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

ROUNDING UP 2018 : FROM OUR SWEDISH CORRESPONDENT

A GUEST POSTING by MARTIN ELLIOTT

Hi Jim,

Happy New Year and all the best for 2019!

I thought, why not round off 2018 with another Swedish EP for TVV?… It was another great year for new music to surface – also in Sweden. For accessibility I’ll stay, piu o meno, with tracks sung in English although it was a great year for music in Swedish. And I decided not to include Robyn as I assume most of you have had issues avoiding her return – the 2 singles released so far are in my opinion the two best tracks anyway so I won’t bore you with any of those here.

11 pm side

1. Henric De La Cour – Kowalski Was Here.

Former front figure of Swedish indie rockers Yvonne has gone all (goth)synth and on Gimme Daggers, his third solo album, the pieces fell into place. I believe he has some of the early New Order records at home. Did I see arms in the air?

2. ionnalee – Not Human.

Brought up in my home town she started out as indie rocker Jonna Lee, transmorphed into electronic audiovisual artist iamamiwhoami and in 2018 she moved into electronic (dance) artist ionnalee, releasing the magnificent album Everyone Afraid To Be Forgotten. Excellent live as well. She’s potentially the secret child of Kate Bush and Bernard Sumner.

3. Junior Brielle – Love.

A mix of Swedish and some English but I’m pretty sure this can take you all to the dance floor anyway!. Two brothers from the grim north, placing The Strokes‘ drummer in the lime light for 3 minutes. All that you ever want for your indie disco night: New Order synths, a steady beat, nice breaks, witty lyrics (the chorus goes You can always lie to yourself, but never lie to me) and some falsetto singing. Their first singles I disregarded as petty copies of now disbanded Swedish icons Kent, but second half of 2018 saw the release of a string of tracks taking that sound above and beyond their influence and into my heart.

4. Red Mecca – What Is Coming.

File under darkwave. Red Mecca is, or rather was, the duo of Jan Strandquist (formerly keyboards in 80’s post punk/new wave band Brända Barn (Burnt Children)) and young vocalist Frida Madeleine. Unfortunately Frida decided to leave after the excellent 2018 album I See Darkness In You for personal reasons. The mix of Jan’s long history in Swedish alternative music scene and Frida’s enchanting voice was a wonderful cocktail. The band continues with new vocalist Susanne and have released their first single after Frida’s departure. I have still to be truly convinced, we’ll see if they show up here in a year or not.

4 am side

1. Lykke Li – So Sad So Sexy.

She’s back four years after the monumental hit remix of No Rest For The Wicked featuring A$AP Rocky with a break-up album. So she’s become a mother and split up since last album, but she hasn’t lost her talent – just using it to get all her sorrow out of her system. Not angry, she understands how the world turns, but she needs to get history out of her mind.

2. Nina Kinert – Chapped Lips.

The album Romantic, 8 years after her PC war-game inspired last album, saw Nina Kinert churn out exactly what she said – a very romantic, ballad laden synth-pop album. And in my eyes the crown jewel is this wonderful duet with Future Island‘s Sam Herring. Some lyrical similarities with a Smiths track when you think about it.

3. Grant – Waterline.

Grant, after Cary Grant, is 25 year old Caroline who puts all of her bullied, torn and tormented youth into her debut album In Bloom. At times just a bit too much, but in Waterline she gets it all in the right places. The song about am in the end not committed suicide is very personal. I saw her performing this solo on a piano placed on a ramp just over the surface in the middle of a swimming pool in August – it was pure magic.

Bonus track:

Little Jinder – London Calling (live radio session).

Probably this will put some of you off, a lot…. I have to say London Calling is one of my all time fave tracks in its original version, so I was mildly said sceptical when I found this on YT. But as I do very much enjoy the teeny but intelligent pop Little Jinder does (only understandable for Swedish speaking) I gave it a listen, and she has actually been able to do something completely different of the song, turning it to her own. Give it a chance, live by the river.

In the same session she did a version of her own track Goldwing with a short but kind of nice homage to Joy Division. Also on YT.

Little Jinder – Goldwing

A fantastic 2019 to all of you, your faithful Swedish correspondent.

Martin

REASONS WHY I SHOULD PAY MORE ATTENTION (3)

I’m guessing that many of you will be familiar with a number, if not all, of the other blogs listed at the this little corner of t’internet. One of them is The Sound of Being OK (TSOBO), a development from When You Can’t Remember Anything, the brainchild of two friends/work colleagues SWC and Tim, who quickly cemented themselves as being as essential as Reeves and Mortimer, Laurel and Hardy, Pete and Dud, Morecambe and Wise, Lennon and Matthau, Fry and Laurie or Spit and Bob.

TSOBO was even more special thanks to the input from KT, a female colleague of the boys, whose inspirational postings and musings quickly became essential reading, being totally different in style and content from most other music bloggers, free from pretension and any effort to appear hip and cool (similar in many ways to Rol over at My Top Ten). KT is currently on maternity leave and rightly dealing with important things in life, but the lads came up with the great idea of putting out a ‘Situation Vacant’ ad on TSOBO, leading to Ed being recruited at the tail end of 2018.

The young man (he is a mere 40-years-old) has huge shoes to fill, but he’s certainly shown a great deal of promise if his early pieces are anything to go by. Here’s one of his as part of the rundown of best albums of 2018:-

According to the popular hairgel advertising sheet, the NME, Bodega are “the most exciting band to have come out of New York since The Strokes”. They are basing this on an appearance at the SXSW festival in Texas earlier in the year. I know what you are saying – these days the singing endorsement of the NME (sponsored by VO5) is enough to finish anyone’s careers. Bodega will be another fly by night over hyped band of nobodies who look identical to the last great hopes of the indie rock world. Yup, me too…

But…

Hang on naysayers…Steve Lamacq the current Lord of Indie is on the radio and he has just played me ‘How Did This Happen?!’

And its bloody brilliant.

Bodega are according to him, the band that literally everyone wants to watch at The Great Escape in Brighton in early May. They are according to him a band that sound like LCD Soundsystem that never went clubbing.

Now I was at the Great Escape this year (I went with my mate Brian) and based on that glowing recommendation from Lammo I queued for an hour to get into the pub that they were playing in, missing Japanese Breakfast in doing so, because its Steve Lamacq and he is always right, right? So in I go.

It was sweaty and it was packed. Folks, I’m 40 years of age, I am probably told old and too married to be seen squashed up against girls more than half my age watching a rock band. But, for once, the NME appear to have got it right, they are the best band to come out of New York since The Strokes (including the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). It is a breathless 30 minutes or so.

Their debut album ‘Endless Scroll’ was released at the start of the summer and it is packed full of punchy, sarky, bossy post punk tracks. Tracks like Gyrate which is definitely the best song you will hear all year about female master debating and tracks like Jack In Titanic, which is basically Pavement wearing pop music hats.

He also offered links to a number of songs from the debut album and I gave them a listen, never having heard of the band until that point in time. The following week, I went out and bought the album on vinyl, delighted to find it came lovingly packaged with a 28-page illustrated lyric booklet, indicating that they and What’s Your Rupture records cared about things.

I’m loving Bodega. Consisting of Ben Hozie (guitar, vocals), Nikki Belfiglio (vocals), Montana Simone (drums), Madison Velding-VanDam (guitar) and Heather Elle (bass), they make music which ticks all my boxes. It’s indie-guitar music packed with wit, energy and ridiculous hooks, delivered with just the right amount of American sassiness that we over here describe all too often call cocky when delivered by one of our own.

mp3 : Bodega – How Did This Happen?!

They even manage to sound good when they slow it down and get reflective, such as on this tribute to a late friend:-

mp3 : Bodega – Charlie

There is a touch of the DIY about Endless Scroll, not in terms of the production which is of a very high standard, but with 14 songs in under 35 minutes, it’s akin to the breathlessness of Glasgow’s very own Breakfast Muff who made one of the great albums of 2017 and who, like Bodega, shift between male and female lead vocals.  Next month, I’ll be going, in the company of Aldo, to see the band play, what I think may well be their debut Scottish gig, when they headline the 700-capacity Glasgow School of Art.

There’s a lot of references specific to their own surroundings in Brooklyn and NYC, with a wry and satirical dig at the hipsters and purveyors of gentrification. There’s the occasional use of computer-voice simulations in-between songs which made me laugh out loud more than it should have, but why not when you hear “I use my computer for everything. Heaven knows I’m miserable now.” It’s pretty much a perfect summary of modern life, which can occasionally be rubbish.

It’ll be interesting to see if Bodega are any good in the live setting – Ed certainly thought they were – and if there is life beyond an exceptional debut. But for now, I’m happy in the haze of both drunken and sober hours to enjoy them

JC

AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #203 : GOLDFRAPP (remixes)

A GUEST POSTING by SWEDISH HERRING ACCIDENT

Bangin’ Ali G – The Goldfrapp ICA

Goldfrapp, a chameleon duo comprising frontperson Alison Goldfrapp and wunderkind Will Gregory, are a mind-boggling combination of sex-kitten and geeky recluse. And I’m not saying which is which – Alison Goldfrapp’s never happier than when she’s locking herself away on a creative retreat while Will Gregory’s got a very colourful musical history stretching back to the 1980s.

They’ve made seven albums between 1999’s Felt Mountain and Silver Eye in 2017. Each one is an artistic world in itself – a perfect creation encompassing persona, design, costume, dance, sounds and songs. Whether it’s Seventh Tree’s wounded nature girl, the exploration of identity in Songs of Us or the Erotic Disco Vixen in Black Cherry.

For some reason, the dancier Goldfrapp tracks lend themselves to excellent remixes. Perhaps they inspire DJs more than other acts, so Goldfrapp CD singles aren’t packed with unlistenable extended dub mixes; they often genuinely take the music further beyond the original intent.

This compilation is not a Greatest Hits tour (I’ve only taken tracks from four albums); it’s a selection of ten remixes that sum up one specific mood – Goldfrapp’s unstoppably sexy driving bass synth sound. I’ve bypassed the otherworldly ballads, overlooked the mystical goddess who wants to swim in the sea under a full moon and distilled the best of the pulsing, pounding firecracking explosives. Don’t wait until Friday. Strap in. Slap your headphones on. Get the hoover out. These tunes will help you get the house cleaned before you know it!

Side One

Twist [Schaffhäuser & Wessling Mix] (Originally from the album Black Cherry)

Twist is one that particularly gives itself to brilliant remixes. This version not only passes Rule #1 (filthy grinding bassline) but also has a hint of Alison’s Theremin work – surprisingly lewd on stage. Twist also deals with one of the ongoing paradoxes in Goldfrapp – how does such glossy metropolitan music come from someone who just wants “to run away with you, your caravan and rabbit stew?” We’re dealing with a wood-nymph here, who’s happy getting dirty (and then cleaning up with Swarfega Fingers).

Ooh La La [Phones re-edit] (Originally from the album Supernature)

Goldfrapp reviews are invariably meticulous comparisons of each song’s similarities to whatever giant’s shoulders Will and Alison happen to be standing on this time. Yet as a collection, Goldfrapp’s work has a set of sounds, themes and looks that’s distinctive and unmistakeable. You can’t say that about Rachel Stevens who, at the time of Ooh La La was clinging to Goldfrapp’s creative coat-tails with her Comic Relief single Some Girls.

Fly Me Away [C2 Rmx 4] (Originally from the album Supernature)

Here C2, shamelessly drops this mid-tempo ballad on top of Giorgio Moroder’s I Feel Love bassline, elevating it to a proper disco number. There are three C2 Rmxs of Fly Me Away on the CD single (numbered 1,2 and 4 – somewhere in an attic is number 3. They say you can hear its cries on dark lonely nights).

Number 1 [Dominatrix Remix] (Originally from the album Supernature)

Oh, this is lush, irresistible and relentless. This remix totally enriches and lifts Number 1 – popular with the live audiences. Will Gregory missed the end of the 2017 tour because half the band caught the flu – at least that’s the official line. Alison once said, “He only goes to places where they do nice food and the sun’s shining,” which would certainly rule out Brixton in November.

Rocket [Tiesto Remix] (Originally from the album Head First).

Despite the pink jumpsuit, the windswept hairdo and flamboyant delivery, Alison’s very deadpan in interviews: “I sometimes think I’m the crappiest popstar ever.” This is soaring, zooming pop elevated to heady heights by Tiesto’s second-stage liquid fuel booster remix.

Intermission

Renault Clio (Va Va Voom) Advert 2

They did an advert! Yes, this is the original Renault Clio advert from 2002. It replaced the long-running “Papa?” “Nicole?” campaign and sounds like it could have been an out-take from Felt Mountain. Its effortless elegance certainly runs rings around Thierry Henry’s later “What is Cool?” attempts.

Side Two

Train [Village Hall Mix]/ Train [album mix] (Originally from the album Black Cherry)

Because none of the official mixes are as good as these two spliced together. It’s easily to imagine that the Goldfrapp artistic partnership is split perfectly between Alison’s designs and lyrics and Will’s fine-tuned musical sensibilities. At the time of Train, he said, “I get freaked out when I think about us all sitting down at 10 in the morning in front of Logic set at 120bpm, 4/4. I think we all need something that’s our own, that you feel is special.”

Ride a White Horse [Serge Santiago remix] (Originally from the album Supernature)

Here, Serge Santiago channels Giorgio Moroder’s extended mix of Life In Tokyo by Japan.  There’s a real drummer on here beating the crap out of that snare – his name is Dave Power. This mix completely lifts what is otherwise a rather plodding song about wanting to be taken “dancing at the disco” and to go horse-riding. What is this? Bianca Jagger’s 1977 Studio 54 shenanigans?

Alive [Dave Aude Remix] (Originally from the album Head First).

Altogether more dynamic, more momentum and more atmosphere. Will Gregory’s neon-drenched soundscape makes Alive sound like a musical version of Jacky magazine while Dave Aude’s remix plucks it out of the late 70s and updates it to, ooh, the mid 80s? Will’s a complex guy – one moment he’s cutting an anorak-clad, rucksack-wearing, country-dwelling figure, the next he’s on Radio 4’s Great Lives championing Irish author Flann O’Brien.

Strict Machine [Injection Mix] (Originally from the album Black Cherry).

Strict Machine has been closing Goldfrapp’s live sets lately. When Goldfrapp originally played Strict Machine live on the Black Cherry tour, Alison wore her iconic space-age air hostess outfit with thigh-length patent leather boots. I rather like to think that’s what she was wearing a few years earlier: “I moved to London at 17 and worked as a tea lady in a university. I had a trolley with this huge tea urn and went around serving the professors.”

Systemagic [album mix] (Originally from the album Silver Eye)

For once, none of the remixes are as good as the album version. Silver Eye is proof positive that Goldfrapp’s quirky, unpredictable design values never sleep. To create the imagery for this album she took herself to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands with its startling black sand beaches. The artistry is an amazing combination of colour, dance, make-up and dress. It shows how Goldfrapp rise above lazy categorisation – this album was variously described as 80s futurism, synthpop and stomping glam rock. The way this track rumbles on after the ending reminds me of Douglas Adams, “What thunder there was now grumbled over more distant hills, like a man saying, ‘And another thing…’ twenty minutes after admitting he’s lost the argument.” Thunder on, Goldfrapp – long may your basslines keep throbbing.

SHA

A REVIEW FROM 20 YEARS AGO

Here’s a very lazy new series, inspired by the fact that I was struggling for inspiration for new ideas for 2019.

Twenty years ago, we were on the cusp of a new millennium. It’s a period which already feels like a lifetime ago but, when you turn to the music, seems to have been just the day before yesterday.

This new series celebrates those circumstances by delving into the archives to re-post a review from the period, to be followed by some thoughts of my own a full two decades on.

#1 : SURRENDER by THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS (Q Magazine, July 1999 – Ian Gittins)

So it’s 1999 and the best music around, both chart and credible, is being made by hedonistic studio wizards and pop alchemists with nary a guitar or rhythm section in sight. Unsurprisingly, given their magic digits, they are also the most in-demand remixers currently extant. Their names are The Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim and they are our indubitably perfect pre-millennial pop stars.

The Chemical Brothers are ace remixers because – as Manic Street Preachers, Prodigy, Primal Scream and Charlatans may testify – they bring the best out of everyone they work with. Now Surrender, their third album, sees them bringing the best out of themselves.

It’s a move away from the big beat frenzy and amyl nitrate-soaked party monster anthems of 1997’s thunderous Dig Your Own Hole towards more considered terrain. Amiable DJ/rave boffins Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands have woken up, shaken bleary heads, and realised there’s more to life than block rockin’ beats. Where most of Dig Your Own Hole evoked lager’n’pills messiness down the Heavenly Social, much of Surrender belongs in a chill-out room.

The piledriving, Kraftwerkian opener Music: Response shows they can still churn out big beat floorfillers by the yard, but the pair truly shine when they introduce poignancy and nuance to the mix, as on Out Of Control, which features Bernard Sumner, Bobby Gillespie, and a vintage disingenuous idiot savant Sumner lyric: “It could be that I’m losing my touch/Or do you think my moustache is too much?”

Noel Gallagher happens along to wonder aloud – somewhat ungrammatically – “How does it feel like to wake up in the sun?” on Let Forever Be, essentially an update on their joint 1996 Number 1 single Setting Sun, but then they hit comedown mode. The Sunshine Underground is melancholic and sparse, Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval lends spectral vocals to the haunting Asleep From Day and the broken lullaby Dream On, featuring Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue, is unspeakably lovely. Only the jaunty single Hey Boy Hey Girl reverts to their usual hi-energy jollity.

Surrender is The Chemical Brothers’ quantum leap into the wild blue yonder, away from their trademark slapstick delirium. It looks like there is life after big beat, after all.

JC writes……

Dig Your Own Hole had brought the duo to much wider attention. As is often the case, many of those who had been fans from the outset felt ‘betrayed’ by the move towards a more commercial sound but their numbers had been dwarfed by those whose first contact with The Chemical Brothers was thanks to a guest vocal by Noel Gallagher. There was a fair bit of intrigue as to which way things would go with the third album.

As the above review indicates, Surrender was no simple re-tread of Dig Your Own Hole as can be seen from the fact that the singles lifted from it reached #3. #9 and #21 respectively, as opposed to the two #1s and #17 hits from the previous album. Despite this, the sales of Surrender in the UK were double that of Dig Your Own Hole, which perhaps reflects that many radio DJs were playing a number of the album tracks on the basis of them sounding commercial enough for non-twilight shows. It wasn’t as if album sales were boosted by some sort of sensational and memorable Festival appearance which had been broadcast to the nation –The Chemical Brothers at Glastonbury in 1999 restricted themselves to a DJ-only set in the Dance Tent that year – so what you got was a dance album of immense appeal to many people who wouldn’t normally buy anything associated with the genre.

I’m happy to lump myself in with that description, but thinking back to 1999 I can also recall enjoying and buying albums by Fatboy Slim, Underworld and Basement Jaxx as well as a couple of compilations at the end of the year on the basis of having, at a late stage in my life, gone on a boys-only golf holiday to southern Spain for the first ever time and where I found myself falling head over heels for the beats I was hearing in night clubs. It was a time when Primal Scream had gone full-on with the hard hitting beats and even The Fall, with Touch Sensitive, were making dance music of sorts. But being in my mid-30s, my energy levels were such that I needed as much comedown music as I did the higher energy stuff, and so what Surrender offered seemed perfect being part of a wider landscape which I was thoroughly enjoying and in which The Chemical Brothers were masters of their art.

It’s still a piece of work that, 20 years on, I’m very happy to listen to from start to end without use of the skip button. In summary, it’s a late 20th century masterpiece.

mp3 : The Chemical Brothers – Music:Response
mp3 : The Chemical Brothers – Out Of Control
mp3 : The Chemical Brothers – Asleep From Day
mp3 : The Chemical Brothers – Dream On

JC

THE SINGULAR ADVENTURES OF PAUL HAIG (Part 13)

Paul Haig seemed to disappear somewhat after the release of The Warp of Pure Fun but it turned out that he had hoooked up with Billy Mackenzie to work on some ideas. The duo also appeared live together (sadly, I never caught any of the low-key gigs) and then stole the show on a live TV programme on New Year’s Eve 1986:-

In late 1987, having been unsuccesful in finding a new label to sign to, Paul went back to Brussels and to Crépuscule with a 12″ EP, Torchomatic, being recorded and released.

Now, this is where I let you down.  I don’t have a copy of this single, although I do have the lead track courtesy of it being included on a later compilation album:-

mp3 : Paul Haig – Torchomatic

I do have an mp3 copy of one of the b-sides, an instrumental which is way better than the lead track.  It brings to mind New Order, Cabaret Voltaire and that Factory club sound of the time.  Be interesting to see what Swiss Adam makes of it…

mp3 : Paul Haig – Beat Programme

The connection with Crépuscule would come to its conclusion the following year with the release of the compilation album European Sun featuring previously rare and unreleased tracks.

It wouldn’t be too long, however, before he was back on a new label with yet more classy pop tunes that were more than worthy.

JC

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #144 : INDIAN GIVERS

Today’s offering comes via a download from somewhere else a few years ago….where and when I can’t say for certain – having noted the track was from the late 80s by an Edinburgh band I had never heard of, I shoved it onto the hard drive.

To be honest, I wasn’t too enamoured by it, being very much of its time….synth-pop that’s very easy on the ear. Kind of appealing to fans of Danny Wilson was the thought. Or indeed those who love Jordan The Comeback by Prefab Sprout, the sort of sound that didn’t annoy me so much that I’d delete the file.

Doing a bit of research for this posting and it turns out that Indian Givers did support Danny Wilson on one of their major UK tours and so are perhaps remembered by some. The band consisted of Nigel Sleaford, Simon Fraser and Avril Jamieson. They were signed to Virgin Records and released two singles and an album over the summer of 1989, follwoing which they seemed to just disappear….there’s certainly not too much out there about them.

This was their debut single and the pic above is the reverse of its picture sleeve.

mp3 : Indian Givers – Hatcheck Girl

JC

INDIE SCHMINDIE IN 1993

The NME, particularly in the late 70s, 80s and 90s, was seen as the weekly bulletin of all things indie-music. It was their championing of the music to be found on small labels that helped lead to the establishment of the UK Independent Singles and Albums Charts in 1980 and for many years these listings did mirror the contents of the paper as well as much of what you’d also find in Melody Maker, Record Mirror and Sounds (albeit the latter did lean more towards rock/metal than the others).

I previously had a feature on the blog which looked at past #1 singles in the Indie Chart from 10,20 and 30 years past, but gave up on it when it became clear too many of the best sellers were actually on major labels taking advantage of loopholes around the definition of an indie label. It’s just as well I never got round to focussing on 1993 as there’s barely a guitar or a floppy fringe to be found:-

2 January – 12 January : The Shamen – Phorever People
23 January – 29 January : The Beloved – Sweet Harmony
30 January – 26 March : 2 Unlimited – No Limit
27 March – 7 May : Snow – Informer
8 May – 21 May : 2 Unlimited – Tribal Dance
22 May – 16 July : Inner Circle – Sweat (a la la la la long)
17 July – 30 July : The Levellers – Belaruse
31 July – 6 August : Stan – Suntan
7 August – 27 August : Daniel O’Donnell – Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Love
28 August – 3 September : Ian Wright – Do The Right Thing
4 September – 24 September : 2 Unlimited – Faces
25 September – 1 October : Depeche Mode – Condemnation
2 October – 22 October : DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Boom! Shake The Room
23 October – 29 October : The Prodigy – One Love
30 October – 3 December : The Goodmen – Give It Up
4 December – 10 December : Bjork – Big Time Sensuality
11 December – 17 December : 2 Unlimited – Maximum Overdrive
18 December – 24 December : New Order – Spooky
25 December – 18 February 1994 : K7 – Come Baby Come

And yes, the indie #1 of 28 August 1993 is the work of ex-footballer Ian Wright….. …..I can’t ever recall hearing it and really don’t want to. The most astonishing thing about the song isn’t that Wright penned the pun-laden lyric but that the tune was composed by Chris Lowe, one half of the classy and stylish Pet Shop Boys.

Thankfully, the paper didn’t rely on the charts when it came to it listing the best 50 singles from 1993 with the roll-call featuring a fair smattering from those who have graced this little corner of t’internet as well as some from the dance/pop genre:-

Animals That Swim, The Auteurs, Belly, Bjork, Blur, The Boo Radleys, The Breeders, Chaka Demus & Pliers, Collapsed Lung, Compulsion, Cornershop, Credit To The Nation, The Disco Evangelists, Dodgy, Done Lying Down, East 17, Elastica, Huggy Bear, Ice Cube, The Juliana Hatfield Trio, Leftfield/Lydon, The Lemonheads, M People, Manic Street Preachers, Naughty by Nature, New Order, One Dove, Paul Weller, Pet Shop Boys, R.E.M., Radiohead, Rage Against The Machine, Sabres of Paradise, Secret Knowledge, Senser, Shaggy, Shara Nelson, Smashing Pumpkins, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Spiritualized, St Etienne, Sub Sub, Suede, Tindersticks, Ultramarine.

I had to look up some of those listed, including the first in the alphabetical list.

Animals That Swim are still, seemingly, kicking around having had an on/off career over the past quarter of a century. The band has always been centred around three brothers – Hugh Barker, Hank Starrs (born Jeffrey Barker) and Al Barker, along with Del Crabtree whose trumpet playing has always been central to the sound. They have gone through bass players in a way that is reminiscent of the way a struggling football club gets itself new managers, with the best-known being Terry de Castro (2000/01) either side of her membership of Cinerama and The Wedding Present.

The single which featured in the NME 93 rundown was just their second release, and it took the form of an imaginary conversation with the ghost of a famous singer:-

mp3 : Animals That Swim – Roy

Having tracked it down, I found myself beguiled and delighted by it.  More so when I stumbled across this review of debut album Workshy from 1994:-

“Literate, trumpet-assisted indie-pop for the left brain; shaggy-dog songs that concern fleeting alco-epiphanies and dying pensioners; when Starrs writes a love song (Madame Yevonde), it is to an obscure photography pioneer of the 20s and 30s.”

It really does sound very interesting. Any reader out there able to shine a further light and offer a guest post?

JC

SOME SONGS ARE GREAT SHORT STORIES (Chapter 18)

Today’s offering tells the story of a birth taking place in the middle of one almighty thunderstorm. The date is 8 January 1935 and the location is a small house in a town in Mississippi.

Looka yonder! Looka yonder! Looka yonder! A big black cloud come! O comes to Tupelo. Comes to Tupelo

Yonder on the horizon. Stopped at the mighty river and. Sucked the damn thing dry. Tupelo-o-o, O Tupelo. In a valley hides a town called Tupelo.

Distant thunder rumble. Rumble hungry like the Beast. The Beast it cometh, cometh down. Wo wo wo-o-o. Tupelo bound. Tupelo-o-o. Yeah Tupelo. The Beast it cometh, Tupelo bound.

Why the hen won’t lay no egg. Can’t get that cock to crow. The nag is spooked and crazy. O God help Tupelo! O God help Tupelo!

Ya can say these streets are rivers. Ya can call these rivers streets. Ya can tell ya self ya dreaming buddy. But no sleep runs this deep. No! No sleep runs this deep. No sleep runs this deep. Women at their windows. Rain crashing on the pane. Writing in the frost. Tupelos’ shame. Tupelo’s shame. O God help Tupelo! O God help Tupelo!

O go to sleep lil children. The sandmans on his way. O go to sleep lil children. The sandmans on his way. But the lil children know. They listen to the beating of their blood.

They listen to the beating of their blood. The sandman’s mud! The sandman’s mud! And the black rain come down. Water water everywhere. Where no bird can fly no fish can swim. Where no bird can fly no fish can swim. No fish can swim. Until The King is born! Until The King is born! In Tupelo! Tupelo-o-o! Til The King is born in Tupelo!

In a clap-board shack with a roof of tin. Where the rain came down and leaked within. A young mother frozen on a concrete floor. With a bottle and a box and a cradle of straw. Tupelo-o-o! O Tupelo! With a bundle and a box and a cradle of straw.

Well Saturday gives what Sunday steals. And a child is born on his brothers heels. Come Sunday morn the first-born dead. In a shoe-box tied with a ribbon of red. Tupelo-o-o! Hey Tupelo! In a shoe-box buried with a ribbon of red.

O ma-ma rock you lil’ one slow. O ma-ma rock your baby. O ma-ma rock your lil’ one slow. O God help Tupelo! O God help Tupelo! Mama rock your lil’ one slow. The lil one will walk on Tupelo. Tupelo-o-o! Yeah Tupelo! And carry the burden of Tupelo. Tupelo-o-o! O Tupelo! Yeah! The King will walk on Tupelo! Tupelo-o-o! O Tupelo! He carried the burden outa Tupelo! Tupelo-o-o! Hey Tupelo! You will reap just what you sow.

mp3 : Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Tupelo

I wasn’t sure whether to include this in this series given that the lyric is very much based on an actual event, namely that of the stillborn birth of Jesse Garon Presley, the elder twin, by 35 minutes, of the later to be crowned king of rock’n’roll. But there is a huge amount of imagination in the lyric given that the thunderstorm which engulfed Tupelo wasn’t until April 1936 when more than 200 people died after a deadly tornado tore through the city.

Nick Cave’s brilliance in forging these two events creates a tale of gothic horror, one which is made all the more spine-chilling thanks to the rollicking and memorable music, written by Mick Harvey and Barry Adamson, in which the sound effects of claps thunder and lightning bolts are fully justified.

This is from when Nick Cave was more Birthday Party than latter day Bad Seed. There is more than a nod to the blues with the opening line referencing Black Betty by Leadbelly (which itself would later be covered by The Bad Seeds) and the wider lyric being based on an old number by John Lee Hooker, who himself had written and recorded a song entitled Tupelo all about the deadly storm and the havoc it had reaped.

JC