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.

FLOAT ON

A bit of a lazy posting today, with much of what follows tailored from wiki.

Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space is the third album by Spiritualized, released on 16 June 1997. It was recorded shortly after the break-up of the band’s lead singer Jason Pierce and Kate Radley, the band’s keyboard player. Radley had secretly married Richard Ashcroft of The Verve in 1995. Pierce, however, has maintained that much of the album, including songs such as Broken Heart and Cool Waves, had actually been written before the break-up.

It reached number four on the UK charts and at the end of the year was named the NME album of 1997, beating, among others, Radiohead‘s OK Computer; it was also near the top of just about every critic’s poll.

The title track, which opens the album, is sublime, gorgeous and sad in equal measures.

mp3 : Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space

Original pressings of the LP had an alternative version of the title track, incorporating the lyrics and melody of Elvis Presley‘s Can’t Help Falling in Love. However, the Presley estate objected and so the new remix with fresh lyrics as featured above, was put together.

Things changed however, with the estate no doubt swayed by the critical acclaim for the album, and for the 2009 re-release the version of the song with the Presley lyrics was allowed, with the proviso that the song now be re-titled :-

mp3 : Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space (I Can’t Help Falling In Love)

Even more sublime and gorgeous. And it’s heart-breaking rather than sad. I’m not convinced that Jason Pierce wrote this before the break-up….

Enjoy

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #109 : TALK TALK

A GUEST CONTRIBUTION FROM COMRADE COLIN

chinatown4

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will be aware of the debt I owe to Comrade Colin. He. more than any other blogger, inspired and encouraged me to get things going. I never imagined all those years ago that it would lead to all of this but I also never dreamed that I’d become such good friends with someone whose talent for writing is right up there with the best of them. He’s also, being a Professor, by far the cleverest man I know.

He doesn’t too much in the way of writing about music these days – he once said, with conviction and brutal honesty, that he’s always found it a struggle unless he’s utterly miserable in life. Let’s just say that in recent years that the love of a good woman and seeing his kids grow up and become huge success stories have put a near permanent grin on his face.

But he was so impressed with Martin’s ICA on Radiohead (as I knew he would be which is exactly why I drew his attention to it) that he immediately threw himself into a piece on one of his all time favourite groups. And what he’s come up with doesn’t disappoint…..the title alone will give you an idea of the quality, thought and research on offer today. Oh and there’s loads of hyperlinks to click on….it’s very much the Comrade’s style.

Rage On Omnipotent:

an imaginary compilation album for Talk Talk

The late historian, Stanley Elkins, begins his 1959 book Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life by ruminating that: “But is there anything more to say that has not been said already?” Of course, over the following three hundred or so pages of his magnum opus, Elkins ably demonstrates that there is clearly much more to be said about slavery in American life. This was as true, perhaps, in 1959 as it is today. And the wider point is this, if there really is one: the past is as ever-changing and uncertain as the future.

Not to liken the two at all, or be unusually crass in making comparisons, but the reinterpretation, commentary and often heated discussion apropos Talk Talk’s body of work has taken similar twists and turns. There is always more to be said, it seems, when it comes to the work and legacy of Talk Talk. For many ‘serious rock’ journalists (and indeed musicians and record label owners) it all seems to be about two key albums: Spirit of Eden (1988) and Laughing Stock (1991). In some of the opinion pieces you can find lurking in dark shadows of the internet, it’s almost as if there were only two versions of the band, or at least distinct phases: the ‘Euro Pop’ Talk Talk (see The Party’s Over (1982) and It’s My Life (1984)) and the ‘Post Rock’ Talk Talk (the two albums previously mentioned). But, the missing album from this very uncomfortable and rather false dichotomy, sitting in the acoustic middle you might say, is arguably their finest recorded moment: The Colour of Spring (1986).

For me, at least, this landmark album helps connect the dots and is important in understanding the almost biblical journey and staggered evolution that Mark Hollis, Paul Webb and Lee Harris went through before, sadly, calling time on the band in late 1992. Also, it would be remiss not to mention the seminal impact and influence of others; such as Tim Friese-Greene who helped realise the ideas, ambition and sounds that Hollis came to the studio with. Also, as an example, the pioneering work of Phill Brown, as engineer, and a host of ‘guest’ musicians – including the likes of Danny Thompson, Robbie McIntosh, Steve Winwood, Nigel Kennedy and Mark Feltham – whose role and contributions cannot be underestimated. What transpired at Wessex Studios, in the main, is widely recognised as a kind of serendipitous, climatic magic; Brown talks in his wonderfully frank autobiography, Are We Still Rolling? (2011) about the faith placed in ‘chance’ and ‘accident’ (as well as the several hundred overdubs) that went into creating Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock. Darkness enveloped the environment and time seemed to stand still.

But… the spirit of Talk Talk (the title of a 2012 book capturing the appeal of the band as well as a rather hit-and-miss various artists ‘reinterpretation’ album) is not just about the ‘post-rock’. This reverential ‘truth’ that is so often written about the band cannot be complete without a suitable acknowledgement, appreciation and respect for the earlier period. As mentioned, the clues of what would follow are perhaps best found in The Colour of Spring; the shift (not departure) from It’s My Life to this album is arguably much more significant than the readily perceived shift in sound, texture and mood from The Colour of Spring to Spirit of Eden. But that’s just what my ears hear. What say you?

In producing this ‘imaginary’ compilation for The Vinyl Villain I’ve worked very hard to try and completely ignore the years and years of rampant EMI prostitution of the cobwebbed back catalogue. It needs to be said, honestly, that there are some truly horrific compilation albums in existence with the words ‘Talk Talk’ on the spine (at the last count fast approaching twenty or so). Only one I would say, the tellingly entitled Natural Order (2013), had any semblance of respectability – and this was only because Hollis himself took charge of the track choices, the running order, the mastering as well as the artwork (a ‘splice’ of various pieces produced by renowned artist James Marsh, a regular contributor to the visual imagining of Talk Talk in much the same way that Friese-Greene was an audio contributor).

So, what were the adopted rules of this imaginary compilation album and the self-imposed restrictions? With only ten tracks, I was firm and resolute in the need to include two tracks each from the five studio albums (at least partly explained by my OCD nature, as well as the point I made earlier about the mistaken notion, in my view, of there only being two ‘versions’ of Talk Talk – the Euro-Pop and the Post-Rock). Also, as tempting as it was to consider tracks from the various live albums, the bootlegs and the b-sides, I thought it best (important?) to stick to the five ‘official’ Talk Talk albums. This would make things relatively easier in sticking to just ten tracks (or so I thought). Similarly, I have chosen to ignore the solo work of Hollis and his various offerings (whether as vocalist, piano player or producer) to other artists. For much the same reasons, I have also spurned the latter work of Harris and Webb (performing as Orang) and Friese-Greene (whether performing as Heligoland or recording under his own name). This disregard might be considered rather contemptuous and cruel but those selections are best left for another time, maybe.

As an aside, I have added some limited personal commentary to each track selection, in a vague attempt to justify inclusion (fingers crossed).

Side A

1. Happiness Is Easy” (from The Colour of Spring)

The opening track from the album that, I have argued, holds the key to the multi-dimensional tale of understanding and appreciating what Talk Talk were – and what they would become. Featuring ‘children from the School of Miss Speake’, as well as some seminal Steve Winwood organ and delightful acoustic bass from Danny Thompson, this composition reminds us how good it can be to feel alive. As a cure for melancholia and uncertainty, I can recommend no better song. ‘Gather us in love’, as the children plead.

2. “New Grass” (from Laughing Stock)

For a ten minute song rich in Christian imagery and religious metaphors this track, for me, still counts as one of Hollis’s most direct love songs, full of eternal longing but also restrained desire. Guy Garvey of Manchester band Elbow has spoken unusually eloquently about his love of Talk Talk and especially New Grass (his funeral song of choice, it seems). It is easy to see why. Featuring a beautiful accompaniment, with Harris’s jazzy brushstrokes both fleeting and mesmerising, as well as a treasure of woodwind instrumentation and low-key percussion, this personifies the hope, peacefulness and quiet that can be found in much of the later work of Talk Talk and acts as a cue for Hollis’s future solo work (1998).

3. “Such a Shame” (from It’s My Life)

There had to be, of course, a faint nod to the ‘hits’ and I couldn’t think of a better track to give this obvious concession to. Performed live, for example at the Montreux Jazz festival in 1986, Such a Shame would often grow wings and sprawl to a good eight minutes and more. In truth, it could last a further eight minutes and not lose its often improvised welcoming appeal. With lyrics based around one of Hollis’s favourite novels, The Dice Man by Luke Rhinhart (aka George Cockcroft), it deals with themes close to much of the later work of Hollis, such as fate, destiny, belonging and faith although here there are far less direct religious and spiritual metaphors at play. Best played loud with Webb’s bass turned up.

4. “The Rainbow” (from Spirit of Eden)

“Jimmy Finn is out. Well how can that be fair at all?” To this day I’ve no idea who Jimmy Finn is – or what he did to merit his release from incarceration – but this track, I think, is probably one of those ‘pieces’ that actually merits being called a ‘piece’ (and not sounding too pretentious about it). Again, as with I Believe in You, this song has been covered by other bands in a live setting (such as Shearwater, Jonathan Meiburg another devotee of Hollis), and it illustrates all too clearly what might have been witnessed by fans if touring had been considered an option by the band for the Spirit of Eden or Laughing Stock albums. There is wonderful use of space and silence here, but propelled by Lee Harris’s plodding drums and Mark Feltham’s beautiful effects-laden harmonica. At times it has the narrative of a Sunday School hymn, at other moments it’s a statement of perpetual torment (‘the trial goes on’).

5. “The Party’s Over” (from The Party’s Over)

To close Side A, the gloriously paranoid title track from the first album for EMI, featuring an imploring refrain from Hollis asking us to “Name the crime I’m guilty of”. But what makes this track so special and worthy of inclusion is the devastating chorus where there is a step-change in both tempo and emotion, with Hollis demanding us to “Take a look at the kids…”– there is a feeling of a come-down like no other. On the face of it, the song is an upbeat, almost soulful, New Romantic take on the ‘morning after’ but this belies a deep-rooted uncertainty and the dripping demons of personal doubt. What happens next, you wonder? What happens when the music stops?

Side B

6. “Time It’s Time” (from The Colour of Spring)

An eight minute track that originally closed the 1986 album, The Colour of Spring, but here it opens Side B of our imaginary compilation album. Featuring the collective talents of the Ambrosia Choir, a well-known London choral group, this track is perhaps the definitive clue to the suggestion that what would follow The Colour of Spring would be a record such as Spirit of Eden. Indeed, if you play Time It’s Time and then The Rainbow back-to-back you can almost hear the continuation of unforced notes, jazz melody and classical substance. As with so many other Talk Talk tracks from around this time, the percussion work of Arbroath-born Morris Pert is compelling and vital. The acoustic ‘natural’ state of the musical landscape owes much to Pert, as well as fellow percussionist Martin Ditchham. Playing this on headphones, eyes closed, you can almost see a new dawn rising and the yellow-orange daffodils in bloom on the hillside.

7. “Mirror Man” (from The Party’s Over)

The opening sections of Mirror Man, Talk Talk’s first single, would be later used in the live setting as an acapella pathway into Does Caroline Know?, from the later album It’s My Life. But, as a song in itself it is a rather brilliant (but admittedly not understated) critique on the whims of New Romantic fashion and some of the absurdities with ‘self’, consumerism and 80’s pop vanity. “SEE THE STATE SHE’S IN”, capitalised, of course, in the lyrics booklet, also tells us where Hollis is coming from on such matters. As track 7 of this compilation, I’d argue it’s worthy of inclusion as the first Talk Talk single, but also on account of it’s beautiful live transformation via Does Caroline Know? Quite stunning in showcasing Hollis’s vocal range.

8. “Tomorrow Started” (from It’s My Life)

“Don’t look back until you’ve tried…” After selecting Such a Shame for Side A of the compilation, it could only be Tomorrow Started for the flip side. Again, this song is one of my favourites on account of the way it was interpreted in the live setting (such as in Rotterdam, 1984). The use of space and silence, as well as Webb’s emphasised bass, is sublime and a sign of things to come. Hollis’s intonation and vocal flexibility was taking form here and lyrically there was further evidence of self-doubt and a need for reassurances…“See my eyes, tell me I’m not lying”. Finally, the trumpet solo towards the end is tear-inducing.

9. “After The Flood” (from Laughing Stock)

This is less of a song and more of a religious experience (or as close as I may get to such a conversion at least). Just shy of ten minutes long it features what may qualify as the best malfunctioning Variophon solo you are ever likely to hear (just listen in from about the four minute mark). Almost meditational in nature, the lyrics are rooted in themes of faith, nature and desire, each note strung out in an almost lisp-type fashion. This is possibly the one piece of music I’ve played the most from all my collection, by any artist, yet each time it plays on the turntable I hear something new and vital in it. Each moment, or movement, just isn’t repeated and it isn’t known through familiarity. It takes on new forms at each play, exactly as Hollis intended it seems.

10. “I Believe in You” (from Spirit of Eden)

This is arguably one of the most discussed Talk Talk songs, due to the lyric ‘I’ve seen heroin for myself’, but this misplaced focus rather misses the point. Apparently, the working title of the song was ‘Snow in Berlin’ and this best captures the icy feeling and dark mood of the track. Deliberately pushing and embracing jazz and classical influences, the fragmented approach of Hollis to improvisation, as well as facilitating the use of space and silence, would entirely come into its own landscape here. Also notable is the fact that it has been performed live by the likes of Bon Iver and this has illustrated how it might have sounded if Talk Talk had dared to tour after The Colour of Spring. A mimed video of their last TV appearance is here, playing I Believe in You for a rather startled Dutch audience, if you can possibly bear it.

In closing, I fully acknowledge that your favourite song is likely not featured here, whether that’s Life’s What You Make it, Talk Talk or It’s My Life. But, for me, it has always been the album tracks, on the periphery so to speak, that make Hollis et al ring so true. Taken together, over two sides, I hope this OCD ‘two-tracks-per-album’ compilation does some justice to their rich body of work. It’s a legacy that continues to grow as new musicians take inspiration, and this is reassurance enough perhaps. It’s a pointless and futile exercise of course, but what would we give to hear a new Mark Hollis record? It’s almost too much to bear.

“So effortly blessed…”

COMRADE COLIN

HAPPY BIRTHDAY S.C.

The final part of The Undertones series will have to wait another seven days. It’s my young brother’s 51st birthday today. I know he pops in here every day, firing up his laptop while soaking up the sun in Florida, and so as a wee bit of surprise for him I’ve put together an 80s mix tape jammed with stuff I know he likes.

mp3 : Various – Songs for a Handsome Devil

TRACKLIST

Speed Your Love To Me (extended) – Simple Minds
Sit Down – James
Kiss This Thing Goodbye – Del Amitri
Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart – Marc Almond/Gene Pitney
Rattlesnakes – Lloyd Cole & The Commotions
What Difference Does It Make? – The Smiths
Prisoner of Love – Spear of Destiny
Cath – The Bluebells
Tinseltown in the Rain – The Blue Nile
Hallelujah Man – Love and Money
To Cut A Long Story Short – Spandau Ballet
Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl) – Haircut 100
Rip It Up – Orange Juice
The Honeythief – Hipsway
Pride (In the Name of Love) – U2

And, believe it or not, the whole thing comes in at 60 mins and 00 seconds – more by chance than design!!

Have a great day young fella and I’ll see you doing your dad dancing to all of this when you come over in the summer.

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #63 : CRAIG ARMSTRONG

Craig Armstrong is a Scottish composer of modern orchestral music, electronica and film scores. He graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 1981, and has since written music for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the London Sinfonietta.

Armstrong’s score for William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet earned him a BAFTA for Achievement in Film Music and an Ivor Novello. His composition for Baz Luhrmann’s musical Moulin Rouge! earned him the 2001 American Film Institute’s composer of the Year award, a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score and a BAFTA. Armstrong was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Original Score in 2004 for the biopic Ray. His other feature film scoring credits include Love Actually, Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The Incredible Hulk.
(lifted from wiki)

His work has also seen him utlise the talents of many pop/rock musicians and vocalists, and it is in this regard that I have one of his works in the collection, a single from 1997 that was bought on a whim:-

mp3 : Craig Armstrong featuring Elizabeth Fraser – This Love

Probably the clearest vocal delivery that Liz has ever delivered and she fits perfectly into the lush arrangment this lengthy ballad (six and a half minutes all told) is given.

Enjoy.

AS SONG TITLES GO, IT’S SOME MANIFESTO (Bonus Post)

I’ve written about Echobelly before, back in April 2015, so I’ll spare everyone the biography. It was pleasing to see via the comments back then that others also recalled them with fondness.

This was their third single, released in June 1994 and by creeping into the higher end of the charts at #39 provided their first mainstream success.  It was an ambitious effort – cracking along at a right good pace for the first two minutes before really slowing down for the chorus which is a complete reversal from the formula for most chart hits. It’s also bold in that a band, who were not all that well-known outside of certain music papers, would make such a grandiose and boastful statement in a song title. Loved it at the time and still do although when it popped up via shuffle the other day it was the first I’d heard it in years:-

mp3 : Echobelly – I Can’t Imagine The World Without Me

Here’s the two b-sides:-

mp3 : Echobelly – Sober
mp3 : Echobelly – Venus Wheel

It’s one of those 3-track singles which, while never threatening to change anything about music, was great value and has stood the test of time pretty well.  The former is a fine ballad which shows that Sonya Madan was a fine singer while the latter is a more than adequate pop song that many others would probably have shoved out as a single rather than relegating it to the obscurity of a b-side.

Enjoy.

FROM ONE EXTREME SORT OF MUSICIANSHIP TO THE OTHER

Without exaggeration, I get up to 100 emails every day from singers, bands and publicists asking me to consider a review of a single or album. I do feel bad that the majority of them end up being unread as I simply don’t have the time to go through each of them – there’s a sense of catholic guilt overcomes me every time as I know that in many of the cases it will be a DIY approach from someone simply looking for a leg-up to a wider audience. I used to reply as politely as I could to such requests on the basis that the sort of market they were usually trying to reach wasn’t likely to be what I suspect are typical T(n)VV readers; I often added that if a 50-something was to turn round a recommend a new young singer or band then it would surely do their wider credibility a bit of damage when their demographic was so much different.

But every now and then, a word or two or whole paragraphs will jump out at me that makes me sit up and take notice as was the case with this:-

Dear Vinyl Villain,

The Hector Collectors are an indiepop group from Glasgow, Scotland, who started in 2000AD and were played on John Peel’s show a few times back in the day.

From 2004 – 2008, they recorded tracks for an album planned to be known as ‘The Boring Album’ , which was conceived as an ambient lofi indiepop record recreating the feeling of being bored at home in the UK in the mid 90s. The sessions were never released at the time due to other stuff getting in the way, and in the meantime things like chillwave and hauntology and all that happened in the late 00s/early 10s which seemed to share similar aims aesthetics.

Now, in early 2017, long after anyone would care and with the world gripped by a widespread political engagement that has woken most from their vaporwave haze, The Hector Collectors (who are still going and plan to release a proper new album later this year) have decided the time is right to polish up those mid 00s recordings and sneak them out so that anyone who cares can hear their prescient but also now double dated take on formless 20/30 something suburban nostalgia, a movement we would have called ‘L Y N D H U R S T W A V E’ (after Nicholas Lyndhurst) if we had been movers and shakers during Obama’s first term.

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Please hear, download for Free (and consider for coverage) the finished album and our bandcamp here if that sounds like it might be your kind of thing:

thehectorcollectors.bandcamp.com/album/the-boring-album

Kind Regards,

AJ Smith of The Hector Collectors

I’m not sure if AJ picked up on the blog from the fact that I’ve been known to feature bands from round these parts or if he had seen my previous mention of The Hector Collectors when a live performance at the start of 2016 had lifted my dark mood. Either way it doesn’t matter, because I happen to really enjoy their lowfi and occasionally shambolic music and after two successive days of the neatness and perfection of Radiohead it really does seem appropriate to go to the other extreme.

What’s not to love about a band who come up with song titles such as Stephen Pastel’s Blues, The Day The Supernaturals Went to the 13th Note, Your Nazi Boyfriend, Gary Numan Needs Another Hit and Unemployed In Motherwell.

Or, in the instance of the free album on offer today, She’s Lost The Remote Control, a quite wonderful tribute/piss take of Joy Division.

And really folks, what’s not to love about a band who know that above all else who clearly know it’s about having fun and enjoyment in what you’re doing and taking your audience along with you.


Enjoy.

A KIND-OF BONUS ALBUM

I had this post slated for later on in the month but have brought it forward to dovetail with yesterday’s high-quality contribution from Martin.

I’m just about to bring the series on the singles by The Undertones to a close and one of the other bands I had in mind for a similar series was Radiohead; the problem however, is that I haven’t bought any singles by the band since about 2003 and so would have been forced to spend a fair bit of money pulling together all the subsequent b-sides since that period in time; instead I’ve hit on the idea of cobbling together the various b-sides from a particular era to offer a suggested accompanying bonus album to that from which they were lifted.

It makes sense to start with OK Computer, from which three singles were lifted.  I say makes sense in as much that a number of these b-sides have already appeared on the blog thanks to a posting looking solely at Paranoid Android.

Much of the music and sounds making up these tracksare well worth a listen given that they show different sides to the band and are something of a pointer as to the road they would go down a few years later with Kid A and Amnesiac.

mp3 : Radiohead – The OK Computer bonus album

Tracklist

1. Climbing Up The Walls (Zero 7 mix) – from Karma Police single #2
2. Pearly – from Paranoid Android single #1
3. Airbag (live in Berlin) – from No Surprises single #2
4. Melatonin – from Paranoid Android single #2
5. Meeting In The Aisle – from Karma Police single #1
6. Polyethylene (Parts 1 & 2) – from Paranoid Android single #2
7. Climbing Up The Walls (Fila Brazillia Mix) – from Karma Police single #2
8. Lull – from Karma Police single #1
9. Lucky (live in Florence) – from No Surprises single #2
10. How I Made My Millions – from No Surprises single #1
11. Palo Alto – from No Surprises single #1
12. A Reminder – from Karma Police single #1

Enjoy.

I may or may nor repeat this for other Radiohead LPs. It’s up to you guys to offer advise on whether that’s a good idea or not. I won’t be offended if you tell me to make this a one-off.

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #108 : RADIOHEAD

A GUEST POSTING FROM MARTIN

AUTHOR OF THE NEW AMUSEMENTS BLOG

After more than 100 ICAs, I was wondering which artist or band I could meaningfully submit a compilation for. So many of my favourites have already been done. And then it occurred to me – as yet, there has been no ICA for Radiohead.

Of course, when I sat down to try to draw up a ten track compilation it quickly became obvious why it hasn’t been done before: trying to whittle down the collected works of the Grand Old Duke of Yorke and his men to just ten songs, just one side of a C90, is practically impossible. Unless…

…unless there’s a scheme, a set of rules above and beyond those that normally go into drafting a compilation. It was at this point I realised that Radiohead have released nine studio albums. What if, I wondered, I were to limit myself to one track per album, plus a bonus closing track of my choice? That might work and, if I stuck to the albums in chronological order, it would also provide an accurate representation of how the band has progressed over the years.

Sounds a great plan, doesn’t it? Except that, in reality, even choosing just one track per album proved to be fantastically difficult (especially for The Bends, Ok Computer, Hail To The Thief and In Rainbows). Anyway, enough of my excuses, let’s get on; to assuage my guilt for omitting certain tracks, I’ll namecheck the other songs that were in contention but, for now, these are the chosen nine plus one.

Side One

1. from Pablo Honey: Creep

Sorry, it has to be. I know it’s been over-played, and certainly over-covered (if YouTube is anything to go by). It isn’t massively representative of the rest of the album, and I have even heard it described as “Radiohead for people who don’t like Radiohead”. But, and it’s a very big but, without this track there is probably a very good chance we wouldn’t be talking about Radiohead now, and certainly not in such reverential tones. The fact is that this song, aside from striking a chord with every disaffected and alienated person that’s ever heard it, every loner, every outsider, aside from all that it established the band in a way that the parent album never could. It’s quite possible that without Creep the only blog posts you’d read about Radiohead now would be of the “whatever happened to…” variety. And on top of that, it has that excellent crunchy guitar that kicks in at the start of the chorus.

Also in contention: Anyone Can Play Guitar and Lurgee.

2. from The Bends: Fake Plastic Trees

Of all the albums, choosing just one track from The Bends was the toughest choice of all. Fake Plastic Trees gets the nod though, as it brought Radiohead’s social conscious and environmental awareness to the fore, whilst also demonstrating that they could be musically subtle, delicate in a way that they hadn’t been on Pablo Honey. The clincher for me is more personal though, in that when I saw the band live in 2008 their rendition of this song gave me goosebumps on the night, and nearly broke my heart in the weeks that followed.

Also in contention: High And Dry, (Nice Dream) and Street Spirit (Fade Out).

3. from OK Computer: No Surprises

A lullaby for the suicidal, perhaps. And yet one that somehow manages to be uplifting, even in the unsettling video in which Thom looks set to drown (spoiler – he doesn’t). You can draw a straight line through Asleep by The Smiths to this song, and then… where? The parent album was, for a time, often held up as not just the band’s best but the best ever, by anyone, frequently troubling the top of the “best N albums of all time” lists that were very popular around the millennium. It is great, but I think The Bends shades it.

Also in contention: Paranoid Android (“Bohemian Rhapsody for Generation X”, as the music press all cried at the time), Karma Police and Lucky.

4. from Kid A: National Anthem

Given that The Bends are OK Computer were both excellent and successful, Kid A was always going to be a tough act to pull off. It remains the point at which Radiohead started to be non-essential, for some people. Not me though. It’s a great album, another where it is hard to choose one track. I’ve gone for National Anthem – very simple lyrically, but the music is the hook, an ear-worming loop that has, arguably, set the tone for most of everything that has followed. Like lots of the best Radiohead, this comes into its own in a car with a good stereo, in the small hours of a crystal clear night, on an open road…

Also in contention: Idioteque, Everything In Its Right Place.

5. from Amnesiac: Knives Out

As the band continued to push boundaries, willing to sacrifice transient fans to satisfy their own musical curiosity, the songs that were chosen as singles from each album became increasingly unrepresentative, and so it is with Knives Out. Led by twin guitar melodies, it’s a song that might have graced The Bends. It has brilliantly bleak lyrics too, to whit “If you’d been a dog they would have drowned you at birth.” I don’t know what it says about Radiohead (or the type of fan I am) but this and Pablo Honey were the albums it was easiest to choose only one song from.

Also in contention: Pyramid Song.

Side Two

6. from Hail To The Thief: Scatterbrain

On the face of it, a tough album to choose from, casually littered with brilliance as it is. In reality, an easy choice for me; the instrumental introduction to Scatterbrain has been my mobile phone ringtone for as long as I can remember. It is one of my absolute favourites songs, not just by Radiohead but by anybody, ever. Terrific lyrical story telling too, in which storm force winds are a metaphor for the blown apart nature of a failed relationship.

Also in contention: Go To Sleep, 2+2=5, Myxomatosis.

7. from In Rainbows: Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

That straight line I mentioned earlier? Maybe its third point is here, I don’t know. For a band who have increasingly forsaken guitars (to the consternation of a good proportion of their fanbase), here’s proof that they can still overlay complementary guitar motifs better than just about anyone. And few bands give percussion a voice, rather than just rhythm and timekeeping duties, as well as Radiohead. Also, even fewer songs could hint at escape at the end and yet be so ambiguous as to whether that escape is a good thing or not.

Also in contention: Reckoner, Jigsaw Falling Into Place.

8. from The King Of Limbs: Morning Mr Magpie

The intro to this makes me think of The Police. No, wait, come back! Here’s a song that again sits at the accessible end of the recent Radiohead spectrum, and ends with the lament that “you’ve stolen all the magic, took my melody”. A proportion of the band’s fans may have thought the same thing… but this is a perfect example of a Radiohead track that rewards repeated listens, rather than chases immediacy.

Also in contention: Little by Little (for similar reasons), Feral.

9. from A Moon Shaped Pool: Burn The Witch

In which Radiohead go all Camber-wicker Green. A genuinely great song and one that is, even without the video, genuinely disturbing, with its lyrics of low-flying panic attacks, red crosses on wooden doors and, most ominously, “we know where you live”. Add the sawing, minor-key string backing and this isn’t going to pack the floor at your local indie disco in quite the same way as Creep. A song for these times, where Washington has become Summer Isle or, perhaps, Salem.

Also in contention: Daydreaming, Present Tense.

10. bonus track: Street Spirit (Fade Out)

What better way to end the album? If ever a song was made to close an LP, this is it, lyrically, musically and thematically. Yes, it hankers back to a period when the band were at the peak of their commercial powers (doesn’t Thom look young in the video?) and yes, it features plenty of guitars. But not the crunchy guitars of Creep and Anyone Can Play Guitar, but beautiful, overlaid arpeggios that repeat, rise and fall to hypnotic effect. And there’s a lyrical counterpoint to some of the less cheerful themes found elsewhere on this ICA, and even in this song – for every row of houses bearing down on Thom, there’s the more positive (albeit slightly defensive) “be a world child, form a circle” and the haunting outro refrain of “immerse your soul in love”. Best of all is the way the song ends – it doesn’t fade out, of course, but the guitar arpeggio loops round and ties itself in a neat bow. The perfect finish to this or any compilation.

And there you have it. There are probably as many Radiohead ICA combinations as there are fans, and my own selection would probably be different next week (maybe even tomorrow). But, for now, I think this compilation works. What do you reckon?

Cheers,
Martin
New Amusements