for another five minutes and I’d still be nodding my head along appreciatively. Just beautiful.

Superhero No 1 (single)

Spot the Batman riff. Another non-hit single. Sadly. I daresay that this was the moment in 2000 when I realised that they really weren’t destined to be embraced by the musical mainstream. If this failed, it really wasn’t happening. Shame.

Voodoo Autograph (from ‘B side’ of Let It Go Black CD single)

Can I describe this a bit more blues-y? I suppose that I just have. This is one that I really hadn’t listened to for years. Nicely ends the first side I reckon.

Side 2

Let It Go Black (single)

Let’s start side 2 by going back to the very start. A time before Reviver Gene. A time even before young people had beards. Another absolutely cracking song. I guarantee that after listening to this you’ll be singing or humming along to its hook for the rest of the day. I hope also that you’ll be rushing out to purchase the Foil back catalogue.

Weird Kid (from Never Got Hip LP)

Possibly the closest thing I could include that sums up the live experience that were Foil. It was loud, it was fast, there was a fair bit of screaming and even some harmonising. It built fairly quickly to a climax and it almost always came to an abrupt end. Oo-er!

Are You Enemy? (from Spread It All Around LP)

Another song that builds. A gentle and sensitive love song. Sort of.

The World Is Weird (from ‘B side’ of Superhero No 1 CD single)

I always think there’s a bit of Johnny Marr in here. Deliberately included to show that there was so much more to Foil than the Sugar-y reference on the cover. The guest singer is Helen Connolly. Just a gorgeous song.

Claremont Junction Optimist (from Never Got Hip LP)

Talking of gorgeous and, again, musical firsts. Has there ever been a more sexy mention of Staropramen in a song than this? I think not.

Hey You (from ‘B side’ of Reviver Gene re-release CD single)

And so the album ends as it began. With references to getting drunk. Having known Hugh for too many years to mention I can only praise his imagination because I’ve rarely seen an alcoholic beverage cross his lips…

Forget To Breathe (from ‘B side’ of Superhero No 1 CD single)

Oh wait, there’s a secret hidden track. From the acid jazz years. Another side that you probably didn’t know had existed.

And that really is it. The band that I shall never mention again on these pages. Although I am loving the new Hugh stuff so much that I retain the right to rave about that at some point. It really is very different. I might even do a further ICA – in fact, that mention of Curiosity Killed The Cat…

Jacques

BONUS POSTING : THAT SUMMER FEELING

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Just spent two or so hours browsing round Across The Kitchen Table. I did so as part of my efforts to catch up with everyone’s work over the past four months as I’ve been unable to find enough time to read what others are saying while keeping this place going and dealing with work etc. That’s three of the blogs down but many more to go.

Drew is one of the best bloggers out there in terms of the breadth of music on offer. You might not be the biggest fan of the songs he posts one day but rest assured he’ll be along very soon with an absolute belter. He wrote rather wonderfully the other day about this single from 1984:-

mp3 : Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – That Summer Feeling

It came out in the UK on Rough Trade Records.

I later picked up an alternative, longer and even more languid version of the song courtesy of its inclusion on a sort of best-of compilation:-

mp3 : Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – That Summer Feeling (alt)

I veer towards the single version in terms of a personal preference but there’s something rather lovely and laidback about the alt version.

Oh and yesterday’s featured Scottish act did a rather lovely cover. There’s a lovely backing vocal courtesy of Norman Blake:-

mp3 : BMX Bandits – That Summer Feeling

Enjoy.

BUZZCOCKS SINGLES 77-80 (Part 1)

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I’ve gone for Buzzcocks to be the next band in the lookback at the singles set of series. Not only are the songs for the most part rather spoecial, but many of the sleeves were among the best designs of the post-punk era.

In the beginning was this.

Spiral Scratch is an EP and the debut release by English punk rock band Buzzcocks. It was released on 29 January 1977, and was the first punk record to be self-released (that is, without the support of an existing record label). It is the third record ever released by a British punk band (preceded only by The Damned’s “New Rose” and the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.”). The EP is the only Buzzcocks studio release to feature original singer Howard Devoto, who left shortly after its release to form one of the first post-punk bands, Magazine.

When reissued in 1979, it reached number 31 in the UK Singles Chart.

According to Devoto, “It took three hours to record the tracks, with another two for mixing.” Produced by Martin Hannett (credited as “Martin Zero”), the music was roughly recorded, insistently repetitive and energetic.

The band had to borrow £500 from their friends and families to pay for the record’s production and manufacture. The EP was released 29 January 1977 on their own New Hormones label. The disc quickly sold out its initial run of 1,000 copies, and went on to sell 16,000 copies, initially by mail order, but also with the help of the Manchester branch of music chain store Virgin but also with the help of the Manchester branch of music chain store Virgin, whose manager took some copies and persuaded other regional branch managers to follow suit.

mp3 : Buzzcocks – Breakdown
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Time’s Up
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Boredom
mp3 : Buzzcocks – Friends Of Mine

Enjoy.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #38 : BMX BANDITS

bmx-bandits

I’m doing a direct lift from a posting last December.

Duglas T Stewart is the nearest thing we have in Scotland to a King of Indie Pop. I can do no better than steal these wonderful words penned by Michael Pederson for The Skinny back in 2012:-

Duglas T. Stewart is the founder of BMX Bandits; a pop spokesman for love, magic and fairytales. Whilst BMX Bandits have shared members with many brilliant Glasgow bands (such as Teenage Fanclub, The Vaselines and The Soup Dragons), Duglas T. Stewart has been the effulgent yellow yolk that’s spanned it all. Kurt Cobain claimed on a New York radio show that if he could be in any other band it would be BMX Bandits… and, well, flocks of us convincingly concur.

And if you need more on his band, this the bio from their own website:-

BMX Bandits were formed in 1985 by songwriter and lead vocalist Duglas T Stewart out of the ashes of The Pretty Flowers, a short-lived group that featured Stewart alongside Frances McKee (The Vaselines), Sean Dickson (The Soup Dragons) and Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub).

Their songs mix melodic qualities and humour with, at times, raw and heartbreaking pathos. Stewart has written many of the group’s works solo including ‘Your Class’, ‘The Sailor’s Song’ and ‘Doorways’ but also has collaborated with many of the other members. Stewart’s most regular songwriting partners have been Francis Macdonald, Norman Blake and, more recently, David Scott of The Pearlfishers and original Bandits lead guitarist Jim McCulloch.

Starting with the exuberant E102 in 1986, BMX Bandits released a series of singles on Stephen Pastels’ 53rd & 3rd label, where they were label mates with The Vaselines and Beat Happening. Later they joined Alan McGee’s Creation Records. BMX Bandits released three albums on Creation. The group’s most celebrated song is the autobiographical ‘Serious Drugs’, recorded in 1991 but not released until 1993.

Stewart split with his long term musical partner Francis Macdonald in 2005 but 2006 saw a new wave of live concert activity and the release of My Chain. Stewart’s writing on the album was compared to Brian Wilson, Michel Legrand, Ennio Morricone and even Alan Bennett. The line up was expanded by the arrival of Stewart’s friend David Scott and new female vocalist Rachel Allison. The follow-up, 2007’s Bee Stings, was influenced by classic girl group pop plus the mellow A & M sound of the late 1960s and early 70s.

The band’s most recent album release BMX Bandits In Space (Elefant Records in 2012) was hailed by some critics as their most accomplished release so far, “a stunning, brilliant and beautiful album”. A highly acclaimed feature-length documentary called Serious Drugs – Duglas and the Music of BMX Bandits was premiered in Glasgow in 2011, followed by a series of international festival screening and a DVD release.

The line-up of the group continues to be ever changing with the latest addition to the line up being multi-instrumentalist Chloe Philip (pictured above). Despite all the changes in personnel the heart and soul of the group remains the same, an extended musical family led by the inimitable Duglas.

I’ve lost count of how often I’ve either see Duglas in the flesh, either on stage with his band or more often than not as part of the audience watching singers and bands do their stuff. He’s always been one to champion new and emerging musicians and I imagine many of them get a big kick when he sidles over to them and offers his sage advice. Everyone with any interest at all in the music scene in Scotland knows, respects and loves Duglas T Stewart. Long may he reign.

mp3 : BMX Bandits – Little Hands

A single from 1993, released on Creation Records.

 

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #88 : HUSKER DU

A GUEST POSTING FROM SWISS ADAM

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Husker Du ‘You Gotta Keep Hanging On’ (An Imaginary Compilation Album)

Husker Du are arguably the most essential band that came out of the USA’s independent punk scene. They wrote the most open, affecting and human songs of that scene, blazed the trail for groups going from an indie (SST) to a major and were determined not to be hemmed in by U.S. hardcore punk’s rules.

They had two natural songwriters, Bob Mould and Grant Hart, who took tunes and cues from the 60’s and married them with punk’s energy, filtered through a wall of distortion pedals and fired themselves into the air, eventually splitting up in horrible circumstances. Like The Smiths, whose story can become overshadowed by the breakup and the court case, Husker Du need to be remembered for their songs and their impact, not for Bob and Grant’s fallout and the ending.

You don’t go to Husker Du for laughs or light relief- what you get is a searing, white light focus on, excuse me here please, the human condition. Bob and Grant both wrote lyrics that were conversational and economic, their hearts on their sleeves, about the real world and the internal emotional world. In a sometimes very masculine world (both 80s America and the punk scene) both writers were grappling with their sexuality (Bob is gay, Grant is bi) and it comes through in their songs. Bob’s guitar playing is a wave of shards of notes and chords, splintering and shattering out of the speakers. Like The Smiths (again) people who cast that band as miserable were missing the point. Husker Du were often an intense listen, sometimes an uneasy listen, but the energy of the music, the tunes coming through the noise, the honesty and empathy of the words and the singing and the direct emotional impact of the tunes hit home hard.

Bob Mould, Grant Hart and Greg Norton met at college and the surrounding band scene in Minneapolis, formed a trio quickly and slotted into the growing underground scene of gigs, fanzines and community in Reagan’s America. They then burst out of Minneapolis and the hardcore scene, criss-crossing the States touring and recording.

Early singles like Statues show they’d been listening to British post-punk and the album Land Speed Record is a ferocious rush through umpteen songs in two sides of vinyl. By 1983’s Metal Circus they were rejecting hardcore’s conformity lyrically (see Real World) and musically (see It’s Not Funny Anymore and Diane) but could still strip paint where needed.

The big breakthrough came with 1984’s Zen Arcade, a double album and a concept album to the horror of the purist hardcore, recorded and mixed in just 85 hours. Incredibly prolific by this point they followed Zen Arcade with two further albums within the next year, both absolute highpoints and both released in 1985, New Day Rising and Flip Your Wig. You can’t go wrong with either.

Sonically Flip Your Wig is a kinder on the ears. New Day Rising was the last one produced by SST’s in house producer Spot and was recently described by Bob Mould as sounding like a man pressure washing a metal shed. Thin, brittle and trebly. On Flip Your Wig they produced themselves, and Bob had changed guitar pedal, to create a clearer and more accessible sound but no less passionate or committed.

Following this they signed to Warner Brothers and put out 1986’s Candy Apple Grey and then 1987’s Warehouse: Songs and Stories (another double album). Candy Apple Grey is where along with REM alternative rock gets invented- acoustic guitars and organ are added to a slower tempo and introspection. Warehouse is the sound of a band splitting up- it has some good songs, a couple of great ones, but by this point Bob and Grant were at loggerheads, Bob pulling rank and insisting that his songs took up 55% of the album. Drugs and whatever else took their toll, especially on Grant. On the eve of a 1987 tour manager David Savoy took his own life. Bob cancelled some shows without Grant’s knowledge. Everyone walked away not long after.

Picking just ten songs is difficult. In Husker Du tradition this should really be a double and I thought about a ten track Bob Mould Husker Du compilation and a ten track Grant Hart one but that’s just falling into the trap they fell into themselves. I’m sure there’ll be people who would pick a different ten and on another day I might too. It’s testament to the sheer quality and quantity of the group’s back catalogue. So to songs like Real World, New Day Rising, Sorry Somehow, Ice Cold Ice, You Can Live At Home, Girl Who Lives On Heaven Hill, Never Talking To You Again, Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely, Too Far Down and I Apologise…. I apologise. Another day, another ICA.

Here goes…..

Eight Miles High – a 1984 single and a cover of 60s group The Byrds, this is essential Husker Du. A searing acid-punk guitar tour de force, Bob tears ferociously through the chords and vocals, Greg and Grant blasting their way through the rhythm. The breakdown section alone is worth the price of entry. This is the cover version against which all other covers must be judged.

Celebrated Summer – one of Bob’s key tunes from New Day Rising, a look back at the summers of youth and the pain that doing so brings and the questioning it provokes. The breakdown and ending with the finger picking on a 12 string acoustic shows them breaking out of the hardcore scene and moving elsewhere.

Something I Learned Today – Zen Arcade’s opener. Double pace drum and bass intro and then whoosh, we’re off. Bob’s lyrics discuss growing up and trust in people (or lack of it).

Green Eyes – from Flip Your Wig, a Grant Hart love song. Grant Hart, a songwriting, singing drummer who grew his hair long, wore love beads and tie dye and drummed barefoot wrote some beautiful love songs.

Makes No Sense At All – a 1985 single and Flip Your Wig track and an out and out pop song. Bob Mould always had melodies buried beneath the noise. More and more the melodies began to break out.

It’s Not Funny Anymore – on Metal Circus Husker Du were making a statement. A seven song ep, with plenty of throat-shredding singing and finger-slicing playing, but here the tempo slows a little, the verse-chorus is potentially radio friendly and Grant shows his pop song influences. For this compilation it was a real toss up between this and Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely, Grant’s kiss off to an ex. It’s Not Funny Makes It because it’s earlier.

Turn On The News – another Grant Hart song, from Zen Arcade this time. A single piano note, a sound collage from the radio and TV news, and then three chords on distorted guitar, Grant bewailing the news cycle and its effects on people.

Divide and Conquer – a Bob Mould masterpiece from Flip Your Wig. The guitar riff is a killer. The band are right on it. The lyrics skewer government, phone tapping, the politics of division and globalisation.

Pink Turns To Blue – another Zen Arcade highlight, recorded in one take. Grant Hart sings of a girl’s drug addiction and subsequent overdose, as pink turns to blue.

Keep Hanging On – there are so many songs I could or maybe should have closed this album with but this one always hits me right there. From Flip You Wig, buried away towards the end of side 2, the guitars are deliciously distorted, Greg’s bass builds, the drums thump and Grant sings his heart out. His voice sounds like he is just about hanging on but ultimately this is uplifting, life affirming stuff.

Only angels have wings, girl
And poets have all the words
The earth belongs to the two of us
And the sky belongs to the birds

You’ve given me so much happiness
That I’ll wrap up and give you this song
You gotta grab it with both hands
You gotta keep hanging on’

SWISS ADAM