I LOVE A MAN IN A UNIFORM….AMERICAN STYLE

Gang Of Four had wowed the critics with the albums Entertainment in 1979 and Solid Gold in 1981 without ever really translating the column inches into sales and familiarity with the general public. Things weren’t helped by an hard-headed and uncompromising attitude towards their art, with one example being them eschewing the opportunity to appear on Top of The Pops after the show’s producer asked that the word ‘rubbers’ be replaced by ‘rubbish’; it’s worth recalling that someone like Paul Weller was more than OK to change the occasional lyric to appear on the show, and so maybe Go4 were just a bit too precious about things, given that getting their message(s) across to a wider audience would have paid dividends in different ways.

The third album, Songs of The Free, was released in 1982. It was preceded by an absolute belter of a single, one which could be said to be the perfect hybrid of punk and disco:-

mp3 : Gang of Four – I Love A Man In A Uniform

The use of the female backing vocals to shriek out the song’s title over the catchiest of bass lines and riffs on the back of the innuendo-laden line ‘The girls, they love to see you shoot’, made it ideal for shaking your stuff on the dance floor…..and easy enough to pay no attention to the rest of the lyrics that referred to the inadequacies of men who signed up for the army life and the fact they ran the risk of an early death.

The song stood every chance of hitting the charts and this time there wouldn’t be a word which would be of concern to the TOTP censors…..and then Argentina and the UK went to war over the Falkland Islands and a large number of songs, old and new alike, were banned from radio play for fear of causing offence. I Love A Man In A Uniform had no chance of surviving that cull……

Just the other week, as part of a wider on-line purchase of some second-hand vinyl from a shop in Berlin, I picked up a 12” copy of this single, one that had originally been issued in the USA by Warner Brothers, and which featured an extended remix and dub version of the song, along with a far from throwaway track which I’m not sure ever saw the light of day in any other format:-

mp3 : Gang of Four – I Love A Man In A Uniform (remix)
mp3 : Gang of Four – Producer
mp3 : Gang of Four – I Love A Man In A Uniform (dub version)

One listen and you’ll recognise just how many 21st Century bands, on both sides of the Atlantic, have been influenced by Gang of Four.

JC

REASONS WHY I SHOULD PAY MORE ATTENTION (4)

I’ve read a lot about IDLES over the past couple of years. It’s all been very positive stuff, whether in the mainstream media or in blogworld. And yet, until last Christmas, I hadn’t bothered lending them my ears to see what all the fuss was about.

Santa brought me a CD copy of Joy as an Act of Resistance, the band’s second album which was released in August 2018, some eighteen months after their debut. I could no longer ignore an act that had been described as Britain’s most necessary band’ and whose music has been described as the taking the best elements of old-fashioned punk and hardcore and giving them a 21st century twist. Nor could I feign disinterest when a band is prepared to write and record song which address and attack subject matters such as homophobia, racism, Brexit and the right-wing tabloid press so beloved, sales wise, here in the UK.

And having become acquainted with IDLES, I found myself thinking of John Lydon, who once, very memorably screamed that ‘anger is an energy’. If so, then I’d wager that Joe Talbot, lead vocalist and main songwriter with IDLES, is capable of single-handedly powering up a small town.

It took three or four listens to fully appreciate this album. The opening track, Colossus, starts off feeling a bit grandiose and OTT, almost as if it was a parody of the sounds and styles the band had been influenced by. About three-quarters of the way through, it changes tempo and after a Ramones-style ‘1,2,3,4’ count-in, it dazzles into life and, if you happen to be listening via headphones, will do unexpected damage to your hearing.

This blistering tempo, for the most part, continues throughout the album. It is often difficult to make out all that is being sung/shouted above the noise, but there’s certainly enough catchy headline-style sing-along chants to grab any listener’s immediate attention. It’s the repeated listens that show up the more nuanced and telling lyrics, revealing Joy as an Act of Resistance to be a truly remarkable piece of work, with as much humour, pathos and tragedy on display as there is out-and-out anger.

All too often, those on the left, certainly when it comes to music and art, voice their views and opinions when opposing something through a prism of pacifism. Not this lot. And the world, somehow, feels a better place for it.

I’m an old bloke….fat, middle-aged, middle-class and well beyond those whom IDLES would most likely be aiming to influence. I’m also the type who, if lucky enough to snare a ticket for a live show, would stand meekly at the back or the side while the majority of the audience moshed away to the point of exhaustion. The music is tribal, brutal, immediate and compelling. I’m in.

mp3 : IDLES – Danny Nedelko
mp3 : IDLES – Television

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #204 : THE DREAM SYNDICATE

A GUEST POSTING by HYBRID SOC PROF,

our Michigan Correspondent

In the Spring of 1981, I completed my time playing classical music in the morning on WSRN-FM, and took on the Saturday evening 60s show. I was barely 18 and loved the early 70s art rock of ELO, Genesis and the like… Searching around the shelves, I happened upon Lenny Kaye’s Nuggets collection. These were not the ‘60s I’d been raised on. I mentioned this “discovery” to the station’s music direction and he pointed me to the 10 LP Pebbles series… that was it. No more art rock, and punk finally made sense! Capping it off, the Fleshtones played our campus. The volume, charisma, joy, dancing, sweat and exhaustion. Nuggets and Pebbles were alive in 1982?! I discovered Ace, Stiff, Arf Arf, and Rough Trade Records and then the Warfrat Tales collection and a series of reviews by Robert Palmer in the NY Times introduced me to LA’s poorly named Paisley Underground.

The Dream Syndicate weren’t on Warfrat Tales but they were mentioned in Palmer’s review of a Green on Red show in NYC. By the summer of ’83, I saw the Feelies at Maxwell’s in Hoboken but missed the Dream Syndicate tour, despite having fallen in love with The Days of Wine and Roses (1982, Ruby/Slash) , I didn’t get to see them until the tour for Medicine Show (1984, A&M) . The show, “Burn” is selected from it in this Imaginary Album, was again at Maxwell’s – a tiny little venue behind a tightly packed little corner bar – on a hot July night. Chris Cutler was on guitar (Carl Precoda had left the band for grad school in English) and Mark Walton on bass (Kendra Smith had left for the Northern California woods) but they the blew the roof of the place… my ears rang for days afterward.

Playing ultimate frisbee seriously, and then starting grad school myself, I missed the next few tours and, while I liked Out of the Grey (1986, Chrysalis) , and Ghost Stories (1988, Enigma) – and they each have notable songs – they weren’t as consistent, as explosive, or as impactful, so I also didn’t make the effort to see them before they broke up in ‘89.

Going back to 1985’s LP, The Lost Weekend (A&M), put out as Danny and Dusty, I think it’s fairly clear that Steve Wynn, the primary songwriter for the Dream Syndicate, should never be allowed to sit with his songs or produce his own music. The Danny and Dusty record was put together with Dan Stuart of Green on Red and members or The Dream Syndicate, Green on Red and The Long Ryders all played on it. It’s great. Similarly, Wynn’s quick and dirty solo work, and his album recorded really fast with Thalia Zedek and the members of Come are really strong…the things he spends too much time on generally don’t pack much of a wallop.

I had hoped that they might reform for the 20th anniversary of the Hotel Congress venue in Tucson, Arizona,in 2005 but it wasn’t until 2012 that it happened and I was able to see them in 2013 on my birthday, in Chicago during the tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of The Days of Wine and Roses. They’re still loud as heck.

In sticking with the idea of Imagined Albums, I’ve tried to generate a coherent album rather than a list of favorites, though there’s a great deal of overlap.

1. Kendra’s Dream, from 2017’s How Did I Find Myself Here?
2. When You Smile (Live), from 1994’s The Day Before Wine and Roses
3. The Lonely Bull (Live), Syndicated Dreams Vol 6 – Roskilde 7-5-86
4. The Medicine Show, from 2010’s The Medicine Show (remastered)
5. Black, from 1988’s Ghost Stories
6. That’s What You Always Say, from 1982’s The Days of Wine and Roses
7. Out of My Head, from 2017’s How Did I Find Myself Here?
8. The John Coltrane Stereo Blues, from 2010’s The Medicine Show (remastered)
9. When the Curtain Falls, from 1988’s Ghost Stories
10. Burn, from The Steve Wynn Archive, Live at Maxwell’s 1985-07-13

HSP

MONDAY MORNING…COMING DOWN (1)

I was too late to join the party with the great bloggers who are offering up long songs for Mondays and so I’m thinking I might be best served by starting off a fresh theme of my own. It might take off or it might fade away altogether after a short period, who knows?

I’ve decided that Monday mornings need to be kicked off in a gentle fashion from now on and so the songs here will be gentle on the ear, not all the far removed from what you might hear on easy listening radio stations. It might not, on paper, sound all that appealing, but I’m hopeful the quality of the tracks will keep you on board.

Today’s offering is from 2006 and was the debut single from Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins. The former first came to musical prominence in the late 90s with LA-based indie band Rilo Kiley while the latter, whose forenames are Chandra and Leigh, emerged just after the turn of the century as singers whose harmonising talents seemed perfectly suited for any blend of country, folk or indie and thus perfect for Jenny’s first solo spin-off project.

Despite having an aggressive sounding title, this is a very sweet number, just perfect for car karaoke with your friends:-

mp3 : Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins – Rise Up With Fists!!!

The b-side was one which didn’t make it onto the parent album Rabbit Fur Coat. It’s worthy of a listen, if a bit more folk/country than indie and has a more low-key contribution from the twins:-

mp3 : Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins – Paradise

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF PAUL HAIG (Part 13)

In 1988, Paul Haig took a very bold and brave step by fully financing the recording of his next album himself without the safety net of a guaranteed release. He again worked with Alan Rankine and thankfully for all concerned, it was picked up by Circa Records, an offshoot of Virgin.

Hopes were high, particularly for the release of an oustanding and poptastic lead off single:-

mp3 : Paul Haig – Something Good

Released in 7″, 12″ and 12″ remix form and tailor-made for radio play and an appearance on Top of The Pops. But….once again, Paul was denied by the pop gods with him again being in the wrong place at the wrong time with Madchester all the rage and synth-pop well out of fashion. And yet, when you listen to Something Good (especially the remix version), and indeed some of other tracks on parent album Chain, it’s not a million miles away from some of the less clubby tracks on Technique by New Order (e.g. Run).

Here’s the two other versions of the single:-

mp3 : Paul Haig – Something Good (12 inch)
mp3 : Paul Haig – Something Good (remix)

Here’s some b-sides:-

mp3 : Paul Haig – Over You
mp3 : Paul Haig – Free To Go (Public)
mp3 : Paul Haig – The Last Kiss

It was a really bitter blow for all concerned.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #145 : ISOBEL CAMPBELL

Edited from wiki:-

Isobel Campbell (born 27 April 1976) is a Scottish singer-songwriter, cellist and composer. Campbell rose to prominence at age nineteen as a member of the Scottish indie pop band Belle & Sebastian, but left the group to pursue a solo career, first as The Gentle Waves, and later under her own name. She later collaborated with singer Mark Lanegan on three albums.

Campbell’s music has been described as either indie pop, chamber pop or singer-songwriter. Regardless of genre, Campbell makes gentle and sombre music, often using classical instruments and her bright, slightly nasal voice with bittersweet and ironic songwriting.

In 1999, Campbell released her first solo album, The Green Fields of Foreverland, on the same label as Belle & Sebastian, Jeepster Records, under the name The Gentle Waves. The follow-up to The Green Fields of Foreverland would become Swansong for You released on 6 November 2000. This album would be the last release by Campbell as The Gentle Waves.

In 2002, she collaborated with Scottish jazz musician Bill Wells on Ghost of Yesterday, a collection of Billie Holiday songs released by Creeping Bent. In 2003, Campbell released Amorino, her first solo album under her own name. Bill Wells was featured here again, along with other jazz musicians.

Her fourth studio album was released on 23 October 2006 entitled Milkwhite Sheets. It brings traditional songs from United Kingdom and songs written by Campbell. Campbell has stated that album was inspired by the works of Jean Ritchie, Anne Briggs and Shirley Collins.

In April 2004, Campell released an EP with former Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age singer Mark Lanegan, titled Time Is Just the Same. They would later release a single entitled “Ramblin’ Man” for their collaboration album Ballad of the Broken Seas. Campbell wrote and recorded the majority of the album’s tracks in Glasgow, with Lanegan adding vocals in Los Angeles. The album was nominated for the 2006 Mercury Prize.

In 2007, the duo recorded a second album together, entitled Sunday at Devil Dirt, which was released on 5 May 2008. Three singles from the album were released: “Who Built the Road”(7”), “Come On Over (Turn Me On)” (7″) and “Keep me in mind sweetheart”(Cd, 12”). The five new tracks of the “Keep me in mind sweetheart” EP were later added as bonus tracks to Sunday at Devil Dirt.

A third collaborative album with Lanegan was released on 16 August 2010 entitled Hawk. The pair toured to promote the album, including a set at All Tomorrow’s Parties, 10–12 December 2010 curated by Belle & Sebastian. In July 2013, it was announced that Campbell and Lanegan had officially ended their musical partnership.

I’ve pulled out the lead track from The 2004 EP, Time Is Just The Same, was the first of her collaborations with Mark Lanegan in that they co-wrote one of the tracks and he sang on it, but most of the other songs were her own material, including the lead track, in which the vocals are shared with Eugene Kelly from The Vaselines, with the result being a sort of Nancy Sinatra/Lee Hazelwood style country duet:-

mp3 : Isobel Campbell – Time Is Just The Same

JC

A BELATED TRIBUTE TO THE LATE PETE SHELLEY

There were numerous tributes paid when the news of the death of Pete Shelley was announced. The vast majority of them, unsurprisingly, focussed on his achievements with Buzzcocks while others reflected on his solo career.

I may be wrong, but I can’t recall seeing any mention of an album he released in March 2002, one for which he again teamed up with his old sparring partner from the punk days, although to be fair it’s a work probably more worthy for its novelty value than being memorable for the overall quality of the music.

The album was called Buzzkunst and was released under the moniker ShelleyDevoto on Cooking Vinyl Records.

I suppose much of the disappointment around the album was that many fans from days of old were anticipating and hoping for something that was reminiscent of old school Buzzcocks, or perhaps something that was close with perhaps some Magazine fairy dust being sprinkled liberally. Instead, we got 14 songs, some of which had vocals courtesy of Howard and some of which were purely instrumental and almost completely down to Pete, with the sound being a 21st Century update of the electronica of his solo output. I don’t want to give the impression that Buzzkunst is a clunker of a record – it’s far from that – but it’s a work that has its moments but never quite manages to hit the spot – which is the way I would summarise the career of Luxuria, the duo formed by Devoto, alongside multi-instrumentalist Noko, in the late 80s.

As I mentioned in a previous piece on Pete Shelley, nobody should have been too surprised about the electronica nature of his solo output given his first love and forays into music had involved the genre at a time before it developed into such a commercial phenomenon. It’s also worth recalling that he initially bonded with Howard Devoto over electronic music and it was only the discovery of Six Pistols and their ilk that led to the strapping on of guitars. As such, the signs had always been there that the first collaboration in a quarter-of-a-century would have turned out the way it did and the fault lies in me, as a discerning listener, in failing to realise that in advance.

The record does start off strongly enough with an upbeat track which very much wears its 80s sythn-pop influences (of an alt nature) on its sleeve and at the same time provides a reminder of why so many of us enjoyed Howard’s distinctively sneering and often self-deprecating vocal style:-

mp3 : ShelleyDevoto – Can You See Me Shining?

The other real standout track is the one which was released as an accompanying single, which does seems as close to a Magazine song as we had heard in decades with a backing vocal that is reminiscent of Spiral Scratch:-

mp3 : ShelleyDevoto – Til the Stars In His Eyes Are Dead

It is only with hindsight that it is possible to see this is the track which with the past and Howard’s decision to reform the band in 2009 and to eventually release the album No Thyself in 2011.

Elsewhere, there are some OK moments on Buzzkunst along with stuff that really shouldn’t have been developed beyond the demo stage. As mentioned earlier, there are a number of instrumental numbers which hark back to Pete’s mid 80s solo output, with this, in my estimation, being the pick of them:-

mp3 : ShelleyDevoto – Wednesday’s Emotional Setup

Many critics at the time heaped praise on the work, but I feel much of this was out of reverence to the two protagonists rather than an honest assessment of the quality of the album. Any hopes some might have had that it would lead to a continued partnership weren’t realised, although it is worth noting that Pete did get a couple of writing credits on the Magazine comeback album a full nine years later, so they clearly kept in touch and continued to bounce ideas off one another.

If I hadn’t been on holiday when Pete Shelley died, I’d have likely pulled together a tribute piece on his band and/or solo years. I hope you don’t mind tha I ended up going down this particular pathway….

JC