AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #168 : APRIL MARCH

A GUEST POSTING by ALEX G

https://wewillhavesalad.wordpress.com/

In 1993, New Yorker Elinor Blake broke up her band The Pussywillows, moved to Los Angeles, and quit music to concentrate on animation. And if she’d stuck to that, today’s Imaginary Compilation Album wouldn’t exist. I mean, it’s an imaginary album so it doesn’t exist anyway, but all the music on it definitely does.

The fact is that practically as soon as she’d moved, she launched into not one but two new musical projects – a punk band, The Shitbirds, with fellow animators from The Ren & Stimpy Show, and her own solo project under the name April March. The Shitbirds didn’t last long (nor did another band she formed soon after, The Haves) but the April March project continues to this day. Apparently there is a new long-player already in the can and pencilled in for release some time in 2018. Maybe 2019, you can’t rush these things.

Blake’s music is largely sixties-inspired, ranging through Brill Building pastiches, garage rock, sunshine pop and psychedelia, but if she’s associated with one particular trait, it’s her Francophilia. Accordingly, Blake’s most frequent collaborator is French writer-producer Bertrand Burgalat whose retro-futurist leanings and love of “ye-ye” pop mirror her own. Burgalat produced six tracks on this ICA (1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8), also co-writing four of them, the other two being covers of songs originally recorded by original ye-ye girl Chantal Goya (Mon ange gardien) and elder statesman of indiepop (says Wikipedia), Louis Philippe (Martine – of which Burgalat produced the original, too).

Of the four remaining tracks, “Chick Habit” is an adaptation of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Laisse tomber les filles”, and probably April March’s best-known number, having apparently popped up in various films I haven’t seen, and adverts I don’t remember. “The Winter Cave” comes from my favourite April March album, the gorgeous winter-themed “April March & Los Cincos”, recorded with the titular Californian quintet, and “Sun Machine” is a quieter number from the 2008 album “Magic Monsters”, made with sometime Beck collaborator Steve Hanft. That just leaves the closing “Stay Away From Robert Mitchum”, dating back to 1993 and the very first April March EP, “Voo Doo Doll”, which was written and produced by Tim Hensley of Victor Banana – a group I don’t know, though if their songs are as bonkers as the ones he wrote for Blake, I would love to hear them!

Side one

Mon ange gardien (Dans les yeux d’April March EP, 1999)
Sugar (Superbanyair, 1996)
Chick Habit (Chick Habit EP, 1995)
Life Of The Party (Triggers, 2003)
Coral Bracelet (Triggers, 2003)

Side two

The Winter Cave (with Los Cincos) (April March & Los Cincos, 1998)
Eyes Of The Sun (with Dólos) (Various Artists: RSVP Tricatel, 2015)
Martine (Superbanyair, 1996)
Sun Machine (with Steve Hanft) (Magic Monsters, 2008)
Stay Away From Robert Mitchum (Voo Doo Doll EP, 1993)

ALEX G

JC adds…..this is someone I’ve never come across before….and the submission of this excellent and idiosyncratic ICA, complete with the wonderful artwork, is a reminder of the fact that I’m blessed to have such a extensive network of  readers and contibutors.  There’s more from Alex G tomorrow…

HALF TIME SCORES

This will be the last of the half time reports as the ties from the quarter-finals will feature individual match-ups and it will be easy enough to keep track of the scores via the comments button….but having said that, I’m likely to give updates at the foot of some of the scheduled non World Cup posts.

Before turning to the HTs, I thought it would be worth looking back over all the games played thus far and see how often the outcome I was hoping for actually prevailed:-

Preliminary Round : 0/1
1st Round : Week 1 13/16
1st Round : Week 2 : 12/16
1st Round : Week 3 : 10/16
1st Round : Week 4 : 10/16
2nd Round : 1st Half : 10/16
2nd Round : 2nd Half : 13/16
3rd Round : 12/16
4th Round : 3/6…and based on the HT scores….likely to be 4/8.

Also worth mentioning that more than half of the teams still left in the competition would have been eliminated at some previous point if I wasn’t a democrat….

And finally….here are your half time scores.

The Wedding Present 12 v Pulp 16
(Dalliance v This Is Hardcore)

(NB….early on Pulp had a 10 point lead in this one….)

Lightning Seeds 11 v Lloyd Cole & The Commotions 19
(Lucky You v Brand New Friend)

Half time entertainment…from more than 50 years ago:-

 

and here’s a wonderful tune that I felt like playing today; no reason other than I think you’ll enjoy it:-

mp3 : Ballboy – Donald In The Bushes With A Bag Of Glue

Remember….if you haven’t voted yet, you have until 10pm this coming Friday.

JC

 

IT REALLY WAS A CRACKING DEBUT SINGLE (18) : CURVE

I wasn’t too sure about having this is the series as I did feature it back in December 2013. But it’s simply to good to ignore…..

As I said back then, Curve came to prominence in Manchester at the beginning of the 90s at a time when the Madchester sound was in full flow. Toni Halliday and Dean Garcia offered up something rather different and much more challenging to listen to. Looking back over press cuttings that reviewed the debut EP, Blindfold, you can see there was near unanimous acclaim. Stuart Maconie in NME describes the music as “comprising biker torch songs” while guest reviewer Julian Cope said the singing “reminded him of an indie Kate Bush.”

Melody Maker said the singer was “gifted with Deborah Harry’s bitchiness, Sinead O’Conner’s rage, Rose Carlotti’s perversity, Harriet Wheeler’s sensitivity and Liz Fraser’s timeless glow and that she was doubly fortunate that the rest of the band were able to do things with their guitars and beatboxes that ‘can set alight the skies then extinguish them at will.” Eight months later, the paper was still so enthused by Blindfold that it placed it at #5 in the Single of the Year rundown, headed only by Unfinished Symphony, Losing My Religion, Higher Than The Sun and Smells Like Teen Spirit.

It still sounds powerful and other-worldly some 27 years on and all four tracks could easily have passed off as being the lead track.

mp3 : Curve (feat JC001) – Ten Little Girls
mp3 : Curve – I Speak Your Every Word
mp3 : Curve – Blindfold
mp3 : Curve – No Escape From Heaven

I don’t think Curve bettered the overall quality of the debut EP with subsequent similar type releases, although individual tracks The Colour Hurts and Fait Accompli are the one I enjoy most of all these days.

This is another band I’ll likely turn my attention to at some point during the ICA series and qualify them for the 2020 World Cup, where I’ve no doubt they will draw The Cure in the first round and thus force men into untold agony. But then again, if anyone else out there, male or female, wants to wax lyrically about what Ms Garcia did to their nether regions while they listened to Curve, then please feel free to share your thoughts, graphic or otherwise.

JC

PS : Thinking of Toni Halliday…..I never need an excuse to post one of my all time favourite pieces of music:-

mp3 : Leftfield – Original

THE CURIOUS TALE OF MODERN ENGLISH

I’ve always been bemused by the fact that, in relative terms, Modern English were a bit of a flop in their homeland. I suppose they were just too poppy for the indie-kids and too indie for the pop-purists thus unable to satisfy any one demographic of a potential fan base. But there were plenty of similar sounding bands, some on small indie labels and some on majors, who somehow bridged the gap and enjoyed commercial success, even if it was on the basis of being one-hit wonders.

The band emerged, as did so many others, in the immediate wake of the post-punk/new wave era and they even had something of the DIY ethos which was so prevalent of the times, issuing a debut single in 1979 on their own label. They were soon on the radar of 4AD Records, signing to that eccentric and innovative label in 1980. Two singles were followed by a John Peel session before the release of debut LP Mesh & Lace in 1981. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being interested in seeking them out on the basis of some of the musical press coverage in which they it was said they were heavily influenced by Joy Division; I’m sure I wasn’t alone in being bitterly disappointed when hearing them for the first time as they failed to generate any of the excitement that Curtis and co. had brought to my teenage ears.

The debut album sold a respectable number in the UK, reaching #5 in the indie-charts. I gave it a full listen again a few weeks back for the first time in decades, in the expectation that I’d find it more palatable given the expansion of my tastes over the ensuing years, but I still found it a difficult, uncomfortable and unpleasant listen. It just feels as if the band tried too hard to remain pure to their art, making uncompromising music that too often crossed over into the self-indulgent.

I’m not sure what it was that made the band reconsider things when it came to the follow-up; After The Snow in 1982 turned out to be as far removed from the debut as imaginable. Indeed, it could be argued that Modern English went too far and released a lightweight synth-driven pop album which made A Flock of Seagulls appear as innovative as Kraftwerk.

The sophomore album didn’t initially sell anything like as many copies in the UK as the debut. This well-crafted, clean and pop-friendly record seemed out-of-place on 4AD and the label wasn’t able to promote it via its usual channels and contacts, while they were out of their depth in trying to find ways to break one of their bands into the pop market. But salvation soon came in the shape of Sire Records who had no such problems in placing Modern English amongst the sort of UK acts that appealed to the college radio circuit and the newly emerging market via MTV. There was one song in particular which was doing the trick:-

mp3 : Modern English – I Melt With You

This album track was given the remix treatment, which, despite removing some of its dreamlike charm, went onto to sell enough copies to propel the 45 into the mainstream charts in the States and ultimately to help shift more than 500,000 copies of the parent album.

mp3 : Modern English – I Melt With You (7” mix)

Those who had fallen for the debut were left feeling let down by this about-turn in sound, but there’s no doubt that the band had somehow perfectly captured the moment when synth barged its way right into the pop world; the pity was that it opened the door for bland, indistinguishable acts such as Howard Jones and Nik Kershaw, as well as encouraging the likes of Simple Minds to follow suit.

They relocated from the UK to the USA shortly afterwards, enjoying financial rewards from touring on the back of the hit single. They were, however, unable to repeat the trick with the third album Ricochet Days, released in 1985, and before long the band split up, albeit they got together again before the decade was out since when they have made the occasional record without ever getting the sort of attention they did in the early 80s.

In the end, Melt With You became something of an albatross around their necks. Everything was compared to it and everything, in the eyes of the critics and the fan base, was left wanting. The impact of the big hit can be seen from the fact that the pop-orientated VH1 channel made it # 39 on its list of Greatest Songs of the 80s as well as #7 in its list of one-hit wonders of the same decade.

Here’s the two other tracks from After The Snow that were also released as singles:-

mp3 : Modern English – Life In The Gladhouse (12” single mix)
mp3 : Modern English – Someone’s Calling (single mix)

JC

A RE-POST TO BUY MORE TIME (7)

FORGOTTEN BRITPOP CLASSICS (Part 8 )

from 29 September 2008

The back of this CD single says:-

“It’s creamy but inedible
It’s pop with a healthy hatred of all things normal
It’s a man on a car in a bikini – getting beauty sucked out of him
By a woman with a Nikon.
But more than that, much more than that
It’s the second single by Babybird”

So….its simply wrong that happy loving couples want this played at their engagement party or wedding reception…..in the same way so many have misunderstood the real meaning behind The One I Love by REM. What’s even funnier is when its used as background music on some sort of TV documentary/reality programme, chosen by some numpty or bimbo who only hears the chorus and thinks to him/herself….’oh, that’ll be the prefect accompaniment to the glamour shots we’ve got in the can….’

Babybird, in the beginning, was just the name used by singer-songwriter Stephen Jones, a native of Sheffield. I remember in the mid 90s there was a real buzz about him in the music press, based on something like three or four demo-type LPs that were doing the rounds. In due course he put a band together and got a record deal with a subsidiary of major label Chrysalis Records, and in September 1996, it looked as if all the hype was justified when this fantastically catchy single went Top 3:-

mp3 : Babybird – You’re Gorgeous
mp3 : Babybird – You’re Gorgeous Too
mp3 : Babybird – Hong Kong Blues
mp3 : Babybird – KW Jesus TV Roof Appeal

Disappointingly for all concerned, many of the best tunes seemed to have been left behind on all the demo albums, as the first ‘proper’ LP didn’t go down well with either the critics or public, and before too long, the band were being labelled as one-hit wonders.

I say disappointingly, simply because I think You’re Gorgeous was one of the best singles of its era – really catchy and radio-friendly but with such a twisted subject matter. It was the sort of lyric that fellow resident of Sheffield, Jarvis Cocker, would have been proud of.

JC

BONUS SERIES : THE ICA WORLD CUP : ROUND 4 (Part 4)

May as well deal with the formalities of last week’s embarrassingly one-sided ties :-.

Echo & The Bunnymen 23 Butcher Boy 4
The Jam 23 The Jesus and Mary Chain 4

Here’s the final two ties of this round after which it gets really serious.  After this, you’ll only have one tie per week to consider and vote on….all the way through to the final in late July.

Match 7

The Wedding Present v Pulp

Two northern powerhouses go toe-to-toe.  Gedge v Cocker is worthy of the final itself and it will be very interesting to see what you all make of it, especially as the two songs coming up today come from albums which have been known to divide fans as they deviated somewhat from the tried, tested and trusted.

Here’s the facts thus far.

The Wedding Present strolled through the first round with Always The Quiet One ensuring a comprehensive hammering of Deacon Blue, following which  they have arguably had the ties of the past two rounds against Magazine (Kennedy v Shot By Both Sides) and Orange Juice….indeed the latter had to go to a replay as Edwyn & co had fielded an ineligible songs and TWP made the most of the reprieve.  My Favourite Dress (live) had been soundly beaten by Felicity, but the studio version of the former romped home against Falling and Laughing.

Pulp had a tough assignment in the first round but Pink Glove proved to be resilient enough to see off Kathleen by Tindersticks – my own thoughts being in that instance that many voted for the band rather than the song.  Next time out, Common People was aired leading to a ritual slaughtering of LambchopThe Fear was aired last time out and proved to strike that emotion into the heart of Pavement who ended up lying dazed and confused by the side of the road.

Dalliance (from Seamonsters, 1991) v This Is Hardcore (from This Is Hardcore, 1998)

From ICA #7….

A stunning and unexpected wall of sound that took the band to a whole new level in terms of fanbase and out of the realms of mere indie-pop. David Gedge doesn’t write 3 minute pop or rock songs; instead we often get mini soap-operas set to magical tunes. This is a real tear-jerker. Listen to it drunk and think about someone who once broke your heart. I dare you not to think of them and then say you weren’t fighting back the tears, whether of anger or sadness.

From ICA #32…courtesy of Tim Badger….

Clocking in at over six minutes, this is a sordid tale of secrets buried in PVC raincoats. Its sounds indescribably sinister. It s adopts a late night vibe and a raft of distorted guitar riffs that eventually gives way to strings and sounds so utterly dejected. One of the saddest Pulp songs around and probably the closest thing that geeks have to ‘Sexual Healing’.

Match 8

Lightning Seeds v Lloyd Cole & The Commotions

Two masters of the three-minute pop singles go toe-to-toe.  And, as it turns out, songs which were released as 45s are being fielded – one got to #15 at the second time of asking in 1995 while the other had reached #19 a decade previously

Here’s the facts thus far.

Lightning Seeds have avoided all the big guns to this stage, with Gemma Ray, Big Audio Dynamite and Saint Etienne all being seen off, albeit the winning margins have been gradually decreasing.  The original ICA was packed with singles and thus far You Showed Me, Pure and The Life of Riley have been aired.  Will this round be too big a step up?

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions have had a similar type of run early on with The Pipettes and Arab Strap being seen off but last time out there was a tough looking tie against Edwyn Collins but the result proved to be fairly decisive.  Forest Fire, Mister Malcontent and Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken have already been used, so it will be a test of the depth of the squad as we get to these latter stages.

Lucky You (single and from Jollification, 1995) v Brand New Friend (long version) (single and from Easy Pieces, 1985)

I penned both ICAs. This was #11:-

There were many who ridiculed Lloyd for the amount of aforementioned name dropping on the debut album and I’m convinced that the introduction of Jesus into the opening line of the first track off the second LP was him thumbing his nose or flicking the Vs at said critics. This is such a wonderful piece of pop music and it has aged as beautifully and smoothly as a classic malt whisky. This version is taken from the 12″ single release.

And from #135

Ian Broudie had enjoyed working with Terry Hall over an extended period of time, going back to producing The Colourfield as far back as 1984. In the early 90s, they co-wrote a number of songs for the Sense LP, including the title track, that was purloined for Home, the first solo album Terry Hall released under his own name in 1994. An album that was produced by…..yup…..Ian Broudie and which featured songs co-written with the likes of Craig Gannon, Andy Partridge, Nick Heyward and Damon Albarn.

And while they were in the studio making this solo LP, Broudie and Hall found time to compose this classic Lightning Seeds single, the one that would be the first lifted from Jollification that took the band back into the Top 20 for the first time since the debut single. (editor’s note…..not quite true as it had only reached #43 on first release….)

Happy deliberating.  Votes must be in by Friday 1 June at 10pm.

JC

THE GREAT TRANSITION…A THREE PART MINI-SERIES (3)

A GUEST SERIES by DAVE GLICKMANN

PART 3

The final part of our series on the Joy Division/New Order transition will tell the story of the, previously mentioned, Western Works session.

As I said in Part 1, I would be stealing quite liberally from the previous work of Analog Loyalist (A.L.); that is even more so the case here. For those interested in exploring A.L.’s work further, let me refer you to two older blogs – New Order Archive and The Power Of Independent Trucking. Regrettably, his work with the Recycle Project no longer resides on the web, though perhaps you might be able to rescue some of it with the Wayback Machine.

A.L., himself, did the mastering of the tracks from the tape reel pictured above, first in 2009, and then again in 2012. Here is his version of the story:

As Joy Division, they were close with Sheffield’s Cabaret Voltaire, having shared several gigs and compilation records with the Cabs. At some point, JD was going to work with the Cabs in the Cabs’ own Western Works Studio in Sheffield, but this opportunity had not yet come to pass at the time of Ian’s death.

Suddenly with no lead singer and a wide-open new beginning, the survivors (now known as New Order) took the Cabs up on their offer and decamped to Western Works on 7 September 1980, just two days after their third gig post-Ian. Safely away from the spotlight, and with no Martin Hannett to impose his will on the session, the band laid down several tracks with the Cabs’ Chris Watson engineering.

These tracks show the band’s emotions – both musical and lyrical – laid out to bare themselves to the world. Hesitant yet brave, restrained yet oddly forward-looking, New Order find themselves seeking the path at this very early stage – a path that would not be truly explored publicly for at least another 12 months – that would lead them out of the Joy Division shadow into completely new realms of song craft.

This material has been circulating amongst New Order fans since the early 1980s but never before heard by the general public in this release-ready quality.

Kind souls, who wish to remain anonymous rescued this material from a 1/4″ reel of tape that was up for auction on eBay, advertised as something else, and it was only in the reel transfer that it was discovered what this reel actually contained. It’s been theorized that if this is not the master reel itself from the studio mixdown sessions, it’s at the very least a direct, professional copy of it.

The reel was advertised as being rescued in a Chorlton charity shop, and was described as containing “unreleased” Joy Division mixes, specifically “She’s Lost Control” and “Atmosphere”. Alas, neither are unreleased mixes – the reel contained test pressing vinyl captures of the FACUS2 “She’s Lost Control” b/w “Atmosphere” 12″ single, and a transfer of the Sordide Sentimental 7″ “Atmosphere”, presumably for comparison sake. Nothing JD on the reel was unreleased, and in fact both were of fairly poor quality for a vinyl transfer to reel. Not listed on the reel, and not mentioned in the auction description, was the New Order material.

So what New Order material was on the reel?

1. Dreams Never End (mix 1)
2. Dreams Never End (mix 2)
3. Homage
4. Ceremony
5. Truth
6. Are You Ready Are You Ready Are You Ready For This?

We’ve already taken a look at Homage and Ceremony in previous installments of this series. A.L. will take you through the rest:

New Order – Dreams Never End (Western Works mix 1)
New Order – Dreams Never End (Western Works mix 2)

First we have two different mixes – but the same base recording – of “Dreams Never End”. The first version is the common version that had already circulated – albeit in much poorer quality – amongst the fans. The second version, however, is a heretofore-unknown alternate mix featuring much louder guitars than the original take – but besides that, it’s identical to the first take. Both takes slower than the version eventually recorded for the debut LP in 1981, this track even more so sounds like bassist (and singer on this track) Peter Hook’s own little memorial to Ian. “A long farewell to your love and soul” indeed.

New Order – Truth (Western Works)

Steve Morris is on lead vocals for this version of “Truth” which, even at this early stage, is remarkably similar to what they’d end up doing with the track when recording it for their debut LP in 1981 (except with Bernard on vocals). I particularly like this version though, it’s much more poignant, fragile and spacious – as it should be – than the released variant.

New Order – Are You Ready Are You Ready Are You Ready For This? (Western Works)

The biggest revelation of the reel: A heretofore-unknown new New Order track, or rather, a collaboration with the Cabs and New Order, featuring none other than NO manager Rob Gretton on lead vocals! What is special about “Are You Ready…” though is that, Rob’s vocals aside, musically it shows the band taking great liberties with the established Joy Division sound – and the early New Order sound – and is very much so a signpost to the musical path the band would further explore starting with fall 1981’s “Everything’s Gone Green”.

Those who have had doubts about New Order’s involvement in the NO/Cabs jam “Are You Ready Are You Ready Are You Ready For This?” – doubt no further. A member of New Order – who was, of course, there at the time, he was in the band! – was the direct, to me, source of this information, not secondhand or third hand.

When the reel was obtained, this track was completely unknown and it was just pure speculation at the time that it was a Cabs/NO jam. I had this New Order member identify it for me – it was he who revealed its title to me – and this same member also confirmed the instrumentation:

Hooky – bass
Bernard – guitar (and “whooping” in the background)
Steve – Simmons drums, and the same Dr Rhythm drum machine used on Truth
Rob Gretton – vocals
various Cabs – sonic alterations

Many of you may already be familiar with this material, but for those of you who are not, I will wait just a minute for you to pick up your jaws off the floor.

DG

THE GREAT TRANSITION…A THREE PART MINI-SERIES (2)

A GUEST SERIES by DAVE GLICKMANN

PART 2

Continuing our exploration of the Joy Division/New Order transition, today we ask the question “What is the ultimate transitional track?”

Of course, it is hard to even know how to approach this topic without defining what we mean by this.

* Is it a Joy Division track where we can see the first signs of musical ideas that became the basis for New Order’s sound?

* Or, perhaps a New Order composition that looks back at Joy Division one more time?

* Maybe a song with its feet firmly planted in both the past and the future at the same time?

* Or, that moment where the past was fully shed and the survivors broke through completely into their new identity?

As is the custom in this series, no answers, just music.

Looking Forward

In preparing to write this post, I tried as hard as I could to convince myself that Love Will Tear Us Apart contained hints of what was to come, but, I just couldn’t get there. Sure, the music is much more upbeat and happier than the rest of the Joy Division catalog (the lyrics, not so much). Perhaps it points in a direction that the band might have explored further if Ian hadn’t died. However, at least to me, that direction is not towards the sound that New Order ultimately explored.

On the other hand, there is this little ditty that was buried on the b-side of the free Komakino flexi-disc.

Joy Division – As You Said

Here are the thoughts of 50 Pound Note from The Recycle Project:

To me, As You Said is a clear “eff off” to the deniers who say Joy Division would never have gotten into all that synthy disco bullshit. The signs were there.

Looking Back

Naturally, the two songs we looked at last time,  the Joy Division compositions released as the first New Order single, are candidates for this category. This seems particularly true of In A Lonely Place which strikes me as a Joy Division track through and through. Of course, Part 1 already explored this territory in great detail. So, instead, let’s take a look at something much more obscure.

At the Western Works session (yes, I still promise that we will get to the Western Works story before we are done), Bernard tried out his homage to Ian. At least, that’s how I read lyrics like “This is the only time that I; Thought I had seen the signs; Well, I did… I’ll never know.” It sure sounds like a Joy Division composition to me. Given its raw, emotional content, perhaps it is none too surprising that this song was not pursued further by the band.

New Order – Homage (Western Works)

A.L. was kind enough to transcribe the lyrics while remastering the session in 2012:

This smile the unborn child reaction’s taken, forsaken
These scenes pervaded me in a way that
People seldom see

This is the only time that I thought I had
Seen the signs and I wait, I’ll never know

In this room
The blind pass through
In this room
I think of you
In this room

In this room

Darkness will vanish soon
I awake, always in this room
All days will fall and rise
Helplessly, I watch these figures cry

This sense of needless rejection
Always the sense of reason
Carelessly lead me astray

In this room
The blind pass through
In this room
I think of you
In this room
Father, please don’t forsake me now
In this room
Father, please don’t forsake me now
In this room

People always ask for dreams
Revelation in a dream

A life that is so scared

This is the only time that I
Thought I had seen the signs
Well, I did… I’ll never know

Standing In The Middle

It is hardly a controversial view to suggest that New Order’s debut album, Movement, was a transitional work, standing squarely between Joy Division and the New Order that was to come. It’s clear that they were moving forward, albeit not very far.

Peter Hook’s view of the album is both insightful and entertaining:

We were confused musically … Our songwriting wasn’t coming together. I don’t know how we pulled out of that one. I actually liked Movement, but I know why nobody else likes it. It was good for the first two-and-a-half minutes, then it dipped.

While Movement wasn’t a critical success, I can certainly admit to enjoying it both then and now. Of course, it doesn’t hold a candle to PC&L, but I’m still willing to give it a spin on occasion. In any case, for our purposes today, any song off the album will demonstrate this idea of standing between the past and the future. How about this one?

New Order – ICB

Breaking Through

Although they are, in general, better than the album material, the other two singles from the Movement period – Procession and Everything’s Gone Green – along with the two b-sides, strike me as being cut from largely the same cloth, another small step forward perhaps. So I conclude, rather unoriginally, that New Order’s breakthrough moment came with the next single, Temptation. JC says as much in his November 12th post without saying it at all.

While one of my goals in this series has been to avoid posting tracks that were already shared during the singles review, in this case, it simply is not possible. So, here’s a repeat of the original 12” version. Why that one? Because, as everyone knows, it is the longest and the best!

New Order – Temptation (12” version)

Oh, and just because you asked, I have steel blue (or are they grey) eyes.

DG

THE GREAT TRANSITION…A THREE PART MINI-SERIES (1)

A GUEST SERIES by DAVE GLICKMANN

PART 1

As JC has recently completed his review of the New Order singles, I thought it might be an opportune time to go back to the beginning and explore the Joy Division-New Order transition period. Like my previous post on Joy Division, I’ll be stealing liberally from the work of Analog Loyalist (A.L.) from both the wonderful New Order-Joy Division Recycle project, as well as his own The Power of Independent Trucking blog.

“No band ever survives the death of their lead singer”

– Steve Coogan, as Factory Records founder Tony Wilson, in 24 Hour Party People

Of course, many bands have gone through transitions before – members have left or died and been replaced, groups have split and started new bands or gone solo (and then reformed again), bands have renamed themselves (and then reclaimed their original names years later), and on and on. Yet, to my knowledge […and here’s the point where you click on the comment link and explain to me how little I know], the Joy Division-New Order transition seems fairly unique, as suggested by the quote above, and insomuch as the former band gained such cult status and the later one had such critical/commercial success and longevity.

Any number of interesting questions have been raised about the period after Ian Curtis’ death, including:

* Had he not committed suicide, would Joy Division have reached the same level of popularity as New Order eventually achieved?

* Would Joy Division’s sound have evolved along similar lines to New Order?

* Was Barney actually the best choice as the new lead singer?

* … and many more.

In this three part series, I plan to provide answers to none of these questions. I mean, honestly, who can ever really know what happened in an alternative universe they didn’t live in. So instead, we’ll just enjoy the music.

Let’s start in the same place as JC’s series – the Ceremony single – the only two songs for which we have recordings by both bands. As such, there really isn’t any debate that both Ceremony and In A Lonely Place were Joy Division compositions, at least musically. As far as the lyrics go, well, we’ll get to that shortly.

The 1981 compilation album, Still, includes a live version of Ceremony from Joy Division’s last show at Birmingham University on May 2, 1980. Regrettably, the recording engineer failed to capture the vocals in any level of intelligibility for the first 90 seconds of the track.

Joy Division – Ceremony (High Hall, Birmingham 2 May 1980)

There is also an audience bootleg recording of the same song from the sound check prior to the High Hall show which you can find on a ubiquitous internet video site. Not surprisingly, it suffers from all the fidelity issues inherent in the phrase “audience bootleg recording.”

Fast forwarding to 1997, the Heart And Soul box set contained two rehearsal recordings – Ceremony, from a May 14, 1980 session at Graveyard Studios, Prestwich (at least, that’s what the box says. Other sources say the recording is from T.J. Davidson’s studio in Manchester) and a partial recording of In A Lonely Place, from a cassette tape that Peter Hook “found.” The Ceremony recording showed the effects of the surviving band members’ attempts to improve the clarity of Ian’s vocals, as the lyrics were otherwise unavailable to them, while In A Lonely Place, was, of course, incomplete. These tracks represented the end of the Joy Division story regarding these two songs until, some 14 years later, something magical happened.

Here’s A.L.’s telling of the story (with some tasteful editing by me):

1997’s Heart And Soul box set featured two never-released rehearsal recordings (supposedly found on a tape by Peter Hook, whilst rummaging behind his couch or some similar story), those of “Ceremony” and an edited “In A Lonely Place”. Leaping forward 14 years, new sources were located for both Joy Division tracks, essentially from a rehearsal room recording reel-to-reel tape.

“Ceremony” from the reel was the same take as on the box set, but in a bit higher fidelity.

“In A Lonely Place” – as all serious fans know – abruptly ends at roughly 2:30 [on Heart And Soul], or shortly before Ian Curtis would begin singing the third verse. Allegedly this was the only version that existed on Hooky’s tape, so it was what got used. On the reel was more than one take of “In A Lonely Place” – the full, unedited version of the take used on the box set  (which was the last one on the reel, sequentially, and therefore surmised to be the last one they recorded), and the take – the last-but-one on the reel – used by Rhino on [the 2011] Record Store Day 12″. The box set featured a collapsed-to-mono “In A Lonely Place”. “In A Lonely Place” is in full-stereo on the reel, and presented in true stereo on the Record Store Day 12″.

It was discovered that – roughly speaking – the versions on the reel had been (technoweenie talk ahead) “futzed with” by (presumably) the survivors, trying to pull out Ian’s lyrics for their own versions of the songs. The box set featured the futzed-with “Ceremony”. Without getting too detailed, “Ceremony” on the box set is a modified, compromised stereo that’s not true, while on the Record Store Day 12″ it has been restored to real, as captured by rehearsal room microphones, stereo.

A fair amount of work was needed to goose the recordings into quality listening material; mainly EQ and, surprisingly, mid/side decoding due to the supplied source coming to us mid/side encoded. A touch of gentle noise reduction, tasteful limiting, and done.

So, on Record Store Day in 2011, the following Joy Division tracks were released:

Joy Division – Ceremony (rehearsal tape)

Joy Division – In A Lonely Place (RSD 12” take)

Well, sort of. Here’s an important note from A.L.:

These Joy Division recordings are not captured from vinyl, but are the exact sources given to the label for the 12″ release (compressed for Recycle, that is – the label was not provided with lossy AAC/MP3 masters!). We’ve auditioned the actual 12″ and determined that the mastering is very faithful to the source given to the label.

What has yet to be officially released is the complete, unedited, stereo version of In A Lonely Place from Heart And Soul (though, you can listen to it by clicking on the line below….)

Joy Division – In A Lonely Place (“Heart And Soul” full take, stereo)

Moving forward to the New Order period, there is a fascinating version of Ceremony that was recorded on September 7, 1980 at Cabaret Voltaire’s Western Works Studio in Sheffield (the story of the Western Works session will be covered in a later part of this series). Less than four months after Ian’s death, this take provides some interesting insight into the evolution of the song’s lyrics, as well as the band’s experiments in choosing a new lead singer.

New Order – Ceremony (Western Works)

Here’s A.L. again:

[This] is drummer Steve Morris’ turn on lead vocals with a very interesting take on “Ceremony”, one of the last two Joy Division tracks written just prior to Ian’s death. Famously having no written lyrics they could use (if Ian wrote them down, they weren’t available to the survivors at the time), New Order had to run the Joy Division rehearsal recording of this track through an equalizer to attempt to pick out Ian’s lyrics. Considering that even with modern audio software it’s nearly impossible to extract Ian’s vocals, or at least make them clearer, it’s impressive what they were able to pull out of it. Steve sings lead on the verses, with Hooky taking over a chorus as well. Interestingly enough, when the time came three weeks later to record this track “officially” in New Jersey’s Eastern Artists Recording Studio with producer Martin Hannett, the lyrics Bernard Sumner sang started off markedly different – which makes one wonder if they were rewritten by New Order.

So finally, we reach the officially released New Order Ceremony single in all of its variants, for which I will refer you to JC’s original post.

Yet even here, there is a bit more to be discovered. Through all the various releases and re-pressings of the original and re-recorded versions of Ceremony, it turns out that two different mixes of the 12” In A Lonely Place were used, one with a loud thunderclap at 0:33 and one without (there are probably other differences as well, but I’ll leave that to someone with more time and better ears). Which one you have, all depends on which version/pressing of the 12” single you purchased at the time. In his post, JC shared the thunderclap version; here’s the other one.

New Order – In A Lonely Place (12” mix without thunderclap)

For the record, the official 7” edit is an early fade of this non-thunderclap mix.

DG

HALF TIME REPORT

Here’s a song with a title that captures perfectly the Bunnymen over Butcher Boy:-

mp3 : The Popguns – Landslide

Here’s a song with a title that captures perfectly The Jam over the Mary Chain:-

mp3 : Dead Hope – Landslide

Both ties, even at this early stage, are forgeone conclusions.  I think, however, that at least one of next week’s match-ups will be tasty.  Tune in on Saturday to learn what I’m talking about.

In the meantime, tomorrow sees the start of a three-day guest mini-series which may well fascinate a number of you.

JC

PS : Both of the above tunes come very highly recommended.

PPS : For some reason or other, a comment….nay, it’s more akin to a desperate plea from the heart….. ended up in the Spam box rather than being published last week.  I found it while doing a bit of clearing up last night.  It’s from Adam in the Bagging Area, and he offered this up on Thursday 16 May:-

“Can The Robster please note never to compare The Clash to Man City ever again please.

Thank you”

 

ONE SUMMER

Returning again to the pleasures generated by the C88 boxset. The booklet says this:-

Formed in Summer 1987, when all four members of the band worked at the University of London’s halls of residence, Moss Poles were at the more melodic end of the ‘fast guitars’ spectrum. After appearing on the live scene, they were spotted by various loitering A&R men before recording for Jeff Chegwin’s Idea label (later home of the mighty Wolfhounds) and releasing a sprightly debut single, ‘One Summer’, which graced the indie charts. The scene-referencing ‘Underground’ followed – ‘let’s go down to the underground/it’s the only place where love is found” – and the album. Shorn, before the band’s all-too brief existence came to an end in summer 1988.

A little bit of digging reveals that the contents of the booklet are slightly wrong in terms of how Moss Poles came to be. It does seem the case that Nick Potter, Sean Bergin and Mick Kemp worked together in said halls of residence, but they were already in a band called Last of the V8s with the fourth member being a drum machine which, in due course was ditched and the name changed to Moss Poles in the summer of 1987. They were seemingly a more than decent live act and counted a young Steve Lamacq among their fanbase. The two singles and debut album all came out in a short space of time on Idea Records with the slick and polished sound betraying the fact they had already been together for a while before ending up in the studio.

The plan had been to record and release a follow-up in 1988 but on Mayking Records. Indeed, the tracks were recorded and set to go except the label went bust and it seems the master tapes were among the assets seized due to non-payment of fees to the studio. And that was the end of Moss Poles.

They’re another act that I would have known nothing about if it wasn’t for the boxset. One Summer is an excellent piece of music. It actually doesn’t have all that much in common with the genre and sound most associated with C86/87/88, being more akin to the power pop stuff so beloved by Brian over at Linear Track Lives

mp3 : Moss Poles – One Summer

Here’s yer b-side –

mp3 : Moss Poles – Go Down

I do think this was a band  that a major label might have been able to do something with, perhaps even getting them the playlist at Radio 1 and the lower ends of the singles chart. It seems like another example of a ‘could’ve been’ combo from the strangest and most unpredictable decade in pop.

JC

 

A RE-POST TO BUY MORE TIME (6)

This was in a series which ran in 2010/11 entitled ‘Five Great Album Tracks For Friday’

This was Part 18 and it appeared on Friday 8 April 2011.

Today’s piece was inspired by something I read in a newspaper supplement last weekend.

Graeme Thomson is one of the best writers around in the UK – a regular contributor to many of the monthly music mags as well as popping up across many newspapers. In last Saturday’s Arts Section of The Herald, he was given space to plug a forthcoming book, one that I intend to buy on its release on 15 April.

Thomson has written about Johnny Cash. But he’s done so from a perspective that is unusual and one with which I can readily identify. He recalls that growing up, Cash was a voice he heard regularly thanks to his parents love of him. And while it was a voice he loved, it wasn’t one that he thought would ever deliver new material that would be worth listening to….until 1993 when Cash teamed up with Rick Rubin to release American Recordings.

Thomson’s book is a a look at the final series of albums Johnny Cash made in the final decade of his life. As he puts it in the article “to examine what happens when rebels don’t die young but are forced to keep on living, wrestling with their demons and the very human indignities of ill health, indifference and old age.”

I’m a big fan of the work Cash and Rubin delivered. I’ve never quite been able to pin down why, but something Thomson wrote last Saturday nailed it:-

Although these albums play consistently with Cash’s brooding image and sense of mythology – chiming neatly with the uncompromising mood of the mid-1990s’ most successful genres : grunge rap and metal – they also bring the real man closer than ever before. At the time of their initial release, however, much of their impact rested on the obvious novelty of an ageing country singer covering songs by contemporary artists like Soundgarden, Danzig and Nick Cave.

Nearly eight years on since Cash’s death – and over a year since the release of Ain’t No Grave, the sixth and final instalment of American Recordings – it’s easier to free the art from the context of its creation and see that albums for what they really are : the logical destination of Cash’s long black train of music.

It all makes sense now. It’s the really early Cash and the really late Cash that I love the most. The early stuff is raw with just the basic instruments and THAT voice. American Recordings are much the same.

And so here’s my five personal favourites from the American Recordings set of records. And for once, I’m including tracks released as singles…..:-

mp3 : Johnny Cash – Delia’s Gone (from American Recordings 1993)
mp3 : Johnny Cash – One (from American III : Solitary Man 2000)
mp3 : Johnny Cash – I See A Darkness (from American III : Solitary Man 2000)
mp3 : Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around (from American IV : The Man Comes Around 2003)
mp3 : Johnny Cash – Hurt (from American IV : The Man Comes Around 2003)

This wasn’t an easy set of songs to choose. The fact that only three out of the six albums weighs a bit with me. But these are the five songs I love more than the others.

Delia’s Gone was released as a single. The 1993 version updated a version that Cash had recorded back in 1962. The original was Cash with a band and is atypical of the sound that made him so popular in the first place. The update was audacious as it was just Cash and his guitar – as indeed was all of the 1993 LP – and as an opening track it made you just sit up and take notice.

By the time Unchained, the second of the series, was released in 1995, there were a number of collaborators and a backing band. By 2000 and American III : Solitary Man, there were all sorts of folk wanting to pay homage by sharing the vocals. And nobody did it better than Will Oldham whose stunning record of its own that was just over a year old was turned into an all-time classic. I dare anyone to listen to I See A Darkness and not hold back the tears….

The other song taken from the 2000 LP is a U2 cover. I know not everyone who visits TVV is a fan of Bono & co, but even if they are an act that you detest with a passion, I urge you to listen to Cash’s cover of One and hear how he makes it his very own.

American IV : When The Man Comes Around is in parts the very best of the entire series but in other parts contains some of the most disappointing covers – I just can’t bring myself to listen to his take on Danny Boy or We’ll Meet Again. However, the opening two songs on this LP are among the best things Johnny Cash ever recorded in his entire career.

The title track was a new song. One that Cash freely admits he spent more time on than any other that he ever wrote. He ended up with more than 30 pages of lyrics that he weeded out until the edited and recorded version was ready. For a song so much about death and the end of his world, it is an incredibly upbeat and uplifting, almost spiritual tune.

Then there’s his take on Hurt. The original by Nine Inch Nails has long had folk arguing what exactly it is all about, with self-mutilation, drug abuse and self-loathing being among the suggestions. The Cash version, helped by an astonishing promo video, left you in doubt that this was a man recording his own highly moving epitaph:-

JC

BONUS SERIES : THE ICA WORLD CUP : ROUND 4 (Part 3)

Bit of a non-event this week…..but again, huge thanks those of you who took the time to vote and to comment.  Micky’s usual e-mail vote contained this gem re BB v HMHB….

This is like asking if I prefer a bag of crisps with a pint in the pub or a pie & Bovril at a football match.  How do you compare?

He, in the end, went for the whimsical and witty musings of the blokes from Birkenhead, but he’ll be left disappointed that it is the singular bloke from Barking who has prevailed.

The Smiths 24  The Police 7
Billy Bragg 25 Half Man Half Biscuit 12

They now join The Housemartins and The Clash in the quarter-finals.  I can also reveal that The Smiths are the subject of an appeal in that their frontman, having now served a two-game suspension , should be allowed to rejoin the squad.   The organising committee will deliberate over the coming days and the verdict announced at the time the QF draw is revealed.

Here’s what now awaits your deliberations this week.  Couple of crackers IMHO.

Match 5

Echo & The Bunnymen v Butcher Boy

While many might have made a safe prediction that the Scousers would have progressed to this stage, it would have been a brave person to tip that the Scottish posters would have been their opponents, still in the competition when so many huge names have fallen by the wayside.  But that’s the nature of an unseeded and totally random knockout competition for you.

The Cutter, Zimbo and The Killing Moon have been fielded by Mac & co. to see off the differing challenges of Leonard Cohen, Everything But The Girl and The Durutti Column.  The first and third of those songs scored very heavily, evidence that this is free-scoring side more than capable of lifting the trophy as long as they don’t get too cocky.

On a personal note, I’m thrilled for John & co. to be given the chance to take on the really big guns. They had an easy win in Round 1 against The Magnetic Fields, since when they have squeaked through against Martin Stephenson and Wire by just two and three points respectively.  Can they now deliver a result of giant-killing proportions?

There Is No One Who Can Tell Where You’ve Been (from Profit In Your Poetry, 2007) v A Promise (from Heaven Up Here, 1981)

It was ICA #17 for Butcher Boy and here’s what I wrote at the time:-

A tune that is played more than any other within Villain Towers as I’ve taken its first thirty seconds and turned them into a customised ringtone for my mobile phone. All those influences that the early reviewers pinpointed (The Smiths, Tindersticks, Felt, Belle & Sebastian, R.E.M. and Go-Betweens )  can be heard in its perfect two and a half minutes. It’s also evidence that John is a fine singer although he personally considers that he is merely OK….but what it does highlight is just how talented he is as a musical arranger.

ICA #41 for Echo & The Bunnymen, with these words typed at 35,000 feet as I winged by way towards Toronto:-

If Postcard could claim to be the Sound of Young Scotland then those who came to prominence through Zoo Records are entitled to claim the same crown for Young Liverpool. This particular single could easily have been written and recorded by Wylie, Cope or The Wild Swans and it would have been equally majestic. Will Sargeant teased a ridiculous amount of stunning sounds from his guitar over these damn near perfect four minutes.

Interesting that I used the word ‘perfect’ on each occasion.

Match 6

The Jam v The Jesus & Mary Chain

Two more sides who are capable, on their day, of fielding a song which would defeat any opponent. This is a very tasty tie to savour but it is worth remembering that the home side are completely reliant on album tracks as the ICA deliberately precluded any singles or b-sides as they had all just been featured in a long-running series.

Here’s the facts thus far.

Happy Together saw a 34-10 result against T.Rex
Billy Hunt delivered a 37-6 thumping to The Detroit Cobras
Thick As Thieves brought a 35-6 win over Daft Punk.

The results demonstrate that The Jam have been in glorious free-scoring form, but there’s something of a case that the sides thay have faced have been of lower-division standard.

Turning to their opponents….

Reverence resulted in a 33-11 triumph over The Wondermints
Boyfriend’s Dead was far too good for Rod Stewart, with a 30-6 outcome.
Never Understand proved more than enough for a 25-16 win over The The

The first two games showed they were just as free scoring, but again there’s an argument to be had about the quality of their opponents.  They showed no mercy last time out, winning much easier than some had imagined when the draw came out.

Saturday’s Kids (from Setting Sons, 1979) v Guitarman (from Speed of Sound, 1994)

I wrote ICA #52 for the home side:-

A paean to growing up in a working-class household.

At 16, I had no idea what the line ‘stains on the seats – in the back of course’ was all about. Nor did I know who smoked Capstan Non-Filters (Embassy Regal? yup….that was my dad’s choice of habit) and for Selsey Bill and Bracklesam Bay you would have had to substitute places a little nearer home or insert Blackpool which around half of Glasgow seemed to migrate to in the last two weeks in July back in the mid-70s. Otherwise it was a song that resonated with me and even now I can recite every single word of the lyric. But I do accept that, with its descriptions of things that aren’t part of modern society then it’s a lyric very much of its time and so probably won’t resonate much with today’s kids….except perhaps the bit about hating the system. Some things just never change.

It was SWC who put together ICA #94 with the most wonderfully funny pre-amble (you should click on it the link over on the right hand side and remind yourself of it):-

I wanted to include a cover version, simply because the Marychain did a few, mainly old Blues rock numbers from the 60s, and this I think was the best one. I also recommend their version of ‘Little Red Rooster’ because the absolutely crush it, but for me the bit where Reid goes ‘Show ‘em sonnnn’ is bloody marvellous.

Happy listening.  Votes must be in by Friday 25 May at 10pm.

JC

BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN

With apologies to anyone expecting a posting on Burl Ives…..

The Shop Assistants were one of the most highly regarded indie groups to emerge out of Scotland in the early-mid 80s with much of the interest centering around the vocal talents of Alex Taylor. She quit the band in 1987, going on to form The Motorcycle Boy in whom Rough Trade declared an immediate interest with this resultant single issued to great acclaim:-

mp3 : The Motorcycle Boy – Big Rock Candy Mountain (Velocity Dance Mix)
mp3 : The Motorcycle Boy – Room At The Top
mp3 : The Motorcycle Boy – His Latest Flame
mp3 : The Motorcycle Boy – Big Rock Candy Mountain (7″ version)

The hype around the band led to a bit of a bidding war which was won by Chrysalis Records. But in the ensuing two-year period in which new material had been recorded and two singles released in 1989, the world of indie-music had changed somewhat and The Motorcycle Boy were considered old-hat. Leather jackets, tight jeans and buzzing guitars were no longer de rigueur.

The planned debut LP was shelved and the band were released from their contract. One more 45 was issued via an indie label in 1990 before they threw in the towel. A real shame, as the singles are all more than decent, albeit I don’t think they bettered the debut.

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #167 : MUSE

A GUEST POSTING by The SOUND OF BEING OK

One boring Wednesday morning, Timothy J Badger had an idea. He set to work – and typed an email to his two long suffering blogging partners, who are used to his crazy and often terrible ideas, and when the email arrived, they sighed collectively and in unison. For it read : –

“Over the next four hours (from 1pm to 5pm) put your iPods on shuffle and make a note of the acts that are played – here is a spreadsheet for you – let’s see if any band crop up on our each of our iPods. If they do, we will write an ICA for dear old JC on whomever it is, please be honest with the what is played. Even if it is Culture Club (KT) or the Sisters of Mercy (SWC)”.

SWC was the first to respond.

“Good idea, but I have a meeting between 2pm and 3pm – shall I leave the iPod playing?” (Yes please)

KT was next.

“Do I have to? I’m quite busy” (Yes you do, I’m your boss, and it is now officially an order)

Reluctantly they both agreed.

At ten past five, Badger analysed the results and found this…..

“The first thing that struck me when going through the spreadsheet results was that SWC’s ipod picked at random three tracks by Shakespears Sister in the space of the first twenty seven songs. I sort of promised not to tell anyone that, so you won’t mention to him that I told you will you? The second thing that struck me was that KT’s iPod has dramatically improved since she married Dom. I mean who knew that KT owned music by Whiskey Stain, My Bloody Valentine and erm, Duran Duran.

There was nine bands that featured on both my iPod and SWC’s, four that featured on SWC and KT’s (and once the same song came up – although slightly different versions)

Plain Sailing Weather – Frank Turner

Two acts featured on both my iPod and KT’s. The brilliant idea looked like it was going to fail, I mean it was a long shot anyway, but then right at the end of SWC’s spreadsheet, the second to last song his iPod played there it sat. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner…

The only band to have featured on each iPod was Muse. Devon’s very own Muse.

So as per the rules here is an Imaginary Compilation Album on Muse. I gave the team until 6pm the next day to provide me with their choices and the reasons why, three tracks from SWC, three tracks from KT and I would do the final four.

It took SWC five minutes to choose his three songs, because according to him

“They only have four good songs”.

It took KT seventeen hours to choose her three. Largely because she is still young and still has something resembling a social life and claimed that

“Book Club got in the way, we were discussing ‘Ironweed’ by William Kennedy”.

So Muse, love them or hate them, you can’t deny that they have written some cracking tunes

Side One

Uprising (Taken from The Resistance and chosen by KT)

The thing about Muse that is so entertaining is that they are not afraid to experiment, they are not afraid to over indulge, or try something ridiculous. Take this track for instance, I mean who else but Muse would think it is acceptable to take a mash up of the Doctor Who Theme and Blondie’s ‘Call Me’ add a disco rock stomp to it and then release it as a single. I mean it ridiculous but it utterly works. As Matt’s nearly sings “They will be victorious”.

Time Is Running Out (Taken from Absolution and chosen by SWC)

I’ll be honest here, ‘Absolution’ by Muse is the only albums of theirs that I own. It’s not an album for the faint hearted, its an album that kind of throws a brick in the face of subtlety with nearly all the tracks sounding like they were written for a big budget space movie. ‘Time Is Running Out’ is easily the second best thing that they have ever recorded. Why only second….

Butterflies and Hurricanes (Taken from Absolution and chosen by SWC)

Because this. That’s why. Man oh man this is something else….A frantic electronic niggle slowly builds (that is a key thing in Muse songs, the ‘build’) as guitars squelch away until a fuzz of distortion kicks in and then suddenly you get grand pianos, gospel choirs, crashing noises and everything. If Muse wanted to make music that made a statement, they bloody well made one with this “You’ve got to change the world and use this chance to be heard” sings Matt Bellamy. Quite.

Cave (Taken from Showbiz and chosen by Badger)

‘Cave’ is one the earliest songs that Muse ever recorded and stems back from a time when they were pretty much obsessed with Radiohead and all of the tracks at some point featured a falsetto similar to the ones that Thom Yorke did. That was then followed by an intricate and brooding guitar hissy fit.

Showbiz (Taken from Showbiz and chosen by SWC)

If you ask me Muse were a much more interesting band when their debut record came out. This is the best track off of the debut album and its notable for the final minute or so, the songs builds up and is quite dark and heavy until the end which will pretty much blow you away I think.

Side Two

Unnatural Selection (Taken from The Resistance and chosen by Badger)

This is an incredible track. At the start of it you are thinking one thing, then the guitar kicks in and you get a minute or so of Muse in full rock tilt and then it changes again, it goes all dreamy and tender before Bellamy sets it all off again as he screams “I Want The Truth” over and over again, like a Devonian Tom Cruise, and then his guitar weeps, wails and screams with him and the world seeming crashes in. Outstanding.

Starlight (Taken from Black Holes and Revelations and chosen by KT)

Quite simply this is Muse’s most heartfelt song, a simple yet gorgeous and expansive love song. Albeit one about black holes and the end of the world.

Invincible (Taken from Black Holes and Revelations and chosen by KT)

Which for the first four minutes or so is pretty much Matt Bellamy singing over a simple military style drum roll. Then just before the four minute mark, everything kicks in again like prog rock juggernaut squashing everything in its wake.

The Small Print (Taken from Absolution and chosen by Badger)

A song which if the ‘ahem’ small print is to be believed almost split the band up. It was a song that Bellamy wanted to ditch but his band mates Dom and Chris wanted to keep on the album. So they voted on it. If you listen carefully around the 2.50 mark you can hear a cat miaow. I don’t know why.

Knights of Cydonia (Taken from Black Holes and Relevations and chosen by Badger)

Just wow. Its ridiculous, its overblown, its ambitious, and its utterly utterly brilliant. This is just an incredible piece of music. There’s a bit on it right at the start, when Matt Bellamy is playing the piano and it sounds like the universe its destroying itself – and then it gives way to horses, galloping horses, then you get what sounds like laser guns, explosions, sirens and drama and that’s all before the first chorus. Love them or hate them, you’ve got to admit that this above anything else is incredible.

Thanks for reading if you like this and we would love to see you over at The Sound of Being Ok (shameless plug sorry).

BADGER, KT & SWC