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dEUS

Sometimes the free CDs/records/tapes that are given away with magazines work in that a listener might pick up an interest in a singer or band for the first time. Hasn’t happened to me all that often, but one such occasion was back in 1994.

It came courtesy of a tape entitled The Radio 1FM Sessions that came with the November 1994 edition of the now long-defunct VOX magazine. Among the 15 acts included was a Belgian band called dEUS, named after a song by an Icelandic band (Sugarcubes) with the track being a session version of a single that was also on their debut LP Worst Case Scenario which had come out on Island Records.

I was struck immediately by how unusual sounding the band were and made a mental note to keep an eye out for them. A few months later, I picked up second-hand copies of two singles and said debut album, all on CD, guessing that someone had taken an earlier chance on them but not found them to their taste. After playing the album I could see why as it was genuinely impossible to categorise them or indeed find a commonality among the songs  It was a perplexing album to listen to. I’ve found a review from back in the day which captures the way I felt back then:-

“This five-piece rock outfit from Belgium are destined either to become the trendiest toast of 1994 or forgotten by the year’s end as the naffest thing to come out of their homeland since Plastic Bertrand. With an erratic musical identity located somewhere between John Cale, Captain Beefheart and Sonic Youth and a 15-track debut album which veers effortlessly from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again, they have a truly unique appeal. That this appeal is often so powerful is thanks to a fresh, uninhibited approach to playing and arrangements, and a core of stunning songs ranging from the delicately acoustic, soul-twisting Right As Rain to the clattering, chaotically charismatic Suds & Soda. They get too way out weird occasionally, as on the erratic, art-rock meandering of Morticia’s Chair, but never go so far that they can’t be saved by a track like the album’s best, the mesmeric, alternately tense and soaring Hotel Lounge. And they sing in English too.”

But overall, I couldn’t really get myself immersed into the album, albeit, as the review indicated, the two singles I’d also picked up were among the highlights (and the latter is still mesmeric, tense, soaring and bloody brilliant):-

mp3 : dEUS – Suds and Soda (single version)
mp3 : dEUS – Hotellounge (Be The Death Of Me)

I’ve never bought anything else that the band have ever released. Indeed, I don’t even have a copy of the debut CD anymore and have no idea how it went missing. It could of course be in a storage box under the stairs by mistake and I’ll come across it again in years to come when it is finally time to move out of Villain Towers (been here since 1995 and unlikely to move until I’m physically incapable of climbing stairs); if I do it will seem like an ancient relic. And I probably still won’t quite get it.

dEUS are still going strong all these years later. There’s plenty info over at this wiki page.

Oh and the b-sides to these two singles are available on request.  Or if enough you demand it, as a bonus posting in due course.

JC

 

CURSED BY HEALTH ISSUES

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The Vines, for those of you who remember or care, made a really big impact in 2002-2004.  I thought that was their entire time in the sun but it turns out they are still going strong.

They are from Sydney in Australia, and while their commercial breakthrough happened just after the turn of the century they had first got together in 1994 as teenagers, consisting of Craig Nicholls (guitar and vocals), Patrick Matthews (bass) and David Olliffe (drums). They seemed to appear out of nowhere in 2001, having rarely been mentioned even by the Australian press, when a small UK indie label, Rex Records, put out a 7″ single featuring a demo version of a track called Factory. The single was given a huge write-up in the NME and in due course the paper began to champion the band which in turn got them a deal on Heavenly Records.

The next single, Highly Evolved, clocked in at just over 90 seconds and was an NME single of the week in March 2002 while the release of the debut LP with the same name was met with huge critical acclaim – one summary said “It’s rare for a band to channel the Velvet Underground, Nirvana, Dandy Warhols and the Beatles within the span of 45 minutes and sound unique, but the Vines have crept into that select category with Highly Evolved.” It was the Nirvana comparisons that got many excited thanks to the often raspy vocal delivery and erratic on-stage behaviour of the frontman.

Two years later, the follow-up LP Winning Ways was released. This time the reviews weren’t so kind despite, or perhaps because of,  it being similar sounding to the debut. Craig Nicholls wasn’t happy with things and his behaviour during promotional activities and on stage was of increasing concern – there was even one piece in a magazine which suggested he was going the same way as Kurt Cobain and his life was likely to end just as messily.

In November 2004, following his arrest after an incident in Sydney, he revealed during his court appearance that he had Asperger syndrome, a condition that was confirmed by medical specialists. His treatment and therapy took him out of the public eye for a while and it wasn’t until the release of the 2006 LP Vision Valley that he had to deal with the press to any great extent. Oh and by this time, his long-time friend Patrick Matthews had quit the band which was another difficult issue to deal with.

The new LP got a poor reception and the media didn’t really appear to be all that sympathetic to the singer’s problems. That was the beginning of the end in terms of the band having a worldwide profile, but they have continued to record and gig back home, albeit there have been a number of personnel changes over the years with Craig Nicholls the only constant.

His health has remained a serious issue – tours have been cut short or postponed altogether and then in 2012 he was arrested again on allegations that he had assaulted his parents and injured a responding police officer while resisting arrest.

The Vines have thus far six albums in total, the last being Wicked Nature back in 2014, but gigs in 2016 saw a fair bit of new material aired leading to speculation that a new record was in the pipeline but nothing has yet materialised. If and when it does, then it’s a near certainty that any efforts to promote it will be restricted to Australia.

It’s a shame that Asperger’s has caused all of this as a few of the early songs were more than decent:-

mp3 : The Vines – Highly Evolved
mp3 : The Vines – Get Free
mp3 : The Vines – Outtathaway!
mp3 : The Vines – Ride

JC

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (11)

Bernie Rhodes knows don’t argue

And with that, the first record issued by The Specials was unleashed on the listening public.

1979 was a fantastic year for music, certainly here in the UK. It was the year that many of the post-punk/new wave bands really came to prominence and it was the year that sparked the two-tone craze.

I was sixteen years of age and totally unaware of ska. Glasgow had always been a rock sort of town, although things were in the air that would see a gradual softening of the hard elements of the genre and a whole new sound associated with the city would become incredibly influential. But it was a city that was predominantly white in nature, albeit we had an increasing Asian population that had been migrating here in increasing numbers with next to no fuss in terms of assimilation. There was next to no Caribbean population and black people were really few and far between and as such there was little demand for local radio stations to ever feature a style of music that had originated in those communities. It was also a sound never played on BBC Radio 1 (as I’ll come to a bit later on).

Hearing bands like The Specials, Madness, The Selecter and The Beat was something entirely new and felt exciting because it was so different. And there’s no doubt too that the rude-boy look of the black and white clothing and pork-pie hat was something that was visually appealing to any mid-aged teen. And the stylish and unusual dancing that accompanied the songs whenever any of the acts appeared on Top of the Pops hit a chord with those who were slightly younger and made the whole thing seem fun.

1979 marked my first forays into DJing, if playing records on a single deck at a youth night in the school could be regarded as DJing. The senior pupils were encouraged to help the teachers at these nights, which were basically an effort to provide bored 12-15 year olds with something to do instead of hanging around street corners and picking up bad habits. There were three of us who brought along our own 45s to play while everyone ran around making lots of noise burning up all that excess energy. Very gradually over a matter of weeks, our little corner of the hall began to get a dedicated audience and it was all driven by the fact they loved to do the Madness dance(s). In two hours of music, you could bet that more than half came through records on the 2-Tone label or its offshoots. And these kids were of an age when playing the same song two or three times in a night didn’t matter.

Gangsters wasn’t aired as much as others, possibly because it wasn’t the easiest to sing-a-long to; nor did it have a nutty dance of its own. But all these years later, I think there’s many who agree it was the best of the early 2-Tone releases, possibly surpassed only later on by Ghost Town by which time the serious side of the various bands were making astute and pertinent political and social observations.

I had no idea that Gangsters was a re-working of Al Capone by Prince Buster, a song originally released in 1964. Indeed, if it wasn’t for Madness, I wouldn’t have had any idea who Prince Buster was. Ska music never featured on any BBC Radio shows that looked back in time at chart rundowns of years gone by. Tamla Motown and soul music was often aired but I genuinely cannot recall any ska – evidence that big-name DJs and their producers (with the exception of course of John Peel) were incredibly conservative with the music they chose to air.

The first 5,000 copies of this single, which came backed with a song by The Selector, came with a plain white sleeve stamped with the title. These sleeves weren’t the most robust and most of them have deteriorated very badly over the years. If you somehow managed to pick up a copy, all of which were distributed by Rough Trade to the smaller independent record shops, and you’ve managed to take good care of it, then you could probably flog it to a hipster for a few hundred quid.

The vast majority of the 45s were released in what would become the generic 2-Tone sleeve with the immediately identifiable logo, all of which were distributed via Chrysalis records to all stores across the UK and further afield.

Worth noting too that the single was credited to Special A.K.A. with the band then reverting to the much easier on the tongue The Specials for the string of hit singles and albums that would follow, although they did go back to the original name in 1982 after a number of members left to form Fun Boy Three.

mp3 : Special A.K.A. – Gangsters

Here’s the other side of the single; it’s an instrumental that was recorded prior to vocalist Pauline Black joining the band:-

mp3 : The Selecter – The Selecter

JC

PACKET OF THREE

There is a possibility, based on trying to respond positively to requests/suggestions from readers, that I will turn my attention to the singles released over the years by Squeeze. It’s not on the immediate horizon but then again, given that I’m increasingly finding it difficult to come up with fresh ideas, it might well be that the blog ends up with more than the current one singles series in a given week before too long.

Squeeze had come together as early as 1974 when a then 17-year old Chris Difford put an advert in the window of a local newsagent shop in Deptford in the working class and highly unfashionable south-east of London that was responded to by a local 20-year old named Glen Tilbrook. They bonded quickly, writing songs together, and soon they were seeking other musicians to in the hope and expectation of forming a performing and recording combo. Some musicians did initially come and go, but the line-up was eventually completed by Julian Holland (keyboards), Harry Kakoulli (bass) and Gilson Lavis (drums).

Like many other bands of that pre-punk era, Squeeze made their name and living via the pub circuit that dominated much of the music scene across the UK, particularly in the major cities. They were picked up by Miles Copeland III, a 30-year old American who had relocated to London with a determination to somehow to break into the music industry. Copeland had established an agency and label called BTM (British Talent Management) but it went bust in 1976 after a series of loss-making shows and festivals, leaving many of their acts, including Squeeze, high and dry but freely available.

The band cobbled together money to record an EP and release it in May 1977 on the Deptford City Label. It was produced by John Cale of The Velvet Underground whom Copeland had introduced to them. It’s fair to say that the outcome was quite basic, almost elementary in nature; it’s nowhere near good enough to include it as part of the ‘cracking debut’ regular feature on this blog:-

mp3 : Squeeze – Cat On A Wall
mp3 : Squeeze – Night Ride
mp3 : Squeeze – Back Track

Having said that, the Packet of Three EP, from July 1977, did pique enough interest in the group to generate some A&R follow-up, particularly in the live setting with the band seemingly an ever-present in the many small, noisy and smoky pubs of their local community and further afield across London, and they were still being championed by Copeland. In due course, Squeeze would be signed by A&M Records in 1978 for whom they would deliver a string of successful singles and albums over the next decade.

JC

THE NEW ORDER SINGLES (Part 6)

The collaboration that took everyone by surprise. New Order chose to follow up Blue Monday by heading over to New York and collaborating with DJ/mixer/producer Arthur Baker. The result was a 12″ single (Factory 93) containing four versions of the tune:-

mp3 : New Order – Confusion (8:13)
mp3 : New Order – Confused Beats (6:30)
mp3 : New Order – Confusion Instrumental (7:33)
mp3 : New Order – Confusion (Rough Mix) (8:04)

It reached #12 in the UK singles chart which was quite extraordinary given that the band were still very much a cult and the single had little daytime radio exposure. One of my abiding memories of it was that the promo was on what was then a new thing in the bar of the students union – a videobox as opposed to a jukebox. It was much more expensive and so some of us would club together to ensure, much to the annoyance of the beer-swilling rockers who studied engineering, that Confusion was on heavy rotation.

It’s perfectly of its time, and remains a huge influence on club/dance music almost 35 years on.

The song was completely revamped for inclusion on the Substance compilation :-

mp3 : New Order – Confusion 87 (4:43)

And then, in 1995, there was acid techno remix by Pump Panel, which was later used in 1998 as part of the soundtrack for the film Blade:-

mp3 : New Order – Confusion (Pump Panel Reconstruction Mix) (10:11)

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #101 : THE FLOWERS

Today’s post has more than one song featured. That’s all down to my abject failure to previously fully recognise and acknowledge the contribution made by The Flowers to the post-punk music scene in Scotland. It was something I wasn’t fully aware of until I went along to see the world premiere of Big Gold Dream back in 2015.

Flowers formed in 1978, and were part of a strong Edinburgh scene which spawned bands such as Scars, Josef K and The Fire Engines. The line-up eventually settled around Hilary Morrison aka Hl Ray (vocals), Andy Copland (guitar), Fraser Sutherland (bass) and Simon Best (drums).

The band contributed two tracks to the first Earcom compilation released by Fast Product in 1979, and recorded two singles across 79/80 for the Pop Aural label. There was also a John Peel session.

Like many others who were initially inspired by punk, the band got a bit disillusioned after the first wave of euphoria had died off and they soon called it a day in the summer of 1980 shortly after the release of their second single.

Here’s a selection from what was, in the end, a catalogue of just six songs, albeit some were recorded more than once for different releases:-

mp3 : The Flowers – After Dark (Earcom compilation)
mp3 : The Flowers – Confessions (debut single)
mp3 : The Flowers – The Ballad of Miss Demeanour (second single)

It sounds like Joy Division and/or Gang of Four being fronted by a Scottish Lene Lovich. The song from the Earcom compilation is a genuine long-lost classic with its bitter lyric about a post-disco sexual encounter gone horribly wrong….

JC

 

A TRUE TRUE CONFESSION

JC writes….

I received an e-mail from someone on the back of the True Confessions pieces last month. There followed an exchange of correspondence during which questions were asked and then answered as to whether the author did want the piece to appear. It’s an incredibly brave thing to offer for public consumption…..

Jim,

I have a True Confession to make, albeit the other way around – liking a song I shouldn’t. A guilty pleasure in a way, if you think it fits, feel free to post, if not just hit delete.

By the turn of the 20th century I met a woman, we were both married but not to each other, and we were drawn together – to start with somewhat unwillingly. Days and months passed by and in the end you might say we had an affair, rather innocent and profane maybe – but gravitation was strong…

In the end she didn’t dare to take that final step and she ended it. Heartbroken I wrote her a letter, sitting on a plane for the US, and in the speakers I could hear this song, a cover of a totally abominable Phil Collins track – but there and then, Mariah Carey singing “you coming back to me is against all odds, but it’s the chance I got to take” hit a very weak spot. I never sent that letter. I don’t own the song, but every time I hear it my heart stops for a second and that “what if?” flashes through my mind.

The song Out Of This World by The Cure, from Bloodflowers, is more the real me but my True Confession is I am attached to Against All Odds in the version by Westlife & Mariah Carey.

Forgive me my sins

mp3 : Westlife & Mariah Carey – Against All Odds
mp3 : The Cure – Out Of This World

A READER