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 Adidas 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

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 2007-2010

For the most part, the years immediately after the release of Antidepressant were spent on the road in Europe and the USA, mostly perfecting his solo shows where it was just the man on a stool, with a mic and a selection of guitars. I caught a number of shows in this period in a number of locations and, while they tended to follow a tried-and-tested formula, they were always enjoyable and entertaining.

The return to the limelight via the temporary reunion of the Commotions reunion, as well as the very positive reception afforded Antidepressant and the live shows, led to a plethora of releases in the later half of the noughties:-

August 2007 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions Live at the BBC (Vol 1) : 19 tracks lifted from sessions and a live gig at the Hammersmith Palais , all dating from 1994

August 2007 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions Live at the BBC (Vol 2) : 16 tracks lifted from sessions in 1985 and a live gig at Glastonbury in 1986

August 2007 : Lloyd Cole Live at the BBC : 25 tracks, most of which were from a 1995 gig at Hammersmith Odeon plus a radio session that same year

January 2009 : Cleaning Out The Ashtrays – 4xCD boxset of collected b-sides, rarities, previously unreleased or alternative mixes of songs (59 tracks in all covering 1989-2006)

January 2009 : Folksinger Series Vol1 : Radio Bremen – 15 tracks from a set recorded for German radio station in 2003

January 2009 : Folksinger Series Vol2 : The Whelan – 23 tracks lifted from a three-night residency in Dublin in 2008.

In 2010, new ground was broken as fans are asked to crowdfund a new album, the songs of which had been written and tested acoustically on the road with Mark Schwaber and Matt Cullen, two musicians from Massachusetts, with the collective calling itself The Small Ensemble. The response from fans, together with support from Tapete Records, enabled a full band to be recruited and for the first time in the best part of a decade, Lloyd’s brand new album was much more than a solo offering.

Broken Record was released in September 2010. It opens with quite possibly my favourite Lloyd Cole line of all time

“Not that I had that much dignity left anyway”

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Like A Broken Record

The opening track in some ways sets the tone for a very different sort of album, featuring banjos, mandolins, pedal guitars, violins and harmony vocals that make it very Americana in texture and feel.  Sadly, the songs feel sometimes a little bit too ‘Lloyd Cole by numbers’ and to this long-time fan, it jolted somwhat and felt like a damp squib after Antidepressant. Listening again to the album in full recently for the first time in a few years, while commuting to and from work, I jotted down some notes as each song came up…here’s a couple of my thoughts:

Writers Retreat – an intro which rips off Maggie May and has a lyric just too clever for its own good

Double Happiness – this would have mustered as a b-side in the Commotions days…disappointing ending to the album

It wasn’t all negativity mind you. There’s a wonderful ballad – Flipside – which is screaming to be given the full kitchen sink of the wall of sound treatment while Westchester County Jail, Rhinestones and Oh Genevieve ( the latter written with his old sparring partner Blair Cowan) are decent enough listens.

It does seem, however, that my views on Broken Record are not in tune with many others given the critical praise handed out on its release:-

“the most consistent upbeat record Cole’s released in a dog’s age”

“a welcome surprise and a return to peak form”

“Some artists go Nashville to try and cover up for the fact they’re washed-up. But Cole, recording in Manhattan and near his Massachusetts home, never hints at that kind of desperation.”

“There are songs here every bit the equal of those from his glory days”

The last sentence does seem a bit far-fetched given this is on the album

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – If I Were A Song

One I fear wouldn’t be out-of-place on a Coldplay album with a dreadful ‘la la la la’ refrain/chorus added in for good measure.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #130 : HEY! ELASTICA

A repeat of a past posting…..

AGGRESIVE TRASHY DANCE-POP was one of the descriptions meted out to Hey! Elastica, a short-lived but rather wonderful Edinburgh band from the early 80s who I featured more than a few times over on the old blog before google had its evil way with it.

There was a huge hype about them – visually they were quite stunning, while the sound they mad was tailor-made for radio play. The indie kids and students loved the sound and yet it had the potential to crossover to younger folk more in tune with mainstream pop. Jacques the Kipper was, like me, rather fond of them as we would discover many years later when we bonded over our tastes in music.

Hey! Elastica signed what I’m led to believe was a rather substantial contract with Virgin Records. Four flop singles and one flop album later, it was all over. October 1982 was the debut single and March 1984 was the LP. Seventeen crazy and wild months that left us with no more than 14 different songs and a load of happy memories for those of us lucky enough to ever catch them live. They could have been and should have been the Scottish B52s.

mp3 : Hey! Elastica – Eat Your Heart Out (7″ version)

JC

ELECTRICITY (x3)

The sleeve pictured above is the version of Electricity that I first owned. It was on Dindiscs Records and came out in early 1980.

What I didn’t realise at the time, and indeed didn’t for many years, was that this was in fact the third attempt at turning the song into a hit single, albeit the first really serious attempt as previous releases had been either via a limited run or using a mix which the band were unsure about.

It’s a complex and twisting tale….please bear with me

First Release : Factory Records (FAC6) : May 1979

The band had originally recorded Electricity, together with the b-side Almost, with Martin Zero (aka Hannett) at the helm in Cargo Studios in Rochdale. They felt, however, that it was overproduced and so, at a studio in their home city of Liverpool, they re-recorded both songs with production being shared by the band and their manager Paul Collister. As a compromise, and not wishing to totally upset the volatile Hannett, it was agreed by Factory Records that the b-side from the Cargo sessions would be used…..all of this is info is provided on the reverse of the sleeve for FAC6, which was restricted to a run of 5,000 copies:-

mp3 : OMD – Electricity (FAC6 version)
mp3 : OMD – Almost (FAC6 version)

If you’re lucky enough to have a good quality copy of this artefact, you could ask for and get in excess of £100 if you put up for sale.

Second Release : DinDisc Records (DIN2) : September 1979

The band had left Factory, enticed by a multi-album offer and decent advance by DinDisc, and the label decided to try to make an early gain by re-releasing Electricity in September 1979, but for some strange reason went with the version recorded at Cargo despite the band having previously indicated they weren’t satisfied with it:-

mp3 : OMD – Electricity (Hannett Cargo Studios version)

The version of Almost was that from the Factory single. Again, all of this info is provided on the reverse of the sleeve.

Third Release : DinDisc Records (DIN2) : March 1980

The single Red Frame White Light (DIN6) had been a minor hit in early 1980 just in advance of the release of the self-titled debut album. In an effort to keep the momentum going, Dindisc decided to re-release Electricity. The ability for confusion can be seen from the fact that they didn’t give this re-release a different catalogue number, nor did they change the front of the sleeve, although the back was different as there was no information provided about the recording process.

The piece of plastic inside the sleeve was completely different from earlier 45s as they were the versions that had been included on the debut album:-

mp3 : OMD – Electricity (album version)
mp3 : OMD – Almost (album version)

This version, if you cross-checked with the album, was produced by the band and someone called Chester Valentino, who in reality was manager Paul Collister who had been credited under his real name on the Factory version.

Told you it was complex and twisting.

In any event, the third effort at creating a hit out of Electricity came to nothing. It has, however, endured as one of the bands best-known and best-loved songs.

It was a contender for inclusion in the great debut singles series that occasionally features here, but intsead I felt the full story needed to be told.

Oh and just to complete things for you, here’s the earliest known version of the song, recorded by Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphries before they came up with the name of Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.

mp3 : The ID – Electricity

And finally, the version of Almost that was recorded in Liverpool but which didn’t see light of day until its inclusion in a compilation album in 2001 (and which in my view is the best of them):-

mp3 : OMD – Almost (alternate version)

JC

A LOVING COMPANION, A STEREO SYSTEM & A TEN-SPEED MOUNTAIN BIKE

According to the lyric in the lead song lifted from today’s featured EP, the three things in the title of this post are the answers to the question ‘What Is The Meaning Of Life?’

mp3 : Super Furry Animals – Smokin’

Ice Hockey Hair EP contains four songs which Super Furry Animals felt didn’t fit in with the material they were recording for the album Radiator, their first Top 10 album released in 1997.  The title track has an unusual back story in that it was commissioned by Channel 4 for a programme about sloth as part of a series on the seven deadly sins.  The programme in question was presented by Howard Marks who had, of course, been namechecked previously by the band.

Wiki reveals that the band nipped inyo a small community recording studio in Cardiff, decided to loop a sample of a Black Uhuru track “I Love King Selassie”, playing along and writing Smokin’ completely spontaneously.

mp3 : Black Uhuru – I Love King Selassie

As for the other three tracks, Ice Hockey Hair is a 7 minute epic in which the band throw the kitchen sink, production wise and give a taster of much of what was to come in the next album, Guerilla, one which didn’t quite do so well as Radiator.  Ice Hockey Hair seems to be a Swedish description of a very bad hairstyle akin to a mullet.

mp3 : Super Furry Animals – Ice Hockey Hair

The CD is completed by a short, less than two minutes long, remix of the lead song and a low-key instrumental track named after a guitar effects pedal:-

mp3 : Super Furry Animals – Mu-Tron
mp3 : Super Furry Animals – Let’s Quit Smoking

This climbed all the way to #12 in the UK singles chart and Smokin’ was given the #2 position in the NME best singles of 1998….beaten by the rather fabulous Intergalactic by The Beastie Boys.

JC

THE GRINDERMAN SINGLES (1)

A lazy wee occasional series.

Grinderman came into being in 2006, consisting of Nick Cave and three of his Bad Seeds, Warren Ellis, Jim Sclavunos and Martyn P. Casey. Having undergone an extensive and musically ambitious tour promoting Abbatoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheous in which the Bad Seeds had been expanded to include a number of backing singers, the main man wanted to get back to basics and set about writing material akin to the days of The Birthday Party back in the 80s.

Rather than any of its members, and in particular Nick Cave, making themselves available to the media to promote the project, there was instead an extensive use of social media and the internet to get word out about Grinderman with e-mails and texts going to Bad Seeds fans and followers as well as inflential bloggers.

The first ever piece of material was released in the first week of January 2007, consisting of a 7″ single-sided 45 in a limited, numbered edition.

mp3 : Grinderman – Get It On

A magnificent snorting piece of low-fi garage rock and a fabulous calling card that had many of us panting immediately for more. Having said that, a few of the more recent Cave converts, brought to the party by the duet with Kylie and much of the melancholy stuff that he was recording around the turn of the century were a tad bamboozled.

JC

THE CAMERA LOVES ME

Dipping into the C88 box to get some words on The Man From Delmonte for the posting a few days back also led to today’s offering.

Singer Jessica Griffin borrowed the name Would-Be-Goods from the title of an Edwardian novel, having been offered a contract by Cherry Red’s el label run by Mike Alway. Griffith’s received pronunciation gave the band a posh image, heightened by the choice of such song titles as ‘Cecil Beatson’s Scrapbook’ and ‘Pinstripe Rebel’. After 1987 debut, ‘Fruit Paradise’, Would-Be-Goods unveiled their debut album (and single) The Camera Loves Me, produced by 60s legend Keith West (ex-Tomorrow) and backed by The Monochrome Set. A second album, Mondo, appeared in 1993 and in 1999 ex-Talulah Gosh guitarist Peter Montchlioff joined. EPs and three albums ensued, the last being 2008’s Eventyr.

Here is that single from the debut album and it’s afore-mentioned b-side. Both are rather jolly, light, fluffy, twee and wonderful. Fans of The Monochrome Set will be charmed.

mp3 : Would-Be-Goods – The Camera Loves Me
mp3 : Would-Be-Goods – Cecil Beaton’s Scrapbook

The sleeve of this single features Jessica Griffin together with her sister Miranda who sings backing vocals on these track and other songs on the debut album.

JC

GOLDFINGER

Absolutely nothing to do with James Bond….and it’s not even a posting about Magazine who once did an okay cover version of the theme song made famous by Shirley Bassey back in 1964.

Instead, it is one of the finest moments in the career of Ash:-

mp3 : Ash – Goldfinger

The fourth single to be lifted from the album 1977, it was arguably the one which made them such a stand-out act in comparison with many of their peers. OK, the opening few bars owe something to Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins but once the lyric kicks in and the song slows down there’s a real sense that the 18-year old Tim Wheeler is again proving to be highly capable of writing stuff that is well beyond his tender years. It’s an ambiguous tale that could be about a young lad trying unsuccessfully to come to terms with the fact his relationship has come to an end or equally it could be from the perspective of a junkie waiting on the return of his other half with the next hit. Either way, it’s a great piece of indie-rock that climbed all the way to #5 in the UK singles charts, which remains the band’s best achievement in that respect.

There were three very different types of tracks available on the CD single:-

mp3 : Ash – I Need Somebody
mp3 : Ash – Sneaker
mp3 : Ash – Get Ready

The first is quite experimental, with a strange ever-changing tempo which sounds as if it was waiting to be put in the hands of an uber-producer who could have added strings, brass and a kitchen sink to make it into something epic.

The middle track is Ash at their loudest and fastest, the sort of track that made them so appealing to those who pogoed and those who headbanged.

The latter is indeed a cover of the 1966 hit single by The Temptations. I could be cruel and say it is an effort akin to that by a slightly better than average wedding covers band, but then again, it really is no worse than the sort of covers that Paul Weller and co had been recording 20 years earlier when they were ages with the Ash boys.

JC

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 2004-06

2004 saw a renewed interest in the career of Lloyd Cole, thanks in part to a decision to briefly reform the Commotions for a select group of gigs to mark the 20th Anniversary of the release of Rattlesnakes as well as the album itself being re-released in a CD deluxe format with the second disc containing demos, concert and radio performances. There was also a cash-in 21-track compilation of singles from the band era and solo career.

As an aside, the gig at Glasgow Barrowlands in 2004 was as joyous and heart-warming a night as I’ve ever had at that particular venue, stretching back what is now 35 years.

The same year saw Lloyd begin the recording of his next solo record although it would take until August 2006 before Antidepressant was released, again on Sanctuary Records. It was a continuation of the successful formula followed on Music In A Foreign Language in that it was mostly one man and his guitar, albeit there’s a grander production and what feels like a larger budget enabling some strings to be superbly utilised, but where the last album had often been quite a dark and sad offering, there was a lot of fine self-deprecating humour on display across the latest offering, none more so than on album opener:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – The Young Idealists

There can’t have been anyone who heard when they this, either played live or when they bought the new record, who, wouldn’t have afforded themselves a wry and knowing smile. We might like to think that we still, in our mid 40s, hold the same beliefs and values as we did in our mid 20s, but you can’t ignore or discount the lessons you learn along the way.

It’s a relatively short album clocking in at around the 40 minute mark across 11 tracks, but around a quarter of the record is taken up by two lengthy and very wistful numbers, both of which display Lloyd’s ear for a tune and ability to come up with a lyric that Mr Cohen would have been proud of, especially this:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – How Wrong Can You Be?

There’s a very fine review on-line which sums up Antidepressant as “an album of songs about mid-life, its traps, compromises, disappointments, and the hidden delights found in aging. Desire is not absent in these songs, it’s merely channeled differently, and new ones pop up in the gaps where others have either been realized or forgotten.”

An absolute gem of a record and well worth picking up if you don’t already own it.

JC