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