SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #56/ ICA 103: CLOSE LOBSTERS

close-lobsters

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

The ICA series for 2016 should have bowed out with that superb piece from Swiss Adam that gave us some of the very best of Andrew Weatherall. But then I spotted that Close Lobsters were due up next in the Saturday series and I realised that I would struggle to just pick one song to represent just how good and indeed underrated a band they were. There was also the fact that I could have gone with a cover version to keep the recent theme going but I then made the last-minute call to do an ICA….a lazy one as I won’t say too much about any of the songs other than to indicate which record they can be found on.

Here’s their story, as put together by a real writer over at allmusic:-

An unfortunately short-lived but utterly wonderful neo-psychedelic jangle pop band, Close Lobsters only managed two albums and an EP in their brief career, but all three releases are brilliant, some of the best music of the late-’80s U.K. indie scene.

Close Lobsters were formed in Paisley (prophetically enough, given the band’s psychedelic tendencies) and the adjacent town of Johnstone in 1985 by singer Andrew Burnett and drummer Stewart McFayden. The pair couldn’t decide between the names the Close and the Lobsters and simply combined the two for their nonsensical but evocative handle. Adding guitarists Tom Donnelly and Graeme Wilmington, plus Burnett’s brother Robert on bass, Close Lobsters gained some early notoriety when their song “Fire Station Towers” showed up on the legendary New Musical Express cassette C-86, which lent its name to an entire movement of post-punk guitar bands. Close Lobsters had a greater commitment to melody than most of the C-86 bands, though, as shown on their first single, “Going to Heaven to See If It Rains,” which was released in November 1986. A second single, “Never Seen Before,” appeared in April 1987, with a superior re-recorded version of “Fire Station Towers” and a cover of the Only Ones’ “Wide Waterways” on the flip.

The quintet’s first album, Foxheads Stalk This Land, was released in late 1987 to lukewarm response in a U.K. press already tired of the C-86 propaganda, but its inviting mix of jangle pop, hazy psychedelia, inscrutable lyrics, and monster guitar hooks gained Close Lobsters a small but fervent following on the U.S. college radio scene. A follow-up single, “Let’s Make Some Plans,” came out in early 1988; this new song and four other excellent tracks were collected by Close Lobsters’ American label, Enigma Records, and released as the EP What Is There to Smile About? in the summer of 1988. Simple and direct, without a wasted note, it’s probably the best Close Lobsters release. For the U.K. fans, Strange Fruit released Close Lobsters’ four-song Janice Long Session from July, 1986, including the a-sides of the first two singles, the B-side “Nothing Really Matters” and “Pathetic Trivia,” which would be reworked as “Pathetique” on Foxheads Stalk This Land.

Close Lobsters’ second full album, Headache Rhetoric, was released in March 1989. Darker and less immediately accessible than either of the band’s previous releases, with a druggily psychedelic vibe akin to Love’s best work, it’s the sort of album that takes a while to sink in but packs a mighty wallop once it does. Unfortunately, it sank almost without trace in the U.K., and Enigma Records by this time was undergoing the financial problems that would cause it to fold within the year, so the label was unable to capitalize on the band’s cult success in the states.

After a final EP, Nature Thing, with appropriate covers of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My (Into the Black)” and Leonard Cohen’s “Paper Thin Hotel” on the flip, was released in the spring of 1989, Close Lobsters quietly called it a day.

In 2012, the original band members got back in touch and they decided to reform to play live shows in selected European cities. The response was favorable and the next year the band played the NYC Popfest and released their first new music since 1989, an EP titled Kunstwerk in Spacetime for the Shelflife label.

I can add to the above with the fact that 2016 saw the release of more new material courtesy of the Desire and Signs EP, again on Shelflife Records.

SIDE A

Going To Heaven To See If It Rains

The debut 45 in which they sound very like another new and emerging band of the time called The Wedding Present. It reached #9 in the UK Indie Charts in October 1986.

Let’s Make Some Plans

The third single, released in November 1987; later covered by The Wedding Present as the b-side to California in June 1992

Foxheads

Deliciously danceable title track from the debut LP released in October 1987

Skyscrapers of St Mirin

An ode to the home town of some of the band (St Mirin is the patron saint of Paisley while the local professional football team take the slightly different spelling of Saint Mirren). Originally available as a b-side to What Is There To Smile About? released in August 1988, it was also included on the second LP Headache Rhetoric in March 1989

Never Seen Before

They had a great habit, for the most part of not including their singles or b-sides on albums. This was the second 45 – it’s as perfect a slice of indie-pop from the 86/87/88 era as you could hope to come across, right down to additional female backing vocals  Deserved to be a massive mainstream success.

SIDE B

Just Too Bloody Stupid

Opening track to the debut LP.  By now, you might have spotted that this was a band who more or less recorded minor variations on one tune; but by god, it was a belter of a tune.

What Is There To Smile About?

Flop single #4.  Was there really sixteen better and higher-selling singles in the Indie Charts in August 1988?  I have my doubts….

Hey Hey My My (Into The Black)

As mentioned in the bio above, this was on the Nature Thing single released at the same time as the second album, Headache Rhetoric; one of a number of bands from the West of Scotland who, at the time and in the coming years, would cite Neil Young as a huge influence.

Lovely Little Swan

Opening track on Headache Rhetoric, an album that disappointed a few folk on its release but has undergone a bit of a critical reappraisal over the past quarter of a century.  Parts of this remind me of early-ish R.E.M.

I Kiss The Flowers In Bloom

Another track from Foxheads Stalk This Land that would have made a very fine single except the band preferred not to rip fans off , and a fine way to round things off.

Enjoy.  And Happy New Year when it arrives wherever you live.

OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (5)

Nina Persson is one of my favourite singers. She is best known for her work with The Cardigans who have become one of the most successful bands to come out of Sweden in recent years racking up more than 10 million album sales worldwide. Nina has also released material as part of A Camp and as a guest vocalist with the likes of Manic Street Preachers, Sparklehorse and David Arnold. She’s never shied away from tackling cover versions and in almost every instance delivers something quite different from the original:-

mp3 : The Cardigans – The Boys Are Back In Town
mp3 : A Camp – Boys Keep Swinging
mp3 : Nina Persson & Nathan Larson – Losing My Religion

Nathan Larson is, like the bloke featured yesterday, yet another musician whose CV indicates I should know a lot more about him other than the fact he works with his other half every now and again. Click here for more info.

Tomorrow will bring another in the Saturday series from Scotland, then its more from The Undertones on Sunday before another week of covers.

Enjoy.

OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (4)

Maydrim was a short-lived indie/electronica band from Spain. The main brains behind the project was Antonio Escobar, a ridiculously succesful producer, composer and arranger who has won all sorts of awards in his home country and elsewhere as can be seen from this wiki page.

It’s quite sad that I only know of him from this cover:-

mp3 : Maydrim – Shakespeare’s Sister

Just a wee bit different from Johnny/Andy/Mike and the racist’s version.

OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (3)

No really, that is a fairly recent picture of Terry Hall sitting on top of these few words.

He’s someone who has mastered the art of the cover version over the near 40 years (!!!!!!) that he’s been involved in music. Like these:-

mp3 : Guy Lombardo & The Royal Canadians – Enjoy Yourself
mp3 : The Specials – Enjoy Yourself

mp3 : Billie Holiday – Summertime
mp3 : The Fun Boy Three – Summertime

mp3 : The Roches – The Hammond Song
mp3 : The Colour Field – The Hammond Song

mp3 : Captain & Tennille – Love Will Keep Us Together
mp3 : Terry, Blair & Anouchka – Love Will Keep Us Together

mp3 : Charles Aznavour – She
mp3 : Vegas – She

mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – Sense
mp3 : Terry Hall – Sense

And while I’m mentioning The Lightning Seeds, here’s a bonus cover:-

mp3 : Thunderclap Newman – Something In The Air
mp3 : The Lightning Seeds – Something In The Air

Enjoy

OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (2)

All the greats eventually get the full-blooded cover version treatment with singers and bands queing up to pay tribute to those who greatly influenced them. The late Leonard Cohen has had his songs covered more than most, including various compilation LPs over the years which have been commercially released or given away free with music magazines. There’s even been specially curated gigs at which some of the great and good have appeared on stage to pay tribute.

So many tracks to choose from, but I’ve gone for one which, in its original recording, is not much more than a gravelled voice and some backing oohs and aahs over a toy synthesiser with its cheap drum pattern:-

mp3 : Leonard Cohen – Tower of Song

The opposite tack was taken by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds who, in a drink and drug fuelled frenzy one day in a studio, eventually cut what became an infamous 33 minute version of the track in which all sorts of musical genres are eventually thrown in. It’s not for the faint hearted:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Tower of Song (full length)

An edited version was made available for inclusion of the tribute/compilation album I’m Your Fan, released in 1991:-

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Tower of Song (album version)

Here’s two more versions worth giving a listen:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Tower of Song
mp3 : Martha Wainwright – Tower of Song

And finally, the daddy of them all in which Lenny C is given the shoegaze treatment:-

mp3 : The Jesus & Mary Chain – Tower of Song

Outstanding.

OVERDOSING ON COVER VERSIONS (1)

I’m taking up the suggestion made last month by a few readers to devote some time and space to cover versions. By doing so over the next two weeks it sort of gives me a break from having to think too much about what to write at a time when, understandably, visitor numbers are down and there’s a desire not to come up with what proves to be a thought-provoking or well-written piece that gets lost amidst the mistletoe and decorations.

I’m starting things off with an example of a great cover in that the band involved make it sound nothing like the original and instead would have you believe it was genuinely one of their own. I’m sure that just about all of you will be familiar with the song being covered, but just in case not:-

mp3 : The Stranglers – No More Heroes

The song was included on the soundtrack to a 1999 comedy/action movie called Mystery Men but instead of the four punk/pub rockers from London, it was a version recorded by the finest band to ever come from Milwaukee:-

mp3 : Violent Femmes – No More Heroes

And while I’m here.

mp3 :  Violent Femmes – Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?

Enjoy

THE UNDERTONES SINGLES 77-83 (Part 5)

Next up is, what I reckon, is a hugely underrated 45 thanks to it having a fabulous hook and cracking sing-a-long chorus.

It was released in October 1979 and was a brand-new song not having featured on the debut LP.   I’m not claiming it’s a bona-fide all-time classic but it deserved to do better than three weeks in the Top 4o with a peak position of #32.

mp3 : The Undertones – You’ve Got My Number (Why Don’t You Use It)

The b-side, unusually, was a cover version.  It was of a song by The Chocolate Watch Band, an American garage rock band, with The Undertones picking it up as it had been included on the Nuggets compilation LP which they regarded as essential listening.  Mind you, this particular song title is something they could have come up quite easily themselves:-

mp3 : The Undertones – Let’s Talk About Girls

Merry Christmas Everyone. Here’s the long-standing tradition of the day:-

mp3 : Sultans Of Ping  – Xmas Bubblegum Machine

I’m going to be here all week…..so feel free to drop in any time you like.

 

 

 

Enjoy.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #55 : CLEAN GEORGE IV

As with last week’s song, I only have one single by the next act to come up in the alphabetical run-through of the singers and bands from Scotland on the songs held on my laptop, so apologies for the repeat posting.

This is a single dating from 2006; there was a follow-up the follwoing year after which things went quiet, but as a magazine article revealed back in 2011 when the debut LP appeared, there was a good reason, namely that ‘enigmatic Edinburgh citizen Clean George has busied himself with a classical music degree, a lawsuit from Kraftwerk and myriad projects since we last heard from him way back in 2007.’

Clean George IV is the name adopted by George McFall and since the debut album he’s released material as CGIV. He’s quirky but don’t let that put you off. Here’s the b-side of his debut single which reminds us that drug addiction is not confined to urban areas:-

mp3 : Clean George IV – The Great Highland Crack Epidemic

Enjoy.

HERE’S YOUR COLLECTIVE CHRISTMAS GIFT

This was a late change of plan. There was originally going to be a posting on Crass as they were about as far removed from the usual jolliness and frivolity of the festive period as I could come up with. But that’s been filed away for use on another day sometime in 2017.

Instead, I’ve pulled this together:-

mp3 : Various – A Drunk Father Christmas and The Antichrist

The title is taken from a line in one of the featured songs. The sentiments are driven by the fact that once again, decent music has helped me through some hard times. As it does with all of us…with nothing better to exemplify that than the #1 song in the WYCRA 200….

It’s two days before Xmas and I’m going to be travelling by train 230 miles south of Glasgow to attend the funeral this afternoon of a dear friend who died very suddenly and very unexpectedly some 12 days ago. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit it has affected me greatly. My moods have been swinging violently but more often that not I’ve been low and down and pretty crap company. Last Saturday night was the occasion of the six-monthly Little League event that I’d been looking forward to since the last one in June on my birthday. I was in two minds about going, but the husband of my late friend reminded me that life goes on and you’ve got to do what you can when you can to make the most of it. I ended up, unsuprisingly, having a great time in the company of Aldo and many other folk who over the years I’ve been lucky enough, through the club, to get to know and love. For sure, it was a wee bit emotional at times…..but as the night worked towards its 1am curfew and after a lot of dad-dancing, yes, I did feel better, I felt alright.

A small number of the songs on this latest compilation were aired last Saturday and indeed I’ve ripped off two in a row that were played in the same sequence (Smiths and Nirvana) and confirmed that our resident DJ is a genius at these things. I am a mere novice but I like to think some things work.  It runs to 62:30 exactly. It’s a wee bit iffy quality wise with variations in volume but that’s the nature of old vinyl.

Tracklist

The Distance – Cake
I Speak Your Every Word – Curve
All The Records On The Radio Are Shite – Ballboy
Big Blonde – Aidan Moffat & the Best-Ofs
Shoppers Paradise – Carter USM
A New England – Kirsty MacColl
Girl Afraid – The Smiths
About A Girl – Nirvana
Cut Your Hair – Pavement
Basement Band Song – The Organ
Bouncing Babies – The Teardrop Explodes
The Cutter – Echo and The Bunnymen
Suffragette City – David Bowie
Left To My Own Devices – Pet Shop Boys
Another Girl, Another Planet – The Only Ones
The Look Of Love – ABC
Yes – McAlmont & Butler
Roadrunner – Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers

Oh and Merry Christmas everyone. I will be here over the weekend with the usual offerings in the long-running series for Saturdays and Sundays and then doing some cover version stuff all next week and the same again for the following seven days. I also intend to catch up with my reading – I’ve been neglecting too many friends over on the right hand side for far too long.

FREAKIN’ OUT/ALL OVER ME

Nobody paid all that much attention to the three solo albums released by Graham Coxon between 1998 and 2001 while he was still part of Blur. To be fair, none of the records were remotely commercial or all that accessible and could easily be dismissed as vanity projects to while away the time in between recording and touring with his ‘mates’.

After he unexpectedly and rather messily left the band in 2002 he seemed to make more of an effort to write and record material that would be more easily enjoyed as exemplified by the release of Happiness In Magazines in May 2004.

The album was preceded by the release of two excellent singles – Freakin’ Out and Bittersweet Bundle of Misery. The former, with its guitar work eerily reminiscent of the late Stuart Adamson mixed in with a touch of J Mascis, actually made a little bit of history as it charted solely on the basis of sales of a limited 7″ release (just 5000 copies were pressed) in an era when single sales were predominently via CDs. The latter was more Blur-like than any of his ‘mates’ had been churning out – it was almost as if he’d taken the formula that had made Coffee And TV such a hit and decided to replicate it – and it took him to the giddy heights of #22 in the singles chart.

The album’s release was met largely with positive reviews – many made the point that him reuniting with producer Stephen Street had clearly paid dividends in that the record was a return to stylish and classy guitar music full of catchy and occasionally ambitious tunes. It was an album that would lead to him being named as Best Solo Artist in 2005 by NME.

Freakin’ Out was proving to be the most popular song on the album and was being best received during the live shows which accompanied its promotion and so the decision was taken to re-issue it as a single in October 2004, this time across a multitude of formats and as a double-A release with All Over Me, a ballad from the LP that brought to mind many of his Britpop contemporaries and highlighted that it wasn’t just Damon Albarn who could pen the tear-jerkers. This time round the single hit #19 and gave him his highest ever chart placing.

mp3 : Graham Coxan – Freakin’ Out
mp3 : Graham Coxon – All Over Me

The bonus track on the CD was a previously unreleased track and while it has some great guitar work, it does kind of highlight Graham’s limited vocal abilities.

mp3 : Graham Coxon – Singing In The Morning

But listen closely to one of the verses that is repeated a few times during the song and you’ll hear a magnificent two fingers to the other members of Blur for more or less giving him the sack a couple of years previously:-

Get rid of me
And they’re kicking my arse
But they gotta because
They suck

Enjoy.

UP THERE WITH THE WORST COVER VERSIONS OF ALL TIME

I was a fan of Joe Jackson when he first enjoyed success in the late 70s and was lumped into the genre of new wave. Aside from the fact that he had a few fast tempo numbers and at other times his bitter lyrics and vocal delivery could be an occasional reminder of same-era Elvis Costello, there was nothing vaguely new wave about this prematurely balding singer-songwriter, a fact that would be confirmed many years later by the story he tells of his struggle and efforts to make the big time in his entertaining autobiography A Cure For Gravity which stops abruptly in 1978 just as he finally becomes a star.

The first two LPs and accompanying singles had been credited solely to the front man but then, in June 1980, there was a new 3-track single released attributed to Joe Jackson Band. I dutifully bought it, took it home, played it and went uh-oh….it just wasn’t very good at all.

Now I knew from reading the label that this was a cover version but had no idea that it was of a reggae song, and a bona-fide classic at that, which had soundtracked a film back in 1972. I had never heard of Jimmy Cliff and actually assumed on hearing the JJB version that he was some sort of American singer-songwriter long he lines of the blokes out of The Eagles or Steely Dan such was the sort of sound emanating from the turntable:-

mp3 : Joe Jackson Band – The Harder They Come

My apologies for inflicting it on you.

The two tracks on the flip side of the 12″ were originals and demonstrate the two contrasting styles more typical of the band – one is a thrash-through at 100mph and the other a more reserved ballad:-

mp3 : Joe Jackson Band – Out Of Style
mp3 : Joe Jackson Band – Tilt

The single was a monumental flop, not selling anywhere near enough copies to get close to the Top 75. None of the songs were included on the later LP Beat Crazy, which itself sold poorly and proved to be the last album recorded by the four piece. Joe would return to the spotlight the following year with an album of jazz and swing that I just didn’t take to at all, and then in 1982 it was all a bit Billy Joel clever piano pop music that led to a million-selling LP in Night and Day and a massive hit single in Steppin’ Out.

By this point I was past caring.

I’m still reasonably fond of the first three LPs, and indeed have toyed with the idea of an ICA from that era – but there is no way the cover version would have found its way on.

And just a heads-up that the two-week period between Christmas and New Year will see this place devote itself entirely to cover versions.

A FIRST FOR THIS BLOG

I’ve never posted anything featuring Sex Pistols before. Don’t know why….just never got round to it.

Seems a good time to rectify things….and I don’t think I really need any to add any words of thoughts to this song except to mention that we are fast approaching the 40th anniversary of its release. And to think that, as a teenager, I already thought of the Queen as being ancient back in 1977….she was, as I’ve just checked, 2 years younger than I am just now!

mp3 : Sex Pistols – God Save The Queen

Here’s yer rather excellent b-side:-

mp3 : Sex Pistols – Did You No Wrong

A #2 hit (of course!!!) on Virgin Records. If you want a copy of the A&M version of the single I spotted that someone was selling it on Discogs a few weeks back for £15,000.

Enjoy.

ONE TO BANISH THE THOUGHTS OF WINTER

Tom Tom Club, the side project of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz from Talking Heads, enjoyed two big hit singles in the UK back in 1981 and 1982. Wordy Rappinghood got all the way to #7 (which no doubt pissed off David Byrne as it wouldn’t be until 1985 that Road To Nowhere would give the whole band a Top 10 hit) while their cover of Under The Boardwalk reached #22.

In between these, there was also a flop single which peaked at #65, despite which it has proven to be their most enduring and memorable song. One that makes me think of sunshine, sandy beaches and a wonderfully blue sea lapping onto a Caribbean shore:-

mp3 : Tom Tom Club – Genius Of Love (extended version)
mp3 : Tom Tom Club – Lorelei (instrumental version)

I hate winter.

THE UNDERTONES SINGLES 77-83 (Vol 4)

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Having cracked the higher echelons of the charts last time out, the band took the decision to re-record a well-liked song from their debut LP, speed it up so that it wasn’t a million miles away from the tempo of The Ramones, and make it their fourth single:-

mp3 : The Undertones – Here Comes The Summer

Only 1 minute and 45 seconds in length and one which got a load of favourable reviews yet stalled at #34 at the height of the summer of 1979.

There were two new songs recorded for the b-side:-

mp3 : The Undertones – One Way Love
mp3 : The Undertones – Top Twenty

The former has been described by the band as their homage to Last Train To Clarkesville, albeit via a one-note special. Interesting to learn that all the members of The Undertones, like so many kids in Britain who grew up in the last 60s and 70s, got hooked on The Monkees thanks to their TV shows being on constant repeat during the 90 minutes or so that were devoted to children’s TV on the BBC.

The latter is akin to Scottish punksters The Rezillos, with its ‘hey hey hey’ backing vocal.

All in all, three hugely enjoyable songs with a combined running time of a little over six minutes.

Enjoy.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #54 : CLARE GROGAN

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I can’t help it if she only ever released one solo single before calling time on her recording career and concentrating on the acting career. I know I’ve posted this song quite a few times over the years, always apologising for how dreadful it is, but it’s in the collection and so is worthy of featuring in this series. Besides it makes it an easy, lazy posting for me:-

mp3 : Clare Grogan – Love Bomb (12″ version)

Early Xmas present for you.

Stop laughing. She and the boys in the band were trying to earn an honest living.