AN APPRECIATION OF A VERY FINE AND UNDERSTATED ALBUM

Back in June 2009, the self-titled debut by Lord Cut-Glass was released on Chemikal Underground records. Lord Cut-Glass is none other than Alun Woodward, formerly one-part of the very fine combo The Delgados who were, and remain, hugely popular among the indie-scene cognoscenti.

Having watched fellow-Delgado Emma Pollock release solo records to a fair amount of critical release, many fans were really eager to hear what Alun would come up with. It was known he was going to call himself Lord Cut-Glass (from a character in the play Under Milk Wood) thanks to a song appearing on the 2007 LP Ballad Of The Books in which various Scottish musicians and writers/poets combined to produce songs. Alun worked with the novelist, illustrator and painter Alisdair Gray to bring us this:-

mp3 : Lord Cut-Glass & Alisdair Gray – A Sentimental Song

All rather nice in a folk/pop sort of fashion and it whetted the appetite for more. But it was to be another two years before anything else was heard, and it was a fabulous and quirky single with a very fine b-side:-

mp3 : Lord Cut-Glass – Look After Your Wife
mp3 : Lord Cut-Glass – Over It

The album followed soon after. It was a compact piece of work with its 11 tracks extending to just over 37 minutes. It also proved rather different from what his old band had produced….acoustic in nature with a fair bit of strings, brass and piano. It also turned out to be an album that changed tempo a fair few times yet still managed to ensure every song had a hook to get you singing or humming along forever more.

Here’s a couple of examples:-

mp3 : Lord Cut-Glass – Monster Face
mp3 : Lord Cut-Glass – Big Time Teddy

This was the last music Alun would release for seven years until 2016 when he composed a really accomplished soundtrack for this compelling documentary, which, if you hurry, you can still see on the BBC i-player.

I’m not normally a fan of film/documentary soundtracks as all too often they need the pictures/image to work well, but in this instance the music proves to be more than capable of standing alone and providing a hugely enjoyable and listenable record.    Let’s hope the gap to his next album isn’t anything as long.

Enjoy.

BOOK REVIEW : SET THE BOY FREE by JOHNNY MARR

Today’s is a guest posting from a friend of mine named Ken Lynch. I first met Ken through a mutual love of Butcher Boy and over the years have come to know him as a well-refined and stylish fella with great taste for many of the finer things in life. Indeed he is something of a charming man and a bit of a handsome devil too….

He put some thoughts on Facebook yesterday and I was delighted when he responded positively to my ask that they be shared widely.

A GUEST CONTRIBUTION FROM KEN LYNCH

I’ve just finished reading Johnny Marr‘s autobiography, which I absolutely loved. I could hear Johnny speaking every word that I read; it was so engaging.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet Johnny a few times over the years; in the brief encounters with him, I’ve always come away thinking exactly how a friend of mine recently described him: A good guy. This comes across in Set The Boy Free; his humour & passion shines through every chapter. I really can’t recall enjoying another book as much. It’s well set out, with proper chronology – including chapters and an index – the absence of which affected my enjoyment of Morrissey‘s autobiography. It also felt as if Johnny put in just the right amount of detail into each section; that he was aware of wanting to tell his story accurately without ‘going on’; that he wanted the reader to enjoy his story, that the quality of the writing was important to him. He did all of this in his own engaging, enthusiastic manner, which makes it such an easy read.

Most importantly for me, I was reminded of *just* how special The Smiths were. Johnny was very young when he started the band. What they achieved in those few short years was incredible; the quality of the songs so good that you almost need to be reminded not to take them for granted. This was an extraordinarily talented group of young people; when The Smiths played their last gig, Johnny was only 23! By then, he had composed music that I don’t think has ever been matched. He’s an innovator, and continues to be so.

Here’s a picture from May 2001, in London, after a gig at The Borderline in London with Neil Finn.

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I remember going to the loo before the gig. The loos at the borderline are tiny – you open the door and urinals are right in front of you. There’s room for three at the trap, and I was the filling in the sandwich. I only realised at the moment I stepped up that I had Neil Finn on my left, and Johnny Marr on my right. I couldn’t go. I made a joke about it and they both laughed and patted me on the back before they left. That night, I had a really nice chat with Johnny. He was a fascinating guy to talk to, very down to earth, affable, funny and a great storyteller. He also showed interest in my world, which I was really touched by.

If you haven’t read Set The Boy Free, I recommend you do.

KEN

JC adds…..

In all the time I’ve known Ken, he’s never once mentioned that story.  If I’d spent any sort of quality time with Johnny Marr you can be assured that I’d mention constantly to anyone remotely interested!

What I feel also makes it such a great review is that Ken, being barely over the age of 40, wouldn’t have been old enough to fully appreciate and understand the impact of The Smiths when they burst onto the scene, and so he’s offering the view of how special they were through the eyes of someone who unfortunately never got to experience the live phenomena. Such an appreciation takes a very keen and astute mind.

Here’s some tunes:-

mp3 : The Smiths – Pretty Girls Make Graves
mp3 : Electronic – Feel Every Beat (7″ remix)
mp3 : The The – The Beat(en) Generation
mp3 : Billy Bragg – The Boy Done Good (extended mix)
mp3 : Johnny Marr – The Messenger

Enjoy.

THE UNDERTONES SINGLES 77-83 (Part 13)

The final single was released in May 1983 by which point the band were on the road trying promote their fourth LP The Sin of Pride and discovering largely apathetic audiences, most of who only wanted to hear and pogo to the early singles. It was during the tour that Feargal Sharkey indicated he was leaving the band but he hung around long enough to fulfill some contractual obligations concerning live shows. Their last show – and it was known well in advance that it would be such – was to one of the biggest audiences they ever performed in front of – 12,000 at Punchestown Racecourse, some 30 miles outside of Dublin – where they were among the support bands for Dire Straits. It was reported that the band gave it everything and received a huge ovation.

mp3 : The Undertones – Chain Of Love

It begins as a cross between Karma Chameleon and Happy Hour and then bounces along quite merrily for all three of its minutes with a sing-a-long chorus. But as with all the later singles, nobody on radio wanted to play it and nobody wanted to buy it.

The b-side is a bit of an oddity. It was written by John O’Neill but as he and Feargal were hardly on speaking terms come the end of things he asked bassist Michael Bradley to sing lead vocals. It’s quite unlike anything else they ever recorded and not just because of a different singer

mp3 : The Undertones – Window Shopping For Old Clothes

So there you have it. All thirteen 45s released by the band between October 1978 and May 1983, most of which still sound decent enough all these years later.

Tune in next Sunday to see who is next to be put under a similar spotlight.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #64 : DAMN SHAMES

Some ten years ago, big things were being predicted for an Edinburgh-based trio called Damn Shames. Consisting of three 19-year olds – Simon Richardson (vocals, guitar), Matthew Deary (vocals, guitar) and Jacob Burns (bass) – they had no sooner cut a debut single for a locally based label that they were being linked with a move to a major. They were also the subject of a decent-length piece in The Guardian newspaper in November 2007 which likened them to Fire Engines while giving a plug to their new 7″ single which was being issue by an offshoot of London-based XL Records.

mp3 : Damn Shames – Fear of Assault

There is undoubtedly a link to the post-punk era, and while it was a bit lazy of the Guardian journo to reference an earlier Edinburgh band it was a link that made some sense. For further reference points, the article also asked readers to imagine a more punky Suicide having a dance-off with Public Image Ltd.

The single however, sunk without trace. And I can find nothing else about the band afterwards.

Here’s the b-side:-

mp3 : Damn Shames – Last Things

Enjoy. And yes, that is Edinburgh Castle in the background of the photo above.

IN WHICH A 12 INCHER IS WAY BETTER THAN THE 7 INCH EFFORT

A short time ago I put together, and subsequently posted, an 80s compilation as a birthday present for my young brother. There were a number of very positive comments about a number of the songs and so I’ll probably turn my attention over the coming weeks to those not previously featured on the blog before.

I was particularly taken by Echorich’s usual astute and sharp observation which on this occasion was to say that ‘Speed Your Love To Me is one of those songs that works SO well opening a set.”

I’ve defended and indeed championed Simple Minds on these page in the past. Love Song was in my 45 45s at 45 rundown and I’ll argue that their body of work from the outset through to New Gold Dream is of the highest quality and among the most innovative of any group of that particular era. My young brother came to the band round the time of New Gold Dream and he has long been a fan of Sparkle In The Rain, released in February 1984 around the time of his 18th birthday, which is why I went to that particular LP on this occasion.

It had been years – at least 10 and probably nearer 15 – since I had listened to any of the songs from that record, one which gave the band their first ever #1 album in the UK. It’s much more a rock record than anything they had done up to that point with much probably down as much to the choice of Steve Lillywhite as producer who had just completed working with U2 and Big Country. There’s a number of tracks on it that I still can’t bring myself to enjoy, not least lead-off single and stadium-rock anthem Waterfront which was a real shock to the system when I first heard it but it was clearly one for the masses as it was very quickly on heavy rotation on our local non-BBC radio station.

Waterfront actually pre-dated the LP by around three months and indeed a second single was released about a month before the LP hit the shops. My first exposure to Speed Your Love To Me was when a  flat mate came in one afternoon with a 12” copy tucked under his arm; he had heard it being played in a city centre record shop while he had been mooching around searching for bargains in the January sales and had been quite taken by it; he had bought it as the shop was selling the 12” version for the same price as the 7” and insisted on the rest of us listening to it.

First impression was that it was nothing like Waterfront; so far so good. Second immediate impression was that Kirsty MacColl had been brought into add her vocal talents to the track; so far even better; Third immediate impression was that the seven minutes plus of the 12” version seemed to enable a fine balancing act of sounding epic in that new rock way the band were pursuing but providing enough breathing space for the keyboards and the more subtle guitar style of Charlie Burchill to be on display. It got a unanimous thumbs up from the four of us.

The single, as was the norm in those days, was flipped over and the b-sides played. The first track was the edited version of the single, a version which sadly didn’t enable any of the subtleties of the 12” version to shine. First impression was that I didn’t like it all that much; it really did feel as if this was one of those instances where a piece of music really did benefit from clever production techniques and being extended beyond that you’d hear on the radio.

I would have loved for the band and the label to have put the 12” mix on the LP but they didn’t, albeit the album version was about 30 seconds longer than the single edit but that’s more down to a longer fade-out than anything else.

I listened again to the album version when thinking about tracks to use on my brother’s mixtape but found myself still disappointed by it 33 years on. However, the extended version still makes me smile at the memory of that first listen and the subsequent dances to it at the student union over the following few weeks:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Speed Your Love To Me (extended mix)

Here’s the b-sides:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – Speed Your Love To Me (single edit)
mp3 : Simple Minds – Bass Line

What we didn’t know at the time was that the latter of the b-sides (which was and remains rather underwhelming in comparison to earlier instrumental tunes) was in fact an word-less version of a track that would appear on the parent album:-

mp3 : Simple Minds – White Hot Day

Enjoy

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #110 : A CERTAIN RATIO (2)

A GUEST POSTING FROM SWISS ADAM

Echorich’s A Certain Ratio ICA covered the group’s career is such a fashion that an ICA from me probably isn’t necessary but ACR have such a wide ranging and high quality back catalogue that finding another ten songs isn’t difficult. It goes without saying that Do The Du, Shack Up and several some others that Echorich chose are essential. So are these.

Winter Hill

A two note ten minute tribute to a hill north of Manchester, site of an air crash and reputedly a strange drone, recreated by some skinny young Mancunians in 1981.

Wild Party

Like Do The Du and Shack Up this is the mutant funk that they made their name with pinned down by Donald Johnson’s drums and the monotone vocals of Jez Kerr. Dark grey music.

Knife Slits Water (12” version)

And another one, even stranger, more abstract funk but with blood pulsing through its veins.

The Runner

From an Italian ep release to promote a gig in Italy, driving drums and skronky brass.

Sounds Like Something Dirty

A 1985 12” single, this is what happens when punk goes jazz. Streets ahead.

Good Together

This is something else- a Lou Reed sample, a steal from the Beach Boys and a huge wobbly 808 squiggle. In 1989 Manchester was the centre of the known universe and with this song (and ep) A Certain Ratio were making records that were part of it.

Be What You Wanna Be

And on the ACR:MCR album they made a lost classic (due to be re-issued this year following their new deal with Mute.) Be What You Wanna Be is all drums and percussion and Denise Johnson.

Won’t Stop Loving You (Bernard Sumner Version)

Echorich rightly praised The Big E, a late 80s pop masterpiece. It was remixed by Bernard Sumner into a Hacienda dancefloor gem. The drum machine rat a tat tats, the backing vocals coo and Jez’s lovelorn vocals sound lovelier than ever. This version gets played more than the original round our way.

27 Forever

From the Rob’s Records period in the early 90s, a label set up by Rob Gretton. 27 Forever proved that they still had it (and their current run of gigs proves that even now they still have it.)

Mello

1992 saw an the release of the Up In Downsville LP. From that record, Mello is perfectly pitched house-pop of the kind that saw New Order become enormous (and wealthy). Meanwhile ACR all have day jobs.

SWISS ADAM

www.baggingarea.blogspot.com

 

SOMETHING A WEE BIT CHIRPIER TODAY

Yesterday’s posting on Spritualized was originally going to be followed today by the OK Computer bonus album meaning that two successive days would have been a bit of a grind if your preference is for the lighter and more upbeat sort of music that will instantly lift your spirits and brighten up your day.

This shorter posting and little gem of a song, which clocks in at not much more than two minutes, was going to be the attempted redress of the situation and I’ve now brought it forward by 24 hours to brighten up your middle of the week:-

mp3 : The Chesterfields – Completely and Utterly

Completely and Utterly was the the band’s third release for The Subway Organisation following on from a flexidisc with The Shop Assistants and an EP called  A Guitar In Your Bath. It came with a rather twee but thoroughly enjoyable b-side:-

mp3 : The Chesterfields – Girl On A Boat

Enjoy.