LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 2011 ONWARDS

This is the final part of what I hope has been an enjoyable series for everyone these past few Sundays…going by the comments left behind it certainly seems to have filled a few gaps in some knowledge bases.

Much of what I’ve written up has been informed by Lloyd’s own wonderfully maintained website – http://www.lloydcole.com

It seems fitting to bring the story up to date with a heavy reliance on the timeline from the website:-

2011

Most of the year is taken up with touring the album Broken Record.

In 2002 legendary Austrian composer and krautrock pioneer Hans Joachim Roedelius heard LC’s Plastic Wood and liked it enough to make is own, unsolicited re-mix. Nine years later they finally come up with a plan for a record together – they will exchange ‘unfinished’ tracks, for the other to complete. LC holes up in his attic with his brand new modular synthesizer.

2012

By the end of January LC has finished his work on the Roedelius tracks and has sent his files to Austria. By the end of the year an album is complete.

LC tours with eldest son Will, as an acoustic duo. Later, LC and Will enter the studio to document the arrangements from the shows. The result – Lloyd & Will Cole Acoustic Sessions 2012 , a second white label CD.

Late September LC is back to the attic with notes and ideas for new songs. Fans and Tapete have again funded a new album. A start date in LA with old cohorts Fred Maher and Matthew Sweet is set. LC decides to make no demos, but hopes to have all songs completed before the LA sessions, and then to work ‘Blonde on Blonde’ style with Maher and Sweet. 2 months of solid writing yields an album’s worth of songs. Recording goes to schedule and overdubs begin in Massachusetts in December. Musicians include Will Cole, Mark Schwaber, Matt Cullen, Blair Cowan, Joan (as Policewoman) Wasser and Dave Derby.

2013

Selected Studies Vol. 1, the album from the collaboration with Hans Joachim Roedelius is released in February to great acclaim with Rolling Stone magazine declaring:-

“All instrumental, dreamier than one might expect from Cole and bouncier than one might expect from Roedelius, this is a worthy, surprisingly melodic set likely to surprise fans from both camps. Recommended.”

Work on the more standard album continues and in June 2013, is released with the title Standards is released in June. Everyone – fans and critics alike seem to love it.

2014

Lloyd Cole and the Leopards (made up of some of the very best stalwarts of the Scottihs music scene) perform four UK shows in LC’s first full electric band shows since the early 2000’s with The Negatives.  I caught one of these in Glasgow and it was an astoundingly good show, despite being played open-air in a torrential downpour!

The solo tour resumes and continues all year. In October 2014,  Standards is released in North America by Omnivore Recordings garnering a second wave of acclaim.

2015

April  – Universal/Spectrum release Don’t Look Back, a 20 track compilation of LC’s time at what was then Polygram.

June  – Universal release Lloyd Cole and the Commotions Collected Recordings 1983-1989, a six disc box set.

September  – LC makes his debut as a live electronic performer with two Berlin shows, the first with Hans Joachim Roedelius at a festival celebrating of his 80th birthday. The second was an intimate solo show at Basic Electricity. To coincide with these shows Bureau B released LC’s third full length electronic album – 1D.

These were the last pieces of music to be officially released, but Lloyd has been incredibly busy touring the past three years.  Indeed, in 2016, such was the media focus on his early recordings as a result of the acclaim heaped on the boxset that he decided to  devote the entire year to performances featuring material only from 1983 – 1996. Some shows were solo, others featured The Leopards, and more often that not, his son Will joined him on stage. The show at the Kelvingrove Bandstand in August 2016, with the Leopards and Will all on stage with him, was as fine a show as I’ve ever seen in all the years I’ve been watching him.

2017 and 2018, as one glance at http://www.lloydcole.com/live/ will testify, has been just as frantic and the acclaim all over the world just as high.

I’ve a nice wee postscript of my own to add.

I only ever got myself a download copy of the 11-track Standards – partly as I was wary following my disappointment with Broken Record but also as I was going through a short phase, thanks to constraints on space, of cutting back on vinyl and CDs.  (I’ve since simply taken up more floorspace, much to the chagrin of Mrs Villain). It’s an album that I do love and listen to a fair bit…..there’s just so many moments which feel like a throwback to all parts of his career from the Commotions days to the early solo years to the later stuff when it was just him and his guitars and the voice…..so you can imagine my delight when my trip to Toronto just a few weeks back yielded a second-hand vinyl copy of said album, in mint condition at a very reasonable price.

And given that the LP landed in my hands so unexpectedly while this series was being published, it really did have a sense of karma about it.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Period Piece
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – No Truck

Now……does anybody want to have a go at the solo ICA that I’ve found impossible to nail down????

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #131 : THE HIGH FIDELITY

Not technically a Scottish act, but given they were fronted by Sean Dickson, the ex-frontman of Bellshill band The Soup Dragons, it seems churlish not to offer up the one, and in my view rather superb, single I have of theirs, from 1999:-

mp3 : The High Fidelity – 2Up/2Down

Wiki advises:-

Sean Dickson started the group when High Times magazine asked him to record a track for a cannabis-themed covers compilation album, Hempilation: Freedom Is NORML. Their debut album, Demonstration (2000), was recorded largely in Dickson’s bedroom, with Adrian Barry (bass), Paul Dallaway (guitar) and Ross McFarlane (drums). The album was later augmented with a number of orchestral arrangements recorded in India.

Musically, the record comprised experimental dance-pop songs, and was described by The Guardian as “an expertly composed pastiche of psychedelic pop”. Their single “Luv Dup” reached #70 on the UK Singles Chart in July 1998.The band recorded a number of sessions for John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show, introducing the use of the omnichord, a vintage synthesiser, with which they performed a number of songs including a version of “Silent Night”. Peel shared the band’s enthusiasm for the instrument, and when they gave him an omnichord as a 60th birthday present it led to Peel co-writing and performing on one of the tracks on the band’s second album, 2001’s The Omnichord Album. He co-wrote the track ‘Pig might fly’ about his wife.

I just had to track that down for you……

mp3 : The High Fidelity – Pig might fly

Oh my……another one that was ripped off later on and turned into a hit…..

mp3 : Gorillaz – Clint Eastwood

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #190 : ASH

A GUEST POSTING by ADY HODGES

HUGE APOLOGY FROM JC :

ADY SENT THIS TO ME AS LONG AGO AS JUNE 2018….THE E-MAIL STUPIDLY PUT ITSELF INTO THE WRONG FOLDER AND SO DIDN’T REACH ME UNTIL THE OTHER DAY WHEN ADY WAS PROMPTED BY MY OWN POST ON GOLDFINGER…..

I am a long time reader of this blog, but a very rare commenter, however, I have been loving the ICA series and have been keen to do one. I debated a few different bands and maybe I might do some of the others later, but this is the one I kept coming back to.

Here we are then, an ICA from Northern Ireland’s finest, Ash. This is a band I have seen live many times and the only band I have seen at all the major venues in Portsmouth where I live (the Wedgewood Rooms, the Pyramids, the Guildhall & Victorious Festival on the seafront) – the Pyramids show on the Free All Angels tour is up there in my top 5 all-time gigs. This a very “hit-heavy” ICA covering most of their career, though nothing from the most recent album, Kablammo!, which is good, but in my opinion is missing a killer tune. I think this ICA is a good introduction to the band and hopefully there are one or two gems here that people haven’t heard before.

Side 1

Jack Names The Planets (from Trailer)

Their first single and the first indication of their lyrical obsession with using space/sci-fi terms. A great blast of melodic energy, that disguises some bittersweet lyrics. If you’re wondering about the spoken section at the beginning of the song, this is the explanation from Wikipedia;

“two Dutchmen, Oscar “Wilde” Vermeer and Patrick “The Brewer” Schrama (who met Tim Wheeler during a holiday in France), suggest that the song should have been called “Jack Names The Planet Nieuw-Vennep”, given that, in their opinion, “Nieuw-Vennep” is a good name for a planet. Nieuw-Vennep is a town of thirty thousand inhabitants in the west of Holland, midway between The Hague and Amsterdam”.

Girl From Mars (from 1977)

The first Ash song most people (including me) were aware of. Their first top 20 hit and their first Top Of The Pops appearance. An acapella opening leads into a smart pop-punk song with a cool guitar solo, ideal for radio during the Britpop years. The lyrics of this song, as well as having more sci-fi references, also features another regular Ash lyrical concern, summer.

A Life Less Ordinary (single)

Charlotte Hatherley joined the band as a second guitarist in 1997, expanding their sound as a result. This is the first release to feature her, a standalone single from the soundtrack to the Ewan McGregor/Cameron Diaz film of the same name, which you’ve probably never heard of. I can remember renting the video from Blockbuster (that’s such a 90s sentence!) because of the Ash connection and also because I rate Ewan McGregor as an actor, I wouldn’t bother seeking it out if I were you, as it’s not a good film. The song by contrast is great, driven by nagging, choppy guitar and a dreamy chorus.

True Love 1980 (from A-Z Volume 1)

In 2007 Ash announced that they would no longer be releasing albums, just singles, as they believed the advent of the download had changed the emphasis to single tracks over albums. This eventually became a series of 26 singles (the A-Z series) released every fortnight for a year, later gathered over 2 compilation albums. This was the first single released this way (although there was a free download song issued prior to it that was not officially part of the series, confused?). It is a wistful love song, underpinned by a retro synthesizer backing, that sounds like an old video game soundtrack, stereotypical Ash and perfect for the 80s themed lyrics.

Won’t Be Saved (from Meltdown)

Ash managed the tricky feat of appealing to both Indie kids & the Kerrang! crowd and there are definite metal influences to some of their work. This is probably best illustrated on the Meltdown album, although ironically not on this track, the penultimate song on the album, which is a more straightforward pop song. The track starts with a simple but melodic guitar intro leading into a charming song of unrequited love with a typical Ash singalong chorus.

Side 2

Walking Barefoot (from Free All Angels)

I always associate the Free All Angels album with summer and I think it is mostly to do with this song, which is a perfect summer anthem. This song, “Burn Baby Burn” and “Shining Light” provide one of the greatest album openings ever in my opinion, the three songs work so well together and I couldn’t break them up, so they start side 2 of my ICA.

Shining Light (from Free All Angels)

It’s difficult to say much new about this song. It is their biggest selling single and probably their most recognisable song and one I have grown to love more as the years have gone by. A wonderful melody, with lyrics full of religious imagery, not surprising really, as Tim Wheeler grew up in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s, when the church really dominated society there. Fun fact, this song won an Ivor Novello songwriting award.

Burn Baby Burn (from Free All Angels)

For a time Ash were my favourite band and I played Free All Angels to death and this song in particular, which was my all time favourite song for a time. This is an almost perfect indie single, guaranteed to fill the floor at indie club nights. I love the way the song announces itself with those chiming guitars.

Goldfinger (from 1977)

As I mentioned above, this is a very hit-heavy ICA, but I make no apologies for that, as I’ve always thought Ash were a quintessential singles band. This is their first top 10 hit and their highest ever charting single. What I like about this track is the way each verse starts with a slow stuttering build and the way for such a melancholy song it swings.

Twilight Of The Innocents (from Twilight Of The Innocents)

The closing title track from their fifth album (and at one point their last album). Charlotte Hatherley had left at this point and they were back to a three piece, not that you notice on a track like this, which has some wonderful instrumentation. This is a great closing track, particularly the way it builds into an epic, driven by some powerful drumming, a really effective string arrangement and Tim singing “I’m still breathing, My heart’s still beating” before fading out to just keyboards, all of which makes it a perfect end to this ICA.

Bonus Single

Does Your Mother Know (from Evening Session Priority Tunes Compilation)

Except it’s not quite the end. Ash do a great cover version, often showing some unexpected influences, so I’ve celebrated that by adding a bonus single of cover versions. The A side is this Abba cover taken from a 1995 Steve Lamacq/Jo Whilley Evening Session and included on the 1996 Evening Session compilation album. It’s a very punky take, which I think suits the song well.

Coming Around Again (from A-Z Volume 1)

Another surprising cover, this time a 1986 Carly Simon track, which they turn into a stereotypical Ash ballad, building to a climax where they throw the kitchen sink at it in terms of arrangement, an approach that ends up working despite itself.

I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at an ICA.

ADY

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #189 : BLUR

A GUEST POSTING by TEDLOAF

HUGE APOLOGY FROM JC :

TEDLOAF SENT THIS TO ME AS LONG AGO AS APRIL 2018….I STUPIDLY PUT IT INTO THE WRONG FOLDER AND FORGOT ALL ABOUT IT UNTIL THE OTHER DAY…..

I love Blur. They’re in my DNA.

A band that big that have been well documented, where do you start with an ICA?

Chronological?

”I Know” was the first Blur song I heard and I thought it was a double A side with “Sing“ but it doesn’t cut the mustard for this. It was the only song of the following 10 that I dropped. The others were my first choices with no straying so I’ve gone for spontaneity over doubt and procrastination.

Enjoy the music.

Side 1

1. Crazy Beat

Graham Coxon, what a guitar player eh? The way that he takes Damon’s rudimentary chord choices and scruffs them up into something much more aggressive, atonal, angular, abrasive, in order to give the songs some much needed “a.alt” to Damon’s “p.pop”. Whether it’s a Fender Tele deluxe or Les Paul, a Headrush or ProRAT, Coxon plugs in and fuzzes up. It was Coxon that derailed the Britpop train to funsville in favour of alt-City USA! USA! USA!

Norman Cook added some spacious lives and Graham wasn’t around much, if at all, for Think Tank.

2. Young & Lovely

In 1993 erstwhile disc jockey Goldie was about to take charge of the country, elected to high office by a burgeoning jungalist massive hell bent on bringing down the old guard of Robbie Vincent, Django Reinhart and Virginia Bottomley (especially.) Over in the world of Indie Rock the retro sound of Fred Perrys and fake Harringtons were shuffling in the shadows as Modern Life Is Rubbish spewed forth some singles that were really quite good. Some of the B-sides may even have had “la la laaas” in them which made for a very pleasant sing-song whilst in the pub. Blur got bumped up festival bills above Back To The Planet. Mods were invented. Again.

3. No Distance Left To Run

I can remember Damon on the South Bank Show traveling on a train with commuters from Essex, lambasting the way that their lives had turned out whilst wearing a pair of Elvis sunglasses and I thought, why can’t people stop interviewing pop stars? Just let them use the format of a song to complain about how their love lives have gone down the pan and the connection is made.

4. Sweet Song

Sweets are sweet and this is the second best sweet song ever. Except with better lyrics. I was on the other side of the world in transit in Singapore when I first heard this and it made me all wobbly. I wanted to go home and be with someone.

5. Yuko & Hiro

“Ken Livingstone is a folk hero” said Kevin Roland when his Dexys were still Midnight Runners and he was reminiscing part 1. Unfortunately, folk hero status from Kev only lasts for as long a bun in the window of the Little Nibble. Yuko & Hiro takes the well drawn out characters created by Damon such as Colin Zeal, Tracey Jacks, Phil Daniels (but definitely not Ernold Same) and develops new well drawn, tired out characters set on a global stage, portraying a dystopian future where people are called Yuko & Hiro living in a world where they work all the time and never see each other. Are they happy? Is anyone really happy? Maybe they asked Ken for his opinion and thought it best not to sing about that.

Side 2

6. Star Shaped

Returning to Blur’s sophomore slump that should have been produced by Dave Moulding of XTC and not Stephen Morrissey, a little known fact was the level to which the boys would highlight environmental issues through their music and words. At the time I would quite regularly throw my imitation Brutus Trim-fits into the wash after just one wear and several cups of sugary tea. Star Shaped taught us, wash with new soap, behind the collar and it helps your mum by having to do less washing which also reduces the amount of harmful detergents released into the water table. Thanks lads! We met them when Graham was in his Colin from Meantime phase, got given enamel train badges and sang all the way home. Halcyon, la. La. La.

7. Thought I Was A Spaceman

After having my hopes of becoming the world’s youngest Ronald Koeman impersonator dashed by a lack of jowls I decided to try my hand at traps round Flash’s house. The lessons went well until I ran out of cash and Flash ran out of patience. I stepped outside and smelt the cliché of change blowing down my street and with it an old gang had decided to get back together again. Even more amazing was that they’d let Graham mix & produce a new album. Amazing. Imagine all the angular, angrier, abrasiver, guitaryer noise he would heap on Damon’s love songs about people living lives that were incomplete but they weren’t going to complain about it because they were stoic, middle class commuters on the 5.15 to Greece. Or something.

Magic Whip is great. I’ve got kids now. They love Blur and me & my daughter play drums along to Thought I Was A Spaceman.

8. Strange News from Another Star

Having never been sued by David Bowie, Blur realised that their self-titled fifth album, also called Blur, gave them the solid gold opportunity to cover unchartered artistic nautical miles for lawyers when someone spotted the similarity between MOR & Boys Keep Swinging by David Bowie (nee Jones). Clearly the legal eagles couldn’t be bothered to listen the rest of the album. Pillocks.

9. Trimm Trabb

I always wanted a pair of Addidas Munchen that my Casual school mates wore in ’84. I was a second and a half time Mod at the time so wasn’t allowed proper running shoes which made my illicit desire all the more frustrating. The Munchen had a low drop at the ankle making it at the same time sexy as fuck and shit for 5 a side. I don’t remember Trimm Trabb first time round but judging by the song, they could really lull you into a false sense of security and then kick your head in.

10. Under The Westway

If London is a lady then The Westway is a road on the western side of the city that is called the A40 merging into the M40. I have no first-hand experience of being under the A40 but I’m guessing it’s melancholic and could probably prop up the end of a Blur album with a never-ending chord borrowed from some Liverpudlian chancers.

Bonus Song – Girls & Boys : Terry Edwards & The Scapegoats

TED

GIG REVIEW : THE THE : GLASGOW, SEPTEMBER 2018

It’s not normal practice round these parts to pull together some thoughts on a gig from exactly three weeks back, but these circumstances are a bit special.

Earlier this year, Matt Johnson announced a comeback tour of fairly impressive proportions for The The, including two successive nights in Glasgow. There was a slight twist in that the first date, 4 September, was at the all-standing Barrowlands while the following night would see the band perform in front of an all-seated audience at the Royal Concert Hall. I was keen to get along to both nights but was a bit slow off the mark on the day the tickets were released, missing out on Barrowlands show but being happy enough with the decent seats, about 15 rows back in the centre stalls, for the Concert Hall.

The plan had been to try and pick up a Barrowlands ticket nearer the time and look to compare the two gigs given that the two venues couldn’t have been more different. One would have involved a hot, sweaty and loud crowd, possibly with some semblance of a mosh pit, with all sorts of singing and chanting to accompany the band while the other, certainly based on previous experiences, would be akin to watching and appreciating an orchestra with polite but generous applause offered at the end of each song. As it turned out, a busy work schedule in advance of my planned trip to Toronto precluded me having enough time to get along on the first night and I had to make do with just the one show.

Me and The The go back a long long way, not quite to the very beginning of the band but certainly to 1982 and the singles which pre-dated the release of Soul Mining the following year.

The enigmatic yet charismatic Matt Johnson has always fascinated and impressed me, releasing distinctive music that seemed to be perfectly in tune with my own feelings and views at different stages in my life. He has always surrounded himself with the very best of musicians, initially in the studio and then on the road in the 90s. He is highly regarded and respected by just about every other fellow musician, not least Johnny Marr whose membership of The The was actually longer than his time in The Smiths. Having said that, Luke Haines isn’t a fan, having had a huge bust-up when The Auteurs were the support act on a UK tour…..

I was accompanied on this occasion by Mrs Villain, a rare gig outing together for us, partly out of her own love for The The but also that she likes the venue, one which has superb acoustics and lends itself to performances of all kinds. The audience was, for the most part, people of our ages, primarily groups of bald/balding men dressed head to toe in black; this may have been in tribute to the band who, as it turned out, were also dressed in a similar way but I reckon in most instances it was an effort to disguise the paunches brought about by the onset of middle-old age. I reckon most of us, while loath to admit it, would be glad of the fact that we were getting to sit down at the show, especially after seeing the notices posted up at the entrance requesting no photos or filming during the gig also advising that The The would be performing for more than two hours. All of a sudden, £40 felt like a bargain.

For those of you who don’t know, it’s been almost 20 years since The The last released new music or toured, a period in which Matt Johnson retreated to the shadows without ever completely going away. He’s composed music for films and also had a substantial on-line presence thanks to a series of podcasts under the beaner of Radio Cineola. There was also a single, We Can’t Stop What’s Coming, released for Record Store Day in 2017, in which he renewed his collaboration with Marr, on a song that was inspired by the death of his elder brother Andy, who, as Andy Dog, had contributed so much in the way of artwork and visuals to the band in the early years.

It was therefore very fitting that the show paid tribute to the life and work of Andy Dog with the musicians performing against an ever-changing complex backdrop of still and moving images from the halcyon days of the 80s and 90s. I learned afterwards that the technical limitations of the Barrowlands had prevented the background being on display at the previous night’s show which I feel would have been something of a loss as the visuals seemed to be an essential accompaniment to many of the songs.

Ah… the songs. After all, this is what a music blog should be concentrating on.

It was something of a subdued beginning for most of the audience thanks to the decision to open with three lesser-known tracks, albeit they were all among my own personal favourites from the back catalogue, including an airing for Flesh and Bones, the b-side which had featured on this blog on the very day of the gig. Things very much went up a notch thereafter with a run of singles, all of which were received enthusiastically, having been delivered in a slightly stripped-back way that demonstrated the talents of the singer and his fellow performers. The audience was, as is almost always the case at this venue, reverential and serious which I was delighted with as every note could be heard thanks to nobody chirping away annoyingly to their neighbour.

The rest of the night went along at a perfect pace, with the set drawing on all the studio LPs, including the lesser spotted debut Burning Blue Soul as well as Hanky Panky, the ill-begotten and largely misguided album of Hank Williams covers. The five-strong-band provided the audience with everything it could have wished for, effortlessly switching pace and tempo throughout with a performance that was reminiscent of the Bad Seeds at their very best.

It was clear that the band had rehearsed and prepared intently for the show, even down to the gaps between songs which allowed Matt to talk to the audience, reminiscing occasionally about the old days but also pointing out how, in reality, so little had changed in society. The younger me might have got a bit annoyed at how polished, professional and perfect it all was; the older me, however, fully appreciated it all, and as I sat and listened with intent I found myself being transported back in time to when I had first heard so many of the songs, thinking again about certain people, occasions and incidents for the first time in a long while. I laughed, smiled and I wiped away tears on one occasion, now fully understanding, thanks to the passing of some people who I was so close to, the power and emotion of one particular song:-

mp3 : The The – Love Is Stronger Than Death

The downside to an all-seated audience is an understandable reluctance to get up and dance for fear of irking the person sitting behind you. As a result, barnstorming renditions of This Is The Day, Infected and I’ve Been Waitin’ For Tomorrow (All of My Life), while getting the loudest cheers of the night in the main set, didn’t get the reaction they fully deserved other than a handful of fans moving to the side of the hall and throwing their shapes.

Matt, however, had a solution for the encore, Having given a truly wonderful solo rendition of True Happiness This Way Lies, he told us that he had spoken to the venue management while he’d been off-stage and the OK had been given for everyone to stand for the final two songs of the night which became 15 truly unforgettable minutes which sent everyone out into the night happy, buzzing and hoping that he won’t keep us waiting so long till the next visit.

mp3 : The The – Uncertain Smile
mp3 : The The – Lonely Planet

My opening line to this referred to special circumstances.

This posting hasn’t just been inspired by the gig itself, but is a the outcome of an exchange of e-mails with the wonderfully talented C, she of Sun Dried Sparrows fame.

She has never shouted about it but C has a connection with the Johnson family, initially having been close friends/neighbours with Andy and his dad, who himself sadly passed away earlier this year. She has gotten to know and become friendly with Matt over the years, although she had long appreciated much of his music with her introduction being Soul Mining in the early 80s. This comeback tour was, however, the first opportunity she ever had to go see the band which she did in Birmingham just a few days after Glasgow.

Those of you who are familiar with her blog will know that C is a terrifically articulate writer, capable of composing the most memorable of pieces no matter the subject or genre. She dropped me a note, which I only picked up on my return from Toronto, telling me that the Birmingham show had exceeded all expectations but had at times been emotionally draining, particularly from seeing the images of Andy and his work as the backdrop. She told me that she had been ‘umming and ahhing’ ever since about writing a review on her own blog but had found it very hard to be objective as things were coloured by her connections to the family and by knowing Matt as the man outside of The The. She also, very gently I must say, asked if I’d consider penning a review as, and I quote ‘it would be a joy to read it and I feel it would kind of help cover it on my behalf too, if that makes sense.’

I’ve been more than happy to accept the commission. I just hope I’ve lived up to her expectations.

JC

BLACK COAL MORNINGS

I recently got round to finally reading Coal Black Mornings, the poignant and wonderfully written autobiography from the pen of Brett Anderson that was published back in March. I won’t be the least bit surprised if it appears in many ‘Best Of’ lists come the end of the year as the reviews and the public reaction has been almost universally positive.

It certainly was a surprising read in that I had the author down as someone who had something of an comfortable and cossetted upbringing, encouraged at all times by indulgent parents to pursue an artistic or creative career. My basis for such a supposition goes back to when he and the band burst on the scene as his unshakable confidence was, in my mind, typical of someone with such an upbringing and there was never a sense that he was desperate for success to get himself out of poverty or deprivation. And besides, he had been brought up in a town called Haywards Heath in the county of Sussex in the south of England, which just all sounds the sort of place where everybody is well-off and middle/upper class.

It turns out to be far from the case. His father wasn’t close to being in the professional classes or even a tradesman, drifting from one unskilled job to the next in an era when the expectation was the male head of the family would be the breadwinner while his wife was the bread-maker. It was blue-collar upbringing on a council estate where money wasn’t easy to come by, but it was also an unconventional and untypical upbringing in many ways as dad was an obsessive classical music fan to the extent that while on jury service he refused to swear on the bible and demanded that he do so on a biography of Franz Liszt; meanwhile, mum was prone to sunbathing naked in the back garden and reflecting with sadness on her own failure to follow through her graduation from art school.

It’s a beautifully written book, which really could only have been written now that Brett is of an age to understand, thanks to his own life experiences, what his parents were really like and how everything in his childhood, teenage and formative years moulded him into the singer/performer he would later become. It’s also a book with a lot of self-deprecating humour – the author is well aware of the persona he initially created to ensure his success and he is able nowadays to laugh at his sense of self-importance and pretentiousness of the past, while always, and quite rightly, justifying his behaviour.

It’s a book which ends when you least expect it, in that Suede are on the brink of fame and fortune and so there’s nothing much about the era of Britpop, albeit there are fleeting references occasionally on the basis on what would happened to someone later on in life. He doesn’t shirk away from his doomed relationship with Justine Frischmann but doesn’t use the book to settle any old scores or air grievances, which a sign of true class. It really is one of the best musical autobiographies that I’ve read in many a year.

The only previous time I’ve featured Suede on these pages was when I gave the opportunity to again listen to the early singles and their accompanying and often majestic b-sides. I thought it would make sense today to take it to the next phase of the band, with the three singles lifted from the album Dog Man Star, released in 1994 to mixed reviews, mainly as it sounded nothing like the debut album and many felt that going forward without Bernard Butler they were doomed. I’ll admit to being less than enamoured with the album at the time as it just didn’t have the hooks of the debut while many of the other tracks on the singles didn’t come close to the brilliance of the early b-sides; but it is an album that, like many a fine Scotch, has aged superbly and it is one that I am willing to now concede does deserve to be given the highest respect and praise; so too with most of the b-sides…

mp3 : Suede – We Are the Pigs
mp3 : Suede – Killing of a Flash Boy
mp3 : Suede – Whipsnade

mp3 : Suede – The Wild Ones
mp3 : Suede – Modern Boys
mp3 : Suede – This World Needs a Father
mp3 : Suede – Eno’s Introducing The Band
mp3 : Suede – Asda Town

(warning….the ambient track mixed by Brian Eno is more than 15 minutes long….and is hard going!!)

mp3 : Suede – New Generation
mp3 : Suede – Together
mp3 : Suede – Bentswood Boys

JC

 

SOMETHING A BIT BONKERS TODAY

The third single released by Sugarcubes on One Little Indian is among the most strange and yet compelling of their entire back catalogue:-

mp3 : Sugarcubes – Deus

To begin with, Bjork sounds as if she is simply denying the existence of God….and then she seems to be singing that if in fact he did exist then she wouldn’t mind being groped or molested by him. And then to totally bamboozle listeners, Einar comes in to say that he actually once met God.

(Bjork vocal in red; Einar in purple)

Deus does not exit.
But if he does, he lives in the sky above me
In the fattest largest cloud up there
He’s whiter than white and cleaner then clean.
He wants to reach me.

Deus does not exist.
But if he does I always notice him.
Getting ready in his airy room
He’s picking his gloves so gently off
He wants to touch me.

I’m walking humbly down a tiny street
Pulling my collar it gets bigger, woooh

I once met him,
It really surprised me,
He put me in a bath tub,
Made me squeaky clean,
Really clean.

To create a universe
You must taste
The forbidden fruit.

He said hi. I said hi,
I was still clean.

Deus does not exist,
But if he does he’d want to get down from that cloud
First marzipan fingers then marble hands
More silent than silence and slower than slow
Diving towards me.

My collar is huge room for two hands,
They start at the chest and move slowly down.

I thought I had seen everything,
He wasn’t white and fluffy
He just had side burns
He just had side burns
And a quiff
He said hi.
I said hi. I was still clean
I was squeaky clean.
I was surprised.
Just as you would be.

Deus, Deus, Deus, Deus

He does not exist
He does not exist
He does not exist
He does not exist

Quite incredibly, this was almost a hit, reaching #51 in the UK singles charts in 1988 which meant that it outperformed Birthday in terms of the chart which stalled at #65 on both of the occasions it was released as a 45. Just imagine the furore in the tabloid press if Deus had been performed on Top of the Pops!

The 12″ came with two other tracks.

mp3 : The Sugarcubes – Organic Prankster
mp3 : Johnny Triumph & The Sugarcubes – Luftgitar (12″ version)

The former is very unconventional and avant-garde, even by the band’s standards and may be a bit much for non-fans to take to. The latter is in fact the UK release of new-wave style single that had come out in Iceland the previous year on Smekkleysa Records featuring Johnny Triumph, which was a name adopted by modern poet and performing artist Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson (a.k.a. Sjón, backed by a band called Sykurmolarnir, who were in fact The Sugarcubes.

That’s you got some more bizarre facts to drop into a conversation down the pub soon.

JC